3 min read


With Izzy Wasserstein

The following file came across my desk today. It contains a few concerning items regarding a mole in the organization. Let me know if you can think of a way to prevent this agent (codename 'Izzy Wasserstein') from becoming an issue, and let's figure out how to plug the leak that's using the codename 'dave'.



Hey. I’ve intercepted the latest interoffice memo from the police state dimension that’s obsessed with Izzy’s variations. They might be on to us. Is it time to execute? We’re standing by. dave


A found document with a header reading "Control Unit | Eyes Only | Clearance 4". The text of the document is as follows: "Lt. Gailey, You probably already got the alert, but our unit found another one. This version of the suspect is a writer (Strand ID: IZZYW35784-B). She’s living in Kansas in 2022 (USA, not a Midwestern Allied States strand), publishing a book of short stories with an independent press. I’ve already flagged the rogue acquisitions team, but I thought you might want to see this one for yourself considering she’s mentioned the banned text from Faulen, albeit in an unusual manner. Ostensibly it’s a short essay tied to the book but could also be written in some sort of code.   The book’s publicity contains coded “blurbs” from a number of individuals on our watch list. “Wasserstein’s stories offer a finely-honed sense of place, precise and evocative writing, and a beautiful, sometimes chilling, exploration of what it means to be complicated and human.” —Kate Elliott, author of Unconquerable Sun “Inventive, fascinating, and deeply moving, this collection will grab you by the throat and then tuck you into bed with infinite tenderness. I want to listen to Izzy Wasserstein tell stories all day and all night.” —Annalee Newitz, Lambda Award-winning author of Autonomous and Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age “Izzy Wasserstein bears witness to decay and decline and then scrapes away the rubble to find the haunting, beautiful, still-beating heart of every story.” —Sarah Pinsker, author of We Are Satellites This last specimen (Strand ID: SARAHP38458-A) has already been identified in multiple strands as a dangerous operative with a significant track record. I’ve bumped the other two up a theat level. Anyway, the lab is looking at it. Let me know if you’d like to initiate a higher tier protocol. V/r, DR Anti-Alias Lab East"

Memorandum Attachment A EYES ONLY: Lt Gailey
Evidence log QA-78359

On Unbooks from Unplaces by Izzy Wasserstein

Jorge Luis Borges had a theory about books: “It is a laborious madness and an impoverishing one, the madness of composing vast books…The better way to go about it is to pretend that those books already exist, and offer a summary, a commentary on them."

I’d go one step further: why write the summary of a nonexistent book when you can reference someone else’s summary of it?

I’m not talking about plagiarism. I have nothing but contempt for (to pick an example at random) an author stealing from The Great Gatsby. No, I’m saying that if you’re going to fill a fictional library (as opposed to a library of fiction), why populate it only with books you haven’t written when you can also fill the nonexistent shelves with books other authors haven’t written?

You might say I’m obsessed with this. Here’s a partial list of books I have imagined or borrowed from others’ imaginings in my debut short story collection, All the Hometowns You Can’t Stay Away From, coming July 26 with Neon Hemlock Press (Yes, this is a shameless plug for my book. Forgive me.):

  • On the Joyous Uselessness of Heartweaving: A Reflection on Craft and Purpose (not-written by Faulen me)
  • Unplaces: an Atlas of Non-Existence (not-written by me, but I think it probably exists in some reality)
  • A First Encyclopaedia of Tlӧn (not-written by Borges)
  • Cimmeria (not-written by me, based on the academic paper/short story actually written by Theodora Goss)
  • An unnamed tome, perfect for summoning a Spider God (possibly related to the Necronomicon, definitely not written by that shithead Lovecraft)

Many nonexistent books occupy space in my head, including C. S. Lewis’s The Emperor Over the Sea, which Neil Gaiman imagined into unbeing; Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Trickster; that Star Trek novel 10-year-old me wanted to write; and many more. Maybe someday I’ll write one of my imagined novels. More likely, I’ll just imagine that someone did, and mention it in a short story.

Dear Reader, what imaginary books fill the library of your thoughts? I hope you’ll let me know!

-- Izzy Wasserstein
@izzyxen on Twitter

All the Hometowns You Can’t Stay Away From by Izzy Wasserstein.
8” x 5” paperback. 204 pages. July 26th, 2022.
More information available via Neon Hemlock.

Print ISBN: 978-1-952086-42-7

Press/publicity: dave ring at admin@neonhemlock.com


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After reviewing this file, I'm sure you can see why we're concerned. This can't be allowed to continue. 'Wasserstein' and 'dave' pose a serious threat to the integrity of the timeline. Let's meet at the usual rendezvous point to discuss neutralization.