Happy New Year and welcome to the Stone Soup Weekly Digest! This is where I share what I'm up to and some of my favorite things from around the internet. You can subscribe to Stone Soup to get this in your inbox every week here.
Having one of my short stories on LeVar Burton Reads is a career high for me and I’m going to talk about it every chance I get. Listening to him read something I wrote is, by itself, incredible. In the commentary at the end of the episode, LeVar talks about a vision for a future in which everyone — everyone — is afforded space in a just and equitable society. A world in which state-mandated violence doesn’t spell the end of someone’s potential. A world that we can build together. (I am not ashamed to say I got very emotional hearing this man understand my story so, so well.)
I wrote Drones to Ploughshares as an examination of an issue I think about often — the question of how we rehabilitate and care for those who are coerced into performing violence on behalf of a violent state. Socioeconomic coercion by means of restricting access to resources such as healthcare and education is, make no mistake, an incredibly effective means of maneuvering civilians into violent service.
The process of becoming comfortable with inflicting violence on others in service of nationalism and imperialism is one that necessarily traumatizes and reorganizes a person’s emotional landscape. How, then, do we find ways to cut off a cycle of violence and isolation? How do we heal the wounds created by the process of indoctrination and dehumanization? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but Drones to Ploughshares imagines one possibility.
It's that time of year! Awards nominations are opening up for works released in 2021. If you are looking for things to add to your ballot, I hope you'll consider my eligible 2021 works. The list includes my novel The Echo Wife, my original comic series Eat the Rich, a short story called I Swim Up From Below, and my essay on taxonomy and identity, Do Hippos Count As Dragons. This newsletter is also eligible for awards. It would be an immense honor to be nominated this year! I hope you'll consider my work.
All the King’s Women: The Fats by Meg Elison, Fantasy Magazine
In which Elison, one of the best writers working today, examines Stephen King’s legacy of fatphobia:
The tropes of fat hatred are so deeply embedded in our culture as to be some of the lowest hanging fruit, suitable for the laziest writers looking for the simplest shorthand and not caring whose caricature they are painting for the thousandth unoriginal time. King, one of the most influential and widely read American authors of all time, should be better than this, but he isn’t. He has presented fat bodies in a hateful, derisive light for four decades, and he has not learned to do better in all that time. It’s not one character, in one book. It is his pattern.
Good People by Mari Ness, Fireside Magazine
A blistering poem about what we tell ourselves we are doing for the sake of Good.
An aching recollection of a fish dinner, the end of a marriage, and the things we try to compromise for our relationships:
The last thing I ate as a husband—and arguably, as a man—was a fried tilapia. The fish had been caught from a skiff on the shore of Lake Victoria and only an hour or two later dredged in flour, fried to a golden crisp in a vat of vegetable oil over a wood fire, and served to me with lime and piri-piri sauce. I could still taste the green flavor of algae in the flaky white flesh. My senses all registered that I had before me a truly excellent meal, but I ate it glumly across from my then wife, Olive, who picked at a matching fish.
Sunday Morning Transport is a new project promising a short story in your inbox each week. Editor In Chief Julian Yap and Managing Editor Fran Wilde launch this project with a month of free stories, and the lineup already boasts all-star authors Max Gladstone, Karen Lord, Juan Martinez, and Kat Howard. Staff also includes copyeditor Kaitlin Severini and proofreader Delia Davis. Personally, I’m incredibly excited for Sunday Morning Transport, both as an author and as a reader. It’s an ambitious project that could not possibly be in better hands.
WANDERERS by Chuck Wendig
Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other "shepherds" who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.
For as the sleepwalking phenomenon awakens terror and violence in America, the real danger may not be the epidemic but the fear of it. With society collapsing all around them — and an ultraviolent militia threatening to exterminate them — the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unraveling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart — or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.
Terror, Love, and Brainwashing: Attachment in Cults and Totalitarian Systems by Alexandra Stein
This book explains how people can be radically manipulated by extreme groups and leaders to engage in incomprehensible and often dangerous acts through psychologically isolating situations of extreme social influence. These methods are used in totalitarian states, terrorist groups and cults, as well as in controlling personal relationships. Illustrated with compelling stories from a range of cults and totalitarian systems, Stein's book defines and analyses the common identifiable traits that underlie these groups, emphasizing the importance of maintaining open yet supportive personal networks. Using original attachment theory-based research this book highlights the dangers of closed, isolating relationships and the closed belief systems that justify them, and demonstrates the psychological impact of these environments, ending with evidence-based recommendations to support an educational approach to awareness and prevention.
Featured New Release: Bump by Matt Wallace, now available in paperback
MJ knows what it means to hurt. Bruises from gymnastics heal, but big hurts--like her dad not being around anymore--don't go away. Now her mom needs to work two jobs, and MJ doesn't have friends at school to lean on. There is only one thing MJ loves: the world of professional wrestling. She especially idolizes the luchadores and the stories they tell in the ring. When MJ learns that her neighbor, Mr. Arellano, runs a wrestling school, she has a new mission in life: join the school, train hard, and become a wrestler.
But trouble lies ahead. After wrestling in a showcase event, MJ attracts the attention of Mr. Arellano's enemy at the State Athletic Commission. There are threats to shut the school down, putting MJ's new home – and the community that welcomed her – at risk. What can MJ do to save her new family?
Check out Matt Wallace’s guest feature, Stores for the Dislocated, here. Add BUMP to your tbr here. Order it from your local independent bookseller, or order it via Bookshop.org to support independent booksellers throughout the US and the UK. For international shipping, you can try Barnes & Noble. If you prefer audiobooks, here’s your Libro.fm link. You can also request BUMP from your local library — here’s how to get in touch with them. And if you need to order from the Bad River Website, here’s a link that will leverage your order for good.
Bert and Calamity are doing great. They are currently acclimating to our robot vacuum cleaner. Day one involved a great deal of skepticism and avoidance, but by day 3, Bert was following the vacuum around, presumably to develop a greater understanding of its nefarious schemes. Calamity remains very small but is growing bolder by the minute; she's figured out which things in our home can turn into cat toys, and the answer seems to be "everything".
That’s it for this week! Paying subscribers, come by the Stone Soup Supper Club for our weekly chat! I can’t wait to find out how you’re doing.