Awards Eligibility Post

It’s that time of the year again, in which we give account of the works that came out. I had five! stories published this year (the most I’ve ever had). I’m bad at summarizing my own work, and have included reviews where I could find them.

And without further ado, here are the stories in order of publication:

  1. Guardian of the Gods, FIYAH #14
    Ashâke is an acolyte of the gods. But unlike all of her classmates, unlike all of the priests, unlike everyone she’s supposed to be like, she cannot hear the gods. And in that space of lack, in the space of silence, a seed of doubt is planted, one that sparks to life when she hears a story she wasn’t meant to. The piece is heavy with world building, revealing a setting where the gods are very real, but might also not be in the position that Ashâke has been taught her entire life. And the secrets and subterfuge build as she hears a series of stories that make clear the divine landscape of the world, and her place within it. There’s a sweep of magic as well as some striking stakes to kick things off, though the piece acts mostly as introduction for what might happen next once Ashâke realizes her destiny.
    ~ Charles Payseur, Quicksips
  2. Isn’t Your Daughter Such a Doll Shoreline of Infinity #18
    A little girl makes a friend, who is much more than meets the eye, and she finds herself the unwitting object of an ancient conflict, which involves her mother and a king who wears many faces.
  3. The Many Lives of an Abiku, Beneath Ceaseless Skies #309
    The narrator is a young girl who early on is ritually bound to keep her spirit with her family (after they lost too many chil­dren very young). She is an abiku, a spirit that would naturally roam, but she comes to love her human family very much. Unfortunately, she is tormented by the spirit Rewa, who seems to have a special interest in turning her and her human family against each other. Although there are clear reasons for everything that happens, the story quickly takes a turn towards the horrific.
    ~ Karen Burnham, Locus.
  4. The Goatkeeper’s Harvest, The Dark #64
    The narrator of this story is a widow and mother of two living on a farm, who finds goats eating on her yams one day and seeks to drive them off. But of course the goats aren’t exactly goats and her act inadvertently breaks a compact that has kept the region relatively prosperous. The situation goes from bad to worse to HORRIFYING, though, as she has to face what’s happened, hoping for help and deliverance from people who probably should have done more to protect her from this very thing. It’s an intense horror, immediate and obliterating. There’s this overwhelming power and violence involved and it’s a bit of difficult read but also just some brilliant horror.
    ~ Charles Payseur, Quicksips
  5. Here Sits His Ignominy, Breathe FIYAH
    Framed as a letter from one ruler to another, or perhaps from one people to a ruler. The ruler in question is a king, an imperial power with his eyes on Africa and its riches, its peoples. He’s already made a campaign there, already destroyed, already committed atrocities. And the story is a response to that, from a place where giants have already been defeated. The letter begins on an almost mocking tone, what with the insults and such, but rather than mocking, I feel like the story reaches more toward a bit of poetic justice. The letter and the actions of the letter writer’s people are a retribution, are a retaliation, are a reflection of the violence and intended violence directed toward the African peoples and nations. It’s a spark and direct story, one that doesn’t shy away from a evoking violence of its own. Rather than revenge fantasy, though, I feel like the story acts more as a reclaiming of history, and a reality that has been erased by colonization and empire.
    ~ Charles Payseur, Quicksips

There we have it! 5 stories eligible for all the awards – Hugos, Nebulas, Stoker etc etc

BTS #2: Guardian of the Gods

Here’s a brief rundown of how I wrote this story. There’s potential spoilers here, so if you haven’t read it, and don’t want to be spoiled, go here.

A question was all that really set off this story: what happens if men gained such power as to rival that of the gods? What happens if men grew so powerful that they could – gasp – kill gods? And if so, why would they do that? What followed was weeks of brainstorming as a whole new world formed in my mind as I sought to answer the question. I soon realized, however, that this question was not one to be answered in 5,000 words; it was going to be a sprawling fantasy of epic proportions.

But I needed a test story, if you will, to see how well this world holds up. Enter Guardian of the Gods.

As opposed to the planned epic (I am now in the initial drafting stages), this was really an examination of one character and her needs and wants, and how it plays into the greater cosmic game. Ashake has lived all her life in the mountain-temple, together with her fellow acolytes, taking instruction from the priests on how to commune with the gods in a divine back and forth (in Yoruba cosmology the priests of Ifa cast cowries across divination boards to decipher the will of the gods concerning a person or certain events).

What follows is a slow unraveling and discovery, as the world she knows is yanked from beneath her. This concept is one that has always fascinated me, We all live in little bubbles, and most of what we know has largely been externally influenced, from the news to basic tenets of culture, passed down over the centuries, and for the most part we are told things and we take them as truth. But what if the truth you know is not actually truth? What if this has all been specially curated by unseen forces to keep you locked and docile, your independent thought clasped in chains or deliberately steered in a different direction so that you stumble, ignorant and frustrated through life?

Well that got deep real fast, haha.

Anyway these were the questions burning in the back of my mind as I wrote this story. I initially planned for Ashake to confront these “unseen forces” in her world in an epic battle, but decided that would take away from the story, which is much more quiet, and primarily about how she comes to terms with what she is, and her role in the grand scheme of things.

New Publication: Guardian of the Gods

Hey friends! First, can we take a moment to appreciate that cover art?? It’s absolutely stunning and just exudes unapologetic, glorious, wonderful BLACKNESS. The artist is Dominique Ramsey and you can check them out here.

Ok, now that that’s done, I’m super excited to announce the publication of my new story Guardian of the Gods in FIYAH! this fine, fine magazine of black speculative fiction. I’ve always wanted my work to appear here, and I couldn’t be prouder of this story. I think it’s my best yet, if I do say so myself. Do give it a peep, and of course, buy the issue to support black speculative fiction.