“Pushaway” published in the anthology Subversion

My story “Pushaway,” which tells the story of how my character Esti Gusev grew up in a toxic religious community on Mars, has now been published in the anthology Subversion: Science Fiction & Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm, edited by Bart Leib.

Subversion: Science Fiction & Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm

Subversion: Science Fiction & Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm, ed. Bart Lieb. Cover art: "New Generation of Leaders" © 2011 by Brittany Jackson http://liol.deviantart.com

Way back in February, I wrote “Whatever in hell I’ve been doing… it hasn’t been writing many posts on Henkimaa.” And lo, here in December, it’s still the case.

In February, I’d just become  co-editor of Bent Alaska, Alaska’s LGBTQA blog, which means lots of my blogging energy went over thataway. Since October, I’ve been Bent’s sole editor — still trying, with limited success, to get other contributors consistently involved with the blog so it’s not only on my shoulders — and there’ve been a few big stories this year that I’ve written, even aside from the normal day-to-day of basic posts about upcoming events and news. I’m also principal investigator for the Anchorage LGBT Discrimination Survey, which has taken up huge swaths of my time over the summer and fall.  I completed the preliminary report on the survey in early November, and will be finishing the final report this month.

NaNoWriMo Winner 2011That’ll free up some time for what I really want to be doing with this life: writing my own stuff.  But it isn’t as if I haven’t been doing at least some of that.  I just spent the last month doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again — that headlong hurry of the writing month I now call NaNovember, wherein a lot of nutty people around the world attempt, and very often succeed, in writing 50,000 words in 30 days.

Out of which has proceeded — well, let me put it this way.  As I wrote in February, in a parenthetical:

(Meantime, a story finished in the wee hours of November 1 featuring Esti Gusev, born in a really yucky Martian religious community, has been accepted for publication, but I’m constrained to be pretty mysterious about it otherwise.)

No need to be mysterious now. My story “Pushaway” has now been published, as one of a number of very excellent (if I do say so myself) stories in the Crossed Genres anthology Subversion: Science Fiction & Fantasy Tales of Challenging the Norm, edited by Bart Leib.

Bart Leib is one of the founders of Crossed Genres, and selected my story “Cold” for publication in its 12th issue — the LGBT issue — in December 2009.  “Cold” was later selected to represent the LGBT issue in the Crossed Genres Year One Anthology, published in February 2010.

Not bad for a story that came out of my very first day of NaNoWriMo writing ever on November 1, 2007, which also marks the baby steps in my creation of a story universe that I’ve been writing about every NaNovember since — and in between as well.  “Cold” is about two young women, Bai Wang and Boleyn Maheshwari, who live on a planet in another solar system in the late stages of terraformation (that is, being engineered to have an Earth-like biosphere). My NaNo writings in both 2007 and 2008 were mainly about those characters and that world.  But in 2009, I decided to jump back three or four centuries in my timeline to learn more about the people from whom Bai and Boleyn and their contemporaries descended — the inhabitants of the asteroid belt and gas giant moons of our own solar system, who built the ships that traveled the Long Dark between stars that brought Bai’s and Boleyn’s people to their planet.

And thus was Esti Gusev born — early enough, in fact, to have shown up in a brief mention as an important historical figure in “Cold”.  Here’s Bai in “Cold” reflecting on the progress of the terraformation project:

In her own lifetime, they said, they’d be able to walk outside without breathers, something no one had done since Esti Gusev departed Earth to join the Project so many lifetimes ago.

That’s Esti: the last person of the Project to have freely breathed the open air of a planet-sized biosphere: everyone in between, through centuries of time, has lived only in the small human-created artificial biospheres of space stations, ships, rovers, or habitats built on moon or planetary surfaces.  Martian by birth, Esti becomes a citizen of  Consensus — the association of inhabitants of the outer solar system (asteroid belt and outwards) — spends some time on Earth on Consensus’ behalf, and ultimately takes one of the ships crossing the Long Dark… and she’s become an important carrier for me of a lot of how I feel and think about things.

The first words I wrote that went into “Pushaway” came out of my NaNoWriMo writing on November 3, 2009, including the words which now open the story:

Esti Gusev wasn’t the name she was given at birth. It was the name she’d taken. She’d damn well earned it.

Gusev Crater on Mars

Gusev Crater on Mars. This is where Spirit Rover landed, and some many years later (as in, many decades, even a coupla centuries), where Esti Gusev grew up. This is seen roughly from the north, with Ma'adim Vallis in the south.

So how did she take that name?  That’s what “Pushaway” is about: her growing up on Mars, in a pretty toxic religious community, where she comes to believe in that fundamental lesson taught by Jesus that “the Kingdom of God is within you” — only to suffer her community’s efforts to beat that belief out of her.

But I didn’t write “Pushaway” as a completed story during NaNoWriMo 2009.  It became the story it is as a result of Bart Leib’s invitation in May 2010 for me to submit to

an anthology of stories about striking back at the status quo – whatever that might be. The Authority can be real or perceived; the act of subversion subtle or overt; and the consequences minute yet significant, or immense and world-shaking.

I immediately thought of the Esti’s childhood: because what is more subversive to the status quo, just about anywhere or any time, than those people who believe in, and insist upon, being who they are instead of shaping themselves to fit some other person’s, or some other ideology’s, abitrary rules about who they should be.

This story is not an LGBTQ story per se — it’s mostly about Esti’s childhood and doesn’t delve into her sexual orientation or gender identity to speak of (but for the record, she’s a cis-female lesbian).  But look at the last sentence of my previous paragraph: this story is informed bigtime by the encounter that I and most other LGBTQ people have (though we’re not the onlies, of course) of having to fight for our very identities — to live as who we are, instead of forcing ourselves, or being forced into, living as who we are not. In particular, this story is informed by what we in Anchorage lived through during the so-called Summer of Hate in 2009, when demonstrators against an ordinance which would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the Municipality of Anchorage’s nondiscrimination code repeatedly insisted upon the lie that the sexual orientations and gender identities of LGBTQ people were a “choice” — a lie that continues to be repeated today, not only in Anchorage but all over the world.  On a “here’s how my local community influences me” level, too, there’s also a particular scene in “Pushaway” that grew directly out of learning about the child discipline methods espoused by Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and by the clerical and teaching staff of Anchorage Baptist Temple and the associated Anchorage Christian Schools — about which you can read in my September 2009 post “James Dobson’s God is a child abuser, & so is Jerry Prevo’s.”

So… in 2010, I took the germs of what I wrote during November 2009 and shaped it into the story it became, and in the wee hours of November 1, 2010 — as I embarked upoin another NaNovember — I completed it.

I must have done something right, because a few days later, Bart wrote back to tell me he’d like to publish it.  Cool!

So there you have it.

And it’s good to be in storymind again.  And to write this post, right here on Henkimaa.  You’ll be seeing more here too.

Until then —

Buy Subversion!

"Subversion" ed. by Bart LeibYou can still read “Cold” at the Crossed Genres website for free. But to read “Pushaway,” you’ll need to buy Subversion:

Here’s the company my story keeps — the full table of contents:

  • “Foreword” by Jennifer Brozek
  • “A Thousand Wings of Luck” by Jessica Reisman
  • “And All Its Truths” by Camille Alexa
  • “Pushaway” by Melissa S. Green
  • “Phantom Overload” by Daniel José Older
  • “Cold Against the Bone” by Kelly Jennings
  • “The Red Dybbuk” by Barbara Krasnoff
  • “Pushing Paper in Hartleigh” by Natania Barron
  • “Parent Hack” by Kay T. Holt
  • “The Hero Industry” by Jean Johnson
  • “Flicka” by Cat Rambo
  • “Seed” by Shanna Germain
  • “Scrapheap Angel” by RJ Astruc & Deirdre M. Murphy
  • “The Dragon’s Bargain” by C.A. Young
  • “A Tiny Grayness in the Dark” by Wendy N. Wagner\
  • “Received Without Content” by Timothy T. Murphy
  • “To Sleep With Pachamama” by Caleb Jordan Schulz

More about Subversion

(I’ll add stuff to this list as I find it.)

  • Goodreads listing
  • 12/4/2011. “A subversion of stories” by Sabrina Vourvoulias (Following the lede [blog]). Reviews several of the stories (though not mine) — but my! there’s some good stuff in this anthology!
  • 12/5/2011. “Anthologies, birthdays, and other frightening things” by Bart Leib (Subvert the Space [blog]). Bart’s account of how Subversion came to be, and where he hopes Crossed Genres Publications can go from here.
  • 12/5/11. “Read, Subversive! Read!” by Kay Holt (Kay Holt’s blog). Kay Holt is author of the story “Parent Hack.”
  • 12/6/11. “REVIEW: Subversion edited by Bart R. Leib” by Peter Damien (SF Signal). 4-star (out of 5) review of anthology, with individual reviews of each story. “Pushaway” got 4 stars —” Told in scenes which move back and forth through a young girl’s life, this is the story of a religious cult who forms an unsustainable settlement on the site of the Spirit Mars Rover. What the story is mostly about is breaking free, over and over throughout the girl’s life, from whatever’s holding her down. The story also comes complete with books, philosophies, other colonies and other places with the same old human problems, and because of this, feels like a remarkably well-rounded future.. This feels very much like humanity among the stars: technologically advanced, but still busy being violent, oppressed, questioning and struggling to break out.”
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