We are proud to present this year's World Weaver Press Pushcart Prize nominations!
WWP published two anthologies in 2021, and have selected three stories from each. Scroll down to see the nominees, and reach an excerpt from the stories.
Congratulations to the authors, and best of luck in the final selection! For more on the Pushcart Prize, see their website here: www.pushcartprize.com/
First up, the three stories from Clockwork, Curses, and Coal: Steampunk and Gaslamp Fairy Tales, edited by Rhonda Parrish.
"The Iron Revolution" by Christina Ruth Johnson
The girls arrive in London at the dirigible docks or train station or (a lucky few) by direct carriage within the same week, a rather dreary one in April. Each makes her way to the designated hotel, where she is greeted at the door by a butler and staff hired to see to her every need and by the hotel matron hired to watch her every move.
Inside the grand lobby is a concentration of the modern splendors of the glorious Age of Artifice. Textiles, art, mechanized furniture of the highest quality, and cabinets full of exotic curiosities suffuse the space with their unusual patterns, bright colors, and symphony of clicks and whirs. Each girl passes by the objects with either awed or assessing glances, following the butler toward her room.
The house’s tasteful luxury is tipped over the edge into ostentation once the full chattering mass of young women—all wealthy, most socialites, some noble, a handful royal, and not a few the daughters of newly-great men of artifice—gathers in the ballroom on the day the contest is set to begin.
"The Balance of Memory" by Reese Hogan
“I am implying only that something miraculous happened inside my child’s soul that night. It’s not something I built. But it’s not something of the Creator, either. It’s something in between; something straight from the beauty of their mind.”
There was a long pause. Then Marjorie said, “Is it okay if I think of them as two people?”
“No,” whispered Henrik.
“Yes,” said Gerta, quirking her metal jaw into a smirk.
“Mother wouldn’t have approved,” he said. “Of her or Papa’s intentions for her.”
“You mean as a new body for Mother’s dead soul?” Gerta rolled her eyes. “It didn’t work the last sixteen times, and it won’t work this one. We’ve nothing to worry about.”
“Who’s worrying?” he said softly. “I’m just wondering what she’d think of being another of Papa’s experiments.”
"A Bird Girl in the Dark of Night" by Sarah Van Goethem
The train chugs into Aldermoor during the night. Jane Windlass stands at her window, watching, a spectre in her white nightgown, her warm fingertips making ovals on the cold glass. She heard the steam trumpet moments before, like always. Every night, trains trundle in and out of Aldermoor, but tonight is different. Jane’s eyes snapped open, her limbs tensed, rigid. She’s been waiting all this time. Waiting and waiting and waiting. For days and weeks and months and years.
How long has it been since she last saw them? The thought weaves a thread of guilt just under her ribs, plucking at her heart. She gave up counting. At some point she stopped totalling the days and resumed her life.
Without her sisters.
But now, finally, the time has come. The circus has arrived and Jane can just make out their forms through the smog-lined streets. There, in the distance, shadows deboarding. Mulling on the platform, clutching at bags, struggling under the weight of trunks.
And next, our nominations from Multispecies Cities: Solarpunk Urban Futures, edited by Christoph Rupprecht, Deborah Cleland, Norie Tamura, Rajat Chaudhuri, and Sarena Ulibarri.
"Listen: A Memoir" by Priya Sarukkai Chabria
That evening, at sunset, as I sat where my bed would later be unfurled, the sky was brighter, as if colours that were unseen behind the day’s blazing blue pushed through the azure membrane to make everything splendid. I sang to the sky again, again in tunes unfamiliar until the moment it tumbled out of me as a sudden gurgling stream.
That’s when it happened. The sky sang back to me.
A star, five-pointed, like the marvels we spoke about
during Face-to-Face Communication Class,
appeared in the sky’s dome and sang to me. I don’t know exactly what it sang for it sang in star language, pulsing in crimson and pale yellow, pulsing, pulsing, but not fading away. We sang a duet, we sang a long long time, singing and singing back as if we were rocking a cradle of melodies.
"By the Light of the Stars" by N. R. M. Roshak
Mishael was in-between, like me: not a tourist, not yet a local. She wasn’t one of the surfers that haunted the beaches, either; she was a normal person with an apartment and a job. Better than normal, really. She didn’t work in the tourist trade, which felt rare and special to me after a couple of months in Oahu’s service industry, but had a solid job as an electrician. Plus, she did a little Parkour in her spare time, and had the physique to match: her body had a compact, graceful strength that put me in mind of both a wrestler and an acrobat.
I had started to hope that somehow, on this island of tourists, surfers, and locals who saw me as a transient, I might have found someone just for me.
Then, in the midst of a conversation about Hawai‘i’s slumbering volcanoes, Mauna Kea’s observatory had come up. And these words had come out of her mouth:
“You know the stars are fake, right?”
"The Birdsong Fossil" by D.K. Mok
A currawong swooped from the rafters, charcoal wings slicing through the sunlight. Rhys sidestepped a myopic kiwi and stumbled over a pangolin as he entered the warehouse.
“Watch your step,” I said belatedly.
“Why is that kiwi out in daylight?”
“He’s an insomniac.”
All around us, fur rippled, feathers ruffled and scales glimmered in a glorious array of colours, although on closer inspection, some of the creatures bore a silvery sheen.
“My goodness,” said Rhys, “that’s not a Komodo dragon, is it?”
“No, giant salamander.” I wrestled the grinning amphibian back into the 3D scanner and flicked the switch to ‘motion capture’. At the edge of an artificial pond, a pair of red-crowned cranes engaged in a mesmerising mirror-dance, although only one of the cranes glimmered faintly silver.
What tends to come first for you when you start to write: character, plot, an image, something else?
It actually varies from story to story. For some books, I come up with a brilliant (to me, at least!) character and just have to think of a way to fit them into the story. Sometimes I get a scene in my head, almost like an action sequence from a movie, and I try to figure out a way to move the plot so it can incorporate the scene. This doesn't always work, so I have a few, sadly, cut scenes in my folders. I think it's important to be flexible, as a writer. Characters change and evolve. Sometimes they go in directions you weren't expecting, so new ideas are always welcome.
What else have you published recently?
My most recent publication was a novella called "Traces" over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, about a man who can find anything, who has, ironically, lost his memories. I wanted to write something with a Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell vibe, and hopefully came at least a little close. I also almost always have an essay or editor's note up at The Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.
What are you working on now?
More novellas, mostly. I found that I was tying myself up in knots over word count limits and it was affecting my writing, so my 2020 New Year's resolution was not to care how long my stories became. Consequently, I came up with the idea for three novellas that deal with memories in one way or the other. "Traces" was the first, I'm revising the second one, and the third's still just a draft. Hopefully, they'll all eventually find homes, or I'll self-publish.
What have you read recently that inspired you?
There are so many wonderful authors and I read so many great books, it's hard to choose. I'm going to make a slightly odd decision and go with a manga, A Man and His Cat, by Umi Sakurai. It's very low-key work—it's really, fairly literally, a bunch of vignettes featuring a lonely man who adopts an equally lonely cat. It's quiet and sweet, and most of all, kind. The way the world is right now, I feel it's necessary to remember kindness; the small gestures. Reading this manga series inspires me to pet my cats, and petting cats simply makes life better, doesn't it?
Books by A.E. Decker
Without spoilers, what is your favorite scene in one of your books?
One of my favorite scenes to ever write is in the short story “The Accidental Poet” in my short story collection Cursed: Wickedly Fun Stories which is, coincidentally, the first book World Weaver Press published back in 2011. Can’t believe it’s been ten years!
In “The Accidental Poet” our brave hero, high school student Bernie Lludd, gets his dream girl to join his unicycle act for the school talent show. She twirls her batons while sitting on his shoulders as he zooms around the gym on a unicycle. But when the unicycle hits a wet spot on the floor, Bernie and his girl take a hard tumble to the thunderous laughter of the student body.
This scene was fun to write because it’s based on a real event that happened to my little sister when we were in high school. She was the majorette twirling batons perched on her boyfriend’s shoulders as he juggled glow-in-the-dark tennis balls while riding a unicycle in the gym to Steve Wynwood’s “While You See a Chance You Take It” with the lights dimmed. And yes, the unicycle hit a wet spot and they both fell. My sister had the breath knocked out of her, but other than dying of embarrassment, she recovered just fine. Truly, real life is stranger and often more bizarre than fiction.
Which of your characters would you most like to meet in real life, and where would the two of you hang out?
Georgia Tidwell, Cleo Tidwell’s sixty-something, Elvis lovin’ mother-in-law. Wherever Georgia goes, fun is sure to follow! Whether it’s making a blow torch from a can of Aqua Net hairspray or being up for an impromptu road trip to Graceland in a pink Cadillac, Georgia is my dream mother-in-law: fun, supportive, and game for anything.
What is one song from your book’s playlist, and how does it relate to the story?
“Fins” by Jimmy Buffet is in the playlist for my novel The Weredog Whisperer and is about sharks of all kinds — those that live in the ocean and those that “swim” on land. As Buffet sings: “They hang out in the local bars, and they feed right after dark...You got fins to the left, fins to the right, and you’re the only bait in town.” Since Weredog Whisperer is about weres (shapeshifters) and is set on Florida’s Gulf Coast, exploring the idea of weresharks seemed like a lot of fun and gave Buffet’s lyrics an all new meaning to me. Talk about sharks that can swim on the land — Cleo Tidwell and her family have a run in with a brother and sister team of weresharks when they spend spring break down in Sugar Sand Beach, Florida. Jenna and Bubba Finn could definitely give the sharks on the TV show Shark Tank a run for their money when it comes to killer instincts.
What are you working on now?
I took a six-year hiatus from writing to deal with family issues, but am itching to get back to fiction writing. I have several ideas percolating at the moment, from the third Cleo Tidwell novel, to a YA/MG novel about a school for the supernaturally challenged, to an adult paranormal erotica. Deciding which one to work on first will be like deciding which of Baskin Robbins 31 flavors of ice cream to try first. But whichever I choose, it’s bound to be delicious.
Books by Susan Abel Sullivan
What do you get when you take the high tech/low life settings of cyberpunk and sprinkle them with the magic and possibilities of fairy tales? Trolls under teleportation bridges, masquerades held in virtual reality, princely avatars, giants and dwarves alongside hackers and androids. From retellings of traditional tales such as Rumpelstiltskin, in which a young woman is tasked with writing code instead of spinning gold, to original tales like the changeling-inspired story of a formless machine intelligence that hijacks human bodies, these cyberpunk fairy tales form a unique collection that is sure to satisfy connoisseurs of both genres.
Trenchcoats, Towers, and Trolls: Cyberpunk Fairy Tales will be out in ebook and paperback January 11, 2022. Add it to your Goodreads shelf now, and check back soon for opportunities to pre-order your copy. Want to win an advance review copy? Check out the World Weaver Press Twitter account for a chance to win.
Table of Contents
"Introduction" by Rhonda Parrish
"A Beautiful Nightmare" by Sarah Van Goethem
"Firewalls and Firewort" by Wendy Nikel
"The Rabbit in the Moon" by Ana Sun
"Stiltskin" by Michael Teasdale
"Three" by Nicola Kapron
"Cumulus" by Thomas Badlan
"Drift-Skip" by Suzanne Church
"Make Your Own Happily Ever After" by Beth Goder
"***********SK.IN" by Alena Van Arendonk
"C4T & MOU5E" by V.F. LeSann
"In the Belly of the Whale" by Angus McIntyre
"Neon Green in D Minor" by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
More Punked Up Fairy Tales
Sunday, August 1st at noon Mountain Time, please join us for a discussion about the role of fairy tales in modern fiction, featuring authors Charlotte Honigman, Lissa Sloan, Reese Hogan, and Wendy Nikel, all of whom have published fairy tale-inspired stories in World Weaver Press anthologies. This virtual event will be part of Mythcon 51, happening all weekend. A $20 membership fee gets you access to three tracks of fantastic discussions from both scholars and authors.
Charlotte Honigman (she/her) is a history teacher, wife, mom, and rabbinic school dropout, as well as a writer who weaves Jewish myth and history into fantasy and science fiction. As C.G. Griffin, she is the author of Last Mass, a mystery novel set in Renaissance Florence. Her Baba Yaga retelling, “The Partisan and the Witch” was published in Skull and Pestle: New Tales of Baba Yaga (World Weaver Press, 2019), and won the Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award.
Lissa Sloan’s (she/her) poems and short stories are published in Enchanted Conversation, Krampusnacht: Twelve Nights of Krampus, Frozen Fairy Tales, and Skull and Pestle: New Tales of Baba Yaga. “Death in Winter,” Lissa’s contribution to Frozen Fairy Tales, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Reese Hogan (they/he) is a nonbinary science fiction author from New Mexico. They have published three novels, and the latest, Shrouded Loyalties from Angry Robot, was a Best SFF of August 2019 pick by both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Their Hansel and Gretel retelling, “The Balance of Memory,” was published in Clockwork, Curses, and Coal: Steampunk and Gaslamp Fairy Tales (World Weaver Press, 2021).
Wendy Nikel (she/her) is a speculative fiction author with a degree in elementary education, a fondness for road trips, and a terrible habit of forgetting where she's left her cup of tea. Her fairy tale retellings include “Things Forgotten on the Cliffs of Avevig” in Grimm, Grit, and Gasoline: Dieselpunk and Decopunk Fairy Tales (World Weaver Press, 2019) and “Blood and Clockwork” in Clockwork, Curses, and Coal: Steampunk and Gaslamp Fairy Tales (World Weaver Press, 2021).
Guest Blog by Andrew Dana Hudson
It’s very clear—from science, from anecdotes, from viral videos on the Internet—that humans share this planet with alien intelligences. I don’t speak of skrulls or reptoids, of course, but of dogs, dolphins, apes, whales, corvids, cats and elephants. And countless others, animals with their own subjective inner lives, with opinions, desires, emotions and even language.
And yet, where is the highly funded, intergovernmental, Arrival-esque research effort to establish meaningful communication with these terrestrial alien minds? Plenty of science is done on animal communication, but nothing on the scale of what’s depicted in blockbuster movies and sci-fi novels as a natural response to encountering beings from outer space. We giddy at the thought of universal translators—they’re in everything from Star Trek to Marvel movies to Barbarella—but we seem disinterested in applying such a device to the non-humans already on our planet.
I don’t want to dwell on why this is—our speciesism, our anthropocentrism, the artificial hierarchies we create to set ourselves apart from other kinds of minds—but rather propose a sci-fi “what-if.” What if our priorities were different? What if, instead of using Big Data to optimize social media ads, we used that enormous computational power to interpret the sounds, signs, and body language of animals? What if, instead of automating weapons of war, DARPA and similar used artificial intelligence to create tools of connection? What if our schools taught us how to listen—with our ears, eyes, nose and touch—to beings who don’t look like us but nonetheless likely have something interesting to say?
Some of this hypothetical backgrounds my story “The Mammoth Steps.” In it, translation technology and norms of interspecies communication make possible a deep friendship between a boy, Kaskil, and a de-extincted mammoth, Roomba. More than that, they create a world in which Roomba is not a pet, not confined or controlled or enslaved, but rather has the agency to pursue his own dreams and desires. He, with Kaskil’s help, journeys across the human world, and he is mostly left alone, allowed to live his own life, go his own way. It is merely science fictional flare to tell this story with a mammoth, rather than a chimp or a beluga or an African elephant.
In our “what-if” scenario, it is not hard to imagine that interspecies communication tech doesn’t just empower humans, but empowers non-humans as well. Imagine visiting a city where everyone speaks a foreign language. You see things that interest you—museums and shops and public transit and restaurants—but you can’t express that interest to the locals, can’t even get them to let you in the buildings. But with our translator, all that is changed! Is it so hard to imagine that with real communication, rather than reward-and-punishment training under regimes of animal captivity and slavery, some non-humans could similarly become flourishing parts of our civilization, perhaps our cities? Could even, with the right technological assistance, do jobs, get paid, rent apartments, participate in the economy, enjoy leisure, express opinions, create art?
We don’t know what’s really possible here. We lack the civilizational priorities to find out. We don’t know how much of any consciousness is instinctive and how much is learned, relational, materially constructed. We can train elephants to paint, and chuckle at their little drawings, feel impressed that an animal could do this, while also feeling safe in knowing that it will never compare to great human art. But we have never let an elephant go to art school, never created the material and social conditions for elephant art to unfold over generations.
In my “Mammoth Steps” what-if of translation apps, visual talking boards, and touchscreen interface balls, humans and animals have started to explore what might be possible. Working together to care for the environment? Yes. Non-human freedom of movement across a whole continent? Within reason. Clothes and healthcare to bring comfort to those with different bodies? Worth trying. Shared politics, economics, communities? Contentious, but we’ll never know until we try.
Andrew Dana Hudson’s fiction has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Vice Terraform, Slate Future Tense, Grist, MIT Technology Review, and more. His work won the 2016 Everything Change Climate Fiction Contest and was runner-up in the 2017 Kaleidoscope Writing the Future Contest. He has a master’s degree in sustainability from Arizona State University and is a fellow at the ASU Center for Science and the Imagination. He is a member of the cursed 2020/2021 class of the Clarion Workshop. He lives in Tempe, Arizona and can be found online at www.andrewdanahudson.com and on Twitter at @andrewdhudson.
Without spoilers, what is your favorite scene in one of your books?
In Bite Somebody, I’m obsessed with the scene when Celia first bites Ian. Unlike pretty much every other vampire romance book EVER, it’s not a romantic moment at all. Instead, it’s Celia being Celia—awkward, unexpected, and hilarious. To this day, I giggle every time I think of Imogene asking Celia, “Do you stutter bite?”
Which of your characters would you most like to meet in real life, and where would the two of you hang out?
Most people would think I’d say Imogene from the Bite Somebody series, but honestly, she’s kind of mean and scary. I would most like to meet the romantic interest, Ian, in real life. One: I based him on a young, black-haired, curly-headed, and tan Benedict Cumberbatch so basically YUM. Two: he’s super positive, cheerful, funny, and excellent at Jeopardy! I am certain he would put me in a good mood, and maybe (with Celia’s permission) we could make out a little. Where would we go? Well, the Drift Inn down on Bradenton Beach in Florida, of course. The bartender, Angry Santa, awaits.
What else have you published recently?
My most recent release is a romantic comedy like Bite Somebody … and it’s set in the same place, based on Longboat Key, Florida. This is Not a Horror Movie is a young adult gay romance that features the adorably awkward, horror movie-obsessed Emory and his long-time, unreachable crush Connor. Together, they must solve a mystery at the beach. They miiiiiiiiight fall in love in the process. Of all my romance novels, the Bite Somebody series and This is Not a Horror Movie are the funniest, but as always, that humor is dark and kinda twisted. Just like me.
What have you read recently that inspired you?
I don’t know if it inspired me per se, but I just finished Bones and All by Camille DeAngelis. It’s a cannibal love story. Sort of. Okay, it’s a lot more than that. Anyway, I picked it up when I heard Luca Guadagnino (director of Call Me By Your Name; my favorite movie) was adapting the book into a film starring the beautiful and talented Timothee Chalamet. Bones and All is just incredible. The way Camille writes gore—or more like insinuates gore—is masterful. The characters are super interesting, and lemme just say, that ending!!! Arguhhhhh, yeah, authors like Camille make me wanna work a lot harder on my craft.
Books by Sara Dobie Bauer
I normally share these right after paying biannual royalties, but here it is a month later, and I just realized I never actually posted the blog! It's important to me to celebrate our bestsellers because publishing can be a very lonely game. We've certainly published several wonderful books that have not reached the audience we hoped they would, and some books take a while to find their readers. Take, for example, Far Orbit, an anthology of optimistic space adventures, which is reaching far more readers now than seven years ago when it was first released! If you read and enjoyed this space opera anthology, please note that there's a second volume waiting for you: Far Orbit Apogee. And every time I think the Krampus trend has faded, here come a whole new rush of readers discovering the creative Krampus re-imaginings in He Sees You When He's Creepin' and Krampusnacht. While ebooks dominate sales for most of our titles, these two tend to sell better in paperback—they make great stocking stuffers!
Congratulations to all of the authors and editors represented in this bestseller list, and many thanks to every single person who has ever purchased a World Weaver Press book, or written a review for one, or requested one from your local library. We're still here because of you.
A few notes on these rankings:
TOP 10 BESTSELLERS: 1st Half 2021
TOP 10 ALL-TIME BESTSELLERS, 2012-PRESENT
Guest Blog by Joseph F. Nacino
The many islands of the Philippines have always been bountiful—bounded with deep waters full of fish, verdant with vegetation, and blessed with rich soil. But it’s also constantly wracked by natural disasters year after year, ranging from seasonal typhoons to the occasional fitful volcanos and rumbling earthquakes.
This is because the Philippines is located both along the Ring of Fire—an area in the Pacific region where many volcanic eruptions and earthquakes happen—as well as the typhoon belt. Yearly, the country is hit by around 80 typhoons that develop over the tropical waters. Nineteen of these enter the Philippine region, and 6-9 of them make landfall. These all leave their mark, either people dead or severely affecting the infrastructure and economy.
In 2020 alone, aside from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines started off the year with the eruption of the Taal Volcano that caused heavy ashfall in the nearby provinces—including the capital, Metro Manila. In August, a 6.6-magnitude earthquake hit one of the country’s provinces. Out of the 20 tropical cyclones that entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility, 12 made landfall.
Climate change has also affected the Philippines in terms of severity and frequency of natural disasters, with El Niño causing drought and stronger storms. For the latter, consider Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Supertyphoon Yolanda) in 2013 that killed at least 6,000. Rising sea levels are also expected to affect the country (more of this later).
That’s why when I first heard about the solarpunk anthology being created by World Weaver Press about stories of multispecies cities, preferably set in the Asia-Pacific region, I was stumped in coming up with an idea for this. Creating stories set in the Philippines related to the natural environment and climate change isn’t a problem for me. What took me awhile to think about was the fact that since this was a solarpunk anthology, I had to come up with a more “hopeful” story than what I was used to.
After all, year after year, after every disaster, the Philippines has to implement recovery and rehabilitation efforts, but it hasn’t made as many strides in implementing disaster risk reduction planning and activities. What’s more, we’ve been slow to integrate these with climate change adaptation and sustainable development policies.
In 2009, Typhoon Ketsana—known locally as Tropical Storm Ondoy—paralyzed Metro Manila with flash floods caused by heavy rainfall of 17.9 inches (455 millimetres) in just one day. Because of this, open-sourced flood maps detailing possible danger areas like Project Noah were later used by the government as part of their disaster risk reduction efforts. (Sadly, this was later defunded, and reverted back to the academe and private sector groups for their use.) So yes, we sometimes learn—but always at a cost. And given the track record of the national government, any efforts to address would be probably too little, too late.
Given this overall situation, how could I write a story about hope? With “Mariposa Awakening,” I had to include all these elements. The main problem faced by the protagonists (and the country) in the story is the rising sea levels in the future. By 2100, projections of sea level rise would range from two to four meters, with 1.5 million people in the coastal and low-lying areas of the country being affected. This meant that whatever hopeful solution that could address this would be too late—the barn door was already open and the horse had already fled.
That’s when I thought that this story doesn’t end after the natural disaster happens. No, this story begins after the disaster, with the country slowly slipping under the sea waters. That’s where this story begins, and what happens next is what we usually do here in the Philippines: we survive, we rebuild, and we try to find hope to give to the next generation of Filipinos. That’s the hopeful part of this story.
Joseph F. Nacino writes for a living. He also writes stories that have been published in international (Fantasy Magazine, City in the Ice, Kitaab’s Asian Speculative Fiction) and local publications (the Philippine Speculative Fiction series, A Time of Dragons, Friendzones, etc.). Likewise, he’s helmed three anthologies featuring fantasy, science fiction, and horror in the Philippines published online, and in print and ebook form.
Guest Blog by N. R. M. Roshak
In January 1994, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake shook Los Angeles. The Northridge earthquake rumbled through at 4:30 AM, waking residents and taking out the power grid. People poured out of their homes and into the darkened streets. And some of them dialed 911, not about the earthquake, but about what they saw in the dark sky: a strange “giant, silvery cloud” arching over the stricken city.
That mysterious cloud? It was the Milky Way.
The LA residents who called 911 on the Milky Way had likely never seen it before. LA's light pollution is notorious. Light spilling into the sky from streelights, buildings, signs, and searchlights is refracted by the coastal haze, creating an intense skyglow. LA's skyglow is particularly intense--pilots say they can see it from 200 miles away. The sky's brightest stars are barely visible, let alone the Milky Way. And LA isn't the only city affected. Most urban residents have trouble seeing the stars. This picture shows the constellation Orion, seen from the countryside and seen from the city.
Unfortunately, the glow of light pollution has worse consequences than shutting humans off from the stars. Many animals' biology and lives are thrown off by nighttime lighting. And it doesn't take a city as bright as LA to affect them. Brightly-lit towers and tall buildings can confuse migratory birds so badly that they circle the towers until they collapse from exhaustion. Lights disrupt frogs' nighttime croaking. Baby sea turtles, who hatch on beaches, instinctively turn toward light to find the ocean--a strategy that worked for millions of years, when the sky over the open ocean was brighter than the land's shadow, but that fails when the land is topped with a city's glow. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. Dozens of species of mammals , reptiles , amphibians, insects, and even aquatic species like coral are affected by our cities' light pollution.
These two consequences of urban skyglow — humans blinded to the stars, animals led astray — come together in my story for Multispecies Cities, "By The Light of the Stars". It's a gently speculative queer romance about turtle hatchlings who need a little help to find the ocean, and a human who needs a little help to believe in the stars.
Writing this story opened my eyes to the effects of light pollution on all of us, human and animal. And it pains me that I can't show my own kid the stars from our urban home. If you have a kid that you'd like to share the stars with, I invite you to check out the free STEAM activities and readings on my blog: http://nrmroshak.com/how-many-stars-do-you-see-at-night/ And, if you're interested in learning more about light pollution, https://www.darksky.org is a good place to start. The characters in my story find a speculative solution to the turtles' problem; we can't do that in real life, but we can advocate for less light pollution and darker skies in our cities, for the sake of our turtles, birds, bats, frogs, corals, etc. and for ourselves.
N. R. M. Roshak writes all manner of things, including (but not limited to) short fiction, kidlit, non-fiction and translation. Her short fiction has appeared in Flash Fiction Online, On Spec, Daily Science Fiction, Future Science Fiction Digest, and elsewhere, and was awarded a quarterly Writers of the Future prize. She studied philosophy and mathematics at Harvard; has written code and wrangled databases for dot-coms, Harvard, and a Fortune 500 company; and has blogged for a Fortune 500 company and written over 100 technical articles. She shares her Canadian home with a small family and a revolving menagerie of Things In Jars. You can find more of her work at http://nrmroshak.com, and follow her on Twitter at @nroshak.
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