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
World Weaver Press
Publishing fantasy, paranormal, and science fiction.