Introduction to the Next Three Months (or so)

I have a doctorate to finish. The last six months of a PhD can be very intense. I may not have time to write posts every week. So that you don’t miss out, I’ve chosen a year of my life at random and will find you published pieces of prose I wrote in that year, and let you explore a year in the life of a Gillian. This won’t take us til July, so when those posts run out, I’ll choose another year, then one more year after that. Three random years. I may resort to the purple sparkly sorting hat…

The first year is 2016. I chose it because, near the end of the year, I was persuaded to try Patreon. My page there is still going strong and I love my patrons and the support they give me. They get (mostly historical, sometimes with commentary) recipes every fortnight and new fiction and sometimes strange drafts of old fiction, new essays, old essays, writing advice… Some of them just stick with the recipes. Some opt for recipes and fiction. Some brave souls read all the writing, every month. When I see them at events, it’s as if we’ve been in a continuing conversation about my life and my writing and my research. I’ve been very fortunate, and each and every one of them is a seriously cool person… and very patient. Next week I shall be celebrating them with the very first non-fiction piece I sent them. I’ll work my way back (erratically) to the beginning of 2016 and then I’ll find another year.

I’ll post them all ahead of time, and you get something new every week. Me, I get to spend my Mondays writing and editing furiously. When I submit my thesis, we can all heave a big sigh of relief.


PS This is not an April Fool’s joke. I so want to apologise for it not being one!

Nancy Jane on Her Favorite Reads of 2023

Over at Ambling Along the Aqueduct, Nancy Jane Moore has contributed a piece on her favorite books (and a couple of other things) from 2023.

Her post is number 31 in a series of pieces by Aqueduct Press authors and friends on what books, movies, music, and related things moved them last year. Read them all and find some more books for your TBR pile or movies you have to go see.

Nancy Jane Reads at Story Hour

Treehouse resident Nancy Jane Moore will be reading online at Story Hour this Wednesday September 6 at 7 pm PDT with Kathleen Jennings. You can catch the show via Zoom or Facebook Live.

Story Hour is hosted by Daniel Marcus and Laura Blackwell. Every Wednesday two authors each read a complete story. Past shows can be viewed on Facebook.

News and thoughts about the news

Why do I have trouble announcing cool things? Why is it so very difficult to tell you all that I’m on two short lists?

The first list is for an Australian award for my book Story Matrices (edited by Francesca Barbini), and the second is an international one for the Sidewise Award (alt history) for my Medieval story in the amazing Other Covenants short story collection. The short story is “Why the Bridgemasters of York Don’t Pay Taxes,” edited by Andrea D. Lobel and Mark Shainblum (who I finally met, just the other day). Both lists are wonderful to be on. I’m unlikely to win either.

While both are most excellent, the Sidewise in particular is a wonderful moment. Even I can’t deny that.

There is a special, special honour in being listed along with these amazing writers. It’s taken me days to admit this. Partly this is because I’ve not had much comment either short listing. Six people have told me how pleased they are about the William Atheling one, and one of those six is my mother. Another is the editor. This means I feel a bit invisible. Partly this is because there are far better writers than me and it’s easier to talk about them than to talk about my own work. Also, partly this is because Australia is a bit odd. Some people get big shouts for all their accomplishments… I am not one of those people. One day I will discover why, but until that day comes, I will assume my writing is just not that good. There is a lot of encouragement for me to think that and very little for me to think otherwise. Except from German academics, but that’s another story.

However… there are things that no-one’s asked me about my short story and this is the moment to spill the beans. In order for me to spill the beans you need to know about my short story and about one of my novels. Bridgemasters was only released in December last year. The novel is The Green Children Help Out, which came out in 2021. The reason I thought my Bridgemasters story would go unnoticed was because the Green Children went pretty much unseen. There was, however, a much bigger reason for it going unseen than my self-doubt. COVID lockdowns and quiet hit me harder than some, because I was unable to go to any events face to face (I’m COVID-vulnerable), and in Australia it’s almost impossible to reach readers unless they see and talk to you, I’ve found. The story and the novel are linked. In fact, I wrote the Bridgemasters story (and a couple of others) as a testing ground for the world I was building for the Bridgemasters story. They’re quite different, but they’re set in the same alternate Earth. I wanted to know what sort of cultural underpinnings my English Jewish characters would have in this alternate Earth. I test these things in a number of ways, and I build the world gently and carefully, then I let it rip with a story or two. The other stories are in the volume of my collected short stories (Mountains of the Mind), which was also short listed for an award. I am obviously not good at learning.

I thought my Green Children novel was good, but I didn’t think my Bridgemasters story was anything more than a small fun piece, translating late Medieval Christian thought into a world inhabited by Jews that a very particular group of Christians are forced to protect. This just shows that some writers are not good judges of their own work. It also shows that being mainly confined to a tiny physical world for three years was not the end of the known universe. I’m working on a gentle and slow emergence. We’ll see if that changes anything.

I should just have said, “Look! Announcements!” If I win either (unlikely) I promise to do that. In the meantime, I hope a few more readers see my work and make up their own minds about it. Quite obviously I’m not the right person to advise on whether to read my work!

Everyday: the update

My life is very busy right now. Just for once, Im going to skip over the health stuff entirely. I know I’m juggling newly hatched chicks and cannot drop them: you don’t need to know about the enar-misses and the squawks and the way my hands are scratched and pecked at. To avoid talking about being sick, then, I’m going to make a list.

Ten things I’m doing this week.

1. Researching – this is my regular research and is all about how the built worlds are described in novels. Not just any novels. Fairy tale retellings.

2. More researching. I’m giving an academic paper that involves close knowledge of Marvel movies and of Old French chansons de geste and Medieval Arthurian tales. I’m not reading and watching all these stories from scratch. This is stuff I’ve known for years, especially the chansons de geste. My first academic analysis of Old French epic legends was in 1982. (I grow old.) It’s the most fun revision ever, and it’s going to last me through until May. It’s my spare-time reading and viewing, and a really good reason to get other work done.

3. Eating. I’m finishing food up for Passover. Tonight I became so tired of it that I ordered takeaway dinner. Three hours later I got my act together again and mung beans are madly sprouting for eating in two days. That’s the last of the mung beans.

4. Preparing for Passover, the rest of it. So much work… and I have to start extra early because of not being that well. I watch my progress every day. Today’s big event was making sure I had the right birthday present for my mother and that she could have it on the right day. If I fail at everything else, as long as Mum has her birthday present and I have the right food and a clean kitchen I can manage.

5. Preparing for the UK’s National Science Fiction Convention. It’s called Conversation and everything I know about the programme so far says that even the online programme is going to be wonderful. British fan interests aren’t the same as North American fan interests (although there is overlap) which is why I love going to virtual conventions in both regions. If Australia ran a virtual convention, I would attend here, too.

6. Everything else. I have a list, and right now it’s a lost list, so ‘Everything else’ is the best I can do!

Australia Reads

Today’s title is not a description of the unexpected (Australians are literate!) but of an annual event. We’ve been heading towards it for weeks. it’s this week, on 9 March. Schools and libraries specially have whole programs, and Young Adult writers are in particular demand. My big Australia reads function this year was talking about fantasy novels with Wendy Orr and Rik Lagarto for Libraries ACT. It will be put up the Libraries’ Facebook page on the day, and then readers in Canberra will be able to compare note and argue and chat about the books we talk about. We will probably join in the discussion. Of course we will. That’s what book discussions are for.

Australia Reads/Australian Reading Hour is an annual event where a lot of Australians read for a single hour on the same day. We’re not told what to read. We do, however, talk about books a lot in the lead-up. Some people buy a book they’ve been dreaming of, specially to read that day. I’ve done that, this year. A lot of the fun is in comparing notes and suggesting titles and worrying if we will get hold of our dream book in time or if we should find an alternate book, just in case. I always emerge from This lead-up period and from the day itself with a long list of books I need to take a look at. This is such a good feeling.

There are Ambassadors for Reading to encourage Australians to read something that day. I am one. Let me show you. It’s not my best quote ever. Every year I want to improve it and change it and every year I say to myself, “It’s probably better to spend the time reading.” And so I do. I’m very proud to be an Ambassador.

I don’t know if there are Reading Hours in other countries, but if you don’t have one and would like to join us, please do! Any book, the hour of your choice (or 4 lots of 15 minutes if life is simply impossible, though an hour is best, it gives time away from a fractious everyday). People often ask me if there’s a book of mine I suggest for Australia Reads. This year it’s The Green Children Help Out, because we really need a bunch of cheerfully quirky superheroes to help us deal with destructive fools. Me, I’m reading The Tangled Lands, a new novel by Glenda Larke.

What book will you choose?

Something new

This Monday, today, October 31 (if I say it often enough, I’ll believe it – where I am it is a blowy November day and a famous horse race is in the offing) is the introduction to something new. Starting next week, as they come to hand, I’ll be posting long interviews with writers. By ‘long’ I mean that the first one will extend over four weeks.

My other Monday posts will appear in between interviews and interviews may follow each other rapidly or be months apart. But there will be interviews.


Around me, so many readers are asking “Why haven’t we heard of this writer?” One of the reasons is because fewer writers are given as much time by bloggers and podcasts and critics. I was looking at my own visibility in the US and realised how little of me is known to readers of Locus, which is the leading magazine for science fiction and fantasy – I don’t fit their profile for an author. Many, may writers don’t fit these profiles. Because so many of us are less visible, writers don’t develop as many profound loyalties to writers who fit the profile of important magazines and critics, or who are not on the right lists and win the right prizes. It’s harder to discover those unique voices and to seek out writers who are not in our own country or published by our favourite imprints. It’s harder, to be honest, to see writers. I want to see writers. Who they are, how they talk, and I want to enjoy time with them. That’s what these interviews are about: time. Time to argue, to be fascinated, to chase to find a book, to stop and think, to laugh. Time to see just how interesting writers can be.

Years ago I did group interviews for BiblioBuffet, a literary e-journal. These interviews among my most popular work from those days and are still discovered by new readers. Those readers occasionally report back to me about them. They tell me how good the interviews are, because of their length and their substance.  I looked at my early interviews again recently, to determine their persistent appeal. I think it’s because when a group of writers get together, we have conversations. We go in unexpected directions and give readers insights into work. There is no PR template.  It’s exciting to not know where an interview is headed, or how a writer responds to questions and how the whole thing can become immensely wise or devolve into silliness on the same page.

The first interview will appear, magically, throughout November and maybe into early December After that, it will be as they’re finished. I don’t restrict length, or push for a given novel to be publicised. This isn’t about publicity, after all. It’s about writers. These writers. About how fascinating writers can be and how not a single one of us thinks the way we expect they will.

The first interview is from Amy Sterling Casil (one of the members of this Treehouse) with Ron Collins and Mike Libling. It’s all ready to go, which means I can tell you with the power of advance knowledge… it’s so much fun! Such a good start to this new series.

And the Award-Winning Author Is…

I’m amazed and thrilled to announce that my story “Eight Mile and the City” from When Worlds Collide has won the WSFA small press award for short fiction.

Check it!

This year, the committee got more than 260 stories for initial consideration. They whittled it down to ten finalists, including my story. The finalist list has some heavy-hitters in the SF writing community on it, and there were so many stories anyway, so I wasn’t expecting to win. I had a “It would be great, but no need to get your hopes up” frame of mind. I was in the audience at the award ceremony in Washington DC, and when they announced my story had won, I was floored. I was so surprised, I couldn’t do anything for a moment but stare at the announcer. Joshua Palmatier, one of the editors for the anthology, was sitting next to me, and I could see he was thrilled. In a fit of exuberance, I hugged him, then went up to the podium to get the award. I also gave a short speech. This is what I said:

Thank you, everyone! This is amazing!

This story means a lot to me. Not just because I wrote it, but because of what it means. The main character in “Eight Mile and the City” from When Worlds Collide is gay, but that’s not what the story is about. The story is about a hardboiled detective trying to solve a kidnapping and uncovering his own past as well.

Not that long ago, this story would only have appeared in an anthology of gay fiction and “only”
gotten the attention of the Gaylactic Spectrum Award. This story appears in a fantastic anthology
of wonderful stories that are geared toward all SF readers. It’s not a specialty. It’s not an odd outlier. Instead, it’s one of the family.

We still have further to go, of course, but every step forward gets us one step closer to full inclusion and acceptance. I’m thrilled that my story has become one of those steps.

I do want to thank the committee members for choosing “Eight Mile and the City.” It means so very much! I also need to thank the members of the Untitled Writers Group of Ann Arbor, Michigan–Sarah, MaryBeth, Jonathan, Christian, Diana, Cindy, Ted, Christine P-K, and Christine D–for commentary that improved every line of this story. I want to thank S.C. Butler and Joshua Palmatier for editing When Worlds Collide and buying my story. And I want to thank my husband Darwin McClary for the inspiration I needed to write this piece.

I’m back home now and coasting on euphoria!

The story “Eight Mile and the City” appears in the anthology When Worlds Collide. We have an excerpt below:


We knew she was opportunity because she knocked once and came in. She had a swagger and a set of dagger heels you only see in women south of Eight Mile. A thin line of dark showed at the roots of her carefully golden hair and her lipstick was a strawberry scarlet. She shut the office door behind her and sat in the client chair across from me without asking, her red leather purse perched on her knees like a sleek little lapdog. Seb exchanged a glance with me from his section of the shared Ikea desk we’d salvaged from a burned-out building down on Cass.

“Is this the Eight Mile Detective Agency?” she asked.

Seb leaned back and his chair squeaked. “That’s what it says on the door. You need a detective?”

“Or maybe two.” Her posture hummed with live-wire tension. “I want to hire you to find my son. His name is Samuel Flagg.”

From her purse she removed a paper photograph and passed it over to me. It landed on my desk and I looked down at it without touching. A boy with brown hair, maybe three years old, gazed back up at me with brown eyes. I flipped the photo over to Seb with my fingertips. It was a hell of a flip. My part of the desk looks like the universe a half-second after the Big Bang. But if you stand on it and look down from a distance, you’d see that the chaos makes a wider pattern—these papers sorted by date, those by urgency, others by category.  Seb’s desk, on the other hand, is rigid as a general’s asshole. The few objects on his desk look like they’re nailed there. So it was a feat to flip the photo over my chaos to his order.

While Seb examined the photo, I made myself say, “Your name is?” Talking to strangers is the hardest part of my day. Not because I don’t know what to say. I just have to find a way to say it.

“Candace Flagg.” She reached across the desk. “Pleased to meet you.”

I managed not to grimace when I leaned in to shake. Her hand was cool and thin, and when the sleeve of her blue silk coat pulled back, I noticed the scars.

“Andy Faust,” I said, giving my standard opener. “This is my partner in crime prevention, Sebastian. How long has your son been missing?”

She hesitated. “Next week, it’ll be two years.”

Seb’s eyebrows went up. “Have you called the cops about him?”

“Of course. They told me he isn’t missing.”

Now my eyebrows went up. “You got more to say than that?”

“Look. There’s a reason I’m here.” She leaned in again and lowered her voice. “Word out there—” she made a vague gesture at the door and its pebbled glass window that read Eight Mile Detective Agency: We Push the Boundary “—is that you boys have an in with the NokSinn.”

A silence fell over the little office, but it took me a while to notice. Seb sat stone-faced. I looked away from him and swallowed a throatful of nerves.

Have a Good and Sweet New Year

My post this week is late and it’s very short, both for the same reason. It’s now after dusk on Tuesday in Australia, which means my New Year celebrations have finished. I have eaten so much honey cake…

This year was marked by a bit more antisemitism, which ate the time I’d normally spend writing a post, but since I was on holiday… the post would have been delayed in any case. Rather than giving bigots extra time in the sun, I wrote a series of tweets on the background to what is happening in Australia right now. It’s not a full picture. More like an introduction.

So many of us face bigotry right now, all of us are still dealing with COVID and all of its side-effects. We all deserve an especially sweet and good year. So, please, from me, whatever your background, belief, world view… have that especially good and sweet year.


PS I just discovered that my NY faded (the sun set) at exactly midnight local time for this post! If I had started writing it during my daylight, it would still be dated Monday. The glories of international blogging.