“Dear Houston” in Tesseracts 20

t1-cover110Am feeling so Canadian! Having been an Austinite and a Portlander for so long, I’m having a swell time embracing my Canadianity (Canadianness?), most recently with a sale to the longrunning Canadian SFF anthology series, Tesseracts.

Called a “Canadian literary legacy,” the first Tesseracts anthology was edited by SF luminary Judith Merril in 1985. By Tesseracts 20‘s release Canadian authors, editors, translators and special guests will have contributed nearly 600 short stories, poems, editorials, and forewords to the series, including Margaret Atwood, Susan Swan, and the Hugo and Nebula award winning William Gibson, Spider Robinson, and Robert J. Sawyer.

tesseracts 19

Happy to say I’m following my Tesseracts 19 appearance (“A Week in the Superlife”) with “Dear Houston” in Tesseracts 20, edited by Mssrs. Spider Robinson and James Alan Gardner. A poem this time! A very long poem…

To Strangers Seated on a Plane

My very short piece “To Strangers Seated on a Plane” arrived recently wrapped in plain brown paper like an oldfashioned naughty book. This was my contributor copy of ROBO-BOOK, a project of Bank-Heavy Press.

. . .To the gentleman in 7c:
I can only say thank you.
It’s a pleasure to sit behind a man
so attentive to hygiene. You smelled
good and clean and fresh and
that can’t be said of all our seat neighbors. . . .

Check out Bank-Heavy on their site, or participate in their Superduper Merchandise Fundraiser by going here. Also, they’re accepting poetry for their newest project, Kisses with Fishes, until July 31st.

 

[… and poetry]

     The following was written to coincide with the release of the inaugural issue of Cutaway Magazine. It recently appeared on the magazine’s site:

[. . . and poetry]

I usually use the filter of speculative or weird fiction to talk about the things that matter most:  love; death; loss; outsiderism; personal insignificance in the greater universe; that desperate moment when you realise that the fashion ensemble you cobbled together with a mixture of your mom’s castoffs, vintage store jewelry, punkrock teeshirts from high-school you can still squeeze into, ill-advised supertacky dayglo spandex that looked good on the mannequin at the mall does not, in fact, play well at the in-laws’.  Whatever.  These are the important things in life.  Using the lens of fantastical fiction lets me as a writer examine this stuff closely enough to feel it, to write about it, to tap into that intangible something that helps me communicate meaning to a random stranger halfway across the world.

And then there’s poetry.

I confess to often omitting the words “and poetry” when I tell people about PUSH OF THE SKY, my collection of short fiction . . . and poetry.  Earlier this year I was astounded and delighted to have pieces nominated for two speculative poetry awards — the Rhysling (with “Young Miss Frankenstein Regrets”) and the Dwarf Stars Award (with “Solo Missions I Do All I Can,” a space limerick [?!?]).  So I’ve certainly written my share of spec poems alongside my weird fiction. . .  But the two pieces Cutaway Magazine picked up for their inaugural issue are not among them.

Usually when I write what I think of as “straight” — normal people probably call it “literary,” though I have my problems with the term — the words just feel too goddamn raw.  They chafe, slice my skin and leave splinters someplace under my ribs. The few non-fantastical pieces I’ve sold — none of them any more autobiographical than any of my fiction — wrench me in uncomfortable directions.

Some artists apparently like this, crave this in fact. I do not. And yet “Dog” is as raw a piece (and by the far the most autobiographical piece) as any I have ever written, regardless of length or form. It felt right, it is true, it was written with my dog sitting at my feet, and it still makes me cry to read it. I don’t read it often; having written it is enough.  Too much, almost.

Naked I” doesn’t make me cry, but it still feels very close to my core. That poem is like a bookmark flagging that part of my soul repeatedly wonderstruck by the vastness and complexity of the universe from its smallest particle to its grandest celestial formation. Both the minute personal world of “Dog” and the inconceivably limitless one of “Naked I” carve close to my bones.

So that’s poetry.  When it hits you at the proper angle, a poem is to a novel as a scalpel blade is to a butter-knife.

“Young Miss Frankenstein Regrets”

In honor of the 2011 Rhysling Awards, I’m posting “Young Miss Frankenstein Regrets” below. It appeared in Volume 47 of ChiZine (April 2011).

Young Miss Frankenstein Regrets

by Camille Alexa
Reanimation gives rise to all sorts of
regrets, as one forgets the
repercussions sure to follow the
reappearance of the dead.

Recalling the fantasies of
reunion in which one indulged before
reactivating the machine one had
rebuilt in Great-Grandpa’s study,
reusing dusty parts and
reworking the old man’s blueprints after
rereading all his crumbling musty notes and
rewiring the entire neighborhood to
reroute all local power to the modest
reactor atop the roof (planning, of course, to
replace everything afterward), one
reheats the cryogenically frozen heirloom brain,
recombining purloined “found” parts to
revive dear Great-Grandpa and
reclaim days of past family glory.

Recovering from the scent of charred meat,
repulsed by Great-Grandpa’s mindless drooling and
reasserting control over one’s unfortunate
recoil from the outstretched avuncular arms
reaching for one’s throat in a most
repugnant and alarming manner, one
recollects one’s dream of
realizing ancestral legacy by
re-embarking on one’s great-grandfather’s work.

Reluctantly, one uses the cattle prod to halt the
repeated efforts of one’s ancestor to
release himself from the sturdy iron
restraints one had the merciful foresight to
reinforce before the experiment.
Reducing the power levels and
resetting the levers, one
retreats to a safer distance to seriously
reconsider (despite the family resemblance) having
reawakened a howling, incoherent monster so eerily
reminiscent of one’s dear late mother.

Really, one thinks as one unplugs the
reviving machines, waiting for the
resubsidence of all signs of pseudolife from one’s
redoubtable, famous, infamous forebear,
Reliving the past isn’t always so
regrettable, is it?