So … the big writing news I promised–I recently learned my short story/novelette The Icelandic Cure won the 2016 Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Contest for speculative short fiction. Omnidawn is an independent Bay Area press, well respected for both poetry publications and for the Fabulist Fiction annual chapbooks (the latter contest going into its sixth year).
Omnidawn Publishing was founded in 2001 by Rusty Morrison and Ken Keegan, who called me a couple weeks ago to share the good news. They caught me a little off-guard … I was waiting for a call from the dishwasher repair guy. But of course I was delighted (and very surprised) to get the news. The chapbook will be published in April of 2018, and I’ll provide a purchase link as soon as one is available.
Thank you to Rusty, Ken, Omnidawn readers, and judge Bradford Morrow for selecting my story!
And thank you to my mom Linda Lancione, both for feedback on the story and for recommending the Omnidawn contest. And to my wife Kia for first reading the story and for giving me great feedback. And also to additional readers Rob English and Jason Wohlstadter.
About The Icelandic Cure (No Spoilers)
The Icelandic Cure is a genetic engineering thriller that takes place in 2021. That’s all I’ll say about the plot. But I will touch on one aspect of the story: the character naming. I spent a significant chunk of time pondering and researching the names for the many characters in the story. I was hoping to highlight the ethnic and cultural diversity of the United States vs. the relative homogeneity of the tiny Icelandic population. The U.S. contingent (from the CDC and State Department) have the surnames Tokugawa, Weisman, Hernandez, and Lewis. A few of the Icelandic character surnames: Lúthersdóttir, Jónsson, Gunnarsson. A lot of guessing went into the Icelandic names; I’m not familiar enough with Icelandic culture to know which names might be considered odd, or old-fashioned, or have other subtle connotations that would be lost on an American writer. So I ended up mixing and matching quite a few names plucked directly from Icelandic news stories.
I think one reason I spent so much time on naming characters was to create a security blanket; something to cling to while I jumped off the cliff of writing so many characters who were unlike myself: a female half-Japanese research scientist, a female Icelandic entrepreneur/genetic engineer, an (ex?)-schizophrenic character, people who live in Reykjavik, people who work in Atlanta and D.C., and so on.
Many years ago I read (and took to heart) some advice: as a writer you need to give yourself permission to vigorously and unabashedly make stuff up. I did that in this story, with the characters, the international intrigue, and the science itself. I trust my draft readers to point out the biggest of the mistakes I make in that risk-taking process, and try to catch a few myself in the revision process. But some wrong notes probably remain in the story. Especially since I didn’t have any Icelandic readers. Apologies in advance …
I’m excited to win this contest, and to have my story published next year. The prize money is also nice!
I’m hoping this will put me over the top for SFWA Active Membership, though I may still need one more professional sale to qualify. I’m going to apply and see what happens.
I’m also going to start querying agents, with the hopes of finding a publisher for my nearly-completed science-fiction novel The Sky Woman. I’ve also started a new novel.
If you’ve been following my ongoing attempts to spin a fiction writing career out of thin air, thank you for the support (or at least for paying attention, even if only for your own amusement). If you’re rooting for me, I deeply appreciate it. I hope I can convince you to buy a book when that time comes.
If you read this blog for other reasons, don’t despair. I have plenty of posts in the pipeline on a variety of topics, including a psychological experiment I’ve been conducting on myself for twenty days (I’ll give it the full thirty before writing about it).