The Hazmat Sisters – new fiction @Asimovs_SF !

Fifteen months ago, when Toronto was entering its first lockdown and I had recently turned in Dealbreaker, I embarked on writing a series of novelettes set in the same universe as the books but a little bit further back in the timeline. “The Hazmat Sisters,” is one of these, and I am proud to say it is now out in Asimovs.

Head and shoulders portrait of L.X. Beckett wearing a yellow tunic, holding the July/August 2021 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction, containing their story "The hazmat sisters"

“The Hazmat Sisters” is set in the same universe as Gamechanger and Dealbreaker, during a period I call the Clawback, a period of this century when pandemics start spreading across the globe (I swear, I wrote Gamechanger before our current pandemic had erupted!) and the infrastructure of many national governments starts showing the cracks and strain of the VUCA era.

(VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.)

In my previous Clawback piece, “The Immolation of Kev Magee,” I home in on the scramble among super-rich corporate oligarchs to hang onto power in the face of a global reassessment of the value of capitalism. This takes comes through the eyes of three kids who are refugees of a civil war in the U.S.A., over gun ownership and national disarmament. “The Hazmat Sisters,” on the other hand, is also about young people trying to survive that conflict… but they’re not nearly as far away from the shooting. Wilmie, Tess and Fee are trying to get to Chicago from Missouri in time to reunite with their mother and start the school year. But putting up with your sisters is hard at the best of times, and now they’re camping, and suddenly there’s a boy in the mix. The story’s got got plucky girls on the road, cool robots, sisterly love, allergy attacks, missile attacks, a smidge of violence, and lots of banter.

Gamechanger and Dealbreaker are hopepunk books and they depict a universe that, I hope, a lot of readers would like to build, live in, and bequeath to future generations of humans, as well as all the other living beings on this planet. They’re cheery, even aspirational, and they take place in a period whose name reflects it: the Bounceback. The Clawback, on the other hand, is the plunge before the resurgence. These three novelettes come from the historical moment when humanity hits rock bottom. It is the peering-into-the-abyss moment and the reckoning, the point where ever more people come together to climb out of the environmental, economic and systemic holes we’ve dug ourselves.

This makes the timeline for the stories and books I’ve set in this universe:

Anyway, it’s a novelette. If you like it, it has all these literary kin.

As the summer unfolds, I am planning to get back into posting more writing essays on my A.M. Dellamonica website, where most of my fantasy and horror fiction lives, and I’m going to start folding more Alyx news into The Lexicon, my periodic newsletter. This seems like a sensible move, since my dual identity as Beckett and Dellamonica is no longer secret, as it was when Gamechanger came out. I’m also, therefore, going to have the occasional pitch for subscribing to my Curious Fictions feed here on the Beckett site, and for my Ko-Fi.

The first of these writing essays is live now and is about when and how much to revise a story to make it more palatable to markets with PG-13 sensibilities. I hope you’ll check it out.

Also story sale! “Cat Ladies,” to the Magazine of F&SF, aka @FandSF

More of my springtime writing has found a place to roost. This time it’s a novelette called “Cat Ladies,” and as it says above, it’s going to appear in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2021.

Like my Clarkesworld novelette “The Immolation of Kev Magee,” and “The Hazmat Sisters,” which I’ve recently sold to Sheila Williams at Asimov’s Science Fiction, “Cat Ladies” takes place during the Clawback. This puts it after my Setback novella “Freezing Rain, a Chance of Falling,” (which also originally appeared in F&SF). Also those other novelettes, it falls well before the events of my Bounceback novels Gamechanger and Dealbreaker.

The Clawback is a tough period, riven by human-made disasters, but this is in many ways one of its more peaceful stories, set among a community of lesbians tasked with dismantling Calgary’s suburbs. It has beekeepers and policing robots and sexy sculptresses and–because it’s nominally a Western–a hard drinkin’ garrulous sheriff. But also, because what even is a Western, it has the displaced sister of a pop music sensation.

I’m so happy the story has found a home at F&SF, and pleased and grateful to have sold one last story to Charlie Finlay before he hands over the reins to Sheree Renée Thomas, who is going to be an amazing editor!

Story sale! “The Hazmat Sisters,” to @SheilaWilliam10 @Asimovs_SF

November is always the most difficult month for me, creatively, and 2020 has been double November with a side of sad salad. I am researching a few new story ideas and keeping up with my various cheery Twitter projects, like the weather reports, but that aside it has been a month of much teaching and little story.

But one of the great things about writing is its life cycle. Even as you’re wrangling new ideas or struggling with rewrites, work you did months earlier comes back from the past to joybomb you. And so I’m delighted to announce that Sheila Williams at Asimov’s Science Fiction has bought my novelette “The Hazmat Sisters.”

Like my Clarkesworld novelette “The Immolation of Kev Magee,” Hazmat takes place during the Clawback, the period after my Setback novella that kicked off this universe for me. It falls well before the events of my Bounceback novels Gamechanger and Dealbreaker.

The Clawback is a tough period and this is a tough story, about family and safety and pandemics and war and being a good neighbor, and fighting with your sisters for a shot at the shower. But it’s also about cute girls with pluck, determination and pet robots, because that’s fun!

I’m so happy the story has found a home at Asimovs. It’s my first sale to Sheila and I am chuffed!

“Freezing Rain, A Chance of Falling” to appear in Neil Clarke’s Best SF of the Year!

It’s another frabjous day here in Wockyland, and I am calloo callaying all over the damn place because my first-ever novella will be appearing in Neil Clarke’s The Best Science Fiction of the Year v. 4!

The whole ToC is here, and it’s amazing. The antho includes stories by Kelly Robson, Alyssa Wong, Naomi Kritzer, Yoon Ha Lee, John Chu, Sofia Samatar… actually, every time I start to type a name I imagine putting (!!!) behind it. Let me just say it’s an amazing list, and the book is already available for pre-order in a host of bookstores, including the extraordinary and always marvellous Powells.

Having a story in an anthology like this is an honor. Books like this are crucial to our genre’s short fiction ecosystem. They create delivery systems, enabling people to see the best pieces from markets they might not follow–nobody can follow everything. They put stories in the hands of dedicated library users, for example, and provide a virtual gathering place for writers whose work we love… and whose work we haven’t yet seen. And they add longevity to the mix–when I was young and broke I used to trawl through libraries and used bookstores looking for the Gardner Dozois Years’ Best anthos because they were eclectic, delightful, wide-ranging and affordable.

So I’m pleased to think my depiction of life here in Setback Toronto, in all its high-tech and economically savage glory, might find its way to someone like young me one day.

Here’s the cover: