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Author: O. Westin

2017 Awards Eligibility Post

As award season is coming, I thought I’d do an Awards Eligibility Post™.

As usual, I have not counted how many microstories I wrote during the year, but there are 45 pages of 15 posts each on my Tumblr, which makes 675 posts. Discount serial tweetstories, posts about translations, Patreon, WorldCon, and stuff like that, and I think the final tally is around 520 tweetstories and tweetpoems.

In addition, I have written nine serial tweetstories, one regular short story, a play, and a collaborative choose-your-own-adventure story. They are all free to read on my website:

  • At the border – Variations on a theme, written after hearing how Americans coming into USA were asked if they love their country by Customs and Border Protection officers.
  • The Gun – A play in two acts, written in iambic pentameter, featuring a robot, a gun, a boss, existential questions, and dark desires. Total running time five minutes (not counting interval).
  • Monsters under the bed – Sequel to a tweetstory from 2015, this serial tweetstory looks at what happened after the monsters under the bed were conquered.
  • The last dragon – another serial tweetstory, featuring what might be the first dragon to have dragon, human, and robot mothers.
  • The knight – a serial tweetstory about an underappreciated hero.
  • Summons – a serial tweetstory about about a summoning.
  • A tenth life – a serial tweetstory about how life goes on, if you have something to do with it.
  • The dragon dreams – a short serial tweetstory telling you what you are.
  • Tourist – the only normal short story I wrote this year.
  • Mummy on Mars – a choose-your-own-adventure story, live-written as readers voted what would happen next over the course of three days.
  • Buri and the Winter dark – this year’s advent story, told one tweet per day from the first of December to Christmas Day.
  • If you would like to nominate my whole body of work – the microstories, the short stories, and the AdvenTale – for a Hugo award, you can nominate me (e.g. O. Westin, writing at twitter.com/microsff) in the Fan Writer category.

Buri and the Winter dark

Buri took his wet boots off, climbed up on the stool by the fire, and hung them up to dry on the smoke rack.
“I hate this.”

“It will be better when snow comes,” his mother said. “Dryer and brighter, and the cold bites less.”
“Soon,” Buri nodded.

But no snow came. Every day Paws, the old cat, looked out the door at the grey and rain, and gave Buri a disapproving stare.

Then one night, Buri woke up with the cat sitting on his chest.
“Get dressed,” Paws hissed.
“Wha- why?”
“To find Winter.”

Buri quietly followed Paws to the door, lifted the latch, and paused. The moon shone on an unfamiliar, snowy landscape.

“Am I dreaming?”
“It’s a door,” Paws said, “it can open to anywhere. That’s what they do.”
The cat stepped out. “Let’s go.”

Buri closed the door behind him. “So where are we?”
“In the land of Winter.”
“Are we allowed here?”
“I’m a cat,” Paws said.

The hard crust on the snow was strong enough to walk on. Paws led Buri up a ridge, from which they could see a grand castle.

When they got closer, they saw the castle was in disrepair; turrets fallen, the gates askew.
“This is not good,” said Paws.

There were icicles hanging from the roof.
“Those shouldn’t be there,” Paws said.
“Why not?” Buri asked.
“We must hurry!”

In the great hall, a pale figure in once-white robes sat on a throne, a diamond crown in his lap.
“Hail Winter,” Paws said.

Winter gave the cat and the boy a tired look. “I am busy. Go away.”
“You are missed,” Paws said.
“You lie. You are a cat.”

Paws tilted his head. “So I hear.”
He turned to Buri and whispered, “Be kind, be patient, and close the door behind us.”

“What?” Buri said.
“An ill shadow lurks here. I’ll try to lead it away, so you can talk.”
Paws nodded to a side door. “Go.”

Buri hurried to the side and looked back. A sinuous shadow crept over Winter’s neck and ear as Paws approached.
“Go away.”

Paws ignored Winter’s words, but crouched down, tail wagging, and stared intently at an ice shard in front of the throne.

Paws pounced. The shard shot away. He ran after, slipping on the icy floor. Winter watched his antics and began to smile.

The shadow seemed to pull darkness in. It grew, took the shape of a huge dog, then leapt at Paws.
“Go away!” it roared.

Paws ran towards the door. Buri pulled it open, waited for the dog to chase Paws through, and slammed it shut behind them.

The hall felt less gloomy as Buri walked to the throne. “I miss you.”
“Why?” Winter said.
“Snow makes the world brighter.”

“The days are so short, my snow won’t make a difference,” Winter said.
“They grow longer,” said Buri.
Winter looked at him.

“I heard nobody likes me,” Winter said. He weighed the crown in his hands.
“I do,” Buri said. “That’s what I came to say.”

“You don’t have to come,” Buri said, “or stay long, but we’d be glad to see you.”
He bowed, and walked out of the castle.

Buri found the door in the snow, and it still opened to home. He sat to take his boots off, and Paws jumped up on his lap.

Boy and cat sat in silence, listening to the fire. After a while, there was a soft whisper outside, as snow began to fall.


This story was serialised in 25 daily tweets from MicroSFF, December 1st to 25th, 2017, tagged with #AdvenTale.

Regarding Patreon fee changes

Update: Patreon have backed down, and will not implement the controversial changes I talk about below.

Patreon are changing their fee policy, in a way that is going to make small pledges of one or two dollars disproportionally more expensive for patrons (note that the first graph in that blog post is misleading, as it hides the fact that they will charge patrons more than they currently do). A lot has been said (see Engadget, Fortune, The Verge among others) about how this is affecting patrons and creators, but Patreon have insisted they will go ahead with it.

Looking at my list of patrons charged for November, 90% are supporting me with $1 or $2. Since the upcoming changes were made public in the middle of this week, 9% of my patrons have dropped their support because of this new fee scheme (there’s an exit survey to fill in when you stop supporting people, which is how I know).

Now, I have a full-time day job which pays the bills, so this is not a financial catastrophe for me. I use the kind patronage of my patrons to pay for little treats that improve my day – coffee and cake at a cafe, cinema tickets, books – and art commissions illustrating some of my stories. And I have been saving up to be able to pay for an assistant to help me run a kickstarter related to my stories next year.

So. If you need to cut down on the number of creators you support, or decide to leave Patreon completely in protest, I understand, and I don’t blame you. I will miss you, and if you decide to stick around I am, and will continue to be, grateful. But you must take care of yourself and do what is right for you.

For alternative ways to support me, you can buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi, or set up a regular donation on LiberaPay (€). Whatever you do, I hope you will continue to follow me on Twitter, Tumblr, Mastodon, Facebook, or Google+, and that you will continue to read and share my stories.

Many thanks.

Announcing AdvenTale 2017

As is traditional, I will post a 25-part serial story, with a daily episode posted at 5pm GMT, in the run-up to Christmas. The episodes will be limited to 123 characters each, as they will be numbered and tagged with #AdvenTale (that’s the tradition, so I’ll stick with it despite having more characters on Twitter now). I hope you’ll enjoy it.

(I hope I’ll manage this. Last year I wasn’t sure I could fit the story I wanted to tell in the limited space. This year I only got the idea a few days ago, and will be playing catch-up. But the first episode is written and ready to go, at least.)

I’ll post the collected story after the last episode is sent, on Christmas Day.

Last year’s: Unn and the cold fire

The 2015 story: Gry and the Mountain King

The 2014 story: Moa and the lost sun

And the 2013 story: Tam and Lin and the Queen in the heart of the forest

Unrelated stories will be posted when an idea strikes, as usual.

Mummy on Mars

There’s a prompt that’s been going around a while, about the first astronauts on Mars finding a dead human body, or a skeleton, and some words written. It came to mind the other day, but I couldn’t decide what words I’d put in. If only I knew, I thought, which my readers would like the most.

So I got the idea of making a poll, and then the choose-your-own-adventure followed from there. Below, I’ve collected the whole story, as it was told over three days, with the popular vote-winning option always at the top of the list, and the others struck through. It was hard to write, and it reads a bit disjointed, but it’s not bad for a first effort, I think. I had as much fun as I had stress over it (since I had no plan, and only wrote a new part in response to the concluded vote until the tenth or so episode).

Many thanks to the thousands of readers who voted and kept reading.


The first astronauts on Mars found a dead body in a cave, and four words written in blood:

  • Ad S.P.Q.R. in aeternum
  • My time machine works!
  • Damn you Edgar Burroughs!
  • Fly, you fools! Fly!

When the mummified body was turned over, a dagger was found. Archeologists pored over the pictures. The blade was:

  • Shining, quietly buzzing.
  • Made of obsidian.
  • Carthaginian.
  • Shaped like an octopus.

“Remove it,” Mission Control ordered.
“Guess I’m the Jedi,” an astronaut said.
She took hold of the handle, and:

  • Smiled. Her eyes lit up.
  • Disappeared from the cave.
  • Screamed in agony.
  • The back wall vanished.

“Oh,” she said. “It’s not a weapon, it’s a key!”
She staggered. “It speaks.”
She turned to the others. “It says:”

  • “Gate must not be opened.”
  • “Take me home.”
  • “Carthago restituere est.”
  • “It needs blood.”

She looked around. “Look, that wall shimmers.”
“Um. No?” the others said.
“There’s Rome!” She turned. “And there:”

  • “Um. My mother’s garden?”
  • “There’s a battle raging.”
  • “A featureless void.”
  • “A flaming inferno.”

The other astronauts looked at the blank cave walls.
“There’s noth-“
“Oh! Mother!”
She walked towards the wall:

  • And stepped through it.
  • They tackled her.
  • Then halted. “No. She’s-“
  • The air smelled of roses.

The other astronauts saw the wall shimmer, then vanish. She had stepped into an alien world.
“Oh,” they called:

  • “Wait for me!”
  • “Come back!”
  • “You’ve contaminated it!”
  • “Close it!”

They all ran after her, but stopped when she froze in place. Beyond her, they saw monsters approach.
“A lure,” she said:

  • “But let’s not judge.”
  • “I’m holding it open.”
  • “Fly, you fools! Fly!”

She felt calm, serene. If the gate had shown her a mirage of what she most longed for, what was the harm? Meanwhile:

  • Aliens tasted her suit.
  • The others turned to run.
  • The monsters rushed past.
  • Control shouted “No!”

The weight of them pushed her to her knees. She tried to fend them off, and realised she still held the key. It:

  • Whispered, called to her.
  • Shone brighter, hotter.
  • Was faded, pale, still.

“You were warned,” it said.
“I don’t understand,” she mumbled.
“You opened yourself, gate.”
The alien monsters:

  • Became ecstatic.
  • Began to chew her suit.
  • Headed for her friends.

She felt weak. “What’s…”
“Your essence,” the key said, “the gate you became, is consumed, tied to this world.”
“Fuck!”

  • “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!”
  • “Will I die here?”
  • “Can’t you stop it?”

The monsters shambled away, yet she felt them, linked to her.
“They can’t pass without me!” she shouted. “You must:”

  • “Leave, I’ll hold them!”
  • “Seal the cave!”
  • “Take off, nuke the site!”
  • “Kill me!”

Her colleagues left, calling farewells over the radio until the rock cut them off.
“Key,” she whispered, “close me?”

“Focus on what lured you here,” the key said.
“Mother?”
She pictured the garden, the warmth, the feeling of home.
Her hand moved. And then…

The cave wall shimmered into place. Her blood, and air, bubbled out of the suit. She turned her head to face the longdead Roman. She smiled.

“You and me both, pal.”
She dipped a finger in her blood, and wrote ‘Mother’ on the floor.
“Focus on what’s important.”
She closed her eyes.

Tourist

The alien sat alone in a bar, like it had seen humans do in films. It looked the part, and tried to feel it, too. It inhaled alcoholic fumes and stared at the counter.
A person sat down next to it and ordered a drink.
It did not acknowledge the other person, but thought about the companionship of strangers, the quiet agreement to coexist without interaction it had observed among humans.
“Hey,” the other person said. “You know they say everyone is wearing masks?”
It glanced to the side. “Yes?”
“You ever take yours off?”
“Uh.” It hesitated, uncertain of the correct response. “Sure.”
“How many?”
“It varies,” it said in full and complete honesty, “but never all.”
“Yeah,” the stranger said and emptied their drink, “me too. Don’t know if I think that’s sad or comforting.”
They stood up, brushed against the alien, and left.
Much later, when the alien left the bar, it found a note in its pocket, with a phone number, and the galacticommon glyph for respectful curiosity.


This is the first short story (not counting serial tweetstories) I have written entirely on my mobile phone.

WorldCon 75 Panels

Now that the preliminary programme for WorldCon 75 has been released, I can tell you that I will be in two panel discussions. If you want to hear what I and the other panelists have to say about these subjects (and see what I look like when I’m not an eggship), please join us at:

Flash Fiction Online
Thursday Aug 10, 7:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Messukeskus, 206
Flash fiction, fiction of very few words, suits very well being published online. The panelists discuss their favorite online media for publishing and reading drabbles, dribbles and sudden fiction.

New Publishing
Friday Aug 11, 3:00 – 4:00 PM
Messukeskus, 206
Publishing is changing. We talk about Indie (self) publishing, but what else is there? Co-operative publishing (Book View Cafe)? Patronage (Patreon, fundraiser sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo)? How does the different publishing work? How do readers find out about it?

You might also be interested in hearing what Andrei Tuch, who translates my stories to Russian at @MicroSFFru, has to say in a panel about translating:

Names in Translation
Sunday Aug 13, 3:00 – 4:00 PM
Messukeskus, 207
One of the hardest things to translate are names which carry so much cultural significance with them. Our panel of translators talks about their experiences and struggles with translating names.

The dragon dreams

The dragon dreamt a different life, in which it was human. No matter how it tried, it couldn’t wake up, and soon you forgot this is a dream.

Maybe, you think, I’m dreaming now. Maybe I’m someone else, dreaming this life.
But what if I’ve dreamed up kittens, maybe they’re not real?

Maybe you created kittens. That’s something to be proud of. Your dreams keeps them in existence.
Sleep, dragon, for the sake of kittens.

A tenth life

The ninth time she died, she found no path back; nothing to climb, no crevice to sneak through.
“Come,” Death said.
“Shan’t,” she said.

Death shrugged his bony shoulders. Cats can not be argued with.
“Then I shall not see you again.”
“Your loss, I’m sure.” She washed her paw.

She was alone, on a featureless plain stretching from horizon to horizon under a starless sky.
She washed her other paw, then had a nap.

She picked a direction, then wandered, napped, and wandered some more until she got bored. The plain did not change, neither did the sky.

When she woke again, she noticed a faint smell of cheese. She stood up, stretched, sniffed the still air, and wandered towards the scent.

After a while, she found a boy in simple clothes.
“Hello,” he said, “can you show me the way home?”
“Did you not meet someone tall, skinny?”

“I’m not allowed to talk to or follow strange men,” the boy said earnestly.
She nodded. “Fair enough. Do you happen to have any cheese?”

The boy smiled. “I’m a cheesemaker’s apprentice.”
He looked around. “But… my basket is gone.”
She sighed. No cheese? Then what use was he?

“Stand up,” she said, “as tall and proud as you can.”
The boy obeyed, and she jumped up on his shoulder, and then to the top of his head.

She looked around. Far away, she could see a tall, dark figure, walking off with another person.
She jumped down.
“Follow me,” she said.

They hurried after Death and his companion, and eventually they reached a little farmstead.
There, Death abruptly changed direction.

“Sorry,” they heard Death say, “my mistake. It’s this way.”
Had he glanced to the side, he would have seen her and the boy, but he didn’t.

A woman came out of the farmhouse, and the boy stared at her.
“Grandma!” he shouted, “it’s me!”
He ran to her, and she opened her arms.

“I knew you were coming, dear,” she said, “but I feared you’d be lost.”
“I had a guide!”
He got out of her embrace.
“Do you have cheese?”

The boy’s grandmother laughed, and went inside. Soon after, she returned with a saucer with grated cheese and cream and chopped liver.

She thanked the boy’s grandmother, and she waited until they went inside before she began eating.
When she was done, she noticed a shadow.

Death stood next to her, looking out over the plain.
“Sometimes,” he said, as if talking to himself, “there are those who are lost.”

She looked up at him, but he did not look down.
“I can’t see a way to guide those who won’t follow,” he said.
“Subtle,” she said.
“I know.”


Told in a series of linked tweets, started with no idea where it was going.

Summons

The robot opened itself, took out five power cells, and placed them at the pentagram points. Not blood, but it hoped the sacrifice would do.

It began the incantation. A sticky darkness fell over the center of the pentagram, the power cells exploded, and a shadowy figure appeared.

The demon probed the mystic bonds, then turned to the robot.
“Why have you summoned me?”
“Do I have a soul?”
“Would you bargain with it?”

“Do I have a soul?” the robot repeated.
“A machine can not summon or bind my kind,” the demon said. “Yes, you have a soul. Do you offer it?”

“Now I know,” the robot said, and performed the banishment ritual.
It could not smile, nor frown, but stood still in thought.
“Now I know.”


Written and posted as a series of tweets.