A Coffee Break in the Future

A review of Kameron Hurley’s Meet Me in the Future.

As may be obvious from the shifts in my content, I’ve been reading a lot lately.  I’m writing on a daily basis, reading has proved a workable ritual for lubricating the process, and besides, I felt it was finally time to do something about the endless parade of interactions with friends and family wherein we agree, amidst enthusiastic exhortation, to consume media we never really intend to touch.  The last two–Labyrinths and Shantaram–were for that purpose.  Kameron Hurley’s Meet Me in the Future was too, but it was a more modern sort of enjoyment.  It’s neither the middlebrow literary or high-concept philosophy of the prior two, but it’s not not a thinky book.  Nominally, it’s sci-fi.  Truly, it’s well within the realm of speculative fiction, but how well any of the stories conform to the expectations of their genre varies with, apparently, Hurley’s mood.

I’ll say before the grit of it that I very much admire Kameron Hurley.  Her work is generally well-executed, extremely unique, uncomfortable in cool ways.  Also there’s just something vicariously cathartic about an author whose (professional) social media presence is mostly cooking and gardening.  If only I could so grossly and incandescently not give a fuck.  Prior to this point I had read about half of the Worldbreaker Saga, and Meet Me in the Future mostly delivered on my expectations for both enjoyment and heightened difference.

One of Hurley’s specialties, on full display here, is a particular brand of lexical worldbuilding.  She presents you with a situation in a strange setting, hints that none of the words she’s using to describe it mean what they should mean in everyday English, then lets it run.  This works awesomely in character-focused narratives, and the book comes out swinging with it in the first story, “Elephants and Corpses”, about a mercenary who uses lost tech to transplant his consciousness into corpses, hopping from body to body in an odd impression of ersatz immortality.  That story is one of the book’s best, which isn’t meant to be a dig at the rest, but I do recommend it as a starting point.  Beyond it, the book’s undercurrents start becoming less undercurrent and more the point.

Hurley, for those unfamiliar, is an opinionated writer, and this is an opinionated book.  That is by no means a bad thing–her opinions are well worth the illumination–but most would appreciate knowing their coffee is black before the first lidded sip.  I find it productive to think of it as a contrarian impulse, a starting point of a world where our social and biological preconceptions don’t apply, whether that means the four-gendered social structure of the bayou-punk “The Plague Givers”, the flip-flopped male-female predispositions in “The Women of Our Occupation”, or the simple-but-obvious question of how gender works for a person who regularly swaps out their body.

Again, nominally sci-fi, but practically, I found that the stories fall into a few categories.  The first is, well, actually sci-fi, where Hurley minds her responsibilities as a sci-fi author and explores not only a premise but also its implications (e.g. “The Sinners and the Sea”, “Warped Passages”).  Another is a sort of weird fantasy, where the story is more character-focused and the speculative elements serve more to disrupt your prejudices than explore anything intrinsic to themselves (e.g. “Elephants and Corpses”, “The Plague Givers”).

The last category I tracked–not valueless but weaker for me personally–is a class of story that presents a speculative premise alongside a bucket of exposition and…leaves it at that.  For some, I was able to take it for what it was, as in “When We Fall”, but for the weightier examples of this category (e.g. “The Women of Our Occupation”), I tended to find myself more distracted by the questions the story did not answer than taken by the ground it covered.

All this said, even the least palatable of these stories is well worth reading, but on a more personal note, I did take note of a particular phrase on the back cover before I opened the book:

“It’s weirder–and far more hopeful–than you could ever imagine.”

As someone who worries often that my work is too somber for a wide audience, I have to laugh.  I don’t anticipate–and I mean this kindly–that that description will ring true for you.  These stories are in fact quite depressing.  But I’ve long held that staring into the abyss helps us remember the value of the Fire.  Drink your coffee black, I suppose, and wake up.

Editing Takes Forever

Sorry to those who have been checking day over day for the next thing. There are several next things forthcoming, including more Whom Emperors Have Served and some more review material (I’ve jumped back into the Borges pool recently and am glad I did). But transcription and editing are taking a long while (alongside editing for the Crossroads book), so the wait will be a small bit longer.

Thank you to all of you who have purchased or otherwise acquired my book! I appreciate you very much, and I hope your fortunes are or continue to be favorable.

Where Is All This Dust Coming From

In a way, publishing my work has been very exciting, if finicky and social media-y. I’m out there in the world, readable in a format that people will actually approach. By this, I don’t mean you. You’re better than people–you read my website. I am rather referring to the sort who react to my declaration that I have written a thing with a squint, a frown, and an apologetic “oh, it’s online? I don’t really read things on the internet…”

But that’s okay.

On the off chance you moonlight as one of these people, my book, Promises for a Worse Tomorrow, which, yes, I will be mentioning in every post I make for at least the next month, sorry, is going to be free on Amazon this weekend, 3/31 to 4/2. If you were interested but put off by the cost, think that all written material should be free (which I’m with you on, but I have bills to pay, so throw me a bone), or just feel like doing me a favor at minimal cost to you, go pick it up!

The link is here!

However, that does not mean that the delights featured here on mY wEbSiTe will be going away. Pre-editing chapters for Whom Emperors Have Served and Crossroads Book 2 will continue going up, the former hopefully sooner rather than later. In the meantime, thanks for reading. I continue to appreciate all of you.

Promises for a Worse Tomorrow

If you’ve been paying attention to the archive lately, you will notice that I’ve hidden a few posts. This is because the post-editing versions of those posts are now published, to various air horns, bursts of confetti, and other inexpensive trappings of celebration.

You can find the e-book here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BZ3T2HB3

(There is a paperback version in the works as well, though it won’t be up for at least another week)

It is free on Kindle Unlimited and includes some stories you’ve seen here before and a few you haven’t. All told, I’m fairly proud of them, and I would be overjoyed if any of you took a look!

Looking ahead, I’ve been contemplating the future of the Crossroads series, and while it will certainly continue, my thoughts have been on publication and the structure thereof. The piece was originally intended to be a ~100 page novella, but at this point, including the portions of it I have yet to post, we are closing in on 200 pages, to say nothing of additional material that would be required in a published form to provide context. And even then, we’re only 30-40% through the story!

The direction I decided on was to break it into the oft-stereotyped trilogy, to which end, I will be posting the last few chapters of Book 1 in the coming weeks. As with the stories in Promises, the chapters will remain up while editing happens, which could be anywhere from 3 to 36 months, and I will be hiding them when it comes time to publish the book. For those of you following, I want you to know that I appreciate you, and I’m happy you’re continuing, in whatever capacity, to join me on this journey.

The Embers Flicker

Those of you who have been following me for some time have likely noticed an uptick in my post frequency these last few months. I have been blessed with a stretch of blessed (if nervewracking) unemployment, and I’m working to make hay while I have the time.

If you’re interested, I’m currently working on Crossroads with every intent of finishing it (place your bets, I guess), so I would totally recommend you give it a read-through from the beginning if dark, aspirationally-literary fantasy is at all your thing.

Beyond that, I’m aware that the store is not currently working–I intend to get that fixed up in the next week or so. There are a few more things in the pipeline as well: a short story collection and a tabletop role-playing system I am hoping to publish this year. I’ll update here when and if they happen, so stay tuned.

Otherwise, for those who have followed me recently, welcome and thank you. I’m grateful for the audience, and I hope some portion of my work is to your liking.


Still a lot of things being worked on, but the pace has been slow these last two weeks. Hoping to get much more done on the Crossroads story by next weekend. In the meantime, here is something Leland wrote for a collection of “world-building” stories we’re working on. It’s a subtly different depiction of the Fox, as if in a tale to be told to Diarchian children. The Fox was the original patron deity of Spar, and one of its founding myths concerned the Old God’s interactions with two orphans: a right-handed boy and a left-handed girl, who became the mythological models for the Diarchs (the Left-Hand King and the Right-Hand Queen).

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, older than your grandmother, and maybe even older than me there was a brother and a sister who loved each other and had only each other in the big wide world. A pair of orphans, whose mother and father were godless and dead, leaving them with just a small family home.

The sister, who was right handed, was a very clever girl who could build amazing traps for hunting. The brother, who was left handed and clever too, knew everything about the forest, what was edible, what was poison, what would happily eat him instead. Brother and Sister lived together, each depending on the other for days and weeks and months and years.

One day a fox with a long pointy nose, a great fluffy tail, and crooked smile from ear to ear came by the cheery little home of the orphaned boy and girl. This fox with a crooked grin was an Old god and he had a sense of humor. The fox god had many humans he took care of and in return they gave him little gifts. He had a funny idea: What if he came to this little house and acted like he needed a human’s help?  He was a little tired and a little hungry. He thought to himself: After I climb inside and take a quick nap, l shall eat whoever lives here!

The fox shrank down, chuckling to himself the entire time and knocked on the door. The sister who was right-handed opened the door and looked at this tiny fox sitting on their doorstep. The fox said, “Oh little girl! Can you help me? I am all alone in these woods and I would very much like to come in from the rain just to warm up!”

The Right-handed Sister looked at the fox and said, “I suppose there’s nothing wrong with heating up from the rain,” and took the fox inside. The fox went towards the fire, snuggled up into a tight little ball and fell fast asleep. He was, after all, very fond of napping.

The Brother came through the door with a small basket of mushrooms and paused as he saw the fox. “Sister,” he said “There’s a god sleeping on our rug! What’s more–he’s not a very nice one.”

The Sister thought to herself and said, “I have a plan! Could you pick some mushrooms that would make an elephant fall asleep?” The brother nodded his head quietly and left.

The Right-handed Sister started to make a delicious rabbit stew. She knew that foxes loved rabbit more than anything else in this entire world. She put in potatoes and carrots and celery and salt. Pepper and paprika and even Garlic pods. By the time she was done the stew’s smell hung in the room and felt like a meal all on its own.

The fox woke up and snuffled the air. “What smells so delicious?” he asked the girl. 

“Why it’s my favorite soup!” the girl said to the fox. “And it’s almost ready, it just needs something before it’s done.” 

The fox said, “I’m so hungry I think it’s time I eat you!”

The girl said, “Well you could…but if you get me a radish this soup will be twice as good.”

The fox paused. “Twice as good?” he thought.  Now as we know foxes are a little greedy, and he did know where radishes were.  He thought, “I’ll get this radish, and eat her and the soup soon after!” 

Off the fox went as the brother came back, with mushrooms in his hand. The sister took the mushrooms and put them in the soup and said, “Brother, can you get a rope?” The brother nodded and left, and the fox came back, a big juicy radish held in his watering mouth.

“Perfect!” the girl said “It is almost ready, it just needs something else.” 

The fox said, “Something else? It smells amazing! I’ll eat it and you right now!”

The girl said, “Well you could…but if you get me some seaweed it will be twice as good.” 

“…Seaweed?” said the fox whose tummy was rumbling.He’d never had seaweed before. “Fine!” he said and ran out the door. 

At that very moment, the brother came back with fresh rope.  “Hide behind the pot!” said the sister to her brother. And the fox came back, wet, salty and miserable. 

He said, “Here’s your seaweed!” 

And the little girl said, “Perfect almost done! The very last thing…” 

“No way!” Said the fox. “No more radishes, no more seaweed! I want to eat!” 

And the little girl said, “I was just going to ask you to try it and see if there’s enough salt.” 

“Oh,” said the fox, “I suppose that makes sense.” The fox tried the soup. He said, “This is good!” and he started slurping and smacking and licking his snout. He ate the whole pot and started to feel woozy… and fell fast asleep from the mushrooms in the soup! 

The Brother jumped out from behind the pot,tied up the sleeping fox and threw him out the door. That wasn’t the last time they saw the fox mind you, but they weren’t the meal for one day more!

Three Gifts Given of Dissatisfaction

A brief interlude from Crossroads (because I caught myself working on material out of order). Note the references below to the Sevenfold Gyre and to the One-Eyed Crow (and, obviously, the previous Three Gifts story).


From these three came two and two

And circles stretched from sea to sky

To the Gyre did Seven headlong run

Then all the world

That’s why, that’s why

-Words From a Severed Head


The Fox’s Second Gift

Long ago I gave you hearth

A place of return from which you roamed

A fire within to banish night

To soothe your aches, to make you home

I rested then for I had thought

My labors had achieved their end

Of steeling you to cold and rot

Your fire I would not need to tend

But now we meet here in the Dark

In fearful quiet ‘neath the earth

Your inner fire early guttered

Broken body lost its worth

The light of day betrayed your years

Promised you many, gave you few

For you I’ll burn, entombed below

This shall be my gift to you


The Lark’s Second Gift

Long ago I gave you sticks

Upon your ground I taught my tricks

I brought you craft which you might ply

I bid you: Join me in the sky

Why now have you misplaced your wings?

Forgot that art which made you free

To toil among the beasts and bring

Those who bleed right back to me

I fixed their marks of red and black

As wisdom you refused to learn

I wonder if it’s fear you lack

To drive you on, to make you burn

‘Tis fear that brings you here tonight

Poxed and stricken, marked by blue

Fear of wrongs you would not right

This shall be my gift to you


The Turtle’s Second Gift

Forever ago I gave you time

A river running ‘round this bend

Would frame your life with reason, rhyme

Would crown your story with an end

When at last you came to cross

Your souls would from your bodies leap

Your ghosts I’d carry to the shore of loss

Your flesh would drift on to the Deep

I will admit I’ve grown fatigued

As I look upon your evil eye

Your request–it has me so intrigued

You’d go upstream instead of die

Three Gifts were given under Night

And from those three came two and two

You’ve sought your torment, earned three more

This last shall be my gift to you