2021 Published Work

Hey, it’s time for an awards eligibility post; my first proper one! Without further ado, let’s get to the stories, shall we?

“From Whole Cloth” is a queerplatonic riff on the Palestinian folktale ‘A Story That Begins and Ends With Lies.’

ArabLit Quarterly: FOLK is available in print, EPUB, and PDF formats.

“Muneera and the Moon” is a sapphic tale inspired by Palestinian folk religion and djinn lore.

FIYAH’s Special Issue of Palestinian Speculative Fiction is available here.

Reviews:

I reviewed Sonia Nimr’s Wondrous Journeys in Strange Lands for Strange Horizons.

2022 Anthology/Collection Reading List

I’ve decided I to do a little challenge in 2022. I’ll be reading a bunch of speculative fiction anthologies and collections. Some were recommended on Twitter, or elsewhere, and some I’ve had on the shelf for too long. Putting them down here will help me stay accountable to myself, ~hopefully. Here they are in no particular order, with their Goodreads blurb.

The Tangleroot Palace: Stories, Margorie Liu

New York Times bestseller and Hugo, British Fantasy, Romantic Times, and Eisner award-winning author of the graphic novel, Monstress, Marjorie Liu leads you deep into the heart of the tangled woods. In her long-awaited debut story collection, dark, lush, and spellbinding short fiction you will find unexpected detours, dangerous magic, and even more dangerous women.

Briar, bodyguard for a body-stealing sorceress, discovers her love for Rose, whose true soul emerges only once a week. An apprentice witch seeks her freedom through betrayal, the bones of the innocent, and a meticulously-plotted spell. In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex. A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of traveling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods.

Concluding with a gorgeous full-length novella, Marjorie Liu’s first short fiction collection is an unflinching sojourn into her thorny tales of love, revenge, and new beginnings.

The Haunted Quill: An Anthology of Historical Speculative Fiction ed. Kate Francia.

A young girl in a mining town hears three knocks at her door on a dark night. Two Viking warriors, haunted by grief, enter a cursed forest of iron trees. A mysterious orphan girl hides in the rafters high above the stage of the Opéra le Peletier. A widowed mother and a ghost fight to save her homestead.

The Haunted Quill contains eight short stories and original illustrations that explore the strange and uncanny corners of history. Featuring original stories and reprints from new and established writers of speculative fiction, including: Jordan Taylor, Laura Hennessey DeSena, Stephen K Pettersson, Henry Herz, LH Moore, Jane Nightshade, Colleen Ennen, and Caren Gussoff Sumption.

Reworlding Ramallah: Short Science Fiction Stories from Palestine ed. Callum Copley

Critical science fiction, on its most basic level, is an opportunity to experiment with new ways of existing in the world; imaging different, economic, political and social structures. Within its pages, science fiction holds the space to test ambitious projects without the fear of failure. Reading and writing science fiction is, in all its imaginative and disruptive potential, something which I believe is valuable to anyone living under conditions which they wish to change.

‘Reworlding’ is the name given to a concerted effort to reimagine the places and spaces we inhabit, by generating a multiplicity of futures with which to affect the present positively. Reworlding takes the notion of worldbuilding beyond any ostensible purpose as art or entertainment and deploys aspects of it as a radical tool to instigate change in the world.

The stories compiled in this book were the outcome of a writing workshop series led by Callum Copley in a town called Birzeit, a few miles north of Ramallah, Palestine. From alien experiments, to fortune-tellers and telepathic conspiracies; the stories compiled here represent visions of the West Bank and beyond, reworlding both the local and the interplanetary. Although the contributions in the collection vary in form, length and style, all join a rapidly growing but comparatively small niche of Palestinian science fiction.

Robots vs Fairies ed. Dominik Parisien

A unique anthology of all-new stories that challenges authors to throw down the gauntlet in an epic genre battle and demands an answer to the age-old question: Who is more awesome—robots or fairies?

Rampaging robots! Tricksy fairies! Facing off for the first time in an epic genre death match!

People love pitting two awesome things against each other. Robots vs. Fairies is an anthology that pitches genre against genre, science fiction against fantasy, through an epic battle of two icons.

On one side, robots continue to be the classic sci-fi phenomenon in literature and media, from Asimov to WALL-E, from Philip K. Dick to Terminator. On the other, fairies are the beloved icons and unquestionable rulers of fantastic fiction, from Tinkerbell to Tam Lin, from True Blood to Once Upon a Time. Both have proven to be infinitely fun, flexible, and challenging. But when you pit them against each other, which side will triumph as the greatest genre symbol of all time?

There can only be one…or can there?

Laughter at the Academy by Seanan McGuire

From fairy tale forest to gloomy gothic moor, from gleaming epidemiologist’s lab to the sandy shores of Neverland, Seanan McGuire’s short fiction has been surprising, delighting, confusing, and transporting her readers since 2009. Now, for the first time, that fiction has been gathered together in one place, ready to be enjoyed one twisting, tangled tale at a time. Her work crosses genres and subverts expectations.

Meet the mad scientists of “Laughter at the Academy” and “The Tolling of Pavlov’s Bells.” Glory in the potential of a Halloween that never ends. Follow two very different alphabets in “Frontier ABCs” and “From A to Z in the Book of Changes.” Get “Lost,” dress yourself “In Skeleton Leaves,” and remember how to fly. All this and more is waiting for you within the pages of this decade-spanning collection, including several pieces that have never before been reprinted. Stories about mermaids, robots, dolls, and Deep Ones are all here, ready for you to dive in.

This is a box of strange surprises dredged up from the depths of the sea, each one polished and prepared for your enjoyment. So take a chance, and allow yourself to be surprised.

Mothership: Tales from Afrofuturism and Beyond ed. Bill Campbell.

a groundbreaking speculative fiction anthology that showcases the work from some of the most talented writers inside and outside speculative fiction across the globe—including Junot Diaz, Victor LaValle, Lauren Beukes, N. K. Jemisin, Rabih Alameddine, S. P. Somtow, and more. These authors have earned such literary honors as the Pulitzer Prize, the American Book Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker, among others.

Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements ed Adrienne Maree Brown.

Whenever we envision a world without war, without prisons, without capitalism, we are producing visionary fiction. Organizers and activists envision, and try to create, such worlds all the time. This book brings twenty of them together in the first anthology of short stories to explore the connections between radical speculative fiction and movements for social change. The visionary tales of Octavia’s Brood span genres—sci-fi, fantasy, horror, magical realism—but all are united by an attempt to experiment with new ways of understanding ourselves, the world around us, and all the selves and worlds that could be. The collection is rounded off with essays by Tananarive Due and Mumia Abu-Jamal, and a foreword by Sheree Renée Thomas.

Long Story Short by Jodi Taylor

Now in print for the very first time, this unmissable collection brings together seven short stories from the internationally bestselling Chronicles of St Mary’s series, and one special guest tale from somewhere completely different.

**Includes brand-new St Mary’s short story When Did You Last See Your Father? and original introductions from the author**

From riotous misbehaviour in Victorian London to ingenious feats of scientific invention (powdered water – just add water!), and from a chaotic Nativity play starring a vengeful Angel Gabriel to an illegal expedition to Mars, Jodi Taylor knows how to spin a good yarn.

 Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap.

“Am I dead?”

Mebuyen sighs. She was hoping the girl would not ask.

Spells and stories, urban legends and immigrant tales: the magic in Isabel Yap’s debut collection jumps right off the page, from the joy in her new novella, ‘A Spell for Foolish Hearts’ to the terrifying tension of the urban legend ‘Have You Heard the One About Anamaria Marquez’

Silk & Steel: A Queer Speculative Adventure Anthology ed. Janine A Southard.

Princess and swordswoman, lawyer and motorcyclist, scholar and barbarian: there are many ways to be a heroine. In this anthology, seventeen authors find new ways to pair one weapon-wielding woman and one whose strengths lie in softer skills.

“Which is more powerful, the warrior or the gentlewoman?” these stories ask. And the answer is inevitably, “Both, working together!”

Herein, you’ll find duels and smugglers, dance battles and danger noodles, and even a new Swordspoint story!

From big names and bold new voices, these stories are fun, clever, and always positive about the power of love.

There is No Death, There Are No Dead ed. Jess Landry.

The spirits of the dead exist, and they want to communicate.

First appearing in the late 1800s, spiritualism became a religious movement that swept the nation. Under the assumption that the dead live on in the afterlife, spiritualists believed that contact with the dearly departed was not only possible, but something those who crossed over longed for. Contact was usually made through a medium, a person who claimed to have the ability to speak with the dead.

There Is No Death, There Are No Dead is a horror anthology that tackles all aspects of the spiritualist movement: from the true believers to the nay-sayers, the hoaxes to hauntings, the real mediums to the scam artists. From ghosts to possessions, from profound loss to insurmountable grief, these short stories explore limitless genres (historical fiction, Gaslamp mystery, modern horror, and everything in between) with a diverse cast of characters challenged at every corner.

There Is No Death, There Are No Dead includes new work from some of the most talented and respected authors in the horror and dark fantasy genres, featuring stories from Gemma Files, Helen Marshall, Kathe Koja, Lee Murray, David Demchuk, Lisa Morton, Gwendolyn Kiste, S.P. Miskowski, Seanan McGuire, Catherine Lord, Chesya Burke, Nadia Bulkin, Michelle Belanger, and Laird Barron, and edited by Bram Stoker Award winner Jess Landry and Aaron J. French.

The dead are speaking. Will you hear?

Sword Stone Table: Old Legends, New Voices ed. Swapna Knishna.

Featuring stories by a bestselling, cross-genre assortment of the most exciting writers working today, an anthology of gender-bent, race-bent, LGBTQIA+, and inclusive retellings from the vast lore surrounding King Arthur, Camelot, and the Knights of the Round Table.

Here you’ll find the Lady of the Lake reimagined as an albino Ugandan sorceress and the Lady of Shalott as a wealthy, isolated woman in futuristic Mexico City; you’ll see Excalibur rediscovered as a baseball bat that grants a washed-up minor leaguer a fresh shot at glory and as a lost ceremonial drum that returns to a young First Nations boy the power and the dignity of his people. There are stories set in Gilded Age Chicago, ’80s New York, twenty-first century Singapore, and space; there are lesbian lady knights, Arthur and Merlin reborn in the modern era for a second chance at saving the world and falling in love–even a coffee shop AU.

Brave, bold, and groundbreaking, the stories in Sword Stone Table will bring fresh life to beloved myths and give long-time fans a chance to finally see themselves in their favorite legends.

Fairytales from the Holy Land, 2017

I found this gem while looking for printings of Hanauer’s Folk-lore of the Holy Land. There are only six tales but they are told with much passion and vivacity. They really are a delight, besides my joy at finding Palestinian fairy tales I haven’t read before. Some were similar to ones found in other collections. Jana the Atraj Virgin, for example, is a variation of Nani, Daughter of Nani. For my part, I find Jana to be more engaging.

This book is available on Kindle here.

Contents

  • Jana the Atraj Virgin
  • Qalanswa
  • Tamara
  • Prince Baldpate
  • Shattir Hasan
  • The Forsaken Queen

Contes populaires de Palestine, 2003

This little book contains stories found elsewhere, in collections such as Speak, Bird, Speak Again! and Arab Folktales, but there are a few that are new.

TABLE

  • Le roi des oiseaux [The King of the Birds]
  • Jloûkoum [Jloukoum]
  • La ruse d’Abou l-Housayn [The Cleverness of Abou Housayn]
  • L’oiselle demoiselle [Little Miss Bird]
  • Châhîn [Shahin]
  • Celle qui avait le mieux compris [She Who Understood Best]
  • Hassan le rusé [Hassan the Clever]
  • Dâwoûd, le prince banni [Dawoud the Banished Prince]
  • Abou l-‘Adas, le mangeur de lentilles [Abou ‘Adas, Eater of Lentils]
  • Mon fils, mon mari [My Son, My Husband]
  • Crotte de Bique [Dunglet]
  • La Justice de Qaâqoûch [The Justice of Qaraqouch]
  • Le pet des riches et le pet des pauvres [The Rich Man and the Poor Man]
  • Petite marmite [Little Cooking Pot]
  • Le chameau fiancé [The Camel Husband]
  • Graine de Granade [Pomegranate Seed]

Arab Folktales from Palestine and Israel, 1998

Arab Folktales from Palestine and Israel by Raphael Patai. There is a lot to unpack with this one. I could simply say that it is of its time but that wouldn’t really suffice. There is a lot of orientalism here, even at first glance. In general, the approach seems to be that if you read these tales in the literal translations provided you will gain insight into “Arab Culture.” As I said to someone just now: “what is Arab culture? I do not know what ‘Arab culture’ means.”

As for Palestinians, the phrases “Palestinian Arabs,” “Israeli-Arabs,” and “Arab tribes in Israel” appear.

contents

Part One: 1910-11

  • The One-Eyed Ghoul
  • Allah’s Dispensation
  • The Jinn’s Gratitude
  • The Price of the Bride
  • The Virtuous Maiden
  • The Banished Prince
  • The Emir’s Daughter
  • The Unfaithful Wife
  • The Two Blind Women
  • Each Man Suffers Disasters

Part Two: 1946-47

  • The Lightest of the Light, the Heaviest of the Heavy, the Fattest of the Fat
  • Talaja of the Twenty an the Chicken
  • Cunning…and Cunning
  • The Locust and the Sparrow
  • Tambar Titi
  • The Return of the Light
  • The Bird of Power
  • The Dull-Witted Fisherman

Part Three: 1982-84

  • The King and His Wife
  • Ghouls in Switzerland
  • The One-Eyed Giant Shepherd
  • Hasan the Sharp-Witted
  • The Prince Who Turned Into a Deer
  • Pomegranate Seed
  • The Uncles and Their Nephew
  • Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
  • Wadi’ah
  • The Two Hunters

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop and… Fairy Tales

Last night I thought that I glanced at a writer’s craft book all about how to transform fairy tales into original fiction. I was wrong, but it did give me an idea for this week’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop. 🙂 How *do* you fracture a fairy tale anyway?

Take some tips from storytellers, via Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale.

Reduction

Something that I like to do when working with folktale material is to create a beat sheet from a particular telling (written or oral, as I remember it). Forcing myself to remember the story helps to reduce it to its essential plot points. For storytellers, reduction often happens accidentally by forgetting details between tellings but it can also be a powerful tool for authors, especially combined with…

Expansion

If reduction involves paring a tale down to the essential points, expansion is when the teller elaborates on that skeleton. Most authors can do this naturally, adding colour, specificity, and detail to the story beats we gained through reduction.

And finally…

Assimilation

Several times I have found myself troubled by several stories that seem to hold so much potential but something critical about their essential beats just does not work. They work as anecdotes, sometimes, but don’t have the depth of a well rounded tale. What to do? Reduction only reveals the underlying problem here, and expansion can only do so much to hide the flaws. What I like to do, and what many storytellers do naturally, is assimilate related or similar tales into one. In this way, the strengths of each story get to shine in a whole new tale!

Have you ever written your own fairy tale, or fairy tale retelling using established folklore as a base? How did you go about it? Or maybe you’ve been wanting to give it a try. Let me know either way in the comments! 🙂

Les Septs Crins Magiques et Autres Contes de Palestine, 2011

Les Sept Crins Magiques et Autres Contes de Palestine, by Praline Gay-Para and Louise Heugel is a delightful little book. The stories were told originally by Fakhri Habib Ghnayyim of Beit Jala, Taghrid Abou-Srour from Bethlehem, while others are from collections by Inea Bushnaq and Sonia Nimr.

Sommaire/ SUMMARY

  • Les deux frères [The Two Brothers]
  • L’ogre Ghaddar [Ghaddar the Ghoul]
  • L’ami reconnaissant [The Grateful Friend]
  • L’homme paresseux cherche sa chance [The Lazy Man Seeks His Luck]
  • Le jasmin qui danse, l’eau qui chante et l’oiseau avisé [The Dancing Jasmine, the Singing Water, and the Wise Bird]
  • Le dromadaire et l’âne [The Camel and the Donkey]
  • Les sept crins magiques [The Seven Magic Hairs]
  • Le partage de l’héritage [Sharing the Legacy]

#AuthorToolBoxBlogHop and… Marketing Baby Steps

Marketing is our topic for today’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop. Well, this topic seems really strange to me; I’m one of those people who hates marketing. As such, I think it might be useful to talk a little about what holds us back and how we can get ourselves acclimated to the wonderful world of community building.

I picked up this book on Marketing: The 1-Page Marketing Plan and I kind of hate it. I hate marketing and it’s a book about marketing so what did I expect? I did not expect to find it so salutary. There is a lot that I bristle at in this book but it can’t be denied that its tips really do the trick, at least for me.

The greatest lesson this book taught me is how there is a three phase process, like a three act play structure, of people coming in cold to your work and becoming fans or customers. Each act or phase has its own challenges and goals.

Something that was holding me back all this time was that it felt all kinds of wrong to treat people like customers right out of the gate; and this is something I see a lot of other authors of all levels doing. It comes through as we plead with people out there to notice what we are working on, and hopefully to buy books (if you are published). And I was right; that’s the wrong way to go about it.

It’s okay to slow down and build a community– something that I love. I love bringing people together over shared interests. Relax, be yourself, socialize– and this is coming from an introvert. I am very pleased with the small group of people who choose to interact with my posts, to follow me on social media. I’m over the moon when they strike up a conversation. All of this is good marketing, and I haven’t hated a minute.

That’s all from me today. It’s my birthday! So I’m off to do some much needed R&R.

Please comment if you can relate at all to hating marketing, or struggling with it as I have. Or maybe you love it and have some sage words of advice for me. Drop me a line in either case; I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

An Illustrated Treasury of Palestinian Folktales Vol. 1, 2014

These stories are a delight. There are princes, princesses, village beauties, jealous cousins, magic, genies, and more all in one tiny book! I immediately told these to the pleasure of my audience who asked if there were more, and there are! This is only the first volume of the collection. I am unsure if the second volume is available in English but an Arabic version is available. The introduction mentions tales which are not in this volume, including some quite philosophical ones like “Where is the Mind?” I am looking forward to tracking down the second volume!

The foreword includes two statements, one by Charis Waddy and another by Issa Boullata. The most exciting feature of this little book is that it includes small biographies of the narrators– the women who told the author their folktales in the 1940s. Each one also includes a biography of sorts for the narrator’s home village, sketching it in words for the reader. There is even a short discussion of the role that the Palestine Broadcasting Station (PBS) played in early attempts to collect Palestinian folktales and the subsequent censorship by Israeli authorities which hampered this project, while spurring on the author to collect what she could.

This book is dedicated to… Palestinian women in recognition of their suffering and their steadfastness, their inestimable contribution to binding together Palestinian society and, most of all, for their unwavering courage and hope despite relentless Israeli efforts to tear asunder the fabric of family, community, and society.

I unfortunately must say that the quality of the book itself is lacking. The text contains a lot of typos and printing errors to the point that it is bothersome to read aloud.

Contents

  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • The Narrators
  • The Folktales
  • Daughter of the Rose and the Jasmine
  • Jbeini
  • The Sultan’s Daughter
  • The Bride’s Mahr
  • The Lentil
  • Flower of My House
  • A Promise Fulfilled
  • The Merchant of Damascus

Project Update: Granted Grants!

Astute followers of this blog will notice this logo now graces the website. I am so excited to announce that I have received a Recommender Grant for Writers from the Ontario Arts Council! The way the grant works: I sent a writing sample along with an application to recognized publishers in Ontario who then recommended the work be funded through the OAC. This is the first time I have been awarded a grant!

I had the support of many people, including my lovely followers on Twitter (you can follow me there @SoniaSulaiman). My friends and fellow writers Susan Muaddi Darraj, and Natasha Ranken beta read the application with me. I am truly grateful for their help.

The grant was awarded for a project tentatively titled ‘A Personal Paradise.’ It is a work that I have been writing on and off since 2006. It is a collection of free verse poems about cultural and personal reintegration, mapping a personal history of revision and healing. Palestinians are known among Arab communities as “the Poets of the Arabs,” and putting these stories into verse is one way of attempting to reintegrate a shattered family history and its legacy. The collection unfolds through the two main thematic threads of engagement with Palestinian folklore and generational trauma.

Here is the titular poem, the poem that started it all, first published in Whisky Sour City by Black Moss Press:

A Personal Paradise

Pistachios, pumpkin, watermelon seeds salted and fresh,

shelled with your teeth year round. Something to pass the time

when it’s too hot even under Walkerville maples and century elms;

the sun bakes their leaves before they fall.

Earl Grey strong and dark; it could stand up on its own

from its mounds of sugar. Thick, rampant, fresh spearmint

uprooted, plunged top-down and swished.

The wet leaves sticking like spinach as the tea slides down.

‘Too cold without, too hot without’ is a saying from Palestine

where tea is a treat for scorching days. Dad brought the habit

with his sandals, worn year round.

The mint patch outside the kitchen door fought back the chlorine stench

when neighbour kids cry ‘Marco Polo!’ over the fence

and the A.C. fan roars under the grape arbour’s shade.

In the next yard the little Sicilian fig tree turns its greedy leaves

to cup the sun before the autumn arrives. Soon Nicolo will dig its grave,

and bury it alive so it can be brought out again when the winter is past.

Lastly, in other news, today my application for a New/Early Career Artist profile was approved by the Canada Council for the Arts, meaning I can start applying for grants from the CCA as well. Very exciting!