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Boskone 58: Distant Stars Concert (2)

“Strange Babes,” by Caitlyn Paxson…

Model Carla Kissane for “Strange Babes”

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Boskone 58: Distant Stars Concert

“Jenny’s Song for John,” by C. S. E. Cooney…

Jenny’s Song for John
By C. S. E. Cooney

My love, his name is John Fitzgibbon
Strong as oak and tall as yew
Soft as pine and so sweet-smelling
Ne’er was any man so true
Down he went with lamp and hammer
Down into the blackest seam
Where the rock burns bright as diamond
Daylight’s but a dead man’s dream

Oh, they came in flame and thunder
Oh, they came in ice and steel
Came and snatched my John Fitzgibbon
Bound him to a silver wheel
Where’d you go, my John Fitzgibbon?
Johnny, would you leave me so?
John, I’m cryin’, John, I’m dyin’
John, you’re gone and I’m brought low

My love he shouted loud as lightning
Broke his chain and smote his foe
Ran those halls of pearl and sapphire
Where no mortal man may go
“Turn this ship, O turn it back now!”
Shouted John, so bold and brash
“Bring me to my love, my Jenny
Lest I burn this ship to ash!”

Oh, they laughed like flame and thunder
Oh, they laughed like steel and ice
“John,” said they, “she must be dandy
“You’ll not need to ask us twice.”
Down they drove their iron casket
Down through darkness wide and deep
Found me stretched across my bower
Sore with grief and fast asleep

My love, he spake to me so softly
“Jenny, rise, we must away
If we do not go this instant
We’ll not live to see the day.”
“John,” said I, “I love you dearly
Johnny, whither thou wouldst trod
There will I put down my footprints
This I swear by Holy God.”

Oh, I wept like flood and river 
Oh, I wept like sea and rain
Wept and left my bower forsaken 
There to ne’er return again
Down we flew, in night and starlight
Down into abyssal gleam 
Down into the vast forever 
Where no mortal maid has been 

For the love I bore for John Fitzgibbon
I gave up the world I’d known
Sought those distant stars forbidden
That I could not call my own
Far we flew, and rough we landed 
Cracked the sky and cracked the hull
Cracked our ship of ice and silver 
Spilled out from our prison walls

Oh, they wept like flame and thunder
Oh, they wept like molten ore
Even Johnny couldn’t save them
And their proud race is no more 
Down we delve with lamp and hammer
Bearing children on the way
As we dig, we sing forever:
“We’ll fly homeward bound one day.”

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The Twice-Drowned Saint on Locus’s Recommended Reading List: 1st Novel Category

My short novel The Twice-Drowned Saint (found with three other works of fiction by Jessica P. Wick, Amanda J. McGee, and Mike Allen in Mythic Delirium’s The Sinister Quartet) is recommended by Locus Magazine FIRST NOVELS category!

I did a short review round-up for The Twice-Drowned Saint a while ago. To read about it, go here!

This is a great year for Mike Allen and Mythic Delirium. In addition to The Twice-Drowned Saint making the Recommended Reading list, so did Mike Allen’s collection Aftermath of an Industrial Accident, as well as the whole anthology of A Sinister Quartet!

In celebration of this, Mike says:

In celebration of both of our 2020 titles appearing on the 2020 Locus Magazine Recommended Reading List and the Locus Poll, we at Mythic Delirium Books (that is, Anita and I) have put together a special deal on signed paperbacks of both books that we weren’t able to get to in those final frenzied weeks of … 2020!

And this is the deal — and I’m afraid we have to make it U.S. only (though see parenthetical below) — for $25, as long as supplies last, you get signed copies of Aftermath of an Industrial Accident and A Sinister Quartet, as well as the four post cards created by Paula Arwen Owen that illustrate the four stories in Sinister: “The Twice-Drowned Saint” by C.S.E. Cooney; “An Unkindness” by Jessica P. Wick; “Viridian” by Amanda J. McGee; and “The Comforter” by yours truly.

Too participate, please click through to Mythic Delirium!

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My Schedule for Boskone 58

Epic Fantasy Beyond King & Kingdom Format: Panel

12 Feb 2021, Friday 21:30 – 22:30, Harbor Ballroom (Webinar) (Virtual Westin)

Today’s fantasies include many with contemporary urban settings or Victorian-era steampunk. Must all epic fantasy center upon a rural, pre-industrial world, with medieval societies ruled by kings and plagued by ancient evils (or plagued by kings and ruled by ancient evils)? Sure, we love those tales, but what else is out there? What epic fantasies are reimagining our world of today or tomorrow? Which are exploring interesting alternative social structures? Where is the epic urban fantasy or steampunk?

With: Kwame Mbalia, Christine Taylor-Butler, Alan Dean Foster, Garth Nix

Mythic Poetry Group Reading Format: Panel

13 Feb 2021, Saturday 13:00 – 14:00, Con Suite (Mtg Room) (Virtual Westin)

Accomplished poets of the fantastik intrigue and delight us with selected works.

With: Linda D. Addison, Anne Nydam, Carlos Hernandez, Gerald L. Coleman, Jane Yolen

Storytelling with Audio Format: Panel

13 Feb 2021, Saturday 19:00 – 20:00, Indy C (Mtg Room) (Virtual Westin)

One way to keep readers’ attention to a series of podcasts or hours of an audiobook is to make it episodic, like Winnie-the-Pooh or The Perils of Pauline. How else can you keep the listeners coming back for more? Our panel discusses how it’s done, tricks of the trade, and the wonders of audio as a medium.

With: Robert Kuhn (BK Voice), James Patrick Kelly (writer), Tonia Ransom (NIGHTLIGHT Podcast)

Brimstone Rhine Concert Format: Concert

13 Feb 2021, Saturday 20:30 – 21:30, Marina Ballroom (Webinar) (Virtual Westin)

Brimstone Rhine, alter-ego of fantasy writer C. S. E. Cooney, brings you “Ballads from a Distant Star”: a story of alien abduction, resistance, and revolt across the cosmos, in poetry and folk songs


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1/20/2021: “Aurora”


For Carlos

after the fireworks are ended

[fireworks: joy upended, ordinance
of dedication, starlight confetti
unfettered celebration, the blitz
that is balm, the bombs of bliss]

after I have smelled my husband’s
neck to satisfaction

[there is nothing like it; I can-
not retain it, sunlit heart-
beat, happy soapscent
cleanly, comely, last-homely-houseiness
but ever and above this
the haecceity of him]

after I have announced my
intention to pen
a poem

[this is totally Amanda Gorman’s fault
I blame naught else, nor name no other
nor uphold the goldgleam of
any other queen than she
who is, today,

after the nurses and the teachers and
the students and the astronauts and the
soldiers and the grocers and the Legends and
the Foo Fighters and the chefs and the drivers
and the Seamus Heaney-spouting Mirandas making soft eyes at us from Washington Heights
have compelled me cry

[from the other side of Troy]

after all this, yes, I have sat me my fine ass in all its rosy sitzfleisch down, in my cotton nightgown, with my clown-stained fingers, with this pen that only sort of works, and awkward chocolate staining my shirt, on this borrowed table, in this borrowed space that we have for a grace of time, where we have dined in solitary splendor and remembered the revelry of silence, remembered that in isolation there is also solace, and I am stuffed so spiffily with the iconography of dawn, with wine-purple pantsuits and repurposed wool mittens, the nacreous unity of ten thousand pearls, earnest children in their kitchens working to feed the world, that all I can breathe, all I can see, all I can sing at the end of all this is


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Story/Poem Round-Up: What I Wrote in 2020

The Twice-Drowned Saint, a short novel in A Sinister Quartet

Locus Review by Ian Mond

“The book opens with Cooney’s sublime short novel “The Twice Drowned Saint”

…There’s so much to adore about the “The Twice-Drowned Saint”, everything from the inventive worldbuilding that fuses technology with magic; to the byplay between Ish and Alizar; to the Jekyll and Hyde nature of Ish’s Uncles forced to lend their bodies to the incorporeal angels, while also doing what they can – when their minds are their own – to undermine Gelethel’s cruel rulers. I particularly fell for Ish, though. More than her jaded but not overly cynical perspective, and her lively relationship first with Alizar and then Betony, it’s her love for cinema, and especially her father’s movie scripts that will sadly never be produced, that makes her such a wonderfully sympathetic character.”

Locus Review by Rich Horton

The Twice-Drowned Saint” is… as extravagantly imagined and lushly but playfully written as we have come to expect from Cooney.”

Review by author Francesca Forrest:

“…I think this may be my favorite thing I’ve read by Claire–and I’ve read lots, all of which I’ve enjoyed. But this was just–it was a whole other level. It reaches for something really big and achieves it.

It starts out an acrobatic tale of an angelic city that’s really a kind hell hole–(most of) the angels are creepy abominations who delight in human sacrifices offered them by starving refugees desperate for the safe haven the city represents in a war-torn world. OVERTONES, right?

(I say “acrobatic” because Claire has this prodigious imagination and she lets it run all over the place–it darts hither and yon like fireflies and then holds you fixed while it dances on a high wire like Philippe Petit. She’s a roller coaster, but if you just let yourself ride the roller coaster, it’s actually taking you to a destination…)

…In the end I was left with the impression of Hieronymus Bosch blended with CS Lewis–in the best possible way…”

…On the strength of this story alone, A Sinister Quartet is worth purchasing, but from the excerpts I heard the other day, the other three stories will also be wonderful.”

Review by Little Red Reviewer:

“…On a scale of zero to ten, the Cooney is a twenty, easily one of the best things I’ve read this year….

And now we get to C.S.E. Cooney’s “The Twice Drowned Saint”.   I loved so many things about this story, but what makes the story shine so bright is the worldbuilding.  The way Cooney does world building,  she makes the world absolutely gigantic, and then she focuses the lens onto these intimate moments in people’s lives…

…My clumsy words don’t do justice to “The Twice Drowned Saint”. Just read it. It is a sunrise, where all things are beautiful and possible,  and it is blood on the ground surrounded by those who lap it up, hungering for more. This is one of the best pieces of fiction I’ve read this year.  If you are on the fence about reading / buying a small press novella collection from a bunch of authors you’ve never heard of, “The Twice Drowned Saint” alone is worth five times the cost of the collection.”

Review by Anthony R. Cardno

“…And through it all, there is Cooney’s masterful use of language, soaring into the ethereal and plummeting through the earthen – colors and sounds and smells evoked with unexpected turns of phrase and exacting word choice. Sometimes the story feels sf-nal, sometimes high (almost Biblical) fantasy, but it never feels at odds with itself despite the mix of genres…”

“Or Perhaps Up,” in Where the Veil is Thin

A review from “Betwixt the Sheets“:

“My favorite story in the collection is ‘Or Perhaps Up’ by C.S.E. Cooney. I had never heard of her before, but Wikipedia states she’s best known for her fantasy poetry and short stories and has won the Rhysling Award for her poem ‘The Sea King’s Second Bride’ and the World Fantasy Award–Collection for ‘Bone Swans. 

It feels almost tragic that I’ve never read anything penned by her before, as she writes with an ethereal mixture of hope and despair that tugs right at my heart. I seldom become so invested in a short story as I did with this one. She managed within just a few pages to make me care deeply for each of her characters and I love the world she created. This story and this author were an unexpected gem buried within the pages for me.”

Review from

“Or Perhaps Up” by C.S.E. Cooney: Reeling from a recent breakup, a young woman meets disaster when she unearths an abandoned swan boat from a carnival ride and tries to take it out on the water. Along the way, Cooney beautifully fills in the warm relationship between the woman and her mother. The story is funny in places, though in a drier way than McGuire’s entry, and then when the heroine capsizes and finds herself in a surreal watery realm, the prose becomes dreamlike. And then the mother-daughter relationship reemerges to break your heart.”

“The Wyrm of Lirr,” a poem in The Book of Dragons: An Anthology

Enthusiasm from Amal El-Mohtar:

“So far I’ve only read my dear CSE Cooney’s magnificent poem, “The Wyrm of Lirr,” but I would frankly buy the collection on its strength alone.”

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Our 1-Minute Merry Krampus! Video


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Undergirding: The Twice-Drowned Saint

I woke up with my first “conscious” thought this morning being, “I forgot that’s where stars came from: the belly of a chuffer fish!”

I don’t know what a chuffer fish is, but I bet they’re chuffed to be a stellar incubator. And I don’t know if it was because of that waking fantasy of origin stories, or the fact that a new friend of mine just checked out my book Bone Swans: Stories from her library that I got to thinking about origin stories, their structures, and their substructures.

This year, my short novel The Twice-Drowned Saint came out in A Sinister Quartet. (I may have mentioned.) I should probably do a review round-up of it soon, but until I do, here’s my favorite: Ian Mond’s from Locus.

I haven’t talked much about it structurally, and I think the amount of people who have read both The Twice-Drowned Saint and Bone Swans is probably pretty small. So there’s not going to be a lot of people who are going to get my little jokes: Carlos, my mother, a few friends.

But the idea that a new friend would soon be reading Bone Swans fresh, and then, maybe–maybe!–try her hand at The Twice-Drowned Saint was exciting. Because she’ll get my jokes!

Okay, well, not a joke exactly. They’re like inside jokes, but really they’re just self-referential allusions. The structure of The Twice-Drowned Saint is a story in 15 parts, and each part is a “shot” in filmic terms. (The narrator is a movie-maker, or will be, and has been close to a form of cinema all her life.)

It’s in 15 parts because “fabulous fucking Gelethel” (Ish’s words, not mine) (okay, both our words), the Angelic City, was once ruled by 15 angels who ate their god.

Now, at the beginning of the story, there are 14 angels. The 15th angel was the one that walked away. (Shades of Omelas. Which, of course, are shades of Brothers Karamazov, as I found out for myself when I gave that big raunchy hilarious heartbreaking darling a read a couple years ago–talk about origin stories!) I’d originally thought to do the thing in fourteen chapters, but it wouldn’t fit.

WHICH WAS APPROPRIATE. I was quite pleased with how that turned out.

The mind’s substructures are more interesting, sometimes, than its facade. Anyway.

Anyway, there’s this bit–this joke–about the cinema. The narrator is playing a double feature at her movie palace, two oldies called Life on the Sun and Godmother Lizard. One’s a sort of a war movie and one’s an epic fantasy–you know, familiar genres–but they’re also old stories of mine. Early works.

“Godmother Lizard” was one of my first bigger stories published for pro-rates–in Black Gate Magazine, back in the day. And “Life on the Sun” is the opening story in Bone Swans. What they have in common with The Twice-Drowned Saint–and what they always did, even seven or so years ago when The Twice-Drowned Saint was a messy chunder-splash first draft on the page–was that all three take place in the desert cities that cling to the underbelly of the Bellisaar Wasteland.

As a writer I knew that, of course. But who else was to know that this was a wasteland I’ve walked in since I was eighteen or so? Before it even had stories to populate it? Before it was anything but a glaring white heat with a name? Who was to know if I never said anything?

It delighted me to bolster the backbone of this novel’s world with the remnants of old stories. It’s a trick I do more often than anybody really knows–like putting my friend Amal’s name (or any of her nicknames) into most of my stories. (She’s even in The Twice-Drowned Saint, but you won’t know that unless you know what her family calls her.)

I put a lot of my friends in my stories. Just hints.

And maybe that’s why I put my old stories in my new ones. Because they are still my friends. And I don’t want them to be forgotten.

My new novel–the big one–Saint Death’s Daughter–will be published in spring of 2022. Look for Bellisaar in the pages. Look for mention of Gelethel, of Rok Moris and Sanis Al (from Life on the Sun and Godmother Lizard). Look close enough, and you’ll see hints of Desdemona and the Dark Breakers stories twining in and out, in hints, in shadows.

Same world. Different continents. Different timelines. Different gods.

I feel like I’ve got my own mycorrhizal network going on here. It’s my secret delight. Or it was secret–sort of–until I wrote this.

Hey, and if ya don’t know, now ya know, Mr. President.

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World Fantasy: Friday

I started my World Fantasy Con today with a reading by Sharon Shinn, whom I met through John O’Neill at a World Fantasy in California many a long moon ago.

She read from Quatrefoil, now on sub with her agent, and I WANT IT RIGHT NOW SO I CAN FINISH IT, CURSES! MULTIPLE CURSES!

Next up for me (watching it right now): a panel called CARIBBEAN FANTASY, with the wonderful, WONDERFUL Brandon O’Brien moderating. (I got to meet Brandon at WorldCon last year in Ireland, and his poetry MADE ME WEEP!)

Other speakers are Tracey Baptiste and Karlo Yeager Rodriguez! Rodriguez is originally from Puerto Rico, is now in Maryland (amongst, he says, the cows). His most recently publication in Uncanny Magazine is “This Is Not My Adventure.”

This is Baptiste’s first WFC. She is originally from Trinidad and Tobago, and now lives in New Jersey. (No cows around her, but lots of forest preserves.) Her first novel is Angel’s Grace, mostly writes for children–picture books through adults–and is probably best known for the Jumbie Series, a trilogy. She also writes short stories for adults.

After this panel, I’m going straightway to POETIC FANTASY, where I hope Brandon O’Brien will make me cry again, and also Mary Soon Lee in it and I LOVE HER STUFF.

Other speakers in POETIC FANTASY include new-to-me Holly Lyn Walrath, Mandy D. Chew, C. H. Lindsay, and JayRod Garrett moderating.

At five-thirty, Ken Schneyer is reading, and I MUST attend that! His new short story collection just came out this year, and Carlos and I both had the honor of blurbing it: Anthems Outside Time: and Other Strange Voices.

Then come my own two panels, at 6 and 7 (Eastern) respectively:

Tell Me a Story: Audiobooks and There’s Comedy in my Fantasy!

Then I’m going to take a break until Kathleen Jennings’ reading at 9 PM, because I can’t miss that, or I will ANGRY-GOAT-FAINT!

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