Notes on “The Famine King”

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I have a new horror story in Mythic Delirium 3.3, “The Famine King.” You can read it online heeeere: Mythic Delirium 3.3, February Featured Story. It’s about wendigo movies, psychosis, hunger, and the cannibal world we live in. Although the story is among my most personal and complex, this blog post will not comment on its meaning(s) or try to direct reader interpretation. However, I’d like to discuss (briefly) the main character, Irene. During the story, she has a psychotic episode, and guess what! She’s not the bad guy! That’s no spoiler, by the way: it’s something that should go without saying. Unfortunately, the horror genre is not known for realistic or sympathetic portrayals of mental illness. Cough. It’s time for a change!

Final fun fact: alternate universe versions of Irene and Az (protagonists in “The Famine King”) appeared in the first story I sold, “To Sleep.” It’s a creepy flash about troubled dreams and small-town hatred. It’s inspired by the worst place I ever lived, a little town called Castleton, Vermont. Ask me about Castleton sometime. I dare you. The story is still in the Fiction 365 archives, but you can also read a copy on my blog: To Sleep

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The Famine King: art by Lee Wagner. For more of Lee’s work, visit Twitter (@archwags) or Instagram (archwags)

Little Badger Talks Pow Wows, Regalia, and Other Things That Aren’t Magic

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From left to right: my uncle, my mother, and a child version of me.

Do y’all remember when dictionary.com described a pow wow as “(among North American Indians) a ceremony, especially one accompanied by magic …”? If not, here’s an article from ICTMN that describes the incident: Dictionary.com: A Pow Wow Is An Event Where Indians Practice ‘Magic’

Look, I’ve danced at countless pow wows, been dancing since I could walk, and we aren’t doing magic. To me, they’re about family and good times. Similarly, the outfits we wear during pow wows aren’t costumes. They’re regalia.

Cloth, beads, buckskin: my mother makes all my regalia, an act of love and sacrifice. Mom has a genetic form of generalized dystonia; it sends painful spasms through her body. Her legs, her arms, her fingers. Thousands of beads on my crown, thousands of sacrifices she made for me. When I wear my regalia, I honor my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, all the women who fought, suffered, and triumphed so I could thrive.

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The glorious diatom crown! I wrote more about it here: A Mermaid’s Crown

Each time I had a growth spurt as a child, Mom made me a new jingle dress. First, I danced in blue, then turquoise, then blue, then pink, then iridescent rainbow (my personal favorite), then purple. Once I matured, Mom sewed my traditional camp dresses with ocean-themed patterns; she made me a fringed shawl lined by seashell ribbon. I wore my regalia – blue camp dress and beaded moccasins – when I graduated from Princeton. The vibrant blues hid under the black graduation robe. When the other students threw their caps into the air, I tore off my robe, as if shedding chains.

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Princeton graduation (2010). Can you find my *real* regalia? Look for blue and yellow fish. Don’t ask about the horror book. 😛 I got bored. Photo by Diana Chien, my graduation buddy!

Our regalia aren’t costumes. Our pow wows aren’t magic shows.

This December 1st, my short story, “Black, Their Regalia,” will appear in Fantasy Magazine’s POC Destroy Fantasy! In fact, it’s the cover story! Loooook! Destroy ahoy! “Black, Their Regalia” is about three Apache/Navajo metalheads who either save the world or die trying! As you’re reading (and you WILL read it, right? right?), keep in mind that the story *is* fantasy – The Plague Eater is my invention – but pow wows are *not* fantasy. I’M TALKING TO YOU, DICTIONARY.COM!!!!!

The Girl Turns West – a few notes about my coming-of-age Apache fantasy in Mirror Dance (Summer 2015)

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This lovely piece, made by The Exceptional Nick Robles, is a fusion of my mother as a teen and the protagonist in “The Girl Turns West.” Hence the 70s-stylin bell bottoms XD


“The Girl Turns West,” my short fantasy story inspired by precolonial Mescalero/Lipan/Jicarilla societies, appears in Mirror Dance this summer. Read it here! In this post, I will say a few words about the society and magic of Many Question’s world. If you don’t know who Many Questions is, ahem … click this link and put on your reading glasses (if you need em) 😉

  1. Names have power: Because they reflect a person’s soul, names possess great spiritual power and can be weapons in the wrong hands. Therefore, Many Questions refers to people by their familial/professional titles, even in her thoughts. I don’t know about you, but I tend to do the same. To me, my father is “Dad,” not “Patrick.”
  2. In Many Question’s matrilocal society, family groups are rooted around the grandmother’s line: Many Questions lives in a family group loosely connected to eight other families. The groups travel together and help each other during crises. When a couple is married, the husband joins the wife’s family group; if the marriage splits, the husband leaves.
  3. Question everything: As she becomes an adult, Many Questions realizes that dogmas about evil, spirituality, and what it means to be a woman do not always reflect the truth …

I’m working on a sequel to this story that involves an older Many Questions, her brother, her auntie, and The Storyteller. Here’s its tagline: the old monsters have returned. Muahaha. Seriously, there are lots of wonderfully creepy monsters in Southern Athabaskan lore – I’m itching to have some fun with them.

Thanks for reading! Oh, here’s a pic of my mom as a kiddo – can you see the resemblance with the art above? 😀

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New Short Story in Quantum Fairy Tales: “The Sea Under Texas” (I write cheery urban fantasy … sometimes)

Ezzy pushed a roll of twenties across the tabletop. “I’m fed up with the conquistador,” he said.

“Huh? What?” Luciana peeked over the newspaper she’d been skimming. Her eyes widened behind a pair of heavy glasses. “Dude! Who brings that much cash into a Denny’s? Put it away! Madre de dios! What’s wrong with you?” She dropped a sticky napkin over the money. They weren’t in McAllen’s worst neighborhood, but Luci erred on the side of caution ever since a pickpocket stole her wallet. The thief made off with two credit cards and a “Buy Ten, Get One Free” coupon for Café Maria. Luci had been one small black coffee away from a complementary latte. The loss nearly broke her heart.

“What’s wrong with me?” Ezzy asked. “I’m fed up with—”

“The conquistador. Right. So? He’s been a pain since the sixteenth century. And what does that guy have to do with…?” She gestured at the small fortune.

“It’s payment for…” He pantomimed stabbing somebody.


So begins “The Sea Under Texas,” an fantasy adventure in the Rio Grande Valley. Read the whole story in Quantum Fairy Tales Issue #11 (http://quantumfairytales.com/). If you like it, I will love you forever, and if you don’t like it, I will love that you gave it a shot.

READ HERE: The Sea Under Texas

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ABOVE: A pair of bison in McAllen, TX. They aren’t wild … it’s a long story. Fun fact = I took this photo in 2012. Since then, a fuzzy calf has joined the family! There are no bison in “The Sea Under Texas.” I just wanted a cute picture for this post.