Call for Submissions: Climate Change Fiction Short Story Contest

Hey, socially conscious authors! Want to win $1000?

This January, Arizona State University’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative is inviting speculative fiction writers to:

“…submit short stories that explore climate change, science and human futures for its first Climate Fiction Short Story Contest.”

41UM6llyj9L._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_If that theme sounds familiar, you might recall the collection I edited and published several years ago, Hot Mess: Speculative Fiction About Climate Change (purchase link in the sidebar). Obviously, climate change – a phenomenon that the Democratic primary challenger Bernie Sanders calls the greatest national security threat there is – is a subject near and dear to my heart, and one that I think can be addressed effectively with fiction. While I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a follow-up collection to Hot Mess, seeing others take the initiative to start their own short story contests on the subject has me even more excited.

Also newsworthy about this contest: the judges will include none other than award-winning, New York Times-bestselling author Kim Stanley Robinson, a science fiction legend.

With a deadline of January 15, 2016 and a grand prize of $1000 (and no entry fee!) there’s still plenty of time to polish up (or start fresh on) your favorite cli-fi themed piece of work.

What are you waiting for? The glaciers are melting, and it’s time to get to writing!

For full contest rules and details, and a link to submit stories for consideration,


Special thanks for information on this contest: Joey Eschrich, Editor and Program Manager for the Center for Science and the Imagination as well as Assistant Director, Future Tense, at Arizona State University.


wpid-1127150939-1.jpgIt’s the day after Thanksgiving, the turkey has been devoured, and everyone is wandering around my aunt and uncle’s house (well, everyone who’s up so far) in a post-turkey coma, tottering towards the coffee and slowly organizing their things.

I love Thanksgiving leftovers. Mushing a giant bowl of turkey, stuffing and potato together and then drowning it all in thick, delicious gravy. Nom. Followed up in a few hours with some apple pie and maybe some whipped cream and maybe even some cake?

Of course, the other thing one has to do on Thanksgiving morning is look ahead to the next few weeks of Utter Holiday Insanity. There are gifts to be bought and mailed, cards to write, parties to go to and people to catch up with. Technically, getting through New Years Eve marks the finish line…but then (at least where I am) we’ll be deep into the snowy season.

Last year, overwhelmed with all the things one needs to take care of when one has just moved, I neglected to hire a snow plow and just watched the snow pile up day after day. This year – two days ago, in fact – I called a plow company for an estimate.

Last year around this time, I started working on a sitcom pilot. I’m now steeling myself for rewriting both the pilot and the second episodes, thanks to some great feedback and some new ideas.

Last year, I was excited about moving to a little town in the country and taking on new challenges at work. This year, the challenges promise to continue being…challenging…but I’ve come to the knowledge that despite trying, I was not built for the country lifestyle. Something on that front may need to change in the coming months. We’ll see how it goes.

That’s pretty much how I feel about everything at the moment. I’ll see how it goes. What do you want out of life? I’ll see how it goes. Where do you want to move to? I’ll see how it goes. What do you want for dinner? I’ll see how it goes.

Actually, the answer to that last question is probably “leftovers.” At least for a few more days.

Bernie Sanders and Foreign Policy

bernie-sanders-portrait-02Over the last few months, a steady trickle of people have been mentioning to me, privately, that they know about the Sanders campaign through me. It’s a little daunting, knowing that when people ask you his stance on an issue, what you tell them actually matters. So my reply, for the most part, has been – “I’ll look into it and get back to you,” or, “Actually, I’ll email the campaign and see if I can get some info.” (If you remember, my last post was about the campaign involving its grassroots supporters directly, in a self-organized, decentralized structure that’s filled with 99%ers.)

A few days ago, a friend specifically asked if I had any links to articles she could show her mom, who wanted to know what Bernie was like on foreign policy. In the interest of getting another primary voter to #FeelTheBern, I scoured r/SandersForPresident and googled for answers, and came up with a list of policy flyers made available for free as PDFs. makes them available for free, for activists and grassroots supporters who want to communicate Bernie’s talking points. I passed those on – btw, here’s the link – and that was that.

This morning, my dad yelled, “Rachel! Bernie’s on TV!” I came down a few minutes later to see Bernie getting interviewed on Meet the Press, and watched as he responded constructively to questions that might have put another candidate on the defensive. A while later, I wandered back in as Dianne Feinstein was talking about what it will mean if the Russian plane that exploded in midair was destroyed by a terrorist bomb.

Feinstein is a Democrat from California, and the host introduced her by citing her career and noting that she’s seen exactly this kind of scenario play out in the past. While he didn’t ask her to outright confirm whether it was a bomb, he asked about the likelihood that that might be the case. Feinstein’s response said, essentially, that based on her experience she would be surprised if it turned out to be something other than a bomb (my words, not hers). As I listened, I realized that the terrorist group in question was ISIS/ISIL, and they were saying that if it is, that’s an attack by a group that has now made significant military headway in the Middle East against Russia, and Russia might finally sit up and take notice.

Feinstein seemed to know what she was talking about, and I was curious – with so much coverage about Bernie’s supposed foreign policy weakness, did someone like Feinstein have anything to say about Senator Sanders? I couldn’t find any direct comments (though if anybody does, please pass them my way). Well, at the very least, I could compare what she was saying, which seemed to make sense, and see how it lined up against the actions Sanders has taken in the past. The following excerpt is one of the candidate’s quotes, from the article “Bernie Sanders on ISIS,” at

 “I have supported U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and believe they are authorized under current law, and I support targeted U.S. military efforts to protect U.S. citizens. It is my firm belief, however, that the war against ISIS will never be won unless nations in the Middle East step up their military efforts and take more responsibility for the security and stability of their region. The United States and other western powers should support our Middle East allies, but this war will never be won unless Muslim nations in the region lead that fight. It is worth remembering that Saudi Arabia, for example, is a nation controlled by one of the wealthiest families in the world and has the fourth largest military budget of any nation. This is a war for the soul of Islam and the Muslim nations must become more heavily engaged.”

After looking through that information, I feel like I have a handle on where Sanders stands on ISIS – that it’s important for regional powers to take the lead. I definitely feel like I understand more about his thoughts on a specific foreign policy issue, so I wanted to share this. Have a look and let me know what you think, and if you’re wondering where Sanders stands on foreign policy, this article is as good a place as any to start.

Read the entire article here.

Bernie Sanders’ Speech at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner

jj-bernie-sanders-640x360A couple days late, but last night I watched Bernie’s speech at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa.



One thing I love about this campaign is how they bring supporters into the narrative early on. I get regular updates, both well-written and informative enough about the goings-on of the campaign that they haven’t yet started to feel spammy. I’m extremely intolerant of spam, so that says something. To this point, several weeks ago they sent an email saying that the campaign wanted to raise funds to buy tickets for ordinary, working supporters, for an important dinner – one which, historically, was attended by wealthy donors. To help make it possible for Bernie’s campaign to bring in ordinary, working-class supporters, they asked for donations: every $50 would purchase another ticket. With a current average donation (as he says in the video) of around $30, and the most individual donors of any campaign in American history, campaign supporters answered the call.

Watching Sanders’ speech took a little longer than your average sitcom (it clocks in at around 26 minutes), and he largely stuck to the campaign platform: grow the middle class, break up the prison-industrial complex, more new wealth going to those outside the 1%, promote morally responsible policy including paid family leave, a living wage and a social safety net, promote environmental policy, and overturn Citizens United. (Sidenote: as my brother has pointed out, the pledge to only appoint justices who will overturn Citizens’ United doesn’t account for the fact that judges must decide on the legal merits of the case, but this is one of those places where both sides make similar litmus-test pledges, so I excuse the wording and praise the spirit of the claim.) Here’s the  video, if you’ve got half an hour to spare. (Hint: you’ve got half an hour to spare.)

Every time I find myself feeling overwhelmed or running low on energy for this campaign, all I have to do is watch Sanders speak. This is a man who’s been fighting the good fight on civil liberties, environmentalism and wealth inequality for around 40 years in public office, and he still has a fire going over these issues. It’s reinvigorating, and it also reminds me that where it concerns leaving the world a better place for future generations, I want to be able to look back and feel proud of what I’ve done for them. Watching Bernie stand proudly behind his votes against military actions like the Iraq invasion and civil rights, and fighting against a massive political machine drives home the point – to me at least – that while it may be difficult in the short term, standing up for what’s right is the only way to ensure you can stand proudly behind your own actions. Every time I feel like opting out, I remind myself: will I look back and think, “I did everything I could”? And as long as the answer stays, “I could have done more,” I get a boost: then I’ll do more.

This is not always comfortable. These days, I live in an area that’s deeply “red.” But there have still been people approaching me about the Bernie bumper sticker on my car. Last week, I received a request via campaign email asking for volunteers to hand out flyers in their home towns. I’m still trying to work out the best way of doing this, because as uncomfortable as it will be to stand on a street and hand out flyers to total strangers, I know that discomfort is a small price to pay for bringing in just a few more primary voters.

Till I get my plans in order for that, though, I’m going to do a little “virtual” flyering:


The above PDF is from the campaign site, so feel free to print it, forward it, pass it out, talk about it – whatever you can do to get the word spread farther. So far, as more people have learned about Bernie, his poll numbers have climbed.

In a year’s time, what decision do you want America to make? If you want the country to decide for a candidate who’s prioritizing the interests of the middle and working classes, who’s stood behind civil rights legislation for decades, who has shown himself capable of functioning in office without the funding of Super PACs and special interest groups, and who has the attention of both liberals and conservatives across numerous states, consider sharing the flyer above and registering for your state’s primaries. Then help Bernie spread the word!

ACT ONE REACTION: Slaughterhouse Five


Sometimes, one leaves a theatrical experience and the foremost thought in one’s mind is, “That’s X hours I’m never getting back.” When attending plays as a reviewer (i.e. with free/comped tickets), I always stay through to the end. However, when I’ve paid for my ticket – as in this case – I no longer feel it necessary to sit through an entire production once I’m convinced it’s not getting any better. Please bear in mind, while reading, that for all I know the production takes a massive upswing in the second act and I missed out on something truly brilliant – though this writeup in The Buffalo News makes me doubt that was the case. Here’s my reaction to the production.

From The Buffalo News: Tim Joyce and John Kennedy star in Subversive Theatre's season-opening production of "Slaughterhouse Five."

From The Buffalo News: Tim Joyce and John Kennedy star in Subversive Theatre’s season-opening production of “Slaughterhouse Five.”


Subversize Theatre Collective
Great Arrow Building
Manny Fried Theatre
Directed by Michael Lodick
Adapted by Eric Simonson

Saturday night, I left Slaughterhouse Five, produced by the Subversive Theatre Collective, at intermission. While the presentation was competent, it wasn’t compelling enough to keep me and my parents in our uncomfortable seats — or the overheated auditorium.

If you haven’t read Kurt Vonnegut’s masterpiece, the story of Slaughterhouse Five revolves around a man named Billy Pilgrim, who has become “unstuck” in the space-time continuum. The novel itself is disjointed, offering a broken narrative – the book incorporates parts of Vonnegut’s own time in the service and as a POW. While the script seems faithful to the story, even setting up Vonnegut’s narrator conceit, something about the production meant it never really seemed to offer much spark.

Tim Lane’s set is colorful and visually engaging, and its versatility allowed the players to move seamlessly from scene to scene. The brightest moment of the play’s first act came from Rick Lattimer, whose performance as Elliot Rosewater suddenly came to life during a conversation with Pilgrim (Shane Zimmerman) and his fiancee (Brittany Gabryel as Barbara). Suddenly animated, Rosewater describes the book he’s reading to Pilgrim, ranting about an alternate view of reality. For a few moments, there was a sense of welcome tension from the audience. Then it passed.

As the narrator, Tim Joyce kicked the play off with a one-man scene that set the stage. There were times when some mannerisms began to feel affected, veering more towards Mark Twain than Kurt Vonnegut, and smoothing those moments over would help the audience forget that they’re watching a performance. Generally speaking, there was very little about the performances that was notable.

One of many huge challenges inherent in mounting a production where each scene is only a few minutes long is that it’s difficult for the audience to remain emotionally engaged without a connection to each scene.  After nearly an hour of story, no one in my party felt a strong enough connection to the show to stay and watch the second half.

Fan of Vonnegut looking for new insights/perspective on your favorite author and one of his most famous works? You might very well enjoy this production. Casual theater-goer looking for a thought-provoking experience that also entertains? This might not be the show for you.

Copy editing article posted on Edit Edge Solutions, LLC

Edit Edge Solutions, LLC launched their website yesterday – and featured an article by yours truly.

Check out 6 Reasons Your Site Needs a Copy Editor for my take on why it’s vital that every business use a copy professional when constructing their website and marketing materials.

Edit Edge Solutions is a company that specializes in helping political candidates and small businesses improve their online presence, and is headed up by Elizabeth Dagostino, who’s spent over 15 years working on political campaigns at all levels of government.

(And as always, a shout-out to my mom, who regularly copy edits my blog. As always, I appreciate when people point out my typos!)

Haggis & Highland Games


Smoked haggis! And no, i do not know what the sauce is, they called it “Scottish sauce” and I think it might have been vaguely related to HP sauce.

For as long as it’s been since I visited Scotland (too, too long!), I didn’t expect that the next time I watched Highland games it would be in Western New York. And yet, the weekend before last, I stuffed myself full of haggis and watched grown men send tree trunks flying through the air.

I heard about the Buffalo Niagara Scottish Festival from my mom, who had read about it in the Amherst Bee. A couple moments of hyperventilation and many frantic Facebook messages later, I was on my way to Buffalo with plans to meet up with a friend and her family for an afternoon of fun and a mild dose of Celtic spirit.

wpid-0815151419a.jpgThe festival was held at the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village, which is a pretty cool place way out in the swampy wilderness of Amherst. I haven’t visited the village aside from this trip, but what the museum has done is take old houses from around Western New York and preserved them on a plot of land where they can be toured and enjoyed. It was a fantastic backdrop to the afternoon, and at some point I want to try and go back to check it out on its own.

wpid-0815151320.jpgAfter filling up on haggis and a pint of Belhaven, my friends and I wandered over to the caber toss – the aforementioned throwing of giant, tree-trunk sized pieces of woods, each weighing (if I recall the announcer’s description correctly) just under a hundred pounds. As each beam was flung through the air, the crowd held its breaths, waiting to watch it go end over end. Once we’d watched both the caber toss and the hammer throw (done by professional exhibition athletes, not just guys who walked in off the street) for a while, we wandered through the vendors and checked out what they had for sale. Wares ranged from cookbooks and kilts to the skulls of mythological creatures. I managed to hold myself back from making a purchase; my friend picked up a Nessie soup ladle and a cookbook with a recipe for haggis that sounded a lot more appetizing than the one in my miniature Scottish cookbook wpid-0815151342.jpgfrom my grandmother’s house. (Hint: mine calls for bits of the sheep that are not included in my friend’s recipe. I’m hoping to get a copy of hers, authenticity be damned.) While I’d planned to get my hands on a scotch egg as a snack, by the time I was ready to eat again (that haggis was pretty filling) it was hot enough out that I went for a gelato, instead. By that point, the stage had filled up, and a band of kilted musicians was in full swing. There was an area for ceilidh dancing, but alas – my back was getting a bit sore by this point, so I decided not to risk incurring its wrath.


Okay, fine, not ALL of them are wearing kilts.

Instead, I wandered around a bit more with my friends, people-watching and trying to stay out of direct sunlight, as I could feel my fittingly pale skin starting to warm up. (For those who don’t remember, I learned my lesson about staying in the sun too long a few years ago in St. Martin.) Finally, it was time for me to go. We said our goodbyes and I headed back to my car, thankful for the paved walkways that kept my feet above the waterline from the previous night’s storm.


The view from the paved walkway – it’s easy to forget that the area is basically built on a swamp! Added nicely to the atmosphere, though.

I had a terrific afternoon, a great time visiting friends, some delicious food, and I left feeling more connected to Scotland than I have in a while. Next year, I’m hoping to get myself organized enough to go to the kickoff ceilidh – hopefully, I’ll see some of you there!