Just sold another short story! This one has gone to a forthcoming YA dystopian anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, to be called After. As it was described to me, the premise is to focus on the dystopias that might result long after an apocalypse, not the immediate aftermath, and explore what life is like for teenagers in this setting.
My own contribution is called “Valedictorian,” and it’s set in the same cybergothy universe of “The Trojan Girl”, which got published earlier this year in Weird Tales. “Valedictorian” is set an undescribed amount of time later, and is written from the other side, so to speak. A taste:
When she earns the highest possible score on the post-graduation placement exam, Ms. Threnody pulls her aside after class. Zinhle expects the usual praise. The teachers know their duty, even if they do a half-assed job of it. But Threnody pulls the shade on the door, and Zinhle realizes something else is in the offing.
“There’s a representative coming to school tomorrow,” Threnody says. “From beyond the Firewall. I thought you should know.”
For just a moment, Zinhle’s breath catches. Then she remembers Rule 2 — she will not live in fear — and pushes this aside. “What does the representative want?” she asks, though she thinks she knows. There can be only one reason for this visit.
“You know what they want.” Threnody looks hard at her. “They say they just want to meet you, though.”
“How do they know about me?” Like most students, she has always assumed that those beyond the Firewall are notified about each new class only at the point of graduation. The valedictorian is named then, after all.
“They’ve had full access to the school’s networks since the war.” Threnody grimaces with a bitterness that Zinhle has never seen in a teacher’s face before. Teachers are always supposed to be positive about the war and its outcome. “Everyone brags about the treaty, the treaty. The treaty made sure we kept critical networks private, but gave up the non-critical ones. Like a bunch of computers would give a damn about our money or government memos! Shortsighted fucking bastards.”
Teachers are not supposed to curse, either.
No deets yet on publisher (there is one) or release date, cover art or anything else — I’ll keep you posted — but Ellen did send out a preliminary table of contents. Note that this is “so far”!
Susan Beth Pfeffer
N. K. Jemisin
Caitlín R. Kiernan
This is also my first published YA. I’ve been noodling a novel in this universe, which would be YA, so in a way these short stories are proof-of-concept exercises — me testing the waters of a new genre. Glad to see this one at least succeeded in finding a home. Whether it’s a success will have to wait for when you can read it!