The Last Stand – Reprinted!

In the aftermath of last year’s catastrophic California wildfires, VICE’s Terraform published “The Last Stand,” a piece of mine about the future of fire. It’s making another stand, this time in Little Blue Marble, a publication I’m particularly fond of. You can read my story for free, or purchase the excellent anthology here.

In light of Australia’s current wildfires, this piece is unfortunately just as relevant today as it was last year. But somehow, I’m hopeful. People are taking action. Not enough to reverse current trends, but enough to inspire hope.

On top of that, we have these extraordinary machines that can capture carbon, purify air and water, manufacture building supplies, feed us, and even make us happier. They’re called trees, and if you need tips on how to obtain, install, or maintain these wondrous machines, I’m here to help!

Seriously. Post a comment or send me an e-mail. If you have a question, I’ll answer it. If I don’t know, I’ll find out. Unless you live in Antarctica, you can probably grow trees. Hell, trees used to grow in Antarctica–with significant life extension and a whole lot of patience, you could re-introduce them!

2018 Awards Eligibility and Review

1. Hanging Trees – Deep Magic

This is the first year I’ve recommended my own work for consideration, as it’s the first year I have something I feel worthy. That story is “Hanging Trees” (Deep Magic, 4400 words).


It’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, but is really a much better fit for the science fiction awards. You can purchase the story for Kindle (free with Kindle Unlimited) or, if reading for award consideration, shoot an email to with your preferred format and I’ll happily send you a copy.

“Hanging Trees” is allegory for an event in the history of science which impacted me deeply and turned out to be extremely relevant in 2018. More than that, though, the story is about humanity’s place in nature, and how we might improve the ways we relate to our fellow bioforms.


Eleanor Franklin, a young marsborn colonist, discovers the first complex extraterrestrial lifeform known to science: bioluminescent “trees” that dangle from the ceiling of a cavern deep below the Red Planet’s surface.

We craned our necks up toward the source of the deep green glow, and that’s when we saw them—the upside-down trees, hanging from above like living chandeliers. Their luminescent roots traversed the ceiling in a light-show lattice joining each tree to the others, anchoring the ethereal forest to the rock above.

Others take credit for Eleanor’s discovery, however, and when they realize the trees are the source of the poisonous gas plaguing their colony, they destroy them–along with the only connection to non-human life Eleanor has known.

Her days numbered, Eleanor desperately searches Mars’s underground karst landscape for more trees … and for a way of life that will allow humanity to better share the cosmos with its fellow residents.


2. The Last Stand – Terraform (VICE)


My other eligible story is “The Last Stand” (1000 words), which appeared Nov. 2018 in Terraform (VICE). It draws on climate/fire science and my years as a firefighter to paint a picture of what California wildfires will look like–and what we stand to lose–if we don’t alter current trends. It lacks the layered depth of “Hanging Trees,” but I certainly won’t stop you from considering it!


3. Other 2018 News

Hangman, my debut novel, found representation with my dream literary agent, though selling it to a publisher has so far proven difficult. That’s par for the course, but I bet publishers would be more willing to take a chance on a new novelist if said novelist’s short fiction generated some buzz for a major science fiction award …  🙂


Much Love!


The Future of Fire

Terraform, the future fiction section of VICE, just published “The Last Stand,” a piece of mine about the future of fire in California. It draws on climate/fire science and my experiences fighting fire to paint a picture of where we’re headed if we don’t get our shit together. You can read it here, along with my notes and references for you nerds interested in the science behind science fiction. Comments/arguments welcome.


Special thanks to Tony Alvarez, hotshot firefighter, US Marine, and the hardest-working human I know, for providing the inspiration behind fire soldiers, and for schooling me on the proper way to sling a Humvee via helicopter.

I donated my payment for this piece to those who lost their homes and loved ones in the recent CA fires. If you have the means, I hope you’ll consider making a donation, however small. The California Fire Foundation is a good option: responding firefighters know who needs help, and they distribute funds on site, when assistance is most critical.

Much Love,


Hanging Trees

New story day! “Hanging Trees” is out now in the spring issue of Deep Magic (available here).


I’m especially excited because this issue includes a story by Ken Liu. His translation of The Three-body Problem is among my all-time favorite novels, and his short story “The Paper Menagerie” (winner of the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards) brought me to tears when I first read it.

“Hanging Trees” is slower than the thriller-type SF stories I usually write; nevertheless, I think it’s among my best. Set on a near-future Mars colony, it’s an allegory for an event in the history of science which impacted me deeply, and which I think is relevant today.

Like puzzles? “Hanging Trees” contains numerous clues to its inspiration; if you think you know which historical event inspired El’s story, tell me in a comment. The first reader to guess correctly will get a tree I’ve grown from seed, or a pack of wildflower seeds native to your region!

Möbius – free for one week

If you missed my science fiction medical mystery, “Möbius,” it’s available free for one week in Event Horizon: An Anthology of Authors Eligible for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (download). After July 15, “Möbius” will still be available, but only by purchasing Writers of the Future, Vol. 32 (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers).

Of course I’d blow smoke about all my story-babies, so here’s an unbiased opinion from review magazine Tangent Online: “‘Möbius’ is a tightly written mix of mystery and moral questions that literally leaves the ending in your hands. Centering on a world where genetic research is tightly regulated, outlaw labs have sprung up and law enforcement has responded. The characters are well written, the mystery plausible, and the story reads like a high stakes poker game with the characters in a cycle of raising the stakes that leaves you racing through the story. Probably the best of the anthology.”


Talia Spencer_Mobius_CMYK

Artwork for “Möbius” by Talia Spencer

Taking Root

My new short story, “Taking Root,” is now available in D.O.A. III (Kindle and paperback), alongside some great writers, including Jack Ketchum, named “the scariest guy in America” by Stephen King. Please proceed with caution: “depraved” does not even come close to describing this book. Happy reading! 🙂

While I feel the warning is necessary, there’s some stellar writing in this anthology, including these lines that I think speak to why (mostly) sane people read and write the kinds of atrocities found within:

“There is no bottom. And there is no top … No matter how hard you fall, there is always a deeper darkness below. But if that is true, there is also no end to the height and the light that a soul can aspire to. Up goes up forever, too. A little perspective is a wonderful thing.”

– John Skipp, “Splatterpunk Alphabet Souffle”


The Three-body Problem, and What America Can Learn from the Cultural Revolution

I rarely write book reviews, but after reading The Three-body Problem I must yawp from my rooftop just how extraordinary this novel is, in the hope that others will experience the same mind-bending awe this masterpiece inspired in me.

The Three-body Problem is by no means slow, though it’s not exactly an action-packed, cliffhanger-type novel. I enjoy those as well, and I’ll highly recommend Red Rising and Ready Player One if that’s what you’re looking for. But Liu Cixin didn’t need to blow shit up to keep me reading through the night: the sheer scope, originality, and power of his ideas do that job more than adequately.

The novel is set in China, largely in Beijing, a city in which I studied and worked for over a Continue reading

Release day!

My short story “Möbius” is now available in Writers of the Future, Vol 32Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers are all carrying this year’s collection, which contains excellent work from new hands and old pros, including bestselling and award-winning authors Brandon Sanderson, Tim Powers, David Farland, and Sean Williams. 

Below: the haunting illustration Talia Spencer created to accompany “Möbius.” Pick up a copy for more than a dozen stories and illustrations, and let me know what you think!

Talia Spencer_Mobius_CMYK