I've got a book series to finish, but there's always time to sneak in a short story or two in my writing schedule. Short stories can really help with my writing process for novels. It's a way to test out new characters and ideas without too much commitment, as well as a way to feel productive. When you've got 100,000 words and intensive rounds of edits ahead of you for a novel, squeezing in a short story can make writing feel less daunting.
So I'm thrilled that in the middle of finishing the sequel to The Sentient, I spent a few weekends on a short story about nanotech, and a woman who codes when she's not causing the good kind of trouble. I'm even more thrilled that it's appearing in Clarkesworld Magazine this month - it's been a longstanding publishing goal of mine to have a byline in Clarkesworld. I've submitted stories to the magazine in the past, and happy to have my first acceptance!
This story, like The Bahrain Underground Bazaar (F&SF Magazine), is set in a futuristic version of Bahrain. It's a place that is modernizing but in transition, with a population that is divided on the country's growing experiments with nanotechnology. Manal is an ambitious programmer at a ministry office that deals with nanotechnology - she's been regulated to the cosmetics department, using nanotech as a beauty treatment, but wants to apply her talents on bigger challenges. When a popular public figure comes into the building seeking cancer treatment, Manal jumps at the opportunity to advance herself... but develops a more complicated relationship with her patient, and the national dialogue around nanotechnology.
I wanted to create a hopeful story that wrestled with the complex nature of cultural shifts. The Middle East is a place that is often characterized in western media as backward and fearful of modernization. It is expected to reform, and quickly. But societal shifts in other parts of the world haven't happened overnight - there is a constant tug and pull, a movement and a backlash. I saw this firsthand in the years I lived in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Manal is a female programmer who has embraced the modern direction the island is taking, but is otherwise apolitical - until events force her to take a stand.
How does it end? You can read it here and find out!