Variations on Death and Love

I have two pieces published this month and they’re both about death. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

The first piece is an article, Danse Macabre: Equality in Death in Medieval Istrian Frescoes published in The Deadlands. This wasn’t the first time I connected my art history knowledge with my publications in speculative fiction magazines, but it was the first time I wrote a non-fiction piece about my own cultural heritage. If you want to know more about medieval representations of death and about the role of death as the great equalizer, read the article. Also, the frescoes are amazing.

Party like it’s 1474

The second piece is The Collector, published in the September issue of Cossmass Infinities. This one is not really about death, although the main character is Morana, the old Slavic goddess of death (who is, BTW, also the MC in my dark fantasy novel I’m querying right now). My main focus in this story is on migrant workers and on how hard it is to leave your country and your heritage behind, even if you are a deity. It sucks to be a foreigner, far from the people who believe in you, metaphysically or otherwise.

The story is on the Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction list on Tor.com, where Alex Brown wrote an amazing review:

We’ve all read tons of stories about Death gods and soul collecting, but there is something special about Jelena Dunato’s story that stuck with me. Morana, an ancient Slavic pagan deity tied to death and winter, travels to Italy to retrieve the soul of a dying elderly woman. But the woman’s house becomes a battlefield as other Death gods seek to claim the woman’s soul. I think what I appreciated the most was how Dunato threaded in the complexities of being a migrant in a place that needs your labor but does not care about your life, where ties to family and land become both stronger and more tenuous.

This month I’m also collaborating with the wonderful  A.R. Ward on Ghost Orchid Press’s new anthology, Beyond the Veil. This one is not about death, thank goodness, but about love. Queer, supernatural love. Send us your stories, we are eager to read them.

New stories

I have three new stories published this month, which is a personal record.

The first one is Immortelle in The Dark Magazine. It is a very dark story about bleak landscapes and bleak outcomes. Charles Payseur wonderfully summed up the whole issue in his Quick Sip Reviews:

A grim issue full of stories about people trapped in yearning. In want. Isolated and alienated from the world they move through. Because they don’t fit or because they’re vulnerable and just want somewhere safe. Whatever the case, though, that yearning is used against them, used to draw them into something like a trap, something hungry and knowing exactly how to prey on them.

It also made it to the Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction list on Tor.com:

This one gripped me hard and hasn’t let me go. A young woman in an unspecified historical era is murdered by her lover after she finds out she’s pregnant. But she is not content to stay dead. A haunting story of vengeance and consequences.

Alex Brown

Fun fact: before the cosmetic industry turned immortelle into a priceless elixir of youth, the locals on the island where I live deemed it worthless because the sheep wouldn’t eat it. They used it as fuel for fishing lanterns. Those fires must have smelt wonderful.

The second one is Perfect Date in Future Science Fiction Digest. That one is more upbeat, with some humour thrown in, though the subject is serious. Personally, I’ve always found dating exhausting and exasperating, which made me wonder what kind of technology could provide women with a more positive experience. Unfortunately, it seems that in my imagination, even the most perfect dates have flaws.

Short and sensual and complicated, looking at the distance between someone’s frustrations and their desires. I really like how in so short a space it takes on AI, sex work, fantasy, and safety. Really a lot to unpack here, and a really strong story!

Quick Sip Reviews

The last story is The Echo in Dark Hearts: Tales of Twisted Love published by Ghost Orchid Press. It’s a truly wonderful collection of dark stories about love gone wrong. Mine is no exception: it’s a story about domestic violence, which is a subject that never fails to make me angry and sad.

Perhaps now that the spring is here, my writing will become optimistic once more. I’m working on a steampunk novella and I’m still trying to find an agent for The Book. I could really use some luck.

Hello darkness

I have recently volunteered to be the first reader for The Crypt Magazine, an online magazine of dark fiction and poetry published by the Ghost Orchid Press. I’ve often read and critiqued my fellow writers’ work, I’ve been a beta reader and critique partner, but I’ve never been a slusher. I think it requires a completely different set of reading skills and I’m really looking forward to it.

Between working with the Ghost Orchid Press and writing my recent stories, I’ve figured out something I’d been completely unaware of: I naturally lean towards writing dark fiction. I’ve always thought of myself as primarily a fantasy writer, especially historical, sword-and-sorcery type of fantasy. But whatever I write these days, comes out very dark – and I’m quite comfortable with that. It feels like I opened a dam and black water flowed out. It might be because it’s been a year – officially – since the beginning of the pandemic and my way of coping with anxiety and stress is to dig deeper and go darker, or it might be because it’s always been lurking inside me but I just haven’t recognized it. In any case, I’m ready to embrace it.

Oh, and if you have a dark story/poem under 500 words, The Crypt will open for subs on 1st March. Check the submission call.