I Like Stories In Which All The Men Are Dead

I wore my Clarion West shirt to Readercon. It reads "I like stories in which all the men are dead."

Some people loved it. Others scratched their head, said wow, and moved on. One guy looked like he was ready to take out all his pent up rage about the direction Sci fi and fantasy is going on me.

Let me explain. At Clarion we taught each other a lot. One of the things we grappled with was the portrayal of women in writing. This included critiquing and facing issues of abuse, consent, using women as a man's motivation, and more.

So, no, our quote isn't literal. We don't want to remove all men from fiction. But it embodies the thought of thinking of women first in fiction. What happens when they are not just set pieces? What happens when we stop looking at them from the male gaze? Maybe if we 'kill' our men characters (in whatever metaphorical way you choose, this is writing btw!), our women can live more on the page.

For me, someone at clarion, after my third or so story, said she would like to see me try a woman protagonist. Before that, in my head Afiya was a man.

Best advice I've taken up so far in writing.

On the eve of doctoring....

Today is probably the highest I will feel about my professional self for a while. I was published in F&SF (a big writing deal) and start residency tomorrow (a big doctor deal). I have every reason to feel confident and proud in my abilities.

But inevitably I will be brought down a few levels. I WILL make mistakes. I WILL get rejections. I WILL have moments where I feel like I'm not supposed to be here. I'm not writing enough, I'm not learning enough, I'm not giving enough.

But that is part of growth. I will need to remember how I feel now. And remember that this combined high may not come again for years.

But it will. And when it does it will be to new heights.

In other words, bring on the next stage!

Afiya's Song

It's here! My novelette, Afiya's Song, has been published in the oh-so-fantastic Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It is the story of a slave woman in the American South who has the power to heal herself and others with her song. It was inspired by what I saw missing in Hollywood's recent infatuation with slavery.

I am honored to share it with you.


  • I wrote this story for instructor Nalo Hopkinson at Clarion West. It was the story I now believe I went to Clarion to write.
  • Cory Doctorow offered to buy the story for BoingBoing but, being the good mentor that he is, advised me to go after the big magazines first. So, I did.
  • F&SF editor C. C. Finlay had been serving me encouraging personal rejections for years. I had a flicker of a hope that Afiya's Song would be the one to get him to take a chance on me.
  • I received the news of acceptance while on interview day for the Mount Sinai Psychiatry Residency Program. I couldn't hold my excitement and told the residency director, Dr. Antonia New, and she was thrilled. My first day as a Mount Sinai Resident is on Monday.
  • As of writing this, I have not yet had a chance to read the issue but I hear it is excellent and I am making it a priority.
  • I am over the hills excited!

Table of Contents (my impressions to come)

  • There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House – David Erik Nelson
  • The Masochist's Assistant – Auston Habershaw
  • The Bride in Sea-Green Velvet – Robin Furth
  • I Am Not I – G.V. Anderson
  • Afiya's Song – Justin C. Key
  • In a Wide Sky, Hidden – William Ledbetter
  • A Dog's Story – Gardner Dozois
  • An Obstruction to Delivery – Sean Adams
  • An Unearned Death – Marissa Lingen
  • Northwest Cruise – Sophie M. White

Buy Links

Paper copies and subscriptions

Weightless Books

Amazon US (Kindle edition)

Amazon UK (Kindle edition)

If you've read the story, please leave comments below. I'd love to hear from you!