Feb 22 2021

“Favor” Reprinted in The Were-Traveler

I’m very pleased that my short story “Favor”, originally published in the Love Hurts anthology from Meerkat Press, has been reprinted in the latest issue of The Were-Traveler (Issue 22: Women Destroy [Retro] Sci-Fi!!!)

My story is pretty much bang as advertised, a retro sci-fi love story between a space gladiator and her alien bug princess. It’s free to read at https://the-were-traveler.weebly.com/current-issue/favor-by-shannon-phillips. Totally looking forward to reading the other stories included in this issue!


Dec 7 2020

On Mastiffs

(Crossposted from another platform)

When I lost my dog… And let me stop here because I need you to understand that she was a mastiff. 

That means she was a huge girl who needed leash training and needed doggy kindergarten training but never needed protection training; you don’t ever do that, with mastiffs, because protection training involves putting a dog’s person in simulated threat and prompting them to fight on behalf of their person. A mastiff will do that anyway, and they will do it very well, and any “training” scenarios would be a) distressing for the dog, and b) dangerous for the people pretending to be threats.

Most mastiffs in a home-burglary situation will use their weight and ferocious bark/growl to immobilize intruders: they’re pretty famous for sitting on would-be burglars until the police come round. (These dogs get to be about 200 pounds, depending. Thora was on the slim side but trust me, nobody wanted to try her.) They don’t enjoy fucking people up. They are gentle giants. They bite as a last resort.

But they absolutely will do it, in defense of their person.

I was Thora’s main person, and she never needed training. She knew in her bones that guarding the house and the people in it was her job. She wouldn’t stray far from me, but she liked to plop her entire bulk down in the middle of hallways so that she could get sightlines to everyone else in the house as well. She guarded us from dawn to dusk and round through the night too. She was on top of it, in a lounge-y way. If I went to get a glass of water from the kitchen it would be to the accompaniment of scrabbling claws on hardwood and the soft effortful grunts of a mastiff heaving herself up, because she could not let me out of her sight.

When I was sick, she would be lying at the side of the bed.

When she was sick, finally, of old age, she went out into the yard and stretched out under my window. When it became clear she wasn’t coming back in I went out and stayed with her, trying to coax her to drink chicken broth; we couldn’t move her without her cooperation, so we found a vet that would come to us, but by the time the vet came it was for funerary services.

Anyway, so, when I lost my dog, I never stopped feeling her presence. It’s been twenty months since she died and the reason I made this post is because I absentmindedly just leaned over to scritch the vacancy where her ears would be, if she was lying in the place where she ought to be. I can feel with absolute clarity the space her ghost takes up, and I never want it to leave me.

Don’t ever buy a mastiff. Rescuing ones that already exist and need homes is different, if you know what you’re doing, but I’ve become convinced that it is immoral to knowingly create beings so good who only live for such a short time. Big dogs live shorter lives, and seven to nine years is not enough. Much better to have a less saintly dog that lives longer. That mastiffs exist at all is a reproach to the arrogance and hubris of humankind: we thought we’d make something good. We weren’t prepared for the cost of loving and losing them so soon.

Someday I might adopt another mastiff, as a rescue, but only if I’m ready for another ghost.


Mar 15 2020

Fox Chases Plaguecrow

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
View this post on Instagram
 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

 

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

Resilience and adaptation are Oakland’s strengths. Robin wanted this mask and I support his vibrant self-expression in place of fear. The street art behind him is by Desi Peskador.

 

A post shared by Shannon Phillips (@s1duri) on

These are strange times. We are mostly holed up at home trying to practice responsible social distancing during a global pandemic, but we do go for walks. I took this picture of Robin on one of them.


Jun 29 2019

The Briar-Bower

So I glanced out at the back yard this afternoon and realized I’ve created some kind of Blair Witch masterpiece back here.

First, there’s the defunct chicken coop, still echoing after all these years with the memory of raccoon screeching and blood. You can just look at some buildings and know that a massacre happened there. (I’m so sorry, my fluffybutt girls.) A deeply haunted energy, as the kids say.

Secondly, that vine-covered tree in the distance that fell over more than a decade ago and refused to die. It’s just growing on its side now, looking up at the blackberries and morning glories draped across it like “this is fine.” And if you go around to the other side it looks like this: 

Oh that’s right my friends, we (and by “we,” I mean Sam, but he did it because I asked him to) hacked back the briars just enough to create an awesomely spooky little tunnel into a secret world that looks like this:

See? That’s the tree that fell over. When we first moved in I envisioned this as a place for the boys to the play, a natural tree fort, but the truth is they spend almost no time there because they’ve got Fortnite and YouTube instead.

I’m the one who likes to go out there and sit, because I find it a meditative and a magical place. A secret grove where the fae energy is strong. I dragged that bench in there, and put the little froggo statue at the tree’s roots, along with a birdbath. As decorations, or offerings.

As an offering to what? I dunno. I am an atheistic nature worshipper, a lapsed witch. It’s just an offering to life, mostly, because I’m super inspired by this mock orange tree that fell over and refused to die. And I love the little world that it created by continuing to flourish while having a bit of an extended lie-down. I come and fill up the bowl with water sometimes, though I also intentionally let it run dry in between, to keep mosquitoes from breeding there. It means something to me, though I couldn’t necessarily say what.

In my head I’ve called this spot the Green Chapel, or sometimes the Briar-Bower. If you sit on the bench and look up over your head, it looks like this:

The big leaves are a fig tree that’s spilling over from the neighbor’s yard, and supporting some of the smaller vines as it does. I think sometimes about that song from Hamilton, about sitting under your own vine and fig tree. I mean it’s from the Bible. Everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid. But I think of it in Hamilton form, and I hum it a little bit sometimes, and usually by the time I come on out from under there, I feel comforted.


Apr 25 2019

Bad Fairy Story Bundle

I have a short story in the anthology Fae, one of the ten titles included in the Bad Fairy Bundle. It looks like a pretty sweet deal and I’m probably going to have to grab it myself—check out that Jane Yolen collection! (The Bad Fairy Book Bundle runs for 3 weeks only.)


Apr 19 2019

RIP Thora

Last year Thora was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy, a
progressive and incurable disease of the spinal cord in older dogs. She was only six but sadly that is old, for a mastiff. She lived to be almost eight, with mobility issues that increased steadily but did not prevent her from having a good quality of life.

When the end came it was pretty abrupt. Two days ago she picked a spot in the yard and stopped moving altogether. We brought her water and treats. I made her chicken broth and held it to her mouth so she could drink it. Then she stopped being interested in food or water, and sometime early this morning, she died.

We had already had an appointment scheduled with Bridge Veterinary Services; they were very helpful, even though hospice and euthanasia had both become redundant options. But the vet was warm and immensely kind. She made a plaster cast of Thora’s paw for us, then we loaded Thora onto a stretcher and the vet took her away for cremation.

I never imagined having strong feelings about pet burial but in this case I find that I do. I want Thora’s ashes to be scattered here, because this is her home, and it is not complete without her. She is woven into the fabric of our lives and she belongs here, with us, where I still feel her warm and loving and protective presence. The spot she chose in the yard was just under my window. I think she was still guarding us.

The last thing I said to the vet was “She was so good. She was so good.” It felt important that she know that. It feels important that you all know that. She was so good, and I will miss her so much, my big girl forever.


Jun 26 2018

The Miss Translated Poems

Elisa Chavez, poet in residence at the Seattle Review of Books, is creating an amazing series with her “Miss Translated” poems:

The main conceit behind this work is that to accurately portray my relationship with Spanish, I have to explore the pain and ambiguity of not speaking the language of my grandparents and ancestors. As a result, these poems are bilingual … sort of. Each one is translated into English incorrectly.

The poems I produced have secrets, horrific twists, emotional rants, and confessions hiding in the Spanish. It’s my hope that people can appreciate them regardless of their level of Spanish proficiency.

As an example, her poem “La sirena y pescador / The mermaid and the fisherman”:

A more faithful translation of the Spanish, provided by featherquillpen on Tumblr, would be:

The mermaid rose from the sea
To see the dry world.
She found a fisherman on the beach
This beautiful fish without a net.
She had a gleaming tail; scales
that covered her breasts, arms, and face
and a wake of lacy waves.

The fisherman caught her by the tail
and cut it in half.
“Now,” he said to her, “you have legs.
Why don’t you walk?”

The mermaid began to sing to the sea
for aid, her blood transforming
the sand of the beach into rainbows.

She sang to the fisherman, “I forgive you,
I forgive you, I forgive you.”

The translator notes: “The reason this mistranslation is so brilliant is that it takes a story about a mermaid trying to forgive a man who’s committed senseless violence against her, and turns it into a story about a man who uplifts a woman to a better life out of the kindness of his heart. And the thing is, that’s exactly what happens to so many stories from colonized cultures when they’re adapted by the oppressor. Translation into English, and further the cultural language of the oppressor, can be an act of violence and erasure rather than one of respect.”

Another mistranslated poem is “El vampiro / ICE”:

Translated by signed-me-again on Tumblr:

The vampire twists the law.
Like rice, it is bleached
of compassion. It does not arrive
when promised,
and enters without permission.

Which predator
is announced? The bloodthirsty
gentleman does the honors;
identifies himself as officer,
neighbor, friend. He steals
your parents, and they become
criminals on paper.

It is not possible to reason
with the vampire. The only solution
for him is to drive the stake
into his heart.


Nov 1 2017

Hallowe’en 2017

Featuring a ninja, Space Godzilla, and a dad scientist…

Space Godzilla is a lot like last year’s Godzilla, only with the addition of shoulder spikes. A dad scientist is like a mad scientist, only it’s also a dad joke. Some of us were kinda coasting this year. The ninja is fierce as ever, though.


Oct 21 2017

Rock Stars

Davy, pre-haircut:

Robin, post-haircut:

Sol, napping with a silly filter applied:

We’re all doing well. The terrible fires in Napa and Sonoma made the air quality dangerous here for a while—it was apocalyptic, really. You could smell it everywhere, the ash rained down on cars and sidewalks, just going outside would make you cough and your eyes burn. We packed the kids into the car and spent three days in Reno. It’s a lot better now, but of course there’s so many people displaced; people who have lost everything. The magnitude of the damage is hard to convey. I’ve been hugging these boys tight.


Oct 3 2017

About Sol

Today Sol was formally diagnosed with autism, a step that comes as no surprise to anybody who has been close to him. At four years old he’s still not really talking, except in scattered words and lines quoted from his favorite videos. He’s clearly bright—he’s taught himself to read, in fact, at least at an early/beginning stage—but he’s just utterly unaware of, and uninterested in, social conventions and boundaries. And I’m talking boundaries like “don’t dig out all the soil from the potted plants and strew it all across the living room,” or “if you happen to find the front door unlocked, don’t run out in the middle of the street in your diaper and jump around there.” He is Not Like Other Kids.

He’s also sweet, loving, and happy—delighted with himself most of the time, and delighted to be in the world. He’s singleminded in focus when something interests him. He’s physically active and well-coordinated—loves jumping, climbing, and throwing things. He’s cuddly and affectionate. He really obviously thinks it’s pretty great being Sol.

My focus, on parenting Sol, is on supporting him to do the things he wants to do rather than trying to change or “cure” him. I think autism, or brains that work differently in general—neurodivergence or neurodiversity—is a benefit to humanity. I really value the perspective that my friends who are on the spectrum share. So I consider myself a supporter of the autism acceptance movement, and I have resisted the steady drumbeat of alarm from friends and family who repeat the words “early intervention” as if it’s some kind of mantra. Firstly, autism is a difference, not a disease; it can’t be cured and it shouldn’t be stigmatized. Secondly, I don’t want to intervene in Sol’s development, I want to support it.

I’ve done a lot of reading of blogs by adult autistic people about the “interventions” they endured in childhood, and there are some real horror stories out there. Many adults actually have PTSD from the abuse they suffered in the name of therapy. As the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network puts it:

“Many therapies and products for Autistic children and adults are helpful and should be made more widely available, such as physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and augmentative and assistive communication technology (including supported typing, facilitated communication and other methodologies that support communications access). However, ASAN opposes the use of behavioral programs that focus on normalization rather than teaching useful skills. One of the guiding principles underlying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is respect for the right of children with disabilities to preserve their identities. Autistic children should not have to grow up constantly being told that their natural behaviors are wrong and that they cannot be accepted as they are.”

It took us almost a year of navigating a ridiculous bureaucracy to even get Sol diagnosed in the first place, and now that we have? We get to wait another month before we’re formally added to the rolls of the Regional Center of the East Bay, the private non-profit that’s under contract from the California Department of Developmental Services to provide service and support for people with developmental disabilities. I think Sol could benefit from speech therapy so that’s my goal right now, but I would really like everyone to understand that getting services for him isn’t an easy or a straightforward process (and certainly not a quick one).

And most of all I need those close to us to understand that there’s not, like, a magic wand any specialist can wave over Sol’s head to transform him into a “normal” kid. He is always going to have a brain that works differently, and those of us who love him are privileged to benefit from his unique perspective on the world.