Banned Books Week 2022 – call for submissions


To See Yourself in Pages, Paragraphs, Sentences, and Words: Books, Stories, and Representation

Each year, the American Library Association Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) compiles a list of the top 10 most challenged books that are requested for removal from schools and libraries. In 2021, the OIF documented 729 challenges of 1597 books and materials; however, it estimates that 82-97% of challenges go unreported. That means approximately 50,000 challenges to books were made in 2021! While trends in the subject of challenged books may reflect reactionary response to social movements that challenge prevailing authorities – reasons given for many top-10 challenges in 2020 during the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement include “promoting anti-police views” – most books are challenged for centering the lived experiences of marginalized peoples along racial, gender, and social lines. 

In the United States, more than 12 states have recently passed laws that restrict how public-school teachers can talk about race, gender, and sexuality in the classroom, including banning associated materials from school libraries. Some states have even begun debating whether to expand these restrictions to public libraries that serve adult readers. (For a discussion of these trends, see this article.) 

At Cast of Wonders, we welcome stories that portray the full spectrum of human (and non-human) experience. We don’t challenge books; we want books and stories to challenge us! 

For Banned Books Week 2022, send us your stories that show how books and stories serve as a beacon for identity, serving to draw peoples and communities together; books that make the statement: “This is who I am, this is who we are, and we will be heard!” (This phrase need not appear in the story but should be a resonant theme). The book should feature prominently in the story and not serve as a prop or McGuffin; however, we encourage creativity in interpreting what a book is and how it is woven into the story. We like to be surprised! We are especially interested in stories that feature joy and hope, even if the setting is intergalactic war or a zombie apocalypse. 

Cast of Wonders looks for stories that evoke a sense of wonder, have deep emotional resonance, and have something unreal about them. We aim for a 12-17 age range: that means sophisticated, non-condescending stories with wide appeal, and without gratuitous or explicit sex, violence or pervasive obscene language.

Preference for this submission window is under 5,000 words with an absolute limit of 6,000 words. Submissions must adhere to Cast of Wonders guidelines. 

Submissions will be accepted from May 1 to May 14 through our Moksha Portal – we can’t wait to read what you send in!

Joining the editorial team for this call is one of our long-standing Associate Editors, Alicia Caporaso. We’re thrilled to have her and all of her expertise on the team for this event.

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 494: The Day I Didn’t Get a Pet Nebula


The Day I Didn’t Get a Pet Nebula

by Effie Seiberg

On the day I turned nine, I didn’t get a pet nebula.

I’d really really wanted one, just like the one Shelly had. And I’d been talking about it FOR-EVER, so Dad could have the time to save up for the one in the pawn shop, and I’m not usually patient enough to talk about anything that long. I told him how responsible I was and how I could take it for walks and trim its dust wisps and everything. I made him breakfast when he got home from his shift a bunch of times, and even did the dishes after to prove how responsible I was.

“C’mon kiddo, you know that’s not possible,” he’d said, ten rotation cycles before my birthday. We were at the wobbly kitchen table and he was helping me with my physics homework after dinner, so everything still smelled like tacos with neutron star shavings and spray cheese. The chapter was all about distortions of spacetime, cosmic strings and black holes and whatnot. He leaned his head on one tentacle, like he was too tired to hold it up on its own. Even his work shirt looked tired, like the frayed thin patches were struggling to hold his tentacles in. “A pet nebula isn’t happening.” (Continue Reading…)

Cast of Wonders 493: One Day in Infinity


One Day in Infinity

by Beth Goder

Walrus reaches her hands down into a supermarket in Oregon, willing the roof translucent. Time is frozen like the fish sticks in aisle seven. She weaves her hands through shoppers, careful not to nudge the boy bouncing in the cart or the old man in front of the cake mixes. She breathes in the smell of cucumbers, a loamy quality that speaks of the ground they came from.

First, she removes salmonella from a carton of eggs, sucking out disease until only a swirl of white and yolk remains. She caresses the fish in the display case to tell them they are loved. Next, she sees if anyone is going to die. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 492: Stillwater


Stillwater

by Valerie Kemp

Nothing ever changes in Stillwater. Nothing. I get up every morning at the crack of dawn, in the blazing heat, and drive our pick-up all over, delivering eggs and milk and whatever else my daddy feels like selling, to the good people of Stillwater, population 413.

I work my way in a circle from the edge of town, where we live, to the center. I endure all the little old ladies who like to pinch my cheek when they tell me, “Why Pruitt Reese, you are becoming more like your daddy every day!” Like that’s a good thing. (Continue Reading…)

woman with colourful wisps of light

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 491: Little Wonders 33 – Dreams & Identity

Show Notes

“In the Library of Longing” was first published by Daily Science Fiction, February 2021


Sleep Tight

by Mark Joslyn

You were right, you know. When you were a child.

I was hiding under your bed.

You knew it, even though you couldn’t prove it. Even after your mother kissed your cheek, and tucked you in, and told you there was nothing to be afraid of. Even after your father knelt and checked and told you there was nothing hiding down there. Even when you summoned up all your courage and looked for yourself, hanging off the edge of your bed, your trembling flashlight shining on nothing but forgotten socks and lost toys. You still knew, that somehow, someway, I was down there. (Continue Reading…)

CatsCast 1: The Cat Lady and the Petitioner


The Cat Lady and the Petitioner

by Jennifer Hudak

Laurie stands in front of a door. It’s old but solid, as many old things are. Whatever paint once covered it has long since worn away, and the wood beneath is striped, and furred with splinters. It is her very first door, of her very first day, of her very first job.

Her ankles wobble over brand-new high heels, and her smart jacket is slightly itchy and entirely unsuited for the warm weather. She lifts one aching foot and then the other out of her stiff, uncompromising shoes. Her life stretches out before her, a long walk down an endless road hemmed in on either side by door after closed, splintery door.

Reaching out two pink-lacquered fingers and one pink-lacquered thumb, she delicately lifts up the knocker—brass, cat-shaped, with a tail curled in a circle. When Laurie raps the knocker three times against the base, the tail twitches underneath her fingers.

Read the rest on Patreon.

Banned Books Week: hold the date!


Our slush team have worked tremendously hard these past few months on General Subs and an absolutely stellar set of Halloween submissions. So, we’ve decided to delay our Banned Books Week window by a month, and give them a bit of a breather.  Expect a further announcement about our Banned Books Week call in the next week or so!

 

Revised submissions schedule can be found here:

Schedule

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 490: Prophecy Girls


Prophecy Girls

by Sydney Paige Guerrero

Sen was the twenty-third Chosen One to save the world. She knew she would not be the last.

Sen remembered everything the history books would not mention: how suffocating the darkness felt, pressing against her and thrumming with life; the smell of sulfur and honey as the Darkling leaned in to devour her, teeth grazing her skin and drawing blood; how sharp the air tasted when her internal emergency systems kicked in after her human heart stopped beating; her hair clinging to her face, heavy and slick with the Darkling’s blood, as she lay gasping with half her body a mess of torn synthetic skin and frayed wires; the way Mr. Smith stared at her in horror as she staggered to her feet as if she were a newly-risen Darkling; the—

“Chosen,” Mr. Smith said.

Sen blinked. Sun-baked dirt gave way to hardwood floors and off-white walls, the blades of a ceiling fan that barely stirred the hot Manila air wiping away the image of a blood red moon. The familiar tang of iron was real enough in her mouth though, and Sen realized she had bitten the inside of her cheek so hard that she was bleeding. Taking a breath, she intertwined her flesh and metal fingers to remind herself she was still whole. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 489: My Hilt Itches


My Hilt Itches

by Sydney Rivers

‘Innkeeper, another round!’ roared the Hero. Cheers of approval came from the other men at his table, dressed in pungent furs and armour. They paired copious drinking with heaped plates of roast meat. That and the body odour was enough to make me queasy.

Of course, it didn’t help that I was strapped against the Hero’s back. My jewelled sheath did little to protect me from the nauseating sounds and smells emanating from him. Regardless of his company, the Hero always ate the most, always drank the most. How I would love to teach him the meaning of moderation with some choice insults and a good knock on the head.

‘Show us Excalibur!’ yelled one of the self-professed ‘warriors’, quickly echoed by the shouts of his peers.

Standing upon the table, the Hero yanked me out of my cosy covering. I was held high, displayed for the entire inn’s enjoyment. I was really getting tired of his perpetual bragging. (Continue Reading…)

Genres:

Cast of Wonders 488: Little Wonders 32 – the Power of Imagination


Interview with a Sixth Grade Science Fiction Food Stylist

by B Myers

A full excerpt from Gustatory Semiotics Review (Winter) follows.


It was our privilege to conduct this interview at the Matz residence in Saukinee, casually situated near our subject’s working environment—the Matz kitchen table. Kevin Matz, in his brief tenure as an originator of radical alterities in the foodsphere, has already reworked several well-known genre themes (via found objects, snack items, condiments, and food coloring) into novel tableaux formats. We found the artist a voluble if elliptical subject.


GSR: Kevin, let’s talk about the nearly complete canvas we see before us—Jelly Caravan. This installation, which will remain on exhibit until—.”

Kevin: About 5:30.

GSR: At first glance, this piece seems to represent graphically the terror of distances. Upon a vast expanse of black construction paper we see a tenuous line of objects. What is the significance or purpose of these objects you refer to as jelly galleons?

Kevin: The jelly galleons bring jellies from other star systems. Probably because the flavors come from the starlight. It’s hard to tell. No one understands the language of the jelly galleons. (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 487: Let the Buyer Beware


Let the Buyer Beware

by Michelle Ann King

‘Is it done yet? Is it done, Gran? Is it?’

Willa Rafferty ignores the hopping child at her elbow and peers at the box in her hand. Its roughly printed label–Environment Expansion Kit! Need More Room? Create Extra Magical Space With This Quick And Easy Spell!–is now smeared with small, sticky fingerprints.  ‘Wait a second, Chloe, let me–’

‘I’m Evie, Gran. Is that bug supposed to be in the bucket? Shall I catch it?’

‘What? Oh.’ Willa flinches as a large, black-shelled beetle skitters past her foot. Did that come with the kit? Must’ve done. ‘Shit. I mean, yes. Get the bug, Chloe. I mean, Evie.’

The girl cups the fleeing insect between her palms and drops it into the bucket. It lands with a splash and an aggrieved-sounding hiss.

‘Are we going to set fire to it now, Gran?’

Willa hesitates. Not if there are bugs involved, surely? Aren’t there regulations about not setting bugs on fire? (Continue Reading…)

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Cast of Wonders 486: Eight Arms to Hold You


Eight Arms to Hold You

by Angela Teagardner

Oscar woke with the sun. He turned one glassy eye toward the tiny window near the ceiling where rose-gold light crept in. It was barred with a lattice of steel–steel currently scalloped with red paper hearts–but at least it faced toward the rising sun. He’d learned to wake as soon as that light, or maybe just the warmth from it, crept across his sensitive skin.

He stretched his limbs, reaching almost to the edges of his tiny cell. Today was the day. Operation Puddle Jump was a go. (Continue Reading…)