Eileen Gunn is a writer and editor. Her fiction has received the Nebula Award in the United States and the Sense of Gender Award in Japan, and has been nominated for the Hugo, Philip K. Dick, and World Fantasy awards, and short-listed for the James Tiptree, Jr. award. She was the editor/publisher of the edgy and influential Infinite Matrix webzine (2001-2008). She also edited, with L. Timmel Duchamp, The WisCon Chronicles 2: Provocative essays on feminism, race, revolution, and the future. Originally from the Boston area, she has lived in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco, and now makes her home in Seattle, with her husband, typographer and book designer John D. Berry. She has an extensive background in technology advertising, and was Director of Advertising and Sales Promotion at Microsoft in the mid-1980s; her stories sometimes draw on her understanding of the Byzantine dynamics of the corporate workplace. Gunn recently retired from the board of directors of the Clarion West Writers Workshop after twenty-two years of service, and is presently at work on a novel.

Questionable Practices by Eileen Gunn

Good intentions aren't everything. Sometimes things don't quite go the way you planned. And sometimes you don't plan. . . . This collection of sixteen stories (and one lonely poem) wittily chart the ways trouble can ensue. No actual human beings were harmed in the creation of this book.

Stories from Eileen Gunn are always a cause for celebration. Where will she lead us? "Up the Fire Road" to a slightly alternate world. Four stories into steampunk's heart. Into the golem's heart. Yet never where we might expect.

CURATOR'S NOTE

The collection of Eileen Gunn gems in Questionable Practices shimmers with humor, sharp insights, and places that start in the familiar and end up anywhere but. Be more specific you say: how about golems, sasquatches and cyberpunk? It's not just the shiny bits, but her stylistic choice, the cuts and clarity, that increase the value. – Tenea D. Johnson

 

REVIEWS

  • "True to form, Gunn's new book, Questionable Practices, contains a number of sardonically weird looks at the future and the strangeness of corporate culture. But her insatiable eye for weirdness branches out this time around, featuring a number of different takes on the fantastical.

    There is also a good deal of silliness in Questionable Practices, which should be welcomed by anyone who's gotten tired of the pervasive stiff upper lip in SF and fantasy of late. From outright spoofs to metafictional pranks to sarcastic mischief, Gunn is constantly winking at the reader, while also packing tons of clever ideas. And just when you least expect it, she drops a serious truth bomb."

    – Charlie Jane Anders, io9.com
  • "Nebula-winner Gunn combines humor and compassion in 17 short, intricate gems that showcase her many talents. Of particular note among these outstanding works are the poem "To the Moon Alice," in which a bombastic threat provides escape from comedic domestic violence, and "Michael Swanwick and Samuel R. Delany at the Joyce Kilmer Service Area, March 2005," an affectionate fable-like tribute to two legendary authors. "Up the Fire Road" provides dueling accounts of triadic romance and problematic parentage. "Phantom Pain" is a kaleidoscopic examination of a wounded soldier's life. Though Gunn first saw print in the 1970s, this short collection contains a surprisingly large portion of her stories; her rate of publication has recently been increasing, giving fans reason to hope for many more delights to come."

    РPublishers Weekly (starred review)
  • "'Phantom Pain' is short and terrible and breathtaking in its ambition and its achievement. It takes the idea of a phantom limb, the way the nerves continue to sense an arm or leg that has been amputated, and expands the notion just a little bit. It tells of a man wounded in war who continues to relive the pain of that vivid moment throughout the rest of his life, so that the jungle track where he was shot and the library where he works or the marital home or the hospital where he ends up become indistinguishable. Pain and memory take away the shape of a life. It is a story that owes nothing to anyone else, it opens up entirely new perspectives for the reader, and if an entire collection made up of such stories might be unendurable, still it shows how much Eileen Gunn can achieve when she lets herself go in new directions."

    – Paul Kincaid, Los Angeles Review of Books
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

Andrea

The main thing to understand about Christy O'Hare is he hates being bored. Complicated is interesting, simple is dull, so he likes to make things complicated.

Used to be the complications were more under his control. Like one time he went down to Broadway for coffee, but the coffee place was closed. So he hitched a ride downtown, but the driver was headed for Olympia on I-5, so Christy figured he'll go along for the ride and get his coffee at that place in Oly that has the great huevos. He ended up thumbing to San Francisco and coming back a week later with a tattoo and a hundred bucks he didn't have when he left home. I think he was more interested in doing something that would make a good story than he was in gettiing a cup of coffee. But I did wonder where the hell he was.

He's not a bad guy. I don't agree with what my mother said about him being a selfish son-of-a-bitch. But Christy is the star of his own movie, and it's an action flick. If life is dull, just hook up with him for a while. And if life seems slow and meaningless, go somewhere where you depend on him to get you back.

Like the ski trip. It's not that he wanted us to get lost on Mt. Baker, where we could have died of exposure, but ordinary cross-country skiing, on groomed trails, with parking lots and everything, is just so crowded and boring. Starting out way too late makes things more interesting. Drinking a pint of Hennessey and smoking a couple joints makes things much more interesting and gives the Universe a head start.

That's how we found ourselves, last year, four miles up a fire road as the sun was setting. Early March: warm days, cold nights. Slushy snow, pitted with snowshoe tracks, turning to ice as the temperature dropped. Did we bring climbing skins for our skis? Of course not. Did we bring a headlamp, or even a flashlight? Nope.

"We've got an hour of visibility," I said. "Let's get back."

"It's all downhill. Won't take long. There's a trail that cuts off to the hot-spring loop about half a mile ahead. We can go back that way, and stop by the hot spring." He extended the flask to me. "Here, babe, take a drink of this."

I pushed it away. "It'll be dark by then," I said. "How will we find our way out? "

"The hot spring is just off the main road, the paved one that we drove up. We can walk back down the road to our truck in the dark. No problem."

As it turned out, the hot spring was a lot farther away than that, but it was a natural enough mistake, because we didn't have a map. We didn't have much food, either, just a couple of power bars, and we didn't have a tent or even a tarp, and we didn't have dry clothes. Oh, yeah — we had the cellphone, but its battery needed a charge.

By the time we found the hot spring, it was dark. There was a moon, but it was just a crescent, and it wasn't going to last more than an hour or two before dipping below the trees. I was starting to shiver.

"We got plenty of time," Christy said. "Let's warm up in the hot spring, then we can take our time getting back to the road, 'cause you'll be warmer."

Well, it made a certain amount of sense. Of course, we didn't have any towels or anything, but our clothes were wool, so they'd keep us pretty warm, even though they were wet with sweat from climbing up the fire road. All I had to do was get my body temperature up a bit, and I'd be fine for a couple of hours.

It was slippery and cold getting down to the hot spring. It wasn't anything fancy, like Scenic or Bagby. No decking, no little hand-hewn log seats, just a couple of dug-out pools near a stream, with flat stones at one side, so you don't have to walk in the mud.

We took off our skis, took off our clothes, put our boots back on without tying the laces, and moving gingerly and quickly, in the cold air and the snow, climbed down to the spring, shed our boots, and started to get into the water.

Hotter than a Japanese bath. We dumped some snow in, tested again. Still hot, but tolerable. Soon we were settled in and accustomed to the heat. It sure felt good — I was so tired — but adrenalin kept me alert. We still had a ways to go to get back to the truck.

That's when I saw the old guy, watching us from behind a tree, the moonlight making his outline clear. Creepy, I thought.

I whispered to Christy, "There's somebody watching us. Don't look like you're looking. Over to my left, past the big fir."

Christy liked that, I could tell: it suddenly made things even more interesting. He liked danger. He liked the idea of someone watching us get naked. He sidled around for a better look, and tried not to look like he was looking.