Charles Payseur is an acclaimed and award-winning editor, reviewer, book champion, and writer. Most recently, he has been reviewing short fiction for Locus Magazine. He co-edited the anthologies, We're Here: The Best Queer Speculative Fiction 2020 and 2021.

The Burning Day and Other Strange Stories by Charles Payseur

The secrets of lives not shared, not taken, not known, all can be found in the eclectic fiction of author Charles Payseur. A sentient star deals with the trauma of their binary partner having collapsed into a black hole, and gets a little inspiration from the intrepid humans that happen by; a lumberjack must weigh his own safety and comfort against the lives of the dryads whose bodies and blood could buy him the life he desires; a young man deals with the loss of his fathers in a future where cold has claimed much of the globe; on a special holiday, people gather to burn their burdens from the previous year, unknowing if they'll return again with the next day; and on a ship maintained by cats and powered by ectoplasmic energies, the Emperor of All Things has died, and a young man is given a very unique opportunity.


•Give me a fiction collection with a sentient star, a ship of cats, and dryads for sale, and you can bet I'll be reading it from cover to cover. Such is the case with this collection, in which Payseur wanders down some intricately weird byways I've never visited before, showing me characters and situations I've never imagined. Well-crafted work like this is something to prize and linger over, to enjoy like a fine wine with an exquisitely unique profile. I wager you won't find another author quite like Payseur, or a dislocated ambience like that with which he imbues these amazing stories. – Robert Jeschonek



  • "This is a sure thing for fans of progressive science fiction and fantasy."

    – Publishers Weekly
  • "These are fascinating stories united by the urgency of quests—for the perfect reality, for love and connection, for thrills that give life meaning, and for second chances. Elusive goals all, but one thing's for sure: don't let this collection elude you."

    – Sean Eads
  • "Tucked inside each otherwordly landscape, or fantastical character in Payseur's collection, there is a deeply human and relatable heart. These gorgeous stories of loss, longing, desire, and hope reflect the world as it is, and as it could be, through a speculative lens."

    – A.C. Wise



A dryad heart will fetch three hundred dollars if you sell it to the right shops in Milwaukee. The wood from its body will bring in another fifty dollars a yard. It never rots so you can bury it to avoid the lumber boss' watchful eye, can return right after the season ends, right before the cold freezes it in the ground. Dryad tears can be jarred and are worth nearly a hundred dollars a quart. If you're busy enough you can make enough in a single year to live off for the rest of your life.

You have a dream. You and Holstegg buy a farm and live there and nothing bad ever happens. No neighbors mean no fires in the night. No scrawling messages on the sides of buildings. No sermons aimed at your hearts. You just need enough money for the land and the necessities. You just need a little help…

You stand with your bloody knuckles against the bark, listening to the soft moan of the wood beneath. The axe almost feels light in your opposite hand. You lean forward so your lips are nearly brushing where its mouth is hidden, where every so often a gust of warm air washes over your face.