A collection of short stories by Sim Kern, Real Sugar is Hard to Find explores intersections of climate change, reproductive justice, queer identities, and family trauma. Whether fantasy, science fiction, or terrifyingly close-to-home, the worlds of these stories are inhabited by flawed characters whose lives are profoundly impacted by climate change and environmental degradation.
Arranged in a progression from dystopian to utopian worlds, the stories chart a path from climate despair towards resilience and revolutionary optimism. Even in the bleakest of futures, however, Kern offers reasons to hope, connect, and keep fighting for a better world.
Like Kelly Link’s “Magic for Beginners” or Karen Russell’s “Vampires in the Lemon Grove,” Kern’s stories are unflinching, intimate explorations of trauma and our deepest fears, rendered irresistible through the infusion of fantastic speculative elements and a dark sense of humor.
Stelliform Press, March 1st, 2022
Rylla McCracken dreams of escaping her mother’s trailer in the Dust states to go to college, but her mother demands she work for Lockburn chemical refinery instead. When Rylla learns Lockburn is planning to dam the Guadalupe River—the last flowing water in Texas—Rylla defies her mother to protest in the state capital. While the protest ends in disaster, it gains her viral infamy and an acceptance to the mysterious Wingates University.
At Wingates, Rylla befriends a diverse group of students, all working on new technologies to save the planet. Besides mountains of homework, Rylla struggles with guilt for leaving her family behind in the Dust, where tensions with the Lush States are escalating towards civil war. Succeeding at Wingates seems like Rylla’s best chance to help her family, until she learns a terrible secret about the school’s billionaire backers. With the help of her new friends, Rylla uncovers their plot to survive the climate-ravaged world—no matter the cost.
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**A 2021 OTHERWISE AWARD HONOR LIST BOOK**
When an unprecedented hurricane devastates the city of Houston, Noah Mishner finds shelter in the Dallas Mavericks’ basketball arena. Though he finds community among other queer refugees, Noah fears his trans and Jewish identities put him at risk with certain “capital-T” Texans. His fears take form when he starts seeing visions of his great-grandfather Abe, who fled Nazi Germany as a boy. As the climate crisis intensifies and conditions in the shelter deteriorate, Abe’s ghost grows more powerful. Ultimately, Noah must decide whether he can trust his ancestor — and whether he’s willing to sacrifice his identity and community in order to survive.
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Free Fiction on the web:
“The Listener” in The Future Fire, January 2021
“Sister, Fly-or-Die” in The Fifth Di…, June 2020
“The Propagator” in Metaphorosis Magazine, August 2019
“The Night Heron” in Terrible Twosdays, October 2019
“TCEQ listens to corporate polluters, not communities” in One Breath Partnership, November 2021
“The future of space exploration requires the end of billionaires” in The Independent, July 2021
“No, Billionaires won’t “escape” to space while the world burns” in Salon, July 2021
“Buadiene causes cancer. A corporation with a history of illegal pollution wants to release more of it in Houston.” in One Breath Partnership, May 2021
“How to Teach at Home” in Edutopia, March 2020
“How I Dealt with Transphobia in the Publishing World” in Out Magazine, January 2019
Short Stories in Print:
“The New Nomad” in The Colored Lens, Autumn 2019
Print and ebook versions of “The Propagator”
“Tadpoles” in Issue #04 of Wizards in Space Magazine
“The Toll” in the 2018 Stories that Need to be Told anthology by Tulip Tree Publishing.
Interviews and Videos:
“Authors in Conversation: Sim Kern and Cynthia Zhang talk LGBTQ rep in books about climate change” in LGBTQ Reads, August 2021
Stelliform Press: “Telling Climate Stories in a Climate Crisis” September, 2020
Q&A with Simone Kern in Wizards in Space, 2019