Stronger

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” he wheezed, as they peeled him from the rack and swung the rusty gibbet closed.

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A Silver Chrysalis

Insekter

Alex raises insects. Well, not raises so much as breeds. Enables to live, feeds, encourages. Harvests.

It was not his habit, not to begin with. Not originally. His father raised insects. Alex just kind of fell into it. Whether it was Alex’s father (John) who started the family business, Alex isn’t sure. People are not too forthcoming, where his father is concerned. Not that there’s anyone, really, who he could ask, that he trusts well enough to answer those questions – there’s not really anyone who can answer any of his questions.

He has tried to ask his computer, laboriously punching down on each key – it lets him really think about each question as he asks it. But the answers it gives him are usually confusing, or contradictory, or both.

Alex doesn’t much like the computer.

He uses it, when he has to. To order food, both for his insects and for himself. He doesn’t like to leave the house. When the credit card declines, he can sell some of his beloved insects, and start again. He uses the computer to ask those questions that no-one seems to be able to answer, and to answer those questions that people ask him. He is never confusing or contradictory.

He is proud of that.

Continue reading

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Less than a Week to go!

Just a friendly reminder that the Lane of Unusual Traders is closing to submissions in less than a week! Get on it!

Seamstress - Inspiration from the Lane

Seamstress – Inspiration from the Lane

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Aeolian Harps

Ever heard an Aeolian Harp? They’re stringed instruments, played by the wind.

And they’re the subject of my latest Atlas Obscura article!

Eerie Instruments Played by the Wind

Uncertain Certainty

“Uncertainty is worse.”

That’s what the guard had said, shrugging his shoulders. The loose-fitting black hood was an attempt at anonymity. Even though the same three men had looked though the bars each day, eight hours apart. The certainty of uncertainty had been welcome, really. Knowing that today was not to be the day you died. The certainty was far worse.

The sunlight was like a slap to the face.

“You are all the same,” he said, his hand resting on my shaking shoulder. “You all think you are invincible, invisible. But we catch you in the end.”

The rope swung from the scaffold. They hadn’t bothered to clean the shit from the floorboards.

“Any last words?” His breath was hot on my neck.

“And so the flowers screamed.” A coded phrase, my final plea.

He laughed, a boyish tinkle, odd coming from such a large man.

“They do little one, they do.” His hands reached out to encompass the prison’s garden, the neat rows of borlotti beans and staked tomatoes, the sprawling pumpkins and regimented stands of silverbeet. The droning of bees filled the silence he seemed to encompass with his gesture.

“They scream for your blood. We gotta fertilise them somehow.”

 

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Just a Reminder

 

Just a reminder that the Lane of Unusual Traders closes on the 31st of this month, for stories of up to 3,000 words.

Good luck!

Advice from Chekhov

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining;

show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

                                                               – Anton Chekhov

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Today

Man

I’m too

tired

To do anything

Other than write

This crap poem

Today.

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Gravedigger

Smoke curled, blue-grey-black

Into the night sky.

So damned cold.

He warmed himself

With the digging,

To get rid of this

Dead weight

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Interesting Spec Fic Markets for August and Beyond!

Toy Shop (Sirens) – Simon Cottee, for The Lane of Unusual Traders

Just some interesting speculative fiction markets I’ve come across this month, with a deadline sometime this month – I thought it’d be nice to share. All of these markets are pro-paying, by the way, unless I mention otherwise:

 

The Lane of Unusual Traders (Short Story component 1500 – 3000 words) – Tiny Owl Workshop, 31st August

The Lane of Unusual Traders is a world building project. The aim is to write or otherwise bring the Lane, the City of Lind and the world of Midlfell into existence through stories, illustrations, comics and, well, through whatever other creative means present themselves as the story grows.

The story begins in a lane known only as The Lane of Unusual Traders.

The Journal of Unlikely Cryptography (less than 5000 words) - Unlikely Story, November 1

 Genre isn’t particularly important to us—speculative, mainstream, slipstream, and the unclassifiable tales in between—we’ll read anything; all we ask is that the stories feature Information Technology as a prominent element of the tale. The focus of the magazine is Cryptography, so we’ll give preference to stories that involve cryptography (of course), ciphers, data privacy, surveillance, hacking/cracking, and so on. We’re interested in stories that demonstrate an understanding of the real technology, rather than pseudo-magical uses of information technologies which substitute “hacker” for “mage” and “source code” for “incantation.” We’re also interested in the wildly fantastical and surrealistic.

This Patchwork Flesh (under 7500) - Exile Editions, 31 August

This Patchwork Flesh is meant to be a wider lens on underrepresented stories, and on underrepresented voices. A chance for readers who identity as one of the many facets of QUILTBAG, or pansexual, fluid, and so on, to see narratives where they are not sidelined, where they are not depicted as secondary characters, always foils, aids, or victims of, or to, “normative” figures.

The Lost Worlds (up to 17,500 words) - Eldritch Press, December 30

“The Lost Worlds” will be a anthology in the Steampunk Horror Genre devoted to the post-apocalyptic theme. Send us worlds rebuilt by steam powered engines and mechanical marvels. Send us characters we can root for as they fight the good fight

 

Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide (3000-6000) - dreaming robot press, August 31

We’re looking for stories that: Have a main character a middle grade reader (ages 9-12) can identify with; Show a diverse set of real characters; Are well written, fun to read and encourage a love of reading science fiction; Tell of adventure, space, science. Give us rockets, robots and alien encounters, and we’re pretty happy. Steampunk, time travel, weird west and alternate history are all fine. We’re especially looking for stories: Where the main character is of a population that has traditionally been under-represented in science fiction, e.g. girls, people of color, differently abled people; Where the main character has agency, exercises it, and isn’t just along for the ride.

 

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Contagion

Noratus Cemetery, Armenia – Arantz

Contagion leaps out,

Carried

Invisible

On every breath.

 

The shadows

Of serpents whisper,

Promising death

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Late Night Mistakes

Open Gutter – Brassai, “Paris by Night”

She smelled like two am

Spilled vodka

Stale cigarettes

She knew

She was making

A mistake

Because that

Was

What she wanted

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Some Interesting Anthologies…

Lily Fairy – Luis Ricardo Falero, 1888

So, I’ve stumbled across a few interesting short story and/or flash fiction anthologies recently, and thought maybe I should share the love…

Here you go!

Deadlines, July 31

The Lane of Unusual Traders (Flash Component) – Tiny Owl Workshop

The Lane of Unusual Traders is a world building project. The aim is to write or otherwise bring the Lane, the City of Lind and the world of Midlfell into existence through stories, illustrations, comics and, well, through whatever other creative means present themselves as the story grows.

The story begins in a lane known only as The Lane of Unusual Traders…

Monsters and Maps - Cricket Magazine

Cicada’s out to fill an upcoming issue with krakens, ogres, and other beasties, literal and figurative. We’re interested in the monstrous as dangerous and strong; in monsters that lurk without and within. Monsters may show up on maps (especially weatherbeaten old sea charts), though largely as shorthand for the uncharted and unnamed. We’re interested in the way maps help navigate the wilderness, inspire exploration, and track relationships, spatial and otherwise.

Subversive Fairy Tales - The Book Smugglers

What We’re Looking For:

  • DIVERSITY. We want to read and publish short stories that reflect the diverse world we live in, about and from traditionally underrepresented perspectives.
  • Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult audience submissions are welcome. Good speculative fiction is ageless!
  • Creativity & Subversion. We love subversive stories. We want you to challenge the status quo with your characters, story telling technique, and themes.

The Journal of Unlikely Entomology - Unlikely Story

Beautifully-written fiction, characters that grab us by the throats and refuse to let go, worlds that draw us in and demand to be explored. Genre isn’t particularly important to us—speculative, mainstream, slipstream, and the unclassifiable tales in between—we’ll read anything; all we ask is that the stories meet the requirement of the theme of the issue. For The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, this means bugs.

Blue‘ – 101 Fiction

Anything and everything blue. Literal or figurative. The sky, the sea, a pair of eyes, the pattern on an oriental plate. A desultory mood, a filter, a way of seeing the world. It can be an impression, or a synaesthetic scent. It doesn’t have to be the focus of the story, and you definitely don’t have to use the word ‘blue,’ so long as it is identifiable and recognisable. It could be a topaz necklace like tiny icebergs strung together, or the flash of turquoise from a kingfisher’s wings.

We do loosely hold to four genres – science fiction, fantasy, horror and surreal – but we’re generous in our interpretation of those. If the story grabs us, shakes us, scares us, excites us, sings to us in some way, that’s the important thing.

 

There you go. Good luck, and maybe I’ll see you in one of those anthologies, our stories rubbing shoulders!

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We Live in the Future

She laughs,

smiles,

flicks her hair at a boy

ten thousand miles away.

“I miss you,” she whispered.

They are in love.

I walk behind her,

and neither of them notice.

 

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Words, Words, Words

Hey gang! Look, here’s the skinny. I should be writing more long short stories. And I should be trying to sell all of them. Double and: I should be writing my novel.

So I’m not going to be posting as much on here as I have been. I’ll still be posting original fiction once or maybe twice a fortnight, and the occasional book review.

I’ve taken a stack of time off work (I’m now semi-retired, at 29) to get this damned novel written, and so that’s what I should be doing.

Don’t go anywhere, because as I said I’ll still be posting here, just not as often.

And you can always chat to me on Twitter (@chriswhitewrite).

As always, comments and criticism are always welcome!

Pink

Alien Jungle – Alex Haas, via io9

It was everywhere. The sky, the trees, the broken outlines of the shadows that he saw flicking through the magenta leaves. The scabs on his arms – he scratched them through – pink, pink, pink again. He sucked at the wounds, tasted the festering, stained his teeth pink; but he could not see it, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter. It didn’t matter.

He knew that it did, no matter how often he told himself it didn’t.

His damn teeth were pink now too, inside the cave of his mouth.

He heard their chirruping – they had yet to close in. Yet they were coming closer.

He dragged his knife along standing-stones and tree trunks, through beds of flowers and dug it deep into weird, twisting lichens. They all bled pink. He wiped the blade – pink – on his pants. Damn this place, damn this pink jungle.

He stumbled again across his scratch marks on the stones.

The gibbering came closer.

He dropped the knife.

Fell to his knees.

The bird-like voices came closer again.

He gave himself to them.

His purple-pink innards spilled onto the forest floor.

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Which Witch

Sunday Sketch - Terry Whidborne

Sunday Sketch – Terry Whidborne

“Now, now, deary…it’s not that bad, now, is it?”

He sniffled, wiping his arm on his sleeve. The witch didn’t loom, as such. She looked too much like his grandmother for that, with her hair in rollers and a babushka handkerchief pulled tight against the cold. He could sense the glamour rising off her though, in shimmering waves.

“So, you’ve a touch of the gift yourself, lad?” Her voice wavered and cracked as she stared, her eyes watering and milky with floating cataracts behind the spectacles that rode on her crooked nose. “I don’t need to see to see, if you follow me, boy-o. Although maybe I shouldnae have said that, now, should I?”

He refused to meet her eye, he didn’t want her to bewitch him. He stood, trying to regain control of the conversation, trying to impose himself on the room. She clucked her tongue, and turned her back to him, tottering off toward the kitchen. “You’ll not be intimidating me, young fellow-me-lad,” she was muttering to herself as she clanked and clanged through the kitchen, accompanied by the shrill whistle of the kettle. “Now, hows about that cuppa tea, before we do what must be done, eh?”

Inside his pocket were the tools of his trade, the book, the pin, and the fire. She came out of the kitchen, wards lowered and charms up, holding the tea-cup in hand, her familiar dunking the teabag, overly familiar.

He glowered at her – the effect was only a little ruined by the snot still running from his nose and the low ceiling of the witch’s cottage. “I shall bring you into the Kingdom of God, madam,” his voice boomed out, echoing in the rafters.

She shrugged, and waved her fingers, writing invisible pictograms on the air.

Her little familiar shrieked, and dove forward snatching the grasshopper from the pile of stinking leather and cotton.

She’d get some grief from the law, for this one, but they hated the Inquisition almost as much as she. And she’d given the Shire-reeve a son last year, or so he imagined.

 

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Book Review: Shoggoths in Bloom, Elizabeth Bear

Elizabeth Bear’s Shoggoths in Bloom is a fascinating collection of science fiction and fantasy short stories, from the opening and Nebula nominated sci-fi story, TIDELINE, which was deep and beautifully moving, even though it’s about a crippled war-machine, to the novellette-length title-story, SHOGGOTHS IN BLOOM (obviously from the Cthulhu mythos), including magic realism/urban fantasy stories like ORM THE BEAUTIFUL and THE HORRID GLORY OF ITS WINGS, or the detective/noir of stories like IN THE HOUSE OF ARYAMAN, A LONELY SIGNAL BURNS and CONFESSOR. I could just name all of the stories in this collection as being fantastic – it is seriously that good.

All those links above take you to those stories that are freely available, click some, you’ll thank me afterward.

I’m not going to waste to much time talking about these stories and how I felt reading them, or how I interpreted them, because I want to keep them for myself, honestly.

Click through on some of those short stories, and then either click this link: Shoggoths in Bloom for the Book Depository (free shipping, world-wide. Cheap prices. Well, cheap for Australia or Continental Europe), or head into an independant book-store (my personal recommendation.)
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The Shadows of the Jungle

Hunting Time – Filip Dudek, via DeviantArt

“What’s the fucking time-stamp on that picture? Does anyone know?”

The image staggered and jumped – overlaid with a static-fuzz, the jump-suited soldiers were barely visible, flicking in and out of phase with the shadows of the jungle. Had they realised that the mech was dead? He certainly hoped not.

“Janice! Janice! Get down in the turret now! And somebody go and bloody warn the others!” Was it too late? Shit, he hoped not.

The image looped, in his peripheral vision, over and over and over again. There were kids inside the factory – sure, they’d done their best to make it seem decrepit, had pumped a slurry of sewerage and grey water and algae into the roof to dampen their heat signatures, to hide from the drifting satellites, hangovers from before the war was won. From before the world was lost. There were kids inside the factory. That was why it was soldiers, this time, not drones or tanks. Infantry. Quislings, they’d already adjusted to the new regime, they’d already betrayed their own species.

Continue reading

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Book Review: Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes

“Don’t let anyone tell you that Apartheid has nothing to do with South Africa now. Those roots run deep and tangled and we’ll be tripping over them for many generations to come.”

 

Moxyland, by Lauren Beukes, is a brilliantly written dystopian science fiction novel, set a mere fifteen minutes into the future, as the saying goes.

Split between four entwining narratives, Moxyland follows the lives of four South Africans: Kendra, an art-school dropout and ‘sponsor baby’ who’s been injected with nanobots and branded, as part of a viral marketing scheme by a gen-mod company; Lerato, a tech-company worker infected with AIDS at birth, who is looking for a way out of her mid-level corporate job; Tendeka, a revolutionary, fighting against the corporate-elite and the police in a bid to reveal the true toxicity of the world; and Toby, a narcissistic blogger who streams his life in his ‘Diary of a Cunt’. Their worlds’ collide, again and again, throughout the novel, as the dystopian world they live in, a world where the South African Police Corps administer electric shocks through the populace’s SIM cards and issue 24-hour disconnects from the internet, and thus almost everything in Moxyland, from buses and the underground to apartment buildings and hospitals. Alongside their genetically modified Aitos (police dogs), the police are a less-than benevolent presence, and menace the people.

It is brilliant, and terrifyingly predictive, summoning a future where terrorism, fear and a false sense of security have forced the people to accept these impositions into their daily lives. The spirit of the Great Firewall of China, of the draconian police measures inflicted on citizens in the Western world, and peoples’ fears of genetic modification and of the terrifying disconnect are combined and born into the world in Moxyland, and stand as a warning as to where our world is heading.

A great read.

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