Tossin’ and Turnin’

I was listening to a fellow speaking of human sleep arrangements lately, and on the way to his main point, he mentioned some people from the Solomon Islands objecting to what their London hosts thought was lavish treatment, a separate hotel room for each one of their party.  “What,” I’m told they asked, “if one of us has a nightmare?”

Dreams are funny things.  I can see how people can come around to the notion that they present a window on an actual separate reality, since there is sometimes such a wealth of detail in unfamiliar settings that it is very hard to credit the subconscious with such inventive powers.

…but then there are the dreams in which things are so deeply wrong that you really, really hope there’s nothing at all to that notion, because the partitions between the wings of the multiverse are just not thick enough if that stuff is on the far side.

Guess which sort I’m going to recount for you?  I have been battering away at the novel and a story for an anthology I’d quite like to get into, and so haven’t been able to run up stories for this enterprise in a while, but last night’s vision of global, possibly universal, destruction was so affecting, I thought I should at least try to squeeze some of it out of my head for presentation here.  So, if you ever wondered idly to yourself, “What sort of nonsense is running around inside the heads of writers,” I offer a small but vibrant sample.  Be careful to not get any on you, it is almost certain to stain your clothes.

A Traditional Holiday Story

Well… not really.

There is the British tradition of creepy stories at this time of year, as exemplified by most of M.R. James’s output, and I can more or less hang Occasional Lapses of Service on that hook.  I suspect James would probably chastise me slightly for stepping away from one of his very useful guidelines in the writing of ghost stories, one which I generally cling to pretty firmly– but it’s not really a ghost story either, so I will nod my head in admission of the departure without feeling that I’ve actually strayed from the path.

It is also not a traditional Christmas story in most other senses of the that phrase, even though there is a passing reference to carol singing.  It is, however, presented only days ahead of Christmas, and is meant as a gift to the world in general.

And now, as last year, it’s time to get seasonal liver damage through the fat and alcohol content of egg nog, and cuddle my son while we decide if that noise on the roof is a reindeer, a lead-footed squirrel (of which we’ve many in the neighbourhood), or something else entirely.  Wæs hæil, everyone!

All True Ghost Horror!

Hyperbole sure is easy!

For Hallowe’en, I thought I would offer a small recounting of a ghostly encounter of my very own.  Like a proper real-life ghost story, it does not have a very firm narrative line, and it also doesn’t have much that a dedicated sceptic can’t dismiss out of hand.

There also isn’t, at least on the part of the teller, horror.  My hair remained unwhitened.  My flesh barely crept at all.  But there is a lingering sense of having something happen which, dismissive sceptics be damned, satisfies Occam’s razor most readily by saying, “It was a ghost.”  Which, for someone who enjoys writing this sort of story, is kind of neat.

(Nearly) First Published Work!

I’m very very very proud to announce that I have a story appearing on Trigger Warning: Short Fiction with Pictures.  I’m so proud, in fact, that I’ve de-linked the same story from this site for the moment, so if you want to read it, you’ll have to go over there.

I’m proud of this because it’s my first story to be published.  More or less.  During a recent spate of auto-Googling– because, occasionally, one does like to see how much attention the internet is paying– I found a couple of references to an article which was printed in Dragon, the monthly organ of, at the time, TSR Gaming (long since taken up by Wizards of the Coast).  This was not a huge surprise, since it was a high-circulation magazine, even before the dawn of the Nerd Age we currently live in.

More surprising was to find my name popping up on the Internet Science Fiction Database.  I entirely remember the story– the surprise is that anyone else took any notice of it.  It appeared in the ‘zine emitted irregularly and briefly by Regina Speculative Fiction Society, and when I use the contraction, I am speaking of the old version; a physical object, composed of pieces of paper passed through a photocopier and hand-collated (as photocopiers of the day had trouble with that sort of thing) before being stapled together and handed to subscribers.  It was not quite first-generation, as the editors had access to computer printing and so didn’t have to tape together bits of type-written material.  But there was tape involved in the paste-up.

It is a non-professional credit, to be sure, since The Spintrian barely managed to mail out any copies with the available budget.  While this more recent presentation of my work is not by the technical definition applied by the Horror Writers Association or the SWFA appearing in a professional market either, it is actually bringing in some payment.  Semi-pro, we might say.  A step on the path to greater things.

Apart from shouting “Hey, everyone!  LOOKIT WHAT I DONE!” I’m making this post to underline something we all occasionally forget– what we did in the past can be very hard to bury.  Alas, the original file of the story is locked up in Applewriter II formated 5.25-inch floppy discs which I may or may not still have in the house, so I can’t offer a glimpse at that old work of mine.  This is probably a good thing.  I seem to remember using some phonetic dialogue, and we all know how embarrassing that sort of thing can be.

Rather Light, Mildly Fantastic

The last story I presented here was inspired by The Cast of Wonders TriWonders Flash Fiction, and in the post accompanying it I mentioned that it hadn’t been submitted there because it was much too long rather than not being good enough.

I offer a similar item today.  I didn’t send Why He Fight along to Cast of Wonders not because it fails to pass muster as a story, but because when I finished it and had my little chuckle of authorial satisfaction at it, the imp on my left shoulder began to suggest that it was perhaps not quite striking the tone sought by the contest.  If you look at the announcement, you won’t see a thing about that, but listening to the promos on Pseudopod and Escape Pod, there was a clear suggestion of… spendour, I guess.  Or, at least, that’s what the imp said.  It said it persuasively enough that I hesitated to submit, until the deadline passed.

Which means I had a perfectly functional little fantasy story without a home.  That’s no good!  So, here it is, put up in a permanent residence where it can enjoy the rest of its days.

I’m also going to commit publicly to producing a second story before the end of the month.  Just before the end of the month, on the year’s great day itself.  In keeping with most of the stories here, it will be appropriate to the season.  Unlike the others, it will be a true and accurate autobiographical item.  Sound like fun?  Stay tuned!

Memories of Springtime

The new story, A Reaction to Pollen, is one of the sort which makes authors fall down frothing when asked, “Where do you get your ideas?”  For no reason whatever, I had a brief mental image of the way pollen can huff out of a pine tree, and by the end of the next minute, the story was essentially fully formed, just wanting some keyboard time to get out of my head.

I didn’t even have to put aside the bigger story I’m currently hacking from the marble of imagination.  A very productive fiction day, yesterday.

One thing that bugs me about the story is that it’s specific to a gender, which it need not be– the person in it could be male or female and the flow of the story would not be affected.  Another couple of generations and we may have an English singular pronoun which can be used for humans that doesn’t set gender, given how the matter is currently being examined by society, but for the moment, I had to choose between he or she because it is the wrong sort of creepy.  Feel free when reading, if you’re inclined, to think of a different gender whenever a pronoun crops up; I positively encourage it.

A Proper Upbringing

Another flash story to prove I still care about this enterprise while I’m typing my fingers the very bone working on possibly-saleable works.  Today’s presentation, Valuable Role, stems from a writing prompt mentioned by a friend on a pretty good little story he posted only a couple of days ago.  It is about the sort of support a person of exceptional capacities should expect from those around them, and it is lightly horrifying.

The thought process was almost exactly this, in fact: “Pretty good.  But not the one I’d write.”  Well, isn’t that just like a writer?  I’m sure others will check into both our stories, have exactly the same thought, and will produce completely different results.  Which is also just like a writer. To continue on the theme, I rather ignored the word limit of the exercise my friend was writing to, because I am very in love with my own voice (and want my readers to feel they have has a satisfying serving, too).

The barrage of submission and rejection continues, by the way.  I’m sure I’ll get something over the walls eventually!

Hard Boiled. Lightly Shellacked.

The new story, Inner Voice, is another example of me giving into a long-standing stupid notion.  At least ten years ago, while I was out walking in the glories of a prairie summer, I got a picture of a composite movie PI in my head, a blending of Humphrey Bogart, Darren McGavin, Robert Montgomery… and a few others, at any rate, involved in a very short scene.

“But what,” said I of a decade past, “can I make of this?  Where might it go?  I can’t keep that sort of thing up for any length!”

And there it lay at the bottom of my mental pond, until the cement around its feet loosened.  I doesn’t have to go anywhere, in this brave world of flash-fiction.  It could, I finally realized, go only so far, live out its life as a simple vignette, and bring some joy to others.

The New Age Begins

…and it’s not that different from what went before.  This first post-alteration-of-policy story is a shorty, as promised or threatened.  Human Endurance is a horror story without a supernatural element, which is a little unusual for me, but it does stick to my preference for implication rather than flaunting.

I also want to mention that this is likely to hold for some time the record for “story held only in the mind,” as the basic images in it have been drifting around in my head for at least six years but I never before got around to as much as writing down a single note to fix it in the world before actually writing the thing.  This is, I think, a poor practice, and I’m going to try to avoid it in the future.

Errors, great and small

The biggest error is one that a non-paying observer of the work here won’t have detected; the decision to adjust my frequency of output combined with an exhausting effort to return my home to a livable state reduced the length of preview window for patrons.  I apologized to them already via super-secret patron communication pathways, but I’ll admit culpability once more in the open.

The lesser error… in my eyes, anyway… is the use of a technical term as the title of the latest Current Story.  Harmonic Aliasing is not quite the right term for what goes on in the story, and I have no doubt that those who ponder analog/digital transfers in a profound way will find that this grates upon them.  I offer an apology on that front too, but you may also find an artist’s airy dismissal of pedantic nitpicking is crouching nearby, waiting to spring upon those who complain too loudly.

For those who like to know what a story is about before diving in, and that title doesn’t give much away, I’ll say this:  there is a quantity of talk these days about this current age being the last stages of pre-singularity humanity, and I’m certainly not immune to the influence of chatter.  The story is a glance in the direction of the transition from pre- to post-singularity, and because my thoughts tend to run in a particular direction, it would be fair to call it mildly alarmist.