Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Story Notes: "Trial and Terror" (psst... A PUNK ROCK FUTURE comes out today!)

Somehow, the van makes it most of the way through Iowa. Then it dies all at once, spectacularly, farting out its reserve of gas like an old man on taco night in the run-down nursing home his good-for-nothing children stuck him in after he drove the family sedan into a telephone pole. 
Most of those things don't exist anymore. No nursing homes. Only a few sedans. And don't get me started on the lack of taco nights.

Another two months, another story post! My newest one is the 6000ish-word "Trial and Terror," which is my first published sequel.

When the editor of A Punk Rock Future solicited a story from me for the anthology, he specifically mentioned my Interzone story "The Big So-So" (also in audio at Escape Pod) as a story that would fit the theme. And that was when I realized that I wasn't quite done with these characters or their world of permanent ennui due to the sudden withdrawal of alien love drugs. So what did I do? I, uh, wrote a 40,000-word novella with these characters.

I am not a fast writer, nor do I really like writing or pretty much anything about the process other than the brief shot of dopamine when I see my name in a table of contents. However, I finished this novella in about three months, with over half the work squeezed into a two-week span, and I enjoyed nearly every minute of it. The story, naturally, was far too long for a short fiction anthology, so I wrote another story (the aforementioned "Trial and Terror") that chronologically takes place after the novella, which means that this is not just a sequel but the sequel to a sequel, although all of the stories can be read separately from one another and make total sense.

So, anyway! "Trial and Terror" is, as its name implies, a courtroom tale. As in all the Magic Band stories (so named due to featuring a band that is magical, because I bleed creativity from my very pores), your unreliable narrator is Syl, who's not unreliable in the "lies about murdering people" way but instead in the "has spaced five times on picking you up at the airport, will absolutely flake again" way. Not that there are airports in this acktshually decimated world. Unfortunately for them, the band encounters one of the few towns that still clings to something like law and order, and it's up to Syl to get her friend/vocalist Frank's head out of a noose. And maybe there's some romance in the mix? (There is!)

Like I said before, this story (and everything featuring these characters) was insanely fun to write and also funny, at least to me. Maybe you'll laugh too? To find out, buy A Punk Rock Future at Powell's, Amazon, or anywhere else books are sold. There's 25 other "punkpunk" stories in this anthology, including rocking tales from Spencer Ellsworth, Sarah Pinsker, Marie Vibbert, Wendy Nikel, and many more.

(And that novella? Well, I'm still tinkering away at the edits, and whether it's published by someone else or self-published it won't be out until 2021 at the very earliest. In the meantime, I'm definitely open to writing more stuff in this milieu that I love. Big hint.)

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Story Notes: "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Apocalypse?" (+ Bonus Flash!)

After over a year of not having any stories published at all, suddenly I had two of them come out in the same month. That's how these things happen sometimes! The first and shorter of these is the self-explanatory "You Have Contracted a Deadly Song Virus," which you can read for free at Daily Science Fiction. It's my tenth story there, and probably my most horrific one.

If you like your stories to take longer than five minutes to read, pick up Interzone #282, which includes my short story "Can You Tell Me How to Get to Apocalypse?" illustrated by Vincent Sammy. (Aside: This is my third story with a Sammy illustration, and damn if he doesn't do some insanely incredible work.) A very short excerpt:
A dozen little dead kids sit on the Styrofoam steps outside the only apartment building on Gumdrop Road. They're listening to the newspaper seller. He's talking to them about time.
As is obvious from the title of the story, Gumdrop Road isn't a real place. Like the educational program/media empire that it's based on, it's a television show watched by the last remnants of a dying world that's been annihilated by a virus that attacks the reproductive system. In a world where there's nothing new -- because what's the point? -- people escape into a reboot of childhood comfort viewing. But how do you get child actors when nobody can be born? Well, you read the excerpt.

This spun off from the same flash-writing challenge that spawned "Song Virus," although it quickly expanded beyond flash length. What I'd intended to be a cynical commentary on reboot mania became something much more, as I thought about how this form of cultural recycling might be a reaction to the apocalyptic feel of our times. If you and everyone you love is going to die anyway, why not go with what's safe? Nobody cares about innovation when the world is coming to a close, especially not in the arts. And if it takes digging up a bunch of dead children to lend your comfort viewing the proper amount of verisimilitude, that's not really so bad, is it? It's the end, after all.

Yeah, real cheery story I wrote here.

Anyway, you can get a copy of Interzone #282 from the TTA Press site, on Amazon, or in your classier local bookstores. I have at least one more story coming out by the end of the year, which means I'll be posting on this blog at least one more time. Smell you later.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

"The Big So-So" Now in Audio; Classes at PCC!

Pleased to report that my short story "The Big So-So," originally published late last year in Interzone, is now out in audio on Escape Pod! This is a story very close to my heart, as discussed in the story notes, and I'm happy to see it released to a wider audience (the text is also there if you prefer to read it). And if you like this story, there will be another one set in the same world out in the Kickstarter anthology A Punk Rock Future sometime next year, as well as a novella that is currently in the early editing stage. Fight the entropy of a world gripped by drug-withdrawal-induced ennui with a maybe-magical garage band straight outta Pittsburgh.

Also, I'm teaching another round of my six-week "Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing" adult extension class at Portland Community College. It will run on Saturday mornings from January 26 through March 9, 2019 (with the week of February 23 skipped due to Rainforest Writers Retreat -- put it on your calendar for 2020!), and will be back at the Southeast Campus. You can register here, or email me at the link at the PCC site for more information.

See you in hell, 2018!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Story Notes: "Like Fleas on a Tired Dog's Back"

It's been a while! About five months, to be exact. In that time I've finished one instantly trunked novella, one short story, and another novella that is my heart's true joy. I also had two short stories published which I'm going to talk about now!

Interzone no. 275 includes my flash story "The Fate of the World, Reduced to a Ten-Second Pissing Contest," which is the third-longest story title I've ever written. It's a nasty little story about (of course) aliens who make life pretty difficult for a handful of barflies. You can get it and four other stories at the link, one of which ("The Purpose of the Dodo Is to Be Extinct" by Malcolm Devlin) is one of the best stories I've read this year. So you might want to get this issue for that story alone.

The other story, "Like Fleas on a Tired Dog's Back," isn't officially published yet; it will be in the anthology Nowhereville from Broken Eye Books. However, if you don't want to wait you can read it right now! Eyedolon Magazine is a Patreon-based dark/weird fiction publication where you can read stories slated to appear in Nowhereville and many other anthologies! Sign up here for as little as $1 a month and read my story along with all-new work from Kathe Koja, Lucy A. Snyder, Bogi Tak√°cs, and Ramsey Campbell.

After her parents are thrown from their car, killed by a moment of planetary betrayal, Megan comes back to the city where she grew up.

The city is of course Pittsburgh, and our planet is pissed off at humanity, just because we destroyed it. Go figure. Earth only has a moment to get its revenge, but it does it in style, creating a catastrophe that spans the globe and leaves aftershocks of both the physical and psychological kind. Humans attempt to survive using technology, but modern-day band-aids aren't going to fix things this time.

Obviously this is a climate change story, based on the Gaia hypothesis. A few months before I wrote it, I read an article about a parasite that makes you allergic to red meat, which made me wonder if the Earth has fail-safes: mechanisms that kick into action when its survival is threatened, that slant the behavior of humans toward ways more befitting to the planet's health. The idea of the Earth suddenly waking up and shaking off its human parasites like the fleas we are was just so appealing. This is also a sibling story, with the bond between Megan and her brother Kyle alternately strained and close in the wake of mass revenge.

Anyway, I hope you read it, either on Eyedolon Magazine or in the Nowhereville anthology when it comes out. I've been exploring climate change in many of my recent not-yet-published pieces, although really, that's just called setting something in the real world now. Watch out for the firenados!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Two Great Kickstarters

There's a couple of Kickstarters running this month that you all should be aware of, and here's a little bit about two of them!

First up is the Kickstarter for Welcome to Miskatonic University and its companion book It Came from Miskatonic University by Broken Eye Books, two anthologies about college life in Arkham's hallowed educational institution. If funded to the $17,500 level, It Came from Miskatonic University will include a co-written story by me and my spouse/in-house editor Rob McMonigal called "The Last Observer." Although Rob has been editing my work since 2012 (when I got my head out of my ass and started writing again), this is our first time tag-teaming on a story, and I really hope it sees print. The books also feature work by Angela Slatter, Jennifer Brozek, Kristi DeMeester, and many other horror and weird fiction authors. There's a lot of different book levels and goodies available for rewards, including a critique by me of any work of fiction up to 10,000 words in length. You can support the Kickstarter here!

There's also a Kickstarter running for two more years of The Dark. Publishers of quality unsettling fiction for the past several years, The Dark features a wide variety of diverse writers, with over half of the published stories being by women and over a third by people of color. Some of my favorite stories from the past few years of The Dark have been Carrie Laben's "Postcards from Natalie" (which won the Shirley Jackson Award!), "Five Boys Went to War" by Amanda E. Forrest, and "The House That Jessica Built" by Nadia Bulkin. My own quantum suicide story "Lucky Girl" appeared in the September 2017 issue. This Kickstarter also has a reward tier that includes a critique by me (again up to 10,000 words). Support The Dark at this link!