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.