For me this was a pretty productive year for flash and short stories. Here are my stories eligible for awards. Couple more maybe to come, but here is the list so far.
"Dead-Go." The Arcanist. 29th October. https://thearcanist.io/dead-go-63d145db2dc
Corporate horror – what happens when the dead can be resurrected but employers get involved?
"The Cogwork Mermaid." Etherea, Issue 14. 28th September. https://ethereamagazine.com/product/etherea-magazine-14/
I love this story and was very glad it found a home. A young girl tries to come to terms with her father's death by talking it out with an amusement park mermaid.
"The Past Laid Out On The Table." Cast of Wonders. Episode 506. (September 22).
This year I thought a lot about memory and family, and how solid (or not) each can be. This story came from that.
"Blipcoin." Nature Futures. 10th August. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-02144-6
What would cryptocurrency look like in the far future? Not what we would expect, I think.
"Beach Memories." The NoSleep Podcast. Season 18 Episode 6. (August 1st).
I wrote this flash piece after a holiday to the beach, where I looked around and for a moment couldn't put eyes on my kids. That scared the hell out of me.
"A Tomorrow With You In It." Cossmass Infinites. Issue 9. July 1st.
How much of ourselves and what we love are we willing to give up for someone else?
"Memories of Blue." Daily Science Fiction. 3rd June. dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/biotech/matt-tighe/memories-of-blue
Like I have said, I have been thinking a lot about memory and family. Because… well, this story has a bit of that because in it.
"Monstrous Behaviour." Etherea, Issue 10. 19th May. https://ethereamagazine.com/product/etherea-magazine-10/
Comedy horror. I love it but it is so hard to do! This was my attempt at showing the human side of monsters.
"The Skin Trader." Daily Science Fiction. 28th February. http://dailysciencefiction.com/science-fiction/biotech/matt-tighe/the-skin-trader
If you could buy your skin at a street market, how long before that became problematic?
The Once and Future Witches – or how to hook a new reader with a heartbreaking/warming short story and then double down
I said I was going to try reviewing only things I liked, and here I'm already breaking my own pledge. This is not about something I liked. This is about something that transcends like. Should I say love? Okay, I'm a stone-faced middle aged white guy, but I'll say it. I loved this book.
But I can't start without a digression (really, a prologue, necessary here, despite the social media tinged dislike for the p word).
I came to Alix Harrow's work via a short story. Mr. Death, in Apex Magazine. https://apex-magazine.com/mr-death/
This thing broke my heart and put it back together. It made me go and hug my kids and chew on my liver because the writing was so good, the concept so perfect, the end so… well, go and read it. It sat at the bottom of my mind, telling me what to do next.
So I did it. I had, of course, seen the hype and read the thousands of tweets about OAFW. It had become one of those BOOKS. You know, the ones that you worry are so hyped, so discussed, that it will be an anti-climax to actually read. That you will be the minority, and not like it. But Mr. Death decided it for me, and I downloaded the audible version to listen to while running.
How can an author build three people like the Eastwood sisters, so different, so complex and linked and full of struggle? Why, simple really. Just build a whole world that is as complex, as full of suffering and beauty and strange connections as the characters themselves. Mix in race tensions, suffrage, poverty and struggle and unexpected kindness and then make sure the whole thing is magical as hell.
I don't do this much, but I found myself checking how much longer the audio had to go every day when I set out for a run. I was torn. I wanted it to have hours upon hours of story left. I wanted to keep running longer and longer so I could hear more of the story, live more in that world. I clocked my weekly distances, and then blew them out of the water.
Of course Alix E. Harrow is getting recognised (was, anyway. Now, is very recognised). I have The Ten Thousand Doors of January queued up. And then A Spindle Splintered. I am training for a trail marathon. These stories should serve nicely.
Alix E. Harrow's website is here https://alixeharrow.wixsite.com/author
Here are my stories eligible for awards this year (all in the short story category):
"Guess Who's Coming To Christmas Dinner?" The NoSleep Podcast. Season 17 Episode 7. (Dec 20th)
A visitor who is delightful, and loves Christmas. Maybe a bit too much. Horror.
"Goldbergian Physics". Nature Futures. 10th November 2021.
This is a follow up to a piece I had in Futures last year. It features a helpful alien janitor, a sentient fridge, and a Rube Goldberg machine made from office supplies. Sci-Fi.
"You Don't Get To Choose Entanglement". Nature Futures. 11th August 2021.
This one is very close to my heart. What happens when a callous salesman tries to sell a widower on retirement to the multiverse? Sci-Fi.
"Heart of the Gestalt". Nature Futures. 10th March 2021.
This story started out as an 'AI destroys all life' trope. I'm very glad I changed it. Sci-Fi.
"A Good Big Brother" Spawn: Weird Horror Tales About Pregnancy, Birth and Babies. IFWG Australia 2021 (May)
I am very proud of this story. It is in an anthology with authors I admire, edited by someone I also admire greatly. A young boy takes his impending responsibility as a big brother very seriously, and does his best to protect his family after the collapse of society. Horror.
"Renting Space" The NoSleep Podcast. Season 16 Episode 1. (April 4th)
This one tells the story of a young, desperate man who takes a job as a real estate agent, and rents a house better left empty. This story received an honourable mention in the 2019 Australasian Horror Writer's Association Short Story Competition, but remained unpublished until NoSleep produced it. The production quality is amazing. Horror.
Many of you would know of Marissa. She writes beautiful shorts that are thoughtful and sometimes heart rending and sometimes uplifting. She brings the quirk, too. So when I saw her announcement of this chapbook, I snapped it up. I know Marissa mostly from her flash work, which is always a masterclass.
This was a welcome set of light hearted and clever stories crafted by an expert. It is hard to do it justice without spoilers, but Marissa builds intimate personal connections between characters that feel so real, so grounded, that of course you take the Kaiju battles and the litigating water monsters and the strange flatmates as a given. Honestly, I've had stranger flatmates, and definitely ones that were harder to live with.
The thing that Marissa does so well (apart from build such believable worlds) is dialogue and character interaction. Time and again you can picture these characters taking fantastical things in stride while also dealing with the everyday dilemmas we all face. All in all, this chapbook was a nice work to dip in and out of when I was looking for a break from other things. My only quibble is that it is a chapbook, and thus short. But hey, Marissa has a story bot that tweets links to her previously published work, so more is just a few clicks away.
Marissa's webpage in here https://marissalingen.com/
You can get your copy of Monstrous Bonds here https://marissalingen.com/blog/?post_type=product
The story bot is @LingenStoryBot
I do more than half of my reading these days using audio while I run. It's really the only way I can fit enough reading in, what with 3 kids, a full time and part time job, writing, and owning a small farm (farmlet? Is that a thing?).
And if you are one of those purists who think audio books don't count as reading, what are doing here? We are diametrically opposed.
Wow, digress much? Back to reading/listening. The Only Good Indians, by Stephen Graham Jones, narrated by Shaun Taylor-Corbett. This was not an author I was very familiar with, but I kept seeing good things so I thought I'd give it a try.
I liked this. A lot. I'm usually not a huge fan of multiple successive POVs, but this worked. Worked too well. I got really invested in each character, and then felt a bit put out when it was time to move on. But that was short lived as I of course got invested in the next. A nod to Jones's ability there.
I'm trying hard not to put any spoilers in here. The world was rich and heartbreaking in its matter-of-fact delivery of real life issues, and that delivery had a beautiful rhythm to it (both written and spoken) that was at times almost hypnotic. And let's not forget the horror – episodic and delivered with shocking casualness that made it feel inevitable. Most of my runs are done pre-dawn to dawn, down dirt roads and tracks, and there was enough tension, and enough spookiness and violence, that I ran faster than my usual. Lucky I didn't pull a hamstring.
This work was bleak and deep and depicted a world layered in ways I was fascinated by. I get why there has been such buzz about this work. Nice work, Mr. Jones.
Ok, so let's start with a declaration – I know Alan a little, and he is a nice guy. Maybe a great guy, but I only know him a little, so let's not get crazy. But I do know this – he is a great writer.
I started with The Gulp, last year, because the cover looked great, because I had read a few of Alan's short stories, because he has longevity in this writing business. I was, not reluctant, but… ok, reluctant. I have had mixed levels of enjoyment reading small town horror. So much of it rings false.
The Gulp rang true like a damn old Big Ben of dark Australian fiction. I'm from a small Australian town myself (about 400 people) and straight away I found myself back there. The voices, the mannerisms, the backdrop. Eerily like home. Too much, really. Too real, really. I loved it from the start. And then it builds – different stories, separately enjoyable, with enough references and easter eggs to show you how they are connected, to keep you turning the page, wondering who, and what, would pop up next. I only really have two criticisms – the first is, this thing should be pulling in some awards. The second is my need for closure, or at least another walk down Tanning Street, another beer at Clooney's. I know Alan is working on the next, so here's hoping.
Next I thought I'd try The Roo. It must have the same Australian small town flavour, right? Wrong. But in a good way. It has small town flavour the way red dust has the flavour of the Outback. It is gonzo, it is bleak, it is bald and harsh and does not waste a word. It has a body count that is deliciously ridiculous, and Alan manages to name several characters after well known Australian spec fic writers and then do terrible things to them. I kept seeing the streets of the small town I grew up in (well, near, being a farm boy). It was short and funny and thoughtful and full of horror.
These two were my introductions to Alan's longer writing. He has many more books on offer, which I will be exploring. Check out his webpage https://www.alanbaxteronline.com/
How to start a blog? Especially now, when we have all heard about the death of blogs (mostly, yes, on blogs).
But this is not really a blog. This is just a random spouting of thoughts, maybe some reviews of things, a documenting of strange occurrences (wait, what's a blog again?).
'You must have a presence if you want to write!'
For a time I thought I was succeeding at that by, well, existing. And trying to write stuff, trying to learn how to do it better, by reading with joy in my heart and the taste of envy in the back of my throat.
But no! Existing is nothing, compared to a web presence. Have I added my voice to the electronic bird chorus? Do I book my face? Do I weigh my grams by the instant? I'm a forty something academic who spends a substantial amount of time crunching numbers and doing sciencey stuff. It is hard enough to pivot from that to creating, to putting something down on paper that grew completely out of my own head. Throw twitter and a website and the ten pieces of writing advice you absolutely must read click here now! into the mix, and sometimes it feels like my brain has been cut into pieces with a very large, very hot knife. But what the hell, write? So here I am.
Anyway, this is just a short introductory post. It does not reach the recommended length to be optimised for search engines. It does not successfully introduce me, in all of my three dimensional existence. But it does manage to exist itself, which is an accomplishment. Well done, post.
I will continue to post things here. This is my solemn pledge. I will do it regularly. This is not my not-so-solemn pledge. And the posts will make sense (this I do not pledge).