Friday, December 28, 2012

Slaying the Dragon

The bell rang: end of shift.  Dawson hefted his battleaxe for one more blow, but Alvin smacked his hardhat.

"Don't give Harris any more excuses to file grievances on you," he said.  "No unauthorized overtime.  Shift's over; it's someone else's problem."

Dawson sighed.  "I know.  I just feel... responsible.  We're already two weeks behind target.  If we don't get at least through the mandibular ligaments by the holiday break..."

"Look," Alvin said, "you can't take it personal.  It's a big job, but none of us has to do it alone.  Trust the other guys.  C'mon, I''ll buy you a beer."

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Unidentified Funny Objects

My story, "The Alchemist's Children," appears in Alex Shvartsman's anthology UFO: Unidentified Funny Objects, alongside such hilariously mismatched compatriots as Mike Resnick and Lavie Tidhar.  I'm one of the no-name filler people who occupy other pages (although Lois Tilton liked my story).  

The book is available for sale in paperback (well, not quite yet) and Kindle.  I can vouch for the high quality of almost all of the stories.  ("Of Mat and Math" is a particular favorite.)

The Opposite of Truth

"I have long wondered," Taku said to the Wisest Stone, "about lies.  If I falsely claimed to be a child, what would be the opposite of my lies?  For I once was a child; one day I will be old, and later still I will not be.  Truth, then, is not the opposite.  If I say that I never was a child, that is opposite, but still a lie."

The Wisest Stone said nothing at all. 

After a time, Taku nodded.  "I see," he said.  "The opposite of falsehood is silence."

"Oh, were you talking?" said the Wisest Stone.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Secret at the Heart of the World

The demonic guard leaned in toward the tunnel entrance, his horns nearly scraping the ceiling. 

“Be warned,” it growled at Gwen.  “Here we dispense with all artifice and pretension.  There is only the truth.  The Lord will speak to you only by your True Name.  Stronger souls than yours have fallen to weeping or gone mad at the sound.”

“I’ve made it this far,” Gwen said, holding her head up.

“So be it.”  The demon straightened and lifted its voice to announce her presence, the sound echoing in the vast audience chamber: “Gwen Gwen bo Ben banana fanna fo Fen...”

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Literary Life

“This is my library,” Yvor said, gesturing expansively with his pipe. 

“Grand, though it seems you've not yet completed it,” I said, noting the half-empty shelves.

Suddenly, there came the sound of a book appearing from nothing; a most unusual noise.

“That is the book of what would have happened had I decided not to reveal my secret,” Yvor laughed.  “You see, here the stories of all possible Yvors appear after the chance that might create them has passed.”

“How terrible!” I said.  “To know always what might have been...”

Yvor smiled serenely.  “I see you are not a reader.” 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na

“The criminals haunt this city like ghosts,” the Commissioner said.  “We’re trapped in this maze, and we just run around and around and never get anywhere.”

“But sir!  Do we really need to call... him?”  The young constable swallowed heavily.  “He’s... outside the law.  They say he can’t die.  They say... they say he eats...”

“Silence!”  The Commissioner snapped.  “This ends tonight.  I won’t follow the dotted lines any longer.  That will be his job now.”

He switched the light on, sending the golden disc up onto the clouds.  The yellow circle with one sixth missing, like an open mouth...

Friday, November 30, 2012


Hello!  Hello!  We are teeth!  We are smell!  Hello!  Who are you?  Hello!  Bigteeth bigsmell hello!  Who am I?

Cold there is.  Hello!  Cold outside.  Air is nosecold.  Bloodwarm smell is.

Hello!  Road there is.  Road in cold.  We are.  Hello, hello!  We are teeth!   We are run!  Running teeth running cold running air is cold is bloodwarm smell hello!

Colddark smell.  Wind smell.  Hello!  Hello!  Found you!  We found you!  Hello!

We are teeth!  Hello!  We are taste!  Good!  Good! 

Gone now.  Hello!  Back now.  Hello, hello!  Teeth now.  Smell now.  You are we!  Who am I?

We are.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Time Traveler

He doesn't fit.  That's the first thing everyone notices, and the only detail they remember.  They saw a little old man, and he didn't fit.

It isn't his fault.  Not directly.  He has a place, of course - everything does, sooner or later - but he can no longer find it.  It is lost, and he squeezes into cracks as best he can, dreaming of home.

Home doesn't exist.  Home is another causality, a different spacetime.

Home is dead.  He killed it.

It was necessary.  This fact occasionally comforts him.

But he is the only one who remembers, and so he must dream.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Devoutly to Be Wished

He lights a match, holds it, lets it burn.

It is a consummation, he says.  The wood is fuel, swollen with promise.  The chemicals on the tip are nothing but a combustion in potentia, the lightest, faintest shove away from an orgy of wanton electron exchange.

He flicks the spent splinter away, gnarled and blackened.  He lights another.

Every flame is unique, he says.  Is it better to live in a watertight box, nestled among sleeping siblings, or to burn in furious, idiosyncratic glory, however brief?

Everything wants so badly to happen, he says, and his eyes flash as he smiles.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Glistening Like Pearls in the Dark

The contest, such as it was, is over!  Congratulations, Heidi, on your shiny new doorstop book!  

I encourage everyone to at least sign up for Daily Science Fiction's e-mail feed; free stories delivered to you every day is about as good as it gets, and they're proving themselves to be a solid contributor to the genre markets as well. 


The waters of fourth grade were perilous, all sharks and hidden reefs.  But here they were, Suze and Kayden, proof positive that Trudy wasn't the least popular girl in the school.  It was a triumph, the result of months of research and careful planning.

"You have a dollhouse?" Suze asked, prodding the offending object with one precociously painted fingernail.

"It's from when I was smaller," said Trudy.  "I outgrew it."

"Oughtta dump it," said Kayden.  Suze nodded emphatically.

Trudy looked down, appropriately shamed.  They didn't need to know that Trudy's sisters would need the house, too... when they finally hatched.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Towers of Haran

The towers of Haran pierce the sky, great looping swirls of translucent glass.  We admired them from afar, up in the north, before we became Haran, long before we ever thought to come to this land in the first place.  At first they appear colorless, transparent, but then the first rays of the sun leap across the horizon and set the world afire, and the thousand subtle shades become apparent.  It is a tracery of frost that spreads from the highest slopes of Yttrin Mountain all the way down to the wall at the furthest reaches of the burbling Sal'Vikanti, where it runs through the valley and out to the sea.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Beneath His Notice

It's echoes, man.  Resonances.  Nested versions inside nested versions.

Look.  You know how they discovered penicillin, right?  They were studying some crazy germs and had a bunch of old petri dishes, but they had to leave unexpectedly and when they came back, everything was moldy.  Only in some of the dishes, the mold was killing the bacteria.

Right, so that's us.  The mold.  The scientist is distracted - he's looking out the window and contemplating the blue infinity or whatever - and we're growing where he can't see.  But we don't kill germs, do we?  No, we squeeze out shit like war and hate and goddamned idiocy.  What do you think he's going to do when he finally sees us?  We ain't a miracle drug, I tell you that much.

And this is the bit that kills me: people are calling out to him, trying to get his attention.  That's dangerous.  He's not physical; the physical universie is just his little lab, his testing ground, his fucking petri dish.  Flesh ties down thoughts.  But if you think thoughts hard enough, you make an echo.  If enough echos match up, you make resonance. 

You make it loud enough, enough voices together, and he just might notice.

He might turn around...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Just Then, Coincidentally, the Lights Went Out

"It's a matter of equipment," said Edgar.  "We live in analog.  Time flows fast, it flows slow, but it always flows.  Ghosts aren't moving forward anymore, so they're stuck in digital.  Binary: zero or one, on or off."

"And so you're... throwing them a party?" Bertha asked, eyeing the strobe lights.

Edgar huffed.  "I'm going to isolate a series of discrete temporal instances and analyze them for spectral content."

"You're taking pictures of flashing lights."


"So... if you make an analog version of a digital being, aren't you bringing it back into the timestream with us?  What happens then?"

Friday, November 2, 2012


The kitchen was a welter of steam and sound.  Reggie had to shout as he introduced Thom's new coworkers.

"And that's Fenris," Reggie said, pointing to a shaggy wolf in an apron.  "He's from out of state."

"I dwell in the dark behind the sun," the wolf growled.

"Technically we're violating some health codes, but Lordy-Lord, there is just not a hairnet big enough.  Show him your trick, Fenny."

The wolf's eyes glittered dangerously.  Reggie, grinning, held out a can of condensed stock.  Slowly, hatefully, the wolf opened its bone-crushing jaws and delicately sheared the top off.

"Handy!" Reggie crowed.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 31

"Would you take off that stupid mask?  Honestly, it's barely breakfast."

"No."  Leo's voice was muffled under the hideous rubbery face.  "I like it."

Cynthia shuddered and gathered up her dishes.  "It gives me the creeps."  She paused over the sink.  "I know what this is.  I've seen movies.  You're going to take the mask off and it'll be the same monster face underneath."

"Oh, fine," Leo tugged the mask off, revealing his tousled brown hair.  "See?"  He coughed, and his voice dropped to a strangled buzz.  "Besides, it's like chicken pox.  Once it's happened to you one time..."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Surrounded by Miles of the Dead

It doesn’t control minds or eat flesh or any of those lurid B-movie boogums.  It isn’t immune to fire or uprooting.  It does spread fairly quickly, like any weed.  A bit faster than dandelions.

But it isn’t from here, and everything knows it.  Animals don’t eat it.  Insects won’t parasitize it.  Even bacteria don’t touch it; it never decays.  Normally, dead trees fall to fungus, microbes, and even other plants, rotting back to dirt and keeping the engine turning over. 

What it takes is gone for good.  Tiny bites – the individual plants aren’t large – but it... accumulates.  Immaculate.  Untouchable. 



Don't forget the Daily Science Fiction giveaway!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

"The Woman Made of Flowers" at the Drabblecast

Norm keeps forgetting to tell me when these things appear.  :-/  :-)

At any rate, my drabble "The Woman Made of Flowers" appeared in Episode 259 of the Drabblecast.  If you're not listening to that podcast, you should be.  :-D

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Dribblecast

You may not know about The Dribblecast.  (You may even not know about The Drabblecast, though since you're reading the writing blog of the Drabblecast's Submissions Editor, that's a little weirder.)  At any rate, it's a fan-run, fan-produced site where fans read other fans works out loud and distribute them for free.  Any drabbles posted in the Drabblecast forums might get a PM from someone asking if it's okay to "dribble" the story.  There's pretty much no downside to this thing.

And they have very good taste.

(Psst... the Daily Science Fiction giveaway is still open for posting!)

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

New Giveaway: Daily Science Fiction Year One: Not Just Rockets and Robots

I've got a great honking brick of a book here in front of me: the first yearly collection of Daily Science Fiction.  Over 850 pages of speculative fiction; 260 separate stories.  

And two of them feature my fifth or sixth favorite author: Me!  Also Ken Liu, Cat Rambo, Tim Pratt, Lavie Tidhar... There's some good stuff in here, is my point.

I am giving away this beast for absolutely nothing, y'all.  Free book!  Free really heavy book!  Just post in the comments to enter yourself in the drawing (and include a means of contact so I can ping you privily for mailing info.)

For this one... well, since this is a yearly summary of (most of) 2011, how about y'all tell me the best book you read this past year?  Recommend me some reading material, guys!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Waste of Time

The alarm shattered the morning, startling Briony awake.  Briony drank her lukewarm coffee while reading the paper as she sat up blinking in bed while the shower steamed she narrowly missed a bicycle while pulling out of her driveway-

"Crap," she muttered.  "It's gotten all jumbled."

She fiddled with the shards, shooing away Fluffster, her long-dead childhood dog.  He loved seeing her again, and dogs never had much respect for causality.

"Ouch!"  She'd cut herself on a seven-minute splinter.  Sevens were always the sharpest.  "Screw it," she said, leaving the minutes where they'd fallen.  "I'll just be late this morning."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Interrogation Room 113

"You're right, of course," said Detective Voutar.  "We can't do anything to you.  It wouldn't be right."

The door creaked open, and something hunched and dark crawled in.  Thick, corded muscles bunched and flexed as moon-pale claws left faint gouges in the concrete floor.  It had either one too many or one too few limbs.

"I think I hear someone calling me.  Out in the hall."  Voutar waved and shut the door gently behind him.

"It's nothing to do with me," he said to no one in particular as the noises began.  "It's good to be the good guys."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Guard It with Your Life

“Are we ready?”

Violet tied the bandana around her head, her eyes mere glints through the holes she’d cut.  “Are you really going to wear the cape?”

“We’re superheroes, right?”  Ethan smirked.

“Yeah, but this is real.  This is serious.  This is- Gerald, what the hell are you wearing?”

One pair of tights – neither matching the other in color or pattern – adorned his legs.  He had shorts, a spandex unitard, a military jacket, and a trenchcoat, along with four bandoliers, a hood, a domino mask, and a tricorn hat.

“Secret identities are important,” Gerald said.  “I wanted to be sure.”

Monday, October 8, 2012

Inner Strength

It doesn't matter, they told me on my first day, what you look like, or even what you can do or where you come from.

They said it’s about what’s inside.  That’s what’s important.

And I believe that.  I really do.  I may still doubt myself – that’s normal, they said, and will pass – and I may still suspect that some doink born with a ten-million-dollar silver spoon in his mouth probably - being honest - has an easier time of it, but I believe that what’s inside is what really matters.

At night, when I’m falling asleep, I can feel it moving.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Dragonslayer at IGMS

"Dragonslayer" is in the current issue of Intergalactic Medicine Show!  (You gotta pay, I'm afraid, but it's a pretty good 'zine.)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Cult Cargo Pants (TM)

“It’s great!  I’ve got a pocket for my phone, for my wallet, my keys, my palmtop, my ciggies, and even some beef jerky.”  Kell stretched out one leg and then the other, displaying the wonders of his new pants.

“You’re a little too excited about those,” said Gav.

From overhead came the drone of a propeller plane, flying low.  A shadow swept across them, followed by a thump as a large wooden box buried itself in the sand.  It broke open, spilling dozens of pairs of trousers.  Kell and Gave blinked at each other.

“What’s brand were those pants again?”

Hopalong B'ar

It was a good life in Sawyerville; clean air, peace and quiet, friendly people.  The only downside, Griff reflected, was its proximity to the university, which led to periodic infestations of bros.

“Reckon it’s ‘bout time y’all three hopped along,” he said, approaching his current crop of overloud teenagers.  “Y’all had more’n enuff t’drank.”

“What’ll you do if we don’t, Gramps?” asked the largest one.  “Call the sheriff?”

“Naw,” Griff said.  “I got someone better.  “Hey, Hopalong!”

A furry mountain grumbled as it rose.  The bros paled and huddled together. 

“What’d y’all think that ‘postrophe was fer?” Griff asked, grinning.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Steel is No Comfort When Winter Comes

The massive figure loomed over the sales counter, clad in blood-red armor and wearing a horned helm.  Nearby, two hitherto polite middle-aged ladies erupted into a vicious screaming match, struggling over a clearance sweater.

Something thudded to the countertop: a fleece-lined winter coat.  A mailed hand tapped the garment, then slammed into the steel-plated chest.

"Fitting rooms are th-th-there," Beth stammered, pointing. 

The figure stomped away.

"Was that War?" asked Vicki.

"Can't be," said John.  "War... war never changes."

There was a rustle from the fitting rooms, then a contented sigh.

"It must be War," said Beth.  "He was cold..."

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Departure

“This is something I’ve needed to do for a long time,” she says.  Her hair is already growing out, shading to black.   Her voice shifts timbres like a pennywhistle for a moment.  “I would say that it’s not you, but I want to be honest about it.  I can’t…”  She pauses as she adds several inches of height, one foot out the door.  There’s a hint of a mustache for a moment, but it fades. 

“I don’t like who I am when I’m with you,” she says. 

As she walks away, I think I see the first hint of wings.