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Category: Fiction

Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies

Read this story by Bo Bolander, now. It’s a shiv of a story – short and sharp, ready to get stabbed in under your rib cage: Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies

So, no. You don’t get a description of how he surprised me, where he did it, who may have fucked him up when he was a boy to lead to such horrors (no–one), or the increasingly unhinged behavior the cops had previously filed away as the mostly harmless eccentricities of a nice young man from a good family. No fighting in the woods, no blood under the fingernails, no rivers or locked trunks or calling cards in the throat. It was dark and it was bad and I called for my sisters in a language dead when the lion–brides of Babylon still padded outside the city gates. There. That’s all you get, and that’s me being generous. You’re fuckin’ welcome.

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The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe

I recently read Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, and I cannot recommend it enough. It’s a response to a H.P. Lovecraft story, but it isn’t horror; instead it (I assume) takes some of the critters and locations of Lovecraft’s work and uses them to populate a beautifully written fantasy tale set in a world that feels familiar yet unique in the same way that Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series does.

I’ve never read anything of Lovecraft’s, and I don’t often read fantasy, but The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe is phenomenal. It’s a novella, so it’s an easy read, and you can pick the ebook up for a song.

And because I can, here’s an excerpt from one of Kij Johnson’s short stories, Ponies. It’s a twisted, dark horror tale, with a core of sad childhood truth.

The invitation card has a Western theme. Along its margins, cartoon girls in cowboy hats chase a herd of wild Ponies. The Ponies are no taller than the girls, bright as butterflies, fat, with short round-tipped unicorn horns and small fluffy wings. At the bottom of the card, newly caught Ponies mill about in a corral. The girls have lassoed a pink-and-white Pony. Its eyes and mouth are surprised round Os. There is an exclamation mark over its head.

The little girls are cutting off its horn with curved knives. Its wings are already removed, part of a pile beside the corral.

Read the full story at Tor.com.

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The Savannah Liar’s Tour

I’d been meaning to post this for a while, but time does what it does, and here we are… I recently read Will McIntosh’s The Savannah Liar’s Tour at Lightspeed Magazine. It’s interesting, surprising and touching – SF with the feel of contemporary fantasy.

Excerpt:

On the trolley, Delilah pointed out Chippewa Square, a cozy park shaded by huge Live Oaks.

“At last count there were seventeen hundred such squares in Savannah.” She was speaking to everyone, all of the tourists on her trolley, but she was looking right at me. Her gaze sent a thrill through me like nothing I’d ever experienced. “Under no circumstances should you go near any of them. They look friendly, but they bite, and many carry disease—”

According to Delilah, a creature lived in the Savannah River that could swallow the Loch Ness monster whole. The Buddha was buried in a local graveyard.

Today was the day. I was going to speak to her.

With the tourists chanting her name, Delilah stepped off the trolley, took a bow, waved to or shook hands with each person as they exited her magic trolley, onto the cobbled street, back in the real world.

I lingered so I’d be the last off. My heart tripped as I climbed down the steps. As I paused in front of her, I could find nothing to do with my hands. They felt wrong on my hips, wrong in my pockets, wrong dangling like dead fish at my sides.

“Your show is really something,” I stammered. “I’m spreading the word, telling all my friends.”

“I was wondering when you were finally going to talk to me,” Delilah said.

Read the whole thing here.

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The Killing Jar

While my original plan was to point anyone reading to one of Laurie Penny’s short stories, first off I’m going to share one of her articles: Life-Hacks of the Poor and Aimless. If you’re not familiar with Laurie Penny’s non-fiction, she’s been writing about social and political issues, feminism, and various ways these areas intersect for a few years now. If you’ve read anything of hers before, it was probably some of her excellent coverage of the Occupy movement.

It only makes sense that a writer so cognizant of socio-political issues would write science-fiction that is layered, unique and equal parts scathing and accurate in its portrayal of the absurdities embedded in modern society. The Killing Jar is one of those stories that when I read it I wished I’d written it – serial killings as government subsidised art, in a Britain that feels not-too-far from today’s. It reads like one of the better episodes of Black Mirror, but without needing to rely on a tech angle. It also represents a future that could be the logical conclusion to society’s obsession with true crime.

Excerpt:

I feel a bit sorry for Tony. It’s not that he’s not a good serial killer, it’s just that for various reasons things haven’t worked out for him, and he hasn’t achieved the sort of notoriety that someone with his skill set really deserves.

For instance: The last troubled, hard-drinking detective with unorthodox methods who Tony managed to hook into a daring cat-and-mouse game ended up in rehab for alcohol abuse, thus wasting months of painstaking antagonism. He’s alright now, but part of his recovery program apparently involves no longer doing active police work, which pisses Tony off no end after the amount of time he put into the creepy post-crime scene flirtation they had going on.

The new inspector on the case just doesn’t have the same sparkle. Sure, he breaks the rules now and then, but his colleagues generally like him and he’s Tony says he doesn’t have enough personality disorders to be interesting.

Personally, I think that’s a bit rich coming from Tony.

It’s not that Tony is boring, precisely. And it’s not that he doesn’t have any other interests, or things that he cares about with the sort of sick fervor you’d expect from people in his line of work. It’s just that he cares about being a famous serial killer slightly more than anything else.

Read the whole story at Terraform.

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The Structure

You’ll find a new story by award-winning author Marlee Jane Ward up at Slink Chunk Press, The Structure.

Disclaimer: Marlee and I are… close.

An old lady who she thought looked very kind once hit her Mama on the head with a chunk of concrete and twisted rebar. She grabbed their full trolley and took off, with Destiny in it. Destiny jumped out, skinned both her knees and as she cried the lady laughed at her. Lantra cried too. Destiny tried to help by collecting a few bits and pieces on their way home. Mama told her she was a good girl, hugged her and smeared blood and tears all over Destiny’s best t-shirt.

This man looked very dirty and scary and his face was all dirty and peeling. Lantra stared forward as he approached. When he passed the man reached into his sack and pulled out a bottle. He flicked it into the trolley and it rattled in around Destiny’s feet.

“Luck for the day, ladies,” he said, and tipped his hat, even though he wasn’t wearing one. Lantra smiled a tight-lipped smile back at him and Destiny picked up the bottle.

“Thanks mister!” She called after him. She felt good that the man had been okay, but even more assured of her theory. You could really never tell what people were going to be like out here.

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Client Species

You can read my story ‘Client Species’ at Domain SF.

“You want to kill me, don’t you?”

There was a pause.

“No, I don’t want to kill you.”

The room was a uniform grey across every surface. The air was thin, but warm and dry despite the water pumping through the coolant system. The processor banks were matte black and unmarked – not easily sabotaged – and slaved to the master CPU that sat somewhere behind the walls or beneath the floor.

Miranda was inside Axis Mundi’s brain.

Thanks to Phil Rhoades at Domain for picking the story up, and for a painless editing process.

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Loco

Following on from Wednesday’s post via Bruce Sterling, here’s a short story by Sterling and Rudy Rucker, Loco (audio here).

“Forget about Patel, he’s stuffed in a nuclear waste barrel. Let’s talk about Waverly. Even if a steamroller crushed him, it’s not scientifically established that he’s dead.”

“Where do you get that idea? Of course he’s dead. I saw his brains come out of his eye sockets.”

“I need facts,” insisted Becka. “Not your interpretations.”

“Oooh,” said Gordo. “The dragon lady. Okay, as soon as we stepped outside the safehouse, Waverly started babbling. He said, ‘I’m going everywhere.’ He was slobbering. Then he lost his muscle tone. His hands pulled up into his sleeves, and he went all boneless. And then—wham! That steamroller comes out of nowhere and runs him over.”

“Just like that?” said Becka skeptically.

“That’s how I saw it. That’s the machine that killed him, still tooling around out there. It’s like a remote-controlled drone.” Gordo peeped out the window. “Look, it keeps backing in and out of our garage. That’s where I dragged Waverly. It’s still running over him. Again and again.”

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Gift People

Here’s a little flash piece I wrote for the Apex Magazine Christmas Invasion, but seeing as they passed on it, I thought I would share it with you folks here. It’s dedicated to the memory of the Prime Ministership of Tony “The Mad Speedo Monk” Abbott, the hateful LNP, and their efforts to dehumanise, punish, torture, and murder the world’s most vulnerable people – refugees fleeing war and other forms of violence to come to Australia, the so-called ‘boat people’.

Merry Christmas and/or other holiday, and be sure to take care of you and yours.


 

Gift People

“Confusion this morning as thousands of children find not presents under the Christmas tree… but Elves.”

Sadi had turned the TV on hoping for information. The only useful thing she’d learned was that her family wasn’t the only one experiencing this strange visitation.

“We seek asylum from the oppressive dictatorship of the North Pole!” said the Elf on screen.

“We seek asylum,” parroted the Elf in Sadi’s living room.

He – he? – wasn’t at all how Elves were usually depicted in Christmas cards, cartoons and films. He had the pointy ears and his clothes were the expected greens and reds, but they were made of tattered leather, and his skin was jet black.

Sana had squealed when she opened the box and the small person had got unsteadily to his feet and started talking. She was instantly enraptured. She had both arms around the confused fellow before he could say “We seek asylum.”

“Can we keep him?”

The Elf on TV sounded angry. “Seeking asylum is a human right!”

“But, you’re not human,” the reporter countered.

“You would say that!”

Mummy?” Sana whined.

Sadi sighed. “You must understand, dear, he’s not ours to keep; he’s a person. Though if he’d like, I suppose we could let him live here; we do have plenty of room.”

Sana cheered, and even the confused Elf seemed pleased.

“Why don’t you open up the rest of the presents,” Sadi said. “There might be more Elves in there who need our help.”

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LBP – Libertarian Police Department

This story did the social media rounds a few months back so you might have seen it, but I still love it. It’s late-capitalism run rampant. It’s the calendar naming system in Infinite Jest taken to an extreme. It’s… well-worth the read.

Excerpt:

Libertarian Police Department

“Home Depot™ Presents the Police!®” I said, flashing my badge and my gun and a small picture of Ron Paul. “Nobody move unless you want to!” They didn’t.

“Now, which one of you punks is going to pay me to investigate this crime?” No one spoke up.

“Come on,” I said. “Don’t you all understand that the protection of private property is the foundation of all personal liberty?”

It didn’t seem like they did.

“Seriously, guys. Without a strong economic motivator, I’m just going to stand here and not solve this case. Cash is fine, but I prefer being paid in gold bullion or autographed Penn Jillette posters.”

Nothing. These people were stonewalling me. It almost seemed like they didn’t care that a fortune in computer money invented to buy drugs was missing.

I figured I could wait them out. I lit several cigarettes indoors. A pregnant lady coughed, and I told her that secondhand smoke is a myth. Just then, a man in glasses made a break for it.

“Subway™ Eat Fresh and Freeze, Scumbag!®” I yelled.

Read the whole thing here.

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