Fiction

Lovecraft’s War Against the Ravens

Jeff VanderMeer • April 14th, 2010 • Fiction

(more…)

Digging Out Toward the Subterranean to Reach the Tunnel Leading to the Light

Jeff VanderMeer • April 13th, 2010 • Fiction

What you don’t know about the transdimensional properties of the komodo dragon can kill you in more than one place. They can scent your wound through time, through space, sporling out before them like a mist that curls and beckons. While you, you’re more like a rabbit with a pocketwatch who’s been stuffed with sawdust, and it’s falling out of you in chunks, and you’re feeling more and more like part of the scenery. Everything’s receding. Except the komodo. The komodo’s getting closer and closer. Reeling you in through its sixth, its seventh senses. That tongue, forking out. The bandy-legged rude walk over rough terrain. The smell of rotting flesh that you can’t quite tell. Is it you, or the komodo? Is it your life on his breath? Is this the last thing you’ll ever see? That ugly pitted bullethead. That shit-eating grin.

Because the thing is, you have to die to escape a komodo. You have to let your wound take you. Are you up for that? I wasn’t. I wasn’t ready yet. I’ve always tried to save dying for Plan B.

(c) jv

Lovecraft’s War Against the Ravens

Jeff VanderMeer • February 9th, 2010 • Fiction

Hmmm. So the story I’m writing and posting in bits on facebook, using photos of the text, is getting a bit straaaange.

Haven’t seen these bits on facebook? That’s because I’m writing from the future. These bits won’t appear there for a couple of days. Bwaaahahahaha.

(For more on the notebook I’m writing in, click here.)

The Quickening

Jeff VanderMeer • February 4th, 2010 • Fiction

In the old, tattered photo Sensio has been dressed in a peach-colored prisoner’s uniform made out of discarded tarp and then tied to a small post that Aunt Etta made me hammer into the ground. Sensio’s long white ears are slanted back behind his head. His front legs, trapped by the crude arm holes, hang stiff at a forward angle. The absurdly large hind feet with the shadows for claws are, perhaps, the most monstrous part of Sensio—the way they seem to suddenly shoot from the peach-colored trousers, in a parody of arrested speed. The look on Sensio’s face—the large, almond-shaped eye, the soft pucker of pink nose—seems caught between a strange acceptance and an inchoate rage.

Sensio was, of course, a rabbit, and in the photo, Aunt Etta’s stance confirms this bestial fact—she holds the end of the rope that binds Sensio to the post, and she holds it, between thumb and forefinger, with a form of distaste, even disdain? Such a strange pose, delicate against the roughness of Sensio; even a gentle tug and his humiliation would be undone.

Or maybe not. I don’t know. I know only that Aunt Etta’s expression is ultimately unreadable, muddied by the severe red of her lipstick, by the book-ending of her body by a crepe-paper bag of a hat and the shimmering turquoise dress hitched up past her waist, over her stomach, and descending so far down that she appears to float above the matted grass of the ground. (Between the two, a flowsy white blouse that seems stolen from a more sensible person.) She’d dressed me in something similar, so that I looked like a flower girl at a wedding. The shoes Aunt Etta had dug up out of the closet pinched my feet.

Sensio had said nothing as he was bound, nose twitching at the sharp citrus of the orange blossoms behind them. He’d said nothing as we’d formed our peculiar circus procession from the bungalow where we lived to the waiting photographer. No reporters had come, despite Aunt Etta’s phone calls, but she’d hired the photographer anyway—and he stood there waiting in white shirt, suspenders, gray trousers, black wingtip shoes. He looked hot even though it was only spring, and was so white I thought he must be a Yankee. His equipment looked like a metal stork. A cigarette dangled from his lips.

“That’s him,” Aunt Etta said, as if Sensio were her rabbit and not mine. Shameful, but that’s what I felt that long-ago day: Sensio is mine, not hers. I was twelve in 1955, and big for my age, with broad shoulders that made me look hunched over. I did chores around the orange groves. I helped to get water from the well. I’d driven the tractor. In the season, I’d even helped harvest the oranges, just for fun, alongside the sweating, watchful migrants. But I was still a kid, and as Aunt Etta put Sensio down and bound him to the post I’d pounded in the day before, all I could think was that Aunt Etta had no right to do anything with him.

“Do you have to tie him up like that,” the photographer asked Aunt Etta, but not in a caring way. He reached down to ruffle my hair and wink at me. I flinched away from him, wrinkling up my nose. People were always touching my head back then because I had orange-red hair, and I hated it.

Aunt Etta just looked at him like he was stupid. She was stiff that morning—a broken hip that had never completely healed—and further trapped in her ridiculous dress. She grunted with effort and no little pain as she leaned precariouslyto loop the rope over and over again across Sensio’s chest. “Shit,” she said. I heard her, distinct if soft. She looked over as she straightened, said, “Rachel, finish it for me.”

So I tied the last knots and knelt there beside Sensio, smelling the thick musk of his fur.

“It’s okay,” I said to him, thinking, Aunt Etta’s just gone a little cracked. She’ll be better soon. I tried to will the message into that deep, liquid eye, through to the brain beyond.

Aunt Etta tapped my shoulder with her thick fingers. “Come away.”

“Are we ready, then?” the photographer asked. Aunt Etta wasn’t paying him by the hour. He was already looking at his watch.

In the photo, Aunt Etta has the end of Sensio’s rope in her right hand, arm extended down, while her left arm is held at a right angle, palm up, thumb against the index finger. At first, when I show the photograph to people, they think she’s holding a cigar in her hand, because the photograph is so old. Then they realize that’s just a crease in the image and they think she holds something delicate in that hand—something she’s afraid to close her hand around for fear of damaging it.

But I know there was nothing in Aunt Etta’s hand that day.

Lovecraft Slithered Onto the Floor

Jeff VanderMeer • February 1st, 2010 • Fiction

I’ve been posting a draft of a very strange story on facebook. I don’t actually have access to facebook right now–I’ve locked myself out–but posting photos remotely seems to work out just fine. I have no idea if anyone’s reading and am not really curious to find out. But the upshot is I’m slowly building a tale…of sorts. Lately, it’s gotten out of hand.

(But don’t read that–read this!)

(more…)

Awards Season in Smaragdine

Jeff VanderMeer • January 31st, 2010 • Fiction

February is not just the month in Smaragdine when things turn a little colder. It’s also the month when Smaragdineans announce the winners of various literary awards. Fisticuffs have been known to break out at the award ceremonies, along with more serious scuffles. These people take their awards seriously, and they expect the finalists to be full-blooded Smaragdineans.

Thus, it was with some trepidation that I attended one such awards banquet several years ago, accompanied by Big Bad Bear (still in trouble with the police, so I cannot reveal his identity) and Michael Haulica, a Romanian editor and writer. Michael was there to see if he could track down a couple of Smaragdine authors and to observe the local spectacle. He was not disappointed.

(more…)

Story for Haiti Donations: Bats

Jeff VanderMeer • January 15th, 2010 • Fiction

Per Jay Lake’s post (and Cheryl Morgan), if you’re entertained by the previously unpublished kid’s fiction vignette posted below—one of the only things I have that’s unpublished and therefore exclusive—consider making a donation to Haitian disaster relief. Jay has more details here.

THE GREAT LOST BAT EXPEDITION

1

The Great Bat Expedition from Camp Crystal Lakes started out well enough. Nick, his sister Nikki, and their best friend Tom gathered outside Nick’s tent in the mid-afternoon.

One by one they went through their list.

“Flashlight?” Nikki asked. She always kept the lists.

“Check,” said Nick. It was one of his favorite words. Sometimes he would say it all day long. Those were the days Nikki and Tom would try to avoid him.

(more…)

The Decade of the Aughts: Genre Fiction

Jeff VanderMeer • January 3rd, 2010 • Culture, Fiction

Much happened outside of the world of genre fiction in the early part of this century that might give further context to it, but for purposes of a focused overview, I have eschewed both general History and the Personal in terms of my intimate relationship to all I set out below.

(more…)

Professional rates don’t mean you’re a professional

Jason Sanford • December 15th, 2009 • Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing Tips

Guest blogger Jason Sanford often rants on his website at www.jasonsanford.com. His fiction has been published in Interzone, Year’s Best SF 14, Analog, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Pindeldyboz, and other places, and has won the 2008 Interzone Readers’ Poll and a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship.

I tried to stay out of the great rate fail debate, aside from posting some snarky Cliffsnotes to the whole affair. But it turns out I snarked prematurely, because after I posted a new writer naively waded into the affair, saying established writers were only trying to prevent the newbies from succeeding. After having a great stack of screaming outrage shoved down her throat, she probably staggered away thinking, “What the hell? Why are writers so touchy about short story pay?”

Here’s why: In our hearts, we know making professional rates for our short stories mean we’re still being paid nothing at all.

(more…)

Good Boys, Adam Lambert, and S-E-X

Rachel Swirsky • December 11th, 2009 • Fiction, Read Online

Phew! I’m glad to blog about something that’s not controversial! Gay sex!

…Wait.

I come to you bearing recommendations for excellent fiction distributed across the web. The first three things are Nebula-elligible stories by Nisi Shawl. Nisi is an amazing, Seattle-based writer who helps coordinate the Clarion West Workshop and is fun to hang out with — but what *you* need to know is that her fiction is awesome.

Last year, her short story collection, Filter House (Aqueduct Press) won the James Tiptree award. Publisher’s Weekly wrote that, “This exquisitely rendered debut collection of 11 reprints and three originals ranges into the past and future to explore identity and belief in a dazzling variety of settings… he threads of folklore, religious magic, family and the search for a cohesive self are woven with power and lucidity throughout this panorama of race, magic and the body.”

Nisi is one of those exquisitely talented writers who works slowly. She has a few prestigious sales to her name, but she doesn’t get nearly the acknowledgement she deserves. I’m mad about her work, though, so this year when the Nebula eligibility questions came up, I said to Nisi, “Hey, Nisi! What work of yours is eligible for the Nebulas?” She confessed to me that three stories of hers were eligible, but that they were not available in electronic form. That would not do! said I, and convinced her to let me coordinate their web posting so that readers can look at her work and enjoy it — and if you’re in SFWA, consider nominating it.

Good Boy:

As a child on their outbound ship, Kressi had enjoyed the lessons on Benjamin Banneker, George McCoy, and technology’s other black pioneers. She’d wanted to be Ruth Fleurny, maverick member of the team that perfected the Bounce. It was because of Fleurny’s stubborn insistence on cheap access for all descendants of enslaved Africans as a condition of the “star drive’s” sale that the Neo-Negroes and a handful of similar expeditions had gotten off the ground.

Bird Day:

We sat in a circle on the side of the street. Some of us had lawn chairs, or folding chairs we’d brought out from our houses. Stepstools, even. We had a bunch of different kinds of seats we were sitting in.

This was the day to commune with birds.

And The Water Museum

When I saw the hitchhiker standing by the sign for the Water Museum, I knew he had been sent to assassinate me. First off, that’s what the dogs were saying as I slowed to pick him up. Girlfriend, with her sharp, little, agitated bark, was quite explicit. Buddy was silently trying to dig a hole under the back seat, seeking refuge in the trunk. I stopped anyway.

Take a read. It’s worth it.

Now for the gay sex. (more…)