Tag Archives: fun

Short Fiction Extravaganza!

If you’d like to read some free science fiction, a few of my stories have appeared online over the last month at some great e-zines. If you check them out, let me know what you thought!

“Mamihlapinatapei” at Crossed Genres

“On Navarino Island off the coast of Chile, Marta mops outside the tyrannosaurus habitat as the tourists press in to see the dinosaurs.”

This is a near-future / alternate history story about dinosaurs, janitors, and language extinction. The Yaghan people and language really exist, although in real life, there is only one true native speaker left, Cristina Calderon (a native speaker is a person who grew up speaking a language instead of learning it later in life). When she dies, Yaghan will become a dead language, like Latin.

You can hear Cristina say a few words in Yaghan in this video, which directly inspired this story. The rather paternalistic and condescending men who interview her were almost as much of an influence as Cristina on the themes of my story.

“Ten Wretched Things About Influenza Siderius” at Daily Science Fiction

“Influenza siderius begins as a general malaise. That is always the first symptom”.

I wrote this story when everyone in my online writing group simultaneously got sick across the different states and countries we live in. I won’t spoil it by saying more, but check out my author comments at the end for some more notes on its genesis.

“Makeisha In Time” at Crossed Genres

“A woman unafraid to die can do anything she wants. A woman who can endure starvation and pain and deprivation can be her own boss, set her own agenda. The one thing she cannot do is to make them remember she did it.”

I wrote this story specifically for Crossed Genres after their Twitter feed mentioned they’d only received 25% woman-authored stories in slush so far for their Time Travel issue, an unusual gap. I’d recently read Kameron Hurley’s Hugo-nominated essay on the historical erasure of women, “We Have Always Fought”. (hear the author read it in audio here!). I’d also just discovered the Medieval PoC Tumblr, which is dedicated to counteracting the myth of a historically whitewashed Europe by sharing artwork that proves otherwise.

The result was this story, the tale of a woman, a person of color, who battles the forces of historical erasure, selective memory, and time itself for the right to her legacy. If you enjoy it, I highly recommend you check out Hurley’s essay and Medieval PoC, where you can read about the real people Makeisha is based on.

Women Destroy Science Fiction: A Photo Blog

IT’S IN! IT’S IN! IT’S INNNNN! My print copy of Lightspeed’s Women Destroy Science Fiction! just arrived in the mail!

And wow, am I excited. It’s gorgeous. Gorrrrrrgeous! I mean, the pictures are IN COLOR! Just look how happy I am, I can’t even:

WDSFarrives

So what’s a girl to do with her WDSF? Welcome it to the family properly, of course! I present a brief photo blog of WDSF’s first day at my house. Special thanks to Jason for helping with the photos.

We kicked the morning off with tea with Mom and Grandma.

tea

Then we got to work doing what women do best: SCIENCE!!!!

doingscience

 

Jason managed to grab some quality reading time in all the fun…

mendestroy

 

…as did I.

Reading

 

Finally, it’s off to bed! But first, a little Captain Marvel:

bedtime

All the Updates!

Yes, THAT Rachael K. Jones! (Photo credit: Penumbra)

Hello, hello, blogosphere! It’s been a couple months since my last update, and that’s because I’ve been busy with some exciting things!

The first big announcement: You probably guessed it from the photo above, but I made my first pro fiction sale a couple of weeks ago to Penumbra! My story, “Photon Girl Ascending,” is forthcoming in their May Superheroes-themed issue. I’m very excited about this, since it’s a big benchmark in my writing career, and I have been learning a lot in the process. I have also been invited to write a guest post for the Penumbra blog. I’ll be sure to link it for you when it goes live.

And if that wasn’t enough, a week later, I made my second pro sale to Daily Science Fiction! I haven’t yet gotten the scheduled release date for this story yet, but I’ll talk more about that when I have details. If you’d like, click over their site now and subscribe (it’s free!) to receive a story in your inbox every day.

I have much to say about both these stories, but I’ll say a few more words about them once they have been published, along with links so you can enjoy them firsthand.

I plan to do some more blogging in the near future, too, but probably won’t get back into a good schedule for another 3-4 weeks (because things are really busy right now). But when I return, it will be with a full blog tune-up, just in time for the one-year anniversary of this blog. I will be updating everything across the site and adding some new features (such as a bibliography!). I also have some interesting new stories to tell you, both fictional and factual.

What have you been up to in the past few weeks? What’s been happening on your blog?

Motley Microfiction: Happy Birthday

Today I congratulate you on another successful trip around the sun!

May your next trip be better

faster

wilder

so you have to dig your nails into the dirt as the orbit rolls on

all seven billion of us screaming

in harmony as the planets stream past…

one! two! eight!

…the trees torched by friction

the windowpanes shattered

the Rockies worn down to nubs

us huddled in our bomb shelters praying for mercy…

…and when you wake up on your birthday next year,

we’ll say

“My, how the year flew by

and anyway weren’t we just celebrating your birthday yesterday?”

——————————————————————————————–

Today is the birthday of my wonderful little sister, Kristin! I wrote this by way of celebration. Kristin, I hope your next trip around the sun is a wonderful one, and lasts longer than 24 hours, because otherwise we’re all going to need a landscaper to take care of all the damage from your wild, wild “year”!

Now go eat something shaped like a dinosaur. Now.

File:CakeGaga5Serbia.jpg

Motley Microfiction: Abode of the Darned!

“Our unique corner of the afterlife was once part of our larger neighbor,” explained Damon, steering the New Arrivals Bus through Heck. “At first they considered the darnations typos, but over time we distinguished ourselves through mildly unpleasant torture of our clientele: rappists and pedophobes mostly, with your occasional grammar Nazi.

“Across our heckscape, the darned endure an eternity of daytime TV, Taco Bell, and N*Sync.”

Suddenly, a tire blew. “Dang it to H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks! Fu–” shouted Damon. He clapped his hands over his mouth.

Too late. A maw opened beneath the bus, and from it, the smell of fudge…

———————————————————————————————–

The road to Heck is paved with good intentions…

It’s been a while since my last microfiction, huh? Well, here’s something a bit goofy to start off your week!

Language and linguistics is an area of special interest to me, as both a writer and a professional in the world of literacy. One thing I find particularly interesting is the way “bad words”– that is, profanity or taboo words — operate in cultures around the world.

For example, I remember when I was learning my first non-native language, and how much we children loooooved learning all the naughty words in Italian. We would spend whole lunch breaks with our Italian-to-English dictionaries hunting down all the words we weren’t supposed to say in English, but were somehow okay in Italian because no one knew what we were saying.

There is something about separating the sounds and meanings that takes the sting out of those words.

I rather wonder if that’s why we have words like “darn” and “heck”, surrogate words that let us communicate frustration and anger without the full extent of the ill-will behind the words. After all, it’s not a very nice thing to wish hell or damnation on anyone.

But what if the intention carried over, anyway? What if all we’ve done is to wish a place called Heck into existence, and proceeded to darn everyone to it? And what if it’s filled with Grammar Nazis? Oh, the horrors!

What is your opinion on taboo words, and the funny things we say to avoid them? Got a favorite example?

A Christmas Elegy: Advent Ghosts 2013

“A Christmas Elegy”

A funeral on Christmas Eve will forever haunt you.

Your uncle’s eyes closed now and forever. Those hands, which once shaped shadows with his ghost stories and supported you like a crutch, folded upon a lifeless breast.

Before you fall asleep exhausted by weeping, you’ll find yourself longing for ghosts. Haunt me, you pray. Terrify me, convict me, but don’t leave me alone.

When the clock strikes one, the spirit will visit: your merry uncle, Christmas personified, reborn once a year on the day he loved best.

Tiny no longer, you climb upon his lap for one more ghost story.

——————————————————————————————————

Candles

This story was written as part of Loren Eaton’s “Advent Ghosts 2013” shared storytelling event! Check out Loren’s site for other great ghost stories written around a holiday theme, going live all over the blogosphere today. Make sure to check back often as he’ll be adding contributions as they come in.

Can you write a 100-word ghost story?

Best of the Drabblecast

If you're not listening to the Drabblecast, yo...

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a fanatic devotion to the Drabblecast, a podcast that produces a great speculative fiction story each week. I’ve been gradually working through all 300 episodes of the archives since I started listening a year ago, and as of last month, I’ve finally caught up. And what better way to celebrate such a thoroughly enjoyable year of listening than by making a “Best of” list?

Therefore I present to you some of my favorite episodes picked from the first 300. I say “some” because my initial list had over 40 episodes on it, but I’ve forced myself to pick just 20 for this list. I’ve also left out of the rankings the Drabblecast B-Sides episodes (I may do a separate list for them) and episodes that featured classic speculative fiction stories (I’ve put a few favorites on their own list at the end). If you’ve not listened to the Drabblecast yet, any of these episodes would be a great place to start. If you do give them a listen, be sure to let me know what you thought.

My Top 20 Drabblecast Episodes:

  1. Drabblecast 211 – At the End of the Hall –  Easily my #1 pick, both because it has one of the best readings I’ve ever heard on a podcast, and because it makes me cry like a baby every time I hear it. It’s incredibly life-affirming.
  2. Drabblecast 043 – Jelly Park – A very close second, this story best captures everything I’ve come to associate with the Drabblecast: how strange things sometimes feel like home. Are you the kind of person who mopes alone after a bad breakup, or are you a bus driver who hums to herself all day, because you have a secret?
  3. Drabblecast 129 – Annabelle’s Alphabet – A moving story married to flawless production. It’ll give you goosebumps. Also a great intro to Tim Pratt’s work.
  4. Drabblecast 083 – Floating Over Time – It’s a truth of the human condition that life is never long enough, whether you live two years or two million years, and that none of us get any assurances in the face of death.
  5. Drabblecast 039 – The Beekeepers – Parasitic wasps and alien invasions. This is top-notch horror, but I’d recommend that you have a strong stomach going in.
  6. Drabblecast 298 – Flying On My Hatred of My Neighbor’s Dog – It’s funny. It’s dangerously funny. The kind of funny that causes you to suppress laughter until it bursts out anyway, and all the strangers in the vicinity will decide that you’re unstable and dangerous. You’ve been warned.
  7. Drabblecast 246 – The Kidney – I’m a sucker for anthropomorphic bodily organs just going about their business. It’s surprisingly moving for such a ridiculous concept.
  8. Drabblecast 299 – The Revelation of Morgan Stern – Remarkable for being both a great post-apocalyptic horror story and a great love story.
  9. Drabblecast 025 – The Worm Within – I love this episode, but I should warn you it’s gross in a potty-humor sort of way. But since I write this Medical Microfiction blog, you won’t be surprised at my love of subjects like intestinal worms.
  10. Drabblecast 155 – The Second Conquest of Earth – This is the story I’ve always wished I could write about cold readers. Excellent all around.
  11. Drabblecast 198 – Love in the Pneumatic Tube Era – A shamelessly romantic sci-fi love story. There’s not an ounce of cynicism in this one, and that pleases me.
  12. Drabblecast 106 – Boiled Black Broth and Cornets – Frank Key is an odd, odd author. I might compare his style to Dr. Seuss in that they both enjoy word play, but it’s hard to describe unless you hear it. Listen to this one. You won’t regret it. Also, I think Norm deserves a standing ovation for the tongue-twister at the end.
  13. Drabblecast 192 – Rangifer Volans – More Tim Pratt, this time with a Christmas-themed story! Cryptozoologists go looking for flying reindeer. It’ll make you laugh, I promise.
  14. Drabblecast 058 – Eggs – Another “Medical Microfiction” pick, and also about parasitic worms, this time of the cat-exploding variety. It’s gross, it’s hilarious, and it’s deeply disturbing.
  15. Drabblecast 236 – When You Visit The Magoebaskloof Hotel – I picked this one because I enjoy well-considered sci-fi, especially when a story taps into true alien psychology. This story also read like a parable of sorts. I listened to it a couple of times before I felt like I understood it, and got something new out of it each time around.
  16. Drabblecast 292 – Hollow As The World – It’s about Minecraft, and a teen dealing with the unexpected death of his best friend. I loved it from start to finish.
  17. Drabblecast 150 – Morris and the Machine – Yet more Tim Pratt! A time travel story about a man who cheats on his wife… with his wife. It’s rife with some interesting moral conundrums that left me chewing over the story for days.
  18. Drabblecast 091 – Gifting Bliss – It’s a parody of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, but I found this episode surprisingly moving. Norm created and performed a set of Nirvana song parodies that made this episode particularly outstanding.
  19. Drabblecast 274 – Amid The Words Of War – Another example of a well-considered alien species which feels extraordinarily inhuman. The story is written so well that you feel for the aliens anyway.
  20. Drabblecast 265 – Pop Quiz – First, the main episode is great, which is quite simple but has a great payoff. but this episode also features a Frank Key story about this Shatner-like captain on an epic voyage for nougat. And that is awesome.

A few great classic stories you should also check out:

Drabblecast 069 – The Storyteller by Saki

Drabblecast 200 – The Last Question by Isaac Asimov

Drabblecast 251 – The Music of Erich Zann by H. P. Lovecraft

Drabblecast 273 – The Electric Ant by Philip K. Dick

Drabblecast 300 – Bloodchild by Octavia Butler

Okay, I lied. Here’s a few more:

Drabblecast 281 – Doubleheader XII – More Frank Key! This episode is a particular favorite of mine because of the reading, and the way the two stories fit together.

Drabblecast 017 – Morton – Sometimes the jerks in life have all the luck. Also, it’s worth noting how even the early episodes of this podcast are very high quality.

Drabblecast 286 – Unique Chicken Goes in Reverse – If you’ve read Flannery O’Connor, you’ll really appreciate why this story is hilarious. If you haven’t, you should listen anyway and then go read Flannery.

Drabblecast 191 – Primary Pollinator – A humorous sci-fi piece about the lengths you have to go through to maintain an alien ecosystem. Also makes me really glad that plants aren’t sentient.

Drabblecast 135 – “Hello,” Said the Stick – This one’s hard to describe without spoilers, but it does, indeed, involve a talking stick.

Drabblecast 115 – Clown Eggs – An episode that balances humor and horror in perfect measure. If you weren’t terrified of clowns, you will be.

Drabblecast 113 – Charlie the Purple Giraffe Was Acting Strangely – I don’t always like meta-story humor, but this one worked well. Feel for the poor comic book characters who suddenly realize we’re watching them.

Drabblecast 082 – An Overgrown Clump of Narcissists – A perfectly weird story with a nice twist at the end.

Drabblecast 075 – Trifecta IV – The stories are good, but it’s the original song written by Norm Sherman to commemorate the first 75 Drabblecast episodes that makes this one outstanding.

Drabblecast 052 – Sleep Age – A bit of magic realism cast in the form of a thought experiment: what if we could commodify and sell sleep?

Drabblecast 142, 143 – The Golden Age of Fire Escapes – This two-part story has outstanding production in the style of an old-timey radio show. If that wasn’t enough, it also features the concluding segment of Connor Choadsworth: In Search of the Mongolian Deathworm!

Drabblecast 257 – Judgement Passed – A team of scientists returns home to Earth to find that Jesus showed up and Judgement Day’ed everyone while they were gone. Now what?
Drabblecast 109 – Babel Probe – Time travel, alien horrors, and the ancient Middle East. Nuff said.

Drabblecast 234 – Jagannath – Another great story about symbiosis, where humans maintain an alien’s body from the inside.

Drabblecast 217 – Followed – This episode is a parable for consumer culture, and the invisible consequences of having cheap things. It’s also one of the most clever zombie stories I’ve ever heard.

Drabblecast 124 – Ghosts and Simulations – This one hit close to home. A story of terminal illness, what kind of immortality technology might offer us, and whether this is a good thing.

Drabblecast 188 – The Store of the Worlds – If there are infinite dimensions, somewhere out there is one that fulfills your most desired dream.

Motley Microfiction: The Toymaker’s Dilemma

In the North lives a man, a giver of gifts, a Saint. He spends his days making toys and brooding over the airwaves, which bring in affirmations from around the world. Out there, they believe in him. So the songs say.

But as he broods and makes toys, he has his doubts. Who knows if they exist at all, out beyond the endless snowstorms? Their faith has never been a problem, but he’s not sure he believes in them.

Once a year, he rises, dons his red coat, and goes to find out.

He brings the toys– just in case.

———————————————————————————————————–

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...
He goes into the world with arms full of toys. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello, friends! Sorry for the long absence – I’ve had my hands full with a lot of stuff for the last several weeks, and as a result, the poor blog got neglected. But I’m back, and for the next several days, I will be posting reams of Christmas-themed flash fiction to gear up for the holidays!

Today’s piece was recently published on the Drabblecast Episode# 305, and now I’m happy to present it to you on my blog as well. I would highly recommend listening to the episode, because the production took the story to another level.

One theme I love to explore in my writing is radical acts of faith in the face of the unknown, and this story is an example. Santa is famously connected to the idea of belief. I’m reminded of The Polar Express, where those who believe in Santa can hear the bells of his sleigh, while those who have lost their faith can’t. In this story, the choice to believe in Santa shapes your external reality.

Well, what if belief were a two-way street? What if Santa, in the isolation of the North, isn’t sure whether he is just making all of us up, because we’re equally wonderful and magical to him?

I like to imagine that if we were to pick up where the end of this story leaves off, everyone involved would be pleasantly surprised. Santa would find the children waiting for him, after all. The children’s faith would be rewarded. A long hoped-for relationship, a source of deep longing, would finally come to pass. That’s the essence of faith, and the essence of Advent.

Of course, it could all go the other way. Santa might find nothing but endless snowstorms. But I think there’s still something to grabbing that bag of toys, going outside, and taking a look.

Medical Microfiction: Vomeronasal organ

“Darling, I’m afraid I’ve made a terrible mistake,” said James in a strangled voice.

Cynthia set down her purse on the kitchen table between two adders and a rattlesnake, taking care not to disturb the squirming mass covering the floor. “So I see. Care to explain?”

James colored pink. “Ordered something homeopathic online. For our anniversary. Something to bring a little… spice into the bedroom.”

She arched an eyebrow. “Such as?”

He winced. “Pheromones. Must’ve broken in the mail. I took a nap and woke up as you’ve found me.” James jerked his chin toward the python encircling his body.

——————————————————————————————————–

An Indian cobra in a basket with a snake charm...
He’s a snake, but I hear he’s a real charmer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Also called Jacobsen’s Organ (stop snickering!), the vomeronasal organ (a.k.a. the VNO) is a primitive and perhaps vestigial scent organ located at the base of the nasal cavity. In other animals, its primary purpose is to detect pheromones. Evidence is shaky on whether we humans get much use out of ours. Compared to other mammals that rely on scent much more strongly than us, ours is underdeveloped, and tends to shrink while we’re still in fetal development.

Snakes, however, undoubtedly get a lot of use out of their VNOs. You know that whole tongue-flickering thing they do? That’s part of their pheromone-sensing system. When they retract their tongues, they touch it to their VNOs, thus transferring the tasty, tasty hormones to their nervous system for sampling. Deeelicious! Moral of the story: you may not want to buy products with pheromones in them. You might attract the wrong kind of attention!

In writing-related news, I have been participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, since the start of November, which has led to a drop in my blogging. I try to get at least one post out a week, but keeping pace with my word count quota has taken up all the writing time I can usually find in a day. The good news is that in December, I should be able to catch up on a ton of posts that I’m excited to share with you, so stay tuned!

My First Podcast!

The logo used by Apple to represent Podcasting
Podcasting: it makes your head turn purple and shoot out beams of light. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s something fun for your Monday: I recorded my first podcast for the Dribblecast, the fan podcast of the Drabblecast. That means if you go to this link, you can hear me read “Funeral on the Ocean Floor,” a short story written by my husband Jason. You can also download it for free on iTunes on the Dribblecast’s podcast channel.

I had a blast producing this one, as I have zero experience doing any sort of recording or audio editing. Through a huge coincidence, I got to use professional-grade equipment to record and edit the track. I’m especially proud of the background music, as I pieced it together myself from audio loops – look at me get technologically advanced, hey! Special thanks to the random guy who quite cheerfully spent an hour of his time teaching me how to use the software and hardware, and to Tom Baker for uploading the episode for me (twice).

Anyway, give it a listen if you have a few minutes, and let me know what you think! Happy Monday, friends!