My Fest 2019

I decide to hold a music festival at my parents’ house. My ex is invited. Her band’s slated for Saturday, and she’s really nervous. ‘Look,’ she says, pointing at the posters I‘d made. ‘We’re playing on the same day as so-and-so band-I’ve-never-heard-of.’ So-and-so band, it seems, is super-intimidating. I’m being supportive and not-gross, because we used to be in love and have sex with one another but now neither of those things are true.

A blues combo starts playing in the basement. Four gray-haired white men really laying it down. They do a sort of electrified, four-on-the-floor, non-swinging rock ‘n roll blues. There’s only one other guy watching but he’s really getting into it, smiling a connoiseur’s smile. I go upstairs to check on things. After all, I’m in charge.

Meanwhile, other bands are arriving. One arrives in this huge contraption which is less a van and more of a giant, multi-colored robot. They’re so excited they hop out acrobatically and shake their fists and do high kicks at the air. Another group shows up in a huge silver-bullet-shaped thing on wheels. They are loading out when a commotion starts up in the basement.

One of the guys in the blues band, I’m told, has killed one of his fellow blues-band guys Like, stabbed him in the middle of a song and run off. The two remaining bluesmen are shouting at each other. The ‘connoisseur’ stands there, shell-shocked. I look around, wonder briefly if my ex is safe, and delegate calling the cops to someone else, as I am in charge and that’s what people do when they’re in charge, delegate.

Where did the murderer go? I wonder.

I go and search the surrounding woods for a while. The murderer has disappeared. I go back to the house. Are the police here yet? I ask anyone who’ll listen. Where are the police? Didn’t someone call the police?

More bands arrive in unlikely vehicles, giddy and happy-go-lucky, totally unawares. There is a killer on the loose. I don’t know what to do.

fiction, news

Story published: ‘Ohotsuku-kai’

Way back in 2013, I wrote the following in a post on this very blog:

Well, I’ve just received final confirmation that the lovely folks at Stupefying Stories have indeed accepted my story “Ohōtsuku-Kai”, and that it will very likely be available for your reading pleasure sometime in the future.

Well, folks, the future is now! Fast forward to 2018 and Stupefying Stories #22 is now live and available for purchase on the Kindle for the low, low price of $2.99 (free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers). Go get you one! Or if you prefer, you can get the dead-tree version as well!

A bit of a time capsule, this one. “Ohōtsuku-Kai” was completed sometime in 2011. It was the third or fourth short story I wrote after deciding it would be a good idea to spend my free time writing short stories (note that this was back when I had way more free time.) Revisiting it now with the lucid 20/20 of hindsight, its flaws are (to me) glaringly apparent; I can only hope its charms are equally apparent to readers.

Upon rereading, I will says it’s a surprisingly ‘pulpy’ affair, more so than anything I’ve written in the intervening years. The promotional copy for this issue describes it like so:

“a terrific next-century science fiction tale set in a world in which the United States is still recovering from the effects of the Second Civil War, the Japanese, Koreans, and Russians are all jostling for position in the Chinese shadow, and someone has discovered a new power source that seems too good to be true.”

I’d like to thank editor Bruce Bethke for picking my little story out of the slush and flinging it out into the world. Working with Bruce on the copy edits was a pleasure; highly recommend, would copy-edit again. 5/5

So basically if you like stories about modern-day indentured servitude, and pirates, and aliens, you know what to do!







fiction, news

2014 in review

Hello there, and welcome to what’s become one of the cherished classics of blogging genre writers, the thinly-veiled “hey, go nominate me for a Hugo” post. Make of it what you will.

Last year I completed six new short stories, two of which are currently on submission. Not the most prolific output. Or maybe it is. I don’t know, leave me alone.

Of those six stories, exactly one has been published: “Chatarra”, Ideomancer Speculative Fiction 13.3 (Sept., 2014).

A few months earlier (June to be exact), another story of mine “Hacking ‘Wilkes-Barre PA, July 2001′” appeared in the anthology Master Minds (Third Flatiron Publishing, available from Amazon (print or Kindle) or Smashwords (other ebook formats)).

Sooo, on the off-chance that anyone out there reading this is or was a voting member of the 2014, 2015, or 2016 Worldcons by the end of the day (Pacific Time/GMT -8) on January 31, 2015–it’s a longshot, I know–why not take a minute and nominate one or both of the above-mentioned stories for a Hugo Award? Honestly, what could it hurt? Huh?

Not that I actually expect anyone to do so. Really it’s just another opportunity for me to post links to these two humble li’l pieces of genre fiction, in hopes that you might ‘Like’, comment, or even ‘purchase’ and publish a favorable review of either. So, y’know, you’ve got options.

Stay tuned for more in 2015.

fiction, news

Wow, that was quick: “Chatarra” now up at Ideomancer

What better way to return from a long and pleasant summer vacation than with an announcement like this:

My short story “Chatarra” has just been published over at Ideomancer. Go check it out, it’s me in ‘sombre’ mode.

Kind of a funny story about this one getting accepted, I’ll have to tell you about it sometime.

In the meantime, thanks to Leah and everyone else at Ideomancer. Cheers!



fiction, other

“Las maderas”

This past Sunday we went to Caixa Forum to see some free art. There was a Pisarro exhibit. There were lots of pretty paintings, it was awesome. That sounds like me being dickish, but no, it was great.

Also, and this is why I’m writing this, there was an exposition entitled ARTE FICCIÓN. Meant as like a play on words with the term CIENCIA FICCIÓN. Yeah. As in, art inspired by speculative fiction tropes, i.e. Utopía: proyecto o sistema optimista que aparece como irrealizable en el momento de su formulación. Distopía: situación ficticia indeseable en ella misma. Paradoja: idea extraña o inverosímil que se presenta con apariencia de verdad,” etc., etc. 

Anyway, in conjunction with the exhibit they had organized a “concurso de microrelatos”, a contest for “microrelatos de ciencia ficción” (sci-fi flash fiction) inspired by the artworks on display.  There were some examples printed on laminated cards next to each piece in the exhibit. I was like, “Oh, yeah, I can do this.” On the way home I inevitably got to thinking about one of the pieces I’d seen, a pair of images from Galician artist Nicolás Combarro’s  series entitled Arquitectura oculta, for example:

Nicolás Combarro

So I ran home, banged out a little “microrelato” (less than 1000 characters, they said), and went online to see how I could enter their little contest.

Turns out the contest ended on the 2nd of December. Like,  a week ago. Whoops.

But I was kind of happy with how the piece came out, seeing as how it was scribbled out in about a half-hour in a notebook, so here it is for those of you who read a little Spanish. (If not, you might try sticking it in Google Translate, might be good for a laugh.) Without further ado…

“Las maderas”

Cuando la madera se despertó, nadie lo supo explicar. Teorías había muchas, cada cual más inverosímil. Lo único que estaba claro es que una noche—una noche al parecer como cualquier otra—después de tanto años de genocidio y tortura, de bosques enteros talados o quemados, de hierros oxidados clavándose en su cuerpo a martillazos, años de soportar el peso de paredes y de casas, de mesas y sillas y crucifijos y todo lo demás, después de todo eso, todas las maderas y tablones repartidos en vertederos y almacenes allá por el mundo entero cobraron vida.

Se juntaron, formaron espantosos esqueletos de articulaciones angulosas, se congregaron en las cimas de la montañas y dentro de las cloacas de las ciudades, y allí se quedaron durante días y días, aislados de la mirada curiosa e inconsciente de los humanos, rumiando. Sedientas de venganza.

Hasta que un día se alzaron sobre sus patas alargadas e insectoides y se echaron a andar…



Here is a short piece dedicated to the end of the world. A sister piece in the series that includes “How to Talk to Aliens about Death” and “How to Wave a Flag”.


Interviewer    What exactly is your phobia, Carlton?

Carlton          Well the medical name is futurophobia.

Interviewer    And what does that mean exactly?

Carlton          It means I’m afraid of the future.

Interviewer    The future?

Carlton          Yes.

Interviewer    How long have you had this phobia?

Carlton          Since I was a child.

Interviewer    And how did it start?

Carlton          When I was five or six years old, I remember going to a friend’s house and I saw the future on the stairs. And the future was looking at me, well staring at me. I went to touch it, and it bit me. And since then I’ve always been afraid of the future.

Interviewer    What happens if you see the future?

Carlton          Well, I start to feel very nervous, my hearts beats quickly. And I have to go away very quickly from where the future is. For example, if I see the future in the street, I always cross to the other side.

Interviewer    What do you do?

Carlton          I’m a doctor

Interviewer    Is your phobia a problem for you in your work?

Carlton          Well, sometimes. On the rare occasion that I go to someone’s house on a housecall and they have a future, I have to ask the people to put it in another room. I can’t be in the same room as the future.

Interviewer    Have you ever had any treatment for your phobia?

Carlton          Yes, I’ve just started going to a therapist. I’ve had three sessions.

Interviewer    How’s it going?

Carlton          Well, now I can look at a photo of the future without feeling nervous or afraid. And I can touch a toy future. The next step will be to be in a room with the real future.

Interviewer    Do you think you will ever lose your phobia of the futures?

Carlton          I hope so. I’m optimistic. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be able to live in the future.


How to Wave a Flag

Inspired by this article:

I was watching the election results last night, thinking: I honestly cannot remember the last time I waved a flag. Maybe as a child on 4th of July, but I don’t reckon I reflected much on what it meant at the time.  Hm, imagine that, waving a flag without reflecting much on its meaning.

It’s an action that seems perfectly alien to me. Wondering how it was done, I consulted the internet. Here is what I learned, in a series of easy steps.

Step One – Obtain a flag; any flag is perfectly acceptable. No one really cares about you and your goddamn stupid flag anyway.

Step Two – Hold the flag in your hand. If you are right-handed, hold it in your right hand. If you are a lefty, put the flag in your left hand. Also, don’t drop it, moron.

Step Three – Extend your arm as needed.

Step Four – If it is a heavy flag, be prepared for the weight to wear on your shoulder. You may need to shut off the small instinctive lizard-part of your brain, the part that feels pain, in addition to the rational thinking part of your brain (if you failed to switch the latter off in Step One).

Step Five – Swish your wrist from side to side and up and down. 

Step Six – Watch your flag move gracefully in the sunlight.

Now YOU can wave YOUR favorite flag for your favorite country or organization!

  • Be sure to wave your flag with lots of spirit! Anyone seen half-assing in their flag-waving will be subject to a fine, torture or excommunication.
  • Make sure your flag isn’t too heavy, as waving it for long periods of time may strain your wrist. Some studies also show that repetitive flag-waving may kill brain cells.
  • Try not to use a flag that is burnt or torn, and don’t burn or tear a flag, as you might get your ass kicked.
  • Don’t wave a flag near someone that may become offended by it. That is just asking for it.

“How to talk to aliens about death”

Inspired by an article in the Washington Post

(OK, perhaps ‘inspired’ isn’t exactly the word, for one reason or another…)

“How to talk to aliens about death” by nm whitley

Last week, all my alien overlord could talk about was the baby panda.

He was fascinated. He called up videos of the panda on the computer, and I dug out the worn old copy of their storybook about a baby panda.

Like the rest of us, my alien visitor couldn’t wait to get a look at the cub. It was I think a wholly new concept for him, actual live mammalian birth.

Then yesterday, I read in the news that the panda had died and I gasped aloud. My alien overlord asked me why and I instinctively lied.

I told him a mosquito bit me.

Lying about the harsher realities of life, and death, comes all too naturally to me. I guess I tend to have a romantic notion of what aliens imagine the human condition to be, and I just want to keep that big, shiny bubble intact.

Experts say this is an mistake. They say leaving aliens to explain life’s questions to themselves is the stuff nightmares are made of.

There are lots of good resources on the Web for explaining the human notion of ‘death’ to aliens, detailing how to use concrete language with our literal-minded visitors and how to incorporate the conversation into a larger discussion of belief and faith with them.

My advice? Trust your aliens.

Be open and honest. They’re a lot more psychologically resilient than you think. Death is a reality that is best addressed before tragedy occurs. The death of a baby panda, soul crushing as it may be, is an opportunity. The silver lining to a dark, ominous cloud.

Have you talked to your alien overlords about the dead panda?