Welcome to Infomancy

Welcome to Infomancy.net, the website of haikuist and author Stewart C Baker.

You can read free reprinted and original fiction and poetry right here online.

If you’d like to browse around my published fiction and poetry (much of which is already free to read on external sites), check the relevant links in the menu to see a list of each.

Get in touch: Facebook | Twitter | E-mail

What the Time Traveller Said When She Appeared on Her Own Doorstep (“Last Words” Series)

We’ve all been there. Sitting at home, minding our own business, when someone knocks at the door and turns out to be a future version of yourself who’s dead or dying.

Er, wait. What?!

What the Time Traveller Said When She Appeared on Her Own Doorstep Half-Drowned and Bleeding from Three Stab Wounds, Six Gunshot Wounds, with Her Clothing on Fire

by Stewart C Baker

“You must never go to—!”

Let this be a lesson to us all: When you’re time travelling back to the past to warn yourself of your impending doom, don’t bother with full sentences in case you die before you finish them.

“No Shit, There I Was…” anthology Kickstarter, now with 100% more Baker & Dovey

Some time in late autumn last year, Matt Dovey and I both (separately) stumbled across the call for stories for No Shit, There I Was: An Anthology of Improbable Tales.

Alas, both of us were convinced we had neither the time nor inspiration necessary to write a decent story in time.

Fast-forward to mid-December, and an off-hand comment about weasels, and we hit upon a plan so mad, so daring, so genius that it was a daringly, madly genius plan: we would co-write a story!

Neither of us had ever done this before, but were we going to let that stop us? NO! No we were not.

Fortunately(?) for all of you, we succeeded, churning out the 5500-odd words of “How I Became Coruscating Queen Of All The Realms, Pierced The Obsidian Night, Destroyed A Legendary Sword, And Saved My Heart’s True Love” in a paltry 6 days.

Even more fortunately(??), we had a few brave volunteers willing to critique it on short notice despite the fact that it was December 26th. Big thanks to Martin L. Shoemaker, Krystal Claxton, Seánan Forbes, Eleanor R. Wood,
and K.D. Julicher for their speedy and insightful comments!

But here, ALAS!, our tale takes a turn for the potentially portentous. And probably pompously pretentious, if we hadn’t passed that particular point previously. Ppppppp.

The Kickstarter currently still has about $3000 to go before it successfully funds, and a little under 3 weeks to do it in.

So if you’d like to read a tale of ridiculous fantasy parody by Matt and I, as well as fine examples of storytelling and splendor from dozens of other wonderful authors, go back the Kickstarter for No Shit, There I Was! (As a bonus, today’s update features our gestalt author identity‘s origin tale.)

I mean, just look at this cover:
No Shit, There I Was: An Anthology of Improbable Tales edited by Rachael Acks

You know you want that cover.

Last Words of the Immortal (“Last Words” Series) + some shameless plugs

Immortality’s a funny thing.

There’s a long fictional tradition, as TV Tropes and Wikipedia make abundantly clear, of playing with the idea, inverting and subverting it. For instance, we have “complete immortality” (where you can’t be killed OR die) versus just the regular kind (where natural causes won’t off you, but injuries still can).

Tolkien’s elves, for instance, are regular immortal. So are most kinds of fictional vampire. Beasties like the Lernean Hydra dispatched by Hercules and his nephew Iolaus, on the other hand, are essentially unkillable and can only be inconvenienced to a greater or lesser degree by (e.g.) lighting them on fire, killing most of their mortal heads, and burying their immortal head under a huge boulder at the roadside because your name is Hercules and you’re an asshole like that.

Uh. Anyway.

I, too, like to play with the idea of immortality!

Last Words of the Immortal

by Stewart C Baker

Finally…!

Which I guess I kind of spoiled with that introduction but OH WELL, ONWARDS.

To some shameless plugs!

Shameless plug number one is that a story co-written by fellow Writers of the Future winner Matt Dovey and myself is in the currently-Kickstarting anthology “No Shit, There I Was.” Our tale is a glorious one of peril, fantastical hilarity, a magical sword welded by a kick-ass heroine who doesn’t take crap from anybody (except when she has to), true love, a soul-sucking evil wizard, necromantic basement weasels, and baby oil. Uh, but not necessarily in that order.

PLUS I MEAN JUST LOOK AT THIS COVER:
No Shit, There I Was: An Anthology of Improbable Tales edited by Rachael Acks
IS IT NOT GLORIOUS? You know you want that on your bookshelf.

Head on over to the Kickstarter! If you order a copy, lemme know in the comments and I’ll legit write you a 5-word story on a topic of your choice, following the same rules I follow for these “Last Words” stories, and post it on my blog (if you want) for all to be jealous over.

Shameless plug number two is that you can pre-order the Writers of the Future anthology on Amazon or at your fine book retailer of choice. More details about the anthology and where to order it are available atWotF32.com. (We’re still hoping to get electronic sampler copies of the anthology, so stay tuned for that…)

Writers of the Future Volume 32 “Guess My Title!” Contest: And the winner is…

Greetings and Salutations, hoo-mans!

A month ago, I posted a little giveaway for a free copy of Writers of the Future, volume 32, with the challenge being that you had to guess which of the four first-place stories was mine.

If you happened to catch the awards ceremony on the Writers of the Future website, you already know the answer: The first-place story I wrote for the anthology was: “Images Across a Shattered Sea.”

If you happened not to catch it… I just told you the answer. Shocking!

I have consulted Ye Great Random.org and LO! The RNG hath spoken.

The winner of the giveaway is none other than… Daemon H! Daemon was one of three who did in fact correctly guess which title was mine.

I’ll be in touch with you shortly to get your mailing address, Daemon.

If you are not Daemon (we can’t all be, alas), be ye not bummed! I have heard secret murmurings that Galaxy Press may be giving us electronic sampler copies to distribute in exchange for honest reviews. More about that if and when I hear. And, of course, you can always pre-order a copy from various places, as conveniently listed on the Writers of the Future volume 32 website.

Words of Jekk, Barbarian Swordsman and Armchair Scientist, Upon Meeting Blacksmith-Turned-Professional-Fighter Melissandre Miyagi in the Arena (“Last Words” Series)

I’ll be the first to admit this one is full of in-jokes. But I’m still recovering from Writers of the Future workshop week, and that’s all I have the energy for at the moment.

Words of Jekk, Barbarian Swordsman and Armchair Scientist, Upon Meeting Blacksmith-Turned-Professional-Fighter Melissandre Miyagi in the Arena

by Stewart C Baker

Ha! Your muscles are biologically—

I’ll be announcing the winner of the signed copy of Writers of the Future volume 32 later on this week. Just need to find a spare moment to sit down with the random number generator!

Last Words of Josh Jacobs, 25th-century Retro-hipster (“Last Words” Series

I am writing this FROM THE FUTURE!

Or maybe FROM THE PAST?

From the Writers of the Future gala, anyway. Hooray for automated posts.

Last words of Josh Jacobs, 25th-century Retro-hipster, upon Attempting to Ironically Use 20th-century Last Words to Draw Attention to His Dangerous Traversal of the Mega-highwire of Mars

by Stewart C Baker

Hey y’all, watch this!

(Unlike most of these little story-things, this one has not a thing to do with someone dying–it just turns the whole concept of last words on its head!)

Words Spoken by Illusionist and Outlaw Mary-Jane García Just After the Hangman Pulled the Lever on the Gallows (“Last Words” series)

No time, alas, for clever commentary this week!

Just a grisly little tale—or a magical one, depending on your point of view. (But then, isn’t all illusion and stage magic about point of view?)

Words Spoken by Illusionist and Outlaw Mary-Jane García Just After the Hangman Pulled the Lever on the Gallows

by Stewart C Baker

Now you see me, now—

Just as a reminder, you can still win a copy of Writers of the Future, volume 32, by guessing which of the four 1st-place stories is mine. Head on over to the comments of this post to leave your guess!

I’ll be away from home at the Writers of the Future workshop until April 14th or so, but there should still be a “Last Words” post going up next Monday, since I usually set them up in advance.

Unwritten Fragment of Basho’s Second Death Poem (“Last Words” Series)

Not much in the way of commentary this week, since (1) I think the genesis of this one should be fairly obvious and (2) do you really want to see me talk about haiku for 500 words?

Unwritten Fragment of Basho’s Second Death Poem, Pulled Half-Finished from His Mind and Brought Forward in Time to the Twenty-Third Century at the Moment of His Last Breath

by Stewart C Baker

No more journeying
I rest—

I said no commentary, but I guess you really have to know what Basho’s last recorded poem was for this to make sense: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matsuo_Bash%C5%8D#Last_years

On a semi-related note, I’m pondering writing a short story (and/or a piece of interactive fiction!) about a sort of magicianly warrior group who uses spoken haiku sort of like spells to create literal changes in the fabric of reality.

It sounds weird, and probably would be, but it also makes an odd kind of sense. Haiku’s all about juxtaposition. And the idea of a haiku “cutting” to create worlds is sort-of almost canonical! As I explored in a previous story.

On an unrelated note, don’t forget to guess which title in Writers of the Future is mine! You could win a signed copy of this year’s anthology.

Win a signed copy of Writers of the Future, volume 32 (plus, info about the wotf32 website)

The incorrigibly English Matt Dovey and I (although mostly Matt) have put together a website for volume 32 of the Writers of the Future anthology, which will feature a story I’ve written (the title of which cannot yet be shared).

The site features author information, illustrator information, blurbs and snippets for each story, and general information about the anthology, as well as where you can pre-order it.

Hooray!

So go check it out: Writers of the Future, volume 32.

Some time in the next few weeks, the site will be updated to feature thumbnail illustrations for each story, as well as information on which 1st place winners wrote which story.

I’d be interested to see if anybody can guess which is mine from the 4 titles featured on the “Stories” page.

In fact! Let’s do a little giveaway.

Everyone who wants to can leave a comment on this post with the title of the story you think is mine, based on the little blurb and synopsis included on the wotf32 website. You can comment with your Facebook, Google, or Twitter accounts, or with a Disqus account if you have one. Or you can comment as a guest if you don’t have any of those.

I’ll give everyone who guesses correctly 3 entries, and everyone who guesses incorrectly 1 entry, and will then randomly select one entry and mail that person a copy of the anthology signed by me and maybe a few other authors/illustrators (depending on if I can get my hands on a suitable copy during the workshop in the first week of April).

So giveaway! Much excite! Wow!

Direct links to the 1st-place stories:
Star Tree

Images Across a Shattered Sea

Squalor and Sympathy

The Sun Falls Apart

I’ll announce the winner on Thursday, April 14th here on the blog. If you want to be sure you don’t miss it, you can sign up for updates using the little “follow” button on the bottom-right-hand corner of the browser window.

(A few details:
1. I will never share subscriber e-mails with anyone, and you’ll get roughly 1 update e-mailed to you per week in the mean-time.
2. Shipping on the signed copy will be free but may be really really slow if you live outside the continental US of A.
3. You will have to give me your address at some point to receive the signed copy, should you win.
4. I will happily purchase a Kindle e-book version of the anthology for the winner instead, if they prefer.
)

Song of a Whale, Translated into Human Speech by Dr Hananakajima’s Machine at the Moment of its Harpooning (“Last Words” series)

Since August, I’ve been trying out Tempest Bradford’s challenge of limiting my pleasure reading to things not written by cisgendered straight white males.

My reading habits skew female in any case, and I have favourite authors like Jorge Luis Borges and Ted Chiang, so this isn’t much of a stretch for me. But it has led to me reading some excellent novels I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, like Karen Lord’s The Best of All Possible Worlds and Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy (which I wish I had read long ago because it is astounding).

Anyway, while I might post more about that experience at a later date, I mention it today because this week’s “Last Words” post is inspired by Somtow Sucharitkul/S.P. Somtow‘s Starship and Haiku. Which I’m surprised I never found earlier because come on. Haiku! I write those.

Song of a Whale, Translated into Human Speech by Dr Hananakajima’s Machine at the Moment of Its Harpooning

by Stewart C Baker

Painsharping… Swimdeep…

As for Starship and Haiku, it was an interesting read, if a bit dated. Never mind that, in the book, WWIII destroyed most of humanity in the early 2000s. I felt like parts of it ran afoul of the Asian as Alien trope (oddly, considering its author is Thai) in ways that probably would not be considered okay today and in ways I couldn’t quite figure out was intentional subversion or something to be taken at face value.

Allusions to Mishima—not to mention the haiku, which included fun riffs on stories from Basho biographies—on suggest that Somtow is pretty well-read in Japanese culture, anyway, which was nice. But there were times when the text seemed to unironically describe Japanese people as “inscrutable” and that’s kind of…? And the Japanese are literally descended from whales (spoiler) which means that characters in the novel (Japanese and otherwise) are constantly talking about how they are literally alien compared to everyone else on Earth. Which uh…

Anyway. It has whales. And whalesong.

And it made me feel strange when I finished reading, which is a good indication that it succeeded as a SF novel on some level even if I found the racial aspects of it problematic and its depiction of Japanese culture a bit too early-Shōwa to ring true in describing a Japan set in 2023.

Benefit of living in the future, I guess.

Bonus!

For a more recent story about a Japanese girl and dolphins (close enough to whales, right?), check out Henry Lien’s excellent “Bilingual”, which is free to read on his website.

Another Bonus!

Although this is a huge tone mismatch with this story. The name Hananakajima has been shamelessly lifted from the wonderfully bizarre Sexy Commando Gaiden: Sugoi yo!! Masaru-san, the first episode of which the bravest among you can watch in regrettably low quality here.