Two new flash fiction pieces in Remixt Magazine, volume 2

I have two original flash fiction pieces out in two separate issues of the second volume of Remixt, out yesterday!

Remixt, if you’re not familiar with it, is an experiment in publishing spearheaded by Julia Rios. Each release of the magazine pits 5+ editors against the same slush pile, and so there’s the possibility of the same piece being selected by different editors, or of each simultaneously-released issue being completely unique. You can read more about the process in Julia’s editorial here.

I sent two different pieces of flash their way back in March, and was fortunate enough to have each one appeal to one of the volume 2 editors. Huzzah!

Volume 2, Issue 3 features my story “Doge Coefficient,” a vaguely SFnal post-apocalyptic tale where the end came not in the form of zombies or plague but in sudden social collapse caused by Internet-driven language change. It’s also about learning to accept the past, and figuring out how to move forward.

Volume 2, Issue 4 features my story “What She Left Behind,” a slipstreamy kind of fantasy story which is kind of part Ovidian transformation story, part Southern Reach style weird, and part uh… learning-to-accept-the-past-and-figuring-out-how-to-move-forward. Which I guess was kind of a theme for me in these two stories for some reason.

Anyway. Go give ’em a read and check out the other fine stories featured in the various issues of Remixt, volume 2!

April/May updates: An award shortlist, a contest win, and a few new publications

I have been very bad about updating this blog lately. Gah! So, here’s April/May.

April

I had a new piece of flash fiction out in Daily Science Fiction on April 4th titled “Heisenball.” The story explores the many world theorem and takes a look at what we blame ourselves and others for, and what we do when we learn how else things might have turned out. Go give it a read! “Heisenball” by Stewart C Baker

Other exciting April news was the announcement that Futures story “Love and Relativity” was selected as one of seven finalists in my Naturethe 2016-2017 Canopus Award for Excellence in Interstellar Writing, in such luminous company as Alastair Reynolds, Aliette de Bodard, David D. Levine, and Alex Shvartsman. (And that’s just in the short story category. Neal Stephenson? Cixin Liu? AAAAAAAH!)

You can read “Love and Relativity” at Nature Futures, or listen to it in audio form at Audible, courtesy of its being reprinted in Flash Fiction Online.

Also in April, I sold a Little Mermaid retelling to an anthology of fairy tales by Fantasia Divinity. Check it out on Amazon in ebook and paperback.

And the gloriously-titled story I co-wrote with Matt Dovey, “How I Became Coruscating Queen of All the Realms, Pierced the Obsidian Night, Destroyed a Legendary Sword, and Saved My Heart’s True Love,” was released in audio form at Podcastle. If you like absurd, D&D-gone-wrong style misadventures, Listen/read online“>give it a listen! (As a bonus, you can also view the art my wife Jane drew for the story in its original publication in No Shit from Alliteration Ink. Art makes everything better! If you’d like to see her other three illustrations, you’ll have to buy the anthology.)

May

In early May, my original story “The Monsters Your Mother Still Asks About” was published in Great Jones Street. This one is a darkly humorous urban fantasy romance, complete with a ridiculous vampire, an overbearing mother who may or may not be acquainted with brooms, and–just maybe–a chance at love or something like it.

Great Jones Street also published two reprints from me: “Fugue in a Minor Key,” originally from Galaxy’s Edge, and “Images Across a Shattered Sea,” my Writers of the Future winner. “Fugue in a Minor Key” is no longer available online elsewhere, so I’m especially glad to get that one some more eyeballs.

And last, but certainly not least, just a few days ago I learned that my story “At the Edge of a Human Path” took first prize in the annual Friends of the Merril contest. The story is a retelling of a Medieval English tale, “The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle,” only set in Yamato Japan. Features fox-women, besotted lords, and devious backstabbery.

Friends of the Merril is a pay-to-enter contest, which I usually avoid, but I make an exception for this one because they use the proceeds to support a library collection of speculative fiction. Yay libraries! (And, obviously, I am very glad that I made that exception, this year!)

Phew. That seems like a lot of stuff. What will June hold? I sold two stories to Remixt, but am not sure when that comes out, and have a few other forthcoming releases, as well.

(Also, if you’re into haiku, you should go read the June issue of The Heron’s Nest. I’m the web editor, and also get to sometimes write the essay for the poem that gets the most editorial votes. This time I was privileged enough to be the one writing about an incredible haiku from Anthony Itopa Obaro of Nigeria.)

New story, “Five Recipes You Can’t Live Without” now up at Spirit’s Tincture

My flash fiction story disguised as a series of magical cupcake recipes, “Five Recipes You Can’t Live Without” is now available to read in the inaugural issue of Spirit’s Tincture magazine.

To give you a taste (get it?) that will only serve to increase your appetite (get it?!), here is a sample-sized serving (okay, I’ll stop) made up of the opening lines:

One — Vanilla-Almond and Anise Cupcakes

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. With your dead sister’s image foremost in your mind, chant an awakening spell and light a stick of absinthe-infused sandalwood afire

The story was a runner-up in their flash fiction contest, and the issue also has stories by excellent writers like Laurence Brothers, Darcie Little Badger (whose story won the contest!), Spencer Ellsworth, José Iriarte, and more!

The issue’s free to read online (albeit in one of those funky page-flipping things), and you can also buy a print version if you’re into that sort of thing. Go and check it out!

Here’s the online version:

(PS: Peltandra Sagittifolia and snakeroot are kind of toxic, so do me a favour and don’t try to reproduce those recipes in your kitchen!)

Ritual Chant of Banishment Recited by Esma de la Tour, Tenth Degree Sorceress and Inveterate Procrastinator (“last words” series)

From last week’s unrelenting bleakness, let’s move on to something silly.

It was Oscar Wilde (or perhaps his goatee-wearing evil twin from one of the mirror dimensions) who penned the words “I never put off till tomorrow what I can possibly do the day after.” Words to live by, my friends! Words to live by.

Ritual Chant of Banishment Recited by Esma de la Tour, Tenth Degree Sorceress and Inveterate Procrastinator, Upon Being Asked by Her Teacher to Disinvoke the Ninety-Legged Demon of Sqwar, Which He had Inadvertently Summoned Whilst Bathing

by Stewart C Baker

I haven’t memorized that yet!

Words to live by indeed. He says, as he comes up with another piece of microfiction the night before his self-imposed deadline…

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 AlexAcks
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…)

“Excerpt Regarding the Departed” out today at the Sockdolager

Story release day!

My story, “Excerpt Regarding the Departed from the Diagnostic and Necromantic Manual, 5th Edition is out today in the Winter 2015 issue of The Sockdolager.

This is my second time appearing in Sockdolager‘s virtual pages, and my first with an original story.

Hooray, original stories!

“Excerpt” is similar in concept to my other piece that’s appeared there, “Selections from the Aarne-Thompson Index for After the End of Things”. Both stories are told in the style of academic reference manuals, and they’re even formatted the same way, with series of numbers representing a section of the manual, and descriptive text below it. Also, both have grim and possibly inappropriate snips of humour amidst their generally depressing subject matter.

Hooray, grim and possibly inappropriate snips of humour!

While “Selections” told more of a story about story-telling, though, “Excerpt” has more of a traditional narrative buried between its lines.

So go give it a read! I’d love to hear whether you all enjoy it.

As an added bonus, I’m sharing a table of contents with excellent stories from writer friends Charlotte Ashley (“The Will of Parliament,” a tale of politics and the fair folk) and David Steffen (“Tamers of the Green,” which details the challenges of inter-species communications). You can see the full table of contents here: Sockdolager, Winter 2015 (Issue #4)

Reprint: “Selections from the Aarne-Thompson Index for After the End of Things” at Sockdolager

I’m very pleased to announce (a little belatedly) that my post-apocalyptic structuralist/meta-fictional folk tale story, “Selections from the Aarne-Thompson Index for After the End of Things,” is now available online for the first time over at The Sockdolager.

This story was first published in The Next Review‘s January 2014 issue, and I’m glad it’s getting wider exposure. It’s one of my favourites!

If you’re not familiar with the Aarne-Thompson Index, it’s a book which collects brief summaries of various folk and fairy tales and classifies them according to their subject matter.

My story basically does the same thing, but with stories that haven’t yet been told, but which conceivably might be after some sort of world-shattering apocalypse. I had a lot of fun writing it, and hope you enjoy reading it as well.

So give it a read over at The Sockdolager (if you’re so inclined) and let me know what you think of it.

Reprint: Raising Words

Raising Words

by Stewart C Baker

After we entombed my father, he transformed into a giant bird of the purest white and burst forth from the earth all holy and clean.

My mother and her co-wives, my sisters, my cousins—all followed as he soared, majestic and terrible and filled with beauty, away to the East and the sea.

I alone of the women in that place stood watching. The rest ran through plain and brush, pushing past the sharp bamboo which must have cut their feet like swords; they ran through wave and spray, unmindful of the cold wetness which wrapped their robes about them like black ocean weeds. As they ran, they sang, their high-pitched, nasal voices rising in rhythmic bursts of ritual lament to the kami my father had become.

I alone sang no songs. I alone remembered.

#

When I was very young, I used to beg my father to take me hunting. Though even then he was stern, he would always relent, the sun glinting through his jet black hair as he grinned our secret grin and set me in the bough of the sky-reaching black oak at the forest’s edge.

I loved the burst of activity as courtiers swarmed around readying horses and bows, the shouts ringing out in the crispness of the early spring air. But I loved more the way my father sat, perfectly still, astride his own horse. His own bow held loosely in his lap, he would chant the ritual blessing slowly, and with god-like calm.

I used to sit in the oak for hours and listen to the distant thrumming of bowstrings, reveling in the idea that all things were connected. In the idea that my father connected them.

#

When he slayed the warlords of the Kumaso tribe, my father received a new name. Yamato Takeru, they called him as they died. Yamato Brave.

When he returned, he had changed.

He no longer hunted, no longer held his bow. Instead, he practiced swordsmanship. He stood waist-deep in the Kino river, drawing and slicing and drawing and thrusting over and over and over again with a sword we learned he had received from his aunt, the high priestess at Ise.

He did not come to my mother or her co-wives a single time before leaving again at the Emperor’s orders to pacify the peoples of the East.

A part of him, I thought, a part of my past, was dead and gone forever. My mother cried for days, and I was filled with unease at a world unstrung.

#

We heard tales of his further exploits, this Yamato Takeru who had been my father. He smashed savages, argued with kami and gods, and struck them all down to the dead land of Yomi if they did not submit.

My mother and her co-wives received reports daily, tracking his progress with a mix of hope and trepidation.

From the boughs of the oak where I sat, alone once again, I could find no trace of former times.

#

“You will marry the Emperor’s first grandson, and raise my chance of ruling.”

Those were my father’s first words to me when he returned.

“My cousin.” I stated it flat and unflinching, ignoring my mother’s gasp.

“Yes,” my father said. “The throne’s heir.”

“And if I will not?”

My father laughed, a sound sudden and sharp, like an arrow striking wood. “You would raise words at me, girl? I have killed kami, and burned to the ground whole tribes of stinking rebels. I have subjugated the rivers, and the seas, and bent the messengers of gods to serve my own will. If you refuse, I have other daughters. Any of them can easily become my eldest.”

I set my teeth and raised my chin. “As you say, my lord father.” Keeping my words to myself.

#

But that night, I went once more to the forest.

I did not stop, as I usually did, at the foot of the oak, but walked further than I ever had before, into the untouched wilderness of the deep forest. I walked until the canopy closed overhead, then opened again to reveal the eternal patterns of the heavenly river. The air was rich with the smell of humus and rot.

I came to a mist-wreathed spring, and there I stopped, amidst the dim shapes of pines and rocks and the silent glow of distant stars reflected on its surface.

A white boar as big as a warhorse rose from the waters, its eyes unfocused and its movements calm and measured. Its form shifted as it walked, lopsided bulges of life forming on its body and sluicing away into the air with each step.

A kami. Its snout close enough that I could feel its breath on my skin, even and deep, it spoke.

woman-child, it said. what do you seek

The words echoed in my skull with the sound and thunder of trees falling. I did not reply. I did not dare.

woman-child do you seek justice

“No, I–“

woman-child do you seek vengeance

“No, I–“

do you seek . . . It paused, jaws opening slightly. death

“My father died already. What I seek is–“

your father’s death? it will come again if that is what you seek

My breath sat like a stone in my stomach; my throat burned like fire.

“Beast-god,” I rasped, “I order you stop! I, I wanted … “

leave this place woman-child, the kami said, or what you say you do not seek will come to you

Then it turned back towards the spring and, as it did so, slowly melted upwards into mist.

#

I walked through the forest for long enough to count a lifetime. I lived off mushrooms and berries, drinking from pellucid streams whose water chilled my throat and aching belly.

When at last I found my way back to the Yamato I knew, I was told that a half-moon had passed. My mother ran to me, her hair in disarray and her robes disordered, her eyes puffy and red.

“Thank the white plain of heaven,” she half-sobbed, collapsing against me. “I thought we had lost you too.”

So it was that I learned my father had been stricken dead at mount Ibuki by a massive white kami in the shape of a boar, while I wandered lost in the forest.

#

As my father’s kami vanishes towards the sea, and the wailing of my mother and her co-wives fades from hearing, I step from the shadow of my father’s new-built tomb, face his empty grave, and speak. Raising words one final time.

“I will remember you as you were,” I say, “and not as you became. Daily will I erase your divinity, ever chronicling your early, mortal life until your godly wrath is naught but legend.

“I will tell all who listen of order and calm.”

Then I turn. I do not look back at the fields and the cliffs and the mountains and the oceans of my homeland. I turn, and face the sun, and I leave that barren place in search of fertile ground.


This story first appeared in Penumbra eZine in the July 2013 issue, which was themed around Japanese mythology. You can purchase a copy at the Penumbra website.


 


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