January kicked off with "Screaming Timmy Must Die", my take of prepubescent supervillain hijinks, in Broadswords and Blasters:
Calvin, Dennis, and Nancy watched from atop the jungle gym. “I would run any risk,” Calvin intoned, “to be rid of this vermin. I swear this vow: from this day forth, no smile will crease my lips, nor shall my voice be raised song, while Screaming Timmy’s heart yet beats.”
“Would that I had a knife, that I might open his throat!” Dennis exclaimed.
“To class, my boys,” Nancy muttered, as the three of them clambered down. “And be watchful. Be ever alert to the arrival of the maiden called Opportunity. And should she grace you with her presence, do not hesitate to strike...”
Strange Constellations published "Wipeout," a tale of perfect persuasion and human extinction set in the world of high school policy debate:
The debate final is underway, the arguments unraveling under flickering fluorescent lights, and Connor’s shirt sleeve is unraveling with them. His clothing is threadbare, the sleeves of the suit he outgrew two years ago riding up his forearms, revealing a frayed left cuff, a missing button. Whenever his hands are left idle, they return to the cuff, picking and plucking nervously. It’s amazing, over time, how the wear accumulates, how much thoughtless damage is done.
My flash piece "Appropriate," a reflection on what it might for schools of the future to take cultural appropriate seriously, hit the airwaves via the Centropic Oracle podcast:
The poster bore an image of a tiny kitten dangling from a clothesline, hind legs kicking desperately against the abyss. HANG IN THERE, the caption read. Horatio Salazar, Westside High School Appropriations Officer, had hung the poster in an attempt to reassure the students who were summoned to his office. Occasionally, it even worked. Xinyu loved that poster, Salazar thought, back when she was Consuela. Back before her third strike. A sweet girl. But she should have known that piñatas originated in China, and that they only became “Spanish” through cultural appropriation.
The Arcanist picked up "Kill the Umpire," in which Little League Baseball goes transhuman:
The pitcher for Watkins Widgets must have had parents with actual honest-to-god paying jobs, because he’d had some splicing done. The thing dangling from his shoulder was more tentacle than arm—it had suckers on it and everything--and when he brought it around in an arc, the ball shot forward and dipped over the outer edge of the plate at the knees. The umpire’s laser marked the ball’s path, and on the back end of its titanium carapace, the red light lit up with a buzz. Strike one.
The kills keep coming, as Tell-Tale Press published "Killing Time," a flash take of postmortal ennui:
Hal lounged on, the clock marching towards lunchtime, a fading ache in his hip where the rifle had kicked. His eyes flitted to the ever-expanding freeform statue Ro Radhakrishnan was welding out of what had once been the corner streetlight; to the ornate stucco mural spreading lazily across the Mendozas’ south wall, and to the gaping hole in the curb where the neighborhood’s last hydrant had stood before somebody’d uprooted it for scrap. At length he stood and gripped the porch-rail, gazing up and out at the limitless sky, free of clouds or contrails. At the marginally-functional remains of suburbia. At the slow, steady deterioration of the elaborate infrastructure that had once been necessary to keep people alive. At an intricate spiderweb that had become a cobweb.
Arguably my highest-profile sale to date was "Cravings," which landed in Compelling Science Fiction in December. It's a futuristic police procedural, an investigation of distributive justice, and a love letter to my hometown:
Ninety miles an hour down 435. Sleek, compact, self-driving vehicles on every side. In the middle of it all, me wrestling a police cruiser into any gap I can find, with the grumblings of my partner’s stomach almost drowning out the electric motor.
I sometimes feel like I’m the only remaining human in Kansas City with a driver’s license. Every time I take manual control of a car, it’s worse. The comp-cars adjust seamlessly to the ebb and flow of traffic, but no algorithm prepares them for Lieutenant Max Simmons. Horns blare as I lurch down the road, and to hell with them; the day I can’t out-drive a circuit board is the day I turn in my badge. Everyone in this town has become a passenger, post-Rawls. I’m entitled to feel, every now and then, like there’s somebody at the wheel.
There’s more to come in 2020. January brings the grimstick weird western “The Professionals” from Broadswords and Blasters and the demi-human totalitarian fantasy “The Laughing Folk” from On Spec. In February, experience life among the Space Amish in “Prodigal” from Planet Scumm. In April, discover the extraterrestrial origins of the werewolf legend in “Shift” from J.J. Outre Review. Plus, my story of rogue climatology “Don” will be free to the public for the first time at Silver Blade, and the aforementioned Centropic Oracle will be putting out the audio version of “Wipeout”.
Point is: I rule and you should nominate me for all the awards. And Happy New Year, everybody!
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