Free fiction

Oh! What a Tangled Web (Part 2)

Pleased to announce my story, “Witch of the Weave” — featuring the further adventures of Percher and Skink in a world of colossal weave constructs — is out now in Clarkesworld Issue 159. This is the second time my work has featured in Clarkesworld, and I’m hugely relieved the first time doesn’t appear to have been a fluke.

But hold on. “Further adventures,” did I say? Of Skink and who? And what’s this about Part 2? Where’s Part 1? Did I miss something?

Let me explain.

I hope “Witch of the Weave” is able to stand on its own merits, but it’s very much a story built on the foundations of an earlier one. There’s an old adage that you should throw away the first scene of any story, or first chapter of any book you write, as these are most probably unnecessary scene setting and authorial “throat clearing” that will get in the way of the reader and the story. Well I don’t know if I would always agree with that, but there’s certainly an element of truth to it. However, it seems a bit extreme to throw away a whole story. Luckily, if you want to find out how Percher and Skink first met, and what those “clevers” and Motherman references are all about, the prequel story to “Witch of the Weave“, “Climbing the Motherman“, should be out Spring next year in DreamForge Magazine Issue 5. Then you can judge for yourself how much authorial throat clearing is going on.

In the meantime, I’m busy trying to finish the next Percher and Skink story. Certainly helps to know the first two found a home.

Clarkesworld 159 cover art: “Halo” by Derek Stenning

On The Origin of Giants

My story “On Ohab’s Land” is out in the Spring 2019 edition of Kaleidotrope. No it’s nothing to do with whales. Here’s a taster:

Grass stubble crunches beneath Ohab’s feet as he approaches the giant. The long, dry summer has baked the hayfield a deep golden brown, and late-blooming poppies sprout from between the ridges of cracked mud, nodding like amiable premonitions of blood as Ohab passes by. The last wisps of early morning mist have burned away, and crows, unfazed by the giant’s presence, flap lazily between the barrel-trunked oaks that dot the field’s perimeter.

Don’t ask me how many attempts it took to get that first paragraph just so. Many. Many attempts. No really. If you have a figure in mind for the number of revisions then I’m pretty sure it’s too low. Yes. Even that figure. Waaaaaay too low. And I’m still not sure about the extra comma or the two instances of “Ohab”. Yes, these are things that give me sleepless nights.

The story’s first-pass name was “The Origin of Giants”, a rather grandiose title from under which it could never really escape. Although “Land” deals more or less with the physical origin of giants (in this story world), it nowhere near adequately approaches the origin of true giants, those not of merely physical stature… for that you’d be better off reading something like Jose Pablo Iriarte’s The Curse of Giants. So the title had to change, and the story had to find a new heart… which I think it does, at the end. Probably it’s too optimistic of me to consider Ohab a suitable case for redemption, but in order to be a writer you really do have to put aside the pessimism now and again. Do I believe that change for the better — for people and the world — is possible? Sometimes. Yes, I really do.

“Giant” by Saryth Chareonpanichkul

Kill Cast

Mark Linsenmayer’s podcast of “Kill Switch” is now up at Constellary Tales, along with an interview with me about the story. Brian Hirt and Ken Gerber have somehow edited my voice to sound much posher and more articulate than it actually is, and boy I do not sound anywhere near as nervous as I actually was during the recording. But judge for yourselves.

Also, a great excuse to post up another great Juno image. 

Wyrd Tales

My story The Dreaming Forest is out in the first issue of dark speculative magazine The Wyrd. Download it now: it’s free, and there’s a bunch of great stories in it.

Forest is sort of a sequel to Starfish and Apples and also to Survivors, the result of a spontaneous story-in-a-day duel with RJ Barker. If the setting, of a world dominated by carnivorous trees, appeals, then here’s a taste:

On our second night in the forest, exhausted after a day spent skulking in a fern-shrouded hollow as the trees roused into terrifying activity around us, I stumble over a raised, slime-covered root. Without thinking, I grab hold of a nearby branch. The claw-tree’s thorns pierce my padded glove and my cry of pain echoes through the moonlit wood.

Good luck to the team at The Wyrd. I hope their magazine goes from strength to strength.

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The Wyrd Magazine, Issue 1, art by Jonny Lindner.

The Velna Valsis

My story “The Velna Valsis” is now up at issue #11 of Fantasy Scroll Magazine.

Herr Doktor Ostermann drops the needle. A scratchy hiss fills the decayed splendor of Charlotte’s Viennese apartment. Outside, night is falling and a crowd gathers in the plaza. There are angry shouts — “Murderers! Juden!” — the sound of dogs barking. Charlotte does not know the reason for the commotion, nor does she care; her world has shrunk to the parlor, to Ostermann’s blood-smeared smile as he turns from the gramophone and says, “Shall we dance, meine Liebe?”

“The Velna Valsis” is a dark story. Possibly the darkest I’ve written. All the more dark since it’s obvious the Velna Valsis is still being played and eagerly listened to across the world right now. Its victims and players vary and swap sides, fluid like flame, but the damage left in its wake is unmistakeable.

Someone should really lift the needle.

Inspiration came from a writing prompt featuring a photograph by the talented Robin Cristofari, together with a piece of music by Carlos D’Alessio, his Valse De L’Eden. I paired them up, put D’Alessio’s piano waltz on loop, and a little while later “The Velna Valsis” popped out. The photo is obviously not of late 1930s Vienna, and the music didn’t urge me to indulge in wanton violence, so I’m not quite sure from which strange corner of my mind this story emerged, but that’s often just how it works. At least a couple of readers have mentioned Mikhail Bulgakov. I think one said they were reminded of The Master and Margarita. I’ve not read any Bulgakov so I can’t say whether I agree, but I’ll gladly take it as a compliment.

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PS. In case you’re wondering, “Velna Valsis” is Latvian for “Devil’s Waltz”. Why Latvian? No reason other than I liked the sound of it.