Entertainingly Evil
11
Feb

Human Through and Through by K. A. Rochnik

The sun sets behind the row of giant pines, as I watch my manta ray son circle slowly near the bottom of the pool. I hunch at the edge, arms wrapped around my belly, like I’m bleeding from a hidden wound. I track my son’s smooth glide, intent on soaking up every inch of his dark bat-shaped body.

Last year when he was still wholly human, he darted about, dodging sharp corners by a hair, artfully prat-falling. I would put my nose in the crown of his tousled head, and savor his smell. Now I can’t tell his scent from a bucket of chum. I can only sit half-in, half-out of the pool for so long my skin never unpuckers, stinging from saltwater sores. I wait for him to circle past, reaching out to rub his velvet black head. I try to catch the silky tip of a wing as he glides by.

My husband came out earlier, to talk. He’s worried about our daughter, who’s gotten so skittish and wary, wanting to hole up in her room, burrow under her bed. I told him it’s the fox in her. A month ago she woke up with paws and a fluffy red tail. He thinks I’m neglecting her. Maybe I am, but she’s still mostly human and our son is not.

My husband’s hired a special truck with a lift and a water tank to take our son to the ocean. This time tomorrow he’ll be gone.

The light just went off in our bedroom.

I have one more night to beg the Earth, in all its infinite wisdom, to change my son back.

#
So far the animal mutations affect children on the cusp of puberty. Overnight their extremities change to that of a threatened species. In California, it’s mostly bear, mountain lion, wolf, elk, and large marine animals, like sea elephants. A family from our elementary school was on an African safari. Their four children woke with the respective tails of a hyena, lion, elephant; the last with the antlers of an impala. They never came home.

Some of us tried plastic surgery, but the animal parts grew back.

We got used to the changes. There was even talk of restarting school. Some of the parents began to feel a kind of pride, like the mother of a boy with a bristly curly tail and tusks jutting from his jaw, going on about how smart wild pigs were.

Then the children transformed completely.

Governments passed sweeping wildlife reforms all over the world. The children needed clean habitats, unthreatened by humans. No more slaughter for trophies to hang on walls or poaching for superstitious cures. No more hunting at all. We are not animals who eat our young.

I suppose you think it all worked out for the best. The Earth setting itself right, putting balance back into the ecosystem.

To you and your beloved Earth I say this. May you stew in pollution. May you wheeze on carbon emissions and choke on the mountain of plastic in the oceans.

I don’t mean it. Please bring my son back.

#
The next morning I wake up next to my husband, staring at his back without blinking, gasping for breath through slits on my neck. The pillow’s silky with fallen-out hair.

I’m mute so I take care to bite him gently, then lick at the bead of blood. There’s a sudden rustling as he turns over, then a great upheaval, with sheets flying as he jumps out of bed, eyes bulging, mouth O-shaped.

I’m sorry that he’s upset.

There’s a fin sticking out of my back. I’ve seen those awful videos of sharks hauled up on the decks of boats. Their dorsals cut off; their mutilated bodies tossed back to die. I feel a rush of excitement. My change is only fair. It’s part of things being set right.

My husband huddles in a corner, hands on his face, his shoulders heaving.

Maybe I’ll become a megalodon, the biggest shark that ever lived. That would be cool, but I don’t think it works that way, since the megalodons were extinct before humans existed. Another big predator then–a tiger or a mako. Something sleek and fast, but without the cinematic baggage of a great white.

Maybe I can have sex one last time but no, only a shark’s clasper is fitting in there. I could make pancakes for him and our daughter one last time, but I don’t have all the ingredients and I’m not up for a trip to the grocery store.

He’s calm now. He’s come back to the bed, stroking my head softly. Soon he’ll carry me to the pool. When the time comes, he’ll ride in the truck that will take me to the ocean. His lips will tickle the tough gray skin where my ears used to be, saying good-bye.

He’s a good father, and he’ll take care of our vulpine daughter, until the day she scampers away into the brush.

He’s losing his family, but I don’t think he is lost. The Earth loves all its animals right down to the microbes. Even the humans. She’ll keep some of them around, in the right amount.

Still, a part of me is sorry that he’s human through and through.

This is how the Earth answers me. Maybe it’s what I wanted all along—to drift into the ocean with my manta ray son. With a wave of his wings, he’ll glide away, disappearing in the darkness.

Then I’ll go, too, racing after the scent of some wounded creature, following the spilled blood.


K. A. Rochnik writes speculative fiction from her home in the San Francisco Bay Area, both novels and a wide range of short stories. She is most interested in exploring how technology illuminates human relationships, needs, and passions. She graduated from the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2014.




9
Feb

Alienated by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley

Three days, we’ve been on this planet. Over a year, earth-time. But we don’t talk about earth-time anymore. It weakens morale, says Sir Overgeneral Halfish.

My morale went out the window when I found out I was sentenced to be transported off planet.

I was never one of those little girls with rocket ships and toy telescopes. I had a hermit Barbie with a pink plastic cave in which she kept her 14 pairs of shoes and 13 ball gowns. I was never an explorer. I just wanted a quiet life with pretty things. A pink plastic cave would suit me just fine.

I killed my husband. I got off light: five months transport and twenty years on the colony. More than twice as long as my marriage lasted. For eight years, I wore thousand-dollar designer dresses and three-inch heels and silk scarves to hide the bruises on my arms.

Now look at me. Wearing a gray jumpsuit with neon-orange reflectors, digging up stunted purple fingerlings as a part of some insane terraforming project in the middle of system 5088b.

At least we’re not locked up; there’s no chance of escape. We have caches of dried goods and imported water tanks. We also have Sir Overgeneral Halfish, who doesn’t want anyone forgetting that this is punishment.

Orbital solar mirrors were the miracle solution to the Goldilocks problem. They say this place was uninhabitable, no native plants, just desert wasteland and solar winds. Sounds like Albuquerque to me. No one cares what might have come before.

No one but me. I see them. Bright green swirls in the darkness, hovering over the orange-brown dunes. Sir Overgeneral tells me not to worry my pretty little head, it’s just swamp gas. He doesn’t believe anything’s out there because he’s never seen anything. They don’t show up until late-shift, when we’re meant to be indoors with blinds down. They gather on the outskirts of our hovel and they watch.

So I watch back.

My married life taught me to avoid attracting attention. So I sat perfectly still, just the quiet sound of home-made purple fingerling schnapps splashing into my plastic cup. My secret still is why I’ve been out during late-shift in the first place. There’s yeast here too, not that I’ve told anyone. That’s not the point.

The point is, reconnaissance looks the same all over the universe. They formed an acid-green perimeter around our settlement and shimmered along the vegetable gardens and inched right up to the security blinds. Then they pulled back and melted into the wind-blasted dunes where the Overgeneral keeps telling me no life could survive.

I never saw any need to follow them. I figured I’ve done my bit, telling Overgeneral, Sir, I think you’ll find there was something here first. And now they come up most every “night”.

I didn’t know they even knew I was there until Warden Lecter caught me.

I was creeping back into the compound after checking my still when she sprang out from the water tanks. She’s the worst of the wardens; there’s something not quite right about her.  I mean something weird beyond voluntarily relocating to a poisonous planet to bully three dozen women.

I stood tall, hoping she couldn’t hear my heart thudding.

“You should be in your hut,” she growled.

“Yes, ma’am,” I said and turned to go. She put a heavy hand on my shoulder to stop me.

I flinched and held my hands up. When she laughed, I knew I was in trouble. Just then, the green mist shimmered around the edges of the compound.

“Shoulda thought about that before you went sneaking.” She grinned.

The green mist swirled up behind her. I twisted and bolted straight to my hut, slamming the door behind me. The only sound was my pounding heart.

Once I caught my breath, I cracked the door open. There was no sign of Lecter.

The green mist flared and then faded into the hills. I went to bed and stared at the ceiling until first bell.

The compound was in an uproar. Warden Lecter disappeared without a trace, they said. I didn’t say a word. A week later, they found her bones behind the water tanks. Not an ounce of flesh to be found, just her bones, clean as a school experiment.

I stayed inside during late-shift after that. Forget the still, my tastes of freedom. I buckled down to do my time. But the next time Sir Overgeneral Halfish sneered at me as worthless, I started thinking about that night again.

I mean, Lecter must have run when I started running, right? Even if just to catch me. So how come I got away and she didn’t? Other than they were already used to me, sitting outside, sharing the stars.

Or maybe they just don’t like the smell of my schnapps, hell if I know. But it seems like they would be good friends to keep. Shimmery scary friends that eat people, sure. But hell, I’m not exactly spoilt for choice.

So now I set my lawn chair out each late-shift, when I know everyone else is safely asleep, and I watch. The mists know I’m here. They whirlpool around my lawn chair. I figure we have a truce, of sorts. And if that truce doesn’t extend to the others, well, that’s not my problem.

The purple fingerlings are growing fine and the water tanks are hooked up with enough water to keep fifty of us going for a decade. There’s no one else here due for a while, just us and the mists. I’m happy to lure the Overgeneral out of his hut if that’ll keep them happy, maybe the rest, too.

Maybe it could be paradise here after all.


Sylvia Spruck Wrigley was born in Germany and spent her childhood in Los Angeles. She now splits her time between South Wales and Andalucia. Her fiction was nominated for a Nebula in 2014 and her short stories have been translated into over a dozen languages.  Her first novella, Domnall and the Borrowed Child, was published in 2015 by Tor.com and is available now at all good book stores. You can find out more about her at http://www.intrigue.co.uk/.  You can find out more about her at http://www.intrigue.co.uk/. This story was originally published in Nature Physics Magazine.




9
Feb

EGM Novel Submission Guidelines Have Been Updated

Please visit our submission guidelines to see our updated novel submission guidelines.

Novel submissions will be open between March 13, 2016 and May 1, 2016. Do not send your submissions before then. They will be deleted without being read.

Please read the submission guidelines carefully. Please make sure you understand them.




4
Feb

THE HAT by Barry King

(Editor’s Note: It is my sad duty to say that Barry King passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on November 18, 2015 from a massive pulmonary embolism while he was recovering from pneumonia.)

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.

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Thunder cracked as Theo scanned the traffic at the crosswalk, waiting for a gap. He was just about to risk it, when something—a top hat—blew into his face. He grabbed at it. It was the real thing: silk inside and outside, with a worn headband. He looked around at the waterlogged pedestrians around him. No hatless men in evening dress. Odd. But he was late and behind on his sales quota, so he took it with him.

It dried on his desk as he made his calls, one after another, each more depressing than the  He fidgeted with it while negotiating a tricky contractual change with Robinson-Weston, and a business card fell out. On the back, it said “thank you!”. Thinking it was the owner, he called the number at Marzden, Inc., and discovered, no, he didn’t own a top hat, but as long as Theo was on the line, there was actually a need for his company’s services. Could he come by this afternoon?

On returning, the division chief came out and shook his hand personally for landing the account.

Stunned, he took the hat home.

It sat on the coffee He examined it during a commercial. There were initials inside: G.A. Gilbert Andrews? Gilroy Ames? Thinking about his stroke of luck, he made a decision.

“You’re mine now. I’m going to keep you,” he said aloud, and went to bed without placing the ad.

The next morning, he picked it up, thinking maybe to take it with him. He took the bag instead.

He didn’t usually pack lunch, so he decided to sit in the park today. The only vacant seat was on a bench beside an attractive young woman who made room for him. They talked, and he soon learned her name was Anna Arminoff. She worked in counseling. She lived alone with her aging father, a retired performance artist, and she mostly went to films for entertainment. Theo found himself humming on his way back to work.

The next morning, there was a pair of movie tickets under the hat.

After the movie, he and Anna strolled along the canal, talking about anything that came to mind. She had been planning to go to that particular film; the director was her favorite. It was almost as if he knew her already.

The next morning, Theo eagerly lifted the hat. There was a pamphlet underneath for a craft fair. He went to the park, thinking to ask Anna to come with him, but she wasn’t there. He waited halfway through lunch, but she still didn’t show. He went to the fair himself, and was looking over some interesting ironwork, when he felt a tap on his shoulder. It was Anna.

“I didn’t know you liked this sort of thing.”

“I didn’t know either,” he answered. They laughed, and toured the fair together. She bought ice creams. He bought her a tiny rose pin made of garnets and helped her pin it on. When he dropped her off at work, she thanked him and briefly kissed his cheek. They exchanged phone numbers. He got back to work an hour late, but nobody said anything. Nobody was going to challenge the man who had landed the Marzden contract. He smiled, looking out the window. Things were looking up for him at last.

The next day was the weekend, and the hat didn’t fail to provide. The concert tickets were for that evening, and, of course, they were for her favorite band. The best seats in the house. They held hands through the concert, and walked home arm-in-arm. When they reached the point between their apartments where they had to choose which way to go, she pulled him closer and suggested his place.

Heart thumping, he unlocked the door, grateful that he’d cleaned up the night before…

He suggested martinis, which she agreed to enthusiastically. He went to prepare them. But when he came back with the drinks, there was a look of fury on her face. “You… you CREEP!”

Theo stood there with his mouth open.

“You… I don’t know what game you’re playing at, but stealing my Dad’s hat? Have you been stalking me? Did you break in and read my diary or something?”

“Your dad’s hat?”

“Yes. He’s been heartsick about it. It’s all he has left of his act—the Great Arminoff. But you’d know that, wouldn’t you?”

“Anna, no! I didn’t steal anything. I found the hat! I was going to return it,” he lied.

She stared at him a long time, then picked up her purse and went to the door.

“I don’t know, Theo. Maybe you’re telling the truth, but I’ve had enough weirdoes in my life. You’re nice and all, but knowing all this stuff about me beforehand… It just creeps me out, OK? So I’m not going to call the police, but I never, ever, want to see you again.” With that, she left.

Theo sat down, nearly on the point of tears. After a while, he turned on the TV. He drank both the martinis.

The next morning, bleary-eyed, he found, on the table where the hat had been, a small note:

So sorry, young man, to toy with your affections. But you weren’t going to get me home. I had to make my own way. No hard feelings. With regret, Great Arminoff’s Hat.


Barry King’s short stories and poetry can be found in such diverse venues as Unlikely Story, The Future Fire, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Crossed Genres, Lackington’s, and Ideomancer. The rest of him can usually be found in the kitchen when it’s not eking out a remote existence on the Internet making things go.



2
Feb

From the Editor’s Lair by Jennifer Brozek

Speculate! is now officially open for submissions. Make sure you read the guidelines carefully.

For February, we have another unintended theme of what makes us happy and how far we are willing to find it. I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do.

“The Hat” By Barry King
“Alienated” By Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
“Human Through and Through” By K. A. Rochnik
“One Hundred Years” By Gerri Leen
“Incidental” By David Versace
“Are You Receiving” By Rebecca Birch
“High as a Power Line” By Chris Galford

You can read all of our previous flash fiction at the EGM.Shorts Archive page.




30
Oct

Cover and TOC of Naughty Or Nice: A Holiday Anthology

Naughty Or Nice: A Holiday Anthology
Foreword by Jennifer Brozek
“Cold Dead Turkey” by Kevin J. Anderson
“Mistletoe” by Jody Lynn Nye
“Coming up the Chimney Tonight” by Josh Vogt
“The Kwanzaa Kid” by Maurice Broaddus
“Letters To Santa (From the Arctic Academy for Gifted Creatures)” by S.G. Browne
“The Longest Night of the Year” by Shannon Page
“Passing the Torch” by M. Todd Gallowglas
“Forged” by Peter Clines
“Sweet Peppermint Blow” by C. Thomas Hand
“Monster Mingle and Kris Kringle” by Jon Del Arroz
“The Wench Who Stole Christmas” by E.S. Magill
“He Knows When You’re Awake” by Cat Rambo
“Spam, the Spooks, and the UPS Bandit” by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
“Santa’s Bloody Reign” by Timothy W. Long and Jonathan Moon
“The Toymaker’s Joy” by Lucy A. Snyder
“By the Light of the Silvery Moon” by Rachel Caine

Cover art by Stan Shaw
Release date: November 18, 2015




23
Aug

Jennifer Brozek Accepts Position as Managing Editor of EGM

When EGM began three years ago, Katie Cord had no idea of the projects that would come her way. The initial goal was to publish three anthologies, the Three Little Words Anthology series, and a young adult fantasy, sci-fi novel, The Heart-Shaped Emblor by Alaina Ewing. Back then, it was very easy for her to be in charge of everything: directing creative content, coordinating social media, managing the behind the scenes business, working with the authors, artists, graphic designers, and editors. As time has moved on, it has become too much for one person to handle. Katie has a vision of transitioning from a small indie publisher to a larger sustainable business that creates high quality, entertaining, and engaging books for readers. To do that, she needs competent, talented people.

So, it is with great enthusiasm that EGM announces Jennifer Brozek as the Managing Editor of Evil Girlfriend Media. Jennifer currently is the creative mind behind Apocalypse Ink Production, a Hugo nominated editor, ENIE and Scribe winner. Jennifer understands the vision of Evil Girlfriend Media and has brought great flash fiction to our website with EGM Shorts.

JenniferKatieEGM20150725

Katie Cord will be crunching numbers and attending graduate school.




6
Jul

Evil Girlfriend Media Closed to Novel Submissions Until January 2016

If you love dark fantasy, science fiction and horror, you might find something to fall in love with here at Evil Girlfriend Media. Go check out our book page for more information on what we publish.

If you are shopping around a manuscript at this time, unfortunately EGM will be closed to ALL MANUSCRIPT SUBMISSIONS until January of 2016. This means we will not accept any unsolicited novel, novella or novelette works at this time. No exceptions. Any submissions received will be deleted unread.

Although we are closed to manuscript submissions, Evil Girlfriend Media is still accepting flash fiction for the EGM Shorts. Please read the latest “From the Editor’s Lair,” to see what our editor, Jennifer Brozek, would like to see more of.

Good luck and we hope to see your finished manuscript in January.




31
Oct

2015 Publication Schedule

Evil Girlfriend Media is excited to announce our 2015 publication schedule. In the next couple of months, we will bring you interviews with authors, excerpts, and opportunities to obtain advanced copies of books.

JANUARY

Apocalypse Girl Dreaming by Jennifer Brozek

AGDcover

 

 

The Archivist by Tom D Wright

Archivist-cover-front

Rachel by Dobromir Harrison

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Murder Girls by Christine Morgan

(Cover Coming Soon)

NOVEMBER

Naughty or Nice: A Christmas Anthology edited by Jennifer Brozek with Jon Del Arroz

(Cover Coming Soon)

 

There Are No Heroes In This Book by Timothy W. Long

(Cover Coming Soon)

 

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20
Oct

Coming January 2015 Jennifer Brozek’s Apocalypse Girl Dreaming

AGDcover

 

Evil Girlfriend Media is pleased to release the cover of Apocalypse Girl Dreaming, a short story collection, by Jennifer Brozek. This collection features dark speculative fiction ranging from tie-in stories in the Valdemar and Elemental Masters worlds, weird west horror to satirical science fiction to urban fantasy with a horrific bent. Cover art by Fernando Cortes with graphic design by Matt Youngmark.

Apocalypse Girl Dreaming is out January 16, 2015 in e-book and paperback.




18
Apr

INTERVIEW: SEANAN MCGUIRE

 

An Interview with Seanan McGuire

By Jen West 

thelambs

 

 

Seanan McGuire’s “The Lambs” kicks off the Bless Your Mechanical Heart anthology from Evil Girlfriend Media with a near-future story of covert surveillance used as a tool for deterring school bullying. Beven is a “lamb”, a robot disguised as a human teenager who has been embedded within the local school system since first grade. Designed to be an easy target for intimidation and harassment, she interacts with her fellow students as if she were human, all the while monitoring and recording any abusive behavior for public playback at graduation. But when a former friend falls in with a group of bullies, her desire to protect her friend conflicts with her programming to be a snitch.

Seanan McGuire’s prolific works include two popular urban fantasy series: October Daye series and Incryptid series, both from DAW. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of anthologies, magazines and websites. She also writes horror as Mira Grant, and her novel Blackout earned a 2013 Hugo nomination.

Seanan is no stranger to the Hugo ballot or breaking records. In 2012, she became the first woman to have her name listed 4 times on the same Hugo Ballot. Then in 2013, she became the first writer, male or female, to have her name listed 5 times on the same Hugo ballot. In 2013, she and her colleagues at SF Squeecast took home the Hugo for Best Fancast.

Writing is not Seanan’s only tool in her bag of tricks. She is also an avid cartoonist and a seasoned filker having released several albums of original music since 2009.

J: In “The Lambs,” you address a growing public concern around school bullying. How big a problem do you think school bullying is today?

S: I think it’s a huge problem. When I was in school, the bullies couldn’t follow you home without revealing themselves to your parents. Now, thanks to social media and cellphones, there’s no getting away. It’s terrifying. I’m not surprised that we’ve seen a rise in teen and preteen suicides; I’m surprised it hasn’t been more extreme.

J: Did you draw on any of your own personal experiences from high school to write this? What was high school like for you?

S: High school was fine. Middle school was where the monsters were.

J: There was a line in “The Lambs” that jumped out at me: “Pretty girls were more likely to inspire outright rage when they hovered at the bottom of the pack, while girls who were considered unattractive inspired pity and disgust, but would eventually be allowed to fade into the background.” Do you think that is a universal truth in high schools? And where do you think teenagers learn this kind of pack behavior?

S: I don’t think there’s any one “universal truth” to bullying. If there were, there would be one right way to end it, and we would live in a kinder world now. I do think that we learn very quickly that the world is supposed to be easier for pretty people, and that this can inspire negative responses when we see that this truth is being denied. Pack mentality is a terrifying thing.

J: The “lambs” are inserted into schools like spies, which evokes a feeling of “Big Brother” is watching them. Do you think a bullying surveillance system is the answer to today’s real life bullying problem?

S: I don’t think we have the ability to set up this sort of passively positive monitoring, no. It would be the baby NSA, and kids would wind up being used to report on their parents. That’s the nice thing about fiction: I only have to focus on what I want to.

J: Why did you choose to have the robots disclose the bullying at graduation rather than immediately after it happened?

S: Bullies have always balanced action with risk. “I can attack that kid, but maybe she’ll tell.” By making bullying a big reveal at graduation, from what is seen as an unassailable source, they know that they can’t hide their actions from either their parents or authority figures. That’s much scarier than one detention they can forget about in a week.

J: In 2012, you were the first woman to appear on the Hugo Ballot four times. In 2013, you were the first person, regardless of gender, to appear on the Hugo Ballot FIVE times. Can you describe what that feels like from both the perspective of a writer and also as a woman in a generally male-dominated genre?

S: It feels like an inbox full of death and rape threats. It feels like people accusing me of excessive self-promotion while ignoring my male peers who did three times as much self-promoting. It feels like crying myself to sleep every night over something that should have been a joy and a delight. So yeah, it’s great.

J: That sounds very disheartening when you’ve put so much effort into your work. It almost sounds like being bullied. What keeps you writing and publishing amidst all the negativity?

S: I feel like we throw the word “bully” around so much these days that it’s losing all meaning. I do think there’s a lot of resistance to women breaking into certain areas, and that the backlash we face is much greater than it ought to be. But I am a grown woman who can step away from her computer. I have felt attacked. I have felt singled out. I have not been bullied. As for why I keep going, why would I start letting people tell me how to live my life now? I never let them before.

J: Do you have any advice to give other women trying to break into writing science fiction and fantasy writing?

S: Be kind. We are all in this together, and it’s not a zero-sum game. Make friends, take advice, and stand up for other women; you’re going to want them to stand up for you. Don’t let anyone walk all over you, but don’t attack for the sake of attacking, either.

J: What projects do you have in the hopper that we can look forward to?

S: The next October Daye book will be out in September; Sparrow Hill Road is coming out this May; and Symbiont comes out in November, under the Mira Grant byline.

J: Thank you for spending some time with us.

 

seananmcguire

 

 

 

Seanan McGuire writes a lot of things, sometimes under the name “Mira Grant,” but mostly as herself. She does not sleep very much. In high school, she was once pushed into moving traffic by some kids who thought it was funny. This, among other things, inspired her story for this book. Seanan likes cats and Diet Dr Pepper and corn mazes, not in that order. Learn more about Seanan here: http://www.seananmcguire.com/.

 

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Jen is a freelance writer in constant search for the next interesting character or story. Her interviews have appeared in such venues as Tor.com, Shimmer, Internet Review of Science Fiction, The Nebula Awards web site and Fairwood Press’s interview collection, Human Visions. She currently resides with her brilliant writer husband, Ken Scholes; the Wonder Twins, Lizzy and Rachel; two pudgy cats, and an intellectually ambiguous dog in St. Helens, OR.




16
Apr

GUEST POST: PETER CLINES

 

Mr. Roboto, Or: How Peter Clines Learned to Stop

Worrying and Keep Loving Robots

 

gammaI grew up with robots.  They surrounded me.  In movies and television shows, on cartoons, in books.  I had robot toys and models.  Androids, astromechs, Orbots, Shogun Warriors.  I was one of those kids who couldn’t wait to be an adult, because all the available literature (comics) told me by then I’d be able to have a robot best friend.  At the very least, a robot dog.  I also had rather extensive plans to build giant robots for the Army.  Which I would pilot, of course.

My childhood, it turns out, was a complete lie.

But I never did get past my fascination with robots.  It doesn’t matter if they’re  clockwork men, android cops, or just snap-together Gundam models.  Robots will always get my attention.

One of my favorite real-life historical robots was the Mechanical Turk.  I first discovered it sometime around third or fourth grade, and it reinforced the belief that a robot best friend had to be just around the corner.  It was a late 18th century automaton that could play chess at master levels, and it played games against Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin.  Decades letter it was revealed to be a fraud, but the idea of a chess-playing robot stuck with me.  Some people imagine dogs playing poker.  I imagine robots playing chess.

I also always liked “the parlor scene,” that bit in many turn of the century stories where the characters would gather around a fire, have drinks, and talk.  Perhaps some of them would play cards or checkers.  The Time Machine by H.G. Wells opens this way, with the characters discussing time travel with their host after dinner.

And at some point—I’m not even really sure when—the image in my mind became Victorian robots in smoking jackets and vests, some with bow ties while others wore ascots. Maybe one with a pipe and another with a glass of some robot-beneficial liquid.  And, naturally, they played chess.

So when Evil Girlfriend asked me about a robot anthology, well… it wasn’t hard to come up with something.

 

 

 

peterclinesPeter Clines is the author of the Ex-Heroes series and the acclaimed, genre-blending -14-. He grew up in the Stephen King fallout zone of Maine and made his first writing sale at age seventeen to a local newspaper. His first screenplay got him an open door to pitch stories at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Voyager. He is the writer of countless film articles, The Junkie Quatrain, the rarely-read The Eerie Adventures of the Lycanthrope Robinson Crusoe, and the poorly-named website Writer on Writing.

He currently lives and writes somewhere in southern California, where he has been known to relax by doing basic maintenance on robot vacuums. So take that, Mrs. Goodell—he did become a robot repairman. “The Apocrypha of Gamma-202” is his homage to classic ‘50s sci-fi with a steampunk twist. He currently lives and writes somewhere in southern California.




15
Apr

GUEST POST: Lillian Cohen-Moore

We Get By With A Little Help From Our Friends

(Katie’s Impromptu Title For This Guest Post)

 

imperial

Defining personhood, the concept of when we legally and biologically recognize the sentience and autonomy of another being, is one of those concepts I can’t set down. In The Imperial Companion, it’s one of the essential challenges of the story. Two humans from different worlds are helping an android, only one of which accepts androids as equal to humanity. I had a lot of other stuff on my mind while I was writing the story; faery tales, Western colonialism, recent advancements in emotions of artificial intelligences.

The android Imperial Companion Aleksei is seen by his designers as equal to any human adviser of the man he called his dearest friend. After a mysterious attack on the man he has faithfully served, the two are separated. He has to function on a world full of human/android tension to find him. Though his problems are about species, technology, and faith, I think Aleksei’s problems are as human as our own. We all struggle to be recognized as people; intelligent, and possessed of autonomy. Moving heaven and earth to help our loved ones is something we want to do to keep them safe, because the alternatives are unimaginable.

And, like Aleksei, we often need help from those around us to navigate an increasingly complex world.

You an pick up BLESS YOUR MECHANICAL HEART here: BUY A ROBOT TODAY!!!

 

 

 

 

lilliancohen_moore

Lillian Cohen-Moore is an award winning editor, and devotes her writing to fiction, journalism and roleplaying games. Influenced by the work of Jewish authors and horror movies, she draws on bubbe meises (grandmother’s tales) and horror classics for inspiration. The Imperial Companion came from a confluence of topics; current research related to the emotional range of artificial intelligence, colonialism in Western history, and dangerous faery tale journeys. 




13
Apr

GUEST POST: KEN SCHOLES

Mechanicals and Wizards and Gypsies,

Oh My,

Or Round-Up at the Robot Rodeo

 

ofmetalmen
Image copyright Allen Douglas.
Used with permission of the artist.

 

“Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise” was one of those accidents of story that I fell into and had no idea how important it was.  In 2005, just after learning I’d won the Writers of the Future contest, I saw that a small press ‘zine was calling for stories for a special “mechanical oddity” issue.  Back in those days, I was dashing off stories left and right with little thought other than to land yet another tale in the boat and then find it a home out in the world.  I had been playing with a bit of lyric:  “Rudolfo rode to Glimmerglam in the Age of Laughing Madness” and it was laying around the factory floor when Leroy, my redneck muse, started twisting it up with whatever else he could find to fashion a mechanical oddity story.  The first line showed up fast and easy:  Rudolfo’s Gypsy Scouts found the metal man sobbing in an impact crater deep in the roiling smoke and glowing ruins of Windwir.

From there, the story took off and wrote itself over several lunch breaks spent nibbling tuna fish sandwiches at the Big Town Hero near my day-job office in downtown Portland, Oregon.  Robots.  An ancient wizard.  A dashing Gypsy king and his Wandering Army.  A fallen city.  When I finished “Of Metal Men…”, I learned that the magazine calling for those mechanical oddity stories had received their fill early and closed to submissions.  But that was okay, I told myself, because it really wasn’t that great of a tale.  It felt a little different and the world and characters seemed a little different from my norm.  But all in all, “Of Metal Men…” just slid off my to-do list and into my done pile with little fanfare and no expectations for it.  It found its way out the door in search of a market and was largely forgotten about until the next fall when Doug Cohen pulled it out of the Realms of Fantasy slush pile, passed it along to Shawna McCarthy, and turned it my first pro-level sale after Writers of the Future.  Still, until Allen Douglas hit me in the head with his art for the story, I had no clue of the story’s importance.

Writers are weird.  Ask any of us.  I’d gotten in the habit of occasionally Googling the titles of my short stories.  Sometimes it led to nice reviews I’d not seen while Googling my name.  Yes.  Weird.  Fortunately, you run out of time for that kind of stuff later.  Mostly.  But anyway.  On a lark, for no good reason at all, in the deep of winter with the story not coming out until spring at the soonest, I plugged in the title of my story while sitting in my cubicle at work.

 This is what came up.

If you know me at all, you can guess what I did.  Yep.  I cried.  Right there in my cubicle.

Art has always moved me, even before my stories started connecting up with artists.  It was especially surreal and powerful to see what an artist did with my words and I have several examples here in my house now.  What Allen Douglas did changed my life.  Because when I saw that image of Isaak, kneeling in the crater, weeping as the smoke poured off his back, I knew there was much, much more to that metal man’s tale.  My short story turned into…wait for it…four short stories!

I knew it in an instant.

Four interconnected stories about this survivor of Windwir and the impact of his programming upon Rudolfo’s world.  Of course, from there – a story too long to tell here – it evolved slowly into my series, The Psalms of Isaak.  The first two short stories comprised the beginning and end of the first volume, Lamentation.  And then the third and fourth stories (unwritten) became anchoring ideas in the second and fourth volumes.  The rest just kind of grew to fit the size of story bucket Leroy had in mind.  As I write this post, I’m now within a few months of finishing the final volume after a nine year journey with Isaak, Rudolfo and the Gang.  That first novel led to an agent and a five book contract with Tor within thirteen months of sitting down to write it.  And it led to the books coming out here and overseas to a lot of nice words and even a few awards.  From short story to writing career in thirty seconds, so to speak.

Part of the series’ success – and the story’s success, I think – is Isaak himself.  I’m often told by fans that he is their favorite character.  He’s also a character whose point-of-view we never experience.  We see him only through the eyes of the humans he’s met along the way.  I’ve been told how clever I was to honor Dr. Asimov with the name of my robot and maybe Leroy really was being clever.  I actually chose the name because it means ‘laughter’ (approximately) and I thought a weeping robot named laughter was a nice twist.  Leroy, obviously, is vastly more clever than me.

And Isaak weeps for what he’s done.  A mechanical who had no ambition for becoming human, he’s thrust into an innocent, awkward humanity from his first entrance onto the page and becomes a central figure over the course of five books.  At the time, I thought nothing of it.  Now, I can see clearly the homage I was paying to all of the metal men who’d influenced me.  Baum’s Tin Woodman grabbed me first, followed closely by Lester Del Rey’s Max in Runaway Robot,  C3PO (Star Wars), and Twiki (Buck Rogers)  showed up soon after.  There were more over the course of decades of science fiction but those are the first that leap to mind.  They were the ones I laid awake at night wishing I could build and then take to school with me.

So when Katie Cord decided she also wanted to pay homage to all the robots she’s loved and turned Jennifer Brozek loose to round up stories for Evil Girlfriend Media’s Bless Your Mechanical Heart,  I was thrilled to be invited to that rodeo.  I hope you’ll pick up your copy today and see what they’ve put together for you!

 

 

 

trailerboy_2

Ken “Trailer Boy” Scholes is the critically acclaimed author of four novels and over forty short stories. His series, The Psalm of Isaak, is being published both at home and abroad to award nominations and rave reviews. Publisher’s Weekly hails the series as a “towering storytelling tour de force.”

He is a winner of the ALA’s RUSA Reading List award for best fantasy novel, France’s Prix Imaginales for best foreign novel, and the Writers of the Future contest.

Ken is a native of the Pacific Northwest and makes his home in Saint Helens, Oregon, where he lives with his wife and twin daughters. You can learn more about Ken by visiting www.kenscholes.com.




10
Mar

BLESS YOUR MECHANICAL HEART COVER REVEAL

BYMH-3c

 

Artist Larry Dixon tells us about his design for BLESS YOUR MECHANICAL HEART:

I used the scale of the heart compared to the droid to represent a problem that was too big to fix.  The heart’s interior and the frayed circuitry are extremely delicate, and bright and beautiful, and a tangle.  The heart’s centerline is a visual play on the classic “broken heart” design of a jagged break, except of course, this bifurcation is part of that heart’s intended styling, a statement that hearts are in fact designed to appear broken, and be deeply accessible, as part of their function.

The droid’s lighting is red while the heart is blue, indicating incompatibility.  The droid’s 1950s-styled chromework has a patina like untended trim on a classic car, and is dented up, to represent that the droid’s been through a lot, but aside from that there’s no visible damage. Love’s like that.  I also went with the droid’s “skin” as black silicone rubber because, call me crazy, but I’d want my droids to be waterproofed.

The background has a zoom blur, a lot like a camera pull, to draw the eye more to the figure’s head.  There’s also a shadowy image of a ruined building behind it to give the impression that something’s gone badly, shown corner-on to bring to mind a cathedral by its symmetry.  It’s a strong vertical, to push the eye down (from where a title block will no doubt be) to an unseen, but felt, horizon line that grounds it. Lastly, though, the whole thing is engulfed from the sides by utter blackness, not to show dread or evil, but rather, a lack of information while the droid ponders the heart.

Find out more about Larry Dixon at  http://www.gryphonking.com/.

 

We are excited to release this anthology mid-April. If you are in the Seattle, WA area, plan to attend our book release party at NORWESCON 37.

 

Best Always,

Katie




10
Feb

EAT YOUR HEART OUT: AN AUTHOR EXTRAVAGANZA

eatyourheartout

Don’t make us eat your heart out, get over to the event page!

 

VALENTINE’S DAY.

Yeah, it is a day for many that represents love, candy, flowers, and if you’re lucky… some really other great stuff. But for some of us, it represents other things: zombies, vampires, psychological terror, and really great stories. So, whether you’re looking for an inexpensive gift for your significant other, or something to distract yourself from all those people celebrating a holiday you could care less about. Come on over to the Facebook event, EAT YOUR HEART OUT: AN AUTHOR EXTRAVAGANZA. It is a great place to talk with some of the hottest indie authors and publishers (including us).

 

booklineup

 

THE LINEUP

Rachel Aukes-100 Days in Deadland
A. Carina Barry-The Under-Circus and Other Tales
Owen Baillie-Aftermath (Invasion of the Dead, Book 1)
Jake Bible: Z-Burbia
Tonia Brown-Devouring Milo
Jason Christie-Zombie Killa
Joseph A. Coley-Six Feet From Hell: Crisis
Eli Constant-Dead Trees
Ricky Cooper-Designated Infected
Evil Girlfriend Media-Stamps, Vamps & Tramps
Craig DiLouie-The Retreat, Episode #1: Pandemic
Jackie Druga-Zombie Battle: Complete (5 books)
Dan Eagles-The Last Venture Capitalist
Kurt Fawver-Forever, In Pieces
Sarah Lyons Fleming-Until the End of the World
Rhiannon Frater-The Untold Tales Omnibus: Zombie Stories From the As The World Dies Universe (3 volumes)
Michael S Gardner-Downfall
Josh Hilden-The Shores of the Dead Book 1: The Rising
Michelle Kilmer-When the Dead & The Spread (2 books)
Eloise J. Knapp-Pulse
Sb Knight-Game of Straws, Game of Straws Origins, and Volume One of the Saga of Straws (trilogy)
Timothy Long-At the Behest of the Dead
Keith Milstead-Fish To Die For
Ripley Patton-Ghost Hold
Claire C. Riley-Odium: The Dead Saga
Damir Salkovic-The Black Ziggurat Double Feature
Randy Spears-Forget the Alamo: A Zombie Novella
Rachel Tsoumbakos-Emeline and the Mutants
Jack Wallen-I Zombie I
Darren Wearmouth-First Activation

 

ABOUT OUR SUBMISSION

 

SVTad

Click here for some vampire goodness!

On the day of lovers and lonely hearts, we will be releasing our third Three Little Words anthology. It is a sweet, sweet gift to ourselves. The tone of this antho, like the other two, not only reflects the theme but also the editor. Shannon Page and Monique Snyman both came to their anthologies with a different world view which included their location, personal belief system, and the type of story they enjoy. Shannon Robinson is no different. Shannon R. is born out of a literary world that enjoys telling, play on words, long paragraphs, and beautiful metaphors. We at EGM look at our anthos and think, “Wow”.  We have stories from all over the world in these books. In our third anthology, it is an honor and privilege to publish stories by best-selling authors, award winners, and a couple newcomers that are on the rise. We hope that you purchase this anthology, leave us a review, and give us a bloody good Valentine’s Day.

What a talented lineup!

What a talented lineup!

Don’t get your heart ripped out.

Best Always,

Katie

 




29
Jan

BLESS YOUR MECHANICAL HEART

In the summer of 2012, I attended the Cascade Writer’s Workshop in Vancouver, WA. It is a Milford Style Workshop geared mostly towards science fiction, fantasy, and horror writers. In my group, a tall guy who dressed in a black suit wrote the most amazing old-school science fiction story. I sort of gushed over it. In the end, I felt myself saying, Bless your mechanical heart, regarding the main character. The story had all of the things I love: deep character, ethical and moral dilemmas, and the feel of a time in science fiction from before I was born.

Forward to 2013, I’m at one of the biggest comic book conventions in the world with a fellow writer. I’d recently met him at another con (he’s sort of weird, likes zombies and superhero stuff, what a concept).  He loves Gundam robots and to see his face light up as we passed display after display was such a treat.

A week later, I met Jennifer Brozek, an editor I’d followed on Facebook for years. She seemed sharp, liked the same things as me, and then the idea hit me. Let’s make an anthology of robot stories together and use a phrase ingrained in the Wernicke’s area of every southern woman’s brain, “Bless your heart”.

According to the urban dictionary, the phrase “Bless your heart” can mean anything from calling someone an idiot without being harsh, to a polite way to tell someone to go to hell, or even for them to f— off.  For me, this held true as I grew up as a child. As the nerdy overweight girl who wore thick glasses and read way too many books, “Bless your heart” was said constantly to me. I use it now for all of the above and even to tell people how sorry I am about a situation they may be going through without making them feel uncomfortable.

Regardless, Bless Your Mechanical Heart is what happens when an excellent editor and a southern gal who loves classic science fiction get together.  Jennifer and I love this concept and are excited to have the opportunity to publish the authors involved. We have pulled together a wide range of voices from urban fantasy authors, game writers, and pop culture sensations.  We hope you enjoy what we’ve cooked up.

 

BLESS YOUR MECHANICAL HEART

 Edited and Introduction by

Jennifer Brozek

THE LAMBS
by Seanan McGuire

THE KING’S OWN
by Fiona Patton

THE STRANGE ARCHITECTURE OF THE HEART
by Lucy A. Snyder

THIRTY-TWO, TWENTY-THREE
by Jean Rabe

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN THE BUTTERFLY WAR
by M. Todd Gallowglas

EVER YOU
by Mae Empson

REST IN PEACE
by Sarah Hans

SEEDS OF DEVOTION
by Dylan Birtolo

THE IMPERIAL COMPANION
by Lillian Cohen-Moore

IN SO MANY WORDS
by Christopher Kellen

WE EAT THE HEARTS THAT COME FOR YOU
by Jason Sanford

DO ROBOTIC CATS PURR IN SPACE?
by Kerrie Hughes

AIDED
by Minerva Zimmerman

THE BODY AS A SHIP
by Mark Andrew Edwards

OF METAL MEN AND SCARLET THREAD AND DANCING WITH THE SUNRISE
by Ken Scholes

LOST CONNECTIONS
by Jody Lynn Nye

THE APOCRYPHA OF GAMMA-202
by Peter Clines

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COMING SOON! 

Keep watching for the full cover by Larry Dixon.




1
Jan

Year Two Begins

Happy Anniversary

Today is our one year anniversary of opening and we are so proud to have published three books. The talent we’ve brought in includes: Clarion graduates, Writers of the Future winners, Nebula nominees and winners, and rising stars in both traditional and indie publishing.  Our editors, Shannon Robinson, Shannon Page, and Monique Snyman worked diligently with our authors to provide work that we could all be proud of. This is one of our major goals in 2014, continue to provide readers with high quality entertaining books

 

So, to start the new year out right, here is a little bit of what we have coming up. Some of the information is vague for a reason, but we are excited to share.

 

February 14th, we’ll release our third THREE LITTLE WORDS anthology, STAMPS, VAMPS & TRAMPS at the event EAT YOUR HEART OUT: An Author Extravangza.

 

eatyourheartout2

Poster by Eloise Knapp

 

If you haven’t seen the Table of Contents for STAMPS, VAMPS & TRAMPS on our social media, we are very pleased with this collaboration of talent. We plan to release the cover within the next two weeks and a couple of advanced e-books for review. If you’re interested in reviewing, contact us at info@evilgirlfriendmedia.com.

 

STAMPS, VAMPS & TRAMPS

A Three Little Words Anthology

INTRODUCTION
by Shannon Robinson

FROM THE HEART
By Kella Campbell

SIDEPONYTAIL
By Lily Hoang 

SUMMER NIGHT IN DURHAM
By Cat Rambo

ONLY DARKNESS
By Paul Witcover

HIS BODY SCATTERED
By Adam Callaway

THE HUNGRY, LIVING DEAD
By Nancy Kilpatrick 

THE WHOLE OF HIS HISTORY
By Barbara Barnett

THE LIGHTNING TREE
By Carrie Laben

HIS FACE, ALL RED
By Gemma Files

A VIRGIN HAND DISARM’D
By Mary Turzillo 

FLIES IN THE INK
By Megan Beals

STABILIZATION
By Dan Parseliti

FOLLOW ME
By Christine Morgan 

MUNGO THE VAMPIRE
By Sandra Kasturi 

EASY MARK
By Rachel Caine

JOSEPHINE THE TATTOO QUEEN
By Joshua Gage

We hope that you’ll join the event on February 14th and purchase this anthology packed with ink, fangs, and wanderers.

In other news, Jennifer Brozek’s anthology, BLESS YOUR MECHANICAL HEART is on course to be released mid-April and we hope to have the table of contents by February. This anthology was not open to unsolicited submissions.

 

Katie has also made an executive decision to only produce one THREE LITTLE WORDS anthology each fall. As much as she loves anthologies and highlighting new talent, we want to focus on e-novellas and full length manuscripts for fans.

 

We will open again to submissions on January 7, 2014.  Please keep in mind, we have a 90-120 day turn around on submissions.

 

shutterstock_92440381




22
Dec

A Christmas Gift from Evil Girlfriend Media and Ken Scholes

ken story

What Child is This I Ask the Midnight Clear

 By

Ken Scholes

 

It could have been snow, gently drifting down.  It could have been virgin white and cold as cold.  But it wasn’t.

It was ash and the night wind was hot upon me.

That’s what I remember now when I go out.

That first year when the world was on fire and we slipped over the broiling skin of it, we brave nine.  We ran the course all night but found nowhere to land.  For the first time ever I did not stop.  Not one place.  And all the while, as we slid through that broiling night, I kept humming that song.  The one about the star, the star.  Dancing in the night.

Tail big as a kite.

The end had come suddenly and they’d managed to do it to themselves.  I’d always known they would.

#

I’m airborne now and the past falls away.  The ash has long settled and it’s really snowing again.  We’re not as loaded down as we’ve been in the past but that will come in handy later.  Times have changed.  The list has changed, too.  And so has my work.  Naughty and nice are blurrier now so I’m less meticulous in checking.  I do the right thing, instead.

I don’t have to crack any whips or give any whistles.  We build speed to bend time around us.  We’ll do a year’s work this night and then we’ll sleep a while.  I check the ammunition in my assault rifle and loosen the strings on my sack.

Then we start landing here and there and I’m out doing the right thing.  Books for a library in Vancouver.  Needles and a whetstone for a circuit rider in Laramie.  We haul a starving family out of a dead mountain town in Oregon and assassinate a white supremacist who was building a skinhead army in Maine.  A handful of twelve-gauge shells for Leonard in Saskatoon.  A bottle of aspirin in Bo Phut, Thailand.  And so on.

We’re just turning north for home when we see the light.

A star, a star, dancing in the night.  Tail as big as a kite.

It builds and then blooms, a piercing white over the horizon to the east.  I shield my eyes and look homeward, then back into the light.  Is it a bomb?  Another crazy moving the world deeper into the hole it has fallen in?  Or a satellite falling from orbit?  Either way, it’s worth looking into.

I steer east and take us low.  As I draw closer, the light shrinks to a concentrated point of brilliance and I aim for it.  We pick up speed and rip open space-time for a split second.  Then, we bear down upon the town that sleeps beneath that unexplainable, spontaneous star.

There in the glory of that bright light, a child screams.

#

She is not on my list.  I’ve made no stops in this feral country in over a decade.  But I hear her screaming and it is as piercing as the star above.  I unsling my rifle and we drop right there to hover over what used to be a schoolyard.  I don’t know what I was expecting.  Someone being harmed.  Someone being carved up into pieces by primates gone horribly wrong.  I work the lever and feel the solid clunk of a chambered round.  Slipping my gloved finger around the trigger, I use my thumb to move the switch to three-round-burst and then I hit ground with a thud.  I race across the open concrete, stepping over the frozen clumps of gray weed and watching my breath billow into the cold night air.  The screaming stops.  I hear heavy breathing instead now.  Panting.

What are they doing to her?  I feel a rage coming on as the screams start again.  I push it down and use it to feed my focus.

Do you hear what I hear, the song asks.

I hear it, I answer.

They rape the world the same way they rape each other.

They kill the world the same way they kill each other.

No list to make or check here.  I am bent on violent righteousness when I kick down the makeshift plywood door propped up to keep the wind out.

Someone has turned the old lavatory into shelter but it has gone badly for them.  The boy lies cold and still and bloody.  The girl’s screams change from pain to terror when I storm into the cluttered room and I suddenly know that things were not what they seem.  I see her, in the corner, squatting in a nest of blankets.  Her brown hair is long and dirty.  Her brown eyes are wild and frantic.  The blankets are stained with blood and I understand why.  Pale and shaking, her eyes go wide as she sees me standing over the cold body of her dead mate, light spilling around me into the room.

Another contraction and she screams again.  I turn, run for the medical kit beneath the driver’s bench.  When I return, I go in slowly with my rifle slung and my hands up showing the kit.  “I can help you,” I tell the girl.

Her eyes roll and she tries backing away from me but falls back into the corner.  Her breath heaves out in ragged gasps.

“I’m a friend.”  I keep my voice low and assuring, just like in the old days.  Only this time, it’s not a frightened child approaching me from a long line in the mall, nervous at the presence the myth of me has become.  This frightened child huddles in a frozen elementary restroom  at the end of her tether, trying to shove life into a dead, cold place.  “I can help you,” I say again but this time I hear the doubt in my own voice.  There is too much blood.

I crouch and move closer, opening the kit and finding nothing at all that I can use.

Then behind me, in the schoolyard, a clatter arises.

The eight snort and stomp and when the howling starts outside, the light winks out.  The moon, hidden behind a layer of clouds, offers little visibility.

Pushing the first aid kit towards the girl, I draw my rifle again, thumb off the safety once more.  I never unchambered the round.  Too smart for that.

More stamping and snorting but no ringing.  I took the bells off their harnesses a long time ago.

“Dashing through the snow,” a voice whispers from the edge of the schoolyard.

“O come all ye faithful,” another says.

“We wish you a merry Christmas,” sings a third.

I look over my shoulder at the girl panting in the corner.  “Just stay put and keep quiet.”

Donder screams and bucks.  Dasher bleats and kicks.  I hear the whir of stones in slings, the distant clatters of shots gone wide.

Then, I’m outside and running at a low crouch.  I’m fast for a big man, even without laying my finger to the side of my nose.  I whistle and I hear the eight lifting off; I hear the labored breathing of the two who’ve been hurt.  I hear the disappointed grunts and hungry sighs.  I don’t wait; when one of them takes shape in the darkness, large and wide, I put a three-round burst into the center of its mass and listen to the rush of escaping air as that rush twists itself into a shriek of surprise.

Another shape forms beside it, this one bending to see to its friend.  I put another burst there.  I’ve done this before.  I do the right thing.

Then I stop.  I smell the burning powder on the midnight air.  I listen for my eight, moving in a slow, widening circle above me.

A third takes shape near the others.  I move closer, rifle raised.  It moves to the left and I tap the concrete with bullets near his foot.  “Hold,” I tell him.

I can see him now and he might’ve been human once but the traces of it have left his face and eyes.  He’s wearing a red hat like mine, only tattered and dirty.  He’s dropped his sling and one of his suspenders is loose and dangling.  Barefoot with wet trousers, he trembles before a vision he may have dim memory of, from a childhood spent before the world heaved its last sigh.

“Remove the hat,” I say, “and look to me.”

He pulls it off slowly.  Our eyes meet and I’m pleased at the fear I see there.  “Life is your gift this year,” I tell him through gritted teeth, “but it comes with a string.  Tell the others what you have seen and tell them to be afraid.  Every other night belongs to you but this one.  I ride on this night with justice and grace.”  I raise myself to full height.  I fire the rifle over his head.  “Now, run like a rabbit.”

He does and as he fades, the night becomes silent and holy for a heartbeat before a new cry, muffled and straining, greets its new home in a broken world.

I turn back and enter the lavatory and in that I am both too late and just in time.  The girl is fading fast and in her arms she holds a sticky, bloody bundle packed into dirty cloth pulled from her makeshift nest.  I see the cord that still connects them.  Her eyes are wide and her nostrils flare when I draw closer but she doesn’t flinch.

She points to me.  “Ho, ho, ho,” she says in a quiet voice before making the sign of the cross.  She passes the squirming bundle to me and says one final word:  “Charis.”

Slinging my rifle, I take the baby.  I do the best I can with the tools I have, cutting the cord, closing the mother’s glassy eyes.  I remove my jacket.  Then I clean the baby and wrap her carefully in it.

I want to stay and bury my dead but I know better.  I have not prayed in years but I manage one there beside the fallen mother and father, victims of a nativity gone wrong in a world that struggles between death and birth.

Then, I whistle for my eight.  We lift off into the night and I hold Charis close to me, giving the reindeer their heads to take us north and home.

As we fly, I ponder — I wonder as I wander — and I call up my list to see who on this night had wanted the gift of a child.  I weep at what I find.

“It’s no place for a child,” I tell the eight as we soar.

“I’m far too old for this work,” I say to them again.

“I am afraid,” I finally admit.

But a vision unfolds to me of a tiny girl in red with elves for her friends and family, raised up with the deer and the sleigh as humanity’s orphan, taught from their books and their art and the better parts of a species tremendously blessed and terribly flawed, trained to go out into that broken world and do the right thing.

And in that moment, the light returns but it is inside me and inside of the baby in my arms, and that light threatens to swallow me whole and I beg it to because within that light is hope and promise and I recognize that tonight was the night upon which the universe — or whomever ran it — gave back to me and did so with a holy charge.

Home arises to the north and we pound sky for it.  As we fly, the clouds lift and the starshine falls like a mantle of jewels over the crown of the world.

I feel the peace on earth within my chest.

Goodwill towards men lay sleeping in my arms.

“What child is this?” I ask the midnight clear.

“Yours,” it says, and weeping, we fly home.

 ###

Copyright Ken Scholes, 2007 – www.kenscholes.com

First print, Shimmer Magazine’s Christmas 2007, Volume 2, Bonus Issue #4

Second  (current) print, Fairwood Press, “Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars and Other Unusual Suspects




25
Nov

Feed the Zombies! An All You Can Read Event

Our good friend, Tim W. Long is hosting an event of epic zombie proportion, and we just couldn’t pass up the chance to share in such a great deal for zombie fans. On November 27th, we’ll be offering Roms, Bombs & Zoms for 99 cents along with books by some of the best names in the zombie genre.

 

Come over to Facebook to share in a day of laughter, zombie talk, and some great deals.

 

 

 

FEATURING:

 

First Activation – D. A. Wearmouth 


Autumn: The Human Condition – David Moody


Last Bastion of the Living – Rhiannon Frater


The Infection – Craig DiLouie


Domain of the Dead- Iain McKinnon


Downfall and Betrayal – Michael S Gardner


The Forgotten – Jackie Druga


Six Feet From Hell: Crisis – Joseph A. Coley


Game of Straws Origins – SB Knight


Beyond the Barriers – Tim W. Long 


Fish to Die For (666 Fish) – Keith Milstead


The Undead Situation – Eloise J. Knapp


Roms, Bombs & Zoms (A Three Little Words Anthology) – Katie Cord (Evil Girlfriend Media)


Epic Apocalypse – Apocalyptic Box Set ($1.99) James Cook, John O’Brien, Joe McKinney, Armand Rosamilia, Heath Stallcup, Shawn Chesser, and Mark Tufo

 

 

A little about EGM’s submission for the event:

 

Roms, Bombs & Zoms cover

When hearts rot, fu

ses ignite.Super geek gets the girl, a righteous preacher and his undead wife, fantastical zombies, the tantric art of zubbing, mindless hive workers, and traditional flesh eating walkers, this anthology has a bit of everything. Our twisted tales pull you into the darkest of darks, where hope is lost, and sustaining life is no simple feat.

Twenty-one authors congealed romance, bombs, and zombies into stories that are diverse, witty, and occasionally gut-wrenching. Travel through time to walk in alternate histories, visit magical realms, and face down pestilence that will literally rot your insides. This collection is sure to warm your cold, dead, heart.

Stories by Ken MacGregor, Patrick D’Orazio, Randy Henderson, and Kriscinda Lee Everitt, among others.

 

Even if you are not a zombie fan, you can get ahead on your holiday shopping by purchasing gift certificates for the zombie lover in your life. They make great stocking stuffers. 
 
Best Always,
 
Katie 

 

 




12
Nov

Eat Your Heart Out or Our Brains

We released Roms, Bombs & Zoms on November 1, 2013 to the Kindle and Createspace. The book has an absolutely amazing cover with Michelle Kilmer and Aaron Sheagley modeling the imminent destruction of two lovers. The stories included in this anthology are varied and entertaining.

Roms, Bombs & Zoms cover

 From the dedication page:

Dedicated to all those who are clueless in romance,

dropping bombs without intent,

and for those brave zombies of heartache,

who rise and love again. 

Editor Monique Snyman chose stories varied in their themes from the lover back from the grave to the zombie drug addict. We are extremely pleased to offer this collection to our fans.

 

Best Wishes,

Katie
Evil Girlfriend Media




13
Sep

Hard Realities, True Words

Hard Realities, True Words

   (guest post by Shannon Page)

 

When I eagerly accepted Katie’s invitation to edit Witches, Stitches & Bitches, I knew it was going to be an amazing book. And when the stories started pouring in, they were even more fantastic than I’d hoped.

It was an open-call anthology, and I didn’t have any preconceived notion of what kinds of stories I was looking for. The “witch, stitch, bitch” theme can be interpreted in so many ways. In making my choices, I did look for a balance in the overall book—several layers of variety. Though they are mostly stories for adults, there are a few with YA themes. The length varies from just over flash to novelette. And as far as tone goes, we have light, silly stories as well as some very dark and disturbing ones. But what they all had in common was this: they were great stories. They held my attention all the way through; I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. They let me stop being “editor” and slip into being “reader”. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.

I want to talk here about one story in particular. One of the darker stories (though, I believe, an ultimately hopeful and redemptive one). Gabrielle Harbowy’s “Blood Magic” gripped me from the start, and made me sigh with delight when I put the pages down. It’s a gorgeous, deftly written tale with some very dark happenings. (See Gabrielle’s thoughts on the choices she made in writing the story, in the guest post to follow this one). I knew I wanted it for the anthology; I knew I wanted it as the lead story.

But, as I mentioned, the subject matter is hard. All of us at Evil Girlfriend Media grappled with this, several times during the editorial process. We want to be sensitive to our audience even as we strive to bring you the best in evil entertainment. After much consideration, we ultimately came to the conclusion that, difficult though certain aspects of this story may be, the language is not graphic, and the situation drives the narrative action. Toning it down would remove its power, and would be playing false with the characters and the world.

And we did want to publish the story. It was just too brilliant to leave out, or to bury behind lighter stories. True words are not easy; the world is not a safe place—neither Aya’s world nor ours.

Thank you so much, dear readers, for giving us a chance—to entertain you, to challenge you, to delight you. We hope to continue doing so for a long, long time.

Purchase on: Amazon, Barnes & Noble




2
Sep

Witches, Stitches, and Bitches Cover

We are proud to release our first Three Little Words cover.

WSBcover1200x1800

WBScovers300

 

From the Back Cover:

A STITCH IN TIME… IS JUST THE BEGINNING OF THE STORY.

Exquisite revenge and knitted doppelgängers; heartbreak and happy endings; unicorns, doomed dogs, and penitent frogs; steampunk fairies, conflicted stepmothers, and baseball—you’ll find it all here. Our literary alchemists weave a spell of fascination, drawing you deeper and deeper, tale by tale, until escape is impossible. But you’ll enjoy every minute of the plunge.

These sixteen deft and delightful stories involving witches, stitches, and bitches run the gamut from darkly disturbing to just plain fun. They will each take you out of the ordinary and into the world of magic, where older, weirder, or merely other rules apply. And just when you think things are all sewn up… some bitch may have a surprise for you.

Includes stories by Gabrielle Harbowy, Caren Gussoff, Kodiak Julian, and Christine Morgan, among others.

AVAILABLE SEPTEMBER 13, 2013




27
Jul

Table of Contents for Witches, Stitches, and Bitches Announced

When Shannon Page handed over the final compilation for Witches, Stitches, and Bitches, we couldn’t stop reading all of the intriguing stories. It is with great excitement that we deliver this dark, devilish anthology to our readers. From the very first story, you’ll be “woven” into the worlds our authors created with themes ranging from revenge to unicorns. The witching, stitching, and bitching commences on Friday, September 13th, 2013.

 

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photos-voodoo-mood-image24667983

 

 

WITCHES, STITCHES, AND BITCHES

A Three Little Words Anthology

INTRODUCTION
by Shannon Page

BLOOD MAGIC
By Gabrielle Harbowy

URGENT CARE
By Christine Morgan

THE KNITTED MAN
By Bo Balder

SPARE PARTS
By Stephanie Bissette-Roark

THE SECRET LIFE OF DREAMS
By Tom Howard

FROGSONG
By Kate Brandt

NO SUBSTITUTE
By Caren Gussoff

FORGETTING TOMORROW
By Bob Brown

THE BITCHY WITCH QUEEN and the UNDONE STITCHES
By Garth Upshaw

NOT EVEN IF I WANTED TO
By Kodiak Julian

YES, I’M A WITCH
By Julie McGalliard

THE FAR HORIZON
By J. H. Fleming

THE THREE GATEWAYS
By Eva Langston

FOR WANT OF A UNICORN
By Camille Griep

BLOOD OF THE MOTHER
By Alaina Ewing

DRESSES OF FUR AND FANGS
By Rebecca Fung

Like the Witches, Stitches, and Bitches Facebook page for more information about authors and giveaways.
https://www.facebook.com/egmwitches




8
Jul

Table of Contents released for Roms, Bombs, and Zoms

On November 1, 2013, Evil Girlfriend Media plans to release a romantic, explosive, and incredibly undead anthology that will have you laughing, crying, and possibly gagging through out.  Our editor, Monique Snyman, chose stories that entertained her while bringing all three of the elements of the title together in unique ways. We are so proud of this talented team of individuals. They are as diverse as their stories ranging from screenwriters, indie authors, musicians, and traditionally published authors. You’ll find stories about zombie STDs, a female soldier who left her lover behind, a righteous preacher and the dilemma of an undead wife, a boy and his dog, plus many more.

Zombie Collage

 

ROMS, BOMBS, AND ZOMS

A Three Little Words Anthology

FOREWORD
By Monique Snyman

SOUL TIES
By Katie Jones

UNTIL THE END
By Patrick D’Orazio

POST BOMB ZOMBIE ROMLAND
By Dana Wright

I’LL COME BACK
By Michelle Kilmer

NATHAN’S PROMISE
By Ken MacGregor

THE SECOND BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG
By Kriscinda Lee Everitt

MAMA
By Jay Wilburn

CHURCH OF THE RISEN DEAD
By Tom D Wright

THOUGH SHE BE LITTLE, SHE IS FIERCE
By Michele Roger

NEEDS OF A HALF-DEAD HEART
By Randy Henderson

WHEN THE LAST WAR ENDED
By Paul S. Huggins

YOUR CHEATIN’ HEART
By Katie Cord

THE TOWER
By Joshua Brown

WHAT I WAS THERE FOR
By Matt Youngmark and Dawn Marie Pares

FROM SAFETY TO WHERE
By Kris Freestone

AN UNDYING LOVE
By John Edward Betancourt

TILL DEATH WE DO NOT PART
By Killion Slade

I’VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN
By Anthony J. Rapino and Monique Snyman

Watch for the Table of Contents for Witches, Stitches, and Bitches edited by Shannon Page coming soon!

 




1
Jul

Our First Novel

Evil Girlfriend Media would not be on its current path without our first novel, The Heart-Shaped Emblor.  I met the author, Alaina Ewing, in the summer of 2011 at the Cascade Writers Workshop. We were both assigned to the same critique group. Her story resonated through me, there was only one slight problem, I wanted to shake some sense into her main character, Aislinn Moore. However, this powerful emotion created a friendship.  After several years, and a couple of rewrites, Alaina planned to self-publish the book. Instead, I offered to let her use a LLC  I created to self-publish my own work. She agreed.

It occurred to me over a couple of weeks, that maybe I should treat this as a chance to make my own dreams come true. I’ve always wanted my own business and love making ideas happen. One night over coffee and snacks at another writer’s house, we joked about me making Evil Girlfriend Media a real entity. I’d recently received encouragement from a pretty successful zombie writer to push it to the next level. There at our friend’s kitchen table, a book deal was born. It wasn’t long after that, I pitched to my writers group a collection of anthology ideas that I’d initially wanted to write as short story collections. I don’t want to get off topic too much, this is a blog about Alaina Ewing and The Heart-Shaped Emblor. However, I wanted everyone to know the importance of this first full length novel presented by our company.

So without further ado, here is the cover for The Heart-Shaped Emblor:

cover

Should she choose the life of a normal college student or something else entirely?

Despite her best efforts, Aislinn Moore is not a typical teenager. She sees ethereal beings, has prophetic dreams, and knows far too many intimate details of her friends’ darkest secrets. She tries to avoid her supernatural abilities by focusing on her early entry college courses, sculpting, and relationship with the affluent older Cooper Greene.

When her abilities cause her to be alienated from friends and destroys her relationship with her boyfriend, it feels like she may have to face life with her abilities alone. Just when she thinks things couldn’t get worse, she sees a mysterious guy from her dreams working on her college campus.

Alexander Welch is everything she ever imagined him to be; sexy, protective, intelligent, and his dimple sends chills through her every time she thinks of him. There is only one problem… He is not human. He is a Ewlishash, a hope bringer, and despite the fact that she is falling hard for him, his touch feels like electrified razors slicing into her skin.

 As Aislinn grows closer to her dream guy, a world she never knew existed opens before her. There are battling forces at work, and Alexander is there for a reason, to protect and guide her. The closer Aislinn and Alexander become, the less his touch hurts and the more her powers increase. Leaving Aislinn wondering how they tie to one another. Before she can truly understand her gifts, she must unfurl the truth about him, the motivations of the Ewlishash, and decide who she really wants to be.

 

 

The cover was created by Mark Ferrari, a science fiction and fantasy artist as well as writer. He published his first book, The Book of Joby with Tor in 2007. Our cover model is medium Cassidy Rae, a teenager who really can see ethereal beings.  Then there is Alaina Ewing, a science fiction and fantasy author who puts elements of truth in all of her work. We will be adding the page for the book in the coming weeks. Tentative release date is September 22, 2013.

 

Best Always,

Katie Cord
President, Evil Girlfriend Media




28
Jan

AN OBJECT LESSON IN MISANTHROPY By Michelle Ann King

I’d always believed my mother was destined to become a certified Crazy Cat Lady, so the idea of her having a friend of any kind, let alone a boyfriend, took some getting used to. But once I met Bill, I liked him. He had a nice smile, good manners, and a cute Scottish accent.

God knew what he was doing with Mum. Since I couldn’t remember the last time she’d left the house, I had no idea how they could even have met. On a website, I suppose. He was some kind of lecturer or researcher at the university in Cheltenham, so maybe it was a science project.

He turned up—on time, of course—with wine and flowers. I put the first into the fridge and the second into a milk bottle, which was the closest thing we had to a vase. Mum was supposed to have cooked dinner—Fettuccine Alfredo, nice and simple; I’d even gone down to Sainsbury’s and got all the ingredients for her—but she spent the afternoon playing online poker instead. She did that a lot. Now she looked round the kitchen with her eyebrows raised, as if surprised there was no food on the table.

“I’ve ordered a pizza,” I said. “It’ll be here soon. Pepperoni, pineapple and anchovies.”

“Sounds great to me,” Bill said. If he was disappointed, he didn’t show it. Man had class.

Mum went to the fridge and took out the wine bottle. “Zoe was an accident,” she said. “I never wanted to have kids. Never thought I’d be able to—freaks of nature are usually sterile.”

Bill and I both blinked. Well, how’s that for a conversation stopper?

“Nina, love—” he started, but she held up a hand and his mouth snapped shut.

“You’re thirteen,” she said to me, pouring herself a glass of wine. “Adolescence, puberty, that’s when it kicks in. There are things I have to tell you. Teach you.”

I gave her my best you have got to be kidding me face. “I’m fourteen, since you’re obviously not keeping count. And are we seriously going to do the talk about the birds and the bees? Now?”

“Actually no, we’re going to do the talk about the genetically mutated enhancement of cognitive functions.”

Bill had been shifting in his chair. At that, he froze.

“Would you like to start, dear?” she asked him. “It is your specialist subject, isn’t it?”

Then she grinned at me. “You were right about all this, Zoe. Him. Us. A science project is exactly what it is.”

I stole a glance at Bill, who was starting to look a little red in the face. Had I actually said that out loud? Normally, I tried harder to keep my uncharitable thoughts to myself. At least one of us needed to understand the concept of politeness.

“Oh, I understand it,” she said. “I just don’t see much point in it.”

Okay. What was going on here? This wasn’t funny.

“No, it’s not. It’s not funny at all.” She drank her wine and looked at Bill. He was very still, only his eyes following her. “You found me though Ekstrom, didn’t you? I knew I’d regret letting that little bastard walk away.”

“Mum, for the love of God—”

“Oh, love of God never has anything to do with it. Love of money, yes. Love of fame, and prestige, and academic recognition. Love of power.” She tilted her glass at Bill. “Did you really think it was going to be that easy? That you’d bring me in with wine and flowers and sweet nothings? Do you really think you’re that good in bed?’ She laughed. ‘What am I saying? Of course you do.”

Bill still didn’t move. I touched his shoulder. “Do you have any idea what’s going on here, or is she simply trying harder than ever to convince me that she’s completely batshit insane?”

He stared at me, but didn’t reply.

Mum lifted the wine bottle and topped up her glass. “You can answer her,” she said.

Air exploded from Bill’s mouth in a rush. “Zoe, listen to me,’ he said. ‘My phone’s in my jacket pocket. Take it out and call Stefan. It’s in the contacts. Do you understand? Stefan. Call Stefan.”

“I’m sorry,” my mother said in a sing-song voice. “Stefan can’t come to the phone right now. In fact, Stefan won’t be coming to the phone for a long, long time.”

Bill’s eyes locked on her, and for the first time I realised he was scared. Really, genuinely scared.

“You know what always amazes me about people like you?” she said. “That you know, or think you do, what I am. What I can do. And yet still you come. Well, congratulations. You were right. And for your special prize, you get a first-hand demonstration validating all your theories. Aren’t you thrilled?”

Bill’s Adam’s apple jerked as he swallowed. It looked painful. “Nina,” he said, his voice hoarse. “Please. I’m sorry.”

“Yes,” she said. “I know.”

Bill silently, horribly, began to cry.

“Look at this,” she said, pointing at him. “Look at this, girl, and remember. This is how it is, and this is how it will always be. Men like him will come for you. Some will try to persuade you, some will try to use you, some will just try to kill you. But wherever you go, they’ll always come.”

“I don’t understand,” I said. My voice sounded very small. “I don’t understand any of this.”

For a moment her expression softened. But only for a moment. As Bill began to make choking sounds, she turned away. “Try harder,” she said.


Michelle Ann King writes science fiction, fantasy and horror from her kitchen table in Essex, England. Her short stories, which have appeared at Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and Podcastle, are being collected in the Transient Tales series, and she is working on a paranormal crime novel. Find more details at www.transientcactus.co.uk. This story was previously published in Untied Shoelaces of the Mind.




26
Jan

One Hundred Words by Eneasz Brodski

It started as a lark. It had long before been noted that the sapients of the sol system endlessly agonized over the purpose of their existence. Idle speculation arose over how they’d react to the true answer. As always, the final arbiter was experiment and observation.

The results were fascinating, and are oft replicated. It remains the most popular, if least important, aspect of the program.

On the hundredth day of a new “Human” ruler’s reign, they are visited by The Ambassador. The current empire calls its rulers “Presidents”. The Ambassador appears as a man and speaks one hundred words.


Denial

The man standing before the president finishes his message and falls silent. They’re alone in the oval office, in time stolen between seconds. Outside, the swirling autumn leaves hang fixed in place. Carter looks at him for long minutes before speaking.

“You mean to tell me no one is alive? That we’re just machines?”

The man had not said that. He reiterates that nothing has changed but Carter’s knowledge.

Carter smiles sadly. “I’m sorry to tell you that you’re quite mistaken. Our souls are thoughts in God’s mind, and He does not have fleeting thoughts. He died for us all.”


Anger

Nixon’s laughter dies away, slowly at first, and as he comprehends his face returns to its familiar scowl.

“It’s not a joke?”

The man has nothing to add. Nixon’s face hardens further. His hand clenches into a fist.

“Look here, I won’t have this! You think we’re powerless? We can destroy your whole little experiment from the inside!”

The man shrugs. They can roll back to prevent that. They have once before.

“It’s obscene!” Nixon slams a fist into the desk. “I’ll damn us all before I let this stand!”

He might as well rail against the sun for rising.


Bargaining

This president is optimistic. That will change. The man indulges him with amusement.

“Surely you can see how your actions seem strongly immoral to us,” Obama opens.

“Do you care for the moral concerns of ants?” asks the man.

“Perhaps we can come to an arrangement,” Obama offers. “There’s much our peoples can learn from each other.”

“What knowledge could you trade with an ant colony?” the man counters.

“We’ll be powerful one day, why make enemies of us now?”

The man smiles slightly. “For a people who want the meaning of life, you’re never happy when you’re given it.”


Depression

The younger Bush is at his ranch, alone. Clearing brush, all his previous life a distant memory. The words echo in his mind.

He crouches and grasps a handful of dirt. He opens his hand slowly, peers at it, watches it fall incrementally to the ground. Searches it for falseness. It is only dirt.

He looks up into the deep blue sky. Peers into it to find the artifice. But it is always only the sky.

Nothing matters, he thinks. I may as well do as I wish. Read stories to children. Land jets on aircraft carriers. All is vanity.


Acceptance

This president leans back and considers the man before him. His recent brush with death has brought him stark clarity.

“You know what I think of that?” Reagan says, reaching for a jelly bean. “Not a damn thing. You come here with your grand secret, and it doesn’t make a bit of difference, does it? We may be tools to you, but we still have to live. We still have to beat the recession and the Soviets, and your revelation doesn’t change anything.”

The world would continue regardless, for better or for worse.

“Get out, I have work to do.”


Eneasz Brodski lives just outside Denver with his fiancé and their two dogs. When  not at his day job or writing, he produces a bi-weekly podcast of rationalist fiction at www.hpmorpodcast.com. He’s been interested in politics from a very young age, as his parents fled their home country due to strong objections to communism.




21
Jan

The Business is Dying by Dantzel Cherry

Quentin turned on the lights in the embalming room to find the first body he’d seen there in weeks. It was his father, twitching on the floor with a gaping hole in his head, the gun a few inches from his fingers. He was already one of the undead he had resented so much in the last 18 months of his life – shuffling, clumsy bodies that only took a bite if you got too close.

On the counter was a handling pole, made to fit a human neck. Next to it sat a handwritten note, lightly sprinkled red.

Dear Quentin,

I’m sorry you’ll be the one to find me. The gun is supposed to take you pretty quick. I guess I’ll find out soon. I want you to take me to the zoo to be with your mother, and then get a real job – forget the family business. I hear the zoo is hiring.

Love,
Dad

Quentin dried his eyes on his sleeve and picked up the handling pole.

“Apocalypses can’t last forever,” he muttered, and snagged his dad’s neck. “Let’s go for a walk, Dad.”

Two shambling hours later, they stood by the old wallaby exhibit turned Deceased Last Names A-H Enclosure. The head zookeeper chewed a piece of hay and looked Quentin and his father up and down. A peacock cried in the distance. It was silenced, one way or another, by the moan of a zombie.

“So this is Henry the mortician,” the zookeeper said. “Were you his apprentice?”

Quentin dropped his gaze and nodded. “And his son.”

He whistled. “I’m sorry, kid. I’m Jack, by the way.” They shook hands. “You know how to hold a water hose?”

Quentin looked at the green hose and back at Jack.

“Can’t be harder than inserting a syringe into a squirrely vein,” he said.

Jack traded the hose for the handling pole, and pulled Henry toward the wallaby exhibit.

“They seem to like getting sprayed down every so often. Must feel good in this heat. Just keep ’em well watered and they’ll be happy enough.”

That day and for the rest of the week Quentin watered the zombies, built shelters to give the undead refuge from the sun, and took the most restless on long walks, collared with a six foot handling pole. On Saturday Jack presented him with an undead red parrot. It squawked and tried to bite through the cage.

“Freshly dead,” Jack said. “He’s always been a vicious thing. I figured you could – you know – use your mortician skills to hold his nasty little beak shut. Or something.”

“Not a bad idea,” Quentin said, and reached out to pick up a stray feather. He snatched his hand back from the snapping beak just in time. “Nothing a needle can’t fix.”

He brought the parrot back the next day with the beak sewed shut. With its most powerful weapon neutralized, the parrot gave up the fight and rode Quentin’s shoulder. He only occasionally dug his claws into Quentin’s skin as payback.

After several weeks Quentin felt comfortable walking two undead at a time, and soon after he worked up the nerve to hunt down his parents.

“Come on, Dad,” Quentin coaxed Henry.

He was jerked to the right and dragged forward several steps before reining his undead mother in. The parrot let out a muffled squawk in protest.

“Whoa now, Mom, we’re not going that way. You’re going to – well, not choke yourself, but it can’t feel very good. We can’t eat the monkeys today. Walk this way. That’s right, follow the parrot, just through this gate…”

Walking both parents meant double the pauses. They were easily distracted by birds chirping, flies buzzing, or any other reminders of tasty, living creatures, but eventually all three were safely home and Quentin had his father’s body strapped onto the embalming table. The old man wouldn’t rise anytime soon. Bloated, rotting hands scrabbled on the table, possibly seeking the comforting touch of his son, perhaps looking for lunch. Quentin chose to believe the former.

He checked that his mother was still secured in the corner and set the parrot down on the counter, out of reach of any grasping fingers. He gripped his father’s hand and steadied the arterial needle.

“I figured it out, Dad,” Quentin said, smiling into Henry’s bulging, darting eyes. “It took thirty tries over the last few weeks, but I did it. I can save the family business and give you peace at the same time. Just had to rearrange the embalming order a bit.”

He gave the pale hand a squeeze then slipped the needle into place. The formaldehyde forced the long-sluggish blood to action. Quentin opened a vein nearby and the blood spilled out, clotted but freed. Henry exhaled loudly and closed his eyes.

Quentin’s mother moaned from the corner.

“Don’t worry, Mom. You’re next.” Quentin smiled as his mother clumsily clapped her hands.

#

Within days of reopening the business, Quentin lost track of how many calls he’d received, and yet another call was coming in while he was teetering on the ladder, hammering a new sign above the mortuary door. He let it go to voicemail.

Quentin looked at the parrot and raised his eyebrows.

“Nothing a needle can’t fix.”

Quentin pounded a final nail into the sign, and climbed down the ladder to take a look.

– ETERNAL REST MORTUARY –
Ensuring your final rest stays FINAL
Now making house calls

The parrot made a muffled squawk.

“I like it too,” Quentin said, stroking the bird’s head. A few red feathers came away in his hand.


By day, Dantzel Cherry teaches Pilates and raises her daughter, and by night/naptime she writes. She is prone to dance as the need arises, and it often does. Her work has appeared in Fireside and Galaxy’s Edge. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter (@dantzelcherry) or her website at www.dantzelcherry.com. This story was previously published in Penumbra.




19
Jan

The Singer and the Song by Manny Frishberg

Even his mother did not hear him cry, his song was so different from all the others. I didn’t understand that at first.

I was elated. Just a lowly grad student out collecting data on a research vessel between semesters, and I had been the first to hear a new whale’s song. An undiscovered species? I thought they might even put my name on the paper.

I played the recordings at triple speed, gathering data points without even really listening. I could hear the difference, of course, long before I realized what I heard. –  creaks and squawks like the pods of blue and finback whales we had come to monitor, but in a vocal range far above either of their songs. A different song from the one the pods composed and sang together throughout the mating season.

Only the males sing, and only during their winter mating season. We can easily tell them apart. Blue whales sing at around 17 hertz and the finbacks an even lower 12 – a rumble at the very edge of hearing, more like a buzzing in your jaw until you speed up the playback. But even at triple speed his call was special, the way his voice rose and fell like an infant’s wail – to my ears at least, mournful.

I replayed the recording at normal speed and for the first time I heard the song just as the hydrophone had recorded it. A shudder swept up my back. It’s just a wild animal vocalizing, a mating call, I had to remind myself.

Since we were there for the season, I logged his movements in and out of the inlet where we lay anchored. His tone made him easy to single out, unlike the rest. The longer I listened the more I began to sympathize, though I’d been taught to try not to.

When I went back to school in the fall, I looked for earlier recordings. The project had been funded just that year so I searched other studies that might have recordings with for similar patterns. None.

I discovered that the Navy had tested sonar in those waters several years ago. It took a FOIA request and getting the ACLU involved to get the data. I heard his distinctive calls on their tapes.

I traced him back a dozen years. Working backwards I heard how his song evolved. In the first years, he sounded nearly normal. Still a calf, his tones seemed almost right; his vocal organs must have been so small. As years went by his voice changed – the tones increasingly wrong, mimicry made more bereft because to the others he was screeching.

All the whales in a pod sing a single song, composed each fall on the trek to the warm, tropical waters. There, the calves are birthed and their next year’s siblings are conceived.

Hearing his songs over those years, I sensed him losing hope. Each year he diverged further and each year he joined the blue whale pod later in the spring – like an exile condemned always to follow, never to join.

For my post-doc I tracked my whale through the next three mating seasons. The longer I listened to him, the more I felt a kinship grow between us. I wished I could tell him that I, too, am a solitary creature, adrift alone in an ocean of my own kind.

(I knew I had conjured this connection in my mind – how could he even know I existed; why would he ever care? Yet the whale had invaded my soul.)

By that time I actually sighted him, I had my name on several papers and an assistant professorship, well on my way to tenure. His body was the unmistakable blue the world’s largest creatures are named for, the same rounded body, but slimmer. Also unmistakable, the dorsal ridge that gives finback whales their name. He was not a new species but a hybrid, a mule. He shared many of the features of both species, but in the end he was neither. Now, seeing him, for the first time I truly understood. After that, nothing else mattered.

My grant was up and my new proposal was turned down. Even so, I had my plan. I knew I’d have to fund it myself.. I sold my house – too much space for a loner anyway – and bought a sailboat, equipped it with hydrophones and a synthesizer with underwater speakers. I set off, searching for a range, a tone.

I found it in the voices of Pacific humpbacks in the seas near Tongo. I stayed with them through the summer, learning to play their song until my synthesizer gave a pretty good approximation.

When the humpbacks accepted me, odd accent and all, I headed north. I found him, as I knew I would, still trailing the pod that he always did in their Arctic feeding grounds, still alone.

I followed them when the pod left for the Arctic, learning to play their new song as they created it. Then I taught it to my whale, transposing the notes and cords as best I could into a key he could sing.

He and I fell further and further back from the pod, changing course a bit at a time, luring him away. Out on our own, I started changing the blues’ song, bending it toward the one I’d learned from the humpbacks until my finback-blue sang only theirs.

In the southern tropics I began picking up the humpbacks calls and, little by little, I backed away. Somewhere near Kiribati I lost him. His voice had merged with the chorus.

These days I play my synthesizer for myself, adrift alone in the world.

I tell myself he is just a wild animal but I miss him like a kindred soul.


Manny Frishberg has made up stories since he started staring out windows. He has been learning to do it better for the last 30 years and inflicting the results on an unsuspecting public since 2010, along with numerous magazine feature stories over a long writing career. He lives near Seattle.




14
Jan

Tell Me by Edward Ashton

“Tell me how the world ends,” Ani says.

Michael shakes his head.

“Some things,” he says, “it’s better not to know.”

They sit across from one another, at a table in the back of a dimly-lit bar. His hands are wrapped around a half-empty bottle of Belgian beer. She lifts a martini glass, sips delicately at a drink that’s more fruit juice than liquor.

“You think you know everything,” Ani says.

Michael shrugs. It’s a statement of fact, not an accusation. They’ve only just met, but this much at least is already clear.

“I’m dying,” Ani says. “Did you know that?”

Michael hesitates for a moment, then nods. He looks up from his bottle and into her eyes. Ani doesn’t look like a dying person. Her skin is smooth and pale white, with a dusting of freckles across her nose and her cheeks. Her hair is long and full and red streaked with blonde, flowing over her shoulders in a billowing wave. The only hints at her mortality are a slight gauntness in her face, and a faint tremor in her fingers as they rest on her glass.

“Do you know what will kill me?” Ani asks.

Michael nods again, and takes a long pull at his beer. Lank brown hair frames his broad tanned face, and the week’s worth of stubble on his cheeks and his chin.

“I do,” he says, “but I’m not going to tell you.”

Ani laughs.

“I already know,” she says.

“No,” Michael says. “You don’t.”

Her eyebrows knit in annoyance.

“I do,” she says, “but you obviously don’t. You’re trying to be mysterious. It’s not working.”

Michael smiles, spins his bottle like a top, then catches it before it falls.

“I know you have malignant melanoma,” he says. “I know you’ve been told it’s in your liver and your lungs. I also know it’s in your brain, in your right temporal lobe. And I know that your doctor hasn’t told you that yet.”

Ani’s jaw sags open. Michael finishes his beer, waves a waitress over, and orders another. He orders a second drink for Ani as well, though her glass is still half-full.

“But…” she says.

“Right,” he says. “I know you’ve got cancer. You know you’ve got cancer. You think that’s what’s going to kill you, but it’s not.”

Ani scowls.

“It is,” she says. “My oncologist says it’s not curable. He wants me to do chemo anyway, says it could give me an extra few months, but…” Ani touches her hair absently with one hand, then shakes her head.

“I know,” Michael says. “You made the right decision.”

He leans his chair back on two legs, balances for a moment, then drops it back down with a bang. A song begins playing on the jukebox at the front of the bar. Ani smiles at the first few notes, then looks down at the table and blinks away a tear. Michael raises one eyebrow in question.

“My father used to sing this to me,” she says. “When I was little, and I couldn’t sleep, he’d come into my room, sit by my bedside and sing. I think this was the only song he knew.”

“It wasn’t,” Michael says. “It was just the only one that didn’t have the word ‘fuck’ in it.”

Ani laughs.

“You’re probably right,” she says. She slides her hand forward until their fingertips touch. “I still love it, though.”

“So do I,” Michael says. He pulls his hand away. “My father never sang this to me, but my first girlfriend did once.”

The waitress comes by with their drinks. Michael hands her a twenty, smiles, and refuses the change.

“She was dying, too,” Michael says. “My girlfriend, I mean. It was a summer thing. She was gone before Christmas.”

“What from?” Ani asks.

Brain tumor. She was sixteen.”

They drink together in silence until the song ends.

“So,” Ani says. “Are you going to tell me?”

Michael looks up, wipes at his eyes with one hand, and finishes his second beer in one long, bitter pull.

“Tell you what?”

Ani rolls her eyes.

“What’s going to kill me.”

“No,” Michael says. “I told you. Some things, it’s better not to know.”

Ani tries to meet his eyes, but Michael’s gaze slides away.

“Did you tell her?” Ani asks.

Michael closes his eyes, and bows his head until his forehead nearly touches the lip of his bottle.

“It doesn’t matter now,” Ani says. She looks around. The bar is nearly empty.  “Tell me how the world ends.”

Michael raises his head, and looks down at his hands. They lie on the table, palms up, fingers half-curled. His nails are short and ragged, bitten almost to the quick.

“You’re right,” he says. “It doesn’t much matter.”

The song on the jukebox now is a saccharine dance mix that nobody’s father or girlfriend would ever sing to them. As it spins down, a light flares through the window at the front of the bar. It grows brighter and brighter, until the whiteness seems to seep through the ceiling and the walls. Ani looks down. Her bones are dark tendrils in her glowing white hands.

“You see?” Michael says.

Ani closes her eyes.

“Tell me…”


Edward Ashton works as a cancer researcher in Rochester, New York. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of venues, including Daily Science Fiction, The Future Fire, and Escape Pod. His first novel, Three Days in April, was published by HarperCollins in September 2015. This story was previously published in Every Day Fiction.