We occasionally post pieces from LCRW and other places up here on the web.
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An excerpt from Sherwood Nation by Benjamin Parzybok.
How it happened:
It happened slowly. The fishermen called the rogue and unpredictable changes at sea El Pescadero. Winds came from differing directions, currents looped back on themselves, temperatures fluctuated. It wasn’t seasonal like El Niño, though at first everyone thought it was. It didn’t go away. Governments fought bitterly about whose fault was whose, and who ought to do what about it.
Along with El Pescadero came an increase in oceanic salinity. There were lots of theories there. When you swam in the ocean, the new buoyancy was subtle, but pleasurable.
The bone-dry summers of the west lingered deeper and deeper into winter. Everyone could see that the snow pack was melting. When was the snow pack not melting? All you had to do was look up at any of the balding mountains.
Then the great Deschutes River, elegant and fast, a river which cut across the Oregon desert like a streak of lightning across a dull gray sky, dried up in a single summer.
The farms that depended upon it followed suit. There were strikes and protests. Blood was spilled. Then, quickly, other rivers diminished.
Finally, the greatest of them all, the Columbia River, its sources choked in mud, leaked its deathsong through the gorge, and became only a scaly alligator skin of memory. In its wake, valleys turned to deserts, fertile farms to dust, and the great migration East began.
As the hordes of Droudies poured into the Midwest and Eastern United States and the last of the surface water seeped deep into the ground, anger over the millions of incoming refugees escalated. Finally, borders along the Rocky Mountains were sealed to Westerners and a meager aid strategy was conceived by the bankrupt government for the many millions abandoned to their dry fates out west. Read more
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Read the first three chapters from A Summer in the Twenties by Peter Dickinson:
Hendaye, 6th April, 1926
‘EVERYTHING’S CHANGING so fast,’ she said. ‘Isn’t it stunning to wake up every morning and feel that the whole world’s brand-new again, a present waiting for you to unwrap it?’
For emphasis she stabbed her foot-long cigarette holder towards the Pyrennees, to declare them part of the present, with the snow-glitter along the peaks a little tinsel to add glamour to the gift.
‘It’s all yours,’ he said, generously including in his gesture not only the mountains but the nearer landscape, and the cubist spillage of roofs down the slope below the terrace and the two crones in black creaking up a cobbled alley, and nearer still the elderly three-piece band nobly attempting a Charleston while their souls still pined for the Vienna Woods, and even the braying group of young French rich, already into their third cocktail at half past three. Read more
by Thomas Israel Hopkins2 Comments
North from New York City up the Hudson; west out the Erie Canal through Utica and Syracuse; transfer at Rochester from a long, thin packet boat to one of the grand old Great Lakes passenger ships across Lake Erie via Cleveland to Toledo; up through Detroit, Lake Saint Clair, and Port Huron; farther north across Lake Huron to Mackinaw City; down the shores of Lake Michigan to Milwaukee and Racine; transfer again at Chicago; down the Tippecanoe to the Wabash to Terre Haute; out through Saint Louis and Kansas City on the Transcontinental Canal along the ruins of Interstate 70; turning up toward Casper and points west on the Nebraska Canal along the ghost map of the old Oregon Trail. The night this happened, that was as far as we’d come. Read more
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From The Liminal People, by Ayize Jama-Everett.
Nordeen was right to send me. I feel three heartbeats at the ridges of the ancient crater we’re resting in. Snipers. I don’t know for sure, but their hearts are tense and their trigger fingers twitchy. As soon as I got out of the car their right eyes all zoomed in on something. If they’re not snipers then they’re one-eyed caffeine freaks with muscular dystrophy in their fingers. At least they’re smart enough to know not to shoot me right away. Their boy, my date, Omar, wants what we have. If it’s not in the car and they shoot us, they’re shit out of luck.
“Stay in the car, no matter what,” I say, leaning into the passenger side of the twelve-year-old Mercedes-Benz that has dragged me to this ancient and massive hole in the ground. The meteor that crashed here centuries ago is as cold as Fou-Fou’s response to my command. His steady sub-Saharan heartbeat is the only answer I get from the 240-pound menace. He’ll play it smart. Always does. The kid in the back is who I’m really speaking to. Nineteen, can’t pee straight, and ready to scrap, the native Moroccan looks more spooked than ready. “Understand?” I bark at him in his native Berber instead of the usual French patois we play with. Read more
by Joan AikenLeave a Comment
Her name was Daisy and she was a smasher, the crispest colleen in Killyclancy. Only, as misfortune would have it, old Mr Mulloon said she was unlucky, he having met her once in the street and gone home to find his finest fowl drowning in a puddle; brandy had revived it, true, but anyway those looks weren’t natural, Mr Mulloon said. Whoever heard of hair like spun milk atop of a pair of eyes black as sloes? Depend on it, the girl was an albinoess, cunningly covering up a pair of cherry-pink pupils with smoked contact lenses. And everyone knew albinos had the Evil Eye.
His croaks of warning were much heeded by the mothers of Killyclancy, and three weeks afterwards Daisy found she might as well look for blackberries in April as find a young fellow to take her to so much as a cheeseparing party. After some rebuffs, she began to have a positive hate for the male sex, and never laughed so hearty as when one of the creatures had his car stall on him at the traffic lights, or dropped a bagful of carpet-tacks in the Market Square.
There were two men in the town, though, who took an interest in Daisy. One of them was the doctor. More of him later. The other was Con O’Leary, who ran the Housewives’ Help Service in the daytime and sang in opera at night. Housewives loved him for the bits of Traviata that would come carolling out from under the sink as he scrubbed, or Trovatore from the upper storey.
He had a little helicopter from which he used to clean the windows with a long-handled mop, and thus he was in a position to know that old Mr Mulloon’s theory as to Daisy’s pupils and the possibility of her hair being a wig was wrong: quite wrong. He had seen her in her bath one never-to-be-forgotten Valentine’s eve, and since then he was a changed being; staggered sometimes as he walked, like one in a daze, undercharged several housewives for cleaning down their paintwork, and sang A flat instead of A natural in the middle of Adelaide. He was in love, in fact. Read more
by Poppy Z. BriteLeave a Comment
From Second Line by Poppy Z. Brite.
The Value of X
Surveying the class slumped in their desks, she could not blame them for their apathy. Though it was only April, the weather was already hinting at another brutal New Orleans summer. For public schools to be without air conditioning in 1990 was a disgrace, but such things were usual in this little corner of the United States that might be more properly called part of the Third World. Mrs. Reilly suddenly felt hopeless and decided to call on her one dependable student. “Gary?”
But this time there was no answer.
“Gary Stubbs? Are you paying attention?”
by Vincent McCaffrey2 Comments
From Hound, by Vincent McCaffrey.
Death was, after all, the way Henry made his living.
The books he sold were most often the recent property of people who had died. Book lovers never gave up the good ones without cause. But then, the books which people sold willingly were not the ones Henry really wanted. The monthly public library sales were stacked high with those—the usual titles for a dollar apiece, yesterday’s best sellers, last year’s hot topics.
But not always. Occasionally, some relative—often the child who never cared much for Dad’s preoccupation with medieval history or Mom’s obsession with old cookbooks—would drop the burden their parents had so selfishly placed upon them by dying, and there they would be, in great careless mounds on the folding tables in the library basement or conference room. Always dumped too quickly by a “volunteer” from the “friends” committee, with the old dust jackets tearing one against the other.
Like encounters with sin, Henry had occasions of luck at yard sales, though not often enough to waste a weekend which might better be spent at home reading. His favorite haunts were the estate auctions, and the best of these were the ones held at the very house where the old geezer had kicked the bucket. And there was always that thin network of friends who knew Henry was a bookman—who heard of book lots being sold and passed the word on. Albert, of course, had been a regular source for this, simply because his trash-removal business so often involved houses being sold where the books had accumulated over the years and the dead were recently departed.
by Geoff Ryman
“Oh you who are wise, may you come more and more to consider all meritorious acts as your own.”
Sanskrit inscription on the temple of Pre Rup,
translated by Kamaleswar Bhattacharya
“As wealthy as Cambodia.”
Traditional Chinese saying
You could very easily meet William.
Maybe you’ve just got off the boat from Phnom Penh and nobody from your hotel is there to meet you. It’s miles from the dock to Siem Reap.
William strides up and pretends to be the free driver to your hotel. Not only that but he organizes a second motorbike to wobble its way round the ruts with your suitcases.
by Elizabeth HandLeave a Comment
There’s always a moment where everything changes. A great photographer — someone like Diane Arbus, or me during that fraction of a second when I was great — she sees that moment coming, and presses the shutter release an instant before the change hits. If you don’t see it coming, if you blink or you’re drunk or just looking the other way — well, everything changes anyway, it’s not like things would have been different.
But for the rest of your life you’re fucked, because you blew it. Maybe no one else knows it, but you do. In my case, it was no secret. Everyone knew I’d blown it. Some people can make do in a situation like that. Me, I’ve never been good at making do. My life, who could pretend there wasn’t a big fucking hole in it?
by Naomi MitchisonLeave a Comment
It is said that when the new Queen saw the old Queen’s baby daughter, she told the King that the brat must be got rid of at once. And the King, who by now had almost forgotten the old Queen and had scarcely looked at the baby, agreed and thought no more about it. And that would have been the end of that baby girl, but that her nurse, Matulli, came to hear of it. Now this nurse was from Finmark, and, like many another from thereabouts, was apt to take on the shape of an animal from time to time. So she turned herself into a black bear then and there and picked up the baby in her mouth, blanket and all, and growled her way out of the Bower at the back of the King’s hall, and padded out through the light spring snow that had melted already near the hall, and through the birch woods and the pine woods into the deep dark woods where the rest of the bears were waking up from their winter sleep.
by Kate WilhelmLeave a Comment
One of the questions Damon and I returned to often was simply: can writing be taught? There are many writers who say emphatically that the answer is no. I see their point. High school and college creative writing classes are too often a joke, taught by non-writers without a clue about the real world of publishing and what makes for a publishable story in contemporary markets. For most writers struggling alone, the learning curve from the first attempt to write to becoming an accomplished writer is very long; years in many cases. And all the while they are being taught by rejection slips, by trial and error; they are learning what works for them and what doesn’t. Even after they have published a few stories, often they can’t see why one story was accepted and not another.
by Kelly Link10 Comments
"The Faery Handbag" was originally published in the anthology The Faery Reel.
I used to go to thrift stores with my friends. We’d take the train into Boston, and go to The Garment District, which is this huge vintage clothing warehouse. Everything is arranged by color, and somehow that makes all of the clothes beautiful. It’s kind of like if you went through the wardrobe in the Narnia books, only instead of finding Aslan and the White Witch and horrible Eustace, you found this magic clothing worldinstead of talking animals, there were feather boas and wedding dresses and bowling shoes, and paisley shirts and Doc Martens and everything hung up on racks so that first you have black dresses, all together, like the world’s largest indoor funeral, and then blue dressesall the blues you can imagineand then red dresses and so on. Pink-reds and orangey reds and purple-reds and exit-light reds and candy reds. Sometimes I would close my eyes and Natasha and Natalie and Jake would drag me over to a rack, and rub a dress against my hand. "Guess what color this is."
by Carol Emshwiller
Chapter 1: Outlandish Changes
There is more matter in the universe than we at first thought.
“The beast changes to a woman or the woman changes to a beast,” the doctor says. “In her case it is certainly the latter since she has been, on the whole, quite passable as a human being up to the present moment. There may be hundreds of these creatures already among us. No way to tell for sure how many.”
The husband feigns surprise. Actually he’s seen more than he’s telling, and right in his own home.
by Gavin J. Grant
Gavin J. Grant
With thousands of like-minded others, I went to the big peace rally in New York City on February 15th, 2003. It was a cold day, and my wife and I walked up Third Avenue from 32nd to 68th Street before we could cut over to First Avenue and join the rally. Which was really a slow march, but since the city government wouldn’t give us a permit to march, let’s call it a rally.
What do we want?
So many things.
When do want them?
It doesn’t seem possible, but now, please.
…March 5th, 2003, Local News: Writer and editor Gavin J. Grant, 33, (picture) of Northampton, Mass., is believed to be one of hundreds of detainees held after police and other government agencies moved in to calm a noisy and potentially-violent peace rally in New York City’s Washington Square Park….
by Christopher Rowe
The little creek behind my trailer in Kentucky is called Frankum Branch. I had to go to the courthouse to find that out. Nobody around here thought it had a name. But all the little creeks and branches in the world have names, even if nobody remembers them, or remembers which Frankum they’re named after.
by Maureen F. McHugh1 Comment
I. Naturalistic Narrative
Cheap pens. My marriage is not going to survive this. Not the pens — I bought the pens because no pen is safe when Mark is around; his backpack is a black hole for pens — so I bought this package of cheap pens, one of which doesn’t work (although rather than throw it away, I stuck it back in the pen jar, which is stupid), and two of them don’t click right when you try to make the point come out and then go back. It’s good to have them, though, because I’m manning the phone. Tim, my husband, is out combing the Buckeye Trail in the National Park with volunteers, looking for my nine-year-old stepson, Mark. Mark has been missing for twenty-two hours. One minute he was with them, the next minute he wasn’t. I am worried about Mark. I am sure that if he is dead, I will feel terrible. I wish I liked him better. I wish I’d let him take some of these pens. Not that Tim will ever find out that I told Mark he couldn’t have any of these pens.
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20 stories: 140,000 words. But are they any good?
Decide for yourself:
by Christopher RoweLeave a Comment
They tell this one in those tobacco towns along the Green River.
Roy didn’t know whether she was sewing or quilting or doing some kind of mending. He never paid much attention to that kind of work. Still, if the mother knew those ways then it followed that the daughter would.
by Richard ButnerLeave a Comment
Download a 44MB mp3 audio file of Richard Butner reading “Ash City Stomp.”
She had dated Secrest for six weeks before she asked for the Big Favor. The Big Favor sounded like, “I need to get to Asheville to check out the art therapy program in their psychology grad school,” but in reality she had hard drugs that needed to be transported to an old boyfriend of hers in the mountains, and the engine in her 1982 Ford Escort had caught fire on the expressway earlier that spring.
by Jack ChengLeave a Comment
Vanilla Sky is told from the point of view of David Aames, a good looking (hey, he’s Tom Cruise!), millionaire (his father published TV Guide!), playboy (Cameron Diaz swallowed his cum — that means something!) who is not without his dark moments (his parents killed by a drunk driver!). Instead of a bat flying through his window to give direction to his life, this Bruce Wayne meets the batty Sofia Serrano, played by Penelope Cruz, and everything changes.
This is not a film review. The point of this essay is to trash the movie to explain how it could have (should have!) been better. So consider that your spoiler warning, combined with my opinion that this movie isn’t really worth watching in its current form anyway.
by Mark Rich1 Comment
Release came not as I expected — burdened with fines, restrictions, armed guard, and list of warnings longer than my conscience. Instead I walked away entirely free. The doctors, inquisitors, and officials did not visit my cell in the morning as they usually did. Only the middle-aged woman named Ardis entered the cell, without a guard. She arrived with the breakfast tray consisting of nothing out of the ordinary with its simple roll, butter, dab of marmalade, and small red pot of black tea. I stared at the tray trying to assess what was different. Had the commissary taken a second longer in arranging the items across the yellow plastic? Had the usual disarray of items proved unsatisfactory this day? The normally skewed angles of napkin, butter knife, and spoon — had they demanded straightening today? In my brief look at the tray I could see the kitchen help had thought to cut into a fresh lemon for the tea saucer, instead of reaching for a slice remaining from the day before. Or perhaps Ardis personally had overseen the assembly of this breakfast, even stopping to straighten its contents as she stood in the hall outside my cell. As she placed it on the immovable round table near the bed, she did so with greater care than usual.
“After you finish your breakfast you are free to go,” she said. “You can go.”
by Carol EmshwillerLeave a Comment
We’re not against you, we’re for. In fact we’re built for you and you for us — we, so our weak little legs will dangle on your chest and our tail down the back. Exactly as you so often transport your own young when they are weak and small. It’s a joy. Just like a mother-walk.
You’ll be free. You’ll have a pillow. You’ll have a water faucet and a bookcase. We’ll pat you if you do things fast enough and don’t play hard to catch. We’ll rub your legs and soak your feet. Sams and Sues, and you Sams had better behave yourselves.
You still call us aliens in spite of the fact that we’ve been on your world for generations. And why call aliens exactly those who’ve brought health and happiness to you? And look how well we fit, you and us. As if born for each other even though we come from different worlds.
by Carol Emshwiller1 Comment
Cora is a morning person. Her sister, Janice, hardly feels conscious till late afternoon. Janice nibbles fruit and berries and complains of her stomach. Cora eats potatoes with butter and sour cream. She likes being fat. It makes her feel powerful and hides her wrinkles. Janice thinks being thin and willowy makes her look young, though she would admit that — and even though Cora spends more time outside doing the yard and farm work — Cora’s skin does look smoother. Janice has a slight stutter. Normally she speaks rapidly and in a kind of shorthand so as not to take up anyone’s precious time, but with her stutter, she can hold peoples’ attention for a moment longer than she would otherwise dare. Cora, on the other hand, speaks slowly, and if she had ever stuttered, would have seen to it she learned not to.
by Alex IrvineLeave a Comment
Some people have always wanted to be president, or a baseball player, or a movie star or business tycoon. Me, I’ve always wanted to own a bar. Not some flaky franchised chicken-finger paradise for post-fraternity muscleboys and their bimbos; a real shot-and-a-beer kind of neighborhood joint. Pool table or two in the back, an old Wurlitzer by the bathroom doors, a long mirror behind the bar suitable for the sort of what’s-he-got-that-I-ain’t-got scrutiny that melancholy drunks love to subject themselves to. Tables with a topography of cigarette burns, water rings, dents of uncertain origin, all preserved under a quarter-inch layer of varnish. Beer signs on the walls, no bikinis or volleyballs allowed, just painted mirrors and classic flickering neon like the sign out front that says FRANK’S PLACE. Cab company numbers taped to the side of the phone. A blackboard leaning against the mirror advertising the day’s special and a permanent addendum: HANGOVERS FREE OF CHARGE.