David Stevens

Archive for 2017|Yearly archive page

Notes to writers what I do not Know

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2017 at 5:32 pm

Dear Mr Kim Newman,

I am very glad at all the Anno Dracula books, even though years ago I had to work hard to track down the original so now I have two, and I keep telling myself no, you don’t have to have the paperback of Johnny Alucard to go with the others just because the hardback doesn’t fit in. But how come I keep thinking of you each morning at breakfast?

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…..

Dear Mr Jonathan l Howard,

Is Carter and Lovecraft ever going to be released in paperback, please, so I will buy it?

…..

Dear Ms Emma Cline,

Re: The Girls,

No there is no review here because – well, you don’t need it, but plus, I stopped reading. Not because it is bad, but because it hurt. You reach a certain age and you are trying out your coffin for size, and you think you have left things far behind. Not that I was ever a teenage girl, or an American, or a member of a Manson type cult, but my goodness, your descriptions of adolescence – the longing, the not understanding, trying to fit in, the ugliness, the smells, the skin, the rawness, the whole chemical bath your brain is swimming in – the description hurt bad. Flashbacks. Thoughts best left buried. Triggers. I’ll be coming back to it, but just for now Ms Cline I am sorry but I have to give The Girls a rest.

…..

Dear Mr HG Wells,

How are you? Here’s an admission. Until recently, I had never read you. Don’t get me wrong, I thought you were very good as Malcolm McDowell in Time after Time, and I read John Christopher’s Tripods books when I was a boy (which I thought of as the sequel to War of the Worlds once the Martians raided a pharmacy and popped some penicillin), but I had never read The War of the Worlds. Just read it, and loved it. You created a great retro feel (much better than Cowboys & Aliens. I mean, James Bond, really, what were you thinking? Not even one chest burster!). OK, I knew the ending, but so what, how many endings are surprises these days? I loved the country scenes, the connectedness to nature, and then the move to urban horror as the enemy advanced on London. The essay attached to the Penguin edition harped on about light and sunsets, but it was the clinical imagery that I was most intrigued with. All these sf classics still unread, when I should be being measured for my shroud. Perhaps not yet.

…..

Dear Mr Don Winslow,

Thanks, just got around to reading The Cartel, so glad I did. I think the first book of yours I read was The Winter of Frankie Machine, then The Power of the Dog, leading me to your back catalogue. Such different styles and different approaches, a great range from humour to horror and back again. I found The Cartel very powerful and horrifying, the savagery (yes, read Savages as well) unleashed by the uncontrollable desire of North Americans for recreational drugs. You worked me up, Mr Winslow, especially with the inevitable end of one character – his screams and cries and attempts at oblivion did not take away from his courage one bit.

……

Yours most sincerely,

Your obedient servant,

David Stevens

 

 

 

 

 

Fly like a Vogel …

In Uncategorized on June 4, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Great news – At the Edge, a wonderful anthology of speculative fiction by New Zealand (New Zealandian?) and Australian writers, won the Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best Collected Work. And you will immediately see my self interest at work when I congratulate editors Lee Murray and Dan Rabarts for their win, and thank them for including my story, Crop Rotation, in the collection. More details over at David Versace’s blog.

… thinks:  … must buy … At The Edge … NOW…! …

Stuff I am doing or more accurately, stuff I did

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Watched: The Dressmaker – how had I not seen it before? It was compulsory viewing for all Australians, but I must have been on shrimp-tossing duties that day. It made me want Kate Winslet to love me, the way she automatically and effortlessly fell in love with Liam Hemsworth. A bonus was that I have now collected all three Hemsworth’s, and one was by accident, I did not know that Stubbs in Westworld was Luke Hemsworth. But I have to be honest, the only Hemsworth performance I am concerned about is Thor: Ragnarok, because, fair dinkum, Taika Waititi meets Marvel is something to look forward to, and why didn’t I do better in life, why didn’t I do that – sorry. It is odd, I bet the people who watched and loved The Dressmaker back home were not the sort of people who normally watch cartoons, an by jingo, weren’t there a lot of cartoon characters in that film. Barry Otto was probably not born a cartoon character, but he has certainly evolved into one, and well done to him. Plus the film gave the extra survivalist knowledge of the relative virtues of diving into a silo of wheat, versus diving into a silo of sorghum. I did not know that fact, but I will not spoil it for you. But even the guy from House Husbands apparently knew. I still have no idea what a 41 year old and a 27 year old were doing going to school together, and Liam Hemsworth’s character must have been two when the defining incident of the film occurred, yet he was able to remember the activity in the playground vividly. Oh well, suspension of disbelief, and Judy Davis was bloody fantastic, yes she was.

Read: The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross, (well, that’s as good a link as any) and I have been tricked, but I knew it. Far out, I am an easy target. Years of watching the Paranormal Romance shelves spread and spread and spread in Galaxy Bookshop in Sydney, and complaining loudly about it (oh, look at that, there’s paranormal romance everywhere, its reproducing paranormally, oh, I’m hilarious), and here I am reading the stuff. BECAUSE IT IS. I mean, its not just that, but Alex and the Elf Princess, it sucked me in just like certain women of my vintage get sucked in by Mills and Boon, because, he is a nerd with no saving graces and no social skills, but because of inherent strength that only the exotic Elf Princess can see, he gets the girl anyway. And Tor says “Stross is clever in representing Alex’s helpless, under-socialized terror of women without giving the audience the sense that Alex is in the right about his weirdness”, and I say, fuck off Tor, that’s me, and just about every nerdy bloke I knew, knowing someone special had to be out there who would see the good inside underneath the hopelessly unsocialised exterior (hello Mrs Stevens – not you, Mum, the other one). And so why does it still warm my heart, why do I still need the nerdy guy to get the impossible girl – you know why, the same reason you have nightmares that you have to go back and sit that final maths exam again, because every single achievement since high school is a dream, you IMPOSTOR … sorry. I also like the shooting bits and the dragon bits and other bits. And this is why I do not do book reviews. (I like that there is a character who is a vicar, very generous and indeed diverse of the author, but I do not believe the bit at all where he does not pray because he does not want God to know what he is doing.)

Drunk: Hoegaarden Grand Cru: a lov – er – ly drop. Plus, what they say, at the link there.  Lov-er-ly. Available exclusively in Belgium, but the occasional bottle finds its way into the Netherlands … and into my heart.

Writing: Yes I am. And bad things are about to happen to Grandma. Meanwhile, while I am working on that, have a look here.

Well played, straight bat and a fine century

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2017 at 5:22 am

Aurealis, a much loved and very entertaining science fiction and fantasy magazine that also happens to be Australian*, has released its 100th edition. In the world of genre periodicals, this is an excellent achievement. Congratulations to all involved, well played!

 

*And just happened once upon a time, way back in edition #68, to include my sf-horror story ‘Avoiding Gagarin’. 

Anticipation

In Uncategorized on May 21, 2017 at 10:33 am

Of course, anticipation is usually sweeter, but it remains that (not unexpectedly, but wouldn’t it have been noice, yes, noice!) “Eat, Pray, Wait” by yours truly shall not grace the pages of the next edition of Year’s Best Weird Fiction. However, it is available here for your reading pleasure, sandwiched with other morsels between the covers of john Benson’s “Not One of Us”. Of course, I recommend YBWF and Michael Kelly’s Undertow publications (especially Shadows and Tall Trees) to you for your edification (cos that’s what we are all about, the edification). And while at it, why not read something else I have written, so that my living will have been worthwhile? (Insert smiley face here, but shade it grey and make it faint, that’s a noice touch.)

Attack of the Spider Woman

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2017 at 12:59 pm

I awoke the other morning from uneasy dreams to find that, lying in my bed, I had been transformed into a giant insect. In the unearthly morning light, the remnants of a purple mist could be seen, passing through walls and windows.  Not again.

There was nothing for it.  Lying on my hard, as it were armour plated, back, I knew I had to wait it out.  What about sleeping a little longer and forgetting all this nonsense, I thought, the klaxon lighted sky making me feel melancholy.

But then I thought some more.  Realising no one else was about (for I share my fortified compound with no-one), I dangled first one leg, then the next, then another, from the bed, until my centre of gravity shifted and I tumbled to the floor.  I shook my segments, set my bearings with my multi-faceted eyes, and set off to explore the room.  Before I knew it, I was walking up the wall, and on the ceiling.  I felt my wings begin to quiver, and was almost overcome by a desire to set sail across the air.

I explored my home as though a stranger, which I suppose I was.  I knew I should not be doing this.  The accepted etiquette is to simply wait until one is one’s self again.  We are in possession of our faculties.  We know better.  As I set off, I felt naughty, then more than that.  I felt great.

 

I opened the door (yes, I was a giant insect and did not have opposable thumbs, however I retained a human brain and it was my door after all), and nearly fainted with the overload of my senses, with all the signals of death and decay.  A whole universe of half broken down organisms to be clambered through and consumed.

Shaking a little, I danced with joy.  Liberation.  A secret indulgence.  How often does one get to experience the pleasures of another creature, to live in the body of another?  Even if it was the body of a giant cockroach.

Then I noticed the stillness.  Something was wrong.  From a corner of the garden, it ran at me.

Before I knew what I was doing, I realised that I too was running as fast as my six legs could take me.  Purely from instinct, I jinked and changed direction.  One of my compound lenses revealed what was in pursuit.  A giant spider was coming at me at terrifying speed.  This was outrageous.  It was nothing natural.  A creature of that size could only be another person, transformed for the moment by this morning’s toxic discharge.  I tried to gather who it must be.  It could only be the woman from across the road.  She always seemed a little wrong headed.  She knew she was supposed to stay in her own place.  I cursed myself for my stupidity,  no matter how high my walls, they were no match for a giant arachnid.

I turned again, having the advantage of knowledge of the layout of my fortified compound.  Fool.  I was running where she was driving me.  Just when I thought I was about to reach the safety of the house, I stopped.  The more I struggled, the more I was stopped.  Web!

I turned and looked at her.  There was something disturbingly Freudian about the way she was manically manipulating her pincers.  I tried to reason with her, but only a whole lot of roach gibberish came out.  Though afraid, my anger dropped away: she was only doing the same as me, experiencing the alien.

Then it stopped.  The rigidity of the armour passed away, and there I was, flesh bodied and human again.  The same for the woman, although she continued to run oddly for a few steps after her body had returned.  At least she had the courtesy to help unwrap the web from me.  It was only afterwards that I reflected how odd it was to be standing there naked in that situation.

Abandoned chunk from a work in progress

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2017 at 9:04 pm

Fucken hungry.  He could murder a cold one too, a dozen, but he knows he could drink a sea and  it wouldn’t fill him with what he needs.

He’s just taking a breather.  No one could deny he’s been digging away down here in the dark.  Working hard.  Its only when he looks up that he realises there’s a kid down here.

Thinking about it, he supposes there are dead kids. Has to be.  Plenty of them. Not much use though, are they, your dead kid.  Not in a mine, he thinks, forgetting how old he was when he started this caper, like he’s forgotten everything, except how to dig. And that he’s dead. He knows that.

Its not a smoko, cos he doesn’t have any smokes.  Can’t, not down a mine.  More a breather.  Not that he’s sure he’s really breathing.  Dead, and he still wants a smoke.  Some habits die hard.  And its not as though he’s just dead.  When he realised he was here, when he woke up working, he didn’ t have any legs left, that’s how dead he was.

The kid’s not on a track, not on rails. Neither is he, now that his legs have grown back, but you know what I mean. He’s not official like. The kid’s not working. He’s on a lark, just wandering about.  Gets on his wick.

The kid sees him. He’s got a lamp stuck on his head, like he’s a miner. He’s a bludger, more like. Shit scared now, not wandering about so aimlessly now. So he should be, bludger.  He wouldn’t bludge down here.  Who knows what they’d do?  If they can bring you back to life, what other shit can they do?  He’s never liked bludgers and he’s never liked wankers.  Remembers that.  Bludgers, wankers, thieves.  Blinks.  A feeling rises, and he remembers it before he can name it.  Shame.  That’s it.  Thieves.  He’s been eating some of the rocks he’s been digging.  Just some little ones.  Surely no one will miss them.  Fucken hungry.

Smell the kid’s fear. Didn’t know he could do that. Bet that’s new.  Scent condenses on his tongue, and saliva flows. He changes inside. Its like feelings he gave up on a long time ago. Longings.

So fucken hungry he could eat his own arse.

But he doesn’t have to.

He’d laugh if he had a voice.   Oh yes.  The kid’s face turns weird, he’s running.  Why?  He realised that he had been walking, without knowing it.  Just a passenger being carried along by legs and hunger.  I see.  The kid’s running away from me.  The kid fumbles in his back pack, loses a bit of the distance between them, pulls out a bit of tinfoil.  That knife won’t help, kid. You gonna murder me?  I’m already dead.

He hops down from the track, into the rubble of what they’ve been digging. Coal. Utility pipes. Dirt. Small trees pulled down through the earth by their roots. Form and complexity. Information and structure. Bits of it lying around down there.

Watcha got in that bag kid? A monster gun? Shambling over, stretching stiff joints. Something wriggling about in there.

Whatever it is, the kid brings the knife down into the centre of it, and it doesn’t like it.  Its jumping around.  The kid sticks the knife into its guts, and it spurts.

O!  The smell. He still can’t remember his name, but flavours flood back, and the drool pours out over his chin.  He can recall crumbed lambs brains and cream and mushrooms and wine – the bitter of the first beer after work on a summer’s day – burning his fingers snatching at hot chips with vinegar, the sun already down and steam pouring from their mouths as they broke battered fish into bits – onion as he licked at his wife’s fingers – stolen honey – other, private tastes…

The thing whatever it was was in his face and he sucked it empty, breathed it down, a wonderful throat-full of blood or motor oil or whatever it was inside, bloody beautiful, and chewing down on the carcass, swallowing it into him, wiping his mouth with his arm then licking the arm clean, the misery in his stomach abated for a moment, letting out a moan like he’s breaking.

The creaking of an ancient unoiled engine returning to life, his voice returned. “Thanks kid.” Clouds were lifting and he stepped out of a haze. “I’m George?” he groaned with the intonation of an unsure teenage girl.  “Yes, I’m George. What the fuck are you doing down here?”

“Looking for someone.”

“Are they dead?”

“Hope not.”

Dream not the impossible dream

In Uncategorized on April 9, 2017 at 8:40 pm

News of the bus misadventure in the Canutes caused me to reflect on an incident from my school days.

Those of a certain age will remember the tightening of the curriculum, when a scientific fine tooth comb was drawn through the hippy length hair of what in those days passed for the imparting of knowledge to the young.  How bracing we found the shock of the new, when the wool was pulled from over our eyes and we saw not through a glass darkly for the first time.  I remember our science teacher, nervous, looking around, perhaps unsure of how we would react to the “New Learning”.  Then he opened his mouth:

“Children.  Here is something interesting that I have to … need to tell you about.  Did you know that flight is impossible?”

How intrigued I was.  I recall the brand new text books that were handed around that day.  I had never had a new text book before, unsullied by the eye prints of ancient children.  One quote has stuck in my mind.

“Flight is not possible, and never has been possible.  It is a scientific fact, that despite the widespread availability of extension ladders, no part of the fossil record has ever been found in the air.”

That clinched it for me.  Magical thinking dropped away.  Years of superstitious nonsense gone.  Evolution proved it.

“But sir” piped up one familiar voice, and even in those days, the teacher dared not ignore it.

“Yes Trevor?”

“Sir, I dream of flying.”

The teacher was flustered, and he looked around more, sweating.  “But that…”

“Sir, I dream of flying.  I’m up in the air, looking down on all creation.  Without a care, I stretch my arms and just fly over everything.  It feels wonderful.”

“I’m sure it does.”

“But its not true, is it sir?”

The teacher was silent.

“Dreams are stupid, aren’t they sir.  We dream all sorts of ridiculous things, don’t we.”

“Yes that’s right Trevor.  Flight is not possible.  We dream all sorts of nonsense.”

“So sir, when you say all the time that we can achieve whatever we want, and that we should follow our dreams, you’re full of shit, aren’t you sir.”

“Yes Trevor.”

I like to remember that day, on nights when I hear the screeching low over head, when there is the illusion of scrabbling at my roof tiles, when something unseen triggers the alarms in my fortified compound.  It comforts me to know that the desperate screeching above, the whooping, the unearthly howls, are all an illusion, for flight is simply impossible.  It pushes thoughts of military experiments gone awry from my mind, so that images of crazed scientists splitting open the space-time continuum are restricted to my dreams.  Which, as we now all know, are full of shit.

Then tonight on the news, the story of the dreadful bus crash in the Canute Peaks, and the loss of 30 or so scientists as their bus plummeted into the unplumbable depths of the Siegfired Chasm, as they were trying to achieve the State of Bliss.  They were crazy themselves, of course.  They had been at a conference where they had been discussing whether the lack of fossils in the air was not because flight was impossible, but because over time, the ground has risen and absorbed the aerial fossil record.  Some things just should not be discussed.

I like to think that some of them survived the horrible, horrible fall, and that they will eke out an existence in those depths, surviving on the flesh of their comrades who died on the way down, but of course, I am an incurable romantic.

Mormon boys

In Uncategorized on March 4, 2017 at 4:40 pm

Lonely Mormons

far from home

wandering through the great apostasy.

Tempted by Coca Cola,

shunning coffee and other like beverages,

is your truth too good for me?

You all rush to share it

with the pretty Asian girls.

Was there nothing on

those buried gold plates

Elohim wanted you

to share with me?

I’ll just have to cross my own desert.

Not for the first time.

*****

Those Mormon boys were hanging around Chinatown in Sydney, and no matter how many times I walked past, ready to talk to them about Joseph Smith, they were too busy sharing their truth* with pretty girls.

*In the words of Vyvyan#, “I’ve never heard it called that before”.

#When some pompous old bloke said he wanted to “protect” Felicity Kendall.%

%”Felicity, you fill me with electricity” – Rik

 

How the Australian Cricket team could FEED THE WORLD

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2017 at 9:05 pm

I dream of an ink vampire, draining chinese ideograms, celtic crosses, pictures of dogs, MOM, southern crosses, rebel flags, big boobed naked girls, meaningless epigrams, fanned cards, LOVE, band names, HATE, gothic script, military insignia, stupid lyrics, astrological signs, hula dancers, horned devils, feathered chiefs, bible quotes, affirmations, garish sleeves.  How it thrives now, after years of sustaining itself only on sailors, convicts, military personnel and bikies.  It has added hipsters and wannabes, footballers and cricket captains to its food supply.  All the skinny Zooey Deschanels of the world, not much blood, but lots of ink.  Spread the disease, so that the hungry may feed on the hipster inksters.  Share the plague, disseminate it throughout the world, so that the hungry hordes may rise up, then descend.  How they scream, the victims when they awake, searching their bodies for their specially chosen design, but finding only a faint outline left.  “Do you know how much that cost me?”  A small child wipes its mouth, hunger sated for the first time.  INK!  MORE!