David Stevens

Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

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’. 

Advertisements

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.

When your dreams are shaky, think of Mr Cranky

In Uncategorized on November 7, 2016 at 8:16 pm

Mr Cranky, a man who does not dream. Or who dreams in weight and movement, instead of images and memory. Or …

Mr Cranky has been with me a very long time, and has finally oozed out of my pores to see the light of day, published in Sci.Phi Journal, the magazine of science fiction and philosophy.

I do miss his original title, though: “Mr Cranky and his Amazing, Performing, Evolutionary Dogs”, despite the fact that it was completely misleading. Though there are dogs. Or a dog – Mr Lumpy. Perhaps he dreams. Woof.

Big grins

In Uncategorized on March 20, 2016 at 1:21 am

I woke up on Wednesday morning to find three rejection emails waiting in my in box. Grumble grumble, oh well, do the editors all get together to co-ordinate this, grumble …

Later that day, an acceptance from a magazine that had earlier asked me for some rewrites. Mood completely changed. And now, I’ve just had my third acceptance in four days. That’s never happened to me before, and I am a little bit chuffed. That is a total of seven now to appear over the next 12 months or so. This includes my appearance in the forthcoming anthology, ‘At the Edge‘. More detail to follow, but in the meantime, feel free to check out my bibliography, where you can find links to read some of my published stories for free. (And don’t forget the anthology ‘Love Hurts‘, available now.)

Speculative Fiction Festival

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2015 at 10:30 am

A little shout out for the NSW Writers’ Centre’s Speculative Fiction Festival (click on the highlighted text to be taken straight to their webpage), being held a the centre in the beautiful grounds of the former mental asylum at Callan Park. I have previously enjoyed many speakers and panels at the Speculative Fiction Festival and also the Genre Fiction Festival, found new writers to read, and picked up on the buzz of being surrounded by so many people interested in writing, and even a few who make their living from it. If you are in Sydney on 18 July, I can recommend it.

This year’s convenor/director is Cat Sparks. At a panel a few years ago, she challenged the audience: are you actually finishing your stories? And then, are you submitting them? And are you aiming your sights high, are you trying to sell in foreign markets? I had to admit, with a couple of minor exceptions, that my answer to all three was ‘no’. And so I did something about it. I set targets. I finished work. I sent it out. I haven’t set any worlds on fire, but I’ve now made pro and semi-pro sales in Australia and overseas, of stories I am proud of, in  publications I am excited to be associated with. So: thank you, Cat Sparks!

Graham Joyce

In Uncategorized on November 29, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Graham Joyce is one of my writers. Like you, I have a bunch of them. I come across them somehow, often at a book sale, buy something cheap, then after enjoying it, work my way through their back catalogue, and still enjoying them, buy each new book as it comes out. Too rarely I reflect on how lucky I am to have found them, and as the years pass I wonder what writer I may be missing out on as I scan shop shelves.

I read his latest about four or five months ago (and included a quote from it in an earlier post). Just a few weeks later, I was posting on the horror of MH17 being shot down over the Ukraine. Today, I read Joyce’s far superior post touching on the same topic.  Sadly, the reason I read it, is because two months late, I accidentally heard news of his death.

Strangers die all the time. Who am I to speak of a man who I never met, or to pretend knowledge by appropriating details from wikipedia? I can only gently suggest you seek out his books. The magic of writing means that I enjoyed a number of hours within his head, touching his thoughts with my eyes, drawing them into myself. There are many worse ways that I could have spent those hours, and worse ways you could spend yours. If you like to read and like to think and have conjured up for you strange intrusions into this world, it would be a kindness for you to read his work.

My Gregory gush

In Uncategorized on September 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm

If you are already planning on reading ‘Pandemonium’ by Daryl Gregory, don’t read any further. There are no more spoilers here than on the back cover blurb, but …

I went on a Daryl Gregory binge last weekend. I’d had ‘Raising Stony Mayhall’ on my wishlist at The Book Depository for some time, and received a price drop alert, so I pushed it up the queue and purchased it. While I was doing that, I looked at his other novels and immediately bought ‘Pandemonium’.

‘Pandemonium’ – what’s not to love? The blurb had me by the end of the second sentence: ‘It is a world like our own [except that in] the 1950s, random acts of possession began to occur’. OK, done, sold. If only I hadn’t read the description further, what a great ‘What the … ?’ moment I would have had (and I live for those moments, folks). His ‘quest for help leads him to Valis, an entity possessing the science fiction writer formerly known as Philip K Dick’. BAM! Hit ‘Purchase now’. Two of my favourite books are ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Valis’, all my buttons were hit and lit up.

I have to confess, I would have preferred a different resolution, that the clues that had been laid led to a different place, but hey, I enjoyed the weird ride, and the ultimate ending was satisfying. The stranger the setting, the odder the world, it is essential, but harder, to create believable characters. The protagonist was believable with his existential struggle and nightmare life, and I cared about him and the crises he faced.

I went straight from that to ‘Raising Stony Mayhall’, also set in a world like our own, except that George Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead’ was a documentary of a zombie outbreak that was quickly contained, and now the world lives in fear of a repeat performance.

I know there are people who hate zombies. The official position of Clarkesworld is that there are no good zombie stories. ‘Stony’ is a good story, that happens to be about zombies. Purists might not like them, hell, for those for whom the big debate is fast v slow zombies, the deviations and twists to the standard zombie line here may be too much. Too bad, I enjoyed it, I liked the protagonist and the choices he was faced with, I was intrigued by the world of disappearances and secret prisons, of zombie politics and terrorism.

I was then in a bookstore and saw Gregory’s latest, ‘Afterparty’, and stopped myself. Patience, David, patience, leave yourself something for later.

I’ve said it before, I’m no reviewer (at least I didn’t use the word ‘nice’, bugger, there it is, it slipped in), but I can say I really enjoyed ‘Pandemonium’ and ‘Raising Stony Mayhall’, both rose above so much predictable genre work, satisfying my need for good story and weird shit.

Bio? The letter ‘C’

In Uncategorized on September 15, 2014 at 8:01 am

Submissions require an author bio. I struggle with this. I look to others for inspiration. Some people include a half page of whimsy, at which I cringe, and have no publication credits, because they have not published anything. Others have a stream of credits, and of course, I can’t emulate that. Some list all the information demonstrating how they comply with a magazine’s wish for greater diversity, but everything about me is mainstream (or if its not, would only make sense to a few people within a small region in Sydney – perhaps). Still, I look for inspiration from others. Let’s begin with the letter ‘C’:

  • Career: There is of course the traditional writer’s gambit of listing the 372 jobs they have had, from lumberjack to polar bear trainer, or alternatively, describing the highly technical work they do to show they are the ‘science’ in ‘science fiction’. Until early this year, I worked in the same place for over two decades, and I’m in a profession that would want no connection with horror stories, so I keep that to myself.
  • Cats: I don’t get the cats. Everyone but me has cats. Cats kill at least around 4 million native animals in Australia each year. I like native animals. So no cats. Plus my dog died, and that was sad, and no one wants to hear about that in an author bio. Especially the details of peeing blood all over me.
  • Children: I have four children. I love them dearly. They are humans, not cats though, and I wonder if that upsets anyone. If you can see their pictures, it means you are the person who stole my wallet.
  • Clarion: haven’t been there. Not to east, west or even south (which I think doesn’t exist any more). So no Clarion workshop to put on the list. No doubt, that shows from my writing. When I publish something and I see another contributor has been to Clarion, for some reason that makes me feel good.
  • Cohabitation: I have a wife. She has a husband (me). I asked her to remind me how long we have been married. She paused before muttering ‘forever’. She encourages me to write. She encourages me not to talk about her here. So, enough.
  • Cool: I’m not. I’m old. That I was going to include here the phrase ‘hep cat’ says a great deal. Not hip, not a hipster. Neither am I a geek (though no doubt like most people, I would appear somewhere on the ‘nerd’ spectrum). I have no street cred. In Australia, I would be a ‘dag’. This is a reference to the dung encrusted wool at a sheep’s bum, so you can tell it is not a good thing.
  • Cultural activities: I watch too much television. I put that in my bio. Once. I read a lot. I have lots of things I used to do. I like bird watching. I dunno. (This is just getting worse…).

So I typically include some variation of: David Stevens (usually) lives in Sydney, Australia, with his wife and children. His stories have appeared in Crossed Genres, Aurealis and Three-Lobed Burning Eye magazines, Pseudopod podcast, and some small Australian literary magazines. One day he will finish his novel.

*Yawn*