David Stevens

Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

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.

Grappling with 2017

In Uncategorized on January 8, 2017 at 11:08 am

The coming soon is coming sooner. Long awaited, the second volume of the Grapple Annual is, I hear, coming this way. If not just around the corner, then surely it is just down the street and couple of blocks to the left. Some rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Canberra to be born. Should we be bewaring the ides of March? Or April? Or even February? Dunno. But I hear that it is coming.

Sergeant Burns is a character that/who has been living inside my head for a long time. He had a little peek out of my third eye hole a few years ago, courtesy of my self-trephination (there are some who say the pineal gland is not meant to see the light of day. Who says it doesn’t already? I just wanted to let some air in. Are these the same few who would restrict surgery for the elite, and deny it to the masses? I speak of the performance thereof. But now is not the time to discuss Amateur surgery. I capitalise Amateur in the spirit of the Olympics. But I digress. And where would the fun be in life if we didn’t?), in his initial public appearance a few years ago in the first Grapple Annual, which published his Penultimate Report. And now he wakes me from my sleep, demanding I record his final adventures. Another character, little harmless (I think there is a spelling mistake there somewhere) MacGuffin, spends a few moments in the daylight in the second Grapple, before being replaced in his cupboard, or setting off to interstellar darkness, or both, or perhaps I just can’t remember which.

The Golden Age of Science Fiction, celibating or is that celebrating Robert Heinlein’s birthday as I colonise July in the Grapple Annual. Coming soon-ish.

The Grapple Annual No. 2

FEATURING:

Braille by Louis Klee (4 January)
Hydra by Emma Marie Jones (11 January)
– 28 January by Soraya Morayef (28 January)
– Loss by Alice Bishop (7 February)
– Racey Friends – looking by Paden Hunter (12 February)
– Nightdriving by Alexander Bennetts (28 February)
– Fairy Goddaughter by Sarah Pritchard (6 March)
– Beware the Ides of March! by Sam Brien (15 March)
 The Connected World by David C Mahler (21 March)
– Visiting Richard Yates by Elizabeth Caplice (25 March)
– March Camping, 1990s by Christopher Evans (26 March)
– Dreamcast Monolith with Undergrowth by Alice Carroll (31 March)
– Meander, Triste and Awe by Brett Canét-Gibson (14th April)
– Divine Vinyl by Owen Heitmann (16 April)
 From JG Ballard, July 1966 (behind Foot Locker, August 2013) by Andrew Galan (19 April)
– Today I Feel Like Remembering by Anna Jacobson (22 April)
 Thoughts on art and the ways it reaches you by Sandra Hajda (29 April)
– May, The Opening by Ben Walter (1 May)
– Mahala by Fikret Pajalic (5 May)
– The Drunk and the Flower Man by Nathan Fioritti (11 May)
– What If? by Miranda Cashin (15 May)
– The River Fisher’s Daughter by Kirk Marshall (25 May)
– Baby Emma by Emma Makepeace (1 June)
– All these places have their moments by Madeline Karurtz (12 June)
– After Life by Lauren Briggs (23 June)
The Golden Age of Science Fiction by David Stevens (7 July)
– The 8th July in History by Safdar Ahmed (8 July)
– Positive Space by Lynley Eavis (21 July)
– The End of Days by Jack Martinez (1 August)
– When They Were Young by Shuang West (13 August)
– Audley by Humyara Mahbub (14 August)
– The Gurindji People by Mandy Ord (16 August)
– Go Troppo by Isabelle Li (17 September)
– Campo de’ Fiori by Ashley Capes (22 September)
 Rule Ten by Gregory Wolos (28 September)
– Four Confessions That I’ve Been Meaning to Confess Since That Evening When We Made Guacamole and I Compared All Three Avocados to my Womb, Which Might’ve Made You Uncomfortable but I Couldn’t Tell for Sure by Kayla Pongrac (29 September)
– Pilot Episode, October 2nd by Lauren Paredes (2 October)
– I Desire; I Have Our Home by Emma Rose Smith (2 November)
– Great Emu War by Eleri Mai Harris (8 November)
– Lucia by Lucy Hunter (13 December)
– An ordinary domestic pattern was disclosed by Monica Carroll (17 December)
– Time Zones by Jake Lawrence (30 December)

Editor: Duncan Felton

Designer and visual art editor: Finbah Neill

Editorial Assistant: Rachael Nielsen

Readers: Lucy Nelson, Frazer Brown and  Kara Griffin-Warwicke

 

Kaleidotrope

In Uncategorized on January 2, 2017 at 10:12 am

The new edition of Kaleidotrope is live and ready for your reading pleasure. Check out the contents below – in the words of various people, including that little kid, in O Brother Where art thou?, its bona fide.

Fiction
“The Song of the Whistling Crab” by Michael McGlade
“One Thousand Paper Cranes” by Julie C. Day
“The Big Reveal” by David Stevens
“Scrapie’s Trap” by Lisa Bergin
“The Last Seven Eternities of Dr. Julian Slade, PhD” by Joshua Kamin

Poetry
“Ship of Jinn” by Holly Lyn Walrath
“From the Dictionary of Nonexistent Words, A Sampler” by Kathrin Köhler
“The Last Word” by Gwynne Garfinkle

Artwork

Cesar Valtierra
10 years and they are still going strong, have to be doing something right! (A future in advertising awaits me not.)

Pseudopod Kickstarter

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2016 at 5:23 pm

I’m sure that all of the Escape Artist podcasts are worthy, but Pseudopod is the only one which has accepted a story of mine, so I’m very happy to mention their 10th anniversary kickstarter. They are so very close to meeting their target, head on over and check it out, and throw in a few bucks if you feel inclined (you can see why I’d be a failure as a car salesman). And don’t forget to check out my own Pseudopod story, ‘Good Boy’.

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.

Eat, Pray … Wait

In Uncategorized on October 8, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Looking for the good life? Want to express your basic nature, unworried by constraints? Need to get away from it all? You are not the only one, there’s a whole bunch of folk itching to change their surroundings …

‘Eat, Pray, Wait’, something small and nasty by moi, appears in the latest edition of Not One of Us.

NOT ONE OF US #56

“Welcome to our thirtieth-anniversary issue. We have gods and ghosts, wraiths and harlequins, a monster, a maze, and Mars, reds and rusalkas, a lost girl’s lost father, bones and stones and boxes.”

Contents:

  • The Drowned Carnival, by Mat Joiner
  • Ghost Ships of the Middlesex Canal (poem), by Sonya Taaffe
  • Now That Sarah Is Gone, by Tim L. Williams
  • The Vigilant (poem), by Lynette Mejía
  • Eat, Pray, Wait, by David Stevens
  • God’s Bones, by Jennifer Crow
  • Wraith (poem), by Erik Amundsen
  • Lamp Beside the Golden Door (poem), by Beth Cato
  • Rusalka (poem), by Sandi Leibowitz
  • In a Room, by Nicole Tanquary
  • Playing the Reds (poem), by Herb Kauderer
  • Team Orderly Mars, by David Ebenbach
  • The Monster in the Maze (poem), by Alexandra Seidel
  • When the Stones Hungered for Kin, by Patricia Russo
  • The Box (poem), by Holly Day
  • Art: John Stanton

Disgust

In Uncategorized on August 19, 2016 at 11:37 pm

David Stevens transforms the countryside into a terrifying ecological nightmare in “Crop Rotation“, a story that makes disgust its bread and butter.

Why, thank you very much! I can’t ask for much more than that: terrifying, nightmare, and disgust, all in one sentence. Insert smiley face here. I am happy to see that Haralambi Markov’s review of At the Edge is up on Tor.com.

E.G. Wilson …

In Uncategorized on August 3, 2016 at 5:08 am

… has a story in At the Edge (hmm, must … buy … now…!), and is the latest interviewee from the anthology at Angela Slatter’s blog. Do the left click thing and check it out.

ate

Hutchinson’s Europe

In Uncategorized on August 3, 2016 at 2:50 am

I have been lucky to find some gold nuggets amongst the dross recently. It is amongst my favourite things, to settle into a book, and to have the feeling grow, yeah, this is one of those, I like it, I really like it … The smile widens, time passes, and I throw up a silent thanks, and debate whether I pass the book onto one of my mates to share, or just pass on the name of title, from fear the book may never be returned (and yes, my fears are based on the number of volumes of “borrowed” books on my own shelves).

I really, really enjoyed Dave Hutchinson’s ‘Europe in Autumn’. Perhaps that is not enough for a review, or enough to convince you. Let’s take an oblique step back. I am currently reading, and thoroughly enjoying, ‘Germany: Memories of a Nation’ by Neil MacGregor. I have just read his description of the Holy Roman Empire, of the patchwork of principalities and duchies and independent cities collected under one Emperor, and how it worked and hobbled forward in its awkward way for a millenium. I live far away from Europe. In NSW, we mostly think of ourselves as Australians (with whatever other religious/ethnic/sporting identities we share with that), citizens of a large (in terms of geographical size) nation state. In other parts of Australia though, identity is more of a mixed bag. I leave aside the most obvious, that of our original people, the Aborigines and Torres Straits Islanders. Just based on our administrative divisions from colonial times, people who live in at least some of the other states identify as Queenslanders, or Western Australians. During boom economic times, when its mining industry is pouring the wealth in, we hear calls by some Western Australians to secede from the Commonwealth of Australia. When the inevitable cyclical decline begins, those voices are quietened.

I find it difficult to understand the separateness that a lot of Queenslanders express. It is even more difficult for me to understand what Europe was after the fall of Rome, and before the rise of the nation state, other than in an intellectual fashion. I know when I teach legal history, it often appears difficult for young students to make that leap to a time before the emergence of parliamentary government, fixed borders, one source of legal authority, and so on. I need someone to help me with the imaginative leap to elsewhere and elsewhen.

One thing – and not the only or the main thing – that Hutchinson does very well, is to demonstrate that history does not have to be the way it is, and the future may not be the way we imagine. Child of my times that I am, we will never be living in the future until we have flying cars, and Elon Musk hasn’t done that yet. Hutchinson shows us a near future where technology continues to develop – there are some very interesting shiny things – but the world is fracturing, not developing into the One World Government of either HG Wells or conspiracy theorists: imagine Brexit on a scale where suburbs, not even suburbs, city blocks or even buildings – secede from a common union, where border walls go up in the oddest of places. Imagine if the disintegration of Yugoslavia knew no bounds. People are still people, spies are still spies, sewer engineers are still vital – it is not a world of cyphers, but of real people doing real jobs (in particular, cooking). Rather than green faced aliens in a world that is just ours but slightly relabelled and rejigged, we have real humans with real lives in a world that is ours gone sideways. Ahh goes my slow brain, this is how it might feel to be part of such a world, and my imagination expands (and I think I am being clever, but I suspect that is a gift from the writer, dragging me along). And then out of those cracks, from between those fractures, something strange and inriguing emerges, drifting out in hints and suspicions at first, until we are confronted with something bizarre that may have been playing with us all along. And then in ‘Europe at Midnight’ things grow odder still, beginning with the tale of a university in armed conflict with itself.

The title above is “Hutchinson’s Europe”, because with all of the world building that goes on here, I think that he deserves it – it is truly a most interesting creation. I loved all the bits: the world building, Les Coreurs des Bois, the major world disaster at first mentioned in passing, the spies, the exciting set pieces, our various heroes, and the impossibilities. Read both books, and save your pennies for ‘Europe in Winter’, whenever it might arrive (soon, please).

And you can read Mr Hutchinson’s views on Brexit here.