Posts Tagged ‘fantasy’

I like to tell stories, as you might have guessed if you follow this blog. And I am happy to report that my toddler daughters finally like to listen to me tell stories. Each night at bedtime, they get the next installment in their own continuing adventures. Yes, they are princesses in the stories (and my wife and I are the Queen and King), but I would describe them as Adventure Princesses. Note: Janie and Serena are pseudonyms, as the princesses wish to retain their anonymity.

Click here for Bedtime Stories #1.

Once Upon A Time…

Janie and Serena are princesses who live in a giant sandcastle on the edge of an ocean. Although the ocean crashes against the base of the castle, it never washes the castle away, for it is a magic castle that can withstand the waves of time. The King and Queen also live in the sandcastle, but the needs of their kingdom often keep them busy. To the west lies an endless ocean. To the east there is a tall mountain range. To the north, there are grassy plains as far as the eye can see. And to the south, there is a vast desert.

Left to their own devices, the princesses often go on adventures…

Over the Lava River

Serena and Janie were bored one day, and since the giant playground in the cloud kingdom had been closed to them, they decided to follow rumors of an awesome playground to the south. They trudged through the hot desert for what seemed like forever, until the sand gave way to stone and the stone to rugged mountains where steam vented up through the ground. Finally they reached a cliff edge, and far below it, a river of hot lava. On the other side of the river there was another cliff face, and past that was the playground they sought. The only way across was a rickety wooden bridge, but this didn’t stop Janie from running across it and drawing Serena in her wake. Halfway across, the ropes of the bridge began to snap, one by one, and the two princesses had to half-run, half-climb the collapsing bridge. They only barely made it to the far side, and now there was no way across the chasm and thus no way to get home.

“What are we going to do?” Serena asked.

“Let’s play first and worry about it later,” Janie said.

Serena shrugged, smiled, and ran off into the playground with Janie at her heels. They played for most of the day and it was not until near sunset that they started to ponder how to get back home.

“Yup, there’s really no way back across,” Janie said, eyeing the river of molten lava far below.

“I think there is,” Serena declared. “To the swings!”

Janie followed her to the swing set, which was perched right at the edge of the cliff above the lava river. They both got on and started swinging with all their might. At just the right moment, they leaped out of the swings and soared over the river to the other side of the chasm, landing in a tumble but coming up safe and sound.

149156737swingnight

“That was great!” cried Janie. “Let’s do it again.”

“It’s time to get home,” admonished Serena. “We’ll have to come back here and fix it later.”

“You mean rebuild the bridge?” Janie asked.

“No. I mean build another swing set on this side so we can swing back across!”

Janie laughed. By the light of the full moon, they crossed the desert and made their way safely back home.

The Rainbow Forest

It had been raining for days, and Serena and Janie were suffering from a huge case of boredom. They were watching the rain outside their window, when suddenly the rain stopped, the clouds parted, and a rainbow appeared. One end stopped right at the base of the Sandcastle.

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The princesses smiled and set to tying their bedsheets together. Once this was done, they climbed out of the window and down their bedsheet rope to the beach below. It was a short jog from there to the base of the rainbow, which angled far up into the sky.

“Where do you think it goes?” asked Serena.

“Let’s find out!” said Janie.

They ran up the rainbow until they reached the top, where they found a rainbow forest. It smelled sugary, and Serena plucked a rainbow leaf from a rainbow branch and touched it to her tongue.

“It’s sweet!” she cried. She took a bite. “It’s candy!”

“No way,” Janie said. But when she tried one, too, her eyes lit up. “It is candy!”

Not only that, everything in the forest atop the rainbow was edible, and the girls promptly gorged themselves on rainbow twigs and bugs, rainbow mushrooms and moss, rainbow butterflies and hopping rainbow frogs. By the time they were done, their stomachs were queasy from all the rainbow candy they had consumed.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” Janie moaned.

“Let’s go home,” Serena said, clutching her stomach.

They staggered back home, opting to knock on the front door rather than make the climb back to their room. The Queen answered the door, looking down on the girls with one raised eyebrow.

“Did we learn anything today?” the Queen asked.

“Yeah,” Janie said. “Rainbow twigs are goods. Bugs, too. Mushrooms and moss, ditto. But butterflies and frogs? Not so much.”

Serena held her stomach with both hands. “I can still feel them fluttering and hopping around!”

The Queen smiled and said, “I guess you won’t be doing that again.”

“Nope,” said Janie. “At least, not until we get bored again!”

The girls giggled and ran into the Sandcastle. The sigh behind them was either the Queen or the closing door.

Commentary

Another story about a playground! If I didn’t steer the requests elsewhere, I think every story would involve a playground. I forgot to write the rainbow forest story down right away after I told it, and then I forgot it entirely. I only knew that there was a story about a candy forest at the top of a rainbow because I mention it in a later story (yay continuity!), but I had to reconstruct the details almost a month later for the written version of the story.

Image credits

Night Swinging” by shadowbrush, CC BY-NC.

Rainbow at Sea” by edwick, CC BY-NC.

I like to tell stories, as you might have guessed if you follow this blog. And I am happy to report that my toddler daughters finally like to listen to me tell stories. Each night at bedtime, they get the next installment in their own continuing adventures. Yes, they are princesses in the stories (and my wife and I are the Queen and King), but I would describe them as Adventure Princesses. Note: Janie and Serena are pseudonyms, as the princesses wish to retain their anonymity.

sandcastle

Once Upon A Time…

Janie and Serena are princesses who live in a giant sandcastle on the edge of an ocean. Although the ocean crashes against the base of the castle, it never washes the castle away, for it is a magic castle that can withstand the waves of time. The King and Queen also live in the sandcastle, but the needs of their kingdom often keep them busy. To the west lies an endless ocean. To the east there is a tall mountain range. To the north, there are grassy plains as far as the eye can see. And to the south, there is a vast desert.

Left to their own devices, the princesses often go on adventures…

The Giants’ Playground

One day, Serena and Janie were bored and they begged their parents for something fun to do. The King informed them that he and the Queen were too busy, but the Queen took pity on them and gave them some magic beans.

“Plant these and you will have an adventure,” she told the princesses.

“Some adventure,” Janie said. “This is probably a trick to get us to eat our vegetables.”

“It can’t hurt to try it,” said Serena.

They planted the beans in the garden, and seconds later the ground began to shake and tremble. A beanstalk shot out of the ground and into the sky, widening as it grew, until it reached the sky and was so wide across that Janie and Serena could not encircle it, even by holding their hands together and stretching as far as they could.

“Let’s climb it,” said Janie.

Serena agreed and they climbed the beanstalk up into the clouds. Once they made it above the clouds, they were surprised to find that they could walk on the fluffy white substance. They bounced along until they reached a giant playground made of clouds. The clouds were easy to climb, so they spent the day scaling the giant slides and swings and stairs of the playground, laughing and screaming in delight.

After a while, their shouts of glee attracted giant children, who were none too pleased that Serena and Janie were using their playground uninvited. The giants chased after Serena and Janie, who fled across the clouds and down the beanstalk.

When they reached the bottom, they looked up in fear. Would the giants chase them down? But no, the beanstalk lifted up out of the ground and disappeared into the clouds above.

“And don’t come back, neither!” came a booming voice from above the clouds.

Serena and Janie shrugged. The giants’ playground had been fun while it lasted.

dinosingrass

Of Dinosaurs and Rocketships

One fine, sunny day, Serena and Janie were playing in the sand outside of the castle when they heard cries from the North. A villager ran up to them from that direction and reported that there were dinosaurs running rampant in the fields, eating up all of the villagers’ food.

“Dinosaurs?” asked Serena.

“There’s only one thing for it,” said Janie.

“Rocketship time!” they agreed.

They rushed back into the castle and headed for the rocketship hangar. Once inside, they fired it up and took off, soaring out of the castle and above the grassy fields. It didn’t take long to find the dinosaurs, a dozen of them at least. While Janie piloted, Serena dropped the grapple claw time after time and plucked the dangerous dinos off the field and into the rocketship’s cargo bay.

Once they had collected them all, Janie asked, “Now what?”

Serena, looking out of the cockpit, saw the full moon above them. “I’ve got an idea,” she said with a glint in her eye.

Janie followed her gaze and nodded. “You got it, kid,” she said.

And that’s how dinosaurs ended up living on the moon. This solved the villagers’ problem but caused some problems of its own. Those are stories for another time, however.

Commentary

The versions of the stories shared here remain basic but are more polished than those told at bedtime. Telling a story while two toddlers bounce around their bed, giggling and yelling, is not easy, and I have to hit the highlights to keep their attention. I do take requests as to what they want the story to be about, so playgrounds figure prominently in many of these early entries because, well, my daughters like the playground.

A lot of the characters who show up are based on their toys, shows they watch, or games they have seen me play. The dinosaur request must have come from some cartoon or another, but putting them on a rocketship to the moon simply tickled my fancy, so I ran with it.

Finally, I’m not trying to create a world out of whole cloth here. Much is borrowed or reinvented. The goal is to have fun.

Click here to continue to Bedtime Stories #2.

Image credits

The sandcastle image is my combination of this sandcastle picture taken by starryeyez024 and this beach picture taken by dgphilli. Both images are CC BY-NC.

The dinosaurs in the field image is my combination of this picture of dinosaur toys taken by ewanmcdowall and this picture of a field of wheat taken by freefotouk. Both images are CC BY-NC.

4/4/2013 Note: I’ve had a sudden influx to this page from Facebook overnight and this morning. Is there any news I should know about that’s bringing folks to this particular page? Let me know in the comments. Thanks!

It’s been a while since my last post but I can say I have spent the time well and I am feeling refreshed. So what’s new in the world of Lithicbee? Well for one I have a short story coming out in Electric Spec at the end of this month, called False Negative. There are some kind words about it from editor Lesley Smith here. Needless to say, I’m pretty happy about that. Also, I’m back to work on The Only City Left parts 31 and up and I’m quite excited about that as well. Besides those (and other) writing projects, I have also been reading a lot of short stories to get into the short story mindset, and I’ve managed to read a few novels and discover a few new-to-me webcomics, too. Here’s a sampling.

Tales of the Emerald Serpent (Shared World Anthology)

I grew up reading a lot of books (surprise!), and some of my favorites were the Thieves’ World books, edited by Robert Lynn Asprin and later him and Lynn Abbey together. Not only were the stories full of swords-and-sorcery fun, the characters that each author brought to the book would sometimes pop up in the other authors’ stories, and there was an overarching plot that all the writers were working to build together. I loved it.

So when I saw a Kickstarter for Tales of the Emerald Serpent that promised to revive the old-school shared world anthology model, it was an easy decision to pledge for an e-book so I could at least check it out. How to judge a new shared world, though, against my glowing memories of books I hadn’t read in years? I would be happy if the book had: 1) an interwoven, overarching plot; 2) fun swords-and-sorcery stories with characters that I found intriguing; and 3) an interesting setting. Tales of the Emerald Serpent met my criteria and managed to surprise and impress me along the way. Here’s why.

Thieves’ World had the city of Sanctuary, an outpost city that contained a dangerous ghetto called the Maze. Emerald Serpent has Taux, a stone-carved city whose previous inhabitants fell prey to some Lovecraftian doom, leaving an empty but cursed city behind which was eventually reinhabited by those willing to risk life in a city whose very stones whisper curses at them. As settings go, it has great story potential and it feels well-realized. While this first volume focuses on the Maze-like Black Gate district, there are hints of other parts of the city that I hope will be fleshed out more in another volume, like the Wizards’ Tower.

The characters are a nice mix of scoundrels, mages, and fighters of various races, and in this universe different races have access to different elemental magic to a greater or lesser degree. I can easily say that I would be happy to read about all the main characters again, which goes along with my opinion that all the stories in this first volume are well-done. Standouts for me include editor Scott Taylor’s story “Charlatan,” for the sheer bravado of its main character, Savino; “Water Remembers” by Julie E. Czerneda, for crafting a story that works well in itself but that also left me wanting to find out what happened before the story began and what happens next; and “The One Thing You Can Never Trust” by Harry Connolly, for creating an unlikely action hero in Emil Lacosta, a mage who specializes in love potions. Talk about the power of love, Emil has it and he’s not afraid to use it, to deadly effect.

Those stories were great, but like I said, all the stories were good. The surprising part for me was how well woven together they were, too. I went into the book expecting the events in each story to follow the events of the one before it, and it took me a while to realize that the stories jump around in time quite a bit. Once I realized that, I also noticed how they fit together like intricate puzzle pieces, and by the end of the book I wanted to re-read the whole thing now that I “got it,” like when you got to the end of the Sixth Sense for the first time and wanted to immediately re-watch it. (I didn’t re-read it, though. Too much to do!)

If you like dueling swordsmen (and -women), magic-filled action and adventure, love both true and enchanted, and stories that work on their own and as part of a shared whole, get thee hence and pick up a copy of Tales of the Emerald Serpent. What Scott and the involved writers have accomplished is not only a solid shared-world book, but stories and characters that call out for a sequel. Here’s to a new era of shared worlds!

Requiem in the Key of Prose (short story)

Here’s your assignment: Write a gripping, touching science-fiction short story that is also a primer on a variety of writing techniques such as first person, present tense, flashback, metaphor, etc. Go ahead. It’s not that easy, is it? But Jake Kerr manages it quite deftly in the July 2012 issue of Lightspeed Magazine with his short story, “Requiem in the Key of Prose.” Kerr manages to speedily set up a world in which the Earth’s atmosphere has become unbreathable, forcing cities to dome themselves off and create their own oxygen. Into that setting enter Adam and Violet, a young couple who become inextricably tied up with ensuring the continued working of one dome city.

I was impressed with the speed and clarity with which Kerr sets up the world, Adam and Violet’s relationship, and the central conflict, and also how each segment of the story is a lesson in a specific writing techniques, without feeling at all pedantic. But don’t take my word for it. At less than 2500 words, this is a quick read I can recommend to even the most casual of readers.

The Adventures of Athena Wheatley (long-form webcomic)

The full title of this reality-skewing, time-traveling, gender-bending webcomic by Sylvan Migdal is The Adventures of Athena Wheatley, or, Warp & Weft; A Graphic Novel. I would describe it as The Time Machine meets Futurama by way of the sexual revolution, but that doesn’t really capture the fun and lunacy of this webcomic.

In the first three panels, a large piece of an Earth-like planet is shaved off from the rest of the planet by some mysterious force. (Maybe it’s the Earth in the future… the landmasses look different and there are two moons, but, well, anything is possible, as we later discover.) Anyway, in the aftermath of this apocalyptic event, we meet super-physicist Athena Wheatley, who is struck in the head by a protester’s rock and wakes up in the year 1841, where she runs a clock shop and, oh yeah, has a time machine in her basement.

So is the vision of the future we saw a true one, or is it all in Athena’s dreams? The answer is unclear because when Athena does travel to the future, it doesn’t look like the one she was dreaming about. The story shifts back and forth between realities as we are introduced to the evil Dr. Moultrie (you know he’s evil because not only does he steal Athena’s journal and claim credit for her work, but he eats some of her cheese and wipes his hands on her curtains, the fiend), an artist named Dave, an edutainment bot with wings named Twan, and a spaceship full of earth cheese, to name a few of the major players so far.

I may not understand what’s going on all the time, but the future world(s?) Athena adventures through are ridiculous and entertaining, and with the evil Dr. Moultrie on her trail and a planet sliced nearly in half, there is definitely an element of danger and tension that keeps the story from being merely a travelogue of future insanity. This is one webcomic that once I found it, I could not stop reading until I had caught up on it, so if you haven’t already, I recommend you go check it out. One caveat: if you’re put off by cartoon nudity and sexually explicit situations, you might want to stay away. The future (or at least one of them) is full of the stuff.

Need to read Part Ten first? Please do. And here’s the Table of Contents.

The Only City Left: Part Eleven

I allowed myself a second or two of panic and then called out, “Tumble?”

“One moment, young sir,” the cat called back from somewhere up ahead.

I closed my eyes and rested my head sideways on the bottom of the duct. The cool metal felt wonderful on my flushed cheek and I stayed like that until I heard the scamper of tiny feet approaching.

“Okay, the way is clear now. Please follow me,” Tumble said.

He stood hunched over, bent nearly in half, but he would not resort to walking on all fours, which I thought was kind of funny. Then I noticed that he had his gun in his left hand and my cocoon bag in his right.

“Anything I should be worried about?” I asked as I begin to pull and shimmy my way through the ventilation system.

Tumble stopped and looked back at me. “There are rats in here the size of, well, me. Nasty creatures, I assure you. Since you barely fit in here”—Did he have to remind me?—“I had to disable a few traps along the way that you can’t maneuver around.”

He continued on a few steps and then looked back at me over his shoulder.

“I’m almost certain I remembered them all.”

He chuckled a raspy feline laugh and proceeded forward.

“Cat humor,” I replied. “Now my day is complete.”

This made Tumble laugh all the harder.

I blinked stinging sweat from my eyes. Whether it was from my fever, the exercise, or the tight fear at the back of my throat when I imagined becoming stuck in the duct, I didn’t dare dwell on it.

The journey was interminable and Tumble had certainly lied when he claimed it would only take a short while.

After seeming miles of conduits, some terrifying chimney climbs up vertical shafts, and a close call with a rat who sunk his teeth into Tumble’s shoulder before he could bring his gun to bear on it—(“On the plus side,” Tumble told me, proudly holding up the two-foot long rat by its tail. “Dinner!”)—we exited the ventilation system.

I unceremoniously slid out onto the floor, barely able to catch myself, and took some time to lie there, luxuriating in the freedom to move my arms and legs about and not hit anything except the floor. I had spent entirely too much time today in shafts, tunnels, and ductwork; I vowed to stay away from tight spaces for at least a week unless my life depended on it.

“Come now, friend, we are almost there,” Tumble interrupted my reverie.

“Like it was only a ‘short while’ to get here?” I groused.

“No, this time it is truly nearby, so make yourself presentable. You will soon be in the presence of His Illustriousness, He Whose Claws Can Slice Air Itself, The Most—”

I took advantage of the lengthy list of honorifics to get to my feet. Weary and woozy, I had to lean against the wall for support. Seeing me like that, Tumble cut himself off.

“Come, the sooner you are presented at court, the sooner you can rest and recover.”

He returned my cocoon bag and we were off again, but this time through corridors that felt decidedly more lived in than those I had frequented as of late. For one thing, they had power and light, so I turned off my coil and slid it into my shirt. For another, everything was clean. Most of the city I’d seen was grungy, run-down. Even the settlements I passed through were barely cleared of the debris of ages. Here, the walls were freshly painted, the carpet clean, and the air fresh. I mentioned as much to Tumble.

“And this is just the outer bailey!” he preened. “Wait ’til you see the real city! Ah-ha, here we are.”

We reached the end of a hallway and stood before a solid-looking metal door that was flanked by two gun-wielding cats, one jet black, the other calico. As we were expected, the guards did not put up a fuss but simply entered a code onto a keypad.

The door slid open silently for all its weight. These cats certainly had their tiny corner of the city running smoothly.

Tumble led me into a narrow, short hallway that I had to crouch-walk along to pass through. I noticed the thin openings regularly spaced along the walls and ceiling; murder holes. Either the cats were paranoid or they had more than just unusually large rats to worry about.

Once we were through a second gate at the far end, I could stand up again. Hands on my hips, I leaned back to give myself a good stretch and found my gaze traveling up, up, up.

The cat city filled a cavernous chamber whose upper reaches I could not make out. It had obviously been built on and around pre-existing old-world skyscrapers. The old city had been completely remade through the addition of myriad ramps and rooms that hung suspended between the existing buildings on massive strands of braided rope.

From far overhead, bright yellow light shone from an unseen but obviously artificial sun. The skyscrapers were tall, but not so tall as to make me believe I had reached the surface.

Tiny birds sang their songs as they dived and banked in and out of the cat-cradle city, and everywhere I looked, the bipedal cat-folk went about their business.

“Welcome to Pudlington,” Tumble announced proudly. “We hope you enjoy our hospitality for as long as you like.”

“How many cats live here?” I asked, jaw stuck open as I gaped at the sights.

“Not as many as there once were,” Tumble replied, his tone uncharacteristically dark.

I glanced down at him and grimaced. “That’s Earth in a nutshell, isn’t it?”

Tumble nodded and then did a full body shiver from head to tail.

“Enough of that,” he said, his tone boisterous once more. “The Emperor awaits!”

* * *

Meet the Emperor in Part Twelve, but take a gander below at my notes first, if you like.

4/29/12 News: I had fun writing Tumble’s lines (the one about “Dinner!” makes me laugh each time I read it) and I gave him a little more personality this week. Thanks to my cousin Gillian for saying she liked the little guy (and for reading each week!); it made me want to flesh him out more.

Why Pudlington as the name for the cat city, you may ask? No reason other than it sounded cute, and as much as the cats have sought to shed their past as domestic pets, their names are still very much influenced by their history as adorable companions for humans. It also makes me think of a tiny hamlet somewhere in the countryside, so… ironic, yeah.

I have been including little homages here and there in the story (besides the great big homage to Isaac Asimov’s Lije Bailey and Foundation novels). This week’s homage had to do with the unusually large rats. Can you name the movie this came from?

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!


For this week’s Webcomics Wednesday, I am reviewing LeyLines, which I discovered through the #lfwc hashtag on Twitter, and Hunter Black, which I had heard about but never checked out until after I met the creative team at WonderCon. Speaking of WonderCon, I will be sharing some links to the great artists I met there, too.

First up, LeyLines by Robin Dempsey. The story is actually very intricate, so I’ll start by sharing the logline from the site: “Three siblings from a broken family are caught in the conspiracy that claimed their mother’s life. To save their family and nation, they seek out ancient gods for answers — but the gods give nothing for free.” Of course, that barely scratches the surface of this fantasy story about High Sage Koruval va Naza, his daughter Mizha, son Tama, and adopted son Zhiro. The va Nazas are Tamakepe, a tall, pale race, while Zhiro is a Timu, a short, darker-skinned race. While Zhiro is technically part of the va Naza clan, there is some bad history between him and Mizha, perhaps to do with the fact that Timu are considered lower-caste.

If that seems like a lot of new words and information to get your brain around when reading a new webcomic, I wouldn’t worry. Ms. Dempsey shares bits and pieces of the story bible with each new page, so you can learn as you go, or you can just let the story unfold and all will be made clear. For those who enjoy seeing behind the scenes, Ms. Dempsey shares a wealth of information on characters, the land, the gods, the politics, language, etc. It is evident that she has done a huge amount of world-building and plotting before page one of the story, and this pays off more and more as the story goes on and you see how it all fits together. So far there are three chapters of about 40 pages each and Chapter 4 has just recently started, and already it bears re-reading the story to appreciate early events in light of later ones.

It would take me many paragraphs to lay out the story and all the characters so far in a way that does the comic justice, so instead I will just talk about what I am enjoying in the comic: 1) an extended, prophetic dream sequence in Chapter 1, and the commentary below it; 2) Mizha’s illusion powers; 3) the high-caste/low-caste forbidden love history between Mizha and Zhiro; 4) the hyper-alert but odd Pakku; 5) Ms. Dempsey’s ability to show subtle action taking place without needing a caption to describe the action (for example, this exchange); 6) nicely-laid out pages such as this one; and, of course, 7) whenever characters look like they are ready to kick some ass, like someone hiding knives under his robe.

LeyLines is an intricate fantasy story full of gods and intrigue, dreams and visions, base villains and plucky heroes, and genuine characters. Check it out!

Hunter Black, written by Justin Peniston and illustrated by William “Will” Orr, is an out and out fun fantasy noir. It is in greyscale with occasional use of color for emphasis (red blood, green cough SFX, yellow crazy eyes). The art is flat and geometric, and very angular, which looks really cool. I especially like the jagged, thick-pixel blood splatters (as in the picture to the right and also  here, but don’t follow the link if you don’t like spoilers). Mr. Orr’s art in Hunter Black reminds me a bit of Samurai Jack, which to me at least is a good thing.

The premise of the story is that Hunter Black took the fall for a huge crime and was sent to an inescapable prison, which he of course escapes from. While in prison he contracted a wasting disease and he would surely be dead already if not for his sword, The Revenger. When he uses Revenger to kill someone who betrayed someone else, the sword feeds him their life force. When he kills someone who didn’t betray anyone, things don’t work out as well. The magic sword reminds me of Michael Moorcock’s Elric and Fred Saberhagen’s Sword books, both of which I really like, so a story with a well-done magic sword is one I will tend to favor. The Revenger is a worthy addition to the ranks of famous magic swords, and there are apparently more of them out there in Hunter Black’s world, so I can’t wait for him to clash with the wielders of those weapons.

Anyway, back to the story: Hunter Black wants to find out who set him up, and he wants to kill them. It’s a simple setup but the payoff is in the characters that Black has to interact with and (often) fight along the way. As I mentioned in the LeyLines review above, I like it when characters kick ass, and Hunter Black, although only about 75 pages in, is already full of them. I am looking forward to following Black’s ups and downs as he Revenges his way through the world. Will he kill all his betrayers before they kill him or he falls prey to his sickness? Damn right he will, and we get to watch.

My only complaint, and a minor one, is that I wish each page had a comments section attached to it. As it stands, you can leave comments by going to a blog post that may or may not have been posted on the same day as the page you are reading, which makes it a bit confusing if you want to actively participate in the commenting.

I’m glad I met Mr. Peniston and Mr. Orr at WonderCon—and especially glad I picked up the three Hunter Black posters—or else I might not have gotten clued in to this awesome webcomic. Read it for yourself and watch the blood fly.

Speaking of WonderCon, I promised last week that I would share more about the art that my wife and I liked, so here are some links in no particular order:

Eunjung June Kim had some very nice, whimsical prints that my wife described as making her feel happy. Check out “Three Indian Girls,” “Fly pig,” “Bedtime Story,” heck any of her prints. They do make you feel happy.

I felt the same way about some prints by Pascal Campion. Check out “Midnight Friends” or “Cinemascope” on the first page of his store. I could totally put these up in my girls’ room, they are so sweet.

Along the same lines, we both liked Nidhi Chanani’s prints. Her express goal with her art is to make people happy, and she shares her art daily as a means of everyday love. Mission accomplished. I won’t even single any particular print out; any of them would be great to own.

In the just plain cool category, I really dug these East-meets-West prints from Moira Hahn. I especially like “Year of the Rooster/Attack of the Hummingbird” as it reminds me of some of my cat friends past, and “Year of the Rooster/Attack of the Tengu” because it is a samurai cat. ‘Nuff said.

Finally, last week I showed a picture of Arlyn Pillay of Ogre Shop working on a painting and he has since posted a sped-up video of him working on it. I am still blown away that he used leftover house paint to create such a cool piece.

Okay, that’s it for this week. Next week I will finish up my WonderCon sharing by talking about the handful of indie comics I picked up there.

I have been researching SF/F/H webzines again, so today I have four more to share with you. I picked a recent short story from each one to read to get a feel for each webzine (I would of course read more stories before submitting one, to get a deeper sense of what the editors are looking for), and I will share my thoughts on those as well. Click here for my first post in this series, or check out my Links page for quick links to the webzines I have researched.

Abyss & Apex: Magazine of Speculative Fiction accepts a wide range of genres, but make sure to check out the Submissions page for the ones they are not looking for, such as horror. They are looking for short stories up to 10,000 words in length, and especially flash fiction up to 1,500 words. Payment is 5 cents a word up to 1,500 words or $75.00 for longer stories. As of the writing of this post, they are currently overstocked on stories, but their next reading period is open again starting 5/1/12, so now is a perfect time to read through the stories on the site and then have a story ready to submit on May 1st.

The story I read from Abyss & Apex was A Time to Weep by Daniel Huddleston. It is about humans doing business on an alien world, with human and aliens working together in the same office. One of the alien workers has a tragedy in his family that affects his work, and for good or ill, his human boss intervenes to try to help him out. Mr. Huddleston really gets across the future history in the story and the alien beliefs and behaviors in a remarkably short amount of time, so that even though I was dropped into the story with no reference points, I was able to appreciate the central conflict without needing a ton of exposition beforehand.

The Future Fire describes itself as publishing social, political and progressive speculative fiction, and you can see the site for more examples of what they mean by that. 10,000 words is the upper limit of what they are looking for and they pay a flat rate of $35 per story. The next Call for Submissions is for the theme of Outlaw Bodies: “stories about the future of human bodies that break boundaries—legal, societal, [and] biological…,” and the deadline is 5/1/12.
From The Future Fire, I read Bilaadi by S. Ali, which is about a river god who is forced to change with the times. It has environmental and socio-political themes to it, as one would expect given the focus of the webzine, but it was touching and personal at the same time. A snapshot of our modern world as seen through the eyes of an ancient being.

Quantum Muse is interesting in that to submit stories, you have to first sign up to critique stories that other writers have submitted. To cut down on their workload, the editors rely on this method of peer review to weed out stories, with only the top-ranked stories being forwarded to the editors for possible inclusion in the magazine. Interesting. Registration is free although they do ask for your address and phone number. I signed up and there are currently three SF, five fantasy, and six alternative stories to critique. You have to critique three stories for each one story you want to submit. I will have to try this out and let you know how it goes. Note: Flash fiction stories of 1,000 words or less can be submitted without going through the whole process described above. The word limit for longer stories is 8,000 words. Payment appears to be publication only plus the chance that a reader might “tip” you through PayPal. If Quantum Muse itself pays for the story, I am somehow not seeing that on the Submissions page.

From Quantum Muse, I read The Zitzing Man by Harris Tobias, which is a very short story about a great invention that would have worked if only the mundane world hadn’t intruded.

Electric Spec focuses on science fiction, fantasy, and the macabre and accepts stories from 250-7,000 words. Their next reading period ends April 15 for the end of May issue. Payment is a flat $20 per story. Check out the Submissions page for full details.

From Electric Spec, I read Seasonal Fruit by Kathryn Board. It was a fun short story about modern mortals interacting with divine beings. At first I thought it was going to be a clichéd horror story but it took an unexpected and pleasant turn and actually sent me to Wikipedia to look up some background information (the story is self-contained, so you don’t need to do this, but it caught my interest and made me want to research further).

So there you have it, four more cool science-fiction, fantasy, and/or horror webzines to check out, either as a reader, a writer or both. Every time I research these webzines my mind kicks into high gear about stories I can write. Hopefully once I recover from my recent move from Southern to Northern California, I will be able to carve out more writing time!

Final note: I am using a new-to-me website called Readability to help me read stories and articles from the web more easily. I am using it to send stories to my Kindle and Android tablet for easier reading in more comfortable environments. It looks like it works for the iPad and iPhone, too. It is free and I have no stake in it, but I wanted to share because every time I get to read a story on my Kindle in a comfy chair or in bed rather than sitting in front of the computer, I think, “This is so great!”

Until next time, thank you for reading and please let me know what you like about my blog, what you don’t like, what you want to see more of, sites/books/comics I should check out, etc. Thanks again!

So far on Lithicbee I have been reviewing webcomics, searching for e-books from some of my favorite authors, waxing philosophical, and sharing pieces of a rough draft end-of-the-world story. With today’s post I am going to add another topic I am interested in finding more information about: webzine/e-zines. Specifically, science-fiction/fantasy/horror webzines. For all the posts in this series, click here.

As an aspiring writer, I really need to see what other writers are doing to get their name and stories out there, so I am going to make a concerted effort to find new (to me) markets and start reading a lot more short fiction. I have to admit, I am not always fond of short fiction. Perhaps as Stephen King speculates, I have fallen out of love with the short story. Well, this is me trying to rekindle the romance. Just as I search for and talk about webcomics on this blog, I am going to do the same with SF/F/Horror (aka speculative fiction) webzines/e-zines. I will add them to my Links page as I go along, in case anyone else might find a list of genre markets useful as well.

I’ll start with OG’s Speculative Fiction. According to the site, “Our goal is to eventually be considered a professional market by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which means we need a circulation of at least 1,000 and we need to pay 5 cents a word. In the future we might look to add an editorial, book reviews, and author interviews every month. We want to grow!”

I picked up Issue 34 on Amazon for 99 cents. (I guess I could have gotten it for free as a Prime member, but, c’mon, 99 cents!) It included two stories, an Editor’s Letter, and a poem. While the goal might be to pay 5 cents a word, right now they pay $35 per story for one-time and some reprint rights. Stories should be less than 8,000 words, preferably less than 5,000 words. It looks like they have a new issue every two months.

Schlock! Webzine is a weekly zine that just put out its 46th edition. According to the site, “Schlock! is an exciting new weekly webzine dedicated to short stories, flash fiction, serialised novels and novellas within the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror. We publish new and old works of pulp sword and sorcery, urban fantasy, dark fantasy and gothic horror. If you want to read quality works of schlock fantasy, science fiction or horror, Schlock! is the webzine for you!”

Shlock! publishes weekly and include several stories in each issue. Payment is publication of your work. You retain all rights to your work and they are currently accepting submissions. There is also a very comprehensive Webzine Links page that I am sure I will be making use of in the coming months.

The Were-Traveler has four volumes a year on a specific theme. From the site: “The Were-Traveler is an online webzine dedicated to really short fiction. When I say really short fiction, I mean REALLY short. Drabbles and micro-fic mostly, with the occasional flash piece or short story (up to 2000 words) thrown in whenever I have time to read longer pieces. What I’m looking for here is speculative fiction. It’s what I write, it’s what I enjoy reading. Fantasy, science fiction, horror and any combination of the three have a good chance of getting published here.” Drabbles are 100-word stories, for those who don’t know. (I didn’t.)

The next call for submissions is for innovative vampire revenge stories, due by April 30th. Payment is publication of your work.

Ray Gun Revival focuses on space opera stories of no more than 4,000 words. It pays $0.01-$0.05 per word up to 4,000 words, to be paid via PayPal. It asks for “First Rights and specifically First Internet Publication, with an option on First Anthology Rights for 18 months.” It also recommends reading the contract that you agree to when you submit “very carefully.” At first this kind of scared me, but it is actually what one should be doing anyway, so at least they make an effort to point it out.

So, there you have it, the first in a series of my research into webzine SF/F/Horror markets. Just checking these zines out and reading the stories on them really gets me wanting to submit stories again. If you know of a zine you think I should check out, please feel free to drop me a line.