Friday, April 30, 2010


Just completed 124. 47 left to go this year. 876 in the next nine years.

New Mango is here:

My first Fiction Crawler in many moons is out on the Sofa this week. Also, the feature story was recommended by me on an earlier Fiction Crawler.

Aural Delights No 132 James Alan Gardner

Fact Article: Science News by J.J. Campanella

Main Fiction: The Ray-Gun: A Love Story by James Alan Gardner

Fact Article: Fiction Crawler 9 by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Art Cover Audio Intro by S.P Wilson

Narrators: Ray Sizemore

Art Cover by S.P. Wilson

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Big Four One

I am now forty-one years old. I have nine years to write eight-hundred and seventy-seven stories.

No sweat.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Phone Conversation At Work Today

ME: Thank you for calling Barnes and Noble. This is Matthew. How can I help you?

GIRL (I'm guessing ten years old): Matthew? Are you single?

ME: Yes, I am. Are you asking me out?

GIRL: How old are you?

ME: I'm going to be forty-one tomorrow.

GIRL: Happy birthday.

ME: Thank you.

GIRL: Um . . . Do you wanna go to, like . . . Outback tomorrow?

ME: I'd love to, but unfortunately I have to work.

GIRL: You have to work on your birthday?

ME: Unfortunately, yes.

GIRL: When are you available?

ME: I don't actually know. (Laughing)

GIRL: Yeah, um . . . That laugh? It's not so good.

ME: Well, we all have our faults.

GIRL: Okay, well, I'll call you.

ME: Okay. Bye.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Fund Raising Auction For Jeanne Robinson

Thanks to Church for this link. Sci-Fi Saturday night is holding an auction on May 8th to raise money for Spider and Jeanne Robinson to help with their expenses during Jeanne's battle with cancer. More details here:

Forgot to mention this before. Sent out story 123 last week, A City on the Move. 48 to go for the year, 877 to go for the decade.

Youse Guys

As they say in New Jersey, thanks, youse guys! For you foreigners, pronounce it like "use guys." I want to thank everyone who tossed some money in the Mango pot. I'm not totally in the clear yet but your donations (and some of them were more generous than I could have expected) have really helped. I'm currently taking steps to get more control over my financial life. More hustle will be needed on my part, but that's good motivation.

In other news, I participated in the latest Mind Meld over at SF Signal. This go around, we were asked, "What are the coolest robots in science fiction?" You can check out my answers, along with everyone else's here:

Something else that's good: I'm currently working on Fiction Crawler 9 for the Sofa! It's been around seven months since I did number 8! I'll send it Tony's way soon, though I don't when he'll choose to run it. I'll let you know. The six stories I recommend are among the best I've ever recommended. You can't wait!

Speaking of Sofa neglect, I do that too much. Let's see what's going on there this week.

Aural Delights No 131 Gregory Frost

Editorial: Goodbye Steve by Tony C Smith

Fact Article: Observation Lounge by Cheryl Morgan

Promo: The Gamma Quadrant Podcast

Main Fiction: Madonna of the Maquilador by Gregory Frost

Narrators: J.J. Campanella

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I've got no sob story for you. I need some dough and was hoping for a little love for the free content I provide over on that other site:

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Story Behind "Better Than Anything"

Scroll down one post to read the story itself. Or click:

As I've stated before, this was my first published story, in a Barnes & Noble anthology called Between the Leaves, edited by Stuart Miller. It was an antho of writing B&N employees and although it only paid five copies, I had to submit a piece just to know if my work was too awful to even be included in a gimmie such as this one.

The first germ of an idea for this piece was the question, "What if your fingers could bend the other way too?" This occurred to me one day in high school while I was imagining what fun it could be to horrify a particularly weak-bellied English teacher. I pictured myself making a fist, slowly opening my fingers, and making all of my knuckles bend in the opposite direction so that I'd have a fist once again. This fist, of course, would employ the back of the hand as the palm, have the nails on the inside, and look pleasingly odd at the end of my arm. But that was as far as the idea went.

In my early twenties a couple of thoughts were bouncing around inside my skull which made their way, in one way or another, into a few of my stories. The first concerned my early love of comic books, coupled with my later disappointment in most of the writing. I was interested in writing comics myself because I wanted better writing. But I also wanted full control of the finished product. Since I couldn't draw, I decided that fiction dealing with the themes that I found so fascinating was the route to take. I wanted to play superheroes from an adult point of view: smartened-up, with characters that acted like real people. The second thought concerned television news, its increasing drive towards sensationalism, and its ever-growing prefabricated substance. By the latter I mean opinion polls, computer generated re-enactments or artists renditions, creating controversy where there was none and so on (All of which led to a decided lack of actual news). With this story I simply took it to the extreme.

The actual spark that brought all of these ideas together was a method suggested by Ray Bradbury in his book, "Zen in the Art of Writing" (If you want to be a writer, this book is required reading), in which he mentions making huge lists of words (The goat, The mailbox, The appendectomy scar, etc.) and considering what thoughts each word triggers. When something excites the mind sufficiently, you've got yourself a story idea. I was sitting on my car in my front yard, playing with this method mentally, and I thought: 'The Glove.' The rest is in the story.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Better Than Anything

by Matthew Sanborn Smith

First published in the Barnes & Noble anthology, Between the Leaves, Edited by Stuart Miller

That damn tapping woke him up, echoing from somewhere downstairs, beneath the heart of the house. Greg swallowed to soothe his dry throat and pressed the clock stud in the headboard. Excited dust motes, once carefree in their nowhere drift, clung to each other in a passionate frenzy in the clock's field. 12:07 P.M., they glowed for an instant before burning to nothingness while he heard the time whispered in the windless bedroom.

Kelly was gone. About an hour and twenty-seven minutes, he judged, running the coolness of the sheets through the ultra-sensitive fingers of the Glove. They'd made love last night (the Glove still smelled it on the sheets), just like Greg had fantasized when they were in high school together. Well, not exactly like he'd fantasized; he wasn't the same person he'd been in high school.

He studied the creases in his skin at the bathroom mirror, fascinated by what his wrinkled bedding had left for him to read. He fancied himself a scarified tribal chief while running his one bare hand under icy water. Finally he fell flaccid so he could piss before his bladder burst. Nothing had been in to clean for a while. Not much of a need since he'd never had a woman stay the entire night before. Nights with a lady usually brought screams and a quick scramble to throw her scattered clothes into the crook of one arm and she was gone, past the limo driver who had learned to wait for the familiar scenario. The women, more often than not, felt like they had escaped rather than left. He never chased them; he understood. He just wished they would understand that he got more out of lovemaking through the glove's eleven senses than he could ever get from his penis' one. The Glove gave more to his partner, too. Kelly had reveled in it and because of that, he enjoyed it even more than usual. It was the first decent night he'd had since the new season's push had gotten underway. His belly burned just remembering the job.

Reynolds OmniMedia needed a ratings-phenomenon for the Reports, that much was obvious. With the legalization of Obsession, business had been ass-over-elbows downhill and picking up speed at ten Gs a second. But the Holy Alliance had ordered a spring purge and cleansing of the flesh this month. There would be no better time to get people onmind once again before ROM and its kind became a long forgotten memory among powerstims. And Greg Herod felt like he was dancing on air . . . with the ground rushing up to meet him at a thousand feet per second.

Downstairs, Kelly Bourne bounced her wide bottom lightly on her chair, tapping on Greg's 19thCen dining table with a polished teaspoon. A red stim dangled lazily from beneath her tongue. Guess drool doesn't bother her much, Greg thought. He had just come down naked from the bedroom, dragging his feet along the rich cream carpet, beckoned by her tap-tap-tap. She was a beautiful woman, and her large frame only emphasized it. The maroon and gold of her painted nails contrasted exquisitely with her blond hair and the white silk pajamas she seemed to have pulled out of nowhere. She was a vision and Greg wondered for a moment if he couldn't have her here every morning lighting up his palace with her elegant splendor. Marriage? Jesus, last night wasn't that good, was it? He snuck up behind her and swept the spoon from her loose grasp with his incongruous left hand, black and ridged from fingertips to three-quarters of the way up his forearm. It was the Glove, permanently attached and the ticket to the good life that he lived right now.

"Oh," she said, "You scared me." Her plastic stim tinkled to the table and she wiped her mouth on a cloth napkin. "What's wrong, real silver?"

"Yes, but more importantly, the table is real wood." He pulled a chair from the wall and pulled up next to her.

"I'm sorry, I didn't know."

She was even more beautiful than she had been in high school, or maybe it was just that the peer pressure was off now. Back then her enormous size had marked her as a girl not to be dated for fear of recrimination from the other jocks. They all said she was fat. She wasn't though. She was just large. Her size intimidated most guys. Kelly and Greg had been friends and Greg had always thought about going with her but never seemed to get around to asking. But last night after nine years of adulthood and real world, not to mention a towering confidence that didn't exist before the Glove, he'd just about climbed onto her lap at the United Media dinner to the paparazzi's delight.

She was an executive with Reynolds East, the Advertising end of the game. He'd forgotten her father had swung in the upper echelons of the company years ago, her obvious inroad. When he bumped into her at the UM for the first time since high school, everything had fallen into place.

"I was waiting for you," she said now. "I guess I was getting bored."

"Bored? You should have turned on the Reports."

"Oh, no. They don't really do a whole lot for me. I've got to live them, practically."

"I do live them, he said, smiling.

"That's right, I forgot for a second. How long have you had this thing?" she asked, caressing the Glove like a cow's udder.

"About five years now. Dar had it for nine and Germane for thirteen, so I figure I still have some time left."

"You think they're going to give you a few more years to live and hand the Glove to the next young kid?"

"I don't see why they shouldn't. The Glove is the star of the show. I'm basically just a pretty face to carry it around and smile for the Reports. I'll probably think of some way out of it by that time."

"Its last two owners didn't." She had a bowl of oatmeal in front of her, still steaming slightly. She started to eat, not shaken by the Glove at all, but maybe her line of work had just made her jaded. And maybe that's why those awful thoughts of marriage were creeping into his head now.

His link buzzed.

Greg nodded and took it on personal. "Yeah?"

"This is it, you ready?" It was his controller, Sharky. Sharky knew the business backward and throughout and Greg took pains to stay on his best side. When the shit came down came down six years from now, nobody was going to be able to help Greg more. This call was the one Greg hadn't wanted to take. ROM was lighting the fuse. He was their biggest star by far, the only action celebrity that wasn't completely created by Reynolds, the only one who had abilities beyond that of human technology. So when they wanted digits, it was Greg that got tossed into the inferno. And as the consumer took it all more and more for granted, Reynolds played him on bigger and bigger risks. No matter what he told Kelly, he was sure this week, the biggest blitz on the public staged yet, would be the week that killed him.

"It's a bomb, down it the ‘burbs right by you. A plasma bomb," Sharky whined.

"Holy shit. Why didn't they get Blacksmith to do it? That's his bag."

"He'll be there too, but their excuse for having you along is that his hands haven't grown back yet. Just be glad your crisis has arrived and you don't have to worry about it anymore."

"Oh, no, there's nothing to worry about now. Wheeeee!"

"Get on the shuttle in seventeen minutes. Don't be late or else there won't be any place to go anyway." He clicked off.

"Gotta go," Greg said. "Martin can let you out."

"What is it?" She suddenly seemed anxious.

"Just biz."

"What kind of biz? Stay here and let the next guy handle it."

"Look, I know my job better than you do. I gotta hurry, it's an emergency."



"You remember what we talked about last night?"

"Only vaguely. My left hemisphere dissolved in the champagne around one-thirty."

"We talked about early retirement, Greggy, remember? Quit it now, right now, before you go out and they kill you."

"I can't. Not now. It's an emergency!"

"They're making it an emergency, can't you see that? Let someone else do it and you're a normal person again, with your own life. You've got enough money now to do whatever you want."

He wasn't listening, just struggling into a torn up pair of jeans he liked to call his Robinson Crusoes.

"Do you think for yourself anymore, Greg? Why don't you lose that glove for God's sake? Ask it to leave?"

"Look, you don't understand how it is. Things have changed since the last time you saw me."

"What things?"

"Don't you remember me eight years ago? I was studying full throttle just to make Ds, I got fired from five jobs senior year alone, and I was sleeping in my truck because my parents threw me out of the house. I was a nobody. I was worse than a nobody, I was a loser. And it didn't end there. I'd be dead already if it wasn't for the Glove, from alcohol maybe or a gunshot to the head. This is the only thing that makes me anybody. It's the only thing I'm good at! Ask anybody."

"It's not true," she whispered, shaking her head. You're obsessed with that thing, it's taking over your personality."

"You didn't seem to mind it last night."

Her eyes grew cold, and she went back to eating her oatmeal. Somehow he knew she wasn't talking to him any longer. It's not like he could tell her anyway.

"What's this all about anyway?" he asked, "Did Reynolds send you here?"

Kelly let her spoon sink to the bottom of the bowl and rose swiftly. She slapped him hard enough to almost knock him over. "I have to go." She walked away without sparing him a glance and went to the bedroom. Either she was sent by Reynolds and was a good actress or she actually liked him. It was hard to believe this second one.

"Just go home to Chicago!" he yelled, wondering why the evacuation hadn't yet begun. "Fast as you can!"


He tried to get in touch with Sharky on the shuttle. No answer. Sharky had smelled death and bolted.

"Thanks a lot for your confidence, asshole," Greg muttered. He passed the short trip watching the last-minute evacuation on the Reports. Muted anxiety squeezed a small neighborhood with artiturf lawns and fiberglass watchdogs. The National Guard loaded the trucks with people who didn't want to stay but didn't necessarily want to go either. One man tried to bring his wide screen monitor into one of the mottled grey trucks only to have it thrown to the ground and smashed when he refused to give it up. Its shattered plaz was the closest thing to a cry for help the addled neighborhood could muster.

Greg ate a spotted banana while he watched a scene recorded earlier of the Bartons, the people unfortunate enough to rent the property on which the bomb had been found. Mr. Barton, still in a worn red plaid robe with a fringe of threads hanging from the bottom, held the poodle that had uncovered the device. His wife, squinting without her glasses, stared down the viewer while crying that they had no place to stay, that their son was fighting in the war, and that her sister had disappeared when they tried to reach her. The reporter asked them if they had any enemies. Greg roared with laughter.

"What the hell could these people have done that would make someone plant a plasma bomb with a fifty kilometer radius on their land?" he shouted at the Report. The reporter's question was ludicrous and yet he asked in the hope that other numbers would think that it could happen to them too.

Then the sensors panned across the yard to show a bomb squad making final preps with the Blacksmith before fleeing into a white chopper. Greg felt his stomach flip-flop more from the sight of him than the fact that he'd hardly eaten. He had hoped the Big Stim would be a one-man show, or at least that he'd be teamed with someone other than the Blacksmith. The Blacksmith was the unofficial leader of the Ac-Cels who hated Greg Herod either for his power, his fame, or a little of both. Aside from that, the guy was an asshole to the nth degree. Too bad plasma bombs were his business.

Everybody and his uncle had a plasma bomb these days; practically the fashion. A hell of a lot easier to make than a standard hydrogen bomb because the parts weren't illegal to buy, own or ship. Sure, it was more expensive than an office building in Bhopal, but it was feasible. The gate could be bought by a government and its registration laundered, and as long as you had a power source big enough, you were in business.

The air near the Barton residence (possibly the former Barton residence) was thick with microscopic stim sensors. Reynolds had the area under an army of security bots to keep the competition out for at least a half hour. More than enough time for the bomb to go off.

Greg felt the sensors salivating as they gobbled up his presence. He was an institution, a one-man SWAT force known as the Fist on the Reports. Not quite as flashy as the young sucks calling themselves Action Celebrities nowadays, but he didn't need flash. He had substance. He had prime numbers, with a history that went back to the last generation.

He'd changed into his costume just before walking out. It made him feel more of a freak than usual, focusing attention on the Glove, what the Reports liked to call the Anything Glove, because that was what it was capable of. The Glove had a name before its wearer did. His entire outfit was deep red save for the Glove. He thanked God he didn't have to wear a mask; his looks saved his identity. Unlike Beowulf or Odd, he was a person, not a costume. A person who carried this thing at the end of his arm.

"Take a seat, hotshot," the Blacksmith called to him. Greg took it without a word. His life depended on this man and he wasn't about to start a fight. There was a small pit around the bomb, allowing as much access to it as possible without moving the thing. On the edge of the pit, like the king of the cockroaches with the dirt as his throne, sat the Blacksmith, real name: Ronnie Moscowitz, the man so famous for defusing bombs he nearly had three-quarters of the Fist's numbers. "There isn't anything the Blacksmith can't defuse," they say. Except maybe his appetite, Greg thought. Three-hundred and two pounds, his Glove remembered for him. And the man was short on top of that. Sure, someone standing six-ten, six-eleven might wear three-hundred pounds pretty well, might even be considered slim, but at five-eight the Blacksmith looked like a pig.

But he was the best. Tore up that warhead the Ibn Mahesh boys got a hold of. Took it apart with the world standing over his shoulder, right in the middle of Washington Colum. Gained lasting fame when he rode the Kitel-Sat as it burned through the sky and he snuffed the self-destruct when it threatened to come down right on the head of Beijing's financial district and wipe out three city blocks. He saved countless lives and thousands of acres of priceless property and was considered a national hero. But now he sat in a pile of dirt while Greg had a 50K plasma bomb between his legs. At the end of the Blacksmith's arms were two white regen tubes ending in temporary plaz fingers that were useless for this type of job. The tubes covered the stumps that were his hands three weeks ago, before they were blown off as he idly tossed a hand grenade to himself. Greg had smirked when he heard the news. Now he wondered how much bad karma a simple smirk was worth, because today the Blacksmith wanted the Fist to be his hands.

Staring at the bomb, Greg couldn't think about the town and city it was about to destroy, or about the tens of thousand of people it was about to kill. The only thing that he could imagine was how it was going to feel to be blown away one-tenth of a second after detonation by a minute chunk of that sun that was beating down on them, transported eight light-minutes in an instant by the gate with the laundered registration.

He felt the bomb's electronic heartbeat through the Glove, a hum that seemed deafening, though it was a whisper compared to the harsh pulsing of the blood through his veins. It was all too real, too alive, slowly coiling to a precise tension that would unleash itself in all God's fury in just seven minutes and he hoped they could stop it. His mouth filled with spit, like it always did just before he threw up, because he remembered that he was "they" and it was up to him to stop it and he didn't know what the hell he was doing.

It was the Glove's fault. The power at the end of his left arm that made him the most widely recognized person in the world, according to Gallup. Discovered by an international exploration team off of Barnard's Star twenty-seven years ago, it was the first known piece of extra-terrestrial space garbage. It was a piece of trash, a McDonald's wrapper tossed by some alien out of the car window as it zoomed through a no-name galaxy. A piece of trash that made Earth call back its little ships and adjust its focus to hiding from the universe it once believed it could conquer. The thing had looked like a living Koosh ball made of crude oil when they first brought it on board the research vessel Brahe. After a few days it decided against spending any more time in their labs and escaped to make contact with Robin Dar, an astrophysicist who changed professions soon after her return to Earth. It became a glove when it met her, the Glove, and hasn't made any long-lasting changes since. Reynolds had snapped up Dar with a fat contract the minute her slender foot had hit civilian ground and ushered in the era of the Action Celebrity. And now, a generation later, Greg Herod looked at the thing that made him one of the richest stars in the world and despised it. We might all be killed, but you'll survive and crawl onto the next person in line, he thought.

The Blacksmith puffed on his cigar, cool as a killer's knife. He always got that way around bombs, the only time he really relaxed. After a long, slow drag, he rationed his speaking breath like a miser. "Not sure why they called me in at all. Pretty whiz kid like you oughta be able to handle the whole operation with that supercrutch your career's leaning on."

"You want to leave?" Greg asked. "Why don't you run down that chopper?"

The Blacksmith let cigar smoke twist from between his yellow, solid teeth. His look said he was ready to pounce if he could, but he just said, "Get your boy through that screen, first off. There's a few different detonators in these things. You try and take off that screen, you'll trigger one of ‘em."

Greg's fingers grew as long and as thin as knitting needles and the Glove penetrated the mesh screen which separated him from the internal workings of the bomb.

Moscowitz sat back and spoke with the air of a backwater lecturer leaning against a pickle barrel. "You'll see they use different bombs and situations to hook different numbers. Most of ‘em ain't this elaborate. Usually, for an investigative angle, the bomb could be gasoline and a nine-volt, they'll just hide the damn thing and the whole show'll be on finding it. On those, I'm suddenly the big criminal psychologist, who tracks it down ‘cuz he knows how these terrorists think.

"Ones like the Kitel-sat are just plain old action, like I'm fuckin' James Bond or something." He choked out a loud laugh, spitting his cigar into the freshly turned earth. "These ones here are for numbers who're into MacGyver."

"What the hell is MacGyver?"

"Forget it. The numbers don't remember either but they eat it up. I like to think of 'em as puzzle bombs."

"I don't give a damn what you think of them," Greg said, "Just as long as you keep your torn-up ass on the business at hand and let me live after six minutes from now." Moscowitz chuckled, like he had something on him.

"There's a seal here," Greg told him. "It's a . . ." He didn't want to believe it. Saying it out loud would make it true and he didn't want it to be true.

"It's a what?" the fat man yelled.

"It's an atomic lock."

"Oh, Christ," the Blacksmith whispered. He touched his throat mic with his right stub and relayed this to his superiors. He nodded slowly as his inner ear received the instructions Greg couldn't hear, and said:

"It's a safe bet whoever designed this thing doesn't want to let us in. So the key is going to be something very rare and possibly unstable. Now, unless you have something in that hand that can figure out what we need and transport it here immediately, we're fucked. Plan B is to pick your favorite direction and run like your ass is on fire."

Greg fought dizziness now, trying desperately to keep a grip on the rational, thinking part of his brain because he knew that no matter what else it could do, the Glove couldn't get him away far enough, fast enough to escape.

"Wait," he said. "My glove. It changes shape. I can try to pour myself into the lock till it's the shape of the key, fill the lock and open it."

"That's great," he said, "but we don't know what kind of atom it'll be until the exact microsecond you become it. It could fall apart and fry the shit out of us."

"Would you rather die now maybe, or die in five minutes definitely?" Greg watched the sweat dribbling out from between the thick ripples of fat on his partner's neck. The Reports' instant editors never showed that to the public. What else were they editing now?

"Do it already!"

He did it and he could feel subatomic particles snapping into their tiny orbits. His heart beat twice for every electron/proton pair that he added to the formula and still his work was rapid. He found himself slowing as he neared the minefield toward the end of the periodic table. Suddenly his wrist expanded into an impenetrable black dome which surrounded the bomb. Looking up, he felt a shiver at the bottom of his back. The Blacksmith saw Greg's look of surprise at what happened and he looked like he found out something dirty, some vile secret about the Fist.

"It sometimes acts to protect its owner without my instructions," Greg explained with a sheepish smile. The Blacksmith leaned back, slowly, now regarding the Glove as an unpredictable animal, rather than the product of an unknown science.

Something was wrong.

"I'm stuck," Greg said.

"What do you mean, stuck?" His eyes darted around the obsidian shield of the Glove, vainly attempting to see through to the problem.

"I've got ninety-four electrons and as many protons in place. The lock's full up but it's not opening."

With a soft thud, the Blacksmith nearly damaged himself as his right stump darted to his throat mic. He spoke quickly, but remained coherent.

"Isotopes!" he shrieked.

Greg's breath returned to him as the Glove now continued its work. Why didn't it take care of that in the first place?

"There it is!" he cried feeling the lock open. It's plutonium 244. Stable enough, though it was dicey getting to it. The shield wants to stay in place," he added almost as an aside. "I can feel my way through from here." Two minutes and counting.

The Blacksmith asked him, "What's next?"

Even with the glow of the inner clock, the light within the bomb was virtually nonexistent. But although the Glove is capable of more senses than an unaided human, it's sense of touch has always been its most superior sense and Greg trusted it through the remainder of this operation.

"There are some buttons." He felt the painted marks to identify their functions. "They're . . ."

"What? They're what?" the Blacksmith yelled.

"It's a transport gate," he said, not quite believing himself. "Not the plasma transporter, it's the kind with the buttons. It's a second gate."

The Blacksmith's eyes grew wide. "What?" He was on his throat mic again. "Oh shit! It's not supposed to be there!"

"What do you mean? What do I do, you fat son of a bitch? Hurry!"

"I don't know, I wasn't briefed on this!" His voice was wet and cracking. He was about to get up (to do what? Run?) when Greg willed forth from the Glove a metallic leash around the Blacksmith's throat to quiet him, and he looked into the Blacksmith's eyes.

"You aren't shit, are you? All the shit you've given me about being nothing without the Glove and now the truth comes out. All this time I thought you knew your stuff and you were just an actor. Well, don't worry about the bomb because I'm killing you before it blows!"

"Nggg!" the Blacksmith said as he pointed to his head. Greg released him as a soft female synthetic said over the Blacksmith's amplifiers:

"This is the Reynolds OmniMedia emergency crisis containment unit. Please enter the following jumpgate coordinates: Del. Del. Sig. Pi. Omi. Del. Omi."

"No!" Greg yelled. "It's a setup!"

"What? You crazy son of a bitch, punch it in!"

"But anything could . . ." A cold realization settled to the bottom of Greg's stomach. "You people didn't need me to crack this bomb. You wanted me to take on whatever's coming through this gate, whether it's an army or a nanocloud!"

"Look, we needed you for both. We can argue about this later. If there is any later in twenty-seven seconds, goddammit!" He looked at his chronometer and desperately whacked his stump against the Glove's improvised dome, cracking his regen tube. Green liquid spilled out, exposing an embryonic set of fingers.

Greg willed the leash around the fat man's throat once again. "Listen, you bastard, this glove gives me the power to wipe out anything Reynolds can throw at me. You know I can crush whatever's coming through the gate and you should also know I'm crushing you next. And Reynolds is in deeper shit than you, because contract or not, I'm taking control from here on out." Greg took satisfaction in the slight bulge of the Blacksmith's eyes as the glove punched in the code Greg had already forgotten in the heat of the moment. The clock ticked off its last three seconds and Greg prayed to God that he wasn't about to be blown to Hell.

He screamed when the burst of heat and light from the gate that appeared at his side burned his skin. He screamed more from fear than pain, imagining for a second that the bomb was exploding. The Glove tugged at his hand, like it wanted to separate itself from him. Almost instantly Greg collected himself and turned to face the foe from the gate.

Ronnie Moscowitz, born loser, thrust into fame by a fluke, laughed triumphantly, forgotten by the Glove's leash. "Reynolds can't wait another six years, Pretty Boy. The funny thing is, without your five-fingered money machine, they couldn't have afforded their little jaunt to Barnard's Star."

Greg's gut was ice and his eyes were trained on the large woman before him. She wore a suit made of a black, ridged material. It covered her from scalp to sole with one notable exception: Her left hand was bare, its nails painted maroon and gold.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

122 And Submission Stats

Just sent out story 122, a flash piece called One With Everything. Another one I didn't plan on, but there you go. Only 49 stories to go this year and only 878 more before I'm fifty! 123 is waiting in the wings, I just need Tony to send a little British postage my way. At least I think it's 123. I thought it was 122 until a couple hours ago.

That was my 603rd submission. On the occasion of my 600th submission the other night, I looked over my submissions and mentioned a few that were important to me on Twitter. Here they are again, with some extra info, for those of you that care:

* I sent out my first submission on May 8th, 1991. Almost 19 years ago.That story was called Lives and Times (Number 1 in the canon, of course). The style of the story crawled out of the 1950's and the writing was poor, of course. I still think the idea is cool enough that I won't spill it here in case I want to reuse it in the future.

I sent it to Amazing Stories. I had picked up my first copy of Amazing in high school and there was an address therein to send for submission guidelines. I was excited to receive that little pamphlet and that's what sparked my interest in writing for science fiction mags. My first dream was to be published in Amazing. That dream was the first of many to go down the shitter. :D The most wonderful thing about Amazing was that they were a major magazine that would give you feedback on your story. Even the first story you ever wrote. Even if they had to tear out your intestines and stomp on them. I got a few rejections from an assistant editor before they folded and she was deliciously ruthless. "Why don't don't they just stick a knife in you?" my then girlfriend, later former wife asked. I wish I had kept those particular rejections. They probably wouldn't look nearly as bad to me today as they felt back then.

* Made my first sale with submission 115. October 1st, 1998. Got paid in copies (5). That was a story called Better Than Anything (Story number 6), a superhero story that I still like, though I haven't read it in a long time. It was for a publication called Between the Leaves that Barnes & Noble published, of stories written by Barnes & Noble employees. I was working for B. Dalton Booksellers then, which was owned by B&N. I had already amassed a pile of rejections by that time and although they didn't pay money, I sent the story in, because I figured if I couldn't get into that book, then I super-sucked as a writer. I'm happy that I didn't super-suck. If you guys remind me, I'll post the story on this blog as it's out of print now.

* My first (and so far only) pro sale was submission 383. March 2nd, 2007. That was Fluff and Buttons on the Teddy Bear Range (Story 35), published in Chiaroscuro. I created this story as a lark at work. I was working at the now defunct Linens N Things at the time. We had these teddy bear greeting cards at a register no one used, so the cards never sold. The cards had sepia-toned photos of teddy bears on them. The bear on one card looked like a pioneer sitting in front of a cabin. It looked very lonely out there by itself and I wondered what kind of horrors lurked outside of that cabin when the night fell. I wrote the first draft of the flash fiction story on a piece of receipt tape as I walked the store's aisles. I was supposed to be managing something I think, but in the long run, the story proved a much better use of my forty-five minutes.

I sent the story around and nearly wet myself with glee when I got a phone call from Harper's (yes, that Harper's) about it. It was an intern who told me that Harper's didn't publish micro-fiction, but if I could expand on the story they'd love to see the result. He also told me they loved the opening so much they posted it up on their bulletin board in the office. Harper's! You are probably more astonished by the fact that I'd have the balls to send the story there, than the fact that they asked for a rewrite. You know what they say about no guts. Needless to say, I wrote the shit out of that story. Also needless to say, they rejected it.

It soon made its way to Chiaroscuro and I considered it a long shot, because Chiaroscuro is a horror zine, but from the bears view that story was pure horror. It's no longer up at that site, because they only run stories for about 15 months, but read the zine anyway. You can listen to the audio version of the teddy story at Cossmass Infinities (and while you're there, check out their other episodes, because it's a great podcast with awesome theme music).

* I hope to hit submission 700 by the end of this year. I better hustle! I actually think my submission goal for this year was 200 submissions, so I should hit number 787 by the end of the year.

Now, back to fiction.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A Friendly Reminder

I lost a dear friend yesterday and he was taken far too early. Whenever this happens the rest of us often reflect on our own mortality and our own lives. On Twitter my writer friends will occasionally remind everyone else to back up their work. We do need reminders. This post is one of those other reminders that even non-writer types get when they lose someone.

Our time is limited. Most of us have no idea exactly how limited because we don't get a countdown or a prophecy. The end could be decades away or later this afternoon. So live your life as you want to. Don't put things off. If you want to leave something behind, whether it's money, a work of art, a better world or simply someone who will think you were a good person, get to work on it now.

This is your only shot.