What’s Desmond Reading?
Snuff by Terry Pratchett.
The benignly-neglected online home of writer Desmond Warzel
Back in 2009, I published a short story (“On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy”) about alleged flying saucers over Cleveland, written in the form of an afternoon radio call-in show. This appeared on the website SFReader. In retrospect, it cried out to exist in audio format, as it’s practically tailor-made for that (this was even pointed out to me at the time, but I’ve always been a slow adapter, and it was some time before I was on board with this “podcast” business). The story eventually appeared on the pioneering SF podcast Escape Pod in 2011, gamely narrated by Joshua McNichols.
And yet, in the back of my mind, I felt that the tale could aspire to something even greater. Along came the Drabblecast and its intrepid editor Norm Sherman, who adapted the story once again in 2014, this time with a full cast (including Dave Robison, Mike Boris, Rish Outfield, Mat Weller, Nathan Lee, Ray Sizemore, and numerous podcast listeners portraying Cleveland denizens calling in to the show) and that inimitable Drabblecast/Norm Sherman audio production that longtime listeners will know so well. I’m biased, but I consider it nothing less than a masterpiece of SF audio fiction.
Earlier this week, Norm resurrected “On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy” for his occasional Drabblecast Director’s Cut feature, wherein he plays a favorite story and then interviews the author about the piece as well as whatever other subjects happen to arise. Needless to say, I have intense hatred for the sound of my own voice, so as of this writing, I have yet to listen to the interview; moreover, I probably won’t do so until I have the chance to get a few drinks in me (at least as many as it took to work up the motivation to do the interview to begin with). Most people, however, have no idea whether they can stand my voice, and this would be an excellent chance to find out; so feel free to give it a listen.
(N.B. On the off-chance that “On a Clear Day You Can See All the Way to Conspiracy” is your favorite story [and why not? Any story might be one person’s favorite story], and you’re just dying to see it in actual print, it did in fact appear in Quickfic Anthology 2: Shorter-Short Speculative Fiction from Digital Fiction Publishing in 2016. [Of course, if you had clicked on the “Bibliography” tab above, you’d already know that.] Right now Amazon has the paperback in stock at a price of $2.94; why so low, I have no idea, but there you go.)
Episode #712 of Pseudopod, the premier horror fiction podcast, dropped a couple of days ago. This one features three very short stories:
The first two are excellent, and the third isn’t bad. It was inspired by a vague memory of seeing the picture at right, or a picture similar to it, in my Facebook feed some years ago. These days, an image search results mostly in pictures of people wearing shirts or displaying placards bearing the titular slogan, apparently in all earnestness and sincerity. I suppose everybody needs a hobby. Some people collect stamps.
I liked “Free Hugs” when I wrote it, and now that I’ve listened to it, I like it even better. Setsu’s excellent narration elevates it to a higher plane.
In 2007, the webzine Abyss & Apex published my first short story, about time travelers engaged in a Wikipedia-style edit war of history. In 2010 I returned to their virtual pages with a tale of an interplanetary customs officer who suspects that a reformed smuggler has begun backsliding. Now, a decade later, I return to where it all began with “Future Imperfect,” the story of a man who can see a few minutes into the future and the well-meaning friend in search of a way to exploit that talent.
I wrote this story some years ago. One outfit held onto it for four hundred forty-four days (the exact length of the Iranian hostage crisis) before finally turning it down. Abyss & Apex accepted it in 2018, but that fine magazine receives many more quality stories than they can publish in a timely manner; as a result, “Future Imperfect” makes its debut in issue #75 nearly two years after its acceptance.
In the weeks before publication, I reread the story myself for the first time in that two-year period. Unusually for me, it turns out that I still like it. Quite a bit, in fact. I think that’s a good sign.
Lately there’s been a justifiable surge of support throughout the media, both social and otherwise, for the unsung heroes of our society. By sheer chance, the anthology Forgotten Sidekicks dropped yesterday courtesy of the fine folks at Kristell Ink and editors Peter Sutton and Steven Poore. I assure you, this is not a cynical attempt to cash in on the zeitgeist; book releases are planned months, if not years, in advance. From the back cover:
“We all know what happens when the hero saves the day, but what about their sidekicks? Too often the hero is held high and celebrated whilst their sidekicks and comrades are brushed to the side; their own battles forgotten, and their actions airbrushed to nothingness from the tales of victory. These are the stories of the ones who aren’t remembered; the ones who helped save the day, and got cast aside; the ones who don’t want the applause, and the ones who deserved the applause and never received it. These stories didn’t make the headlines – but they happened, and they’re glorious.”
At this point, you’re thinking I probably wouldn’t be mentioning this if it didn’t benefit me in some way, and you’re right; Forgotten Sidekicks contains my superhero story “The Dilettante and Leonard,” as well as this line-up:
Why not check it out if you have some Amazon credit burning a virtual hole in your pocket?
Slower year this year. Where did all the time go?
An early story of mine that has been unavailable for some time has reemerged from the darkness and been made available once more in Vampires, Zombies, and Ghosts: Volume 2, edited by Laurie Axinn Gienap and Catherine Valenti and now out for the Kindle and in other electronic formats from Smoking Pen Press. My tale, “A Good Boy,” first appeared in the magazine Alternative Coordinates in 2009 and the e-anthology 31 Days of Halloween Horror in 2010. Both of those publications have vanished from the material realm, but “A Good Boy” lives on once more.
(Despite the anthology’s title, my story concerns neither a vampire, nor a zombie, nor a ghost. The title is indicative, not definitive.)
There are rumors of a print edition in the near future. Watch this space for updates as they happen.
(Particularly observant readers will have noticed that the presence of the modifier “Volume 2” suggests the existence of a first volume. There is. Why not check that out as well?)
My first publication of 2019 is finally at hand: The new anthology Lost and Found: Tales of Things Gone Missing, edited by Terri Karsten is now out from Wagonbridge Publishing. Fifty-seven authors tell tales of lost things: people, objects, memories. In my case, it’s a forgotten computer password that incites the difficulties which abound in my story “One Thing Leads to Your Mother.” The story first appeared in Unidentified Funny Objects 2 in 2013, but I’m happy to share it anew with a fresh audience. Do check it out, if you like.
Stuff I read in 2018. I did a little better this year (depending on one’s opinion of the quality of my choices in reading material.)
I make a habit of visiting the annual Friends of the Library used-book sale in Oil City, PA, each July. This year, I ended up buying about fifty books, but when I got them home I put them aside and only just now have I gone through them.
Part of the fun is the detritus that often shows up in a random selection of old books. Two years ago, mixed in with my purchases from the 2016 edition of this very same book sale, attentive readers will recall that a found a plane ticket, a couple of lottery tickets, and a photo of an unknown couple.
Last year’s sale was unproductive in this vein, but there was some small pay dirt this year. In a copy of Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold, I found the following quite yellowed file card.
“Falling Free Lois McMaster Bujold
“Baen 1998 Read May 94
“Very readable–my kind of story.
“Bionic mutants 1000 strong are created by some corporation for freefall space work but become obsolete by techno advances–company policy is to kill them (are not legally human–are bio constructs). Have 4 arms and no legs (no gravity–don’t need legs)–are saved by engineer type).
“Cannot get over 4 legs [sic] 8.0 Possible top 100.”
I don’t know what possessed my cross-temporal correspondent to make such extensive notes. I wonder if he or she did this for every book, and to what end? It seems like the sort of thing I would have tried, but lost interest in after a few books. I hope you got whatever you needed out of this meticulous practice. I recently read my first Bujold earlier this year and quite enjoyed it; I was already looking forward to reading Falling Free, and your crosstime recommendation has only enhanced my anticipation.
It hasn’t been a banner year for story publications for me thus far; not in terms of absolute numbers, and certainly not in terms of word count. My longest story was “Look for the Union Label” at two thousand words and change, and “Scorn Not the Least” weighed in at an even thousand. (Info on both pieces can be found in previous blog posts.)
But there’s light at the end of the tunnel: two new publications to announce.
And they total six hundred and six words between them.
Nevertheless, every little bit counts. So here we go. “Human Wheels Spin Round and Round” appears in Tales from the Canyons of the Damned: No. 27, edited by Daniel Arthur Smith. It’s a brief (506-word) look at self-driving cars, but there are several other nifty stories included for your reading pleasure.
Additionally, a drabble of mine (a drabble is a short story of exactly one hundred words) has just appeared online. “Strung Out in Alientown,” a story of chocolate and poor self-control, is up at Martian: The Magazine of Science Fiction Drabbles. This one appeared in a print magazine called The Drabbler in 2009, but plenty of time has passed and I’m happy to present it to a wider audience.