Writing is by nature a solitary activity; and writing in a language that’s not your own in a country where it’s barely spoken is pretty much as solitary as it gets. Living in Paris, writing in English, I knew I wasn’t going to have a face-to-face workshop (no critical mass), and I speedily turned online, to big places like Hatrack, Critters and OWW. The trouble is that people outgrow them, move on, and that after a year or so your crit partners might have radically changed (assuming you ever had them in the first place). I was lucky to find some awesome people there (rcloenen-ruiz, to mention only one), but they never had the tightness and cohesiveness I was looking for.
Then I got an invitation from writing buddy T.L. Morganfield to join Written in Blood, a new group with the avowed aim to keep its members together and committed through thick and thin. Three years later, we’re still here, still going strong. We have critted a dozen novels and a host of short stories. Members have had pro sales, been nominated for awards, published novels–and even, in founder Dario’s case, started up a small press, Panverse Publishing. We figured it was time to celebrate our achievements, and to do what writers do, which is put some of our fiction out there. Accordingly, here is our first anthology, Eight Against Reality:
Stories run the gamut from humorous SF to mythical fantasy. Some have been published in pro and semi-pro markets; some are all-new, but they’re all fantastic.
If you like the excerpts below, you can order a copy here. Or… you can win one.
Dario very kindly provided us with two contributors’ copies, and, like fellow WIB Janice Hardy, I’m throwing it into the pot. Leave a comment here, at my website or on LJ (anything that’s clearly not spam will do, like “I want a copy” :D), and you can get a copy (signed and personalised if you feel like it). The offer is good wherever you live in the world; you have a week from now (until the 6th of July). [*]
Afterwards, I’ll put together my best impersonation of a pseudo-random algorithm and pick a name out of the metaphorical hat.
And here are the shiny excerpts:
The Eminence’s Match by Juliette Wade:
Shadowless in the light of two hundred and twelve electric bulbs on his vaulted stone ceiling, the Eminence Nekantor frowned down across his naked ribs. Look: two gold buttons at the waist of his silk trousers. Fastened, both of them, completely fastened. Deceptively fastened. They had been fastened wrong: lower-then-upper, not upper-then-lower. The difference stuck to the buttons like fingerprints. The difference felt like fingers pressing on his mind.
His servant’s fingers.
Kurek had done it. That was new: Kurek doing the buttons wrong today, when they had been right yesterday, the day before—for months now already. That was different, unexplained. Unacceptable.
“Kurek,” he said. “These buttons are wrong.”
“Wrong, your Eminence?”
Kip, Running by Genevieve Williams:
The runners are lithe and young. None are older than sixteen. Nothing about their hair or clothing dangles in excess, though they ornament themselves in other ways: hair cut in patterns like ornamental lawns, tint cascading through the patterns like advertising. Tattoos adorn them like jewelry or ripple across their bodies like silk scarves, wet and shining in the omnipresent April rain.
Kip, small and subtle, gathers with the rest of them on top of the platform shelter at Pike Station, 120 feet above the Street. There are fourteen runners besides herself, eyeing her and each other as though plotting how best to throw their competition off a building. Like her, they’re masked and mirrored: a combination of camouflaged clothing, surveillance-reflective skins, and sensor-scrambling biosign suppressors will make watchful eyes slide right off them. Trainjumping is illegal, as are most of the other things runners do to win a race. Freerunning, bubble-riding, running along slidewalk rails—all of it.
The Lonely Heart by Aliette de Bodard:
It was towards mid-afternoon that Chen became aware of the girl. She stood before Chen’s stall, watching the fake-jade effi gies of the Buddha and the coloured incense sticks, her eyes wide in the sunlight—she was no more than thirteen or fourteen, with the gangly unease of that age. To her left, children shrieked as they passed the Bridge of Impossibility, holding each other’s hands, and went into the temple complex.
The girl’s hand reached towards a small statue of a demon, touched it—setting off a coloured lightstrobe which illuminated the statue from within.
The Flying Squids of Zondor by Doug Sharp:
Commandrix, this planetary system is unique in all the galaxy!
A week spent exploring it will unveil fundamental truths about
the most secret laws of science and…
Midshipman! Take this…
It concerns the yadayadium, Commandrix.
Go on. The yadayadium?
All the yadayadium is concentrated on a single planet.
Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. It’s oh so true.
Spoiling Veena by Keyan Bowes:
The snow thuds down like brickbats.
Instead of a soft and beautiful blanket, it lies on the grass in shards of ice. The party is ruined. It had sounded like such a good idea, snow in Delhi. Shalini should have known better than to trust Party Weather Inc. They haven’t been able to deliver. Shivering, she herds the children into the veranda, out of the way of the pounding white chips.
“Let’s bring in the cake, shall we?” she says, as the clatter of the hail on the cars parked outside distracts the children.
“Oh, can’t we go out in that, Aunty?” It’s a young boy called—Ajay, that’s it, Ajay Zaveri.
“It’s too hard, Ajay,” replies Shalini. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.” Or your lawyer mother to sue me, she thinks. India is becoming just too much like America since cable and satellite TV. She has releases of liability signed by every custodial parent, and still she worries.
Man’s Best Enemy by Janice Hardy:
“We thought it was just pups,” Deeke said, pressing the bandage hard against Louie’s belly. The blood he wasn’t stopping flowed dark, almost black, a vein tear for sure. I’d seen bites that deep before. Was an ugly way to go. Be kinder for Deeke to ease up on the pressure and let Louie pass out and die in peace, but Deeke would never do that. He was too soft-hearted. Even Mama said so.
Doc looked up and glared, her dark eyes hard enough to make Deeke flinch. “You heard pups and ignored them? How stupid can—Shawna, hand me that clamp—how stupid can you be?”
I handed Doc her clamp from the tray by the examination table, careful not to bump her. Wasn’t a whole lot of room in the clinic, but it was the only room in the hotel with enough cabinets for all her supplies.
“Need more gauze?” I asked. The bloody pile was getting large.
Love, Blood and Octli by T. L. Morganfield:
On my seventh birthday, the Feathered Serpent gave me my name. Many snakes lived among the reeds near the pond, most of them full of poison and spite, but this one was different. He was no bigger than the other snakes but was covered in feathers; white ones on his slender body, and long, exquisite emerald ones—like those of the precious quetzal bird—around his neck. I met him as I swam around the pond.
“What a strange creature you are!” I called when I saw him flying above me.
The feathered serpent looked at me with keen yellow-slit eyes. “Ah, Ayomichi,” he declared.
I laughed. “I’m not a turtle.”
“You swim like one.”
“I’m a girl.”
“I can see that. But you’re also Ayomichi. It’s your name.”
“My name? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
Dancing by Numbers by Dario Ciriello:
Ten days to go until the opening of Tchaikovsky’s The Emperor’s Hunting Lodge. We’ve been working six hours and I can feel Max’s strength fading with every lift. Anthony, our company director, is getting that tight, drawn look he gets when he’s trying not to scream. That’s just the way Anthony is, and everybody knows that. Still.
In the wings, before stepping out to join Max for the final pas de deux, I find that infinitesimal, still, center of balance I’ve been exploring. I focus everything, my whole being, into the very center of my body for that one lift. Max sweeps me high, I experience a moment of empty darkness, and then—
The studio is gone.
[*]This is a sort of warmup test for my Servant of the Underworld competition, which should run sometime this summer.