Category: Speculative Fiction

My genre-friendly prose and poetry, including fantasy and science fiction. Satire goes here, too.

Published — “Blue Winter High”

Seeing as only contributors received print editions of Writ in Water Issue 4, I’ve posted my story, “Blue Winter High,” in its entirety here.

Ms. Fountain parked her Camry before a cavalcade of snow, the glaze pushed by plows into mounds around faculty parking. She pulled her purse string over her shoulder, picked up her lunch bag, and nearly slipped on ice. The air was cold, the bone shiver kind. She strolled quickly over the pavement, only giving the mountains—purple beneath the sunrise—a glimpse in her periphery. She would appreciate their beauty on a warmer day.

Those early hours before school were devoted to Zero Hour, a psychological trick to add a class period. No one wanted periods one through nine. Zero through eight, however, was poetry. Fountain had to sneak soundlessly because classroom doors were open. Students reclined, their heads pointed at the ceiling, fingers playing invisible instruments. Each was engaged in a lesson, their eyes coated in degial plastic. The only movement was their hands. This was the latest trend in differentiated instruction. With pre-recorded lessons, students could pause or rewind with the twitch of a thumb. The teacher walked along the aisles, catching students when they leaned too far.

Ms. Fountain sped up in the English Hall, but it was no use. There was Mr. Tseng, standing by his door, greeting students as they sauntered by.

“Good morning,” Fountain said.

“I am fine. How are you?” Mr. Tseng replied so quickly it could have all been one word.

“Good,” Fountain said. She reached her door, opened it.

“Good, good,” Mr. Tseng repeated. His head was already scanning four boys down the hall. Possibly he was using facial recognition software to confirm their enrollment. Fountain eyed his hands anxiously. She knew he possessed the strength to rip her spine from her back.

65% of the teachers at Blue Winter High were automated. As machines emerged for nearly every task, teachers had hoped their profession was a bastion of human ingenuity. That human mentorship was necessary. Then Nagata Incorporated created an android that could teach more efficiently, if their research was to be trusted, than any person.

(more…)

Published — “Rona of the Els”

Electric Spec picked up my short story, “Rona of the Els,” about a peasant witch who takes a noble girl on a tramp through the marsh.

“Quiet Reflections” by Yuri Magalhães (2020)

There’s an LGBT undercurrent here, as well as what I hoped was an interesting application of old fantasy tropes. This is meant to be a fun read, but maybe someone who’s looking at their future with a little less-than-hope might read “Rona” and feel inspired.

Electric Spec is a not-for-profit speculative magazine that publishes four times per year. “Rona of the Els” is featured in Volume 15, Issue 2, May 31, 2020, which also features a wonderful interview by Blogcritics Magazine editor Barbara Barnett.

Published — “Blue Winter High”

While a graduate student at Houston Baptist University, I created Writ in Water, an annual literary magazine focused on Literature & Life (unlike Rune Bear and the Weird & Wonderful). The stipulation was that all contributors had to be students or alumni of HBU. No outsiders and no professors. To sustain the magazine’s leadership, the editor-in-chief of Writ in Water would be the Writing Coordinator of the University’s Academic Success Center.

Although I’ve long left the magazine, moving north to teach in Denver, Writ in Water has flourished under a series of amazing editors, most currently Hannah Gentry. A few months back, Gentry contacted me about my process for gathering submissions and publication. She also invited me to send a story, so I thought, eh, sure, whatever, I’ll submit something. (Corruption at its finest, right?)

Today I’m excited to say “Blue Winter High” has been published in the 2020 issue of Writ in Water.

“Blue Winter High” takes place in a near-future where public education is mostly automated. A human teacher struggles to be as efficient as the robots around her. I was hoping to create the sense that human vitality might be threatened by the inhuman mechanical processes we keep implementing into our daily lives.

Drabble — “Bird Lizard Coming On Strong”

A story in exactly 100 words.

Jim scratched his groin, itching fierce since last week’s romp at Ophelia’s. With a squint particular to these plains, he muttered, “I’m telling ya, that there’s a wyvern.”

Turner pulled from her scope, rested the rifle on the blue ridge of the roof. “It’s a dragon. Release the flare.”

Jim spat. “Wyvern! See the tail? Got a stinger there. That two-wings couldn’t burn down a barn.”

That two-wings released a hot beam of fire that took out Ophelia’s Place. The critter swooped overhead, a stingerless tail whistling by.

“One of them fire-breathing wyverns,” Jim muttered stubbornly, reaching for the flare.

Drabble — “Baby’s on the Wall Again”

A story in exactly 100 words.

Mother put down baby, avoiding kicking legs, all twelve of them. She wrapped a diaper around baby’s waist, whispering gently. Baby giggled, his mandibles clacking. Mother smiled. “He’s putting on weight. The diapers are getting tighter.”

Underwear secure, baby scurried up the wall.

Father was releasing torrents into the sink. “Another bite?” she asked. Father groaned, hurled, didn’t reply, raised an arm. Gauze barely hid where baby had bit freely. Mother came to the kitchen to hold her husband, to let the sense of wrong invade her, before the fog returned, before she pulled baby back down from the ceiling.

Published — “Carnaval de la Coccinelle”

The Were-Traveler published my speculative mystery fiction, “Carnaval de la Coccinelle.” For a long time I’ve wanted to write a locked-box style of detective fiction, specifically a story where the central mystery revolves around a cipher.

Meanwhile, the backdrop is the same universe as “Water Bees,” an alternate history where the world is populated by men and a menagerie of bugs. There are no squirrels, whales, or seagulls, and man is theorized to be some evolved form of worm.

“Carnaval” also follows the same protagonist as “Water Bees,” the gruff police inspector Henri Moreau, and the setting is yet again Arles, France, at the turn-of-the-19th-century.

The Were-Traveler is a fiction eZine that publishes speculative fiction in themed anthologies (my piece was published in a whacky carnival-&-circus anthology called SuperFreak: Freakpunk #2). The magazine is run by the delightful author, publisher, and editor, Maria (M.X. or Reo) Kelly.