2nd Place—”Forge Your Own Adventure”

This piece won 2nd Place in Zeroflash’s June Contest. So, progress, I guess. The prompt was to write a fantasy adventure akin to a choose-your-own-adventure novel but under 300 words. I decided on fun over phenomenal and literary fathoms. Credit where credit’s due—my pal Jevin Goleman came up with the title (mine—”Ironfell”—not so good).

“Forge Your Own Adventure”

You are in the forge when barbarians ride into the village, shooting flaming arrows, cutting down peasants in the streets. What do you do?

A) Get cut down in the street.

B) Focus on the customer. Offer the invaders your services. Produce cheap chainmail until they’re slain by the King’s Men.

You are in the forge when a dragon attacks. Fire, death. The people seek a hero. What do you do?

A) Sneak into its lair. Become human barbecue.

B) Offer swords to ‘wyrm-slaying entrepreneurs’ with a 25% investment in the dragon’s horde. Finally get lucky. Use the smoke-singed diamonds to expand the business. Hire an accountant.

You are in the forge but the nobility prefers a business not run by a woman. They go to the Nuric Brothers. What do you do?

A) Watch your business crumble. Die a toothless crank.

B) Open a brewery and spa, call it “The Forge.” Switch from smith to artisan. Sell merch. Tiny statues of the gods, trophies that say, “World’s Greatest Hero.” Bring a wizard into the ‘family.’ Sell flaming swords, sentient shields, quivers that never empty. Acquire the Nuric Brothers.

You are in The Forge sipping mead in a steam-bath when the Darkhand resurrects an ancient horror. Ghouls break from their coffins. Vortexes split the city like a jigsaw puzzle. What do you do?

A) Scream as the wave of corruption converts you into a many-mouthed slime.

B) Don’t thwart the end of the world, accept it. Offer axes to circling gargoyles, chains and fetters to your devil-faced masters, and one ring to rule them all to the abomination that has enslaved reality (along with black crowns to fit its many, many heads).

As your hands turn to claws and eyes pour out, rest easy knowing you always chose wisely.

Rune Bear—Launch

Rune Bear completed its launch with a series of flash fiction. Each of the editors published a 300-word piece in their respective domains. J. Motoki, our Strange Editor, wrote something creepy. Stuart, our Speculative Editor, an alt-future that plays around with humanity adapting to a new (radioactive) environment. Alyssa, Supernatural Editor, had some fun with the ‘princess turned into a cute forest critter’ trope. And I, acting as the judge of all things Surreal, made some kind of weird introduction to someone’s siblings. The intent was to showcase the kind of work we’re searching for, to present models and examples for future contributors.

Read, enjoy, submit something!

J. Motoki, Strange Editor, “Hydra

Desmond White, Surreal Editor, “These were my Brothers

Alyssa Warren, Supernatural Editor, “The Sparrow Queen

Stuart Warren, Speculative Editor, “Helmets

Published—”Like Flies, Like Lights”

This isn’t my publication, but my wife’s. “Life Flies, Like Lights,” which published in Nowhere.Ink, is a dreamy spelunk into a maze of madness or what might be the halls of the dead. I have no idea, actually, but it’s still freaky, especially the line “All around me are sounds like suppressed laughter in mausoleums, like bouts of applause, like flies on a cat corpse in summer.”

Anyway, I’m so proud of J. Motoki and the products of her horrifying brain.

Nowhere.Ink is a digital collaborative devoted to dark minds and cooperation over competition. Its members have several outlets. Polished pieces go in their Library (like my wife’s) while anyone can post prose or poetry to the Facebook page. Then there’s other worlds like Twitter and their Red Light District.

Actually, my wife and I have a little history with the collab. We, along with its creators, used to post to a literature platform called Prose.

That site went south, forgetting its manners and indulging in toxic utilitarianism. Lost were Partners and $100 weekly contests; found were advertisements, random rules, and Prose Gold, a pay-to-be-a-partner subscription service. Suddenly good writing wasn’t based on its popularity but how much you could pay.

There was also a (now-infamous) Simon and Schuster challenge where fifty stories were picked from 500+ entries and submitted to S&S for review. Some of the entries “selected” were written by the Prose judges themselves, a little bit of unethical behavior that did not go unnoticed. (My piece, Iron Abbie, was also chosen, and I add that only to establish that I’m not bitter for losing.)

The first generation who’d given Prose its style split away. Luckily, Tony Cavanagh and Amanda Cary, two brilliant contributors to Prose, gave some direction to the Great Migration. They created an alternate platform, a place devoted to the exercise and excitement of writing. Funny enough, the “nowhere” in Nowhere.Ink comes from Tony’s old Prose handle—Miles Nowhere.

Strange, Surreal, Speculative, and Supernatural

Rune Bear claims to be a digital literary magazine dedicated to the Strange, Surreal, Supernatural, and Speculative.

We ordered the genres like that for the soft soil of sound; a sussuration as subdued as Robert Frost’s sound of sense. Sometimes alliteration is an aroma, an allure. But if we wish to sustain submissions, we’ll need to suss out exactly what we’re looking for.

Strange

By Strange, we mean Weird fiction, a subgenre of the speculative encompassing horror and tales of the macabre. Science, myth, and horror blend into stories which estrange the familiar, break the laws of Nature, and bring the reader into contact with madness. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, editors of the incredible anthology The Weird, add that “With unease and the temporary abolition of science can also come the strangely beautiful intertwined with terror.” But Weird fiction is not necessarily terror-inducing. As Jake King explains “Weird Fiction is about things that aren’t just unknown, but essentially unknowable to humans. Given that we as humans fear the unknown, we usually assign it as horror, but it doesn’t have to be.”

Surreal

By Surreal, we refer to writing that tries to capture the wilds of the unconscious through irrational juxtaposition. André Breton, founder of the literary movement, defines the Surreal as a proposal to “express—verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner—the actual functioning of thought.” He adds that it’s an assertion of “complete nonconformism.” In this way, surrealism is better than realism—a rejection of the refined, a rapture of the raw. The bizarre, unreal, incongruous, paradox, and perverse are elements of Surreal, as well as thirty-six blue rabbit trucks.

Speculative

By Speculative, we mean fiction of the “what if?” As David Bowling describes, these are worlds “that could have been, or might have been, if only the rules of the universe were altered just a bit.” Often the grounding is in the sciences. Innovations or alternatives in psychology, sociology, biology, and technology lead to wild human problems and wilder solutions. In this way, Andy McCann describes, speculative fiction is “preparation for all futures”—an anticipation of infinite destiny. Ultimately, however, Steve Tully writes that the genre is “about you and me” (Lilly). The otherworld, be it magical or mechanical, is a testament to the human imagination, but also human reality.

Supernatural

By Supernatural, we mean fantasy, a genre of imaginative fiction. Sometimes there is a natural world, with the supernatural pressings against its edges. Sometimes the supernatural is the world; the rules of reality re-adapted to make-believe. Tolkien writes that fantasy “touches on or uses Faerie” which “may perhaps most nearly be translated [to] Magic—but it is magic of a peculiar mood and power.” Or, as George R.R. Martin writes, “Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab” (Perret). In this genre are epic, urban, high and low fantasy, fable, myth, steampunk, arcanepunk, a whole slew of other punks, and what Tolkien calls “the Perilous Realm.” We, of course, take all of the above.

Works Cited

Breton, André. Manifesto of Surrealism (1924). Ann Arbor :University of Michigan Press, 1972.

King, Jake. Weird Fiction Discussion Group. Facebook, 26 March 2018.

Lilly, N. E. “What is Speculative Fiction?” Green Tentacles, March 2002.

Perret, Pati. The Faces of Fantasy: Photographs by Pati Perret. New York: TOR, 1996.

Oziewicz, Marek. “Speculative Fiction.” Oxford Research Encyclopedias—Literature, March 2017.

Tolkien, J. R. R. Tree and Leaf (1939). New York: Harper Collins, 2001.

VanderMeer, Ann and Jeff. “The Weird: An Introduction.” Weird Fiction Review, 6 May 2012.

Published—”And We Who Never Died” and “Scarabaeidae”

My pieces “And We Who Never Died” and “Scarabaeidae” were published in the Spring Issue of The Tishman Review, a well-respected quarterly magazine devoted to prose, poetry, and people. Behind the paper’s philosophy is the idea that literature’s “value to humanity is beyond measure.” Editors must “remain open to the possibility that an individual work may take us beyond the boundaries known today.”

“And We Who Never Died” began as a metaphysical conflict. What if when we die, our souls don’t abide the afterlife, or face annihilation, but transfer to the objects around us? What horrors would arise? What fears? The story—about a mother sending her children to search the house for their dead father—is one of many scenarios that might result.

“Scarabaeidae” is an ode to my wife, to us. I try to write without goo, mush, doggerel, singsong, cockamamie, and all those wonderful descriptors of poor poetry. But then, “Scarabaeidae” does have a line that begins with “shall I compare thee to.” Maybe it works since it ends in “a dung beetle.” Glimpsed here is the failure and mundanity of the struggle to love another.

You can pick up a copy of The Tishman Review from their website or order it from the source on Amazon.