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.

Poem—”The Elephant Statue”

The elephant statue, dark colored coal,

a kingly pet bought by a kingly toll,

the remain of days of foreign conquest,

put here to attend to an age of rest.

Now defenseless from a people irate,

who seek to call ruin on the estate.

An axe scrapes a toe to heartless good cheer.

Drunk now, a farmer attacks the veneer.

From a rotten wound in its side outbreaks

the rat-bit scholar who lives in its legs;

shouts at the mob every curse that he knows:

“You anarchists, anti-Christs, and assholes.”

Below callous claws, skin peels away clean

to release beneath a summerset gleam;

a chest, trunk, and tail made of despot’s gold,

dissolved into dust – the marketplace sold.

ZeroFlash—”There Would be Warmth”

Zeroflash, a flash fiction magazine that features many, many great interviews with writers and publishers alike, has a monthly competition series. The winner receives an original illustration of their winning entry, ten pounds, an interview with Uprising Review, etc., etc.

I submitted a story to the February competition (judged by Alex L. Williams) and lost. My story didn’t even make it to second or third. It wasn’t featured on the list of honorees.

S’all good, though. I did better than my wife. She submitted a piece which was so bad that it never materialized among the February entries. (Just kidding, it was probably buried in the slush.)

Again, it’s all good. Rejection is a step toward success. Sometimes rejection’s a success all by its lonesome. And if that’s even remotely true, I’ve made it.

The February prompt was this draconic kaleidoscope with granite blues and pinks and a hidden zero. And it was the caption: “I’m asking for the trippiest, freakiest, most surreal piece of prose you can concoct. Let your mind roam and your words dance.” 300 words minimum.

by Jon Stubbington (2018)

So here’s my loser’s piece. I went for Paracelsus meets the goblins in Twilight Eyes meets skin made out of asbestos. You be the judge if it works or not.

There Would be Warmth

by Desmond White

Now the mediæval men knew a thing about doomsday. They scribbled its steps in codices long-brown, although none of them were excited about cityside basilisks and resurrected gods, content with pulling gold from menstrual blood. Not me. All my years I burned to clear the crust of life from this planet. (Humans, dogs, the yellow cities, trees, all that color.) So I studied the works recounting the Vulcani, those lizards that grow in fire like fishes in water, what some call salamanders. If you grow them big enough they’ll survive outside their element—bigger and they’ll turn the elements into char.

I get a fire going until the flicker-roots are blue and the smoke thick enough to climb, then I step between logs glimmering like sticks in a stomach. The lizards see me and run and die in the cold, so maybe, I think, I must accustom the new hatches to my scent. The eggs are easy. I find a clump of black logs glowing with a thousand eyes and there I find them, small, angry. I raise one to see if the fetus is kicking in the ash, but I take the egg too close to the air element, or maybe wind blows out of jealousy, and the egg turns to coal in my boiled fingers. The fire is kind enough to lift my tears. The next egg I push down my throat, placing it by the heat of my liver, wrapped motherly in blood-web, and now I’m running out the tipi, running for the lake to wash the blackened scale of my skin, to feel the living stone inside my belly, to finish what the mystics never started.

Published—”An Old War Hog”

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My paragraph piece “An Old War Hog” just published in Ghost Parachute, a magazine devoted to “fresh and vibrant imagery,” to “unleash[ing] the spider behind the rose.” The piece is small so I won’t ruin it with a summary. Just know that Ghost Parachute has an interesting format—every story is paired with an original image created by their artists. Credit for the picture above goes to Felix Sanchez.

Fiction—”Sam Spayed, Private Eye”

It was the kind of day that made you want to lie around and wait for a belly rub. A breeze was slinking about the neighborhood, and the welcoming scent of McAlister’s Pet Friendly Kitty Chow was wafting through the window. But I had to be on my paws. Trouble could come scratching my door at any minute.

So I sat at my desk, playing with the blinds, waiting for my nine lives to run out. On my desk were a few toy mice and a ball of yarn I’d bought at a flea market to relieve stress. Whatever effect the yarn was supposed to have was being negated by the fleas. I used to have a pot of catnip, too, but I gave that stuff up.

That’s when she sauntered in. A domestic long-hair, although tame is the last word I’d use. She was a tall bowl of milk, white and fluffy with cream on her shoulders like she was wearing a second fur coat. Soft blue eyes. The type of dame you wish hadn’t been declawed.

“You stalking anybody?” she asked.

“No,” I purred. “You got something for me, or are you just looking for the litter box?”

“I might have something,” she said, cool as a calico. “See, there’s this fancy cat I’ve been nuzzling. And he’s gone missing.”

“You check the pound? Maybe he rubbed someone the wrong way?”

“Mittens always keeps his address on his collar. See, he’s forgetful sometimes. I’m afraid something’s happened to him, Sam.” Her whiskers twitched pathetically and I was string in her paws. She went on to describe her plaything. A Himalayan long-hair, blue-gray, googly eyes. Not the sharpest claw on the paw. More like the type who’d run out of an open door and drown in the pool.

“You armed?” she asked. “This might get fuzzy.”

I opened a drawer and pulled out my Ktaxon 5mm laser pointer.

“So you’ll do it?” she said luxuriously. “I should warn you, I can only pay in Purina.”

“Salmon?” I said. “Or Chicken and Liver?”

She looked sheepish: “Chicken Gravy.”

“Hmm.” I thought about it. To be honest, I would have hissed my mother out a window for a spoonful of Meow Mix. “All right, I’ll be your puss-in-boots.”

She rubbed against me in appreciation. “Thank you, Sam,” she said. “Now, please, find my Mittens.”