My poem, “Boar Song” published in Ink & Voices, an online publication devoted to “unapologetic expression, unedited art.” The magazine seeks to provide a space for “humanness” and has a predilection for the “honest, raw, and original.” My poem, about how my wife turns goblinesque when I tickle her, was an attempt to express my adoration without convention or praise-filled language. I couldn’t have found a better venue to publish.
Half-a-year ago, I was contacted by Z Publishing about contributing to their “Emerging Writers” series. Having launched a successful run of “Emerging Poets,” the publishing house was seeking to publish new writers from every state in what they called a “sampler platter.”
I was ecstatic. I penned a flurry of fiction and plagued my critique groups for several months. There were no specifications on genre, so my pieces were strange and speculative with one flash about monks hunting a bear in an underworld library.
Finally, Z selected “House Divided” from my submission pile. The story is about a recent divorcee ruminating on her home, which, instead of being given to either her or her ex-husband, has been split interdimensionally between them. In essence, they’ve become ghosts to each other.
So here we are—with my plug. The publication date for Texas’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Fiction is just around the corner (September 4th, 2018), but you can pre-order now for $14.99. There are two anthologies from Texas. Mine’s the tree behind the bluebonnet, a hazy sun on the horizon, and pink-gray clouds smearing the sky.
Well didn’t I pick the perfect brand for my blog?
(Hint: sarcasm stirred with a dash of self-defeat and a weird smell, probably cheese coming off my beard.)
I chose Desmond, Write to be a call-to-the-craft, a personal reminder to “write already” or “go blog you dumb fart.” It helped that my slogan rhymed with my name: “Where Desmond White goes to Write.”
The problem? I’m not the only one to use desmondwrite.
Turns out, someone else has. Had? Did. Because today I found this on tumblr. Don’t want to click a mysterious link? Here’s a screenshot:Discovering my double has been an unsettling experience, a William Wilson of sorts, especially since this double is dedicated to a fandom I’ve evaded like ebola (averted like avian flu? bypassed like bronchitis? dodged like diphtheria? sidestepped like syphilis?). Which means for three years anyone curious as to whether I had a tumblr probably thought this was mine—this, a blog that begins its introduction with “Hello everypony.” If they were confused, if they thought I was joshing, they could check the bio where stands a blue pony in-miniature, a nag who’s probably named Crystalwit or Dusky Snufflebuns Jr.
Well. At least this writer has a better articulated demographic than my blog of blah, specifically that multitude of My Little Pony fans who enjoy a good read. The site is clear about its intention to “entertain everypony” but unclear as to how—whatever the blogger intended was going to “involve literature,” maybe even “random things. Unfortunately, the site skimps the content so we’ll never know. But what the tumblr lacks in prose, what it lacks in promise, it makes up for in permanence, because the thing has been sitting webside since 2015 without anything but an introduction—and yet it persists.
So. Just to be clear. There’s no affiliation between us. My site has been up longer than this guy’s. But who cares? I don’t want bad blood (sparkles?) between us. Des, good luck, bro(ny). After all, as the subtitle of a popular horse-related franchise goes, friendship is magic.
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“
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.
But that wasn’t the first rune bear that Phil designed. Phil also experimented with configurations based on actual runes, specifically Elder Futhark (c. 150–800 AD).
A futhark is a type of alphabet that starts with some variation of F, U, Þ, A, R, and K, and Elder Futhark is the earliest known form. The alphabet was used by Germanic tribes during the ‘Barbarian Invasions’ (the Germans have a better word for it—Völkerwanderung while English academics have a more boring description—the ‘Migration Period’) which may or may not have led to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. Today, Elder Futhark is often found on old weapons, amulets, tools, and, yes, this is real life, runestones scattered across the European landscape.
Phil sent me three designs based on the futhark.
While I loved the diamond nose and frumpy grin, the ears, while stylish, gave the bear an undesirable ant-like quality.
The test market (me) liked the sideburns but thought the bear looked too grumpy.
For a while I had settled on this design for the magazine.
But there was still this itchy inkling (writer’s rash?) in the back of my mind. I wanted something that would allow other artists to create their own variations. And something more blue, more realistic. My attempt looked like this:
No, wait, that’s something else.
My first design was this:
In his mouth I wanted the futhark word “alu” (ᚨᛚᚢ). The alu’s meaning is a contested issue, but some of its definitions hint at a strange, disturbed state created by sorcery or induced by ale (we’ve all been there). It is usually inscribed on artifacts of magical or mystical import. Other potential meanings include “taboo,” “strange,” “distraught,” and the “world between the living and the dead.” (I also considered ᛒᛖᚨᚱ, which is the word “bear” spelled out in futhark letters.)
In the end, Phil drew this:
… and the rest is rune history.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.