Fantasy, Scifi, Writing (Published)

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.

Writing Process

The Horror Writer

The Horror Writer: A Study of Craft and Identity in the Horror Genre is a comprehensive resource on writing horror. Interviews and essays cover a range of topics from inspiration to productivity, literary elements to marketing, exacerbating your reader’s sense of existential dread to publicizing your book in an oversaturated industry. I especially liked Chat Lutzke’s instructions on hooking the reader through empathetic, universal fears, Kenneth W. Cain’s near-prose essay on maintaining tension, and Kevin J. Kennedy’s frank, personable, and immensely useful observations about the writing profession. I could go on, but then I’d be spoiling this anthology’s secrets. Overall, a treasure trove of good information for the emergent and established alike (including those uninterested in writing specifically for the horror genre).

The book is available for purchase here.

Life, Writing (Published)

Unpublished — “Cuidado”

Another example of how COVID-19 is affecting everyone these days. A multitude of magazines have stalled, and a few are folding up due to economic hardships.

This includes an anthology which was about to publish one of my poems. The editors sent me this email:

We are unfortunately now forced to make the decision to not finalize the Impact anthology as we will most likely no longer have the financial means to carry the second URL (Unincorporated.site) for our magazine.

We are honestly barely holding on to our primary literary magazine and may have to fold indefinitely.

The future is unknown as Las Vegas has taken a dramatic hit financially because of the pandemic. Many of our volunteer local readers and editors are no longer employed or only partially employed.

We appreciate all the work that was sent and enjoyed reading many of them. It was a laborious effort and we were already having to make hard decisions regarding which pieces to include.

There were so many wonderful pieces, yours included. This was the hardest decision we had to make but didn’t want to leave our contributors in limbo any longer than we already have.

Helen: A Literary Magazine is (and hopefully will be again) a biannual magazine that celebrates literary works and fine art reflecting ‘the spirit of Southern Nevada.’ (Although I’m not from the area, the editors found my poem reflected an important conflict in their community.) The magazine takes its name from the “First Lady of Las Vegas,” Helen J. Stewart, a pioneer who helped forge the valley in the 1880s.​ They have an internal division called Unincorporated which specializes in anthologies and collections, including Impact. They also run Breedlove, a literary arts blog. As of April 2020, Helen is on indefinite hiatus.

Impact was going to be an anthology focused on Social Justice, ranging from personal experiences to works of fiction. The hope was to expand readers’ perspective on what social justice means and its effects and after effects in our society. Hopefully, those many contributors and their pieces will find other opportunities to publish, to shed a menagerie of lights on our conflicts and corruptions, those things we must repair before we pass the world to our children.

Life, Scifi, Writing (Published)

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.

Life, Writing Process

Behind-the-Quarterly

For a long time I’ve envisioned Rune Bear Magazine divided between Weekly and Quarterly. We would publish weekly stories under 300 words, but we would also have a seasonal writing contest.

Unfortunately, the Quarterly page on our website has looked like this for two years:

The guy we put in charge of Quarterly turned out to be a dud, so we let him go and I took over the contest. Instead of long-form writing, I decided to pull back to the flashiest flash fiction — the Drabble. Stories of 100 words exactly.

With $10 rewarded to the winner.

My editors came up with a list of prompts, democratically selected one, we hired an artist, and boom—I’m proud to announce that Rune Bear Quarterly is open for submissions until April 30, 2020. May will be a reading & selection period with the winner announced on May 31st.

The Spring 2020 prompt is “Weird Wild West” and the inspirational image (by no means the only interpretation of the prompt) is a dragon stealing a cowboy’s horse. This piece was made by the very talented Hari Nezumi, although in the future we will be relying on in-house artist Robin Stranahan.

 

Scifi, Writing Process

Naming a Therapy Robot

Art by Lucy Arnold

I needed a name for a therapy robot, so I turned to the Facebook masses. While I’ve decided on my character’s name without their help (Selor, short for Counselor), here are some of the best suggestions:

    • 6MUND
    • Sigmund Droid, Siggie for short
    • Counselor Troid
    • IKR-4U
    • RU-OK
    • OK2BU
    • ANX-13T (“anxi-i-e-tee”)
    • HAP-E (Humanlike Artificial Psychologist, Model E)
    • DAD (Disease Analytic Droid)
    • FRIEND (Fully Relational Interpersonal Emotional Nurturing Device)
Life

Nonfiction — “Chee Chuk”

Few people know that I grew up in Indonesia. As a writing exercise, I decided to reflect on some of my experiences in the jungles of Sumatra, specifically on my first encounter with a local lizard species.

Chevron put an oil camp in the center of a village previously unspoiled by Western advances except for Disney Princess shirts and dirty motorcycles. There they placed us, protected from friendly brown-skinned neighbors by fences and barbed wire and border guards armed with clubs and slingshots until the Bali Bombing when they upgraded to rifles.

It was always raining except the days they burned trash. Then the misted air filled with the green acids of plastic. Sometimes when it rained I would let out the cats. There was a gray sidewalk that wound around the house, kept dry by an extension of the roof and gutter. The cats, mewing softly, would scour the perimeter for shelter-seeking beetles. We didn’t have to watch them; the rain made an excellent cage.

At night, the windows went chak chak chak. Mom thought the villagers were tapping sticks against the glass.

My room takes some explaining. Our house was a one-story American imitation, but it had a porch that made an L across two sides, and this porch was enclosed, sealed by walls and long windows with metal bars that made a lattice instead of stripes. My room was created by partitioning some of the porch.

There were three doors in this room—one to the porch, one into the house, and the last led to the cement path and green furry grass. I had a strip of glass that peered outside and a strip of glass that looked into the living room. At night, I could look through the window at my parents watching television, like a forgotten child peering into a house, seeing how happy everyone is without them.

I made the discovery in the middle of the night. Lying in bed, two cats forming a ying-yang on the covers, woken by the purple-white call of lightning, I heard beyond the tah tah tah of rain the relentless sound of chak chak chak.

You have a reckless spirit when you are young with a theory and animal companions (even if they are selfish little cats). I crept to the window and peered into the wine-dark. Finding no one, I unlocked the door to the outer elements and pushed until the wood-rust cracked and the door swung open.

My impressions of this moment include the: wetslick air, the cascading wall of water, the creep of feet and paws, meows emitted by cats (meong meong in Bahasa), no one in sight but me, and still the sound of sticks.

I paused, the cats padding softly around me, and looked to the window. There, a thin, brown lizard emitted the sound: chak chak chak.

The lizard noticed us and leaped away, was caught by the cats, squirmed out its tail to distract them, and, dignity lost, escaped into the grass. Relieved, I closed the door, and as I fell into slumber, I return from the backwaters of memory to my home in Texas – a place far-flung from the fantasy of the jungle, but no stranger to mystery and the hug of humidity.

Satire

Fiction — “The Other Borges”

Author’s Note (For Context): This is a ficción, inside joke, eulogy, parody, and testament to the translator and writer Jorge Borges, in imitation of his excellent “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.”

I owe the discovery of a Borgesian doppelganger to the conjunction of a mirror site and an entry on Wikipedia. The mirror troubled the depths of my thoughts in my suburban home in Sugar Land, Texas; the Wiki-page was devoted to an author with a similar name, another Borges. My friend had been explaining the utility of a mirror site, a website replica created to divert network traffic, when, in jest, he said that mirrors and copulation were abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of men. The phrasing seemed too eloquent for his invention, and I asked who had said it. Jorge Borges, was the reply. A strange sense of unreality set in, and I asked if he had any relation to the Argentine writer of the same name, to which my friend said – I don’t think so.

We set about to search for this Borges on the Internet, but could find nothing, only webpages saying Page Not Found, since my Wifi wasn’t working. To save face, he searched again on his phone, but could only find the other Borges – the magical realist from South America. Again, he distanced the quote’s origin and this literary master, arguing that they were separate persons. I finally decided this had been a fruitless fiction derived from my friend’s pride and insecurity in claiming the passage for his own. Surely, if there had been two Borgeses, I would have heard of this anomaly, this controversy?

Years later, I would find a book by this alt-author in a used book store on 99. The work was titled The Garden of Forking Paths, and contained a slew of stories, all strange and wonderful and infinitesimally complex. I was leaving the store when in the Spanish aisle I saw the name Borges in bold print. It was on the cover of El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan – clearly, the work of the Original Author. I bought both works and brought them to my home for careful examination, or to use a word discounted by high school teachers, to peruse. What I found was astonishing. The two texts, by two authors of the same name, were completely unrelated in regards to content. In fact, one was incomprehensible, written in a language divergent from ours: Spanish. Yet the structures were identical, or nearly so, for both had Tables of Contents, chapter headings, a body of pages, a foreword and index. And the stories corresponded; their paragraphs and even their punctuation were terribly homogenous. I felt as if I’d found some otherworldly Rosetta Stone, some fragment of twin dimensions.

The pictures of the authors in the book jackets looked related, although one was much older, shrewder, with a drooping eye. They could have been twins, if it weren’t for the gap in years, or duplicates, as if God had multiplied Soul and Body – some error in creation buried beneath the continuities.

My final discovery was on the bookshelf of a woman I was wooing. She was a graduate student renting her professor’s small one-bedroom apartment while he was on sabbatical. There was an erotic nature to our connection, accentuated by strange phallic images the professor had put up on the walls. African tribal spears, bolo knives, and near-nude women with large breasts in Picasso-like frontality. On her shelf, or rather, the professor’s shelf, was a copy of Borges’ Forking Paths. One night, I brought my own copy from home (possibly by the same author, possibly by the Other) and compared the two. What I found led to my utter distress and subsequent destruction of the books. The works were the same and not the same, as if the two writers had plagiarized the same source, some ur-text, or precursor. In one book, the words read, “I have known that thing the Greeks knew not – uncertainty.” The other: “I have known uncertainty: a state unknown to the Greeks.” Both, despite distance, derivation, offered a glimpse into the unrealness of my world – its labyrinths, its mirrors.

I struck a match which burned like the sun above me, and put it to the books. For a moment, I thought there were twin suns crackling in the afternoon heat, before the bookfire rescinded, leaving behind its ashy droppings, a clutter of black fragments belonging to the libraries of Hell.