Assistant Editor at Coffin Bell

Very excited to announce that I am now Assistant Editor of Coffin Bell, a quarterly online journal (they also have an annual print issue) that publishes “waking nightmares, dark CNF, dystopian flash, cursed verse.”

I hope to bring my decade of experience in literary circles, workshops, and critique groups (as well as my undergraduate degree in creative writing) to the operating table and get my hands slick with organ rot. I mean weird fiction.

The magazine wanted a headshot so I sent them this:

That’s me, by the way.

Fiction—Another School Shooting

Grubbs wasn’t the first to use an EMP, but he was the first to use a plasma cannon. After the EMP left a tickle like dead fingers, Grubbs opened a static resistant bag and unloaded an array of metal bits. These fit together into a cannon in less than twenty seconds, hence their Amazon description as “quick, easy, you won’t need instructions.”

As soon as the cannon was mounted, Grubbs opened fire, the stone face of the high school exploding in hot blue flashes. A symphony of bolts fired from drones hanging above his shoulders; even more terrible were the neuro-frags planted in the gym and cafeteria, their bursts releasing psychic shards that slipped through stone and metal and split apart the thoughts of survivors. Seconds later, the only living soul within a mile was Jain Grubbs.

Yes, Americans still avoided metric in 2068.

This was the sixth school shooting that day; the third highest casualty count that week. The rates had long surpassed fragments of populations. Now death tolls were determined by school size minus absentees. On Monday, Jorge R. R. Tarkin had 4,434 students and 162 professional educators in the building. By the weekend, there were almost that many funerals. Those rituals of safety, like turning off the lights and moving away from the door, were as effective as duck and cover before a mushroom cloud.

Grubbs set up a heat line across the freeway, an invisible beam that turned cars into silver splatter. (Heat lines, because they had a trigger, were protected under the 2nd Amendment.) Grubbs finished his spree by launching mini-nukes into the suburbs while his drones battled an armada of police-pods. When sky personnel failed, the U.S. Military resorted to releasing a three-foot rod from space. The rod fell through Grubbs’s body and fifty feet into the ground. When his exosuit kept dead fingers firing off nukes, they dropped fourteen more until the corpse was pulled pork.

That weekend also saw the Green Ribbon Gun Show, which decided to stay open despite the tragedy (a corporate decision). The news interviewed salesmen about their weapons, making sure to linger holo-cams on tables lacquered with gleaming rifles. One man, wearing a red hat with white text reading The Trumps Will Rise Again, was mightily upset at the suggestion of closing the show.

“This isn’t a gun issue,” the man raged to the cameras. “It’s not a gun-drone issue. It’s not about nuke pistols or heat rays. It’s a mental health issue. It’s a family issue. It’s about how we raise our kids.”

Five feet away, two boys stared at a drone, six barrels glinting in the sun, as it zoomed back and forth, back and forth over the lawn.

Published—Two Wings Flightless

Kasma Magazine published my science-fiction short, “Two Wings, Flightless,” about a man who has to destroy a hovership that’s been solar-beaming the countryside. Kasma is a speculative magazine that publishes a story every first day of the month. Each piece is accompanied by a beautiful bit of art by Jose Baetas. You can see his treatment for my story above.

In “Two Wings,” I wanted to replicate the hero goes to a cave to slay a dragon story in a post-apocalyptic setting, switching the fire-breather for a flying war machine. The result was really fun to write, especially since the narrator was so dour and grit-happy. I’m already planning a sequel.

Review—Neil Gaiman, Cakes, and Writhing

Gaiman was the reason I always had purple baggy-eyes in elementary and middle school. The simplicity of his writings, the interweaving of mythology, monsters, and modernity, and the cruel world behind-the-magic offered my child-self something gripping, something utterly fantastic and appalling to explore late in the night. His writing still does—today—in my late twenties. Personally, my favorite work by Neil Gaiman is The Ocean at the End of the Lane (and not only because Fiction Beer Company has a citrus wheat beer inspired by the novel). I have a theory about literature (I’m allowed a few theories, being an English teacher) that great works must inspire the moral imagination, even if the wisdoms aren’t the sort we want to hear. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the title clues us in—Harper Lee wants us to understand that it’s a “sin to kill a mockingbird” for they “don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.” The book indicts an American culture which regularly commits this sacrilege against its disadvantaged and minorities. In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, behind an incredible narrative about magic and outsiders, there is an abundance of dark truths about adulthood—its deceptive ontology of control, its routine mindlessness. Gaiman reminds us “Adults follow paths. Children explore;” “Nobody looks like what they really are on the inside;” and—in the most incredible line I’ve read in literature, something that explains the opus of Stephen King and H. P. Lovecraft better than they did themselves—that what marks adulthood is not some maturity or inner growth, but the awareness of how fragile the surface of our lives are, the recognition that reality is “a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”

Published—Directions After Death

This isn’t my achievement, but my wife’s. Coffin Bell has published J. Motoki’s “Directions After Death” digitally and physically in their first print issue. If anyone’s interested, the anthology, Coffin Bell: ONE, is available for preorder ($15). Per usual, I’m both horrified and impressed by my wife’s dark literature. Where I’m satirical and speculative, she’s weird and wonderful and clearly, clearly, the better writer.

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). Continue reading “2nd Place—Forge Your Own Adventure”