A mad ride of a short story + Quote #12


A Window or a Small Box

I’ve just read this brilliant story by Jedediah Berry, first published in Tor.com, and reprinted in The Year’s Best Science-Fiction & Fantasy 2014 (Prime Books). It’s – well, I have no idea what it is, but it’s great. It’s described as “a charming and weird contemporary novelette of magic realism“, so, there.

What it certainly is is confident; the tone and voice of the piece really impressed me, and Berry manages to take [this] reader along on quite a long stretch of surreal / non-sensical landscape. It’s the kind of story that leaves me amazed that it works at all. I mean – what – uh? – oh, wow! It’s a great act of juggling (with 5th dimension burning knives).

It’s also the kind of story that makes me revise everything I write or plan on writing, because it’s shouting at me through a giant megaphone: THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN’T DO THERE ARE NO SUCH THINGS AS LIMITS YOU MAD OMNIPOTENT PEN-WIELDING LITTLE MAN!

So, really, you should read the whole thing for yourself, really, seeing as it is free and all on the interweb, but here’s a little extract, just in case:

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

“Please,” she said to the goon now. “Please just tell me where we’re going.”

“Going? Darling, we’re already here. This is it.”

“This is what?”

“This is what happens when we catch you. We drive around together, and you say interesting things for as long as you can.”

The other goons were chuckling. There were more of them than could possibly fit inside that car: dozens, maybe. They could have filled a small theater.

“Keep it interesting, though. Because as soon as we get bored . . .”

More chuckling, and Laura’s instinct was to fight—to kick and punch and claw her way out of there—but she’d heard the doors lock, and she knew what had happened to Jim when he tried to fight them. So she swallowed that back and said, “What do you want me to talk about?”

“Snacks,” one of the goons said.

“Dinner,” another said.

“Talk about the constellations,” said a third.

“Zip it,” said the chief goon. “I want to hear about the wedding plans. I always find your wedding plans so interesting.”

“You hate it when I talk about my wedding plans,” Laura said.

“You’re right,” the chief goon said. “That was a trap.”

“I’m going to tell you a story,” Laura said, and then goons were hushing other goons, and one of them switched off the radio, and for a moment all she could hear was the noise of the car’s engine, which came as though from deep in the earth.

“The story is called ‘A Window or a Small Box,’ and it’s about some stones at the bottom of a stream—”

“Boring,” said one of the goons.

“Some stones,” she said, “that dreamed they were turtles.”

The same goon said, “Oooh,” and Laura could hear the slopping sound of him as he settled back into his seat.

“They dreamed that they were turtles, and the turtles swam in the waters of the stream, up above the rocks that dreamed them . . .”

from A Window or a Small Box, Jedediah Berry

Free online fiction writing course from the University of Iowa

How Writers Write Fiction 2015's Logo

How Writers Write Fiction, a free online course hosted by the University of Iowa, will be on from September 24th to November 24th:

“How Writers Write Fiction 2015 will be taught in English as follows: each week, instructors Merrill and Flournoy will post a new video class. In this video class, they will introduce two or three short video lectures given by successful authors of fiction. Featured authors will include Venise Berry, Edward Carey, Horacio Castellanos Moya, Bernice Chauly, Susan Taylor Chehak, Boris Fishman, Angela Flournoy, Paul Harding, Boaz Gaon, Andrew Sean Greer, Naomi Jackson, Leslie Jamison, Mamle Kabu, Jonathan Lethem, Margot Livesy, Stephen Lovely, Peter Orner, and Douglas Trevor, among others. Each week, the video class will be followed by a set of fiction-writing assignments based on the topics these authors presented in their lectures. These assignments will invite you to write fiction, post your work to the MOOC website, and engage in community feedback with your fellow writers. Supplementary readings will also be posted for your exploration.”

I did the Poetry one last year (or rather I tried to – I didn’t catch all the video, didn’t do all the assignements) and it was quite interesting. I’ll try to do this one seriously this year!

Ireland and islands – call for submission from New Madrid


American lit mag New Madrid is looking for submissions on the theme “Evolving islands” until October 15th. The call seems to place a big focus on Ireland (the issue would be out around the anniversary of the Easter Rising, and Murray State University, the journal’s home, has a study-abroad experience in Ireland planned for its MFA), but it looks like all things islandish are welcome.

Recent book love #1: Apex hides the hurt, by Colson Whitehead

Apex Hides the Hurt cover image

“The town of Winthrop has decided it needs a new name. The resident software millionaire wants to call it New Prospera; the mayor wants to return to the original choice of the founding black settlers; and the town’s aristocracy sees no reason to change the name at all. What they need, they realize, is a nomenclature consultant.”

Great book by Colson Whitehead, an American writer I must say I’d never heard about. There’s a lot of funny, clever stuff in  there, and brilliant writing on the sentence/paragraph level. Conveniently quotable, for a book about ‘naming’: I often found myself going back to re-read a paragraph, see how neatly Whitehead packaged them. I could see some folks finding his prose/story gimmicky, but it worked for me.

You can buy it here

‘Tiny miracles’: New story in Holdfast magazine


My short story ‘Tiny miracles’ has just been pubilshed in Holdfast magazine. The theme of this issue is ‘Gods and Monsters’, and my take on it sees a tiny plastic Mary figurine take life in a Lourdes souvenir shop.

Holdfast is a great online speculative magazine based in the UK that really tries to improve on the traditional lit mag format and go beyond a simple selection of stories. Each issue has a lot of Non-Fiction, including an open letter to a SF/Fantasy author. They put up a playlist on the issue’s theme, have interviews of authors and also, in their ‘Unbelievers’ section, give a book to some non-SF/F reader to see if he can get a taste for it…

They’re looking for submissions for their next issue on the theme ‘Looking Forward, Looking Back’ (“Depictions of the future, alternative histories, time travel, utopias, dystopias, or anything else related to timey wimey things”) 

Deadline is September 15th


(This is the Terry Gilliamesque illustration for ‘Tiny miracles’, by Jenny Kadis)

Four themed submission calls

Popshot is looking for submission for their ‘Curious’ issue:

“Despite its questionable reputation for killing cats, curiosity is one of the finest traits of humankind. It was the thing that sent man to the moon, Christopher Columbus to the New World and Alice down the rabbit hole. Curiosity breeds exploration, invention and, on a fairly regular basis, some form of destruction. It is the tentative footstep before the leap into the unknown, and as a result, could be argued to be one of the most intriguing words in the English language.”

Send them your poems and stories under 2,500 words by July 20th at the very latest.

Slice is looking for submissions on the theme ‘Enemies’. They pay $100 for stories and essays and $25 for poems, and wordcount is up to 5,000 words) Deadline is August 1st.


Speculative fiction magazine Holdfast is looking for stories on the theme ‘Looking forward, looking back’:

“In this issue we are looking at the theme of time. Depictions of the future, alternative histories, time travel, utopias, dystopias, or anything else related to timey wimey things.”  

Deadline is September 15th


Black & BLUE is open for submissions on the theme of ‘Memory’:

“poems, fiction, textual-art, fragments, lyrics, dialogues, drama, social-media-collages, notes, prose-poems, letters, fables, lists, transcripts, accidental work, anarchist slogans, single lines, found-pieces, other media. Pieces must be no longer than 1000 words, but submitters may send as many pieces as they like.”

Deadline is October 11th

jerry lewis typewriter  Get writing!