Measuring Stars

The sound is proximate and consequential, like the crack of bone.

He wakes up and curls into a ball. He waits for a pain to tell him he’s broken something, or a betraying silence that says he has finally crushed his wife to death.

When his eyes adjust to the moonlight he realizes he is not in bed, but in the desert, alone and naked, and half-buried in sand. He raises his knees and finds a bowl of felled and splintered trees. Continue reading “Measuring Stars”

Short stories, not attention spans

When fans queue to see the movie Ender’s Game later this year, many of them will know that the movie is based on Orson Scott’s card 1985 novel of the same name.

It’s safe to assume that a great deal of them will have also read the book and the subsequent titles in the series too. But I would bet that only a handful would know (mostly the hardcore fans) that the idea and many of the characters in Ender’s Game had humble beginnings in a short story, published in Analog magazine in 1977.

Whenever I hear about short stories that have triggered the creation of a larger work, or when I read the works of Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, or the dozens of other short story writers whose ideas ‘made it’, not only am I comforted by the thought that I’m not wasting my time learning the craft, but also by the promise that a short story can lead to bigger things. In my case, I hope my journey into short fiction will lead to a novel.

Continue reading “Short stories, not attention spans”

The story behind ‘The Lottery’, by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery is one of the most famous American short stories and perhaps one of the most baffling.

It centres around a small town, whose residents meet for the annual ‘lottery’. The lottery takes place in other towns around the same time and its purpose is unclear, however the consequences of having one’s name drawn, without spoiling the entire plot are, to say the least, dire. Continue reading “The story behind ‘The Lottery’, by Shirley Jackson”

Orphans of the Salt

Introductory ‘pilot’ chapter to Orphans of the Salt – a novel in progress

“I repeat—we have arrived at Tract 16.”

Captain Dinh’s announcement was still crackling through the public intercom as Rosco Haymarket hopped three steps at a time down to the zeppelin’s observation deck, a warm bowl of aphid jelly balanced loosely in his hand. “The Royal Caucus” had spent the last six weeks flying over the New Pacific and he was eager to see something other than the curve of ocean and sky. He threw the bowl into a refuse chute and collected a set of scopes from the equipment racks. Two recovery engineers were already at the windows, their heads pressed hard against the reinforced glass. Continue reading “Orphans of the Salt”

The exploding wives

When it came to methods of incarceration, the Reverend Flip Galore, former number two on the galaxy’s most wanted list, had seen it all.

He’d spent a season running from hunters in a perp-park, a century of temporary decapitation on a brain farm, a fifty-year stint in a submerged immobilisation tank somewhere on the Gop Glacier, and, the source of his fondest memories, several cycles of induced alcoholic psychosis on the outer rims; he’d been found guilty for attempted planet hijacking, attempted drug smuggling, attempted real estate fraud and had more than nine hundred thousand counts of attempted murder on his file, and despite not having succeeded in any of his criminal undertakings, Flip had clocked up so many years (approximately three thousand and fifty-four) of sweating, working or biting down on a plastic bit in some form of correctional facility, that he’d achieved a rehabilitation status of ‘platinum’ in four of the five colonies. He was therefore the universe’s most reformed person. Continue reading “The exploding wives”