Saturday, August 25, 2012

Riding the Signal—Gary Kloster

So, monkeys.
    I don't have a problem with monkeys. I don't want one, but then I firmly believe that you should never have a pet with thumbs. And riding-the-signalwhile the flying monkeys in the Wizard of Oz freaked me out, but that was a long time ago, and I've recovered.  Monkeys are fine. They're fun to watch at the zoo. Some have mustaches, and that's great.
    I'm cool with monkeys.
    The first sci-fi short story I wrote had a monkey in it. She was the protagonist's romantic interest. Maybe I should unpack that. She wasn't really a monkey, you see, she was a biologist on a spaceship who had uploaded her brain into a computer along with the rest of the crew, and the monkey body was just a VR thing she was doing to… Well, it gets complicated.
Science fiction's like that sometimes.
    Anyway, I had a monkey. Not an evil monkey, though. She was just being a monkey to annoy my protagonist. The guy that liked her. That was part of the reason, at least. Like I said, complicated. So maybe that character had a thing about monkeys.
But that was just something about him.
    Recently, I wrote another story with a monkey in it. A cute, helpful, friendly monkey, who wanted to help my protagonist and his family out. Maybe. That part's unclear. It's definitely a monkey though. An alien monkey, who is possibly (probably) a robot, but not evil. Maybe.
   riding-the-signal Having the alien look like a monkey, that made sense for the story. It was just camouflage. No deeper meaning.
    Now this story, Riding the Signal. Another monkey. An evil robot monkey, with sharp claws, a skull face, and a mouth full of terrifying laughter and poison. A monkey that hides and stalks, tortures and kills.
    So maybe I do have a thing about monkeys. Maybe my cousin had one of those wind-up cymbal banging monkey toys that would just stare and smile at me whenever I visited. Maybe cute moustaches can't quite cover long, sharp teeth. Maybe I've spent too much time imagining tiny little hands with tiny little thumbs easing locks back, silently turning doorknobs, creeping across dark floors… Yeah, okay, monkeys kind of freak me out.
    Still. Three stories about monkeys, and every one has sold.
    Maybe I should think about that. Or maybe not.
    Thinking about wind-up clockwork flying monkeys isn't going to help me sleep at night.

--Gary Kloster

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dark and Deep—Holli Mintzer

I started this story a couple of times. I knew I wanted to write dark-and-deepsomething about backcountry witches, and about the relationships between sisters and mothers and daughters, but it took a few tries to figure out how to set up my narrator's situation in a way that grabbed me. I wanted my narrator to be in a situation that, to her, is perfectly ordinary, but hint at the unsettling details of her life without giving to much away.

I deliberately left the exact era vague-- the only clue as to time period is the tintype, which places them sometime after 1853. The sisters and their mother are far from civilzation, and they're pretty old-fashioned anyway. Their magic is a mix of medicine and superstition and pure willpower; there's probably fancy city wizards with strings of letters after their names in this world, but in the woods it comes down to what you can do with the tools at hand.

One of the things that started the story, oddly enough, was the idea ofdark-and-deep a helpful zombie. Zombies are the servants of magical practitioners in some traditions, but I didn't want that exactly. I wanted someone who was too stubborn to stay dead, and so dedicated to the living she'd left behind that she keeps going as long as she can. That mixed itself up with my thoughts about old-timey witches, and then I had a story.

--Holli Mintzer

Monday, August 06, 2012

For Lenore—Kenneth Kao

Ah, the story behind the story.  Well, lucky for me, there's a story behind "For Lenore" that I don't have to exaggerate one bit.  And it's crazy.

It all began with a fight with my wife.

See, my wife has this irresistible urge to take things, even if she's for-lenorentitled to them.  Usually, she takes things in the form of too many napkins at a restaurant or a roll of toilet paper from a public bathroom, but when it comes to construction equipment and road signs...

It always goes down to this: she sees a cone on the road; she wants to take it; I'm the one driving; she leans out to grab it; I swerve away.
Or, we're walking and before I know it she's carrying it with her, or wearing the cone as a hat.

Well, one night, I come home to find her with a sign.  Not just a sign, but a big neighborhood corner sign sitting in the middle of the living room(see attached picture).  She's the cutest thing in the world, so saying no to her--especially after she has her hands on something--is akin to taking an ice cream triple-decker cone from a kid.

But--I'm the stiff, "boring", the ethic driven guy in our relationship.  She's the naughty, playful, and interesting one.  I always have to tell her, "No, return what you took, I love you and you're cute as hell but we can't steal."  When she puts the thing back, the look she gives me always makes me feel guilty as hell.

Anyway, I played along for as long as I could.  I think she was testing me to see how far she could push it before I broke, but hours later and she wasn't showing any intention of putting the sign back.
I panicked, a little, and then a lot as she kept shaking her head and hugging it as reply to my prompts--

I snapped.

I told her it was STEALING, and no matter what, we had to put it backfor-lenor gosh-dang-it.  I yelled at her.  And made her feel bad.  And then I felt bad.  And she put the sign back outside where she'd found it and went to bed all sullen and quiet.

She didn't say a word to me the rest of the night.

So, 3am and unable to sleep, I decide that I'm going to my clinic--I have patients early the next morning.  I'm still seething, mostly from my own guilt, but also angry because I felt like, "Why the heck did you have to push me so far?  You knew exactly what you were doing!"

...But on the drive to the clinic.  There's this construction zone that's been going on for months.  There are these THINGS.  Big, orange, trash can sized reflector things that I've only recently learned are called "tire ring drums.”

They are massive and round and heavy(25 pounds of unwieldy-ness).  And the thought crosses my mind: What if?  It would be epic.  It would be the can't-top-this move.  It'd be romantic!  She'd forgive me, and no matter what the moral consequence is--I owe it to her for yelling, right?

So, in my dress clothes, where a long stretch of road has no lights, I jump out of my car and pop the trunk and lug one of those around to throw into the trunk of my Camry.

Turns out it doesn't fit.  I think they were designed not to fit.

After running around the car and trying the back door, the front door, any way to get the thing in while hoping that no one comes driving down the road, I put it back and get in my car and give up.

My epic plan has failed.  My apology will never come through.  And if I steal something else, a mere cone, let's say--I would always know what could've been, and it wouldn't really mean that much since she's stolen cones before.  Or at the very least, it wouldn't mean what a super-sized tire ring drum would mean.

So I get to the clinic and I write, in my frustration, "For Lenore."
Originally titled: "The Bomb is Greener on the Other Side."

You could tell I was in some sort of mood.

The next day I treat my patients, but I can't get the idea out of myfor-lenor head.  I vividly see how sad my wife looked after I yelled at her.
She was only being playful.  So I visualize the size of the tire barrel thing and my tiny Camry--Why couldn't I have driven the Jeep!--and I purposefully stay late at the clinic.

On the way home, it's only slightly after dark around 8pm, I find a spot and go running out again.  I know a car's gonna come down the road any second because I've been sitting on the side of the road for several minutes, waiting for that brief window of opportunity.  I throw open the passenger side door and drop the seat back.  I seize one of the tire ring drums and put it into the passenger seat head first.  It's bottom touches the ceiling.  But it worked, and perfectly.  And then I'm off.  On my home with a dirty but shining, orange reflector thing next to me.

I imagine what a cop might do if he saw me.  But you can buy these online, right?  That's what I told myself, at least.

I get home, and my wife's making dinner, and I drag it in.

Her expression was everything I could've hoped for.

Gotta say, I felt like a stud.  And don't worry about the Tire Ring Drum, I'm the ethical guy, remember?


--Kenneth Kao

Thursday, August 02, 2012

InterGalactic Medicine Show, Issue 29

Welcome to Issue 29 of IGMS. There's a drought across much of America this summer, but there's no shortage of good reading here at IGMS.

the-butcher-of-londiniumOur cover story, "The Butcher of Londonium" is a splendid alternate history where the Roman Empire survives long enough to meet Jack The Ripper, who is pressed into service as doctor to the gladiators who fight and live and die in the city of Londonium. Not quite your father's Olympic Games, eh?

Next up is Gary Kloster's "Riding the Signal." When a secret group of high-tech mercenaries get attacked with a variant of their own long-distance animal-robot devices, their only chance of survival rides on two things they've never had to do before: work together, and get their own hands dirty.

Doubling as our audio feature for this issue, "Cloudsinger" is the cloudsingerlyrical story of young teller of tales who goes to great lengths to get the details right, and the special opportunities such attention to detail brings. Written by Jared Adams, the audio version is read by our regular audio-contributor Tom Barker.

"Dark and Deep" by Holli Mintzer brings us the lives of a pair of young witches who live deep in the woods, far from the local towns and villages for many good reasons, not the least of which is their mother, who protects them with the passion and determination that only a mother can bring.

And last but certainly not least, we have a pair of short-shorts. Since they're both under 1,000 words we decided two was better than one, to ensure everyone got their money's worth. The first is Ken Kao's somewhat surreal SF tale, "For Lenore," while the second is Michael Hayne's post-apocalyptic "The Flower of Memory." I'd describe them to you, but they're short-shorts, remember? In the time it would take me to describe them, you could have already read them.

So what are you waiting for? Time to dive in and start reading . . .

Edmund R. Schubert
Editor, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show

P.S. As usual, we've collected essays from the authors in this issue and will post them on our blog ( Feel free to drop by and catch The Story Behind The Stories, where the authors talk about the creation of their tales.