Friday, June 13, 2014

Salt and Sand, by Kate O’Connor

My father taught me to build boats. Sailboats were his thing, but the first boat we built together was a little cedar-strip canoe – just my size. He measured me so the boat would fit with a little more room salt-and-sandfor me to grow into it. All these years later, it’s still a beautiful boat. I named it Pooka, which made him laugh. He asked if I thought it was going to dump me at the bottom of the lake. I said, with all of my ten-year-old indignation, that other people might need to watch out, but she wasn’t ever going to dump me. Funny thing is, she hasn’t, and we’ve travelled some rough waters together.

Fifteen years after we built that boat together, he died of cancer. The summer before he got sick, we put Pooka on his big sailboat and used her to ferry us back and forth to shore as we sailed up and down Barnegat Bay. The only thing was, Pooka only had room for one, so whoever lost rock-paper-scissors-best-two-out-of-three had to swim behind. I usually lost. Dad was like that – cards, darts, coin-tosses – luck (and no small amount of skill) was always on his side with those kinds of things (though not at all when it came to car repairs or plumbing or trying to re-wire the house – there’s a whole novel’s worth of stories in those adventures).

Dad was a storyteller and a teacher. He sang dirty Irish drinking songs to me and my brothers and sister and explained all the words and innuendos we didn’t know. He travelled all over the world and brought back stories of his adventures. Often times, he took us with him. He spent an entire summer telling us about the Voyage of St. Brendan, one island a night. I’m pretty sure Dad’s version had a lot more to do with what would keep us entertained than the traditional story. On the other hand, the old monk just might have sailed to an salt-and-sandisland with a winged unicorn: an orange one with flames for a mane, because I wasn’t a pink kind of girl and white was boring.

I wrote Salt and Sand for my father. It took a long time to get it right. It is a fantastical adventure, because he preferred a good healthy dose of the surreal in his stories. In his defense, some of the adventures we had together travelled well into “they’re never going to believe this back home” territory. There are monsters who are not monsters and heroes who happen to be real people who have kind of messed up the personal side of things because they were busy being heroic.

Dad’s heroes were realistic. When he was telling stories, he didn’t try to hide the fact that people weren’t perfect and most are born with a full range of emotions (even the uncomfortable ones). They didn’t always make it out of the story alive and whole. What made them heroic was that they kept trying.

With Salt and Sand, I wanted to write a story that would have kept him entertained. I wanted it to feel like one of his stories and one of mine too. Because this one’s for him, the vehicle for transformation is a small sailboat. Without the boat, there is no story. It is rough and worn with distance travelled, but it’s sturdy enough for another journey. It was made to safely carry its occupants beyond the world and back again. It will take them as far as they have the will to go.

--Kate O’Connor

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Memory of Magic, Jacob A. Boyd

Some years back, my wife, friends, and I rented a house in Hood River for a long weekend of wind surfing, brewery hopping, and memory-of-magicelaborate home cooked meals. This was around the time my friends had begun starting families. One couple had started sooner than the others, and that couple brought their son. He was maybe two years old, perhaps younger. He was mobile, curious, and very hands-on.

The idea around which “Memory of Magic” eventually formed came from observing him, the lone child among our friends, during that long weekend.

He grabbed things and got into things and demanded things. His parents vacillated through wild pangs of joy and shock and worry and delight. In short, he was a little kid. They were new parents.

Once, he yanked a potted jade plant from its soil and shook it like a dirty pom-pom. It should be noted that this was a very nice rental house, so nice that there was an abiding sense of how-did-we-land-this-place? We were guests, paying guests, but guests nonetheless. Someone lived there. They were coming back. With that in mind, his parents descended on the situation and tucked the jade plant back into its pot, all the while calmly explaining to their son that this was a plant, and it needed soil, and it shouldn’t be handled like that, it was alive.

To me, the way they were saying it sounded like they were reminding him of something he knew, but he didn’t quite remember. I thought, memory-of-magicwow, he’s powerful but he doesn’t understand that he’s wielding power. He doesn’t remember. He’s like a little wizard who forgot his magic. While growing up, he could turn out any number of ways, and his parents were working to ensure that he’d turn out good, that he’d nurture things rather than destroy them just to see how they could be destroyed.

The first draft of “Memory of Magic” was titled “Little Wizards.”

Some years earlier, before my friends with the son had started their family, my wife and I visited them while they worked as caretakers and guides for Independence Mine State Historical Park in Alaska. Independence Mine is a beautiful site set at the end of a valley where two mountain ridges converge to form a horseshoe of peaks. The mine is quite literally at the end of the road. Memory of the mine complex remains vivid for me: the schoolhouse, the bunkhouses, the array of non-affiliated miner shacks, the offsite “relaxation” shacks, the assayer’s office, and the mine itself. It seemed like a place with a wealth of buried mysticism, which had been tempered by hard living, hard weather, and hope.

The memory of Independence Mine eventually wrapped itself around the idea for what was then “Little Wizards” and they worked off each other for “Memory of Magic.”

--Jacob A. Boyd

Monday, June 02, 2014

Free Tonic from InterGalactic Medicine Show!

From Edmund Schubert's Letter From the Editor this issue:

Starting this month, IGMS will make the most recently published previous issue free on a rotating schedule. This means that from now on, during the same time that the current issue is live, the entire issue that was published right before it will be free for anyone and everyone to read. For as long as Issue 39 is the latest one out, Issue 38 will be available for free. Then when Issue 40 is published, Issue 39 will be free, and so on. You still need a subscription to read the latest issue, and you still need a subscription to have full access to our entire archive of issues and all the stories contained therein, but we believe in the authors and stories we publish and we want a wider audience to have a chance to sample them. So tell your mother, tell your best friend, tell that co-worker of yours who's a closet SF-fanatic but doesn't want the boss to know; tell everybody: free fiction from IGMS!

Link to the free issue (issue 38)