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)

Thursday, May 01, 2014


New Contest for Best Fantasy Adventure Story
Debuts in 2014 at Premier Gaming Convention Gen Con

April 30, 2014, Riverdale, New YorkBaen Books, in association with the popular gaming convention Gen Con, has launched a new annual fantasy genre contest that will present the winning entrant with the inaugural Baen Fantasy Adventure Award. The contest will be centered on adventure fantasy short stories, whether epic fantasy, heroic fantasy, sword and sorcery, or contemporary fantasy.
“We are very pleased to be presenting this award in association with Gen Con and its Writer’s Symposium,” said Baen senior editor Jim Minz. “Gen Con is the best-attended gaming convention in the world, and it is the perfect place to seek out and showcase great fantasy talent.”
The contest opens for submissions on May 1, 2014 and all entries must be received June 30, 2014.  Each entry is limited to a short story of no more than 8,000 words, and there is one entry per author. 
“We're looking for the best piece of original short fiction that captures the spirit and tradition of such great storytellers as Larry Correia, Robert E. Howard, Mercedes Lackey, Elizabeth Moon, Andre Norton, J.R.R. Tolkien, David Weber and Marion Zimmer Bradley,” said Minz. “We want fantasy adventures with heroes a reader wants to root for. We're looking for warriors, either modern or medieval, who solve problems with their wits as well as their swords.”
“We're delighted to be working with the leading independent SF publisher in the US,” added Marc Tassin, Director of the Writer's Symposium at Gen Con. “Baen Books is synonymous with strong, action-oriented adventures featuring the kind of heroes that hook readers from the moment they take the stage. It's an honor to us that they chose to take part in our program's 20th Anniversary. Along with welcoming Guest of Honor Jim Butcher, and Special Guests Larry Correia & Scott Westerfeld, we anticipate 2014 to be the biggest Writer's Symposium's we've ever had.”
Baen Books is known for its New York Times bestselling science fiction and fantasy, including David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire alternate histories, Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International urban fantasies, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga. Baen’s paper titles are distributed by Simon & Schuster.
Gen Con is the original, longest-running gaming convention in the world. Last year, more than 49,000 people attended, with more than 10,000 events, making it truly The Best Four Days in Gaming™! In 2014, Gen Con will be held in downtown Indianapolis, from August 14th through the 17th.

 For more information visit

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rights and Wrongs, by Brian K. Lowe

Sometimes when you speculate about the near future, events will overtake your story and render it irrelevant. So if you're going to write a story about the near future, write it fast.

"Rights and Wrongs," on the other hand, took five years. It startedrights-and-wrongs 9000 feet high in the New Mexico mountains, at the 2008 Taos Toolbox workshop, where Walter Jon Williams gave me some of the most valuable advice I've ever gotten: "Write what you care about."

What did I care about? I cared about being a writer. Why else was I spending two weeks at a ski lodge so high in the air it took two days before I could walk to my car in the parking lot? But stories about writers are a dime a dozen, so what else did I care about?

In 2008, the War on Terror was everywhere. Enemy combatants were being locked up for years without charges. Rumor was that the government might try to do the same with American citizens, shelving habeas corpus for the duration. And once the government can imprison you for anything, leaving you to rot without charges, democracy is dead.

Of course, it didn't happen, but that was my thinking when I sat down the next day and penned the first line of what you eventually read (or will read). When I was done, I had a story about an attorney for a shape-changing alien who might be a terrorist who had been given a sham trial and was about to be dragged off to be shot and/or rights-and-wrongsdissected. In desperation, he switches bodies with his lawyer and tries to escape. But the lawyer manages to alert the guards to the switch, and the alien is killed attempting to escape. The lawyer comes out okay, but feels bad about the whole thing.

   The story bombed. Sure it did--it was depressing with a capital D. But even then, it received just enough positive comments for me to try revamping it. I re-wrote the escape scene. Still depressing, I changed the ending to a courtroom drama with a 2000-word explanation by an anthropologist about how the alien wasn't responsible for his own actions because he was driven solely by biology. Very science fiction. Very dull. But the esteemed editor of this magazine, showing the kind of faith that moves mountains, thought he saw something in the story. All I had to do was re-write a small part--as in, the entire second half.

It took two years of re-visiting the story every few months, beating my head against a wall, before I finally realized that to re-write the second half, I had to re-write the first half, too. I started almost from scratch, filling in some characters, re-engineering the plot, struggling to find a way to present what I cared about without making judgments and without being boring. And I did.

       But the important thing isn't how I came to write this story. It's that this near-future story took me five years to write, and unfortunately, it's still relevant.

--Brian K. Lowe

Monday, April 14, 2014

Camila Fernandes wins the Second Hydra Competition

With three female finalists and over one hundred and fifty entries, the second edition improves upon the success of the first...

Once again, the judges of the Hydra Competition received stories published by Brazilian authors during the last two calendar years (2011 and 2012) and chose three finalists to send to author Orson Scott Card, who defined the winner. This time around, the chosen tale was “The Other Bank of the River” by Camila Fernandes, announced last weekend during the Fantastic Literature Odyssey III, an annual convention held in Porto Alegre. The story will be published in both text and audio by Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show.

The winning story was first published in Camila’s single-author collection Reino das Névoas (“Misty Kingdom”) by Brazilian publisher Tarja. Camila is a writer, editor, and illustrator. She has published stories in many Brazilian anthologies, but “The Other Bank of the River” will be her first publication in English.

In second place came “Sun of the Heart” by Roberta Spindler, first published in the Solarpunk anthology by Editora Draco. Roberta is a publicist and audiovisual editor. She has written since her teen years, and along with many published short stories, co-wrote the novel  Contos de Meigan (“Stories of Meigan”).

The third place story, “Mary G.” by Nikelen Witter, was first published in the Autores Fantásticos (“Fantastic Authors”) anthology by Editora Argonautas. Nikelen Witter is a writer and history professor. She has published many short stories and one YA novel, Territórios Invisíveis (“Invisible Territories”).

IGMS editor Edmund R. Schubert writes: “I was greatly looking forward to this year’s contest—many thanks to Christopher Kastensmidt for translating all three finalists so I could read them as well (Orson is fluent in Portuguese but I am not)—and the quality and variety of ideas was a treat. It’s a privilege for IGMS to be involved in this partnership, to showcase the best of speculative Brazilian short stories, and we all send our heartiest congratulations to the winner, Camila Fernandes, as well as the other finalists, Roberta Spindler, and Nikelen Witter.”

Tiago Castro, competition organizer writes: “Brazilian speculative literature is making great strides in quality, diversity, and discovering new authors. This second edition brought us a pleasant surprise, with three female finalists. I’m glad to have been able to participate and organize this important prize for Brazilian fantastic literature.”

Christopher Kastensmidt, contest founder and translator of this year’s stories, says: “I’d like to thank InterGalactic Medicine Show, the participating authors, the judges, and this year’s organizer: Tiago Castro. Brazilian speculative literature is rarely seen outside the country’s borders, so every chance we have to make that literature available to readers of other cultures is a huge victory for our community.”

The Hydra Competition is a partnership between Brazilian website Universo Insônia, Christopher Kastensmidt’s Elephant and Macaw Banner, and Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show, seeking to expose Brazilian fantastic literature to the English-speaking world.  This edition also counted on the participation of Brazilian judges Claudia Fusco (Nerdices - Superinteressante) and Daniel Borba (Além das Estrelas).

About Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show
Founded by multiple-award winning author Orson Scott Card, and edited for the past eight years by Edmund R. Schubert, IGMS is an award-winning bimonthly online magazine publishing illustrated science fiction and fantasy short stories, audio stories, interviews, reviews, and more. Authors range from established pros like Peter Beagle and David Farland to first-time authors making their professional debut.  IGMS can be found at

About The Elephant and Macaw Banner
The Elephant and Macaw Banner is a fantasy series set in sixteenth-century Brazil.  The stories tell the adventures of Gerard van Oost and Oludara, an unlikely pair of heroes who meet in Salvador.  News, artwork, and in-depth explanations of historical and cultural references from the series can be found at the website

About Universo Insônia
The site Universo Insônia (Insomnia Universe) publishes articles, news, and reviews on fantastic literature, cinema, comics, TV series, cartoons, and fantasy pop culture in general.  The site’s principal objective is publicizing and supporting professionals in the area of Brazilian fantasy culture.  The site also contains content about traditional and international productions.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Sound of Death, by Gareth D Jones

The Sound of Death started life as a 600 word story in response to a the-sound-of-deathflash fiction challenge – basically just the opening scene of this alien murder mystery. Right from the start I wanted the cause of death and the scene of the crime to be as non-human as possible. As I started expanding the story I realised this principle had to apply to the whole society, their social interactions and motivations. It was soon clear that everything I had learned from watching several seasons of CSI was also useless. I needed to invent entirely new forensic procedures and investigative methodology.

I found Inspector Ek-Lo-Don to be the most interesting character I have written, not only because of who and what he is, but because I was forced to give far more thought to him than I usually would to a human character. The story only briefly scratches the surface of his society – which is just as well because when I was writing it I wasn’t the-sound-of-deathentirely sure what might be below that surface. Since completing The Sound of Death I have been back and analysed the story and put together detailed notes on every aspect of Ek-Lo-Don’s world as revealed so far. It’s all too easy when you’re creating a new world to get carried away and lose track of what you’ve already established.

I’m currently writing a second, longer, Ek-Lo-Don story that explores many more aspects of his world, and a third story is biding its time to be written too. Hopefully you’ll find it as intriguing as I have.

--Gareth D. Jones