The Lexicon: A Cornucopia Of Wonderful Words (1996) by William F. Buckley Jr.; A Review

William F. Buckley’s The Lexicon (published by Harcourt Brace & Company and described as a “pocket word guide”) is a compact reference of uncommon words, which places emphasis not simply on the rarity of the words included, but also, as one might induce from the inclusion of cornucopia in the title, the applicable breadth and variety of those words. Omitted are such narrow oddities as arachibutyrophobia (ie. the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth); a word which Buckley thought belonged in the “zoo section” of dictionaries. The utility of such special case, single-use words as the aforementioned, to general discourse, (then, as now) are, obviously, minimal. Thus, their omission doubtless bowdlerized the volume considerably from what it would otherwise be, should its author have saw fit to include as many arcane and ancient lexical peculiarities as could be found, without regard to utility.

The consequence of this view on the book itself is that it is rather light on inkhornisms and consists primarily of words that tend to sit at the back of the average reader’s mind, like boxes of old clothing in an ill-ventured and moth-proofed attic; such as aberrant (ie. a person whose behavior departs substantially from the standards for behavior in his group) and bellwether (ie. the guide by which one measures other data), as well as a sprinkling of latin phrases such as ab initio (ie. from the beginning) and caeteris paribus (ie. if all other relevant things remain unaltered); and more atypical offerings, such as asservation (ie. an assertion made in very positive form; a solemn assertion), buncombe (ie. talk that is empty, insincere, or merely for effect; humbug), cacoethes (ie. an uncontrollable desire), and enjambement (ie. continuation in prosody of the sense in a phrase beyond the end of a verse or couplet; the running over of a sentence from one line into another so that closely related words fall in different lines).

Every word featured is accompanied, in addition to its definition, by a example of its use in a sentence; often, a wry, scathing observation of some political situation or personality of the time or utilization of Buckley’s fictive works (all citations from his published oeuvre). It is these amusing asides (in addition to a number of cartoons by Arnold Roth) which lend the book its singularity and readability—that quality so often and ironically lacking in written works concerning language.

Independent Fiction Directory

Editor’s note: A author/publisher will be included if: 1. The literary work of the organization or individual is independent (ie. not affiliated/supported by a major institution, such as a university, corporation, government, etc), and, 2. They principally write/publish original narrative fiction (as opposed to poetry or fan-fiction). Links to every listed individual or organization’s social media and website(s) will be included (provided the listed individual or organization) and will be continuously update with future installments. Outlets dedicated to literary promotion will not be included.

 

All inquiries concerning the directory may be made through: logosliterature@yandex.com.

 

Feedback is always welcome.


Fiction Authors

Alina Hansen (poet, developing first novel) [website]

Avani Singh (horror writer; author of Existence, admin of blogggedit) [@blogggedit]

Benjamin Langley (horror novelist) [@B_J_Langely]

Brandon Scott (horror and thriller writer) [@BrandonScottAu1]

Brianna M. Fenty (horror writer) [@fentyscribbles]

Chloe Turner (author of Witches Sail In Eggshells) [@TurnerPen2Paper]

Dan Klefstad (gothique novelist, author of the Fiona series & the novel Shepard & the Professor) [@danklefstad]

Daniel Soule (writer, anthologist and editor) [@Grammatologer]

David A. Estringel (poet and short story author) [@The_Booky_Man ]

Ellis Michaels (scifi and fantasy author) [@EllisMichaels9]

Garth T. Ogle (author of The Bowl of Tears and Solace) [@gtaogle]

Giovanni Dannato (author of Apostasy & The Warlord) [@GiovanniDannato]

Glahn (surrealist short-story writer) [@sexypesty]

Iain Kelly (literary short story author and novelist) [@ianthekid]

Jane Dougherty (fantasy novelist) [@MJDougherty33]

Jess Gabnall (dark fantasy and horror author) [@Jess93Bagnall]

Jess Lake (scifi and romance writer) [twitter: @JessLakeAuthor]

Joanna Koch (literary short story writer) [@horrorsong]

J. Brandon Lowery (flash fiction writer of the fantastical) [@jbrandonlowry]

Kara Klotz (writer and founder of Channillo) [@KKlotzz]

Karl Wenclas (author of The Tower, writer at New Pop Lit) [@KingWenclas]

Madison Estes (short story author) [@madisonestes]

Michael Carter [@mcmichaelcarter]

N. O. Ramos (horror novelist) [@N_O_Ramos]

Peter Clarke (satirist, author of The Singularity Survival Guide) [@HeyPeterClarke]

Peter Edwards (aka, The Little Fears, microfiction author) [@TheLittleFears]

Ramya Tantry [@RamyaTantry]

Simon Webster (novelist and chief of The Cabinet of Heed) [@MrSimonWebster]

Stacie Sultrie (romance writer) [@SSultrie]

Steve Hart (latter-day Jack London, author of the serialized novel, The Promise of Shaconage) [@BlueSmokies]

The Dark Netizen (flash fiction author) [website]

Tweet Sized Fiction (microfiction and poetry) [@teenytinystorys]

Wicked Fables (macabre fantasy and scifi writer) [@WickedFables]

Zach Mulcahy (fantasy author, developing novel) [@ZTMbaronofurga]


Literary Publishers

101 Words (flash) [@101words]

Alien Buddha Press [@thealienbuddha]

Analog Submission Press [@analogsubpress]

Aphotic Realm (horror+surrealism) [@AphoticRealm]

Apiary Magazine [@APIARYmag]

Cajun Mutt Press [@MuttCajun]

Channillo [@_Channillo]

Crystal Lake Publishing [@crystallakepub]

Dark Dossier Magazine (monthly horror magazine) [@DarkDossier]

Defiant Scribe [@Defiant_Scribe]

Dim Shores [@dimshores]

Drunken Pen Writing [@drunkpenwriting]

Ellipsis Zine [@EllipsisZine]

Fictive Dream (flash) [@FictiveDream]

Fishbowlpress (fiction and poetry) [@fishbowlpress]

FlashBack Fiction (historical fiction) [@FlashBackFic]

Flash Fiction Magazine [@flashficmag]‏

Flat Field Press [@FlatFieldPress]

Forge Litmag [@forge_litmag]

Formercactus [@formercactus]

Gold Wake Press [@GoldWakePress]

gn0me (experimental fiction) [@gnOmebooks]

Gone Lawn [@gonelawn]

Gray Matter Press [@GreyMatterPress]

Hagstone Publishing (fiction + crafts) [@HagstonePub]‏

Horror Sleaze Trash [@horrorslzztrash]

Idle Ink [@_IdleInk_]

Jokes Review (satire and absurdism) [@JokesReview]

Literally Stories (fantasy & horror) [@LiterallyStory]

Lunarian Press [@LunarianPress]‏

(mac)ro(mic) [@mac_ro_mic]

Midnight Mosaic Fiction [@MidMosFic]

Milk Candy Review [@moonrabbitcandy]

Monkey Bicycle [@monkeybicycle]

Nightingale & Sparrow (literary magazine) [@nightandsparrow]

Night Worms (horror) [@Night_Worms]

New Pop Lit (3D, pulp, neo-noir, realism) [@NewPopLit]

OddMadLand (experimental surrealism) [× discontinued ×]

Okay Donkey [@okaydonkeymag]

Orchid’s Lantern [@orchidslantern]

Reflex Press [@reflexfiction]

Rust Belt Press [@BeltPress]

Sinister Grin Press [@SinisterGrinPre]

Spelk [@SpelkFiction]

Story Shack [@thestoryshack]‏

Surfaces [@SURFACEScx]

Terror House Magazine [@terrorhousemag]

The Arcanist  (fantasy) [@The_Arcanists]

The Blue Nib (fiction and poetry) [@TheBlueNib]

The Cabinet of Heed (literary anthologies) [@CabinetOfHeed ]

The Copybook (dormant) [@CopybookThe]

The Dark Calls (temporarily closed) [@The_Dark_Calls]‏

The Fiction Pool (realism) [@TheFictionPool]

The Molotov Cocktail [@MolotovLitZine]

The Stray Branch (gothique fiction + poetry) [@debbiedberk]

Unnerving Magazine [@UnnervingMag]

X-R-A-Y (literary fiction, often experimental) [@xraylitmag@xraylitmag]


If you wish to support our work you can do so here. If you wish to contact the site administrator, you can find him online here.

Originality By Way Of Cliche: Kumo Kagyu’s Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (2016)

“Goblin Slayer was calm as he delivered this answer that was no answer. He daubed his gauntlets with blood, then pulled a liver out from one of the bodies.”

 

—Kumo Kagyu, Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (2016)

§.00 The first installment of the novel series Goblin Slayer, Vol.1 (2016), written by Kumo Kagyu (with illustrations by Noboru Kannatsuki), opens with a creation story; the gods of light, order and destiny are locked in a cosmic struggle with the gods of darkness, chaos and chance (how many gods attend each attribute, we are not told). In place of fighting each other directly, their contest is engaged by the rolling of die. After some time the gods tire of dice and create the world as their board and all the beings upon it as their pawns.

§.01 After the table-top inspired prologue, a knowing, introductory line, preempting the cliches to come: “You’ve heard this one before.” More likely than not, upon reading Chapter 1, a fantasy-versed reader will, indeed have heard the set-up before; a young, would-be adventurer known only as Priestess (no characters in the novel have names, only class-designations) joins a guild, receives “porcelain” rank (the lowest of the guild’s 10-teir hierarchy) and is met by three other, young, would-be porcelain adventurers—Warrior, Fighter and Wizard—who ask her to join their party on a quest to save kidnapped maidens from the clutches of a band of goblins (which are described as “-tall as a child, with strength and wits to match”). Priestess after some hesitation, accepts the offer. The party then tracks down the goblins to their lair in a gloomy cave. Venturing within the recess, the party is filled with confidence, save for Priestess, who urges caution, however, her chiding proves fruitless—shortly thereafter, a band of goblins blindside the adventurers.

§.02 In a more conventional tale, the brave wayfarers would have just barely defeated the goblins, rescued the maidens and received a bountiful reward for their pains. However, in Goblin Slayer, they all wind up dead, or as good as. Wizard is gutted with a poison blade. Warrior is slaughtered. Fighter is beaten and raped. Priestess is set upon and takes an arrow to the shoulder. Yet, just before Priestess meets the same fate as Fighter, a mysterious man appears who is “not very impressive” and donned in “dirty leather armor and a filthy steel helm.” The man, a silver ranked adventurer (the third highest rank within the guild hierarchy), decimates the goblins and introduces himself as Goblin Slayer. He then tells Priestess that Wizard is as good as dead, due to the workings of goblin poison that had lined the blade which skewered her. Wizard asks to be put out of her misery and Goblin Slayer swiftly obliges and slits her throat without compunction, much to Priestess’ dismay. Slayer then states that he is going to finish off the rest of the goblins; Priestess goes with him and together they destroy the nest and find a secret room filled with goblin children born from the wombs of human females the goblin horde had kidnapped. Priestess inquires whether or not Slayer will kill them. He says he will and she tries to stop him by asking if he would still be willing to slaughter them if they were good, to which the Slayer replies “The only good goblins are the ones that never come out of their holes,” before clubbing the baby goblins to death. After this grisly affair, the Priestess resolves (rather surprisingly) to become a proper adventurer by accompanying Goblin Slayer on his bloody, ceaseless missions.

§.03 The first thing that struck me about the novel was how original its execution, despite its abundant cliches. In GS, cliches are dutifully employed to be forthrightly subverted, but not merely for the sake of surprising the reader, as when, in a Hollywood horror film, convention dictates a cat or trusted friend be responsible for the first jump-scare so that the effect of the second may be heightened by causing the audience to question whether or not it will again be a harmless animal or friend, or some genuine threat. For example, Goblin Slayer, a skillful warrior and thoughtful tactician, would, in more conventional fantasy works, ladder his way up from the stock genre threats (such as bandits, goblins, trolls, etc) to ever greater challenges (such as dragons and necromancers) in tandem with a plot ever expanding in scope, from the local, to the demense, to the national, to the continental to, invariably, the world, and, perhaps, other worlds (spirit realms, etc). This, however, is not the case with the slayer, who adamantly refuses to engage in any activity not related to exterminating goblins. His idee fixe is so extreme that the co-inhabitants of the town near where he resides come to consider him eccentric, if not mad, and they might be right, for even when he is told that the world is imperiled by “an army of demons” he refuses to aid those who petition his assistance, saying only, “If it isn’t goblins, then I don’t care.” His proclivity, no matter how unhealthy, proves salubrious to those previously living in fear of the diminutive raiders, as the “military won’t move against goblins.” (p. 135)

Further, a character who is introduced in a like-manner to the slayer in a conventional genre-work would also be charged with the characteristics partial to fantasy protagonists; which are generally either sullen and given over to reverie (as in Twilight or Lord of the Rings), whimsical and optimistic (as the protagonists in the novels of Charles De Lint), or a straight-laced ‘chosen one’ (as in Harry Potter or Star Wars), however, the slayer bares no similarity to any of these archetypes, or the hero archetype in general. Rather, he is more akin to a professional shorn of all social ambition—a obsessive tradesman—than the prototypical knight-errant of romantic literature. This is demonstrated in the sedulous way in which the slayer’s tradecraft is highlight, as in the following passages, “‘Leather armor prizes ease of movement. Mail would stop a dagger in the dark… His helmet, the same. Sword and shield are small, easy to use in a tight space.'” Kagyu, p. 130… “‘Clean items reek of metal,’ Goblin Slayer said, a note of annoyance in his voice. Goblins have an excellent sense of smell.” p. 132.

Of further interest is the fact that his trade is not a vaunted one, but is, instead, looked down upon as the preoccupation of an amatuer (the consensus in the story is that real heroes should always seek greater glory). One can see parallels between the snobbery of the guild adventurers, and the differential treatment by real-life society between the man who goes to college so as to become a doctor, and the man who goes to trade-school so as to become a lineworker. In recognizing this, Goblin Slayer Vol.1, functions as a cleverly disguised social satire as much as a RPG homage or action-adventure.


The novel series had its origins in a online thread posted by Kumo Kagyu in October, 2012; the story was later re-edited into novel-form and picked up by GA Bunko. On February 15, 2016, the first installment of the novel series was published via SB Creative (in Japanese). A few months later, in December 20, 2016, Yen Press licensed the novels and released the first volume in English. Both a comic (written by Masahiro Ikeno) and an animated adaptation (written by Hideyuki Kurata and Yosuke Kuroda) have been made in the interim since the initial publication of the novel series, which is, presently, still on-going (with ten volumes released in Japan as of 2019).


 

Independent Fiction Publishers | Individuals and Organizations

Editor’s note: A publisher will be included if: 1. That organization or individual publisher is independent (not affiliated/supported by a major institution, such as a university, corporation, government, etc), and, 2. They principally publish original narrative fiction (not poetry or fan-fiction). All publishers where applicable will feature a social media handle. Links will be forthcoming. ‘Literary’ is used in its broadest sense to mean ‘pertaining to written works of narrative fiction.’


Individual authors / publishers

Alina Hansen (poet, developing first novel) [website]

Avani Singh (horror writer, admin of blogggedit) [twitter: @blogggedit]

Benjamin Langley (horror novelist) [twitter: @B_J_Langely]

Brandon Scott (horror and thriller writer) [twitter: @BrandonScottAu1]

Brianna M. Fenty (horror writer) [twitter: @fentyscribbles]

Dan Klefstad (neo-gothic novelist, author of the Fiona series & Shepard & the Professor) [twitter: @danklefstad]

David A. Estringel (poet and short story author) [twitter: @The_Booky_Man ]

Ellis Michaels (scifi and fantasy author) [twitter: @EllisMichaels9]

fishbowlpress (fiction and poetry) [twitter: @fishbowlpress]

Garth T. Ogle (author of The Bowl of Tears and Solace) [twitter: @gtaogle]

Giovanni Dannato (author of ApostasyThe Warlord) [twitter: @GiovanniDannato]

Glahn (surrealist, short story writer) [twitter: @sexypesty]

Iain Kelly (literary short story author and novelist) [twitter: @ianthekid]

Jess Gabnall (dark fantasy and horror author) [twitter: @Jess93Bagnall]

Jess Lake (scifi and romance writer) [twitter: @JessLakeAuthor]

Joanna Koch (literary short story writer) [twitter: @horrorsong]

J. Brandon Lowery (flash fiction writer of the fantastical) [twitter: @jbrandonlowry]

Karl Wenclas (author of The Tower, writer at New Pop Lit) [twitter: @KingWenclas]

Michael Carter [twitter: @mcmichaelcarter]

N. O. Ramos (horror novelist) [twitter: @N_O_Ramos]

Peter Clarke (satirist, author of The Singularity Survival Guide) [twitter: @HeyPeterClarke]

Simon Webster (novelist and chief of The Cabinet of Heed) [twitter: @MrSimonWebster]

Steve Hart (latter-day Jack London, author of the serialized novel, The Promise of Shaconage) [twitter: @BlueSmokies]

The Dark Netizen (flash fiction author) [website]

Wicked Fables (macabre fantasy and scifi writer) [twitter: @WickedFables]

Zach Mulcahy (fantasy author, developing novel) [twitter: @ZTMbaronofurga]


Literary publishing organizations

101 Words (flashfiction) [twitter: @101words]

Aphotic Realm [twitter: @AphoticRealm]

Channillo (literary network similar to a literary netflix) [twitter: @_Channillo]

Defiant Scribe [twitter: @Defiant_Scribe]

Drunken Pen Writing (short stories) [twitter: @drunkpenwriting]

Ellipsis Zine [twitter: @EllipsisZine]

Fictive Dream (flash fiction) [twitter: @FictiveDream]

Fishbowlpress [twitter: @fishbowlpress]

FlashBack Fiction (historical fiction) [twitter: @FlashBackFic]

Flash Fiction Magazine [twitter: @flashficmag]‏

Forge Litmag [twitter: @forge_litmag]

Formercactus [twitter: @formercactus]

Gold Wake Press (literary press) [twitter: @GoldWakePress]

gn0me (experimental fiction) [twitter: @gnOmebooks]

Gone Lawn [twitter: @gonelawn]

Gray Matter Press [twitter: @GreyMatterPress]

Hagstone Publishing (fiction and crafts) [twitter: @HagstonePub]‏

Horror Sleaze Trash [twitter: @horrorslzztrash]

Idle Ink [twitter: @_IdleInk_]

Jokes Review [twitter: @JokesReview]

Literally Stories [twitter: @LiterallyStory]

Lunarian Press [twitter: @LunarianPress]‏

Midnight Mosaic Fiction [twitter: @MidMosFic]

Milk Candy Review [twitter: @moonrabbitcandy]

Monkey Bicycle [twitter: @monkeybicycle]

New Pop Lit [twitter: @NewPopLit]

OddMadLand (surreal experimental fiction) [× discontinued ×]

Okay Donkey [twitter: @okaydonkeymag]

Reflex Press [twitter: @reflexfiction]

Sinister Grin Press [twitter: @SinisterGrinPre]

Spelk [twitter: @SpelkFiction]

Story Shack [twitter: @thestoryshack]‏

Surfaces [twitter: @SURFACEScx]

Terror House Magazine [twitter: @terrorhousemag]

The Arcanist [twitter: @The_Arcanists]

The Cabinet of Heed [twitter: @CabinetOfHeed ]

The Copybook [twitter: @CopybookThe]

The Dark Calls (temporarily closed) [twitter: @The_Dark_Calls]‏

The Fiction Pool [twitter: @TheFictionPool]

The Molotov Cocktail [twitter: @MolotovLitZine]

The Stray Branch [twitter: @debbiedberk]

X-R-A-Y [facebook: @xraylitmag | twitter: @xraylitmag]


If you wish to support our work you can do so here. If you wish to contact the site administrator, you can find him online here.

A Consideration of Wenclas’ Vodka Friday Night (2019)

Kirk Fannin was the dangerous one– yet for a moment Stacey Shemke was the aggressor. (Wenclas, Vodka Friday Night)

§.00 Karl Wenclas’ short fiction Vodka Friday Night was the first incarnation of what the author has described as the ‘3D Story,’ a self-conscious attempt to generate a new, vitalistic literary model.

§.01 The plot—sharp as a razor—revolves around a rogues gallery operating in the seedy underworld of Detroit after the murder of ruthless gang leader named Lenny Z.

§.02 At the first, the style is breathless, almost entirely (and presumably intentionally) devoid of punctuation save the period mark and the occassional comma and features a interesting utilization of bullet points (1. 2. 3.) to delineate character perspective (which I induce to be the genesis of the 3D label). The brisk yet vivid characterization and punchy, clipped descriptions like “He looked mean, and was.” or “Kirk drove hard. Night fast.” harken back to the pulp neo-noir of the 60s and 70s from magazines like ADAM. However, certain lines stick out like weeds on a manicured lawn, such as, “Kirk knew Lenny Z’s reputation and knew the man was serious. He looked serious. Deadly and serious.” If a man looks serious the reader will internalize it the first time. Other lines appear to have been missed in the editing process, such as, “The opera had been a modern updating-.”

The gunman in the car behind Boyd’s took more deliberate aim, his gloved hand– an expensive yellow soft leather glove– squeezing the trigger red jets of flame glimpsed within the barrel gun kicking a row of shots sent off like hopeful children toward their destination. (Wenclas)

§.03 Despite these minor problems, the overall effect is one of tension, speed and intensity. Its a thoroughly rousing tale of egoism, crime, passion, loyalty and betrayal with a colorful cast of characters, told in sparse, machine-gun’d prose and one which I would highly recommend.

Fiction Circular 6/6/19

§00. Editor’s note: links affixed to author/publisher’s name will redirect to author/publisher social media, links affixed to story/article titles will redirect to the site whereupon the named piece is archived. The ‘authors’ section focuses on lone individuals who publish their own literary work, ‘organizations’ section focuses upon independent presses, lit-mags, e-zines and other literary organizations who publish fictive work of multiple authors and ‘literary ephemera’ focuses on non-prose non-fiction literature, such as certain poems, news and art theory articles, reviews, interviews and critiques. All author/publication names arranged by alphabetical order (including ‘the’).


§01. Editor’s note on criteria for inclusion: a publication is considered ‘independent’ if it is self-contained and sustaining, that is to say, if it does not rely upon the staff, organizational prowess or financial backing of large corporations, academies, governments or other large entrenched organizations. For example, Sink Hollow Litmag will not be included on the list, not due to the quality or lack thereof of their work, but rather, because they are supported by Utah State University (and thus, are not independent). All works which are included are those which were read by the editor during the week of publication; their inclusion does not mean that they were published the same week as the circular containing them.


§.AUTHORS

From Always Trust In Books, a review of The Girl In Red by Christina Henry (from Titan Books).

The book sounds ridiculous.

The Girl in Red takes the spirit of a classic tale (Red Riding Hood), spins it on its head and injects it into a post-apocalyptic world where one wrong move could get someone infected by a deadly virus or worse, captured by the government for quarantine or the new militias that roam to lands seeking people to impart their nefarious urges upon. Red only has her sharpened instincts and calculated approach to traversing the terrains to rely on for survival. If anyone gets too close then Red does have her trusty axe to protect herself.

 

— Review of The Girl In Red


From Shreya Vikram (who never fails to impress with her syncretic poetic acumen), a number of recent pieces, including, Faith, When Dreams Die, Monster, Insomnia, Even When I Do Not Scream, I Hurt, and most recently, Faulty Taps.

“I have written this play for myself and I know how it ends.”

 

— Faulty Taps


§.ORGANIZATIONS

From New Pop Lit, a republication of Lost Face by Jack London from the similarly titled collection of short stories which recounts a gruesome tale of a Russian adventurer named Subienkow who is captured by ruthless Amerindians in the Yukon.

“It offended his soul. And this offence, in turn, was not due to the mere pain he must endure, but to the sorry spectacle the pain would make of him.”

 

— Lost Face

Also from New Pop Lit, This Is, by Sophie Kearing.

I don’t hide my sacred rituals out of malice.

 

—This Is

And further, New Pop’s debut ‘3D short story,’ Vodka Friday Night by Karl Wenclas. A gritty, multi-perspective crime drama. Full review forthcoming.

Kirk sat drinking vodka in an after hours den near downtown Detroit with a skinny black prostitute named Jakayla,  the kind of spot where if you’re white and male you’d better arrive with someone they know because otherwise they’ll think you’re a cop.

 

— Vodka Friday Night


From Reflex Fiction, A Careless Smile by Lee Hamblin.

She throws the cutting at my feet, repeats, and all the while that stupid cat of hers sits perched on the sofa’s armrest, watching like he understands all that I don’t, being more a man than I’ll ever be.

 

— A Careless Smile


From Spelk, Salt & Vinegar Tongues a charming tale of an idyllic, sea-side meeting by Steven John. I really liked this piece and hope we get to see this relationship develop in future stories.

Also…

Suntanned. Smells of seaweed. Shelters in a cave…

I suspect she’s a mermaid.

“This one will win,” I say, and give her one of my coins.

Three cherries. A hundred penny coins pulse from the machine. She shrieks and laughs. She unties the knot in her shirt-front and, holding up the hems, fills the cotton pouch. Her loose shirt shows the freckles between her suntanned boobs. I give her another penny and the same thing happens. Then I tell her we’ll lose ten pennies, then we’ll win again.

“Are you a fucking freak?” she says and tries to take my notebook. I hide it behind my back. Her up-close skin smells of vanilla ice-cream and seaweed.

 

— Salt & Vinegar Tongues

Also from Spelk the confusing, The Fabric of Tombstones by B. F. Jones.

Found this piece rather confusing. It is not explained why she resented the memory of her son nor how he died (if indeed, as is implied, he died at all). Seemed to me that for narrative coherence, the tale should have been longer. I didn’t care for it.

He calls her one evening, slowly resurfacing, rebirthed once again. She knows he won’t be there for long. He will be gone soon, forgotten by her faulty brain, and her heart will break over and over again with each one of his deaths.

Don’t call me again, son.

Don’t come over anymore.

And she hangs up the phone, killing him, one last time.

 

— The Fabric of Tombstones

Tomb of the Father: Chapter Three (Excerpt)

Author’s note: The following text is a short chapter excerpt from my forthcoming novel, Tomb Of The Father. This installment will be one of the last chapter excerpts released until the book is completed.


Lord Eadwulf’s castle lay an hours ride from the city of Hableale, ensconced in rolling woodlands that trammeled out and merged with the flat vastness of the moor circumferent. The outer keep was a massive thing, ringed first by moat and second by huge curtain walls, ancient and wrought of stones from a foreign land, their providence as unknown to the inhabitants of Haberale as their age. Trumpets sounded from somewhere within the hulking monolith as two figures entered on horseback, driving hard across the drawbridge, through the mighty barbican and deep into the well trammeled haven of the outer bailey. To the right, a storehouse before which was chained a massive hound of some breed beyond the rider’s collective reckoning and to the left, a length of stable-barns from which the shunted braying of great steeds emanated like mighty gusts of wind. Folk of every lower class there labored; stable-lads hefting thick clumps of hay and the refuse of the equines as maidens dressed in the elegant red robes of the Order of Marta watched from afar, reveling in the excitement of their voyeurism, giggling with mischievous delight, fantasizing about that which their fathers would prefer they not. Older men moved large sacks of grain and salted meats from the castle proper and placed them within the store house in well-ordered piles and then dusted their calloused hands and stood chatting idly as their eyes followed the crows who turned half-circles up in the thermals.
The sky roiled with the dark harbingers of sunder, a heavy, howling wind tearing off from the far mountains and soaring in and under the battlements to scatter the hay and seed and chill the bones of every present soul. The guards looked to the darkening horizon nervously and then latched the great gate behind the two riders and then lead their horses to the stables and there bound and calmed them.
Gunvald dismounted first and looked around in wonderment. The grand keep’s ambit was so verdant and so ancient that it seemed more of some other world, some higher plane than the dull and barren sprawl of the short-flung town. He moved from the outer stable-barns and started on his way towards the wide stone-slated path which wound up to the mouth of the donjon like a gigantic serpent comprised of cloud. Baldric quickly followed and together, with a retinue of two guardsmen, they entered the castle proper. Through double doors of oak and across wide floors, well-laid with lavish carpeting, and up and down steps they went until at last they entered the well-packed banquet hall to the sound of muted strumming.
A great feast was underway and much merriment could be heard rising every now and then over the raucous clatter of instrumentation. Eadwulf Charmian sat, as was his right, at the head of the polished long table upon a throne garland with cushioned silks, hands overflowing with the splendor of his kitchens; spiced wine and phasianid. He was surrounded on all sides other by the host of the house, the chamberlain, his marshal, knights and footmen aplenty; pantler and butler moving to and fro with dutiful reserve, carrying plates of cheese and meats and trays of fish and hearty loaves and great and shimmering samovars of wine.
As Gunvald and Baldric made their way to the table they paused and, respectfully, bowed to their noble host who rose with great animation, smiling broadly.
“Duteous gentlemen, we welcome thee unto our hearth. One face familiar, the other, less so.”
Baldric gestured with melodramatic flair to his compatriot and then spoke in booming undulations.
“May I present, Ye Lordship, Gunvald Wegferend of Haberale, loyal solider to The Crown and honorable hero of our thede. Twas he alone who survived the massacre at Rivenlore and paid back the damnable cur, that architect of our goodly men’s demise, two-fold!”
A light of recognition there entered into the lord’s puffy, dull and inebriated eyes.
“Not with silver and gold, I trust!”
“No, m’lord,” Gunvald replied with a faint smile, “With blood and steel.”
“Aye, a most handsome reply! Come, let me embrace thee, worthy comrade!”
With a sudden burst of energy, the lord bounded across the floor and threw his chubby, ineffectual arms about Gunvald and then kissed his bewildered guest full upon the cheek and released him, smiling widely, patting the warrior’s arms as might a beneficent uncle.
“Now come, let us wine and dine and make merry!”
With some hesitation, Gunvald nodded and joined his Lord at the resplendent banquet table. Eadwulf made no direction and so Gunvald took a seat beside a old and grizzled pikeman whose helmet sat upon his lap, o’erturned as if he might at any moment don it once more and spring fiercely to violent action.
He scoured all present heads and gave a muted sigh. His lady was not present.
Where hast my love flown?
As Lord Eadwulf bade his Marshal, a stocky man named Haiden, raise the samovars and fill the newcomers goblets. Gunvald gritted his teeth, exerting every ounce of his considerable willpower to restrain himself from inquiry. At last, it became too much to bare; he turned full about in his chair and addressed his gracious host curtly.
“I hear tell, thee’ve taken on new hands. A young woman, if thy yeomen tell it true.”
Eadwulf gave a libidinous smile and in that moment, were he any other man, Gunvald would have leapt from his seat and cleaved him in twain. But he wasn’t any other man; he was a duke and more importantly, he was of Torian blood; of a certainty, there was no greater crime than the murder of one’s own kind – Gunvald recalled that not even that most abominable deity, Dactyl, whose very name were as a curse upon both the living and the dead, ever drew the blood of another Origin.
“Aye,” responded the lord, a twinkle in the eye, “A darling girl. A commoner, but none more beautiful, I tell thee true. Leofflaed is her name. I must introduce thee once she quits her bath.”
“She’ll be joining us?”
“Indeed, this is a special night, dear countryman! Hath thy dull brain been so wrought with valorous contemplation that ye’ve forgotten the day?”
Baldric, who sat dutifully beside his cousin, leaned in, whispering, “Tis Winter’s Dance.”
Gunvald perked up instantly, raising his goblet and forcing a wan smile.
“Of course, of course, I’d nearly forgot, tis Winter’s Dance.”
“Aye, Fall holds ever diminishing sway, master of the seasons no longer – the whispering winds of The Rimn rattle the cottages of our dainty hamlet already like the breath of some great beast,” Haiden exclaimed, shuddering slightly.
This pronouncement of fell dismay seemed to rouse much discontent in the host, the lord most of all.
“What now, sir? Is my Grand Marshal – sovereign of both horse and man – afeared of a light Winter’s gale?”
A portly old man nearest the Marshal, crimson frocked and hairless, replied darkly, “Haiden speaks it true, m’lord. These winds which blow so ceaselessly, the odd fog that seems to hang omnipresent o’er the moors, what seems to follow one in the passing, and those accursed crows – everywhere, simply everywhere – tis a bad sign. An omen. Marta is warning us.”
“Hush now, Summoner Thane,” Exclaimed Eadwulf, squirming upon his garland throne with nervous agitation, “Afore thy doomsaying proves ruinous to the good mirth of the house.”
The old man leaned back in his chair and folded his hands about his chest, over the heart. Gunvald recalled that the superstitious, masked peasants he’d met upon the road had made the same gesture when he’d uttered the name of the Eyeless-all-seeing. Gunvald remembered being taught as a child that the earthly manifestations of Marta affix themselves to the heart. It was said that the heart was the source of all emotion and that, if sufficient appropriations of piety were made to the goddess, she would cleanse the ailing organ of all that troubled it. Due this attribution, some had taken to calling her, Our Lady Pure-Heart, others still, The Reaper of Woe, though Summoner’s of a more parochial variety looked down upon such name-giving – some to the point of declaring such monikers heresies – for in the purist’s eyes, it was the very summit of arrogance to denominate pet-names to an Origin of beautitude. What place, after all, did the finite have naming the infinite?
Thane opened his wrinkled maw to speak but a harsh glare from his lord caught it there in his throat and, quickly, he fell silent once more, nodding to himself rather sadly as might the father of some harumscarum lad who’d the mind to go frolicking about the moors at night. Haiden too said no more and seeing this a fresh smile broke out over Eadwulf’s rotund and rosy face. He reached forth with his beefy, bejeweled fingers and raised his glass for a slender serving wench who poured a fresh pint of wine.
“What do thee make of all their pronouncements, landsman Gunvald?”
Gunvald looked from Haiden to the holy man and then shook his head.
“I am a footsoldier, before that, farmer. Premonitions and omens are, I am afraid, well beyond my ken.”
Suddenly, a new voice intruded upon the feast, low and sonorous, mannered like some orator of yore.
“This once venerable council has fallen to superstition most deplorably. Here you sit, High Summoner and Grand Marhsal, in the keep of the most powerful lord in the north, quaking like unsuckled babes at the prospect of supernatural despotism. Our dreams can, in times of direst contest, follow us full from that queer parlor, sleep, and pass into the waking world, latched to the insides of our selfsame skulls like a gaggle of phantasmal parasites. There they spring loose upon our fertile imaginations all manner of signs and signals, every style of omen and fell proscription. But by what method do we discern whether it is some connective coil that lends itself to providence or merely our dream’s own alcahest? Answer that question and thee shall surely have seized upon the truth of it.”
All present heads turned left, to the grand stair that let out to the upper landing, to behold a young man, garland in the finest of silks, blue and white. Upon his shoulder nested a falcon, whose piercing black eyes scanned the crowd the same as its master’s own and his lapis blue and more striking still.
Eadwulf gestured to the well-spoken dandy, “Landsman Gunvald, may I introduce to you the honorable Baron, Czemis Avarr, Ironmonger and Falconer of Caer Avarr. Our barton’s Master of Game.
Gunvald nodded respectfully towards the beauteous man who bowed respectably, but with a slight smile playing up one side of his face, as if he were possessed of some knowledge about the members of that venerable gathering which, if divulged, would bring about considerable embarrassment. The falconer then advanced to the table, his footfalls so soft and feline he made almost no sound at all. When he stood before the only empty chair opposite the lord, Haiden sighed and gestured to the falcon.
“Master Avarr, surely you do not mean to bring that carrion-beast to our table?”
The falcon sqwaked as if in rebuke as Avarr smiled ever so faintly once more.
“Not at all, for see thee not, he’s no carrion-beast. My friend prefers his prey were lively. The struggle of the hunt well whets his appetite.”
The Grand Marshal furrowed his brows with deep puzzlement and some apprehension, unsure as to the significance of the young falconer’s words.
“Meaning that he will leave thy food unmolested, lest thou there hath eft or shrew a scuttling.”
Avarr smiled his ghosting, barely discernable smile and straightened, extending the arm upon which his falcon nested as he whistled a command, whereupon the majestic beast flew full up to the rafters and then back down to perch upon the lower railing of the staircase like a dutiful guardian. The avian surveyed them intently as its master took his seat opposite Eadwulf, removing a small, silver cigarette tin from some inner fold of his jacket. All the while he moved, Gunvald’s eyes followed him, transfixed to the supple elegance of the singular man as he slid a machine-packed cigarette between his blood-red lips and lit it with a golden lighter. Languid and masterful were his movements, so much so that even the mundane action of his tobacco consumption seemed to eat up the energy of the room, to refocus and refine it. After a few long, languid drags upon his opium laced cigarette he leaned back upon the unadorned and old wooden chair at table’s end as if it were a throne more resplendent than Eadwulf’s own. The gesture seemed to say that it were now permissible for the party to continue, that his entrance had garnered sufficient appraisal. It seemed, to the veteran, that any man or woman who had no foreknowledge of the rightful placing of the household would have assumed this guady, white-haired falconer the rightful master of the keep.
“Thou must be Sir Gunvald, tis an honor to make thy acquaintance, loyal kinsman.”
Avarr extended a supple, white-gloved hand to the soldier who took it with some hesitation and shook it firmly. The falconer was far stronger than he looked.
“The honor is not thine alone, Baron Avarr, thy reputation precedes thee. Six years of fighting the grey folk and yet I never once encountered thee or thy men. Yet there were stories aplenty. Not a month went by where there was not talk amongst the war camp of thy valor. I wish we could have, if but once, shared the field.”
“We never had the chance to fight, side by side, as I never fought at the front. Fering – before his passing – stationed my regiment in the north-eastern forests near the base of the World Spine; despite my protestations, he believed, correctly, as it turned out, that my prowess as a huntsman would prove useful against the remnants of the Grey Folk who had deserted their war combine and who operated from that festering wood as brigands of a most savage disposition. Their operation had severely hampered our supply-lines and without supplies thy lot in the front would have crumbled, not from the foes to the north, but from the pangs of hunger and thirst. As thee well knows, the Grey Folk were not seasoned in open warfare, they’d have been crushed like insects under the hooves for a boar had they confronted the Torian Legions, army to army, on some open plain, as is our custom, for those weapons from my forge are scarce rivaled, even in Sage. Rather, they preferred the confounding architecture of their grand forests – subterfuge and skullduggery from behind bark and vine – arrows in the dark, knives in the back in twisting avenues where grapeshot is ill advised. Thou mayest recall the furor their tactics caused, we Torians had grown complacent in our ways and were outraged, foolishly, senselessly, when a tribe decided that rules and warfare mixed as water and oil. So our gracious Lord sent me to confront them at their selfsame game and thanks to the valor of my own men and, if it is not too bold to say, my own slow-flowering plans, I was able to best them most decisively.”
“As humble as ever, Baron.” Marshal Haiden sneered. Gunvald sensed bad-blood between the two and wondered at its origins. It seemed to Gunvald that there was some mote of jealousy in Haiden’s tone, buried firmly beneath his facade of civility. A venom particular to a man once scorned and unrecognized. A strange thing indeed, for the Grand Marshal was, in the hierarchy of the court, second in importance only to Eadwulf and the Arch-Summoner himself. What, Gunvald wondered, could he possibly be jealous of? What could a countryside ironmonger of minor nobility possess that the chief of The Lord’s army could not?
At length, Avarr turned to the Marshal and poured himself a glass of wine and lit himself another cigarette before speaking.
“I’ve been called many things in my life, Grand Marshal: ‘whore-monger,’ ‘addict,’ ‘pretentious,’ ‘tree killer,’ but never, ‘humble.’ At this point, such an allegation would sting worse than all the others. What is ‘humility’ but the perpetual pretense of inferiority? Nothing else. The humble man is he who says, ‘Ignore my prowess! It is meaningless! Praise only my boundless insignificance!’ When indeed, in reality, the feigning of his impotence and insignificance is the very thing which he hopes is praised; a substitute for true virtue. To be called humble is to be called a liar.”
The members of the house gave several terse, nervous laughs, unsure if Avarr’s comments were meant as jest or lecture or some queer combination of the two and when he laughed with them their mirth turned in earnest. Haiden merely grimaced and returned to his goblet, clearly displeased but not so sufficiently as to ruin his Lord’s graceful gathering.
Eadwulf leaned over his mutton, goblet in hand, remnants of fowl clinging to his girthful and graying beard, “Is Leofflaed coming shortly? Or is she still mucking about with her perfume and spice?”
The baron leaned back in his chair, smoking idly and looking off to where his feathery comrade fluttered about the rafters as if in silent rapport. At length, he spoke without turning.
“She dresses as we speak. I expect her any-”
Suddenly a shrill, impetuous voice boomed out from the upper landing.
“So I see that all have begun without me!”
Gunvald followed the voice from whence it came and turned his gaze to the grand stair whereupon a young woman stood, pout-lipped and grim-eyed, hands at her waist. Gunvald was shocked and elated. Elated at the sight of his beloved, shocked at how much she had changed in the space of seven years. Gone was the radiant smile of youthful innocence, in it’s stead, a cold, disdainful frown. Gone were the sun-faded and form-fitting lineaments of the village, replaced now by garish vestments of the keep, silk and sapphires, silver and gold. Gone was her agile frame and the supple movements which the soldier remembered so fondly from his youth, replaced now by an ungainly girth. None would have called her fat but the burgeoning plumpness of castle-excess was unmistakable.
“Thou hath no right to look so put-out, Leofflaed, one cannot expect all the world to run along the lines of thy clock,” Avarr replied flatly from below.
She surveyed the falconer with slowly softening vexation, then the party. Gunvald was surprised the Lord did not reprimand the baron for his chastisement. At length, she sighed and descended the stair, taking a seat beside Lord Eadwulf. As one of the serving girls pulled out a seat for Leofflaed, Eadwulf smiled and gestured towards her, his mouth half-filled with meats.
“Radiant, my dear, most radiant!”
Her only reply was a half-hearted smile, as transitory as the light glinting off her eyes.
The Lord motioned for the serving girls to fill her cup and move the food down to Leofflaed’s end of the table, as the silk-robed woman looked over the faces of every present soul. She seemed wholly disinterested in the affair, hands folded about her waist, lips stuck in what seemed to be a perpetual pout. Though she had gained weight and her countenance wore grim, she was still quite beautiful, the luster of fertile youth not yet wholly faded by time. What stirred Gunvald’s passions more than all her fading beauty was the memories of those fairer days wherein she and he had twined about the steps of the old temple, bounding here and there over moss and lichen, bracken and fern; how they had played hide and seek in the forests beyond Castle Avarr just before the moorland; how they embraced in times of woe and how they had kissed underneath the white bone of the moon by the statue at the edge of town whereupon he’d stumbled across the curious, one-eyed beggar. He remembered how they’d made love the day before he’d left for war, how she’d moaned and later cried and how they had pledged themselves to one another as the sun had risen red as the blood of all the men he had ever slain, as if portending all the masterful savagery he had done and all that he was still to do. Crushing sadness and unignorable agitation swam within the body of the swordsman, moving within his bosom and up from bosom to throat and from throat to mouth, bursting free of that fleshy cage like a lantern shattered in a barn of hay.
“Ne’er did I dare to believe that I would behold that face again; not in wildest dream-wanderings.”
Leofflaed turned to the upstart instantly, one brow going up with mild shock, the other down in confusion. Eyes met there for some indeterminable sphere’s turning, brown to green, green to brown forest to earth, plateau to vine. The shock swiftly dissipated into perplexed consternation.
“And thou art?”
Gunvald’s heart stilled a moment, then a pain, eerie and ethereal, slithered throughout the totality of the soma, palling the mind with direst imaginings. The soldier parted his lips to speak but no sound there escaped; he merely looked on, stunned to speechlessness. Fists balled like stones at his side, trembling with agitation. How, he thought, could she not remember?
Avarr turned to the woman and gestured to the soldier with his half-burned cigarette.
“Lady Leofflaed, may I introduce thee to Gunvald Wegerferend. It were he that slew Grim-Claw, Chief of the Gray Hordes of the North. Impressive, no?”
Leofflaed’s eyes grew wide, her body tense and still, her breath catching in her throat until a muted gasp escaped therefrom.
“Please… excuse me. I’m not… feeling well.”
Eadwulf lowered his goblet, furrowing his disorderly brows.
“What’s this now, have ye taken too much port afore the meal?”
“No, my dearest,” she turned full away from the still-standing soldier as she addressed her liege, as if she might wither away beneath his gaze, “I… do not not know what has come over me, some allergy perhaps, a fever of the seasons.”
Her facade fooled none but a few of the serving maids who cloistered round their ward, one of them fanning the lady with an empty soup dish, all the better to dispel whatever had befallen her. None spoke and, at length, the Lord intoned softly and somberly, “Well, get ye gone then. Off to bed. Off.”
The Lady left without another word as an uneasy pall settled over the feast. After the last footfalls of the Lady and her entourage had vanished up the well-varnished steps of the keep, The Baron rose and took Gunvald by the arm.
“Join me for a smoke upon the terrace.”
“But… the feast…”
Gunvald glanced over his shoulder and found Eadwulf’s beady eyes affixed to his own, sullenly regarding them with growing suspicion from beneath craggy brows and matted locks.
“I and our kindly guest wish to ply our senses to the crisp night air, by your leave.”
The Lord looked on a moment, his suspicion melting away almost instantly into a look of sadness then bewilderment, then comprehension. He nodded, “Ah, yes, yes, of course. Give him the goodly tour of it!”
“So I shall, my lord. So I shall.”
The two men, the baron and the landsman, left off out of the great hall to the whispering of the inner court, the distance rendering the sounds unintelligable.

Tomb of the Father: Chapter Two (Excerpt)

Author’s note: The following text is a short chapter excerpt from my forthcoming novel, Tomb Of The Father. More chapter excerpts will be released in the coming weeks.


Gunvald woke in the dark and buried the brigand upon the northern hill opposite the shepherd’s encampment and departed from the old vaquero wordlessly, before his waking, as the halcyon sphere drifted up across the high, jagged peaks of the far mountain. He made his way over the thin, reedy grass from the northern hill and from there to the stony outcropping where he’d slept as the sheep bawled and yapped like insane children and then passed down between the precarious tors into the lowlands which were spotted here and there with small tufts of shrubbery and strange boulders incised with markings from some people that had since passed from the world’s collective remembrance. The man stopped as if the stones had rooted him to shade and slowly reached out to touch the curious monolith before him, gingerly running his dry and cloth-wrapped hands across the smooth-hewn crevices of the mighty artifact. He closed his eyes and inhaled and exhaled deeply until his breathing became as rhythmic as a drumbeat and he felt as if his hands and those that had wrought the arcane inscriptions were one and the same. Past called to future. Dead to living. As if the stone were whispering to him, tales of forgotten times and well-lived lives and those less well lived and what their folly entailed for the ignorant persisting. It was a peculiar feeling, one that the weary traveler struggled to rationalize but felt powerfully all the same. At length, he opened his eyes and slowly withdrew his hand from the stone and retreated a pace and looked over the monolith entire, from tip to base and judged the breadth and width; some eight feet high, some seven feet wide. The weight of the thing the gods only knew.
When he’d taken in the stone in all its facets he turned full from it and made his way out through the bracken and quitch and past other stones, both larger and smaller than the first, and all similarly marked by ancient hands, the symbols there incised beyond the travelers reckoning. Here and there a recognizable representation, half-masked in abstraction: a man, a woman, a wolf, a bear, a fish, a snail, a tree. The symbol most oft represented was the wolf, over and over again it was inscribed, with near mechanical precision and a primal beauty that he’d scarcely witnessed in even the most technically proficient of paintings. He could almost hear its call.
Beyond the rune-stones the ground flattened out with astounding brevity, the bracken and quitch giving way to queer lichen and strange vines with small purple shoots and thick, raw swatches of muddy-clay, filled all with fetid water that buzzed with insects of every shape and size. The further out the man cast his gaze the larger the water-filled depressions grew until they merged unto a singularity, one vast marshen heap of rain-catch and sod and sand and silt. Bogland.
He recalled the old man’s words, “The first false step means death, to man or beast.”
Suddenly, there came a raucous calling, an intonation, nearby and strangely human. The traveler whirled, spotting, some forty yards out into the mire, a huge male ram, only his forelegs, chest, neck and horn-crowned head clear above the bog-hold. The creature struggled a moment, flailing its powerful legs against the silt and sand-water and then, quite suddenly, it vanished, sucked down at last; even the tips of its horns sinking below the grim surface of that plane of death.
Gunvald watched the unhappy affair with a mixture equal parts despair and fascination. It seemed too sudden to be real, the way the earth could so swiftly devour such a beast. Such a thing to the traveler’s mind was as fantastical as copper turning to gold or water to diamond. The bog had not been there when last he’d traversed the moor seven years ago. It seemed a whole panoply of lifetimes compressed into the scattered crystalline fragments of his memories and dreams.
He recalled the long march beside his kinsmen. How high their banners flew, the colors of all the clan houses of Tor; after decades of internecine violence, united at last against a common foe, the gray-men of the Hinterlands, those they called, Rimners. How young and wild and full of lofty opinions they had been…
As Gunvald looked out across the moor his opinions flew at considerably lower altitude.

*

Finding no passage through the peat, Gunvald opted to travel round it by the southernmost way. The trek lasted two days and brought him past all manner of rummy shrubs and bone piles and dying trees that looked more akin to the macabre props of a phantasmal play. Beyond the surmounted wetlands lay a quiet vale through which ran a babbling brook, girded on all sides by dry forest and vine, the ground verdant-lush and teeming with all manner of skittering things, both foul and fair. He sat by the snaking divet and withdrew a wood cup from his travel satchel and dipped it in the water and drank deeply, the liquid sweet and cool to his parched and desirous throat. Then he watched the solar plumes play across the waves as a small school of fish nudged up to the surface, their huge, lidless eyes gazing upon the sun-scorned figure as if appetent of conversation. Gunvald withdrew the last of his stock, a dry half-loaf of bread and broke it into small pieces, eating some and then throwing the rest to the fishes who gobbled at the flotsam and then nervously retreated, wary of Man’s latent, yet ever present, perfidy.
Moments later, the sound of creaking wood could be heard all throughout the vale, followed swiftly by a muted cascade of footfalls. The sound followed the wake of an old cart, rope-dragged by four men, filthy, disheveled and dressed all in furs. Their faces covered by cloth half-masks, securing the nose and mouth from nature’s multitudinous ravishments. Gunvald rose to observe the strange and solemn congregation, eyes widening with horror as he beheld their vessel’s grisly cargo.
Bodies.
Some fifteen in number, human and decaying under the harsh auspice of the sun, male and female alike, from babe to crone, covered in all manner of hideous rashes and boils, their skin ashen-red and peeling like the hide of some overripe fruit. Whatever disease it was that had snatched from them the breath of life seemed, for the moment, to have no hold upon the cart-pullers who paused momentarily, all turning to the man by the river.
One of their number addressed Gunvald sharply, as if in reprimand for some past transgression.
“What easy fool is this?”
“No fool, sir, but a soldier.”
“Those that here make passage well warrant the epithet. Canst thou not see our sorry wares?”
“Tis a pitiable sight. Whereby didst the sorry lot meet Dactyl’s scythe?”
Upon the utterance of that most singular name the men collectively gasped, the former speaker, a short man, bow-backed, balding and scar-faced, muttered a muted prayer and then gestured towards Gunvald as if casting some devious vermin from his presence.
“Sound not that unutterable traducement!”
“I meant no offense. Superstition has surely deranged thy temperament.”
“Enough, heretic, we darest not tarry, lest thee, with thy calumnious tongue, conjure some new evil to surpass the one that now burdens our aching backs!”
The other workers nodded as if there was great wisdom in the bald man’s words and then they adjusted their masks and ropes and muttered another prayer and bent once more to their toil and moved out across the rutted and grassy way, vanishing at last beneath the cavernous canopy of the wood, swallowed whole by the shadows therein.
Gunvald watched them go and decided to follow the cart-men at a distance, for their path and his were, for the time being, one and the same.
Gunvald rose and gave chase, passing through the thick and tangled forest of oak and ash and fir and gave silent thanks for the thick moss-bed beneath that masked the clattering of his bulky, armored frame. Over moss and stone and leaves, dead and alive, he walked, keeping himself well hidden and well apart from the odd foursome and their rickety old cart. After a couple hundred feet the forest opened up, the trees and shrubbery now growing more sparsely, the grass fading from green to yellow-green to a dull orange-yellow. Dying. The cart-pullers took a sharp right and passed fully beyond the forest unto a thin, dirt road that stretched out to the gray northwestern hill-lands like the great and ossified tendril of some mighty leviathan. The road ran down a slight decline in the hummock-ridden surface of the world and then diverged, one track splitting off to a small city to the south and the other branching to a butte over which rose the pass to the low, south-eastern mountains. Gunvald waited until the men had disappeared beyond the curvature of the earth and then took the lonely path towards the town stopping by a small, wooden sign, hastily constructed, which read:

Ħaberale

The sign was adorned with a large off-white arrow, comprised of some woodland dye, which pointed towards the clearly present outline of the town in the short-off distance, half obscured by small tussles of old trees which poked above a field of withering wheat and the ruins of some primeval fort that lay beyond, its towers brimming with black wings and hissing beaks. Before the man had fully risen from his observation of the sign, the sound of thundering hooves rose up from somewhere nearby, plumes of dust whirling from the immediate northern road. Shortly, a fearsome cavalcade stood before the weary and cautious wayfarer, five in number and all armed and armored in strict uniformity. Knights or sell-swords or something worse. Gunvald knew instantly they were not of the town, by both their expensive attire and peculiar breed of destrier, he fancied them denizens of Caer Tor, a kingdom someways off and rarely concerned with its outlying provinces. The leader of the group and the eldest, a man of middling height and some fifty years, at length addressed the armored wayfarer.
“Hail, traveler. A moment to query?”
Gunvald nodded in wordless acquiescence, though he knew that it was not a question proper.
“I am Cyneweard, second-commander of Tor. Word of brigand-raids have reached our gracious Lord, Cenhelm, and by his leave we make way to Haberale to rope the misbegotten scoundrels.”
“If that is thy venture then ye’ev headed the way awrong. Thy foe lies beyond the northern forest, past the bogland in the high moors.”
“Thou hast seen them?”
“Three nights past I was assailed upon the moor by three fiends, peasants, it seemed.”
“Three thou sayst?”
“Now two.”
The knight took the measure of the soldier before him, discerning flecks of crusted blood about his boots and nodded solemnly.
“I thank thee kindly. Might I inquire as to thy business, traveler?”
“My business is my own.”
“Suit thyself. One word of parting, kinsman, take heed in Haberale, the town is much changed. For the worse I am afeared. With thanks, we take our leave.”
Without another word the knights straightened in their leather saddles and flicked the reigns of their war-beasts and clattered off down the road toward the moor. When they had gone all was silent save for the heavy breath of the western wind that sent the traveler’s long, wavy locks aflutter. He brushed his mane from out his eyes and adjusted his scabbard-belt and wondered at the knight’s words. Haberale had always been a sleepy, little idyll, the only heed one had need to take was of how uneventful it was likely to be so as to better remedy the doldrums. He thought of the bandits and the dead men in the cart and the living ones pulling it and the strange masks on their faces, all deep, emerald green.
Times had changed indeed.
Gunvald left off down the way and crossed through the fading wheat and the hard clay ground and made camp in the ruins of some old fort as darkness closed about him in minacious plume.

*

Fiction Circular 4/19/19

§00. Editor’s note: links affixed to author/publisher’s name will redirect to author/publisher social media, links affixed to story/article titles will redirect to the site whereupon the named piece is archived. The ‘authors’ section focuses on lone individuals who publish their own literary work, ‘organizations’ section focuses upon independent presses, lit-mags, e-zines and other literary organizations who publish fictive work of multiple authors and ‘literary ephemera’ focuses on non-prose non-fiction literature, such as certain poems, news and art theory articles, reviews, interviews and critiques. All author/publication names arranged by alphabetical order (including ‘the’).


§01. Editor’s note on criteria for inclusion: a publication is considered ‘independent’ if it is self-contained and sustaining, that is to say, if it does not rely upon the staff, organizational prowess or financial backing of large corporations, academies, governments or other large entrenched organizations. For example, Sink Hollow Litmag will not be included on the list, not due to the quality or lack thereof of their work, but rather, because they are supported by Utah State University (and thus, are not independent).


§.AUTHORS

From Shreya Vikram, Insomnia. She’s right: there is no plural form of ‘sheep’ – as with ‘moose.’ Should be remedied (‘sheeps,’ just like ‘mooses,’ sounds off – perhaps, following the convention for multiple octopuses – ‘octopi’ – one could have ‘sheepi’ and ‘moosi’).

“One sheep, two sheep, three sheep, you count, just like you’d been taught. The sentence sounds odd in your head. You wonder why, and then you realize: the word ‘sheep’ has no plural. Isn’t that strange? Like fish. But ‘fish’ does have a plural, for types of fishes.”

 

— Insomnia


§.ORGANIZATIONS

From Ellipsis Zine, A Nice Night for a Drive, by Benjamin Niespodziany. A charming tale of a 109 year old woman with a love for fast machinery.

“The next time we visit my grandmother, she’s gone and so is her car bed. Her third floor window is left wide open. The nurses on call didn’t hear a thing. We put out an alert in search of a 109-year-old woman lacking identification.”

 

— A Nice Night for a Drive


From Jellyfish Review, This Side of the Fjord, by Ashley Lopez.

The knitted winter cap muffles the crack of the boy’s skull. I don’t hear the sound of bone bouncing on sodden subway floor, but I do hear his shriek a moment later. From deep within the boy’s mouth comes a call produced eons before his birth and encapsulated within his DNA. A selected method and best practice for arousing the alarm and comfort mechanisms in a caregiver. A seal pup searching for his mother.

 

— This Side of the Fjord


From Kendall Reviews, The Black Cloak Of Its Wings, by Daniel Soule, a fantastic short story concerning Nature’s omnipresent, yet hidden, savagery.

“The crow was twice the pigeon’s size. It pinned the frenzy of flapping wings with wraithish talons, while its stygian eyes blinked calmly, surveying the surroundings. Perceiving no threat, the crow set to its purpose. The pigeon flailed ineffectually against the sustained violence of penetrating slashes from the blade of the crow’s beak. On and on. Over and Over. Exposing the forbidden pink of flesh, yellow of fat, blue of veins. When the pigeon fell limp, the crow took a break from its butchery, scarlet dripping from its face. All was still. Time moved as slowly as falling drops of viscus blood until, dumbly remembering it was alive, the pigeon struggled for the last of its life. The crow tilted its head to inspect the pathetic floundering, before pistoning its beak into the living corpse over and over with calm fury, until the struggling ceased.”

 

— The Black Cloak Of Its Wings


From Surfaces, The Circumstances, by Ryan Bry, a curious, uniquely written tale of a woman reading from a man’s personal journal.

“When I call my brother I always ask him: What are you proud of?  When I call my mother I usually ask her: What are you proud of? I kept my personal journal in the teller window, decided I’d let anyone read it if they asked. Here’s the story of the only girl who did.”

 

— The Circumstances


From X-R-A-Y, Meals of our Children, by Will Gilmer. A grim and gripping (and, in my opinion, too short) portrait of drug addiction.

“Gnaw marks, like the ones on his old teething ring, appeared when the doctor gave him Tramadol after hurting his shoulder during the Homecoming game. Incisors scars ran up his arms when they moved him to Norco after X-Rays showed a labrum tear. Now I’m losing him, one mouthful at a time, as broken needle teeth pile up next to the burnt spoon on his dresser.”

 

— Meals of our Children


§.LITERARY EPHEMERA

From Quartzy, The Mueller Report Has Two Spaces After Every Sentence, by Natasha Frost, a interesting and instructive foray into the ways in which technology (particularly typewriters) have shaped, and continues to shape, typing trends across digital formats. Spacing isn’t something that often garners a great deal of attention, specifically from beginning writers, however, it should, as the specificity of one’s spacing makes a tremendous difference when it comes to the legibility (and general textual aesthetics) of the work.

“The culprit here is typewriters, which allocate the same amount of space for each letter, regardless of width. Known as monospacing, this translates to a tighter fit around thickset bruisers like m and w, and a little cloud of white space around such skinny characters as i, l, and !.”

 

— The Mueller Report Has Two Spaces After Every Sentence


Lastly, the bizarre piece from ‘critical race theorist’ Sofia Leung, titled, Whiteness as Collections, which brands libraries far too ‘white’ (because of course they are). The piece is nonsensical for one who has not accepted the theological premises of critical race theory, but hilarious in its almost cartoonish predictability; she writes, “If you don’t already know, “whiteness as property,” is a seminal Critical Race Theory (CRT) concept first introduced by Cheryl I. Harris in her 1993 Harvard Law Review article by the same name. She writes, “slavery as a system of property facilitated the merger of white identity and property” (p. 1721) and the formation of whiteness as property required the erasure of Native peoples. Basically, white people want to stay being white because of the privilege and protection whiteness affords under the law that they created. Harris also makes this really good point, “whiteness and property share a common premise — a conceptual nucleus — of a right to exclude” (1714). Bam! That really hits it on the head.” Yes, that’s quite true, the right to exclude is indeed central to property, what is the solution to this non-problem? Getting rid of the concept of property? Further, what does slavery have to do with contemporary libraries? I would venture that the answer is: nothing. However, acknowledging that a connection between libraries and slavery is either tenuous or none existent would critically undermine the author’s ability to denigrate ‘white’ literature, which she clearly has a problem with. Imagine, for a moment, that I were to write a piece where I spoke in Leung’s terms about BET (Black Entertainment Television), which, unlike literary works at libraries, is explicitly racially conscious and exclusionary. If I were to say that BET is ‘too black’ the reception would be extremely predictable. There would be a social uproar. “How dare you say that!” Etc. Now, as a matter of fact, I don’t think BET is ‘too black’ and have absolutely no problem with Television channels which cater to only one racial group, or ethnic group or religious group or philosophical group, or any group specific media whatsoever. This despite the fact that BET certainly does ‘express their right to exclude (so presumably, Leung should take issue with them and other outlets like them, though that prospect strikes me as highly unlikely).

What the author seems to be calling for, in rather explicit terms, is racial quotas for literature, which would require the creation and instantiation of a racial hierarchy wherein european descended peoples (or those who look similar to them, such as some Hebrews and Persians) are relegated to the bottom rung, not because of the content or quality of their writing, but simply because their ancestors have been collectively prosperous. Such a system need not be created, as it already exists, and stands as the philosophical bedrock of critical race theory. Vexingly, such a literary caste system, one will notice, has nothing to do with artistic merit (either collectively nor individually), how particular works impact a audience is of little to no importance to the ‘critical race theorist,’ what IS of importance is ensuring that those writer’s who fall into phenotypic categories which they (the theorists) have designated as ‘problematic’ are undercut.

Leung further notes, “If you look at any United States library’s collection, especially those in higher education institutions, most of the collections (books, journals, archival papers, other media, etc.) are written by white dudes writing about white ideas, white things-,” Han Chinese, Japanese and Iranians also write about Han, Japanese and Iranian ideas, black Americans typically write about black ideas and black things, Hispanics, likewise. Why is this a problem? The United States is not just historically, but also currently, a majority ‘white’ nation, thus, one would expect, by the numbers alone, to see more books by ‘white’ Americans than by any other minority racial classifications. Such complaints about ‘representation’ in contemporary fiction, despite the fact that books and articles by people such as Ms. Leung are in no wise suppressed (indeed, they are championed at every turn), are the generative nexus for the kind of on-the-nose fictional revision which has so thoroughly degraded popular fiction (female characters assuming distinctly male characteristics, retrofitting a character’s race/sex, despite such a change making no narrative sense, so as to ostensibly make them more palatable to various minority groups (even though it often does not), sloganeering inserts to outright political propaganda (ie. CBS’ The Good Fight’s explicit call to political violence).

The decision postulated by the rise of critical race ‘theory’ (it is not, however a theory, but a hypothesis) is this: either literature (and thus a literary institution or culture) can be evaluated upon its own merits, or it can be evaluated by the group affiliation (real or imagined) of its author (which mandates disregarding the actual content of the work in so far as the group affiliation is not, itself, generative to the content under scrutiny).


 

Fiction Circular 3/22/19

§00. Editor’s note: links affixed to author/publisher’s name will redirect to author/publisher social media, links affixed to story/article titles will redirect to the site whereupon the named piece is archived. The ‘authors’ section focuses on lone individuals who publish their own literary work, ‘organizations’ section focuses upon independent presses, lit-mags, e-zines and other literary organizations who publish fictive work of multiple authors and ‘literary ephemera’ focuses on non-prose non-fiction literature, such as certain poems, news and art theory articles, reviews, interviews and critiques. All author/publication names arranged by alphabetical order (including ‘the’).


§01. Editor’s note on criteria for inclusion: a publication is considered ‘independent’ if it is self-contained and sustaining, that is to say, if it does not rely upon the staff, organizational prowess or financial backing of large corporations, academies, governments or other large entrenched organizations. For example, Sink Hollow Litmag will not be included on the list, not due to the quality or lack thereof of their work, but rather, because they are supported by Utah State University (and thus, are not independent).


§. AUTHORS

From Shreya Vikram, Faith. Vikram’s characteristic passionate, murky poetic stylings find a excellent match in the topic of religion and the difficulties entailed in its practice.

These secrets of the human race, those tantalizing tidbits that lie forever undiscovered.

These beliefs for which there can never be enough witnesses, never enough stories.

I heard it, they’ll say. I saw it with my own eyes.

But the what-ifs are always stronger.

 

— Faith


From the talented Steve Hart, another installment of The Promise of Shaconage: Act 177: The Long Sharp Spear.

Timpoochee was haunted by the vision of that ghost-like figure he saw on the shore.

He was so distant, thought Timpoochee, but so close, so familiar.

A kingfisher suddenly darted across the bows of Timpoochee’s trading boat and dove starkly into the water just ahead, re-emerging with a tiny fish gored on its beak.

The kingfisher, he thought, spearing fish. The best hunter.

 

— Act 177: The Long Sharp Spear

From, Wicked Fables, who published, Immortalitus. A gripping tale of a asteroid miners indebted to a life-extension corporation. It would have been nice to have more “show” and less “tell” but the telling was done so well and with such noir clarity that I didn’t really mind in the end.

-the only afterlife you get is in the memories of those that knew you.

 

— Immortalitus


§. LITERARY EPHEMERA

From Lunarian Press, Connie Willis: One of My Favorite Science Fiction Authors, a brisk rumination on the works of the prolific American science fiction writer, Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis.

“Willis excels at the slow reveal–the surface of her stories can seem ordinary, but powerful currents move in their depths.”

 

— Connie Willis: One of My Favorite Science Fiction Authors


New Pop Lit continues their investigation into the need (or superfluousness) of new literary forms, in a series of interviews with various literary personalities in The Answers! The question: “Does the contemporary short story need to be radically revamped in order to reach a broader audience?” Answers markedly varied.

Whatever happens in terms of form, the mediums through which new literature is made, saved and disseminated must be given equal attention. The medium is the message.

Meakin Armstrong, magazine editor: The market for short fiction is already broad; it’s just that the market is fragmented, thanks to technology. Incredible short fiction is being published right now, and probably more of it is being published than ever before. One unintended consequence of technology, however, is that this avalanche of short fiction has tended to fragment the market. Nearly every day, I hear of a new small press or a new journal—and that’s great. But nonetheless, it’s still one more new journal; one more new press—with presumably only a static number of readers out there. Arguably, the lack of money is freeing, though. At Guernica, I don’t give a rat’s ass about our market, because there’s no money in it, anyway. But writers still need money. Publishers still need money. So if you’ve got money, SEND MONEY. That means actually subscribing to those journals you pretend to read and supporting those presses you say you love. With money, short fiction will figure out its own shit. Just don’t expect to be your friend: all good fiction prefers to bite the hand that feeds it.

 

— The Answers!


From Terror House MagazineThree Poems by Glahn; Mysteries, The Devil In Me and The Sun Was There.

But it is coming out now
the truth
And it is a goddamn thing, isn’t it
I try to hold it back

 

— Mysteries


Thomas E. Staples releases his new book, The Case of the Giant Carnivorous Worm, the cover of which is really quite spectacular (it also sounds rather conceptually amusing).


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Fiction Circular 3/8/19

§00. Editor’s note: links affixed to author/publisher’s name will redirect to author/publisher social media, links affixed to story/article titles will redirect to the site whereupon the named piece is archived. The ‘authors’ section focuses on lone individuals who publish their own literary work, ‘organizations’ section focuses upon independent presses, lit-mags, e-zines and other literary organizations who publish fictive work of multiple authors and ‘literary ephemera’ focuses on non-prose non-fiction literature, such as certain poems, news and art theory articles, reviews, interviews and critiques. All author/publication names arranged by alphabetical order (including ‘the’).


§01. Editor’s note on criteria for inclusion: a publication is considered ‘independent’ if it is self-contained and sustaining, that is to say, if it does not rely upon the staff, organizational prowess or financial backing of large corporations, academies, governments or other large entrenched organizations. For example, Sink Hollow Litmag will not be included on the list, not due to the quality or lack thereof of their work, but rather, because they are supported by Utah State University (and thus, are not independent).


§. AUTHORS


¶From Glahn, Goats. The less that is said about Glahn’s absolutely fantastic tale of chanting stick-pointers, the better. Highly recommended (if, that is, it is still up, the author’s posts are removed at regular intervals).

*Best of the week.

“Merrily we walked out of the town in the opposite direction of the bridge. Out of the town. Grand, huh? to expel yourself, to follow the inclinations of self-exile! I had forgotten I was a single thing back there but now I felt my rugged old heart swell and spill-”

 

— Goats


¶From Julian Gallo (via Medium), An Ashcan Burns At The Feet Of Christ. An allegory, equal parts poetic and grim.

“In the back alleys of Jerusalem a prophet lies naked, drunk and covered in sick-”

— An Ashcan Burns At The Feet Of Christ


§. ORGANIZATIONS


¶From Cheap Pop, Hell, by Jennifer Wortman. A story of dogma and youthful social fracture.

“She’s a part of your world, like the buckeye tree at the edge of your yard and the cardinals and robins that land there, and the dandelions everywhere, and the fat worms shining on the sidewalk after it rains.”

 

— Hell


¶From Literally Stories, The Shroud of Tulsa, by John B. Mahaffie, a story of the ways in which the most mundane and miniscule details can be transmogrified into myth.

“So before too long, starting with Tina retelling the stories all that day, and forgetting details and substituting some of her own, we ended up with water turned into wine, a man walking on water, and what came to be called the Shroud of Tulsa, now Plexiglass-encased at the Free and Independent Church of the Almighty on Leedy Turnpike, out past the landfill. “Tulsa,” since “Shroud of Springdale” doesn’t sound like anything.”

 

— The Shroud of Tulsa


¶From STORGY, I Did Not Push My Wife Off A Cliff, by Steve Gergley.

“I was there. And let me just say that that game was a heck of a lot closer than fifty-eight to nothing would suggest to the layman—er, excuse me—laywoman—God forbid I offend anyone…”

 

— I Did Not Push My Wife Off A Cliff

From Terror House Magazine, Anfisa, by Serge Clause. A tale of longing set in Russia.

“As time went on, spring came and the frost stopped. My friends took out their iron horses, and we from Stars Town began to ride our motorcycles in Ulan-Ude.”

 

— Anfisa

¶From The Arcanist, Leave No Trace, by Gabrielle Bleu.

“The damage from the wildfire five months ago was extensive. The park still needed all hands to aid in its recovery. And there was that increase in poaching on protected lands, an abnormal thinning of elk and deer herds started shortly after the wildfire had subsided. Beth eyed her rifle case. Funny that, the way the two coincided.”

 

— Leave No Trace


¶From The Dark Netizen, Clouds. Ms. Jadeli (a commentator on Netizen’s site) had noted that, to her, it sounded like a “excellent beginning to a book.” I’d agree. Hopefully it will be expanded upon at a future-date.

“The villagers speculated that the boy was not right in his mind. They asked the other children to stay away from this child who seemingly suffered from poor mental health. However, the little boy did not mind being alone. He would hunt for food, bathe under the waterfall, and sleep on trees. He did not need anybody.”

 

— Clouds


¶From Surfaces, Terminal Lux, by Nick Greer, a peculiar, esoteric digression on simulation and class.

“:: dwell not on the epsilon beyond your binds.”

 

— Terminal Lux


¶From X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, The Whole Flow, by Angie McCullah, the story of motherhood, illness and the fluidity of emotion.

“It is now just the boy and me and boxes of a chemical his own body can’t supply and also the beta fish in a bowl I bought to cheer him up. We sit in a small rowboat, bobbing. If you were to pull back from the tiny craft, a sunset pink behind us and a whole gray ocean slippery with fish and other sealife below, we would look like two brightly colored scraps barely tethered by my outrage, which is better, at least, than liquefying and drowning.”

 

— The Whole Flow


§. LITERARY EPHEMERA

¶Nothing to report.


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