Shaka Bars in Luna Station Quarterly #14

Jennifer Parson’s Luna Station Quarterly features speculative fiction from female writers.

In Issue 14, my sci-fi short “Shaka Bars” joins LSQ: a shy fat woman discovers the food bar that can solve all her problems for a price.

Read Shaka Bars.

I hope that you will dig it.

The Baby Mimic in Crowded Magazine #2

Australia-based, crowd-sourced digital and print-on-demand Crowded Magazine released its second issue of speculative fiction on Saturday.

The issue includes my contemporary sci-fi story “The Baby Mimic”: a couple struggling to adopt are approached for a high-tech experiment.

Be advised reading Crowded Magazine may cause feelings of euphoria, inspiration and desire to participate.

I hope that you will dig it.

Fantasy Costume Designs

A Good Orc Thousand Skull Gorge

I was writing and trying to figure out what characters were wearing. Corsets in a sub-tropical setting? No. Time for fantasy costume designs.

The guy in the middle has health problems

The guy in the middle has health problems

(On the left you see a Skywalker situation. Not intended. Not avoidable.)

I started doing research on the Edo period because 1) it is awesome and 2) its political structure and technology really gets the creative juices flowing. What do rich people wear when it’s friggin’ hot? What do the common people wear? Where do the textiles come from? Why?

Letting out some Edo

Letting out some Edo

But then I was all like, oh Edo, that’s so cliché. Let’s try to look at some other cultures.

Then I realized that I thought costumes look either “European” or “Japanese” because I totally didn’t understand the subtleties of historical dress.

And I still don’t. But I do respect now that the rabbit hole of high-tech, warm-climate historical costume goes very very deep, and just because a garment has layers and bell sleeves doesn’t make it Japanese.

I did just enough reading to crib and steal and think a little about function and source, but not too much, because 80/20 rule.

Petyr Littlefinger up in this piece

Petyr Littlefinger up in this piece

One of these things is not like the others

One of these things is not like the others

Learning is hard, but I will try to keep doing it.

“Shaka Bars” accepted by Luna Station Quarterly

luna_station_quarterly_icon

“Shaka Bars” has been accepted for publication by Luna Station Quarterly!

Founded by editor Jennifer Parsons, Luna Station Quarterly features speculative short fiction by women authors. Issues appear online at the magazine website.

I’m delighted to join the LSQ family and excited that “Shaka Bars” found a home. The story is the ooky product of food addiction, a trip to Hawaii and a possibly problematic obsession with protein bars.

I hope you’ll give it a read when it publishes in a month or so.

This flurry of acceptance is really quite heady. Time is ripe to start querying for a certain sword-and-sorcery novel…

Flash Fiction: Idle Hands on Raptor VII

Speakers in the transcript are identified as follows:
Spacecraft:
CDR Commander Eugene S. Paul

MMP Martian Module Pilot Brian R. Cho
MSP Mission Specialist, Biology Gregor K. (Reggie) Mamchur

CDR Brian, may I speak to you privately?
MMP (Laughter.) That might be a challenge, Gene.
CDR Indulge me. Over here?
MMP Sure. (Indistinct.) What’s up?
CDR Well, I have sort of a situation I hope you can help me with.
You know our Community Simulator?
MMP (Laughter.) Yes, I’m familiar with it.
CDR Thing is, Reggie is logging an, ah, excessive number of hours on it.
MMP Oh? Is that a problem?
CDR He’s missed a meal and two workouts, so, yes.
MMP This mission’s been rough on all of us. Maybe he’s just busy in the lab?
Modeling spongifores is time-consuming –
CDR So my question for you is – and I’m not accusing you at all, but –
Did you make any changes to the Simulator?
MMP Changes?
CDR To the code.
MMP Oh, ah – (Laughter.) I did actually. Nothing big.
CDR … Brian, that is – That is very dangerous.
MMP Just a few things to keep everyone engaged. The personality modules.
Some conversation options —
CDR This isn’t Tetris you’re messing with. It’s a complex, carefully controlled
social simulation. It’s what’s going to make sure we’re scientists when we
get there and not just a bunch of non-functional meatheads.
MMP I understand.
CDR It took the psych team and the dev team twelve years to put that thing
together. This mission is too sensitive for you to go splashing around in it.
MMP Yes, Gene.
CDR So I want you to undo your changes before 2300.
MMP Ooh —
CDR “Ooh”?
MMP I don’t think I can do that.
CDR What?
MMP They didn’t have a repository in place, so I had to change the live code.
An oversight on their part, I’d say.
CDR They didn’t have a repository because no one was supposed to change
anything! You didn’t make a backup?
MMP I’m not really in that habit.
CDR Where is Reggie now?
MMP In the simulation room, I believe.
CDR All right. Let’s see what the hell you’ve done.
(Indistinct. Crosstalk.)
Reggie? Reggie, a moment…
MSP In a minute.
CDR Now, Reggie.
MSP Oh, for – Just a moment. Let me wrap this up.
CDR Is that – ? That looks like your wife!
MMP I know!
CDR And that’s your back yard! Oh, my God! Even the compost pile…
MMP We’re about to get some gardening done, if you don’t mind.
CDR The graphics – Like you could just stick your hand in and dig!
And her freckles! Did you do this, Brian?
MMP I guess. I didn’t think I got in the render modules, though.
CDR This – This is crazy. Reggie, can you turn the camera –
MSP [Indistinct.]
CDR When you get a chance. Are they all in there? I just want to see. Tell her —
MSP It’s my wife.
CDR Yes, of course. It’s just – I’ve never seen anything like this. Ever.
(Pause.)
Brian, you didn’t do this.
MSP Yes, I did.
CDR Not all of it. You couldn’t have.
MSP Pretty sure I did, Gene.
CDR No. Something else did this. Did Mission Control send an update and
we missed it?
MSP Not a chance. I verify those logs.
MMP You two are making it hard to concentrate.
CDR Maybe … Maybe you just opened the door. Caught their eye. Let them in.
MSP Who?
CDR Maybe we moved into their neighborhood.
MSP Are you talking about Grant and Taka? We let them take their turns.
We’ve been talking about a two-player –
CDR No. Something else. God, that looks just incredible.
The sky – That sun is making it warmer in here. Am I crazy?
MSP What something else?
CDR Something smart. Something that doesn’t want a visit.
MSP Commander, what are you talking about?
CDR We should figure that out. We should do that right away.
(Pause.)
Reggie, can I play next?

Flash Fiction: Iguana Man

I write stuff. Sometimes it’s too weird to live anywhere but here. Here is one.

Every customer at Platinum made promises:

“I’ll show you the world.”

“I’ll treat you right.”

Lena of the long legs, lavender scent and vertiginous pole tricks had heard them all. So when the man with the silver suit and staring iguana eyes said, “I’ll change your life,” she just said, “I bet you would, baby,” and brushed his hand, taking her twenty a dance.

It was only after closing, in the darkened lot, when a blur of disgruntled drunk and wild defensive swing left her staggering over exploded fragments of skull and acrylic shoe, that Lena suspected he’d been sincere.

Myrtle

Well, look who decided to show up.

No, no — it’s all right. Mister big shot manifestation, come and go as you please. Don’t let me upset your schedule! Me and my bursitis. We got all the time in the world.

Oh, you got the fireplace going! Good, my circulation ain’t what it used to be. Little enthusiastic with the sparks, I see. Just pat that right out. Never wear synthetics on the job, I say.

Now you’re sending something down the chimney. Not the order I would have chosen, but all right.

A-a-and it’s a foot.

Come on. Let’s have the other.

At least this one’s got a shoe. Wingtip. J.C. Penney. Early 1960s. Fits the research.

Ah, and there’s the legs. Praise Jesus for pants.

Go on. Do your dance. You think a little half-embodied ambulation is gonna rattle my cage, you got disappointment coming.

Now don’t get all steamed. You’re gonna rock the plaster off the walls and only have yourself to blame. They’ll have a hard enough time paying the lien as it is.

Or didn’t you think about that?

And here comes the blood! Pass the smellin’ salts — haven’t seen that in nearly a week. Maybe that moves piss out of college kids, but when you’re right with God and the north side of eighty a little red on the walls fails to impress. I’m well to terms with the fragility of the human corpus. Do you know what a pessary is?

No?

So — Mister Wilcox, yes? Before you start chucking furniture you might ask yourself a few things.

Is this really what you want from your afterlife?

I know you’re angry. If I’d met a bad end at forty-three I’d be angry, too.

But so what! How long are you gonna keep beating that horse? Just think — you’d be well past my age now, and I’m a sight closer to eternal rest than you are.

Every other human on the planet, that’s who. If you think you’re too good for eternal rest, that’s just ego.

Not to mention you need to think about someone besides yourself. You’re still a part of this community. If you’re gonna keep clinging you need to start acting like it.

Don’t you think the Burnetts miss their cat?

Well, you knew it wasn’t your cat.

So here’s what we can do. Either you show me where your bones are, or I come back tomorrow night and ask again.

And the night after that.

And the night after that.

Doctor says I got years yet.

That’s more like.

Hold on! Don’t go so fast. Tsk. My poor feet. And the rug’s seen better days, that’s for sure.

Is there a light? I’m not an owl.

Fair enough. I’ve got my flashlight.

Thought we might run into a lock or two. You got the mojo to blow this off the hinges?

I understand. That’s not uncommon. Means you brought me to the right place, really. Most spirits lose gusto the closer they get to… you know.

Lord knows I know what that’s like.

Let me just get down here. Ay! My joints… I call it makin’ popcorn. Loud enough to wake the dead, eh?

God steady these hands. Eh.

Bah! Almost had it. Eh. Eh.

There we go! Come on. No time like the present.

Eh. Stairs. Eh. What a beast.

Still with me? Ay? Mr. Wilcox?

I was afraid of that. Here. Let me pour a little sand for you.

Just blow it where you mean me to go.

All right. Rats, don’t bother me and I won’t bother you. Ain’t you picked it clean already?

Welp, there’s the other shoe.

Don’t you feel better already, Mr. Wilcox?

Mr. Wilcox?

I never do get repeat business.

Mission to Michigan

What follows is a response to Stephan Zielinski’s writing prompt, which I highly recommend reading before trying to figure out what the heck is going on here.

.

TEN DAYS AFTER CONTACT

As Darian lay in the service tunnel, watching bubbles of her pretty candy-apple-purple blood flow up through the ventilation grate like a very depressing lava lamp, she had at last opportunity to consider where she had gone wrong.

She was young. She was fit. She had the processing power of a dual exhaust MegaMother from Fabulon Five. Would it really have been so difficult a week ago to politely show the Gorin to the jettison, and, if they resisted, kick them about the shins? In retrospect it seemed as thuddingly obvious as the spike through her neck.

The Gorin seemed harmless when they arrived — sad drifters through Centauri 9, no different from herself. The rest of the crew thought they were cute, in that homely way peculiar to French bulldogs and kids’ pottery.

The female’s name was Forblax, or something similarly phlegmmy. She had a shrill, keening voice, and used it to complain in an adorable way about everything put before her. Just the week before, in the mad carnivorous panic of sushi and fried chicken night, she all but climbed on her chair in horror of the former.

Squealed she: “I can’t eat raw meat!”

And next to her was Byron, that great steaming stallion of a man, who disposed of the offending fish as quickly as it was decried.

Said he, “Now sashimi. Now you don’t.”

Ah, Byron. How many times had Darian headed off to hypersleep with fantasies of Byron thundering through her CPU?: his soft brown eyes, his wavy hair, his luscious mouth, his large but dexterous hands. It was a shame he was on the bridge in fifty pieces.

.

ONE DAY BEFORE CONTACT

“You don’t have to knock,” said Gertrude, not looking up from the trio of screens.

“Just being polite,” said Darian. “Though it’s harder without the door. You rang…?”

“I want you to take a look at this.” Gert pointed at a magnificent poopstorm of Perl. “And explain to the captain why it’ll be at least a day before I get the superdrive running again.”

“Uh,” said Darian.

“You ever tried to modify another programmer’s regular expressions without a test harness?” snorted Gert. “That’s not a plan! That’s a… a…”

“POSIX of one, half a dozen of your mother,” said Darian. “I suppose Maxwell if hadn’t drunk himself to death we’d have unit tests to run.”

“But he did, so we don’t.” Gert hit enter and immediately generated another KeyboardInterrupt. “You’d think after five hundred years we’d have a better general-purpose language. Mother of God, even my mobile is written in Rubython.” She sat back and ruffled her silver hair. “Just let the captain know we’ll back on track to salvage the Michigan by morning.”

“Will do,” said Darian.

“I’m sure you have better things to do than listen to me vent. My apologies — technology is the only topic that really interests me.”

Said Darian, “I understand completely.”

.

TEN DAYS AFTER CONTACT

Byron covered Darian with his body, which troubled her not at all.

“Who knew they could move that fast!” he gasped.

“I know,” said Darian. “They’re built like door stops.”

“And they dragged the whole hamburger grill into the service tunnel for some reason. I never thought that could fit.”

“Yeah — it’s like ‘what’s a grill like you doing in a place like this?'”

Byron peered through the porthole. Twenty ugly-cute, blood-soaked Gorin babies toddled past.

“We have to blow up the Blue Wing.”

“That sounds like a terrible idea.”

“Terribler than waiting for the Gorin to find us?”

Darian covered Byron’s ungrammatical mouth with hers, then forced him aside. “I have to do it,” she said.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because there will only be thirty seconds to escape the explosion, and you are made of meat.”

“Oh, right,” said Byron.

.

LATER THAT DAY

Darian observed that three impaled Gorin babies can really spoil the balance of one’s improvised sword. She scraped them off with her instep of her space boot.

Forblax screamed the sound of peeling a steel banana. Darian covered her ears and retreated to a shadow, which is where she noticed the sizzling hamburger grill.

Huh — where’d they get all those hamburgers?

It was also where she noticed the pile of bloody uniforms.

Oh.

She scythed through another few babies queueing with paper plates, and it was about that time the metamorphosed Forblax came sailing down the service tunnel on heinous bat wings.

“You won’t defeat the humans!” shouted Darian.

“What the hell do you think happened to the Michigan?” screeched Forblax.

“Oh, frick,” said Darian.

Darian leveled the pike at the Forblax’s furry heart, but the Gorin easily toppled her. Unfortunately, it was onto the utility dashboard. Even more unfortunately, the gravity lever stabbed Darian through the neck, pinning her tight.

Why ever did we make that gravity lever so pointy? Wait — I have an idea.

Darian braced herself and, with the insides of her neck, pulled down the gravity lever. There it goes. The light little babies bobbled into the air first. Right behind them came the grill, which fried them into delicious oblivion against the ceiling.

It would be fair to say weightlessness interfered with Forblax’s power of flight; however, it had no consequences for her squealing or her steady crawl to Darian.

“Do you really have to scream so high?” asked Darian. “It’s quite disruptive.”

“Screaming runs in my family,” said Forblax, chomping on Darian’s shin.

“Well, but what about the tone?”

“It’s how I screech a conclusion.” About this time Forblax came up with a mouth full of purple blood. “You taste terrible.”

“A bit like antifreeze?” offered Darian.

“Yes.”

“Wonder how that could be.”

Thus died Forblax.

.

EVEN LATER THAT DAY

Amid a cloud of metal and debris, Darian rode the explosion into space. Yes, there was the rest of the ship intact. Yes, there were people alive inside — she had fulfilled her mission. But as she tumbled gently, trailing pleasant streams of purple blood, facing unknown thousands of years alone in the depths of space, she reflected that Asimov’s rules of robotics suck out loud.

But then she suddenly felt quite smart, and snatched an iron pylon from the floating wreckage.

I can use my remaining power surge to magnetize this…

Just need to work out the physics…

x(t) = x(0) + u∆ t + 1/2 a∆ t^2…

Wait — how the hell do I remember that?

It dawned on Darian that the supercool of space was allowing her circuits to operate at maximum efficiency. In fact, she spent the next ten picoseconds tabulating the molecules in Byron — and then the vowels in Proust, just to say she had.

She aimed the pylon at the ship and drew herself slo-o-o-owly to it, with the grace only a half-chewed supercooled purple android from Centauri 9 can muster.

.

TWELVE DAYS AFTER CONTACT

Darian gazed into Byron’s soft eyes. They were embedded in soft agar, in a soft dish, affixed to a jar of his brains.

Also reconstituted were Byron’s hands and lips. Darian had decided she could live without the hair.

“You should really be at that medal ceremony,” said Byron through his VoxTron 5000 neural translator.

“They’re still giving speeches,” said Darian. “It’ll be another forty minutes before they notice I’ve gone.” She caressed his brain jar. “At the next station we’ll get you a nice cart, and you can leave the room.”

“That will be lovely.”

They kissed, showering the table with purple sparks.

Said Byron: “I never dreamed it could be like this.”

Said Darian: “Oh, darling. Your jar is adored.”