Dinning Out

Posted: November 19, 2014 in Poems, The Troubled Scribe's Scribbles

Gourmet food, chicken fried rice, and a medium steak.

An empty wine cup teeters on the table ledge.

Screams and shouts, upturned chairs.

Except for mine.

Bullets spray, glass shatters. Freeze.

The soy sauce never tasted so good.

Crimson splash, blood or wine? Freeze.

Still no movement.

“Get on the ground.” Freeze.

“Get out your money.” Freeze.

More gun shots and screams.

Blood not wine.

No watching him grow up.

No more laughter and smiles.

No more holding her hand.

No longer aging, no longer…

The bullet never missed.

Only their faces circling.

I don’t want to forget them.

I don’t want to leave them.

Flayed

Posted: November 16, 2014 in Poems, The Troubled Scribe's Scribbles
Cut off my fingers and toes, then feed them to the crows.
They watched as I beat my bloody stumps against the concrete block and still they wouldn’t budge.
They would just sit on plaid lawn chairs continuing to talk.
They peeled the skin from my bones and nailed it on the living room wall in their home.
All the guests will point and laugh at the flaws exposed.
They will sew me back up, innards and all, that they kept in warm jars.
Then we’ll hold hands in public and hug, everyone will laugh and smile because the world loves drugs.
After the show they’ll drag me back behind closed doors,  stab me in the kidneys and flay me once more.
This world has become one big lie, in which liars and cheats seem to revel in the sky.
As us poor beggars crawl in our filth, for being polite and staying in line.
I’d rather be flayed alive.

Tickle Me Dead

Posted: November 10, 2014 in The Troubled Scribe's Scribbles

The lights are out and time is slipping
away from my outstretched arms.
I’m so close, yet my dreams are a million miles away. My fingers break, reaching for the stars and my mind is fading to gray.

 

I sit here, you stand there, screaming at my face. I lay here wishing we were  in a better place. Money rules us and don’t believe anything else. All these lies, just tickle me dead inside.

 

I’m aging fast and we are wasting our lives, not living in the now. We want that perfect life, that doesn’t exist at all.

 

I sit here, you stand there, screaming at my face. I lay here wishing we were in a better place. Money rules us and don’t believe anything else. All these lies, just tickle me dead inside.

 

When do we wake up.

Before we die?

It better be soon, I hear you cry.

I won’t stop now, I won’t give in.

I just can’t live this way.

All these lies are killing me.

Just tickling me dead inside.

This anthology was sooo good it hurt! Lavie Tidhar has compiled an exquisite, exotic collection of short science fiction stories in The Apex Book of World SF, Volume 3.

It was so refreshing to read these stories written by SF writers from throughout the world. Each had their own international slant that felt so fresh and unique.

Courtship in the Country of Machine-Gods by Benjanun Sriduangkaew

This a love story – of sorts. Sriduangkaew has created such an alien society that it was almost hard to follow the concept here. Yet the beings who populate this world were captivating and somehow had human attributes – machine or not – as they battled their arch enemies.

A Hundred Ghosts Parade Tonight by Xia Jia

Chilling and creepy. Gave me visions of that pale creature with the black soulless eyes and black hair who climbs out of the TV to terrorize the babysitter. Is the main character real or a ghost, like the others? You be the judge.

Act of Faith by Fadzlishah Johanabas

Ok, I’ll admit it. This one had me tearing up. What does it mean to be human and love a father and to love your faith? Can an android do any of these things? Deep, sweet story.

The Foreigner by Uko Bendi Udo

What an awesome blend of crooked civil servants, ethnic bias, and science fiction! This one was written so well as the main character attempts to establish his legitimacy in the face adversity.

The City of Silence by Ma Boyong

Boyong has taken the Internet and oppression to its far extreme. It is big brother tightening down the thumb screws and squeezing out your soul. Makes you want to scream.

Planetfall by Athena Andreadis

This is such a dreamy sort of tale of the establishment of a colony on a new world and the legacy those involved created. Well told with rich description and realization.

Jungle Fever by Ika Koeck

What talent to be able to instill such terror in this really short short about a monster’s metamorphosis! It all starts with a scratch.

To Follow The Waves by Amal El-Mohtar

This tale is actually about a dream weaver who unintentionally invades and controls another’s dream world. She falls in love but, alas, it is unrequited and has an unplanned consequence.

Ahuizotl by Nell Geraldine Garcia-Rosas

A chilling little horror story about a devilish water monster. Very atmospheric and told well.

The Rare Earth by Biram Mboob

Factions fighting in the name of religion. Whether in medieval times or now in the Middle East, tyrants and true believers have all called on religion to back their goals. Mboob has blended this timeless crusade with a modern ruthless twist.

Spider’s Nest by Myra Cakan

Cakan tells the tale of an addict’s descent into madness that leads to his doom.

Waiting With Mortals by Crystal Koo

This is a really hip world where humans host ghosts and ghosts plunge into humans – and it’s all policed by a supernatural police force. But there’s such a nice element of humanity between daughter and father and living up to expectations here as well.

Three Little Children by Ange

Holy crap! Never tell this bedtime story of a child murdering monster to your kids! They will never be the same. Horrors!

Brita’s Holiday Village by Karen Tidbeck

I don’t know why, but this story so reminded me of the movie, Cocoon, where these alien pods are discovered in a swimming pool and when the local aged neighbors go for swims they are suddenly rejuvenated. The main character stays in her aunt’s cabins and encounters curious neighbors and strange pupas hanging from the cabin’s eaves. Is there a connection?

Regressions by Swapna Kishnore

This story is really cool. So deep and layered about a young woman sent back in time to help reshape the world to reshape and change the past to make the future better for women. What happens is definitely not what she had planned.

Dancing on Red Planet by Berit Ellingsen

Fantastic story to round out this collection of short stories as multi-national astronauts prepare to land a first manned mission on Mars. Joyful and hopeful, Ellingsen expresses the wonderful shared elation of the Mars landing.

After reading this book, I really want to read more World SF from Apex publications. Good thing there are more volumes and, I hope, more to come in the future.

Oh, Vampires! Sigh. Not another vampire book, I thought! I quickly found that it didn’t matter as I sunk my teeth into Vampires, A Hunter’s Guide by Steven White & Mark McKenzie-Ray. The graphics and images alone in this book were enough to get my 83 year old grandfather interested and flipping through the gripping pages.

A short 80 pages, this book is part history, part fiction, and part survival guide. I’ve read a lot of vampire books – from the kick-ass rock hard vampire babe to the grizzled and decaying vampire king. So what I found the most surprising and pleasant in this reading was the exposure to vampire lore and types throughout the world. Not just the North American stereotypical version of the suave Dracula that we tend to think of, but hag-like creatures, ape-type monsters, Asian zombie-like suckers exist that we seldom hear of, but are just as terrifying.

White and McKenzie-Ray provide a nice blend of reality and myth. Often it’s hard to tell them apart. Are there lines to be drawn, anyway, when it comes to the cold, hard facts of the blood, power sucking species? The authors sprinkle in photos of vampire killing tools, totems representing vampires, and other references as evidence of the various vampire existences. They also provide tips and lifesaving advice on how to kill each type of vampire.

So, if you are fledgling vampire hunter, get this book. Protect its covers and memorize the tell-tale signs presented within its pages. You won’t regret it.

 

If you are a vegan, vegetarian, or any other veggie – an, you might not to read the next few sentences. This collection of short stories was like eating a thick, red, juicy steak. You just kept tearing into the perfectly seasoned, just-right grilled, hunk of meat. As each chunk rolled around in your mouth, the juices slowly dribbled out of your mouth, down your chin and dripped, dripped onto your white t-shirt. Delicious are the stories in The Book of Apex, Volume 4 of Apex Magazine, edited by Lynn M. Thomas.

The stories are mixed smoothly throughout the book; in some of the compilations I’ve read, there seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the order of the stories. Thomas has made it perfectly clear here, moving logically from demons to gods to supernatural phenomenon to witches and back again. It all makes sense and so, it was a joy to read. So let’s go to the stories themselves.

 

The Bread We Eat in Dreams by Catherynne M. Valente: I love Agnes G. She’s a little, keep-to-herself baker and gardener who happens to be a demon. Valente tells the story of Agnes G. through centuries until we come full circle to present. There is such a sweet, creepy, cranberry Hansel and Gretel feeling to this story.

 

The Leavings of the Wolf by Elizabeth Bear: Bear gives us a woman trying to overcome her failings and shattered dreams with the help of a god. She has created a real human with human frailties who discovers her inner strength.

 

The 24-Hour Brother by Christopher Barzak: What if. That’s what Barzak has asked in this story that follows Joe for 24 hours from birth to death. A fascinating look at a full life taking place in 24 hours and how it effects the whole family. It’s a bit of Benjamin Button in reverse.

 

Faithful City by Michael Pevzner: Pevzner creates a city so sinister, I’m still not sure whose side I’m on – the humans or the city. The city calls to the main character and he must answer the call. The question is – what will he find?

 

So Glad We Had This Time Together by Cat Rambo: Unreality TV! Ha, ha! I love it and I loved this story. This is what would happen if all supernatural beings took over Survivor. It reminded me of an episode of Charmed where the demons have their own TV show.

 

Sweetheart Showdown by Sarah Dalton: Ok, I’ve got to make another TV/movie comparison – this story is Hunger Games only it’s based on a beauty contest and the contestants battle to the death for the tiara. The beauties are vicious and delicious.

 

Bear in Contradicting Landscape by David J. Schwartz: Schwartz weaves a tail inside a tale here, literally. What our main character writes, comes to life, spooking his girlfriend and messing with his own sense of furry reality.

 

 

 My Body, Her Canvas by A.C. Wise: Is tattoo artist Sarah a sadistic torturer or a genius artist? Either way Wise’s main character is totally addicted to what she has to offer. The pain in this short is exquisite.

 

A Member of the Wedding of Heaven and Hell by Richard Bowes: Lions shall lie down with lambs in this story by Bowes. Could it happen? Can angels and demons coexist in a sort of détente wedding? Sometimes funny, sometimes thought provoking, find out the answer in this short story.

 

Copper, Iron, Blood and Love by Mari Ness: There was definite feel of the Native American tale to this one. Probably due to the crow who figures predominately in this fantasy story of love and sacrifice.

 

The Second Card of the Major Arcana   by Thoraiya Dyer: I could feel the hot sands in the desert as the creature searches ruthlessly for one who is wiser than she. All the fools have to do is answer the riddles correctly and they will live. Dyer has created a sinister sphinx here.

 

Love is a Parasite Meme by Lavie Tidhar: The lovers in this very short short are ghostly; they are the once vivid and sharp tintype that now has only shadows in the greys. Has love eaten away at these two, sapping their energies until they are nothing but smoke?

 

Decomposition by Rachel Swirsky: A lovingly gruesome tale of Vare’s revenge against his wealthy nemesis. Swirsky paints a dark tale of man’s depravity when searching for vengeance.

 

Tomorrow’s Dictator by Rahul Kanakia: Don’t drink the Koolaid! That really is the best advice if you want to maintain your freedom, your individuality, and your soul. Fresh, cool story.

 

Winter Scheming by Brit Mandelo: Mandelo has schemed up a fine, chilling tale in this short. We see through the eyes of an abuser, the predatory feelings, the rage, and then we feel the sweet, feathered revenge that the abuser receives.

 

In the Dark  by Ian Nichols: It’s amazing what a pint will do for a man, especially Morgan who braves the dark, singing. Eerie folk-like tale.

 

The Silk Merchant by Ken Liu: Ah, greed! So many have fell to their doom, destroyed their families, and their world by succumbing to that deep, deep pit of shiny silk. Liu story is so human it hurts.

 

Ironheart by Alec Austin: Austin slaps us into a world that is a hell hole of endless battle and reanimated corpses. He has reimagined what family would be in that nightmare world.

 

 

Coyote Gets His Own Back by Sarah Monette: Luther is a mean son of a bitch and proves it when he kills the coyote. But the coyote will have the last word in this short, easy going tale by Monette.

 

Waiting for Beauty by Marie Brennan: This is so, so hauntingly sad, as the Beast agonizingly waits for Beauty. Beautifully written.

 

Murdered Sleep  by Kat Howard: Kora flits along into a masked ball full of horned and snaked dancers. Dreamy and sleepy, Howard’s tale is very interesting.

 

Armless Maidens of the American West  by Genevieve Valentine: Valentine’s short here reminds me of the tales of the murderer with a hook who escaped from the mental institute who jumps out to mutilate young teens making out in their cars. Is he real or just an urban myth? Or in this case an American West myth?

 

Sexigesimal   by Katherine E.K. Duckett: Ok, I had to look up the title to see if it was real thing and, of course, it is. I’m still a little confused about its relevance to this great story by Duckett, but it rolls nicely off the tongue. This short presents a unique idea of what the afterlife might be like – a system of memory trading.

 

During the Pause   by Adam-Troy Castro: A Twilight Zone story by Castro about aliens trying to warn a less intelligent race of impending doom. Unique viewpoint.

 

Weaving Dreams   by Mary Robinette Kowal: Really interesting blend of the modern researcher and the magical witch, and her intern.

 

Always the Same Till it is Not   by Cecil Castellucci: This is a great take on the zombie story, with a splash of love and reason. Loved the perspective.

 

Sprig   by Alex Bledsoe: Even by the end of this story of the fairy, Sprig, we are still left to wonder – is she real, or just a poser with wings and ear buds?

 

Splinter by Shira Lipkin: A group of friends goes on an odyssey and experiences, what, a rift in the world, a drug-induced other-worldliness? Only one will survive.

 

Erzulie Dantor   by Tim Susman: Sisters facing devastation after a hurricane. At a time when they should be counting on each other for love and support, envy, greed, and spite burn at the heart of one sister. Great story.

 

Labyrinth   by Mari Ness: There is a certain feel of feudal Japan to this story. The adherence to tradition and honor in the dance to the death, even if it means the death of a loved one.

 

 

Blood From Stone   by Alethea Kontis: Practicing dark magic requires sacrifice, more and more sacrifice. Until the blood runs free. The characters in this short are evil and Kontis gives them everything they deserve.

 

Trixie and the Pandas of Dread   by Eugie Foster: Pandas? Dread? Somehow they just don’t seem to mesh and Trixie, a modern, hip goddess agrees. So, what’s she gonna’ do about it? Love it!

 

The Performance Artist by Lettie Prell: This gripping short gets down to the gut of many of the stories in this book – what does it mean to be human? What is the essence of life and death? Can a robot be alive with the essence of the artist? Can a robot just be?

Sweet, succulent magic. It seduces us and traps us; mesmerized, we can’t and don’t want to get away. And Heirs of the Demon King Uprising by Sarah Cawkwell is flush with it. Uprising is all about the magic. Although once free flowing, admired, and respected, magic is now outlawed in England. King Richard the Fifth rules with an iron hand with the aid of his Inquisitors who route out magic wherever it is found. However, small pockets of magic users exist, including Mathias Eynon and his betrothed, Tagan. Soon Richard must choose to complete the supreme sacrifice to cement his reign, a demonic bargain made by his royal ancestors. Mathias and Tagan are chosen to band together with other magical beings to fight this coming evil. Will the young lovers and their comrades be able to vanquish the demons or will the monstrosities prove victorious and bring hell to earth?

This is a fast-paced, exciting light vs. dark tale. One of the characters reminded me a bit of The Three Musketeers’ Aramis – or perhaps Johnny Depp’s Captain Sparrow – the flamboyant, foppish, lady lover who we love to hate and hate to love. Cawkwell has given us good-guy characters that are easily likeable. She has also provided us a couple of baddies that call out for boos, hisses, and tomatoes. The central villain, Inquisitor Charles Weaver, is fairly evil to the core which actually seems to make him both odious and appealing at the same time.

If there were any failings with Uprising, I would have to say it was our main heroes, Mathias and Tagan. Son of an executed magic user, Mathias’ mother fades to oblivion and he ends up being raised by a master magician. Tagan is the daughter of a blacksmith, raised on the forge. Both of these characters seemed to need more development. They just needed a bit more maturing, perhaps.

However, the story and settings are fully thought out and have a rich feel to them. The pacing is quick, lively, and suspenseful. Cawkwell’s Uprising will keep you on the edge. You won’t want to put this one down.