Hot Rockin’ at World’s End: Dystopian Flash Fiction

Source: via Scribe's Cave, Picture Prompt #34

Source: via Scribe’s Cave, Picture Prompt #34.

Short lexicon to follow story.

 Hot Rockin’ at World’s End

Genre: Dystopian science fiction, literary fiction

Word Count: 296 (without lexicon)

Warning!! Harsh adult language & violence might not be suitable for younger readers.

Schrödinger’s Cat had rounded up enough interested parties—or,  more to the point, partiers—for one last, big bang-yer-head at the end of time. Sure, part of the lure had been the location. All the underground dead trees had shrieked in King Diamond font:

“Kewlest Party of ANY Century! DON’T MISS special guests Megaton Leviathan and Eddie’s Hammers, Dec. 31, 2099, Erasin’ Hell at the Mosh Room!”

WorldCits with special oc-imps did a slam dance at the prospect offered by the small type, in Britny Fox font of course, promising 37⁰C temps at partytime. “BC’s fridginest freakhouse,” it shrilled.

“But, the acoustics. Color me concerned,” singer and theremin player Blind Watchmaker complained to Schrö.

“It’ll be fine, bro’. Former colliders like the ‘Shroom have excellent sound capabilities, I’m told. Besides, everybody there will be so busy stonin’ and bonin’ . . .” Although he shit-grinned, consummate concert-promoter that he was, Schrö let his voice lose volume, as if the answer to Armageddon was always achingly obvious.

“And the poser was at least partly right,” Blind Watchmaker was to recount years later. “Desperate WCs did surface for the gig—droves of them—and the sounds were tight. I think if a person was outside in the withering Canadian sun at 10 a.m., he probably still woulda felt the music crunchin’,” he pointed at the dead-center of his chest, “about here, instead of hearin’ it.”

The truth was that nobody had anticipated literal carnage. Sardined in the metal musical box, leather on jeans on synfibes like Ex-Spand, ‘bangers were squashed underboot like long-haired lightning bugs. Either trampled or crushed against coils of chilled niobium tin, some 4,700 lost their lives for love of loudness.

And still, the new century dawned, a sunken sun under the skin of night.


BC: British Columbia, a Canadian province.

Dead trees: Something like the newspapers and tabloids of the 20th and early 21st centuries.

Oc-imps: Ocular implants.

Synfibes: Synthetic fibers (example: Ex-Spand).

WorldCits (thereafter, WCs): World citizens, as people of this dystopian future are called.

Written for Andreé’s weekly Scribe’s Cave photo challenge. Andreé’s own speculative fiction response to the prompt is here — and stay tuned, prose spelunkers, because her newest spec-fic book is due in November. I always love me a late-Halloween lit baby! And fellow metalfans, see if you can find all the 20th- and early 21st-century heavy-metal bands, songs, and other tropes.

Share Your World: Week 32, The Supermoon Edition

Share Your World bannerI thought it might be nice, for a change, to blog about me, assuming I’m nice, which of course is a big assumption. So, in the absence of protests to the contrary, here goes with Cee’s weekly Share Your World (SYW) challenge, with an ultimately far-out flavor to it . . .

  1. Do you prefer ketchup or mustard? Um, I have a near-addiction to light agave syrup, as well as the myriad of spices used in Indian, Greek, and Middle-Eastern foods. That said, it depends on what’s being eaten, as to what needs to be covered. I still remember — and am wholly guilty of the food crime mentioned in — that childhood ditty “don’t drown your food.”
  2. If someone made a movie of your life would it be a drama, a comedy, a romantic-comedy, action film, or science fiction? Yes. At one time or another, all of the aforementioned, with documentary, spoof, fantasy, horror flick, B-movie, and musical thrown in for good measure.
  3. If you could be given any gift what would it be? A tough one! Can I wiggle out of it and say je ne sais quoi? No? Okay, then: Foresight, which would likely turn out to be a Trojan horse. Failing that, a supply of self-confidence to not be unwarrantedly cocky yet to still leave the world a better place than when I entered it.
  4. For potlucks or parties do you cook it yourself, buy from a grocery store, or pay for catering? I’ve never given a big or formal party myself, so I’ve never done catering (in the event I could afford it!). Sorry to qualify all these questions, but it really depends on the context. The better I know the people and their preferences and/or allergies or food adventuresomeness, probably the more likely I am to make something of my own rather than grocery-store it. I have a great Indian-inspired spaghetti bread I’m dying to perfect and share with the world, but more accessible dishes are my sausage-stuffing muffins (for those who AREN’T watching their diets, who do have a “cheat day,” and/or who are NOT vegans or vegetarians) or my Greek-based orzo & spinach salad.
  5. Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up? I know I used this in a previous SYW, so it’s an oldie, but it’s also a good goodie. I’m grateful to still be experiencing life, warts and all. I’ve been doing some writing, but on the main it’s been pretty angry stuff (for reasons I won’t bore you with, August is overall a historically cruddy month for me personally); this creative famine follows on the heels — wish I could say heals, Freudian key-slip style — of the feast of a couple weeks ago when I had three or more posts in a single week. Today’s SYW post floats and then gently sets me down at 61. Poet extraordinaire Vic Briggs nomenclatures this ebb-and-flow creative process in terms of “the storm passes, the energy . . . recedes.” (Well-said, my friend!) Honestly, as to looking forward, there are several things in the aether I’m grabbing at: visiting with my friend, who herself is journeying into town from Arizona; writing a joy list, à la Chris Donner’s fabulous open-ended post on “Joy Is . . .”; exiting the draggin’ wagon in terms of blog- and other reading and commenting (like for my BBC Book Club); school starting for one of the kidlets (I love the “youngins,” but I also know they need time away from me to gain independence and so forth); catching up on some weeding and yardwork; doing some un-angry writing; and tackling some technical things like setting up a Facebook page and re-doing or adding a page here on the blog to purtify it. 🙂

And now, something else to be grateful for, some far-out supermoon stuff (wouldn’t mega-moon sound better? it alliteratively appeals to my sometimes tinny ear) . . .

DragonEye Supermoon

Image by me — & Photoshopped, unexpertly, to sharpen, bring out contrast, & brighten — of the Aug. 10, 2014, #supermoon. Really wish I were a better photographer & had better night exposure ability. Dumbly, I also didn’t use a tripod, other than my knees. The exposure is about 5 seconds. Had hoped you could see how the moon looks (to me, anyway) like a dragon’s eye & all the altocumulus clouds (I’m guessing, but please correct me, meteorologists)  looked like individual scales around the dragon’s eye. Anyway, it was cool to see an astronomical phenomenon like the supermoon, & I am grateful for that. For more on the supermoon (thank goodness it’s not dubbed the perigean moon supersized, for acronymization!), EarthSky is one great resource.




Speculative Poetry: The Mirror-Ship

Janus 1: The Mirror-Ship

GENRE: Speculative Poetry


A fascinating image from Bernard de Montfaucon’s L’antiquité expliquée et représentée en figures, which is in the public domain. Janus (Latin: Ianus) stands as the Roman god-figure of changes and beginnings, and thus of doorways, passages, gates, and endings; that is why he is represented as looking both back in time and forward.


Twinkling from stem to stern, the slim ship

parted the black tide of space, a drip

into the washbasin of infinity.

The jeweled hull reflects not divinity

but instead a cascade of faceted realities.

Unconcerned with its own folded dualities,

the mirror mother-craft plaits, tucks, turns

with, in, and through time forced-flat.

It meanders emotionless and does not yearn

as years yawn into centuries, ion one with eon.

Light welded to night, as collar with frill.

And all that was within your own orbit pulsars still.

I hope that your week so far has been productive and peaceful. In line-of-sight with the speculative poetry theme of today’s post (for which I always gratefully receive input), I’d like to offer up a few markets and resources for you to explore. Best wishes, writers!

  • Strange Horizons is a paying market—imagine that! Thirty-per-poem is offered by this editorial triumvirate, who seek “modern, exciting poems that explore the possible and impossible: stories about human and nonhuman experiences, dreams and reality, past and future, the here-and-now and otherwhere-and-elsewhen. We want poems from imaginative and unconventional writers; we want voices from diverse perspectives and backgrounds.” If you’ve got some stellar horror, science fiction, fantasy, or slipstream poetry, do consider SH, but be sure, at a minimum, to read their definitions and manifesto article first.
  • The annual speculative poetry contest from the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA) is ready for takeoff! With an Aug. 15 deadline and a $1-or $2-per-poem submission fee, now might be the time to dust off that speculative poetry for one or more of their three categories: dwarf, short, and long. Among other perks, there’s a $100 first-place prize in each category and “publication on Poetry Planet ( podcast magazine and on the SFPA website for first through third places.” SFPA is also a great overall resource if you write speculative poetry; do consider membership therein.
  • Not speculative fiction, but perhaps of interest to those of you who enjoy memoir and/or essays, personal or otherwise. If you’ve ever experienced a “eureka!” moment—it need not have been while in the bathtub—and can pen a compelling “Life Lessons” essay of no more than 1,500 words, Real Simple magazine just might want to publish your writing and pay you for it (the best combination, I might add). As always, be sure to read all the rules, especially regarding rights protection of your story, and make your submission, if you so choose, by Sept. 18 (e-mail or snail-mail). Good luck!

I’m Losing it, or How I Learned to Keep Worrying and Just Join a Damned Book Club Already

Margaret Atwood and I share a tragedy. Mine is that up until recently I have never read anything from Ms. Atwood’s ouevre, though I certainly have known about her. She is one of the aspirational zeniths of a modern writer, especially a speculative fiction-arcing one, female or not.

I’m nearing a third of the way into her Oryx and Crake Oryx & Crake bookcover(hereafter O & C), and mostly loving it, although it has spored off a couple disturbing dreams. The bright spot is that I think I’ll write them down today, then tuck them away for a horror story and a science-fiction story, or perhaps a macabre mind-meld of the two.

I came to O & C by somewhat unusual meansfor me, at least. Courtesy of Oprah’s Dystopian Dilettantes, or ODD for short. I josh, of course. A friend who is a former co-worker asked me to join her new book club, and so, I did. Eschewing my usual rule of not joining any group foolish or crazy enough to welcome my participation.


For those who haven’t delved into the dystopian delight that is O & C, I will try to not give too much away. Besides, the cover art from Doubleday press uncovers a lot of the transmogrified flesh of this story, a creation myth of sorts, save with a decidedly different kind of Adam and Eve in the forms of the titular characters Crake and Oryx, respectively. (Does one wonder why Oryx’s female character was placed first in the title, in that people typically say “Adam and Eve”? Yes, one wonders!)

I was immediately struck by the protagonist, a character formerly called Jimmy but now going by the nickname Snowman, who wakes in a tree and is wrapped in only a grubby bedsheet. Before beginning this book, I had the preconceived bias toward liking it. I mean, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin, (the companion book to O & C) The Year of the Flood, Lady Oracle. Need I say more?

That this bestiary of a book seems to me to share symbolism and parallels of diction with these only thrills me more: Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, epigraphs from Swift and Woolf, Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange (in the portmanteaus and other wordplay in terms such as wolvogs, pleeblands, rakunks, and pigoons), Orwell’s Animal Farm, and perhaps even Fitzgerald’s Gatsby.


And yet, Atwood’s is a pantheon populated by her own mighty creations of insect, plant, and Other lifeforms, which is no surprise given that she is the daughter of an entomologist. She is, as the Gulliverian epigraph opines, relating “plain matter of fact in the simplest manner and style”no irony there!in pursuit of informing, not entertaining, her reader. Sibyl of Cumae-like, Atwood does in fact end up astonishing us with a strange tale that somehow coalesces into a searing indictment of our society in 2014, despite being published in 2003, if it is left to its own devices. I don’t see, thus far, the book as being as much a carte blanche indictment of rampant consumerism-disguised-as-science (though that certainly sluices through the narrative), but rather of science and medicine, particularly genetics, without ethics.

Oh, how quaint. A being from the future, a la Oryx and Crake!

Oh, how quaint. A being from the future, a la Oryx and Crake! (quote verified as authentic here)

What the book does make clear is that we are the architects of our own wasteland, as much as Jimmy’s genetic-tampering and violence-desensitized society is. For instance, there is the “raping” of our planet that is currently ongoing in 2014 and will continue beyond. Here’s a quick-and-dirty on that matter. So-called third-world (and second-world and . . .) nations will experience the first disastrous waves of climate change in the form of cyclones, typhoons, killing heat waves, and the like, but North America, particularly the United States, is not inoculated against climate change’s repercussions. Flooding, ravaging droughts, and raging wildfires pock-mark our future, too. Perhaps we head toward our own Paradice Project?


My only quibble thus far with the novel lies in its pervasive bleakness. Jimmy/Snowman is a sad and pathetic character whom one feels at least somewhat empathetic toward if only for his difficult upbringing, both family-wise and society-wise. Contrary to my worldview and bearing in high school and university days, however, I am not as primed for tragedy now that I am older. Perhaps it is because as we age, tragedy becomes our unwanted bedfellow, not unlike bedbugs or toe fungi. In that sense, O & C is becoming a smidge tedious and depression-inducingalthough still lovely and masterfulto stomach. As they say, you can’t step in the same spot in the stream twice.

But let me leave you with some opening lines from O & C. If those don’t convince you to read this, possibly nothing will:

“Snowman wakes before dawn. He lies unmoving, listening to the tide coming in, wave after wave sloshing over the various barricades, wish-wash, wish-wash, the rhythm of heartbeat. He would so like to believe he is still sleeping.
On the eastern horizon there’s a greyish haze, lit now with a rosy, deadly glow. Strange how that colour still seems tender. The offshore towers stand out in dark silhouette against it, rising improbably out of the pink and pale blue of the lagoon. The shrieks of the birds that nest out there and the distant ocean grinding against the ersatz reefs of rusted car parts and jumbled bricks and assorted rubble sound almost like holiday traffic.
Out of habit he looks at his watch . . . still shiny although it no longer works. He wears it now as his only talisman. A blank face is what it shows him: zero hour. It causes a jolt of terror to run through him, this absence of official time. Nobody nowhere knows what time it is.  . . . “

And now, I also know why Vonnegut advised to start your story as near as possible to the end.

Atwood’s tragedy? That her writing is so damn spare, dark, stark, and expert and, yet, some dummies like me haven’t read her! Here’s a handy-dandy quiz if you’re wanting to explore Atwood’s work and haven’t yet.

Gnawing Worries on a Ribbon of Time

Gu-en’s ship was uffed. Threading their way to Calabi-Yau Base of 3.5 months ago wasn’t easy. And today was about to get exponentially worse, but at least they’d trap their shadowers: star rats.

Physics-Theories-from WiredCosmos

A computer-generated illustration of string theory from Wired Cosmos.

This 33-word flash-fiction sci-fi story was written for the weekly Trifecta challenge, Trifextra 104. Writers are to craft a 33-word piece using a palindrome (as “star rats” above). Sadly, the Trifecta challenges are coming to an end this month. At last I fully understand the meaning of T.S. Eliot’s line, “April is the cruellest month.”

Trifextra: Week 102 (Flash Fiction on ‘Love Gone Wrong’)

Illustration from Hunter College High School

Tiktaalik, a fossil creature from the Devonian, has been tapped as the link (or “transitional fossil”) between fish and the first vertebrates to walk on land. The fossil was discovered in the Canadian Arctic in 2004. Illustration accessed at Hunter College High School’s Web link.

Love. The mother of all four-letter words. Rivaled perhaps only by dead, this one minuscule word populates worlds and propels us.

Please join me in this world, for a flash fiction challenge.



To the tips of her cilia, she knew—wordlessly—he wasn’t her type anymore. She was unbreakably brine, and he was earth-bound.

At the end, she undulated alone as all about her desiccated.

The "Devonian explosion" (mostly in fish species) gave way to a later mass-extinction. Illustration from Mind-Blowing Science.

The “Devonian explosion” (mostly in fish species) gave way to a later mass-extinction. Illustration from Mind-Blowing Science (link below, in “Research”).

Written for Week 102 of the Trifextra challenge, this 33-word story must touch on love gone awry. Check out the other writers and be amazed–or nerve-wracked, as I am, in going head-to-head (or heart-to-heart as the case may be) with such talented folks. And while you’re there, vote for your favorite(s), up to 3.

Research Bits:

  1. National Science Foundation, on mass extinctions, invasive species, and the Devonian Period
  2. Mind-Blowing Science, on five major mass-extinction events
  3. National Geographic, the Devonian Period 
  4. Humboldt State University’s Natural History Museum, on the Devonian Period
  5. University of California Museum of Paleontology (UCMP), Geologic Time Scale
  6. UCMP, The Devonian Period
  7. ScaleNet, glossary of terms related to zoological nomenclature (including “type”)
  8. Earth magazine, tetrapod tracks reset thinking on four-legged evolution