#ShortStory: The Trial

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Since it’s Friday I thought I’d share another short story with you. I hope you enjoy it.

The Trial

The Judge presiding over my case sat on his oversized and overstuffed throne. He was one of the three men who decided over life and death in our city. Judge Farris had a reputation for being a hard case. He’d put more people to death during the culling than all of the other judges put together. He would be the one who would decide if I was a useful member of society or not. If he decided I wasn’t, that would be it. I’d lose my head. The thought of the executioners axe coming down on my scrawny little neck made me want to run to the bathroom again. I hadn’t stopped needing to pee since my number had been drawn.

In every town, in every part of the world, identity numbers had been thrown into wooden boxes and one by one our numbers were drawn to decide if we would live or die, depending on how useful we were. Prisoners were executed first, and prisons stood as empty, reminders of the past. Then the over sixty-fives were crossed off the list, their assets seized by the state and their organs recycled. Those with IQ’s under 110 were also immediately crossed off the list and deemed as unfit breeding stock. The culling had begun two years ago, and the executioner was very busy.

I’d been one of the lucky ones who’d had those extra two years of life. It had taken the courts longer than anticipated to get through all the numbers. They’d only managed to execute about two thousand people in our city over the last two years through the court system, not including the prisoners and over sixty-fives. Two years of daily executions can be deadening on the spirit, but I’d had the time to meet my nephew, see a few more sunsets, and enjoy the feel of the sun on my skin, which so many others could no longer do. It’s amazing how the small things that count when your number could be up at any moment.

The world population had reached the nine billion mark. Famine and water shortages raged.  Governments all over the world came to the conclusion that there was only one solution. The courts were tasked with deciding on which members of society were the most productive, whose life had the most value. My mother had been one of the first to go. She had been over sixty-five. My sister was a teacher, with an IQ of 130 and therefore useful. My brother, a farmer, was also found useful in a world where there wasn’t enough food and too many lawyers and accountants. The old university degrees, once so sought after, were no longer as important as they once were — now it was genetics and intelligence that mattered. If university graduates didn’t have an added skill, or were not the best at what they did, or were not classified as good breeding stock, they were crossed off the list; even being prematurely bald was a reason for being culled. No ordinary citizen was safe.

My heart felt as though it was trying to escape from my chest. I understood its desire for escape. The thought of running away had crossed my mind more than once, but there was nowhere to run. At this rate, I’d die of a heart attack long before the trial was over, saving the judge the trouble of deciding my fate. My trial wouldn’t take long. I’d have a day at the most to convince them that I was worthy to continue breathing. I was allowed to plead my case because I had good genes and a relatively high IQ, but the question was: was I useful? Was a writer needed in this new society? Was a freethinking author someone they wanted to keep in the new world order? I didn’t hold out much hope. I wasn’t a bestselling author or famous; the rich and famous were pretty much exempt for their ‘social’ contributions.

The courthouse had been built in 1802, two hundred and fifty years ago, and had survived two world wars and an attempted bombing two years ago by terrorists protesting the culling — they’d only succeeded in blowing themselves up, four more people the courts didn’t have to worry about. The wooden panelling on the walls of the courtroom was a dark mahogany and made the room feel solemn and yet strangely warm.  It felt right that my fate would be decided in a room as old and as grand as this one.

“Marin Brown,” the Bailiff called. I heard my name through a wall of nervous fuzz in my ears.

I walked down the stairs and stood in the wooden box, where the Bailiff told me to stand, my legs wobbling under me. I wasn’t sure how I’d manage to stand throughout the ordeal. Judge Farris sat on my right, looking down his nose at me. His white wig looked like it dated back to when the court had first been built; it probably itched like hell. His eyes were dark and cold. He probably only had another five years to go before he too was culled. The thought gave me some comfort, but not much. My bladder wanted to go, but I would have to hold it till the end, there would be no recess.

The Judge banged his gavel a few times, calling the court to order. The wood hitting wood reverberated through my brain and made the hair on my arms stand up. I spotted my brother and   sister sitting in the front row. They would speak on my behalf during the proceedings. It was up to them and the few people who had read my work to convince the judge that my life should be spared. There would be no lawyer to defend me; the few left were too expensive for a poor writer. I would have to argue my own case, fight for my own survival.

The judge looked over the rim of his glasses and stared down at me from his judgemental height. His beaked nose reminded me of a Dickensian character. I couldn’t decide if he looked more like Martin Chuzzlewit or Fagin.

“Stand up properly young lady,” Judge Farris said. His voice was hard. “This court has been called to order, and you will stand to attention throughout the proceedings. If you sit at any time I will make my ruling immediately, and it will not be favourable. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” I choked. My tongue was too thick for my mouth. My brother’s neighbours, who were often spectators at trials and had seen Judge Farris in action, had told me that the Judge felt that standing to attention was a point of respect, and failure to do so was to demonstrate contempt. He’d once made a pregnant woman stand for several hours before declaring that she had to have an abortion. It had been her third child, and unless she was prepared to have one of her other children culled, she would have to get rid of her latest addition. He had also declared that if she didn’t start practising safe sex, she, too, would be culled.

“Would those who are here to speak for this woman stand?” Judge Farris instructed. My sister, brother, a few fellow writers, and a couple people I didn’t know, stood. Together, they didn’t even fill up half of the front row. There had been a public announcement letting people know about my trial, the usual notification that went out for all trials, asking anybody who knew me to show up and speak on my behalf. Notifications, however, were only sent out the day before the trials.

“Your testimony must be completely accurate. If you are found to commit perjury, your status will be called into question and you will find yourself in the dock. Is that clear?” The judge instructed.

The witnesses for my defence nodded in unison. My stomach fell a few notches. Nobody would lie for me or exaggerate my usefulness — I wasn’t worth dying for.

“You,” the judge pointed at my brother, his short, cropped blond hair, calloused hands, and deep tan screamed that he spent many hours working the land, “step forward.” Jason took a few tentative steps closer. “Come closer,” the judge commanded. “Stand where I can see you properly.” Judge Farris leaned forward in his seat. “Who is this woman to you?” The judge asked.

“She’s my sister, Your Honour,” Jason replied.

“Besides being your sister, is there a reason she should be allowed to continue to exist in our midst?”

“Y… Yes your honour,” Jason stammered. “She’s a very talented writer, she helps my wife with our child, and she cooks really well, and she pays us rent when she can.”

“Did you get permission to have this child?” The judge asked with a furrowed brow.

“Y… Yes your honour.” Jason’s face turned white. The implication in the judge’s question was obvious. If he didn’t have permission, his son’s life would be forfeit.

“And your sister stays with you?” Judge Farris raised his eyebrow.

“Yes your honour. She used to stay with our mother and looked after her, but when Mom was culled, my sister moved in with me and my wife. We needed help with our baby because our nanny was culled.”

“Why was your nanny culled?”

“She was classified as being poor breeding stock, but as you can see my sister is from very good breeding stock.”

“Is she?” The judge looked over at me. I felt his eyes roving over every inch of me, judging me, looking for imperfections — they wouldn’t be hard to find. My slightly crooked teeth and pale blue eyes, indicative of eventual bad eyesight, were painfully obvious. Even though I didn’t need glasses, my eyesight was not perfect and the judge would most certainly use it against me. Then there was my broken nose too, which I’d broken when I was six while trying to prove that I could climb a tree just as well as Jason.

“You may be seated.” My brother was dismissed. His testimony hadn’t lasted as long as I thought it would. At this rate, my trial wouldn’t even last an hour. I had a feeling the judge had already made up his mind.

He then called up my sister, Iris, to testify. She looked every bit the teacher, but unlike me, her eyesight was perfect. She and Jason both had brown eyes, the same as our mother. I’d inherited our fathers blue eyes and poor eyesight. Her testimony was even shorter than my brother’s. He asked her only one question. “Does your sister make enough money from her writing to support herself or is she a burden on your brother and you?”

My sister looked like a doe caught in the headlights.

“She’s not a burden, Your Honour,” Iris finally managed to say. “She pays her own way.”

“Does she?” Judge Farris leaned further forward and eyed my sister over his glasses. Iris took a step backwards. Her lower lip shivered, usually a sign that she was about to cry.

“Dismissed,” the Judge said, and sounded bored. He leaned back in his chair and sighed. “Next,” he said without looking to see who would be speaking for me. I didn’t recognise the man who stepped forward. He wore an old tweed jacket and looked like a university professor.

“Have you read this woman’s work?” The Judge asked.

“Yes,” the stranger said.

“Did you enjoy it?”

“Yes.”

“Would you buy anything else she wrote?”

“I think so, yes,” the stranger said looking at me and smiling. I tried to smile in return, but my face didn’t co-operate.

“Dismissed.” The Judge then looked at the handful of people still standing. “Are the rest of you all here to give similar testimony?”

They all nodded in reply.

“So noted. I’ll stipulate for the record that the remaining witnesses all stated the exact same thing as the previous witness.” The Judge banged his gavel when audience members started to chatter amongst themselves at his decision. The stenographer typed out his stipulation. His decision recorded for posterity. “Looks like I’ll make my tee time after all.” The judge sounded pleased with himself.

“May I object to that ruling, Your Honour?” I asked, my voice just above a whisper.

“No you may not.” Judge Farris banged his gavel again. “I’m ready to deliver my verdict.”

“But I haven’t had a chance to defend myself,” I said, my voice rising above the sound of the gavel.

“I have made my decision and there’s nothing you can say that will change your fate. You are a burden on your family. You are not prolific enough or good enough to compete with other high calibre writers. There is not room in our society for yet another mediocre author. I therefore sentence you to death. You will be sent from here to your place of execution. There will be no reprieve.” The Judge banged his gavel.

My sister collapsed in a hysterical heap. My brother stared at me, his mouth open in shock.

“Bailiff, take her away.” I heard the Judge’s words as though from a distance. My skin tingled on my face and I desperately needed to go to the toilet, but I refused to embarrass myself. I promised myself that I would be culled with some dignity.

We’d all heard the stories of how some people carried on when they were led away, the hysteria. I would leave that to my sister. I squared my shoulders and allowed the bailiff to lead me out. There was a part of me that still clung to some small hope that the judge would change his mind, that he’d realised he’d made a mistake, but I knew those hopes were futile. The judge never changed his mind.

I would be dead before sunset.

There was a short queue waiting for the executioner in the holding cell. There were three trials everyday, of which two, at least, ended with a death sentence. It didn’t happen often that one of the judges allowed someone to carry on existing, especially Judge Farris.

Another woman waiting to be culled sat in a corner, sobbing. She had paint splatters on her clothes. From the way she was dressed, she looked to be an artist. I sat down next to a man who stared at a spot on the wall opposite us. There was nothing remarkable about him. He was dressed in a simple, cheap suit. His shoes were cracked and looked more plastic than leather. He rocked himself slowly. The shock of where he was and what was about to happen to him stamped on his face. I probably wore the same shocked look.

Two men in uniform came into the holding cell. They headed straight for the woman in the corner and dragged her out. I heard her scream as they took her down the passage towards the chopping block. Next would be the man sitting next to me. I would be the last of the day. The executioner would take a break between each of us; apparently chopping people’s heads off is hard work. Two hours later, they came for him. He went quietly. He hadn’t said a word while we waited and he was silent when they culled him.

They’ve come for me. I try to stand, but my legs betray me. One of them helps me to stand and I thank him. My mother taught me to be courteous. I thank them again for helping me to walk, with some dignity, to the execution chamber.

The chopping block is a huge piece of black granite with a hollowed out bit where I place my head. They tried to wash away some of the blood from the previous two victims, but they missed a few spots. The site of the blood makes the little bit of food I managed to get into my stomach before my trial travel back up my throat, I swallow it back down. I hate that I will die with the taste of bile on my tongue. It’s rather rude that they didn’t even give us a last meal.

The executioner stands with his axe resting on his shoulder. The blade looks sharp enough. I hope he’ll be able to do it with one blow. He looks strong enough. I kneel and place my head in the hollow. I’m grateful that they didn’t allow any family members to attend. It’s a private matter. It’s just between me, the executioner, and whatever god I believe in. Only problem is I’m not sure any god exists.

Well… I’m about to find out.

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This story originally appeared in AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers  in 2013.

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The Race is out!

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

the-race-new-ad-2

My experiment with Sci-Fi, The Race, is now available from all your favourite stores for $0.99!

It’s already getting some pretty good reviews:

“A cool, clever little story with more depth than you originally give it credit for. Superb pacing (fast and furious) and a great action packed romp, peppered with delightful f-bombs!”- Melissa Delport, author of Rainfall.

“A great, action-packed read that’s part “The Hunger Games” and part “Gladiator”.
The Race may be a quick read, but it packs a mighty punch. Loved it!” – Monique Snyman, author of Muti Nation.

“Verdict: A fast paced tale with a sassy central character. 8/10” – Paul Simpson, Sci-Fi Bulletin. You can read the full review from Paul here.

To read an excerpt from The Race pop on over here.

Remember to let me know what you think of it once you’ve read it!

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The Race: Excerpt

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

The Race is almost ready to be unleashed on the world, so I thought I’d give you a sneak peek.

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the-race-new-cover

I wasn’t wearing my own clothes.

A headache pulsated through my brain, reminding me of the time that bastard, Jake Stanton, roofied my drink at a club a couple of years ago. The unpleasant memory of waking up in my car in the middle of an empty parking garage, naked and alone, made an unwelcome appearance. Jake had left a note saying: “Thanks for the memories,” stuck to my bare breast.

I found him a few nights later trying to pull the same shit on another girl. I guess I could have called the cops, but then I, and my past mistakes and issues with authority, would have been put on trial, not Jake. My way was so much better, and far more satisfying.

I made him drink the girl’s drugged wine with my flick knife pressed against his crotch. I waited for the drug to take effect and then had my fun. He woke up naked, tied to a tree, and with a big, pink, plastic dildo shoved up his arse. Apparently he had difficulty walking for a week or so, but he never drugged another girl after that. The girl I helped didn’t even bother to say thank you. Gratitude seems to be something that not many people feel anymore. I wasn’t expecting her to name her first kid after me, but a simple thank you would have been nice.

But this time was different, and more confusing. I woke up in a cell with twenty other women, wearing a baby-pink tracksuit with a zip-up top and hoody, and running shoes that didn’t belong to me. They fitted well enough and they smelt new, but there was no way in hell I would ever willingly wear pink anything. My cell phone, car keys, wallet, and flick knife were all gone.

Bastards!

The distinct briny smell of the sea drifted up my nostrils, which was impossible since I didn’t live anywhere near the ocean. In fact the nearest ocean was about a day’s drive from my home—if I drove really fast. The walls of the cell were slightly damp and had that salty smell you only get when you’re at the coast. My tongue was also thick from dehydration and whatever drugs they’d given me.

Some other women, locked in another cell, looked as though they’d escaped from a Xena convention. They looked like body builders, with those fake dark tans that were supposed to show off their over developed muscles. From the looks of them and the way they flexed their muscles they’d had a few too many testosterone injections.

The rest of the women in my cell were dressed in similar tracksuits to mine, they also looked as confused as I felt. The fear on their faces made me a whole lot more nervous than I’m used to being.

The warrior women flexed their muscles some more, did push-ups, or gave intimidating stares to the scared women in tracksuits. They seemed to be pumping themselves up for something. The Xena wannabes also had swords of varying types. I wondered if they’d been at some costume party, except the swords looked a little too real and a little too sharp for cosplay.

No one spoke.

I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d managed to get myself locked up in the local drunk tank. Except the last time I’d been locked up there, the place looked and smelled different. The local drunk tank usually had a hint of piss and puke in the air, not the ocean. Then there was the small problem that I didn’t remember getting drunk. I tried to come up with a logical explanation, but failed. The drug idea was the only plausible explanation, until men with machine guns showed up and dragged us, quite literally, out of the cells to a ship docked outside. The ship hadn’t seen a coat of paint since the Second World War. My Grandfather might have sailed on it.

We joined more women on the ship. I counted a hundred of us, all from different parts of the world—from the looks of things. About twenty per cent were dressed in warrior costumes, and could give the Williams sisters a run for their money in the muscle department. They looked determined. I, on the other hand, was scared shitless.

The ship’s engine sputtered to life, jerked under my feet, and messed with the delicate balance maintained by my inner-ear. Soon, we headed out into the open ocean. The waves smacked into the ship’s hull, causing the motion sickness that affected my balance to grip my sensitive stomach. A few other women in tracksuits threw up over the side of the ship. That was it. I lost my lunch or dinner. I didn’t remember when my last meal had been. All I tasted was bile and seawater. To make matters worse I was now completely dehydrated and it didn’t look like we’d be getting anything to drink soon.

The men with machine guns prowled the decks and the warrior women eyed each other suspiciously, while the rest of us cowered. It was the most surreal experience of my life. I kept expecting a fight to break out between the testosterone-soaked women, or to be shot by a machine gun wielding goon. Perhaps I’d taken some weird drug and this was all just an elaborate hallucination, but I didn’t remember chewing any shrooms, so that theory didn’t fit either. Not being able to come up with any kind of reasonable explanation for my current predicament was annoying, to say the least. I knew I’d been drugged, but I sure as shit hadn’t done it to myself. The pink tracksuit was testament to that.

One of the Xena lookalikes appeared next to me, smoking a cigarette. The blade of her sword looked like it had seen some action. Small nicks peppered the shining edge. The leather on the hilt was sweat stained and worn.

“Why are we here?” I asked her.

She looked me up and down. Sizing me up, deciding whether or not to kill me right then and there.

“We are warriors,” she said in heavily accented English. I couldn’t place the accent, but she looked Spanish or Portuguese.

“I’m not a warrior. I’m a fucking bartender,” I said, trying not to screech.

“It would seem they disagree,” she said, gesturing towards the cabins above us, and then she was gone, swallowed by the rolling mist that enveloped the ship.

It was the icy breath of an unquiet sea. It matched the fear mounting inside me.

The ship jolted and came to a sudden stop. I slipped, landed hard on my arse. It took a few attempts before I managed to get back onto unsteady feet. My butt ached. One of the guards tried not to laugh. Relief at the thought of his humanity flooded through me; I almost cried. Almost, but not quite. His laughter disappeared as quickly as it had started. He probably realised he wasn’t supposed to be a human being, that he was supposed to be a killing machine. The barrel of his machine gun pointed at me. But I’d gotten a glimpse of his humanity, and that knowledge could come in handy later.

I heard a thump coming from the port side of the ship, followed by women screaming. Running feet approached, fast. Using his machine gun, the guard gestured for me to follow the direction of the screams. My stomach churned and my scalp tingled. Hysteria started to curl itself around my spine, taking a firm grasp.

They herded us down the gangplank. Angry shouts mingled with screams which dwindled down to incessant sobbing.

The mist cleared once we were off the ship.

I found myself standing on a white, sandy beach. If it weren’t for the guards with machine guns and women with swords, it would have been pretty idyllic.

The mist closed around the ship again, making it simply disappear. Thoughts of the Bermuda triangle and the Island of Doctor Moreau surfaced on my fear fogged mind.

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African Speculative Fiction Society is launched

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

I’m very excited to announce that the African Speculative Fiction Society has been launched! Here’s the official press release.

African Speculative Fiction Society

PRESS RELEASE AUGUST 2016

ANNOUNCING NEW AWARD FOR AFRICAN SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY & NEW BODY FOR AFRICAN SFF PROFESSIONALS

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ASFS logo

 

A new award for African Science Fiction and a new professional body for Africans SFF professionals will be formally announced at the upcoming Ake Festival.

The African Speculative Fiction Society will promote science fiction and fantasy by Africans. Its 60 invited Charter Members include writers, editors, artists and publishers.

The members will nominate and vote on the new, multimedia Nommo Awards for African Speculative Fiction.

The Nommo Awards have four years’ worth of prize money in advance thanks to benefactor Tom Ilube. Says Mr Ilube, “Science fiction is important because it looks ahead to African futures.  Fantasy and fiction based on traditional tales is important because the link us back to our forebears.  Both are important for African development.  I wanted to make sure that the explosion of African science fiction gets the recognition it deserves.” 

The Nommo Awards and the ASFS will be formally announced at the Ake Festival this coming November. From then on members of the African Speculative Fiction Society will be able to nominate works in four categories: Best novel, best novella, best short story and best graphic novels. Each year, prize winners will share $3,000 of prize money.

The first prize-giving ceremony is scheduled for November 2017, as part of the Ake Festival. Plans are afoot though to alternate the ceremony between West and East Africa.

Chinelo Onwualu, editor and co-founder of Omenana magazine is the lead spokesperson for the African

Speculative Fiction Society. She says … “The ASFS will provide a place where writers, readers, and scholars can come together to find information, connect with each other, and act as watchdogs for their collective interests.” 

The award is pan-African and is open to authors and artists with African citizenship, or who grew up in Africa or who live abroad and have at least one African parent.

ASFS NATIONAL SPOKESPEOPLE

REGION CONTACT NAME CONTACT
Chief ASFS Spokesperson Chinelo Onwualo chinelo.onwualu@gmail.com
Kenya Moses Kilolo mkilolo@gmail.com
Malawi Shadrek Chikoti shadai79@yahoo.com
Nigeria Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu frednwonwu@yahoo.com
South Africa Nerine Dorman nerine.dorman@gmail.com
Uganda Dilman Dila writing@dilmandila.com
United Kingdom Tade Thompson tadethompson@gmail.com
Zimbabwe Masimba Musodza masfin@gmail.com

FOR FURTHER DETAILS PLEASE CONTACT US ON info@africansfs.com OR VISIT www.AfricanSFS.com

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Guest Post: Alasdair Stuart

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

Headshot-AlasdairToday we have a guest post by fellow Fox Spirit author, Alasdair Stuart. Alasdair is a freelance writer and journalist based in the UK. He writes genre fiction journalism for them, hosts podcasts for EA and blogs about making whoopee pies (Amongst other things) at www.alasdairstuart.com. He can be found on twitter at @AlasdairStuart.

Here’s what Mr. Stuart has to say:

I used to be a comic retailer. Not a seller of comedians, those are called agents and they get 10%. I got staff discount (WAY more than 10 percent! In your FACE, Ari from Entourage!) and a free education in contemporary western comics. It was a good deal, and it taught me three things;

1-The comics industry is always about to end. Seriously. I read message boards (And don’t they just sound quaint now?) at the time which posted a weekly summation of Marvel’s stock price. It was always falling. So was the sky. Both of them in fact were falling when I left the job. The store’s still there. So’s the comic industry. The sky? Well that’s debatable.

2-It is entirely possible to have a conversation with someone without ever actually doing anything other than monosyllabically acknowledging that you haven’t died. This is why I once spent an afternoon tidying the store whilst a gentleman spent three hours cheerfully explaining that Superman was a bit like Jesus.

3-Everything is always someone’s first issue.

That last one is both the most important and bares some explanation. Comics are an eternal bus route, there will always be another issue along in a month. Many of them assume basic knowledge of the characters involved, many more assume intricate knowledge. This is a bad thing. It means the comic corrals an audience in place, constantly playing to the same beats, the same crowd, the same audience secure only in the knowledge they will dwindle and fade. For some this is a good thing, after all nothing sells like an issue 1 relaunch of an old title. For others it’s the last stop on the way to cancellation.

The best titles are the ones that don’t do this. There are a bunch of ways to avoid it; run a series of mini-series like Hellboy or run a mini-series as a pilot episode for an ongoing like Haunted. Thief of Thieves has a particularly smart way of keeping things fresh where each storyline functions as an ‘episode’ and features a new writer each time, all of whom work from a pre-written story bible. All these techniques keep the book sharp and fun and accessable. All these techniques also ensure that every issue is either a first issue or gives you enough information to treat it like one. At the absolute worst, books structured like this may not let you jump on straight away but will let you know when you can. Accessibility is the key to an audience and an audience is the key to you getting to finish your story. The lesson, for me, was simple; always make sure what you do is accessible. Never assume knowledge of either internal detail or actual project.

That brings me to Escape Artists because it strikes me there’s no guarantee you’ve actually heard of them. Not the type of magician (One of the guys in my troupe did escape artistry. Until the night where he got a boy scout on stage to tie the knots in a sack escape. Then he did card tricks for a while.) but the company. Escape Artists Incorporated produces three podcasts;

-Escape Pod (www.escapepod.org) is a science fiction podcast. Every week it runs an SF story, normally round 30-45 minutes long. Asimov, Clarke and Heinlein have all made appearances but the show’s lifeblood is new authors like Aliette de Bodard, Alex Wilson and Ken Liu.

-Pseudopod (www.pseudopod.org) is a horror fiction podcast. It tends to run a little longer, at 30-55 minutes. Again, the greats have all hit Pseudopod Filesthere including Thomas Ligotti (Due on episode 350), Christine Brooke-Rose and Rudyard Kipling. Again though, the show focuses on new authors like Vylar Kaftan and David Tallerman.

-Podcastle (www.podcastle.org) is a fantasy fiction podcast. Podcastle’s length range is huge. They’ve run flash one week and a Podcastle Giant (Over an hour) the next. They, again, have done the classics like Robert E.Howard and, again, specialize in new authors like Lavie Tidhar, Wendy Wagner and Zen Cho.

Every single episode is free. Every single one. Every single author, despite this, is paid (Well aside from Kipling. We’ve emailed and emailed but he’s just not sending us his PayPal details…). We do this because we rely entirely on donations to cover every single one of our costs and, and this is the kicker, we release everything under a Creative Commons license. Every file is always free to download and distribute yourself, as long as you make sure the original author is always credited and you don’t try and sell it or pass it off as your own work.

I say we because I’ve hosted Pseudopod for six years and I’m seven months into co-hosting Escape Pod. It’s my favourite ever job and, like I say, I used to run a comic shop and be paid to read and tell other people how great what I’d just read was. On the podcasts I get to do something similar, talking about the stories, what they meant to me and what they evoked. I get, literally, to sit in front of a microphone and talk and, as you can tell by this article, I do like to talk.

Even better, I get to do what two of my role-models did. Growing up, I was very fond of two TV shows; Midnight Caller and Northern Exposure. The first featured Gary Cole, King of the Character Actors, as Jack Killian an ex-cop turned latenight talk show host. The second featured John Corbett as Chris Stevens, the DJ in a small Alaskan town filled with glorious eccentricities and a near continuous awareness of the fourth wall. Those two shows, and those two characters, got me through some very rough patches. I learnt that if I was articulate and open and interested in everything then I could communicate that interest to others and, sometimes, make their lives better.

I could, in other words, be someone’s first issue-style window into a story I loved.

Plus I totally pretend to solve crimes and build trebuchets. Or, in this case, to point you at close to a 1000 wonderful stories you may have missed, all available for free. Even better, if you’re an author? Submit. All three podcasts pay. Check the submissions guideline pages below for details:

Escape Pod: http://escapepod.org/guidelines/

Pseudopod: http://pseudopod.org/guidelines/

Podcastle: http://podcastle.org/guidelines/

Nearly a thousand stories, each free, from some of the best authors in the history of their respective genres. As first issues go, you don’t get much better than that.

AUTHOR WEBSITES

Aliette de Bodard – http://aliettedebodard.com/

Ken Liu – http://kenliu.name/

Alex Wilson – http://alexwilson.com/writer/

David Tallerman – http://davidtallerman.net/

Vylar Kaftan – http://www.vylarkaftan.net./

Wendy N. Wagner – http://winniewoohoo.com/

Lavie Tidhar – http://lavietidhar.wordpress.com/

Zen Cho – http://zencho.org/

You can get your copy of The Pseudopod Tapes from Amazon!

Afro SF is OUT!

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

AfroSFThmbCoverI’m very proud to announce that AfroSF: Science Fiction by African Writers is now out!

AfroSF is the first ever anthology of Science Fiction by African writers only that was open to submissions from across Africa and abroad. It is comprised of original (previously unpublished) works only, from stellar established and upcoming African writers: Nnedi Okorafor, Sarah Lotz, Tendai Huchu, Cristy Zinn, Ashley Jacobs, Nick Wood, Tade Thompson, S.A. Partridge, Chinelo Onwualu, Uko Bendi Udo, Dave de Burgh, Biram Mboob, Sally-Ann Murray, Mandisi Nkomo, Liam Kruger, Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, Joan De La Haye, Mia Arderne, Rafeeat Aliyu, Martin Stokes, Clifton Gachagua, and Efe Okogu.

“The stories in AfroSF feature all the things fans of science fiction expect: deep space travel, dystopian landscapes, alien species, totalitarian bureaucracy, military adventure, neuro-enhanced nightlife, artificial intelligence, futures both to be feared and longed for. At once familiar and disarmingly original, these stories are fascinating for the diversity of voices at play and for the unique perspective each author brings to the genre. This is SF for the Twenty-first Century.” — David Anthony Durham, Campbell Award winning author of The Acacia Trilogy.

“I’d like the repurpose the title of an old anthropological study to describe this fine new anthology: ‘African Genesis.’ The stories in this unprecedented, full-spectrum collection of tales by African writers must surely represent, by virtue of their wit, vigor, daring, and passion, the genesis of a bright new day for Afrocentric science fiction. The contributors here are utterly conversant with all SF subgenres, and employ a full suite of up-to-date concepts and tools to convey their continent-wide, multiplex, idiosyncratic sense of wonder. With the publication of this book, the global web of science fiction is strengthened and invigorated by the inclusion of some hitherto neglected voices.” — Paul Di Filippo, co-author of Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010.

“This is a book of subtle refractions and phantasmic resonances. The accumulated reading effect is one of deep admiration at the exuberance of the twenty-first century human imagination.” — A. Igoni Barrett, author of Love is Power, Or Something Like That.

“AfroSF is an intense and varied anthology of fresh work. Readers and writers who like to explore new viewpoints will enjoy this book.” — Brenda Cooper, author of The Creative Fire.

You can download your copy from Amazon.com!

Afro SF Anthology

Hello my Freaky Darlings,

My short story, The Trial, has made it into a ground-breaking anthology. Afro SF is the first anthology of Science Fiction written by authors on the African continent. Genre fiction is finally making headway in Africa and I’m rather proud to be a part of this. So … here’s the cover and the line-up.

‘Moom!’ Nnedi Okorafor, ‘Home Affairs’ Sarah Lotz, ‘Five Sets of Hands’ Cristy Zinn, ‘New Mzansi’ Ashley Jacobs, ‘Azania’ Nick Wood, ‘Notes from Gethsemane’ Tade Thompson, ‘Planet X’ S.A. Partridge, ‘The Gift of Touch’ Chinelo Onwualu, ‘The Foreigner’ Uko Bendi Udo, ‘Angel Song’ Dave-Brendon Burgh, ‘The Rare Earth’ Biram Mboob, ‘Terms & Conditions Apply’ Sally-Ann Murray, ‘Heresy’ Mandisi Nkomo, ‘Closing Time’ Liam Kruger, ‘Masquerade Stories’ Chiagozie Fred Nwonwu, ‘The Trial’ Joan De La Haye, ‘Brandy City’ Mia Arderne, ‘Ofe!’ Rafeeat Aliyu, ‘Claws and Savages’ Martin Stokes, ‘To Gaze at the Sun’ Clifton Gachagua, ‘Proposition 23’ (Novelette) Efe Okogu.

Afro SF will be available to download in December!