Sunday, July 19, 2015

Game Fiction Volume 1

While all the pieces came together, I’ve been maintaining radio silence on some happy news. Now I can finally tell you that my story “Distractions” was accepted for the first volume of the “Game Fiction" from Gold Shader press and will be available September 1st. I am very pleased “Distractions" found a home there and I look forward to reading all of the other contributions. Here’s the information I have as well as the cover design.



The resistance builds an MMORPG to remind future generations of what life
was like before first contact with the spacefaring Corpuchi civilization-

A space between levels torn open by hundreds of gamers ‘looping the glitch’
causes time itself to contort into an infinite recursion-

Elite Mine Sweeper Ray Esposito discovers that the undead workers he’s been hired to clear carry his employer’s dirty secret in their veins!

These are just three of the thirteen stories found in our inaugural collection. GAME FICTION VOLUME ONE!

I will keep you updated on information about pre-ordering and purchasing the anthology as September approaches.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What I Read in June

Another tough month to whittle my favorite stories to five or so I prefer for this column. In particular Nightmare and Clarkesworld offered several fine stories.

  1. The Wanderer, in the Dark of the Year by Kris Millering (Clarkesworld) Now this is why I read Clarkesworld. Fantastically invasive story that reminds me of Michael Swanwick’s Passage through Earth last year. A kidnapped correspondent bonds with an alien taken in by anti-Roma terrorists. The alien described as a kind of mitochondrial mat and the unusual structure of the narrative: multiple beginnings and endings communicates effectively how much was lost and gained during the encounter. 
  2. Five Spikes by Nicholas Diehl (DSF) Excellent macabre story about a boy, a witch, and zombie spikes. The closest thing I’ve read to a Shirley Jackson story in a while.
  3. The Cellar Dweller by Maria Dahvana Headley (Nightmare) Another great story from Headley. This dark fantasy is a little bit Gaiman, a little bit Barker, and a whole lot of something very distinct and appalling. In an unspecified village, a girl grows up as a kind of exterminator for the hungry spirits in old homes.
  4. The One Mission by Patricia Russo (DSF) An example of what Daily Science Fiction does so well - giving a venue for tiny perfect stories. Russo’s central idea is that the various departments of a generation ship have devolved into a series of tribes keeping the functions of the ship going on the basis of interlocking oral traditions. There is so much here that cries out for more stories. Very, very good.
  5. The Hole in the Hole by Terry Bisson (Clarkesworld) An interesting character study about two friends who stumble on to a wormhole to the moon, hidden in a difficult-to-find junkyard. A very Rudy Rucker set-up becomes a Neal Stephenson-style tale of entrepreneurial mayhem. Of particular note is how Bisson uses urban fantasy motifs in telling a science fiction story.
My favorite reprint last month appeared in the Weird Fiction review, Mutation Planet by Barrington Bayley. A longer story detailing the weirdness pervading the universe and the uniqueness of the human preoccupation with exploration. I marked this as an older story even before I had it confirmed in the post-script. The language is somewhat clumsy, the dialogue rang false, and the politics of the piece are not encouraging. Even so, the sheer volume of ideas in the is piece and the refreshing Barlowe-style aliens are very interesting. One of the better pieces I’ve read this year on the basis of sheer weird ideas alone.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Getting Ready for Thursday's Reading

Now that school's out for the summer, I turn my attention to tomorrow's reading at the Woburn Public Library. In case you're interested, I'll be reading first (my friend Nick Mancuso will read later in the evening).

At the moment I've got the two flash pieces I'll be reading: "Children of Frogs" and "Belongings." I'm sort of torn between a sci-fi piece called "Distractions" and a ghost story called "Those in Exile." "Exile" is a bit shorter which might be better for the evening but I really like the other story. I might just call an audible when I get there.

Anyway, if you're interested in listening to a few stories, turn out at the Library at 7:00 pm (45 Pleasant Street, Woburn, MA 01801). There will be refreshments.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Cyberpunk!

Way back in the 80s I'd treasure the few moments I could convince my parents to drive the 15 minutes or so to the local bookstore so I could slip to the back, find the science fiction section and read a few RPGs in the half hour or so it took them to circumnavigate our very small, very sad mall. One of the games I looked for was Cyberspace, which had an 80's awesome cover, truly inexplicable rules, and a courageously specific future-setting.



Last night, my good friend +Alex LaHurreau found a nearly mint copy of this classic RPG in a Worcester used book store. The feelings came in waves.

The cover is every bit as epic as I remember but the true gift was flipping through the timeline the creators put on nearly every page. I've included a few below. The predictions range from comical to poignant. Having hacked a few RPGs myself, I don't post this in the spirit of mockery but in a legitimate sense of awe. I remember reading these pages with absolute credulity and poured through the hyper-specific character generation system (you could buy a voice modulation implant for a character that raises/lowers the frequency of his/her voice - each octave of adjustment sets you back $1500!) with a genuine sense of discovery. Every generation presumes it knows the future, but was there ever an era capable of imagining a world nearly as weird as our own while being wrong in nearly every way?

This book was published in 1989...

Oh, the long and bright future of home faxing.

One of my absolute favorites.

Pretty much right.

Also weirdly close.




Sunday, June 7, 2015

What I Read in May

This list will be a bit longer than previous post if only because there was so much I read this month that really appealed to me. I think two or three of them were instant favorites for the year, but I’ll withhold judgement until a few months have passed. As always, the list presented below is in no particular order.


Pacific Flotsam (2015 Morgan Crooks)
  • The Two Weddings of Bronwyn Hyatt by Alex Bledsoe (TOR.com) Bledsoe’s story is the kind I normally skip as the first scene involves a girl trying on an beautiful dress and making wedding plans. However, something about the protagonist's flinty dialogue kept me reading. I'm glad I did as within a few swift pages I was hooked. Bledsoe sets his fantasy pageant in a backwoods Virginia rife with European fairies intriguing with indigenous fey. The bride, the Bronwyn of the title, navigates through the needs of her own family and the machinations of rivals. This is a genuinely tense scenario with clever twists.
  • An Ocean of Eyes by Cassandra Khaw (The Dark) I’m recommending this story on the basis of its ghastly and strangley dignified setting:  a city ruled by dead, hungry gods and the fools lured to their own destruction. One of a handful of stories I’ve read this year bringing something fresh to Lovecraft Mythos.
  • Time Bomb Time by CC Finlay (Lightspeed) Finlay weaved an elegant mental claw-trap of a story. To say too much about the plot is to ruin the effect but suffice to say it revolves around two characters stuck in a bizarre situation unable to perceive that anything strange is going on at all. Very well constructed. Finlay is able to take a simple idea (almost a gimmick) and make it the heart of a distressing morality play.
  • Disharmony by Ken Poyner (DSF) A weird micro-fiction involving an alien race that uses music for weapons and the terrible results of getting into war with them. Evocative language in service of an unsettling idea.
  • For the Love of Sylvia City by Andrea Pawley (Clarkesworld) Science Fiction stories should introduce a world too weird to be possible and too compelling to be ignored. This story hits the mark on those two levels and so many more. The craft here is notable, Pawley able to conjure up entire post-human societies in the space of time it takes a person to swim to the surface and back.
  • The Red Light is Blinking by Kealan Patrick Burke. (Nightmare) The Red Light is a rather troubling piece seemingly one pitch away from being the next Blumhouse horror movie. Having watched my fair share of Blumhouse films I don’t mean this as a criticism. The writing was taut and effective but also nasty and morally questionable. Just the way horror should be some might say.
  • Poof! by Laura Walden Rabb (Driftwood) A literary speculative piece about an artist striving to reimagine painting for the future. After first creating moveable paint Marx Shepherd invents disappearing paint. All of his work will at some point disappear and the story uses this idea to point to something interesting about the nature of art and life. A small but entertaining story.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Fallout 4

In terms of nerd culture moments, this year has already exceeded my wildest hopes.

And then this morning happened.

Fallout 3 is my favorite game of all time. So yeah, this game has big shoes to fill for me. That said, I'm incredibly excited for it. The graphics look updated and fresh. There are hints of an epic, poignant story (the rumors have it the player character wakes up from Vault 111 after centuries of cryo-sleep looking for his missing family).

And, the setting is Boston (sometimes rumors are right)! I don't even know what more can be said except I look forward to visiting some of the sites in-game and real-life.

The only question left: How many weeks or months do I have left to decide on PS4 or XBOX One?




Thursday, May 21, 2015

Update on Public Reading

II mentioned a couple months ago that I will be reading some of my work at the Woburn Public Library and I now have a few more details to share.

First off, the reading will not just be myself but will also feature the literary talents of Nick Mancuso, who is an incredibly talented writer.

Second, the event will last 7:00 to 8:30pm and refreshments will be available.

I hope to see you there!

Lastly, within the next couple of months I'll have another development to share. It's hard to keep quiet about this but for the moment I'll have to be vague. 

I'm including the posting from the Library's website in case your interested:

Local Author Reading featuring Morgan Crooks and Nicholas Mancuso
Thursday June 25, 20157:00 AM until 8:30 AM


Join us on Thursday, June 25, at 7PM to celebrate the work of two local authors: Morgan Crooks and Nick Mancuso. 
Morgan has had his stories published in the Daily Science Fiction website as well as in anthologies released by Burnt Offerings, Dark Hall Press, and Mystery and Horror LLC. By day, he teaches ancient history. Essays and reviews are also available on his blog ancientlogic.blogspot.com.
Nick Mancuso earned his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Fairfield University and he teaches writing workshops at the Woburn Public Library. His work has appeared in Spry Literary JournalFoliate Oak Literary Magazine and the Garbanzo Literary Journal, among others. You can visit his website at www.nickmancuso.net or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Nick_Mancuso
Light refreshments will be served, and handicapped access can be arranged by calling (781) 933-0148.