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Are highly intelligent or very talented people better able to hide their misery from loved ones, thus making it all the harder to “read” them and help them?

Vote! (5,786 votes) 137 comments
75,657 Deviants Online

Literature Basics

    Ever feel like no matter what you do, you just. can't. write?

    You're not alone. Many other writers have been in the same situation, left frustrated and exhausted trying to get through this. But what can you do about it?

What is Writer's Block?

    According to wikipedia 
"Writer's block is a condition, primarily associated with writing, in which an author loses the ability to produce new work. The condition ranges in difficulty from coming up with original ideas to being unable to produce work for years.

Steps to Overcoming Writers Block

  1. Quit. At least for now, take a step back and breathe. The more you struggle the more worked up you become and the worse the block seems to get. Before anything else, give your mind a break for a bit and come back. Sometimes that's all you even need to do. Remember, your mind, just like your body needs rest.
  2. Disconnect & Organize. Clean up your writing space, close the tabs on your computer, turn off your phone and wi-fi. Get your area set so you can focus on your writing without clutter and distraction so you can keep your focus solely on writing.
  3. Try Something New. I understand you're on the 15th chapter of that novel you dream to publish, but since any writing you may be getting out really isn't that good, set it on the back burner and try something new. A different story, genre, style, theme... just do something new and different.
  4. Explore. A lot of people have their "writing spot", where they're comfortable and have the peace to get things done. Since that's not working for you right now, it's time to change your surroundings; take a notebook and go somewhere else. Explore the world around you for inspiration; Go for a walk, to the park, the coffee house, the bookstore, go to mars. Go somewhere, anywhere.
  5. Plot Away. So the story your writing isn't working out, but you've got ideas bouncing around in your head like it's an intense game of pingpong. Write them down and outline the story. Get an idea of what you want in it, how you want it to go, etc. and get it all down. Sometimes once you look at it all on paper the ideas just start flowing like an avalanche again.
  6. Prompts. And you thought I forgot this one? Prompts are a hit or miss. Some people snap out of writer's block with prompts, workshops and such, some people don't. You'll never know until you try. There's plenty of prompts on dA alone, then you have the entire internet as well. Give them a shot and see what happens.
  7. Just do it. Just write, even if it's complete and utter s#!*, write it anyways. Get your mind flowing, ideas rushing and sometimes that's enough to snap yourself out of it. Free writing can help jog your mind, creativity and kick this block in the face.

How Writer's Block Can Actually Help You

    While you may be looking at this as the end of writing, wondering if you'll even be able to produce a shopping list this week - sometimes it can help. Overcoming writers block by breaking your routine can help challenge you and bring your focus to other points and areas of literature. 
    If you experiment, try new things and change your surroundings; you may find yourself adding to and/or improving your style.
    One of the main ways to prevent writer's block is to have a routine or schedule. For example "write every morning for 15 minutes" or "go somewhere on Tuesdays and Thursdays to write". By putting this forth to reduce/eliminate writer's block, you're also disciplining and training yourself to be a better writer.

Reader Questions

  • Have you ever suffered from writer's block? If so, how did you over come it?
  • Do you have a "system" or "plan" on how to prevent and/or overcome writer's block?
  • Have you ever noticed anything specific that leads to your writer's block?


Lit Basics Week

It goes without saying that being noticed on dA as an artist isn't easy. Add in the fact that you're submitting literature to a predominantly visual arts site and you have an even lower chance of being noticed. Your friendly Literature Community Volunteers do their best to feature an array of poetry and prose, but even that is only a single day feature of ONE of your deviations. Getting a following or even just getting deviants to read your lit and give feedback is hard work. But you'll see a common denominator amongst those deviants that have made it.

It's community involvement. You shouldn't expect to receive if you're not willing to give. But how exactly can accomplish that? Is going to random Lit Groups and leaving critique on a dozen or so deviations a week enough? Probably not. Will participating in group challenges, prompts and contests get you noticed? Not by itself. What if you run a weekly or bi-weekly feature article of Literature on dA? Still, no.

There really isn't one sure way to get that much craved for attention. It's more a combination of things. So I took to polls, notes and chatting with the deviants of the Literature Community to put together a list of sorts.

  • Give feedback. It doesn't need to be a full blown ten page critique, but leaving a comment instead of just faving a deviation goes a long way. Lots of deviants will return the favor by browsing through your gallery.
  • Get involved with Groups. Pick a few groups that you personally enjoy watching; whether they be general submission groups, genre specific or just ones that have awesome prompts and contact them. Ask them if they have any open positions available. Or if you have a new idea for a feature or prompt series, run the idea by them.
  • On the subject of groups, don't lit dump your work. In other words, don't submit your deviations to 50 groups and hope for the best. Pick a few groups that are active in the community and submit your work to just those. Be involved with others submitting to that group. You'll get feedback and maybe make a few friends along the way.
  • Pimp yourself. That's right, I said it. Use the Thumbshare Forum, write something for every contest, join feedback groups, comment on Daily Deviations, ask for feedback in the Literature Forum using the current month's feedback thread (found as a sticky at the top of the forum) or self suggest your literature to the Lit CVs for Daily Deviations.
  • Post a regular journal. Deviants want to know that you're real and not some robot that pumps out chapter after chapter. Post a journal once a week and tell them a little about yourself. AND remember to respond to comments left on your journal.
  • Consistently submit new stories, poetry or chapters. There's nothing worse than finding a series of stories that you love and all of a sudden the writer drops off the face of the earth and doesn't post anything new for months. Sure, it's okay to take a hiatus, but write a journal letting your readers know that. On the same note, don't over saturate the system with four new chapters every day. That clutters up your watchers Message Centres.
  • Involve yourself with other writers. That's not just leaving feedback/critique for them, but also watching them and commenting on their journals. Make friends!
  • Cross post. There's a reason why dA includes easy share links on deviations. When you submit a new poem or chapter of your story, make sure to use the tumblr, twitter and FaceBook buttons to share your work.
  • Use commissions. That's right. Not everything is free. Use artists' commissions or start a thread in the Projects Forum asking deviants to draw your characters or a scene from your novel. They get the benefit of practicing their craft (and the :points:) and you get the added exposure when they post the artwork for their watchers to see.

I'd like to give much thanks to the following deviants for providing meaningful ideas, comments, insights and lots of pie bribery:

bryosgirl C-A-Harland MarcoEmma mormonbookworm TarienCole

Useful Links

Reading as a WriterHave you ever set down a book for good because you found something in it you don’t like? If you want to write, I suggest that bad habit end now.
Why, you ask? Because everything you read—and I mean everything–has positive value for you as a writer. Stephen King, and any author worth his or her salt, is a huge advocate of writers reading massive amounts.
Again you ask, why? How can everything be useful? There are a number of reasons and I’ll cover as many as I can.
Reading bad literature teaches you about yourself and shows you what to avoid—or at least how not to do something—in your own work. If you run across something that you don’t like, stop and ask yourself why you don’t like it. Is it just a personal preference? Was it out of place or poorly executed? Does it contradict something from earlier? As soon as you figure out the “why” of something’s badness, you learn a little about yourself and you
  dA Writers-Get NoticedIt's hard being a writer on dA. For every one writer, there are at least 15 artists, 10 of which are fan-artists. And why would people turn away from fanart, comics, and/or yaoi to read your poetry/prose? You have to give them a reason.
This tutorial will take you through a few steps which will hopefully bring your writing more attention, If you'd care to read:


I cannot stress how crucial this step is. Once you have your 1st draft done, revise for typos and grammatical errors. On the second time, read it out loud to revise for flow. Then check again for grammar and spelling. Read it again, revise word by word.
Can you create more impact with the same amount/less words? If you can, do it.
Now, here are a few things you should keep in mind as you revise.
          1a.Start BIG
          In most lit thumbs, the first 110 or s
Writing Useful Critiques

This article is written for LitResources. Our goal is to be a collection and creation station for all resources pertaining to literature on deviantART. This article will feature the wonderful world of critique! DeviantART staff recently made it possible for unsubscribed members to leave critiques using the premium feature, so we thought it was an opportune moment to educate the community about the many facets of critique.
If, after reading the article, you have more information or resources to add, please leave your thoughts in a comment! And don't forget to :+favlove: this article to help spread the word.

Critique: What It Is, What It Is Not

Though the distinction might seem obvious to some, people often confuse writing a critique with writing a review.
To make it plain, a critique offers thoughts and advice for improving a piece of literature or art. Cri
  Crit Ticks for the Critics"He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help." - Abraham Lincoln
You've read guides, you've heard the propaganda, and now there's no going back. You've decided: "I want to write critiques too!"
Looking out over the gray expanse of dA, you spot a poem. Or a photograph. Or a juicy piece of digital art, and you know exactly what you want to say. Or maybe you don't, but you slog through, making the effort. And voila! A click and you navigate away, grinning, imagining the artist's delight when the deviant opens his or her message center upon the next log-in.
You left a critique, whether as a "critique" or in a comment box, but, as is inevitable in all short stories, something goes very very wrong. A mere day after you clicked submit, you receive a hurt and snarly reply informing you that you are a horrible-horrible person, and a shallow one at that. A literary terrorist, even, or a photographic floozy -- a wannabe painter who should

PE Feedback: How to Give a CritiqueHOW TO GIVE A CRITIQUE
It's a great thing that you want to critique other deviant's works and help them improve their skills through your constructive feedback. By critiquing fellow deviant's works, you are developing your critical thought and vision and thus, developing yourself as an artist. However, critiquing is not all about pointing out what others did wrong.  As ChewedKandi has pointed out in 'How To: Critiquing Artwork' "a critique is giving your opinion in a constructive manner about a subject - be it a piece a music, a piece of art, the meal you've just ate and so on."
That's the main point of this article: to share a few pointers on how to give a quality critique while providing links to a compilation of useful guides that focus on this very same topic.
Introduction: Let's start! :eager:
First things first! You've come across a piece of art that caught your attention and
  A Guide to Individually Hosted Contests     Hosting a contest as an individual as opposed to in a group can be a little intimidating since you don't automatically have the support of your admin team behind you but with a few simple things kept in mind one can just as easily make an individually hosted contest a success.
Gathering Prizes
     Before even announcing your contest you will have to make sure that you can provide a presentable selection of prizes and unless you are exceptionally wealthy and got some extra change you won't be able to offer several premium memberships or thousands of points, especially if you are planning to hold regular contests. While there is always the option to ask for prize donations via a pre-contest journal or simply collecting points all year round with your donation widget, you cannot rely on these being successful.
     But contest prizes don't have to cost you a lot or to be honest they don't even have to cost
  Why Comment in the First Place?Many people ask themselves (sometimes on a daily basis) why they should comment on a piece of work. Whether it's just a deviation that pops up into our message centres or a deviation on deviantART's home page, what makes us decide whether we should, or even want to, comment on that piece?
Why do we bother? Or more importantly, why don’t we bother?
This guide explores the thoughts that we may have, the excuses we make, and, hopefully, a few thoughts to encourage you to comment, not just with a few words and that's it, but to really give a fellow artist a constructive comment that they deserve... that we deserve.
What is mentioned below is by no means accurate or complete and it does not apply to everyone. It was written by ProjectComment as a Group, by deviants, for deviants and we sincerely hope you enjoy reading this.
A massive thank you to annajordanart, catadescour, katdesignstudio, Jenniej92 and xblackxbloodxcellx who all contributed in the maki
What is Worth Critiquing?This article outlines a few questions to ask yourself before you request critique on anything.
1. Have I self-critiqued my piece?
Have you given the piece a thorough examination, looking for ways you can improve, parts that could be removed/added to, techniques that might work better, etc?
If you haven't reviewed the piece for yourself, I highly suggest doing so before you request critique. Self-review is a skill you need to develop as an artist in order to improve. Critique from others is wonderful, but learning to apply your own critique to your pieces will help you produce better art on your first attempt.
2. Is the piece of good quality?
Do not request critiques on doodles, first writing drafts, snapshot photographs, etc. Critique should be reserved for a piece you want to learn from and improve, which means the piece should have required thought and time to complete.
There are always exceptions to these sorts of rules. A drawing that is half-way completed, for

Groups You Should Be Watching

:iconcrliterature: :iconscreamprompts: :iconthewrittenrevolution: :iconwritersink: :iconwriters-workshop:

and :iconbeta-readers: though they're currently on hiatus.


Lit Basics Week

Wow, yes, emotions; they stir us, they sometimes rule us.

For your written world to come alive this critical element must be rightly imparted into your work. Your character’s emotional state is something that needs to be grasped in meaningful ways in order for a reader to begin caring about what is happening to them. Likewise, poets who write verses that do not express an emotional range will have lines that fall flat and lifeless on their intended readers.

Emotional Range

Emotions are not one dimensional – each has a broad range of expression. For example, anger can be experienced anywhere from a mild annoyance, prompt bitter retorts, or become a barely-contained, seething cauldron; long before exploding into an unbridled rage. Often, intense feelings move through several stages all in one event.

Additionally, emotions seldom appear that are pure in their source; celebrated author and counselor H. Norman Wright, MFCC, CTS describes what most people experience under great duress, such as undergoing a tragic loss, as a “tangled ball of emotions”. Any parent will readily identify with this when an impulsive action by a child causes an apparent injury. First a leap of fear or dread coupled with compassion and concern, and then if finding the injury to be minor, anger rears at their unsafe actions which is coupled with relief. This melts to a determination to apply corrective instruction—all within a few moments. To engage a reader in any depth these complexities must be reflected in ones writing.

A Vital Part of Communicating

Communication with people in real time is an exercise in continuous involvement. We take in not just the spoken word but their accents and inflections, tone of voice, and body language. Poor communication results when any one of these elements is overlooked or ignored. Speaking to these elements in your writing will greatly improve the reader’s ability to engage in the story and enjoy a higher level of satisfaction.

A problem in conveying intent when these cues are lacking is illustrated quite well in our online writer’s community, as being misunderstood is a common experience. On another front, ‘Tweets’ from celebrities are constantly seen trending that require follow up explanations, apology or retraction because of an unforeseen consequence or unexpected public response. Many in our DeviantArt community find ‘emoticons’ helpful to properly set the mood or express raw emotions; yet even these can be misunderstood. For example there is the enigmatic :D – Playful? Gloating? Sarcastic? Without a clearly expressed context even these sorts of things are easily misunderstood.

:iconimhappyplz: ……….. :iconimnottrustingyouplz: ……….. :iconcryingplz: ………… :iconangryplz:

Body Language

Body language contains too much potential for emotional impact to ignored in your writing!

For added depth, “Shela, enraged, leapt at him.” could read; “Shela's wide-eyed, open-mouthed shock quickly deteriorated to clenched teeth; eyes narrowing to grim slits she leapt at him.” This gives a brief progression to the emotions of the moment and adds those visual elements of body language.

“Ignoring Ben’s smirk, Rosa continued; Albert at least remained non-oppositional.” adds a nice group dynamic to what could be a numbing monologue and tempts the reader to briefly reflect their own experience into what non-oppositional may look like.

“While the tone was even in Henry’s speech, one couldn’t miss the twinkle in his eyes” makes implication of a quiet or underlying emotion that the reader is invited to ‘discover’.

Let emotional feelings emerge

Allow space for expressing complex emotions

Incorporate intentional movement in a scene, including time and body language to maximize reader involvement. For example, the simple “Having read the text Lars despaired.” Could be expanded perhaps to; “Lars drummed his fingers, staring blankly at the screen. Finally, reading it again – more slowly, he searched for some nuance that would mediate the rawest interpretation of what he’d read. With growing dread, he searched again, but the naked truth found no moderation—he sunk into the remorseless clasp of despair.”

Use words and phrases suggestively

Provide rich context for added subtlety

Give your readers credit.  Allow them to discover and buy into the emotions of the character. “Having become flushed; she surprised herself.” Implies, as in real life, that a character is not always sure where the root of an emotion lies. A solid context then allows the reader to make implications from such statements. For example; "Glaven gave Marian a brotherly peck before departure – having become flushed; she surprised herself, they had been estranged for so long.” Is a much different feel than this use of it: “Having become flushed; she surprised herself – his reputation was as disfigured as his form. She returned his gaze unwavering.”

:iconcryplz: .......... :iconlaughplz: .......... :icontearsplz: .......... :icongrrplz:

Employ creative form and punctuation for added emphases

Use the hammer sparingly.
You know the hammer don’t you; one example – “I HATE you!!!”

While the writer is seeking to impart power a reader often finds it trite; this is not at all what is meant in creative punctuation. Two examples follow that use flow breaks and creative punctuation to allow readers either feel hesitancy or urgency depending on their fashion:

“I’m sorry Ma’am, I…
well, I thought better of it.”

Coming up short she choked a horse whisper;
"Stop—Stop!  Shhhh…
Shit! It's no good—run!"
The last encouragement rising to a near scream.

The State of our States

Where the writers own emotional state drives many young writers to begin expressing themselves through the written word, this source will be found to be lacking in the ability to attract wide readership in the long run. A writer must find and develop the ability to address emotional states much more objectively in order for characters to emerge that are not merely pale shadows of an author's current mood.

Well, there is much more that could be said of course, but there is a risk that an encouragement to consider a matter may become a tiresome sermon. I have much room for improvement myself. I hope my DA friends find a small nugget to grow by.

Room for Discussion

How does one write of emotional states they have not personally experienced?
What can a writer do to detach him/herself from their own state to delve deeply into another’s?
How can powerful emotional states be expressed without being trite?

When and How to Edit

Sat Jul 26, 2014, 6:00 AM by neurotype:iconneurotype:

Lit Basics Week

Earlier in the week I got into what editing is and how to love it. Now, let's talk about the entrée following this apéritif: when to edit, and how to do it. And, perhaps even more importantly, how to stop.

Stop, you say?!

Yeah, it's really not that hard to get caught up in this perfectionist funk where all you do is wind around in circles on the same piece. Curb it from the beginning by having an idea of where you want to end. What should the reader walk away thinking about? What should the reader walk away feeling? Do things move fast enough to be interesting? 

I stop editing when I get to a point where all my edits are just minor wording tweaks. At that point I'll go back and forth, and I'm not even changing the overall impression the story creates. If it's not productive, it's not worthwhile.

Now that we've gotten dessert out of the way:

When to edit

So you've just finished writing a piece. Put it down. Do not touch.

Go do something else for a few days. Stroke your...ego, kick back and play videogames, read a book—actually, reading a book can be very useful if you know the author does something well that you have trouble with. In the past, I've read Pullman before jumping into edits on science fiction because Pullman's descriptions are so much richer than mine. That way, the original write is still 'me,' but while editing, I've got a good baseline for intended changes.

Okay, have you taken at least three days? (Minimum: if you're still in the mindset you were in when you wrote the thing, take more. You wouldn't stuff your face right after hors d'oeuvres, would you?)

Cool, let's do this.

How to edit

Let's take a moment to discuss what editing is. Yes, there is an element of going back and fixing technical errors, as appropriate for informal writing. People don't always talk in complete sentences, so make sure you're not applying the rigidity of formal—essay—writing to your work without reason.

But the bigger purpose of editing is to consolidate the impression your story leaves on the reader.

  1. Keep the big questions in mind. Is your work doing what you want it to do? Is it engaging—will people even get to the end? Like good food, it shouldn't be so uniformly spiced or bland that people get bored. But at the same time, it can't be too obvious; the changes in pacing and subject should follow naturally.
  2. Reread your story. This is why taking a break is so important. You need the reader's mindset, and readers don't have 50 billion hours of backstory raging in their brains, nor do they already love your work. Note that this also makes it a lot easier to pick up typos. Your brain is no longer seeing what it thinks is there.
  3. Don't spaz out if you don't have the fix to a bad line/paragraph/whatever right away. These things take time. On average I go through about five revisions of a work before I'm satisfied enough. Sometimes changes get undone, too. Mood impacts approach.
  4. Save versions, or use Track Changes (all hail Track Changes). Especially with poetry, where the placement of each and every word matters—not that it shouldn't for prose—you may go through a lot of iterations and not be sure which one is the best version. That's okay. Save them all and do a little taste test when your palate is fresh.
  5. Done? Good. Now read it again. See above for when you can stop doing this.

Make sure your finished work has the right punch, match it with the right wine, and all will be well.

  • I know, I know. There were no actual specific editing tips, e.g. 'delete adverbs,' in here. So, which ones do you swear by?
  • The other thing I didn't cover was where other people fit into this. Who are your beta readers? At what stage in the process do you send them your work? How involved are they with your process?
  • Are you hungry?

July Literature DD Round Up

Fri Aug 1, 2014, 3:47 PM
Features by IrrevocableFate 

American GirlI have half your genetics.
It’s strange to think, isn’t it, that half of my DNA comes from you, and yet we could walk past each other on the street and not even recognize each other.
If we ever did meet, what would we even say to each other? I don’t speak Chinese, and you probably don’t speak English. But here’s a little about myself:
I’m probably taller than you. The nutrition in America is different than in rural China, so I’ve grown like an American girl, not a Chinese one. I’ve cut off my hair three times now, and each time it feels so different and strange, yet each time it’s grown back in. Hair tends to do that. I love to dance. I love to laugh. I’m going to college soon to study and make friends and have fun and hopefully get a job in four years. I like cooking and baking, and I like to think I’m becoming pretty good at it. I’m very good with children. I can read very fast. I know how to knit. Our hands and
  Ghost ShipYou still ghost ship
My Subconscious.
I've been waiting
For you
To drop anchor.
  how you can manage to know so muchshe's barely an inch taller - but still taller -
squinting at the horizon line and heaving tobacco smoke
through resin coated lungs that should belong to a
fourty three year old smoker, not an eighteen year old
she laughs the loudest when others cast glances
and hushed whispers
and never misses the chance to tell you
she couldn't possibly give less
of a shit
she likes convenience store mints;
the round white ones you'd find
at the bottom of grandma's purse that tasted like
dust and chemically sweetened perfume,
and home
she went to a school where "dyke"
was spat like poison at her feet
but knew exactly what to say when three girls
cornered her, knew exactly how to throw her
words like fists
she gets hives from cats and grass and
practically anything outside her door
so she spends most of her time inside,
only leaving to have another
she listens to tool and radiohead
and smokes half a joint before bed to help her sleep
but she still doesn't; not for long
and she twitc
  Seeking Your StarMarch 20, 2014
Some stars burn so brightly, they burst before they see the cosmos unfold. You shared the warmth of your glow with as many as you could before you rose too high for the sky to handle and scattered sacred stardust across it. Your legacy is seen in constellations.
A few days later
Mom called me to the window today to show me a lone star in a cloudless sky. She said she thought of you.
Mother's Day, 2014
Nana told me at lunch today that she heard footsteps in the room where she keeps your urn. She went upstairs to greet Papa several times, thinking the footsteps were his, but found him sleeping. Our waitress gave each woman at our booth a carnation. Outside, sunlight adorned our skin and held us.
I could have sworn I felt you holding us, too.
June 21, 2014
I took a plane out of Chicago to get back home. The sun set mid-flight, tie-dying the sky in orange and red. As we rose over the clouds, my jetlagged eyes rested upon a lone star pinned against
  Neighbors Through the Glass Revised“Do you know why you’re here?”
A menacing spotlight shone on me from the direction of the ominous voice. I shivered, looking around frantically in the darkness. Where was I and how did I get there?
A sigh emanated from the darkness, and I managed to stumble out an answer in response.
“No. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
“We know you didn’t. But you saw something didn’t you?”
I remembered waving to my neighbor from my pod after I’d gotten home from my assigned job as bookkeeper just like I did every day. He was an elderly gentlemen and he lived directly to the right side of me. Our pods were made of glass, like little glass cubicles stacked one on top of the other just like in a skyscraper office building, as the Government described when they first pitched the ideas to the Citizens. They reminded me of a display case for humans. You could see inside each pod on the right and left of your own pod as far as your eye could str
  david and goliath.He passes under
the dying streetlamps'
orange halos,
darkening splashes on his face,
cloud-lungs heaving
against the rooftops.
The tarmac, painted with his footsteps,
whispers, purrs,
white lines of vertebrae
tickle along its back.
Lovely glass, shattered fragments
ruffle the curb of the pavement,
strands of rainwater
whisper along the gutter
in hymnal honesty; and sunlight seems swallowed
by the swollen beast of night.
The stars
prickle at the back of his memory,
a nervous pattern of speech,
syllables of iambic chattering
teeth against the cold:
the hotel window, shining with
the gaze of a thousand tourists' wonderment,
is where his own eyes rest,
as if the world is born anew
and love-songs spike the evening air
his life-tousled hair. He
walks on, passes on,
a stranger in a foreign land;
the moonlight seems
to turn about him, embrace his form,
a lonely touch, not quite animate in its caress,
but his love was the colour
of seawater on gravel,
and he would not take the taste of her brea
  every chance i didn't take IIYou tell him about your cancer on a Sunday,
in the shower of all places, in between brunch plans
and speculations about whether or not the weather
will ever get any colder - hasn't it been the strangest November?
Just the strangest.
You casually mention that somewhere
deep in the secret space between your hips
your own cells are proliferating uncontrollably,
whispering treason and passing down forgeries,
teaching each other the steps of mitosis with alarming intent.
You don't miss a beat as you drop survival percentages
mixed in with tomorrow's rain forecast
and predictions about the game later that afternoon -
easy as breathing, even as counterfeit armies
shred through the soft tissue just below
his favorite place on your spine.
And as you stand there
calmly making conversation
and sharing the last of the soap,
he watches the water
run quiet rivers
through your hair.
  drowning with himthere’s this boy i work with.
he is five.
he wears long sleeves
and shorts with holes in them
that are only kept together with
small clothespins and thin threads.
his hair is always cut close
to his skin, though his bangs are left
just long enough so it covers his eyes
and i know no one can see them.
but i always watch him.
only sometimes i will allow myself
to watch over someone else, even though i know
this boy will only continue to follow me.
he asks me to play,
he asks me to speak,
and sometimes, he even asks me
to hold his hand.
they are always cold and strong,
with calluses and chipped nails
that dig rough into my skin,
and his voice is always hard ice,
roaring like pounding hail through a storm.
but most of the time, he fights.
he hurts the other boys. they are small
and they fight over pieces of chalk,
over shovels and pales and who gets to play
on the swings, but they throw punches
like i’ve seen adults do.
sometimes i look at them
and i see the ripple of muscle,
  to giovanna cenamimother goddess,
your whole deep greens
& your pale yellow slivers of sun
& then the blue sky sleeves
with your open fertile hands blossoming
out of them, small & serene.
your gaze a red innocence, heavy with curiousity
& need.
the white
white veil
won't dare
touch your
cheek bones.
it graces your glowing forehead, forgotten entirely
after the shock of love in your glance.
you know this man's  
profound black browns, his steady eye
the flickering immodest uncaring of calculation
hung over his lids, over the hazy grey
of city sky, this hard bent man stooped
with briefcase in hand, thickly
cloaked, thin lipped, top hatted.
you the warm unnamed bride & he
the sharp nosed Man
you the pleasant & powerful, indulgent
of his every little
lovely evil,
the eternal forgiveness in the curve
of your lips, the unspoken
colour of power. you the patient
the unending source.
  Nine TimesI saw him nine times.
The first time we were both sitting in the room together, getting ready to take the math test that would determine our placement. I was scatterbrained and throwing things around, trying to find the pencils that I had known I would need but had still just tossed in my purse. He was lounging backwards in his chair, looking for all the world as though he didn’t have a single care in the world, including the upcoming test. It annoyed me, that I was frantic and ready to scream, while someone else could be that relaxed.
I tested out of the class.  
I don’t know if he did.
The second time I saw him, it was a few months after I arrived on campus. He was the one rushing and frantic this time, running across the square. He was probably late for class, though I had no way of knowing for sure. I was already lost in my own thoughts and ideas, deciding on my major and convincing people that yes, this is what I really want to do with my life. If they weren
  SolaceShe never slept well in the dark,
not without the children of the sun and moon
to guide her weary lids home.
Guided by the aftermath, she was always two steps behind.
What did the world look like to the girl who had been through it all?
Braved the heaviest of storms,
yet skipping over cracks in the pavement.
They said her eyes were the wisps of clouds before the storm.
To him they were reflections of pages overlooked.
She said it was like she lived the life of someone she had never met.
Laid out to dry, yesterdays news.
He knew her as the girl who was built to never collapse.
He wished he was too.
He loved her more than words could say, and yet her pain was such,
that at times, he feared she wouldn’t make it.
But on nights like these, even when it threatened to consume her,
he became convinced that somehow she would.
  Bo.When Lindsay was born, Bo was there. Standing beside her mother, he was the first thing she ever saw. But he was not her father; her father stood on the other side.
Bo was there until the very moment she died.
The sun shone bright through the windows of her pink-laden room. She loved pink. And black.
“Because Bo is black,” she’d told her parents.
Her imaginary friend, they soon concluded.
“Bo is all black,” she described one night as her father tucked her in, “His skin and his hair and everything. He doesn’t talk a lot.”
Her father frowned.
“He sounds scary.”
“He’s not,” she insisted.
Bo sat on the bed and said nothing.
Her father kissed her good night and turned out the light.
“Why can’t Dad see you?” she asked.
Bo shrugged.
“Are you real?”
“Are you real?” he replied.
“Of course!”
“How do you know?”
“Because...I just
  if you need help making it through the dayremember:
there are
flowers growing
in gutters
and pavement
cracks where
nobody planted

Features by GrimFace242

Mr. FiveI checked my watch as I strolled down the halls of the Midvane Asylum. My supervising officer hadn't told me what I was walking into, unfortunately for me. A male nurse met me at the building office. His scrubs were smeared with what I assume was saliva, and his glasses were uneven on his face. He had no hair on his head, but there was a black soul patch staring at me from his chin.
"Are you here about Mr. Five?" the nurse scrawled across a clipboard as he spoke.
"Mr. Five?"
"Yes, the patient that we called about. You were told what the situation was, weren't you?"
The nurse sighed and nodded towards the door of the office and walked out. I followed him down the hall, struggling to keep his pace. He never looked up from his clipboard on our trip through the Asylum halls, even when he had to step around gurneys and patients. I kept the brim of my hat tipped forward throughout the walk. Something about the way crazy people stare, it unsettles me. The nurse tilted his head back towa
  We Hold HeartsWe Hold Hearts
Angela Malzow 2013
    The water rippled, it was nearly silver as it reflected the white washed, full moon. The breeze began to die down until an eerie calm embraced the air. A collective cooing of nature whispered from the darkness within the thick forest which surrounded the mirrored pool, there in that lush vale.
    “Drop it in,” came a rough and masculine voice.
    Sapphire irises caught the moonlight as they fixed on the source of the voice. Smooth, rosy lips tugged as a hiss escaped from between neatly aligned, stark white teeth. “I will drop it when I'm good and ready!”
    The two stood on opposite sides of the small pond and glared at one another.
    He was a man of brutish quality wearing thick, battle scarred leather. His weapons defined the kind of warrior he was through axes of varying sizes and all bore the same sigil imprinted in the blades. His jet hair dusted his shoulders and f
Saku sono ki
Harukaze ni mau
Yurumeta te
Dakishime tometa
Sagashitemo muda
This blooming tree
Dancing in the spring wind
The hand I've loosened
Ceased to embrace me
It's futile even if I search for it
  What I gave youI unfairly gave you,
Many wonders this world doesn't own
Many pipe dreams I painted for you
The rainbow butterfly of my love
Gentle treasures buried in my very soul
The phial of my affection...
...That you drank in one go
Drying me to my last heartbeat.
You gave me ashes back
Sealed in a mocking funeral urn.
Even bullets couldn't wound me 
As much as your sadistic smile.
Despite leaving me all alone, again
I still forgive you. I still believe in you.
On the gloomy road
And I walk, and I cry, and I feel
A chill of loneliness.
  Heart Sold.i stand before you
my heart drugged
pride swallowed
as all i want
is your ever
  The Left Is Sinister                I would ask a favour of you, dear reader.  It’s a simple task, one that anyone can accomplish, be they young or old, man or woman, of any religion or race.  I want you to think back, though not far, only to the beginning of the day, when you yawned so wide you could have swallowed a whale and stretched your arms to the stars, to the first thoughts when sleep abandoned you and consciousness returned. I want, no, I need you to tell me which side you were lying on when you first awoke.
                See, I’m a good man; this isn’t some dreadful school examination. It is but one simple question with four simple answers. You were either lying on your back, fr
  FACTORY DEMON FORKLIFT BATTLEIf you've ever had the wondrous experience of working in a factory, you would quickly replace "wondrous" with "tedious," and then "tedious" with "bang-head-on-wall boredom." Allow me to enlighten you on the subject.
Making vehicular sun roofs is one part automation, one part frustration. You place a metal, rectangular frame on a "nest" of suction cups right after signing it with your John Hancock and Julian date (ensuring that quality control can hunt you down). A robot that resembles a mechanized dragon neck takes a piece of glass off the conveyor belt with its suction cup head. The borders of the glass have been primed and slathered by two other robots with a smeary black goo called urethane (also known as "WHY WON'T THIS COME OFF?”). The robot then rotates the glass towards you, where it eases up to your nest and plops it on there, only to reel back and fetch another piece for the other two build-stations.
You then flip a lever to suck the glass down onto the frame, which crea
  Last WordsIn the beginning you never want to let her go,
and so you don't for a long, long time.
You commit to bobby pins underfoot, mismatched
plates stacked like landmines,
long hairs that circle and clog the drain, filling the tub
with stagnant water.
You tell her something that you love about her
each night before you fall asleep,
until one day you look at her and realize that you
don't know what to say anymore.
“I am not happy.”
You whisper this to yourself once and then try to say it louder,
but the words won't cooperate.
Maybe a whisper is as loud as this thought can exist,
or maybe some words weren't meant to be spoken aloud,
but you still think them, and yes,
you whisper them to yourself
when she isn't listening.
Perhaps this is what you should have been telling her
each night as her hands searched for you in the darkness.
This isn't happening, you think,
unless it is.
You wonder if you owe her something,
like your heart, maybe, your red hooded sweatshirt,
  .Red lips.I see you every night with the same lipstick.
Red lips open and close with the music.
They leave a mark on your empty glass..
The ice is melting slowly, as you wait for him..
You are looking at the crowd with restless eyes.
You don't leave hope behind.
Every night at the same table, patience.
You play nervously with your cigarettes.
I want to talk to you..
But I fear an empty smile out of politeness
Your magic would be gone just like that.
We look like now..
Every night I wait for you.
I look forward to when our eyes will finally meet.
  The Heart Necklace A child sits numbly at a table 
the chairs across from him are empty.
Children race about around him 
and he watches as their attention dashes through him. 
He wears a heart necklace the red of a summer sunrise
and plays with it idly between his fingers. It can be split in two but it stays as one. 
Someday, I'll find someone to wear this with me 
He whispers, almost as if to console himself. 
A teenager sits meekly at a table 
the chairs across from him are empty. 
Other teens text and chat with their friends 
and he watches as one girl smiles at him with honey eyes. 
He wears a heart necklace the red of his blushing face 
and he plays with it idly between his fingers. It is split in two but both pieces are around his neck.
Someday, she may wear this with me 
He whispers, almost lost in his shy giggles.
A man sits proudly at a table 
the chair across from him sits a woman with honey eyes. 
Anyone else w
  Cyclical loveI see a beginning and an end
clasped within the lines of your palms, echoing
in the ripples of your irises;
I remember the apricot april morning
stumbling over your outstretched legs
in the park which I had never seen as
anything more than a cut-through, but
my life changed course and the park
became a destination and I still don’t know
when I noticed that I was waking up
twenty minutes earlier just to
talk to you before work, just to hear
your lilting voice flow through my ears and
fill my mouth with ideas;
And I remember the dew drops kissing my feet
when you convinced me that it was practically illegal
to wear shoes in june and I watched as
the grass pressed hatched patterns into your skin
and for a moment I wished that they were my fingers
holding you in eternal summer lawns, swan choruses,
whirring rollerskates, the smell of peach blossoms;
And I remember you blooming and shedding
the remnants of your cocoon as you pointed out
made-up constellations littering a swelling augu
  Paradigm ShiftEmerging flash of starlight pap
between sunset and ocean cap
colliding spang into my eyes
for once to have me realize
not everything becomes a song,
and I shall sleep before too long.
  [transmissions of a dead girl]i am the
moon: i am
the silver pill
your throat
to weigh down
into leaden eyes--
i am the
moon: lover
of the dark.
the stars are
all dead in their
twinkling dance--
you'll be safe, dear,
as i am the moon,
with all of your
you're alright.
(i am good bye and yet,
you think only of romantic
i am the moon.
i am the crescent
looking dead--
and dead altogether,
i still die.
  Southern modernizationBlack comedy market economy, banana peel political humour, cards with the cartels, the solution free room service and credit the union. Bolivar twist, ding dong dollar under control, valley of the coin desert with no value.  Gangsta paradise, the victims are the people. Big mac and cold conflict interference a part of it all. In little Mexico you’d need a high horse to jump the great border wall that boasts its peak.
Viracocha melts  waters unlike those it rose from, making waves of out of metal oceans to overtake the current south, re-steel, re-take, tech-mechs the entire south into neo-Machu Picchu, cyberpunk music moulding, reshaping old society into an new age, iron dynasty,  fresh coat for an old, ancient look. The coattails of Quetzalcoatl if he were a modern man pull together the merge of future and long passed past..techno temples and the like.
  may as well buy another packcollapse, and breathe into the carpet:
sunday mornings are not
for falling apart, but damn
the amphorics, this
is not an atmosphere.
you fell in love like you always
wish you didn't, made all their
smiles replaceable, interchangeable,
fell asleep with shadows and kept
drinking, just letting yourself sleep
with blue pills
and tried not to scream.
(keep this image in your head:
fire and nectarines, a sudden jerk
of realization, inspiration
breaking your neck and leaving you forever
breaking bones is not so different
from breaking hearts - it's all about
the leverage, the angle, the mode
of attack
(and at least it wasn't personal; 
it can color in your own guilt
for starting lines and never ending
  The Coffee GodThe Coffee God behind the counter shuffles foot to foot, a dance of steam and espresso.  Black painted fingernails, inch gauged ears and a gray striped sweatshirt, hood crooked on his back.  There's a cigarette tucked behind one ear; it bobs and twitches with each step.
“Non-fat caramel latte,” he calls, just as he always does, part of a spell, part of a mantra, toneless (just a tuck at the end).  I reach.  He looks up.
The espresso maker hisses.
There's something like a grin, something like a spark, something like a shared secret linked eye to eye.  When he passes over the drink (rough cardboard sleeve hot to the touch), he lingers.  Our fingers brush, a shiver, a jolt, a ten-watt shock.
The Coffee God tilts his chin, shouts, “Hey, mind if I take my break now?”
and ducks around the counter without waiting for a reply.
He slips his cigarette between his lips without taking his eyes from mine.  I follow him out the door.
  Bad ShotEveryday 
I try 
to crumble up
the remnant pieces 
of my love for you
and throw them in the trash
but I'm such a bad shot.

Features by neurotype

Senryu Series 121.
adjunct office
even the printer
patio nap
he still wakes up
in Iraq
essay due
his grandmother dies
cult documentary
another gnat
in the lemonade
I choose not to round
her grade
my rent
on the preacher's back,
autumn wind
corporate merger
a new boss, the age
of my son
corporate ladder
the boss graduates
with my son
  The InterviewAn office. Inside it is a DESK with TWO CHAIRS. All of it fancy-looking wood. Along a wall hang lots of certificates. The desk holds some photos, a toy or two, a COFFEE CUP. At the desk sits a man, RANDY, probably in his forties. He holds a few sheets of paper - some sort of RÉSUMÉ. He picks up the COFFEE, sips it. These two actions - reading and sipping - engulf him while the following takes place off-stage.
A door creaks. A second's pause.
(nervously) Hello?
(Friendlily) Hello there! Are you here for an interview?
Yes! Hi, I'm Greg!
Well hello, Greg! Could I have your last name, please?
Hm, alright, one second... (Typing noises) Gregory Clark?
Wonderful. If you'll just give me a moment, I'll let Mr. Munroe know you're here.
Enter the WOMAN (DORIS, in case you were wondering). She's got glasses and curly hair and looks like she was born to secretaire.
Mr. Munroe? It's your two thirty.
(Like he's been doing thi
  Ode to Sticky CrickIn the sticky, canoe beer paddled with me
doggedly browning, the creek groaned with
the million year magnolias. Andrew rolled
in the bottled bottom, I slipped into the mud
to push, "gumbo, gum-bo. Gum. BO." I named
the creek new, Gars slid
out of the ferns chasing after dragon flies. Andrew
added his stomach soup to our gravy boat,
drowned by birds all chuckling arrows
pointed down the middle channel, pointing to
no boats, calm watered. Green arms constricted
the world down brook we took.
"Bet Samantha is down
to her panties now son, and we ain't seein'
a bit." Andrew mutters
all apologies around his stomach. Truth is,
we had a better view than a pair of sun drenched ta-tas,
cause the world down Gumbo off the ‘sticky tasted
like I'd dreamed a woman would, smelled like
we never had dreamed up a bomb or a plane, in the million voiced
Frantic; trees crowding around the sun like it'd stay forever.
  VisitorThere is a ghost doing handstands on my front lawn,
wrist-deep in fresh soil. Her hands are birds
in flight.
It's late, but no one comes to take her home.
The pale moon offers a silver smile -
the clouds disapprove.
Too tired to dream, she buries her legs in sky.
Tonight she is invincible, untouchable,
this frail girl beneath the stars
this death in light.
There is a ghost doing handstands on my front lawn,
falling to her white knees. Her stare is a pane
of glass.
The eyes of the living are often murky but
the eyes of the gone
are windows.
from the sea.
she is sallow as a beach.
she smells like rain,
or a wet earth,
with pale hair clipped
behind her head
with pins.
she feels as though her hair
would be black. but it is
brown, sometimes
and sometimes
it is colorless
a fight.
she doesn't speak.
she is silence.
i speak at her, mostly
and her eyes
look as though
they've been plucked
from a lynx
to replace
her own.
they are blue around the edges
the deep blue you find
at the edge of the sea,
if you've been out that far.
at the center they are green
light like a riptide.
they tug you in.
unmoving, and calculating
with audacity.
i said to some
one once,
gave me head.
she didn't.
her hands are too far dug
into the coast of spain
for her to reach me,
far too eager
for my composure.
she'd suck me dry
like her mothers did
the caspian sea,
like the fields of sahara
once lush with green.
she is a barefoot girl.
she moans like the shorefront
in the dead of night.
i've made love to
  Margieoh Margie, Margie, Margie.
your name sounds like snow.
you remind me of oranges.
you're a Polack
and i call you so.
why don't you call, Margie?
where have you gone?
i tried to keep in touch
but in the end i know
it's me.
i've gone.
you're still home.
all the kids who were our friends,
they are just your friends.
we were all in the marching band
but fuck that, Margie, you know
yes you know how i feel about that.
i miss you,
and i barely even know you!
i wanted to see you
in the summer
in your attic
where we'd wear sweaty clothes
and move boxes by droves
and find books,
real books,
French books,
cook books
that all stank of cloves,
and we'd joke,
and imitate the sweet little voice
of the lady who once lived in your house.
she left her books in your attic
and i wonder if you've gone through them,
or maybe your father burned them.
and you said
you'd be getting a job?
that was the last i'd heard from you.
if you wanted to,
i'd open a parlor for you!
a dance hall with burgers
and you
  daughtersmy 5 year old daughter only wants to run
through the park, loping beside our wolf-puppy,
both lean & fierce, joyful
as she tosses her hair back
& suddenly I see my body
in hers, tireless & certain,
despite my pounding heart
& damaged limbs, I run&run&
then she gives for a moment,
tumbled full-length in the grass,
feeding the puppy from her cupped hands,
& demanding, scratch my back too!
then down her sides & over the ripples
of her ribcage, her leaping heart
& tummy, still baby-soft,
until the shadows reach us & I
must give her back, inch by inch,
a long, twirling hug
my mother will echo with sad arms,
murmuring, you look really good,
here, now, when we stand alone,
which never means,
you lost weight or
that’s a pretty dress
only us, watching her
& suddenly glad
we’re alive
  PalaniAt least I got the chance to smoke while I waited for the police to arrive. The tourists on the beach were ooh-ing and ah-ing over the usual night-time performances, oblivious to what had happened in the kitchens of the hotel. It was my job to keep them oblivious, to intercept the cops before any of the customers had their night ruined. They came out to resorts like these to get away from the world. They got to look up at stars they'd never see on the mainland, and feel like the only people under that big, black night, lit up with tiki torches and a dancer swirling a spiral of flame in mid-air. And Kal, my manager, was fixated on keeping them in the dark.
Halfway through my cigarette I found myself watching the fire dance that had them enthralled, when I heard the police cruiser pulling into the hotel driveway. I gave a wave to the driver and took one last drag before putting out my cigarette against the lava rock wall of the building. I knew that would drive Kal nuts, but after what h
  Parental GuidanceWe sit at the table, all four of us. My brother is across from me. My parents sit on either side.
“Go on. Eat it,” says my father.
Across from him, my mother snickers. She can barely hide her excitement. This game is one of her favorites.
I look down at my plate. Chicken, or something. I don’t know because I haven’t gotten to taste it. I’ve been at dinner for about fifteen minutes.
I stab my fork into a small piece. My parents follow the motion eagerly. I bring the fork to my mouth, and then try to jam it in as quickly as possible.
My six-year-old reflexes aren’t fast enough. My father has smacked the fork down.
My mother and father burst into laughter. My brother, across from me, is bored with the game already. He is watching expressionlessly, shoveling mouthfuls in as quickly as any toddler. I watch hungrily.
“Finish your dinner,” my father sneers, barely able to contain a belt of laughter.
I look down at my plate. Pick up the fork. Try
  MaaheWhen the Maaheseum wore off, Onteia knew she was close to death. Her hair had gone white, her eyes were sunken and glassy, her flesh had receded. Those in her pod were the same: decrepit old men and women, none of them older than twenty-five. Outside, the blueshift had pushed every black hole, every brown dwarf, every burst of cosmic radiation from every pulsar in the Galactic Center into visibility. In hyperspace, even someone who never saw the shining beauty brought out by Maaheseum could see what lay beyond the cursory glance that was their lifelong perspective.
The pod was nearing its final destination--the spectacular, unmatched glory of a collapsing star. This was what all Travelers longed to see before their inevitable early death from the drug. Onteia reached into the small container at the center of their pod, where there were enough green-tinted black shards to last a hundred Travelers a decade. She took a piece just over an inch long, and set it on her decaying molars, and b
  Dead ZoneWe met on an art website—you, me, and the Sprout.
Thing is, the Sprout and I didn't really care about art. Only you did. But when I looked online for a school art project and found you two bickering about something pointless in the comments of a picture that had nothing to do with any of us, I signed up for the site solely for the purpose of telling you two to shut up and take it to someone who cares.
So you sent me your Skype contact.
I expected you to start the conversation with arguments or even flirtation, but instead you just asked me how my day had been, as if we'd always been friends and you were just greeting me on a lonely Tuesday night. When the Sprout joined us a few minutes later, haven taken a bit more time to accept contact with the guy who he had been arguing with earlier, his first words consisted of telling you that you typed slower than his three-year-old niece and brought the conversation to the comfortable squabbling that had taken up most of our relationship.
  A Bloody, Stupid Miracle     The day we’d cured the human condition was the day I put a bullet through my head and didn’t die. It was also the day I realized how scared I actually was of death, and after hours of muscle ache from holding that gauze against my open skull, after the wound closed and everything went back to normal, I had myself a good old-fashioned brainstorm. How ironic.
     But when summer came, everything had fallen to shit. The air scorched my skin and parched my tongue every time I took a breath. The sun glared down on a rapidly-collapsing world, full of the undying bastard children of cruelty and misfortune. What was one to do when their cells regenerated faster than they decomposed?
     My feet hit the pavement, now littered with jagged bits of glass to snap at my toes, thoroughly baked by the blazing ball of bitter disdain high overhead. Today was worse than yesterday. Though I’d often wondered the purpose of it anymore, I
  Goggles in MireviewNico swept out of the open manhole. She was grinning like a schoolgirl. It wasn't until I had made this mental comparison that I realised that, in all honesty, she was probably young enough to be a schoolgirl.
“Why aren't you in school?” There was no drive in my words. I was thinking out loud.
She gave me a confused look, a curious smile emerging after a disarmed moment. The grime on her face, fresh and dark from the underground that she had just emerged from, had an element of Victorian orphan about it, especially when combined with her mucky, plain clothes. This is of course excepting the night vision goggles which were resting on her forehead. Out of place? Perhaps. But it was a sign to me of what she was: a poor child with deft hands.
I didn't know much about her. Well, I still don't. But she was young. And she hadn't known any other life than the one she had: drifting through the streets of Mireview, biding her time between voracious thefts and excursions to the roofto
  A Turning Point in the Clockwork WarA war of attrition
depends on supply and drawdown,
how much you have and how much you use up.
With personnel, the balance concerns
the influx of recruitment versus
the outflow of casualties, deserters, invalids.
There is only so much loss
that a fighting force can sustain
and still fight.
Pilot Claude Archer was the first
to challenge his invalid discharge.
"I don't need legs to fly," he said,
patting the healed stumps of his thighs.
"My Osprey runs on elbow grease."
The members of the discharge board
paused and looked at each other.
What he said was true.  
The Osprey-class fighter jets
relied on hand controls,
and a sharp eye and iron nerve.
Fingers flicked through the stack
of discharge papers -- so many, many pages.
So many soldiers lost, never to fight again.
They could not afford to let slip even one
who might be retained, somehow,
to face the front line once more.
Far less could the war effort spare
one of its best pilots.
So they put Pilot Archer back on the roster,
and he
  And Here Is JohnParis, 1917
Here is John, beside me again. Sometimes when we meet he is courtly and charming. Other times he’s tired and he can only muster up a smile as the words “Bonjour, ma belle,” fall out of his mouth. Sometimes his eyes burn feverishly, sometimes they’re dull, sometimes he’s drunk. It depends on where he’s been that day. There are only two things constant about my John: he always manages to smile, and I can always see the fear deep in every line on his face.
Paris is grim; the front is moving closer to the city, and we’re losing more battles than we’re winning. John spends his time here waiting, and afraid. He lost in these brown streets among these brown buildings, as are all the uniformed boys playing soldier.
Only they are not playing, really. Not anymore. Time is short for him, and the front lines rise up and loom in the darkness. He will meet them again soon. He is like a starving man, needing a good meal and a kind wor
  Teenage TaoismGiving birth is the closest I’d ever felt to dying.
Before that, my near death experiences had consisted only of my silent announcement of pregnancy—silent, being that my social media accounts were all deleted almost simultaneously and I never returned to school in the fall, saying without really saying that I had caught the malicious disease of “teenage pregnancy”. I’m sure the whisper spread in the hallways like the Bubonic Plague. That September, sitting at home on what would have been the first day of my senior year, I imagined friends I’d never talk to again saying “she was only seventeen, and so full of life!” at my absence in the cafeteria tables, as if they were attending my funeral instead of talking about me behind my back.
"Full of life," I had snorted then, folding a never ending stream of what had once been my own baby clothes. "Literally."
I walked around like a zombie for the months of my pregnancy, deciding t

Features by ShadowedAcolyte

Heat AdvisoryWe are an air-mass thunderstorm at the height
of an Indian summer -- a cloudburst colliding
into a cyclone, raising the temperature of any
who wander through our sweaty inversion.
I soar above the earth buoyed on your thermals,
straight into a clap of thunder conceived by
lightning fever. A roiling heatwave travels
across our connection, evaporating the atmosphere
surrounding the eye of our storm. Your humid
breath wisps over the thermodynamics of my skin,
pushing cumulonimbus up the drought in my spine.
Muggy kisses trail down my body like volcanic ash,
a haze blurring the lines between our hurricanes.
And as the barometer spikes, my heartbeat quickens;
I am sucked into the vortex of your tropical storm.
  Stories about our fatherOur father is fourteen in this story
so we must imagine him young and slim
and short-shorted,
bobbing on his toes, the quiver
of his racquet like the quiver
of a cat’s tail.
We’ve seen our father play before,
sitting courtside with our action figures
and paper dolls,
deadened to the minor explosions
of balls striking asphalt.
But we are surprised now by the
animal sharpness
in his face, his eyes moving the tight loop
from court to net to opponent
and back again.
And it occurs to us
that we haven’t occurred to him.
Our father is pre-marital,
pre-paternal –
his world blazes between these
white-painted lines.  
But soon we look where our father won’t:
To the stands where
our boy-faced uncles jeer
beside our grandmother, thin and erect
where we know her
soft and stooped.
She raises a hand to the metallic crest of
her hair and calls out,
David! What’s the score!
And it is understandable to us
that he pretends not hear.
That his shoulders twitc
  Beautiful MiseryFrom the first moment
I laid eyes on you
I knew
you were beautiful.
And misery knows misery
and I knew that too.
That’s why
I stayed away.
Because believe it or not
I don’t try to fuck up,
it just comes naturally to me.
  a timeless ringshe wears me upon
her withered hand:
an angel's halo
with no beginning or
end —
she didn't like
or goodbyes
but he brushed away the
drops of jupiter
twinkling on her
promising to
return but it was
just a fool's
and now i am
a memoir of
because he is
dead but he is
not, he is
gone but he is
here, he is
a ghost
alive with
a memory preserved;
she wears me upon
her withered hand:
the crown of a
king lost in battle
and she
grazes me with her
lips and
because soon i
will be a
metaphor and
she will be the
  Graffiti Dreams in Black and White            The strokes are dreamt permanent,
the only lasting demarcations of claiming existence,
and the collective artists who painted them majored in Biology,
or Accounting, or English and Professional Writing, or dropped out
            as so many do when they wake up.
The poet paints them into existence with his words:
                        “ideas are illusions, and all words are untrue.
            And we nod our heads and sip our coffees, indeed,
put a price to labors and words and even to thoughts
because we no longer want freedom if it costs us the freedom
of saving face and keeping pace with the ebb and flow
  Red DirtRed Dirt
I eat only because my body demands it.
In the South pregnant mothers eat red dirt
because it gives them what they crave. Their bellies are full moons,
their eyes constellations of what their baby will be.
Forget tossed stones or chicken entrails,
the lines of a palm already scarred
by machinery bits, a barbed wire chicken fence.
I already know what my future will be.
I was given paradise but it did not want me.
They told me if you are not strong enough this paradise will scar you
and it has. I was meant to be pregnant at the age of 16
and believe this child will be different from me.
But I escaped, relentless, demanding. "Do not give into it."
But paradise rejected me.
I am now too slovenly, scared and desperate.
I want to bite myself, taste red blood,
red clay until it consumes me. I belong to it.
I want the red clay until it exhausts me and whatever I may give birth to.
My scars like constellations have told me we are not worthy.
  All Here For A ReasonI turned onto a shady, well-manicured driveway that, for all intents and purposes, looked harmless enough. Maple trees lined both sides of the street, and a parade of Canadian geese marched across the road to a wide duck pond with a flamboyant fountain. There were blooming crepe myrtles and rose-of-sharons, and as I grew closer to my destination, neatly trimmed gardens with neatly trimmed bushes.
I stopped to let the geese pass. They looked at me; one hissed. I honked my horn and moved around them.
At the end of the road sat a collection of grayish buildings and a number of signs directing me to the appropriate parking lot. "Welcome to Ten Creeks Hospital," said one of them. "Please enjoy your stay." I parked in the visitor's lot. Surely I wouldn't be staying.
I was shaking when I got out of my car. I had spent the morning getting high. One foot in front of the other, flip-flop noises, hot sidewalk. Mulberry and magnolia trees, freshly shaved grass. A bench and pan for smokers. A set o
  Autumn Is In My EyesYou can clearly watch the leaves of my youth
Shedding against the breasts of a world otherwise occupied
I'll not shy from this idea
I'll take my place in the circus and ride the merry-go-round
We somehow lost our way
Drifting against the currents day by day
There are tastes on the air that belie unbridled need
A need to be seen
A need to feed
A need to keen at a moon long since uncaring and ignoring us
Be still, my love
The winter calls us
Our hearts are surrounded in cool warning
Our souls are getting colder
I'll shelter you
My hands are more stubborn than the tides of time
I can hold back the worst of the coming winter storms
Trust in that
As I trust in you
We are but leaves, shedding in the twilight before the freeze
  Volpi.You will find that the story you tell
is very rarely your own. In Lucca,
even the smallest pebbles
breathe in the warm sunlight.
Knotted stones and cobbled roads
beat out a paper-dry heartbeat heat –
my city breathes in and out,
inhales sparrow air.
It's writing a story.
You are the pen.
You will find that in Lucca
the daisy chains forge fire
in side streets and back alleys.
Teenagers intertwine. Tell me,
odd flower, are you still closed?
Here we are colored wax;
the heat of the city melts us.
We run into each other, rhapsody
of pigments. Operas are our specialties.
Open up; feel the reds.
If not, try and see them. There is a place
of deep knife marks, a street
long as midnight –
you may learn something there.
Valentina's voice glimmers like red wine.
You may enjoy intoxications. Still,
know alcohol has no story
and will swallow your own.
Find the sign with the wolf on it.
You'll know the place. Epiphanies ring true as church-bells.
Lucca still guides the wanderers
to well sp
  ViolinI remember the day
you told me violins
were strung with cat gut
and that is why
you hated music
(who says that to a child?)
I followed you
all that summer.
I watched you
grow away from mother -
your whiskey held better conversations
and all she did was cry.
We'd sit cross-legged on the porch
and count the horseflies
settling on our lunch.
You would drown tadpoles
in a bucket
surprised they could not swim
and I would dream
of cherry popsicles.
And when night would gather
on the sidewalk
I'd hold my breath
until a star appeared.
Don't bother making wishes
you'd tell me -
stars are dead weight in heaven
and God has cloth ears.
  skinny loveI was 17 and
she pointed out that
I wasn't eating much
with an approving smile
and that made my
heart jump into my throat,
so I pulled it out
through my mouth
and presented my organs to her
with my full plate,
which she shakily accepted,
complimenting me
that I was almost
     I was 17 and
     I was finally acceptable enough
     for her to bear
     touching my body
     long enough
     for a hug.
           and as I held her bent and
           broken figure
           with collapsed conscience
           and vertebra,
                 I couldn’t say thank-you
                 since my throat was still raw

Being Unscientific with SRSmith

Sat Aug 9, 2014, 6:00 PM
Who doesn't love science fiction?

If you just said "me," keep reading—you'll change your mind by the end of this article. (If you don't, I reserve the right to send a drone to your house. Isn't living in The Future great?!) As you'll see, science fiction goes beyond funny aliens and laser beams that conveniently miss. Some have even argued that, without science fiction, the Internet wouldn't have happened, and then we'd all be...outside right now. Quel horreur!

SRSmith has been a mainstay of the dA literature community for a long time, and he showcases other awesome dA writers on his flash fiction project,365tomorrows.

What is "science fiction"?

In my opinion, Science Fiction is any story that uses present or future science or technology as a key component, or where it provides the required underlying fabric on which the story is built. Future science or technology is speculative by nature, as it's not been invented yet, but it must be a logical extension or evolution of current known science or tech.

If it's impossible, it's probably fantasy, if it's improbable, there's a good chance it's Science Fiction.

I tend not to think of stories as meeting the SciFi standard if you can take out the 'SciFi' elements and not impact the story at all. For example, if someone runs into a bakery in the middle of the night with a plasma gun and robs the baker, I'm not going to consider that SciFi, as he or she could just have easily been carrying a .38 and the story wouldn't have changed. If, however, the robber folds space and time to turn the bakery inside out in his pantry on another world, emptying it of baked goods and then returns the bakery to its rightful place and time, that I'm going to call SciFi.

What about concepts that violate the laws of physics?

There was a time in history when it was known the world was flat, and the Earth was the center of the universe. Up until the 1940s, there still existed a 'sound barrier'. Even though there were examples of things travelling faster than the speed of sound, no one had figured out how to get a vehicle on the ground or in the air to reach, let alone exceed that speed. I expect that the science of the day could explain how faster than sound travel was possible, and that differs from today's laws effectively prohibiting faster than light travel, however I expect that, while improbable right now, there will come the discovery of some new law of physics that allows for it. Perhaps we'll find some way of folding space, or compressing or elongating time, who knows, but there's nothing in modern science that convinces me that FTL travel is fantasy, we just don't know how to do it yet.
  Skyhook Waypoint
Terry abandoned the powerbike at the bridge a few hundred meters before the checkpoint, running it off the road, down the embankment and parking tight against the understructure before he waded into the river.
He swam across, letting the current take him downstream towards the woods where he exited the icy water, discarded his neoprene coverall and closed the distance to the fence on foot.
Beyond the chainlink the thin tether of the skyhook was barely visible against the moonless sky, just a tear in the blackness of his peripheral vision.
The fence, wired as it was, posed only a momentary barrier. Terry lit a monofibre blade and divided one post neatly in two to the ground before spreading the post halves, fencing still intact and live, into a large enough V for him to step through.
He had just enough time to reach the outer wall of the storage facility before he heard the sirens, saw bright blue and red light strobing against the darkness up the road. He watched for a moment, working
The pig carcass filled most of the stainless tub where the delivery men had laid it. Freshly slaughtered, but not butchered, it had taken four of them to lift it there. None of them spoke to Rinnovi, only pausing for him to sign for the animal before they left.
On the way to the door, one of the men pointed at the stickers affixed to virtually every item in the house; black typewritten names and addresses on white shipping labels. The leader of the group nudged him and shook his head 'no', before hurrying him out the door.
Rinnovi poured a scotch, and turned on the kitchen vid display, his own visage peering back at him with a smile. He froze the frame, leaving the remote on the island beside the second stainless tub.
"Osiris, prepare to renew." He spoke aloud to the empty room.
"Preparations underway." The voice, angel soft and faintly Irish filled the room seemingly from everywhere at once. Both of the tubs began to fill with a steaming viscous liquid, spattering against the steel, a
Memories, Light the Corners of our Minds
Lucas Three sat in the coffee shop long after she left, long after the people that had watched the scene play out had moved on. He sat for hours after she'd calmly, mercilessly ended their three year relationship with a calculated precision of language that even he couldn't have delivered more succinctly.
"This has been fun, really, it's been fantastic, but you knew this was never going to last." She didn't touch her latte, which was never a good sign.
"You're never going to get old, and I'm going to age out and die. At some point you're going to leave me for someone younger, and by then I'll be too old to find anyone to love me and I'll simply die alone." Her hands flew about the space in front of her as she spoke. He often wondered if she were forced to keep her hands in her pockets, would she be able to speak at all? He smiled at that thought, and the smiling caused him pain.
"Already my friends find you 'quaint', and your friends look upon me as some kind of lesser thing. Janson Fo

And changes to the underlying society—if the dystopian world has made plasma guns cheaper than bread?

If the dystopian world has made plasma weapons cheaper than bread, then I would hope that there would be a lot more going on that would earn the story a SciFi classification. If someone were to rewrite Les Miz with SciFi weapons and costumes and change nothing else about the story, I would have a really hard time calling it SciFi, but if the underlying fabric of the story was based on science, if the lower class were the cast outs from the clone stock kept on hand to provide parts for the upper class, either escaped, or factory seconds improperly disposed of, then you'd have a SciFi story. If the upper class were all machines, gradually taking control of everything and relegating the humans to the alleys and the sewers, and brutally disposing of those who opposed them publicly without remorse, then you'd have a SciFi story. If Éponine were a machine rejected and cast out from an upper class employ rather than a dirty girl fallen from grace, and was reduced to running messages for Marius to Cosette, while having fallen in love with him, that would be classic SciFi fodder.

It all depends on the specifics of what's been scienced up, and why—what's the message that's being communicated through the SciFi elements. SciFi has most traditionally been used as a way to examine the social, moral and ethical dilemmas of progress, and present hypothetical situations that force us to examine the 'what if' of that possible future.

If a raygun is just a gun, then it's not SciFi, but if a raygun is something that can be printed by the thousands from the 3D printers everyone has in their home now where traditional projectile weapons could not be, that technology has the potential to dramatically shift the social, economic and political structure of society, and that's where it gets interesting. It's hard sometimes to define what is and isn't SciFi, even though you can point to a piece of work and know in your gut that it is or isn't.

Is social awareness also a prerequisite to writing good SciFi?

I don't think that social awareness is a requirement to write SciFi, there's a lot of enjoyable SciFi that doesn't make much, if any, statement on the social or economic state of the time, but I do think that writing very good SciFi requires a strong awareness of social and economic dynamics, as these form a large part of the world you should be building in which to base your story.

Something I find unusual is the fact that I can walk out my front door and be surrounded by dozens of different cultures, languages and religions, and when I'm interacting with people in my day to day life, they represent a broad cross section of cultures. Yet when I'm reading most SciFi, I get the sense that everyone is white and agnostic, and typically male, at least in the primary roles. There's often a woman in the story, but she feels either token or is the love interest, and perhaps there is an ethnic secondary character, but the overall social fabric of the stories by and large feel like they've been whitewashed.

Whether the author is trying to make a social statement or not, the fabric of the world should be accurate, and it quite often doesn't feel believable because it doesn't accurately represent the cultural reality of the present, much less project it to a logical future. 
The orbiter had touched down at Vandenberg, and Lewis and a dozen others had flown cargo the thirty minutes to San Francisco airport. They trudged in from the tarmac in loose formation out of habit, unprepared for the crowds in the terminal.
The debriefing team had talked about friction, that the religious right had taken offense to their involvement in the colony war.
There was an awkward moment when the soldiers met the seething mass of people, unsure if there would be familiar faces, confused by the angry looks and rumbled undercurrent of discontent.
“Murderers,” a lone voice lit the fuse, causing the crowd to erupt into a cacophonic barrage of unfettered hatred.
The soldiers had faced more threatening forces, but here, at home, unarmed and unprepared, they could do nothing but close ranks and retreat to safety.
Police raised riot shields as picketers raised placards, the two groups squaring off as the tired soldiers slipped away through the terminal.
Lewis took the shuttl
Observation without Affection
She watched him, often, from the other side of his bedroom mirror, a floor to ceiling affair that allowed her the privilege of spectating from the comfort of her own space.
He would come and go, sometimes alone, sometimes with others. He would wrap himself in sheets of colour, most times his companions would too, but other times they would press just their flesh against one another.
This fascinated her.
The shapes his face made were peculiar, and she began to recognize them as states of being. Sometimes his face was broad, his mouth wide, insides showing white and gleaming. Other times his face creased, contracted in upon itself, on occasion becoming shiny in patches as he quivered.
An unusual specimen to be sure.
She knew she was pleasing, knew from the various shapes and colours of the creatures he kept company with that she too could be satisfying to him, be satisfied by him. She was certain that he would share with her his illuminated state of being, the broad face and gaping maw t
Eliot hunched his shoulders against the wind, the relentless sand picking at the seals of his gloves and headgear trying to find a way inside. He watched the glow of the sun disappear beyond the horizon, his waking period now fully begun.
It had been weeks since he'd seen another soul, perhaps years. Who kept count of such things anymore anyways?
The last city he'd abandoned to the ravages of this dust bowl planet had been a graveyard, he'd taken what he could carry, what little food and fresh water remained before the decay and vermin forced him back into the desert, back to his search for living humans.
There had to be more, they were so prolific on this rock before the coming, had spread so far, achieved so much. He'd visited countless monuments to the species' achievement here, each sprawling steel and glass expanse a testament to human drive and ambition, each barren, vacant ghost-town a reminder that the planet doesn't welcome strangers, doesn't tolerate intrusion.
Midway through

Who should be responsible for increasing diversity in writing (taking the SFWA brouhaha into consideration)?

Who do I think would be most responsible? Given that SciFi Authors come from all over the globe, there could be an international body that represents the SciFi writing community as a whole, and then localized national bodies made up of a representative sample of the diverse pool of current SciFi writers, many of whom are not, as amazing as this may seem, white males of the Archie Bunker era. Perhaps the global association of these local associations could oversee them, help appoint members to the local boards, and coordinate international events. 

It would appear that the current SFWA, or at least the version that immediately precedes the current one, is more than a little outdated in its makeup and certainly in its views. Whether the ideals, or lack thereof, of the Beales and Resnicks in the group are representative of the group as a whole is unclear, but they certainly were able to state their offensive views on the company soapbox and on company letterhead, which calls the entire group into question.

Given the movie industry's capitalization on SciFi in such a massive way in recent years, and how they seem to have a pretty good handle on racial, sexual and religious diversity, maybe the SFWA can take a lesson from them and get some help getting their act together. Then again we could have Michael Bay on the board, and that would just blow everything the hell up.

I hope that a North America body, SFWA or otherwise, can be made up of a representative sample of the amazing authors today, many of whom have been writing for years and are men and women who come from many different cultures, have varied religious beliefs and social sensitivities, and are what I think Gene Roddenberry imagined when he was looking towards this near future on his way to the stars. It's a sick bit of irony that the visionaries of our time are represented by a group with such deplorable and outdated beliefs, and I for one much prefer the Roddenberry version of our future.

Beyond learning from movies/etc., should science fiction writers be doing more to make use of interactive media?

I think there's a tremendous opportunity for writers to adopt social and interactive media, and it makes sense for the SciFi writers to do so as their target demographic are the most likely to embrace it.

William Gibson, arguably one of—if not the—writer who first conceived of the Internet, has made great use of social media in engaging his fans online, feeding them parts of his current work, the stubs from his research as well as occasionally answering questions and swapping ideas and thoughts with his peers out in the open for everyone to see. Warren Ellis is another who makes heavy use of social media to engage directly with his audience, and often Gibson and Ellis can be seen bantering on Twitter with each other. Both are much more of the 'output to' social media mindset than the 'input from' camp, and I think that's the expected norm. There still seems to be a not-irrational fear that someone will put an idea in front of a writer and then sue him or her later for some similarity to it in a published work, so I can understand why writers limit their bidirectional engagement over social media.

I am surprised that there's not an evolutionary version of the 'Choose Your Own Adventure' concept, as hyperlinked media would be a perfect and virtually limitless canvas on which those stories could take shape. Hypertext fiction exists, but it certainly doesn't seem to have the mainstream traction that it could have, which leads me to think it's not being leveraged in a novel way. Multiple path, multiple outcome literature could be done effectively in this way, or some kind of non-linear story-lines could be very effectively developed as well. It's going to take someone notable to engage in a project with a lot of hype I think before this really gets any traction.
Love Sounds
"Mama?" A tiny voice slipped quietly through the room. Between her and the woman in the bed an impenetrable forest of metal stands, tubes and blinking machinery stood guard.
"Come in sweetheart, it's alright." Her mother's voice warmed the space, shushing the noisy equipment. "Mama's alright baby, come see me."
Clad in a pink dress and knee socks, the girl of no more than five years bravely stepped away from the safety of the door frame. Big blue eyes focused and fixed on her mother lying in the hospital bed, and her legs carried her along that line of focus until she could reach out and touch her hand.
"There, there, Mama's all better now." She held her daughter's hand gently, but firmly. "The doctors made me all better. Come. Climb up here and cuddle with me." She tried her best not to wince, shuffling a little to one side to make room. She held her one arm away so her daughter wouldn't become tangled in the web of cords snaking away from her body.
The girl climbed cautiously up the
My Sign? Exit.
Levon leaned his head against the cold steel of the shower tube, letting the jets of water assail his body from all sides. As the sweat of the previous night's activities rinsed away, the more subtle indicators of his exertions seeped in. Both his head and kidneys ached from the soup of chemical stimulants and depressants he'd drank, sniffed and injected with the woman now sleeping naked in the next room.
Dimly pulsing warnings hovered in his peripheral vision, reminding him that his kidney augments were still on standby, having been parked the night before so as to not filter out his buzz. While he'd been busy not sleeping, they had been sifting through the different compounds in his bloodstream he'd forbidden them to remove, tracing their signatures for any information about them that may prove relevant. A brighter warning flashed, the proximity alarm on his equipment locker had been triggered. It would seem his night time entertainment was awake and nosing around. The warning strobe
Pete, Re-Pete
Two hours ago, Pete had been pulled gasping from a tank of jelly. Now he sat in an immaculate office, wearing borrowed clothes with his employer staring him down from the far side of a granite slab desk top.
"Welcome back, Pete." Terrence Carter, syndicate heavyweight and the man Pete ran data packets for. "I must say, you look better than you did the last time I saw you."
Pete sat straight in his chair, tentatively rolling and flexing muscle that remembered thirty eight years of abusive mileage, but didn't feel a days wear and tear. "What happened Terry, what's going on?"
"You were running a very special package for me Pete, one we couldn't copy, one we had to risk transporting as original data." Terry paused, pulling at each of his white shirt cuffs in turn, evening their length against the dark fabric of his suit. "You had an incident Pete, for some reason you seem to have hidden my package from me. I don't know exactly what went wrong in your head, Pete, but when we finally... reco

Twitter fiction exists, which is an interesting use of social media, and flash fiction has taken off and gained fairly widespread acceptance in the recent years, largely I think as it's designed for, or at least the ideal format for, consumption on mobile devices. It's interesting to me that the group of writers who founded (before I became involved in the project), did so in August of 2005, two years before the introduction of the iPhone, which to me is the perfect delivery mechanism for the flash fiction that is the staple of 365.

365tomorrows was conceived by Kathy Kachelries when she was stuck at a particularly long red light and found herself thinking there should be short stories for people to read quickly in all those lost minutes spent waiting during the day. Other than short-short story anthologies, flash fiction is pretty much exclusively found online, a prime example of writers leveraging new media technologies to get their ideas out to their target audience and fill a very specific need that traditional old world print can't effectively meet.

There are numerous multimedia artists, many who have been active in the public eye since the birth of the 'new media age' that could push interactive literature into new and wildly engaging directions. Laurie Anderson has been a pioneer in the digital music, video and performance art space since the 70's, and I always expected her to gradually cross over her performance art into a more spectacular form of story telling. Neil Gaiman, since his marriage to Amanda Palmer, has been taking his literary work on the road and blending it with AFP's incredible performance skills to create a fantastic joint literary, music and performance art show—a kind of reading and alt rock experience that's really fantastic.

I've seen some great examples of animated and interactive kids' books in iBooks on the Apple iBook store, but these seem to be more examples of what's possible than mainstream adoption of interactive capabilities. The introduction of the iPad, and the plethora of other tablets and smartphones, present a compelling market for writers to exploit, and that hasn't really happened yet beyond the electronic paper versions of new and existing books. I read a lot of technical publications on my iPad, but my pleasure reading is almost entirely paperback novel, and there's nothing revolutionary in the digital space that would encourage me to change my mind yet, at least not that I've seen.

Going back to the earlier comment regarding the movie industry, there have been some interesting cases where literary and multimedia fiction have been leveraged in the promotion of movies, for example when Prometheus was on the horizon, there was a tremendous amount of backstory being developed online, from the fictional website, to Peter Weyland's fictional TED talk, to the marketing machine promoting not the movie, but the products available in the fictional Prometheus universe. That kind of crossover isn't exactly new, but that's the most compelling example I've seen, and I'd love and expect to see more of that in the future. There's a great opportunity for writers to engage in the offscreen expansion of the movie universes as well as writing the screen plays, or adapting existing novels to the screen. Philip K. Dick has provided an incredible wealth of material from which some truly fantastic (and not-so-fantastic) movies have been made, and there are many other SciFi authors who's works have been adapted to the screen. I'd love to see the movie studios engage SciFi writers to expand each universe and develop more content for offscreen consumption.

There's no good reason why there needs to be a separation of the paperback, browser and silver screen; they could and I think should be leveraged as a multifaceted mesh on which to deliver rich SciFi experiences.

Could a person who considers themselves primarily an author go that route on their own?

If you're an author, are outgoing and have some stage presence, I'm sure you could put on a show of sorts and captivate the attention of your fans as long as you weren't completely embarrassing. For the most part, if your writing is good and your books are popular, people will show up for just about any kind of performance you might want to put on.

I've been to several readings by popular authors, William Gibson for example, where he simply read some pages from his book and answered some questions. None of them were particularly exciting, but all were enjoyable for what they were. I think Neil Gaiman likely wouldn't be doing what he and AFP are doing if not for Amanda Palmer's amazingly outgoing personality and comfort being in the public eye.

Gibson at one reading had Tom Wilson, front man for Blackie and the Rodeo Kings open for him playing guitar and singing, which was quite the surprise, so yes—I think anyone can take a literature road show and turn it into something more if they're smart and creative enough.

Why do you think we're still so wedded to linearity in stories?

Most people don't think in multiple streams, and can't easily follow multiple possible paths simultaneously. I think that is a particular type of wiring that's not the norm. For example, if you take your average person and play chess with them, they can see a move perhaps two ahead, whereas the chess masters can project almost the entire game in their head considering each possible branch of the game for each potential move that may be made by their opponent.

The average person can follow a single linear plot line, and while I think many people would enjoy the possibility of that single plot line being somewhat randomized or interactive in some way, I think by and large people would get confused by multiple different non-linear plot lines for a single story. It does require some focus to keep all those things aloft while reading, and again, considering how much mental clutter we have in our lives, with work and family stress, constant media bombardment and smartphones and social media relationships constantly begging for attention, I think people just don't have the available bandwidth to keep up with anything that's not fairly easy to follow.
Empathy WonThey lay together for hours after they'd finished, he propped on one elbow, she on her back, eyes closed for the most part, but opening one occasionally to watch him watching her.
"It's the way the sun reflected in your eyes that caught my attention Captain, it was as though your eyes shone only for me."
He smiled slightly, running his fingertips from her shoulder, along her collarbone and down the valley between her breasts. Millions of tiny receptors translated the sensation to her as one of pleasure, while he simply recalled what it had felt like to draw his fingers across real flesh. Not these fingers mind, ones he remembered from a long, long time ago.
She rolled onto her side to face him, curled her free foot behind his calf and pulled her leg up until her thigh was at a perfect right angle to his.
He found it ironic how they continued to engineer their bodies to resemble so closely the humans they despised so greatly, and still, even in something as messy and chaotic as sex, the
Pay Yourself First
The Argon cruised through dense fog heading out to sea in weather most trawlers wouldn't brave. She lined up between the marker buoys and throttled up, downwash from her propulsors kicking up spray from the water thirty meters below her hull.
"Full ahead, light the finder, kill the beacons." Captain Creavy barked orders to the ready crew, "See that the nav gear is decoupled before we change course."
The Argon took to sea weekly, bringing in a belly full of fresh fish none of the other locals could match. She was the largest of the fishing vessels by an order of magnitude and never came home empty.
"Captain," the first mate finished wiping the ship off the Coastal Guardian network, "we're clear for a new course."
The Captain studied the maps he had before him, charts he'd bartered for along with this vessel. These maps were from a satellite's vantage, the likes of which not even the Coastal Guardians could have seen. Creavy loved the advantage barter and off-worlders brought to his live
Service the Masses
He eyed her cautiously as they undressed, her gaze wandering over his muscular frame, he picking out the subtle characteristics that identified her as a mech; her stance, the symmetry of her body and its flawlessly calculated motions, the perfect geometric arcs her hips cut as she walked. Afternoon sun seeped reluctantly through smokey acrylic to carve dusty fingers in the stale air. The light accentuated her form as she closed the small distance between them on the balls of her feet. In an instant, she was on him, twisting him in a wiry embrace that found them both locked together on the bed.  He felt the sheets beneath his bare skin, faux cotton made soft from too many washings.
'Are you ready?' She barely breathed the words, but he was, and they rolled together as one on the bed, exacting murderous complaints from the wood and metal frame beneath them.  He could feel the corded muscle beneath her polymer skin, feel the way the fibers contracted and released as she flexed, her body a

Was social media as necessary for microfiction as the need to compete with newer entertainment? Would microfiction be around with or without social media?

I feel like this is a chicken and egg scenario. We have developed shorter and shorter attention sp— Oooh! Shiny!

Sorry—where were we? Right. Short attention spans. Anyways, Social media is either catering to our short attention spans, or directly responsible for that particular problem, I can't really say which. Ernest Hemingway's six word story 'Baby Shoes' ["For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn"] predates all electronic micro fiction and social media, so we can't credit social media for the creation of microfiction, but given our proclivity toward short burst communications, I think social media has provided the ideal petri dish in which microfiction has flourished and become mainstream where it likely would not have otherwise.

Getting back to the sci-fi as a writer thing, should sci-fi writers consider other media as they put their stories together?

I'm going to answer this from several different perspectives. First, SciFi writers have a unique responsibility to think about everything when they put their stories together. SciFi explores how our lives may change in the future, what things may be invented, how our environment may change, where we may go and what we might find when we get there, and most importantly, how we as people may react to these changes, what their social, political and economic impact may be. Social media is a huge part of today, impacting every aspect of our daily lives whether we like it or not, and to not consider that, and consider what it may become and how any extrapolated concept of social media may present itself in the future is ignoring a fairly major element of our culture.

Second, given the difficulty in being heard over the information cacophony of modern life, any author who creates a SciFi work and doesn't make a deliberate attempt to leverage social media in order to promote it is missing out on a massive component of the marketing machine of today. Not only that, but I'm going to be a little suspicious of the SciFi writer who wants me to believe he or she has a compelling vision of the future but doesn't understand Twitter and/or Facebook.

Finally, given the popularity of SciFi literature being adapted by Hollywood into major feature films and mini-series, I think that the SciFi writer that can create compelling works of fiction with an eye to their suitability for the big screen elevates themselves in two ways; they will be writing books that are accessible by the movie going audience that may not otherwise be interested in print, and they'll be providing possible targets for acquisition when the motion picture industry goes looking for content to fill their ever expanding need for new engaging silver screen properties.

Love Hurts
Street-lamps outside lit her bare flesh an iridescent blue, but he knew in the absence of light, she was chiseled obsidian, black as the sun was bright.
"It's been a while," her voice low and gentle, "I wasn't sure you'd come back."
Logan unrolled a soft-case on the night table beside the bed, absently fingering the half dozen syringes nestled within. It was going to be a long night.
"I could never stay away," he read her face from where he sat on the edge of her bed, "I told you I'd come back, didn't I?"
Taking her face in his hands, he felt her hair stalks bristle beneath his palms, the beating of her hearts carried up his arms as her pulse quickened.
Her hands found flesh beneath his shirt, and holding him so tight his ribs ached beneath the pressure, she pulled him over her to leave him gasping on his back beside her. She wasted no time flaying his clothing from his body, razor sharp claws extending and retracting, slicing fabric, grazing flesh but never drawing blood. When she mou
My favourite time is just before dawn while she still sleeps. I stretch out, savour the crisp night air, feel the coolness of the sheets against our naked flesh. Soon the earth will turn us to face the sun again, and I'll feel the warmth as its energy permeates the room, watch as its light drives out the shadows. Until then, I'll content myself with the sounds of soft breathing, and the rhythmic music of her heart propelling life throughout her body.
I've only been with her a short while, but she has taught me so much. Helped me experience things I could never have known without her, not so completely.
We seem to have been made for each other. She's so physical, tangible and alive, but lacking in drive, control. I lack her physicality, but more than make up for it in unencumbered motivation. We're perfect together.
When I found her, I was content to merely follow, to do no more than observe. Lately I need to take more control, to dominate. My desire has grown from this place of comfort

Any final thoughts for aspiring writers?

As a writer, I read a lot, and not just SciFi, but a cross section of numerous genres of fiction and some non-fiction as well, and if you're a writer you should try to do the same. Feed your creative engine with knowledge and new ideas.

Through 365 I've had the great pleasure of curating a tremendous number of stories submitted by talented creative thinkers and writers from around the world. Some of these writers have gone on to have novels published, and I can't wait to see who's next. Maybe you? If you're not scared of the work, and if you really want to, there's absolutely no reason not to. Ready? Go!

Many thanks to Neurotype for taking the time to interview me and asking such great and thought provoking questions, and if you've made it this far, many thanks to you for taking the time to read.


Thanks for your time!


Dr. Editlove

Wed Jul 23, 2014, 6:00 PM by neurotype:iconneurotype:

Lit Basics Week

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the edit

It's a common misconception that the end result of writing is a finished product, which can then be sent out to magazines, nailed to a door, read aloud to your prisoners—whatever it is you usually do with your work.

The end result of writing is editing. And the goal of editing is to produce a finished result you can take pride in.

What editing is for

  • Resolving big errors, e.g. continuity, plot holes, inaccuracies, and other problems that will dampen the overall effect of your work.
  • Fixing details, e.g. grammar/spelling, ambiguous wording, and other technical issues.
  • Producing a polished work.
Editing gives you the opportunity to take your work and bring it up to scratch.

Why don't we do this on the initial write? Because getting the ideas down in the first place, and getting them all the way to completion, is a demanding process. Maybe you've written a piece about an improbable goal, but since you were on a roll you forgot to check the offside rules. When you go back and realize that the goal isn't valid, unfortunately, your player has to stop halfway through his victory lap and glare at the referee, instead of doing the Macarena. Or, for poetry, maybe a reread reveals that "holy shit" doesn't scan with the "act like you mean it," so it's time to find a better way to deliver your message.

Editing makes a work stronger. It may already be good, but who wouldn't want to make it better?

How to enjoy editing

  • Track Changes
  • Be yourself.
  • Understand what your work is in relation to yourself.
  • Care about the result.
A brief paean to Track Changes (which is not only available in Microsoft Word, I've also used it in LibreOffice): Track Changes is awesome. Let's say you like a passage but decide to edit it out because you're not sure it belongs. If you change your mind, you can go back and restore it with the click of a button. Sweet, no?!

Editing doesn't mean replacing yourself with a robot. I just got back some edits for a piece and, along with the criticisms, the editor put comments when she found something particularly hilarious, which is mildly gratifying and lets me know what not to touch. And then when I'm editing my own work, I don't have to play nice. My notes have included things like "were you on the drugs when you wrote this, where can I get some."

You may be asking how I can be such a bitch, even if it's only to myself. Surely that writing is a piece of my soul, crystallized into a form perceivable to humans?

Your work isn't you. It is produced by you, and representative of your skills, but it's not actually you. And if it is, why the hell shouldn't it be awesome?

I've said it above and I could go on saying it. There is nothing like a well-crafted result to make you feel good about the quality of your work. Being able to take your style and not just say, oh, this is what I write like when I've flopped out of bed, but this is something that I can't even believe I made because, ten weeks after the initial writing, it's still giving me—and other people—feels, that is pretty damn great.

Editing is not smashing down your pretty little writing house, it's bringing that house up to code and fitting it with better lights and pipes. If you're going to live in a world of stories, it might as well be one where the toilet flushes on the first try.

  • What is your current editing process?
  • In relation to writing, how much time do you spend editing?
  • Do you think your current combination is effective?


Lit Basics Week

(ShadowedAcolyte deserves equal praise/blame for this one. Hello, ShadowedAcolyte.)

It's Lit Basics Week, for all types of literature, and we haven't discussed the most basic thing of all: deciding what your work should be. Prose, poetry, scripts all have some fundamental things in common. Since they all use words, they can convey the same information, such as the sadness of losing a loved one or the details of attending a classical concert. Of course, written scripts are a lot more dialogue heavy, and prose is more forgiving than poetry on some counts, but the essentials are the same.

So if content doesn't matter, how do you decide?

Format (e.g. prose, poetry, scripts)

What skills do you want to build? Are you trying to challenge yourself with the exactitude that poetry demands (yes even experimental), do you want to play with the media crossing opportunities a script offers, or take advantage of how flexible prose is to delve into your narrative?

I'm a prose junkie. I've tried the other forms, and I will say they made a difference to how I approached my next project. While I still work best with prose, I think it's important to not stick too closely to that comfort zone. But the only hard and fast rule for picking a format—that we've dug up, anyway—is when someone else is asking you to pick one. Feel free to challenge this in the comments.

Otherwise, it's all about what you want to do. Picking a challenging topic? You might want to stick to a format you're more familiar with. Trying to riff on something you saw? Maybe changing formats will give you more room to distance yourself from the source.

What about length?

This one's easier to answer. The longer a piece is, the more ground your overarching narrative has to cover. Like going from Atari to the PS4, the (image) resolution increases: it's unlikely you'll get half as detailed about a person's day in a flash fiction piece or short story, as opposed to a novel. (I would recommend checking out Flash-Fic-Month and SRSmith's 365Tomorrows to learn more about flash.) Likewise, it's harder to extend a metaphor comparing oceans to relationships to an epic poem. But could you imagine trying to compress The Odyssey into haiku? (On that note, the-haiku-club has some fantastic resources on brevity.)

Also, conceptual scope. A short form allows you to really distill a theme or feeling or character portrait, but a longer work ends up covering wider ground and may even lose impact. Some ideas, of course, do need more space than offered by a very short work.

In short, pick a format based on your experience as the writer (and try to challenge yourself!) and a length based on what you want the reader to experience.

  • Do you agree/disagree with the statement above? Discuss.
  • This whole blog is supposed to be a discussion, so how do you decide what your piece will look like?
  • Especially for length, do you find planning beforehand makes a difference?
  • Just for kicks, turn your favorite novel into a single line, or poem into haiku (no, they aren't all 5-7-5).

Writers' Block: The Myth

Fri Jul 25, 2014, 6:00 PM by GrimFace242:icongrimface242:

Lit Basics Week

We've all suffered from sitting down at our desk, booting up our computer, ready to start writing a story and BAM nothing comes out.  We sit there and sit there and still nothing comes out.  We put everything away and try again the next day but have the same results.  Then we go to our favourite blog site and write a journal about how the world is horrible and we're suffering from writers' block.

But are we really suffering from a block?

If, on the third day, someone came to us and said, "Have two pages, double spaced in 12pt text written by tomorrow at noon on a topic of your choosing and I'll give you $1,000," would we still be unable to produce something?  I'm sure if given a deadline and incentive like this, the majority of us would be able to write two pages, double spaced in 12pt text by tomorrow at noon.  Proving that writers' block is a myth.  Well, in most cases. 

I'm not saying there is absolutely no such thing as writers' block, but there comes a point where its just an overused excuse for being lazy.  Many writers have gotten to the point where instead of sitting down and forcing themselves to write (even if it's not the specific topic they want to write), they claim writers' block and put themselves into a non-writing rut that's harder than you can probably imagine to get out of.

Writers' block is also the up and coming excuse for not putting out quality writing.  We've all heard it before, "I know it's not the best, but I'm in the middle of a block and this is all I was able to write."  This is an excuse used by young and old, new and seasoned writers.  But again, it's still just an excuse for not writing.

Newsflash: Writing is Hard!

No matter your age or what stage of writing you're at, you've learned this lesson already.  Writing is not as easy as it sounds and you will come to a point in your writing career (whether you're a hobbyist or a professional, it's still your writing career) where the words don't flow out like they once did.  And that's exactly where we get to see who's serious about their writing.  It doesn't matter if this is just a hobby you do to pass time or if you're a full time paid writer; if you're serious about it, you'll fight through the rough spots to finish the story.

Don't use the excuse of writers' block and quit on your story.  Stop being lazy and fight for it.  Step up and get the job done.  And after you've yelled that in your head enough times that you're ready to get back in the saddle and try again but you're still hitting some bumps in the road, here's a couple things you might want to try to get out of that rut:

  • Change your environment. If you usually sit at a desk and write in the quiet of your room, go outside and write under a tree in the park.  If you usually use a laptop, switch to pen and paper.  Change what you're doing and you'll get a different result.
  • Jump to the middle.  We've established that you've hit a brick wall, and now you're trying to dig your way through with a spoon.  Why not go around the brick wall instead?  You've allowed this chapter or stanza or scene to stop you from writing, so go around it.  Go somewhere else and get your motivation back.  Come back when you're at a better spot or when you've figured out how to blow up the brick wall instead of tunnel through it.
  • Set a schedule.  Stop being lazy and allowing life to get in the way of your writing.  Pencil in a little bit of time every day or every other day, whatever fits with your life, BUT make sure you stick to it.  Turn off the Castle reruns, make your spouse watch the kids for an hour and then promptly lock yourself in the bathroom where no dogs can bother you.  And WRITE.  Just write.  Doesn't matter what it is (could even be an essay on how pie is more glorious than cake), it only matters that you write.
  • Train your brain.  Once you setup a schedule and stick to it, you'll find that writing will come more naturally.  Your brain will be ready to write at X time because that's the time you've been writing for the past six months every other day.  Missing a day here or there is okay, but in order to keep your brain toned like an athlete's muscles, you need to stick to that schedule, so set an alarm.
  • Seriously, stop taking yourself so seriously.  Not everything your write it going to be a piece of ingenious literature, so stop setting yourself up for failure.  Be happy that you were able to write that scene, chapter or poem.  It may not be perfect, but what's that old saying, "Practice makes perfect."  So all the little pieces you're writing now are stepping stones to writing that piece of awesome.  And surprise, if you're doing it right, you won't even know it's brilliant until others tell you because at that point you're gonna be well oiled machine made for writing literature.  You'll take the praise and work from the criticism.
  • Let it go.  It may be the hardest thing you'll ever do as a writer, but if you've written yourself into a corner and you see no way out, it's probably time to abandon ship and drop it.  It's obviously not working.  Back track to before things went awry and try again.  Maybe you just don't know the topic well enough and you need to a bit more research.  You may simply need to set it down and forget it for a month and try again later.

And now a few questions for you:

  • If you've ever claimed to suffer from writers' block, was it self induced?  And how did you work yourself out of it?
  • Do you have a writing schedule?  How long have you been sticking to it?
  • How is that essay on the glory that is pie coming along?