Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Playing to Win

The robed man sighed and pushed one of his tiles into attack position.  "Not that it will do much good.  I think you've got this game sewn up, Lum."

The portly shape on the other side of the board grinned widely and took a swig from his ever-present jug.  "Yeah?  How about this?"  He slammed a tile to the board hard enough to rattle the other pieces in their places. 

The man peered down.  "That... but you could have locked me down.  I can take your key position and threaten a win now."

"Exactly," said Lum.  "Now it's interesting again."

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Time Traveller's Strife

Don't forget the book giveaway!  I was missing in action this past week, so the deadline will now be September 8 to post a comment and get in the drawing.

I meddle.  It's a bad habit, like biting your fingernails or chewing your beard, and I do both of those, too.

Oh, I'm not worried about temporal paradox or ending the universe or some such.  Time is pretty robust, and it's hard to shift much of anything.  What I can do is make splinters, send past versions of myself off into different trails of possibility. 

Mostly I tell them, "For God's sake, call her back."  Sometimes I add, "You idiot."

The more I tinker with these things, though, the more I wonder when one day I'm going to look up and see myself, older, more battered, climbing through a portal and glaring down at me, sadly shaking my head.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Val turned the canvas around with a flourish.  "Ta-da!"

"What is it?"

"It's a picture of you, silly!"

"But it's blank."

"See, I started out by putting in what I like about you, and then I thought about what I don't like so much, and then some symbolism stuff, plus things that aren't like you at all but in interesting ways, and then you know how light when you add it all up it's white?  Like that."

"I think some nouveau guy did a blank canvas already..."

"Well," said Val, blinking slowly, "he can't see what I see in it."

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Triangulation: Morning After

Parsec Ink's Triangulation: Morning After is out on August 27, featuring, among others, my story "All Unlooked For."  This is the second year running I've been in this anthology.  (Last year it was with "Boll Weevil," which later got picked up at the Drabblecast.)

Kindle and paperbacks will be available at Amazon.  I haven't gotten a chance to read my contributor's copy yet, so I can't really give my opinions on the rest of it.  


I have an *extra* copy.

That means it's giveaway time!

Post your very worst pun below to be entered in the drawing.  I would say the most appalling pun wins it, but all puns are appalling, so I'll just pick someone with a random number generator.

Be sure to include a way for me to contact you and get mailing info in case you win.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Dance

The piles of books were teetering precariously on the edge of his desk, threatening to spill over into the waiting piles on the floor.  He pored over one of the largest, age-yellowed and crumbling, his normally impeccable hair standing in sweat-darkened spikes.

"You've been working for hours, m'Lord," she said, drifting nearer.  "What problem vexes you so?"

"It's the land-grant case," he mumbled around a quill pen.

"But look!" she cried.  "That very tome holds your answer; the law is clearly with you in this."

"Yes," he said, smiling ruefully.  "I am trying to find a way to lose.  Gracefully."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Anything Worth Doing

The statue stood on the bluff near the house, a rough-hewn image of a man staring into the valley below.  After a week, the grass had grown noticeably around its platter-sized feet, where the caretaker couldn't trim it easily.  Birds built a nest on one shoulder.

Jefferson trekked to it each morning to watch the sunrise.  On the eighth day, the stone head turned to him.  "Yes," it said.


"You asked if we should invite the Tyrant's men to participate.  I agree.  It will be symbolically important."

"That was a week ago!"

"I wished to give it due consideration."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

All's Fair

It's about persistence.  You can't give up; you gotta keep going.  No matter how bleak your chances, you gotta find a reason to push on.  Like if you're in a fight, and you can't get through in a frontal assault, you maybe duck to the side, or fall back and make 'em overextend.  You trick 'em, you know?  Whatever it takes, that's what you have to do to win.

That's what I believe.  That's how I live.

And that's why I know you'll love me one day.  I'll find a way.  Your defenses can't hold me out forever.

Nothing can.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I could escape.  Know that, whatever else may come.  If I say the word, I could have wings and be gone.

That is what he will not understand.  He will call it weakness, foolishness, a waste.  And perhaps he is right; I have never claimed great wisdom, for all that it is imputed to me.

I stand here, now, in the dark.  In the morning, I will face a dragon.  I harbor few illusions regarding the outcome.

But in the morning, I will still be here, and I did not have to be.

Remember me for that, if nothing else.

Friday, August 10, 2012


She lurches to the side of the ring, leaking blood from her mouth, both nostrils, and – disturbingly – one ear. 

"You've got to call it," I tell her.  "You're taking two hits for every one you give.  You both look like you've been run over by trucks."

It's true.  Her opponent's in bad shape, but I'd be hard-pressed to say who was winning.  The word doesn't seem to have any meaning here.

Hawking a crimson glob to the floor, she leans over.  "I'm staying in."

"Why?  What do you think you're doing out there?"

She grins.  "Winning."

And she is gone.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Focus

He closed his eyes and inhaled.  "Empty-mind," he reminded himself.

With a high-pitched hum, a mosquito landed on his nose.  "Whatcha doin'?"

He ignored it.

"Mind if I take a meal, then?  Just shake your head." 

The muscles of his face twitched as the mosquito's proboscis sunk in, but he said nothing.

 "This is great.  You're a lot easier to catch than a deer."  The mosquito clambered onto an eyebrow, looking for another likely spot.

His resolve broke.  "Please leave," he said.  "I don't want to squash you, but..."

The mosquito laughed merrily.  "Without me, what are you even accomplishing?"

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Time of Gods

"We have arrived," said the Wisest Stone.

Taku slid to the ground and stretched.  He looked around.  "You said you were to show me the murder of a god."

"And so I have.  You see that jagged stone protrusion?  How it approaches the cliff on the far side of the valley?  That is the spear of Ngatka, who murders his wife and mother, Blessed Istinu of the Soil."

"This is a fable, then?  Of things that happened long ago?"

"No," said the Wisest Stone.  "It is happening now.  Perhaps one day it will finish."  He paused.  "Best not to linger."

Friday, August 3, 2012

Welcome Wagon

The new neighbors were grinning on the couch. They couldn't not grin; their desiccated skin had pulled away from their mouths. They'd been dead for sixteen years. "We appreciate your hospitality," said one of them. He (or she?) lifted a cup to his exposed teeth and poured the tea in. It trickled visibly down the exposed ribs below. "Such a nice house. We want you to know that we're not prejudiced." "Oh?" I said, trying to breathe through my mouth. "You can't help what you are, dear. We know that." "Besides," said the other, "you'll be like us eventually. Everyone is."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Evening the Odds

Dan paused at the body scanner. There was a gorilla perched at the TSA agent's desk. Its nostrils flared, and it turned its deep-set eyes toward Dan. "Why is there a gorilla?" Dan asked. The guard glanced up. "Every hundredth passenger or so, he goes berserk and tears them to pieces. It's a new program." "How does this make anyone safer?" "Oh, it's not about safety. Cars kill dozens of times as many people as airplane crashes. We just figured we'd try to get some of that PR going for us." The gorilla snorted. It was almost smiling at Dan.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


"Consider," said the spider, climbing up on the doorjamb so it could look down on us. "A lot of people have some quite dangerous creatures in their homes without even knowing. Scorpions, black widows, brown recluses. They hide in dark corners and wait. Nobody's bothered; they keep themselves to themselves. You see?" "I follow you," I said, glancing at the web that still blocked the front door. We could push past it, but it would cling and tangle us. "But I don't see your point." "What might happen - and this is hypothetical - but what might happen if that forbearance were to suddenly... end?"

Pain Management

"After long enough, the pain becomes almost a separate being." Blount gestured, taking in his twisted leg and the layers of scar tissue that ran down his cheek and disappeared under his loose shirt. "Like an animal. I picture it as a cross between a monkey and a parrot, with clever hands and a jagged, hooked beak. Whimsical, no? I make it a pet; I teach it tricks. 'Go to sleep, wait a while.' It is persistent, unruly – like a puppy – but I manage. I reach... an accommodation. One learns to live with agony, eventually. What one cannot live with, what becomes intolerable, is the knowledge that it could have been different." He hitched himself up on his chair, meeting Kantas' eyes. "You meant it for the Dean, I know. You couldn't know that I'd borrow his car after your... tampering. But I hate you for it regardless. And what I hate, I teach it to hate, too." He gestured, and the ingrained strain lines on his face eased fractionally. He straightened like a man relieved of a load. Kantas felt something unseen land heavily on his back. Something with clever hands and a sharp, sharp beak...