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  • Endless Joke
    Endless Joke
    by David Antrobus

    Here's that writers' manual you were reaching and scrambling for. You know the one: filled with juicy writing tidbits and dripping with pop cultural snark and smartassery. Ew. Not an attractive look. But effective. And by the end, you'll either want to kiss me or kill me. With extreme prejudice. Go on. You know you want to.

  • Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip
    by David Antrobus

    Please click on the above thumbnail to buy my short, intense nonfiction book featuring 9/11 and trauma. It's less than the price of a cup of coffee... and contains fewer calories. Although, unlike most caffeine boosts, it might make you cry.

  • Music Speaks
    Music Speaks
    by LB Clark

    My story "Solo" appears in this excellent music charity anthology, Music Speaks. It is an odd hybrid of the darkly comic and the eerily apocalyptic... with a musical theme. Aw, rather than me explain it, just read it. Okay, uh, please?

  • First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    First Time Dead 3 (Volume 3)
    by Sybil Wilen, P. J. Ruce, Jeffrey McDonald, John Page, Susan Burdorf, Christina Gavi, David Alexander, Joanna Parypinski, Jack Flynn, Graeme Edwardson, David Antrobus, Jason Bailey, Xavier Axelson

    My story "Unquiet Slumbers" appears in the zombie anthology First Time Dead, Volume 3. It spills blood, gore and genuine tears of sorrow. Anyway, buy this stellar anthology and judge for yourself.

  • Seasons
    Seasons
    by David Antrobus, Edward Lorn, JD Mader, Jo-Anne Teal

    Four stories, four writers, four seasons. Characters broken by life, although not necessarily beaten. Are the seasons reminders of our growth or a glimpse of our slow decay?

  • Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited: 2012 Flash Fiction Anthology
    Indies Unlimited

    I have two stories in this delightful compendium of every 2012 winner of their Flash Fiction Challenge—one a nasty little horror short, the other an amusing misadventure of Og the caveman, his first appearance.

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Saturday
Apr122014

Addiction

Soccer fans have a saying: "it only takes a second to score a goal." But that has its flipside. Sometimes the moments that end up changing our lives, utterly refashioning them, and not always for the better, also occur within a heartbeat of time. We might only recognize them in hindsight. I realize I am becoming addicted to flash fiction, which is another level of irony given the latest one I wrote for Dan Mader's Friday flash fiction challenge is titled Addiction. Why? I wonder. I think it's partially the brevity, the minimal time commitment in a crowded, busy world filled with deadlines. Honestly, I don't know if I'll ever get to my abandoned novel, and even traditional short stories are becoming increasingly daunting in terms of time, but flash fiction? Especially timed (although I admit I often play pretty fast and loose with that part, and since Dan is a good guy he doesn't give me too much of a hard time about it). Surprisingly, you can say a hell of a lot when everything's pared down to a moment, whether it be a moment of comedy, a moment of fear, a moment of transcendence, a moment of horror, a moment of pure loss. This short piece is a nod to noir, of course, with its femme fatale and smoky barroom setting, but it's also a moment. A moment in which... Okay, that's enough. I shouldn't need to explain it. Plus, it doesn't even matter what I think. I hope someone gets something out of this. I very much enjoyed writing it, how it emerged like slow ribbons of smoke from a cigarette held between slender fingers.

Addiction

The bar is dark in daylight. What paltry light there is moves sluggish, thwarted by dust motes and smoke.

"I can't help it if I have an addictive personality." Liv leans forward and presses one slender finger into my sternum. "And you don't exactly help, my lover, my partner, my significant other."

"How so?"

"Indulgences. Temptations. Urges."

I have no idea what she's talking about, so I decide to enjoy the view down the front of her shirt. Significant other. Ha. She's being an asshole, albeit a flirtatious one. I don't believe in addictive personalities; I believe only in strength or weakness. I smirk at her. She raises one perfect eyebrow, a brunette Lana Turner. Like she knows what I'm thinking, like she knows this postman will not only ring twice, he'll keep on ringing until somebody damn well answers.

"I can quit them all, you know."

I can feel my smirk stretching my face.

"Fuck you," she says, as if she's telling me about the weather. Her face is placid as Arctic ice.

All of a sudden I'm scared. She's out of her chair and at the door before I can think. Confused, I look down at the table.

"Wait! You forgot your cig—"

 

Friday
Apr042014

For Shame, a Becoming

So there's this thing, I don't want to call it a game, but maybe that's what it is, a drinking game, let's call it, where we shame ourselves by admitting the truly awful things we've done, or the tackiest, or perhaps the meanest, the dumbest, or the most plain humiliating. So, here's mine.

Think I was truly having a breakdown, or a midlife catastrophe, right at the turn of the millennium, that cusp of memory and forgetfulness, a fulcrum upon which, in Kathleen Edwards' words, "you spend half your life trying to turn the other half around." And sure, I've already told the later chapters of this tawdry little tale, in which I embarked on my ten-thousand kilometre transcontinental vision quest, even published a short book about it, but never this. Not until now.

Before that idea even occured, it was a particularly bleak winter. Not gonna get too emo here, but you know, aside from all the overt angst and the hot, roiling subcurrents of shudderingly wrong memories still only suspected at this point, my overriding feeling was fear. Fear of myself, of the future, of others, for others, of GETTING THIS WHOLE THING DESPERATELY, IRREVOCABLY WRONG. Whatever. Just fear. You feel me?

So in January of 2001, I went and spent some time alone in a cabin. In the region of British Columbia laughably (in this context, anyway) called The Sunshine Coast. 'Cause there ain't no sunshine there back then, not for me, not that winter. And I mean that entirely subjectively. Wait, no. Objectively. Whatever, I always get those mixed up. It felt especially cold as I stayed in a cute but paperthin cabin where cedar branches sagged under their frigid burdens beside the icy turbulent waters of Skookumchuck Narrows, where the tide waters are forced through the narrows forming the Sechelt Rapids. It's wild in every sense, but especially in January.

And yeah, I might still have thought I was going back to working with the street kids who had broken my heart (not their fault), and I was playing with writing again, having had an article published on the website of one of my remote, austere heroes, but what was I thinking... and what would I do? The thing is, I know exactly what I was thinking, at least: that not only could I heal some odd, male part of me through the solitary simplicity of living a handful of days in a remote cabin held in winter's grip, but I could begin to live the life, adopt the trappings, wear the elbow-patched jacket of a... Real Writer™.

Yes, I know. But it gets worse.

I'll just blurt it out, pass it off as if I'm gagging: Dostoyevsky. Uh-huh. A copy of Crime and Punishment, an acoustic guitar, a pre-iPod era boombox with a limited selection of CDs, one of which was OK Computer, I kid you not, and a large notepad (with rollerpoint pens) since I didn't even have a laptop back then, for shame. You need to say this next bit in Nigel Tufnel's humble voice: So what will you be paying for, sir? Oh yes, the wannabe writer's budget package. Cold, isolated cabin? Check. Raging waters nearby? Check. Heavy Russian reading material? Check. Dystopian UK music about alienation? Check. Acoustic guitar? Check. Forty-pounder of rum? Check. Hiking boots? Check. Hatchet? Check.

You get the picture. Some Kerouac bullshit, right?

But here's the funny part, the unexpected twist. It kind of worked. I wrote. I wrote scads. It's still there, in that notebook. Mostly crap, of course, many spidery lines of abandoned poetry and philosophical musings that would embarrass a fourteen-year-old. But still, however much I cringe at the posturing of it all, I found I'd grown into a slightly different skin after all was said and done.

There was a moment. A song played, but low volume, an insectile murmur. I was whittling cedar with gloved hands into kindling for a tiny wood stove that burned up quality birch and alder stovelengths way too fast. I had a beer beside me, and more than one inside. The air was clean, like the cool hush of an ancient, Triassic rainforest, so clean it made me want to cry for all the worlds we won't ever get back or even see. And maybe I did cry for a moment. Yet wrapped up inside of all that was thankfulness. That I was alive. That although my fingers ached with the cold and I couldn't even play my damn guitar, I had all the things that make us happy, and that the final pieces in the jigsaw are the friends and family we choose, and that I'd see them soon, however content I felt right now, in this splendid isolation.

Yeah. Maybe that's all that needs to be said here, and I'll surely get gone now.

Wednesday
Mar262014

The Last Debrief

Again, Dan Mader's weekly flash fiction exercises provided a kickstart for another short piece last week. I had his permission to upload this clearly-longer-than-two-minutes excerpt. And I mean excerpt, as it feels like it could be a part of some vast space opera... not that I'll ever probably write it. It's like a brief farewell transmission, a threat whispered along the interstellar dust highways, something ominous lurking far beyond any conceivable future. Yet it's there.

Seriously. Go read Unemployed Imagination; follow the link above. Every Friday there are some excellent pieces of writing on there. Anyway, here's mine:

The Last Debrief

Perhaps it's because you have two of everything. Two lower appendages, two upper. Two mammaries. Gonads. Binocular vision. You are obsessed, bound and determined, to choose this over that, the far over the near, the left and the right, the up and the down, the purest dark and the damnedest light. 

And because we're many-limbed and multivisioned, a field of possibility so much more complex than your stark binaries, we don't need to make your kinds of choice, between faith and nihilism, release and execution. We can live beneath the layered greys, comforted by those rings of lambent light against charcoal backgrounds our generations have always dreamed under, a space less void than some firefly twilight.

Your rage is inevitable given you can only dwell in either the birth agony of sunfire or the raw, biting negation of interstellar cold.

In the banal, prosaic spirit of all your kind's doomed couplings, especially when one party finally grasps the pure harm they've so recently undergone, at the tail-end of a tarnished tryst, we would like to say this: we wish we'd never met you. We wish that fervently and, in terms you yourselves will understand more than most, eternally, with profound revulsion.

As we recoil from you, we realise how ironic it is the extent to which our chance encounter has unsettled and perhaps damaged our own historic, even genetic, equilibrium.

We hope and expect to recover from this after the passing of millennia. We're a long-lived people. If after eons of reflection and purification it so happens that we can't shake your taint, can't scrub away the stink of you, we will return to your skies and, from a sense of both mercy and vengeance, we will obliterate your kind from this universe, for good and for all, and most likely for the good of all.

The final appalling irony being that, in the act itself, we will ostensibly have become you.

Saturday
Mar012014

4. to 1. A Broken Girl to Girls A-Broken

1. Martyrs  

Okay, everyone who mentioned this film over the last few weeks I posted this list on Facebook, please go get tested for psychic abilities, as it was always perched at the summit long before anyone suggested it, I swear. Again, as with plenty of the French extreme stuff, femininity is a theme. As well as (female) suffering. But it's not what you'd expect. It's decidedly modern, almost Tarantino-esque in its jumpy, nonlinear plot, eschews genre conventions in similar ways to Wheatley's Kill List, yet it's also damn near medieval in its cruelty. In an odd, full-circle way that certainly wasn't intended, it shares some themes with the movie that opened my list, not least the human capacity to endure or perversely even welcome pain, but it will surprise you more than once, and undeniably sicken you in ways you'll take weeks to recover from. So, you've been warned. 

And that said, we've reached the end, in more ways than one. Uh, can I say it's been a slice, or would that be crass? 

2. The Vanishing (Spoorloos)  

Now, I haven't seen the US remake with Jeff Bridges, so can't speak to that, but I'm talking the Dutch-French original from 1988. I can't really say too much, as this film is especially vulnerable to spoilers—and if I were you I'd stop reading here if you haven't seen it, yet intend to—but I only caught this gem quite recently and was shocked into an almost catatonic, open-mouthed silence by its deceptively placid, undemonstrative tone that leads so inexorably toward one of the coldest, bleakest, and most unforgettably harrowing conclusions I've had the misfortune to endure. (Also, um, Courtney Love lookalike, it has to be said!) 

3. Mulholland Dr.  

To me Lynch may not be perceived as a horror director, but most of his films contain exactly what I look for from the genre: deep, unsettling dread, nightmare moments of inexplicably surreal intensity and, at their heart, a girl (or boy) in trouble. This one is definitely about a girl, though. And very much in trouble. There's a distressing tension between the demands of Hollywood and the objectification of feminine beauty (ironically, Naomi Watts and Laura Harring are pretty much perfect in their deceptively layered and oppositional roles). I could outline my interpretation of the plot here, but it doesn't matter: you need to watch it first, at least once, before entertaining even the hope of unraveling it. Sure, that's part of the fun; it's a puzzle box of a film, but more crucially, the pure foreboding subcurrent of terror underlying this unfurling tragedy has to be experienced in all its visceral yet quiet magnificence. You'll never taste espresso the same way again. Or think of smiling elderly couples as cute. Or have any frame of reference for Billy Ray Cyrus whatsoever. I'll resist ending with the word "silencio." Oops. 

4. May  

This list's most recent theme has been femininity. Not necessarily feminism, although it could be. These final entries confirm something for me: that in order to be truly effective, the horror genre must encompass and acknowledge and even own its propensity for sexism before the possibility of moving past this particularly thorny problem has even a chance.

Anyway, I'd be hard pressed to name another movie that's as equally endearing as it is offputting, thanks to director Lucky McKee. It's a cracked Victorian attic of a film, wrenchingly sad yet somehow managing to max out the creep factor too. It also comes closest to breaking my no-humour rule for this list, but by the end, all that quirkiness is decidedly not funny when we realise where May is taking us. And as stellar as everyone else involved is, a great deal of the credit must go to Angela Bettis for her performance in the title role, one that will break your heart while simultaneously unsettling your stomach. Think Frankenstein meets Carrie. And then let your decidedly sick imagination run wild and free.

This scene is pretty much perfect.

Friday
Feb282014

Unknowable

A brand new poem. For what it's worth.

 

Unknowable

 

Here's me with my basalt ruin, my

lost tundra neediness, cast amid

muttered notes fragmenting with love,

urgent with greed, fleeting

with want, curled fetal beneath

one solid theatre tower.

 

Where are you? Where?

 

Stopped off at the Sylvia? The Bellwether?

(Ladybugs, ivy, Errol, and heraldry?) 

 

I went and bought a small guitar,

a tiny Ibanez, 

to shore myself against the

grief tsunamis to come, 

while you, drunk only on the now, 

scoured concupiscent inventories 

for dildos, perfect condiments for soup, 

rodents, antlers, dripping cormorants.

 

Dark winglike music, malbec, sushi, tarot, love. 

Me prone and spent amid

the prunelike slime 

of sopping leaves pressed like

massed eons of sediment.

 

Got home, tuned it, strummed a lament,

got the Led out, caterwauled,

hummed an Appalachian dirge, a rant,

a moonshiner sonata and a desert screed,

squalled some secret boy and girl tune,

fireflies, calls, maple leaves, blues, 

ancora qui,

ancora tu.

 

It's work to watch hands build and furl

then come undone and go unfurl,

while roof hymns spatter bitumen eaves

and Jersey shores recede, zeal stutters, 

and all of it, everything, 

bleeds.

 

My idling car is northern Canada, 

immune and snowbanked, yearning south.

Get in and twist the dial

so radio broadcasts

hiss awhile, gaping

unbreakable as bridge cable,

conjuring rainforests,

stupefied like forecasts of something

unnamable, lowing scattered as prairie cattle, yet so

utterly, alarmingly unknowable.

***