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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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Tuesday
Jan242012

Punk Fire or Indie Schmindie?

Inspired by this excellent post by fellow traveller Dan Mader, I've been doing some thinking about what it means to be an indie author in relation to this new publishing milieu within which we find ourselves.

On numerous occasions, Dan and I have discussed the parallels with the punk rock movement of the late 1970s (in the UK and in New York) and beyond (post-punk in the UK, hardcore and straight edge in the United States) leading to "alternative" music in the '90s. And they are indeed striking; with the long tail of minimally talented yet enthusiastically raw artists, the do-it-yourself improvisation, unrealistic expectations and the overall lack of financial success, the slightly dodgy/murky concept of not selling out, of "authenticity", even the sense that the rough-hewn fanzines of old have been replaced by blogs... all of which has contributed to a sense of deja vu for anyone who has been steeped in both cultures particularly.

But here is something else. If you extend the history of punk and conflate it (perhaps somewhat unfairly, although a case can certainly be made) with the musical genre known ominously as "indie", things are perhaps not so cut and dried. Indie as it was once identified, particularly in the UK in the '80s, referred to music that was not signed to a major label, literally to an independent label. And with innovative labels such as Factory, 4AD, and Creation, the music was rich, inventive and became a genuine alternative to the more "mainstream" rock and pop of the day. But something else happened. Soon, the term "indie" was being applied to a style of music and not to the commercial environs of the labels themselves. Mostly rooted in post-punk, it made its way across the Atlantic until, today, indie is a full-fledged genre unto itself... although here lies the problem. It's kind of stale. It's kind of rhythmically-challenged. It's kind of snobby. It's kind of soulless... or precious... or, worse, one-dimensional and gutless. So much so that some have taken to calling it Indie Schmindie to denote a very marginalized, very vanilla, very bland type of prettified ephemera.

So, here's the dilemma. If you even partially agree with my somewhat broad and no-doubt slightly unfair characterizations above, you might begin to worry about how it may all play out for indie authors. We're still at the punk rock stage, in which the initial euphoria and electric uncertainty of everyone being a producer and not merely a consumer is still palpable. A buzzing awareness of possibilities. Some dream of making it big, of being the Clash, if you will. Others just enjoy the sense of belonging while hoping to find the right audience. Now, Dan's post and my own sentiments fall neatly into the latter camp. Making it big is still a lottery. Playing for others, then returning the favour the very next night by showing up and watching those same folks don their metaphorical Strat copies and studded, zippered bondage pants, is the fun part... but where will it end? If it ends all stunted and ghettoized while the same tiny minority make off with pretty much all the pie, we'll have failed, no matter how much fun we may have had for a time. Preaching to the choir, writing only for other writers, however much it can be a blast, may be a good look but is not a sustainable one.

Epublishing should be a great leveller. The problem with that is nothing stays level, not for long. And in some ways, that's okay. A great many bands played to ten or fifteen friends in their garage and were pretty fucking awful, and so let's be honest here: many indie writers can't actually write, which is a pretty big handicap when you come right down to it. But where does that leave those of us with some degree of talent? Can the market sustain a Clash and a Pistols (Konrath, Hocking?) while also maintaining some level of success for the Slits and Wire and Gang of Four and UK Subs, not to mention the tens of thousands of equally worthy yet far lesser-known artists still?

The danger is, we'll be drowned in an oversaturated market in which everyone and his or her dog believes the gravy train is pulling into the station. Okay, excruciating mixed metaphors aside, it's all very well buying into a new and exciting landscape of DIY innovation, but if we descend into a future of mediocrity amid an environment in which the Amazons/Apples of the world simply replace the often exploitive practices of the Big Six publishing houses, and only a tiny handful of artists grow rich, what will we have gained? A sense of fun and cameraderie at the expense of a career. Because, really, why can't good writers plough those talents and that energy into an actual career? Why do they, or we, not deserve that?

None of which is a criticism of those very aspects which inspired this post. Like Dan, I am grateful to be surrounded by such positive and talented people, who often give of themselves for the pure joy of paying it forward and helping their peers. I simply hope that each and every one of them finds some reward over and above the satisfaction of belonging to a community, rich as that can be in and of itself.

I suspect fire in the belly—the fervor of innovation, the ardor of love—will be key ingredients in that goal.

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also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.

Friday
Jan202012

Story Contest

My story immediately below (see previous blog entry) won the most recent Indies Unlimited "Writing Exercise with a Twist" contest. It's a creepy little piece of flash horror fiction based on KS Brooks' enigmatic photograph and the theme of insomnia. We were limited to 250 words, and boy did I discover how strictly we were limited (ironic for a site with that name), and for which I am now very thankful, as it forced me to hone it, whittle away at the verbiage, and discover the shape within. Not a pleasant shape, but a shape all the same.

Each winner of this contest will be published in an ebook at the end of the calendar year, so it is very satisfying and I would like to express my gratitude to Stephen Hise for his apparently unlimited (ha, that word again!) energy and continued support for independent authors.

Thanks to everyone who voted.

Wednesday
Jan182012

Insomnia

This is my story in Indies Unlimited's recent Writing Exercise contest.

It's a little twisted and disquieting, but if you like it, you can vote for it here.

_________________________________

 

Photo copyright KS BrooksI don’t recall seeing it, but I must have seen it. Something kept me awake half the night, after all. Then some dark urge made me return to it.

Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop.

A fishmonger’s, you’d think. And for the most part, you’d be right. But you would also be wrong.

Here on this quiet street, post-revelry and pre-dawn, I stood before that window once more. Odd that it should display its neon welcome at this godforsaken hour. And that such cold fluorescence still burned within.

Suddenly afraid, I turned away, wishing for sunrise, for even the spartan brevity of my home; anything but this suspended place masquerading as a city street.

Nonetheless, as if compelled, my gaze returned to the window. In time to see a flash of silver and an appalling face. A hideous sweating man was butchering someone with the efficient strokes of a squalid Samurai, amputating the limbs of his screaming victim. My blood froze. The night butcher propped up the dying man, whose rolling eyes and sagging lips resembled nothing less than a helpless trout… dressing his limbless torso and placing him, bleeding and faintly sobbing, on the shaved ice of the display beside the other staring fish.

The attacker looked up. Implacable, euphoric, he grinned a terrible grin, lifted his awful, dripping blade and pointed at it. Then pointed back at me and winked.

Then I remembered what I had seen earlier: my own name on an empty section of that same display, waiting.

Thursday
Jan122012

A Titanic Struggle

This will be a short rant, and if you think that's a contradiction in terms, or you're not in the mood for another soapbox oration, then fair play to you, but Imma do it anyway (and if you dislike the word "Imma", please know I feel your pain).

Briefly, and to state the fairly obvious to anyone paying attention to this topic, the sleek luxury liner world of writing and publishing has been impacted and upended by the hidden iceberg of new media and the digital revolution. The Titanic-like so-called Big Six publishing houses broke apart and are still slowly sinking as we speak. After some early and notable successes with epublishing, a gathering tide of new independent authors grabbed onto the flotsam and jetsam and headed for shore. It was and continues to be a dangerous but exhilarating journey.

Now, before its apparent demise, the Titanic was able to blast its horn on a global scale and nobody minded. It had impeccable staff and gatekeepers, directing authors and readers to their appropriate areas and even providing grooming (editing) and advocacy (marketing) services for the former. But now, without them, the individual authors doggie-paddling desperately in the icy waters must resort instead to scrawled messages on pieces of debris: "help me!" "don't let me drown!" "please read this!"

So, here we are. Many of those independent writers desperately trying to reach the shore, some having made it and dried off and been fed hot soup, but most still in the pitiless ocean, continue to need help if they are to survive. And yet, there are those who would deny them their right to call attention to themselves for reasons of what has come to be known as "shameless self-promotion".

Flawed analogies aside, what prompted this little outburst on my part is this idea that when a great number of small people promote their work, much of which is born of pain and sweat and long, dark nights of the soul—you know, work, right?—it is referred to as "spam" or even "gaming the system", yet when the sleek ocean liners of the world do it on a grand, monstrous scale, it's referred to as "advertising". Once again, why does the bulk of the moral opprobrium descend like freezing rain on the tiny, far more desperate swimmers and rarely on the monolithic giants? Because it's easier to pick on them? Safer? Have we really become such cowards?

Anyway, with more and more writers in sight of shore, clutching their makeshift signs and shivering in the dark, I worry about what we will do next—welcome them home or push them back out in the frigid waters?

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also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.

Tuesday
Jan102012

The New Rapture

Had a dream last night, alone… no, more like a vision, in which it turned out the religious folks who insist on the coming of the Rapture—that moment of self-vindication in which the rest of us sinners all burn and suffer and destroy ourselves here on earth while the righteous are taken into Heaven—have been right all along.

Only, there's this twist, see? As our future dwindles due to overfishing, over logging, the constant rapacious destruction of environment after habitat after ecosystem in order to extract the last few drops of something we either need (water) or want (lumber) or are addicted to (oil), and as the planet deteriorates into a toxic, boiling sea of tribalism and increasing barbarity, partly wrought by self-centred short termism, intolerance of others, wealth disparity and outright bigotry, a newly discovered planet slides silently into our solar system and heads toward earth, a half decade away from up close and impersonal.

The planet, at first noticed only by astronomers who decide to hold off on announcing its disquieting presence off the cold shoulder of poor relegated Pluto, appears perfectly Earthlike, with one key difference: it's a pre-industrial unspoiled earth more akin to a fantasy realm than an actual planet. Tracts of warm, green, forested land surrounded by azure ocean beneath the most tender of climates. It is beautiful.

The delay over the announcement arises from an idea put forth by a handful of NASA scientists and thinkers. If this world is approaching so close to the earth, and in under five years, how feasible would it be to transport a few million humans across the tiny amount of space in order to colonize it? They estimate it would be quite possible, albeit a massive undertaking. And due to its size and slowing velocity, they also calculate it will fall into earth's orbit instead of plunging into the sun.

The catch? Only those who have proven to demonstrate true compassion and love toward their fellow humans—who have mostly refrained from the ugliness of racism or homophobia or any type of fundamentalist creed, religious or political, who are admittedly flawed yet possessed of an appreciation of the only two things that really matter: love and beauty—will be permitted to travel there.

So, the plans are drawn up and over the next handful of years, rumours of this thing are everywhere, at every water-cooler, regularly trending on Twitter, whispered along daylight highways, invading the world's fitful dreams, with many on either side of the divide skeptical of its reality. But as the new "star" appears undeniably brighter in our night skies, even showing ever-less faintly after sunrise and before sundown, the tension increases and more and more skirmishes break out upon the earth. Millions of lives are lost in instantly forgotten border wars, in conflicts over resources, over irrelevant differences, but the moment finally arrives and the hidden silos slide silently open and release their silver seeds filled with the t-shirt-sloganned, the pierced, the dreadlocked, the Doc Martened, the tie-dyed, the sexually liberated, the tattooed, the stoned, the tolerant, the disenfranchised, the gentle, the artists, the wounded healers. Not inheriting but departing the earth.

As their planet descends into a maelstrom of rage and horror, both mirrored and fuelled by the earthquakes and tsunamis and raging conflagrations of a world at last tipped beyond the balance of stability, these new migrant-colonists look back one last time, flinching at the dying screams of the cruel, the selfish, the tyrannical, the faux-populists, the prejudiced, the hate-filled, the control freaks, the authoritarians, the zealots, the abusers, the book-burners, the bullies, those who think it perfectly fine to shoot a wolf from a helicopter, those who would deny equal access to health care to their fellow humans, those who would prevent consenting adults from loving each other, those who wish for an absent daddy to come save them, those who believe winning is more important than the joy of playing, those who add and have added nothing to the world… before turning their gaze toward the heavens, toward their new home looming ahead, a new hopeful world the secret planners had already secretly named… this world and this exodus both, named Enrapture.

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also writes for Indies Unlimited and BlergPop. Be sure to check out his work there if you like what you read here.