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Here for the Reading, 2019:
∼ Podcast #1 ∼
February 11, 2019
First published on January 30, 2017, in Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores:
Myths, Legends, and Fairy Tales: “Fruits of Victory“,
by Jonathan Shipley
In the darkness overhead, Ilianthe saw a point of light flash into being.
Flash and hold steady.
Another way station in the void.
Another star, created of angel light and dragon fire.
Their victory allowed them to create stars, to reshape the Cosmos Hundreds more would be scattered through the darkness of the heavens, and the Holdings would no longer hang cold in the lightless emptiness. Yet victory had not brought peace.
For January 27, the 75th anniversary of the lifting of the siege of Leningrad,
we have in Fantasy “The Ice Angel of Leningrad”, by Eugene Morgulis
This story is dedicated to and inspired by the author’s grandmother, who lived through the Siege of Leningrad.
Beginning in 1941, the city of Leningrad suffered through a brutal 900-day siege at the hands of the German army. Nearly half its three million citizens were killed by bombs, freezing temperatures, or most often, starvation. Those who managed to survive did so in a number of ways, some unsavory, others unspeakable. But none as remarkable as Sveta Gorskaya’s way.
Dr. Benson Spicer was pleased with his small-town volunteer radio host lot in life. For him this modest position was success at its highest. He was reaching and helping his listeners.
But with the station’s ‘new’ salvaged satellite dish, Benson found his audience had become quite a bit more far-ranging and diverse than his little town of Parma, with its six bars, nine gun stores, and enough churches to cover consciences the morning after could account for.
The spirit children, the Angelitos, find their way home following the paths of marigolds, leaving their small footprints in the golden petals.
When they returned to their graves at twilight each Novenber 1st, the paths between the cemetery and the homes of their grieving parents were filled with golden swirls of marigold petals imprinted with each tiny foot.
But Estevan was late returning and lost his way. If he could not return, he would fade to nothing, not even a memory would be left.
As Morgan Roswarne moved, shadowy forms flickered in and out of existence around her.
My interview with her parents had not prepared me for this. How powerful must her affinity be, to call these forms out of the aether?
I was engaged to teach her to control her magic. But I didn’t even know how she called these clustering shadows to her. How would I teach her to keep them at bay?
A woman tended her home and garden, and followed the common customs of the time in the common way, yet she found herself gazing more and more at the uncommon walls of thick old stone surrounding the land of the old woman right beside her. Surely, they held something marvelous, but she didn’t dare approach the small, formidable figure swathed in black which sometimes in the early morning came out of the woods, tended to mysterious business within those walls, and then with the setting sun walked back into the woods.
Well. When she was back in those woods, how was she to know who was peering over her wall?
But deep in those wild woods, in a wide glen encircled by a fence of woven branches hung with feathers, bones, knotted roots, and stones, in the center of the glen, in her dwelling, the eaves and windows hung with things swaying and clacking as with a breeze… the old woman knew.
‘Above us hangs no heaven,
Below us boils no hell,
The Gods they dwell within us,
Where devils swarm as well’.
Blackwolf sat for a moment in the empty conference room. O’Malley had said the planet was where the Gods went, and every devil in hell. All he had to do was bring back fuel from that death-trap and induce seven cut-throats to help save the captors hauling them in to judicial death while keeping an eye on a possibly insane first mate who would pilot an ancient rust-bucket of a fueler, guide them through nightmare land, and why did she always have to have the expertise that forced him to order her to the front line?
July 22, 2018, Science News and Information
Epigenetics is the new dogma of genetic research. If there’s a gene involved with a disease, or a genetic variant associated with a particular trait, you can bet there is some epigenetic mechanism also contributing to that disease or trait. Our environmental exposures have a major say in the epigenetic control of our genes.
We present a related article from Undark Magazine: Uncertain Inheritance: Epigenetics and the Poisoning of Michigan
Hima barely noticed the dwarf.
She saw him now and then at dinner, crouched by Mother’s chair. He looked at no one and no one looked at him.
He was a fixture, like old furniture.
Had there been more than one dwarf, once? At first she wasn’t interested enough to ask.
Later she was too frightened.
So I’m out front of Jaxon’s, down in the French Quarter, singing for my supper. For some fool-headed reason he lets this old cat sit on his doorstep and wail on her trumpet, just like in the old days, even though both of us could get taken for it.
So I’m singing for my supper. Me an’ my trumpet, making the magic them tourists wanna hear. They don’t want no sad songs no more. They want happy tunes these days, blues that sounds more like yellows and greens. So I give it to ’em, and they give me a couple credits, and we all walk away happy.
But not today. Today, the Silence finally finds me.
April 23, 2018, Myths, Legends, and Fairy Tales: “The Witching Hour” by Ekpeki Oghenechovwe Donald I stood balanced at the top of the oldest palm tree, the one that grew at the south end of the village. I was in my element — pitch black night. This was my dawn. The murmurs of glowing spirits mixed with the chitter of living insects. The hoot of an owl reminded me there was work to be done, battles to be fought — silent, undeclared, but raging all the same. And old Mama Ishaka was on the other side of them. With a sigh, I leapt from the tree, fell free, and caught one of the power lines that led to a human spirit. The link was strong. The call of this spirit sang the music of its soul to me. It called me back home.
March 22, 2018, Fantasy: “Liqeni i Zi” by Corey Mallonee Ela and Ismail spent evenings huddled around a crackling radio, listening to news of the invaders, men who had drilled into their own skulls and grafted bronze masks to their faces. Of hungry bullets etched with curling script, which burrowed through flesh to the heart. Often, in those days, Ela would sit on the bare stony shore of the lake and look out at the ruined temple, columns like broken bones guarding an altar of black stone where the village ancestors had sacrificed sheep and goats and sometimes men. Where, she was told, men would waken the gods.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”
―Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Anybody Can Write a Novel, is a guide to teach one style of writing a novel, as well as a tool for beginning and intermediate writers alike to learn to dissect and analyze the elements of a good story. It is the collection of writing techniques that I have learned through the years, my experiences with them, and an account of my success/failure with each. It is designed to give guidance to those who are lost in the process and need some direction, as well as to give other authors various ideas that they might not have considered before.
For writing advice and inspiration — this guide will be published in regular weekly sections. The introduction is now up.
Feb 21, 2018: Science: Interview with 3-D Nebulae Artist Teun van der Zalm
We at Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores recently had a chance to sit down with artist Teun van der Zalm and chat with him about his work. Teun uses mathematical modeling and computer rendering to create stunning, 3-D images and videos of nebulae. His work can be seen in art galleries across the globe and the videos he creates have been used in short films and other visual media in the last few years. His work is both exquisite and inspiring and we are excited to be featuring some of his work over the coming weeks, starting with the first of his Nebulae Short Films
Video Feb 21, 2018: Science, “Nebulae Short Films, Series One: Interstellar Clouds“, directed and designed by Teun van der Zalm Music by Xavi Mendoza
An experiment to visualize what lies beyond the edge of the Observable Universe…
“A cloud that veils one of nature’s secret places. This is a stellar nursery, a place where stars are born. They condense by gravity from gas and dust until their temperatures become so high that they begin to shine. Such clouds mark the births of stars…” – Carl Sagan, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, Episode 1: The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean
We suggest viewing this video in high quality and full screen for the best in inter-nebulae trips.
Please see the related Interview with Teun van der Zalm
If his lawyer hadn’t gotten so creative with his contracts, Guy would have had something more to do than sit in his cheap apartment and play Doom.
On the evening he prepared to beat his personal best he ignored the knock on the door, and ignored it again, but on the third knock the Doom tingle evaporated and Guy opened the door to find himself standing there. Looking quite good too.
Alternate Guy had an explanation, and a Plan. And he thought it would all be very simple and easy…
Olaf was Lars’ ice bear, and Lars was Olaf’s person. They were a team.
Olaf was intelligent and skilled. When he danced around a sword or walked a tightrope it was as much a performance as that given by any human acrobat.
But he would perform only for Lars. Sure, the King might be there —- a thousand people might be there -— but anything Olaf did, he did for Lars alone.
So they were on their way to perform before the King, But just now they were looking at the chimney smoke rising over the hill. They might soon be at the castle, but meanwhile they wouldn’t mind spending the night with a roof over their heads.
Planetrix interviews Swedish concept artist and illustrator, Gabriel B Stiernstrom, about tools, techniques, and easiest and hardest parts of the work he does.
Along the way we get to see some of the beautiful and powerful images Gabriel creates.
Happy New Year’s to All
Here’s hoping 2018 will be a really good year
Xin believed that on Revolution Day, she would kneel in the courtyard of Prosperity House and feel the razor’s touch.
Instead, a black car brought her and Scholar Tan to Smiling House, home of the Honest Guard. Men with white uniforms and black clubs escorted them into the towering building where the enemies of the Path were interrogated, judged, and executed.
On a hard wooden bench in a bare grey room, Xin waited. She served the Common Path. She had nothing to fear. But when she was called into the room, when she saw the man, the thing, tied to the table, she wished they had left her to the clean emptiness of her meditations, to her silent slavery.
Lead Illustration: James Zapata thumbnail this page: Fran Eisemann
Around Husker, the Eyrie was hushed, the night shift expectant.
Junior members listened closely to the banter between Husker and Murphy — they were the only two of the shift with the skillsets needed to Flask, to ride the input tide of millions of minds and datastreams measured in zettabytes, take in the street-level physical inputs of the smooth as silk flask body, and not end up with an electrical storm for a brain.
Illustrations by Giovanni Palumbo and Maciej Rebisz Background by Daniel Fleites
The little fox showed up after a big shooting star streaked across the sky. He couldn’t remember who he was. But he knew he wanted to run, to glow, to leap through the air. But he also wanted to please all those very strange people, and they didn’t want him doing any of those things
Nov 20, 2017: Science News and Information, The Size-Luminosity Relationship in Extra-Galactic Astronomy, by Alex Drozd
An article on the curious case of the density range shared by all modern-day elliptical galaxies. Some physical process we don’t understand is driving all elliptical galaxies to evolve towards a certain common density. Is this an attribute of galaxy structures themselves, or a consequence of an undiscovered physical law? The size-luminosity relationship is a mystery – evidence of a major trend that astronomers never would have expected. Alex Drozd explores the phenomenon.
We interviewed Robert B. Finegold, M.D., AKA Dr. Bob, the editor of 3rd and Starlight, an anthology of new voices in science fiction and fantasy. He is our assistant editor for the Myths, Legends, and Fairy Tales department. In emails I address him as Doc, but secretly I think of him as First Lensman Finegold. His kickstarter for this year’s Starlight Anthology – 3rd and Starlight — has started today. The Starlight Anthologies provide wider audiences for edgy new voices in science fiction and fantasy. All authors are winners, finalists, or semifinalists in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. They have published in Asimov’s, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Galaxy’s Edge, among others, been nominated for Hugo, Campbell, and the Sir Julius Vogel awards, and/or are winners of the Aurealis and the Jim Baen Short Story contest award.
∼ Happy Hallowe’en ∼
The old witch climbed into bed, drew her quilt to her chin, and spoke. The hut settled on its haunches, listening. “I know in my bones my end is near. You have served me well, with more care than I would ever have imagined. But you are a magicked thing. You need a witch’s power to remain alive. I’ve used the last of mine to grant you three days to find a new witch.”
Then softly she mumbled some last advice.
When Bolaji’s husband died, people cast her aside as if she were dead, like she didn’t exist anymore without her man, that dead woman. But lots were drawn and it was her turn at the night job, and with it, all the things unseen in the dark, the loneliness of the task, the tales of Masquerades and demons, marauders and spearrangs that had a little too much fun spinning up people’s insides. There were people that took their turn and came back different, never came back, died in strange ways. Who taught them to fear the night? Who taught them this darkness was evil, sinister, a hand trying to bind them? Why did the fear persist? She stood, shoulders high and back tense, eyes alert. And when everyone was shut in for the night, when it was pitch black, she set out.
If you were a dog,
if you were in a cage waiting for someone to take you,
to take you out the Good Door and home with them,
if you could change your size and shape and color to please them,
of course someone would pick you right away —
Most of the Windy City’s secret places are gone now. But every once in a great while at summer twilight, when soft lamps have filled the tree-lined streets with a faint silver glow, you may happen to find Brady’s Sandwich Shack. Your smartphone will lose its signal. Attempting to document the retro interior on Instagram causes the app to crash. Twitter and Foursquare will be unable to triangulate your location, and reviews on Yelp mysteriously refuse to upload.
Don’t panic. Relax. Enjoy the blues. Savor the smell and order some food. If you’re with someone, enjoy each other’s company… …you never know who may drop in.
It was too wild, all jagged rocks and sun-bleached driftwood. But it suited me, this beach and this night, a night one could believe in monsters….
Just as the last of the sun disappeared I saw him. He emerged from the grey waves dripping wet and perfect. His hair was black as sin and his pale skin shone like the moon. His body was slender and his face all strange angles, but he was heartbreakingly beautiful. My Irish grandma had told me the old stories and I could see the danger — but his fathomless black eyes fastened on me, ensnared me.
I’d only glamoured him so I could get a better look, maybe ask a few questions, but when I looked back the man was dead. Riding a storm down from the snowline, cloaked in swirls of wind-driven ice, I went to find his family, to explain, to help. But when I found her sitting next to the embers of a dying fire, she was cursing the storm, the unseasonable cold, the dying crops.
She was cursing me.
The stars are hard diamonds against a jet black sky and yet still it snows — not from clouds: in the near vacuum there are none — from the geyser two klicks away, the ice crystals sent high above the crusted surface of Enceladus. The falls are heavier now that the geyser is getting closer. Much closer. Two hundred kilos of ice crystals and water vapour every second
The one thing we never expected, we didn’t plan for, when we established our base at a ‘safe’ distance.
Magda practically lived in the tree, and she wouldn’t leave it to the mercy of Harris and his chain saw, in spite of Carla and her pizza bribes, policemen, firemen, dire threats from Child Services, rain, hunger… and that beast from the Paleolithic.
What was this woman doing disturbing Deifilia’s nest on the belfry? Offering frogs and asking for a baby for her daughter!? Hah! From the looks of the old crone she probably wanted the infant for some unsavory purpose. Perhaps to boil into a stew.
No deliveries for her. Deifilia was sure of that.
The dignified woman in gray and the little man in loud tweed were both in Lincolnsville about the goblin reports. To her they were marsh gas and poppycock. To him they were certain proof of his theories. And he had plenty of theories.
The battle lines were clear, but the outcome was not.
Scout Krell hadn’t expected to crash land on her first mission. But then she hadn’t expected a pack of frenzied humans to stuff her infiltration pod with beer and stumble off into the woods with it. To get it back before she froze in the snow would require psionic contact with these primitives who reeked like spawning pits and perceived an interstellar pod as a beverage locker.
The sooner it was over, the better. But then, she hadn’t counted on Mistress Molly.
The Undine is a pain-artist In the perpetual dusk that haunts the caverns, she strains the shadows for prey, seeking her next masterpiece. The stranger who sweeps from the shadows, his smile pale and puckered as a scar, his breath spiced with smoked marrow and charred bones, offers her a spoilt city to paint in pain, on one small condition,
Nemesis bragged about his hacks – cash machines spitting out currency, CEOs donating money with no recollection of doing so, government ministries leaking data. And now the cy-brain hack that drove Henry Muross to jump to his death from the roof of his own skyscraper had electrified protesters to the point of revolt.
It was a blow to the Special Taskforce. People were saying Nemesis had supporters in police and government. The Taskforce was turned over to Marcel. But who was Marcel? And who was Nemesis?
“Rudolph, is that you?” bellowed the old man. The wind was starting to pick up again, blowing his baker’s apron behind him. Sandra could see the code of her Autumn Day shredding under the power of the storm. The bubble of calm was shrinking fast.
“I hoped I’d be the one to bring you down, lunatic. Now here you are, in my bakery.” Weatherman Fawkes laughed and strode forward, unconcerned as the clouds closed in on him. “And it’s not even my birthday!”
She stood atop the wall and stared at the shifting black towers of the Nameless City, as if this time she might spot the shadows of its bygone masters. She flexed her toes against the rampart’s top, the basalt as cold and solid as ever. Only the wall and her vigilance held the City in check, but one of those would not last.
An article on the dark side of fairy tales…
The original villainess of Snow White’s story was her mother. Grimm Brother’s first edition was faithful to the tale they heard and recorded, the tale of a mother who orders the murder of her adolescent daughter out of jealous vanity and devours what she believes to be the dead child’s lungs and liver…
The river’s daughter had hair as long and green as eelgrass, and skin the livid white of a fish belly. Her teeth were sharp, and through her thin lips, she sometimes whispered spells and curses, for her mother had been a sorceress. Since her mother’s departure, swathed in furs in the middle of a winter storm, the river’s daughter had not seen a single outsider to the valley. She spoke to the winds and her siblings the creeks, and she amused herself by practicing charms to change her shape. This dwarf, this outsider who moved with such purpose, fascinated her. She watched him from silent concealment in the forest.
The Fo’dekai could write in blood, and now he had their stories in him. Thousands of them, crowding his dreams, bleeding into his waking consciousness, his mind groaning from their weight. The first dreams were visions of a strange world, flying over blood-red deserts, black oceans, purple forests. Darren sensed a planet being constructed, layer-by-layer, in his mind. He wanted to talk about the dreams, but no reason to be alarmed the doctor said. No reason? He had literally dived into a dark ocean and plummeted into a black chasm. He could see, monochromatically but with precise resolution. He could feel his short undulating tentacles, and his skin rapidly oscillating through a kaleidoscope of patterns.
“In here. Name’s Ben Wilton. Been possessed thoiteen times now.” She held out her crosses as if they were shields, and shuttled backwards.
“Ma’am, it’s not a vampire. Crosses won’t help.” Father Belloch unlocked the decrepit old door, and let it slowly creak open.
The walls were covered with blood-red heretical writings, curses, evil symbols, and dirty limericks. The green ooze covering the floor added a foul smell to the overall ambience. What he didn’t see was the victim in question.
He rummaged through his backpack and brought out a small umbrella. He popped it open and stepped cautiously through the doorway.
He was singing another song to the rusted chain dangling from the ceiling when a black hole opened in his chest. It sucked his heart out from behind his ribcage and he knew with a ghost’s certainty, with the instinctual sympathy between the dead and those close to death, that his brother was dying. He had not seen Michael, hadn’t been able to see another human being, since the day he died bloody in the street, listening to the screeching of wheels on concrete.
We cloudweavers specialize in different shapes — we collaborate and mold the textures of air and rain, cold and heat. The sun and moon are pallets to tint our canvasses.
But now the sun is dying. People no longer look at our art, our gifts, and as they stop looking, our clouds thin and fade. We grow weaker, less aware. Without our mediums, our art, what are we?
Her skin was mottled blue, like storm clouds on a night sky. On days when the stares got to her, she’d throw on her old military coat and a pair of sunglasses. If it were up to her, she’d be wearing a pair of concrete shoes at the bottom of the surf. The bacteria coursing through her veins had other ideas.
And now, after all the cover-ups and slashed pensions, the brass was back. Calling for her to clean up their mess again.
She laughed. “We are within the hill and beyond the stream that stains like blood,” she said. “I will tell you now one true thing: when you bargain with those who live within the hollow hill, you give us things which it amuses us to take, and we give back things which it amuses us to give.”
In the darkness overhead, Ilianthe saw a point of light flash into being.
Flash and hold steady. Another way station in the void. Another star, created of angel light and dragon fire. Their victory allowed them to create stars, to reshape the Cosmos Hundreds more would be scattered through the darkness of the heavens, and the Holdings would no longer hang cold in the lightless emptiness. Yet victory had not brought peace.
“Tell him no! Absolutely not!”
I groaned inwardly.
In my six years as sous-chef at Zarbok’s Of Aldebaran, I had told Chef Z again and again that the customer is always right.
But Zarbok was an auteur. You don’t get to run the galaxy’s only fifty-star restaurant by compromising your compound vision.
Elu smelled demon.
It was a raw scent, like blood in the mouth. The smell that promised a belabored death, a clawing death, a fangs-upon-flesh death.
Sometimes, the memories of his ancient heroics played themselves out in his mind, and the gore colored his sight, but the scent of demon was always there.
It kept his fear alive.
And fear had kept him alive.
They call me Black Annis, the village folk do. I walk the woods alone, my voice gone dry as old leaves, and I’ve not forgotten how to make me a glamour when I need one, with claws of iron and hair like duckweed.
But what does that do against a bargeust from the lands to the north, fangs like blades, breath a bellows blast, eyes of flame?
I just knew the lights were looking for me, so I ran for my life and forgot about that old played out Sun Lizard silver mine. Suddenly I was lying at the bottom of a fifty‑foot shaft.
I hope I got a decent funeral.
I was instantly stone cold sober, and that’s when I figured out the lights hadn’t been looking for me. Stupid idea, aliens flying across the universe to get back a few goddamned gold nuggets.
But I wasn’t wrong thinking they were looking for something.
lead illustration: “By the Light of the Moon” digital illustration © Textures courtesy of Renderosity.com
At first, I thought I had been sent for her. She was so very small, barely a breath in her tiny body. But no, it was her mother, eyes fixed on me, on the tipping point between life and death. And her mother said, “Will you look after her?”
digital painting “I Waited”, by Kim Myatt
Happy New Year Everyone. We hope 2017 will be a good year for us all. To read all the stories for 2017, you can subscribe here: Subscribe 2017