Category Archives: Fiction

we are all going to reseda…

This came into my mind recently:

When viewed from the sky, the sprawling neighborhoods that make Los Angeles are a series of small grids, linked by freeways and divided by boulevards into larger grids. When you fly into Los Angeles at night, it's like looking at a circuit board, traffic flowing along the freeways in streaks and dots of white and red, and along boulevards lined by the amber glow of streetlights. Bits and bytes of data move from node to node with the type of inefficiency that can only be born of bureaucratic planning that spans decades.

Also, this:

The Magic is everywhere, and everyone can see it, but nobody can actually see it for what it is. They talk about it like it's something wonderful: the Hollywood sign, the Ferris wheel at Santa Monica Pier, the shiny towering buildings in Downtown and Century City that turn into pillars of fire every day in the setting sun.

But some of us know what it really is. We can smell it, we can feel it, we can hear it like the droning of a far-off diesel locomotive. The Magic, fueled by the dreams that die here and stay trapped in the basin like smog, hides this city's true face.

The most concentrated Magic is in Hollywood, where the most powerful Dream Magic has been crushed underfoot and ground into the streets themselves to make them sparkle, a trap to lure in ever more dreamers, to feed the Beast that lurks just beyond their perception.

A big part of living in LA is hating living in LA, and talking about hating living in LA. That's not without reason: it's expensive, it's overpopulated, it has the worst transportation infrastructure in the fucking world, and it often feels like most of the people you meet here came from somewhere else on their way to Something Better, so nobody cares about making LA suck less.

But a city that can inspire me to see it as a Gibsoneqsue TechnoRetroCyberFutureSprawl in one moment and then as a living, scheming, hungry ancient Beast in the next can't be all that bad.

…or maybe it just wants me to believe that.

in a sea black with ink

The greatest reward I can receive as a writer is the knowledge that something I wrote affected someone who read it. Earlier today, a HUNTER reader e-mailed the following:

I'd like to make a request: Please don't make it so dark next time.

I know just how foolish it is to "make a request" about your writing — I'm not your muse, your boss, your editor or your conscience. I understand that the darkness is actually the reason for the actions of the characters in Hunter (i.e. it isn't gratuitous), and that without it, it would have been a completely different story. I understand that the degree of darkness in Hunter is nothing compared to some of the other mainstream fantasy/sci-fi fiction that's out there in bookstores.

I just don't like it. It makes me feel very sad when I read dark stories like that, and it makes me want to curl up and recover from it.

There's enough real evil in the real world; please don't add more fictional evil to it. 

HUNTER is just 2700 words, but it affected this reader so much, he/she/it wrote me this e-mail, and I've been walking on air all day because of it. HUNTER is set in a dark and desperate world, where good and evil is really a matter of perspective, and if readers left that world feeling really good, I either didn't hit the target I was aiming for, or I'm going to keep my distance from that reader if it's at all possible.

Every day, I struggle with the Voice of Self Doubt. When I get a note like this — that isn't condescending, demanding or unkind, but is sincere and thoughtful — I hold onto it, because it's worth +5 to my attacks (and grants 5d20 damage) against The Voice.

Mystery Reader who sent this: Thank you for reading, and thank you for writing. When I visit a world that isn't as dark as Goa, I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Flash Fiction: Perchance To Dream

Commence Flash Fiction:

    The best part of my day? That’s easy: those few blissful seconds right after I wake up, when I just feel my head against the pillow and the warmth of the blanket, before it all comes crashing back down on me and I remember where I am. That’s when the worst part of the day begins.

    There are guys in here who talk about their dreams. Not like what they want to do with their lives or what they’d do with a million dollars; I mean their actual dreams, where they can fly and talk to animals and shit, but I never remember mine. I haven’t remembered a dream for … well, long enough that I can’t remember what the last one was, and I have a pretty good memory. Like, when I was a kid, there were these smokestacks that I could see from the motorway when we were getting close to home. They were tall, with four rings of red lights around them every five meters or so. The top ring of lights blinked slowly, and on nights when the weather was bad, I could still see the red glow reflecting off the clouds, even if I couldn’t make out the smokestacks in the dark. I would tell my mum, “I can see the smokestacks, mummy!” And she would reply, “That means we’re almost home, darling.”

    On cloudy nights, I lie back on my bed, look out through the bars, and imagine that I can see a soft red glow slowly blinking against the orange reflection of the lights, telling me that I’m almost home.

Notes:recently drove up a freeway that I used to take all the time when I was a kid, but haven't taken for at least a decade. On my drive, I saw these smokestacks that I remembered seeing when I was a little boy. Like the protagonist of this little tale, I liked seeing them, because I knew that meant I was almost home. 

That memory stayed with me, and refused to release me until I did something with it. This afternoon, this little story sprung into my head pretty much as you see it here; I just did my best to write it down before it got away from me.

Short Fiction: 239 Sycamore St.

While walking through my neighborhood yesterday, I wondered what actually went on behind those manicured lawns and drawn curtains. I wondered how much I really knew my neighbors.

This is what my brain spat out:

Ian missed living in a city that didn’t keep any secrets from him, where everything was out in the open: junkies, hookers, pan handlers, rich snobs and bad cops. You knew where you stood with everyone in the city, and everyone in the city knew where they stood with you.

In the suburbs, though, everyone had a secret. Two houses up, the Doyles were overdue on three months’ of bills, but they kept paying the gardener to come and keep up appearances. Across the street, Mrs. Canton practically begged every delivery boy who came to the door to fuck her, except on Sunday when she went door to door, passing out bible tracts. Next door, Doctor and Mrs. Thompson argued quietly and intensely almost every night about their son, who they’d put into a group home for troubled youth.

Day after day, Ian smiled and waved to his neighbors, while recording all of their secrets in journals and photo albums.

When the police finally found the bodies buried in the loose dirt of his basement, his neighbors were shocked: “He was quiet,” Doctor Thompson said. “He kept to himself,” Mrs. Thompson added.

“He never left his garbage cans out. He kept a lovely lawn,” The Doyles told investigators.

When the handsome young reporter from Channel 6 came to her door, Mrs. Canton smiled carefully and said, “Would you like to come inside and talk about it over a cup of coffee?” 

I worked on it a little bit yesterday, and again this morning, mostly focusing it on the beats I wanted to put together. I'll be honest: I'm nervous to release fiction, even short fiction like this (just 239 words) to the world without even showing it to an editor, first … but the point of this isn't to be perfect, it's to be creative. So, writers who are afraid to show their work to readers: if I can do this, so can you.

NB: My neighbors are actually quite lovely … as far as I know.