Mnemo’s Memory is live!

In case there’s anyone left who hasn’t heard my news, my short story collection Mnemo’s Memory and Other Fantastic Tales is now live for sale on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble/Nook, and Kobo.

The details are all on this page.

A few people have asked about getting a print copy. There is a print-on-demand version on the way, but I’m sweating on a proof copy currently winging its way from the United States. Once it arrives and I’m satisfied it doesn’t look like a complete debacle, I’ll let you know.

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Friday Flash Fiction – Works Like a Dream

Francesca has been wandering the darkened halls of the charred house for ages when the knock finally comes. The door is a pristine white unlike anything else in her singed surroundings; it wasn’t there a moment ago.

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“Excuse me, Miss…er, Francesca Kincaid?” The two handymen wear overalls and tired, indifferent expressions. The long-faced speaker’s breast pocket label names her as Sam; the one with big hands pulling a fully-laden tool trolley is apparently George.

“Yes?”

Sam waves a piece of paper with indecipherable forms printed on it. “We got a work order says your dream is malfunctioning, Miss. May we come in and inspect the apparatus?”

Francesca blinks slowly as she swings the door open. “I’m dreaming?”

“You’re supposed to be, Miss. Something’s gone wrong.” Sam pops a hatch on the side of a toolbox and produces a complicated device resembling a piccolo crossed with two egg-beaters.

“What is that?”

Sam pulls off her cap, which is printed with a drifting-cloud logo and the name “Id Industrial”, and scratches her ginger buzz cut. “This? I guess you’d call it an emotional seismograph. It’ll help us track the problem to its source. Can you lead us to where you last felt uneasy or unsafe?”

“I think I know just the place.” Francesca leads them up a rickety staircase, creaky and rotten with mould, to a room where a four-poster bed is draped with tatters of silk and littered with foul-smelling goose down. As it was on her previous visit, the room is a few degrees too cold for Francesca’s comfort.

“Perfect,” said Sam. “Stand back and we’ll have you back in your dream in no time.”

George pulls the bed aside to reveal a trapdoor. Sam lifts the hatch. Under the floorboards lies a mishmash of machinery, as if someone has dumped the engine parts of everything from a 747 to a combine harvester and jerry-rigged them into a new device. George pulls a spanner from his belt and experimentally whacks the nearest part, which might be the carburettor of a muscle car from the 1970’s.

“This doesn’t make any sense,” complained Francesca. “Dreams don’t come from machines! Do they?”

“Hah! No, not as a rule.” Sam twiddles a dial of the side of her piccolo-seismograph until it makes a whirl-whoop sound. “Normal human dreaming is just the chemical highlights reel from the memory cataloguing process. Interesting, lots of potential, but not all that consistent. We were after something a little more reliable. Hence the mnemonic induction engines.”

She looks Francesca up and down with a quizzical expression. “That was well spotted, come to think of it. You shouldn’t have been able to notice that.”

Francesca shakes her head as if she’d just stepped through a cobweb. “Are you telling me you’re trying to control my dreams?”

Sam looks down at George. George looks up at Sam. They both look at Francesca and burst into laughter.

“Dreams? Dreams? You dumb human, we don’t want you to have dreams. We’re controlling your nightmares.”

“What?”

“You heard me. We didn’t conquer the waking world so you could act out your weird little self-actualising fantasies about flying and succeeding and having a puppy who talks to you. We want you screaming your tiny little minds out, forever and amen.”

Francesca sits down heavily on the bed, sending up a plume of rank feathers. “What are you talking about?”

Sam sighs, but it’s a sneer of mockery. “As if you could fathom the breadth of our designs, you monkey-brained little throat gargle. I’ll give you the montage so we don’t fry your synapses.”

The room abruptly becomes a freeway, choked with stilled traffic; drivers emerge slack-jawed from their cars as gigantic figures dressed in biohazard suits loom above them. The sky has torn open as if ripped by claws, and eyes stare down through the slashes. Cables rise from the bitumen and drag screaming victims into the earth; others find themselves stalked and slain by their own toothy, ravenous cars, or throttled by their shirt collars. A few just fall into the sky.

Now the room is a forest, where desperate survivors flee unseen horrors. Now it is a city street, where exhausted stragglers are overrun by swarms of bugs and bats. Now a shoreline, where hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unconscious humans are laid side by side on the sand, enveloped by fibrous tendrils as thick as a shroud. Every one of them is screaming like a scalded infant. Behind them is a great engine, a black dome straddling the horizon like a feeding spider, generating psychic torment.

Sam kisses her fingertips appreciatively. “Human misery, Miss Kincaid. Mwah! Tastes so good!”

Francesca’s eyes drop to the white-knuckled fists in her lap. “Dream vampires. That’s…not what I expected.”

“I guess not.”

“Why tell me now?”

Sam grins. “First of all, because your uncomprehending terror is frankly hilarious. Second, when we restart the dream sequence, you won’t remember any of this. Speaking of which, how are we doing down there, George?”

George’s voice is muffled by the floorboards. “Lots of damage down here. Gears and bolts all over the place. It almost looks like it’s been deliberately -”

A thump from the floor jars Francesca to her knees, and Sam stumbles. She yells, “What was that?” The only reply from George’s direction is a sharp smell like scorched oil.

Francesca whips an arm around Sam’s throat in a choke hold. “With enough time and motivation,” she whispers, “any machine can be understood. This one hard-codes metaphors, right? That’s your problem, right there. It’s not just comprehensible to the tiny little human mind. It’s also surprisingly easy to sabotage with just a little imagination.”

She raises the pair of silver scissors she imagined earlier.

“You chewed on me like a midnight snack, Sam. What do you want to bet I can walk out of here wearing you like a suit?”

 


Ooh, that got dark.
Just a reminder that Mnemo’s Memory and Other Fantastic Tales goes live for sale at all fine ebook stores (not you, Google Play) next Wednesday the 28th of February.
And a further reminder that you can have a copy for free just by signing up to my email list.
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Friday flash fiction – The Eagle of Blackwall

The city of Blackwall’s guardian is eternal and eternally unthanked. Shalaya, the first and last eagle.

She has stretched out on thermals, languid and watchful, for centuries past. She will for untold ages to come, until she is no longer needed. As far as she knows, the day will never come.

Below, Blackwall, a city as old as the world itself, older by far than the span of the pale, featherless innocents currently scurrying within and without its basalt walls, walking its stone streets worn smooth with the traffic of a dozen species. These ones, who call themselves “Ferem” in the whispers rising on warm currents from the surface to Shalaya’s ears, do not remember the ones who lived in Blackwall before them. Those were lizards, she remembers, with mottled scales of olive and lavender, who wrote poems about the clouds and the stars, but never a word about Shalaya.

The clouds in the west have become bruises on the dusk sky these last few weeks. The season is turning, the nights becoming shorter. Winter is not far away, and with it the time of greatest danger.

Shalaya wonders whether they will come again this time? They did not come last year, nor the year before, crawling from their dark corners beyond the sky and stars. Perhaps they will not, but she knows another year without the burning streaks in the twilight sky means nothing. Many times, in the past, fifty years and more have crept by, silent and untroubled. They always return, eventually.

Shalaya is always waiting.

Tonight, the Ferem are celebrating, fires and songs to commemorate some long-dead queen or long-past conflict. The embers of their bonfires rise into Shalaya’s sky, guttering and fading like stars at dawn. They sing of the Blackwall they have always known, severe and resolute, a bastion between the the plains tribes of the east and the scavenger beetles who scuttle about their mountain slopes. The Ferem know nothing of the Blackwalls of their pre-history; centres of culture and learning, trade and invention, religion and revolution.

Each Blackwall fell, in its turn.

The songs of the Ferem reach Shalaya. In her unwavering vigilance, she does not grasp their meaning at once. She knows the words; she always knows the language spoken in Blackwall, no matter what it may be. At first she is content to bank and wheel, echoing the crescendos of the Ferem voices. But as the singers become suddenly hushed, she understands the purpose of the song.

For the first time, for as long as Blackwall has existed, its people sing to Shalaya.

Shalaya’s heart breaks. She is moved not by their show of recognition, nor of the overdue acknowledgment. The Ferem are crying out to Shalaya for help. They have seen their doom approaching, as their predecessors never have, and they understand what the others have not. Only Shalaya can protect them.

Shalaya turns her head to the skies, already knowing what she will see. Ribbons of flame twist from the hazy sky like threads lowered by hunting spiders.

She rises the intercept the lowest thread. It twists away from her like an exposed snake. In its way, it is beautiful. There is a grace to its sinuous movement, and its surface glimmers like a flaming mirror. But though it is lithe, it can only fall with the pull of the earth, and Shalaya has no such limitations. She dives, an arrow with a head of beak and talon. She catches the pillar of flame in her claws and snaps it in half with her beak’s razor edge.

Below, the Ferem cheer. They do not understand.

Shalaya trails smoke and the scent of burned feathers as she circles toward her next target, and the next. Every thread she hunts, she destroys. She destroys a dozen, a hundred, and the Ferem sing in praise of Shalaya.

The flames continue to fall, in ever greater numbers. Too many for her to catch them all, too many even to see them all. They begin to slip past her. They fall to the streets of Blackwall, and at last the Ferem know that Shalaya can do no more than delay the inevitable.

Shalaya doesn’t need to see what happens next. It has happened before, every time. A fire thread, as tall as the tallest Ferem, slithers through the streets until it finds a victim. Someone screaming, frozen with uncomprehending terror. Still alight, it wraps itself about its prey, spreads itself flat to engulf the unlucky Ferem, until it too is enveloped in flames. Horrified friends and onlookers may try to prise the thread off, to pull the victim free. They suffer deep burns and achieve little else, until at last the heat forces them back. They give the victim up for dead; nothing can survive so fierce a flame.

More threads fall. More Ferem are trapped, mummified in fiery ribbons. Then one cracks open like a shell, sloughing off the brittle scorched remnants of the expended thread. Something new stands in its stead.

Now Shalaya glances down at the streets of Blackwall. She grieves for the Ferem, but she is curious too. She doesn’t know the shape of what is to follow.

Something new stands. A hairy creature, hunched and long-armed, with pointed canines. The Ferem who bear witness to the birth of this monstrosity give in to their terror. They throw stones, bits of wood and whatever they can find. In a moment the creature is dead, bleeding from a dozen wounds and a crushed skull. But as it falls, another emerges from its cocoon, then another and more.

Shalaya sees most of the Ferem have been caught. She abandons her defence. The threads continue to fall. One for every remaining Ferem.

Soon no Ferem remain.

Shalaya returns to her sky as Blackwall is reborn anew.


I’m away on holidays in Tasmania this week, where phone signals and reliable wifi are things of myth and legend, so whether this story posts on time or at all are matters in which I can invest little other than blind faith.
The story this week was inspired by the photograph I took of a statue at the Clover Hill vineyard, and the small riverside village of Blackwall, near where my family and I stayed for a few days.
By the way if I haven’t responded to your emails or social medias this week, that’s why. I’ll get back to you soon!

 

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Friday Flash Fiction – Mister Extra

Ace Reporter: This is Grace Cartilage from Ace News .I’m at the scene of another super-powered battle in downtown Colossus City. Today’s saviour is a new member of our crowded superhero community. Mister Extra, why don’t you introduce yourself to our viewers?

https://pixabay.com/en/crab-sculpture-iron-pincers-3062886/

Mister Extra: Oh, please, Grace, call me Ex. I can’t claim to be anything special. I was just someone in the right place at the right time.

Ace Reporter: Mister Extra, isn’t this your first public appearance?

Mister Extra: That’s right Grace. I’ve been training in secret for some time, learning how to use my powers to protect the good people of Colossus City. But when danger threatened, I had no choice but to jump into the fray.

Ace Reporter: And what a fray! You found yourself up against the Colossal Crab on your very first outing. That’s quite a trial by fire!

Mister Extra: Well, he is a formidable opponent. It was touch and go there for a while.

Ace Reporter: Can you take us through your bruising encounter?

Mister Extra: Well, Grace, when I heard Crab had launched a wave of pincer drones at the Exoscope Industries trade show, and that international defense delegates were in peril, I donned my power armour and – voila!

Ace Reporter: It’s quite a look you’ve got there.

Mister Extra: Thanks! The armour plating is a composite of ceramic and carbon fibre strata, the joints have gravitic boosters for extra strength and short-range flight, and the wraparound face mask has sensor and communications arrays, as well as counter-intrusion hardening against electronic and magical scans.

Ace Reporter: I really like how the purple highlights set off your red hair.

Mister Extra: Thanks! It’s my favourite colour.

Ace Reporter: You heard it here first, folks. So, what happened?

Mister Extra: Well, the Colossal Crab had secured control of the bottom six floors of the Pharaoh Convention Centre and taken the entire Exoscope contingent hostage along with more than a hundred convention delegates. A quick reconnaissance with my holovision scanner revealed that each hostage had been subdued by a pincer drone to the throat. One wrong move and they could all be snipped to death.

Ace Reporter: That is extraordinarily horrible. But despite the danger you decided not to back off and leave the job to police negotiators. Why not?

Mister Extra: There was no time, Grace. From monitoring his command channels, I knew the Colossal Crab was on the verge of a decapitation frenzy. I had to act.

Ace Reporter: No doubt. So what did you do?

Mister Extra: Well, as you know from my helmet camera footage, which I’ve made exclusively available to your network, an episode of Teen Celebrity Cakeologists was being filmed in the floor above the conference. I organised a little distraction by using my disintegration beams to dissolve the floor beneath an oversized confectionery fountain. It dumped five hundred liters of Belgian ganache right on top of the Colossal Crab.

Ace Reporter: That sounds unhygienic.

Mister Extra: More importantly, it coated his eyestalks for a crucial six seconds. While he was out of commission I projected an EMP hackwave to cut off the control signal to his pincer drones. Bam! Hostages freed!

Ace Reporter: And that’s when the Colossal Crab punched you through a wall?

Mister Extra: That’s when I took the opportunity to reposition the fight away from civilians.

Ace Reporter: He punched you through the Orthopaedics wing of the Merciful Heaven Medical Centre.

Mister Extra: No life-threatening injuries occurred.

Ace Reporter: No, just forty million in property damage and structural instability which will close the hospital for at least three months.

Mister Extra: It’s regrettable, Grace, but after all, you can’t make an omelette without cracking an egg.

Ace Reporter: I can’t help feeling I’ve heard that before.

Mister Extra: It’s a common expression.

Ace Reporter: That must be it. So, Mister Extra, can you tell our viewers how you brought the Colossal Crab to justice?

Mister Extra: To my shame, he slipped away from the scene while I was using my gravitational field to stop a wall from collapsing on some innocent passers-by.

Ace Reporter: He got away?

Mister Extra: Not for long. I’ll stop at nothing to track him down.

Ace Reporter: Where will your pursuit begin?

Mister Extra: As you can see from this holographic projection, Grace, I’m currently running over two hundred thousand simulations to calculate his escape route and –

Ace Reporter: Wouldn’t you start at Apartment 206 of Lieber Towers, 701 Kirby Avenue?

Mister Extra: Er, what?

Ace Reporter: The current address of Herbert Charles Simonic, better known as the Colossal Crab.

Mister Extra: How do you know about -?

Ace Reporter: I have a picture of the Lieber Towers front entrance taken yesterday morning.

Mister Extra: …you do?

Ace Reporter: Take a look. I snapped it just as three people left. You can see every detail in the faces.

Mister Extra: …you can? Oh. You can.

Ace Reporter: Herb Simonic is the bearded man. By unbelievable coincidence, the woman is Madeleine Barrow, Chief of Corporate Intelligence for Valkyrie Industries.

Mister Extra: I’m not familiar with –

Ace Reporter: One of Exocorp’s closest defense contracting rivals.

Mister Extra: Ah. Grace, I’ve received an emergency call. I’ll have to cut this –

Ace Reporter: The man with the curly ginger hair is Todd Blight.

Mister Extra: I really have to go –

Ace Reporter: Previously known as the Irregulator. Remember him? The genius pioneer of gravity manipulation and atomic disruption technologies? He was thrown out of the Society of Vigilance last year for taking kickbacks from the criminal network known as Omega Corps. You know, the one the Colossal Crab used to lead?

Mister Extra: Sorry, but –

Ace Reporter: I miss the Irregulator. Not everyone could make a violet cape work.

Mister Extra: Goodbye!

Ace Reporter: And there he goes. Thanks, Mister Extra, for giving up some of your precious remaining time. Back to you in the studio, Walter and Louise!

 


This story is brought to you for no better reason than I hadn’t done superheroes yet. And I do love superheroes.

In case anyone somehow managed to miss my news last weekend, my short story collection Mnemo’s Memory and Other Fantastic Tales is now available for pre-order from your favourite online ebook store. Unless your favourite is Google Play; sorry, I’m still working on them. You can find the details to place your order here.

Of course, the book’s not officially released until the 28th of February. If you can’t wait that long – and who could blame you for your feverish impatience? Not me! – then you can get a link to own it immediately by signing up for my newsletter.

Just fill out that extremely basic form on the right with your name and email address, and the magic of the internet will do the rest. In no time at all, your preferred e-reading device will be nineteen stories heavier! For free, what’s more! Some would say that’s exactly the right amount of great value!

 

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Announcement – Mnemo’s Memory and Other Fantastic Tales

I’m pleased to announce that my collection of short stories Mnemo’s Memory and Other Fantastic Tales is now available.

Mnemo’s Memory includes nineteen short stories, some previously published and others appearing for the first time in this volume.

Aside from the eponymous romantic adventure ‘Mnemo’s Memory’, the collection features ‘The Lighthouse at Cape Defeat’ (my Aurealis Award-nominated fantasy adventure), ‘Seven Excerpts from Season One’, about teenage ghost hunters in Australia’s most haunted town, ‘Lost Dogs’, a horror story about missing pets and breaking lives, and ‘The Dressmaker and the Colonel’s Coat’, a weird Western fantasy novelette. It also includes several of the best stories from the first six months of Friday flash fiction.

The ebook version of Mnemo’s Memory is available for preorder from all the usual online bookstores right now (to go out on 28 February). Check this page for quick links.

If you can’t wait that long, or perhaps more relevantly if you’d prefer not to pay for it, you can get the ebook for free by signing up to my newsletter. Just fill in this form with your contact details and I’ll send you a link to collect your copy.

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