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This issue’s Name in Lights is a very personal one.
Michael Shelton, or just "Shelton" to almost everyone who knows him, is a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, the Philadelphia Flyers and, perhaps most importantly, the Undertakers book series by Yours Truly.
He's smart, articulate, and a tremendous amount of fun to be around.
He's also, as of September 18, 2015, my son-in-law.
Welcome to the family, Shelton!
by Ty Drago
When I'm not working at my day job or running this ezine, I'm a writer. Okay, that isn't true. I'm a writer first, and a working stiff and publisher second and third, respectively. The fact is that I identify as a writer. When strangers ask me "What do you do?" that's what I reply. True, I may not make too much money at it, God knows.
But it's who I am.
If you've followed my career at all, you'll know that my current pride and joy is the Undertakers series. The first of these middle grade "zombie" novels came out in 2011 and there have been three more since, plus one novelette. The last book in the series, "End of the World," is slated for publication by Month9Books in March, 2016. That will conclude, for good and all, the adventures of this army of courageous children as they defended the world from the Corpse Invasion. Well, that will conclude it ... at least until the the movie comes out! But that's another topic.
As with any fictional war, there are casualties, and the Undertakers is no exception. At the end of the pennultimate book, "Last Siege of Haven,' I found it necessary to kill off a character who had been with the series since its inception. For the sake of those of you who might not have read this particular installment, I won't say who.
I will say that killing that character was necessary to the plot and the spirit of the story. It was "right." And it just about broke my heart.
I know that probably sounds a little nuts. I mean, this kid (and it was a kid) was a figment of my imagination. And you don't mourn a figment, do you? Well, I did, and far more than I thought I would. It bothered me for days. I even had nightmares about it, though my wife looked at me like I was crazy when I told her about them.
I've talked to a few writer friends about it and, overall, their response has been supportive. We're storytellers and, in a weird sense, our stories are the homes we build and our characters the children who live in them. When a "person" into whom we've breathed metaphorical life dies, it leaves a hole that it takes a while for our emotions and imagination to fill.
Okay, I just wrote that out reasoning and it still sound nuts!
It's not that I don't understand real loss. I do. I've buried both of my parents, as well as a sister-in-law who was one of my dearest friends, which made this unreal experience all the more unfathomable. But only an idiot denies what he's feeling, right? And what I was feeling for those few days after I wrote the death of this character was an awful lot like genuine grief. It didn't last as long and, I guess, wasn't quite as crippling. But it was undeniably there.
Nor am I alone in this. While I've never watched even a single episode of the show, I'm told that the recent death of Patrick Dempsey's character on Grey's Anatomy caused a social media outrage. And back in the late 19th century, after Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off his beloved Sherlock Holmes, people in London actually wore black armbands to showcase their grief.
According Christiane Manzella, clinical director of the Seleni Institute for Women, which provides grief counseling (as quoted in an article in Time) "We see this all the time. Human beings love stories and making connections, even if it's to fictional people. We create meaning and then experience actual grief when that connection is broken."
And that's just the grief of folks reading or watching the character.
Imagine writing them!
So maybe I'm being a little hard on myself. Maybe it's okay to feel bad, and even a little guilty, about killing off a character when the story calls for it. Maybe finishing their personal arc in this rather final way is part of a writer's responsibility. Some people say that the author is "god" where his stories are concerned, and that may be true. But, if so, then I, at least, am a sentimental deity. I still miss that character. Very much.
I wonder if J.K. Rowling feels the same about Dumbledore.
And I wonder if, like me, she keeps thinking of ways to, you know, bring him back...
Train for Dasha"
started slowly, but as I saw these men were truly interested, I began
to feel welcome, part of their little group. I told them my whole story
as honestly as I could, though I may have been less earnest than I felt,
just so I wouldn’t be too vulnerable in this new company. Still,
they seemed to feel what I left unsaid. All were sympathetic, almost
I started slowly, but as I saw these men were truly interested, I began to feel welcome, part of their little group. I told them my whole story as honestly as I could, though I may have been less earnest than I felt, just so I wouldn’t be too vulnerable in this new company. Still, they seemed to feel what I left unsaid. All were sympathetic, almost somber.
Vadim gripped my knee with fingers like gnarled tree roots and gave
me a rueful smile. “We’ll be there soon,” he said.
“Who knows, these are crazy times. She may be waiting for you.”
Vadim gripped my knee with fingers like gnarled tree roots and gave me a rueful smile. “We’ll be there soon,” he said. “Who knows, these are crazy times. She may be waiting for you.”
“We want the Specimens to behave realistically for the sake of trauma research,” Pasnov said, “and the BetaSerum I’ve developed -- along with specific additions for each specimen -- keeps everything well-conditioned and functional. Organs are kept within their cavities, and even most tissue degradation is halted by the Serum. In other words, the specimen is provided with everything: Energy, longevity, and what’s more --”
We've got a doctor's appointment tomorrow morning. Let me put that out there right now.
You probably wonder why I waited almost two days for one, or why we didn't just go to the urgent care. Because why would a grown man who otherwise seems pretty reasonable let his son go around with a tree branch growing out of his ear?
a clear voice says, "Easy, mates. He's done."
Then a clear voice says, "Easy, mates. He's done."
No second boot. Consciousness flutters back my way. I squint upwards.
A Greek god with long blonde hair, sky blue eyes and the physique of
Hercules leans over me.
No second boot. Consciousness flutters back my way. I squint upwards. A Greek god with long blonde hair, sky blue eyes and the physique of Hercules leans over me.
My three opponents prepare to add him to their list of accomplishments.
He points to the door. "It's the crushers."
My three opponents prepare to add him to their list of accomplishments. He points to the door. "It's the crushers."
Blue police helmets bob above the crowd. The blonde god nods amiably,
"Time to cast off!"
Blue police helmets bob above the crowd. The blonde god nods amiably, "Time to cast off!"
Much to my surprise, they do. The god says, "Easy, mate, I'll get
you out of here."
Much to my surprise, they do. The god says, "Easy, mate, I'll get you out of here."
That's how I met Starbuck Billy.
That's how I met Starbuck Billy.
S.L.A.M. Maps for These Territories"
At the river the Machine tried again to destroy itself. It waded into the twisting, tugging currents until the foam spat about its waist and the pebbles rattled across its feet. Its reflection danced in the grey water, a squat, armoured shape scoured silver by years of dust and wind. Its face screen was a ruin, the dots of the eyes and the line of the mouth and brows obscured by cracks and pools of black crystal ink.
The Machine tried to push on to where the water would take it, drag it under and smash it apart on the rocks of the waterfall some mile or so downstream. The water would leak into its processors and the memories of the war, of the things it had done, would hiss into a nothing of static.
“All right, Steve. Fill me in. What’s the purpose of this study?”
“So, the focus was neuro-pathway building for prosthetic thumbs. Since it’s impossible to find a large enough group of thumbless individuals to run a complete study, the intention was to fully immerse a group of healthy 10-fingered volunteers in a simulated environment in which they were given an extra thumb on each of their hands. The project was a year long, 12 months in a virtual bubble. All interaction with the outside world mediated through full body suit and goggles that supported the illusion of the extra thumbs.”
“And the volunteers?”
“20 year olds. The usual. Mostly college kids looking for a little easy money in a bad economy.”
“So it’s a money grab. We settle.”
“Well that’s the funny thing,” Steve walked over and shut the door to his office even though we were, to the best of my knowledge, the only ones around. “They’re not asking for money. They’re suing us for thumbs.”
About My Humanity?"
Sparepart wasn't a very creative name for a man, he knew. Which was probably why they had given it to him.
He was, after all, made from human bits and pieces
left behind in the warehouse.
The road, what was left of it, did its best to snag Sparepart's clubbed feet, mismatched toes and callused heels, reminding him that his deformities were more than a random genetic flaw or a childhood accident, the likes that afflicted his colleagues. His disfigurements were intentional.
When the knight arrived at the castle of Song, he was led directly to the king. Immediately he made his desire known. "I am here to take your daughter's hand in marriage, Your Majesty. I am prepared to face whatever challenges you set before me. Fire, ice, torture, three-headed krakens—"
The king held up his hand, halting the knight's speech. He said, "There will be none of that. You will have only one challenge to face if you want my daughter's hand: her consent. Receive that and you shall be wed."
"I accept the challenge."
Sweetheart of Ulster"
Connor O’Rourke huddled against the rooftop chimney, his rifle leaning against his chest, his hands tucked in his pockets. Stars peered down as witnesses ready to testify against him. This would be the young sniper’s first kill. An intense apprehension shook his nerves like marionette strings in a palsied hand. Across the street, the Grand Stewart Hotel gleamed in Baroque opulence in sharp contrast to the dark, battered buildings surrounding it. Beyond the hotel’s bright lights the city of Belfast moved with a cautious bustle, leery of the next outbreak of violence.
You’re a damn fool for letting her do this to
you, Connor reprimanded himself. He took his hands out of his pockets
and clutched the chipped stock of the old rifle. In the heat of passion
he had sworn he would die for her.
of the House"
“Are you queasy around dead bodies?” Warden Floss inquired, looking at Travis over the top of his antique bifocals.
Travis gazed along the seemingly endless rows of cryostorage caskets stretching out into the dimness of the huge chamber. “Are some of these spacers dead?” he asked.
“Here at New Seattle Penal Facility we prefer to call them inmates,” Floss chuckled. “Those placed in hypersleep status do indeed resemble corpses. When I served as assistant warden on a similar facility on Earth we had trouble maintaining a night security staff. Here on Slython the indigenous humanoids who work here are not the least bit squeamish.”
Yori had killed a man once.
It happened four years ago and on the other side of the island. When he'd proposed moving here to Kanagawa, he'd told his wife Tachibana that the fishing would be better. The truth was that he couldn't walk past Taro's shop or nod a greeting to Odaka in the street without the memories rising to the surface, like flotsam washing up on a beach. Tachibana hadn't objected to the relocation; their once-cherished home now held painful memories for her too.
After he brought the Emperor back to life, they cut off his hands.
"Now you can never use your gift for anyone else,"
the Emperor's most loyal advisor said.
When he came to himself the wounds were already healed. The skin was shiny and smooth, as if burned, and boasted a thick white scar where the flesh had been sewn together.
this issue we're doing things a little differently. Instead of short
Allegory deals with submissions in the way that, as far as I know, remains fairly unique in the publishing world. Each story is individually reviewed and, if considered publishable, is placed in our "Maybe" pile. At the end of each submission period, these "Maybes" are reviewed, and the best eight chosen to appear in the next issue. This final cut is made on the basis of issue balance, and does NOT reflect the overall quality of these stories.
That said, here - in no particular order - are the "Maybes" who just missed publication in Allegory. Each one is a fine tale that we would have been proud to publish. Remember these names, friends and fellows. You'll be hearing from them in the future. I guarantee it!
Rita's Rage by Robert Mendenhall
Editor for Hire!!!
Allegory's own Kelly Ferjutz, who has lent her editorial talents to this ezine since its inception in 1998, is now offering her expertise to writers out there looking for professional editing services.
Kelly is a veteran editor, a published author in her own right, as well as a "blogsman".
Click HERE to discover more about Kelly's offered services.
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