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This issue's Name in Lights goes out to our readers, whose collective enthusiasm has kept these e-zine going through nearly twenty years of struggle, sweat, and tears.
You guys do more than read the stories we post on this site. You comment on them and send letters. You thank us for our efforts, which is more wonderful than you might imagine, as gratitude is the only compensation any of us receive.
Allegory, as I point out in this issue's editorial, is not a business. At the risk of waxing maudilin, it's a labor of love. And, as with any love, it's nice to know we're loved back.
- Ty Drago
What is Allegory?
If you’re a long-time reader, of which we have many, that probably seems like a silly question.
Allegory is an electronic magazine, or (e-zine) for short, that publishes short fiction and, less frequently, articles. Allegory is a “paying market” for science fiction, fantasy, and horror, meaning that we offer cash money, albeit not much, in return for the rights to exclusively post an author’s work for a specific period of time. Allegory started life as Peridot Books, but changed that rather counter-productive name in 2006. We began as a quarterly, moved to a tri-annual, and then to a bi-annual as the number of submissions received and, subsequently, the scope of work increased. Allegory is one of the oldest continuously running fiction e-zines in the world.
That’s what Allegory is. Here’s what it isn’t.
Allegory isn’t a business.
Everyone who works for this e-zine does so on a volunteer basis. That includes me. The e-zine does not make much money and what little it does make goes into trying to offset our publication costs. These, while certainly not as high as those with which print magazines must contend, are nevertheless substantial and are paid entirely out of my pocket. This has been our running model since our inception in 1998.
The flip side is that, in 2016, we received more than 300K hits.
Why am I bringing all this up right now? Well, I must somewhat abashedly admit it’s because the legitimacy of this e-zine was recently challenged. The challenger shall remain nameless, but the challenge itself bothered me. Why, this individual demanded, don’t I do more to promote this e-zine, to improve its readership, it’s internet “footprint?”
My answer, hereby delivered without a smidgen of intentional snark, is this: Because I don’t want to.
The fact is that Allegory fills a niche. It offers a paying market to novice writers that allows them to get their foot in the publishing door. We are a stepping stone, a launching pad, and more than a few authors have marked us as their first sale and then gone on to do great things with their writing. It’s something that I’m very proud of.
Even if I had extra time to throw into making Allegory a larger force in the publishing word (and I don’t), I doubt that I would. Such efforts would cost even more money, and that money would have to come from somewhere. Either I’d have to start charging my readers a subscription or I’d have to begin layering our site with third-party banner ads or (God forbid!) pop-ups. I would need to try to entice “bigger” authors to publish with us, which would limit the room available for the aforementioned novices.
In short, I would have to turn Allegory into a “business.”
So, if you find your work on our site, I say to you congratulations and thank you. We’ve been around a long time and have done a lot of good in an industry that isn’t exactly known for its generosity. We have no interest in profit, only in offering quality stories from writers whose voices you might not otherwise hear. There are more than a few writers out there for whom we served as “first sale,” and who look back on us (I hope) fondly and with respect. We’ll never be an Analog or Asimov, but as what we are, we do very well.
That’s enough for me. I hope it is for you, too.
And that’s what Allegory is.
Order of the Leaf Eaters"
Larry is having doubts.
Brother Larry is having doubts.
It's not the first time he's questioned his commitment to this cause. It's not the first time he's imagined himself leaping up onto this chair, then onto the table, and running down the length of the row, toward the doors, jumping from table to table, chair to chair, perhaps across the heads of some of the other brethren, if they try to stop him. He would shed this green and white robe along the way, and, adorned only in his boxers, he would toss open the doors, and flip the bird to all those assembled.
He looks to the left and the right, Brother Chaz and Sister Jenny seem to be more at peace than he is, more collected. Sister Jenny even flashes him a quick smile as she holds her medallion, patiently stroking the insignia of the Order of Leaf-Eaters while she waits for their instructions, the six small bowls before her identical to his own, and identically heaped with small piles of saucy roughage.
"Your car is trying to kill you?" I asked Keith.
Keith didn't say anything. He just sat there, staring off into the horizon, a half drunk Coors in his hand.
It was September. We were sitting in the backyard of his house in Middletown enjoying the late afternoon of a late Iowa summer. A cooler full of beer sat in the grass between our lawn chairs. Beyond the screen of trees at the end of Keith's property, was a rail line. A train laden with coal rumbled by on its way to Burlington. I thought the sound had caused me to mis-hear him.
But when I studied his face for any tell – a twinkle in the eye or a twitch of the mouth – to show he was playing me, I couldn't find one. He was dead serious.
Mark opened the secret desk drawer and took out the ash wood wand. The warmth from the power stored in it spread through his fingers and he felt the wood throb like a heartbeat. He muttered an incantation and the wand folded into two. He put in into his pocket.
Pat was in the garden. He joined her, tucking his hands deep into his pockets against the chill. ‘We’ve had a call-out,’ he said. ‘Cuddly toys manifesting in a house in Burnham.’
‘Give me a moment, I’ve got to finish this. I want these carrots to set seed for next year.’ Looking up at the sky, she sang a golden melody about honeysuckle and summer. The wind eased. He heard his own voice singing the chorus. The buzzing of bees filled the space. One circled his head three times before landing on his hand.
They were called “negotiations,” but, as far as Var Jinn was concerned, they were just headaches. Though he would never admit it to his superiors, he often wondered just what it would take to get the humans to leave his people alone.
He fought to keep his long tongue from quivering and twitching inside his mouth as he thought of sharing space with one of them. Of course he had his chamber deloused following every unpleasant encounter: the stench of human breath and the membrane of oily skin residue they deposited everywhere they went curdled his blood.
Though the one he’d been meeting with lately -
Dolan - was not so bad as the others. For one thing, Dolan had almost
no hair - that prickly, itchy fiber humans seemed to shed nearly everywhere.
For another, he was calmer than most: he kept his anger, or fear, or
whatever emotion it was that seemed to rule them all, buried deeper
than the rest. It made Dolan seem almost civilized.
Marcas filled his watering can for the tenth time and went to sit next to the bed of white roses. He hated roses. They grew about the yard like weeds: red ones, creamy white ones, and even a few orange ones, forming the renowned garden of Strewfort Lawn at Lady Vivian’s castle.
Whistling an idle tune to prevent suspicions, Marcas pushed his dark curls from his eyes before casually donning what appeared to be gardening gloves. They were, however, made from the thick hide of a horned Glendor dragon.
With the roses offering a natural protection to all that lay buried beneath the gardens, and with only Lady Vivian’s official gardeners allowed to enter the grounds of Strewfort Lawn, Marcas had had to use all his powers of intrigue to obtain the papers necessary to certify himself as a gardener, not to mention ensuring that the five primary gardeners had fallen ill from a bit of Petrak scale powder in their ale last week.
Her new home, on her new planet was beautiful.
At least that was Blanca’s first impression, standing on the beach of red sand, gazing out over the ocean sparkling and innocent under Adriane’s pink sun.
Her second impression was a vague foreboding, a tendril of dread gathering about her heart. A sensation of being observed by something feral and malignant.
Against the Machine"
One of the great benefits of being a wizard was being able to live to a ripe old age. He had stopped counting his birthdays after he turned three hundred and fifty-two, but he was pretty sure he had to be over a thousand by now. True, he could not get around as easily as he used to, but that is why he carried a staff. As long as he was able to read his books and tend his garden, he was content with his life.
He slept a lot, too. Old wizards like him could sleep for days or weeks. It helped to pass the time.
One day he was awakened by a loud buzzing. At first he thought it was a fly and tried to shoo it away, but the sound persisted. He cracked open an eye and readied a finger, with the idea of incinerating the pesky intruder with a mini-fireball, but instead of a fly buzzing over him, he saw a spider lowering itself towards his nose on a strand of silk. He flicked his finger, and the spider winked out of existence in a flash of light and a wisp of smoke.
“Ha! That’ll teach you to disturb my sleep!” he croaked.
But the buzzing continued.
The news of his death came just as Iris was lecturing me about the proper care of my flowering plants and my apparent lack of a green thumb. “You know what you need for your rosebush?” Iris had asked. “A few red blood cells. I poured the congealed stuff around my roots and everything perked right up.”
We had no shortage of blood at the clinic, so at the end of the day, I pilfered a plastic bag from the freezer. “Come with me, Mr. Romero. Part of you can still be useful,” I said, wistfully. “Your blood won’t be missed and you can help my garden grow, you poor man.”
That very evening, I juiced my scrawny, blighted rosebush with Mr. Romero’s blood. I’d heard of people wrapping placentas around their bushes. The next best thing to having a dead body underneath my garden, but blood was gruesome enough. I took care to dig a trench around the bush’s trunk and cover it with topsoil, hoping the neighborhood felines would not be attracted to the scent. The pint soaked in quickly.
I watched as my name was pulled from the top slot and Veronica’s slid into its place. She pumped her fist and turned to me with a smile. My own chubby fists tightened, nails digging into my palms. I tried to keep my lips curved in a smile, but I could feel them twitching in time to the polite clapping around me.
“Sorry, Didi,” she said, not sorry at all. Her smoky eyes lined in black searched my face. She glanced at her nails polished in a purply red, “You had a good run, but I guess it’s time to make way for the next generation.”
“Really? I thought you were older,” she gestured at my face.
“No problem, Veronica. Glad for the competition. Enjoy the top spot while it lasts,” I answered.
I pulled myself up to my four-feet-eight inches, sauntered to the back of the room and regarded the slightly petrified Danishes.
“Who?” I asked. “Why would a doctor tell you not to tell anyone your girlfriend is pregnant? With twins?” I tried not to shout this last part. He’s nineteen and he dropped out of high school in tenth grade. He’s the assistant manager at a car wash, and he’s about to be the father of twins. I couldn’t hear anything. I wanted to hang up, to process, to let my brain grab hold of the news, to wring it dry and let it air out in my brain before I said anything else.
“It wasn’t the doctor who told us that,” he said. “It was this other guy.”
This made no sense. What other guys hang out in OB-GYN’s and tell women to keep their pregnancies a secret? With twins. With twins.
“He said we should wait at least six months to tell since it was an experiment.”
My mother doesn’t bother to knock on the door. Knocking implies one doesn’t have right to be there. She simply appears, a vision of respectability with golden hair shining like wheat in the sun. I know I am but a pale imitation, thinner, more colorless. Only I seem to know that under Demeter’s summery shell lie frozen fields.
“Really, Persephone?” Her tone is mild, but my mind races to figure out where I’ve erred.
She watches me struggle, and then the tiniest sigh escapes. I’ve failed again. “Those pearls are much too large for that neckline.”
I can’t help it; I flush. She goes to the dresser, and opens the jewelry box. Selects a more delicate necklace, and gestures. Obediently, I lift my hair so she can exchange the pearls like she’s dressing a doll. Or a child. She steps back and examines me with a practiced eye.
“You’ll do.” She turns without waiting for me, secure in the knowledge that I’ll follow.
The Jeep rumbles through humid backlands and I count the mosquito bites on my right hand: four, just that I can see. Goddamn Louisiana. Why anyone would voluntarily live in this armpit is beyond me. I hate when the missions take us out to Hicksville, USA--but that hate is wasted, since that's where we almost always go. The kind of people who have the kind of things we're after, they live in places like this, where minding your own business is the law of the land.
Three of us out today. Me in the backseat, Jim and Rambo up front. Rambo isn't his real name, of course, but that's what he calls himself. Stupid as shit, but good at his job and a good driver, too. He's driving now. Jim's in the passenger seat with a walkie-talkie, waiting for more directions. The land flying past has been getting less swampy, more forested for the past couple miles. We're close, but until we get details from Command, this is just a bug-ridden joy ride. And we don't get paid unless the mission is a success.
"They're sure it's a confirmed sighting?" I yell above the whine of the engine, the tires on unmarked, unpaved roads.
The people who work to bring Allegory to you do so entirely on a volunteer basis. As a way of saying thank you, we use this space to showcase our own news and accomplishments and writers. We hope you'll take a moment to check out who we are when we're not editors!
We at Allegory are excited to report that our own Jessica Bayliss (Associate Editor extraordinare) has a story appearing in the Zombie Chunks anthology recently published by Dead Silent Studios/Dead Silent Press. The story a "gross, dark horror comedy" to use the author's words. You can find it here on Amazon.
But that's not all Jessica's
been up to...
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!
The Fourteen Fourteen Curse by William
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.
Or, better yet, consider redeeming the following coupon! Trust us, it's worth it!