Category Archives: Fiction

DayBreak Fiction “Barcode Babes”, v2

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Barcode Babes

Martin McGrath

The first time I met Martin McGrath was at the 2005 SciFi London Film Festivals. I was there to present a documentary—Chasing God—directed by my sister, who lives in Melbourne (which is a bit out of the way from London). I was at the screening of a B-movie from a Canadian director, a film that was full of tongue-in-cheek references of the SciFi canon when Martin came to sit next to me. He mentioned—among many other things—that he watched genre movies indiscriminately, from A to Z.

We crossed paths at several conventions after that (and should meet again at the Odyssey EasterCon right when his story goes up), and at one he asked me to do a column about writing for Focus, the writing magazine of the BSFA, which he edits. (Unfortunately, I was so busy in the last year that I didn’t send him anything. I hope to pick it up again after most of the SHINE madness has calmed down.) Martin is very active in SF fandom and writing, not only with Focus, but also producing Illuminations—an anthology of the Friday Flash Fictioneers—together with Paul Graham Raven, and typesetting the BSFA’s last twenty year review, among many other things.

On top of that, he also writes fiction, and “Barcode Babes” is one of the last fruits of that labour. On the one hand it’s got its tongue firmly in its (barcoded) cheek, but on the other hand it’s also a rumination about the power of social media against the devious minds from the powers-that-be. 21st Century Grrrrl Power!

Cat woke up with an itch on the back of her right hand and a throat as dry and as that place in Patagonia where it hasn’t rained since before Elvis was born. Blearily, not quite half awake, she scratched the itch.

“Ow!” She leapt up in bed. “Shit!”

The back of her hand was red raw and burning. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “Barcode Babes”

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Barcode Babes

Martin McGrath

The first time I met Martin McGrath was at the 2005 SciFi London Film Festivals. I was there to present a documentary—Chasing God—directed by my sister, who lives in Melbourne (which is a bit out of the way from London). I was at the screening of a B-movie from a Canadian director, a film that was full of tongue-in-cheek references of the SciFi canon when Martin came to sit next to me. He mentioned—among many other things—that he watched genre movies indiscriminately, from A to Z.

We crossed paths at several conventions after that (and should meet again at the Odyssey EasterCon right when his story goes up), and at one he asked me to do a column about writing for Focus, the writing magazine of the BSFA, which he edits. (Unfortunately, I was so busy in the last year that I didn’t send him anything. I hope to pick it up again after most of the SHINE madness has calmed down.) Martin is very active in SF fandom and writing, not only with Focus, but also producing Illuminations—an anthology of the Friday Flash Fictioneers—together with Paul Graham Raven, and typesetting the BSFA’s last twenty year review, among many other things.

On top of that, he also writes fiction, and “Barcode Babes” is one of the last fruits of that labour. On the one hand it’s got its tongue firmly in its (barcoded) cheek, but on the other hand it’s also a rumination about the power of social media against the devious minds from the powers-that-be. 21st Century Grrrrl Power!

Cat woke up with an itch on the back of her right hand and a throat as dry and as that place in Patagonia where it hasn’t rained since before Elvis was born. Blearily, not quite half awake, she scratched the itch.

“Ow!” She leapt up in bed. “Shit!”

The back of her hand was red raw and burning. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “The Rules of Utopia”, v2

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The Rules Of Utopia

James Bloomer

While James Bloomer is a staunch supporter for optimistic science fiction, he also does not shy away from telling when a DayBreak story didn’t work for him, sometimes remarking that the ‘feel-good’ factor was tuned too low for his liking (or even missing). Make no mistake: I welcome comments and critiques, both positive and negative.

Nevertheless, I think every magazine needs variety: also one dedicated to upbeat SF. So sometimes progress will be a small step, incredibly hardfought. Sometimes progress in one area comes together with decline in another. Sometimes the road ahead is harder than we expected, but sometimes it’s easier than we feared. And sometimes, yes, there will be unmitigated Utopia.

To paraphrase a world famous poem:

Idyllic Utopia, shining bright
In SF’s dystopian night
What immoral hand or eye
Dare propose thy fearless lullaby?

Kidding aside, even James Bloomer’s “The Rules of Utopia” does not come without its price. But yeah, does it shine bright, eventually…

1. No One Is Lonely

The evening sun was still high and golden, yet the light had a thicker consistency than earlier on in the day. The pub had a large front garden, dotted with wooden picnic tables, some with umbrellas, some without. People were everywhere: old, young, parents, single, kids, dogs. Local. Meaning from within the area. It wasn’t a special holiday or a weekend, it was just a sunny evening with blue sky and warm air, and like every other day you could always find someone to talk to. No one was lonely.

And on other nights there was not just people to meet but things to do: make, do, learn, volunteer. Providing people joy and purpose. There was a church for those who believed, a shop to post notices in the window and a cricket pitch around which to gather on match days.

Lucas stood on the edge of the social fray, alone and intimidated, feeling lonely and a little scared. He had moved into one of the old terraced cottages on main street a week ago, after returning from three years working in Switzerland. After his life had collapsed around him. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “The Rules of Utopia”

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The Rules Of Utopia

James Bloomer

While James Bloomer is a staunch supporter for optimistic science fiction, he also does not shy away from telling when a DayBreak story didn’t work for him, sometimes remarking that the ‘feel-good’ factor was tuned too low for his liking (or even missing). Make no mistake: I welcome comments and critiques, both positive and negative.

Nevertheless, I think every magazine needs variety: also one dedicated to upbeat SF. So sometimes progress will be a small step, incredibly hardfought. Sometimes progress in one area comes together with decline in another. Sometimes the road ahead is harder than we expected, but sometimes it’s easier than we feared. And sometimes, yes, there will be unmitigated Utopia.

To paraphrase a world famous poem:

Idyllic Utopia, shining bright
In SF’s dystopian night
What immoral hand or eye
Dare propose thy fearless lullaby?

Kidding aside, even James Bloomer’s “The Rules of Utopia” does not come without its price. But yeah, does it shine bright, eventually…

1. No One Is Lonely

The evening sun was still high and golden, yet the light had a thicker consistency than earlier on in the day. The pub had a large front garden, dotted with wooden picnic tables, some with umbrellas, some without. People were everywhere: old, young, parents, single, kids, dogs. Local. Meaning from within the area. It wasn’t a special holiday or a weekend, it was just a sunny evening with blue sky and warm air, and like every other day you could always find someone to talk to. No one was lonely.

And on other nights there was not just people to meet but things to do: make, do, learn, volunteer. Providing people joy and purpose. There was a church for those who believed, a shop to post notices in the window and a cricket pitch around which to gather on match days.

Lucas stood on the edge of the social fray, alone and intimidated, feeling lonely and a little scared. He had moved into one of the old terraced cottages on main street a week ago, after returning from three years working in Switzerland. After his life had collapsed around him. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”, v2

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The Notebook of my Favourite Skin-Trees

Alex Dally MacFarlane

Alex Dally MacFarlane is — as far as I can see — on a rather extended wanderjahr. My sister did something similar more than a decade ago, and eventually she wound up (via East Asia and Japan) in Australia, where she basically hasn’t returned from (apart from several family visits): she’s an Australian citizen now. I don’t know if Alex will return to her native England, but she sure seems to have fun travelling, and if that leads to stories like “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”, then we all are all the richer for it.

Also, while my original intent with my Twitterzine @outshine was mainly to promote the SHINE anthology, I was (and am) happily surprised by the way it attracted talented writers and interesting pieces that were — as I found out later — hypercondensed forms of a short story. One of these was a tweet from Eric Gregory that was directly related to “The Earth of Yunhe” — his SHINE story — and another was a tweet from Alex Dally MacFarlane (published on Wednesday July 15, last year, which I’ll display below) that was directly related to “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”.

A woman grafts a miniature, nano-engineered breed of fruit to people’s skin. Orchards travel the world and seed onto garbage heaps.

The actual story, as you can read below, goes quite a bit further, though…

BANANA

The best part of these are the fruits, growing on their fat stem, dangling down the person’s back or from their arm. I always bow and smile, asking, “Can I taste one of your fruits? Bananas from a skin-tree are so sweet.”

So sweet and so small, a single mouthful.

I also enjoy the place where banana tree meets flesh, roots curving over and into the person’s limb — pressing my lips there, my tongue — and the small shade cast by the leaves. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”

Download files of the story:Download PDF version of the story!Download WORD version of the story!

The Notebook of my Favourite Skin-Trees

Alex Dally MacFarlane

Alex Dally MacFarlane is — as far as I can see — on a rather extended wanderjahr. My sister did something similar more than a decade ago, and eventually she wound up (via East Asia and Japan) in Australia, where she basically hasn’t returned from (apart from several family visits): she’s an Australian citizen now. I don’t know if Alex will return to her native England, but she sure seems to have fun travelling, and if that leads to stories like “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”, then we all are all the richer for it.

Also, while my original intent with my Twitterzine @outshine was mainly to promote the SHINE anthology, I was (and am) happily surprised by the way it attracted talented writers and interesting pieces that were — as I found out later — hypercondensed forms of a short story. One of these was a tweet from Eric Gregory that was directly related to “The Earth of Yunhe” — his SHINE story — and another was a tweet from Alex Dally MacFarlane (published on Wednesday July 15, last year, which I’ll display below) that was directly related to “The Notebook of My Favourite Skin-Trees”.

A woman grafts a miniature, nano-engineered breed of fruit to people’s skin. Orchards travel the world and seed onto garbage heaps.

The actual story, as you can read below, goes quite a bit further, though…

BANANA

The best part of these are the fruits, growing on their fat stem, dangling down the person’s back or from their arm. I always bow and smile, asking, “Can I taste one of your fruits? Bananas from a skin-tree are so sweet.”

So sweet and so small, a single mouthful.

I also enjoy the place where banana tree meets flesh, roots curving over and into the person’s limb — pressing my lips there, my tongue — and the small shade cast by the leaves. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “A Thousand Trains Out of Here”, v2

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A Thousand Trains Out of Here

Paul Evanby

Hey: I’m both happy and proud to present a Dutch writer — a compatriot — on this (supposedly) international stage. I think it’s healthy that English-language SF is increasingly (even if still somewhat slowly) opening up to non-Anglophone writers. In general, I think greater diversity is a good thing.

Atypically, Paul is not among the modern creed of speculative fiction writers who keep the day job for financial security and write for pleasure or for the soul (or both) in their spare time: no, he quit his job to get more writing done. Then — as he told me at the last semi-irregular meet-ups we have with Jurgen Snoeren and Floris Kleijne — his previous employer(s) kept bothering him with requests to work on several IT projects (obviously, his expertise is in demand, and I’m trying to use it for make an iPhone app. of his own story).

No rest for the wicked, as the saying goes.

A saying that is perfectly applicable to “A Thousand Trains Out of Here”, where Jaouad — the main character — tries, very hard, to get at least one certain aspect of his overworked (yet fairly exciting) life in order. To use another saying: should you ‘be careful what you wish for’, or not?

There was always the sudden brightness in their eyes: the lighting up of their faces which was actually, Jaouad thought, a kind of hidden, inverted form of racism. Racism, and thus self-hatred. But they were never aware. How could they be? Moroccan-targeted xenophobia was simply not done. Not in the Netherlands: one does not, after all, bite the hand that feeds.

The blonde girl behind the counter smiled at him as he waved his hand in front of the credit reader. No careful positioning of his fingers over the sensor for him: his implants were always first-class, and registered immediately.

The girl noticed it too, of course, and her starry-eyed “Enjoy your lunch” sounded that much more breathless for it. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “A Thousand Trains Out of Here”

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A Thousand Trains Out of Here

Paul Evanby

Hey: I’m both happy and proud to present a Dutch writer — a compatriot — on this (supposedly) international stage. I think it’s healthy that English-language SF is increasingly (even if still somewhat slowly) opening up to non-Anglophone writers. In general, I think greater diversity is a good thing.

Atypically, Paul is not among the modern creed of speculative fiction writers who keep the day job for financial security and write for pleasure or for the soul (or both) in their spare time: no, he quit his job to get more writing done. Then — as he told me at the last semi-irregular meet-ups we have with Jurgen Snoeren and Floris Kleijne — his previous employer(s) kept bothering him with requests to work on several IT projects (obviously, his expertise is in demand, and I’m trying to use it for make an iPhone app. of his own story).

No rest for the wicked, as the saying goes.

A saying that is perfectly applicable to “A Thousand Trains Out of Here”, where Jaouad — the main character — tries, very hard, to get at least one certain aspect of his overworked (yet fairly exciting) life in order. To use another saying: should you ‘be careful what you wish for’, or not?

There was always the sudden brightness in their eyes: the lighting up of their faces which was actually, Jaouad thought, a kind of hidden, inverted form of racism. Racism, and thus self-hatred. But they were never aware. How could they be? Moroccan-targeted xenophobia was simply not done. Not in the Netherlands: one does not, after all, bite the hand that feeds.

The blonde girl behind the counter smiled at him as he waved his hand in front of the credit reader. No careful positioning of his fingers over the sensor for him: his implants were always first-class, and registered immediately.

The girl noticed it too, of course, and her starry-eyed “Enjoy your lunch” sounded that much more breathless for it. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “Riding in Mexico”, v2

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RIDING IN MEXICO

 

 Brenda Cooper

 

Brenda Cooper is — among many other things — a futurist with an upbeat vision (and I especially agree that we need more education, and more clean water), even when she does a talk for the US army. Quite often, when I mention the term ‘optimistic SF’, a lot of people immediately interpret it as a kind of über-Utopia, an idealised future where things are so close to perfection people die of boredom. Brenda, though, immediately sees ‘optimistic SF’ as a complex and interesting future, where some of today’s problems are being addressed while new challenges arise. This is the kind of future I have in mind when I’m looking for stories for Shine, DayBreak Magazine and even @outshine.

When reading Brenda’s fiction and non-fiction, and especially after meeting her at the last World Fantasy Convention in San José, I got the impression of an well-travelled lady who hadn’t let the inevitable scars — physical and/or emotional — of bad experiences in the past mar her vision of a doable future. (And also one of the growing numbers of writers — and other people involved with writing and/or publishing — who don’t quit the day job and do all the crazy SF stuff when they have the time, meaning they’re extremely busy all the time.)

This mixture of a certain youthful élan (which one can have at any age, and can easily be mistaken for naïveté) with a more adult trepidation is what also drives Isa — the main character in “Riding in Mexico” — and while her host Valeria (the Mexican girl being ‘ridden’) seems to have more of the latter than the former, both women need to come to grips with the fact that sometimes in a grim situation one needs tough measurements…

My host, Valeria, barely noticed the Mexican sun sparkle on the Caribbean, gold on brilliant blue. The salt scents of the sea and her sweat sat thick in my head, laid over with unfamiliar flowers, and a trace of animal — pig? She barely reacted to heat that made it hard for me to breathe. Her right knee sent shooting pains up her back whenever she stepped on an uneven patch that turned her foot inward. A chronic injury? She didn’t let the pain slow her. She turned from time to time, looking back over her shoulder. The thick wooden handle of a machete rode loosely in her fingers, like I might carry my car keys or all-in-one, like part of her. We rode host’s senses, not feelings, not true emotions. That’s what they told me, anyway. But right now, I felt her. I felt what she felt. I knew she was frightened of whatever it was she kept turning to look for, frightened of something or someone who could leap out of the jungle at her.

I had been told that it would be hard to ride a far-host, but no words had told me how foreign another woman in another place could smell and move and even see. And yet how close she would be to me, how much I felt like she and I walked through the heat and the thick scent of green and rot and dust all together.

I faded slowly away from Valeria’s senses, trading the Mexican Riviera for the plastic chairs and scuffed tile of a small classroom on the University of Washington campus. For the first few breaths I felt as if I were still in Valeria as well as in me, Isa. Continue reading

DayBreak Fiction: “Riding in Mexico”

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Riding in Mexico

 

Brenda Cooper

 

Brenda Cooper is — among many other things — a futurist with an upbeat vision (and I especially agree that we need more education, and more clean water), even when she does a talk for the US army. Quite often, when I mention the term ‘optimistic SF’, a lot of people immediately interpret it as a kind of über-Utopia, an idealised future where things are so close to perfection people die of boredom. Brenda, though, immediately sees ‘optimistic SF’ as a complex and interesting future, where some of today’s problems are being addressed while new challenges arise. This is the kind of future I have in mind when I’m looking for stories for Shine, DayBreak Magazine and @outshine.

When reading Brenda’s fiction and non-fiction, and especially after meeting her at the last World Fantasy Convention in San José, I got the impression of a well-travelled lady who hadn’t let the inevitable scars — physical and/or emotional — of bad experiences in the past mar her vision of a doable future. (And also one of the growing numbers of writers — and other people involved with writing and/or publishing — who don’t quit the day job and do all the crazy SF stuff when they have the time, meaning they’re extremely busy all the time.)

This mixture of a certain youthful élan (which one can have at any age, and can easily be mistaken for naïveté) with a more adult trepidation is what also drives Isa — the main character in “Riding in Mexico” — and while her host Valeria (the Mexican girl being ‘ridden’) seems to have more of the latter than the former, both women need to come to grips with the fact that sometimes in a grim situation one needs tough measurements…

My host, Valeria, barely noticed the Mexican sun sparkle on the Caribbean, gold on brilliant blue. The salt scents of the sea and her sweat sat thick in my head, laid over with unfamiliar flowers, and a trace of animal — pig? She barely reacted to heat that made it hard for me to breathe. Her right knee sent shooting pains up her back whenever she stepped on an uneven patch that turned her foot inward. A chronic injury? She didn’t let the pain slow her. She turned from time to time, looking back over her shoulder. The thick wooden handle of a machete rode loosely in her fingers, like I might carry my car keys or all-in-one, like part of her. We rode host’s senses, not feelings, not true emotions. That’s what they told me, anyway. But right now, I felt her. I felt what she felt. I knew she was frightened of whatever it was she kept turning to look for, frightened of something or someone who could leap out of the jungle at her.

I had been told that it would be hard to ride a far-host, but no words had told me how foreign another woman in another place could smell and move and even see. And yet how close she would be to me, how much I felt like she and I walked through the heat and the thick scent of green and rot and dust all together.

I faded slowly away from Valeria’s senses, trading the Mexican Riviera for the plastic chairs and scuffed tile of a small classroom on the University of Washington campus. For the first few breaths I felt as if I were still in Valeria as well as in me, Isa. Continue reading