Best indie book of the month


    Kirkus Reviews just gave Jonathan Harper’s debut collection a starred review and chose it as one of the indie books of the month. Check it out here.

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review):

    “In his first collection, Harper gives us a gallery of 20-somethings, many with older lovers or husbands, trying to reconcile inchoate ambitions with prosaic realities: a ne’er-do-well crashes at his brother’s house and descends into a feud with his scheming fiancee; a callow student undergoes an extreme body-piercing ritual as a seemingly supportive entree into a domestic household; a pastry chef reluctantly goes house hunting with his older lover but is drawn to the disheveled artist next door; an uncouth renter disrupts a couple’s staid lives; a grad student ponders the hidden exploitation lurking in his estranged father’s conservative church; a group of friends spends a weekend reliving their high school fantasy-gaming rituals as their leader slips into a breakdown; an older man’s offer of help to a young strip-club dancer turns rather dark; a young novelist becomes obsessed with the corpse of a woman that washes ashore in the fishing village where he is summering. Harper’s protagonists are sensitive, talented (but not too talented) youths with dreams of creative lives that they find difficult to square with their circumstances and relationships. Far from the glitter of New York and San Francisco, they are dependent on stable, boring partners, whom they often resent, and are immured in the sterile strip malls and bland apartment complexes of a downscale suburbia that has few beguiling, treacherous oases of bohemian grunge. Harper draws this landscape with a superb eye for detail and feel for atmosphere, writing with a limpid, pitch-perfect prose, suffused with a mordant humor and flashes of wistful lyricism. He perfectly captures the fecklessness of a certain age and mindset while investing it with real psychological depth and emotional resonance—and even with an air of mystery and possibility that belies the seeming banality of his characters’ lives. A fine debut collection from a gifted chronicler of contemporary queer discontents.”

    New LCRW out


    And just before the end of the first half of the year (stop me if you’ve heard this one, but has time sped up again?) we sent out the latest issue of LCRW. And! We have a new one coming very soon — so soon it will seem almost more like a weekly than an occasional. But the one after that, it’s much further out. Don’t want too much of a good thing! What’s the new one got? A heartbreaker from  Jade Sylvan, a surprise from Henry Lein; subscribe here.

    Also today: new titles from Aqueduct Press and that’ll be it until tomorrow when we unleash a whole horde of new magazines. See you then!

    Just Added: LONTAR subscriptions

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    Hey, we just added a new subscription: LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction. It is indeed the world’s “only biannual literary journal focusing on Southeast Asian speculative fiction.” Previous issues have presented speculative writing from and about Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia, and contributors have won major literary awards in Singapore, USA, the UK, Japan, and the Philippines.

    Curious? Read a couple of interviews!

    LONTAR Special: Interview with Dean Francis and Nikki Alfar

    E. C. Myers


    May 2015 Bestselling Subscriptions


    Uncanny Magazine Issue 4 cover There’s nothing like a subscription drive to power a magazine to the top of the bestseller list. Uncanny Magazine‘s May 2015 drive pushed it past everything else on the site to sit comfortably in the number one position. Uncanny has quickly become a magazine to check out. The current May/June issue shows off their range and strength:

    Featuring new fiction by Catherynne M. Valente, A. C. Wise, John Chu, Elizabeth Bear, and Lisa Bolekaja, classic fiction by Delia Sherman, essays by Mike Glyer, Christopher J Garcia, Steven H Silver, Julia Rios, and Kameron Hurley, poetry by Alyssa Wong, Ali Trotta, and Isabel Yap, interviews with Delia Sherman and John Chu by Deborah Stanish, a cover by Tran Nguyen, and an editorial by Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas.

    1. Uncanny Magazine
    2. Galaxy’s Edge Magazine
    3. New York Review of Science Fiction
    4. Clarkesworld Magazine
    5. Beneath Ceaseless Skies
    6. Lightspeed Magazine


    The Dark Magazine is Luminous

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    the-dark-issue-8-cover-200x309Fantastic stories lurk in The Dark Magazine. You won’t find gore, but you will find a treasure chest of creepiness and strange perspectives.

    “Welcome to Argentia” by Sandra McDonald tells of a real place with a real history. The vengeful spirit of Argentia feels real, too. The land haunts and is haunted. It takes the lives it wants, whether shipwreck victims clinging to rocks or pilots in crashed transports. Individuals see glimpses of the land’s haunting before and after the U.S. Navy abandons its World War II base. A young man “looked out his window to see dark horses pulling wooden coffins down the road. There are no horses on the station, and certainly no need for coffins.” Mundane events are made terrible in “Welcome to Argentia.” This story reminds the reader how little control she has if she’s part of a larger narrative. The difference between life and death is less than she likes to think.

    To the question of whether “Rumpelstiltskin” should be its own genre, “A Spoke in Fortune’s Wheels” keens yesssss. You remember the Rumplestiltskin story: years of modern retelling have mellowed the tale to something simply about a strange man spinning straw into gold and the price one woman pays for the favor. The story’s not so bad. Just a vehicle for a moral, right? Not the way Brooke Wonders tells it. Like so many other stories in The Dark Magazine, “A Spoke in Fortune’s Wheels” takes fairy tales back to their creepy roots. The girl in this story has a spinning wheel for a head. Nasty things happen to her after she meets the little man. This story disturbs, fascinates, and chills, which are all the right things to do in a horror story.

    In “An Ocean of Eyes,” Sigrid (not her real name) tries to convince a brash stranger to leave town. He’s drawn to Ulthar because of a legend he doesn’t believe, and he’s a fool. A town with stories about cats devouring people alive should be avoided. Also, Lovecraft made this place. Cats and their toxoplasmosis victims are wily. Like whatever’s pulling victims into Newfoundland waters, hiding in a favor or lurking in a cat’s meow, the stories in The Dark Magazine sneak up on you. This is a great e-zine.

    The Dark Magazine is available DRM-free from Weightless Books in single issues or as a 12-month subscription. “A Spoke in Fortune’s Wheels” by Brooke Wonders and “Welcome to Argentia” by Sandra McDonald are in Issue 7. Cassandra Khaw’s “An Ocean of Eyes” can be found in Issue 8.


    Lethe Press has 2 Lammy Winners!

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    Congratulations to everyone at Lethe Press and especially to Chaz Benchley (Bitter Waters) and Jeff Mann (Salvation) who both picked up a Lambda Awards this week at the big awards celebration in New York City:

    Bitter Waters cover - click to view full size   Salvation: A Novel of the Civil War cover - click to view full size

    Arabian Wine: An interview with Gregory Feeley

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    arabian-wine-coverGREGORY FEELEY writes fiction and about fiction. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, and he has published essays in The Atlantic Monthly, the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere. His short fiction has twice been nominated for the Nebula Award and has appeared five times in year’s best anthologies. His most recent novel is Kentauros (2010).

    On the tenth anniversary of its original publication, Arabian Wine is once again available from Temporary Culture in cooperation with Weightless Books. Arabian Wine is a short novel about the arrival of coffee and steam power in a Venice that has not quite entered the modern scientific era. John Crowley called it a “fine, funny trans-historical adventure, so well-furnished and well-wrought it seems more true than the more boring truth.” Temporary Culture publisher Henry Wessells asked Gregory Feeley a few questions about the book.

    Several of your fictions unfold at the edges of modernity, when scientific developments start to shape the world we know. What are the origins of Arabian Wine?

    Like many of my stories — The Oxygen Barons [1990], “A Different Drumstick” [1988], “Fancy Bread” [2005], and my current novel in progress — Arabian Wine began with its title. A good title can demand that a story be written for it. I encountered the phrase in a pictorial history of coffee (a genuine coffee table book, left out in an upscale coffee shop for customers to browse) and immediately knew it was the title of a story I had to write. And obviously the story had to take place in the era when coffee was just beginning to appear in Europe. By the time I put the volume down I also knew that there would be a mishap involving some clanky mechanism releasing a jet of steam and the protagonists accidentally inventing espresso. I went home and began researching, and the novel developed from there.

    I’m not sure why I am attracted to historical eras in which an important scientific theory or model of the cosmos begins to deform under the pressure of history, but after I published “The Weighing of Ayre” [1996] and began writing “Animae Celestes” [1998] (which is part of a still-incomplete longer work, Headwinds of the Heart), I noticed as much. Eventually I realized that this is why I like the work of James Blish, whose stories consistently involve belief systems, social organizations, or physical structures coming under pressure and imploding. And such stories necessarily combine both the abstract and the material, which is another attraction.

    Why Venice in 1609?

    Venice was a liminal zone — neither land nor sea, not particularly Christian though certainly not Muslim, and as Levantine as it was European — and it was the one realm in Christendom where commerce trumped faith. The Venetians would trade with anyone — Turks, Arabs, Byzantines — and their relentless push to make money (they were not interested in expanding their borders or the glory of God or the Church) helped drive the development of modern capitalism. As a system that combines both the abstract and material — and one that has immediate relevance to our own lives — global capitalism is hard to beat.

    Traditionally, the introduction of coffee to the west is ascribed to the retreat of the Turks after the siege of Vienna. This is a myth, of course. History is much more porous, as are the boundaries between the Islamic and Christian worlds. How extensive were the commercial relations between Venice and the Ottomans in the decades after the battle of Lepanto (1579)?

    It is surprising how little the wars between Christendom and the Ottomans impeded Venice’s trade with the Islamic world. The nations of Europe, to say nothing of the Pope, deeply mistrusted Venice for this, but they also bought what Venice had to sell.


    The eastern Mediterranean circa 1609

    Leonhart Rauwolf and Prosper Alpini visited the Islamic world in the late 1570s and early 1580s and soon published accounts of the flora. Alpini was a physician and his writings on the plants of Egypt emphasize medicinal properties. How quickly did knowledge of coffee spread in scientific circles?

    As near as I could work out, coffee became known in Europe after Alpini and other travelers began to publish accounts of what they had seen during their time in the land of “the Turk” — the travel books they published became a popular genre. It’s hard to know how quickly word of “chaube” or “caofa” (as they called it) spread in “scientific circles,” since these circles did not yet have a journal in which to publish their discoveries. (The first, the Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, I wrote about in “The Weighing of Ayre.”) My guess is that coffee was sold as a costly medicine before it became inexpensive enough for people to drink recreationally, but it was enough for my story to know that by 1609 this had not yet happened.

    And how about accounts of drinking coffee?

    I don’t recall a description of coffee that included a first-hand account of the experience of drinking it. Quite possibly Alpini and the rest never actually tasted it — or if they did, they recoiled at its bitterness, as one does the first time. Rauwolf called it “a very good drink,” but he seemed have been reporting its salutary qualities (he declared it “very good in illness, especially of the stomach”).

    David Liss’ The Coffee Trader, which came out while my novel was searching for a publisher, also contains a “You’ve got to taste this” moment, a description of the exhilaration of feeling caffeine’s first effects. I have to assume that Liss, like me, was using his imagination here; I don’t know of any actual early account.

    There are brief passages where I see you allude to earlier counterfactual science fiction, such as De Camp’s introduction of bookkeeping to the late Roman empire in Lest Darkness Fall, but Arabian Wine has a different thrust and flavor. Was the Serene Republic a proto-police state?

    Blish once said that he was writing a novel set during in Venice during the Borgia pontificate, which I discovered when I was reading his letters in the Bodleian Library many years ago. He wrote that “if I am going to write about the crucial ideas in the history of science, I ought not to rule out the malign ones; in this case, what I’ll be talking about is the invention of the security system for technical information, which our charming Venetian friends were inaugurating during the same period that they invented the ghetto.” I did a good deal of research while writing Arabian Wine, and I decided that Blish was right.

    My novel was finished in the summer of 2001, before the convulsions of 9-11 (to say nothing of the subsequent developments that Edward Snowden helped disclose), but the relevance of Venice’s policies, with its covert surveillance, anonymous denunciation, and apparatus of secret arrests, trials, and executions, to our own government’s was clear even then.

    Do you wish to mention other work, long or short, that is complete or forthcoming?

    For the past ten years I have been working on a long novel, set a century earlier, that also ranges over the European and Islamic worlds. It deals with end of the period when Renaissance magic — “white magic,” specifically the Neoplatonism of Marsilio Ficino and Avicenna — was taken seriously by theologians and scholars. Another story — my most ambitious yet — about an epistemology crumbling under the pressures of science and history.

    Greg, how do you take your coffee?

    With milk. I wish I knew when people started doing that, but the historical record seems to be silent.


    Uncanny Magazine Space Unicorn Subscription Drive


    Uncanny Magazine Issue 3 cover - click to view full sizeUncanny Magazine is recruiting new members for its Space Unicorn Ranger Corps! We named the Uncanny Kickstarter backers the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps after our amazing Space Unicorn mascot. Now, you can become a member of the Corps by subscribing here at Weightless Books!

    This is the perfect time to join because Uncanny is going on sale! From May 5-19, a year’s subscription to Uncanny Magazine is $2 less than the typical current cover price (only $21.88)! It’s the least expensive way to subscribe we’ve ever offered.

    Each bimonthly issue of Uncanny contains new and classic speculative fiction, poetry, essays, art, and interviews.  We seek out and share pieces we can’t stop thinking and talking about, because of how they make us feel. We’re also deeply committed to finding and showcasing fantastic works by writers from every possible point of view and background.

    We debuted Issue One of Uncanny in November 2014 and we’re thrilled with Year One. We’ve included contributions from phenomenal authors such as Neil GaimanJim C. HinesMaria Dahvana HeadleyMax GladstoneKen LiuChristopher BarzakSam J. MillerSofia SamatarSarah Pinsker, Catherynne M. Valente, Elizabeth Bear, John Chu, Kameron Hurley, and Amal El-Mohtar, plus many newer voices. We can’t wait for you to read what’s coming next.

    Uncanny Magazine Issue 1New or renewing subscribers to Uncanny Magazine from May 5-19, 2015 will be eligible for giveaways and  a whole bunch of Uncanny swag!

    • When we reach a total of 50 new/renewing subscribers we’ll unlock an ebook of Issue One for *every* new/renewing subscriber. Plus, we’ll randomly draw 2 winners for Uncanny swag packs: postcards, a sticker, and a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch!
    • At 100 new/renewing subscribers, every new subscriber will receive an ebook of Issue One and Two. Plus, we’ll draw for a set of signed cover-art posters and a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch!
    • At 150 new/renewing subscribers, all new/renewing subscribers will receive ebooks of Issue One, Two, and Three (all caught up!), and we’ll draw 2 winners for signed books: The Republic of Thieves MMPB by Scott Lynch and Karen Memory hardcover by Elizabeth Bear, plus a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch for each winner!
    • Uncanny Magazine Issue 2At 200 new/renewing subscribers, we’ll draw for a mega-swag pack that includes postcards, a sticker, a patch, signed cover art, and both signed books!
    • At 300 new/renewing subscribers, we’ll draw for a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0″ Android tablet, a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch, and a sticker!

    There may also be random prize drawings throughout the subscription drive. You never know with the Space Unicorns . . .

    Don’t miss out: subscribe now!

    Beneath Ceaseless Skies 30% off sale

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    View full version

    In conjunction with their new BCS theme anthology Ceaseless West: Weird Western Stories from Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and its special early release here at Weightless Books, BCS is having an ebook sale!

    Buy Ceaseless West and you’ll get a free ebook of BCS‘s first theme anthology, Ceaseless Steam: Steampunk Stories from BCS, and a coupon for 30% off all BCS anthologies and ebook subscriptions.

    Those other BCS anthologies eligible for this 30% off include all their Best of BCS annual anthologies, such as The Best of BCS, Year Five, featuring Richard Parks, Gemma Files, and Gregory Norman Bossert’s World Fantasy Award-winning story “The Telling.”

    BCS ebook subscriptions eligible for this 30% off include not only new subscriptions but also renewing or extending your existing subscription, regardless of when it ends. Subscribers can get issues delivered directly to their Kindle, smart phone, or tablet (any device with an email address), and they get new issues early, a week before the website.

    So buy a copy of Ceaseless West to get your free ebook of Ceaseless Steam and the coupon for 30% off BCS anthologies and subscriptions. But hurry; this sale ends May 5!

    Author Interview: Damien Angelica Walters

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    Sing Me Your ScarsWeightless Books interviews Damien Angelica Walters, a 2014 Bram Stoker Award nominee and author of Sing Me Your Scars, a collection of short stories.

    Q: What do you care about most when you write a story?

    DAW: The characters, most definitely. Most of my stories start as what-ifs: What if there was a woman who was a composite of body parts and each part retained sentience? How would that feel to the dominant part? What if there was a man who was disappearing, one body part at a time, and what would it feel like to watch that happening, knowing there was nothing you could do to stop it?

    I try to put my head firmly into the characters’ hearts and minds from the start, because unless I know how they feel, I won’t know how they’re going to react on their journey and their story won’t ring true.

    Q: If all the main characters in Sing Me Your Scars met on the battlefield, which ones would emerge victorious?

    DAW: I love this question! I suspect the characters would throw down their weapons and go off to have coffee and talk about scars, but if coffee wasn’t an option, I think it would ultimately come down to Olivia from “Girl, With Coin” and Isabel from “They Make of You a Monster.” In the end, though, Isabel would be victorious because although Olivia can’t physically feel pain, Isabel’s ability to kill with a touch trumps all.

    In the alternate universe, they’ve switched from coffee to cocktails and wine and they’re no longer discussing scars, but have moved onto things like what constitutes the perfect origami elephant, black and white versus color photography, and whether or not artificial intelligence should be granted autonomy.

    Q: You’ve published a phenomenal number of short stories in the past five years. What motivates you to do this?

    DAW: I don’t know how to not write. Words and phrases and characters and the before-mentioned what-ifs pop into my head all the time. Some of them turn into stories, countless others become scribbles in my notebook that might eventually be stories or they might remain as is. When I first started to write short fiction, those disconnected bits and pieces were frustrating, but over time, I came to realize that those pieces, whether intro paragraphs, lines of dialogue, or even story titles, were just as important to the writing process as the finished work.

    Q: Though it doesn’t seem to happen a lot, how do you handle the times when your writing is rejected?

    DAW: I think there’s a misconception that once you publish X amount of stories in markets A, B, and C, rejections become a thing of the past. This isn’t true, at all. Rejection is part of the business. Sometimes a story simply doesn’t fit what an editor is looking for. It doesn’t always mean the story is bad or won’t find the right home.

    Truthfully, I’m very hard on my stories. When a story is finished, I jot down three or four markets I think it would be a good fit for, but if the story is rejected by those markets, then I set it aside. But I don’t see this as giving up, because I revisit the story later (might be weeks, might be months), make changes or not, and send it back out. I have trunked stories that I feel are flawed, but I’ve also given a story one last ride on the submission train and had it sell.

    Most of the time, I brush rejections off, but every once in a while, usually when it’s an editor I’d love to work with or a magazine that has previously published my work, there’s a definite sting, a bit of not good enough. But it doesn’t make me want to give up permanently, nor does it last very long. I’m too stubborn and too driven to allow that.

    Q: How does reading affect your writing?

    DAW: I still read a lot as a reader, but there are times I read as a writer. In particular, if I’m trying to find the right threads to stitch ideas together in a story in progress, I’ll step away and reread an anthology or a few of my favorite stories, not for the stories themselves, but for the glue that holds them together or the story arc or the underlying theme. Often, just seeing how another writer has crafted a piece will help the pieces of my own story puzzle fall into place.

    I also like reading successful stories that don’t grab me personally for one reason or another; again, not for the stories, but to discern what makes them work. I think reading with that sort of critical eye has made me a better storyteller and has made me more willing to take risks in format, points of view, and story structure.

    Q: You’ve worked all along the editing spectrum — from associate editor at Electric Velocipede to freelance editing to being edited by senior staff at dozens of zines. If you could give yourself of ten years ago any kind of writing advice, what would it be?

    DAW: It would be the same advice I’d give to anyone starting out: Take your time and don’t send your stories out too soon. Start with the top markets first and work down. Don’t be afraid to submit. Don’t give your work away for free. Rejections aren’t personal. And lastly, you are not in competition with anyone but yourself.

    Q: Your second novel comes out in August. What can you tell us about it?

    Damien Angelica Walters - Author PhotoDAW: Yes, Paper Tigers is my second novel, although it’s the first to be published under the name Damien Angelica Walters. Paper Tigers is about a disfigured young woman and an old photo album she finds at a thrift store. At its heart, it’s a ghost story, but it’s as much about the things that haunt us personally as it’s about the external ghosts. It’s closer in tone to my short fiction than my previous novel—Ink, published as Damien Walters Grintalis.

    Damien Angelica Walters’ short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in various anthologies and magazines, including The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2015, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume One, Cassilda’s Song, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, and Apex. “The Floating Girls: A Documentary,” originally published in Jamais Vu, is on the 2014 Bram Stoker Award ballot for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction. Sing Me Your Scars, a collection of Damien Angelica Walters’ short fiction, is out now from Apex Publications and available from Weightless Books. Paper Tigers, a novel, is forthcoming from Dark House Press. Her other short fiction can be found here.

    LONTAR Special; Interview with Dean Francis and Nikki Alfar

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    lontar-the-journal-of-southeast-asian-speculative-fiction-issue-3-coverTo celebrate the third issue of LONTAR, we have two things: 1) a special week-long promotion bundling issues #1 and #2 for free when you buy #3, and 2) an exclusive interview by editor Jason Lundberg with the husband-and-wife team of Dean Francis Alfar and Nikki Alfar, whom one could make the case are the current godparents of Filipino fiction of the fantastic. The Alfars have each edited (some together) many volumes of the landmark Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology series, and can often be found on panel discussions about mythology, fantasy, and science fiction. Between them, they’ve won a slew of awards for their writing, including thirteen Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature.

    Q. Both of your stories in LONTAR #3 employ roadways as an essential trope: as a confusing and misdirecting force in Nikki’s story, and as beings with sentience in Dean’s story. How important are roads in the current Filipino literary psyche?

    DEAN: Roads continue to function as spaces to be traversed from one point to another, permitting reflection en route to an epiphany, as markers on a personal journey, or as obstacles (sometimes small, sometimes vast) to be conquered. Roads bring us together, but also make our world smaller. Their duality is this: roads signify escape, but also bind us to specific paths. In my story, some of the famous roads in Manila gain thought and emotion and reflect the history of the people around them. There is an intimation of their own society within the context of Philippine society. The roads themselves cannot escape being part of something bigger.

    lontar-the-journal-of-southeast-asian-speculative-fiction-issue-1-coverNIKKI: When Filipinos visiting other countries receive apologies from the locals about “the terrible traffic,” we just smile at them indulgently, because you probably have no idea what traffic is until you’ve been to Manila. Once on a bad day, it took a car the better part of an hour to make it from one end of the street Dean and I live on to the other; I’m not kidding. So while I’m not sure about the Filipino literary psyche specifically, I can say that roads are pretty damn significant to the Manila-dweller’s psyche—sometimes roads simply fail to get you where you want to go, which more or less nails down what my story is all about.

    Another way to look at it is through a lens I like to use in a lot of my other writing—from a folkloric point of view, Leaving the Path always has consequences, often dangerous ones, but sometimes also reveals unexpected avenues to growth and fortune. This is something ingrained in all of our psyches, virtually all across the world, I think, from childhood—and what is a road, if not a gussied-up path?

    Q. The fantastic is used in each of your stories in different ways: in “A Field Guide to the Roads of Manila,” it is employed in the service of a revenge tale; in “An Unexpected Stop,” to heighten the sense of dread and unease during a domestic spat. Is the Philippines an inherently fantastical place, in that it is best represented using these non-realist techniques in literature?

    lontar-the-journal-of-southeast-asian-speculative-fiction-issue-2-coverDEAN: The fantastic is embedded in our bones. We exist day-to-day and cheek-by-jowl with the absurd—newspaper reports of supernatural occurrences and senseless slaughter. There is the magical and the mundane. Philippine literature deploys both realism (social and domestic) as well as the fantastical (speculative fiction) to help articulate how we negotiate our lives.

    NIKKI: Oh my goodness, yes, the Philippines is an inherently fantastical place! Listen: there is a Philippine island called Siquijor, where lightning flashes in the sky on absolutely clear, storm-free nights; and we are modern people, so we know witches don’t really live there, except you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who is 100% positively sure they don’t. My mother-in-law, who is as sophisticated an urbanite as you could possibly meet, will tell you with utter certainty about the time she saw tiny men, the height of her finger, moving around beneath her house. In fact, my story is dedicated to my friend Carlos Piocos, a Filipino writer currently taking postgraduate studies at the University of Hong Kong, because he told me the real-life tale that I built the piece around.

    Q. Dean launched the Philippine Speculative Fiction anthology series ten years ago, and the two of you have collaborated on editing several of the volumes; you’re teaming up once again for this year’s tenth annual installment. What have been some of the most interesting, fulfilling, or surprising things you have seen within the Philippine speculative fiction scene in the last decade?

    DEAN: First and biggest for me was the reception of the anthology by writers, readers, and critics. I was floored by the number of submissions at the beginning, which proved to me that there were writers—new as well as established—who felt the same way I did: that there were other stories to tell, and other ways to tell stories. That fantasy, horror, and science fiction mattered. Then the readers, who bought and read the books and shared them, and wrote back. They showed us there was a market that cared for these stories. Then the critics and educators, who wrestled with what was then new to them, and helped bring speculative fiction into the larger conversation in terms of Philippine literature. Speculative fiction is now studied and written about in universities.

    NIKKI: Pretty much everything Dean has said, and additionally this: I’m constantly startled by the openness of readers and especially writers, by their willingness to learn and experiment, most especially the younger ones. When I was a young person, I was an arrogant shit who thought I knew everything I needed to know. (People who knew us then think this was true of Dean, not me—I was just more discreet about it.) So I’m humbled by people’s humility—and also somewhat troubled by it, because people often ask us why we don’t put together an anthology of speculative fiction in the Filipino language. The answer is that we are writers in English, and we are aware that our skills in Filipino are not sufficient to really evaluate literary execution. So we always say, “Please do it; we would love for someone to do it.” But no one has, so thanks for giving me an opportunity to say this again: Guys, you don’t need our permission. We don’t own spec-fic in the Philippines. Just go ahead and do it!

    Q. Where can readers go to find other examples of Philippine speculative fiction? Which authors would you recommend?

    DEAN: There are anthologies, collections, and novels from publishers such as Anvil, Visprint, and the university presses such as University of the Philippines Press. Eliza Victoria is one of the most prolific and gifted Filipino fictionists—check out Dwellers and Project 17 [ETA: her story “Fade” will appear in LONTAR #4]. Joseph Nacino has a number of anthologies out, such as Diaspora Ad Strata, Demons of the New Year, and The Farthest Shore, covering sci-fi, horror, and fantasy, respectively. Speculative fiction also appears in publications like Philippines Graphic, curated by Joel Pablo Salud and Alma Anonas Carpio.

    NIKKI: LONTAR! You’re publishing my best friend, Kate Aton-Osias, in the next issue, did you know that? [ETA: indeed I did, a story called “The Tango”.] Also, Kuwento: Lost Things, an anthology of new Philippine myths edited by Melissa Sipin and Rachelle Cruz, is being published in the States this year, so that may be more accessible for international readers who want a physical book they can get ahold of. For the more digitally-inclined, Flipside Publishing is very active in publishing Filipino work online, much of it speculative fiction.

    Q. Shameless self-promotion time: what is next on the publication horizon for Dean Francis Alfar and Nikki Alfar?

    DEAN: My third collection of short fiction, A Field Guide to the Streets of Manila, is coming from Anvil later this year. Kenneth Yu and I will be publishing Science Fiction: Fiction for Young Adults, from UP Press. Sarge Lacuesta and I also have this year’s edition of Maximum Volume: Best New Philippine Fiction, from Anvil. And of course, Nikki and I are working on the tenth annual Philippine Speculative Fiction.

    NIKKI: My second story collection, WonderLust,recently became available digitally at the Kobo ebook store: My first collection, Now, Then, and Elsewhen, isn’t online yet, which is sort of silly of me. (Writing- and publication-wise, I tend to have frenzied spurts of activity, followed by long periods of mindless iPad devotion.) So I’ll be working on that, as well as trying to eke out enough stories I don’t hate for a third collection. Dean and I are also due to put together our next Best of Speculative Fiction anthology, curating what we consider the top stories from Philippine Speculative Fiction volumes 6 to 10—although I’m always threatening to throw him off the title, because he’s so busy that he sometimes forgets what he’s working on with whom!

    February 2015 Bestseller


    Forever Magazine Issue 2Just the magazines, this time for a change. That year-in-review edition of Locus certainly is popular, but no wonder, I certainly added a story or three and a book or two to my reading list. It’s interesting to see the NYRSF near the top of both lists: with that and Locus, it proves there is a readership for strong nonfiction.

    Another reason I wanted to just do magazines this month was to shine a little light on two popular new additions to the store, Forever and Uncanny. Both are published by experienced teams of editors (Neil Clarke and Lynne M. and Michael Damien Thomas) who are busy remaking the field (of whatever you want to call it: fantastic fiction? spec fic? sff&h? new weird? Ok, that last one dated me) in the shape they want. It’s an exciting time and we’re proud to be part of it. Thanks for reading and for choosing DRM-free Weightless Books!

    1. Locus February 2015 (#649)
    2. New York Review of Science Fiction #317
    3. Forever Magazine Issue 1
    4. Uncanny Magazine Issue 1
    5. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 31
    1. Apex Magazine 12-Month Subscription
    2. New York Review of Science Fiction 12-issue Subscription
    3. Beneath Ceaseless Skies 12-Month Subscription
      Forever Magazine 12-Month Subscription
    4. Galaxy’s Edge Magazine Annual Subscription
    5. Clarkesworld Magazine: 12-Month Subscription

    Magazines: we have them!

    Lackington’s Issue 5 (Winter 2015) On Spec Magazine – Summer 2014 #97 vol 26 no 5 Black Static #45 Mythic Delirium 1.3  The Dark Issue 7 The Big Click Issue 19 Lightspeed Magazine Issue 58 Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 31 Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #169 New York Review of Science Fiction #318 Clarkesworld Magazine – Issue 102 Interzone #257 Apex Magazine Issue 70

    Very rare Heinlein story coming in May

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    Galaxy’s Edge Magazine: Issue 13, March 2015 cover - click to view full sizeGreat news for Robert A. Heinlein fans: today SF Signal revealed that the May issue of Galaxy’s Edge will “feature a very rarely seen Heinlein story titled ‘Field Defects: Memo From a Cyborg’.” Not bad! Read about it here.

    Galaxy’s Edge readers will already know that this January’s issue featured Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” which Sony turned into a major motion picture, Predestination (here’s the trailer). With luck maybe they’ll continue this pulling up Heinlein rarities. Who knows what they might find?

    Luna Station Quarterly Editor Interview: Jennifer Lyn Parsons

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    Luna Station Quarterly – Issue 21 cover - click to view full sizeWeightless Books interviews Jennifer Lyn Parsons, editor-in-chief of Luna Station Quarterly, a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.

    Q: What inspired you to start Luna Station Quarterly five years ago?

    Parsons: There was a magical mix of circumstances that gave birth to LSQ. I had been writing fanfic for a while and began branching out into original fiction. I was also unemployed and in a career transition.

    While working to find new job (smack in the midst of the Great Recession), I had time on my hands and decided to do something good with it. I started off writing a short story a week for a year. It was a haul, but I had a pile of stories at the end.

    As I searched for places to submit, I found a lot of chatter about the lack of safe spaces for new writers, particularly women. This was before the ‘geek girl’ movement started, and it really did feel like women were in some kind of weird minority. Not that there were no women authors anywhere, but the balance always seemed out of whack considering how many wonderful writers I knew when I was writing fanfic, where women outnumber men by a vast majority. There was a disconnect between my experiences, and I sought out a way to reconcile them.

    I had done a fair bit of beta reading for people and was a lifelong reader, so I felt I knew a good story when I saw it. I also had a background in graphic design and web development. Armed with that knowledge, I set about building a place where emerging women writers like myself could find a home for their stories.

    Q: From the way Luna Station Quarterly authors are promoted to the long list of editorial, social media, blog, and special projects staff, the magazine has a very collaborative feel. What was your journey like from a one-woman show five years ago to an army of supporters and collaborators?

    Parsons: I am very lucky, for starters. In the beginning it was just me, sorting out everything. Within the first couple of issues, things started to be a bit much to handle on my own. A wonderful problem to have, right? I reached out to Evan Mariah Petit, my first assistant editor, because she had been so supportive from the first issue. As things kept growing, I kept asking for help and got it.

    Last year really kicked things up a notch when I was finally able to fulfill a big dream for the site: starting a regular blog filled with columns, reviews, etc. by LSQ authors as well as a group of wonderful women from outside the community.

    I also added special projects staff to accommodate our upcoming print projects in celebration of our 5th anniversary. Seeing LSQ in print for the first time is so amazingly exciting.

    The journey, has always been organic, with growth coming steadily with every issue. And I’ve been lucky enough to be able to put a hand out for help and have it answered when I feel like it’s time to take on the next big step.

    Q: How do you know when you get a submission thats a good fit for Luna Station Quarterly?

    Parsons: To me the hallmark of a stellar story is when I can answer “yes” to a few simple questions: “Would I read this again?” and “Does it stick in my mind in a good way?” This is an important question because I will indeed have to read it at least a few more times throughout the production process. The story needs to stand up to multiple readings by the staff. And if we can see ourselves enjoying it, or being challenged by it, over and over, we know our readers will, too.

    Other than that, it’s an open field. We paint a wide swathe across the speculative fiction label. Weird urban stories, straight up fairy tales, hard sci-fi, and honestly a lot of things I don’t think you’d see elsewhere.

    I love seeing women authors take on writing male characters with integrity, but I also have no problem publishing a work where a woman’s sexual agency is integral to the story.

    Q: You’ve been an avid comic book reader since you were a young teenager. Has your taste in comics changed over the years?

    Parsons: It’s funny, it has changed vastly, but then lately it’s come full circle. I started out reading comics in the early ’90s, when Sandman was THE title and read a lot of Vertigo or indie comics, along with a bit of X-Men.

    A decade later, I was deep into DC and my childhood love of Batman, as well as great characters like Barbra Gordon who, as Oracle, became a hero with her geek cred and awesome glasses.

    When DC rebooted everything a few years ago, I found myself floating back to my indie roots. Now I’m digging Keiron Gillen’s stuff, loving Becky Cloonan’s art like mad, and trying to get everyone to read Lumberjanes. There are some exciting things going on right now.

    The great thing about comics is there’s always something new, and the stories are never constrained to any particular genre. Like any other great medium, you can tell any kind of story you want.

    Q: What are you reading now besides submissions for Luna Station Quarterly?

    Parsons: As of the moment, I’m between books! I’ve been bouncing between non-fiction and fiction this year. Consider the Fork is next on my, ahem, plate and I’m looking for a new fantasy to get my attention. The Norse myths are a perennial, and I’m dipping into some poetry by Mary Oliver.

    Q: What else do you do when you’re not editing Luna Station Quarterly?

    jennifer-lyn-parsonsParsons: How long do we have? By day I’m a web developer, making the internet less broken than it was yesterday.

    By night, I help run Luna Station Press, which publishes various fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Our next book is LSQ’s best of the first five years anthology.

    I also do needle felting, knitting, crochet, basically anything I can do to keep wool under my fingers. I play some video games, of course, and make time for friends and family.

    At last count I have two novels actively in progress, and I put my hands on a bunch of other stories as the mood and inspiration strikes.

    I’m tired now just talking about it. But in the best way. I’ve got a great life.

    Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.Luna Station Quarterly is available DRM-free in single issues or as a 12-month subscription.

    Sofia Samatar, “Walkdog”

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    Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and FantasyThis morning I’m very happy to write that we have something new on the site: a story, “Walkdog” by Sofia Samatar. You may know Sofia from her fabulous (yes, I am biased) debut novel A Stranger in Olondria or from her knock out short stories such as “Honey Bear” in Clarkesworld or “How to Get Back to the Forest” in Lightspeed.

    “Walkdog” comes from Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy, published by the excellent people at Twelfth Planet Press. The book features new stories from Garth Nix, William Alexander, Karen Healey, E. C. Myers, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Ken Liu, Vylar Kaftan, Sean Williams, Amal El-Mohtar, Jim C. Hines, Faith Mudge, John Chu, Alena McNamara, Tim Susman, Gabriela Lee, Dirk Flinthart, Holly Kench, Sean Eads, and Shveta Thakrar.

    I’ve been dipping into Kaleidoscope ever since Shveta gave my wife a copy at Readercon (thanks Shveta!) and it’s a very good, wide-ranging anthology.

    Not sure if it’s your thing? Read “Walkdog” (ouch! fabulous story) or go to Strange Horizons and read “The Truth About Owls” by Amal El-Mohtar (podcast).

    Twelfth Planet are smart and they’re building a great list. Read “Walkdog“, pick up in Kaleidoscope, and get onboard.


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    Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasyby Sofia Samatar

    (Originally published in Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA Science Fiction and Fantasy)

    This paper is in response to the assignment “Know Your Environment”. In this paper I will discuss an animal called Walkdog which is native to my local environment which is South Orange, New Jersey. First I will describe the animal (“Brief Description”), then I will write about it’s origin and habits (“Research”), then I will conclude with why I chose to write about this animal and why its important (“Conclusion”). Thesis statement: Even though not much has been written about it, Walkdog is an important part of North American wildlife.

    1. Brief Description

    What is Walkdog? Well Mrs. Patterson you probably know better than me. However, I am writing this paper and not you, because I need the grade as you know very well, so here is what I know.

    Walkdog contrary to it’s name is not a dog. It is more like a beaver or large rat. It lives mostly in sewers but also creeks and rivers. It is nocturnel and believed to eat fish and also, excuse me, excrament1. Walkdog when walking is said to be about 5 feet long, including the tail, but when it stands up it looks taller than a man. Its fur is black and oily. Its a great swimmer and can stay underwater for 3 days without coming up for air.

    Other names for Walkdog: Grimdog, Grimwolf, The Dog that Walks Men, The Dog that Walks Hisself, Jumpy Leg, Conjure Dog, Canewolf.

    Some people also call it Growldog, but this is stupid because Walkdog doesn’t growl. It has no voicebox.2

    2. Research

    One thing you will notice when you start researching Walkdog is that not much has been written about it at all. It gets mentioned in a sentence here and there but you won’t find a book about it or even a Wikipedia page which is weird, don’t you think? Its like its hiding from everything with some kind of magic. Probably the person who knows most about Walkdog is your nephew, Andrew Bookman, the most hopeless dork in this school you’ll excuse me for saying, because you know its a fact and facts as you say are the Building Blocks of Research.3

    From Andy I learned that the origins of Walkdog are, as he put it, “obscure”. There are three main theories on the origins of Walkdog:

    1. indigenous animal related to otter
    2. came over from Europe or Asia with immigrants
    3. came over from Africa on slave ship4

    In other words, the origins of Walkdog are the origins of just about everybody. This is why I describe it as a native animal. I mean I consider myself a New Jersey native, what else would I be, even though I’m African and German and Spanish and God knows what else.5

    Now for the habits of Walkdog. These habits are not what you would call nice. Walkdog steals kids (another name for it is The Child Thief). It does not steal them to eat, as stated above, it eats fish and excrament mainly, but it steals them at night and then it takes them for walks.

    It takes them for walks. It just takes them around with it. I want you to think about what that’s like. Imagine your a normal kid asleep in your normal bed. Don’t imagine yourself as Andy Bookman, because that kid is not normal at all, but imagine you’re somebody regular like me. Me, Yolanda Price. I would say I’m pretty normal. I’m not popular, in fact I generally have to keep my head down, just smile at the right times and keep my mouth shut, because I am almost on the edge of nerd, I only manage to do all right because I can sing. If you have a cool talent like that and are not stupid you’ll be okay. I’m not saying that singing could of saved Andrew Bookman. Your nephew I am sorry to say was a grade-A world class nerd and singing probably would of just made things worse for him. Do you know he told everybody that after graduation he was going to go eat strawberries in Denmark? Who says that? Strawberries and new potatoes and the grave of Hans Christian Andersen. People called him The Little Mermaid for weeks. Bubble-Butt, your too ugly to get into another country. Did you notice? Were you afraid that defending him would make things worse? If so you were probably right. It was best to just ignore it. There are places that once you step in, you can’t get out.

    So, you’re me, Yolanda, lying in bed. There’s a tap at the window. Tap tap tap. Annoying. You think its a tree branch on the glass. You get up and open the window, even if its winter you would open it to break off the branch and get rid of that awful tapping. So you open the window, lets say its winter like now, February, the worst time of year, with no holidays in sight except Valentines Day a.k.a. National Torture Day, and not being able to sleep is just the last straw, so you open the window and theres a small black shape looking at you from the yard. You stand there, because what is it? Too big for a cat or even a racoon. And then it rears up. It hauls itself up and its tall, its snuffling at the window, and its eyes are small red lights and it says in this voice that comes from no voicebox, this voice in your head, it says Come on girl lets get walking.

    Where are we going?

    Down to the creek.

    I don’t want to.

    It laughs: Eee, eee, eee.6

    I don’t want to. But your already putting your knee on the sill. Walkdog reaches its paws up and catches you as you fall out. It smells like drains. It puts you down on the ground and crouches on all fours. Bam, just like that, its small again. It sets off walking over the snow, and you follow. Your sliding down the slope at the end of the yard. Now you’re on Varsity Ave. It’s all dark out. I don’t know if you’re crying. Would you cry? Some of the stars are gold, the same color as the streetlights.

    Now you are going to walk for a long time.

    You might walk as far as the Wolf-Boy, Carlton O’Neill. Just trying to get back home again. I know for a fact you could walk to Indiana easy, like in the song “Indiana Morning” by Blueswoman Maisie Oates.7

    Walking and walking. You’d see a lot. Maybe you’d like it since you are such a fan of Research. You could do all the Research you wanted, walking up and down the country. I think you’d be cold though. You’d sleep in ditches and drains. Curled up against Walkdog for warmth. Walkdog’s voice in you murmuring, Time to get up.

    3. Conclusion

    In this conclusion I will write about why I chose Walkdog for this assignment and why its important.

    I chose Walkdog because I heard about it from Andy. What happened is two boys who you definitely know so I won’t repeat their names slammed into Andy in the hall and sent his papers flying. This happened on a daily basis. Every day. You have to ask yourself why Andy was always carrying stuff in his arms when he also wore a backpack. Why not keep everything in the backpack and then when people banged into him he would fall but his stuff would not be all over the hallway. Theres a sign above your desk that says “Nobody is Unteachable”, but Mrs. Patterson I beg to disagree. In this matter Andy was 100% Unteachable. So there his papers went as usual and these two boys enjoyed kicking them and leaving footprints on them. One of the papers slid over to me and almost touched my foot. I didn’t pick it up, because unlike Andy I am Teachable, but I glanced down at it. There was a drawing of something black and blobby with red eyes and underneath it it said Walkdog.

    You could say that that was when I got the idea for this assignment even though you had not given it to us yet. I got curious about Walkdog. It seemed like such a weird thing to draw, even for Andy. I asked my parents about it at dinner and they’d never heard of it. Sounds like an urban legend, my mom said later, when I told her about my Research. Mm-hm, said Dad. Mom did remember when Carlton O’Neill got found in the reservation. That poor man, she said, God bless him. She said that’s probably where Walkdog got started, and poor wandering Carlton is the only Walkdog there ever was. I asked how she would explain the song “Indiana Morning” which was recorded back in 1955. Oh that’s just a metaphor she said, and I said, a metaphor for what? She looked uncertain. Alcoholism?8

    When you gave us this assignment I went to the Union Market and found Andy at his parent’s booth and asked him about his picture that said Walkdog, and whether it was something that would be good for a paper on “Know Your Environment”, and he said it would be awesome. Andy was always saying things were awesome, and he meant it. He beamed at me from under the leaves of a plant being sold in the stall next to his. He didn’t even think that I might of come out there to mess with him or make fun of him even though that was the most likely scenario. Mrs. Patterson, Andy was special. I know you know that. I know you saw him getting picked on every day. When he raised his hand in class all it took was for somebody to shout Bookman! and the whole class would burst out in these awful little giggles. They didn’t even have to use his nasty nickname. Imagine how it would feel if just your name made other people laugh. You never batted an eye, you just said Yes, Andy? like it was all normal and like I said before it was probably the right thing to do. And then Andy would say whatever he was going to say, always something smart, while people made fart noises and snickered or whatever. You know Mrs. Patterson, this school is actually hell. I don’t know why everyone acted shocked when Andy got beat up the way he did. Special assembly and Principal Reed on the stage with his voice all wobbly. He said we must realize we are becoming men and women. He’s right about that. But that doesn’t mean we’re changing. It just means we’re bigger now, big enough to put somebody in the hospital.9

    It’s true. People act like highschool students are kids and need to be taken care of all the time but we are actually adults. If this was the Middle Ages we’d all be married or in wars and you, Mrs. Patterson, you’d be considered a very old lady. And the truth is, you are a very old lady. The day after Andy got beat you looked so frail. You had that old lady’s look of being lost in the world. The truth is, Mrs. Patterson, that a lot of us kids are married and a lot of us are in wars. Andy was both.10

    Now when I think about why I chose Walkdog, I think I really chose Andy. I think I chose him even before I knew it. That black, bulky shape on the paper was just an excuse. I wish I could end my paper there and say that getting to know Andy was getting to know my environment. You might give me an A for a paper like that, or you might give me an F, but I wouldn’t care because I would be going over to Andy’s after school, or I would have invited him over to my house, and on National Torture Day we would have watched dumb horror movies in my basement and laughed. My head on his shoulder oh God Mrs. Patterson where do you think he is? Is he still alive? Is he with Walkdog? Is that it? Is he walking around? Is he going to appear in thirtysome years in the forest like Carlton O’Neill and are people going to start calling him another Wolf-Boy? I went to look for Carlton, you know, after Andy disappeared, but I couldn’t find him, he’s not at his mother’s house anymore. I found his mother and she blew a ton of cigarette smoke in my face and said He gone for a walk and shut the door on me. Is that where Andy is? Just gone for a walk? If I’d known I never would have gone back to his house for the conjure mat like he asked me. Yes, I went back for it. He told me where to find the spare key and I went into his house and got the mat from his room. His stupid action figures staring at me in their creepy way. The mat was on top of the filing cabinet. It felt prickly and weird in my hand. I put it in a plastic bag that used to have my lunch in it and stuck it in my purse and went back to the hospital. Maybe I should of known something was wrong, but I just wanted to make Andy happy for once, and I could tell the flowers I’d brought him weren’t doing anything. He just sat in the bed and stared at nothing. White bandages over his nose, white light everywhere. He looked really drained there, drained and small. I didn’t know how to touch him, he looked so hurt. I was crying but he didn’t seem to notice. He just said in this muffled voice: Get me the conjure mat. Okay, I said, still crying. Andy’s parents were outside. Are you a friend? his mom asked, and I said, I’m his girlfriend.

    Some girlfriend, right?

    I never went anywhere with him. Never went in his front door. Never, ever walked home with him from school.

    I should have walked home with him. I should have. I should have walked him home.

    So now you know why I couldn’t finish my solo at the service they held in his honor. Praying for news of the missing Andrew Bookman. The choir kept going and I just stopped. I saw you out there in a pew, looking at me, so sad. I couldn’t keep going. My voice was just gone, cut off, there was nothing but air, like I was all full of dust, like I didn’t have a voicebox.

    Mrs. Patterson this is my thesis statement: Even though not much has been written about it, Walkdog is an important part of North American wildlife. I hope you can see why Walkdog is important. I hope you can help me. The fact is I think your nephew conjured up Walkdog using the conjure mat. I think he felt so alone, so abandoned by everybody, including you and me, that he did something drastic, he summoned up Walkdog and Walkdog came. I want you to tell me if I’m right. Did you know that conjuring grandmother? What was she like? Did she leave you anything? Did she tell you the counterspell?

    I want you to tell me that yes, you know a spell, or you have your own conjure mat. I want you to tell me how to find Andy. I need him. Mrs. Patterson this hound dog is walking me and he’s walking me hard. Everywhere I go I hear his footstep and his splash.

    If you can’t give me a spell then I want you to tell me that Walkdog is not a devil or anything scary but that its a helper and a friend. I want you to tell me that Andy’s not scared right now and not alone. He’s just walking. He’s doing Research, which is another kind of Nerd Heaven. Maybe he’s walked to Indiana by now. Maybe he’ll get to Denmark. Maybe he’ll swim with Walkdog who can stay underwater for three days. I see this boy in the waves, he’s holding onto Walkdog’s small black ears and heading out to where its strawberry season. I always see him in his hospital gown, the way he was the last time, the way I imagine he got up one night, his conjure mat in his hand, and walked through the hospital in the ghostly light and opened the doors and there was Walkdog waiting, black and low to the ground. Come on lets get walking. I want you to tell me that Andy’s not going to come back all skinny and beat-up like Carlton O’Neill. I want you to tell me that he’s not cold. Somebody’s always with him. He’s got protection. No one will ever hurt him again.11


    1.  The reason Walkdog is supposed to eat excrament is simply common sense, because what kind of fish is it eating in the sewer? Also we can assume that Walkdog has a seriously powerful gut and high-level immune system because eating random fish out of Jersey creeks will kill you. If Walkdog can eat bugged-out radioactive fish it would probably consider excrament a healthy snack.
    2.  Marjorie Wilson, “Sounds of the Jersey Night”, in Voices of Nature, ed. Steven Wilkins, Rutgers University Press, 1980, p. 115. “Then there is the Walkdog, a creature without a voicebox, known only by its footstep and its splash.”
    3. Facts about Andrew: fat (nickname: “Bubble-Butt”), glasses, always reading (and his last name is Bookman!), started calling himself “Andy” when he started highschool, which anybody should of known that was a stupid thing to do, he should of just stuck with Andrew, even Drew would be cooler, but no, he had to be Andy. Also, his aunt is a teacher (you) which does not help anybody I am sorry to tell you. The cloud of nerd gas surrounding Andy is so strong it could make your eyes water. People only go near him to mess with him. As a teacher you probably know this unless you are unbelieveably clueless.
    4. Source: private conversation with Andrew Bookman. Andy’s personal favorite of these theories was #3. Mostly because of the name “Canewolf” which must mean sugarcane which is something we don’t have a lot of here in Jersey. Andy’s grandmother, who I guess was possibly a relative of yours, died and left him what he says is a mat made of Walkdog hair. His grandma called it her “conjure mat”. This mat supposedly came from the Caribbean somewhere which Andy also says supports his theory. He kind of lost me at that point—he talks really fast when he gets going, and his face, which is already oily, starts getting oilier than ever, I mean really impossibly shiny, which is distracting—but it was something about slave routes and stopping points and getting from Angola or somewhere to Charleston. I don’t know. Poor Andy. He had on a white button-down shirt. Big sweat stains under the arms. It was like he didn’t want to be normal.
    5.  This note is not exactly related to the above, I just want to clarify the previous note in which I named my source as a private conversation with Andrew Bookman, but I also said earlier that people only go near him to mess with him. I want to be clear that I myself never messed with your nephew in any way, also I did not go near him at school because to be frank I did not want to get contaminated by his nerd gas. I went to Union Market on the weekend because as you must know that is where Andy goes every Saturday to run a coin swap booth with his parents.
      Andy’s parents are also terrible nerds, his dad in combat boots, his mom in a red wig, both of them obsessed with antique coins. Their super nice which just makes it worse. I guess you know that though. You certainly didn’t stop by their booth while I was there.
    6. This is the sound of the Walkdog laugh as you hear it in your head. Carlton O’Neill who was abducted by Walkdog when he was nine years old and let go again for some reason when he was thirty-six described the sound for the Star Ledger. “It sounded like a kid locked up and crying or a train whistle far away.” “’Wolf-Boy’ Found in Livingston Reservation”, The Star Ledger, August 14 2005, p. 1. Carlton O’Neill was skinny and a mess when he was found. He said he’d been to Canada and the farthest tip of Argentina. All on foot. They gave him a pen to write down who he was and when he remembered how to write his name he fainted.
      Andy who was a Walkdog fanatic had this newspaper article tacked to his bulletin board. He also had Carlton O’Neill’s signature on an index card. He had actually tracked the guy down and gotten his autograph. Carlton lived with his mother in East Orange at that point. I don’t know where he is now.
    7. Indiana morning, I’m as low as I can be.
      Indiana morning, I’m as low as I can be.
      Went to walk my hound dog, but now he’s walking me.

      This song is from the album Indiana Morning by Blueswoman Maisie Oates. I heard it at Andy’s house which is also where I read the article about Carlton O’Neill, and also I may as well say since its part of my Research that I saw and touched the “conjure mat” Andy inherited from his grandma. I am wondering if you know anything about this mat? Have you ever seen it? Its gray and hairy and about as big around as those things you put on the table under hot dishes. I said I thought it would be black and Andy said he doesn’t know why its gray, he thinks maybe since its cut off the Walkdog its lacking essential oils. That was in his room which is like Nerd Heaven, full of action figures and model planes. You can’t touch anything or Andy starts freaking out. Obviously I would not be caught dead going in the front door at Andy’s house. I went in the back. He opened a window.

    8. This is Mom’s explanation for most bad things. It is based on personal experience because my grandfather (her dad) drank himself to death. In my opinion this is the reason she married a security guard (my dad) who works at the same bank where Mom is a teller. Security is her thing. This is my parent’s week: Bank, Bank, Bank, Bank, Bank, Groceries, Church. After graduation I am going to Rutgers and my mom assumes I will major in Accounting. Accounting is a good secure choice. I want to major in Music. The only person I have told this to (besides you) is Andy Bookman. It was after we listened to “Indiana Morning”. He said I should do Music if I want, maybe I should even go to an arts school instead of Rutgers. I never thought of that, I said. I felt like such an idiot. But Andy didn’t laugh. He looked calm and thoughtful. Its hard to get started, he said. Its hard to get going by yourself. He was looking at my boots, which I’d left by the window. Snow melting off them on the floor.
    9. They cornered him down by the creek. Behind the fucking police station. I am sorry, I don’t care that I’m swearing in my paper. Why did he have to walk that way? Why couldn’t he have gone down South Orange Ave. like everyone else? Why didn’t I invite him to my house? Do you think Andy Bookman has gotten invited anywhere since seventh grade? They cornered him down by the creek. They yanked off his backpack and threw it in the water. They broke his nose. They broke three of his ribs. They stepped on his wrist and broke that too. They kicked him all over, those same two boys that I won’t repear their names. Nice boys that everybody knows. All they got was suspended because they’re sorry. Right behind the police station. Where were the police? Where was fucking Walkdog when Andy needed him? I went to the hospital after and Andy’s father was crying in the hall.
    10. His bed was so saggy. He’d probably slept there since he was six years old. It seemed too small. He had the best smile, a perfect dimple on either side. Long eyelashes that brushed my cheek. I don’t want to ruin anything, I said, and he said what? and I said I don’t want to mess up your trip to Denmark. I was already hoping he’d cancel and stay with me because even if I had my own money my parents would never let me to go Europe with a boy, not even a boy like Andy who was so sweet, its not secure, even though there is no place more secure than Andy’s arms. He laughed and kissed me. Your not ruining anything. I love you. Model plane wings turning, shadows on the wall. Snow outside and the windows all blue. He hugged me and I just sank. There are places that once you step in, you can’t get out.
    11. To complete my Research here is the rest of the song “Indiana Morning”.If you got a dollar, why don’t you give me half.
      If you got a dollar, come on and give me half.
      The stories I could tell you, they’d make a preacher laugh.

      When I had a good man, the sun shone every day.
      When I had that good man, the sun shone every day.
      Now I need this whiskey to take the pain away.

      Budworm in the cotton, beetle in the corn.
      Budworm in the cotton, beetle in the corn.
      Feel like I been walking since the day that I was born.

      Hear that hound dog. Day that I was born.