Category Archives: Authors

Throwback Thursday: Rules of Salvage by Margot Spronk

Each week we are taking a look back at the authors, stories, and poems that captivated us in 2019. Today we offer you an excerpt from ‘Rules of Salvage’ by Margot Spronk, from Issue 21, Winter 2019

Rules of Salvage

by Margot Spronk

“You look uncomfortable.”

Auron huffed explosively. She was uncomfortable. The paper jumpsuit chafed, her scalp itched with a few days’ growth, the cuffs trapping her wrists and ankles together were too tight, and her hands and feet ached with a surfeit of blood. She couldn’t see her interrogator. Her body floated in the null-G of the tiny brig, her face revolving away from whatever stood on the other side of the glass. She willed her muscles to still. The tiniest movement acted like the firing of micro-thrusters, and she couldn’t brake herself with an outstretched hand or foot. She bounced off the rear wall, smacking an already bruised thigh, and slowly came about. “Take the hog-tie off, then,” she said.

Laughter floated over the brig’s sound system, tinny and insincere. Auron winced, wishing she could cover her ears.

“What’s a hawg?” the speaker burbled. “And why would I want to tie one?” 

“A hog, you idiot, is the animal pork used to come from. An extinct species.” 

“You’re kidding me.”

A man popped into Auron’s peripheral vision as she swung about. About forty years old, thin, eyes sunk into cheeks made bulbous by weightlessness, he stood planted in grav-boots as if he was a sapling bending in a breeze. Instinctively, she hated him. 

He frowned, scrunching furry brown eyebrows. “No, you’re staying tied up and behind an RF screen.” His lips turned up in a caricature of a smile. “Unless, of course, you sign over your ship.”

Auron sighed. “You give humanity a bad name. Can’t I be interrogated by an AI?”

He chuckled and slapped his knee. “How do you know I’m not?”

“An AI would have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Earth history.”

“An AI would know that you would think that.”

“What do you want?”

“The Ceres Materials Council wants your signature on a salvage offer.”

“You coerced this salvage. We’re an independent asteroid mining venture, and you have no right.” 

“A dying breed.”

“And legally grandfathered. You can’t take our ship, or our leases.”

“We can if you require rescue.”

“Rescue? From what? Self-determination?”

“From the vacuum of space.”

“Fuck you.” Auron wished she could fold her arms across her chest and turn away, but her wrists were fixed to her ankles, and the vagaries of momentum kept her facing the asshole.

“This Extractor-class ship we rescued you from — wasn’t this its maiden voyage? And now … sadly …” He tipped his head from side to side, the effect made ridiculous by the comic mobility of his caterpillar eyebrows. “It goes the way of the first Lady. Didn’t it have an unfortunate accident too?”

“She. The Lady II is a ‘she’.” 

“Ship AIs have no gender.”

“Ours does. She thinks of herself as a ‘she’.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have stuffed that antiquated AI into a new ship.” 

Antiquated? The Lady may be old, but she still had a few tricks. Auron froze her face, afraid an inadvertent smile might give her away. Fear. Anger. That’s what she needed to show. 

He held up a tablet and snapped it open. “Maybe this wouldn’t have happened if you had the sense to see the way things are.”

Auron gasped before she could stop herself. The tablet projected an image of space onto the glass between them and zoomed toward the distinctive hambone shape of 2856 Helicon. The Lady II clung like a barnacle to the asteroid’s larger end. Extractor-class ships look like the contents of a spilled junk drawer at the best of times. Borers, hoppers, and vacuum suckers bulged from the bottom of their hulls, and an assortment of comm arrays, odd knobs, and depressions festooned the topsides. But this! Pristine green paint blistered to black, thick steel plates crumpled and torn as if they were tinfoil. Shredded insulation, sheaves of cut wire, and trails of white condensate ringed gaping holes in the hull. 

Auron clamped her teeth and closed her eyes, remembering. She’d been stewing in the brig for two days. Three days ago she’d been on the Lady II and full of hope, or was it hubris?


To find out what happens next, pick up your copy of Issue 21, Winter  2019 here!

Image result for margot spronkLapsed pilot, retired air traffic controller, cancer survivor, and graduate of Simon Fraser University’s The Writers Studio. With all that behind her, Margot Spronk now has time to write. After grinding out a speculative thriller, she’s currently enjoying the rush and challenge of writing short stories. Her story ‘Biophilia’ was the first runner-up for 2018 Surrey International Writers’ Conference Storyteller’s Award, and appears in Pulp Literature Issue 23, Summer 2019.

This Week on Friday Live …

 

The world always seems brighter when you’ve just made something that wasn’t there before” ~ Neil Gaiman

As we all continue to navigate this strange new world, we find ourselves seeking connection and community from behind closed doors — and the world wide web of artists has delivered! From virtual gallery tours to writing workshops, from painting tutorials to live-streamed raves, businesses and events are reaching out digitally to connect, uplift, and inspire.

And we at Pulp Literature are honoured to offer you some literary light.  Here’s what we’re doing for our community of readers and authors:

  • We’re offering 25% off of anything in our online shop.  Just load up your cart and save when you enter the coupon code COVID19.
  • We have linked our Patreon income to scaling pay rates for authors and artists.  We’ve just raised our maximum short story rates by $0.01 per word ot $0.08.  When we reach $300 a month, our max will increase to $0.09 per word and go up to $0.10 per word at $400.  You can see more details on the Patreon page.
  • We will be livestreaming readings from authors every Friday at 10am pacific time starting today!  Each week will feature three different authors who will read and answer questions from the audience between 10:00 and 10:30.

Friday’s live line-up

This week on Friday Live, we bring you Jessica Barksdale, KT Wagner, and Douglas Smith.

Jessica Barksdale

Jessica Barksdale, author of ‘The Brightness of Things’ (Issue 18), is a Pushcart Prize, Million Writers Award, and Best-of-the-Net nominee. Her fourteenth novel, The Burning Hour, was published by Urban Farmhouse Press in April 2016.  Her novels include Her Daughter’s Eyes, The Matter of Grace, and When You Believe. Her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in the Waccamaw Journal, Salt Hill Journal, Little Patuxent Review, Carve Magazine, Palaver, and So to Speak.  She is a Professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California, and teaches novel writing online for UCLA Extension.  She holds an MA in English Literature from San Francisco State University and an MFA from the Rainier Writers Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.  You can read more at jessicabarksdaleinclan.com.

KT Wagner

About | Northern Lights GothicKT Wagner, author of ‘Cabin Fever’ (Issue 24),  is a collector of strange plants, weird trivia, and obscure tomes. She graduated from Simon Fraser University’s Writers Studio in 2015 (Southbank, 2013). Her short stories are published in or podcast at Daily Science Fiction, Factor Four, The Twisted Book of Shadows, The Centropic Oracle, Toasted Cake, and several anthologies. In the Federation of British Columbia Writer’s 2018 BC Short Fiction Contest, ‘Cabin Fever’ received a first honourable mention. Find KT online at northernlightsgothic.com and @KT_Wagner.

Douglas Smith

Douglas Smith, author of ‘The Last of a Thing (Issue 12 ), is an award-winning Canadian author whose short fiction has appeared in over thirty countries.  His books include a novel, The Wolf at the End of the World, and the collections Chimerascope and Impossibilia, and the writer’s guide, Playing the Short Game:  How to Market & Sell Short Fiction.  Doug is a three-time winner of Canada’s Aurora Award, and has been a finalist for the John W.  Campbell Award, CBC’s Bookies Award, Canada’s juried Sunburst Award, and France’s juried Prix Masterton and Prix Bob Morane.  His website is smithwriter.com

Issue 12 cover by Melissa Mary Duncan

Check out our brand-new YouTube channel and subscribe to receive notifications.

Buddha in a Bottle by Susan Pieters

Susan Pieters is a founding editor at Pulp Literature Press. Her stories range from high-end literary to the weirdly fantastical, and this story is a lovely alchemy of both. Enjoy this excerpt of ‘Buddha in a Bottle’ as it escapes the pages of Pulp Literature Issue 25, Winter 2020

Buddha in a Bottle

The genie looked up at me, then looked at the bottle. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” she said. 

I wasn’t kidding. “You’re supposed to fit. Shrink or something.”

She pulled up at the corner of her silk pyjama pants. “Laws of physics say you can’t make something smaller than it is. Conservation of matter or something. Unless it’s a black hole.”

“Is it?” I lifted up the glass bottle. It was heavy purple glass, possibly leaded, but surely not heavy enough to be condensed matter. 

“What I suggest,” the genie said, stroking a finger along my shoulder, “Is that I come live with you.” 

I remembered the day I’d found the bottle on the edge of the sea, partly covered by kelp, shining in the sun. I’d pulled the cork, thinking there would be wine inside, not a woman. How had she come out of there? There had been smoke. I’d been shocked, dropped the bottle. It had all been so sudden. 

She moved her finger to touch my earlobe. “And who knows? Sometime in the future, you may relent and take me up on my offer.”

“Three wishes? Never.” I’d read all the stories. I knew better. “You’ve had a week of modern life. Isn’t that enough?”

To find out what happens next, pick up your copy of Issue 25, Winter 2020 here!


Susan Pieters, one of the founding forces at Pulp Literature, is now an actual Vancouver resident instead of just a virtually-in-Vancouver-but-really-in-Burnaby-where-it’s-cheaper resident. Yep, now she’s squeezed herself into a smaller square footage, hence the inspiration for this story. She’s still unpacking boxes, but Sue promises that she’ll get her website up by the time you read this, really she will! Try her at susanpieters.com.

Friday Live Readings

The Pandemic, the Press, and You

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected you in some way. (If you have been living under a rock, stay there — it’s safer). For us at Pulp Lit, many things have not changed.  We’re writers and editors, and we like working at home in isolation — revel in it, even!

We have always conducted our business meetings virtually, and our day-to-day operations haven’t changed.  However Pulp Literature Press will feel the effects. Conventions, booklaunches, and retreats are an important part of what we do.  They get our books out in the community and let us engage with writers and readers in person.

This will be a hard year for us financially with so many event cancellations and the Canadian dollar plummeting due to oil prices.  It will be hard for our authors and artists too. We’ve already seen one of our favourite bricks and mortar stores, the Wylde Wood Collective, close its doors due to the crisis.  Here’s what we’re doing to help out our readers and our authors while keeping our non-profit press alive.

  • We have linked our Patreon income to scaling pay rates for authors and artists.  When we reach $200 a month (we’re almost there now), our maximum pay for short stories will increase to $0.08 per word and go up to $0.10 per word at $400.  You can see more details on the Patreon page.
  • We will be livestreaming readings from authors every Friday at 10am pacific time starting today!  Each week will feature three different authors who will read and answer questions from the audience between 10:00 and 10:30.

Today’s live line-up

Our line-up for today features the amazing trio of CC Humphreys, Laura Kostur, and Mel Anastasiou.

https://cchumphreys.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/image.jpg?resize=201%2C302CC Humphreys

He’s an actor, playwright, and fight choreographer. Oh, he’s also an award-winning novelist.  CC Humphreys is the distinguished 1st Issue feature author, appearing again in Issue 14. He’s a chimaera, like so many of our authors — and professional in every field (if his 17 published books and plethora of acting credits are anything to go by).

Laura Kostur

Born and raised in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, Laura Kostur finds inspiration from her surroundings and the wide variety of people drawn to the West Coast. Now employed in Communications with the Federal Government of Canada, Laura enjoy a job that allows her to write and edit every day, while interacting with a wide variety of people, and being of service to the public. When not at work, or working on her next novel, Laura can be found cutting and thrusting her way through classes at Academie Duello, a school of European Swordplay and Western Martial Arts. Laura currently works, fights and writes in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she lives with her husband and possibly a dog, if enough people pester the aforementioned spouse into letting her adopt one.

Mel Anastasiou

Acquisitions editor Mel Anastasiou co-founded Pulp Literature magazine in 2013. She helps writers develop through structural editing with the magazine, in addition to her weekly writing tips on melanastasiou.wordpress.com, the popular ‘Writing Muse’ twitter feed, and through her non-fiction workbooks, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Toward and Extraordinary Volume, and The Writer’s Friend and Confidante.  Her fiction includes Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries, the Monument Studio Mysteries, and the Stella Ryman Mysteries.  In addition she is the chief illustrator for Pulp Literature and has produced two colouring books of renaissance-inspired artwork: Colouring Paradise and Dragon Rock.

Check out our brand-new YouTube channel and subscribe to receive notifications.

Throwback Thursday: A Seed in Every Womb by Emilie Lonie

Each week we are taking a look back at the authors, stories, and poems that captivated us in 2019. Today we offer you an excerpt from ‘A Seed in Every Womb’ by Emily Lonie, from Issue 21, Winter 2019

A Seed in Every Womb

by Emily Lonie

My mother had little imagination and even less cash. Those with the means to self-design were free to conceive at any time, but the downtrodden squirreled away what they could and waited. On her forty-ninth birthday, my mother met with a Konzeption Consultant. She opted for Discount Package B, which entitled her to blue eyes, a standard double-walled heart, anti-lactic muscle coating, and one bonus maturity feature of her choosing. All seeds came with Biokinder’s lifetime health guarantee.

Perhaps my mother’s choice was a result of some cosmic prescience, but I suspect she picked at random from a list of features that were soon obsolete.  

In the early years, the radical right decried kreation, picketing Biokinder in a futile attempt to halt the future. But by the time I was born, no blue eye was organic. 

The weather changed when I was ten. Of course, there had been warnings for decades, but they went unheeded. We ignored and consumed and then we froze. Some were lucky — their parents had selected resistance to cold. I blamed my mother for having opted for the economical package. 

I received my first mandatory injection in the autumn of ice year one. The chair was clinical — a white metal frame with a simple plastic seat. I shifted and squirmed, unable to settle. My mother placed a steadying hand on my knee and smiled. A woman appeared in the doorway. She was tall, with delicate features and long, flowing blonde hair. Her slender frame was accentuated by a black figure-hugging pencil skirt that gave her an air of authority. 

“First time, sweetheart?” she asked. I nodded, buoyed by my mother’s reassuring smile. The injection was painful but brief. I would come to see it more as an annual inconvenience than a source of anxiety. 

Biokinder:  Natural, by Design. I read through the pamphlet as instructed. I learned that when a seedling comes of age, the maturity abilities begin to manifest. My overactive imagination conjured an array of spectacular possibilities, but any excitement I felt in that moment was immediately crushed by the reality of my mother’s circumstances. The option she had selected endowed me with Virusight, which had once been a valuable diagnostic aid. But in the years since I was conceived, disease had been eradicated in the general population. Careful engineering of the patented injection formula had rendered my ability useless. I was devastated. I wish I could take back the hateful things I said to her as we left the clinic.

My mother died on a snowy afternoon in July when I was fifteen. I could see the pride on her face as she waved to me that morning, promising to be there in the front row. When I crossed the finish line I searched the stands for her, but I felt only absence. 


Image result for emily lonieTo find out what happens next, pick up your copy of Issue 21, Winter  2019 here!

Emily Lonie is a professional archivist concerned with preserving the past, but in the evenings she enjoys exploring possible futures in her short fiction. She is thankful for the little bursts of inspiration that come out of nowhere and demand to be explored. Originally from Ottawa, she now lovingly calls Vancouver home. This is her first piece of fiction published in Canada.

New Poetry from David Troupes

As a poet, composer, and artist, David Troupes has scored a hat trick of creative possibility. It was our great delight to publish his poem ‘A Tree Slowly Rots’ in Pulp Literature Issue 25, Winter 2020. To read this haunting piece, which lingers like a smoke ring long after the final puff, order your copy here.

David has gifted us with a new poem, and we are thrilled to share it with you today.

Bones O’ Gold

by David Troupes

The January lacklight,
sleep and its moths, all the bodies

at the turrets, the bodies piled
along the walls. I walk

early to the streets, afghaned in star exhaust
with my aftermath heart.

Is this a forgiveness year? Excellent.
You are all forgiven.

I too: I
am forgiven, and I will stand in my depression joy,

browsing my fingers through this confetti
of world, awake and alive

and alive and awake, a sump
of sunlight,

a fountain
of blackest rebar. 


Image result for david troupesDavid Troupes has published two collections of poetry, Parsimony (2009) and The Simple Men (2012), and a selection of his work was featured in Carcanet’s New Poetries VI. From 2016 to 2018 he was Fellow of the Jerwood Opera Writing Programme, collaborating with composer Joel Rust on a science-fiction opera. Cambridge University Press recently published his monograph, Ted Hughes and Christianity. He produces a weekly comic strip called Buttercup Festival which can be read online at www.buttercupfestival.com. Born and raised in Massachusetts, he currently resides in West Yorkshire, England with his wife and daughters.

Throwback Thursday: Madame Sylvie’s Three Rules on Speaking for the Dead

Each week we are taking a look back at the authors, stories, and poems that captivated us in 2019. Today we offer you an excerpt from ‘Madame Sylvie’s Three Rules on How to Speak for the Dead’ by Susan Pieters, from Issue 21, Winter 2019

Madame Sylvie’s Three Rules on How to Speak for the Dead

My trailer door opens, letting in a burst of carnival noise. The ride next door must be dropping; the screams of teenagers sound like they’re inside my living room. Next year I’ve got ask for a spot farther from Hell’s Gate; as symbolic as the juxtaposition is, I get tired of listening to Dire Straits on the loudspeakers.

A new customer stands at the door. At least I hope she’s going to be a customer. She’s backlit by a setting sun. I get a good look at her before her eyes adjust to the trailer’s dim interior. Her skin is very dark and her close-cropped hair is greying at the temples. Her shoulders slump like life has defeated her. The baggy jeans bind at the waist.

She decides to step inside. The metal door closes, but the smell of popcorn now mingles with my bergamot incense.

I rise to greet her. My gold-plated necklaces hang forward as I bow. “Welcome to the House of Fortune. I’m Madame Sylvie.”

Her posture straightens. It’s funny how Canadians always stand taller when you bow to them. You’d think they’d tilt forward. 

“Hello, I’m Mary.” She reaches out for a handshake. Her grip is firm, her hands toughened; she must work hard. Her left hand stays tight around her purse, holding it protected at her side. She wears a plain gold wedding band.

I glance down as I release her hand. Her shoes have seen better days. I adjust my usual price even further downwards. “Would you like your fortune told, Mary? Please have a seat, and I’ll lay out the cards.” I gesture to the stack of tarot on the table, although I generally use them for giggling young ladies inquiring about love and marriage. The conclusions the girls draw from the pictures are highly amusing.

She shakes her head no, and looks at the bookshelf and my rows of old paperbacks. Most people never notice them. “I was told that you can talk to ghosts.”

I finger my gold bangles. “Of course Madame Sylvie can talk to ghosts.” I pause. “Are you being haunted?”

“Haunted?” Mary looks surprised.

“By a ghost?”

“No. I mean, not by a ghost. I mean, I wanted to talk to a ghost.” 

“Talk to a ghost, or to someone who has passed on to the other side? They’re not the same.” 

Mary looks at me like the difference has never occurred to her. “Oh, no, I just want to talk to someone who’s dead.”


To find out what happens next, pick up your copy of Issue 21, Winter  2019 here!

Susan Pieters is a founding editor at Pulp Literature Press. Her stories range from high-end literary to the weirdly fantastical; this story tries to put a foot in both camps, much as this magazine endeavours to cross genres. Sue swears she’s never visited to a fortune-teller herself but has always wanted to have a go. Hasn’t everyone? For more of Sue’s stories, find Tesseracts 20: Compostela, pick up any issue of Pulp Literature, or check out her forthcoming story in Analog.

Hands by Rebecca Ruth Gould

Reaching from the pages of Pulp Literature Issue 25, Winter 2020, ‘Hands’ by Rebecca Ruth Gould explores connection, time, and memory — and the elusive nature of all that we try to hold onto. We are pleased to share with you an excerpt from this captivating story. 

Hands

by Rebecca Ruth Gould

What struck her most about him were his hands. They were long and lanky, like his body. Even more remarkable than their shape was the way he used them. When they first met, he shook her hands boldly and directly, as if it were a perfectly normal thing to do and not a violation of the law in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Taken aback, she forgot to respond. Her hand hung limply in his palm until he dislodged it. 

Just the day prior, she had read about a poet who, after returning from abroad, had been arrested for shaking a woman’s hand. She wanted to warn him: You shouldn’t do that. You might end up in jail for shaking my hands. But he must have known what he was doing, she reasoned, and who was she to tell him how to behave in his own country?

His hands didn’t fit anywhere, not in his pockets or at his sides. They dangled oddly from his arms, like an expert swimmer more at home in a lake than on dry land. The lines on his palms were long, stretching from his wrist to his index fingers. If a fortune-teller — like the one she had just consulted with in Hafez’s tomb in Shiraz — had been asked to read his palms, she would have predicted for him a long life, a fulfilling marriage, and many children. His hands were like an autonomous body. She imagined them keeping her warm at night, soothing the aches in her back, providing a resting ground for her lips, caressing her hips. 

Before they said goodbye that magical night in Tehran, she asked him why he’d decided to shake her hand. Without answer, he waxed lyrical in a different direction. “I dream of working wonders with my hands,” he said. “I want to become a perfumist. I want to make magic potions and aphrodisiacs based on ancient Iranian traditions.” Although it was not an answer, it opened a new mysterious horizon onto his soul. She wanted to know more. 

To find out what happens next, pick up your copy of Issue 25, Winter 2020 here!


Rebecca Ruth Gould is the author of the poetry collection Cityscapes (Alien Buddha Press, 2019) and the award-winning monograph Writers & Rebels (Yale University Press). She has translated many books from Persian and Georgian. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she was a finalist for the Luminaire Award for Best Poetry (2017) and for Lunch Ticket’s Gabo Prize (2017). Visit her website here.

A Parable of Things That Crawl and Fly

This week from the  Winter 2020 issue, we’re featuring  ‘A Parable of Things That Crawl and Fly’ by Graham Robert Scott and Wallace Cleaves. Be sure to read the entire story after picking up your very own copy of Issue 25 from the Pulp Literature bookstore!

A Parable of Things That Crawl and Fly

by Graham Robert Scott and Wallace Cleaves

Every hour, every minute, I hear the throaty, chuckling call of a raven. Sometimes He makes a showing. On the afternoon our unexpected visitors arrived, He appeared and gave me a disapproving look with one eye. I read the look as You should be working, Helen. I gave Him side-eye: Even the turtles rest, Raven. I’d been on break for two minutes.

Far beyond Raven, past rows of unnaturally aligned palm trees, a plume of dust appeared on the road, the signature of a distant oncoming car foregrounded against foothills of umber and sienna. Neither Gabe nor I said anything about the approaching vehicle, though cars rarely came this way. Instead, Gabe tilted his spotted, bristly head toward me, slid a toothpick from one side of the mouth to the other, and flashed me a grin so I’d know a joke was coming.

“Met this guy, oh, would have been eleven years ago.” Gabe’s voice, a rich, dark timbre from a lifetime of smoking, has always reminded me of cracked leather. Thanks to a lifetime of field work, his skin did, too. “I was nursing a railway lager in this desert bar called Mama Jane’s—one of those places with pickups out front and semis clumped like Tetris blocks out back—and this dude drags himself onto the stool beside me. Bone tired. Eyes deep-seated. Hollow. Complexion, hair, facial structure of a full-blooded indigenous man. Which may have, I admit, prompted an involuntary snort on my part.”

I said nothing at this. I’m not always nice to reconstitines either. It’s not their fault, of course. Not anyone’s fault, really. Once folks realized they could swap out of their children’s DNA any trace of the white folks who had raped their way into the family tree, anyone who wasn’t an asshole thought that made good sense. But like other customs born of good intentions, the reconstitine practice got a bit carried away. Some faces have social capital. In time, families who had been white for generations, with no tribal affiliations or knowledge of Native cultures, were having kids who looked pre-Columbian. If it came down to splitting hairs, my problem wasn’t so much with the kids; my problem was with what they represented. But on my face, in the tone of my voice, it came out a lot like I didn’t like them, and I had long ago stopped apologizing for it.

“Of course, he heard me,” Gabe said, “so I felt obligated to apologize—”

Wuss.

“—and when he was cool about the whole thing, I felt maybe I owed him a conversation.”

Grandmaster wuss.

The car came to a stop in the middle of the road for no apparent reason. I wondered whether someone was fiddling with directions, having an argument, necking in the backseat, taking a nap. Dust in the car’s wake settled onto tree branches, created plumes of spinning motes in waning sunlight.

“Turns out, my new friend was tired on account of a sick kid. Which, of course, meant now I had to ask about his boy. And that’s how I learned that, when he and his wife—also reconstituted—named their son, they wanted to use authentic Native American naming practices.”

“Oh, God,” I said.

“You know, those descriptive names. Drinks from Bottle. Eats with Ketchup. Fills a Diaper.”

Gabe knows this sort of thing makes me mutter. I’m only an eighth Tongva, but I’m a documented member of the tribe. Focused my whole life studying our culture. Three books. A career of public lectures and one film documentary. Thirty peer-reviewed articles. In the back room of the house, eleven cryocasks with minds bequeathed to my one-woman institute by passing elders. When I wasn’t listening to Gabe or the Raven, I listened to the minds, almost eleven hours a day. Tried to provoke memories with auditory, visual, olfactory cues. Tried to find evidence of what we used to be while it still existed. For decades, I’d been driven by the sense that I owed that to the relatives who once lived and thrived here. But even with the caskets and the minds in them, the work was hard. Memories deteriorated. Became closed off, inaccessible, harder to provoke. Turned out it was easier to summon up the faces of the past than to conjure their stories.

In the distance, the car started up again.

“This didn’t really happen, Gabe,” I said.

He gave me a look, daring me to contradict his tale. Then he continued. “Guess what they named their first son.”

Ugh. “Stands with DNA?”

“Only Child.”

He paused and waited, casual as the sun stretching its rays.

“They named their first son Only Child,” I clarified.

His grin revealed teeth. Right. Reconstitine couples sometimes needed pointers on birth control.

“Fine, I’ll bite. What did they name their second son?”

“Last Child.”

I choked on my tea. “Sounds like only one of those was accurate.”

“Oh, hell,” Gabe said. “Neither was. Third time around, they said fuck it and named her Sarah.”

As the car hummed into the driveway of our farm and slid to a stop on a blanket of leaves, Raven—who had not moved this entire time—let out a throaty warble.

Gabe ignored the bird or didn’t hear Him. Instead, he gestured at the car. “Speaking of reconstitines.”


To find out what happens next, pick up your copy of Issue 25, Winter 2020 here!

Graham Robert Scott is an English professor at Texas Women’s University, where he teaches writing and the occasional speculative fiction literature class. His stories have appeared in Nature, Barrelhouse, and X-R-A-Y Literary Mag. He has been collaborating with Wallace Cleaves on academic and creative projects for decades, and they are already at work on a new story.

Wallace Cleaves is Associate Professor of Teaching and Associate Director in the University Writing Program at the University of California at Riverside. He also teaches courses in medieval, Renaissance, and Native American literature. He is a member of the Tongva (also known as Gabrieleno) Native American community.

Throwback Thursday: Echo/Narcissus

Each week we are taking a look back at the authors, stories, and poems that captivated us in 2019. Today we offer you an excerpt of Joelle Kidd‘s modern retelling of an Ovid myth: ‘Echo/Narcissus’ from Issue 21, Winter 2019.

Echo/Narcissus

I remember I was chasing you down the long gravel driveway, a steep slant for short, chubby, knobby-knee legs. I remember the bits of gravel, chips of stone were spitting out from under the crunch of our sneakers and bouncing down towards the trees that lined the curving drive.

I was running, the way kids do, so hard my chest was billowing and folding in, my throat was raw with the cold air from my mouth-breathing and tasted metallic, like blood, behind my tongue. I was getting close to you. I was almost there.

When I saw the back of your yellow T-shirt billow out, it looked like the sun was lifting it into my hand, and I reached out and leaned forward, sure I could catch you but not thinking about what would happen after that. 

I didn’t reach you. Instead my feet hit each other and I could feel the world sliding sideways and away as a shower of gravel sprayed out from under my rubber soles. I toppled and rolled and felt the sting of tiny knives over my skin, little stones etching their way in.

You didn’t know what to do and so stood at the curve of the driveway with your hands at your sides, staring.

I tried to stand but my knees screamed. Tears washed my face, and my wailing sent you running up to the house, calling for help.

It was just ripped-up skin. A torn membrane that let the gravel in.

The doctor picked stones out of my knee with a tweezer. He put a Band-Aid over everything and told me don’t cry, it’s not that bad.

I know it was just a scraped-up knee, and it had nothing to do with you. But when I think back, that’s the moment that sticks in my head as the moment I became permeable.

Linda says I used to be what she calls “a chatterbox.” I don’t remember this. You always had a question, she says. 

I remember coming into the dining room once when Mom was yelling for me to clean up my school books. She used my science textbook as a trivet. It was buried under a plate of turkey. You should have come when I called, she said.

I don’t speak much now. Mostly because I live alone, I suppose. Voices from the TV and missives from the phone in my pocket provide the comfort of noise, fill the void so that I don’t have to.

When I am trying to fall asleep at night I hear voices too. They drift in from the walls and the window, tone intact but words indistinct. Shrill screech and deep rumbling. I hear my upstairs neighbours having sex. I close my eyes and curl tightly into the centre of the bed.

Walking home I hear the voices too. It’s late at night, and a woman shouts, “No!” repeatedly. Men’s voices drift up from the yards of every house I pass. They are tucked behind trees, past fences, faces shadowed. They throw stones at windows. They jabber loudly into phones. They roar, out of sight. Their voices follow me down the block from every side.


For the conclusion, pick up your copy of Issue 21, Winter 2019 here!

Joelle Kidd is a writer and poet who lives in Toronto, Ontario. Her work has appeared in the Winnipeg Free PressStoneboat Literary Journal, and Living Hyphen. ‘Echo/Narcissus’ is her first piece for Pulp Literature.