Sunday, December 12, 2010
Henry is an editor at the science magazine Nature, where he devised the award-winning SF series Futures. His latest novel The Sigil can be read for free online through www.henrygee.org.uk.
That leaves twelve.
To go with this story, we could use a doodle of a thing in a jar - a horrible thing in a big soupy jar. But not a head. Think forgotten storage room of the British Museum, not Silence of the Lambs.
"It puts the lotion on its skin, else it gets the hose again."
Ann Leckie is a graduate of Clarion West. She has worked as a waitress, a receptionist, a rodman on a land-surveying crew, and a recording engineer. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband, children, and cats.
The art order for this story is a teddy bear. You heard me - a teddy bear.
So that leaves four stories (and one week) to go.
If you haven't ordered your subscription yet, please do. We're a little over halfway to paying for this hellish project. If the boss doesn't have to spend his own money, he might be more willing to order another series of Postcards sometime in the future.
Tin Parachute Postcard Review has a similar format as Postcards from Hell - flash fiction under 500 words on a 4x6 postcard mailed to your door. I suspect they're looking for literary fiction to go with their handsome artwork and design. Also, they have prestigious degrees to go on their masthead.
The only degrees we have around here are about 2,000 in the Lake of Fire.
A six issue subscription of Tin Parachute Postcards will run you $20. Their production costs are higher, I suspect. Like any good capitalist venture, our employees are literally chained to their iron desks and have no choice but to serve the Dark Master. Such are the advantages of relocating your business to a Free Trade zone, as we did, not long after NAFTA was passed. If only we could get migrant workers to deliver the postcards, we'd be talking about some real money, but please, don't get the boss going on this subject.
We're down to our last three postcards in the First Thirteen series, but it's never too late to repent and place your order. For just $6.66, you'll get all 14 stories in our 13-story series, which as you can now see, is quite a bargain.
He says, let's publish several stories, all at once, every other month or so.
So that's what we're doing.
Also, he says, ditch the lighthouse theme. I try to explain to him the idea that these are postcards, and you get lighthouses on postcards, but he just looks at me and says, do you think I'm stupid?
No, sir, I say. Of course not.
He says, yes I do. I think you think I'm like stupid or something.
I would never think that, I say. Because he can read minds. When he wants to read your mind, he opens your skull up and reads it like a newspaper over his morning toast.
I'm deeply hurt by this, Minion, he says. Lose the effing lighthouse or I won't let you wear your Gene Simmons makeup. I'll make you dress up like Peter Criss.
Yes sir, I say. So the design is going to change to coincide with the publication of Vol. 2 - Postcards from the Woody End in a few days.
All the previous postcards are now collected under a single Postcards From... Vol 1.
Now, if' you'll excuse me, I have a fifth of sloe gin waiting for me in my doghouse in hell. I need something to take the edge off... a katana.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
From his undisclosed location off the rocky coast of New England, John R. Platt works his magic as a publicist, fantasist, humorist, activist, cartoonist and photographerist. He is the founder of Extinction Blog, the world's first newswire devoted to endangered species, and an award-winning marketing writer. John's stories have appeared in anthologies such as Borderlands 5, From the Borderlands (same anthology, different name), The Best of Borderlands (different anthology, same story), Crafty Cat Crimes, 100 Menacing Little Murder Stories, Bell Book & Beyond, and IDW's Tales ofTerror. You can find him online at http://www.johnrplatt.com.
That makes nine stories to go.
Speaking of the Number Nine and a certain turned-on dead man, he just wants to say that that one-legged harpy is the perfect punishment for a dirty doublecrossing doppleganger.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Three reasons for this:
1. To thank you for subscribing and to make sure you gave me the correct address.
2. To test my procedures and work out all the kinks before I have to start sending out a postcard a week.
3. The story, Dark Wine by Paul Lewthwaite, is so good that I couldn't pass it up, but it was also too long for the standard postcard format. So I thought, why not do this one time, collector's edition double postcard as a special surprise for all the subscribers?
Paul's been dying to tell everyone that he's been accepted to our fiery domain. So here's his introduction.
Paul, a Scotsman living in England, works in Britain's National Health Service. His wife puts up with his writing endeveaours with good humour (she needs it) and they are both grateful to the two monstrous cats who grudgingly share their domain with their human pets. Still a novice writer, he regrets not having paid more attention to English lessons at school. Paul has had two stories published by The Harrow, and the latest is in this month's edition. A micro-short of his was published in an anthology by Leaf Books last year. He is one of the few people in the world not writing a novel. His fledgling website can be found at http://www.zompistories.com/.
Welcome to hell.
Oh yes, and keep visiting our wonderful sponsors. Our authors thank you for every click.
by Bruce Golden
Bats slammed into lockers, cleats scraped the floor, and frothy spittle stained the walls. An influx of uniformed combatants filed into the room, some mumbling, others grumbling–the sure sign of another loss. In moments the place smelled of dirty socks and planetary jocks.
As if to alter the mood, one of them began revolving around the post-game spread waving his arms. “I say we put this one behind us,” called out Saturn in an upbeat tone. “I say we go out and find some bodacious local asteroids in need of a good fertility rite. What do you say?”
Read the rest here...
Ideas come in many shapes. This one is six foot tall with a body straight from porno. She wears a scarlet PVC bodice, black thong, thigh high patent leather boots and dances serpentine in the office of a derelict cement factory. She’s got heavy eyeliner and lashes so long I can imagine them doing me harm.
I move into the room, picking my way over the empty bottles and chocolate wrappers strewn on the floor. Graffiti covers the otherwise bare walls. Kids and condemned buildings, a combination that’ll never go out of fashion.
The Idea swivels towards me and moans like I’m a dream date not three inches too short, balding and here to shut her down.
She’s a thirteen year old boy’s wet dream, the boy in question being Marvin Millar. He wet himself all right, when we showed up at his house with a warrant. His father’s face was a picture. Idea-realization drugs are illegal, Marvin, Son. Tell him something he doesn’t know.
Read the rest here.
Friday, November 12, 2010
of our elastic band, the end
you'll never understand, the end
I'm fondling my gland,
Ignore that last bit, it's not part of the original song. I keep telling Jim to shut up, he's dead, but he just can't leave things alone.
So this is it. With this last batch of stories, I'm closing the doors. Ha! Get it? Closing the doors.
Anyway, the boss has finally given me permission to pursue my dream of opening a high-end women's boutique for high-end women. I'll leave the stories up for a year or so, in case anybody wants to nominate one for a Nebula or Hugo or something like that.
And so at this, the very end of all things, we bring you four stories about the circle of life, death and torment. An el grande taco tour of several hells, ending with glimpse of hope for the future.
Working for the Man by Daria Patrie
North by Ward Crockett
The Journey by Tirumal Mundargi
A New Heaven and a New Earth by Carrie Laben
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Gord Sellar's ER drama "Dyscrasia" and David Snyder's devilish "Zombies Versus Dinosaurs."
Gord Sellar is a Canadian graduate of Clarion West who was born in Malawi and has lived in South Korea since 2002. (He still plans to finish his circumhabitation of the globe someday, but no time soon.) He is a columnist for the Canadian women's magazine Cahoots, and he has stories forthcoming in Fantasy magazine and Nature's "Futures" fiction column. He currently lives in Bucheon, South Korea with his fiancee, upon whose misadventures as a medical intern this story was loosely based, and is currently working on a novel about Northeast-Asian superheroes. You can find him online at gordsellar.com.
David J. Snyder's genre fiction has appeared in the Philadelphia City Paper and the anthology Path of the Bold. His so-called literary fiction has been published in journals such as Fiction and Potomac Review, and his short plays have been performed by the Cardboard Box Collaborative and Delaware's City Theater Company. David lives outside of Philadelphia with his wife Melissa, who had the dream which inspired this story.
The art order for "Zombies Versus Dinosaurs" needs no ellaboration. Just go with it.
For "Dyscrasia" I'd like to see something to do with an Emergency Room, emergency treatment, medical devices, a flatlined heart monitor, or something like that. Click here for the full list of our art needs.
I'm still agonizing over the last two stories. I have three, one of which I must regretfull consign to the Lake of Fire.
So I'm offering a special deal on e-Cards. Say you order an e-Card subscription for $3.33, and after the first three or four e-Cards you say to yourself, damn these are good stories, I wish I'd gone ahead and ordered the print version.
Well now you can. At any point in the series you can switch your e-Card subscription to a Postcard subscription at a prorated rate of .26-cents per remaining story (for U.S. subscriptions), with a $1.00 minimum order. Thanks to the new US Postal rates, it's a bit more for subcriptions outside the United States.
If you would like to upgrade your e-Card subscription to a Postcard subscription, send me a note to postcards(dot)fromhell(at)gmail(dot)com and I'll prorate your subscription and tell you where to address the money through Paypal.
Meanwhile, keep visiting our sponsors. So far, you've clicked enough to buy two more stories. That's a good thing.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Note to Manuel in Puerto Rico and CC-S in London: Email to your address is bouncing. Please be advised, your story has been consigned to the Lake of Fire.
To everyone who has submitted without reading the guidelines except to find the submission address, please don't think I haven't noticed. You would also do well to read Things to Consider, Things to Avoid.
Also please pay attention to the word count restrictions. Although I haven't had to reject a story because it was too long, most of the stories that I have received are over 500 words, with an unhealthy percentage of those pushing the 600 word mark. If your story is 597 words long, it already has a strike against it.
All that said, I do have quite a large folder of stories that I plan to grant further consideration. If you have submitted a story and haven't heard back from me in about 5 days, your story is in my Read Again file and it could be a month or two before I reply to it.
They say punishment delayed in the worst punishment of all. Meanwhile, try the veal.
Hannu Rajaniemi is originally from Finland, but went to Scotland to get away from polar bears and Nokia recruiters. He has a PhD in string theory, but now claims to be a technology entrepreneur. His fiction has been featured in futurismic.com, the Finnish magazines Usva and Portti, Nova Scotia: New Scottish Speculative Fiction edited by Andrew J. Wilson and Neil Williamson, Year's Best SF 11 and The Best New SF 23. He is currently working on a novel. Hannu is also an active member of Writers' Bloc, an Edinburgh-based spoken word group.
If I screwed up the greeting in the title to this post, blame the online translation software from hell.
Curiously, Andrew Ferguson ("The Cabinet of Dr. Calamari") is also a member of Writer's Bloc. There must be something in the water in Edinburgh other than coal dust.
It's a small hell after all.
It's a small hell after all.
It's a small hell after all.
It's a small small hell.
Otherwise, I have no way of knowing that you aren't getting them until the post office decides to return them, which takes weeks, and by that time you've already missed out on half the stories. Postage eats up nearly half the price of your subscription, so mailing postcards to your bad address is like throwing money in the lake of fire, something we don't like to do around here since it REALLY pisses off Mammon, the Demon Lord of Accounts Payable.
Then sign up for the Postcards From... newsletter by sending an email to postcards[dot]fromhell[at]gmail[dot]com with Sign Me Up for My Subcutaneous Tracking Chip! as the subject. Or not. Just send me an email and I'll sign you up.
What else do you get when you sign up? Who knows. Maybe a preview of stories in the cue? Sweet nothings whispered in your virtual ear? Photos of naked demons and nude moon maidens?
Probably not the last one, but you get the idea.
Ok, that's two sentences. Sort of. But you get the idea. Here's the email address again:
postcards[dot]fromhell[at]gmail[dot]com : Subject= Sign Me Up for My Subcutaneous Tracking Chip!
In addition to the new look, we've gone to a regular publication schedule. We'll publish a new volume every other month, for six total issues per year. The stories will dictate the content of each issue; some will be dedicate to a single genre, others will be a mix of genres.
In this first issue, we happen to have four tales of fantasy, and an eclectic mix it is - everything from not-so-traditional traditional fantasy, to modern fantasy, to futuristic horror fantasy, to Kafka-esque surrealism. Enjoy!
Breaking Fast with Hildebrand by Gwendolyn Clare
Blind Spot by Nadia Bulkin
For Rent by Jennifer Greylyn
Two Drawers Down from the Butcher Block by D. Thomas Minton
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
A good flash, replete with a cohesive plot, rich language and enticing imagery, is perhaps the hardest type of fiction to write. A good flash is so condensed that it borderlines poetry. A good flash engages your mind not only for the short duration of its read, but for a long time after.
I would even go so far as to say that a cohesive plot, along with brilliant characterization, is next to impossible in less than 500 words - as traditionally written. There just isn't enough space to flesh out a story in this way. That's why, as Jason Sanford decries, so much flash fiction focuses on "detail and scene over thought and opinion."
That is not to say it's impossible. There is something magical about a good piece of flash fiction. Much as a great novel oftens seems shorter than it really is, a good piece of flash fiction seems longer than it really is. There is more to the story than 500 words on a page. To borrow from our artist friends, the author makes as much, if not more, use of negative space as positive space. That is to say, the meat of the story lies in what isn't there as much as what is there. It challenges the reader to see beyond what is told, to - you know - think. I know that's not fashionable, but with the flash fiction form, if it is to have any merit at all, it is a requirement that the reader be engaged as directly and immediately as possible, and challenged to look beyond what they are used to reading in longer forms.
I believe the horror genre is the best genre for flash fiction because horror depends on mood for its affect, and because we are most frightened by the unknown and the unsuspected - and that's perfect for flash fiction. The hint of terror just beyond the door is infinitely more frightening than the monster sitting on your chest. One is about fear and one is about terror; one is a kick to the gut, the other a claw to the spine. Horror, by definition, is about terror, not fear. A gun pointed at your nose is scary as hell, but it's not a horror story. The trick is to use your 500 words to build that sense of horror into a story. The plot need not appear in the words, but it must be implied in them.
Some common forms of flash fiction that you should avoid:
The MFA Story: See this article, if you haven't already clicked on it.
The 'Dear Reader' Story: This is a story that affects the antiquated style of either Edgar Allen Poe or his attic-dwelling stepchild H.P. Lovecraft. The flash fiction form is so restricting and exacting that we sometimes tend to revert to the earliest days of the original flash fiction - that is to say - the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe. Or to be more accurate, our imprecise memories of Mr. Poe's fine contributions. We fear there isn't enough time to build a story and so we speak in the sort of generalities and "Dear Reader be forewarned" introductions that we find attached to the stories of Poe and Lovecraft. If there isn't enough room to tell your story in 500 words or less, you should just tell your story and don't try to stuff it into the flash fiction format.
Message in a Bottle: This style of story is a warning from beyond. It tells the horrible fate of some doomed individual or lost race or whatever, and arrives either in a bottle or a letter to a young nephew (or other relative, or future inhabitants) about to set out on life's grand and ofttimes frightening journey. It usually ends with some variation on "I only hope someone finds this message..."
The Stinger: Stories that end with an actual or implied "Bwahahahahahaaaaaaa!" Also included in this category is any story that ends with a scream.
The Castle Arrrrrrrrrrg Story: At the end of this First Person POV story, the narrator dies, which begs the question, "How did he/she write his/her story?" This heading derives, of course, from the scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the knights find the message inscribed by Olfin Bedwere of Rheged on the wall of the Cave of Caerbannog, telling the location of the Holy Grail in Castle Arrrrrrrrrrrrg. "He must have died while carving it."
The Gazetteer Entry: There is no story here. It is a brief history of some doomed land/people/civilization/world. Often accompanied by a warning to future generations.
More to come as I discover them. But please feel free to make suggestions in the Comments.
Kathryn lives in Southern California with a graduate student husband, two black cats, and a great many books. She's done time as a barista, an administrator for the Center for Astrobiology, and a university instructor. Her short fiction has appeared in Cabinet-des-Fées, and she just finished a novel (Not the first one, but the first one that's worth reading! she says) that needs a new home.
RJ wishes it to be known:
I was born and raised in the shadow of New Orleans, surrounded by horror movies, monster masks, sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. I've designed Haunted Houses for Six Flags, written a micro-budget horror flick that, once shot, turned out quite badly, and am currently nudging my novel through its third draft. I co-edited (with my lovely wife, Julia) and published the Stoker-nominated anthology, Corpse Blossoms. (Our second release, Tom Piccirilli's Frayed, was published earlier this month.) I've called Dallas home since Katrina gave us the big, wet boot. I'm currently packing for our return to Cajun Country, just in time for the start of hurricane season. I may need my head examined.
We couldn't agree more. Welcome to Postcards from Hell, RJ.
(Of course, we won't be infringing anyone's copyright because there's one creature even mightier than the Gods of Lankhmar, and that is the voracious plague of rat otherwise known as the copyright lawyer.)
Which is to say, we'll soon be opening the doors of hell to admit new supplicants seeking recognition from the Dark Master. There'll be changes, of course, because hell is, if nothing else, full of fools who couldn't leave well enough alone.
The First Change you may have already noticed. We have a new name - Postcards From... Other changes include new guidelines, new payment arrangements for our authors, plus something special that we think you'll like. And there'll be an anthology available, of stories first published in Postcards from Hell: The First Thirteen. The cost - $6.66 of course.
We'll announce them all soon enough, my pretties.
So check back soon.
by Alasdair Stuart
'It's metastasised, Father. I'm so sorry.'
Monday, October 11, 2010
As writers, we are often told by creative writing instructors (there's a special place in hell for them) to "Write What You Know." It's one of those golden rules that you have to learn how to break. It is important to write what you know. However, you shouldn't limit your writing to what you currently know.
I get lots of backyard stories - that is, stories written in the author's tiny backyard of knowledge and experience. This isn't always a bad thing. There are stories to be told here, but for them to evolve beyond the backyard and become speculative fiction, they must speculate beyond what you currently know. You must research, expand your horizons of knowledge, or be an accomplished bullshitter able to make up alien landscapes of such imagination and depth and scope as to become vividly real to the reader. Your stories must be written in such a way as to make the reader care about what's going on in your backyard. Are there interesting smells coming from your barbecue? Does it sound like people are having fun there? Is your garden secret or special enough to wow the neighbors?
In the old guidelines for Dungeon magazine, they listed a number of plots to avoid. To paraphrase one of them, a sane wizard with real motivations, foibles, strengths and weaknesses is much more interesting than an insane wizard bent on destroying all life as we know it because he's, you know, nuts. The same holds true for serial killers. Completely crazy Ed Gein type serial killers lounging on couches upholstered with mama's skin maybe be horrible in a freak show carnival way, but they don't make for good stories unless there is something more to them than their insane compulsion to decorate lamp shades with women's fingernails. It's impossible to truly get inside the head of a serial killer, so you must speculate about what really motivates him. You must make him or her unique, not only to you, but to the reader. The editor is the first (and most difficult) reader you have to convince.
Because trust me, my slush pile is bursting with serial killers. They all eat their victims, too, or collect their eyeballs, or whatever. A pinky-toe collecting serial killer isn't likely to excite us, even though we haven't read any pinky-toe collectors. Half the population thinks the scariest thing in the world is the mad-I-tell-you serial killer. But this is hell. We play bacci with the Ted Bundy's skull. Leonard Lake shines our hooves. Chances are your story's serial killer isn't going to make it out of the Lake of Fire.
H.P. Lovecraft wrote what he knew - rural New England - but he placed into it horrors of his own imagination. And he didn't have to dig deep to find them. As Holmes says in "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,"
It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside... But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser.
Therein*, dear writer, you too can find your own personal glimpse of hell with which to populate our simple postcards. Find a unique place that you know very well, a place where horror can take hold, and then fill it with your nightmare. Because the best horror hides amid the ordinary. That's what makes it believable, and to be an effective horror story it must, above all else, be believable.
*No, this is not a specific call for farmhouse horror. Although I would appreciate seeing a few more stories set outside the generic urban/suburban American landscape.
If you haven't heard, the Postal Service is raising the cost of postage next month - I believe the date is May 14.
by Scott Virtes
"Oh the agony, buried and forgotten, muscles taut, torn, defiled. And the burrowing -- constant burrowing -- flesh gone back to mother Earth to nourish her worms, her soil. My bones feel the stewy coffin air, sensitive as hell, stinging with every insect footfall. Blazing white jarring pain! I want to wipe them off, have another chance at life, but my arms are useless sticks ..."
Read the rest here.
"All one wants for Christmas, really, after one reaches a certain age, is no more than what we have here, don't you think?" I winked as I said this -- she knew what I meant. "Good food, good drink." I smiled as I raised my glass. "Good conversation, just you and I. The company, for me, of a beautiful woman."
Read the rest here.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Since then, I've noticed something about microwave popcorn that I'd like to share. I know, I know - this is hell. Why do we need microwaves to pop popcorn? Why can't we just lay the bags on the ground and pop them with the heat emanating from our cloven hooves?
Because then the bag catches fire, silly! And you know how awful burned popcorn smells. There's a whole level of hell set aside especially for middle managers - and it smells like burned popcorn.
Anyhoo, I just wanted to say, if you really smell microwave popcorn, and I mean smell it honestly, from a distance, without any thought as to actually eating it, it doesn't smell that much different than smelly tennis shoes. Some brands more than others. But there is a fine line between the smell of microwave popcorn and the smell of old sneakers.
Something to think about while you're waiting for your first Postcard from Hell. Something else to think about - the flavoring in microwave popcorn gives people lung disease. But at least it's convenient, right?
To our subscribers from Canada, UK, Ireland, and South Korea, please be aware that you're getting a bargain. For $13.10, you're getting a subscription that costs us $11.70 just to mail.
And I thought we were cruel.
Unfortunately, we're going to have to bump up the cost of an international subscription for all new subscribers. We're very sorry to have been out-helled by the Postal Service. We will try to do better in the future.
Lugosi tumbled outside the window, just another silent rock in a disappointing universe. The ore-ship Ramona struck a low, irregular orbit and Malone looked down hungrily.
"You're telling me this rock is haunted?" asked Chief Malone. All alone, he could call himself whatever he liked.
The computer repeated the tale of poor Harry Lingard, who manned the pirate radio station here. Harry, who went mad, and went through the airlock with no boots on, years ago.
Malone pounded the console. Ramona was having a breakdown and had melted his stash of food; now, clutching his stomach, he looked at pockmarked Lugosi. The tiny asteroid had the nearest cold war bunker, the nearest stockpile of free food. He had no time for pointless stories.
Read the rest here.