BULL SPEC a magazine of speculative fiction
M ELISSA M EAD U RI GREY GWENDOLYN CLARE PAUL CELMER & KAOLIN FIRE
CLOSED SYSTEM BY M IKE G ALLAGHER PART 2 OF 4
FIREFLY RAIN BY RICHARD DANSKY
J OHN KESSEL H OPE LARSON & DEXTER PALMER $8
DURHAM, NC ISSUE #2
& POETRY & ART & REVIEWS & M ORE
TABLE O F 31
ISSN 21 52-5242 is published quarterly by BULL SPEC / PO Box 1 31 46 / Durham, NC 27709 / United States [+1 .877.867.6889] and is copyright ÂŠ 201 0 BULL SPEC & its contributors. Find it in your local book shop! In print, Bull Spec is published as ISSN 21 52-5234 and deposited at the United States Library of Congress. Burning Catalonian Bull photo originally by Stuart Yeates, used and available under a Creative Commons BY-SA 2.0 license. Last Soundtrack Bleeding Cowboys font used by permission. EAN barcode by [milk.com].
C O N TEN TS COVER ART
4 ECHOES OF THE BOUNCING BALL Paul Celmer 8 BY THE DRAGON’S TAIL Kaolin Fire 11 HIRASOL Melissa Mead 1 9 THE OTHER LILA Gwendolyn Clare 23 THE SAD STORY OF THE NAGA Uri Grey
31 CLOSED SYSTEM Mike Gallagher Part 2 of 4
38 THE SPEAR OF THE MOMENT David M. Harris / DEATH COULD NOT PART THEM Helen R. Peterson / MOTHER’S GARDEN Reggie Lutz 39 THE TORTURER’S BOY J.P. Wickwire
40 WHAT IS SPECULATIVE FICTION? 36-37 HAPPENINGS 62-63 CONTRIBUTORS
ADVERTISEMENTS 7 PANVERSE PUBLISHING 1 0 ESCAPE ARTISTS 1 8 NORILANA BOOKS 21 AETHER AGE 26 APEX BOOK COMPANY 35 BAEN BOOKS 41 TACHYON PUBLICATIONS 42 SMALL BEER PRESS 64 PYR
27 FIREFLY RAIN Richard Dansky ≈ Excerpt; Interview by J.M. McDermott 43 IMAGINING THE HUMAN FUTURE John Kessel ≈ Essay; Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn 54 BONESHAKER Cherie Priest ≈ Review by Joseph Giddings 56 THE DREAM OF PERPETUAL MOTION Dexter Palmer ≈ Review by Natania Barron; Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn 59 MERCURY Hope Larson ≈ Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn
Bull Spec is
edited, designed, & published by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn. To learn more visit [bullspec.com] or email [firstname.lastname@example.org] with your questions and comments. Printed by Publishers Press in Shepherdsville, KY, United States. Document layout created in Scribus with additional text editing performed using OpenOffice.org and additional image editing performed using GIMP and Inkscape.
THIS FILE IS LICENSED
THE ROCK Vladimir Krizan
PHOTO BY ALEKSANDR AND N ATALIA FEDOSOV
BULL SPEC—ISSUE #2
“THE SHOPKEEPER’ S SMILE WAS A FAINT PATH IN A MERRY TANGLE OF WRINKLES. FOR SOME REASON THE FACE SEEMED FAMILIAR TO WHEELER. OF COURSE, WHEN ONE HAD BEEN TO SO MANY STARPORTS THEY ALL SEEMED TO BLUR TOGETHER.”
CHOES OF THE BOUNCING BALL
BY PAUL CELMER
HEELER’S SHIP BACK TO EARTH LAUNCHED IN NINE minutes, but he had a promise to keep. He raced down a crowded corridor, briefcase banging against his knees, and stopped in front of a little starport kiosk crammed between a pretzel shop and a newsstand. “Excuse me,” Wheeler said. “I’m looking for something. For my son. He’s six.” “A souvenir?” said the shopkeeper, blinking as if just awakened from a very long sleep. He spoke in polite and nearly unaccented English. “Yes, but something special. And I’m in a hurry.” Lately it seemed to Wheeler that he was always in a hurry. He had not been feeling like his old self either, especially on this trip that had taken him to a far corner of the galaxy he had never been to before. The shopkeeper’s smile was a faint path in a merry tangle of wrinkles. For some reason the face seemed familiar to Wheeler. Of course, when one had been to so many starports they all seemed to blur together. But irritation shook those thoughts out of his head as he watched the maddeningly slow hands of the shopkeeper carefully place two boxes on the
“SURE, AND I KNOW THAT, TOO. I’ LL SPEND THIS COIN ELSEWISE IF YOU ’RE NOT MORE FORTHCOMING.”
Y THE DRAGON ’ S TAIL
BY KAOLIN FIRE
THE FUTURE’S DARK. I CAN TELL THAT from just your shimmer.” Kith glared at the Teller, his tall dark robes and shining crystals. “A feeble mind could say that, seeing me. I’m ruined. Tell me what’s to come, so I can provide for my wife and daughter.” The Teller shrugged. “You’re to die, Kithshar.” “Sure, and I know that, too. I’ll spend this coin elsewise if you’re not more forthcoming.” The Teller took Kith’s hands in his own, and peered deep into his eyes; Kith flinched at the touch, shy of his
ILLUSTRATIONS BY J OEY J ORDAN
BULL SPEC—ISSUE #2 mangled hand, the mining accident which had driven him to this desperation. Then he was numb, toe to crown, though he was sure his hair stood on end. The Teller’s voice came deeper, and Kith knew it to be ritual. “I share light with you, a beacon in the darkness. Do you hear it?” Dark, numb, yet somehow cold, Kith could hardly believe there was a room surrounding him; a hint of brimstone came to him, just stronger than the jasmine that had suffused the room moments before. “Do you hear it?” The voice compelled. Kith didn’t, and shook his head—or tried to. The fight released a tone, golden, sure, a beacon—yes. He nodded, and it came easy. “Yes,” he spoke. “Yes.” Kith could hear the smile in the Teller’s voice. Brimstone was stronger now, and he felt fire dancing around the cold, twixt the numbness. “The dragon’s tail. You’ll seek it, and die—or be reborn.” Kith coughed, incredulous, as his body returned to him. “A quest? That’s not my destiny! I have no such thoughts. My wife, my daughter, that’s all since—” “You came here, and asked.” The Teller’s voice was tired. “That is all it takes to send you on this path—your choice alone. As strange as it may seem, a ray’s path is always straight. Take it or leave, I’ll not argue my fee.” “Better coin spent on food than this kind of play!” Kith turned and strode towards the door when the ground shuddered. He tossed a glance back at the Teller who in his gaze denied any complicity with the earth. Kith grunted, but threw payment to the Teller. It disappeared into the Teller’s cuffs as if it never was. Kith stepped into the street, shutting the door behind him. He took several slow, deep breaths, calming himself. The street seemed normal. Either the ground’s movement had been a trick of the Teller, or it had been just the usual grumbles of the volcano. Why assume anything different? But dragons—surely not dragons. It was not the time of year. Doubting with every fiber of his soul, he still found himself walking towards the mountain. The climb was torturous, the worse by far for his crippled hand. The air was sharp and cold, and his lungs burned when he finally crested Earth’s Mouth, unaccustomed to the rarity of it. Climbs he could do, but he was used to depths, not heights. The castle lay well below him, guards facing outwards over the city, not interested in a lone man skulking away from their demesne. There would be no dragons, he was sure; but Kith would face his death, whatever it be, dragon’s tail or sommat else. Sommat else it would surely be—but there was an odd
darkness seeping from the rim, an almost liquid smoke obscuring the depths. Kith traced the alchemic symbol of light, for luck, then dipped his hand into the smoke. It was warm but insubstantial. He cupped the darkness in his hand but it faded when he tried to lift it. The ground shook again, stronger. Kith barely kept his footing. Crouching to fours, he tucked his head down as flint fairies burst up through the smoke. A scream, a roar, cacophony—the antithesis of a golden tone—billowed the smoke upwards, and a flash too fast for him to discern blew through, spreading it further still. A dragon? A dragon made that roar? Kith leaned in, trying to see through the miasma, and at the same time struggled to peer into the sky after whatever had shot out. A second burst freed his feet from the earth and he was enveloped in darkness; brimstone filled his mouth and nostrils. He coughed and spun, and a third burst passed him—pain scorched along his right arm from its passing. He screamed and the brimstone ripped his throat as it left him; his lungs fought for clean air but none was to be had. All he had to do was grab a dragon’s tail. All he had to do. So he grabbed with his good hand—but there was nothing there. Three dragons gone out of dozens if they were all leaving, but how long could he fall? Then some moment of prescience, a flash, gold or copper, perhaps a trick of the light, and he grabbed again—pain seared his palm but he held, though it nearly took his arm off. His arm was numb, or in too much pain, but he forced it to hold as if it were some limb not his own. Clamping his teeth at the pain, he grasped with his other hand. He could barely force that hand to clasp with the burns to his arm, but the tail’s jerking helped clench it tight; the tail shook and shuddered but he was caught as well. The dragon’s scales were barbed. Kith held on for life or death and wondered at rebirth. Would he heal just for having touched the dragon? Or was there a more complete rebirth to come? The dragon fought to shake him off and fought for flight. It flew low, and his boots scraped the volcano’s side, but still the dragon’s scales held his hands. The dragon banked up, then left, and Kith swiveled along with wounds that dug deeper still, dripping blood. It entered a dive, then, more fearsome than he’d believed possible; its cry shredded the air and it bellowed sulfurous flames that melted the stone bulwarks below them, digging a grave for them both. Its feet clawed at the air as if fending off invisible attackers and Kith had a moment to wonder what was happening, what was driving the dragon to such madness—but then he was flying through the air without
KAOLIN FIRE—BY THE DRAGON’S TAIL support; the moment, and the dragon, had passed on. Another cry, a scream, rent the night, and Kith realized it was his. Flesh ripped, and bone; then a sudden impact, and the shrieking silence of deafness. People rushed about—rushing to, rushing away; he’d been flown back to the city, and there were fires all around. A building had broken under his fall, but he was alive. He had flown with a dragon. Kith forced his eyes to survey his hands. They were
KAOLIN FIRE’ S “BY
gashed to the bone, and he was missing at least one finger, but in his flesh was the essence of his rebirth. One dragon scale—a living dragon scale, shimmering with all the colors of the sun. That was enough to buy into a borough and be done with the mine. Truly, though he could never work again, maimed still and now missing at least one finger more—he would never need to. He rejoiced, hobbling home through the wreckage, that he could provide for Jin and Mirra, whatever apocalypse befell his world. ■
THE DRAGON ’ S TAIL” WAS FIRST SELFPUBLISHED AS PART OF THE CROSSED G ENRES “POST A STORY FOR H AITI ” PROJECT. THE PROJECT COLLECTED LINKS TO SIMILARLY SELF-PUBLISHED STORIES WHICH WERE CONTRIBUTED IN THE HOPES OF ENCOURAGING DONATIONS TO CHARITIES INVOLVED IN THE H AITI EARTHQUAKE RELIEF EFFORTS.
BULL SPEC—ISSUE #2
“WE WILL GIVE ME MY OWN NAME WHEN THE GRAIN HEADS OPEN . N OW I AM H IERA’ S S ORREL. FOR MY DAM , AND MY COAT.”
BY M ELISSA M EAD
HE GROUND STOPPED SHAKING. FROM SOMEWHERE ABOVE and behind Hiera’s Sorrel, a voice spoke. “…the centaur herd needs thinning anyway,” it said. The colt, his front legs trapped in a hole, couldn’t turn to face the speaker. He tried to get up and bolt, and screamed as his broken front legs gave way. “Branson, hush,” said another, gentler voice. “This one’s young and otherwise healthy. I’m going to try something.” Something stung the colt’s arm, and he tumbled into darkness. &
Fear returned first. Hiera’s Sorrel lay on his side, breathing hard. This wasn’t grass beneath him. The air smelled wrong, acrid and harsh. His chest heaved, but beyond that, he couldn’t feel anything. He tried to roll onto his front, but hands restrained him. He threw back his head and blew and whinnied. No one came. “Steady. Easy there,” said the gentle voice. The words were almost like spoken Herd language, with strange echoes and hissing sounds overlying them. “Lie still. Do you understand me?”
MELISSA MEAD—HIRASOL “Yah,” he answered. The voice reassured Hiera’s Sorrel. It was a confident, female voice, an Alpha Mare’s voice. He lay still. “Are you in pain?” the voice asked Hiera’s Sorrel. The nothingness frightened him worse than pain, but he couldn’t honestly say it hurt. Or if it did, the pain was too distant to matter. “Nah.” He stole a glance from the corner of his eye. The speaker was a two-legs with wrinkled skin and soft white hair. Hiera’s Sorrel stiffened. The two-legs spoke again, slowly, calmly, and moved in front of him. Her voice came from her mouth sounding like gibberish, and echoed back from a collar around her throat in words he could understand. “You’re safe. I’m Doctor Sanchez. You were badly hurt, and my assistant Branson and I brought you here to help you.” “Heyyo, Dok Torsonn Sheds. Where is the others?” “The other centaurs? I’m afraid they ran off.” Away from danger. Good. “Why I cannot run?” The two-legs huffed out a breath, as though bothered by stinging flies. “You’ve been asleep for a long time. You’re stable now, but the grafts didn’t take the way I’d hoped, because of infection. I had to amputate. Quite extensively, I’m afraid.” Hiera’s Sorrel twitched. “Ampootate?” She sighed again. “Do you have a name? What shall I call you?” “We will give me my own name when the grain heads open. Now I am Hiera’s Sorrel. For my dam, and my coat.” “Hirasol?” She looked so funny, mouthing at his name, that Hiera’s Sorrel chuckled and decided that she spoke well enough, for a two-legs. Dok Torsonn Sheds smiled, briefly. “Hirasol, ‘amputate’ means to remove a body part that’s too badly injured to function. You were very badly hurt. The only way to save you was to amputate everything below your waist.” Understanding began to creep in. “I’m very sorry. Branson modified a prosthesis for you, but you’ll need to heal before you can begin using it.” Hiera’s Sorrel twisted to look back over his hindquarters, and saw only tubes and wires snaking out from under flat white cloth. Panic spurred his heart, but nothing responded. Forelegs, hindquarters, his splendid tail—all gone. He squealed and tried to buck with what little body he had left. The primates held him down and stung him until he slept. &
He couldn’t sleep forever, and what remained of his body was too strong to die. The young male, Branson, grudgingly brought him bowls of hot porridge. Dok Torsonn Sheds coaxed him to eat it, and nudged him away from dark thoughts the way an Alpha mare would have herded him
away from a concealed snake. She coaxed Hiera’s Sorrel toward life with promises of sunlight and open sky beyond the white curved walls of this strange place. That promise was all that kept his spirit from fleeing when he saw the tubes and coils spilling from his truncated body, and Dok Torsonn Sheds showed him the machine meant to replace muscle, bone and hoof. “Dok Torsonn Sheds, that body is only half. We are not two-legs.” “I know. Equine prostheses simply don’t exist yet.” “Put on more legs. And rest of body. And tail.” “They would only add weight, not function.” “We need them.” “Hirasol, you’ll run faster without them.” He looked away from the snaky tangle, toward her. “I will run?” “If you work hard, and get strong, and practice, you could. But first you have to let me fit the prosthesis.” His spirit shied from it, but sunlight from the window called him back. He stared toward the window while she worked, fitting tubes and wires into the machine, binding the strange object below his chest. “Hirasol? Does anything hurt?” “Nah, Dok Torsonn Sheds.” She smiled. “It’s Doctor Sanchez. Doctor.” “Doctor. Doctor Sun Sheds.” “That’s better. Can you feel anything when I do this?” She pressed the bottom of the machine’s foot, and Hiera’s Sorrel jumped. “Makes prickles in the first belly.” “And now?” “Prickles moved sideways. Not so strong.” “Excellent! With practice you’ll learn to sense terrain— what kind of ground you’re walking on, so you’ll be less likely to trip and fall.” Hiera’s Sorrel winced. “Trip and fall again, I will have nothing left.” “That’s one advantage of the prosthetic—it’s nearly unbreakable. Can you make a knee bend? Use your abdominal muscles.” He strained until he was drenched in sweat. The artificial foot slid back a few inches. “Excellent! Hirasol, you’re doing amazingly well.” He grinned, baring his teeth, and flung himself off the bed. The doctor yelped and tried to pick him up. Hiera’s Sorrel butted her hands away. Branson came running and stood in the doorway with his arms folded, watching with a predator’s stare. “Hirasol! What are you doing?” said Doctor Sun Sheds. “Let me help you back into bed.” “Nah, Doctor! We must run. Run or die.” Get up and
“H E CALLED IT AN ERROR.”
HE OTHER LILA
BY G WENDOLYN CLARE
STEP OUT OF A PORTER BOOTH IN THE OVERHEATED LOS Angeles station and reach up to peel off my winter coat. That’s when I realize something’s wrong with my hand—it feels numb and prickly, and the fingers aren’t quite responding the way they’re supposed to. Weird. I don’t recall circulatory problems being listed among the possible side effects. “Uh, ma’am?” It’s the porter operator, standing a few feet away at his podium. His hands clutch the sides of the control panel, knuckles white. “What?” I snap, irritated with his staring. The operator swallows. “Excuse me, but… I think there’s been an error with your teleportation.” He looks down at my hand. So do I. It has a sixth finger protruding out from the index knuckle. He called it an error. &
We’re supposed to be meeting to discuss what sort of settlement we want from the porter company, but we both bring a lawyer of our own. I have some more pressing concerns, and I bet she does, too. We sit down on opposite sides of the conference table. She’s wearing a pinstripe skirt suit that looks aggressively fabulous on us, and jealousy flares in my chest. It’s my suit. The lawyers share an uncomfortable glance. Her lawyer opens a folder of paperwork and clears his throat. “Before we can proceed, we’re going to have to establish different legal identities for you both.” “I’m the original,” the other Lila says. “Put her down as the second one.” She lifts a too-familiar finger and points at me. I dig my own neat-trimmed fingernails into the seat cushion of the meeting room chair and keep my jaw locked until the flash of rage passes. The other Lila is wearing my stubborn face, dark eyebrows furrowed, and I wonder if I am, too. “Technically, no,” I argue, once I’m confident that I can keep my voice steady. “If the porter hadn’t malfunctioned, I would still exist and you wouldn’t. So doesn’t that make me the primary Lila?” The teleportation industry brags that the risk of disintegrating at your departure point and failing to reintegrate at your destination is a million to one. Statistically speaking, that’s better than flying, better than motor vehicles by a laughably enormous margin, and after all it’s instantaneous. Who doesn’t like
HE S AD STORY OF THE N AGA
BY U RI G REY
ART BY REBECCA CAMFIELD
BULL SPEC—ISSUE #2
THINK IT WAS WEDNESDAY WHEN I MET THE naga. I was going back from uni and there she was, standing by the side of the road, holding three thumbs up and looking quite miserable. I decided to give her a ride. Good thing I was driving alone, because her huge tail took up the back seat and its tip lay on my shoulder. I can’t say I wasn’t flattered. “So,” I said to the naga, “what brings you to our fair city?”
DA N S K Y
urham game designer and author Richard Dansky’s first original novel, Firefly Rain, is appropriately billed as a “North Carolina ghost story.” Read on for an excerpt from the novel and an interview with Dansky on writing, life, publishing, and game design by fellow Wizards of the Coast Discoveries author J.M. McDermott.
FEATURE—RICHARD DANSKY—FIREFLY RAIN
“Starred Review… a supernatural thriller that effectively breathes life into one of the genre’s staples—the haunted house.” — Publishers Weekly FIREFLY RAIN by Richard Dansky Gallery Books
EXCERPT: CHAPTER 1, SCENE 3
HE DRIVE TOOK TWO DAYS. I COULD HAVE made it in one but didn’t see the need. The truck with the rest of my belongings was following well behind, following the sort of route that let it leave earlier and arrive later than I would, without any way to check on it in between. In practical terms, that meant that there wasn’t any sort of schedule for me to keep, which was the sort of practicality I liked. I hadn’t called ahead to let Carl know I was coming
and I liked it that way. There was a vague notion in my head of drifting back into town and making as light an impression as possible. Maybe I could be gone before anyone noticed I’d come. Ten o’clock had come and gone by the time I turned off of the state route and found my way through the little town called Maryfield. Mother and Father’s house lay on the other side of it, well outside the city limits, and driving straight through was the only way to get there. There were more lights and shops than I remembered, but not many, and I didn’t feel like stopping to consider the differences further. Two days on the road had me bone-tired. There’d be time enough to explore later, if I felt the need. A quick left onto Harrison Farm Road led me right back out of town and into the dark. The road had been mostly gravel when I was growing up; now the asphalt extended farther, and the houses and street lights with it. But soon enough the last of the lights faded behind me. The town had crept closer to the house, but it still had miles to go before it was knocking on the door—my door, really. For that I was thankful, and there was a smile on my face as I drove off into the dark. The road narrowed to one lane of hard-packed gravel, bounded on each side with a drainage ditch. Strangers had trouble with the road if they drove it after dark; watching neighbors winch station wagons back up onto the road had been a common pastime in my youth. I knew it, though, knew it well enough to take in the landscape as I drove. I could see the outlines of the trees that lined the road and not much else. The only things visible beyond them were the lights from the few houses I passed and the fireflies in the fields. It was going to be a good summer for them, I could tell. Already the ground was thick with gold-green light, and the air above the fields danced with those cold sparks. It had been a long time since I’d seen fireflies in that kind of abundance—Boston isn’t partial to that sort of thing—and for a moment I was tempted to pull over and catch one in my hands. Then I thought about the two stones standing out past the pine trees and the empty house waiting for me, and all temptation fled. The driveway came up on me suddenly, and I had to jam on the brakes to avoid overshooting the turn. Only the mailbox on the side of the road had let me know where the driveway was, and even then I’d nearly missed it. A dark house set well back from a dark road on a dark night is easy to miss, I told myself, and then I realized how truly dark it was. Even with the sky mostly clear and a half moon shining down, the house I called mine was just plain wrapped in shadow. It had the look of a place that had gotten used to being ignored and liked it that way.
Happenings aims to keep track of publications by writers of speculative fiction in the greater Raleigh-Durham area, along with events of local interest.
APRIL 6 Richard Dansky’s novel Firefly Rain is published in a new
paperback edition (Gallery) 7 Tommy Lee Edwards’ comic TURF is published (Image Comics, story by Jonathan Ross) 14 John Kessel discussed Wicked at The Regulator Bookshop
MAY 1 Richard Dansky’s short story “The Mad Eyes of the Heron
King” is published in the anthology Dark Faith (Apex Publications) 7 Mur Lafferty is announced as the new editor of the science fiction audio podcast Escape Pod 11 David Drake’s novel The Legions of Fire is published (Tor Books) 22/23 Author, blogger, and technology activist Cory Doctorow reads and speaks at the Cary Barnes & Noble and Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books 25 Stephen Messer’s novel Windblowne is published (Random House Books for Young Readers) 25 Natania Barron’s short story “A Dear, Lovely Thing” is published in Faerie Magazine #20 27 Lisa Shearin’s novel Bewitched & Betrayed (in her Raine Benares series) is published (Ace) 27 Michael Jasper’s webcomic In Maps & Legends is published (Zuda Comics, art by Niki Smith)
JUNE 8 Alexandra Sokoloff’s novel Book of Shadows is published
(St. Martin’s Press) 9 Mark Van Name’s novel Overthrowing Heaven (in his Jon & Lobo series) is published (Baen) 15 David Drake, Kelly Gay, James Maxey, Lisa Shearin, and Mark Van Name held a science fiction and fantasy panel at the Cary Barnes & Noble 23 Mur Lafferty’s “multimedia fiction project” Her Side is available from Lulu (photographs by J.R. Blackwell) 30 Dale Mettam launched his comic Battle Smash vs. The Saucermen From Venus at the new Ultimate Comics Prime location (Viper Comics, art by Armando Zanker)
N I N G S JULY
1 Issue #1 9 of the North Carolina Literary Review to
include a review of recent science fiction by North Carolina authors entitled “Other Times and Places and Down Home” 20 James Maxey’s short story “Where Their Worm Dieth Not” to be published in the anthology Masked (Gallery)
AUGUST 1 Gwendolyn Clare’s short story “Driving X” to be published in the anthology Warrior Wisewoman 3 by Norilana Books 3 Mark Van Name’s novel Children No More (in his Jon & Lobo series) to be published (Baen) 5-8 The North American Science Fiction Convention comes to Raleigh as “ReConStruction” 24 John Claude Bemis’ novel The Wolf Tree (in his The Clockwork Dark series) to be published (Random House Books for Young Readers) 31 Kelly Gay’s novel The Darkest Edge of Dawn (in her Charlie Madigan series) to be published (Pocket)
SEPTEMBER 7 David Drake’s novel What Distant Deeps (in his Lt. Leary series) to be published (Baen)
And look for the Bull Spec #2 launch party soon! James Maxey and Lisa Shearin listen as Mark Van Name talks about Children No More at a five author panel on science fiction and fantasy on 15 June.
EDITORIAL—WHAT IS SPECULATIVE FICTION?
hen you put a phrase like “speculative fiction” on a magazine and then proceed to try to tell someone about said magazine, the first question is nearly always: “So… What is speculative fiction?” For some, it means “something a little more literary than science fiction and fantasy” or to at least a minimum “not that pulpy and/or old-fashioned stuff.” For others, and to some extent for me, it simply means stories which are driven by the question: “What if?” In the case of Bull Spec, “speculative fiction” is primarily used as an umbrella term to cover science fiction, fantasy, and a few more genres around the edges, like supernatural and superhero fiction, alternative history, and so on. Instead of trying to connote an exclusively literary approach, it runs the gamut from pulp to academic experimentalism, from slipstream to steampunk, from ghost stories to sword and sorcery to military science fiction to… well, I hope you get the idea. It also implies an inclusive approach to something else, perhaps orthogonal to genre: format. Too many compelling stories are missed by readers of prose fiction who ignore graphic fiction. Similarly, too many breathtaking images are missed by readers of graphic fiction who ignore the visions which can be illuminated in prose. And both groups are largely ignoring the amazing storytelling going on in the stories in and the settings behind interactive fiction. Meanwhile, all three of those forms are perhaps dwarfed, at least in terms of an audience, by cinematic fiction—though World ofWarcraft may yet give
cinema a run for its money. Screenplays and plays can carry a story to new audiences in new ways, unbound by the printed page. Musicals can bring these stories to vivid, spectacular light, such as the solidly fantastical Wicked which came to Durham this spring. Further afield, is there any doubt that The Nutcracker ballet can be called speculative? Poetry and song, even instrumental music, can each tell wonderful stories, bringing dreams a little more into focus without losing the essence of what it is that makes them dreamlike. Lastly, paintings or photographs can tell a story worth far more than a thousand words. Their weight might be more easily measured in worlds. So tell a story, whatever the genre, whatever the format. Tell it the best that you can tell it, to as many people as will listen, or read, or view. It is not simply in the telling that tales have life; a story lives in the receiving, and the thinking—and the retelling. And if you also ask, “What if?” Well, you will get no complaints from me.
Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Editor & Publisher, Bull Spec Looking for Part 1 of Mike Gallagher’s “Closed System”? You can order back issues of Bull Spec in print or PDF or start a back-dated subscription at [bullspec.com]!
Bull Spec’s Samuel Montgomery-Blinn at Durham’s 2010 Bimbé
Cultural Arts Festival on 22 May.
MAGINING THE H UMAN FUTURE
U P, DOWN, OR SIDEWAYS BY J OHN KESSEL
BULL SPEC—ISSUE #2
[A TALK GIVEN
IN 2001, AT A CONFERENCE SPONSORED BY THE N ATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES AT THE FIELD M USEUM IN CHICAGO]
am a science fiction writer, and a professor of American literature. As an undergraduate I was an astrophysics major who discovered, to my chagrin, that tensor calculus was not my friend, and to my surprise, that my talents did not lie in the sciences as much as in the humanities. Yet the subjects of this conference have been the center of my interest since I was a teenager. I am very glad to be here, honored to have been invited to speak to you, and only hope I have something to say that may prove worthwhile after all that has been put before you in the last three days. I am going to talk a bit about science fiction’s vision of the post-human condition, and its ethical implications. I intend to get at this by telling you about some books. At North Carolina State University I teach a course in
the history and development of science fiction. This semester I assigned some works by H.G. Wells and W. Olaf Stapledon, and I’d like to begin by exploring what those two writers had to say about the human future. It strikes me that you might have done better to invite H.G. Wells to speak to you today—but I understand that, unfortunately, he is otherwise engaged. Wells spent his entire public career and much of his private life speculating about the human future, and his writing laid the foundation for much of what science fiction has had to say on this subject in the last 100 years. As a young man, he studied biology under Darwin’s disciple and defender Thomas Henry Huxley, and the vision of evolution that was opened to him at that time informed everything he wrote for the
O H N
S S E L
an author, a playwright, a professor, a critic
Having won his second Nebula Award in 2009 for his novelette “Pride and Prometheus,” North Carolina State University professor John Kessel has an eye for speculative fiction and well-considered ideas as to the questions such fiction can and perhaps should ask. From speaking at conferences from Medellín to Edinburgh, to his work as a writer, professor, and anthologist, Kessel is on a mission “to raise the respect level and the literary level of science fiction and fantasy.”
Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn Photographs by Vanessa Reyes
BULL SPEC—ISSUE #2 Mr. Frankenstein bowed but said nothing. He had the darkest eyes that Mary had ever encountered, and an air of being there only on obligation. Whether this was because he was as uncomfortable in these social situations as she, Mary could not tell, but his diffident air intrigued her. — From “Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel
You’ve written and edited several things recently, but let’s start back in 2001 with your essay “Imagining the Human Future.” Since 2001 there’s been nearly a decade of additional research on the science side and additional writing on the science fiction side. Have you followed along on the idea of a post-singularity perspective? The essay is a talk I gave at the National Science Foundation’s conference at the Field Museum in Chicago on “Imagining the Human Future.” I talked about the Singularity, which has been talked about in science fiction for 20 years now. Victor Vinge wrote an essay about this in 1993, when he originated the term. The idea is that there’s going to be some time in the next 30 to 40 years a moment when machine intelligence exceeds human. Other people include in that some bio-engineered changing of the human genome. But there’ll be some point at which the human race, or the human experience, will be altered, beyond which we cannot see what things will be like. So my essay was taking that idea but also talking about the history of science fiction and the idea of evolutionary or conceptual leaps, looking at them in the context of morality. I gave this talk about a month and a half after 9-11. And on my mind was the fact that technologically we have advanced immensely fast in the last 200 years. Morally and ethically… not so much. Many people—I’m not the first—have raised the question about whether we can handle the powers that are given to us by advancing technology with the kind of hominid evolutionarily restricted ethical capacity. H.G. Wells and others talked about this as a problem. So I thought, “Could there be a moral or ethical singularity as well?” I’m not completely a cutting edge person as regards to the technology of artificial intelligences and things like that. And I have to say that despite the fact that I gave this talk I’m kind of a skeptic about the Singularity. Such things as Moore’s Law—which says that computing capacity doubles every 18 months. You see, I have a problem with that. I was a physics major, and whenever someone comes up with a term they call a Law… I want to know—a Law is something that is inherent in the natural of the universe. Like the Law of Gravity. It’s a law that can’t be violated, it’s not a matter of opinion. It’s not dependent on our state of technological development. Physical laws are physical laws. Moore’s Law is not a physical law. It’s just something some-
body observed about the local advancement of processing technology over a period that goes back maybe 20 years. Well, that’s not a Law. If you extrapolated the top velocity that a human being can travel at, starting in 1900 and going up to 1965 or 1970, the top velocity a human being could travel at in 1900 was maybe 100, 120 miles per hour in a railroad train. By 1970 we could go 25,000 miles an hour, go to the moon. So if you extrapolate that trend right now we’re going 60 times the speed of light. O.K., that’s not a law. So, Moore’s Law, I think, is B.S. I’ll say that right now. All you computer people: Moore’s Law is B.S. And so the idea—if the singularity depends on Moore’s Law, I’m skeptical. You mentioned that Vinge himself has wondered, “Well, what would happen if the Singularity didn’t occur?”
You actually put forward a great story on that front, “Calorie Man” by Paolo Bacigalupi, in your Rewired anthology. His novel The Windup Girl, which is a continuation of that story, imagines directly that scenario of “If the Singularity doesn’t happen, all these other stuff happens.” Right, and Bacigalupi is a skeptic about our ability to deal with the results of our technological advances. I don’t know. I hope we can advance enough to be able to—you know, the Singularity is sort of an apotheosis, the idea that somehow our problems will be solved because intelligences greater than our own will take care of it. I hope it happens. I hope that those intelligences are ethically more advanced than we are. But I don’t know, it’s not been our history. So, I haven’t really kept up with the latest things. I’ve been reading the science fiction, and a lot of science fiction is—there’s been a lot of science fiction that’s tried to deal with the Singularity or the post-Singularity world. Things like—you mentioned Charles Stross. His Accelerando stories, they’re really cool, I really like ’em. Cory Doctorow—a lot of other writers have tried to deal with this. My friend James Patrick Kelly has done some post-Singularity stories. I don’t know how I feel about that. It’s definitely worth speculating about. I just read Bruce Sterling’s novel The Caryatids, it came out the end of last year. It didn’t get much talk, but it’s pretty interesting. It’s set in the late 21st century, and it deals with extrapolating a lot of the difficulties we’re having now, environmentally and technologically, and politically, into this future. Which is a mess. It’s a post-catastrophe future, where civilization hasn’t collapsed by any means, but the people are struggling to deal with the consequences—but Sterling does not postulate any kind of godlike super-intelligences that save our bacon. In the story, we’re stuck with what we’ve got. You’re coming to Durham in a short while to give a talk
INTERVIEW—DEXTER PALMER like watching someone else play a video game on a really nice setup). Video games as a medium are still (I believe) in their infancy, and so their narrative beats are still a lot like the narrative beats of books and movies—in most cases, we still have to pause in the middle of what we’re doing to read several blocks of text, or watch a cutscene. There are a few games I’ve played that almost completely integrate narrative and gameplay into a successful hybrid, though—Ico and Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne among them. But I’m coming to think the drive to include narrative makes games suffer more often than not.
You’ve revealed through your Twitter feed your continued interest in gaming, from “enjoying” Nintendo’s DSi XL, to complaining about the reticence of “video game final final bosses [to] ever reveal their super-powerful ‘true form’” and characterizing the Hades area of God of War as “actually malicious.” How did your passion for games start, and what makes a game hold your interest? How did my passion for games start? With the original Bard’s Tale game from Interplay, which I played on the Commodore 64. I spent much of a summer between school years making maps of its dungeons and towers on quadrille paper. What makes a game hold my interest? Any of a number of things. I like fully realized game worlds, for one, but those are so prohibitively expensive to create that they’re few are far between (and so time-consuming for me that I have to restrict myself to one of those games every year or so). I spent a lot of time with Fallout 3 last year—I wasn’t interested in the plot, really, but I liked wandering around the landscape with my character, doing occasional sidequests and looking at things. I’m looking forward to getting into Red Dead Redemption, but haven’t had time yet. I’m also a sucker for almost anything that involves leveling up characters and tweaking statistics. (Like many, I’ve lost hundreds of hours to Diablo II.) I also like games that have elaborate menus; I like character screens with lots and lots of numbers. I’ve played several of the Nippon Ichi games (Disgaea; Phantom Brave; Makai Kingdom; etc.). They’re basically like playing spreadsheets—their mechanics are like parodies of the mechanics of other RPGs—but if that’s the sort of thing you like, they can be ridiculously engaging. Games of world conquest like Civilization and Europa Universalis also scratch that same itch for me, if I’m in the mood for something more intellectually challenging. And I like games without any pretense to narrative, games that tend toward abstraction. The choice to abandon narrative entirely can free a game to do things it couldn’t achieve otherwise. I really enjoyed Demon’s Souls last year, which has almost no narrative at all. No cutscenes to get in
the way; no interruptions to gameplay so the boss can explain his motivation for evil. But it’s genuinely terrifying at points, in a way that I didn’t think a video game could be to an adult. The near-total absence of narrative works to make the game completely immersive.
You’ve been blogging your way through the La Fura Dels Baus staging of Wagner’s Ring cycle for Tor.com. Giant robots and cranes? Is this steampunk on stage or something much more strange? I just finished watching the final act of the final opera in that cycle, and… I’m not sure what it is! But I liked the experience of viewing it, and I can see myself watching it again. It was sort of a re-imagining of Wagner’s series of operas (which are themselves based on German myths and folktales) as science fiction, and it was notable for its use of iconography lifted from science fiction movies—Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, of course, but also Star Wars and (I’m pretty sure) Battlefield Earth. It didn’t always work well for me as a staging (though the performances were excellent). But when I was annoyed by it, I was annoyed in interesting ways, and I appreciate that. Many SF and fantasy movies borrow from Wagner liberally in their scores, so an SF version of the Ring can be seen as returning the favor, in a way. What’s next, after 14 years of “Perpetual Motion”? I’m working on another novel, slowly but surely. I don’t want to say much about it now, except that it’s not going to be much like The Dream ofPerpetual Motion—the setting’s different, and it’s turning out to pose a different set of challenges for me. It’s taking me in new directions, and after having spent an awfully long time with my first novel, it’s nice to stretch a bit and change things up. ■
PHOTOS BY BILL WADMAN
H OPE LARSON
Simon & Schuster/Atheneum
Hope Larson is an illustrator, cartoonist, and writer who grew up in and is currently practicing her crafts in Asheville, North Carolina. Her graphic novels include Salamander Dream, Gray Horses, Chiggers, and the recently-released Mercury, inspired by her time in rural Nova Scotia. Her work appears in the anthologies Flight (2005), Comic Book Tattoo (2008), and Geektastic (2009), and her awards include the 2006 Ignatz Award for Promising New Talent and the 2007 Eisner Award for Special Recognition. She recently announced that she is working on an adaptation of Madeleine Lâ€™Engleâ€™s A Wrinkle in Time. Interview by Samuel Montgomery-Blinn
C O N TRI Natania Barron (review, The Dream ofPerpetual Motion, p. 56) is a writer with a penchant for the speculative; she is also an unrepentant geek. She holds a BA in English/Writing from Loyola University Maryland and an MA in English with a concentration in medieval literature from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In her spare time she cooks, bakes bread, drinks coffee, crochets, blogs, plays guitar and ukulele, and enjoys nature. Find out more about her writing at [nataniabarron.com].
Rebecca Camfield (art, “Naga”, p. 23) is a fantasy artist who loves to draw dragons and currently lives in Scotland. To see more of her work, visit [chaosia.deviantart.com]. In addition to writing science fiction, Paul Celmer (story, “Echoes of the Bouncing Ball”, p. 4) works as a contract technical writer and serves on the Board of Directors of the American Go Association, a non-profit organization that promotes the teaching of the ancient Asian strategy game of Go, and is head of the local Go club in Durham. He has lived in the Triangle area for over 25 years, including attending both the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he earned a Master of Arts in English. Currently he lives in Garner, North Carolina.
Gwendolyn Clare (story, “The Other Lila”, p. 19) is a New Englander transplanted to Durham. She has a BA in Ecology, a BS in Geophysics, and is currently working to add another acronym to her collection. When she’s not living out of a tent in the desert or a hammock in the rainforest, she enjoys practicing martial arts and writing speculative fiction. Her short stories have sold to Asimov’s, the Warrior Wisewoman 3 anthology, and Flash Fiction Online, among others. Aleksandr and Natalia Fedosov (photo, “Wing of a Dragonfly”, p. 4) are artists and photographers living in a small town near Moscow, Russia. To see more, visit [deingel.deviantart.com]. Kaolin Fire (story, “By the Dragon’s Tail”, p. 8) is a conglomeration of ideas, side projects, and experiments. Outside of his primary occupation, he also develops computer games, edits Greatest Uncommon Denominator Magazine, and very occasionally teaches computer science. Find out more at [erif.org].
What can be said about Mike Gallagher (story and illustration, “Closed System”, p. 31)? You could say he graduated IUP with a BFA in drawing/printmaking. You could say he has made hundreds of t-shirt and tattoo designs. You could say he has self-published a comic and was the cocreator on RUIN, a three issue mini-series. He also has had several comics published in anthologies. He even designed a gated community. But none of this speaks as loud and as proud as his art!
Joseph Giddings (review, Boneshaker, p. 54) spends his days performing feats of heroism as the Network Administrator at a behavioral health company in Greenville, NC. At night he’s a superhero to his wife and two-year-old son. When he’s not saving the world from crashed hard drives or rescuing lost toy pickup trucks, he’s playing video games, watching TV, writing, or defending his vegetable garden with his spear and magic helmet.
BU TO RS Uri Grey (story, “The Sad Story of the Naga”, p. 23) is a game writer, translator, humanist, Twitterist, and storyteller from Israel. His work has been published in numerous magazines including Dungeon, Dragon, and Signs & Portents. He plays D&D with kids for a living and thinks he’s got the best job in the world. He lives in [urigrey.com] and rather enjoys the view. David M. Harris (poem, “The Spear of the Moment”, p. 38) was an editor with Dell Books, Belmont-Tower Books, and Byron Preiss Visual Publications, and did a bunch of freelance work for nearly everyone in the science fiction field. He is the author, with Harry Harrison, of Bill, The Galactic Hero: The Final Incoherent Adventure, a few published short stories, and some published essays and poetry. Now he mostly teaches college English.
Joey Jordan (illustrations, “By the Dragon’s Tail”, p. 8) is a freelance illustrator of fantasy and science fiction who draws and paints out of Washington state. To see more, visit [joeysrealm.com]. Vladimir Krizan (cover art, “The Rock”) is a digital and matte painter whose work also serves as the cover art for Panverse Publishing’s Eight Against Reality. He lives in Slovakia and you can see more of his art at [sketchboook.deviantart.com]. Reggie Lutz (poem, “Mother’s Garden”, p. 38) is a sometimes Pisces, sometimes Aquarius, and frequently both depending on which chart you are looking at. Her novella “Fork You” was published in Panverse One.
J.M. McDermott (interview, Richard Dansky, p. 28) is the author of two novels. Last Dragon, his first, was #6 on Amazon.com’s Year’s Best SF/F of 2008, and was shortlisted for a Crawford Prize for first fantasy. The second novel, Maze, will be out in Spring 2011 from Apex Books. Watch for news at [jmmcdermott.com]. Melissa Mead (story, “Hirasol”, p. 11) lives in Upstate NY. Her stories have appeared in places like Sword & Sorceress and Electric Velocipede. She’s been writing for years, and thanks to the Carpe Libris Writers Group she’s starting to get the hang of it: [carpelibris.wordpress.com]. Helen R. Peterson (poem, “Death Could Not Part Them”, p. 38) is the managing editor of Chopper Poetry Journal out of New London, CT, with work in the upcoming issues of Southword Journal, Foundling Review, Literary Tonic, The View From Here, and poeticdiversity.
J.P. Wickwire (poem, “The Torturer’s Boy”, p. 39) has seen her poetry published in Vicious Verses and Reanimated Rhymes, a zombie poetry anthology edited by A. P. Fuchs, and her speculative short fiction has been published in Whispering Dragons Digital Magazine. She lives on a short mountain in the small town of Germantown, NC, and is a “book skeptic” at [dailymonocle.blogspot.com]. Have a story to tell? Visit [bullspec.com] for full guidelines, but in short: $0.05/word for new fic-
tion and poetry; $0.01/word for previously published works; [email@example.com].