INSIDE: How to make holiday decorations and edibles; chapter tw0 of our serial novel; answering questions about cameras; and much more! Plug in to creativity.
FANS These aren’t your half-nude sports fans painting their bodies in team colors and letting bare bellies hang out. Enter this issue’s fandom to meet classy and sassy fans of TV programs, films, literature and various genres. Browse the homemade costumes, fan art and fan fiction that pay homage to some of today’s most iconic pop culture.
Publish Your Work [Outlet Magazine]
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ON THE COVER: Fandoms
[Out] Of Sight:
Form of a Woman The [Out] Of Sight feature highlights an artist and series of work. Jasmine Martin shares her paintings and sketches.
 1,000 Words With[out] Grammar Three artists share their photography and paintings in Outlet’s regular art gallery.
 Film Flammers
High school chemistry teacher and movie critic extraordinaire Siobhan Julian examines the ultimate fandom movie.
Teacher, Time Waster, and Internet Explosion: An examination of fan fiction
 Fandom and the Media
Never underestimate the power of widespread fandom.
 Fangirl Frenzy
One girl. Many fandoms. And lots ... and lots ... and lots of personalized gifts.
An illustrator “fans out” with her artwork.
 Super Fans
From the Kitchen
[Out] and About
Learn to make your own holiday wreath this season with these simple steps from Outlet creative director Sarah Doremus.
Try these tested-andtrue recipes from Outlet staff and readers to add some flavor to your holidays.
with Arjun Basu. Read short-short Twitter fiction (dubbed “Twisters”) by Arjun Basu.
2 | Inside Outlet
Fan fiction by Stephanie Rabig
 Just Another Day At The Office
A reader asks the difference between the F/stop and shutter speed; another reader needs a professional but affordable video camera; one reader asks why dark corners appear on photos.
Also known as Katy Shuttlesworth
Fan fiction by Stephanie Rabig
IN EACH ISSUE:
My Beautiful Soldier
Fan poetry by Cécile Bourgois
 Faerie Tale: Curses, Drunken Pirates and a Gingerbread House
 Chapter two of Outlet Magazine’s serial novel, Of Airships and Metal Men, in this issue. See pages 62-66.
Get to the going Poetry by Ira Potter
Fiction by Stephanie Rabig, Colleen Toliver and Angie Barry
[Let] Me Tell You
More Online lll www.outletmagazine.org
Fiction by Zach Applebee, Katrina Lynn and Joshua Patterson
Check for updates, submissions guidelines and the newest issue of Outlet Magazine. Also be sure to check out our Backstage Feature and listen to the latest music featured in Outlet Magazine.
On Our Radar
Editor’s desk | 3
Editor-in-Chief Julie Stroebel Associate Editor Derek Barichello Creative Director Sarah Doremus Submissions Director/ Senior Staff Writer Colleen Toliver Marketing Director/ Senior Staff Writer Angie Barry Resident Illustrator Hannah Jackson
Queries: editor.in.chief@ outletmagazine.org Submissions: submissions@ outletmagazine.org
Outlet Magazine is a free publication. All copyrights remain with the creators of work included in this magazine. Outlet Magazine is not a copyright holder of the original work submitted to this publication and cannot grant rights for reproduction. To request permission to reproduce content, contact the original creator. Outlet Magazine’s mission is to serve as a creative outlet where writers and artists can build an audience and network and distribute their work.
Published in the United States
Editor’s Note Julie Stroebel
With one issue behind us and this one in your hands — er, on your screens — friends, acquaintances and the occasional total stranger have asked us, “Why do you take on the equivalent of a second job for free?” Simple. Because here at Outlet, we are fans of what we do. We love reading, writing, designing, compiling, fangirling and
being generally creative. For that reason, this issue is devoted to fans and their fandoms. The first time I heard the word “fandom” was when I met Angie Barry, a senior staff writer for Outlet. Angie is the fangirl extraordinaire, having perfected the art of the “fangirl flail” and a wordless cry, sounding akin to “Squeeeeeee!” when she is excited. Through my brilliant powers of deduction, I assumed a fandom to be one person’s list of favorite films, novels and comic books. But fandoms are so much more. Not only is it the state of being a fan, but also it is a network of all the fans of something. At its very essence, it is a group of people —however similar or different they may be — coming together over a shared passion. Everyone is part of a fandom, be it for a television program, a movie, a book series, comic books, characters or their creators. In this issue, we want to honor the communities built by shared fandoms and the creativity inspired by the original works. In this issue, we have a little bit of everything: Doctor Who, Final Fantasy, James Bond, Greek mythology, Super Mario Brothers, Sailor Moon, Harry Potter ... You name it. Chances are someone has an ode or shrine to it, even if it didn’t work its way into this issue of Outlet. If we didn’t cover the fandom you’re a part of, don’t let it go unmentioned. Send us a letter to the editor for the next issue and tell us all about it. Connect others with the amazing media you have found and loved. Tell us how you came to be a fan. We would love to know — we’ll even share a fangirl flail or two with you.
â€˜â€˜ 4 | [Let] Me Tell You
Words to inspire creativity.
Words to live by.
They thought the library was a dangerous place because of all the magical books, which was true enough. But what made it really one of the most dangerous places there could ever be was the simple fact that it was a library.
Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful. albert schweitzer
When I was ten, I read fairytales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.
Creativity comes from trust. Trust your instincts. And never hope more than you work.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.
rita mae brown
The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.
I am not afraid. ... I was born to do this. Joan of arc
The thinker dies, but his thoughts are beyond the reach of destruction. Men are mortal; but ideas are immortal.
Shop Talk | 5
Shop Talk: Products to help your creativity THE ARTIST’S WAY: A SPIRITUAL PATH TO HIGHER CREATIVITY. Don’t be deceived by the subtitle — this “spiritual” book is best described as introspective. “The Artist’s Way” helps creators tune into themselves and tap fountains of creativity within themselves. Although the book is full of writing exercises, it can be utilized for any creative endeavor. Keeping up with the exercises leads to a 12-week course with powerful results. This book has been used by Outlet editors and comes with a hearty stamp of approval. $3.49 (used) or $17.77 (new) at www.amazon.com
BLOOD ENERGY POTION. For all of you vampire fanatics who are trying to keep yourselves awake for the next creative project or for the next novel you’re going to read, this energy drink is for you. The drink has the same color and consistency of human blood with a fruit punch flavor. As an added bonus, it comes in a transfusion-style bag so you can pretend you just robbed a blood bank. Unless, of course, you are one of those ridiculous sparkly vampires that hunts cougars and bears. $4.99 single bag; $15.99 four-pack at www.thinkgeek.com/caffeine/drinks/c6c9/
COLOR PICKER PEN. Photoshop, meet your everyday writing utensil. This Jinsu Park creation works like Photoshop’s eyedropper tool — it scans a color and uses a blend of RGB ink inside to reproduce it on paper. Although this product did not have an investor when Outlet last checked, keep an eye open for it in case it ever comes out on the market. It is definitely on the Outlet Magazine wish list.
‘PUBLISHED WRITER’ SHIRT. Not to pat ourselves on the back or anything (OK, maybe we’re patting a little) ... This is one of many items available in the Outlet Magazine shop hosted by Zazzle.com. Let everyone know you’re a published writer after being feature in Outlet Magazine by sporting this typewriter-key shirt, which reads, “You are looking at a published writer.” The Outlet Magazine logo is on the back. $23.95
6 | Plugged In
Check out these creative staff picks from Outlet Magazine. From books to music to art to movies, these are creative works the Outlet Magazine staff is plugged into and recommends to other creative people.
1. Bored Panda (http://www.boredpanda.com) — This online photo-heavy, blog-style magazine calls itself the “only magazine for pandas.” If the word panda is shorthand for creative person, then this site is accurate in describing itself. From creative product packaging to interesting knitting projects to the craziest tourist attractions ever built, Bored Panda features global ingenuity and conveniently delivers it directly to your living room ... or office computer ... or significant other’s laptop ... or wherever else you waste (ahem — we mean spend) time on the Internet. 2. OK Go’s Youtube channel (http://www.youtube. com/user/OkGo) — OK Go is a band that didn’t start generating a fan base until it posted wackybut-talented homemade videos on its YouTube channel. Since its YouTube debut in 2005, the band has collected 145,000+ subscribers and won a Grammy Award for its second campy video — this one including a live performance while dancing on treadmills. If the music isn’t to your taste, just turn off the sound and have fun watching the antics. 3. “Another Side of Bob Dylan,” by Bob Dylan — This album is a warm companion to tune into during the cold despair of winter. This sometimesoverlooked masterpiece features some of the most witty and romantic lyrics recorded by Dylan. Made before he went electric, it’s still an easy listen and a great companion for writer’s block. 4. Papersnowflakes.com — The design of this website is terrible, but don’t let it’s amateur layout deter you from finding and printing out the many snowflake patterns. This site includes two-, four-, six- and twelve-sided snowflake patterns that make great window decor for the winter. Make use of leftover wrapping paper, old newspaper and extra tissue paper this holiday season by making paper snowflakes to decorate your home.
On Our Radar | 7
JIGGLYKAT 1. The fandom knows you as Jigglykat. Who is your alter ego by day? Tell us a little about your profession and life outside fandom. When I’m not spending my time drawing on a computer at home, I’m usually at the studio… drawing on a computer. By day, I’m a mild-mannered animator working out of Boston on the PBS Kids series “WordGirl.” It’s a lot of hard and stressful work, but in the end, I can’t complain too much because I get paid to draw pictures all day. The fun thing about being an animator is that geekery is a prerequisite. It’s not uncommon to overhear a discussion in the kitchen about what was worse: the Star Wars prequels or the fourth Indiana Jones. I do try and stay away from the computer since I spend a fair amount of time on it. Once every couple of weeks, myself and several of my co-worker pals will host art jams. We hang out and work on something artsy while a movie is playing in the background. This is where I also picked up my occasional hobby of painting nesting dolls. 2. What was your gateway to fandom? If we’re talking about just generally being fannish about something to a level beyond your average fan, it’d probably be “The Lion King” shortly followed by “The X-Files.” But both of those were long before I knew what the Internet was (I really didn’t get online until I was a junior in high school). The anime series “The Vision of Escaflowne” was my first introduction into online fandom during college and sharing my passion with others all around the world. I was a part of a
now-defunct message board that discussed the show and movie as well as other things, and though the passion for that series has simmered significantly, I’m still pals with some of those people now. 3. You’re best known for the Torchwood Babiez comic. Tell me about this project and how it came about. I started watching Doctor Who just after series two ended. After power-watching in a matter of days, I hunted any kind of fanfic I could find on Livejournal, which is where I found Tammy. She had a neat writing style that clicked with me and we soon became LJ chums. One day, she put out a request for an artist to help out on a web comic idea that turned the very adult series Torchwood into something for the kids ala Muppet Babies. I foolishly stepped forward. We worked on some ideas, she wrote the first part in less than an hour, and months later, I finished drawing the pages. We released it into the wild and the rest is history. 4. How large of a following did it develop? Were you surprised at how popular it became? Tammy says at our peak, we had about 70,000 unique hits in a month. It still
KATY SHUTTLESWORTH is an animator by day and a fangirl by night who works for PBS Kids. On her own time, she illustrates fan comics, including the popular Torchwood Babiez series.
blows my mind to this day. I honestly thought that our only readers would be our friends, and the majority of them were just humoring us. We had a couple of heavily-trafficked sites like io9 mention us. And we were aware that quite a few folks from Doctor Who and Torchwood read our stuff, too. One of the guests at a con I went to said that he had the pages printed out and tacked up in his office in Cardiff. We also knew that half of the actors of Team Torchwood were aware of us. 5. Of all of your fandom projects, which are you most proud of? Although Torchwood Babiez is dear to my heart, I think Chicks Dig Time Lords is one I’m more proud of. I had known the editors (Lynne M. Thomas and Tara O’Shea) and publisher of Mad Norwegian Press (Lars Pearson) from going to ChicagoTARDIS, one of the North American Doctor Who cons, and I eventually was approached about doing the cover as well as an essay about Torchwood Babiez. Tammy and I had a
8 | On Our Radar hard time collaborating on a joint essay, and someone suggested doing a comic instead. I had never done anything illustration-wise beyond fanart, especially illustration to be printed, so I was incredibly nervous. I pitched the idea of Verity, the “chick” on the cover, and I’ve had a quite a few people tell me that they bought the book because the cover jumped out at them. I suppose you do judge a book by its cover then! The highlight of that will always be that someone cosplayed Verity at ChicagoTARDIS one year. 6. What do you dislike the most about your fandoms? I think the thing that bothers me the most is when people continue watching something even though the spark is gone for them. So what once was squee and excitement is now disdain and constant complaining. I know the feeling. A show might start off well, but after a few years, it’s not the same thing you were watching in the first place. I just cut my losses and move on to the next thing. Life’s too short for wasting
my time on something that’s no longer making me happy. What I don’t understand is why people continue to participate even though they know they’ll hate it. My main fandom for the past five years has been Doctor Who. Due to the premise of the show, the main actors will be replaced every few years. A fan can go from one season loving the show to hating it the next because the Doctor is played by a different actor. The fandom took a significant turn when Steven Moffat took over as showrunner with a new Doctor and companion in tow, something that’s happened before and will happen again. While I have immensely enjoyed the past two years, others have not. I respect their thoughts and opinions, but after a while, the negativity gets you down and, as we say, “harshes your squee.” To protect my enjoyment and my sanity, I’ve limited my exposure to fandom to a select few people that I know shares my enthusiasm. It sucks, but in the end, this is my escapism, so I have to do what’s best for me and my sanity.
7. And what do you love about them? The creativity. I love that surge of inspiration to draw fan art or write fanfic after something airs. It’s rarely done out of negativity, so there’s this sense of delight glowing around its edges. I love the writers, the ones who write the between-the-scenes fics, the fix-its when they don’t agree with a certain plot, the drabbles or the epic neverending multi-chapters. I love that you can go to a con and not only meet the actors of your favorite show, but you
can fangirl a fellow fan artist and be fangirled in returned. I love looking at cosplay tags on Flickr after a major con so I can see all the beautiful costumes, especially the ones that take a pre-existing concept and come up with something new and original. I love that I have “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” dubstep on my iPod so I can rock out to the sweet beats of Pinkie Pie as I’m working. So when the not-so-great side of fandom is getting me down, I hunt down a fic. Or doodle some fan art. Because I occasionally need the reminder that fandom can be a pretty awesome place.
On Our Radar | 9
n DO YOU KNOW someone who should be on our radar? If so, email Outlet at firstname.lastname@example.org and recommend creative people to feature in future On Our Radars.
Profile of a Lady Using a graphics tablet and a combination of scanned digital textures, this digital painting was rendered in Photoshop and demonstrates the artistâ€™s varied practice in her studio work.
[Out] Of Sight | 11
Form of a Woman
by Jasmine Martin
I am a varied artist, with my artistic inquiry mainly incorporating women and nature. My work demonstrates an art nouveau-inspired vision which, using consistent subject matter, weaves illustrative and expressive line work in a pleasant style. Using predominantly tones of whites, reds, browns and yellows with intricate line work my work shows a clear influence of Alphonse Mucha and notable contemporary artists Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. In my drawing practice I choose to explore the observed and the imagined; the combination of what I see in front of me; life drawing; and what I visualize to be there. I feel strongly about the relationships between people and their animals. It is my ambition now to present to the public an enlightened viewpoint where the balance of humanity and nature is equal and harmonious.
Fly Away Using watercolour and pigment pen on brown card, the piece focuses clearly on the connection between woman and nature.
10 | [Out] Of Sight An Inspired Existence With the same recognisable and unpredictable movement in the line work which is a hallmark of Martinâ€™s work, here lies another flowing feminine form.
Photo essay | x
Untitled sketch Using pigment pen, the aim here was to â€˜feel outâ€™ the form with flowing free lines and unpredictable movement to subconsciously create a figure. The practice here was not so much to focus on depicting an anatomically-correct portrait, but rather the process of putting pen to paper and generating feeling.
14 | [Out] Of Sight [OUT] Of Sight is a feature highlighting one artist and his or her works. To participate or to recommend an artist for this feature, email editor.in.chief@ outletmagazine.org.
Want to view more of Martinâ€™s work? Check out: l Blog, www.jasminejmartin. blogspot.com l Etsy Shop at www.etsy.com/shop/ JasmineJean lTwitter @JasmineJMartin
Bleed Using a combination of earthy tones in watercolor, ink and gouache, recognized in the painting is a representation of a mother nature figure, her red hair flowing like fire.
Backstage Pass | 15
16 | Backstage Pass
Backstage Pass | 17
1,000 12 | [Out] Of Sight
[Out] Of Sight | 13
‘Butterfly’ by Andy Masters
20 | 1,000 Words With[out] Grammar
Andy Masters helps us hang onto remnants of summer and autumn with his photos of red fall leaves and a batter taking a strike during a Chicago Cubs baseball game.
Genevieve Franco submitted her watercolor painting of Rosie, the plush bunny.
xx | x
More than one little girl might want this doll on her Christmas list. This watercolor painting is by Genevieve Franco.
22 | Film
by Siobhan Julian
The ultimate fandom movie GALAXY QUEST, 1999, directed by Dean Parisot, starring Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman So you consider yourself a fan. You’ve seen each episode of your favorite show hundreds of time. You quote the obscure lines and scoff those who don’t get the reference. You figured out that your NaNoWriMo project this year will be the greatest work of fanfiction ever made. You have the best collections of picspams on Tumblr. Your cosplay outfit is a thing of beauty. You’re an amateur. You think you’re a fan? You don’t even come close to the level of rabid fandom displayed in “Galaxy Quest.” It’s one thing to spend all your free time thinking about your favorite show. It’s another to model your entire civilization after it, right down to the food generators and star port docking bays. The plot device of “Galaxy Quest” sounds beyond silly: a canceled Star Trek-esque television show is seen by an alien race, the Thermians, halfway across the universe. Not understanding it isn’t real, the Thermians are inspired by the camaraderie and tolerances displayed in the show and decide to follow its lead. When they’re threatened by the evil alien Sarris (an ironic nod to American film critic Andrew Sarris), they turn to the washed-up actors on Earth for their help in getting them out of the sticky situation. The actors find themselves far beyond their depth in battling actual intergalactic villains. This film could easily have been a stupid piece of drivel along the lines of “Scary Movie” ... in space! What keeps it from going off the ridiculous deep end of awful movie parodies is the reverence and adoration with which it treats its ultimate source material (re: Star Trek) and the true cleverness of the script. The idea of fandom drives the movie. The Thermians are gentle, kind creatures who, nonetheless, are total in their devotion to their favorite show. Too often, the idea of fans and
fandom is cast in light of obsession gone wrong; fans gone too far, so to speak, who end up threatening the very existence of that with which they are obsessed. Here the Thermian fans have gone way too far, and yet they are not dangerous or frightening. They are so simple and loving, and it is refreshing to see fans painted in such a distinctly nonthreatening light. The makers of this film are clearly fans of Star Trek. The costumes, the sets, the away missions, the crawling through ducts — all Star Trek to the T. More than that, Star Trek: TNG (although Jason Nesmith’s Commander Taggart is far more Kirk than Picard). But I hate to call this film a parody of Star Trek. It’s anything but. Parodies are cruel. Parodies take their source material and pull it down, debase it, insult it by making fun of its weakest points while ignoring its strengths. “Galaxy Quest” is never cruel toward the idea of Star Trek, but is instead reverent and appreciative. I would instead call “Galaxy Quest” an homage. Homage implies respect and adoration, rather than derision and belittling. There is a great deal of joy in “Galaxy Quest” because of this unique approach, and only true fans would treat source material with such reverence. Alright, so “Galaxy Quest” is a very warm send-up of Star Trek, but that alone doesn’t make it the modern day classic it has become. What makes “Galaxy Quest” worthy of a place among modern greats is the fact that it’s one of the funniest movies ever written.
Consider: “Let’s get out of here before one of those things kills Guy!” “There’s a red… thingie… moving toward the green… thingie. I think… I think we’re the green thingie!” “By Grabthar’s Hammer… what a savings.” “Sure they’re cute now, but in a second they’re gonna get mean, and they’re gonna get ugly somehow, and there’s gonna be a million more of them…. Did you guys ever WATCH the show?!?” Eminently quotable, and always hysterical. The sequence where Tommy Webber as Laredo has to pilot the space ship out of the port goes from majestic to drop dead funny and back to majestic in one fell swoop. The performances are pitch perfect. Tim Allen plays his part spot on: an egotistical, arrogant, washed up actor who is nonetheless hopelessly devoted to the only hit he ever had. The disappointment etched on his face in an early scene where he overhears non-fans mocking his show is surprisingly poignant. Alan Rickman steals every single scene he’s in as a frustrated former Shakespearean actor who detests the fact that his career has been brought down this low. Watching Rickman as Alexander Dane as Dr. Lazarus learning to embrace his most popular role is very satisfying. The Earth-bound fans of “Galaxy Quest” are a nice touch, a group of geeky little kids helmed by a young Justin Long. When the rabid, nerdy convention fans realize that “Galaxy Quest” is actually real, their joy and excitement is exhilarating.
Film | 23
One-on-one Perhaps the ultimate reason that I love Galaxy Quest beyond belief is because I myself am a fan. Star Trek: TNG was the very first thing I was ever a fan of. I watched it when it originally aired (I’m dating myself there). It was family time in my household; every Saturday night, everyone stopped what they were doing and sat down to watch Star Trek. Every episode, every week. I vividly remember my first cliffhanger – when Commander Riker said “Lt. Worf – Fire.” Wesley Crusher/Wil Wheaton was my first preteen crush. I adored Star Trek, and although all the episodes
don’t necessarily hold up to repeated viewings now, it holds a beloved place in my heart. I remember composing lyrics about it with my sister when we were walking home from the park. To see a movie send Star Trek: TNG up with such accuracy and such admiration was wonderful. My first time watching it was spent saying, “Hey, that was in the show! Hey, THAT thing was in the show! Oh my god, THAT thing was in the show too!” Well, I could only say that in between the fits of hysterical laughter.
Other recommendations: l The King of Comedy, 1983, directed by Martin Scorsese, starring Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis. Robert De Niro is Rupert Pupkin, a loser obsessed with becoming a television host by meeting his inspiration, Jerry Lewis’ Jerry Langford. In a typical “fan gone off the deep end” fashion, Pupkin kidnaps Langford and holds him hostage at gunpoint. Lewis is phenomenal in his first significant break from his goofy persona as an embittered celebrity, perhaps working out demons from his days with Dean Martin. Although not “typical” Scorsese street mafia fare, the notion of celebrity for celebrity’s sake is more prevalent today than ever before.
Worried your work may not be ready for publication? Outlet Magazine offers one-on-one online workshopping of submitted stories to help writers prepare them for publication in Outlet.
l The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, 2001-2003, directed by Peter Jackson, starring everyone in the world. In terms of fandom, these three films merit a place in this article not because of the films themselves, but because of the people who made them. Most adaptations (comic book or otherwise) are made by Hollywood to pander to fans. The Lord of the Rings was most definitely NOT made by Hollywood, and it panders to no one. It was made by the most fervent fans in the world who couldn’t understand why no one had made their favorite books into films before. The utter devotion of Jackson and his crew is staggering, and resulted in, quite simply, three of the best movies ever made. l The Dark Knight, 2008, directed by the inimitable Christopher Nolan, starring Christian Bale and Heath Ledger in his heartbreaking final complete role. Although I would hesitate to call Nolan a “rabid fan” of Batman, his work deserves a place here due to its sheer genius in transporting a beloved comic book character from the page to the screen. There have been many iterations of Batman over the years, but The Dark Knight is in a league of its own from a purely cinematic standpoint. It manages to remove fakey, stagey comic book situations from the plot while still maintaining the integrity of the Batman saga. It is easily the darkest, grittiest, and most disturbing comic book adaptation to find both commercial and critical success.
Crafty Corner | 25
26 | Crafty Corner
Crafty Corner | 27
28 | Food
Food | 29
On the cover | 31
Teacher, Time Waster, and
Internet Explosion by Colleen Toliver
An exploration of fan fiction
nce upon a time, Jafar met Hades and they became best friends. They traveled through space and met Darth Maul, then traveled through time and met Gríma Wormtongue. Somewhere along the way they picked up Lord Cutler Beckett, Jareth the Goblin King, and Mr. Teatime the Assassin, and they all sat around together drinking tea and plotting the end of the world. Sound like nonsense to you? It is, pretty much, unless you’re me. This was, essentially, my childhood — and it’s also the path along which I chart my development as a writer. That’s because I wrote stories about every last one of the characters in that list, and those stories are what helped me grow as a writer, even though the characters belong to other creators. I’m not alone in developing my writing this way. This is a fairly common practice among writers and general fans alike, and it’s broadly known as fan fiction — writing stories using characters from books, films, video games, and other forms of media. It has been a common part of being a fan since the creation of Star Trek (particularly for female fans), but with the advent of the Internet, it has become an even more common practice among fans. It’s a huge body of written work, covering a vast number of characters, books, TV shows, and more. It’s also essentially unArt by Hannah Jackson
censored, unedited, and easy to publish at the touch of a button. Like anything that can be posted on the internet, it has its strong points and its weak points – some considering its weak points to outnumber its strong ones. But what makes fan fiction good is the community behind it — a strong community ready and eager to read, to write, and to share with one another. It is this community that makes fan fiction an invaluable resource to young writers. The act of writing fan fiction becomes essentially a communal one; and the more a writer communicates with other members, listens to their comments, and reads
32 | On the cover others’ work, the stronger the writer’s writing becomes, and the stronger the community itself becomes. Most people don’t start off writing fan fiction for the community. I certainly didn’t. I began writing fan fiction in earnest when I was ten, long before I actually knew what it was. I was a huge Star Wars fan at the time, and most of my fan fictions centered around the adventures of Darth Maul and Queen Amidala. These were adventures that only happened in my head, and could only happen in my head, since Darth Maul was killed at the very end of The Phantom Menace and Queen Amidala went on to have a very unfortunate romance with Anakin Skywalker instead. And oh, I was devoted to those adventures. I wrote and wrote and wrote, more than I’d ever written before. I pulled an all-nighter once when I was eleven or so, writing a story that had gripped me from nowhere. It was the first of many writing all-nighters to come. As I grew up I moved on to write for other fandoms — Lord of the Rings, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Avatar: The Last Airbender most notably. But I didn’t make the decision to post my fan fiction on the Internet until I was fourteen or so, even though
Fan Fiction Fives! The five worst pieces of fan fiction on the Internet: l My Immortal by Tara Gilesbie – a Harry Potter fan fiction in which everyone at Hogwarts is Goth, no one acts like themselves, and the main character is a hilarious selfinsert on the part of the author. l Forbiden Fruit: The Temptation of Edward Cullen by beckymac666 – a Twilight fan fiction that is probably written by someone just trying to parody My Immortal. Probably. A brilliantly awful piece about a self-insert character named Tiaa who seduces Edward (or Ewdard) Cullen and defeats evil mean girls with her fantastical witch powers. l FaCeThEsTrAnGe by Dallas Phillpot – a glorious horror of a fan fiction hosted on its own website that takes place at Hogwarts, but has characters from multiple fandoms. The author’s own summary is the only thing that can honestly do the story justice in the describing: “When Dally Darkblood, a vampire Ravenclaw, goes to Hogwarts, with her best fren, Edward Cullen, and then Hiei, things began to get intresting. Shadow the Hegehog comes and then Dumbleddore turns out to be not so good after ale. With the asstence of close friends and family and a lil wizard magic, Hogwarts will be sale fo the students once more...” (From Dallas’s website, xdallyx.webs.com) l The Pokemon Story by David Garrett – a truly horrific and disgusting fan fiction that reaches new levels of awful with its graphic descriptions and incredibly nasty violence, all within the medium of a children’s show. Horrifying on every level. l Dark Phoenix Saga: The Revenge of Jean Grey by ComicsNix – an X-Men fan fiction in which Wolverine abandons Professor X and Jean Grey because of his general angst over wanting Jean, with extremely, EXTREMELY horrific results. Graphic sex, nonsensical grammar structure, and a plot so ludicrous and gross it’s funny.
I’d found many communities I wanted to post stories to. There was no one who I’d communicated with in any of those communities that made me feel comfortable. But at fourteen, I found my niche in the Lord of the Rings fandom — a group whose writing and discussions I still value today at twenty-three. My community of choice was a small one — small, and very tight-knit. We were the “creepy shippers” of the Lord of the Rings fandom — meaning that the characters whose romances we wrote about were unconventional and at times disturbing. We liked to explore the darker characters. We were fascinated by the characters twisted by evil, altered and changed and darkened with little (but not no) hope for redemption. The fandom at large didn’t care for us much, but we cared for each other. We carved out our own little corner of the Internet and made a safe place for our own fiction and art and discussion, and it was wonderful. Through that community I found my first mentor, Vereena, who liked my writing when I submitted it and graciously posted it on her website time after time. From that site I gained a readership; and when I moved my work to the primary fan fiction website, Fanfiction.net, my readers came with me. I still receive emails from people who’ve followed my work since I was fourteen years old. That kind of fanbase can be very hard to come by for writers. It is in part thanks to these people and that community that my writing has improved. The fan fiction community is built not only to foster friendships, but also to improve the writing of those who post stories. Almost every website dedicated to fan fiction has a review system set up that allows readers to comment on stories. For those looking for more stringent feedback, there is also a system of beta readers (essentially, fan fiction editors) to whom fan fiction writers can send their work for indepth critique. Fan fiction is also a great tool for learning to write because the characters and world already exist. Writers can focus on understanding how to write specific characters, and how to keep them consistent, as well as focusing on how to build a strong plot, interesting dialogue, and solid prose. And never say that fan fiction writers aren’t creative. Fan fiction is a highly creative endeavor, and takes a healthy dose of imagination. It takes a strong writer to add depth to characters and subplots that perhaps were not fully explored; and it takes plenty of imagination to come up with stories that will add to the world and the characters in which the writer is playing. Most of my favorite fan fictions, for example, fall under the label of “alternate universe,” or AU, where the stories alter the events of the story’s canon in favor of another “what-if” scenario. AU stories create fascinating and new situations for characters, building on who the character was in the original story and how they might have changed had events been just a little different. The major trouble with fan fiction – and the reason many are so dubious as to its benefits – is the lack of quality in many fan fictions. Because fan fiction writers range in age from 11-60, and because the writing itself is unregulated and frequently unedited, many stories have terrible grammar and spelling, and destroy the characters that the story is supposed to be about. I, for one, wrote many awful, awful fan fictions as a ten-year-old – including one where Darth Maul and Shrek were best friends. I still
On the cover | 33 can’t explain why that made sense to me at the time, and I will probably forever be embarrassed by it. Writers of fan fiction also like to insert themselves into their favorite characters’ worlds — and when they do this, the character meant to represent them is frequently obnoxious, overachieving, impossibly attractive, and too talented to ever be real. These characters are commonly known as Mary Sues, and Mary Sue stories are some of the most reviled in the fan fiction community. Almost every fan fiction writer will write a Mary Sue at some point. Mine was an elf, part of the Lord of the Rings universe, who had a romance with everyone from Legolas to Boromir to a side-character elf named Haldir. She also had magical powers quite unknown in Tolkien’s original universe, was unnaturally good at archery and swordplay, and had silver lips — again, for no particular reason other than that it would be unique and pretty. Fan fiction also tends to slant towards the deranged at times. Some of the worst fan fictions out there feature excessive violence, graphic disturbing sex, and gruesome torture. Some argue that fan fiction is an outlet for the sickest sexual and violent urges of the writers. But fan fiction is far more complex than that analysis would suggest – and plenty of scholars are talking about fan fiction as a much more diverse and interesting phenomenon. I was part of the Honors Program at my alma mater of Eureka College, where I received my B.A. in English-Writing. As an honors student, I was required to write an undergraduate thesis,
and I chose to write mine on fan fiction. My thesis, titled “Sues, Slash, and ‘Ships: Fan Fiction as Feminist Pop-Culture Revision,” (which you can read at my website, http://colleentoliver. weebly.com/thesis-introduction.html here) was inspired mostly by scholar Henry Jenkins’ book “Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture.” This book is all about fan fiction, and it studies fan fiction as a special sociological and literary development. Jenkins suggests that fan fiction has taken the place of oral storytelling, and that in an age when all stories are basically “owned,” fan fiction is the audience’s way of trying to take the stories back. Other scholars have written books and essays on fan fiction, but my two favorites are by far Camille Bacon-Smith, who wrote about the women writers of Star Trek fan fiction, and Sheenagh Pugh, whose book “The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a Literary Context” studies fan fiction as a literary genre rather than a sociological event. Pugh’s analysis of fan fiction as literature is fascinating, and Bacon-Smith’s study of the women of the fan fiction world remains a strong feminist critique of the popular media. Still, despite the increase in scholarship devoted to fan fiction, I like to look at fan fiction mostly as my favorite hobby and my best teacher. I can’t imagine what I would have done without the vast imaginary worlds I participated in via fan fiction, and I know, whatever others may think of the genre, that I will be writing fan fiction for many, many years to come.
Fandom MEDIA by Angie Barry
Fandom can be like a high school — full of drama and silliness. But it can also have the power to change lives.
Misha Collins plays the angel Castiel on Supernatural, but to his legion of raving fans, he’s more of a god. Collins has fully embraced this idolization and hero worship in a way few celebrities have, largely by encouraging his fanbase to further extremes and stoking their rabid tendencies through Twitter. The “Minions” or “Mishamigos” as they are known—so dubbed by Collins himself—have become a surprisingly powerful force in the world of fandom. When Collins decrees something, his loyal followers respond en masse; they’ve stormed conventions, spammed Internet forums like Twitter and Tumblr, and have even effected the course of the Supernatural series. In a now infamous twist, the show featured a meta-tastic, breaking-the-fourth-wall episode last season where the regular cast played themselves, and Collins was in fine form Tweeting, dropping in-jokes, and constantly referring to his fans on-camera. Perhaps needless to say, the fanbase nearly exploded with delight. It was, in a way, the ultimate goal of every fangirl and fanboy: the chance to have the power to directly influence the object of their affections. The fans had been heard, and the fans had been rewarded for their outspoken devotion by becoming an on-screen part of their show’s history. But the phenomenon of fandom and its concrete effects are hardly limited to Supernatural. Nearly every TV show, movie, band, and book series has a devoted following, though some may be small or relatively quiet. FanFiction.net attests to this, and a casual search through communities on Livejournal produces a plethora of options for the interested fan. There’s a Tumblr devoted to just about every actor, relationship, show, movie, or band out there—to test, just type in hellyeah(insertnamehere) before the Tumblr handle. Fandom is widespread. Fandom is diverse. And fandom can be influential. In 2004, when New Line Cinema announced they were developing a movie called Snakes on a Plane, which would star Samuel L. Jackson, the Internet went wild. For those who loved silly B-movies and Mr. Jackson, this had the potential of being the best movie ever. Just from the title, you knew exactly what to expect—and you knew it was going to be insanely entertaining. A now anonymous and yet immortal fanboy on a movie forum quickly announced that, since this was Samuel L. Jackson involved, the line, “I’ve had it with these motherf*cking snakes on this motherf*cking plane!” absolutely had to be included. As it just so happened, New Line employees were scouring the Internet to pick up on the buzz generated by their announcement. Someone found that post, and passed it on to the screenwriters. And only a few days later it was announced that yes, inArt by Hannah Jackson
On the cover | 35 deed: that line would be included in the movie. If the Internet had been excited before, things went positively mad. Here was a movie project that was being actively influenced by the fans; it was a silly and ridiculous movie project, yes. But it showed just how much power the Internet had given to average movie-goers. Movie studios interested in the dollar signs on the bottom line were realizing that positive feedback on the Internet was becoming crucial in the success of their projects. With websites like Rotten Tomatoes becoming more popular, it was easier than ever for early audiences to completely skewer or rant against films they hated—and such negative reviews often transferred over to poor box office receipts in the following weeks. New Line Cinema had already cemented its geek credit at the turn of the millennium with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but with Snakes on a Plane they endeared themselves even further to their target audiences. And sure enough, Snakes on a Plane had a killer opening weekend, and did fairly well in the following weeks. It may not be a revolutionary film, and is practically dripping with cheese, but for those who care for that sort of thing, it represented a tiny but exciting win for the fans—a little bit of cinematic trivia to cling to with pride. Doctor Who holds the distinction of being the longest-running science fiction show in history. It debuted in November of 1963 and was intended to be an education program aimed at younger children and families. Since then, it has gone through several changes, in everything from the lead actors to the tone of the show, but with each year the fanbase only grows and diversifies. For a show targeted at younger children, it has a huge fandom composed of twenty-somethings and those even older—largely thanks to its prodigious run spanning multiple generations. Currently, the show is headed by writer Steven Moffat who, like Misha Collins, knows how to use Twitter to his advantage. But whereas Collins has his loyal Mishamigos, Moffat is more known for purposefully leading his followers on or dropping them false tidbits on upcoming episodes. Ask any Whovian, and they’ll no doubt tell you Moffat is the worst troll in all of fandom — troll here meaning someone who deliberately toys with others for their own amusement. While Moffat does slip little nods to the fansites into dialogue and background details in episodes, he more frequently responds to fans’ messages in misleading or amusing ways, dangles bits of information on future story arcs that almost always prove to be false, and has even deliberately encouraged wrong theories in order to keep his writing constantly surprising. A true master of misdirection, the Internet and its fan communi-
36 | On the cover ties have only given him a better means of working his wicked ways, so to speak. But then again, the people behind Doctor Who don’t always aggravate their fans in such a fashion. Every year the BBC runs a special contest for the younger fans that allows them to design a new monster for the show. William Grantham was the first winner, and his creation was known as the Abzorbaloff, featured in the episode “Love and Monsters.” The boy was invited onto the set, introduced to the cast, and got to watch the filming of his monster’s biggest scenes. For most fans, this is a moment of pure Nirvana. And for most fans, getting to visit sets, shake their favorite actors’ hands, and catch a few glimpses of brand new material or hear a new song before it’s officially released provides enough giddy happiness to power them through a rough spot or two. But for others, fandom can literally be the best thing in their life, the thing that keeps them going when they’re struggling with terrible issues in their everyday lives. For Evanna Lynch, a well known boy wizard wasn’t simply a great story—the wizarding world of Harry Potter became her lifeline. Diagnosed with anorexia when she was only eleven, Evanna Lynch was staying at a hospital and undergoing treatments when the fifth installment, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, was released. Though she was incredibly sick, her doctors allowed her to briefly leave the hospital in order to purchase the book, as the Harry Potter series was one of the few things that helped her through her treatments. This would be a fateful decision, as the character Luna Lovegood was introduced in Order of the Phoenix—and Lynch discovered a true role model. Inspired by Luna, Lynch began writing to J.K. Rowling, explaining her situation and why
she was so enamored with Ms. Lovegood. She confessed that it had become a dream of hers to audition for the role of Luna in the future film. Rowling wrote back, and told Lynch that to play Luna she would have to be healthy—that first and foremost she would have to take care of herself. More than anything, it was Rowling’s words and the character of Luna Lovegood that gave Lynch the determination she needed to overcome her eating disorder. And in 2006, three years after the release of Order of the Phoenix and her extended stay at the hospital, Evanna Lynch won the role she had been dreaming of, beating out over 15,000 other girls to play Luna Lovegood. So, yes: fandom can be a silly, preposterous thing. It’s full of back-biting and snark, condescending remarks and drama. A group of fangirls and fanboys can get up in arms over the strangest of things, and rejoice as a collective when they earn a slight shout-out on the shows they adore. But fandom is more than this, too. Fandom can be a supportive community, a necessary outlet, and a source of inspiration or hope. As saccharine as it sounds, fandom can sometimes be a light to guide you home, as was the case for the now famous Evanna Lynch. And to those who mock fans and their ilk, beware. Because today’s fans are tomorrow’s show runners, as Steven Moffat can attest. Cross Misha Collins and you have to face the wrath of his Minions, thousands strong and every day growing. And who knows? That dorky kid on the bus entirely absorbed in their book may be the next actor to take Hollywood by storm, perhaps playing their favorite character in a blockbuster adaptation. This is the Age of the Geek, sweeties. And fandom is leading the charge. n
Fandom terminology you should know Fandom – the umbrella term used to describe the community of fans who participate in writing fan fiction, dressing up in costumes, drawing fan art, making fan videos, etc. Fandom can also be used to refer to a specific media form that a fan writes, costumes, draws, or generally creates for – for example, “My major fandoms include Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Once Upon A Time, and Pirates of the Caribbean.” Pairing/Ship – This is a fandom-exclusive term that refers to a romantic relationship in a TV show, movie, book, etc. that a fan particularly likes. For example, someone might say, “My favorite pairing in Pride and Prejudice is Jane/Bingley,” or, “I’m writing a story focused on my favorite Star Trek ship, Kirk/Spock.” Troll – a person who deliberately tries to goad reactions out of other people on the internet. Steven Moffat, the current main writer for the British television show Doctor Who, is famous for “trolling” his fans by posting misleading information on his Twitter, and creating plot twists that mess with the fans’ perception of the show. Fanfiction.net – the major fan fiction website on the Internet, where fans from every imaginable fandom can post their stories for other fans to read. It is infamous for the many bad-quality stories that can be found there, but there are many good stories as well. You can find it at http://www.fanfiction.net. Tumblr – a website heavily populated by fans, dedicated mostly to photographs, fan art, and news about the latest TV shows, films, and actor’s projects. You can visit this website at http://www.tumblr.com. Twitter – a famous mini-blogging website where anyone can post “tweets” - 140-character updates on virtually any topic. Celebrities will post updates about their favorite projects and entertain their followers with amusing tweets meant to make fans laugh. See Misha Collins’ Twitter at https://twitter.com/#!/mishacollins. Livejournal – a blogging website, mostly text-based, with a heavy fandom population. People post fan fiction, essays about their favorite shows, rants about their favorite characters, and also post updates about their lives here; but here, there is no character limit. Entries can be as long as the writer pleases. You can find Livejournal at http://www.livejournal.com.
On the cover | 37
renzy by Angie Barry
Outlet Magazine’s resident artist Hannah Jackson made me one of the happiest zombologists in the universe when she sent me ... ME! She turned a once-blank Mugg figure into a kick-ass Angie B. in the midst of the zombie apocalypse, complete with axe and practical running shoes. Everyone admits: it’s a striking likeness.
One girl. Many friends. Many fandoms. Lots ... and lots ... and lots ... of customized gifts.
eing insanely enthusiastic about a variety of things, I’m easy to buy for come holidays and birthdays. My two biggest fandoms are easily Doctor Who and zombies; and as a girl lucky enough to know a variety of crazy-talented crafters, my collection of one-ofa-kind toys and home accessories continues to grow each year. Given the DIY spirit of the original Doctor Who show — where sets were made of cardboard and the monsters’ zippers were almost always on display — and most zombie films — so easy to make a handful of students with a jug of Karo syrup blood could do it — I see these gifts as perfect expressions of my fandoms.
38 | On the cover
1. MORT (see previous page) My mother may not truly understand my fondness for zombies, but at least she indulges me. Two Christmases ago she presented me with the handmade Mort, a sassy fellow who’s all smiles and is having difficulty holding onto his limbs and eyeballs. 2. DW CLOCK AND ALLONS-Y! PLAQUE What could be a more befitting tribute to the beloved Time Lord from Gallifrey than to immortalize all eleven (so far) of his incarnations in a handy wall clock? Another personalized gift from the wonderful Sarah Arnold, who understands me as few can. And the French phrase “Allons-y!” will forever be tied to the Tenth Doctor in the minds of devoted Whovians; I even have it tattooed on my left wrist. My friend Kaleigh McGonegle is a rather talented lady when it comes to crafting, and hand-cut this wooden plaque for me before painting it the colors of the Time Vortex.
3. DW COLLECTION Last Christmas was a boon time for me as a Whovian — not only did my friend Deborah Berk travel to Wales and send me back real Eccles Cakes (what I happen to call Christopher Eccleston, who played the Ninth Doctor), good pal Gabriela Santiago supplied me with an emergency bow tie (a must-have for any well-dressed adventurer), and Zach Applebee made my dream of owning the Tenth Doctor and Rose a reality — though I’ve been unable to bring myself to remove them from their original packaging. 4. ADIPOSE Montmercy and Apostrophe the Adipose babies (who first appeared in the Doctor Who episode “Partners in Crime”) were handmade gifts from the lovely Sarah Arnold, who knows that there are few things cuter than little alien blobs of fat that giggle and dance.
5. AMIGURUMI TEN A handmade gift from Sarah Arnold’s mum, my Amigurumi Ten is a dapper little fella. From his tie to his rooster-ish hair, he’s a rather accurate take on the manic Doctor played by David Tennant. 6. ROSE TEAPOT/CUP As the British know, there’s nothing better than a good cup of tea — even when aliens are invading and the world seems to be ending. Deborah Berk, a fellow Whovian, knows this very well, and was nice enough to send me a personalized teapot and cup that she had crafted, just in case I should find myself in such a dire situation. One side shows the spunky Rose Tyler (Angie’s favourite companion), while the other boasts the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. And on the cup itself? One of Ten’s first and most immortal speeches: “TEA! That’s all I needed! Good cup of tea! Super-heated infusion of free-radicals and tannins, just the thing for healing the synapses...”
40 | On the cover RORY, AMY, AND ELEVEN BY HANNAH! Another adorable handmade gift from Hannah, the TARDIS trio are made of soft felt and love. I think she managed to capture their personalities quite well, from Rory’s surprise to Amy’s sassiness to Eleven’s silliness.
On the cover | 41
36 | On the cover
Fanning Out Resident illustrator Hannah Jackson is more than just an artist. She also is a fangirl. Combine those two roles, and you get fan art of professional caliber. But her creativity doesn’t end with simply drawing characters; sometimes, she even dresses as them*. Shown above at left is Jackson dressed as Harry Potter character Luna Lovegood; above at right is Jackson’s illustration of Luna Lovegood. Check out the following pages of Jackson’s fan art. *(For more on character costumes and cosplay, see pages 44 through 49).
On the cover | 43
This strip features Jackson’s favorite scene from Harry Potter, from a chapter called “The Silver Doe.” Harry encounters a mysterious patronus which leads him to the hidden sword of Gryffindor.
Peach and Daisy from the Mario Brothers games for Nintendo
Rachel Bowman combines beauty, brains and steampunk with her creation of this Japanese steampunk costume.
ver dreamed of being your favorite character from a book, movie or television show? Worldwide, thousands of people fulfill that dream annually. Not just by dressing up as Storm Troopers for the opening night of a “Star Wars” installment or hitting up the midnight showing of “X-Men” with Wolverine claws. The people we’re talking about reconstruct costumes and outfits to rival the originals and adopt the persona of their favorite characters. Welcome to the world of cosplay. Cosplay, which is shorthand for “costume play,” began when people dressed as their favorite anime or manga characters. The trend spread to American cartoons and science fiction, and now any fandom is fair game. The following pages include submitted photos from three such super fans who discard their alter egos to become favorite fictional cultural icons. Rachel Bowman, Alice Phillips and Linden Flynn share their costumes that put Halloween to shame and usher in the expanding fandom phenomenon of cosplay.
On the cover | 41
Alice Phillips is Vincent Valentine during a Final Fantasy VII Cosplay. Valentine is a gunslinger subjected to horrific experiments by the mad scientist to whom he lost his beloved. Phillips is shown aiming Cerberus, Valentine’s weapon of choice on his quest for vengeance and redemption.
46 | On the cover
Despite her dainty appearance, don’t be fooled by this Japanese steampunk girl portrayed by Rachel Bowman. She may be sweetly spinning her oriental umbrella right now, the hilt of her sword peeks from behind her back.
Alice Phillips stands beneath an angel in Oakland Cemetery, Iowa City, Iowa, dressed as her favorite Final Fantasy VII character, Vincent Valentine. Phillips said, “I made this costume not only as a tribute to my favorite character, but also to give myself a creative challenge and a chance to emulate Vincent’s quiet elegance. Considering Vincent’s mysterious aura and supernatural abilities, I thought it appropriate to pose in the shadow of Iowa City’s allegedly haunted Black Angel.”
On the cover | 37
Linden Flynn poses as the Eleventh Doctor from the hit British television sci-fi series â€œDoctor Who.â€?
48 | On the cover
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Linden Flynn as Asuka Langley Soryu, a 14-yearold fictional character from the Neon Genesis Evangelion franchise.
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On the cover | 49
50 | Fan fiction
by Stephanie Rabig
Medusa huddled in the corner of the Temple, waiting. The owl had taken flight almost an hour ago now. When she had first come here to serve as Priestess, she’d been impressed by the bird — enchanted by Athena, it didn’t have to eat or drink or sleep. It simply flew around the Temple, keeping an eye on all of them. She’d thought of it as a protector. But then Apollo had come, with that smile on his face that said he knew she was alone. The women of the Temple all took trips to the market, but someone had to stay and keep the fires burning and they took turns, and she wished now that she’d just let the cursed fire go out, the consequences for that had to be less than what they would be for this ... Because the owl wouldn’t care that she’d told him no. And from the way Apollo had laughed when she’d told him that he would pay dearly for this, maybe Athena wouldn’t care either. It was strictly forbidden for a Priestess to lay with a man, and in the Temple itself? She halfexpected the Goddess to borrow one of Zeus’s lightning bolts, for the electricity to make the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end in that brief instant before she was obliterated. The thought of it suddenly banished all the shock and weakness from her body, sending her to her feet with a growl of rage. She’d been a dedicated Priestess. She’d followed every law that had been set out for them, even when they seemed destined to trip anyone up. “Come on, then!” she shrieked, stalking to the front of the Temple and staring out over the flower-studded valley that she’d considered beautiful once. Not now. Everything here was tainted now. “Whatever you plan, just get it over with!” At first she sensed no change, and for a second she dared to hope that maybe Apollo had been punished after all, that maybe the truth had come out and eventually she would heal, that things could be somewhat normal again. Then she heard an enraged hiss from behind her, and whirled to face the new attacker. Nothing. To her horror, she felt movement in her hair. The hissing thing was in her hair.
Fan fiction | 51 She instinctively swatted at it, screaming when it sank its fangs into her hand. She pulled away, cradling the wound, and then that horror was eclipsed by the snake whipping around in front of her and biting her just below her left eye. Medusa didn’t know how she managed it without getting bitten again, but this time when she reached back for the monstrous thing she grabbed hold, yanking it away from her, intending to throw it to the ground and beat it to death, stomp it into pieces if need be. But when the motion only succeeded in pulling her own head back, the realization almost sent her to hiding in the corner again. This thing wasn’t in her hair. It was her hair. Then another hiss sounded, this time on her right side, and another. And her head began to feel heavier and heavier, weighed down by the mass of the writhing snakes. They began to strike. Wailing, trying as best she could to protect her face, Medusa ran for the one thing that promised salvation, however horrific. The Temple fire. She reached the deep bowl of blessed water first, purely on memory; her eyes were swollen to slits now and she could barely see so she relied on years of ritual to guide her, only this time instead of pouring some blessed water onto the intended sacrifice she gathered up the bottom of her tunic and dunked it in, pressing it to her face before she stuck her head directly into the flames. The snakes’ screams mingled with her own. But finally they stopped writhing, stopped striking her, and she fell back, crying. Grasping the Temple knife in an unsteady hand, she reached back and took hold of the first snake. Normally this knife was used to slit the throats of the sacrificial cows, but hopefully Athena would accept this as well. She had taken the punishment the Goddess had handed down, and had prevailed. Her Temple sisters would be back soon, would help her get to the closest healer. She would recover from this. Each snake felt like she was slicing through one of her own fingers. Twenty-
three. There were twenty-three of them, and all went into the fire, creating a foulsmelling smoke that made her gag. But at last, she was done. Exhausted, weeping, she dropped the knife and collapsed in front of the fire, too weary and pained to even move herself to the entryway to await the other women. She heard a hiss. Panic spearing her, she scrambled to her feet away from the fire, opening her eyes as wide as she could now, waiting for all of the snakes to come darting towards her. But nothing happened. The still-cooking corpses remained still. Another hiss. But there was something odd about this one. It didn’t pass through the mouth of a living thing; it was too rattling, too clanking, too ... mechanical? Then the thing arced around in front of her face, and she couldn’t even gather the air for a scream. Its body was a shining copper, offset by glittering ruby eyes and the diamond of wickedly curved fangs as it opened its mouth for another hiss. It moved sinuously, the scales curving, bending in a way no metal should be able to. Its companions joined it soon after. She waited for the strikes to begin again, for them to take her life this time, but nothing happened. Then she heard voices from outside and the snakes left her line of sight, curving into a deadly halo around her head, and they seemed to be inside of her skull now instead of just attached to the outside, hissing, whispering, telling her to strike. Medusa took several steps back, trying to call up her voice to give a warning, but all that came out was a rattling mechanical hiss. Then Calandra, the High Priestess, ran in to see what was wrong. Medusa tried to say with her slitted eyes what she couldn’t anymore with her voice, tried to warn her to run. As soon as Calandra met her eyes she froze. Medusa waited for the shock to fade, for her Priestess to run and join the others, keep running until they got to the safety of town. But then she saw the gray start to tendril out from Calandra’s eyes, writhing like deadly snakes, turning the woman’s body into stone. And she realized this punishment was only just beginning. n o n “Why in Gaia’s name did you do that?”
Hermes looked up, curious as to what had gotten Persephone’s temper up this time. The Goddess was normally sweet — and not the terrifying kind of sweet that her mother was; genuine instead of ‘I will smile as I kill you’— but lately she snapped at any Deity who looked at her crosswise, and a few who didn’t. Her target today was Athena, and he winced. Hera would almost be a safer target. “You saw what she was doing in my Temple.” “So evict her! Or — or withdraw your favor; demand sacrifices!” “Sacrifices are for small transgressions. Medusa was fornicating in my Temple.” “And what punishment does Apollo draw for this?” she asked, turning her glare onto the smiling God of Light. “We’ll work something out,” he said breezily. “That is enough,” Demeter said. “It isn’t your place to question him, or complain at Athena for how she deals with such things.” “Yeah,” Apollo said. “What’s the matter, Seph? Jealous?” Persephone looked from him to her mother and for a second Hermes thought she was going to scream at both of them. Instead, she just turned and disappeared, leaving Olympus to hide somewhere in the mortal realm. “I do love her,” Demeter said. “But she’s not the most sensible thing.” Then something changed in another room he was watching, and Hermes disappeared as well, wishing he could also hide. Instead, he traveled to the small hospital room where his friend sat waiting for the inevitable. n o n She lay in the bed, pale, unmoving except for the occasional twitch of her eyelids. He remembered her when she was young. Beautiful, long dark hair up in an unruly bun as she stretched out on the grass, absently nibbling at the end of a pencil as she studied a book. Their time together had been short — seemed shorter to him than to her, Hades knew, given that she’d only had eighty-six years and he’d been around many hundreds of times that — but it had been good, and now she was here. He heard a low humming sound, the blur of wings that always accompanied Hermes’ arrival catching the edge of his vision. He didn’t turn to look.
52 | Fan fiction Beth opened her eyes, large and brown like he remembered and for an instant she seemed to remember him; and then her gaze lost focus and she disappeared back into the charts and bedpan and the thousand other well-meaning humiliations that came with this stage of mortal life. “Sure you don’t want me to handle this?” Hermes asked quietly. “I’m sure,” Hades said, still not looking at him. Gathering mortal souls was a full-time job; Hermes had to be in so many places at once that his form was always out of focus. It made his head hurt. “You can’t keep doing this to yourself, you know. You really should--” “What? Act more like Zeus?” He wasn’t sure if his brother ever remembered the name of a woman he’d been with after the sex was over. Demigod children were all over the place thanks to him, and sometimes the other Deities had no idea until Atropos didn’t cut their life thread for decades after a regular mortal would’ve died. Would’ve gone through this. “Hey now, one of him is enough,” Hermes said cheerfully. “I just mean you can’t always take this so seriously. They’re mortal. They die. It’s what they do.” Ignoring the younger God, Hades took her hand. “Goodnight,” he told her quietly, and then he stopped holding back, stopped focusing his energy on keeping a safe mortal form for her sake, and what he truly was seeped into her. Living in the realm of the dead for so long had poisoned him, put death so deeply into him he doubted that it would ever be gone. As soon as he let go of the facade that let him move among the living, her last breath left her body. “Let me do you a favor,” Hermes said a moment later. He’d moved over to stand next to the window, his gaze fixed on a point in the distance. “Let me take her down. All right? You just go talk to someone who isn’t a creepy shade.” He cleared his throat and looked away from Beth’s body. “I talk to you all the time.” “Yeah, well, I’m not always going to be around.” “What’s that supposed to mean?” “Means I’m thinking of taking a vacation. Already started training Iris to take over for me.” “Her?” He didn’t really know her, hadn’t talked to her much, but he did
remember her striking him as flighty and unreliable. Which she could afford to be — rainbows weren’t exactly an important job. “She’s doing fine.” After a few seconds, he sighed. “Okay, so she’s the only one who would take it. But she’ll get the hang of it, I’m sure. This stuff’s too heavy to do all the time. And if I need a break, then I know you do.” He nodded toward the window. “Go talk to her for a while. Get some sun for once. I’ll take good care of Beth.” Curious despite himself, Hades got up from Beth’s deathbed and moved to the window. The field across from the hospital was dotted heavily with Demeter’s spring flowers. Her daughter, Persephone, was wandering among them, gathering a few. Probably at Hestia’s request; as soon as spring began the Goddess of the Hearth became obsessed with bouquets. Through the cold, clear glass was normalcy, something the other Gods up on Olympus took for granted every single day, sunshine and warmth, the companionship of someone who was alive and smiling instead of drifting and pale. And suddenly Hermes’s advice was ringing in his ears and he more than wanted a peaceful conversation in the spring air, he needed to see her, talk to her, and part of his mind tried to remind him that he’d maybe spoken five words to her in the past hundred or so years but it didn’t seem to matter, suddenly he was heading down the stairs, toward the main doors. He may have heard a quiet chuckle as he left Beth’s room. He paid it no mind. n o n One thing that was wrong, he realized as he entered the clearing. He had no idea what to say. And somehow the thought of walking up to her and saying, “A woman I loved once just died” didn’t seem like a good idea. Then she looked up at him. Before a steady, expressionless mask slipped over her features he saw grief there, and wondered if maybe talking about Beth would be appropriate after all. “Hello,” he finally said, when the silence stretched to a breaking point and it was either say something, anything, or hurry back into the hospital and let Hermes deservedly laugh at him for a month. “Hello.” Still the mask, still nothing. “What are ... what are you doing down
here?” “Getting away from the rest of them,” she said bluntly. “You?” “I — someone I — Beth’s in there,” he said, gesturing back to the hospital. “Well. Not anymore. She just ...” He moved his gaze away from her face, cursing at himself. Zeus had assured him that his assignment to the Underworld wouldn’t change him, certainly wouldn’t do any harm. Just luck of the draw, that was all. Then the poison had started seeping in. And almost worse than that, he lost any ability to speak. He could still vaguely remember the start of it all — arguing with Hera, debating with his brother. Now, the thought of seeing his brother again made his mind fog over, and if Hera glared at him, much less started to actually argue, he’d probably swallow his tongue. He’d been a fool to come out here and try to talk. Her cheeks were bright pink from the sunshine, echoing some of the flowers on the ground. Any one of those colors would be out of place in his realm; all of them at once was overpowering. “Are you all right?” And miracle of miracles, as she asked the question she rested a hand on his arm. The last time he’d visited Olympus, almost four hundred years ago now, he remembered the looks he’d gotten. Distaste. Revulsion. In one or two memorable cases, fear. When he said nothing in reply, simply stood there staring at her hand, she withdrew it. “Sorry,” she murmured. “I didn’t —” “No, it wasn’t — I didn’t mind.” Then colors even brighter than those of the flowers flashed in the edge of his vision, and he turned to see Iris scurrying down one of her rainbows, waving. “Persephone!” she called. “There you are!” He would think about what he did next, the reasons for it, many, many times over the coming months. At first he tried to give himself noble motives-she’d come down here to get away from the rest of the Olympians and for all he knew that included Iris; he was doing her a favor. Then he thought that maybe he simply panicked. Finally, he had to admit that the closest thing he could find to a reason was the behavior of a mortal toddler when bedtime came: Not yet; I don’t want to go yet. He certainly didn’t think over any rea-
Fan fiction | 53 sons then. He just grabbed Persephone’s arm — where her sleeve rested; he was at least thinking clearly enough not to touch her bare skin — and then the ground opened beneath them. It closed again just as quickly, shutting off the light and Iris’s beginning scream. n Authors note: The first Greek
mythology book I remember reading was D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths. The illustrations were amazing, I loved the stories, and it started a lifelong love of Greek mythology. I suppose you could say it was my first fandom. As I got older, I started seeking out mythology books that were not as kid-friendly, and realized that the stories about the
Just Another Day at the Office by Stephanie Rabig
She walks into the crowded ballroom, and his blue eyes lock onto her like she’s the only woman there. They’re on this undercover assignment to spy on a suspected money launderer, but he hasn’t arrived yet, and so they have a few moments to themselves. She moves into his arms. Normally their relationship is words and words alone. Now neither of them speak, words unnecessary as they dance. Her body pressed tightly against his, his hand at the small of her back, is the best feeling in the world. Well, she thinks. Maybe not the best. Maybe the money launderer could turn out to have violent associates, and she’d actually keep her head, prove herself to be useful in situations other than filing endless paperwork, and the two of them could team up and defeat the bad guy and all without getting her hair mussed, because as long as she was fantasizing, might as well go for everything. No, she decided. Something like that was more along the lines of Fantasy #26. “Let’s get out of here,” she whispers, sounding exactly like one of those femme fatales from a 40s Hollywood classic. Rita Hayworth. Or no, Lauren Bacall. Oh well. That part wasn’t important right now. What was important was them leaving the dance, going upstairs to her room and they’d barely gotten the door shut before he was kissing her and then-“Moneypenny?” “Huh?” She startled, nearly knocking over her tea. The computer keyboard it would’ve spilled on cost more than her apartment. “Fantasizing about me, were you?” She felt an actual blush coming to her face for the first time in years. “A little full of yourself today, James?” Her tone was so uncharacteristically sharp that he was taken aback. But, being James, only for a second. Then he grinned. “You were.” He walked off, still grinning, and Moneypenny fought an incredibly juvenile — and yet, she was sure, incredibly justified — urge to crumple a piece of paper and fling it at the back of his head.
Greek Deities didn’t present them so much as kindly, buffoonish figures, but rather as mortals writ large. All the frailties and nastiness of people, with the power to destroy lives on a whim. That take on them is what eventually inspired my upcoming novel “Atmidos: A Steampunk Story of the Greek Pantheon.”
How they bond ... James Bond and Moneypenny Since before I knew what shipping was, I shipped Bond and Moneypenny. Even if I couldn’t stand the rest of the movie, I always loved the two of them. Over the years, I’ve built up my own personal canon of her/how the two of them interact: l She worked menial jobs while going to school. At a waitressing job, a regular who was a paper-pusher at MI6 realized that she alphabetized the sugar packets by manufacturer and color-coded the coffee. Impressed and a little frightened, he mentioned a job opening to her, and she’s never looked back. l It isn’t just at work. She alphabetizes her spice rack (and every other thing she possibly can) at home. Except her books. She has to have those arranged by height, for some reason she can’t quite explain. l Every time Bond goes by her desk, he nudges her pen cup a little off-center. l She flirts with him, but doesn’t really think it’ll ever go anywhere. Knows that even if it could, it wouldn’t be a good idea. Both of them are fully aware of how screwed up he is when it comes to relationships. Doesn’t keep her from fantasizing, though. l If anyone ever asked, his response would be, “Oh, her? Nice enough lady.” He always sends her a rose on her birthday. l She’s no blushing virgin waiting for him to someday sweep her off her feet. She’s had her share of relationships. None of them ever seem to work out in the long term, though. If she’s honest with herself, she knows why. l She’s gone by “Moneypenny” since college. Only M knows what her first name is now, and since she also knows M’s first name (working high-classification paperwork has its advantages) they have a truce. l He came in pretty battered after a rough assignment. She hurried out from behind the desk, asking if he was okay. It’s the one time they’ve spoken without her desk between them. Since then, she seems to have gotten used to him getting hurt on the job. She hasn’t. l She lives in a small apartment. Spends most of her incidental income on Murano glass. l He’s leaned in close. So has she. But they’ve never touched. It’s a fantastic unrequited relationship, and I want it requited, dangit. My one problem with the new Bond movies is that they don’t have Moneypenny (yet ...?), because I love the new series so much, and really want to see their take on her. As is, I am left with writing ficlets.
54 | Fan fiction
My Beautiful Soldier
by Cécile Bourgois
A poem inspired by the sci-fi television program ‘Doctor Who,’ series six, episode seven, ‘A Good Man Goes to War’ My beautiful soldier, When you are tired and defeated, Will you come to me? Will you come back home? My beautiful soldier, Let your pack and weapons out, Close the door and close your mind; I’m here that’s all you need. My beautiful soldier, When you are tired and defeated, Will you come to me? Will you come back home? My beautiful soldier, I will wash your hand and soul,
I will take the blood out of your face; Just rest and forget what you’ve done. My beautiful soldier, When you are tired and defeated, Will you come to me? Will you come back home? My beautiful soldier, I understand if you cry , I understand if you scream; My arms are yours and they never let you down. My beautiful soldier, When you are tired and defeated, Will you come to me? Will you come back home? My beautiful soldier, With me you don’t need to lie, With me you don’t need to pretend; I know everything and you are forgiven. My beautiful soldier, When you are tired and defeated, Will you come to me? Will you come back home?
My beautiful soldier, I’m your peace and surrender, I’m your rest and your freedom, Some place where you find love and comfort. My beautiful soldier, When you are tired and defeated, Will you come to me? Will you come back home? My beautiful soldier, When you are strong and safe Please leave me, but don’t thank me I just need you to tell me : My beautiful soldier, When I am tired and defeated, Can I come to you, Can you be my home? n Cécile Bourgois lives in France and frequently writes under the pen name Amie. More of her work can be found online at www.fanfiction.net under the username Tc33 - Amie.
Konsept Art Photography Located in Massillon, OH Band promos, live performances, portraits, etc. Email for more info at email@example.com www.facebook.com/konseptart
ABOUT ARJUN BASU with
ho needs to right a novel — or even a story, for that matter — when you craft plots in 140 characters or fewer? That’s what writer Arjun Basu does on his Twitter account, @arjunbasu. But don’t be deceived — this award-winning master of micro fiction also is a published novelist and short story writer. Basu sat down with Outlet Magazine to talk about his career as a writer and his work with Twitter short fiction, which he dubs as “twisters.”
Arjun Basu has been writing for a long time. When he was a kid, he lied a lot — good practice for becoming a writer later on. Before embarking on his adulthood writing career, he edited children’s books for five years, then got into magazine editing. In 2008, he published “Squishy,” a collection of short stories. In October 2009, Basu heard about Twitter. Curious, he investigated the site and decied to write a short story. On his website (http://arjunbasu.com), Basu says, “And then for whatever reason, I wrote a ‘short story’ — and that story came in at over 140 characters. And while editing it down, I realized
something about the possibilities inherent in the limitations Twitter imposes on all of us. That first story came in at exactly 140 characters. I thought perhaps this was a new form and so I gave it a name: Twisters.” Since that first experiment, Basu has written thousands of Twisters. So why the name for his fiction? “Because everything on Twitter has a stupid name,” he told Outlet Magazine. Basu has achieved a level of fame with his Twitter account, which now
counts more than 135,000 followers. His Twisters have been adapted for film, are taught in schools, have won awards and have just been included in two high school text books in Canada. His first novel, “Waiting for the Man,” currently is on the desks of publishers. IN HIS OWN WORDS Why do I do what I do? The quick answer is “I don’t know.” One day, I wrote something on Twitter, and the idea of writing short fiction on
56 | [Out] and About Twitter kind of stuck. The limitation of the 140 character limit was a challenge, a kind of writing exercise, and pretty soon I found I couldn’t stop. And so I kept going and this experiment grew and grew and then it attracted media attention and then it kind of took on a life of its own. I still use the Twisters as a writing exercise, something to keep my writing muscles strong. I don’t spend that much time on them — if it’s not working, I delete it all and move on. And then later, another idea will pop into my head, and I’ll try and squeeze a story into 140 characters. THE FIRST TWISTER The kid looks up at the candy bar and wonders how he can get to the caramel goodness inside without waking up the asthmatic narcoleptic cat. MORE TWISTERS The bird fell from the sky and landed at their feet. He wasn’t ready to teach his kids about death. So he told them the bird was just stupid. The bar was a dimly lit place where people stared into their smartphones and drank trendy drinks and went home alone and complained about it They stopped the car and tore off their clothes and ran into the lake and were quickly eaten by a mythical creature that no one believed in. Her mother warned her it was true. And after the hamster’s eyes popped out, the daughter learned it was possible to love something to death. He sees her across the street and his life changes. She’s everything he’s ever imagined. He waits for the light to turn green. It never does There is drinking and flirting and then they’re up in his hotel room and she rips off his shirt and he says, Man, I really liked that shirt. He finishes peeing and shakes a bit and a drop falls on the floor, unnoticed. Six months later, she will cite that drop as “the last straw.” It was during the walk in the forest that she realized the philosopher’s words had
no deeper meaning and that he was, in fact, full of shit. I can never ever do what I want, the kid whines and as he yells and stomps off to his room and slams his door, his father sighs, Me neither. They walked hand in hand on the pebble -strewn beach. He said, I could fall for you, and then he tripped on a rock and hit his head and died The professor stood up and said, I don’t know what I’m talking about. The students gasped audibly. It was their most important lesson. Ever. He put his finger in her dimple and said, I could lose myself in there, and she smiled and he lost his finger outright and never got it back He found her in the kitchen eating cookies. Our love is a lot like a cookie, he said. And she looked down, and there was nothing but crumbs. He says, My lips are on fire, and she kisses him, and then she realizes that he has just eaten some chilis and now her lips are on fire too. He ate his granola silently, savoring the night’s activities. She was still in bed, a smile on her face. The dog sat in a corner. Terrified. She’s a shy girl, but she gets up on stage and sings country songs with the kind of voice that destroys mens’ hearts. Plus she has big boobs. They met for drinks and flirted and he could sense the making of something magical and then she said, You’re hot online but not in real life. She thought he was cute until he said, I work in advertising. And then she walked back to her girlfriends and said, He works in advertising. I was her gardener. She said, That feels funny to me. And I said, Not as funny as this feels. And then for no reason she put her clothes on. They retreat to the salon and he sits
and says, I’m hungry, and she laughs, and he says, Really, and she says, Get your clothes on and leave. OUTLET'S PICKS Outlet Magazine picked its favorite Twisters from Basu’s Twitter page. They include: They held each other, and she said, Don't ever let me go, and he said, What if I have to go to the bathroom? and she didn't know the answer. Some of the things were shiny and some were beautiful. The boy was trampled in the rush to grab the shiny stuff so he chose beauty. And won. She tells him she works in the media, and he asks, Like the internet? and she realizes how young he is, and dreams up an idea for a TV show. And then the wedding. And he watched her walk down the aisle. And he said to her, I’m not nervous. And she hoped that would be his final lie Explosion. Flashback. Love interest. Montage. Travel. Car chase. Flashback. Sex scene. Explosion. Death. Vengeance. Explosion. Justice. End. Time confused him. Twenty years could flash by while a minute felt like an eternity. This explained his failure at both romance and dieting. His mother embarrassed him. No matter what she did. One time, while his friends were over, she asked him if he wanted pickles. Unbelievable! The penny rolls down off the table and comes to rest by the dog. He eats it. A penny saved, she sighs. Tastes like chicken, the dog replies. Hyacinths, she repeats, but he can't say this word, he just can't, given his speech impediment, and he stops walking, and says, You hate me. n Arjun Basu lives in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with his wife and son. To read more about Basu or to read his works, visit twitter.com/#!/arjunbasu or http://arjunbasu.com.
Fiction | 51
by Stephanie Rabig Colleen Toliver Angie Barry
This is no “once upon a time” tale
Curses, Drunken Pirates, and a Gingerbread House Her: Exactly one year after her unwanted exile, the crone who’d ruined her life came to visit. Beauty had no idea how she’d found her. She just strolled into the small clearing that surrounded the dismal shack she called a home, smiling beatifically. She thought about using the horribly nasty things her once-elegant fingernails had turned into to scratch up the witch’s face. “You look exactly the same, I see. Why am I not surprised?” “Of course I look the same!” she snapped. “I can’t get your ridiculous comb out of my hair!” The witch sat down on the edge of a tree stump. She was still smiling. It made Beauty want to scream. Or rather, howl. Even her voice was different now. “Just take the comb out,” she ordered. “No.” Beauty stalked toward her. The woman seemed unconcerned. “Are you going to strike me now? That anxious to be turned into a toad?” Beauty froze. “Why me?” “Because you’re a brat. I don’t much like brats.” “I’ll give that child gold. All right? I’ll give her gold every single day! Just change me back!” “You don’t seem to understand. The curse is irreversible. I can’t do a thing about it.” “What? No. You . . . you wouldn’t do that. Not over something so trifling. No.”
Trapped like this. Forever. If she was telling the truth, Beauty thought, clinging to the idea. A witch who’d do something like this to an innocent girl was capable of anything. “You’re lying.” “Unfortunately for you, I’m not. Would you like to hear the curse?” “I already know it,” she growled. “‘I curse you to be beastly forever, because I’m an insufferable bitch.’” The woman laughed. “The curse is this. ‘May your appearance reflect your soul’. She got to her feet, and then gave her furcovered cheek a pat. “Goodbye, Beauty. I’ll see you in another year. I assume you’ll look the same, if not worse.” Beauty couldn’t even find the breath to insult her as she walked away. She stood there like a cow waiting for the slaughter, mouth open in confusion, and then she fisted her hands in the thick clumps that made up her hair. Her. This was her? This thing that she’d only been able to fully look at once? No. “No,” she hissed. She wouldn’t believe that. Couldn’t. It was the comb. It had to be. The witch had cursed the comb and she was going to get the damned thing out. She stalked over to the stump where she kept her skinning knife, and yanked it free. The comb was just tangled in that accursed fur at the back of her head. If she cut enough of it away, it’d fall out and she would have a bald spot at the back of her
58 | Fiction head but that’d be fine, just stay out here until it grew back and then she could go home, go back to how things should be, back to her friends and her admirers and her fiancé. Not the fiancé, a cruel voice in the back of her mind whispered. Remember how he shouted in fear when he saw you? Remember how he told you to get away from him? How the revulsion was written so clearly on his face? She didn’t have to remember. Because it didn’t matter. As soon as she was back, as soon as she looked the way she should look, then everything would be fine. She shaved away chunks of fur, felt for the back of the comb, couldn’t find it. She could feel patches of skin at the base of her head now, and let out a growl. This stupid thing couldn’t be embedded, could it? Of course not. She just hadn’t cut in the right place, that was — She yelped as the knife slipped and sliced across her skin. Enraged, she jabbed at the base of the comb; if she could just get to the base then she could pop it out and if she had a scar she didn’t care, one scar at the back of her neck she could live with, she just wanted out of this but by all that was holy it hurt — “Enough.” Roughened hands closed around her own, taking the blood-slick knife away before she could even fully comprehend that someone else was out here. Out here. There was moonlight. He could see her. Him: She didn’t scare him. She startled him, the first time he got a clear glimpse of her through the close-knit trees surrounding the ramshackle cabin she’d claimed as her own. But then he hadn’t expected to see anything but deer this deep in the forest, and, well… It was the sort of sight that would take the unsuspecting aback. Yes, there were elements about her that could be very frightening or repulsive. But he was a wolf, in name and essence, and he’d seen far worse. There were dark places in the woods that even the birds avoided. There was the realm of Shadows. And there was the palace, a beautiful and delicate confection on the surface, but
beneath… He shuddered at the memory. And that was the crux of it, really. He shuddered at his memories, but not at the sight of her. Looking at her, what he truly felt was pity. She was an astonishingly single-minded person, and rather than turning her thoughts to the necessities of the approaching winter or to her daily tasks—a negligence that frequently resulted in a smoke-filled cabin, scorched meals, and sliced fingers—she was constantly fretting about her appearance. As if there was anyone out here to worry about. Except for him, of course, but she hardly had to worry about him. He’d been watching her intermittently for over a month, and he’d formed several opinions. The first was that she was a remarkably determined person. While her stubbornness frequently lead her into frustration and trouble—one morning she’d screamed so loudly that every creature for three miles had scattered in fear; then she had thrown a scorched pot through an open window that very narrowly missed his head—there was something admirable about it. Here was a woman who simply refused to take no for an answer. When she set her mind on something, she was willing to do almost anything to have it. It was such a shame that the one thing she’d set her mind to now was so impossibly out of her reach. He knew nothing about who she really was, nor how she came to be here. He didn’t even know her name. But he knew a curse when he saw one. And the one on her was especially powerful. There was also something strangely familiar about the magic clinging to her; he almost recognized the fingerprints pressed into the fabric of the spell… It was quite obvious that she had little previous experience with living off the land. Or with cooking. Cleaning. Mending clothing. Or with managing any domestic chore. The second opinion he’d formed was that she was a woman of some wealth or social standing, someone raised in a relative amount of luxury with servants or a personal maid. But fast on the heels of that opinion was the third: that despite her inexperience, she was remarkably good at picking things up through trial and error. She’d lived here for quite some time, judging by
the size of the midden and the amount of brush that had been gathered, limbs that had been awkwardly hewn away from the closest trees. His sensitive nose picked up layer upon layer of smoke lingering in the tiny clearing, stretching back several months. Yes, she was constantly boiling pots dry and her dress had become a ragged affair of uneven patches. But she was managing to feed herself every day. She’d somehow patched a leaking hole in the roof. And she had learned how to properly swing an axe. When someone so ill-suited with a lifestyle proves so resilient, that demands a certain amount of admiration. Of course, she had a bad temper. He wasn’t sure if it was because she thought herself utterly alone, or if she behaved in a similar fashion before coming to the little glen in the woods, but she was constantly screaming. At her fire, at the frequently blocked chimney, at her dulled knives, at her uncooperative sewing needle, at her matted hair and fur and claws… Her yells echoed through the heart of the woods daily, and when she wasn’t screaming she was muttering to herself in a near constant litany of grievances. Being alone for so long does strange things to people, he well knew. Why, when he first fled into these woods, when he was terrified of being recognized by any of the Queen’s people, he had hidden himself in a similar manner. At about the third month, when the hairy beasties of insanity start nibbling at the edges of your mind, you begin talking to yourself just to break the silence. There were days when he thought about showing himself to her. Simply stepping out of the trees and walking into the clearing one morning as she stood chopping wood. Perhaps offer her a bit of useful advice about the best way to grip things like axes and knives when hands were more paw than hand; casually discuss the benefits of having sharperthan-average teeth, and how hair like that was something of a godsend in disguise when the autumn chill began nipping at the eaves. But he always hesitated. Because it was clear that there was one thing she detested more than her humble living conditions: herself. She cursed herself for clumsiness, she cursed herself for her mistakes, she
Fiction | 59 cursed herself for looking the way that she did. When she came across a still puddle of water, she immediately dashed it into fractured ripples. It was as if it physically pained her to behold even a glimpse of herself. He could only guess how she would react to another person, but he rather supposed it would involve running away and hiding. And then one day she came to visit. He hadn’t seen her in years, but she never really changed. A bit more white in her hair, an extra wrinkle at the corner of her sometimes kind, often sharp, eyes. She was dressed in her peasant grandmother dress, a pale shawl draped across her shoulders. It wasn’t a costume. Not really. She came by those clothes honestly enough, and could sincerely call herself a grandmother of humble origins. But she had also worn furs and silks; she had a silver chest full of gold necklaces and ruby rings; even now she lived in a home with every comfort. Peasant. Soothsayer. Tarot reader. Confidante to royalty. She had so many masks to wear, and the joke was that there was always a grain of truth in every part she played. That was the secret to her power and her magic, and the reason she had outlived any rival. Mother Miriam was honest, and so was her magic. She did not weave falsehoods or cast deceptions—she wielded fact like a sword with an edge sharp enough to slice midnight. Like a diamond, she was infinitely multifaceted, and everything she reflected was a different aspect of reality. He had no delusions; he knew that his mother felt his presence. She now knew that he had lingered frequently in this remote, inaccessible hollow in the forest. Nothing remained hidden from her for long; not if she wanted to find it. But she had not come for him, as he had initially feared when his heart first fluttered in his throat. No, she had come to visit the strange woman. To visit, and perhaps to taunt. Because now he knew who had cursed this woman in the woods. Mother Miriam left as quickly as she had appeared, and the woman’s reaction to her visit was nothing short of manic. She dashed to the stump she used as a rough table, where she skinned the rabbits caught in her ramshackle traps. Even as he
watched, only barely hidden amongst the underbrush, she began to hack away at her hair, knife slipping in her clawed hands and slicing into her fingers. Blood pattered against the leaves at her feet, dripping in large splashes down the ragged fabric of her dress. And that was it. He had wanted to step out on days when she cried beneath maple trees, when she sweated with heavy armloads of firewood, when she shouted angrily at herself over her own foolishness. But it took her blood staining the forest floor to make him finally move. “Enough,” he said firmly, pulling the knife from her hands. Together: One hand pressed to the back of her neck, she scrambled away from the stranger and hurried into her lean-to, pressing her back to the wall. The man moved into the doorway, still holding the knife loosely. She glared at him, secure in the knowledge that he couldn’t fully see the ruin of her face. When he didn’t say anything, didn’t go away, she gritted her snaggled teeth. “Leave.” “How’s your neck?” “It’d be a lot better if you’d let me finish what I was doing. I told you to go.” Then a thought struck her, and she felt her face grow warm. “How long were you there?” “Long enough to know that’s a pretty mean curse.” She bit her lip hard, infuriated and embarrassed to find herself near tears. “This isn’t me,” she said. “She was lying. I’m not like this.” “All right,” he said mildly. And what else could she have expected? ‘I know?’ ‘Of course you’re not?’ What did she care, anyway? It wasn’t as if this man mattered at all. Wandering around the woods startling people and poking his nose in where it didn’t belong. He sat down just to the side of the door, so she couldn’t see him anymore, and remained bafflingly silent. Beauty crossed her arms, wishing she had at least a little of the witch’s magic power. Not much, just enough to send a tiny zap his way and make him go. And of course, enough to get her real life back.
Eventually, she started to talk. Not for very long — she managed to restrain herself that much — but after a year of seeing no one except the woman who’d cursed her to this life, of not speaking to a soul besides herself . . . it was too much to resist. But at least afterwards, when she told him to go, she heard his footsteps moving away from her home. He came back the next night. Far after sundown, when darkness created safety. Why she was still awake, she didn’t know. It certainly wasn’t as if she was waiting for him. Some nights she spoke. Other nights, he did. She preferred those nights. She would close her eyes and listen, sometimes not to the words, just to the sound of his voice, and she would pretend that he was speaking to her in the daylight. That he wouldn’t turn and run if he ever got a good look at her. That she actually had some semblance of a friend out here in this gods-forsaken place. He didn’t often say things that startled her. They kept to innocuous subjects, softly voiced, and things were perfectly fine that way. So when he told her one night that she’d been awfully quiet lately, it made her blink in surprise. “I’ve just spoken to you for several moments.” “I know. I mean during the day.” She sighed, understanding. Now that she knew he was out there somewhere, it made growling at a stubborn stain on her dress a trifle embarrassing. “Well, that’s just how it is now, I suppose.” “But if you aren’t shrieking at inanimate objects, how am I supposed to know you’re all right?” Beauty stared toward the doorway, strongly debating about the merits of heading out into the moonlight just long enough to give him a good swat. Then, reluctantly, she laughed. “You should do that more often. It sounds nice.” And that was the second time he’d startled her tonight. She rarely laughed; the rough, throaty sound was so unlike her old laugh that it disturbed her to hear it. “... it does?” “Yes.” He peered around the doorway as he said it, and though she knew it was impossible in the darkness, for a few sec-
60 | Fiction onds it seemed like he met her eyes. Then he leaned back out of sight, and asked, “Walk with me?” “I . . . well, I don’t think that —” “I won’t look at you, if that’s your concern.” She got to her feet and stepped outside. True to his word, he stood with his back to her. “So where are we going?” she asked quietly. “There’s someplace I’d like you to see.” “What is it?” “If I answered that, it’d spoil the surprise.” Beauty followed happily after that, her mind lighting up will all sorts of possibilities in a way that it hadn’t had a chance to in over a year. Michael would give her presents constantly, necklaces or earrings and once a highly expensive and beautiful dress. And the men who hoped that someday she would leave Michael for them had given her extravagant gifts — one of them had found the most beautiful pair of gloves and. . . Then she realized that all of those gentlemen had been courting her, and she was in danger of thinking of this man in a highly inappropriate way. Still, even that realization couldn’t dampen her mood. The dawn, however, could. Though he had walked ahead of her so far, and had not turned back to look at her, the harshness of daylight as opposed to what the moon allowed made her nervous. “Maybe — maybe we should stop until it gets dark again.” “Are you tired?” “Well, no, I just . . . it’s —” Mistake, she thought. She should’ve just lied and
said she was exhausted. “It’s very . . . very bright out,” she finally grumbled. “The house is only a few moments away,” he said. “Though if you want to stop —” “House?” she asked, feeling panic take hold of her. “You’re taking me to other people?” “No,” he said quickly. “It’s abandoned.” “You’re sure?” “Yes. And I’ll double-check when we get there.” “All right.” She stared at his back skeptically. “So you’re taking me to see an abandoned house?” He chuckled. “Just trust me.” Picturing a decrepit, terrifying place, she trailed after him and wondered exactly what she’d gotten herself into. “Wait here,” he murmured a few moments later, and Beauty paused, trying to peer through the trees and see what their destination was. Maybe he’d only made up the story of an abandoned house to distract her from what they were really there for. “All right,” he called, and she moved forward. Stopping at the edge of the trees, her mouth fell open. It was a house, yes, but unlike any she’d ever seen before. The walkway leading up to it was made of red-and-white swirled candies, and the windows were lined in thick frosting that looked like it had just been applied a few moments ago. And the house itself, instead of being made of stone or bricks, was made entirely out of gingerbread. The entire thing smelled wonderful. Beauty was so fascinated that she almost stepped out into the clearing before she remembered herself. “Is this some-
thing the Fae built?” “I think so,” he said, the first lie he’d told her. The house had actually been built by a witch to lure in children, but they didn’t need to get into that right now. He’d brought her here to try and cheer her up, not tell horrific stories of kids lured away from their homes and never seen again. Knowing that she would never come investigate further as long as he was standing right here, he moved around to the other side of the house. Soon enough, almost the instant he was out of sight, he heard her footsteps. “It’s so beautiful,” she said quietly. “Must’ve taken forever to build.” And the urge to just break off a piece and eat was almost overwhelming. As if sensing her thoughts, he spoke. “Take what you like.” “No, I--” “Just watch what happens.” Beauty hesitated. She was already under one awful curse; she’d heard tales of what happened to people who irritated the Fae. But the smell was too much to resist, and she dipped her pinky finger into the frosting at the bottom corner of a windowsill, where hopefully it wouldn’t be missed. Then she just stared, because though she’d taken a fingerful, it didn’t look like anything was missing. Curious now, she reached up and broke off a gingerbread shingle. The newlyempty area shimmered for an instant, and then a shingle was back. “This is incredible,” she laughed, quickly popping the frosting and a bite of gingerbread into her mouth. “I’m just going to move here.” She’d sampled candies, more gingerbread, frosting, and even a piece of
Fiction | 61 spun-sugar window before she heard a strange whumping noise, and then a dark shape hurtled through the sky and landed right next to the house. Beauty peeked around the corner — she didn’t remember darting around the other side of the house and huddling into a protective ball, but apparently she had — and then frowned. “Is that a cannonball?” she asked. “I forgot they were close by. . .” he muttered, and they both waited a few moments for another odd missile before he picked up the heavy ball and walked off. She crept after him, making sure to stay in the shadows. He stopped next to a large, violet-leafed tree, leaning against the trunk as he called out to the nearby ship. “I believe this belongs to you?” “Ah! There it is!” yelled a man wearing a large black hat. “Be so good as to just toss that back here, good sir?” Then he collapsed into a fit of giggles, the feather in his hat bobbing crazily. “Really shouldn’t play with fire,” the bearded man beside him said. “Ezactly!” the Captain cried. “You’ll burn the whole ship down! Then where’ll we be?” “The Lagoon,” the other man said, his voice taking on a dreamy quality. The Wolf didn’t have to wonder long at the reason why; a young woman with scales arcing up her body rose from the water, swimming lazily, flicking her tail just enough to splash at him. “We can send that back to the ship for you,” she said sweetly. “No! No no no no,” the Captain said quickly. “Last time they gave one back they made a bloody hole in our ship! That was a bad night. Bad night.” Wondering how exactly Captain Hook
and his constantly inebriated pirates still had a ship, he called out again. “You fly the skull and crossbones.” “Aye!” “You ever actually do any pirating?” “You insa- insree- incinerating we can’t pirate? How dare you. I demand your — your shoes. How’s that for piracy?” The Wolf grinned. “Come and get them.” “Now that’s just not fair.” Captain Hook, thinking it over, and then he clapped his hands. “Ah! If you don’t give us your shoes, we’ll fire another cannonball at you!” “May be he’s kinda attached to those shoes, sir,” the bearded man said. “And hey, hey! Howzabout, instead of wasting a cannonball, we ask him for the one he has? Could use it, we could! And if we fire at him it’d just get the shoes dreadfully messy anyway.” “That is a grand idea, Smee. Sir! Would you mind giving us that cannonball? I’m sure a civilian such as yourself has no use for one anyway.” “Certainly, my good man.” And he tossed the ball into the water. To his surprise, the blond-haired mermaid came up with it just a moment later, tossing it from hand to hand like it was a child’s toy. Then she glanced back toward the ship, a wide mischievous grin on her face. “Ohhh, not again,” the Captain said. “Smee! Gather the men! Ready the bailing buckets!” The sound of laughter had him turning away from the ship and the mermaid, looking toward the shadows where Beauty stood, giggling. He walked over towards her and she retreated further into the shadows, her laughter fading. “What are you doing
out here?” she asked, her voice abruptly serious. “What do you mean?” “You’re normal.” He chuckled. “Furthest thing from it, sweetheart.” Beauty shook her head. “You can talk to people. You seem a good man. And you look . . . you look just fine,” she said, looking away more to hide the reddish tint to her face than to hide the patches of fur that grew there. “Why don’t you live in one of the villages?” “Same reason as you,” he finally said. “Curse.” “What kind of curse?” “Used to live in the palace,” he said. “Long time ago. Saw something I shouldn’t have. And my mother, a very powerful witch, cursed me to only be able to live in this forest.” “How awful of her!” He shrugged. “The Queen . . . the Queen might well have been happy to kill me to keep me quiet. Mother made sure I could keep my life.” Beauty just stared at him. She didn’t understand how someone could be like that. If someone had done such a thing to her, she’d be furious at them forever, would quite possibly go to the Fae to see about putting a curse on them right back. And he simply accepted it. “I don’t understand you,” she admitted. “Well then,” he said. “Just have to give it a little more time.” n This excerpt is from the upcoming novel Faerietale, by Angie Barry, Stephanie Rabig and Colleen Toliver. To read more, check out http://faerietalebook.livejournal.com
In the world of Faerietale, two people who might ordinarily have never spoken to each other develop a friendship in the enchanted forest — Beauty, a woman cursed for her vanity; and the Wolf, a man living under a curse of his own.
Metal Men Colleen Toliver
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hunk! She had come to hate that sound. No, hate was hardly a strong enough word. Loathe was only slightly better. Somehow, her vast vocabulary was failing her—despite the hundreds, more like thousands, of books she had read, she had yet to find a word that properly encapsulated all of the anger, disappointment, and disgust she felt every time that gavel came down upon the auctioneer’s podium. The mere loss of material belongings wasn’t what made her grit her teeth so fiercely behind her calm and pleasant mask of genteel civility. It was the way the gentlemen in their elaborate cravats and the women in their lace looked at her, at her sisters, at her father. As if they were insignificant worms that had been foolish enough to wiggle out of the dirt and into their midst. Isabeau had never enjoyed the comfort of illusions. Unlike her more ladylike sisters, she had been born with both eyes wide open. Since childhood she had understood the world, the vagaries of society and the capriciousness of circumstances. While her sisters had enjoyed their refined graces, attending royal balls on the arms of dukes and lords, Isabeau knew how society looked down upon them. They were not of noble birth. They were hardly entitled to preferential treatment or lavish dresses. No, the Trevelyans had come by their fortune through trade. They were hardly better than profiteers. To be sure, their wealth had opened plenty of doors. Even the most snobbish of blue bloods would hesitate before sending money away. Isabeau’s sisters had always been welcomed guests: they were gracious, refined, polite, and—
perhaps most importantly— stunningly beautiful. Unlike their younger sister, they knew when to hold their tongues and bite down on unpleasant opinions. But for all of the fine ladies’ talk of friendship and sweet affection, the moment the news broke that Captain Trevelyan had ruined his family—lost his entire fortune while utterly dashing his daughters’ hopes of ever marrying well—those sophisticates had turned their backs on them. Gone were the invitations and the social calls; gone were the dapper men with their bouquets of flowers. Until the auction, anyway. Isabeau glared out at the collected assembly, many former “friends” of her sisters, all more than eager to lay their hands on the alabaster whale oil lamp, the stained glass jewelry box, the carved grandfather clock with its finely detailed automaton figures. They were vultures, the entire lot of them, hiding behind satin petticoats and silk top hats. She knew they had come here not just to lay claim to the fine collection of furniture and ornaments her family had gathered for over twenty years; they had come here to gloat and revel in the upstarts’ downfall. Her father had dared to rise above the gutter he had been born into, had meant to marry his daughters to landed gentlemen, and Divine Retribution had stepped in to settle the accounts. Not for the first time, Isabeau desperately wished she had been born a man. A man could start a fight, challenge someone to a duel of honor. A man could take a stand, be a force of action. A man could speak his thoughts plainly and let his displeasure be known to the world. She was expected to shake everyone’s hand as they entered and left, and offer sugared biscuits to the ladies.
Never one to play the gracious hostess, Isabeau struggled to refrain from throwing the refreshments in the faces of their ‘guests’. They were all vultures and harpies. They didn’t deserve a modicum of her patience; she had a small enough reserve of that already. She was frustrated by these proceedings, knowing that her older sisters were sitting upstairs in tears, clutching at their lace kerchiefs and in desperate need of their more sensible sister’s firm reassurance. Antoinette and Delphine needed her, and her father had to be attended to—he was on his feet again, and conversing easily and coherently, but he still had wounds that needed fresh bandages. With all of the servants let go, there was no one else to ensure things continued to run smoothly in this household—at least, for the few weeks that it would remain their household. “This must be very tedious and bothersome for you,” someone said at her elbow, the deep voice taking her by surprise. She turned sharply to look at the man who had stepped up to her so silently. He was tall, incredibly thin, and his dark suit and top hat were perfectly immaculate. A bronze watch chain was just visible, dangling from his vest pocket. “May I ask for your name, sir?” Isabeau said, unable to keep the tartness from her voice. “I prefer to know where I stand before I say anything too rash.” “Lord Theodore Wolfe, at your service, Lady Trevelyan.” He made a short half bow to her, smiling in earnest. “Your tongue’s reputation proves most accurate.” “If I were a true lady, Lord Wolfe, I would be greatly scandalized by that statement,” Isabeau said, lifting one dark eyebrow. “As it is, I should ask you to keep such thoughts to yourself, if only because my
64 | Serial novel family’s reputation can hardly handle another smear.” “I am most chastised,” Lord Wolfe said quickly. “Please accept my very sincere apologies. I had hoped to make your acquaintance under more auspicious circumstances, but alas—I have lost the knack for a timely introduction. I hope that your family’s current… troubles haven’t fallen too heavily upon your shoulders, m’lady.” “Why, no, sir,” she said smoothly, voice like honey. “It’s been a delight to arrange auctions and handle the bank’s inquiries. And I simply adore watching unsympathetic strangers touch my family’s most treasured possessions while I’m reduced to the role of serving girl.” The gentleman’s mouth twitched in a hastily aborted smile. If she hadn’t been so angry, Isabeau would have admired his composure and fine features. She had never seen such sharp cheekbones before. “It is rather shameful, isn’t it?” he murmured in a low whisper. “It puts me in mind of the ancient Romans, always so eager to see blood spilt. This town does enjoy a good tragedy, doesn’t it?” “It hardly matters to me, how this town chooses to conduct itself,” Isabeau said. “We will soon be rid of it. Perhaps you shouldn’t talk so openly to one as lowered in fortunes, Lord Wolfe. Your reputation could be smeared by proximity. And it is not as if we know one another well enough for such frank conversation.” She turned ever so slightly, refocusing her attention on the auctioneer, who was now holding up a small porcelain music box. Engraved upon the lid in delicate lines was a pastoral scene exquisitely painted in soft hues: a willow tree with a young woman sitting beneath it, a unicorn lying stretched out at her feet, its noble head resting peacefully in her lap. Isabeau’s hands clenched painfully at her sides as she gritted her teeth. It had been her mother’s, a wedding gift from her father, and it was Antoinette’s most treasured heirloom. “This lovely piece is a Jacques LeTourner from 1726, hand-carved and painted by the master himself. Shall we begin the bidding at an even two
hundred pounds?” “Three hundred pounds,” Lord Wolfe said immediately, lifting his elegant hand. “Three hundred to my Lord Wolfe,” the auctioneer said with a genteel smile. “Shall we have three and twenty?” A woman swaddled and sweating in an immense fur coat—Isabeau could not abide such frivolous people, determined to display their wealth at the cost of their personal comfort—lifted a hand heavy with rings. “Four hundred,” Wolfe returned before she had even lowered her hand. “Four and thirty?” the auctioneer suggested. The woman shook her head slightly, heavy-lidded eyes narrowed in displeasure. “No other bidders?” the man asked hopefully. “No? Then the piece goes to Lord Wolfe, at a very handsome price.” Wolfe carefully took the music box, shook the auctioneer’s hand with a thin-lipped smile, and coolly returned to Isabeau’s side. “I hope you will enjoy that, milord,” Isabeau said, face a smooth and emotionless mask. “I purchased this for the simplest of pleasures,” Wolfe replied, taking her hand and placing the box into her palm before she could pull away. “To give it back to its rightful owner.” “I beg your pardon, but—” Isabeau said quickly in a shocked undertone, glancing up to meet this strange Lord’s eyes. There was something indefinably feline in that sharply sculpted face, especially around the pale eyes. “I couldn’t help but notice your reaction,” he explained. “I could see that it
pained you to lose this beauty. It is the least I can do, as a token of my respect.” “And if you could please explain this respect you hold for my family that would justify such an expense gift?” Isabeau demanded. “I have followed your father’s career with interest, Lady Trevelyan. I was very moved by his courage and tenacity—it is rare that a man born to his circumstances will so successfully overcome his humble beginnings and raise so meteorically in what is widely deemed ‘good society’. I have been in the shipping business for many years, and can recognize and appreciate a quality captain when I see one. When your father is behind the wheel of an air ship… He is not only a captain, but an artist, with an adventurer’s heart. Such men are in short supply these days.” She looked down at the music box. “I don’t think I can accept this, Lord Wolfe.” “Nonsense. It means far more to you and yours than it ever will to anyone here. If I overstep my boundaries, please do not hesitate to tell me so. But… am I correct in assuming that you are a woman who values honesty?” “Only fools value lies,” Isabeau replied. “Quite so. And you appreciate people who speak plainly, candidly? You value someone who speaks their mind?” “Yes, I do.” “Then, I shall not hesitate to be completely frank with you, Miss Trevelyan. I am quite disgusted by gatherings of this sort, for I find that only the basest of people can take enjoyment in the misfortune of others. I would not be here if I did not respect your father so much. You see, I came hoping to speak with him. I hope his injuries are not still so grave that he cannot receive visitors?” “He is doing better, but he tires easily,” Isabeau said after a moment’s hesitation. “I am glad to hear he is recovering. Does it seem feasible to hope that he will one day return to the sky?” “I cannot say with any conviction,” she replied. “He may heal in body, but it may be that he will lack the will to captain again. He is no longer a young man, and the skies seem to be more and more a young man’s territory.” Wolfe sighed
Serial novel | 65 heavily, regretfully. “Yes, this sadly seems to be true. I have a son, not much older than yourself, who is eager to captain a ship of his own. But I fear that he lacks the wisdom necessary to temper his youthful enthusiasm. He could benefit much from the guidance of someone like your father—a man who has experience and time-tested courage.” “Stubbornness is more apt,” Isabeau said before she could catch the words. Her cheeks flushed hotly in embarrassment. “I beg your pardon, Lord Wolfe. A daughter should not speak ill of her father.” “I believe anyone has the right to say whatever they wish,” Lord Wolfe said firmly. “A woman has the right to speak as freely as a man, in my opinion, as long as she has half a mind to support her words.” She hesitated. “…I told my father that he was taking an unpardonable risk,” she said finally, quietly, for Lord Wolfe’s ears only. “Before every voyage, I always consult the weather gauges. I knew there would be a terrible squall, and I told him that taking our finest ship into the heart of it, with a full cargo, was a terrible idea. But my father would hear none of my warnings—he was bound and determined to fly straight into that storm, and he refused to give me a satisfactory reason as to why.” “And if your father had listened to you, and had placed more value on your advice, your family would not now be reduced to selling your antique tea sets and fine silks,” Lord Wolfe said shrewdly, nodding slightly. “Well, Miss Trevelyan, I hope you do not find this improper, but I had a business proposition to extend to your father. Perhaps I should explain the terms to you—and if you deem them prudent, you could then pass them along to your father, as he is still not ready for visitors?” “You would tell me, a mere woman, about your very complicated business deal?” Isabeau asked, her voice tinged with incredulity. “Yes, I would. Because it is clear to me that you are a woman of intelligence. As it is difficult to find intelligence anywhere these days, I value it wherever I find it. Gender counts for very little in my scorebook, Miss Trevelyan.” “If you would care to stay after the auction, Lord Wolfe,” she said quietly. “I would be glad to hear what you have to offer.” qrq
Antoinette was crying when she finally rejoined them in the sunroom. They were very quiet tears, half-hidden behind her ever-present kerchief; Antoinette had always been a little ashamed of her highstrung tendencies, but could no more hide her emotions than Isabeau could completely curb her tongue. Delphine sat on the window seat, her legs and long skirts tucked beneath her, staring down blankly at the wagons and carriages departing— now laden with many of their former belongings. Isabeau carefully set down the hot kettle she’d been carrying and began busily setting up the tea service. She didn’t look up at either of her sisters until she’d finished stirring the sugar cubes into their cups and added an extra dash of honey for Antoinette. “Come now, girls,” she said bracingly, holding out the cups. “Most of the worst is over now.” “I somehow doubt that,” Delphine said, slowly unfolding. It took some time—she was extremely tall for a woman, with elegant limbs that never failed to make Isabeau feel clumsy and awkward in comparison. Her long dark hair had been pinned up into a severe bun. Her dress was a charcoal gray, simple cotton unadorned with lace or ribbon or fancy buttons. There were dark shadows under her pale blue eyes. She looked like exactly how she felt: in mourning. “Yes, we still have the house,” Antoinette said weakly, her voice shaking. “The worst will be leaving it, knowing we can never come back.” Isabeau sat in the chair beside her as she accepted the cup of tea and laid a supportive hand on her arm. With Antoinette there was always an impression that she would blow away on a strong wind, she was that delicate and small. A head shorter than Isabeau, her complexion had come out ghostly pale and golden where her sisters were dark and freckled. She alone looked like their mother, all spun glass and fairy lights. And, like their mother, she had a weak heart and a tearful disposition. “Have you seen father yet today?” Isabeau asked, taking Antoinette’s free hand and rubbing some warmth back into it as her sister sipped her tea. “He hobbled in not long after the auction began,” Delphine said. “To kiss us both and tell us to stay strong. He sounded
rather bad. I hope he’s not having a relapse.” Isabeau frowned. “I’ll check on him. Both of you are to finish that pot and eat the sandwiches I brought. If I come back and there’s anything left on that tray, it will go very badly for the pair of you.” She stepped towards the door, then hesitated, hand slipping into her apron’s pocket. “Antoinette, I have something for you.” “Oh!” her sister exclaimed as she took the music box, the cloud across her face breaking into brilliant sunshine. “How is this possible?” “A family admirer,” Isabeau said simply, smiling softly as she brushed a golden strand back behind her sister’s ear. Antoinette reached up to grip Isabeau’s hand. “Thank you, Izzie,” she said fondly, violet-blue eyes bright with unshed tears. qrq Her father’s bedroom smelled of sickness—or rather, it had that immediately recognizable atmosphere of every sickroom in the world. The mustiness of perpetually closed windows, sweat, old blood and fear. She wondered if the next owner would be able to purge the sadness from the room, or if it would simply be locked up and left to rot completely. A single gas lamp had been lit. Isabeau frowned at that. The entire house had been properly wired for electrical light five years ago, and her father had embraced the improvements wholeheartedly. “This is yet another step into the future, m’dears!” he had announced joyfully. “The air will be cleaner, the light brighter. Look! You can almost see over the next horizon.” He lay in his overlarge bed with the sheets pulled up to his chest. A book lay face down beside him, pages crumpling at the edges. His spectacles dangled crookedly from one ear. It frightened her, sometimes, just how quickly he had aged. Her father was no
66 | Serial novel longer a young man, now well into his sixties, but he had never seemed his age. Now he looked even older than he in fact was, his thick hair now pure white and his face sunken. Where once there were only laughter lines there were now deep, craggy wrinkles. He audibly creaked when he moved, thanks in some part to the leg braces he was now forced to wear until the bones had set properly. But as terrible as it was to see the toll all of this had taken on her father, it was even worse to hear him speak. Ezekiel Trevelyan had been a man with a fire in his soul, a passion for adventure and a thirst for knowledge. When he spoke of his business, of his daughters, of his dreams for the future there had always been such joy behind his words, an unparalleled and giddy excitement one expected to hear coming from the mouths of young boys, not grown men past their prime. He had been a force of life. But the accident and subsequent waning of his family’s reputation had drained that vital force from him. He was so listless and quiet now, his voice weighted down by sorrow and disappointment. “How are you feeling today, Father?” Isabeau asked, busying herself with straightening pillows, gathering the dirty breakfast dishes onto a tray. There was nothing coddling about his youngest daughter—she was as businesslike and firm as her sisters were ethereal and delicate. Ezekiel smiled wanly from his cocoon of blankets; it was frequently a relief to him that one of his daughters had more of his stamp than his wife’s, God rest her soul. Sophie had been a lovely woman, a fine wife and mother. But she had also been more fairy than solid woman, with little common sense or real intelligence. While her sharp wit and sharper tongue may have set her apart from most women, and ruined her chances with most genteel society, he hoped that Isabeau never felt too keenly that her unwomanly traits were burdensome rather than a blessing. It was refreshing to see a lady who knew her own mind, and he was more than a little proud of her. Yes, he loved all of his girls— but truth be told, Isabeau would always
be his favourite. She had not only his dark features but his heart, and a deep thirst to prove herself. “Better today than yesterday,” he finally answered, when she had fixed that dark and demanding eye on him. “How went the auction?” “Miserably,” she said candidly. “It took my last pinch of patience to refrain from smashing everything just to spite them.” “I’m sorry this has all fallen to you, Athena,” he said, using his old pet name for her. She half-smiled at that; he only ever called her Athena when he was feeling especially maudlin. “I will be out of this bed and handling our affairs again by next week, I swear it.”
“If you push yourself too hard, you’ll undo all of the semi-careful nursing I’ve done these past weeks,” Isabeau admonished, helping him sit up and handing him a cup of tea. “And that would make me more than a little cross. I’d rather you heal fully than too quickly, Father. Now, what would you like for dinner tonight? Great Aunt Gertrude sent over some ham. Sandwiches wouldn’t be outside of my abilities.” “Oh, Isabeau,” her father sighed, patting her hand as she sat down on the edge of his bed. “The extremes you girls are forced to deal with now. I’m so sorry to have driven you to this.” “We shall manage somehow. In fact… Father, what do you know of Lord Theodore Wolfe?” “Very little. I know him by reputation, of course. He’s a very wealthy and very ambitious gentleman. He owns rather more than half of the shipping companies in England by now, I believe. Why do you ask after Lord Wolfe?” “He approached me at the auction today. We had a very interesting conversation—he
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admires you greatly, it seems, and wishes to help us out of our current quagmire.” “And how does he propose to do that?” Ezekiel demanded, straightening against his bank of pillows. “He said he would be willing to sponsor another voyage, lend us enough collateral to begin rebuilding your fleet. It would not be much, but it could be enough to start from scratch as you once did.” Isabeau did not wish to tell him the full extent of their bargaining, knowing he would immediately disapprove. For all that her father loved her, and took great pride in her accomplishments, he was still firmly of the old guard and in his mind an air ship was no place for a young lady. “And who would captain this new ship? How much interest would we be expected to repay?” her father demanded, still the shrewd businessman. “Lord Wolfe recommended his son, Simeon, as captain,” she said quickly, so he would not catch the telltale flush across her cheeks. “He’s a welleducated man, who has sailed on several voyages with his father, and is ready to prove himself. As for the interest, it’s very reasonable.” “His words or—” “Father,” Isabeau said sharply. “I recognize a valid transaction when I see one.” Ezekiel sighed. “Yes, I’m sure you do, m’dear. You’ve always had a sound head for figures.” “Among other things. This may be our best option. You cannot expect Antoinette and Delphine to adjust easily to a pauper’s lifestyle. And it will be several weeks, if not months, before you are fully recovered. As I cannot go to work on the family’s behalf, the least I can do is supervise this business.” “Yes, I suppose you are right,” Ezekiel finally said, after a painfully long pause. Isabeau released the breath she had hardly been aware of holding, and smiled bracingly. “I only hope we do not discover this is a devil’s bargain too late to escape it.” “Try to stay optimistic.” Isabeau leaned in and kissed his stubbled cheek. “You know I never go into anything without both eyes open.” n OF AIRSHIPS AND METAL MEN is a serial novel that will appear in installments in every issue of Outlet Magazine. Authors Angie Barry and Colleen Toliver are senior staff writers of Outlet Magazine. This installment was written by Angie Barry.
Poetry | 67
Get to the going by Ira Potter She glides on patterns of breath, untouched by the dampness that surrounds the light. Sturdy and intangible like the wisps of her blowing kiss. Feel me out and send me on, talk to me in chains of riddles. Tell me that you like it and I’ll know you for what you want to be. Wrapped in my cool hand like shadows of frost forming on a stranger’s lash, unjustified accounts of the heroic things you thought up for me to fail. I stutter through some rambling notion of where I’ve been going, all along turning blue and red and sickly green by the pewter of your statuesque. Unquestionably a matter of perception by my third party scenario friend, peeking ‘round the corner at paranoid illusions I created in my absence.
Shouting chorus lines in a bansheed state I run through the gallery of my mind, churning at the intersection wavering on the brink of indecision of where to turn right. Heavy breathing gets me nowhere, and the clock is screaming for an echo to take this away. Here he is, folks, all bundled up and ready to play in the snow-plowed hills of worry. Cascades of applause and I’m not bowing, just doubling over to puke some more of you out of my soul to restore some semblance of a functioning digestive system. It doesn’t work when all there was had gone hours ago. But I huddle and try again anyway, just to hear some sound in my wardrobe. Chinking away at my armor while you still fly high above me on your steam cloud. I think I might pick myself up just enough to recover in front of them, lest they think me some crazed individual that can’t see how bright it is at noon. But don’t they realize the hole I’m in doesn’t
allow for daylight to reach me? I don’t have a curtain, it’s been nailed to the wall and I’m two feet too short to reach it anymore. Someone took my boots from me and I can’t wear enough socks to compensate. Then the door bursts open and the air calls me out to wrestle my breath. The crispness is almost rejuvenating, but I choke anyway, unused to the purity. Slowly I gulp it down like a parched immigrant, basking in the newness of life. Several yards from the end, and it’s time I started thinking. Call me up to your lips and breathe a little kiss to me, and I know it’s not gone. It was just so impromptu I was taken off guard for the ride. A fog bath of indifference separated it just enough to make me panic. And I’m apt to those types of things, when you get to the going.
The first and last line between the sun coming up tomorrow and Hell on Earth.
DARKWATCH Coming Soon
68 | Fiction
DarkWatch Average day sts
by Zach Applebee Katrina Lynn Joshua Patterson
Episode 0 Act III
Talbot’s ears perked at the MIDI tune echoing down the empty hallway of the executive wing. He scowled in silence as he signaled to the others to stop. That was a cell phone, he thought as the corresponding shiver sent sharp pains through his healing wounds. Oh, bloody hell. He kept his voice low as spoke into his radio. “Alpha to Command, the subject may have a hostage. Please advise.” “Damn.” The curse cut through the empty static in Ellington’s cold voice. “Apparently our cover story was closer to the truth than I intended. Alpha, try to negotiate a release, if possible.” “Belay that order,” spoke a familiar Scottish voice, eerily calm. The team could almost hear the panic forming on the director’s face as Zeb said his piece. “Alpha, you are weapons free, but keep the noise down. I want you to be the last thing he never sees. We don’t negotiate with monsters, do I make myself clear?” Talbot looked at Imogen and swore he saw her fighting back a malicious, toothy grin. His lips curled at the corner. “Yes, sir,” he said quietly. “Consider the situation sanitized.” “I thought you didn’t want to do paperwork,” Imogen added. “It’s on his authority, so it’s his paperwork. Gloria, find them.” The thin girl’s eyes were closed as she leaned against a wall, bare palms on the wood handrail, searching for the echoes of scared thoughts resonating through the hall. Now that she knew he had a hostage, it didn’t matter that she could barely get a read off of the subject. It was like their target held a tracking beacon at gunpoint. “Already on it, boss.” A few seconds passed and she opened her eyes, deep pools of blue. “Executive Suite, boardroom A, about two hundred yards up. He’s beginning to destabilize.” The Corruption’s taking hold, Talbot thought. We need to hurry. “Let’s hit it, Alpha, go go go. They’re not paying us by the hour!”
qrq “Who’s that?” the gaunt guard asked angrily. “Who’s calling you?” Elliot tried to swallow, but the saliva evacuated long ago from fear. “It’s my wife.” The guard sat straighter in the black leather chair, gun extended. Elliot instinctively shrunk into himself, trying to be a smaller target. Not that it would do him good at point-blank range. “Show me,” the guard growled, and suddenly Elliot was regretting the cute nickname he had put Chloe under in his phone. Still, he handed the vibrating lump of over-priced plastic to his captor. The blue-clad man stared at it with his sunken eyes—and twisted his face into what looked like an old man pretending to be a monster. “Who’s ‘Queen Bee?’” “I told you, it’s my wife.” Elliot’s pleas fell on deaf ears. qrq “Bullshit,” they heard through the door. Alpha team pressed against the wall around it, Talbot and Gloria on one side while Imogen took the other. From what they could hear in the room, an argument was escalating rapidly. It would only be a matter of time before the Corruption would rear its ugly head. Imogen made the same hand motion she made in the stairwell, three fingers extended and two flicks towards the closed door. This time Talbot nodded. There was no time for stealth, only speed and precision. Imogen spun a quick one hundred eighty degrees on her right foot and planted her left forcefully against the wood, right below the metal handle. The door swung open with ease once freed from the now-destroyed doorframe. Imogen took point and the others followed close behind, ready for combat. qrq It sounded like an explosion. The door burst inward and three soldiers filled the void it left. Elliot’s captor moved impossibly
Fiction | 69 fast, grabbing his prisoner to hide behind. Elliot felt something sharp against the right side of his belly and the weight of the guard’s gun arm over his right shoulder. “You son of a bitch,” the guard spat, “you led them right to me. You were with them the whole time.” The soldier in front, a dark skinned woman, shouted. “Let him go! If you let him go, you might live through this!” Even Elliot could tell that the only way she had a shot would be if she put a bullet through him. Looking at the unfamiliar eyeinsignia where her unit patch was supposed to be didn’t inspire confidence that she would not take that option. Oh my God, he found himself thinking for a moment, was this guy actually telling the truth? Elliot’s stomach started to churn and his connection to the world around him seemed to grow fuzzy around the edges. His head felt light but his body felt heavy, like a hook in his spine trying to drag him through the floor. The last words he could understand before the darkness overtook him were from the guard. “Why don’t you come get him, princess?” qrq Their subject and his human shield faded into nothingness before them and Gloria let out a primal scream. She fell to the ground, hands clutching the sides of her head. Talbot knelt by the young woman, checking her vitals. He saw a trickle of blood beginning to flow from her nose and shook his head. It’s happening. It’s actually happening. The last time he had seen someone react like that, he ended up fighting for his life against an abomination shrouded in black and surrounded by the bodies of everyone in St. Mark’s Square. The Corruption was a dangerous, powerful thing. A natural disaster with no recourse for its actions. Before he could snap off orders Imogen was already gone, her pistol falling to the carpeted floor with a quiet thud, discarded. Talbot swore to himself again as the whimpering subsided from Gloria. He watched the cobalt eyes bounce back and forth randomly and felt his body tense. In combat, he was skilled. First aid, on the other hand, was a bit lacking. Don’t be a seizure, don’t be a seizure, don’t be a seizure ... The child-like tones of Gloria’s voice snapped him out of his improvised mantra. “He’s coming. He’s coming so fast. Monsters have bogeymen too. He should hide under the covers.” qrq Whenever Imogen shifted it felt like she was working an unused muscle; a painful but oddly pleasant burn arced through her being, sending her endorphins into overdrive. Still, like a muscle too weak to work on its own, she knew that it would eventually shred if she spent too long flexing it. Imogen was arched over in a defensive stance, knife held in an underhanded fashion, vision still blurred from the exertion of the shift. She could feel her brain kick into high gear to compensate for the disorientation. The fog soon lifted and she was face to face with DI-1917 and his unconscious captive. She noticed the tell-tale signs of advanced burnout immediately; his skin was stretched like rubber over rapidly deteriorating muscle, his dark eyes were heavily glazed over, and she could hear his labored breathing from ten feet away. Imogen knew that he would either drop dead from exhaustion and starvation or would convalesce into a black-shrouded beast that would be nigh
unstoppable in a matter of minutes. However it played out, there was an immediate danger to the hostage. She couldn’t allow that, no matter how much she wanted to. There’s a time for pragmatism and this wasn’t it, not with an innocent life on the line. “Let him go,” Imogen said, her voice carrying the command with authority. “I know you’re scared and hungry. Just let him go and I can help you.” The guard spat. “Help me? Butchers prying into my skull for information, and you call that help?” “We give you a place to live your life in peace.” “You give us life in a cage or you put us in the ground. You stop us from taking our place in the world, where we belong!” Imogen took two steps forward, tightening the gap between them. “We protect you from them just as we protect them from you. Think about it, man. Do you even realize what the government would do if they found out about your powers?” She tried for another step but her quarry’s shout froze her in place. Imogen stole a glance at that hostage and saw his eyelids flutter. qrq Elliot awakened, still in the chokehold. The woman from before was there holding some sort of knife, hunched over like someone in a bad kung-fu flick. He could see the guard’s gun pointed at the soldier in front of them, but the sharp metal whatever that was against his side seemed to have disappeared. He tried to signal her with his eyes. She met his gaze for a brief moment and gave him a small nod. “The government would do the same thing as you,” the guard said. Elliot ignored his confusion; clearly he had missed something while in lala land. “They would do worse,” the soldier replied. “They would tear you to shreds and try to make a weapon out of you.” Elliot saw the soldier—no name tag on her fatigues, which he found odd—take a step towards them and felt his body jerk as the guard waved the gun frantically towards her, trying to scare her off. “One more step, bitch, and I blow your pretty little brains all over the floor and tear your friend here apart limb from limb.” She shook her head. “We both know guns won’t work while we’re here. If you want to shoot me, unshift and let the boy go.” Wow, that was ballsy. Elliot struggled against the unyielding grip around his neck. Something that felt like writhing snakes wrapped around his wrists and he glanced down. Black, rubber-like tendrils were coming from behind him, slowly snaking up his arms and burning like fire where they touched his bare flesh. He could feel his internal organs beginning to rearrange themselves as he broke into a cold sweat. His brain murmured not-so-sweet nothings, growing louder and urging him to act. A dark presence was beginning to take hold of his muscles, and he knew that he became just as dangerous to the soldier as his captor. Elliot tried to fight off the encroaching darkness but was failing. “Run,” Elliot croaked, trying to warn her. “Run.” The soldier ignored him, leaping forward to strike. Elliot moved to the side as best he could as her blade dug deep into the shoulder of the guard. The man behind him howled and another set of tendrils shot past him, knocking her back.
70 | Fiction “Behold evolution,” the guard said with a laugh. His voice seemed not his own; it somehow managed to sound more sinister. Elliot struggled against the black bonds around his wrists. Bright rage began seeping through the darkness in his thoughts and his strength grew. He could feel the guard teeter unexpectedly as he spread his arms apart. He could hear flesh tearing. Pinpricks of heat and pain began to explode across his back and extend through the man behind him. Through prehensile phantom limbs he could feel bones crack, lungs collapse, and a heart racing. He didn’t know if it was his own. At this point, he wasn’t sure he cared. “Leave her alone,” Elliot growled over the gasping behind him. “Leave us both the hell alone, you freak!” qrq Imogen struggled against the tentacles around her neck, fighting to breathe. She saw the Corruption leapfrog from DI-1917 to the hostage and prepared for the end. Instead, 1917 flew back into the wall, the manifestations from the hostage holding him there. Two more of the inky black appendages flicked quickly through the air, severing the grip of the ones around her neck. She couldn’t keep herself from falling to the ground and gasping for air. The captive lifted 1917 in the air again, slamming him through the table in the middle of the room with surprising strength, sending splinters and heavy pieces of finished lumber sailing through the air and fading into nothingness as they shifted away from that particular time. And then he was gone—no, wait, she saw him standing on top of 1917, the subject’s left arm sailing through the air away from his body. Both men growled and the hostage was gone again. Imogen couldn’t believe her eyes. Is he shifting again while shifted? Not possible. Not even if he’s Corrupted. The hostage was beside her now, lifting her gently and pulling her to the wall. She could see his dark tendrils flickering like the tongues of many snakes, sensing the air. Imogen desperately wanted to get away, but his grip was firm enough to prevent her from falling. “Are you ok?” he asked. Imogen gave him a puzzled look; those overtaken by the Corruption were supposed to be nearmindless beasts trying to kill everything that had a pulse. This man was…something different. “What the hell are you?” She felt the wall supporting her back as he withdrew his careful touch. He didn’t answer. Imogen guessed he didn’t know either. DI-1917 howled and came to his feet, extending his remaining arm at the pair. The hostage—if she could even think of him like that anymore—was gone again, no doubt closing the distance between him and the murderous beast. Disembodied tentacles slammed their way through the torso of 1917 from many different directions, causing him to howl in pain as they slowly lifted him into the air, leaking bodily fluids and emitting a smell that she recognized as the pungent aroma of perforated bowels. The hostage was back on their level again, underneath the suspended, howling murderer. “We may be evolved, like you said earlier,” the hostage
shouted, “but that gives us no right to play God.” The disembodiment seemed effortless. Limbs, part of a ribcage, fragments of teeth and bone hit the ground and disappeared, bouncing back to their normal timeline. And the hostage stood unwavering the whole time, being showered in the blood, eyes seething with rage. Her vision was starting to fade. Imogen felt herself slide sideways down the wall, coming to a rest on the floor. She felt tired and knew she overdid it, kicking herself for skipping breakfast. She wanted to shift back, tell the others what happened, but her eyelids were so damn heavy…. qrq Later That Evening… qrq Zeb leaned back in his chair and stretched his back. It was complaining about the abuse it suffered while he was hunched over the desk filling out reports. He ignored it and sipped his coffee, still trying to process their newest additions in the medical ward. The Institute doctors called it burnout. The collection teams called it screwed. Shifting — or any anomalous power, for that matter — took massive amounts of energy under normal circumstances let alone stressful ones. If a shifter didn’t have enough calories in their system, they would rapidly begin to deteriorate. The body would eventually begin to consume itself at a startling rate until it turned to dust. According to the memo on Imogen, the diagnosis was mild burnout from overexertion. Elliot Washington, however…. A light knocking at his door jarred him from his thoughts. “Door’s open,’ he called over his shoulder. Zeb stood to greet the visitor as she walked through the door. Ellington walked in without a word, staring down her nose. Her hair was down, framing her hawk-like face. She scowled and nodded. “You wanted to see me?” The question was curt, just as he had expected it. “Yes, I did. What is the status on Washington’s wife?” Ellington allowed herself a little grin. “I have our people delivering the news right now.” qrq The doorbell rang and Chloe’s head sunk into her hands. He promised he’d come home. He promised…. The officer was truly sorry for her loss, she could tell, but that didn’t make anything any easier, did it? She leaned into his shoulder and wept for the better part of an hour and, to his credit, he didn’t budge. “There, there, lass,” he said, his British accent almost lost in the whisper. “He’s in a better place now.” Chloe sobbed quietly and nodded. It looked like she would have to get used to having the house to herself after all. qrq “Very good. Now, about this morning,” Zeb continued, pausing for effect. “You were not thrilled with my change of plans. Care to explain yourself?” Ellington stood straight and focused her eyes on the far wall. “With all due respect, it was my operation and my chance to fix what went wrong. You shouldn’t have butted in.” Zeb shook his head. “That’s where you’re wrong. Your teams missed seventeen dead bodies. Seventeen. That’s thirty-one
Fiction | 71 corpses whose blood is on your incompetent hands. Before that, even, you allowed a high-risk asset to escape his cell and couldn’t trace him. Tell me why I should have even given you that chance to begin with.” She opened her mouth to speak, but shut it quickly. Ellington’s nerves were showing through, crumpling the lines of her suit as well as her face. Zeb simply stared. He knew she could see where this conversation was going. “A Corrupted breached the facility. He took a damn hostage. Do you realize what that could mean?” Ellington didn’t answer. “It thinks. It hunts. And it’s trying to spread. “The Darkwatch Institute is the first and last line between the sun coming up tomorrow and Hell on Earth. Sometimes three people stop the world from ending twice before breakfast. In order to do our jobs, we can’t afford screw ups, especially of this magnitude. Do you understand?” Ellington tried to wet her mouth with spit, but it was failing her. She settled for a nod and said, “It won’t happen again.” The black blade extended from Zeb’s right wrist quicker than she could see. He closed the distance and plunged it through her midsection. She felt his fist connect before she even noticed her impalement. Ellington gasped for breath, wide eyes staring back at her former commander, pleading with him to stop. “You are right,” Zeb said grimly, twisting the dark metal lodged in the director’s midsection. “It won’t. When we ate the apple, we condemned ourselves. It’s our job to make sure we didn’t condemn everyone else.” qrq Elliot woke in a white room. He examined his surroundings. No windows, high ceiling, bright fluorescent lights. A hospital room. Different hospital, by the color of the walls; an unusually cheery green ran around the room about a yard above the floor, sage above it. The young man frowned when he tried to move his hand to scratch his face but was stopped by leather.
“Huh,” he said. The events at the hospital were a blur; blood and pain and darkness blended into half-forgotten follies of the past. A door opened across from the foot of his bed. A short woman with dark hair crossed the empty space of the room and grabbed his chart. Something surprised her and she looked him in the eye. Elliot weakly waved. “Oh my,” she said, “we thought you’d be out for at least a couple weeks.” Elliot shook his head slowly, trying to clear out the cobwebs. “Pardon?” “You came in in a coma,” she said matter-of-factly. “Looks like you’re made of tough stuff, 88.” “What? A coma?” His question was ignored as she checked his vitals and marked the appropriate sections on his chart. She turned back to him and smiled. “You’re lucky,” she said. “Anyway, welcome to the Darkwatch Institute, DI-1988. We’ll be working together in the future.” The nurse left just as suddenly as she came in. He called after her. “Hey hold on!” The door shut silently behind her. “Wait just a damn minute! What’s going on?!” No response. Elliot relaxed against his pillow as best he could and sighed. It didn’t help him steady his mind, though. That guard, he was actually right on the money. But what does that mean for me? qrq “Yeah they come to snuff the rooster Yeah here come the rooster, yeah” -“Rooster,” Alice in Chains n WANT MORE? You can follow DarkWatch on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/DarkwatchInstitute.
About DarkWatch “DarkWatch” is a web-published serial of short stories set up with five acts in each episode and approximately 12 episodes per season. The story focuses on one group of agents working for DarkWatch Institute, an organization whose motto is “The dedication to study and acquire paranormal objects and beings to use in defense against threats of similar nature.” In the episode “Average Day” (production code 0x00pilot), Elliot Washington leaves his home one morning to report for his first day at a new job. Upon arrival, he is captured by an escaped prisoner with supernatural powers known as “shifting,” being able to remove oneself from the normal flow of time to a point a halfsecond into the future, and is held hostage. It is up to Collection Team Alpha of the DarkWatch Institute to recapture or eliminate the prisoner while keeping the hostage safe. Elliot, we soon come to find out, has powers of his own.
72 | Miss Informed
You have questions. She has answers. An advice column for creative people.
Let there be light! Talk about cameras
Dear Miss Informed: What is an easy way to know how a specific F-stop or shutter speed will affect your photos? — Learning photographer Dear LEARNING: One of the most common jobs of the F-stop is to deal with the focal point of an image. Mechanically, the F-stop simply tells you how wide or narrow the camera aperture is open. A low number, like F/2.8, means the aperture is open wide. A high number, like F/32, means the aperture opening is small. When the aperture opening is wide (F/2.8), the camera focuses on one point and captures it in sharp focus. The remainder of the photo is gently out of focus, drawing the audience’s attention to the in-focus element of the photo. When the aperture is narrow (F/32), everything is equally in focus. This generally is less desirable since it means everything in the photo is competing for the viewer’s attention. This concept of part of the image being in focus and part of the image being out of focus is called “depth of field.” The concept of depth of field is similar to squinting. Imagine trying to see something far away in the distance. The wider open your eyes, the lesser your focus. If you squint, you can draw it into focus. Camera apertures operate under the same concept. The most important impact the aperture has on a photograph is how much light it allows into the photo. At F/2.8, a great deal of light is entering the photograph because the aperture is wide open. At F/32, a significantly lesser amount of light enters the camera because the aperture is narrow. Again, think of the aperture as you would think of your eyes. If your eyes are wide open, more
light hits them. If they are squinting in the sunlight, less light hits them (thus why squinting relieves us in harsh light). The apeture controls the amount of light that reaches film or digital light sensors. When a narrow aperture is reducing the light in a photograph, the photographer needs to compensate in other ways. One way to compensate is with shutter speed. Shutter speed is self-explanatory in its function. It is how fast the shutter opens and closes to shoot the photo. In other words, once the photographer sets the aperture, the shutter speed is how long the aperture is open. The faster the shutter speed, the shorter the amount of time the aperture is open. The shorter amount of time the aperture is open, the less light gets into the photo. On the other hand, the longer the aperture is open, the more light gets into the photo. Shutter speed also is called exposure time, or the amount of time the shutter is open. Shutter speed is measured in fractions of seconds. A one-second exposure may sound like a short time, but in camera speak it is slow. Standard shutter speeds include one second, 1/2 second, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500 and 1/1000. A short exposure time freezes action, stopping everything in the
photo. A long exposure time leads to blurs. A 1/1000 exposure is fast and freezes action. A 1/60 exposure is slower and lets action flow, such as images of traffic at night that show blurs of light where cars drive by. Remember our discussion about shutter speed and light? Because a 1/1000 exposure is fast, it allows significantly less light into the camera than a 1/60 exposure. The faster the exposure, the more we need to compensate for light. This means the faster the shutter speed, the wider the aperture photographers are likely to use. Any shutter speed slower than 1/150 likely will need a tripod to or steady surface to support the camera. Slower shutter speeds are sensitive to the slightest movement of the photographer’s hands. Even if you think you held the camera still, the photo will register a slight blur from the natural back-and-forth motion of your hands. Now, you asked about specific F-stops and shutter speeds. Because the aperture and exposure time work together, one always will affect the other. As a general rule, the wide apertures will blur everything in the foreground and background of your focal point. Meanwhile, the cheat sheet to shutter speeds is fast speeds like 1/500 and 1/1000 will freeze your action — athletes, raging water, leaping deer. Slower speeds like 1/60 or 1/30 will give a sense of movement, like gently blurred water or streaks of light for night traffic. When using those slow speeds, be sure to have the camera supported. Also be sure to compensate for low light. When using camera settings like aperture priority or shutter priority, the camera will automatically compensate; however, by allowing the camera to compensate, you may not get the lighting you desire. Using the manual setting is more precise. There is one more factor to consider when it comes to how much light your photo includes. In film cameras, this is the film speed. Film is bought in one of several speeds:
Miss Informed | 73 100, 200, 400, 800 or 1600. Low-numbered film speeds are light-sensitive and are meant to be used outdoors or in natural light. The 400 film speed is the “everyman” speed and can be used outdoors or indoors. High-numbered film speeds are for shooting in low light, especially indoors. Speeds like 800 and 1600 are especially popular for shooting in gynasiums, which may seem bright, but their lights are set so high on the ceiling that film and camera sensors struggle more than human eyes to absorb it. In digital cameras, film speed is called the ISO. Simply put, ISO measures the camera’s light sensitivity. Together, aperture and exposure time and ISO create a triangle to help photographers give and take light in a photograph and create any number of lighting effects, depth of
field and motion blurs. Once you grasp those basic concepts, the best thing to do is experiment. Take your camera out on the town and test different settings on the same subject. Open up all of the photos on your computer (or spread out all of your film prints on the floor if you love to go retro) and compare how each setting changed the image. It helps to keep a notebook handy and number your images as you shoot the photos. Write down the settings next to each photo’s corresponding number. That way, you can create your own personal ultimate cheat sheet, tailored specifically to your camera. Dear Miss Informed: I need a cheap, professional video camera that films high-quality video. What do you recommend?
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— Professional amateur Dear Professional: It sounds like you need a camera that gets the job done but doesn’t wipe out your wallet. If you’re looking for “professional without the price,” I recommend a camera like the Kodak Zi8 pocket video camcorder. The Zi8 takes a standard SD card and isn’t much larger than an iPhone. It shoots high definition video and runs in the ballpark of $200. Most cameras in the Flip Video family shoot quality film and are easy to use. Again, they are relatively inexpensive. Many college journalism programs recommend Flip Video cameras to students. They are affordable for journalists and shoot content acceptable for news websites. The only shortcoming I’ve found to pocket video cameras
is their sound quality. If you purchase one, I recommend purchasing a microphone as well. Good microphones can be bought for as little as $12 — probably less than you’d spend ordering in a pizza. Dear Miss Informed: The middle of my photos have bright circle. The corners are black. The outside of the photo is shadowed. What causes that? — Hates the dark corners Dear dark corners: Your lens is creating an effect called vignetting. Some people intentionally seek vignette effects to brighten and draw attention to the focal point of a photo; however, some lenses can be misaligned and create vignettes on all photos, whether they are wanted or not. If the dark edges are uneven, contact the manufacturer to discuss the best options for repair or replacement.
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