Issue 4 : August 2006
ESTRONOMICON The Official SD eZine
I Told You So by Steve Upham
One Last Night At Waverly Hills Prequel by Debbie Kuhn
Beyond Reality Cover artist Martina Pilcerova
*** Published by Screaming Dreams *** Edited by Steve Upham
Novelist Beware Advice from Sarah Crabtree
The Artful Collector Regular column by Jane Frank
The Extreme Makeover Of Helen Watson Vampire story by Neil Davies
The Dark Arts Fine horror by Anne Stokes
Death Codex Chapter 4 by Sean Woodward
Signs Of Life Extract by Paul Kane
Worthwhile Web Cool sites that are worth visiting
*** Cover Artwork 'Forest F a i r y ' ÂŠ Martina Pilcerova 2006
All content remains the Copyright of each contributor and must NOT be re-used without written permission from the original Copyright holder(s). Thank you.
I Told You So : 1
I Told You So by Steve Upham
When I first started this eZine I have to admit I received a fair share of pessimistic warnings from certain people (mainly by best friends). They said that it was unrealistic of me to expect to launch such a project, let alone keep up with the pace of a regular monthly publication in the limited time I had available. Of course being the stubborn single-minded person I am, I went ahead regardless! So it comes as no surprise that I'm hearing the words "I Told You So" echo through cyberspace right now. I can imagine the smug look on their faces as they point out that Estronomicon is currently several months behind schedule. But he who laughs last, laughs longest as they say! Despite any delays that may occur from time to time, I have absolutely no intention of stopping its publication. This is a long-term project that I hope will last for many years. At the risk of sounding like I'm making excuses, I just thought it was worth reminding everyone that the eZine is a free non-profit project that relies on the generosity of contributors supplying all the material. So you have to bear in mind that it's not always possible for them to stick to a deadline for the submissions, as they often have more urgent (paid) work to deal with first. Which inevitably means there's bound to be delays with collecting all the contents sometimes. Of course I have to hold up my hands and take some of the blame too. The responsibility of putting together each issue falls on me alone, but when I have to deal with other work it can mean there's not enough time for everything. Excuses aside, I just wanted to assure you all that the eZine WILL continue to be published as regularly as possible. Maybe I won't always hit my monthly targets but the issues will be released as soon as they are ready so please bear with me during these busy periods, thanks. I would like to take this opportunity once again to thank all the contributors for donating their time and work to make this eZine possible. And to all the readers who make the project worthwhile! I hope you will continue to support this publication and please feel free to keep sending your feedback, comments, ideas and suggestions for what you'd like to see in future issues. That's all for now. Catch you later!
2 : One Last Night At Waverly Hills
One Last Night At Waverly Hills Prequel to "Midnight At Waverly Hills" by Debbie Kuhn
The sudden spray of watery blood stained the skirt of Nora’s crisp, white uniform. She caught the glass as it fell and laid a comforting hand on her patient’s shoulder. When the violent coughing spell had ceased, the woman met Nora’s sympathetic gaze with tear-filled, sunken eyes. “I’m so sorry, hon.” “No need to apologize. I’m quite used to it.” Mrs. Davidson only had a few more weeks to live. Nora recognized the signs. “What was I saying? Oh, are you leaving Waverly to get married?” Nora smiled. “No. I’m transferring to a regular hospital.” The woman closed her eyes and sighed. “You’re young and attractive. You should find a husband to take you away from all this suffering and death.” “Goodnight, Mrs. Davidson. I’ll check back soon.” Nora’s twelve-hour shift – her last – had begun five hours before at 6:00 p.m. She would take a break around midnight and run back to the dormitory to change her uniform. The blood stains would upset her littlest patients. The children – they were the reason she had to leave. She couldn’t bear to watch any more of them waste away and die from the “white death” that was tuberculosis. At midnight, she left the third floor nurse’s station and headed down the hallway to the elevator, her soft-soled shoes making no noise on the red and black tiles. It was quiet now except for the occasional hiss of a radiator, or the sound of a patient coughing. Nora rode the elevator alone down to the first floor. When the doors opened, a hideous screeching noise assaulted her ears. She stepped out and looked to her left.
One Last Night At Waverly Hills : 3
At the end of the dimly-lit corridor, the heavy metal door that led to the draining room was standing wide-open. A little girl with long, black hair appeared from behind it. She was dressed in a white hospital gown. “Katie Hanson?” It couldn’t be. Eight-year-old Katie had died on the operating table two weeks before. It had been a last-ditch effort to save the orphan’s life. Nora had been off-duty at the time and had not had a chance to say goodbye. No, it must be Molly, Katie’s friend. The two had looked incredibly alike. Nora watched in horror as the little girl entered the draining room. She sprinted down the hall. No child should see what was in there. No adult could remain unaffected by the sight. The room was the last stop for infectious TB victims before they were carried through the death tunnel to waiting hearses. Nora paused in the doorway, gasping at the sight – and the overwhelming stench. Two bodies – one male, one female – hung upside down from metal poles. They’d been sliced open from groin to sternum. Little rivers of blood, mixed with other bodily fluids, snaked across the sloping cement floor to trickle down one drain. Nora caught a glimpse of the little girl behind one of the corpses. “Molly, honey, you should be in bed. We can’t stay here.” It was Katie’s voice that replied – accusatory and full of unshed tears. “They cut me, Miss Nora. You PROMISED me you wouldn’t let them.” “Katie?” The overhead light flickered and went out just as the metal door slammed shut behind Nora. She screamed and threw herself against it, pummeling the unyielding surface with her small fists. “No! Please, somebody let me out!” “Don’t leave us, Miss Nora.”
4 : One Last Night At Waverly Hills
Nora felt little hands tugging on the bottom of her skirt. The pitch-dark room was filled with the sound of labored breathing. She let out a blood-curdling shriek and fell forward as the door suddenly opened. She shielded her eyes from the light and looked up into the stern face of a security guard. Nora didn’t give him a chance to speak. She brushed past him and flew down the hall to the lobby. She leaned against one of the wooden pillars for several minutes, catching her breath, trying to think rationally. One last night at Waverly Hills – she’d get through it somehow. Stress, guilt, and grief had led to that horrifying hallucination. It was that simple. She’d take a break and then get back to her rounds. *** On her walk back from the dormitory, Nora noticed a light shining in Room 502. Only mentally ill TB patients were kept up there. They didn’t like to sleep. She would check on them – see if someone needed a sedative. Nora took the elevator to the fifth floor – the rooftop. Room 502 was isolated and the open space around it was used by patients to take in the healing rays of the sun. She crossed the roof. It was a chilly March night, with only a whisper of a breeze. She fished the room key out of the pocket of her sweater. The door was unlocked. Nora entered cautiously and was met with silence. All ten patients were awake, sitting on their beds. The men and women stared at her with blank, pale faces. Except…..there should only have been nine. Nora’s hands began to tremble as a tall, gaunt woman stood and faced her. No. Alma Hanson was dead. She’d committed suicide rather than watch her daughter die. “You can’t leave us, Miss Nora.”
One Last Night At Waverly Hills : 5
Nora whirled around, stifling a scream. The front of Katie’s gown was soaked with blood. “Mama knows how to make you stay.” Nora felt an ice-cold entity invade every fiber of her being – she had no control of her limbs, no voice. The ghost made her walk towards a darkened corner. Nora could see a wooden chair…..a white sheet draped over one of the ceiling pipes – and the noose. She tried to scream. Alma forced her onto the chair – then slipped the noose over her head. Her stiff, white cap tumbled to the floor. Hot tears streamed down Nora’s face. It was her last night alive at Waverly Hills. Katie looked up at her, smiling innocently. “Don’t worry. Mama says it’ll only hurt a little.” Alma kicked away the chair. *** Copyright © Debbie Kuhn 2006
Many thanks to Debbie for providing the excellent 'Waverly Hills' stories. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I have! If you missed the previous tale then you can still read it in issue #3 of Estronomicon which is available on the back issues page of the site here : www.screamingdreams.com/backissues.htm
www.debbiekuhn.com And don't forget to check out Debbie's homepage for more great fiction!
6 : Beyond Reality
Beyond Reality Martina Pilcerova
Martina's artwork takes you on a journey far beyond the reality and limitations of this world. While her paintings may transport you into a realm where anything is possible, they also provide strangely believable places and characters. A blend of past, present and future. A place where science-fiction meets fantasy. I have been following Martina's work for some time and needless to say I am very pleased to feature her in this issue of the eZine. She has provided the cover art and two of my favourite pieces for the interior, plus taken time out of her busy schedule to answer the interview questions. Read on to find out more ... *** Martina Pilcerova finished the Master Degree of Fine Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovak Republic, in the Creative Experimental Studio of Prof. Vladimir Popovic in 2001. She also took animation lessons, including camera operating, storyboarding and script writing at the Film University in Bratislava for two years. She has won various awards including the Jack Gaughan Award for the Best Emerging Artist in 2003 (Boston, USA), Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Academy Award for the best artist in Czech and Slovak Republic in 1999, 2001 and 2002 (Prague) and Istron for the best artist in Slovakia in 2001 and 2003. She was included in Spectrum 8 and 10 The Best of Contemporary Fantastic Art (Underwood Press, USA, 2001, 2003). The painting "Downtown Blues" received the Judges Choice Award in the Art Show at Worldcon 2002 in San Jose, California. Four of her works are included in a book Paper Tiger Fantasy Art Gallery edited by Paul Barnett in June 2002. Her work has appeared in exhibitions at 26 conventions including several World Science Fiction Conventions, Eurocons and World Fantasy Convention (Glasgow, London, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Baltimore, Chicago, Dortmund, Gdynia, San Jose). Her paintings have been published on more than 80 covers of books, magazines and games. She worked for magazines: Ikarie (Czech Republic), Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction - the Czech edition (Czech Republic), Fantazia
Beyond Reality : 7
(Slovakia), SFWA Bulletin - The Nebula Collector's Issue (USA), Albedo One (Ireland), Cerberus (Belgium), Alien Contact (Germany), Imperija (Latvia), Talebones (USA), SF Chronicle (USA), Asimov's (USA).
'Weightless' : Copyright ÂŠ Martina Pilcerova 2006
Her covers have appeared on books of publishers: Talpress (Vorkosigan Adventures by Lois McMaster Bujold, G.G. Kay, Czech Republic), Fantom Print
8 : Beyond Reality
(Deathworld Planet series by Harry Harrison, Czech Republic), Epos (Fairy tales book for children with 20 full color interior illustrations, Half Breeds series, Slovakia), Argument Verlag (Luke-Harrison trilogy, Downtown Blues by Myra Cakan, Germany), Fox Acre Press (Nightside City, USA), Berkley Books (USA), Prime Books (USA), BeWrite Books (UK).
'Weightless 2' : Copyright ÂŠ Martina Pilcerova 2006
Beyond Reality : 9
At the beginning of 2000, Red Beat Pictures Filmproduction (Berlin, Germany) contracted her to create 6 script illustrations and designs of aliens and the alien space ship for the project When the Music's Over. The script is written by Myra Cakan and John Shirley (co-writer of The Crow). In 2003 she started to work on the movie project for the company Uncharted Territory, founded by Volker Engel and Marc Weigert (creators of special effects on Independence Day and Godzilla). She wrote and drew 14 comics that were printed in magazines in Slovakia and Hungary. Later, besides the book market, she started to be interested in gaming industry, working on RPGs such as: Waste World designed by Bill King (Manticore Productions Ltd., USA), Sun & Scale (Gaslight Press, USA), Fates Worse Than Death (Vajra Enterprises, USA). Tales of Gaea, (HinterWelt Enterprises, USA), and collectible card games: Arena (Altar, Czech Republic), A Game of Thrones by G. R. R. Martin (Fantasy Flight Games, USA), Dungeons & Dragons, Magic the Gathering and conceptual designs for Kamigawa and Ravnica sets. (Wizards of the Coast, USA). She was nominated for the best fantasy story in Czech and Slovak Republic in 1990 and 2000. She created two short movies during her study at the university: Crater (the animation projected onto the large drawing) and Decadence Express (short live-action movie including the fashion show performance). *** Q : Why did you choose to pursue science-fiction and fantasy over other forms of mainstream illustration? And has this made a more difficult career path for you? A : Hm, I didn't choose to do science-fiction, somehow I just started to draw my first starships when I was about 6 years old. I didn't even know what the word "science-fiction" meant. I think it has something to do with my love for space, mathematics and everything mechanical. Later I saw Star Wars and it was probably the main impulse to keep me in that file. Of course it's much harder path, to find some work in this kind of art. Q : Can you name a few of the artists and authors who have made the biggest impression on you over the years, and tell us how that may have influenced the direction in your own work? A : When I was a teenager, I saw the prints of Boris Vallejo paintings, and that's when I started to do also fantasy. Then came other artists like Michael Whelan,
10 : Beyond Reality
Donato, Todd Lockwood, and many more. When I grew older, I got more and more influences, but these days I look only towards my own imagination and experiences. Q : Have you encountered any problems with getting commissions from publishers because you live in Slovakia? Or has the Internet made location irrelevant these days when itâ€˜s so quick and easy to communicate and transfer your work digitally? A : I think it's a pretty hard task to live in Slovakia and to look for commission from abroad. The only way would probably be to live in New York City. But the gaming industry is more open towards new people and they probably trust Internet much more than the old big book publishers. Q : Do you have any interest in space exploration and astronomy? And do you ever create fact-based astronomical art, or just deal with the fictional aspects in your space work? A : I love astronomy and I really wanted to study it. But for some reason, I never created fact-based astronomical art. Somehow, anything fact-based seems kind of boring for me to paint. I mean, why paint it when we can take photos. At least in most cases. I like to take it one step further into the future. Even if in the previous time I probably worked on much more fantasy pieces than SF. Q : How important is getting your work displayed at conventions and art shows? Is this just a practical consideration to attract the attention of potential publishers, or do you also want your paintings to be seen as fine art too? A : It's both, but for me the most important thing is to display my work so people would remember it. My dream is that people, and I mean not only publishers, will look at my paintings and they would say "Oh yes, that's Martina". Q : Do you ever sell your original paintings or are they too personal to part with sometimes? A : I rarely sell my originals. I did before. But I realized how much I missed some pieces. So I usually put high prices on them with the intention not to sell them. I prefer selling copyrights. Q : Whatâ€˜s your favourite media? And do you feel any pressure to produce more work with digital tools now rather than traditional paints? Do the publishers ever specify the exact media they want used, or are you free to choose yourself?
Beyond Reality : 11
A : This time I really started to like to work digitally. Mostly because I hate mixing colors and in Painter I just use the color picker. I know it sounds funny but for me it's the best thing in the world. But I often work with acrylics and of course I like oils. I hate water colors. Publishers usually don't specify the media, but there are some who don't want the digital paintings. Q : Youâ€˜ve also had formal training for film and animation work, so is this one area that youâ€˜d specifically like to get into further? Has it been difficult trying to get links within this industry? A : It is very difficult and you can meet very strange people along the way. Yes, it is my dream, especially in connection with the project I'm working on for many years. But I still have to finish some parts to try to get further. Q : What about your writing? Can you tell us a little about your script Niki and your plans for that? A : Yes my "never ending project". I started to write Niki about 18 years ago and till today I made many paintings and sketches and some short animations to it. But I never had enough time to finish the script properly, because I was always busy with other commissions. But now I am in a process of translation the story into English. Then I plan to cooperate with some English speaking writer to get the polished version. And then more work awaits, because I need to finish the short animated clip to Niki which I want to include with the script, when looking for some producers. But that's my future's dream. Q : Do you have any other ambitions for the future? Whatâ€˜s the thing you are more proud of so far and what would you most like to achieve in your lifetime? A : I think I'm proud that I got into gaming industry and that my paintings are published worldwide. But of course my most ambitious thing for the future is getting Niki filmed. And yes, Niki is not a girl's name as one filmmaker suggested. It's the nation, actually alien and hostile nation, and the story is adventurous hard sci-fi. But it's only the working title so far. ***
To view more of Martina's amazing fantasy and sci-fi artwork please visit her website at : www.martina.sk
12 : Novelist Beware
Novelist Beware Chapters Four & Five by Sarah Crabtree
You are really determined, aren’t you? I’d hoped I’d got rid of you by now. I need a cup of coffee. But I’ll be back. You can’t keep my fingers off the keyboard. What a sad person I am.
Checklist: How good a typist are you? Even if you can’t copy-type, do ensure your seating arrangements are comfortable. Take regular breaks from the computer. Use the time to organise your work station and clear out any old correspondence. Ensure you destroy addresses for security purposes. *** Still here? Oh goody. Glutton for punishment, aren’t we? Now there’s another thing to avoid. Clichés. They are too easy to rattle off, aren’t they? Try to find another way of saying something. For example, instead of ‘as cold as ice’, use ‘cold as a dead bird on snow’. Better still, don’t use a simile at all. Say ‘it was a dead-bird-on-the-snow kind of day’. Although, on third thoughts, don’t even dare use that. It’s terrible. But I hope it conveys the message I’m trying to put over. Always find something new to say about an old thing. Try it on your grandmother and she’ll leave all her money to you. Another golden rule I’ve broken is to use too many questions in the opening paragraph. However well you read up on the rules, there is always something you’ve overlooked. Which leads me onto the next category: What do you do with the novel when you’ve written it?
Novelist Beware : 13
Sorry. I slipped in another question mark there. Slapped wrist. Oh, and a fragment. Ooops! Oh, and a screamer. Dear, oh dear, my old grammar teacher—if I’d had one—would be turning in her grave now. Re-read the above, think about it, and decide what the problem is here. OK, I’ll spell it out to you. If you’re not careful, you will be worrying so much about grammar, sentence structure, The Apostrophe Crisis and so on, that you will lose your creativity. I was told that the hardest thing to achieve is a style of writing that flows in the way a professional musician plays his instrument. You don’t just pluck away or plonk out a tune, you add your own little bit of sparkle to it. Sorry. Tautology. And this is where the rows begin. I seem to recall a Booker short-listed novel contained little or no punctuation. And wasn’t there swearing, too? And isn’t it a grammatical crime to start a sentence with the word ‘and’? Oh dear, I’ve done it again. Also, by this stage you’ll be wondering if it’s time to join a writers’ workshop. That’s a whole new can of worms and could put you off writing forever. At least it’ll keep the dog in choccie wotsits if you quit while you’re ahead. Sorry. Another cliché. Maybe I’m the one who ought to be taken behind that shed and shot. At least I reminded you to save a bullet. The tragic thing is that we can’t share it. By all means join a writing group on a trial basis. But don’t be surprised if you feel like bursting into tears afterwards. Better still, go and lock yourself in the loo and have a sob. One kind soul will go in and rescue you. Then you become part of the club. But make sure that you do become part of the club. Nothing cheeses off a well-established writing group more than a newcomer who takes all the advice, free feedback and occasional drink, and then buggers off to pick somebody else’s brain. OK, so you might be the next Big Thing, but remember: These are the people you’ll meet on the way up, and these are the people you’ll bump into on the way down. Treat people with respect, even if you don’t like the football team they support, or the way they dip their ties in the gravy and suck the end when somebody else is speaking. Remember: They are writers. They are entitled to be weird. It goes with the proverbial territory. Get used to them. They are the ones who understand you.
14 : Novelist Beware
Be prepared to give up time to give people feedback, too. Also be prepared to hear things you don’t really want to hear. You may have six wonderful kids, but the workshop ensemble may be child-haters. You may love heavy rock, and they hate head-bangers. The list is endless. But unless you really cannot stand them, then do persevere with them. I learnt so much discussing writing with other writers. It was challenging, and sometimes we didn’t see eye-to-eye. But the harshest critics will be those who write in the professional publications. If you can’t stand the heat, then go back to the kitchen and stay there. There again, like schools, workshops can be outgrown. It might be that your writing has progressed more quickly than your colleagues’. This is a tough one. Loyalty. ‘Shall I go, or shall I stay?’ People don’t like being dumped. You only have to watch the Soaps to see that endless stream of ex-boyfriends being buried under the patio. No wonder we’re not allowed to use that old cop-out anymore. So how do you say goodbye when you really don’t feel you can squeeze in the extra work involved with attending a writers’ group or workshop? If you’re anything like I am, you try too hard to please everybody and end up pissing off everybody, and then you worry about it endlessly, so that you have to go and take yourself into a corner and give yourself a bloody good telling-off. Daft, isn’t it? Just say… NO. Say that you can’t attend the workshops anymore. Go out with a whimper in this case. You can stay in touch, but stick to your guns. Don’t let them make you feel guilty about it.
Novelist Beware : 15
After all, they would move on if they had to. I’m now going to photocopy this page and stick it on the wall in front of me every time I feel guilty about not attending certain functions, or responding to certain emails. You can’t do it all. If you do, you’ll only end up hating yourself for being so stupid and standing in your own way. Let me mention emails briefly. Email communication is wonderful if you can sort out a work problem without running up a huge phone bill or worrying endlessly what to do. But emails can be a pain in the proverbial: Hi X, All quiet today. What are you doing? Hi B, I’m trying to polish off a story, but it’s getting nowhere. How are you doing? Hi X, Me too. I just can’t seem to think of any ideas. I had three rejections this morning, and I can’t decide what to do with them. Hi B, Let me find a joke to send you to cheer you up. Tell you what, I’ve got three that have been doing the rounds. One’s a musical one, another makes you jump after you’ve stared at a mirror for five minutes, and another one is a ten page list of silly letters the council received between 1989 and 2001. Hi X, Yes, please forward them to me. I’ll make myself another cup of coffee so I can sit and enjoy them. It’s a lovely sunny day out there. I ought to get the washing out on the line, but I’d love to see those jokes. Hi B, OK, they’re on their way. Let me know what you think. Three cups of coffee, ten emails later, and a whole day spent nattering on the Internet, and X and B have completed no writing whatsoever. Do these people dare to call themselves writers? Pah. They don’t know the meaning of the word.
16 : Novelist Beware
It sounds cruel, but if you want to be taken seriously as a writer, that’s what you’ve got to bloody well do, matey. Otherwise, go and get yourself a proper job. You will be rejected time and time again. But ask all those more successful writers and they will tell you to turn the stories around and send them straight out again. By all means find a shoulder to cry on now and then, but don’t make a habit of feeling sorry for yourself. You think it’s tough now, but wait till you get a contract with a publisher. She won’t offer you a shoulder to cry on when she’s got a thousand other ambitious writers screaming to be published. If you don’t deliver, then you’re out on your arse. And talking of screaming, yep, you’ll want to do that often. Here are examples of when you need a good scream: Monday morning rejections. Somebody who is talentless and not even pretty gets a big book deal. Somebody who is talented and pretty gets an even bigger book deal. Your print cartridge has run out. Notice I didn’t mention Writers’ Block there. I’m not even sure if it’s meant to be singular or plural. Either way I think Writers’/Writer’s Block is Bollocks. A proper writer always has too much to do. A proper writer can never find enough time to write. A PROPER WRITER NEVER FINDS AN EXCUSE NOT TO WRITE. I won’t apologise for sounding arrogant. I’m not being arrogant. Anybody who thinks I’m being arrogant is welcome to come and do my housework for me, and then accuse me of being arrogant.
Checklist: Make a list of submissions, date sent and date returned or bought. *** Copyright © Sarah Crabtree 2005
Novelist Beware is a 12 chapter feature on the perils of writing novels. Watch for Chapter Six in next month's issue!
The Artful Collector : 17
The Artful Collector Column 4 "To Have And To Hold" by Jane Frank
Young children collect sea shells, older children collect dolls, action figures, trading cards and comic books, and grown up children . . . well, they still collect dolls, action figures, trading cards and comic books (along with a huge range of other things). But exactly WHY, I can't tell you. What I can tell you, is that â€“ whatever the motives â€“ collecting has been around for a long, long time. We've Been Crazy for How Long? Many people think it's our "hunter-gatherer" origins that are driving our urge to collect Hummels and Barbies. It's the quest, the "hunt" that excites the collector, and taking possession of one's object of desire is the goal. Others (not collectors themselves, judging from their explanations) have looked to Freud for reasons: we're compensating for loveless childhoods or dysfunctional families, or traumatic life events, or attempting to impose order on a disorderly world. Maybe (like the Bowerbird of New Guinea) we're amassing bits and baubles to attract a mate. Whatever. From King Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon (who kept statues from the period of the Kings of Ur, then already hundreds of years old) right down to Freud himself (who possessed over 4,000 antiquities) we've been keen on collecting stuff. Call us crazy (which psychoanalyst Werner Muensterberger, the author of Collecting â€“ an Unruly Passion, probably was thinking as he wrote his book) or call us smarter, more imaginative, and better-looking. Whatever. We prefer to be engaged in . . . "The process of actively, selectively, and passionately acquiring, possessing and disposing of valued things, often removed from ordinary use and perceived as part of a set." Estimates differ on the number of those afflicted, but I feel safe in asserting that collectors comprise only a minority (albeit fervid) of the population. And, like other diseases that have been around for a long time (arthritis comes to mind),
18 : The Artful Collector
it tends be congenital. That is to say, and at least since the early Renaissance, it has tended to run in families, and usually the more competitive, better educated = wealthier ones. Rich Roman collectors went crazy over antique Greek statues, paintings and other objects, plundered and brought to the capital courtesy of the Roman Empire. By the Middle Ages, collecting in Europe was mainly the province of the Church, which kept treasuries filled with artifacts made of gold, silver and precious gems. By the Renaissance, measurement of private wealth had shifted from land to possessions, and Italian princes and nobles took over the job. Soon every self-respecting European ruler, from the Medicis to the Windsors, had to have his or her own collection of rarities and curiosities (in addition to unique "made to order" clocks, salt cellars and brooches). Interest in acquiring and displaying curiosities from the animal, plant and mineral world spread and soon was picked up by wealthy aristocrats, and then the middle classes – soon as their prosperity and stability enabled it. From the 16t h century on, money and opportunity were all that were needed to indulge one's passion for collecting . . . and it could get pretty heady out there, as the infamous example of the 17t h century Dutch mania for rare tulip bulbs attests. That craze ruined many a speculator, but didn't do a thing to dampen the ardor for anything rare or exotic. Which was fueled by another craze: The Grand Tour. The well-to-do started traveling south, mainly to Italy, to visit the sites of classical civilizations and – naturally – buy up antiquities and paintings to take home as "souvenirs" of their educational travels. Soon, Napoleon was making his own kind of Grand Tour around Europe. And by the 19t h century the collecting habit had spread to the U.S., as well. While Hudson River School artists made the pilgrimage to sketch ruins of antiquity, our own "merchant princes" were busy chipping away at Europe, often quite literally. So, let's all take a brief moment as we hurry through collecting history, to give thanks to the Grand Touristas, whose acquisitions have formed the core of many great museums, including London's British Museum and the Louvre in Paris. Let's also thank our own "robber barons" Andrew Mellon, John Paul Getty, the Whitneys, Pierpont Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, John D. and the rest of the Rockefellers, the Guggenheims and (last, but not least), William Randolph Hearst -- whose collective passions for books, paintings and objets d' arte were legendary. But also may not be driven by what, at first blush, you may be thinking is the only, and obvious driver: i.e., their collective wealth. In his book, Muensterberger (see above) quotes Nelson Rockefeller as saying
The Artful Collector : 19
"You see, in my position I must collect. My mother did it, and my grandfather did it. It is an obligation. After all, the Medicis did it too." In Europe, magnates such as Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the Rothschild family developed a similar sense of duty, and many such collections have ended up in their own private museums for all to enjoy. The Getty, The Guggenheim, The Whitney, and later the Barnes, Foundation/Gallery (Philadelphia), The Kreeger (Washington, DC), the list goes on . . . The point I am endeavoring to make here is that even if the urge to collect IS due to a mutant gene, distantly related to hunting and gathering, which only becomes evident when social conditions are ripe, such as having money in your pocket AND attending the San Diego Comic Convention at the same time (much like frog eggs which can lie dormant for years, until it rains, then they hatch), the news is not all bad. That gene has, historically, served an important function. Without "collectors" – serving as avid fans and stewards as well as repositories – much of what we treasure today would not have survived. Most of the first edition of The Hobbit published before the war, 1938, in dustwrapper, were then lost or destroyed during the war and now are exceedingly rare. Those that survive are coddled by whom? Then there's the apocryphal story of the Frank R. Paul Astounding magazine cover paintings that Sam Moskowitz retrieved from the garbage bins in the alley behind Street & Smith. And never let out his sight, again – no displays at conventions for those babies, no sirree! "They don't travel," said Sam, whenever asked to contribute to a 'retrospective.' Gotta Have 'em, and Have 'em All A well-known dealer, author, and collector, Robert Weinberg has been active in the sf/f marketplace for books and art for just about as long as anyone I know. And he once stated, with all gravity, that there probably weren't more than about 2000 examples of pulp art still around. At the time, this seemed like a reasonably large number. That is, until we realized that it would only take 100 collectors, at 20 artworks each, to eat up the world's supply. This wasn't a big deal when there were only about six of us actively in pursuit of Virgil Finlay. Now that this field of collecting has expanded, it's considerably more problematic. But as rare as paintings by known, contemporary 20th century illustrators may become, their total number right now – while finite – is still unknown. And even if the creator was prolific there is only one of each. NOT SO with first edition books by certain authors, and/or with known edition sizes. Which can be a real downer for collectors who are completists . . . and must acquire every
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denomination of a certain stamp, or every coin in a certain series, or every Hummel figurine because they are addicted to the satisfaction of putting that last piece into its place in the cabinet. Everyone knows this type of collector, because he's so commonly encountered. Do they deserve our scorn, our pity, or our respect? Scorn is likely, if you are only drawn to one-of-a-kind items, which cannot be duplicated. Pity, if only because so many completists are doomed to failure. Respect, because attaining such a goal demands single-minded focus, dedication and perseverance. And let's add: compassion. For whom among us â€“ if we love a kind of thing - is not attracted to the idea of having every one of them? Of course, this is a collecting strategy that is impossible (and nonsensical) when it comes to fine art â€“ and possible only in certain rare situations, when it comes to illustration. But it's very common in other collecting fields, from Steiff (stuffed) animals to MAD comics. Which is why I mention it: to get it out of the way so we can move on to strategies which do relate to art collecting. Collect the Expensive Way: Whatever It Takes Rich men (I am going to fall back on the male gender because most of the collectors in the field of illustration art and books are male) don't let scarcity stop them. When they want something, they generally get it. Put another way: When they see "sold" signs on paintings in my catalogs, or I tell them "sorry, this one sold last week" what they are thinking is "ok, I'll just offer the owner double the price paid, and it will be mine." Rich men think nothing of approaching the winner of an auction item immediately after auction close . . . even before the new owner has taken possession of a piece! . . . with an offer substantially higher than the winning bid. The hunt is everything, and money is their ammunition. Even very rich men, however, cannot always negotiate their way to owning what it already in the hands of another rich man. Who has no need for more money, but who (like the potential buyer) takes delight in the ownership of rare and beautiful objects. If you reach a point where the number of scarce and rare items are already in private collections, or public institutions, and the number of great works are not coming to market frequently enough to satisfy the rich man's urge to "collect," what can a rich man do? Great pieces may still turn up from time to time, and when they doâ€Ś.prices will soar. The pent-up demand can result in a feeding
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frenzy, with rare items fetching explosively high prices. More than $75,000 for Frank R. Paul. More than $50,000 for Margaret Brundage. Frazetta paintings selling for more than $125,000. But such opportunities will be few and far between, in a growing market with a limited supply. One way around the problem of supply? Create your own rarity, or buy something new. Collect the Easy Way: For Love and Not for Money Some of us can remember ordering Arkham House books by mail order. Typically coming out in editions of 500, and costing all of $4.00 in the 1960s, they would usually take a decade to sell out. Lovecraft’s Poetry in the 1950s by mail order direct from Arkham House $3.00 – now $350. Gnome Press Conan books in the 1950s for $2.50-$3.50 each, now $200-$250. This is a decent return on investment, but there are even better ones. Skip forward with the same collector to 1965. He’s still buying books he loves, and one of them is Frank Herbert's "Dune". Hardcover, in wraps, this one is now around $8,000. There may be even be a collector among you who not only remembers when the first Harry Potter book came out in the UK – from Bloomsbury Press - but bought one. Simply because it looked interesting and fun. And for whatever reason, you put it on the shelf along with 20 or 100 other books you hoped to read ‘some day’…only to wake up a year later to discover that it was now worth so much you couldn’t read it! And now? If you can find one, aound $4,000. Maybe you bought books from FPCI, Shasta, Gnome, Arkham . . . and maybe you didn’t. The point is: sometimes the prices go up and sometimes they go up and up; if you buy for love you can't go wrong. At the end of the day you still have books you love. There are also collectors who go from one interest to another - either ever expanding their holdings of "stuff" or disposing and acquiring as they go. This makes it possible for others to share in the fun, and creates a market. It's sort of like buying one stock, because you have faith in that particular company, or owning a "portfolio" of stocks. I know a collector who started with Disneyana, then fountain pens, then toy robots, then pulp art. He also loves his collection of Japanese “famous monsters and characters” plastic model kits. These have yet to appreciate in value the way his Mickey Mouse, robots, and “Spicy” detective cover paintings did, but he has always said he collects for love, and not money. At one time in the late 70s you could have bought Stephen King first editions new for $3.75-$5.00. Now you can have them for $500-$1500. (unsigned!). In the 1970s you could have bought pulp art for $200-300. Today, it's $20,000. About the same percentage increase...based on what you invested. What do you love? Follow your nose.
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Collect the Anarchic Way: Buy What Nobody Wants For a long long time costume jewelry made out of bakelite (an early plastic, from the 1930s-40s) was considered "junk." Just about garage sale had a box filled with the stuff. Or a table heaped with Five and dime-store "depression glass". In the Midwest, there used to be tons of it, all bought at Woolworth's in the 1940s, going begging at 25 cents a plate. Not any more. Sometime in the early 1980s people started to think, "hey, these obscenely garish rhinestone pins and earrings are "nostalgic" and "charming." Same for plates, pots, dishes, figurines. All of a sudden, what was $1.25 became $85.00. All of a sudden, ordinary people were walking around with jeweler's loupes, checking out the backs and bottoms of anything that could be stamped or signed. "Collector's Guides" with pictures and names of objects no one had ever heard of before – let alone dream they should be keeping safe - became necessary. Who wrote the books? All those people who had amassed huge collections of stuff that nobody wanted. You can do this, too. You just have to be a risk taker. Because if you are buying items with no proven market value with money that you will need for your retirement, you could be spending your last years in poverty. And I mean this, literally…if you happen to be obsessed by something that never achieves marketability. A couple of examples may help demonstrate the point. Go to Google, and search for "crazy collectors" and up will pop a variety of same. Putting aside for the moment whether you would be as comfortable with this label as they, consider the point that the stuff they collect is typically plentiful and cheap – and that even if these collectors can point to collectors clubs for their specialty, and such items are traded daily on eBay – there is no getting around the fact that what they collect is "plentiful and cheap" because no one wants it. Now try Googling a related phrase, "eccentric collectors" – and the same happens. Except that we now have examples of collectors of the obscure and esoteric, and – unsurprisingly, given the adjective "eccentric" – these collectors can afford what is not plentiful and not cheap. But whether the items are expensive or not, I would argue that either class of collector is taking a risk, because the one thing these items have in common is that very few people want them. Consider the person who collects "street signs, traffic signs, road signs, etc. plus traffic lights and signals, including most traffic control devices posted by city and state street departments, highway departments or departments of public works in the United States." [www.mycrazyhobby.com accessed 4/28/06]
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No, he hasn't stolen them. You can buy/sell such items on eBay from between $10-$50 each. Storage may be a problem. But more importantly: is there any easy way to gauge what the future might have in store for collectors who have warehoused hundreds of these? Don't have the room for signs? How about " Air Sick Bags" instead? Sound unbelievable? Not to collector Danny Cahalan "a travel agent (who) began collecting air sick bags when he was 21. He was on South American Paraguauan Airlines and wanted a souvenir but all he could find was an air sick bag. Now, 12 years later, he is the proud owner of 138 sick bags." [ourhouse.ninemsn.com.au/ ... accessed 4/28/06] These too, are available on eBay this week from about $1.00 to $12.00 and â€“ yes, some have bids on them. Putting aside the debatable point that low prices = opportunities, but taking into account that at least some people out there are saving, buying and selling used street signs and "barf bags", if one of these items were to be offered to you today, in great condition, for less than half the lowest price being paid for any one of them, would you buy it? Is this a great opportunity, or not? As a last example, consider so-called "Eccentric collector Bruce Waldack," who reportedly sold off some of his eccentric collection, including a rare Mac Apple I, in 2004. [wiredblogs.tripod.com/cultofmac/index.blog?entry_id=461798 accessed 4/28/06]
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According to the article, Waldack was asking at least $16,500 for the Apple, which he bought in the late 1990s for more than $30,000. While I couldn't find any info on what his finally sold for, I did find one that sold in a West Coast auction for $14,000 in 2002. Now, bear in mind: The Apple 1 sold for $666.66 new, in 1976, and according to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, "Only about 200 units were produced (and) as of the turn of the millennium, an estimated 30 to 50 of these are still known to exist, making it a collector's item. An Apple I reportedly sold for $50,000 at auction in 1999; however, a more typical price for an Apple I is in the $14,000â€“$16,000 range."
Putting aside the debatable point that rarity = collectibility, which the author of the Wikipedia article is blithely assuming to be true, but taking into account everything I've told you so far, if one of these babies were to be offered to you today, in great condition, for only $12,000, would you buy it? Is this a great opportunity, or not? Contrarians buy when the price is low, and no one wants it, and sell, when the price is high, even when everyone is urging them to hold out, " the prices haven't peaked yet." But do they necessarily profit any more than those who buy the best examples of things that other people have already deemed worthy of collecting, and keeping them for as long as the objects give them pleasure, irrespective of their market value? I would say "no." It only SEEMS like you could have gotten in "on the ground floor" when you're looking at results with 20-20 hindsight. Collect the Dangerous Way: Buy What Everyone Else is Buying Speaking of vampires, 007, and the Adams Family, there are always fads, trends,
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and popularity as elements to be considered when collecting. And you're thinking "I'm gonna miss out!" Everyone is buying Lone Ranger lunchboxes, tin toys, Dan Dare comics, model airplane kits, old telephones, you name it. And bragging: "I bought this for a pittance, and now it's worth a bloody fortune!" Better jump in!! Better get 'em when they're "hot." Don't let the market pass you by! Buy them now! Star Wars action figures, Talking Elmo, Terminator Robots, anything Disney. Furbies. Remember the talking Furby? Why not? Or, pogs. Remember POGS? Why not? Because this year it's Dr. Who, or Xena, or Beauty and the Beast, or Harry Potter, and next year it's not. For those who can't afford originals, or true rarities, not to worry: market research has you covered. Understanding that "collecting" is a phenomenon that has lasted a couple of thousand years, and that collectors have a strong itch to collect something unique, ie., "exclusive" or "limited" in some way, and that people (thanks to consumerism) are attracted to products which feature characters made iconic by popular culture, and – finally – figuring rightly that an expanding population means there won't be enough true rarities to go around . . . marketers have found the answer: the democratization of collecting. Take it out of the hands of the nouveaux riches, and put it into the hands of people who spend their weekends in shopping malls. I don't want to spend a whole lot of time here on what the industry calls "manufactured collectibles" since I'd like to spend a column on this, later. Suffice it to say for now that where an itch is perceived, it will be scratched. First we have Christmas, and Christmas trees. Because of Christmas, we get Christmas cards, and – thanks to a dearth of mantels over the fireplace in American homes combined with burgeoning numbers of cards – we have no place to "show them off." Enter the Christmas card TREE. Perfect. Looks like a Christmas tree, and shows off the cards, like ornaments – an attractive reminder of how popular we are. Christmas is a good holiday for showing off our materialism, so is Halloween. Because of the popularity of Halloween, marketers figure…why not Halloween ORNAMENTS that could be placed on Halloween TREES? Are you still following me, here? Good. Then you'll have no problem at all in figuring out how, and why, everyone decided they needed a SNOOPY ornament for their Halloween Tree or a SNOOPY Easter ornament tree to hold their Easter ornaments. So. Have you bought your Christmas/Halloween/Easter card tree yet? Why not?
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What on earth are you waiting for? It's SNOOPY. And you know how "collectible" anything "Snoopy" is. Plus it's a HOLIDAY. And you know how many collections are driven by holidays! Plus (pick one or more): it's cheap, it's colorful, it's easy to store, it's a limited edition, it's only available for a limited time, it's popular, it's branded, it's…..
Snoopy Dracula on Pumpkin
Snoopy and Woodstock Easter
Polonaise Ornament: 1999
Ornament Tree: 1999
And just about the time you've finally broken down and bought that Star Trek plate, for four times what you could have paid The Franklin Mint a year earlier, the next week everyone else is selling theirs on eBay for 50% less. Or the next hot hot hot collectible has come along, and you feel compelled to jump on that wagon, too. Does this mean that no one is going to be buying Halloween ornaments in the future? Or TREES to hold their holiday cards? No. What it means is that ….GUARANTEED…. in 2009, if there is still an eBay around, there will be someone offering a MIB (mint in box) Snoopy Dracula ornament, from 1999. And IF there are still collectors out there, and IF there were fewer of them produced than the number of collectors for them now, then MAYBE, just MAYBE, you can get back what you paid for it. If you are tempted to speculate in this way, because
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you are witness to what seems like a product created on the basis of fad/trend/ popularity…. watch out!! This is a dangerous game, and dangerous territory for amateurs . . . not as much fun as you think. Unless, of course, you are wealthy, have good taste, and love it. In which case, you just might get lucky. And When You Can't Have 'em….Then What? Pick one: 1. It was too expensive for me anyway (cognitive dissonance at work) 2. I probably have one like that already, and just don't know it (Scarlett: I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow.) 3. It wasn't meant for me to own (Karmic excuse) 4. Another one will come along that will be even better than this one, then I'll be happy I didn't get this one (Annie (singing): The sun will come up tomorrow, bet your bottom dollar, wait and see…) 5. It wasn't that good anyway (always find flaws with the one you can't have) 6. I could have had it, if I really wanted it, I just didn't want it badly enough (good choice, if you're insecure and concerned about others' disapproval) 7. It wouldn't be fair to other collectors to hog all the really good ones. Ah, Excuses. To keep our self-esteem intact and to feel we are in control of the situation. To distort the facts so we feel better. To help us accept our limitations, help us feel better about ourselves and help us take chances, since we know we can always come up with an excuse if we fail to acquire that which we crave to possess. Because we are quite often not aware--and don't want to be--of what we are doing. Because, what we're doing is rationalizing acts of passion that are incomprehensible, misunderstood, and guilt-producing. We feel the exhilaration that accompanies hunting – and winning – objects of desire and somehow manage the stress that comes from indecision, and the tension of the "hunt." Because whatever compels our ardor, we also feel the exhilaration and joy that comes from "selecting, gathering, and keeping" objects of subjective value; objects that may have no special or commercial value, no particular usefulness, indeed – that may have no meaning, or appeal, to anyone in the world except us. And that's enough. It's called collecting. *** Copyright © Jane Frank 2006
Be sure to visit Jane's website at : www.wow-art.com for great original art!
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The Extreme Makeover Of Helen Watson by Neil Davies
She stalks her prey in darkness. A predator. A hunter. A killer of unstoppable ferocity and strength. Her hunting ground is the bars and clubs of the city. Her camouflage the short skirt and tight t-shirt of a party girl. The bait in her trap, sex. Another willing and unaware victim leading her to his car, driving to a secluded spot high above the city. He grins expectantly as she pulls off her t-shirt, her breasts pale in the moonlight, nipples dark and erect. He almost salivates as she slips off her skirt, her panties, and drops all her clothes out through the side window. Another simple, hormone-driven male gasping and dying as she bites into his neck, his throat. She moans in orgasm as she drinks his blood, experiencing an ecstasy sex alone can never offer. Growling with animal lust she tears his throat out, blood spraying the windscreen, smearing the lights of the city below, splattering her body, her breasts, her stomach, her thighs. This is hunting for the pleasure of the kill alone. Calmly she wipes her face and her hands with his shirt. She steps out of the car, picks up her clean clothes from the ground and dresses. She sighs, satisfied, and wipes his blood from the face of her watch. Shit! She has to hurry if she doesn't want to be late for work. *** Sixteen and plain was not a good place to be. Not at Rosemont High School. Not when the boys were jocks or nerds, and the girls were... well, the girls were beautiful or not. Helen Watson was not. Definitely not. In a big way, in her own mind, the absolute worst place not to be beautiful. Even worse than school. She stared grimly at her bedroom mirror and could see it all. The slightly too
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square jaw line. The bump in her nose. The crooked smile. The even more crooked teeth. The eyes... actually she quite liked her eyes. Brown, wide and almost cute with the right kind of eye shadow and mascara. The expensive kind. The kind she couldn't afford. "Helen? Are you ready for school yet?" Her mother, shouting from down the hall in their bungalow. Her mother, divorced, crippled, dependant! "Yes Mom" But not really. Not ever really. She pulled her long, red hair back, tied it hurriedly into a pony tail, took one last look in the mirror, pulled tongues at the hated image that looked back, and hurried out of her bedroom. She bent over the wheelchair and kissed the grey hair curled tightly on the top of her mother's head. "Jenny will be here by half past Mom. She has her own key. Nothing for you to worry about." Her mother smiled at her. "I'm not worried dear. Now hurry or you'll miss the bus." Mrs Watson watched her daughter rush out through the door in a swirl of long grey skirt. She sighed. She might not be able to walk but it was her daughter who was truly crippled. Crippled by shyness. Crippled by low self-esteem. Crippled by having to care for her elderly mother. For the first time since he had left twelve years ago she thought about asking Helen's father for help. She had hoped to spare Helen any contact with the dubious heritage her father offered. Now she wondered whether that would be her only hope of salvation. *** "Oh my god. Here comes Watson. What is she wearing?"
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Cheryl Mortimer stared in mock horror at the rapidly emptying school bus and the girl struggling up the steep path towards the school. She laughed, she sneered, she gathered her three closest friends around her, all dressed in the same school football team jackets and tight designer jeans. Helen tried to ignore them as she stomped past, intensely aware of her big, worn shoes, her long grey skirt, her pale, faded blue fleece that had been a present from her mother four years ago. But she couldn't avoid Cheryl, stepping into her path, breasts that Helen suspected were more silicone than girl stretching the pink cheerleader's sweatshirt to near tearing point, pushing the edges of the jacket back to her shoulders. Cheryl Mortimer was everything Helen Watson was not. Cheerleader, popular, beautiful, and the easiest lay in school. The last was a well-kept secret known only by her closest friends, and most of the school football team. Helen knew because she had once been one of Cheryl Mortimer's closest friends. That time was only a distant memory now, before Cheryl made the cheerleader squad. While she was still busy climbing her way to the top flat on her back. Cheryl knew that Helen knew. She hated her for that, and for everything she represented. Mostly her own past. "Where's the funeral Watson? Has that crippled mother of yours finally done the decent thing and killed herself? Oh, I forgot. You always dress this dull!" Helen forced her way past, her elbows digging into Cheryl's breasts. Surely they should give a little? "They shouldn't let you into our school Watson," called Cheryl after the retreating girl. "You're too ugly to be in the same school as me!" When she turned back, smiling, to her friends she was surprised to find that they had disappeared and that the other students nearby on campus were staring at her. She turned to a boy nearby. She didn't recognise him. He wasn't a football player. "What's your problem? Never seen a body this good before?"
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She turned and flounced towards the school. She would never understand the common people. *** "Before I left, Celia, you made it very clear that I was to have nothing to do with Helen." Celia Watson nervously shuffled her wheelchair back and forth on the living room carpet. She had sent Jenny home early, assuring her that she had friends coming round and would be fine, promising her full pay for the day regardless of the actual hours worked. Now she wondered if she should have kept the young home-help around. Someone outside the family group. A touchstone in the real world. "Things change." Her voice sounded weak in her own head, but she had forgotten how imposing a figure he was. How strong he could be just standing there. How deep and resonant and mesmerising his voice was. He turned from the window and smiled at her, a smile blinding in its whiteness in the dark, bearded face. "I thought you wanted me to leave our daughter alone? You were adamant that she should never know of her birthright." He picked up a framed photograph of Helen in a gloved hand and studied the smiling, young girl of some eight years ago. "I warned you at the time that it might rise to the surface even without my influence. I cannot control nature." "She is a normal sixteen year old girl. That is not the problem." "Then why did you call me?" Celia took a deep breath and wondered, not for the first time since making the phone call, whether she was doing the right thing. But she needed to do something. For Helen's sake. "Our daughter is unhappy. Miserable even. I am a burden to her. Her looks are a burden to her. School is a cruel and unforgiving place. I can't watch her sink like this. She deserves better."
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"She is made fun of for the way she dresses, the way she looks. For the fact she is clever and studious, not flirty and sporty like those tramps who parade around in clothes girls five years older would be embarrassed to wear! I know all this Celia." "You know? How...?" "I promised I would not interfere, not that I would take no interest. I have had people placed to keep me informed." She had always known he had influence. Sometimes she forgot how far and how deep that influence spread. "Then you know she needs help." He stepped forward and placed a hand on Celia's shoulder. She softened, felt the old desire blooming inside her again. It had been the hardest decision of her life to tell him to leave. For Helen's sake. "Years back I offered to cure you. You would no longer be a burden then." For a moment she felt tempted. To be able to walk again. To no longer need others to look after her. But she knew another's need was greater. "No. It's not me who needs to be cured. It's Helen." *** Eileen Tasker swayed down the corridors of Rosemont High impeccably dressed in a cream trouser suit, her slim leather briefcase swinging gently from her right hand. She smiled at the female students, knowing they admired and envied her looks, her confidence. She smiled at the male students, knowing their eyes strayed with satisfying predictability to the curve of her breasts just visible through the carefully arranged white blouse, top buttons teasingly undone. She could almost hear the creak of their necks as they turned to watch her walk away, buttocks creasing the tight cream trousers. They wanted her and that knowledge made her smile. Eileen Tasker was both the coolest and the hottest teacher in Rosemont High, and with the exception of certain elderly, barren members of the staff, everyone liked her. She was a role model to the girls and a wet dream to the boys. But more
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than that, she actually cared about the students, something that had been more of a surprise to her than anyone else. There had been other motives, other reasons for her applying for a post here. She had never expected to actually like the job! "Miss Tasker. Are you going to the dance on Saturday?" Eileen turned a bright smile on the girl who had spoken. "No Sandra. The dance is for students only. You know that. Other than a few chaperones there'll be no staff there." "But you're different Miss Tasker. It'd be fun to have you there." Eileen laughed. "It'll be more fun without me, believe me. Who's your date for the dance Sandra?" It was safe to ask Sandra. She was tall, pretty, and going steady with at least three boys in the school at any one time. "I haven't decided yet Miss Tasker. Thought I'd keep them waiting until the last moment. Keep them eager, you know?" "Have a good time Sandra." Eileen watched the girl hurry away and then continued her walk towards her classroom. For a moment, in the crowd of students making their way to lessons, she caught a glimpse of Helen Watson, plain, dowdy Helen Watson. She felt sad for the girl and hoped that she hadn't overheard the little back and forth with Sandra. It was a near certainty that Helen didn't have a date for the dance. In fact, it was a near certainty that Helen wouldn't go to the dance at all. Eileen Tasker wished she was allowed to help the poor girl. She knew she could, but she was not allowed. There were some kinds of help that didn't fit into the school curriculum. Still... if only she could. "Miss Tasker." The call came from further back down the corridor. Not a student this time. An older, raspier voice. There could be no mistaking it. She stopped, turned, and forced a slight smile. All that the caller deserved.
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"Yes Mrs Rosco?" The school secretary. Prim, proper, dull. One of those with a definite dislike of Eileen Tasker and her bright, modern, sexy approach to teaching. "Miss Tasker," the older woman gasped, out of breath from the short run up the corridor. "There's a telephone call for you. A man! He said it was urgent." Eileen Tasker ignored all the suggested criticisms and innuendos in the woman's words and frowned, genuinely puzzled as to who would call her at work. *** "There was another murder last night. Some guy in his car up on Leaper's Point. My dad said there was blood everywhere!" As Samantha Groker's dad was a policeman, Helen was inclined to believe her. She imagined the scene and gave the only suitable response she could think of. "Gross!" "Yeah. My dad said his throat was ripped out, just like the others. They don't know if it's a person or some kind of wild animal!" Samantha sat next to Helen in class and, in as much as she was friendly towards her, was Helen's best friend. Helen's only friend in school. She was that rarity, a pretty girl who seemed not to be aware of the fact, or at least not obsessed by it. For whatever reason, she had chosen Helen to speak to on her very first day in school and, despite overtures from the more beautiful girls and an offer to become a cheerleader, had chosen to remain friends with Helen. Samantha confused, disgusted and annoyed Cheryl Mortimer and her friends. It was not a situation that seemed to overly concern Samantha. "Does that make it five now?" Helen had been following the murders in the local press. She had always been fascinated by such things, more so when it was right in her neighbourhood. "Yeah, five. Scary eh?"
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"What's scary? Five what?" Cheryl strode past, sneering. "Can't be dates for Watson here. She's not had one, let alone five!" "Screw you Mortimer! Better to be like her than to be right up there with broken bones as something every football player has had!" Cheryl opened her mouth as if to respond and then turned away, storming to her desk at the back of the class, consoled by her fellow cheerleaders. Helen grinned. That was another great thing about Samantha. She wasn't afraid of Cheryl Mortimer. She didn't seem to be afraid of anything. "Sorry I'm a bit late," said Miss Tasker as she strode into the room. "I got delayed by an important phone call. Now, if you'll all settle down we'll get right on with things." *** The class itself went well for Helen. Human biology was a good subject for her. She seemed to have a natural talent for it. As soon as the bell went, however, the taunts began. She knew they would. Saturday's school dance was too much of an opportunity for certain people to miss. Of course, they waited until Samantha had left Helen's side. "Going to the dance Saturday Watson?" That was Cheryl Mortimer in her best sneering voice. "Oh, I forgot. You don't have a date do you!" "She'll never get a date." One of Cheryl's cheerleading friends. Helen thought her name was Jackie. "Not looking like that!" "Be better if you were crippled like your Mom. At least you'd have an excuse for never getting laid!" A nameless cheerleader. They all merged into one for Helen after a while. "Oh, she has an excuse." Cheryl again. "She's too ugly to get laid." Laughing, Cheryl led her team out of the classroom, hips swinging, short skirts flicking, legs long and lithe. Helen hated them all. She only wished she had the quickness of wit to hit back with something, anything. Some devastating
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comment. Some witty remark that would shut their grotesque mouths and make them think twice before turning on her again. Instead, she bent her head and tried to stop the tears that wanted to burst from her eyes, bringing with them great sobs that would only shame her more. "Helen?" She jerked her head up, shocked at the voice calling her name. "Miss Tasker? I... I didn't realise you were still here." Miss Tasker smiled at her. "It's ok Helen. You just need to learn to ignore those girls. They'll get what's coming to them eventually." Helen wiped away a single tear that had escaped from the corner of her eye. "No offence Miss Tasker, but that's easy for you to say. No one would ever tease you about the way you look." "How do I look Helen?" Eileen Tasker moved closer to the seated girl and stood in front of her desk. "What do you see when you look at me?" Helen looked up at the smiling teacher, suppressing the slight discomfort she felt at her closeness. "Well, you're beautiful, and sexy, and confident." Eileen leaned forward and Helen found her eyes drawn to the cleavage now revealed. It almost panicked her. She had no interest in girls, never had. Not that much in boys either to tell the truth, but never in girls! "What would you say," whispered Eileen, "if I told you I was once just like you?" Helen said nothing but her discomfort grew. Miss Tasker? Like her? It had to be a joke. Eileen Tasker straightened up and moved slowly around Helen, the fingers of
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her right hand tracing a snaking line over the girl's shoulder. Now, standing directly behind her, she rested a hand on each shoulder and placed her lips close to Helen's ear. "I'm serious Helen. I was plain, frumpy even. The butt of everyone's jokes at school. Bitches like Cheryl Mortimer picked on me just like they pick on you." Her fingers began to massage Helen's shoulders and the younger girl found herself relaxing, closing her eyes. A curious warmth spread down her arms and across her chest. "It was like that until I met the man who changed my life. Gave me a kind of makeover. A very extreme makeover." Her hands moved lower, stroking down over Helen's small breasts, working their way inside her blouse. Helen was stunned, thought she should move, get away. But the warmth was too pleasant, and yes, if she dared admit it, the fingers now circling her hardening nipples were too exquisite to pull away from. "Now I can do the same for you Helen." Her hands cupped the younger girl's breasts completely, squeezing gently, pulling a moan from the girl's mouth. "That phone call earlier was from the man who saved my life. Now he wants me to save yours." Her lips moved to Helen's pale neck, her hands stroking lower, over her fluttering stomach, fingers easing inside the waistline of her skirt. "I have a gift from your father!" Eileen Tasker sank her teeth into Helen's neck and began to drink. *** Helen had dreams. Dreams of blood, of strange, beautiful people snarling like animals and tearing the throats from people, normal people, people like her. Miss Tasker was in her dreams, one of the beautiful snarling people. But she could not see herself. And throughout her dreams, her visions of these dangerous, sexual creatures, one word kept repeating.
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Vampires. The dreams faded. The visions weakened and died. Through a fog denser than any she had ever faced before she began to wake, to realise there was a real world waiting for her, and there were voices, weak at first then stronger and louder. Voices she recognised, or at least some. Her mother. Miss Tasker. A man. Miss Tasker! Miss Tasker had touched her, and she could not deny the excitement that had caused. My god! Was that what she truly was? But she had never had any inclination towards other girls! Miss Tasker had done more than touched her. The memory returned, a flood of powerful, fearful imagery and sensation. Miss Tasker had bit her! She screamed. Her eyes snapped open, the fog suddenly gone, and she stiffened, realised she was lying in a bed. A quick check. Her bed. A hand on her shoulder. A comforting voice. Her mother. "Helen dear. It's ok. Eileen brought you straight here." Eileen? Miss Tasker? "You needed to rest, to complete the change." That was Miss Tasker's voice and Helen's eyes focused on the two women leaning over her. Her mother and Miss Tasker. "But..." What had she said? The change? What the hell was there to change? "Give her some space. She just needs a moment to readjust."
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That was a man's voice, deep, booming and full of command. The two women drew back and Helen saw the man. He was tall. He was undeniably handsome in an older man way. And then she recognised him from the descriptions her mother had given her. There had never been any photographs to look at. "Daddy?" The man smiled. "Yes Helen dear. I am your father. And now it is time to accept your legacy, your birthright." "But I..." "Don't worry dear." Her mother again, leaning into view. "I tried to keep this from you but I see now that it must be. I couldn't bear to see you so unhappy." "Take a look in the mirror." Miss Tasker now, holding forward Helen's own hand-held mirror. "You'll see what you were always destined to become." "The mirror...?" "Yes Helen, the mirror." Her father again. Her tall, handsome and impossibly here father. "Not all legends are true." She wasn't sure she completely understood the reference to legends, but she took the mirror and looked... and passed out. *** They stalk their prey in darkness. Predators. Hunters. Killers of unstoppable ferocity and strength. Eileen Tasker wears her trademark tight t-shirt and short skirt. Helen Watson, still learning, still feeling her way in this new life, dresses more conservatively. A plain cream blouse and black trousers. Nevertheless, the top buttons of the blouse are undone, revealing a cleavage she had not previously been aware of, and the trousers are tight, clinging to every curve, moulding themselves to the contours of
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her body in a way that is almost more revealing than the skirt worn by her older companion. Helen Watson is sixteen and beautiful. She knows it. She does not know how it happened, but the crooked nose, the too-square jaw line, the bad teeth, have all gone and been replaced by a face that is so perfect as to be almost unnatural. It is a makeover even the best plastic surgeons could not achieve. And she feels fantastic, wonderful and sexy. She keeps a careful eye on the time as Eileen introduces her to their target for the night. A college boy. Probably a jock. Two days ago he would not have given Helen a second look, now his eyes caress her body and she smiles at him, confident in her own image. She still watches the time, just twenty minutes later, as, naked, she tears at the victim's throat, sharing the feast with Eileen until they both orgasm, throwing their arms around each other, holding on tight as they shudder and moan in ecstasy. As they clean each other off, Helen checks her watch one more time and smiles. "Almost time. I need to get changed." Eileen smiles. "Ok dear. You hurry along. I'll finish off the tidy-up here." Helen kisses her full on the lips, tasting the blood still fresh in her mouth. Reluctantly pulling away she hurries off towards home. Eileen watches her go and then, almost as a second thought, calls after her. "Enjoy the party tonight. Don't be home early. And say hello to Cheryl for me!" Helen's laughter rings clear in the night as the lights of the city below sparkle and gleam, innocent of the terror heading their way. *** Copyright ÂŠ Neil Davies 2006
The Dark Arts : 41
The Dark Arts Anne Stokes
For the very best in skulls and dragons you don't have to look much further than the work of Anne Stokes. In my opinion she has produced some of the finest horror pieces in recent years and her distinctive style never fails to impress! I'm sure you will enjoy the examples of her artwork in this issue, so be sure to browse around Anne's website later to view even more fantastic images. Here's a bit more info that the artist kindly provided about herself ... *** I live in Leeds in the UK and I have been a full time freelance illustrator for about 8 years. It is fantastic to be able to earn my living drawing and painting fantasy subjects.
'Dragon's Nest' & 'Succubus' : Copyright ÂŠ Anne Stokes 2006
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I produce a lot of of my artwork for clients in the games industry. Current clients include: * Wizards of the Coast - Dungeons & Dragons Eberron campaign, Forgotten Realms, Core Rule books and miniature designs * Covers for Mongoose publishing's D20 books * Max Protection Deck Armour * World of Warcraft CCG Some of my other clients include T-shirts and poster ranges for Spiral merchandising ; Cover and tarot art for Llewellyn Worldwide.
'Werewolf' & 'Curse of Arastold' : Copyright ÂŠ Anne Stokes 2006
Dragons have always fascinated me, I think it is their power and grace, combined with their intelligence and nobility. The serpent like bodies and wings also provide an artist with great scope for design. If you would like to commission a painting of a dragon, or anything else you can contact me at : firstname.lastname@example.org
The Dark Arts : 43
'The Darkest Hour' : Copyright ÂŠ Anne Stokes 2006
*** Q : Did you find it difficult to get into fantasy illustration as a full-time job? Was this always your ambition or did you ever consider a different career path at any point? A : When I initially started out as a freelance artist it did take a while to build up a full schedule of fantasy art clients. I just did any art job that came my way, including record covers and tour merchandise, jewellery design and model making. Now I am able just do fantasy paintings and I can pick and choose a little more who I work for. Q : Do you have an agent to help you find work or prefer to handle your own promotional management? And do you get regular commissions from certain publishers or are you completely freelance? A : I have never had an agent. I am freelance but I do work on a regular basis for a number of companies. My main clients are Wizards of the Coast where I work on a number of Dungeons and Dragons product lines and Spiral Direct for whom I do t-shirts and posters.
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'Preceptor' : Copyright ÂŠ Anne Stokes 2006
Q : Do you travel a lot to display your work at various conventions. How important is this to your work? Does it help generate any extra income or is it purely for promotional purposes, to make sure your artwork gets more exposure? A : I don't travel that much. I exhibit at two or three conventions a year. It is nice to get out of the studio and meet people every now and then! The convention art shows do generate income for me but it is mainly for promotional purposes. I have been attending the art show at Indy Gencon for the last few years. It is a great
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show and I have made some good friends of some of the other artists. It's also nice to meet some of the American art directors that I work for in person. Due to the expense of getting myself and my art from the UK to the USA it is more for promotion purposes than profit. Q : A lot of your work is based around skulls and dragons. Was it always your intention to pursue these particular themes or have they just been your main commissions over the past few years? Any plans to tackle other subjects in future? A : I love painting dragons. I think they are the most iconic fantasy image. Fantasy art allows you to create thing that don't exist and this is what drew me to pursue this line of art. As for skulls, they are a popular subject for t-shirts so this is why I have drawn a fair few over the years. I do find skulls quite fascinating. I think they are really powerful subject, especially in the way they they signify death and a life passed away, but nevertheless they smile. I sometimes meet a person who obviously has a really cool skull. You can see but the set of their jaw, their eye sockets and their cheek bones. So if I've ever stared at you in a weird way I apologize, I was just imagining how your skull looked, lol, I am sure that makes me sound like a real freak ;) Q : How successful has your own website been since it launched? Do you think it's helped you reach a wider audience? A : My website is a great tool and serves as an online portfolio. I have got a lot of commissions from art directors visiting my site. Q : Do you ever make use of other online promotional resources such as digital art galleries or blogs or example? Or do you feel it's important to keep more control over your material by only allowing it on your own official website? A : Yes I have a Deviant Art gallery which is a nice way to get feedback from other people. I am also a member of a private online art forum for professional illustrators which is really cool and a great way to get good critic from other artists. Q : What's your preferred media to work with these days? Any hints on the tools and techniques you employ to create your artwork? A : I mainly work digitally, due to the speed and easy nature of making changes.
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For commercial art this is very important. I sketch on paper and then paint in Photoshop. I like to paint traditionally with acrylics every now and then when I have the time and the project suits. Q : What has been the best experience of your career so far? And what plans do you have for the future? A : When I first got hired by Wizards of the Coast it was very exciting. They are a great company to work for and do a lot of very cool stuff. The best experience was meeting my now husband Ralph Horsley who is also a freelance fantasy artist :) I would love to have my own art book. ***
'Website Homepage' : Copyright ÂŠ Anne Stokes 2006
Visit : www.annestokes.com for more deliciously disturbing illustrations!
Death Codex : 47
Death Codex Chapter Four by Sean Woodward
"Run" Shani screamed into the helmet's comms system, grabbing Markos' arm as she ran back towards the airlock, away from the Skymelter. Already its self duplicating surfaces were enveloping the space behind them. In moments its anti-matter algorithms were gaining momentum, negating all entropy within their influence, contorting the forces of linear matter, warping sound as reality began to creak and moan before its onslaught. Further elements of the Qube blinked into existence, fuelled by the Abyss, etched with the dark geometries of the elder language whispered by those that gathered in the cold cabals of preserved worlds. Shani would have liked to study those surfaces any other time any other time and a long way distant. Now she heard her breath hard in the her suit, the helmet visor swung down once more, heads-up metrics swarming before her field of vision, herself and Markos moving as quickly as they could with the Skymelter unfolding like some deadly origami flower behind them. The old, inner stone walls of the building had been coated in the same metallic armor that adorned the body of the Magister. Rising, he waved a gauntlet and activated a viewing portal. He strode purposefully towards the new rift in the wall. Between hard reflective pillars he looked out, down across the square to the multitude of figures streaming from the first floor galleries. He had fought hard and long for this day and wanted to capture its every moment in his memory. He noted much about the view, his gaze sweeping slowly across the vista. From the strange lack of cloud overhead, from the triadic orbits of the drifting moons above to the numerous assistants passing between the crowds, trying to restore some order to their egress, mimicking the graceful dance overhead. It reminded him of the chaos on Ision7. The halls of the Temple there had been a similar cacophony of characters. The difference was in more than their attire. On Ision7 the multitudes all wore the robes of the Illuminist rank. Once he had detested their ways, could not understand why so many would turn to the past in the way that they did - embarking on voyages of exploration and archeology, using the latest technologies merely as crude crude crowbars to prise open the past. It was archeology that had first brought them to the snow covered worlds of the Ision system. That and the tales of an army preserved within some ancient ice fortress. They quickly made the visible fortress a new outpost of the Eternal
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Republic of the Temple and they quickly set to work unearthing vast underground catacombs that latticed the planet quickly labeled and federated as Ision7. And although the Magister detested that branch of the Temple, it was still responsible to him, still owed allegiance before all others to him. As were the monks and scholars of a thousand words. This was the only joy he retained during the rise of their temple complex. Until that fateful discovery. No doubt their faces would have been very much similar to those now walking into the gallery below. He could imagine the expressions on the faces of all of those who had entered both galleries. They would somehow have been immune to the fine carvings of the Velentee peoples, to the ornate stonework of the now dead world of Octaine. For in their minds only the treasure in the final gallery would hold their attention. Finally they would queue in awe before the tableau that included the statue of Valqueth. Valqueth, who for centuries was little more than myth, his fate and that of the men that served with him a mystery. Few even were aware that a likeness of that great scholar-warrior had survived the millennia of Inquisitions. For those times had seen the destruction of so many images, so many fine works of art betrayed by mankind's passing inequities. And now, people were arriving in the heart of the Eternal Republic by their millions. If only they knew the outstretched hand of Valqueth was missing one small object. If only they knew what the Magister knew. The Magister returned from the portal and sat behind the stasis preserved oak desk. This too was something few would quite understand, a luxury in these times. He wiled the deceptively soft metallic glove from the fingers of his hand, watching it ripple into itself at the wrist and touched the surface of the desk with human fingertips. He knew the value of this object. He knew exactly to which century ir rightfully belonged. He took delight in that knowledge. A smile began to stretch his cheeks, their edges encased in the same silvery curves, knowing this particular pleasure was not partaken by many. The drawers by his legs were bulky and had little in the way of zero point enhancements or automatic time frame indexing, but he preferred it that way. Njarn Tibel was in many ways a simple man. It was this trait which had served him so well in his years in the Temple hierarchy. It was this trait which allowed him to so easily match the mood of those within his orbit and so easily to read their thoughts. It was this trait which singled
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him out amongst the many who would have risen to his office. He scratched at the stubble of the Inquisitor's Beard about his chin and reached in for the scroll. The Codex of Valqueth had been hidden for centuries. Many believed it to be no more than a hoax, just another way of extracting a few Alumini from the gullible. Njarn Tibel knew different. Certainly not gullible, it was empathy for other people's thoughts which had first brought him to the revelation of the identity of this codex. For the volume, bound in a leather and metal, etched with strange geometries and Al-Jin-Brewesques had thoughts of its own. They revolved and danced in spirals in his head as he reached for the clasp. They spun like distant galaxies and flared and died like senile supernovae. And they were tied together with strands of a darker, viral nature. These thoughts dragged you into their depths and spoke of the spaces between time, of a stasis, between age and between death, of long vanished kings and seekers wandering the icy wastes of Ision7. Once the silver parts which now framed his body had been flourishes around characters, had seemed no more than swirls of gleaming punctuation. Slowly the Magister opened the volume to one of the illustrated pages. Covered in sigils and geometries few even recognised for such, these held a great fascination for Njarn Tibel. For on these pages were the pictorial keys to the Death Codex, the elemental doorways into the very soul of mankind. "Commander, we're reaching the influence of Ision Major, do you wish us to break into the system now?" "Yes, now" replied Armillo, his triad-class Starchaser becoming a sleek reality once more as the tg-flexengines aligned themselves with the solar winds of the system, rare as they were. He felt the initial dampening as they sucked in the energies and glided upon them, passing in a wide arc around Ision Major itself and reaching out toward the frozen world of Ision7. He turned the triangularShip-Core over and over in his hand, as though exercising his fingers. "Do you think the Pentacle will be in one piece, Sir ?" asked the navigator. "It had better be" replied Armillo, pacing the length of the chart room, his thoughts already turning to his old home-world. To those not born there, Ision7 was a forsaken place. Most of its surface was too cold for even the hardened thrill-seekers who powered up snowriders over the huge crevasses. Too many had died for it to become one of the annual tour venues,
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much to the disgust of the off-world promoters. Now, apart from the peoples of the tribes, there were few who came here. Except for the Illuminist monks of the Temple. To them this world was sacred. For millennia their temple environs had the honour of being home to the Oracle Kuanji. Armillo cared little for that branch of his order, something he was sure many of his superiors also felt. Once Anjers and Kuanji had been lovers. He knew just how the Illuminst monks would react to that piece of information. Or perhaps he didn't. His brothers revered the vampyre race in a way he could never quite understand. It was as if they had taken the legends of the Scarlet Lady to heart. It was true that only one of her race could ever hold the office of Oracle, but that didn't mean she was infallible, he knew that from hard experience. As the triad-ship entered the planet's orbit he recalled the events in New Jerusalem. The Combiners had complete allegiance to BCorp and using one of their squads on the same world as Anjers Kral was risky from the very beginning. Throwing a vampyre by the name of Kuanji into the mix was just suicidal planning. It was no real surprise when only two of the original squad made it back to the drop zone. No real surprise that their very bloodchips had been taken by her. If the Temple ever achieved its goal of identity transmigration then the promise of perpetual life in the Eternal Republic of the Temple was something those soldiers would never see. It was this more than anything that he despised about Kuanji and her kind. They thought they had some right to deprive humanity even of the hope of a better life, of crossing the dark reaches of the cosmos. "Commander, there's a coded message coming in .... from Axis Templum, Sir". "OK, notify me when we have landed" "Yes Sir" Armillo turned the Ship-Core in his hand for the hundredth time this evening and walked towards his private quarters. He dreaded the communication. Coming from the home-world of the Temple it could only be from one person. His last meeting with the Magister had not been one of his favourite, in fact he had wondered if it might not be his last. For an instant Magister Njarn Tibel was transported from the austere coldness of his room on Axis Templum, he felt the shift take place which characterised the transformation that the Codex had unleashed upon him. He saw beyond this moment, beyond the wonders that already filled his life to the time of the creator
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of the Codex, the creator of the Qubes. He stood in this same building, in this same place, but in a different, long distant time. He walked aboard one of the Pentacle class ships, only now their geometries had changed beyond all recognition. The ships were massive black triangles. This was no longer the Eternal Republic of the Temple that TIbel governed but an interstellar unity of humans who had exceeded the redundancy of their bodies, who had exceeded the constraints of time and space, whose pure and focussed will had affected the very building blocks of perceived reality. On the bulkhead which marked the entrance to the command deck he could see the symbol of the Temple. A single eye blazed from within a triangle. The triangle sat within an upright vesica piscis from which streamed forth rays - the rays of the templargram. He willed the huge bank of lights beneath the triangular craft to illuminate, pouring forth their templargram distortions, rising from their pads. The huge triangular craft rose to two hundred feet, its burning Qube engines reduced to a hum of quarktivity as they readied to power their ship backwards through time. An instant later he looked out upon a primitive transportation system, tiny vehicles strung in lines beneath him, some kind of powerless people mover forming a lattice above them. He studied what he could see carefully. It was not a broken people mover but some kind of platform where humans were actually walking over the vehicles beneath them. He could sense the wonder in their minds, looking up at the ship. He could also sense the fear. He turned to his left, saw the ship's Qube unfold and heard its deep voice, like something slowed down and slurred as the words tried to slip from it. "This is the year Nineteen Hundred and Ninety Four, Old Earth Reckoning, Earth, Europe, England, December. Refining search fields. Locating DNA." The banks of templargram distorters blazed once more, the enormous black ship disappeared. Njarn Tibel felt the silver skin ripple back from his face, the black ovoid eye protectors disappear with it and time shift once more. He shut the Codex and placed it back in the draw, trying to still the swirling thoughts and wrench them back to his own mind. Every time he opened the book it was as if a part of him died. And yet it felt good, it felt as if it was a part he no longer needed, no longer cared about. And in those moments he heard his own voice speaking of other worlds, other systems far beyond the Rim and the reach of mankind. Sometimes he felt that he harboured a strange traveler, eager to tell of his journeys and show vids of the wondrous places he had visited. As time passed he began to remember himself only as, covered in the silver-grey skin of the Codex, aboard the dark triangular craft as he followed the beckoning of its Qube's distorted voice, urging
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him ever onwards, ever searching for those two humans whose DNA, whose child-producing technologies he had to preserve. It was like some kind of a dream he told himself. But it was the Old Earth Year of 1994. The Magister observed the approach of the Mars planetoid to Old Earth, aligned its surface etched Al-Jin-Brewesques with the ships own Abyss geometries. The Qube mapped out the time jumps - 52 - one for each week of an Old Earth year, in and out the time line, taking humans on board, testing their DNA, wiping their memories with his own, more powerful mind and putting them back in their beds. He hated what he had become, hated the thoughts he heard as they stared at his silver-grey body, at his dark ovoid eyes, his elongated fingers. He knew the fear they felt, he shared it. But he also knew what the creator of the Qubes knew, knew how fragile mankind would be if this wasn't done. Njarn Tibel had seen the long-picture unfold. He heard the ghoulish drawl of the blurred Qube voice one more time. One more time he suspected he also knew its identity. "These are the ones. Commence field distortion sweep". The massive black triangle materialised over the twentieth century house. The white arcs of light cut down through the sky, racing across the road, across the pavement, through the garden gate, up the path to the wall of the house. Through the upstairs windows it glanced across the bed. In a second it took the couple from the depths of their tangled sleep, took them deep within the bowels of the time ship. *** Copyright ÂŠ Sean Woodward 2006
Discover more of Sean's creative talents at : www.seanwoodward.com
Signs Of Life : 53
Signs Of Life by Paul Kane
The light in the toilets was blue, to stop the junkies from jacking up. It didn't bother Zachary Tench. He didn't need to see his veins to take this particular drug. Just see the white powder, just find his nose. That felt good. And he needed to feel good right now. He was in a bad, bad situation. If this stuff could make him feel better, then he was all for it. He heard the main door go, but the coke was kicking in, tingling. He bent slightly in the cubicle; the footsteps passed by on their way to the urinals. It wasn't Terry or Pete, or any other of Wyatt's gorillas. Not that he thought it would be for one secondâ€ŚThey wouldn't find out what he'd done for a while yet, and by that time he'd be long gone. Zach sat down on the toilet, head resting against the cistern. A nondescript holdall was by his feet. But it wasn't filled with clothes or anything else he'd need for the trip. Zach reached down and opened it up. He just couldn't resist looking inside every now and again, making sure it was still there, making sure this gamble was all worth it. Life or death, win or lose: you play the odds and take your chance. The contents of the casino's safe were still in there. Calmer now, he took out one bundle of cash and thumbed the money. He fought the urge to whistle in case the man at the urinal heard him. I'll say this much for you, Zachary Gavin Tench, you've got some nerve. A cool hundred grand. The combination of the drugs and dosh took his mind off how he'd acquired this fortune for a moment. But it soon came back to him: stealing into Wyatt's office, then stealing the money right from under the man's nose like that. He could justify this by saying it was only what was owed. His retirement fund; payment for being Wyatt's hired hand these past few years. It made him want to puke when he thought about it. How Wyatt had deceived him; turned him into something he could no longer stomach, someone who stood by and did nothing to help that
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poor girl Colette. Zach gripped the money tighter when he remembered what that bastard had done to keep her quiet. He knew the law was no protection against men like Wyatt; never had been. That's why he had to get away before the net tightened and he ran out of options. Go on the run, lay low for a while, and then maybe find a way to get out of the country. It wasn't going to be easy, he knew that as well. But anything was better than the life he'd been living as one of Wyatt's lackeys. Zach still had a few friends who might help him out, people he could probably trust - if they were paid just enough. There were no ties to keep him in this city anyway, no one he really cared about or who cared about him. There hadn't been since Sally walked out and the barriers had gone up again. He could hardly blame her after the way he'd acted, the things he'd said and done. It was better to keep your distance and not form attachments, especially in his line of 'work'. The splintering of bone, the crack of broken arms and legsâ€Ś Zach heard the taps running outside now. The guy was finishing up. The hand-dryer coughed out its air and then the door went again. It was time for him to get out of here. He jammed the money back into the holdall, wiped his nose, and opened the cubicle door. Zach looked at himself in the mirrors opposite; he didn't like what he saw staring back at him. But he could live with it, just. He hoped. Scorpio (represented by the scorpion): Scorpios have a bit of a reputation. They're seen by some as the bad boys and girls of the zodiac, and seen by others as just plain bad news. This is quite unfair really as the vast majority born under this sign are very nice people who are a delight to spend time with. All right, it may be true that they do blow their tops from time to time, and have a tendency to do things on the spur of the moment they might later regret, but it gives them character. They can be obsessive and even possessive, with fixed ideas about life, and can be a torrent of raging emotions beneath the skin. In their dealings with others they might distance themselves, possibly because they have been let down or hurt in the past when they have given more of themselves than they should. In dealings with money, Scorpios come into their own. Everyone needs this to survive, but people born under this sign know that it can buy you influence, prestige, and is an important status symbol in today's society. They like to compete in the big money stakes even if they don't have that much of it themselves. They might bet the shirt off their back to raise some brass, or even get into debt to give the impression they are doing better than they actually are.
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Whatever career a Scorpio chooses, it must have value. Their work life is very important and it must serve a purpose they feel comfortable with. They have to know that their efforts are leading to something worthwhile. It's also necessary for Scorpios to let off their pent up emotional energies somehow. And if this can't happen at work it must happen at play. *** The voice was talking to him again. "Go on, get moving then." Jez Bingley climbed on board the train, looking to his left and his right. "Now why don't you find a seat and sit down," it said to him. "We have to gather our thoughts." Jez did as he was told. It was easier that way, he found. He pressed the button on the doors to his left. They hissed open and allowed him entrance to carriage 'C'. There was a two-seater space just next to him, so he took off his coat and placed it on the window seat. Then he settled down in the red velvet of the outer seat. Jez stared at the plastic tray in front of him, held up by a little wheel on the back of the chair. He twisted the wheel and the tray dropped down on his lap. "What are you doing now?" said the voice. "Just leave it alone. Go on, do as you're told." Jez put the tray back and secured it with the wheel. His eyes caught the upright black armrest by the side of him, but he didn't bring it down. "No, you can leave that alone as well," said the voice, reading his mind…which wasn't that difficult really because it was a product of that very same cerebellum. Some small part of Jez knew this, or thought he did. All those hours of talking to the people at the hospital as a boy, all the sessions explaining about the voice and the doctors who had told him it was just a case of misfiring neurones in his brain, just a figment of his imagination they could adjust. And the medication had worked; did its job and quietened the voice, his other half, his alter ego. They'd dulled, muffled and subdued it. But it hadn't stayed away forever. Eventually the voice had started talking to him again. Only softly at first, but persuasive, same as always. The first thing it told him to do was keep quiet this time, not let anybody know. Then they could have some real fun, the voice had promised. "You'll see."
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It hadn't been Jez's idea of fun though. The voice had talked him and ultimately bullied him into things, terrible things. It hadn't been content anymore to see him hurt himself, to stick pins in his arms or stub lit cigarettes out on his stomach. No. It had forced him to go out in search of others to torment as well. To inflict this madness on. Jez closed his eyes now and flashed back to the very first of them: a young girl, couldn't have been more than twenty-something, out walking her West Highland Terrier near the bank of a canal. The voice had made him spy on her first, looking, recording the information. Then the voice had started to whisper to him, how good it would feel, how if he hurt her it would save him even more pain. Jez tried to resist, fought against it so badly, but the voice had ranted and raved until he thought he would actually go deaf from the shouting. And so Jez had obeyed, dragging her into a nearby thicket, hand over her mouth; watching as the dog yapped a couple of times and then ran off. "Go on, do it, DO IT!" Someone walked past him and brushed his shoulder. Jez flinched, his eyes snapping open. "Excuse me," said the woman in the pink jumper and jeans. Jez attempted a smile but it came out all wrong. The woman carried on down the aisle a short way and found a seat, facing him at an angle. Jez caught himself staring and looked away. But his eyes kept flicking back to her every couple of seconds. "She's nice," said the voice. "Very nice." The woman opened up a magazine and started to read. Jez noticed that every so often she would peer over the top. "Imagine what her insides would look like," the voice whispered. Gemini (represented by the twins): Gemini folk are people of the moment. They are instinctive, restless and always on the look out for an opportunity. Gemini's are extremists. They swing from one extreme to the other - sometimes being generous and kind, and other times deceitful or even, in some cases, malicious. Because they are represented by the sign of the twin, this sort of 'dual personality' should come as no great surprise. Often Gemini's will act as if they are two people trapped in the same body. They need permanence, but at the same time always want to be on the move. They value friendships and are always keen to meet new people. Yet at the same time they might let these friendships dwindle once the first waves of curiosity about a person have been sated. Equally, there are times when they just
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want to be alone and won't speak to anyone, then there are times when you just can't shut them up! They are certainly versatile, adapting to given situations readily with an almost chameleon-like knack. They do, however, find it hard to express their feelings. For them it is much easier to deal in the realm of thoughts and ideas. *** Mary Dowling didn't have to trek too far to find the nearest empty toilet; it was a good thing. The next intersection after carriage E boasted a big, empty loo; one of those spacious modern ones with Star Trek style doors that you locked by pressing a red button. She'd nipped inside and emptied her bladder quickly, moaning with relief. She didn't want to spend too much time in here because the next stop wouldn't be far away, but she still wanted to check her throat in the big mirror and maybe sing a note or two before taking her seat again. She'd probably even go to the toilet a second time, just to make sure she'd drained every last dreg out. It was silly, she knew, and only caused by nerves. But all the same…. Mary opened her mouth and said "arrrrr". She couldn't see any inflammation. She'd risk a few lines from 'Heart of Glass'... Stop it, Mary. Mary started to sing, accompanied by the chuntering of the train as it sailed along. There was a banging on the door. Oh blast…somebody's heard me…No, probably just someone bursting for wee like you were before. The banging came again. "Just a minute. I won't be a sec…" said Mary. The banging came hard now. Mary quickly rose above her initial embarrassment and started to get angry. It took a lot for her to lose her rag, but this impatient person was really winding her up. It wasn't as if she'd been in the toilet very long anyway…
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More banging. Mary pressed the red button to unlock the door; it started to slide across. "I said I won't be a-" A hand grabbed her and forced her back into the toilet, covering her mouth, shoving her against the sink. There was a sudden pain in her side and she realised it was the hard porcelain jabbing into her. Her eyes pinwheeled, taking in the features of this person: the piercing blue eyes, the spiky hair. Her breath came in short gasps through his fingers, muffled sounds emerging through her clamped lips. Her attacker pressed the red button and the door closed again, sealing them both inside. Then he held up his other hand, fingers spread, palm outwards. "Ssshh…Please, please be quiet…" he said. "Please…I don't want to hurt you…" No, he just wants to rape you…Here, in a train toilet, on the way to an audition to sing 'Heart of Glass'…or maybe 'Dancing Queen'? Things like that just didn't happen…In dark alleyways, maybe, on your own walking…walking your dog…but not here…not now… Mary struggled against his body, wriggling beneath him. His free hand came down and held her by the shoulder. "Stop. Stop it…" The man cocked his head to one side, as if listening to something. "No. Please. I don't want to…" He was bending her further back over the sink, his forearm came up and he pressed it hard against her windpipe. It was so quick there wasn't time for a scream. Mary bucked, bringing up her nails to scratch his face, but he pulled back just in time. "You said we could wait…" The man was crying now. "You said not yet….Please…" He looked her in the eye. "I don't want to hurt you, but He says that I must. If I don't then something terrible will happen. Something really terrible…' Jesus, he's not going to rape you, is he? Not going to rape you at all. He's going to do something much worse unless… Mary brought up her knee, driving it straight between the man's legs. She felt
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him crumple, the forearm dropping. She tried to yell, tried to call out, but nothing came. It still felt as if the pressure was there. Look what he's done! There's no way you'll ever get a decent note out now…No way in… Mary twisted around, falling over the toilet, reaching out for the red button. She got up, then felt hands on her again. They pulled her back. Her fingers stretched out, centimetres away from the button. So close, so close… Then she was being twisted around again, and struck across the face; her head rocked back and banged against the toilet roll holder. "I said, don't!" His face had changed now, it was contorted. Whatever - whoever - he'd been talking to was taking over. And more than anything in the world, Mary needed pee again. Compatibility Match - Taurus and Gemini: Oh dear, another mis-match. The Taurean, being an Earth sign, likes to lead with the heart and can be far too full on for the Gemini sometimes. Gemini's will feel smothered by the Taurean's emotional reactions to situations, and the Taurean will be hurt when all the Gemini wants to do is spend all their time on their own 'vital' needs. The Gemini will soon lose patience with the Taurean and there could be fights aplenty. It's difficult to see what attracted these people to each other in the first place, unless there was a third party matchmaker involved of course. *** Zachary Tench threw a look over his shoulder. He knew he shouldn't have let the encounter with the ticket woman spook him, but he couldn't help it. Whether it was an after effect of the coke, or he was just feeling on edge - and who could blame him? - he couldn't help being jittery. He'd had to get out of carriage C as soon as possible and kept walking. Maybe the ticket woman suspected something? Why couldn't he have been cooler about the holdall? She probably thought he had a bomb in there or something! Might even radio ahead to the stations and set up searches like they did when there was all that terrorism threat stuff. "Excuse me, sir, but would you mind just opening your bag up…Now then, what's all this in here, then?"
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A fucking truck load of cash, that's what. Wouldn't take Wyatt's men long to find him then. And he had long arms; jail was no safe place. Why couldn't he have acted more relaxed? "Oh, there are breakables in here…I'd rather not put them in the compartment if it's all the same with you…" Because he'd fucking panicked, that's why. And the way she'd looked at him afterwards, like he was insane or something. "Shit," whispered Zach. "Shit, shit, shit." The door opened to take him through another space between compartments. He looked over his shoulder again, trying to see down through the carriages, to see the ticket woman. He stood on his toes. Still couldn't see anything. He backed up a couple of spaces… And the toilet door behind him slid across. Zach whirled around, clenching his holdall, almost cradling it like a baby. A girl fell out of the toilet; couldn't have been more than twenty-two or three, holding a handbag. She was trying to say something but either he'd suddenly gone deaf or she couldn't get her words out. She looked terrified, her mascara had run where she'd been crying. Zach saw two hands grab her from inside the toilet, haul her back in. Her eyes pleaded with him for help… Don't get involved, he said to himself. The last thing you want to do is draw attention to yourself…It's just a domestic between boyfriend and girlfriend. He wants to do it in the bathroom and she's changed her mind…that's all…Leave it well enough alone… But a face, a name, suddenly entered Zachary's mind. Colette. He'd left that situation well enough alone and look what had happened. Swearing again under his breath, he approached the toilets. The door was just about to close again. He put his foot in it and the sensors reacted accordingly. The door peeled back and he saw the girl again, held fast by a lad who wasn't that much older than her. Definitely her boyfriend. No, wait, hadn't he seen this girl before…on the platform…and she'd been on her own…Anyway, he'd tell them to stop pissing around andZach saw the straight razor in the boy's hand. The kid with the spiky h a i r looked up and saw Zach. He was so shocked he let the girl go, and she stumbled
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out of the toilet into his arms. He dropped the holdall. The expression of surprise on the boy's face suddenly changed. He snarled…and brought up the razor. Then the whole world turned upside down… ***
Copyright © Paul Kane 2005 Cover Artwork : Copyright © Ian Simmons 2005
Trade paperback: £6.99 ISBN: 0-9549923-7-7
For ordering details visit : www.rainfallsite.com or the Shocklines Store If you enjoyed this extract from Signs Of Life then you can find further details about this book and Paul's other work at : www.shadow-writer.co.uk
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Mirror Mere by Marie O'Regan
The new collection from one of Britain's rising horror stars, comprising sixteen short stories and the novella from which it takes its nameâ€Ś
Cover Artwork : Copyright ÂŠ David A. Magitis 2006
'Marie O'Regan brings a much-needed female perspective to the modern dark tale; her hard-edged spin on traditional horrors makes her a genuine talent to watch.' (Christopher Fowler, author of The Water Room and Calabash.) 'A delicious batch of tightly written, shivers-up-the-spine chillers.' (Kelley Armstrong, author of Bitten and Haunted.) 'Marie O'Regan's stories contain a slow burn intensity that really get under the
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skin. They offer slivers of domestic life where moments of brutality are never far away. This is a stormy, feral and darkly beautiful collection by a powerful new writer.' (Conrad Williams, author of London Revenant and Game.) 'Marie O'Regan writes punchy and vivid short fiction in which the reader is disarmed and then dismayed with almost surgical ruthlessness. Nothing here can be trusted; not the world you know, nor the people around you, nor the ground on which you stand. Not even, when she's got you backed into a corner, that final hiding place you call your self.' (Stephen Gallagher, author of Chimera and creator of Eleventh Hour.) 'Marie O'Regan's stories are deliciously, satisfyingly nasty, and it's refreshing to read someone who so obviously relishes the genre concocting her unique tales with vigour and lack of pretentiousness.' (Muriel Gray, author of The Ancient and Furnace.) Trade paperback: ÂŁ8.99 ISBN: 0-9549923-6-9 Cover and Internal Illustrations by BFS Award Nominee David A. Magitis For ordering details see : www.rainfallsite.com or the Shocklines Store and to find out more about Marie's work please visit : www.marieoregan.net ***
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