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Author of queer, wry sci fi/fantasy books. On Amazon.
Editor of all fiction genres.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Just a Sip: A Preview of New Work

Hello hello!

Well, my darling fans and followers, you have shown your love and gotten me over the 100 mark on my fan page. That's here, of course: 

Right! So, without further ado, here is a preview of "A Shot of Vodka", a non-science fiction work I'll be putting out this winter. Christmas is the projected date. It's novella length, but I may be including another short story or two along with it.

Source. Of course, thanks to wiki, you can have ALL the vodka. However, this story is about something much more disturbing than whatever happened on your last liquor story adventure. I can pretty much guarantee that.

Of course, no work is complete without a sinister origin...
It was inspired by my first-ever, feverish reading of Doestoyevski's Crime and Punishment some years ago. The story got under my skin in a way that's difficult to describe. I think anyone else who's been really gripped by a story will understand. At the same time, I had a rather maniacal and slightly insane English teacher, who encouraged us to 'tear the book apart' and applied a culturally incorrect reading of the siblings' relationship to our analyses. One thing led to another, and I pursued study of the text on my own. It was the beginning of my love affair with Russian literature, which has continued to this day, but it also sowed the seeds of this novella. 
While there is an overlap in the character's names, they aren't intended to be fan fiction versions of the title characters of the masterpiece. Rather, they're children growing up in the shadows of famous namesakes, connected by coincidence to literary tragedies, but otherwise remote. And, as you'll learn in December, their tragedy follows a far different course. 

I will forewarn readers that while there is little disturbing content in my excerpt, the story contains sensitive material. This may not be an easy read, and may not be for everyone. There may or may not be heads split open by axes, but I've heard from critics that this is one of my darkest stories yet.

Enough teasing--let's get to that excerpt. Here, Avya introduces herself and her brother, and we get a small taste of some of the undercurrents disturbing her family's ordinary exterior.


Rod and I were close. I did love my brother, and rather a lot; it’s a difficult thing to explain, and I suppose that’s why I’m writing this. Though I looked on him only as a sister does, I did sometimes wish we weren’t related—to look at us, one-to-one, you wouldn’t have thought we were siblings. We looked nothing alike. Still, if he was not, you know, my brother, well…you know how it is.
People had remarked from the time he was very little, that he was handsome, and startlingly so. His name suited him. I suppose it’s all genetic coincidence, his resemblance to the other Raskolnikov; nonetheless, there was that fine build and dark hair and inky, oil-black eyes, but he was only of medium height, not exceptionally tall, like his namesake.
             I wished I looked more like him. I am the light-haired one in the family. Big brown eyes, slightly darker eyelashes and eyebrows, full-boned and sturdy, but not plump. Reasonably good-looking, I suppose, but in the ordinary way. To look at our parents it would be hard to see any trace of my looks in their faces. In the snow, though, we all hunch the same way.
It was, as it happened, very cold at the time of which I speak. Our parents were out, that weekend, visiting relatives in another town. We had decided not to go, and they left Rod and me to our own devices. The previous night had been a quiet one, as our evenings usually are; despite my brother’s looks, he had no close female acquaintances that I currently knew of, even though there were plenty of girls who would have been more than happy to get in the sack with him.
So, Saturday morning did not begin with my return at one in the morning, already hung-over and crawling on my knees. Let it go on the record that, as I walked into the day, my soul was mostly unblemished and I was sober.
I was in a good mood, too. However, when breakfast was sitting on the table before us, glancing out the window was enough to displace my equilibrium. That certain kind of snow was falling, steadily, heavily. I groaned about it to Rod, and he shrugged his shoulders.
“Avya, Winnipeg. Winnipeg, Avya. Have you met before?”
Da, darlink, but ees cold.”
He groaned. “It is much too early in the morning for that accent.” It was eight o’clock. No-one in the family slept in.
We crunched away at our cereal for a few moments. “Still have to do chores,” I said.
“Ugh. It’s time to handle some of the recycling, and it’s snowing like a bitch.”
“Wanna make a deal?”
“I’ll handle the recycling if you do the dishes and the laundry.”
            Crunch, crunch, went his cornflakes. “Fine, what’s the catch?”
            “None. I’m going out with the girls to a movie. You’ll probably get the house to yourself today.”
            “Not another horror movie?”
            I shrugged. “Wasn’t my first choice, but Parmi liked it and Nicole wanted to see it too. I’ll probably be out all day.”
            “Suit yourself.”
            I put the bowl on the counter, next to the sink, and walked upstairs to change. Outside, the snow continued, stolidly, with a certain Communist courage. Snow brings equality, I thought. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a Ford POS or a Benz, if it’s stuck in your driveway, you still need to borrow a shovel and possibly somebody’s arms to heft it.
            It was one of those mornings where a trite insight like this is followed by a string of meandering, stupid thoughts about shovels and which sweater to wear. Pulling off the plain blue pyjamas, I stared at the closet for a few minutes, glanced down at myself.
            The door opened.
            “Rod, go away. I’m in my underwear.”
            “Sorry. Whoops.” His footsteps paused for a moment and then, resolutely, padded back towards the kitchen.
            I had goose-bumps, at this point, and I was annoyed with him for barging in on me. I pulled out a grey sweater and thick cords, pulled on a pair of wool socks.
            My parka was in the nook by the door. I pulled it on and stuffed my feet into boots, hands into gloves. “See you!”
            I opened the door to the garage, loaded up the car, and drove out into the cold. 

            Notes about the year 1985: the Berlin Wall was still up. Gorbachev and Reagan were in power. New Coke emerged and died within a three-month time span. Nelson Mandela was still in prison. My heart broke. The IRA was still bombing the shit out of the police department. Route 66 died. They found Titantic. Windows 1.0 was released. Things were bombed and a number of natural disasters occurred. It was a remarkable year, in the ordinary way.
Teenagers don’t think about history, or not often. I handled the errands, and when that was done, went to a coffee shop to wait for the mall to open. That got me to ten o’clock—then I wandered around the mall for a while, and drank several cups of tea. Parmi and Nicole came at twelve, and the wandering changed to a plural tense. Nightmare on Elm Street 2 was on at one, so we went to see that.
After the movie, we loitered in the food court. I do remember Nicole, cracking jokes about the film—and it was awful, after all. Normally, I would have laughed, but I didn’t.  I do remember, though, that I felt a peculiar sense of unease, something nagging at me—an emotional blister. I stared past their faces and thought about the snow. Parmi asked me whether the movie had given me a case of the jitters, and I started.
“No, no, vos byad movie, darlink,” I said. “zat ees all.” Parmi laughed.
“Yes, it was. So why are you scared?”
“I’m not,” I said. “I’m just cold!”
“That’s stupid. I’ll get you a hot chocolate.” Parmi bounced off with my two-dollar bill in hand.
Nicole patted my hand. “It’s okay to be scared.” I blinked at her.
“I’m fine, really. Just spacing out. I think I didn’t get enough sleep or something.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever.”
“Hot chocolate!” Parmi grinned at me, set the cup down on the table. I smiled and wrapped my hands around it, and tried to ignore the anxious look in her eyes.
“Thanks.” I sipped it, but I couldn’t process the taste.
I wondered what Rod would say about this. He would laugh, probably—put an arm around my shoulders, tell me not to get so panicky—and yes, he would have bought me a cup of something hot and sweet. And—
“Are you okay? You’re really pale,” Nicole said.
“Actually, I think the movie kinda shook me up. Uh…I hate to be a wet blanket, but would you guys mind if I went home and took a nap? I don’t feel so hot.“
“Yeah, okay.” They looked disappointed, and I apologized, but, after all, being good friends, they didn’t make an issue of it.
I wished, later, that I’d said more, because it was the last time I saw them for years.

            By the time I got home, it was only four o’clock. It had stopped snowing, but it was still cold, and windy, too. Rod didn’t expect me until eight, I suppose; normally, I’d have made a day of it.
            As I let down the garage door and walked into the house, I realised that most of the lights were off.
It was so still. I called out again, and there was no answer. My pulse was speeding up, and my mouth was drying. I shouldn’t have been scared, really, but I was. It was cold, over-cast, and I’d just seen a horror movie.
There was no logical reason for Rodya’s silence. Then, it occurred to me that he might have decided to go to his room, instead of sitting on the couch in the den. That would have been a little more usual; he was a creature of habit. Still, to look for him meant I had to go downstairs, to the basement. I hate basements to this day.
As I opened the door and descended, the creaking of the stairs made me even jumpier than I already was. My feet seemed unnaturally loud, clattering loudly on the wood. I thought I could hear music—well, there was a percussion solo going on at the moment.
Sure enough, the music revealed itself as Soviet rock-and-roll—my pulse slowed. (To give you an idea of the sound, Gogol Bordello hadn’t formed yet, but if they’d been around, that would have been the sort of music Rod would have listened to.)
            Most of the lights down there were off, but a little light was seeping through the space between the door and the wall. I knocked on the door, and there was still no answer, so I opened it. 


Thanks for returning, ladies, gents, and people in-between. For more delightfully witty commentary. new works, some politics, and other phuquerie, you can find me at Twitter and on Tumblr. Don't forget to check back on Sundays to get your weekly fix. This is your SciFiMagpie, over and out!

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