Wednesday, February 17, 2021

In the Spotlight: Kim Mannix ~ Author of "Rift"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

Kim Mannix on her short story, “Rift.”

It’s difficult to remember exactly how the seeds of a story take hold, isn’t it? Or maybe that’s just the case for me. This one started about two years ago. I had the pleasure of being a part of a mentorship program where I worked with horror writer and filmmaker Susie Moloney in order to develop a collection of dark short fiction. Together, we picked at and sharpened some of my existing stories, but she also challenged me to create a few from scratch. So, I wrote a draft, and then another, but the story--"Rift"--mostly just sat there, lonely and incomplete. When the IWSG Dark Matter call came along, it served as good motivation to finish it.

My favourite kind of weird stories--whether they be literary, horror, dark fantasy or science-fiction--are those that are rooted in a believable sort of reality. I had a character in my mind of a woman who found herself alone and dealing with a certain amount of guilt about it, even though the circumstances were out of her control. Having had my own losses in life, I suppose part of it was drawn from personal experience, but what really made me want to write the story was the whole notion of, what if this isn’t the only world for us? What if there’s a place where another version of our life exists? I am by no means a scientist, but the idea of the multiverse is one of my favorite things to ponder. So I took my character, Lindy, and put her in a seemingly boring and normal setting, that still held the possibility for something extraordinary to develop. The wide open and isolated prairie, not unlike places I spent much of my childhood growing up in Saskatchewan, often find their way into my stories. I think all that expanse leaves a great deal of room for the imagination to run wild.

I was, and still am, surprised and pleased that Rift was selected to appear in the anthology. When I’m not writing for work, most of my creative writing time goes into poetry, but my heart--and writing aspirations--always come back to fun, creepy and weird short fiction. It’s so exciting to have my story in the company of such accomplished writers, and I can’t wait to hold this anthology in my hands!

Blurb:

One quiet morning, a grieving woman encounters a mystery that makes her question the path her life has taken, as well as everything she thought she knew about reality. How thin is the fabric between her world and the next?

Excerpt:

Lindy reached down and picked up a handful of stones from the edge of the pond. She tossed them one at a time, asking herself the same agonizing question she had so many times before. If the baby had lived would Matt still be here?

After the fifth toss, Lindy realized the rocks weren’t making any ripples in the still pond. Only the smallest splash, and then they’d sink. She threw a few more and watched, in confusion, as they did the same thing.

“You seeing this, Janeway? What is up with this day?”

The horse neighed back and started twitching her ears. Lindy heard, or rather felt, an odd rumble that seemed to move across the air. Janeway shifted back and forth and whinnied louder. The vibration continued, and Lindy grabbed the reins and pressed her palm to the horse’s neck.

“Shhhh, shhhh, it’s ok girl.”

The rumble stopped as suddenly as it started. Lindy looked over the fields, then up to the sky, trying to find the source. Thunder? It didn’t seem like that exactly. It felt closer and sharper. Like someone scraping heavy furniture across a floor. She kneeled on the dirt, and put her ear toward the ground, listening and waiting. For what, she didn’t know.


Kim Mannix
is a fiction writer, poet and journalist currently residing on Treaty 6 territory in Sherwood Park, Alberta. She has been published in several journals and anthologies in Canada and the U.S. and is a contributing editor of Watch Your Head, a climate crisis anthology. You can find her on Twitter (@KimMannix) usually posting about kids, cats, music and creepy things.











Coming on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 . . . 

Next up is Steph Wolmarans, who shares about her upcoming story, “The Utten Mission.”

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

In the Spotlight: C.D. Gallant-King ~ Author of "Space Folds and Broomsticks"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

C.D. Gallant-King on his short story, “Space Folds and Broomsticks.”

A few years ago I saw a call for submissions on an anthology of sci-fi retellings of classic fairy tales. Unfortunately I missed the deadline, but it sparked several story ideas that have been rattling around inside the ol’ brainpan for awhile. One of them was a version of Hansel and Gretel, something that I haven’t seen re-done as often as old standbys such as Sleeping Beauty and Little Red Riding Hood (for examples, just search “Red Riding Hood + erotica” on Amazon). 

Of course, I didnt want to make it too much like the original--for one, I don’t think a story about parents dumping kids in the wilderness would go over as well today as it did back in the 1700s. Come to think of it, did anyone ever sympathize with the parents in that one? So instead, I combined the basic premise of the Grimm Brothers tale with another love of mine--military sci-fi, in the vein of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Wing Commander, and Battlestar: Galactica. And voila--the story grew from there.

Picture this--but with lasers and space ships.

Of course, I had to made it funny. I cant write anything without taking the piss out of it.

I have always maintained that genre fiction is inherently funny--the tropes required to write genre fiction are, because they are by definition over-used, ridiculous. Space cowboys, wizards in pointy hats, wars between ancient gods, even straight romance or mystery--it’s very hard to use these things and make a genuinely fresh and interesting story. It certainly takes far more writing skill than I have. So instead of trying, I usually just lean into the ludicrousness and have fun with it. It’s not to say my writing doesn’t have serious moments or tragedy, I still have to slip those in from time. In fact I find that those serious moments land even harder when bookended by comedy. It should be no surprise that my favourite authors are Kurt Vonnegut and Terry Pratchett, folks who wrote “genre” fiction but included a lot of serious topics in their satirical sci-fi and fantasy.

I’m not comparing myself to Vonnegut or Sir Terry. I’m not smart enough to write like Vonnegut and not British enough to write like Pratchett, but I do my best.

I hope you enjoy it.


Blurb: 

Sleahn and Treeg are the most incompetent recruits ever to step foot inside the Federacy’s training academy, but they can’t be due to their family’s political standing. Can their instructors get rid of them quietly by taking advantage of their young pilots’ own ineptitude?

Excerpt:

Commandant Jacob was the director of the Federacy training facility aboard the star carrier Schwarzwald. She was a career officer, a tall woman with a sharp nose who rather looked like one of those large flightless birds from that desert-covered outer colony planet. She achieved her position, like most highly-ranked officers and politicians in the United Federacy of Independent Star Systems, despite any outwardly visible signs of competency or qualifications.

She currently sat in the large hot tub in her quarters, sipping Norgothian whiskey from a dainty wine glass. Captain Sawx stood before her, feeling uncomfortable but desperately needing to have this conversation. He had spoken to commanding officers under worse conditions. In his younger days he had a Lieutenant who gave his morning briefings while sitting on the toilet.

Sawx, standing at attention in his perfectly pressed grey uniform and polished boots, did his level best to ignore the fact that his CO was in a compromising position.

“With all due respect regarding Ensigns Sleahn and Treeg--they are going to kill someone.”

She nodded solemnly. “We are soldiers, Captain. That is part of the job description.”

“Not to kill their own squad mates!”

“Ah yes, that would be irksome, wouldn’t it? Would really put a damper on the next round of team-building exercises.”


C.D. Gallant-King wrote his first story when he was five years old.  He had to make his baby-sitter look up how to spell "extra-terrestrial" in the dictionary. He now writes stories about un-heroic people doing generally hilarious things in horrifying worlds.

He's self-published three novels, Ten Thousand Days in 2015, Hell Comes to Hogtown in 2016, and Psycho Hose Beast From Outer Space in 2020.

C.D. has also written ten novels you haven't read, because they're still locked in The Closet. The Closet is both a figurative and literal location - it is the space in his head where the stories are kept, but it's also an actual closet under the stairs in his basement where the stories are also kept. It's very meta.

He's a loving husband and proud father of two wonderful little kids.  He was born and raised in Newfoundland and currently resides in Ottawa, Ontario. There was also a ten-year period in between where he tried to make a go of a career in Theatre in Toronto, but we don't talk about that.


Coming on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 . . . 

Next up is author Kim Mannix who shares the inspiration for her sci-fi short story, “Rift."

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

In the Spotlight: Stephanie Espinoza Villamor ~ Author of "Artificial"

The IWSG Anthology blog will be featuring posts from each of the contributing authors in Dark Matter: Artificial over the next few weeks. We’ve asked them to share a little about how they came up with their stories and preview what’s to come!

Stephanie Espinoza Villamor on her short story, “Artificial.”

I’m beyond thrilled to be included in the IWSG anthology, and honored to have my story in both the title and cover art! While I’ve been writing in a variety of genres since I was a kid, this was my first official science fiction story. Don’t get me wrong, I love sci-fi. But I'm more familiar with children’s fiction, like contemporary middle grade and young adult fantasy. When I saw the genre announced for the IWSG annual anthology contest I thought, “I’m in over my head!” Still, I was committed to participating since I didn’t get a chance the year before--I was busy having a kid of my own! So each night while my son slept I brainstormed science fiction.

Being a librarian who saves everything, the first idea I came up with was an archive. I wanted to explore a future where smartphone data is saved and accessible for posterity—anyone can look up someone’s life and learn from the thousands of pictures stored on their phone. My original protagonist visited this public archive to solve a mystery using clues from such photos. The problem was, I couldn’t figure out who my protagonist was. I got stuck on the details of the mystery. I just couldn’t get “into” the story.

Then one night while Baby snoozed in my lap the idea hit me. What if, instead of an archive, phone data is saved into a person? I’d recently read my friend’s thesis about artificial intelligence and her analysis of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “The Measure of a Man” (about sentient android, Data). I’d also previously played the video game Detroit: Become Human, all about artificially intelligent androids. This type of sci-fi character intrigued me, and suddenly my story fell into place. Best of all, I was excited to tell the story from the AI’s perspective.

“Artificial” explores the purpose of artificial intelligence in society, our human connections, and what makes something “real.”

Teenager in between Star Trek cosplayers
A 17-year-old Stephanie with cosplayers at the
annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Blurb: 

Bryan’s role as an AI is to help Lina, not befriend her. But as his memories spark questions about the past, he finds himself growing closer to Lina in the present.

Excerpt:

There is nothing but dark. 

Then I’m awake in Lina’s living room. I recognize Lina’s apartment from the photos she uploaded to give me a memory. I recognize Lina because her photos come up the most in my mind. Every photo of her face has been tagged with her name, and my technology allows for instant recall from my data storage. I can’t read through all my data at once, but if I’m asked a question or put in a new situation, I can scan through the data to answer, act, or solve problems. That is what an AI is for.

This is what Lina tells me. She says artificial intelligence has come a long way. Her grandmother’s AI was a voice-activated computer that searched its data storage to answer questions. Her mother’s AI had a disembodied voice that could permeate the entire house and access the Internet in under .6 seconds. But I am the next level of smart home, designed to access stored data and online information while looking as welcoming as possible. I am not a cold, disembodied robot. I am a friend.

“So, that is my role,” I say slowly, hearing my own voice for the first time. It is warm, inviting, and almost familiar. “To be your friend.”

“Yes,” Lina says, then quickly shakes her head. “No. Um, that might sound weird to people. An AI is more like...a live-in personal assistant. God knows my life needs some assisting.”


Stephanie Espinoza Villamor is a librarian writer mom who lives with her husband and young son just outside Las Vegas. As a child she wrote her own books on dot matrix printer paper, and later started publishing in school magazines and newspapers. Ultimately, she earned a master's degree in Library and Information Science from San Jose State University, and now works as a college eLearning Librarian. She writes stories inspired by her supportive family and Hispanic heritage, especially for middle grade and young adult readers.







Don't forget that today--Wednesday, January 20--is IWSG Twitter Pitch Day! There's still time to get your tweets out. Complete and polished manuscripts can be pitched via Twitter, just leave room for genre, age, and hashtag: #IWSGPit. If your pitch gets a favorite/heart from a publisher or agent, you can check their submission guidelines and send them your requested query!

Speaking of Twitter, you may be seeing Tweets lately from Dancing Lemur Press promoting each of the stories in Dark Matter: Artificial. The ebook is already available for preorder on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes and Noble!


Coming on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 . . . 

Next up is C.D. Gallant-King, who shares his backstory for “Space Folds and Broomsticks,” about a pair of bumbling siblings in deep space....