#sfwapro

The Velna Valsis

My story “The Velna Valsis” is now up at issue #11 of Fantasy Scroll Magazine.

Herr Doktor Ostermann drops the needle. A scratchy hiss fills the decayed splendor of Charlotte’s Viennese apartment. Outside, night is falling and a crowd gathers in the plaza. There are angry shouts — “Murderers! Juden!” — the sound of dogs barking. Charlotte does not know the reason for the commotion, nor does she care; her world has shrunk to the parlor, to Ostermann’s blood-smeared smile as he turns from the gramophone and says, “Shall we dance, meine Liebe?”

“The Velna Valsis” is a dark story. Possibly the darkest I’ve written. All the more dark since it’s obvious the Velna Valsis is still being played and eagerly listened to across the world right now. Its victims and players vary and swap sides, fluid like flame, but the damage left in its wake is unmistakeable.

Someone should really lift the needle.

Inspiration came from a writing prompt featuring a photograph by the talented Robin Cristofari, together with a piece of music by Carlos D’Alessio, his Valse De L’Eden. I paired them up, put D’Alessio’s piano waltz on loop, and a little while later “The Velna Valsis” popped out. The photo is obviously not of late 1930s Vienna, and the music didn’t urge me to indulge in wanton violence, so I’m not quite sure from which strange corner of my mind this story emerged, but that’s often just how it works. At least a couple of readers have mentioned Mikhail Bulgakov. I think one said they were reminded of The Master and Margarita. I’ve not read any Bulgakov so I can’t say whether I agree, but I’ll gladly take it as a compliment.

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PS. In case you’re wondering, “Velna Valsis” is Latvian for “Devil’s Waltz”. Why Latvian? No reason other than I liked the sound of it.

Bone Flowers

Aaaaand… a Happy New Year to you! I hope it’s a good one.

My story “The Osteomancer’s Husband” is now up at Diabolical Plots as the January 2016 story.

He warned his wife the villagers would come. With their pitchforks, their fire. Their hateful ignorance.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “We have to leave. They saw beneath my mask.”

The inspiration for this story were a couple of photographs used for a writing group prompt challenge. One image was of flowing water (“…the burbling mountain stream…”), the second was of a hand tossing what looked like tiny bones to the wind (“Like…tiny snowflake vertebrae…”), both by the talented Robin Cristofari. To me the bones looked like seedlings, so I immediately began to wonder what their origin might be.

If you like the story (or even if you don’t), please feel free to comment here or on the Diabolical Plots site. Any feedback is always welcome.

"Les Feuilles mortes 3" by Robin Cristofari

“Les Feuilles mortes 3” by Robin Cristofari.

Brain The Size Of A Star System…

“…and they ask me to calculate what?” (Apologies to Marvin the Paranoid Android fans.)

My flash story “Within Without” is now up at Lakeside Circus. There’s also a podcast version, read by the inestimable Don Pizarro. Various beta-readers commented on the machine-like quality of the “voice” in this story, yet Don manages to inject both a sense of gravitas and escalating urgency to his performance. I’m really pleased with it.

“Within Without” features a Matrioshka Brain, a solar-system sized calculating engine, facing an existential crisis. The story arose from a prompt requiring the use of frames — a story set within a story set within a story, etc. In the end I didn’t write anything like that at all, but instead used a nested structure. And even that was drastically abbreviated. So basically I utterly failed at satisfying the prompt criteria. Still…as to the story itself, you can judge for yourself.

A spiral structure in the material around the old star R Sculptoris. ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/M. Maercker et al.

A visualization of a spiral structure in the material around the old star R Sculptoris.  Not a matrioshka brain at all. No.
ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)/M. Maercker et al.