Stories of 2020

I’m seeking short stories to share here on Strange World. If you wrote a story – either fantasy or science fiction – which illustrates how you’ve felt in 2020 and want it shared, please contact me. I will post the story and ask the writer a few questions about what the story means to them and why. Specifically, I’m searching for stories which show how we will make it to the other side of whatever we want to call 2020. A great story shows a change in a character. In this instance, I seek the change from negative to positive. What is the new great place we’re going beyond what we call “This Strange 2020?” It’s a strange world indeed. What awaits on the other side? [Keep Reading]

The Impacts of Human-SIM on Conversation

One of the main inspirations behind my short story, Human, was the palpable impatience in conversation. How often do we find ourselves explaining the context of a situation – whether personal or professional – and the listener suddenly ceases to be just that, a listener – as they interrupt with a question; a question which would be answered in due time with further explanation? We are interrupted because the listener doesn’t have the necessary patience for the context. The problem is we, the speaker, have a need to be heard. We may have only one question which requires background and explanation, while at the same time informing the speaker we understand essential aspects of the subject. The interruption shifts the need from ours to the other party, and our need is never met. One of the characters in Human is an individual named McGregor – the original creator of Human-SIM and its networking systems. We meet him briefly in the final portion of the short story. We don’t know much about him yet, however he’s written much about why he created Human-SIM, and this “conversational impatience” was one of them. In his early research paper, Modern Conversation and Its Flaws – The Cause of Social Disturbance and Degradation, McGregor noted his intent to “eliminate the ever present conversational impatience by allowing the listener to have all the information ‘uploaded’ or ‘shared’ with the listener” just as the conversation begins. McGregor states later in solid conclusion: “No more interruptions.” We suspect[…] [Keep Reading]

The Ghosts in the Walls

I recently found a short poem I wrote by hand. This was back in 2012, before I tried writing short stories and longer works – and before I had sufficient practice in the writing craft. I wrote this during a sleepless night as I listened to the walls in my new house creak. The Ghosts in the Walls One more glass. That’s all I need to have before I hear them. It starts with a whisper. Sometimes. Other times it’s louder than that – out of nowhere. It’s frightening. However, it’s terrifying when I listen for them and I hear nothing. That’s when they are listening to me. The ghosts in the walls. They only talk at night. I’ve tried to listen in the day, but I never hear anything. Until I lay in bed and it’s quiet for a while, then I hear the creaking. I try to fall asleep before it starts, but that’s a rarity. The tapping from inside the wall, each tap is either louder or softer than the previous. That’s the worst part. I never know how loud it’s going to be. A wretched, teasing finger, rapping in the wall. I’ve never seen anything when I look for them. Maybe I’m just hearing things. If I am, I’m crazy. But if it’s real, what does that make me? I don’t want to go to sleep. Just one more glass. I hear it now. The tapping. It’s getting louder. Softer. Waves of terror crash upon my[…] [Keep Reading]

The Schlikt

Happy Halloween, fellow lovers of horror. It’s been a strange year indeed. Hopefully there are great stories being written and shared through our many experiences during this time. It’s been two years since The Schlikt was originally published in Kyanite Press’ Halloween Special, and I’m truly thankful for the opportunity to have shared this story through their medium. I’ve shared the original text below. It can still be purchased here at Kyanite Press. For those who prefer audio, I narrated the script and had it professionally produced by a close collaborator. The audio can be found here. As always, happy reading and writing – and keep cranking. THE SCHLIKT It was 1:03am. A hospital stood at the intersection of two well-known streets; its colorful exterior a vibrant display of positivity against the surrounding gray neighborhood and dark night. Inside, Sally Marcone – a pediatric nurse fresh out of a prominent Midwest school – sat at a computer on the 8th floor. Her computer screen the only nearby source of light in the darkness of the night shift. The pediatric oncology floor wasn’t for everyone. Most people aren’t ready to see a room with a child hooked up to tubes and machines with blinking lights, their bodies just a sick as the gray walls around them. Her only patient was six-year-old Tobias Kearny. The Stage Four Lymphoma was deep in his bone marrow. The tests came back earlier. Sally stood from her computer and walked to Toby’s room, taking in the[…] [Keep Reading]

HUMAN-SIM and Infinite Connections

Cal Newport recently published an article about Ray Bradbury and his short story THE MURDERER. What caught my attention is how real the world Bradbury illustrated has become. Interestingly enough, HUMAN also captures this idea of being constantly connected, though my focus is not on the mental distraction as portrayed in Bradbury’s tale or Newport’s writings. I am much more interested in the social implications and conversational impatience which I see evolving in regular discussions. Bradbury’s distracting phone call or Newport’s note of the disrupting email are the same as the conversationalist who interrupts one when speaking, believing they know the rest of the sentence better than the speaker. The remaining stories to be told in the HUMAN story universe explore the consequences of when these situations are amplified. An idea misinterpreted because the listener came to their own conclusions prior to completion of the speaker’s thought. Seeking to be understood when the patience or capacity doesn’t exist. Being in many conversations at once, intending to capture it all. These works are the basis for my own thoughts on conversation and one’s ability to listen and the other’s need to be understood. HUMAN-SIM is the attempt for the story world characters to have it all – or to have “the world” – at the same time. What happens when we can’t have it all? When we have to chose “the world” over something else? What if the real world is speaking to us, but we are too focused on “the world”[…] [Keep Reading]

HUMAN: The eBook

Perhaps the most motivating feeling in the world is to self-publish an ebook for the first time. For me to see my own work on Amazon available for sale is an incredible experience. Last week I self-published my short story, HUMAN, and of course I encourage everyone to read it. A huge thanks to Ani Paoletti, who provided the cover art. The story world of HUMAN is the result of my own reflections on our social experience in the last ten years (prior to COVID). Much of my incorporated ideas are expressed in further detail in my interview with fellow creative Andrew Hall. HUMAN explores the emotional response to professional and social situations given technology’s presence. How do we feel when we can’t remember something specific or keep up with someone in a conversation? How do we feel when we can’t contribute to a conversation because we didn’t read the latest news story? How do we feel when we aren’t genuinely listened to? These are questions I’ve been trying to understand since I graduated from college. I believe we all feel this way at some point in our lives. We’re in the middle of talking and the person we’re conversing with is looking elsewhere, or they pull out their phones or cut us off and attempt to finish our sentences. One thing I never understood was how someone could come to realize what I was going to say before I finished my thought, while at the same time being able[…] [Keep Reading]

The Aesthetics of Editing

For those curious about what editing physically looks like, here’s a page from my short story: Saturn: Journey to the Core. It’s interesting to look back on this and see how much I crossed out. I didn’t delete just words, but entire sentences. The first paragraph was deleted in the final version as it was not essential to the telling of the story. I read this short story again and can cut even more while improving the prose here and there, given my growth as a writer in the past four years. However, I’m not ready to make any changes yet. SATURN was my first published work, and to keep it in its original form seems like the appropriate action at the moment. Perhaps it will change in the future when I return to this story world. (Yes, that means we will hear more from the OKULOUS crew in due time…)  [Keep Reading]

Interviews from the Void: Episode #51 – Brett Abrahamsen

Highlights Ideas are more important than the writing itself. Flash fiction and short stories are essential mediums for ideas. We need ideas that haven’t been written about before. Welcome to the 51st episode of Interviews from the Void, where I interview writers about their writing process, discussing the mechanics and physicality of the craft. In this episode, I chat with writer Brett Abrahamsen, who specializes in short fiction and seeks to get his readers to think deeply about the existence of the universe and their place within it. His flash fiction piece, A NEW KIND OF APE, is an intriguing read. It was the year A.D. 73,000,000 on Alpha Centauri. A scientist was preparing to give a speech. The speech was to discuss a book, for which the scientist had received a prestigious honor. The scientist’s book was only a sentence long. He had called it A New Kind of Ape. Archaeology was the dominating field at the time, and the book had reflected his discoveries in this area. Specifically, it described his excavation of the fossilized remains of a new, previously-unknown species of ape, a kind which – or so he believed – was central to evolution. He began to speak before an appreciative – ecstatic, in fact – audience. “I feel this is the culmination of my life’s work – the thrill of discovering a new species”. He cleared his throat. “I was excavating beneath some curiously inscripted stone markers, and there were the remains, remarkably well preserved, of[…] [Keep Reading]

The Key is to Start

Starting provides the necessary momentum to keep going. In a recent interview with my fellow creative friend Andrew Hall, we discussed the transition from world building and research to writing. When – and more importantly, how – do we make that transition? How much world building and outlining is too much? I’ve given these questions additional thought, and hope to inspire you to just start the writing process. Before driving into the first draft of my science fiction novel, I intended to have the entire story outlined. However, three months into the planning process, I had a 30,000 word outline in front of me and quickly lost interest in the story and the story world I developed in my mind. 2019 approached and I didn’t work on the novel at all, partly because I did not believe I had enough of the story planned. One of my fears is that I didn’t have a solid beginning or end and if I don’t plan it out, I would write the infinite story. Where’s the fun in that? Writing is to be enjoyed. Let the pressure of having the story be perfectly planned drift away. Just start. I believe many creatives – like myself – struggle to start, or we get addicted to starting projects and never finish them. I suffer from both. And at some point, I needed to admit to myself that world building, planning and outlining was becoming a means of procrastination. Once I figure out this section, I’ll[…] [Keep Reading]

Interviews from the Void: Episode #50 – Ani Paoletti

Highlights How our upbringing impacts our storytelling. Learning what level of plotting and outlining works for each of us individually. The desire for our readers to escape into our story worlds. Welcome to the 50th episode of Interviews from the Void, where I Interview writers and other creatives about their writing process. In this episode, I chat with writer and artist Ani Paoletti. She produced a great cover for my short story, HUMAN, and is working through the final drafts of her own major work. She is also looking for other writers in need of cover art. Arthur: Tell me about your writing journey. When did you start writing? What is different about your writing now than it was in the past? Ani: I wrote a story for the first time in the seventh grade and ended up giving it to my English teacher (unfortunately I remember that it was a creepy urban fantasy and I probably scared her). That was the first time I ever really wrote anything down, but I have so many memories of sitting with my cousin as kids just telling each other stories we made up on the spot. After that first story in the seventh grade I definitely tried to write things down more often, but nothing ever really stuck. There were so many unfinished Wattpad stories that never had a plot and even a co-written story that didn’t take off the way we had hoped. I think the biggest difference between my writing today[…] [Keep Reading]