Challenge: Flash Fiction using the word “Dendrofilous”

Post a Day has set a flash fiction challenge. Here is my effort. Word limit: 300

“New to this?” Asked the site foreman with a knowing grin, passing me a coffee.

I sipped it and watched the drill descend. It wasn’t quite at the deepest permissible point but it was close.

“You learn not to care about the tree-huggers or their stupid stories.”

Lush forest covered this moon and some trees were so large and ancient that the population had adapted their lifestyle to the environment and become dendrofilous, much to the annoyance of those who wanted to industrialise the place and grab the resources.

I am an Ombudsman posing as a deputy foreman and I had the power to shut down the operation if anything was amiss, so yes I had to care about the “tree-huggers”. The ecology was delicate and other interest groups had to be catered for. There was a lot of bad feeling about the drilling and not just from the locals with their anecdotes of giant subterranean creatures that nobody had yet photographed.

The drill suddenly lurched forward, falling over a hundred metres in three seconds.

“Cavern!” Hollered the foreman and immediately the drilling ceased. “Damn it, there’s no oil. We’ll have to keep going until we find it.” He waved for the drill to carry on and it started up almost immediately.

That was the cue to produce my badge. “This drill will stop now.”

His face dropped but he failed to react to my order. “We can’t!”

“Stop drilling now or your contract is terminated.”

He shoved me against the metal railing and I gave the signal to stop drilling. “There might be important fauna and flora down there; you’re breaking the contract and will be fined.”

When the drill finally ceased, silence lasted only a few seconds. Then, somewhere beneath us I heard what sounded like a roar.

This took me about an hour and it wasn’t easy to create a story with a definite beginning, middle and end in just 300 words. I’ve never meticulously edited anything as much as I did with that and it makes you realise just how easy it is to over-write. I wrote the story, not worrying about length and then edited and edited until I’d shaved it down to 300 or fewer, quibbling over every word.

The word I’d never heard before is, of course, dendrofilous. It means “liking trees so much that you choose to live in them”.

As for the ending, I deliberately chose “roar” because it could be interpreted either way. Large creatures roar and so does fast-moving fluid moving through a vent. Interpret it how you will 😀

I think I could really get into flash fiction and it might be useful training if I can submit a piece for The James White Award in January.

Challenge: Write a Story in Only Six Words

Challenging post a daytoday. I’ve seen on other blogs that some writers rise to the challenge of flash and micro fiction. These are incredibly short stories typically, 1000 words or (far) fewer for flash fiction, 500 characters or fewer for micro fiction. There is no formal set limit, different websites have different ideas about what is flash and what is micro, some don’t make a distinction.

Though I’ve never tried it, I have researched it and it seems quite a challenge. I’d like to give it a go sometime in the future, time permitting.

For today, WordPress has set a challenge to write a whole story in six words. I wanted to see how many I could do, so here are my efforts:

He facepalmed: The butler did it!

The message read: its a boy!

Sobbing, I watched his car leave.

That last punch made me champion.

SETI finally translated: We are coming

The forest echoed a demonic roar

Becoming a vampire prevented my suicide.

That was the most difficult 42 words I’ve ever written and I’m pleased to have included seven major genres in there (crime, romance, chic lit, sport drama, sci fi, horror and young adult fantasy/horror).

I’m going to seek out some flash fiction prompts in the coming months. I’m not sure that I would post one every week as I have my sights set on several goals right now; I’m about to submit The Weight of Reason to the L. Ron Hubbard Award and I’m aiming to enter into the James White Award too. I can see the value of very short fiction, mostly keeping writing tight and punchy. It has been a long time since I’ve written a story as short as 3000 words (which I think is the limit for the James White Award) so perhaps flash fiction might help me keep the words down. Watch this space!

Steampunk: Quirky, Funky, Sexy

I must admit that I’ve recently developed a bit of a fascination for the sub-genre and its something I’ve approached through the artwork. On my woefully underused tumblr page I have posted several steampunk’d science fiction icons (a dalek, optimus prime, predator, R2D2 and C3P0) and a computer just for the amusement. However I do find the original artwork highly appealing if only for the imagination behind it. The fashion is pretty funky (and a little bit sexy) too.Continue reading “Steampunk: Quirky, Funky, Sexy”

Examples of Social Commentary in Horror

Having already established that science fiction often contains elements of social commentary, I wish to explore whether the same is true of horror. I had this idea about a week ago and in preparation felt I ought to write a few book reviews of my favourite horror novels. To be perfectly honest I can’t think of a great many horror novels or films that really attempt to explore the same sort of issues that hard science fiction or social science fiction attempt. Those that do tend to be the exception rather than the rule. The primary aim of horror is, after all, to terrify. Science fiction has no such primary goal.Continue reading “Examples of Social Commentary in Horror”

Book Review: The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

If somebody would have asked me which contemporary horror writer I would choose to write a dark fantasy largely aimed at children, I must admit that Clive Barker would not be top of the list. Most of his work is sexual often with themes of homosexuality and usually BDSM. Not that I have a problem with this but for those reasons Clive Barker would never jump out at me as being the ideal writer for a children’s dark fantasy. Therefore I was surprised when I opened The Thief of Always and not only enjoy it, but to afterwards consider it my favourite Barker novel.

Harvey is ten years old and bored with school so when a mysterious man ‘Rictus’ offers him the chance to go to the Holiday House where he can celebrate Christmas every night and just generally play and have fun for as long as he wants, Harvey jumps at the chance. The fantasy world is as amazing as he imagined and when he phones his mother to let her know that he is alright she oddly advises him to ‘stay as long as he likes’. He makes friends with two other children and as the (short) book progresses, they start to realise that not is all as it seems. When the truth comes out, it is more horrifying than they could ever have imagined.

The world Barker has created is bizarre and fantastical; there is enough content and underlying theme to engage both children and adults. In some ways it feels very much long a modern horror, in other ways it feels rather like a homage to the likes of the brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson etc.

Danny Boyle’s Sunshine: “Every time I shut my eyes… it’s always the same.”

This past Sunday I watched Danny Boyle’s Sunshine for about the tenth time.Continue reading “Danny Boyle’s Sunshine: “Every time I shut my eyes… it’s always the same.””

Examples of Social Commentary in Science Fiction

So I can’t really get the events of Frankenstein out of my head and it is still giving me much to ponder, not in and of itself, but how science fiction is such a major and important conduit for social commentary. If I had studied sociology instead of archaeology at university, I would like to have written a dissertation on how science fiction is the most effective medium for raising awareness of, or commentating on, social issues.Continue reading “Examples of Social Commentary in Science Fiction”

Book Review: Web by John Wyndham

‘Web’ is a surprisingly pleasing addition to the career of John Wyndham. Published ten years after his death, it follows similar themes to several of his better known works.

After an episode of PTSD, our protagonist purchases an island in the south Pacific in order to create a utopia and get away from the strains of the western world. This is a very short book (140 pages) and a good 40+ at the beginning is taken up with a short history of the island, the first arrivals in the early 19th century, its annexation into the British Empire then onward to both world wars and its change of ownership during that time all the while the locals amuse themselves with the rare arrivals of the white man.

But it is in the aftermath of WWII that the story really begins to take shape. This was a period of testing nuclear weapons and an attempt is made to move the locals from the island and to another where they wouldn’t be in the path of the fallout.

Years later our group arrives on their utopia to discover that something isn’t quite right. There are spiders all over the island and they are evolving. Far from being a utopia, the humans become trapped by the freak of evolution.

The metaphor of humans no longer being the pinnacle of evolution is one used several times by Wyndham and it doesn’t feel tired or overused here, it is just presented in a different way in light of the era in which Wyndham was living in which he wrote it. It comes to a sudden end but felt that it could have should have been longer. The ending itself is not typical of Wyndham.


Book Review: The Maya by Michael D. Coe

The Maya

I always like to have a factual book on the go at the same time as a fiction and though books like this are generally often more work than pleasure, I must say that this was a pleasurable read as an introduction to a subject I previously knew very little about.

Quite possibly the most comprehensive book written on The Maya to date. It reads well both for a general audience and for scholarly readers. I bought this on recommendation of one of my University lecturers in preparation for my honeymoon to Mexico because I had not studied Meso-America either as part of my academic studies nor for pleasure.

Coe has constructed a volume rich in illustration, description, plenty of maps, explanations that are easy on the eye and covering the sum total of Maya history from the earliest settlers to the European conquest. He uses a backdrop that we from a European heritage would understand by putting it in context of world events. It also looks at modern ideals of the Maya and how their culture permeates today.

This is a superb introduction for any student of Maya history and Archaeology written by one of its foremost scholars