Happy International Speculative Poetry Day!

Thanks to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, every November 3rd is set aside to celebrate speculative poems and poets. It’s also Laika Day to honor the little mutt dog Russia launched into space in 1957. She was the first animal to orbit earth.

If you’ve ever visited the ‘about’ page at Space and Time magazine, you’ll notice a little illustration (by Kyra Starr) of a mutt dog. That’s Laika, and if you click on it you can find her story. (or find it here)

Laika is a hero, but her story is a sad one to me. If she could have chosen otherwise, I think she would have gladly given up global fame for a forever home on Earth. I would have taken her.

In honor of Laika, homeless pets and International Speculative Poetry Day, here’s a speculative poem about all of it.

 

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S&T Fiction Selections for #135

You can stop refreshing!

Here are the fiction selections for the Winter issue of Space and Time magazine to be released on December 21, 2019. Remember, no personal rejections will be sent. If your fiction submission is not on this list it was not selected.

This is due to the huge amount of submissions we receive each period. There are only so many hours in a day. We would rather spend more time carefully reading submissions than rushing to send 888 separate rejections.

If you didn’t make it, thank you for your submission and I hope you will consider submitting to us again when our next open reading period begins on December 19. Remember, rejections are not reflections of you or your work. There are many reasons a particular piece is passed over. Here’s my take on that—plus tips.

As always, it was tough to choose just a few pieces. Many, many wonderful pieces came in. We can’t choose on merit alone but also have to consider how the stories fit in with each other. Each issue is a literary family and our job is to get them to work together.

Now that the stories are picked, I’m proud to announce the line up:

“Kirti” by Alessandro Manzetti—when a man’s twisted desires come back to haunt him nothing is wasted. Even sin has purpose.

“Slough” by Glen Hirshberg—nostalgia and mystery come together to create a tale of questions answered… and raised.

“The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe” by Jennifer Shelby—a witty reminder wrapped up in an entertaining and humorous adventure.

“Hands of a Toolmaker” by Eric Del Carlo—revolution is relevant in this chilling vision of what may soon be.

“Flashlight, Knife and Flowered Crown” by Sarah Avery—part two of the saga began last issue where a mother proves she will go to any lengths to save her son. Hell hath no fury like a mother protecting her child.

“Inviting Oldwick” by Moaner T. Lawrence—a drabble demonstrates how getting an invitation isn’t always such a good thing.

Congratulations to selected authors, and a big thank you to everyone who submitted. If we printed every story we loved, we would have a magazine as thick as The Complete Miss Marple by Agatha Christie.  Since we can’t afford to print a 4,032 page magazine, we have to make sacrifices.

The biggest thanks go to our wonderful team of associate editors led by Space and Time fiction editor Gerard Houarner. Without them, this would be an impossible task.

Look for poetry selections to be announced soon. Next open reading begins December 19. Details can be found at SpaceandTimeMagazine.com.

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TBT: | LeVar Burton Reads Space and Time (kind of)

I was reminded the other day (thank you, Anthony R. Rhodes!) that LeVar Burton has an episode where he reads “The Simplest Equation” by Nicky Drayden.*

Since that story was first published in issue #120 (Spring 2014), that’s almost like LeVar Burton is actually reading Space and Time magazine itself. That’s how I’m thinking of it anyways.

I tend to avoid math whenever possible, but Drayden’s story about appreciating differences in an advanced mathematics class is far from dry equations. Listening to LeVar Burton read it makes it even better. The original story was illustrated by Douglas Draper, Jr.

If you are lucky enough to have a copy of issue #120 you can read along. If not, I actually have around 25 original issues on hand. Send me an email (angelayurikosmith@gmail.com) if you’re interested in owning this back issue.

Listen to LaVar Burton read “The Simplest Equation” by Nicky Drayden here.

Learn more about Nicky Drayden here.

*In issue #120 of Space and Time magazine the author’s name has a different spelling. For the sake of simplicity, I’m adopting the spelling she currently uses on her website.
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My Old Writing Chair, My Frenemy

If I sneak in quietly and sit in the back, probably no one will notice my absence.

It’s been awhile. I won’t regale you with long details of where I’ve been. Simply put, my writing chair was trying to kill me. Or at least torture me. It pretended to be my friend and ally, all the while literally plotting behind my back. It turned out to be a false friend. It proved to be my frenemy.

I discovered the deception by accident. Lately my lower back and right elbow have been so painful I started thinking maybe old age isn’t a myth. I couldn’t touch my toes and tripping on the sidewalk had me gasping at the jolt. I had reached the point of considering a doctor when something unusual happened: I stayed off my computer for an entire weekend.

One full day was spent helping out at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. That’s a 10 hour or so day on my feet. I expected that to make my back and elbow ache more. At the end of it I was tired, hungry and shocked that my back and elbow felt better.

The second day was a community outreach at the Independence Market for Space and Time magazine. I came back and moved boxes of back issues around the house. Again, I expected pain. Again, I felt better than ever. That’s when I started suspecting foul play.

The next time I went in to my closet to work, I paid attention to my surroundings. Almost immediately my hips started hurting. I investigated the chair to find out the seat was crooked. It tilted to the right, effectively twisting my hips. Further investigation revealed that it was my mouse that had instigated the seat to go crooked.

I use a stack of printer paper as a mouse stand and was a few reams short.  This caused my mouse to be lower than I liked. Without realizing it, I had started leaning to the right to work, bending over and locking my elbow. Eight plus hours of this on a near daily basis were causing me sore joints. Hunched over on my closet, I’m told I resembled Gollum from Lord of the Rings—obvious hyperbole—but the pain was real.

Lucky for me, I was able to replace my old, crooked chair with The Perfect Chair. I first saw it on a corner near our house. It didn’t look like much but something about it called to me. It needed to be sat in one last time before spending the rest of its days in the dump. It asked for another shot and I grudgingly gave in. Lucky for me I did. As I said, it is The Perfect Chair.

What makes it so special? Everything about it. This chair understands me better than I know myself. The back is lightly inclined, but not too far. I don’t like a chair that feels like it wants to put me to sleep. I like my chair to keep me upright and alert, but not rigid. The perfect chair and I should be partners in pondering. I shouldn’t have to worry about my chair trying to put me out. It’s trust.

In addition, my feet touch the floor flat. I don’t have to sit on one leg and dangle the other. cross my ankles, swing my feet or get a box. The seat is soft, but supportive. Sure, the velveteen fabric is worn in spots to suggest that it has participated in someone’s life. I know I’m not the first, but worn as it is it’s still soft to touch. It’s not stained or smelly to suggest it’s had too much life. It’s not a garish color or pattern but a classy pale cream. The back supports my shoulders, but not my head leaving it free for thought, not naps.

I like to imagine who had my chair before me. I assume they died to relinquish such a perfect chair. It could be that they were tricked. Some fraudulent evil doer convinced them they were taking the chair out to be cleaned, but instead they abandoned it on a street corner. It could also have been stolen but the thieves dropped the hot item on a corner in order to flee. Perhaps I was lucky enough to find it in that moment between desertion and reclamation. It had to be something like this. No one would give up such a perfect chair willingly.

In any case, the chair has come to me now. We are like two pieces of a puzzle that weren’t even aware they had missing parts. Rodin’s poor Dante would not have looked so broody  had he a chair like this one.  It is an ethereal object disguised with the mundane. Who knows what daydreams will be released from this well-worn, velveteen throne?

With well cradled tush I no longer dread long hours chained to my computer. To the contrary, I relish the thought. My muse apparently has simple needs—coffee and a comfortable chair. With these two things accomplished, she knows no limits. And, hopefully, neither will I.

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Celebrate #nationaldarkpoetryday

Happy National Dark Poetry Day!

We celebrate on October 7 because Edgar Allan Poe, one of the darkest of all poets, died a mysterious and tragic death this day in 1849. That’s pretty dark.

So today, let your morbid impulses run free and wild across your keyboard. Let your nightmares drink ink and vomit it back up on your paper. Free your monsters and make them sing poems. Today is the day for tragic verse to honor one of our finest. He put the Poe in poetry.

Share your darkness! Please use #nationaldarkpoetryday for any posts on any social media sites. If you also tag HWA on Twitter (@HorrorWriters), the HWA will share your posts to the best of their ability.

To purchase a commemorative t-shirt (or tote bag!) with the official National Dark Poetry Day artwork (by the fabulous Cat Scully), please go here: http://catscullyart.com/…/28477562-national-dark-poetry-day…

And, since I wouldn’t be celebrating properly without posting my own dark poem, here is Moloch Dreams, originally published in the HWA Poetry Showcase Vol. 5 (2018).

Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay. Words by Angela Yuriko Smith.

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Review: Chthonic Cleaning by Austin Gragg

Cleaning can go too far as Noah and Dillon find out. A regular couple, the most exciting thing about their lives is Dillon’s job in a funeral home. They are predictable, practical and happy—until a simple household chore takes on a life of its own.

Written by Austin Gragg, this is a fresh and timely story of two ordinary people pushed into an extraordinary situation. Noah is neurotic and plagued by phobias. Gragg handles his character with respect and candor. It would have been easy to build Noah as the archetypal paranoid but instead he is created with depth and empathy.

The same is true for Dillon. The stronger partner, he is the bold one with no fear. Gragg handles the interaction between the two and their adversary with deft skill. The situations turn on a razor edge as hero and victim swap places like cards in a magic trick. I’d love to say more—compliment Gragg on how his characters grow and transcend—but I risk giving away spoilers.

Available Now!

The takeaway I received from this story is that love triumphs and fear is only as big as you let it be. I love this story. If you are looking for a different horror story with new perspective and a positive message, check out Cthtonic Cleaning.

Be sure to keep your eye on this new author too. Gragg’s first book, he is already receiving recognition as a finalist for L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest. You can read all about him in my interview last week here and/or follow him on social media, links below. Find Cthtonic Cleaning on AmazonNookGoogle PlaySmashwords and Kobo.

Find Austin Gragg on AustinGragg.com or on…

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Saving Space and Time (Back Issues)

Free Space and Time!

The history of all Space and Time has been captured and locked away in Stafford, Virginia!

Mr. Smith and I are about to embark on a rescue mission to release and retrieve. It will be an arduous undertaking… 17 straight hours of driving across the country to reach the prison where the back issues languish.

Once there we have to infiltrate the fortress and procure the magazines. Then we must escape—another 17 solid hours of evading those that seek to keep the history of Space and Time under lock and key. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to free Space and Time.

We will try to document our journey along the way. To follow our progress, check in with my Instagram. Who knows what perils lie ahead of us?

Regardless of the trial, we are prepped and ready. Snacks locked and loaded.

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Austin Gragg on “Chthonic Cleaning”

Austin Gragg is a new author on fire. I first met him through submissions to Space and Time and his work was accepted for the upcoming first issue of Space and Time KC (January 2020). He is a top finalist for L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future contest. His work is imaginative, fresh and well crafted. His first novella, “Chthonic Cleaning,” is available on Amazon here. Lucky for us, Austin has set aside some time from his writing to share a little about his life as an author.

Austin Gragg

AYS—Tell me about yourself as a writer. When did you fall in love with words? When did you first realize you wanted to write as a career? 

Austin Gragg—I was very little when I knew telling stories was what I wanted to do. It was just a matter of understanding that was actually a thing I could do. For the longest time I was led to believe it wasn’t a worthy pursuit. I would get in trouble at school for selling my comic book series “Bubble Man and Rubberband Man.” Kids were spending their lunch money on them — the many issues printed off on our church’s copy machine. I continued to have obsessive creative endeavors all through childhood.

The moment it really hit me that I wanted to pursue writing seriously, came a handful of years ago. I was working a well-paying but soul-crushing job in an IT department and my father had just passed away (this was 2015). I was incredibly depressed with my job and started thinking about the legacies my parents and grandparents had left behind as public servants. I saw no such legacy or body of work possible through the dead-end IT life. A sort of emotive revelation happened when I asked the simple question, “What makes me happy?” I realized I needed to create in order to live. It hit me like a brick wall. Sent me to tears, because I wasn’t creating, and hadn’t been for a long time outside of my obsessive hobby in DMing Dungeons & Dragons for my friends. I wrote a larger description of this big moment in an essay and follow-up you can find here if anyone is interested in reading it.

But anyways, a few years later, after deciding to pursue this seriously, I’ve had a few short story publications, some poetry, this novelette, and was a 2019 finalist in the Writers of the Future Contest. I owe it all to my partner’s love and support, as well as my obsessive personality leading me to read everything about craft I can get my hands on.

Available Now!

AYS—Chthonic Cleaning touches on what it’s like to be neurotic. Writers usually put themselves into their stories in some way. How much are you like Noah, or are you completely opposite like Dillon’s character?

Austin Gragg—Noah’s personality certainly pulls from my own experience with anxiety and panic attacks (which are a rarity nowadays, thankfully). Dillon grounds Noah and represents coping mechanisms in a way. But the thing I wanted to avoid was a relationship that felt co-dependent in any way — because that’s just slapping a feeble bandage over a larger problem when it comes to mental health — potentially dragging those we love down with us as we struggle. I wanted this story to be about overcoming those obstacles we’re given in life. Horror, as I think I first heard author Michaelbrent Collings say, is the genre of hope in many ways.

AYS—The character of The Cleaner is so unusual, I wonder if you can give us some insight into who it is and where it came from (without giving any spoilers, of course!)?

Austin Gragg—This is something we (my brilliant editor Andrew Reeves, who also edits Bear Review here in KC and is a superb poet) worked hard on, because in earlier versions of this story we felt there was some clarity missing — but we also didn’t want to lose the scope of this antagonist’s story or oversimplify it. The Cleaner is an ancient cosmic monstrosity — an entity whose existence is beyond time. He was made for a purpose, and has a complex relationship with his creator that puts him in direct conflict with that purpose. This conflict mirrors Noah’s inner struggles perfectly — making these two characters so excellent to pit against each other.

AYS—The story ends with satisfying closure, but the whole idea seems like it could continue. Do you see yourself writing more in this world or will you move on to new territory?

Austin Gragg—I certainly have a plethora of ideas. “Mother” is a recurring thematic element in my short fiction. I’m certain we’ll see more in this “universe” and I’m toying with the idea of turning this into a trilogy of novellas/novelettes. The form is short, but not too short to risk not being satisfying, and this is my first go at being an author-publisher — so, we’ll see. I decided to go the author-publisher route for this because it kept getting great feedback from pro-level markets, but its length made it too long for magazines and too short for big publishing. So, I might continue this route with works of that length. The most important thing to me is delivering a quality comparable to what you’d see from me in the “traditional” route.

AYS—This is your first published novella. How has the process been for you this first time around? What things would you do differently next go around? What things have worked well?

Austin Gragg—At this point, it might be a little too early to tell what I’d do differently. But, working with Andrew Reeves as an editor has been a blessing. We met through our work in public libraries and taught digital literacy classes together for a while. It was like the universe was intentionally pushing two creative minds in each other’s direction. Also, hiring a great cover artist was another thing I think went very well — better than expected. I’m excited to see the reader reactions to the story!

AYS—We both hail from Independence, though I’m a relatively new transplant. This city seems enthusiastic about the arts, new ideas and especially speculative fiction. As a native, do you find that to be true as well? In what ways?

Austin Gragg—We have the honor of saying our city birthed two of the greatest names in modern fantasy: Margaret Weis, and Jim Butcher. Nuff said. But, I’ll keep talking anyways. We have a vibrant arts scene and we’re right next door to all the amazing arts things happening in Kansas City. I could go on and on about my city. I love it. All the good that’s here outweighs the bad a thousand times over. I think Harry S Truman’s quotes on Independence capture all there is to love here. We’re rich in history, the arts, and it’s the largest city you’ll ever see with a “small town” feel to it.

AYS—What advice do you have for other writers? Any tips for cracking open your creativity?

Austin Gragg—Read. Read. READ. Then, read some more. Read everything you can get your hands on. Also, read about the craft of writing — of storytelling. Writer’s Digest’s books are almost always great publications. Visit your local library — I promise they carry or can get access to these materials. Finally, write. Write every day and be prepared to write garbage. Your first story will be garbage. Mine was. Most people’s are. In fact, I’ve written four novel length works and it’s this last one that I feel is quality enough for me to spend time on revising and editing so I can query agents and editors. If you really want to be a writer, you need to put in the time and be prepared to fail and fail and fail again. Rejection should be your default, but you should never stop. It’s like Jim Butcher said in an old blog post that I often reread when I’m feeling down, “You are the only one in the world who can kill your dream.”

AYS—What’s coming up next for you and where can we find you? (Blog, Twitter, FB, IG etc.)

Austin Gragg—I try to churn out a short story to submit to magazines every few months. So, hopefully more short fiction will accompany the few stories I’ve already got out. “Nevertheless She Screamed” is a Twilight Zone-esque short free to read at Asymmetry Fiction and my poem “Interrogation on Starship Death” is a featured, free to read, piece with The Weird and Whatnot (scroll near bottom of page). But, right now I’m wrapping up revisions on a novel length work and getting it read to hopefully start querying agents near the beginning of 2020 — and I’ve already plotted most of a western horror novel I’m super stoked about. I’ll always be writing and getting stories out there for all you readers as often as I can. You can find me at austingragg.com, or any of the social links below. I LOVE to chat with other readers and writers (I am a public librarian after all). Come say hello!

Chthonic Cleaning Available on all major eBook and paperback platforms!

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S&T Submissions OPEN for issue #135

Space and Time magazine is accepting fiction and poetry submissions from now until October 5.

New for this submissions window: we will not be sending personal rejections notices this reading period.  Accepted manuscripts will be notified by email, posted at SpaceandTimeMagazine.com and our social media.  Please do not query as to the status of your manuscript.

Why the change? Last submissions period we received around 500 submissions. Many submitters also sent emails asking about the status of their submission. In a perfect world, I would have unlimited time to read and answer emails and chat about writing forever. In the real world, no. I have a choice to answer 300 emails about submissions or actually read submissions. I choose to read submissions.

Due to the high volume of submissions we expect this period, we are also looking to expand our reader team. It involves reading submissions and passing what you like on to our fiction editor.

If you are interested in reading submissions for Space and Time magazine, send me an email to angelayurikosmith@gmail.com. Please put S&T READER in the subject line so it doesn’t get mixed in with the 300 emails just mentioned.

So now that the changes have been covered… here’s what you really want to know:

The benefits to publishing in Space and Time: Space and Time magazine is produced as an audio issue as well as digital and print. Every fiction author and poet that appears in this issue will receive an audio clip of their work read by R. A. Smith along with a PDF and a print copy as a contributor.  Every fiction author and poet that appears in this issue will also be invited to a complimentary digital subscription of the magazine.

In addition, we will consider your works for nomination to the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, PEN/O’Henry Prize, Best American Short Stories, Best American Essays, Best American Non-required Reading, The Best Small Fictions, Poetry Daily, Bram Stoker Award® and Verse Daily. We will nominate to each publication every year.

​We seek: science fiction, fantasy, horror, steampunk, magical realism—we look for work with a speculative element and creative hybrids. Gratuitous sex and gore do not impress us, so only include if they are integral to the plot. No children’s stories. No simultaneous or multiple submissions and no reprints without querying first.

You send: Stories with a maximum word count of 10k (we prefer stories between 5,000—7,500) submitted in standard electronic manuscript format. All fiction submissions are to be sent electronically as a Word or .rtf attachment.

We pay: Payment of a penny-per-word is made upon acceptance. We buy first print and electronic rights. After a work is published, rights immediately revert to the author. Accepted submissions will be posted on our Facebook page and here by November 15.

Complete details and the form to submit can be found here.

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Something to Distract You

I said I was coming back to my blog… but look! Is that some pretty keys?

Tonight I’m eyeball deep in issue #134. Tomorrow I upload the magazine. I’m having a hard time coming up with witty banter at the moment, so here’s something shiny.

My story “Sticky Rice” was accepted for When the Sirens Have Faded. I have a bunch of drabbles accepted for the Guilty Pleasures anthology. Mine all feature a serial killer, so I named it my “Serial Series.”

Trickster’s Treats III, an anthology that raises money for charity: water, is now available for pre-order here. charity: water is an international non-for-profit organisation you can read about here. The story I contributed is called “Soft Deadline” about a tired incubus.

Oh, and I won Poetry Nook’s 247th weekly poetry contest. The poem was called “Butterflies Lie Hay(na)ku Chain” and you can read it here. If you’re a poet, I highly recommend the entire Poetry Nook site, and their weekly poetry contest is the best.

My youngest son, Quinn Cato entered last week with a brilliant poem titled “Old Stellar.” You can read that here. I could be biased, but I think it’s excellent. You can check out this week’s contest—and enter—here. Of course, I had to toss his poem up on a quick image.

I’ve run out of keys to jingle… so I’ll just back away slowly…

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