Yeah, Write #324. Black Pharaoh in the Morning

Black Pharaoh in the Morning

The air is strange against my skin. The current carries damp salt, cold sea and warmth like the breath of a stranger sliding up the back of my skirt, uncomfortable but not entirely unwelcome. The night passed too cool and quiet, my sleep was too thin and loose. I don’t feel rested but my body feels anticipatory anxiousness.

The way the dim sun struggles to make a show of dawn feels ominous. I’m nervous.

In the street, things don’t feel much better. Construction workers and street dudes all mill around looking pensive and trying to hide it behind wilted banter.

Everything is so strange and slightly off. I can feel my baby hairs fuzzing up and the urge to free my hair and run gibbering secret words is so strong I have to stop and breathe. Remind myself why I am here. Reassign the feel of the air from tenebrous to only another lukewarm summer morning.

This is not when the stories say it will happen. In the tales, it comes in the deep of night. There is madness and incantations. The Stygian alienist should awaken the chosen with his strange words and the air should reek of the void.

The stories lie.

I was born or made with the  R’lyehian mark already in my flesh. with the sweet malodorous putrefying  blue candy smell in my mouth. I move through the world with my human face and I wait and work and hold some tiny sliver of hope that my knowledge will come to use.

I am not afraid, but I am tired. This damp that ruins my hair and makes my body ache only serves to remind me how far from Hadoth I am. I am forlorn. I am singular. I am Nephren-Ka, I am the Crawling Chaos and mine is the duty to do the will of the Outer Gods. I know this. I am also Black and woman. I am dangerous on the Earth and beyond it, mornings like this I have to remind myself that I am no victim of weather and messy edges.

“Mornin’ Cactus.”

I don’t like strange men speaking to me. I smile and I know he calls me Cactus because he thinks it is a cute way to comment on my hair.

“Fm’latgh.”

As I step away, his screaming overtakes the traffic noise and he runs into the street clawing at his clothes until he is bare chested. His skin turns red and starts to bubble, he looks like a hot dog and I smile more.

I, am he of a Thousand Forms. I am in flesh what drives White men to gibbering madness and terror that tightens their trigger fingers. I am The Nightmare.

Around me, the morning erupts in chaos. The man burning from within writhes and sings the song of the damned, people are running around the intersection like confused insects and the crash and thump of cars running into each other and the tired damp morning is rendered glorious.

I let down my hair and fluff it until it is a dark halo around my head. All is right and beautiful.

A warm current kisses the backs of my thighs under my skirt as I turn to spread my effulgent accursed joy. As he is loaded into the ambulance, the boiling man holds the EMT close and speaks between clenched teeth, his breath hot and fetid with the terror of one who has been touched by my hand.

“I failed to see Nyarlathotep has come.”

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For those not familiar with Lovecraft see here for vocab help.

Imagining the rest. Thinking about #blackspecfic

I have been scribbling away on a couple of way out of my comfort zone pieces.

In one I’ve created an origin story for a myth no one has heard before. It started out as an entire other thing, I wanted to practice finding a very particular voice to put on a narrator and as usual I started with a little character sketch to try and hear it in my head.

What’s interesting to me right now is that after reading this piece from Fireside when it came out, I’ve done a lot of looking at my body of work both published and unpublished. I’ve been looking at what interests me in terms of the new fiction I want to create.

It is all fucking speculative fiction in one way or another.

Wiki says this about speculative fiction:

Speculativefiction is a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements, notably science fiction, fantasy and horror. The popularity of the term is sometimes attributed to Robert Heinlein, who referenced it in 1947 in an editorial essay, although there are prior mentions of speculativefiction, or its variant “speculative literature”.

Well, yeah. That’s everything I write these days. Looking back, I can see points in my writing life where I’ve done my level best to not do spec fic. I’ve spent time trying to be straight up literary or horror or whatever.

I have found a comfortable *for me to create in* space that is both speculative and slipstream.

This is what wiki says about slipstream.

Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction. The term slipstream was coined by cyberpunk author Bruce Sterling in an article originally published in SF Eye #5, in July 1989.

In terms of my work, I’ve found a freedom in living in this place because I don’t feel the pressure to do any particular type of performative Blackness in my work. In these worlds that are our world and other worlds, their Blackness is not othered they just are. They can be created without me being distracted by all the other bullshit that happens when you write to represent yourself (because that’s great advice if you’re a creator) and shit gets difficult.

Okay, now that I’m thinking about what I’ve been writing and potentially getting back into submitting to places that take stuff that lands on the spec fic spectrum, and I still have some trepidation.

I’ve seen some magazines, etc. try to respond.

I don’t know how I feel about it. If I’m going to be real about it, there are probably four magazines that take the more spec fic/slipstream stuff I think I’d even have a shot at. Not necessarily because of the quality of my work, but because the Blackness in my work has just been there. It’s not part of a larger point, these are just the people who populate these worlds. And that isn’t necessarily the type of work by POC that a lot of places feature.

I want to believe that the industry has heard the call and will start getting itself right. I don’t want to spend time reformatting (because how I work visually means I always have to overhaul when I submit to genre mags because so many still only take manuscript format..that’s a whole other thing), researching, editing, etc. etc. to submit to places where, I might feel like my work would be the token nod to “diversity”.

I don’t know. I guess I’m just suspicious.

I’m suspicious of the genre industries because I feel like I can’t turn around without seeing some kind of racist fuckery. I don’t mind being aware of it, I find that important, but as a writer who will be submitting, like I don’t want to fuck with it. Sometimes I wonder if I do gain traction in any of the genre areas I like, am I going to wind up as a target of the raging puppy types?

I have a lot of complicated feelings about it.

On one hand, I have come to understand that I will not be able to sell my fiction directly to my readership. This isn’t a plea right now it’s the plain truth. That particular adventure is pretty done. It was a grand experiment, but I need to shut it down because it’s been mostly stressful and cost me money. I don’t have money to spend like that.

So what now?

I think I’m ready to get back into the swing of submitting fiction around. I have been thinking about #blackspecfic and I want to be in it. I want to be part of it. I got my hard hat and big girl boxer briefs on, I’ve got stories to tell and I’m ready.

It feels kind of nice to have that particular ambition again. I have my new and shiny submission tracking spreadsheet started up and I’ve clocked in some nice rejections already.

Aside from the failure of my indie authoring, the other thing that has drawn me back into the industry this way is that I have hope. For every racist fuckery filled comment section or twitter tantrum or attempt to sway awards, I see people fighting for the things I believe in and I can’t completely resist.

All this is a very roundabout way of saying, you could likely start seeing my name again around in magazines. And it feels good.

That’s it for now. I have been doing my author loveletters *newsletter but whatever* and this weeks is a good one. Come check it out here and subscribe if you like. New one every Saturdayish and never any spam.

Yeah Write #261- Starveling

Starveling

By

Shannon Barber

As the bass drops she walks out on stage unsmiling. Her gaze floats as she sweeps her long braids off one elegant brown shoulder. She spots her mark easily, a mousy White boy looking at her bouncing breasts with lust heavy cow eyes. She undulates like a snake to the slow, heavy beat, watching him lick his lips as her breasts drop heavy and full from her loosened bikini top.

She gives him a sly look while the DJ does his thing. Money appears as she turns her back and bends over. The mark offers his meager cash shyly, she crawls to him. Her mouth is glossy carmine invitation, her big black eyes full of promises and the certainty that he is the one.

It works. It always works. As her number ends she watches him skitter to the ATM as she gathers her cash.

She’ll make him wait while she freshens up.

“Lia? Girl there is some White dude out here with his rent waiting on you.”

She blows the house mother a kiss and waits another two minutes.

Of course she’s right, he’s waiting with a fist full of cash. He follows like a puppy when she turns to walk into the dim confines of VIP. She watches his Adam’s apple Bob as he swallows hard.

“So, uh, what’s your real name?”

She smiles and drops her silky chemise on his head.

“Shhh “

She moves against him, letting the ring in her left nipple flicker against his lips. He sighs long and from deep inside, his lips drop open in wait of succor.

Two songs and she’s naked. Glorious and dark in the low light, his fingers telegraph desire as the tap and clutch his thighs. When she takes the last of his cash and lets him rest his flushed face on her belly for a moment, she knows.

“Meet me out back in ten minutes. I’ll be done for the night.”

She disappears again, smiling. Making rent is nothing but eating, yes, eating is always the real reward. Eating is why she left The World. She is no Sidus or other beast gibbering in the darkness. She is different. She is always so hungry.

She learned to drape herself in the sweet flesh that draws her prey. She finds the bars and strip clubs and other dark corners where a man gone missing from the ragged edges of polite society is no worry of the world. It is merely a function of the darkness the world denies.

Twenty minutes later she finds him waiting, trembling and full of the idea that he has at last found the one.

“My name is the thousand names for pain and you will learn them all. I am your death, come love me.”

She waits as he decides and his body leans into her.

As they walk away, she murmurs her thanks to the world and the darkness it denies. Tonight she will eat. She will eat.

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PS,

I’ve missed y’all and The World. If you’re curious the song that inspired this is this Massive Attack cover by Sepultura.

More Free Fiction. Experimental Horror.

I am still in a mood so how about some more free to read experimental horror and craft yammer?

Before I post the thing, let’s talk about what I was playing with.

Outside of horror I’m also a huge fan of drug fiction. Low culture, junkies yanno.

I have Mike Arnzen’s book Instigation: Creative Prompts on the Dark Side a book full of dark prompts. I have talked about it before and HIGHLY recommend y’all. I bought it when it came out and use it regularly.

I believe I used a prompt about demons and I started wondering, what about a junkie demon? As with most things, it started with a what if a junkie became some kind of demon.

I also wanted to play with the non-believer doing something dumb trope. The point in a horror movie where you start yelling DO NOT GO IN THERE/DO THAT STUPID YOU GONNA DIE.

And with that, I present y’all with Light Junkie. This is another one that I submitted to a few places with pretty loose horror definitions and it wasn’t really Horror Horror.

OH also in case you are subbed and don’t click over, click over. I wanted to change ONE tiny thing and went entirely left and changed everything. Also now you can hit that link to see everything I’ve published that is available/that I can remember.

Enjoy.

Continue reading “More Free Fiction. Experimental Horror.”

Oh Cubby

If you know me or you’ve been here for a while, you know that one of my literary idols is Hubert Selby jr.

His work and general existence have been such a huge influence on me, I can’t really stand it.

As I do at least yearly I reread The Room recently and have been thinking about my mode of horror writing.

That book is some of the darkest, most brutal shit I have ever read.

As it pertains to my horror writing the thing about Selby’s work I love so much is that it is so beautiful and so terrifying.

In the context of what I want to do with my work is that. I want to get to that place where I am writing terrible terrible things, horror or otherwise but with such elevated language it makes it beautiful.

I think I’ve hit it on occasion. It’s so fucking hard to do.

What else?

I’m working on a horror story involving common American crows, a hood round the way type girl, a chosen one narrative and revenge. And, um, metamorphosis. I think it’s horror. Feels horrory. Maybe a little weird.

While I’m writing this I remember the original Crow stories by James O’Barr. I remember devouring the original and the subsequent anthologies. I remember I wrote a story about the crow coming to get the Green River Killer. I never showed a soul, but I spent a good amount of time fantasizing about getting to be one of those authors who got to dabble in that world.

I kind of wish that more lit was like comic books and graphic novels. I’d love to see more authors get to play in each others worlds. YES, I know this is the most simplistic naive view. I know. I don’t give a shit I STILL think it would be cool.

I want more stuff like Welcome to Bordertown, but without the HEY DID YOU KNOW ELVES ARE Whiteness.

I want it both as a writer and as a reader.

I have a migraine. I’m babbling.

I suppose my migraine is not helping me not just be full of feelings and writing some horrory things has me in my feelings too. I’m still feeling hesitant about trying to re-enter the markets. I’m still not super sure how well my ideas and execution of those ideas will fare.

So yeah.

I posted a little experimental ghost story I wrote a long time ago over on Catapult. 

That is one of those flash things that pretty much as is without the fancy text formatting was rejected I think 13 times at last count. Almost all of them were super loving and full of praise, but again, it was a, we think this is beautiful but don’t know what to do with it.

Ah, my life y’all.

I can’t even handle my brain.

Now go read that, maybe on Sunday I’ll talk about zine making.

And next week I’ll give all the poop on where I’ll be at AWP, where I’m reading and how to track me down to buy a zine out of my purse.

 

Yeah write #254- You. Innocent.

 

You. Innocent.

by

Shannon Barber

You are Innocent.

You are sane.

You are good.

You move through the world without The World tugging at your consciousness. You sometimes walk through shadows so thick your skin wants to retract, fear tickles your sacrum and pulls a nervous laugh from your throat. You walk faster. Shrug it off. Tell your nervous system, your reptile brain that all is well.

You know, to fear violence and evil men. You know to stay away from this block after midnight and that one all together. Your Innocence tells you that the world is the world and anything else is ridiculous.

And yet your Innocence knows too The World. Sometimes you see the people who seem to appear from behind the shadows of street lamps. You see their bloody faces, their eyes full of war. Or you see the others, dirty and muttering, staring at nothing. You hate yourself for your moment of thinking, they are just crazy. Poor drunk bastards. But then, sometimes you meet their eyes and what you see is bright burning sanity and pure terror.

You walk away.

You remind yourself that you are good. You go home and know you are an Innocent. Even in empty rooms where the touch of eyes runs across your skin with hot greed, you know. No,you don’t know you feel. You murmur to soothe yourself, “I’m fine. Silly me.”

You laugh and tell your friends about your midday megrims.

You are not haunted. You are not mad. You know when you see strange flickers in the vaguest shape of a door that you’re just tired. Your glasses are dirty. You are Innocent.

You believe your world is just your world.

At night as you sleep, you know the whisper is just a dream.

“Dream deep Innocent. The World is not for you. We will wait. Don’t get lost. Don’t wander.”

You know the caress on your cheek is nothing. Your world is only the world.

You are good.

You are sane.

You are an Innocent.

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