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reading this piece from Fireside when it came out, I’ve done a lot of looking at my body of work both published and unpublished.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



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.



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.


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.


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.


What’s Good lit world?

That is delivered only semi in a Nicki type of way.

What’s on my mind right now?

I’m thinking/writing deeply about the best writing advice ever.

“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” ― Toni Morrison

I’ve been taking that approach to short fiction since I was about 22 years old. It has been difficult and at times disheartening.

Most recently as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been writing and reading a lot of genre fiction. I’ve noticed several things.

  1. My tolerance of complete erasure of POC in genre fiction, especially has grown very very thin. I feel like it makes a lot of my research very difficult because it pains me to read eleventy forty seven pages of something where logically POC should be there and we’re just not. It’s tiring. See also magical negroes, certain venerable very famous horror authors who ALWAYS have at least one super racist character or some other super racist shit happens. I want to study the things I’m working on because I do believe in being familiar with a thing before I try to break it but fuck y’all. Shit is hard.
  2. Due to issues related to #1, I am still very hesitant about my ideas for my genre fiction because I don’t see them modeled at all for the most part. Not because I’m the most original person ever, but because the genres I’m reading are not as diverse as they think they are.
  3. The combination of those two first things, makes me a bit tired.
  4. I hate being aware of these things, of having a historical knowledge of them (these are things I’ve been concerned with since I wrote my first horror story in 1993) and though things are a little easier now (YAY MOTHA FUCKIN GOOGLE) it’s still a thing.

All that said, I’m writing the shit anyway.

Currently I’m working up a story about little Black witchy children. Babies with long bloodlines rooted in hoodoo or maybe just unnamed work, with witchy parents who watch their precious babies develop not knowing what they might be. But knowing that they have to be it together.

I’m also toying with screwing with the zombie trope. It involves the banshee mythos, a kid on the autism spectrum and a mom who’s had enough.

What else is in the fryer?

I’m thinking of non fiction (I started a new piece the other day) about what the concept of fuck you money and wealth actually means to me. I did some digging in my heart and brain and came up with a few better more truthful answers.

Also I’ve got book stuff coming up that I’ll talk about another time.

That’s it for the moment. Tomorrow we’ll go back to The World and later this week I’ll do a little bit of a review of Ken Liu’s novel The Grace of Kings.

Horror, The World and Other Nerdery.

Okay, first y’all need to go check out Scott Nicolay’s podcast. It is fucking amazing. While you’re listening to that, go read this story by Kristi Demeester. I just started reading that magazine on the pro tip from a friend and I really enjoy it.

Now I feel the need to nerd.

I’m going to talk some more about what I’ve been doing with my The World and some other stuff.

Now I took this photo in the stairwell of my apartment building (I took them originally to talk about poverty but that’s too depressing) here is the first one:


A view of how The World and the world fit together.

This is very close visually to what I want to create texturally. The light of the world we all live in and walk around in, the darkness where The World is and where some of us live and walk around in and then those areas where, the two mix together and make the thin places I’ve referenced in a couple of stories.

I look at this view every night when I get home and the feeling I get as I move through a bright, nice light that welcomes me home, up towards semi darkness, then into pitch blackness with some respite from the streetlight on clear nights, that is what I want to put in those stories.

What is on my  mind right now is where I want to take these stories. Originally I wanted them to be kind of traditionally linked stories I could put together in some form to end with some good old school hypertext big story type deal. I am undecided about what I am going to do with them as of yet.

The other thing on my mind is where do they fit in terms of genre?

We know I kind of hate that, but I’m thinking about it anyway.

If you’ve been reading me for a while, you know that often my writing surfs genre in ways that make my work not always the sort of thing that fits easily or smoothly within the constraints of whatever general genre I’m working in.

After listening to the aforementioned podcast and doing some reading I’ve settled on these works being Weird Fiction. Why? Because I fucking said so essentially.

I feel like I’m working in a tradition that has space for my slipstream, real/unreal stories. I like that idea. It feels comfortable. It feels like I could expand The World into neo-noir places, some fantasy type things etc, without feeling that underlying pressure to do Horror.

I think a lot of that internal pressure is coming from the knowledge of how far away, I backed from genre fiction for so long. I still have the lingering hesitancy to engage with the community because I’ve been burned.

There is so much racist and other fuckery in my literary life, I still have that desire for horror et al to be my safe place. That is where I want to play and not be writing about racism in music scenes I like (uh, yeah, I went low key viral, see it on huffpo I don’t want to talk about it right now) or having to deal with yet more White men/other men who take time out of their days to follow me around and tell me how much I suck. I need respite from all that shit so bad I don’t want to engage with another sector of the lit community that might become unsafe.

So here I am yammering about it in my blog.

Back to The World.

This is the other photo I took, consider it the view from inside The World peeping out.


This view is how I feel it is to peer out of The World. 

I have been note taking and there are more places I want to explore and inhabit in The World. I want to explore injecting POC culture into it, find some beauty, some sex, I want to explore more ways to involve childhood and development as a natural part of both worlds that make both worlds fucked up.

Is this still weird fiction?

I feel like yes it is.

Is it horror?

Eh, yeah, I think so.

I think my ultimate goal with these stories is to explore more of this method of unsettling. More of the subtle shifts in tense, gender pronouns and even POV to make the reader uncomfortable without trying to do HORROR BOO! I want to be intimate with you reader, skin to skin until you want to crawl out of yours. I want to have more people tell me, fuck I thought of this thing you said in this story like three days later and it was creepy as shit.

That is where I feel like my horror writing is going to blossom. It’s where I want to play. Rather than epic I want intimate. I want in your car and in your bed and in your shadow.

So yeah.

That’s what’s on my mind right now. It’s what I’m doing to self soothe after too much bullshit. I’ll talk about the bullshit soon. I can’t right now.

Hopefully at some point I will collect and maybe do more with The World. Or maybe I will use what I’ve learned about my process to write something else creepy.

So there it is.

Next week I’m going to review Ken Liu’s book Grace of KingsAnd a couple of other books. It will get nerdy, so hold your butts.

Lastly, before I run away to do stuff, come check out my latest teespring campaign.