The Fishers of Men

Black Static January/February 2015I have a story in the January/February 2015 issue of Black Static:

There is no stopping progress. You may buy a plot of land, build a home, raise a family, join a church, and volunteer for the local PTA — but if the authorities determine someone somewhere else is thirstier than you, then they will drown your American Dream with no more effort than turning the spigot counterclockwise. In 1936, when the Norris Dam was completed along Tennessee’s Clinch River, landowners in the century-old trade center of Loyston were relocated and the town submerged beneath the resulting lake. Neversink, New York, population two-thousand, was sacrificed to the waves of the Neversink Reservoir after the residents of New York City grew a little too dry in the mouth. When it was decided the right of a Boston Brahmin to flip his tap handle and fill his glass trumped those of plebeians living in Dana, Enfield, Greenwich, and Prescott, Massachusetts, the four towns disappeared beneath the Quabbin Reservoir. And upon completion of the Saville Dam along a branch of the Farmington River in 1940, the crossroads village of Barkhamsted Hollow, Connecticut — farmhouses, church, and cemetery — vanished underwater so that the citizens of Hartford might wet their lips.

I was a little shocked when Andy Cox accepted “Fishers;” it is a very American story and when I sent it I wasn’t sure the historical background would translate. But I suppose I don’t have to know the intricacies of lines of royal succession or the industrialization of Greater Manchester to enjoy M.R. James, Robert Aickman, or Susanna Clarke (to name the three most recent authors I’ve read), so perhaps the width of the Atlantic isn’t as great as I sometimes imagine.

On these western shores you can find Black Static at Barnes & Noble — though often a month or two after the magazine’s cover date.

Barbary

The current issue of Black Static opens with my historical fantasy, “Barbary.”

I began to smoke mummies on the advice of a pharmacist off Pacific Avenue. His was an almost derelict alley-way shop, the sign faded, the bills in the window brown and curling. Several times I had to step like a Lipizzaner in the lane over inebriates or dragon-chasers, and I couldn’t imagine how such a frail old geezer passed daily to and from his business unmolested. For all I knew he never left and slept under the floor, subsisting on unguent and rose water. And for me — well, the risk of a blackjack or a knife between the ribs was a lesser injury than my chronic disorder.

One reviewer at Tangent said the story is “very well-done, spooky and disturbing … The prose is realistically archaic without being awkward or stiff,” while another wrote that it “twists to a perfect ending.” Author and fellow cider-swiller Matthew Dent noted, “it was the peculiar and slightly archaic way in which it was written — fitting the plot like a glove — which fascinated me … An excellent piece of fiction.”

Thank you for your kind praise! I’m very pleased — it’s one of my better efforts. Artist Ben Baldwin created an amazing accompaniment to the story, seen above. Thanks to him as well.

Alas, while Black Static is available at the Waterstones in every burgh’s High Street, I have no idea how you buy it outside of the UK. You can wait for the Kindle version — though I don’t know when that will be available — or purchase a hard copy off the publisher’s Back Issues page once the next issue is out.

Update: You can read the whole thing for free on Smashwords.