Monthly ArchiveApril 2012
Podcast Episodes 19 Apr 2012 09:26 pm
“FRIENDLY FIRE,” by Douglas J Lane.
Read by Zach Weiner. (31 min)
They pulled the woman from the padded seat with care. She wasn’t the enemy. Ignorant, a buyer of the big lie, but not the root of the problem. She was somewhere north of forty. Her dark hair showed silver strands, and the beginnings of crow’s feet bracketed chestnut-colored eyes. Tommy noticed her fingertips, purple and tender. She was a Repeater. It touched a nerve.
Confusion and fear mingled on her face. “Don’t hurt me!” She wrapped an arm around herself, a reflex of protection. “Take my purse. I don’t have much.”
“We don’t want your crap,” Mitch said from behind the rubber face of Elvis Presley. He pushed past her. The silver head of a hammer, produced from inside Mitch’s overcoat, reflected a hundred mall lights. He ripped the curtain off the booth and went to work.
Douglas J Lane’s narrative weirdness has appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated and Pure Francis, and the anthology Seasons In The Abyss. He currently juggles his day job with his work on a novel and a flaming chainsaw. He can be reached — and might even reply — at dj.dougiej [at] gmail.com.
Zach Weiner is the author of the comic strip “Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal”, co-creator of the comedy series SMBC Theater, and co-host of The Weekly Weinersmith science podcast. His most recent book of comics is entitled The Most Dangerous Game.
In the book, “FRIENDLY FIRE” is illustrated by Kelly Tindall. This podcast episode was edited by Matthew Schwartz.
Vol2 Updates 17 Apr 2012 11:55 pm
Last year, submissions closed for Machine of Death Volume 2 with 1,958 stories having been received for consideration. We received at least one story from every continent including Antarctica (
44 46 distinct countries in all), and from at least 1,705 distinct writers.
The total breakdown of writers by country — that we could identify using telephone area codes or info in the cover letter — is below. (Many of these writers submitted more than one story.)
1179 USA 70% of total 151 Canada 9% of total 144 UK 9% 75 Australia 4% 15 Germany 1% 14 Ireland 1% 12 New Zealand 1% 8 Brazil 0% 7 South Africa 0% 6 India, Sweden 5 South Korea 4 Netherlands 3 Greece, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Romania 2 Austria, China, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Panama, Singapore, Switzerland 1 Afghanistan, Argentina, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Croatia, Egypt, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand, UAE 0 EVERYWHERE ELSE WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM
We also received 151 art portfolio submissions from 12 countries. (Broken down in more detail here.) The illustrations in Volume 2 will be commissioned from a combination of: artists who submitted to us; repeat illustrators from Volume 1; and artists known to us personally.
In addition, we are commissioning a handful of MOD comic strips that we hope to include in the book itself. Among the artists already engaged for this task are KC Green (of Gunshow and “HIV INFECTION…”) and Anthony Clark (of Nedroid).
One of the challenges of choosing artists from among the many, many striking and wonderful portfolios submitted to us was matching an artist’s style to the tone and content of the stories we know will be in the book. Many talented artists were necessarily passed over (though we are keeping all portfolios on file for future projects). But among the artists who will be creating new work for MOD2 are:
Tony Cliff (follow that link and read his comic, guys, it’s great)
Becky Dreistadt (also great)
Alice Duke (guys these are ALL great)
And we’ll be announcing more names over time. The book will contain 32 stories, so there are slots yet to fill.
The MOD 2 Stories
For more on our decision-making process, you can re-read our writeup when we announced the lineup for Volume 1 — all of the same points hold true. We found ourselves drawn to novel ideas, well-written prose, and relatable characters.
In addition, because of the volume of submissions, more unusual concepts tended to stand out. Our list of “stories we like parts of” is hundreds long, so usually it was the ability of the writer to conclude the story effectively that was the tipping point. Great opening paragraphs were common (which was exciting!) but what really got us going was a great conclusion as well. Wrapping things up in a satisfying way is hard to do, and it was a less common find.
Still, we actually ended up buying more stories than we could fit into one book — some that were just too good to let get away, whether or not we thought we could fit them in. Sadly, we can’t cram all of them into this particular volume, but we do expect they will see print soon in a different form. If we bought your story and it’s not listed here, we have different plans for it.
The stories that will be in Volume 2 proper are:
*Also a contributor to MOD Volume 1.
• “BLUNT FORCE TRAUMA DELIVERED BY SPOUSE,” by Liz Argall. A woman must decide whether she believes that her prediction has the power to shape her destiny.
• “LAZARUS REACTOR FISSION SEQUENCE,” by Tom Francis*. The trials of a supervillain’s henchman tasked with dispatching government spies in the manner of their prediction.
• “YOUR CHOICE,” by Richard Salter. An interactive story allowing the reader to choose the direction of the narrative!
• “TOXOPLASMOSIS OF THE BRAIN; CANDIDIASIS OF THE ESOPHAGUS; CANDIDIASIS OF THE TRACHEA; CANDIDIASIS OF THE BRONCHI; CANDIDIASIS OF THE LUNGS; KAPOSI’S SARCOMA; PNEUMONIA; TUBERCULOSIS; STAB WOUND IN THE BELLY; AND BUS ACCIDENT,” by Gord Sellar*. A couple is torn apart by an epidemic in rural Africa.
• “TWO ONE SIX,” by Marleigh Norton. A woman struggles to unravel the relevance of her numerical prediction.
• “APITOXIN,” by John Takis. Sherlock Holmes is called to investigate the case of a strange device implicated in a murder plot.
• “CONFLAGRATION,” by D.L.E. Roger. A prediction statistical analyst comes to a startling conclusion about the future of civilization.
• “DROWNING BURNING FALLING FLYING,” by Grace Seybold. The machine has a different effect upon an alien race visiting Earth.
• “EXECUTION BY BEHEADING,” by Chandler Kaiden. Kids turn to desperate measures to add to their collection of “cod cards.”
• “SCREAMING, CRYING, ALONE AND AFRAID,” by Daliso Chaponda*. A Johannesburg police detective stalks a serial killer with the aid of a witch doctor.
• “ROCK AND ROLL,” by Toby W. Rush. Teenage girls spark a rivalry when given the chance to meet their favorite pop star backstage.
• “MACHINE OF DEATH,” by Karen Stay Ahlstrom. A strange device is unveiled at a party.
• “TETRAPOD,” by Rebecca Black. An expat in Japan clings to an attraction to a fellow English teacher in a sea of foreignness.
• “OLD AGE, SURROUNDED BY LOVED ONES,” by ‘Nathan Burgoine. An identical twin is tested, and receives two prediction slips at once — her own and her (prediction-abstaining) sister’s.
• “IN SLEEP,” by Ren Warom. A future/cyberpunk tale of a singer whose prediction is somehow changed for one far more horrible.
• “MADE INTO DELICIOUS CHEESEBURGER,” by Sarah Pavis. The tale of a jealous cow.
• “IN BATTLE, ALONE AND SOON FORGOTTEN,” by Ed Turner. Every orc in history has received the title prediction — until now.
• “FURNACE,” by Erika Hammerschmidt. Future archaeologists must puzzle out what the MOD is and what it was used for.
• “SHIV SENA RIOT,” by Ryan Estrada. An MOD technical-support call center representative in India faces the chance to get her own prediction for the very first time.
• “ZEPHYR,” by George Page III. Space marines form into fighting units coordinated by the times of their impending deaths.
• “LA MORT D’UN ROTURIER,” by Martin Livings. The winds of change begin to stir in pre-Revolution France.
• “MEAT EATER,” by John* & Bill Chernega. An official U.S. Government pamphlet prepared for your young child’s first death prediction!
• “NATURAL CAUSES,” by Rhiannon Kelly. A Machine peddler comes to town, and bares secrets that most would rather stay hidden.
• “OLD AGE,” by Brigita Orel. A quiet story of a loving relationship.
• “PEACEFULLY,” by M.J. Leitch. In a post-zombie world, everybody gets one of only two predictions: PEACEFULLY or VIOLENTLY.
• “BLUE FEVER,” by Ada Hoffmann. The official royal singer must compose a ‘deathsong’ for a visiting dignitary.
• “NOT APPLICABLE,” by Kyle Schoenfeld. As a dictator rises to power, more and more people worldwide begin to receive the titular prediction.
• “CECILE,” by Hollan Lane. A woman very much in love struggles with the possibility that her lover will be her death.
We’re very proud of the scope and variety of this collection of stories. Like Volume 1, it’s diverse in tone and subject matter, but this time, many of the stories take for granted a certain familiarity with the MOD concept and brush past the “Intro to MOD 101” type stuff into more creative, more unexpected, or more subversive territory.
We’re also quite proud of the diversity of our writers. For at least six, this is their very first fiction sale. Others are old pros. Gord Sellar was nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2009; Rhiannon Kelly is still in high school. It’s a great spread.
In addition, the book will contain the following stories by the three of us:
• “LAKE TITICACA,” by M. Bennardo. Kids dare each other to visit the only machine in town — in the back of Mr. Szyzylly’s rusty old arcade.
• “MONSTERS FROM THE DEEP,” by David Malki ! Nobody knows where the machines came from — or why they are suddenly issuing more and more violent predictions.
• “CANCER,” by Ryan North. A terminal patient discovers that her prediction may not be as straightforward as it seems at first.
At this point we expect the book to be around 5-10% longer than the first volume. Also: LIKE TWICE AS GOOD, FOR SERIOUS
After a period of consideration and discussion among ourselves and with professional colleagues, we have decided to shop the manuscript to publishers. Knowing what we know now — how we want to release this book, and what we could stand to gain or lose from doing it ourselves like we did the last one — we’re going into this with our eyes as wide open as we can manage, with the power to say “no” to any deal that doesn’t make sense for us, or doesn’t treat you, the reader, with the respect and consideration you deserve.
But mainstream book publishing is in a tough spot, these days. Things just keep getting harder to do the way they’ve always been done. Some people in the industry have told us that we’re just the kind of project they need to shake things up. So if it makes sense, we’ll have those conversations.
What that further means, though, is that right now we can’t put a date on the release of the book. If a publisher buys it, it’ll probably be out next year sometime. But if they don’t? We’re going to try and have it out this fall. I personally think the World Science Fiction Convention in August would be a nice occasion to make a debut. But we can’t say anything for certain just yet.
As always, various other ideas and projects are simmering away, and we continue to thank you for your continued support. So many of you have come up to us at conventions to say you’ve enjoyed the book, or that you’ve recommended it to your friends, or just to talk it up loudly within earshot of strangers — thank you so much for that! That latter thing is 100% true and has absolutely sold books right in front of me, I’ve seen it happen.
We’re thrilled to have reached so many people so far. But, you know. There’s 300 million people in the US alone that haven’t read it yet. Our work’s still cut out for us!
Thanks again, guys. More info to come on release dates as the dust settles.
Oh, and the title!
Previously we announced the title to Volume 2 as You Can’t Shoot the Cancer Squad: Tales of the Infallible, Inscrutable, Inevitable Machine of Death. Still, we’re not quite settled on it (and of course any eventual publisher may have a say in the matter as well).
The trick is that we don’t want to just slap a number — “Machine of Death 2” — on it, because we want people to pick it up even if they haven’t read the first one. So a phrase, or a Machine of Death: Subtitle format, seems like it could be the right tack. My favorite runner-up so far is something along the lines of You’ll Live Forever (And Other Lies): Tales of the Machine of Death.
But you know what? We need some help. Leave us comments with your title suggestions!