Tag Archives: science fiction

New Anthology: Oz Is Burning

B Cubed Press’s fundraising anthology Oz is Burning has been released, just a little behind its original timing to coincide with the NZ Worldcon!

B Cubed commissioned the stories as a response to the devastating bushfires of February 2020 (how long ago that seems now) and a portion of the proceeds will be going to WIRES.

Australian and New Zealand writers were asked to submit stories of a post-apocalyptic world. My own contribution, Harvest, has a little fire, a little water, a few seeds and a certain amount of mindful weeding. (My Patreon supporters got a sneak peek of the story earlier in the year).

If you read the ToC reveal in April, you’ll see that Oz is Burning contains stories by some of ANZ’s best writers of specfic and horror, including Gillian Polack, Kyla Ward, Lucy Sussex, Jack Dann and Jason Nahrung (who recently won an Aurealis Award for his PhD thesis!)

Oz is Burning – edited by Phyllis Radford – is already available for Kindle and is likely to be on other platforms soon.

Help to support the writers and WIRES by getting a copy!

Lockdown Fiction: Chrysalis

My mind is definitely taking a lot of apocalyptic turns when I write to the Improbable Press prompts – but then I try to make them less grim. I’m not too sure which one this story is.

Pop over to Improbable Press to read what others have done and to try out your own prompted fiction!


Nobody survives Chrysalis. That is to say, no body does. Everyone who ingests the tricky little amoeba responsible for Chrysalis emerges from it different to what they were before.

It doesn’t affect the other animals, only the primates. Monkeys, apes, and us. Enough of a dose of the little single-celled animals, and our bodies alter. We grow sleepy and sluggish, we grow cold and stiff. We grow little crystals all over our skin.

We hibernate.

Some awful things happened at first, when loved ones and medical professionals tried to remove the crystals, to peel the sleepers within out of the shell. A lot of people bled and died, and the ones that didn’t were horribly scarred and never properly woke up.

When people first found out what was happening, they put all kinds of measures in place to identify where the amoeba was breeding, though maybe breeding isn’t the word. Fluoride in the water wasn’t touching it, so everyone boiled their water or drank it bottled. Then it turned out it was in the bottled stuff, and in soft drink and any manufactured beverage, so ubiquitous that the bottled drinks industry collapsed overnight.

Entamoeba histomorphia, they’re called. Single-celled agents of change.

Most mutagens are cancerous, but not these little creatures. They change everything, but if left to their lifecycle, they don’t’ kill everything. It’s human intervention that does that.

The people who emerge from Chrysalis have slower hearts and stronger muscles. They have tougher bones and softer skin. Their altruistic impulse is more highly developed and their sense of self is more robust. They speak more but shout less; they sing more, do more art, too.

The biologists and behaviourists are still discussing how histomorphosis acts on the brain. They don’t argue about it, except in a purely debate-team sense.

Oddly, aggression hasn’t disappeared entirely. But with our new soft skin and greater sense of community, it’s directed differently.  Righteous anger fights for the community, though not for conformity.

Post-Chrysalis people are sort of like the better angels of our nature.

A few conspiracy theorists try to sell the idea that Entamoeba histomorphia were developed in a leftist lab by snowflake hippies. E. histomorphosis resulting in the kind of thing snowflake hippies like, apparently. Others think it evolved from the cell-eating Entamoeba histolytica. Most scientists have concluded it was an accident of circumstance, because of how we’ve changed the climate on the planet, and all chemical soup we pumped into it.

Generally, climate change and poisoning the environment were meant to bring an end to humanity, so I guess it did that, though not in the ways we were expecting. Those little critters coat us and imbue us and change us, and we emerge from Chrysalis a new species.

I have crystals on my throat today, on my cheeks and eyelashes. They are coming in little pretty waves over my shoulders and inner elbow and the soles of my feet.

About time. I drank three litres of unboiled, unfiltered water yesterday, inviting them in. All the best monsters have to be invited in, and all the best monsters are just the heroes of their own stories too, and that’s what we’re truly becoming.

The term Human 2.0 was first bandied about on Twitter, but the Science Side of Tumblr stole a march on that with Pan narrans. They borrowed the name from Terry Pratchett. The story-telling ape.

And now, today, into the future, Pan narrans is telling a new story.

Lockdown Fiction: Connectivity

Inspired by an Improbable Press prompt!


I know better. Of course I do. But broke, living in my car, and denied the necessary freedom of internet access for the sixth day running prove too much for my caution. I have job applications to lodge, even with my small hope of success, and no data left on my phone. The lure of the open WiFi network named SpinATale is too strong.

I click.

I fall headlong into SpinATale’s web.

First my screen goes dark, and when it fires up again a moment later my Star Wars wallpaper has been replaced by what looks like tangled purple crochet that reminds me of my first and only attempt at a scarf, made when I was twelve.

I hit escape.

This is either my second mistake or my next good choice of the day.

My finger freezes onto the escape key, stuck onto the keyboard which is communing with the cascade of code and energy beyond the Bluetooth chip.

Words appear across the screen – first in white text.

Spin a Tale with me.

Then in black.

Tell Your Story.

Then in deep purple.

Share Your Story.

My story. Huh. I stare at the flashing words and think about my story.  

I was unlucky. I misjudged.  I lost my job. I lost my hope. I lost my love and I lost my way. I’m on my last fifty bucks and my last legs.  My life’s not going anywhere, and I’ve literally and figuratively got nothing in the tank to take me anywhere. I’m down and nearly out and nobody cares.

We care.

I blink at the new words, in deep, dark red. I still can’t get my finger off the escape key.

Do you want to escape?

This life? This moment? This noisy world where no sound I make can be heard? Where I shout into the void and nobody listens and nobody cares?

We care. We will listen.

Can a wireless network show empathy for a blip of human data stuck in the hardware world?

We will share your story. You will be heard.

Oh hell yes I want to escape. I want to flee, fly, flow into whatever lurks behind SpinATale’s cryptic, mind-reading connection.

Double click ESC to Escape.

I double click.

I escape.

You hear me now, don’t you?

Lockdown Fiction: The Thing with Feathers

Today’s story was prompted by Improbable Press.

The Thing with Feathers*

It’s a con job, this planetfall. We can see the planet through the viewports of course, all shrouded in cloud, and beneath, glimpses of mountains and valleys, and long green plains. Snow-capped poles and blue oceans that look like they’ll team with life. Safe, non-toxic, edible life to eat alongside the nutrient-rich grains we’ll grow alongside smaller gardens of plenty in that rich soil we can see down there.

Only the viewport is not a window, it’s a sensor relay. What we see is a collection of pixels, and nobody knows where the pixels come from.

This shiny ball of hope we see, this bauble promising we survivors a future, how can we even know it’s real? That spritz of interference here – is that just an error in the computer-generated render of a planet-shaped animation? That impossible blue, that breathtaking green, are they from a painter’s palette rather than real and true and actual nature?

The captain says we’re landing. I think we’re crashing. Into some rocky moon or an asteroid field, and this beautiful lie is how they’re making it easy for us.

I want to believe it, but the gravity is all wrong. A planet would be pulling us into its orbit differently. We’re not being pulled. We’re not landing, we’re not falling. We’re diving. We are aiming for the end to come, at last, at last. No more waiting for us.

We survivors.

We can’t survive everything.

The ship is shaking. My knuckles are white. Everything is coming to an end, and I am full of grief, and full of relief.

Hope is all we had and hope is hard, the hardest thing, sometimes.

And then.

And then.

And then the shaking stops and even with the stabilisers on, we can feel the thrust of engines in an upper atmosphere. I used to know that feeling well, when I worked on the moonbase, then on the Mars base, then on the ship that would take us far from the Sun, which fuelled our last big push into the unknown, before it went Nova.

The gravity, though, was wrong.

Or did I just forget the pull of it? The anchoring, blissful wonder of it?

The viewport crackles and clears on the curve of the blue-green planet. The rushing seas and the green plains. The clouds scudding below us, then beside us, then above us. Winged creatures, feathered, ludicrous, splendid, wheel away to the horizon. The captain records them and plays their calls and cries and songs on the wing as we land.

We land.

We land.

*Title from Emily Dickinson’s poem: “Hope” is the thing with feathers.