July 02, 2011

Saturday Storytime: CONvergence Double Feature

I failed to post a story last weekend for you to enjoy. As penance, or perhaps just because I can, I post two today instead. Both of these authors are guests of honor at CONvergence, which is where I'm spending my weekend. They are also SF Squeecast members.

Seanan McGuire is one of those people who do everything. Really, that's most of what you need to know about her. If you meet her, ask her about cobras. Or Ebola.

"Good Girls Go to Heaven" is part of Seanan's story cycle based on the legend of the vanishing hitchhiker. An excerpt:

There's something not-right about one of the truckers, a barrel-chested man with a neat little goatee and the hands of an artist. Those artist's hands are wrapped around a coffee mug, stealing heat through the porcelain like a small child stealing cookies from the cookie jar. Most of the eyes in the diner skitter right off me, frightened mice catching the scent of a cat, but not him. He doesn't look at me for long, but when he does, he sees me. That, even more than the scent of ash and lilies that lingers in the air around him, tells me that he's the one I've come here for; he's the one that called me, made me give up a perfectly good ride westward to come to this middle-of-nowhere dive with nothing but the coat on my back and the frostbite in my fingers. I know him, or at least, I know his kind. He's in the process of sliding into the space between two Americas, this one, where the air tastes like apples and the jukebox plays Top 50 country hits, and a quieter, colder America, one where the kisses pretty girls sometimes give never taste of anything but empty rooms and broken promises. He's falling into my America, and there's not a damn thing to be done about it--that's not the sort of trip that you recover from.

The record on the jukebox changes as I walk toward the counter. Blue Oyster Cult, "Don't Fear the Reaper."

I hate it when the inanimate pretends to have a sense of humor.

Keep reading.

Catherynne (Cat) Valente can't be described in mere bloggy words. She's a novelist, short story writer, poet, and one of those con panelists who tells you up front you're in for an experience. Unlike many of those, she means it.

"The Days of Flaming Motorcyles" is not your father's zombie story. It is, however, a zombie story about someone's father.

To tell you the truth, my father wasn’t really that much different after he became a zombie.

My mother just wandered off. I think she always wanted to do that, anyway. Just set off walking down the road and never look back. Just like my father always wanted to stop washing his hair and hunker down in the basement and snarling at everyone he met. He chased me and hollered and hit me before. Once, when I stayed out with some boy whose name I can’t even remember, he even bit me. He slapped me and for once I slapped him back, and we did this standing-wrestling thing, trying to hold each other back. Finally, in frustration, he bit me, hard, on the side of my hand. I didn’t know what to do-we just stared at each other, breathing heavily, knowing something really absurd or horrible had just happened, and if we laughed it could be absurd and if we didn’t we’d never get over it. I laughed. But I knew the look in his eye that meant he was coming for me, that glowering, black look, and now it’s the only look he’s got.

It’s been a year now, and that’s about all I can tell you about the apocalypse. There was no flash of gold in the sky, no chasms opened up in the earth, no pale riders with silver scythes. People just started acting the way they’d always wanted to but hadn’t because they were more afraid of the police or their boss or losing out on the prime mating opportunities offered by the greater Augusta area. Everyone stopped being afraid. Of anything. And sometimes that means eating each other.

But sometimes it doesn’t. They don’t always do that, you know. Sometimes they just stand there and watch you, shoulders slumped, blood dripping off their noses, their eyes all unfocused. And then they howl. But not like a wolf. Like something broken and small. Like they’re sad.

Keep reading.

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