Archive for the ‘!What’s New!’ Category


Sunday, June 23rd, 2024

by Alexandra L. Burris

His predicament was becoming ridiculous. To think he had been relieved no longer to live as a savage – how eagerly he had anticipated his return to England all these months – and now this! This was his welcome. It was a humiliation. He, who had been decorated by the Royal Society, trapped inside a museum, contemplating the indignity of sleeping upon the floor!

He was due to give a lecture the following morning at the Society of Venerable Adventurers. Thanks to the stupidity of the clerk who had locked him in, he would not have time to go home and dress, and was beginning to contemplate the likelihood of not being able to attend at all. Every hour he was expecting his wife to come and fetch him, and every hour growing more vexed that she did not. The wretch could not be unaware of his absence. She must be deliberately ignoring his predicament.

To break a pane of glass and climb out would be the simplest thing in the world for a man of his active habits, and yet it was out of the question. He could do nothing that might embarrass or anger his patroness. His position with her was already precarious. 

A harridan who had lately taken up speaking against the wearing of feathers, Lady Braithwaite had, before the setting off of his latest expedition, offered some strongly worded remarks on his practice of collecting animal specimens. This impudence in itself, the sheer presumption of it, would have been almost unbearable.

But what was worse still, she demanded a thorough inspection of the Ajax on his return, to see that he had followed her orders. He had been obliged to descend to subterfuge, stowing his treasures in the hull of the vessel (Lady Braithwaite being too stupid and ignorant to know that such a compartment existed) which in addition to being humiliating had compromised the quality of the specimens.

He had also been obliged to tell the museum that his prize specimen from the expedition, an exceedingly rare leopardus guigna that he had meant to make his career, was left over from a previous expedition, which made it appear that they were not his first choice. They had been offended, as he had known they would. This was not to be borne.

The damned woman did not understand that without specimens, the profession of explorer was not sustainable. He depended on the partnership with the museum for the furtherance of his reputation, for contact with new patrons – and to quit the profession was unthinkable.

He must have an active occupation. He must range far from home. It was essential. To remain was intolerable. He was not a man inclined for domesticity. He had been bound, by an act of indiscretion, to a wife he barely knew. His sons had, of late, become interesting to him, an unexpected occurrence which mitigated the disappointment somewhat.

They bore the handsome features of his line and were beginning to show a strength and forthrightness that promised well. He felt a sense of pride when he looked at them. Any consolation to be found here was diminished by the knowledge that they would be the last, however.

After Lady Martin’s confinement, the physician had cautioned that it would be absolutely impossible for her to bear any further children. Sir Walter, who had been depending on at least three sons, was angered beyond description. It was impossible to love such a useless creature. She could do less for him than any dead specimen. He had made his displeasure known to her.

“Why don’t you kill me like one of your cats?” she had demanded. “I am less useful to you than they are – and they, at least, do not eat.”

He had been obliged to make her see reason with the back of his hand. Home life was unbearable, he lamented to himself again. Everything was against him.

The leopardus guigna ought to do something about that, at least. His luck may be turning at last. The deserving would get their reward. His superiority would be acknowledged at last.

To view it again ought to provide some consolation, he reflected, and quit his useless pacing of the building. At night, at least, he could remove the dark glasses that he was obliged to keep on at all times during the day, due to sun damage sustained to his retinas during his time at the Equator. With his pale eyes thus unencumbered, his view of the guigna was better. Standing before the creature, he felt a renewed satisfaction.

Specimens of the guigna been collected before, but not of the rare melanistic variety. His was a creature composed of pure night, black of fur, small and sleek. Finding it had been a boon, there was no denying it. He could publish. There would be a lecture tour, interviews in select periodicals. There might be a line or two in the Times, if he called upon the right people. One had to be judicious about using such favors, but every instinct told him that now was the right time.

In a further piece of good fortune, there had been two kits as well. He was, of course, not one to defile the beauty of nature callously and for no purpose – he had preserve for transportation, as any decent man would do. But the success of this had been diminished by the manner of their disposal. His remaining supply of cyanide had not been sufficient to dispatch with all three. 

It was vexing. He could not club the kits, for the attempt would crush their skulls beyond repair. He had been obliged instead, therefore, to turn them onto their backs and slit them up the gut. Their cries were unpleasant, and the adult cat, objecting, had inflicted a wound upon his hand with its teeth. He had dispensed with it more brutally than scientifically, which annoyed him.

Nevertheless, it had all come right in the end. Despite its unfortunate beginnings and its journey in the hall, the specimen had turned out remarkably well, better than he could have anticipated – a fine example of the taxidermist’s art. He viewed it for some moments with the pleasure of the conqueror. It looked well, in its glass case, snarling as it had in life. There were those who thought the guigna a delicate and innocent animal, soft as a housecat. He knew better. It was a creature of rage and rebellion, of wilful, wanton independence.

For some moments he did not move. He felt transfixed, recollecting the event. The wound upon his hand stung, and he felt, all at once, the impression that the creature was observing him.

A sensation of unutterable dread possessed him, which he could not reason himself out of. Resolving to banish the unpleasant feeling by vigorous exercise, as had been his habit in the past when in the grip of some undesired emotion, he resumed making a circuit of the museum.

As he walked, Sir Walter became aware of an overwhelming sensation that he was again being observed by a black cat. Darting to the nearest window, he looked out frantically. He saw nothing. This did little to lessen his unease, however, for it was night, and every shadow might have contained within it the spectre of a feline shape.

He resolved to look out the window no more, and resumed his tour of the gallery. Here were specimens from around the world, wildlife, art, relics of lesser civilizations. All seemed to him to have assumed, in the night, a sinister and frightening aspect. He had the sensation, too, of being accompanied, though he knew himself to be alone.

He walked faster, without admitting it to himself. Out of the corner of his eye he seemed to see shadows moving when they could not be. Eventually he rounded the final corner of the museum block, and was faced with the prospect of again confronting the cat.

To turn back was impossible – to do so would be to admit his fear. He must go forward. He steeled himself and strode up to it. The corridor seemed to grow longer with each step, but eventually he was before the specimen once more. Its expression, caught forever in a snarl of rage, appeared still more sinister than before.

Suddenly he grew angry.

“I would do the same again!” he cried in defiance, possessed by a dark fury, pounding upon the case. “I killed you once and if I have to do it a second time, I shall!”

Whatever he had hoped to accomplish with this proclamation, he was unsuccessful. His dread increased. The dark olive eyes bored into him. Staggering back, he ranted and raved like a possessed man, calling down curses upon the cat, upon the whole of its species, upon nature as a whole.

At length he stumbled and fell backward onto the floor. He did not move from that spot, in the gaze of the black cat, for the remainder of the night. At length, sleep or unconsciousness claimed him.


When he woke, the explorer was lying before the glass case, with a startled-looking young clerk staring down at him.

“Sir!” he said, as the explorer came round. “Allow me to apologize! I had no idea you were-”

“-Ah, was it you who locked me in the museum last night, then, Kitt?” The explorer put a hand to his eyes to ascertain that the dark glasses were still in place, then sat up.

“I fear I may have, sir,” the young man stammered, looking surprised that he had remembered his name. “I cannot think how I…”

“Not at all,” the explorer said. “You weren’t to have known I would remain there so late. The error was entirely my own. I am a damnably stupid fellow.”

“Lady Martin has come in search of you,” said the young man, gesturing behind him to where a slight, frightened-looking woman stood.

“Ah, I am glad!” said the explorer. “My dear. What an adventure this past evening has been. Is all well at home?”

She spoke rapidly, not seeming to have heard him. “I am terribly sorry, husband, for not coming to find you! I entreat you to forgive me. We retired to bed early last night. The children are not at all well. They have had splitting pains in their stomachs all evening- Til this morning we had not the smallest idea that you were not-”

“-Never mind,” the explorer said hastily, not wishing to further discompose a woman whose life was marred with such difficulties. “None of these events have been your doing.”

“Really?” The fear began to recede from her dark grey eyes, though uncertainty replaced it.

“You weren’t to have known, Lady Martin,” he said.

“Oh.” This thought seemed not to have occurred to her. “But I ought to have-”

“-Nonsense. Let us think of the matter no more. Come, my dear,” he said briskly. “You have not seen my kodkod.”

“What is a ko…?”

“-The cat,” he said, gesturing to it.

“Oh, the leopardus gui…?”

“Something like that, yes.”

“It is a pretty creature,” she said, looking at the still figure, which looked, with few alterations, much the same as it had the month before, when it was prowling the rainforests of Chile.

She could say no more, venture no disapproving remark before her husband. It was forbidden. But the explorer observed the sadness in her eyes. He felt, to his own surprise, a moment’s regret that she had been touched by these affairs. “Yes, it was. The kits were playful and remarkably affectionate.”

“Oh,” she said sadly.

“It was a wrong to kill them,” he said. “An unforgivable wrong.”

“You regret it, then?” she said in surprise.

“There is nothing for me to regret. I have only done what I must. But let us have no more gloomy remarks!” He stepped toward the case and pointed. “I am particularly proud of this specimen, my dear. The large one.”

“Oh?” said Lady Martin.

“Do you see what is particularly unusual about it, aside from the dark fur?”

She looked unsettled. “No, my dear.”

“No kodkod has ever been seen with blue eyes before,” the explorer said triumphantly. “It is unique in the world, the only one of its kind. I can say that with certainty.”

“How remarkable!” she said, looking at it with fascination and a kind of horror she could not explain. This was wrong. Sir Walter ought to have left well enough alone, she thought.

The explorer smiled. “Indeed.” What a terrible fate, he thought, to be trapped in a glass case forever.

He quit the museum shortly afterward, bound for home. The Society of Venerable Adventurers was expecting Sir Walter, but they would have to be disappointed.


More of the 2024 !Short Story Contest!
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2024 !Short Story Contest! is Live

Sunday, June 23rd, 2024

go straight to the contest,

Posting every Sunday throughout the Summer,
with two weeks of Fan Voting at the end of August.

Winners announced Labor Day, which is September 2nd.

go straight to the contest,

Or, use the permanent link on
our retro navigation menu,
somewhere around,
<———– here

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Winners announced for the 2024 Lengthy Poem Contest

Monday, May 6th, 2024

What an awe-inspiring Lengthy Poem Contest

Never one to wait a moment,
the winner of the 2024 Lengthy Poem Contest is:

The girl with the red stroller
by Ana Reisens

read all the 2024 Lengthy Poems
meet the judge, Paul-Newell Reaves

With over 90% of the votes, our Fan Favorite is also
“The girl with the red stroller”
View the Fan Voting results

Surf back through next Spring,
we do this every year
only on

We will return to weekly publication
at the end of June with
the 2024 !Short Story Contest!
(submission is now open)

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Fan Voting for the 2024 Lengthy Poem Contest

Thursday, May 2nd, 2024

— Three days only—
May 3rd – May 5th

Vote for your Favorite Lengthy Poem
without sharing any information at all

in the Fan-Favorite Prize
only on

You may vote as often as you please.

Vote here

Read the Lengthy Poems:

The Song of Ishtar by Blessings Oziama

Reflections of an Ant-stronaut by JL Maikaho

The girl with the red stroller by Ana Reisens

Vote here

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Concept Albums Explained: Frank’s Wild Years

Wednesday, January 17th, 2024

by Paul-Newell Reaves

You think you know weird?  You don’t know weird till you’ve heard the albums from Tom Waits’ Island Records period.

Famous for his raspy vocal delivery, Waits was mostly a piano-based lounge act before the 1980s.  His lyrics have always been exceptional– on par with Bob Dylan and Patti Smith– and his 1974 concept album “the Heart of Saturday Night” will be covered in another article of this column.

When he signed a recording deal with Island Records, however, he took his music in a very, very different direction.   “Frank’s Wild Years” is the third of five albums recently remastered and re-released by that company, and it  features obscure instruments– a Mellotron, for example– intense rhythmic patterns, and bizarre harmonies and chords that put the most experimental prog bands to shame.

How weird?  We’re about to find out.
(read more)

Winners of the 2024 FLASH SUITE Contest are announced

More Concept Albums Explained,
including The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,
and Bob Dylan’s Highway 61, Revisited

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Winners of the 2024 FLASH SUITE Contest

Monday, January 15th, 2024

Never one to waste a moment on ,

the Grand Prize winner is:
Half-Life Connections

However, there is a tie for Runner-Up,
so Fan Voting becomes the tie-breaker (see below).
Eking ahead is:
Three Tales of Rapture

And the Fan Favorites are:
Top Hat
Fragments of My Father

Here’s How the Judges Voted:
(each Grand Prize vote is worth two Runner-Up votes)

Glenn A. Bruce
Grand Prize: “Half-Life Connections”
Runner-Up: “Good and Faithful Servant”

Lady Moet Beast
Grand Prize: “Three Tales of Rapture”
Runner-Up: “Final Stop”

Aditya Gautam
Grand Prize: “Good and Faithful Servant”
Runner-Up: “Crow”

Allison Floyd
Grand Prize: “Half-Life Connections”
Runner Up: “Three Tales of Rapture”

Fan Vote (click here for all Voting Percentages)–
Grand Prize: Top Hat (35.38%)
Runner-Up: Fragments of My Father (25.94%)

Tie-Breaker Fan Vote:
Three Tales of Rapture” (1.65% total)
Good And Faithful Servant” (0.94% total)

!What a close contest!

Keep surfing through
for more of our Winter publication schedule.

Re-read the 2024 FLASH SUITE Contest
Meet the Judges

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Concept Albums Explained: Frameworks, James Sizemore

Wednesday, January 10th, 2024

by Paul-Newell Reaves

Film composer James Sizemore– credited for work on the “Twilight” series and “the Hobbit”– released his Contemporary Classical album Frameworks in 2018.  The tracks are titled after concepts of geometry and mathematics, and his work becomes an elegant statement of meaning in Post-Post-Modernism.

The album insists that, as we consider the album as a text, we examine the tracks backwards, from last to first, in reverse of the arranged listening order.  Why?  There is no why in math!  It will all add up under analysis.

No graph paper will be necessary for our musical calculations.  But your mind will expand exponentially by the time we arrive at the beginning.
(read more)

More Concept Albums Explained

FAN VOTING for the 2024 FLASH SUITE Contest continues until January 13th!
!Vote early and vote often!

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A Creative Approach to an A.I. POLICY:

Sunday, January 7th, 2024

only on
[if you take pride in writing, skip this section]

You can try out A.I. for our contests, if you truly worry your writing skills are too flimsy. But you should probably trust your own abilities more.

I trained LLMs in creative writing, so not only will I probably recognize their work, I’ll even give you some hints:
A.I. doesn’t generate original ideas– that’s the fundamental premise of the software, it rips off stuff that’s already been published– so you’d definitely better come up with your basic conceit by hand. As to the work itself, in order to make A.I.’s writing remotely interesting, stylistically, you must be very specific about which authors’ style you want the software to write in. Pick two or three writers you enjoy reading, and put their names in the box along with your concept. Most importantly, revise the automaton’s work– and I’m not talking about typos.

That’s almost the entirety of the writing process, really– creating your concept, reading your favorite authors for inspiration, then the extensive revision– if a bot will get you over your initial writing block, I guess that’s a good use for the tool.  Just don’t be satisfied with mediocrity. Your readers certainly won’t be. (And with that fun, little worm in your brain– the bit about mediocrity, you know, that the work could always be just a little bit better if you only change one thing more…– A.I. won’t save you all that much time, percentage wise.)

Writing is a joy– an outlet, a passion– and if you’re using A.I. on contests only for our meager prizes, good luck with your life and the state of your soul…

FAN VOTING for the 2024 FLASH SUITE Contest continues until January 13th!
!Vote early and vote often!

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Submission for Lengthy Poem Contest is now closed

Tuesday, January 2nd, 2024

!Thank you to everyone who has already submitted!

Finalists will be announced on-site sometime in March.
Contest will publish in April,
with winners announced on May Day, which is May 1st.

FAN VOTING for the 2024 FLASH SUITE Contest continues until January 13th!
!Vote early and vote often!

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Mere hours left…

Monday, January 1st, 2024

You still have time to submit to the 2024 Lengthy Poem Contest.

We will accept submissions till it is no longer January 1st anywhere on Earth.
(That would be Kiribati time!)

Guidelines for the Lengthy Poem Contest

FAN VOTING for the 2024 FLASH SUITE Contest continues until January 13th!
!Vote early and vote often!

What’s New
home/ Bonafides

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