I've spent the morning writing flash fiction for Saturday's Blue Moon chapbook (details below) and... they're awful. Worse than that, they're all, to varying degrees, negative, dark, and cynical.
So I'm throwing everything I've written away, unfinished, and starting over again. This time I'll write something light, something pleasant.
And just so you don't think I'm making this up, here are four completed stories. Keep in mind, though, that these are all early drafts and thus a little rough. The incomplete ones were even worse.
The mysterious Mrs. Underhill, who ironed the dark blue sky flat, sprinkled it with sugar, and baked a vanilla cookie to shed gentle light after dark, was vexed.
Someone was nibbling at her moon.
She had set it in the sky as round as a button. But now look at it – gibbous! Then half-gone. Then crescent-shaped. And still dwindling.
Who would dare?
She got out her grimoire, she got out her broom, she got out her microscope. She looked in the dusty tombs of gods who had died, nameless and unmourned, from the beginning of the universe to its end.
All the while she did, something was silently nibbling at her dress, her cloak, her shoes, her hair. Realizing this, Mrs. Underhill spun around.
Time, you rascal!” she exclaimed. “It was you! Why?”
“It was only a moon,” that watery-eyed entity replied, “andI was so very, very hungry.”
Then, without even a second’s pause, Time pointed at her life and said, “Are you done with that?”
The moon goddess is pale as ice and has straight white hair that reaches down to her ankles. Other than that, she goes naked. Wherever she goes, she is accompanied by wolves, twice as large as those we know and as white as the goddess herself.
She loves children, does the moon goddess. Not thin, bony starvelings unlikely to live out the winter. No. She loves plump, healthy babies, sure to live out the year and all but certain to grow into adults. These are what make her mouth water.
It would be better if they were your own, but people are weak and so she must settle for the beloved offspring of those you hate.
A blood-stained cairn, far from human settlement, is the preferred place of sacrifice. Midnight under a fool moon is the time the moon goddess likes best. That is why our watchmen are at their most vigilant under a waxing moon.
Since we converted to the White Christ, of course, our tribe practices no such sacrifices. They are, our priests tell us, an abomination unto the Lord. Still, it’s always wise to know what your neighbors are up to. Just as it’s wise not to overfeed your newborns.
War of the Ring
In the year 842 of the third iteration of the seventh recession, new order, warships came into the Solar System, bent on revenge. For very good reasons, they destroyed the Moon. Because of ancient treaties, they left the Earth untouched. They relied on the gravitational tides set into being by the Moon’s debris to do their dirty work for them. Then they went away.
Thus the ring that circles our planet. Thus the primitive state of our technology.
Estrella was born in that ring to oxygen-debtor rock miners. She was a debt-slave miner herself when the powers that be on the planet below foreclosed on her parents, seized all their goods, and had their bodies rendered down for their chemicals.
Half-maddened with grief, Estrella stole their near-worthless oreship from the impoundment orbit, lashed it to a rock the size of a small mountain, and (from a safe distance) exploded its fusion engine.
Slowly, gracefully, the rock went tumbling down onto Buenos Aires.
Not long after, as these things go, as the spokeswomen for the radicalized citizens of the ring, Estrella issued an ultimatum to the planet below: Either acknowledge our humanity or suffer the consequences. There was only one sane option. Only madmen would respond with force.
Which is why no one lives on Earth anymore.
The First Woman on the Moon
The first woman on the moon was a Russian, of course. This was in Soviet times, when rivalry with the United States meant that the successes in the space race were announced after the fact and the failures were a State secret. In this way, the history of the Soviet space program was one of uninterrupted successes.
It was madness to think that human beings could reach the moon using Nineteen Sixties technology. But the Americans were about to do just that, and so the Soviets moved first. To cut costs, they sent up one cosmonaut instead of three – and because they knew it would shame their rivals, a woman.
Months before the Americans, Anya Petrova stood upon the moon. She was staring up at the Earth when Baikonur Mission Control informed her that there had been a system failure and that she would not be returning to Earth, her husband, and their children.
The technician was openly weeping. “We have failed you, he sobbed. “We—”
“Worth it,” Anya said, and opened her helmet.
And as long as we're on the subject...
Today I write the text for Blue Moon. Tomorrow Marianne creates 69 chapbooks. And Saturday, March 31, they go on sale. Ten dollars a pop, shipping included. No pre-orders.
And on on Sunday, one minute after midnight, all unsold copies will be burned. So if you want a copy, you'll have to buy it Saturday.
The chapbooks will be available at Dragonstairs Press. You can find it here.
Above: All three stories copyright 2018 by Michael Swanwick. Just to keep them from being published again.