Callum sat with his guts in his hands, surrounded by gold bricks, scorched turf and Prussian corpses. They’d been absolute bastards to the man—the remnants of Von Tempsky’s old unit, scalp-takers and cannibals all—but nobody deserved to die in fucking Otago. Callum should’ve died in Scotland, like every man of his blood before him, but he’d cut the fuses half an inch too long. Timing wasn’t exactly an issue when you used the shit for mining: you made the fuses as long as possible, and if they took a long time to blow then you went out for a sandwich break with the lads. Half an inch of fuse, maybe ten seconds’ difference, and his belly was laid open on the turf. Half an inch,[…]
I want you to imagine a you just bought a second-hand car. Let’s say, a ‘91 Toyota Corolla. It drives fine, but when you check the internals … it’s a mess. Some madman has totally rewired it based on no plan known to god nor mechanic: there’s solder everywhere; there’s blowtorch burns so extensive you can smell them on a hot day; there’s a bunch of random LEDs that don’t seem to do anything, but if you take any of them out the car won’t start. You’re convinced that this whole thing is going to explode if you take it above 55km/h. You spend weeks rewiring it. You can’t get it to look anything like a factory model, but when you’re done you’re at least[…]
Henry Tavit tore out his own brain. That’s an abstraction, but abstraction is everything. Look, let’s talk about computers. In 2006, a single bit flip in a Toyota Camry glued the accelerator pedal to the floor and took the car into a tree, killing the passenger instantly. The onboard computer between the pedal and the engine had over 10,000,000 lines of code. I bet you didn’t even know there was a computer there, cars are barely mechanical any more—they haven’t been for decades. It took three years to find the bug, and it was one solitary bit flip: 0 → 1, and a car goes into a tree. Bookout v Toyota Motor Company took eight years. Toyota was found guilty of negligence, ordered to pay[…]
EDIT: This piece has gone much bigger than expected. I’m blown away. I was editing during the day to add clarifications onto the end, but I’ve gone back and worked them into the body of the text. The Treasury data breach has been a shitshow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bigger disconnect between the experts and the pundits, and I don’t say that lightly. I’m not a security guy, for what it’s worth: I’m a writer at a tech firm, but I’m fascinated by security and over the last few days I’ve been talking to people who actually know their stuff. Almost unanimously they’re calling this a breach. Almost unanimously, the pundits are off shouting that it’s “not a hack!”. Right from the[…]
I don’t publish everything I write. An overwhelming majority of things, really. They’ve been sitting in a folder and I wanted to get them out there. It’s not because they’re bad: some are bad fit for anywhere paying and I don’t know what to do with them; some were written for a weekly fiction competition I enter and have been sitting in a forum archive that’s hard to point people at; some of them were written for a specific publication and rejected, but I’m still proud of them and wanted to put them out there. This site exists for all my other fiction to exist in one place: the fiction that didn’t quite make it, that I still love.
I wake up at 3am with Karl Marx looming over me. “There is a spectre haunting this bedroom,” he says, “the spectre of—”
I wave him away: I know the punchline. A communist! he’ll say and he’ll grin and spread his translucent hands wide, dadlike and expectant. He’s corny, but at least he’s not the other guy.
2 Dear Ted, hello. I find myself laid out before the horn of morning– I last wrote from the grey and yet my hands shake still. The dew holds a memory of frost yet I wander ever onwards. 2.1 Dear Ted, I have been diving again. I chased a strange gossamer worm to the bottom of the world. It taught me nothing. It made me afraid. 2.1.1 Dear Ted, Do not worry. I have said it before but I mean it this time. There is a cliff with a giant below. His eyes are open but mine are too; I know his name. 3 Dear Ted, I became lost somewhere in the whirl of it– a thousand channels blaring and the men[…]
I wish my dad had drank himself to death. Instead, whenever he got mad, he’d grip his thumb inside his palm and his breathing would get weird and tight. After years of barely-suppressed anger, patches of his cheeks and nose went the purple-red of good beetroot – a whisky shine without the whisky. The coronary was the least surprising thing that ever happened to him: he’d been alone, sitting in his chair, watching the TV blare something about immigrant hordes. With nobody else to shout at – not me, not mum, not even old Ms Potts from next-door, who stayed far away from the fence – all his anger went inwards and popped his fucking heart. He insisted throughout his entire life that alcohol was[…]
NB: this piece was written for the I Don’t Even Own a Television podcast’s short story competition, where the prompt was ‘Shaq is about to eat five gyros’. It was soundly and fairly beaten by the actual winner, but I’m still very proud of it, and to this day I’m sad I never got to hear Chris Collision read it. It is immensely silly, and for some reason remains one of my most popular stories. Shaq stared at the menu, and wept. He wanted the gyro with fries. He wanted the gyro without fries. He wanted the chicken gyro, and the lamb gyro. Most of all, he wanted the dark pleasure of the Everything gyro, which contained chicken, lamb, and a superposition of both fries[…]
Beyond the west of the world, where the sun cannot be seen, lies Crow Hearth – the city of ice and stone. A city out of time, lost beneath the snow and beyond the turn of the world. Men scurry through the lightless streets, holding their warm coats close until they can escape down into the rats’ nest of heated tunnels that make the bulk of the city. Down now, down again. Through the tunnels. Follow the insistent ticking that lives somewhere behind the mind and pushes further onward. Don’t touch the men with blue-and-white carbuncles upon their skin, and pale light in their eyes – they are touched by the Heart and lost to the world. Down now, down again. Tick tick tick.[…]