Posts Tagged Fortnightcaps

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Topic the first: Fortnightcaps.

I’ve enjoyed doing the Fortnightcaps for the last few months, and I still intend to continue them through the end of the year.  However, after much deliberation, I’ve decided that the project will not continue into 2012.  This decision comes for a variety of reasons.  First, the project was intended to get my brain working on a twice a week basis, coming up with a story idea and bringing it to quick completion.  I still contend this is a great exercise for writers, but it’s an exercise that I’m now doing twice most weeks thanks to Five Minute Fiction and Hump Day Challenge.

That’s a reason, but it’s not really the reason.  Since I already did some pulling back of the curtain on Friday when showing my pageview stats, I’m going to talk a little more about my site views.  Fortnightcaps by far account for the worst traffic that I get on this blog.  According to my bitly stats, the last five links that I put up for Fortnightcap stories got 0, 0, 1, 1, and 1 hits.  Now, this website isn’t primarily a vehicle for generating hits, or else I’d be doing all the stupid SEO stuff that my spam comments are always talking about.  But when we’re talking about any kind of creative output, there’s the necessity to keep in mind the viewing audience.  Anything story I put on this blog has its first publication rights used up, making it harder to potentially turn around and put out to anthologies, magazines, or any other publication venue.  If I’m burning the rights on stories and then having no one actually read them, then I ultimately feel like I’m doing a long term disservice to myself.

So while this blog isn’t primarily a hit generating site, I still have to keep hits in mind when I do something like burn story rights on here.  I’ll probably keep a similar project going on in 2012, just not on the blog.  I’d like to thank anyone who has read and enjoyed the Fortnightcaps thus far, and hope you will enjoy the few months left in the project.

Topic the second: #flashathon

I like to mention this occasionally to keep it in people’s minds, and will probably do it more and more as the date arrives.  I’ve not talked about it in awhile because I haven’t really had news to share.  I am starting to put feelers out to bring in “guest inspiration” from other writers and blogs.  We’re getting closer and closer to the date, as you can see in the countdown on the right hand side of this blog.  1 month, 10 days as of this morning.

For those who might be new, or haven’t seen me talk about it before, the #flashathon is going to be a flash fiction marathon hosted on this blog October 22nd.  It will consist of 12 hourly posts, each of which will provide some sort of optional story inspiration (probably in the form of a word or phrase).  Participants in the #flashathon are then encouraged to write a flash fiction piece either using that inspiration or inspiration of their own.  The goal is 12 stories in 12 hours.  Or however many hours you can/want to participate in.

More details can be found in the Flashathon tab at the top of every page.

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Fortnightcap: Simple Man

Simple Man

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

They were wrong.

They were ever so wrong.

McKinley was dead, his insides torn up by an assassin’s bullet.  So shocking of a violent act against a president so clearly loved by his people.  Killed by this man who sat before them, defiant.

The two Buffalo police officers paced the dingy room, poorly lit, but he didn’t much care about the light.  They were ever so wrong, and that amused him greatly.

“You might make things easier for everyone if you just talk.”

The assassin shook his head.  His voice that bubbled up out of his throat, an unrecognizable accent that turned every word into a gasp for breath.  “I don’t care about your ease.  Your people are slow and weak.  Your leaders are paltry figureheads.  A new order will come.  Your president’s blood will slake no thirsts, it is only a taste.  It will embolden my people to rise up in greater and greater numbers.  This world of yours is over.”

“God damn it.  You know what we have here?” asked one of the men in uniform to the other.

“We have ourselves a god damned anarchist,” the other responded, spitting.

They were wrong.  He was not an anarchist.  Though he sought the downfall of the political structures built around the planet, he wished them replaced by order.  A new order.  A horrible order.  His order.

“Why’d you do it?”

His smile was broad, his teeth black.  “I did it for her.  So she would love me.”

“You think he means that Goldman bitch?”

“Get someone to bring her in as an accessory.  Been wanting to nail something on her for years.”

They were wrong.  He didn’t care about the love of this “Goldman.”  He wouldn’t have know her from any of the other women on this planet.  They all disgusted him.  They were maggots, whelps, god damn things.  He cared only about the love of his mother.  His horrible mother and queen.

The men asking him questions were scared.  He could taste it, like a fine sauce that made his mouth water for more.  They tried to mask it with their anger, but that only added spice to the air.  He let them hold him only because he wished to be held.  A meal is that much better when prepared fresh.  By hand.  He knew a fine feast awaited him, and that excited him.  He opened his mouth to get a full taste of the air.

“Want to say something else?  C’mon, give me someone else I can pull in.  Give me all your little anarchist buddies.”

Yes.  Yes, that was it.  The salty machismo that brought everything else together.  They were nearly done.  This whole world was nearly done.  From the south his kind would come, hundreds, thousands, millions.  They would savor their first full meal in eons.

He closed his mouth and the men tasted disappointed.

“You’re going to fry, you twerp.  You hear me?  Czolgosz is going to fry.”

They were wrong.  So magnificently wrong, and they wouldn’t know it until far too late.  He’d given his name to the woman, but she didn’t understand it.  She was thin, but she tasted fatty.  She would be his dessert.  He’d told her very clearly, his name was not Czolgosz.

His name was Shoggoth.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.  Title inspiration comes from The Ballad of Czolgosz, written by Stephen Sondheim for his musical Assassins.  Check it out, sung by Neil Patrick Harris.

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Future of Fortnightcaps

Yesterday’s Fortnightcap marked #14 in what I’m anticipating to be a series of 27 stories this year.  It’s all going far better than I anticipated, so I’m already starting to think what I want to do with them at the end of the year.  I’ve always been playing around with the idea of releasing them in some form or another, likely in the form of a digital chapbook through Smashwords so its available on all platforms.  I’d probably approach it like a DVD, so there would be:

  • “Directors Commentary” on some stories.
  • “Directors Cuts” which would be just me polishing the stories, and maybe lengthening a few.
  • “Deleted Scenes” new stories written for the collection.

I’d probably be charging a small amount, either $0.99 or $1.99, but I do feel the need to add something to the collection other than just collecting together 26 stories that I otherwise made available for free and asking people to now pay for them.  I’m hoping the ideas above will give people some value for their money.

So here’s where I open it up.  Would anyone be at all interested in this?  Is there something else you’d want to see to justify dropping even a small amount on this?  Leave me a comment, let me know.

Also starting to think about what to do in 2012, whether to keep the project going, scale back, or possibly even accelerate forward into a weekly project.  I’ve crashed and burned with weekly stories before, but something about the success of Fortnightcaps has me feeling differently.

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Fortnightcap: What I Bought

What I Bought

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

This weekend we went to the Northern Virginia Brew Fest, which has nothing to do with this story except that it’s where we were driving home from when we stopped at the antique store.  It was a few miles off Route 7 in towards Old Town Herndon, an odd, narrow store that looked like a single town home divorced of its fellows, just a place that we found on a whim trying to find something else to do on a lazy Sunday.  The inside of the store was the inside of an antique store.  Old furniture topped with old tzotchkes, paintings of disappointed relatives that no one is actually related to, photos of Civil War generals.  Mostly, I noted, Confederate generals.  What can I say, northern Virginia is still Virginia.

It was among the photos that I saw it.  I think I’ve written about the Thunderbird photo on this blog before.  It’s the most famous photo that never, apparently, existed.  I’ve seen it described various places as one person standing over the corpse of a massive bird, three people, four Civil War officers.  People claim to have seen it in one book or another.  I myself remembered seeing it in one of those old Time Life mysteries of the unknown series that I used to love reading as a kid.  I remember it clearly, three men were on a small stage, they had the thunderbird at their feet, and had their rifles resting on their shoulders.  That’s the photo I know I saw.

That’s how I recognized it immediately.

I called my wife over, and she couldn’t believe what we’d found.  There it was, the Thunderbird photo just sitting in an antique store in Herndon, Virginia.  I looked for a price, but couldn’t one.  Only item in the store that didn’t have a price, and of course it’s the one I wanted.  Not that there was really a wrong price to finally prove that the photo is real.  So I took it up to the counter and asked what the owner wanted for it.  She looked confused, didn’t recognize the photo, didn’t remember getting it, and said it should have a price already on it.  She shrugged, and said ten bucks.

I tried not to look too excited putting down the twenty, getting my change, and walking out of the store.  It wasn’t until I was sure that the front door closed that I ran to the car.  There it was, in my hand, in my car, in my possession.  It really was exciting.  I put it on the back seat and headed home with plans of scanning it, potentially reselling it to someone who would recognize what it was.

When we got him, I reached to grab the bag, but it wasn’t there.  Figuring it had slid off the seat, I dug around, but for the life of me I couldn’t find it.  I’ve dug my car up three times now, careful as I put things aside, throw things away, but the little brown paper bag is gone.  And the photo is gone with it.  I’ve tried to find the antique store online, but they don’t have a website, and they’re not on Google maps.  Maybe I’ll try going back there this weekend, see if they remember getting the photo.  See if I left it there, though I know I didn’t.

The photo exists.  I swear it exists.

And just as soon as I find it again, I’ll make sure to post it.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Picking up a thrown gauntlet

What is it about me and writing challenges.  Nanowrimo.  #5MinuteFiction.  And now this:

For those who don’t want to hand-copy bit.ly links, the link heads over here.  The idea of the challenge is to follow in the literary footsteps of Ray Bradbury, who would write and submit one short story a week.  If you’re looking for someone to emulate, Ray Bradbury is certainly a hell of a person to choose, if for no other reasons than offers like this Hugo nominated one.  But also because he’s one of the most prolific writers in the history of the genre.

Now, in part he’s been so published because he’s damn good, but also because he pushed and tried to get published, and because he just made himself write.

There’s a clear problem with the challenge, and that’s the problem that I’ve clearly failed on it before.  In 2009 I attempted a project based on Jonathan Coulton’s Thing a Week where I endeavored to write a new short story every week.  I failed.  It’s part of why for 2011 I chose to write a new short story every OTHER week.  Clearly, at least at this point in my output, I’m not ready for writing something new every week.

What’s that?  #5MinuteFiction?  Okay, yes, I’ve taken up doing that, but for some reason I don’t tend to count that.  Please don’t tell Leah Petersen.  Why don’t I count that?  To me that’s more of a writing exercise, some mental gymnastics, which is a lot of fun but triggers different parts of my brain than writing for publication.

Fortunately there’s a secondary challenge.  A monthly challenge.  So: challenge accepted.  With the following rules imposed on myself:

  1. 5MinuteFiction does not count.
  2. Fortnightcaps do not count.

Basically, write one story intended for publication rather than a story intended for free distribution each month.  And submit one story (or, ideally, two) each month.

Going to be tough starting mid-month as I am, but I’m not going to let that be an excuse.  And if I can get to a point where I feel more prolific, maybe I’ll up the challenge to 2 of each a month, or even take on the weekly challenge again in 2012.

Damn you, Day.

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Fortnightcap: Last Christmas

Last Christmas

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

Unusual Christmas Shopping Patterns Reported

December 19, 2012

Economists are forecasting a mixed bag for the retail sector this Christmas.  The overall number of consumers is at its lowest level since holiday shopping trends were first tracked, but the amount being spent by those consumers has driven the overall boon to the economy higher than last year’s recession-dampened Christmas.  One shopper, loading down his car with three massive 3D televisions and armloads of BluRay movies commented, “what else are you going to do with your money right now?  There’s no reason not to be spending every damn cent of it.  And anyway, it’s Christmas!”

This matches the general mood that retailers have seen from consumers in the past few weeks, but Christmas cheer is running out as stores are having harder and harder times keeping in-demand customer goods on the shelves.  “There’s only so many televisions,” one store manager said, “and that’s it, it’s all we’re going to get.  I don’t know what to do when we’re out and won’t be getting any more.  Lock the doors?  Hopefully people understand.”  Shortages are spreading beyond just the retail electronics sector, forcing retail outlets of all stripes to decide on their contingency plans.

For those who are staying out of the commercial realm, there looks to be a unified reasoning.  They want to spend time with family, try to focus on the things that are important, especially at a time of year that so many religions find so sacred and that even agnostics and atheists feel a special connection to.  “What’s the point of buying more things?” asked Joanne Rhea, a young mother of two who has decided not to even put a tree up this year.  “In the end it’s all just stuff, some way for materialistic assholes to keep score right up until the bitter end.”  When her children were asked if they would miss having presents to open this year, her older son just started crying.

There has been an increase in charitable giving for the first time in a decade this season, with Toys for Tots bringing in record donations.  Major Michelle Prior, spokesperson for the organization, has issued words of thanks for the increase.  “It’s great that we’re going to be able to give so many children in need the best Christmas possible.”  The bell ringers of the Salvation Army have also been getting increased donations, including no fewer than five instances of checks for over $10,000 being found in the kettles.

Many people are choosing not to spend the holiday at home this year, and are instead traveling.  This has meant long lines at the airports, especially as many security personnel have stopped showing up for work.  At Dulles, Kevin Lorne was trying to make his way through the line in time for his flight to the Bahamas.  “It’s supposed to be paradise, ya know.  I always meant to go there.  Go see the Bahamas at least once before you die, that’s what I always figure.  Just once before you die.”  The State Department has reported an uptick of passport applications, though many countries have enacted new, less restrictive travel laws in recent months.

It brings to an end a necessarily unusual year that opened with the news that an extinction-mass asteroid is on an unstoppable collision course for earth, and will end with that asteroid striking during the early hours of December 29th.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fortnightcap: Heat Death

Heat Death

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

Implications.  People never think about implications.

Immortality was one of those things people talked about wanting, talked about needing.  Of course, who doesn’t want to live forever?  I’ll tell you exactly who: everyone who is living forever.  Sure, it seemed like a great idea for a few centuries, but then the ennui kicked in.  Eventually there’s only so many time you can do everything you always wanted to do.  And in the end there’s only so many people to do things with.  After everything else is exhausted, all you can do is wander, and hope to find something new.

We left earth.  Let it become what it wanted to be.  Let it heal, gave something else their turn.  I heard of someone who went back.  I guess that was several million years ago now if there still was an earth to go back to.  He said cuttlefish had taken over, filled all the spaces that we’d left behind.  Good for them, I suppose.  In the end, it was like learning that someone had repainted a bedroom in the house sold years ago.  Any sentimentality I had for that old place left longer ago than I could really say.  Anyway, after the first billion years, time feels rather immaterial anymore.

We wandered.  And we waited.  There were others out there, those who had made our mistake, and those who hadn’t.  At least not yet.  I tried to dissuade a few planets, told them what a mistake immortality had been.  They just called me unimaginative.  I guess there are some mistakes people have to make on their own.  Touching a stove hurts.  Falling in love leads to heartbreak.  Immortality leads to meaninglessness.

The universe continued on.  And we waited.

Finally, we congregated again.  We were brought together, those humans who hadn’t found a way out, those aliens who had joined us in folly.  We were brought together around the last star in a cold and unfeeling infinite.  The universe was running out of energy, running out of stuff.  All that remained were scattered molecules and this one star, burning hot and bright as it swelled towards a super nova.  It was something to do, and then there would finally be nothing.

And we waited.  Right up until the end.  I remembered a feeling, a sensation I’d left behind so long ago.  It was anticipation.  It was hopefulness.

The star burst forth with a magnificence that stunned us all, then rapidly contracted into a dead mass.  No energy.  No heat.

We were so hopeful that the universe would take us with it.  That heat death might finally give us release.

Now what?

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.  Picture of Kepler’s Supernova courtesy of NASA, released to public domain.

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Fortnightcap: They Came

They Came

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

They came.  Their ships slipped out of space, moving sideways through slits in reality no one had ever noticed.  Horrid things with slender necks and small heads, ringed with writhing tentacles.  They spoke in a language that broke microphones, hurt ears, caused interference to air traffic control radars.  They slipped through the world not caring for such things as geometry or physics.  They had evolved far beyond either and cared only for dark malevolence.

We always hoped that the aliens would be friendly, that they would teach us and bring us out of darkness into a new enlightenment.  These things taught us, but only new depths of pain and madness.  Mankind has become subservient to these things, this fungus that has spread to Earth and left it a place of rot and decay.  There is no release.  They made us immortal out of some hideous spite.  There is no worse fate, as it destroys all others, leaving us with only unending horror.

Our nations crumbled into anarchy as even our best and brightest proved no match for the forces that held us down.  Resistance was fomented but would fall apart just as quickly.  The last time I can even remember a harsh word being spoken against our new overlords was a century ago.  Resistance requires spirit, and our spirit as a race has been so far broken, few can even remember the concept.

They came not from trillions of miles away, but from our own solar system.  From a planet that we never knew existed, never even know could exist.  While our attentions were upon Pluto, there was far beyond a frozen rock that birthed creatures hardened to such extremes that we could not handle what they had become.  For while we could deny Pluto, we could not deny Yuggoth.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Fornightcap: Paradox of the Crowds

Paradox of the Crowds

A Fortnightcap by DL Thurston

Creative Commons License

“Of the what?”

“The crowds.  Paradox of the crowds.”  He walked through a lab that was strewn with equipment, some of it burned out, some blinking, some new in box.  Past the computers, past the camera, past the schematics.  “Look,” he said, finding an empty space of white board he drew a circle.  “There are some events that are considered historic events, we can agree on that, right?”

“Right.”

“And one of the reasons you want to invent time travel is so you can see some of them?”  He drew a line pointing in to the circle.

“Well, it’s not the only reason, but–”

“But you do want to see them.  So if you want to see them, why wouldn’t some other time traveler?  Or hundreds?  Or thousands?”  Line after line, until the circle resembled some deformed spider.  “If time travel is ever invented at some future point, we’d see massive crowds of people showing up to witness these historic events.  But they’re just not there.  Therefore time travel won’t ever be invented.  Not by you, not by anyone.”

The inventor’s face fell for a moment.  Then rose again.  “Disco demolition night.”

“What?”

“1979, the death of disco.  The Chicago White Sox hosted a double header, planning to destroy any disco record the fans would bring between the two games.  Nearly 100,000 people showed up.  An impossibly big crowd for that kind of event.”

“Why would time travelers want to see that?”

“It’s infamous.  Be a part of one of the worst ideas in baseball history!”  He was waving his arms around, excited now.  “The inauguration of Barack Obama.  First black president.  Impossibly huge crowds that choked the Mall, and then were gone.  Surely there could have been a few visitors from out of time, not just out of town.”

“I don’t think–”

“No you don’t!  You just find reasons why not!”

“Look, if you want to keep up with this insanity, be my guest.  I’m not going to be part of it.”

The inventor watched as his visitor left, then got back to work on the pieces scattered around his lab.  The crowd, watching from a distance, cheered then quietly dispersed.

Fortnightcaps are biweekly experimentation into short form fiction. All Fortnightcaps are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. So if you like the story, please feel free to link people back here. And if you didn’t, maybe the one in two weeks will be better.

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Pompousercaps?

Apparently that’s what my Fortnightcaps must now be called.  Thanks a lot, Pastis.
Pearls Before Swine

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