Time to Destroy Stuff and another #FlashForFriday

Oh man…I’m going to have a go at talking about the real world here. This is scary. I’m not convinced I have enough substance to deal with this kind of thing. Here we go though, I’ll give it a shot.

*Steels self*


So, at the risk of exposing myself to potential trolling, I will say that I don’t usually go in for any magazines, writing competitions or calls for fiction submissions of any sort that are for ‘women only’. This is not, repeat not, because I disagree with them, or that I don’t whole-heartedly agree that a great many great people, males, females and everything in between, have fought and are still fighting to reduce prejudice in world of fiction and literature. I have been lucky enough not to have been exposed to any myself (at least, not so far…or not knowingly), but the very fact that the submission of Lightspeed Magazine I’m about to discuss is coming about at all (as a result of a comment by someone that women don’t write ‘real’ scifi) proves there’s still work to be done.

I do not disparage anyone who uses ‘woman writer’ as part of or all of their writing identity. Your writing identity choses you, not the other way round. You write for a reason, because of what you want to say and who you want to be. So, whatever that is for every individual writer is totally up to them, and I praise them for using it to make them strong.

HOWEVER. Speaking for myself alone, I never identified myself as a ‘woman’ writer. Sure, what I think, feel and create must be influenced by my experience and brain chemistry that both belong to a woman. But, just like a good character, I am a person first. And I want my writing to stand or fall on its own merits and not by what sort of underwear I buy.

Hence the whole J. S. Collyer thing and initially being reluctant to put my picture up in the About Me section.

BUT. Having said that, when I did come across this call for submissions for an edition of the SciFi and Fantasy Lightspeed Magazine to be entitled ‘Women Destroy Science Fiction‘, well, quite simply, it just sounded like too much damn fun not to have a go.

And if I manage to strike some points for the V-team along the way, that’s probably as far as I’ll actively go in this particular campaign (apart from trying to be the best writer I can and therefore proving the doubters wrong by proxy), but it’s an added bonus. Because, as much as I don’t wish people to rush and read my work/buy books/follow my blog/book me for conferences (maybe one day!) simply because, ooooh, female writer, shiny! Neither do I wish people to deliberately not buy them for the very same reason. (It happens).

It’s all about the story, dudes and dudettes, dudlings and dudles!

If any one else of the female persuasion wants to have a go, either to make a point or just to have some fun, the ‘Women Destroy Science Fiction’ submission guidelines are here.

For everyone else, including myself the rest of the time, Lightspeed Magazine also accept general submissions of all kinds for their other issues. Check it all out here.

Phew! Now that’s over, I’ll stick to what I know. Here’s some nice, escapist fiction in the form of this week’s #FlashForFriday.

Just like last time, it is inspired by a challenge by the inimitable Chuck Wendig. This challenge was to be a rewrite of a fairy tale (always fun) in the style of a contemporary genre. It had to be done and posted by Friday 31st of Jan, hence why I’ve got my traditional #FlashForFriday up a day early again, to make sure it’s posted in plenty of time. Chuck provided a great list of possible genres and suggested the use of a random number generator to help you pick.

I got Dystopia. Glee! Of course. So, I took a little bit of liberty and fed some SciFi in there too, because, why not?

I hope you can tell which fairy tale it is that I chose. Folks who are familiar with the Hans Christian Andersen story rather than the Disney version might stand a better chance at guessing.

Also, as I am always one for mood setting, here is a suitably chipper ditty to listen to whilst you read, by my favourite band, Aesthetic Perfection.


"Roots"I always thought the river smelt like ash. The kids in the fallout unit used to laugh at me. But it does. I don’t know if it’s the chemicals or the dried up grasses on the banks, but even now, years on, the wind off the water is laden with the scent of something cold. Something spent and…finished.

I take a step right up to the water line, watching the lace of foam tickle at the pebbles under my toes. They still look strange to me…knobbly and a little blue from the cold. I look at the water and take a moment to wonder what it will feel like washing against this delicate skin. I wonder if it will take away the pain.

I should have told him, really. Should have told him how much they hurt. Something must be wrong with the nerve connections, but I couldn’t take away his smile.

“Well, it’s been a long journey, Scotia,” he had said, “But just look at you now.”

His smile always made my insides dance. A smile of my own pulled itself across my face and I even did a little twirl for him, slowly, concentrating on the rolling press of the floor against the balls of my new feet.

“No pain?”

“No,” I lied, watching his smile broaden.

“Fantastic. Hop on the bed, then.”

Heat rushed through me when his capable fingers checked the scar around my waist. I held my arms up as instructed and he deployed one of his many bleeping machines and asked me to tell him when it hurt and when it was numb.

It was all on fire, but I couldn’t bring myself to tell him he’d failed.

“This all looks great, Scotia. The healing is coming along great. Blood vessel connection is good. I think I’m nearly ready to sign you off.”

I felt my stomach clench. “Will you not refer me for my hands, Doctor Olsen?”

Pity tightened his face. “They won’t fund it, Scotia. Not anything purely cosmetic. I’m sorry.”

I hung my head but after a pause he put his hand over mine. The touch sent jolts through me but seeing his warm, normal hand, with skin the colour of fresh bread, resting on my death-pale, stick-like fingers with their extra knuckles, just made the disappointment sharpen.

“You have beautiful hands.”

“They’re fallout hands.”

“They’re unique,” he patted them. “No one with natural hands has this level of sensitivity. No way someone like me could paint the things you can, or play the piano like you. And now you have real legs, you can take them around the world and see what doors they can open for you.”

“I just want to be like you.”

He didn’t say anything for moment but then pulled up a chair and took my deformed hands in both his own. “Scotia, look at me.”

I looked up through my hair and that smile was there again, along with something in his eyes that sent sparks down my spine that I would walk on knives forever to see again.

“You’ve come so far. So few fallout victims have fought as hard as you. But now look. You can walk, you can swim, run, dance. You have a chance to take yourself wherever you want to go.”

“I can dance?”

“Of course,” he squeezed my hands. “It’ll take a little while to get used to the balance involved, but give it time and your only limit is your own ambition.”

“Will you teach me?”

He laughed then and stood. “I’m afraid I’m not much of a dancer.”

“I bet you’ve done it before, though. That means you’re one up on me.”

“True,” he said. He glanced at the closed consulting room door then held out his hand. I took it, not looking at the way my fingers wrapped too far around his and let him help me up.

“Here,” he said, placing my hand on his shoulder whilst he put one of his own at my waist. It tingled where he pressed my tshirt against the scarring. He took my other hand in his then started swaying.

“We’ll just have to imagine the music,” he said. “Now, there, just move your weight from one foot to the other. Careful, now.”

I closed my eyes. My blood was singing. My new feet were screaming, but it didn’t matter, not when his warmth was wrapped around me and I could smell the citrus flavouring from whatever shampoo he used.

“There, see. You’re a natural.”

I felt a laugh bubble out of me. We stopped moving. His face was so close. My heart thudded against my ribs more than the anti-rejection drugs could explain. Something was burning in his eyes and I felt more complete than even the legs had made me.

But then he coughed, gathered himself and pulled away.

“No untreated water for another six weeks, remember. Give that skin and chance to strengthen. And I’ve booked your last follow up with Doctor Holm in three months.”

“It’s not you?”

He smiled and looked at me again but he suddenly felt a millions miles away. “I’ll be a bit busy then, I’m afraid. I’m getting married that week.”

I would have walked on knives forever. But instead I take one step then another into the water, feeling the chilly sting against the dissolving flesh. I wondered if it would feel like being ripped apart, or like how they say the acid bombs claw the flesh from your bones. But it’s not that bad, not really.

It just feels like I’m melting into foam, merging into the water to become the froth that dances along the pebbles. I realise I like this idea as I step deeper still, stumbling slightly as the river crumbles the synthetic flesh away. Maybe I’ll finally feel part of something.

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15 Responses to Time to Destroy Stuff and another #FlashForFriday

  1. 1WriteWay says:

    Great post, J.S., both for your meditation on “women writers” and for “Foam.” Firstly, I never identify myself as a woman writer, in part because it is fairly obvious that I’m a woman, but also because it’s too strange a distinction. Secondly, “Foam” is a wonderful, albeit sad, story. I kept thinking of the Little Mermaid, which was one of my favorite stories growing up. Well done!

    • Thanks so much! Yes that’s pretty much how I feel 🙂 thanks so much for reading and commenting!! Oh brill, this was the fairy tale I chose to rewrite, I’m glad it came across 🙂

  2. D. James Fortescue says:

    You keep improving. The emotional pain came through very strongly. However, I didn’t pick the fairy tale until I saw the comments section.
    It reminded me of a scene in the movie ‘My Girl’, when the teacher the main character has a massive crush tells her he’s getting married. Crushing stuff =(

  3. I love flash fiction and hate it for the same reasons. It’s so quick and alive, yet leaves so many unanswered questions. It makes me wish for more words! I want to know so much about this world and this character. Great story!

  4. akhinchey says:

    Haha plumbing lol. Great post lovely and great take on the little mermaid 🙂 xxx

  5. Helena Hann-Basquiat says:

    Hi Jex,
    I’m afraid I didn’t see the Little Mermaid until after I read comments — I really thought it was a twist on Pinnochio — with a female Pinnochio in love with the man who was making her “a real girl” — rebuilding her with prosthetics and telling her that she could dance again someday…
    Can I read it like this, please?
    Either way, the writing was dark and wonderful, and the pain clear and palpable.

    • Of course! I’m fact I rather like that and wish I’d thought of that too! Let’s pretend I did 🙂 thanks so much for the comment. The little mermaid was my favourite fair tale when I was a little girl and I still remember reading the original for the first time and being deeply disturbed. Her pain was very real also.

      • Helena Hann-Basquiat says:

        The really dark ones, like Little Mermaid, The Little Match Girl, and Hansel & Gretel were always favourites of mine.
        If you take away the goofy Jim Henson-ness of Labyrinth, it would make a great dark fairy tale, too.

      • Especially is everyone died horrifically at the end

  6. Jex, great story. Your writing really shined on this one. You created such a cool atmosphere and it put me right into a grimy, cold future. I must admit I didn’t get the reference because I didn’t realize The Little Mermaid was a fairy tale… just thought it was a Disney movie. lol. But that’s my ignorance, and to be honest, I thought the story was awesome without knowing that.

    Have a great weekend!

    • Thanks so much Phillip! Aye, it’s an old Danish folk tale: Hans Christian Anderson wrote a version of it that’s well worth reading. It’s extremely grim! I’m so chuffed you enjoyed! Thanks as always for taking the time to read and comment and have a great weekend too 😀

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