Marie had taken the tour through the historic town centre several times a year ever since the muncipality had declared it tech-light - only technology that had not been available in the 20th century or before allowed. Watching the other tourists was part of the charm. Some, like her, welcomed the break enforced by leaving behind all their gadgets for a few hours, others became twitchy. She suspected the ones from the latter group who looked excited with it might see the visit as sort of a dare - “can you go that long without checking your mail and not go nuts?”
Sometimes the same young folks would gasp at and compliment the tour guide’s ability to remember all these details about the town’s history.
Marie, however, had a different suspicion, so when one young guide stumbled over his script, led them to the marketplace and called for a shopping break, she watched him rather than scattering with the others.
He looked around, raised his hand but dropped it before it cleared shoulder-height when he noticed her.
She approached him, and asked in an undertone, “Something wrong with your augmented reality glasses?”
“Ma’am, modern tech is banned here.” He looked pained.
“Sure it is. And companies follow rules.” The young man might have taken her sarcasm as less good-humoured than it was. “And how long does it take you folks to memorise exactly the same script?”
He coughed and looked away. “Longer than I’ve been reading out the tour. They’ll fire me.”
“I could take over. Heard it often enough. Maybe you’re lucky and no-one complains.”
“You can? You would?” He checked his hopefulness and asked, “Why?”
This takes place after Scatterbrained, but should stand on its own, too, as flash goes.
The girl pausing to look at the old council hall clockwork ticking away in its glass case caught the librarian’s eye—her signal orange cycling helmet was hard to miss. After a few seconds of looking around and flicking the leaves of the green plants around the reading corner, she started prowling the shelves.
It was almost half an hour later when the librarian spotted her again, helmet still clinging to her head. The girl bit her lip and looked around, nervous and confused, so the librarian walked up to her.
“Hello. Can I help you?”
“There are too many things.”
The librarian frowned when she saw that there was a book lying on the sisal carpeting in the corridor the girl had come from.
“What are you looking for?”
The girl turned her head from side to side a few times, face screwing up to a distressed grimace. “I forgot.”
“Now, don’t worry…” The librarian trailed off.
The girl had raised her hands to wipe her eyes, and looked at them in wonder. “LIBRARY” was scrawled in big letters across the back of her left wrist and hand. The child looked at her palms. The left said “Do not forget: Go to the LIBRARY.” The right palm was more puzzling. She twisted her hand around, as if to see if the writing was upside down, but got distracted, ending up looking over her right shoulder towards the shaft of light leading up to the skylight over the stairwell, and holding her right hand loosely in front of her, palm up.
The librarian leaned forward and tried to read the scrawl, but couldn’t decypher it. “Are you all right? Would you like to phone home?”
“I, no? I know the way. Yes, I do.”
Her puzzled frown turned into a wide grin when she glanced at her right hand again. “Oh, ANGEL!”
“Yes, I think my angel is in trouble, it’s why I forget stuff and can’t sit still! Can you help me?”
I couldn’t listen to Jelena planning to push for prosecution for long; it was too painful. “Please just let it lie.”
She skewered me with a look as if I had been the one who’d killed her brother. “Instincts or not, they are still bound by laws. He was murdered, and no-one’s interested!”
“Jelena, I’m sorry, but that’s how it is. Pushing will do no good. You know what’ll happen? They’ll point out he went drinking and stayed out too late. They’ll say he should have been at home that night, or at the very least gone by car, not on foot. They’ll say he must have been pulling tails or picking fights, call him a troublemaker.”
I’d talked myself into a rage, too, and bit my tongue on it, turning away from Jelena’s wide, scared, and still furious eyes.
She said, slowly, “He did not—”
“I know. I know. I’m sorry.” I knew how it hurt, and I didn’t want her to go through the same. “I hate it, too, but that’s how it works. What people who knew him say doesn’t matter to most officers, or attorneys, or judges—or reporters, for that matter. What those that count will say is, a monomorph going out on full moon nights is asking for trouble.” Maybe my words were swaying her, or maybe not. Considering that it was her life… “Just think carefully about what you would be going into before deciding, all right?”
Inspired by the prompt "What about the rights of people who *don't* change in a world were were-_____ people have been the majority for most of recorded history?" by LilFluff
I walk through a forest, the cool breath of leaves familiar and soothing. For a short time a flowering tree’s perfume overpowers the subtler smells of soil and growth. It lingers.
It takes me a while to realise that the air changed afterwards, a trace of rot and fever tainting the air. Looking for a way back I see the colours and shapes have shifted. I could still name the species, but theyy all look like they have grown slightly off.
There is no trace of my passage, no way back. I swallow a lump that sits in my stomach cold as stone, and walk on. The forest is not big.
I notice brighter light just before I squeeze between two bushes that don’t quite touch yet. The clearing beyond smells of fresh green, and only the contrast with my last breath shows me how poisonous the air had gotten.
There is a waterfall veiling a cliff, feeding a small lake. I step to the water’s edge. There is no ripple, even though there should be.
I should not touch this.
I take a step back without thinking. My reflection rises from the water, smiling wickedly, its hands behind its back. It opens its mouth and I turn to run, behind me a trilling birdcall breaking from my reflection’s throat, loud enough to hurt my ears.
Something trips me. I try to get my feet under me, but there’s something around my ankle - a black hand. I kick at my shadow’s head as it gains dimension, but my foot passes right through it, kick at the fingers curled around my leg, but my boot passes through my shadow, only scraping my own skin.
My shadow, black but half-transparent, featureless, crawls over me and pins me down.
My reflection walks up to me, one foot in front of the other, and smiles. “Well done, sister.”
I buck and scream, but they ignore me.
My reflection brings her hands to her front. She’s holding two iron spikes and a hammer. I freeze in panic. To her my shdow has no substance, either; she bends down through it and drives one spike through my heart, into the ground. My heart stops, I can’t breathe, I can’t move; the world turns silent. All that’s left are my thoughts. Why am I not dead yet?
After stroking my face, saying gentle words, my reflection drives the other spike through my skull, in between the eyes, out of the back of my head, into the ground.
Time shatters. No thoughts, no breath, no control. Only pain and fear that will not end.
“I’m afraid if it was a copy of The Good Book, chances of getting the matter resolved are close to zero.”
Basil covered his mouth with a hand and gnashed his teeth. The alternative was yelling at a cop, which seemed unwise if you wanted her help. After a calming breath he said, “Look, it was theft, and it was right at the train entrance, so RepRail must have security footage. The on-board security said I should check with the station police, the station police referred me to border guard… Feels like I’m getting further away from a resolution. Who do I have to talk to to get things going before the footage gets deleted?”
The officer did look sympathetic, but that didn’t bring back that brand-new limited edition with illustrations by C. Cidrain. She sighed. “Since the theft was on Republic soil, you’d have to report it to their authorities. But you said you aren’t initiated, and they have exceptions to property law there regarding unbelievers owning items such as holy scripture.”
“Wait, wait, wasn’t that got rid of in the free trade agreement last year?”
“Officially. But I’ve seen some similar cases, and they were all wrapped up in red tape like a mountain mummy until the victim gave up, or until Republic authorities found some technicality or other loophole to throw them out.”
Basil vented some curses. “And the seller never asked about my religion.”
“They like money. Sometimes I wonder if some of them work together with thieves and buy back and resell.
“I’ll give you contact information, and you can try to get it pursued. If you know which number of that collector’s edition you had, maybe that gives you a bit more leverage than usual. I wish you good luck, but don’t get your hopes up too much. Sorry.”
Shortly he stomped off, carrying home a slim leaflet instead of the precious book he’d paid for.
Not for the first time Arrash wished his clan had arrived in the valley before the Gelloh. If his clan had been holding the high ground, the smaller group would just have joined them; now they all had to negotiate merging the two decimated clans.
Writing common laws up front was certainly wise, but getting the elders of both clans to agree was difficult. Particularly Arrash’s oldest clan father, more than half living in the past instead of the present, caused friction.
“A wife shall obey her husband in all matters,” he suggested.
“I think not.” The Gelloh matriarch gave him a dry look.
“You shall obey and respect your elders, for they draw wisdom from the deep well of their lifetime,” Arrash quoted one of their own commandments solemnly.
The matriarch’s face hardly changed, but Arrash thought there was an amused glint in her wrinkle-framed eyes when she looked at him. The muttering around the room sounded, for once, mostly approving. Maybe they had a second law.
The only one they had agreed on so far was, “You shall not waste water.”
Inspired by the prompts "A new colony/landing place/town/something begins building laws" by Lyn Thorne-Alder and "Desert-born mystics writing their holy book deciding on Ten Commandments" by Herm Baskerville
I've come across some interesting articles on the topic of what an ebook is worth, mostly in context with pricing, but came across one that is particularly baffling today - because of the implications about the worth of books in general.
According to this article, Joan Brady, an award-winning writer (info on Wikipedia) argues that paper books will stick around because they are statud symbols, like Rolex watches and four wheel drives. (Apparently in her world, people who have to drive along dirt tracks don't exist.) Books people would not like to admit to reading will be sold as ebooks, but books people want other people to think they have read will be bought in paper, so they can be put on a shelf to show off to visitors.
Now, some of that makes sense, as does pointing out that being unable to pass on ebooks legally is a disadvantage, but it seems far too polarised to me.
She said that once an e-book has been bought, it is “more worthless than used toilet paper, which can at least end up as compost”.
This line makes me wonder if Joan Brady has been quoted badly out of context. Buying an ebook means having access to the text, to read it whenever you want. Declaring that worthless sounds to me like declaring the actual content of the book worthless. What kind of author would have the attitude that what matters is the block of pages with a recognisable cover, and the "status" that owning it conferred, but not the writing?
I don't think print will perish any time soon. Some people just prefer paper, print books are handy for many kinds of reference works, coffee table books or well-crafted hardcovers are things of beauty. However, I buy those because I need or enjoy them, not to sway other people's opinion of me. (Mind, I do like sharing books I'm fond of, which may shade into showing off on occasion.)
What do you think? How important is the "status" or "shame" factor to you when it comes to letting people know?
Becka Sutton is the writer of two online serials, and has recently self-published Land of Myth, the first volume of her YA serial Dragon Wars.
Why am I not putting Land of Myth into KDP Select?
The first and simplest reason is that I don't like platform exclusive things let alone vendor exclusive. I have both Kindle and ePub readers on my laptop and phone but given a choice I will always buy ePub and feel a bit exasperated when things are Kindle only. That being so it would be hypocritical of me to make my book Kindle exclusive.
Also while I do understand the lure of Select - in the US the vast majority of ereaders are Kindles and the possibility of reaching those readers with a free introduction to your work must be tempting - it's tempting for a reason. Amazon wants to be an ebook monopoly and I have a rampant distrust of monopolies. Once you've got one there's no one to control them. Amazon aren't so bad to authors at the moment but would they stay that way if they held all the cards. Healthy competition lies at the heart of capitalism – no one should hold all the cards.
Finally I don't like excluding people. I have friends with Nook, Kobo, Cybook and Sony readers and I know that there are many people I don't know who have non-Kindle readers. Choosing KDP Select would mean excluding them. Not only is this not good business because it's losing potential sales but it's also bad customer service. Sure if your work is DRM free they can use Calibre to convert it but you're making work for them and making the customer work for a product does not encourage sales. If Select doesn't pan out – as I suspect it won't in the long term – you'll have alienated all those potential customers and they may not buy your books even once they are once again available in non-kindle formats.
So there you have it - a brief summation of my reasons for not going with KDP Select.
You can find Becka's serials Dragon Wars and Haventon Chronicles at firebird-fiction.com. The first collected and edited volume of Dragon Wars, Land of Mythis available as ebook through various channels as well as as paperback.