When I woke up in what laid claim to the lofty label of “clinic”, I took it slow. The nerves of the used-new body needed a little time and practise to work together well with my old brain. When the pins-and-needles feeling crested, I started wiggling my fingers and toes. Working up from there, I met no problems. At some point my doctor-technician arrived, but she didn’t rush me. I paid her enough.
The new body was a pretty standard model, outwardly human, black hair and almond eyes. Shorter than my old one, I was reminded when sitting up on the edge of the bed left my feet dangling high in the air, but I’d get used to it. I liked the point symmetry of the ID that came with it, the main components swashes over the left temple and right jaw. I rubbed over those lines, even though the skin there did not feel different, which prompted the doc to ask a question.
“Want to test yourself if the re-keying worked?” the doc said.
I shook my head. “I trust you.” Close enough, anyway. And if she wanted to fool me, she could have rigged the test equipment.
“Thanks. We had no problems with the other brain, either. Everything as you requested.” Keyed to my old ID, transplanted to my old body, motor functions disabled.
“Very good.” I would arrange an accident. With just a little more record-cooking, I would be dead.
A completely different man with no family and friends, whose social anxiety had got so bad he had even stopped seeing his shrink, would start over. Background like that is why you pick a mark. The nice ID was just a bonus.
“When I was a kid, we could still shoot them,” the cop said.
Mira just gave a noncommittal hum and continued her work.
“Thieving little bastards.”
This case was about a diamond bracelet, but still, it was a generalisation.
“I mean, they’re pests, everybody knows that. No matter how smart they are. Eat songbird chicks.”
The magpie struggled as Mira transferred it from the big trap to a smaller transport box. Neither agreeing nor arguing worked as she’d intended; the cop calmed down and got back to business, adsressing the bird.
“You are being arrested on suspicion of grand theft. A lawyer will be provided to you, given that it’s unlikely you have one.”
Mira chuckled. His half irritated, half worried look she answered with, “Close enough to by the book if you ask me. No complaints.”
“Good. Thanks for your help. I just hope we got the right one this time.”
Inspired by the prompts "A species of animal is ruled legally sapient and subject to protection - and prosecution - under human law" by Herm Baskerville and "The magpie in the tree" by TJK
If you're interested in legal, free music downloads, for listening or to use as background for videos or other projects, here are three possible sources for you.
Musopen is a nonprofit organisation dedicated to making compositions that are in the public domain actually available. They produce recordings of classic music, which they then place in the public domain. You can also find sheet music at their website.
Jamendo is a platform for indie musicians. All music there can be downloaded for free and is available under a creative commons licence. Most seem to be limited to non-commercial use with derivative works distributed under the same conditions, but there is a section of their site where you can look for more open licences.
At Incompetech, Kevin MacLeod offers music, mostly "soundtrack" kind of things, under a creative commons Attribution licence, with an option to license pieces for a one-time fee if credit is not possible or not wanted.
Kay knew she irritated people with things like drumming her fingers and jittering. She had not been that nervous and distractable last year, but could not go back. Teachers gave up after a few weeks and just lived with her looking out of the window rather than following class whenever she felt like it. Until, that is, she got up in the middle of a test and walked outside to better watch squirrels, leaving behind a sheet covered with doodled flowers rather than answers.
The school called her parents, and her mother gave her a dressing-down. Kay tried to listen, because not doing so would make her mother more angry, but instead kicked her feet and watched the patterns the light made on the floor and walls.
“Oh, Kay, what’s gotten into you?”
The girl only shrugged, “I had to go out.” She was close to tears, not understanding herself.
“Maybe her angel is sick,” came a small voice from the door.
Their mother took a deep breath and tried to calm down. “Honey, angels and demons are just stories. And eavesdropping is not nice.”
Kay’s little sister looked confused. “But Mattis said—”
Your demon gave you ideas, and your angel helped you stick with one. Kay had heard the same; everyone had.
While Mother shooed her to the kids’ room, Kay spun ideas. Maybe she had to find her angel and save it. Or talk to her demon. It was still with her, and might know something. Only she did not know how. Maybe she should go—
“I need to make some phone-calls. We should go see doctor Hames soon.”
Kay nodded. Doctor Hames was all right.
“Go and get started on your homework, honey. I’ll help you when I’m finished.”
If you like supporting creative projects directly, whether by donations or giving people ideas, see if there's something of interest here. It's a collection of projects that caught my eye, particularly fiction Fishbowls where you leave prompts for someone to use as basis for writing. At the end you'll find links to stories written to my prompts in February, as well as my activity last month.
Networking on Twitter
If you run a project - writing, drawing, anything else - which involves asking people for prompts, and you plug it on twitter, consider including the hashtag #promptcall
Updates of last month's projects
With a bit over two days to go, Plunge, the ezine for queer women in genre literature, is fully funded.
I don't think any of those stories need content warnings, though I can't vouch for other content you might find looking around.
Hopefully I didn't forget anything; I need to get more systematic about the bookmarking.
The Law & Order Fishbowl I ran in February will probably end up with relatively few stories; there is a pattern of someone's general prompt working together with someone else's more concrete one to create one story idea. I'm not as far along as I wanted to be by now, partly because I spent the last three days getting my computer to work again. While I did not lose any actual writing, I'm not sure I'll be able to recover my organised notes with the prompts and ideas based on them. (More frequent and thorough backups in future for me.)
The file with the stories from the Horror Fishbowl is at the editor's.
And lastly, five of the requests from the last Small Art Call are finished now.
That project is going more slowly than I'd like, too, but I'm picking up the pace and hope to get most of it done before March is over.
Fran wished there was more to the stories of poltergeists, if she had to be not-quite-dead-enough. No moving of objects or whispering of threats for her. Richards might feel her touch, but she had tried only once. He had looked up with a grin splitting his face, revelling in her powerlessness, and finished strangling his next victim.
A lock of the boy’s hair had gone into an old paint can and up on a shelf right under the low ceiling of Richards’ shack. He was not the last.
Turning her attention inward hardly shielded her from those scenes; her sight and hearing were not bound to eyes and ears anymore, and she could feel the fear and pain running through her like a current. She did not even have the solace of company in this prison. Judging from Richards’ occasional bows and thank-yous to the “loge of spectators”, there were indeed several ghosts, but Fran found no way for them to communicate.
All she had was a vague sense of their presence, which might have been her imagination. That, and what Richards called his shows, which, death by death, chipped away at her sanity.
Inspired by the prompts "Invisible witnesses" and "Crimes against ghosts and spectres" by Tango
Paypal has drawn the ire of a lot of self-published erotica authors by requiring Smashwords to remove books with certain subjects from their platform. Those subjects include rape for titilation, incest, pseudo-incest (that's sex between someone and their step-parent), and bestiality.
There is a lot of ranting about censorship and danger to free speech. "Moral guardians run amok" seems to be not the only possible explanation, however.
Selena Kitt includes some findings in her blog post Slippery Slope: Erotica Censorship. (That's the website of an erotica author. It didn't look terribly racy to me, but I'm not 100% certain it'd pass as "safe for work".)
What I discovered was that most merchant-services (i.e. companies that allow you to use Visa and MasterCard on their site) which allow adult products charge a $5000 up-front fee to use their service. Then, they take exorbitant percentages from each transaction. Some 5%, some 14%, some as high as 25%.
Now it was starting to make more sense. The credit card companies charge higher fees for these “high-risk” accounts because there is a higher rate of what they call “chargebacks.” You know that protection on your credit card, where if you dispute the charge, you don’t have to pay for it? Well they’ve determined that happens more with porn and gambling and other “high-risk” sites than others, so they’re justified in charging more money to process payment for those sites.
So worst case, and friendliest interpretation for Paypal: If Paypal allowed porn, the credit card companies would classify all of Paypal as a high risk account, with higher fees that would have to be passed down to the customers.
The scenario that suggests to me is lots of people buying porn, their spouses seeing it on their credit card bill, the buyers going, "No, I never bought that!" and getting chargebacks, until credit card companies took notice. It brings us back to morals, but as a more spread-out factor than a random crackdown from a small group of moral guardians: Porn being a "guilty pleasure" a lot of people won't admit to.
Reality is always more complicated (why are incest, rape and bestiality singled out if the issue is "adult" content?), but the business angle should not be ignored.
[P.S.: If you care about my opinion on the topic of "is it OK to make certain books hard to impossible to sell?"... well, I dislike the topics listed, but considering it logically, murder is pretty disturbing, too, and some of my favourite books feature a hired killer as a viewpoint character, so it would be right hypocritical to support banning other fiction.]
I received prompts from 15 people, including 3 new prompters.
Donations cracked the level required for a basic ebook, so once writing is done, I'll get that put together. I'm planning to get the initial flash-for-prompts finished in the next few days, and the extra short story some time in March.
So far I've finished 9 stories, 3 of which were published. They're all listed here. One or two more should go public; I'm waiting for an answer from one of the tippers if they'd like to sponsor a particular story, or leave the choice to chance or me.
One more story (based on prompts from 2 people) is drafted but needs some edits.
Three more people need to get stories, one of them two, but that might result in a total of two or three more stories rather than five - this Fishbowl has rather more stories grown from combining prompts than the last had.
I counted 16 linkbacks to the call, so that's at least 800 words of setting notes, with ~250 covered by the basic Emergent and Identity landing pages. Does anybody have something they'd like to see addressed in setting notes? It may be a bit early for this question, but thought I'd ask. :)
For getting prompts from 14+ people, I promised a short story, and would like to take a straw poll - which of the following ideas would you rather see me write?
One idea, an older one, is in the Identity setting, dealing with the legal and emotional fallout when it becomes known that someone led two separate lives and married two people, who had no idea.
The second one has at its core a twist on the "angel and devil on your shoulder"-idea: A superstition that each human has an angel, associated with order, and a demon, associated with chaos. A girl suddenly has problems concentrating on anything, and gets the idea in her head that something happened to her angel. (This is an expansion of the story "Scatterbrained" from this Fishbowl.)
Lastly, I'd like to ask how should tips that went to partially sponsoring a story be treated?
It interacts a little oddly with my habit of posting one story, usually picked at random, from the ones that are not published yet. This week there was one that was 40% funded, and for that I gave it 4 extra "lots" in that drawing - and it ended up being posted.
The tip thus got the story chosen by the donor posted earlier than it might have been otherwise, but no additional words. Does that seem fair to you? (I did promise 400 words in addition to the two freebies per $10 donated this time, and I'll make sure that happens.)
Thanks to everyone who played!
If you have any questions, suggestions, or other comments, please speak up. :)
Trying to keep control of her temper, Juno tapped her driver’s license lying on the countertop hard. “This is no fake,” she hissed, waving at the yellowed newspaper clippings about her death and recovery ten years ago she had produced as corroborative evidence. “If the state thought my actual rather than apparent age determined if I was allowed to drive a car, don’t you think the same should apply to other age limits?”
“I’m sorry, hon, it’s not that I don’t believe you—” her eyes flicked to a photo in the clippings, which was still accurate apart from the haircut “—but it would be just not right. Kids thinking you were their age seeing you smoke, what kind of example would that be?”
Behind the concerned face Juno saw a smug presumption of moral perfection. It made her want to break something, by preference the woman’s neck. After taking a few breaths to calm down, she collected her papers, by necessity slowly. Her fingers shook both with anger and withdrawal, and she did not want to damage the old newsprint further.
When the woman started another apology, Juno cut her off with “Fuck ‘think of the children’,” and stalked out of the little corner shop. The third attempt today. She never would have thought that the cashier at her usual shop quitting would cause that many problems. He had had no compunctions about selling cigs to someone who looked like she was ten.
Inspired by the prompts "Is it okay to sell cigarettes and alcohol to a hundred-year-old vampire in the body of an eight-year-old?" by Tango and "Moral versus legal" by Ellen Million