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Submissions Open for Issue 4, Summer 2017

***DEADLINE EXTENDED AS REQUESTED TO 21ST AUGUST ***

From July 13th to August 12th we are open for submissions for our Summer 2017 edition, Issue 4. Take up your mouse and send us your short fiction, up to 500 words in length.

The theme for our fourth issue, which will see Strippedlit500 complete one cycle around the sun, is “Lovecraftian.” Your editor is an HPL fanatic; feed my appetite for elder gods, non-Euclidian angles, and the lurking horrors and whispered madness that lies, ancient and waiting, in your large metropolis.

You don’t have to use the words “Lovecraft” or “Lovecraftian” in either your title or the body of your story, but your story must deal with something related to the HPL mythos.

Please read our full submission guidelines here.

Bring cosmic weirdness, lurking horror, and unnameable depravity; summon the spirit of shadow covered, muttering Arkham – summon the ancient chaos that is the LOVECRAFTIAN!

For those readers who aren’t familiar with the man and his mythos, here are a couple of links to whet your appetite; what a treat awaits you!

Featured

Issue 3 Is Here (Spring 2017)

See the unseen… we have fantastic, horrific, amusing and tragic tales for you in this issue of our simultaneous blog and PDF edition of Issue 3; we will publish the stories simultaneously on our Twitter page; please do have a read of them, we are proud to present more great new short fiction.

Our theme for this issue was “unseen”; the quality of the writing and storytelling is once again very high.

Scroll down from this post to read the issue 3 stories individually. You can also search for stories by category in the sidebar. The stories are also collected under the Issue 3 Category

Issue 3 is also available in a free PDF file for you to download or read online.

Happy reading, and enormous thanks to all our contributors.

Margaret

Submissions Open for Issue 3, Spring 2017

From February 1st to 28th we are open for submissions for our Spring 2017 edition, Issue 3.

Send us your short fiction, of any length up to 500 words;  we want your stories, your cautionary tales, your glimpses into new, and familiar worlds.

The theme for our third issue is “Unseen.” That quiet colleague whom no one thinks about, that lurking fear of the basement, that health scare, that mystical experience, that unexplained sighting in the sky. What will you make of the theme?

 

What will be unseen in your story? Emotions, actions, people, events, consequences? Or will your tale revolve an actual, unseen phenomenon; what lies at the bottom of the Scottish loch, atop the rumour-muttered hills?

Or will your unseen be an activity, a thing that happened and must un-happen; are there things that must be unseen?

You don’t have to use the word “unseen” in either your title or the body of your story, but it must deal with something unseen.

Please read our full submission guidelines here.

Get writing, submit your short fiction and bring the force of your pen or mouse to that which is, which must be, or was, UNSEEN!

The Breakers of Kraken Mare (Part 2)

By Margaret McGoverne

(Part 1)

The perpetual hazy orange sky during the daytime (as long as fifteen earth days) and the liquid methane rain combined to produce in Marlow a settled melancholy. He was only content when he trekked to the towering dunes along the Southern stretch of the lake and set his imaging goggles to display the methane waves as a whitish-blue colour, the closest approximation to earth waves they could manage. The east-to-west prevailing winds of Titan had produced dunes that rose more than 90 metres, and he would find a stable shelf to sit and watch the restless methane waves that disappeared when he removed his goggles.

He hadn’t found the purpose or the peace of mind he had sought on Titan; this was no grand project of human endeavour, but a shameless cash grab. Back on earth, the scientists were working on a form of liquid methane that could power bio-propellant rocket engines; first ignition tests had been successfully completed, and the inevitable methane rockets would allow mankind to roam the solar system, harvesting yet more methane to fuel further exploration and more wanton use of fuel back on earth.

Donning his goggles, he watched the heavy gas breakers fizz and dissolve into foam as they reached the shore. He and Jenny had loved to watch the boomers as they broke endlessly, endlessly against the sandy shore. Just like our love, Jenny would say, pulling him closer.

“Jenny.”

No one replied; not even a crash and boom from the methane waves. Marlow stood up, stretching. He wasn’t tired from his trek, and he wasn’t ready to return to the refinery. He had wanted a grand gesture, a triumphant, heartbreaking riposte to Jennifer’s desertion of him, but it hadn’t worked out like that. Even the gravity made him feel ironically light and easy.

He climbed higher up the dunes, aiming to reach the summit. On his journey to Titan he had read up on all the moons in the solar system; he had been surprised to learn there were nearly two hundred of them. One in particular had fascinated him: Miranda, a moon of  Uranus (the next planet along, he had thought, as if 900 million miles were a hop on the bus) featured a cliff situated in its Southern hemisphere called Verona Rupes; the cliff face had been measured by the Voyager 2 probe in the 1980s at more than five miles high; the tallest known cliff in the Solar System. Marlow wished he could visit that cliff, maybe hike its lower reaches, and view the grand vista its heights offered. But Miranda had little to offer humankind in terms of resources, and no bases were built there.

This dune he was lightly climbing, as nimble as a mountain goat in Titan’s low gravity, couldn’t offer quite the challenge that Verona Rupes would, but he would traverse it just the same. But when he reached the top, adjusting his goggles through their chromatic scale, the waves below appearing now green, now pink, now black, he felt unfulfilled by the lack of effort it had required of him.

A memory of he and Jenny at the beach rose, unbidden. They had scaled the dunes one balmy evening, then, full of energy and unwilling to walk home, Jenny had taken his hand. They pulled off their shoes, socks, and jeans, and jumped lightly from the dunes, arms outstretched, running towards and embracing the waves. They had staggered, breathless and laughing back to the dunes, covered in sand and then they had tasted each other’s salty mouths. Marlow realised with a jolt that was physical that this had been their last visit to the sea before Jenny left him.

He sent his yearning out over a billion kilometers, wishing she were her with him now to see him, as he dialed his goggles to earth-wave colour and dove, arms outstretched, from the dune to the craggy rocks and the silent, invisible methane waves three hundred feet below.


Author Bio: Margaret McGoverne is currently writing her first full-length novel, while being distracted by short stories, flash fiction and her blog about all things writing.

The Breakers of Kraken Mare (Part 1)

By Margaret McGoverne

(Part 2)

Marlow Haru was two years, a billion kilometers, and three planets from home, on the most distant planet visible to the naked eye from Earth. The night before he set off on his journey to Saturn, Marlow had sat up until midnight to see the gas giant as a small yellow light in the sky for the last time from this vantage point, a small town in the Northern Hemisphere to the right of the Atlantic Ocean.

But Titan, not Saturn, was his destination. He recalled his arrival on Saturn’s largest moon on the refinery transporter vessel; it shook and juddered slightly as it descended, piercing the opaque atmosphere of nitrogen, methane and ethane smog that shrouded the satellite.  The liquid hydrocarbon lakes, the real reason he had been flown half-way across the solar system lay in the polar regions, and he was surprised to see a smooth, crater-free surface as the craft traversed the unhealthy looking clouds of gas. Only the occasional cryovolcano, spewing smoky plumes of ammonia into the upper reaches of the atmosphere betrayed his destination as the icy moon that had been penetrated and mapped thirty years before, by NASA’s unmanned robot probe Cassini–Huygens.

Following the discovery that Titan’s nitrogen-rich atmosphere  had created vast bodies of liquid methane and ethane , it was only a matter of time before mankind turned its thoughts to creating an outpost on Titan to exploit the free fuel reserves that dwarfed those remaining on Earth. Those oily hydrocarbon lakes that had pooled at the moon’s poles were an irresistible brew to oil-strapped humanity. The financial implications of the discovery of the first stable bodies of surface liquid found off Earth far outweighed the scientific. Methane, also known as natural gas, could be used to heat homes and power vehicles, turbines, and more. Within a decade an alliance of countries with the necessary technology and budgets had put their differences aside and accelerated the quest to build  spacecraft capable of transporting the precious methane. Several huge refinery bases had been rapidly established on Titan – one for each major player.

While these momentous activities were occurring half a solar system away, Marlow Haru was gaining an engineering degree, a job, a wife. He watched the news  updates on the Titan project with detached interest; wouldn’t it be great to travel all the way to Saturn? But his family ties restricted these thoughts to no more than a pleasant, wistful distraction. Life was good on earth; he and Jennifer bought a small place not far from the coast, and they spent most of their free time walking, swimming, and sea kayaking. They were happy, even when no patter of tiny feet arrived after a couple of years. Sitting on the grassy sand dunes with his girl next to him, watching the breakers crash endlessly on the smooth, wet sand, Marlow felt no stellar wanderlust.

Jenny left him soon after their fifth wedding anniversary when they discovered that Marlow was infertile. There had been tears, pleas for forgiveness and understanding, and, trancelike, he had acquiesced. What else could he do? He threw himself into his work but it wasn’t enough; his duties as a maintenance engineer for a large utility firm were undemanding, and the bonhomie at work ended with his shifts.

Their decree absolute came through as the national newspapers carried recruitment calls for people to travel to Saturn within the next three months. He was young, fit and there were openings for engineers at the refineries. He was the perfect candidate; he had no ties, and he was swiftly offered a ten-year enlistment at the British-owned refinery situated at the north pole of Titan, on the shores of Kraken Mare, one of Titan’s largest methane lakes.

The refinery was huge, a soaring mass of walkways and towers, its lights smouldering orange and indistinct in the fog-thick atmosphere. The methane was piped from the lake and converted to a refrigerated liquid petroleum gas for ease of transport back to earth. LPG took up less than 1/600th of the space of the gas in its natural state and was stable and non-toxic; the culture at the refinery was efficient and safety conscious, but relaxed.

Marlow’s duties were simple and undemanding. The only additional equipment he had to wear was an oxygen mask; atmospheric pressure was similar to lying on the bottom of a swimming pool and didn’t interfere with his duties, which were to inspect and maintain the electrical plant. He was frankly overqualified to be conducting vacuum pressure tests on the switchgear and opening and closing the massive circuit breakers but he was paid very well for his services – besides which, he had signed up for ten years; the prohibitive costs of travelling to Titan meant that the refinery companies wrote in large punitive exit clauses to employees’ contracts.

In his spare time, he donned extra warm clothes, his air tank and a pair of optimal infrared hyperspectral imaging goggles  and went hiking along the rugged coastline and small islets of the Southern tip of Kraken Mare, which marked the outer edge of the refinery

 

101 Uses for Dark Energy

By Pascal Inard

Captain Hadoki checked the graviton generator, the most important piece of equipment on the Collingsworth, the first manned interstellar ship powered by dark energy. Contrary to what was previously believed dark energy was not evenly distributed throughout the universe. Currents of concentrated dark energy flowed between stars and between galaxies, and the ship’s sails were designed to catch these currents to power the ship, but if the graviton generator failed, dark energy would rip the ship apart in less than a microsecond.

When the ship reached the ZRG3086 stellar system where signals coming from Planet Félicie had been detected, suggesting the presence of intelligent life, Hadoki opened a bottle of champagne and started serving the

“Fred, aren’t you having any?”

The exobiologist replied, “I don’t want to drink any alcohol until Doctor Felding has run a full battery of tests to check that my body hasn’t been affected by dark energy.”

“Are you feeling OK?”

“I’m not sure. My heart is beating faster and I’ve got a funny taste in my mouth.”

“What about you, Pavel?”

“No, I don’t want to risk it,” replied the navigator. “It’s bad luck to have a drink with a person who is more than ten years older than you in a month with thirty-one days, except on a leap year.”

Hadoki went to his cabin, leaving his 2IC in charge. He was about to ask the computer to bring up the profiles of Pavel and Fred, when every word that he’d read on them came back to him in a flash. Pavel was brought up in a superstitious family but didn’t see himself as an irrational person, and Fred had admitted to being slightly hypochondriac. Hadoki had an above-average memory, but not the point of recalling files word for word. It was as though a tiny amount of dark energy had leaked in, not enough to cause physical damage but somehow it had expanded the crew’s strengths and flaws. It would certainly take getting used to, and he should probably review the entire crew’s files, but there was plenty of time for that.

Enrique burst in the room. He was one of the most brilliant linguists in the world, but he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and Hadoki’s objection to taking him on the journey had been overruled. It was vital to have someone of his calibre on board to communicate with the aliens that could be present on Planet Félicie, and as long as he had his daily injection of Olanzapine he was as gentle as a lamb.

Enrique had always looked at Hadoki with angry eyes, as if he knew Hadoki had tried to stop him joining the crew, but this time he looked absolutely furious.

Hadoki didn’t have time to get up and defend himself. Enrique had a fire extinguisher in his hand, and just before it crashed on his head, Hadoki thought about how he go down in history, the first victim of dark energy.


Author Bio: Pascal Inard is a bilingual writer and IT project manager from Melbourne, Australia. His work is forthcoming in Antipodean SF Magazine and the “Dark Magic: Witches, Hackers, and Robots” Anthology.
He is also the author of two novels, “The Memory Snatcher”, a science-fiction mystery about a police inspector and a quantum physicist who join forces to stop a memory thief from paralysing the world, and “Web of Destinies”, a time travel mystery about a doctor who inherits a mysterious typewriter that can change the past.
You can visit Pascal Inard on Facebook.com/Pascal.Inard.Writer/