SNEAKERS is the tale of two young guys from Montreal who head to Plattsburgh to buy sneakers. All they need to do is answer a few questions at the border. Simple, eh? Look for it in Welcome to Dystopia: 45 Visions of What Lies Ahead from OR Books. For more on this and all my fiction, enter here.
Notes: When editor Gordon Van Gelder first proposed the concept of his new original anthology to me, I immediately considered the Canadian perspective. How would “making America great again” affect us north of the border? SNEAKERS is my attempt to answer at least part of the question, in keeping with the dystopian theme of the collection. While the story is fiction, much of it was inspired by true events. Alternative title: KAFKA AT CUSTOMS.
Opening lines: I won’t claim Ottawa never warned us. There was no missing the travel advisories. Match a profile, and you had damn well better know Title 19 by heart.
None yet! But I’ll post ’em when I find them. Well, the positive ones, anyhow. And, please, no jumping to conclusions. Just because there’s nothing here yet doesn’t mean there have been only negative reviews. Jeez!
WRETCHED THE ROMANTIC
Notes: In previewing the novelette, Asimov’s Editor Sheila Williams called it an “amusing and irreverent tale”, featuring death and odd jobs. The story was inspired by a stroll along the Old Erie Canal, dinners at the Dinosaur Barbecue in Syracuse, and every TV weather girl in the history of TV weather girls. The finished product is a personal favourite, no matter what anybody else says about it. So there! Most importantly, if the story offends you in any way, please spread the word.
Opening lines: The only reason I watched News Final at 11 was Lucy Levine & The Weather. And not The Weather so much.
“Lots of laughs, albeit macabre ones.” — Greg Hullender, rocketstackrank.com
“Truly bizarre.” — Sam Tomaino, SFRevu.com
“… Richard, a former advertising man forced to find employment mowing lawns. His wife finds his lack of ambition frustrating and soon leaves him. But something happens when Richard is asked to scatter the ashes of the husband of one of his clients: he accidentally inhales. And it begins to change him. The story is quite weird (and I mean that as a positive) and ends up going to places I never expected. Definitely a highlight of the issue.” — Chuck Rothman, Tangentonline.com
“… a novelette of commendably poor taste about a loser who accidentally inhales some of the cremated remains he was given to scatter. He later realises he has developed some of the deceased’s attributes. This is really a gonzo /black humour ‘if this goes on’ fantasy but the emphasis is on the first two characteristics.” — Paul Fraser, SFmagazines.com
IMAGINARIUM 4: THE BEST CANADIAN SPECULATIVE WRITING
Notes: At last, by popular demand or something like it. If you have yet to read HOLLYWOOD NORTH, my WFC-nominated novella, or have been chomping at the bit to read it again, here’s your opportunity. Don’t blow it! IMAGINARIUM 4: THE BEST CANADIAN SPECULATIVE WRITING is available now online and at better bookstore across the land. Featuring an introduction by Margaret Atwood, this ChiZine anthology contains 542 pages of great reading, including stories by Cory Doctorow, Matt Hughes, A.M. Dellamonica, Nalo Hopkinson, and Peter Watts. As for my entry in the collection, here’s where it first appeared and all that inspired it . . .
Notes: Nominee for the World Fantasy Award 2015 (novella). It’s based (as they say) on a true story—the offbeat history of my hometown, Trenton, Ontario. For more, check out my interview at F&SF. Meanwhile, the diner featured in the story was modelled after the small restaurant/candy shop my parents used to run in the town. Here’s the original Bert and Mollie, courtesy Trenton’s Heritage Café:
Opening line: Jack Levin was the boy who found things.
“It’s classic suspense from the archetypical point of view of a twelve year old boy… RECOMMENDED.” – Lois Tilton, LOCUS ONLINE, locusmag.com
“This was a great story and will be on my short list for Best Novella Hugo next year.” – Sam Tomaino, SFRevu.com
“The voice is natural and authentic, and the story itself skirts the border of reality so closely that you could almost believe something like this really could happen. It’s horrific not in what specifically transpires in the story, but that the ring of truth in it makes the reader question how much of this story is true and how much is fiction.” — N.J. Magas, Diary of an Aspiring Writer (online)
THE GROCER’S WIFE (ENHANCED TRANSCRIPTION)
Notes: My first appearance in Asimov’s! In the words of Asimov’s Editor Sheila Williams, this is “a bittersweet portrait”, a “compassionate, yet terrifying story.” Sheila’s words also aptly describe my memory of the day the story originally came to mind. I’d just returned home from accompanying my mother to a hospital clinic for a geriatric assessment.
Opening line: “Any damn fool can draw a damn clock,” Tom says.
“The best story this issue comes from Michael Libling. “The Grocer’s Wife (Enhanced Transcription”) tells of an aging grocer with what seems like Alzheimer’s, and of the young man in a sort of call-center environment who has the job of monitoring the downloading of the old man’s memories for a mysterious governmental agency. We eventually cotton to what’s really going on — which is pretty terrifying, and pretty sad.“ —Rich Horton, Locus Magazine
“…puts together two common fears, government surveillance and mental deterioration into a tightly written story… well worth the read.” —Robert L. Turner III, Tangent Online
“This one was a real chiller with a nice build-up to the conclusion. Another great story from Libling!” – Sam Tomaino, SFRevu.com
Notes: The day after Halloween has always struck me as spookier than Halloween itself. There’s just something about discarded or vandalized jack-o-lanterns shattered and scattered about the streets that doesn’t sit right with me.
Opening line: Doc Caplan was more up on broken bones and runny noses than what you might call the head stuff, but when Allie Prager asked him to take a look at her Joshy, he didn’t have it in him to refuse.
“Lovely horror story…I say lovely partly because it’s one of those stories where you have no idea it’s a horror story until you are well on your way to the end … but then the story, rather subtly, turns quite naturally in a different direction. Excellent stuff.” – Rich Horton, Locus Magazine
“Deceptively clever story from Libling – you have to pay attention from the offset to pick up clues as to what is actually happening.” —BestSF.net
“Tense psychological horror here. Everything seems at first so normal, but the strain builds slowly, assumptions that once appeared sound begin to show cracks, then rapidly disintegrate. Well done and intriguing.” — Lois Tilton, LOCUS ONLINE, locusmag.com
WHY THAT CRAZY OLD LADY GOES UP THE MOUNTAIN
Notes: The more I think about this one, the more I realize how twisted I am. My apologies. Anyhow, this was my first story to earn a cover illustration (thank you, Gordon Van Gelder and F&SF). The artwork is by Kent Bash, deftly setting the mood for the grim tale that follows.
Opening line: She’s Jimmy Alvin’s cousin from Connecticut and she’s come to Gideon for a spell because her dad got caught dipping into somebody else’s money and somebody else’s wife, and went home and put a bullet through his head.
“An opening story with an audacious conceit bang slap in the middle of it… an unsettling story that lodges itself in the mind.” —BestSF.net
“A strange and provocative dark fantasy.” — Lois Tilton, LOCUS ONLINE, locusmag.com
“Libling puts together a story like you’ve never read before but are glad you read here.” — Sam Tomaino, SFRevu.com
IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN A LADY
Notes: Harlan Ellison supplied the kernel of the concept to editor Gordon Van Gelder and I was one of three writers invited to develop the story. Both an honor and a fun exercise. As far as I’m concerned, IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN A LADY has the best damn ending to any story I’ve written.
Opening line: Gayle is puttering about in the kitchen when Denny wriggles under their bed to wait.
“It’s humorous and sad at the same time, and while the hero is eye-rollingly dim, his pure oblivious persistence achieves a sort of distinction of its own. I had to root for him by the end, and the ending twist definitely brought a smile.” — Russ Allbery of eyrie.org
“This was the most reminiscent in tonal styling to Mr. Ellison’s distinctive voice with its richly intimate characterization and wry humor, packaged in an earthy, straightforward delivery that yet manages to provide some surprisingly brilliant turns of phrase.” — Eugie Foster, Tangent