Quel Hobbit re! Happy Hobbit Day!

Today is Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday, observed by Tolkien fans across the globe.

While modern readers need not be reminded of Tolkien’s contribution to the fantasy genre, they may be interested to learn more about the master’s stance on myth-making. Tolkien’s creative philosophy is most vividly outlined in Mythopoeia, a poetic manifesto addressed to C.S. Lewis some fifteen years before Narnia.

Tolkien's legendarium was expanded in 2007 with the posthumous publication of The Children of Húrin. The introduction of a new cast of credible female characters can be counted as The Children of Húrin's chief literary breakthrough: such characters were arguably absent from the other episodes of the Ring saga.

Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey should make its theatrical debut in early 2012.

Happy 145th birthday, Mr. Wells!

One of the fathers of modern science-fiction, Herbert George Wells is perhaps best known for The War of the Worlds.

The Time Machine exemplifies Wells' exquisitely descriptive style: his depictions of Earth’s future, though wildly inaccurate by modern science, raise doubts as to the possibility of a meaningful life in a temporally infinite universe.

Like his fictions, Wells was  ahead of his time: he was a socialist and a supporter of the suffragettes. Unlike fellow science-fiction author Aldous Huxley, Wells actually did support eugenics openly, though The Island of Dr.Moreau displays a complex and nuanced appreciation of the promises of the life sciences.

For a good taste of Wells' rich expressiveness, Iris recommends Orson Welles' radio dramatization of The War of the Worlds.


"We, the disillusioned youth of this twenty-first century, do hereby issue the following ultimatum: the Peoples of Earth have one year (effective from the publication date of this document) to recover their various space programs and establish permanent settlement on the moon. After this period of one year, if our conditions are not met, we will destroy the moon outright, as the people of Earth will have proven that they care more for internal struggle than outward expansion and survival."

It had started as a joke. The writers stood by the essence of their words, certainly, but the concept of blowing up the moon was really just meant to sensationalize the document a bit.

It came out of many nights of frustrated conversations: a manifesto crafted by jaded, post-space-age youths in the very living rooms where their parents had watched NASA’s momentous small step for a man. A small step for mankind as well, as it had turned out.  “If no one on this planet is willing to step up to the plate and take humanity back to the moon, then we, the youth of this world, see no reason why it should continue to hover there nightly, mocking us with its relative celestial proximity.”

Having been allowed to grow fat on depictions of the distant stars fed to them by a dying golden age of science fiction writers and filmmakers, each felt the wretched raw burning of dreams denied, and poured that disappointment into their joint declaration.

It went online at 11:35pm, March 31, 2014. Not one of the five ever considered the effect that timing might have until it was too late.

On any other day their letter would have passed quietly into the vast reliquaries and sub-crypts of the Internet without a thought shed on the matter by the common YouTube junkie or celebrity blogger. Yes, any other day, and the joke would have stayed a joke and the humdrum days would have piled one upon the next unto eternity. As it was, however, April Fool’s Day made the whole thing all too real.

The vast collective of minds plugged in on the morning of April 1st, on the lookout for the great internet pranks of the day, honed in on the Manifesto and spread it like herpes to all corners of the earth. In a matter of hours, 4 out of 5 college students in North America had read and re-read the ultimatum and proceeded to pass it along to all their friends and family via their social network of choice.  By noon it had been translated into 14 different languages (with varying degrees of accuracy). The hashtag #blowupthemoon was trending globally on Twitter as the writers awoke the next morning. The story made the international news media in 17 different countries.

It was startling, but it was also April Fools’ Day.

The next day, people were still talking.

Three days after the publication of the document, there was a small gathering of young people carrying picket signs plastered with pro-moon messages outside of NASA headquarters in Washington D.C.
By the end of the week there were several hundred gathered, and similar crowds growing in other countries around the world. Governments were calling on their people to be reasonable in the face of what had clearly been intended as an April Fool’s joke, but a generation raised on the explorations of Jim Kirk and the writings of Clarke and Asimov would hear nothing of it. They, too, wanted to see Humanity ascend to the stars; joke or not, this manifesto spoke to the longing and the disappointment kindled in all of their hearts.

The whole time the writers never felt any reason to be concerned; despite their fascination with the worldwide fervour their ideas had spawned, they were confident in the fact that no one had the power to obliterate the moon. Movements were beginning to spring up in small towns; the Moonbombers (sometimes referred to as moonboomers) and their counterparts, the “Concerned citizens for the protection of the moon” were the two most common in North America, but every town had variants. Almost no one gave the groups more thought than they would the Kiwanis Club or the Shriners.

While some countries held stubbornly to their principles, others saw room for changes to social policy in light of the changing interests of their various peoples. The Middle East was almost eerily quiet as the Arab nations and Israel refocused their militaries to begin their own space race. The Russians and the Japanese produced a collaborative design for a device which could significantly diminish the concentration of harmful radiations within a variable radius. The International Space station underwent rapid expansion (entirely through private-sector funding) to accommodate the new Boeing “Stargazer” space planes which were also being rushed into development.

The momentum unleashed by the simple act of writing an open letter was unbelievable to the five young writers, and things had almost gotten to the point where they felt silly to have published their work anonymously as the anniversary of the ultimatum rolled around. It didn’t really matter, of course. They all agreed that the betterment of humankind was far-and-away more important than any kind of fame and recognition. No single group had ever so drastically and positively altered the course of history in such a short a period of time, and each knew that, without needing to have international media attention.

On March 31, 2015, the five gathered for a quiet celebration of all that had come to pass in the last year. As late-night talk-show hosts ran gag-reels of apocalypses gone by and marvelled at the progress humanity had made in the name of what, again clearly, had been a joke, the writers gathered in the back yard of the very house in which they had drafted their declaration. They shared champagne and gazed up into the starry sky at the moon which had inspired everything, laughing.  Humanity had not made it back to the moon.  No matter how quickly the machine moved, one year was not enough time to get that far, having started cold. Amazing strides had been taken though, unbelievable steps to a better tomorrow. They looked together at the cratered orb glowing above their heads. One raised his glass to make a toast, and suddenly the world shook and light filled the sky, brighter than day.

Ridiculous as it was, they couldn’t help but turn, each to the other, and ask,

“Did you...?”

It had started as a joke, but gazing horror-struck at the burning chunks of the moon flying wildly in all directions, the five knew that someone, somewhere had taken them far too seriously.

On April 1st, 2015, the real work began.

Written by Gordon Lambie

I have gotten over my fear of thunder

Written by Chris Brandon
i have gotten over my fear of thunder
maybe -
She stammered out as She jumped up
reaching out Her hands
grey clouds
heavy, just out of reach
as if they might strike Her down
as if
She could fly
into sound.
i was the only witness to Her
unless you count the lake.
brooding and omniscient – forever.
Her reflection getting tiny as
the cold grey light
touched Her pale skin
with the wind that
played music in Her hair.
the Thunder
and so
did i.


Written by Shanna Pauline Bernier
She stood next to the clock and stared at its unmoving hands. It had been working moments before; now it was motionless. Something about the stillness in the room was very relaxing.  All she could hear was the sound of her own beating heart. She looked very serene, her shoulder-length hair set as nicely as the other housewives from her neighbourhood, polished and prim in a green dress one might wear to church. All around the room lay the bodies of the fallen soldiers – those whom she thought of as soldiers, whom one might have described as agents, guards, or minions. They were all still, unmoving, as though frozen. Their destroyed weapons lay beside them in a heap: it was a strange, bloodless scene with only a few visible scrapes on the men. It looked as though they had all died of broken hearts.

The woman looked up from the clock face and out the window. They were high up, perhaps on the 15th floor. Some had made the mistake of trying to take the elevator to escape.  That scene would not have been bloodless. The woman might have felt remorse, but she also felt that other people’s fear had led to this, that it was not something she needed to feel guilty about. She gazed out the window and remarked to herself that the buildings around her were starting to reboot. Lights flickered above her and the silence was broken only by the sound of an alarm beeping in the distance. She could have been in any building, but she had chosen this one. She walked out of the space full of fallen men and into an office unfamiliar to her, but the same as any other office. The woman stepped into the space and saw a desk, a phone, a computer, a standing lamp, a swivel chair... None of this was her world, but it all felt right.

She glanced at the bookshelf, admiring the broad selection of 19th century literature, then stepped towards the desk and touched the phone. A shot of powerful electricity pulsed through her veins: her mind was filled with conversation, numbers, codes, information and power. The woman withdrew her hand, stepped back out of the office and glanced up to find the sputtering emergency exit sign. She began descending the stairs.

Somewhere around the 3rd floor she heard people coming up and went through the door into a deserted accounting firm. Computers and printers began to buzz and squeak as she walked past them, errors flashing on every monitor. She looked into one of the offices and saw a large TV with a blue screen displaying the word “help.” Well-manicured fingers reached out and felt the raised hairs of static electricity between her and the display.  Had she been at home sitting in front of a screen like this only yesterday?  Had she mindlessly watched the news while she cooked supper and counted the killers she saw as almost imaginary? Today she was different. Today the woman was alive.  Voices began to draw near again, and as the TV turned black she ran down the shadowed hallway towards the emergency stairs and a new beginning.

In the Beginning

Written by Simon Smart
In the beginning, before the gods sculpted humankind from clay, they made the first people. The first people were made not of clay, but of gold.

The people of gold were immortal and the gods gave them great powers. They grew and flourished, and for a while the gods were pleased.

The people of gold grew stronger and stronger. They reached for the heavens, eager to become as gods themselves. The gods saw this and looked on their creations with fear.

The gods cast down the people of gold and took away their golden bodies, hiding them deep under the earth. The gods looked on the golden souls that remained and could not bear to destroy them. They would start anew and build a new people out of clay. Then they would put golden souls into clay bodies.

The gods made many people of clay. They did not shine like the people of gold. Their bodies were fragile, and their souls dull and cold. The golden ones did not belong among them.

The souls of the golden people still live today. The gods made them to last forever, after all. In their dreams they reach for the heavens, remembering the beginning.

Écorcher la Nuit

Written by Erik Wackernagel
The sterling intensity of this swollen night opens out like a flower
Beckoning, thrusting into the first falling spears of the morning light
Opens like a star bursting in joyous agony in the eternal song of
The flame churning inside its gut
And coming
And coming
Through our ears and nose and eyes and throats
The luminosity of a million suns
Dancing a twisted tango
Burning out in little lanterns over the charred blanket of a summer’s night
A winter’s night
Snowflakes turning pirouettes on the silent wind
Glistening in icy reflection of the horrid fires above
Snow falling like a shower of broken glass over the crude body of an asphalt cookie sheet
Bouncing and tinkling o’er the ground like raindrops and marbles
And prickling down into the impermeable black membrane of hell
Some sickly heidegger swimming in the ocean ooze of being
Where life may refuse to be stamped out by the shuddering folds of dark
Thick in the sweat of a dream of a river
Flowing between bodies
Little geysers sending drops and showers
And thirsty pores sucking down their fill
Licking saline streams and hard nipples beckoning in the never
A shooting star may sit a million years in nulle part
Just to swim a catapult stream arcing a lover’s back across the sky
A fire born for one beaming moment
One movement
For those who dare swipe at the jaws of the heavens
And cackle the grinning maw of a skeleton
To know that one who lives in death
Is a flower
Roots crackling whips on wind electric
The lightning flare of suckling fibres twisting a faint medusa
Revel in the wanting darkness grotesque
Over the sunken ashes of a house of mirrors
The real horror
To those who have learned to fear
Is the bathhouse of terrors
Swimming in steamy saunas and sultry waters
With snakes and feathers, fucked up grins and leather
Smacking the bars on a cage of desire
Plunging in pools of moonlight and stretching limbs in the velvet
To walk fearless in the midnight of good and evil
Stars fires limbs lovers tired sins

City leaving lights bereaving

Written by Chris Brandon
City leaving lights bereaving,
obeying the spectacle of air and sound,
slowly repeated to ears resting on the closed heads of martyrs.
Unwilling at best to make tools of voices.
Lights leaving it all to air and sound to go on repeating.
Bludgeoning on


Red Spectre Kill

Written by Erik Wackernagel
We have placed the luminous spectrum under house arrest,
Fearing the risk of wildcat paw bats
On the part of colours, autonomous agents
Infecting the quickest port of entry to the human mind.
Once colours are moving, they blow through
Reticent windows like crumbling old napkins;
Popping paparazzi shots in mirrors
That we had forgotten.

There is no catching a beast
Who slingshots itself riding airy cheetahs with
Six-packs of M-80’s for feet.
Sexless, there is no fooling it with the
Mimicking tongues of orchids,
Much as we might like to see wild mating
Forces colliding at the speed of light.
Colours are a breed hard to tease.
They laugh at the ease
with which clumsy fingers catch rodents.

The momentary leap through the solar system
Does not make me cringe,
As the crimson of lips expelling tingles
Despite the closing of eyelids.
Sparks tickling the orange glands in Floridian taste buds
Quickly sketch the allure of carbon
Clinging to metal-skinned potatoes,

Yet they can’t explain why
The human fires clutching to the bounds of imagination,
Strange in time and home,
Are white, and why the sun draws goosebumps
To arms seeking liberty in July.

The film will continue, despite the arresting
Silence of colours.
Gradient senses forget their old velocity;
Limbs settle thirsty in antebellum poses.
Faces are not sought for their expressionism
In the graphic science of terror. Strangely,
Blood is a poor mock-up for blood in the moving lens.
Beets crack the dry western earth in
Ghastly whims to clutch white blouses that collect
The sparse and quivering residue of the colour wheel.

The rainbow shrinks from the pressure hose
Spraying the Kindergarten. Abstaining words
Shut up the gathering climax speed of skeletal
Queers collecting in the water ducts,
Populating the paving stone landscape, haunting
Pumpkin-eyed families.
Colour-eating goggles lie in shadowy patience
In birthing clinics.

The Theater of Cruelty, born in white halls,
Sniffing bleach and tactile blackouts,
Offers murmurs to a tonsilly collection plate,
Where pupils leak into homeless death orgies.
New doctors gently peel away light wave receptors,
Nails plucking cheese wax.

The curtains kiss with the first tap of cold light.
Infants incubate by the dozens in the cinema;
Seats menstruate old strips of velvet robbed of blush.
Hue-drained thighs stretch and lift off from the resting place.
Stand and applaud. The whites of their eyes meet
and embrace in quiet abandon. In padded walls
Stained only with the off-gassing of odd dreams –
Together we have seen the solution.

The exit lights flashing
Cast the pale glow of 1939
On summery flesh filing in the doorway.
The narrator chooses to remain anonymous.

A Bedtime Creation Myth for Atheist Children

Written by Eleanor Gang
In the beginning, the gods argued among themselves as to which was the greatest of them all.

At length, Hosheck of the Dark said, “Let us hold competitions to determine who is the mightiest,” and each god came forward with a different test, certain that he would win over his brethren. But, being gods, they were equally powerful and none was stronger than the others, until Planck of the Light said, “I bet that I can swallow all of you at once.”

His fellow gods laughed; but he was most serious in his challenge. At last, radiant Raliaphnis said, “I will be the first to enter your maw.” As he disappeared into Planck’s mouth, Florianis of All That Is Matter volunteered to be next, and in this way, each of the gods was eventually swallowed until only Hosheck remained.

“You know not what you do,” he warned Planck. Planck smiled serenely and said, “Nay, I know entirely too well what I do, brother.” He grabbed the god of the Dark and shoved him in with the rest.

Now full of the the entire pantheon of existence, the belly of Light expanded under enormous pressure, and, no longer constant, Planck exploded, erupting into the void. The disintegrated deities formed time and space as we know them, and the universe is still expanding to this day.

And that, children, is how the universe began: a big bang, with no god to guide it.

Issue 1 Launch

We fêted the launch of our inaugural issue on September 17th, 2011 at Café Java.

These whispers are a secret passage

Written by Chris Brandon
These whispers are a secret passage like the kind you find when you’re a little boy: where they lead, you’re not sure but you know they mean something. You know they go where you need to be, where things are better, where it doesn’t hurt anymore.

Sometimes the things you know are things that can be taken away.

Sometimes you just don’t even know what you know.

The Bird and the Wizard

Written by Adrian Downey
PART I - In which we meet a giant bird and a man with dark skin who likes to wear purple.

The bird-who-lived-forever spiralled downward and landed hard on the ground, sending a cluster of shimmering black feathers into the air. Before the mammoth ruler of the sky could collect her strength to move, the Wizard-who-had-read-too-much threw himself at her chest, shoulder first, and seized her throat with his strong ringed hand.

The Bird’s vision began to dim.  She knew the end was near. Forty-seven lifetimes had passed in the blink of an eye, but the Bird still remembered the day she had hatched. On that day she had been given the name Kanya, which meant beauty, and indeed she was beautiful: a veritable paragon of wisdom and grace. When she died the first time she was not afraid even though she did not suspect she would rise again. It was only afterwards, at the beginning of her second life, that Kanya began to search for answers.

Just before her vision faded to black, Kanya dug deep into her reserves for the energy to shake the tiny Wizard-man from her body. Her enormous beak issued a low guttural howl: a challenge to her purple-robed adversary.

It hadn’t always been like this: in the beginning the two had been allies, for the Wizard was like Kanya. When first they met, each had already gone through three lifetimes, and for many years afterward they protected the world together. But nothing lasts forever; forty-seven incarnations had led to this moment. For the first time since they had discovered the secret of their destiny – and one another in the process – neither was entirely sure what would happen next.

The Bird abruptly clamped her beak shut.  The silence was like a counterpoint to the harsh, biting tones of enchantment that spewed from the parched lips of the Wizard, echoing through the barren desert in which they fought. Kanya’s eyes darted around the empty space in a frantic search for the spell-weaver. The chanting grew louder and less comprehensible; she felt her pulse quicken. Suddenly dying seemed very frightening.

Even though death was no stranger to her, Kanya felt certain that this time would be unlike any other and she wasn’t sure that she could come back. The afterlife is not something to which the seemingly-immortal give much thought.  After so many years of seeing death as only another arbitrary milestone with which to measure the passage of time, one begins to think of oneself as beyond such things.

The Bird’s train of thought was broken as the Wizard burst through the ground in front of her, sending jets of golden sand toward the sky. The Bird’s reflexes were keen and although her body was massive, she moved with a grace and speed unmatched by even the smallest and nimblest of creatures.  She launched herself at the Wizard, attempting to snap the tiny, human-shaped thing up in a single bite, but this was exactly what the swarthy spell-caster had been expecting. The second her giant beak touched the Wizard’s dusty robes, Kanya burst into flames.

In that instant each combatant recognized the fundamental difference between them. Kanya was a creature of strong action: of doing and creating, of existing in the moment. The Wizard, on the other hand, was one of deep thought, of planning and learning. He existed in his mind, and in the end it was his patience and the Bird’s impulsiveness which caused the ancient avian to be destroyed.
Kanya’s death was painful to watch. All the grace and beauty the creature had shown in life were misplaced in death.  She flailed about helplessly, issuing periodic yelps similar to that of a peahen who, having failed to protect the nest, must watch as a scavenger takes off with her eggs. The scent of scorched feathers wafted on the air as the once-immortal giant, crashed to the ground. The atmosphere seemed to constrict at the moment of her passing, as though the sky protested the death of its one and only master.

Epilogue (Origins)

In every ending there exists also limitless potential. It is the only thing which can ever be perfect, and the pursuit of such perfection burns the young from the vibrant beautiful people they are into the charred, desolate souls they become when they realize they will never live out their dreams. Those who survive this are as logs of ebony; their outside is soft and ordinary by all account of what a log ought to look like. Their hearts, however, are black as coal and strong as adamant.

Two things occurred to Kanya when she found her spirit trapped in a male, human-shaped body made mostly of water, in a strange land which she had never before seen. First, that she still existed, which was always a pleasant surprise, though she would have to sever any connection to her former existence to embrace her new life. Second, that she would have to harden her once beautiful heart to the world if she wished to survive in the harsh reality before her.