Jennifer K. Oliver

Speculative Fiction Writer

Category: Writing: My Stories

[Flash Fiction] Ring-Ring | Speculative | 156 Words

This is a short speculative flash piece called Ring-Ring I wrote a few years ago. I still quite like this one.

Title: Ring-Ring
Genre: Speculative
Word Count: 156 words.
Credits: Many thanks to Dabs for beta reading this!
Notes: You can find more of my published fiction, as well as free fiction, here.

She doesn’t know why she keeps the old phone. At first it was because its faux-metallic body represented some space-age 60s bourgeois dream, the ultimate in retro cool. But it doesn’t have a cord—its severed spiral wire hangs limply like a lone gut over the back edge of the table.

Her friends keep telling her to, “Junk it,” tell her to, “Throw the damn thing away.” They tell her it just catches dust, doesn’t fit with her décor anyway.

Easy to say, but the phone doesn’t ring for them, now does it?

When you lose people, the world becomes hollowed out, husk-dry and quiet, and yet it’s heavier, too. The phone rings, and she knows the receiver will be leaden.

But she doesn’t fear recognisable voices that shouldn’t be there, crackling down the line—it’s not that.

What she fears is the static pulse of silence, repeating through her ear and through her bones forevermore.

[Publication] Death Car Alley | Fantasy-Horror | 3,900 words

Back in 2012 I announced on my old blog my first story publication, a dark fantasy horror with a dash of tongue-in-cheek. I’m reposting this here because I’m still fond of my first venture into magazine submission and publishing. The story is set in a not-too-distant future where monsters have overrun the world, but people are still trying to live as normal lives as possible. Even the monsters have grown lazy, but feel a faint obligation to put in a little effort to hunt.

Title: Death Car Alley
Genre: Fantasy, Horror, Humour
Word Count: 3,900
Publication: Jersey Devil Press (Issue 27)

Evan stops dead as the shiny black Shogun 4×4 creeps around the corner up ahead like some giant prehistoric insect, liquid-metal smooth shell glistening.

A massive thank you to Yvonne Anisimowicz and Dabs Lyons for their superb beta reading and encouragement.

I designed a story cover for Death Car Alley in Adobe Photoshop. I’m happy with how this turned out, and it remains in my portfolio to this day!

Find the rest of my published fiction here.

[Fiction] Mundane | Light Sci-Fi | 430 Words

Title: Mundane
Genre: Light sci-fi
Words: 430
Author: Jennifer K. Oliver. Find more of my fiction here.

Mundane (pop. 1,112), Dorset, is a dense little market town hunkered in a cradle of rollercoaster hills and sparsely dotted woodland. Its only claim to fame, aside from its generous turn-out of livestock, is that it’s a well-documented UFO hotspot.

Old Norm runs the Wind Whistle Café on the A3-“Intergalactic Highway”-05. Out-of-towners constantly jibe and debunk him, so go right ahead if you want. He’s long in the tooth and he’s heard it all before. What’s with the limp, Norm—one anal probe too many? (Old Norm’s a veteran; took a bullet in ’51, and was one of the 2,674 wounded British to come out of Korea after the war, but he’s tired of relaying this, and nobody cares these days anyway.) Wouldn’t Starbucks be more up their alley? Why would aliens waste their time in Mundane when they could go for our natural resources or world leaders?

Any Mundane resident would tell you the aliens aren’t here to harvest our water or mine our oil or metal or politicians. They’re here for one thing only: Norm’s prized sausage rolls. As Norm himself would attest, they’re the best damn sausages rolls in sixty-eight galaxies.

Take Wednesday last: a spaceship hovering low over a nearby field (with extortionate parking charges, can you blame them?), four lanky figures sitting at the café window, their weird eyes blinking diagonally; their spindly fingers prodding paper food wrappers; their grey, lipless mouths slurping sausage bliss through a funnel of pastry. A more contented picture couldn’t be found—not in Dorset, not on Earth, not anywhere.

Weekenders from London chuckle and purchase their Little Green Men souvenir mugs and t-shirts and key rings, and they ask to try the sausage rolls—never able to resist a gimmick, they say. But over the course of lunch, their laughter turns nervous and their gazes dart to the window too often, and when they leave Mundane, they choose not to remark on the crop circles stretching out of town like gargantuan Spirograph designs, or the fact that Mundane’s livestock flourishes fatter, happier, more robust than any other in the country, possibly in the world. Perhaps they realise it unwise to look too closely at the piglets in the piggeries with their grey-hued skin and small, black eyes that blink diagonally.

That’s fine with Old Norm, though. It works for him. Because as Old Norm would say, it’s far easier taking the odd joke on the chin for the sake of his prized hog lot. It brings in the business from far and wide, after all.

My Micro-Fiction and Twitter Stories

I’m sharing the handful of micro-fiction I’ve had published across Twitter story venues. These are old now, but I’m still fond of them.

The Clockmaker’s Heart, at Nanoism, December 2012. Bittersweet and steampunky.

The Thinning, at 50-Word Stories, December 2012. Contemporary supernatural.

Robogrrrl@onefortyfiction, March 2012. Light-hearted sci-fi.

Morning Jaunt, at 5×5 Fiction Issue 4, January 2012. Stories in 25 words. Apocalypse fiction.

Patio@trapezemag, October 2011. Twitter fic. Tongue-in-cheek horror. Can also be found here.

Grey Matter@onefortyfiction, August 2011. Twitter fic. Contains zombies.

It sounds easy enough to write something interesting in 140 characters or less (these were all pre- the 280 character expansion), but it takes care and thought to pull it off and make a micro-story worth reading. Hopefully my little offerings aren’t too dire! This is an art form I would like to get back into some day, although it seems that many of the micro-fiction venues have closed to business now.

As a side note, I can’t believe it’s been six years since I’ve written any short-shorts. These days I’m far more focused on graphic design and longer fiction, though submissions have dwindled in the last few years due to increased day job hours and, as I said, lots of graphic design.

Vampires, Werewolves and Zombies

A few years ago I had a small zombie story published (more about that soon, including a cover I designed for the story) at a wonderful magazine called KaleidotropeAt the time I submitted the story I was extremely nervous. I knew damn well that selling anything containing vampires, werewolves and zombies was a hard sell. Back then a lot of the submission guidelines I encountered specifically stated that they would not entertain these creatures. It was pretty disheartening.

The story sold. It was a genuine surprise. It wasn’t that I had no faith in my idea or my characters – I was and still am happy with the piece. But getting a zombie story through slush readers and onto an editor’s desk seemed like a miracle to me.

I’m so grateful to Kaleidotrope for publishing it. That little story even earned a short review at Locus Online, which is ever so groovy.

Vampires, werewolves and zombies still seem to have a fairly bad literary reputation. A handful of authors and magazines I’ve checked out over the years have written – and published – well-written, strong monster fiction. You often hear the phrase “there’s no such thing as an original idea” banded around the writing community, and yet writers reinvent ideas and genres all the time. It’s what we’re born to do.

I’m interested in fresh (or maybe that should be decaying, in the case of zombies) spins. Damnit, bring me the undead in all their slinking, salivating, putrid glory. But give me something new as well, even if it’s only a detail here, or a nudge there to some unchartered territory.

All this said, I can imagine how tedious it is to wade through the same generic plots day in, day out. The general frustration is apparent in a lot of submission guidelines, and as I’ve never read slush or edited a publication, I can’t fully sympathise with slush readers and editors.

So here is a small handful of monster fiction that I’ve liked.

  • Feature Development for Social Networking, by Benjamin Rosenbaum. What spreads just as fast as a zombie outbreak? News on social media. (Zombies)
  • Up, by James Hargrave. A brutal night-in-the-life. (Vampires)
  • Teeth, an anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, featuring stories by Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Catherynne M. Valente, and many more. (Vampires)
  • Finisterre, by Maria Deira. (Werewolves)
  • The Days of Flaming Motorcycles, by Catherynne M. Valente. (Zombies)

I’ll add to this list as I find more stories. I’m not including all novels and anthologies, as they’re easy to search for on sites like Amazon or Goodreads.

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