Announcing the Calamus Prize

April 7, 2011

Collective Fallout is pleased to announce the First Calamus Prize for Queer Speculative Poetry.  First prize is $50 and publication in the January 2012 issue of the magazine.  Finalists will also be published in the January and July 2012 issues.  The reading period for this contest begins August 1st, 2011.  Complete details can be found on our Contests page.

Calamus, or Kalamos, was a figure from Greek mythology.  When his friend Karpos (son of spring and the west wind) drowned in the Maeander River while the two were swimming in a competition, Kalamos allowed himself to die as well.  He was transformed into a water reed; as the wind blew across the reed, his sighs of grief could be heard.  He gives his name to a specific species of wetland flowering plant (also known as sweet flag), which has become a symbol of love — partly for its phallic shape, and possibly because of its psychotropic properties.

Walt Whitman included a section called “Calamus” in the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. This sequence of poems homoerotically celebrates the “manly love of comrades.”  It is for the Whitman poems and the transfigured lover that this contest is named.  The following poem is Whitman’s:

We two boys together clinging,
One the other never leaving,
Up and down the roads going, North and South excursions making,
Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching,
Arm’d and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving.
No law less than ourselves owning, sailing, soldiering, thieving, threatening,
Misers, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, water drinking, on the turf or the sea-beach dancing,
Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking, feebleness chasing,
Fulfilling our foray.

2010 Contests Canceled

March 11, 2010

The Calamus Prize for Queer Speculative Poetry, announced in the Vol.2 No. 1 (January 2010), is canceled this year.   The second Delfino Prize for Queer Genre Fiction, scheduled to run later this year, is also canceled.  These contests may run in the future.

Those of you who were interested in these contests should feel free to send us your work for general submission.

from “God Toys” by Gabriel Malloy

December 9, 2009



His apprentice’s birthday is in the early spring, and Daedalus leaves the house on the hill, something he rarely does nowadays, taking the road down to the town on market-day. The boy should have something suitable, a young man’s gift. The engineer wanders through the maze of stalls, half-listening to the cries of the vendors, aware that people are whispering his name, pointing him out to each other, telling the old stories. Not that he cares much, any more. A new tunic, an amulet-necklace, a belt knife, a pot of thyme honey; nothing seems right, though Talos would be grateful for any of them. 

The honey-seller, a rough-haired woman with a mountain accent, has a basket at her feet, covered with a cloth to keep off the sun. There’s something familiar about the small, sleepy sounds coming from it, and when Daedalus asks, the woman draws aside the covering with a laugh, showing a dozen or so quail chicks huddled together, fist-sized bundles of gold blazed with black and brown.  They go silent for a moment, blinking in the light; then their eager peeping begins again, their bright eyes watching him.

Sensing a possible sale, the woman says, “They’re easy to raise, you know, and fatten quickly if you feed them well. They don’t fly much – keep to the ground, mostly – no more trouble than chickens, they aren’t. They make – ” she pauses for a moment, then adds, with a sort of inspiration, “very good pets.”

Talos names the chick Melitto and it follows him around the place like a puppy, dashing here and there after him, giving its anxious two-note cry when it loses sight of him for too long, searching until he whistles back at it. Daedalus finds it rather an annoyance; the thing seems always to be underfoot and determined to be stepped on, and it’s pecked him once or twice when he’s picked it up to put it out in the dooryard with the other fowl. And it always manages to find its way back inside, to Talos.

But in the evenings, when he and the boy are sitting in the small square of garden behind the house, watching the moon come up and the bats weave through the air as they hunt moths, the sight of the boy with the bird on his knee, one hand idly stroking the new, smooth feathers, gives him a terrible kind of pleasure; sharp, deep, almost pain.

They’re so alike, he thinks. Black and brown and honey. Sometimes the boy catches his look and gently puts his pet down in the short grass, rising and going to the arms already reaching out for him. Holding him, Daedalus notices the widening shoulders, the lengthening limbs, the hard angling of cheek and jaw. What will happen when you want to fly? Stay close to the ground.

The apprentice stands beside his master’s bench, holding out a bronze flywheel, bent and scraped. “I don’t know what could have happened – my waterclock – it was on the floor of the workshop this morning. Somehow it must have got knocked off the table. One of the shutters was open – perhaps an animal got in, or the wind…”

The master barely looks up from the sketch he’s making. “An animal. Or the wind.”

Sighing, Talos turns away, the bit of metal glittering between his fingers. Beyond repair – but he’ll try anyway.

There are other ways to lose a boy than to a sun-god; Kronos eats his children. Daedalus waits until Talos has gone; then pours himself another cup of wine.  No, this time it will be different.This time he’ll ask before, not after. And this time, his question won’t be Why? but When? So he’ll be ready.

from “Coyote Smile” by Kelsey McCarthy

November 30, 2009



He’d come around the ranch the next day looking for this kid, because that’s what he sounded like, a kid. What he found was a bunch of cowboys hunkered around a corral, looking on while a pied mustang bucked around inside, mad as sin at the rider sitting solid on his back. The horse gave it his all, even got down on his side and rolled in the dirt to get the guy off him. All the man did was hop off, give him space until he got up again, then he vaulted back into the saddle. Desperate, the horse made a run at the fence, trying to scrape him off that way. The boards bowed instead and the man stayed put. Horse and rider shot by them and Abe got a glimpse of tan skin, sharp jaw and dark eyes. Long black hair flooded out from under his hat. The mustang came around again, slowing to a canter. He shook out his mane and mouthed at the bit like he was considering it. His ears were still back, but he followed his rider’s lead. 

The owner had grinned next to Abe and said, “Cole’s the finest around these parts. Best I got.”  Abe was plenty sure he wasn’t talking about the horse. 

Horse and rider pulled up in front of them, pretty as you please. Cole tipped his hat up a little with one gloved hand and smiled real wide. “I do believe y’all owe me ten dollars,” he said. 

Grumbling and cussing, the cowboys dug around in their pockets for the money. A couple of them left little bill folds on the fence post and they walked away, kicking at nothing. The one fella left was gangly with a crooked nose, still glaring for all he was worth. He got it in his mind to pull his gun and aim at Cole on the horse, saying he was a cheat, calling the owner an old coot for having some redskin mutt on his payroll.  

The man on the horse didn’t lose his smile and, hell, it got wider. “C’mon, Randy. Fair’s fair. You cheat a deal and it’s gonna come slitherin’ back to ya.”  

Abe felt this wasn’t much of a fair fight and he’d seen no cheating. The grip of his Colt was solid and worn under his hand and he drew, settling his sights on Randy’s sweaty temple. “Pay up or walk away,” he said, prairie grit in his voice. “Elsewise I’ll turn your head into a feed bag.” 

The man looked around and the whites of his eyes started to show. No way in hell Abe could miss from a new paces away and he knew it. The man put his gun up and backed away without leaving the money he owed.  

Cole had swung down off the horse then and strode to the fence. He swiped the cash off the pole and tucked it away into his pocket. He tipped his head at Abe like he was noticing him for the first time, then put out his hand. “Much obliged,” he said when Abe shook it. Cole was a little shorter than Abe expected, but with the dark hair and the shape of his features, he saw how people might call him “Apache bastard”. His eyes were a little too wide, his skin a little too olive under the tan to be any part Indian.  

A ruckus went up behind them and they all turned in time to see Randy jumping around in the dirt like the devil was biting his heels. He kicked off his boots, fell over in the dust, struggling with his pants and until he had them pulled clear off. He hot-footed it back to town, pale ass wagging like white rabbit tail.  

Cole shook his head with a lopsided smirk. “I told him. They never listen.” He clicked his tongue and the mustang picked his head up, following him out of the corral back to the stable. 

Unsatisfied, Abe had slid his rifle off his horse and walked the few hundred feet to the pile of Randy’s pants. He lifted the waist with the end of the muzzle and jerked when a rattler lunged out, trying to make a meal of his gun. He shook the thing off and let well enough alone. 

Abe’s eyes went to the whiskey bottle standing half-empty on the rickety table beside the bed. He popped the cork back in and settled back, rolling a cigarette. Cole had been one of the smart ones. Abe usually shot those kind and brought them back to the law offices over his saddle like a sack of potatoes. Unfortunately they wanted this horse-thief alive. Too much to pay him back for, they said.  

Abe shot the shit with Cole for a while about horses, faking interest in buying while putting a plan together.  

“Don’t know why you’re in for another ride. That roan out front is mighty fine.” Cole hung up the tack he’d been carrying and turned, tipping his hat back to look up at the mercenary. “What exactly would you be lookin’ for?” 

Abe shifted in his duster. “Something that can take the desert. Big with a sensible temper.” 

Cole’s brown eyes drifted yonder, thinking. Behind the pleasant “how do you do”s was a brain going a mile a minute. Then Cole smiled real friendly. “I think I got one you might like.” 

The horse he brought around was a tall chestnut with white socks on his back feet. The gelding wasn’t particularly kind, but once they had him saddled and Abe put him through his paces around one of the corrals, he loosened up and followed where Abe’s knees nudged him. Cole leaned against the fence, watching, the hot breeze tugging at his hair. He was rolling a cigarette as Abe swung down from the saddle. “Like ‘im?” 

Abe patted the gelding’s thick neck. “I surely do. What’re the damages?” 

Cole smiled. “Hundred ‘n twenty. For you, a hundred ‘n ten.” He stuck the cigarette in his mouth and struck a match. Long shadows grew on the ground and light from the setting sun caught in his eyes, turning them the color of good whiskey.  

“What say I buy you a drink while I think on it some?” 

Cole’s lips pulled back from his teeth, grin splitting his face. He looked down and tapped ash from his cigarette. “Won’t get the horse any cheaper that way, amigo.” 

“Wasn’t expecting to,” Abe had answered with a half-smile of his own.

Announcing Delfino Prize Finalists

November 19, 2009

The editors of Collective Fallout are pleased to announce the finalists for the first Delfino Prize for Queer Genre Fiction.  The winner will be announced in the January 2010 issue, where both stories will be published.  The winner will also receive a $50 prize. The finalists are:

 “God Toys” by Gabriel Malloy

 “Coyote Smile” by Kelsey McCarthy

Delfino Prize Extended

October 15, 2009

The deadline for the Delfino Prize for Queer Genre Fiction has been pushed back to October 31st.  The Finalists will still be announced on the blog between November 15th and 30th.  The winner will still be informed early in December, and announced in the January 2010 issue (Volume Two, Number 1).


Eligible stories must be queer-themed, between 3,000 and 10,000 words and fit into one or more of the following genres: Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, or Science Fiction.  All other requirements for fiction submissions apply.

Entry fee is $5 per story.  Multiple submissions up to 3 stories are accepted.  Make payments via Paypal and send submissions as attachments to contest @

Delfino Prize for Queer Genre Fiction

June 3, 2009

Collective Fallout introduces the first Delfino Prize for Queer Genre Fiction.

For complete details, visit the Contests section of this page.