from “Living Dead” by Michael G. Cornelius

October 7, 2010


As Jamey Faulkener’s mother used to always say: It was such a shame, really, about her son. A damned shame.

Such a shame that a boy as scrawny and ugly and painfully awkward as her son didn’t have the brains God gives a horse. Mrs. Faulkener figured that any kid that gangly, with those thick glasses, that badly pock-marked skin, and that over enlarged Adam’s apple should at least be as brainy as he looked. Mrs. Faulkener believed—quite reasonably so, in her mind—that if a boy was going to look just like a nerd, then he ought to have the smarts that’s supposed to go along with it. That way he could grow up and become a doctor or a lawyer or a computer repairman or something, something more than what he was, which, by Mrs. Faulkener’s reckoning, was a big pile of nothing. But her son didn’t have any real brains. He was bad at figures and couldn’t spell worth a fig. He couldn’t identify the parts of a cell or remember any dates from history class, not even 1492, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue (and Mrs. Faulkener had lost count of how many times she had tried to get Jamey to remember that little rhyme, but nope—even that was beyond her son.) Jamey couldn’t draw, or sing, or play an instrument. He only passed his classes because his teachers felt sympathy for Mrs. Faulkener’s big useless lump of a son. Every year come June they’d look down at their final grade reports and sigh before placing a requisite “D” next to Jamey’s name. They felt bad for him, felt bad for his mom, and since he wasn’t any trouble—he barely registered as even present, to be honest—they figured it did no harm to just send him on down the line, to the next teacher, who would probably take four months just to remember Jamey’s name, same as with them.

It was no surprise to Jamey that his mother thought these things about him—after all, it was her number one topic of conversation with practically everyone she met. She’d talked about it to their pastor, talked about it to her hairdresser, to Jamey’s pediatrician, to his dentist, and to his Cub Scout master, at least for the five weeks Jamey had managed to show up for Scout meetings. Mrs. Faulkener talked about it to everyone, not in any hopes of finding a solution, but just so people knew the terrible cross she had to bear, the burden God had placed upon her. Pity her, who had only one child before her husband Leland had died in that mining accident; pity her to be saddled with a boy who didn’t show any hint of ambition and who didn’t even seem to be up to working the mines that had claimed the life of his father, grandfather, and one cousin on his mother’s side.

Poor Mrs. Faulkener.

It didn’t really bother Jamey that she talked like that; he was used to it, and besides, she was right. Right about him, right about his grades, right about all of it. It’s not like he hadn’t tried—he had, early on anyway, tried to show his mother something, some ambition, some attempt to make something useful of himself. One time, he’d gotten a math tutor through an after-hours program at the school. But everything the tutor said just seemed to contradict what Mrs. Pugano said in Algebra class, and Jamey’s grades actually went down. Another time he tried out for the basketball team, but only got laughed off the court. His mother told him to make sure he took his glasses off before he played, so he wouldn’t break them, but without his glasses he could barely see the ball, let alone the net. All during his try-outs the other kids thought it was fun to make rush passes at Jamey, so the ball always caught him square in the face and knocked him to the court. Down he’d go, flat on his back, the sniggers and snickers of all the other guys resonating in his ears. He’d get up again, and again, only to get knocked down again, and again. Finally, the coach told him to hit the showers.

And Jamey didn’t mind, really, that they all laughed at him. He figured if he was one of them, he would have laughed, too. But Jamey would never be one of them; he knew that, and perhaps worst of all, he didn’t mind about that, either. He really didn’t. Sometimes Jamey figured that might be his problem. For some reason, he just didn’t care. He didn’t see the point to any of it. He didn’t see any reason to get good grades in math. He didn’t see any reason to be a star basketball player. Why bother? He wasn’t going to college, he wasn’t going to the NBA, so what good would any of it do him anyway? It was the same logic he followed for almost every aspect of his life. What good would playing the piano or being able to paint a picture or eating with friends at lunchtime really do? How would that help him? Jamey had gotten this far without any of that. Whether he got good grades or not he was still just a few weeks shy of graduating school. Whether he ate his lunch with friends or alone didn’t make the Salisbury steak go down any easier. It was all the same. So why did he mind if people laughed at him or pushed him in the hallway? Why should he care if his teachers knew his name or not?

Really: what was the point?

from “Foreign Parts” by Colin Meldrum

August 31, 2010


The next day, playing swimsuit one-sided tennis against the backside of the house, I realized all of a sudden that I was alone.

I kicked off my last article of clothing. I even tiptoed to the kiwifruit orchard and found a fresh hen-egg-sized kiwi. I cupped it in my hands like a delicate hamster, not yet plucking it from its nest. It was no more than a silhouette thanks to the glare of the sun. With warmth parading in my eyes and baking my nude skin, I was in paradise and favorably blind to the impending adventure in my palms. I plucked it from its branch and bit into it like a forbidden apple, tore a morsel before I could get away.

Once I got past the fur and realized it wouldn’t wriggle, the experience was near thrilling, and I indulged.

It was then, upon opening my eyes, that I spotted the golden garden cage: opened. It was gaping at the middle with the whole cylinder bottom hanging like a hysterical jaw. I had never seen it opened before and the new shape of it was disruptively asymmetrical. Suddenly, I was not so alone. I was naked.

Before I could think, I leapt into the tree

Though tree never seems to be the best word for a kiwi plant. The orchard was more of a vineyard: the first level was a confusion of poles and twisted wooden lightning bolt trunks, and the top level was an unbroken cloud of brush at head-height.

And I was wearing it. Sitting with my legs tangled and dangled among the vines, the leaves were my loin cloth and bubble bath, and I was Zeus looking down from above the world—or perhaps I was Odysseus and only rented my time among the gods.

My heart had begun a rapid cello-strum. I sensed the invading eyes upon me but scanning the yard, I found no trespasser. From my seat, however temporary—or precarious, as the wind and whining vines suggested, I saw many things and the last few minutes of my life flashed before my eyes: the lone tennis racket, my clothes heap, the mocking cage. I’d chuck the tennis ball into its teeth if I could find it.

Bonk! There it was against my head and into my hands, and I dropped the kiwi.

I looked to see who had thrown it and was surprised to find a creature perched atop my jungle cloud, not five yards from where I sat. It slouched tightly cross-kneed, raising and bobbing her chin like a pretty monkey fishing for a sweetie, chewing with an occasional underbite on something from an hour ago. She—I was sure it was a she—acted as though she hadn’t noticed me, but I knew she was the culprit launcher of my own tennis ball.

There’s a queer feeling you get when you realize there’s an animate being in your presence where you expected none. That’s when my heart and lungs mixed up and I became an amateur at breathing, but in the end, it was my heart that won out and I decided: I would fall in love with her. I wondered if she was kiwi-green beneath her brown hair. The more I watched, the more difficult seemed the task. I lolled back in my throne and attempted a few head bobs of my own. She glanced my way and offered an oxygen mask. I wasn’t sure where to go from there.

The vine gave at that moment anyway, and I rolled head over heels through the cloud into the dust.

On the way down, I saw that someone had stirred my clothes heap. I pushed my head up quickly and caught sight of him at last: white and bulky in astronaut garb and making a zero-gravity dash across the lawn at one-bound-per-three-seconds. With my shorts dangling from his boot ankle, he stabbed the planet with a flagpole. He made to salute—but saw me coming.

He stumbled slowly over swim trunks, but nothing serviced his escape. I caught up in less than a sprint and wrestled his floating body to the ground, taking full advantage of his otherworldly gravity. I loomed over him like a god, raised my fists, and bashed in his tinted visor ape-style. His eyes squinted under the unshielded sunlight—his face was green—green was envy—his mouth gasping like the cage. I crammed the tennis ball into his jaws. I cast him blinded and silenced into the sky, and he was lost.

I turned to pick up the flag, but the pretty creature was gone.

Volume Three = Three Themes

June 22, 2010

Why settle for two issues of Collective Fallout per year when you can have three?  Volume Three will do just that with a triumvirate of themed issues!

Number 1 will be released in November 2010 (well, closer to late October) with a Gothic theme—focused on horror, mystery, and related genres.  The submission period for this issue will be July 1 – September 15, 2010.

Number 2 will be released in March 2011 with a Fantastic theme—focused on fantasy, magical realism, and related genres.  The submission period for this issue will be November 1, 2010 – January 15, 2011.

Number 3 will be released in July 2011 with a Futuristic theme—focused on science fiction, alternate history, and related genres.  The submission period for this issue will be March 1 – May 15, 2011.

Our requirements for submissions otherwise remain the same—and each issue will continue to include surrealist and metaphysical works as appropriate to the themes.  Above all, Collective Fallout remains a Queer publication—all literature and art submitted must contain strong queer elements in addition to the theme requirements.

from “When the Village is Already Taken” by Nathan Sims

June 14, 2010


Dyson was once again aware of the crowded streets, and his boyfriend’s hand still in his, and now his hot breath on his neck.  He pulled away.

“Why are you so nervous?” Avery asked. “I think you can handle a bunch of drag queens, Wain.  I mean, you’ve slain dragons after all.”

“Just the one.”

“And that’s still one more dragon than most people have even seen.”

“Keep it down, please?” Dyson whispered, eyeing the others standing nearby waiting for the light to change. “I don’t want the entire city knowing what I do.”

“I think it’s cool.”

“Well, most people don’t feel the same.  They would freak if they found out fairies existed.”

“Yeah, well, being imprisoned by a witch with a penchant for human sacrifice tends to put things in perspective.” Avery winked then added, “Not to mention the dwarves.”

Dyson glared at Avery trying to quiet him.

“What’s got you so worked up?” his boyfriend asked.  “Is this because of the drag show?  You act like you’ve never been to one before.”

Dyson didn’t reply but stood silently waiting for the light to turn.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw Avery studying him.

The reporter’s eyes grew wide. “Wain, you have been to a drag show before, haven’t you?”

After a pause, Dyson replied, “It’s not that big a –”

“Oh my god!” Avery exclaimed. “You’ve been sucking dick how long now and you’ve never been to a drag show?”

“Sh!” Dyson snapped.

A loud cackling startled him.  Standing behind them was a gaggle of young men dressed for a night out clubbing.  They looked at Dyson, laughing.

“Please!” he pleaded with Avery between gritted teeth. “Don’t make a big deal out of this.”

“How is it not a big deal?  Drag shows are a rite of passage for gay men.”

“That’s right, guuurl!” one member of the group commented. “It’s time you pop that cherry!”  His friends chortled as the light turned and they crossed the street.

Dyson glared at Avery.  “Thanks.  A lot,” he said as he stepped off the curb and followed behind the boys.

“Wain, wait up!” Avery chased after him. “So some twinks laugh at you, what’s the big deal?”

Dyson didn’t reply but groaned as he watched the group of “twinks” pull out their IDs and cover charge, offering them to the bouncer at the club’s door.  He moved into line behind them.

As the final one’s hand was stamped, he flashed a smile in Dyson’s direction and announced to the bouncer, “Be sure to check this one’s ID reeeeal good.  He may not look it, but word is:  he’s young enough to be a virgin!”  Gales of laughter from his friends welcomed the young man inside.  Dyson felt a rush of heat flood his face as snickers sounded from the line behind him.

“Uh, here you go,” Avery said, pulling the cover charge from his wallet along with his ID.  He took Dyson’s ID and offered it to the smirking bouncer.

The man’s smile brightened as he read Avery’s driver’s license.  “Mr. Cooper, they’ve been waiting for you.”  He handed the cover charge back along with their IDs and said, “Tyrone should be at the bar.”

“See, isn’t it nice having V.I.P. status?” Avery commented, doing his best to ease the tension between them.

Dyson considered telling Avery exactly where he could shove his V.I.P. status.  Even if he had, though, it wouldn’t have been heard above the noise bombarding them as they stepped inside the club.  The music was deafening.

They stopped in front of the dance floor splashed in roving colored lights.  Twin lit glass bars stood on either side of the club.  Avery studied the crowd for a moment then signaled Dyson to the bar on the right.  He approached a middle-aged bald man dressed in a black shirt and slacks talking to the bartender.  Dyson guessed this must be Tyrone.  Before there was a chance for introductions however the man kissed Avery on either cheek and whisked him away to meet the other judges.  Dyson watched in horror as his boyfriend abandoned him, casually promising he’d return soon.

“What’ll it be?” the bartender asked.  His t-shirt was tight enough to display his areolas.  His cut-off shorts dared Dyson to guess his heritage.

Dyson ordered a beer and drank off half of it as he scanned the room nervously, watching the crowd form.  He hadn’t been entirely truthful with Avery.  This wasn’t just Dyson’s first drag show.  This was his first time in a gay club.  Ever.

Cold Iron RPG Begins Playtesting

April 29, 2010

On Saturday, April 24, a group of prospective players gathered to explore the setting and test the character creation process of Collective Fallout’s upcoming Cold Iron RPG. The setting was well received, and should be available for prospective writers and artists this summer. The rules, however, came against a stumbling block. After another month of revision, Collective Fallout hopes to gather its testers again for another afternoon of mayhem and sexual innuendo.

To learn more about the Cold Iron RPG, take a look here.

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.

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