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.

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from “The Wet Months” by Ralph Robert Moore

October 12, 2010

FULL STORY TO APPEAR IN THE GOTHIC (November 2010) ISSUE!

“Promise me you won’t fuck anyone at the party tonight.”

“I can’t promise you.  I’m just getting into this queer lifestyle.  I’ve been turning around on the sidewalk checking out girls all my life, and now here I am making a sincere effort to be gay, walking through Bed, Bath and Beyond, where there’s always plenty of faggots in striped shirts, dropping my eyes to that big weight between their front pants pockets, wondering what their cock and balls look like.  By the way, can you tell what a guy’s cock looks like, just from his face?”

Trey, mincing fresh-brined olives at the kitchen counter, raised his neatly-plucked eyebrows.  “If you can, it’s too subtle for this boy.  Believe me, it’s not as if I haven’t done the research.”

Geoffrey, twice Trey’s age, sat at the kitchen table, long and muscular, legs sprawled, close-cropped black hair, rugged face, aiming his too-blue eyes at Trey.  “It’s really disappointing when they pull down their pants, eager as a puppy, and here’s this unimpressive little limb sticking up.”

“Why are you even doing this?  Who makes an effort to turn gay?”

Geoffrey spread his large hands apart.  “What am I supposed to do?  It was getting to the point where I was fucking fat girls, just to have a different body type.  Fat girls!  Can you believe that?  So I thought, here’s this whole other body structure, boys with big biceps.  Cocks.  Why not try that?  Plus guys are really casual about taking off their clothes with a gay.  There’s no fear of failure.  Even if you don’t get hard, who gives a shit?  It’s another guy!  There’s no shame.  But anyway, I can’t promise you I won’t fuck any of your party guests tonight.  What if I meet a boy at your party with a beautiful ass, eyes like a doe?  I’m not supposed to fuck him?  Isn’t that the whole point to being gay?  You fuck everyone you can?”

“Nobody talks like that.  ‘Eyes like a doe.’  Certainly not queers.”   Trey turned around, black and white Betty Boop apron tied across his white chinos, her round face cheerful with flirtatiously raised black eyebrows, his triangular face twisted into an exasperated look.  “This is serious.  I want this party to be a huge success.  These are my friends.  I want them to get to know you.”   He dipped his hip.  “I want them to feel jealous, okay?  I’m fucking a straight guy, who’s old enough to be my dad.”  He rolled his pretty brown eyes.  “If my dad had a rock hard body, with a cock that weighs twenty pounds.  It’s a gay fantasy.  Help me out.”

“I love it when you act stern.  It’s like watching an ant aggressively raise its little pincers, just before I step on it.”

Trey, hands in pink oven mitts, turned back to the stove, lifting a white china plate of steaming artichoke bottoms out of the bamboo tower on one of the burners.  Slim back to Geoffrey, he spoke in a voice quiet enough to suggest both a personal thought, and one that could be eavesdropped.  “I don’t want ‘us’ to just exist in our bedroom.  I want the whole world to know.”

The older man sighed.  “What’s the point?  You don’t love me.”

Trey dumped the colander of rinsed baby greens in the stainless steel sink.  “How can you say that?  After what I did for you, when you woke me up in the middle of the night last Thursday?”

“If you truly loved me, you’d make me a lasagna sandwich.”


from “The New Boy’s Kiss” by Cody L. Stanford

September 16, 2010

FULL STORY TO APPEAR IN THE GOTHIC (November 2010) ISSUE!

The oak and elm trees were starting to turn colors.  Summer is fun, but it gets way too hot in Kansas City round about August.  I like seeing fall come so I can skate without getting all slimy and sweaty.

I had to walk Ranger home from school every day, which meant no hanging out with friends until later, after Mom got home.  That’s how Gileon and I became friends.  After walking our little sibs home, we were all that was left.

I sent Ranger inside when I got home that afternoon, and I went around to the back of the house.  There was no trellis under Gileon’s window or anywhere else on the house.  I’d just made up my crack at Fr. Shealey, but really; what the hell?  The house was built of limestone quarried out of the Missouri hills.  A strong man might be able to work his way up the sheer rock wall, but not an old geezer like Fr. Shealey.

I went inside and dumped my backpack at the bottom of the stairs so Frau Steffensmeier would holler at me later.  You gotta keep things interesting for these old people or else they’ll get Alzheimer’s, right?  I went upstairs to Gileon’s room.

I heard Gileon’s sisters Evonne and Janelle playing behind the closed door of their room, under my mom’s bedroom in the same spot by the stairs.  The girls were hiding from Ranger, who loved terrorizing them.  Whichever Hess parent walked the girls home today, I bet they swore up a shitstorm about doing it.

I heard Mrs. Hess’s television loud behind the closed door of her bedroom.  Gileon’s door was right across the hall.  I opened it and went inside.

From under the bedsheets in the darkened room, Gileon moaned.  “Close the door!”

I did, and said, “Did Fr. Shag-me fly up here last night or what?”

Gileon, totally hidden in his bed, said nothing.  A board was nailed over the broken window, so I turned on the overhead light.

Gileon, in the same hurt and angry voice as before: “Turn it off!”

“Okay, okay.”  I turned out the light and sat down on the bed next to Gileon.  “How you feel?”

“Like shit,” Gileon said.  “Leave me alone.”

I found Gileon’s shoulders under all those blankets, and I rubbed his back.  “Bet I can find a way to make you feel better, huh?”

“Not today, Tucker.  Leave me alone.”

“Ya wanna do PlayStation?”

No, Tucker; go away.”

I laughed softly.  “You really are sick, huh?”  I reached up and yanked down the covers from Gileon’s face.  “Oh my god…”

Gileon looked up at me, or at least I think it was Gileon.  His face was grey and thinner than usual, and the edges of his eyes…well, you think they’d be red because he looked like he’d been crying, but they were bluish-grey instead, like Fr. Shealey’s hands.  Gileon’s skin was hot and dry, but his long blond hair lay pasted in dark, damp strands on his skin like he’d been sweating all day.

“Shit, Gileon,” I said.  “Let me get…look, I know you can’t…I mean, I know your folks can’t pay for a — ”

“There’s no doctor can help me,” Gileon said.  He hid his face in the pillow.

“Seriously, Gileon.  Maybe I can get my mom to — ”

“Shut the hell up, Tucker!”

Goddamn it, I felt like I was about to cry.  He never talked like that to me, and we’d never had a real fight.  I stroked Gileon’s damp hair for a moment and said, “Can I get you anything?”  It’s what my mom would have said.

Gileon shook his head.  “Just let me sleep.”

I leaned over and gave Gileon a kiss on his cheek, and stood up.  I stopped at the door.  “I’ll check in later,” I said.

“Yeah, whatever,” Gileon said.  Then he raised his eyes and looked at me.  He was crying; I knew it.

“You and your mom and Ranger,” Gileon said.  “Lock your bedroom doors tonight, ’kay?”


from “Radiance” by Jonathan Mack

September 7, 2010

FULL STORY APPEARS IN THE JULY 2010 ISSUE!

I should not have looked.

If only!

I should never have looked, not peeked.  It was too much for me.  Not that I am such a weak man.  (Well, only in this way.)  I should have covered it up soon as I saw it, the crack in the wall, the crack I found in the back of the closet while I was in there rearranging my collections.  I could have filled it up with quick drying cement, a few coats of paint.  I could have simply ignored it.  Most people would.  Many people must live, day after day, with cracks in the walls of the rooms where they live and never once yield to this magnetic itch: the urge to turn off all the lights, crouch down, put an eye to the crack in the wall and peep.

I am, overall, a reasonable, respectable man.  You’d like me if we met, I think.  Well.  To be likeable requires charm and also force, a visibility I don’t possess.

Some people make themselves seen; they shine their shoes and rush up to shake your hand.  Some of us do not.  I’m too dim, too drab, but I am confident nonetheless that if you met me at work (credit authorizations) or on the street you would find me, at very least, inoffensive.  I’m a restrained man.  I have never once struck anyone, never kicked anyone in the crotch, kneecaps or elsewhere.  My voice in public is courteous and subdued.  I am, overall, a very reasonable and sane person except for my eyes which are two mad dogs always straining forward, pulling me ahead, two big dogs jumping up, snuffing about.  Crotch dogs.

The rest of my organs are very subdued, very sane.  All except for my eyes.  My eyes and, I suppose, my mind.

On the other side of the wall is a man.  Alone, as I am, but seeming not to mind.  He lives, as I do, in a bachelor’s studio with a sliver of a kitchen and a splinter of a bath.  His door opens into another hall, another staircase in this labyrinthine ramshackle low-rent complex, so that I have never met him while struggling with the groceries or going out for the mail.  He looks like a friendly sort of person, the kind who’d give you a nod, at least, even in a city like this one.  He might even volunteer to carry a bag if he noticed you struggling.  He has very sturdy arms; all his limbs, in fact, look very amiable.

The crack in the wall is, I estimate, slightly above and to the right of the man’s television.  So that I often saw him sitting turned toward me, gazing off to the side.  He was very fond of television, content to sprawl his long arms and legs over a chair and abide there for hours.  Personally I loathe television.  It is dull to watch.  Nonetheless, I admire the feckless courage of TV viewers.  How can they imagine they have time to waste?

As for me, I am a theorist.  A collector.  I was rearranging my collections when I found the crack in the wall.  I’m someone who has big ideas.  (More about this later.)  The man on the other side of the wall is only my latest, and most compelling, object of study.  In my closet I have gathered a number of popular astronomy texts, a life of Edison and the Pocket Upanishads, as well as a number of photos culled from newspapers and magazines in which the subject appears strangely illuminated, pictures that might prove something or might not, like photographs of ghosts.

The man liked to talk to his television–always in a very sensible and amiable manner.  He said, ‘Good Morning’ to the morning show, yawned at comedians, and did not seem to take anything personally, no matter how awful the nightly news became, as if everything he saw were happening in a country not his own, which he was only visiting.  At no point, of course, was he aware that he was, himself, a thousand times more interesting than anything he was watching.

I saw–and I knew.  Crouched in the dark, my nose tickled by the crumbling plaster, I watched him hour after hour.  The empyrean mysteries are introduced with simple questions: will he rub his taut belly now?  Will he stretch?  Will he yawn?  Is it time for dinner yet?  Is the world a concern?  Do his balls itch?

I watched him for hours, night after night, because–because I am a lonely pervert?  No.  Because it is my work.  My duty on earth.  I am a theorist, you understand, of the order most rarefied.  I am the student of a theory and I’ve spent all my life in its tracking and pursuit.  It’s a very tricky theory, a theory of consummate delicacy.  As soon as you look at it, it vanishes.

Yet it is there.  I’m sure of it.


from “Foreign Parts” by Colin Meldrum

August 31, 2010

FULL STORY APPEARS IN THE JULY 2010 ISSUE!

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

FULL STORY TO APPEAR IN THE JULY 2010 ISSUE!

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.