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.

Congratulations to Sandra Gail Lambert

September 1, 2010

Collective Fallout would like to congratulate Sandra Gail Lambert for the inclusion of her story “The Swamp Goddess” in Year’s Best Lesbian Fiction 2009.   This story was originally published in the very first issue of Collective Fallout.

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 “Ursa Major Swims” by Garrett Harriman

May 24, 2010


The hill was steep and she was swimming.  Swimming with B and laughing.




“Ursa, keep up!”






The other tone died off.  Fallen to her knees thirty steps down, Ursa broke from the surge.  A hillside replaced her foggy drifting with the old itch infecting her veins.  Only it was worse than that now.  Ursa gasped in dust and nettles, called back, “I can’t make it!”

“You have to, Ur!  We can’t miss this!”

“I don’t feel so great, B…”

“Ursa you whiner, come on!

“I can’t, B!  It hurts!

B rolled her eyes, but Ursa couldn’t discern that in the dark.  She was hunched on the path under a nocturnal tarp of stars, breathing hard, listening to another girl’s sandals kick pebbles down toward her.  Just gargoyled there, hating and pouting.  What sort of teacher forced his students to wake up at three in the morning?  And then tells them to reach a peak an hour away?  And then expects them to report for actual class later that morning?  B stopped at Ursa’s side, patted her shoulder.

“It’s just a little more, Ursa.”

“I don’t care.  I’m itching everywhere.”

B sighed.  “It’s not that dry up here, Ur.  No bugs on your clothes, either.  I don’t believe you.”

But Ursa meant it.  This was worse than all of last month, a staunch intuition of Not Right.  When it had started it was a minor annoyance: just an odd prod, ants in her pants and nibbling her blood.  Now its undertones made her feel not just freakish, but vulnerable.  It was flash evolving into a raw sensation so inverted that she could only describe it as a deep, fiery gumming.  And she thought it wasn’t fair–wasn’t her swimming enough?  The limit of “different?”  The ants had only tickled before–they hadn’t dared bite.  And now that Ursa wasn’t sure she could endure them much longer, stifle their portending surf, she waited for consumption.  It made her abundantly tense.

 “This feels bad, B.”

“Ursa, we can’t miss this.  I don’t even care about the grade.  I just wanna see it happen.  Don’t you?”

An easy enough thing to say.  The whole world wanted to see it.  Which meant she could read about it later.  Ursa righted herself with an effort.  When she stood straight, the itch seemed to migrate up from her diaphragm to a Purgatory of Pain.   “I did.  But now I don’t.”

“It won’t happen again, Ur!” rebuked B.  “How can you not wanna see it?”

“They don’t know that.  It could come back.”

Ursa wanted to force her itch into B, then.  Have her share its urchin-bristled feet.  She wanted to grab B by her ponytail and make her give her a piggyback ride back down to the waiting car.  “And I do wanna see it.  Happy?  This is just–”  Ursa stopped to close her eyes, to wade through her vocabulary and lightly land on a shoal.  “It’s insatiable!”

B’s hand left Ursa’s shoulder to click at her wrist.  Even at three in the morning, in the dull glow of a Velcro wristwatch, B looked how B looked.  No makeup either, Ursa noticed.  B was for beautiful–that’s the ABCs.  Ursa massaged her marching gut.  Nothing nullified.

“Ursa, we need to see this.  We just have to.”

Ursa blinked at the glitter above, letting the night distract her.  It wasn’t working.

“Do I have to carry you?”

Ursa needed to say yes, the idea flaring through her head like a Navy Seals floodlight.  Until she looked back at B, hands on her hips, a silver Nikon camera wrapping her neck.  No–no, not now.

“No.  I guess I’ll try walking, though.  If it means so much to you.”

B beamed a lighthouse.  “There ya go.  We don’t have to watch all of it.  Just enough.”

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 “World War III Doesn’t Last Long” by Nora Olsen

March 7, 2010


Fell was pretty sure she was in Sunnyside now, but her knowledge of Queens geography was a bit underdeveloped.  She wished the CitiGroup building was still standing.  It had been such a good landmark, the only really tall building in Queens.  It had been like a polestar that told you where you were.  Fell remembered shopping in Chinatown with Soo Jin and giggling at gaudy commemorative wall plaques of the CitiGroup building that were for sale on Canal Street.  They had joked that soon there wouldn’t be a skyscraper left in the city, just lots of commemorative plaques.  Soo Jin had worked as a math tutor to a little girl whose parents both worked in the CitiGroup building.  Soo Jin never heard from them again after the attack, and refused to look at the names of the dead.

The thing was, it was a pretty big declaration of love to travel across the city when the government was telling you to stay indoors because of the radiation.  Fell didn’t know if she was ready for that yet.  The declaring her love part.  She might be marginally more ready for radiation.  Lesbians were supposed to move really fast.  The cliche was that the second date was renting a U-Haul truck so they could move in together.  But it hadn’t been that way with Fell and Soo Jin.  If only she could have had a chance to talk to Soo Jin when the bombs fell on Pennsylvania.  They could have made some kind of plan.  But Fell had only been able to speak to her father in California, and then the phones had stopped working.  She should have called Soo Jin first.  She didn’t even really care about her father all that much.  Just thinking about this was making Fell feel nauseated.

Every way Fell turned she was confronted by a fence with some train tracks behind it.  It seemed to go on and on, and Fell was getting frustrated.  Then she started hearing music.  She knew it might be a mistake to go to it, but she was curious.  It was hard to tell where the sound was coming from.  Then she turned on to Skillman Avenue and saw the playground.

The two men in the park looked so natural that Fell wasn’t even surprised to see them.  They were two middle-aged black men.  One was doing chin-ups on the jungle gym.  The other, less fit-looking, was sitting reading the Daily News.  It must have been an old copy, but the man seemed engrossed.  A  boom pod was next to him, blasting out the music on its tiny, high-quality speakers.

Fell approached cautiously.  The chin-up man saw her and acknowledged her with a slight nod.  He continued his workout, dropping from the bars to knock off a few pushups.

“This guy wrote to Dear Abby,” newspaper guy said.  “He’s in prison and suspects his girlfriend is seeing another man.  He’s got two more years and he’s asking her what should he do.”

“There’s nothing he can do,” chin-up man said, not even out of breath.  “He’ll sit there in prison one way or the other.”

“My point exactly.  Two years is a long time.  He went and bought a stamp from the commissary, and sent off this letter to Dear Abby.  Now he’s waiting in his jumpsuit for her reply so he can find out what he’s supposed to do!”  The man slapped his newspaper and laughed.

“That’s off the hook,” said the other man.  He was finally panting.  He lay down on his back and begins to do some sort of sit-up.

“Excuse me, do either of you have cell phones that work?” Fell ventured.

Chin-up man barked out a laugh.  “No one does,” he said.  “And I’ll tell you something.  That’s a satellite station we’re listening to.  No DJ, all music.  So the radiation isn’t interfering with no waves.”

It was what Fell expected, but she was disappointed.  “Can you tell me the way to Steinway Street in Astoria?”

“Just keep going the way you’re going and take a right on 39th Street,” chin-up man said.  “That’ll take you over Sunnyside Yard.  You cross Northern Boulevard and boom, you’re there.”

“You have a blessed day,” newspaper guy said sternly, as if he knew she would disobey him and not have a blessed day.

“Thanks, you too,” she said.  Was that the right thing to say?  It didn’t sound right.  The man’s directions were excellent.  Soon Fell was coasting along Steinway Street, lined with its familiar shops.   A black car with TLC plates was speeding along the other way, and honked at her as he passed.  The car was going so fast that a blowback breeze made Fell’s hair stand up.  The only moving car she had seen all day.

Fell turned off onto 25th Avenue and there was Soo Jin’s building.  More classy than her own, brick not aluminum siding.  Now she was sick to her stomach with nervousness.  If Soo Jin wasn’t there, she had no Plan B.

from “The Saint Under the Marsh” by Alex Fleetwood

December 30, 2009


I was saying that St Mary’s-under-Marsh used to be a Catholic girls’ school in —-. It was bombed flat in the War, and rebuilt, which means you get the usual problems with old schools: no-one tidies up these old buildings that get bombed; they just build another lot on top. When the governors decided that they’d had enough, they’d sent the student body to merge with a boys’ school down by the estuary and put the land up for tender, and near the end of that process was where we came in.

To shut down a school, this is what you do:

Arrive in two cars, not a van; that’s partly so that we can put it on the risk assessment that team members will be able to get help independently, and partly because we get jokes if all five of us turn up in a van. Normally Paul picks me up and goes on to get Becky, and Terry collects the equipment and Father Mike. The last few times, Paul and Becky have turned up to get me. Wait to be let in by the caretaker, who’s been told you’ve come to do an electrical safety test. Walk around the site, the grounds and outbuildings, taking account of any abnormal readings on your handhelds (Paul and Terry) or shivers up your spine (Father Mike and me). Whenever anything seems as if it shouldn’t be there, carry out a little superstitious ritual and take the atmospherics again. Upload the signatures to our office database as we go, to check for repeat appearances in case anything’s concealing itself on our soil by imitating the traces of our young. Drive home and argue with Paul and Becky over whether to listen to drivetime, the evening football build-up or symphonic metal in the car.

We missed the turn-off for the school the first time because I was telling Paul about which buildings had changed use on the site and we had to take a detour past the town football stadium. Paul supports West Ham, Becky supports Arsenal, Terry prefers rugby (he coaches a Colts team and the Cub Scouts) and Father Mike supports Doncaster. You learn these things about people, when you spend nine visits out of ten carrying out a ritual invented by a distraught war widow just in case of what would happen if you don’t. Summer’s when we do most of the work, needless to say; the rest of the year is tests, remedial visits, and justifying our contract every time they put a new minister into the DCSF. When the work’s slow, we get seconded around the charity to things like working groups on child poverty, which is a bit more like what I’d rather be doing; the people you meet from the other offices say they’ve never heard of your department and ask whether you’re youth field workers, which I suppose we almost are.

“I don’t spend much time with children, though,” I tend to say, and someone will invariably go, “Jealous.”

They could have brought us directly into government, but it’s probably for the best that they never did. Directors of children’s services have a hard enough job these days without the tabloids finding out they’re spending public money on woo-woo too.

Because St Mary’s-under-Marsh is Catholic, there’s been a bit of a turf war with the local bishop, and that’s why we were only getting access to the site at that time of year. I don’t know what we’re going to do about the other kinds of faith schools. It’s not my job to bother, but Terry goes to workshops about it every so often with DCSF and a stand-in for the Communities Secretary, so that they can make a show (in front of the very few people who know that there’s actually a show to make) of respecting today’s multi-faith society. My guess is that we’ll do exactly the same thing, but with an imam or a rabbi instead of Father Mike, and every so often I’ll have to take off my shoes.

Sorry, DCSF is the Department for Children, Schools and Families–or “Department for Children’s Soft Furnishings,” but I can’t take credit for that one–I heard it from a university vice-chancellor when we went in on a slow afternoon to condemn a handful of Portakabins they’d been using for foundation courses.

“You’d feel safe sending a daughter to a school like that, wouldn’t you?” Paul said when he finally hit the turn-off and saw the sign the council hadn’t taken down yet. He smiled at Becky and made it clear the important word was a daughter, not a school. “I don’t know about that,” she said, and her face fell. Paul turned his smile round on me and went, “Megan’s come out of it all right–ain’t you?” Not being Becky, I wasn’t playing up to it, so he made the best of a bad job and said, “Except it didn’t do much for her taste in men.”

He pulled in to park up in the governors’ car park.