Storytime 1: Discount Skin Ticket

Discount Skin Ticket: A Cyberpunk Beginning

P.J. Post


Neon promises refract off the humidity gathering inside the display windows: cyan, chartreuse and helium-yellow; strobe lights flash to a seizure beat. The shop next door’s got a holo advertising vinyl trench coats, the ones with the buttons and the wide shoulders — always wanted one of those.

I step into the halo of a single diode hanging over a corrugated garage door. Metal scrapes on metal and a two-inch opening appears in the graffiti.

I pull the stained ticket from my suit jacket and hold it up.

An array of red lasers trace the code at the bottom. Normally they’d be verifying payment, but my scene’s less binary, sort of a discount quid pro quo. After a moment, the red winks out, and ancient chains begin to grind through gears.

This is Tiff’s chop-shop, a full day’s ride below the sun-drenched streets of the Promenade District’s Carousel boutiques; their Chroma-synth therapy includes all of the latest augmentations, next-gen variable apertures, ceramic fiber and porcelain glow-go; they even offer their clientele real coffee, with real milk, from real bio-sim cows.

Not so much down here; this is a snatch and grab, adoption re-pro outfit, specializing in mild, milquetoast hues, more marketable hues — and all of the foundation and skin work that goes with it — just dark enough for the Topsiders to feel good about themselves, but not so dark as to remind anyone of where the little sewer rats come from.

Most of them are just going to send the kids right back to a Carousel, get them cleansed and homogenized: nice white skin to match their blue eyes and blond hair, although, I hear green is making a comeback.

The white minds come later.

Incandescent light spills out onto the puddled sidewalk as the garage door rises.

“No more.” It’s Tiff. She waves her hands at me, wrinkles squeezing into a disappointed frown. “Too soon, too soon for you, Mister Miles. You go.” She’s been here since the tech went open source. Some say she had a hand in its opening, some say a lot of stuff — some don’t live that long.

I pout. It’s not very manly, but some habits die harder than others.

Her hands are stuffed into the pockets of her flowered overalls. All five feet of her glares up at me, as much as chromium optic implants can. I slip past, followed by the ever-present stench of street vendor yeast; and then she palms the wall mounted control, gently shaking her head as the gate lowers. She’s not mad, just worried. I’ve known her since I was six, the first time I came through here.

I hug her and whisper, “It’s necessary.”

“You always say that, Mister Big Job.”

I hold the ticket out. “I can even pay up front this time.”

She waves me off again. “Money no matter, too much old tech, you can’t keep doing this. No good for you.”

“Got the new chip-set to match the fingerprints?”

“Smart man, you run business now?”

I almost grin.

She doesn’t.

“Why do you still pretend you can’t speak English?” I ask casually as I pull out a Lucky Strike.

She drops the affectation, her voice as lyrical as I remember. “Because, to the discerning ear, Mister Jake Miles, it’s ugly, and to its core…vulgar.”

I grin now. “When in Rome…”

She frowns again, and then motions me through a door to the back, her gray ponytail flipping over her shoulder as she turns. “Too long in Rome,” she grumbles.

I light up and follow her down a sickly green hallway, old plastic tiles have come loose, the nearly petrified wood floor showing through. A row of old-fashioned light bulbs hang from the sagging ceiling.

Sixteen years and nothing’s changed.

She walks into her office, an empty cube of peeling wallpaper and dark carpet, and takes a seat behind a wide vid-desk. It looks out of place, until you consider the next room over, the magic behind the curtain. It’s level four clean, glowing white plastic — Chroma-synth pods line the far wall.

The only other thing in Tiff’s office is a sign nailed to the wall behind her desk, faded letters over a field of rust: Everyone is pissing on someone.

“Ticket,” she demands, but she barely glances at it before tossing it back. “No more gender re-pro.”

I rest my hands on the edge of her desk and lean forward. “Tiff, it’s my only way in.”

She sighs. “Gender reprogramming is illegal, I’m supposed to report you.”

“Never have before.”

“Jake…”

“You still have my origin chip?”

She leans back in her chair and crosses her arms.

“This is my last job, and then, I’m done with synths, promise, just one more stem session, a reboot. Tiff…I want to be me again.”

She stares at me for a long time, and then finally shakes her head, her tone tempered. “Jake, we can clone the chip, but the backup…it’s gone.”

“Don’t bullshit me, nothing digital is ever gone. Where’s my data?”

She looks to her desk display, the silent feeds reflecting in her implants.

“Tiff, you know I love you, but don’t test me.”

Her face jerks up, arms tighten across her chest, and then coolly, “Thoro-Cor.”

“The industrial harvesting company, the one in Kansas?”

She nods, but still won’t look me in the eye. “They have a massive grid, huge neuro-farm, and rather questionable security. Chroma-stem backups require massive storage, Jake, expensive storage. We snuck in…borrowed a few sectors.”

“What’s the ‘and’ part?”

“And…the Tang got involved.”

“Jesus, the Tang?” I take a drag off my Lucky, and lean against the desk, holding my head in my hands.

“This was back when they were a Lincoln stock, small time gang, back before they muscled into New Brooklyn, before they got picked up by the Dow Jones. They had a re-pro ticket, same as anyone…just business.”

“Do I want to know how they caught onto the storage scam?”

She looks down, ashamed. “Liam.”

“He’s been dead for…why didn’t you ever tell me, it’s been years.”

“And exactly what business is it of yours? The Tang get theirs, they leave me alone, but the backup data is…restricted.”

“So get permission, I can pay the fees. I got no history with the Tang.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“The hell it isn’t. Look, Tiff, I need this last job, and then I can pay whatever. Get my goddamn data.”

“Jake, it’s deadlocked.”

I drop the cigarette and take a step back.

Tiff’s voice is gentle, like she’s trying to calm one of her snatched kids. “Zia, Tang’s second…her daughter was born…they had access to all of my backup stems, Persia was trendy that summer…to repair the damage, her illness…you were so beautiful, Jasmine. They used your Chroma-stem to reboot her.”

“But…” My head is reeling.

I smell the carpet burning.

Tiff comes around the desk and takes my hand. “I can work around the gender laws, but no one has ever hacked the single license locks. Until her death is logged, your data is useless, no matter how much money you bring to the game. Jasmine, there can only be one of you.”


© Copyright 2017 – All Rights reserved.


The Fourth Sense – A Review

You could say Vetiver Quinn has a nose for crime. Born with an enhanced sense of smell, Ms. Quinn can glean a person’s past in just one sniff. This talent is perfect in her small shop, creating unique scents for her devoted customers. Add in a side job with the military, a hidden nuke and a handsome man in uniform, and you have The Fourth Sense, a great start to Delia Fontana’s new series.

When Peter Eliades (a hunky military dude) shows up in Quinn’s shop one afternoon, he knows time is running out to find and disarm a bomb hidden somewhere in the metro area, but he needs her unique gifts to find it. He also quickly learns that her sense of smell will help Quinn understand him in a way no one else can too.

The first episode of Vetiver Quinn introduces likable characters and promises a fast-paced and exciting new series. Will Peter and Vetiver be able to solve this new mystery, and how long before their working relationship gets personal?

“The Fourth Sense” was the first place story in SFWG’s 2015 Series Debut Contest.

2015 Series Debut Contest RESULTS

At long last the results are in!  We would like to thank everyone for taking the time to submit to this contest.  We sincerely apologize for the delay in announcing the results.  We unexpectedly received nearly double the number of contest submissions we had planned on and felt it was more important to get through all the submissions than it was to stay on schedule.

And now for the results!

First Prize goes to Delia Fontana for the story “The Fourth Sense.”

Second Prize goes to Wicked Red for the story “Rapturous Dawn.”

Third Prize goes to Tristan J. Tarwater for the story, “Hen and Chick.”

Always be on the lookout for future contest announcements!

NEW READ: “Her Eyes Matched the Sky” by P.J. Post

Genre:  Apocalyptic Romance

Summary:  This romance brought to you by the end of the world…

She was looking forward to her junior year of high school, obsessing about prom, getting her driver’s license and maybe even meeting her first boyfriend, but September finds her on the run, from the bombings, from looters and much, much worse.

No more homecoming.

No more homeroom.

No more home.

The United States of America is dying, dragging civilization down with it. No electricity, no cars, no phones, no infrastructure, nothing but anarchy remains. The survivors, families and struggling communities are migrating west, away from the invading armies. Some are praying for the lights to come back on, but others are embracing the New World Order, living for today and taking what they need, but mostly, what they want.

Among them are the orphaned children, scraping by in the shadows with fewer and fewer surviving the cold nights of the approaching winter. But they don’t have to be the forgotten generation.

All they need is a leader.

And she’s found him. If she can keep him alive, they may all have a chance.

Author’s Note: Feral is an ongoing Serialized story.

Buy this story on Amazon.

2015 Series Debut Contest

We are looking for series debuts that leave us hankering for more!

Submission Guidelines:

-Entries have a limit of 20,000 words. Stories beyond that will not be considered.
-Submissions should be the first episode in a series, NO prequels
-Stories may be previously published.
-Does not need to have additional episodes in series already published.
-Entries will be accepted beginning on July 6, 2015.
-Entry Deadline: August 1, 2015.
-All submissions should be sent as a PDF attachment to shortfictionwriters@gmail.com with “SFWG Contest” as the subject.
-We will announce the winners by September 1, 2015.

First Place:  Will receive an in-depth public review posted on SFWG. If winning story is up for sale, review may be published on ebook retailer of author’s choice. Winner will also be interviewed and featured here on SFWG as well as various forums and websites.

Second Place: Will be featured on the SFWG Blog and announced on various forums and websites.

Third Place: Will be featured on the SFWG Blog and announced on various forums and websites.

Share Your Web Fiction on Reddit!

This post is addressed to those of you that write/read web fiction.  And who are interested in Reddit.  The rest of you can just bugger off.

Ok, now that I’ve scared everyone away, I can continue this conversation with myself in peace.

I’ve been writing a serialized scifi blog as a for fun project side project.  Lately though I’ve been looking into different ways to tap the very niche audience that actually follows web fiction.  It’s been kind of cool!  For example, there’s a whole web serial branch of NaNoWriMo called WebSeWriMo (Web Serial Writing Month).  Whodathunk?!

Seeing as there was no Reddit category for web fiction, I decided to start my own: http://www.reddit.com/r/webfiction/

For those of you unfamiliar with Reddit, it’s basically a place to share links.  So you post a link, people can vote it up or down and then comment on it.  Think of it as a fast-paced hub for sharing the latest funny cat video.

If you’re an author it’s really not the best place to self-promote.  Any attempts to sell your own work are immediately voted down.  But blog posts that are fun/interesting are generally well-received.  For awhile I had been posting under the science fiction category but I thought it might be fun to try and start this little web fiction community.

So if you’re interested, you should definitely check this out and subscribe to the group.

Pacing and Consistency

At the beginning of this year my life got busier.  It’s all good things, nothing bad.  And the extra busyness is temporary (I hope).  But, needless to say, it has put a cramp in my writing output.

This cramp led to some frustrations.  When I got back from my Christmas break I just couldn’t get back in my groove.  It seemed like something was always getting in the way of cranking out my 850 words (daily goal in 2014).

I was forced to take a step back.  I love writing but it’s not my primary source of income.  And I realized that the frustration I felt was sucking all the enjoyment I gleaned from the process.

It wasn’t worth it!

So I dropped the rigorous schedule I had built up for myself last year.  That schedule worked for 2014, not 2015.  I contented myself with just writing every day, word count be damned.  I’m still making steady progress just maybe not as much as I used to.  And I’m ok with that for right now.  The joy returned when I sit down to write so I believe the decision was a good one.

Consistency is key when it comes to writing.  I realized that this will probably not be the last readjustment I’ll have to make.  Life gets in the way but that doesn’t mean the writing has to stop.  Writing is a lifestyle.  You make it work.

Interview with 2014 Flash Fiction Contest Winner, Jennifer Vandenberg

Jennifer Vendenberg won first place in SFWG’s 2014 Flash Fiction Contest with her story, “Advice from Siblings.”  The theme of the contest was “Evil Christmas” but it was entirely up to the contestants how they wanted to interrupt that theme in 1,000 words or less.

For those that didn’t get the opportunity to read your story, tell us the gist of your tale and the source of your inspiration. 

“Advice from Siblings” is a story about two people who want to break up with each other and their siblings who are giving advice that may or may not be helpful. It explores the idea of what makes a person do evil things and are evil deeds that are done on Christmas too evil to consider.

I had started a dozen stories that were about evil Christmas but I couldn’t finish any of them. They were all heavily Christmas themed, with Santa and elves, and I just couldn’t make Santa evil. With the deadline pressing I started complaining on the page. This is something I often do when I feel I have nothing to write about. I just type all my fears and desires on the page. I am a discovery writer (a pantser) and I find that when I type about what is bothering me a story often emerges. This time my complaining turned into two guys talking over lunch and I realized I could finish this story.

We really liked how “Advice from Siblings” explored a different side to evil than the obvious slasher horror.  Could you maybe go into why you chose that approach?

I rarely read horror and I only watch light horror movies. When I heard the theme was evil Christmas I never thought it would be a slasher story. I always knew I would write about the evil that is more devious and emotionally destructive. This was one reason why none of my Santa stories worked. I could not convince myself or the reader that Santa had any evil in him.

Is flash fiction something you write regularly?  Why or why not?

I love writing short fiction but I find flash fiction to be much harder. The only time I write flash fiction is when I am entering a writing contest. “Advice from Siblings” feels like one scene out of a larger story. Most of the time I would write out the entire story. However, I really liked the challenge of writing flash fiction and I want to do it more often.

Any advice for those interested in experimenting with flash fiction for the first time? 

Keep the number of characters small and focus on one setting. If you do that then you can put a lot of detail in your story even though you don’t have many words to work with. Most of my stories that didn’t work were too complicated and would have been very shallow had I actually squeezed them into a thousand words.

Also, write many versions of the story. I think I was able to finish “Advice from Siblings” because I had written a variety of evil Christmas stories and I learned from those stories what worked and didn’t work for me.

Lastly, never give up. When I didn’t have a finished story two days before the deadline I could have decided it wasn’t important and stopped trying to find the right words. Instead I kept working on it and won. You only lose if you stop writing.

Thank you, Jennifer!  Be sure to check out her other work on Amazon.

Advice from Siblings – A Review

Jennifer Vandenberg’s Advice from Siblings is light but not simple, textured but not harsh, and neither is it predictably literal. However, it is refreshingly infused with selfishness and a moral ambiguity that belies the honest humor inherent in this tale of emotional conundrums. Advice is a charming little gem that played out perfectly with SFWG’s Evil Christmas Holiday Flash Fiction Contest, taking first place as the unanimous favorite.

At its heart, the story illustrates that evil, although most often associated with horror and overt acts of malevolence, is a slippery notion at best, often born of good intentions, but maligned by manipulation and baseless fear. And for Jon, our protagonist, Christmas Eve is just another day of dealing with his controlling girlfriend and her ever changing list of acceptable behavior. Jennifer shows us that evil can wear many masks and go by many names, even ones masquerading under the guise of altruism.

Flash fiction, by its very nature, cuts to the chase, omitting the breadth in favor of depth. Jennifer Vandenberg reaffirms in Advice from Siblings that the richness of the tale need not depend upon anything as pedestrian as word count.

“Advice from Siblings” was the first place story in SFWG’s 2014 Flash Fiction Contest.