Adaptations to Coastal Erosion – B. Morris Allen

Metaphorosis June 2016

It was after summer that Nora started to sink. Just footsteps a little deeper than usual; she saw them as she came back on her walk, comparing her outgoing, energetic pace to her homecoming, philosophical one. The prints were firm and well defined in the hard wet sand, but deep, and she tried to remember whether she had been running. But the toeprints were too clean, and besides, running, at her age? Examined, her memory…

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A question for B. Morris Allen

Q: Do you use music for inspiration? If so what do you listen to?

A: Constantly. That is, I don’t consciously look to music for inspiration, but it helps me out all the same. I like to write (and read) with music on, and every now and then something will just jump out and suggest a story to me. Given that I’m not listening with my full attention, it’s a misheard lyric as often as not. Sometimes it’s a fragment of lyric that I repurpose. Either way, it goes down in the idea file for future use.

The only time I  consciously set out to work from a song was with my first ever story, “Blind”, written in the 1980s (published in 2011). It’s a very literal interpretation of the Deep Purple song by the same name. In slightly more recent days, I stole Brian Setzer’s title “Drive Like Lightning…Crash Like Thunder” for a pair of pulpy SF adventures, and a line from Fred Eaglesmith’s “Seven Shells” for a children’s story.

Those artists give you a feeling for what I listen to: hard rock, rockabilly, and gloomy singer-songwriters. Throw in some classic country (Merle, Waylon) and some Euro-pop (Herbert Grönemeyer, Fiorella Mannoia), and that covers a lot of it.

B. Morris Allen’s story “Adaptations to Coastal Erosion” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 24 June 2016. Subscribe to our e-mail updates so you’ll know when new stories go live.

About B. Morris Allen

B. Morris Allen grew up in a house full of books that traveled the world. Nowadays, they’re e-books, and lighter to carry, but they’re still multiplying. He’s been a biochemist, an activist, and a lawyer, and now works as a foreign aid consultant. When he’s not roaming foreign countries fighting corruption, he’s on the Oregon coast, chatting with seals. In the occasional free moment, he edits Metaphorosis magazine, and works on his own speculative stories of love and disaster.

B. Morris Allen’s story “Adaptations to Coastal Erosion” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 24 June 2016. Subscribe to our e-mail updates so you’ll know when new stories go live.

Litiva noodles with a brown sauce

Litiva noodles with a brown sauce

Litiva noodles are a common food on Zubelgenubel 7. In fact, they’re the mainstay of the local diet. It’s no wonder – when I visited, I found myself tripping over them – literally. The Litiva is not so much a noodle as a root – they grow like weeds from the widespread Liva trees, and form mats so thick that I’m not actually sure what’s underneath. Maybe the Zubies are right when they say it’s noodles all the way down.Litiva noodles can be eaten raw – you’ll often see Zubie infants with a bare root in each mouth, and in fact parents create complex mazes to keep their kids active during the day – just lay the noodle, stick one end in a mouth, and the child crawls after it all day long, ideally ending up at the front door right at naptime. The noodles are good raw, but a little astringent for the human throat. A better way is to take a long root – pinkie-thick is ideal, chop it into one or two-meter segments, and lay them on a bed of coal overnight. In the morning, gather some of your hut’s roof-crud (actually an algae that respires CO2), mix it with a little brown sugar, and heat it with some water (your hut will likely have a drip tube under the bed). Cook that over the coals in a cauldron until the sugar is dissolved, and drop in the noodles. Exactly three minutes, and you’ll have a delicious breakfast for thirty. It’s said to taste just like Peruvian cloud-glass, but I find it’s more like lightly toasted glivnarth, with notes of musk-melon and maple.
from the kitchen of B. Morris Allen

A day with the drillworms

A day with the drillworms

I met Skazit the day I landed. Khamun IV is a hard planet, all gorges and boulders and sharp crystal surfaces. It’s dark, too, when the rings are angled just right in winter. I was young then; I landed in the dark zone anyway. I lost track of the ship right away. The duraline sliced in half on a crystal, and the locator beacon reflected off so many surfaces it might as well have been off. I stayed calm, though. I had a full tank of air, and all I had to do was backtrack. Think and backtrack. Take my time. If it hadn’t been for the drillworms, I’d have been fine.

We still don’t know much about the drillworms. They only come out in the dark, and they tunnel straight up through whatever’s in their way. We’re not sure what happens when they reach the air, but evidence suggests they explode. That’s what the feet of my lander suggest, anyway. Maybe that’s how the worms reproduce.

Anyway, there I was, lost in the dark, surrounded by edges, and only half a k from my lander. I’d have been able to see it if I could climb onto one of the boulders. I picked the one that looked the least sharp, and I’d put one foot into a handy notch when I felt a buzz at the sole of my other boot. I’d like to say it tickled, but truth is, it scared the heck out of me. Instinct took over, and I pushed down on the upper foot. I kicked pretty hard, I guess; I launched up in the air to the top of that boulder. I got a glimpse of my lander off to the right. Down below, where I’d been standing, something jagged and black was just poking through the surface. I windmilled for all I was worth, trying to swim through that thin atmosphere to the top of the boulder – only it wasn’t there anymore. What I’d taken for a rough sphere was now a broad cup of dark obsidian. I hit hard, and that transparent stone just folded over me as I gasped for breath. We rolled like a pinball, dancing around boulders and chasms in a rough line toward my lander. I got banged around plenty, but could see it, every revolution when my head came up top, if it happened to face that way. There were little bursts of bright orange light every now and then, and then a light tinkle. I guess that was the drillworms exploding; at the time, it looked like blaster fire. When we got to the lander, I didn’t even have to get out – the obsidian just shaped itself into a long tube that went straight up to the hatch, and spit me into the airlock. I landed on my feet and threw the hatch shut behind me. I lay there for the next hour, just shivering, except for one time, when I thought I felt something vibrate under me. Turned out it was just a kinked compressor tube.

I don’t know her name’s really Skazit; that’s just what I call her. I don’t know she’s female, either; that’s just a label. She saved my life, though. I go out there, sometimes, in the summer. Maybe late spring, early fall. Never winter. There’s a big boulder out there, about where I landed. I sit there by it and tell her how I’m doing. I bring presents sometimes. A Malatherian root-crystal, a chunk of spaflerite, maybe a shear of high-pressure axonot. They vanish. I like to think she takes them. Once, I thought I could see a crust of amethyst, deep inside the obsidian. Maybe it was just the sun.

I have a little dome now, here at the pole. We’ve got the orbital mirror to keep the lights on all the time. Not a lot of people come. It’s a beautiful place, though, if you know how to see it.

from the notebooks of B. Morris Allen