'Shared Worlds': Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman Write Flash Fiction (EXCERPTS)

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Thanks to Boing Boing for pointing out the best time-suck of the day: a new collection of sci-fi flash fiction from the likes of Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, IO9 contributing editor Ann VanderMeer, Scott Westerfeld, Michael Moorcock, Gene Wolfe, N.K Jemisin, and plenty more. The stories come from the excellent site for Shared Worlds, a teen sci-fi/fantasy writing camp run by Wofford College that's snagged VanderMeer among others as guest speakers this summer.

Working off a colorful mural by Las Vegas artist Jeremy Zerfoss, the writers penned descriptions of each monster Zerfoss depicted. Gaiman took on the tentacled, red-eyed "Shadder."

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"Some creatures hunt. Some creatures forage. The Shadder lurks. Sometimes, admittedly, it skulks. But mostly, it just lurks. The Shadder do not make webs. The world is their web. The Shadder do not dig pits. If you are here you have already fallen. There are animals that chase you down, run fast as the wind, tirelessly, to sink their fangs into you, to drag you down. Shadder do not chase. They simply go to the place where you will be, when the chase is over, and they wait for you there, somewhere dark and indeterminate. They find the last place you would look, and wait there, as long as they need to wait, until it becomes the last place that you look and you see them. You cannot hide from the Shadder. They were there first. You cannot outrun the Shadder. They are waiting at your journey's end. You cannot fight the Shadder, because they are patient, and they will wait until the last day of all, the day that the fight has gone out of you, the day that you are done with fighting, the day the last blow has been thrown, the last knife-blow struck, the last cruel word spoken; and then, and only then, will the Shadder come out. They eat nothing that is not ready to be eaten. Look behind you."

Our favorite blurb is Grossman's take on Zerfoss' seemingly happy sun. Never has a cartoon smile been made to seem so sinister.

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"This appears to be a happy sun, the kind that an innocent child might draw amid fluffy white clouds in a bright blue sky. Do not be fooled. This is not a happy sun, and it does not wish you well. The Solar Medusa is a floating, translucent gasbag that cleverly interposes itself between you and the real sun, lining up its outline so that when it is in position its presence is nearly undetectable to the naked eye. Once the medusa's prey—that's you—is blinded by the glare, it lowers its long, golden tentacles—what might be termed its 'rays'—and draws you up into its warm, sunny embrace. The process of digestion takes weeks. You won't enjoy it."

For Vandermeer's version of Greek sirens and all the rest of the stories, head on over to Shared Worlds.

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