A new stretch goal! Which is your favorite short-short story by Bruce Holland Rogers? You might get a chance to introduce that story to readers of a free paperback book of Bruce's stories, Freebie. See the latest update for details. One random winner will be chosen from among current backers at the $5,300 mark and again at $5,800.
This project now funds cinema, too! My ultimate stretch goal of $4,800 will pay for 18 months of advertising at Eugene's Bijou Art Cinema. Your pledge supports fiction, film...and metaphoric fossil mammals!
This is a "Kicking It Forward" Kickstarter project! Five percent of profits will fund the Kickstarter campaigns of other creators! Pay it forward!
Consider early mammals skittering through the underbrush at the feet of dinosaurs. What plucky little guys and gals they were, like insectivorous mice with long snouts and too many teeth. I admire them, and so should you.
They are just like the short-short stories and flash fiction of our century, living at the feet of the publishing dinosaurs. These early mammals/brief fictions are not the most obvious creatures in a landscape, but with fast-beating little hearts they live lives of passion.
Dear friends, passing strangers, people who have come upon this Kickstarter project by accident, please pause for a moment and consider giving your support to the speeding heart of the short-short story and to one of its more practiced creators.
I'm Bruce Holland Rogers. I'm good at writing very short fiction. I have the awards to back up that claim. But like a Jurassic mammal, I have to live by my wits in the underbrush. The publishing world is so dominated by the novel, that I have to dash this way and that, snatching insects from the swampy air.
Some of you who know my work already love it. Some of you who don't know my work have never heard of me even though I've been writing and publishing for three decades. If you don't know my stories, please visit shortshortshort.com to look at some sample stories. Or just Google my name.
Although I have written work of various lengths, I am best known and most active as a writer of very short narratives. It's hard for a writer to make a name, much less a living, at such lengths, but I continue to write mostly short-short stories as an artistic choice. I love the challenge of telling the story in brief. I love the particular kinds of stories that can be told briefly, stories that can be entirely conventional or wildly experimental, yet still satisfy the reader because they are so very short and almost always deliver a pay-off worthy of the page or two invested. I love short-shorts because, unlike the guaranteed imperfection and imperfectibility of novels, those towering dinosaurs too big to be without blemish, these little literary gems can sometimes be without flaw.
This project, a print collection of 49 stories, is really three projects in one.
First, it is a print collection of some of my best stories from the last ten years of writing. I plan to bring this collection out as an ebook, but I think that very good, very polished stories deserve to live on the time-honored matrix of a paper page as well. Forty-nine is “a square of stories” because it consists of seven sections of seven stories each. Five sections are made of mixed stories. Two sections are special: “Story Stories,” in which stories themselves are the metafictional stars of the stories, and “The Seven Deadly Hotels,” in which each of the deadly sins is re-imagined as an overnight (or longer) stay.
Second, this project is an invitation to collaborate. Some of the rewards will generate new stories that will be “after stories” in the print edition, and in the print edition alone. (And if the project funds without any of those rewards having been claimed, I will invite other donors, chosen at random, to provide the raw material for these additional stories if they wish.)
Third, this trade paperback and this Kickstarter campaign are in service to a larger project: getting me back to a financially sustainable literary career.
I've been there before, through a mix of conventional and independent publishing. At its high water mark, my email subscription service, shortshortshort.com, had a thousand subscribers. In recent years, for personal reasons, I have not aggressively marketed shortshortshort.com, and the subscriber base has fallen through normal attrition. However, if I can get my subscriber base back to one thousand, then double it to two thousand, if I can get all of my existing work back into print independently, and add a couple more books to my frontlist, I'll be making what I need to sustain myself and my writing again. Every project helps bring me a step closer to that. Every book pre-ordered, every Kickstarter patron who visits shortshortshort.com and learns about my stories brings me nearer to having the supportive audience I need to publish not just this book, but my out-of-print collections, my not-yet-collected stories, and fresh, new, sparkly, shiny stories at the rate of three a month.
If you, too, are a mammal, if you have sympathy for quick little mammals with many, many teeth, then I hope you'll support this effort and, thus, the larger effort behind it.
And if you are a dinosaur... Could you please stand over there with your clumsy mammal-crushing feet? No, even farther. Thank you.
By Bruce Holland Rogers
Peg said to me, "You’re sure you want to come? They don’t always know until the blood tests come back." But I wanted to take the day off. This was an occasion. Besides, it was a beautiful day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We took a streetcar, then walked two blocks. In the trees over Chester Avenue, squirrels frolicked and robins chirped. I saw people walking jolly dogs. Sunlight glinted on the windshields of parked cars. I held Peg’s hand.
The nurse called Peg’s name and took her to see the doctor. When Peg reappeared, she had a smile for me. "They’ll call when they get the lab report. But the doctor says she can already tell. I am. You’re going to be a daddy."
I smiled. I kissed her. As we walked hand in hand to the streetcar stop, I noticed again that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and I remembered that sunlight can give you cancer. I wished for an umbrella. The trees over Chester Avenue were full of squirrels and robins. The fleas on squirrels can transmit plague. Birds made me think of West Nile virus. And all these dogs... Any one of them can bite, can carry rabies. As we crossed the street, I glared at the drivers. Sharp chrome. Glass. Peg said, "You’re hurting my hand." I said I was sorry, and I lessened my grip. But not much.
By Bruce Holland Rogers
When he was very young, he waved his arms, gnashed the teeth of his massive jaws, and tromped around the house so that the dishes trembled in the china cabinet. "Oh, for goodness sake," his mother said. "You are not a dinosaur! You are a human being!" Since he was not a dinosaur, he thought for a time that he might be a pirate. "Seriously," his father said at some point, "what do you want to be?" A fireman, then. Or a policeman. Or a soldier. Some kind of hero. But in high school they gave him tests and told him he was very good with numbers. Perhaps he would like to be a math teacher? That was respectable. Or a tax accountant? He could make a lot of money doing that. It seemed a good idea to make money, what with falling in love and thinking about raising a family. So he was a tax accountant, even though he sometimes regretted that it made him, well, small. And he felt even smaller when he was no longer a tax accountant, but a retired tax accountant. Still worse, a retired tax accountant who forgot things. He forgot to take the garbage to the curb, forgot to take his pill, forgot to turn his hearing aid back on. Every day it seemed he had forgotten more things, important things, like which of his children lived in San Francisco and which of his children were married or divorced.
Then one day when he was out for a walk by the lake, he forgot what his mother had told him. He forgot that he was not a dinosaur. He stood blinking his dinosaur eyes in the bright sunlight, feeling the familiar warmth on his dinosaur skin, watching dragonflies flitting among the horsetails at the water's edge.
Donat Bobet’s Halloween
By Bruce Holland Rogers
Donat Bobet invited me to his home for the night of Halloween. I came as a pirate, a costume which I assembled out of a bandana and the cardboard spool from a roll of paper towels. I tied the bandana on my head. Before I stuck the cardboard tube into my belt, I wrote on it with bold, piratical letters: Wooden Sword. I considered whether or not to write on my face with a black marker the words False Beard. I decided against it. I had work the next day, and the ink might not come off.
I arrived a little after the appointed hour. I knocked on the poet's door, expecting that the party would already be underway. To my surprise, when Donat opened the door to his rooms, he was entirely alone.
"Am I the first?" I said.
He looked puzzled. "The first?" Then he saw my sword. "Ah! No! I should have explained myself," he said. "This is no party for the grown-ups. For me, Halloween is an affair entirely for the children! I meant only that you might come and help me with the candy!"
"And you have gone to the trouble of making a costume! A very fine one, too!"
"You can tell what I am, then?"
"My friend, do you think I do not have eyes in my head? But one moment!" There were colored pens on his dining table, and small squares of paper, many with writing and drawing on them. He took up a blank piece and wrote on it in red: Scarlet Macaw. He pinned the bird to my shoulder. "There!"
"Thank you," I said.
"That pulls it all together, I think."
"And what sort of candy will we be giving the children?"
"I'm afraid that I have eaten it all," Donat confessed. "There is nothing to give them but the wrappers." He picked up three of the squares of paper and gave them to me.
The first, with a red and yellow design, said Sugar Bomb. "Ingredients: Raw sugar, corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, brown sugar, gunpowder, BANG!"
The second, with a blue moon and white stars against a black background, was called Space Dust. "Ingredients: Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus, sulfur. May contain traces of the rings of Saturn."
The third candy wrapper was for Dead Poet Yummy. "Ingredients: Spun sugar and air. Some of the air in this candy was once breathed by Jean Genet. Swallow it whole and then write a poem about stealing, you little thief!"
"But," I said, "aren't the children disappointed?"
"Ah, the children," said Donat Bobet. "They never come."
The painting featured in the video and on my web site is "He Hadn't an Inkling" by Alan M. Clark. Alan is a fabulous illustrator and supporter of fellow artists. Check out more of his work at http://www.alanmclark.com.
The termites ate it. And died from it.
Well, actually I'm engaging in a bit of what Donat calls "poetic memory." What really happened is that a benafactor outside of this campaign offered to underwrite the protection of my home from further termitic digestion.
However, Donat has informed me that even though we have contracted with an exterminator to kill the actual termites, my office is still infested with imaginary termites. Thus, a special reward has been added to deal with these pests.
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