Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and a Round up of Sarah’s for Pay Posts of the Week

Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike

So what’s a vignette? You might know them as flash fiction, or even just sketches. We will provide a prompt each Sunday that you can use directly (including it in your work) or just as an inspiration. You, in turn, will write about 50 words (yes, we are going for short shorts! Not even a Drabble 100 words, just half that!). Then post it! For an additional challenge, you can aim to make it exactly 50 words, if you like.

We recommend that if you have an original vignette, you post that as a new reply. If you are commenting on someone’s vignette, then post that as a reply to the vignette. Comments — this is writing practice, so comments should be aimed at helping someone be a better writer, not at crushing them. And since these are likely to be drafts, don’t jump up and down too hard on typos and grammar.

If you have questions, feel free to ask.

Your writing prompt this week is: appear

Sarah’s Posts of the Week At PJMedia

The Puffington Host Now Doing Bad Science Fiction

The Twilight of the Liberal Gods

Has Michelle Obama Ever Met A Human Woman?

The Lieutenant Wouldn’t Like It

Would Obamacare Repeal Mean More Abortion?

68 thoughts on “Sunday Vignettes by Luke, Mary Catelli and ‘Nother Mike and a Round up of Sarah’s for Pay Posts of the Week

  1. Someone entered her cubical. She looked up from the phone, heart dropping. She collected herself, asking him, “What brings you here?”

    “I was in the area.”

    “With a hurricane approaching?”

    “Yup, appears so.” Grinning, he sat on the edge of her desk.

    “You hate them, claimed its why you left.”

  2. Barbara had faith. It would appear; it had to. And so she waited, like a kindergartener waiting for Santa Clause, or like Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin. She watched Russia first, then when that failed, China, and most recently Venezuela. She was waiting for the appearance of true socialism.

    1. She had read her Marx and Engles. She knew that for true socialism to take place it would not be by revolution, but by evolution. Europe had started down the path, but was proving too bureaucratic for real development. Now her eyes were on the United States, it looked promising.

  3. There was a *POP*. Turning to look, there was an odd little tape cassette that had NOT been there a moment ago. Alright, they got the “impossible” teleporter working. But really now? At least they weren’t making things from her office disappear. Still, this was rather silly: a DAT-appear instead.

    1. Dr. Barnstable insisted on dictating his notes on cassette. Where did he leave it? There. She inserted the cassette, pushing play. It proved to be a mixed tape of 1970’s pop hits. Startled she knocked an atomic vector plotter hooked to logic circuits into her cup of nice hot tea.


    One world only? Doing ALL the experimentation on the ONLY production model? Insanity. We need no less than three backups, minimum.

    And that gets repeated… One star-system only? Etc.
    Eventually.. One galaxy only?
    After that, it might get complicated.. true Universal engineering is apt to be tricky.

  5. “Look these things just don’t appear out of thin air you know. Ideas, wishes, you name it. Things like that are sown carefully like seeds and nurtured until they sprout. This, abomination of yours must have had something to feed it before being thrown full length on the page.”

    1. Galloway Gallegher sighed. ‘What is possible and what is true,’ he explained, ‘have not always coincided in my experience. Too many times I have woken up to the improbable. The stories must come from somewhere, yes, they must, but when they arrive they always appear full length on the page.’

  6. Opening the word processor the wallaby began typing random characters, bereft of inspiration. Surely, thought the wallaby, if a million monkeys at a million typewriters could eventually type the Dickens out of one of them, one wallaby working at a word processor could eventually, in time, make something Lovecraftian appear?

    1. Reading the posted vignettes I could not help but wonder. Many strange bits had been offered based on the Sunday prompts. That this might appear in the line did not surprise, but the simple proposition that a wallaby, any wallaby, would wish to write something Lovecraftian is, well, rather Lovecraftian.

      1. ‘Tis a gif to be simple, ’tis a gif to be free.

        ’tis a gif for it to appear right where it ought to be.

  7. I thought the demon would appear in a puff of sulphurous smoke. I had finished the spell and nothing had happened. I sighed and put down the blood stained parchment thinking about where I went wrong. The deep ominous voice intruded on my thoughts from the kitchen, “Hey do all you damned hipsters have to like these over hopped abominations?”

  8. She looked about quickly. Those calling appeared nowhere in her light of sight — all of which was brightly lit, if heavy with dust, both the sunbeams and the ruin, leaving all gray. She inched outward. She could hardly make out any shadowed places at all.
    “Where are you?” she called.

  9. The leafless trees appeared more clearly. And more forest behind them. Goldenrod peppering the edge with spots of gold, and over it, the green leaves turned, here and there, to a brilliant gold.
    Lilac breathed a sigh of relief as Carolus handed her down. There was even still the path.

  10. Ahead, a thick bush, golden leafed, laden with emerald green berries, was filled with twittering, but the only sign that appeared was shifting leaves that no breeze could account for.
    When they drew level with it, an enormous flock of tiny birds, smaller than a sparrow, brilliantly gold, surged out.

  11. The raiders soon began to flee. ‘Advance the line!’ came the call and the Fyrd obeyed, continuing to push forward while their lighter-armed allies appeared on the exposed enemy flanks. Mirren became caught up in a battle fury, using his shield to unbalance opponents while his spear licked into them.

  12. She trudged through the desert, her food and water long gone. She didn’t know how much longer she could last, but she fought for every step.

    Rounding another dune, she saw her salvation… an oasis. Hungrily she reached…

    Huh? “Appear”, not “a pear”? I guess it could be a mirage…

  13. Linus sat in the pumpkin patch, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear.
    “Surely, this will be the year”, he thought, as the full moon rose over the horizon. “No pumpkin patch could be more sincere than mine.”
    Behind him, the largest pumpkin in the patch began to grow fangs.

  14. “With every passing year, our smart communication devices get more and more anthropomorphic. It seems the public wants more ‘friendly’ technology”

    “I realize that, but this is getting ridiculous. What, for example, is that fleshy growth on the side of the device?”

    “Why that, my dear fellow, is the app-ear.”

  15. When Houdini claimed to be able to make the living appear, Hearst sent me to investigate. And there, before a packed house in Greater New York, he did precisely that. Some claimed it was naught but an illusion. But it was real; I was there. And this is what happened.

  16. The B minor verse sounded wrong to her ear.
    She wondered out loud when her muse would appear.
    She rewrote the verse but was troubled by fear:
    Her songs might be wrecked by uproarious jeers.
    Praying and pleading and mustering her cheer,
    She loaded the washer and opened a beer.

  17. Reginald Waite was just falling asleep when a cacophony of shouts and electronic alarms snapped him back to wakefulness. He groped for his comm headset before opening the tiny chamber that served as his sleeping quarters aboard Freedom Station. What the hell is going on?

    Several other astronauts hurried past, traveling hand over hand along the bot-rail down the station’s main axis. Better stay put while they got through. It would give him time to get his comm headset properly situated and find out what was going on.

    On the other hand, there were some things you really didn’t want to hear over a space station comm channel. Although Waite had been a die-hard Lovecraft fan since middle school, he preferred his weird to stay between the covers of a book.

    For starters, spacecraft didn’t just appear out of nowhere. That was one of the greatest problems for military operations in space — the difficulty of concealing anything you were doing. So how in the name of all the Great Old Ones had someone managed to attain just that kind of tactical surprise?

  18. Thank you for the weekly summary of PJM pieces. Although I’m going to have to ration myself to one a day, I just about overloaded with wisdom there…

    Since PJM does not archive indefinitely, I’m being somewhat of a bad boy and making a copy of “The Lieutenant Wouldn’t Like It.”

      1. Dang it, woman! This here office chair collapses in the near future, it’s all your fault!

        One thing for a 30 pound child to be hopping up and down while going around in circles and shouting “Whee!” – a very different thing for a 180 pound adult!

      2. Good thinking – and you can do the same the following year with another SF (or even mystery) author. There are not many authors with the stature of Heinlein, of course, but that isn’t necessarily a cap on the plan. You could do a series on “forgotten” SF authors, such as Simak, or Kornbluth or Kuttner or Robert Bloch. Or you might look at trends in the genre by decade, covering significant themes, stylistic developments, writers and editors. Surely it is worth looking at whether the “New Wave” was actually very new or even a wave. Even if there are authors who do not necessarily merit an entire book, surely you could do several columns on, say, H. Beam Piper, another couple on L. Neil Smith, and a few more columns worth of other libertarian authors.

        You could even tread on the thin ice of looking at how certain other authors accept and promote socialist themes or assumptions in their SF.

        In the mystery it seems likely it is time for critical re-evaluation of Christie. She’s still read, sure, but only by people who buy their books. Those who get theirs in the form of ARCs or review copies could use a little of their snobbery bled off before they get so puffed up on hot air they burst. Rex Stout is another who gets less critical love than he deserves; remember a decade or two back when they re-released the full Nero Wolfe series with forward/afterwards by prominent mystery writers … and had no problem finding people to sing his praises for almost eighty books.

        1. OK, you have stated that you have already have assembled a to-read pile which should keep you alive for many decades to come are you suggesting that a creation of a lengthy to-write pile for Our Esteemed Hostess would keep her going for many decades to come? Somehow I don’t think the powers of the universe can be so easily tricked. If it were so I would gladly encourage it.

          Anyway, from what I have observed Our Esteemed Hostess seems to have a brilliant but ADHD Muse who is quite capable piling inspiration upon her as well as of pushing and pulling her in all too many directions at once.

  19. The images were uninvited, but the young woman couldn’t stop them: the duke’s sneer, his lecherous hands. Fabric tearing. The desperately flailed ax. The duke, cross-eyed and stupid with shock, toppling slowly. Hastily-gathered belongings; what did she forget? It hardly mattered. Then came the running, without daring to look back.

    1. A vividly solid punch of impact, there, but where’s the “appear” link? Maybe I’m just missing it.

  20. Being captured and tortured by the Ashkari would probably be worse than this, Andric told himself firmly, but it was getting harder and harder to believe that. The filthy burnous around his head was trapping his sweat in his dark hair, making his scalp itch fiercely, and the fabric of his tattered and stained robes was smelling worse by the minute with the heat coming off his body. He huddled further into himself, just another beggar at an alley as the crowds of Bel-Tariq boiled by, praying desperately to the Aempyrean that Carilos would be back soon. How much time did it take to explore one laneway, for the Fire’s sake–?!

    “Andric!” At the sotto voce cry, Andric jumped, then sighed in relief and scrambled down the alley to where Carilos, likewise swathed in dirty Ashkari robes, crouched against one wall with his broad hand held up to the plaster. Black, jagged lines of ash scored the yellowed plaster in a vaguely circular pattern. Carilos was muttering under his breath, moving his hand around the circle, sparks jumping from fingertip to wall and back again.

    Andric narrowed his eyes at the wall. “This is where the stone came through?”

    “So it would appear,” muttered Carilos, and snorted abruptly. “Or so it did appear, in fact. Which makes sense.” He jerked his head at the alley’s opposite wall without looking. “Three wagers where the new ward pattern for the High Hall of Alakhir ends, and the first two don’t count.”

    “Name of the Fire.” Andric stared at the opposite wall, feeling the crackling power of the wards in the nerve ends of his skin. “What would have happened if my scrying had penetrated wards like that?”

    “In the manner you were doing it? Probably an aethyric feedback that would have destroyed both the Quindriel and the High Hall,” said Carilos. “Shame, really; that would probably have bought all of us another twenty years of peace.” He didn’t sound as if he was joking — which meant he almost certainly was, Carilos’s wit often tended to the deadpan black, but . . . Andric gulped.

    1. This is quite an interesting scene. Tantalizing hints of a magic system I’d like to see more of, to understand rather than half-understand or suspect…

      1. I’ve done a few other vignettes in this background; you can find them by searching Sarah’s blog for the terms “vignettes” and “Andric”. I confess I haven’t really worked out a lot of it myself yet, formally, but I suspect there will be a story or two coming out of it at some point.

  21. Fecklessness. Sheer fecklessness.
    Asaph Dawkins stared at the Jack-card in his hands. Carefully and neatly punched, well and tightly strung along with its fellow Operation cards. But slightly imperfect, and therefore wholly damned to numerical perdition.
    Not enough for the Operation, Variable, Number card strings to *appear* correct, they had to *be* so. Esse, quam videre, as his Latin copybook headings had occasionally said.
    The index of the sinful Ascertaining card was punched nought, +1+5, +1+3+5: 0-6-9 cards to turn the reading-prism within the Operation card string to find the next Operation for the Engine to run. But of course, the encoding sheet in his hands said, it should have “pointed” to the 089th card next, not the 069th. Thereby making a cat’s cradle of all its numerical knitting.
    Since the second column should’ve gone +3+5, not +1+5. One punch in one row slipped, only that and all that. And not all the caring and solicitude in all the world could call it back.
    And of course he had done and made all that himself; so all its sins were truly his own.

    “Mr. Tourneyron?”
    “Yes, Dawkins?” He’d looked up from his work neutrally and naturally enough.
    “As you’ve likely heard, we’ve had a flush on the big Engine Serial 3. My doing.”
    Heard, was right. Pulling the interrupting handle — a wooden handle on a chain so like the one on Thomas Crapper’s signature invention it was called a ‘flush’ or even ‘doing a Crapper’ by the Engine men around him — always rang a bell of a specific tone, another of the many and various clever touches of the illustrious inventor back of all the brass magic around him.
    Algernon Tourneyron was surely one of the last and least of the FOBs. But the Friends of Babbage, those lucky men and a few women like the utterly redoubtable Lady Byron herself, were now a permanently-uncrossable cut above the rest of ordinary humanity, since the Old Man (as some called him out of hearing of their superiors) had gone to his eternal reward.
    “Your doing all the way, then? I’d dare to presume you can show me the blot then, with that string in your hands so firmly held.” Tourneyron was sounding either kind, or baiting, one.
    “Yes, sir, an off-punch, a +1 for a +3 in the index of an Ascertaining Operation. My work.”
    “So you did Flush the calculation, and hand the Engine off to the next loader for his work?”
    “Of course.”
    “And how much Machine time would you say was lost?”
    “No more than five minutes, I was watching the Tabulating Unit and the counts were off the map much too far.” (The Tabulator counted each Operation card by its position in the string, and the Variable cards just the same. It needed only an axis revolving once for each card position and a reciprocating shaft “kicking” once per reading to drive it. And of course a string of each less then two hundred cards long to work comprehensively.)
    “Well, then, only five minutes of Machine time gone.”
    “I still must beg your pardon, sir. I know the expense and value of the Analytical Engines well enough. And as they say here, fecklessness in, dustbin out.”
    Tourneyron picked up his pen and put it firmly in its stand so the nib wouldn’t dry. “Were you woolgathering as you punched that Card? Perhaps daydreaming of next Saturday night with your young lady?”
    “No, sir!”
    “So you did exercise proper care all the way to pulling the Start lever?”
    “I’d warrant I did, sir.”
    Tourneyron leaned back in his chair. Which was usually, Dawkins had found, either a good thing or a very bad one. “You were on the Difference Engine No. 2 Ser. 5, the newest one, up till a month ago, right?”
    Dawkins was sure it was not really a question, but dutifully said “yes” anyway.
    “How many carry levers are there on a standard No. 2 pattern Difference Engine?”
    Never mind the oddness… “Eight axes times thirty carrying places, highest axis does not carry, seven times thirty would be two hundred ten levers by my reckoning, sir.”
    “And what happens to a calculation when one of them breaks in the middle of a run?”
    “Oh, well, nothing good. And if that position’s carry *is* disabled, to break the column, the lever isn’t hardly going to break anyway.” Asaph though for a moment. “Sooner, not later, that will make an error, which will quickly spoil all the rest of the values.”
    “And what can you do to assure those levers will never break, Dawkins, on any given run?”
    “Ah, Mr. Tourneyron, nothing. Nothing humanly possible whatever. They just do.”
    “Quite. You stop, replace the lever, go back to the most recent check-point where the run was stopped to write out the state, and re-start from that point with a whole Machine.”
    Algernon Tourneyron, Friend of Babbage and current familiar of the Sorceress of Number herself, half hid a smile that was more wistful than anything else. “You know what Lady Byron says, every once in a while, ‘Our reach *must* exceed our grasp, or what’s a Heaven for?’”
    “If you say so, sir.”
    “Aspire to perfection, Dawkins, always, Number itself demands it. But pray never deceive yourself you’ve become as perfect as It must be.” And he turned down to his work again, the dismissal clear this time as every time. But then it was, surprisingly, retracted.
    “And, Dawkins?”
    “Yes, sir?”
    “Be of good cheer. We’ll make a proper Engine man of you yet.”
    There was nothing to say to that but, “Yes, sir.”
    And nothing to do with it but get back to work.

    1. If this is out of an actual novel-in-progress I can only say I will definitely be interested to see the result. Stories that actually explain steampunk technologies like difference engines fascinate me.

      1. Well, it is and it isn’t part of a novel. I did and didn’t make it up. This takes some explaining…

        This vignette scene isn’t directly “in line” of a longer work, both “foreground” characters are new (as befits a vignette, especially an extended one). But the setting is specifically part of a longer alternate-history, hard steampunk version of the Civil War Between the States — where both the Difference Engine and the Analytical Engine get built in the 1860s (the DE wasn’t built until the 1990s and the AE is currently the subject of the “Plan 28” effort to build the first one), and where Ada King (Lovelace) *doesn’t* die of cancer in the early 1850s (and then becomes Lady Byron by outliving her mother).
        If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit this will take three serial, linked novels to finish telling.
        And perhaps a few extra stories too, see below.
        The “Crapper bar” and the “Tabulator” here are my own invention; but the rest (up to little “blots” of my own bad memory or research maybe here or there) is due to Charles Babbage.

        That’s right, the Operation, Variable, Number cards, the Jacquard-like cards (and the barrels that they control, very much like today’s microcode), the +1-1+3+5 encoding, all of it, are his. Not SF but history and engineering. The AE instruction set (particularly the conditional branches of the Ascertaining Operation) is due to a paper by Allan Bromley (which unfortunately is mired behind a ~$30 paywall) based on the Babbage papers in the Science Museum in London — which built the actual Difference Engines No. 2 Ser. 1 & 2, that now rest respectively in the Science Museum and some computer museum in California. (There are pictures and even movies on the Internet.)
        So it wasn’t necessary to make up that bit about the carry levers breaking, that’s a real thing, one more example of what you can learn only by actually building and operating stuff like this.

        This idea of “hard steampunk” is one I’ve basically (as far as I know) had to invent — much as I do enjoy things like Cherie Priest’s “Clockwork Century” series or even Phil and Kaya Foglio’s Agatha Heterodyne series, I just like to see the “would work or almost work” kind better. (Jim Baen said, long enough ago I can’t remember his exact words, that he liked “SF where you can see the rivets” or something very like it; and so do I.) And it turns out the way I write is, ah, geared to knowing the kind of detail (real or fictional) this involves — much of the action and events comes out of that, or the personalities of the characters (real or fictional), or both. Like it or not.
        Which basically lets me in for a lot of work, but it’s almost always both fun and worth it.
        And this vignette is basically my first “proof of principle” that I can write directly and “realistically” in this setting *and* about the Analytical and Difference Engines. So, still “immensely useful” as I said a while back. Thanks, everyone, for this whole wonderful World of Vignettes.

        So it’s really nice to have at least one person who likes hard steampunk and wants to read more of it (besides me of course). There are a lot more historical or semi-historical inventions and ideas besides this one, it’s consistently amazed me just how *very* much stuff like that is out there once you start looking for it (or once it starts to find you). There are at least one or two stories that I could tell in this setting that are set early enough they don’t, basically, amount to giant spoilers beginning to end (like, say, “The Brick Moon’s Little Brother” does).
        And, yes, the rivets *will* be visible in all of them.

  22. Hopefully I won’t get whacked with a member of Cyprinidae for this one.

    It’s amazing how much money you can make going to cons as a guest. The con pays you a base fee, followed by picking up expenses for the hotel and meals. Then you get to sell memorabilia, and charge for photos and autographs. Considering all you get, appearances are receiving.

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