Fantasy Faction, one of the largest fantasy (and SF and horror and...) sites, has a monthly flash fiction contest. November's theme is "Doors." Subs must be between 500-1500 words, and both prose and poetry are accepted. I've submitted my first entry, The Dragon in the Attic, a 1300-word YA dystopian horror about a little girl with her very own dragon. Sort of.
So have I enjoyed anything I've read lately? Well, yes! Until recently, I'd never heard of the Laundry series. Then Charles Stross's Equoid was a KDD and I picked it up. Thanks to Worlds Without End, who tweet Random Reads of past F/SF award-winners and Kindle Daily Deals in the genres.
Apparently, the Laundry in question is a secret agency in London that investigates and battles aliens, Eldritch horrors, urban myths come alive, and that sort of thing. From what I gather from reviews, Laundry tales are typically full of biting humor and satire, and no small amount of gruesome, chilling scenes. Without having read any of the others, I'd have to say that Equoid is perfect.
*note: Many reviewers thought that this book could be read as a standalone, but they weren't sure. As a reader new to the series, I can definitively say yes, one can read this by itself. I understood enough of the Laundry and the world it inhabits to enjoy this novella immensely.
Bob Howard is dispatched to Ruralshire to investigate a report of a unicorn infestation. Equipped with a series of letters written by H.P. Lovecraft, a number of requisition forms for carnivorous equines that begins around the early 1900s, and his trusty ward and warrant card, he soon realizes he is in way over his head.
Foully, viciously, disgustingly, horrifically over his head. Think tentacle pr0n and demon horses with mouths full of steak knives for teeth, not to mention a side of zombies and computer programs that suck the soul out of those who open them. And unicorns, it should go without saying, are not at all sparkly and lovely creatures.
How this all makes complete sense and ultimately, cleverly, snaps into place for a thrilling ride is testament to Stross's writerly abilities. And the whole thing is, indeed, full of bits of humor, gallows and a heap of bureaucratic satire, both.
My only problem -- and this is a personal thing, for which I should probably be thankful -- is that I have quite a difficult time imagining tentacled, gelatinous, amorphous Eldritch horrors. Always have. You can describe the thing as much as you like; until I open the garage door and find one waiting behind the kiddie pool and snow blower, I shall not likely ever be able to understand it.
Equoid is a novella. I read it in an evening, and loved it. As Stross writes a fair bit of these Laundry stories, long and short, I'll be picking up more.