“Don’t Make Me Come Down There”

I’m thrilled to announce that my 2,100-word short story “Don’t Make Me Come Down There” is published in Translunar Travelers Lounge! It features the Hindu trinity of deities, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, who (try to) work like an Agile software team to iteratively perfect the universe. But Vishnu keeps going off-process with all his avatar hot-fixes.

Please enjoy “Don’t Make Me Come Down There” in Translunar Travelers Lounge issue 7.


Author’s Notes

I wrote the 750-word seed of this story for the Codex Writers “Weekend Warrior” flash fiction contest. The writing prompt was “What life lesson do you fear you’ll never learn? What mistake do you keep making over and over?” My Hindu-raised, Marvel-fan, software engineer brain went straight to cyclical time, multiverses, and iterative development processes. Which is, frankly, a lot for 750 words.

It’s a lot for the 2,100 words of the published story too. I wanted to avoid over-explaining the premise, because nothing falls harder than an explained joke. Many stories bootstrap on familiarity with Western myths and legends (Greek mythology, Aurthurian stories), and I tried to do the same with my own cultural canon. Maybe do a little Neil Gaiman riff on Hindu mythology. This story relies on familiarity with the Hindu “Trimurti” (Brahma/Vishnu/Shiva as personified aspects of creation/nurturing/destruction) and the 10 Avatars of Vishnu. My potential readers are primarily American, and don’t necessarily have Hindu mythology as a cultural touchstone. But I went for it anyway. Hinduism’s cyclic cosmology, put into terms of iterative software development, and presented as a listicle of Vishnu’s ten incarnations on Earth, is probably a very niche joke, but hey, I’m writing to amuse myself. I’m grateful that Aimee and Bennett from Translunar Travelers Lounge were also amused enough to give this story an outlet.

This was a story where “write what you know” turned out to be a useful maxim. Thanks to my mother, grandmothers, stacks of Amar Chithra Katha comic books, and a couple of college courses, I know Hindu mythology. Thanks to my career, I know about Agile software development processes, and where theory and practice can diverge. Thanks to Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, I think a lot about existence as endless iterations (a notion borrowed from Hinduism and Buddhism). And thanks to my nature, I know how the perfect can become the enemy of the good. Putting that all together into a short, light story was great fun for me.

“Act One, Scene Five”

I’m thrilled to announce that my 900-word flash fiction “Act One, Scene Five” has been published in Brilliant Flash Fiction WHEREIN the only Korean-American kid in school gets into character to rehearse Romeo’s first kiss with Juliet.

Please enjoy “Act One, Scene Five” in Brilliant Flash Fiction. (It’s a ways down the page of the June 2022 issue, alongside other tiny stories you’ll want to read!)

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“Epilogue”

I’m thrilled to announce that my 4,100-word cozy fantasy story “Epilogue” appears in the inaugural issue of Wyngraf Magazine! It features eldritch wine, delicious leftovers, reminiscence, glimmers of magic, and long-overdue kissing.

Please enjoy “Epilogue” in Wyngraf Magazine Issue 1.


Author’s Notes

Have you ever been so immersed in an epic fantasy world that you never wanted the story to end? Because ending meant a return to the ordinary world, without magic, without purpose written in prophecy, without thrilling possibility? What if the characters in that epic fantasy felt the same way?

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I’m an SWFA Member Now

[EDIT: It should be “I’m a SFWA Member Now”–members pronounce it “sif-wa.” But the URL generated from the title is out in the world now, so there we are.]

I’ve always loved to write, but it was only as an adult that I became serious about it. That word, “serious,” made it weird. “Serious,” to me, meant committing to improving my craft and increasing my output. The latter goal served the former. “Commitment” meant setting up structures of internal and external accountability. I took night school classes. Wanting some tokens of accomplishment, I finished two, 2-year certificates in the Creative Writing of Fiction at Northwestern University and the University of Chicago. And finally, in 2012, I submitted my first story for publication. It was rejected, and I didn’t try again until 2016. That was when I got three acceptances–and the validation to keep trying.

What I didn’t realize was that “getting serious” about something, at least in my mind, entailed shaping it into something that looks serious to others. Academic credentials. Product. Revenue. Exclusive community membership. During the dry spells, when those things didn’t come easily or at all, I made a philosophical commitment to stop distracting myself with activities that were adjacent to writing, but not actually writing. That lasted as long as my next set of completed stories, and an ego-driven impulse to see if I could sell them. One sold, and I was back on my bullshit.

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All the Best Stories Are Endings

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”

“Closing Time,” Semisonic

“There are neither beginnings nor endings to the turning of the Wheel of Time. But it was a beginning.”

The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan

Sometimes, someone articulates an idea that has been rattling around in your brain with such simple clarity, that it unlocks a new way of looking at familiar things. That’s what Darren Mooney did in The Escapist Magazine when he said that all of The Lord of the Rings is one big ending.

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Butterfly (Do You Remember Being the Worm?) (full text)

by Rajiv Moté (Fantasy-tinged fiction, 3,500 words)

Before we stopped talking, my best friend Davis saved my life three times from the Sirynz. It’s funny that I still call him that. “Best friend” is a concept I put away with other childish things when I left Marysville, but the obligation it carries lingers like a photograph standing in for a memory, a thing twice removed from the original. Still, it’s an idea that has pull. At least I owe him a call. But I keep coming up with excuses.

The first time Davis saved, they weren’t Sirynz yet. Tina, Jacqui, and Kayla had just started playing as a band called The Mantics. That afternoon at the Peony Park pool, they were three girls wearing two-piece bathing suits during a summer of great hormonal awakening. It was one of those summer days between fifth and sixth grade that you remember like a postcard picture: blue-skied, perfectly framed, hot only by implication–without the sweat, sunburn, bug bites, or grit at the bottom of the pool lacerating your bare feet. Idealized memory. 

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Scared of Bees (full text)

by Rajiv Moté (Fiction, 3,400 words)

Aryeh Levin picked up the newspaper from his driveway to see how the world would disappoint him today. “Rockets Break Cease-Fire.” Well what else would they do? When your only tool is a sword, every problem looks like a neck. Sarah saw vindication in the headlines, never a sign we ought to do better. But on this side of the world, the morning street was quiet. The big houses lining it were variations of his own, with tidy lawns, shady trees, and gardens dappling the green with a Crayola box of blooms. A summer breeze carried their scents. Here, there was enough room to live and let live. He had resisted moving here. Places like this were walled gardens in a complicated world. He encouraged his students to start their adult lives and careers outside such walls. But Aryeh came to agree with Sarah that this was where Dina should grow up. In this neighborhood, on this block, Dina could learn what civilization could be, before her generation had to rescue it.

Aryeh returned a wave from a neighbor, the father of Dina’s friend, the bossy little one with pigtails. He started climbing the stairs to the porch when something strafed in front of his nose. He jerked back, stumble-hopping down a step. It was a bee. The porch was swarming with them.

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Every Day Is a Miracle (full text)

by Rajiv Moté (Flash fantasy, 500 words)

Palms slide on palms, knuckles bump. Tail lights turn the corner. The stereo’s thump fades into the city. Bayard stands at the mouth of the dark alley. His smile dies.

The English accented voiceover says the gazelles know there are lions nearby. See how they keep watch. Tense.

Predators hunt here. Shapeshifters: Adze. But after a night of swagger, your friends don’t walk you to your door. “You can’t live in fear,” they say. But they do. Every damn day. The mayor wants more police, but police can’t tell Adze from human beings. Everyone’s a predator. Everyone’s prey.

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I Crave My Meat a Little Rare (full text)

by Rajiv Moté (Flash fantasy, 800 words)

Jada wants to take dinner down to her father, so I slap some raw meat from the cutting board onto a tray. It means she’s not afraid anymore, and she’s still a forgiving child. I want to nurture both. But my heart beats faster. My throat and lungs are still raw.

I don’t tell her to be careful. His temper isn’t hers to manage. It was never mine, either, though I’ve formed instincts over the years. The door groans, the stair creaks, and I hear his breathing, the low rumble of an approaching storm. My muscles coil and an answering growl builds painfully in my chest. I listen for the telltales of agitation I’ve learned during our marriage. I’ll always protect you baby, I told my daughter four days ago, holding her head against my belly, her tears soaking through my shirt.

I relax my grip on the knife I’m using to cut onions, green peppers, and chunks of tomato. That’s not the protection that’s needed. That’s not the situation.

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