Monthly Archives: January 2017

Lenin’s Nurse – New Stories 3

The third recent story was a little darker than the others. It appeared in the online magazine ‘Electric Spec’ towards the end of last year. The title was ‘Lenin’s Nurse: Notes for a Dissertation’.

electric-specThis features the mysterious Elizabeth, from my novel ‘Among the Living’, but takes place a few years after that story ended. It was great fun to write. Not just because of the pleasure of renewing acquaintance with an old character, but also because the story features extracts from a range of historical documents. All made up, of course!

Here is a taster, of the opening paragraphs. You can read the whole story (and plenty of others, all for free) at Electric Spec online.  You can also read a blog post, about the writing of the story, here.

Lenin’s Nurse: Notes for a Dissertation

Chris Barnham

 

       ‘. . .it was said and printed that the Red Guards. . .had killed some of the ministers in cold blood. . .An astounding jumble of rumours, distortions, and plain lies. All these stories were swallowed whole, even preposterous tales of sacrifice and fanatical Bolsheviks who bathed in or drank human blood, such as the notorious revolutionary fighter referred to as Veta B. . .’
–John Reed, Ten Days that Shook the World, New York, 1919 (uncorrected draft)

“Priceless stuff. Now I see why you stuck at it after Moscow.”

Daniel drapes his flamingo body across the train seat while he reads my notes. He looks like he could be in his usual perch in the senior common room. We are fifteen minutes out of Croydon and already rattling through open countryside beneath steep hillsides furred with trees.

“Everyone said you were losing it. But I told them, don’t underestimate Will’s creativity.”

We shoulder our packs and step out of the train at Penshurst station, descending a ramp onto a quiet country lane. Daniel says, “Your little detour isn’t going to take too long is it, Will? You promised me lunch in the Spotted Dog.”

“The path goes right by the cottage. It won’t delay us much. Even if there’s anyone there.”

“Pity if they’re not. I’ve been looking forward to hearing you explain your, ah, quest.”

It takes us half an hour to walk to the village. Daniel keeps up a constant stream of chatter. Next week he’s playing golf with the chairman of the research grants committee, has he told me about his invitation to that reception at the House of Lords, pity I didn’t get invited, but never mind, it will come.

“Shame your Zoe couldn’t come today,” he says. “Always lovely to see her.”

Lovely, I think.

A hot wind blows into our faces. Whenever we step out of the shade, I feel my skin evaporating in fierce sunlight. I drank a whole bottle of water on the train but my mouth already feels as if it is lined with dry denim.

We don’t pass anyone, which is good. I thought it best to keep away from the roads. We approach Penshurst across fields baked yellow by the August heat and finally through a churchyard. Most of the gravestones around the church are old and faded. Daniel can’t resist reading aloud from the stones. He stops at one and squats.

“Christ! Look at this: the children of Frederick and Martha Cowell. Three of them, all died between May 1876 and February 1877, aged eight years, ten years and six months. Nothing like a bit of history to make you glad you live in the present.”

He walks on and I read the lines of verse at the foot of the Cowell children’s stone:
‘Blessed are the dead, no weal or woe
Can touch them when from us they go
And we that are left long more and more
To join the loved ones gone before’

We emerge into a narrow lane. On the far side there is a wooden gate in a high hedge. Beyond, a gravel path leads between rose bushes to the front of a two-storey house. All of the windows are blind with internal shutters, throwing back the sunlight as if from a mirror.

This is it: the childhood home of Charles Oates….

(Read the rest at Electric Spec.Com)

 

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Stanley Spencer – New Stories 2

I posted a link yesterday to my most recent story, in December’s Compelling SF magazine.

The second story I want to plug appeared in another new science fiction magazine (exciting times!). This was Phantaxis, which published its first issue in November 2016, and is already onto issue number 3.

phantaxis-magazine-1The magazine is well worth checking out. Over 150 pages, and packed with new fiction for a very reasonable price.

I was so pleased to have a story in the very first edition of the new magazine. It was – I confess – something of an oddity. The title is “How Stanley Spencer Painted the Cookham Resurrection.”

It’s a time travel story. To enjoy it, you don’t absolutely have to be familiar with Britain’s top painter of the 20th Century, and his famous painting (see above), which is currently in the Tate Britain. But it probably helps!

Here’s the opening of the story as a taster. To read it all, you’ll need to check out Phantaxis #1 here.

HOW STANLEY SPENCER PAINTED THE COOKHAM RESURRECTION

 By Chris Barnham

 There were three of us for the Spencer Op. The other two were Nancy Prior and Danny Marlowe. Danny and me go back a long way; we’ve both done enough years at the Office that nothing can surprise us, except maybe how long they might make us work for our pensions. Nancy is younger and keener.

“Are you sure I can’t get closer to the action?” she asked as we stashed our things in the lockers before the Jump. The Office’s Darnell Suite has seen better days and the flaking paint on the walls and the chipped tiles in the showers make me depressed.

Showers are necessary, as you know if you’ve ever done a Darnell Jump. Living things have to go separate from inanimate objects. If you’re carrying anything, the Jump won’t work. If you’re wearing normal clothing, it works but you spend the next two days puking up. My advice: go naked and scrub every gram of dust from your body.

Some people get away with a light covering, something natural, like thin cotton. Me, I Jump buffo and I knew Danny did too. I didn’t know Nancy’s preference, but I was hopeful. She was, after all, something of a looker.

“You’ve read the file, Nance.” I closed my locker door. “Case the area round the church. Danny and I do the scouting to flush out the bad guys. Once they see we’re on to them, chances are they clear out. Job done.”

“If they’re even there.”

There’s never any certainty about that, just the usual flaky OffTime intel; rumours that a gang of Christian nut jobs wanted to swipe Spencer and trash his painting. No clue who they were, or how many.

I went first, giving Nancy and Danny a mock salute as I entered the booth. Disappointingly, Nancy had opted for the calico cloak option and looked like a Halloween ghost. Danny wore what his mother had first seen him in, looking a bit cold, I had to admit.

Inside the booth there was a brief flash of violet light and a puff of air in my face, like a balloon popped silently nearby. I lurched sideways, as if the ground had shifted a few inches.

It was a week earlier when Daniels gave me the Op. We were in one of the glass pods the Office used for meeting rooms, and as we spoke I could see the OffTime offices emptying, people grabbing coats and disappearing into the gloaming.

“So this guy’s a painter?”

“Was,” Daniels said. “He died in 1959.”…..

(To read the whole story, and plenty of other fine new SF stories, check out Phantaxis magazine.)

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All That is Solid – New Stories 1

What with one thing and another I’ve neglected blogging and writing lately. So it was pleasing to publish three new stories at the back end of 2016. Over the next couple of days, I’ll post links to where you can find them (mostly for free!).

Here’s the first

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