Posted by: trisigmatic | March 20, 2020

Against the Odds

I have my house plants in a shopping bag:
survivors of five months of shoddy care,
and strikes, and stress. It seemed unfair,
to pack the office up
and leave them there.

And so. They’re with me, heading home.

I like our odds,
and that our odds are shared.



Posted by: trisigmatic | March 20, 2020


Cocooned in tiny heartbreaks;
it’s okay to rail, to grieve.
Each discontinuity is a cut
that strips us back.
But we’re here,
and you’re there,
and stronger
for being together



You will all by now have received a recent memorandum concerning a number of words which are henceforth banned from all office communication.  However, there appears to be some residual confusion over how and when these changes should be implemented.

Some of you have questioned the inclusion of the first word specified on the previous memorandum.  ‘Very’ is commonplace, vague and overused. In its place you should either use a more appropriate modifier or (preferably) nothing at all.  If this is not yet sufficient to convince you, be aware that ‘very’ often invites a request for clarification.  How concerned are we about the state of education funding in this country?  (Deeply, of course, but do not under any circumstances get into an argument over whether our education system is ‘fit for purpose’.  There is far too much dissent over the purpose of education at present, and such discussions are not worthy of our time — unless, perhaps, one of you is interested in the vacancy that has just opened up on a particular Board of Governors, in which case I will have a quiet word with the Provost.)

Last week, one of you was observed talking to a member of the press about our ‘investments in schools’, and it did not end favourably for him.  Quite aside from the potential political cost of that slip, I am keen to remind you all that we do not ‘invest’ in schools, or businesses, or — heaven forbid — good leadership.  You might not see this type of thing as a problem, but once you fall into the trap of elaboration, you will find yourself fielding questions over the specifics of what we do invest in, and I am quite certain that none of us is desirous of that.  A man’s home is his castle, and regardless of whether or not his offshore business dealings have made the metaphorical literal, it is deeply insulting to have his lifestyle questioned in such a manner.

You should also strive to avoid the phrase ‘pleased to learn’.  No-one learns anything for pleasure.

In my previous memorandum I also highlighted a number of phrases that have been included for the reason that they make the speaker sound ineffective, or even cretinous.  ‘Due to’ suggests a lack of direct control over a situation, while ‘I note/ understand your concerns’ fools no-one other than the speaker, no matter how strong or stable they suppose they are.  If you are incapable of exposing the flaws in someone’s logic or re-framing their worries as unwarranted hysteria, then this job is probably not for you.  Consider again last week’s incident.  Should you ever be tempted to voice your ‘disappointment’ you should stiffen your lips and keep silent.  One does not give away even small victories needlessly, nor pass up the opportunity to mete out appropriate consequences for failure.

Always keep your explanations of said consequences factual, and be sure to place blame squarely where it belongs, id est with all the usual suspects, and most especially with the members of the opposition.  (Nota bene: ‘members’ remains plural, while ‘opposition’ is singular — it is an organisation in principle, albeit rarely in practice.)   The words ‘speculate’ or ‘hopefully’ are also to be avoided, as these have in the past invoked an unfortunate degree of uncertainty around our Party’s methods and the wisdom of our choices.  ‘Ascertain’ is even worse — you might just as well state outright that you don’t have the faintest idea of the facts of the matter.

Another area of language where you need to retain an ounce of caution is with framing statements in the active voice.  There is little the Party can do to lift a statement of ‘I have done or met with such-and-such’ from your shoulders, as our esteemed colleague now understands in full.  Passive phrasing allows one to apply an appropriate level of obfuscation, as well as distancing one from the events and people under consideration.   Office policy is that no work-related meetings should take place without a clear and purposeful agenda, calendar appointment and location.   We do not ‘meet with’ people in any other manner. Conversations or encounters in public places, or within the walls of one’s club, are an entirely different matter.

Before we turn our minds back to the transformation of our glorious country, I have one final point: some of you possess a distressing tendency of phrasing our current activities as ‘ongoing’.  Do not do this.  As with ‘due to’ and ‘ascertain’, ‘ongoing’ implies a lack of understanding or control.  We have a firm hand on the tiller at present, with clear deadlines for implementation, and no reason to imply otherwise. For our longer-term aspirations, we are not yet in the final furlong, and it is better by far that we not present a fixed target.  We, the governing class, know what is right and what needs to be done; we have a clear vision for this country, but it will not be realised overnight and there are many who would deem it ‘unacceptable’ and seek to stymie our policies.  (It will surprise none of you if I especially draw your attention to the equality lobby at this point.  Any organisation which mangles the English Language so freely should not be given a platform within the House. The use of ‘theirself’ is utterly preposterous — and there is no reason on Earth that ‘yourself’ should ever be used at all.)  There is too much that needs doing to allow distractions from organisations which prioritise the needs of the individual so many leagues above what those individuals rightfully deserve.

On that note, inform your secretaries posthaste to locate all instances of ‘lot’ or ‘got’, and replace them with a word that doesn’t sound so frightfully common.

Posted by: trisigmatic | March 23, 2019

Inappropriate Messages Sent Via Magic Mirror

Is this the mirror of the evil queen?
You have an urgent problem in the pass.
We’ve overthrown your fortress, and between
that and the peasant uprising, alas,
your crown will- what? Godsdamn this fucking glass!

Just bear with me, I’ve not aligned it right,
but- Come on, man! Is that…is that YOUR ARSE?

No don’t come closer, I’m a temple knight!
I’ve no interest at all in such a sight,
and, uh… Oh, my. Okay. Well, maybe that.
But – not right now? I’ve got a war to fight!
After I’ve slain that sorcerous autocrat,
what say you then? Perhaps, we two, with luck
could- Ohhh. It’s you. Delaying trick. Oh fuck.


Last month’s writing group prompt was to write a sonnet inspired by some truly dire voicemail messages that a friend of a friend had received.

I’ll let your mind fill in the (in-)appropriate visuals, and decide what kind of nasty creatures have just materialised on the other side of the mirror-chamber door…





Posted by: trisigmatic | January 2, 2019

2018 Award Eligibility

2018 was not a productive year for me, but there are a few highlights that I’m really, really proud of.

Editing – short form

Dani Daly and I guest edited Artemis Rising 4 for Cast of Wonders, with Alexis Goble as our assistant editor.  We had an amazing line up of stories, all of which deserve to be on your reading lists.

Cast of Wonders 294: Earn Your Breath by Jaime O. Mayer, narrated by Ibba Armancas, guest hosts Megan LeighCharlotte Bond and Lucy Hounsom from Breaking the Glass Slipper

Cast of Wonders 295: An American Refugee by Tiah Marie Beautement, narrated by Julia Rios, guest host Alexis Goble

Cast of Wonders 296: Canary’s Refuge by Wendy Nikel, narrated by Nadia Niaz, guest host Sandra M. Odell

Cast of Wonders 297: Where You Get Your Ideas by Megan Lee Beals, narrated by Dani Daly, guest host A. Merc Rustad


Short Fiction

I only had one original publication this year, but it found the perfect home at Terraform (Motherboard, VICE media). Congratulations on Your Recent Purchase is my story of a confused domestic smart appliance trying to survive the nanobot apocalypse.

**This is my second year of Campbell eligibility** I’m WELL out of the running, but hey, it’s worth mentioning, right? You can find my other stories from 2017 linked here.



I made my first pro sale of some poetry! I am SO damn chuffed to bits about that!  You can read Fortune Favours the Cold at Abyss & Apex [Issue 68]



And… that’s the lot.  I also ran the Cast of Wonders flash fiction contest, organised an academic conference, had a lot of fun being Assistant Beaver Scout Leader for kid#2’s colony, took on a major pastoral role at work, and won a team outreach award as part of STEM Gamechangers. Depression and anxiety have been seriously cramping my style and productivity, but I’m still here!  Bonus: kid#2’s plans for world domination (I’m not joking here…) have been tempered with compassion and an interest in oceanography. I’m sure his future minions will thank me….


Posted by: trisigmatic | January 2, 2019

Review: Fortune Favours the Cold

Specpotpourri has written a lovely review of this poem, alongside a whole host of other amazing works which are eligible for the 2018 Rhysling.  Head here to check out what they thought, and linger long enough to click through and read some of the other poems.

Issue 68 of Abyss & Apex was a full space themed issue – if Fortune Favours the Cold didn’t work for you, maybe one of the others will?  The whole issue is well worth a read.

Posted by: trisigmatic | December 29, 2018

Five Minutes to Midnight

It’s almost the end of the year, and what better way to end it than something seasonal and vaguely misanthropic and apocalyptic?

Five Minutes to Midnight

“So what is it that you lot do in that lab of yours?”

Under normal circumstances high energy physics is a complete conversation killer. But this was my sister’s New Year’s Eve party, we were all well on the way to being utterly bladdered, and her new bloke Craig was one of those gregarious, know-it-all twats that insists on steering the conversation towards plausibly-deniable mockery.

I wasn’t yet so drunk I couldn’t see what he was trying. A billion dollar machine to investigate something that can’t be seen, touched, or monetised?  Yeah, I figured we were about two sentences away from the kind of unforgiving straight line that would keep me the butt of his gibes for the rest of the evening.  I also knew several ways to avoid it all, but hell, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t see him again after tonight.

So I raised my glass, looked him right in the eye, and gave him the truth.

“We found God,” I said, and downed my scotch. It barely touched the steadily deepening chill inside my guts.

“You found God?

“Yep. Middle of last week.”

“Found God. Geez. I’d ask you what he looked like, only I’m guessing he’s some kind of particle rather than the beardy old dude.”

I cast around the room for a new drink.  “We’re all particles on some level.”

“You and your bloody god particles. ‘Bout as much use as-”

The room swam slightly. Craig blinked, gave a slight shake of his head. I checked my watch. It was down to fourteen minute intervals now.

“As, ah…” He gulped down half an inch of his pint. “Sorry, love. What was that you were saying?”

“I was telling you about finding God.”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“Nope,” I said. And I would have told him what had come next, if he’d given me the chance.

“Didn’t take you for one of them lot.” Craig rolled his eyes at someone standing beside me. “Fuck’s sake. S’posed to be a party.”

“Yeah. Sorry mate.”

I drifted away, made for the dining room. The table was half covered in random bottles of spirits and mixers for DIY cocktails. I grabbed a two-thirds empty Smirnoff by the neck and pushed through the crush to the garden.  The outdoor lights flickered and died as I stepped over the threshold and into the rain. Someone groaned. I took a swig from the bottle, and everything swam once again. The bottle split. Two copies. Three. My hand a shimmering ghost between them.

“I found God,” I whispered to no-one in particular. Maybe to myself. “I found him, and then I killed him. Bit of a mistake, that. He’s pretty narked at us all now.”

I checked my watch, and lifted my face to the rain. Closed my eyes. Inside, my sister’s guests had started the countdown. I took another swig and joined in. They wouldn’t be far off the mark.

On three, the falling drops turned warm as blood.

On two, the whole sky fell in.

Posted by: trisigmatic | December 3, 2018

Narrations in late 2018:

I need to start dropping hints at Podcastle…



Posted by: trisigmatic | December 3, 2018

Fortune Favours the Cold

I’ve been so stressed recently that I don’t think I had a chance to link to this one yet. Sooo… if you like poetry about Kuiper Belt (Sentient) Objects witnessing the end of the solar system, check out Fortune Favours the Cold at Abyss and Apex

Posted by: trisigmatic | December 3, 2018

Future Economics

BSFA members may have caught a glimpse of discussion of Congratulations on Your Recent Purchase! alongside a range of excellent short stories, in the Future Economics issue of Vector (#288).  That was rather unexpected!


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