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ralph robert moore


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ralph robert moore

Copyright © 2006 by Ralph Robert Moore.

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the past is in the sky
march 1, 2006

The biggest, most influential annual anthology of horror and fantasy stories is The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, published by St. Martin's Press.

It's like the Pushcart Prize collection, but for speculative fiction.

YBFH's horror editor, Ellen Datlow, was kind enough to give my short story, "Visibility", an Honorable Mention in the fifteenth annual collection.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Ellen telling me my short story, "The Machine of a Religious Man", is going to be one of the stories published in the nineteenth annual collection.

It's a great honor.

YBFH is sold in bookstores everywhere, and almost every library has a copy.

I'll be reaching my widest audience ever.

I remember when I first moved from Connecticut to California, going to a local library, using my newly-acquired card to check out a hardcover anthology of horror stories (I forget the anthology's title). Reading the stories over the course of the next few days, usually at night, in a garage apartment where the mattress was on the floor, I thought about how romantic it was, the idea that these stories had been selected for inclusion in an anthology, giving them some permanence, so they could be read years and decades after they were written. I realized that was what I wanted for my fiction.

So to have a story of mine included in YBFH means a lot to me.

"The Machine of a Religious Man" first appeared in Midnight Street, the U.K. magazine published and edited by Trevor Denyor.

I first met Trevor over the Internet when I submitted a story of mine, "rump-a-thump", to his prior magazine, ROADWORKS. Since that time I've also had "Visibility" and "fish" published in ROADWORKS, with "Fleeing, on a Bicycle with your Father, from the Living Dead" scheduled to be published in an upcoming issue of Midnight Street (I'll also be doing an interview for publication in Midnight Street, which I'm really excited about).

Trevor is a truly great editor, and Midnight Street a truly great magazine that gets a lot of attention within the industry. Each issue I receive, I open it with the excitement of having no idea whatsoever what I'll find inside. His selections range across the entire spectrum of speculative fiction, from slipstream to dark fantasy to horror to magic realism to science fiction to the unclassifiable. He is open to anything, and does an incredible job of carefully balancing genres and cross-genres.

There would be more people reading if there were more Trevor Denyors.

A few Saturdays ago, before breakfast, in the unhurried hours of the start of the weekend, Mary and I realized the bird feeders, built like small houses, hanging from branches in the large crepe myrtle in our backyard garden, were empty.


They hang upside down from a branch above the feeders, exposing their impressively large penises, tiny front claws, like black gloves, reaching down, lifting and relifting seed after sunflower seed to their upside down mouths, jaws working constantly, spitting out husks, gulping up kernels.

It was cold outside, so we threw jackets over our pajamas, trooped out with heavy bags of birdseed, sunflower seed for the cardinals and blue jays, tiny round yellow seed for the smaller birds, thistle for the red and gold finches that pass through Texas each year on their migration to Mexico.

As we were filling the different bird feeders, unhooking them from the branches, setting them down on the ground, vapor rising from our mouths, I heard a loud engine, like a truck.

I lifted the green-painted wooden roof off the latest bird feeder, looking over my shoulder at the country road beyond our back privacy fence. No traffic.

The engine noise persisted, grew even louder.

Was it an invisible truck? (Over the years, there have been persistent rumors the government has perfected a method of making vehicles invisible. I'll believe it when I don't see it.)

Finally, I looked straight up.

In the sky, about two hundred feet up, below the clouds, two machines moved slowly past.

Each machine had a colorful pastel parachute above it, pink for one, purple for the other, not a full parachute, but the sort of billowed wedge of parachute used by sky divers.

The machines hung beneath the colorful chutes by black cables, each machine just large enough to seat one person, as if that passenger were riding a lawnmower, but two hundred feet up, by the puffy white clouds.

The prettiness of the parachute's pastels, the absurdity of people sitting in the sky, as if in go carts, made us take a few seconds, heads craned back, grinning, to realize what we were seeing was real.

It was a wonderful Jules Verne moment.