Alex Creece • Deborah Walker
• Alison McBain • Sierra July
plus R.L. Black
Paul A. Hamilton
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Cover photographs by Paul A. Hamilton.
200 CCs is an anthology of microfiction, collected monthly. Inquire online for submission guidelines.
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Images accompanying each story are provided via the Creative Commons license as follows:
• pg 4: Trevor Dobson — https://www.flickr.com/people/trevor_dobson_inefekt69/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
• pg 5: Annais Ferreira — http://www.facebook.com/annaisfotos (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
• pg 6: Jaan Altosaar — https://jaan.io/ (CC BY 2.0)
• pg 7: Kenneth Lu (ToastyKen) — https://www.flickr.com/people/toasty/ (CC BY 2.0)
A version of Deborah Walker’s “Ghost Rift” (pg 4) originally appeared in the Dark Stars [amazon.com]
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Mansour Chow wrote vehemently last year about
his literary magazine, The Alarmist, going under
after five issues. You can read it in full on
medium.com and know going in that it’s vitriolic
and divisive and funny and smart and revealing in
the way the best editorials are.
There are a lot of things in Mansour’s crosshairs.
The wonky distribution system for magazines
under sale or return models. The distaste of adbased
revenue and the sad fact of advertiser
apathy toward fiction periodicals. The crush of
social-media publicity and the currency of
celebrity endorsement. The curse of free content
expectation. The disproportionate enthusiasm for
writer compensation versus the lack of appetite
for reading short fiction and poetry among the
And it’s really this last bit that I think bothers
Mansour the most, perhaps the same fact that
bothers literary brokers of all stripes more
than we maybe care to admit. Truth is, the
market for literature is tiny. Tiny and
fractured. Tiny, fractured, and badly balanced
on the supply and demand scale. Most writers
aspire to novelist status rather than poet or
short fiction author because while the above
diagnoses still apply to books, there is at least
a reasonable aspiration to succeed (in a
capitalist sense) with novels. The same cannot
reasonably be said for those of us trafficking
in stories or poems under 30 pages.
Which is peculiar in a way because if the Web
has demonstrated anything it’s that there is
not a lack of demand or appetite for written
words. Journalism, opinion, vignette,
voyeurism, fabrication, essay, screed,
exaggeration, rant, serial; all find life and
enthusaism in the weird and text-centric
world of the internet. And often in these
contexts shorter, punchier, less attentiondemanding
pieces are valued more highly
than those falling under the “too long;
didn’t read” banner. (And really, what could be
more universally TL;DR-worthy than the modern
But if age has taught me anything it is that you
cannot hate the world for not conforming to your
notion of what would make it better. Worlds that
fit perfectly into an individual’s view are utopias
for one. Sometimes those are called tyrannies. So
yeah, I’d love if more people read short fiction.
I’d love if it were recognized that short fiction is
a great way to use down moments. Far better
than the latest clickbait collection of animated
GIFs. But I can’t muster up enough angst to rage
against that particular machine.
In part, it’s because I’m guilty of it, too. Novels
are decisions: genre, review, recommendation,
cover copy, committment. Short fiction is trust:
hook, surprise, hope, discover, share. It’s the
difference between mail ordering a bar of gold
and panning a river. I read a lot of short
fiction but some days even for me the
minimal committment feels like too big a
And so, if I may humbly submit, the
weightless freedom of microfiction. If
social media condensed rambling blog
posts into morsels of passing thought just
digestible enough to appeal to the masses,
perhaps tiny stories online can create a new
demand. Is there an untapped appetite for
creative, crafted narratives, boiled down to
a rich indulgence? It remains to be seen.
Still, it certainly feels like the effort is one
worth making. And not just because 200
CCs is already making it. In part it’s
because, grumbling from disenfranchised
editors notwithstanding, literature and
fiction still matter to those of us who peddle
it. To those who sweat and weep over
creating it. To those who desire, devour,
and delight in reading it.
The rest is that it whiffs of a barely-kept
secret. It’s right here, waiting to be discovered.
—Paul A. Hamilton
by Deborah Walker
Only astronauts from New State China will travel through the Ghost Rift. In the Ghost Rift sleeting
particles of dust make the unseen visible. The Chinese have always known that spirits fill the air.
The crew of the Silver Nightingale laugh at the tortuous routes Westerners take to avoid the Rift.
They’re surprised, but they’re relieved when quiet Sung Li, the newest recruit, volunteers to pilot the
She watches the crew as they climb silently into the
stasis pods. When they wake, they’ll imagine
the feel of ghosts lingering on their
skins. They will make
Sung Li dresses in the
captain’s uniform. She has travelled
far from the factory slums of Neo Shanghai.
She has risen like a leaping salmon from the swarms of
her contemporaries. Sung Li has travelled a thousand light years from her childhood, and from her
mother’s incessant encouragement.
Sung Li watches the approaching Rift through the metal-glass window. She smoothes down the
captain’s uniform, and she smiles. Sung Li has travelled far. She is looking forward to meeting the
familiar look of her mother’s disapproval.
Deborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where
she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two young children. Find Deborah in the British Museum trawling the
past for future inspiration. Her stories have appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Nature’s Futures, Lady
Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and The Year’s Best SF 18 and have been translated into over a dozen languages.
by Sierra July
Mason pricked his finger on a rose and fell onto his back, panting. He was certain he’d enter into a
coma like Sleeping Beauty. When sleep didn’t come, he studied his finger. Instead of a
red blood pearl at its tip, there was a blue substance.
Without thinking, he licked it. Blackness fell.
It was Chloro who went in to dinner, sat with Mason’s
parents, and chatted.
Mason’s parents had never seen their son so
talkative and imaginative.
“What were you up to before dinner?” his mother
asked. “I saw you playing in the garden.”
“I wasn’t up to anything. As soon as I arrived, I
came inside to learn about humans. I’ve only
seen your species from a distance.”
Mason’s father laughed. “Still in the middle of a
game, huh? Sounds like you’re set for an Earth
Chloro nodded and went on talking.
The parents laughed as he described dinosaurs and other extinct animals he’d seen since his birth.
Detailed how he lived on soil, sun, and water. How he’d waited for a chance meeting with an
organism with legs. The parents laughed on, not suspecting a thing.
Sierra July is a University of Florida graduate, writer, and poet. Her fiction has appeared in Robot and Raygun, T.
Gene Davis’s Speculative Blog, and SpeckLit, among other places, and is forthcoming in Belladonna Publishing’s
Strange Little Girls anthology. She blogs at talestotellinpassing.blogspot.com.
by Alison McBain
I saw her hair first, the same color as the wind-blown clouds. She was
wearing only a thin shift, and her skin glittered with a thousand liquid
stars, as if she had just bathed in the lake behind her.
She smiled over her shoulder at me, but before I could accept her
invitation, I noticed something that sent a sudden chill up my
back. Her fingers dipped below the surface of the water, but
they caused no ripples in the lake.
I’d never seen a kelpie before, but the villagers had piqued
my curiosity with a warning about unexplained drownings
—I’d not believed them until now.
Glancing one last time at the most beautiful woman I
had ever seen, I forced myself to turn away, my heart
singing in agony. Her banshee shriek followed me all
the way home and echoed through the many seasons
Decades later, I still dream of her at night, even
though I have never returned to the lake. I dream of
her with regret, although it is not my only one.
Twice, she broke my heart.
I was born knowing the ways of the world, with a heart that
could resist her malicious magic—an old man’s heart.
I had a son, once. But… his heart was young.
Alison McBain lives in Connecticut with her husband and three daughters. She has over thirty
publications, including stories and poems in Flash Fiction Online, Abyss & Apex, and the
anthology Frozen Fairy Tales. You can read her blog at alisonmcbain.com or chat with her on
Those Three Days
by Alex Creece
Vitality slipped from his dark, calloused fingertips.
Blueish, purpleish, and then grey. Stigmata once
throbbing raw with rot blackened to an
impenetrable void. His palms were a purgatory of
coagulate crust. The eyes of the all-seer shrivelled
upon the salvationless silhouette of the boulder
which obstructed his portal to the next life.
He was dead. Or dying. Or definitely, definitely
He stared at the boulder for hours on end,
blinking less and less until he no longer felt the
need to scrape his sleep-starved lids against eyes
so dry and devoid of sight. Rocks and rubble
etched secrets and scripture into his back, and
eventually he was comfortable enough to settle
into his Grotto of Eden as he awaited his exile into a
new existence. His nerve endings had ruptured—their
own rapture, perhaps—so he no longer felt the searing
necrosis of his physical form, nor did he choke on the
stench of his own decay. He welcomed rigor mortis
eagerly, allowing it to exorcise him of a life left.
A couple of days later, a crack of light seeped through
the edge of the boulder. It caught his
vacant eyes and singed his peeling flesh.
But he remained staunch. He had found
his way through days ago.
Alex Creece [facebook.com] is made of dirt and determination. It’s the latter which laces her
lungs with grit.
y R.L. Black
There is nothing permanent except change.
Change is in the air. The Easter Holiday has
just passed, and in the same spirit,
what once was dead is now very much
alive. Here in the states, we’ve
weathered the winter, a kind of death,
and spring has arrived. Trees are
budding, flowers popping up out of the
cold ground, birds singing. Nature has a
story to tell us, if we listen closely
enough. It’s a story of rebirth, of
regeneration, of renewal, and the moral
of the story seems to be that life goes on
— and that change is good.
We don’t always like change. We resist.
Why? Because we’re afraid of the
unknown. We don’t know what’s
waiting for us on the other side of that
change, and it torments us. We become
like those “westerners” in Ghost Rift,
taking “torturous routes … to avoid the
Rift.” We dodge those rifts, those cracks
in the world as we know it. We are
creatures of habit, after all, and we like
our feet on solid ground. We like to know
where we stand.
In Blue Roses, the parents are so focused on
the normal, everyday world that they don’t
see the out-of-this-world sitting right in
front of them. They totally missed it. They
refuse to even acknowledge that something
has changed. The boy didn’t miss it. He saw
something he’d never seen before, and he
didn’t hesitate to explore. We’re left to
wonder if the parents had missed other
things, too. If they didn’t notice this huge
shift right in front of them, had they been
missing their son and all the tiny, daily
differences, too? Were they refusing to see?
Afraid of what those changes would mean
to their lives?
In Regrets, we see two different ways of
approaching change. The son had a “young
heart.” He saw the magic, and he gave
himself to it. The father, on the
other hand, let fear hold him back,
and in the end, he’s left with only
anguish, more haunting than any
banshee shriek. Yes, maybe the son
drowned, but wasn’t the father
drowning in sorrow and regret the
How do you feel about change? When
those rifts come your way, how do you
react? Do you find yourself resisting?
I wonder … if we were able somehow
to let our guards down and trust a little
more, maybe we’d find something
magical ourselves? Probably not an
alien invader or a kelpie, but
something … perhaps even something
The greatest change of all is faced in
Those Three Days. Death. Steve Jobs
called death “Life's change agent.”
Death is the proverbial elephant in the
room. Always hanging over our heads.
The end of our physical lives is ultimately
what we fear the most, isn’t it? Because,
like all change, we don’t know what to
expect. We don’t know how it’s gonna play
out. We can have faith and believe that
something wonderful is on the other side,
but we won’t actually know until we get
there. And that’s what makes change so
But if we can face those cracks that come
our way, even when we’re scared, if we can
go there bravely like Sung Li in Ghost Rift,
I think we’d find our own way through, and
who knows, we might discover on the other
side, something not so unfamiliar after all.
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