Published May 1, 2021
Letter From the Editor
Turtles All the Way Down
By Rob Carroll
Issue 003 of Dark Matter Magazine leans heavily on the theme of recursion. Eternal return is central to the plots of “Death in the Afternoon,” “Stand and Deliver,” “The House of Shapes,” “Nanogod,”and “Check, please.”—and it’s a visual motif of artist, Tais Teng, whose work is featured on this month’s cover, and it’s also seen in the art of Cat Dirty, whose work is highlighted in one of this issue’s art features.
The other stories in the issue—“Recycle of Violence,” “Hounds of Thule,” “Drop Shipment Standard Procedure,” and “You Had to Be an Asshole on Planet E 11-18”—don’t use recursion as a plot device, but they do comment on the way language, identity, and storytelling are self-referencing, with “Hounds of Thule” and “You Had to Be an Asshole on Planet E 11-18” even weaving this concept into their story structures through the creative use of second-person narration.
There’s no wondering why recursion is so often used in storytelling. Storytelling is, itself, recursion, in all its self-referencing, self-aggrandizing, and self-obsessive glory. And let’s not forget that sentences are really just fractal equations that are processed and then extrapolated to infinity and beyond by the very same uncanny force that creates them: the human mind. READ THE REST FOR FREE.
The alien ship landed in early morning sunshine on the grounds of the United Nations Building in New York City, the de facto capital of Earth. It had been nearly forty-six centuries since its last visit, back when the Great Pyramid of Giza had been completed in 2560 BC, accompanied by the unfurling of a “Mission Accomplished” banner made of papyrus. The banner had long been lost to the mists of time.
The Great Pyramid had been the tallest man-made structure in the world for nearly 4,000 years after its creation. Modern humans erroneously believed it was created as a tomb and monument to the Fourth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Cheops. Actually, the Pharaoh only commandeered it after the fact. The true creator had returned. PURCHASE ISSUE 003 TO READ THE REST.
Gareth Heim grinds my hand under the heel of his shoe, which is an Italian-made loafer constructed of plant-derived fabrics, natural rubber, and the cured skin of animals. His weight and the force of effort he puts into the action crushes the metacarpals and causes the proximal phalanges of my middle and ring fingers to fracture—the ring finger bone splits lengthways. The heightened sensory feedback, which triggers autonomic responses correlating to threat anxiety and corporeal self-preservation, would be categorized as “agonizing pain” by Gareth Heim if it was his hand failing under the turn of my heel. But it is not. PURCHASE ISSUE 003 TO READ THE REST.
Maybe it was my fault. But when Angie said she was pregnant, the natural thing to do seemed to be to drop a note to my father. Maybe it was an attempt at reconciliation. More likely, I was rubbing the old fart’s nose in it. He didn’t like Angie, never had.
So, of course it was her day off, and she was the only one home when he dropped by.
I’d gone into work that morning, meaning to only check a few servers and then come home early. But one computer crisis led to another, and then another, and by the time I’d stamped out all those fires, it was six.
As soon as I came in the house, I could feel the tension. Angie was in the kitchen, flinging pots around. She never cooked, but she liked to pretend to. I’ve always been the more domestic one.
I peeked around the door just as she slammed a skillet down on the stove top. She started cracking eggs into it, and I said, “Ang? You okay?”
“Your father was by this morning,” she said, making each word its own sentence. PURCHASE ISSUE 003 TO READ THE REST.
Drop Shipment Standard Procedure
By Marie Croke
When it came time for a drop-shipment, regs turned tighter than an airlock and just as heavy, too. With Dante on self-imposed sterilization duty, and Lona breathing heavy in everyone’s ears, repeating phrases like “don’t touch anything” and “spray first, ask questions later” as if we were children, I tended to get uptight. It’s hard enough to arrange trade with a people whose language has evolved distantly enough from our database’s saved linguistics, and that just gets more difficult when I have to translate sentences like: “We need you to not come in thirty cubic meters of us. Thanks. No, we’re not standoffish. Want to play virtual poker? That wasn’t an idiom. And yes, we really need you as far from the supplies as possible. No, we’re not going to steal them. We’ll drop ours first.” PURCHASE ISSUE 003 TO READ THE REST.
By Sophie Jaff
The waiter comes over.
“Ladies, what can I get you?”
Leonie glances down and then up, guiltily. They haven’t even looked at their menus, and they’ve been there for a while already. They’ll have to order something. She grasps at straws.
“What’s your house red like?”
A boring choice, but usually safe. PURCHASE ISSUE 003 TO READ THE REST.
Molly Cross had never hated a house before the Tawner house rotted overnight.
She spotted it while her father walked her up their neighborhood’s cracked sidewalk to the bus stop at lane’s end. He didn’t glance, his stiff neck aimed ahead, but Molly couldn’t tear her eyes away.
At last, he noticed her lagging. “What’s keeping you?”
“Tawner house? What of it?”
“It’s different now,” she said. READ THE REST FOR FREE, THIS WEEK ONLY.
Hounds of Thule
By Christine Lucas
Our spirits are ushered upwards, outwards, through rock and cave, soil and creek, answering the call to arms. We are but ghosts, the final cogs of ancient machines built in another time to defend the mountainside of Pindos from invaders. I feel the others soaring upwards beside me, their presence tingles of static where my form, such as it is, connects with theirs. And yet, I alone end up above the ground, in the house with the creaking door and the roof that leaks when it rains, instead of the Cavern of Statues—the cavern of our forebearers.
Whatever voice awakened me has summoned me home. PURCHASE ISSUE 003 TO READ THE REST.
Death in the Afternoon
By John G. Wimer
Lester frowned at the bright red lobster on the center of his plate. Flanked by a glistening yellow ear of corn and a pile of steamed asparagus, the lobster appeared to be staring back up at the shaggy-haired man.
“You reckon they scream when they’re dunked into boiling water?” he asked morosely.
“Do they scream?” asked Alfred, a rotund, sharply dressed man seated at Lester’s right. “Don’t be absurd!”
Alfred finished his corn cob and used a cloth napkin to wipe butter from his bushy, salt-and-pepper mustache.
“Our cousin says they scream,” rejoined Lester. “At least sometimes they do. And she’s from Maine—right on the coast—so she should know.” PURCHASE ISSUE 003 TO READ THE REST.
You Had to Be an Asshole on Planet E 11-18
By Emily Randolph Epstein
Originally published by Infinite Worlds Magazine
I remember being you, the you that made me, me. Sometimes, I like to think I can shout back through time at you, try to keep things from going tits up the way they did. It never works, but let me try again.
It all starts when you decide to be an asshole on E 11-18.
It starts before that, actually.
It starts with your ship limping through the outer reaches of the Galactic Trade Organization’s designated space. Fuel reserves are shot. The engine needs an overhaul. Food stores are low—you’re thanking a god you don’t believe in that you squirreled away that chocolate bar when you did. Captain Enid sent a distress signal, but there’s not much Guard presence this far out. PURCHASE ISSUE 003 TO READ THE REST.
Featuring Cadabra Records
In 2016, Jonathan Dennison followed a dream and created Cadabra Records, a spoken word LP company that specializes in high-quality productions of classic horror and weird fiction tales. Five years later, Cadabra Records has grown into an impressive production house that creates consistently exceptional work, and they are an indie record business you should definitely get to know. Dark Matter Magazine was lucky enough to ask Dennison a few questions regarding his brooding brainchild and how it’s quickly taking the vinyl collecting world by storm. READ THE FULL FEATURE FOR FREE.
By Tais Teng
The biggest and most splendid dream of all space aficionados is of course the Dyson sphere. Constructing it would be an effort spanning generations, perhaps even entire civilizations. The engineers and planners have to think on a billion-mile scale even for their spanners and screwdrivers. I don’t think western civilization will ever have the patience or the staying power. This undertaking will most likely require a very single-minded future dynasty unlike what exists now. PURCHASE ISSUE 003 TO READ THE REST.
By Pez Banana
Feature by Rob Carroll
When you open this issue of Dark Matter Magazine and begin to read or flip through the pages chronologically, the first story you will come across is the sci-fi comedy, “Nanogod,” by Larry Hodges, but before embarking on Larry’s insanely fun tale, you are first greeted with a colorful splash page created exclusively for the story by one of my favorite indie character artists working today: Pez Banana. I chose Pez for the splash page because the characters he creates already feel as though they’ve been vomited from the same flamboyant black hole as the almighty Nanogod himself, and with names like Dr. Bulbus (one of Pez’s creations), I’m pretty sure they share a common nomenclature, as well. PURCHASE ISSUE 003 TO READ THE REST.
By Cat Dirty
Feature by Rob Carroll
Theme-park-sized shopping malls, product lines in glowing greens and hot magentas, blue raspberry everything, gimmicky candies that gushed, slimy toys that glowed, bendable bracelets that you slapped violently onto your wrists, 3.75” action figures, toxic avengers, mutant superheroes, marketing slogans that included the letter X (remember when everything was Xtreme?), yellow Super Soakers, vaporwave Trapper Keepers, hologram comic book covers, die cut trading cards, rollerblades with custom wheels, skateboards with chromed-out trucks, BMX bikes with 360° handlebar rotation, 16-bit gaming, Air Jordans in black and purple colorway—this is what artist Cat Dirty’s work reminds me of, and I love everything about it. Everything. PURCHASE ISSUE 003 TO READ THE REST.