It seems to be the year for anthologies, and this is a good one. Editor Lyndon Perry at Residential Aliens has assembled more than 30 tales of spiritually-infused speculative fiction from some of the best writers you may have never heard of–yet–and packaged them with beautiful cover art by Lance Red. It’s 256-plus pages of imaginative goodness, titled, While the Morning Stars Sing.
If you’re wondering what this “spiritually-infused” stuff is all about, it’s more an issue of focus than anything else. These stories touch on timeless themes of wonder, curiosity, transformation, faith, and meaning. These are stories about encounters between the ordinary and the extraordinary, stories that entertain as they make you think a little more deeply about some of life’s big questions. Most of all, they begin from the premise that quality writing comes first–the dialogue between author and reader springs from a good story, well-told.
My contribution to the anthology is “Mound of Mud,” a tale of two outsiders who bring an ancient legend to life in a very unlikely place.
Benny had always been a strange kid, so when Jacob found him by the riverbank, coated in muck, he wasn’t too surprised.
“Whatcha working on there, Benny?”
“I don’t know. It hasn’t told me yet.”
Benny knelt down and scooped up a squishy armful of red clay and perflumped it on top of an already-sizable mound beside him. It was nearly as tall as Benny, who was just under five feet high in shoes.
Jacob cocked his head to one side. “You’re making whatever it is. Shouldn’t you be the one who decides what it’s going to be?”
“Naw, it doesn’t work like that. I could do it on my own, but it wouldn’t come out right in the end. It’s better this way.”
“So, you just came down here this morning and decided to make a mountain of mud?”
“No, I came here to fish, then the clay called out to me. ‘Benny,’ it said, ‘take me and start building.’”
This was stranger than average, even for Benny. “It called to you? You mean, out loud?”
“I heard the words inside my head. You gonna just stand there flapping your mouth, or are you gonna help me?”
Jacob thought about it for a minute. He could pitch in with Benny and get coated with slimy, smelly, Georgia mud, or he could head back home and probably get beat up by the Bolton boys somewhere along the way. His jaw and ribs still ached from the last time.
He rolled up his sleeves and started packing more clay onto Benny’s pile.