• Making New Friends – a flash sci-fi story

    I’ve had some of my best ideas while drunk. But as I stepped out into the purple light of an alien dawn, the booze wearing off and a headache kicking in, I started to suspect that this wasn’t one of them.

    It had been surprisingly easy to make contact with the underground community of unregistered clones and soft-hearted sympathisers. Flashing the vat scar on my arm proved my credentials and got me through some awkward online chats.

    The embassy’s security staff could have done it quicker, if they’d known that there were clones involved in stealing our data. But the only reason I knew was that one of the thieves shared my face, and that wasn’t a fact I wanted to share.

    The meeting was scheduled for early morning at a human café. By the time I got there I’d had a long, tense, sleepless night. I managed a conversation with the waiter in Chinese, but the look on his face told me that I wasn’t doing well. Listening to the voices of the passing crowd, from familiar bipeds to undulating twelve-foot worm-men, I failed miserably at my usual game of spot the language.

    At least I had coffee to pick me up.

    An hour later, I was on my third cup, twitching like a flea-ridden dog, and increasingly certain that I’d been stood up.

    Then I noticed the k’kiri sitting three tables over. His red facial feathers and slender black beak had stood out when I sat down. Now he’d been nursing a plate of fried bugs for an hour while he tried not to look my way.

    So they were here after all, watching me. That meant they planned to use me, not meet with me. I wasn’t having that.

    I tapped the centre of the table with a bank card, settling the bill, then got up. As casually as I could with a full bladder and flayed nerves, I strolled down the street. As I rounded the corner I looked back and saw the red k’kiri peering intently at a shop window twenty feet away.

    I was no spy, but anyone working on the diplomatic staff got followed from time to time, even PR officers. I followed the training I’d been given for these situations, using short streets and junctions to make me harder to follow, forcing him to get close or risk losing me.

    Then I broke from my training. Instead of speeding up and heading for safety, I ducked around a corner and waited, hidden from the world in a maze of back streets and alleys.

    Seconds later, the k’kiri appeared. He squawked in alarm as I leapt out at him.

    “Got you!” I exclaimed. “Now tell me what you’re up to, or else-”

    I heard footsteps behind me just before the sack slid over my head. I tried to twist around then felt a jolt of pain as I was hit with something like a taser.

    Someone squawked as I slid to the ground and the world went black.

    *

    The first things I noticed when I woke up were the smell of piss and the damp patch on my trousers. Next time, I’d go to the loo before anyone deprived me of control of my body.

    The sack was still over my head and plastic restraints bound my hands together.

    “Hello?” I called out.

    My voice echoed around a cavernous space. The noise didn’t help my throbbing head.

    There were footsteps. Someone hauled me upright and yanked the bag off my head.

    I was in an empty warehouse. A dozen humans and k’kiri stood watching me, along with a single tentacled jouran. The man in the centre looked very familiar.

    “No-one from the embassy tried to contact us about you,” my younger clone said. “Do they even know that you were trying to meet with us?”

    “Nice to see that you make the best-looking guy your leader,” I said, filling the quiet while I mustered my scrambled thoughts.

    “Do they even know what you are?” he asked, approaching me. He rolled up his sleeve, revealing a scar a lot like mine.

    “They suspect,” I said. “That’s why my assistant keeps leaving alcoholics anonymous leaflets everywhere.”

    “You’re funny.” His smile turned into an angry frown. “I’m not. Now tell me, do they even suspect that this isn’t about the money?”

    I stifled my surprise, a skill I’d practised while facing journalists and other merciless predators.

    “If I tell you, will you let me go?” I asked.

    “The death of the embassy’s PR officer will get a lot of attention.” He slid a wickedly gleaming knife from inside his jacket. “Especially when the autopsy reveals that you’ve been a clone this whole time.”

    If my bladder hadn’t been empty, I would have pissed myself all over again at the look of gleeful menace on his face.

    But something else had grabbed my mind, something that might just get me out of here in one piece.

    Maybe.

    If I was very lucky.

    “I’m good at attention,” I said. “That’s why I’m here. I want to help you get the coverage you’re after for your cause.”

    “What do you know about our cause?” he asked sharply.

    “I know that I have to hide who I am,” I said. “And I know that would be different in your world.”

    It was pure speculation. But he had the gleaming eyes and sweaty palms of a revolutionary, and that made it a safe guess.

    “Why should I trust you?” he asked.

    “Because I have skills you want,” I replied. “And because if I fail, you can go back to plan S for stabbing.”

    He brought the knife level with my guts and looked me in the eye. That mad gleam was still there.

    “Alright,” he said as he severed the bonds around my wrists. “Let’s give this a try.”

    * * *

     

    And so we continue with Diplomatic Baggage, a tale of lies, diplomacy, and uncomfortable situations. You can find the previous stories here:

    What Lies Behind Us – On the alien planet of Herrje, Julian Atticus rushes to save the British embassy from a public relations disaster.

    The Best Laid Plans – An encounter at the spaceport ruins Julian’s day.

    Friday Night on Herrje – The fallout from a theft ruins Julian’s Friday night.

     

    If you enjoyed this then you can read more about Julian Atticus, cynical PR man of the future, in my collection Lies We Will Tell Ourselves. And come back next week for the next installment, because you just know things are going to get worse.


  • Friday Night on Herrje

    It was Friday night on Herrje, the most cosmopolitan planet in the galaxy. I should have been out partying with strange beings and their even stranger drinks. Instead I was stuck at work, along with all the rest of the British Embassy staff. Because with sensitive documents stolen and the reputation of our nation at stake, nobody was getting a night off.

    I sat outside Ambassador Canning’s office, holding the press release I’d been preparing in case the blackmailers released the documents. It was vague, mostly because no-one had told me what was in the documents. Apparently that wasn’t something a public relations officer needed to know. After all, it was only vital to my job.

    The door opened and Warren, the security chief, stormed out. He looked wretched. I could live with that, given that his balls-up had cost me my holiday and now my Friday night.

    The ambassador followed him.

    “Not now, Julian,” she said as I held out the draft press release. “I need to go meet with the police chief.”

    “Security footage from the spaceport has arrived on our servers,” Warren said, glancing at his tablet.

    “That’s the top priority,” Canning said. “Find out if that jouran met with anyone before stealing your bag.”

    In all the rushing around, I’d forgotten how much might have been caught on camera. Possibly including someone who looked suspiciously like a clone of me. A clone who, as far as anyone here knew, shouldn’t exist.

    “I can review the footage,” I said a little too eagerly. “Leave Warren to do the real detective work.”

    Canning rolled her eyes. “You don’t need to grovel to get your holiday days back.”

    “I want to help,” I protested.

    “Fine,” she said, giving me a suspicious look. “But stay sober.”

    *

    I went through the security footage on a computer in my office, tagging parts that seemed important and ditching the rest in a big folder labelled “Irrelevant”.

    An hour in, I found what I was afraid of. A human face in the crowds, looking almost exactly like me. He’d clearly known where the cameras were and tried to avoid them, so there wasn’t much footage. But it was enough to raise serious questions.

    I pulled it all together into a single folder on my screen and sat staring at it. This was relevant material. It showed the man who had helped steal vital documents. It could lead Warren to him.

    I had to hide it. Clones weren’t allowed to hold sensitive jobs, due to the risk that someone might have put controls into their coding. In the thirty years since the process was banned, there had never been a problem, but that wouldn’t allay anyone’s fears. And it wouldn’t change the fact that I’d been lying all my life.

    The door burst open and Warren strode in.

    “Don’t you know how to knock?” I snapped in panic.

    “Sod you, Atticus,” he said. “What have you found?”

    He stood behind me, peering over my shoulder at the three folders – “Important”, “Irrelevant”, and “Him”.

    “I’ve sifted through it all,” I said, trying to draw his attention to “Important”. “This has all the footage of the jouran.”

    “That’s it?” he asked.

    “Also all the footage of you stumbling around losing your bag.” I opened my desk drawer and pulled out a bottle, looking for any way to distract him.

    “What’s that?” he asked, pointing at the third folder.

    I felt as though dread had grabbed me by the nuts and given a hard squeeze.

    “It’s…” I was normally good at excuses. They were my job. But there and then, with my own arse on the line, I froze.

    There was a beep. Warren pulled a small tablet from his pocket. He grinned and stepped away from the computer. While he was distracted, I dumped the third folder into “Irrelevant”.

    “Someone saw a human meet the jouran outside,” he said. “Six feet tall, brown hair, fairly slim, casual shirt…”

    His voice trailed off as he looked over at me.

    “You’d never met that jouran before, had you?” he asked.

    “No!” I exclaimed. “Never.”

    But with a growing sense of dread, I realised who had.

    The bloody clone.

    “I should go.” Warren gave me a suspicious look as he headed for the door. “Send me that footage, yes?”

    “Will do,” I replied, trying to sound relaxed. Instead my voice turned into a tense squeak.

    As the door closed behind Warren, I poured myself a drink. No point worrying about Canning’s order to stay sober. Whatever part of the truth came out during Warren’s investigation, I was bound to get fired now.

    It was Friday night on Herrje, the most cosmopolitan planet in the galaxy. I should have been out partying with strange beings and their even stranger drinks. Instead I sat in my office, having a really good mope.

    * * *

     

    And so continue the misadventures of Julian Atticus. You can read what led up to this here:

    Next week, as things go from bad to worse, Atticus decides to try to dig himself out of trouble. I’m sure it can only go well.


  • Needing to Be Both Old and New

    At an Eastercon panel this year, John Clute made a really interesting point about studying science fiction and fantasy. He said that it’s about the old and the new.

    On the old side, you need to study the sf+f megatext of the last couple of centuries. This is the mass of stories, tropes, and conversations that have put us where we are. Without an awareness of that, you’ll miss understanding what we have. As a writer, you’ll recreate things that have been done to death.

    On the new side, if sf+f aren’t at the edge of what’s new, if they aren’t presenting us with novel things, then they aren’t worth studying. We should aim to provide something new.

    I’m sure that his point has far wider application. It’s relevant to other academic fields. It’s relevant to creating sf+f, not just studying it. Maybe that mingling of old and new is relevant to everything in life (though I’m stretching there).

    But this is why, much as I dislike facing the cultural cannon, it’s important to know about it. The new and old are intertwined, and they’re both vital.

     


  • Disability in SFF: Beyond 101 – an Eastercon panel

    For me, writing about other people sometimes feels like a minefield. I don’t want to write lots of white, straight, cis, able-bodied, male characters – the world has plenty of those. But as I am all those things, there’s a very real risk of writing other perspectives badly.

    So when Eastercon had a range of panels on disability in science fiction and fantasy, I was determined to go and learn more.

    Beyond 101

    The panel I went to was trying to get beyond the basics of representing disability in sf+f. The panellists were Sue Smith, Caroline Mullan, and Diane Carr, all of whom made some excellent points.

    As Sue pointed out at the start, sci-fi is a productive space in which to explore disability and access. This doesn’t mean that it’s done flawlessly. Representations of disability often have an ablist bias – something I’m sure I’m guilty of myself.

    Fortunately, the panellists pointed out both obvious and less obvious pitfalls.

    Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

    The panel skimmed over one of the biggest problem areas – presenting disability just to wipe it away. For example, Geordi La Forge in Star Trek seldom shows the real challenges of blindness, as he has a visor that lets him see. Similarly, Daredevil is effectively not blind due to his other senses. There was a whole other panel on this, so this panel didn’t cover it for long, but the overall message was clear – if you’re not showing the experience of being disabled, you’re not really showing disability.

    Diane pointed out a less obvious but equally important problem area – metaphors. When you use disability as a metaphor in a story, a lot of the nitty gritty of living with disability is lost. You’re seeing a symbol, not a reality. Metaphors are usually spoken from a position of power, one that assumes its own view to be neutral. Someone else’s experience is leveraged to make a point. But that point is seldom about other people’s experiences.

    This opened up a whole can of worms in my brain. I seldom think about the messages of my metaphors, beyond the message I’m trying to send. Clearly, that’s something to work on. And clearly, when I include disabled characters, they should be there as people, not symbols.

    Opportunities

    The panel raised some really interesting ideas, things that I’ll try to use in future writing.

    They talked about DIY solutions to disability, such as people building custom-made prosthetics. This sounds like it’s rich with character and story potential.

    An audience member talked about how having seizures leaves her on edge all the time, as she never knows when they will strike. That’s an experience I want to use to enrich a character.

    And the panel talked about how medicine, with its technology, power structures, and resources, tries to fit people into those structures rather than adjusting to them. That’s an interesting conflict right there.

    Becoming a Better Writer

    I’m not going to pretend that I’ll flawlessly represent disability from now on. But just thinking about what I might be missing will make me better at it. And anything that makes me better at writing other people’s experiences makes me a better writer.

    Huge thanks to the panellists for that.


  • The Best Laid Plans – a science fiction flash story

    I sat at a bar in Herrje’s largest spaceport, watching people while I waited for my flight. They came from a hundred different planets, divided skin colour, language, and number of limbs, but united in the experience of travel. Getting flustered and lost, impatient about baggage, bumping and jostling each other. Seeing the impatient ones suffer through their own foul tempers was immensely satisfying.

    And yes, I’ll admit it, I also enjoyed watching a touching reunion or too.

    I was onto my second beer when the highlight of my morning came stomping out of the crowd, his ridiculous old-fashioned tie swinging as he jerked his big red face from side to side. Warren was the security officer at the embassy, a man who had ruined several of my press conferences by going off script. Seeing the humourless sod in this state was the perfect start to my holiday.

    Then he caught sight of me. A look of relief crossed his face as he hurried over.

    My good mood evaporated.

    “Atticus!” he exclaimed, leaning in close so that he could whisper. “Thank God you’re here. I need help.”

    “Sorry,” I said, pointing up at the departures board. “My flight’s just been announced.”

    I rose from my stool, picked up my bag, and tried to slip past him. But he caught my wrist with a grip that could have turned bricks to dust.

    “I’m couriering sensitive documents for the ambassador,” he hissed. “The bag’s gone missing. You have to help.”

    “Can’t,” I said, trying to pry his fingers loose. “I might miss my flight.”

    “Fine.” Warren glared daggers at me. “If you won’t help then I’ll ask someone else.” He raised his voice. “Security!”

    A blue-skinned creature with six legs rushed over. Vestigial wings protruded from the back of its black uniform and a pair of clear goggles covered its bulbous eyes.

    “How can I help?” it asked, the words crudely translated by a device on its collar.

    Warren pulled out an ID card and presented it for the security guard to scan.

    “I’m the head of security at the British Embassy,” he said. “There’s been a theft. I need you to lock down this part of the spaceport.”

    I caught a glimpse of data scrolling down the inside of the goggles. The guard said something into a microphone then stood listening to the response.

    “As you wish, Mister Warren,” it said, handing back the card.

    Suddenly, doors hissed closed and messages flashed up on screens around the spaceport. A vast collective groan emerged from the crowds.

    This time I couldn’t appreciate their displeasure. I was feeling it myself.

    “You arse, Warren,” I snapped. “Now I’ll miss my flight.”

    “You could have helped,” he said.

    “Fine.” It was the only way to get out of this now anyway. “I’ll help.”

    Warren pulled out his pocket computer and showed us a picture of the bag – a small blue satchel, inconspicuous looking but woven from near-impregnable fibres and with a genetically coded lock. Then we split up and began roaming the concourse.

    The minute I saw the jouran in the red jumpsuit, I knew that her bag was ours. She was holding herself too stiffly for an invertebrate, the suckers on her tentacles clutching the strap too tight.

    “There!” I called out.

    The jouran turned and ran off through the crowd. Warren and I were in hot pursuit, while behind us the security guard got on his radio.

    We ran the length of the hall and up a flight of stairs, barging people aside. At the end, a pair of glass doors swung open. Apparently lockdowns weren’t so tight in the first class lounge.

    The room was spacious and high-ceilinged, with excellent air conditioning, huge sofas pressed up against the walls, and a better stocked bar than the one I’d been at. The few of its occupants who looked our way did so with disdain.

    There was no sign of the jouran.

    “Shit.” Warren punched the wall.

    “How bad can it really be?” I asked.

    “Documents about cloning programs,” he replied, his voice low again.

    The last of my good mood evaporated. The cloning crimes of a previous generation had only just become a hot-button topic again. The wrong sort of leak could be very damaging for Britain and create endless work for me.

    I reached for the scar on the inside of my arm, then stopped as a thought crossed my mind.

    I hadn’t met many jourans, but I’d visited one of their circuses. Those suckers were great for climbing, and like a lot of invertebrates, they could squeeze into surprisingly small spaces.

    I looked up. High on the wall to my left, an air conditioning vent hung open. A scrap of red fabric was caught on its edge.

    I darted back out through the glass doors and around the corner to the left. In a dimly lit service corridor, the jouran was clambering down from a ventilation shaft, still holding the bag.

    “Got you!” I said, grabbing at the fugitive.

    I glanced past her down the corridor. A man stared back at me. His face was mine but younger.

    I stared slack-jawed at him. This shouldn’t be possible.

    The jouran writhed from my grasp, slapped me so hard I fell to the floor, and ran off down the corridor. A door at the end hissed open, letting her and the younger me through.

    By the time I reached it, the door was locked shut again.

    When Warren appeared a moment later, I didn’t tell him about the younger me. That could lead to questions I didn’t want to answer. But I told him the rest.

    As we were heading back down to the main concourse, shared misery gave me a brief feeling of sympathy for Warren.

    Our phones both buzzed at once. On my screen was a security coded message from the ambassador.

    “Blackmail threat received,” it read. “Criminals threatening to release evidence that the government is still working with k’kiri cloners. Need you back at the embassy now.”

    “Damn,” I muttered as we went to retrieve my luggage. “So much for the holiday.”

    * * *

     

    And so we leave Julian Atticus for this week. He’ll be back, as his job just gets worse and worse. But then, he wouldn’t be happy if he didn’t have something to complain about.

    If you enjoyed this story, you might also like my sci-fi collection, Lies We Will Tell Ourselves. And if you sign up to my mailing list, you can get free fiction straight to your inbox every Friday.


  • Opening Salvo by Zoe McAuley

    Having played in the amazing New Pathways in Lycanthropy, I decided to read the short story that inspired it. Called “Damage Control”, it’s in Zoe McAuley’s collection Opening Salvo. It’s an interesting read that shows someone facing traumatic circumstances and reflects on coping with a world of werewolves. Not as traumatic as living that world a few weeks back, but still good.

    I then moved on to read the rest of the collection, and found some delightful things there. I particularly recommend “What if Everything Was Forgotten?” This is a story about someone trying to understand the remains of a fallen civilisation. It’s about eccentricity and following your heart. It’s about compassion for others. It’s about turning the past into something useful for the future. It’s a sweet and unusual story.

    The whole collection is only a couple of quid on Amazon. At that price, I’d recommend it for “What if Everything Was Forgotten?” alone.


  • What Lies Behind Us – a science fiction flash story

    As I started the weekly press briefing, I had no idea that I’d soon be defending the indefensible.

    “The human mining operation on Redfall,” said a groundling journalist, waving a tablet with one spindly limb. “What can you tell us about it?”

    “I can tell you that’s the Kenyans,” I replied, using a vocal adjuster in my collar to make the low, rumbling groundling sounds. “This is the British embassy.”

    Her antennae drooped in embarrassment. A lot of human nations were represented on Herrje and it could get confusing for locals. But she had been working the diplomatic beat for a decade and should have known better.

    “Next question.” I pointed to a feathered k’kiri.

    “Is it true that the British government stole k’kiri technology to kickstart its cloning program?” she asked.

    Just the mention of clones made my guts knot. Without thinking, I reached for the scar on the inside of my arm.

    “We don’t do cloning,” I said. “Next question?”

    “But one of your previous governments-” she began.

    “Next question,” I snapped.

    The rest of the briefing was the soft, pointless drivel that is most PR. As it ended and I made for the door, strong fingers gripping my arm. I turned to see the k’kiri journalist.

    “Mr Atticus.” With her green feathered face and slender beak, she looked almost like a parrot. A determined parrot that was going to make my life awkward. “You should talk to me.”

    “And why is that?” I asked, extracting myself from her grip. The other journalists had all rushed away to find real stories.

    “I have evidence,” she said. “Damning evidence, as humans say.”

    “I don’t believe you.” I fought to keep my calm. This was all kinds of bad. Britain had spent thirty years trying to put the eco-eugenicist government behind us. Stir that up again, throw in interplanetary technology theft, and you had a public relations nightmare.

    “Believe me or don’t,” the journalist said. “But if you won’t answer my questions, I’ll publish the story without your side.”

    The communicator in my pocket buzzed, telling me that she had sent me her contact details. Then she stalked out of the room, leaving me to brood.

    “Snap out of it,” I muttered to myself. “Let’s go get a drink.”

    #

    Technically, I wasn’t meant to be drinking in the embassy’s archive room. Alcohol and government records were considered a bad combination. But after six hours at a data terminal, reading about the bad old days, I was glad that I’d brought a bottle. There were only so many disturbing genetic experiments you could read about sober.

    Worst of all, I couldn’t find what I was after. However the British government had developed cloning technology, the trail had been carefully hidden. Hardly surprising, given the terrible defects many clones had developed, the illegality of the work, and the stigma attached to the whole dirty business. As far as Her Majesty’s Government was concerned, the less people looked into this, the better.

    But someone was looking into it, and to prove them wrong I needed to know where the tech really came from.

    My level of access clearly wasn’t good enough. I needed someone else.

    Ten minutes and a breath mint later, I was knocking on the door of the ambassador’s office.

    “Enter,” Ambassador Canning called out.

    As I stepped into the room and closed the door behind me, she peered suspiciously across the top of her glasses.

    “Have you been drinking, Julian?” she asked.

    “Just a little,” I admitted, peering out the window at the city beyond. Low domes, dizzying towers, sparkling buildings that seemed built out of light – all the hassles of my job were worth it for that view.

    “Dammit, Julian.” She put down her tablet and stared at me. “Don’t make this a thing again.”

    “Won’t,” I said. “Promise. But there’s a thing.”

    I put my own tablet down on her desk, showing my formal request for more information on the cloning era.

    “Ah.” Her voice softened. “Why do you want this?”

    “Press thing,” I said. “Have to prove that we didn’t steal it off the k’kiri.”

    “That would be difficult.” Canning ran a hand through her greying hair. “Because that’s exactly what happened.”

    “Shiiiiiit.” I sank into a seat.

    “I need you to cover for this. Lie, obfuscate, do whatever you must to stop this turning into a diplomatic row.”

    “But the evidence…”

    “Is from the past. Don’t let that bring down the present.”

    An idea flashed across my brain.

    “Thanks, boss.” I leapt to my feet. The room spun a little and I grabbed the back of the chair. “I’ve got this covered.”

    #

    I was sitting at a pavement cafe near the embassy when Saluc, the k’kiri journalist, found me.

    “You-” She began. I only understood half the words that followed. My study of k’kiri languages focused on diplomacy, not obscenities.

    “Nice to see you too,” I said, smiling.

    “You gave my story to that groundling.” She held up a tablet with a news feed on it. “And you fed her some waffle about the past being the past, how you’re a new nation now, how your government will take its time to fully investigate the allegations, blah blah blah.”

    I shrugged. “I brought her a story. She was happy to tell it my way.”

    “People should be outraged,” Saluc said. “Instead, you’ve turned this into one more piece of bland politics.”

    “I do my best.” I gestured to a seat. “Would you like to join me for a drink, Ms Saluc? I hear that you like coffee.”

    “Fuck you, Atticus.” Some obscenities will translate into any language. “Those clones were abominations, and I’m going to prove that they were part of something worse.”

    As she stormed away, I reached instinctively for the scar on the inside of my left arm. The one I said came from a childhood bicycle accident. The place where they’d removed my own warped souvenir of the cloning vats.

    I jerked my fingers away and reached for my coffee. No sense dwelling on the secrets of the past.

    * * *

     

    And so begins another series of flash stories. This time it’s science fiction and the return of Julian Atticus, the cynical PR man. He ‘s featured in some of my previous stories, including in the collection Lies We Will Tell Ourselves. So if you enjoyed this story then you might want to check that out. And come back next week for the next installment, as a dangerous leak forces Atticus to sober up and do some real work.

    Well, something approximating real work.


  • Cryptogram Puzzle Post

    I love novel approaches to story and games. So when I saw a flyer for a monthly “art, gaming and storytelling experiment” delivered to subscribers by post, I was never going to resist.

    Each month, Cryptogram Puzzle Post sends you a bundle of beautifully presented and interconnected puzzles. There are pretty pictures, brain teasers, and a suggested playlist, all themed around a story of alchemy and nature. It’s so fricking cool.

    I haven’t got far with my puzzles. I’m still stuck on the last page of the first set and the second delivery arrived days ago. But even that adds to the excitement. Having something fun come by post, instead of junkmail. The lovely illustrated envelope. The anticipation of knowing that it’ll arrive and of opening the envelope.

    The modern world has made it easier to experiment with culture. The internet lets you reach a wide audience with niche products. But this means we can get stuck doing stuff electronically.

    Cryptogram Puzzle Post is something a bit different. For that alone, I salute it. And spend hours obsessing over it, trying to solve that last damn puzzle.