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Uncanny Mini Interview with Year One Contributor Amal El-Mohtar!

Amal

Amal El–Mohtar is the Nebula–nominated author of The Honey Month, a collection of spontaneous short stories and poems written to the taste of twenty–eight different kinds of honey. She is a two–time winner of the Rhysling Award for Best Short Poem, and edits Goblin Fruit, an online quarterly dedicated to fantastical poetry. Her work has most recently appeared in Steampunk III: Steampunk Revolution, edited by Ann VanderMeer, Chicks Unravel Time, a volume of essays on Doctor Who edited by L. M. Myles and Deborah Stanish, Queers Dig Time Lords, a volume of essays on Doctor Who edited by Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas, Glitter & Mayhem, edited by John Klima, Lynne M. Thomas, and Michael Damian Thomas, and Kaleidoscope: Diverse YA, Science Fiction and Fantasy Stories, edited by Alisa Krasnostein and Julia Rios. Find her online at amalelmohtar.com.

Interview by Michi Trota

1) Your published work crosses several disciplines: nonfiction, poetry, fiction. What is it that you enjoy the most about writing each of these? What is the most challenging thing about writing nonfiction, poetry and fiction?

When writing nonfiction — especially in reviewing books for NPR — there’s a feeling of legitimately getting to do good; the pleasure of having a high-profile platform through which to introduce people to the literature I love best is immense. With poetry, there’s usually some sense of having unlocked a sequence of tumblers with the right word, such that each reading is a spell or a key to something affecting. With fiction, there’s a pleasure, relief, buoyancy to the act of completing a piece of writing that’s unlike anything else.

I remember the day I knew I had to be a writer professionally. I was 17 and working in a bookstore in Ottawa, opening the shop for the first shift, and while in the back room I became aware of this almost uncanny (ha!) feeling of happiness. It was a golden, lifting feeling from absolutely nowhere. I’d had a perfectly normal commute, wasn’t looking forward to anything in particular — and then realised I could trace this glowing inward to the memory of having finished a story the night before. It wasn’t even a particularly good story! But I thought, very clearly, that if THIS feeling was what happened when I wrote, I should probably figure out a way to make it my living.

As to challenges — with non-fiction, it can be difficult to shift my style to suit a given venue. Years of academia mean that I’m sometimes doing overtime wrangling semi-colons into submission. With reviews specifically, trying to find something engaging to say about a book that hasn’t engaged me — a book about which I’ve felt no passion, either in love or hatred — can be tricky. With poems — I find it very hard to write poems to request. I’m never as happy with them when they’ve been deliberately tooled to some day-brain purpose. With fiction — I feel very keenly the fact that every story needs, in some sense, to constitute a leveling-up. I keep thinking writing short fiction should get easier as I go along, but no, in fact, every story I finish feels like the hardest thing I’ve done yet.

2) Your Nebula-nominated story, “The Green Book,” took elements typical in science fiction and re-imagined them in a fantasy world. How different do you think science fiction and fantasy actually are? Are there defined borders between the genres, or is there more crossover than people think?

So I only very belatedly — like, literally a year after publication — realised that “The Green Book” could be trans-humanism in a fantasy world if you squinted. But obviously stories of metamorphoses and humans retaining human consciousness in non-human bodies are tales as old as time, easily predating our ruminations on achieving that with technology. I personally think of science fiction as a subset of fantasy, and that they’re the head and tail of an Ourobouros, feeding and swallowing each other constantly.

3) How do you use your work to challenge readers?

This is such a great question. I actually turned to Twitter to ask readers how they felt I did this. “Putting politics inside lyrical tales like a delicious left-wing trojan horse,” was one answer; “by working in the interstices of literary forms and genres” was another. Charles Tan was kind enough to aggregate some responses here. Apart from those, there are some things that challenge people that I don’t think should, like women loving each other, or people being brown and opinionated — I’m always a little startled when someone says, “I really loved your story, pity it had to have lesbians in it.”

4) What is the most uncanny thing that’s ever happened to you?

I don’t know about “the most” — I’ve had crows tell me when I had rejections coming up, mistaken hummingbirds for fairies, and seen gnome-creatures on the backs of birds resolve themselves into red-helmeted cyclists — but the first one to come to mind was a brief moment while I was in the UAE. It was dark — probably witching hour dark — and the 2nd floor flat I was in was lightless except for the screen of my computer.

I turned towards the windows, and became aware, out of the corner of my eye, of a face floating there. And for what felt like an age I was convinced there was someone at the window, floating 2 floors above ground level, staring at me. I turned to face it straight on — and saw, of course, that it was my reflection. But that feeling of the world tilting, of impossible things being possible, was very keen.

Uncanny Is Opening for Submissions on September 11, 2014

Uncanny is opening for submissions on September 11, 2014.

You can also find this information on our Submissions page. Please note that this is a temporary procedure until our new website and submissions system are completed.

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Editors-in-Chief: Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas

Uncanny is seeking passionate SF/F fiction and poetry from writers from every conceivable background.  We want  intricate, experimental stories and poems with with gorgeous prose, verve, and imagination that elicit strong emotions and challenge beliefs. Uncanny believes there’s still plenty of room in the genre for tales that make you feel.

Fiction Guidelines

Uncanny is looking for original, unpublished speculative fiction stories between 750-7500 words. Payment is $.08 per word.

Submission procedures:

1- Please email your submission to uncannymagazine [at] gmail [dot] com. Make sure to put Fiction Submission: Short Story Title in the subject line.

2- All stories should be in Standard Manuscript Format and attached in .RTF, .DOC, or .DOCX formats.

3- Your cover letter should contain the length of your story, your significant publishing history and awards, and information that might be relevant to that specific submission.

4- Please do not send multiple submissions at once, or submissions simultaneously submitted at another market or anthology.

5- We try to respond to all submissions in 15 days. Please feel free to query uncannymagazine [at] gmail [dot] com if we’ve had your submission for over 30 days.

Poetry Guidelines

Uncanny is looking for original, unpublished speculative poetry of any length. Payment is $30 per poem.

1- Please email your submissions to uncannymagazine [at] gmail [dot] com. Make sure to put Poetry Submission: Poem Title in the subject line.

2- Your cover letter should contain the length of your poem, your significant publishing history and awards, and information that might be relevant to that specific submission.

3- You may send up to five poems at a time, but please send them in separate emails attached in .RTF, .DOC, or .DOCX formats. Please do not send poems simultaneously submitted at another market or anthology.

4-  We try to respond to all submissions in 15 days. Please feel free to query uncannymagazine [at] gmail [dot] com if we’ve had your submission for over 30 days.

 

Uncanny Mini Interview with Year One Contributor Rose Lemberg!

Rose Lemberg was born in Ukraine, and lived in subarctic Russia and Israel before immigrating to the US. Her prose and poetry have appeared in Strange Horizons, Apex, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Unlikely Story, Interfictions, and other venues. She edits Stone Telling with Shweta Narayan. Rose has also edited two anthologies: Here, We Cross, a collection of queer and genderfluid poetry from Stone Telling (Stone Bird Press, 2012) and The Moment of Change, an anthology of feminist speculative poetry (Aqueduct Press (2012). Rose can be found at roselemberg.net, her Livejournal blog, and on twitter as @roselemberg

Interview by Michi Trota

1- You speak several languages and have a PhD in linguistics. How does being multi-lingual influence influence your work?

Multilingualism is an integral part of my identity, and is reflected in my writing in direct and indirect ways. I think, most importantly, my multilingual and multicultural experiences made me keenly interested in the experiences of other people who live liminally – between languages, cultures, worldviews. I explore these issues in my writing, editing, and activism. I also sometimes write about linguists!
2- Much of your work explores themes of multiculturalism and genderqueerness. Why do you think it’s important to see these issues reflected in science fiction and fantasy? 
When I started writing, I felt – like many diverse writers before me – that I had to prove myself first by writing the standard – narratives, characters, tropes, and defaults; I felt that writing my own lived reality, off-kilter as it is, was something I had to earn first – something reserved to folks who were published and famous. There is a kernel of truth in that, I think still – standard narratives are easier to place –  but I could not sustain it. Tales of immigration and queerness poured out of me, speaking to the alienation and loss and wonder that I felt. I write both poetry and prose, and in 2010, I founded Stone Telling magazine, which I co-edit with Shweta Narayan. I could see first-hand the growth in the field in response to our work. Diverse writing, and diverse publishing, gives people courage to be themselves and to write their own narratives.

3- How do you use your work to challenge readers?

Readers are not a monolith. What’s challenging to one is met with a happy sigh of recognition from another. I write often about ethical dilemmas that arise from culture clashes and marginalizations. I also love writing about the domestic, the small details of people’s lives. If I made some of my readers think about realities not their own, and affirmed other people’s existence, then my work has been done.

4- What is the most uncanny thing that’s ever happened to you?

Ow, hm, wow, my life is magic realist by default, an endless stream of uncanny circumstances, many of them sad or wistful rather than joyful – like that time when I was alone at night in the Kurdish market in Jerusalem and came upon a magic onion stall (each onion held in it a city, a Jerusalem of gold); or that little shop of poultices and ancient harps that only certain people could see – two weeks before I left Jerusalem, I could not find it anymore; or that time I took a walk in Berkeley – the wind blew six plastic shopping bags past me, and then they soared up and bloomed into flowers, gray and translucent –  nobody else was there to see; or simpler things, like a giant bird screeching down to its death just outside my window, planting the seed of my divorce, two years since; or the dream I shared with my lover, on the same night, just before we began to talk. Magic permeates the everyday; it’s ordinary things that are hardest to find.

The Thomases SPIN FIRE!

Marvelous Space Unicorns!

We hope you had a wonderful weekend.

Back when we were approaching 100% funding, we promised that if we achieved it, we would film Managing Editor/Fire Spinner Michi Trota teaching Editors-in-Chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas how to spin fire. Over Labor Day weekend, it happened. Extra thanks to Jesse Lex for taking the footage and Just Write Chicago’s Jennifer Cross for being the 2nd instructor and back up safety spotter!

Here are the videos. Enjoy! 🙂

 

The Uncanny Kickstarter Is Over, and We Reached ALL of Our Stretch Goals!

You Beautiful, Spectacular, Space Unicorns!

We did it! The Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter is over, and we reached the final stretch goal with minutes to spare!

1018 Backers pledged $36,075!

This means we’ll have a magazine with original covers by Tran Nguyen & Galen Dara, 2 additional essays per issue, and 2 additional stories per issue!

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We’ll be sending out backer surveys in the next few days. 😀

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Since we have over 1001 Backers, the Amazing Amal El-Mohtar made a video of her reciting some original Space Unicorn limericks.

You can watch Amal’s video here. 

It’s possible that the Marvelous Maria Dahvana Headley also did something special to celebrate. 🙂

We couldn’t have accomplished this without you, our wonderful Space Unicorn Rangers Corps. THANK YOU. We can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciate your kindness and generosity. 

Now it’s time to get to work and make you a magnificent magazine filled with phenomenal content.

*throws sparkly confetti*

Best,

Lynne & Michael

The Final Space Unicorn Uncanny Countdown!

You Spectacular Space Unicorns,

With 24 hours to go in the Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter, we just hit our fourth stretch goal! Thanks to your generosity, we will be adding an additional story per issue!

How amazing is that?!?

We still have one more stretch goal of a 2nd additional story per issue. We can do this! We would love to have more content for the readers and more opportunities for writers. You’re obviously under no obligation, but we would love this signal boosted over the last few hours of the Kickstarter.

As a reminder, we have have Space Unicorn Rangers Corps patches (our Space Unicorn mascot as created by the fantastic Katy Shuttleworth in scouting patch form) available to all of our backers as an add-on. Just increase your pledge by $10 and remind us in the survey that you will receive after the Kickstarter closes.

Thank you all so much for making this happen.

Warmly,

Lynne and Michael Thomas

We’ve Reached Two Stretch Goals!

Hello You Wonderful Space Unicorns,

The Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter has reached two stretch goals! There will be ORIGINAL COVERS from artists Tran Nguyen and Galen Dara!

If you backed Uncanny for more than $50, you have the option of getting this original art in postcard form. There are also backer levels that will let you get this art as a print. How awesome is that? 🙂

We’re currently $1550 away from the next stretch goal of 2 additional essays per issue. We already have essays coming from Jim C. Hines, Kameron Hurley, Tansy Rayner Roberts (the last three Hugo winners for Best Fan Writer), Sarah Kuhn , Julia Rios, and Diana Pho . Imagine what we could do with extra essay slots.

After that, we have two stretch goals for additional stories. We would love to give you more amazing content in each issue.

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In other news, Editors-in-Chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas were interviewed by Escape Pod.

Best,

Lynne and Michael

We Funded, Reached a Stretch Goal, and Now Hugos!

As almost all of you already know,  WE DID IT! Uncanny Magazine is fully funded, surpassing the $26,000 mark!

THANK YOU!

We couldn’t have done it without you.

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We are so excited to begin work, getting ready to bring you Issue One in November.

We still have lots of rewards available, and stretch goals!

The first stretch goal of an original cover from artist Tran Nguyen has already been reached!

We are only $705 away from our second stretch goal, an original cover from Hugo Award-winning artist Galen Dara!

The next stretch goals are:

  • At $30,000, we will commission 2 additional essays per issue
  • At $33,000, we will be able to add one additional original story per issue
  • At $36,000, we will be able to add two additional original stories per issue

We still have lots of neat things coming up in the near future to thank you for your support. Lynne needs to complete her Black Canary cosplay (as promised), and we will also be making a video of Michi teaching Lynne & Michael to spin fire, which should be VERY entertaining given Lynne’s deep fear of fire.

In the meantime, rest assured that we are going to be working behind the scenes to deliver as much awesome as humanly possible.

Thank you so much for making Uncanny a reality. We’re humbled by your support.

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In other related news, tonight is The 2014 Hugo Award Ceremony. Editors-in-Chief Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas have multiple nominations:

BEST RELATED WORK:
Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It Edited by Sigrid Ellis & Michael Damian Thomas (Mad Norwegian Press)

BEST SEMIPROZINE:
Apex Magazine edited by Lynne M. Thomas, Jason Sizemore, and Michael Damian Thomas

BEST FANCAST:
Verity! Deborah Stanish, Erika Ensign, Katrina Griffiths, L.M. Myles, Lynne M. Thomas, and Tansy Rayner Roberts

Many other Uncanny Year One contributors are nominees, including Mary Robinette Kowal, Rachel Swirsky, Catherynne M. Valente, Sofia Samatar, Kameron Hurley, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Paul Cornell, Galen Dara, Julie Dillon, Julia Rios, and Sonya Taaffe plus staff members Erika Ensign and Deborah Stanish.

We wish everybody the best of luck! 🙂

Warmly,

Lynne & Michael

Uncanny Magazine Is 92% Funded with Two Weeks to Go!

Hello Space Unicorn Rangers,

We’re nearly there! With little over two weeks to go, the Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter is 92% funded with 669 backers! To celebrate this milestone, our daughter Caitlin cosplayed a Hogwarts student. (Caitlin is 11 and about to start middle school.)

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We would love your help to spread the word. The sooner we reach 100%, the sooner we can start working on our first issue. This includes opening up to unsolicited submissions. This is going to be an amazing magazine, and we can’t wait to share it with the world.

The Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter still has many exciting backer levels available including:

  • AUTOGRAPH HUNTERS’ DREAM. Normandyes postcard autographed by 8 different writers currently there on a French retreat: Elizabeth Bear, Greer Gilman, Ellen Klages, David D. Levine, Scott Lynch, Pat Murphy, Madeline Robins, and Rachel Swirsky.
  • SWIRSKY STORY FOR YOU: Personalized, autographed unpublished short story manuscript from Nebula Award-winning author Rachel Swirsky.
  • SHINIES 1 pair beaded earrings handmade by Rachel Swirsky.
  • SCARY HAM FUNERAL KIT. As heard at this year’s Nebula Awards: the story of the scary ham: http://www.tor.com/blogs/2014/05/the-scary-ham. Ellen Klages will put together a unique package including an autographed print of the Scary Ham Story and a canned ham. (Please follow local laws when dealing with your ham).
  • HAIKU EARRING PARTY IN A BOX Jeweler Elise Matthesen will provide everything you need to throw a Haiku Earring Party. Includes a dozen pairs of earrings (all sterling silver) with names, pens and haiku cards, and instructions for conducting the party.
  • HOP WITH Maria Dahvana Headley. Take a vintage shopping trip in NYC with Maria styling you (you are responsible for purchasing stuff if you like it), or Maria will create a virtual redecoration of your home in her signature cabinet of curiousities style – as in, you tell her your favorite things, and she make a virtual fantastical room for you. Travel to NYC and lodgings NOT INCLUDED. If you follow Maria, you know this is going to be an epic shopping experience.
  • DANCE VERITY DANCE. Verity! is a Hugo-nominated podcast in which six smart women discuss Doctor Who (http://veritypodcast.com). The Verity! podcast will record an episode JUST FOR BACKERS (minimum 20 minutes per topic, but we’re often chatty!). Backers at this level get to choose our topics, from the silly to the sublime (need not be Doctor Who). This episode will not be publicly released through the Verity! website as an Extra for at least six months, and we may not release it at all outside of this Kickstarter.
  • NAME OUR SPACE UNICORN Our awesome unicorn was designed by Katy Shuttleworth, but it needs a name! Also includes dinner with the Uncanny editors (and any willing authors who can join us) at a convention.
  • POCONOS RETREAT Support at this level gets you a writer/editor retreat at a vacation home in the Poconos (big screen TV, wifi, & cable included), with Lynne M. Thomas, Deborah Stanish, and possibly additional area writers (Fran Wilde, Sarah Pinsker, A.C. Wise, Michael R. Underwood) based on availability. You are responsible for getting to Philadelphia, but we will cover transportation to the vacation cottage, housing, and food for the weekend.

And don’t forget that we have Space Unicorn Rangers Corps patches available as an add-on. Just add $10 to your pledge and let us know in your survey after the Kickstarter closes.

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If you would like to hear more about the project, Managing Editor Michi Trota Guest Blogged on The Radish and Editors-in-Chief Guest Blogged on SF Signal.

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Finally, we have an exciting video coming up. As you may know, Managing Editor Michi Trota is an experienced firespinner. In honor of being fully funded, we will be making a video of her teaching Lynne M. Thomas how to firespin! What could possibly go wrong? 🙂

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Thank you again for all of your support. We couldn’t have done this without all of you.

Best,

Lynne & Michael

 

Uncanny Mini Interview with Future Uncanny Web Designer Jeremiah Tolbert!

Tolbert

Jeremiah Tolbert is a writer and web designer living in Lawrence Kansas with his wife, newborn son, and two identical cats named Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. His fiction has appeared in magazines such as Asimov’s, Interzone, and Lightspeed Magazine. He has also designed the websites of a few dozen authors ranging from Ann Leckie to Michael Connelly.

Interview by Deborah Stanish.

1- Clockpunk Studios has a reputation for developing gorgeous, artistic, yet highly functional websites for authors, publishers, and other businesses. When taking on a client, how do you approach melding their needs and aesthetic with the technical necessities of a well-designed website?

Balancing form and function is one of the core struggles of any design job. They’re not always necessarily at odds with each other, but maybe they are more so in web design because it’s still a relatively young design medium, versus, say, print. Because web technology is constantly advancing, and at a very fast pace, we get new tools every day. I’ve always erred on the side of function over form – it doesn’t really matter how beautiful a website is if it can’t be used. Increasingly, though, we don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

Still, websites are not art; at least not most of them. Websites are tools and their design should reflect that. Which is not to say that we think websites should be ugly; absolutely not. But their design should enhance and serve their functionality.  If a client requires something design or aesthetic-wise that we think is a detriment to the user’s experience, we try and point out those issues and work with the client to solve the problem in different ways.

Sometimes, a client might come to us with really precise instructions like, “Make this 3 pixels bigger, and change the color to blue.” Which is fine, but we try to dig deeper. Instead, we ask, “Okay, what’s the problem you want those changes to fix? Because maybe we can use our expertise to come up with a more effective solution.”

2- You are a writer yourself. Did that inspire you in any way to focus on building websites for creative types? Are there similarities in the creative process of writing and designing a website?

Absolutely. When I decided to strike out on my own and launch Clockpunk Studios, I knew I would need a niche to service. I’ve worked for clients such as AOL, and Kraft, and other Fortune 500 companies, but there’s no shortage of competition for jobs like those. Instead, I wanted to make my own way and work with clientele that didn’t traditionally have the services of professional web designers. And because I was already a writer with a large social circle of writers, writers started coming to me right away to build their sites. I was very lucky to have a lot of friends who needed work early on, and the business has ballooned from there.

At the time I started, websites for authors were in a pretty sorry state. Since then, a lot of tools have come along to make having a great author website so much easier than before – to the point where we are constantly working to provide more and more to our clients to compete with such solutions.

I think there are definitely similarities between the creative processes. Our projects begin with something akin to an outline, which we call wireframes. They’re pencil sketches of the interface and layouts of websites. Next, we move on to visual mockups to define the site’s design/look/feel, which would basically be the meat and bones rough draft. Finally, we write that design as code to make the site come alive. This involves a lot of revising of code and testing things, which in some ways emulates the rewriting process.

3- A website has a lot of jobs to do: highlighting the “product,” being user friendly, offering an enhanced user experience – but it is also a creative endeavor. How do you challenge yourself as a designer and developer without over-challenging the user?

I challenge myself as a designer and developer on my own time with personal projects more than I do for my clients, unless they’re specifically asking to take some risks. The trouble with challenging and stretching yourself is that sometimes you go down dead-ends or find less than ideal solutions. The learning process is valuable, but I prefer not to do that on someone else’s dime.  We’re more than happy to do so if that’s the expectation up-front.

Most of the work I do for clients is a challenge of iterating on successful design patterns; things that work, and trying to improve them, enhance them, without necessarily trying to reinvent the wheel with each project. There’s an enormous amount of value in consistency when it comes to user experience. This might result in some elements being the same across most websites – for instance, you’ll find that the search tool is often in the upper right, navigation at the top, and so on. This consistency, a design “pattern,” results in a better user experience.

As far as a website having a lot of things to do, this is true, but most of those things are in service of a singular goal (or a few goals). With your product example, user friendly and enhanced user experience are all things that service highlighting the project. A good website works in concert to accomplish goals like that.

4- What is the “uncanniest” thing that has ever happened to you?

Goodness, that’s a hard one. I’ve lived a pretty uncanny life, for which I’m pretty thankful. Here’s an absolutely true experience from my childhood, as I remember it.

It was July 4th, probably 1988 or 1987. My father, sister, brother, and I were driving back from my great-grandparents who lived in the country outside a tiny little town called Carbondale, Kansas. We were on a dirt road, and it was maybe one or two in the morning, miles from anything but farms.

Up ahead, we saw a man running down the middle of the road. He wore a track suit, looked to be in his 50s, and most peculiar of all, he consisted entirely of grays. He looked like he had sprung to life from a black and white photograph.

He ran straight at us, not acknowledging us in the car at all, gaze set straight ahead. My dad swerved to miss him. This all happened in a matter of seconds.

Here’s the thing about childhood memories– hard to know which parts are true and which are parts you made up. I know all of the above actually happened. I remember it clearly as do the others that were there.  I just can’t tell you if this last bit were true or if I tacked it on afterwards and it just feels real now.

But I could have sworn when I looked back at the man as he faded into the darkness, out of the reach of the car’s tail lights, that I could see through him; I could swear that he was semi-transparent and did not disappear into the darkness but instead evaporated into the summer night air.

I could swear that, but I won’t. Everything else is true though.

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