Zone Cook Mechanism // at Apparition Lit


Mainstream sci-fi mags are a tough nut to crack, but I managed to get one of my pieces published over at Apparition Lit.

A mash of Stalker and MasterChef Australia and my instinct for self-sabotage.

It’s pretty short, around 1000 words.

Here’s the opening:


At home with her wife and daughter, the Cook rejects pleas not to enter Zone Cook, telling them with raised chopstick that it is subject-destiny.

Later, the pod arrives, a Zone Cook official stepping out with window-sized clipboard.

On the clipboard, the following questions:

What is your signature dish?

What do you find difficult to cook?

Any allergies we should know about?

Can you bite your tongue, and for how long?

What do you consider fair?

Scanning the clipboard, the Cook takes a pen and answers all questions except one, which she draws a chaotic spiral next to.

In the kitchen, the daughter stares blankly at the microwave.


You can read the rest here

[Sonic Death Bot] Chapter 17: Not A Mormon


Two and a half minutes later, Noble landed on the concrete outside the Arts/Youth Centre –  which was just down the road from the hotdog stand – and carefully placed the two passengers on the ground beside her.

‘Fucking flit-hot rocketeer, Jed,’ said Mick Mick, trembling residue adrenaline as he spoke.

‘What he said,’ said Ruth.

‘It’s nothing.’

‘Sure, nothing.’ She looked at Noble’s feet, blowing out breath from two minutes ago. ‘If I had one of you spare, I’d sell my car right now, no lie.’

‘I’m not a prop.’

‘I know, I was joking, relax. I’m not going to sell my car.’


The three of them walked into the centre and Ruth disappeared into a side room to make the coffee that was allegedly better than the stuff at the hotdog stand.

Mick Mick got bored of waiting and wandered off into the main body of the centre, never to be seen again [actually, he ended up bumping into some musicians and they said he could carry around their instruments if they got any gigs. The pay was low and they didn’t have any gigs yet, but Mick Mick said yes, as long as they let him sing some tracks. They said no. Mick Mick modified. Long as you give me the bus fare back to K town every night. How much is that, they asked. Don’t know. Can we drive you to the metro instead? Deal].

Meanwhile, Noble fake-drank coffee and tried to explain her baseline ontology to Ruth, who nodded at her keyboard, occasionally looking up every few minutes to see if Mick Mick was coming back.

‘Ideologically, I was created to be right-wing, Reagan right, but some Cubans got hold of me during infancy and flipped me left. Then one of the Cubans turned a third way, a way I still don’t fully understand, and ever since I’ve been attacked by right and left. Or right and the third way left. I don’t know what to call it.’

Ruth nodded again and clicked on the computer sitting on the desk in front of them.

‘One of the Nazi robots wears a suit and seems respectable, which scares me. And Detroit, the robot called Detroit, hates me because I liked Wise Blood.’

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[Sonic Death Bot] Chapter 16: Background Chess


Back above ground it was daybreak and Los Angeleans were swarming around the streets, heading for breakfast or work or their beds or the earthquake crack where John Fante used to watch old men play chess and, despite being tired and injured, Noble still had enough clarity of thought to recognise the Nazi in the suit sitting alone by one of the chessboards.

‘You left me,’ said Noble, creeping up beside Frank and making him jump.


‘Everyone up, start shooting. That’s what you said.’

‘And I shot at them.’


‘The others panicked, fucked up the plan.’

‘You were the first one out.’

‘Well, as General Lee once said, retreat is often the mark of a winner.’

‘Your Mexican’s dead.’

Frank looked confused for a second, then shrugged and gestured with an elbow for Noble to sit down on the stone bench opposite.

‘Not interested in chess.’

‘Because you’d lose?’


‘You’re Cuban, I’m white. There’s nothing to be ashamed of.’

‘I should shoot you in the head.’

‘With your injured arm?’

Noble looked at the singe marks near her shoulder and frowned. Frank was right, she was not in good shape, though she could still grab his neck and snap it easily enough.

‘It’s a moot point, anyway. We’re clearly on the same side.’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘You hate them, we hate them too.’

‘Not true.’

‘Let’s join together and fight our common foe, eliminate them on behalf of a better future.’

‘Like the Armenians and the nationalists?’

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[Sonic Death Bot] Chapter 15: Frank Castello Gang


Ten minutes later, Noble was in a large bunker with twenty cave-tone men and one pinkish Mexican in a Conan The Destroyer t-shirt.

The only white man wearing a suit sat down next to Noble and offered her some coffee.

‘How did you make this?’


Noble looked at the walls of the bunker around them with a quizzical face.

‘Ah, you mean where’s the kitchen? Don’t worry, my friend, we’ve got one, and very decent coffee, too. Made with our bare hands. It may look messy down here, but we’re quite competent when it comes to the basics.’ The man looked at Noble’s chest, then her face. ‘You know, you’re very pretty.’

‘I’m a robot.’

‘Especially the hair. Most bots have the cropped template and never change it.’

‘Who are you guys?’

‘Hmm, names. Okay. I’m Frank Castello, and this is Rebel Headquarters.’

‘I don’t understand.’

The man in the suit, Frank Castello apparently, raised a hand and followed the eyes of the guy next to him, who was pointing at one of the computer screens.

‘What is it?’ asked Noble, but they didn’t answer so she watched for herself.

On the screen, the two psychotic robots who’d murdered poor Debit and allowed Farrokh and Katya to get blown up were walking past the cameras this group had clearly set up in the tunnel outside. Or they’d been put there by the city council. Either way, Detroit was using his index finger as a torch while saying something inaudible to Angela.

‘Don’t worry, my friend,’ said Frank, patting Noble on the shoulder, ‘they won’t find us.’

‘They have scanning tech.’

‘Doesn’t matter.’ Frank guided her to another computer screen and gestured for her to sit down. ‘They can do what they want, we don’t care. Our fight is focused on our values, not the reactionary drivel they spew out.’

‘What are your values?’

‘I’m glad you asked.’ Frank held up a sponge cut-out map of Japan. ‘Do you see?’

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[Sonic Death Bot] Chapter 14: Battle: Koreatown


The drive was a short one as the couple lived nearby, and, although it was weird and they didn’t know each other, they said Noble could sleep on the couch if she liked.

Having nowhere to go apart from an essentialist stronghold, the robot accepted.

‘Maybe wash a bit of that ash off too…’ added the woman who now that the light was a bit clearer didn’t look at all like Maggie Cheung. And was called Ying apparently.

‘It’s my natural skin colour.’

‘Oh. Is it?’

‘You mean grey?’ added Jemba, not Yaphet Kotto.

Noble smiled through the rear-view mirror. ‘I’m half Finnish.’

‘And the other half?’


‘Right. Okay.’


The living room Noble walked into twenty minutes later emitted a cosy vibe, containing a small clinic of books on the shelves, and a film collection that seemed to be primarily Asian and European, with one or two nods to Nollywood.

‘You like Hong Kong cinema?’

‘The old stuff, yeah,’ replied Jemba, removing his jacket. ‘Not the new stuff.’

‘I lived in Hong Kong before,’ said Noble, picking up the DVD of Fight Back to School 3.

‘Shit. Me too.’

‘In Shatin.’

‘Fuck, man, me too. Tai Wai.’


‘I lived with a French guy near the station. You know it?’

‘A little.’

‘Fuck, I miss that place. I mean, the French guy was a bit weird, and I got a lot of old guys staring at me, but nothing sinister or anything. Language is a bitch though.’

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[Sonic Death Bot] Chapter 13: Unwise Blood


Noble rode the trust train back to West Hollywood, staring out the window, noting the huge distances between buildings, the lack of people walking on the streets.

When the train went underground again, she counted out each individual minute and by the time she arrived in Hollywood the count had made it all the way to twenty-seven.

Like two different planets, she thought, walking out onto the street, realising she was nowhere near West Hollywood, igniting her rocket boots and stealthing between buildings and alleyways until she was back at the gallery.

‘Good walk?’ asked the Philosophy Student, smoking something green.


Later that evening, Noble waited for the others to go outside then told the Philosophy Student about what had happened in Compton.

‘That’s good,’ she said, stubbing out another cigarette. ‘A bit snobby, but good.’

‘They said what they needed next was enough cash to invest in film equipment so the kids could make films.’


‘Maybe we could help with that?’

Que? How?’

‘I don’t know. Donate some money to them.’

‘Hmm. And then what?’

‘Then they’d be able to buy the film equipment.’

‘Okay, but then what, Nobes?’


The Philosophy Student reached forward, put a hand on Noble’s forearm, lit up another cigarette with her other. ‘Sorry, but you’re missing the sad reality here. They can make their films and do their art but there’s still a ceiling waiting for them. You see? Say one of them makes a good short film, then what? They take it to the next level, but it gets rejected cos minorities get rejected at the first gate, that’s the reality. That’s the system. Maybe one or two get through, but not a mass of them, and only with shit that’s compromised. Come on, Nobes, you know it’s true, in your gut. There’s only so many places they allow for people like us. The invisible quota. , I know it sounds harsh but the system is racist and sexist and that’s the way it is. All the way through, at all levels.’

‘I understand that, but-…’

‘Not done yet, Nobes. See, the reality is this system is not ready for the poor yet, not on their own, it needs to be changed by us. Trust me, I learnt this the hard way, in the trenches. We need to get well-connected people of colour like Debit and the gay Chinese guy in, get them in at boss level then we all move up. Expand the quota, create more spaces. You do see that, don’t you?’

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[Sonic Death Bot] Chapter 12: A Kind Of Praxis


Taking the albatross symbolism round the back of the shed and holding a shotgun to its neck, Noble left the gallery and got on the train heading to Long Beach.

From what she could gather from online forums and The Human Tornado [1976], that’s where a lot of working class black and Hispanic people lived and just because the new left cause was centred on role model creation for future equality didn’t mean it wouldn’t welcome something a little more direct, if prodded.

The aim: tell the people about the gallery, ask them to come, pay half the train fare if they seemed reluctant.

More optimistic aim: discuss ways to teach art/film in working class areas, ask them their ideas, then maybe set up a few zine stores.

Negatives: does anyone really care about art anymore?

Noble slid down the steps of the subway station and looked for the ticket machine. They were all vacant. No turnstiles either. Four minutes later, she realised why. LA operated on the trust system i.e. the people trusted that they could avoid paying without getting caught.

It was a weird system, but semi-socialist so Noble hopped on the train and sat next to a Mexican-looking guy in a Corinthians jersey.

‘Nice jersey,’ Noble said in Spanish.

The guy looked at his own jersey to check what it was and then came back with a pinched face, saying, ‘they’re shit this year, but what can you do, support is support.’

Noble nodded and looked around the train. ‘This train is free, right?’

‘Not for much longer.’

‘They’re changing it?’

‘Yup. Next month. Was cool while it lasted, but no one’s paying. They’re all scroungers, I guess.’

‘Do you have a ticket?’

‘Fuck, no.’

‘Did you think for even a second about getting a ticket?’

The man pulled Sean Penn face. ‘If it makes me seem like a decent guy, sure.’

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[Sonic Death Bot] Chapter 11: LA Exhibit


Another week and the Philosophy Student could take no more of Hong Kong, so the group packed up and headed to the airport.

Despite writing nothing useful and being “too nice” on the forums, Noble was convinced to pull herself out of her rut and come along.

‘You really need me?’

‘Of course, you’re crucial.’

‘But I haven’t written anything good.’

‘What did I say about ‘but’?’


‘You’re still getting used to things. I struggled at first too, but, trust me, it gets easier. Just read more of our stuff, align yourself to the truth of things.’


‘And stop stressing. You were born in the old ways, it’s normal that it’s harder for you.’

‘Can’t use that excuse forever though, brother…’ said Detroit, looking up from his laptop.

‘Ignore him…sister,’ said the Philosophy Student, flicking a raw baron look at Detroit. ‘We’ll give you as long as you need.’

‘Thank you,’ said Noble, letting herself be patted on the head. ‘I’ll go and buy some new make-up.’


‘In case they notice my skin colour.’

Detroit stared at Noble’s cheeks and nodded. ‘It is pretty grey.’

‘I’m going to lighten the tone a bit. Pass myself off as Finnish or Russian.’

‘That work?’

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A Nightmare On Elm Street 2 // Oli Johns


Only one bad thing about sleep they say

it closely resembles rococo worlds the boiler room

no tannoy skin flaking off hours

Goya cam


[Daddy can’t help you now]



Let me in, Jesse

 You’ve got the body I’ve got the brains

you’ve got

the body young vacant taut body you’ve got it J that body MY future body ripe body soft skinned teen golem body untouched by other martyred caretaker men uncut unpossessed let me in J cos I’ve got the brains glove urge tongue and you the body that fucking body track + field body arms legs hands dick nine inch ten with low pubes kind ruler Ron in shower semi-hard boy you’ve got the-


[Hey, Grady, do you remember your dreams?

Only the wet ones.]


Yank back Schrader town pack up the guards

We need mirrors.


Church cinema.

Seek contact and never achieve glove in the mail balls in the biscuit tin.

To glow that way is insane.


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[Sonic Death Bot] Chapter 10: Dhalgren Flux


The next four weeks were spent in the same apartment [Noble’s], following orders.

Write more articles on a lack of diversity in creative industries.

Scan for straight white man quotes.

Attack found quotes.

Escalate if impact is negligible.

Hassle targets on Twitter/Tumblr/IG.

Isolate + smear defenders of target.

Complain about Hollywood casting.

According to the Philosophy Student, this was the fastest way to revolution, but the key was to stay loyal cos final victory might not come within their lifetime.


Noble shifted her screen and pointed it towards Detroit, who read the first few lines, tutted and called over the Philosophy Student.

‘Is it bad?’ asked Noble.


The Philosophy Student came over and read the introduction then the first paragraph. She skimmed through the rest before highlighting the entire text and asking Noble, ‘shall I delete it or do you wanna do the honours?’

‘What’s wrong?’

‘It’s not what I told you to write.’

‘It isn’t?’

‘Do you remember what I said?’

‘Write a piece on Samuel Delany and his effect on American Science Fiction.’

‘That’s not what you’ve written.’

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