Double Negative: Don’t Not Read!
by Andrew Leon Hudson
As I might have mentioned once or twice before, last year I contributed a story to a speculative fiction anthology called Lucky or Unlucky? which was compiled from the work of various friendly, mostly amateur writers of the SFFWorld forum. In case you mistake that for a slur let it be known that, in the original sense, amateur writers are the best kind–we write for love of writing.
…anyway, the participants have been engaging in a little blog tour and, at the risk of sounding like a one trick pony, it’s now my turn to drop hints about how talented we all were in the hope of provoking my massive regular readership (plus random browsers drawn in by the tag superb erotic babes) into helping out the Children’s Hospice South West in the UK by buying, and possibly even enjoying, an inexpensive book. So now I will.
One of our 13 Stories of Fate is Double Negative by Eric J. Best, which appropriately enough is about an impoverished youngster who laments that he was born with crippling bad luck… until he discovers a game of chance that rewards exactly that. I really enjoyed it, so here’s a brief excerpt as a salute to Eric and an encouragement to everyone else to buy enough copies to crash the internet (but help a needy child):
On a doorstep in a back alley a man sat and wept; his fancy clothes were streaked and torn from the mud and stone of the street. Felix stepped up and knocked on the door behind the man. A tough with a neck bigger than my waist answered, but he ignored us and went about kicking Mr. Fancy-Clothes down the street. With the door left unguarded, Felix grabbed my sleeve and pulled me inside to witness a real round of Rogue.
The men smoking their tobacco leaf rolls laughed when my stunted, malnutritioned head appeared just above the table edge. My brother fronted me ten coppers, and an hour later the men weren’t laughing any more. My brother and I were young and ignorant and played until we’d emptied every pocket and trod on every fragile pride. We had our first lesson in winning as the men slapped us around the room and held us upside down to make sure they took back every cent, and our ten coppers as well.
My brother cursed me, realising I really was Satan’s bastard, and told me so.
I was sore at being beat around, but I realised I was wiser than my brother–if there was anything that constant failure taught a person, it was wisdom. I had it in spades.
I started out small. I crafted four pair of dice out of river clay and fired them in my mother’s cook fire. They were hardly perfect, and I remade them more than once. I started with boys my own age, winning things that boys hold dear: smooth or pretty stones, sticks that looked like bows or swords, an apple, and once a real knife. I was so delighted by the dull iron treasure that I ran all the way home to show it off. For the first time in my life I witnessed one of my older siblings jealous over something I had. I felt like a god.
My inner longing had been kindled. I was like a performer who receives a standing ovation for the first time and is left with a hunger to hear the applause and see the smiling faces again and again. I was eight now and had formed my first addiction. The condition was hard to argue with: it was feeding me better than my family, it put better shoes on my feet, it made kids whisper when I went by, and even some of the toughs began regarding me with an air of respect. Forget that winning was feeding an infinite sized hole of egotistical need that had been lurking inside me; I didn’t even understand the concept at that age. All I knew was that I was living better than I ever had with only myself to thank for it–and a bit of consistent bad luck.
That’s just getting things started, of course. This budding gambler’s path crosses that of a strange and, by definition, tragically unlucky slave to produce a rather sweet story with a vein of both fantasy and humour running through it. So, my congrats to Eric, and to all the others who helped put together a fun collection of stories. Like me. Congratulations to ME.
Lucky or Unlucky? 13 Stories of Fate can be reviewed at Goodreads, hopefully by you, and is available at these online stores for a handful of virtual pennies that you’d otherwise lose down the back of your virtual sofa: