Send Us Your Writers
Every city has its stories and its secrets, and anyone who has lived in Detroit for more than a day should know by now that this is a town with far more than its fair share of stories. Some of those stories can be told straight, but others are the kind where you need to view the picture through an altered lens to really see what it is you're looking at.
You can't always recognize what's right in front of you if you're staring right at it. Sometimes you need to adjust your view a bit to the left or maybe the right. Then, strangely enough, it comes into focus.
If you have stories to tell about Detroit that don't quite fit the norm, we'd like to hear from you. We lean heavily toward scifi, horror, alternative fiction and fantasy. But we also like a lot of straight fiction too.
Just no essays. We want your imagination. For reality, you need to catch the next train. But if you ever get that urge to tell a tall tale about Detroit, reach out to us. We'll be here.
You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We'll be waiting.
Kelvin Lo on
Sometimes the truth is all the horror you need
Like most things, horror fiction evolves. From Edgar Allan Poe to Stephen King and Clive Barker, the things that terrify us seem to change as the environment around us changes. Or as the storytellers change.
One of the more enjoyable things to witness has been the increasing number of Black science fiction and horror stories to appear in recent years on the smaller screen, and it looks like another one is lining up to premier on April 9 that could be a big deal. Of course, you can't always tell by the trailers, but if the trailers are anywhere close to what we can expect, this is one that will scare the hell outta some folks.
All I'll say about Them for now is that the history of American racism is proving to be one of the most fertile sources for horror stories in a long time. And when you think about it, doesn't that make sense? How much more horrific can you get than the truth?
So we're gonna tune in, and maybe you should too. Feel free to share your thoughts.
A preview of Detroit Stories Quarterly Winter 2021
Excerpted from "Where Does that Alley Go?"
By Keith A. Owens
The Thirsty Plants
Normally, Peg and I leave around 4pm, to give us a chance to get back home to Ann Arbor, and Matt locks up at the end of the day. But on this particular night, we had a late meeting.
So there I was in the big conference room—this was later in October after it had gotten dark, so I guess it was around 9 p.m. —and as I was standing up to stretch and gather my thoughts, I heard a rustling sound coming from the alley. I was facing the whiteboard where we had written notes, so my mind was still scrolling back over the discussion. I thought maybe it was a couple of dogs scuffling. Sounded like they were probably pretty big...
Then came a horrible shrieking sound unlike anything I had ever heard before. I whirled around but couldn’t see anything outside the windows. Peg came rushing into the room and we just looked at each other.
“Tom, what was that?”
I just stood there doing quick calculations inside my head; should we drop everything and hightail it to the parking lot? Would we have enough time to get to the car and get out of there?
“Is the parking lot gate closed?” Peg asked, reading my mind as usual. We both knew that getting out that way was no longer an option, because by the time the electronic gate opened wide enough for us to drive out, whatever was out there would have time to reach the lot—and we’d be trapped inside the car.
“Turn out the lights,” Peg said, and I remember wondering how she sounded as calm as she did. I also remember feeling very thankful, because so long as both of us kept our heads we would have a better chance of figuring this out together.
I turned out the lights.
Moments later, another shriek tore the night as we stared out the windows—only this one was much longer and sounded closer. We felt something crash against the side of the building. Whatever it was, it had to be big to shake the building like that. At first we couldn’t quite see all that was going on—because whatever was happening was just outside the view of our windows.
Gradually we were able to get clearer glimpses of the action as the struggle moved closer. What we saw first was a thick, ropey branch whip itself around in front of us, then raise itself up to where it was illuminated by the lights in the alley. That’s when we saw that the branch was wrapped tightly around a large, lobster-looking creature that was struggling ferociously to get free. Then the branch kind of flexed, and slammed the thing into the ground so hard that it practically exploded.
I recognized the splattered mess of meat and broken shell as one of those critters from the deep pool that had been terrorizing us for so long. I also recognized that telltale coloring on the branch... Green and purple with that yellow stripe. I have to admit that gave me the shivers, because how in the world...?
But then it tapped on the window, and that’s when my heart started to pump even faster. I felt like I had been transported to a world my imagination couldn’t even begin to comprehend. Nothing about this could be happening. And yet, there we were, Peg and I, forcing each other to witness the surreal becoming quite real indeed. I almost wished Peg hadn’t come down to the Green Garage that day, not only for her own safety, but because if I had told her about my day later that night she would have told me, with absolute certainty, that I must have fallen asleep and had a bad dream. And I would have been so happy to accept that. To just erase it all and hit reset in the morning.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
By Larry Gore Jr.
For years, Detroit has been depicted as a city with an outrageous crime rate, kind of like a toilet that cannot flush, with so many school closings and the rise in unemployment.
Detroit…area code being 313.
If one were to think about it, after all the murders and mayhem, at the funeral there are six pall bearers; three on each side with the coffin in the middle.
Many doubt that city officials are moving towards making the necessary changes required to give Detroit the revitalization that it deserves. Many are led to believe that the city has become immune to the crime and calamity, but to most Detroiters it almost seems like Detroit was rigged to fail. In a predominantly African American city, the deliberate and systematic destruction of Detroit’s once-prized neighborhoods seems more apparent than the facelift we all wish to see.
Many of the city’s ordinances have not been enforced in years; black-owned businesses are gradually closing, and the blight and despair of the city seems obvious. The spectacle of last summer with George Floyd and the ensuing racial tension has placed an emotional mark on Detroiters; many were protesting and crying out for justice.
The renewed issue of racism has put scales on the eyes of many residents, and it appears it is dragging the life force of the city down to a bitter end. So many are in desperate need of spiritual and emotional healing, but instead continue channeling the negative vibrations of their surroundings, rendering them incapable of harnessing anything positive.
Which, in an admittedly roundabout way, brings me to…
Black Individuals That Cause Hell.
Bigots regard blacks as a female dog they can kick and abuse. Too often blacks respond and react negatively to this tortured misconception, allowing it to frame their lives.
What Detroit fails to realize – as well as other cities and states - is that it will take much more than spending a few hours protesting or posting racial pictures and making racial remarks on Facebook to heal the wounds. A higher source of power is needed and longed for.
Apathy, ignorance and complacency have plagued many communities and the domino effect has already taken place in this generation, giving us more reasons why we should be dependent on a higher source than ourselves.
While many Detroiters have grown impatient with city officials, some have gone as far as to say that Detroit has become incorrigible and that if the opportune time comes they will leave.
But I believe Detroit can once again be a city of means instead of being viewed as the lost child. Many of our wounds are oftentimes self-inflicted; unconsciously we have become pessimistic regarding certain scenarios in life.
And yet there is still life in Detroit.
Larry Gore is a local author who is currently working on a short story to; be featured in Detroit Stories Quarterly.
Winter Is Coming
OK, so maybe not the winter season since, well, if you want to be literal about it, we're actually heading towards spring.
But the Winter Edition 2021 of Detroit Stories Quarterly is on the way! And to whet your appetites, we're going to start publishing a few small previews here of what you've got coming.
So this month we will have three stories, including one by a brand new DSQ author, Katherine Sinclair entitled Tapping. Here are a few passages:
It was always my dream to refurbish a home in Detroit—I grew up looking at those old buildings. My grandma was born on Waterman and my grandpa on Wheelock. They met in the high school play as students at Southwestern High School. Their first apartment together overlooked Clark Park. Although they moved downriver after the war to start their family of eight, they’d still take us back to Greektown regularly for food and pastries, and to ride on the People Mover. That’s when I became mesmerized by the beauty of the old buildings and vowed to move back one day and own one.
“Isn’t it depressing?” my college friends would ask, looking at the burned out buildings. But I only saw beauty and potential where they saw ruin. A great love of dilapidation, chipping paint, architecture, and projects spurred my longing to one day buy a whole block of historic homes and rehab them into an arts commune.
We began our drive home with the windows down, and I stuck my head out the window like a dog lapping up the fresh wind on my face. Air smells better on a trip with the windows open, cleaner, like freshly cut grass.
The kids' cries grew, and I heard the loudest, most contorted sobs I’ve ever heard in my life. Then I realized those sobs were coming from me.
I still can not quite fathom what happened. The ache in my bladder had subsided but the tightness around my chest just kept growing. Spencer turned up the radio even more to drown out the kids and my cries. I remembered Spencer’s grandpa Jeb telling me that people sometimes try tapping on pressure points during times of intense anxiety. He tried it to deal with his anger over his poor golf game and found it very effective. Still sobbing, I remembered the routine and started frantically tapping on my head like a mad lunatic.
Tap Tap Tap...
I tapped on my forehead.
Tap Tap Tap...
I tapped on my wet cheeks.
Tap Tap Tap...
I felt ludicrous.
“YOU are just like Jennie,” I lashed out in a rage, knowing the insult would hurt him. Jennie, his alcoholic grandmother, used to lock Spencer’s dad and uncle out of the house. She wouldn’t let them return to use the toilet, leaving them in soiled clothes for hours. Her funeral was the only one I’d ever been to where no one shed a tear and no one had anything nice to say.
Funny thing is, she seemed nice enough when we met. She was respectful, hospitable, and gave me delicious cheese curds. But her service was devoid of feeling, and all of the stories I heard about her afterward were God-awful. Alcohol changes a person. It made sense to me why Spencer’s dad and uncle ran away at 16 and 17 to join the Northern Michigan hippie commune that we had just left this morning.
Writers Need to Eat
So yesterday I had lunch with a good friend and fellow writer (really, really good writer) Franklin Wilson. This is the first time we got a chance to see each other and spend some time since COVID hit nearly a year ago and it was just great. Franklin is one of my favorite local writers and he promises he will be submitting a piece tailor-made for Detroit Stories Quarterly very soon, and I can't wait. Whenever that story gets here, trust me, it will be worth the wait.
But in the meantime, we was hungry. So we decided to meet up at a restaurant that is literally one block away from the house at a place called The Congregation, a great location with great staff, great sandwiches, great social distancing policies. To have a place like this square in the neighborhood is a real gift.
Oh, so you're wondering why it's called The Congregation? Because it used to be a church, and it had been vacant for years until ..well..read about the history here!
So that's it for today, guys. I'll check in with you again later this week.
So What Makes A Detroit Story..?
It's Detroit as seen through a whole other lens, with a different set of eyes, imagined by a possibly warped mind that is warped in all the right places. Because sometimes warped has a clearer sense of what is and what isn't ...and what can be.
Just ask any musician or artist. Or comedian. The best ones rarely think or see like their neighbors, and yet they see more clearly than anyone else. Sometimes they see something before it even shows up, and that's when they get called crazy - until it shows up.
There are already more than enough news stories, essays, and books out there doing their best to tell the world the real story of Detroit. Sometimes they do an admirable job, or even better than that. Anybody who's out there trying to do an honest job of sharing Detroit, we're all for it.
But Detroit is about so much more than the rough and tumble politics, or the ruin porn, or the '67 Rebellion, or the white flight, or Motown. There is an alternative reality that also defines this city if you look hard enough. Another Detroit woven as an elusive tapestry that shimmers and beckons just behind what you were looking at, usually out of the corner of one eye. If you blink too hard, you'll probably miss it.
And if you don't think you saw it, you probably didn't.
But if you did? Man what a gift...
Calling All Writers
This post is several weeks overdue, even though we only started blogging about a week ago. We figure part of our mission here, even as our mission continues to evolve, is to help writers of fiction any way we can, especially African American writers. And especially African American writers of sci fi, horror, fantasy and speculative fiction who have a desire to tell stories about Detroit, which is what we specialize in.
But the key three words here is 'to help writers'. We wouldn't be here if someone hadn't helped us to realize our various talents, so we figure it's somewhat of a crime not to return the favor as best we can whenever we can.
With that in mind, we have been informed that Threefoldpress.org is looking for short fiction, about 2,500 words or that can be excerpted, that hasn't been published or published once somewhere that 's not a major venue. Ideally, it should be something Detroiters would find interesting. The author gets $100.
If this sounds like it's calling out to you, send your stuff to email@example.com.
Also, if you happen to be the prolific type and have more stories in the vault that you'd like to share, give us a try why don't you? We do require that all stories have a Detroit theme and be related or tied to Detroit in some visible way, but other than that you got the floor. It's true, we do prefer scifi, alternative, speculative, fantasy and horror. But we have open mind and if you send us a good story we'd like to help you tell it.
Up front and honest, we're still a young publication and we don't have the means to pay our writers yet. So you should know that. But we can definitely offer you a platform and an appreciative audience. And hopefully one day we'll be able to fairly compensate you guys.
So that's about it for today. Y'all take care, and talk soon.
Aillia Naqvi on
Winter Is Coming...
Even if you're not a GOT fan (if you don't know what GOT means then count yourself a card-carrying member of the Not A Fan group) we're pretty sure you're familiar with the season of winter. Especially this year, which is proving to be one of the worst winter storms nationwide that we've ever seen. Won't be long before we're all riding Snowpiercer.
Wait. You still don't...?
So I'll just be straight with you; the Winter 2021 edition of Detroit Stories Quarterly is coming your way soon! This issue will only have three stories, but we don't think you'll be disappointed. At all.
Stay tuned in the coming days as we begin to preview some of what you'll see in the next issue.
Hang on, guys. This ride is not for the faint of heart...
Photo by Ahmet Duzgun.
February 14, 2021
This is the day they call Valentine's Day. It is my understanding that an emotion referred to as love between partners is celebrated every year at this time in this particular dimension.
I keep telling you how strange these beings are, but for some odd reason you refuse to believe me. Perhaps because you insist on nurturing this fascination with their way of life. Or perhaps you...love them...?
Disgusting, I know. But then again, you have been living amongst them now for what? About 30 years? Easy to forget oneself in that length of time away from home. You could be forgiven for that.
But I'm not sure that you will be. Because Valentine, as we both know, is not the forgiving type.
But she is very, very hungry. Always.
IMAGE BY WALLACE BEESON