New nonfiction creative essay by Isaac Noland and art by Elizabeth Lubinger

This is a week of firsts for us here at Ravens' Light. Our Corvid Contest this year welcomed submissions of multiple genres outside of fiction, asking for nonfiction, poetry, artwork for the first time. Now, we are proud to feature a creative essay by Isaac Noland, winner of the 2014 Corvid Prize in Nonfiction.

Noland is a Marietta, Ohio native and graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, where he is currently attending the master's program. He is the editor-in-chief of Speakeasy Magazine.

If you've picked up a copy of our print issue, you will have noticed that Noland's essay, "Slime Journey," was paired with art by Elizabeth Lubinger. Titled "The Essentials, 2013," Lubinger submitted a scan of 15" x 21" metal plate lithograph. The editors here at Ravens' Light believed Lubinger's work went along perfectly with Noland's essay, so the two are still paired together here.

This is an excerpt from "Slime Journey," which you can read in full here:

There is a pointedness to acid trips. An “instant” hangs around indefinitely. It ambles about lazily, nudges a rock with it’s toe, puts its hand in its pockets, whistles, leans back, observes the sun, shields its eyes, and talks periodically about this weather we’re having. Then it turns into a raven and flies away. The tension between moments, the ineffable tiny little timeframe when something happens, like when a slinky on a stair’s momentum carries it juuuust past the point of no return and is sentenced to fall again. That tiny little speck of time becomes a leisurely afternoon.

Lightning traces up my spine, overloading nerves in a tingle of ecstasy. My body trembles. Every movement is a new pleasure, a door opened onto bliss. Only overwhelming physical stimulation can force an individual so wholly into one moment. Somehow it keeps building, each instant seemingly the peak of intensity, but the rise continues. Forward momentum. Ceaseless awareness. Every nerve in my skin is jostling to be heard over the sensory clamor.
Read more
You can also view Elizabeth Lubinger's art here.

New, original story published for Sci-Fi

Another story from our print issue, a science fiction short story, adapted from a longer piece, by Tom Borthwick, called "Be Well."

Borthwick is a life-long Scranton resident, traveller, English teacher, adjunct professor, blogger, some-time political candidate, and a whole bunch of other fun stuff that leaves little time to breathe. He is a graduate of Marywood University with a BA in English and received both an MA and MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University.

Be Well
By Tom Borthwick

The line for food barely moved as I tried to ignore that familiar ache in my stomach. I’d given up on attempting three meals a day. Standing in a column of ruffians and rabble for unceasing hours without a chance to rest had grown old. Some of the Refugees did this and I could understand why – the portions allotted by the Camp One Administrators were a pittance, but I had never been a breakfast eater anyway. And I preferred the solace of mornings – the only time Camp One held relative silence.

The Food Distribution Center Bulletin, posted on a dull wall to my left, read:


Most people couldn’t be herded through in any less time and Refugees regularly found themselves without a morsel if the queue didn’t reach the cookpots by the cutoff. This made it prime for riots, which accounted for the twenty military policemen standing along the line, face shields and assault rifles deterring the hungry and desperate.

The armed and armored stood before the unwashed throng, all wearing the same frowns, the same looks of disgust. The shuffling line returned the sentiment with resentful glances inspired by two years of repression. Me? I didn’t care one way or the other. But for the Refugees, Department of Domestic Intelligence Military Police, or IMPs as they were known, embodied everything wrong with their world. The Camp Administrators, illusory handers-down of judgment and overseers of this forsaken place, called the residents “Refugees”, but unwilling containment and, at least in the early days, interrogation made those living in the Camps more like detainees.

Under the dinner notice another, older bulletin read:



Nobody I knew of had ever addressed any “issues” with the Administrators, though reasons to were plenty. Aside from the gangs, lack of food and clothing, and empty, repetitive days filled with pointless, unproductive milling about, the most pressing concern most Refugees had was the same: when can we get out?

Those in the Camps – there were five as far as I knew – were all made homeless by the Bioattack that hit Scranton and spread quickly throughout an isolated area in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

The past two years here had been rife with degradation and depravity and uncertainty – all reinforced by the Administrators, government agents, communications blackouts, and the roving gangs of brutes and thieves vying for control of this or that part of the Camp, or scraps of food, or tribute from the Refugees who wouldn’t be a part of their thuggery.

At first, the Camps had been for survivors and those displaced by the attack, but then officials got word that the group had operatives in Scranton – a small city written-off by most after a one hundred year decline. After that came questions. Who do you know? Why were you returning from New York? When the Administrators asked for information, they asked hard.

The last two years had been hell.

Read more

New, original story published for Horror

From our print issue, we would like to introduce the first of our featured authors on our website, Jennifer Spellman, who had two stories selected for publication, "Chaos Cloud Takes Virginia" and "... As Rome Burned."

Spellman is an Athens county resident and a long-time fan of the fantasy, science fiction, and horror genres. The staff at Ravens' Light is proud to feature her work.

Chaos Cloud Takes Virginia
By Jennifer Spellman

At first, everyone thought it was just a thunderhead.

Well, maybe not everyone – the hill folk grumbled about the end times, but we fine gentlemen and ladies of Richmond knew better than to listen by now. Our grammies and grampas had been muttering about Revelations great and small ever since they’d been grammies and grampas. No one paid attention anymore. It looked too rural.

Instead, we listened to the weathermen speaking sagely of freak cold fronts and supercells. We all got out our umbrella and slickers, canceled golfing plans, and let the dogs in the house for the day. None of which did any good, of course, except maybe putting the dogs in.

My first clue that something was weird was when Jenkins popped by my cubicle just before my 10 o’clock smoke break, leaning over my desk. “You gonna go grab a smoke?”

“Of course,” I grunted, not looking up from the Butler-Smythe account I’d been mired in all morning.

“Well, you might want to reconsider that,” he said in a funny kind of voice.

I looked up, puzzled, and noticed he wasn’t looking too good. Kinda pale and cheesy. Damp, too. “Why? That ol’ thunderstorm broke? I hadn’t heard any booming.”

He laughed, but it wasn’t his deep chuckle; it almost sounded like he was choking on it. “You might rightly say that, yes, you could.” He cleared his throat. I figured he must be getting sick, so I leaned away from him, not wanting to bring home another goddam cold to Mary and the kids. “Maybe you oughta just go on and see for yourself.”

He was kinda ticking me off, so I got up and grabbed my slicker. “I’ll do that. A little wet ain’t gonna stop me from having my morning smoke.”

Jenkins hacked out that queer strangled chuckle again, then wandered off toward his cubicle. Not rightly sure what became of him – I didn’t see him again after. I just hope he ain’t still on our floor.

Announcing the Winners of the 2014 Corvid Contest!

Hey writers and lovers of spec fic!

We are extremely pleased to announce the results of our first-ever Corvid Contest.  Firstly, allow me to explain our goals with holding the contest. Ravens' Light is a self-funded literary magazine, which primarily means our editor, Blake, foots the cost for almost everything we do. Fortunately, we have the help of motivated associate editors and an extremely talented art director, who draw no income from the magazine either. However, we believe that artists and writers should be paid for their contributions -- this is why we held the Corvid Contest, as a way to reward those writers and artists who helped make our first print issue come alive.

For the print issue, we received plenty of submissions, but only a few entries into our contest. For the Corvid Contest, we asked that you include a raven somewhere within the story, poem, or essay. Our editorial staff formed the judges' panel and selected the works we wished to honor with our first ever Corvid Prize. There were five categories this year, but we decided to award only three in the categories of Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction. The winners are as follows:

2014 Corvid Prize in Fiction: 
Seth Troyer 
For "Dear Grandma"

2014 Corvid Prize in Poetry: 
Damien Cowger
For "A Veces"

2014 Corvid Prize in Nonfiction:
Isaac Noland
For "Slime Journey"

Look out for their work, as well as the work of our other writers, featured in our new print issue, to be available on the website in the coming month. Until then, why don't you order a copy of our brand, spanking new issue right here?

And here's a look at our cover for the first issue:

A Little Update

Hey, readers and writers!

If you've been following us on Twitter or Facebook you likely know about our upcoming print issue. We're excited to feature some new writers, as well as a few we've already published on the site. In addition, for the first time ever, we will also be featuring poetry, art, and nonfiction essays, which will all find their way onto the site. So, if you don't want to pick up an copy of the issue, don't worry! All of the content will be available for free on the website. We are, and always will be, an online literary magazine.

But we do encourage you to pick up a copy of the issue to support your fellow writers and to support us, your favorite Ravens' Light staff! When the issue is published, we will be putting up a link on the site to the Amazon page where you can order a copy of the issue. The issue is a full-color magazine with a beautiful cover designed by our art director, Vincent Marazita. The issue is made available to us thanks to CreateSpace's print-on-demand service.

We will be announcing winners of the Corvid Contest by the end of this week, so keep an eye out and an ear to the ground for a blog post congratulating our winners!

And you may have also noticed that the stories, Dungeon Journal and the The Voice, seem to have disappeared from our site. Not to worry! That is not the case. We have begun a reorganization effort to present stories on our site as Pages rather than Blog Posts. When a story is published, we will still post on our blog -- which is now also our front end when you visit our site -- but the story itself will exist on the site as a page. It's just a minor restructuring change.

If you're looking for those stories (and new stories in the future) you'll find them in the nifty section to the right! And Dungeon Journal and The Voice can also be found below:

The Beacon: Episode 2 - Game of Thrones

Welcome back to The Beacon. This week fantasy editor David Olszewski and horror editor Christian Law join editor and host Blake Tan to discuss the cultural phenomenon that is Game of Thrones. From the deep complexities of George R.R. Martin's plot, the difficulties of adapting the source material for HBO, to who they would like to see playing the role of Oberyn Martell in season 4, the Ravens' Light staff dig deep into the lore of Westeros. Listen below!


The Beacon: Episode 1 - Star Trek Into Darkness

Welcome to The Beacon. This is our new weekly podcast where editor and host Blake Tan explores the realms of speculative fiction and related topics within the genre, as well as inviting our featured authors to discuss their published work. This week, fantasy editor David Olszewski joins in on a lively discussion of the top-grossing Star Trek Into Darkness and the influence of the Star Trek franchise on the science fiction genre. Listen below!


Rated G for Gritty: Joe Abercrombie and Modern Fantasy

By Blake Tan, Editor

Photo by Lou Abercrombie.

The twiggy, deep-voiced Ent Treebeard once said, “The world is changing; I feel it in the water, I feel it in the earth, and I smell it in the air.” Could J.R.R. have expected he would be so right even when it came to the genre he laboriously birthed? Did he expect fantasy to have grown the way it has, spreading its roots in numberless directions, permutations resulting in a half-dozen sub-genres that make up modern fantasy?

While The Lord of the Rings and its direct successors focused on the heroic struggle between good and evil, dominated by picturesque kingdoms and gallant protagonists fighting to overthrow an evil overlord, some stories stood apart. In these tales, the “good” was often not too different from the “evil,” (unless the “evil” was some sort of unspeakably alien, Lovecraftian god) and the “good” usually ranged from morally questionable to morally repugnant. Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian stories and Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser dealt with characters who live in worlds more cynical than idealistic, where the line between good and evil is drawn by the edges of their swords, and the plot revolves around their personal struggles rather than a world-ending threat. 

Joe Abercrombie’s fiction belongs firmly to this latter camp – with the gritty realism dialed all the way up.

Editorial: The Decline and Fall of a Galactic Empire, or How I Went From Fanboy to Reluctance

By Blake Tan, Editor

A blast of trumpets, triumphant and glorious, heralding the trail of expositional text against the stark backdrop of stars. The audience will clap enthusiastically, young children clambering onto their parents’ laps – some in brown costume robes, rat-tail braids clipped behind their ears, waving plastic, light-up laser swords – as the music builds to crescendo. Fresh-faced, plucky, young heroes will go toe-to-toe with a galaxy-spanning menace, and CGI space ships will go kablooey in glorious 3D. 

And I could care less.