I recently came down with one of the worst sicknesses of my life – for a week I was bedridden with a whole cocktail of symptoms, not the least of which were debilitating migraines, and it took yet another week to fully recover. A virus this tough - strutting around, knocking out people like me who never get sick - surely must be Straight Outta Compton Wuhan, right?
          Well, as consequential as the origins of our illnesses are - whether life-threatening or just a passing inconvenience - it’s what we do with our situation that truly matters. My wife’s absence - sleeping on the couch to avoid catching The Red Death – got me thinking about how important she is to me, and how I need to better convey that to her (cue sappy music). It got me thinking about a lot of things, actually.
          So the question is, amidst your suffering, what do you choose?
          Jim Carrey recently shared similar sentiments, and I think it’s worth 30 seconds of your time. Whether you’ve come to the same conclusions about faith as Jim (and I) have or not, I think we can all agree that the idea of choosing forgiveness instead of resentment is a winning proposal.
          In other words, how powerful are words of reconciliation, especially if they’re your last?
Danny Hankner
Danny Hankner

“Every great story begins with a snake." - Nicholas Cage (who probably approves this message)
       Previous issues from the Story Unlikely archive are up, both 2023 and now 2022! Actually, they've been accessible for a while, but we don’t have anything better to do than cram our content down your collective gullets, so there. But if you love the stories we publish, then of course you'll want to read more, right? All back issues are available to paying Members of Story Unlikely, so sign up already and help support our growing magazine, will ya?
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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN The Rose and Thorn Literary ‘Zine
(Beautiful / Emotional / Touching)
~memoir/fiction hybrid~
Last Words
By Wulf Moon
I sat in a hard plastic hospital chair, fingers touching the book inside my jacket while I watched my father die. Dad rested in bed, eyes closed, eyelids twitching, lips grayish blue. The room’s window was etched in frost, streetlights glowing upon the crystals, illuminating patterns like stained glass in a chapel. The air smelled of pine solvent and rubbing alcohol, and the divider curtain was drawn, giving the illusion of privacy.
       I ran my fingers along the binding of the tome, felt the impression of stamped letters. My book. The latest collection of poems. My lifelong secret. My last chance to let Dad know. Becoming a poet had always been his dream, and I didn’t know if I could tell him.
       Dad had known success. He’d won Realtor of the Year for Century 21 in Minnesota, had the view office in Stillwater overlooking the St. Croix River, yachts cruising past like fat swans. Everyone in town knew dad, but it wasn’t his successful career that gave him joy.
       Just writing those damnable sing-songy poems.
       When I’d stop to visit at his office, he’d have me pull up a chair, ask his assistant to bring me some coffee. Awful stuff, tasted like brewed charcoal briquettes. We’d talk about his new listings and pending closings, about how I was doing after the divorce, how my teaching was going at Carleton, how the girls were doing in school. And every time, before we’d head for the ribs at Brian’s Meat Market, he’d reach in a drawer and toss me that worn leather binder.
       “Penned some new ones, kid. Try these on for size.”
       I’d give up the view of the yachts, lean back in my chair and read his poems, sweating to find something good I could comment on. Then I’d smile, because hey, they were from his heart.
       “Hmmm. ‘Snowfall’ is good. I like this verse: ‘The snow falls in time with memories of my mind as I chew on the rind of forsaken mankind.’ Reminds me of Frost.” It did remind me of Robert Frost. Thought a lot of his works were sing-songy too, repetitive rhyme and meter, but that didn’t seem to harm his career. Success is hard to argue with.
       Dad always smiled when I likened his words to famous poets. “Damn right it’s good. But do you think the Poetry Society of America would think so?” He’d flash the latest. “Form rejection. Not even personal.”
       “Do not go gentle into that good night. Proud of you for not giving up. There’s something to be said for our stubborn German blood.”
       “Jawohl,” he’d say, thumping his fist against the desk. “You hungry? Let’s go eat.”
       I remembered Dad’s comments on my works when I was a kid. I’d be lying in bed, staring at the glittering bits in the ceiling texture, words pouring into my mind like songs from seductive sirens. No way they’d grant me sleep unless I rose to their call and danced. I’d hunch over a typewriter in the basement until two or three in the morning. As the night flowed on, the keys striking the platen would sound like volleys of thunder. I’d set a pillow under the base, wrap a towel around the sides, hope Dad wouldn’t hear, and immerse in verse again.
       It didn’t work. Inevitably, Dad would hear and come lumbering down the stairs. I’d swim up from the hazy depths, float on the surface of the muse as Dad drew up alongside, scratching the stubble of his chin. He’d stand there in his sagging underwear in a silence as long as the sea. He didn’t have to speak—I knew what his verdict would be.
       “Rhythm seems off. Doesn’t flow. Good ideas, son, but you won’t make any money at it. Trust me, I’ve tried. You’d make a great realtor though—got my name to carry you in town. Get to bed now, you’ve got school in the morning.”
       I started winning awards in national student contests. Now he’d be proud. Now Dad would know the fire burning in my heart was true. But every time I’d show him a certificate, he’d ask to see the poem, make some comment about how it didn’t rhyme or the metaphors were off, and his words would rip the wind from my sails. I quit telling him about them. And as I’d head to bed after he had finished his spiel about my wonderful future in real estate, I’d think, yeah, just what I want in life, to wear a baby-crap-yellow jacket to work every day.
       Years later—many rejection slips later—when The New Yorker took my first poem, it was published under a pseudonym. I never told him. Then The Atlantic. Then some chapbooks through good university presses. Then St. Martin’s Press bought my collection. I never told him. I had sold. Dad had not.
       And now here I was, sitting by his side, holding his blue-veined hand, oxygen hissing like serpents through pale green tubes at his nose. The air was winter dry, and the chair had a deep slant that forced me to balance on the edge of the seat. The book in my coat felt heavy as a brick as I mulled over the best way to tell him.
       I jerked as Dad sat up. “Michael, it’s you. Good. Want you to do something for me.”
       “Sure, Dad. Just sit back.”
       “Hell with the doctors! Listen to me, kid.”
       I leaned forward.
       “All my life, the one thing besides family that meant anything to me were my poems.”
       My throat caught. “I know, Dad.”
       “Only thing I didn’t succeed in, getting published.” He coughed furiously. “Take my stuff. You’re the only one who understands. Keep sending them out for me.”
       I rubbed his weathered hand, my stomach twisting like a ball of baler twine. “I will.”
       “They were good, weren’t they?”
       A hot tear wandered down my cheek. I shifted my coat, tugged the zipper a little higher.
       “They were great, Dad.”
About the author:
         Wulf Moon wrote his first science fiction story when he was 15, winning the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. He then sold the story to Science World, his first professional sale (circulation 500k per issue). He has won over 50 awards in fiction and nonfiction. Moon's stories have appeared in numerous publications including Writers of the Future, Best of Deep Magic 2, Galaxy’s Edge, and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2—a borg love story, what could be sweeter? 
       Moon teaches the award-winning Super Secrets of Writing Workshops and is the author of The Illustrated Super Secrets of Writing and the runaway bestseller, How To Write a Howling Good Story. He invites you to join his free Wulf Pack Club at www.TheSuperSecrets.com

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why submit here
       I can't remember exactly how I found out about Story Unlikely, but I wanted to submit to you for a few reasons: The site aesthetic, the work -- Merely Freshmen about the piano virtuoso -- thought-provoking -- the possibility of being really good at something but never making it big and that being OK, somehow because the love of the game is more important -- the sense of HUMOR, and the political tone.
       I felt like my work might have a shot. I worry about touching on anything political or an off-word upsetting woke sensibilities or something. I started writing by publishing to reddit and have seen what the backlash can look like. But I can't help but write about how I view the world.
       I just began submitting stories  and got 2nd place in a small contest and was published. I plan to write for the rest of my life, come what may.
       Thank you so much for your time and considering my story.
Jake Armer

Literary Spotlight
       Growing a career as a speculative fiction writer is a daunting challenge, and an adventure best taken with others. Does this describe you? It does Angelique Fawns. Using her skills as a journalist, she is documenting her journey and finding as many hints, hacks, and secrets as she can. She's published three guides to help other authors avoid the pitfalls and also shares her successes. Follow her blog at www.fawns.ca for an in-depth look at paying open submission, no fee calls for speculative writers each month. You can read the latest interviews with others in the industry, or listen to authors read their stories on her podcast. Sign up for her newsletter to receive a free submission tracker, gain insights from top publishers and authors, and enjoy the ride of her latest adventure.

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Borders & Boundaries
by Lynne Golodner
“These have to be word-of-mouth books because they’re too weird to describe to anyone.” This is what Diana Gabaldon’s editor said when trying to classify the first Outlander book as romance.
She shared this in a virtual talk in Scotland that I watched while furiously taking notes. Boy can that woman speak in a riveting and funny way! The advice, anecdotes and experiences just rolled off her tongue, and the audience was rapt.
She talked about borders and boundaries. Borders are physical, Diana said, while boundaries are not. 
Are genres boundaries? Can we span genres? Do we have to fit within the narrows defined by the publishing industry to make more money, sell more books?
Or can we defy constraints, do things differently and still succeed?
Well, judging by the plethora of self-published authors finding more success sometimes than traditionally-published authors, I’d say yes…
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The Excrement List
Disobey our submission guidelines, 
and find yourself amiss.
Disobey the guidelines,
wind up on the list.
(It's like when restaurants used to post bounced checks on the wall, but for the digital age)
As a publisher, we have rules that writers must abide by if they want to get published. Some of these aren't that big of a deal, but others, like ‘if you submit to our contest, don't submit this story anywhere else until the reading period is over,' or ‘don’t mark our emails as spam', are a major no-no.  Offenders get put on our ~dun dun dun~ Excrement List, aka lifetime ban on getting published. We keep this list to show people that - for once - we're not joking. Don't be like the perps below - you're much too savvy for that:
Gillian W, Cat T, Adam M, Olasupo L, Mick S, Leslie C, Patricia W, Tim V, Andrew F, Sam P, Aaron H, N. Kurts, Paula W, Marcy K, Mark301078, carnap72, N. Phillips,  A Bergsma, Sharon S., Mfaulconer, Mikeandlottie, Rebecca C, Nathaniel L, Maxine F, Patrick W, Brendan M, William S, Sandra T, Daniel L, Jennifer C, Chuck G, Salmonier, Bernie M, Stephan R, Elizabeth E, Lisa C, Bob E, Titus G, June T.
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