HiLoBooks is pleased to serialize Helen MacInnes’s 1944 novel The Unconquerable (later reissued as While We Still Live), an espionage adventure that pits an innocent English woman against both Nazis and resistance fighters in occupied Poland. MacInnes, it’s worth noting, was married to a British intelligence agent, which may explain what one hears is the amazing accuracy of her story’s details. Under the editorship of HiLobrow’s Joshua Glenn, the Save the Adventure book club will reissue The Unconquerable as an e-book for the first time ever. Enjoy!
In the fields that summer the peasants had first marvelled and then complained at the long drought. Towards the end of August even the townspeople and city dwellers, who normally paid little attention to the weather unless it was unpleasant, were shaking worried heads too. In September this cruel trick of nature bore bitter fruit. Over the hard, dry earth came the tanks and the armoured cars, running smoothly, rapidly, ruthlessly. The Polish cavalry, which could have efficiently attacked so many of these monsters if they had been ploughing through the usual universal mud of autumn, found that their quick brave sweeps ended in grim death traps. The dry fields were sown with blood and flesh. Horses and men were ground under by the relentless caterpillar wheels.
Russell Stevens, in the short hours when he rested in his rooms, would rave against the very idea of cavalry. Barbara Aleksander, in the short hours she could spend there away from the emergency hospital now established at the University, would listen in silence. Both of them were suffering; each expressed it differently. Once Barbara said sadly, “But if eighty per cent. of Poland lives on farms and not in factories, then we have got to depend on horses and men and not on machines. We haven’t enough.” And the American nodded glumly. You can’t, he was thinking, go to a shop and buy so many tanks and planes. You can’t hand brave men guns and then say you have an army. In his own mind he was acutely unhappy. For months previously newspapers in the anti-Nazi countries had had editorials and articles on Poland. All men in anti-Nazi countries had hoped that Poland would fight, had cheered when there was a sign of resistance to Nazi demands. He ought to know: he had broadcast in the belief that the Germans must be stopped in their continuous course of blackmail. And now Poland had opposed Germany, now Poland was fighting. And only two allies had come forward so far, and these two weren’t able to help. You can’t go to a shop and buy so many tanks and planes. And all the other countries were either silent or saying what an evil thing war was. As if every sane person didn’t know that. He had seen enough newspaper articles recently from the outside world to make his stomach turn over. The assumption that countries at peace were either especially sensible or virtuous, or both, at a time when the fight against Nazism had begun seemed nauseatingly callous. And for the first time in his life Russell Stevens found that he was entirely with Poland.
Once he had argued angrily about Poland, had denounced the inequalities and the conservatism which clung to the past. He had admitted that Poland had inherited a bitter legacy when she won her independence: for nearly a hundred and fifty years she had been divided between three countries with different religions, different languages, different laws. He had even gone so far as to admit, when pressed, that the Jewish question in Poland had risen only under the tyranny of these three masters. Poland, before its partition, had been one of the first European countries to have religious toleration. Three foreign conquerors had found that a subject people’s unrest and unhappiness could often be turned away from the conqueror if another outlet could be provided, and invariably that outlet was the Jew. Stevens could see the basic truth in that, but his crusading zeal — a zeal shared by all liberal young men who have had the good fortune to be born into any country without a conqueror’s heel on its throat — made him want to see Poland as part of the modern scheme of progress. Like all young men, he was impatient of those who asked only for time. It is with age that men discover how necessary time is.
To-day was the seventeenth day of the siege of Warsaw. Russell Stevens stood at the window of his living-room and wondered if he would be able to stand there to-morrow and say with equal amazement, “This is the eighteenth day.” He looked down into the quiet street bathed in sunlight and thought how strange it was that the rain of bombs and shells had missed this part of the town almost entirely. The houses round him here looked indecently normal. Seventeen days of pulling people out of ruins; of washing blood off pavements; of digging trenches for bodies (trenches for human protection had long been abandoned as an unnecessary waste of time); of helping in any way, like the other foreigners who had stayed in Warsaw, as if by their wild efforts they could atone for the inaction of their countrymen…. There was a Swede who worked and cursed like a man possessed. There was the wife of an American wounded during one of the earliest raids who nursed him along with sixty others in a school, where mattresses spread on the floors formed emergency wards. There was an elderly Frenchman who had turned surgeon’s assistant, an Englishman who had the self-appointed task of getting into ruined basements from which came weak cries, a Swiss and a Belgian who helped to pull the wounded into the courtyards when the hospital wards were in flames. They were kept busy: the hospitals were under constant attack. There was an Italian, bitterly ashamed of the ally his country had chosen, who drove a makeshift ambulance through bomb-pocked streets. And there were others: some were bandaged, one had been killed, all had stayed when there had been a chance to leave. There were those like Stevens himself, who argued with their head offices and firms in their own countries that their jobs still required them to stay on in Warsaw. And some of them, who would lose their jobs if they refused to leave with the last parcel of journalists and diplomats, refused to leave. Not out of heroics, Stevens had decided, but simply (as he himself felt) out of shame and a sudden disquietening humility. You had only to watch the faces in the streets, watch the women and the children, to feel chastened. For you knew they could have avoided this if they hadn’t resisted the Germans. And it seemed as if the German guns which now had the city well within their range were being specially vindictive to make the Polish people pay for their rejection of Nazism. Even now, as the shells fell with savage accuracy on warehouses filled with food, on hospitals crammed with already broken bodies, there was no sign of faltering in these faces in the streets. There was no evidence of bribery or treachery or cowardice. Differences neither in politics nor religion nor wealth mattered. The people of Warsaw closed their ranks. The soldiers who had survived the battles round the city had now entrenched themselves in the ruined suburbs. Together soldier and civilian, they faced the enemy who was advancing on them from the north-east, from the west, from the south. They neither asked for mercy nor expected it.
“The seventeenth day,” Stevens said. He stopped peering through the strips of white paper and turned back into the room. “I bet I am one of the few possessors of window-panes left in Warsaw.”
Barbara nodded and went on with the dusting of the room.
“Wouldn’t it be better to sit down and rest?” the American suggested. The girl’s movement in the room made him irritable. He was tired, and he wanted to rest. She was equally tired, and she wouldn’t rest. “Let Madame Knast look after her precious two rooms if she feels like it.” Madame Knast was the owner of the apartment. She had let two rooms to the American, called him a “paying guest,” and in this way managed to keep on her apartment in this pleasant section of the town after her husband’s death last year, without any loss of pride.
“Madame Knast is out looking for her son,” Barbara said quietly, and arranged the couch so that he would sleep more comfortably. Stevens hadn’t slept in a bed since the first day of the war; Olszak had brought the English girl here then, and she had been lying ill in the bedroom next door ever since. Stevens searched in the pocket of his stained and wrinkled jacket for a cigarette. He had lost his clothes as well as his bed; the suitcase which he had taken to the office, in his first obedience to instructions to leave, no longer existed. An incendiary bomb had landed on the office building, and his clothes and his notes for that book he was going to write some day had gone up in flames. Now all he possessed was the clothes he wore, a typewriter, and the pictures and ornaments he had bought to make his two rooms more homelike.
“What’s wrong with the son?” Stevens thought of the thin, nervous boy who had just begun an engineering course at the University last year.
“He’s been wounded. He was brought here from the East Prussian front, and he’s in one of the hospitals. But as the wounded have been moved to different buildings each time a hospital is blasted, Madame Knast doesn’t know where he is. So she goes each day to the new hospitals and wanders about in them, looking for him.”
Stevens said something under his breath. “Nothing,” he said aloud to Barbara’s “Beg pardon?”
He made an effort to be polite too. “How’s the invalid?”
“Much better. She wants to get up. I had to take away her clothes and hide them. It’s too soon, yet. Normally, she wouldn’t be out of bed for another week at least.”
“Normally, yes. But I wouldn’t call these normal times. In another week, God knows where we shall be.”
Barbara ignored his pessimism. “I am going to take her some soup in a minute. I managed to get a cupful to-day from the canteen kitchen, and I brought it here in a bowl. How could we heat it? The gas isn’t working to-day.”
“I had a spirit lamp.” He rummaged in a cupboard set into one of the walls and produced a small chromium object. He unscrewed the wick on the little cup, but the contents had almost evaporated.
“We can try,” he said doubtfully. “What about a candle?”
“We’ll have to use them carefully. The electric-power plant has been destroyed.”
“So I heard. And the printing presses were shattered to-day, too. No more newspapers.”
“So that is why you are depressed.” She was smiling, and Stevens gave her a grin. Any joke is better than no joke, he was thinking.
“How are your children?” he said. “All two hundred of them?”
“A hundred and eighty-two now,” Barbara answered. She wasn’t smiling now. “They keep me so busy that I haven’t time to worry about my own family. Not much, anyway.”
“Have their relatives been found?”
Both were silent, thinking of the children who had been found wandering in the fields and ditches in the first week of the war. They had been among the refugees from the west, driven forward by the Germans. They had been machine-gunned and bombed on their long journey across Poland. By the time they neared Warsaw many children were orphans, alone in the middle of a battlefield.
“If we don’t find any relatives I have a plan. After the war I’m going to take them to Korytów. Aunt Marta will find room for them, somehow. She’s wonderful at that. And Mother will have a grand time playing teacher. She always loved doing that.”
Stevens looked in silence at the girl. Hadn’t she heard? She returned the look with eyes trying very hard to be calm. Then her self-possession ended. She sat down on the couch, and her face was suddenly old.
“Yes, I know,” she said at last. “The last pocket of resistance to the south-west of Warsaw was wiped out two days ago. I know. Korytów is in German hands. What are we to do? Mother is nearly demented. She’s nursing at the hospital organized by the Knights of Malta, and there are so many wounded that she hasn’t been outside the building for five days. If only she weren’t needed here, if I weren’t needed, we could try to slip through the German lines and reach Korytów. That’s the only way we can learn about little Teresa and Stefan and Aunt Marta. What shall we do, Russell?” It was almost a cry.
Stevens shook his head slowly. What could he say? What could anyone say?
“Don’t worry. We may get news. Korytów is probably all right.” It wasn’t important enough to be bombed or shelled. “You leave it to Aunt Marta. She can rout most men, even a German. Have you heard from Andrew?”
“His division was shattered. What was left of it joined the Eleventh Infantry. We heard that from one of Mother’s patients who fought with Andrew at the beginning.”
“How’s the professor?”
“Digging away. He looks very noble with a bandage round his head and a spade over his shoulder. He reminds me of some painting I once saw. The…” She halted. “Oh, I can’t remember anything these days.”
“He was lucky. Just a fraction of an inch nearer the brain, and that piece of shrapnel would never have let him return to his apartment.”
“That was so long ago now,” Barbara said sadly. “That was the first day of the war, when Sheila was brought here, and Mother waited and waited for Uncle Edward at his apartment. When she went down to the porter’s lodge she found three men who questioned and questioned her, and she was late in reporting for duty at the hospital. That’s so long ago now.”
‘To-day’s the seventeenth.” To-morrow would be… Perhaps it wouldn’t.
“Sunday. The churches which are still standing are packed. As I came here I saw people kneeling on the pavement outside, joining in the Mass through the open windows.” She brushed the white dust on her skirt. Stevens noted that the white smears were at knee level. Now he knew how they had got there.
“Did you see any of the leaflets the Germans have been dropping to-day? An ultimatum. Surrender — or else.”
“Surrender!” Barbara said contemptuously. “I like that, I must say.”
“Don’t look so angrily at me, Barbara. I’m not a German.”
Barbara calmed down. “Sorry.”
“How’s the soup?”
“Lukewarm. Do you think that’s the best we can do?”
“I think it’s a pretty good best, considering everything. I’ll come in and see her too. She’s been asleep every time I’ve mustered a few jokes and knocked on the door. I never thought anyone could sleep through the bombing and shelling and machine-gunning as she has done.”
“Mr Olszak says that is why she is recovering. He was quite worried about her, as if it were his fault that she had pleurisy.”
“How’s friend Olszak?”
“Digging with Uncle Edward. Do you know, Russell, I went round unexpectedly to see Uncle Edward yesterday, and I could swear that they were digging where there was no bomb damage. Am I mad, or are they mad?”
“I’m quite sure Olszak isn’t,” Stevens said with much feeling. “He’s the only man I know who would be a match for Aunt Marta.” He knocked at the bedroom door.
Sheila was awake. Her eyes were larger than ever in the thin, white face; the colour in her lips and cheeks was gone; the hand she gave Russell Stevens seemed thin and weak, as if the fever had burnt up all its strength. He looked doubtfully at Barbara; perhaps Sheila should be kept in bed, after all.
As if she had understood that look Sheila said firmly, “I must get up.”
“Drink the soup, Sheila.”
“Where are my clothes, Barbara?”
“Drink the soup. All of it. It tastes awful, doesn’t it? It was the best I could find to-day.”
“It’s wonderful,” Sheila said. “I could eat anything now, even a piece of horse.” She didn’t notice the look that Barbara and Stevens exchanged, fortunately, or she might not have finished the soup so enthusiastically. “First I did nothing but sleep. Now I want to eat and eat.”
Barbara said, “If Russell, will stay here and look after you I shall dash round to see Mother. She may have some food. People are bringing all their food round to the hospitals so that those who are wounded and ill may get something nourishing.”
“This is enough,” Sheila said, handing back the empty bowl. But Barbara moved determinedly towards the door.
“No,” she was saying. “If you want to get up you must have food, the right kind of food. Or else you’ll be too weak to move, and you won’t be able to help.”
“To help…” Sheila said and laughed. It was a thin, weak laugh. Stevens was startled. As he pulled the high-backed chair over towards the bed he was thinking, It must have been God-awful for her here, with all the rest of us so busy that we could only thrust medicines on a table beside her and tell her to help herself.
“What is it like — out there?” Sheila was asking. “What’s happened? I daren’t ask Barbara. You must tell me everything before she gets back. Sometimes I see the flames reflected into this room. Sometimes I can smell horrible burning smells. I lie and try to identify all the noises, as if I were suddenly blind and had to try to learn to live without eyes. That was a house, that was solid road, that was a hundred windows, that was an engine exploding, that was an enemy plane, that was one of ours.”
“Ours?” Stevens smiled gently.
“That’s how I feel now. Don’t you?”
“Yes.” His voice was so harsh that Sheila raised herself on her pillow.
“Go on,” she said, “tell me. Then I won’t get such a shock once I do go out into the streets.”
Stevens told her. After he ended there was a long pause, broken only by the renewal of some anti-aircraft guns from the western side of the city. There were fewer guns now than there had been yesterday. Each day saw the death of more.
“Another attack,” Stevens said, stretching his legs and reaching for a cigarette.
The British girl didn’t seem to hear him. “What’s to be the end of all this?”
Stevens studied the flame of his lighter and then killed it with a characteristically decisive flick of his thumb. He shook his head.
“You think it’s hopeless?” Sheila was amazed and hurt. She would keep believing that people who fought so bravely and so unselfishly must be rewarded with victory.
“I’m not a Pole. That’s why I seem gloomy, I guess.”
“If this were happening to your own country? To New York?”
“I suppose then I wouldn’t think it’s hopeless. I’d keep fighting as long as I had a gun in my hand and something to go in it.”
“I know. I’ve been lying here thinking about London.”
“New York…” Stevens was saying. “All the bridges under heavy air attack. Brooklyn and Queens levelled to the ground! Last-ditch stands by the soldiers in all the outlying boroughs. Manhattan itself under heavy artillery fire. Aeroplanes swarming over. The Empire State Building gone, and all the blocks around it. The stations just a heap of twisted girders. Radio City a ragged shell, with burst water-mains pouring down Fifth Avenue. The museums in flames. The Metropolitan and Times Square a shambles. The Medical Centre in ruins. All its equipment gone. Blood running down the trolley-car lines on Broadway. The dock area one line of blazing warehouses. No power, little food, less water. Gaping windows, crushed walls, buildings smashed to pieces. And no one complaining, every one helping, all trying to tidy up after each night’s new destruction. No one talking about peace, no one wanting to accept an ultimatum.”
“And the Poles were so proud of their Warsaw. They’ve rebuilt it and cleared the slums and made gardens and parks and drives…”
“Even if it’s in ruins it is still a city to be proud of,” Stevens said shortly. “Hell and damnation.” He began pacing the room.
“I really must get onto my feet again. Have you any idea where Barbara’s hidden my clothes?”
“Don’t ask me! You just stay where you are. If you have a relapse you’ll be less of a help than ever.”
Sheila relaxed obediently. She saw the sense in that. She said with a touch of bitterness, “It’s rather a joke on me. I stayed because I wanted to help. And all I did was to lie in bed through the siege of Warsaw. My grandchildren will have a very poor opinion of me.”
The American was looking at her in amusement. “I have a suspicion you will have at least one story to tell them.”
Sheila pretended to be wide-eyed and innocent. How much did Stevens really know about her? Mr Olszak had somehow persuaded him to give her this room, so that she might be well hidden from any friends of Henryk who still searched for her. How much did he really know? She had such an impulse to tell him everything, if only to release the worry which still pressed on her mind.
And then his next words told her that he knew really very little, that he was puzzled, that he wanted the key to that puzzle. “I have one source of information on the fringes of the Second Bureau — Military Intelligence to you. He gives me gossip. No State secrets, so you can look less shocked. He told me an interesting story a few nights after you were brought here.”
Sheila still said nothing, but her heart had started that off-beat again.
“It seems a German agent, pretending to be an English girl, had smuggled herself into a reputable Polish family. She was arrested on the day before the war started. She was handed over to a Mr Kordus, who was head of a special department. He released her and placed her under close observation in the hope of catching two other spies. She was arrested again along with one of the spies, who was the porter’s wife at the apartment house where the girl was staying. The porter’s wife was sentenced and shot. But the girl escaped, and she hasn’t been traced so far. Interesting story.”
Sheila said, “Yes.”
“All right,” she said with an answering smile. “Do you think that English girl was a German spy?”
“I might if I hadn’t found her diary in my car.”
“Diary?” Sheila had forgotten all about it. It must have fallen from her lap in that drive from Korytów to Warsaw.
“There was no name on it, and half a dozen people had been in my car that day, so I had to read an entry or two to make sure whose diary it was.” The American’s voice was half apologetic, half teasing.
Across the river the bombs were falling steadily now. Sheila caught her breath and counted them. At last she said, “Of course. It must read rather strangely now.” She thought, all that life is dead, as easily abandoned as the diary was forgotten — and she felt a mixture of surprise and shock at the idea.
“I didn’t read much, but it was enough to make me sure that the girl wasn’t a German spy. Anyway, no spy would bother to fake a diary and then lose it carelessly. A spy would have produced it at a convenient moment along with her passport.”
Sheila relaxed once more. How utterly satisfactory it was to be believed.
And then Stevens said in that smooth voice which he kept for his most alarming statements, “But the most interesting thing of all is this: once I had Kordus pointed out to me. He was a thin little man with receding hair and pince-nez. Friend Olszak would have been peeved.”
Sheila was really aghast this time. The casual voice, the fact that the American didn’t fully know the dynamite he was handling, were as upsetting as the actual statement. “Have you talked about this?” she asked.
“Not even to Olszak. I’ve just been trying to place his game. It gives me a laugh. Privately, of course. But then all those high-signs and name changes are a natural for a laugh. You can’t enlighten me on anything, can you? Just between friends?”
“I know less than you, it seems,” Sheila said. It was true in some ways. Kordus was a new angle to her. Kordus… Well, Mr Olszak had his own reasons and they would be good ones. So much she had learned about Mr Olszak. “Russell,” she added suddenly and wondered why he repressed a smile, “Russell, don’t, please, talk about these things. Don’t think about them. Don’t even guess. Please.”
She wanted to say, “See what has happened to me.” She said, “Because I like you, and you’ve been more than decent to me. This Kordus affair is of no value to you. It would only lead to complications for you. Mr Olszak will tell you about it some day when he can.”
“Not Olszak. He’s been a reporter himself. All I’ve been able to figure out so far is that he visits police headquarters as Olszak, the editor who writes on specially interesting criminal cases and miscarriages of justice. He’s been doing that for years, I know. I’ve gone with him on occasion. And then he becomes Kordus when he has any other work to do. It’s the other work that interests me.”
“Russell, please. I gave you my advice. Why get mixed up in such things?”
“Oh, the inquiring reporter.” But the smile he gave her proved that he wasn’t convinced that she was as ignorant as she pretended.
“What does Barbara know?” she asked.
“The Aleksanders think you’re a heroine. You spotted a German spy and risked your life to catch her.”
“What were you told?” It was interesting to find out the ways Mr Olszak had disposed of her.
“Much the same. That I was saving you from German agents by having you here.”
“And you don’t believe much of that story?”
“I know that the Poles are looking for you.”
“And it doesn’t make sense?”
“No, it doesn’t.”
And you are going to try to make it into sense, Sheila thought as she looked at the man who was watching her so intently.
“Probably the whole story about Kordus was a fake. I don’t believe that’s his name at all,” she protested. But, looking at the American’s clever face, she knew that he wasn’t impressed by her amusement.
After that they talked of the news and pretended not to listen to the falling bombs. At least, it was Stevens who did most of the talking, as if he guessed that Sheila had begun to tire. He was exhausted himself. He thought wearily of the couch next door, but Sheila’s eyes pleaded with him to stay here and go on talking. Once she said apologetically, “It is a bit monotonous to listen to all those loud noises by yourself.” And once he thought she was summoning up courage to tell him something. But just at that moment Barbara returned, flushed with her running through air-raided streets. She carried a small basket triumphantly.
“We shall soon get you well,” she said happily, and plunged into long instructions from Madame Aleksander, as she moved busily about the room. Russell Stevens moved tactfully into the living-room as Barbara started shaking pillows. He was too tired even to make a joke.
He did say, “When Sheila is up and about again I’ll take you both out to dinner. How’s that?”
“It sounds wonderful,” Sheila said, and laughed. Bombs might be falling, but people still went out to dinner. The idea cheered her, somehow.
Barbara said, “You know, you are looking better. I believe seeing people does you good. Perhaps you ought to get up soon, after all.”
Sheila nodded happily. It was pleasant to share things, even air raids, with people.
RADIUM AGE SCIENCE FICTION: “Radium Age” is HiLobrow’s name for the 1904–33 era, which saw the discovery of radioactivity, the revelation that matter itself is constantly in movement — a fitting metaphor for the first decades of the 20th century, during which old scientific, religious, political, and social certainties were shattered. This era also saw the publication of genre-shattering writing by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Sax Rohmer, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Jack London, Arthur Conan Doyle, Aldous Huxley, Olaf Stapledon, Karel Čapek, H.P. Lovecraft, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin, Philip Gordon Wylie, and other pioneers of post-Verne/Wells, pre-Golden Age “science fiction.” More info here.
READ GORGEOUS PAPERBACKS: HiLoBooks has reissued the following 10 obscure but amazing Radium Age science fiction novels in beautiful print editions: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague, Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”), Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt, H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook, Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins, William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land, J.D. Beresford’s Goslings, E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man, Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage, and Muriel Jaeger’s The Man with Six Senses. For more information, visit the HiLoBooks homepage.
SERIALIZED BY HILOBOOKS: Jack London’s The Scarlet Plague | Rudyard Kipling’s With the Night Mail (and “As Easy as A.B.C.”) | Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Poison Belt | H. Rider Haggard’s When the World Shook | Edward Shanks’ The People of the Ruins | William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land | J.D. Beresford’s Goslings | E.V. Odle’s The Clockwork Man | Cicely Hamilton’s Theodore Savage | Muriel Jaeger’s The Man With Six Senses | Jack London’s “The Red One” | Philip Francis Nowlan’s Armageddon 2419 A.D. | Homer Eon Flint’s The Devolutionist | W.E.B. DuBois’s “The Comet” | Edgar Rice Burroughs’s The Moon Men | Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland | Sax Rohmer’s “The Zayat Kiss” | Eimar O’Duffy’s King Goshawk and the Birds | Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Lost Prince | Morley Roberts’s The Fugitives | Helen MacInnes’s The Unconquerable |
Geoffrey Household’s Watcher in the Shadows | William Haggard’s The High Wire | Hammond Innes’s Air Bridge | James Branch Cabell’s Jurgen | John Russell’s “The Fourth Man” | John Buchan’s Huntingtower
ORIGINAL FICTION: HiLobrow has serialized three novels: James Parker’s The Ballad of Cocky The Fox (“a proof-of-concept that serialization can work on the Internet” — The Atlantic); Karinne Keithley Syers’s Linda Linda Linda (which includes original music); and Robert Waldron’s roman à clef The School on the Fens. We also publish original stories and comics. These include: Matthew Battles’s stories “Gita Nova“, “Makes the Man,” “Imago,” “Camera Lucida,” “A Simple Message”, “Children of the Volcano”, “The Gnomon”, “Billable Memories”, “For Provisional Description of Superficial Features”, “The Dogs in the Trees”, “The Sovereignties of Invention”, and “Survivor: The Island of Dr. Moreau”; several of these later appeared in the collection The Sovereignties of Invention | Peggy Nelson’s “Mood Indigo“, “Top Kill Fail“, and “Mercerism” | Annalee Newitz’s “The Great Oxygen Race” | Charlie Mitchell’s “A Fantasy Land” | Joshua Glenn’s “The Lawless One”, and the mashup story “Zarathustra vs. Swamp Thing” | Adam McGovern and Paolo Leandri’s Idoru Jones comics | John Holbo’s “Sugarplum Squeampunk” | “Another Corporate Death” (1) and “Another Corporate Death” (2) by Mike Fleisch | Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer and Frank Fiorentino’s graphic novel “The Song of Otto” (excerpt) | “Manoj” and “Josh” by Vijay Balakrishnan | “Verge” by Chris Rossi, and his audio novel Low Priority Hero | EPIC WINS: THE ILIAD (1.408-415) by Flourish Klink | EPIC WINS: THE KALEVALA (3.1-278) by James Parker | EPIC WINS: THE ARGONAUTICA (2.815-834) by Joshua Glenn | EPIC WINS: THE MYTH OF THE ELK by Matthew Battles | TROUBLED SUPERHUMAN CONTEST: Charles Pappas, “The Law” | CATASTROPHE CONTEST: Timothy Raymond, “Hem and the Flood” | TELEPATHY CONTEST: Rachel Ellis Adams, “Fatima, Can You Hear Me?” | OIL SPILL CONTEST: A.E. Smith, “Sound Thinking | LITTLE NEMO CAPTION CONTEST: Joe Lyons, “Necronomicon” | SPOOKY-KOOKY CONTEST: Tucker Cummings, “Well Marbled” | INVENT-A-HERO CONTEST: TG Gibbon, “The Firefly” | FANFICTION CONTEST: Lyette Mercier’s “Sex and the Single Superhero”