Since issue 58 of Focus is now off to the printer, I thought I’d put up this from issue 57 – the second in what appears to be an ongoing series of flash fiction pieces inspired by common writerly errors indentified by The Turkey City Lexicon. This is a slightly longer version than the one that saw print, which was cut to fit.


The unwitting intrusion of the author’s physical surroundings, or the author’s own mental state, into the text of the story. Authors who smoke or drink while writing often drown or choke their characters with an endless supply of booze and cigs. In subtler forms of the Dischism, the characters complain of their confusion and indecision — when this is actually the author’s condition at the moment of writing, not theirs within the story. “Dischism” is named after the critic who diagnosed this syndrome. (Attr. Thomas M Disch)

The Turkey City Lexicon

“Damn!” Harvey said to no one in particular. “I could murder a cigarette.”

He got up and started to pace around the cockpit. Two steps across, two steps back. There wasn’t much space for pacing in the cockpit of a mark two astrotug.

He’d definitely picked the wrong week to give up smoking.

Maybe a coffee would help? But if he went to the galley he might bump into Loretta and she’d probably want help with something. Or one of the Scrunthorns would corner him. He loathed the Scrunthorns, pesky little aliens with bulbous heads and their bellies sticking out over those diaper things they wore and their horrible annoying language that sounded just like the screaming of a hungry baby. They were always touching him. He hated it when their tiny, sticky fingers touched him.

Harvey sighed and scratched his ear.

Forget the coffee! Best to lock the doors and stay hunkered down here in the cockpit. He was safe here. Loretta and the Scrunthorns knew better than to disturb him when he was working. Especially when he was working on something big.

And these hyperspace equations certainly weren’t going to fix themselves.

Harvey pulled up the display. Three days since the accident and he still hadn’t been able to plot a route for their little ship back to the space lanes. They were going around in circles, never getting any nearer their destination.

Harvey wasn’t worried. Or at least not so worried that he’d admit it to anyone else… yet.

There was no point alarming Loretta and the Scrunthorns if he could avoid it. But Harvey was beginning to fear that they might never find a way out of this problem. And if he missed the deadline on this delivery, there was a chance that the bank would foreclose on their mortgage and they’d lose everything – even The Desperate Endeavour.

Dammit! The littlest Scrunthorn hadn’t meant to tip that coffee cup over the console, but he shouldn’t have been in here. He had no idea of the damage he’d done. All that work. Lost.

No point crying over spilt milk, Harvey told himself. Or even spilt coffee.

Harvey patted the old girl’s consoles.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’ll think of something… If only I had a damned cigarette.”

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