Jun Prince- The Beautiful Dead
A lonely Korean pop star learns her high school classmate died five years ago. So, why are they still texting?
Yubin knows she’s different than the other girls in the pop group SIITY. Yes, they all got sucked into the same machine, giving up schooling and signing ridiculously long contracts with no guarantee of success, but that’s how Korean stars are made. Yubin is supposed to be thankful for that, but she isn’t. She doesn’t even like the girls she performs with.
She’s more connected to her former schoolmate Jieun, even though all they ever do is text. Over the last two months, Jieun has become her confidant and best friend, connecting Yubin to the real world in a way she desperately needs. Now that SIITY is going to appear on the reality show Incredible Race: Asia, Yubin will need that connection more than ever, which is why she’s devastated to discover Jieun has been dead five years and is actually haunting her.
If that weren’t enough, Yubin’s not the only SIITY member with issues. Rena’s father is emotionally abusive. Somi has a learning disability, and after a near death experience, Tae-eun becomes a nine-tailed fox woman. The only way they’ll survive the show, each other, and the supernatural currents buffeting them is to work together and win the hearts of their fans. Because if they don’t, they have nothing to go back to even if they survive what’s trying to kill them.
About the Author
Jun has lived in Asia for the better part of the last decade. During his years in Korea, he made a point of learning about and getting as close to the Korean entertainment industry as possible while writing his first novel “The Beautiful Dead.” This includes meeting and chatting with popular Korean singers, attending the recordings of Korean music shows, visiting the set of a TV drama while they were filming, and being a guest on a cooking show so that he could understand what it was like to be filmed in a TV studio.
He enjoys telling stories about monstrous humans and humanized monsters.
He has a MFA from the University of California Riverside, graduated with a BA in English Cum Laude from the University of Washington Seattle, and attended Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea as an exchange student.
She pulled her long sleeved t-shirt over the top of her head and cast it to the ground. She stood in the moonlight, stripped to her bare feet and her chest as uncovered as the day she was born. The air was cold. Her body shivered. Once again, a human thought intruded. What if someone sees me?
“F**k it” she said aloud, and pushed herself through the transformation. It was as if nature required her to pass through a blacksmith’s fire each time she changed, although the process was no more painful to her than it must be for a nugget of iron which lacked a proper nervous system when forged into something useful. Waves of transforming muscle formed lumps beneath her skin that flattened into steady plateaus with thick veins that bulged at their ridges. As with the spirits of such objects that no doubt felt disoriented when their material bodies were given new form, Tae-eun felt dizziness as the pulses of red feverish heat gushed through her veins. For just a moment she thought she was going to sick up. Her pink pajama bottoms ripped as her waist became thicker, and fluffy bushy tails punched through the seat of her bottoms.
“Crap!” she said but the sound was a guttural fusion of speech and snarl. If anyone had seen her, her wide gaping mouth would have seemed a contortion of hell spawned agony. There was none. The horrid face that distorted her usually enchanting features was a completely involuntary manifestation of her flesh stretching to accommodate a much larger skeleton, and human teeth elongating into a muzzle full of vulpine fangs.
Now, standing almost two and a half meters tall, the first stage of transformation was complete. She gripped the side of the outhouse with a massive clawed hand that had doubled in size. Fur covered her from head to toe, in shades that blended from white, to red, to gold and black. She thought she should try to stabilize herself, but then realized that she no longer felt feverish or dizzy. She’d like to know why it was necessary to change into the fox woman before the fox.
She was still unaccustomed to spirit combat, but a small tempest swirled in the underworld around her. Humans too felt the wind she created, their muscles tightened, and more than a few quickened their pace to evade the chill. Scraps of litter spiraled over real world concrete, and whips of black hair whirled in an angry nimbus around Jieun’s face.
The shadowman looked up. She’d expected empty pits of darkness where eyes should have been, but when the creature ceased feeding, a set of all too human brown eyes that now lacked eyelids appeared in the monster’s head. They contrasted with the rest of its body in that while the majority of the creature lurked in shadow that was darker than everything else in the Dead World, these two spheres burned as if absorbing all the spirit light that should have detailed the shadowman’s body. The flow of spirit energy that connected its ugly mouth to the girl stopped, and the ghost realized that she held the creature’s attention.
The shade of an eerily human face like black paint on even blacker canvas contorted in what could have just as easily been taken for triumph or rage. It unleashed an otherworldly snarl that was anything but human and charged Jieun. Though it had a man’s body, it rushed in an inhuman lope on all fours that seemed more like an animal. Jieun darted out of the way—it wasn’t a conscious thing, and the instinct may well have saved her dead life. If she hadn’t known before, alarm she felt made her certain; ghosts could die a second death.
She whirled after the attack expecting the shadowman behind her but it had vanished. She sighed in relief. Then, without warning she saw the black shape leap from the roof of a magazine stand just outside the subway station. She cried out in alarm, and before its feet had touched the ground its giant mouth fastened on her shoulder. The weight of the attack forced her to the ground, and in a moment of dawning horror she realized it was impossible to escape.
She shrieked. The pain was beyond anything she imagined possible for a spirit to experience. It wasn’t like trailing her fingers through the wall, or even passing completely through a physical object. Those pains were an affirmation of life, cold shocks that, while not comfortable, served as a reminder that she was still in some sense alive. The feeling of her spirit body being torn apart by the shadowman’s teeth seemed as if the devil had run away with God’s scalpel and used it to peel thick ribbons of her soul away from creation.
Though the shadowman looked like and had similar features to a man, it made low growls that were far distant from human speech. It wasn’t a language at all – if it had been she’d have instinctually understood it. It shook its head like a starved wolf and further tore into the fabric of firelines that composed her spirit body. Its breath smelled of rotten flesh, and she could hear the pulse of bestial rhythmic snorting in her ears. She needed a weapon. She didn’t have one. This was it. Jieun would die… this time for real.
Yubin looked at the gumiho. A moment of stunned silence settled between the two women like a moment somehow out of time and place untouched by the urgent emotions of the now. Yubin stood in the hall beside the bathroom, and unable to see Michi, Tae-eun crouched beside her bed. Time caught up.
“Aaaaaiiiiiiiiiiiieeeeee!!!” God, that woman has powerful lungs.
“Yubin!” Tae-eun yelled.
Yubin blinked and paused her noise upon recognizing her name in the twisted animal sounds spilling from Tae-eun’s throat. It gave Tae-eun the moment she needed to make the sign of the cross, direct her eyes toward the ceiling and say “Sorry…” in apology for abusing the name of The Lord.
“Aaaaaiiiiiiiieeeeeee!!!!!!!!!” Yubin shrieked again.
The sound made Tae-eun’s head rattle. It struck her between the eyes as if the other woman tried in earnest to give Tae-eun the world’s first sonic lobotomy. If the first call had been a shriek of surprise, the tail end of the latter was most certainly a battle cry. Tae-eun’s unnie darted to the minibar, and hurled a heavy glass at Tae-eun’s skull. She dodged out of the way, but then Rena appeared behind her.
“What the..?” Was all Rena had time to say before leaping on to Tae-eun’s bed. She rolled to the head board and armed herself with a pillow. Yubin seemed ready to hurl a pack of M&Ms at Tae-eun when Rena clobbered the werefox with the pillow on top of the head.
Owwweee! What the hell? It didn’t hurt, but what else was she supposed to think when she was suddenly attacked by her best friend and the SIITY group leader.
“Rena-ya!” Yubin called, and somehow that was all Rena needed to know that Yubin required a pillow. Rena tossed one in Yubin’s direction, spun, and smashed her own pillow into Tae-eun’s muzzle. That one really did hurt. The Gumiho screamed as sparkles swam through her vision.
Yubin hadn’t hit Tae-eun yet, but that was only because she was filling the pillow case with cans of coke and mini bottles of alcohol. The leader whirled the 420 thread count sack of pain over her head, and landed a blow that sounded with an audible crack against Tae-eun’s jaw.
A loud snapping sound escaped the bathroom. Something darted through the air like a flying snake. Michi had been laughing, at the site of the three meter werefox being pillow pounded by two skinny girls half her size, but then the shark woman started gagging. Tae-eun couldn’t see what had happened because at first Yubin blocked her view, and now she was too busy huddling on the floor with her arms protecting her head in the fetal position.
“Don’t… “ another powerful blow to the back of the head from Rena. Damn she’s strong!” “you…!” Yubin’s weighted blow crashed down on her back. Owe! “realize…!” another blow from Rena as she downed her feather filled club like an executioner’s axe. “that I could…!” Yubin delivered another painful blow to Tae-eun’s side and then Rena and Yubin hit her at exactly the same time.
Tae-eun had enough.
Moving faster than any living creature her size should have been able, she grabbed one of her attackers in each of her massive hands. She threw Rena forcefully on to her own bed, and then tossed Yubin effortlessly onto the other where Michi had been sitting.
“…tear you apart!” Neither of the women had a proper sense of self preservation. Attacking a gumiho with pillows… With pillows!
“Ha Yubin! Where’s Somi?” Yubin limped into the practice room and sat in a folding chair next to her gym bag, both their manager and the choreographer looked annoyed.
“I don’t know. She wondered off.”
Manager said, “Yubin! You’re the leader right?”
“Then act like it! It’s your responsibility to keep everyone together!”
Then Somi walked in with a bagel sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts. Everyone looked at her, but her eyes widened in an expression of bewildered “What?” as if nothing happened. Their manager snatched the half eaten sandwich out of her hand and slammed it into the garbage causing both Yubin and Somi to recoil as if slapped.
“No more junk food while we are promoting you fat cow! You want to go join the Piggy Dolls and sell music to fat kids?” Although the words were meant for Somi, the glare behind them was shot at Yubin. They both bowed their heads looking chastened. He mumbled “What a morning” under his breath.
“No, sir.” Somi murmured.
“That’s right…” Yubin thought. The maknae had every right to be ashamed, and yet it was somehow also Yubin’s fault that Somi didn’t know how to show up on time or stick to a diet. Yubin had never asked for the title of leader. There wasn’t much benefit, and quite a lot of grief. Those other stupid girls couldn’t take the job seriously. She was only the leader because she was the oldest, and she’d never be an equal partner with her manager because he was more than a decade her senior. The combination of his age and title entitled him to speak to them however he wanted.
“Now everyone’s here. Let’s go. Take your positions.”
Yubin felt a sharp pain in her knee with each step and limped to her position in the practice room.
“I was hurt this morning. I fell down the stairs.”
“You fell down the stairs? During promotions? Yubin! How could you be so stupid?”
It wasn’t like she wanted to take a header down the stairwell, and couldn’t help that she felt watched. It made her uneasy, but she also knew that voicing her protest wouldn’t help.
“Sit down! We don’t need you stumbling around and falling even more. We’ll get you a brace, and have doctor Kang send you some Vicodin. Don’t move until he gets here.” SIITY was pre-recording today, so they had to arrive at the studio early. She’d go to the hospital after they were done.
For the second time that day Yubin was struck by the things it was possible to get used to. Get hurt outside of promotions and everyone screamed “Hospital! Hospital!” Injure yourself within the first three weeks of your comeback, and it was “Eat some pills and get back to work! We’ll get you checked out when we have time.”
What did that make her within this chaotic world she’d grown into? The waves of contempt flowing off everyone with the title of “Manager” or above made her feel hollow inside. It was one thing to have the general impression that they only cared about profits, and another thing all together that her psychic whatever-you-call-it made it so she really knew.
She sampled the outside emotions simmering in that ghostly second heart of hers in the opposite side of her chest that was responsible for her psychic abilities, and she knew that to him her physical pain was nothing more than expensive broken merchandise. A man might be willing to crash his hundred billion won sports car if he thought he could make three hundred billion won in the process. They only cared when it might hurt profits, and while all the executives had private penthouses to call their own, she was trapped living in a dorm with three morons that she hated. What was the point? She’d expected to find more purpose in stardom. As it was, the only point she could see was to build more popularity.
She sighed. The show must go on. A few hours of rehearsals and then she’d be at SBS awash in a few minutes of cheers from her adoring fans. Then she’d remember why this was all okay, and why having some other reason to exist didn’t really matter. Until then and after, it was going to be a long day.
Dennis Meredith – The Happy Chip
The stunningly rapid increase in the power of corporations to gather information on people without their knowledge or consent.
What would happen if people could have a chip implanted that would report to them their physiological level of enjoyment of a product or person? And how might unscrupulous scientists decide to evolve that technology to one of control?
When does technology-enabled knowledge about our personal lives evolve into the ability to control our lives?
You feel ecstatic! Until you kill yourself. The Happy Chip is the latest nanoengineering wonder from the high-flying tech company, NeoHappy, Inc. Hundreds of millions of people have had the revolutionary nanochip injected into their bodies, to monitor their hormonal happiness and guide them to life choices, from foods to sex partners. Given the nanochip’s stunning success, struggling science writer Brad Davis is thrilled when he is hired to co-author the biography of its inventor, billionaire tech genius Marty Fallon. That is, until Davis learns that rogue company scientists are secretly testing horrifying new control chips with “side effects”–suicidal depression, uncontrollable lust, murderous rage, remote-controlled death, and ultimately, global subjugation. His discovery threatens not only his life, but that of his wife Annie and their children. Only with the help of Russian master hacker Gregor Kalinsky and his gang can they hope to survive the perilous adventure that takes them from Boston to Beijing. The Happy Chip, an edge-of your-seat thriller, spins a cautionary tale of unchecked nanotechnology spawning insidious devices that could enslave us. It dramatically portrays how we must control our “nanofuture” before it’s too late.
About the Author
Dennis Meredith brings to his novels an expertise in science from his career as a science communicator at some of the country’s leading research universities, including MIT, Caltech, Cornell, Duke and the University of Wisconsin.
He has well over a thousand news releases and articles on science and engineering, as well as numerous articles and guidebooks on science writing and science communication. He is author of the leading book on science communication, “Explaining Research: How to Reach Kay Audiences to Advance Your Work” (Oxford 2010).
“Being a science writer, I aim in my novels to extrapolate my stories from real science, which is sometimes even wilder than any science fiction,” he says.
“And, although I wanted to tell an exciting story, I also wanted to explore the critical moral and ethical issues raised by our growing ability to genetically engineer life.”
James Preston shoved open the apartment building’s heavy oak door and stepped out into an icy wind that whipped the driving rain down the gloomy Boston street. His thin raincoat gave little protection from either the cold or the downpour. He huddled against the weather, thoroughly chilled… grinning like a total idiot.
After all, he’d just enjoyed about the most incredible first date ever!
It started with first meeting the incandescently beautiful Darlene, followed by their cozy dinner in which they discovered they had tons of stuff in common. They’d totally clicked. During intimate after-dinner drinks at her place, they even agreed to sync their Happy Chip data—an almost unheard-of practice on a first date. Even a date in which the very expensive dating service Happy Resonance had shown them to be a perfect match. And they’d discovered, to their delight, that each registered a stunningly high physiological reaction to the other. Their sex would be incredible!
It was awesome to feel so great after weeks of going through his crazy roller-coaster moods. He’d suffered the blackest funk one minute and a top-of-the-world elation the next. He’d guessed it was just all the crap at work, some run-ins with so-called friends, and worries over the date.
But now he almost skipped down the rain-slick steps, not even caring what the lean, dark-haired man standing at the curb with the umbrella thought. In fact, Preston decided maybe he’d ask the guy if he could borrow his umbrella and do the goofy, fun, Singin’-in-the-Rain dance from the old movie. He checked his watch. It was midnight, and the trains were still running. He decided he’d better just head for the entrance to the subway’s Green Line down the block. Maybe he would just do a little jig along the way.
He’d walked only a few hundred yards along the deserted block in the swirling deluge, when the pouring rain and the street were lit by headlights from a car approaching behind him. Maybe it was a taxi. Yeah, he should take a taxi. He was feeling too terrific to let the mood fade, getting soaked, waiting for a train, and coping with the drunks and rowdies and bums on subways at night.
A smile still on his face, he turned toward the headlights, and realized it was not a cab, but a van with a Parker Plumbing sign. The side door slid open, and he found himself staring at a muscular bald-shaven man crouched in the van and dressed in black.
Before he could say anything, a sound behind him—the whoosh of a closing umbrella—made him start to turn. But powerful hands gripped his head from behind, and a vicious, expert twist snapped his neck, killing him instantly. His mouth gaped open, his dead-glassy eyes wide with a remnant horror of his death, as the rain washed down his face in a final, tragic baptism.