Monday, July 17, 2023

“There Goes the Neighborhood” • by Pete Wood

Stan avoided eye contact with Johnson, another author on the cul-de-sac.
Johnson shot baskets “to jump start the muse.” Stan had his own novel to edit without getting sucked into an endless game of Horse with timeouts to discuss plotting.

Finlayson glared from his Zen garden. When his ideas ran out for his Zoltar the Shrewd fantasy opus, he blamed everyone else for disrupting his meditation.

At home, Sandi tapped a plain brown package. “That came for you.”

Mason, a method-writer who tried everything himself before putting words on screen, had sent it. Wasn’t Mason writing a murder mystery?

Stan opened the door and flung the package into the yard.


 The house shook.

“Honey,” Stan sighed. “Are you still interested in that artist’s neighborhood?”


The Pete Wood Challenge is an informal ad hoc story-writing competition. Each month Pete Wood spots writers the idea for a story, usually in the form of a phrase or a few key words, along with some restrictions on what can be submitted, usually in terms of length. Pete then collects the resulting entries, determines who has best met the challenge, and sends the winners over to Bruce Bethke, who arranges for them to be published on the Stupefying Stories web site.

You can find all the previous winners of the Pete Wood Challenge at this link.

This month’s challenge was to write a 125-words-or-shorter flash fiction piece keying off the words “writer’s block,” whatever the writer might interpret those words to mean. While normally the challenge is open only to members of the CODEX online writer’s group, this time Pete decided to up the ante by inviting the members of the Stupefying Stories Secret Inner Circle to submit entries as well. Then, to put his money where his mouth is,* he wrote the above story.

* Bruce Bethke somewhat testily adds, “You mean my money. Pete has complete autonomy with the challenge and the rules thereof, which on more than one occasion have resembled the rules for Calvinball. I don’t get involved until Pete makes his decisions and delivers the winners to me for publication, and I never see the entries that don’t make Pete’s final cut. So if you want to appeal Pete’s decisions, talk to Pete. I’m just the guy who writes the checks. Capisce?”

Speaking of Pete…


Photo by Lee Baker
Pete Wood is an attorney from Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lives with his kind and very patient wife. His first appearance in our pages was “Mission Accomplished” in the now out-of-print August 2012 issue. After publishing a lot of stories with us he graduated to becoming a regular contributor to Asimov’s, but he’s still kind enough to send us things we can publish from time to time, and we’re always happy to get them.

For the past two years Pete has been in the process of evolving into a fiction editor, God help him, first with The Pete Wood Challenge, then with Dawn of Time, then with The Odin Chronicles, and now with Tales from the Brahma, a shared world saga that features the creative work of Roxana Arama, Gustavo Bondoni, Carol Scheina, Patricia Miller, Jason Burnham, and of course, Pete Wood. We suspect that Pete’s real love is theater, though, as evidenced by his short movie, Quantum Doughnut — which you can stream, if you follow the foregoing link.

Pete Wood photo by Lee Baker.