ahoy chicagoans

To those readers living in the Chicago area: if you’ve reached the point where you feel you can leave your quarantine unit without enduring heart palpitations in order to do some socially distant browsing at one of your local bookshops, my novel A Set of Lines is now available at that fine Chicago institution known as Quimby’s. New stock of Bunker Diaries and Inner Harbor Field Reports has also arrived at the store. Just a heads up that the supply of these two publications is dwindling, and there are no plans for a second printing. As always, thanks for reading and be well.

the new experiment

From its exterior the laboratory suggests disuse: a grey windowless mass of concrete block ringed by a rusting chain-link fence entwined with clumps of chicory and Queen Anne’s lace. This is intentional. For inside, beneath the glare of a single fluorescent bulb, the scientist toils over his most ambitious experiment to date. He has been indoors for months⁠—his only encounters with fresh air taken as inhalations from a flexible plastic tube fed through a tiny aperture in the wall above his workbench. At the end of each day he meticulously cleans the inside of the tube with a long fine-fiber brush. He stores the brush in a locked drawer and wears the key around his neck on a silver chain.

A cistern of water sits in one corner of the single-room building. A metal safe holding nutrition wafers stands next to it. At night the scientist stretches out on a low cot set against the wall. Creeping through the twilight of semi-consciousness he approaches the hypnagogic border checkpoint and loiters there, stepping over and back across the border in an eccentric shuffle akin to backwoods buck dancing. As he dances he conjures his ideasdarting in and out of lucid dreams, imprinting theories on the inner walls of his mind.

This current experiment began following the now-infamous ‘centrifuge episode’, in which the scientist’s (former) circular laboratory began rotating in response to the frenetic activity of bodies moving outside its walls. The event scratched the flint of inquiry once again, leading the scientist to abandon the city of his birth and migrate to this forgotten rust-belt town, at the edges of which he established his current laboratory in a former small engine repair shop.

What you may ask is the nature of the experiment. What indeed. Does he even know himself…does he know himself? Does he know himself? What does he know?

(1) Concrete is porous.

(2) Nutrition wafers only come in one flavor: bland.

(3) Eventually the water will run out.

visit the nobody zone

after people, a bird reflects

In a new series on the Ghost Paper Archives site, the resident archivist-reporters explore the Nobody Zone in words and images. Read the first installment and subscribe for future posts on the right sidebar of the GPA site (no WordPress account needed).

self-interrogation on collaboration

In a new post on the Ghost Paper Archives site, several of the interstitial archivists self-interrogate themselves, both directly and tangentially, on the subject of collaboration.

Ghost Paper Archives

Ghost Paper ArchivesGhost Paper Archives (logo design by Nate Dorr) (GPA) is the imprint under which A Set of Lines has been published. GPA is a publishing collaborative focused on the creation and dissemination of texts and imagery, online and in print, that document facets of the human colonization of Earth. These facets reflect a tendency toward, or even a fixation on, the eerie mundanity of quotidian life on this planet. In short: we’re here, we’ve made a total mess of the place, but what does our daily existence communicate? What about the objects (and beings) we gather around us, or the built environments we inhabit, by choice or otherwise? And what role do dreams play? How can this raw material distill itself into new and disorienting spirits within the textual story container or across the visual landscape (be it moving or still)? The tiniest narrative fronds begin to unfurl.

If you subscribe to the Lost Gander blog, either as a WordPress user or not, I invite you to also subscribe to the GPA site, as that site will hopefully soon be busier than this one has been of late. You can sign up to receive future posts on the right sidebar of the GPA site. As always, thanks for reading!

Now Available: A Set of Lines

A Set of Lines front cover

A Set of Lines: a novel by S. D. Stewart

Last night I drew all night. I copied the images from the textbook and then I drew them again freehand—I made them move on the page, lengthened the lines and darkened the centers.

The tree, the river, the old textbook—a triptych with shifting borders hangs in a place where dreams and memories intersect. Omission and loss haunt those who live here, suspended as they are in an endless struggle to connect. Contracting and expanding as it progresses, the narrative of their existence ever-circles around a shrouded core.


With cover design and interior illustrations by Nate Dorr, who since 2017 has been quietly depicting the beauty of decaying, mutated biospheres in his Disaster Landforms series.

Interior design and layout wizardry by Nathan Grover.

Read reviews on Goodreads.

Order the paperback | [ebook forthcoming]

Shipping Note: Delivery estimates shown during the order process are the latest possible arrival date. Most U.S. orders will take 7–11 business days to arrive, depending on the selected rate. Economy rate is reasonable: in many cases, the book will still arrive inside of a week. Delivery times outside of the U.S. will vary by location.

jasper the badger

Sir, your badger…

Yes, his name is Jasper.

Sir, some of the passengers have reported your badger has been biting their ankles.

Why do you persist in referring to him as ‘your badger’? He has a name, dammit, and it’s Jasper.

Whatever his name, sir, we can’t have him running amok in the cabin.

He’s not running amok. As you can see he is resting peacefully at my feet, safely stowed under the seat in front of me, per your draconian regulations.

That may be the case at the moment, sir, but just a few minutes ago he was up in first class, where not only did he nearly sever a woman’s pinky toe from her right foot but when I tried to corral him back here into coach, he rather nimbly leapt upon a man’s lap, causing severe scratches to the unfortunate man’s groin area. I had to administer first aid in both cases.

Hmm, that doesn’t sound like Jasper at all. Are you sure there’s not another badger on board that you may have mistaken for Jasper? To the untrained eye badgers do often look indistinguishable from one another.

Sir, I assure you there is only one badger on board this airplane and frankly at this point I’m wondering how it was ever approved for air travel.

On Jasper’s behalf I must take offense at your implication. I’ll have you know that Jasper is a certified emotional support badger. He went through a rigorous six-month training program, during which it was very difficult on both of us to be separated. If you’d like I can show you the certificate he earned. He’s quite proud of it.

That is all well and good, sir, but I simply must ask you to please ensure your badger remains under the seat in front of you for the duration of the flight.

And I must tell you that is where Jasper has been, despite these questionable reports of a rogue badger you continue to unfairly foist upon me. Frankly, I’m of a mind to contact the airline and report your egregious manners to the customer service department. What is your badge number, anyway?

Sir, I am a flight attendant. I do not have a badge number. And you are of course welcome to submit your report, but please know there will also be a report submitted that details the havoc your badger has wreaked in the first class section today, including descriptions of the numerous injuries sustained by the innocent passengers caught in the melee.

Well, I must say I’m skeptical of their innocence. They are traveling in first class, after all, and my experience with those types of people is that they always have some traces, however faint, of blood on their hands. So it’s likely this other rogue badger you claim is present somewhere in the cabin was simply settling certain karmic debts. Badgers are actually often tasked in this way with balancing the natural scales of justice, so to speak.

[What follows is a flash of silvery fur, a brief strangled cry, then silence.]

While the plane did eventually complete its flight without any further major incidents, the final medical report listed five victims of badger-inflicted injuries, including the near-fatal laceration of a flight attendant’s femoral artery. While no charges were pressed in this case, Jasper never flew again, at least not on that airline. Attempts by said airline to verify the existence of a training program for emotional support badgers led nowhere, although the investigation did uncover rumors of a similarly described program for marmots located somewhere in rural Washington state.

a dream-story

I arrive in town exhausted. The need to stash my belongings points to a decrepit white Victorian with the air of a boarding house. No one’s around when I enter but this does not concern me. I shove my bags under the bed in an otherwise empty room and return to the street. No one’s outside, either. The town feels like it’s holding its breath. I cross the street to a disused petrol station. As I’m standing in the parking lot a car engine revs from behind the garage. Tires squealing, an old Trans Am speeds out and across the street, up the short incline to the house, and rams through the doorway, disappearing inside. I find this alarming and walk away at a rapid pace.

Now I’m hiding in the woods up the hill and down the street from the house. It’s a pleasant spot, almost like a tended garden but wild enough to offer adequate cover. I keep watch from atop a large boulder. Just as my pulse slows to resting rate a pair of wizard-thieves appears in the street below. They look up in my direction before entering the house. Despite the Trans Am now presumably wedged in the vestibule, only a few minutes pass before they walk out carrying my bags.

I know they are coming for me next, so I don’t bother with further retreat. It will only aggravate them to a higher level of violent intent. When they arrive at my boulder I am calm. They seize me and take me to their camp deep in the woods beyond the town limits.

Over the next few days I attempt to impress them with my rudimentary skills. I levitate small objects and hurl them across the campsite, much to the irritation of its inhabitants. In a moment of insolence I attempt to use my power to asphyxiate the field lieutenant as he delivers a formal complaint about my presence to the lead wizard-thief. A scornful bark escapes the lieutenant’s lips as my weak effort fails. Humiliated I shrink away to my tent. But I know those who matter are secretly impressed. Soon I will be ready. Soon I too will matter.

the porcupine and the balloon*

The Porcupine and the Balloon were never meant to be friends….or were they. It will end badly, said the Balloon’s sagging mother. Mrs. Porcupine, her quills white-flecked with age, was less concerned⁠—not foreseeing any obvious threat to her spiny little offspring. You better keep your distance if you wish to stay friends for long, was her only comment. Yet despite their mothers’ skepticism, some mystical force continued drawing the two youngsters together. The shiny buoyancy of the Balloon’s disposition held great appeal to the morose little ground-borne mammal. For the Balloon’s part, it was enthralled by the very pointiness of its companion’s appearance. People always say oil and water don’t mix. But what of balloons and porcupines? Surely the world has witnessed more volatile pairings than this? So let’s allow them their fun (while it lasts), for after all, a balloon’s very nature is ephemeral, and if this particular one prefers to go out with a bang rather than slowly deflating into a crumpled foil bag, who are we to stand in its way?

*I ran out of reading material on the train today so I wrote this for you.

outside the walls

Outside the city walls the scientist retires to smoke his long-stemmed pipe and absorb the local gossip. As the burnt yellow of the sky fades, scattered fires spring up, each circled by a huddle of indistinct figures. The scientist approaches one such group, steps within the fire’s glow and notices a figure seated apart from the others, its face shrouded by a voluminous hood. To this one he turns his attention.

Ah, Liferuiner, it’s been a long time.

The figure nods.

And how many lives have been touched by your handiwork since last we spoke?

The figure stirs, clears its throat.

Actually I’ve been on hiatus, so to speak.

I see. So how have you been spending your time?

I’d rather not say. And you? How go the experiments?

The same as always, my friend. I fear I will never reach the threshold I seek to cross.

Too bad. It is hard for us on the fringes. Our work is never appreciated.

The scientist nods as he puffs on his pipe, watching the Liferuiner jab at the fire with a rough-hewn staff, jostling the reddened coals until sparks shoot forth.

I must return to the laboratory soon, my friend. I cannot tarry here all evening long, as others are wont to do.

The Liferuiner raises its cloaked head, reaches out a withered hand and grasps the fringe of the scientist’s sleeve.

Before you go, I have something for you.

It reaches into a satchel slung across its chest and brings out a small vial of pitch black fluid.

Take this, my friend. May it aid your progress in reaching that threshold you speak of.

The scientist holds up the vial, through the contents of which no light passes. A faint smile flickers across his lips.

I am once again in your debt, my friend. Please do take good care.

He stands and touches the brim of his hat, but the hooded figure has already turned back to the fire, stoking it viciously again with the staff.

Up above the craggy walls of the city loom in the light of the rising moon. The scientist steps forward, now following the path back to the structured madness of his experiments.

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