Check out this collection of flash fiction from some huge names – Neil Gaiman, Lev Grossman, Scott Westerfeld, Michael Moorcock, Gene Wolfe, N.K Jemisin, my old mate Larry Santoro, and tons more – based around a fantastically monstrous illustration by Las Vegas artist Jeremy Zerfoss. It's fun, quick to browse through, combines big genre names, cool artwork, and... monsters! Here's Larry's contribution:
The Smiling Blue BalloongaShared Worlds Critter Corral
The Blue Balloonga (Baloonosaurus Caeruleus Rictus) appears to be grinning. He is not. He has no mouth. He just pretends. He is incapable of mirth. He is just made that way. The mouth you think you see, the nose holes on his cheeks, they are not mouth, teeth or nostrils. He is just pretending. Mostly, the Baloonosaurus lives in airless space where breathing is not only impossible, it would be dangerous! In further fact, the Balloonosaurus is generally unable to be joyous, or even pleasantly disposed, poor Balloonga. In addition to no mouth, nose, ears, teeth or hair, he also has no feet. You might not know that. He is shy and pretends to have mouths and (and feet) because he is just trying to please. He tends to hide behind large objects, mountains and such. Full-grown Balloongum (plural) frequently take refuge behind minor satellites and larger asteroids. Mars's moon, Deimos, is said to have a small colony of lesser (and redder) Balloongum in permanent residence. Poor things, they must continue to migrate around the moonlet to avoid being seen by telescopes and visiting NASA probes. This group is all but unique among the creatures; most of the larger, and bluer Balloonga are sad and lonely wanderers and sometimes visitors here and there.
The Blue Balloonga is a deep-space born critter with no animosity in his, her, or hus heart. Yes, there are three kinds, boy, girl and not-boy-or-girl. The fact is, they have no heart, just a little windbag at their centers that keep them inflated. Which is, of course, not difficult in the vacuum of space. How three-gendered beasties become born at all remains a mystery to science as they are shy and always alert—note the large and always open eyes (which are real)—and are always ready to duck behind whatever mountain, or satellite from behind which they peer.