Memento Mori

Daniel King’s short story collection cycles through the shadowy landscapes of death, gnarled relationships, the slippery side of human nature, even the contemporary lure of cosmetic surgery pushed to a surprising extreme.

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Daniel King’s short story collection cycles through the shadowy landscapes of death, gnarled relationships, the slippery side of human nature, even the contemporary lure of cosmetic surgery pushed to a surprising extreme.

Philosophically pointed with a surreal bite, the characters of these stories wrestle with existence and each other as profound questions scatter them.

King’s stories have been widely published and praised in Australia and overseas, and this compilation was Highly Commended in the 2010 IP Picks Award for Best Fiction.

Daniel King

Daniel King is a Western Australian writer. His collection of short stories, Memento Mori, also published by IP, won the IP Picks competition in 2010. His other published books are the novels Datura Highway and Vexil Excelsior (under his birthname, David King). His hobbies include surfing, following the latest developments in space exploration, and listening to the music of Mike Oldfield.


48. St Teresa of Ávila

The seven-roomed clear castle
My vision’s castle of the soul
Appears to be of diamond
But I suspect its crystal
Is really frozen Holy Water.
And I have spent hours contemplating water
Water as cold as convent stones beneath my discalced feet
Spent brief hours thinking of bright water flowing
Like two long lines of words
From the Two Fountains –
Especially the continuously bubbling one-source fountain:
The water of that fountain never scatters into droplets
That freeze and spiral into hell
Like dying snowflakes –
Snowflakes that in my other vision
Are souls torn apart by rainbows
Of seven dark colours.
I pray my mother Beatriz never bowed her head
Beneath such rainbows
I pray the Counter-Reformation
Can assuage all souls
And I hope with all my words that I am not contradicting myself
For they are the expression of my thoughts
From the Beloved.
May others shape them like my perfect seven-roomed castle –


And though its walls are now foreshortened quartz
They still leave clear foundations in my mind;
The efflorescing crystal still exhorts
My soul and souls alive today to find
If it is like those others have defined.
And likest is vnto that heavenly towre
That God hath built for his own blessed bowre.

46. Sonnet for Ordinary Time

The sacred year’s two great timespans are green,
With chasubles resplendent emeralds
That Ordinary Time has assembled;
Formal stipe of a crux gemmata seen
From Pentecost to Advent, the fourteen
Minus eight long months from May so herald
Euclidean geometry, levelled
Against Einstein as one long beam. Between
The Baptism and Lenten points are stones
Of equal weight: gneiss gems of Living Water
Like cleaved green pomegranate seeds, but grown
Isometrically within an altar
Of quartz – uvarovite, the whole then sown
Outside time to the honour of the Author.

50. Petrarchan Sonnet of Light

A mirror with a rainbow-coloured tain
Will fuse these signs to rhyme A B B A
And then, attaining Light, their maker’s day,
Transform them as if through a stained-glass pane
Whereby we cry: Abba (Father) again
So that a farther sun can raise the ray
Towards the water that so loves the Way
It lenses ice out of the sacred rain.
This frozen Holy Water will form prisms,
Guiding each silver spirit as if dew
That haloes the refracting rays like chrism
Glistening on the temples of the few
Who shun the ontological schism
And pass through glass and diamonds renewed.

9. In the Wake of Poseidon

The ocean covers the entire world now:
A tiny island
Is all that’s left of our relationship,
Where once there was a planet-wide landmass.
Together we explored its lava plains,
As free as the horizon,
Our bare backs warm in the sunset’s breath –
Before, insanely, the equator of our middle age
Tightened around us and the things we held dear,
Binding us so we were immobile in the rising brine
While a vicious trident speared your heart
And stabbed my abdomen;
The middle prong impacting just the air
Which, looking back, was all we ever really had.
And now we barely gasp
As we struggle to enunciate pleasantries
Before spume curls into our mouths and nostrils
And great waves threaten to engulf even us.

44. Villanelle of the Present Age

Praise Kyrios, eternal tutelar;
Across the twilight bay inscribe all texts.
Erase glyphed Sirius, reverse-god star.

See Christ, as if a lighthouse visioned far
From Syria, rewrite its darkened codex.
Praise Kyrios, eternal tutelar.


In Kypros, différance’s abattoir
Reddened economics, rendered light complex.
Erase glyphed Sirius, reverse-god star.


So Greece’s Syriza must be debarred
From casting at the west pearls of perspex.
Praise Kyrios, eternal tutelar.


The Five Star Movement, Italy’s discard
And dross, awaits the serious reflex.
Erase glyphed Sirius, reverse-god star.


To souls, Lord Christ, you are the Achernar
This world requires as passage to the next.
Praise Kyrios, eternal tutelar.
Erase glyphed Sirius, reverse-god star.


16. Sonnet for the Watchers

The third most ancient people of the stars
Believing in the soul but not in God
Extended disbelief to a bizarre
Rejection of itself, with just a nod
To space as they retreated to their far

Radburn parklands beneath primeval suns –
Steinmetz lifelessness viewed through lucite tears,
Declining as in 3 to 2 to 1
Other-world cutting. Iridescent years

Of eating their horned beasts roasted or live,
Of lopping limbs even if they regrow
Somnambulate with stratocratic drive –

The galaxies now asterisks, footnotes,
The stratosphere’s long lockstep learned by rote.

ISBN : 9781921479915
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Ebook, PB


ePub, mobi(kindle), PB, pdf

Customer Reviews

1-5 of 2 reviews

  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    What would happen if you could know, before you die, whether you were going to Heaven or to Hell? How would it change your relationships if you entered into a contract to feel the other person’s pains and pleasures? What if there were a “Venerean” equivalent to the Martial Arts, where victory meant that, rather than physically defeating the other person, you made them love you?

    These are just a handful of the fascinating ideas Daniel King plays with in the 21 stories contained in this collection, which provides an excellent sampling from nearly 25 years of writing the form (and which includes the two prize-winners, “Nothing Contemplates Nothing” and “Heaven and/or Hell”). But this certainly isn’t to imply King’s fiction is only about playing with ideas. The ideas are employed rather like those brutal little knives you use to open oysters — one powerful but telling twist, and the all-too soft inner parts are suddenly laid bare. And here it is human relationships, with all their clashes of vulnerabilities and viewpoints, their subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) battles, that are the fare King lays before us.

    Some of the stories remind me of the dry satire of J G Ballard at the height of his short story writing career, such as “A Dream Holiday”, in which a couple decide to spend their vacation in an airport. They find as many conveniences as any four-star hotel, and sights as exotic as any far-flung country. But at the end, the story takes a characteristic swerve into deeper territory, sidestepping from satire into a glimpse of the potential solipsism inherent in all human relationships. This confrontation of an almost Beckettian nihilism — a “Nothing”, an absence, or sometimes a felt-but-never-seen presence — haunts many of King’s tales. Sometimes dark, as in the final story, “Catenary” (guaranteed you get you desperately trying to refute its protagonist’s brutal yet twistedly compassionate logic), elsewhere more playful. In Daniel King’s hands, fiction itself becomes a metaphor for the human condition. Sometimes the characters come close to wondering if there is an author to their particular comedies and tragedies, at other times, they may have become characters in stories they themselves are in the process of writing.

    Like all the best fiction, King asks the questions and leaves his readers to decide the answers. In a sense, his fiction occurs in the disquieting gap between the question being asked and the answer being given — as exemplified by, for instance, the short gem “Chat Room”, in which a bored housewife is increasingly frustrated by one of the fellow-users in an internet chat room, whose only aim seems to be to upset her with increasingly personal jibes. But this isn’t just another story about an an internet stalker — the ending opens the tale up with far more interesting implications. In a sense, she’s being targeted by the worst enemy she could ever have.

    Sometimes surreal, sometimes humorous, often dark and always intriguing, these 21 short stories pack a real punch.

    – Murray Ewing, a review posted on Amazon UK

    July 28, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    The 21 short stories in this little collection investigate a world that crosses all the boundaries, sometimes even crossing from heaven to hell.

    Transgression is the keynote as King experiments with both form and content, and in so doing challenges our preconceptions of narrative. The logic of torture, the relationship between author and reader, holidays in airports, the surrealism of supermarkets: all are closely observed for that single moment of revelation which makes the story into something more, an excursion into creative unreality.

    The stories are quite short but they are condensed essays on the nature of humanity when it is balanced precariously on the line between the real and unreal, mouthing unanswered questions.

    – Ian Nicholls, The West Australian

    July 28, 2023

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