Saturday, October 31, 2015

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for October 2015

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month
It’s that time of the month again, time for “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some September books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. We have quite a bit of horror (it’s Halloween, after all), science fiction, space opera, planetary romance, military science fiction, paranormal romance, science fiction romance, post-apocalyptic fiction, near future science fiction, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, historical fantasy, weird westerns, prison planets, interplanetary wars, lost worlds, were-bears, aliens, zombies, immortal demon hunters, demons that feed on fame and fortune, wild west mages, Boston witches, biotech specialists, politicians moonlighting as necromancers and much more.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

Zero Hour Part 2: BadlandsZero Hour Part 2: Badlands by Eamon Ambrose:

A soldier transformed begins a perilous journey with an unlikely companion to find answers in this thrilling continuation of the hit short story Zero Hour.
   Odd Tree Quarterly, edited by Joel AnselOdd Tree Quarterly, edited by Joel Ansel:

Odd Tree Quarterly, your source for quality short fiction, presents its fantastic debut issue: a fabulous Halloween Special.

Featuring nineteen stories, a humorous essay and amazing art, this issue has much to offer the discerning fan of short fiction including:

Meet Mister Boogley by Jill Hand
Dean thought he could finance his dreams of making it as an MMA fighter by scamming the elderly Edna McGintley. How wrong he was. Because Edna’s not as defenseless as she seems: she has someone watching out for her. All the fighting skill in the world might not help Dean when he meets Mister Boogley.

Collateral Damage by Robert Stahl
A lethal threat literally hangs over the planet’s head and the outcome may hang on General Rex Perkins and his willingness to send his best friend, the most qualified person for the job, to die. Things are only complicated by the fact that his choice may not be entirely selfless.

The Girl on the Stump by jb raines
Ten-year-old Henry makes a new friend over the summer; a girl he meets near his home who spends her time siting on a stump, never speaking. As the long, bright days go by however, the question arises: is this girl real, or the mere flickering of childhood fantasy? Or is she something else entirely?

Don’t Be Afraid of the Lights by Die Booth
Thanks to a careless childhood prank, Bill has gone through his life with a debilitating fear of spiders. Luckily his wife, Barabara has the answer: a visit to the hypnotist Agnes Crawford. Full of hope to finally be rid of the source of his greatest anxiety, Bill is about to learn that to worst terrors don’t crawl about on eight legs–they live entirely in your mind.

Beer, Wine & Spirits by Jon Etter
Sharon’s Pub is a very special drinking establishment where one can come for a brew, a bite to eat–and directions to the afterlife.
Bill Ornette sets out from Sharon’s on a mission to confront his deceased wife over a past transgression he hasn’t forgiven her for. Along the way, he has to deal with the bad attitude of the boatman on the River Styx, a guy who bares a striking resemblance to Santa Claus, and something completely different from the airing of grievances he came for.

Also Fiction and Art By
Mark Mills, Lee A. Forman, Gillian French, Voss Foster, S.C. Hayden, Floyd Looney, Sarina Dorie, T.C. Powell, Kevin Bannigan Jr., Jon Chan, Benjamin Sperduto, Ross Baxter, Cassandra Ray-Stanley, Joel Ansel, and featuring original art by Jeremiah Morelli

Children of the Stone Gods by Cora BuhlertChildren of the Stone Gods by Cora Buhlert:

This is a collection of seven tales on the borderline of science fiction and fantasy. Seven stories of lost worlds, where carcasses of crashed spaceships litter the landscape and science and technology have long turned into myth and legend.

Enter a world of sacrifices and stone gods, where people live in the hulls of the great space arks that brought their ancestors to this planet, where four-armed assassins ply their trade and wandering priests warn of great cataclysms, where gods lie sleeping inside mountains and strange lights shine in the sky by night.

This is a collection of seven short science fiction tales of 12000 words or approximately 40 print pages altogether.

Moore Hollow by J.D. ByrneMoore Hollow by J.D. Byrne:

Ben Potter’s life is a shambles. As a journalist he’s hit rock bottom, writing dreck about monsters and ghouls to make ends meet after a big story blew up in his face. As a son he’s a disappointment, unwilling to follow his father, grandfather, and great grandfather into the family business. As a father, he’s mostly just not there.
Now a new assignment could change all that. All he has to do is go from London to the hills of West Virginia to investigate the strangest of stories his great grandfather told. Did a sleazy politician really raise the dead to try and win an election? And if he did, what happened to the zombies? Could they still exist? Ben needs to find out, to solve the mystery and find a way to get his life back on track.

But finding the answer only presents Ben with a whole new batch of problems. Does he use what he learns to put his life back on track? Or will he be compelled to do the right thing, even if it leaves his life a mess?
The hardest part of a mystery is deciding what to do once you’ve solved it.
White Sky by Lara Campbell McGeheeWhite Sky by Lara Campbell McGehee:

In a forgotten village on the windswept tundra of a small planetary colony, a young man called Jem is the only Sanndai. He knows nothing of his own people but the stories told by the Torvik villagers: stories of how the Sanndai came from the sky, bringing weapons that made people disappear, and banished the Torviks to this harsh land.

Now that Jem is grown, the elderly midwife who raised him can no longer protect him. Strong-willed and defiant, Jem struggles to prove his worth, but he’s shunned by most of the villagers. A man with mad eyes who seems to know something of Jem’s unknown past despises him most of all—a brutal man who could kill Jem without remorse.

If staying alive means leaving, Jem must have the courage to seek a new life outside the only world he has ever known—and to face the people he knows only from tales of their arrogance and cruelty.

Caught in the Glow by Eva ChaseCaught in the Glow by Eva Chase:

She’ll risk her heart to save his soul…

When she was a child, Avery Harmen watched her father die at the hands of a Glower—a breed of demon that feeds on dreams of fame and glory. Now she secretly protects the rising stars of Los Angeles from the demons that prey on them, determined to make sure her clients never suffer the same fate.

Then Avery finds herself assigned to Colin Ryder, a young indie rocker who just landed a major label deal. Colin is cocky, rebellious, a brilliant musician, and already in the Glowers’ sights. He’s also far too hot for Avery to ignore the chemistry between them—especially when she gets to know the tender side behind his celebrity facade. Though Avery knows she’s falling too fast, she’s willing to risk heartbreak if fanning the flames of attraction distracts Colin from his Glower-tempting antics. But Colin is keeping a secret of his own, one so big it will put both her heart and his soul on the line.

The first book in The Glower Chronicles, a steamy New Adult paranormal series.

Rider's Revenge by Alessandra ClarkeRider’s Revenge by Alessandra Clarke:

K’lrsa loves her life as a Rider for the White Horse Tribe. She spends her days hunting with her Amalanee horse, Fallion, and her nights avoiding her mother’s attempts to settle her down.

Even though there are hints that the world around her is changing, K’lrsa thinks her life is perfect.
Until the day her father is brutally murdered and she sets out to avenge him.

As she follows the vision the Great Father Sun showed her, determined to kill the man she thinks is responsible at any cost, even her own life, she’s haunted by dreams of a beautiful young man she can never have and a life she was never going to live.

Alone in a world vastly different from the one she’s known, she’ll have to decide: Avenge her father or follow her heart.

Will she succeed in destroying the Toreem Daliphate and killing the man responsible for her father’s death? Only the gods know.

A Witch's Feast by C.N. CrawfordA Witch’s Feast by C.N. Crawford:

“There are new rules governing the country–namely, no magic. But Fiona Forzese has never been good with rules.”

After a ghostly army terrorized Boston, the Ranulf family say they’ll help Fiona and her classmates finish up junior year. They say their old Virginia plantation is a safe haven. All Fiona and her secret coven have to do is show up to a few math and English classes.

It should be a perfect solution. And it would be, if the Ranulfs weren’t members of a witch-hunting cult.
As Fiona digs deeper into the Ranulf’s past, she learns a dark truth that shocks her to her core. But it isn’t only the Ranulfs who are keeping secrets, and as the witch-hunting cult closes in, Fiona is forced to confront the demons of her own past.

Archangel Down by C. GockelArchangel Down by C. Gockel:

In the year 2432, humans think they are alone in the universe. They’re wrong.

Commander Noa Sato plans a peaceful leave on her home planet Luddeccea … but winds up interrogated and imprisoned for her involvement in the Archangel Project. A project she knows nothing about.

Professor James Sinclair wakes in the snow, not remembering the past twenty four hours, or knowing why he is being pursued. The only thing he knows is that he has to find Commander Sato. A woman he’s never met.

A military officer from the colonies and a civilian from Old Earth, they couldn’t have less in common. But they have to work together to save the lives of millions–and their own.

Every step of the way they are haunted by the final words of a secret transmission:

The archangel is down.

City of Mages by Kyra HallandCity of Mages by Kyra Halland:

A nightmare come true – Silas is taken by mage hunters. Determined to rescue the man she loves, Lainie braves the perilous passage through the Gap to follow him and his captors into the mage-ruled land of Granadaia. There, she discovers a betrayal she never imagined and a deep-rooted conspiracy that threatens the safety and freedom of the settlers in the Wildings. Alone in a strange land, with no one she can trust, Lainie must find a way to free Silas and put an end to the danger facing their beloved Wildings.

This is book 5 of the Daughter of the Wildings western fantasy romance series.

Ranger of Mayat by Jim JohnsonRanger of Mayat by Jim Johnson:

The Scales Are Out of Balance

When Tjety, an exiled Ranger of Mayat, discovers a ransacked village along the lawless northern Kekhmet frontier, he marshals his training and divine hekau magic to hunt down the ruthless cultists responsible for the attack. But can he find them before their prisoners are twisted into mindless slaves serving a necromancer bent on shattering the tenuous balance between order and chaos?

Ranger of Mayat is the first episode in PISTOLS AND PYRAMIDS, an all-new monthly series best described as an ancient Egyptian-themed weird western with magic. And mummies. Lots of mummies.

The Sane King by Matt Knott The Sane King by Matt Knott:

Heroes are not born, but forged.

A lone warrior takes up the cause of a hunted boy. A desperate nation seeks to bolster its fragile army. A malevolent god feasts on the nightmares of men and seeks to bring ruin to all.

The wanderer, Rayle, stands against the preternatural forces lurking on the edges of civilization and sanity. In the bleak lands of the Wrack, he rescues Bray from brutal men. Swearing to help the boy seek vengeance for the death of his brothers, Rayle finds himself locked in a savage contest that tests both his strength of arms and will.

The Younger Union, losing its long war against a tyrannical enemy is moved to enforce ancient contracts. Tensions build as an idyllic farming community becomes the stage upon which the future of the north will be decided.

When events collide, and a monstrous power threatens to drown their world in blood, Rayle and his unlikely allies must fight to stop the tides of carnage. To win they must first survive, and to survive they must overcome their fears, doubts, and regrets.

They must unite and set aside differences, and in doing so they may stand against the madness of The Sane King.

Lost with a Grizzly by Desiree MoonLost with a Grizzly by Desirée Moon:

Out in the cold and escaping from a horrific past…

Nina Jacoby makes a desperate escape and runs away from her abusive past. When she stops to catch her breath, she finds herself in Black Oak forest. A home to shifters in the icy Alaskan wilderness. She meets Rafe Hart–a grizzly who runs a lumber yard nearby. Immediately, he’s entranced by her fuzzy curls, and luscious curves–eager to seek out a mate. But not if his brother Axle has anything to say about it!
Axle can’t stand Nina and her weak-puny-human ways. The two of them hate each other instantly, but slowly Nina starts to chip away at his ice-cold heart. Nina’s about to find out that living with grizzlies is not as easy as it seems. With these two bears at her beck and call, just how will poor Nina keep herself warm through those snowy winter nights?

Finding the Phoenix by Caitlin O'ConnorFinding the Phoenix by Caitlin O’Connor:

Descended from humans and a vanished race of elemental beings, only the Awakened know the truth about our world. Only they can hold back the fanatic Handmaidens of the Skaath Diurga–shadow creatures born from an ancient betrayal.

However, the Circle of Awakened is incomplete without the Child of Heaven: a human destined to Wield the Spirit element. Before she can Awaken, she must die.

Heaven has no memory of dying, except the experience of death itself. It’s that memory, of a place called ‘The Between’, that convinces her the man claiming to be her Guardian might not be completely crazy. Besides, even crazy is better than the life she’s leaving behind to be the Circle’s Wielder of Spirit. All she has to worry about now is her training, and figuring out how to fit in with the Awakened.

Tragedy strikes when one of the Guardians is killed, and ulterior motives thrust Heaven into the middle of the Circle’s quest for justice. She’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for the people she’s come to care about.

A Vanishing Glow by Alexis RadcliffA Vanishing Glow by Alexis Radcliff:

It is an Age of Revolution, an Age of Industrialism. Constructs, living men who are as much brass and steel as they are flesh, man the factories and wage the wars of a ruling elite who gorge themselves on the fruits of the common man’s labor. Mystech, a brilliant fusion of magic and machine, gives rise to a new class of privileged inventors and merchants even as the country festers with wounds from decades of internal strife.

Only one man holds the promise of a brighter future: Nole Ryon, the crown prince. When his childhood friend Jason Tern answers his call for aid, the two of them set out to fight for the change their country needs in order to survive, even as shadowy foes frustrate their efforts. But soon, Jason and Nole’s idealistic mission of hope becomes a furious manhunt for a political murderer as the nation balances on the precipice of a country-wide civil war. Can they cut through the threads of intrigue to discover their true enemy before everything is lost?

Sweeping from the ancient cities at the heart of the nation to the dusty edges of the war-torn frontier, A Vanishing Glow tells a tale of lords and ladies, soldiers and assassins, friends and lovers, who come together in a time of epic struggle. Here a brave officer risks everything to win back his estranged father’s respect; a brilliant young engineer attempts to atone for her sins; a war-weary commander tries to pick up the pieces of the life he lost; and a man touched by the gods struggles to prepare a nation for the coming of an ancient evil which only he can see. In the dying light of a once-prosperous society, amid twisting plots, suffering and betrayal, lost love and shattered dreams, all must fight for what they hold dear. Who will taste the fruits of victory and who will lie bloodied on the ground in the light of a vanishing glow?

Prison Planet by Jim RudnickPrison Planet by Jim Rudnick:

“After a failed planetary rebellion, the rebel leader and his men are all given life sentences on Halberd, the RIM Confederacy prison planet and sent to the maximum island penitentiary—a prison that has never had a successful escape.

And under his Admirals orders, Captain Tanner Scott has also been sent to do RIM Navy duty on the planet with the mission to give up his alcoholism dependency. While he knows that this is what is expected of him by the Admiral, he finds it more difficult to do that he’d ever imagined.

Tanner meets a woman—the sister of the rebel leader and while he falls in love with her, he is not sure that the feeling is mutual. Yet he tries to straighten out his life and his drinking but instead he is faced with the choice of a lifetime—love or death.

Against incredible odds in the middle of a prison planet escape, he makes his choice . . . and more than his own life depends upon that choice . . . forever changing the future of the RIM!”

Devil's Thumb by S.M. SchmitzDevil’s Thumb by S.M. Schmitz:

After a fateful decision in Baton Rouge, Colin and Anna move to Boulder where they hope they will get some much needed time off from hunting. But the demons who wanted retribution in Baton Rouge have followed them, and this time, they’re not alone.

This is the sequel to The Immortals.

Beyond Regeneration by Jenny SchwartzBeyond Regeneration by Jenny Schwartz:

It’s complicated. Charley Rowdon knew Dr. Jack Bradshaw years ago, before the accident, before she lost her left arm. Before her husband died. Jack is an internationally respected regeneration specialist, and he’s just made the breakthrough of the century: using QNA to grow non-human bio-enhancements on people, including himself. Think superhuman senses, claws, and even, wings.

However, when, as a journalist, Charley accepts Jack’s invitation to accompany him to his private clinic, a luxury resort on the beautiful south west coast of Australia, she finds more than medical science and altered humanity.

Murder, espionage and a scientific development that Jack never ever predicted will challenge Charley to shed her grief and fear, and solve a mystery beyond imagining.

But as Charley regenerates her life, how much will she risk by loving again?

“Beyond Regeneration” is a novel of old grief and new beginnings. The science is fabulous, more fiction than fact, but the emotions are real. This is the story of a woman badly hurt by life who finds the courage to embrace the unbelievable, and love again.

All the Things I've Lost by Hollis ShilohAll the Things I’ve Lost by Hollis Shiloh:

I am not from this world. I don’t know where I was from originally. When our pod landed, I was the only one to survive, and my memory was damaged.

That day, I lost the man I think I must have loved.

I don’t age, and I’m far too strong compared to these humans around me, but even so, I fear their finding out the truth about me. I try to protect the ones I can, but I am weak when it comes to saving them — or even just not hurting them by my ignorance and strength.

And now for the first time in decades, I’ve met a man like myself from another world — the world where we both hatched. I wonder what he can tell me about myself . . . and what I dare ask without giving away the fact that I remember nothing?

Mercenary Magic by Ella SummersMercenary Magic by Ella Summers:

Long ago, the Dragon Born were hailed as the most powerful mages in the world. Today, they are condemned as abominations and have been hunted to near extinction.

Sera Dering has spent her entire life hiding her forbidden magic from the supernatural council who would kill her for the crime of being born. After years of drifting, she’s finally found a new life working as a low-grade mercenary for San Francisco’s oldest monster cleanup guild. She’s safe—as long as she pretends to be human.

But a dark and mysterious power is taking control of mages’ minds, and Sera’s guild sends her in to investigate. To save her city from a magical apocalypse, she must work together with a sexy and deadly mage who represents the very council that sentenced the Dragon Born to death. And if he finds out what she is, she’ll be next…

Mercenary Magic is the first book in the Dragon Born Serafina urban fantasy series.

51yI7M62cqL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_All Hallows Eve by Stella Wilkinson:

It’s Halloween and Eve is stuck babysitting a group of fourteen year old girls. When she tries to prevent them from performing some magical ceremony, the last thing she expects is to find herself trapped in the Underworld. Not only that, but she is apparently there as a date for The Lord of the Dead. The fact that he is hotter than Hades makes no difference to Eve, she knows she must resist his dark charm or she’ll never make it back to school on Monday morning.

A fun short story filled with Halloween folklore and mythology.

Terminal Reset Omnibus by A.E. WilliamsTerminal Reset Omnibus: The Coming of the Wave by A.E. Williams:

Dr. David Harding Stared in the Mirror, and Could Not Believe What He Was Seeing!

Dr. David Harding is an Astrophysicist who discovers a mysterious force on a collision course with Earth. As The Wave hits our planet, its effects have devastating consequences. Governments topple. The world is poised on the brink of nuclear devastation. The effects are of an apocalyptic scale.

The ongoing strife between the countries of Earth, coupled with the ominous goals of an ancient scourge create a hazardous background.

Harding sets out with his catatonic wife to survive in this brave new world. But when his former lover and colleague, Dr. Tatania Golovanov, contacts him via radio, he is faced with choices he never expected to have to make.

The physical changes wrought by The Wave create massive upheavals in the traditional ways of previous generations.

Can these long ago lovers salvage their feelings from the ruins of a drastically altered world? Will Harding abandon the woman to whom he vowed his life? Will they all survive the daily challenges of living in a post-apocalyptic Earth the likes of which have never before been described in any science fiction story?

Terminal Reset is a story set in today’s world. Experience a world populated with complex characters, each learning to cope and adapt to the new reality imposed by the effects of The Wave.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Speculative Fiction Links of the Week for October 30, 2015

And here is our weekly round-up of interesting links about speculative fiction from around the web, this week lots of Star Wars discussion and speculation, more Back to the Future, more Crimson Peak, debates about convention harassment and thoughts on Supergirl.

Speculative fiction in general:


Writing, publishing and promotion:




Con reports:

Science and technology:

Free online fiction:

Odds and ends: 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

City of Mages (Book 5 of Daughter of the Wildings) by Kyra Halland

Release date: October 20, 2015
Subgenre: Weird Western, fantasy romance

About City of Mages


A nightmare come true - Silas is taken by mage hunters. Determined to rescue the man she loves, Lainie braves the perilous passage through the Gap to follow him and his captors into the mage-ruled land of Granadaia. There, she discovers a betrayal she never imagined and a deep-rooted conspiracy that threatens the safety and freedom of the settlers in the Wildings. Alone in a strange land, with no one she can trust, Lainie must find a way to free Silas and put an end to the danger facing their beloved Wildings.


Lainie rode towards the Granadaian man he had pointed out. This fellow was wearing the fanciest greenfoot suit Lainie had ever seen, modeled after the work clothes worn by cowhands but of fine materials and flamboyant cut, heavily decorated with shiny buttons and fancy, colorful top-stitching and embroidery. The heels of his richly-tooled boots must have been four finger-widths’ high, and the crown of his blue-dyed straw hat was nearly twice as tall as any real cowhand’s hat. Even the gun holstered at his hip was fancier than any normal gun would be. He was likely a mage, though he could have been a favored Plain employee. Either way, by the looks of him, he probably wasn’t going to be very friendly.

“Excuse me, sir?” Lainie said.

He glanced up from his writing board with a disdainful look on his sharp-featured face. His skin was a deep tan that could have been the result of Island blood or long days working outdoors or both. Then he returned his attention to his papers. “The hiring foreman is somewhere over there, but I believe they have enough crew already.” He spoke in the crisp, clipped accents of an upper-class Granadaian, and a broad gold ring set with amber flashed on the forefinger of his right hand as he wrote.

“I’m not looking to hire on,” Lainie said. “Some bounty hunters shot my husband and took him.” Her heart pounded hard as she put words to what had happened, and she thought she might start crying again. It seemed horribly unreal and all too horribly real at the same time. She blinked back tears and fought to steady her voice. “One of the hands said they came this way and spoke to you.”

“Yes, we let them into the pass early this afternoon. Normally, the Gap is closed to traffic until all the cattle have gone through, but their business was urgent; they’d captured an escaped bondservant and were in a hurry to return him to the owner of his contract.”

“Thank you.” Lainie wheeled the horses around and started up the road towards the mouth of the pass.

“Wait!” the man ordered as three enforcers moved to block her way.

Lainie reined in and looked around. The mage had drawn his gun and was aiming it at her like he knew how to use it. “I told you,” he said, “the pass is closed to traffic until all the cattle have gone through.” He gave her a hard little smile.

Lainie hated people who enjoyed telling other people what they couldn’t do. “That wasn’t a bondservant, that was my husband! I have to go after him.”

The mage shrugged. “How unfortunate for you.” He didn’t sound the least bit sorry. Now he cocked his gun. “I cannot and will not allow you to interfere with the passage of purchased cattle through the Gap, especially not for the purpose of giving aid to a criminal.”

“He isn’t a criminal!” Lainie retorted. “And anyhow, what about you? I thought guns were illegal in Granadaia.”

“They are.” His grin grew more predatory. “But we aren’t in Granadaia.”

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple | Google Play | Smashwords | DriveThruFiction | ARe/OmniLit


About Kyra Halland: 

Kyra Halland lives in southern Arizona. Complicated, honorable heroes; heroines who are strong, smart, and all woman; magic, romance, and adventure; and excursions into the dark corners of life and human nature mixed with a dash of offbeat humor - all of these make up her worlds. She has a very patient husband, two less-patient cats, and two young adult sons. Besides writing, she enjoys scrapbooking and anime, and she wants to be a crazy cat lady when she grows up.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Goodreads


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ranger of Mayat (Book 1 of Pistols and Pyramids) by Jim Johnson

Release date: October 22, 2015
Subgenre: Weird Western

About Ranger of Mayat


The Scales Are Out of Balance

When Tjety, an exiled Ranger of Mayat, discovers a ransacked village along the lawless northern Kekhmet frontier, he marshals his training and divine hekau magic to hunt down the ruthless cultists responsible for the attack. But can he find them before their prisoners are twisted into mindless slaves serving a necromancer bent on shattering the tenuous balance between order and chaos?

Ranger of Mayat is the first episode in PISTOLS AND PYRAMIDS, an all-new monthly series best described as an ancient Egyptian-themed weird western with magic. And mummies. Lots of mummies.



Thin lines of gray smoke slithered into the gloaming sky. As Tjety and Heker crested a slight rise in the hardscrabble road, the humble rooftops of at least twenty mudbrick buildings moved into view. The small village was tucked into a clearing set between the road and a wide bend in the river. It wasn’t hearth smoke coming out of chimneys or cooking pots—the buildings had been set afire.
Bodies lay scattered throughout the small village and near the river. Woven baskets of fish, no doubt the day’s catch, were strewn about, the contents rotten. Tjety rode closer into the village, senses alert and his mouth set in a firm line against the murder and waste on display.
A third gunshot rang out. A gangly man dressed in rough linens and leathers and a dirty homespun headcloth strode out of a house’s open doorway and then holstered his still-smoking revolver. The man spat into the street and then looked toward the village’s large conical storehouse. “Pashet! Uni! I’m done here. Let’s get moving.”
Two more hard-looking men stumbled out of the storehouse, their arms filled with baskets of foodstuffs and supplies. They were likewise dressed in rough riding leathers and plain headcloths.
Tjety gritted his teeth. Gods-damned clanless border brigands. He walked Heker along the far side of the village, careful to keep the burning mudbrick homes between him and the three bandits.
The older of the two looters called out. “Come an’ take yer fill, Meret. Stuff ain’t gonna last. Me an’ Uni got our shares.”
The gangly man, Meret, moved toward his allies and tossed them a few choice swear words in guttural Hesso. Tjety didn’t know the language well, but a quick flex of his hekau was enough for him to get the sense of the words.
Meret said, “We was told to finish off the villagers, Pashet, not loot the place. We gotta get the caravan moving before Master Deshi gets dirt all up in his nethers again.”
The youngest bandit, who by process of elimination had to be Uni, stumbled, which caused his precarious armload to topple over. Grain and assorted vegetables spilled onto the ground. He cursed at the mess and then gestured toward one of the dead villagers. “They ain’t gonna need it no more, Boss Meret. Ain’t no sense leavin’ it to spoil, yah?” He glanced at Pashet, as if seeking confirmation or reassurance from the older man.
As the three brigands fell to arguing, Tjety realized that surprise was on his side, right now. He gathered his reins in one hand and heeled Heker into a gallop. He gripped his pistol at the ready and tore around the buildings toward the bandits, crying out a wordless challenge.
The bandits were faster than he expected. Uni dropped the last of his stolen goods and went for his revolver, clearing the holster just as Tjety blasted two rounds into his chest. The young bandit crumpled to the ground, his pistol dropping from his grip as his mouth fixed itself into a silent “O” of surprise.
“Who the fuck are you?” Pashet cried out as he dropped his stolen booty and drew his revolver. He managed to get a wild shot off before Tjety’s next bullet caught him in the left shoulder and spun him around. Pashet staggered his way toward one of the nearby buildings.
Meret chose to dive into an open doorway, making Tjety suspect that perhaps he was the wisest of his little band.
As Tjety guided Heker through the village, he took careful aim toward Meret's cover, hoping for a clear shot, but the bandit didn’t present himself. Tjety wasn’t about to waste ammunition firing blindly.




About Jim Johnson:

 Jim Johnson is the author of the Pistols and Pyramids series as well as other prose fiction series currently under development. He has written sundry other pieces of fiction, including several stories published in the Star Trek universe, and has freelanced for pen and paper roleplaying game companies, including Decipher and White Wolf. Please visit for more information on Jim and his interests and writing.

Jim lives in historic Alexandria, VA with his wife, newborn son, and several crazy cats.

Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Author Central

Monday, October 26, 2015

Operation Rubber Ducky by Cora Buhlert

Release date: October 13, 2015
 Subgenre: Bizarro science fiction

About Operation Rubber Ducky


 Three short tales of anthropomorphic terror, featuring Trojan toys, axe-wielding ducks and fluffy killer rabbits from outer space.

When the world is besieged by Kaiju, the only weapon that can stop them turns out to be a rubber ducky with a deadly secret…

His name is whispered in terror: Mock Duck, the mad axe-man of Chinatown, deadly enforcer for the triads. No one has ever seen his face and lived to tell the tale. Which is probably for the better, because Mock Duck's nickname is more accurate than anybody could have guessed…

It's the latest psychiatric epidemic to sweep the nation: Angoraphobia, a pathological fear of fluffy angora sweaters. Those who suffer from the disorder claim that fluffy killer rabbits from outer space are trying to conquer the Earth and exterminate humanity. Are they merely deluded or could they perchance be right?

Three bizarro short stories of 7000 words or approximately 24 pages altogether. 



 Mock Duck


Jimmy Chung should really have known better than to cheat the triads. After all, he’d heard the stories, heard all the whispered tales of the terrible vengeance the triads wrecked on those who betrayed them.
Yet he was cocky. After all, he had a math degree, a photographic memory and a system. What on Earth could go wrong?
And at first, everything had gone just fine. Jimmy settled down on a chair in the shabby backroom of the Mandarin Garden restaurant. He played, won handsomely and occasionally lost a round just to avoid arousing suspicion. He could do this, he really could. Gamble with the triads, win big and walk away.
Jimmy still didn’t know how they had caught on to him. After all, he’d been so careful. He’d lost a lot more than he needed to, just so they wouldn’t get suspicious.
But in spite of all his precautions, the triads had caught on after all. And so Jimmy suddenly found himself seized, dragged out of his chair and down into the basement underneath the Mandarin Garden.
As they dragged him towards his doom, Jimmy heard his captors whisper a name, a name that struck terror into the hearts of many in the neighbourhood. Cha’i Pow Yu. Mock Duck, the mad axe-man of Chinatown.
Mock Duck had been working as an enforcer for the triads for at least three years now, maybe more. His name was uttered in fearful whispers in the streets, shops and restaurants of Chinatown, though none had ever seen his face and lived to tell the tale. Yet Mock Duck’s handiwork was only too visible. It was found scattered around the city in the form of bodies without heads and heads without bodies.
And now Jimmy would get to meet Mock Duck, the legendary man without a face himself. Not that he would have much time to enjoy that rare privilege.
Jimmy gulped. He’d heard that beheading was fairly quick and painless as deaths went, which was at least something. On the other hand, it was also a singularly messy way to die and Jimmy tended to faint at the sight of blood. Though that wouldn’t matter much, he supposed. Can’t faint when you’re already dead.
Briefly, he wondered which part of him would be found, the head or the body. Personally, Jimmy hoped it would be the head. After all, he felt that his features were quite pleasant and his cheekbones particularly fine, whereas his body was never more than ordinary and his abs truly needed work.
Jimmy’s musing were rudely interrupted, when then two heavies that had grabbed him reached the bottom of the staircase. There wasn’t much here, just an ordinary basement filled with crates and clutter from the restaurant above.
But at the far end of the basement, there was a door, a door of reinforced steel that had gone slightly rusty with age. An iron chain was looped through the handles of the door, closed with a heavy padlock, though whether it was intended to keep people out or in Jimmy could not tell. But even if he hadn’t known that death was waiting for him behind that door, the sight of the rusty steel and the padlocked chain would have been enough to send his heartbeat into overdrive.
The two heavies dragged Jimmy towards the steel door. One of them produced a key to open the padlock. His colleague opened the door a crack and thrust Jimmy inside. Barely a second later, the door was locked behind him again.
Inside Mock Duck’s lair, the light was dim. Only a single light bulb pierced the gloom. Its light fell on the axe, Mock Duck’s terrible axe, that was leaning against the wall.
The man himself was lurking in the darkness. Jimmy could only make out his outline, a shadow among shadows. But even that was enough to tell him that Mock Duck was a good head taller than Jimmy and massive.
Jimmy gulped. He stood with his back against the door, trying to be very still, hoping against hope that Mock Duck wouldn’t notice him, that he would just continue doing whatever it was he was doing in the dark.
But of course Jimmy had no such luck. For barely had the key turned in the padlock that Mock Duck stirred in the darkness. His feet padded over the bare concrete floor with a hollow slapping sound. And then he stepped into the wan circle of light.
Jimmy’s eyes bulged, as he beheld Mock Duck, the fearsome enforcer of the triads and the terror of Chinatown for the first time. And then, quite incongruous given his situation, he burst out laughing.
“Oh my goodness! You… you are…”
“Don’t say it,” Mock Duck snapped, getting into Jimmy’s face, “I know, okay. Yes, I’m a duck. But let’s not forget that I’m still the one with the axe around here.”
It was true, too. For Mock Duck was a duck, a real bonafide six foot tall duck. He had a beak and webbed feet and wings for arms and his body was covered in golden-brown feathers. He looked just like a critter from a children’s cartoon absurdly become flesh.
“But… how?” Jimmy stammered.
“Well, if you must know, I’m not from around here,” Mock Duck said.
“Not from the US, you mean? When did you immigrate? Cause your English is really good and…”
Yeah right, flatter him, Jimmy. Cause maybe that’s going to keep him from killing you. On the other hand, it might also hasten his demise, if it turned out that Mock Duck hated being complimented on his good English as much as Jimmy himself — after all, a fourth generation American who just happened to look Chinese — did.
“I’m not from Earth, you idiot,” Mock Duck snapped, his beak getting into Jimmy’s face and nearly biting his nose off, “I come from the planet of Kalkakua. And don’t even pretend you’ve heard of it, cause I know you haven’t.”
“Wasn’t going to,” Jimmy stammered, shrinking back until he bumped against the door.

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | Apple | Smashwords | Scribd | Oyster | DriveThruFiction | OmniLit


About Cora Buhlert:

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. Cora has been writing since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. When she is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher.

Website | Mailing list | Twitter | Google+ | tsu




Sunday, October 25, 2015

Why the Movie Version of “The Martian” Isn't About Mars – Or Science! by A.E. Williams

The latest in our series of guest posts by A.E. Williams, author of Terminal Reset: Why the Movie Version of The Martian isn't about Mars - or Science!

Well, I finally made it to see Andy Weir’s book “The Martian” as made into a film by Ridley Scott. While I absolutely adore the book (I admit to having read my Kindle version of it at least six times!), the movie was a perfect example of how Hollywood can bend the message of almost everything it touches. Now, this is not to say that it is bad. It’s an awesome and entertaining film! I absolutely loved a lot of it.


Ridley Scott, coming off the less-than-stellar sequel to his “Alien” film, (and which I am loth to acknowledge even exists), does an outstanding job of story-telling with “The Martian”.[1]

It does seem to be happening on another planet. The attention to details is so great that you don’t even notice the special effects as such. [2]

My focus here is to tell you that the film is NOT about Mars. Or even NASA. It’s a metaphor for – are you ready for this? – DIVORCE!

Now, some may feel that this is me just projecting my own experiences and bias onto a tidy little science-fiction story.[3]

But, hear me out ---The book is all about Mark Watney getting stranded on Mars.

A marooned astronaut uses his wits and courage to overcome outstanding obstacles, in a life-or-death struggle for survival in a hostile environment. This is a story that is as old as history. Many excellent examples of heroic men overcoming vast odds to succeed can easily be cited, from “The Odyssey” all the way to “Robinson Crusoe on Mars”.[4]

“Man Overcoming Nature to Survive” is a concept that we love to revisit. [5]

A modern viewer of “The Martian” sees a beautifully rendered vision of a poor bastard stranded on an alien world, figuring out problem after problem until all is well. They are shown just how important ONE PERSON is to the entire world!

It’s narcissism writ large, with Watney substituting as every viewer who is vicariously living the story through him. And the film carries this off with nary a misstep. [6]

The film unfolds neatly, and (SPOILER ALERT) actually has a happy ending for everyone.

 In fact, no one dies…[7]

The reality of space flight means that NASA has lost a number of astronauts during its history. These stalwart individuals were brave men and women, who thoroughly understood the danger of space exploration. The book and film both get the attitude and psychology of the typical astronaut correct.[8] But, the part regarding the mutiny to try to save Watney goes against type. Astronauts understand the danger and the importance of mission success. They also are superb at following orders.

The movie and the book both get it wrong that any one person would be THAT important, so as to launch a multi-billion-dollar mission of mercy.

In reality, there would be an excellent memorial on Mars, and his name would be etched on the Astronaut Memorial wall.


And perhaps even less[9]

But, what I really wanted to speak to in this article is a different thing entirely.

After pondering the differences between the book and film, I feel that the movie is actually about how men perceive divorce in America today.

Say what? Are you insane, A.E.?[10]

OK –
Here is how the story unfolds – in the book:
·       Astronaut Mark Watney is part of a crew, with a strong, independent female in charge.
·       They are all following her orders, when suddenly, something unplanned occurs
·       Watney is knocked unconscious and separated from the rest of them[11].
·       They are forced to leave him, thinking he is dead.
·       When he comes to he’s been abandoned in a hostile world, compelled to live by his wits alone.
·       Every decision he makes is life or death to him.
·       A large group of people mobilizes to keep him alive when it is discovered he did NOT die.
·       The crew is kept in the dark about the actual truth of things.
·       When they find out what’s going on, they immediately mutiny and take matters into their own hands.
·       They return to the initial location and try their damnedest to rescue him.
·       They succeed, and Watney rejoins the crew.
·       Everyone is happy again!

This follows a typical American divorce scenario and path thus:
·       A man has a family.
·       His wife is a strong, independent woman. Everyone is happy. Then, -something- happens.
·       The woman must make a hard decision, and ends up taking the family away.
·       The man is now on his own.
·       The woman depends on other ‘authorities’ (attorneys) to guide her.
·       Her first concern is the children.
·       The man is also dependent on these ‘authorities’, and his friends, to try to keep his life together.
·       The outcome is uncertain.

In the ‘dream’ ending, (which is the one many children crave), the parents are united, and status quo ante is obtained.

In the ‘real-life’ ending, many times the father is removed from the family permanently -or perishes. Reconciliation is possible but unlikely.

The movie “The Martian” is the dream ending.

While they are not married (hey, this is a metaphor, remember?) Commander Lewis leaves Watney behind for the ‘safety’ of the rest of the crew.

The finale of the film has Lewis substituting for Dr. Beck during the rescue sequence. This diversion from the book is what cemented my mindset regarding the divorce metaphor for me.

Commander Lewis is cast as the savior; a redeemer who has come to liberate Watney from his exile. She effectively gives him back his life and unites him once again with his ‘family’.[12]

The interesting part, to me, is why does Watney WANT to go back to Earth?

Think about this for a moment, to see how deep is the conditioning:
Watney was surviving on his own, practically and efficiently.
Sure, he had a couple of bad turns, but he would have made it HAD HE IGNORED NASA![13]

All they needed to do was launch a food rocket, and take their time doing it. The circumstances of how the failure of the resupply mission exploded would have most definitely been identified in the real world. One thing NASA is, post-shuttle, is CAREFUL!

Now, I can hear you from here shouting “But, LONELINESS! Man is a social animal! He belongs on Earf!”


There’s a ton of precedent against that viewpoint.[14]  Mountain men, sailors, soldiers, explorers and adventurers throughout history have tested their mettle ALONE.

Astronauts are specially chosen for their ability to adapt to long periods of solitude. They are self-sufficient in almost EVERY way.[15]

Mark Watney could have been the first man to actually live on Mars, is all I am saying here.

As long as the water and oxygen machines were maintained and the occasional carbon absorbing filter reused, (and maybe NASA sends him an occasional shipment of toilet paper)[16], the dude NEVER needed to come back to Earth.

Therein is the danger in the non-Hollywood-massaged metaphor - that a man really doesn’t need anyone to survive and thrive. There is a message here that he can live his own way, without interference from meddling bureaucrats, or people who will eventually screw him over.

“The Martian” is also a study in convincing viewers that no man is an island. That he requires a vast infrastructure of ‘experts’ and ‘geniuses’ to allow him to live a full and fruitful life.

You can hear the subtle subtext of “You didn’t build that” echoing in its portrayals of how hard NASA (the government) is trying to rescue him. [17]

Now, I certainly don’t want to come across as somehow pro-men and anti-women here.

My position is how the medium really IS the message, as McLluhan stated.


In conclusion, I find “The Martian” is a splendid book.

It speaks to the wonders and meticulous processes that science can provide, and is a rousing tale. The pacing is fast, and we care about Mark Watney. The ending is contrived, but all-in-all, it’s a fine example of man triumphing over adversity, using his wits. Oh, and maybe some science…

The film, while technically brilliant, seems to have some intrinsic problem with the idea of solitude. There was a conscious effort to downplay Mark Watney’s smart-ass attitude, as I read it. His triumphs were predicated on a need to be vindicated, not by his own survival, but by how successful he was at reintegrating into a society that literally abandons him. Watney was cast into this as a metaphor to reflect how dependent a modern man is upon society, (and specifically one that is veering away from a patriarchal hierarchy[18]).

Left to his own devices, Mark Watney may have eventually ended up as a real Martian.

Up Next:
November - Cyborgs, Artificial Intelligences, Trans-Humans, the Singularity and the Merging of Humans and Machine.
December - The Physics of Science Fiction Weapons.
January – Some of the Thinking Behind “Terminal Reset”.

A.E. Williams,  October 11, 2015

[1] I leave it up to the motivated reader to find the rest of the pertinent details about the actors, etc. over on IMDB. Or Google…
[2] When the crew is moving about in the Hermes, it is so seamless you forget it is not possible to film this kind of thing in gravity.

[3] And, in all fairness, I can certainly point to events in my life that have given me some perspective on this. This is also an attempt to present this premise from a decidedly male worldview, so you will please excuse the tone. I am not at all arguing against or for feminism. There are two sides to relationships, as we know. I’d like to voice my arguments using some slight amount of male privilege. The last time I checked, I do not qualify as female.
[4] Which is  to “The Martian” as “Peter and the Wolf” is to “Dances with Wolves”.[4]
[5] So much so, that Joseph Campbell called it “The Hero’s Journey.”

[6] Sure, there are a few - like Jeff Daniels’ portrayal of a total a-hole NASA Director putting up with Danny Glover’s asocial uber-nerd presentation of the basic slingshot maneuver. And Lewis at the very end. But, at least they sort-of-kind-of omitted the Beck/Johanssen romance bit from the book.

[7] Can you even believe that? I mean, this is a RIDLEY SCOTT movie, for Pete’s sake! I expected at least one exploding astronaut, just to spice things up a bit, at the end there.

[8] Having met a few, I’d just like to add that astronauts are only typical in that every one of them is a demigod.

[10] Like Sheldon Cooper, my mom had me tested and I am not crazy!

[11] Literally blindsided
[12] This does not happen in the book, and is my main point in just how different are the messages between these two versions of the same story.

[13] Watney was doing pretty well on his own. He had managed to grow food, and could have probably survived until the next mission reached him. Ask why couldn’t the ARES 4 mission just land at the ARES 3 site? It was even hinted at, when they discussed ‘retrieving his body’ using ARES 6. Once NASA got back in touch with him, he was basically ordered to try to reach the MAV at ARES 4. This event was far more hazardous to him than just staying put. NASA was ready to send supplies, and that could have included landing another MAV right at ARES 3 again!

[15] Male astronauts, as of this writing, are unable to bear offspring. It is probable that female astronauts can probably inseminate themselves and reproduce unaided, although NASA is mum on the subject.
Actually, he appears to have that problem solved…

[17] I really do not want to politicize the film, since the book does a great job explaining the rationale for the rescue efforts. But this is another instance of how film and print differ greatly. The book goes to great lengths to explain how the entire world is cooperating to rescue Watney, once he is discovered alive. The politics behind this decision, and the inclusion of the Chinese space program, speaks more eloquently to the point than I can in a short article.

[18] Jeff Daniels seemed to be channeling Hillary Clinton, don’t you think?