It’s going to be a rough Christmas for many of us. Where I am, the government is considering an immediate, province-wide shutdown. Just a few days before Christmas. This means that I won’t be able to see my brother, who had been planning to come up and see us (he’s been very good about quarantining, so I feel safe hanging out with him). It is all for the best, though, as cases of our particular plague are spiking and hospitals are struggling to cope as it is. It’s looking increasingly like this Christmas I’ll have my cat, and Zoom. It’s a good thing my cat is a cuddle-monster. I’ll at least have some affection.
What I also have in these difficult times are stories. Stories, in fact, have gotten me, in particular, through so really tough times. Really tough. Since I have nothing else to offer today, I thought that I’d offer a story. I wrote this last year for my publisher’s Christmas season blog hop, so it’s not an original. I mean, it’s original to me, but it’s not new. Sorry. I’ve been a bit caught up making my Christmas gifts this year and I’ve run out of time.
In any case, here it is.
It’s been a while since I’ve been reviewed at Tangent Online, so it was a delight to find a review of my Lightspeed story “The Ambient Intelligence,” written by Tara Grimravn.
Due to a mysterious government program called the Deep Temple Project, the water in Lake Michigan has been steadily boiling away. Its shoreline is now little more than a series of mudflats and interconnected stagnant pools that go on for at least a mile before one reaches the water. Barry Simcoe is on a mission by AGRT, an international peacekeeping organization, to disable a gigantic robot destroying large portions of Chicago and killing its citizens. According to his friend Zircon Border, it was spotted coming and going from the exposed remains of an old shipwreck. In order to do this, Simcoe must navigate the treacherous bog that is now the lakebed and try to disable his opponent before it can kill him.
McAulty’s SF story is a great read. It takes a little while to get to the more exciting bits, but that’s necessary to give the reader enough background to understand what’s happening and why. The ending doesn’t disappoint either. The characters are quite well-done, and I especially liked the interactions between Simcoe and True Pacific. Give this one a read!
“The Ambient Intelligence” appeared last month in Lightspeed magazine, and it’s free to read online. It’s published under the name Todd McAulty, the name all my stories appeared under in Black Gate magazine all those years ago. It’s the story of Canadian Barry Simcoe and his robot friend Zircon Border, who face off against a mysterious 60-ton killer robot hiding in a shipwreck on the shores of Lake Michigan… one that’s hiding a very big secret. It shares a setting (and two characters) with my debut novel The Robots of Gotham, but it’s not otherwise related to that book, and stands completely on its own.
Read “The Ambient Intelligence” in its entirety here. And if you enjoy it, why not help support Lightspeed with a subscription? Six-months subs will run you just $17.94, for more than 50 stories — a whopping 350,000 words of fiction. It’s one of the true bargains in the field.
Matthew David Surridge’s novellete “The Word of Azrael” first appeared in Black Gate 14, and was one of the most widely acclaimed stories we ever published. Tangent Online called it “One of the strongest heroic fantasies I have seen in years,” and Rich Horton selected it for the 2011 Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy. In his Locus review Rich said:
Even better is Matthew Surridge’s “The Word of Azrael.” It concerns Isrohim Vey, who sees the Angel of Death on a battlefield and as a result is spared — more a curse than a blessing — to search again for the Angel. His search almost takes the form of a catalog of sword & sorcery tropes, his many adventures told briefly but with style and an ironic edge. Surridge both celebrates and winks at the genre. It’s very entertaining, clever, and even thought-provoking.
Matthew’s name will be familiar to regular readers of this blog; he’s published nearly 500 articles and reviews here over the years, and he’s especially well known for his extensive coverage of Montreal’s Fantasia film festival. He also maintains a Patreon feed, which he’s described as “a way to help me fulfill a long-planned project: writing short stories, across a range of genres, that together will create a vast mosaic of fiction.” Last month Matthew unveiled a major new project he’d recently completed:
I’ve got a new novella-length story at my Patreon. And it’s sword-and-sorcery! It’s a dungeon-crawl carried out by the adventurers’ hirelings. Dark fantasy, maybe; maybe some horror-y elements. And it’s about 20 000 words long.
“The Great Work” is available in its entirety as part of Matthew Patreon, you can join and support him for as little as $1 a month. You’ll also receive access to 31 articles and other works. Check it out, and support one of the most talented fantasy writers at work today!
My short story “Deep in the Land of Ice and Snow” originally appeared in the collection The Return of the Sword: An Anthology of Heroic Adventure by Rogue Blades Entertainment. Enjoy.
The wolves were too many. Belgad knew that as he soon as he spotted the beasts. There were nearly a score of them, and if that were not bad enough, the creatures were huge, each nearly the size of a riding pony. What was worse, the wolves were quiet and had managed to surround him without his spying them sooner.
No, this was no ordinary pack. They had appeared from nowhere, and they had no qualms about scaling the side of a mountain for their human prey.
Belgad forced himself to climb higher, the bitter cold winds whipping at his long yellow hair. His fingers, the tips protruding from rags he had used to swaddle them, gripped the edge of another boulder and lifted him with the help of solid placement from his fur-lined boots.
On top of the boulder, Belgad found a flat spot and sat there, letting the cold air fill his tired lungs. His body needed rest after days of hiking dense forests and climbing steep hills, but he would not close his eyes; the wolves were drawing nearer, below and above. It would only be a matter of time before they would pounce.
After what felt like hours to the big man wrapped in furs, one of the wolves, the largest, began to creep its way along a narrow path toward him.
Belgad watched the animal with anticipation, knowing soon he would be in battle.
Eventually the wolf was below Belgad, just out of reach of the man’s legs hanging off the side of his stone seat.
“Will you eat me today, wolf?” the large man said to the animal.
The wolf’s only reply was uplifted ears and a tilted head.
“I think not,” Belgad said, drawing in his legs and pushing off them so he was standing on the boulder.
The wolf blinked, and that was when Belgad took notice of its eyes. The animal had eyes the shade of morning blue ice.
The story is “The Ambient Intelligence,” and it’s free to read online. It’s published under the name Todd McAulty, the name all my stories appeared under in Black Gate magazine all those years ago. Here’s what John Joseph Adams said about the story in his editorial for the October issue:
Welcome to Lightspeed’s 125th issue! Do you love power armor? Do you love giant robots? Do you love people in power armor fighting giant robots? Well then, we’ve got you covered! Todd McAulty’s newest short story (“The Ambient Intelligence”) is here to meet all your power armor vs. robot needs.
He’s not kidding about the robots. “The Ambient Intelligence” is the story of Canadian Barry Simcoe and his robot friend Zircon Border, who face off against a mysterious 60-ton killer robot hiding in a shipwreck on the shores of Lake Michigan… one that’s hiding a very big secret. It shares a setting (and two characters) with my debut novel The Robots of Gotham, but it’s not otherwise related to that book, and stands completely on its own.
Black Gate subscribers may remember (stretching back many years now) that Todd McAulty had four stories in the print magazine:
Read “The Ambient Intelligence” in its entirety here. And if you enjoy it, why not help support Lightspeed with a subscription? Six-months subs will run you just $17.94, for more than 50 stories — a whopping 350,000 words of fiction. It’s one of the true bargains in the fields. And thanks for your support!
Twenty years ago, I had a short story published for the first time. Charles Prepolec and J.R. Campbell had not yet put out their four Gaslight collections of Holmes horror stories. Their initial book outing was a little collection called Curious Incidents. For some reason that escapes me now, I thought it would be clever to have a story in which Arthur Conan Doyle plays Dr. Watson. The part that made it really clever, was that he would be assisting William Gillette as Holmes. And they’d be solving one of Watson’s untold cases! I’ve since gone on to write ‘straight’ Holmes pastiches – several of them published. As well as short stories featuring Solar Pons, and others with Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. But getting my name in print began with a twist on Sherlock Holmes.
It was a blustery evening in the Fall of 1901 when I received an unexpected visitor to my hotel room. I had come down to London to meet with my editor at The Strand, Martin Greenhough Smith. Dining at the Westminster Palace Hotel, where the fare is always excellent, we had discussed some particulars relating to the new Sherlock Holmes story that I had, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to provide him with. Returning to my home in Southsea upon the morn, I was still debating upon the merit of bringing Holmes back to life, albeit for only one more adventure.
I arose at the knock upon my door and opened it. To my considerable surprise, I found myself gazing upon the face of Sherlock Holmes. Well, not quite Sherlock Holmes, but the man who had become most identified with him on two continents. The talented actor William Gillette had come to pay his compliments to me.
I shook his hand and relieved him of his wet coat and cap. I bade him make himself comfortable in the over-stuffed armchair by the lamp and poured him a warming glass of good brandy. William Gillette was a famous actor in America. He had starred in several plays and was quite popular. In 1899 he had rewritten an offering of my own, entitled it ‘Sherlock Holmes – A Drama in Four Acts,’ and achieved new levels of success. It had been the toast of New York City and every show had played to a full house. He had recently brought it across the ocean and presented it at our own esteemed Lyceum Theater. It came as no surprise that it was an even bigger smash here in London. Though I considered these detective stories as less important than my other writings, Sherlock Holmes was immensely popular and, I had to admit, financially profitable.
Ensconced in my own chair, Gillette regaled me with his tales of Holmes in America. He certainly made an excellent portrait of the sleuth. Of course, Sidney Paget had drawn a more handsome Holmes than I described, but that had probably been for the best, as it attracted more female readers to the stories. Gillette was tall and lean, with a very distinctive profile. His nose wasn’t quite the hawkish affair that I had pictured, but I could easily see how playgoers had come to identify his visage with that of Sherlock Holmes.
Good morning, Readers!
Remember a while ago when I asked for story prompts for a sort-of communal writing jam? Yeah, well, neither did I until recently. I had a month to work on this, and so naturally I completely forgot about until the week it was due. University essays all over again. Nevertheless, I figured I’d try my hand at it anyway.
This was the only prompt I received:
She impatiently checked her watch, sighing and rolling her eyes as burning debris rained onto the ground around her.
Many thanks again to Jaina for that prompt.
Short stories are not my strong suit, so it’s probably going to be stupidly rough and less than brilliant. I’ve not written a short story in a long, long time. So, if you’re reading it, feel free to have a good chuckle at my expense. I tried. Also, I’m terrible at titles.
If you can do better (and I don’t think that’d be difficult), link to your story in the comments!
Hopefully by now, you know what this series is all about. Over at The Wolfe Pack Facebook Group page, I am doing daily entries from Archie’s notebooks, as he endures Stay at Home with Nero Wolfe in these pandemic days. Over the weekend, I hit forty-three straight days, and over 41,000 words. You can check out the group for all of the posts. And there are links to to the first ten days down at the bottom of this post – plus all my other Nero Wolfe writings here at Black Gate.
DAY ELEVEN – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)
Saul Panzer called today. Del Bascom was always scrambling to make payroll and turn a profit, and he was still finding jobs related to essential services. Saul had agreed to help him track down some money that had gone missing from a bank. He said that seemed healthier than trying to track down some masks taken from a hospital. I was surprised he was doing any work at all out in the danger zone. He didn’t need the money. Maybe he was tired of practicing the piano.
“Bascom told me that Bill Gore is in the hospital. It looks bad.”
Oh. “Covid 19?”
“Yeah. He was working for Bascom and called off sick one morning. Then, a couple days later, he called him from the hospital.”
Hopefully you read posts one , two, and three this series. Over at The Wolfe Pack Facebook Group page, I am doing daily entries from Archie’s notebooks, as he endures Stay at Home with Nero Wolfe in these pandemic days. I’m well over thirty thousand words so far.
DAY EIGHT – 2020 Stay at Home
Sunday is the day things have changed the most here at the brownstone. Normally, Theodore would go to visit his sister, and Wolfe would putter around in the plant rooms, but not the usual nine to eleven and four to six. Fritz would sometimes run errands, including shopping for food. When he stayed in, he usually spent time in his room in the basement, listening to music and reading cookbooks. He had more of those than anyone I’ve ever met. We were all at loose ends on Sunday. But I couldn’t go to a game at the Garden or at the ballpark now, of course, which would have taken care of several hours. In other words, except for Wolfe, the day changed for the rest of us. Which meant all four of us were home together, without our normal routines. That’s a recipe for tension.
Wolfe and I didn’t even make it to lunch. I’ve decided to type up a couple cases from my notes. People seem to like reading them, and they’ve got some spare time at home, so I figured, ‘Why not’? I’ve mentioned before, that when he’s reading, Wolfe doesn’t like what he deems to be unnecessary typing. Granted, it’s not as bad as when I excessively sharpen my pencils, but he prefers quiet. Knowing we don’t have any clients, he would prefer me to do my typing when he’s not in the office. Well, since I’m stuck at home, and he isn’t giving me any work to do, I feel I can be a little more ‘comfortable’ during this lock down. And that includes typing when I want to.