Looking for my older posts? They’re still at my Livejournal Blog. Enjoy reading!
I’m writing a series of deliberately retro science fiction novellas that hopefully emulate the pulps in the non-stop action department, but with more modern science and a more modern outlook on the world. This is a brief excerpt from the rough draft of the second of those novellas, a hopefully more modern look at the old-fashion Jungle Adventure story. The full rough draft is around 25,000 words long–maybe eighty to eighty-five pages. I hope to get this out in e-book form later this summer.
1949, on the bank of an alternate Congo river in a very strange alternate Africa
Jace Lee had never seen guns before except in books. He recognized them, though. He even knew to call these guns ‘muskets’, as opposed to rifles. He knew what gunshots sounded like, from hearing gunfire in the distance when Lucas Weaver, the Warlord of the Congo, went hunting or sent his men searching for Jace and his only human friend, Janet Steele. Ordinarily, strange men carrying muskets and wearing white robes that covered most of their bodies would have riveted his attention, but not this morning. Ten-year-old Jace was in terrible trouble, the kind of trouble that could leave him alone in the jungle within hours, if not crippled or dead. He dipped his canteen in the river, watching the strange men beech their canoes upstream and congregate on the river bank.
These were real men like the ones in the books, not like The People, the apelike men he had grown up with, and had long considered his people, despite the many differences between him and them, the ape-men that had been his friends for years but had now rejected him. Janet called the People man apes or ape men, or sometime just monkeys. She often said they were animals, a little smarter than lions or leopards, but still animals. She insisted that Jace wasn’t one of them, that he was an American.
“They’re still my people.” Jace’s whispered words were fierce, but he said them in English, not the limited language of the People. English. That made a mockery of his claim. With two exceptions, none of the ape-men could speak more than a word or two of English and they had to work hard to get out even those few alien sounds.
Despite his words, Jace knew he wasn’t a part of the People now, at least not the same way he had been when he played among the two and three-year-old man-apes, running and wrestling and climbing with them as equals. Now, with one or two exceptions, the People had rejected him. His former playmates were almost grown now, towering over him and displaying the powerful chest and shoulder muscles that made grown ape-men very nearly the equal of lion in single combat and made a group of them capable of chasing away even a pride of lions.
At ten years old, Jace was still a child. He was tough, wise and powerful beyond anything that a child could be if he had grown up among his own kind, but still far weaker than his former companions and not interested in ape-women when they came into their time, a lack of interest that drew derision and then physical beatings from his former companions. Worse, a few of them had taken to hunting him like a beast to be killed and eaten.
Jace finished filling the canteen, studying the men along the riverbank. Among the white-robed men were other real men, these men stripped to loin clothes that showed olive skin. They carried heavy loads while the white-robes yelled at them in a language Jace didn’t understand. He wanted to see more, but he couldn’t wait, couldn’t stay. Janet, one of only two friends he had left in the world, was back in the cabin they shared. She was safe from the man-apes there, inside a circle she called the zone of fear that allowed only Jace and her to approach the cabin. However, she was also pregnant, in labor and probably dying in childbirth. He knew of only one thing he could do to help her and that was to get the water back to quench her thirst and to cool her body, now over twelve hours into labor.
She can’t die! Jace closed his eyes for a second and prayed to the gray-eyed man. Janet would have told have told him that he was being foolish. “The gray-eyed man isn’t real.” She told him that many times, but Jace had seen him, always in the distance, able to fade away like the morning fog, leaving no trail. “If the gray-eyed man isn’t real, where did the soccer ball and the books and the canteen and my knife come from?” he had asked the last time the subject came up. “Who built the cabin and made us safe in it?”
Janet didn’t have an answer for that, so now Jace prayed that the gray-eyed man would come and take the baby out of Janet before it killed her. “She says that it’s from an ape-man and it’s wrong that it be in her,” He whispered. “She says that it shouldn’t be growing inside her and it will probably kill her.”
A sound made him open his eyes and turn abruptly from the robed men. He reached for a wooden club he had close at hand, but relaxed a little when he recognized the ape-woman swinging through the trees toward him. Eve was a year younger than Jace, but at nine she was almost fully grown, six inches taller than him and at least forty pounds heavier. She, at least, was still a friend. At least she had been so far, though Jace had seen enough friends and playmates turn into enemies that he didn’t count on her. She jumped down from a tree and landed beside him, nearly noiseless in her passage through the jungle and to the ground.
Eve, almost alone among the man-apes, could speak many English words. Jace wasn’t sure how many, maybe a hundred or more, though she struggled to make the sounds and Janet claimed that Eve’s sounds resembled English only in Jace’s imagination. Eve struggled even more today, with her excitement making the mix of English and whispered ape-man words more difficult to understand than normal. Finally, Jace figured out what she was trying to tell him and the news was disastrous. A band of newly adult ape-men, his former playmates, were actively hunting him. Not only that, but they were being uncharacteristically systematic about it. Eve told him that the ape-men had spread out, covering the approaches to the cabin that Jace and Janet shared. Worse, they had broken branches he normally used as a forest highway to the cabin, forcing him to approach on the ground.
Jace moved back into the forest and moved easily through it, with Eve gliding along beside him. When he was younger, he had been the awkward one in the trees, slower and less capable than his young ape-man playmates. Now, he was by far their superior because the males were too bulky to move at any speed much above the ground. Eve could still almost keep up with him in the trees, despite her greater weight. Jace wasn’t moving at top speed, trying to figure out a way back to the cabin. While he had far more stamina on the ground than his enemies among the ape-men, they could move faster than him for short distances. And if I get to the zone of fear, they can’t follow me.
The zone of fear surrounded the cabin, extending out nearly a hundred yards in every direction. Neither Jace nor Janet could feel the fear that the zone inflicted on the ape-men, on lions, leopards and every other being that had tried to approach the cabin. The cabin meant safety, but he had to get to it. He worked his way through the forest until he got close to the zone of fear. He heard Janet screaming in the cabin, not the normal cries of a woman in labor, but the weak, exhausted, desperate cries of a woman near death.
Last night I was listening to the song American Pie. The song brought back memories of an incident I had almost forgotten: NIU’s “Marching Band Refused to Yield” incident.
Probably at least a decade ago, NIU made national news when one of the NIU football coaches got into a dispute with a visiting marching band and sent his players doing wind sprints through the band.
Band geek versus college football player. It didn’t end well for either side. A couple of band guys ended up with broken bones, but it was all captured on video, which meant that the football players’ bit of ‘fun’ was on record as assault, with zero chance of a successful defense.
The university immediately fired the coach and suspended or cut the players who tried to hit band members (quite a few of the players, to their credit, avoided the band members). The university then went to the families of the band members, hat in hand saying “please let us pay your medical bills. (and don’t sue us)”
Because of the American Pie connection, the story went viral–at least as viral as a story could back then, making the national news.
This was an early indicator of the way cheap video cameras everywhere changed the (pun intended) playing field. If the incident hadn’t been caught on video, the whole thing would have probably been a murky mess, with conflicting stories over what happened. As a coach and a few players found out, the cameras changed everything.
This blog has been moribund lately, partly because I’ve been busy writing a new Snapshot novel. The novel is now published and hopefully blogging here will become much more regular.
Snapshot42-Stalingrad Run is the beginning of a new trilogy in the Snapshot universe. Before I get into the specifics, here’s a brief review of what the Snapshot universe is all about. Basically, ETs with godlike powers but no apparent interest in souls or being worshipped have been making backup copies of Earth continents for tens of millions of years, going back at least to dinosaur times. Those backup copies are exact replicas of the geography and life of the continent involved as of a moment in time. However, life in the Snapshots goes on, quickly diverging from the original.
Stalingrad Run is set mostly in a Snapshot of Europe taken on November 6, 1942, two days before the western Allies invaded French North Africa and a little less than two weeks before the Soviet counter-offensive that historically trapped the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad. From the point of view of the people inside the Snapshot, there is now an invisible wall around Europe (and parts of North Africa, the Middle East and the North Atlantic).
There is portal (Vent in Snapshot parlance) near Iceland that leads to a North American Snapshot taken in 1780–during the American Revolution. That Snapshot has been isolated from the rest of the world since 1780 and is still using early 1800s technology.
Bottom line: Without the rest of the world to draw on, the World War II allies are going to be hard-pressed to keep the Germans from overrunning Europe and then turning their sights on an infant America.
Panzers against flintlock muskets? Not a fight anyone in the west wants to see happen. Stalingrad Run follows the adventures of a couple Americans trapped in the Europe-42 Snapshot as they try to escape Nazi (and Soviet) machinations and keep the Nazis at bay. It’s a lot more straight-forward thriller than most of the stuff I write, which may or may not be a good thing. We’ll see how people react to it.
The results of the poll on the tentative new Devouring Wind cover are in and people voted overwhelmingly for the new cover–well over eighty percent. I appreciate the feedback and will be reissuing the book with that cover.
There is also the matter of the winner of the two free ebooks (Exchange and Devouring Wind). And there, the winner is Sheila Deeth. Congratulations, Sheila and I hope you enjoy the books!
My new Snapshot novella, Wrath of Athena: A Snapshot Novella, is now available! It’s out in Kindle format and in print on Amazon. It’s also available in a bunch of formats through Smashwords, and will be out soon for Nook, iPad and pretty much any other e-book format I can think of.
Wrath is a small book in a huge universe. The Snapshot universe features over two dozen continent-sized interacting alternate realities (Snapshots) from the last eighty million years of Earth’s past, but Wrath of Athena focuses on the fate of a fly-by-night petting zoo that does it’s flying by night between Snapshots. Continue reading “Announcement! Exciting new Snapshot Universe novella available!”
I recently read a revival of Jerry Pournelle’s 1980s series There Will Be War from a small and rather controversial publisher. It’s an anthology and not bad, with the exception of one weak story toward the end.
As to the controversy: If you’ve heard of the Mad and Sad Puppies and the recent Hugo issues you can probably figure out why the publisher is controversial. My take on the controversy: I read interesting and well-written stuff and don’t want to know the author’s position on the Republican vs Democrat stupidity or the culture wars. I read fiction partly to get away from that crap. There aren’t too many places to get away from those wars anymore and what’s left seems to be under siege. Continue reading “Mini-Review & Mini-Rant”
Our economy runs on eyeballs, which is another way of says that it runs on public attention. Every company in the world is trying to cut through the clutter competing for the public’s attention and get their product noticed. That’s what makes a product succeed or fail. Continue reading “The Eyes Rule”
Reading: I’ve been experimenting with audio books lately. I listened to the audio book of The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. Excellent stuff. A toddler escapes a killer and is adopted by ghosts in a graveyard. I wish I could make characters that draw readers in as much as the ones in this book do. I’m currently listening to The Chase, by Clive Cussler. It’s not bad so far. A detective agency is trying to track down a clever and ruthless bank robber who roams the west in 1906, killing all potential witnesses. The chase feeds into the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Not bad so far, though I noticed a few places where I wanted to get out my editing pen. Continue reading “Mini-Reviews: Books & TV”
If you really look at what would happen in an alternate timeline after something significant changed, you realize that events are so inter-related and there are so many points of individual decision that within a decade or two what happens in that alternate timeline is pure guesswork, no matter how meticulously you think it through. Continue reading “Build a (Better!) Alternate Timeline”
A series of recent discoveries has made it clear that the current human species is only a fraction of human diversity as it existed in the last ice age. Very different kinds of people lived then, enough different from modern humans to make all of our racial differences look trivial.
First the discoveries, then some alternate history speculation: Continue reading “Alternate Prehistory: What If More Than One Human Species Had Survived?”
The Short Drop by Matthew Fitzsimmons
Reading: I read two time travel books recently, with very different approaches.
Split Second, by Douglas Richards
This book takes an interesting approach to time travel. In this book, the time traveler can only go back a fraction of a second. Note: What follows contains some spoilers about the setup of the time travel in Richard’s world. Continue reading “Book Reviews: Time Travel/Alternate History Reviews”
I was recently doing comments for Point of Divergence, the Alternate History Amateur Press Association, when I realized something: Those of us who think about Alternate History much have long realized that very few if any people who actually historically lived would be born even a few years after a major change in history. Continue reading “Would You Still Be YOU??”
I discovered National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) eight years ago and have participated in it every year, writing at least the ‘required’ 50,000 words in a month every year, and usually around 75,000. I think of myself as a professional writer, so I try to harness the NaNoWriMo energy to something that helps my writing goals. That usually means a lot of plotting before the month, so I don’t use up my words on false starts that don’t end up usable. Continue reading “Plotting, Pantsing, and a Sneak Peak”
When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, they won a tactical victory, but at the cost of starting a war with a country with enormously more resources at almost every level–more people, more industry, more access to raw materials. The US had enough ships in the pipeline that whatever happened at Pearl Harbor or at Midway or at Guadalcanal the Japanese would simply be buried in the mass of US men and material by sometime in 1944. Why did the Japanese do it? Why did they attack? Continue reading “Understanding World War II-Japan and Synthetic Rubber”
Author: Floyd Gibbons
It is 1932. Stalin has been assassinated. The Red Army has taken over and launched a massive military buildup. In late 1932, the Red Napoleon does a tricky mobilization that makes the Russian Army temporarily the largest in the world. On January 2, 1933, the Red Army moves west. Continue reading “Book Review: The Red Napoleon”
Author: H. Irving Hancock
It is 1920. The Germans have defeated the US fleet and landed an army in New England. Through the rest of book 1 the US army puts up a heroic and very shrewd fight, but still gets clobbered and chased out of New England. The army survives in spite of being outnumbered and outgunned. Continue reading “Book Review: Conquest of the United States Series”