Monday, April 17, 2017

Stormbird Cycle: Which Story would YOU like to see?

So many stories, so little time.

Between medieval stories, scifi adventures, ancient Near Eastern fairy tales, and the time-consuming demands of Real Life, it’s hard to find time to write. I have trouble deciding which ancient Near Eastern story to work on... so I thought I would ask all of you!  Which story would you most like to see? Leave a comment below!

The following list of stories all come from the Stormbird Cycle, a set of stories all set in a magical version of the ancient Near East. “Guardian of Our Beauty” in Five Magic Spindles was a part of this, as is “A Bride Price for Hinzuri,” in the May 2017 issue of Spark.  All the images are ancient Near Eastern pictures of stormbirds, also known as anzu birds.

In Distant Days (short story) – When Imdugud’s sister is eaten by a sea-monster, his clan must stretch their wings and put out their claws in order to win a victory over the malicious children of the Sea.

Black Sand (working title; book) – The weaving-woman of Piyampetcha made a bargain with the Stormbird: he will help her to have children if she gives him her firstborn child. But instead of giving him her firstborn daughter, she gives him her secondborn son.
Growing up in the tiny fishing village, her daughter learns to speak to the wind, while her son, trained as a warrior in the magical Mirage, must strive to save the stormbirds from extinction.
(I am planning a sequel to Black Sand… but obviously Black Sand has to come first! Black Sand started in my head as a Rumpelstiltskin retelling, but it has gotten so thoroughly mixed up in my mind with the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Matter of Aratta that I’m not really sure what it is now.)

The Taste of Dust (working title; novella; 1900s BC) – After his elderly master manages to have a son, the disinherited Iliazri sets out to seek his fortune. On the caravan route from the City of the Rock through the mountains of Luwa, he finds a mysterious tower where a beautiful woman is held imprisoned. Or is she? (Rapunzel re-telling… sort of.)

The Turbaned Camel (working title; short story; early 2nd millennium BC) – The third son of a stonecutter inherits nothing from his father but an old and grumpy camel. The lad is not terribly bright… but the camel has plans. (Puss in Boots retelling)

[FYI: “Guardian of Our Beauty” goes here. It began around 1200 BC, and ended in the 1100s after Gubla spent its century asleep.]

The Last Garrison (working title; novella; 1000s BC) – When the last garrison of the Black Land Empire in Yeshurni territory is burned by the hillmen, the remnant of the garrison must find a new home and a new place in the world. The loyal oarmaster Weptak, his resourceful and unscrupulous quartermaster, a former pirate armsman and their wobbly-kneed apprentice scribe must save the princess (or not), make their fortunes (or not), and find a new cause to serve. (Tinder Box retelling, mixed with some Egyptian fairy tales)

The Wisdom of the Wise (working title; novella; 700s BC) – As a boy, the man now known as Sharruludari was carried away from his home when his nation was conquered by the King of the Wall, lord of the City of the Rock. Now he is an officer in the king’s intelligence service, in charge of analyzing information from the lands where he used to belong. When a girl and her father, who had been captured in the siege of the fortress city that defended Bat-tsion, are brought before him, he must decide whether to use the information that he gains from them… or remember the God and the loyalty of his youth. (Beauty and the Beast retelling. If you didn’t know that the Assyrians had a spy service, check out the articles of Peter Dubovsky!)

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Book Review: Ether Ore (Enclave Publishing, 2011)

As you all probably know by now, I am a huge fan of SF and fantasy.  As such, I was excited a few years ago to find out about Enclave (then Marcher Lord) Publishing, a publishing house dedicated to Christian speculative fiction.  Morgan L. Busse’s books are published through them (Daughter of Light, etc).  Unfortunately, few of their books are available at the local library or even through inter-library loan.  So I was very happy to run across this collection of stories, Ether Ore!  Now I know which of their authors to put on my wish list.

“Armed” – Jeff Gerke
          This SF novella is a parable for men.  A miner strikes it rich, but when he brings his find in to be assayed, he meets a young boy who will cause him to question the reasons for his actions.  As long as you are okay with robot allegories, you’ll enjoy it.  
The first part of the story is strong… but the middle is used as the frame story for the rest of the tales in this collection.  It’s not a strong frame; there’s really no reason for most of the framing material to exist.  The fact that this is partly a frame story also means that you need to read this whole colelction in fairly short order, or you will have forgotten what happened by the time you get to the end.  The final section of the story is also the final element of the book; I would have liked the ending to be more developed, in order to balance the buildup given to the character and plot in “Armed.”

“The Drop” – Steve Rzasa
          This is my favorite short in this collection—a tone-perfect military SF story.  It’s clear that there’s a lot more to this story world and these characters than we get here.  Ben Longstep and his men are as merry a band of soldiers as I’ve ever come across.  If you are a fan of David Weber and Elizabeth Moon, this story is for you.

“The Merak Galaxy” - Jill Williamson
          Short, cute, and utterly without any scientific basis.  

“Graxin” – Kerry Nietz
          Part WALL-E and part I Robot, this is an intriguing story about a mineral-surveying robot that decides to go exploring and finds a strange cavern under the surface of one of Neptune’s moons.  What he finds there causes him to go against his programming in search of a greater meaning for his existence.  Look out for the dark Clarke-like twist at the end!  

“Close” – Marc Schooley
          Once again, we find valuable minerals, greedy humans, a robot looking for meaning, and a dark ending.

“Tableau” – Adam Palmer
          I enjoyed this one.  The author’s voice, the character’s creative response to his predicament… the happy ending.  I look forward to reading more stories by this author!

“Nether Ore” – Kirk Outerbridge
          This story was scary but rewarding.  I really liked the main character, John, who is stuck among cloned miners by day but at night dreams of his family.  Allegorical themes and very creepy villains make this a compelling story.