Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Watch out, Reality- Eight Against Reality is available now!

It's here! I've talked about Eight Against Reality before, but now that it's officially available from Panverse Publishing and from Amazon, I want to take this opportunity to introduce you personally. Each story in this volume was written by a member of my writer's group, Written in Blood (you can tell we take our writing and critiquing seriously!) - and you may recognize some of these names, because two of us now have published books, and many others have had stories appear in venues like Asimov's, Analog, Black Static, Strange Horizons, and others.

I feel really lucky to be working with such terrific writers - I believe in these guys and in their stories, and it's this atmosphere of mutual respect and support that has kept our group together so long, and made us so successful.

You can find a blurb on each story on the Panverse website, but here's my own take on the stories in Eight Against Reality, including a short excerpt from each:

The Eminence's Match by Juliette Wade
You all know me... This story takes place in Varin, the first world I created and one I've worked on for about twenty years (!). The question I wanted to ask in it was this: what makes an evil ruler, and why would a servant consent to work for him? I wanted to cross the border from the easy assumptions of common fantasy into more psychologically and sociologically real territory.

Shadowless in the light of two hundred and twelve electric bulbs on his vaulted stone ceiling, the Eminence Nekantor frowned down across his naked ribs. Look: two gold buttons at the waist of his silk trousers. Fastened, both of them, completely fastened. Deceptively fastened. They had been fastened wrong: lower-then-upper, not upper-then-lower. The difference stuck to the buttons like fingerprints. The difference felt like fingers pressing on his mind.

His servant’s fingers.

Kurek had done it. That was new: Kurek doing the buttons wrong
today, when they had been right yesterday, the day before—for months now already. That was different, unexplained. Unacceptable.

“Kurek,” he said. “These buttons are wrong.”

“Wrong, your Eminence?”

Kurek’s voice was tight, tight like closed fists. Recalcitrant servant! Always guarded, never conceding to the truth inherent in the Imbaticaste tattoo that covered his forehead: he was a tool, a tool to be used and controlled by the greater man. Oh, what it would feel like to break past those closed fingers, to lay him bare and open, to wield him in all his subtle complex talents. Perfect control: a prize worth all the unrelenting demands of the game required to win it. The game must never be neglected.

Kip, Running by Genevieve Williams
Genevieve is a librarian (a profession I greatly admire) and a terrific writer. "Kip, Running" is one of those stories where the setting of future Seattle seems to take on a life of its own, full of details and life - I recommend the story to anyone wanting a great example of portraying a character's struggle within a truly vibrant environment.

The runners are lithe and young. None are older than sixteen. Nothing about their hair or clothing dangles in excess, though they ornament themselves in other ways: hair cut in patterns like ornamental lawns, tint cascading through the patterns like advertising. Tattoos adorn them like jewelry or ripple across their bodies like silk scarves, wet and shining in the omnipresent April rain.

Kip, small and subtle, gathers with the rest of them on top of the platform shelter at Pike Station, 120 feet above the Street. There are fourteen runners besides herself, eyeing her and each other as though plotting how best to throw their competition off a building. Like her, they’re masked and mirrored: a combination of camouflaged clothing, surveillance-reflective skins, and sensor-scrambling biosign suppressors will make watchful eyes slide right off them. Trainjumping is illegal, as are most of the other things runners do to win a race. Freerunning, bubble-riding, running along slidewalk rails—all of it.

The Lonely Heart by Aliette de Bodard
Aliette lives in Paris (yes, I'm jealous) and writes awesome science fiction and fantasy in alternate-history pasts and futures. I love how she can bring the cultures of her characters and settings to life in so few words. This story is horror - which I don't usually read - but I still thought it was awesome when I got to read it as this anthology was being prepared.

It was towards mid-afternoon that Chen became aware of the girl. She stood before Chen’s stall, watching the fake-jade effi gies of the Buddha and the coloured incense sticks, her eyes wide in the sunlight—she was no more than thirteen or fourteen, with the gangly unease of that age. To her left, children shrieked as they passed the Bridge of Impossibility, holding each other’s hands, and went into the temple complex.

The girl’s hand reached towards a small statue of a demon, touched it—setting off a coloured lightstrobe which illuminated the statue from within.

Normally, Chen should have snatched the statue away, and pointed out to her, in a firm voice, that you didn’t touch the wares unless you paid. But the girl was so young: skeletally thin, her skin taut over high cheekbones, her eyes wide with fear. And she was so familiar, in a way that made Chen ill at ease—as young and as malnourished as Chen herself had been ten years ago, starving in the streets of Fengdu. “Can I help you?” Chen asked.

The Flying Squids of Zondor by Doug Sharp
Doug has a razor-sharp sense of humor, and an incredible determination that keeps him writing against all odds. He can make me laugh at things I never expected. I see this story as falling somewhere between "Spaceballs" and Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life."

Commandrix, this planetary system is unique in all the galaxy!
A week spent exploring it will unveil fundamental truths about
the most secret laws of science and…

Midshipman! Take this…

It concerns the yadayadium, Commandrix.

Go on. The yadayadium?

All the yadayadium is concentrated on a single planet.

You mean…?

Oh yes, oh yes, oh yes. It’s oh so true.

The color drains from DRON’s face and d├ęcolletage. Her pupils twitch
and veins pulse erratically in each of her temples.
You mean…?

The miracle of sentient life!

Aliens, is it? I loathe aliens. Their voluptuous slime and warm,
stroking pseudopods. Their unspeakable probes, groping
tentacles, and cruel spanking claws. They make me…
DRON vomits copiously and wipes her mouth on sleeve. Her face
exudes naked revulsion.

Spoiling Veena by Keyan Bowes
Keyan travels the world for her work but always stays faithful to her writing and critiquing. She has great attention for detail and ambiance, and she has a lovely way of portraying extreme scenarios as though they were entirely normal, so she can then take them further as she does in this story.

The snow thuds down like brickbats.

Instead of a soft and beautiful blanket, it lies on the grass in shards of ice. The party is ruined. It had sounded like such a good idea, snow in Delhi. Shalini should have known better than to trust Party Weather Inc. They haven’t been able to deliver. Shivering, she herds the children into the veranda, out of the way of the pounding white chips.

“Let’s bring in the cake, shall we?” she says, as the clatter of the hail on the cars parked outside distracts the children.

“Oh, can’t we go out in that, Aunty?” It’s a young boy called—Ajay, that’s it, Ajay Zaveri.

“It’s too hard, Ajay,” replies Shalini. “I don’t want anyone to get hurt.” Or your lawyer mother to sue me, she thinks. India is becoming just too much like America since cable and satellite TV. She has releases of liability signed by every custodial parent, and still she worries.

Man's Best Enemy by Janice Hardy
Janice can write at a speed that leaves me in awe, and I always look to her for advice on plotting and action. She loves turning up the pressure and writing her characters into a corner - and if she can't immediately find a way to get them out of it, so much the better for the excitement of the final draft.

“We thought it was just pups,” Deeke said, pressing the bandage hard against Louie’s belly. The blood he wasn’t stopping flowed dark, almost black, a vein tear for sure. I’d seen bites that deep before. Was an ugly way to go. Be kinder for Deeke to ease up on the pressure and let Louie pass out and die in peace, but Deeke would never do that. He was too soft-hearted. Even Mama said so.

Doc looked up and glared, her dark eyes hard enough to make Deeke flinch. “You heard pups and ignored them? How stupid can—Shawna, hand me that clamp—how stupid can you be?”

I handed Doc her clamp from the tray by the examination table, careful not to bump her. Wasn’t a whole lot of room in the clinic, but it was the only room in the hotel with enough cabinets for all her supplies.

“Need more gauze?” I asked. The bloody pile was getting large.

“No, I’m good. Well, Deeke?”

Deeke licked his lips and glanced down, so I knew he was about to fib. Not an outright lie though or he’d be scratching his ear. “They were just yippers, and Louie said—”

“Oh, Louie said, did he?” Doc scoffed. “What’s the first thing you learn about pups?”

Deeke winced. “Where there’s pups, there’s dogs.”

Love, Blood and Octli by T.L. Morganfield
Traci has kids at home just like I do, and somehow keeps writing and building her reputation as an expert in Aztec stories. The thing I love about this story is the way she can portray a broad range of experience from the innocent to the frightening, all in a resonant tone reminiscent of ancient storytellers.

On my seventh birthday, the Feathered Serpent gave me my name. Many snakes lived among the reeds near the pond, most of them full of poison and spite, but this one was different. He was no bigger than the other snakes but was covered in feathers; white ones on his slender body, and long, exquisite emerald ones—like those of the precious quetzal bird—around his neck. I met him as I swam around the pond.

“What a strange creature you are!” I called when I saw him flying above me.

The feathered serpent looked at me with keen yellow-slit eyes. “Ah, Ayomichi,” he declared.

I laughed. “I’m not a turtle.”

“You swim like one.”

“I’m a girl.”

“I can see that. But you’re also Ayomichi. It’s your name.”

“My name? I’ve never heard of such a thing.”

“Certainly your mother calls you something?”

Dancing by Numbers by Dario Ciriello
Dario is one big reason why I am where I am today with my writing. His prose flows like honey and he has huge amazing ideas - not just like the idea behind Dancing by Numbers, but also the idea behind Panverse Publishing's novella anthologies and Eight Against Reality itself. He is an inspiration.

Ten days to go until the opening of Tchaikovsky’s The Emperor’s Hunting Lodge. We’ve been working six hours and I can feel Max’s strength fading with every lift. Anthony, our company director, is getting that tight, drawn look he gets when he’s trying not to scream. That’s just the way Anthony is, and everybody knows that. Still.

In the wings, before stepping out to join Max for the final pas de deux, I find that infinitesimal, still, center of balance I’ve been exploring. I focus everything, my whole being, into the very center of my body for that one lift. Max sweeps me high, I experience a moment of empty darkness, and then—

The studio is gone. I’m in an amphitheater, turning, held high by hands of banded iron. The humid air is heavy with pungent herbs. Clusters of hissing torches light the stage from either side while a chorus of red-robed women raises a pulsing chant. A moon of blood hangs low over a semicircle of banked seating filled to capacity.

Most startling of all, I know exactly who I am, and where: I am another dancer named Lyra, in a world entirely unlike my own. The superimposition of selves, of experience, of knowledge, overwhelms me.

Later, I remember I maintained my brilliant smile all the way through. That’s what a professional does.

I feel lucky to be a part of the Eight Against Reality project and I encourage you not only to buy the anthology, but to learn more about these fantastic writers. I hope the links I've provided will help you to do just that.


  1. I'm hoping to win a copy from Janice Hardy's blog, but if the gods don't favor me with their blessings, I'll be ordering it from Amazon.
    Not only is Panverse on my list for future submissions, these stories look too cool to pass up.

  2. Thanks, Brad! Good luck with the contest.

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