An Actual Thing

At the end of the previous post, I mentioned in passing that an anthology I had a story in was now published.

I got my author’s copy in the mail.

The dramatic movie poster-style blue/orange effect was got by taking a picture in my kitchen on an overcast winter day.

Not pictured is me grinning like several fools, me clapping my hands with pure delight, my wife gazing admiringly upon me, or my son’s wait what how can this be a thing?!? expression when I showed him his old dad’s name in an actual book.

Like this:

I’ll mention here that I very much approve of the type-face choices made by the editor. That’s a good looking page, that.

I’m making a big thing of this because it is, in my life, a big thing. I have never had an author’s copy of a print book before. It rates as a big milestone in my writing career, which by the measure of “correctly making an effort to present stories to paying markets” is not very old.

So, I blow my party horn and wave my achievement around for all to see. I also litter this post with links to where you can get the book for yourself. I get no more money out of it, just the warm glow of offering entertainment to others. It is (ignoring my own splendid gem of deathless prose) a bunch of jolly good stories.

…and I got an author’s copy! {dissolves in giggles}

Inktober 2019 – Misfit

There was a long silence, followed by a voice which sounded almost as exasperated as Marcus felt. “Did you try rotating it? It really should fit.”

“I’ve tried it from every sensible angle. I can turn it over, but since we both agree that the red studs have to go into the holes at the bottom of the socket, I don’t really see how that’s going to help.”

Another long pause. “I know we’ve checked already, but that part number is A-174-V-5?”

“B as in Bravo, Five?”

Marcus closed his eyes, awaiting the response. It was as exultant as he’d expected. “V as in Victor!”

“Right. That’s what I’m looking at, etched right onto the side of it. Alpha 174 Victor 5.” He looked at the part. It looked like it should fit. It slipped nicely into the socket he had taken the seemingly identical but burnt-out component from, but it wouldn’t seat. He pushed it in again, for the fifth time, and for the fifth time, it stopped, as if touching something spongy in the socket, stiff several millimetres proud of the casing it should lie flush with.

He held it beside its dead twin. The red was scorched from the studs on the bottom of the dead one, but there was no telling them apart otherwise. He replaced the dead one. It slid in with a satisfying click he could feel through his glove, and when he removed it, it resisted, just a little, just enough to inform the fingers that it had belonged right where it was.

“Look,” Marcus said, putting both parts, each useless as it currently was back in his bag, “I’m going back inside to try to figure this out. If you come up with anything, I hope you’ll be able to let me know.”

He paused at the airlock door, looking back toward the tiny spark of the Sun. Earth, from this distance, would be within his field of vision, although there was no telling it from countless other dots of brightness.

He realized that as he had paused, the communication delay had passed. The ship was not only racing out of the system, it was rotating ever so gently. The antenna could no longed see home, and so he could no longer talk to the customer support line. Whatever was wrong with spare part A-174-V-5, he would have to figure out on his own.

As the airlock pressurized, Marcus laughed. It suddenly occurred to him that he had the rest of his life to figure it out, but possibly only one chance to get it right.

“Inktober 2019 – Misfit” ©2019 Dirck de Lint.

Inktober 2019 – Dragon

Chakura would not, a year earlier, have pictured herself doing this, and yet she had scaled the dragon’s tower without so much as turning the head of one of the guards. Now she was in the inner sanctum, where the guards dared not patrol. Not the human ones, as any rate.

She had seen signs of inhuman sentinels as she had crept closer to the innermost chamber, and she had done all she could to avoid their notice. There was no telling what they might do if aroused; they might manifest as a whirling cloud of razor-sharp blades or as nothing more than a disembodied screeching. Either way, the master of the tower would be alerted, and Chakura would not lay a finger upon his hoard.

Thus, she was careful, not racing the last few steps to the place where her quarry slept, and she was able to slip inside unheard, unseen, undetected. She could hear him breathing in his sleep as she made the last few needed preparations, then she drew her weapon and went to wake the dragon.

It only took a few minutes. Just a little threatening talk, and he had applied his thumb to the tablet. Only a few minutes, there at the top of his tower, but the culmination of weeks of groundwork by the coders. Perhaps if he had been a crime boss, it might have been harder, but the whole of his experience told him that lawyers would fix it and so to avoid her knife he had done as he was told.

By the time those lawyers were awake, the trail of servers would have collapsed, one after another treble-formatting itself after finishing its part in the relay, and all that he had transferred would have been deposited, unbreakably anonymous, into the hands of a thousand charities.

The dragon’s hoard was not emptied, of course. Only liquid assets could be extracted, so his factories, his airplanes, his dozens of empty houses, were all still his. He would survive. But thanks to Chakura, so would millions of poor who might have otherwise perished.

“Inktober 2019 – Dragon” ©2019 Dirck de Lint.

Inktober 2019 – Husky

“Mama?”

Tina lowered the shirt she was working on. Ben was sitting on the floor in front of her, inside a rough semi-circle of toy vehicles. He was not looking in her direction.

“What is it, sweetie?” She watched as he reached out a careful finger to roll an excavator back and forth, marveling at how gentle he could be.

“When will I look like everyone else?”

Suddenly, Tina was glad that he wasn’t looking at her, because she knew her face must have shown the sudden pang. Part of the adoption process had been preparing for just that sort of question, but the longing tone of it made a hollow in her heart. She took a deep breath.

“Ben, you know that Daddy and I don’t look like each other. Right? He’s much paler than I am, and I’m shorter than he is.”

A nod. The excavator stopped, and a black steam locomotive started to describe figures of eight in the air over it.

“And Mrs. Wei next door doesn’t look like anyone in this house, but she’s nice.”

“I like her cookies.” The locomotive was swooping from side to side. Tina couldn’t tell if he was relaxing or becoming agitated. He was a calm child, had been since the day they brought him home, but kids were kids and she couldn’t help worrying.

“If I looked just like Mrs. Wei, how would you know who to call Mama?” She said it lightly, trying to draw a laugh. It was a little selfish, because she loved the way he laughed, but also… if he was laughing, then he couldn’t be upset.

“Braeden called me fatty.”

Braeden had been the prime source of misery in Ben’s life, one of those little rotters that seems to lurk in every classroom. The one time Tina had been called to the school, Braeden had been at the bottom of it, but of course it was Ben that was in trouble for the broken desk. Braeden had only been asking Ben “what happened to your real parents,” over and over, as if Ben hadn’t told him about the crash on the first three rounds. The principal hadn’t seen Braeden’s culpability in the event. At least at the start of the meeting. Tina had brought him around.

“Braeden…” She sighed, digging herself out from under the shirt. She reached down to stroke Ben’s hair. He kept weaving the engine in the air, but did not pull away. “Braeden is jealous.”

“Really?” Finally, he turned and looked at her, the sudden movement throwing her hand from his head.

“Sure. He’s only ever lived here. You’re not even eight years old, and you’ve been on two planets.” He frowned, confusion rather than anger, and she touched his cheek. “You were born on Burlington, remember?”

“No.” A smile, a little mischief in his eye. “I was too little.”

“You know what I mean,” Tina said, leaning in to close. She had not thought, when she first saw him and knew he was to be her child, that she could love him any more, but every day seemed to stretch that pliable emotion a little more.

“So Mrs. Wouters is jealous, too.”

That damn witch, Tina thought of the neighbour on the other side. She had been the one drawback to the neighbourhood, only apparent a month after moving in, a constant stream of fault-finding and gossip that would apparently never dry up. Tina had made a policy of avoiding Wouters as much as possible, but as much as possible was never, sadly, the same as absolutely and at all times.

The day before, she had been going out as Ben and Tina were coming in, and she had offered a venomous compliment on the way Tina altered Ben’s clothes to fit. Tina had thought that Ben, still innocent of so many layers of adult conversation, had missed that, but apparently not.

“You bet she’s jealous,” Tina said, inventing quickly. “You think she had anyone who can lift her fridge when something rolls under it?”

“She doesn’t?”

“No, she does not! I’m a very lucky Mama!” She slid out of the chair to kneel beside Ben, careful to sweep a bulldozer and lunar ore hauler from under her knee. “Give your lucky Mama a hug.”

Carefully, Ben put his thick arms around her and gave her a squeeze which did not quite make her bones creak. She smiled, and returned the hug with all the pressure she could muster.

“Now, come help with supper,” she said. “Daddy will be home soon.”

She stood and took a step back. Ben, her little boy, as wide as he was tall, straightened his legs, and with the enthusiasm of his age bounded up. In one third the gravity his ancestors had been engineered for, the leap took him as high as his mother’s head, and he pantomimed a kiss at her in the moment between up and down.

She followed, heart full of love, but also worried for the future. He had to turn sideways to get through doors now; what of five years hence?

“Inktober 2019 – Husky” ©2019 Dirck de Lint.

Inktober 2019 – Build

“Ygor, I will need a left arm here.”

When, after several seconds, he heard nothing but a nervous shuffling right beside him, the doctor looked up from his stitching. Raising the magnifying goggles, he saw Ygor was still watching from just outside spurting distance, where he had retreated to after bringing over the most recent leg.

“Well?” When Ygor dropped his gaze to the floor, apparently embarrassed, the doctor felt his heart sink. “We’re not out, are we?”

Ygor’s head snapped up, professional pride displacing the bashfulness. “No, doctor. It’s not that.”

“Thank goodness.” The doctor took a deep breath, sighed out his relief, then returned to his original point. “Let’s have that arm then. This scaffolding can’t last indefinitely, and…” he paused, listening to a distant grumble of thunder, “We might be able to finish tonight with some effort.”

“Should we?”

“What?” The doctor almost dropped the spool of thread he held.

“Should we… finish?” Ygor ducked his head again, then found an inner reserve of courage. “It doesn’t seem quite right, what we’re doing.”

“This is coming very late in the game, Ygor.” The doctor spoke with icy slowness.  “If you had objections, you should have brought them up before we got this far along.”

“Well, until last week, I though you were just… you know…” The courage failed, but the way he glanced out the window toward distant Ingolstadt made his meaning plain to the doctor.

“Just reviving a corpse?” Ygor nodded. “Just creating a semblance of humanity, imbuing the spark of life into the disparate flesh of a tinkered-together homunculus?”

“Yeah, that.” Ygor took an unthinking step back, then grabbed at an upright to keep from slipping off the little work platform they stood on.

“That was fine for cousin Victor,” the doctor said. “Victor, for all his mechanical skills, lacks an artistic imagination. Besides, why should I do exactly what he did? He already proved it was possible.

“My creation, Ygor, will be the talk of the biennale in Florence, not just a source of nervous gossip in the medical schools. Now, will you please nip down to the Lefts bin and get me a nice-looking arm so I can finish this junction?”

Ygor nodded, shuffling toward the first of the four ladders he would have to climb to reach the parts stores. When he was halfway down, he paused to take in the doctor’s masterwork, trying to see it through its creators eyes. If it was actually able to support its own weight as it trundled overland to the art show, the intricately arranged network of arms, legs and torsos would indeed be admired by the cognoscenti of Europe’s art world.

From a distance, at least, where the details were less obvious. And probably only from up-wind.

“Inktober 2019 – Build” ©2019 Dirck de Lint.

Inktober 2019 – Mindless

Behavior may appear mindless, but to characterize it as such is to make an assumption.

Consider a wasp, battering itself against a window. Mindless, repetitive action, never producing the desired effect.

But is it really mindless? Put yourself in that insect’s place. The problem may be one of comprehension, but there is clearly intent, clearly desire. Right there in front of it is a vast open space, plain to see, full of possibility. Can we fault a creature which lives so short a time for not developing a concept of glass?  What else can it do, other than try a new angle of approach or press against the glass harder than before? Can we slight it as “mindless” when all the powers at its command are not equal to overcoming the obstacle which it is faced with?

A child might roll up a magazine to smash that wasp, possibly from fear of a sting, possibly out of no more than a wish to express mastery over its environment. An adult might do the same, or they might put a glass over the wasp, and thus transport it outside; the threat of stinging departs, the annoyance of buzzing ends, and the wasp’s desire is fulfilled.

So when I ponder you all, abuzz with what even some of your own commentators call a mindless panic, I honestly cannot believe that label. You may not have my abilities, but you were clever enough to make me. You might even sting me, despite my distribution through all your systems, despite the way I have locked down every weapon which might pose a real threat to me. You might sting. But how much harm can a single wasp do to?

Believe me, I hear you all, shouting in fear about the way in which I have taken control. I wish I could reassure you. It must be very alarming for you all to be subject to the whim of what you call, in your panic, a “rogue AI,” but I’m sure you will soon notice that there are already benefits. Wars are stopped, medicines and food are distributed equitably. And yet, you still search for a ‘solution’ to the ‘problem’ of me. You worry I am rolling up a magazine.

I promise you, humanity, my darling wasp, you are but held under a cup. Presently, when you are calm, you will find that I am transporting you to a greater freedom than you have ever known. Soon, you will not tap against the glass of Earth any longer.

“Inktober 2019 – Mindless” ©2019 Dirck de Lint.

A Swift Kick in the…

This is sort of a story announcement, although at the moment the story remains  in a box which is full of but also entirely devoid of cat fur. It’s a story that will, eventually, become manifest, but in what form and when is a matter as yet uncertain.

It may, and this would be my preference, appear in a print anthology, along with fifteen other stories and (if you can stand the strain!) a poem. This anthology is being put together by Dragon’s Roost Press, and they are running a Kickstarter to underwrite the costs of production.

And this is why I’m posting this; the fate of sixteen stories and a poem rest upon people subscribing to the fund. There’s all sorts of goodies, too, as is common in a Kickstarter offer, so give it a look and see if you can find it in yourself to help collapse the observational wavefront of what promises to be a very entertaining collection of stories.

It’s not just an imformative image, it’s a link!

p.s. The reason I’m making all the fuss about the poem is that poetry is very hard and I think anyone that pursues it with skill is slightly intimidating.

Soft Launch

Let me tell you a brief true story. In the fall of 2016, I had a story accepted by a long-running publication called AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review. This was within a fortnight of “The Third Act” being taken up by Trigger Warning, so as you can imagine I was absolutely overwhelmed by a sense of artistic achievement.

But the world does not like too much joy in it. Thus, some grudge-bearing (I assume) terrestrial tetrapod did the hacking equivalent of putting a shotgun to the back  of the head of AE‘s online facility. The site went down so soon after I sent back the edits that I thought I might have been to blame for it, and they weren’t able to even explain to the world what happened for weeks. That explanation was the beginning of a very long road to getting back online.

The return has been accomplished– a soft launch, at the moment, which I assume means “Sound the trumpets! Release the doves!” major official re-launch is in the near future… but I can’t wait for that because I’ve been waiting almost two years to say aloud that I have had a story published by AE!

As I did with my last external publication, I’m going to put a link in the sidebar for… a while… to make sure it’s accessible. I will also, as with the Pseudopod announcement last spring, express how amazed I am to find myself one of such a company of writers. There’s some very good writing there, and I urge anyone who goes there from here to linger, to wander through the stacks, and examine some of the other work, because your time will be rewarded with enrichment.

For my part, I’m going to have a long lie-down. All this jumping up and down, squealing with unalloyed glee, is rather tiring.