New novellette: Luminescence

The short story Luminescence was published in Martian Wave in 2010. Because it is part of a world in which I ‘ve set more stories, and part of a greater story, I’ve adapted it and it is now available on Smashwords and Amazon. Click on the image for the Amazon link.

Smashwords link here.

Here are two first two pages, for #SampleSunday:

A bright flash turned the ice under my feet into a sheet of white.
The inside of the inflatable dome blazed in X-ray vision as my visor’s auto-polarise function cut in, providing me with a skeleton-view of the flexible struts that held up the fabric.
A split second, and then the murky orange hue of the Titanian atmosphere returned. Darker still inside our tent on the ice of Kraken Mare on Titan’s south pole.
I depolarised my visor, heart thudding. Black spots danced in my vision. ‘Paul? Did you see that? Paul? Do you hear me?’
I stared at the entry hole in the ice in the middle of the tent. The black surface rippled.
‘Paul!’
There was no reply.
The snaking hoses of the breathing apparatus and the heater were the only sign of Paul’s presence in that blackness. Through my suit’s helmet I couldn’t even hear the humming of the air compressor in the shed.
Static crackled in my earphones. Paul’s words garbled into unintelligible mush, laced with excitement.
‘What is it? What do you see?’
‘It’s . . . beautiful. You can’t begin to describe it, Hadie. There’s colours and pictures and . . . It looks like a spider’s web . . . Holy fuck!’
The line went dead. I strode to the reception unit and pressed the reset with clumsy gloved hands. The roamer icon tracked over the screen and found . . .
Nothing.
Oh for fuck’s sake. This lousy radio never worked when you needed it.
I waited. I told myself not to worry. Paul could take care of himself. The hoses still pulsed, and now–relief flooded me–the downrope was moving, a sign that he was climbing up the ladder.
Sure enough, ten minutes later Paul’s helmet broke the surface, then his shoulders, followed by his be-suited arms. I hauled him up the last rungs of the ladder, the touch awkward through both our suits.
‘You OK?’ I asked.
Vapour rose from the suit, methane gas curling towards the roof of the tent, where it would condensate against the fabric, run down until it met the ice and freeze in globby stalagmites.
Paul dropped his sampling canisters, which he’d taken to collect samples from bacterial patches we had found living under the ice. My helmet receiver remained silent; I couldn’t see his face behind his visor. I cursed. This time when we got back to the habitat, I would complain to the Research Division, fuck the notes it would earn me against future promotion. It was one thing to let scientists work with sub-standard equipment when they worked in an environment where they could breathe the air, and they could sit around waiting for a bail-out if things went wrong. We didn’t have that luxury. Small things about the Titanian atmosphere like the general lack of oxygen and temperatures that would freeze your butt off meant that any equipment malfunction quickly turned serious with big fat capital letters. The tight-arses could at least give us receivers that fucking worked all the time, not just when they felt like it.
I guided him across the tent. His steps were stiff, that all-too-familiar feeling that leg muscles had frozen senseless, through the suit and layers of insulating clothing.
Into the air lock. I pulled shut the thick door and operated the panel. Waited. Just us in our suits, and a tiny light. Vapour rising off Paul’s suit, curling up to the vent in the ceiling. I hated the silence.
Lights flashed; the inner door opened. I preceded Paul into the familiarity of the tiny lab of Research Station 5: a simple table and four straight-backed chairs, lab benches with stacks of sample tubes and an assortment of equipment parts, mostly spare parts for the dive gear, because the samples needed to be kept outside–too warm for them in here. A rack with protective clothing. Thermal under-suits.
Monitoring and comm screens blinked warnings against the back wall. Initialisation sequence not detected. Unease clawed at the back of my mind.
I flicked the heater up as far as it would go. Fans jolted into action. The pump hummed below the floor, sucking up methane from under the ice.
The light was warm in here, and when I wriggled off my suit’s helmet, the air heavy with the scent of synth-coffee. Empty cups still sat on the table.
Paul sank down in one of the chairs. He reached for his helmet and I helped him unclip it.
‘Paul? What happened?’
He said nothing, his hazel eyes staring at the opposite wall like a blind man’s.
‘Paul!’
I swung one leg over his so I faced him. His expression remained blank. His skin looked marble-pale, his eyes wide open. Most of his curly hair lay plastered to his head, his lips dark with cold. Those lips I’d kissed before he went down.

Party, With Echoes now up at Redstone SF

The title speaks for itself. Read the story here.

Here are the first couple of paragraphs:

Party, With Echoes

“So – your ancestors were pearl divers in Western Australia?” he says.

“Yup,” Yuriko replies, in a who cares sort of way that she hopes reinforces her tough image. But she thinks, So, you said you were fit? and she’s looking at the thermals stretching over his belly and the pudgy hairy spiders that are his hands.

“You’re OK with the gear?”

He makes an O by putting the tip of his index finger on the tip of his thumb, the divers’ sign. “Don’t worry. I have Open Water, Advanced Open Water, Dive Rescue and Dive Master qualifications.”

Yuriko smiles and thinks, But how long since you’ve used them? The spec from Ianni said he was a company director. David Woodridge is his name, although he introduced himself to Yuriko as ‘John’.

Watcher’s Web sample chapter

Watcher’s Web is now available as ebook. Click on the image for a link to Amazon and on the image to the right for a link Smashwords.

Chapter 1

Wherever Jessica went, people watched her.
Like those two teenage boys leaning on the fence, akubra hats pulled down to shade their eyes. One of them dangled a cigarette in careless fingers, the other swigged beer from a stubby. Neither was watching her now, but she hadn’t missed their gawking, nor their low voices barely elevated over the noise of bellowing cattle, shouts and truck engines.
Wow! See that really tall one?
Bloody hell, yeah.
How’d you reckon she kisses a guy? On her knees?

They laughed, and when she came closer, faced the yard to watch the cattle as if they had said nothing.
Jessica walked past them to the gate, glaring at their straw-covered backs. Well, I bloody heard you. She was used to it, anyway.
It hadn’t been the worst thing people said about her. They hadn’t said the words ugly, or creepy, or freak, but she had become used to hearing those words, too.
They went into a little hard spot inside her where she scrunched up the hurt, forgot it, and remembered that she might look like a freak, but when she helped John Braithwaite and his mates from the Rivervale Stud Farm at a cattle show and Angus went into one of his fits, they still needed her to get him into the truck without spooking him. No one else could do that. No one knew how she did it, and no one should ever know. Because no one was crazy enough to get into a pen with a stroppy bull, right?
Well, we’ll see about that.
She grasped the top of the gate with both hands, stepped onto the middle bar and swung her foot over. Jumped. Landed in sun-baked mud churned with cloven hoof prints, and cow pats.
At least when Angus looked at her, he didn’t hide his dislike. A beady eye rolled, a gust of hay-scented air blew from his nostrils. He stiffened, all fifteen hundred-odd kilograms of Brahman bull-flesh of him. Then lowered his head, horns poised.
Someone yelled, ‘Watch it!’
No, he wasn’t going to charge. He’d charge at the boys, he’d even charge at his well-heeled owner, but never at her. Call her arrogant, but she knew that, and how she knew it would remain a secret, too, thank you very much.
She stopped a few paces inside the pen and crossed her arms over her chest. Well, bugger that. She had a bloody audience. About twenty people, mostly men, sitting on the fence, with cynical hey-look-at-this-mate expressions plastered on their faces.
Beef cattle farmers, their lackeys and other hangers-on, those clowns who had partied in the pavilion last night, those who owned the bulls that had occupied the pens next to Angus’. All their animals were already in the trucks, ready to be taken home from the Pymberton show. None of them with a ‘best of show’ ribbon, like Angus, and none with a diva mentality.
It looked like the boys had been trying to get Angus to move for a while. The gate on the opposite side of the pen was open, the ramp in place. Brendan held the door to the truck, ready to slam it. Everything about his expression said, rather you than me. The coward.
‘Come on, Angus, in you go.’
Men sniggered, including the two teenage boys. The one with the cigarette flicked ash into the pen and said something about a whip.
Now who was more stupid? Them or the bull? You did not frighten such a prize animal if you could help it. He might bolt and injure himself. An unsightly gash would take him off the show circuit for months. Sheesh!
Jessica reached through the fence into the bucket she had dumped there. Her hand came away black and sticky with molasses. Angus loved it.
She inched closer, holding out her hand Come on, look me in the eye, if you dare.
Angus blew out another snort, as if he knew what was coming. Backed into the fence. Met her eyes.
Jessica exhaled. Her breath seeped from her in tendrils of sparkle-filled mist, which sought out Angus’ fur and crept over his grey-mottled back, a bit like glitter-glue, but alive.
Jessica lunged for the rope that dangled from Angus’ collar. She couldn’t quite reach it, and while Angus backed further away from her, scraping along the fence, he planted his hoof on the end of the rope, squashing it neatly in a fresh pile of dung. Just her luck.
A bit closer.
She pulled the mist tighter around him, so his coat sparkled and glittered with lights. His outline became fuzzy. She didn’t know what to call it, and had learned not to talk about it to anyone. It wasn’t that she could communicate with him, but she could tell him what to do. Sort of. In a weird way she couldn’t explain in words. The mist soaked up emotions, as far as bulls have emotions, and dampened them, and she could override them with her own. If it worked.
Her audience had stopped talking. Anyone who watched always did that, even though they couldn’t see the mist and didn’t realise it influenced them. That was just as well, because she was making an idiot of herself. Angus was being bloody stubborn, his head still lowered, trampling the rope further into the shit. Something must have spooked him badly. Maybe it was the yapping from the dog pavilion. Well, she and Angus seemed to have something in common–she didn’t like lap dogs either.
But he was going to get into that bloody truck, preferably before she missed her flight back to Sydney. All kinds of hell would break loose if she wasn’t at the school basketball team meeting that night.
Jessica focused on Angus’ beady eye and let out another deep breath. More sparkling vapour flowed. Pinpricks of light soaked into Angus’ mottled fur. Angus relaxed, stuck out his head to nuzzle her molasses-covered hand.
But then. . .
The threads solidified and the mist spun into tightly-coiled cords, which wove into a formation like a spider’s web.
What the hell . . .?
She froze, staring at the writhing construction. It looked like someone had cast a living net over the bull, made of sparkling mist that yanked and stretched of its own volition, or . . . as if something pulled at the other end. There were shadows in a nebulous space over Angus’ back, and male voices, just outside the edge of hearing. The web vibrated and strained.
A tug of war between herself and . . . Who was pulling the other end?
In her panic, she broke loose from the construction. The shadows at the other end of the web faded. The strands dissolved into mist once more.
A wet nose touched her palm and Angus’ rasping tongue curled around her wrist. The molasses was clean licked-off, but he probably liked the salt of her sweat, because her arms glistened with it. She hoped no one noticed.
Her legs still trembling, Jessica pulled the rope and inched towards the gate. Angus followed her meekly, up the ramp, into the truck, where one of the boys was ready to tie him up.
The onlookers applauded.
Jessica leaned against the truck, forcing herself to grin at her audience.
‘Can anyone give me a lift to the airport?’

The market wants Science Fiction for younger readers

… Apparently. According to various agent sites.

Cool.

The Far Horizon is a book I started writing when I was reading fiction to my kids every night. I noticed that there was an awful lot of fantasy for younger readers, but no science fiction.

I wanted to write a story that highlighted a child’s perspective on life in space. How cool would it be to explore a space station, to get into trouble for doing so, and to see and overhear things that no one expected you to hear? In books, life in space is almost exclusively the domain of serious adults. Playful children have little place there. But when we consider settlement in space, there will inevitably be children.

This book is about that experience. It is about kicking against the clique mentality of closed communities, about making friends where you never thought you would find any. While I wrote this with readers of 8-13 years in age in mind, I also slipped in some references that adults might enjoy.

The great cover was designed by Olivia Kernot, and proofreading was done by my editor buddy Simon Petrie at ASIM.

So, if the market wants SF for younger readers, show me!

Clicking on the image will take you to the Amazon Kindle link for this book. A link for Smashwords is in the window to the right.

ASIM #49 now released

We’ve been having a good run with the magazine. The year 2010 saw no less than seven issues released, and 2011 is starting off pretty good.

But there is no way, just no way you should miss Kimberley van Ginkel’s story Star-crossed. It’s a deceptively simple tale, but if you’re not in tears at the end of the story, you may abuse me. You can buy a single issue in PDF or dead-tree version on the magazine’s website. Get it. This one story is worth the price of the entire magazine, even the price of a subscription. And no, I didn’t select the story, nor did I slush it, so I have no vested interest.

Uber-editor Simon Petrie writes: ASIM 49. Assembled by the crack team of Robbie Matthews and Edwina Harvey, issue 49 is a veritable smorgasbord (or, as it should more properly be, smörgåsbord) of deities, demons, washed-up superheroes, witches, crones, aliens, explorers, sidekicks, and frozen desserts. But moving beyond the membership of the Andromeda Spaceways co-op, to the contents of the issue itself, you’ll find work by Chris Large, Marissa Lingen, Rachel Mohr, Kimberly Van Ginkel, K. H. R. Smith, Darian Smith (no relation), Sam Bowring, Tom Howard, Joseph L. Kellogg, Karl Bunker and Leona Wisoker, as well as poetry by Peter Cooper, Andrew Findlay, James Frederick William Rowe and Darrell Schweitzer. There’s a reprint of issue 48′s Marty Young story, with which we were somewhat too imaginative in the typesetting first time around, there are book reviews and interviews and artworks. And, of course, ink, rather a lot of ink, for what is a magazine without ink?

Upcoming release: the Belong anthology

Belong cover


I haven’t used this blog for promotional purposes, but I want to give some attention to this awesome anthology edited by the awesome Russell Farr, from Western Australia, where he runs Ticonderoga Publications, a small press that does awesome things. Check out their books

The Belong anthology contains stories about immigration and the people (or aliens) it affects, an idea inspired by the many varied immigrant populations in Australia. It features 113,000 words of original fiction from around the world: Australia, Canada, Argentina, United Kingdom, U.S.A. and Belgium. It will be coming out in April for Swancon, and is available for pre-order from the publisher.

The TOC is as follows (and yes, I declare self-interest, because I have a story in this volume):

“Border Crossing”, Penelope Love
“Mrs Estahazi”, Barbara Robson
“Norumbega”, Linda L. Donahue
“Ice”, Zdravka Evtimova
“United”. Jennifer Moore
“Rekindle the Sun”, Mary E. Lowd
“The Gift”, Barry Rosenberg
“Prisoner of the Faceless”, Kurt Bachard
“Merpeople”, Gwen Veazey
“Feather-light”, George Ivanoff
“Speaking English”, Stephanie Burgis
“Green, Green Grass of Homeworld”, Donna Maree Hanson
“I Belong to this Red Land”, Edwina Harvey
“All Tales Must End”, Michelle Muenzler
“Namug”, Gustavo Bondoni
“Song of the Blackbird”, Sarah Totton
“A Friendly Gesture”, Chet Gottfried
“Initiation”, Sonia Helbig
“Slow Cookin’”, Angela Rega
“The Ballad of P’toresk”, Simon Petrie
“The Hollow Ones”, Kylie Seluka
“Trassi Udang”, Patty Jansen
“Deeper than Flesh and Closer”, Carol Ryles