A short/flash story of mine got published by Daily Science Fiction. You can read Cursed Timeline here. There are also some closing thoughts at the end once the story is over; don’t miss those.
Howard knew there was no time to lose. The assailants outside weren’t going to let them a few moments to mourn, breath, or pull themselves together, but he found himself unable to muster the energy to rally the people around him, or even himself, out of their glum stupor. He tried to latch on a plan, a course of action to spur everybody, but his thoughts were constantly interrupted and diverted by the faces and names of the men and women down below.
Some of the scientists were starting to stir, or were trying to call those in the lab, to no avail; others were curled against the walls, looking nowhere in particular. Svoboda was talking to someone on the phone, in Dutch, and two junior scientists were sitting down a desolate and silent Wickerman. The cops, although still shocked by their friend’s treason, looked level-headed enough, so Howard focused on them.
Temporarily halting the assailant’s first attack brought a double-edged respite to the men and women inside the compound, one Howard knew could be their doom if they just hunkered down there. The quick reaction and bravery of that local cop had given them a few extra minutes, and he wasn’t going to squander them. He shouted to remind everybody of his previous order and herded the frightened workers and the beleaguered policemen toward the main elevator.
Howard knew they were outnumbered and most likely outgunned too. On his side, he had Oliver, the desk guard, who carried a gun he probably had never used before, and a few cops (those carried rifles, so at least he had that.) Monica, the underground lab guard, was down below and he needed her there to make sure the scientists were all right —and, for more personal reasons, out of harm’s way. On the enemy side, they were facing against a military-grade truck and a convoy of men armed with semiautomatic weapons. He was sure he had seen three pick-up trucks, but there could have been more. He assumed that, at the very least, they would have to stand against a dozen men, perhaps even twenty.
Hysterical complains and calls for extra protection coming from any other person would have been ignored, but if Jonah Wickerman asked for something, the local government obliged. WYPL, his laboratory twenty kilometers south of Paramaribo, had cost close to 30% of the small South-American nation’s GDP, and most of its 138 highly-paid scientists, contractors, and workers lived on the capital. So if the old man didn’t like how the streets were arranged, what timezone the country was in, or felt that he was being shadowed by Chinese clone secret agents, the government would nod and provide whatever he needed.
Wickerman’s occasional lording over Suriname and his own lab also meant that he had grown used to an autocratic style of leadership. He rarely consulted anything with anybody, even when the things being decided clearly fell outside the scope of his expertise.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I have some ideas for a science fiction setting. I’m still not ready to send space marines out there jumping across asteroid fields with nuclear-powered jetpacks while they blast alien ships, so I’ll start with a more down-to-Earth prequel of sorts. I don’t know what title to use so I’ll use the generic label Project Contact because it fits thematically. The “chapter” in the title is a bit misleading since this is too short to be a chapter. If I continue writing these, and if this ends up being a book, it will have hundreds.
For some time I have been playing with the idea of writing my own futuristic fantasy stories. This grew from my disappointment in how the stories from a popular sci-fi franchise are written and, in fact, how space operas in general are written. I’d like them to be a bit harder. Not necessarily in the sense of rocket science hard, which is what you may be thinking, but with other plot elements, from warfare, exploration, pacing, economy, the spatial and time span of these stories, the fact that in most you don’t even feel like the vastness of space matters, etc.
I’ll use this story as an example of the dilemma any prospective writer who aspires to a reputation among the Noble People will encounter. You can write a good story, one that will stand on its own merits, capable of being read by people from all around the world, but at the cost of (probably) being ignored, or you can add a layer of fashionable dogma that will impoverish your story, restrict its appeal, and reduce its longevity, but with the possible reward of social approval or a nomination.
Someone must have let his guard down because this story, The Martian Obelisk, by Linda Nagata, is an actual science fiction story, with bits of astronomy, space travel, technology, and all that jazz. Yes, unbelievable isn’t it? A Hugo story which is an actual science fiction story?! You could give this story to a random person whose only understanding of sci-fi is “stuff with rockets and futuristic gadgets” and he would concur with you: yes, this is, indeed, a science fiction story. Unfortunately, it overextends, misses the mark, and fails at it.
When reading Asimov’s editorials on adventure I got the impression that he probably would have wanted to write more of them, perhaps thinking the magazine was going to last longer. A certain idea or thesis seemed to be developing on those pages, one about the place of adventure in literature, its relationship with science fiction, and so on, but sadly we’ll never know if it had a conclusion.
You might think that just because the Hugo awards have only six finalists, that means I should only review those six short stories. Bah! I’m a rebel, and I bow to no Law, no matter how clearly logical and sensical it may be. If I see a “No spitting here” sign, I spit on it, and if I see a list of six nominees, I metaphorically spit on it as well and then review the seventh story that wasn’t even nominated. That’s especially apt if that story is a kind of a review of some of the other stories. How more meta can you get? And isn’t that what Hugos are all about?