36 Hours – Part 6

When I was a child, I often stood in my mother’s garden, where she grew red poppies behind the house. My mother would pretend not to see me there and call out to me, over and over. Standing there, I felt invisible. In that garden of red and green nothing could hurt me. Nothing could take me away. Even my mother was not immune to it.

I stare now at the dull red petals of a poppy plant. Even in the darkness I make out the color when star shells explode. They are the color of blood and cover this wasteland from which there is no return. I lay in the land of the dead where the living should not go. We were not men when we crossed into it. We were beasts, driven mad by fear and blood rage. Now humanity returns and we are no longer welcome here. Continue reading

36 Hours – Part 5

He is aiming a rifle at us. I don’t know where my rifle came from, but perhaps in the confusion I’d picked it up. I fire once, almost blindly. A hole appears in the man’s chest and he falls face first, landing with a sickening crunch in the mud below. I stare at him, his hands splayed before me as if prostrate, his backside high in the air, his neck bent in an impossible angle and the blood that runs like a river into the muddy water.

Kat touches my arm but the attack is on us. More Johnnies crest the trench, firing and throwing hand bombs. The crack of rifle fire cuts down several of them right in front of us before they can fire, while others leap into the trench to escape. Kat is on them quickly, working with his knife. Continue reading

36 Hours – Part 4

The man next to Shiod dies. He is hit by a shell that explodes not a meter from us. In an instant we are covered in dirt. It comes over us like an ocean’s wave. My ears and mouth are especially vulnerable and are filled. Kat digs me out and I, gasping and spitting, help Shiod. Vanmere is spared from the whole of it by a stroke of luck.

The dead man lay where he’d previously stood, but only his lower torso and legs remain. The rest is gone, blown away in a blast that leaves the rest of us shaken but otherwise unhurt. I stare until Kat shakes me back to myself.

“Goliath!” Continue reading

36 Hours – Part 3

We have become numb to the falling of shells. Outside of the dugout we watch flashes of ordinance like one might watch a lightning storm. The explosions that rock the room are taken in stride. Once a direct hit cracks the mortar on the walls and there is some panic, but the support beams hold. It had been a small shell.

Kat suggests a game of cards. We try a few hands but we are too intent on listening to the cries of shells outside and soon give it up. The fear of them is gone but simple survival remains. If one of the large Lees land close enough we will have to make a dive for it or be buried alive. When told this, Vanmere turns green but does not try to run again. Continue reading

36 Hours – Part 2

It comes with the earth shaking like a thing alive, followed by a darkness so absolute I am blind. I am swallowed by it, enveloped and embraced by it, a darkness that is utterly without sound or motion. I am frozen in its depths, unable to draw breath or let loose screams.

Then by flashes of light I am made deaf by explosions and see my friends as if through still images. We look at one another with white faces and thin lips pressed tight. In these moments of absolute light there is a complete absence of life. No movement, no warmth and no sound but the crashing of ordinance. The barrage is the only life we know.

It goes on for an hour. I am convinced it will go on forever. The wet mud and cold are the whole of my existence. I extend no further than the falling of the next shell. Continue reading

The Space Cantina – Upcoming Fiction: 36 Hours

Just a quick note gang, the next piece of fiction I’m doing is entitled “36 Hours.” Some of you know about the old version, but this will be a NEW version! And it’s steampunk! I’ll be posting the first part on Wednesday I think…

Also I may only post once a week since the sections will be much larger than Icarus’s were. Hope you guys like it!

/Hackett Out.

 

The Space Cantina – Dreaming in aether

My first introduction to “steampunk” is hazy. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was my first exposure to the forerunners of the genre, but it wasn’t literature that first got me into it. I’ve been attending Dragon*Con for almost a decade now and it was the culture of steampunk that influenced me. The people all dressed up in brass and steam vented tech hooked me deep and I never resisted the line. That was a horrible metaphor, I should really apologize for that but I won’t. See? Punkness.

My creative outlet for anything steampunky was roleplaying at first. I played Changeling: The Dreaming and Mage: The Ascension by White Wolf Studios. If you know anything about those old games you might understand what I mean by that. I’d invent my head off with a Son of Ether or create some awesome gear-operated armor for my Nocker. Even WoW had the Gnomes. I love me some gnomey goodness. FOR GNOMEREGON!

In 2009 I participated in NaNoWriMo and it was a fantastic experience. 50,000 words in one month was a challenge but it wasn’t nearly the impossible climb people told me it’d be. I just wrote everyday. That was it. I wrote about a victorian-esque world where mages were hunted down by religious zealots called Paladins and had to fight off these horrid creatures I called…. horrors. Okay, not my most brilliant name, but it didn’t matter. When I finished writing that, people read bits of it and told me “I love steampunk!” But… I didn’t set out to write a steampunk novel. Actually what I felt I’d created was “MagicPunk.”

That book died an early death just after NaNo. I just didn’t have the outline solid enough to keep it going. One of my two main characters got stabbed in the face right in the middle of the story, so that didn’t help either. It went into the drawer and I wrote a bunch of science fiction stories for a while. Still, my fascination with victorianesque worlds and magic continued to brew, bubble and boil. Several months ago I dug out my notebooks (I have a marble black/white notebook for every story I write) and read the notes for my novel from graduate school. This novel (my thesis) involved the conventional fantasy trope of a young group of heroes trying to fight off a great evil. I LOVE this story trope, and I will never grow tired of reading its many variations. But that story, much like the NaNo novel, died an early death as well. In reading my notes, I grew misty-eyed and nostalgic.

I also slapped it ontop of my NaNo notebook.

MagicPunk lives. It wasn’t what I ultimately did with the story, but a great deal of ideas came together when I looked at them together. I stole elements from both and even stole the seed of a novel concept I’d been keeping for a rainy day and threw that in. In stewed like … well, stew, in a crockpot, and came out smelling and tasting not at all like crap. I then set to work on massaging out overused tropes, cliches and adding conflicts, characters and seeds for the story’s future. What came out of it was something I’m tentatively calling my “Aether Dreams” cycle.

It’s steampunk, edging on dieselpunk with a heavy feel of World War I tech to it. Added to this world is Aether, a mysterious substance that is both a powerful fuel and a heretical substance. Those who chose to study and manipulate aether go mad, grow sick or kill themselves with their experiments… except for those who learned to control it, and those who did are capable of fascinating technology. Unfortunately their research was cut short by the untimely demise of their king, the overthrow of their kingdom and subsequent subjugation by a technocratic, heavily religious Empire.

I’m not going to go into much more detail about any plot elements yet but this world really got me thinking and writing. I love it and with the story I’m plotting, I hope some readers do too. Some of you know that I’m fascinated by military history and there is plenty of that influence in my story. I’m not talking about cold, detailed battles where I describe who ordered who, who shot who with which volley… no. I write about characters and about the conflicts that hit close to their hearts.

I know this wasn’t a fiction post and more about my writing ideas, but I’m glad you stuck with me so far. Next week I should be getting the first bits of 36 Hours up. Yay, more fiction!

/Hackett Out.