Blueshift Drive in Transmissions From Punktown

Dark Regions Press has released a new anthology of stories set in the neon-lit avenues of Jeffrey Thomas’ wildly imaginative futuristic megalopolis Punktown, where a dizzying array of extraterrestrial and extra-dimensional species co-mingle and sometimes collide.

Edited by the ever-lovin’ Brian Sammons, this whopping, worthy TOC is as diverse as a street corner in downtown Paxton.

“Dreaming the City” – Jeffrey Thomas
“The Cyclops: Part One” – Jeffrey Thomas
“The Dilky Never Landed” – Paul Tremblay
“Bedbug Radio” – Ian Rogers
“Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring, Ring” – Nick Mamatas
“Growth Spurt” – Richard Lee Byers
“Novah On The Run (Her Blue Monday)” – Glynn Owen Barrass
“Ritual of Adoration” – W.H. Pugmire
“The Over and Under” – D.A. Madigan
“Lacunae and Nocturnes” – William Meikle
“Riding the Rainbow” – Don Webb
“Not For Human Consumption” – Peter Rawlik
“Sunup Over Misery Street” – Konstantine Paradias
“Aftermath of an Industrial Accident” – Mike Allen
“Less, Then Zero” – Jeff C. Carter
“Baphomet Descendent” – Scott R. Jones
“Crow-picked” – Christine Morgan
“The Monochromatic Betrayal of Frank Xerox” – Neil Baker
“Ksenija’s Pirate Prince” – Lee Clark Zumpe
“The Cherry” – Tom Lynch
“Payment for a Scar” – Joseph S. Pulver, Sr.
“The Extremities of Godfrey Aquinas” – Michael Griffin
“The Cyclops: Part Two” – Jeffrey Thomas

I’m pleased to announce I managed to land a story in these pages too. It’s called Blueshift Drive, and relates the story of a pair of clones’ enacting revenge on an old enemy via a dangerous cross-city helicar race, the Peace Cross. I had a great time writing this one. You’ll note maybe, in this excerpt, the brand of the main character’s ride, a nod to one of my favorite ‘race’ movies, Ben-Hur.

The streets of Punktown were a blast to poke around in, and I have to here thank Brian and Jeffrey for letting me in the city limits.

Anyway, check out the excerpt after taking a gander at Aeron Alfrey’s cover, rendered in glorious shran.

Image result for transmissions from punktown
Gotheo Repass brought the bright orange Boyd-Heston LIX through the heavy plume of industrial smoke that billowed from the Sensamill Textile stacks and eased the helicar into a slow 360 degree descent, letting the gaggle of onlookers, but especially the drivers of the seven helicars parked in the wide street below get a good, lingering look at his flashing silver quad rotors and chromed-out repulsor emitters as they fired alternately, responding to the micro-corrections of his deft hand.

More than half the streetlamps in Warehouse Way were on the blink, so this strip of street was an oasis of light in the dangerous dark otherwise illuminated intermittently by flickering lights and trashcan fires. Nobody parked a helicar in this neighborhood, at least, not for long.

Gotheo fired the ground repulsors to scatter the upturned faces below, red-lit by his landing lights, and set neatly down in place between a trim Delaney Rapidité with a mirror-sheen finish as upscale as its shapely blonde, silver-clad driver, and a sunflower yellow Miniosis Motors Hyper Coupe Deportes with purple Forma Street Shifters decals.

He revved the big engine a few times, letting those inclined to listen hear the thrum of the gut-quaking quad drivers, watching his lucky plastic Raloom bobblehead tremble in ecstasy on the dashboard. He peered through his one-way windscreen at the gathering Punktowners drawing near. They were a mix of shabby Tin Town muties in their Saturday night best, bleary-eyed Warehouse Way cast-offs, inscrutable offworlders, and earthers in pastel active wear with elaborate hair; the typical weekend backstreet race crowd. He saw a flock of gently whirring, floating iBall cameras too; that was how the big money kept an eye on their wagers.

He picked out a face he knew; Archez Bolan, a black skinned, seven foot tall slab of Keezee muscle, the personal driver and bodyguard of Wagney Cogswendt, CEO of Allavanchetti Consumer Products, makers of the most popular brand of anti-ad spray on the market. Archez had the hood of his black Gibsller 79 propped open, showing off the massive blower to the heli-heads crowding around. He let it drop and stared at the newcomer with his beady doll eyes, the ends of his wide, shark toothed jaws turned down in disapproval.

The platinum blonde earther in the expensive, form-fitting silver drivers’ jumpsuit unzipped to reveal a V of skin down to her waist, leaned over to peer into his passenger window. Though he was pretty sure she couldn’t see in, you never could tell with the advances in artificial eye tech. She had narrow, slanting eyes. Gotheo appreciated the generous view of her plunging cleavage the attitude of her body afforded, right down to the pink jeweled stud in her flat belly. She had a wide face, high cheekbones, and wild, excessively curly hair, like soap bubbles.

“Somethin’ about that girl,” Tertius muttered in his ear via their link.

“I hear ya,” Gotheo murmured.

Archez had sauntered over to the driver’s side of the car. He rapped the back of his tremendous knuckles on the glass.

Gotheo undid his harness.

Archez took a step back as the gull-wing door lifted. Gotheo stepped out beneath the buzzing streetlights, the heli-heads shuffling closer to get a look at him, as if he were a celebrity at a VT gala emerging from a stretch hoverlimo.

As intimidating as that oblong maw of sharp teeth was, Archez could barely part his black lips. There was a chrome plated ornamented translator dangling from a thick gold chain between his bulging pectorals, and the type of rock bottom voice you’d expect to come out of a giant like this came earthshakingly loud through the silver mesh of the speaker, making Gotheo wince. The chip that detected inflection in the translator had correctly deduced the Keezee’s intent to intimidate and raised the volume accordingly.

“This spot’s reserved, hotshot. You best take your daddy’s car back to Beaumonde Square before somebody shoots their name in the side of it.”

“I heard there was a race about to kick off,” Gotheo said with a smirk, keeping his chin to his chest, the hood of his jacket up.

“If there was,” Archez said, tensing his massive shoulders, “you best believe it ain’t open to no live-large, trust fund booshi out cruisin’ for Lobu poon.”

“Oh so what, it’s invitation only?” Gotheo said, taking off his hood.

The Keezee turned his head sideways twice, to get a good look at him with both eyes, the silver beads in his long hair clacking and catching the light.

“Smiley?”

Gotheo let his wide, ear to ear Choom grin split his own face.

“In the flesh.”

A good facsimile of boisterous laughter crackled out of the translator substantially lower in volume. Gotheo found himself hoisted up in the Keezee’s arms in an embrace that made his eyes water.

Behind Archez, the segmented spiral door of the yellow Deportes clacked open and the squat, beetle-like driver slithered out, six jointed appendages lifting it from the car, the alien head cocking and clicking its mandibles in Coleopterid surprise.

All Bedbugs looked alike to most people, but Gotheo knew by the red plastic grips of the two .340 Decimators strapped under his topmost arms that this had to be Chitterdet Chikktarn, a lieutenant of the Forma Street Shifters gang, whose car was paid for with munit he earned slinging Purple Vortex to the Bliss who frequented the races.

“Hey CC,” Gotheo grunted over Archez’s shoulder. “What’s the word?”

“Resurrection, Smiley,” rasped the Bedbug. “Ain’t seen your big ugly grin on the streets in cycles.”

“Yeah, what’s up with that, Choom?” Archez said, letting Gotheo breathe. “Last time I saw you was in that run with Devilsperm….blast, two years ago. I heard you got outta traction but you was brushin’ up on pinecones.”

‘Brushing up on pinecones’ was street talk. Nobody on Oasis knew what a pinecone was, but inmates of the Paxton Maximum Security Prison soon learned because the building’s architecture was adorned with carvings of them for some reason. In the years you spent staring at the strange things, you invariably asked somebody what they were.

“I did my time,” Gotheo said, shrugging, his hands in his pockets, “got out. I been drivin’ a hoverhack the past year.”

“Where’d you get the munits for this chariot?” CC asked, coming over to run four clicking appendages appreciatively down the aerodynamic orange hood of the Boyd-Heston.

“Lots of overtime,” Gotheo said, drawing his wide mouth closed in a tight, broad smile.

“Blast,” CC chittered. “Looks like I’m in the wrong line of work.”

“You must be the mystery man,” said a clear-as-ice water woman’s voice.

The blonde in silver had one rounded hip against his rear quarter panel, and was sizing him up.

She came closer, hips rolling, eyes never leaving him. She was the kind of woman he’d consider having his jaws reduced for. Sometimes earther girls were put off by Chooms. This one didn’t seem to be. Her skin was clean and unmarked, perfect, like it’d never known a blemish or a scar. She had one of those tiny bow mouths he found so exotic in earthers.

“I heard we had a late entry.”

She stopped a couple inches from him and folded her slender arms. Gotheo couldn’t tell one flower from the next but he suspected her scent would’ve impressed a connoisseur . The smell of her made him think of clean, soft bedsheets and pricey liquor.

“Won’t you introduce us, Archez?” There was a twinge to her accent he couldn’t place, never having been anywhere.

Her eyes were violet. He wondered again if they were real.

“Smiley Repass, Ms. Amiya Tadakamensch.”

Miz? That was a weird bit of decorum for Archez. Gotheo noticed he’d stiffened at her approach too, like his boss had come around.

“Oh, the one that put his helicar through the dome of the Canberra Mall a couple years ago. Do me a favor and stay away from me up there.”

Anybody else had said that to him, they would’ve been in the middle of the street. The way she said it though, he didn’t mind so much.  The jewel in her belly twinkled, a pink star.

“You won’t have to worry about that, baby,” Gotheo said. “You won’t see anything of me except my taillights.”

She smiled at that. It was the kind of clean smile they put on holo ads.

She turned in place, giving him the same view he’d given the crowd of his car. She sashayed back to her car.

“Maybe that’s the best side to see,” she called.

Pick up Transmissions From Punktown here –

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It Came To Modesto Now Appearing In Atomic Age Cthulhu!

Hey hep cats, now on sale from Chaosium is Atomic Age Cthulhu, Lovecraftian madness in the 1950’s from editors Brian Sammons and Glynn Owen Barass.

Check out the table of contents –

“Bad Reception” by Jeffrey Thomas
“Fallout” by Sam Stone
“Little Curly” by Neil Baker
“The Terror That Came to Dounreay” by William Meikle
“The Romero Transference” by Josh Reynolds
“Within the Image of the Divine” by Bear Weiter
“Names on the Black List” by Robert Price
“Yellow is the Color of the Future” by Jason Andrew
“Eldritch Lunch” by Adam Bolivar
“Professor Patriot and the Doom that Came to Niceville” by Christine Morgan
“Fears Realized” by Tom Lynch
“Unamerican” by Cody Goodfellow
“The Preserved Ones” by Christopher M. Geeson
“Rose-Colored Glasses” by Michael Szymanski
“Day the Music Died” by Charles Christian
“Putnam’s Monster” by Scott T. Goudsward
“Operation Switch” by Peter Rawlik
“The End of the Golden Age” by Brian M. Sammons & Glynn Owen Barrass

My story, It Came To Modesto, sprang directly from my love of 50’s monster movies, particularly the American International Pictures I Was A Teenage Werewolf, I Was A Teenage Frankenstein, and How To Make A Monster. The original title of this story was I Was A Teenage….well, I won’t spoil it with the name. There’s definitely a bit of The Blob in there too.

Rambler-Rebel-1957-adgoldenhawkAnyway, it involves a seventeen year old kid, Georgie Colato, trying hard to fit into his new peer group in Modesto, California and running into a lot of resistance due to his mixed Italian and Mexican heritage. Georgie works most afternoons at his dad’s garage, and when a customer skips town and leaves his ’57 Rambler Rebel behind, Georgie takes it out nights, dreaming of racing it professionally. When Georgie butts heads with Jimmy Lucas, the captain of the high school football team over the attentions of a girl, Debbie, Georgie decides to pit the Rebel against Jimmy’s cherry red Studebaker Golden Hawk, with Debbie as the prize.  Yet during the race down the rural interstate on the outskirts, Jimmy pulls a fast one and Georgie wrecks, losing his arm in the crash.

Yet when he awakes in the basement of a strange house, the arm is restored….and he is not alone.

modestoOther inspirations behind It Came To Modesto are obviously Rebel Without A Cause, and my own father’s brief career as a drag racer in the late fifties/early sixties. He used to tell me stories about his car, a souped up Ford called the Grey Ghost. He street raced it until it was totaled in an intersection collision. I think I picked Modesto as the story’s setting after reading a bit about filmmaker George Lucas’ life changing crash in the 60’s, the one that steered him permanently from the career path of race car driving.

Here’s an excerpt —

Georgie couldn’t help staring at the girl’s swaying backside as she crossed the room to the wheeled cart sitting in a puddle of water next to the freezer.

She pushed it back to the table. When she stopped beside Golovkin, she reached into the tray and lifted a plastic bag about the size of a pillow. Sloshing inside it was a shifting mass of what looked like something shoveled off the floor of a slaughterhouse. It was pinkish and gray, and changed whenever Georgie tried to focus on it, all nipples and knuckle bones and a sudden bloom like an ear or a black animal eye popping open, rolling in between a pair of lids and then disappearing.

The whole mixture was swimming in some bloody liquid, like the drippings of defrosted chicken, and seemed to be constantly moving, though the girl wasn’t shaking the bag. Maybe it was the gas again, playing tricks on his eyes.

He laid his head back and closed his eyes to stop the spinning world.

Golovkin’s voice droned into his Dictaphone.

“The Freygan method was an unwieldy undertaking, and made no considerations for the psychological effect of symbiosis. The end result was oft-times uncontrollable, savage. Working from the recovered Greenwood notes, I have streamlined the treatment considerably, substituting the use of parabolic reflectors with an infusion of vita-rays and a catalytic compound developed by the Mi-go. Combined with the regular introduction of Liao-gas to encourage psychic adaptation, the first stage of the process is for the most part, quite painless.”

Georgie looked from the old man to the girl. She was leaning over, upending the bag. The weird stuff was sliding slowly from it, plopping wetly, like a quaking afterbirth into the tray. With it came an awful, fishy stink.

Somehow his bandages had been unwrapped. It was shocking to see the point where his left arm simply ended in a ragged stump. He couldn’t see the wound well, but the lack of his left arm was enough to make him whimper.

The girl slapped the gas mask over his face. He breathed deep reflexively.

His eyes went to the girl, lingered tantalizingly on her form. She was older than him. Maybe a college girl. He could see the white mounds of cleavage through her open jacket, straining against the black top she wore beneath. Her lips were so red.

When the mask came away, his head slumped to the table, no will in him to lift it.

His eyes went to the silver tray.

Something dragged itself ponderously over the lip. It bubbled and boiled. The bubbles sprouted a dozen tiny human eyes that rolled and blinked. It flopped down onto the table and oozed towards his stump.

He wanted to scream but he couldn’t summon any effort.

He felt a sharp tug at his shoulder then. A vertical fissure had opened in the mound of fleshy ooze, wide enough to fit around his stump. The edges of the opening changed multiple times. At one point it sprouted shaggy hairs, and mimicked a pair of giant lips, and then it rippled and diminished.

He felt nauseous. Then something was in his mind. Not the voice of Golovkin, not his own confused thoughts.

Something new.

teenageror

———-

Atomic Age Cthulhu is on sale now!

http://www.amazon.com/Atomic-Age-Cthulhu-Mythos-Chaosium-Fiction/dp/1568823983/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1427731255&sr=8-3&keywords=atomic+age+cthulhu

De Horrore Cosmico At Kickstarter

6c586547735714014eda8f29c8cfc9f8_largeGolden Goblin Press is into the final seventeen days of their kickstarter for He Horrore Cosmico, six scenarios the the Cthulhu Invictus game. In their own words:

Long before ivy grew on the walls of Miskatonic University or the Deep Ones first came to Innsmouth, centuries before the mad Arab penned the dreaded Necronomicon, the malevolent powers of the Cthulhu Mythos plagued mankind. During the Age of the Antonines (96 AD–192 AD), when the Roman Empire was at the peak of its power, dark and unknowable forces were at work.  Ancient wizards sought ways to cheat death, explorers stumbled on the remnants of alien civilizations, foul cults practiced unholy rites, and inhuman creatures sought to mix their blood with ours.

Across Rome’s vast empire, a few brave men and women rose up to meet these threats for the greater good of mankind. They carried light into the darkness, dispelling a poisonous taint which grows best in the shadows. With steel and spell and burning torch, these heroic investigators of the ancient world defended their civilization from the fearsome powers of the Cthulhu Mythos. Golden Goblin Press is proud to offer up six of their adventures.

58634b4826cb1310d0efd57fb05efddc_largeOnce GG Press hits the $23,000 stretch goal, they’ll be putting out a companion fiction anthology edited by Brian Sammons and featuring nine stories of Lovecraftian horror set in Roman times to fire the imagination of players and GMs.  The lineup for that book consists of –

Vulcan’s Forge, by William Meikle
To the Fertility of the Empress, by Christine Morgan
A Plague of Wounds, by Konstantine Paradias
Time Devours All, by Pete Rawlik
The Unrepeatables, by Edward M. Erdelac
Signs of the Black Stars, by Penelope Love
Lines in the Sand, by Tom Lynch
The Temple of Iald-T’quthoth, by Lee Clark Zumpe
The Seven Thunders, by Robert M. Price

My tale, The Unrepeatables, is about Damis of Nineveh, the lifelong friend and companion of the renowned mystic and miracle worker Apollonious of Tyana, and an ex-legionnaire insinuating themselves into the estate of a famous charioteer to investigate rumors that he is profaning the secret and sacred Eleusinian Mysteries.

More about the story as the book is funded – which means, hey, if you like Roman history and Cthulhu, go kick Golden Goblin Press a buck or two. They’ve got some really killer swag for backers, including Lovecraftian lare (household god figurines – which feature prominently in The Unrepeatables), custom Roman coins, and more.

Full Battle Rattle: World War Cthulhu At Indiegogo

I’m involved in a new book coming from Dark Regions Press called World War Cthulhu, exploring what happens when the armed forces of various cultures and in different times comes face to face with the cosmic monstrosities of the Lovecraftian Mythos. The book is currently live at Indiegogo looking for funds, and offering some cool perks.

This fantastic promotional art from M. Wayne Miller (who also did the cover to my own Van Helsing in Texas novel Terovolas) should give you a good idea of what the book entails….

Dark Regions 6x9 SCALE TEMPLATE

The book features stories from John Shirley, T.E. Grau, Stephen Mark Rainey, Willum Hopfrog Pugmire, Robert M. Price, Neil Baker, David Conyers, David Kernot, William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Konstantine Paradias, Cody Goodfellow, C. J. Henderson, Edward Morris, Brian Sammons, Glynn Owen Barrass, Peter Rawlik, Darryl Schweitzer, Tim Curran, and Jeffrey Thomas, with three authors waiting to be unlocked.

At $13,000, ten interior illustrations will be completed for the book by Miller, something I’d really really like to see happen. Take a look at another piece he’s done already….

Dark Regions 6x9 SCALE TEMPLATE

Pretty cool, right?

My own contribution to the book is a Vietnam-era story, The Boonieman, about a squad of green berets from a remote forward firebase near the Cambodian border in the waning days of the conflict who arrive too late to save a Montagnard village from a battalion of NVA regulars, and instead bear witness to an adopted Tcho Tcho’s terrible vengeance.

apocalypse-now-08-gI think this story’s probably been brewing in my head since my first look at native Vietnamese guerilla fighters in Kurtz’s temple compound in Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and was reinforced by brief glimpses of the Montagnards in the TV show Tour of Duty. The grand finale was definitely inspired by the attack on the Marine firebase Khe Sanh, and that nigh apocalyptic battle at the end of Oliver Stone’s Platoon.

Here’s an excerpt….

“Beo!” he called.

The ‘yard paused at the entrance to the village.

Jatczak caught up with him. He took out his .45, chambered a round, and gave it to Beo.

“Easy, dude,” he said.

Easy. What the hell did Beo have to be easy about? It looked like the NVA had marched through with flamethrowers, like the VC had done at Dak Son in ’67. Every hootch was burned.  Black bodies lay contorted everywhere in the dirt, the cooked flesh dripping off their charred bones.  The smell was of barbequed meat. He remembered the first time he’d come to this village. Beo had killed a pig and cooked up some chocon for them.

His belly rumbled.

Christ. He needed a smoke. He reached in his pocket and found the stone Dyer had given him. He ran his thumb over it. There was a design on there, invisible because of the dark color. A circle with a warped star in the center, and an intricate little burning eye or branching column or something in the middle. Weird shit. He put it back in his pocket and got out his Lucky Strikes.

The storehouse was still blazing. It looked like they hadn’t even taken the goddamned rice. Even the yang pri, the sacred stand of five precious sua trees in the center of the village, was burned.

He thought about Dyer’s orders to radio him about the condition of the village ASAP. The ship radio was fucked, but there was an RT secured in the back.

He lit his cigarette.

They trudged through the ruins, kicking up ash. They passed the tombs, the little totem-surrounded huts packed with offerings and the belongings of the deceased. These abodes of the spirits were untouched, and he could imagine the dinks rubbing that stinking tiger balm on the backs of their necks and refusing to desecrate them, while not hesitating to immolate anything with a pulse.  They had burned children alive with no concerns about angering any ghosts or demons.

Report anything out of the ordinary, Dyer had said. Nothing out of the ordinary here, Major. Just the ‘Nam. Bravo Sierra. 

Jatczak followed Beo to the ruins of his hut. The walls and ceiling had fallen in and were nothing more than a heap of firewood now.

“You too late,” came a guttural voice.

Three men stepped out from among the tombs like ashen ghosts. They were ‘yards, and Jatczak knew the one who had spoken, a squat man in a red headwrap and loincloth, with a black VC shirt and a necklace of weird silver spirals. His name was Rin, and he was the village be gio, or sorcerer.  A tough bastard, more than a little dinky dau.  He’d once seen Rin cut a VC’s heart out and slip it still beating into a bag for God only knew what purpose. The Gia Rai grew their hair long, because cutting the hair damaged a man’s soul.  Rin kept his head shaved. Beo had told Jatczak once Rin’s grandmother had been a Tcho Tcho, but he didn’t know what that meant, and Dyer had said only that the Tcho Tchos were Cambodians and ‘bad news.’

The two men on either side, he knew only by their nicknames, Lyle and Tector. They’d once screened the movie The Wild Bunch at the base and these two had eaten it up, hollering and hooting in the back row to beat the band, declaring they wanted to meet their deaths the same way as Warren Oates and Ben Johnson. Lyle smoked a long stemmed pipe, probably packed with koon sa from the skunky smell and the red haze in his eyes. Tector had a spread of suppurating sores creeping up the side of his face, maybe leprosy.  All three were armed. Tector had an AK-47, Lyle a homemade crossbow, and Rin a sharp, curved, Cambodian dha.

Beo sank to his knees and clawed the black dust. He sobbed.

“How’d you escape?” Jatczak asked the others, slinging his rifle.

They came closer.

“They catch me, march me through bush, but I get loose, tre bien,” said Rin. “These two, out fishing when gooks come.”

“We’ve got a chopper,” Jatczak said. “It’s damaged, but maybe we can get you back to William.”

Rin chuckled, showing his black and yellow Indian corn teeth.

“No…we stay, lieutenant.”

Yeah, William was probably the last place anybody would want to be in another half hour.

“What’ll you do?”

Mut bong pao,” said Rin.

A sacrifice. They’d adopt a water buffalo into the tribe and then kill it. Everybody present would eat some of it. The Gia Rai were big on sacrifice to the caan, the evil spirit of the mountain on which they lived. The caans slept in the rivers and the rocks and had to be appeased regularly, particularly in times of misfortune. Beo had told him once that every family killed its first born child for the caan, to ransom the spirit of the next. He’d taken it as koon sa talk as they’d been sharing a pipe of the local home growin’ at the time.

“I don’t see any animals,” said Jatczak….

*****

The book is, as of this writing, $3600 into the $10,000 goal, with 45 days left. Kick it a buck. It’s a worthy product, and again, I’d really like to see Wayne’s take on some of the stories within.

Here’s the link –

http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/world-war-cthulhu-a-collection-of-lovecraftian-war-stories-with-illustrations

wwccover

Devil’s Cap Brawl Now Appearing In Kaiju Rising

Ragnarok Publications had released the Kindle version of their giant monster themed anthology Kaiju Rising, which features stories from Peter Clines, Larry Correia, James Lovegrove, Gini Koch (as J.C. Koch), James Maxey,
Jonathan Wood, C.L. Werner, Joshua Reynolds, David Annandale, Jaym Gates, Peter Rawlik, Shane Berryhill, Natania Barron, Paul Genesse, Mike MacLean, Timothy W. Long, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Kane Gilmour, Peter Stenson,
Erin Hoffman, Howard Andrew Jones, James Swallow, and yours truly, with killer interior art by Chuck Lukacs and Robert Elrod.

March will see the release of the print edition as well.

My own story, Devil’s Cap Brawl, is set in the High Sierras of the 1860’s, during the Central Pacific Railroad’s race east through the mountains. Chinese and Shoshone laborers are ordered to blast their way through a certain peak called Devil’s Cap, a promontory that houses a menace that has slept for millennium.

25032012060854pmLongtime readers will know I have a standing love for the TV series Kung Fu with David Carradine. It’s a mesmerizing piece of television centering on the journey of a Shaolin priest through the American West. I’m also a giant monster fanatic, not just of the classic 50’s B-movies America put out, but also the subsequent kaiju films of Toho and Daiei. I love the weird designs of Japanese monsters like Gigan, Megalon, and Hedorah, and my design of the giant ogre antagonist in this story, Dzoavits (the name taken from an old Native American legend) reflects that. I also have a soft spot for heroes like Ultraman and Spectreman (I missed the Power Rangers – too old) who grow to immense size and duke it out with these big rubbery monstrosities.

spectremanMarrying these diverse elements in a story appealed to me, and when I pitched the idea to Tim Marquitz and Joe Martin,they went for it, particularly as they wanted to feature a Chinese martial artist monk in their ongoing weird western series Dead West. So, the unnamed priest in this story may appear again in the future.

Go pick up the book. It’s fantastic.

Here’s an excerpt from my story, Devil’s Cap Brawl –

Dzoavits.

It erupted from the stone, doing to Devil’s Cap in seven seconds what it would have taken another eleven months for them to do with hand drills and blasting powder.

It was immense. At least a hundred and fifty feet tall. Another arm punched through the side of the rock and it extricated itself from the encasing rock like a fat man wriggling out of a barrel. It was moundish, with a huge hairy hump between its muscled shoulders, covered with spiky, quartz-like protuberances of a muddy hue that poked through its dirty grey-black hair. In the center of its chest was a hint of a head, framed by long, scraggly hair. There was an overlarge disapproving mouth that stretched almost from shoulder to shoulder, and was hung with fleshy lips and shot through with a row of yellow, serrated shark teeth. Above that maw, two bulging red eyes glowed. The thing opened its mouth, took its first cold breath of fresh air in God only knew how long, and let out a terrifying, protracted howl that washed over them in a wave that drove them all physically back in horror.
Rocks cascading off its body, it pulled itself free of its prison, revealing a pair of strange, spindly, kangaroo-like legs that ended in long grasping black talons. It seemed to rest on its massive arms, and use them for locomotion, like a great gorilla, or a man with withered legs.

The horrible thing perched atop the ruins of Devil’s Cap and surveyed the countryside, a newly emerged monarch. It sucked the air with its ponderous lungs and regarded the milling men below.

Joe tried to run, and tripped over Chow Lan, who had fallen sprawling in the snow and was groping for his spectacles. The Chinese and Indians were in full route, except for the priest, who knelt beside Tolliver, yelling in Chinese at the men who passed, apparently urging them to take him with.

Joe heard gunshots, and looked over. Several of the Indians and white men in the camp had seen the thing and had emerged from the snow tunnel. They were firing at it with shotguns and muskets. Joe almost laughed as he scrabbled to his feet.

But before he could run, the priest grabbed a hold of his sleeve.

“You must take Boss Tom with you,” said the priest.

“Let go of me, you bloody monkey!” Joe shrieked and swung at him.

It was an old prizefighter’s instinctual blow, the kind that would have knocked an untrained man unconscious had it landed. But the priest did something peculiar with his free hand, and Joe’s punch seemed to slide uselessly down his branded arm. Then the smaller man’s two fingers pinched Joe’s wrist and twisted. The pain was so intense Joe gasped and fell to his knees, all thought of struggle gone.

He found himself face to face with Tolliver, laying nearby. The man was a black and bloody mess. He must have been caught in the explosion Joe had heard earlier, the one that had awakened this thing. He had known Tolliver back when Irish muscle had done the backbreaking work, not Chinese. They had come up together. He felt ashamed at having tried to abandon him.

But they were all dead men anyhow, in the face of this thing from the pit of hell.

“Chow Lan!” the priest yelled. “Help him!”

“Where can we go?” Chow Lan yelled, having fitted his glasses back on his nose. One lens looked like a spiderweb.
The priest looked about for a moment, then pointed to the shallow western tunnel in the base of Devil’s Cap which the terrified coolies had abandoned.

He pointed.

Joe looked up as a massive shadow fell across the entire area. The air grew chill. The sky was dark.
Then were was a tremendous impact that knocked Chow Lan to the ground and sent the snow and the loose stones hovering for a surreal moment before everything crashed back down.
The thing had leapt from the summit and landed behind them.

Joe watched as it scooped up a fistful of the fleeing workmen. He saw dozens of men flailing between its huge ruddy fingers, and heard their screams as it stuffed them hungrily into its mouth.

“Let me go!” Joe yelled.

“You will help Boss Tom?”
Joe nodded, exhaling as the pressure on his wrist disappeared.

“Go then!” the priest ordered, and to Joe’s surprise, he began to strip away his shirt and pants.

“Come on, Chow Lan,” Joe urged, taking Tolliver under the armpits.

“Where he go?” Chow Lan wondered, taking Tolliver’s feet and watching mystified as the priest discarded his pants.

“Never mind him! He’s barmy! Let’s go!”

They bore Tolliver back to the shallow depression and huddled among the rubble and abandoned equipment.

The priest was bare ass naked. He sat down on the spot and closed his eyes. He was muttering something, and his fingers were interlacing in weird passes.

Tolliver groaned.

Joe reached into his coat and pulled out his bottle.

“Here Tom, here now,” he said, pulling out the cork and tipping it to Tolliver’s bruised lips. “Mother Mary’s milk, it is. You drink. I’m sorry, Tom.”

Beside him, Chow Lan gave a cry of surprise and fell to his knees, throwing his forehead to the ground.

Joe looked over and nearly dumped the rest of the firewater up Tolliver’s right nostril.

The priest was getting to his feet.

But he had changed….

Pick up the Kindle edition of Kaiju Rising here,and watch out for the print version next month all over.

http://www.amazon.com/Kaiju-Rising-Monsters-James-Swallow-ebook/dp/B00ICCX5QY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1393403741&sr=8-1&keywords=kaiju+rising

Kaiju Rising!

I’m involved in a brand new project from Ragnarok Publishing, an anthology of 19 giant monster stories called Kaiju Rising. Participating authors include Larry Correia, Peter Clines, Peter Rawlik, James Lovegrove, Erin Hoffman, James Maxey, David Annandale, Clint Lee Werner, Jonathan Wood, J.C. Koch, Paul Genesse, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Samuel Sattin, Jaym Gates, Timothy W. Long, Mike MacLean, Natania Barron, and Joshua Reynolds.

photo-mainCheck out the kickstarter –
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1089607742/kaiju-rising-age-of-monsters-anthology/posts

As of this writing we’re a featured kickstarter, about 70% funded and have twenty five days to go. Not bad.

http://sf-fantasy.suvudu.com/2013/09/featured-kickstarter-kaiju-rising.html

My own story, DEVIL’S CAP BRAWL, is a weird western/daikaiju/kyodai hero mashup, drawing on inspiration from wuxia, Godzilla flicks, and Kung Fu among other things.

When an Indian warns the Irish boss of a Central Pacific Railroad gang not to dynamite through a towering rock known as Devil’s Cap, the boss goes ahead and does it anyway, unleashing Dzoavits, a massive ogre-like creature which proceeds to smash the camp flat and endanger the entire crew. But among the hapless Chinese rail workers, a single man, a monk, doesn’t flee the beast’s shadow. He sits down and closes his eyes. And then he begins to grow….

Here’s an excerpt from DEVIL’S CAP BRAWL. Swing by the kickstarter and kick a buck. Kick two and help Ragnarok meets its stretch goals, which include some amazing interior illustrations from monster illustrator Robert Elrod, Chuck Lukacs (of Wizards of The Coast fame), and just maybe, a positively legendary fantasy artist…

Central Pacific Railroad Photographic History MuseumJoe cussed and trudged up the incline. He heard a crash behind him and all of a sudden the Chinese priest was climbing alongside him.

Halfway up the top, the ground shook hard and rumbled. A pile of loose rocks tumbled free and one struck Joe bloody in the head. The priest grabbed his shirt and kept him from falling. For nearly a full minute they hugged the rock, watching the trees sway and shed snow down on them. It was like gripping a bull trying to shake them loose.

“Earthquake!” he managed to yell.

Below, the coolies working the west tunnel ran into the open shouting, dirt and rubble sliding from their shoulders.
Bushy bearded Jesus, he had never felt one this bad. It seemed like it would never end. He glanced up and saw the wood enclosure trembling atop the summit. His heart sank when he heard a crack and saw part of the roof shift. The Paiutes spilled out and fell to their bellies just as the roof collapsed inward, the whole structure crashing flat over the engine and the tender. Debris slid down the embankment, carrying a couple screaming Paiutes with it.
Joe put his head down and quietly willed the engine not to fall from the mountain. Christ’s bloody breechclout, they would be here another year if they lost it. What would he tell Crocker? He had talked big to the priest about being footloose and fancy free. Damn if it didn’t look like he really would be. Sure, he’d get the blame, even for an earthquake. And Crocker would put some other mick in his place. It’d be back to Fisherman’s Wharf for him, bareknuckle fighting, spittin’ teeth and pissin’ blood and whiskey till a good job came his way again, if it ever did.

He looked over at the priest but he was gone. Fallen or carried off by a boulder or bit of rubble, no doubt. But no, Joe saw him above then, springing nimble as a goat from rock to rock, even in the midst of the shaking, making his way up to the summit.

Joe held on for dear life, and watched as the priest reached Tolliver where the Paiute had laid him when the shaking had started. He lifted the bloody man up in his arms and hurled himself over the edge like a madman. But instead of tumbling to his death, he skipped lightly till he reached the bottom of the hill, and then knelt there over Tolliver, shielding him from falling rocks with his own body.

No priest Joe had ever seen was like that.

The shaking stopped, and he looked up at the pile of wood and snow that had once covered the engine, and saw Old Judah’s smokestack poking through.

“Well thank Missus Lot’s salt tits for that!” he exclaimed.
Just then something burst from the side of the rock to his immediate left. It looked like a huge, mossy mass of tendril roots.

Joe was so surprised he relaxed his grip on the stone and fell backwards.

Well, that’s the end of me, he thought, as he plummeted into the open air. He supposed he would land on that rock he had been standing on before, and be broken in two. If he was lucky, he might squash a Chinaman and be saved.
But neither happened.

Instead, he felt a dull impact on his upper back and behind his knees, and found himself sagging in the surprisingly hard, strong arms of the priest like a suckling baby.

He looked at the priest in surprise, and noticed the inside of his forearms were tattooed….no, not tattooed. There were designs branded on his skin, puffy scars in the shape of a fanciful Oriental dragon on his right arm, and a tiger on his left.

He put down his feet.

“Ta, boyo,” Joe muttered.

But the priest wasn’t looking at him. No one was. The coolies and the Indians were uniformly staring wide eyed up at the top of Devil’s Cap.

The mass of tangled roots that had surprised Joe were moving, waggling like great knotty, long nailed fingers.
Because that’s what they were.

He didn’t want to believe it, but when the splayed things shot further out causing the rock to crack and crumble, they were on the end of an immensely long, muscular arm, shaggy with string grey hair stained brown by the dirt.

mountaineruptThe top of Devil’s Cap moved. It rose and fell once, like something beneath were testing the weight, then it swelled again, enough to tip Old Judah and its tender off the slope at last. The noise of all that iron and steel rolling down was a terrible cacophony, and a few men were caught up in it and smashed flat.

Something burst through the snowy cap….