Are you going to Shore Leave this year?
Head to Meet the Pros 10pm on Friday July 6 to check out Christopher L. Bennett’s Among the Wild Cybers, which will be premiering at the event.
Sorry for the delay, it’s been a busy month.
This month’s theme is Conquest.
Give us an inventive story in 1500 words or less by June 30. Email your submissions to email@example.com.
One lucky winner will receive publication on the eSpec Blog and an electronic copy of the eSpec Books/Paper Phoenix Press title of their choice.
It has been a while since I have done one of these so the span is more like a month in reviews, rather than just a week. We are very pleased to share with you the accolades some of our titles have recently received. Congrats to the authors for this recognition of their hard work.
“Intriguing magic, gender politics, and historical detail weave together in this coming-of-age fantasy debut […] Readers will especially enjoy Sonnier’s inventive worldbuilding.
– Publisher’s Weekly
“All the familiar and fun elements of the previous book are there […] Unicorn Precinct was enjoyable.”
– SF Reader
“…DeCandido has presented is a police procedural set in a standard Dungeons & Dragons world. And I’m OK with that. […] A pleasant way to spend a few hours with characters that come to life in a world you can easily lose yourself in.” –SF Reader
“A fascinating premise, one that plays teasing meta-games with the whole notion of fiction and story. […]There’s certainly something here for everyone.” –Don Sakers, Analog (The Reference Library, May/June 2018)
“These stories tackle the emotional minefields that await military personnel in the reaches of space. If you like David Drake, Joe Haldeman, or Jack Campbell, you’re bound to like this anthology.” –Don Sakers, Analog (The Reference Library, May/June 2018)
“Danielle teaches a great path for any stage of writer.” -JAnn Bowers, Goodreads
“The conversational tone is appealing and accessible. This book is worth reading as a very broad overview of the writing and publishing process.” -Darcysmom, Goodreads
“The Literary Handyman by Danielle Ackely-McPhail is filled with great advises for aspiring writers. The book is structured in small articles and very easy to read.”
– Guy Lou, Goodreads
“Much of the information included in this volume might be a bit basic for more accomplished or connected authors, but I think this could be a handy reference guide for just about anyone — sometimes it’s easy to forget the basics when you’re stuck in a rut.” – Jane, Goodreads
“All in all, an enjoyable collection of steampunk tales.” – David Lee Summers, Goodreads
Our congratulations to Christopher J. Burke, the winner of eSpec Books’ June Flash Fiction Contest. His prize is publication on the eSpec blog and one free ebook from among the eSpec publication list.
by Christopher J. Burke
“Cyber What?” I only paid half-attention even before I started raiding Melanie’s fridge, when she lost most of the rest of it, but I caught the word “cyber”.
“No, Cyber Where!” she said, thrusting her hands out at me for emphasis. “It’s a pun. And it’s the new idea I’m developing.”
I plopped myself onto her couch with a pilfered bottle of water. Feeling between the cushions, I fished out the remote. “It doesn’t work.”
Mel glanced at the screen and saw it come alive as I fingered the keypad in my hand. “What doesn’t work? You mean my idea? Of course, it doesn’t. It’s in the planning stages.”
“Not that.” I dropped the remote, then cracked the bottle and took a long draught. “The pun doesn’t work. What’s it mean?”
She grabbed her earpiece from the desk and held it up, the dongle hanging between her fingers. Unlike the usual short-range antennas, that one probably had a much greater range than regular low-end devices. Likely had faster data transfer, courtesy of a few firmware hacks.
“Duh! The equipment is cyberware. Hardware, software, cyberware!” Almost as a reflex action, she hooked it over her left ear. When she glanced down to see the cord rubbing against her shoulder, her first instinct was to swing the plug behind her head.
“Could you not?”
“Hannah, join the 22nd century already.”
“I did. Three years ago, like everyone else. I had my experimental phase back in college, just like you. Okay, and a little bit in high school, too, but you started enjoying those Naughty Nineties sooner than me.”
Mel laughed at the memories. She was probably accessing these from storage even as I mentioned it. “I always was the prodigy of our group.”
I couldn’t help but grinning for a moment at that. “I’m just saying that I wished the hole in the back of my neck has closed instead of the ones on my lobes.”
My mouth was dry, so I took another swig from the bottle, then grabbed the remote and flipped channels until I saw some extreme weather. It had a calming effect that lasted until Melanie snorted.
“You complain about me plugging in. You’re doing the same.”
“This is just background noise and pretty pictures. You were about to immerse yourself, and contrary to what you think, you suck at multitasking.”
I kicked off my shoes and tucked my feet under me on the sofa. “So what’s this idea? What ‘where’ are you talking about?”
“Any ‘where’! Any place you’d like! What would you like?”
I flipped channels, stopping on some old vid. A rom-com from the looks of it. You could guess the decade from the hairstyles. He was kind of cute, and she was kind of cuter, but they were my age now before I was born.
Mel grabbed her tablet from the desk, swiped her hand across it and stole the big screen from me. I was looking at a pretty park and some old buildings.
“How about Paris? How would you to experience Paris?”
I went to toss the bottle and look for food. “Already have. Didn’t take a lot of time or money, either.”
France disappeared, replaced by Iceland from the looks of it. “Have you seen the Northern Lights?”
My head was in the cupboard where I knew she hid the good snacks. “On a screen. What would be different?” I looked back at the television. “You realize it’s daytime over there, right?”
Mel put the tablet back on the desk, exasperated. The earpiece, once unhooked, joined the tablet, along with the dangling dongle. She started to say something, but instead leapt onto the couch, stealing my spot. I mean, sure, it’s her couch, but I’d been sitting there, like, thirty seconds ago.
“I want to develop a service that will let you be in Iceland, be in Paris, without the time and money.”
“How would it work?” I was legitimately asking at this point. There were times Mel needed a sarcastic friend and times she needed a devil’s advocate. Now was time for the latter. I ripped the wrapper from a fruit bar, took a bite and thought about it. “You might see in Paris, but you wouldn’t be there. And you can do that with a phone and a cardboard headset.”
“I’m not talking about a toy with canned images or hacked visuals from local cameras. I want to experience it. To feel it.”
Feel it? “Mel, I get seeing something, somehow, somewhere, and maybe hearing it, too, but how are you supposed to feel?” Let’s put aside taste and smell for the moment. But could you really experience a city without some fine dining and, oh my God, the pastries?
She reached behind the sofa, and pulled out a higher end “brow” piece, which sits on a person’s forehead, stretching nearly from ear to ear. It could plug into the neck or …
Mel pushed back her bangs, revealing a series of ports right below her hairline. I knew of few people who actually needed that kind of interface. Until now, I wouldn’t have thought Mel was one of them. I still wasn’t convinced that she was.
“When did you –?”
“I was ahead of my time.” She placed the brow piece before I could object and jacked in. I was so shocked I didn’t notice the television switch. “Wait, what are we looking at?”
Out of every strange thing that had come to pass in this afternoon, I could honestly say, that was probably the least expected of all of them. The image was normal eye-level, and it was moving down the street. I glanced around for a remote, wondering how to control it, pan around, zoom, but realized that Mel just had to think about it to make it happen.
Or so I thought until she called out.
“Simon, can you hear me?”
A male voice answered through the TV. “You don’t need to shout. You don’t even need to talk for me to hear you.”
“My friend, Hannah, is here. I didn’t want to be rude. I have you on speaker, okay?”
“That’s fine. Hi, Hannah. I think you have something on your blouse.”
I’d been walking toward the screen, but I stopped in my tracks. I stared at the TV for a moment, before glancing down. A glob of fruit jelly had fallen on me. I snatched a tissue from the box and wiped it off.
I looked back at the set. “You can see me?”
Mel laughed. “Over here, Hannah.”
“He can see me through your cyberware?”
“No. He can see you through my eyes. And you’re seeing what he’s seeing through his.”
Could that work?
“I can see, hear, and even smell what Simon is experiencing. And I can do this instantly with at least a dozen friends that I’ve already connected with. And there are thousands more out there.”
Incredible. “But I don’t see the logistics of it. People getting implants to be connect with a relative handful of people with implants? And how would you monetize something like that?”
“Automatons. We set up municipal docking stations that people can rent and move anywhere around town, like they do now for transit, and …”
I put up a hand. “Hold it. You’re not talking about bicycles. You’re talking robots with expensive cybertech. Do you think any city – even, Lubbock – sorry, Simon – would put up the capital for such a … fantasy?”
Melanie’s face fell. The devil came due. “I said I just started developing the idea. There are other ways …”
“Excuse me, ladies.” For the moment, I’d forgotten about Simon. I knew looking at Mel meant looking at both of them but I chose the screen anyway. “I need to break the connection. I do still have some matters that I don’t broadcast.”
Just before breaking the connection, I saw something in a store window. “Simon, before you go, could I see what you look like? Could you show me your reflection?”
“Sure.” He happily obliged. His reflection was clear enough to see his was well-dressed, well-groomed. But I noticed the gear he had equipped. It wasn’t the run-of-the-mill gray or chrome. And it was much easier on the eyes than the clumsy piece that Melanie wore. Hell, it even made me think twice about accessorizing, without the modifications and upgrades.
“That set-up looks incredible. Where do you get your tech?”
“Lots of places, but the look is purely my design. No reason that cybers can’t be stylish, right?”
He signed off and the screen went black. Mel removed her gear and rubbed her forehead. She seemed to have mild euphoria mixed with a headache.
I took the brow piece from her and looked it over. “Mel, you’re working on the wrong pun.”
She tilted her head up at me. “What?”
“You need to develop a line of cyber-wear. If people are going to use this stuff, they should look good doing it. Get me some paper, we’re sketching out some designs.”
Just a reminder, one week left to submit your entries for the May Flash Fiction Contest!
(c) Innovari, http://www.fotolia.com
Wow…we have been gone a while, haven’t we? Life has been having a go at us, keeping us busy in unexpected ways. But it is beyond time we resurrect our monthly flash fiction contest.
So, this month’s topic is ‘Cyber What?’
What does that mean, you ask? Whatever you want, as long a something Cyber is involved. Give us an inventive story in 1500 words or less by May 31. Email your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
One lucky winner will receive publication on the eSpec Blog and an electronic copy of the eSpec Books/Paper Phoenix Press title of their choice.
Hard to believe that Balticon is coming up in just two weeks. Once again, eSpec will be in the dealer’s room, when not on panels. We will also be holding our annual launch party on Sunday from 7pm to 9pm. Full schedule below.
How to be a Good Moderator Room 8029 Fri 5:00 PM
Moderating a discussion panel at a convention is both easier and harder than it looks. Experienced moderators share their tips, tricks, and guidelines for getting the most out of the panel you’re moderating.
Writing Major Minor Characters Room 8029 Fri 8:00 PM
They may not be your protagonists, but minor characters need to be fleshed out just as much as the heroes. How do minor characters enrich a story, and how can we make them interesting without letting them steal the spotlight?
Broad Universe Rapid-Fire Reading Kent Sat 1:00 PM
The authors of the Broad Universe writing organization share excerpts from their upcoming works.
eSpec Readings St. George Sat 7:00 PM
Authors Danielle Ackley-McPhail, Ken Schrader, and Michelle Sonnier read from their work.
eSpec Book Launch Party Baltimore Ballroom A Book Launches Sun 7:00 PM
Join eSpec Books for food, fun, and prizes in celebration of the release of their newest offerings of Paranormal Steampunk, The Clockwork Witch by Michelle D. Sonnier, Spirit Seeker by Jeff Young, and After Punk: Steampowered Tales of the Afterlife.
Outlining vs. Pantsing Mount Washington Mon 10:00 AM
Some storytellers require a detailed outline to start fleshing out their story, but others prefer to write by the seat of the pants. What are some techniques to help you get better at one when you prefer the other? Authors and game masters welcome!
Humans and elves, dwarves and gnomes, wizards and warriors all live and do business in the thriving, overcrowded port city of Cliff’s End, to say nothing of the tourists and travelers who arrive by land and sea, passing through the metropolis on matters of business or pleasure-or on quests. The hard-working, under-appreciated officers of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard work day and night to maintain law and order as best they can.
This volume brings together ten pieces of short fiction-some previously published, some brand-new for this book-featuring the Castle Guard: new cases for Lieutenants Torin ban Wyvald and Danthres Tresyllione to solve, as they deal with animated furniture, a hrancit demon, a closet spewing filth, a senile dragon, and more. Plus one of Lieutenant Iaian’s old cases comes back to haunt him, Lieutenants Dru and Hawk investigate a massacre committed by a vampire, the survivors of the heroic quest from Dragon Precinct return (and get into trouble), and the untold story of Danthres and Torin’s first case together is finally told!
Ten adventures of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard!
Keith R.A. DeCandido is a white male in his early forties, approximately 200 pounds. He was last seen in the wilds of the Bronx, New York, though he is often sighted in other locales. Usually he is armed with a laptop computer, which some have classified as a deadly weapon. Through use of this laptop, he has inflicted more than fifty novels, as well as an indeterminate number of short stories, comic books, nonfiction, novellas, and anthologies on an unsuspecting reading public. Many of these are set in the milieus of television shows, movies, games, and comic books, among them Star Trek, Cars, Doctor Who, Supernatural, World of Warcraft, Orphan Black, Alien, Marvel Comics, and many more. We have received information confirming that more stories involving Torin, Danthres, and the city-state of Cliff’s End can be found in the novels Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, Gryphon Precinct, and the forthcoming Mermaid Precinct, Phoenix Precinct, and Manticore Precinct, as well as the short-story collection Tales from Dragon Precinct. His other recent crimes against humanity include the urban fantasy novel A Furnace Sealed; the Orphan Black coffee-table book Classified Clone Report; the Alien novel Isolation; the Tales of Asgard trilogy of prose novels featuring Marvel’s Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three; short stories in the anthologies Aliens: Bug Hunt, the two Baker Street Irregulars volumes, The Best of Bad-Ass Faeries, The Best of Defending the Future, Joe Ledger: Unstoppable, Nights of the Living Dead, The X-Files: Trust No One, among others; and writing about pop culture for Tor.com and Patreon. If you see DeCandido, do not approach him, but call for back-up immediately. He is often seen in the company of a suspicious-looking woman who goes by the street name of “Wrenn,” as well as several as-yet-unidentified cats. A full dossier can be found at DeCandido.net.