The lovely folks over at Lucent Dreaming (the creative writing magazine which published my magical realism story The Collection in their first issue) kindly reached out and asked if I would do an interview. I was super flattered and excited, so of course I said yes and gave it a whirl. One of their questions also gave me the opportunity to shed some light on a few great resources for short fiction writers to try and find publishers for their work, something which tends to be a huge mystery to fledgling word-wranglers. You can check out the interview here!
Fans of extreme brevity, rejoice! Drabbledark is nearly out. It’s an anthology of drabbles, stories told in exactly 100 words (excluding the title). There’s 101 stories from 86 writers with a lot of variety; my contribution is post-apocalyptic, but the themes of the pieces run the gamut from monsters and murders to stalkers and summonings. The sole common denominator is, as the title suggests, that the stories within are all quite dark.
Usually I wait until an official publication date to mention anything which includes my work, but Drabbledark’s a bit of a special case. Technically the book releases on the 20th, but the paperback version was made available slightly early to account for shipping times. You can find both with a quick hop over to Amazon.
But wait, there’s more! Drabbledark’s editor, Eric S. Fomley, also recently launched Martian, an online magazine specifically dedicated to publishing science fiction drabbles. I’ve got a tidbit of military scifi coming up over there sometime, too.
Tales of Ruma is finally out! It’s an awesome collection of 17 short stories inspired by the myths and legends of ancient Rome, Ruma (an RPG setting created by the editor, Martin Greening), and Greece. The stories come in all sorts of flavors; you’ll find tales of the gods, telepathic unicorns, giant elemental creatures, and gritty, bloody battles. I’m super honored to have been included alongside a bunch of really spectacular writers.
My story’s a brief battle scene titled From the Pan to the Flames. I wrote it specifically for Martin’s Ruma setting in the hopes of contributing to his fledgling world and was thrilled when he accepted it into the anthology. It was also a really magical experience to see and hold my work in print for the first time, haha (my story in Lucent Dreaming was published first, but my copy took a bit of time to get across the pond).
The book is available in both paperback and Kindle editions via Amazon. You can take a sneak peak at the first story in the book, The Question that Matters by Jody Lynn Nye, thanks to Amazon’s nifty Look Inside feature. If you want to get even more of an idea of what the anthology has to offer, Jonathan Ficke (a fellow Tales of Ruma contributor) did a great rundown of all of the stories over on his website.
UPDATE – June 25th, 2018: The first issue of Lucent Dreaming is now available to read for free online! You can find the .pdf version of the issue right here.
It’s finally time for another elsewhere post! A short magical realism story of mine, The Collection, is now available in Issue 1 of Lucent Dreaming, a new creative writing magazine from the United Kingdom.
The Collection follows an ordinary guy who quickly finds himself surrounded with a bunch of eccentric performers. It’s my favorite story I’ve had published so far and was among the first pieces of short fiction I wrote, the first draft being written near the end of 2016. The Collection went through quite a few edits and submissions afterwards, since finding the perfect home for magical realism stories can be a little tricky. I was thrilled when the folks at Lucent Dreaming accepted it, and their editors were a tremendous help in making the story the best that it could be.
At some point The Collection will be available on Lucent Dreaming’s website. In the meantime, it’s exclusively found in the gorgeous print edition of their first issue. You can snag a copy for yourself here (unless you’re in Europe or the UK itself, in which case it’ll be even cheaper).
By the way, more stuff is coming! I’ve started listing pieces which have been accepted but not yet published in my bibliography with “Forthcoming” in lieu of a publication date. Feel free to swing by and sneak a peek at some upcoming titles.
A loud ding echoed through the ship’s intercoms, indicating an announcement from the onboard computer. “Imminent collision detected. Dropping out of lightspeed.”
Ashe flung herself from her bunk. She grabbed her jumpsuit from the back of her chair as she rushed towards the cockpit. “Why’d we drop out?”
“Imminent collision detected.”
“Yeah, I heard you. Tell me why. Run a scan.” The cockpit door slid open. Ashe tugged on the suit and jumped into the control seat.
Ashe checked the route. She was nearly halfway through her trip. With the hauler being thrown out of its faster-than-light course, she’d need to plot a new route with at least one stop to realign.
“Scan complete. Three targets approaching.”
For a moment she thought they might be asteroids, but knew better when the movement indicators started swirling on the viewscreen. They wove around each other in tight circles, a favored approach tactic for a squadron of light craft to avoid taking fire in formation. Her hauler had light cannons, but Ashe wouldn’t be able to scrap three zippy ships before being torn apart herself.
“Where’s the nearest Guild location?”
“Outpost 372 on Fascillum. Two hours and seven minutes away at lightspeed.”
“Plot it.” She watched the course generate. She’d be intercepted before the engines were ready to engage again. “Damn. Anything else nearby?”
“Pariah Corporation Fueling Depot. Sixteen minutes away at lightspeed.”
Ashe grunted. There was no time for a distress call, either. She couldn’t outrun fast little fighters for long in a cargo hauler. Even if she managed to run, there was no guarantee anyone nearby would respond to her distress call, and her pursuers would surely hear it first. “Okay. Plot a course for the fuel station. Get the lightspeed engines primed for a jump when we’re aligned. Keep a full scan running, I need details on those ships.”
“Course ready. Engines priming. Scan–“
“Silent mode. Put the details on the viewer when you’ve got them.” Ashe took a deep breath. They had to be pirates, or something of the sort. The hauler was equipped with a sensor package to identify security, police, and military vessels. These were none of the above, and they were closing in with the haste of a squadron out for blood.
Another ding in the cockpit indicated that she was being hailed. Ashe sighed with relief. At least they weren’t the type to shoot first and loot the wreckage. She flipped the comm switch. “Courier’s Guild hauler 262966 responding to your hail.”
“Stay where you are and keep the comm open. If you run, you die. Got it?”
The voice was male with an ordinary core-world accent. “In accordance with Guild policy–”
“No legal jargon. Say you got it or you’re dead.”
“Okay, got it.”
“Anyone else in there? Looks like a one-crew, but I don’t like surprises.”
“It’s just me.” The ships had come close enough for the scan to get more information. Readouts popped up on the viewscreen. Two of the craft were light fighters flying below their top speed to keep pace with the third ship. The fighters were outdated, probably acquired after some small-time planetary dispute had blown over. The other ship was something else entirely. It was a doofer, short for a do-it-yourselfer, a ship that was built from the parts of other ships. Like most doofers, it was a mess; this one was the soaring remnants of at least seven other ships. The doofer was bigger than the fighters but still a fairly small craft.
“Hey, you catch the fight?”
“The fight? From the Savage Coalition? Typhoon Hansen and Liza Maccuddoch. Supposed to be the biggest duel of the year. Typhoon has these crazy burning knives and Mac’s new shieldsuit is ridiculous. We’re too far out to get the stream yet. Savage streams from Hareldon, so I thought it might’ve reached you back before you hit the jump.”
They know where I started the faster-than-light jump. If they know where I went into lightspeed, they must know the whole course. They want something specific. Ashe struggled to keep up with her thoughts. “Uh… no.” She stumbled through the words. “Sorry. I’m not into bloodsports.” There must be something valuable in the hold. She pulled up the cargo manifest and started scrolling through, searching for anything odd.
“Shit. I wanted a hint. We’ve got a betting pool going. Okay, listen, here’s how it’s gonna go. We’re gonna board you. We watch you and look through the stuff you’re hauling. If you’ve got what we want, we take it, we leave. All nice and friendly. You won’t see our faces and our voices will be scrambled. Including this one. Not my real voice. Sounds good, though, right?”
Ashe paused awkwardly as he stopped talking, distracted by the manifest. “Sure?”
“Be honest. Always be honest with me, lady.”
“You sound fine.”
“Good. It was a total pain in the ass to configure. Anyway, you don’t know who we are, so we can let you go when we’re done.” Not likely, she thought. If she was carrying something valuable they wouldn’t take the chance. They’d probably kill her and chop up the hauler to expand their doofer. “You won’t get any heat from the Guild for letting us take something. Matter of fact, they’ll probably be thrilled with you for being so coolheaded under pressure and getting away alive. Or… hell, you know what? I’ll even let you fire off a few blasts with those peashooters you’ve got as we approach so you can be a real hero. Did your best to fight off the pirate menace and lived to tell the tale. I need to test the new armor on this thing anyway.”
“No thanks. I’d rather comply peacefully.”
“Really? Shit, you might’ve gotten promoted. Okay, well, fine. That’s the deal. Go ahead and prep your airlock.”
There! Everything looked normal, but she was carrying three packages with unlisted destinations. Unlisted boxes are always tagged lost upon arrival. Lost packages just sit in the nearest sorting facility until someone shows up to claim their item. Whatever the pirates were after was almost certainly something in one of those.
“Lady? You’re not paying attention.”
“Oh. Sorry. I’m a little shaken up.”
“Calm down. I just told you, it’s all gonna be fine. Real friendly, no violence. You stay peaceful, we stay peaceful. You’ve got nothing to worry about. It’s not our first rodeo.”
The voice laughed. “Hopefully your last, too.” He paused. “Oh, fuck, that came out wrong. Sorry. Didn’t mean to sound threatening. I just meant, you know, we part ways as friendly acquaintances who never want to meet again.”
“I know what you meant.”
“Sorry. Part of my job here is talking you through this. I shouldn’t have said that.”
“It’s fine. I’m not worried.”
“Okay. Thanks. Open up your attachment ports and get your airlock ready, we’ll lock the hoopty up and come on in. Got it?”
“See you in a few.”
The comm ended. “Silent mode off.” Ashe leapt out of her chair and ran back towards the hold. “Pull all boxes with unlisted destinations right now. Stack them at the front of the hold. Open attachment ports, prepare airlock pressurization.”
“Retrieving packages.” The cargo hold was equipped with a number of actuated arms which zipped around the walls and shelves to sort the ship’s cargo. By the time she entered the bay the boxes were neatly placed near the door. “Mutual docking prodecure engaged. Airlock pressurizing.”
Ashe grabbed the stack and ran back to the cockpit. The airlock opened as she got back into the control seat. “Lock down the cockpit. Lock down everything except the path from the airlock to the cargo bay. Open global intercom.”
“Partial lockdown engaged. Global intercom open.”
“Welcome aboard,” Ashe said. “The intercom’s active. I can hear you if you talk.”
“Nice ship you’ve got here, lady.” It was the same man. “I think you’d better come greet us in person.”
“I feel safer in the cockpit. No offense intended.” She grabbed a knife from her toolbox and started opening the boxes.
“We’d feel safer watching you.”
Ashe cut through the tape of a box as quietly as she could manage. “The cargo bay’s open. You can look through it. I just don’t want a gun to my head after that ‘last rodeo’ thing.”
“Fuck. I really am sorry about that.” It was a red leather jacket, vacuum sealed in a bag. She tossed it aside. “Listen, I promise, you’re gonna walk away from this just fine. We just need to make sure you’re not trying to kill us.”
“I’m not. Feel free to do what you have to do in there.” She opened the next box.
“The hard way, then. Get out here or we’ll cut our way into your cockpit.” It was a wafflemaker in a box of its own. “Won’t take long. We brought plasmacutters.” Ashe tore through its box to be sure. It really was just a wafflemaker. It got tossed into the corner with the jacket. “Come out right now and there’s no harm done. Stay in there and you’re gonna end up getting hurt.” She heard the cutters in the background. They were already on their way.
“Okay. I’ll stop the lockdown. Intercom off.”
“Global intercom closed.”
Ashe ripped through the last box. Bingo. A datacard. She heard the cutters making progress and grabbed a small cutter of her own. “Unlock everything except the cockpit door.”
“Partial lockdown disengaged.”
It was less than a minute before she heard a knock against the metal. “Hey, now. You still have to come out. Last chance.”
Ashe lit her cutter and pressed a button on the control board to open the door. There were three of them, clad in jet black suits which covered their whole bodies. Their helmets were black, too; angular and polished to a sheen. They all had pistols at their sides. Ashe held the cutter to the datacard. “You all get off my ship right now or I burn this thing to ashes.”
The pirate in front cocked his head to the side. “The fuck are you talking about?” The other two glanced at each other.
“I’ll burn it.”
“Lady, we don’t want… whatever that is.”
“Don’t play games. I’ll do it.”
The pirate shrugged. “Okay. Burn it.”
Ashe hesitated. “I will.”
“Burn the damn thing so we can get on with this.”
“You really aren’t here for this? What the hell are you here for?”
“Lady, the less you know–”
“Boss,” another of the suits chimed in, “it’s right there.”
He pointed. Ashe looked. The corner.
“Ho-ly shit.” The leader slowly crouched and stared at the discarded items. “Yeah, that’s it.”
“You want… that junk?”
“Yeah. Get in the other corner nice and easy, lady.”
Ashe dove to the floor, holding her handheld cutter to the pile. “Get off my ship.”
“Whoa! Fuck, hey, whoa, okay, stop. Don’t damage it!”
“Get off my ship. I’m taking this stuff to the sorting facility, whatever it is.”
“Okay. Hang on. Relax. We need that. It’s why we’re here. You really don’t know what it is?”
“A wafflemaker and a jacket?”
“Just the jacket. You can keep the other thing. You figured out it was sent without an address on purpose, huh? Pretty smart, lady. We got a tip-off about it. We need it.”
“What is it?”
“Seriously, the less you know–”
Ashe turned the cutter on.
“Fuck! Stop, damn it. It’s an old Earth antique, okay? Really ancient. Pressure-sealed to keep it as near-mint as possible. It’s valuable. Very valuable. Look, let’s make a deal. I’ll give you fifty thousand credits for it right now.”
“What stops you from killing me the second you pay me?”
“I promise, I won’t. I just want the jacket.”
“No deal. Your word’s worth nothing. That money would make me complicit in your crime, anyway.”
“Shit.” The leader rubbed at his face, as if he forgot he was wearing a helmet. “Okay. New deal. I’ll take off my helmet, my gun, my gear. These guys take my stuff, get back in the doofer, and our fleet escorts you to that little fuel stop you charted towards. I stay on board. You give me the jacket and I’ll go into the depot’s convenience store to wait for my gang when we land. If we blew up your ship there all of their security cameras would see it. We’d be screwed. Look, you want to live, I want that jacket. This is the only way we both get what we want.”
Ashe thought about it. “You give them everything you’ve got. They fly away and don’t follow me for at least an hour. They can trail us afterwards. You get locked up in a closet until we land. Then you leave with the jacket. If anyone at the Guild ever finds out about this, I’ll say you hijacked the ship, took my information, and threatened to kill me and everyone I know if I told anyone. And you have to tell me what this thing really is.”
“Done.” He took off his helmet and started removing his gear. He was younger than Ashe had expected. “Ever heard of Michael Jackson?” His voice had changed. It was more tinny and anxious than before.
“Some famous singer from Old Earth, right?”
“Yeah. That jacket was his. It’s iconic. Have you heard Thriller?”
“I’m not really into classical music.”
“Too bad. It’s great, way better than that nu-synthojam shit everyone likes now.” He tossed his stuff to the other pirates. “Get back to the ship and get out of here. You heard the lady, at least an hour behind. Got it?”
“Boss, you gonna be okay?”
“Of course I am. Get out of here.” He watched his underlings leave. “So, can I see it?”
“No. It’s not yours until we land.” She took a deep breath. “Okay, new orders. Run a systemized lockdown while our guests are on their way out. Close every door behind them. As soon as they’re detached, jump to lightspeed. Get us to that fuel depot. Confirm commands the short way, please.”
Ashe sighed. “How much are you gonna sell it for, anyway?”
“Sell it? Are you crazy? That was Michael’s jacket. I’m going to wear it.”
It didn’t take long to lock the kid up once his friends had left. Ashe plopped back into the control seat. I nearly died over a fucking jacket.
“Hey,” she said, “do we have any Michael Jackson in the onboard library?”
“Michael Jackson not detected.”
“Download some when you get a chance, next time we’re out of lightspeed.”
“Michael Jackson discography added to download queue.”
“How long until we hit that fuel stop?”
“Pariah Corporation Fueling Depot. Eight minutes away.”
“Refuel when we get there. Use the Guild account. Oh, and do me a favor. See if they sell waffle mix.”
Out of Lightspeed by Ethan Hedman
The solemn tone of the great horn echoes through the city walls, signaling the passing of King Aldamus II. Nobles gather in the court to await the crowning of his heir. Commoners whisper wild gossip about their king-to-be, hoping to steal a glance of the young ruler during his customary ride through the capital. Before the occasion can take place, all are kept waiting while the late king’s final wishes are fulfilled.
Aldamus II’s will is the shortest in the kingdom’s history. It proclaims that four letters are to be delivered at once to the members of the royal family, carried by the late king’s most trusted servants and elite soldiers from his guard. The contents of these letters are not to be discussed, and the letters themselves are to be burned after each recipient declares themselves to have finished. Any interference with the delivery of these letters will be forcibly quelled, without exception.
The servants set to their tasks at once, each delivering their letter to the appointed member of the royal family. What follows here is the best kept of secrets: a complete account of the late king’s lost words.
* * *
Aldamus, my firstborn son and heir,
I have ruled our land for decades, crushing invaders and rebellions alike. I have led our people through famines and plundered the dens of my rivals for their fortunes. These deeds have made me beloved. Yet these accomplishments are nothing at all when compared to the future I have gifted our kingdom with.
My time runs short. It pains me to leave you, your siblings, and your wonderful mother. I find comfort only in knowing that you shall rise in my place. You shall be a great king. You must be an even greater king than I.
Read these words well, son, for they shall soon be burned. I have written simple goodbyes to your siblings and mother on the same terms so as not to arouse suspicions. I chose the most loyal of my men to deliver your letter. Those who stand before you now will serve you well when I am gone.
Yet, as a king, you cannot trust. The nobles of the court will use my demise for their own ends, wishing to warp or limit your newfound power. Chief among these malcontents is Lord Bandric Robur, an ardent opponent of our monarchy. Beware all nobles, but beware Lord Robur most of all.
I advise you to speak carefully with each member of the court at some length. Declare these private conversations to be in the spirit of sowing the seeds of friendship among your newfound vassals. Assess them with great care. It is essential to determine who is loyal, who can be swayed, and who may soon rise as an enemy. In all cases, you should keep each Lord on the shortest leash they are capable of tolerating.
Pay little mind to the cries of common folk. The values of our kingdom would rot if they were left to their own devices. You must rule all of your subjects with clear vision and rapid action. Demand total loyalty and accept nothing less. Strong leadership will guide them through any difficulties they may come to face.
At the first opportunity–be it that of banditry, foreign agitation, or an uprising–you must prove your strength. Crush the first enemies who would dare to stand against you. In doing so, you will forge a reputation that shall be forever feared and respected.
You have made me as proud as any father could be. I leave this world in your hands.
* * *
Derren, my brilliant son,
Your presence in my life has been a remarkable gift. In life’s darkest moments, you’ve been a shining light. You’re quick to joke and sing if only to make me smile. I have needed you many times more than you could ever know. Thank you, my dear boy, for each and every treasured moment.
As I die, I need you more than ever before. I need you to take what I believe to be your rightful place. I need you to tear the rule of this land from your brother and seize power for yourself.
This will be no easy task. It is, without question, not legal. How I wish you had come first. Aldamus is my heir, and our ancient laws dictate that I cannot name another in his place. He shall be the king as long as he lives. Aldamus will rule with force, to be sure, but without a single drop of intellect. The true strength of our kingdom–strength that comes in clever, cautious rule–will crack beneath his steel gauntlet. I have no doubt that you know this already, but I tell you as your beloved father: you must take the throne from him, by any and all means necessary.
Observe the beginning of your brother’s rule with care. The nobles will not tolerate a king who seeks to oppress their rights for long, and Aldamus shall certainly take steps to do so. Lord Robur has never shied from speaking his mind against the monarchy and could prove to be a valuable ally. You would be an ideal compromise; a king, to be sure, but a friend to the court as well. Lord Robur’s knowledge of the nobles, their positions, and their desires is second to none. Use him.
Take care, however, when dealing with such men. Their lust for power rivals that of your brother. There must be give and take in negotiation, but you should not allow other clever men to outmaneuver you. Keep yourself ahead of every other man and make yourself essential to each figure in the realm who counts for something.
Do not forget: no matter what you must do, your means will always justify your ends. It was you who should have been first. You should have shared my name. I have faith that you will find a way to claim your rightful place. I know that you will rule with wisdom and make me very proud.
* * *
Illia, my beloved daughter,
It is with great pain that I must leave you, but I am comforted in knowing that you shall shed tears for my passing. My love for you is as deep as an ocean, and knowing that your love for me is just as true has warmed my heart since the first moment you spoke. You are my everything, sweet girl.
I have always indulged you in every way I was able. Now, for the first time, I must ask something in return. I must ask you to rule in my stead.
Aldamus is an arrogant fool who will amount to little more than a tyrant drunk on power. Derren is the least trustworthy man in the kingdom. A squabble for power is inevitable, and so long as either of your brothers sit upon the throne, our people will surely suffer.
There is cunning and intrigue in the court. You must keep a practiced and pleasant demeanor. I doubt this will be hard for you, as you have always shown friendship to all. But be wary of these people who consider themselves the betters of others. They will do anything they can to raise their own station without the slightest care of how it will affect those beneath them.
You must become a champion of the common people. Take up their causes as your own. Your brothers are sure to ignore their woes; the commonfolk sorely need the promise of a compassionate ruler. Become the voice that shouts to sate their hunger and cure their ailments. The people, when united, are unstoppable.
The time will come when one of your brothers will need to be dethroned. You will accomplish this with the will of the people. I ask you to take heart in knowing that you will do what you must for the good of each soul who makes their home in our domain.
You will be magnificent, and I am so sorry that I could not live to see your bright future. I love you, my sweet champion; now, forever, always.
* * *
Wife, whose name I cannot bear to write,
You have always asked for honesty in its entirety, and I have strived, whenever possible, to indulge you. The time for pure, brutal honesty has come. I shall bear my soul to you, here and now, as I lay passing into death.
I care for you deeply, make no mistake. All the same, I have at times regretfully resented your presence in my life. You were not the one I wanted when our marriage was arranged. There was another. I have never understood how you could so easily accept being given to a stranger. Even now–no, especially now–I cannot understand how you could ever have wanted me.
You are a wonderful mother. Your love for our children is unconditional. It is your very nature to love. I know that you still have love for me as you read these words, though I wish that you did not. I wish you had not married me. You deserved so much better than what I have amounted to. It may mean nothing now, but from the depths of my heart, I’m sorry for what I’ve done, and damnably sorry for what I must now do.
I have set our children against each other. I’ve contemplated this wretched plan for months, trying to convince myself that such a thing could bring nothing but misery. Alas, I know now that this must be done with my last twinge of life. My words will evoke the strength of Aldamus’ brutal ferocity, Derren’s sly tongue, and Illia’s loving heart. One of our children shall succeed in casting their siblings aside, and in the wake of their methods our kingdom will thrive with a king or queen reigning utterly unopposed. Our family’s suffering shall bring prosperity to the people. The realm will be secure for centuries.
I will not be present to see the coming fate of our land. I’m so sorry, my beloved, but neither shall you. Your love has made you the sole obstacle that could cripple this utopia in its infancy. You cannot be allowed to stop what I have put into place. Even if I had not confessed my vile scheme, you would have found a method to make peace between our children. I will not give you the opportunity.
When you have finished with the letter, you will be given a vial. You must drink willingly from this. It contains a painless poison that shall let you pass on peacefully. If you do not, my guards will force the substance down your throat. Your heart will be said to have stopped while reading this last farewell. Should you break the vial, you will meet with an unhappy accident; a much more painful fate than I would ever desire for you.
I have no words to express what I feel. An apology isn’t enough. It could never be nearly enough. Perhaps we will meet again in death, and you can take your righteous revenge. No, I know that your heart will conquer your hate. I hate that you can so easily conquer your hate.
I’m so very sorry, my dear. I regretfully await you.
Letters from the Late King by Ethan Hedman
Surprise! Two of my stories are out in one day. The first was Strands of Glory, published right here on my site, and can be found below (or in an accompanying email in your inbox, if you’re part of my mailing list crowd). Now, onto the second: His Cousin’s Tale, a barside retelling of an ominous warning in a mysterious fantasy world. This one’s a bit of a love song to the wonderful atmosphere conjured in tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. It can be found here, in today’s issue of Trembling With Fear, a weekly publication of dark short fiction on HorrorTree.com.
By the way, more “elsewhere” stuff is coming, I just don’t quite know when. I’ve signed a few paying contracts for pieces recently, which is tremendously exciting for a fledgling writer, haha. Be on the lookout for more!