Yet again, I have two flash fiction stories in the latest issue of Alienskin. Both fantasy pieces this time.
The Essence of Man is about the power of art. I’ve used a Renaissance-style setting, plundering the era that saw the emergence of the artist as a celebrated individual, and a humanism that justified beautiful art and horrific politics. Da Vinci and Machiavelli have more in common than place and time. There’s a unifying assumption of man’s importance that we now take for granted, but was once radical.
The other story is The Suspicions of Shadowvalt, a demonic detective story. A thousand words isn’t much space for a mystery, investigation and resolution. I enjoyed the challenge, but will leave it to you to judge the results.
This is the last edition of Alienskin. It’s a shame. They’ve published a lot of good little stories, even if their clip-art aesthetic sometimes set my teeth on edge. But eight years is a long to dedicate to something like that, especially when it’s just your hobby. Here’s hoping that the editors go on to even better things.
Dragged into daylight on crankshafts and giant fanbelts comes Urban Drift, my latest published story, appearing in issue 56 of the British Fantasy Society’s journal Dark Horizons. It’s steampunk in the tradition of alternative technological futures, not the airship Victoriana style.
It’s a heist story about art, beauty and addiction. It’s a chase to the rhythm of giant gearwheels and crackling tezlas. It’s fragments of the folk myths of industrial Britain, pounded to a fine grit and scattered over something more American. And it’s inspired by the very real fact that they used to move entire buildings in nineteenth century Chicago.
One of the first stories I had published, The Cast-Iron Kid, is going to be reprinted in October in Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s splendid looking Steampunk II anthology. The whole book looks awesome, from the picture of a mechanical ostrich to the obscure 19th century Danish story in translation for the first time.
My story’s a steam western, one of two I’ve had published in Alienskin. The world should have more steam westerns. The tension of frontier existence, the lawlessness, idealism and ambition that flourish in that environment, are great drivers for a story. So much steampunk is rooted in the civilised centre of society, but it’s a genre about people pushing the boundaries of their technology. Combining that with those racing towards the boundaries of society, to me that’s a perfect fit.