aether age

Humanity has spread throughout the galaxy, but its ships and settlements remain isolated by the limits of light speed. Even simple messages would take years to travel between settlements. But one thing keeps the network of mankind connected: the Flames.

Portals linking two places together, Flames can be crossed in an instant–but if you don’t know how to navigate them, you’ll be lost in the void. Fewer than one in a million people can cross the Flames without getting lost. Known as Ferrymen, these men and women are the one thing that holds the universe together.

Their stories are found in the new Walk the Fire anthology.

* * *

Man. Lot of topics to cover here. I suppose I will start with the people who made it possible: my fellow authors. Walk the Fire is a shared universe anthology edited by John Mierau, and he’s established quite a crew of authors here. Nathan Lowell, whose Solar Clipper Trader Tales are regularly high up the science fiction charts. Jason Andrew Bond, author of the bestselling Hammerhead. Patrick E. McLean, the guy behind the hilarious-looking How to Succeed in Evil series, the stories of a hapless consultant to the world’s supervillains.

And, of course, me.

It’s funny how small the real universe can be. I’ve spoken with Nathan Lowell on a handful of occasions. Just a few weeks back I was on a video chat about ebook pricing with our coauthor Brand Gamblin. I’ve been aware of fellow contributor Matthew Sandborn Smith for years now–I used to see his name all over the place when I was focused on selling SF/F short stories to traditional magazines.

And now we’re all in an anthology together.

Shared universes are so much fun. I have previously participated in one for The Aether Age (holy crow! Just $0.99 and it has two of my stories in it buy it now now now) and it was a total blast. First, you get to fool around in someone else’s world, finding the corner of this strange place you want to write about, and then when the book comes out, you get to see which corners of it your coauthors found to make their own. It’s a pretty gleeful experience, really. I highly recommend giving it a shot, if just once. Me, I leap at the chance.

The chance to be in Walk the Fire, incidentally, came as an invitation. That is So. Cool. A few years ago, back in my previously-mentioned short story period, one of my goals was to reach the point where editors were inviting me to submit to their magazines/anthologies–as opposed to me writing stories on spec and submitting them unsolicited. I imagined I would reach this point by selling to a lot of pro markets, where I would then be read by other editors, who would nod sagely and then fire me an email.

Well, I made a couple pro sales, and a whole bunch of semipro sales, but it wasn’t until I started self-publishing that this modest little dream came true–I believe the editor found my work during a giveaway of Breakers. (P.S.: Breakers sequel coming soon! Join my spam-free mailing list if you want to be notified.) How weird is that? This business is so weird! I’m getting where I wanted to go, but the path I’m on is utterly, starkly different from the one I expected to take.

And speaking of different paths–my story is weird. I mean, there are weirder stories out there. I am sure that if Jeff VanderMeer had been asked to contribute my story would look like a condensed Reader’s Digest story in comparison. But by my standards, my story is pretty weird. That’s one of the fun bits about short stories in general: you get to branch out. Spread your wings. Learn things that may help your later works down the road. Short stories are a very different beast from novels, so I understand why some writers don’t bother, but I am very glad I spent a couple years focused on the form.

Anyway, I’m ramblin’ again. Walk the Fire is live (currently on Amazon, think it will be elsewhere soon), it’s jam-packed with an array of authors, and it’s just $3.99. If it sounds like your cup of tea, please go give it a look.

And now in fun news, the alternate history/shared world/steampunk/generally awesome anthology The Aether Age: Helios is now avalailable for Kindle, including my two stories “The Inspiration of Philocrates” and “The Arms of the World” (along with 17 other works). $2.99! A bargain by any measure that is a good measure. Snap up your copy before the internet runs out!

Seriously, I’m very happy to see The Aether Age get the ebook treatment. It was an extremely fun project to work on and despite the fact just about all of us authors had no idea what the others were up to, the stories resulted in some great contrasts and overlaps. Stories spanned hundreds of different years and several different cultures, providing a fairly complete (if elliptical) history of the Age.

The result is pretty damn cool: an anthology that’s both cohesive, yet literally all over the map. As a writer, I’ve already revisited the universe; that story appeared in Fantastique Unfettered #2. As a writer, I’m hoping we see the next anthology–the plan is to produce three in total–sooner rather than later.

Fantastique Unfettered #2, including my new Aether Age story “The Kemetian Husesen Craze,” is now available through Barnes & Noble. Go! Buy! Buy buy buy! Buy once, anyway. It contains good things.

Pretty cool, right? And that big “NEW AETHER AGE FICTION!” on the cover? Why, that’s me!

That feels pretty good, being advertised that way. It says Hey, there are fans of the Aether Age, and here’s something new for them. I’ve been wanting to invent an SF/F subgenre for a while now. I didn’t invent the Aether Age, but I did help make it real. And now it exists outside the first anthology, too.

Fantastique Unfettered #2 releases in April.

Largely about The Aether Age, partly about me as a writer. The story was written for the Tri-City Herald, and, for reasons that may include a glacial news cycle, Northwest pride, or possibly because they may all be McClatchy papers, also ran in the Tacoma News-Tribune and Bellingham Herald.

I work as a freelance movie critic for the Tri-City Herald, and I have to say I’m somewhat uncomfortable being interviewed on an unrelated aspect of my career by a business that employs me in another field. Not that I think there’s actually anything unethical in this case; the Herald‘s strong local coverage is one of the reasons they’ve continued to do so well in the current newspaper era, and they run pieces on local artists all the time.

But it’s interesting in that, at some point along the continuum of authorial fame/success, the weird thing would be if they didn’t run a story on me. If I wrote a bestseller, or built a strong midlist career, there would be no question of a conflict of interest: that’s serious local news.

On the other end, in a hypothetical where I wrote columns for a paper, was also trying to launch a fiction career, but had no sales yet, it would be pretty dubious if they ran a piece on how I’d like to someday sell short stories, right? So there’s a continuum from “This guy has nothing to show for himself, why on Earth would be okay to run a story on that” to “This guy’s a major author, of course it’s of interest to the community.” Where along that continuum does my career in fiction fall?

I have no actual doubts the paper would’ve done the piece if they had any real reservations about that (and of course they noted the potential conflict at the end of the piece). Integrity is the currency of (non-tabloid) newspapers, and once you start trading that away, you devalue your business and institution. I just think ethical situations like this are the most fascinating because there’s always room for doubt, however small.

I suppose my policy is to keep my head down and work hard, but grab all opportunities that pop up. The Aether Age has some pretty great stories in it. Better yet, the individual visions of its sixteen authors, taken as a whole, build a universe much, much broader than what’s painted in any one story. I’m happy to lend it a little notice.

Finally got my copy of The Aether Age: Helios in the mail today. It’s a gratifying experience to have your work between the covers of an actual hardcopy book. I’m glad I’m around right before ebooks have the chance to push paper books toward obscurity.

I’m going to read the hell out of this in the next few days.

The Aether Age anthology is a shared world, part sci-fi, part alternate history. In the mists of prehistory, aliens have bequeathed us the printing press! Rome, Western Europe, and the United States will never exist. Instead, through their advanced learning and scientific progress, aided by a mysterious atmosphere that allows easy travel to the Moon, Mars, and elsewhere, the ancient nations of Greece, Egypt, China, and the Olmecs rule not just the past, but our future.

And I’ve got not one, but two stories in it. It is, as you may have picked up, a highly ambitious project, and I’m very curious to receive my copy and find out what everyone else has been up to in our little world.

The anthology’s available on Amazon here. More info on the Aether Age in general can be found on their site.

Available here. This isn’t the order the stories will appear in the book, but several of those names are going to be familiar to regular M-Brane readers. I’m pretty excited to get this thing in my hands (current release date August ’10): the experience of reading a batch of different people all writing in the same world with no idea what the other authors are up to is going to be strange and enthralling.

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