The September issue of ANALOG contains my Novelette, "Elmira, 1895"
He came with the night mail on the West Shore Line at just that moment when the world teetered between one day and the next. Midnight is a magic time, the single instant when there is no present; only a receding past and an unrealized future. He stood alone on the platform with his greatcoat and valise and watched the red lanterns of the caboose vanish into the night.
The breezes whipped up by the train’s passing died, and with them the fading clackety-clack of wheels on rails. The flurry of activity that had greeted the mail’s arrival – station-master, post-master, Negro porters, conductor – had evaporated like ghosts. The stars looked down on the empty platform through a cloudless sky, unreachable and yet at the same time unbearably close. On nights like this, the stars alone could cast shadows; and would have done so had the gas lamps lining the platform not overwhelmed them. Their guttering flames peopled the station with silent, capering shadows.
A gentle rain of soot and cinders fell in the locomotive’s wake and the man brushed absently at his sleeves and shoulders. It was a warm night and damp with the recent rains. A wretched hour to arrive anywhere; but Elmira was as remote as Khatmandhu so far as railroads were concerned and midnight it was, “unless the gentleman would care to wait until tomorrow.”
The gentleman would not, and so the night mail it had been. He looked around to get his bearings and, hefting his valise in one hand and draping his greatcoat over the other arm, he strode briskly to the stairs at the end of the platform. The worried glance he spared just before stepping off was aimed not at the lights of the departed train, but at the glimmering stars overhead – as if he expected that at any moment one would drop and strike him upon the head.
The frowsy hotel was just as he remembered it, though five years had gone since he had last stayed there. The night clerk was a shrunken and wrinkled old man, aged in a pickle vat. He looked up when the bell rang, but gave no sign of recognition, and made no comment while the stranger signed the register. He did, however, drop the double-eagle on the countertop to hear its ring before placing it in the strongbox. “You must receive a fine class of boarder these days,” the stranger commented dryly. But the clerk simply shrugged – a comment as eloquent as a thousand words from lesser lips. He handed over a heavy brass key with the number 28 stamped into it in uneven numerals. The stranger hefted his valise. “I was told Mr. Clemens was in town,” he said.
“Couldn’t say,” the clerk answered. Then, as if words cost four bits apiece, “Hear tell, he’s down Ha’tford way.”
The stranger shook his head. “I’ve just come by way of Hartford. They told me that he had come here.”
The clerk chuckled. “That man Clemens is full of comin’s and goin’s, Mr....” His eyes dropped to the register, reading it upside down. “Mr. Kipling. Don’t clear his travels with me, anyways.”
And for those demanding a double-dose of Flynn -- and there may be one or two of you out there -- the new October issue of ANALOG contains another novelette, "The Journeyman: On the Shortgrass Prairie," already previewed here.
Still in the pipeline, but likely to be in the Jan/Feb double issue, is the special feature: "The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown and Down-and-Dirty Mud Wrassle," previewed here.
What's in the Works, O TOF?
...I hear you ask.
- Captive Dreams is about to be released (or escape) into the wild.
- On the Razor's Edge, the fourth book in the Spiral Arm series, is not yet scheduled. An excerpt from the beginning:
In the beginning, there were three, because in these matters there are always three. One was a harper and one was a Hound and one was nine.
There were others, because in these matters there are always others. There were other Hounds. There was a Shadow, and other Shadows. There was a Name, and other Names. And had any of them done other than they had, matters would not have tumbled quite as they did.
But a man is the master of his acts, provided he acts with virtue; and the chief of these virtues is courage. Children lack courage because they see all fears as things to be removed by their parents. But a man may regard fearsome evil and see the outcome as dependent upon his own actions, and so he may become master of them. This is true even if he ultimately fails; perhaps, especially if he fails.
There was a treasure, because in these matters there is always a treasure. And there was a far quest, and an ancient tyranny; and longing and greed and ambition and treachery. There was courage and cowardice, as one often finds when something very small stands against something very large. One man had let his fears become the master of his acts, and so men died and cities burned.
But at the heart of it there was a shining kernel, something hard and bright and unbreakable that had been hidden away and all but forgotten by its hiders. At the heart of every treasure, as always in these matters, there was another treasure beyond all price.
And so in the beginning there were three; but in the end, there was only one.
- The Shipwrecks of Time stumbles onward, although currently in a lull. Part I follows the Prologue and begins thusly:
Part I. Old Books
1. The New Station of Francis Delacorte
Milwaukee in the August of nineteen hundred and sixty-five was likewise suspended. The immigrant rush had long-settled into in bars, churches, neighborhoods; into the clang of proletarian industry and the grassy aroma of hops; and the unsettlings to come were as yet only implicit in the scowls of railroad accountants; in the raised eyebrows in the labs of a Texas instrument company; in the steaming jungles of a far-off land, and in a few dead bodies in an Alabama town.
Two months earlier, Edward White had stepped out into the emptiest of skies to poise exquisitely alone at that point where falling went on forever – one small step closer to the moon a martyred president had pledged.
But a great deal else beside Ed White danced in the air. Sometimes, when the laughter and the chatter in the neighborhood bars quieted, this city of workmen could hear the faint rumble of the future rolling toward them. The fall elections had swept an avalanche of Democrats into the Congress, and the President was promising a Great Society. The Vatican Council was about to meet for its fourth and final session. “Freeways” groped toward one another across the face of the city, slicing neighborhoods into shards through which strangers could speed on their way to somewhere else. And the Braves poised delicately between Milwaukee and Atlanta, for they had already announced their intention to move the franchise at season’s end.
It was a cool day for an August, but the days had been growing cooler for many years now, so who could say what was typical anymore? The clock in Union Station read a quarter to eleven when Francis Xavier Delacorte stepped off the Morning Hiawatha with an over-packed suitcase in his hand and the slump of eighteen hours on his shoulders. But if the temperature planned to break seventy that day, it had best get a move on.
The station was as new as any passenger station would ever be again. The platforms were spotless, the metal gleamed, the polished wood trim shone. Even the uniforms on the porters looked fresh from the tailors. Frank had entered a world reborn; fittingly so, for he was himself entering a new life.
- "The Seven Widows," a potential novelette, set in the Spiral Arm some while after the forthcoming On the Razor's Edge. In it, a mixed expedition sets forth in search of secrets forgotten since before the Commonwealth of Suns. So why not an excerpt, too?
- Faint beneath the crimson sky twilight bells do peal
Midst ruins where their echoes plaint:
We were real, we were real, we were real.
As once they were, when life enfleshed these bones
And they fared forth to find what stars conceal.– Méarana Harper, Bailéad an Domhain Terra.
There is a song for this, a goltraí, but the lament may not be the obvious one. When there are the seekers and the sought, sorrow may as easily befall the one as the other. A quest may succeed or fail, and who can tell which is the greater tragedy?
- "Into the Rift," another potential novelette, set in the Spiral Arm some while after The January Dancer, in which Bridget ban and Little Hugh enter the Rift to resolve the mystery of the vanishing ships mentioned in that volume.
The Hound and her Pup came to Sapphire Point and graced Hot Gates for a time with their presence. That their presence was required did not lessen the grace. Hot Gates was the flagship of the interdiction squadron that drifted with the Visser hoop opening on St. Gothard’s Pass, and all who passed through that intersection of Electric Avenue must pause and pay respects to the Dark Hound who guarded it.
- "The Journeyman: In the Stone House" continues the quest of Teodorq sunna Nagarajan for the lost cities of Iabran and Varucciyamen. He has at this point been captured by the kodykorn of Cliffside Keep and is being questioned by Wisdom Mikahali Fulenenberk and the Princess Anya Goregovona Herpsteinsdor. Yes, that's right! A Space Princess™! She doesn't swing a sword -- that upper body strength thingie -- but she shoots a mean crossbow.
- “The Road goes ever on and on#
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien
A Peek at the Wall
Teodorq sunna Nagarajan the Ironhand studied the sheer cliff from the cover of a grove of trees well to the south of it. The Great Plateau ran like a wall along the northern marge of World, from the Hill Country in the far west to here, the eastern verge of the shortgrass prairie, where a spur thrust south toward the steaming marshlands, pinching World into a narrow waist through which all men must pass if they travel east or west.
And so it was no great surprise to the son of Nagarajan, who was knowledgeable in all matters relating to stalking and ambush, to find such a passage guarded by a stronghold.
But never had he seen a stronghold made of a great pile of stone blocks and guarded by men in iron shirts with long iron knives.