Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Legions in Time Anthology!



Look what came in the mail! Legions in Time is an anthology of science fiction stories in Chinese created by publishing company Shanghai Gaotan Culture Co., Ltd.   

The anthology was named after my story, "Legions in Time," which is within.  I will not pretend that this doesn't delight me. Particularly since Ray Bradbury's classic, "A Sound of Thunder" is published there as well.

(Right here I was tempted to pretend to gloat over one-upping Bradbury. But I won't. Because there are at least twenty people on the Internet today who cannot understand a jape.)

As always, when such a thing happens, I think of the translator and hope they did a good job. I think of the readers and hope they like the story. And then I start daydreaming about China and all the wonderful things I've seen and admirable people I've met.

Then I wonder how "Time criminals of the Dawn Era--listen and obey!" sounds in Chinese?


Ebook Sales! IN THE DRIFT Today & TALES OF OLD EARTH Sunday!



 Open Road, publisher of many of my ebooks, has announced two separate one-day sales!

TODAY, December 29, 2021, my first novel IN THE DRIFT is available for $1.99 in the US and Canada. This is via Portalist, I believe. Or you can find it in the Open Road Media catalog here.

And on FRIDAY, December 31, 2021 (New Year's Eve, as if you didn't know), my short fiction collection TALES OF OLD EARTH goes on sale for $1.99 in the US only. You can find it on my page in the Open Road Media catalog here. But don't go buying it before Friday or you won't get to save a few bucks.

Both sales are one day only, alas.


Monday, December 27, 2021

Short Fiction Review: "To the Honorable and Esteemed Monsters Under My Bed"



The year 2021 (C.E. or A.D. according to taste) is almost over. It contained many good things including, most recently, Magister Nicolaus Copernicus, our new Christmas cat, so I will not complain about the pandemic. My New Year's resolution for 2022 is to return to writing the occasional short fiction review. Here, ahead of time, is the first fruit of that glad resolution:


“To the Honorable and Esteemed Monsters Under My Bed” by E. A. Bourland, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September/October, 2021.


For several reasons, this story ought not to work. The idea that the monsters under a child’s bed are real was done to death long ago. Its diction is decidedly twee and the boy’s voice is not that of an eight-year-old as it purports to be. The fate of the boy’s sister, who has disappeared, drives the plot but is never revealed. Moreover, at the end, the story, which was strongly grounded in a kind of reality, turns meta. Any one of these factors would be enough to sink pretty much any fiction. Plus, it is told in epistolary form, which is an open temptation to any writer to get lazy.


Yet work this story does. To begin with, it has considerable charm. Here’s how the first letter opens:


To: The honorable and esteemed monsters under my bed

From: Boy

Greetings, Ferocities


I dare the impertinence of addressing your toothy conventicle. I hear you down there,     creaking, muttering, grinding your teeth, scrabbling your claws. Your horriblenesses, how you overwhelm me with dread! Indeed, so frightened am I, I dare not lie back in       restful repose, but rather can only sit upright in this bed, one arm extended from the      redoubt of my blanket to compose by moonlight this letter, which I hope you might          spare from your diabolical schedule a moment to consider.


Bourland clearly loves words, not indiscriminately but well. The whimsy of the elocution is nicely balanced by the physicality of the sounds of “creaking, muttering, grinding […], scrabbling.” Language like this can accomplish a lot. Immediately, it establishes the character of the boy—his self-assurance, his intelligence, and his lack of fear above all.


Under-the-bed monsters are notoriously less clever than they think themselves. So they write back:


To: Tasty Little Boy

From: Monsters

Dear Little Boy,


Well, now. Good evening. Heh heh heh! We have received your missive and discussed     your    request but must respond in the negative. As monsters, our dedicated mission is to   instill nocturnal dread in children. […] Kindly dangle your eight-year-old toes off the end of the bed to allow us toe-tasties.


Back and forth the correspondence goes, with the boy protected by a nightlight and two stuffed animals, one of which has been captured by the monsters. The monsters try to trick the boy into their clutches and he, of course, consistently outwits them. In the course of these exchanges, the reader learns that the boy’s absent father is a space-hero, off on a prolonged mission to save humanity. Also that the boy is pushed around by bullies at school, that his teacher is a petty tyrant, and that the man who has taken the father’s place in the mother’s affections is a “banging-threatening-looming” sort who may be responsible for the sister’s disappearance.


Briefly, it is possible to read this story as a war between imagination and reality, with reality having all the power. Happily, this is not the direction the plot takes. Instead, the boy escapes bullies, teachers, and his B-T-L father substitute. Not, however—and this is essential—through trickery but by honoring a difficult pact he has made with the honorable and esteemed creatures under his bed. Because he has made a promise and honored it with a sacrifice, the ending, in which he becomes a genuine hero, feels earned rather than declared by auctorial fiat.


It all, mirabile dictu, works perfectly.



Tuesday, December 21, 2021

The Parable of the Creche



Posting this tale is a Christmas tradition with me. Every word of it is true and I share it because... Well, because human beings are difficult and yet, somehow, lovable too. Enjoy!

The Parable of the Creche

When first I came to Roxborough, more than forty years ago, the creche was already a tradition of long standing.  Every year it appeared in Gorgas Park during the Christmas season. It wasn't all that big -- maybe seven feet high at its tip -- and it wasn't very fancy. The figures of Joseph and Mary, the Christ child, and the animals were a couple of feet high, and there were sheets of Plexiglas over the front of the wooden construction to keep people from walking off with them. But there was a painted backdrop of the hills of Bethlehem at night, the floor was strewn was real straw, and it was genuinely loved.

It was a common sight to see people standing before the creche, especially in the evening, admiring it.  Sometimes parents brought their small children to see it for the first time and that was genuinely touching.  It provided a welcome touch of seasonality and community to the park.

Alas, Gorgas Park was publicly owned, and it was only a matter of time before somebody complained that the creche violated the principle of the separation of church and state.  When that complaint finally came, the creche was taken out of the park and put into storage.

People were upset of course. Nobody liked seeing a beloved tradition disappear.  There was a certain amount of muttering and grumbling.

So the kindly people of Leverington Presbyterian Church, located just across the street from the park, stepped in. They adopted the creche and put it up on the yard in front of their church, where it could be seen and enjoyed by all. 

But did this make us happy?  It did not. The creche was simply  not the same, located in front of a church.  It seemed lessened in some strange way, made into a prop for the Presbyterians. You didn’t see people standing before it anymore.

I was in a local tappie shortly after the adoption and heard one of the barflies holding forth on this very subject:
The god-damned Christians," he said, "have hijacked Christmas."


Thursday, December 16, 2021

It's Alive! The Beast of Tara


Look what came in the mail today! The January/February 2022 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction. Which contains my most recent story, "The Beast of Tara."

This story is the second in what I'm calling The Retrocausality Trilogy. The first story was "Dream Atlas," Which appeared in the March/April 2021 issue of  Asimov's and the third is "Reservoir Ice," which will be in a forthcoming issue. 

Never throw out anything. Especially ideas.

Here's how the story begins:

The night watchman at what the crew laughingly called “the dig” was a hard man named Finn MacDougall and it was clear from the start that he had a past. “With this one, you needn’t worry that your equipment will do a walkabout,” the man from the Institiúid Seandálaithe na hÉireann who recommended him had said. “When word gets around that he’s on the job, there’s not a villain will come within a mile of Tara.” And, indeed, it was true that so far we’d had no trouble.

 The idea was one I had in the mid-Seventies, years before I made my first sale. The research for what the Hill of Tara looks like was conducted in 1982 and 2019  and I began the actual writing late last year.

 We shall write... no story... before its time. 

And as always . . .

I'm on the road again. This time, predictably enough, to Washington D.C. for Discon III, the World Science Fiction Convention. 

I promise I'll take all possible safety precautions.

And since you asked . . .

 Here's my schedule:


Friday 7:00 PM    1 Hr          Blue Room                  Writing Short Fiction   


Friday 8:30 PM    1 Hr          Congressional On-Site Vie  Imaginary Book Club                             


Saturday 11:30 AM  1 Hr          Diplomat Ballroom          552        Short Fiction Expanded   


The Imaginary Book Club is, I believe on-site virtual.


And if you're at the con and you see me, be sure to say hello!




Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Love Death + Robots Sale! (Also Art Book)




Going on right now through December 11th is an ebook sale for Love, Death + Robots (Volume 1). It's being run through Bookbub, and, refreshingly, it's not limited to the US. It's also on sale in Canada, Australia, and India.
The links are:

My story "Ice Age" is in Volume 1. I don't have a story in Volume 2, which is not on sale anyway.. But...

 And Speaking of Love, Death + Robots . . .

Love, Death + Robots, the Netflix series, is getting an official illustrated companion book, The Art of Love, Death + Robots, will be published in 2022 to coincide with Season Three of the series. And also Volume 3 of the print book. It has an introduction by (of course) John Scalzi, and the usual blend of interviews with the artists, concept art, etc., etc. 

I'm told that I can admit to having a story in Season Three but no more than that. Not even the title. So, um.... Well, that's pretty much all I have to say.

You can find more info and a smattering of eye candy here.

Above, bottom half of blog: The image is not taken from my story. Unless they've made some drastic changes to it.