DragonCon AAR: Legends and Dragons and Book Sales.

DragonCon was beyond awesome this year. Here are some of the highlights:

Thursday, I met with my publisher, Jason Rennie, and we helped to set up Bard’s Tower, a well-known bookselling staple of DragonCon (and others). Alexi was awesome, allowing Superversive Press to sell our books through the Tower.
I mean, okay, they were going to have featured signings, and I was going to have a chance to sell my book to passers-by, but hey, you gotta start somewhere.

Friday, we opened. In between the aforementioned selling copies of my book, among others, I ducked out to sit on panels about Arthur and the Round Table, and Cordwainer Smith, one of my favorite Golden Age authors. Four people bought books, the first of them being the awesome Dave Butler, award-winning author of the Witchy War series. I picked up his first book in the series, WITCHY EYE, as a prize last DragonCon. This year, I managed to pick up the third from the Baen Roadshow, who was giving away books to all active-duty military, teachers, and librarians. Thanks, Baen Books!

Butler DragonCon

I also met Brad Torgersen for the first time. Brad was nice enough to agree to blurb ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS earlier this year, and is just a great guy to meet in person

Saturday was a big day at the Tower. It began with a new experience for me: it was the day I got to collaborate on the upcoming redesign of the cover for ALL THINGS HUGE AND HIDEOUS. By the end of the day, I had sold 90% of my books, including a copy that I gave away to Jim Butcher (mostly so I could say I did).

All-Things-Huge-and-Hideous-Kindle

Then I was able to reconnect with my Clarion mentor Tim Powers, who introduced me to a fellow Writers of the Future place-winner, Carrie Callahan, who I now consider a friend. Late that night in the Speaker’s Speakeasy, we both enjoyed an hour’s conversation with Larry Niven, who is certainly one of the greatest influences on my own work. That was amazing.

Finally, Sunday I managed to sell out. My last book went to an awesome lady who cosplays Dark Helmet, and thought the book was a riot. She actually came back and said that she’d found it hilarious and even brought a veterinarian friend with her. I also got to see Brad Torgersen win his Dragon Award for A STAR-WHEELED SKY. And Brad was later kind enough to spread the word about THE GIRL WHO WASN’T THERE! So DragonCon ends with a Dragon Award Winner recommending my books!

The Girl Who Wasn't There - KDP Cover

All in all, it was a wonderful con, and God has truly blessed me in giving me this chance to meet and work with such fine people.

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Surprise! SCI-FI NOVEL RELEASE!!

It is with great pleasure that I announce the publication of my first science fiction novel, The Girl Who Wasn’t Thereby Digital Fiction Corp.

The Girl Who Wasn't There - KDP Cover

Besides having an awesome cover, it’s my salute to the spirit of Robert Heinlein’s juvies, and the first book I can unreservedly recommend for kids. AND it’s on sale for just $0.99 on Kindle through Labor Day! Just in time for DragonCon! If you’re there, drop by Bard’s Tower! Paperback soon to follow!

Anthology Give-Away! Holy C.O.W!

Hey, want to win an anthology with a bunch of awesome stories, including my latest, “Day Of Atonement?”

Holy C.O.W. Anthology Volume One: SFStories from the Center Of the World

Just enter at this link, right here, on Amazon!

And now, a teaser:

Rabban Shimon and Rabban Hillel each took hold of one of the thick doors leading inward and pulled it aside. Yossef entered.

            The room was just as unimpressive on the inside as it had been on the outside. It was no larger than a small house, from which all furnishings had been removed. In the northwest corner, a steep staircase descended into thick darkness. The only thing in it was a wooden table, tall but only about a cubit square. On the table lay a perfectly ordinary knife. Across from him, looking slightly stricken, was Matthias, and standing by him, the Bishop of Jerusalem, with his Chief Elder.

            The Bishop, a thin, spare man with a curiously rounded face, bowed slightly from the waist. “Peace be with you, Rabban Hillel and the followers of the Law. I greet you in the name of Iyesos Christos, the Rebbe Melech HaMoshiach, and of St. Nicodemus the Rav Nakdimon.”

            The Nasi returned the bow. “Peace be with you, Bishop Konstantinos and the followers of Y’shua. I greet you in the name of the God of Avraham, the God of Yitzchak, the God of Ya’akov, and of the Elder Gamli’el of blessed memory. Give thanks to the God of gods.”

            “His mercy endures forever,” the Bishop answered. “Today, September 30th, in the Year of Our Lord 635, we present for ordeal before the throne of the Father, Matthias, a novice whom we would ordain a priest of Iyesos Christos.”

            “And today, on the 9th Tishrei, the year 4395, we present for the ordeal before the throne of the Most High, Yossef, whom we would ordain a Rabbi to teach the Law. Let His Will be revealed as it has been since the time of Y’shua, and the time of Moshe.” And he withdrew from his robes a box of acacia wood, polished with age. From it, he drew two stones.

            Yossef swayed where he stood, and he thought he heard Matthias gasp. Surely the Urim and Thummim had been lost in the time of captivity. He dared not speak, but stared at Hillel. But it was Bishop Konstantinos who spoke. “They are not the ancient relics of Israel,” he said kindly. “But they serve the purpose. As once we cast lots to determine the successor to our Lord’s betrayer, so we now cast them, that we may know the Will of God concerning you.”

            Yossef’s vision darkened and his breath quickened. This was the secret of ordination, then? No wonder they kept it a secret! He felt as though he were in a dream. God is present in this room, he thought. It was too big to take in.

            “We ask the Will of God concerning these men.” The words and the action cut across Yossef’s reverie. Konstantinos and Hillel cast their lots into the wooden table. The rattle of them echoed off the walls. Yossef stared. They were inscribed with ancient letters whose meanings he could not guess at. The Bishop and the Nasi gazed at them for a long moment. “The Will of God is that the disobedient should perish,” said the Nasi, and his voice was dead in the air.

            “This is the Will of God,” echoed the Bishop.

            The disobedient should..? What did that mean? Yossef turned to ask, but the men had the stones in their hands again, and the Bishop intoned, “We ask the Lord to reveal the disobedient.” The lots spun through the air as one and rattled in their tray. They gazed upon the stones. “The disobedient is the Jew, Yossef.”

            What? No, that couldn’t be!

            “The disobedient is Yossef,” the Nasi repeated, and he looked old and shaken. “Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”

            “Rabban Hillel,” breathed Yossef. “What have I..?”

            The older man gripped his upper arm with surprising strength. “You must be silent, Yossef. This is the Will of Adonai, which you swore to obey.” Yossef stood as if paralyzed. He had sworn. Sworn to obey the Will. Sworn by the Name.

            Bishop Konstantinos approached the table. To Yossef’s distant surprise, he left the stones on the table.

            He picked up the knife.

            Moving swiftly, he pressed its hilt into Matthias’ hand.  “Do it quickly, son.”

            Matthias’ face was a mirror of Yossef’s own. “Father, I don’t understand.”

            “This is the ordeal of ordination. You have sworn by Christ to do the Will of God as it is revealed to you. Do it quickly.”

Preorder Day: “Day Of Atonement”

Yesterday, the release of an anthology that I have waited a long time for was announced: the Holy C.O.W. (Center of the World) anthology, which is an alternate history collection including stories that concern the Middle East. It ships July 29th.

I’m proud of this because it carries my story “Day Of Atonement” which imagines a historically different relationship between Christians and Jews. I’d especially like to thank my editor, D Avraham and my good friend Cliff Winnig for their insights on Hebrew traditions which were a vital supplement to my research, and made this story much better than it otherwise would have been.

Excerpt follows:

“Christ killer!”

The gobbet of mud struck Yossef below his ear, splattering his neck and robes. For a moment he stood motionless, his anxiety wiped away by shock and growing anger, watching the ochre mud drip down the white cloth of the kittel and the tallis that he wore over his shoulders, his prayer-shawl that his mother had made. The ragged urchin who had thrown it was grinning, and bending to pry more muck from the gutter of the Jerusalem streets.

“Shame!” The voice cracked like a whip through the quiet Wednesday morning. A few peddlers, busy setting up their stalls selling sacrifices and food, paused to stare at its source. Yossef turned, distantly wondering if anyone else could hear how close that voice was to cracking. “Shame on you, boy!” Striding past Yossef, the priest in the rough black habit grabbed the boy’s arm and twisted hard. He howled, and the mud fell. “I am not hurting you, boy,” he said, more calmly. “You but feel a small portion of the pain your sin has brought upon your soul. How do you dare to defile a man, let alone a man of God on the Eve of the Day of Atonement?”

“His people killed Christ, father!”

“Oh?” The priest raised his eyebrows and pointed the boy’s chin firmly at the soldier who stood guard at the Double Gate. “His people helped us defeat the Arabian heretics as well. But if you want to fight, there is an Imperial soldier. They, too, took part in shedding our Savior’s blood. Will you throw your mud at him?” After a moment of silence, he snorted. “I thought not. Your cowardice and unforgiveness shames Christians, not Jews. Get home, and pray to St. Nicodemus for your sins.” The boy ran off to a stall, where a bearded man wore an expression of shame mixed with fury. He dropped his gaze and hauled his son around a corner.

The priest straightened and looked at Yossef. “I am so sorry. Come, let’s get you cleaned up.” He helped Yossef unwind the tallith and folded it neatly. “I don’t suppose you have a spare?”

“There will doubtless be one in the shrine, Matthias,” Yossef said. “It is no great matter.” The tightness in his voice betrayed him, however, and his old friend’s eyes darkened with shame.

“My people should know better,” he said. “We have disgraced ourselves before the Father, and ask your forgiveness.”

“As His mercy is everlasting, so we forgive.” Yossef repeated the ritual formula, and felt his own shame. It was not Matthias’s fault: God forbid, he might have to ask the same of a Christian, someday. Matthias led Yossef up the steps of Constantine’s Church, where it nestled on the southern side of the great wall of the Temple Mount. An acolyte rushed to meet them as Matthias dipped a towel in the basin at the entrance to the nave. Matthias stopped his incipient protest with a hard look.

“I know it’s holy water,” he said evenly. “And what is more holy than lifting up the oppressed?” The acolyte looked suffused, but stepped back in silence.

End of excerpt.

Whoever Is Not For Us: Author’s Note

One of my favorite things to do when I write SF is to screw around with genre expectation. And there is one that is almost never messed with that was too fun not to try to deal with, and that is the Parasite.

In SF, whenever people are infested by an evil parasite-like creature determined to enslave them, body and mind, it is always a hideous, nasty thing. Or it’s invisible. By contrast, on the rare occasions (like STNG’s the Trill, say) that a symbiote is beneficial, it is always invisible. For whatever reason, we’re wired to believe — or maybe it’s just that we really, really want to believe — that beauty is truth and truth is beauty. It might have something to do with the fact that beautiful people are usually healthy ones, and breeding with the healthy only makes good evolutionary sense. But there’s certainly no rational reason to believe that this would be the case.

Beneficial symbiotes aren’t even common in SF. I can’t name a single case in which a disfiguring symbiote has been good for someone. The closest I can get to it is the symbionts from the Babylon 5 episode “Xenogenesis,” which was a very bold move on the part of the show. But even the hideous symbionts caused pain and disfigurement only for a moment, and then they vanished invisibly within their hosts.

So for “Whoever Is Not For Us,” I wanted to break that trend and ask what would happen if the truth came disguised in ugliness. It was a fun story to write. I hope you enjoy it.

Release Day! “Whoever Is Not For Us”

Today, “Whoever Is Not For Us,” a military SF piece with a spiritual dimension that I first “sold” in 2014,* is finally being published! It also marks my return to Don Crankshaw’s and Kristin Janz’s Mysterion website. I was in on the first anthology they released, with my story “This Far Gethsemane,” and they run an awesome ship. The story is here, and I hope you like it. I also hope you’ll back them as they buy more stories (hopefully from me!)

*to a small press which never paid or published the work and then tried to re-buy it after 18 months of hanging on to it and never answering queries. No thanks.

Short Story Release: “Whoever Is Not For Us.”

Received confirmation today that “Whoever Is Not For Us” will appear on the Mysterion website on July 8th, but for supporters of their Patreon it is available NOW.

Here is an excerpt, just to whet your appetite:

(Sorry for the lack of paragraph indents, but WordPress is particularly stupid in that regard).

Whoever Is Not For Us
by
Scott Huggins

 

The sparking hell of Main Engineering shuddered and rang like a cymbal under the blows of magnetic grapples impacting the outer hull. Marine Captain Manuel Stolz spared a single glance for Commander Ellerbee and her mate frantically working on the drive bomb.

“How long?” he said. His voice echoed in his combat suit helmet, unnaturally loud.

“A couple of minutes,” grunted Ellerbee. The Navy engineer’s hands were moving too fast for him to follow.

Too long. Stolz switched to his Marines’ channel. “Perimeter check.”

“Conrad, hatch secure.” 

“Olivett, hatch secure.”

“Plekhanov, hatch…” The lights went out with a photoflash and Plekhanov’s voice was swallowed by a roaring hiss. The boarders were through the stern perimeter, moving with a precision inhuman and terrifying. Their lasers strobed the compartment. Ellerbee’s suit sprouted holes: superheated air and flesh jetted out, knocking her body back into Stolz, smashing him into the bulkhead. Conrad slammed the butt of his rifle into the helmet of the attacker that appeared suddenly behind him. Then he leveled it at the thing’s belly. He and the alien fired at the same moment. They exploded apart from each other.

Stolz’s reflexes and enhancement took over. Riding the tailored hormones like a roller coaster, he tucked and bounced off the bulkhead, rolling back to fire his puppetcutter. The focused EMP seared through the Brainsucker’s circuit-neurons, severing the connection between host and parasite, and his target spasmed and went still. Then Stolz was through the hatch, into the weapons bay. Scanning. His bulky gun’s screen showed nothing. He sealed the hatch and moved again, bouncing from wall to wall. His back itched, but no infinitely hot finger reached out to stab him between the shoulder blades.

They wanted him alive. Wanted them all alive. It was their way.

He dogged the hatch behind him and turned forward. Then he heard the shout. “Manuel, stop!”

He stopped. He didn’t remember letting the gun go, but it hung before him in microgravity.

Zanne’s voice.

Numb, he reached for his holster. So even this prayer would be denied him. He’d had nightmares about this moment, had planned for it. And prayed it would never happen. The weight of the weapon filled his hand with heavy and final comfort. He focused his eyes on it, and the comfort drained away. 

His laser sidearm was burnt clean through. He’d never noticed the hit. And the hatch behind him was beginning to glow red. The Brainsuckers were burning through. He was trapped, with Zanne on the other side, coming for him, and he could not kill himself.

The Enemy Of My Enemy Is Not My Friend

One of the reasons that Deep Space Nine was my favorite of the post Original Series Star Trek is that the writers got to make some pretty bold moves. One of the boldest and most insightful, I feel, was their choice of what to do with the Mirrorverse from one of the Original Series’ strongest episodes.

In the Mirrorverse, the Federation was the Terran Empire: a bloodthirsty, dictatorial and ruthless state. And Vulcans were pretty much Romulans. During their brief sojourn in the Mirrorverse, our own universe’s Kirk tried to convince the Mirrorverse’s Spock to try overthrowing the Terran Empire in favor of a Federation. In DS9, we got to see the results.

Turns out that Mirror Spock had been quite successful at the overthrowing the Empire part. Unfortunately, that merely left the Empire in enough trouble that its subject peoples plus the Klingons and Romulans had easily conquered Earth and made humanity into a slave race. And they were still enslaved about a century later.

The Original Series had made an unwarranted assumption, and it is one that uneducated “revolutionaries” make to this day: that when an oppressive system is toppled, freedom and justice will naturally follow. They do not. To establish them requires hard work, and it is not often hard work that the “revolutionaries” are equipped to do. To take a few examples, it must have seemed to the Aztecs’ subject races that the Spaniards — whose God, notably did not demand human sacrifice — were their liberators. The French believed that toppling the nobles, and later the king, would bring them equality, liberty and brotherhood. What they got was the Committee Of Public Safety, the Reign of Terror, and Napoleon. Aleksandr Kerensky had a chance to establish a Russian Republic when the Czar’s oppression was overthrown, as did Yeltsin when the Soviet Union fell apart. They were succeeded by Lenin and Putin respectively, and the only thing better about Putin is that he isn’t using starvation as a tool for mass murder, as far as I know.

Overthrowing oppressive systems isn’t very hard, even when it isn’t easy. Not replacing it with an enemy that’s even worse is the trick.

Iron Lensman

Every now and then I have the impulse to do a little literary criticism, although I can usually control it with prescription medication. But the other day I was watching Iron Man II (I really watched the MCU out of order) and a parallel struck me that I haven’t heard anyone else talk about before, so you lucky readers get to hear me ramble on about it.

The Lensman series, by E. E. “Doc” Smith was one of the seminal works of Golden Age SF, appearing in Astounding magazine from 1937-1948, and later reworked in the 1950s as a series of seven novels. Roughly, the titular heroes, the Lensmen, were an organization that fought crime on a galactic scale. Their lenses amplified their psionic powers, and no person who could be corrupted by wealth and power could wield a lens.

The length of the series, the poverty of the plot (which generally just featured the Lensmen going up against more and more powerful foes, armed with ever-more esoteric and larger superbattlefleets) and Smith’s excruciatingly awful prose meant that the Lensman series never saw release as anything approaching a major motion picture, which is on some level a relief and on another a profound disappointment. I always thought the series might have some hope in the hands of a really awesome screenwriter. But the themes he launched were a major influence on Star Wars (incorruptible psionic supersoldiers, anyone?) Other than that, it’s hard to find a direct heir to Smith’s style of storytelling.

And then it hit me that Tony Stark is pretty much a lensman par excellance, updated for the modern world. There are several parallels: like many other writers of that generation, such as Asimov, to whose Foundation series Smith lost the 1966 Hugo for Best Series, Smith’s lensmen are trained and expected to function as scientists, and frequently make discoveries and invent new weapons and vehicles. This whole thing struck me as i watched Tony Stark invent a new element under the guidance of his father’s notes to replace the palladium in his arc reactor heart. Like the lensmen, Tony Stark relies on a scientistic talisman that grants him his power, but it is always clear that his real power is in his willingness to do the right thing. Also like the first family of lensmen, the Kinnisons, Tony Stark gets a big helping hand from his father’s legacy of great genes and connections. Finally, by Civil War we see that Tony Stark is also concerned, as was Smith, with the idea of oversight. There is a major difference here, since the lensman’s source of power was also his shield against corruption. Tony Stark loses faith in himself and his fellow Avengers, but it’s interesting to me that this lack of faith is ultimately shown to be misplaced when he goes up against Captain America. Who also has his own “lens” made for him by Howard Stark, in a sense. The shape is even similar.

Although I really liked the conclusion of the major arc of the MCU, I’m going to miss Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. I hope that another generation of lensmen — whatever they are called — comes quickly.

Critiques And Stories!

I don’t want to make this blog into a marketing machine, but I haven’t written about my Patreon account for about a year, and I just made some changes to it, so today I’m going to let you know what all of you could get if you choose to patronize me.

Um, maybe I should rephrase that.

Okay, so starting at the $2 reward level, I will start writing you your own personalized story at the low, semi-pro rate of $0.03 a word. The longer you support me, the longer your story goes.

At $10 of support, I will provide a detailed critique of a single work of fiction/poetry of 6k words or less. I’m a runner-up with about 20 short stories published: it’s a good deal.

At $25 or more per month, I’ll offer a second critique, only this one will be good for up to 10k words. Yes, you can get 2 critiques per month.

Finally, $40 of support gets you a single piece of flash fiction that I will write just for you, on whatever subject you wish.

Try out some of these rewards and watch your writing improve. Or just enjoy some great fiction. Thanks for your support!