Anthology Opportunities: June 2015

Depositphotos_7200270_originalThere are quite a number of science-fiction and fantasy anthologies looking for submissions right now, so I thought I’d share some of the ones that interest me, in case you might find them useful as well. (Of course, these are all time-sensitive and subject to change.)

Clockwork Phoenix 5

Looking for “stories that sidestep expectations in beautiful and unsettling ways, that surprise with their settings and startle with the ways they cross genre boundaries, that aren’t afraid to experiment with storytelling techniques. But experimentation is not a requirement: the stories in the anthology must be more than gimmicks, and should appeal to genuine emotions, suspense, fear, sorrow, delight, wonder. I will value a story that makes me laugh in its quirky way more than a story that tries to dazzle me with a hollow exercise in wordplay.

“The stories should contain elements of the fantastic, be it science fiction, fantasy, horror or some combination thereof, [but] bring something new and genuine to the equation.”

6 cents/word,  stories under 5,000 words STRONGLY PREFERRED. Submit by July 26, 2015.

Defying Doomsday

Looking for stories of “apocalypse-survival fiction with a focus on disabled characters. (One of) the protagonist(s) must be a character with disability, such as physical impairments, chronic illnesses, mental illnesses and/or neurodiverse characters etc. We will consider stories with characters experiencing all kinds of disability and hope that submitting authors will be creative with the possibilities.”

7 cents/word, 3000-7000 words. Submit by June 30, 2015 to clear the July 1 Australian deadline.

Futuristica Volume 1

“We prize diversity, specifically stories that include multicultural backgrounds or lead characters of atypical ethnic origins. Basically, while we have nothing against heterosexual white American males, we feel they are already adequately represented in science fiction and we want stories about the rest of humanity.

“We are interested in character-oriented fiction.” They stress their desire for women-positive, sex-positive, and science-positive stories.

7 cents/word, 3000-10,000 words. Submit by August 31, 2015.

Hidden Youth: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History

“Your story must be set before 1935 C.E. (NO exceptions), and take place primarily in our world or an alternate historical version of our world. (Travel to other worlds, other dimensions, Fairyland, the afterlife, etc. is fine but should not be the focus.) Your protagonists must be young people (under the age of 18) who were marginalized in their time and place.”

6 cents/word, 2000-8000 words. Submit by July 31, 2015.

SNAFU: Future Warfare

“We want ORIGINAL military-style combat with strong elements of future technology/sci-fi, and we want horror. Give us fear… suspense and tension… we want originality and speculation about future aspects of war. Most of all we want action, action, ACTION! We want something jaw-droppingly amazing.”

4 cents/word AUD (so 3 cents/word USD, per Google), 2000-10,000 words. Submit by August 13, 2015 (or August 12 to be safe again, because Australia).


Header image purchased from and copyright innovari/depositphotos.com.

The Only City Left Is Here!

2014 07-18 The Only City Left Cover

I am happy to announce that, at long last, The Only City Left is available for purchase (Kindle|Softcover). Since it was first released as a serial, the book has undergone two edits: one minor one to convert it into a book rather than a serial, and a major edit under the guidance of developmental editor R.J. Blain. I am quite happy with the results and I hope that this science-fantasy adventure finds an audience looking for a fantastical adventure through a dying Earth.

If you are a reviewer/blogger and would like a review copy e-mailed to you, please send me an e-mail at lithicbee+tocl1@gmail.com. Please include a link to your site.

Thanks to everyone who supported me along the way, be it through comments and shares on the original serial, or words of encouragement as I spent months editing the book.

Work on Book 2, tentatively titled The Fifth House, proceeds apace.

(The above links are affiliate links, meaning if you use them to purchase anything on Amazon, I will receive a small payment in return. One more way to support an independent author. Thank you.)

Free E-Books #2

books2

 

I ran across two sources for free e-books lately, so here’s a quick post to share them.

1) Free stories by Philip K. Dick: Open Culture collected a list of the PKD stories that are available as free e-books for download through Project Gutenberg. These include Beyond Lies the Wub and Second Variety. If you’re looking for longer works by PKD, you can’t go wrong with The Man in the High Castle or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the latter of which was the basis for the movie Blade Runner. They’re not free but they’re well worth the price.

2) A collection of (nearly) all fiction eligible for  this year’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. It’s a gigantic trove of short stories, novellas, and novel excerpts. Stupefying Stories is hosting the ebook, but due to popular demand, Tor.com and other sites are mirroring it. It says it’s up for a limited time only, but that time isn’t specified, so get it while you still can!

The writers eligible for the 2014 award must have had their first work of science fiction or fantasy published in a professional publication in 2012 or 2013.

Image of books by Peter Dutton on Flickr (CC BY).

C.J. Cherryh E-Book Master List

This is my master list of e-book availability for C.J. Cherryh’s works as of November 2013, as seen as a customer in the United States. Due to different publishing rights by territory, books available inside the U.S. may not be available to customers from other parts of the world, and vice versa.

One of my pet peeves is the spotty availability of authors’ works in e-book format, and while C.J. Cherryh has many books available, there are some huge gaps in her bibliography, too. I’m especially disappointed that in the nearly two years since I last checked this list, only two books have been added.

I’ll try to keep this list updated periodically, but if you notice anything that needs to be updated, please let me know.

I used C.J. Cherryh’s bibliography from Wikipedia in compiling this list. You can find out more about C.J. Cherryh on Closed Circle and her personal website, Wave Without a Shore. You can also find a recent interview at Curiosity Quills Press.

The Alliance-Union universe

The Company Wars

Heavy Time
Hellburner
Downbelow Station
Merchanter’s Luck
Rimrunners
Tripoint
Finity’s End

The Era of Rapprochement

Serpent’s Reach
Forty Thousand in Gehenna
The Scapegoat (novella)
Cyteen

The Chanur novels

The Pride of Chanur
Chanur’s Venture
The Kif Strike Back
Chanur’s Homecoming
Chanur’s Legacy

The Mri Wars

The Faded Sun: Kesrith
The Faded Sun: Shon’Jir
The Faded Sun: Kutath

Merovingen Nights (Mri Wars Period)

Angel with the Sword – Merovingen Nights #0
Festival Moon – Merovingen Nights #1 (as editor)
Fever Season – Merovingen Nights #2 (as editor)
Troubled Waters – Merovingen Nights #3 (as editor)
Smuggler’s Gold – Merovingen Nights #4 (as editor)
Divine Right – Merovingen Nights #5 (as editor)
Flood Tide – Merovingen Nights #6 (as editor)
Endgame– Merovingen Nights #7 (as editor)

The Age of Exploration

Alternate Realities (contains Port Eternity, Voyager in Night, Wave Without a Shore)
Cuckoo’s Egg

The Hanan Rebellion

At the Edge of Space (contains Brothers of Earth and Hunter of Worlds)

The Morgaine Cycle

Gate of Ivrel
Well of Shiuan
Fires of Azeroth
Exile’s Gate

Other science fiction

The Foreigner universe

Foreigner
Invader
Inheritor
Precursor
Defender
Explorer
Destroyer
Pretender
Deliverer
Conspirator
Deceiver
Betrayer
Intruder
Protector
Peacemaker (due April 2014)

Finisterre universe

Rider at the Gate
Cloud’s Rider

Gene Wars

Hammerfall
Forge of Heaven

Miscellaneous

Hestia

Fantasy

The Fortress series

Fortress in the Eye of Time
Fortress of Eagles
Fortress of Owls
Fortress of Dragons
Fortress of Ice

Ealdwood

The Dreamstone ( includes material from Cherryh’s short story “The Dreamstone” and the novelette Ealdwood)
The Tree of Swords and Jewels

The Russian stories

Rusalka
Chernevog
Yvgenie

Heroes in Hell

The Gates of Hell (with Janet Morris)
Kings in Hell (with Janet Morris)
Legions of Hell

Miscellaneous

The Paladin (was available from Baen, but has since been pulled)
The Goblin Mirror
Faery Moon (updated version of Faery in Shadow)

The Evolution of The Only City Left: Part One

Cover by S.A. Hunt.

The Only City Left has been a long time in the works, and has been through three phases of existence so far. In this post I’m going to talk about its origin and the first phase of its life as a serial.

The Only City Left was inspired first and foremost by the many fine independent webcomics I was reading. I was impressed that artists, writers, and artist/writers were throwing their work out there for all the world to see, and often learning and improving as they went. I thought, “Why can’t I do the same thing with my writing?” I hadn’t written consistently for a while, and it seemed like a great way to encourage myself to write more: write for fun, set a schedule, and don’t worry about mistakes. (That last part turned out to be the most difficult of course.)

My first entry for The Only City Left was posted on 2/26/12, and there wasn’t that much preparation that went into it. In my writing notebook for 2/24/2012, I have this entry: “The entire world is underground to the level of the tops of skyscrapers. (Think Trantor, but run-down and dying.)” Yup, The Only City Left was invented and begun in less than two days. This lack of lengthy world-building meant that I didn’t get stuck on the details, but it also meant that I had some sections of the story that were bogged down while I spun my wheels trying to figure out what happened next.

In my 2/24/12 notes, I went on to list every trope, cliché, and straight-up stolen idea that I could throw into the mix: “Vampires, kung fu, robots, werewolves, nano-swarms, aliens, mutants, mutated animals, treasure caches, ghosts, guns, lasers, swords, martial weapons, avatars of gods, underground oceans w/ preserved cities, twisted gravity, portals, bad air/no air, undead/zombies, charms.”

Several of these items made it into the first draft of The Only City Left, especially early on as I struggled to write 1,000 words each week to get the story started. One goal I had, though, was to put a twist on my use of familiar tropes.

Yes, there are werewolves, but how do they transform deep underground without moonlight?

There are ghosts, but there’s a pseudo-scientific explanation of their existence.

There are mutated animals, but they’re more civilized than the remaining humans in this tired, battered Earth.

I described my planned story to myself as “Trantor meets Cube meets Mad Max meets monster movies.” While that vision of the world and the story has changed over time (and through rewrites), this description has stayed essentially the same: “1st person viewpoint of young man, orphaned, only goal is to see the surface once before he dies, but he has no idea how far down he is, and there is no clear path up.”

That young man is Allin Arcady, whose name is a nod to Arcadia “Arkady” Darell from Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation. Asimov is a big influence on The Only City Left (see my The Caves of Steel re-read for more discussion on that), and there were even some subconscious connections I made that I didn’t realize until later, such as Allin’s mother being named Jessie, the same name as Lije Baley’s wife in The Caves of Steel.

From February to November of 2012, I wrote The Only City Left as a 1,000-word-per-week cliffhanger serial. I used NaNoWriMo to write the last 50,000 or so words, but continued to post the story one week at a time. I figured that by the time the story ended online, I would have a second book in The Only City Left series ready to go. (That didn’t happen as planned, but more on that next time.)

During that time, I learned some of the ropes of the online serial game. Share your post each week at Tuesday Serial, submit it to the Web Fiction Guide (which also gets it added to the Top Web Fiction list), respond to every comment someone leaves, and keep to your schedule as much as possible.

For a while, I posted links to each new post on all the regular social media sites, but over time I felt like this was too much bluster for too little results. (Your mileage may vary.) Most of my visitors found me through one of the sites I shared in the previous paragraph.

If I had it all to do over again, I don’t think I would change a thing about the serial. I met my goals of finishing a book, I had fun, and I earned some dedicated readers. Even without new entries, people continue to find and read through The Only City Left, which is immensely gratifying. I was even invited to have the first three sections of The Only City Left made into a podcast by Webfiction World, which was a very cool and unexpected accomplishment.

The next step in the process was to convert the serial into a novel and work on the second book in the series. More on that next time.

Harrison Re-Read: Make Room! Make Room!

Make Room! Make Room!
by Harry Harrison
ISBN-13: 978-0765318855
Amazon: Paperback | Kindle
Goodreads | LibraryThing

Cover by Alan Aldridge.

 

Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison is a classic look at overpopulation in crowded cities, so of course it makes sense that I would look to it for some inspiration in regards to my own story of an overcrowded world, The Only City Left. Make Room!x2 was written in 1966 and takes place in 1999, where no one is partying because there’s barely enough food, water, and space to survive, much less dance with Prince.

As in The Caves of Steel, New York is used here as the ideal City (in the Platonic sense, not the “I’d want to live there” sense). Life in this New York is miserable and crowded, with none of the amenities of far-future technology: “There was nothing to do, no place to go, the city pressed in around him and every square foot of it was like this, filled with people, children, noise, heat.”

Also similar to The Caves of Steel, Make Room!x2 (sort of) revolves around a murder.

Detective Andy Rusch is barely scraping by, sharing a small apartment with his elderly roommate, Sol, who has lived long enough to know just what he’s missing. Andy, like the rest of the cops, is overworked, and underpaid. Most crimes go unsolved because the police don’t have the time to follow up on them, but when Big Mike O’Brien is killed, political pressure is applied to make sure this case is solved.

Possible spoilers from here on out. You have been warned.

While Make Room! Make Room! is an interesting, if very depressing, look at the perils of overpopulation, it’s a bit disjointed as far as the story goes. It’s a murder mystery but not really, as the focus is only intermittently on Andy solving the crime. Instead the story jumps around from Andy to street rat Billy Chung to O’Brien’s ex-moll Shirl Greene, and to Sol, Andy’s roommate, never sticking to one point of view to any satisfying conclusion.

The characters are there to provide a look at life in New York City, and that life is horrible unless you’re into organized crime or politics (between which there is a very thin line if there is one at all). Each character has bleak, wandering story in which they are barely in control of their own existence, impotent in their endeavors, enjoying only meager and temporary successes.

No matter how well Andy does his job, he only gets crap from his boss, more assignments, and in trouble with Shirl. Shirl, for her part, is more than willing to live in poverty with Andy, but he is so caught up in his job that he ignores her to the point she must abandon him. Billy Chung resorts to crime to improve his life, ends up murdering Big Mike and fleeing without any valuables, and wanders around for the rest of the story until he dies resisting arrest. And Sol is fine until he gets fed up enough to march in protest and ends up breaking his hip and passing away for lack of proper medical care.

While this all adds to the feeling of dread and uselessness that underpins the story, which I’m sure is the point, the story is tough to read. It ends with Andy bumped back down to beat cop, completely unfairly, and the population only growing, growing, growing.

Towards the end of the book, Andy’s roommate Sol gives a long speech about overpopulation, religion, and the lack of political will to fix the world’s problems. It’s a bit heavy-handed, but the damnable thing is that it is as true today as it was when Harrison wrote the book. We might have passed by 1999 without a problem, but there’s no indication that we’re not simply kicking the world of Make Room! Make Room! down the road a bit. 2050? 2099? Who knows.

It’s a classic book, and it definitely informs the history of my far-future Earth in The Only City Left, but having read it twice now, I think it’s one I will retire from my re-read list. I can watch the news to be this depressed, but for my fiction I’d prefer a little more adventure to go with my social commentary.

Note: Although the movie Soylent Green is based on Make Room! Make Room!, there is no plot in the book about people being turned into food. Soylent steaks are mentioned but they’re only fake steaks made of soybeans and lentils.

Asimov Re-Read: The Caves of Steel

The Caves of Steel
by Isaac Asimov
ISBN-13: 978-0553293401
Amazon: Paperback | Kindle
Goodreads | LibraryThing

Classic Michael Whelan cover art.

The first book in Isaac Asimov’s Robot series, The Caves of Steel, is one of my all-time favorites and a definite influence on The Only City Left. It’s a murder mystery, plus it deals with the themes of man vs. robot and Earth humans vs. Spacers (humans who have colonized other planets). But the element that had the greatest impact on me was life in a big-C City.

The book takes place on Earth roughly 3,000 years from now, at a time when all major cities have been covered over and no one lives outside of these Cities except for the simple-minded robots that farm the food the humans need. The story is set in and around New York, which is the sort of Ur-City that seems to be popular with SF writers (case in point: I’ll have a post later about Harry Harrison’s Make Room! Make Room!, which also showcases a “future” New York).

Our main character is Lije Baley, a 40-ish detective, married with one kid, who enjoys the small luxuries his C-5 rating allows him (the sink inside his apartment has been unlocked for private use, for one thing), but who lives haunted by the shadow of seeing his father lose all rank and privileges when Lije was a child.

He is called upon by Commissioner Julius Enderby (a friend who has risen through the ranks faster than Lije) to investigate a murder, but there a couple of hitches that make this case extremely sensitive. First, the victim is a Spacer, and he was killed in the heavily-guarded Spacetown outside of New York City, which should be an impossible feat. Second, Baley will have to take a Spacer partner and house him during the investigation.

This would be bad enough, but it turns out that his partner, Daneel Olivaw, is actually R. Daneel Olivaw, a robot. City dwellers have barely-concealed contempt for the robots that the Spacers are forcing them to use, because the robots are pushing regular folk out of their jobs. Without jobs and the status that goes with them, City life is miserable, so robots are not well liked.

Daneel is not just any robot, though. He looks completely human, albeit the Spacer ideal of human. He has some traits that give him away, like how he doesn’t breathe unless he’s talking, but for the most part he can pass for human unless someone is specifically trying to tell if he’s a robot or not.

Okay, so those are the basics. If you want to avoid possible spoilers, read no further (but do read the book, it’s a classic).

So what do I like about this book? To start with, City life. Asimov drills down into some of the minutiae of living in a City, not just at the technical level, but the social one. Like, the second you step into a public restroom, you don’t look at anyone else and you don’t talk to anyone else. Or how the mere thought of stepping outside the steel cave of the city is unthinkable to Lije. City life, despite its drawbacks, had become the new norm, and even those pesky Medievalists who want to return to nature acknowledge that they won’t be able to do it, but maybe the next generation or the next can.

Lije ends up at war with himself as to whether or not the Cities are a good thing. Early on, he is all for them: “Think of the inefficiency of a hundred thousand homes for a hundred thousand families as compared with a hundred-thousand unit Section … the endless duplication of kitchens and bathrooms as compared with the thoroughly efficient diners and shower rooms made possible by City culture.”

He even imagines the Cities growing and growing, combining with each other, overcoming the problems that will arise from population growth: “Baley had the picture of an Earth of unlimited energy. Population could continue to increase. The yeast farms could expand, hydroponic culture intensify. Energy was the only thing indispensable. The raw materials could be brought in from the uninhabited rocks of the System. If ever water became a bottleneck, more could be brought in from the moons of Jupiter. Hell, the oceans could be frozen and dragged out into Space where they could circle Earth as moonlets of ice. There they would be, always available for use, while the ocean bottoms would represent more land for exploitation, more room to live. Even carbon and oxygen could be maintained and increased on Earth through utilization of the methane atmosphere of Titan and the frozen oxygen of Umbriel. Earth’s population could reach a trillion or two. Why not?”

Ah, that’s quite an image, and if you’ve read The Only City Left, you can see where I got my inspiration (well, that and Trantor), even if only at a subconscious level. It had actually been years since I read this book when I started writing TOCL, but the seed had been planted. (Not only that, one of my characters is named Jessie, the same as Lije’s wife, and I didn’t make that connection until this re-read.)

In the end, Lije comes to see that City life is a dead end, and that humans must colonize the stars again. They can’t visit the Spacer worlds, because the Spacers, while long-lived, cannot abide the germs Earth humans would bring with them. New worlds will need to be colonized, and to do that, humans will need the help of robots. So that’s why the Spacers have been trying to foist robots on humanity! They, too, know that humans need to spread out amongst the stars to ensure humanity’s survival.

The Earth of The Only City Left, run-down and mostly abandoned, is my own take on this idea, but I never would have created it if not for Asimov’s The Caves of Steel.

The Only City Left: Part 89 (The End)

Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of Part 88Allin returned to Pudlington, uncertain about who controls the cat city.

The Only City Left: Part 89

As it turned out, Tumble was back in control of Pudlington and I was allowed in without any confrontation, but the good news ended there. Once inside the city, I was not kept waiting for long before Tumble arrived. His face lit with a weak smile when he greeted me, but it quickly disappeared.

“Emperor Banshee?” I asked.

“Is beyond the help of our finest physicians,” Tumble said, his voice catching in his throat. “He is hanging on to the barest thread of life, but when I told him you had returned, he requested your presence. We must hurry.”

Hurry we did, to the top of the city where Banshee lay under blankets amidst a room full of the blossoms he loved so well. Their aroma was nearly overwhelming but it only barely covered the foul stench of death coming from Banshee himself. Tumble stayed at the door while I approached the bed and knelt down beside the fallen Emperor.

“Allin, is that you?” he asked, opening his eyes ever so slightly.

“Yes, your highness.”

“So formal now that I am dying,” he said with a tiny grin. “Doyle?”

“Dead.”

“Good, good. Then we are even, at least.”

“Sir, I think Fordham was working with—”

“Yes, he was, but he has fled. That is Tumble’s problem now,” Banshee said. He paused to take some shallow breaths. “Allin, you must accept my apology.”

“You have nothing to be sorry for. I made my own choices.”

“Ah, but I forced your hand,” he said, his voice starting to slur. He mumbled something I couldn’t hear and then said, “Bait to lure Doyle out. No thought for you. I was wrong.”

He put his hand out and I cupped it in both of mine.

Bait? I wasn’t sure exactly what he meant, but it didn’t matter anymore and I told him so.

“Kind. Kind of you,” he said, his eyes closing. “Tyena?”

“I don’t know. Disappeared.”

“If you see her, tell her. I’m sorry. To her. Too.”

“I will,” I said, the tears running down my face as I felt his grip weaken. “Goodbye, Emperor Banshee.”

I felt a touch on my shoulder and looked up to see Tumble standing beside me.

“He did the best he could in his life,” Tumble said. He moved around me and smoothed the fur on his brother’s face. “What more can be said?”

Nothing.

I left Tumble to mourn his brother’s passing in solitude, and made my way back to my room to bury myself in blankets and self-recriminations. Doyle was dead and the plague of the werewolves was over, but the costs had been great. I played over and over in my mind the moment when the rogue guard pulled the coil out of his hat. If I had been faster, I could have stopped him and Banshee would still be alive. He had apologized to me, something about using me as bait. But I should have been the one to offer him an apology before he died. I felt miserable. Eventually, I fell asleep.

 

For two days, I stayed in bed. When I was awake, I lay staring at the ceiling, pondering all the wrong turns I had made. Cats came by to leave me food and to take it away after I ignored it, but otherwise they left me alone.

On the third day, I had a visitor who was not so easily put off.

“Go away, Ballister,” I said when he pulled the blanket off of me.

“Whew. You have all this nice stuff, a shower, clean clothes, but you smell worse than any of us ever did crammed into our little room.”

“Your opinion has been noted. Go away and you won’t have to smell me.”

“Can’t. Been sent to get you cleaned up and presentable-like.”

“Why?”

“The mourning period for Banshee is over. Tumble’s to become the catfolk’s new Emperor today, and you’re to attend the ceremony.”

“Don’t want to,” I said, and turned over.

“I don’t much care,” he said. He grabbed me by the shoulder and wrenched me back to face him. “Tumble’s following through on Banshee’s agreement with you. Me and my people’re being allowed to stay, and more’ll be let in after us. Won’t look good if you’re in here practicing your mopey face when Tumble announces all this, you being a hero and all.”

I shook his hand off and sat up.

“Some hero. I killed a bad man and I was too slow to save a good cat. Does that balance out?”

“You followed through on your word to Banshee. The werewolves are done. Doyle’s dead. I’m not living in a room scraping algae for dinner anymore. The world’s a safer place, for a little while at least. Pretty damn heroic, if you ask me. So you couldn’t save everyone. That’s the way it is. Now get cleaned up and dressed nice and be at the throne in an hour, or you’ll embarrass us all.”

I didn’t answer him and he left without another word.

I sighed and allowed myself to notice my own stink. Damn, Ballister’s right. Again.

An hour later I stood in attendance at Tumble’s coronation, in a place of honor two steps below him (and one below a cat named Taleon whom I had never met before but who was the new new Envoy). I wore fine clothing that had been laid out for me by the cats, but I left my now-defunct coil in my room so as not to stir any bitter memories of recent events.

As Ballister promised, Tumble spoke of a new era in which Pudlington would be a refuge and a shining example of how life can thrive even in the depths of the city. He thanked me for my service to the throne and asked the citizens of Pudlington to offer me their every courtesy.

Considering the turmoil that had greeted Banshee’s similar announcement, I was surprised at the rousing cheers that Tumble’s words received. Perhaps without Fordham agitating the crowd, they were more accepting of the idea of human refugees sharing their city. Or maybe, I had to admit to myself, it was the fact that I had followed through on my side of the bargain, had proven that humans could keep their word. For whatever reason, my heart felt lighter by the time the ceremony was over. If the cats could accept a change of this magnitude, perhaps there was hope that the city itself could change, given enough work and time.

Hours later, the ceremony had become a party with the throne platform as its epicenter. I stood near the platform’s edge, looking out at the lights of the city and talking to Ballister. He nodded at something behind me and I looked back to see Tumble—Emperor Tumble—approaching.

I turned back to Ballister but he was already walking away. He waved goodbye and headed toward a buffet table for thirds or fourths.

“Ballister seems to be settling in quite nicely. Who knew there was such a gentleman underneath all that dirt?”
“I think you had an idea,” I said, and remembered to add, “Your Highness.”

Tumble sighed, and in it I heard him yearning for a time when his brother was alive and he was free to run through the city, chasing adventure with a foolish young man. Much had changed in a few days. We stood in silence for a while, festivities taking place behind us, while before us the city lay dark and still except for islands of light and activity.

“What exactly happened with the coils?” I asked. It was something I had been curious about ever since it happened, but had been too caught up in my moping (as Ballister would have it) to ask about until now. “They got shut down just in time, but you couldn’t have gotten back here yet.”

“You’re right. You have Fordham to thank for the coils. If he had left well enough alone, Professor Copper wouldn’t have touched the satellites until Banshee or I ordered her to, but Fordham didn’t know that. He tried to shut the project down, so she ordered her team to initiate the procedure while she stalled him. Fordham was enraged. He locked her up but the damage was already done.”

“Then I owe them both my life, I guess. Any chance of me being able to thank him personally?”

“We haven’t found the exit he used yet, which you can be sure is giving me no end of worry. If he got out without us knowing, what’s to keep him from coming back in the same way?”

“The days of Pudlington hiding behind closed doors are over anyway, right?”

“True, but I still don’t like that he’s free. Who knows what he’ll be up to.”

“Yeah. And not just him. The Fifth House, whoever they are, must have given Doyle power for a reason. I doubt they’re going to sit back and take this loss without a fight.”

Tumble hummed in agreement and asked, “And you? You’ve seen the sun rise on the Roof of the World. Your uncle is no longer alive to chase you endlessly through the city. What’s next for Allin Arcady?”

I looked out at the lights in the darkness. One by one, as partygoers returned to their homes in the cat’s cradle of a city, more lights went on.

“Well,” I said. “It’s a dark world out there, and if we don’t do anything, it’ll only get darker. Ballister told me I can’t save everyone, and he’s right. But Earth is the only city left, and I’m not going to let it die without a fight.”

“My brother would be proud of that sentiment, Allin. As am I. Know that so long as I am Emperor, you shall never be alone in this fight.”

I looked away, a little too tight in the throat to reply immediately. When I could speak again, I tried to lighten the mood.

“Come on, let’s get some more to eat before Ballister finishes it all.”

“Banshee would approve of that sentiment as well.”

With that, we turned away from the darkness and headed toward the light and noise of the celebration, to enjoy the good times for so long as they should last.

* * *

10/27/13 News: That’s it. The end of the serialized version of The Only City Left. This has been an incredible ride. If I had understood the amount of work involved, I might never have had the courage to start the project, but I’m glad I went into it somewhat blind. In the process, I’ve interacted with wonderful readers, discovered other creators’ amazing endeavors, and pushed myself to grow as a writer. I can’t wait until the final, edited version of The Only City Left is released, and I can get to work on my next project. Thanks to everyone who has read, commented, and shared.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.

The Only City Left: Part 88

Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of Part 87, Allin had survived the final encounter with Doyle and returned to the penthouse on the Roof of the World, where he saw the sun rise for the first time in his life.

The Only City Left: Part 88

I must have stood at that window for an hour, soaking up the sun’s rays and basking in its warm, comforting presence. At one point I found myself holding onto my lantern coil, happily surprised that Doyle had left it on me and that it had survived last night’s activity. It no longer worked, of course, and had never come close to the feeling of actual sunlight that I now experienced. Still, I would miss its glow. My travels through the city from now on would be that much more dark and dangerous.

Thoughts of travel spurred me to finally leave the window and search the penthouse for anything that might help once I left this room. I winced when I saw the corpses that littered the area around the bar. Doc Needles and Doyle’s guards, human once more, still wore confused and anguished expressions from their sudden demise.

I realized that one of the guards was missing and I recalled that he had fled through a door along the wall behind the bar. I followed his course and discovered another wing that included a large bedroom, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a small dining area. I also found the guard, who hadn’t made it ten feet into the room before the ghosts had caught him. I covered him with a large blanket from the bed and continued my search.

Much like the house in Clinkerville, the penthouse was well stocked. I could only imagine that Doyle had used this penthouse to impress others or maybe as a reward for good service. He certainly couldn’t have availed himself of any of its amenities. I, on the other hand, most certainly could.

I took a warm shower with the sun shining down on me through the clear walls, dressed in spare clothes I found in a closet, and filled up on water and preserved food from the pantry. I even found a canvas bag which I used to store extra food, a spare set of clothes, and a towel. Behind the bar I found some empty plastic containers which I filled with water. Even better, I found a tiny but powerful flashlight. I had food, clothes, and light. I was ready to face the world again, even if I didn’t know where I was in it.

I opened the door to leave but stopped to let the sun soak into my skin one last time. Who knows if I’ll ever see it again? I thought, but without any sadness. I’d had my time in the sun, but there was no life to live up here. Everything I knew, everyone I loved, was down in the darkness, and that was fine with me.

As I turned to go, the sunlight filtered past me into the hallway, and I saw that someone had etched a large arrow into the floor, pointing away from the penthouse. Next to it: a dash and the letter X.

I traced the X with my fingertips. Xerxes. He must have done this before the ghosts poured into the room and overwhelmed Doyle and his men. I thought again about their sacrifice. They had used their numbers to somehow provide Doyle with enough material to completely rebuild his body rather than take over mine, at the cost of their afterlives. I didn’t wholly understand why they would do such a thing, but that it had been the plan from the beginning I now had no doubt. Otherwise, Xerxes wouldn’t have left this mark. Or the next one, or the next one.

He had, as it turned out, left marks along the length of the route from the Garden to the penthouse, as if he knew I would be returning alone and would need his help one last time. Without that trail to follow, I might never have returned to a part of the city I knew. With it, I made it to the Garden in half a day.

The Garden. What a mess. From the number of lantern coils strewn about the streets, I got the sense that the slaves had gained the upper hand while I was away. Maybe the former wolves had abandoned the coils when it became clear that they were both useless and unpopular. To be on the safe side, I took mine off and hid it in my bag.

I needn’t have bothered. The entire place was abandoned except for corpses. Whatever struggle had occurred, neither the winners nor the losers (if any had survived) had stuck around this already picked-over wasteland. Fires burned unchecked, making it hazardous to breathe, but I had to look for Tyena before I left. I wasn’t surprised when, despite calling out for her and searching the building that used to be Doyle’s headquarters, she was nowhere to be found. I only hoped that she and her mother had managed to get free in all of the confusion, and would end up somewhere safe.

Me, I wanted to return to Pudlington, and with the Garden going up in flames around me, now was a really good time to get going. Fire in the city, I worried as I scampered out of there. Not good.

It would run out of air and combustible material in time, but it would leave behind one last piece of useless city in its wake. Doyle’s legacy.

I made my way back to Pudlington, reversing the route along which the ghosts had led me. Had it only been yesterday? It seemed like another lifetime.

I crawled through the ducts, thankful that the ghosts hadn’t reset all the traps they had disabled, and from there into the sterile white corridors of Pudlington’s bailey. Finally, I stood before the gates of Pudlington once more. I didn’t know if I would be met with a friendly greeting or the barrel of a gun, but there was nothing for it except to walk up to the guards, announce myself, and find out.

“Hi. It’s me, Allin Arcady. I’m home.”

* * *

Continue to Part 89.

10/20/13 News: The penultimate post! Next week is the nearly double-sized ending, wrapped in a bow for my loyal readers. Thank you for sticking with me to the end.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.

The Only City Left: Part 87

Welcome to my serial science-fiction/fantasy adventure, The Only City Left. This is the story of Allin Arcady and his adventures through a dying, planet-sized city called Earth. (Click here for the Table of Contents.)

At the end of Part 86, Allin sent his uncle Doyle plummeting into the abyss and decided to try to save himself by climbing Up one more time.

The Only City Left: Part 87

I pulled my beaten, bitten, and bleeding body over the ledge and back onto solid ground. I lay there for a moment, a shivering, achy mess. I had done it. I had killed my own uncle. Maybe even my own father, if he was to be believed. No, whatever else he was, he wasn’t my father, wasn’t Dad. Only one man had earned that title, and he wouldn’t have wanted me to lay there worrying while there was still work to be done. Always stay alive.

I spared a glance into that dark chasm before I left. Werewolf or human, anyone who fell into that was a goner. So long, Uncle. I’m not proud of what I did, but the world’s a better place without you in it.

With that back-handed eulogy out of the way and the moon sinking beyond the towering wall across the chasm, I set out to get back to the penthouse. It was slow-going at first as I tried to make sense of where I was. Luckily, Doyle and I had left a trail of devastation in our wake. Dented metal, crushed and broken pipes, that sort of thing.

I followed that trail back to the first large gap we had crossed, where Doyle had caught up to me. It was twice as wide across as I was tall, and the far side was half-a-story higher to boot, but the encroaching shadows spurred me on. I made a running jump and caught the lip of the far edge, barely. My left shoulder, the one that Doyle had gnawed on, sent tendrils of pain shooting up my arm, and I involuntarily let go, but I held on with my right hand until I could use the left again. It was a close thing. The cold, the accumulated deficit of good oxygen, my myriad injuries, they were all combining to rob me of both strength and stamina. Once I pulled myself up, the going was easier. My usual knack for noticing landmarks and keeping track of where I’ve been worked as well on top of the world as inside of it, and I was able to retrace my path to the penthouse. Every once in a while I would dare a glance back at the setting moon and the shadows that were almost upon me. The thought of freezing to death, so close to my goal, kept me stumbling along, one foot in front of the other.

Finally I reached the glass walls of the penthouse, but something was wrong. The break in the glass was gone!

Not good. Not good at all. The moon was cut in two by the horizon, the shadow line crawled ever nearer, and I was stuck outside.

Breathing heavily, I ran my hands across the face of the glass and moved along the wall, trying to figure out what had happened. I stopped when I saw a large chunk of broken couch on the other side of the glass. This was definitely our exit point, but the gaping hole we had crashed out of was gone. In its place was a tiny one, smaller than my hand and with smooth edges. As I watched, the glass reformed from the outside in, healing itself. Desperate to get inside, I punched at it before it filled in entirely. This broke a small piece off and I repeated the process until the hole grew big enough that I could get my hands in it and start prying pieces out one by one. By the time the moon disappeared beneath the horizon, I had not widened the hole enough to fit through it. I cried out in shock and despair as my body reverted back to its human form.

The cold air burned my skin and the shallow pull of breath I took seemed to deliver no oxygen to my starved lungs. With the last of my strength, I pulled myself through the opening I had made in the glass. It had been too small for a werewolf but ended up being just right for a puny human. The air in the room was barely warmer and richer than outside. I fell onto the floor, rolled over, and passed out.

#

When I awoke, I felt comfortable and warm. The air was breathable again and I stretched out on the plush carpet, luxuriating in the simple act of taking one deep, satisfying breath after the other. The room around me was lit in a sort of murky half-light that felt unreal. That, in combination with how good I felt, left me to wonder: Did I die? Is this the afterlife? Worse thought: Did I die and get hit with a Lazarus swarm?

That had me sitting up in a hurry, rubbing my arms and checking myself for the telltale blue glow. From what I could tell, I was human again and alive, albeit shirtless. It must have been torn to pieces in my fight with Doyle.

Doyle. I had survived the battle with my uncle but just barely. The patchwork of scars and scratch marks all over my chest and arms stood as testament to that. My shoulder was the worst; the wound was closed but an impressive imprint of his teeth pitted either side of it. My final transformation from wolf to human must have been responsible for how much I had healed so far. One last gift from my uncle, the werewolf king.

His last words came to me: Don’t do this. We’re family!

No, we might have been blood, but family meant more than that. My family was back in Pudlington: Tumble, Banshee, Ballister, Copper. And in the Garden: Tyena. I needed to get back to them. Problem was, I had no idea where I was in the city. I had been drugged for most of the trip and all I knew was that everywhere I needed to be was somewhere Down from here.

I closed my eyes and covered my face with my hands, but a sense of movement behind me had me on my feet and turned around in an instant. No, not movement. Light.

The sun.

I walked over to the glass wall of this room on top of the world, put my palms against it, and watched the sun rise for the first time in my life.

* * *

Continue to Part 88.

10/13/13 News: No cliffhanger this week, just sunrise and a return to humanity for Allin, in more ways than one.

Only two more posts and then this draft of The Only City Left is done. Originally, I had a quadruple-length Part 90 which touched on four separate characters (or groups) at the moment the coils stopped working. This broke the first-person nature of the book, so we’ll end up learning about those events when and if Allin does in later books.

The Only City Left is listed on the Web Fiction Guide, a wonderful place to find all sorts of online fiction.

If you enjoyed this post, please click the image below to give The Only City Left a vote on Top Web Fiction. (One vote allowed per week.)

Click here to vote for The Only City Left on Top Web Fiction!

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Logo Credit:The TOCL logo is courtesy of Jande Rowe of the webcomic Aedre’s Firefly. If you haven’t already read AF, I encourage you to go check it out. Not only does Jande produce the comic, she reviews other long-form webcomics, gives tips and instructions on creating a comic, and is endlessly supportive of other creators. For a great review that will bring you up to speed on Aedre’s Firefly, check out this page at Webcomic Alliance.