Friday, April 8, 2011

Let’s talk…

I readily admit to being rather naïve and somewhat clueless as to the details of the publishing industry. I have exactly one publishing credit (an article in Dragon Magazine #243, January 1998), and nothing else. But I talk a lot to published authors, and one thing I have noticed is that a lot of them often speak cryptically about their latest project. Unable to divulge details due to legal constraints (I assume).

As anyone who has been following this blog, or my Facebook, knows, I have been invited to write a short story for an anthology. Yes, a real, physically printed, anthology. But, because of my perceptions based on the above, I have yet to divulge details to any but a few close friends, and people who could be involved.

Well, word has it I have been secretive for nothing. I can speak openly about it all I want (I feel kinda dumb now). So, to that end, let us discuss the theme of this anthology …ORCS!

Wow. Quelle surprise. Right?

Yes, the anthology is the brainchild of my mentor and good friend, Scott Oden. He and I share a deep passion for these brutes, and it is his purpose to gather talented writers to produce a definitive collection of short fiction about Orcs. To that end, he has gathered quite an impressive roster of writers. I don’t think the list is complete or finalized yet, so I won’t mention any names at this point. But, suffice it to say, there are writers from all over the fantasy spectrum involved. From long published names, to newer authors who are starting to gain some real notoriety. And in the middle of all of that, there’s me. I am both honored and humbled to be counted among them. And I know I will be brought to tears to see my name in the table of contents next to some of these giants.

This has motivated me to write the best story I can. And I really like it so far. Interestingly, the publication date is tentatively sometime in the Spring of 2012, so there is plenty of time to get the story done. The word length is 5-10,000 words. I’m already at about 4,300, with my story almost 2/3 done.

One thing that has come up in the Facebook group discussions is that most of the writers are looking to put a new spin on Orcs. This was a suggestion by Scott, and many people are running with it. In fact, the idea was so infectious, I put my original idea on the back-burner in favor of a new idea. Oddly, this new idea was sparked by a single, tongue-in-cheek comment made in jest. Scott had laid down the rules, and told us, in no uncertain terms, what he didn’t want. Well, the internet being a breeding ground for desktop comedians, some of us had to chime in with snarky comments. One of those was something akin to “What? No Orc space pirates fighting psychic vampires?”

Orc space pirates…brilliant!

The idea took hold of me and I couldn’t let it go. So, I changed my course, and set sail for the ether.

As you may recall, Disney’s Treasure Planet is one of my favorite animated films. And having recently read Stevenson’s Treasure Island, the whole concept of galleons in space was something I would love to explore. And now here was the perfect opportunity. My story is a nod to Stevenson, as well as a nod to the now defunct SpellJammer setting for D&D.

So, there you have it. My “secret” project is not so secret. Stay tuned here and on Facebook for more details as they come. This is Scott’s first foray into editing, so I know he feels overwhelmed at times (not to mention everything else he has going on). So, being the guy I am, I’m going to try to help with any aspect of this that I can.

In the meantime, here is an opening snippet of my (as yet untitled) story…

I was but twelve years old, traveling with an estranged uncle in the wake of my parents’ deaths, when the Orcs swooped out of the ether to bring doom upon our ship. Like some leviathan from an ancient mariner’s tale, their vessel was a mass of spikes and solar sails, her rigging crawling with Orcs like flies on a corpse, each as eager as the next for blood and plunder. Their appearance sent the crew of the HMS Mandrake into a panic. For my part, having been caught exploring the deck of the ship, I was mesmerized in horrid fascination, and could scarcely move. I had read of Orc marauders plying the space lanes, waylaying unsuspecting vessels, and leaving few, if any, survivors. These tales had given the Orcs a bogey-man’s gloss in my imagination; never did I expect to meet one – much less a whole crew of the freebooters.

And yet, such a certain death was staring me in the eye.

I remember well the guttural voices above all. I had met many a man through my father, a scholar and a teacher, and none had had a voice as baritone and menacing as that of an Orc. So, to hear a myriad of them, bellowing and howling like a pack of beasts anticipating a kill, even as their grappling hooks crunched into our deck, was an assault on my senses I was not prepared for. As their ship came closer, and I got my first (and what I assumed would be my last) up-close look at Orcs, I was struck by how human they appeared, despite their gray skin and bestial facial features. Dressed more or less as one would expect such spacefarers to be, many were shirtless, their bodies decorated with ritual scarring and tattoos. In their brawny hands and toothy maws they bore barbaric forms of cutlasses and daggers. A few shouldered plasma muskets, and took shots at some of the similarly armed crewmembers of the Mandrake.


bowiefan said...

Just don't give too much away :) You're so talented and I thank Scott for giving you this opportunity to let others see that.

John Carter said...


Charles Gramlich said...

It's an exciting project for sure. Your's looks off to a strong start.