A Triumph Over Tragedy Story Preview: Duncan Derring

Recently, I had a first,  when my humorous Science Fiction story, Duncan Derring & The Call Of The Lady Luck, was picked up by Triumph Over Tragedy, R.T. Kaelin’s brilliant project to raise funds for the Red Cross’ Hurricane Sandy. Featuring stories from the likes of Robert Silverberg, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Michael Stackpole, Timothy Zahn, Elizabeth Bear and many more, it’s an honor to have my name included. The e-anthology will release near the end of 2012 and be available for a limited time. All stories are donated and so is editing time by Kaelin, Sarah Chorn, Rob Bedford and myself. The goal is to raise $10,000 for the Red Cross. You can participate and get a copy of this fine anthology for just $7 here.  For a full list of contributors, see the Goodreads listing here. While some writers offered reprints, many of the stories are brand new. I highly recommend getting a copy. You can learn more on Science Fiction &  Fantasy Writer’s Chat Wednesday, December 27th at 9 p.m. ET, when Kaelin, Chorn and others come on to talk about the project.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d give you a preview of my story. This tale also appeared in print in Wandering Weeds: Tales Of Rabid Vegetation edited by Frances Pauli & Jaleta Clegg. You can read about that on Goodreads here. Besides it being the first time I’ve shared a Table Of Contents with my favorite writer of all time, Silverberg, and had a story in a charity anthology, it’s also the first time one of my stories has been published twice, and I’m glad Duncan gets a chance to reach a wider audience, as I’m hoping this is the first in a series of adventures for him.

I hope you enjoy this snippet of Duncan’s first adventure. Inspired by love of pulp characters and Mike Resnick’s Catostrophe Baker and Lucifer Jones tales. And please support Triumph Over Tragedy.

 

DUNCAN DERRING AND THE CALL OF THE LADY LUCK
by

Bryan Thomas Schmidt

T

 he mission sounded simple: head out to the edge of the solar system and save the Princess Line’s Lady Luck from the Andromedan tumbleweeds. It was the sort of mission I was made for, and I fully expected to wrap her up in less than a day and be on my way. For once, my expectations were wildly out of synch with reality. Happens to everyone sometime, I suppose.

Duncan Derring, weapons and demolitions expert—what do you mean you never heard of me? Where have you been? It wasn’t exactly the kind of profession you’d expect tourism ventures to call upon, I know, but the galaxy held all kinds of odd dangers for these passenger ships. They weren’t outfitted with any weapons and only the barest sorts of shields. In fact, if I’d been the one hired to approve the design, they never would have made it out of concept. But no one asked me.

The Lady Luck was one of the newer liners, “a five star resort amongst the stars,” the brochures said, and they weren’t talking about the kind of stars you see in movies. She could carry a load of up to five thousand passengers, not counting certain odd-sized alien species, and provided all the dining and entertainment options anyone could imagine. She contained twenty-seven restaurants, eighteen bars, ten nightclubs, eight ballrooms, thirty-five shops, fifteen cinemas, and any number of other recreational and entertainment facilities. If I hadn’t been aboard a liner once myself, I’d have thought it absurd, but Princess Ltd. specialized in making absurdities reality.

I’d never seen the Andromedan Tumbleweeds, although I’d heard a lot about them, of course. Kinda goes without saying that, in my profession, you stay abreast of the latest developments. Floating in deep space between Neptune and Uranus, the tumbleweeds were freshly arrived from Andromeda, where the locals tired of the toll they took on ships and planets and used a fleet’s worth of force fields to drag them to the edge of their solar system and push them off on us. How nice of them, you might think, and you’d be right, but then you don’t know the Andromedans. No one ever called the Andromedans nice.

It took about two days at full on ultra-light engines to make the journey from my previous assignment, Ganymede Colony just off Jupiter. Why anyone had wanted to build resort towns in the Galileans was beyond me, but some people like looking at cool, gaseous masses, I guess. I certainly prefer them to some warm gaseous masses I’ve known. I was able to set the nav computer to auto for much of the route and catch some much-needed sleep. Despite my distaste for the location, the Ganymede Colony was a busy place and sleep had been more of a rarity than I’m used to. The custom-made feather mattress I’d installed in my quarters molded itself to the contours of my body as I slept. It took three tries and its sexiest feminine voice for the nav computer to awaken me. I warmed quickly as the heaters in my sleep pod brought my body temperature to normal and the blood raced through my veins again.

Yawning, I sat up, rubbing at the aches in my neck as I put my feet on the cold deck. The sensation got me moving faster as I slid out of my sleep jumpsuit and began strapping on my demolitions gear. At least as much of it as I could and still move around with speed and conduct ship’s business. You have to be ready to jump at a moment’s notice in this business, for both economic and literal survival, and the better prepared you were, the more successful you’d be.

As the Trini, short for Trinitrotoluene—aka TNT—slipped out of hyperspace, I found myself immediately at the heart of the problem. Until I’d encountered her, I would have never thought a nav computer could be programmed with a sense of humor. I figured a jealous woman of some sort must be behind her, because she was always pulling this sort of thing on me, and for once, I wasn’t in the mood. As accustomed as I am to dangerous situations, the sight of three tumbleweeds rotating seeming inches from my cockpit view screen stopped my heart.

I requested a location on the Lady Luck herself and found her frozen in space just inside the edge of the field. The report said she’d come upon the tumbleweeds unexpectedly and figured staying put and keeping pace was her only chance. Given the tumbleweeds’ propensity for random changes in direction with the slightest shift in gravitation, I’d say the Lady Luck lived up to her name. The readings my computer took upon arrival showed little influence from planetary gravitation at that particular moment. It was enough to make me relax again, which would turn out to be a regrettable mistake.

As I rotated the Trini and took in the view, I noted damages on the Lady Luck’s hull from unlucky encounters with a few of the surrounding tumbleweeds. The fact the liner was still functional and in one piece indicated the impacts had deflected the offending tumbleweeds away without disturbing any others. Such a disturbance would probably have caused a sizable enough chain reaction that my mission would have been pointless.

The Lady Luck hailed me as soon as I arrived. “Lady Luck Liner calling craft Trini,” the comm officer said in that annoying formal style they have.

“Yeah, I’m here,” I responded. “Just checking out the damages.”

“None necessitating more than a change of five thousand shorts so far,” she said. The Lady Luck had full on laundry facilities, too, so I figured that didn’t pose them much of a problem.

“How is it you came to be inside the field?” I asked, thinking only an idiot could have made such a colossal blunder.

“We were at full stop, under night crew. The weeds came upon us faster than we could bring her up to full and take evasives,” the Captain answered. “Our nav computer malfunctioned and the scanners read them as small debris.”

Given my own experience with nav computers, I didn’t bother to delve any further. When they weren’t in motion, the tumbleweeds always appeared smaller than their actual size to scanners. Pilots relied on nav charts and computers to pinpoint their location when they travelled this part of the system. But they always verified their presence with human eyes.

“Can you back her out the way you came in?”

“It’s not so easy to move a one hundred thousand ton liner,” the Captain said. “It’s a bit like backing Saturn through one of her rings. We don’t have the maneuverability. Backing up’s rarely called for.”

I checked my computer’s readings again. “For the moment, it appears you got lucky, but when the field reaches the influence of Neptune’s gravity, it could change in a hurry.”

“Can you try and have us out before then?” the Captain replied, as if I needed some amateur questioning my competence for the mission. But the thought of four thousand five hundred passengers suffering for the ignorance of their crew wasn’t something I could live with, so I set about my calculations for clearing them a path.

As I flew along the field’s edge, it became obvious I’d have to go in manually and set the explosives. My jetpack was quicker and I a far smaller target than my ship. The odds I would avoid entanglements with any of the weeds would greatly increase if I went alone. The catch was that I hadn’t used my pack in over a year and never in a situation rife with the risks I’d face here. All it would take is one wrong move, one wrong placement of an explosive, or one disturbance of the field to send the weeds into chaos, haphazardly spinning like their Earthen namesakes across space, colliding with each other or anything else in their way.

To complicate things further, Neptune’s gravitation was coming into range. Planetary gravity started influencing objects millions of kilometers out. On paper, the figures looked ridiculous but this wasn’t on paper. Even a slight gravitational pull could send the tumbleweeds into chaotic motion, which would be the end of the Lady Luck, the Trini, and me.

Finishing my calculations with due speed but proper care, I slipped into my suit and jetted out the Trini’s passenger airlock, making my way into the field. The tumbleweeds were even more intimidating up close than they had been through the Trini’s ports. The temperature inside my suit rose as adrenaline coursed through my veins. Spying my first target, I used the suit’s jets to swing left and approach, taking care not to lose control or come in too fast.

I reversed my jets’ thrust, slowing my momentum as I reached each tumbleweed’s surface. Then I could set each charge and use my boots to push free before jetting off to the next target. Firing the jets too close might start the weeds spinning. The Trini’s calculations determined it would take twenty-two charges to both clear a path for the liner and deflect nearby tumbleweeds away from the Lady Luck. My plan included setting five more just in case something went wrong.

Thanks to my experience and skill, the execution came off without a hitch. As I released the last charge and clicked the activation button, ready to push off and head back to my ship, a motion over my right shoulder drew my attention. A door was opening on the Lady Luck. It appeared to be a garbage chute.

I punched the button on my radio. “Captain, don’t jettison anything, until you’ve cleared the field!”

But I was too late.

Continued in Triumph Over Tragedy.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the editor of Blue Shift Magazine and an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. A sequel The Returning followed in 2012 and The Exoduswill appear in 2013, completing the space opera Saga Of Davi Rhii. His first children’s books, 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends(forthcoming) appeared from Delabarre Publishing in 2012.  His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press (July 2013), headlined by Robert Silverberg, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Mike Resnick and Nancy Kress, and Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day Publishing (November 2013). He hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

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ConStellation III Report

Well, we survived it: A Science Fiction Con with no WiFi. Most of us were less than happy about that, and the hotel had a plethora of problems, including a badly leaking roof which forced staff to evacuate the art show to a new location due to the heavy rains and tornado weather. However, the Con was so well run, we all had a great time in spite of this. Even the hotel staff urging us downstairs at one point couldn’t dampen spirits for long.

The dealer’s room was a happy place with a generous group of people supporting each other and steady visits from always helpful staff even as attendees made their way through. I sold 13 books at the Con and had 3 more online sales during the convention, which makes it my most successful Con for book sales so far. Attendance reached 250 this year, a new height for the Con, and I’d say that definitely helped. I also gave out a lot of cards with my website info on it as well. Despite my new ebook cards drawing interest, I didn’t get the first sale on them but that was due in part, I believe, to Sams Dot not having ebooks and thus not wanting to push them, and I didn’t go out of my way either. They were readily in sight for anyone who looked at the table. At ConQuest, when it’s just me at my table, I’ll try a different approach. I must admit, I do prefer selling paper copies, however.

Two of my three panels were well attended. 10 people showed up first thing Saturday morning at 11 for CHARACTER BUILDING. They were attentive, but, perhaps, tired. It took me a bit to work them up to interaction, however, they were all eager to learn. My reading that afternoon had no one present, but I waited there for 15 minutes and then got an influx of people and wound up reading to 6, which was almost double my reading at Conclave last October. And they really seemed to enjoy that as well as the Q&A time following, so I felt good about it. I also know at least two of those people bought books, so I’d call that a success as well.

On Sunday, I did two panels back to back. The first, FAITH IN SFF, drew a dozen very engaged people. I didn’t go to all of the other panels, but I’d say I had as many as the Conan panel before had drawn and these people engaged very  much with the material and me, leading to a great discussion. They even applauded at the end. I had approached this as a discussion of faith in all of its forms: not just faith in Higher Powers, but faith in magic or science or even wealth. I asked everyone to be respectful and stated that our purpose was not to argue validity of beliefs but discuss how they motivate us and how their presence is handled in world building. I read my list of SF classics with religious themes from SF Signal and then added those mentioned in the comments on that post as well as a few others I’d discovered. Attendees added even more. I’ll have an even longer list when I do this panel again at OsFest. In fact, the OsFest chair was present and complimented the panel,  encouraging me to repeat it at their Con. I honestly wasn’t sure we’d get much interest in the topic and that, if we did, it might devolve into incivility. I was so pleasantly surprised. Very enlightening for all of us, I felt. I learned as much as anyone.

My second Sunday panel, GREAT READS, drew only 3 people but they were lively and we had a great discussion on books we’ve loved. I read books from my 2011 Year’s Best Reads List and didn’t even get to my 70 Most Memorable SFF Reads which I also had brought with  me. My list of books people suggested, which I want to read includes:  Starplex by Robert J. Sawyer, Persistence Of Vision by John Varley, Flight of The Dragonfly by Robert Foster, Chung Kuo by David Wingrove, The Leandros series by Rob Thurman and Integral Trees by David Niven.

My own schedule was so busy that I didn’t get to hear Elizabeth Bear’s panels, unfortunately. Between my own panels and reading and then dealer room duties, I missed her activities. I did, however, introduce myself and I’ll see her again soon at Convergence in Bloomington, MN. She also agreed to do an interview by email for SFFWRTCHT soon, so that will be two great chances to learn about her more.

I also sold a series of interviews with short story writers to Sams Dot Publishing for their Aoife’s Kiss zine and booked Jack McDevitt, who turned around my questions so fast, I’d already turned the thing in Monday, well ahead of the May 1 deadline for the June issue. I’ll be looking into Tanith Lee and others for upcoming issues, 1 per month.  This is my first paid interview series. The small press pays a token amount, but it’s regular income of a sort and, added to other sources, is a step in the right direction.

One of the more humorous events of the Con also involves McDevitt, whom I told in my emails I would look forward to meeting at OsFest in Omaha this July. He’s list as Guest Of Honor, only, he said he wouldn’t be there. Too busy. I ran into the Con chairs of that Con at my panels and mentioned that to them, suggesting perhaps emailing Jack soon might be a good idea. To say they were a bit worried would be an understatement, but on Monday, Jack informed me he would indeed be at the Con. He said he’d forgotten to write it down and commented: “I’m beginning to understand why my wife won’t let me out alone at night.”

Altogether, a success and enjoyment. I’d certainly do it again, if asked. I certainly recommend it to other dealers and creatives as well. For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, andThe Returning, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories featured  in anthologies and magazines. His children’s book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing along with the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick. As  a freelance editor, he’s edited a novels and nonfiction.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF PublishingGrasping For The Wind and SFSignal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

19 5-star & 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $4.99 Kindle http://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

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Agenda For ConStellation NE This Weekend – Lincoln, NE

Well, my first Con of the year has finally arrived. I’m attending the third annual ConStellation Con in Lincoln, Nebraska, April 13-15 at Guest House Inn on Cornhusker Highway in North Lincoln. So if you’re in the area, come on out!

Guest of Honor is Elizabeth Bear, a Hugo nominee for the podcast she does with fellow writers called SFSqueecast. She’s also the author of a number of novels and her stories have appeared in Asimov’s, amongst other places. Her latest novel, Range Of Ghosts, just released last month from TOR.

Artist Guest of Honor is W.J. Hodgson and Jim C. Hines and Brandon Sanderson are past GOH authors.

A full programming schedule can be found here. And my agenda is below.

When not involved in panels or readings, I will be hanging in the dealer room with Sam’s Dot Publishing’s Tyree Campbell, who has graciously agreed to stock my books on his table.  The specific events I’ll be doing are 3 panels and a reading as follows:

Character Building – Saturday, 11 a.m., Deneb Room

What makes a good character? How do you name characters? What are the aspects of character one must consider when creating characters for a story? How deep do you go? An examination of character creation and more.


Author Reading- Saturday, 2 p.m., ConSuite

I’ll be reading from Space Battles and The Worker Prince and perhaps even a passage from The Returning which comes out in June.


Faith in Science Fiction and Fantasy-
Sunday at 1 p.m., Vega Room

A discussion of the importance of faith as a motivator for humankind. Not a debate about the validity or value or religions, but rather a discussion of how faith drives all of us in some way. What do you put your faith in? What drives you toward your elusive life long goals? Why is faith an indelible, essential element for world building in speculative fiction? We’ll discuss these questions and much more.


Great Reads – Sunday at 2 p.m., Vega Room
What are the best books you’ve read in the past year? How do they compare to ones you’ve read in years past? Which forthcoming books are you most excited about and why? A discussion of books we love and why we love them and our quest for more.

I will have copies of Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6, my ebook Rivalry On A Sky Course, as well as print and ebooks of The Worker Prince. I also plan to have a few copies of The North Star Serial, Part 1 and Of Fur And Fire, edited by Dana Bell, which features my first published fantasy story, “Amelie’s Guardian.”

Hope to see you there. I look forward to a fun weekend!


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, The Returning (forthcoming), the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and the kids book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. he edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick and has stories in several anthologies and magazines (some forthcoming). As  a freelance editor, he’s edited a novel for author Ellen C. Maze (Rabbit: Legacy), a historical book for Leon C. Metz (The Shooters, John Wesley Hardin, The Border), and is now editing Decipher Inc’s WARS tie-in books for Grail Quest Books.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

19 5-star & 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $4.99 Kindle http://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

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My Panel Slate For Constellation in Lincoln, NE

Well, the Con Programming Chair from Constellation in Lincoln, NE, April 13-15 sent me my panel schedule. I’ll be launching Space Battles there as well as promoting my other stuff. More details to follow when I have them. Elizabeth Bear is the GOH. Hope to see some of you there.

Character Building – Saturday, 11 a.m.

What makes a good character? How do you name characters? What are the aspects of character one must consider when creating characters for a story? How deep do you go? An examination of character creation and more.


Author Reading- Saturday, 2 p.m.

I’ll be reading from Space Battles and The Worker Prince and perhaps even a passage from The Returning which comes out in June.


Faith in Science Fiction and Fantasy-
Sunday at 1 p.m.

A discussion of the importance of faith as a motivator for humankind. Not a debate about the validity or value or religions, but rather a discussion of how faith drives all of us in some way. What do you put your faith in? What drives you toward your elusive life long goals? Why is faith an indelible, essential element for world building in speculative fiction? We’ll discuss these questions and much more.


Great Reads – Sunday at 2 p.m.
What are the best books you’ve read in the past year? How do they compare to ones you’ve read in years past? Which forthcoming books are you most excited about and why? A discussion of books we love and why we love them and our quest for more.

 

Excited to attend this Con for the first time. 


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novels The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Book Clubs Year’s Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, The Returning (forthcoming), the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and the kids book 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids from Delabarre Publishing. he edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 which he edited for Flying Pen Press, headlined by Mike Resnick and has stories in several anthologies and magazines (some forthcoming). As  a freelance editor, he’s edited a novel for author Ellen C. Maze (Rabbit: Legacy), a historical book for Leon C. Metz (The Shooters, John Wesley Hardin, The Border), and is now editing Decipher Inc’s WARS tie-in books for Grail Quest Books.  He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

19 5-star & 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $4.99 Kindle http://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

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