A Quiet Place of Terror and a City in the Sky


I saw A Quiet Place and found it to be one of the most intense films I’ve seen since 28 Weeks Later. Smart, tightly constructed and truly scary, with an admirable devotion to show-don’t-tell storytelling and a thoroughly unique nature of threat. Emily Blunt gave a master class performance, and who knew that John Krasinski had such serious directing chops?

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He seems to instinctively know how to extract the most tension from every frame of film, squeezing dread out of a squeaky door or the mere sight of a nail sticking out of the floor. This is the film that Signs wanted to be but failed miserably at achieving (between its water-vulnerable species waltzing around a water-rich Earth naked to M. Night’s heavy-handed religious messaging to the utterly illogical behavior of the characters.

A Quiet Place was a high caliber investigation into fear and the will to survive, and one of the best horror films in many years.

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My story “An Incident on Ishtar” is out this month in Analog. The venerable magazine also has a nifty new blog, which features a few words by yours truly on the story’s composition. This is my favorite short story, and I do hope you enjoy it.

Most of my stories first occur to me as a setting. Every writer I know has his or her own unique entry point into composition, be it a character or action sequence or line of dialogue. For me, those initial coordinates are a location, which I like to vary from tale to tale. Mars (or Mars-like planets) are a genre favorite, but I wanted to try something a little different with “An Incident on Ishtar.”

Venus.

Named for the Roman goddess of love and beauty, and to still older cultures as the tempestuous goddess of love and war. In “An Incident on Ishtar,” a human colony floats above the planet’s toxic condition, an intriguing colonization option that has been suggested in scientific literature as an alternative to its Martian brother. I immediately liked the dynamic between such a deadly environment and the bubble of humanity dwelling within it: the microcosm of civilization, and sheer defiance of threat, that such a station would represent. It’s not a place that easily invites “terraforming” on any comprehensible time-scale, and so the challenge becomes surviving it, on its own terms and our own ingenuity.

My characters typically grow out of the chosen setting, but this time things were different: the character of Dr. Melissa Lobo was right there at the very beginning. Bags packed, knuckles white around her luggage handle, the ticket in her trembling fingers. A woman who has never fit in anywhere, suddenly determined to start life anew on a planet of storms. Sailing brightquest from Earth to the aerostat colony of Ishtar with her few belongings and little understanding of what’s in store for her.

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I’ve spoken previously about my preference for sci-fi over fantasy, though recently I been dabbling in the latter category. Last month, I began a completely new literary series; unlike my “War Hero” stories, this one is firmly in the genre of alternate history. Can’t say too much at the moment, but it’s got all the colors I like to paint with: dark mystery, historical detail, and explorations into linguistics and culture and folklore.

 I’ve also been hard at work on an exceptionally dark fantasy novel.

Overall the first quarter of 2018 was kind to me. I sold my humorous story “Love Song of the Wendigo” to a new and exciting addition to the literary marketplace: Spectacle magazine. “A Thousand Deaths Through Flesh and Stone” was picked up for The Year’s Best Military and Adventure SF. Perhaps most excitingly is that I can now reveal the cover of my novel, and its publication date: on October 6, 2018, TEN THOUSAND THUNDERS will enter bookstores everywhere.

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 The weather this year has been particular bizarre here in Connecticut, with 60 degree days followed by 8 inches of snow followed by dazzlingly bright afternoons and driving rainstorms. Seems like every morning I open the door to my backporch, I’m peering into a randomized landscape like the portal in “City on the Edge of Forever.” It’s like living in the latter days of the Genesis Planet from Star Trek III. Last week, we had a 70 degree afternoon followed by a morning in which everything looked turned to glass by a singularly unique Medusa.

Activating ice shield!

Activating ice shield!

Oh, and yes, I was invited to play-test a Jane Austen RPG. What else should one when crossing a drawing room?

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