Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Diva.

Yesterday I sent a copy of Wandering City Blues to one of my uncles and his family outside Chicago.  Inscribing a book to family is always funny because I want to add more to it since these poor bastards have put up with me my whole life, including when I was a baby.  "Enjoy, Uncle Charlie and co.  Don't mind the sex scenes and graphic torture and stuff; your brother did a good job as my dad, I promise!  See you at the family reunion!"  That would make for an awful Christmas get-together though, right?  I walk in the room and someone's telling my 90-year-old grandmother "And then it's implied that this one guy gets fellated by some other guy's wife while he's investigating this ritual killing..."  Seriously if you're related to me please don't do that.

The big news of the week is that I was interviewed by the great Case Murphy for a new series of creator-based video interviews he's working on with a friend of his.  Yesterday, Case and I had a great 25-minute discussion about WCB and the future of Fogworld at Comic Logic in Ashburn, VA.  His video will be uploaded shortly (I imagine I'll get a link to you by next week), but in the meantime, check out these shots of Case and Connor setting up the equipment.

In the first picture, you'll probably notice that Nick Whitmire's original concept art for Proteus is on the TV, which was pretty badass.  In the second picture, you'll see Kevin Bednarz on the far left.  Kevin and Case co-own Comic Logic and The Ashburn Pub, where Wandering City Blues had its local launch the week before Halloween.  Kevin also invented the custom cocktails for the book, whose recipes are in the back after the end of the story.

I'm looking forward to seeing the final video and I hope you guys can stand listening to me talk for that long.  Have a good week; stay warm wherever you are!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

10 Points Will Be Deducted from Ravenclaw / The Customer Review Thing.

Damn, guys; I am so sorry I missed two weeks in a row on here.  I hate for you to check for an update and get ripped off when you see the same old stuff sitting up on the blog.  To rectify this, I'll be taking 10 points from Ravenclaw, the house that Pottermore's Sorting Hat put me into, in consideration for the House Cup at the end of this year.

Some of the challenge is that once a book is out, it's tricky to come up with new content about it.  By this point, I've spoken with several people who have offered me their feedback on Wandering City Blues, which has ranged from "generally positive despite some wrinkles" to "overwhelmingly glowing."  Several reviews for the book have popped up on its Amazon page; please feel free to add yours if you've read WCB and have any thoughts on it.  I trust and respect your honesty.

Speaking of which, you may notice on WCB's Amazon page that one of the reviews is rated one star out of five and I'd like to talk about it for a minute.  I don't mind getting a shit review from anyone who hated my work.  I get a little heartbroken inside, because I feel like I've let that reader down and have wasted their time and money.  And I get a little nervous, because every time I publish a book I feel like it's the best that it can be and that I'm proud of it, so a lowest-possible review makes me wonder if I'm so far off-base that I think something terrible is really great and I'm making a huge mistake.  As a self-conscious humanoid mammal, I have an easier time believing insults than compliments, which kinda fuels those fires.  But at the end of the day, one-stars are part of the business and I accept that they happen and I do my best to take criticism to heart when I feel the person has a genuine issue with something I've written.

But this particular one-star reminds me of one of the only one-stars I've gotten for Penny Cavalier, my investigative journalism piece about Real-Life Superheroes (actual costumed vigilantes and altruists).  In the Penny Cavalier review (please click the link so you can read and verify that I'm not making excuses), the one-star was given to me by someone who was an RLSH from way back when and he expresses his disdain for not being included in my book.  In fact if you look closely, he doesn't mention the manuscript at all except in regards to his lack of inclusion in it.  So I can't say it's incredibly helpful or comprehensive.  The review for Wandering City Blues is similar, but there's more of a story behind it.

When I was in post-production on WCB, a friend of mine who runs an entertainment website offered to have one of her writers review the book for her site.  I sent her a digital copy of the final manuscript and stressed to her that all's fair in love and book reviews, so not to let our acquaintanceship influence the review, and she agreed.  In fact she made good on it and had prepared to publish her writer's review on the website.  I've since seen the review, which had given WCB a 6.0/10 on the basis that the reviewer felt my characters could have built 1,000-foot-plus skyscrapers in the year or two that it took for the fog to spread over the surface, rendering the theriopolises obsolete.  Now, I'll admit that personally I disagree, because I feel like buildings of that magnitude take years and years to design, contract, construct and finish...but hey, maybe it's my job to explicitly explain that away in the book and I didn't to a satisfactory degree.  So I understand.  Of course I'd love to get a 10/10 or something - who wouldn't? - but I could live with six.  In the end, the review wasn't published, partially because it contained multiple story spoilers regarding character deaths and plot twists/points that occur in the first 100 pages of the book, and mostly because at the same time, this reviewer had had a falling out with the website regarding several separate issues excluding this review and she was terminated from her post.  Wandering City Blues just ended up being in the wrong place at the wrong time for her.

Fast forward a month.  The book is released and available on Amazon and during the week of Thanksgiving I check out the page to see if it's gotten any reviews, and lo and behold, this same fired reviewer has now chosen to lower her score of the book from a 6.0/10 (or a 3 out of 5 on a five-point scale) to a 1 out of 5.  Oh boy.  There, she voices the same criticism she had in her first review but condenses it down to one sentence.  My first thought is to wonder what would cause her to feel as though her same criticism of the book would bring her score down from a 60% to a 20%, but out of concern, I tell my friend - who runs the website for which this review was intended - what's up, because my friend has also put out a couple books on Amazon and I want to give her a heads-up in case this woman is on some kind of review-bombing tear.  Review bombing is a subject I've covered in the past for IGN and is the main reason I've written out this whole story.  So my friend took a look at her books' pages on Amazon and this same woman has given her several one-star reviews as well.  And I hate to think the worst of someone, so I played devil's advocate until I read the review she'd left on one of my friend's books, in which she rated it one out of five for mixing up the spellings on "then" and "than."  As I said, oh boy.

So I'd like to take one more minute and entreat you, my friends and readers, to think hard about how you rate independent creators' works on any websites before you submit them.  If a book only has one review and it's a five-star review, and your personal dislike of the creator leads you to give them a one-star review, then in one fell swoop you reduce the public image of that book from five stars to three, from "awesome" to "mediocre."  And being on the comic convention circuit in the Virginia area, I've encountered several people whose businesses' success or failure can change with every review or every bad weekend at a con.  If you glued my experience with this WCB reviewer onto their state of business, you'd be looking at someone having to give up their dream and go back to an office or retail job because one person bore a grudge against them for something.

Now, if their work has truly earned that single star on its own creative merits, then by all means, let it fly.  I'll eat crow if I get one of those.  A family member told me that the back cover of my first book, 100,000 Years in Detention, looks like amateur hour.  It sucked, but he wasn't wrong.  So I've taken it into consideration and done my best to ensure I end up with better-looking jackets since then.  I had a teacher from a college stand at my table at MadiCon and trash The Broken Paragon for 20 minutes (without having read it) and I just had to grin and bear it.  Sometimes we get hit where it hurts and we just have to grow thick skin and get through it.  But please, when reviewing either a seller or a product, keep your feelings on each separate and give feedback accordingly.  Words matter.  If they didn't, I wouldn't be here.


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

21 Days Later...

Hey everybody!  Please excuse last week's absence of blog.  I'd stayed up until about 4 a.m. Wednesday morning watching the results of the 2016 presidential election then slept two hours and took my daughter in to school, so I was pretty wiped.  Since then, Wandering City Blues has gotten its first official review, I've been booked for two more appearances and I'm starting to come up with something new, all of which I wanted to point you to today.

First, the review.  The UK-based website The Pulse Entertainment, a small but quickly-growing pop culture site, gave WCB an 8 out of 10, calling it "a fantastic read" and a "success."  Their review is spoiler-free, so give it a read regardless of whether or not you've had the chance to parse through WCB's pages yet.

Second, gigs!  This Saturday from 11-4 I'll be appearing at Comic Logic in Ashburn, VA for Local Comic Shop Day.  As usual, I'll have a table with books to sell/sign and to chat it up with everyone who comes by.  If you're in the area, come by and say hello!  I've also booked my first 2017 comic con, the brand new NOVA Con at The Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner.  This three-day con is July 28-30 and I'll have one of two specially-placed artist's tables, details to follow.  Artists Alley spaces for this con are still available so if you're a creator, get in while the getting's good!

Third, I'm looking forward towards the next book I'd like to write and I currently have two options available to me.  One would be a sequel to WCB, a war- and diplomacy-focused second volume of Fogworld that picks up where WCB leaves off.  For spoiler purposes I won't say where that is.  However, I can tell you that following the events of the previous book, inter-titan relations are worsening and a full-scale conflict is nearing inevitability.  Returning characters from WCB and many new characters will make up a cast of ambassadors, soldiers and politicians readying themselves for what could be mankind's last massive fight - a Final World War.  This week I rewatched both Seven Samurai and The Thin Red Line (1998) and both inspired the level of intimacy and existentialist dread of bloodshed into which I'd like to tap.

The other idea is to step outside the Fogworld saga and try my hand at horror.  My friends and readers have asked me for 10 years why I've never written a zombie book and I've always cited the oversaturation of the horror-drama market - much less that I never had a truly original idea.  Earlier this year I came up with a pretty exciting idea that I'd like to write at some point.  I'd like to start with the classic zombie setup - strangers scrambling to a house in a neighborhood and being forced to cooperate despite their personalities clashing amid the zombocalypse.  So far so meh, until the survivors realize there are too many zeds surrounding the house to escape so they decide there's nowhere to go but down.  They end up digging a tunnel to another nearby house in the neighborhood (spied from a vantage point in the first house) for food and supplies, then another tunnel, and another, each time hoping there will be few enough shamblers that they can flee on foot to safety.  They develop a whole network of tunnels throughout this neighborhood, challenged by cave-ins, limited supplies etc.  Essentially it's the first half of Night of the Living Dead welded onto the middle of The Great Escape - both of which I've also watched recently for inspiration.

So I have to decide between these two books.  Which do I write next, readers?  Does one sound better than the other, or more intriguing?  Is there any specific research you'd recommend I do before tackling one or the other?  Is anyone reading this?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Book Trailer! / Launch Week Catch-up.

Get ready to be amazed, my friends!  Our friend Evans Wilson (of the aptly-named Evans Wilson Media) has assembled a book launch trailer for Wandering City Blues and it's fantastic.  Click this here text to check it out, then tell a friend!

So I and A Carrier of Fire had a pretty fantastic launch week last week, exhausting as it was.  The local signing/party at Comic Logic and The Ashburn Pub was a huge success first - I sold 15 copies in three hours at our table and left the comic shop another 10 pre-signed copies, so if you missed us last Wednesday, go to Comic Logic and get yours today!  We also got to do plenty of giveaways at The Ashburn Pub to new and old fans and friends alike, take pictures of the Comic Logic staff enjoying the custom cocktails dedicated to the novel and even get a live video.

Following that, the 30th annual Virginia Comicon was another triumph last weekend (October 29th and 30th).  I had a table and I signed and sold about another 35 copies of Wandering City Blues then gave away the rest of my prizes to an excited crowd at the book launch panel that the con hosted, moderated by Mansa Herndon of 2 Fat Guys Podcast.  It was both extraordinarily humbling and a bit of an ego boost to have people show up and ask me questions about Fogworld and its universe for close to 45 minutes straight, having previously known nothing about it.  Wow!  Then the con sponsored a launch party for the book on Saturday night that was well-attended and also quite an honor for me to attend.

That's all for this week!  Check last week's blog for paperback and Kindle availability on Wandering City Blues plus where you can download other goodies related to the book.  Have a good one!  Go Cubbies!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Wandering City Blues - Available NOW!!!

Friends, fans, family, I'm proud to announce that Wandering City Blues, the first volume of my sci-fi series Fogworld, is available now on Amazon for both paperback and Kindle!  WCB is published by A Carrier of Fire.  Here's the most important info for new readers.

If this is your first time to the blog, welcome!  Wandering City Blues is a noir-inspired detective story with a sci-fi twist.  In the near future, 13 unique colossi come up from the depths of the ocean and begin to roam the earth.  Along with them comes a poisonous red-orange fog with a 1,000-foot ceiling that kills slowly and randomly like cigarettes.  As the fog covers the globe, humanity decides to leave the surface and build cities on the backs of the huge creatures, up where the air is still fresh.  The main story of the book takes place 99 years later.

If you'd like to read the first two chapters of the book for free, please click here for the first chapter and follow the link at the bottom of the page to the second chapter.  If you like what you see, please come back here and click this link to purchase your own copy from Amazon for $14.99 plus shipping, or visit to order a signed copy for $20 inside the U.S.

Also, we're doing two launch events this week with one-of-a-kind giveaways at each party!  First, tonight (Wednesday the 26th) I'll be at Comic Logic in Ashburn, VA from 4-7pm signing copies, then that night at Ashburn Pub (in the same shopping center) from 7pm to about 11 with custom cocktails based on WCB, live DJ'ing, the giveaways and more!  That's our local launch; our global launch is at Virginia Comicon in Richmond, Virginia on Saturday the 29th.  I'll be attending a panel for the book in the main panel room at 1pm and I'll have a table at the con all weekend representing A Carrier of Fire.  There will be plenty of giveaways at the panel as well, so you're not missing your chance if you can't make it to Ashburn tonight.

Thank you as always for your love and support.  This is a huge endeavor for me and A Carrier of Fire and every page view, every social media interaction, every book sale mean more to us than you could imagine.  So tell a friend, review the book on Amazon, come say hello in person and have a good week!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Signed Copies / Giveaways / Kindle.

What's up everybody?  I've noticed my weekly page views on this blog have gone back down from 150 to about 12, which is odd, but I'm sticking with it!  We're only two weeks away from the local launch of Wandering City Blues at Comic Logic and The Ashburn Pub in Ashburn, VA (see last week's blog for details) so I wanted to run a few things by you folks.

First, I'm still taking pre-orders for signed copies within the United States.  I meant to set up UK pre-orders by now but I haven't had the chance - plus the cost of a book plus shipping to England is $39 USD which is something like 31.50 GBP.  If you live in the UK and you really want to fork over that kind of cash, you can PayPal me at with your mailing address.  Otherwise, there will be order links up to Amazon closer to Halloween.  While I'm on the subject, I'm on the road this week (so yes, I wrote this last Friday and scheduled the post five days in advance) so no matter where you live, if you order a copy of Wandering City Blues right now (from I'll be able to ship it first thing Monday, October 17th.  After the local launch on the 26th, Comic Logic in Ashburn will also have an inventory of pre-signed copies of WCB available for $15.

Second, I did a live Facebook video last week and talked about the book, the music, world-building and (perhaps most importantly) giveaways!  At each of the major launch events (Comic Logic & Pub 10/26, VA Comicon 10/29) I will be giving away one signed "Proof Copy" of WCB.  This is the first-order, warts-and-all test edition of the paperback itself.  That means super limited edition.  I will also be giving away one signed poster of the Comic Logic release at each event - posters that will never again be printed.  Again, this means they are incredibly rare.  But perhaps the most exclusive/limited prize is that I have exactly one handwritten copy of the original outline for Wandering City Blues that I used as a guideline throughout my last year writing the book.  This includes ideas that were never used, so you can get a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see how the original plan for the book compares to the final product.  I'm also giving away a handwritten promo for the launch events that I personally aged and photographed for social media, and several CD copies of the fictional podcast / radio drama MJM: The Fogworld Chronicles performed and produced by myself with 2 Fat Guys Podcast.  Set within the Fogworld universe, MJM is a trilogy of seemingly cherry-picked episodes of an East Coast podcast by three guys, each episode hitting on a major moment in history leading to life on the theriopolises.  The entire CD takes place over the course of about a year.

Finally, I wanted to mention that there absolutely will be a Kindle version of Wandering City Blues available on or by October 29th.  There's no pre-order page now, but it will be on Amazon.  Pricing TBD, but I think I'll charge a bit less than the paperback because you don't get a physical copy to show off on your bookshelf and there aren't production costs to make up for on anyone's end.

Have a good week!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Live Video / New Ad!

Happy...Tuesday?!  Whoa, wait, whaaaaaat?!  This week's blog is coming at you a day early to prep for a live event I'm doing tomorrow.  Here's the information.

At 10am Eastern time on Wednesday, October 5th, I'll be broadcasting live from my living room to talk about Wandering City Blues for a while.  I'll be taking questions, showing off some of the prizes I'm giving away at my launch events later this month, spinning a couple songs that inspired the book, doing a brief reading, unloading never-before-heard details about the project and more!  Tune in at - or don't.  That won't stop me.  I got nothing else to do tomorrow; I'll entertain my damn self on video all morning.  Ha!

With the full-on launch of the book only about three weeks away, I'm doing my best to ramp up promotional stuff.  Consider this a reminder to come to my local pre-launch at Comic Logic in Ashburn, VA on October 26th.  I'll be there around 3 p.m., so you can be the first to buy a copy of Wandering City Blues and get it signed, check out the awesome shop itself, hang out with me and talk or get an early start on the party at The Ashburn Pub in the same shopping center, which starts at 7 p.m. and goes until whenever we all get tired and go home.  The party at The Pub will have live DJ'ing, a cocktail menu inspired by the book and invented by Pub owner Kevin Bednarz, more copies of the book, me, both my friends and my parents!  Both events will have free giveaways too, including but not limited to a rare test copy of the book, a signed poster, a CD of the fictional podcast / radio drama that's set in the Fogworld universe and some of my original handwritten notes/promo material for the book.

Immediately following the event on the 26th, the worldwide launch of WCB is officially slated for October 29th.  So look forward to another major event on October 29th at VA Comicon at the Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, VA.  I'll have a table at the con all weekend, where I'll have plenty of copies of WCB in stock, but on Saturday the 29th, the con will host me on a panel about the book where there will be nearly identical giveaways to the Ashburn event.  Check back here for details on the time and room number or visit for more info as the date approaches.

Finally, here's this sweet new ad that we're putting up on Facebook and Twitter today.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

MJM Episode 78.

Welcome to the final episode of MJM.  We made it to 78 episodes and we've had a lot of fun over the last couple years doing this show, but with the way things are going, the three of us are focusing on developing plans to get our families to safety.  Thank you all for your support and for listening; our prayers are with you and your loved ones.

Episode 78 is available to download by clicking here.

Three of our most relevant episodes discussing the colossi, the Red Lung and the plans to leave the surface have been compiled into this link (67.61mb).  God willing, one day someone will be able to use what we learned this year to help find a cure for the disease, a way to dissipate the fog or even just to get a fairer understanding of how everything went down.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

WCB Pre-Orders / Promo Poster.

Hey friends!  It's been a hell of a month since finishing Wandering City Blues, despite the blog being a little on the quiet side.  On the personal side of things, my wife and I found out that our new baby is going to be a boy, our daughter's school year started up again, I had some minor hand surgery yesterday and starting tomorrow my brother is coming to visit for a couple days so I've been prepping for that.

Professionally it's been a wild ride too.  I've been working with my friends Matt Carroll and Mansa Herndon on MJM - A Fogworld Radio Drama (some of which you've heard by now).  Of course I ordered and reviewed proof copies of  Wandering City Blues a couple weeks ago, made some changes and approved the final version for sale.  It will be up on Amazon sometime during the week of October 24th.  I also have the first 150 copies of the book itself coming in the mail (they're currently in Portland, OR, by the way).

The biggest news is that A Carrier of Fire is now taking pre-orders for signed paperback copies of Wandering City Blues within the United States (international orders coming soon).  Here's how it works:

1.  Go to and click the PayPal button to send $20 USD our way.  That's $15 for the book and $5 for the cushioned mailer and postage.
2.  If you have any special signing instructions/requests, email me at IMMEDIATELY with the name on your order and your request - for some reason no matter how many times we make the PayPal button the "Special Instructions to Seller" field won't populate. Otherwise I'll just make up something nice when I sign it.
3.  Please allow like a week or so for delivery after the books get here in the mail.
4.  Alternatively, if you plan on attending the local launch of WCB at Comic Logic and The Ashburn Pub in Ashburn, VA, on October 26, or the Virginia Comicon on October 29-30, you can email me any time or message A Carrier of Fire on Facebook and ask us to hang on to a copy or two for you, and we'll figure out payment at the event.

The good news is that I should get the books in the mail next week (September 26 or 27), so if you pre-order from me any time before maybe October 20, you should get your copy well in advance of the official street date of October 29.

Finally, we have a promo poster for the aforementioned October 26 launch party in Ashburn.  Feast your eyes, share on your social media page of choice, tell friends etc.  Thanks!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

MJM - Episode 49.

Welcome back to another episode of MJM!  It's been about four months since the 13 colossi first came up out of the Pacific and this week we find ourselves covering them again.  Why?  Because this mist that rose from the sea around the same time seems to be spreading, making landfall and gaining plenty of height.  Kinda weird.  So Mansa, jonny and Matt do our best to round up some of the news stories that have been on the air and offer our opinions on it.  Will the proposed government restrictions on automotive travel in affected areas gain any traction?  What's with the reported upticks in pulmonary-related illnesses and deaths in the foggy areas?  We'll give you our two cents and then some in this week's episode available right here.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Cover / Sendoff.

How did you folks like last week's episode of MJM - a podcast set in the universe of Fogworld?  I hope you had as much fun listening as we did recording.  There are two more episodes of it debuting soon - one on September 14 and the final one on September 28.  So what will we do in between episodes?  How about if we take a look at the finalized cover for the book (designed by Matthew Thomas with additional work by Nick Whitmire)?

If you like that, wait until you see the back.  It can be in your hands October 26th/29th.

A bunch of other stuff happened this week too!  For starters, I got an ISBN for Wandering City Blues.  The ISBN-10 is 0692779329 and the ISBN-13 is 978-0692779323.  Second, and most importantly, both the interior and exterior of the book are 100% finished and out the door.  They've been sent to the printer and should be ready for A Carrier of Fire to approve in the next week.   We're staying on schedule and everything is coming together in the best of ways.

Thanks for all your continued support during this excitement!  We're right on the cusp of the proper release of the book and it wouldn't be possible without you guys.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

MJM Episode 34.

Dear friends -

The question of our generation will be remembered as: Where were you when the news broke that the colossi came out of the ocean?  While I'm asking, who were you with?  What was your reaction?  Did you believe it?  This week we're re-sharing a historical episode of our podcast MJM, in which Mansa, jonny and Matt discuss this world-changing news and pursue the truth on related matters:  Where did they originally come from?  Why isn't the government acting?  Is it still appropriate to make fun of Matt's conspiracy theorist paranoia in the face of humanity possibly not being at the top of the food chain anymore?  If we only knew then what we know now.

Download the new episode here and share the link, which is - and good luck, godspeed and know your and your family's safety are in our prayers.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Wandering City Cocktails

Hey there everybody!  Usually we do this on Wednesday but I've got a pretty fantastic update for you today and it just couldn't wait.

Kevin Bednarz, a northern Virginia business owner and bartender, has been working with me and A Carrier of Fire to create several cocktails based on the new novel.  I sent some ideas his way based on the Fogworld universe and he came up with some brilliant (and delicious) drink.  We recently shot some video of us making the drinks and most of those videos are uploaded and waiting for you on YouTube!  Check the videos and links below, and don't forget that all the recipes will be printed in Wandering City Blues when it's released October 29!

Galatea - Click here for video

Galatea is a colossus in the Fogworld universe who spends a lot of time oceanbound, so I asked Kevin to come up with something that screamed "beach life," like a twist on a Mai Tai.  He came up with this tasty beverage and I couldn't be happier with it.

Iris is the female lead in Wandering City Blues and she's as mysterious as she is cool.  Kevin invented this sweet blue cocktail for her that starts with Absolut Citron, Blue Curacao and Peach Schnapps and ends with plunking in a blue glow stick (or glow cube) and letting the glass shine.

Leon's Old-Fashioned - Video coming soon!

Leon Adler is the male lead in the new book, and he's a classic film noir detective.  Kevin uses a muddler and a spoon to help mix this variation of an Old-Fashioned and serve it up fresh.

Red-Orange Fog - Click here for video

What's better than Stoli Orange or Grand Marnier?  How about Stoli Orange and Grand Marnier?  Add some OJ and Sprite, shake and pour then finish with some grenadine and you've got the fog-covered earth of Wandering City Blues in a glass.  Drink up; it won't give you Red Lung.

Sao's Jack and Coke - Click here for video (Finally, a drink I can make!)

Me:  Hey Kevin, one of my colossi is entirely peopled by psychos and cannibals.  What's the closest drink equivalent to like a steak dinner?
Kevin:  Hmm, maybe a Jack and Coke?
Me:  Is there a way to make it strange and a little trashy?  Like that Corona-bottle-in-the-margarita Jersey Shore bullshit?
Kevin:  [eyes widen]  Yes.

Thanks for watching, everyone!  Don't forget to come to Comic Logic and The Ashburn Pub on Wednesday, October 26th, for a local launch party where I'll be signing copies of Wandering City Blues - and the pub will have these drinks on the menu.  Huge thanks to Kevin Bednarz; check out all his stuff at the following websites:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Review Copy / Series Title! / Misc.

This last week I've had the pleasure of sending the finalized manuscript for Wandering City Blues to about a half dozen websites for review.  Obviously it's an 80,000-word book so those will take some time to come back - but they're out there, out of my hands and being perused by scrutinizing eyes.  To be honest, it's as exciting as it is nerve-wracking, for several reasons.

I wholeheartedly believe in everything I write.  I spent 11 years working in retail and at this point in my life I've had enough of pushing a shit product in which I don't believe for the sake of making a buck.  So I always told myself I'd never fill a book with any crap, let alone crap I'd pretend was better than it was so I could pocket your $10-15 and tell you to kick rocks.  I've mentioned before the profound impact that book sales have on me.  With minimum wage what it is, there are people who have to work two full hours at their job just to pick up one of my titles.  The fact that they choose to trust me with their hard-earned cash in hopes of being whisked away on an adventure in that special way that only books can is...well, it's humbling.  So I sincerely try my best to entertain, to give pause and make the reader think about his/her world just a little.  Whenever it's "new book release" time, or close to it, I'm elated to have the chance to do it all again - to experience the reader's reaction to these weird little stories I dream up, to have someone race up to my table at a show and geek out over something that started with that hateful blank page and blinking cursor in Microsoft Word.  It began with that, the writer's blank canvas or marble block with a statue waiting inside to be chipped out to freedom, and the connect and hype that comes with the reader's in-person review is (excuse the cliche) all the high I need.

So keeping in mind that I try my damnedest for years on end to deliver a paperback for you to enjoy, and now I send it out and there's nothing else I can do to change it, I get pretty nervous.  The critic's job is to analyze the efforts the writer has spilled onto his/her canvas and to judge where the writer has succeeded and failed, to say what works and what doesn't.  On the selfish end, negative reviews can impact sales.  Far be it from me to "get rich or die trying," but I do wish to continue my business of authorship and book sales and I do wish to provide for my kid.  If a reviewer ends up panning something of mine, I risk losing out on the money I could make to keep doing what I want to do for myself and my family.  But this is not a complaint about the reviewer, nor the post-production process of a novel.  It's their job to find out where I may have screwed up and to hold me to task for it.  I'm responsible for the flaws and imperfections my work may have and I deserve to face the music for them, as all authors do.  This brings me to the other end of negative reviews: the selfless end.  If my work has problems and gets jeered by whichever critic on whichever site, I really beat myself up for having overlooked whatever earns their ire.  Mistakes happen - that's why we have editors - but in my journey to be the best writer I can and to make the best books I can, it's frustrating to me that I can make an obvious mistake - and in my opinion, anything that's a mistake in my own work is an obvious one.  I made it from scratch; I created that mistake along the way.

So whenever I see that there's a review of my work, even before I read it, my heart races and my blood pressure spikes and I can hear my heart pumping in my ears because I want my work and the review to be good.  Like I said, it's a very conflicting thing sending the reviews out.  You can't lose if you don't play, but you can't win either.

Anyway.  Review copies are out to several websites and podcasts and all I can do now is wait for them to come back and hope for the best.

In other news, I needed a name for this colossus/fog/beast-city sci-fi series and I've settled on Fogworld.  It may seem a bit on-the-nose, but I'm really in love with the image in my head of these titan cities surfing on the 1,000 feet of deadly tangerine-colored gas that lazily blankets the globe.  With the leviathans' legs and (sometimes) lower bodies covered by the mist, their upper bodies and backs - with their neighborhoods seeming to drift above the danger - are like leaves floating on a pond or a pirate ship sailing the ocean.  Fogworld is a representation that ultimately, it never ends.  So Wandering City Blues will be Volume One of the Fogworld Series.  Or Fogworld, Book One...or something.  I still need to Google how to name all that shit before we go to print.  Don't worry; I'll get there!

I spent most of my weekend on my phone, emailing and IM'ing reviewers (see above) and managing non-manuscript stuff for WCB.  I have a lot of cool additional content that will be included in the book - and some audiovisual content I'm not quite going to unveil yet - so now I'm working hard on all of that.  I've also been formatting WCB for paperback and I've gotten four chapters in out of 13.  I decided on fonts, font sizes, layout, margins, page size and other stylistic stuff with story headers, chapter titles, the table of contents and so on.  This coming week I hope to finish 100% of the internal copy for the book, including the aforementioned bonus content and laying out the paperback itself.  Then I'll just need the jacket image/design and an ISBN and this badass bitch will be ready to deliver in late October!

We're getting there, friends.  Thanks as always for sticking with me through this incredible process.  I hope it's been as entertaining as it has been educational and informative.  Did I mention that the coolest stuff that will ever be on this blog should be coming up in the next three or four weeks?  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

WCB Review Copies.

With the manuscript finished and the bonus features underway, now we get to start sending out the digital review copies of the book for websites.  Hoo boy!

To benefit our friends in the press, I partnered with Wandering City Blues's publisher, A Carrier of Fire, to assemble the review packet.  It contains a README/primer on the rest of the packet, the completed manuscript for the novel, the promotional artwork of Psamanthe and Proteus (created by Brian and Nick Whitmire, respectively), a working draft of playlists of assembled music that inspired the book and a working draft of the detailed migration routes of several of the colossi featured in the novel.  

So far this review packet has been sent to about a half-dozen websites and podcasts and I'm anxiously awaiting their responses.  To be honest, though, I've already received feedback on the book from my most ardent critique: my mother, Linda.  Mom sits in this very precarious position of knowing me well enough not to sugar-coat things while also knowing that I need the best book I can to go into print.  Fortunately, her review came back all smiles after reading the manuscript so I think I'm just about ready to wrap it up.

All that's lacking now are for me to punch up the cocktail recipes and other bonus features, get my jacket design and prepare the book to be printed.  Excitement!

Short update today, but thanks for checking in!  I had over 150 views last week alone (wow!) and I'm looking forward to showing you some more good marketing/promotional stuff as the time approaches.  Have a good week, and if you want a review copy for your own website/podcast, please email me at - thank you!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Final Word Count / Bonus Features!

Hi everybody!  I'm so sorry for last week's absence; it's been an insane couple weeks.  On the downside, I had to deal with my first (and ideally last) kidney stone.  That took me out of commission for a couple days.  On the plus side, my wife and I were finally able to announce that we're expecting our second baby in late January!  We're over 15 weeks along now and the baby is happy and healthy (and currently the size of an apple).  We also spent four days visiting my folks in Richmond and there have been a lot of other book-based things that took up most of last week.  So let's talk about those!

First and foremost, I'm very excited to say that last night I finished the final round of edits for Wandering City Blues (yeah, the title was staring me right in the face all year).  The full manuscript of the story itself is 82,424 words.  It's a total of 13 chapters, including an epilogue and a 100-word intro to the world before getting into "Timeshare."

In addition to the 82k words that make up the novel, there will be a number of bonus features included in the book.  First and foremost, local entrepreneur Kevin Bednarz is creating several new cocktails just for the novel, so recipes and maybe even pictures of the drinks will appear in all versions of Wandering City Blues upon its release this October.  I've had the chance to try these drinks and they're badass.  I couldn't be prouder.  Second, there will be several recommended music playlists to help you get your head in the right space for any setting throughout the novel.  While I would personally love to call them a soundtrack, I can't due to copyright law and a total lack of endorsement or official involvement from any musical artist I mention.  More on that another time.  For now, just know that unofficial/recommended playlists will be in the book.

There will also be detailed information for several of the colossi that appear in the main story.  Basic physical descriptions and behavioral patterns will be listed first, followed by their travel routes.  Those will include their destinations, layover times, distance between destinations, average travel speeds and expected travel times.  This way, you can find out where any of the colossi are at any given time.

Finally, I'd like to have a section describing some of the climbing gear, survivalist setups (water filtration systems etc) and other world-building devices that didn't get explained in the book.  I want you to exercise the minimum of suspension of disbelief when you read so I don't want to have any big mulligans or easy ways out for the characters in the universe.  The last thing I want is for you to say "How could they have X, Y or Z up there?  This is bullshit!" but at the end of the day, going into detailed descriptions of every single facet of life on the theriopolis would be incredibly dry.  So I put in the big kahunas or most glaring questions that needed answering, but some descriptions didn't fit or they held up the story too much.

Okay!  Next week I'll detail some of the promotional and fun stuff I'm doing (and having done) for Wandering City Blues.  Videos, audio, events, etc.  Stay tuned!  Thanks for your support; it's almost finished!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Book Title, Release Date (and Launch Events) Revealed!

Friends, I'm happy to announce that my first sci-fi novel has a title, a release date and two launch events across Virginia!  Here's a promotional image with information.

Yes, the title is going to be Wandering City Blues after all.  I guess sometimes the answer's just staring you in the face.  The fine folks at Comic Logic and The Ashburn Pub in Ashburn, VA, will be hosting a two-part local launch for the book on October 26th.  Comic Logic is a fantastic comic shop and gallery that just celebrated its one-year anniversary.  It's also one of the best comic shops I've ever been to (not just because they stock my other books, either).  The Ashburn Pub not only has excellent food and drinks, but it's also in the same shopping center as Comic Logic, which is great because the October 26th pre-launch is a crossover event between both venues.  Come see me at the comic shop throughout the day and pick up your signed copy of Wandering City Blues, and look in the back of the novel for a selective menu of cocktails based on the book.  Then head over to The Ashburn Pub and try those same cocktails!  The cocktails are designed by bartender extraordinaire, Ashburn Pub owner and Comic Logic co-owner Kevin Bednarz.

Then on October 29th, the new novel will launch worldwide at Virginia Comicon's 30th anniversary convention.  I currently have a panel discussion about Wandering City Blues confirmed and we're working on a launch party as well - more info to come.  I'll also have a table at the con the entire weekend, so I'll be signing and selling copies of all four of my books.  There will also be a giveaway of one-of-a-kind items throughout the show: the unofficial soundtrack, a free copy of another one of my books (your choice), the original handwritten outline for the novel, the filthy piece of paper in the ad above and more!  The "and more" may include a plushie of one of the colossi in the book, a thumb drive full of digital goodies like an in-character podcast set at the emergence of the leviathans, gift cards or art prints, depending on what we can pull together by then.

If you aren't in the Virginia area, Wandering City Blues will be available for purchase via on October 29th.

Wandering City Blues is the fourth book (and science fiction debut) by jonny Lupsha.  It begins 99 years after mankind has had to flee the surface of the earth due to a worldwide blanket of poisonous fog that rises from the sea.  Fortunately for us, 13 different colossi, each reaching above the 1,000-foot fog ceiling, emerged from the Mariana Trench along with the fog.  Immune to the mist, these weird creatures develop individual migration patterns and are entirely indifferent to humanity building cities on their backs for the 30,000 or so people left on the planet.  With the entire planet a mass transit system, no central government or electricity, one titan populated by cannibals and a conspiracy on the horizon that could end civilization as we know it, Detective Leon Adler and his mysterious new partner Iris 13 just landed the case of a lifetime.  Wandering City Blues is available worldwide on October 29th from publisher A Carrier of Fire.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Dinner Scene.

Well folks, this past weekend I got to write another one of the scenes I've been looking forward to since I started this book: a formal dinner scene which contains a protracted, uncomfortable conversation between one of my protagonists (a working-class Joe or Jane) and a snobbish, upper-class type.  This isn't meant to be a "One Percenters are Evil!" allegory, nor any other kind of sociopolitical commentary.  In my opinion, I've had so many heavy and serious moments in the book that I liked adding in this feel-good "standing up for the little guy" moment.  I'd like to think it's a little bit like Matt Damon stopping the aggressive snobby student in Good Will Hunting from hitting on Minnie Driver, or even - dare I say it - Leonardo DiCaprio holding his own at dinner with Billy Zane and the other rich folk in Titanic.

I think the pacing of the book really allows for - and needs - this bit to happen, especially at the moment it does.  From the beginning of the murder mystery on Triton, Leon Adler and Iris have been traveling on foreign colossi that are populated by a wildly eclectic cast of characters, or they've been on layovers between stops.  Finally reaching this fifth titan, where the trail leads to its big climax and resolution, really demands a breather - a resting point - before the rest of the shit hits the fan.  The reader gets the feel that "we've made it, now we just gotta catch the crook," and so the protagonists have the opportunity to rest and recover before barreling down the home stretch.  Another great thing about this dinner scene is that when I envisioned it, it was only going to have three, maybe four characters, but I managed to balance dialogue between eight characters, which was a first for me.  I hope you folks like it when you get to it.  I'm really proud of how it came out.

Sadly, the next thing I'm writing is pretty spoiler-tastic so I'll have to keep it on the down-low and talk about something different next week.  On the upside, in addition to adding 3,100 words to the manuscript this past week (including but not limited to that dinner scene), I also rewrote a lot of the chapter that preceded it.  That chapter is called "September" and although I was good with the events in it, I got the feeling I'd made it a lot harder on myself than I needed to.  A bad guy was kind of helping the good guys but kind of trying to kill them; the good guys' motivations and relationship in "September" kept going back and forth and so on.  So I took a good, long look at the whole chapter and cut and rewrote a couple thousand words from it.  In the end, it didn't get much longer or shorter, but damn did it get stronger.

The current chapter is called "The Seafarers" and it's the tenth chapter in the book.  "So what?" I hear you asking yourself.  Well, I think the book is only going to have 11 or 12 chapters, so I'm likely within a month of finishing the manuscript and well on time for my projected Fall 2016 release window.  Until next time, faithful readers!

Total Word Count:  71,229

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Surprises along the Way.

As I've put this next book together, there have been a number of elements I've added to it that I hadn't begun to think of when I started writing last November.  Someone asked me in the last week or so if anything like that had come up, and it made me think of some of the things that came to me mid-production.  Here's an example from early in the book, in my eternal interest of keeping your experience here spoiler-free.

Early on in "Timeshare," Sean Bellamy enjoys the view from a lookout on the outskirts of Moscow.  As he gazes into the fog, he recalls an urban legend he heard in his childhood about a tribe of child-warriors who never left the surface.  Since the airborne pathogen in the fog, Red Lung, kills within 15-20 years, it's rumored that there are these clans - almost gangs - of adolescent-aged parents who roam the surface, scavenging for what they need to survive.  The idea came to me after reading a couple issues of the excellent We Are Robin, which follows a group of youths galvanized into action after hearing of the death of Batman's titular sidekick.  Whereas the Robins swarm criminals and exercise street-level vigilantism, in my book I have this unique little legend about a caste of stubborn, reckless, fornicating teenagers (if you can imagine that!) who just said "screw it" and may or may not be down there, somewhere, hidden by the deadly miasma that coats the planet's surface.

The point is, I didn't think about these kids until I was writing the first sentence in "Timeshare" about them.  I thought "Okay, I need a tall tale to help give this world some pep" and out they came.  What's cool is, I decided it really worked for the overall story I'm telling in the novel, so maybe 30,000 words later, two other characters living on colossi get into a conversation about them.  "Hey, have you ever heard about those rumors..."

I worked another tall tale into another early scene, but I think I'll save that to surprise you in the book.  See you next week; thank you so much for your continued interest and readership!  I have huge announcements coming up the next week or two, so make sure to keep coming back!

Total Word Count:  67,598

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Traffic Increase / This Blog Entry Is Spoiler-Free.

Happy Wednesday my friends, fans and theriopolitans!  It's great to be back on task with the book and to provide some updates for you.

First off, I wanted to say that I don't know how or why, but over the last week it seems visits to this blog have been as high every day as they usually are on Wednesdays when I post stuff.  That's a pretty crazy uptick in traffic.  So if you're new to the site (or just my mom hitting "refresh" on repeat every day), welcome!  This is the portal to my upcoming book, which is a sci-fi novel about mankind's 30,000 remnants living in cities which are built atop 1,500-foot-tall roaming colossi/kaiju.  Please feel free to familiarize yourself with the first ~20% of the book by reading "Timeshare," which is right here clicky clicky.  Enjoy!

Moving on, I wanted to take a moment to talk about the next couple months on this blog.  I'm getting closer to the end of the manuscript every week, which means I'm starting to write major character deaths, plot points, surprise settings and so on.  This is great because it means I'm progressing nicely through the novel, but it comes at the cost of not being able to discuss a lot of what I'm working on. You know what I mean:  "Oh, I just wrote this huge climactic scene where _____ confronts _____ about _____ and so _____ tries to kill _____..."  So starting this week and headed forward, I'm going to do my best to continue providing intriguing insight into and content about the book.  Please forgive me if it seems a little skimpy here and there, but again, it's all for your benefit.

This past weekend, my wife took our daughter to the National Zoo in downtown DC, so I had Saturday to work.  I spent several hours working on an intense couple of scenes I can't go into for spoiler purposes, but here's something cool.  I got to spend some time in Google Maps looking at the streets and interstates of Miami and Miami Beach, which will be incorporated realistically into this novel.  Also, by the end of the chapter I'm currently writing, the main story will have taken place over a full three months, which is cool.  My hopes with using the titans as homes and as transportation were that it would lead to a protracted length of time.  I didn't want anything solved in a week because it would be too easy, too quick and it wouldn't lend itself to the larger scope of the story and the setting that I'm attempting to convey.

Okay!  That's enough for now.  Hopefully next week I'll be able to give you something more concrete, but until then, stay tuned!

Total Word Count:  63,646

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Galatea - First Details!

Hey everybody!  Excuse the lack of updates last week; my daughter finished kindergarten two weeks ago and she's been home with me over the summer, so it's been hard for me to find time to work on the book.  Last week I simply hadn't done enough to report on for the blog so I held off until this week.  Fortunately, today I've got plenty to discuss so let's get to it!

Over the weekend I spent 8-10 hours developing and plotting the migration route for another one of my colossi.  Galatea is essentially a 1,300-foot hermit crab in a slit shell (pictured below) that stands upright.  At that size, her city is built in a huge spiral walkway around the outside of her shell.  She's attracted to a dozen or so of the North Atlantic's nicest Miami.  I kid, I kid!  So Galatea goes from beach to beach, spending 24 hours at each location.  She swims along the ocean's surface at 20 knots, moving counterclockwise and stopping at 12 different beaches for a total distance of 11,080 miles.  If you do the math on that, you'll find her entire circuit takes 32 days, 1 hour, 44 minutes and 21 seconds, beginning and ending at Praia de Santa Maria in Cape Verde.

Slit shell.

I'm really excited to develop Galatea's corner of my universe.  When I was working out the plot of this book, a city on an upright conical shell was one of the first things I really wanted to do.  I can't wait for you to read what happens!

Word Count:  58,583

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Free Avatars! More Updates!

This may sound a bit old-school, but I thought you guys might get a kick out of some free avatars for your social media.  I've made four so far, but will probably release more as the release approaches.  Here they are...

So, this next book (which will one day have a title) takes place on five colossi.  If you read "Timeshare," which is the first two chapters of the book, you'll know that Proteus and Triton are the first two.  I won't name the other three for spoilers' sake, but right now I'm a good deal of the way through the fourth colossus.  I can say with confidence that I'm somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters finished with this novel.  Whew!  Over the last few months, it's gone from "I have to scale that mountain?!" to "It's all downhill from here."  One of the things that's been the hardest to do comes from a melodramatic-sounding phrase of which I'm not too fond: killing your darlings.

"Killing your darlings" refers to any time an author has to get rid of one of his or her favorite (or most extravagant, or self-indulgent) passages in the interest of producing a better book.  My favorite example is the deleted scene in Natural Born Killers with Ashley Judd in the courtroom.  It's a fantastic scene, but it screws up the entire narrative of the third act of the film and ultimately Oliver Stone had to cut it.  For the first time, I'm actively killing a darling of mine.  Protagonist X is trying to escape from Villain Y.  So Protagonist X either handcuffs (or stabs with a steel rod or piece of rebar) Villain Y to something in order to buy Protagonist X some time.  Maybe it's a pipe or radiator in a building or maybe it's a big load of garbage and junk that's going to be dumped off the theriopolis in moments - something that requires immediate escape for Villain Y in order for him to achieve his goals.  Villain Y, without hesitation, grabs a nearby cleaver with his free hand and uses it to take off his other hand and continue to pursue Protagonist X.  This demonstrates Villain Y's lack of regard for the human body, his insanity for making the decision immediately and without care, and his toughness for continuing his pursuit thereafter.  It also demonstrates Protagonist X's inability to reconcile his/her usual method of restraining a bad guy - or metaphorically X's entire understanding of the way the criminal mind works - with this new reality of people willing to amputate themselves just to escape captivity.

So it sounds cool and logical, right?  Kind of?  So why not put it in?  Well, the immediate problem is how the hell to set that all up.  I could work it out that all these things lined up and happened one way or another.  Like, Villain Y could have that monologue in which Protagonist X slowly realizes things are turning from cooperation to "I'm gonna kill you right here."  Sure.  Then Protagonist X could realize it and make a swift move to restrain Villain Y with handcuffs or by staking Y's hand to the table somehow.  Grisly, but sure.  And if this scene took place indoors in the crazy setting it is, there could be a lone cleaver hanging around.  But honestly, I kept looking at it and no matter what way I did it, it seemed like too big of a stretch, too much setup, too much suspension of disbelief in order for it to remotely pay off (let alone have a big enough payoff).

There are other logistical problems too - once the heroes try to restrain Villain Y and Y takes his own hand off, what then?  It would be open season on the heroes, and any boarding or disembarking on the colossi takes a lot (and only works if the titan in question is near a skyscraper or other creature the humans can travel to).  At the end of it I'd have to either write it so that the amputation coincidentally takes place just as the leviathan is passing a transfer point, or that the heroes happen to find parachutes or wingsuits so they can run to the edge of the beast and jump off.  The latter would likely result in them landing on the surface, catching Red Lung, having to walk a couple hundred miles and gain passage onto another colossus.  Way, way, way too much work to be "worth it," and it wouldn't even make the book better.  So I had to let go of this sweet-ass-sounding scene because it just didn't all add up.

Anyway.  Sorry for the ramble!  Enjoy your avatars, friends!

Word Count: 56,263

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

This Week: Entertain Yourselves, Dammit!

This week I spent three days at Awesome Con in DC, promoted the upload of "Timeshare" on social media and in person, made two promotional prints for digital and physical use, tightened up a wonky scene and wrote another 2,000 or so words for the book.  So I'm taking this week off of blogging and getting back to it.  See you next Wednesday, guys!

Total Word Count: Approximately 52,200.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Timeshare Chapter One - Moscow in the Summer.

Hello everyone!  If I do this right, this blog should be the first chapter of my debut sci-fi novel, working title A Murder on the Theriopolis, releasing this fall on A Carrier of Fire.  The second chapter is available to read at the link at the bottom of this blog.  Both chapters of this story, "Timeshare," are available to download in full for Microsoft Word and as a PDF file.  If you like what you read, please share on your social media platform of choice with the hashtag #WanderingCityBlues or by tagging A Carrier of Fire on Facebook or Twitter.  Honest to God, every like/comment/share/retweet is important.  Thank you for support and keep an eye out for updates on the aforementioned Facebook and Twitter links!  We love you!

by jonny Lupsha

All content in this file © jonny Lupsha and A Carrier of Fire, 2015 and 2016.

Preamble:  100 Words about Walter Atherton

His elbows resting atop the balustrade, Walter Atherton took one final bite of the apple and casually tossed it over the edge.  When he was a boy he’d watch the apples fall, bouncing repeatedly against the steep, nearly vertical walls, but by now he’d lost interest.  He could imagine it falling as he walked away though, down the hide of the great beast atop which they’d built their city.  Eventually it would slip into the red-orange haze that covered the surfaces of the Earth and come to rest on her barren soil.  We should be somewhere near Chicago, he thought.

Chapter One:  Moscow in the Summer

Sean awoke in lurches from a deep sleep, a sleep brought on by his share of alcohol – and then some.  He was in his cot.  The daylight loomed bright outside, but the bright orange tent that he’d called home these last few weeks on Proteus was so thick that it was much darker inside.  A sliver of blinding light tore a paper cut gash down the tent flap.  The potted plant hanging from one of the tent poles swayed gently with each of Proteus’s footsteps below him.  At its stillest, the plant rested at a slight angle to the left from where Sean lay.  His head dumbly ached as though the head of a spoon were rubbing somewhere against the middle of his brain.  His mouth was dry and his tongue a bit swollen; his skin felt sensitive and thin.  Gentle pangs of nausea probed at his abdomen and he was warm to the point of discomfort and slight dizziness.

He had to regroup, to take stock of what he knew in the moment.  Sean knew this feeling well enough to know he should’ve stopped drinking before he did last night.  He also knew that if he got up and left his tent, the man who lived next to this rented space would let Sean help himself to as much water as he could carry from the man’s home supply.  What was his name again?  John something?  Something Johnson?  For the life of him he couldn’t remember the man’s name, although they’d become acquainted since Sean’s arrival, since Sean had a silver tongue – he was skilled at making friendly conversation with people and making them like him.  Finally, he knew he needed more time before dressing himself and making his way to his temporary neighbor’s house to quench his thirst. 

Last night he’d gone out for drinks with some locals, including the mayor, to celebrate picking up the tourists today.  Proteus would shamble into Moscow late in the morning, close to midday, to make his customary visit to the Moscow International Business Center.  Once there,  he’d stop for exactly one hour and admire the skyscrapers, which were some of the only man-made structures tall enough to still be visible over the fog.

Shit, the homecoming, Sean thought.  He scrambled out of his cot and leaned his head out of the unzipped tent flap, looking to his right to check the time.  The sunlight in the east blinded him for a moment and he remembered his hangover just as the throbbing came to his temples.  After a moment, his irises adjusted and he saw that the sun was low enough in the sky that he wasn’t late, but high enough that he should get moving.

His anxiety vanished.  The relief he felt rippled throughout his body, affecting his hangover in various ways.  The tremendous cessation of pressure in his body gave his skin a nice chill but caused his shoulders to ache, joining his head in their throbbing.  Sean crawled back inside and collapsed onto his cot for one more moment.  He laughed a bit despite himself.

After dressing, Sean checked his face in the shard of mirror hanging from the wall of his tent.  He was a little worse for wear but his dirty blonde hair and thin face were still admirable.  He had a few days’ worth of stubble on his cheeks and under his nose and chin, but his high cheekbones, slender nose and pale blue eyes offset the more ragged elements of his appearance.  He’d turned 30 the day he arrived on Proteus.

Sean talked his neighbor – whose name was Jeffrey Johns, as it turned out – into feeding him before he went to the reception.  Sean figured it was enough of a price to pay to act sober and decent to his unwaveringly pleasant neighbor.  Perhaps he had an easy time of it because Sean and Jeffrey were cut from the same cloth in regards to their amiability.  Jeffrey wasn’t much to look at – a plump, middle-aged man with a wide nose and round chin and skin that shined from a hint of oiliness – but even when he interrupted someone or if he spoke while eating, Sean found himself looking forward to hearing what the man had to say.  Sean, meanwhile, had always fascinated people with his anecdotes and jovial nature.  He was the type of person you just wanted to be around.

Sean’s headache had returned with a vengeance from the seemingly Herculean efforts of dressing himself and walking to Johns’s house, but now with some vegetables and clean water in his belly, he was starting to crawl out from under the rock of dehydration.  He was better able to take in his surroundings now than when he had first entered.  Johns’s house was the same quaint size and offered the practicality of all the houses he’d seen on the titans.  There was a small kitchen and eating area on the right when you entered, and past those there was a bedroom on the left and a living room on the right.  The kitchen was open to the living room and, all in all, the house was less than 1,000 square feet.   The walls were white and the carpet in the living room had seen better days.

While they ate, Sean spoke matter-of-factly about his uneventful journey to Proteus – leaving his assistant the responsibility of dropping the tourists off at OKO South Tower several weeks ago while Sean himself migrated from one walking city to the other to receive them on Proteus today.  The mention of Proteus sparked a thought in Jeffrey’s mind.

“Are your ankles killing you yet?”

“How’s that?”

“The slope!”  The gears in Sean’s brain were still getting up to speed; it took him a moment to realize what Jeffrey was talking about despite Jeffrey using his knife to gesture a diagonal line several times.  Sean watched the knife flick back and forth with bits of food stuck to it, then it clicked – he was asking Sean if he’d acclimated to the peculiar angle at which the city sat on Proteus’s back.  Proteus wasn’t quite as tall as Triton, on whom Sean’s hometown was built, but his front two legs were much longer than the back two.  He walked on all fours, so his back sloped downward from his head to his hindquarters.  When The Founders built the city on Proteus nearly 85 years prior, they constructed low stilts on which the houses would sit in order to compensate for the slant.  To anyone unaccustomed to life on Proteus, walking up and down steep hills all day was murder on the ankles.  This disorientation was furthered by some of the dwellings that were built since mankind moved onto these beasts.  Either laziness or some sense of pride had overcome the residents and they put together much of the newer living space flat across Proteus’s back without correctional foundations.  Some of the newer buildings were constructed respective to Proteus’s sloping back instead of to gravity like the older ones.  This led to a hodgepodge of a city in which some new buildings – Sean’s tent included – sat with one side higher than the other, their roofs pointing perpendicular to Proteus’s hide.  Whenever someone poured a drink in a new building like this, the liquid tilted towards one edge of the glass more than the other.  Plants hung at angles that weren’t quite 90 degrees to the floor.  Towards Proteus’s head, the problem got so severe that homeowners had gone to such measures as sawing off half the length of two table legs and installing belt buckles in their beds so as not to fall out.

“Oh!  Yes, that was an adjustment.  Truth be told, no offense to your fair city but I’ll be much more comfortable getting back home to life on a flat plane.  I don’t know that I ever got my ‘sea legs’ out here.”

Sean finished his food and set his fork down on his plate.  Johns swallowed a bite of his own breakfast and pointed his fork at Sean, wagging it up and down.  “You know that reminds me of a story Granddad used to tell.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah.  About The Founders.”

Sean tried to hide his excitement.  He never missed an opportunity to hear about life in the old days, nor about the events surrounding mankind leaving the surface.

“If you need to leave, though, I don’t mean to keep you.”

Sean snuck a quick peek outside.  It still looked like mid-morning; he had probably an hour before he had to be at the docks.  “I’ve got time.”

Jeffrey continued to eat as he spoke.  “I’m sure you’ve heard about how crazy things were when people first moved up here.  Nobody knew what to do with themselves.  How would we maintain a global government if we had no idea when we’d meet?  Why bother upholding our unique cultural identities when we only stood over our native homelands for a few hours at a time, and so rarely during the year?  Sure, back on the surface immigrants from all over the world had brought their own cultures with them to new lands, but back then there were whole neighborhoods where one nationality lived.  Some American cities had several square blocks that were called ‘China Town’ and ‘Little Italy.’  Since we moved up to the theriopolises, we’ve all been kinda one on top of the other.  Anyway, soon enough, these ‘discussions’ about culture and law and order turned into quarrels.”

Sean nodded impatiently.  He’d heard all this before from his own parents and was starting to worry there wouldn’t be anything new in this tale.  But he let Jeffrey continue.

“Now, even besides the grade of the hill, do you know why it feels funny walking down our streets compared to yours?”

Sean didn’t.  He shook his head no, only realizing then that he’d been meaning to ask someone about getting his sea legs while he was here.  It was something besides the slope, as Johns had just said.  He wished he’d thought of something to say about it before admitting his ignorance.

“It’s because your body is used to the rhythm of your own leviathan, Triton, walking in his own way.  With those big wide tortoise legs of his, the motion of your city is different from ours.”  Jeffrey made a spider-like shape with his hands by putting his wrists together and crooking his fingers out like claws.  He then rocked his fingers back and forth, side to side, mimicking how Triton walked.  “Like this, yeah?  Here, Proteus’s large forelegs also make him walk more on a two-leg rhythm instead of four.”  Jeffrey abandoned his Triton imitation and instead put his first two fingertips on the table and made them walk like a human.  “See?  It’s a very different pattern than what you’re used to.  His hind legs don’t affect his back movement as squarely as Triton’s since they’re shorter and smaller than his forelegs.

“So keep in mind that back down there, the surface is completely motionless.  The ground is always flat, and immobile, like when Proteus stops to look at a skyscraper.  And they were used to that being the norm.  When we ascended, it took some of The Founders weeks before they got used to the ground under their feet moving.  So granddad tells me they had a town meeting once, at the beginning, and these two officials were arguing with each other over this or that.  Those boys kept on raising their voices and shouting, and so help me they were clinging onto tables and benches for dear life while they’re screaming at each other!”  Both men chuckled.

“And what makes it worse,” Johns continued, “eventually this fight came to blows.  These two old-timers were trying to duke it out, both suffering vertigo and seasickness, and they’re leaning on furniture to fight!”  Jeffrey laughed harder and harder as he continued.  “Finally one of them put his weight into it, cocked his fist back and leaned into this punch with everything he has.”

“So did he knock the other guy out?”

“He missed him by more than a foot!  He lost his balance and fell on the ground.  He ended up throwing up all night.  See, your inner ear has a bit of fluid in it that’s sensitive to any movement.  Since you were in your mama’s belly, your brain’s gotten used to the swaying of Triton’s step.  So when you set foot in our city, your inner ear lost its rhythm.”

“No shit.”

“No shit.”  Jeffrey batted his eyebrows up and down once to emphasize his point and took a sip of his water.  Sean kept those men in his mind, hiding their unease with loud words and bravado even as they held onto support.  It sounded like it would’ve looked very dramatic.  He finally snapped back to his conversation and realized he had to go.  He excused himself, thanked his host for breakfast, shook his hand and made his way to the docks.

Sean stopped just once while he walked to the docks.  All along Proteus’s back, there were small man-made outcroppings with balustrades on either side of the city and he made his way to one of them.  He looked out over the horizon and saw a comfortably familiar sight.  It was the same view he’d seen every day of his life:  the horizon split into halves, with the blue daylight offset by the reddish earth.  It was partly cloudy today, but the clouds were spread out enough that the sun shined brightly despite them.  Below the sky, the rust-colored red orange fog sat mostly still.  82 years prior, that poisonous fog had driven mankind from living on the surface to living on the backs of the 13 colossi that emerged along with it from the depths of the sea.  In his youth, Sean had heard hushed stories about what happened to the humans who didn’t live in a theriopolis like he did.  There were plenty of urban legends about whole tribes of people living on the dirt.  They were child warriors with a life expectancy of less than 30 years, living in villages inside skyscrapers just below the 1,000-foot fog ceiling.  His older relatives also talked about other people who lived in underground fallout shelters, and others still who had tried to develop floating sky cities.  There were as many rumors as there were relatives, it seemed.  Since there was no way to separate the truth from the fiction, these stories were often as frustrating as they were fascinating.  And although Sean always denied believing in such fairy tales, whenever he found himself enjoying the view near a city he’d always lean forward a bit and squint, keeping an eye out along the top of the haze for feral adolescents carrying babies of their own.  He’d never admit it, but the old stories stuck in his mind.  I’m just looking because I know I won’t see any people like the ones in the stories, he thought.  It’s so stupid.  Sometimes he almost believed himself.

Sean rejoined the bustling life of Proteus.  He passed the septic manager, who stopped at every house on the way to Proteus’s tail end asking people to add their waste to his wheelbarrow.  When it filled, Sean knew the man would drive the barrow to the back of the city and heave it over, then start again from where he’d left off.  You couldn’t pay me enough to be the shit bucket guy, he thought.  Walking further towards Proteus’s head, he heard the humming of the people who had already gathered at the harbor.  Some of Proteus’s clever residents had moved their shops there for the day and were already haggling with customers over trade prices.  A weathered old woman missing several teeth shouted in Thai over the din, attempting to barter away a piece of curved glass to an Australian man with a backpack in exchange for some plant seeds.

ที่จะเริ่มต้นไฟ!” she said.  ที่จะเริ่มต้นไฟ!”

“Yes, yes, I got it!  Thī̀ ca reìm t̂n fị!  Missy, I know what the bloody glass is for; these here are the only goddamn Rockingham cucumber seeds you’re bound to see in this lifetime – or any other, for that matter.  You understand?  The last seeds above the surface!  If you want them, I’ll need three from you.”  He held up three of his fingers.  “See?  Three.”


“Yes.  S̄ām.  Three.”

She held up two fingers.

“No, no, not two,” the Aussie said.  “Three.  S̄ām.”

She paused, cursed in Thai and handed over the pieces of glass.  He in turn gave her the small plastic baggie of seeds and pulled out a pre-rolled cigarette from his backpack.  He stowed two of the curved glass pieces and held the third up as if inspecting it.  The Australian man then looked back at the cigarette he held in his hand and gently turned the glass until it shined on one end of the cigarette.  Immediately, the refracted glint of light from the glass began to burn the paper.  The man took a drag from the cigarette before stuffing the third glass into his pocket.  He walked away smoking and the Thai woman shook her head.

“Cheap son of a bitch.”

Other merchants with an eclectic range of goods lined the street.  One family had wooden toys and doll furniture with a sign out front that said “REAL WOOD BROUGHT FROM SURFACE, HUNG FIVE YEARS TO DRY OUT FOG.”  An entirely uninteresting-looking man had water filtration systems available.  Teens sold pouches of custom-blended herb cigarettes.  Two middle-aged women had fresh vegetables and pornographic magazines.  Those with customers bartered shrewdly.  Those without eyed passersby hungrily.  Sean moved past all of them and rounded the dusty corner where he finally arrived at the docks.

It looked like half the city was at the pier, waiting anxiously to welcome back the two dozen or so wealthy vacationers.  Sean Bellamy pushed his way through the crowd, trying not to draw attention to himself while looking for Proteus’s mayor, Bill Pulaski.  Finally they spotted each other.  Sean made his way to the far back corner of the crowd where Pulaski stood on a small makeshift stage with his wife.  The couple proudly beckoned Sean up to them.  Now, standing on a stage with the mayor, receiving more attention and applause than he’d hoped for, Sean Bellamy remembered what it took to get to where he was.

Self-sufficiency had been a central part of titan society since before Sean was born.  Most people didn’t mind thinning their own soup once in a while to help their neighbor if his crops didn’t come in, but too much dependence on others was taboo as soon as word got out – and with most people living 80 years in communities with a population as little as 1,000, word always got out.  Like every other boy and girl growing up, Sean was raised learning to farm crops from hanging indoor gardens.  He could salvage compost and soil substitute from his family’s garbage and he could run the simple water filtration system that caught rain from the rooftop and drained to the barrel on the side of their house.  Beyond that, however, most children showed talents in some trade and worked towards apprenticeship.  Sean didn’t.  His natural charm let him slide by for some time, but eventually it wore out its welcome with his neighbors back on Triton.  His father’s disappointment in him weighed on Sean more heavily as the years passed.  Sean’s mother always said “Something will come along,” but the confidence in her voice started to fade.  Sean took odd jobs to bring in food and supplies, but his father’s words were never far from his mind:  “You go out and make something of yourself.  Become the best at something – make yourself indispensable.  Not this petty bullshit you been doing.”  He decided the best way to earn a name for himself would be to solve a problem the community faced and he wanted to be known as the one who solved it.  If it were a big enough problem, god willing he could use it as the foundation for his career.

Every few years, in at least one theriopolis, people started to get bored and restless living in such a confined space.  Sean had read of something similar once: the Hawaiians called it “Island Fever.”  Up on these towns they took to calling it the Wandering City Blues.  People could walk around town and visit friends, but eventually it became so much of the same damn thing that people got fed up.  On the theriopolis, it led to unrest.  The crime rate spiked.  There were even suicides, which were shocking – the culture of the value of human life had shifted dramatically since Ascension.  When Sean was a child, his father’s father told him that there were once billions of people roaming the surface.  Of course, when Sean questioned his mother, she gently reminded him how prone to exaggeration his grandfather was.  Now with the human species down to five digits, every death weighed solemnly. 

However, despite how important each life seemed – and no matter how much of the world people saw as their titans roamed its surface – so much of the Earth was swallowed up under the cover of fog that it often looked the same, mirroring their lives.  Like Alexander of Macedonia, the human race seemed horrified that there were no more lands to conquer.  So there were sometimes self-induced fatalities.  The fog was so uniform that many people would visit their local cartographer just to ask where they were.  The cartographer’s office was a schizophrenic’s dream, full of maps and globes and colored pushpins detailing the routes of the titans – or, at least, the titans who had steady migration paths.  When people got too restless and the city officials noticed, they would try to arrange a party, event or cultural festival to spice up the quiet lives of those living on the beast-cities.  It’s why they’d started the street hockey league and the exchange student programs for the kids and the boxing tournaments for the adults.  Then one day a year ago, Sean had an epiphany.

If people want off of the leviathan so damn badly, why not let them?

He spent plenty of time in the cartographer’s office that spring, working with the old man and his maps.  Triton walked 48,057 miles on his unending circuit around the planet, stopping at 50 of the world’s surface cities that had the highest populations pre-ascension.  It took Triton over four months to circle the Earth.

“So if we keep a steady course, we’ll pass Moscow once on March 2nd of next year, then again on July…15th.  Is that right?”

The old man licked his lips.  “Sure, but why Moscow?”

“Proteus stops in Moscow.  That knuckle-walker loves skyscrapers and there’s that huge cluster of them downtown at the uh, what’s it called, Moscow Business Complex?”

“Moscow International Business Center, sonny.”

“Right!  And if you’re really as good as you say you are at keeping track of the leviathans – “

“Hey, now; don’t doubt my work for a second, smartass…”

“…Then Proteus will stop in Moscow a few weeks behind us.  In fact, Proteus will get to Moscow on…”  Numbers flew through Sean’s head as he calculated Proteus’s schedule.  Proteus gets home to Dubai on March 31st, plus 68 days around the world and another 57 to Russia makes “August 3rd of next year!”

They double-checked their math, then triple-checked it.  Dusting off his childhood sales skills, Sean drew up a three-week vacation plan and approached the city with it in the ominous town hall.  “It would be like a…” Sean checked his notes and his next two words came out awkwardly, despite echoing throughout the room.  “…’cruise ship.’  Have you ever heard of one of those?  Surface-dwellers would get bored of their own towns and book passage on a boat that would take them around the oceans just to get away from it all.  Only instead of a motionless city and a trip around the ocean, we’d have an immobile getaway from a moving city.”  He knew Triton’s mayor had a copy of his notes in front of him – in fact he’d had his nose buried in them since Sean entered city hall.  Sean had learned from school that people tend to embed information in their brains better if they’re reading and hearing at the same time, so he maintained his calm and consciously took his time presenting the idea so as not to skip ahead of the mayor’s busy eyes.

Triton’s deputy mayor piped up.  “’Just to get away from it all?’  It does have a nice ring to it.”

The mayor, Will Staps, nodded in agreement.  “We could really sell this ‘getaway’ idea.  People are always excited about new things, and if it works right we could start booking them regularly.  Travel would be a bitch but I think our citizens would pay for the chance.

“At the same time, we don’t want to lose any of our population permanently.  What with the missing colossi and those lawless lunatics on Sao, we can’t even put an accurate figure on how many human beings are left on the theriopolises.  10,000?  20,000?  I can promise you it’s not more than that and we’d hate for Triton to suffer 10 or 20 family bloodlines Mr. Bellamy.”

At the mention of his name, Sean perked up.  “That’s not a problem sir; they wouldn’t be able to carry enough resources to develop long-term settlements atop the skyscraper.”

Mayor Staps thought.  “Bellamy, have you worked out all the kinks in this?  Since it’s your name – and your cut of the profits – at stake here, I’m assuming you have.”

Sean hadn’t, but this was his only chance.  “Absolutely.  I just need to take one final quick look at OKO South Tower next time we stop in Moscow.”

Silence hung in the air.  It was deafening.  Staps finally looked up from Sean’s papers.

“Okay.  Let’s give it a try.  We have them sign liability waivers in case of any injuries and we book a vacation.”

Word escaped Triton’s city hall and buzz generated quickly.  In a few months, half of the theriopolises and all their posh socialites had heard of the idea and were throwing riches at Triton and Proteus for the chance to be the first vacationers since the ascension.  Amazingly, the faint-hearted gentlemen and dainty young ladies who won the bids for the trip underwent all the travel without a hitch.  Over the next several months, these travelers spent considerable time working their way from the other leviathans – including Proteus, Galatea and Naiad – to Triton, where Sean had hired an assistant to provide them with their packs.  Each pack held three weeks’ food, several gallons of water and a sleeping bag scavenged from the surface years before. 

And today was the big day – August 3rd.  Sean Bellamy waited shoulder-to-shoulder with Mayor Pulaski of Proteus to welcome the first post-ascension vacationers back from their trip.  Sean figured there was more glory waiting for him in the pickup than the drop-off, so he trusted his assistant, a young Triton resident by the name of Alan Vaughn, to get the vacationers onto Moscow’s skyscraper by himself while Sean left for Proteus well in advance.  Now, waiting at the docks for Proteus to lumber up to the Moscow International Business Center just 20 days after the tourists landed, Sean was brimming with excitement and pride in his work.  He’d had a brilliant idea that not only helped save the theriopolises from another bout of Island Fever but could incorporate a whole new branch of peoples’ lifestyles.

From the lookout tower behind them, they heard a young boy shout “Moscow dead ahead!”  The excitement grew to a fever pitch.  Musicians banged on drums that sounded throughout the late morning sky.  Children chased each other in games of Tag through the crowd.  The cigarette vendors announced they were offering free pouches of herbs to the travelers upon their return.  Mayor Pulaski laughed and patted Sean on the shoulder.  It was a veritable quarter-mile-high parade, a celebration of mankind once again overcoming adversity.

My God I’m going to be rich, Sean thought.

The dock workers readied a 15-foot ballista to fire to the tower.  They’d done it a hundred times before.  Two workers cranked the handle near the seat at the back of the ballista, bringing the string back until the limb itself bowed backwards and clicked into its set position at the latch.  A third man, already seated and waiting, was handed a long, arrow-shaped grappling hook trailing nearly a quarter-mile of rope behind it.  He placed it under and between his legs, into the flight groove on top of the long barrel.  The poorly-named “string” that ran from one end of the limb to the other – and would project the hook on its path to OKO South – was more of a thick belt of rope than it was a string, but the name had always stuck.  All that remained, as they knew from experience, was to await the order.  When the hook fired and caught on the tower, they simply reeled it in on the spool and let the travelers strap onto the ropeway and climb back across.

As they neared the cluster of towers, OKO South came closer and closer.  A minute before the harbormaster was ready to give the order to fire the ballista, something in the crowd changed.  The onlookers at the front, who had surrounded and cramped the dock workers eagerly, got quieter.  Their raised hands lowered and their faces fell.  Each row of people stopped jumping, stopped shouting, stopped cheering one after another.  The drummers stopped their music, stood and stared at the tower.  Sean and Mayor Pulaski were the last to realize something was wrong.  One drummer dropped his fat drumstick and it rolled noisily downhill, clanging and clattering towards the stage.  An eerie silence enveloped the crowd, but eerier still was the sight that awaited their approach atop OKO South Tower.

Birds cawed and crowed.  Why are there so many birds? Sean thought.  The mayor charged up through the crowd, pushing people aside until he reached the balcony, its low railing chipped with dozens of marks from previous grappling hook attachments.  He borrowed a pair of binoculars from a nearby gawker and glassed the rooftop.

27 bodies lay on the roof.  They were slathered in a grotesque soup of blood, vomit and bird feces.  Many of them were being eaten by the birds.  The birds had been working on some of them for a while, picking through their fancy clothes and moving their jewelry aside to get at the carrion beneath.

“They’re all dead.”  Pulaski didn’t mean to let the words escape his lips, but they did, and though he spoke quietly, everyone heard it.  He lowered the binoculars from his eyes and pushed them against someone else’s chest.  He thought it was their owner but he couldn’t be sure.  But he had no more use for them; he’d seen enough.

As he sauntered back to Sean Bellamy, his knees weak with the horror of the corpses he’d seen, the crowd’s eyes followed.  Sean could barely see the rooftop from where he stood but he knew something horrible had happened.  The roof was a macabre light grey with trickles of red dripping down its sides and an abnormally large flock of birds perched on (or circling) it.  There were no birds on any of the other skyscrapers nearby.  The pieces of the puzzle started falling into place just as Sean looked down and saw Proteus’s mayor within 10 feet of him, shambling slowly.

“What did I do?” Sean asked earnestly.  His mouth was dry and the words barely croaked out of his throat.  His thoughts slowly turned away from whatever happened to his tourists and towards the unfathomable amount of shit he’d gotten himself into.  He cleared his throat and asked the mayor again – in a monotone voice, with tears welling up in his eyes – for the news.  In a sense he was asking for the fate of the rest of his life.

“What did I do.”

*  *  *

The harbormaster called to fire the shot as soon as Proteus stopped to look at the skyscraper, just like clockwork; the dock worker in the gunner seat didn’t hesitate.  The hook reached the top of the building and splashed in a puddle of fecal matter and blood.  The other dock workers reeled the line in, leaving a bit of slack to ease their journey.  Then they fastened their climbing harnesses onto the ropeway and zip lined over to the rooftop on OKO South to retrieve the first body.  Without the distant sound of Proteus’s footsteps pounding against the earth, the hushed crowd seemed even quieter.  When they got to the nearest corpse, one of the dock workers reeled and found himself retching over the edge of the building.  This sent a wave of gasps and murmurs through the crowd.  The few family members of the deceased who were in attendance were shocked back to coherence for the first time since seeing their relatives blanketed by excrement and entrails.  They began to sob.
Pulaski’s mood had turned from horror to anger.  In his rage he knew the only proper course of action was to keep a cool head for the sake of the city, the dead and their families.  Even still, he could only partly mask his tone and when he spoke it was through gritted teeth.

“Get the doctor.”

It took the deputy mayor a minute for the words to reach his ears.  He dumbly looked at Mayor Pulaski, who returned his gaze with a fire in his eyes.  The deputy mayor blinked several times and ran to retrieve the town physician while the dock workers resumed their unsavory task.

They wiped the body off as best they could and batted two Eurasian Sparrowhawks off the corpse with the backs of their hands.  The birds cawed with displeasure but flew off to peck at another body.  The dock workers unfurled a tarp, which they usually carried for transporting supplies between colossi, and folded it into a makeshift body bag and put the body on it.  They tied up either end of the tarp so it resembled a canoe, then they each fastened one end to their own climbing harnesses, near the men’s spines, and began the long climb to transport it back to Proteus.  The men talked while they worked their way back across the rope, the foot ascenders which were strapped to their boots preventing them from sliding back to the building.

“Is she slipping?”

“No.  She’s staying up on my end so far.”

“What the Hell happened here?”

“Like I know?  Just don’t say anything unless someone asks you for info.”

“Copy that.”

“Of course you could’ve seen more if you hadn’t blown chunks over the side there…”

“Man, fuck you.  Those birds were picking her damn guts – “

“Okay, just shut up right there.  Stop it.  We’re getting close to the docks and if her family is there and they heard you goin’ on like that?”

“Alright, alright.  Jesus.  Let’s just get there.  How far we got?”

“I’d say another 200 feet.”

“How are we gonna make 25 more trips?”


“My point is we’ve got less than an hour and we probably took close to 10 minutes getting to this one and bringing her home.”

“Like I said, keep your head down and follow orders.  Let the boss and Mayor Pulaski figure out this nightmare.”


“And try to keep your breakfast down next time.”

They arrived in silence, unhooked their cargo and set it down gently.  Mayor Pulaski had returned to the front of the area with a reluctant Sean Bellamy.  Pulaski offered his handkerchief to the dock worker who’d thrown up, shooting him a dirty look.  “Clean yourself up for Christ’s sake; some of the people on that tower were your neighbors and friends.”

Just as the dock worker sought to defend himself, the deputy mayor arrived at the harbor with the doctor, who carried his medical bag.  The doctor scurried up to the body and untied the tarp.  With a full and close-up view of the deceased, the crowd backed away several steps in a hurry.  A young man howled in agony and shoved through the crowd, kneeling in front of the dead woman and gently stroking her sullied hair.  He wasn’t too proud to cry for his loss.

Her boyfriend, Bellamy thought.  For a half a moment he was proud of himself for his simple deduction but the overpowering odor emanating from the victim brought his attention back to the scene at hand.  Reality sank in again and Sean Bellamy realized that for his negligence he’d likely be thrown off Proteus, every bone in his body breaking on impact with the barren surface after a quarter-mile fall from the city, liability waivers be damned.  The only thing he had to wonder was if he’d die of a heart attack on the way down before he hit the ground.

Continued in Chapter Two, "Ghettobelly," right here.