Tag Archive: Chuck Wendig


According to my account on Goodreads I’ve read 32 books this year, well 33 as I’ve just finished one that is not currently listed on the site. So that’s 2.75 books a month, and I wonder sometimes what I spend all my time doing!

So this year, for the first time, I decided to look through what I had read and list my top 10. I’m not usually a fan of best of lists purely because tastes change on a regular basis. What might be the best today may not be tomorrow simply because something better comes along. But seeing as 2013 is in its last few hours, and the books I have read during the last 12 months will not be repeated, I thought it was fairly safe to put a list together, because even if something better does come along tomorrow, it’ll be 2014 by then.

I should point out this is a list of books I have read in 2013, not a list of books published in 2013.

So to kick things off…

No. 10: Ace Of Skulls by Chris Wooding – whilst I was not totally blow away by this final instalment in the Tales Of The Ketty Jay series it gets a placing simply because it is the final instalment. The series as a whole has been brilliant, with a mix of fantasy, horror and steampunk it was something different and entertaining. The  mixed crew of misfits were instantly likeable and grew on you with each book. Was it original, maybe not. A lot of people likened it to Firefly, but having never seen the show I had no comparison to make.

No. 9: The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig – a mix of organised crime, fantasy and horror, this is the story of Mookie Pearl. Pearl is a hard man, an enforcer, a killer. He is also privy to the knowledge of the dark forbidden underbelly of the city where monsters lurk and death is ready for the unwilling. Along with Wendig’s trademark no-holds-barred style of story telling this is a great tale full of wit, blood and kick-ass action.

No. 8: Exit Kingdom by Alden Bell – the sequel/prequel to the excellent The Angels Are The Reapers. Set in a post apocalyptic world where humanity has fallen to the zombie hordes. But unlike your run-of-the-mill zombie tale here the walking dead are mere bit part players. Carrying on the tale of Moses Todd this story flashes back to his days on the road with his psychotic brother Abraham,  as he tries to find some form of peace in a broken world. Along the way they encounter a gifted woman who may very well be the cure everyone has dreamt of.

No. 7: Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L Powell – Ack-Ack Macaque is a cigar chomping, whisky swilling one-eyed spitfire pilot, he is also a Monkey. Fighting the hordes of ninja-Nazi paratroopers is what he does, but he is beginning to think everything is not as real as he thinks. This is a unique tale of a sentient ape and his part in the saving of a prince and battle against the coming apocalypse. There is a twist, and its a very inventive twist that allows Ack-Ack to bridge the gap between the 1940s war and the 21st century workd where most of the story is set. Look out for the sequel Hive Monkey due out soon.

No. 6: Age Atomic by Adam Christopher – this is the follow-up to the brilliant Empire State and carries on the story of the Pocket universe that is the mirror of Manhattan. This time round the Empire State is in danger of being destroyed as earth tremors and a freezing winter threaten to tear the fabric of the Pocket apart. On top of that someone is building an army of nuclear powered robots and plan to invade New York.

No. 5: The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell – this is the latest in the Saxon Stories and continues the tale of Uhtred. King Alfred is dead, Edward now sits on the throne and his advisor’s and the church have distanced him from his fathers greatest warlord, the pagan Uhtred. After an ill advised trip to punish a wayward son, Uhtred finds himself banished from Wessex, penniless and with only a few faithful warriors still at his side he heads north to finally retake his ancestral home. But the long peace between Wessex and the Danes is about to come to a crashing end, and when the Danes strike, and blood is spilt, Wessex as always will only have one man to turn to to save them.

No. 4: The Split Worlds Trilogy (Between Two Thorns/Any Other Name/All Is Fair) by Emma Newman – the Nether is home to the Fae-touched and is a mirror to Mundanus (Earth). There is a treaty in place that forbids the Fae and their puppets from interfering in the lives of the Mundanes, a treaty enforced by the Sorcerers and their Arbitors. But someone has corrupted one of the Chapters and Mundanes are being snatched from the streets of London. This trilogy is a debut fantasy series and if you didn’t know that you’d be hard pressed to notice. Emma’s writing is pitch perfect, her characters vibrant and three dimensional. The story is one of adventure, conspiracy and rebellion. But in amongst this there is also dark subjects including murder, marital rape and slavery.

 

No. 3: The Copper Promise: Let Sleeping Gods Lie by Jen Williams – I reviewed this in the previous post to this, so most everything I have to say can be read there. But I will say this is a debut fantasy novel that breathes life into the pulp style of story telling that I grew up reading. brilliantly paced, great characters and a plot that carries you through a breathtakingly imagined fantasy world.

No. 2: The Broken Empire Trilogy (Prince Of Thorns/King Of Thorns/Emperor Of Thorns) by Mark Lawrence – another debut fantasy trilogy, and another breath of fresh aired breathed into a genre stuffed full of grim and dark. Jorg of Ancarth has to be one of the darkest characters I’ve come across in a while. Haunted by a childhood tragedy that saw his brother and mother brutally slain, and treated with scorn by an unloving father Jorg does what many boys have done before and runs away. But in running away he joins a troop of road brothers and embarks on a killing spree that would be seen as bloody by any counts, but is made more so because Jorg is barely into his teens at the time. Through the course of the three books Jorg cuts his way from road brother, to King to the Empire Throne, the body count is countless, no-one is safe, including those who ride with him. Does Jorg have redeeming qualities, yes, he is not a mindless killing machine, he does what he does for a reason. But those reasons are not always as clear as you might think.

No. 1: Sarah Pinborough’s Modern Fairy Tales (Poison/Charm/Beauty) by Sarah Pinborough – the title I made up, not sure this series of three novellas actually has an overall title? But still, Sarah’s re-imaging/retelling/modern interpretation (call them what you will) of classic fairy tales are brilliant and by far the best thing I’ve read this year. These are fairy tales for grown-ups, Snow White, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty all come under the spotlight and are given the Pinborough treatment. These are not suitable reading for children, some adults of a sensible nature may want to steer clear as well. Sarah has taken the core of each story and given it a twist, added ingredients and also brought in elements from other fairy stories to make original stories that intrigued and delight.

 

Bubbling under and worthy a mention…

Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough – a fresh new take on the Jack the Ripper legend that isn’t about Jack the Ripper.

NOS4R2 by Joe Hill – twisted serial killer Charlie Manx kidnaps children and takes them off to Christmasland where he feeds off their fun.

The Shinning Girls by Lauren Beukes – another serial killer but this time one that can time travel between the 1920s and 1990s killing girls that show some spark of greatness.

Space Danger by Doug Strider – a series of self published novellas set about a starship captained by Kurt Dangler. To sum this up its a mix of Monty Python, Douglas Adams and Ripping Yarns, in space.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

For the second time in a week, I come over Shatter Hill at midnight and see fire at the crossroad below. Not an unusual event in itself, everyone knew it was the quickest way in and out of Hell. But the past two occasions had happened during Holy week, and everyone knew it was frowned on to travel when angels were about. Not that anyone had seen hide nor feather of the Blessed Folk in a long time, but that was another issue.

I pulled on the reigns and the mule whinnied before stubbornly stopping, we both sat there looking down as the last embers flickered and died, leaving a prone figure face down in the dust. The mule whinnied again, eager to be off, but the situation intrigued me and once intrigued I liked to see a thing through. A man who had no right travelling the night road at this particular time had dropped by, it was my duty to find out why. I clicked my tongue, the mule looked over its shoulder, a quizzical look on its face; and with a snort it jerked forwards.

The man was tall and lean, dressed in a uniform that was tattered and blackened in places. I knew a soldier when I saw one, I’d been one, still was. This one was different, his skin grey, mottled. His skull totally hairless, one hand was under his body, but the other was stretched out; the hand looked withered and only hand three fingers. The mule sniffed and then whinnied, stamping one hoof on the hard packed ground. I’d learned long ago to listen to the reactions of animals; they had a sense beyond the norm. But I was committed and swung myself off the seat and walked over to the man.

Kneeling beside the body there was a peculiar smell, sweet, cloying, like spoiled meat. It reminded me of the aftermath on a battle field; the dead piled high, carrion filling the sky. I reached out and pushed the body over, he was light as a feather. I stepped back and will admit I was surprised, not a bad trick as usually nothing catches me out. Stretched out looking up the man was stranger than I could have imagined. The head was misshapen, long, stretched almost. The features flattened; the nose just two slots between the eyes and mouth. The eyes were big, way too big for the head. It gave a groan, the mouth just a line, no lips and no teeth from what I could see.

“Hnnxshhuiio…” I didn’t understand what it was saying, which was strange?

“What you saying there fella?” The eyes flickered open, black pools, all pupil. I crouched down next to it, reached over and placed a hand on the chest, feeling around. I’d reached its abdomen before I got a rhythm. “You a long way from home?”

It opened its mouth, the eyes wavering around, trying to focus. “Where…”

“That’s better, got the beat of you now.” I took my hand off and sat back on my haunches. “You fell, not sure where from cos I not seen the like of you before.”

“Earth…”

“Earth?” I looked up and down the length of it. “You ain’t like nothing that walks there.”

“Attacked…had to defend ourselv…” The eyes drooped and its head fell sideways. It was normal for any traveler coming through to be disorientated, but this was different. I suppose it not being of the Earth the reaction was different, thing is, if it’s not from there then how had it come to be here?

I looked back at the mule; it looked at me with those sad eyes then down at whatever our new friend was.

Can we keep it?”

“It ain’t supposed to be here.”

The mule looked up into the eternal darkness above.

What if more come?”

I smiled; what indeed. The crossroads were meant only for humans, but seemed someone had found a way to send something different through. What was their intention, to threaten us, to force us into a reaction? Who knows, it’s been so long I’d forgotten how humans think.

We’ll have to take him in.” I looked back at the mule, he had the right of it; this would have to be reported.

“Aye, suppose you’re right.” I got up and headed to the back of the wagon and grabbed the edge of the tarpaulin. “He ain’t gonna like it though.”

I flung the tarp back; another body lay on the bed of the wagon. This was the one from a few days ago, he at least was human, but looking at him properly I realized I’d missed before that he too was in uniform, his too tattered and blackened. I looked past the mule at the prone figure and then back at the one in the wagon and whistled. I shook my head as I walked over and picked the figure up; walking back I looked the mule in the eye.

“If they’re fighting a war up there; there’ll be hell to pay.”

The mule brayed with laughter.

 

All Rights Reserved © Philip J Norris April 2013

bait dogTitle: Bait Dog

Author: Chuck Wendig

Publisher: Terribleminds 1st Edition

Published: Out Now

RRP: Kindle £3.19

This title includes the novella Shotgun Gravy

The last time Atlanta Burns tangled with the town bullies it seemed like she and her friends won the day. But then one of those friends ended up dead – dead by his own hand if you believed it. Atlanta and her friend Shane are not so sure.

Atlanta, afraid of once again stirring up the hornet’s nest by looking into Chris’ death, instead focuses on looking into the death of a local teen’s beloved dog. But doing this is no easy task, and soon Atlanta and her friends are embroiled in the world of dog fights. But also she finds that events surrounding the death of the dog shed light of Chris’ alleged suicide.

As events unfold Atlanta once again finds herself face-to-face with bullies, and staring down a corruption that’s seeped into town like a septic infection. It’s all too much for one girl to handle, and she knows she and her trusty .410 Squirrel gun must go up against some of the most callous and cruel people she’d ever likely to meet.

One girl, her single-barrel Winchester shotgun and a whole town full of terrible that deserves her brand of teenage justice.

Chuck Wendig certainly knows how to write strong young women with bad attitude and the sort of mouth that would make a docker blush. Atlanta Burns is very much in the Miriam Black mould, strong willed, independent. She’s the sort of take-no-shit girl that I imaged Ellen Ripley was growing up. But unlike any other Chuck Wendig book I’ve so far read this one is set in the “real world”, no one has psychic powers, no one is a vampire, its about real people trying to deal with real world issues.

This is a very hard book to read. It covers three subjects that are disturbing and upsetting, bullying, racism and animal cruelty. All are prevalent no matter where you live, and all something that needs to be addressed. Chuck has managed to do this in a way that is informative and entertaining (though I’m not sure that is the right word, there is nothing entertaining about either of the subjects, but in order to sell a story you have to entertain somewhere).

As with the Miriam Black character Atlanta is from a dysfunctional family, she has a fractured relationship with her mother, and in some way blames her for being the way she is. Atlanta is the victim of abuse at the hands of one of her mother’s boyfriends, an event that happened prior to the start of the novella Shotgun Gravy, but an event that very much haunts her – and drives her – still. Because of that event Atlanta has a certain reputation with her peers. She is some parts admired and some parts feared. People do not know how to interact with her, afraid they may offend, worse that she may react.

Is Atlanta Burns a violent person? No, I don’t think she is. She’s a girl that has gone through some seriously bad shit and is dealing with it in her own unique way. Does she win? The jury is out, although there is an end of sorts to the story in this book, it’s not the end to the story as a whole. The bullies, racists and downright nasty fuckers are still out there, and so is Atlanta.

 

So that was January, first month of 2013, eleven months until I hit the big 50. So what did it mean for me?

BOOKS

I finished Great North Road by Peter F Hamilton. This was the first of his books I’d read outside of the Commonwealth Saga. It was enjoyable, though I did find some sections overblown and there seemed (to me) to be a lot of filler.

I also read Redshirts by John Scalzi. I was expecting something more along the lines of Galaxy Quest, if that was what he was heading for then it fell well short of the mark for me. There were some funny moments, but I did not have any of the laugh-out-loud moments some of the reviewers seemed to have enjoyed.

I was back on familiar territory with Bait Dog by Chuck Wendig (a double bill of the novella Shotgun Gravy & the novel Bait Dog). Familiar as in I know what Chuck is about, have  a pretty good idea of how he works. Though I will be honest and say I was surprised by the intensity of this one. Also it was Chuck without any psychic or vampiric powers. A hard hitting story of bullies, racists and sadists. Not for the faint of heart.

Just finished (last night) Apocalypse: Year Zero, a collection of four novellas that center of four women who go through life changing, and shattering events – 911, the Boxing Day tsunami, hurricane Katrina and California’s “big one”. The end result of these experiences is they each find they have power over fire, water, wind and earth. And as they slowly come together over the course of the four novella’s it’s revelaed that the Four Horsemen were not men at all.

 

TV & MOVIES

Well actually only TV, I did intend to go and see The Hobbit for a second time but never got round to it. TV wise I’m now a proud subscriber to Sky TV, and boy am I a happy bunny. Watched Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior (available on Alibi) staring the brilliant Forrest Whitaker. Some pretty hard, brutal stuff in there. Also been watching Ripper Street (BBC1) set in Victorian London in the months after the Ripper killings. Dark, gritty and no holds barred, it also stars Gerome Flynn who seems intent on carving out a niche for himself as a hard as nails character actor (he’s also the brilliant Bronn in Game Of Thrones)

This week started watching The Following (Sky Atlantic) staring Kevin Bacon. Ex-FBI agent brought out of retirement to bring down an escaped serial killer. It has echoes of Red Dragon but an interesting twist is the serial killer has amassed a following, he’s been creating serial killers, he has (possibly) an army of them. Its not for the faint of heart (especially episode 1’s Ice Pick lady scene) but looks to have the makings of a gripping drama.

I also received my DVD of Dredd, watched it and still think its a brilliant stab at bringing the iconic character to the screen. Its just a shame it bombed at the cinema and so highly unlikely and sequels will be forthcoming.

 

WRITING

Some sad news last week when I received an email telling me that Pill Hill Press has closed. Pill Hill gave me my first break, published my first short story. On top of that I have another story accepted by them that was due to be in their next anthology. But there was a sliver lining, Miles Boothe – another author and ardent monster hunter – has created Emby Press and intends to honour all submissions made to Pill Hill. So hopefully in a few months the anthology will be released.

I’ve had a short script placed with Twisted Showcase – a web based anthology series (named in the Guardian’s Top 25 web shows in 2012) – for several months now but they have been struggling to fit it into the filming schedule. There was talk of making it as their first animated short, but finding an animator with time on their hands is not easy. Now they are looking into producing it as a comic strip, and if it is successful on the site will be the first of many.

My WIPs are ticking along nicely. I’ve been prepping a post apocalypse novel for a couple of months now which is close to being ready for the start of the first draft. I’ve also finished a treatment for a pilot episode that I will be writing next month. The aim is to have it written, beta read and second drafted by the end of February so I can catch the current BBC Writers Room submissions window. Once that is done I start work on the novel first draft.

I still have four short stories out there in the world waiting on acceptance/declining emails.

 

All in all January was a packed month, February is shaping up to be more of the same.

 

I’ve never been able to enjoy Christmas, not since my eyes had been opened to the horror it ensues, the death and destruction wrought simply because of one day. Of course I’m in the minority; part of a dwindling band sworn to defend against the truth that is Christmas, defend the Earth against the savage incursions that happen every year.

It’s always the children that suffer, they’re the ones that believe in the myth that is Christmas, believe that for one day it’s perfectly acceptable to allow a stranger into your home. But it’s that stranger that is the problem, him and his armies, poised to strike should any opening be found.

We were winning the war, just, but it was a war of attrition that was wearing us down, dwindling our numbers year on year. Because of this mistakes were bound to happen, lapses in the command structure; but that’s all it takes, one slip up, and they’re in. Swarming across the Divide in their thousands, all we can do is stem the tide and plug the hole; after that it’s a simple cleanup operation.

But some mistakes are too big to clean up, the incursions on such a scale that the collateral damage brings the world’s attention frighteningly close to the truth. I’m glad to say when that last happened it wasn’t on my watch, south-east Asia isn’t my section, but I know a lot of the guys who worked in that area, who were on duty that night; guys that are still struggling to cope with what happened and what they had to do to stop a full scale invasion.

But stop it they did, but the result was over a quarter of a million dead and large swathes of the coastlines of countries surrounding the Indian Ocean devastated. Was it too big a price to pay? To save the Earth, save over six billion souls from being wiped from existence by Claus and his minions. No, no price is too big for that. In wartime decisions have to be made that go against all that is considered rational and normal. To save a thing you may have to sacrifice a thing. The guys in the Indonesian section knew that, that’s why they plugged the hole, sealed the Divide and stopped the invasion.

But still it has its affects, still has its own sort of collateral. Even now eight years later people who were there that night have counseling, the images of what happened after were beamed around the world for all to see, but to them it was evidence of the aftermath of their actions. Some couldn’t handle it and took the cowards way out, others just withdrew into themselves. Some, the hardy few, still man the trenches in and around the area battling hard each December 25th in case the Divide should be breeched again. It’s a sad fact that no matter what the sacrifice, whatever the collateral, once a breech has been made it is forever weakened and is a target for continuous assaults.

But we are vigilant, were stand between mankind and the abyss, ready and willing to lay down life in order to keep the enemy out. Christmas is Hell; don’t let anyone else tell you any different soldier.

Now buckle up and prepare to move out.

Title: Mockingbird

Author: Chuck Wendig

Publisher: Angry Robot

Published: Out Now

RRP: £7.99 (Hardback) – £5.49 (Kindle)

Miriam is trying. Really, she is.

 The whole “settling down thing” that Louis has going on just isn’t working. Living on Long Beach the whole year long. Home is a double wide trailer. She has a full time job. And her and Louis, Louis who spends most of the time on the road, well they’re relationship is subject to the same old piss and vinegar Miriam brings to everything she does.

 Life isn’t going well, she’s struggling with it and trying to keep her psychic ability in check. But that feels wrong, like she’s keeping a tornado trapped in a bottle.

 Then comes one bad day that turns everything on its head.

Miriam tried to do the right thing and it’s turned round and bit her in the butt. Events from the first book – Blackbirds – still haunt her, not only the eye Louis lost, but the scars she earned saving him, and the promise she tried to keep. But one inadvertent touch and the house of cards comes tumbling down, futures are revealed, death is abroad and Miriam is drawn into the world of a serial killing family with a penchant for young girls.

It’s good that this second book draws back the curtains on Miriam’s world more. There is more of the powers that surround her and seem intent of guiding or stopping her. It’s nice that we learn there is another – and possibly others – like her with varying degrees of sight. But moreover it’s good that Chuck Wendig chose not to take the easy route and settle Miriam into a Buffyesque role of champion of light and all round equalizer.

She has flashes of that character, she chooses to do the right thing and see her visions through to the end. But she chooses to do it her way, the Miriam Black way, and that way takes her through pain and heartache and lavish helpings of sticking-it-to-the-man.

It’s been said that male authors cannot write decent female characters. Wrong. Chuck Wendig has not only created a believable, three dimensional character in Miriam he’s also put her in a world populated with similar characters that jump off the page and make a grab for your throat.

If there is a downside to this second outing, it’s Louis. He fitted into the frame of the first book, but for me with its resolution his story was told. Here it’s like he’s been kept around just so Miriam has an in to the main setting of the story. Sure he has other stuff to do, saving Miriam for instance, but keeping him around just for that didn’t fit into the whole Miriam Black world view for me.

Flash Fiction – Body Of Proof

What to do with the evidence? Probably a question asked by countless felons over countless years. But what was the answer? What was the best way to get away with it?

At fist Joyce thought of just burying Gerald. Drive out to the country, dig a hole; let the worms have him. But then she thought of the logistics in doing that. They didn’t have off road parking, she’d have to somehow get the body down to the car without the neighbors seeing – and Mrs. Prentice never missed a thing. Plus Gerald was twice her size; she’d never be able to shift him. Plus he was in a heap at the bottom of the cellar stairs, and even if they had off road parking she’d never get him up those.

Next up she thought of setting fire to the house. Gerald had always been a stickler for keeping the insurance up to date, so she knew she’d have a nice payout at the end of it. But she’d seen too many CSIs to know that wouldn’t work, she was no arsonist and knew she’d incriminate herself. Then it came to her, a flash of insight, sat halfway down the cellar stairs looking at Gerald’s crumpled form with his head twisted too far round so it looked like he had it on back to front.

As she thought about it she was initially disgusted, the thought of going through with it turned her stomach. But then she thought of her life with Gerald, the years of mental abuse, the twisted sex, and that awful way he had of honking like a pig whenever he was in her. Disgusted had been her life for the past fifteen years, disgusted was letting him do those things, making her watch him do them to others as well.

She’d got up off the stairs and went down, stepping over his body with a tickle of fear that maybe he was faking and would grab her leg. Then she’d crossed to his workbench, something he’d always taken such pride in, always kept clean. She’d picked up the hacksaw and flicked the blade, then turned to look at him.

“Any ketchup?”  Joyce jumped, shook her head to clear the memories. Mark from across the street stood in front of her, the top of his head starting to go pink from the sun. “You were miles away Joyce?”

“Sorry, wool gathering.”

Mark waved his plate that held more meat than salad.

“Thinking of when Gerald gets back hey?” He winked at her and she suppressed a shudder, he’d winked at her like that during one of Gerald’s little parties, the ones where he’d made her do things.

“Can’t wait.” She clamped her teeth together to keep the bile from rising and picked up the bottle handing it to Mark. The back yard was full of friends and neighbors, Pet and Cathy from next door. Marcia and John from next to Mark. Pat, Frank and Billy, three of Gerald’s party friends. She smiled to herself, glad they were all having such a good time. Looking back at Mark he’d covered his steaks in sauce and was picking up a large morsel.

“Damn fine pork Joyce. Gerald get it for you?”

“Yes.” She looked around at the BBQ; Billy was throwing some more steaks on, stepping back as the sizzled and spat. “They’re from Gerald.”

 

All Rights Reserved © Philip J Norris November 2012

Flash Fiction Short – Run FourE3t

4E3t watched the man came in through the doors, there was something about him that made the ‘bots subroutines question his appearance. It was a hot day, through the windows 4E3t could see people in casual summer clothes; but he was in a long camelhair coat and a wide brimmed fedora? If 4E3t had been programmed differently it’d probably have seen the man for what he was, a Fed, or at least Cop; but 4E3t was only programmed to tend bar.

The man surveyed the lounge area; he came down onto the lower level where customers as well as hotel guests could eat and drink. He stopped and looked around at the glass doors that led towards the reception, 4E3t noticed another man similarly dressed; it also noticed the slight head movement that passed between them. As the man turned towards the bar 4E3t activated one of its many subroutines and picked up a towel and glass.

“Good afternoon Sir.” It began cleaning the glass. “What’ll it be?”

The man sat on one of the stools and took his hat off placing it to his left. 4E3t saw the sweat mark around his head. As the man leaned forward, tugging his coat out from under him so he could sit more comfortable, 4E3t saw something under his armpit, a shiny sandalwood grip. If 4E3t had been programmed with curiosity it would have asked the man if he had a permit to carry a weapon, but 4E3t was only programmed to tend bar.

“Water, ice cold.”

The man reached inside his coat and pulled out his wallet. 4E3t swiveled its top section 180º, opened the vent on its steam inlet and its servos began to roll its bulk along the length of the bar towards the refrigerator. With a hiss it stopped and a secondary arm snaked out of its torso taking a bottle from behind the glass door. In a fluid motion 4E3t opened the bottle, filled the glass with ice, began pouring the water and turned heading back towards its customer.

“Will Sir be eating today?” 4E3t placed the already frosting glass in front of the man.

“Just the drink.” He opened his wallet and pulled out a single bill, at the same time he allowed one half of the wallet to hang open, showing his badge and ID. “I’m looking for a Steambot, designation Gum9.You seen it?”

4E3t adjusted its stance, retracting the secondary arm and closing off the steam inlet, its servos quietly hummed; a sound the man probably missed as it was just below the range of human hearing. Its optical sensors saw the barcode down the left hand side of the ID, a code designed to override any ‘bots programming, placing them under the bearers command. 4E3t noticed the second man in the reception area had now moved to just outside the glass doors, he had his arms folded, one hand casually inside his coat.

“The hotel registry is publically accessible Sir, any ‘bots with that registry would be listed.”

“But this isn’t just any ‘bot is it.” The man flipped his ID shut, the look on his face a mix of concern and determination. 4E3t watched as he sat forward, casually letting one hand fall inside his coat; close to the sandalwood grip. “A Gum prefix makes the ‘bot a military unit and so it should not be anywhere near the public, and certainly not tending bar in a hotel.”

A secondary subroutine activated inside 4E3t, steam was re-routed from its primary functions, shutting down the polite voicebox, deactivating the weak optical sensor and causing it to drop the glass it was still cleaning. New functions came online in their place, infra-red optics showed the cold metal of the man’s gun under his coat, the larger white smudge under the second man’s coat the told 4E3t that he carried a larger gun but that it wasn’t capable of penetrating his armored casing; and hidden armament ports under the waiters uniform it wore opened.  In the microsecond it took 4E3t to do all this, the man had sat back, his hand clearly grasping the grip of his gun. 4E3t calculated the speed he would draw the time elapsed before his comrade came in through the glass doors and the percentage fatal casualties within the lounge area. The results were acceptable and within preprogrammed guidelines.

4E3t fired, the man’s head disintegrated into a shower of blood, brains and bone. As the second man reacted 4E3t tracked his movement and fired again, the munitions hit him in his midsection; he folded and was lifted off his feet, trailing blood and intestines as he flew through the air before crashing into the reception desk.

All around was chaos, women screamed, men scrambled from cover, and somewhere an alarm sounded. 4E3t activated another subroutine, the outer casing of the ‘bot split open and fell to either side; inside a smaller, more maneuverable unit shot up into the air on twin steam jets. 4E3t hovered and scanned the area, both Policemen were dead; there was one man in the reception area downed when the munitions that had taken out the Policeman, had passed right through and into him. In the lounge a woman had gone into labor, 4E3t calculated the early onset brought on by its actions would not endanger mother or child.

4E3t fed steam into the jets and rocketed towards the street side windows, as it smashed through and shot into the air tracer fire followed it up, the small caliber rounds bounced harmlessly off and it felt no need to return fire. Rear sensors scanned the city below, but no heavier caliber munitions had been brought in to deal with the situation. 4E3t plotted a course out of the city and into the surrounding mountains; it kept low, below radar, as it thought what to do next.

 

All Rights Reserved © Philip J Norris September 2012

I joined Twitter late last year – October/November time. At that time in my life I was going through a rough patch in my marriage, me and my wife had separated and I was renting a single room. I endured long evenings with little to do except read and write, I had no interaction with anyone else and was in danger of becoming a recluse.

I’d always avoided social networking, I’m a bit of an anti-social sod and have always had trouble interacting socially. But I craved some sort of interaction else I’d go made. On a whim I opened a Twitter account, I had no real idea what I would find, what would happen or what I was supposed to do in order to “meet” people.

I knew a lot of people from the SFX Magazine forum who had accounts, there was a thread there dedicated to it where people posted their account names. I went through the list and added people as friends. Within a few days I found I was following nearly 100 people and had at least that many people following me. It was an eye opener, I expected it to be nothing but trivia and gossip, instead I found like minded people – some in similar situations to me – other writers, and fans of the weird and wonderful.

Fast forward to now  and I’ve found my Twitter legs, I know my way around, I know what its safe to say and not say (damned spambots), and on top of it all I’ve been introduced to a lot of people, mainly authors, I’d probably never have come across without Twitter.

To name a few, Jennifer Williams (author of The Copper Promise: Tales Of The Citadel), Jeremy C. Shipp (horror writer and champion of the Attic Clown), Emma Newman (author of Split Words, From Dark Places, 20 Years LaterTorchwood tie-in), Sarah Pinborough (author of The Dog Faced Gods trilogy), Chuck Wendig (author of Double Dead, Blackbirds & forthcoming  Mockingbird), Adam Christopher (author of Empire State & forthcoming Seven Wonders), Kevin Hearne (author of The Iron Druid series), Colin F. Barnes (author of Vex: A Modern Viking Tale & editor of Demon Day), Tina Smith (aspiring author and history buff), Robin Bell (author, scriptwriter and part of the Twisted Showcase team) and the Fantasy Faction team.

I know a lot of people frown on Twitter, say its full of useless chatter, but for me – at a time I needed contact with the outside world – it was a lifeline. I have found it is full talented people with great ideas and inspiring advice.