The Airship Rustlers

This week, the poem “The Airship Rustlers” that I wrote with Kurt MacPhearson appeared in the the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association’s online magazine, Eye to the Telescope. You can read it at: The issue’s theme is “Weird West” and the editor is Gary Every, who I’ve been pleased to work with on a number of other occasions.

A while back, Kurt MacPhearson and I collaborated on a handful of poems and a short story. The way we worked on the poems was that one of us would write a verse or two of a poem, then email it to the other. Effectively, we played a game of literary hot potato, passing the poem back and forth until we came to a conclusion we liked. We also allowed each other to edit the poem as it stood, to make sure all the ideas worked together and to make sure it had a uniform voice.

As I recall, I started this particular poem. I would have been working on my Clockwork Legion novels at the time, very much entrenched in reading about airships and wild west lore. I was also inspired by the TV series Firefly and the episode where Captain Reynolds transports cattle from one planet to another aboard his space ship. Kurt gave the poem a somewhat darker tone than I originally imagined, but it fits how seriously people took cattle rustling in the wild west. In passing the poem back and forth, the poem’s narrative took some interesting turns and by the end, it’s not altogether clear the title refers to those people aboard the airship rustling cattle.

Not only did Kurt and I collaborate on poetry, we also tried our hand at a steampunk short story. Again, we played literary hot potato with the story. I introduced the brave Captain Penelope Todd of the airship Endeavor and immediately thrust the crew into a nasty storm from which there seemed to be no escape. Kurt took the idea and ran with it, sweeping the Endeavor and its hapless crew off to a strange new land called Halcyon along with the crew of a sea-going pirate ship. Kurt had Captain Todd taken prisoner with no apparent way of escape and left me to find a way out of the situation. That story was picked up for the anthology Gears and Levers 2, edited by Phyllis Irene Radford and you can get a copy at:

Another interesting aspect of all this is that Gary Every, the editor of the Weird West issue of Eye to the Telescope, and I also played literary hot potato on a story for a while. It was all about exploring underground waterways on Mars. Unfortunately, life got in the way for both of us and we never finished the tale, but we did have fun and it took a lot of inspiration from stories of people on the Western frontier. Even though Gary and I never finished that story, I did publish a pair of his fantasy tales under the title Inca Butterflies. In the book, Incan Emperor, Huaina Capac, comes of age as Alejo Garcia and his band of mutineers arrive in America carrying a weapon far more devastating that cannons. Huaina Capac’s successor, Manco Inca, must lead his remaining people as bearded men from Europe swarm the countryside like butterflies sweeping the plains. Set in the last days of the Inca Empire, Inca Butterflies is a tale for all times. You can get the book at:

5 comments on “The Airship Rustlers

  1. Congrats on the poem! I enjoyed it.

    I suspect that, percentage wise, poetry may be the popular writing form that’s least often done in collaboration. (Although if one includes song lyrics, then collaborations are much more common.)

    As for rustling cattle, depending on the exact details, in Texas stealing a cow is a third degree felony, punishable by a fine and up to 10 years in prison.

    I did “steal” a cow a few years ago. I saw one loose, and herded it into a gated area where I live. Fortunately, I recognized its ear tag, and was able to call my neighbors who were at a livestock show 100 miles or so away. The cow had plenty of grass, and I brought it a container of water. It stayed there contentedly for a couple of days until my neighbors got back.

    Later, I did get cows where I live. When one got out, the neighbors helped out. One nice thing out here is that people generally keep an eye on each other’s livestock.

    As for the Gatling gun mentioned in the poem, I wrote an editorial about how it changed the American Constitution’s Second Amendment in the link on my name.

    • Thank you, Alden.

      Collaborative poetry isn’t common, but it can be a fun exercise. I do know some poets who have had very successful collaborations. In particular, I recommend poetry written by David Kopaska-Merkel and Kendall Evans. They have a great body of work including at least one chapbook. Also, Kurt MacPhearson, who I collaborated with, wrote some very nice poetry with a fellow named Rick Yennik. I also know a couple of other poets who collaborate, but their collaboration is hidden by a single pseudonym.

      As it turns out, cattle graze at the base of Kitt Peak and I just passed several cows and one bull as I drove up to the observatory tonight. My granduncle, who had the distinction of being New Mexico’s last living original homesteader also raised cattle. So yes, I completely understand watching out for the neighbors’ livestock.

      I thought your editorial was interesting and you make a good point about the intentions of the Second Amendment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.