Contreras Wildfire and Kitt Peak

Over the years working at Kitt Peak National Observatory, I’ve seen several fires from the domes at the summit. A few of these fires have even approached close enough to create nail-biting situations where we prepared to evacuate the site. However, a little over a week ago, a fire burned right up to our facility. As an operator on the Mayall 4-meter and WIYN 3.5-meter telescopes, I’m tasked with facility and personnel safety after hours. So, this means I was keeping a close eye on the fire up until the point we had to leave Kitt Peak.

While driving up to work at Kitt Peak National Observatory on Saturday night, June 11, I passed through the small town of Three Points, Arizona and noticed an orange glow on the ridge between Kitt Peak and Baboquivari Peak. I gritted my teeth, afraid I was seeing the beginnings of a fire. I hoped I was wrong. I’d hoped someone had installed a radio tower with an orange light between the town and the mountain, but soon after I started driving up the Kitt Peak road, my hopes were dashed. I soon saw a fire burning off in the distance. At that point, I wasn’t terribly worried, I’d seen fires in that part of the range before and the Tohono O’Odham fire department usually knocked them out within a couple of days. When I reached the summit, I checked in with the duty operators, let them know I’d arrived on site and confirmed they had seen the fire and that officials knew about it. Since it had been visible from a nearby town, I figured they did, but it’s always good to check. By all accounts, the fire started from a lightning strike earlier that evening.

Unfortunately, the southwest has been suffering a drought which has now lasted over 20 years and vegetation was extremely dry. However, the wind was calm and blowing away from the observatory, so when I started my shift on Sunday, June 12, we were able to work with the fire burning off in the distance and smoke blowing away from us. As it turns out, the WIYN telescope, where I was working, had a problem with its optical system. A vacuum system which keeps the heavy mirrors off the hard mounting points had failed, causing minor distortion. We were taking spectra, so this problem didn’t keep us from working, but it needed to be fixed, so on Monday, June 13, our optical engineer began the process of removing the secondary mirror from the telescope to investigate the problem. This is a big job and it couldn’t be completed in one day, so my primary job that night was to monitor the fire’s progress and make sure the wind didn’t shift to blow over the observatory. Here’s a look at the fire shortly after sunset.

View toward Baboquivari Peak on June 13, 2022

On Tuesday, while I slept, it became apparent that the fire was a big enough danger that steps should be taken to make the site as safe as possible. Engineers began shutting down less critical systems and making things as safe as possible. The wind shifted that afternoon and more smoke began coming toward the site. When many people imagine an observatory, they might imagine anywhere from one to six telescopes on a remote mountain summit. It may help to understand that Kitt Peak National Observatory is the world’s largest observatory campus with over twenty telescopes. There are, in fact at least six dormitory buildings along with several houses, kitchen facilities, a full maintenance yard including automotive shop, water treatment facility, backup generators and so forth. Like many college campuses, Kitt Peak is almost like a small town in its own right. So lots of people were at work all across the site through the day. That evening, I had a briefing from the Kitt Peak director. Because of the smoke, telescopes would be closed that night. Smoke can damage optics. As the night started, I went up to the Mayall telescope and took a photo from the visitor gallery. Only a little of the fire was visible from that vantage, looking like a string of lights on the mountain in the background, just to the right of the left-most dome. Still, this gives you an idea of how close the fire was getting.

Contreras Fire on the night of Tuesday, June 14

The wind picked up the night of June 14 and the fire seemed to pick up strength. As you can see in the first photo, there was a small ridge line between us and the fire. By the morning of June 15, the fire crested that ridge and I wondered how much longer we would remain on site. Here’s what it looked like on Wednesday morning.

Contreras Fire on the Morning of June 15.

I went to bed, knowing someone would wake me if we needed to evacuate. I woke up and attended two administrative meetings. From my room, I could already tell there was much more smoke in the air by Wednesday afternoon. As soon as the meetings were finished, I went to the WIYN telescope. From that vantage, I saw that the fire had progressed dramatically. A wall of smoke rose from just below the mountain summit and I could see flames just over a mile away. I went into the observatory and learned that a controlled shutdown of as many systems as possible was underway. I helped where I could. Among other things, I helped to carry one piece of instrumentation down to an engineer’s car so it could be transported off the mountain safely. Firefighters began arriving on the mountain. One of them warned us a plane was about to drop a load of fire retardant and we should move our vehicles so they would be damaged when that much water and retardant came down onto the mountain. We did as directed and soon afterward I was called into a meeting in the director’s office. While in that meeting, the incident commander gave us the order to evacuate. I went to my dorm room, packed up as much as I could and went to my car. I was off the mountain within about half an hour.

Because my home is in New Mexico, the observatory management put me up in a hotel room in Tucson that night. I hoped we would be evacuated, the firefighters would hold the line on the fire and I would return in a night or two. Still I had an uneasy feeling as I walked back to my hotel room after dinner that night. Here’s the view of the hotel. What looks like clouds low in the sky is smoke from the Contreras wildfire.

Smoke from the Contreras Wildfire, visible from Speedway Blvd in Tucson, Arizona

On Wednesday night, I watched the fire on the mountain webcams from my hotel room. Part of my job is accounting for the night’s use so it can be reported to the National Science Foundation. I filled out my reports. Thursday night was more of the same. On Friday morning, I filled out my report, but soon after, computers at the observatory went dark. A little while later, I learned that utility power had gone out on the mountain and we’d lost the internet connection. The fire had reached the summit.

I went home on Friday, but have continued to follow the news. The firefighters did a tremendous job. No scientific buildings were lost. As far as I’ve heard, only four support structures were consumed by the fire. It helped that almost all the buildings at Kitt Peak are constructed of concrete, steel, and brick. Since Saturday, the fire has been contained, but access to the Kitt Peak summit is still strictly regulated for safety. As soon as its safe, engineers and facility teams will begin the process of inspecting the site. They’ll see how much smoke and ash infiltrated the domes. They’ll see if there’s been heat damage. They’ll make sure we have reliable power and internet. Once that’s done, it’ll be time to see if the telescopes and instrumentation can be brought back on line and repair things as needed. It’ll be a process and it’ll take time. Still, I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am to the firefighters who jumped in and kept the facility as safe as possible so that we actually can look forward to resuming operations. They did tremendous work and I look forward to resuming science at Kitt Peak in the not-too-distant future.

Expedition Vega

This past week, I finished reading the second story arc in J-Novel Club’s translation of the Perry Rhodan NEO series. This arc of eight novellas was presented under the collective title, Expedition Vega. When the first arc, Vision Terrania, ended, astronaut Perry Rhodan, who had been to the moon and made first contact with aliens, had established his city Terrania in the Gobi Desert, and had won over the Chinese General Bai Jun who had laid siege to the city. What’s more they had rescued alien Crest de Zoltral from the hands of the Americans. However, the Americans still held technology from Crest’s race, the Arkonides. Expedition Vega opens as Perry Rhodan leads an expedition to recover that technology, so it doesn’t stay in the hands of just one government.

Perry Rhodan NEO: Expedition Vega

Once this recovery mission comes to a conclusion, Perry Rhodan’s people detect a distress signal from the star Vega. Even though Terrania still faces many challenges, Rhodan decides he can’t ignore the signal and puts together a team, which includes Crest’s adopted daughter, the Arkonide Commander Thora, to investigate. Rhodan and his team arrive at Vega and discover a race of reptillian creatures called the Topsidans have taken it upon themselves to conquer the system. The natives of Vega are blue-skinned human-like creatures known as the Ferron. Perry Rhodan and his team are attacked and soon find themselves separated and fighting desperately just to stay alive.

Soon after Perry Rhodan and his team leave the Earth, another alien species turns up. These are the Fantan, who collect anything and everything that happens to grab their interest. It can be something as mundane as a porta-potty to something as crucial as a major bridge or a rescue vehicle. It can even be people. Reginald Bull and Eric Manoli, two of the astronauts who went to the moon with Rhodan and met the Arkonides, are soon collected along with two young mutants. This group eventually teams up with the alien mutant mouse-beaver known as Gucky and begin to plot a way to escape the Fantan

As all of this is going on, humans have learned that Arkonides visited Earth in the distant past and there’s an ancient Arkonide base and ship under the ocean. The humans on Earth hope to use this ancient technology to find a way to get rid of the Fantan who are proving far more than a mere nuisance.

Through the course of these eight novellas, these very disparate plot lines play out and eventually find their way to a common solution. There were many great moments in the series. I enjoyed how Perry kept trying to find a way not only to survive being stranded in the Vega system, but kept looking for ways to bring peace to the system again. One of my favorite moments in this arc was when Reginald, Eric, and Gucky put on the musical The Pirates of Penzance as a way to distract the Fantan and try to escape. Another fun moment came in the novella “A Step Into the Future” by Bernd Perplies, when he introduces a reporter named Dayton Ward, a name strongly associated with Simon and Schuster’s Star Trek novels in the United States.

As it turns out Bernd Perplies has translated several English-language Star Trek novels into German and was a co-author of the Star Trek: Prometheus novels. I wrote to Dayton Ward and asked if he and Perplies knew each other and Ward confirmed they had, in fact, corresponded. I know Dayton because we were co-editors on our own book of exciting space tales called Maximum Velocity. If you’re a fan of exciting space adventure like Germany’s Perry Rhodan series, I suspect you’d enjoy our short story collection. You’ll find stories by people like Mike Resnick, Irene Radford, and C.J. Henderson. There are even stories by Dayton and me. You can pick up a copy at https://www.amazon.com/Maximum-Velocity-Full-Throttle-Space-Tales/dp/1614755299/

I’m sorry to say, I don’t see any forthcoming volumes of Perry Rhodan NEO listed on J-Novel Club’s website. I’m hoping they’re just taking a brief hiatus, otherwise, I’ll have to dust off my German skills to continue into the next 26 story arcs!

Giants of Iron and Steam

Back around 2008, when I first learned that the weird westerns and alternate history I had been writing overlapped with steampunk, I decided to see if I could find some music to put me in a good frame of mind for writing. I tend to prefer instrumental music while I write, but I’m happy to have music with lyrics while I’m getting settled into write. I remember naively typing the phrase “steampunk music” into Google just to see what would come up. I found several discussion boards talking about a band called Abney Park and their album Lost Horizons, which was brand new around that time. I bought a copy of the album and fell in love with the music written by the band’s lead singer Robert Brown. Over the years, I’ve snapped up pretty much every album they’ve produced as they’ve been released. I have especially appreciated that Brown has released purely instrumental versions of some of the albums, and yes, they do work as great background when I’m writing.

As time went on, I discovered that Brown is not only a talented songwriter, but a capable storyteller. He’s written three novels set in the world he’s developed through the songs. In 2020, Brown even recorded an audio version of his novel The Toyshop at the End of the World. Given that he performs all the time as lead singer of a band, it should come as no surprise that he performed the book well. So, I was excited to hear that Robert Brown had brought his storytelling and musical talents together into a musical called Giants of Iron and Steam. I gather Brown had hoped to debut this as a live musical, but logistics have not worked out. So, he decided to release it as an album and I recently gave it a listen.

The musical opens in the distant future of his novel series. Two men enter the laboratory of Dr. Calvin Calgori, pushing an older woman in a wheelchair. The two men talk about trying to get to the truth of some matter. To find the information they need, they must use an invention by Dr. Calgori, which will allow them to view the distant past. They peer into the Pacific Northwest in the late 1800s as a railroad is being established between a lumber mill and the nearby mountains. We’re soon introduced to a lumberjack named Robert Winters and his daughter Effie who live deep in the mountains. They look forward to the railroad because that means Robert won’t have to float logs down the river. The railroad will support Charles Foster Quinn’s lumber mill. Quinn’s son, Aaron, doesn’t want to succeed his father in the family business. Instead, he wants to be an engineer on the new railroad. Aaron soon meets Effie, which stirs more division between the young man and his father.

The musical felt like a cross between The Pajama Game and Paint Your Wagon. The former is the story of workers at a pajama factory fighting for better wages and working conditions, a theme which comes up in Giants of Iron and Steam. The stage version of Paint Your Wagon focused on the miner Ben Rumson and his daughter’s forbidden romance with a young man named Julio. Unlike those musicals from the 1950s, Giants of Iron and Steam is more honest about the history of labor and race. Plus there’s a dandy mystery as we figure out what the people from the future want from this story of the past.

I felt several personal connections to this story. Aaron learning to be a railroad engineer reminded me of my dad teaching me how to drive a locomotive. Robert Winters talking about the dangers of taking logs down the river reminded me of stories about my great grandfather, who apparently did take logs downriver in his youth, and was seriously wounded at one point. Finally, at one point, Robert Winters reflects on Shakespeare’s The Tempest and sees himself as Prospero to Effie’s Miranda. Given that I actually do have a daughter named Myranda, I’ve opportunity to reflect on The Tempest and definitely felt the parallels.

Giants of Iron and Steam is sold along with the script for the musical, so you can read along as you listen. You can learn more at: https://abneypark.com/market/musical-giants-of-iron-steam-c-83/

If you’d like to look into my steampunk old west, which also tries to present an honest look at history go to http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion

The Threepenny League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

This last week, I’ve been working on a new steampunk story. After I wrapped up the story, I decided I wanted to read something in a similar vein to celebrate. When I think “steampunk” one of the first stories that comes to mind is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel written by Alan Moore with art by Kevin O’Neill. I’ve read the first two volumes of their centuries-spanning epic, so decided this was a good opportunity to dive into volume 3. The third volume, chronologically, is called “Century” and is, itself, split into three volumes. The first volume of “Century” is set in 1910.

Century: 1910

This volume opens on the island from Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island. Captain Nemo is dying and he asks his estranged teenage daughter Janni Dakkar to succeed him as captain of the Nautilus. However, she wants no part of this. She swims out to a passing steamer and stows away. Once the steamer reaches London, she assumes the name Jenny Diver. Also on the ship is a criminal returning to London, Captain Jack MacHeath. We learn that this MacHeath is both the son of the Captain MacHeath immortalized in Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera, and the man responsible for most of the original Jack the Ripper murders.

Meanwhile, Alan Quartermain Jr. and Mina Murray are still working for the British government. Their associate, Thomas Carnacki — a detective created by William Hope Hodgson — has been having visions of a horrible disaster in which many people will die along with visions of a cult attempting to bring about Armageddon. Mina and Quartermain investigate, then report to their boss, Mycroft Holmes. Holmes tells them about MacHeath’s arrival in London and suggests that he may be responsible for the deaths Carnacki foresaw.

Meanwhile Nemo’s crewman Ishmael finds Janni and informs her that her father has died and that he’s willed the Nautilus to her. She refuses, but Ishmael gives her a flare gun to summon the Nautilus in case its needed. That night Janni is raped by patrons of the inn where she’s found employment. She summons the Nautilus, which razes London’s East End while Suki Tawdry, a character from The Threepenny Opera, sings the Kurt Weill song “Pirate Jenny.” Meanwhile, MacHeath is arrested and Mycroft Holmes plans to hang him without a trial, but the other man who committed the Ripper murders confesses to all the crimes and so MacHeath is set free, paralleling Brecht and Weill’s play.

As a fan of Jules Verne, the original League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and The Threepenny Opera, this graphic novel delighted me a great deal. The strongest part for me was the story of how Janni took over as captain of the Nautilus. Mina Murray and Alan Quartermain Jr.’s investigation into apocalyptic disaster really doesn’t come to a satisfactory conclusion, but I gather this part of the story line set things up for the next two volumes of “Century.”

I often find myself turning to The Threepenny Opera when I need to put contemporary news into perspective. In the play, MacHeath is intended to be the kind of man who, when given a choice, will always take the path that makes him the most profit. I think we see several analogs for that behavior today! If you ever want to explore the music of The Threepenny Opera, I highly recommend the 1976 Broadway recording featuring Raul Julia as Captain MacHeath.

Suki in my Space Pirates’ Legacy novels actually was named for Suki Tawdry from The Threepenny Opera. She’s featured in Firebrandt’s Legacy and The Pirates of Sufiro. You can find those novels at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#pirate_legacy

If you’re more in the mood for steampunk, check out my Clockwork Legion series. Like Janni Dakkar, Captain Onofre Cisneros is a successor to Captain Nemo. You can learn about those novels at: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion

Finally, on the subject of alternate history, Sheriff Chuck Davis from my novella, Breaking the Code, visits Queen Titania’s Court. Find out what happens when he meets the queen of the fae and learn a little more about the novella here: https://wyrmflight.wordpress.com/2022/06/08/breaking-the-code-queen-titanias-court/

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut

As a writer and an avid reader, I find myself subscribed to the newsletters for several publishers. One of those is Seven Seas Entertainment, which translates Japanese manga and light novels into English. In their latest newsletter, they mentioned a forthcoming light novel which caught my eye simply because of the title: Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut. According to Seven Seas, the novel tells the story of how a space race between two global superpowers led to the “Nosferatu Project.” After sending dogs into space, one of the superpowers decides to send vampires into space before sending humans. This seemed right up my alley! Effectively it’s an atompunk alternate history with vampires. After a little more searching, I discovered the light novel series inspired an anime of the same name and the anime had recently been released in the United States via Funimation.

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut

In the world of this story, the space race is between the Zirnitra Union of the East and the United Kingdom of Arnack in the West. The reason these countries arose instead of the superpowers we know from our history is never discussed. The UZSR has a red flag with snakes. The United Kingdom has a flag with stars and stripes, so it’s not hard to guess who stands in for whom. This world also contains vampires who live predominantly in Eastern Europe. These vampires aren’t the monsters of our mythology, but simply another race of people who happen to be sensitive to sunlight, have pointed ears, and sharp teeth. They eat normal food, but they can gain an energy boost from drinking blood. It’s almost as though Neanderthals survived into the modern world. In the alternate world of the anime, the vampire legends arose as a kind of propaganda to stir hatred and revulsion of vampire kind, and to justify invasions into their lands. It becomes a rather clever way to discuss hatred and bigotry without invoking the all-too-numerous examples we can draw from our real history.

In 1960, the UZSR recruits a vampire to be trained as a cosmonaut. This vampire is the Irina Luminesk of the title. She’s to be trained by Lev Leps, a reserve cosmonaut candidate. Lev was supposed to be one of the regular cosmonaut candidates except that he has a temper and attacked a man who abused one of his fellow cosmonaut candidates. The anime follows Irina’s training along with Lev and Irina’s growing affection for one another. As a fan of the world’s space programs, I found it delightful to see space craft based on early Soviet designs, rather than the oft seen American designs. Characters in the story seem to have historical parallels as well. Party Chairman Fyodor Gergiev is clearly based on Nikita Khrushchev. Lev Leps is basically Yuri Gagarin and his chief rival Mikhail seems based on Gherman Titov. One fun thing I noticed is that while the writing on shops and containers in the anime appears to be in Cyrillic script, the words are actually in English.

Of course, the vampire Irina is the focus of the show. We watch as she trains to be every bit as capable as the human cosmonaut candidates, even when many of the scientists testing and training her buy into the superstitions about vampires. I found myself cheering as she overcame her fear of heights to master parachuting. Given that she’s treated as an animal by many of the scientists and politicians, there’s a real tension about whether or not she’ll survive her first space flight and I won’t spoil things by saying whether or not she does.

It’s a shame this anime came out so close to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. I suspect many will shun it because of a perceived connection with Russia even though I suspect no such connection actually exists. In some ways, the series is actually rather critical of the Soviets and their treatment of those countries they took control of. What’s more, one of the themes of the anime is that people can change and become better. In a very real way, it reflects the spirit of Yuri Gagarin who said, “Orbiting Earth in the spaceship, I saw how beautiful our planet is. People, let us preserve and increase this beauty, not destroy it!”

I enjoyed the anime enough that I decided to pre-order the light novel so I can get to know the characters better. It will be released on June 23. While waiting for the light novel’s release, you can check out my vampire novels at http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#scarlet_order

The Ghost Ship

Now that I’ve finally caught up with my long-term project of getting all my books back into print, I’m starting to set my sights on some new writing projects. I’ve had an idea for a steampunk short story sitting on the back burner for some time now and hope I can work on it this week. To get my mind focused on steampunk again, I decided to listen to an audio steampunk story on my long commute to work last week. The story I listened to is The Ghost Ship by Madeleine Holly-Rosing and it’s set in the world of her wonderful comic, The Boston Metaphysical Society.

The comic and the audio book are set in an 1895 that’s just a little different than the one we know from history. You’ll find rudimentary steam-driven computers, airships, and a United States ruled by the wealthy of “the great houses.” In the Boston of this world, ex-Pinkerton Detective Samuel Hunter, medium and spirit photographer Caitlin O’Sullivan, and scientist Granville Woods investigate supernatural mysteries. I’ve been reading the comic since it began and I was excited when Madeleine Holly-Rosing announced that she planned to release a long-form audio story set in the world of the comic.

In the audio story, a mysterious, derelict ship sails into Boston Harbor. Anyone who tries to board is attacked by spirits and soon meets their end. Samuel, Caitlin, and Granville are brought in to try to find a way to end the menace of the mysterious ship. To do so, they must first find out what ship has actually arrived. When getting aboard the ship proves too perilous, they turn to Boston’s new library where Caitlin discovers more restless spirits and a young man who bears an uncanny resemblance to one of the spirits on the ship. It soon becomes clear that the ghost ship’s very presence may create a scandal for at least one of the great houses. The audio drama is told in eight half-hour episodes and features the voice talents of Emily C.A. Snyder as Caitlin O’Sullivan, Ryan Philbrook as Samuel Hunter, and Martin Davis as Granville Woods.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when hearing a favorite comic translated into audio. I was pleased to say that all the main characters sounded very much like I imagined they would sound. The supporting characters had distinct voices and the action was easy to follow. The serial nature of the audio story felt very much like an adapted comic adventure, even though this story only appears in audio. The piece was well produced by Eddie Louise and Chip Michael. It would be delightful if Madeleine was able to bring us more audio adventures set in her world. At this point, it appears that the best way to order your own copy of The Ghost Ship is to pre-order a copy through the Backerkit site set up for the recent Kickstarter campaign. It’s at: https://the-ghost-ship-audio-drama.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders/396663 and you can get updates on the audio book at at https://bostonmetaphysicalsociety.com/the-ghost-ship-audio-drama/

I’m happy to say that her story has, indeed, put me in the mood to work on a story in one of my own worlds. I’m already plotting my own machinations. My story won’t have ghosts, but I do have some automata and at least one airship disaster planned. Now, it may be a little while before you get to read that story, but I do have something planned for tomorrow. Sheriff Chuck Davis from my novella Breaking the Code finds himself in the world of the fae, paying an unexpected visit to Queen Titania’s Court. Learn more about him and the novella tomorrow, June 8, at Deby Fredericks’ blog: https://wyrmflight.wordpress.com/

Arkham Dreams

In several posts, I’ve mentioned being a Star Trek fan from a very young age. Even before I discovered Star Trek, I was a fan of the Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Part of Batman’s appeal in whatever format is the rogue’s gallery of colorful criminals who try to get away with some dastardly deed only to be foiled by the caped crusader and the boy wonder. My favorite villains at the time were the Penguin played by Burgess Meredith and Egghead played by Vincent Price. Nowadays, I’ve come to appreciate Caesar Romero as the Joker and all the talented actresses who played Catwoman.

Over the years, I’ve remained a fan of the Penguin as a character. Some of that, no doubt, is because I still hear Burgess Meredith’s performance whenever I see the character in the comics. I have to admit, I liked the Penguin’s tuxedo. Some of the appeal came from the Penguin’s use of gadgets hidden in umbrellas. As a kid, umbrellas were fairly easy to come by, so it was easy to play the part without many other accessories. I have to admit, the fact that the Penguin was portrayed a bullied, bookish kid in the comics played on my sympathies. In fact one of my favorite Penguin origin stories was “The Killing Peck” written by Alan Grant with art by Sam Kieth. As it turns out, I wrote about the artist just over a year ago, when I reflected on the comic and animated series, The Maxx.

Batman meets the Maxx

I recently learned that in 2018, Sam Kieth returned to both the worlds of The Maxx and Batman in a comic book miniseries called Arkham Dreams. Three issues of the mini-series were released in 2018, then there was a hiatus, and the series was finished at the end of 2020. The Maxx himself is a large, purple-clad homeless superhero. In Arkham Dreams, we find him in Gotham City going back and forth between the real world and the Outback, which is the world of the subconscious, and, as it happens, fertile ground for exploring both the psyche of Batman and many of his nemeses. The story opens with the Maxx among Gotham’s homeless. Batman catches up with him and takes him to Arkham Asylum for treatment. Of course, Arkham is where many of Batman’s rogues gallery are housed when they’re not committing crimes. At Arkham, Batman encounters a new doctor named Disparu who is trying a new treatment on the Penguin. With the Maxx at Arkham, the worlds of Gotham City and the Outback begin to merge and the two heroes must figure out why this happening and whose Outback they’re going into before the world devolves into chaos.

I love it when characters from different universes meet. Part of what made The Maxx great was its quirky sense of humor even as it delved into serious issues against a psychedelic backdrop. These days, Batman is known for its grim and gritty storytelling, but the best stories often include a certain sense of fun. When that sense of fun is taken to an extreme, Batman becomes like the Adam West and Burt Ward TV series. Pull it back just a little and you find a middle ground where the Maxx and Batman work well together. My favorite part of Arkham Dreams is that even though it’s a crossover, it doesn’t forget to continue some of the narrative from the original Maxx series of the 90s and we get a nice continuation of the story of Maxx and his friend Julie Winters even as Batman confronts the psyches of his rogues gallery.

The real joy of a Sam Kieth book is the art, which is in fine form here. There is a fascinating sequence where the Maxx and Batman are going back and forth between the two worlds. In the Outback, they’re on an air whale battling a strange infection that’s hurting the creature. In the real world, they’re trying to release bombs placed by the Joker on an airship. Arkham Dreams is available in a handsome hardcover edition, which includes all five issues of the comic plus a cover gallery.

If you’re in the mood for crossover stories and want to see the time the Clockwork Legion met the Scarlet Order vampires, read the story “Fountains of Blood” in the collection Straight Outta Tombstone available in ebook at: https://www.amazon.com/Straight-Outta-Tombstone-David-Boop-ebook/dp/B071JGTN3H/

All Dozen Novels in Print

With last week’s publication of Owl Riders, all twelve of my novels are now in print and available for purchase. To celebrate, I’m having a special on the first and second novels of my series. Read on for more details.

Now, It may seem strange that this news comes three years after I released my dozenth novel, Firebrandt’s Legacy. The reason this happened is that in 2018, the rights to my Space Pirates’ Legacy novels reverted to me from the publisher and all three of the novels that follow Firebrandt’s Legacy were out of print when that novel was released. Then in 2020, before all those novels were back in print, my publisher released the publishing rights of my novels The Astronomer’s Crypt and my Scarlet Order Vampire novels. Because that release happened around the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I actually was able to release new editions of those three novels fairly quickly. Last year, I negotiated the release of my Clockwork Legion steampunk series. So those novels were out of print when the last of the Space Pirates’ Legacy novels became available again. So, with the release of Owl Riders, everything is available at the same time.

A Dozen Novels

To celebrate all dozen novels being in print at the same time, I am making a special offer via Smashwords. The first ebook in each of my series is 75% off the cover price for the first week of June. The second ebook in each series is 50% off for the first week of June. This is a great time to jump into my novels if you haven’t read them, or to try a new series, if you’ve only tried one or two of my series.

So, here’s a little about each series:


The Space Pirates’ Legacy Series

The Space Pirates’ Legacy series tells the story of how Captain Ellison Firebrandt and his descendants shape the future of the Earth and the galaxy by creating a colony on a new world and their struggle with one of the universe’s most ancient life forms. Click the button below to go to the series and explore it in more detail.


The Scarlet Order Vampires Series

Founded in 1067, the Scarlet Order is a band of vampire mercenaries led by Desmond, Lord Draco. Before he became a vampire, Draco was in the line of succession for the British throne. After becoming a vampire, he sought redemption and ultimately found the best way he could survive was to help those kings and princes whose causes he believed in. Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires chronicles the formation of the Scarlet Order. In Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the United States government has started a program to create super soldiers, so they don’t have to rely on vampires any more. Unfortunately, this means they are tampering with powers far beyond their understanding. Click the button below to learn more about the series.


The Clockwork Legion Series

The Clockwork Legion series tells the story of how a well meaning alien came to Earth in 1876 and unwittingly unleashed the Russian invasion of the United States. In the aftermath came a world of wonders where airships and ornithopters rule the skies, lightning guns pose a serious threat, and Native Americans control powerful battle wagons that challenge the United States Army. In the heart of it all is a small town sheriff who wants to be a diplomat and the woman he loves who wants to heal the world. Click the button below to take advantage of the special on the first two novels of the series.

Return of the Owl Riders

Since the middle of 2021, I’ve been updating and releasing new editions of my Clockwork Legion novels. Today, I’m proud to announce that process is complete. Book four of the Clockwork Legion series, Owl Riders is back in print. This novel picks up eight years after the events of The Brazen Shark. Ramon and Fatemeh Morales now live in the French Quarter of New Orleans and the alien Legion is long gone, but the world is much changed because of Legion’s influence.

Owl Riders

Now, when Fatemeh Karimi married Ramon Morales, she neglected to share one small detail. She was already betrothed to a merchant named Hamid Farzan. She had no interest in Hamid or an arranged marriage. She wanted to live life on her own terms. Eight years after marrying Ramon, she assumed Hamid had long forgotten about her, as she had him.

In New Orleans, Ramon works as an attorney, Fatemeh owns a pharmacy, and they’re proud parents of a precocious daughter. Out west, Apaches armed with powerful battle wagons have captured Fort Bowie and threaten Tucson. Businessmen with an interest in a peaceful solution ask Ramon to come west and settle the conflict. Meanwhile Hamid arrives in New Orleans and he has not forgotten Fatemeh or her vows to him.

The famed Owl Riders must assemble once again to reunite Ramon and Fatemeh so they can tame the Wild West.

Taking place on two continents and three countries, this novel is at least as world-spanning as The Brazen Shark. Although Owl Riders follows the events of the first three books in the series, I designed it so it could work as a standalone novel, a series conclusion, or even the first book of a new “sub-trilogy” within the bigger series. So whether you’ve read the earlier books or not, this is a great place to jump in and meet Ramon, Fatemeh and their friends, Marshal Larissa Seaton, the former samurai Masuda Hoshi and Imagawa Masako, gunslinger Billy McCarty, and former pirate captain Onofre Cisneros.

Several historical characters make appearances as well, including the Apache warrior Lozen and the writer Lafcadio Hearn who did much to introduce the world both to New Orleans cooking and Japanese culture. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday also make appearances in the novel. What’s especially fun about including such familiar characters is that they become anchor points in the story. People know who they are, but you can see how they’ve changed in response to this alternate history I’ve created for them to inhabit. As an author, I find it fun to get to know these characters. It wasn’t until I wrote this book that I learned Wyatt Earp was a teetotaler, which introduced a plot problem I had to solve.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab a mechanical owl and take flight! You can get your very own copy of Owl Riders:

Just as a reminder, if you get the book direct from the publisher, I am happy to sign it for you, just make a request through the contact form on the site.

World Goth Day 2022

World Goth Day happened on May 22. World Dracula Day happens on May 26, because Bram Stoker’s Dracula was released on May 26, 1897. With both of those happening within one week, I’ve decided to have a week-long celebration. The Official World Goth Day site defines it as “a day where the goth scene gets to celebrate its own being, and an opportunity to make its presence known to the rest of the world.” I thought this would be a great opportunity to share a special deal on my Gothic-literature and Dracula-inspired novels Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires and Vampires of the Scarlet Order. It’s even more appropriate, since the new novel I’m working on is tentatively titled Ordeal of the Scarlet Order and will complete the trilogy!

The Scarlet Order Books

Founded in 1067, the Scarlet Order is a band of vampire mercenaries led by Desmond, Lord Draco. Before he became a vampire, Draco was in the line of succession for the British throne. After becoming a vampire, he sought redemption and ultimately found the best way he could survive was to help those kings and princes whose causes he believed in. Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order Vampires chronicles the formation of the Scarlet Order. In Vampires of the Scarlet Order, the United States government has started a program to create super soldiers, so they don’t have to rely on vampires any more. Unfortunately, this means they are tampering with powers far beyond their understanding.

From now through May 28, you can pick up the ebook editions of these novels for just $1.00.

If you prefer printed novels, I still have a great deal. Buy either one of my novels at hadrosaur.com and I’ll toss in the related comic book, “Guinevere and the Stranger” absolutely free. “Guinevere and the Stranger” adapts the chapter that tells the vampire Roquelaure’s origin story into comic book form. What’s more, you can get your novels signed, just fill out the contact form on the site after you place your order and let me know you’d like signed copies.

These make great gifts for the Gothic Literature fan in your life, or keep them and enjoy them for yourself! If you have both novels, but not the comic, here’s where you can find it:

My newsletter subscribers got a jump on this special. If you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, just visit my website: http://www.davidleesummers.com and find the signup form right at the bottom of the page.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one celebrating Goth Day this week. Tom Hutchison of Big Dog Ink is running a Kickstarter campaign for his second annual Goth Day issue. Big Dog Ink publishes the Critter superhero comic, Legend of Oz: The Wicked West, and the vampire/shapeshifter comic Ursa Minor among others. The Goth Day specials imagine the characters from the Big Dog Ink universe existing in a darker, parallel universe.

The special Goth Day issue is written by Tom Hutchison with art by CB Zane and colors by Gat Melvyn. Each Goth Day special is a one-shot, standalone issue, but Tom has made a pack available through Kickstarter where you can pick up his entire Goth Day series. Last year’s issue introduced the idea of Tom’s darker world, and a number of its inhabitants. In 2022 he expands on that world and introduces new characters and situations…including the Mermaid Princess in the banner ad!

To support Tom’s Kickstarter, visit: