Full Steam Ahead

Over the last few years, one of the bestselling anthologies on the Hadrosaur Productions convention table is Gaslight and Grimm, a collection of steampunk fairy tales published by eSpec Books. I had a blast writing the story “The Steam-Powered Dragon” for that collection, which was a steampunk retelling of a lesser-known Grimm Fairy Tale, “The Dragon and his Grandmother.” Back in 2020, the editor, Danielle Ackley-McPhail asked if I would be interested in steampunking another fairy tale. I was definitely game. She told me the new anthology would be Grimm Machinations and the stories must feature a maker or some form of political machinations, or both. One of the suggested stories for the anthology was “Snow White.” Danielle mentioned she thought “Snow White” might be a stretch for this anthology’s themes. However, I love a challenge and this was a story I had translated from German back in college, plus I had the German edition of the tales, which included the Grimm Brothers’ original notes. I totally saw “Snow White” as a story that contained elements of both makers and political machinations. I began some tinkering of my own and soon “The Porcelain Princess” was born. While waiting to hear more about Danielle’s plans for this anthology, plans for a convention started to take shape.

Long time con-goers, vendors, and entertainers, Donna McClaren, aka The Baroness Alexandra, and Kolleen Kilduff from Design by Night Designs noted a lack of Steampunk festivals in the Baltimore area. Hence, Baltimore’s first Steampunk Convention, Tell-Tale Steampunk Festival was born. It is a weekend-long event and will feature workshops, vendors, entertainment, music, and educational panels. Tell-Tale Steampunk will draw its inspiration and theme from authors each year and plans on having a more hands-on/participation experience for festival goers. This year’s theme is based on the writings of Baltimore’s own Edgar Allan Poe and will feature a volume of stories based on the corax family (a nod to Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”), as well as an interactive game to accompany the stories of our feather heroes. The main focus is audience participation and interaction. You can learn more about the convention at https://telltalesteampunk.com/

While I was vacationing in the Grand Canyon this past summer, I received an email from Danielle Ackley-McPhail about this anthology. Being at the canyon, I was literally surrounded by ravens. What’s more, several scenes of my novel Owl Dance were set at the Grand Canyon. I began to think about Professor Maravilla arriving at the canyon and seeing all the ravens. I also learned more about early geologists who had an eye on exploiting the canyon’s mineral wealth. All of those ideas came together to form the story “Dreams of Flight” which is now part of the game and part of the anthology A Cast of Crows.

But wait, as Ron Popiel used to say, there’s more! When this project started coming together, Danielle added a third book to the mix. This one is an anthology called Grease Monkeys: The Heart and Soul of Dieselpunk. Danielle and I discussed whether I might have a contribution to this anthology and I thought about my grandfather, who worked for the Santa Fe Railroad during the time when the railroads were transitioning from steam to diesel locomotives. I’ve also been fascinated by the history of narrow-gauge rail in the west, in part thanks to my university history professor who was a historian on one of the lines. I remembered how narrow-gauge railroads were particularly challenged by the change to diesel. Then I began to think about the outlaws of the era and I started to imagine Bonnie and Clyde as air pirates. It wasn’t long before I had a story about my grandfather fighting the famous outlaws over the mountain towns of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. Soon, the story “The Falcon and the Goose” was born and after a solid rewrite based on editorial feedback, the story was added to the atnthology.

These anthologies include several authors I greatly admire and have worked with including Michelle D. Sonnier, Patrick Thomas, Christine Norris and John L. French. If you love retrofuturistic stories, or if you’re just curious about the whole steampunk and dieselpunk thing, this is a great place to dive in and find some great stories. The project has already funded, but please keep supporting. There are some great rewards for supporting the Kickstarter and if the project earns enough money, eSpec Books will create hardcover editions, which I’d love to see. Help us reach our goals and make all three of these books happen by supporting us at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/e-specbooks/full-steam-ahead

Snow, Glass, Apples

The fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” has fascinated me ever since I translated the story for a German literature class back in my university days. Since that time, I published a translation of the story in an issue of Tales of the Talisman Magazine. I then wrote a piece of flash fiction that imagined a vampiric version of Snow White called “The Tale of Blood Red” which appeared in the anthology Blood Sampler. Most recently, I gave Snow White a steampunk treatment and placed the story with the forthcoming anthology Grimm Machinations.

On a recent trip to a bookstore, I found the 2019 graphic novel Snow, Glass, Apples written by Neil Gaiman with art by Colleen Doran. Reading the back and then browsing the interior, I soon discovered this was also a retelling of Snow White. Not only that, it looked like Snow White was portrayed as a vampire. Of course, I picked up the book right away. In this case, the fairy tale is told from the point of view of Snow White’s stepmother, the queen. We learn that the former king went to the woods and fell in love with a beautiful young woman after his wife had died. The king marries the young woman and brings her home. There, she discovers his vampire daughter, who mostly keeps to herself. Over time, the king fades and dies, which is how the young woman becomes queen. She sees Snow White for the danger she is, orders her heart cut out and her body taken to the woods. The years pass, but fewer and fewer people cross the woods to visit the spring fair. Looking in her scrying mirror, the queen realizes that Snow White is still alive. When people enter the woods, she attacks and kills them. The queen sets a plan in motion to save her land and the fair from Snow White. She’ll create blood-laced poison apples for her stepdaughter.

You might wonder how Neil Gaiman and I would independently come up with the idea of a vampire Snow White. I would argue many of the ingredients are right there in the fairy tale. In the original, Snow White’s mother pricks her fingers and sees the blood drop onto a snow-covered, ebony window frame. She wishes for a child with skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony. Also, in the original story, Snow White’s stepmother succeeds in killing Snow White three times, only to have Snow White return from the dead each time. When Snow White dies the third time, the dwarfs place her in a glass coffin and the prince at the end wakes her, not with a kiss, but having his bumbling entourage drop the coffin, dislodging the poisoned apple piece. And, there’s also the bit near the opening where the wicked queen wants to destroy Snow White’s heart. It’s not a big leap to go from the story as commonly read to the idea of Snow White being a magical, undead creature.

It turns out Snow, Glass, Apples is actually based on a 1994 short story by Gaiman. The story along with Colleen Doran’s art has a distinctly erotic feel. This may feel like a departure from a classic fairy tale, but again, it has roots in the original story. I’m fortunate enough to have a German copy of Grimms’ tales which include notes by the Grimm brothers. They mention that some versions of the story do relay not just the wish of Snow White’s mother, but tell the story of Snow White’s conception during a sleigh ride.

I was glad to discover Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran’s Snow, Glass, Apples. The story is an interesting twist on the original and Doran’s art is lush and gorgeous, adding to Gaiman’s story. The graphic novel was published by Dark Horse Books and you should be able to find copies online or at your local bookstore. The original story appears in Gaiman’s collection Smoke and Mirrors.

My translation of “Snow White” appeared in Tales of the Talisman, volume 2, issue 2, which is sadly out of print. My vampire story, “The Tale of Blood Red” is available in Blood Sampler, which you can pick up here: https://www.hiraethsffh.com/product-page/blood-sampler-by-david-lee-summers-lee-clark-zumpe

My steampunk story “The Porcelain Princess” will appear in Grimm Machinations from eSpec Books. Although that version of Snow White isn’t a vampire, I still explore some of the darker, spookier aspects of the character. The Kickstarter for the book should be launching soon. I’ll be sure to keep people posted.

Great Anthologies for Long Winter Nights

The annual Smashwords End of Year Sale is underway. Many of Hadrosaur’s titles are on sale and I’ll be highlighting them here at the Web Journal. The coupon codes for these discounts are automatically applied at checkout. One of the things I love about Smashwords is that they provide ebooks in all popular formats and they’re DRM free, so you can download them to your favorite device or gift them to friends without worrying about what e-reader they prefer. If you are shopping for a friend, just click “Give as a Gift” when you visit the Smashwords links!

Today, I’m featuring some great anthologies for those times when you want to curl up by a fire and enjoy an author’s work in one sitting.


Exchange Students

In Exchange Students you can study abroad! See new places! Meet new people!

In our exchange student program, you can literally study anywhere or anywhen you can imagine. We’ll send you to new planets. We’ll send you to new dimensions and realms of existence. We’ll send you through time itself!

Don’t believe me? This exciting anthology contains many tales of our thrilling and educational exchange student program. You’ll read tales of aliens coming to earth and humans traveling to alien worlds. You’ll meet a denizen of Hell who travels to Heaven. Some students will discover their super powers on their journey. Other students will have encounters with the undead. You’ll meet a law enforcement officer who travels to the realm of the fae to help solve a crime of truly interdimensional proportions.

Featuring twenty-two amazing stories by Roze Albina Ches, Jaleta Clegg, Ken Goldman, Paula Hammond, Sheila Hartney, Chisto Healy, Joachim Heijndermans, Sean Jones, Tim Kane, Alden Loveshade, Tim McDaniel, J Louis Messina, Jennifer Moore, Brian Gene Olson, David B. Riley, Katherine Quevedo, Holly Schofield, Jonathan Shipley, Lesley L. Smith, Emily Martha Sorensen, Margret A. Treiber and Sherry Yuan.

Exchange Students is available for half off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1005851. Coupon code SEY50 should be applied automatically at checkout.


A Kepler’s Dozen

A Kepler’s Dozen is an anthology of action-packed, mysterious, and humorous stories all based on real planets discovered by the NASA Kepler mission. Edited by and contributing stories are David Lee Summers, author of The Pirates of Sufiro, and Steve B. Howell, project scientist for the Kepler mission. Whether on a prison colony, in a fast escape from the authorities, or encircling a binary star, thirteen exoplanet stories written by authors such as Mike Brotherton, Laura Givens, and J Alan Erwine will amuse, frighten, and intrigue you while you share fantasy adventures among Kepler’s real-life planets.

“… the stories represent a glimpse of where science fiction might go if real exoplanets are taken as inspiration.” Melinda Baldwin, Physics Today

You can buy A Kepler’s Dozen for half off the cover price at: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/325583. Coupon code SEY50 should be applied automatically at checkout.


Kepler’s Cowboys

  • NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has discovered thousands of new planets.
  • Visiting, much less settling, those worlds will provide innumerable challenges.
  • The men and women who make the journey will be those who don’t fear the odds.
  • They’ll be Kepler’s Cowboys.

Saddle up and take an unforgettable journey to distant star systems. Meet new life forms—some willing to be your friend and others who will see you as the invader. Fight for justice in a lawless frontier. Go on a quest for a few dollars more. David Lee Summers, author of the popular Clockwork Legion novels, and Steve B. Howell, head of the Space Sciences and Astrobiology Division at NASA Ames Research Center, have edited this exciting, fun, and rollicking anthology of fourteen stories and five poems by such authors as Patrick Thomas, Jaleta Clegg, Anthony R. Cardno, L.J. Bonham, and many more!

“If you’re in the mood for science fiction that’s heavy on the science, pore over this enjoyable collection that takes exoplanets and the American West as its inspirations. The stories and poems in Kepler’s Cowboys imagine wild and risky futures for the first generations of exoplanet explorers as they grapple with harsh environments, tight quarters, aliens, and one another.” Melinda Baldwin, Physics Today.

Kepler’s Cowboys is available for half off the cover price at Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/698694. Coupon code SEY50 should be applied automatically at checkout.


If you want to learn more about me as a writer and editor, I’ve been featured on this week’s Spooky Six with Willow Croft segment over at HorrorTree.com. The interview focuses on my horror writing, which feels appropriate since I’ve been busy working on my new Scarlet Oder vampire novel. Drop by and learn such things as what frightens me most and the spookiest place I’ve ever set a horror story. Speaking of the Scarlet Order, make sure you return here on Saturday. I have a special Christmas Eve treat for visitors to the Web Journal.

Interview with David Lee Summers

Staring Into the Abyss

I am proud to announce that my brand new story “Horsefeathers” has just been released in the anthology Staring into the Abyss edited by Patrick Thomas and John L. French. The anthology is part of the Agents of the Abyss series, which author Edward J. McFadden III, author of Terror Peak, Crimson Falls, and Quick Sands describes this way: “Imagine Universal Monsters Meets James Bond and you’d have Agents of the Abyss.”

Staring Into the Abyss asks what if monsters were real? How would the existence of monsters play out on the international stage?

The anthology goes on to explore several specific scenarios, such as Amelia Earhart working for the US government on a mission to an island in the Bermuda Triangle where prehistoric life abounds. Sherlock Holmes teams up with his goddaughter Jane Watson and the simian head of DAT, France’s paranormal spy network, to stop a dangerous hybrid of monster and machine from destroying London. There’s Adam Frankenstein working in the German resistance to stop the Nazis from creating more of his kind from the bodies of their victims. During the Cold War, Baba Yaga and the Night Witches make a stealth attack on the King of Transyvania—Dracula. A very unusual assassin works the frigid waters of the Russian sea. The Invisible Madame tries to track down her son who was kidnapped by the British MI-7. And the legendary Phantom of the Opera, now a murderous body-stealing ghost and the top French operative, may have met his match in a teenage girl.

My story in the anthology is another story of Baba Yaga and the Night Witches. I imagine them on a mission for the USSR during the War in Afghanistan during the 1980s. In this case, Baba Yaga has learned that an artifact from the 1001 Nights might really exist and might give her more power than she already possesses. She sends her Night Witches on a mission to retrieve it. Yes, my story’s name was inspired by a Marx Brothers film, but this is serious business as we learn that horses don’t necessarily need feathers in order to fly.

The other stories in the anthology are written by Mattea Orr, John L. French, Patrick Thomas, Robert E. Waters, Lee O’Connell, Rowan Dillon, and Aleathia Drehmer.

If this idea intrigues you, then stand by. The series currently has at least five planned books. Some are novels and others are short story collections. I’ve already written a novelette for a forthcoming collection called “The Cuban Monster Crisis.” This one is set during one of the most dangerous points in the cold war when an ancient city is discovered off the Cuban coast where the world’s monsters might be controlled. Special Agent Justin Boudreaux has just been assigned to Admiral Theodore Roosevelt command to keep the Soviets from gaining an edge in the worldwide monster race. You say Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919 and didn’t live to see the Cold War? Well, maybe you were meant to think that.

The eBook edition is live as I write this post. The print edition is still coming available. Amazon’s ebook link below should point to both editions once the collection is live in printed form. The “print” link points to Barnes and Noble’s page for the print edition. If it shows as “Out of Stock” when you check, just make a note to check back in a couple of days to see if its available.

What Lies Inside?

I enjoy collecting action figures and statues based on some of my favorite science fiction and fantasy universes. I especially like ones that take inspiration from sources other than movies or TV. One manufacturer I especially liked was Eaglemoss, which made spaceship models based not only on the Star Trek television series, but also occasionally from novels and video games. Eaglemoss also made figures from comic books and other science fiction franchises. I was saddened to hear that they went out of business at the end of this past summer. Shortly after they went out of business, I learned they had made some figures based on the Doctor Who audio adventures from Big Finish Productions. I have loved these audio stories, and I decided to see if I could get a set before they disappeared into the hands of collectors forever. I lucked out and found a nice set featuring Paul McGann as the eighth Doctor and Nicola Walker as his companion Liv Chenka. Paul McGann did play the Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who TV movie, but Big Finish designed a new look for the Doctor as he appears on the audio book covers, also Liv has never appeared on screen. Even the Dalek’s paint scheme is unique to the audio book covers.

I’ve long appreciated that Big Finish productions have given us a nice run of Paul McGann as the Doctor. He’s only appeared on screen three times in the role. First in the TV movie, where he was introduced. Second in a TV short called “Night of the Doctor” where we learned how his incarnation met its end. Most recently, he appeared in the episode called “Power of the Doctor” where Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor meets the “spirits” of several earlier incarnations. It always felt like a shame he didn’t have more stories. While I have listened to several Big Finish audio productions featuring Paul McGann as the Doctor, I hadn’t yet listened to any featuring Liv, nor have I listened to any after the eighth Doctor started sporting his leather jacket look as shown in the action figure. That said, I did listen to the pivotal stories “Lucie Miller” and “To the Death,” which effectively show us how the Doctor went from a more breezy, lighthearted personality to a more reserved, careful personality, reflected in the change of outfit. So, I decided I should rectify that. The hard part was deciding where to start. Right after “To the Death,” Big Finish produced several epic-length episodes featuring the eighth Doctor that span several volumes each. I wasn’t quite ready to commit that much time to a story. That said, this year, Big Finish has released two sets of more episodic adventures featuring Paul McGann. The first was “What Lies Inside?”

“What Lies Inside?” is, itself, composed of two different stories. The first is “Paradox of the Daleks.” As this story starts, it looks like it’s going to be a very traditional story of the Doctor facing his old nemesis the daleks. The Doctor, Liv, and Helen Sinclair arrive on a space station where the inhabitants are conducting experiments on time travel. It turns out, the daleks have also invaded, preparing to establish a temporal beachhead in some war they’re fighting. As the Doctor tries to foil the daleks’ plans, one of the space station’s inhabitants tricks Liv and Helen into hiding in a time capsule. The capsule sends them back in time to before they all arrived and sets a chain of events into action. On the whole, the story reminded me of Back to the Future, but where the stakes could be the universe itself!

The second story was “The Dalby Spook.” In this story, the Doctor, Helen, and Liv visit the Isle of Man in 1933. They go to see a stage psychic perform and encounter the real-life skeptic Harry Price. It turns out that Price is on the island to investigate reports of an invisible, talking mongoose said to haunt the Irving family home. I was delighted to learn that Harry Price’s investigation of Gef the Talking Mongoose really happened. I love it when real events are given a science fictional or fantastic twist and this story doesn’t disappoint. The Doctor, Liv, and Helen soon learn that something sinister is indeed going on around the Irving home, but it may not be as simple as young Voirrey Irving trying to get people to believe in an imaginary friend. She may be in real danger and Helen and Liv have to convince the Doctor to help.

While I’m disappointed that Eaglemoss has gone out of business, I’m happy that events came together to get me to listen to more Big Finish Doctor Who adventures. You can learn about their full range of adventures at https://bigfinish.com

Of course, if you like audiobooks, don’t miss the audiobook adaptations of my novels Owl Dance and Lightning Wolves. You can find them at:

Sometimes, a Short Story is Just What’s Needed

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel Dune is one of the bestselling science fiction novels of all time and rapidly established itself as a classic in the field. It certainly influenced me. The ornithopters used to flit about the surface of Arrakis influenced the ornithopters I used in my steampunk fiction. I used to pour over the glossary in the novel, fascinated by all the words and phrases Herbert invented. They led me to create planets with names like Rd’dyggia and Sufiro and weapons like heplers. As time went by, my wife and I collected all of Herbert’s original Dune novels in hard cover. I was even fortunate enough to pick up a signed copy of Heretics of Dune soon after release. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to meet Frank Herbert. I hadn’t realized he was in town at my local bookstore until I arrived about an hour after he left.

Over the years of going to science fiction conventions, I have been fortunate enough to get to know Kevin J. Anderson. We both have stories in the anthology Straight Outta Tombstone edited by David Boop. What’s more, Anderson has been collaborating with Frank Herbert’s son, Brian, on numerous novels in the expanded Dune universe. I’ve long been intrigued by the expanded universe, but I was never quite sure where to begin. Right after I saw Kevin J. Anderson at MileHiCon, I came across the collection Tales of Dune, published by Anderson’s WordFire press. This volume contains eight standalone short stories from the expanded Dune universe written by Anderson and Brian Herbert.

Since I had only read Frank Herbert’s original Dune, I wasn’t certain how well I would follow the stories in this collection, but decided to take a chance. As noted in the introduction, some of these stories had been published in magazines and others had been published in standalone booklets to entice readers to explore the expanded universe. In light of that, I thought it was worth a try. As it turns out, the stories did indeed stand alone. Each story introduced its characters and situations well and resolved them in the space of the story. As noted in the introduction, “Sometimes a short story is exactly what you need” and this collection was just what I needed to get a taste of the expanded Dune universe.

It probably did help that I was familiar with the first novel in the series. Because of that, I knew about such factions as House Atreides, House Harkonnen, the Navigators Guild and the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. I also knew about the Butlerian Jihad where humanity had overthrown the oppression of artificial intelligence, or thinking machines as they’re known in the world of Dune. The stories in this collection range much of Dune’s future history. The first stories are set during the Butlerian Jihad. Later stories are set around the time of the novel Dune, then the collection finishes with stories set concurrent or just after the last of Frank Herbert’s original novels. The book even includes a timeline to help you know when the stories take place relative to the other novels of the series. Overall, I found Tales of Dune an enjoyable, quick read and I now want to sample the novels in the expanded universe. You can learn more about Tales of Dune here: https://wordfirepress.com/books/tales-dune-expanded-edition/

Not only have Kevin J. Anderson and I had short stories that have appeared side-by-side in an anthology, but Kevin’s WordFire Press is the publisher of the anthology Maximum Velocity that I co-edited with Carol Hightshoe, Dayton Ward, Jennifer Brozek, and Bryan Thomas Schmidt. It contains 18 fun, high-octane science fiction stories featuring everything from pirates to marines, horrors and battles all in space. Sometimes, when you’re looking for a great read, a short story is just what you need. You can learn more about Maximum Velocity here: https://wordfirepress.com/books/maximum-velocity/

Post 1000

Today finds me in Denver, Colorado for the MileHiCon science fiction convention. I have several panels scheduled today. When I’m not on panels, I have a table in the dealer’s room. If you’re also in Denver, I hope I’ll get a chance to connect with you this weekend. While I’m at MileHiCon, my blog has reached a milestone. Today is my one thousandth blog post!

It seems almost inconceivable to me that I’ve written 1000 posts since I started my WordPress blog. My first post was called “Blog: The Magnificent Ferret” and it was published on March 12, 2009. The post’s title refers to some background art in the New Scooby-Doo Mysteries episode, “Scooby-Doo Meets Dick Van Dyke.” In the episode, Dick Van Dyke has purchased a circus and one of the sideshow attractions is Blog: The Magnificent Ferret. In the post, I reflect on how blogs can be like sideshow attractions. I hope this one has been a fun, interesting, and engaging sideshow attraction. You can read the original post here: https://davidleesummers.wordpress.com/2009/03/12/hello-world/

My novels in 2009

In that first post, I noted that I had published five novels. In the thirteen years since, I’ve published seven more novels and I’m working on a new one. Among those novels were the complete Clockwork Legion series. Several of those novels have gone through multiple editions in that time. In a post a few days later, I noted that my daughters were six and thirteen years old respectively. Today, the oldest has graduated from university and works as a software engineer and the younger daughter is working on her geology degree. I started this blog about a year after returning to work as an observing assistant at Kitt Peak National Observatory. In that time, I’ve seen the Mayall telescope completely refurbished and repurposed, survived closures for pandemic and wildfire, and have seen several good friends move on to new jobs or retire.

My novels in 2022

The purpose of this blog has always been to provide news about my writing, where to find my short stories, and updates about my novels. I try to provide news of any appearances and places where you can find me. It also exists to provide insights into my writing. This includes reviews of movies and books that influence me along with a look at my job in astronomy and places I travel to. Some topics may seem familiar, but I hope I’ve also introduced you to some new books, movies, and places to consider visiting. My blog posts are typically a little over 500 words long, so it’s safe to say there’s a little over 500,000 words of material at this blog. That’s right around 5 novels worth of material at the length I typically write!

If you’ve found value in my blog, I hope you’ll visit http://www.davidleesummers.com and learn more about my novels and short stories. If you like my blog, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy reading one of my longer works as well. Also, you can show your support by joining my Patreon. There you’ll get more insights into my writing and some news about my books before I’m able to share it here. I’ve provided some sneak peeks at short stories and revealed covers there before I do here. What’s more, you’ll get copies of my ebooks as they’re released. Supporting my Patreon also helps to assure that this blog remains an ad-free experience. Learn more at https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers

Here’s to the next 1000 posts!

The House of Mystery

Last month, between Las Cruces Comic Con and Bubonicon, my wife and I took our daughter back to college. A big part of the back-to-college ritual is the trip to the nearby big-box store to stock up on supplies for the school year. While doing that, I’ll inevitably pop into the video section to see if there’s a release I’ve missed. This year, I found Constantine: The House of Mystery. It featured Matt Ryan reprising his role of John Constantine, a character from DC and Vertigo comics. It also featured one of my other favorite DC characters, the magician Zatanna. I decided it would be worth picking up.

Constantine: The House of Mystery

Upon closer inspection, I noticed the headline over the title, “DC Showcase Animated Shorts.” Sure enough, the disk proved to be an anthology of sorts, featuring a Constantine story, a Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth story, a Losers story, and a Blue Beetle story. My only complaint about this is that aside from the Constantine story, all the other stories had been released before. Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth had been released as a special feature on the Justice Society: World War II Blu-Ray I purchased a year ago. After a little digging, I found out the other two shorts included with House of Mystery had been previously released as well, but I hadn’t seen them. Still, I could imagine a fan of DC animation being disappointed that this disk contained mostly previously released material.

I like anthology movies and TV series. They provide an opportunity to sample many kinds of stories and tell tales that aren’t really suited to a full-length movie or TV series. I found many early favorite authors by watching the credits of The Twilight Zone and seeing whose stories inspired the episodes. So, given the fact that three of the four shorts on this disk were new to me, it was a nice treat. The Constantine story, House of Mystery, is set after Justice League Dark: Apokolips War. At the end of that movie, the heroes won, but Earth was left a wasteland. Sorcerer John Constantine sends the Flash on a mission to reset time so the world can be made right again. However, the godlike superhero Spectre pulls Constantine out of time and drops him into the House of Mystery. In the comics, the House of Mystery title was itself an anthology comic where people would go into the House and literally anything could and did happen. In this case, Constantine finds himself tormented by demons who take the forms of his closest friends. Constantine’s only hope is to find a way to break out of the house and break the cycle of torture and torment. His solution is well grounded in the comics. My only issue with the short is that they slightly redesigned Constantine from Apokolips War to House of Mystery and they use both versions, so it can be a little jarring when they swap back and forth.

Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth provided a good introduction to the character, which was good, since I’d never read the comic before. It opens on a post-apocalyptic Earth as our title character is trying to free his friend Prince Tuftan of the Tiger Kingdom from captivity. As they flee Tuftan’s original captives, they find themselves captured by the Gorilla Kingdom and forced to go on a quest to show which of them can earn the title of the Mighty One, a revered figure from the Gorillas’ past. The story has a nice twist ending, when the Mighty One’s identity is revealed.

Losers was a comic set during World War II. The Losers themselves are a unit of military outcasts sent on dangerous missions. In this story, they find themselves marooned on an island populated by dinosaurs. However, it turns out the dinosaurs aren’t the island’s biggest secret. Perhaps not surprisingly, the story had a lot in common with Jurassic Park. Still, there were some nice twists and turns and it made me interested in learning more about the original comic.

Aside from John Constantine, Blue Beetle was the character I knew best from his time as a member of the Justice League International, which ran in the 1980s. Blue Beetle himself is the millionaire Ted Kord who fights crime in a beetle suit and flies around in a beetle-shaped craft. In the DC universe, he’s effectively a more lighthearted version of Batman. To that end, the animated short was made to look and feel like animated cartoons of the 1960s and 70s. Blue Beetle tries to stop a diamond theft and learns that the villains plan to use the diamond in an emotion-controlling machine. It’s all a lot of fun and probably my favorite of the shorts on the disk.

All in all, I enjoyed the four shorts and would love to see more anthologies of short films from DC, but would prefer them to be all new material. If you’ve already seen the three shorts that have appeared on other disks, you may prefer to stream the Constantine short separately through your favorite service rather than buy the disk.

Bubonicon 53

This weekend, I’m excited that Bubonicon will return in person. The convention will be held at the Albuquerque Mariott Uptown from August 26-28. This year’s theme is “After the Plague Years, Plagues and Pandemics in SF/F.” The author guests of honor are are Rae Carson who wrote the Rise of Skywalker novelization and Keith R.A. DeCandido who wrote the Serenity Movie novelization. Keith R.A. DeCandido also wrote All-the-Way House, which is volume 4 of the Systema Paradoxa series. My Breaking the Code is volume 3.The artist guest of honor is Chaz Kemp, who did the covers for the current editions of my Scarlet Order Vampire novels. The toastmaster is A. Lee Martinez, author of Constance Verity Destroys the Universe.

Among the other attendees this year will be Jane Lindskold, George R.R. Martin, S.M. Stirling, Ian Tregillis, Robert E. Vardeman, Walter Jon Williams, and Connie Willis. Hadrosaur Productions will have a table in the Flea Market. Several other familiar faces will be there with great products, including Who Else Books, Ashelon Publishing, and 7000 BC Comics.

I’ll be on the following panels at Bubonicon:

Friday, August 26

4pm – Main Room – Steampunk Versus Alternate History. Science fiction never blinks at incorporating events and icons of history but when it comes to Steampunk, an argument is bubbling in boilers about what makes something “steampunk” and what makes it “alternate history.” Why are authors hesitant to combine history with their fantasy? Where is the line (if any) between “steampunk” and “alternate history”? On the panel with me will be Reese Hogan, Ian Tregillis, and Carrie Vaughn. Chaz Kemp will be moderating.

Saturday, August 27

1pm – Main Room – Why I have Done Young Adult Fiction. Writers discuss why they have done or currently are doing Young Adult novels. What is the appeal? Are there things that can be done in YA fiction that can’t be done in so-called adult novels? How do you approach writing for the YA or Middle School market? Do you have to write the tales differently? How do you avoid talking down to young readers? What makes a tale good for YA as opposed to adult SF/F? What can other genres learn from YA in terms of story, theme, or vision of the future? Why should other writers read YA works? On the panel with me will be Rae Carson, Darynda Jones and Emily Mah. Betsy James will be moderating.

3pm – Cimarron/Las Cruces Room – Snack Writes: Writing Exercises. Josh Gentry will be moderating this panel where he gives three writers a prompt and then 5 minutes to write something. Then the writers read what they have and audience also gets to read their writing. Also on the panel are Robert E. Vardeman and Jane Lindskold.

4:25pm – Main Room – Mass Autographing. The authors of Bubonicon will be on hand to autograph your books.

Sunday, August 28

10am – Main Room – Ray Bradbury: Beyond Green Town and Mars. I’ll be moderating this panel discussing Ray Bradbury’s short stories not under his Green Town or Mars mythology. Why was the platform of a short story so alluring to him and why should readers return to reading them? What were some of his works that are even more relevant today? What was it about his language, his plot timing, and the genius of his work? Is he as lyrical in his stories as the writing in his few true novels? On the panel are Lou J. Berger, Sheila Finch, Wil McCarthy, Patricia Rogers, and Connie Willis.

12:30pm – Main Room – Editing: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Come and hear stories about edits which went above and beyond clarity and reason. Writers discuss different editing styles they’ve encountered, and talk about some of the good and bad experiences they’ve had with editors. (Names will be withheld to protect the innocent!) On the panel with me will be Jane Lindskold, Jim Sorenson, and Sarina Ulibarri. C.C. Finlay will be moderating.

2:30pm – Salons A-D – 50 Minutes with David Lee Summers. I will read a selection or two from my stories including my novella “Breaking the Code.” I’ll also likely discuss a little of what’s new in my astronomy life.


If you’re in Albuquerque this coming weekend, I hope to see you at Bubonicon 53!

The Return of Hungur

One of my favorite vampire magazine was Hungur, edited by Terrie Leigh Relf. During its run, Hungur featured three of my vampire stories including “Jiang Shi,” which gave Chinese vampires a frightening, alien twist, “Lufgeist, which told the story of the Scarlet Order’s Lord Draco escaping Nazis aboard the Hindenburg, and “Dark Matter,” which imagined a possible future for the Scarlet Order vampire Jane as a space explorer. The magazine went on hiatus and now it’s back as The Hungur Chronicles edited by Terrie Leigh Relf and Robert Bellam. The first issue features a reprint of my story “Anemia” which first appeared in the Full-Throttle Space Tales anthology Space Horrors.

The Hungur Chronicles has a strong interest in vampires from outer space, but also includes stories of vampires encountered on Earth. The magazine is published twice each year, on Walpurgisnacht and Samhain. The first issue of The Hungur Chronicles features eight short stories, seventeen poems, and two articles. There were stories, poems, and art by several people who have appeared in Tales of the Talisman and Hadrosaur Productions anthologies, such as Lee Clark Zumpe, Marcia A. Borell, WC Roberts, Tyree Campbell, Gary Davis, Terrie Leigh Relf, and K.S. Hardy. Marge Simon, whose poetry appeared in Tales of the Talisman is the featured poet in the first issue of The Hungur Chronicles. What’s more, Laura Givens who has long been Hadrosaur’s cover artist and Tales of the Talisman art director designed the cover for this new issue featuring Marge Simon’s beautiful art. You can see more of Marge and Laura’s art working together in the book Blood Sampler, which I wrote in collaboration with Lee Clark Zumpe.

One of the joys of getting a contributor copy of a new magazine or anthology is reading the works by the other contributors. I enjoyed them all. Standout stories for me included “Coffin Shopping?” by Marcia A. Borell about a vampire needed to navigate the internet to shop for a new coffin, “The Will of the Forest” by Melody F. McIntyre” about a vampire turning up in a new development who drank fluids through the victims eyes, and “Reverse Vampire” by John Kiste, which tackled the theme of space vampires through a story of an investigator on an alien planet investigating a murder where the victim had been overloaded on bodily fluids. Lee Clark Zumpe’s poem “Ripky” felt topical being set in Ukraine. K.S. Hardy’s poem “In a Cold Crypt” gave the brooding vampire an interesting twist.

My story, “Anemia” was another space-based vampire tale. It expanded on a piece of flash fiction called “On the Ramjet,” which is part of the Blood Sampler collection I mentioned. “Anemia” is set aboard a colony ship bound for a nearby star system. An engineer discovers that from time to time, different colonists test as anemic for while. The systems compensate and they soon return to normal. As the engineer investigates, she discovers there’s a vampire stowing away on the ship. The ship in the story is a Bussard Ramjet, a type of space vessel theorized by physicist Robert Bussard. As it turns out, I wrote the original flash piece while staying as a guest in Bussard’s Santa Fe home a few years ago!

A few years ago, when the editors of the Full-Throttle Space Tales series got together to put together the anthology Maximum Velocity: The Best of the Full-Throttle Space Tales, the editors read and voted for the best story in anthologies they didn’t edit. I was very honored when two of my stories were considered among the best three stories of their respective anthologies. Those stories were “Hijacking the Legacy” which does appear in Maximum Velocity and “Anemia.” We decided no author should have two stories in the best-of antho. Most of my stories in the Full-Throttle Space Tales series featured my space pirate crew. “Anemia” was the one story in that series set in a different universe. I decided not to use it because it wasn’t as representative of my work throughout the series. So, it’s gratifying to see “Anemia” back in print now.

You can find the first issue of The Hungur Chronicles at: https://www.hiraethsffh.com/product-page/hungur-chronicles-walpurgisnacht-edited-by-terrie-leigh-relf-and-robert-bellam

You can find Blood Sampler at: https://www.hiraethsffh.com/product-page/blood-sampler-by-david-lee-summers-lee-clark-zumpe

And finally, you can find Maximum Velocity at: https://www.amazon.com/Maximum-Velocity-Full-Throttle-Space-Tales-ebook/dp/B074FHCJXG/