Steampunk Award and Poem

This week finds me hard at work on book four of my Clockwork Legion steampunk series, Owl Riders. The novel is set about eight years after the events of The Brazen Shark and takes a look at how the world has changed after the events of the first three books of the series. In Chapter One of Owl Riders, we learn that Ramon and Fatemeh now live in New Orleans with their young daughter. Meanwhile, back in Arizona, Geronimo has captured a large swath of territory using battle wagons suspiciously similar to Professor Maravilla’s javelina mining machine captured by Curly Billy Bresnahan in Lightning Wolves.

I’ve had some great motivation getting started on the new novel this week. novelsteam-2016 On Monday, I learned The Brazen Shark was voted Best Steampunk Novel in the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll run annually at Critters.org, a critique and workshop site founded by Dr. Andrew Burt, a former vice president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. I’m deeply touched by the award and would like to thank everyone who voted for The Brazen Shark. For those who have not read the novel yet, you can get copies at Amazon or Barnes and Noble. An omnibus edition of the Clockwork Legion books written to date is available at Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

As it turns out, “The Steam-Powered Dragon” from the Gaslight and Grimm was in the running for best steampunk short story. Although it didn’t win, it was a top-ten finisher. Of interest, the story that did win the category was “The Complications of Avery Vane” by my friend Bryce Raffle, which appears in Den of Antiquity, another anthology I’m in! You can learn about both anthologies by visiting my short story page.

For a little steampunkery you can read right now for free, go visit the Science Fiction Poetry Association’s online zine Eye to the Telescope. The January 2017 issue, which is available as of this writing includes my poem “The Medicine Show.” I wrote the first draft of this poem when I gave a poetry work at Tucson’s Wild Wild West Con in 2015. The theme of the issue is robots and explores that idea from many angles. In addition to my poem, you’ll find works by Tales of the Talisman contributors F.J. Bergmann, Beth Cato, Mary Soon Lee, and G.O. Clark. I was also excited to see that my poem is followed by a poem by one of my heroes, the extremely talented Jane Yolen.

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Perry and the Apocalypse

On the weekend of August 24-26, I was honored to be one of the participating authors at Bubonicon 44 in Albuquerque. Bubonicon was named by authors Robert E. Vardeman and Roy Tackett as a nod to the occasional outbreaks of Bubonic Plague that happen to this day in Albuquerque’s East Mountain Area. In fact, I gather the year the convention received its name, Egypt had placed restrictions on travel to New Mexico.

The convention’s mascot is Perry Rodent. He is a rat with one shoe who has adventures through time and space. The character is a nod to the German space opera hero Perry Rhodan. Each year, the convention features a Perry Rodent story in the program book. Over the years, these stories have been written by such folks as Daniel Abraham, Melinda Snodgrass, Pati Nagle, Michael A. Stackpole, Jack Williamson, Carrie Vaughn, Mario Acevedo, and Ian Tregillis. This year, I was asked to chronicle Perry’s adventures through time and space. The only guideline I was given was that Perry must lose his shoe at some point during the adventure. I gather Perry first lost his shoe when an artist drew Perry with one shoe and one bare foot.

So, without further ado, here is Perry and the Apocalypse with its illustration courtesy Monica Meehan.


Perry and the Apocalypse
Story by David Lee Summers
Illustration by Monica Meehan

Thwack. Rustle. Crack.

“This isn’t exactly the way I expected to spend my weekend,” said Terri as she brought her machete down on the jungle growth. “It’s the twenty-fifth century. Isn’t there a better way to get through all this foliage?”

“Sure, if you wanted to clear cut the forest or burn it to the ground.” Perry Rodent swung his own machete. “Earth’s a preserve now. The rangers would frown on that.”

Terri scowled. “But do we really have to go all the way to Uaxactún? Couldn’t you look this information up on the ’net or visit a museum or something?”

Perry sighed. “Dr. Ratigan has been measuring fluctuations in the local dark energy levels. As best he can tell, these fluctuations happen on a 394-year cycle, remarkably close to the Mayan B’ak’tun cycle. We’d like to compare his measurements to Mayan observations and predictions. What better way to do that than to come to a Mayan astronomy site?”

“Still, couldn’t we have just brought the shuttle directly here?” Terri swung the machete menacingly close to Perry’s nose.

Peering through the break in the foliage, Perry caught sight of the ancient Mayan ruins. The stalwart rodent pushed through the remaining jungle growth into a clearing and pulled up a map of the site on his wrist comp. Terri came up beside him and, despite her earlier reservations about being dragged through the jungle, stared in awe at the imposing stone pyramids surrounding them and understood why Perry chose a more distant landing site. Perry led the way to one of the temples and grabbed a flashlight from his utility belt.

Terri followed him inside, her nose twitching. “Oh joy, we go from the bug-infested jungle to the mold-infested ruins. Do you see anything?”

Perry nodded and pointed to a series of glyphs on the wall. He scanned the symbols with his wrist comp and called up a translation. “This is a representation of the Mayan Long Count Calendar. Notice how the symbols repeat. They clearly understood cyclical time.”

Terri rolled her eyes. “Yeah, but we knew that. We’re here to study Mayan observations and predictions.”

Perry turned around, his whiskers twitching. “Exactly! Don’t you see, Terri? If they understood cyclical time, they must have understood the mathematics of circles. To understand circles, they needed to understand pi. If they understood pie, then maybe they understood cobblers. If they understood cobblers, then maybe…just maybe, I can learn why my shoes keep falling off.”

“Oh, please.” Terri stepped forward and shone her flashlight at the glyphs. “So what’s that glyph mean?”

Perry consulted his wrist comp. “That was the end the twelfth B’ak’tun—the year 1618. The Mayans predicted a big avalanche. Sure enough, there was a dark energy surge that knocked loose a snow drift and buried an entire Swiss village.”

“So where’s the thirteenth?”

Perry counted out a few glyphs and pointed. “Right there. 2012. Dark energy fluctuations caused earthquakes and floods to sweep the Earth. Rats became the dominant species.” Perry flashed a sharp-toothed grin.

“Wow. Those Mayans were good at making predictions.” Terri nodded in appreciation. “So this goes on for something like what…seven more B’ak’tun cycles.”

“Yeah, twenty B’ak’tuns make a Pictun,” he said distractedly, as he began scanning the older glyphs. “Then the calendar rolls over and starts again. Cyclical time and all that.”

Terri counted out several glyphs. “So this one’s the end of the fourteenth B’aktun, right? What does it mean?”

Perry looked over and blinked. “Oh, that one.” He scanned the glyph with his wrist comp. “That corresponds to the next dark energy fluctuation Ratigan predicted. It seems the Mayans believed a solar flare would devastate the surface of the Earth or some such.”

“When exactly does the fourteenth B’ak’tun cycle come to an end?”

Perry pushed a button on the wrist comp. “About two hours, give or take.”

Perry and Terri looked at each other. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”

Together, they ran from the Mayan temple, doing their best to follow the path they had cut earlier. Perry signaled the Stardust—his vessel in orbit. “Dr. Ratigan, notify the authorities. We need to evacuate the Earth immediately! Ooof!” Perry’s foot landed in a mud bog and he tumbled onto his nose.

Terri helped him back to his feet.

He looked at his boot stuck in the mud. “Oh no, not again.”

Abandoning the shoe, they pushed their way through the jungle until they came to the shuttle. Flicking switches and turning dials, they blasted off and returned to the Stardust. As soon as Perry arrived on the bridge, he ordered the helmsman to warp to a safe distance and activate the holographic viewer. They saw ships loaded with rats leaving the Earth. Dr. Ratigan started a clock counting down at his station. When it reached zero, the lights dimmed and the hummings and chirpings of the computer quieted ominously as a wave of dark energy rolled past the Stardust like a tidal wave passing beneath a ship at sea. A few minutes later, a bright flare erupted on the surface of the sun.

Perry had to wipe away a tear as the solar flare engulfed the Earth. Even though it had become a park and few inhabited it anymore, it was the one place in the universe all rats called home.

“So tell me,” said Terri, with a hand on her hip, “why exactly couldn’t we burn down the forest to get to the temple?”


Hope you enjoyed the story. At the convention, I learned that the glyphs in Monica’s illustration actually have meaning. Her source for the glyphs was: http://www.ancientscripts.com/maya.html. Here’s what it all means: