Haven’t done this in a while. To celebrate the upcoming release of Inklings Press’s new anthology Tales from the Pirate’s Cove, here’s a new episode of my somewhat neglected podcast wherein I read my story, Boarding School.
My old blog rather went away when I rebuilt this for the Justice Academy, so some old stories rather vanished. I’m going to repost a couple of them, the ones I particularly like, or are particularly relevant, and this bit of flash fiction falls into both categories. It’s the first story in my Doctor Deathray series, and features a monologue from a retired supervillain.
“I’m just going down to the shed, dear!”
Louise gives me a distracted wave, too busy on the phone to notice me. Gossiping with that awful Wilson woman again I expect. The keenest journalistic mind of our generation confined to scandals at the village fete and scribbling for the local rag.
It’s a victory of sorts. I take them where I can.
I get asked all the time, at those interminable dinner parties ‘we’ throw, how did Doctor Deathray end up married to Captain Supreme’s ex-girlfriend? I laugh, ever the genial host, and talk about mind control radiation. The guests are all horrified in that middle-class, Middle-England kind of way, until she throws a tea towel at me, to break the moment.
The truth is much simpler, really. I used to kidnap her so often in the sixties, we spent more time together than she did with Captain Supreme. Even if you include his time as mild-mannered photographer Ken Cooper. So when the good Captain evolved into a being of pure energy and ascended to become the ruler of the Realm of Otherwhen … don’t blame me, it was the seventies… but… it was the most natural thing in the world, I reached out. We bonded over our loss.
Nothing happened overnight. We got older. We grew together. The world rather got over super-activity. I hung up my Deathray. She hung up her typewriter. And here we are. Two normal people living out our golden years in rural splendour.
I have my shed to escape to, thank god.
She thinks she knows my secret. I tell her I’m going to sit in my armchair and read the local newspaper. She thinks I’m sneaking off for a cigarette and a glass of whisky… well, except, she calls it scotch. There are times when she is still dreadfully American.
I do love her very much, you know. And I do hate to disappoint her.
But I am no longer content to sit and idly await death. Turn on a television. Go to a cinema. Superheroes are big again. But it’s like they have forgotten we actually existed. This is all some special effects fantasy land to the children today.
But we did important work.
And they don’t remember us at all.
Well, I am not content to fade to some forgotten myth. It has taken time; I had to empty all of the bank accounts I hid from the authorities. But I have rebuilt it. My super laser is complete, better than ever, a weapon worthy of a new millennium, and the world will cower… no… the world will tremble in terror… better… hah!… the world will tremble in terror once more to the name of Doctor Deathray!
And there will be no “Captain Supreme” to stop me this time!
Wait. What’s this?
“In a recent council meeting, delegates from the Chamber of Commerce petitioned… agreed to an increase in parking… more on page seven….”
Who wrote this? My… but… I told her. That’s a nesting area for the lesser crested… and those idiots on the council want to… They can’t be allowed to…
She can’t hear me of course, up in the house.
No, but this will not stand. I am Doctor Deathray, and they shall not brook my will.
I shall write a sternly worded letter to the councillor, and if that doesn’t work, then my MP will be hearing about this, mark my words. And there will be nobody to stop me.
Oh, where is Louise? I think I’m out of stamps. She probably has some in her handbag.
We’re still a ways off from the release of The Ascension Machine, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to find out what people are saying about it.
First up, I sent lead writer at Mad Robot Comics, Matt Hardy, a copy of the book, and he said:
Inventive, gripping and fun. Where do I sign up to be a trainee, alien space hero?Mad Robot Comics
Then my publisher sent a copy to Kirkus Reviews, a huge review site in the US. Check out the full review here. Headline:
An entertaining and action-packed journey that will appeal to Marvel and DC comics fans.Kikus Reviews
Today really couldn’t be more exciting, as the advance copies of my book have arrived. The Ascension Machine officially exists now, even if you can’t buy it until September.
Ian’s cover looks great in real life and really captures the mood I was going for, action, scifi and more than a dash of superhero. I can’t wait to get this book on shelves and you all reading it.
More news, videos and podcasts on this subject in the very near future. Stay tuned!
A Twist in Time, the latest novel from Brent A Harris, takes some familiar Dickens characters and locations and adds in a layer of Steampunk. Oliver Twist pickpockets a time-travelling pocket watch and his life changes direction yet again! Overall the result is an engaging mix of the familiar and the strange.
This is not a stodgy Dickens pastiche. It’s a an ambitious, genre-spanning re-imagining of Dickens’s London with time travel, steampunk and a splash of the superheroic. There’s plenty of action, a dastardly villain with an evil plot and a satisfyingly explosive finale.
Harris has done his research, and there’s plenty of period detail on show, but there’s no getting away from the sense that this is an English classic tackled by a modern American writer. That’s neither a positive, nor a negative, by the way, it’s just a thing. If that sounds like your kind of thing, then I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.
There are, however, a couple of things I have to mark it down for. The book is largely told first person, but with occasional asides in third person. While they do give some insight into the supporting cast, for me they undercut the pacing of the narrative and completely break immersion. These sections are short, but distracting. The other negative may be a misunderstanding on my part, as certain elements of the villain’s dastardly plan don’t make sense to me. Often the way with villainous plans, of course, but the practicalities of the plan left me scratching my head on more than one occasion.
Make no mistake though, those quibbles aside, I thoroughly enjoyed delving into Harris’s imagining of this world. We learn with Oliver as the mystery unravels, we get some entertaining training montages, some clever play with time travel, and an epic conclusion.
Recommended with 4 stars.
Welcome to the brand new StorycastRob blog, in honour of the launch of my new novel, The Ascension Machine. The book is the first in the Justice Academy series, a YA scifi superhero adventure about a young grifter learning what it is to be a superhero.
The book is due for release on 1st September 2020 and I couldn’t be more excited.
Want to know more? Here’s the blurb!
For many, college is where they find out who they truly are. At the Justice Academy, a college for superheroes from species across the galaxy, the question of identity is even more important. For teenage grifter Grey, things are further complicated because his identity belongs to someone else. Grey lived a life drifting aimlessly between the space stations of the galaxy running petty scams to get by, self-sufficient and alone. But at the Academy he finds friends, and a place where perhaps he can belong, if only it wasn’t all based on a lie.
Grey’s life impersonating Mirabor Gravane is made more difficult, when Gravane’s mother sends her “”son”” on a mission to a world gripped by organised crime. Grey recruits fellow students for the mission, and it takes the biggest of lies to save the day: he must convince the local crime families that he is their equal and set a trap for them. Taking risks to protect his secret, events spiral out of Grey’s control. When the real Mirabor Gravane is kidnapped, Grey must confess all to his friends. They must come together to mount a rescue and defend a city from an attack by hostile super-powered aliens.
If he is to succeed, or even survive, Grey must decide who he is, and does he want to be a superhero?