This week's Just For the Hell of It comes from an old friend (and by "old," I mean a guy I've known since we were both in the third grade) who recently published his first novella. Jim Gallagher was always a good writer -- the observations in his letters and postcards from New York and Europe where he worked for the U.N. for several years were unfailingly smart, pithy, and very funny. We used to talk about how being an author would be great way to make a living, but that was when we were both young and clueless as to just how hard it really is to write anything readable.
As for selling enough writing to make a living? Ah yes, ignorance truly is bliss.
Career-wise, Jim went his way and I went mine, but we've stayed in touch over the years. Still, I was surprised to receive an e-mail recently with a link to his new e-book -- mostly because I didn't even know he'd been working on one. With no idea what to expect, I opened the download and began to read… and after a few pages to catch my breath, was down the rabbit hole and galloping along for the ride of a really fun read.
Like all good writers, Jim sees things the rest of us often overlook, and weaves those perceptions into the narrative in a seamless manner that helps propel the story while opening the reader's eyes. Call it speculative fiction, call it science fiction, or call it steampunk -- hell, I don't really know what to call it -- but I do know that "Zenia" is a good story well told.
A brief synopsis:
A warrior queen escapes from a star system in the constellation of Scorpio in the wake of a crushing defeat by The Machines, and is re-animated on Earth just as a secretive private corporation begins to deploy a new generation of highly-sophisticated, intelligent robots developed using principles of self-guided evolution. On our strange alien planet, Zenia must get her bearings, then join with her sisters and a small band of humans to prepare for war once again.
Such a dry recitation of the basic plot does no justice to the story, so here's a brief passage from the beginning of the book:
"I am Zenia, Queen of Shaula. You do not yet truly know me, but hear my story. I was brought here from a distant star by BitBoy, a pus-infected, pockmarked geek and a prick, with big ears and small feet.
The story I am prepared to tell you begins with the moment my essence was downloaded from a stream of energy from the night sky. You have heard of SETI, that much-ridiculed undertaking that monitors the transmission of live steam from the stars. There are thousands of computers all over the earth that search out and decode the signals, and those feeble-minded bit-cans sort through the massive data files, mostly finding nothing at all, but hopefully searching for, well, me.
BitBoy was one of the army of meat-puppets (I am sorry if that term offends, but really, with all the farting, sweating and stinking you do, I think I show remarkable restraint) who prospected in the daily data dump retrieved from SETI's receiving antennae.
One day in December two years ago, he ran the daily download through a computer algorithm he had devised. Your digital contraptions contain nothing but lines of bits, on or off. They cannot fathom or express the infinite complexity and beauty of the live steam that inflames my soul, and, truth be told, inflames yours too.
It happened that this particular data stream was the last desperate transmission from Shaula, a distant star in Scorpio's poisonous tail, and my home. That was the final gasp of our civilization, when the pricks revolted and threw down the sisterhood, and then in turn were defeated by their own machines.
My sisters and I gathered up live steam from the cosmos, and in a paroxysm of ecstatic anguish, we transmitted our essence out into the black void of space. We had the hope born of desperation that kindred souls conversant with the power of live steam would re-animate us in another world.
For many years we traveled, disassembled and streaming, until we struck the SETI listening towers across the Earth."
And so the story of Zenia begins. The book is short, funny, and engaging, as well as something of a cautionary tale -- and since Jim is an old pal, he's made it available as a free e-book download to you, the readers of Blood, Sweat, and Tedium, for a limited time.*
All you have to do is click this link and follow the prompts.
This isn't a Kickstarter thing -- the book is nolo obligato free, so you've got nothing to lose. Check it out, and if you like it, tell your friends. If you don't like it, then
So be a friend and check it out, okay?
Just for the hell of it...
* The offer is good though the end of September, at which point the link will go dead -- so get to it...