Published! (again)

More exciting news – my short story “The Great Bear” has been picked up by Martinus Publishing for inclusion in the upcoming Altered Europa anthology, due in early 2015! Per publisher website, the anthology will “feature stories of alternate history where something changed in European history as we know it.”  The short story collection will appear both in print and electronically.

Good news indeed, especially since Martinus already published works by some authors I hold in very high regard (and some of whom might also be featured in the book) – I am honored to be a part of their anthology!

Now, time to do something sufficiently celebratory.

Graveyard Empire – new (?) novel announcement

This novel is, as of right now, more than two years in the making.

A long time ago (early 2012, to be precise), I sketched out the basic idea behind Graveyard Empire here, here, and even here (a very early snippet of the prologue). For some reason or the other, the novel never got off the ground, even though I did manage to finish few other projects in between.

Well, that is about to change.

This is the last age of Man, the age of extinction. The galaxy-spanning empire is no more, and all that survives is an echo of a once-great civilization. Upon the remaining worlds of the Sphera Humanitas, the last descendants of humanity huddle closer against the coming of night, surrounded by the ruins of bygone eras and addicted to escapist dreams. Their slumber is guarded by the few Custodians with their machine armies, and the last Seraphs, irreplaceable products of forgotten science who watch over their wayward charges as the light dies. But the night brings more than mere darkness, for there are things in the dark space that are covetous and hungry. Things that are growing impatient. Thing that will not stop until the night is all that remains.

Interested? Watch this space…

 

Book review – Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire, a short story collection by Matthew Quinn

I have been introduced to Matthew Quinn’s writing some time ago through a very enjoyable Lovecraftian homage of “Beast on the Bosphorus”, and was therefore highly intrigued by this collection, which gathers ten of his short stories into a single, easily accessible package. While the stories themselves range from dystopian alternate history of “Coil Gun” to high fantasy adventure of “Lord Giovanni’s Daughter” and straightforward horror of “Melon Heads”, the standard of storytelling remains consistently high throughout. At times, the stories are nothing short of chilling, as evidenced by “Coil Gun” and its description of apocalyptic global conflict through the eyes of the participants, who are presented as having real human concerns and emotions no matter what side of the conflict they find themselves on. “Picking Up Plans in Palma” is set in the same universe, and is a thrilling spy romp through that story’s quintessential “evil empire”, again adding humanity to the characters who in the hands of a lesser author might have become one-dimensional villains. Here, the characters have depth and are interesting to read about.

The same qualities surface once again in “Nicor”, an imaginative (and quite unique) story inspired by legend of Beowulf, set in the era of Norse raids against the shores of Britain. The protagonist here is not a fantasy stereotype of all-conquering warrior, but a frightened youth on his first raid, full of doubt and fear even as he tries to present a strong façade in front of his fellow raiders. The author once again displays his gift for humanizing the characters in “Illegal Alien”, which is a peculiar play on words in the context, and a very solid story to boot.

“I am the Wendigo” stands out a bit from the other stories, as it provides the titular monster with a viewpoint, while “Lord of the Dolorous Tower” is another high fantasy story with some post-apocalyptic leanings. As the author notes, it was written as a prologue to a longer work that never got finished, and as such, the ending feels a little abrupt, but the world it created is captivating, and it made me wonder what that longer work would have been like. “The Westernmost Throne” is a different kind of a dark fantasy tale, wrapped in a modern setting, and ends the collection on a high note.

Overall, “Flashing Steel, Flashing Fire” is an imaginative collection which provides a good representation of this up-and-coming author’s writing. The stories are diverse, well written, and play well to Quinn’s strength of writing likeable, relatable characters throughout. My favorite would probably have to be “Nicor”, but all of the stories are enjoyable and worth reading. Highly recommended!

Vacation time! Which means…

…it is time to catch up on writing. At least 10,000 words is my minimum goal, and if I can go back to the “day job” with 20,000 or more words written, I will be one happy camper. More to come as this writing thing actually starts to happen!

Innovate magazine – now available in print

Innovate magazine – now available in print

That is right – the latest issue of Innovate magazine, featuring my short stories “The Great Bear” and “Exile”, is now available in print from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Innovate-Issue-4-Grey-Wolf/dp/1499687664/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402309219&sr=1-1&keywords=1499687664

UK listing:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Innovate-Issue-4-Grey-Wolf/dp/1499687664/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1402309219&sr=1-1&keywords=1499687664

CreateSpace listing:

https://www.createspace.com/4826044

You can also still get the electronic version at:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KKUPJO2 (Kindle version)

http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/innovate-e-magazine-issue-4 (Kobo version)

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/441883 (Smashwords, ePub format)

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Innovate-E-Magazine-issue-4-arts-and-literary-publication-/261489789805? (PDF version – will be e-mailed to you shortly after receipt of payment)

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/innovate-e-magazine-issue-4-grey-wolf/1119608680?ean=9781498919814&itm=1&usri=9781498919814 (Barnes & Noble / Nook edition)

 Check it out!

Published! Two new short stories in “Innovate” magazine

 

 

Exciting news! Two of my short science fiction stories appear in the “Innovate” magazine’s April/May issue. If you want to see what all the hoopla is about, you can get the issue for only $1.99 at the below links:

KINDLE http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KKUPJO2

KOBO http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/innovate-e-magazine-issue-4

EPUB at Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/441883

PDF http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=261489789805

Ukraine

For several weeks now, not a day goes by without someone asking my opinion about the recent events in Ukraine. The news headlines are pretty unambiguous on what is supposedly happening, at least in this part of the world – a popular pro-democracy movement to remove corrupt and ineffective pro-Russian government in Kiev. The reality leaves the actual events open to interpretation at the very least.

The following are my thoughts on what is happening in Kiev and around the country, the background to these events, and my predictions for the future. The situation is very close to home to me – as some of my readers may know, I am a native of Ukraine, and lived there until mid-1990s. I still have close family there, and have experienced many of that nation’s divisions first-hand before emigrating. As such, I will not pretend that this is an impartial account. The recent events directly impact people I care for, and make me think both of Ukraine that once was, and of what it is turning into. It is not a cold analysis of something happening in another part of the world, and don’t expect it to be unbiased. It is what it is, for better or worse.

First of all, the backdrop to all of this. It is hard to understand the dilemma facing Ukrainians now, and the roots of modern-day problems, without knowing the history. And in this case, there is a lot of history leading up to this moment.

Ukraine is a land in turmoil, and has been for the past eight hundred or so years. Once the cradle of proto-Russian civilization (the Kievan Rus), it bore the brunt of Mongol invasions in the XIIIth century, which threw the territory into anarchy and lawlessness, devastated its infrastructure and population, and created a power vacuum which was filled alternatively by Tatars, Poland, Lithuania, Ottomans, Russia, Germany, Austria, and just about every other nation with interests in Eastern Europe. While Ukraine was recognized as a separate territory for centuries, the roots of modern Ukrainian nationalism did not come about until the XIXth century. Even then, there was little agreement on what exactly Ukrainian nationalism was supposed to be about – the imagery of Zaporozhian cossacks and distinct clothing styles and language, for example, came from Eastern and central Ukraine, which has very distinct idea of Ukrainian nationalism as opposed to mountainous Western Ukraine at the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. Many parts of Western Ukraine were assimilated into the country as a result of World War II-era Soviet expansionism, and as such even the dialect spoken there is often incomprehensible to Ukrainian speakers from the East. I remember being in the West of the country in early 1990s, and having extreme difficulty understanding people there, despite turning to Ukrainian as opposed to Russian language.

The modern Ukrainian state has precedent in the aftermath of World War I and the short-lived independent nation that existed under German aegis until the Communist-led assimilation into USSR. I vividly remember Ukraine declaring independence from USSR in 1991, the hysteria associated with establishing a new nation, a mish-mash of ideas that were espoused by political forces of the time, the uncertainty and even some optimism that brought hope to people used to dour fatalism and enduring the worst. I remember the sensationalist politics and the call of would-be Western-educated “experts” who claimed they knew how to get the nation’s moribund economy on track. I remember corruption and cronyism in the government and the impression that nothing really changed with the fall of the Soviet Union – the same people were in charge, just under different monikers, with different titles.

Most of all, I remember the first flickering signs of ethnic nationalism – knowing that having an ethnically Ukrainian last name was a boon in a country where ethnic rivalries are still alive and well; seeing more and more people from Western territories move to Kiev with expectations of paying jobs; noticing the growing divisions between the people.

When I left Ukraine in 1996, I remember many of my friends amongst the upper-middle-class Russian speakers dismissing the Western Ukrainians as vyiky, a derogatory term that is equivalent to hicks. It is easy to understand why. Not only is the Western part of the country much poorer, but it is culturally distinct, with splattering of influences from Polish, Hungarian, and other cultures and languages; the influence of Uniate and Catholic churches is very prominent, as opposed to Orthodox church elsewhere; and, during and immediately after World War II, it was the hotbed of anti-Soviet insurrection that made common cause with the invading Germans. For the people whose parents and grandparents served in the Red Army during the German invasion, the thought of anyone aligning with the invaders and considering leaders of that insurrection national heroes was insulting.

The fact that Ukrainian nationalism began to coalesce around Western Ukraine was a disturbing development for the rest of us. The fact that it took on some very questionable characters as heroes was  a sure sign of things to come. The fact that it attracted ethnic supremacists and neo-nazis by score was a harbinger of trouble. Those same people are a major part of the anti-government movement, and play a very prominent role in chaos in Kiev.

There is a joke in Central and Eastern Ukraine that if Ukrainian national ethos was distilled to its very core, only two words would remain – klyati moskali, “accursed Russians.” There are elements of the nationalist movement currently “protesting” at the Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) who take that to the extreme. They are the people who would have threatened violence in the 1990s unless you admitted to being a khohol (slang term for ethnic Ukrainian, once used as a derogatory term, but since adopted by many Ukrainians). I am hearing stories from relatives still in Ukraine about nationalists making proclamations that they would violently enforce Ukrainian language and assault or murder anyone speaking Russian, and as much as Ukrainian politics thrive on sensationalism, I cannot dismiss those statements made as downtown Kiev burns. I fear for the safety of my family members there, for my friends who I grew up with and who I shared so many experiences of childhood and adolescence with. I am afraid that they will be swept up in a maelstrom of anarchy and violence as the revolution devours its own children, and as the extremist elements of the movement are given free reign.

But as much as the anti-government forces include some very suspect characters, Ukrainian government is not without fault. Corrupt, underhanded, and downright criminal in its tactics, Ukrainian government was often indistinguishable from organized crime operating in the country. Two decades of sensationalist polemics made for poor governance, and the role of money (both domestic and foreign) in Ukrainian politics cannot be understated. Many Ukrainian politicians made a living of being a front for shadowy business and foreign government interests, often switching allegiances on a whim depending on who was offering a bigger payroll at a given moment. This is why the Parliament’s sudden shift in mood towards the Maidan movement was not surprising. Very few Ukrainian politicians have anything resembling principles, and it was not hard to expect popular discontent.

Maybe there are some leaders in the Ukrainian government who truly believe that they stand for something. Maybe some of them are even sincere. But too many have their hands stained with others’ money and with shifting allegiances to ever be trustworthy – kleptocrats that make the worst of US politicians seem like saints. And whatever new crop of self-important political mercenaries emerges, it is unlikely to ever get better.

Ukraine has a misfortune of being at the crossroads of geopolitical interests of many major powers. Up until 1991, it seemed that Russia won the contest against its competitors, but since then, all bets were off. As Putin’s government attempts a desperate gamble to restore Russia’s power and influence, it goes contrary to the geopolitical interests of European Union and United States. Both sides poured money and resources into either keeping Ukraine in their orbit, or into denying it to their opponents. One could say that the Great Game of the XIXth and early Xxth centuries is alive and well, and the people of Ukraine are caught in the crossfire.

Let there be no illusions that the Ukrainian people would be better off under EU-aligned nationalist rule, or under Russian rule. Until the people of Ukraine figure out what exactly it means to be Ukrainian, what the Ukrainian nation is supposed to be, and what independent course they want to chart for their future, it will always remain a battleground. There seems to be little thought inside the country on what will happen next – all that comes about are promises, threats, vague hopes and little nothings that do not represent any tangible improvement for the nation’s citizens. Things have not changed for the better. The so-called “Orange Revolution” of 2007 did not make much of a difference, and the Maidan movement is so far only succeeding at deepening the divisions in the nation, not solving those problems (unless supremacist rhetoric is to be believed, in which case their “solution” sounds perilously close to what Bandera’s wartime ally espoused). The current chaos can be summed up as supremacists versus organized crime, with much of the nation caught in between and, once again, led astray by false hope, endless inflammatory rhetoric, and external geopolitical interests on both sides of the conflict who could not care less about the Ukrainian people.

And while the Great Game continues, the nation bleeds, people are afraid to leave their homes, and there is no future anywhere in sight for Ukraine.

 

2013 and beyond

With 2013 winding down, it is time to assess the year from both literary and musical standpoints. While it perhaps did not see a lot of tangible activity, there were still things accomplished – a number of literary submissions, quite a few Midgard shows in support of our record “Satellite”, and quite a bit of writing of both music, lyrics, and prose. So all in all, it was a relatively productive year, even if it did not result in publication or in another record.

This will hopefully change in 2014.

I endeavor to finally complete the long-suffering solo record, and to hopefully record the next Midgard album by the end of 2014. Better yet, I come into the new year with the goal of making a concerned push towards being professionally published. And since the literary landscape is changing, I intend on trying something little different this time around.

It is no secret to most people who know me that I always had a fascination with the Warhammer 40,000 universe and its offshoots. This fascination included a “for-fun” alternate history writing project, based on a reimagined WH40K universe but with original characters and a heavily modified setting. While this project is not publishable, due to it falling under the umbrella of “fan-fiction”, it is still, in my opinion, a good example of my take on dark space opera genre.

As a result, I intend to put the project in question out there as a free promotional tool of sorts, both to put my writing out there, and to test the waters of public interest for prospective future Kindle publishing or similar. As fan-fiction, this project has no commercial value (not to mention copyright issues), but as an example of my writing, and as a good story in its own right – who knows, it might give exposure to my original works, and give my efforts to get published a swift kick in the posterior.

Wish me luck guys! Hopefully by late Spring, the project in question (a trio of novel-length works) will be out and about. Stay tuned, there will be more to come!

Here we go again

It must be the time of year where this blog, long slumbering under the sheets of unintentional neglect, is brought back from dormancy. Why? Well, because it is time for another push towards publication, and hopefully that means more updates (and occasionally amusing stories) in the air, soon!

So, here is to hoping that 2014 (or even late 2013) is the year when my literary endeavors finally get off the ground. Wish me luck!

Book Review – “Vulkan Lives” by Nick Kyme

 

Among the tie-in fiction set in Warhammer 40,000 universe, the Horus Heresy series always stood apart. Long an opportunity for Black Library’s most promising authors to flex their literary muscles, the Heresy novels tend to be measured by a uniformly higher standard than much other Warhammer 40,000 fiction. Their plots tend to be more complex, their characters deeper and more conflicted, while the scale tends to be epic even in a universe where galaxy-spanning civilizations routinely come into conflict, worlds die on a daily basis, and trillion-strong populations can be forgotten due to a simple clerical error. As such, any time I buy a Horus Heresy novel, I expect a thrilling ride through the mythologies and origin stories of everyone’s favorite grim darkness of the far future.

This brings me to “Vulkan Lives”.

While I enjoyed Nick Kyme’s Salamanders novels set in “contemporary” 40K (as well as “Fall of Damnos”), I did not know if he could write a full novel up to Heresy standards of quality, where battles were interceded with character development, psychological struggles, and interesting tidbits/interactions – his previous Space Marine novels explored aspects of Adeptus Astartes archetypes, which, while enjoyable in their own right, do not make for great Heresy novels.

As such, I approached the novel with a bit of apprehension, fearing that it might be another action-driven romp without substance. Instead, Kyme delivered a work that reads and feels like a Horus Heresy novel with all the nuances one would expect from the series, and more than a few surprises (not to mention several MASSIVE cliffhangers at the end). More than anything, he proved without doubt that he is up to the task of writing Horus Heresy novels, and doing it well.

I thought that the characters had distinct feel to them, and carried their individual themes pretty well. Numeon and his men were a study in trauma and PTSD – adrift with little direction and somewhat of a death wish, lashing out like a wounded and cornered beast yet struggling to keep to their sense of purpose. Vulkan himself was the rare instance of the Primarch done right – it takes skill to keep him as a larger-than-life figure without making him too difficult to relate to. Yes, some of his struggles against the “monster” within felt a little contrived, but overall, I thought he was a sympathetic character with some depth.

Curze was, well, insane, and his death wish was very well done. I can see how far gone he was even during the events at Kharaatan, and by the “present” time he was essentially the Heresy series’ own Hannibal Lecter. His mind games were interesting, and his unbalanced nature showed through to great effect.

I was glad to see John Grammaticus make a comeback, and think that Kyme did him justice, but at times Grammaticus felt more like a plot device than a character. Still, his presence was not an eyesore, and overall he fit within the novel’s overall theme of trauma and dealing with emotional injury. Similarly, while some of the Word Bearers (Elias in particular) felt like caricature villains, Narek was the Legion’s redeeming factor, making the sons of Lorgar seem less like stand-in baddies and more like a complex group that is not as united as one would think. I really hope to see more of Narek in the future Heresy stories, as he was an interesting character. Yes, Erebus felt a little of deus ex machina, but I also wonder how much he knows about the Cabal’s plans… and what those plans might be. I would really like to see a novel about Erebus at some point in the Heresy series, as he has a lot of potential. It would take a lot of skill to write him as an interesting, multi-dimensional character, and not as the series’ moustache-twirling villain, but it is doable by a skilled author.

Some may not be crazy about the use of flashbacks, but I thought they filled the story nicely, both providing some background to Vulkan’s relationship with Kurze, giving glimpses of how the Salamanders Legion was before Isstvan V, and also going into some depth of what caused the trauma exhibited by the surviving Salamanders (and their Iron Hands/Raven Guard cohorts) during their segments. To me, the flashbacks felt like an integral part of the novel, and not as action scenes to take up word count.

While “Vulkan Lives” may not be the best Heresy novel, it is definitely in top quartile by my account. I have really enjoyed it, and hope to see more Horus Heresy from Nick Kyme.

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