This week finds C. C. Blake’s own magazine of lived in futures returning with its eleventh installment. Two more stories about tough guys and gals caught in tougher situations finds Rick Cave and returning backup character Dutch up to their necks in trouble.
For this week, Blake originally delivered a column titled “The Crook in Chief Makes Me Want to Drink Beer,” and after some careful coaxing, he decided to pull that particular piece and hand in the following brief consideration on the nature of audiences. Thanks, man. I owe you a beer, whether or not it’s on account of the occupant of the POTUS position.
Issue 11 On my Monthly Wild Ride
C. C. Blake
When I sat down to write up a piece of pulp fiction with the cheesy but catchy title, “Chuck Cave and the Vanishing Vixen,” I never expected it to sell much less develop a following. It was a lark, something fun to do. Likewise each story that came after that. I had no master plan when I sat down in the mid-oughts and studied the submission guidelines for Man’s Story 2 and said, “If I was gonna write something for this mag, what would it be?” I sat down and had fun, and my editor had fun reading it, and the readers seemed to have fun, as well. Cut to a decade later and I’ve got a steady magazine that came out of that writing experience, I’ve got a series character with almost a dozen appearances in said magazine, and I’ve got another dozen experiences lined up for him. John Lennon might have been on to something when he mentioned making God laugh by telling Him our plans . . .
Well, plans or not, here my little DIY magazine stands on the cusp of a game changing short novel issue (next month’s number 12), and this month is another pair of stories that were just plain fun to sit down and write. I hope they are also fun to read. There are writers who want to change the world, there are writers who want to entertain others, and there are writers who aim for one or two people and surprise themselves by reaching a larger group.
Walter Mosely once said when he wrote his first Easy Rawlins mystery, his audience was the kinds of guys who sat around with his Dad when he was younger. Perhaps it was the sorts of men who sat around with his grandfather? It’s been a while since I read that interview, and my brain is nowhere near as sharp as it once was. Anyway . . . No one was as surprised as Mosley when THE DEVIL IN THE BLUE DRESS went gangbusters and achieved all kinds of interest from many different kinds of readers. He followed it up with a string of wonderful works, all of them targeted for that same core audience. The readers who found him stuck around because he told a hell of a story quite well. I admire a writer like that. I don’t admire writers who seek fame and fortune and end up achieving a kind of notoriety instead. Those kinds of jokers can go hang.
My own stuff is targeted at a couple of my friends from the tail end of high school and the beginning of college. Guys and gals who got together, extolled the virtues of pulp adventure yarns and fast paced reads, and who weren’t afraid of the occasional message. We loved the old, the John D. MacDonalds and the Robert E. Howards and we loved the new, the Joe R. Lansdales, the Mike Resnicks, the Robert R. MacCammons and the F. Paul Wilsons . . . We have since gone on to love the Norman Partridges and the James Rollins and the Victor Gischlers and . . . Well, you get the idea. It’s a never ending parade, this enjoyment at reading. I write for those guys, and for myself, and for my wife (who is also a pulpy adventure champion), and I hope to make those folks grin and forget their troubles for a few thousand words. Seems like I might be reaching a few others, too.
Bless you all. Bless you. Let’s see this thing run another ten years!
Today’s excerpt comes from “Fridged”:
Dutch woke up to discover he could not breathe. His mouth gaped like a fish out of water, his chest heaved to no avail, his lungs compressed in desperate attempts to do the work they were designed for—pulling in and pushing out atmo—but the atmo itself was flawed. Too thin on the breathable stuff, too thick with carbon dioxide. He saw why in a half a second. The augmented reality HUD his goggles offered told him the deep sleep pod was in the red, in terms of atmo. Something was wrong. Something was terribly wrong.
It was a nightmare he’d had all through the service. Being deployed. Waking up halfway to a combat site only to find out the ship had run out of air. The CORE naval vessels were massive, capable of carrying hundreds of men and thousands of tons of equipment halfway across the galaxy, but for all their size they were still sardine cans. A body could not survive in the vacuum of space without one, and yet the vacuum of space was what the body had to traverse. Those were Naval vessels. This was a sleeper bed in a holding bay, a bed measuring not quite two meters tall and almost two meters wide with a thirty centimeter distance from his nose and the slate gray panel roof. Claustrophobia, thy name is a sleeper bed, called “cheap seat coffin” for good reason—sleeper beds were notoriously twitchy, could be had for a song, and could serve double duty as the final resting place for travelers who did not make their final destination. When a man and his love were on the run from the minions of the Star Sultan, however, that man did not have many opportunities to charter full-on cabins. Dutch’s last creds had gone into these beds, hoping they would make New Slav space and his last parcel of secreted cash for the next leg to some unknown world on the galactic arm, a place where Star Sultan bounty hunters might never end up, a place where a man and woman could lose themselves and start new lives . . .
He raised a hand, and found that simple gesture one of the most difficult things he had ever had to do. Oh my god did he have to strain. Oh my god, he thought though he had not prayed since he was a boy, batted in the back of the head by a stern adoptive father to pay respect to the very goddamn church that saved his miserable orphan life. He had not prayed then, but now . . . now there were no atheists in foxholes. His finger took a tiny eternity to find its way across thirty centimeters to the emergency release, but then he closed in on it and the lid of the sleeper unit huffed and raised almost two centimeters before power failed and the lid froze up solid where it was.
Open enough for him to catch a breath of the atmo in the sleeper unit bay, at least. However, the sleeper was living up to its unofficial name. It had become little better than an aerated coffin, waiting for someone to push the button that would eject unit and occupant into the coldness of space. Such a death would be unpleasant.
Sounds. Past the frantic heartbeat and the wheeze of his lungs catching as much recycled bay air as permitted, he caught a solid clapping from outside the sleeper bed. Boots. Heavy boots. Military issue, he thought. The sort of stormtrooper equipment that was intended to drive fear into the hearts of the enemy. He knew the sounds, all right. It was the sort of clapping sound announcing the approach of marines on any one of the dozen vessels Dutch had served on. It was a sound his own boots made when he was in combat fatigues.
It was a sound that did not belong on a transport ship like this, one which had only a security team to monitor the human popsicle cargo and which had a locker of arms in case of pirates. They were not marines, not shock and awe troops. The security team aboard . . . what was the ship called? Terminus. That was it. The security team aboard Terminus were a bunch of pot-bellied wage slaves who got to see the universe from the fisheye lens of a security camera viewscreen.
“We found a likely candidate, sir,” the power armor modulated voice of a no-kidding military person said. It was the sort of gear that CORE grunts only dreamed about. The stuff special forces and SeALs used. Armor that could repel laser blasts, robotically powered to allow the human body to perform feats of strength and speed that no flesh body could hope to perform. The speakers scrambled voices, too; thus the occupant was simply a last name, sexless and free from gender-based biases. “Right here in bay 33-dash-2.”
33-2? That was Reemalah’s bay! Right next to his own.
A cold, unmodulated male voice said, “Excellent, Spenser.” The voice was oil. Something about its deepness evoked revulsion in Dutch, nauseating recollections of all the years he had served. “But you’re not even done yet. Am I still seeing fluttering life signs?”
“Yessir. The processing is almost done. Without power we have no time to wait for expiration at all.”
Holy. Shit. Expiration? They were killing her!
“I see,” the oily voiced man said, and Dutch hated him in that instant. He was every commanding officer puke Dutch had ever known. Not the soldiers, who joined and remained out of a sense of duty to state and service, but the career men whose only duty was with filling their own jackets with citations and medals.
Want more? Grab a copy of C. C. BLAKE’S SWEATY SPACE OPERAS, ISSUE 11!
C. C. BLAKE’S SWEATY SPACE OPERAS, ISSUE 11 is now available in paperback and eBook editions. Grab a copy today from Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, or wherever quality books are sold. Next month sees the capstone to this particular six issue run. Now is a great time to jump on board.
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“Issue 11 On My Monthly Wild Ride” and “Fridged” are both copyright © 2019 by C. C. Blake. Cover image taken from the Twice Told Tales Press release of that book.