In Which I Know When to Hold ’Em

Wait, what’s this? A new Wild Cards anthology? That actually has a story by me in it? And is coming out in 2018? Maybe?


No, not this one. It’s the awesome Michael Komarck cover for an upcoming rerelease of a Wild Cards classic. But I am in it, inasmuch as that’s my ace villain Mackie Messer right up there.

Why, yes. And you can read all about it from That American Tolkien Guy himself right here!

As GRRM says in his post, the upcoming volume Texas Hold ‘Em is quite the departure for Wild Cards. We’ve long had a tendency to the grimdark side of things. Which I’m sure totally surprises you, given who the project’s originator and main editor is. And, well,  you can see that trend illustrated, literally, right up there. That’s a very apt cover for the book, as well as brilliantly executed – both being hallmarks of Komarck’s Wild Card covers, which is why George went to the mattresses a few years back when Tor inexplicably tried to ditch him for another artist.

I had a friend tell me, decades ago, that he’d given up reading Wild Cards books because they’d become so “unrelievedly grim,” if I recall his words aright. And … I couldn’t say he was wrong. You can just tell from the Ace in the Hole cover that it’s not in line to be adapted to a My Little Pony movie anytime soon. (Though that would be awesome, and I don’t even hate MLP:FIM.)

Well, that’s all changed!  At least in this volume.

Now you all know that I do not consider myself a grimdark writer, this podcast interview kindly done by the Grim Tidings crew notwithstanding. Or the fact I've been friends with the man they literally call "Papa Grimdark" for nearly forty years, and a collaborator for thirty. I like hope and happy endings. Even if I do like to torture my sympathetic characters on the way, and kill ’em off unexpectedly from time to time. But I want the reader to have some suspense!

Full disclosure:  even though I really wasn’t all that thrilled with Wild Cards’ grimdark tendencies, I honestly thought at first that I wouldn’t be able myself to adapt to the “light” tone that was mandated for this book. It’s about a high school jazz band competition, for Yog-Sothoth’s sweet sake, as ably conceived by Caroline Spector, who does the interstitial story that ties all the rest together. And I’m the guy who wrote … the cover story up there, about a psycho ace assassin who can walk through walls and cut through anything with his hands. Happy fun times, in other words.

But I’d already had rumblings of a notion for a set of ace (ahem) detective tales, and I was suddenly hit with the notion for a protagonist who was actually suitable to tales closer in tone to The Big Lebowski (yes, it’s totally a noir-style detective movie!) than to Blood Simple. And suddenly my idea came to me.

Lately – this is pertinent; trust me – I’ve managed, after decades of trying, to lighten up and let myself write.  Sometimes. I’ve started to enjoy writing tales, even short stories – and if you check my résumé. you’ll notice I’ve done way more novels. (And by far the majority of short stories are, guess what? Aww,  you cheated. Yep: for Wild Cards.)

That trend started when I sat down to write my yarn for S. M. “Steve” Stirling’s Emberverse anthology The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth. Which is chock full of awesome and you should totally check it out. Anyway, my story, “The Seeker: A Poison in the Blood” just flowed from my fingertips (okay, kind of a gross metaphor, given the title, but drive on.) It was the easiest time and most fun I ever remember having. And, unsurprisingly, given how I work, it one of my favorite things I ever wrote.

Cut to suddenly last summer, when the same thing happened with “Dust and the Darkness,” my contribution to Texas Hold ‘Em. Which, the title notwithstanding, is anything but grimdark. It just happened. It practically wrote itself, and I had a boatload of fun with it.

I like it a lot. Hope you do, too.

Anyway, the trend (happily) continues. Last fall the same thing happened writing “The Call of Koloss, my first trial tale for a new Dieselpunk cycle, The Diesel Magi, I’m working on as a side project to some books with dinosaurs in them. Or it would have happened if I hadn’t had to stop periodically to do research. Which meant it took me, like, 3-5 days to write about 15,000 words, as opposed to the 2-3 days the others took. And yes, they were around 15K too. That seems to be what passes for “short” for me.

(Except! My tale for The Jurassic Chronicles, “A Spear For Allosaur.” comes in at just over 6000 words. The anthology still seems to be on sale for a buck, by the way, so by all means, hop on over to this link and check it out!)

Anyway, here’s my short blog post announcing a change of pace, not just for me, but for Wild Cards! And, yeah. I still need to work on that “short blog post” thing, clearly.

And as always – thanks for reading!

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