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Story Teaser: “Fiasco” from Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021

giant snake in fire pit threatens man and woman
Art by Gary Carbon

Now that the Kickstarter campaign for Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021 has passed $5,000 (on its way to its first goal of $6,000), I am making good on my promise to share the first scene of my new crime-noir short story, “Fiasco,” which I wrote for this new anthology of short fiction written in the classic pulp style.

As I explain in my segment of the campaign’s promo video, my story was inspired by the role-playing game FIASCO. I used one of its Los Angeles-themed playsets to randomly generate story elements until my imagination took over.

Two of the eBook add-on packages will contain reprints of my original short stories Midnight Rider and Our Possible Pasts,” so if you’ve not had a chance to read those yet, this would be a good time to remedy that.

Because I’d really love to have art on my story’s title page, we need to get this campaign past its baseline goal and into stretch-goal territory.

So, if you enjoy this little taste of “Fiasco,” please consider helping us by spreading the word about the campaign or, even better, adding your own pledge (if you’ve not already done so).

‘Nuff sales pitch. Enjoy the preview!


FIASCO

David Mack

MARCH 1956

I’m six whiskeys into a Friday night at The Blue Moon, basking in the club’s nicotine fog and grooving to a jazz sax that sounds like a rusty hinge, when two apes with crew cuts and cheap suits step in front of my table and block my view of the band.

One of them shows me his badge. “Detective Jack Halligan?”

I take a drag off my Lucky. “Y’askin’ me? Or tellin’ me?”

His pal brushes open his suit coat, casually, and rests his hand on the grip of his holstered revolver. The one doing the talking leans down and fills my face with his sour-milk breath. “I’m Walker. He’s Morris. Internal Affairs. You need to come with us.”

I hoist my drink and my half-finished coffin nail. “I’m busy.”

Walker snatches my Lucky, snuffs it in my rye. “You’re done. Get up.”

So much for professional courtesy. I drop a sawbuck on the table and nod at my waiter as I follow the rat squad dicks outside.

It’s a cool night, dry as a bone. Somewhere above downtown Los Angeles the stars are shining, but good luck seeing them through this ceiling of pink smog. Walker and Morris march me back to my car, which is guarded by a pair of patrolmen. The passenger-side window has been smashed in, and the glove compartment is open. Lying on the passenger seat is a brick of heroin that I’ve never seen before in my life.

Morris points at the kilo and looks at me. “Care to explain that?

“If you’re too dumb to know a frame-up when you see it, I can’t help you.”

Walker steps toward me. Jabs my chest with his meaty index finger. “Wise up, Halligan. That brick’s just one of three that went missing from Hollywood Station’s evidence lockup two days ago. Where are the other two?”

“With whoever’s framing me would be my guess . . . you fuckin’ mook.”

I never see the punch that sends a sickening jolt through my right kidney. All I know is one second I’m standing, the next I’m on my knees in the gutter, seeing purple and tasting sour bile. I take a few deep breaths and fight to keep my shit together as I get back on my feet.

Walker tells the patrolmen, “Bag and tag the brick, have the car towed.”

Morris pushes me back against my car. “Jack Halligan, you’re under arrest for theft of evidence and possession of narcotics. We’ll need your badge and your weapon.”

As I reach inside my jacket, Walker adds, “Slowly.”

I hand Morris my badge. Then I use two fingers to remove my Smith & Wesson .38 from its holster. As I hand the pistol to Walker, I do a sleight-of-hand trick a skel once taught me, and with a flick of my wrist I open the revolver’s cylinder.

All six bullets fall out. The bright sound of brass on pavement is like music.

Walker bends down to retrieve my bullets. I knee him in the face.

Blood pours from Walker’s broken nose as he sprawls on the sidewalk.

Morris reaches for his weapon. I still have my empty .38, so I clock the bastard in the temple with it. He hits the street like a 230-pound sack of flour.

On the other side of my car, one of the uniforms clumsily starts to draw his sidearm. I throw my empty roscoe at him. It smacks him in the forehead as his steel clears leather, and he fires a wild shot—into his partner’s foot.

I run like my ass is on fire. I’m half a block away when the stunned rookie opens fire. He hits a store window and a random citizen on the sidewalk before he puts a slug through the bulge of fat beneath my ribs. I press my hand over the bleeding exit wound and lunge onward.

Distracted by the burning pain on my right side, I dart down Skid Row side streets. Weave through a dark trash-strewn alley where scabby hookers blow their johns against brick walls, hidden behind garbage bins that reek of rotten fish and a hundred things far worse. At the far end of this urban slice of hell, I pay a bum twenty bucks for his tattered gray overcoat, which smells like he’s been using it to wipe his ass for a year, and I snatch a grease-stained beige trilby from a pile of trash behind a Chinese restaurant.

Wrapped in my disguise of filth, I stagger onto San Pedro as a fleet of LAPD radio cars races past, lights flashing and sirens screaming. None of the cops in those cars spares me even half a look. I’ve rendered myself invisible to their eyes. To them, I’m just one more bum in the night, another ghost in the City of Angels.

Time’s against me now. Doing my best not to look like a man on the run, I keep my head down and my hand over my wound as I turn my steps toward a place I used to call home.

© 2020 David Mack


That’s scene one; to find out where the story goes from there, you’ll need to make a minimum $10 pledge to the Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021 Kickstarter (though I strongly recommend upgrading to the trade paperback or cloth hardcover editions).

Thanks for reading, and remember to spread the word!

— David Mack

Kickstarter for Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021

Art by Gary Carbon

Editor extraordinaire Bob Greenberger, who brought you last year’s pulp-homage sensation Thrilling Adventure Yarns, presents the sequel: THRILLING ADVENTURE YARNS 2021.

This collection of new original short fiction written in the classic pulp-magazine style will knock your socks off. It’ll have a bit of everything: noir, swords & sorcery, romance, crime, science fiction, fantasy—you name it!

Topping the table of contents: a new, previously unpublished detective tale by none other than Lester Dent, the creator of Doc Savage! This is a milestone in the history of the pulp magazines, available only to the backers of this campaign.

Also on the bill: a brand-new crime noir short story by yours truly, a little piece about betrayal titled “Fiasco” (which was inspired by the role-playing game of the same name).

Plus, these stretch goals! Get a character or something else named in your honor (aka “Tuckerized”)! Score great deals on special add-on eBook packages (two of which each include a reprint of one of my original short stories — Midnight Rider and Our Possible Pasts). Upgrade to a hardcover edition!

It’s all up to you—customize your deal to fit your desires.

We have 29 days to raise $6,000 to make this project happen. Last time, Bob soared way past his goal. Let’s make this time an even greater success! Pledge your support now.

Daniele Serra’s art for “Chaos at Feast”

When editor Robert Greenberger asked for suggestions concerning who we might ask to illustrate my story for his anthology Thrilling Adventure Yarns, there was only one name I wanted to put forward: Daniele Serra.

Because my short story “Chaos at Feast” is rooted in the Lovecraftian tradition of unspeakable ancient horrors, combined with the 1930s and 1940s adventure fiction that inspired the Indiana Jones series, I knew that Daniele’s haunting style would provide the ideal visual accompaniment to my prose.

Here’s a small slice of the image to whet your appetite:

To see more, read the full update here. Bottom line, I feel very fortunate to have one of my stories graced with art by Daniele.

#SFWApro

They Keep Killing Glenn

Peter David talked me into killing my best friend, Glenn Hauman. In Peter’s defense, I didn’t take much convincing.

The result of this nefarious scheme is my new short story The Look on Your Face,” which is part of the new Crazy 8 Press anthology THEY KEEP KILLING GLENN.

Luckily for me, I have a great many credited (but unindicted) partners in literary crime: David Gerrold, Keith DeCandido, Michael Jan Friedman, Aaron Rosenberg, Russ Colchamiro, Robert Greenberger, Paul Kupperberg, Joe Corallo, Mary Fan, Lorraine J. Anderson, Hildy Silverman, Setsu Uzume, Brett Hudgins, Blair Learn, S. Brady Calhoun, Jenifer Purcell Rosenberg, Amy Lewanski, Dean Scott, and, of course, co-editors Peter David and Kathleen O’Shea David. (Cover illustration by J.K. Woodward)

The book is now available through Amazon, and its formal launch will take place Friday, July 6, 2018, at the Shore Leave Convention in Hunt Valley, MD.

So order your copy now, and become an accessory after the fact (or fiction, as the case may be).

Eating the Fantastic with Me & Scott Edelman

In mid-February 2018, while visiting Baltimore for the Farpoint Convention, I sat down with my old friend and former (pre-Syfy) SCI FI Channel coworker Scott Edelman to enjoy a delicious meal and record an episode of his podcast Eating the Fantastic.

For those of you not familiar with Scott, he is a veteran newsman and journalist specializing in the fields of science fiction, fantasy, and entertainment. He also is a prolific author of short fiction, ranging from short stories to novellas, and he has been nominated eight times for the horror genre’s vaunted Stoker Award.

This was a sit-down long overdue, for reasons best expressed in Scott’s own words:

David Mack and I have known each other for nearly two decades, ever since I started working with him at the Syfy Channel (though back then it was the SCI FI Channel). But since he worked in the Rockefeller Center office and I was a remote employee, we never got to have the lunches two coworkers would usually have had, so I’m glad we were able to have a long, leisurely meal together recently when he was in the Baltimore area attending the annual Farpoint convention.

David’s written more than 30 novels, including the Star Trek Destiny and Cold Equations trilogies. He was also responsible for several episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. His newest novel is The Midnight Front, a World War II-era epic fantasy which is the first book in the Dark Arts series of secret-history novels.

The venue for our dinner was Orchard Market and Cafe, a wonderful Persian restaurant recommended by recent guest of the show Norman Prentiss. Norman had told me that the Chicken Fesenjune was one of his favorite things in the whole world, and now that I’ve been there, I can can tell you—he had good reason to say that. Believe me, the food there was wonderful, and I’ll be going back whenever I can.

David and I discussed the weird ways his life entwined with the famed comic book artist who shares his name, how worrying about the details of Star Trek canon helped him when it came time to unravel the secret history of WWII, the way a near-death experience led to him working for the Syfy Channel, why it was so important for necromancers to pay a heavy price for the magic they choose to wield in his new novel The Midnight Front, how not making a pitch to a book editor resulted in him selling TV scripts to Star Trek, his unabashed love for the Beat author Richard Brautigan, the reason that after 27 Trek novels and a ton of other tie-in work he’s chosen to publish his non-franchise breakout book now, and much more.

Head on over to Scott’s website for information about how to subscribe to his Eating the Fantastic podcast (61 episodes and counting!), how to watch an embedded video feed of the podcast, and more. But this is one of the best, most-in-depth interviews of yours truly ever recorded, and I have to think its quality stems from Scott’s genuine love of, and interest in, the lives of others. Give it a listen.

GenCon 50 Writers’ Symposium Wrap-up

Last week I attended for the first time the GenCon Writers’ Symposium, which runs as auxiliary programming at the world-famous GenCon gaming convention. Now that I’ve had a couple of days at home to catch up on emails, bills, and life in general, I’m excited to share my post-convention thoughts.

First, I apologize for the general lack of photos. I was kept pretty busy at GCWS, and most of the time I was having so much fun that taking photos rarely occurred to me. That said, I will remark that I found downtown Indianapolis to be quite a lovely place:

For those not familiar with GCWS, it is a comprehensive program of panels, workshops, and seminars designed to offer something of value to everyone from novice writers, authors of moderate experience, and even grizzled literary veterans. There are tracks of programming devoted to the writer’s craft, the writer’s lifestyle, the business of writing, and much more. Its participants include authors, editors, and agents, and its team of dedicated moderators are truly exceptional at their jobs.

David Mack, Charlaine Harris
Sitting beside me? That’s mega-bestselling author (and truly delightful lady) Charlaine Harris. Behind her are Mary Robinette Kowal and Brandon Sanderson.

Without exception, I found the symposium’s roughly 2,300 attendees to be knowledgeable in their questions, keenly engaged with the subject matter, and serious about improving their craft. I was also pleasantly surprised at how many attendees were not only familiar with but were genuine fans of my work, both for and outside of Star Trek. They were also very receptive to the pitch for my upcoming original novel The Midnight Front—we gave away 72 advance reader copies of the book at the show.

It also didn’t suck that my fan traffic remained steady even while I was signing beside fantasy publishing titans Brandon Sanderson, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Charlaine Harris.

The Symposium’s sponsors, WorldBuilders and Archivos, were generous enough to underwrite a welcome meal at The Old Spaghetti Factory (Archivos) and snacks at the authors’ Saturday-evening hangout in The Rock Bottom Brewery (WorldBuilders). I’m also grateful to the convention’s bookseller, Half Price Books, who took a chance on stocking three of my Star Trek titles (of which we sold nearly every copy they brought, in part thanks to some hard-core hand-selling I did from their table on Saturday afternoon).

The people whose labor made all of this possible were the Symposium’s volunteers, and most importantly its director, Marc Tassin, who after this year will be moving on to new challenges and placing the Symposium into the very capable hands of new co-directors Kelly Swails and Melanie Meadors.

As for my personal experience? I was most blown away by how many wonderful new friends I met among the other Symposium participants. It was a genuine pleasure getting to meet and/or know folks like Monica Valentinelli, Elizabeth Vaughn, Kelly Swails, Jerry Gordon, Raj Khanna, Susan Morris, Dave Robison of Archivos, Anton Strout, Steve Drew, John Helfers, Beth Cato, and Maxwell Alexander Drake.

GCWS participants, from left: (unknown man), Beth Cato, Susan Morris, and Ilana C. Myer.

I also had the pleasure of spending quality time with such friends as Ilana C. Myer, Aaron Rosenberg, Marco Palmieri, Matt Forbeck, and Gregory Wilson.

authors at dinner
Ilana C. Myer and Aaron Rosenberg, at Shula’s Steakhouse.

As much as I could gush about the Symposium’s programming and events, ultimately what I loved best about GCWS was the people I met. There was just a wonderful vibe to this event. I felt the eagerness of the attendees to learn, and the willingness of the participants to share all that they could. For years I’ve heard great things about GCWS from Aaron Rosenberg and Marco Palmieri; I’m glad I finally heeded their advice and committed to this event.

This was one of the most enjoyable and emotionally rewarding convention experiences I’ve ever had, and I hope that the fine folks at GCWS will want to invite me back for many more Symposiums in the years to come.

That’s my rhyme. Peace out.

#SFWApro

Shore Leave 39: My Schedule at the Convention

It’s that magical time of year again, Trek fans — time for my favorite yearly event, the Shore Leave Convention in lovely Hunt Valley, Md.!

Once again, for reasons surpassing understanding, the fine folks at Shore Leave have deigned to invite me as an author guest and put me on programming for their attendees’ collective amusement and edification.

Whether you’re a fan or a cyberstalker looking to make that transition into meatspace harassment, here’s everything you’ll need to find me at this weekend’s Shore Leave!


Friday, July 7

10pm–Midnight
Meet the Pros — Hunt Valley Corridor
Come down to the lower level of the Hunt Valley Inn, buy some books, and spend a couple of hours chatting with authors and having them autograph books for you.


Saturday, July 8

Noon–1pm
“Does Fiction Go Too Easy on Evil?” — Chase Room
In reality, evil is often boring, ugly, and stupid. But compelling villains in fiction are often stylish, intelligent, and competent. Is fiction doing society a disservice by giving evil a good name?
David Mack (M), Jenifer Rosenberg, Mary Fan, Richard C. White, Glenn Hauman

2pm–3pm
“The Art of Secondary Characters” — Chase Room
Supporting characters can fade into the background or steal a story. Our authors discuss how to know which is appropriate, and the craft to making such players come alive when the story needs them.
David Mack (M), Heather E. Hutsell, Richard C. White, Dave Galanter

5pm–6pm
Upcoming Star Trek Books — Belmont Room
A preview of forthcoming Star Trek novels from Simon & Schuster, with some of their authors as well as other Trek-related titles due out this fall and into 2018.
Scott Pearson (M), David Mack, Christopher L. Bennett, Dayton Ward


Sunday, July 9

10am–11am
“Friendship Is Magic” — Chase Room
In SF/F, heroes have friends and companions; villains have only minions. Our authors examine how cultural narratives about heroism, sex, gender, class, and community influence how we depict being alone and being connected.
David Mack (M), Mary Fan, Michael Critzer, Amy Imhoff, TJ Perkins

11am–Noon
“Where No Tale Has Gone Before” — Chase Room
After more than 50 years, how can there still be fresh stories to tell in Star Trek’s shared universe? Our panel of Trekspert storytellers discuss what they think makes for solid new Star Trek tales.
David Mack (M), Dayton Ward, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Christopher L. Bennett, Scott Pearson


And that’s the sum of my programming activity for the weekend. If you’re trying to catch up with me on Sunday, make sure to come to my panels, because as soon as they’re over, I’ll be looking to get on the road and head for home.

See you at the con, folks!