Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Furthest Tales of the City

What with Royal Mail losing my first complimentary copy in the post and a host of other stuff causing me to look in the other direction, I've just realised that I've thus far failed to spam the shit out of the most recent printed thing to which I've made some contribution. It actually came out last year, but better late than never, I suppose.

For anyone who missed the memo, Philip Purser-Hallard's Of the City of the Saved... is a novel set in a vast post-historical conurbation the size of our galaxy which has become home to every human being who ever lived, every partial-human being who ever lived, and even a few artificially birthed and formerly fictional-humans - Sherlock Holmes and the like. It answers the question what if the afterlife were real? in a science-fiction setting, and remains one of my all-time favourite novels. Since the publication of the novel, the author has edited a number of anthologies - four of them so far - of short stories set in this universe; and I've written a short story called Driving Home for Atonatiuh for the most recent of them. Here's an excerpt:

'Is there anything else I need to know?'

They were in one of the hangars a couple of miles outside of Black Rock, itself a microcosm of Urbem Automata of the Teletopia District. The light was dim, but not so dim as to conceal the vehicle, sleek red and yellow with a bubble of reinforced glass; and mounted at the back, fins so sharp as to remind Nanette of the obsidian knife she had envisioned slashing down within Mike's dim imagination a moment earlier.

'Well, you already know how to pilot one of these babies, Nanette. There isn't much more I can tell you.' He regarded her for a moment. 'It's very much like driving a car, I guess you could say.' His eyes were still and unnerving, more so than was usual for citizens of Urbem Automata.

Some months ago Nanette had realised that Mike's skull could not be of sufficient volume to contain both of those eyes if they were truly spherical, as they would be were he an ordinary baseline human. Being as he was a remake, she assumed his eyes to be simple curved surfaces set into his face, shallow sensory organs grown so as to resemble an approximation of the human eye, with mobile iris and pupil for the sake of appearances.

'I know what you're thinking,' he continued at last, 'but this here is one of the prototypes. Tried and tested, it's completely reliable. You won't need to worry about accidents so long as you drive safely.'

'Okay.' She was surprised to realise that for once he had known what she was thinking. She had believed the vehicle to be unique, and was glad that this was not the case. There didn't seem to be any other way of her returning to Atonatiuh, and the need to get a move on was almost beginning to hurt.

'Hey, Mercury - you gonna be all day? I gotta close this place up.'

The voice came from some technician who stood wobbling near the double doors. The accent sounded like old Brooklyn, or an exaggerated version thereof. He held an oversized spanner in one hand.

'We'll be done soon.' Mike waved back, then turned to Nanette. 'You about ready to get going here?'

She momentarily stared at his eyebrows, thick dark strips of coconut matting sitting at angles across his face - ridiculous. She really needed a break from this.

'Yes, I'm ready, Mike.'

...and thus does she fly off in a fictional car which must remain unidentified for reasons of copyright.

Cough. Cough.

...thus does she fly off to undergo the usual Mexican-themed adventures packed with bewildering mythological references; and mine is just one of seven-ish similarly cranky short stories contained therein. You should totally buy one. You'll love it, I swear.

Furthest Tales of the City is available in electronic form or as a PROPER BOOK from yonder website.