Monday, December 29, 2014

Everybody Jump

Could you cause an earthquake if enough people jumped up and down at the same time? And if you could, would it save a lot of lives to
create earthquakes on demand?

Author Henry Lien explores that question in his excellent fantasy novelette, "The Great Leap of Shin," appearing in the January/February
2015 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. The powerful Eunuch Mu-Hai Chen is determined to create the Earthquake of Five Thousand Years by lining up 200 million men along a major fault line in his kingdom and synchronizing their jumps to set up a resonant frequency, prophylactically saving millions of lives, though at the expense of a percentage of the population.

But the young nobleman Tian-Tai is equally determined to halt the plan, which will destroy his island of Pearl and flood the Purple River. He brings a team of acrobatic dancers to the capital to assassinate Mu-Hai Chen under the guise of paying homage. He pleads to save Pearl, which has developed a self-healing new building material of spider silk made liquid.

Neither the eunuch nor the boy will back down, so the great leap occurs as scheduled. The kingdom of Shin lies in ruins, and older buildings of the city of Pearl are flattened. Then we learn how history treats each one for his sacrifice.

Lien's calculations of how the Great Leap would work are highly entertaining, though a peek at Hugo winner Randall Munroe's book, "what if?" shows us that it would be impossible to make the earth move even a little, even if everyone on earth jumped, even if they were in a concentrated area the size of Rhode Island, even if...

Great fun, nonetheless.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Editor's Note: Abbreviated Epics

What is an epic? The dictionary defines it as a long poem, typically one derived from ancient oral tradition, narrating the deeds and adventures of heroic or legendary figures or the history of a nation. Third Flatiron's tenth quarterly anthology, "Abbreviated Epics," is a double issue, encompassing 19 very short stories on epical themes, such as swashbuckles and sorcery, alternate history and steampunk, megalomania, Frankenstein-type tales, and creation myths. As you might guess, it is quite a fantasy-heavy collection.
In reading submissions we were intrigued to receive a number of tales drawing upon Japanese and Chinese mythology. Our lead story, "Blade Between Oni and Hare," by Siobhan Gallagher, brings a marvelous—and often strange to Western eyes— viewpoint to the idea of an epic struggle. Other notable tales with feminine heroines include "Rain over Lesser Boso" by Gustavo Bondoni, "The Perfection of the Steam-Powered Armour" by Adria Laycraft, and "Qinggong Ji" by Stephen D. Rogers. What could be more appropriate than a manga-style cover?
If Victorian and Napoleonic steampunk is more your cup of tea, you'll find some damn fine exemplars in "Beyond the Turning Orrery" by Deborah Walker and "Through an Ocular Darkly" by Martin Clark. Daniel Coble rounds out this group with a tale about a lost Himalayan expedition, "Assault on the Summit."
During my studies of medieval literature, I grew especially fond of the Norse sagas, both owing to their bloodthirsty, ambitious characters and strong moral content. We're happy to include Jordan Ashley Moore's "A Wolf Is Made," and Steve Coate's "Fortunate Son," passionate, and sometimes heartbreaking, stories inspired by the Viking civilization. And since epics by definition are poems, we've included a reprint of "Odin on the Tree" by poet/novelist Jo Walton.
Many writers are familiar with American mythologist Joseph Campbell's deconstruction of "The Hero's Journey," which outlines the basic pattern of an epic. We were tickled to see satirical pieces by Elliotte Rusty Harold and Jake Teeny, "Refusing the Call" and "Toward the Back." And Manuel Royal points out that sometimes the battle just goes "Heart-Shaped."
Our flash humor offerings, "The Committee," by Margarita Tenser, and "Damfino Plays for Table Stakes" by Ben Solomon, show us not to press our luck.
In "The Lost Children," Alison McBain provides a new take on the ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur, while Patricia S. Bowne invents a shiny new myth in "Great Light's Daughters." "The Blue Cup," by Marissa James, asks whether it is possible to recapture a long-ago, magical time.
While we don't have room for sweeping histories like "Dr. Zhivago," we call to your attention "On a Train with a Coyote Ghost" by Robin Wyatt Dunn and "HMS Invisible and the Halifax Slaver" by Iain Ishbel. These are affecting and luminous stories about the courage it takes to fight evil, fascism, and slavery.
 "Abbreviated Epics" proudly showcases an international group of new and established speculative fiction authors, who share with us just a smidgen of the heroic and grand.
It's available in all ebook formats from Amazon and Smashwords (and other popular distributors) and in paperback from CreateSpace. It's getting some good reviews already on Amazon and Albedo One.