Sunday, March 19, 2017

Principia Ponderosa: Notes from the Editor


Wikipedia defines Weird West as a literary subgenre that combines elements of the Western with another literary genre, usually horror, occult, fantasy, or science fiction. The seventeen authors of
Third Flatiron's Spring anthology dig into the principles that have made the Old West and Victoriana such rich ground for speculative fiction and adventure. Let the mining begin.

Such an anthology would not be complete without a steam-powered zeppelin or two. Principia Ponderosa leads off with "Blazing Beamard," by Stanley Webb, in which we discover that a formidable dragon is really a coal-fed monster put to work raiding trains for their gold. "The Great Man's Iron Horse" by Mark Mellon introduces another ground-devouring invention that threatens to drive the railroads out of business. But new inventions can't solve every problem, as we see when a lumbering machine becomes the peacemaker in Philip DiBoise's "Closing the Frontier."

As you expect, there are a lot of trains. Trains that built the west, and transported a strange assortment of denizens, both living and spectral, to their proper destinations. In Salinda Tyson's "The Hunt," an avenging eco-spirit decides enough is enough and changes the hearts of hunters shooting buffalo from trains for sport.

A lovely bit of magical realism worms its way into our psyches when a bunch of outlaws ride into the town of "Mourning Dove" by Jackson Kuhl, only to find their fates predicted in the morning paper.

Do not forsake me, oh, my darling. You've been challenged to a gunfight at high noon in front of the saloon, and it's pouring rain. Why haven't you gotten out of Dodge? A great new entry from Martin M. Clark is "No Country for Young Men," a slow build to an explosive duel fought with particle beam sidearms.

A thread running through many of the stories is justice for women in the old west. The scream of a woman starts the action in Robert Walton's Gold Rush tale. Should the men rush to her aid, or will "La Loca" take care of business? In "Lampblack and Dust," J. L. Forrest's witch summons her moving tattoos to rescue her protégé, in a tale reminiscent of the late Sheri S. Tepper's Dreamsnake. The steampunk heroine tends to be strong too, as we see in John J. Kennedy's "The Gleaming," who overcomes the loss of an arm to become the first bionic woman.

The solitude of the lonely prairie sometimes plays tricks with the imagination, so we include a taste of horror in this collection. Premee Mohamed's practical farm family is used to losing stock to the harsh conditions of the prairie, but they also have to be "Willing" to sacrifice even further to ensure a good harvest. Jordan Ashley Moore's retired sheriff revisits the scene of an unsolved murder in "The Quiet Crime"—unable to forget how the killer simply vanished into thin air.

Appearances can be deceiving, as we see in Columbkill Noonan's "The Groks of Kruk County," a hilarious tale of drug-addicted mountain folks who end up dead, but keep up their haunting ways even though people see right through them. In Angus McIntyre's "The Monster Hunter," we wonder how he can keep killing monsters that everyone is pretty sure are imaginary.

Anchoring the collection is Geoff Gander's powerful chiller, "The Wind Father." Homesteaders are brutally murdered, but when Canadian Northwest Mounties investigate, instead of a frontier conflict, they encounter an entity thirsting for power—and human blood.

To lighten the mood, we close as usual with our "Grins and Gurgles" flash humor section, with pieces by Lisa Timpf ("Dealing with the Ship's Cat"), Sheryl Normandeau ("Gardening in a Post-Apocalyptic World"), and Brian Trent ("The JPEG of Dorian Gray"). Hmm, does it seem like our northern authors have a lock on humor?

We're happy this time around to have discovered some great new writers, It's gratifying to feature and encourage budding talent. We hope you'll thoroughly enjoy these sagas, told by an international group of excellent storytellers. Saddle up and ride with us into the sunset.

Principia Ponderosa is available in ebook for Kindle from Amazon (free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers) and also in paperback.