While we all anxiously await the publication date for The Middling Affliction (which is currently May 31, mark your calendars!) a brand new Conradverse story was published today! This story appears in Silence in the City, an anthology edited by Shaun Kilgore.
“A Dark and Stormy Night” is chronologically set after book 2 in the series (Kakistocracy, which is written and I’m revising now, and you will likely get to read in 2023) and gives you a sneak preview of one of the many problems Conrad will have to deal with in book 3.
The story is written in such a way that you do not have to have read any previous Conradverse stuff to enjoy it, and there’s only one minor spoiler that reveals something that happens to a minor character in book 2, so it should be safe to read before you delve into the novel.
Here’s a little preview:
A Dark and Stormy Night
A Conradverse Tale
by Alex Shvartsman
IT WAS RAINING in Brooklyn. Scratch that, it was pouring cats and dogs, raining men, drizzling grizzly bears, showering wallabies, and sprinkling an occasional elephant out there. I peeked out the window and could hardly see the street through the torrential downpour. It seemed I could take an evening off from patrolling the borough. Even monsters and warlocks generally preferred to hatch their dastardly schemes while wearing dry socks. I settled onto the couch and reached for a TV remote.
My phone rang.
“Hello?” I dearly hoped the unfamiliar number was only a scammer trying to sell me an extended car warranty, and not a cry for help that would result in me chasing a slime elemental through the sewers. Again.
“Conrad Brent,” the familiar voice grated in my ear. “Beware the gathering storm. The forces of darkness are amassing in the deep. The three islands face deluge. In order to save us all you must open your heart to an old enemy.”
“Agnes?” I asked gormlessly. The Oracle of Eighty-Sixth Street was a powerful prognosticator but she was not in a habit of unloading her often-alliterative prophecies on unsuspecting people over the phone, especially when those people weren’t paying customers.
“Shush,” said the Oracle. “Time’s running short. You must ride a reluctant steed into battle, ally with a serpent, and when the time comes, choose the left one—”
The line went dead. The lights in my apartment went out, as did all lights outside. It looked like the storm had caused a neighborhood-wide blackout.
I tried to activate the flashlight on my phone, only to discover that it was also dead. I had just charged the battery. Did the oracle’s magic somehow brick a smartphone? I thought that sort of thing only happened in fantasy novels. In the real world clapping doesn’t bring faeries back to life and technology is totally indifferent toward magic.
I reached for the lantern of Diogenes. It was an arcane lie detector, designed to flare up whenever falsehood was spoken within earshot. Under the circumstances, it would make do as a night light. I hefted the lantern and said, “It’s bright and sunny outside.”
Exasperated, I tried increasingly bold-faced lies. “Pasadena is the capital of Maryland. Chicago pizza is superior to New York pizza. Nickelback albums are music.”
The lantern remained dead as Diogenes himself. With a sense of dread I reached for an assortment of charms and artifacts on my shelf. Every one of them was equally useless, like a bunch of mundane trinkets.
Something terrible was happening. Something the Oracle had tried to warn me about. Thanks for nothing, Agnes. The trouble with prophecies is that they sound like gibberish until it’s too late. I shambled through my apartment in the dark, getting dressed and knocking into furniture. I retrieved a revolver from my night stand. Although it was loaded with silver bullets doused in holy water, the gun itself was mechanical, which hopefully meant it would still work.
There was an insistent knock on the door. I slid the gun into the pocket of my unbuttoned trench coat and answered it.
Pick up a copy of Silence in the City in ebook or print format to keep reading.
Alex is quite the old wordsmith. Pouring cats and dogs, gosh darn I’ve never heard that phrase before, and if that isn’t enough to titillate a fourth-grade reader, he follows up with drizzling grizzly bears and showering wallabies and sprinkling occasional elephants; though I’m not sure how one sprinkles a five-ton elephant ‘out there.’ But I’m glad to know it’s out there because otherwise I would have thought it was somewhere else!
Then our great wordsmith dearly hoped—don’t you just adore dearly those “ly” modifiers? And then we get to enjoy another powerful juxtaposition of verbiage: “… that would result in me chasing …” Not to worry, because tricky old Alex recovers by letting us know that the unfamiliar phone number has revealed a familiar voice that grated in his ear. If it was a familiar voice, wouldn’t it be a familiar number? “Agnes?” he wants to know. If it was a familiar voice, why did Alex put in a question mark?
Another cliché is on the way—beware the gathering storm. Oh, too scary! Plus we get the forces of darkness in the deep. Deep? Deep space, deep water, deep in the quicksand of mediocre writing? And now Alex is going to wow us with another fine adverb, gormlessly! Alex old sport, you have such an esoteric vocabulary.
But hold on readers, because next he’s going on an adjective fest: “powerful prognosticator, often-alliterative prophecies and unsuspecting people.” Not to mention we get to bask in his clever use of alliteration, which if you didn’t notice were all them thar pees!
“I tried to activate the flashlight …” Alex, Alex, Alex—I tried the flashlight and it was also dead (much like your style!) And brick the phone? Really? You rapscallion! Hang on, it gets better. Alex writes: In the real world, faeries? Would that be fairies, or is he showing off again? And then, technology is totally indifferent to magic? Aside from using yet another unnecessary adverb, he seems to be confused. In the real world there are no faeries or magic.
One last observation: “Exasperated, I tried increasingly bold-faced lies.” Well, what we have here, aside from the unappealing application of apparently and actually inappropriate appositive modifier actions, is a failure to communicate. Increasingly—progressively more—indicates that each following lie would by necessity be larger than the one preceding it; however, I don’t see said progression in Alex’s three alleged falsities. Pasadena is the capital of Maryland is factually false, whereas Chicago pizza is superior to NY pizza is an opinion, and Nickelback albums are music, which is the affirmation of a (sarcastic?) proposition. How he thinks these three statements constitute increasingly bold-faced lies confuses me. Don’t quit your day-job Alex, and shouldn’t you be in Ukraine fighting for the homeland? Best regards, GD
Oh hey, it’s that guy:
It took me a second. I was momentarily confused by this comment because I forgot all about you. I guess I’m glad you’re still kicking, and haven’t yet been consumed from within by all that vitriol. Not only that, but our flame skirmish from *ten years ago* has apparently left such an impression that you felt compelled to revisit my humble blog, presumably to scroll through the entries in order to learn what it’s like to be a published author.
Thanks for an in-depth critique that appears to be a combination of notes one might receive at an entry-level writing workshop for seniors, mixed with impotent disdain of genre fiction. It amused me, but I’ve long subscribed to an adage of not accepting criticism from anyone I would never ask for advice, and that most definitely means you.
I get it; my writing is not for you. My sense of humor is not for you. You don’t seem to get sarcasm. (There are all sorts of viable explanations for that, but I’m not a psychologist.) Have you considered that you’re not obligated to read this stuff? You’re free to go find some thick literary novel where nothing much happens but hey, it’ll definitely have fewer adverbs per page.
Or just keep hate-reading. Everyone needs a hobby. Me, I’ll just continue working on my writing, editing, and translation projects, secure in the knowledge they’re good enough, because publishers (and, most importantly, readers) keep acquiring them in exchange for actual money.
And I’m going to do all that without quitting the day job, too.