New Publication: A Dark and Stormy Night (A Conradverse Tale)

January 14, 2022

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.”

Nothing happened.

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.


Cover reveal: The Middling Affliction

November 11, 2021

Here’s the cover of my humorous urban fantasy novel The Middling Affliction, forthcoming form Caezik SF&F on April 12, 2022! Art is by Tulio Brito. You can preorder the book now on Amazon, B&N, and BookShop.org

The Dresden Files meets American Gods in New York City.

What would you do if you lost everything that mattered to you, as well as all means to protect yourself and others, but still had to save the day? Conrad Brent is about to find out.

Conrad Brent protects the people of Brooklyn from monsters and magical threats. The snarky, wisecracking guardian also has a dangerous secret: he’s one in a million – literally.

Magical ability comes to about one in every 30,000 and can manifest at any age. Conrad is rarer than this, however. He’s a middling, one of the half-gifted and totally despised. Most of the gifted community feels that middlings should be instantly killed. The few who don’t flat out hate them still aren’t excited to be around middlings. Meaning Conrad can’t tell anyone, not even his best friends, what he really is.

Conrad hides in plain sight by being a part of the volunteer Watch, those magically gifted who protect their cities from dangerous, arcane threats. And, to pay the bills, Conrad moonlights as a private detective and monster hunter for the gifted community. Which helps him keep up his personal fiction – that he’s a magical version of Batman. Conrad does both jobs thanks to charms, artifacts, and his wits, along with copious amounts of coffee. But little does he know that events are about to change his life…forever.

When Conrad discovers the Traveling Fair auction house has another middling who’s just manifested her so-called powers on the auction block, he’s determined to save her, regardless of risk. But what he finds out while doing so is even worse – the winning bidder works for a company that’s just created the most dangerous chemical weapon to ever hit the magical community.

Before Conrad can convince anyone at the Watch of the danger, he’s exposed for what he really is. Now, stripped of rank, magical objects, friends and allies, Conrad has to try to save the world with only his wits. Thankfully though, no one’s taken away his coffee.


Three New Publications

November 2, 2021

I have two new story and a translation out this week!

“Lajos and his Bees” by K.A. Teryna is out in the November/December issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. It’s an excellent secondary-world fantasy and it found a great home in this storied publication.

My own story, “Winner Takes All” is part of the new anthology of space westerns, out today from Baen books. Gunfight on Europa Station (edited by David Boop) ebook is available now while the paperbacks have been temporarily delayed and should be releasing soon.

Last but not least, “The Going Rate” is a funny and snarky short story in the current issue of Galaxy’s Edge which is temporarily FREE to read online. It’ll only remain free for a couple of months, so don’t wait to read it.

Here’s a brief sample:

The reckoning was overdue, and if it took dark magic to serve Alfred his just desserts, so be it. Besides, the book on witchcraft Karen had been reading was due back at the library on the following Tuesday. Before her rational side could take over, she grabbed the paperback, flipped to the earmarked page, and marched into her empty garage.

Karen quickly discovered that spell books were similar to cookbooks in that the recipe always required ingredients an average person would never keep in their pantry. Armed with her years of experience cooking with dried bouillon cubes instead of homemade chicken stock, Karen was certain she could cast a perfectly serviceable spell by working with reasonable substitutions.

Since she was neither an old-timey schoolteacher nor a hopscotch-playing preteen, Karen owned zero pieces of chalk. She also didn’t relish ruining a perfectly serviceable garage floor, and so Karen found a disused dry-erase board, placed it onto the ground, and drew the pentagram with an erasable pink marker.

Karen paused to admire her handiwork, then winced as she read the next paragraph from her book. Who could possibly be expected to possess a flask of virgin blood collected during the vernal equinox, even if the recipe called for only a small flask? After some deliberation, she poured two fingers of room-temperature Bloody Mary mix into five souvenir NASCAR shot glasses and placed one at each point of the pentagram.


The Middling Affliction Paperback Preorders are Live

September 21, 2021

The release date for The Middling Affliction has been announced: it will be hitting bookshelves everywhere on April 12, 2022!

Early preorders are very important. They make my publisher happy, instill confidence in bookstores and distributors to carry this title, and most importantly, they make me feel like a real writer. So, won’t you pretty please order your copy soon? I even have a bonus incentive for you:

#SFWAPro

Preorder The Middling Affliction paperback from Amazon, B&N, Bookshop.org, or your favorite bookstore. Email me a receipt (a copy of the email or a snapshot of the receipt with your phone will do) to ufopublishing at gmail dot com and I will send you a FREE e-book of steampunk humor novella H. G. Wells, Secret Agent, or an issue of Future Science Fiction Digest–your choice!

Not sure yet? Read more about the book and sample the first chapter at the new dedicated Conradverse page.

Preorder now: [Amazon] [B&N] [Bookshop.org]


My next novel: The Middling Affliction

September 1, 2021

I’m thrilled to finally announce this bit of news I’ve been sitting on for a few months. Now the ink is dry and the Publishers Marketplace announcement is out, so…

I sold my second novel, The Middling Affliction, to Caezik SF & Fantasy, in a deal negotiated by Valentina Sainato and Joshua Bilmes of JABberwocky Literary Agency.

Caezik Press is an imprint of Arc Manor. They publish Heinlein, Rob Sawyer, Ben Bova, and Harry Turtledove among others. They also publish Galaxy’s Edge magazine where many of my short stories have appeared. I’m thrilled to be working with them!

The Middling Affliction is a humorous urban fantasy adventure I like to explain as “The Dresden Files meets American Gods in New York City.” Those who have read my short stories may already be familiar with Conrad Brent, a hero who can perceive magic but can’t cast spells on his own. He fancies himself a magical Batman as he battles arcane threats using various artifacts and relying on his wits, a healthy amount of bluffing, and loads of caffeine to do his job. Conrad is the Brooklyn representative of the Watch, an organization of magic users whose mission is to protect mundanes (regular people) from monsters and unscrupulous or evil magic users.

This is book 1 of The Conradverse Chronicles, but it is written to work as a standalone, so no commitment to a series is required; you get a complete story.

The Middling Affliction will be hitting bookshelves in April 2022. Watch this space for more announcements!
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The Watch logo


New publication: “I’m Feeling Lucky” by Leonid Kaganov at Clarkesworld

July 14, 2021

The latest translation of mine from Russian has been accepted at this wonderful market, which I’ve been trying to crack for a decade. (Clarkesworld was the first magazine I ever submitted a short story to, back in 2010.) Very glad to share this first with Leonid Kaganov, a brilliant and popular writer from St. Petersburg for whom this is his first English language publication!

Read the story here.

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A Brief History of Russian Science Fiction

May 1, 2021

My essay, “A Brief History of Russian Science Fiction” has gone live as part of the Clarkesworld magazine May issue. You can read it here.

It is, of course, only possible to scratch the surface of the subject in so brief a piece. I’ve tried to go for a birds-eye view and focus on the big picture stuff as it attempts to cover 100+ years of history.

Meantime, I continue to do my small part to share some of the great Russian language short fiction with Anglophone readers. There are several pieces slated for publication in top tier magazines over the next 9 months, and several more currently out on submission.

I’m in talks with several editors and anthologists who would like to consider translations for their upcoming projects, and always happy to talk to others. If you’d like help connecting with Russian authors, a reprint recommendation, or need an original piece translated for your project, do not hesitate to reach out.


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Publication: “The Chartreuse Sky” in Asimov’s

April 27, 2021

My translation of “The Chartreuse Sky” by K.A. Teryna and Alexander Bachilo is live in the May/June 2021 issue of Asimov’s.

Future (and past) Moscow, augmented reality, and architecture meld into a unique story. Pick up a copy and check it out!

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Eating Authors Essay

October 22, 2020

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My essay appears on Lawrence M. Schoen’s blog this week as part of his long-running Eating Authors series, where he asks authors to recount their favorite meal.

My answer can be found at the link, and I assure you it’s not what you might have guessed.

It will also appear in the book that collects these essays, which is currently in its last few days on Kickstarter.


New Stories Published & Other October News

October 6, 2020

It’s been a busy stretch, with two new short stories and a guest podcast appearance in the past 10 days or so! Let’s take it in chronological order.

  • Late last month the episode of Writing Excuses aired where I talked translation with Mary Robinette, Dan, and Lari. I’m really pleased with how this podcast turned out, loads of fun anecdotes and good banter. This was actually recorded several months ago and I’m glad it’s out in the world now. Listen to the episode here.
  • My short story “Chronicle of the Mender” was published at Daily Science Fiction. I’m very pleased with the reception this story got so far, including this very nice review. The story is dark fantasy and I although it is not set in the universe of Eridani’s Crown, I think it’ll appeal to the book’s fans.
  • Today is the book birthday of Weird World War III, an anthology of alternate cold wars edited by Sean Patrick Hazlett. My story, “A Thing Worth a Damn,” is a grim look at the Socialist Republic of California which has seceded from the collapsing United States in the 1990s. With the USA once again on the rise as a global power it is seeking to reacquire its lost territories, and the Soviet Union sends in specialists to assist them in thwarting such attempts. This is mostly background and the protagonist of the story is a Soviet soldier, fighting a proxy war he’s been disillusioned with, far away from home.
  • Later this month I will be a guest at Capclave, where I will participate on a panel and host a launch party for Unidentified Funny Objects 8. This is a virtual event so you don’t need to travel to the outskirts of Washington, DC this year to attend.
  • Author and Klingon language expert Lawrence M. Schoen hosts an Eating Authors feature on his blog, where writers talk about their most memorable meals. I wrote an essay for him and it will appear on the blog sometime in the next month. He also enjoyed it enough to include in the upcoming book, 100 Writers’ Most Memorable Meals, which is currently on Kickstarter. So check it out, and read the essay when it comes out. I guarantee you, my choice of restaurant to write about will surprise you.

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