Only two of my grandparents were alive at my birth and both of them had passed away by the time I was eight years old. My dad suffered a heart attack and died when I was just thirteen. I’d give anything to have more time with any of them. Because of this, it’s perhaps no surprise that I’m fascinated by stories that explore the temptation and consequences of extending life beyond its normal span. Vampire stories are a classic example of this. One can have virtual immortality as long as you’re willing to feed on your fellow humans. You might even have to give up your soul. But what does giving up your soul actually mean?
Edgar Allan Poe wrote a fascinating story exploring the subject of extending life called “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.” In the story, Valdemar is a dying man who agrees to be hypnotized at the moment of death to see if death itself can be suspended. The experiment proves to be a success. Valdemar continues to breathe and his heart keeps beating. He doesn’t decay, but he also never rises from his bed. He lives, but he doesn’t seem to have a life worth living. I won’t say more to avoid spoilers, but Poe gives us a wonderfully atmospheric ending. You can read the story here: https://poestories.com/read/facts
This past summer, while vacationing with my family at the Grand Canyon, I received an invitation to submit a story to an anthology of Poe-inspired Steampunk stories called A Cast of Crows. One of the characters from my Clockwork Legion series, Professor Maravilla, made his way to the Grand Canyon to study birds and flight in the late nineteenth century. Over the course of the series, we also learn that he’s suffered great loss. I began to put those ideas together and imagined that he builds his first flying machine, a mechanical raven, as a tribute to his daughter. He names the mechanical raven Valdemar as a nod to Poe’s story. However, as with a Poe story, the tale takes an unexpected turn and warns us that spirits don’t always want to cling to the Earth when their time is past.
A Cast of Crows, is being funded through Kickstarter and the campaign is just starting it’s final week, so there’s still time to hop aboard and get a copy of the book which includes eight Poe-inspired Steampunk tales. If you sign on and pledge at least $7, you’ll also get ebook copies of my first two Clockwork Legion novels.
Of course, you may want to consider picking a level which includes more of the books. I actually have stories in all three anthologies being funded in the campaign, including a deliciously dark and political retelling of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in the anthology Grimm Machinations. Why is the Wicked Queen so obsessed with Snow White’s heart anyway? That’s a question for another post and another time.
If you want to support A Cast of Crows, be sure to visit https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/e-specbooks/full-steam-ahead
3 responses to “Suspending Death”
Ah. What we have here is a bit of shameless self-promotion… And that’s fine! For those of you who didn’t know, independent authors have to do a great deal of that to garner sales. We also give away a good deal of product just to get our names out in the public. Speaking strictly for myself, I think it’s safe to say that, outside of Vella, I’ve given away more books than I’ve sold; I once handed a copy of Beyond the Rails to a postal clerk who sold me a sheet of stamps. Yeah, I find my fun in strange places.
The death of close family members isn’t part of the fun, though. The first one I lost was the aunt who thought the sun rose when I came into the room. I was nine, and she left me alone in a family who took a somewhat dimmer view of children, no pun intended. Reading this, I see that David fared a lot worse than I did, and if events like that don’t inform your writing, then you aren’t a writer.
But David Lee Summers is a wonderful writer. I’m the proud owner of a signed copy of Straight Outta Tombstone, found the Clockwork Legion series to be a delightful mix of Victorian sci-fi and historical old-west characters, and I defy any true horror fan to read The Astronomer’s Crypt alone in the dark without feeling the chill. And now he offers a collection of Poe-inspired steampunk for a Kickstarter pledge. Are you in? I’ll meet you over there!
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I’ve started having an issue with the phrase “shameless self promotion.” It seems to imply that somehow, someway, I’m expected to feel ashamed for promoting myself. And yet, if I were a famous celebrity or a New York Times Bestselling author talking about something I was proud of, no one would even remotely think of calling it “shameless self promotion” they would just call it part of that celebrity’s job. What’s more, I would be derelict in my duty to my publisher and my fellow authors in A Cast of Crows and the other anthologies in the Kickstarter if I didn’t mention the books and promote them. So it is shameless and it is self-promotion, but if you’re excited by my story, you’ll also get awesome stuff by Michelle D. Sonnier, Ef Deal, Aaron Rosenberg, Doc Coleman, Jessica Lucci, and more! If you haven’t already, you need to read the stories those folks have written!
Jack, thank you for the opportunity to promote my story and promote the works of my fellow authors. Also thanks for your kind words about the challenges of dealing with loss and I’m sorry you lost your aunt so early in life.
Thanks also for the endorsement. I love your writing, Jack, and I consider it high praise that you’ve found enjoyment in my humble offerings.
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Point taken, David, and an excellent point it is! Perhaps that’s why I never succeeded at this, and finally gave it up; I just don’t have it in me to stand up and tell you what a great book I’ve written, how well I play harmonica, or even that I’m good at the occasional video game. “Let another’s lips praise you, not your own” has been a motto that I have unintentionally followed from start to finish. So I’ll just content myself with praising the works of these good friends.
This guy can write, folks. If you enjoy a good read, check him out soon!
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