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New Story: “Rain Falling in the Pines”

My latest short story, “Rain Falling in the Pines”, is now out in Clarkesworld Magazine, marking fifteen years since their first issue – and my first appearance there.

At some point, someone should write the history of the early days of online publishing. Editor Neil Clarke talks about the start of Clarkesworld in this month’s editorial:

The magazine was unknown, and I recall being told by “pro” authors at the time that online venues were for “newbie” authors and low-quality work. You took that jump with us and I think we proved them wrong.

We sure did, Neil.

Anyhow, “Rain Falling in the Pines” began because I realised I never really explored the rest of the (made-up, I should add!), Judea Palestina Digitally Federated Union of Central Station. Having recently written and sold the novel Neom (out next year from Tachyon), which is set not far from there in the Arabian Peninsula, I thought it might be interesting to explore the area that centres around the Jezreel Valley and Armageddon… And if you ask, yes, I was born a stone’s throw away from Armageddon. How’s that for a biographical line? An interest in the region’s original inhabitants – the humans we now call Neanderthals – and an old love of cyberpunk merged to create what I started to think of as Neo-Neanderthal Cyberpunk (because every genre needs a label!). And yes, there’s at least one more story there already written.

Anyhow… Here it is.

Two men in dark sunglasses stepped through the doors of the Monte Carmelo. They stopped and scanned the gloomy inside. Geshem-Nofel-Ba’oranim clocked them and kept to his booth. He knew trouble when it walked through the door looking for him.

The two men were armed. Security, probably federal. That’s if Geshem was lucky, if it wasn’t someone he owed money to.

The two men stepped up to the bar.

“Looking for a Neand,” one said.

There was a sudden silence around them at the slur.

“Don’t know any First Humans,” the bartender said. She polished a glass. Kept her face carefully blank. Kept one hand on the EMP device under the counter.

“Goes by the name of Geshem.”

The Monte Carmelo sat on the edge of the First Human Sanctuary and the Federated Lands of Judea Palestina. The border wasn’t neat. The Sanctuary encompassed most of Mount Carmel, which had been home to the original First Humans a long time in the past, and it extended down to the Hills of Menashe and past Armageddon to the Jezreel Valley and into the Galilee. The Monte Carmelo sat somewhere on the border, between Druze villages and the monastery of the Carmelites, each of which had their own dispensation, so questions of authority were the sort of questions it was best not to ask. Which was what drew the sort of people who drank there to the Monte Carmelo. – Continue reading.

Cover by Alexander Thumler