New Sci-Fi Crime Releases

If you enjoyed the stories in CROOKED volumes 1 and 2, you’ll be delighted to hear that the authors are an industrious bunch. Many have new books out in their well-loved series — or are launching new series entirely. Read on for a round-up of this winter’s new releases from some of the fabulous authors I’ve been privileged to work with as part of CROOKED!

(Note that a lot of these books are further on in the series — follow the links to pick up the first book in the series if you haven’t already.)


Huntress at the Helm by Greg Dragon

The Geralos, scourge of the Anstractor universe, have set their eyes on the Nusalein cluster of colonies. Lieutenant Helga Ate and the Nighthawks, having completed a mission on the planet Genese, are called in to assist with holding off the invasion. Now, the team finds themselves involved in a crisis where trust is short, and the enemy is varied. Will Helga’s luck and knack for survival be enough with an inexperienced crew and a ship only partially repaired?

Buy on Amazon, or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

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Code-Reaper

Code Reaper by E.L. Strife

In a digital world, who strips your online presence when you die so no one can steal your assets, ruin your name, or destroy your family after your death?

Kaisha is an elite Code Reaper for Divisiom Enterprises, helping to sever digital ties of the dead and protect their life’s achievements from hackers. After the mysterious murder of her parents, Kaisha sticks to the shadows, burning the existence of the less fortunate, like them, from the online realm.

Kaisha has learned to protect herself and the assets of the lower classes while she works. She has no desire for the cushy life of a Corporate Code Reaper. Even a simple hack can ruin an entire family.

When a major corporate player, Mr. Deranth, unexpectedly summons her to wipe his digital slate, she’s stunned. But Deranth has picked her for a reason. It isn’t supposed to be his time to die.

Kaisha finds herself chasing a trail of early deaths, trying to find signs of murder in the code. Divisiom wants her to leave it alone and just do her job. When she won’t stop, Divisiom hunts her down.

Teaming up with Holt, one of Mr. Deranth’s guards, Kaisha discovers a dark truth behind the corporate leader’s murder, one that opens her eyes to a powerful virus coursing through the underground. With cybersquads after her, Kaisha must pull from every skill set to find the source before its evidence is erased forever.

Can she stop the virus before she becomes the next client on another Code Reaper’s scrub list?

Buy on Amazon, or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

The Corpse Corps by Eric Warren

Fresh off her promotion and finally accepting the reality of twenty-seventh century living, Lilah Barrows finally feels like she has a grasp on the future.

That is, until she botches her first command, throwing her whole promotion into question. However, there is something else gnawing at Lilah, something she can’t quite describe, but it sits in the back of her genetically-enhanced brain, chipping away at her.

Just as she’s decided she’s ready to seek some help, Lilah finds herself in shackles and being paraded in front of her friends and her squad, accused of a crime serious enough to have her stripped from her body and placed back in storage. The only problem is, no one will tell her what law she’s broken.

Determined not to go down without a fight, Lilah manages an escape with the help of an old friend. But when it turns out her escape was made possible by the twenty-seventh century equivalent of a cult, Lilah will have to dig deep if she hopes to figure out who these people are and what they truly want.

It turns out this group may have the answers about her mental condition and her past, but to learn the truth, Lilah will be tasked with changing the Stellar Union at its most fundamental levels. And the reality of what really happened to her could cost Lilah her sanity…and her life.

Buy on Amazon, or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

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Traitor-Game

Traitor Game by Kate Sheeran Swed

Book 3 of the Parse Galaxy series.

Sloane Tarnish isn’t the kind of girl who typically harbors celebrity fugitives on the rugged little spaceship she calls home. But now that she’s stuck with one, she can’t help but feel she’s pretty darn good at it, thank you very much.

She doesn’t know how long her crew will be able to hide.

She doesn’t know what the Cosmic Trade Federation will do next in their bid to control the entire freaking galaxy.

What she does know, with absolute certainty, is that Galactic Fleet Commander Gareth Fortune is innocent of all crimes.

The only trouble? Finding a way to prove it…

Get it anywhere books are sold.

Symbiotech by C.E. Clayton

Ellinor is done—running and hiding.

Cosmin has made it violently clear that wherever Ellinor and Kai go, he will find them. And, he will gladly make their families suffer until Ellinor returns what she stole from him. But Ellinor cannot, and will not relinquish Fiss; not to those who would bind and shackle him to serve their greedy agenda, not to anyone.

Even with her magic returned, and with Fiss, Kai, and Jelani to help, they are still no match for Cosmin, a point made agonizingly clear when Ellinor and her friends tangle with an old foe. Without more power, Ellinor has little hope of saving her family before there is nothing left to save. The power is there, but learning how to harness her upgraded magic is complicated, and time has run out. Then there are other distractions, in the guise of feelings Ellinor would never have thought possible for her again, if it weren’t for the charming Jelani and her growing attachment to him.

Allies are in short supply, and any help will come with a price, but that won’t stop Ellinor from returning to Euria. She will face Cosmin von Brandt and save her family, or die trying.

Buy on Amazon, or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Symbiotech
Cast-Off

Cast Off by R J Theodore

The Action Packed Conclusion to the Peridot Shift Trilogy

Peridot is on the edge of annihilation. Once life-giving, the world’s Trade Winds are transforming people into soulless monsters. The surviving Alchemist gods neglect their followers or take advantage of them. Even worse, a delicate peace has been wasted, and everything and everyone is at stake, especially Meran, the mistreated embodiment of the planet.

Captain Talis and the crew of Fortune’s Storm must try to do some good with what’s left of Peridot in the hope that, together, they’ll reclaim the hidden pieces of Meran’s soul before the chaos seals her disastrous fate.

Get it anywhere you find fine books.

Morphus Ascendant by G.J. Ogden

The search for a superweapon leads to a conflict with the galaxy’s most dangerous criminal cartel

Despite their best efforts to subdue Goliath, the superpowered alien AI continues to grow stronger and more lethal. Billions already lie dead across the galaxy as the entity works its way toward Earth, and the Star Scavengers are losing faith. All of their hopes now lie in finding another artificial entity – one that fought and defeated Goliath long before humanity was born.

The only problem is that this entity is dead.

Thanks to their informant inside the military, Hudson and Tory learn the location of their potential ally’s body. As an artificial being, they hope there is still a chance to revive it and get it back into the fight.

But Goliath and its death cult controlled by fanatical leader, Amelia Ash, are no longer the Star Scavenger’s only problems. The Council – the galaxy’s deadliest crime syndicate – are gunning for them too, as are bitter relic-hunting rivals, the Creed Brothers.

Battling the odds, and winning, is what Hudson and Tory do best. But this time, they will need more than just luck and guile to achieve their goal of stopping Goliath; they’ll need a weapon powerful enough to destroy it.

Star Guardian is an epic space opera series, blending the action and fun of Firefly with the treasure-hunting adventure and mystery of Indiana Jones. Start reading today!

Buy on Amazon, or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

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Rememory

Rememory by Frasier Armitage

In the future, memory is currency. Felix is broke, on the run, with nothing in his head but a combination of numbers.

Someone robbed him of his mind. Now it’s time he took it back.

★★★★★ “Armitage deftly executes the fresh concept of memory as currency. REMEMORY is part cyberpunk, part thriller, and a total blast to read. Truly captivating.”–EL Strife, Author of the Infinite Spark series and Zedger

★★★★★ “A mind-blowing short story about a man on a perilous pursuit to take back his looted memories. I’d absolutely give it five stars.”–Dawn Ross, Author of the Dragon Spawn series

★★★★★ “Phenomenal story…absolutely phenomenal”–Davene Le Grange, Poet and Author of The Cyber Punk: Ready 2 Play? and other science fiction

Buy on Amazon, or read for free with Kindle Unlimited.

The U.F.O. Case by Austin Dragon

All aboard the Falcon Express! Earth’s first royal luxury hoverjet designed to travel the skies, on the seas, underwater, and into space! What could possibly go wrong with our hero detective on-board for vacation?

A dream of high-end travel has arrived. But that dream becomes a Nightmare…at 40,000 feet!

LIQUID COOL is Sci-Fi Meets the Detective Crime Thriller!

In the action-packed (and funny) cyberpunk detective series, we tag along with Cruz, our sci-fi detective (and unlikely hero) with attitude. But this time it’s not the fifty-million-plus, supercity of Metropolis. We only start there. We’re 40,000 feet up, traveling 700 miles per hour in the dark skies.

Preorder wherever you find fine books.

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: William Burton McCormick

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

William Burton McCormick is a Shamus, Thriller, Derringer, Silver Falchion and Claymore awards finalist and his Santa Ezeriņa novella “House of Tigers” was an Honorable Mention for the Black Orchid Novella Award. He is the author of the thrillers a STRANGER FROM THE STORM and KGB BANKER and the historical novel of the Baltic Republics LENIN’S HAREM. William has lived in seven countries including Latvia and Ukraine, the settings of “The Crimson Vial.” Learn more at williamburtonmccormick.com.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

The Crimson Vial is set in the real world, maybe two or three years ago. It’s the story of a Latvian investigative journalist, Santa Ezeriņa, looking for a stolen bioweapon in Eastern Europe. It’s science fiction that reflects the tensions in that part of the world, buffed up with a noir sheen.

Here’s a sneak peak:

Down-on-her-luck Latvian journalist Santa Ezeriņais hired by a mysterious American pharmaceutical company to find a case of stolen bioweapons somewhere in Eastern Europe. Pervious investigators on the case simply disappeared without a trace. Will Santa find the thief before the case is opened and the weapon unleashed on the world? Will she be the next casualty in a coming bio war? And what slithering substance is contained in that last crimson vial? A sci-fi noir tale of espionage, horror and adventure.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

I lived in Eastern Europe, and spent years in Ukraine and Latvia, the two key settings. Santa Ezeriņa is a series character, and I’d already done adventure, mystery and thrillers with her, so I wanted to use the character in a sci-fi noir (with hints of body horror).  The politics and geography of the regions were one type of inspiration that got me going, the strange goop in my Kharkiv basement another kind. There is also a good dose of Lovecraft and even 1960s Stan Lee. And, of course, there are the noir tropes out of Dashiell Hammett and James Ellroy. And, the Santa character, if I am honest, is my own modern, female, European version of Carl Kolchak (with a little Æon Flux). All those elements mixed into the soup or borsch.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

That galaxy far, far away that was the Star Wars universe would be my first choice. I say “was” because I hate what Disney has done since acquiring the property both with the films and throwing out all the wonderful novels in the Star Wars Extended Universe as noncanonical. Timothy Zahn, Kevin J. Anderson, Ann C. Crispin, and many others did so much to enrich that story. So, I’d re-canonize the Extended Universe, then I’d go live in it. I always wanted to be a space smuggler.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I guess I should say something sophisticated like Philip K. Dick, but continuing with my Star Wars obsession, those old Brian Daley Han Solo novels were the perfect fusion of crime (smugglers, gangsters, conmen, bounty hunters) and science fiction for me. Who needed the Empire when you could battle the Corporate Sector Authority?

Beyond that the Kolchak: The Night Stalker television series, the original Æon Flux shorts (the dialog-less ones) and of course Blade Runner (see, I did get Philip K. Dick in there eventually. Sort of.)  And I’d recommend the Occult Detective Magazine Gray Dog Tales / Cathaven Press is publishing these days. Great stuff.

And, as an avid comic collector, I must ask what are all those 1960s Stan Lee/Jack Kirby/Steve Ditko/John Romita, Sr., comics but sci-fi meets crime tales with great cliffhangers? I learned a lot from those.

What authors have inspired your writing?

Lovecraft is a major influence. (Astute readers will note a tip of the hat to “The Thing on the Doorstep” in “The Crimson Vial”). Other Weird/horror influencers include M.R. James, Sheridan Le Fanu, Ambrose Bierce, Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood and, of course, Poe. I also have an Ancient Studies degree and have read a lot of Greek tragedy. My love of Sophocles and Euripides, coupled with the Poe, Lovecraft and Peter Chung (of Æon Flux) influences, means things sometimes end very bad for our heroes. Hey, who wants to watch The Empire Strikes Back with me for the hundredth time?

What are you working on next?

I am rotating writing three mystery/horror short stories set in Europe with editing two historical thriller novels I drafted some time ago, drafting an Alt-History novella set in 1940s Hollywood where a murderer steals the career of Humphrey Bogart.

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CROOKED V.2

Get it here.

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Caitlin Demaris McKenna

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Caitlin Demaris McKenna is a science fiction writer and freelance editor. She currently lives, works and writes in Vancouver, British Columbia. When not writing, she enjoys reading, watching video game Let’s Plays, and entomology. She grew up in the Minnesota woods, where on clear winter nights, she would look up at the stars and wonder. Connect with Caitlin at expansionfront.com.

Caitlin’s current project is titled Shadow Game. Wars make unlikely allies. When his ship is damaged, elite assassin Gau Shesharrim is stranded on a hostile world — until help comes from an unexpected source. Discover how Gau recruited his first ally in his crusade against the Expansion. Download Shadow Game for free when you sign up to the Readers Group mailing list here!

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

I wrote the Expansion series as a deliberate inversion of the alien invasion trope: many stories feature human beings fighting against stronger alien empires, but what would it be like if our species was the one colonizing the galaxy? How might other intelligent species react to that, cope with it, or fight against it?

In the main series, Gau is a big mover and shaker in the resistance against the Expansion. With this story, I wanted to explore an earlier time in his life when he was just trying to get by, and what might have changed to make him realize he has more potential than he thought.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

A throwaway line in a conversation between Gau and his former employer in Alliance of Exiles, the second novel of the series. He has to get her buy-in for an ambitious plan and evokes a time when listening to him paid off. I got to thinking, “Wait, how did that all go down?” This story is the result.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

Iain M. Banks’ Culture universe, hands down. He set out to create a galaxy-spanning post-scarcity society where humans (and many other species besides) are free to live and travel wherever they want on huge AI-guided starships. The Culture offers incredible freedom of choice, up to and including modifying one’s body into an entirely nonhuman form if desired. I’d probably hitch a ride on a ship and tour the galaxy, stopping at any interesting planets or orbital rings along the way

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

Alastair Reynolds’ Revelation Space series was my introduction to the concept of sci-fi noir, particularly Chasm City. I’d also highlight Richard K. Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs series starting with Altered Carbon, and his standalone dystopia Market Forces. That one is like Mad Max meets Wall Street.

What authors have inspired your writing?

The modern space opera greats like Iain M. Banks, Alastair Reynolds, and Dan Simmons were all influences. Ada Palmer for her impeccable world-building in her Terra Ignota series. And this list would be woefully incomplete without K.A. Applegate, whose Animorphs series is the reason I am a science fiction writer today.

What are you working on next?

This summer I began writing Halcyon, the first volume of a new space opera I’m calling “Dinotopia in space”. Biodiversity loss has ravaged Earth and forced humans to develop sophisticated genetic engineering tech to reseed the planet with plant and animal life. Along the way, a small group of scientists used the tech to create genetically engineered intelligent dinosaurs who now coexist with humans.

This human-dinosaur alliance has started spreading into the galaxy, but conflicts threaten its edges as separatist groups claim planets for one species or the other. The main characters are two government agents (one human, one dino) sent to investigate a discovery on the separatist world Halcyon that could upend the entire alliance.

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CROOKED V.2

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: R J Theodore

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

R J Theodore (they/she) is an author, graphic designer, and all-around collector of creative endeavors and hobbies. They enjoy writing about magic-infused technologies, first contact events, and bioluminescing landscapes.

Their love of SFF storytelling developed through grabbing for anything-and-everything “unicorn” as a child, but they were subverted by tales of distant solar systems when their brother introduced them to Star Trek: The Next Generation at age seven. A few years later, Sailor Moon taught them stories can have both.

Their short fiction has appeared in MetaStellar, Lightspeed, and Fireside Magazines as well as the Glitter + Ashes and Unfettered Hexes anthologies from Neon Hemlock Press.

They live in New England, haunted by their childhood cat. Find more information including a directory of guest posts, podcast appearances, blog tours, and interviews from around the genre reading and writing communities at rjtheodore.com.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

The story is one of several side tales from the world of Peridot, which was destroyed centuries ago, and re-assembled by its new alchemist deities into a planet held together, literally, by magic. Floating islands, a swirling layer of frozen trash, and a glowing green center where souls float to rest. It’s not your average world. But people are still people, and they still do whatever they can to survive. Sometimes those things are illegal, sometimes those things are wrong (those two items not always the same thing), and sometimes those things are dangerous. But you gotta put coffee on the table, and if you’re lucky, you can have fun doing it.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

This story came out of the joy that I get from reading and watching stories with a grifter who comes into a space, pretending to be one of that space, and then making a narrow escape after their activities being discovered.

Sometimes they do it very well (e.g., Ocean’s Eight), sometimes they do it very poorly (e.g., Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean), and sometimes it’s somewhere in between (e.g., Firefly).

I once drew an image by the same title with a feeling of all the above examples, and though the setting is very different from this story it felt like the same experience at its core, so I couldn’t see doing anything but borrowing the name.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

If I were going to put myself into a SF setting, I think I’d dive in for the Star Trek worlds. Seems safer, better food, a guarantee that all risk can be dissolved within a 48 minute episode. Dealing with chronic disease, I definitely look forward to certain Science Fiction promises ahead of others. Sure, the Expanse is masterfully crafted both in terms of the vehicles and the politics, but I’d probably still be dealing with health issues, on top of worrying about what corruption has spread throughout the solar system (just because I write stuff along those lines doesn’t mean I’d choose them for myself!).

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I have to say I always loved Odo-focused episodes of Deep Space Nine. Rene Auberjonois wore that character like the most endearing grumpy detective you could imagine. He wasn’t head of security for Star Fleet. He was an independent figure of the law on a station where everyone (even friends) were trying to sell the bolts that kept the station together. He was a cowboy-esque sheriff, and he was a shape-shifter, which made watching him on a stake-out especially fun. 

What authors have inspired your writing?

Talking before I became an actual Science Fiction writer, when I was just haunting the SF&F rows at Barnes & Noble, I’d give credit to C J Cherryh, with her extremely well crafted galaxies, and Douglas Adams, who pulled absurdity into a story and made it the key to how everything worked. I also have to give a nod to Charles de Lint who, while not an author of science fiction, was the vehicle through which I encountered urban fantasy and is probably why just about ALL my stories include some crossover with magic. If it can exist in a random Canadian city, why not in space?

These days, I am inspired by authors such as Valerie Valdes, C.L. Clark, Darcie Little Badger, Sarah Pinsker, Malka Older, Alex White, Zig Zag Claybourne, L.D. Lewis, Mari Ness, Phoebe Barton, A.Z. Louise, Rivers Solomon, Caitlin Starling… sorry, I could really truly go on and never stop. SF&F right now is overflowing with incredible talent, and every day someone astounds me with adding something new and newly styled to the genre.

What are you working on next?

This year I’m finishing up my genre-demolishing airship pirate Peridot Shift series, finally getting the series completed and out into the world after the small press that first bought it shuttered and the rights swung back to me. Once all the self-publishing effort there is off my desk, I am tremendously excited about drafting something new, something equally genre-disregarding. I like to call it “Dead Space meets Sailor Moon meets Mycelial Networks.” Usually by this point in my process, I’d have a title that’s pretty sticky and likely to make it to the end, but not this time. I’ll have to invite folks to stick around on my newsletter to wait for me to finally come up with a short phrase to capture this current hot mess.

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CROOKED V.2

Get it here.

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Jim Keen

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Jim Keen writes books about the people who fascinate him in worlds that amaze him. He loves crime, thrillers, and stories about people with secrets. If there’s not a big twist along the way, he’d never write the first word.

The international bestselling Alice Yu series takes place forty years from now, in a world transformed by mechanical intelligences—AI’s big brother. Yu is a loner cop atoning for past sins. Through the series she discovers what it is to be human, while becoming something much more in the process. If you like the steely future noir of William Gibson, James S. A. Corey, and Martha Wells, you’ll love these sci-fi thrillers.

Alongside the Alice Yu trilogy, Jim has written four free novellas, plus drawn hundreds of illustrations and designs from the future. You can get all of those for free at https://jimkeen.com.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

The science fiction books I’m working on occur in the late 2050s and early 2060s after the advent of AI. Intelligent machines have perfected automation, which has led to mass unemployment and significant changes to society, with an ever-widening gap between those at the top and everyone else. This story follows Sara, a memory hacker with unique talents, who is hired by the secretive SolarMute crime organization to steal a dead man’s mind…

What was the inspiration behind this story?

As my work occurs post-AI singularity, the wealthy have access to technology far beyond the dreams of most people. One such technology is the ability to be 3D scanned and organically reprinted, thus creating a type of eternal youth for those with the financial means. As always, people who are desperate enough will do anything for a way out, and SolarMute offers Sara hers.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

I grew up massively influenced by cyberpunk, and it would be easy to say Blade Runner. However, while that makes for good entertainment, living in such a dystopia would be terrible! So, for me, it would be Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’m rewatching it with my son right now, and its post-scarcity utopia would be a fascinating world to experience (and less rainy).

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I think William Gibson is the greatest living science fiction author. A fantastic combination of beautiful prose, elegant structure and amazing imagination—I return to his books over and over. After that would be the Culture novels of Iain M. Banks; they’ve been a huge inspiration. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Expanse TV show.

What authors have inspired your writing?

While I’d love to write like William Gibson, I think my current work most resembles Neal Asher and Martha Wells, placing a big emphasis on interesting characters in terrible conditions…

What are you working on next?

This story, SolarMute, is the prequel to my next novel, Agent Zero which follows UN special agent John Risk as he is sent to hunt down and assassinate an evil AI running South America’s latest drugs war. A mission in which he just happens to need the services of an expert hacker…

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CROOKED V.2

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Frasier Armitage

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Frasier Armitage writes science fiction. Which is another way of saying he’s a self-confessed geek who sits alone in a room scribbling in notebooks about things that are currently impossible.

When he’s not writing, you’ll find him with his wife and son, watching Keanu Reeves movies, reviewing books for the FanFiAddict blog, or noodling on his guitar. He’s a part-time robot, full-time nerd, imaginer of worlds, and resident of Earth.

Frasier has won the ‘Matthew Cross Writing Contest’ multiple times, received a ‘Silver Honourable Mention’ from the Writers of the Future Award, and is the winner of the Pen To Print Audio Drama Competition 2022. His short stories have been published in blogs, magazines, and anthologies, and his debut novel will be released soon.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

Good As Gold is a bank robbery in the city of New Yesterday — a place where events in the present can change the past. A band of thieves hatch a plan to steal the gold, but with the city constantly rewriting history, getting away with the loot is either going to be their greatest score or their final undoing.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

Just over a year ago, I became a Dad. My family means the world to me, and the arrival of my boy changed who I am. Being a father is part of my identity. My debut novel (which is coming out later this year) is called New Yesterday, and it’s set in a world where the past is in constant flux. I explore the idea of identity in that book — what makes us who we are — but I finished writing it before my son arrived, so I wanted to revisit the city to delve into this idea of how transformative parenthood can be. Besides, who doesn’t love a good bank heist? I’ve been wanting to write one for ages, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a kind of story which is typically conventional and formulaic and try to find a new lens to see it through.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

I’d serve aboard the Enterprise under the command of Jean-Luc Picard, writing holodeck programs for the crew. Or I’d step into the world of Cowboy Bebop, steal Spike’s Swordfish and take it out for a spin. Or I’d get an audience with the Jedi Council, and tell them that Palpatine was a Sith Lord so he could be taken down before Anakin is corrupted — then he and Padme could just raise Luke and Leia in peace. 

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I’m not sure this qualifies as a crime book, but I love Recursion by Blake Crouch. I’d just finished writing New Yesterday when I read it, and I adored the way it played around with time. Anything related to time-travel is right up my street, so if there are any amazing time-travel crime stories out there, let me know — I’d love to read more of them. 

What authors have inspired your writing?

I love the way Peng Shepherd manages to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. I love the character-focussed perspective Mike Chen brings to his stories. I love how Blake Crouch has perfected the blend of sci-fi and thriller. I love the invention of HG Wells. I love the atmosphere and dark zaniness of Philip K. Dick. I love the concepts and execution that EL Strife delivers so consistently. And I love the imagination and bravery of Emily Inkpen. 

What are you working on next?

I won the Pen To Print Audio Drama Contest 2022, which means one of my scripts is being made into an audio-play. I’m helping to put it together with the producer and actors, and it is SO MUCH FUN! It’s called Postcards From Another World and will be available to listen to soon. But a lot of my focus is going into the release of New Yesterday right now. I’ve been working on this book for so long — I really want to get it right! A prequel novella (which sets the scene for how the city became established) has only just come out, and it’s free to my email subscribers. That one is called Yestermorrow. To go along with Good As Gold, there’ll be another few short stories set in this world which will be released over the next few months, and will hopefully build up to the novel before the year ends. But I’m always working on multiple projects. I’m a juggler when it comes to stories, and one of the books I’m drafting at the moment is really getting under my skin. Just like this story, and this anthology, I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

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CROOKED V.2

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Maddi Davidson

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Maddi Davidson is the pen name for two sisters living on opposite sides of the country: Mary Ann Davidson in Idaho and Diane Davidson in Virginia. Together they have published several novels, a non-fiction book, and numerous short stories. Their tales range from the murder of a deranged scientist resurrecting the dodo to a spurned wife hacking the pacemaker of an ex-husband who richly deserved it.

“Narrow EscApe” is the first story in a planned series of Tastee Brioche Twistletoe adventures. Learn more at: https://maddidavidson.com/bitch-and-chips/.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

Tastee Brioche Twistletoe imagines herself a clever and successful thief, à la James Bolivar diGriz of Harry Harrison’s The Stainless Steel Rat. When the operations of the criminal organization, Nemo Loquitur, draw police attention too close to Tastee’s home base, she sets a trap, hoping to ensnare one or more of the organization’s key operatives. Posing as a thief for hire, our heroine travels to a godforsaken mining planet, Galina 552, to steal orsothium, a metal more precious than gold. Despite having botched each and every heist she’s undertaken, Tastee confidently sets her plan in motion.

As sisters living thousands of miles apart, how do you collaborate on stories?

Surprisingly, it hasn’t been a challenge for us, not that it has been all beer and skittles (for the record, one of us likes Skittles, the other prefers Coconut M&Ms). Perhaps we did all our squabbling growing up.

A challenge for writing partners is ensuring that the writing hangs together and there is no obvious change of voice (i.e., when one of us takes over the writing). We are lucky that, as sisters, we share the same demented sense of humor, to the point where neither of us can, in many cases, remember who wrote what. That’s the idea, really, because “Maddi” is THE writer and nobody reading our work should be able to tell when The Other Sister started writing. Even more telling, in some cases when one of us is reviewing/editing/adding to a section, we find that the other one had the same idea. You end up deleting things you added because the other sister already put the same ideas in there.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories? What authors have inspired your writing?

Obvious from this story, one of us likes Harry Harrison. We’re great fans of authors who write over-the-top humor using almost believable characters. We’re both big fans of Jodi Taylor’s Chronicles of St. Mary’s series. Would that we could write half as well as she! While most of our writing to date has been in the mystery genre, we’ve begun to write stories in sci-fi and are relishing the opportunity to explore new pathways to humor.

What are you working on next?

We place about four short stories each year in various anthologies or magazines. We had such a great time writing this story that we hope to find more opportunities for Tastee to pursue her criminal career. We are working on humorous stories in various stages (idea, first draft, finalization, rewriting) in both the mystery and science fiction genres.

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CROOKED V.2

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Andrew Sweet

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Andrew loves science and possibility! He maintains a personal 5-year project on cellular automata that has evolved into a CLI and an “infinitely scalable” (hardware limited of course) CA platform as he continues his obsessive search for cellular automata that can perform simple math functions. Former lead guitarist for the grunge/punk band Permanent Ascent, Andrew has been involved in music as long as he’s been writing. Now the proud owner of a Takamine, Andrew has traded his rapid punk chops for chaotic jazz riffs. Finally, last but definitely not least, Andrew’s reasons for living are his wife and two children in their home in Portland, OR. In his writing, Andrew Sweet examines society with a magnifying glass and picks it apart at the seams.

Drawn to the underdog, he perpetually tries to examine how someone ends up in a losing position and then funnels what he learns into his writing. In doing so, Andrew Sweet builds grounded, futuristic dystopian societies based on our history and recent events. If you look closely, you can see these elements woven together in the fabric of gripping storytelling. He explores the “why” of how societies work through the “what if” of science fiction. Swim through Andrew’s Author’s Blog to discover the author’s take on science fiction today and its role in society as well as access samples of his latest works and works-in-progress!

Readers are invited to visit Andrew’s website: https://www.andrewsweetbooks.com. Once there, you will find a blog filled with reflections on science fiction, other short stories science fiction and otherwise. If you want to learn more about Dandelion, you can definitely catch up in the Dandelion Serial (which is rolled into Book 2 of the Virtual Wars series coming out next year). Dandelion is a fascinating character and seems to want to come into her own. Also, readers can meet a very different AI in the wattpad serial Notions of Home, in the same science fiction universe. Both of these characters come together in the Virtual Wars series, along with the goddess Quadesh from Libera, Goddess of Worlds. Goddess? You can be the judge. She certainly thinks she is.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

In the year 2202, the African Induna leadership council enforce the new Pax Americana around the world. Controlling the majority of trade between the Earth, Ganymede, Europa, Selina (the moon), and Mars, United Africa have their fingers in every interstellar transaction. To protect their trade routes from inevitable piracy, they commission more and more complex AI to the point of near sentience.

Dandelion is the culmination of decades of AI research, and is largely considered an AI dead-end because she does more than just follow orders (though in her opinion she does just fine). When Dandelion is tasked with protecting a specific shipment of rhodium, then she is faced with a situation she’s never faced before: following her vow means breaking her vow. Her decision could mean her survival or destruction.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

Dandelion as a character has been with me for over a year. When she first came to me, she was trying to lay low and stay under the radar. I never really knew why until I got around to writing this story. She’s literally on the run from the most powerful government in the world! Aside from that, I’ve always been interested in concepts about life and consciousness, and this is one way for me to explore that boundary between machine and self-awareness.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

I, Robot. Not the Will Smith, dystopian I, Robot, but the hopeful, optimistic “machines can save us” I, Robot of Asimov. Yeah, I know. I’m a dystopian author. But I really feel like the seeds to dystopia lie more in the choices humans make than any runaway machines. My entire Reality Gradient is about choices made. Even with a lot of cloning, there’s no secret hidden Children of the Damned telepathic link, or Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang where cloned children overthrow their makers in my work. And if there’s a universe that I think I want to see, it’s the universe where machines exist in harmony with people, and people have overcome what Octavia Butler writes about in her Lilith’s Brood series: the propensity for hierarchy to overrun our potential. That’s the world for me.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I’ve touched on a few already. One is Altered Carbon. The noir aspect of that is just so perfect. Dark, brooding, it’s everything a pulp fiction detective novel from the thirties would be in a sci-fi future. Along that same vein, Bladerunner is a great series for exploring humanity, especially the first one. Then there are the stand-by animes like Bubble-Gum Crisis and Alita and Ghost in the Machine.

What authors have inspired your writing?

This is going to seem weird. So Kazuo Ishiguro for his novel Never Let Me Go, which gave me permission to start a series about clones, even though so many had been done before. Octavia Butler for her series Xenogenesis series I’ve mentioned before. Also Mur Lafferty (6 Wakes) and then there’s the Imperial Radch series by Ann Leckie (what she does with cloning is very innovative in her third novel). Last but definitely not least, the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. Her take on Africa is what made me re-think the international power structures in the future.

What are you working on next?

The Virtual Wars series. This series dovetails my Reality Gradient trilogy and co-exists and overlaps with the short story and kind of ties my serial works in together to make a huge, kludgy mess! I can’t wait to finish molding something cohesive out of these pieces. The first three novels are done, and it starts with, for lack of a better word, a coming-of-age novel starring Larken Marche (a clone — but she doesn’t know it). She’s a very strong character, which is something that I didn’t do as well in the Reality Gradient series with Harper. Larken knows what she wants, even if she doesn’t always get it. And the spoiler is that she really rarely gets what she wants. And somehow, though, she has to cobble together enough people to save the world from an emerging totalitarian dictator. I have faith in her. But, like I said, only 3 novels in…anything could happen!

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CROOKED V.2

Get it here.

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CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: C.E. Clayton

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

C. E. Clayton is an award-winning author born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area. After going the traditional career route and becoming restless, she went back to her first love—writing—and hasn’t stopped. She is the author of the young adult fantasy series “The Monster of Selkirk”, the creator of the cyberpunk Eerden Novels, and her horror short stories have appeared in anthologies across the country.

When she’s not writing you can find her treating her fur-babies like humans, constantly drinking tea, and trying to convince her husband to go to more concerts. And reading. She does read quite a bit.

More about C.E. Clayton, including her blog, book reviews, social media presence, and newsletter can be found on her website https://www.ceclayton.com/. C.E. is currently working on her Paradigm Flux novella.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

“Renegade Havoc” is the story of Pema and Talin as they come to realize that the power dynamic in the illegal smuggling organization they are a part of has shifted, and shifted in a dangerous way. In a way, it’s a story of self discovery and recognizing that sometimes change is not always good, and that you have to look out for yourself first and foremost. The story is told only through Pema’s eyes, as she has the most to come to terms with compared to her girlfriend, Talin, but this is still very much the story of both these incredible women. Without giving too much away, this story has a little bit of mystery, a fair amount of action, and some big “ah ha!” moments sprinkled throughout. It may be a short story, but it’s a fun ride from start to finish.

The world this story occupies is the same one as my Ellinor series (Resistor is book 1) that combines both traditional science fiction hi-tech and elemental magic like you’d find in most fantasies into something called magitech. Magitech is highly regulated in their world, and so there is a lucrative black market for the more … deadly types of magitech. That’s where Pema and Talin’s boss comes in. He specializes in using his own magical abilities to create and sell devastating pieces of magitech, which Pema and Talin then move across the city to different buyers for him. It’s very much a cyberpunk-esque world with massive high rise buildings, full of neon and sprawling slums on the lower levels. Which, let me tell you, is an amazing setting for the kind of illicit activities the main characters in this world get up to! It’s both dark and colorful, fantastic and grounded all at once. Creating the world of Eerden is one of the most fun experiences I’ve had when it comes to world building in a very long time!

What was the inspiration behind this story?

The main character in my Ellinor series has so many friends and former crew mates that have full lives with their own struggles and goals which are all separate from the main characters and their accompanying novels. There was (and is) a huge breadth of topics and characters that have stories to tell, both big and small. Talin and Pema are such characters, living with the fallout of Ellinor’s choices and trying to figure out what space they truly occupy in the criminal smuggling operation they are a member of. Given the role they play in the upcoming third book in my Ellinor series (Symbiotech), I really wanted to take more time and explore what these badass babes were up to and how they went from where things left off in the first book, to their reappearance in the third. Thankfully, you don’t need to read any of the Ellinor books to appreciate and understand what’s happening in this short story, but the events of the first book were a big part of the inspiration behind “Renegade Havoc”. I just had to showcase these formidable women and the lives they led when their former friend and crew leader was out of the picture.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

I am such a sucker for the Murderbot Diaries! I guess that would be more of a sci-fi mystery series, but Murderbot does solve crimes so I think it counts. But I love Murberbot as a character and how it goes about helping its human friends while insisting that it does not actually care about humans. It’s a really fun space opera, and the writing is so smart, that I really cannot recommend these novellas enough!

What authors have inspired your writing?

Anne McCaffery and Terry Pratchett were the biggest influences for both this story and the Ellinor series as a whole. I love how Anne McCafferey wrote science fantasy that was both very smart with her use of science, but also had these incredible dragons that humans got to bond with. Her “Dragonriders of Pern” series started my love affair of combining science fiction with more traditional fantasy tropes, which is why the Ellinor series uses both hi-tech more common in science fiction, but also incredible elemental magic like you get in fantasy. I also love the way that Terry Pratchett wrote his “Discworld” series and the humor he used as well as how he created this whole world that you could pop in and out of with different stories and character arcs, which is why my Eerden books are set up the way they are. So even though there are moments of violence and serious topics in the Ellinor books, there’s also a lot of humor to balance it out. The Azer centric prologues are especially inspired by the “Discworld” books in particular, just saying.

What are you working on next?

I’m finishing up final edits now for the third book in the Ellinor series (Symbiotech), and then I’ll be heads down on finishing a sci-fi crime and mystery duology that focuses on two detectives and will be part of the Eerden family of novels. So while some characters from the Ellinor series may be familiar, these books will have new main characters and focus entirely on solving murder mysteries in new parts of the city. After that? I may go back to the romantic fantasy I’ve been dabbling with, or maybe even a novella set back in Eerden… Really, I have too many stories to write, and not enough time to write them all!

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CROOKED V.2

Get it here.

Crooked_Vol2

CROOKED V.2 Author Spotlight: Erik Grove

We’re celebrating the launch of CROOKED V.2 by spotlighting the authors who have contributed stories!

Erik Grove is a writer, long-distance runner, and little dog wrangler living and doing things in Portland, OR. You can find his work in places like ESCAPE POD, the SPACE COCAINE anthology series, the Zombies Need Brains NOIR anthology and upcoming in NIGHTMARE. Follow him on Twitter @erikgrove or check out his webpage www.erikgrove.com for dog glamour shots, marathon training nonsense, and sundry writerly shenanigans.

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Tell us a bit about your story and the story world.

In “Terminal Sunset” Kate Hadon has 4 hours to pull off a double-cross before a solar storm burns everything on the planet’s surface to cinders and smoke. If she pulls it off she’ll be able to afford her own spaceship and a swimming pool full of whiskey and ice cubes. If she fails, she won’t make it to nightfall. The story takes place in my Moonshine Hustle series of space opera stories that features Hadon and her crew trying to pay their debts and get by in a galaxy choked by intergalactic capitalism, gangsters, and motherfucking space witches. Think of it as a scuffed up Guardians of the Galaxy directed by the Coen Brothers by way of Breaking Bad.

What was the inspiration behind this story?

I saw the first CROOKED anthology and said “Oh Jessie that’s MY SHIT!” and knew I needed to come up with something cool so I could hang out with the space heist kids for V.2. I’ve been working on the first novel in this series for a while and have a companion story out in a recently released anthology. “Terminal Sunset” is a prequel that takes place years before Hadon has her ship and a fully-formed crew. She’s younger, messier, and much more desperate. I wanted to write a lean pressure cooker story with a simple objective and high tension. I loved the idea of a mostly-abandoned world hours before the apocalypse and the prequel-ness of it all came together naturally during the conception of it. I had so much fun with Moonshine Hustle Year One, that I’m confident I’ll be returning to the era again soon.

If you could travel to any science fictional world, where would you go and what would you do?

I am a massive Star Trek fan so I have to say, I would go there probably steal a bunch of stuff, find the poor people working lousy jobs outside of the pretty Federation worlds, and get drunk with them.

What are some of your favorite sci-fi crime books or stories?

The first ones that come to mind are Blade Runner, Blade Runner 2049, PKD in general, William Gibson, Cowboy Bebop, the Fallout games, every ferengi storyline on Star TrekJohn Wick (the speculative element is minimal but it’s there)and Christopher Nolan’s Inception.

What authors have inspired your writing?

Moonshine Hustle is me in dialogue with Star Trek and other so-called utopian sci fi. Everything that Star Trek hand waves away, that’s my playground. I want to write about student loan debt in the future. I want to write about sex in all kinds of gravity environments and vacuum toilets and sci fi alcoholism. So it’s Star Trek plus Lies My Teacher Told Me plus Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys plus the Wire that have the greatest influence on me here. It is with love and a punk rock sneer that I create not dystopian work but anti-utopian. Utopias are naive nonsense that imagines a human nature that I’ve never experienced. Call me a cynic but I’m not convinced the elites would just give up institutional control in a post-scarcity world. They’d trademark and copyright replicators and dilithium crystals and mortgage the moon to remain the 1%. Eat the rich! Sorry — what were we talking about again?

What are you working on next?

I am currently focused on making the first Moonshine Hustle novel, Vertigo Punch, a smutty, anarchist, action packed romp. I also have short fiction in the pipeline for a variety of publications.

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CROOKED V.2

Get it here.

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