Welcome!

I'm James Maxey, the author of the Dragon Age fantasy series of Bitterwood, Dragonforge, and Dragonseed, the Dragon Apocalypse series of Greatshadow, Hush, and Witchbreaker, as well as the superhero novels Nobody Gets the Girl and Burn Baby Burn. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Silent As Dust


My short story "Silent as Dust" went live this week at Intergalactic Medicine Show. It's my own rather stange take on a ghost story, and it is, in my humble opinion, perhaps the finest story I've yet put into print. IGMS is a paid subscription site, but individual issues only cost $2.50. You can read the first 500 words of the story for free by clicking here.


While you're there, be sure to click on the artwork for a fullsize view of the illustration. The detail is wonderful. Nick Greenwood is the artist, and if you follow the link you'll find other illustrations by him. Excellent stuff.


6 comments:

Tracey said...

Congrats! It is a beautiful story.

James Maxey said...

Thanks, Tracey!

rastronomicals said...

Wanted to read this, so I registered at the IGMS site then paypalled my 2.50, then logged on then clicked on your story . . . and got a page telling me I hadn't purchased the issue.

Which is balderdash, of course. I just *had* I've emailed support, and will let you know if I'm ever allowed on, or even get a reply.

But in the meantime, I recognize this, or at least the first 500 words of this. . . you had shared some of the story on your blog, but in some other context, I believe.

Good luck, and I am glad to see success more and more accruing to you; it is well-deserved.

James Maxey said...

Thanks, Ras. Let me know if you don't get on. Send me an email at nobodynovelwriter at yahoo.com and I'll forward it on to Ed Schubert, the editor. I doubt he knows that much about the tech support side, but he'll know who will.

I did post a brief chunk of this story a while back after I had run it through Babblefish and back just playing around. I had just had a story come out in Russian an I was trying to get a sense of how well Babblefish translated back and forth.

rastronomicals said...

Thanks for the offer of support, but those steps won't be necessary. IGMS support had emailed me with the fix by the time I got home from work Friday, although I wasn't able to get to the story until after dinner Saturday.

But finally, I sat down, Lagunitas Cream Ale in hand, and read. Silent As Dust is indeed excellent. Its greatest strength, I believe, is the well-rendered and evocative setting of Seven Chimneys; it is absolutely a setting perfect for ghosts and six-year-old children both.

Next most impressive is the pathos of its main character. While at first you think him just another of the animated toys he describes, soon enough you find out that he is, all too human; which is to say, all too sad.

Usually you read a story, and if you have some questions, well, tough. The author put his vision on paper, and that's that. He or she is not gonna be available for post-reading interviews. You put the book away, and learn to live without the answer to your question, or to even cherish the ambiguity.

Really, that ambiguity can be an asset, and Silent As Dust definitely has some of that good ambiguity. The reader is left to ponder some things, and even without the readily available answer, the wondering keeps you in the world of the story that much longer.

But on the other hand, this IS the 21st century and this IS the author's blog, so what the hell, right? Like I said, I love me some of that good ambiguity, but since I'm able to do it, there can't be much harm in posting some of the questions--or at least suspicions to be quashed or verified-- that were unanswered or unconfirmed through my reading of the story. Can there?

* The first thing is the remarkable opening scene with the round white moon a spotlight. What's up with Tulip and Professor Wink and the rest? Are they real? Or can we simply add insanity to the narrator's list of faults? I suppose the answer to this question would be more apparent if James Maxey were not known to write science fiction and fantasy, or if the character didn't have his changing moment the way he did

* Right about the moment where the narrator reveals the true extent of his pathos, I began to suspect that the story would resolve with Eric having known all along. Turned out it didn't, but that feeling I had was so strong, it makes me think the idea was planted in the story somewhere.

* Steven Cooper has his moment and moves on, and the story ends. But the ending when I think about it is like a false dawn. It satisfies the requirements of the story, and the narrator's words even make it seem as if he's ready to turn over a new leaf. But really, what is there left for him? I remember hearing Matt Groenig talking about the unrealized future of his characters in the time-arrested world of The Simpsons, and he said something like, "I don't see a bright future for Bart," and I would say the same thing about Steven Cooper. Without getting specific and ruining things for those who haven't read, there are certainly opportunities for him, but they all take some measure of courage . . . .

It's been delicious going over the story this way, but in doing so, I was also reminded of two "clunkers" that stuck out when I ran across them, things that had escaped the glance of you and your editors. Hopefully they'll be considered with the respect with which they're offered.

* First, it's definitely "Gandhi," not "Ghandi", and

* Second--though I'm less sure about this--when I read this paragraph, I wondered why a synonym for the word "pose" wasn't perhaps offered instead of one of its three uses:

---"I've warmed up with the Cobbler's pose. Now I bend into the once impossible Camel pose as if I'm made of rubber. Professor Wink, even boneless, can't hold this pose." ---

I would like at this point to apologize for the length of this post and close. Thank you sir for your story, and for the offer of aid so that I might read it.

James Maxey said...

"there can't be much harm in posting some of the questions...that were unanswered or unconfirmed through my reading of the story. Can there?"

Hmmm. Any objections I have to it are mostly of a slippery-slope nature. If I get used to the idea of answering reader questions after they've read the story, in the long run it could make me a sloppier writer. Still, I'll play along for now.

"What's up with Tulip and Professor Wink and the rest? Are they real? Or can we simply add insanity to the narrator's list of faults?"

I would say that they're physically real and the attic contains a stuffed deer head, a sock monkey, and a baby doll. Obviously, they aren't really singing or talking. But, that doesn't neccessarily imply insanity. Children interact with inanimate objects conversationally all the time. For that matter, so do adults. I talk to computers, copy machines, and my car quite frequently. Admittedly, they don't talk back, but still. They get their message across in other ways.

"I began to suspect that the story would resolve with Eric having known all along. Turned out it didn't, but that feeling I had was so strong, it makes me think the idea was planted in the story somewhere."

I'll leave this one unanswered in the specifics, but point out that all stories need to contain multiple possible solutions to keep the readers guessing.

"Steven Cooper has his moment and moves on, and the story ends. But the ending when I think about it is like a false dawn. ... But really, what is there left for him?"

In the words of Bob Dylan, "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose." Really, compared to where he was, almost any direction is up.

Thanks for your pointers on the typos. If there's a future IGMS anthology that includes this tale, I'll be sure to fix them.