Thursday, December 12, 2019

Excerpt: The Cecilian Blue-Collar Chronicles (from 'Sheridan Diggins and the Dead Horde')

Seeing as how the book in its entirety runs almost 150K words, here's a relatively long excerpt from the first novella (Sheridan Diggins and the Dead Horde), which is part of an introduction to Cecilia, the colonists, and their friendly alien neighbors.

And for a copy of the book, go here.


Once they’d gotten over the grief and the raging hangover, it was all Cecilians could do to throw their hands up, curse humanity’s stupidity and bad luck, and then sit down and figure out what to do with themselves from that point on. One thing was for sure, though: there was simply no use crying over the unfairness of it all. They needed to move forward or die.

At the very least, they did have nice, helpful alien friends from neighboring planets (the Pomeroyans, the Twyfordites, and the Brendisians) who were willing to share information and technology with them in exchange for human DNA samples “for study”. Beyond that, they left Cecilians alone to allow them enough time to get back on their feet and establish themselves further as humanity’s only hope. A small number of those aliens had settled down side-by-side with humans—largely non-scientists who were sincere in helping their new colonist neighbors with their day-to-day needs, including the fine art of hybrid food (the less said about it, the better) and liver-melting galactic beer. In a show of typical Earth gratitude, the colonists taught their alien friends the even-finer-art of capitalism and the philosophy of instant gratification.

Cecilia was a rough planet. Literally. The terrain’s ruggedness was extreme, as though Earth’s wildest rock formations came together, fucked in a hazy orgy, and gave birth to this planet. Ragged cliffs, gorges, and canyons dotted the planet like extreme, incurable, chronic cystic acne, a mere handful of flatlands everywhere providing only a tiny measure of ease. With those places being absolute prime real estate, only the filthiest rich could afford to purchase patches of flat areas. Everybody else had to settle for rough—and very creative—housing built on largely precarious surfaces that ensured more deaths by drunken falls than any natural calamity. The only mode of transportation around the place was via astro-cars, though footpaths were also quite popular. Or, if one were to be a lot more specific about it, little baby space ships, the seat numbers cribbing heavily from Earth cars of the past. Astro-cabs were a necessity on Cecilia, and roughly a fifth of the crag-dwellers ran astro-cab services.

Any visiting Earth human, if any managed to survive their planet’s destruction, would surely do a double-take upon clapping eyes on Cecilians. Descendants of Earthlings, they’d adapted to Cecilia’s environment rather easily, with air and water being the most helpful in easing the early colonists into their new life and providing friendly alien neighbors good reason to scratch their scientific heads. Two suns and about two-and-a-half moons—the smallest one had been partially in the path of a dangerously large asteroid and had paid dearly for it—chased each other around and around in a perpetual game of tag, changing directions depending on the time of year and effectively dictating what color the skies were going to be.

Seasonal colors, by the way, were shades of blue in the winter, yellows in the spring, oranges in the summer, and greens in the fall. As one could only imagine, rather than enjoy spring, Cecilians resented it as the skies, the suns, and even the moons made them look a touch jaundiced whenever they stepped out to enjoy the outdoors. The unhappy result of that season, therefore, was that those who really did suffer from a dreadful liver disease went undiagnosed, and we can only imagine the end result of that calamitous oversight. On the whole, though, Cecilians didn’t have much to worry about with regard to significant differences between Earth and their new planet.

That is, until their physical appearances came under the influence of Cecilia’s atmosphere and light, their chemical properties upending human biology. Genetics, responding to environmental influences accordingly (according to popular theory, that is), played a large role in the way people’s complexions turned different colors and the hues taken on by their hair and eyes. These were surprising developments that had happened in one generation, to be passed down the line. It’d been acknowledged that the genetic shifting had taken an amazingly short amount of time, which only made some people wonder if there was something in the water. It was officially ruled as an odd, random thing by the science-obsessed Brendisians, who couldn’t find any logical relationship between the planet—yes, even the water—and their hapless neighbors’ shifting colors.

Things began to slow down about halfway through the third generation and then eased to a stop at the tail end of the fifth. And before their baffled brains could catch up with the moment, Cecilians had all but defined a new age of psychedelia after five generations, rather unwittingly at that, and without all the smoky fun involved.

In time, Cecilians had begun to walk around in t-shirts that said, “What would Darwin do?” Those of the more philosophical bent would mutter, “Laugh his ass off.”

The Diggins siblings, with the help of their DNA, as believed, were born with vivid lavender hair and eyes, their complexions more like feta cheese than anything remotely human in pigmentation. Like the rest of Cecilians, they retained every other aspect of Earth humans otherwise, including unfortunate wealth distribution.

“Well,” Adley had once said after fussing over his hair, which he’d always worn short and neat, so he was unnecessarily eating up an eternity in front of the mirror with his obsessive grooming, “at least we look great, living hand-to-mouth.”

Sheridan could only snort derisively while glimpsing his shadow-rimmed eyes and slightly sunken cheeks. “Speak for yourself,” he’d grumbled. He’d long ignored paying for maintenance of his short hair and had let his friend, Natalia, occasionally “touch up” with the help of blunt shears, much to Adley’s horror. Given a choice when the going got tough, Sheridan had always spent what little they had on his brother, and he wasn’t going to put up with the brat’s criticisms.

Animals—both pets, livestock, and those previously endangered species that’d been planned for release in the Cecilian wilderness—kept their looks, oddly enough, no matter how many generations had passed. Judging from the smug looks pets and especially livestock leveled at their owners, they must’ve been mutely cheering on karmic justice. As far as those endangered species were concerned, Pomeroy had easily snatched them all up for their sanctuary because nothing spelled disaster like free-roaming wild animals on a landscape that was nowhere near what they’d had on Earth. To their great credit, Pomeroyans happily indulged Cecilians with an ongoing documentary about those wild animals, showing their struggles to adjust and their eventual happy adapting to pink-leafed trees and silver-blooded meat their caregivers fed them.

A final mystery no one—not even with the application of highly advanced scientific such-and-such—could solve was how Cecilians could communicate with each other flawlessly despite their ancestors coming from all walks of life, from a crazy number of races. The question of language barriers, moreover, trickled over to their dealings with their friendly alien neighbors, and yet there they all were, chatting each other up without an embarrassing stumble while exchanging horrified and baffled looks. Defeated Pomeroyans, Twydordites, and Brendisians were, in the end, forced to turn to the pub for solace following failure after failure of plumbing the depths of bizarre Cecilian waters.

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For the upcoming excerpts, I'll be sharing stuff from the rest of the novellas contained in the book.

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