I’ve written another tale of Azrael, the angel gunslinger, that Beneath Ceaseless Skies has been kind enough to publish. “The Angel Azrael and the War Ghosts” follows the fallen angel Azrael as he crosses paths with some soldiers that refuse to die and who just can’t leave the past behind. Here’s the opening bit:
It was a gunshot that woke the angel Azrael from his dream of the wars and put him on the path to redemption. A single shot that cracked through the hot air of the day like the world had snapped and broken somewhere.
At the time, Azrael was slumbering in the saddle atop the dead horse, letting it take him where it would across the badlands, for he had no destination of his own. He was dreaming of the final battle at the Jericho Wall, of the angel Lazarus standing amid all the dead in the breach in that wall, his bible burning in his hands and flames in his eyes as he stared accusingly at Azrael. The battle cries and screams of the dying were so loud in Azrael’s ears that he almost didn’t hear the shot.
He opened his eyes to find himself riding across the same lifeless plain as when he’d drifted off to sleep hours or perhaps even days earlier. The ground was hard and cracked from the unrelenting heat. He suspected it hadn’t seen a rainfall in his lifetime. It rose and fell here and there, providing just enough cover for someone to set up an ambush. But Azrael saw no other soul, living or dead, and no bullet struck him. There wasn’t even a mark of one hitting the ground anywhere nearby. The shot must have been fired somewhere else, at someone else. He rested his hands on the guns at his hips nevertheless.
The dead horse was following a wagon trail, but that trail had come to a crossroads where it split in two. One branch angled off to the west, while the other disappeared into the horizon in the opposite direction. There were no signs indicating where the trails might lead.
Azrael squinted up at the sky, searching. The merciless sun filled the heavens with a bright emptiness. The two buzzards that accompanied him everywhere were circling to the west, a sure sign there was something of import that way. Azrael nudged the dead horse in their direction. The buzzards had a sense for trouble that was rarely wrong. Experience had taught him it was best not to ignore them.
Bonus feature: I’ve just finished a working draft of the first Azrael novel, and this story hints at a few things that take place in the novel.
Bonus bonus feature: The issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies also contains a new Bone and Gaunt story by Chris Willrich, “On Magog’s Pond.” If you know Willrich’s writing you’ll be as excited about this as I was. If you haven’t read Willrich yet, then you’re in for a treat.
Bonus bonus bonus feature: The issue also opens up the BCS archives to republish Lavie Tidhar’s “Drowned God’s Heresy.” Does it get any better than this? No. No, it does not.
This marks the fifth Azrael story that Beneath Ceaseless Skies has published. If you’re curious about the order in which to read them, I’m partial to the order of publication.
Please also check out the audio version of “The Angel Azrael Delivers Small Mercies” with a new introduction I recorded for the story.
Sad to see Taddle Creek ending its run as it’s one of my favourite reads. I’ve discovered many a great writer there and I’m deeply grateful to have published a few of my own stories in the journal.
Taddle Creek will be including one of those stories in the Taddle Creek Book, a keepsake anthology of some of the works it has published over the years. But which one of my stories will make the cut? Will it be The Code, an account of misadventures in a fetish club? Or Neighbours, an odd voyeurism misadventure? Or Starseed, a tale of a mad spider-man scientist and the superhero he is determined to uncover as being a secret villain? Or If You Lived Here, a chronicle of a break and enter gone wrong?
Head on over to the fundraiser today to find out! $39 CAD plus shipping gets you a 352-page hardcover book, including 32 pages of colour comics, with 70 creative pieces inside!
I haven’t had much to post of late because I’ve been busy writing. I’ve finished a number of stories and a new novel, and I’m partway through another novel. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to read some of them soon. In the meantime, I’d thought a post a few things from the archives. Here’s a Halloween interview I did with Open Book a while back for my collection Has the World Ended Yet? (it’s looking increasingly likely).
I realized early on that the stories I was writing were all kind of apocalyptic but in very different ways. I came up with a few ideas to link them but they all felt kind of forced, so I let them go. The book now has a chaotic, crazed feel to it — “Wait, how does this demon investigator story go with the retired superheroes battling angels?” But I really like the way that the structure of the book reflects its subject matter. We’re all mad here, right?
So the stories are both linked and not linked. The book is like a broken mirror. That said, there are a few easter eggs in the book where stories speak to each other, if people are willing to look for them.
Angel apocalypses, casual miracles, travelling deity salesmen, elder god placement agencies, aging superheroes and more — this collection has all the Halloween treats you can imagine! Buy a box today to give out to the kids in your neighbourhood! (Just remember to lock the doors and turn out the lights when the mob of angry parents shows up.)
In honour of that strange time before the pandemic when we used to get out and socialize more, here’s a story from the archives about spying on my neighbours. It’s from my first book, Please, which really is from a different time.
As we head into the season of endless night, it’s important to make sure you have enough reading material to keep your mind occupied so you don’t notice what the shadows are doing. Here’s a friendly reminder that my latest book, Has the World Ended Yet?, is available in ebook format so you can download it and immediately start reading its tales of travelling deity salesman, Craigslist miracles, angel invasions, elder god job placement agencies and more.
And if you’ve read Has the World Ended Yet? and liked it, please leave a review in your preferred Book of Judgement (Goodreads | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). If enough people demand it, we may be able to release the Has the World Ended Yet? expansion pack: My Pandemic Superpower Is….
(Image taken from Has the World Ended Yet?, which has many retrofuturish images for your nightmarish pleasure.)
The end of the world is now 30% off! My publisher Wolsak & Wynn is holding an apocalyptically good sale on my book Has the World Ended Yet? and other of their fine titles. Check out these terrifying tales of retired superheroes vs. mysterious angels, travelling deity salesmen, Craigslist miracles, demon investigators and more before the world ends (or Halloween, whichever comes first)! (Use the code “TREAT” at checkout or visit the usual haunts.) https://bookstore.wolsakandwynn.ca/collections/fiction/products/has-the-world-ended-yet
I’m always delighted to see a new issue of Taddle Creek mysteriously appear in my driveway, and this work of art is no exception. I particularly like the letter to the editor about my story “Starseed,” published in an earlier edition of Taddle Creek. I’m no stranger to letters to the editor thanks to my previous career in the media, but this was an interesting change from the usual accusations of being a left/right wing shill for Big Publishing/indie anarchists.
Late last year, Taddle Creek, in quick succession, received possibly the two greatest letters ever to grace its e-mailbox. Both were from Kieran Dunn, of Guelph, Ontario, who wrote: “I have just finished reading ‘Starseed,’ by Peter Darbyshire, in the summer issue of Taddle Creek (No. 43). I was perplexed by the following passage: ‘The interior of that starship was indescribable by the likes of me. Perhaps Gernsback and his fellow science fictioneers could manage it, but it is beyond me.’ While I appreciate the homage in this ‘celebration of the . . . pulp magazine,’ I have to wonder when this story is meant to take place. The Battle of the Somme, the concluding event in the story, was fought in 1916. Amazing Stories, Hugo Gernsback’s first foray into what we now call science fiction, was not founded until 1926. It seems unlikely that the narrator, Archimedes Death, would be writing later than 1926 and, thus, unlikely he would refer to Hugo Gernsback as a ‘science fictioneer.’ I would be interested to hear your take on this.”
Read the full letter here at Taddle Creek, including my response. I like the way Kieran Dunn’s mind works!
And if you want to support Taddle Creek putting more beautiful ephemera into the world, there’s always the subscribe option!
Self-isolating at home during the coronavirus pandemic? Finished watching every single show on Netflix? Built your survival fort out of toilet paper and dried pasta? Remember when any of those things would have seemed strange just a few weeks ago?
Maybe it’s time to hunker down and ignore the zombies and asteroid storms and alien saucers outside with a good read. Here’s a quick list of some of my works you can read for free online. Finish them all and you’ll open the Seventh Seal! Do it quick before the Fifth Horseman arrives!
- Has the World Ended Yet? Well, it’s getting there. In the meantime, an excerpt from my most recent published book. (I’ve written others, but it’s hard to find the time to publish them when I’m fighting off tentacled zombies on my doorstep. Always with the procrastination and excuses….)
- Starseed: Or, The Strange Transformation of Archimedes Death. A mysterious and dark superhero in the First World War! A super scientist determined to learn the truth! Mechanical alien spiders! Trench warfare! No plagues!
- The Angel Azrael Rode Into the Town of Burnt Church on a Dead Horse. The first in my series of stories about the angel gunslinger Azrael.
- The Angel Azrael Delivers Small Mercies. “Mercy” is a loaded word when you’re an angel gunslinger.
- The Angel Azrael Delivers Justice to the People of the Dust. “Justice” is also a loaded word when you’re an angel gunslinger.
- The Princess Trap. A sheepherder and a dragon come to an arrangement of sorts. Hapless knights pay the price.
- We Are All Ghosts. My first (and only) Lovecraftian superhero apocalypse story! An updated version of this appears in Has the World Ended Yet?, my latest book.
- We Are a Rupture That Cannot Be Contained. Ghosts erupt out of pipelines and the world ends. Hey, the price of gas is low right now! An updated version of this appears in Has the World Ended Yet?, my latest book.
- We Continue to Pray for Something to End Our Prayers. Gotta say, this isn’t the way I expected the world to end. An updated version of this appears in Has the World Ended Yet?, my latest book.
Literary or some such genre
My latest book, Has the World Ended Yet?, is now available in ebook format — Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iTunes, the usual suspects. Now it’s simple as opening an app on your phone to bring about the apocalypse!
Buy Has the World Ended Yet? (ebook)
You can also buy the ancient, bound physical tome if that’s more your thing. Probably makes better kindling for cooking fires after the collapse of civilization anyway.
Buy Has the World Ended Yet? (paperback)