Look! Mats Minnhagen has finished the cover for A SEED ON THE WIND, the Fathomless Abyss novella I’ve got covering out this October. The scene’s one that occurs early in the book and gets referenced again and again throughout, so this cover, which comes so close to what was in my head, delights me with the way it conveys the space of the story.
If you don’t know what the Fathomless Abyss is, it’s a shared world project created by Philip Athans involving myself, Jay Lake, Joe McDermott, Mel Odom, Mike Resnick, and Brad Torgersen. Books out in the series already include Philip Athans’ DEVILS OF THE ENDLESS DEEP and J.M. McDermott’s NIRVANA GATES. I had a lot of fun writing “A Querulous Flute of Bone” for the TALES FROM THE FATHOMLESS ABYSS anthology and just as much fun writing this novella, which is the first half of a pair, to be finished in A CAVERN RIPE WITH DREAMS. Charles A. Tan recently talked with me about it for S.F. Signal.
Here’s something from the first chapter:
One morning his father woke him from a nightmare. He was still young, perhaps six or eight. His father squatted on his heels besides Bill’s bedroll and shook his shoulder. When he woke, shuddering and gasping from dreams of strangle-fingered demons, feeling his breath still in jeopardy, his father didn’t say anything, just beckoned to him.
He followed at his father’s heels, towards the world and the great tube that the village of Poit clung to. At the end of each tunnel the space widened considerably, leaving places where shelves and ladders and catwalks could be stretched. And beyond them all you could see the abyss itself, stretching downward and upward into darkness.
The air was full of something. What was it?
Bill moved to the railing to see what was happening. His father said, “Sometimes the world opens and things fall in. This far down, we rarely see them. This is something you will remember all your life.”
Tiny things floated through the air all around him. He stretched out his palm and kept it motionless long enough that one drifted to be trapped in his palm. A seed, a brown seed. Attached to one end a tuft of hairs, fine and feathery, to carry it along. Carefully he raised his hand, examined it more closely. So small. As it neared his eye, it became no longer brown, ridges and swirls marked its surface in grays and greens and reds that somehow blended together to create the impression of brown from just a few inches farther away.
He closed his fingers around it, meaning to keep it. But it was so small that it wafted away even as his fingers moved.
He’d only seen things fall into the abyss. But these, so light, sometimes moved upward or downward, sometimes tugged sideways as though snatched by invisible hands. Thousands and thousands, swirling through the air.
He picked several from the ground around his feet. Gingerly, he put one between his teeth, crunching down.
The seed gave way, falling into woody shreds, tasting like nothing he’d ever tasted, a sweet roundness mixed with sharper, angrier notes. Not unpleasant, but awake. He swallowed the fragments, feeling them rough in his throat.
He gathered a painstaking handful, picking them from crevices. Other people were doing the same. How often did you get something like that without cost, like a gift from the universe?
He and his father stood for hours on the platform, hands resting on the stone balustrade, watching it. Almost everyone in the city came to see the phenomenon, even if their children had to carry them. People did not speak much, simply watched, as though storing it up.