Vandals on Venus by K.G. McAbee

Out now, from Untreed Reads Publishing, book two in the all-new Space: 1889 & Beyond series, Vandals on Venus by K.G. McAbee.

When Nathanial Stone gets an emergency message from an old friend on Venus begging for his help, his duty is clear: he must go at once. 

His ward, Miss Annabelle Somerset, instead of agreeing to stay safely on Earth as he begs, insists on accompanying him to the dangerous tropical planet, home of huge reptiles. 

Soon, Nathanial and Annabelle find themselves in the middle of a plot concerning a nefarious German officer, a brilliant English inventor, an Irish guide no better than he should be, a heavily-armed lizard-man and a clever American newspaperman. 

Can even they prevail against such odds?

I recently interviewed K.G. for the forthcoming official Space: 1889 & Beyond website, but since that site is slightly delayed, allow me to share with you her answers here.

1)      What interested you in Space: 1889 & Beyond in the first place?

I’m a serious history geek, first of all. I’m in love with the Victorian era, the excitement of fresh new technology, the thrill of discovery and wiping out the blank spots on the map; in the case of S:1889, the black spots in the Solar System. I am especially fascinated by Sir Richard Francis Burton, co-discoverer of the source of the Nile, brilliant linguist and writer; I want to use him as a character in some of my work soon. I’m sure he would have signed up for a trip to Venus, and he’d tell his poor wife Isobel, as he so often did in their lives together, “Pay, pack and follow.”

I’m also a serious fan of the classic pulp writers: ERB, Lovecraft, REH, and the science fiction writers who got their start in the pulps: Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Eric Frank Russell, Jack Vance and so many, many more. The pulp feel of S:1889 is so attractive to me as a writer and as a reader. Did I mention I was a geek?

2)      What difficulties did you face in converting a Role-playing Game scenario into a fully-fledged prose novella?

Well, let’s face it: RPGs depend on the players to flesh out their characters, but in a novella, it’s up to the writer to make the characters live on the page. There is also, in the game, the automatic collaboration between the players, which can change and morph the events in unexpected ways. I provided a general outline of my story, but it too changed and morphed as I wrote and as I became more familiar with people, places and events. I hope I’ve managed to make my characters alive and recognizable, with all their human strengths and weaknesses intact.

3)      Who are your favourite characters?

Oddly enough, even though he doesn’t appear very much, in my story at least, I’m especially interested in William Henry White, warship designer and head of naval construction. I am fascinated in the sheer depth and complexity of just the idea of designing a warship.

4) Your three favourite moments in Vandals on Venus are…?

In ascending order:

1.      When Nathaniel is convinced, and I mean CONVINCED, that Annabelle will not possibly go to Venus with him.

2.      Annabelle’s anger and disgust at Nathaniel during a rather explosive moment, about which I shall not say more.

3.      Dinosaur attack! Of course!

 

5) What’s coming next from you?

How nice of you to ask! I have a steampunk short story series contracted with Untreed Reads called Bold as Brass. Each short tells one of the adventures of Lady Abigail Moran, an aristocratic thief—think A. J. Raffles in skirts—and her trusty sidekick and less-than-aristocratic associate, Simon Thorne. The first in the series is called “Lady Abigail and the Audacious Aeronaut” and then comes “Lady Abigail and the Lachrymose Leviathan” and “Lady Abigail and the Morose Magician”. These are lots of fun to write.

I also have a steampunk collaboration, written with Cynthia D. Witherspoon—we write as Cynthia Gael—coming very soon from Carina Press, which is an e-division of a little publisher called Harlequin. Our book is called Brass and Bone, and we’re working on the sequel now; we’re hoping it’s going to be a series.

Also, I’ve just signed contracts for two short stories for upcoming anthologies, one from Wicked East Press and one from May December Press. I’m in talks to collaborate on a mystery with another S:1889 writer, the brilliant Louis Shosty. And I’m working on a project with zombies—but then, who isn’t?

δ

And now for an exclusive extract from Vandals on Venus:

Nathanial’s heart sank further and further within him as they approached the airship Forbes-Hamilton so vaingloriously called the Aeronaut III. From a distance, the airship had looked very much like any other on Earth, but as he grew closer, he could begin to pick out a multitude of differences. Instead of a single oblong cigar-shaped airbag, this ship had a series of—he counted silently—five round balloons, all contained within an elaborate crisscrossed netting affair, which seemed to be woven of some local vegetable matter; a thick, fibrous yet porous looking vine. Below the five entrapped bags hung the gondola. Here again, Forbes-Hamilton had departed from the accepted Earth style. Instead of sleek and aerodynamic design, the inventor had gone for a fantastical look. Stone did not approve. There was no place in engineering, in science, for such a ridiculous object. Why, the thing looked like some sort of Viking ship, with its raised prow and stern, and a silly lizard head which, no doubt, was meant to represent some sort of mythological beast, a dragon or wyvern.

As for the state of the thing! The airbags had patches, which were themselves patched, and the ramshackle gondola looked as if it had been knocked about like a cricket ball.

“Ah,” Nathanial said as he gazed up at the thing. “Yes.”

“Isn’t it lovely, Nathanial?” Annabelle’s tone held a warning. “Aren’t you so glad we came? And do think how lucky we shall be to have a ride in it!”

Forbes-Hamilton had his head down but, even so, Stone could tell he was blushing furiously. No wonder! To have called him halfway across the system to this…this…

“Oh, it’s hardly lovely,” Forbes-Hamilton said, twisting one foot like a child in obvious pleasure at Annabelle’s words. “Though, I must admit, it is rather unusual, is it not?” He raised his head and beamed up at the thing as if it were the most beautiful craft imaginable.

“Unusual. Yes, indeed,” Nathanial managed at last. He turned and glared at Jericho, but even that release was denied him, for Jericho was at that moment grinning like an idiot at Annabelle.

Forbes-Hamilton seemed to suddenly come to his senses. “Well, now, let’s go aboard, shall we? Come around to the port side where the gangplank is set up. I’ve got quite a few things to show you, Professor Stone, and I think you will be amazed, I do indeed.”

Somehow, Nathanial doubted it. But he was here, and Annabelle was safe and not too terribly troublesome, so he might as well make the best of things. He followed Forbes-Hamilton around the prow of the risible ship.

For an instant, he was sure he had run into the same dragon whose head adorned the prow of the Aeronaut III.

A massive figure stood at the bottom of the gangplank. It had long muscular arms ending in seven-fingered hands, each finger tipped with an inch-long claw. The legs were bowed, with flat splayed feet, each of the seven toes also tipped with a claw. The barrel-shaped torso was hung and strewn with weapons: a two-foot-long knife hung from a mottled leather belt on the right; on the left hung a bulbous war club with a leather cover; and the handles of two throwing spears projected above the shoulders. A round convex shield leaned against the edge of the gangplank, painted with a grinning face in lurid colours, next to a vulcanised bag with a drawstring top.

But the thing’s head! There was the image, the very mirror image, of the dragon on the prow of the Aeronaut. A long snout ringed with double rows of triangular teeth jutted out from the lumpy cranium. Two small eyes, as green as glass, gleamed beneath spikes. And the most amazing thing of all: a deerstalker hat sat atop this mythological reptile, as though the thing thought it was a character in a Conan Doyle story in the Strand Magazine.

“Ah, Thymon, my dear fellow,” said Forbes-Hamilton as he trotted towards this apparition. “All shipshape and Bristol fashion, I am sure?”

Nathanial watched in amazement as that long, tooth-filled mouth opened and the beast spoke, in a sibilant voice, almost as high-pitched as a young girl’s.

“I hass watched, ssir, and all iss ssafe in the fat rekota.”

“Excellent, excellent,” said the inventor as he bustled past the massive lizard-man as if he were a mere statue instead of, Nathanial thought, a fearsome beast, and looked back over his shoulder after he’d taken two steps. “The rekota, you should understand, is one of the largest flying reptiles on Venus, so naturally that’s how some of the lizard-men refer to my ship. Come along, do; mustn’t dawdle. And don’t mind Thymon. He’s a dear friend of mine. I saved his life when he was wounded by one of the greater sauroids, I believe it was a ferengin, wasn’t it, Thymon?” Without waiting for reply, he went on. “Something huge, anyway, with quite an astonishing number of teeth. You can still see some of the marks here—” he pointed to a long, deep groove in the lizard-man’s right arm, “—and there, on his leg.” Then he waved his arm towards his ship. “If you’ll look there, just by the figurehead on the prow, you can see more marks from a ferengin’s teeth. So, according to the rules of his tribe—the Cherada, don’t you know; they’re the largest and most advanced of any we’ve run across so far, with quite an elaborate set of funerary rituals and a form of rudimentary writing that resembles cuneiform, if you’re interested in such things. But be that as it may: dear old Thymon is firm on the matter, and he has decided he owes me a blood debt. It’s a powerful tradition, don’t you see; can’t be denied. Naturally, I trust him completely; he’s devoted to me, the dear chap.”

Nathanial felt a bit dizzy at this surge of new information. He opened his mouth, but before he could speak…

“How fascinating,” Annabelle breathed as she gazed up the long length of the lizard-man, who towered over her like a giant. Then, to Nathanial’s amazement, and fear, she held out her hand.

Thymon looked down at her, lowering his massive snout like a drawbridge, a quizzical expression in his deep-set eyes. He held out his huge paw and, with the utmost care, gave the top of Annabelle’s small, decidedly grimy hand a delicate tap with one razor-sharp claw.

“Ah, excellent!” said Forbes-Hamilton. “He accepts you. Quite an honour, dear lady. Thymon has been known to, er, be a bit snappish with new acquaintances.”

Nathanial released a breath he hadn’t even known he was holding. Annabelle, he feared, was going to be the death of him.

Vandals on Venus is available direct from the Untreed Reads Store (currently on sale as part of the World Space Week, for only $2.09), and from all good eBook stockists.

Space: 1889 remains the copyright © of Frank Chadwick, and is used under licence.

Artwork by David Burson, cover design by Steve Upham, copyright © Untreed Reads LLC, 2011. All Rights Reserved.

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