A case of “Stonebrood”
I’m very pleased to announce that the October issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact is finally available on newsstands and in digital form, with my novelette “Stonebrood” as this month’s lead story. (A big excerpt can be found online.) In her review for Locus, Lois Tilton provides as good a summary as any:
Marius is a firefighter with a slow-moving disaster on his hands—an underground coal fire that has been burning for at least fifty years, until officials were galvanized into action by a sinkhole that collapsed a highway and killed eight people. The problem: no way to tell how large the fire is and how many miles it has spread. The solution: tiny drones, resembling bees, that can be lowered down boreholes into the mine to map the fire. From there, attempts to extinguish it can begin.
Of course, it’s not quite as straightforward as it sounds. Trevor Quachri’s editorial note calls “Stonebrood” a “creepy” story, which is more or less right. And after “Cryptids,” which was meant as a kind of departure from my usual style, it represents a welcome return to the kind of story I’d like to think I do best.
Upon reading it over again, I was glad to find that I still like the result quite a bit, since it combines elements of the stories I’ve written for Analog in the past—an unusual setting, inexplicable events, a final scientific twist—with a tone that turned out to have unexpected affinities with my suspense novels. Elsewhere, Lois Tilton describes “Stonebrood” as “the most sciencey” of this month’s crop of stories in the major digests, including Analog, Asimov’s, and Fantasy & Science Fiction. I was gratified and a little surprised to read this, since I’ve often felt like a borderline impostor in those pages: unlike many writers of hard science fiction, I’m not a scientist by training, and whatever factual content exists in my work is usually there only because it enabled a specific plot. If anything, though, I’ve had to try harder to make the science work, and to tailor each story to the material I happened to have at hand, and it’s particularly on display in “Stonebrood,” which wouldn’t exist at all in its current form if certain pieces hadn’t fallen together in just the right way. As usual, I expect to discuss the story’s development in greater detail in the coming weeks, so I hope you’ll take a moment to check it out.