For Your Downloading Pleasure

by wjw on March 27, 2014


My longish novelette, The Tang Dynasty Underwater Pyramid, is now available for download via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Kobo seems to have some kind of complicated problem with the file, and despite my turning the air blue with curses, this is not at present resolved.

I’ve been trying to get serious about uploading the short fiction, and with mixed success.  I figured I could get a couple stories up each week, but then I was overestimating the intelligence of the various softwares involved, and the necessity of cursing them at length, on occasion for days.

(Not unlike my inability to keep WordPress from putting a large amount of white space between the first two words of this post and the rest of the text.)

The novelette’s packaging, alas, gives no hint that the story is humorous.  I’m finding it hard to find humor in stock art, this despite the opportunities for satire in the story itself, which features two rival espionage organizations composed of Bolivian folk musicians, plus ninjas, a Chinese cruise ship in the form of a Tang dynasty palace, a water ballet company, and a tetrahedral menace from beneath the sea.

As befits the mashup nature of the story, the work had multiple origins.  The first was a trip to China, whence I returned full of delight.  China struck me as joyous when it wasn’t absolutely hilarious.

The cruise ship featured in the story, the Tang Dynasty, in which the crew dress as functionaries at the Tang court (and the captain is costumed as the Emperor) is in fact a real ship, though it cruises the Yangtze and not the Pearl River Delta, as in the story.  (I’ve not been on the ship, but I’ve seen pictures.)

Another source for the story was a trip to Europe taken by some friends of mine.  Their Paris hotel was opposite a park, where a folk band, composed of Bolivian Indians, played every day, and sold their tapes and CDs.  (This is not an uncommon sight in Europe.)  When my friends moved to Rome, they found the same band, with the same CDs, playing in the park near their new hotel.

What, I thought darkly, if this wasn’t a coincidence?  What if the Bolivian folk band was shadowing them for some sinister purpose of its own?

That led me to the thought that Bolivian folk musicians would form the ideal intelligence agency.  They’re everywhere, near hotels and train stations and in parks, and no one pays them any attention.   I imagine few observers make any effort to tell them apart.  Whole platoons of them could follow people around, and they wouldn’t be noticed.

So, I thought, if one intelligence organization of Bolivian folk musicians is good, what about two?

(Note that there is a Bolivian folk band playing during the murder of a defector in my story The Green Leopard Plague, which is not in the least a comic story.  Whether this is Ernesto and his crew, or their rival Fidel Perugachi, or just a weird coincidence, I leave as an exercise for the reader.)

The plot came from a dream in which I was some kind of spy working on a cruise ship in the Gulf of Mexico, and trying to wrangle a water ballet company into doing some kind of covert underwater salvage.  I don’t remember many of the details, but I remember the frustration of working with “the Water Ballet Guys,” who demanded Total Artistic Control.

(Is this the only science fiction story featuring water ballet?  And no, Rocky Horror doesn’t count.)

I had enormous fun writing the story, and I hope at least some of that fun can be had by the reader.

Dave Bishop March 27, 2014 at 12:05 pm

It’s fun just reading the sources of inspiration?

Dave Bishop March 27, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Sorry, that sentence should have ended with an exclamation mark – not a question mark!

Brian Renninger March 27, 2014 at 2:29 pm

There is a Bolivian band in Seattle. Usually plays near the SPace Needle but also sometimes in Westlake Park. They have tentacles everywhere.

PrivateIron March 27, 2014 at 4:03 pm

There are actually several South Park episodes based on what might lie behind the ubiquity of Bolivian folk bands.

Jerry March 27, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Jonathan Archer, captain of the NX-01 Starship Enterprise, was a big water polo fan, but water ballet? I look forward to enjoying your new offering. There’s so little humor in science fiction. . . Keith Laumer (the Retief series) and Harlan Ellison (“The boys downstairs are calling the new robot policeman ‘Brillo.’ ‘Brillo?’ ‘Yeah, you know – metal fuzz.'”) are the only two names that come to mind. . . Harry Harrison, a little bit. I think this was another Ellison joke: The first astronaut returns from Mars and the reporters ask him if there’s any life on Mars. “Oh, a little bit on Saturday night,” he answers.

Jim Janney March 30, 2014 at 6:41 pm

I want a cover that shows the Hopping Vampires.

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