New story dropped today in Savage Realms. And if you pick it up and think “Wow, I really hope there is more Reynauld forthcoming!” I have already drafted the second part of his travails, and well, I’ve at least started a word document for Part III. Anyway, “A Gentleman of Blades” started because I was watching DEADWOOD and was thinking what a fantasy Al Swearengen would be like. Only somehow he ended up taking on traits of John Wick, all with a fantasy twist.

You can find it here: https://www.schlock.co.uk/pb/wp_938b3718/wp_938b3718.html and kinda sorta ties into the BULLETS AND BLACK MAGIC short novel I’ll be putting out later this year.

Did you check it out? Let me know what you think!

(Wrote this back in 2003 for the now defunct DARK FUTURES website, where it came in 1st for their HOT DAYS CAN MAKE A HOT LIFE HOTTER contest).

I’ve heard some say winters are the worst around here. The way the cold freezes your blood, the way people are found flash frozen where they lay down the night before, how food is scarce and everyone scrabbles for what little there is. Those of us that have been around though, us scavenger types, the jackals, we know the truth. Summers’ll kill you faster than winter.

Winters cold keeps most of the diseases at bay, keeps them sleeping, see? You don’t get as much type two cholera, or  rampant dysentery, or whatever that new bug the speakers on the police drones are blasting on about. Take today, for instance. The speakers are warning that Mandarin Monkey-pox has been documented in quadrant B. Sure. That’s fine and all. That just means that one of the hospitals in Quadrant B has documented it. Know what that means for us down here, where there aren’t hospitals and you might get lucky and get into the clinic once a year? Yeah, it means that Monkey-Pox is in Quadrants B, C, D, F and probably all the way through Z. And they don’t bother telling you how not to get it. Some of them you get by eating the wrong thing, or fucking the wrong person, or breathing in the wrong air. Speaking of eating, its early, so I better go get my grub on.

Yeah, picking through the garbage is a before the sun is up kind of job. In the winter, it don’t matter so much. It stays cold enough, dry enough, the rot takes a while to set in. This time of year though, you better be up and out quick if you’re picking through the rich folks garbage for a hint of fresh veg, maybe a bit of gristle that’s gone unnoticed. Wait too long, and you’ll be battling bloated flies big as your head, and those rats the size of a two year old that have been popping up more and more. Then you’ve got to worry about what the garbage might have been sprayed with. I’ve heard the rich have started dousing their scraps. Maybe with something to keep us jackals sterile, maybe to spread the Monkey-pox. Maybe Monkey-Pox doesn’t come from Mandara after all, wherever that is, but its another form of control.

Here’s the other thing about summers down here on the ass end of the city. It gets hot, and it stays hot. Sure, we might not have to worry about getting burned directly by that big yellow bitch in the sky, but she heats up the air down here, makes it like an oven. All that concrete and steel up top, it traps it down here with us. Cooking us. Roasting us. Making the air so thick you’ve got to cut it with a knife.

So welcome to the slums. Welcome to the Oven. Pray that you make it to winter, because at least then you might get some peace.

Captain Gaveston sat in his cabin, slumped forward in his chair, his bloodshot eyes fixed on the chart spread across the stained and scarred table. His right hand was planted on a rune inscribed skull, his left on crystal globe, the interior swirling with a purple cloud. His greying black locks fell to his shoulders, and his eyes had the wide manic stare of the fanatic. He couldn’t remember the last time he slept or the last time he’d set foot on land that wasn’t surrounded by water.

Artwork created using Wombo.

The cabin door crashed open and First Mate Ningle lurched into the cabin, dragging the wreck of his leg behind him.

“Captain, we’ve nearly caught them.”

He slurred his words, the result of the right side of his face being a melted ruin, the eye clouded over and unseeing. His left leg was nothing more than bone and a few dangling scraps of sinew. How long ago had he died? How long since Gaveston had bound his departing soul to the remains of his corpse? He felt like if he could remember he could solve the puzzle to his own continued existence. Ningle had been the first he had dragged back beyond the Black Veil. He had not been the last.

“Caught who, Ningle?”

Ningle dragged one ragged finger against his cheek. A bit of rotting flesh hit the floor with a wet slap. “Our… prey, Captain. The one you set us on the trail of.”

“Did I?” Gaveston stared down at the chart, stared at the small ships moving across it, the storm bank approaching from the east. If they put all the sails out, if they had a bit of luck, they’d catch their pursuers as the storm hit. Gaveston frowned. Something about that should bother him more than it did, a memory gnawing away like a mouse in the hardtack. “Yes. I did.” He felt a pull, like a steady hand on the rudder of his soul.

“More sail, Ningle. We’ll need to fly like the dead to catch them but catch them we shall.”

“Do I tell the crew to beat to quarters?”

“No need yet,” Gaveston replied. He looked up and stared at Ningle. He could see moonlight streaming through the hole in his chest where his heart should have been. “Wait until we’re within sight of the ship.”

How long had they pursued this particular vessel? How many days and months and years? Wind whipped through the cracked and warped planks of the vessel, as dead as the men that crewed her and as seemingly oblivious to the fact, still slicing through waves and weathering storms, still bending to the will of its master.

He stared down at the chart, watched as the gap between the ships grew ever closer. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed, but he could hear the crack of thunder echoing across the water when Ningle opened the door to the cabin once more.

“We’re in sight of them Captain.”

“Beat to arms, Ningle. Ready the guns.”

“Are we taking prisoners?”

Gaveston locked his feverish gaze on Ningle’s one good eye. “Bring me the captain. I don’t care about the rest.”

“Aye Captain.”

Gaveston stared down at the map, heard the thunder grow closer, heard the calls for sails to be furled. The long guns boomed. The other ship returned fire, one shot crashing through the rotted wood of his cabin and revealing the storm-tossed sky outside. Gaveston kept both hands fixed on skull and globe, his will holding ship and crew steady. The wall knit itself back together, an ugly scar running along the hull, another scar to mark their damned passage.

There was a sudden crash as the ships came together, and he could hear the shouts from the crew they pursued. His own band of cutthroats didn’t utter a sound. No need to talk when you were dead. He wasn’t sure how Ningle communicated to the rest of the crew, and he realized that such a triviality didn’t interest him. The sound of steel clashing on steel rang out, muffled only by the sound of thunder and the piteous groaning of the ship’s timber.

Then all fell silent.  

Ningle reentered the cabin, pushing the enemy captain in front of him. The captain’s coat was torn, and he bled from a gash in his forehead.

“Casualties, Mr. Ningle?” Gaveston asked.

“Six of ours are no longer fit to fight sir, but we were able to take sixteen of theirs in turn. Figure half will be fit to fight again, Captain. The others will suit as supplies.”

“Good,” Gaveston replied, though he made the word sound anything but.

“Gaveston?” the enemy captain looked up, his eyes having trouble focusing. “Captain Gaveston? I know you… it’s me, Bentinck. We served together six years on The Scourge. Don’t you remember me? What happened to you?”

“Bentinck?” Gaveston blinked at the man before him, something vaguely familiar about the shape of his face, the sound of his voice, but he couldn’t quite place it. A baleful green light shone in Ningle’s ruined eye. “I… I don’t remember.”

“We thought you dead, lost at sea five years ago. Is this… is this The Golden Storm?”

Ningle cuffed Bentinck across the back of the head, sending him sprawling to the floor. “This isn’t The Golden Storm, it’s The Blood Abandoned. You understand?”

“Mr. Ningle.”

“Apologies, Captain,” Ningle replied, tipping an imaginary cap. “I overstepped my bounds.”

“Yes, well, make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

“What do you want done with him, sir?”

Gaveston looked down at Bentinck, but all he saw was a pile of squirming, bleeding meat. And there was other prey to catch.

“Dispose of it,” he replied. Staring down at the chart, his eyes fixed on another small moving dot. Another ship. He felt his soul called to pursue.

“Cut ties to the other ship, Mr. Ningle. We have prey to catch.”

(A bit of flash fiction I drafted for an open call. Unfortunately, it didn’t make the cut, so I decided to put it here instead for you to enjoy. Artwork created via wombo.art where you feed an AI words and it generates art.- MXG)

Anthony Perconti drops a review of my Fahrenzine “Limitless.”

Punk Noir Magazine

In the mid 1990’s, I worked my way through the foundational works of the cyberpunk genre. Neal Stephenson’s highly satiricalSnow Crash(and the follow up,The Diamond Age), Bruce Sterling’sIslands in the Net, RichardKadrey’sMetrophageand the works of William Gibson. It was the works of Gibson in particular that resonated with me. He was able to strike the perfect balance between hard-boiled crime fiction andcutting-edgetech (at least of the time). His fiction seemed set in our world, but to borrow a phrase,”20 minutes into the future.” Take the opening lines of “Johnny Mnemonic” for instance. “I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they think you’re crude, go technical; if they think you’re technical, go crude.” Gibson’sgenerous use of inserting name brands into his fiction, added an extra layer…

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Yeah, we’re opening back up for an anthology, sword-and-planet style.

Broadswords and Blasters

  1. What we’re looking for: Sword and Planet fiction. Think John Carter (Edgar Rice Burroughs), Flash Gordon (especially the comic strip, the early serials, and the movie – not so much the attempted reboots), and Leigh Brackett (Eric John Stark). Need more examples? Check here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sword_and_planet.
  2. Word count is 5,000 to 10,000. This is for a one-off themed anthology, so no serials. Stories should be self-contained, with a readily identifiable beginning, middle, and end. Don’t send us a chapter of your novel unless it can completely stand on its own.
  3. Payment is $40 flat plus an electronic comp copy, regardless of word length. If we manage to secure additional funding, the first thing we’ll be doing is upping the pay rate for contributors. Payment will be made through PayPal, no exceptions.
  4. Submissions will open 12:01 AM EDT (GMT -4) July 1, 2022 and close July 15, 2022 at 11:59 PM…

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Right, who let this site languish for months at a time? Oh, guess that would be me then, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, the short of it is I have brand new novel* now available for preorder from the fine folk at Fahrenheit Press. Best description? It’s a love letter to a future that never was, the cyberpunk dystopian dreams of the 1980s. Think Blade Runner and AKIRA, with more than a bit of Gibson’s Sprawl and Sterling’s neon and rain soaked city streets.

Ain’t that a slick cover?

This started as a NaNoWriMo project of all things, way back in 2016. There were more than a few times where I thought it wouldn’t go much further than a couple of friends and myself, stuffed into a folder on whatever laptop I was using at the time, accumulating dust. On a lark, I sent it to Fahrenheit Press, figuring the worst that would happen is that they’d laugh at me and tell me “No.” Mind you, this was before I collaborated with them on the Ramones Anthology I helped them out with last summer. I mean, sure Fahrenheit is known for gritty crime and noir with the occasional thriller. But cyberpunk? No one was going to touch that kind of throwback, right?

Happy to say I was dead wrong.

It’s a pulpy, action filled book that I’d like to say keeps its eyes firmly on the characters and less on the tech. It’s the kind of book that I want to hook you and not let you go, and yeah, going to say it goes with my stripped down style.

You can preorder the book here and it is coming in paperback, ebook, and a limited edition hardback edition. Release date is 2/25/22.

*Yes, it is a little weird talking about a book I finished a first draft of back in 2016 as “new,” but welcome to publishing folks.

[Note: This short piece originally appeared in Pendragon (now defunct) but it’s been almost 8 years since it saw print, so I thought I’d throw it up here.]

“Cups! Get your cups here! I’ve got flagons, tankards, skins, and steins! Cups! Get your cups here!”

The old man pushed his cart down the cobblestoned street, his wares clinking and banging together. The sun was just dipping below the city skyline, long and ominous shadows reaching like grasping fingers along the walls and ground.

He stopped outside a tavern, the sign swinging back and forth declaring its name as The Knight of the Burning Pestle. A few younger folk were lounging outside, pipes clutched in teeth. The mayor, in his infinite wisdom, had recently declared smoking inside verboten, citing fears of fires. Most people thought it was because he couldn’t stand the smell of pipe smoke, while he did enjoy taking in the local color at every opportunity.

“What’s that you’ve got there?”  one the smokers asked, pointing to the canvas that covered a number of the cup-maker’s wares.  Given the weapons they carried and the clothes they wore, the old man took them to be adventurers or mercenaries. Wasn’t much difference between the two when you got down  to it.

The old man smiled, resting against the handles of the cart. It was obvious he’d been a large man once in life, and his frame still possessed a large portion of that strength. “Oh, just a few trifles,” he said. 

He pulled aside the cover, revealing a variety of goblets. Each was unique in their grotesquerie, stylized as a severed head, but with gemstones where the eyes were to be. In most cases the lower jaw was missing, having been worked into the base of the drinking vessel.

“You made these yourself?” a woman asked. From her robes and the staff she carried, the old man marked her as a mage.

He nodded. “Took me a long time to get it right, too. Skulls make for a piss-poor vessel you see. All those holes. It’s not just where the eyes were either. There’s the ear holes, the place where the nose used to be, and you have to seal the bottom part neatly too, otherwise all the wine runs out. I found the trick is using something to seal all those little holes. Resin works pretty well, and I found a way to make it stand up to alcohol as well.”

“What? You expect us to believe that those are actual skulls? Ha!” the biggest of the group laughed. His hand rested on a massive broad sword, and his beard was tangled with bits of food and bone. “If that were true, old man, I’d have you killed for a murderer or worse.” He scratched at his beard. “Of course, you could just be a graverobber. That’s almost as bad.”

The old man shook his head. “Oh no, I’ve acquired all of these over the years from the bodies of those that have crossed me,” he laughed. “Ever heard the tale of King Latimer the Friendless?”

A slender man, a lute slung on his back, nodded slowly. “I heard he abdicated his throne ten years ago. There’s rumors he went away, looking to perfect a secret technique and vowing to return to his kingdom when he felt the time was right. Honestly, we’re better off without him. He was a tyrant and a despot of the worst sort.”

The old man grinned, drawing a silver-runed axe from under the cart. “Friendless? Hmm. I suppose. But I did finally figure out how to drink wine from my enemies’ skull, and let me tell you, there are few things as sweet as that.”

The screams that rose that night heralded the return of King Latimer, and that night he earned the new appellation of Skulldrinker, his legend and his infamy echoing down the centuries. 

The Blazing Chief by [Matt Spencer]
Cover to The Blazing Chief

Matt Spencer wraps up his Descembine Trilogy in spectacular fashion, wrapping up the trials and tribulations of Rob Coscan, Sally Wildfire, Sheldon and the rest.

The first part is a bit bloated and drags in places, with the feeling that Spencer had so much he wanted to cram into the book that I’m a little afraid to see what was left on the proverbial cutting room floor. The worldbuilding and detail is highly original, eschewing the typical fantasy standards of elves and dwarves, or their urban equivalents in ghosts and werewolves and vampires. The downside to the originality is that at times stumbles with weaving the backstory into the narrative. If a writer says “vampire” or “werewolf” or “zombie”, you’e got a pretty good idea as to what to expect. But Crimbone? Or Spirelight? It’s going to take a bit to get into it. As a result, there are a number of infodumps that come across as intrusive and overwhelming and wishing Spencer would get back to the action.

And that is where he truly shines – when he cuts loose and lets the action (and blood, and gore) flow. There’s a Robert Howard-esque feel to the violence, less of following each sword stroke and parry, and more for a visceral sense of action and motion. And yes, I’m going to admit a certain bias to that. Some of the gore and viscera at times borders on the gratuitous, as if Spencer is letting out his inner ‘80s splatterpunk self, but it fits with his barbarian type characters – grinning through a veil of blood from their foes.

Spencer also has a more clear-eyed view of his characters this time, the fact that what is viewed as typical heroic (or even superheroic) actions can well be viewed as sociopathic behavior by others, and how some people can be the shining knight and the bloodied berserker all rolled into one. As a result, some of the villains feel like they walked straight out of a death metal album given how how black and gore soaked they can get (looking at you Balthazar).

This is definitely fantasy through a dark lens, at times bleak and hopeless, but it never (in my opinion) goes full grimdark. There are still innocents in this world, and the sides aren’t exactly black on black and at most, the heroes stay a light grey throughout, even when they find themselves at odds with each other.

If you are looking for a fantasy trilogy that’s going to kick you in your teeth, then yeah, this is what you’re looking for.

You can grab a copy at Amazon.

4 poems… by me?

Yeah, I guess that did happen.

Punk Noir Magazine

Matthew X. Gomez has previously appeared in SWITCHBLADE, PULP MODERN, GRIMDARK and ECONOCLASH Review. His first collection of short fiction “God in Black Iron and Other Stories” was released last year. The last poem he had published was twenty years ago in a college newspaper. He lives in Maryland with his wife, two kids, and three cats.

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