From the curator, details of the program, and this version includes a blurb about each of the included titles:
THE STARTING HURRICANES BUNDLE
“Unhappy is the land that needs a hero.” —Bertolt Brecht, Life of Galileo
“This is the hour of the Shire-folk, when they arise from their quiet fields to shake the towers and counsels of the Great.” —Elrond of Rivendell, The Fellowship of the Ring
The Starting Hurricanes StoryBundle offers eleven fascinating speculative works that explore the concept of great changes wrought by people who are not Chosen Ones nor have god-like powers. Science fiction and fantasy (henceforth SFF) rely too heavily on these two modes; as a result, “mundanes” are often belittled, too frequently shown bereft of agency, imagination, courage or any ethical/moral compass beyond narrow self-interest.
This goes hand-in-hand with the predilection of the genre for autocratic authority structures, too frequently headed by charismatic psychopaths who are given huge dollops of leeway, to say nothing of boasting “optimal” genes (which demonstrates most SFF authors’ fundamental misunderstanding of genetics and evolution). Almost always ignored are the loyalty networks and the sense of collective investment that actually make cultures and societies function—but also malfunction, when manipulated by grifters or thugs.
As the astrogator of acclaimed small indie press Candlemark & Gleam, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of helping to create and release some of the best new works that show that “regular people” can show transformative vision and power, for good or ill. And now I get to share such thought-experiments and flights of informed fancy with you in this kaleidoscopic bundle which explores the premise that even fluttering of insect wings can start hurricanes.
The settings in this bundle range from several versions of a devastated Earth to a Mars where terraforming attempts failed; from humanity in complex interplanetary conflicts to disquieting alien biologies; from exiles in search of a home to underdogs suffocated from being evaluated by rigid labels. The subgenres include space opera, near-future dystopia, far futures with magic-like technology, first contacts, adaptations to planetfalls. Hovering over all these explorations is the specter of the inherent limitations (and hence immovable dilemmas) of our physiologies—and the blinkers of our assumptions, that are often more hard-wired than we’d like to think.
* * *
River of Dust by Alexander Jablokov is a Cain and Abel story transposed to a Mars where—unlike the happy outcome in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red/Green/ Blue Mars trilogy—surface terraforming failed, forcing the human settlers to create an elaborate underground tunnel system and an equally labyrinthine culture. River of Dust (as well as its sibling, Carve the Sky) unfolds in a vividly imagined neo-Byzantine universe where the planets, moons and asteroids of our solar system have been inhabited and shaped by branches of humanity. Their diverging physiologies, cultures, needs and resources create potent inter- and intra-planetary power struggles that exert their gravitic pull even on ordinary lives, splitting families and friendships.
Collaborators by Deborah J. Ross—whose work has won multiple prestigious nominations and recommendations—was a Lambda Literary and Tiptree (now Otherwise) Award finalist. A story of first contact, it’s close kin to Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness in positing humanoid aliens who acquire sexual attributes only when they enter estrus, but takes its own unique path: the contact with humans brings budding polarization within the alien society to a devastating head, (up)ending many lives. A lengthier analysis of Collaborators plus works by Leckie, Mixon and Slonczewski, can be found at “Space Operas and Gender Shoals” (https://is.gd/pfuyCO).
Finders by Melissa Scott—forerunner of several major science fiction tropes and winner of the Campbell, Gaylactic and Lambda awards—is the first novel in the projected series Firstborn, Lastborn, a bold re-imagining of the tales of Prometheus, Pandora, and the Titans. In Finders, Scott continues her sophisticated examinations of sentient AIs and the difficult choices in front of regular individuals and groups by showing the actions of a fraught love triangle: three scrappy salvagers of lost, barely understood, ancestral technologies find themselves facing decisions that could literally destroy their universe. Kernel stories for the series can be found in the widely acclaimed anthos The Other Half of the Sky, To Shape the Dark, and Retellings of the Inland Seas.
The Wan by Bo Balder is a gritty, disquieting exploration of extreme adaptation via symbiosis with an alien intelligence whose endpoint is sessile (kin to Le Guin’s “Vaster than Empires and More Slow”, Tiptree’s “A Momentary Taste of Being” and Boren’s “This Woman Alakie and the End of Dima”, with soupçons of Blish’s A Case of Conscience and Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite). The survivors of a human starship that crash-landed on an earth-like planet have reverted to gatherer-hunter levels of subsistence. When infected by components of the dominant planetary lifeform, they become quasi-zombi with lizard-like powers of regeneration who impart information by exchanges of flesh—and are now faced with an impending extinction event.
Dreams of Earth by Bud Sparhawk is Odysseus meets The Fifth Element:a human awakens on an alien ship bereft of memory and any context, although he increasingly suspects that he’s the only survivor of humanity’s first attempt at FTL travel. Befriended by an ambiguous alien ally who keeps changing shapes (though by neither the SFF Borg mecha mode nor the standard transmogrification of urban fantasy), the lost soul makes his way through many places and cultures, seeking to retrieve his identity, discover his point of origin and maybe regain his home.
Jumpship Hope by editor, author and Aurora nominee Adria Laycraft is also an Odyssey, but one in which the wanderers must find a new home: not only has Earth become uninhabitable, but the solar system colonies—established as desperate acts against impending extinction—also find themselves beleaguered. A jump to a barely known earth-like planet with untested propulsion methods looms as perhaps the only option left; and the volunteer crew of the scouting starship takes on the challenge, unaware that their destination is already fully inhabited by more than one sentient species possessing advanced technology and at war with each other.
White Wing by far-ranging polymaths and multi-award nominees Shariann Lewitt and Susan Shwartz is a descendant of Titan A.E and the Faded Sun trilogy in Cherryh’s Union-Alliance universe, infused with polyamory. Its protagonists must endure several layers of exile: not only has Earth been destroyed by an advanced culture that’s relentlessly usurping intergalactic territory, but Earth-born refugees and their descendants are also despised by other Galactic League members. What gradually emerges is that the fighting units of the undervalued contingent are intertwined families, and that the combined knowledge and strengths of one of these hubs may hold the answer to the life-and-death struggle against the alien adversaries.
One’s Aspect to the Sun by Sherry D. Ramsey, part of her Nearspace universe, has a protagonist that must hide the fact that she shows no sign of aging; she must also absorb the loss of watching beloved ones age and die. Her mother, a pioneering gengineer, disappeared suddenly decades ago, taking her research results with her. Her erstwhile employers are angling to get DNA samples from her two now-grown children that will allow them to reconstruct the research, and they don’t care if the samples come from a live body or a dead one. So the scientist’s daughter takes her starship and crew in search of her mother, in an attempt to reach her first.
Fault Lines by Kelly Jennings is the first installment of the unfolding series Escape Velocity (the next in line, In the Deep, is coming out this fall). This full-throated space opera is Firefly meets GATTACA with a soupçon of Hunger Games. A debt-plagued free merchant starcaptain accepts what on the face of it looks like a simple job: accompany a child of a ruling family to a planet where she will retrieve several labor-bonded children who are legally her personal property. But in this universe, ruling families are powerful corporations who decide the fates of entire planets, grab power by coups and assassinations, and are not beyond illegal gengineering to gain advantage. And it soon becomes clear that the child hasn’t told the captain whole story.
Edge of Heaven by RB Kelly (winner of the Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair award and shortlisted for the Clarke award) is a fascinating Blade Runner sibling: its replicants, the a-nauts, are equally disposable but gengineered for purposes closer to those of the robots in WALL-E. Both “regular” and “constructed” humans live short, brutal lives in a physically and socially stratified, resentment-riddled domed city in the wastelands of France after climate change has drastically curtailed humanity’s options. But now a virulent plague has erupted, ascribed to the a-nauts, while two besieged young people inadvertently meet, fall in love…and, between them, may unearth the truth about the epidemic.
The Janus Legacy by Lisa von Biela (dubbed “queen of the medical thriller” by reviewer Josef Hernandez of The Examiner) follows the inexorable logic of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go to its bleak conclusion. When the scion of a pioneering bioengineer inherits his father’s wealthy organ culture and transplant operation, he finds out that it comes with unpalatable strings. However, the heir cannot deny the fruit of the poison tree, because he suffers from a degenerative disease that only his father’s research can forestall. But what nobody knows is that the ramifications of this research, poised to be globally monetized, go beyond the physical.
A question that has been at the forefront of humanity’s individual and collective thoughts is “How do we live honest, honorable lives?” It shapes cultures, societies, ethics systems; it determines what to pursue in science and art. And it’s not reserved to elites but one that each human being ponders, no matter what their circumstances. The works in this bundle ask this question from multiple directions and come up with fascinating SFnal takes on this universal query, while also presenting riveting alternative worlds.
So strap into your acceleration couch, go through the preflight check and start the countdown to the jump. The Starting Hurricanes bundle will take you on astonishing journeys. And keep frequencies open for more StoryBundles curated by Candlemark & Gleam!
– Athena Andreadis
* * *
For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.
- Dreams of Earth by Bud Sparhawk
- The Janus Legacy by Lisa von Biela
- Jumpship Hope by Adria Laycraft
- One’s Aspect to the Sun by Sherry D. Ramsey
If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus seven more books! That’s a total of 11!
- Fault Lines by Kelly Jennings
- The Wan by Bo Balder
- River of Dust by Alexander Jablokov
- Finders by Melissa Scott
- Collaborators by Deborah J. Ross
- White Wing by Shariann Lewitt and Susan Shwartz
- Edge of Heaven by RB Kelly
This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi) for all books!
It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.
Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
- Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
- Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
- Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
- Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now!
- Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!
StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.