Dust & The Road — two short-stories

“The mind, once expanded to the dimensions of larger ideas, never returns to its original size.”
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, American physician and poet, 1809-1894

A few years ago I started working on a set of retro-tech* science fiction stories that take place in the multifaceted Patchwork World. I have now published the first e-book in the series, containing two stand-alone short-stories — link to the book >>>

“Dust” has its origin in my stint in Kabul in 2008-09 and is an account for what daily life is like for an expatriate expert in a fictional war-torn city. It also looks at why a middle-class professional chooses to go to a dangerous faraway place for the sake of people he does not know.

This is the beginning of Dust:

I will always associate Ariana with the smell of dust, dry as cinder. It is a land of few colors: brown soil, grey rock and green vegetation characterize the hills and valleys. What do the inhabitants really subsist on in this arid home of death? It took some time before I realized what the farmers cultivated and what their herds grazed. We will usually not eat what they grow, but they are able to eke out a meagre existence here.

The sole relief for my eyes was the blue sky, a brilliant shade that I had never seen back home. Occasionally puffy clouds would drift across it, adding white to the limited palette. The sunlight is so sharp that the human eye cannot determine its color; just dazzling, be it white, yellow, or pale orange. It is only at the brief sunrises and sunsets that you are able to look in the sun’s direction and then the disc is orange, casting pink and purple hues across the sky.

What do we do here, aliens in an unearthly land, hated by some, distrusted by most and appreciated by too few? Ariana had for decades been a place shunned by the powers-that-be, the home of fierce natives and devoid of anything that would attract the attention of outsiders. However, the game of power is played according to rules that often are hard to comprehend for common men.

“The Road” addresses what post-war life may be like for a veteran. There will be no return to a previous normality. In 2015 “The Road” was published professionally in Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep, an anthology with stories in English by Swedish science fiction and fantasy authors. My story received favorable mentions by several reviewers and that encouraged me to move ahead with the Patchwork World project. For example, here is what Chuck Rothman wrote about “The Road” at Tangent Online:

“Kitu is a marshal on ‘The Road’, keeping traffic moving on the major transportation route on another world. She finds two friars, Brod and Klim and helps them on their way. But Kitu sees through their appearance to discover that they have secrets, and offers to help, as we learn she has secrets of her own. Anders Blixt creates a vivid society, and Kitu is an excellent character.”

Two years ago I started working on Dusk and Dawn, a stand-alone novella that takes place some years after “The Road”. It is an action adventure in a part of the Patchwork World that is very different from the milieus in “Dust” and “The Road”. However, I write in my spare time, so it moves forward more slowly than I want.

* The label retro-tech indicates that people in the stories use less sophisticated technologies than ours; it can also be referred to humorously as “the future as it used to be”. For example, the Oceanic civilization in “Dust” and “The Road” has radio valves, diesel engines and cars, but lacks semiconductors, helicopters and jetliners.

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