Patchwork World: a New Adventurer Enters the Stage

Usually posts appear on this blog according to a strict schedule — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — but that has not been possible recently because of the demands of reality. I have had to set new priorities, and I decided that writing the novella The Forest is at the top of the list (though of course below such mundane matters as earning a salary; the last time when I could support myself solely by writing games and fiction was in April 1989).

The Forest is a preliminary title for a story in the Patchwork World collection of retro-sf adventures on an alternate human homeworld. It takes place soon after the events of “The Road” and starts somewhere in the Oceanic Archipelago. The protagonist is Rauf Laudi, a middle-aged scholar that belongs to the Forsaken, a minority people that often suffers discrimination or persecution. His checkered past puts him in harm’s way because a government agency compels him to voyage to the distant Rim and investigate the truth behind strange rumors originating in a vast taiga.

The tall man approaching the entry to our college caught my attention because he did not fit in among the students moving among the university buildings. I was in the senior common room, working on an article for the Journal of the Pre-industrial Past, and my gaze had strayed to the park beyond the tall windows. The stranger walked with a straight-backed military poise and his face moved right and left like a detective surveying the surroundings. His bespoke suit would be appropriate at the College of Commerce, but not here at the College of the Past.

“A predator in disguise”, I mused and returned to my text.

“Dusk and Dawn”: When All Is Said and Done

Yesterday I typed the final paragraph of the Dusk and Dawn novella (a stand-alone sequel to the short-stories “Dust” and “The Road” — link >>> ). I started writing it in early 2014, but in the summer of 2015 a cluster of tough life events derailed my schedule. Almost twelve months passed before I was able to resume writing and complete its final chapter.

Now I feel sad and joyful because the likeable protagonist Fennec’s journey has reached its end. In 2014 author Jo Walton taught me a trick of the trade: a story’s ending must carry its weight. I think I have created a satisfactorily closure, but now I must wait for the test readers’ verdicts.

Next step will be editing. Ten percent of the initial text is superfluous according to my rule-of-thumb. The story will now rest for a while before I proceed with that. Meanwhile, I will start writing the next Patchwork World story: The Forest.

Litteraturmagazinet skriver om mina böcker

Summary in English: The Swedish literary website Litteraturmagazinet has published a piece about my science fiction and my war experiences.

På webbsajten Litteraturmagazinet bloggar författaren Mattias Lönnebo om mitt författande och dess koppling till mina krigserfarenheter — länk >>>

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.

A “Rimlands” shortstory reviewed


I started writing Rimlands dieselretro stories in the autumn of 2010 as a way of taking the edge off my war memories from Afghanistan. Currently I am toiling with the third story, a novella called “Dusk and Dawn” that is merely three chapters from its grand finale.

This spring the Rimlands shortstory “The Road” was published in the Swedish SF anthology “Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep” (sold here — >>>). That book has been reviewed a few times by webzines, for instance here — link >>> — where “Kaz” Augustin gives “The Road” good marks, as you can see in this excerpt from his review:

“The Road” by Anders Blixt follows the path of a marshal tasked with keeping the peace along a trading route that stretches from the coast up into the highlands. The marshal has been mutilated from a botched campaign she undertook in the past, and there’s much to admire in her calm and stoicism. But her sense of equanimity cracks when she confronts a fleeing member of the Forsaken. … [T]he story itself is engaging and heartfelt. I give it a B+.

The “Dusk and Dawn” Novella

For more than a year I have been writing a novella called Dusk and Dawn. It is a piece of diesel-retro science fiction, taking place on the same planet as the short-story ‘The Road’ that was recently published in the anthology Waiting for the Machines to Fall Asleep, though both stories stand alone and take place in locations far apart.

Dusk and Dawn will soon be completed; looking ahead from a metaphorical crow’s nest, I see my port of destination in the distance. The novella will be a part of a collection called Rimland Tales. I have already completed its two initial short-stories, one of which is ‘The Road’; the other one is called ‘Dust’. The collection’s internal chronology has one unoccupied “slot” between ‘The Road’ and Dusk and Dawn and I am therefore pondering on a possible second novella.

An excerpt from Dusk and Dawn, Chapter 2.

The steam engines that powered the elevators in the Tower of the Dark Voice were out of order due to lack of spare parts. Breathing heavily I reached the top of its spiral stairs just as the setting sun touched the horizon. Storm sat in a corner with a small backpack and the quarterstaff and we exchanged silent greetings. I was in no mood for talking with my legs exhausted from the long climb and my mind focused on the next task at hand.

Instead I walked to the railing. Here, a few hundred paces above ground, no buildings obstructed the wind, so the steady breeze soon dried the sweat from my torso. I emptied two bottles of water while I regarded the jumbled towers of my home city, ancient ruins mixed with recent edifices.

The sun disk vanished and the sky changed into star-flecked darkness. The Father-and-Son double planet shone sharply ten fingers above where the sun had set, while the Red Wanderer gleamed far higher in the sky.