Some Dan Wells Short Fiction

Two years ago I started a specific effort to try to teach myself how to do short fiction, since it’s not a skill I’d really worked on before. I had some expert help from friends like Mary Robinette Kowal, and a lot of false starts that never went anywhere, but I do think I’m getting better–at the very least, I was able to sell some stories, so at least somebody thinks I’m getting better. Here are two that I’m particularly excited about, with more to come in the future:

The Butcher of Khardov
I’m a big fan of games, and a year or two ago I threw myself headlong into building and painting (and occasionally playing) the Privateer Press game Warmachine, a steampunk-y miniature wargame with great models and a fantastic backstory. There are several armies in the game to choose from, each with a host of cool, flavorful characters, and I was instantly drawn to the Russian-inspired kingdom of Khador, and particularly to the crazed warrior Orsus Zoktavir, a semi-psychotic super-warrior haunted by some horrible event in his past. About a year ago Privateer started a new fiction initiative, hiring awesome genre authors like Larry Correia and Dave Gross to write stories about their game characters, and you can imagine my delight when they contacted me about filling in some of the tragic backstory of Orsus Zoktavir. How did this expert warrior become a crazed berserker? What led him to the massacre that earned him the nickname The Butcher of Khardov? And down at the root of it all, why did he name is axe Lola? I had a devilishly good time reaching deep into this guy’s past to dredge up old horrors, invent some new ones, and present it all through the eyes of a mind fractured by loss and hatred and guilt. It’s a dark story, and a sad story, but also a high-octane butt-kicking story, all rolled up into one: magic and monsters and giant robots and paranoid hallucinations and all the things I love to write about. Orsus is a great character, and I had a great time writing about him. You can find my novella here and/or here. It’s worth noting that Howard Tayler has a Privateer novella as well, coming out sometime in the next few months; I’ve read it, and it’s awesome.

A Knight in the Silk Purse
My editor for the Privateer project was Scott Taylor, and after working with me on that story he offered me another opportunity I couldn’t refuse: a spot in a shared-world anthology set in a cool fantasy world first explored in the Kickstarter-ed Tales of the Emerald Serpent. What attracted me to this idea was, again, a fantastic character: Kalomir is a sort of reverse Elric, an evil necromancer kept alive by a sentient and benevolent sword that forces him to wander the world doing good. I can’t give you much info on this story yet, because we’re still putting it together, but the shared-world nature of the storytelling has been a fantastic experience so far, in particular the chance to work with people like Juliet McKenna–the two of us are intertwining our stories a bit, which is a new thing for me, but very fun to play around with. The Knight in the Silk Purse anthology is still being Kickstarter-ed, so if you want to read the stories–and I assure you that you do–drop a few bucks on it.

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