Sunday, May 31, 2020

"Son of Grendel" Is Here! And It's Supporting a Food Bank!

My newest independent writing project, the steampunk-fantasy novella "Son of Grendel" is here at last. It is a prequel set approximately a year before the events of Battle for the Wastelands.

Here's the book copy.

A tyrant’s heir must go into the mountains to face a band of insurgents on its own ground. Not everybody will emerge from the confrontation unscathed, not least him.

Falki Grendelsson, eldest son of the first lord of the Northlands, serves as a company commander in his father’s elite Obsidian Guard. Though many lords would keep their sons close and out of harm’s way, Grendel is determined his son learn the business of war firsthand for the day he puts on his father’s cloak.

But when Robert Dalton leads displaced farmers armed with stolen Old World repeating rifles in a raid that kills a favored officer, Grendel sends Falki to make an example of them.

Falki has never fought this type of war before. Although the Obsidian Guard has the deadly weapons of the ancient world and dirigibles to rain fire from the skies, Dalton’s insurgents know the land and the mountains hold terrors beyond his increasingly-desperate men.

In order to cement his father’s new order, Falki has to triumph not only over a physical foe who would gladly kill him, but his own demons. And victory over one might mean falling to another…

"Son of Grendel" and the character of Falki Grendelsson more broadly allow me to explore the issue of race and ethnicity in the Wastelands world, something that dates back many years to a meeting of my now-defunct Cobb County writing group. Author G. Gerome Henson (you can find his work in the Thunder on the Battlefield: Sword anthology) asked me if Wastelands was a generic fantasy world where everybody is white except for a few fringe characters. I hadn't really put a lot of thought into it at the time, but Henson's comment got the wheels spinning...

The major ethnic groups of the Northlands, the realm bounded by the mountains, the Iron Desert, and the two seas are as follows:

Sejer-A sort of pan-Scandinavian culture. Very Viking. Grendel is a Sejer. The Obsidian Guard, Grendel's equivalent to Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard that is exclusively equipped with Old World (pre-apocalyptic) weaponry, recruits heavily from among them.

Jiao-The primary cultural base is Chinese, but there are elements of Japanese culture as well like taiko drumming. Grendel's late queen and only formal wife, Falki's mother, was Jiao. Alongside the Sejer, the Jiao comprise the bulk of the Obsidian Guard.

Flatlanders-Sort of generic Old West white people. Robert Dalton and the people of Jenner's Ford are flatlanders. In the main novel, Grendel's warlords Alexander Matthews, Travis "Mangle" Steuben, Stephen Quantrill, and Jasper Clark and the bulk of their troops are flatlanders, as are most of the people under Grendel's rule. However, the Obsidian Guard does not recruit from among them.

(More importantly from Falki's point of view, other than his de facto stepmother Signe Allansdottir, Grendel's concubines are flatlanders and so are their children. Although Falki is the eldest, the only one born of a legal marriage, and the most experienced soldier, he is alien to his father's flatlander subjects in a way that the majority of his siblings are not.)

Nahada-Arabs. Falki's lieutenant Thomas Nahed is a Nahada. I haven't delved too much into his back-story, but since he is an officer in the Obsidian Guard (exclusively recruited in Sejera, where Grendel was lord for years before conquering the rest of the Northlands), he was probably a member of Sejera's Nahada minority. Most Nahada live further south under the rule of Grendel's subordinate Alexander Matthews.

Menceir-Colloquially known as "the trading folk" and less flatteringly as "pikeys," they're sort of a hybrid between the Roma (Gypsies) and an Indian caste whose name escapes me at the moment who traveled around carrying good to trade on bulls. I think said group are the Banjara, but I'm not entirely sure.

Also, the Amazon links for "Son of Grendel" and Battle aren't Amazon affiliates as usual, but links supporting the charity Feeding America. With so many businesses shut down or operating at reduced capacity due to the coronavirus outbreak, food banks need help more than ever. If you use a link, make sure it's set to Feeding America to benefit that particular charity.


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