There’s a scene in Anthropocene Rag where one of the characters is invited to play chess by a ragged wanderer in Kansas. The wanderer is unnamed, but he was based on a homeless guy I used to play chess with in Denver in the late 90s, at the outdoor tables on the 16th Street Mall. All I knew about him was he went by Sarge but his real name was Lester.
He was a much better player than I was, especially in the morning. If I showed up at the tables later in the afternoon, often he was tired or a little boozy. But man, did he tell stories. Not about Vietnam, but about everything else: homeless life in Denver, the ins and outs of riding the rails, places he’d stopped to work for a while on his journeys. One of my favorites was his story of working for a few weeks on a tobacco farm, after which he took part of his pay in tobacco, hopped a westbound long-haul train with a couple of other guys, rolled a cigarette…and discovered none of them had matches. I have no idea how many of the stories were true, and I don’t want to know. The flow of Sarge’s storytelling only stopped when he zeroed in on the board to take pitiless advantage of another player’s mistake–at which moments he always said, “I didn’t do that. You did that.” I liked him a lot.
Anyway, while I was reading through the page proofs of Anthropocene Rag, 20 years after the last time I tried to match wits with him, I wondered whatever happened to Sarge. I figured it was a long shot, but I Googled ‘Sarge Lester Denver,’ and up popped this Westword article from 2002.
We’re about four months out from Anthropocene Rag appearing in the world on March 31, but you can save yourself the worry and hassle of having to remember that date. How, you ask? I’ll tell you: by pre-ordering now!
IndieBound will route you to your closest independent bookstore.
Macmillan lists a variety of ebook sources and bookstore links, including Amazon, Powell’s, B&N, etc.
And if you want a signed copy, order it through Print: A Bookstore here in Portland and let them know what inscription you’d like!
The new podcast series DUST: Horizons is live! Check out my contribution, “Peter Skilling” — and give the rest a listen, too.
(“Peter Skilling” was originally published on Salon.com in 2004, and reprinted in F&SF shortly after that. This version is slightly revised.)
Next week the podcast series DUST Horizons debuts, including an audio adaptation of my story “Peter Skilling.” If you didn’t catch it on Salon.com or F&SF when it was originally published, here’s your chance to hear what happens when an ordinary person is resurrected in a totalitarian future and finds out that new laws have put him in a frightening Catch-22. Check out the DUST website for more info — and a ton of cool short films!
Not too long after that, my short novella “Chisel and Chime” will appear in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. It’s about art, power, magic, and desire, and it’s set in Borea, the location of two previous F&SF stories, “Wizard’s Six” and “Dragon’s Teeth.” (But not a part of Borea seen in those stories.) Also, you should subscribe!
And of course I’m not going to stop waving the flag for Anthropocene Rag, a short novel coming from Tor.com in March 2020!
More announcements coming soon…!
Feast your eyes on this beauty:
From the Tor.com announcement:
In the future United States, our own history has faded into myth and traveling across the country means navigating wastelands and ever-changing landscapes.
The country teems with monsters and artificial intelligences try to unpack their own becoming by recreating myths and legends of their human creators. Prospector Ed, an emergent AI who wants to understand the people who made him, assembles a ragtag team to reach the mythical Monument City.
In this nanotech Western, Irvine infuses American mythmaking with terrifying questions about the future and who we will become.
Coming your way next March!