I’m happy to announce that my story collection, The Wine of Ravens, is live! (I have to add that I love this cover!)
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Like a lot F&SF readers, D&D players, and geeks in high-school and college in the 70s and 80s, I was into Norse mythology, Vikings, longboats, and everything that went along with that chaotic, and often violent, world–although I probably went a bit far, and thought Vikings so passé that I changed my focus to the Saxons, Angles, Jutes, and Frisians instead. Enter my character, Aldred the Saxon, a sort of geeky version of a teenager living at that time, among the chaos, expansion, tensions with a fading Rome, and other territorial disputes. If you ever liked Robert E. Howard’s Cormac Mac Art stories, or Andrew J. Offutt’s Cormac books, you’ll be a fan of Aldred.
From the back cover:
If you can see into the future, gods will take notice of you. Aldred’s brother is killed unjustly, and Aldred is forbidden to bury or honor him. He defies the decree, and makes a pact with strangers, an old man who won’t show his face and a giant who requires a final battle before he lights the pyre for Aldred’s brother. Aldred returns to face his doom and discovers that an agreement he has made in life pursues him after death.
The Wine of Ravens is a set of six stories that cover a good part of the life of Aldred the Saxon, from his first meeting with old One-eye (Diminisher of Peace), his journey across Europe, tangling with the unjust, with various forms of death, to the Near East exploring belief among the ruins of the once great Roman city of Caesarea Maritima (The Breaker of Gods), and then back north to his homeland and across the channel to Britain.
The story “Diminisher of Peace” was originally published in The Harrow, and later as part of the short story collection Always Becoming. The other five stories, “The Witch of Khoreios”, “The Breaker of Gods”, “The Feeder of Ravens”, “Wonderdeed”, and “The Wine of Ravens”, along with Diminisher, were serialized in Sacred Twilight. Together they form a fairly complete tale of the life of Aldred, a Saxon who can best be described as a researcher with a gift, working around 420 CE for Wodan, a god who gave up one of his eyes for wisdom. This apparently gave him a leg up on how to deal with the Ragnarok, but also gave him the drive to spend a good deal of time trying to plan and prepare for that final battle of the gods. Aldred was presumably just one of several people Wodan gathered up from an unfortunate end to send on dangerous missions.
I started writing about Aldred in the early 1980s, and wrote the first drafts of most of these stories around that time. I refined them in the mid-1990s, and did a complete edit pass before sending them to Sacred Twilight around 2006. Look for the comic edition of Diminisher of Peace in 2015!