Ratings were in free fall. Mars, One Day at a Time had lost its edge, its excitement, and was about to lose its audience.
It had all started well, back in 2099, with the United Nations’ base established in Marineris and the subsequent expansion of the frontiers. Wherever the Rovers went, the Robsons went too. They had adventures and family fall-outs, tense dramas and high comedy; and, far away, the Earth watched. There was an excitement in the air in those days, a rust-tinted, dusty excitement. This world was new and anything could happen.
But it didn’t.
For Nick Ferrari the revelation started on a Friday night blitz, when Joannie was an irritating burr in his ear and he was still looking to wipe Shona from his memory. Five shots of Tequilapop had numbed his face and he sank back into the heaped coats on the bench. Joannie’s teeth flashed in the glitterball spray. She was trying hard - he had to grant her that - but he was determined not to be cheered up.
“Martians,” said Joannie. “Can’t live with them, can’t dump them without a permit.”
Nick kicked out at her, but only succeeded in losing his shoe. “You’re not helping.”
At the age of fifteen orbits, Jason -- the only son of Theo and Miriam -- first smelled time upon the stony beach at Reaper Bay under the severe eye of Harmer, the village teacher. On that morning, when a strong wind carried spray in off the ocean, Harmer’s red beard was wet, his spectacles grimy, and his eyes all but invisible. As the rotund examiner meticulously stowed away various tubes of enhancements and samples into his ornate wooden valise, Jason stood shivering in the icy air of early spring, watching as waves rolled in to burst upon the rocky shore. He turned and looked over his shoulder at the teacher. “Can we go inside now?”
Time in a Bottle - Altered Dimensions Press
Parvo had been told that he would find what he needed in Mandrake Street, but he was not happy to be here. His heart thudded and icy sweat soaked the collar of his shirt. He was reliving the recurring nightmare of his childhood that had bequeathed him an overwhelming fear of magic: the house in the forest and his disobedient legs which carried him within; the witch with the walk-in oven and no face; the freshly-baked biscuit in which he had bitten upon a human tooth….
Nanny Naples was to blame.
Johnny Mephisto was a boy out of time, an anachronism, a tick of a backwards tock. While his peers filled their days with specious spectacle and synesthetic thrills, Johnny read novels. While his classmates studied astrogation and alien anatomy, indulged in exotic stimulation and flits to the moon, Johnny rode the purple sage. Not for Johnny the crystal towers and orbital elevators of 2089. No, he preferred his chamber, an armchair, and Max Brand.
A Fistful of Hollers - Cyberaliens Press
When it came, the crash was sudden and brutal.
In the low gleam of sunset, Sergeant John Hale and his crew of marines, together with their passengers, Matt Sparks and his documentary team, had been speeding across the icy Martian desert in an elderly Lockheed Sprint -- an ugly but solid workhorse hover-vehicle ideal for short-duration missions. They skimmed over dunes of dusty snow, throwing up a crystalline spray to catch the dying light -- a deliberate spectacle for the camera.
John knew something was wrong the moment the interior lights flickered. Seconds later, the lights died to blackness as power failed and the ship dropped.
"...an effective well-written story" Sam Tomaino SFRevu
A Divine Madness (with David Redd)
Another time Diana would have been alert to the creature outside the cottage, to the scarred and bloody hands that clawed at the doors and shuttered windows, but she heard only the coughs of the woman who lay dying in the darkened room.
“Sssh, Mary. Don’t try to talk.” Diana touched a fingertip to her friend’s forehead. The young mother did not have long to live. “Simon is well. He’ll return soon.” It was a lie — a kindness. The seven-year old boy lay lifeless in a back room.
Diana scooped up more soft coals and threw them onto the banked-up fire. The air was thick and cloying. Londoners believed that tarry smoke might drive out the pestilence. Diana had been willing to try anything but found she could change nothing. Why did these people live only to die? For centuries the question had unsettled her. She had no answer.
Dust to DustRichard’s phosphorescence had returned, like a seasonal dust cloud, lemon sharp and angry edged. He stroked a finger down his forearm and dry skin fell like powder to the smooth tiled floor. He had thought that the disease had abated, that whatever rare and distressing variant of eczema had afflicted him this last week had been only a temporary reaction to the stress of being hunted. That hope had now faded...and it made him angry.
The Hay Devils
Every July Dad would put me on the Greyhound, wave a hearty goodbye, and shout, "House'll be hollow without you!" Then I'd clamber up on the seat to hoist my bag onto the rack and listen as he pounded the horn in his rusty old pick-up. This year that parting call sounded more forlorn than ever. To my early-adolescent mind, Dad was becoming increasingly odd and worryingly isolated. Lately, I'd woken at night to hear him talking to Mom. The next day he would confess to me how much he still missed her.
Jesus Santana considered himself in the vanguard of civilizing forces. When pressed, he would confess to the sin of pride. When praised, he would deflect the compliment onto God. And when pilloried... Well, that wasn’t about to happen.
It had been ten days now since he’d made the five-hour crossing of the frozen Strait of the Aurora and driven his stealth sled up the island’s icy beach — nine days since he’d first walked cautiously out of the coastal frond-forest and into the village — and already he’d seen enough to confirm the stories which had reached his church back in New Reykjavik. Those first travelers had brought knowledge here and trinkets, and introduced the language, but the harbingers clearly needed more than that — they needed him.
The Thing from the Thing from Another World
When all the shooting and blasting and bludgeoning were finally over and the hairy giant carcass had been hauled onto seven different trucks and the disgusting residue of blood and alien guts had been shovelled from the White House lawn, the twopla relaxed and stretched out its six slender legs across the crisp brown bed of a blade of dead grass.
Washington was beautiful in the Fall, no doubt about it, but the visitor was disappointed. The capital was not on its itinerary. The trip should have been quiet and comfortable. That was before the Grog had decided to have a word with the President — a naïve decision which had been destined to end in misunderstanding. When the time came to go home, the twopla would have to hitch a new ride.
The Man Who Sank
Niall is the worst of us. He’s meaner, more vicious, more crazy. He hates everyone: Jamacians, Asians, queers.... Chances are he hates me as well. His Dad had been a violent waste-of-DNA and Niall intends to make us all pay. He doesn’t care about anything...and yet, only last Saturday, when we met up as usual, I found him anxious and attentive to every stranger on the street.
Finally, Grandfather slowed the dinghy, and the retinue of iridescent wakefish skated away under a punishing noon sun.
Elisa leaned over the side and watched another wavering giant carcass pass below while Grandfather whistled a tune far older than Elisa’s thirteen years.
“That’s enough!” she said -- then softer, “I’ve seen enough.”
'For such a brief story, Davies encompasses a wide range. "The Defenders" brought to mind a comment by John Clute (in reference to both James Tiptree Jr and the underrated Kris Neville) "A capacity to develop the sometimes routine initial material of a story so that its implications expanded constantly..." Tiptree did this with breathtaking ease, and Davies displays a similar ability here' Chris Markwyn Tangent Online
'"The Defenders" by Colin P Davies expertly dissects colonialism in quintessential science-fictional terms' Nick Gevers Locus
'Short, effective, and providing a solid emotional payoff, this is a great short story' Jason B Sizemore Apex Digest
Nominated for the British Science Fiction Association Award
The Year's Best Science Fiction #22 Ed. Gardner Dozois St Martin's Press (Best New SF #18 from Robinson in the UK)
The Girl with the Four-Dimensional Head
She rode down the glass elevator from the insystem ship Berlin as a celebrity. The Marsport Marineris crowd swelled across the ruddy concrete, their hunger for novelty fired by advance bulletins on the newsnet. Since the accident, she’d become Big News. Had she wanted anonymity she would have needed a disguise and forty centimetres off her height.
'The Girl with the Four-Dimensional Head" by Colin P Davies is excellent. This is not another goofy, pulpy tale, but a gritty sci-fi drama with fully drawn characters, outstanding dialog, and an interesting take on the old standby setting of Mars' Michael Gabriel Bailey Tangent OnlineHonourable Mention in The Year's Best SF #22 Gardner Dozois
Perhaps a Goddess
Inanna should have been feeling good. Her wits were sharp. Her outreach sensitivity was peaking. She was aware of the ants commuting below the tarmac surface and the rat watching her from beside the Coca-Cola hoarding. She knew this was the best time - she always knew - and she’d never hesitated before.
In the six millenia since her early years in Sumeria, she’d had so many partners she no longer attempted to remember their names. But now she had Robert. Robert, a name she would have trouble forgetting. She loved him - and yet it was time to kill him.
'And there are several highlights. Colin P. Davies provides a tale of a Sumerian death goddess in love' Ian Sherred New Hope International
Mandi’s difficulties with the doll started shortly after her pseudo-mother was arrested by Robot Rentals. The two women who arrived to do the job wore pinstripe suits and an air of aloofness. By the time they finally frog-marched their captive down the path to the waiting cart, both engineers were unkempt and red-cheeked with embarrassment -- and Mandi was giggling uncontrollably.
'Multiple layers give "Dolls" a weight that will beg you to re-read' S R Turner Tangent Online
'A savage attack on the cult of youthful appearance' Nick Gevers Locus
Tall Tales on the Iron Horse
Two kilometres inland from the equatorial Sumatran port of Padang the train turns sharply, plunges into the mountain, and clatters down through a darkness relieved only by the occasional glimmer of St. Elmo’s fire, finally emerging, after three days by the clock, into the icy, orange daylight of Saturn's moon, Titan.
At least, that’s what Gillian said.
'Clever surrealism and a superb punch line' Nick Gevers Locus
'It's one of those stories you can't quite make sense of until the end, and even then you have to think about it. Well worth the ride' David Soyka SF Site
Included in the Locus 2002 Recommended Reading List
Honourable Mention in The Year's Best SF #20 Gardner Dozois
Available online at infinity plus
Spectrum SF #8
A Touch of Earth
He'd said he was a writer and at first I'd considered that fact just cause to decline his company. But he was insistent and clever. There was the coffee shop encounter and the accident with the dog in hydroponics, the botulism scare and the missing mail from his mother. Within weeks, familiarity led to capitulation and we became friends.
Carol was not happy. She said Gunn smelled odd and, like all writers, lived in that border country between this universe and a far stranger one.
The children were not happy. They said he played with their toys.
It was not the first time Richard had dreamed of the ocean. Reports of the rising sea, the flooded coast, had affected him powerfully, seeding a fascination which, over the years, had become increasingly obsessive. Submerged houses; seaweed-strangled road signs; wavering sunlight the colour of champagne. These were the images of the time, and of his dreams. Yet he was uncertain whether he loved the sea, or hated it.
Once again he resolved to quit his career as guinea pig - there were more comfortable ways to earn money - and pulled the blankets up over his head.
In the morning he found that the waves had been real.
Substance Spring 1995
Clifford and the Bookmole
"You have a problem, I believe."
But the only problem Clifford had at that moment was how to wake himself up. He pinched his arm. He shook his head. He slapped himself in the face. Valuing his teeth, he decided to accept he was awake and that all this was really happening. He ought to say something; this was his bedroom after all. But what do you say when you meet...
"You say hello," said the old man.
"Hello God," said Clifford obediently.
Was this how it felt to fly? To be surrounded by emptiness, nothing to push against, nothing to grab except the air - and your own flesh? I could believe I was flying. It was a sensation both thrilling and dangerous, and had to be resisted. I couldn't afford to disturb my concentration for even one moment of pleasure. I was alone out here, a half-kilometre up in the sky, floating...
Read online at Abandoned Towers Magazine
"Can I help?" I said. "I'm well stocked, got a tool for everything." I tried one of my best smiles - lots of teeth - but her icy eyes told me my innuendo was a no-no. I felt my cheeks flush red.
Then she smiled. "You're funny," she said.
Well, I considered myself to be many things, to be a man of manifold facets, multiple talents, but "funny" was pretty low on my list. I was hurt. She may as well have called me effeminate.
I stared under the Renault's bonnet and attempted to appear knowledgeable. Steam was coming from the thing at the front, the metal grille thingy. I grasped for something technical to say; something impressive - something like, "It's broken."
David Yeung Remains
The doorbell said, "Sarah", framing the name in a flat parody of cathedral chimes. David Yeung repeated the word, letting the syllables bounce around until they penetrated the blur of alcohol and began to form some sort of coherent pattern. His wife - her name was Sarah.
She'd followed him; tracked him down to this dismal lowtown apartment.
He raised the flask of sherry, focussed on the bright language of the label, the sunshine sentiments, so out of place on this drizzly, disjointed day. His hand trembled.
She couldn't come in. No, he couldn't let her in. The prickling in his arms and legs told him it was too near the time. Within minutes she would hate him.
The Scanner #9
Rolf and the Volvo
Please visit the Library
I've been thinking about your last letter and in particular your astute comments on the multi-million pound Joe Simple hype: "Sample Simple's Samples". I have to say that it has been effective - you know even I was tempted for this year's quota - and the queues have been growing and growing.
But you're right. There's much more to life than pop stars (however much I might fancy them).
Lord of the Walnut
Oscar Kohl closed the bedroom door quietly and crossed to the balcony rail. The pre-dawn wind was warm and soft. It carried both the scent of roses and an occasional stagnant breath from the mud banks of the river Jest.
He should spend these last few hours with his wife, Emily. This was her last chance to see him. He surely owed her that much. But he wanted to watch the lightening of the eastern sky, to wish the sun to rise impossibly early; to squeeze tired blood through arid veins.
Mostly he wanted to be away from the pain he was about to cause.
The Scanner #2
Fear of Falling
supervisor shrugged his shoulders. "It's nothing to be ashamed
of, Mr Wright. Most humans here suffer a fear of falling."
He pointed up to the sky. "They call it Triton's Heaven. Up
is down, and down is up. Some can't even glance at the sky
without first anchoring themselves. Either you learn to live with
it, or you never raise your eyes above the ground."
Wright followed the robot's gesture. The cloud which had shrouded the colony since his arrival had been drawn out of the sky, the growing wind chasing the last tatters, like loose litter, towards the snow-sea. Stars gleamed coldly in the blue-blackness.
And dominating all, swelling in his perception as if to fill half the sky, the huge blue majesty of Neptune.
Or below him?
In its vastness, its striped fields of variegated greens and blues - which, even as he watched, seemed to flow across that soft-edged disc - the planet was a landscape into which he was falling.
...Or was he Pushed?Ragg clamped his hands to his face. "Get away! Away!"
Nerve Gardens #2
Till Death May Us Part
Alice screamed as she hurled the framed painting of the Remembered Glory across the bedroom.
It smashed into the oval rosewood mirror - secreter of their scribed
initials for decades - which hung beside the door. Silver needles
splashed over the carpet. Alexander recalled months of snow and
ice in the shipyard; stalactites grinning from the rigging like rows of
uneven teeth, thick ice on the deck with its grimy patches of ground-in
filth and pockets of frozen blood.
"No! I hate the ocean - it's too large and...empty." Her voice trembled as she searched for words. "I'm scared for myself - and I know that's selfish. I admit that I'm weak."