Tales from the Canyons of the Damned in Space: No. 1
December 21, 2016
A Review by Chris Fried
Tales from the canyons is taking on a new and distinct theme with five stories about aliens and the strange beings that reside in space. Four short stories and one stellar poem explore what lies beyond in this collection, starting with:
Nathan M. Beauchamp’s “Flesh of my Flesh” – A married couple travels through space on a long journey and a perilous mission. And the seven-month-old being exposed to intense radiation is a crucial part of that mission! Why are they experimenting on him like this? A powerful and poignant story about being a parent, how we experience it and how we define it that hits home to anyone with a heart.
Samuel Peralta’s “The Way the World Ends” – A poem about the what happens when our narrator’s world ends. Simultaneously epic in scope and intensely personal in vision, it evokes a strong sense of despair, sadness, and longing to hold those we love for one last time before the end of everything.
A.K. Meek’s “Second Invasion” – Trisha is walking through downtown San Antonio, Texas with her two young children when strange aliens start falling out of the sky! These aliens are terrifying, armed with a gruesome weapon. If that’s not chilling enough, the aliens also absorb a person’s memories as they die! What will Trisha do when faced with this onslaught and will these aliens succeed in their invasion? This intense story gave me deep shivers while also keeping me riveted with each ghastly death. It also takes place in the same world as the author’s story “Thoughts As Water” from “Tales from the Canyons of the Damned: No. 5”.
Kevin Lauderdale’s “The Peacemaker” – On the planet Menim, Troth terrorists try to assassinate Ambassador Wintner from afar! Embroiled in a civil war of sorts, the government is trying to handle it until the terrorists make a bold move. What will happen next? This is an adventurous tale that effectively examines a conflict from two different points of view, embroiled in a complicated political situation. It also features a very clever, devilishly unexpected ending that was a blast to read from beginning to end.
Daniel Arthur Smith’s “The Off World Kick Murder Squad I” – Eller and his motley crew of highly trained specialists take on a high-risk job with a big payday to deliver a mysterious package. But not everything is what it seems and suddenly, their lives are put at risk! It’s filled with shady rogues, imaginative, exciting battles, startling revelations and an ending that begs for a continuation that I need to read right now! This rough and tumble universe is infused with fun, thrills and an “anything goes” attitude. Part two can’t get here soon enough.
Each story in this volume takes full advantage of the space theme and runs with it, taking the usual horror and suspense vibe from previous “Canyons” collections and giving it a refreshing spin to tell top-flight, exhilarating tales that are truly out of this world.
Also, if you found this review to be helpful, please take a moment to click on the link and head on over to Amazon to let them know by marking it as helpful. You can do so here.
Special Feature – an interview with A.K. Meek:
1.) This is truly a terrifying and creepy alien race you’ve established here. What was the inspiration for their creation?
A.K. Meek: There’s no real inspiration. I wanted to write a story that had aliens and telepathy. Then I thought how scary it would be to have aliens that could see our thoughts. Then I thought it would be creepier to have aliens that would feed off our thoughts. Then I thought how terrifying it would be if the aliens gained our knowledge and experience as it consumed our thoughts.
2.) In this story, you really tap into the inner pathos of humanity. Especially with Trisha, her past tragedies and her estranged husband Daniel. How do you dive so deeply into the human condition like that and make it so tangible with your words? To me, it seems to be one of your signature strengths, effectively demonstrated in the short stories from your “Automatic: Anthology of Robots” book as well.
A.K. Meek: It’s funny you say this because I don’t like when movies throw in love interests, or when they’re built around family relationships. But I know that’s a necessary vehicle to convey emotion and some level of believability in stories. I’m also not the most sensitive person in the world, so I have that working against me. Over my short time writing I’ve learned family dynamics are necessary for impactful stories; ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Who knows, maybe my stories say all I want to say in real life but can’t because I’m narrow and shallow.
3.) Since is the second time you’ve written about these aliens, will we possibly see more of them in future stories by you? Perhaps a crossover where these aliens meet up with some of your Nishimora-Dynamo androids? Robots versus aliens?
A.K. Meek: I had thought I would retire the Alien Invader universe once I finished the second short story (which I owed as a commitment), but then there is that pesky stoner kid in “Second Invasion” who stole one of the alien’s weapons and ran off into the crowd. I can think of a good story for him. How does a human react when they hold an alien weapon, a weapon that has also fed off the emotion of a hundred souls?
The idea of aliens vs. robots sounds spectacular. The aliens with unpronounceable names try sucking the thoughts from Nishimora-Dynamo robots, but all they get are one’s and zeroes, and they die of starvation. I imagine it’s like eating a bowl of Lucky Charms without the marshmallows. That would be a stellar story!
1.) What made you decide to switch the theme in the next few volumes of “Canyons” to focus on space? And how many volumes will be following this theme going forward?
Daniel Arthur Smith: The first intent of the canyons was to include space stories along with all other dark sci fi tales. A.K. Meek contributed Thoughts as Water, an innovative twist on an alien invasion, back in C5. His outstanding story drew in several with space themes, so many in fact that we felt we’d have to space them out among issues. Then a someone from the roster, I forget who, suggested a space themed issue. We were already planning a Halloween issue so this made sense. But we had more stories than we could fit into the slot limit of one special edition—one became two, and then three. So C11 (Dec), C12 (Jan), and C14 (Mar) will be space themed editions that will be combined in May for a space omnibus. February will be our Valentine issue and April will take us back to general theme. Watch out for our Time Travel edition in June.
2.) All the covers for “Canyons” are especially well done but this one, in particular, is really quite inspiring. Can you discuss the creation of this cover and how it came about?
Daniel Arthur Smith: Thank you for the kind words. The covers are created in-house, as my kung fu grows strong, each is a bit better than the last. The challenge with the space issue was to maintain the weathered look, the pulp feel, and the brand of the first ten issues and two omnibus. The retro saucers with the dangling tentacles did the job (maybe that’s what is in the cloud?). Initially Amazon wouldn’t accept the space issue as part of the Canyons series. So I had to update the description and add the new logo and issue number in the upper left corner. Going forward all editions will have that mark.
3.) Can you confirm or deny that your story in this collection, “The Off World Kick Murder Squad” is connected to the universe you’ve created in a full-length novel that you eventually plan on publishing called “Plane Drifters?” And if so, can you talk a little about this universe and its various “Planes”?
Daniel Arthur Smith: The Off World Kick Murder Squad does in fact operate in the same world as Diatomic Flop, The Blue Prince, Hugh Howey Lives, The Peralta Protocol, Gazer, and my upcoming full length novel. The title of the novel was Planes Drifters, yet due to some rights issues the new title is to be determined.
The idea for this world started with my study of harmonic resonance and the idea of a ‘Second Reality’ beyond our senses that could be used to shuffle off the poor and criminals. Further study of harmonic resonance uncovered theories concerning the famous Philadelphia experiment and the Beyond of H.P. Lovecraft.
Centuries from now, in a cyberpunk, syndicate run Homeland unified after a harmonic resonance experiment leads to the discovery of the Bubble in New York harbor. Built by the Elders, the Bubble is a mammoth orb that exists on the edge of our plane’s spectrum beyond our sensory perception. The Bubble is a portal to other planes that exist in the grander spectrum. The matter of the outer planes comes together in a different physicality. The planes exist in the same time and space, just different composition. With the discovery of the Bubble came the discovery of species whom had been living by our sides unseen—the horned, red skinned Maro, the black-eyed Umbra, and the grey skinned Omni. The full length novel takes place more than a century after the discovery of the Bubble, and the Plane Wars that followed. Maro and Umbra coexist with Mortals in overpopulated mega cities of the Alpha Plane (aka the Homeland, the Home Plane, or Alpha Earth), while the wealthy Elites live in the blissful plane Arcadia. Other Planes discussed in the novel are the Monastic Blue Plane, the Prison Plane, the Farm Plane. There are others, as well an intraplanetary tube system that travels across space. This novel will be released with the box set Dominion Rising and is planned to be the first of a series.
4.) I can feel the fun you must have had writing your “Murder Squad” story: hard-core & dangerous, with cool plot twists and epic fight scenes. What’s it like for you to be writing stories set in space?
Daniel Arthur Smith: This is my first published space story, but I’ve written others. And yes – it’s a ton of joy. I honed my action skills while writing the Cameron Kincaid adventures (which I’ll get back to one day) and enjoy flexing on occasion. The Peralta Protocol, originally published in the Doomsday, was my latest foray into high adventure, murder squad takes the action further. The Off World Kick Murder Squad, initially inspired by the reference from Blade Runner, Zhora Salome (played by Joanna Cassidy) was “trained for an off-world kick murder squad.” My syns are a reimagining of what that Kick Murder Squad could be and over the next few issues readers will discover how twisted space outside of Alpha Earth can be.
Tales from the Canyons of the Damned blasts off into space in this new collection of short stories. Learn more about each story in my review and then keep reading for a special interview with A.K. Meek and Daniel Arthur Smith.
Don’t forget to check out the 30-Minute Author Interview Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/leighgendarium