Prepared: A novella from the world of Fleet went live in the Amazon Kindle store this afternoon. This short story expands on the world the we first encountered in Fleet, where sea level rise and global pandemic have reduced human civilization to a few scattered enclaves. In Prepared, we are taken to the beginning of the end, the fall of the last major coast metropolis, where a small group of doomsday preppers are making their final stand.
You can find Prepared on Amazon and at Smashwords. Nook, iBook, and other editions are coming.
Excerpted below is chapter 1: Bug Out.
Early this month, I completed and self-published my first science fiction novel through Amazon’s Kindle Direct publishing service (and, a few days later, as a paperback through Createspace). The ideas for the book were conceived over a long week in August, while vacationing with my parents at a rental house in St. Michaels, Maryland. Wandering through the low-lying eastern shore towns started me thinking about the kinds of stories we would tell hundreds of years from now. Thus, the central conceit of Fleet — that it was not a tale of environmental devastation but of people living their lives in a post-sea-level-rise world — surfaced.
Writing Fleet was a marathon. All told, from the first day that I started outlining characters and deciding what the central story of Fleet — uncovering a human disaster caused by desperation and betrayal, then buried at sea — to the day I hit publish on the Amazon server, Fleet took a little over 3 and a half months, during which time I was also moving across the country, finishing several scientific manuscripts, and looking for a job.
Having now had a few weeks to decompress, I think it’s a good time to reflect on the book, what I tried to accomplish, and where it goes from here.
“The sea is big. The sea is cruel. She takes more than she gives. That’s how it’s always been.”
The world has changed. Coastal cities lie abandoned as the encroaching sea rises, drowning and reshaping the land. Violent plagues, impervious to antibiotics, sweep across the planet, erasing entire communities in a single outbreak. The last refugees take to the sea, fleeing from the chaos in increasingly decrepit ships.
To the people of the Fleet, this is ancient history. There is no room for nostalgia when every day is a fight for survival.
Finally, after five months, the Fleet saga is complete. Sail with the crews of Miss Amy, Melville, Gallant, Salty Dog, Knot Work, Pair-a-dice, Satyr, Crystal Coast Lady III, Seahorse, Eastward, Rosscarrie, Shellfish Lover, and NC-3502-WM as they fight for survival in a new and unyielding ocean. Currently available as an Amazon Kindle eBook, a paperback edition will be available shortly.
The Fleet serial is coming to a close. The final installment, Horizon, will be available December 2 via Amazon’s Kindle store. In addition to Fleet: Horizon, this December I’ll be publishing Fleet: The Complete Collection. The Complete Collection will include all four installments plus all of the bonus stories that appeared on Southern Fried Science. The Complete Collection will also be available on e-reader platforms other than Amazon Kindle and as a real, actual, book made of dead trees and bookbinder’s glue. If you’ve been waiting for the complete series before checking out Fleet, The Complete Collection is the edition for you.
Fleet is a dystopian maritime adventure in which sea level rise and disease has driven the last survivors of the human race to sea. I’m releasing the story in serials — 3 chapters on the first Monday of each month — on Amazon. Loyal readers who can’t wait for the next installment can slate their thirst with a series of short stories set in the world of Fleet that will be published on Southern Fried Science every few weeks. Please enjoy the forth and final of these distractions, The Sea-Above, where we find out how one of my favorite side-characters survives the fire on Gallant and what happened to the sailors who journeyed into the sea-above.
Amberjack was trapped. There was only one way out of the hold and fire raged beyond the bulkheads. Remembering his training, he found a rag to cover his face and, creeping low, felt along the walls until he found a cool spot.
There were no cool spots.
The fire spread through the ship. It blazed on the decks above and the decks below. He was trapped like a chicken in Gill’s diesel stove.
No, he thought to himself, not diesel. Fizzle.
He laughed at his own joke, then choked as the smoke seeped through the sealed hatch. He was roasting! He coughed again. The smoke surrounded him, permeating the hold. His rag reeked of it. He tore it from his face in disgust. He coughed again and again. He couldn’t stop. He wanted to panic, knew he should panic, but he couldn’t. His head was light. His mind felt clear. He began to drift, backwards. The flames reminded him of his great-grandfather, a man who lived for over a century, and a story he would tell the young Amberjack; a story about other ships, their fleets, and the sailors who rode fire into the sky.
“Did you know, Jack, that not every ship sails on the sea?”
We’re approaching the home stretch. Fleet: Horizon, the conclusion to my ongoing science fiction serial novel, premiers on December 2. Each installment features a distinctive cover, featuring one of the ships in the Fleet. The ship on each cover is a real vessel, photographed during one of my many field expeditions. In honor of the completion of Fleet, here are the real stories behind the four vessels featured on the covers.
Fleet: The Reach features the ship that inspired (loosely) NC-3502-WM. The actual vessel is an ocean tugboat that I encountered in Antigua, at the conclusion of JC82/83 — my research cruise to the Mid-Cayman Spreading Center and tag-along cruise to the seas around Montserrat. The noticeably aging vessel was living out its latter years as a pilot boat, delivering pilots to cruise ships and other large vessels so that they could navigate into Antigua’s port.
Maritime Pilots are an old and honored profession. Many ports are dangerous, with local hazards that shift, sometimes as often as the tide. Because of this, large vessel require a local mariner, someone who knows their waterways, to guide ships into port.
Fleet: Dereliction is now available through the Amazon Kindle store!
“Captain Spat, father of Bosun Salmon, you stand accused of mutiny for allowing the theft of NC-3502-WM by negligence in your duties as both father to your daughter and mentor to your crew! How do you plead?”
The fleet is in chaos. Their best ship has been stolen. With her authority slipping away, the Admiral must seize command, root out the mutineers, and recover her stolen vessel. But, on the other side of the Reach, the trio – Croaker, Snapper, and Salmon – have reached their destination, the mysterious derelict that has been supplying the fleet for months.
The darkest secrets in the fleet will rise to the surface.
Head on over and check it out! It’s only $0.99, what have you got to lose?
One day, I’ll look back fondly and tell my grandkids about the week I spent flooding the planet.
It began as a lark. For the past few months, I’ve been writing installments of a serialized science fiction novel about a world in which the oceans have risen nearly 80 meters and most of the human race now lives at sea. As the characters in my story ventured closer to shore, I realized I needed a simple way to visualize what that world would look like. I took to Google Earth and Inkscape—both free, readily available software packages—and simulated 80 meters of sea level rise. The results were stark, post-apocalyptic images of city skylines, submerged. Los Angeles was completely inundated south of the financial district. In D.C, only the Washington Monument rose above the encroaching Potomac. Telegraph Hill was an island in the expanded San Francisco Bay. North Carolina was a warm, shallow sea stretching from the Outer Banks to Rocky Mount. Florida was gone.
Want to read more? Check out my article at Zócalo Public Square: Why I Drowned L.A. and the World