Why is there Webbing?

Okay, I have updated the pages for The Cyborg and the Sorcerers and The Wizard and the War Machines

Still don’t have the other two (artists and directory) done.

Haven’t done anything more with those new placeholders, either.

The next chunk, chronologically, is five files dated November 6, 2007. They’re all for novels — Split Heirs, The Lure of the Basilisk, The Rebirth of Wonder, Touched by the Gods, and Worlds of Shadow.

Yeah, fine, that last one’s a series, rather than a single novel.

Anyway, I don’t know how much work they need, but I’ve loaded them into my web editor.

Webbing On!

I still haven’t finished with updates for The Cyborg and the Sorcerers or The Wizard and the War Machine, or two others — one I decided was just too much for now and put the placeholder back up with a few minor changes, and the other (about cover artists) is progressing bit by bit.

But I skipped ahead and did several more files. Except for those four, I’m now up to November 6, 2007. In the last three months of 2007, ending December 16, I did a pretty major update, so there’s plenty to do — but once I’m through this chunk things should speed up, at least for awhile.

I’ve spawned four new placeholders I’ll need to fill in eventually, for Nathan Archer, the Bound Lands, Carlisle Hsing, and Tom Derringer.

Webbing Winds On

Workin’ on October 2007.

You know what I hate? When I realize I missed something obvious from a recent update. For example, I updated The Chromosomal Code and The Spartacus File earlier this week and only just now realized that I hadn’t added a link to Realms of Light to either of them — and even stupider, I had added links to Vika’s
and Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship to the page for The Chromosomal Code, but not to the one for The Spartacus File that I did two days later.

Well, they’re fixed now.

I’m working on The Cyborg and the Sorcerers and The Wizard & the War Machine. They needed some work. There’s no mention of the Wildside reprints…

Why Webbing?

Updating my website is addictive. I keep trying to tell myself, “That’s enough for now, focus on something else,” and then think, “Oh, just one more…”

This is because I spent three years wading through all the placeholder files I put up on March 7, 2005. File after file, tracking down where a story had first been published and saying something about it — and then suddenly, on December 7, 2014, they were done, and I was updating existing stuff and talking about all sorts of different things and there were never more than maybe four or five files in a day, and I could just tear through months at a time.


I’ve gone from nine years and nine months back to seven years and three months since then. It’s wonderful.

The Webbing Continues

So I had to figure out what to do with that bibliography page — which, upon checking, said it was last updated on December 12, 1995, and the 2007 update had only consisted of tagging it “Placeholder” and moving it to a new URL. Did I really want to update nineteen years of missing data?

My eventual answer: No. I decided that this mostly duplicates information I have elsewhere on the site, so I threw out most of the content and reduced the page to more or less, “The information you want is here, and here. Follow the links.”

One reason to do it that way is that if I kept it, it would need constant updating. I now know I’m not going to keep up with anything like that — back in ’95 I hadn’t yet figured that out.

I went ahead and worked through several more pages after that, many of which didn’t need much. Even the “personal” page turned out to need less work than I’d expected.

I did generate a couple of new placeholder files, though, where pages I was updating should obviously have links to pages that didn’t exist yet. I’ll fill those in eventually.

The next set of four files, from October 12, 2007, is the pages about the four volumes of “The Lords of Dus,” and I know the links to booksellers need updating, but otherwise they should be pretty much okay as they are.

So I’m down to just seven years and three months out of date.

More Webbing

Still updating my website, oldest files first.

There were six files that shouldn’t have been on the server in the first place; they were blog archives from when I switched from Blogger to WordPress in 2006, and they should have been filed away on my hard drive, or simply deleted once I’d copied the posts here to the WordPress archives, instead of sitting there taking up space.

So I copied them to an archive folder and deleted them from the server. I did put in a redirect for the one that had been set up for public access, even though I doubt anyone ever saw it.

(If you’re curious about what was in them, it’s everything in the September 2006 archive, there in the right-hand column, except for the last two entries.)

Did a few other quick little updates which finished 2006 and got two files into 2007. Updated or removed some dead links, reformatted a couple of things.

The next file is from April 23, 2007 — International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, less than eight years ago. Definitely needs some clean-up, but a relatively minor job.

But after that there’s a bibliography page, and then http://www.watt-evans.com/personal.html, which is going to be a big job.


I’m making progress on the ongoing webpage update; the oldest file on the site (not counting images) is dated September 16, 2006.

Of course, just because I’ve revised a file recently doesn’t mean it’s actually up to date; yesterday I tackled all nine installments of “So You Want to Be A Writer,” and mostly just made some esthetic tweaks and added notes saying how horribly out of date the articles are.

Still, at least I looked at them.

I’m eight and a half years back; I should probably decide just where I want to stop. Three years, maybe? The oldest file on ethshar.com is from 2009, the oldest on misenchantedpress.com is from 2014.

Tom Derringer in the Tunnels of Terror

Well, now that I’ve published Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship, I’m working on a sequel. Which means I have yet another opening scene to post here, and here it is.

Warning: There are spoilers here! If you don’t want to know anything about how Tom Derringer and the Aluminum Airship comes out, you might want to skip this.

I first heard the name Gabriel Trask from a self-proclaimed emperor in the skies above southern Mexico, in the year 1882. I was sixteen, almost seventeen, at the time, and newly commenced upon a career as an adventurer – an occupation which, curious as it may seem, is my family trade.

That conversation took place aboard a gigantic airship, where I had confronted a would-be conqueror by the name of Hezekiah McKee. I was there entirely of my own initiative, but Mr. McKee did not believe that; he was quite certain I was in the pay of one of his old enemies, and named this Gabriel Trask as the most likely candidate.

I had, as I said, never heard of Mr. Trask before that moment. Had McKee survived those events, I would have liked to have questioned him about this person, but I regret to say that Mr. McKee did not survive. My curiosity remained utterly unsatisfied until some months later, after my safe return to New York City.

I had business to conduct there with Dr. John Pierce, proprietor of the Pierce Archives, concerning certain details of my Mexican adventure, and when I had concluded that more or less to my satisfaction, I asked him, “What can you tell me about Gabriel Trask?”

“Trask?” he replied. “The name does not immediately bring anything to mind. Where did you encounter it?”

“When I confronted Reverend McKee, he supposed that I was working for this Trask,” I explained. “He said that Gabriel Trask employed a cabal of spies and assassins, and was not to be trusted, but that was all I learned. The circumstances were such that I could not inquire for more details.”

Dr. Pierce nodded. “I see,” he said. “Let me see what I can turn up.” He rose and crossed to a wooden cabinet.

We were, I should explain, in his private office, at the rear of the Pierce Archives. This unique establishment occupied the entire second floor of a very large building on Lafayette Street in New York City, and housed the most complete records anywhere of the doings of adventurers past and present. Here were copies of virtually every treasure map to ever come to light, along with notes on whether the treasure in question had been recovered or yet remained to be found; here, also, were reports on every villain apprehended, every monster slain, by any of Dr. Pierce’s clients – or those catered to by his father, or his grandfather, or their fathers, for the Pierce Archives had been in operation for some three hundred years. Here was gathered the accumulated knowledge of scientists and mystics of every stripe. If knowledge that would be of use to an adventurer was to be found anywhere in the civilized world, it was most probably here in the Pierce Archives.

I had traded the right to copy my late father’s journals for a full membership and free use of the Archives, and that included the services of the archivist himself, Dr. Pierce, and his employees. If I wanted information on Gabriel Trask, then any information there might be about such a man in the Archives I would have.

Thus I sat and watched as Dr. Pierce pulled out a drawer and shuffled through the folders therein. After a moment’s search he slid the drawer closed and said, “He has never been a client here – at least, not under that name. Come, let us check the cross references.”

I rose and followed as he led the way out into the main room, where what seemed like miles of shelving held hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books, ledgers, journals, and file boxes of various sizes, as well as innumerable stacks of loose documents.

I would have had no idea where to begin, but Dr. Pierce was the master of this vast domain of paper and ink; he led me directly to a high shelf where dozens of leather-bound volumes stood.

I am not a short man; I stand only a little below six feet in height. Even so, this shelf was above my head, and I am not certain I could have reached those books. Dr. Pierce, however, is a man of extraordinary stature; by lifting up on his toes he could read the spines, and he had no trouble in selecting the tome he wanted and pulling it out.

A white label on the cover read TRAB – TREA, and I glanced up at its companions. If this fat book covered so small a portion of the alphabet, that explained why the complete set ran fifty feet or more along that shelf.

I watched as Dr. Pierce set the book on a reading stand and flipped it open. He made no attempt to conceal the pages, so I took the liberty of reading over his shoulder – figuratively, for in fact he was tall enough that I instead leaned around his side.

The content was hand-written, and unevenly spaced; I realized that these records were still being kept, and that space had been allowed for future entries. I watched Dr. Pierce as he turned pages until he finally found the entry he sought.

“Trask, Gabriel A.,” he read aloud. “See Norton, Joshua, Emperor.” He glanced at me. “Are you familiar with the late Emperor Norton?”

“I have heard of him,” I said. “But he’s been dead for some time, hasn’t he?”

Dr. Pierce nodded. “More than two years now.”

“Was he Gabriel Trask? I don’t understand. McKee must have known he was dead.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t be too certain of that,” Dr. Pierce replied. “After all, McKee spent most of that time since the Emperor’s death out in the Arizona desert, building that monstrous airship. But no, Gabriel Trask and Emperor Norton are not one and the same. Let us see what the connection was.” With that he restored the volume to its place on the top shelf, then led the way to another part of his establishment. Here he readily located, presumably from memory because he did not bother to read any of the labels pasted on the leather spines, another set of journals – perhaps a dozen fat volumes, on a shelf at waist height. He drew out the last of these, opened it seemingly at random, and began thumbing through the pages.

I waited patiently until at last he found what he sought. He nodded to himself, then peered over the book at me.

“It appears that Mr. Trask was in His Imperial Majesty’s employ. According to this, Mr. Trask was rumored to be the head of the late emperor’s secret service.”

“Emperor Norton had a secret service?” I exclaimed. “But I thought his claim to be emperor was a joke, the ravings of a lunatic that the people of San Francisco found it amusing to humor!”

Dr. Pierce smiled a dry and humorless smile. “In time I think you may find, Mr. Derringer, that the distinction between a madman’s fantasy and the real world is not always as clear-cut as one might expect. Emperor Norton was indeed mad, or at least so everyone believes, but his delusional reign endured for more than twenty years, and in that time it acquired some of the characteristics of a real government. This man Trask attended His Majesty intermittently for over a decade, and the circumstances surrounding these meetings led more than one observer to conclude that Mr. Trask was the emperor’s spymaster.”

“But then…” I struggled to make sense of this. “Then had McKee run afoul of our self-proclaimed emperor? He gave no indication of this.”

Dr. Pierce slid the book back into its place on the shelf. “I have no idea,” he said. “I cannot say with certainty that the man associated with Emperor Norton is the same Gabriel Trask to whom McKee referred. I can only report that I have no other records of anyone by that name.” He tapped the spine of the journal. “This tells me that there were more than a dozen reports of a man calling himself Gabriel Trask keeping company with His Majesty, and that two of my correspondents – a woman named Felicity Samuels, and a young man who goes by John Cavendish – independently surmised that Mr. Trask was in charge of at least some of the emperor’s confidential agents.”

“I still find it astonishing that the emperor had any confidential agents!”

Dr. Pierce smiled again. “Perhaps he did not. Perhaps Miss Samuels and Mr. Cavendish were mistaken. I am amused, though, that you find it so unlikely, given your own recent experiences.”

“And you have no other references to a Gabriel Trask?”

“If I do, they have not yet been indexed, and I cannot hope to find them for you any time soon.”

Beyond the Gate

I’m back!

This one just popped into my head one day, so I started writing it. I do know most of where the story’s going.

I used to get really annoyed with my mother. She seemed so spacey; no one ever took her seriously. She would forget appointments, lose track of conversations in the middle of a sentence, and generally give people the impression she was a complete airhead.

She wasn’t an airhead. I knew that. She was just distracted, too busy with her own thoughts to pay attention to what anyone else was doing. If you could really get her attention, get her to focus, she was really smart. She just wasn’t interested in most of the stuff ordinary people talk about.

There were plenty of times I wished she was more involved with the stuff I cared about, but I’d gotten used to her always being busy with her stuff.

So when I came home from school and didn’t see her anywhere, I didn’t worry about it much. Her car was in the driveway, so I knew she was around – she never went anywhere on foot. I got myself a ginger ale from the fridge and settled in the kitchen. I went ahead and got my homework done, which took about twenty minutes.

Still no sign of her. I went back to the family room and messed around online for awhile, chatted with my friend Pete, watched an episode of “Continuum.”

It wasn’t until I looked up and saw it was after 7:00 that I began to wonder what she was doing. Usually we eat dinner at 6:00, and that’s about the one thing she generally remembers no matter how busy she is. I put my tablet aside and called, “Mom?”

No answer.

I sighed, and got off the couch and went around to the basement stairs, because the basement was where she kept her experiments. The light was on, as I expected, so I thought she was down there, probably working on her gadget. She called it a dimensional renormalizer, but I called it a gadget.

“Mom?” I called down the stairs.


That was when I began to worry a little. I went down the stairs to see what was up.

She wasn’t in her workshop. The light was on, and the gadget was running, but she wasn’t there.

Now I was worried. I checked the bathroom, but it was empty. Then I went back to the middle of the room and looked around.

Everything looked the way it always did. There were shelves of books filling one side of the basement, and the furnace and water heater and laundry taking up most of the other side, and Mom’s workbench in between, and then there was the gadget.

She’d started with an old metal bed-frame stood up on end. Then she replaced the springs with this mesh she’d made herself out of something she invented, and mounted the field generators all around the frame. I’d asked her once what kind of field the field generators generated, and she’d gotten about three sentences into the explanation when she realized she didn’t know how to explain it in English, and I didn’t have enough math to follow anything else, so she just shrugged and said, “It’s complicated.” She had a Powerspec G420 PC on a table nearby, controlling the whole thing.

I told you she was really smart. She never finished her degree because she wasn’t able to explain what she was doing to her professors, and she couldn’t hold a job because everyone thought she was too spacey, but she knew physics by instinct.

Dad had a theory that so much of Mom’s brain was taken up with physics that there wasn’t enough room left for things like social behavior – or language; she wasn’t good with words. That was another reason she never got a degree – she couldn’t meet any foreign language requirements. She had enough trouble remembering names and ordinary English, and had managed to flunk first-year French, first-year Spanish, and first-year German before giving up.

But gadgets? She could do gadgets. And computers, as long as she could work with the code and not a natural-language interface.

She’d been working on this gadget for months, ever since she lost her last part-time job. It was supposed to let her see a dimension that’s always there, but that we don’t normally perceive because it’s a non-integer element of our space-time.

No, I don’t know what that means, but if the gadget worked, Mom thought she could get some university physics department to take her on even without a bachelor’s degree. Dad and I didn’t try to stop her. It seemed harmless, it kept her busy, and who knew, maybe it would actually work; neither of us knew enough physics to say it couldn’t.

Anyway, she wasn’t anywhere to be seen, and the gadget was running – there was a faint hum coming from the field generators, and the mesh in the bed-frame was sort of blurry. That wasn’t normal; generally she shut everything down if she wasn’t going to be around to keep an eye on it.

I looked everywhere, calling, “Mom?” every so often, but it’s not that big a basement, and it was pretty clear she wasn’t there, so after a couple of minutes I was just standing there next to the gadget, frowning. I couldn’t think where she could have gone.

Then I looked at the mesh. She had gotten it to look blurry before, but never this blurry – it didn’t look solid at all.

I looked at the computer screen, but that didn’t help; I couldn’t make any sense of the display.

I was starting to have crazy ideas about the gadget. Maybe it had done something to her. I picked up a piece of paper – a blank sheet, I didn’t want to get yelled at for damaging any important notes – and crumpled it into a ball. Then I lobbed it at the mesh.

It vanished into the blurriness, and it didn’t come out the other side.

I considered that for a moment, then looked around for something else I could throw at it. I found a broken piece of baseboard near the furnace, and tossed that into the mesh.

It disappeared.

There wasn’t any flash or bang or anything; it looked as if the mesh was, I don’t know, a shadow or something, and the piece of wood sailed into it as if it was empty air. It just didn’t come out the other side, and I couldn’t see where it went.

It didn’t seem to vanish all at once; it disappeared as it passed into, or through, the surface of the blurriness, so for a fraction of a second I could still see the nearer part of it.

I wasn’t about to touch that thing, but I wanted to figure it out. I went back up to the kitchen and got a piece of string from the drawer, tied it to a fork, then took it back downstairs. I had four or five feet of string with the fork at one end; I tossed the fork into the mesh, with the string trailing behind.

The fork disappeared, like the paper and wood, and a foot or two of string vanished after it, but it didn’t all go through – that was the whole point of the string. Two feet or so fell to the basement floor, trailing out of the blurriness.

I knelt down beside it, and very carefully touched it.

It felt like string. There wasn’t anything strange about it at all, except that one end of it curved up into the blurry mesh and disappeared.

I took hold of the string, ready to drop it the instant anything weird happened, and gently pulled on it.

String reappeared out of the blur.

I pulled harder, and the fork clattered out of the blur onto the basement floor.

I sat down on the floor with the string in my hands, staring at that blurry darkness.

Whatever that was, and wherever it went, things could come back from it. The string and fork didn’t seem to have been affected at all by their brief and mysterious journey.

The Partial Observer, a.k.a. The Research Agent

This one — well, I felt like writing some space opera. Which is what this would be, once it got rolling.

“The problem with you Kletti,” the Nominian said drunkenly, “is that you think you’re better than anyone else.”

Jeret smiled crookedly. He glanced at his drinking companion, then focused once more on his beer. There had been a time when he would have given the question of how best to respond to such an accusation serious thought, but some months ago he had concluded that the optimum choice was always the same. Old Sarg had always said that the truth was never believed and never gave offense if you made it sound like a joke, and Jeret’s experiences on a dozen worlds had yet to prove Sarg wrong.

“That’s because we are better than anyone else,” Jeret replied.

“Aaaah.” The Nominian waved a hand in dismissal. “You’re as bad as the Firrim.”

“Probably worse,” Jeret cheerfully agreed.

“Couldn’t be much worse,” the Nominian said. “The Firrim are really aggravating. You Kletti, the ones I’ve met, you’re just annoying.”

“So you’re saying we’re better than the Firrim.”

The Nominian hesitated for a moment, working through this, then said, “Yeah. But that’s not hard.”

“Still, it’s a start on being better than everybody else.”

The Nominian snorted, blowing foam off his beer. “Yeah,” he said. “I guess it is.”

“So tell me about the Firrim; I don’t think I know them.”

“I thought you Kletti all knew everything.”

“We’re working on it, but we aren’t there yet. So, these Firrim – where are they from?”

“Somewhere in toward the Ruins,” the Nominian said, with a wave toward the back of the bar.

“What makes them so special, then? Or what makes them think they’re special?”

“They’re cyborged. Phones in their heads, enhanced senses, all that crap.”

“So what’s special about that?”

“Ask them,” the Nominian said. “They’re the ones who think they’re so great.”

“I just might do that. Know where I could find one?”

“Oh, you never find just one,” the Nominian said. “There are always at least three of them.”


The Nominian shrugged. “I guess.”

That, Jeret thought, might be worth checking out. Networking a few brains together wasn’t new in itself, but maybe these Firrim had a new angle on it. “So where would I find some?”

“How should I know?”

“Well, you’ve obviously met some before.”

“Ha! That was here in Port, a few times over the past couple of years. But I haven’t seen any in days.”

Jeret nodded. “Fair enough.” If these Firrim had been here, they had presumably come in on a ship, and there would be records. He already had a data tap into the port’s systems; he could search them easily enough. He sipped his beer. “So you said we Kletti are annoying – how many of us have you met?”

“I dunno – half a dozen, maybe?” The Nominian gulped beer. “I haven’t kept count.”

“Of course not. I was just curious; we don’t travel much.” That was certainly true of the Kletti as a whole, but of course the exceptions, himself among them, traveled a lot.

The Nominian set his now-empty mug down on the bar, and the bar top displayed a row of options. “There’s you, and there was a woman here last year, and back on Diplodocus there was a creepy old man, and when I was a kid there was this bossy woman who visited our school.”

“That was in the Nominian system?”

“Yeah,” the Nominian agreed. “I grew up in Shaftsbury, on Seven.” He stared wistfully at his mug.

“Let me get that for you,” Jeret said, tapping his credit finger on the REFILL circle; the options vanished with a beep, and the little “Coming right up!” logo blinked.

A school on Nominia Seven – that probably would have been Zella Tarasco. She was retired now, back on Central. An old man on Diplodocus – Lenster Capor, maybe? Also retired. And a woman passing through Port could have been anyone. Odd, that a random Nominian had encountered four research agents. Odd enough to be suspicious, perhaps? He brushed a finger against his temple, and signaled for a probability analysis.

The bartender set a new beer in front of the Nominian and cleared away the empty mug, and as the Nominian picked up the mug Jeret slipped away. He thought he had heard everything interesting the man had to say.

He had not learned the Nominian’s name, but identification should be easy enough, since the entire conversation had been recorded.