Where the Anchor Lies

February is upon us, and with it, the publication of my short story Where the Anchor Lies at Beneath Ceaseless Skies! The long anticipated Sentient Battleship Graveyard Propagandist Love Story.

This is a piece of science fantasy, right on the strange and fuzzy borderline between genres. It’s a secondary world, and all of the mechanisms are fantastic/magical, but their implementation and culture feels quite modern. It’s definitely a “sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology” situation.

A few more thoughts and discussion below. No major spoilers, but let’s be careful anyways, yes?


This story begin out of a contest on the Codex writers’ group last year. One option was to produce a short story inspired by an image, and I latched on to this one:

Six rusted anchors, standing in sand.

Six rusted anchors, standing in sand.

Why so many anchors in one place? They looked to me like tombstones, like a graveyard – not of people, but of battleships, laid to rest among the dunes.

This story’s second inspiration came from a coincidence of timing. This contest happened about a year ago, in early February 2017. The news cycle was at peak Kellyanne Conway, full of alternative truths. I wanted to get inside – and then break out of – the perspective of a propagandist.

I will resist the temptation to expound further on politics.

The name of this story’s desert/sea, the Arhel, is a reference to the Aral Sea, a Central Asian saline lake that dried up across the 20th century, in large part from the diversion of inflow waters for agriculture. It’s been somewhat restored in the last decade, but especially prior to that, it was an almost-unimaginable geological (hydrological?) catastrophe: the fourth largest lake in the world, gone.

Earlier versions of Where the Anchor Lies took place on a salt plain, which produced some wonderful imagery, but I figured the Arhel Sea was more freshwater than the Aral, and drained too rapid for salinity to accumulate.

Finally, my thanks to the beta-readers of various versions: Gregor Hartmann, Laurence Brothers, Brad Preslar, Daniel Rosen, David von Allmen, Ryan Edwards, and Vivian Shaw.

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