Publication: The Work-Clock

My gaslamp fantasy short story, “The Work-Clock,” is out today in Sunday Morning Transport!

This is the story of Apprentice Inspector Zek, who just wants to keep his job fixing the air-conditioning runes in the industrialized prison for the Evil One. Excuse me, the for-profit industrialized prison for the Evil One.

Funny thing. The world would bleed and die without an apprentice inspector to keep the Temple Works running, but didn’t mean the job paid well.

The story is free to read, but you can also get a free 60-day subscription to the Sunday Morning Transport here. Check it out, and consider supporting all the fine sources of short speculative fiction out there!

More story notes below the fold, will contain spoilers.

How do you feel about second-person stories? Do you hate this one? I’m not a big stickler for the idea that the second person only makes sense for certain kinds of narrator. Because in this story, one of our protagonists is you for a reason that has nothing to do with who is telling the story, or when, or even their own psychology. (Though I did put a psychological explanation in there also. The anchoress never uses personal pronouns, until a certain hinge point very late in the story.)

The real reason I made the anchoress you: because she occupies the same role as the reader. That opening sentence is abot

She is the one whose life is work. Who has let her identity be consumed by the incessant demands and details of work that has no purpose. Work that only serves to bring profits to others, as it grinds down the one who labors.

I wrote the first draft of this story in May 2020. A time when the US economy had ground to a halt, when economic disaster breathed down our neck because millions of people had been forced to stop doing jobs that were so often inessential. Yet the machinery could not bear the strain of Americans pausing their rat race, going even a month without our ceaseless whirl of produce, earn, and spend.

On a lighter note, apparently I really like stories that interrogate the fantasy Dark Lord trope?? On its own it’s a cliche, which nowadays most fantasy writers know to avoid. But that tempts me to the hard needle-threading task of writing it well. Here in “The Work-Clock,” part of it is simply that great power requires (or creates?) a neuroatypical mind. When you have this much power, you don’t see the world in the same way as everyone else does. But this doesn’t need to be a threat. All you need is to find a place, a life, and friends who can meet you as you are.

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