Shovel the coal and stoke the boilers as nine steam punk authors explore islands of mystery and adventure across the seven seas.
The Clockwork Seer by Katherine Cowley: On an island of oddities, a young clairvoyant struggles for normalcy, but deadly automatons have other plans.
Sindisiwe by Scott E. Tarbet: A slave girl in Zanzibar escapes a beating when a stranger in the marketplace proves her past is more than just a fairy tale.
Stand and Deliver by TC Phillips: Neither shackles, slave labor, nor the island’s deadliest inhabitants will prevent these brothers from meting out justice to their father’s murderers.
Island Walker by C. R. Simper: Kit digs her treasures out of trash heaps, but the theft of her invention leads to discoveries money can’t buy.
A Mind Prone to Wander by Danielle E. Shipley: Beyond a locked door lies Rowan Charles’ death or his sanity, and the survival or extinction of his people.
Curio Cay by Sarah E. Seeley: The future of humanity rests in the hands of three time-traveling scientists battling biomechanical creatures in the Jurassic past.
The Mysterious Island of Chester Morrison by Kin Law: Dodging her chaperone, a debutante stumbles into adventure and romance at the World’s Fair.
Revolutionary by John M. Olsen: A dirigible captain goes down with his ship, and wakes to find himself a captive of a sky-dwelling civilization.
The Steel Inside by Gail B. Williams: Darkness lurks in Sarah’s forgotten past, kept hidden by those who claim to be her devoted husband and loyal servants.
Katherine Cowley wrote her first story at the age of five, a retelling of the Icarus myth titled “The Turtle That Got Too Close to the Sun.” She has worked as a documentary film producer, a radio producer, and a college professor. She now devotes herself to writing steampunk, fantasy, and science fiction. Cowley’s short stories and essays have been published and won awards in the Locutorium, the BYU Studies Personal Essay Contest, the Meeting of the Myths, Four Centuries of Mormon Stories, and the Mormon Lit Blitz. You can also read her stories online at katherinecowley.com.
Katherine loves European chocolate, the history of science, and steampunk fashion. She has lived in the United States, Brazil, and Finland, and currently resides in Arizona with her husband and two daughters.
Scott E. Tarbet
Scott E. Tarbet writes what fires his imagination: the broad umbrella of speculative fiction. He is especially intrigued by how human beings react to and interact with science, technology, and other magics.
Educator, chef, professional opera singer, and Steampunk craftsman, with a long list of short stories and other works to his credit, he makes his home in the splendor of the Utah mountains with his wife and best friend, Jewels.
TC Phillips hails from tropical central Queensland in Australia, where he currently lives with his loving wife, three young children, a spoilt cat, and an overactive imagination. An avid reader from a young age, he has held a long-standing attraction for the written word and is excited to make his own contributions to the vibrant and ever shifting world of storytelling. Holding degrees in both Theatre Studies and Education, he is also currently completing his Master of Arts (writing) through Swinburne University of Technology.
R. Simper is an Arizona native who graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Purchasing and Logistics Management. She married another Arizona native in 1991 and is now the stay-at-home mom of three daughters and one son.
Simper has written in multiple genres over the past three decades. She has found that writing maintains a sense of order in her life. Her first published story, “The Journey of Inspector Roux” appeared in Terra Mechanica: a Steampunk Anthology (2014), another Xchyler publication.
Other hobbies that she enjoys are playing volleyball, genealogical research, and indexing obituaries. She is a member of the American Night Writers Association (ANWA).
Danielle E. Shipley
Danielle E. Shipley’s first novelettes told the everyday misadventures of wacky kids like herself. Or so she thought. Unbeknownst to them all, half of her characters were actually closeted elves, dwarves, fairies, or some combination thereof. When it all came to light, Danielle did the sensible thing: packed up and moved to Fantasy Land, where daily rent is the low, low price of her heart, soul, blood, sweat, tears, firstborn child, sanity, and words; lots of them.
Shipley has also been known to spend short bursts of time in the real-life Chicago area with the parents who home-schooled her and the two little sisters who keep her humble. When she’s not living the highs and lows of writing, publishing, and all that authorial jazz, she’s probably blogging about it at EverOnWord.wordpress.com.
This is her third appearance in a Xchyler anthology, following the paranormal “Two Spoons” in Legends and Lore, and “Reality As We Know It” in fantasy collection The Toll of Another Bell. Other publications include Inspired (a novel), and a series of fairy-tale retelling mash-ups, The Wilderhark Tales.
Sarah E. Seeley
Through two wonderful mentored research experiences, Sarah E. Seeley had the opportunity to work with dead sauropods and ancient odonates while acquiring her undergraduate degree in geology from Brigham Young University. She hopes to study more dead things in the future and contribute to scientific discussions about what makes life on Earth so amazing. In the meantime, she explores the bright side of being human by writing dark fiction.
Seeley’s independently published works include Maladaptive Bind and Blood Oath: An Orc Love Story. Sarah’s short story “Peradventure” appears in Xchyler Publishing’s Legends and Lore: An Anthology of Mythic Proportions. Another short story, “Driveless,” appears in Leading Edge Magazine Issue #66. You can learn more about Sarah on her writing blog at www.SlithersOfThought.com
Living in the bustle of NYC, Kin is constantly reminded he is a child of two worlds. Originally from Hong Kong, he’s traveled both geographically and socially, working in many professions including movie projection and line cooking. He has degrees in Media and Culinary Arts, and a great love of Philosophy. As for fiction, his favorite authors are Douglas Adams, Hemmingway, and Chuck Pahlaniuk.
Today, Kin is a culinary copywriter, intent on furthering his novelist career. He loves his fiancée, his cat Zoe, Scotch, bacon and coffee. Addressing himself in the third person makes him chuckle.
John M. Olsen
John M. Olsen has been creating things his whole life through a mixture of technical and creative processes, whether building family, stories, art, software, woodworking or anything else. He has dreams of becoming a Renaissance man and loves to learn new things to add to his store of randomly accessible information (otherwise known as irrelevant trivia). Writing is one of his loves, inspired by having read most of his father’s extensive fantasy and science fiction collection in his teen years.
He builds high-end simulation software, and has contributed chapters to several books on computer graphics and game design, as well as publishing fiction in multiple genres.
He lives in Utah with his wife and five children, some of whom are old enough to have moved out and back in. Together they have also raised three nieces and a nephew, and are minions of their benevolent cat overlord.
Gail B. Williams
Gail Williams lives in her own private dungeon populated with all the weird and the wonderful she can imagine. Some of it’s very weird, and the odd bits and pieces are a bit wonderful. With a vivid imagination fuelled by a near death experience at the age of three, there was really no other choice for Gail than to write, something she’s been doing for as long as she can remember. She’s tried not doing it, but it never works for long, her brain gets itchy if she hasn’t written anything for a couple of days. Gail is English by birth, but lives in Swansea, Wales, married a Welshman and they have two fantastic children. They live with the world’s most imperious and demanding cat. An asset management specialist by day, a freelance editor and keen writer of an evening and weekend, she really needs to learn to sleep. To find out more see www.gailbwilliams.com
James Ng (pronounced Ing) was born in Hong Kong, where he spent most of his childhood drawing monsters and robots, making his own elaborate cardboard toys, and playing soccer. Ever since, he has been on the move between Hong Kong, Vancouver, Chicago and New York. His travels have greatly influenced him, allowing him to combine Eastern and Western cultures in his artwork.
Currently James is enjoying the freedom of being a freelance concept artist and illustrator. After a sunny summer in Vancouver, and traveling to London, and then to New York for an award show and exhibition, he is back in his home of Hong Kong to continue his career.
“Curio Cay” shifts between the perspectives of Ebenezer Moreau and his wife Mary Anning. The couple returned to the Jurassic to rehabilitate a pair of “bird-lizards” called “blueysaurs” that washed up on their prehistoric cay a week prior. They were taken by surprise when a terrible machine with a mind of its own attacks them. In the opening scene, Ebenezer confronts the mechanical monstrosity called Hanker.
The blueysaur carcass had already begun to stink in the sweltering morning heat of the Jurassic cay. Its scaly, wine-colored hide was covered in fine red and gold down, with pale blue stripes running from eyes to tail tip on either side that made it look like a hairy, bipedal reptile about the size of a large turkey. The long, toothy snout lay open in the sand, and blood marred the beautiful, ethereal pattern of the feathers.
“I know you’re there, son of Robert,” crooned a pleasant male synthesis ribbed with an unpleasant electric buzz. The engine crouched over the blueysaur carcass in the clearing beyond the primeval thicket. Ferns and cycads made up the majority of the cay’s vegetation.
A chill permeated Ebenezer’s skin, augmented by the sweat and salt water drenching his torn clothing. His father had built that machine. Angry, desperate to save his wife from pain, he didn’t dare move closer, but he couldn’t run away without the blueysaur skin now. Mary’s arm depended on it.
“If you and your mate wish to escape this island alive, do not cower there in the plants.”
There was no point waiting for it to come to him. Slowly, heart pounding, Ebenezer crept toward the carcass until he stood a few meters away from the contraption that had tried to kill him and his wife.
The engine bore a massive metal skull the size of a traveling trunk. A pair of bright blue lights beamed out of deep sockets like eyes. Its body wasn’t a mere solid mass but a humming, intricate network of steel and brass parts rapidly rearranging themselves over and over again. Earlier, the engine had an armless torso, three-pronged feet, and a long, plated tail that whipped back and forth behind it. Now, instead of the birdlike feet and a tail, the parts arranged themselves to give the machine a strikingly humanoid form in shape and articulation. It had arms as well as legs, with hands and feet, ten fingers and ten toes. The engine fixed its fiery blue eye beams on Ebenezer with a mechanical swivel of its skull, and rose to a fully upright posture at a height of about five meters.
“What do you want, Devil Machine?”
“Call me Hanker.” Ebenezer shook with terror. His outrage, and his desperation to make sense of everything that had happened to turn his life upside down in the past hour, kept his feet planted.
“Hunger pains me, but I cannot satisfy it,” said Hanker. “I have no belly, yet my belly burns and burns.”
“You’re lying to me, Hanker. Machines do not feel hunger.”
The machine turned away from Ebenezer and picked through the singed remains of its companion engine further back in the vegetation. It pried the mouth open and stripped away parts. At last it tore out a copper box the size of a football. This it tossed to Ebenezer, who caught the thing against his chest with both arms. Thick goo oozed from a series of large holes perforating the box like Swiss cheese. The smell was horrid. It was like rotten eggs and roasted liver.
When Ebenezer got over the smell and took a closer look at what he held, he recognized the liquefied gray tissue inside it. “You’re bioelectric. A really massive bioelectric.”
“Do you believe me now when I say I am hungry, and it is torture that my mind inhabits a body that cannot eat? Yet, it is the least of the tortures my mind has endured at the hands of Robert Moreau.”
Ebenezer scrutinized the engine with a new sense of awe and pity. He couldn’t help it, try as he might to push the feelings away. “Why were you made, beast of metal? What is your purpose?”
The engine gave a dark chuckle. “He tried to make us human, like you. But some of us are too hungry, too self-aware to be programmed to be something we are not.”
Ebenezer frowned in perplexity. Make them human? What did the engine mean? He eyed the blueysaur carcass at the engine’s feet. He needed to get the skin and return to Mary before the clamp cutting off the circulation in her arm caused even more damage. “I thought you wanted to kill us. Or would you have me believe you only attacked us because you were driven by this unnatural hunger?”
“Oh, the hunger is the most natural sensation I know, I can assure you of that.” The engine picked up the blueysaur carcass by the neck and held it out in front of its skull. It opened its jaw and popped several jagged metal parts into place like teeth.
“No!” Ebenezer jerked a hand out and took a step forward.
The machine chuckled again. “Oh, is this something you’re interested in? Because I’d very much like to sink my metal into it.”
“Please don’t, I beg you! I . . . I need it.”
“I figured as much from the way you fawned over it a moment ago.”
“What do you want?”
“I wish to make a bargain.”
Ebenezer thought he could guess what bargain the engine had in mind.