18 exhilarating journeys into Rush-inspired worlds
The music of Rush, one of the most successful bands in history, is filled with fantastic stories, evocative images, and thought-provoking futures and pasts. In this anthology, notable, bestselling, and award-winning writers each chose a Rush song as the spark for a new story, drawing inspiration from the visionary trio that is Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart.
Enduring stark dystopian struggles or testing the limits of the human spirit, the characters populating 2113 find strength while searching for hope in a world that is repressive, dangerous, or just debilitatingly bland. Most of these tales are science fiction, but some are fantasies, thrillers, even edgy mainstream. Many of Rush’s big hits are represented, as well as deeper cuts . . . with wonderful results. This anthology also includes the seminal stories that inspired the Rush classics “Red Barchetta” and “Roll the Bones,” as well as Kevin J. Anderson’s novella sequel to the groundbreaking Rush album 2112.
2113 contains stories by New York Times bestselling authors Kevin J. Anderson, Michael Z. Williamson, David Mack, David Farland, Dayton Ward, and Mercedes Lackey; award winners Fritz Leiber, Steven Savile, Brad R. Torgersen, Ron Collins, David Niall Wilson, and Brian Hodge, as well as many other authors with imaginations on fire.
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About the Author
Kevin J. Anderson is the bestselling science fiction author of over 125 novels, including Clockwork Angels: The Novel, which fictionalizes the most recent Rush concept album, and the parallel novel Clockwork Lives. His original works include the Saga of Seven Suns series; the Terra Incognita series; Resurrection, Inc.; Hopscotch; and many others. He has written spin-off novels for Star Wars, DC Comics, StarCraft, and The X-Files and, with Brian Herbert, is the co-author of 15 novels in the Dune universe. He lives in Colorado. John McFetridge is the author of two critically acclaimed crime novel series, the Toronto series and the Eddie Dougherty series, and writes for the Discovery ID series Real Detective. He lives in Toronto.
Read an Excerpt
2113 Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush
By Kevin J. Anderson, John McFetridge
ECW PressCopyright © 2016 The individual contributors
All rights reserved.
ON THE FRINGES OF THE FRACTAL
GREG VAN EEKHOUT
I was working the squirt station on the breakfast shift at Peevs Burgers when I learned that my best friend's life was over.
The squirt guns were connected by hoses to tanks, each tank containing a different slew formula. Orders appeared in lime-green letters on my screen, and I squirted accordingly. Two Sausage Peev Sandwiches was two squirts from the sausage slew gun. An order of Waffle Peev Sticks was three small dabs of waffle slew. The slew warmed and hardened on the congealer table, and because I'd paid attention during the twenty-minute training course and applied myself, I was knew just when the slew was ready. I was a slew expert.
Sherman was the other squirter on duty that morning. The orders were coming in fast and he was already wheezing on account of his exercise-induced asthma. His raspy breaths interfered with my ability to concentrate. You really have to concentrate because after four hours of standing and squirting there's the danger of letting your mind wander and once you do that you can lose control of the squirts and end up spraying food slew all over the kitchen like a fire hose.
"Wasted slew reflects badly on you," said one of the inspirational posters in the employee restroom.
"What's eating you, Sherman?" I asked, squirting eggs.
He squirted out twelve strips of bacon. "Nothing. Don't worry about it. Not your problem."
I'd known Sherman for a long time. We'd grown up as next-door neighbors, went to the same schools, had the same teachers. This year we were both taking Twenty-Five Places That Will Blow Your Mind (geography) and Six Equations You Won't Believe (pre-college math) and You'll Have Itchy Eyes After Reading These Heartbreaking Stories (AP English). We did everything together, and even though he was a little higher stat than I was, he never made me feel weird about it.
"C'mon, Sherman. Don't just stand there squirting in silent pain. Tell your pal Deni what's wrong."
He wheezed a while longer, really laboring. Then, like a miserable little volcano, he let it out: "My family lost stat yesterday."
The cold hand of dread fondled my knee. "How much stat?" "All of it. Every last little bit. We got zeroed out."
Startled, I impulse squirted and missed the congealer entirely. Biscuit slew landed on the floor.
"My mom lost her job," he explained. "And my dad gained nine pounds. My sister got more zits. The swimming pool water was yellow when the Stat Commission came to audit. It was a bunch of stuff. Just a perfect storm of bad stat presentation." He rubbed his forearm across his nose. "I might as well be dead."
I could only agree with him.
Stat was determined by a complicated algorithm that factored in wealth, race, genealogy, fat-to-muscle ratio, dentition, and dozens of other variables, from femur length to facial symmetry to skull contours. It was determined by the attractiveness of one's house. The suitability of one's car. You could lose stat from a bad haircut. You could lose it by showing up to school with food slew on your blouse. I had done that once during freshman year and never gained it back.
Stat was the cornerstone of our great meritocracy.
In olden days, one of the worst punishments society could exact upon you was outlawing. It meant you were literally outside the law. You had no privileges, no protections, no rights. Anyone could just up and kill you without consequence. Being declared no-stat was a lot like that. Without stat, Sherman's family would lose everything. Their house. The right to wear current fashions. To see the latest movies. To vote. And I could lose stat of my own just by being friends with a no-stat person.
My heart felt like a clammy potato. What was happening to my friend was worse than death. It was erasure.
I scraped congealed slew off the congealer, dumped it into various containers, and sent it down the slew chute to the drive-thru window.
"I just don't know what to do," Sherman said, squirting and wheezing.
I felt something surging within me, like high-pressure burger slew through a lunch rush gun. This was a new feeling. A powerful feeling. The feeling that I could do something to break the patterns of my life and take Sherman along with me. The feeling that I could make a difference.
I was such an idiot.
"I'll tell you what we're going to do," I declared. Sherman looked up from his station. Doubt and hope warred on his face. "We're going to save your life."
* * *
The next morning the alarm nagged me awake before dawn. It was early enough to hear the drones arrive, their rotors hurling morning birds from their paths. Delivery portals in the rooftops opened like flower petals and the drones dropped statpacks from their bomb bays. All over the division, people rushed to see what they'd been supplied with. I was usually in no hurry, but I needed to get an early start, so I gathered my share of my family's package and brought it to my room.
My stat was pretty low, so, as usual, it was knock-off brand shoes, last month's cut of jeans, and a shirt the exact same brown as my skin. I could already hear the kids in the school halls calling me Miss Monochrime. There were keys for the day's new music releases from Top Three radio, and some movies I didn't really want to see and nobody else did either.
But I was lucky. It could have been worse. This morning, for the first time since he was born, Sherman would get nothing.
I said goodbye to my family: my mom and dad and sister, just noises and voices behind closed bathroom doors. Showers. Hair dryers. Giggles and hijinks from Morning Hard News. I wondered if I'd ever hear them again. Swallowing the lump in my throat, I went next door to collect Sherman.
He was something of a demoralized wreck. My clothes were low-stat fashion, but he was literally wearing the same thing he wore yesterday. His hair was literally the same old parrot yellow. Yesterday's color. The sight of him only steeled my resolve. I could not let him live like this.
We loaded ourselves into my scuffed-up three-wheel grandma car and set out down the long, curving roads of our division.
We passed Cedar Grove Lane, and Cedar Grove Court, and Cedar Grove Place, and Cedar Grove Way, and made our way out to Cedar Grove Avenue.
We drove by Peevs Drugs, and Peevs Market, and Peevs Quik Oil and Tune-up, and Peevs 24-Hour Whatevers, and I didn't even slow down at Peevs Burgers.
"Don't you have breakfast shift in an hour?" Sherman said.
Sherman no longer worked at Peevs. They'd scraped him when he lost his stat.
"I called in sick. This is more important."
I grinned, thinking Sherman would thank me, but he only looked at me with something between wonder and disgust.
"You have no idea what you're doing, do you?"
I continued past the little circle of bricks and the water feature and the grass you weren't allowed to picnic on that marked the border of our division. "Taking a hit for a friend is never a mistake." That was a line from Bomm and Gunn, the first movie Sherman and I ever saw together at the Peevs Cinnecle. Bomm says it to Gunn and then they both get shot to death by a gang of mutant cool kids. They go down with their middle fingers raised. Slow motion and everything.
It's pretty romantic.
Sherman just sighed from the passenger seat. "You're a pal," he said. Which were Gunn's last words, spoken through a dazzling arterial mist.
What I remember more than the movie was the popcorn. I couldn't afford any and Sherman could, so Sherman sprung for a big tub and shared it with me. That's the kind of thing that makes friends for life.
Sherman inserted my stereo key into the stereo and futilely searched the Top Three stations for anything other than the top three hits. "So what's the plan?"
"We're going to go see Miss Spotty Pants."
"Your ... dog?"
"Miss Spotty Pants will know how to help us," I said, ignoring Sherman's tone of disbelief. There is little room for disbelief on a quest, I feel.
Sherman shook his head and made wheezy sounds of exasperation. "Then this isn't really about me and my stat. This is about you and your dog."
"It's about both of us, okay?"
Sherman stayed quiet a long time, thinking it over. "Okay, Deni," he said at last. "Okay. I fully support you in your misguided effort to redress injustices perpetrated against us."
I glanced at him. "Really?"
He shrugged. "Sure, why not? I'm no-stat. What have I got to lose?"
And so, after going past another Peevs Drugs and Peevs 24-Hour Whatevers, we arrived at Miss Spotty Pants's house.
She lived in a very nice house. There were eight bushes in the front yard, whereas my house only had four. Pillars supported a little roof thing over the door, which I suppose protected people from rain and birds. The fake stones in the lower outside walls were more three-dimensional than my house's fake stones.
The doorbell played some Bach or Beethoven or Boston or one of those other classical guys whose name starts with a B and Miss Spotty Pants's new owner opened the door.
"Oh," said Mrs. Godfrey, with an uncomfortable smile. "It's you kids."
The Godfreys used to live across the street from me and Sherman, but their stat had gone up high enough after work promotions that they were able to upgrade to a better division. Mrs. Godfrey looked quite different than I remembered. Her hair was bouncier and her teeth more symmetrical. But what really struck me were her pants. They changed length right before our eyes, rising above the ankles, charging halfway up her calves, then plunging back down and flaring out like trombone bells.
"Hey, Mrs. Godfrey," Sherman said. "What's going on?"
"Well, actually, this is a busy time —" she said, eager to get rid of us.
"No, I mean your pants. What's going on with your pants?"
She stood a little taller, a little prouder. "They're smart pants. They interface with the fashion channels and adjust themselves moment to moment as tastes evolve."
Tastes were evolving really fast.
"I was hoping we could see Miss Spotty Pants," I said.
"Oh, I ... Well, as I said, this is a very busy time —"
"Is that Deni?" came a familiar voice from inside the house. There was a scrabbling and a galloping and then there she was, my old Dalmatian. She leaped through the doorway and almost knocked me off my feet. Standing on her hind legs with her paws on my chest, her butt wiggled so fast I thought her tail would fly right off and break a window. I scratched her behind her ears, which did nothing to kill her enthusiasm. I had to wipe my watering eyes.
When the Godfreys moved, they put in an application to take Miss Spotty Pants with them, even though she'd been my dog since she was a puppy. She was a shelter dog, and you never know what you're getting with a shelter dog. But once her mods kicked in at about seven months old and she started talking and her extra spots came in, the Godfreys decided she was a really cool dog. And since the Godfreys had higher stat, they got their way.
Mrs. Godfrey didn't want to let us in, but when Miss Spotty Pants bared her teeth, she relented. Mrs. Godfrey even got Sherman and me a couple of Peevs Colas and left us alone in the living room with Miss Spotty Pants. The inside of the Godfreys' house wasn't all that different from the inside of my house, only better in every way. We sat on their better couch and drank their Peevs from their better refrigerator. After some more obligatory petting and scritching, Miss Spotty Pants curled up at my feet and asked me what had brought me and Sherman. We told her about how Sherman's family had been declared no-stat, and that we hoped she could help us.
She'd spent the first few months of her life in the pound, and she'd heard things from the other strays and rejects. Some of them came from far away, redolent with exotic, far-away scents, with odd dialects and strange ideas, and tales from distant lands. And when she came to our house, getting me up every two hours to pee, she spoke to me about what she learned in the concrete kennels.
She told me of lights and wonders. There was a city, she told me. And I asked her what a city was, and she wasn't sure. All she knew was that it was different than the divisions. She told me of towers that scraped the skies, and grand parks and boulevards teeming with people, a place of variety and a million smells and a million sounds and of things one could barely imagine.
"Miss Spotty Pants," I said, "how'd you like to go for a ride?"
She glanced around the Godfreys' living room, with its better TV and better sofa and better cola. And before I could ask again, she was out the door and in my car, panting with irrepressible glee.
* * *
Things got weird once we left our familiar divisions behind. So weird that at one point Sherman shouted for me to stop and pull over, and the three of us got out and stood on the sidewalk.
"Did you know this was here?" I asked Miss Spotty Pants.
"I never even imagined," she said, her voice a gruff whisper.
There, at the intersection of Spring Brook Falls Avenue and Brook Falls Spring Avenue, were a burger place, a drug store, a supermarket, and a convenience store.
Not a single one of them was a Peevs.
They were all something called a Wiggins.
Wiggins 24-Hour Whatevers.
We stared in wonder for what seemed like hours.
"No matter what happens from this point on," I said, "I will never forget this moment."
We went inside the 24-Hour Whatevers to buy fruit film snacks.
They were the same fruit film snacks you could get at Peevs.
* * *
We drove for days, taking turns sleeping in the backseat and subsisting on the fruit film. I wondered if my family missed my voice through their bathroom doors. After so many days on the road my brain began to change and time lost meaning. When we got out to pee at gas stations my feet felt disconnected to the ground. The car's odometer said we had driven hundreds of miles, yet, paradoxically, the farther we drove, the less distance we seemed to cover. Sherman and Miss Spotty Pants said they felt the same way.
"It's the fractal," said Sherman from the passenger seat. His stared ahead with red-rimmed eyes as if he was looking at something horrible and he couldn't look away, like maybe a ghost or a dead, brown lawn.
I remembered something about fractals. We'd covered them in Twelve Amazing Mathematical Concepts Everyone Should Know Before Eleventh Grade. A fractal is a pattern that repeats itself. Magnify it, and you'll see the same pattern as if you'd reduced it.
Yes, we were in a fractal. The little streets curving out from bigger streets like the bent legs of a millipede. The regularity and spacing of the houses, the stores, the divisions. It had become like a fever dream where you keep repeating the same bit of the dream until you feel your brain contract, squeezing your thoughts down into a hot little cage.
"We are stains," Sherman said. "And we are glorious." He had a weird glow in his eye, like the time he drank green milkshake slew from the back of the walk-in freezer seven months after St. Patrick's Day.
Miss Spotty Pants stretched her jaws in a great, big yawn. "What are you talking about?"
"We are stains. And stains are glorious, because a stain is a variation in the fractal. A stain doesn't repeat itself endlessly. A stain is unique." He was gaining boldness as he spoke, becoming more alive. "Being a stain shouldn't be a cause for humiliation and stat reduction. It should be celebrated."
Sherman was saying dangerous, subversive stuff. The kind of stuff that could cost you stat. But, like he'd said, he had nothing more to lose.
It was exciting and made me want to speed through the streets and do donuts in the cul-de-sacs.
* * *
We kept on until Miss Spotty Pants spied a dim glow on the horizon, and I aimed the car toward it. As the hours and days piled on, the light grew brighter.
"It's the city," she said. "It must be."
It turned out that she was right. Only the city turned out not to be what we'd hoped.
Excerpted from 2113 Stories Inspired by the Music of Rush by Kevin J. Anderson, John McFetridge. Copyright © 2016 The individual contributors. Excerpted by permission of ECW Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsIntroduction: "Imaginations on Fire",
On the Fringes of the Fractal. GREG VAN EEKHOUT Inspired by "Subdivisions",
A Patch of Blue. RON COLLINS Inspired by "Natural Science",
The Burning Times v2.0. BRIAN HODGE Inspired by "Witch Hunt",
The Digital Kid. MICHAEL Z. WILLIAMSON Inspired by "The Analog Kid" and "Digital Man",
A Nice Morning Drive. RICHARD S. FOSTER Inspired "Red Barchetta",
Players. DAVID FARLAND Inspired by "Tom Sawyer",
Some Are Born to Save the World. MARK LESLIE Inspired by "Losing It",
Random Access Memory. JOHN MCFETRIDGE Inspired by "Lakeside Park",
Race Human. LARRY DIXON Inspired by "Marathon",
Hollywood Dreams of Death. TIM LASIUTA Inspired by "I Think I'm Going Bald",
A Prayer for 0443. DAVID NIALL WILSON Inspired by "The Trees",
Gonna Roll the Bones. FRITZ LEIBER Inspired "Roll the Bones",
Spirits with Visions. BRAD R. TORGERSEN Inspired by "Mission",
Into the Night. MERCEDES LACKEY Inspired by "Freeze",
Day to Day. DAYTON WARD Inspired by "Red Sector A",
Our Possible Pasts. DAVID MACK Inspired by "Show Don't Tell",
Last Light. STEVEN SAVILE Inspired by "The Spirit of Radio",
2113. KEVIN J. ANDERSON Inspired by "2112",
About the Contributors,