"Written in Mud"
Bill's short story, "Written in Mud," was published in the January/February 2019 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine, which is edited by Sheila Williams. The story is lighthearted and humorous. Bill dedicated the story to his longtime friend and collaborator, Rob Chilson. Many titles of Rob's novels and stories are worked into the narration and dialogue.
Bill has a Q&A in From Earth to the Stars,
The Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine Author & Editor Blog, about "Written in Mud"
COLLABORATION PALS — Bill, Lynette M. Burrows, and Rob Chilson lived in the Kansas City area in the 1980s, as Lynette and Rob still do. At right, they're having fun at the World Fantasy Convention on Nov. 2, 1996, in Schaumburg, Ill . Rob and Bill had ten collaborations published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine in the
1980s and '90s. Rob and Lynette, as Lynette Meserole, had two collaborations in Analog in the '80s. Bill and Rob have also had stories they wrote individually in Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. Their friend Alison Tellure, also of the Kansas City area, had five stories in Analog in the '80s.
Photo by Beth Gwinn,
presented courtesy of Beth Gwinn.
For more about Rob Chilson:
For more about Lynette M. Burrows:
For more about Beth Gwinn:
Excerpt from the beginning of "Written in Mud":
Between the Omaha Mountains and the Ozark Islands, where the Gulf of Mexico rushed north after fracking for shale oil in Oklahoma caused earthquakes that triggered the Humboldt Fault in Kansas and the New Madras fault in Missouri, the four of them sat on the shores of Kansas.
They owned a farm and mulled the salt water. The farm had plenty of fertile midwestern soil. Most of it was right in front of them as they faced east on an ancient burial mound that was now an island. Their fields were covered by countless fathoms of the Gulf of Mexico. Islands that once had been bluffs in Kansas City, Missouri, stood out of sight to the north, but not really too distant, rising over the water that covered much of what once had been the Greater Kansas City area.
They were on the shores of Kansas right at the Missouri line, which was now buried somewhere deep under the salt water.
“That water’s not right,” said Dean, who had grown up on a Missouri farm. “It oughta be the color of Missouri mud. The Big Muddy still flows into this somewhere. Who ever heard of turquoise water in Missouri?”
“Sure it’s right,” said Frank. “It’s sea water. That water off Florida can be turquoise, I hear. It’s the same water.”
“What’s it doing here?” Dean demanded.
“The backstroke,” said Frank.
Dean picked up a small, limp object from the shallows. “What the hell is this thing?”
Frank looked. “A scrap of wool?”
“You see any sheep around here?” Dean held it up. “It looks like part of a small critter’s pelt. Squirrel? Doesn’t look like squirrel pelt to me.”
Sonnie drew her long, brunette hair away from her face and grimaced. “A rat?”
“Oh, well.” Dean tossed it aside. “Maybe we should find sheep who can graze while submerged under salt water.”
“A sheep farm,” said Frank. “At least it would still be a farm.”
They sat in the shadow of tall, green corn stalks that grew near a cove of fresh water where it flowed from a creek that was unnamed and unmapped. The corn was on a narrow strip of their land that remained dry ground.
Sonnie, a long-haired brunette, got to her feet and waded in the gentle waves. She wore a long T-shirt that was barely long enough to be decent. It matched the turquoise water. “You don’t want your shirt back, do you?”
“No,” said Dean.
“Good, ‘cause I’m not wearing anything under it.”
“I want it back,” said Dean.
Letta laughed. Shorter than Sonnie, she waded into the shallows a few feet away, wearing a similar shirt. “So this mud I’m walking in doesn’t look like a field of crops. Anybody got any ideas?”
Frank eyed the rippling water. “If we don’t plow under water …”
“Then we have to farm the water,” Dean said.
Letta scowled. “I hate it when they …”
“Finish each other’s sentences,” said Sonnie.
(End of excerpt)