The Damage Patrol Quartet, 2021
Collection of four stories: “Roadblock,” “Randy and Laura,” “Perpetual Starlit Night,” and “Damage Patrol.” Two of the stories were previously published: “Roadblock” (Ethernet, 2013) and “Perpetual Starlit Night” in Twisted Tails VII (Double Dragon Publishing, 2013). Two, “Roadblock” and “Randy and Laura,” were originally part of longer novel drafts. I updated and further polished all four stories in 2021.
Randy and Laura, 2021
Based on the 1980 story “Tollhouse,” which also found its way into early drafts of Sortmind, just long enough to influence that novel’s characters and plot. Drug-addled Randy manages to function in the stonoid delusion that he’s a slave employee at New Fascist Australia Toll Road Number One. Laura, who also works at the urban American gas station generating this fantasy, reluctantly puts up with Randy’s idiocy, hoping to save enough cash from this menial job to escape her tyrannical father, the service station owner worshipped by Randy as the Gasoline Minister for New Fascist Australia. A dreadful collision between madness and reality is naturally to be expected.
Damage Patrol, 2021
The Conscious Reach Corporation seeks to cure nine hundred thousand people in the city of Cirrus of mental illnesses ranging from mild to severe. IT technician Lucy earns a promotion to head the Damage Patrol department, but her uncanny ability to reach inside wounded souls, to instantly flip the correct switches and burn out psychic obstacles, not only puts her in danger but soon exposes the evil at the root of the entire corporation.
Roadblock, 2013, revised 2021
Published December 2013 by Etherbooks. Much revised version of 1984’s “The Roadblock,” which began as a chapter in a 1981 novel, Zarreich. Jim is a feckless architectural school graduate who castigates himself for failing to find work in a decaying city after only being there one week; he doesn’t begin to see the opportunities in a city begging for massive architectural renovation. Instead he finds himself blindly falling in with Oceanmouth, a sixteen-year-old car mechanic, in a dubious trucking venture that takes them to the rural south in deep night. There they encounter a massive roadblock created by construction strikers who have the power to eradicate all light.
Perpetual Starlit Night, 2013, revised 2021
Archeologist Sairjin ShiriKor arrives on a tiny artificial gravity platform in deep space to give a scholarly lecture. But the barbarian colonists scoff at her evident delusion that she’s anything but a criminal sent to be incarcerated on the changeless and apparently motionless platform. Published February 2013 in the anthology Twisted Tails VII: Irreverence, from Double Dragon Publishing. More background.
A Mule for Billy, 2010
Vicious and heartfelt satire, my one and only foray into anything even resembling Texana. Chapter 1, “Growin’ Up ’n Plantville,” sets the mood, but fortunately there is no Chapter 2. Posted to blog.sortmind.com.
Starvation Levels of the Infinite, 2008
Beings with Civil Service-type designations of Astronaut, Administrator, Scientist, Witch and Sorcerer are mitigating the effects of a coming apocalypse.
After graduating from library school I was ready to open up with some new fiction, and these miscellaneous vignettes seemed to coalescence into some sort of surreal story “on the verge of meaning something.” They later expanded to the plot of my novel Parts I and II and also morphed into “Starvation Levels of the Infinite.” The story was called “33” because it consisted of thirty-three typewritten pages.
Chapter 32, 1985
Continuation of New Akard 1979. Akard feels a return of creative power, Pete Sponge revives from his coma, and Jim Piston cries his eyes out upon realizing what a dweeb he really is. Later incorporated into 1994 and later versions of Akard Drearstone.
The start of an experimental novel about future wars in the South Pacific and young men of the following generation, unable to truly appreciate what their fathers have accomplished, who instead waste time cruising downtown streets. Parts of this abandoned effort were incorporated into the early Sortmind.
Jack Commer is part of a detective agency foursome attempting to land a spacecopter atop USSF headquarters in downtown Marsport when they come under inexplicable fire from below. Turns out aliens are behind it all! Jack’s partner Huey is revealed to be an alien himself. Everyone is terrified of course, but sooner or later some sort of mystical interspecies communication definitely has to take place, don’t you think? Later Jack is interviewed by the author about his feelings for Huey’s sexy wife Jackie. I spent a long time trying to port this over to early versions of Nonprofit Chronowar until I finally saw how stupid this was. But I included the interview in The UR Jack Commer.
The Selector, 1981-1982
Strange and supercilious animals are chewing out the electrical grid of a downtown skyscraper. Maybe they’re eating the entire building, who knows? A night shift supervisor dude is in extreme denial about the entire affair. Posted to blog.sortmind.com.
Where Eagles Have Unfortunately Landed, 1980
Child genius Klaus Wolfgang von Stuttelmann is fated not to be a Messerschmitt 163 rocket ace for the Luftwaffe. Although I had to joke my way through this story, I wrote it in awe of everything all airmen did during World War II. This story became part of The University of Mars until I sensibly cut it.
Two boys are trapped at a surreal toll booth job in Australia, later emigrate to America, and then are killed in anti-nuclear protests. One, Blar, winds up in a hospital on Mars–or he is just hallucinating that? Did he die or not? Hell, I don’t know! This story became part of Sortmind and got a lot of rewriting until, as with almost all these stories, I realized it didn’t belong crammed sideways into a novel. Eventually it morphed into “Randy and Laura,” published in The Damage Patrol Quartet, 2021.
January 1st, 1976-1984
Jim Piston helps rob a 7-Eleven in Skokie, Illinois on New Year’s Day. Went through at least four drafts but finally was cut from Akard Drearstone. The story gathered its share of rejection slips. (In fact, almost everything on this list was sent out at least a few times.)
The 66,000 M.P.H. Bicycle, 1975
Special agent Atoka evades “the Americans” on his nuclear-powered, 66,000 mph bicycle until he’s bombed into chewed-up guts on a coastal freeway. The author was able to ignore physics such as escape velocity throughout the story, but came up with some interesting computer concepts for a story written in 1975 by someone who knew nothing about computers.
The Highland Park Cadillac Races, 1975
Insurance executive Bobby Thompson must prove his manhood by racing an enemy Cadillac on the mean streets of Dallas.
Man Against the Horses!, 1975
Five horses in Paris, Texas break out of their corral, charge down the highway, and destroy the city of Dallas.
Space, Time and Tania, 1974-1975
Bumbling ex-Texas Department of Public Safety officer Marty Brimfeeler probes the death of Tania in Houston shortly before World War III erupts. Published in PigIron magazine, 1977.
The Martian Holes, 1974-1975
A slaphappy investigation of rich folks on the eve of their preferential evacuation from a dying Earth. Jack Commer makes a farcical appearance but cannot save this piece. Yet it was such a part of Jack’s development that it needed to be incorporated into The UR Jack Commer.
Alan Ice on Morningcide Drive, 1974
Guitarist Alan Ice manages to bore the reader with excessively overwrought stream of consciousness prose for thirty pages, but there’s a glimmer of something interesting when, near the end of the story, he drives onto an infinite parking lot at dawn and watches an alien spaceship explode.
Marilyn Monroe writes Norman Mailer’s biography. The Orange Rhinoceros is interviewed on his feelings about art, the university, and “the street.”
From my second novel, The 51st State of Consciousness. Trying to be helpful during his investigations of the fifty-first state, G. inadvertently dooms himself and Mrs. Bag when he drives onto a mindlessly complex freeway interchange that can only lead to a lifetime of grueling slave work in grimy industrial junkyards. I’d originally intended to send this story off to inaugurate a writing career after graduating from Rice, but was so discouraged by the academic literary magazines at Fondren Library that I gave up in despair.
Five-Pointed Stars, 1973-1974
Another candidate for a writing career, an ambitious, sprawling attempt at psychological investigation of characters coping with a fifty-mph, head-on car accident in December 1972.
Emerson’s Vast Hotel, 1972
A young Bill is bored out of his skull in a foreign country and doesn’t seem to accomplish much except for pitching pennies into wastebaskets.
All words and images (except Twisted Tails VII cover) copyright by Michael D. Smith