Have you ever wanted to visit the worlds and characters of your favorite books? Well, come and walk into our beautiful vast library and let us get you stuck in the pages!
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For SPFBO 9 I’m returning to my old tradition, where I offer to the authors in our batch a spotlight on Queen’s Book Asylum. While in previous years I created a new feature, this year I let them choose between all of my available ones: What the Hungarian?!, Tales from the Asylum, Stuck in the Pages, Party with the Stars, To Be Continued…, as well as the regular author spotlight options of an interview, and a guest post.
R. R. Hunter, author of The Untold Prophecy, chose Stuck in the Pages and so, let’s see how he did with it!
I’m living in Georgia with my wife and two boys. I was born in southern Arkansas and grew up with Lego, Transformers, and Nintendo during the golden age of cartoons. The desire to create, design, and build seem to be engrained in me. I taught myself how to code TI calculators, Action Script (Flash), and finally Java before I ever took my first computer science class. My desire to write never really bloomed because my idea of a “story” just hadn’t developed. After reading books like The Wheel of Time, Mistborn, The Realm of the Elderlings, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Hyperion Cantos, I began to understand what good storytelling actually was.
Connect with R. R. Hunter
You are an esteemed guest in the Asylum and you are currently browsing the books in our vast library when you spot a familiar title you really enjoyed once upon a time. You pick it up, nostalgia rushing through you. Which book did you lift from the shelves?
“The Fall of Hyperion” by Dan Simmons.
Turn to page 268 and pick up a passage that’s not spoilery. Share it with us!
Angry calls from local traffic control joined the chorus of dashboard alarm voices. The car staggered as it shifted to police override, but I touched the diskey with my microcard again and nodded as control returned to the omni stick. I flew over the oldest, poorest section of the city, keeping close to the rooftops and banking around spires and clock towers to stay below police radar. On a normal day, the traffic control cops riding personal lift packs and stick skimmers would have swooped down and tangle-netted me long before this, but from the look of the crowds in the streets below and the riots I glimpsed near public farcaster terminexes, it didn’t look much like a normal day.
Oh no! Our pet demon just got too excited by your presence, opened a portal into the book, and now you are stuck in the pages. Describe yourself as a character! What is your theme song in this situation?
Hunter, a mild-mannered and level-headed writer, finds himself transported to the barren valley of the Time Tombs on planet Hyperion. His breathing intensifies as the thick, electric infused atmosphere entrapping the canyon sends shivers up his spine. “Machines” by Outgrow Indigo plays in his headphones. He stops himself from removing them, for the melodic vocals seem to help him maintain a modicum of sanity.
After the initial shock wears off, you assess your environment. What do you see? How do the other characters react to you if there are any?
Hunter expects to see the pilgrims, but he finds himself alone, surrounded by the valley’s six tombs, standing like demonic shrines to ancient, forgotten gods. But is he alone? The Shrike could be near. The creature could be watching him at this very instant. The thought of its shifting metallic body, covered in razor sharp blades and piercing spikes, made Hunter sick with weariness.
Since you are stuck, you have to decide whether you stay where you are or go and find shelter. What do you do?
Standing out in the open would be no safer than hiding in one of the tombs, but the idea of a wall at his back spurred his feet to move, and the tingling sensation like metal claws on his neck urged him faster. The Shrike Palace stood out as the most grotesque structure, with its goth-like arches and buttresses resembling the thorn-ridden Shrike. The Crystal Monolith and Jade Tomb seemed the most out of place, their reflective walls contrasting with the void of color in the valley.
Hunter heads for the Sphinx, for it is the only one he feels any attachment to. He approaches the structure as his mind spawns memories of Egypt on old Earth, playing like waxy pages in a history book.
Your decision made, time to think a step further. You need food and drink. Can you find some in nature, buy some, barter or require it any other way? How?
There is no food to be found in the valley, and Hunter didn’t exactly have time to pack a lunch. If he could find the pilgrims, they might have something to spare for him. The charged currents of air leave the taste of battery acid on his tongue. Hunter swished salava around his mouth to rinse away the foul, acrid flavor.
Once you are full, a creature approaches you. What/who it is and is it dangerous?
Hunter turns, freezing in place, as his eyes lock with the glowing red set of the Shrike no less than ten feet away. It towers before him, motionless, breathless, lifeless for an eternity. Hunter’s mind cannot form a single coherent thought, except that he drastically underestimated the amount of blades and spikes on its body.
While interacting with this creature, you discover you have magical abilities. What are they? And can you use them at all?
A moment of clarity enters Hunter’s consciousness like a cool stream brimming through a forest. He touches the AI TechnoCore with the whisper of a thought, and time halts around him. His brain processes everything, everywhere, all at once, creating the illusion that the surroundings have frozen in place. Hunter realizes the truth: he is a cybrid, or at least has become one after moving through the strange asylum portal.
How does your encounter end with the creature?
Particles of dust hang in the air, locked in place as time stands still. Hunter does not blink, but in an instant unmeasurable by human minds, the Shrike disappears as if never there. The warm, heavy atmosphere in the valley squeezes Hunter’s body, and normal time resumes its slogging pace. Finding his breath, he steadies himself against the course stone paw of the Sphinx. Hunter shakes his head as he realizes the connection to the TechnoCore has likewise vanished.
Meanwhile, the Asylum staff realizes what happened and finally manages to figure out how to get you out of the book. How much time do you think passed?
Reality bleeds into Hunter’s vision as several hands help him up. Seconds or years could have passed in the alternate world of Hyperion; he had no way of knowing. But time hadn’t passed—quite the opposite. Hunter stared at the book “The Fall of Hyperion” on the shelf, exactly where it had sat before he had retrieved it. He had gone back in time, but instead of the casual t-shirt and shorts he wore for the interview, he was draped in a simple white gown like every other mental patient in the Asylum.
While the staff fusses over you, your thoughts are whirring. How do you think your character would have changed the story going forward? What impact your short stay had on the world?
Hunter wasn’t mad: he was crazy. He wanted to see the Shrike again. It always granted a wish to the one pilgrim it let live. If he could only get back to Hyperion, the Shrike might still be in the Time Tombs. The creature might be waiting for him now as it hangs the other screaming pilgrims on its Tree of Pain, doomed to writhe in agony for the rest of time. Hunter could wish to save them all, or perhaps he could wish to save the Hedgemony from the invading Ousters. Or, maybe he would wish to reconnect with the TechnoCore and live in serenity.
The Asylum staff escorts you to a cozy room with a window to our garden and puts you in bed. When you wake up from your nap, you find the book on your nightstand. What’s your first thought? What do you do?
Hunter longs for a return to Hyperion. The story cannot be over this soon.
The Asylum staff, concerned with your behaviour decides to keep you under our careful watch indefinitely. We assure you this does not makes us happy but we will let you play with our pet demon whenever you wish. We hope you enjoy your time with us!
It is better this way. Here at the Asylum, Hunter can read and write to his heart’s content. Perhaps another portal will present itself; only time will tell.
Grab a copy of R. R. Hunter‘s SPFBO 9 entry, The Untold Prophecy!
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