by Russ Linton
His mother kidnapped, his superhero father absent, powerless Spencer Harrington faces a world of weaponized humans to prove himself and find the truth.
Nineteen-year-old Spencer is the son of the Crimson Mask, the world's most powerful Augment. Since witnessing his mother's abduction by a psychotic super villain two years ago, he's been confined to his father's arctic bunker. When the "Icehole" comes under attack from a rampaging robot, Spencer launches into his father's dangerous world of weaponized human beings known as Augments.
With no superpowers of his own save a multi-tool, a quick wit and a boatload of emotional trauma, Spencer seeks to uncover his mother's fate and confront his absentee superhero father. As he stumbles through a web of conspiracies and top secret facilities, he rallies a team of everyday people and cast-off Augments. But Spencer soon discovers that the Black Beetle isn't his only enemy, nor his worst.
My ear is pressed on the floor right where the downstairs neighbor has been tapping out S.T.F.U. in Morse code. Emily’s face comes into focus.
She’s laying on the floor beside me, her eyes closed. I put a hand on her throat, blindly groping for a pulse. She’s got to have a pulse. Somewhere? I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, but I feel a shallow breath on my forearm. Glass shatters and I peek over the couch to see the robot shouldering through what’s left of the window.
I grab Emily’s arms and drag her closer to the couch. Broken shards of brick clatter onto the breakfast nook’s linoleum while the drone rips through the wall.
Awake, asleep, how many times do I have to relive this scenario? People diving on me, surrendering for me. Maybe this time, we can both get carried off into the sky. All of this can end.
A fog of mortar dust hangs in the air. The swaying shadows are sharply outlined against light from the busted overhead lamp, its naked bulb swinging wildly. Outside air rushes in as the robotic arms gouge more chunks from the wall.
The aromatic scent of the flowers in the courtyard carries on the breeze. I recall their bright colors, the complete opposite of the frozen hell I came from; a place I will absolutely, positively never see again. Never.
With that thought, I’m juiced. Alive. The entire world is waiting. Waiting for me to prove I don’t need to be locked up and praying for someone to come save me. If anyone needs to be saved right now, it’s Emily. She needs my help, and carrying her out of here isn’t going to work. You’ve gotta work with what you’ve got.
I’m going outside and the drone is coming with me.
~Buy CRIMSON SON:
AN INTERVIEW WITH RUSS
-What made you want to write?
I mean, nothing made me want to write, writing was simply something I did. I wasn't even aware of it. I hated long, boring school assignments which in my mind included writing. Despised essays and book reports and English class. Writing a book with thousands of words? Pffft. As if.
Despite all that, writing came naturally to me. Those essays I hated so much I could crank out an hour before class and get a passable grade. Book reports? I could skim the text and cobble enough bullshit together to not fail. Writing, reading have always been a part of who I am.
Of course, this isn't to say that writing is easy. I avoided pursuing a career as a writer because no matter how much natural ability you may or may not have, committing to put 96,000 words on paper then examining, prodding, shaping those same words month after month then parading them around in front of a bunch of strangers is an extremely hard thing to do.
I'd been living an experimental life - going from career to career and seeking out experiences more than a real job. On the weekends, I'd play role playing games with friends and create stories and whole other worlds. Then at one point, my brain woke up and said "Wait a minute. Why aren't you doing this?”
Serendipity? Maturity? A mental kick in the arse?
Sure. That's what did it.
-What draws you to specfic?
I love speculative fiction. Maybe it's the philosopher in me, but exploring new possibilities is exciting. Creating them, even moreso. Everything I write tends to have a bit of fantasy, whether I'm dipping into horror, science fiction or even literary writing. While answers to the unexplained which investigation and research can provide are always fascinating, the "other" is where my heart lies.
Crimson Son is a "superhero" book. But that designation struggles against the neat labels provided by genre convention. Are superheroes Science Fiction? Fantasy? I've even seen them labeled "Urban Fantasy.”
For me, popular superhero tropes are much more fantasy than science fiction. They share more in common with say, the demigods of the ancient world than they do with any scientific process.
The notion that irradiating someone with a lethal dose of gamma rays turns them into a green rage monster and not a chick nugget is pure fantasy. In Crimson Son, I blame the process of becoming an Augment on some top secret government program precisely so I can lock it away, toss the key, shred the evidence and redact the memos.
True, you could easily create superheroes who were spawned from science and do some research on plausible ways which that could happen, but fantasy allows my mind to go the places it naturally wants to go.
-Name a fun fact you learned researching this project.
I can now operate an electron microscope. At least I think I can. There's one featured sort of prominently in Crimson Son and I wanted to be able to describe how it functioned with some accuracy. Turns out, on YouTube, several major university have posted "how to" guides.
Spencer, the protagonist, is a total gearhead and while I like technology, I'm not nearly as intuitive about it as he is. So I had to some research to make sure he had a plausible, authoritative voice about the stuff. For everything else, he had his multi-tool. His own sonic screwdriver, as a fellow writer put it which allowed him to work his techno wizardry.
-Which of your characters would you go out for drinks with?
Look, Spencer is too young. I hear him cursing at me and throwing things in background, but it's true. And no, I'm not letting you sidle up to the bar and order a virgin anything.
Spencer's father, the Crimson Mask, probably couldn't even get a good buzz without draining a tanker truck full of vodka. Not that we're drinking to get drunk here, but it would get old watching him slam one shot after another into his chiseled face without giving me so much as a sideways glance.
Emily...that could be a bit awkward. She's cute, wicked smart, and I'm happily married... Black Beetle is an utter sociopath and wouldn't even agree to have drinks with me unless I was able to fund his next project or he had some other use for me. Hurricane? Naw. Drunk, one-legged, geriatric speedsters tend to make a friggin' mess.
Eric, Spencer's slightly older, slightly nuttier friend is pretty much my kind of guy. He's like the guys I hang with at conventions or game shops or after the latest Marvel Studios release - the one most like me. He's gone a bit nuts and the tin-foil hat stuff might get old, but I'd be able to steer him onto some topics of plain 'ol geekery.
-For aspiring writers, any tips?
Are you mad? Well, obviously you're a bit "touched" if you're writing. Speaking to the characters in your head and living in imaginary worlds. There are words for these kind of conditions but they are usually long, have direct roots in Latin, and are only spoken outside the closed doors of padded rooms.
If I could get one tip through to an aspiring writer it would be this: live life as much outside your head as you do inside.
Anyone can be taught to string words together and communicate. This is why everyone says "I could write a book" and you have to nod politely and not punch them in the face, 'cause you might break your hand which would make typing difficult and gripping a pen would be right out.
But what separates "writers" from the rest of the literate world is that they can communicate an experience through language in such a way that will mentally take a reader on a journey alongside them. The only way to get that clarity of expression is to live.
Go outside. Step away from the keyboard and hike through the concrete jungles (or real jungles) outside your home. Find new experiences, new people, different cultures, and explore.
-Is there a genre you could never write? Which and why?
I could probably never write hard sci-fi. I enjoy hard sci-fi and can get loads of inspiration from things like theoretical physics and future tech. But my brain likes to twist things beyond the point of breaking. And even if I could manage to keep my creative urges at bay, the research alone would kill me.
I would obsess over getting the details correct. Hell hath no fury like a sci-fi nerd* scorned. Every sentence, every phrase, I'd check and double check way beyond standard editing. I would be consumed with the fact that whatever I wrote could very well be old news by the time I got it finished and out to press. It would be a messy scene.
Of course then I'd give up and slap a dragon down in the mix so he could have some silicon for lunch.
*I can use this derogatory term because, clearly, I am one.
In the fourth grade, Russ Linton wrote down the vague goal of becoming a “writer and an artist” when he grew up. After a journey that led him from philosopher to graphic designer to stay at home parent and even a stint as an Investigative Specialist with the FBI, he finally got around to that “writing” part which he now pursues full time.
Russ creates character-driven speculative fiction. His stories drip with blood, magic, and radioactive bugs. He writes for adults who are young at heart and youngsters who are old souls.
Russ holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do which was marginally more useful in a former life not making his living from behind a desk. He enjoys the outdoors and when he isn’t leading his scouts on virtual campouts in Minecraft, he’s making them haul their gear across state parks in the North Texas area.
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