Zombies Need Brains is proud to present its 2017 Kickstarter, with three new anthology themes! ZNB is a small press founded by fantasy author Joshua Palmatier. Every year, they run a Kickstarter to fund a set of themed anthologies and so far have managed to produce seven anthologies over the past four years. What makes ZNB unique is that they fill half of the anthologies with well-known SF&F writers, but the remaining slots are up for grabs with an open call for submissions running from the time the Kickstarter funds until the end of December. So each anthology has New York Times bestselling authors alongside authors who’ve just made their first professional sale. ZNB is also recognized by SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) as a qualifying market.
They’re pretty excited about the themes and anchor authors they have up for grabs this year. THE RAZOR’S EDGE is a military SF&F anthology where the stories will explore that fine line between being a rebel and becoming an insurgent. We hope to see some great sci-fi—and yes, fantasy—from their anchor authors, including Gerald Brandt, William C Dietz, D.B. Jackson, Chris Kennedy, Kay Kenyon, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, Seanan McGuire, L.E. Modesitt, Jr., and Steve Perry. In GUILDS & GLAIVES, authors will explore their sword & sorcery sides, with a dash of guilds for flavor; anchor authors include David B. Coe, James Enge, David Farland, Esther Friesner, Howard Andrew Jones, Gini Koch, Violette Malan, and Seanan McGuire. And lastly, they have SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE URBAR, which is a follow-up to a previously released anthology called AFTERHOURS: TALES FROM THE URBAR published by DAW Books. Here, Gilgamesh bartends a time-traveling bar where history mixes with a touch of magic. Anchor author include Jacey Bedford, Gini Koch, Juliet E. McKenna, C.E. Murphy, Kristine Smith, and Kari Sperring.
If any (or all) of these themes intrigue you, check out the Kickstarter at tinyurl.com/insurgenturbar! Help to bring these three themes to life by backing the project! You can find out further details about their past project and the small press at www.zombiesneedbrains.com.
That’s the background.
I was delighted when Joshua Palmatier invited me to contribute a story as one of the core authors for SECOND ROUND, which is a return to the Ur-Bar. I confess to knowing little about Gilgamesh, but I could certainly get my head around a time travelling, magical bar. Maybe it appears at times of great need. And what more needed time than the eve of the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 30th June 1916.
We’re currently in the middle of a strange five year period in which we’re remembering (not exactly celebrating) the First World War, 1914 – 1918. This is a conflict my grandfather fought in as a lowly British Tommy in the trenches. He volunteered in 1914 and joined the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He took part in that famous Christmas Eve game of football in 1914. (There wasn’t just one game there were many along the battle-lines.) He survived the Somme and was invalided out at Passchendaele in 1917 with half his calf shot away. When I was a little girl he used to tell me stories, but he was more likely to tell me about the trouble his mate Billy got into for eating a neighbour’s pie left to cool on a windowsill, and about catching a train to Pontefract to enlist (with the same Billy), than about the trenches. My dad was the same. He drove a tank across the Western Desert in World War Two, but neither Dad nor Grandpa was inclined to relate the gory bits, the terrifying times, and the incidents that woke them in the middle of the night decades later.
I had to find out about that for myself.
As part of a music project I was involved in many years ago, I researched the life of Dorothy Una Ratcliffe, a minor but well-loved Yorkshire poet. In 1913-14, at the outbreak of the war to end all wars, she was the Lady Mayoress of Leeds for her widowed uncle-in-law, Edward Brotherton, politician and self-made millionaire, the owner of Brotherton’s Chemicals. Brotherton had the resources and he funded the equipping of the Leeds Pals Regiment. Pals regiments were springing up across the north of England in the early days of the war, on the presumption that men would volunteer more enthusiastically if they could be guaranteed to train and fight alongside friends and fellow workers. And so it proved. Dorothy’s organisational skills and Brotherton’s money was the impetus behind the Leeds Pals.
I live in a little Yorkshire village that still has its memorial to the local men who fought in the First World War. Their photographs and names are displayed in an impressive mahogany frame in the village hall. Over sixty men fought and only five died. I speculate that’s largely because there wasn’t a handy Pals regiment to join. They served in the navy, in army regiments, from artillery and lancers to light infantry. No one man from the village served with any other. When death found them it crept up on them one by one, and in that great lottery most of them were lucky. They survived.
Not so the Pals regiments.
Men who joined up together fought together and died together. In that carnage on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, the Leeds Pals regiment was decimated. The plan was that a week of shelling in advance of the infantry going over the top would severely damage the German trenches and personnel, and destroy the barbed wire barricades in No Man’s Land. It was a horrible and many-times-fatal miscalculation. The Germans took little damage and were ready and waiting.
The Leeds Pals Regiment was raised in 1914. They trained in Colsterdale, North Yorkshire, and in 1915 deployed to Egypt to guard the Suez Canal against the Turks. They shipped-out to France in March 1916 to join the British build up for the Battle of the Somme. On the first day, 1st July 1916, the battalion casualties numbered 24 officers and 504 other ranks, of which 15 officers and 233 other ranks were killed. Private A.V. Pearson, a survivor, later said: “We were two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying.”
In total the British forces suffered 57,470 casualties, including 19,240 fatalities to gain just three square miles of territory on that first day alone.
So a junior officer, a lieutenant, in the Leeds Pals might have spent the last night before the battle worrying whether he was capable of leading his men over the top at 7.30 the next morning. Egypt had been a walk in the park; the push towards the village of Serre, his regiment’s objective, didn’t look as if it was going to be easy. Maybe he was in need of a stiff drink, but the rum ration hadn’t arrived—again! So a magical time travelling bar might be just what he was in need of.
And if a volunteer nurse stationed at the main dressing station in the Chateau de Cuin, a few miles distant from the forward trenches, needed to kick back after her shift to expunge the stench of blood and shit from her nostrils, perhaps she might meet a young lieutenant and remember their one stolen night while on leave in Paris.
What if Gil is on hand to pour a magical potion which grants someone’s heart’s desire? What might it mean for these two? And will it work out as they expect it to?
My story ‘Make Me Immortal With a Kiss’ will appear in ‘SECOND ROUND’. Please support it. If you check on the special rewards section I’m offering a Tuckerisation if you want to appear in the story.