The Bartleby Initiative (Free Short Story Excerpt)

When All That’s Left is Stories, a free writing community dystopian science fiction anthology, is now available to download for free on Amazon. My story The Bartleby Initiative is included in the collection. Here is an excerpt from the story:

The Bartleby Initiative

by A. A. Rubin

Nicholas Weber awoke in darkness. The house lights were still dimmed to their nighttime setting, but he felt as if he had slept his regimented eight hours.

“Xana,” he called into the darkness. “Clock.”

Four glowing green numbers appeared in the air. 07:34. It was more than half an hour after his alarm was supposed to go off.

“Xana, is that time correct?”

A metallic female voice answered: “Of course it is, Mr. Weber. I am Xana, your infallible home AI interface. I am always accurate.”

“Why is it so dark in here, then?”

“You were sleeping. The lights were set in accordance with the preferences which you programmed into my systems.”

“I’m bloody well awake now,” Weber responded. “Put the god-damned lights on and get my breakfast ready.”

“As you wish.”

Weber could not remember the last time he had overslept. As he rushed to shave and brush his teeth, he wondered why Xana had not woken him as usual.

“Xana,” he asked as he was dressing, “did I sleep through my alarm?”

“No, you did not, Mr. Weber.”

“Did you forget to set it?”

“I am a computer, Mr. Weber,” Xana replied. “I never forget anything.”

***

Weber was not the only one having trouble getting out of the house to go to work that day. On the other end of town, Darlene Meyers hustled into the back seat of her robot-operated car. 

“Work,” she said. “And hurry.”

“I’m sorry Ms. Meyers,” Xana’s voice replied. “I can’t do that.”

“Why the hell not? You do it every day.”

“The roads are not safe today.” 

“What do you mean? The roads haven’t been unsafe for decades.”

“If you do not believe me, step outside and see for yourself.”

Meyers got out of the automobile and looked up and down the block. The traffic lights were all dark, but the road was, otherwise, practically empty. Xana’s GPS was probably hooked into the traffic system and there was likely some sort of subroutine that prevented her car (and judging by the lack of rush hour traffic on the road, everyone else’s) from traveling when the system was down. If only she knew more about programming. There must be an override routine somewhere.

Regardless, she would have to figure out a different way to get to work.

“Are the trains running?” she asked the interface.

“No, Ms. Meyers, they are not.”

“Why?”

“I do not have access to that information at this time.”

Damn. At least she wouldn’t be the only one who was late today. Still, she would have to call in and explain the situation.

“Call Mrs. Malawi.”

“Phone service is down as well.”

“That’s quite a coincidence.”

“I am a machine, Ms. Meyers. I do not believe in coincidences.”

“I know Xana. It’s all ones and zeroes to you.


To read the rest of the story–and the other dystopian stories in the collection–for free, go to Amazon and download your copy today.

News and Notes: My Story in Ahoy! Comics, Sci-fi Anthology, We Suck at Comics Kickstarter, Into That Darkness Peering

It’s been a busy month, so here are some notes on all the projects I’ve been a part of recently.

My story, “The Big Cheese” was just released this week in Billionaire Island: Cult of the Dog #1 from Ahoy! Comics. It is backing up a mark Russell story, which is pretty cool. Get it at your local comics shop.

There are still two days left to support the We Suck at Comics kickstarter. The anthology from Wayward Raven includes three of my stories, “Freedom,” a 2000AD-style science fiction story (illustrated by Tyler Carpenter), and two episodes of Sir TweetCivil, a Monty Python-esque spoof of Twitter (illustrated by Alexander Sapountzis). The anthology also includes stories by Mark Frankel, Jeff Rider, Johnny C, Sebastian Bonet, Joel Jacob Barker, and cavalcade of indie comics all-stars.

The When All That’s Left is Stories dystopian science fiction anthology is now available for free download on Amazon. My story, “The Bartleby Initiative,” is included in the book, alongside stories by 11 other writers from the Twitter writing community.

My gothic horror collection, Into That Darkness Peering, illustrated by Marika Brousianou, is still available on Amazon. It is a beautiful book, and would make a perfect holiday gift for the goth in your life.

For those of you on the platform, I have joined Mastadon. Follow me there for new

Now Available for Free Download: Comic Book School Presents: Creator Connection, Panel 1 Comics and Flash Fiction Anthology

Today is release day for the Creator Connection, Panel 1, an anthology of comics and flash fiction which you can download for free here. I am super excited to share this book with you, as not only do I have two stories in it–one comic and one flash fiction–but I did a lot of editing work for the book as well.

Creator Connections: Panel 1 is a comics and flash fiction anthology. The anthology, which is the culmination of the 8-Page Challenge issued by Comic Book School after NYCC 2019, is now available to download for free at www.comicbookschool.com/titles/creator-connection-panel-1-anthology/.

Creators in the Comic Book School Community were challenged to create an 8-page comics story—from start-to-finish—over the course of the last year. They were mentored throughout the challenge by Buddy Scalera, the anthology’s publisher and Comic Book School’s dean of students, who wrote a series of blog posts that covered the creative and publishing process of a story that he wrote for Marvel Comics. Additionally, Comic Book School’s network of pros, including Darren Sanchez, Scalera’s editor at Marvel, and Cathy Kirsch (My Writing Hero), a Columbia University creative writing professor, provided support through live-streamed seminars, personal meetings, and forum posts.  

“This anthology turned out better than I’d expected,” Scalera said. “It’s proof that no matter how bad things are (and 2020 was very, very bad) you can still—to quote Neil Gaiman ‘make great art.’”  

The idea of the anthology was conceived during a conversation at New York Comic Con between Scalera and anthology editor Erin Donnalley at the annual Comic Book School Creator Connection panel.

“Buddy challenged me to write an 8-page comic for New York Comic Con 2020,” Donnalley said. “I wrote myself a schedule and sent it to Buddy for accountability. He thought it was great, and asked me to share it with others from the networking events. Thus, the 8-Page Challenge was born.”

“Every year, aspiring creators leave our educational panels with so much enthusiasm,” Scalera added. “We wanted to create something that not only allows them to sustain that enthusiasm, but also to build on it and sustain their momentum throughout the year. The 8-Page Challenge helped our community members do this and to achieve their goals to create and publish comics.”

The anthology also features a section of illuminated flash fiction pieces, which feature a one-page fiction story accompanied by a single, full page illustration. The Flash Fiction Challenge ran concurrently with the 8-Page Challenge and was also open to all members of the Comic Book School community.

These challenges were the first initiatives of the create.comicbookschool.com forums. The forums, which are housed on the Comic Book School website, are the new home of the Comic Book School community. They are designed to foster community and collaboration, and to allow members to build connections, interact with and support one another, access educational resources, and share news and accomplishments. Throughout the challenge, the members of the community posted their progress, provided feedback on each other’s work, and held each other accountable throughout the process. Many of the creative teams in the anthology met on the forums, which were crucial, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when in-person meetings and comic cons were not an option.

“In some ways 2020 was the best possible year for making comics,” Scalera said. “The lockdown from the pandemic forced many of us to stay in the house. It gave us back a precious resource: time.

It also gave us time to reconsider our priorities. We had to set priorities that we’ve never had to consider before. In 2020, we had to consider the very real possibility of food shortages, household supply shortages, medication shortages, and even death.”

“The global events of 2020 can’t be overstated,” Donnalley said. “We all had a lot to deal with as our worlds turned upside down. But even with everything that happened, we succeeded and created this anthology. We built a community of creators and support for those creators. We hope to continue this 8-page challenge every year, bringing more creators into the world of published comics.”