Blackwood Gazette #65- Business Owners: “Gutted Earth Readers Becoming Nuisance” in Oeil de Fleur Commercial Districts

12/9- Economic analysts in Nor Easter noticed something strange early this month: a sharp dip in sales in marketplaces throughout the capital city, Oeil de Fleur. The sharp decline in business came along with the release of the newest installment of Clement Aldridge Kene’s “The Gutted Earth”, a new novel being published serially in a popular penny dreadful, “Strange Stories Monthly”.

“I can most certainly verify that it is that [expletive removed] book,” said one shop owner, a purveyor of accessories and personal embellishments for steam-autos. “They loiter around outside, these strange young men and women in costume, handing out flyers and talking about how we’re all going to be living in caves before long. They’re annoying my customers and scaring them away! I tried telling them I don’t have anything to do with the Blackwood industry. They just shot me this dumb smirk and went back to handing out their tacky little flyers.”

Those ‘tacky little flyers’ have been a headache to residents around the city, as they typically get tossed away by the people they’re handed to.

“Main street looks like a giant clown vomited on it,” said one woman. “You can see soggy green, yellow, blue and red pieces of paper all over the place; up in trees, clogging up gutters, stuck to the side walk. It’s disgusting. And kind of funny, considering all the flyers are talking about saving the environment, or some such nonsense.”

One of our correspondents in the city confronted one of the young fans, and questioned her about her intentions.

“It’s our duty to tell people the truth,” she said. “Perhaps they don’t want to hear it. And perhaps we are annoying. But sometimes the only way to get people to notice something is to take a big stick and knock them over the head with it (speaking strictly metaphorically, of course. Don’t actually do that). I mean, look. You’re here, asking me about this. That never would have happened if we simply gathered in a park or posted on bulletin boards like we are expected to. You say people aren’t reading our flyers, but they sure notice them laying in the street. We didn’t throw them there…they did. It’s time for them—no, us, all of us—to take notice. Just NOTICE, at the very least, what we’re doing. And ideally, take responsibility.”

Authorities are at a loss at what to do. The protestors are hurting business, but their hands are tied.

“We would like nothing more than to go in and break things up, or get them to move to zones designated for such things,” said Juste Chesneau, Chief of the Department of Public Safety and Protection of Imperial Interests. “But it would seem that Empress Marcellette Bastian herself has taken a liking to the stories, and an interest in these kids. We cannot make a move on them without her approval, unless an immediate threat to public safety occurs.”

Blackwood Gazette #65- Business Owners: “Gutted Earth Readers Becoming Nuisance” in Oeil de Fleur Commercial Districts

Blackwood Gazette #60-First Installments of The Gutted Earth Meet with Mixed Reactions

by Alex Grosset, Arts and Entertainment

1/9- The first installment of Clement Aldridge Kene’s speculative fiction novel, The Gutted Earth, made its debut last month, and so far reactions from both critics and fans have been mixed. The novel imagines a world where steam technology is not feasible, due to Blackwood’s non-existence.

The divide comes along lines that should not come as surprising to anyone paying attention. Gregory Wallace, a critic for the Toring Tribune (funded in large part by a company with Blackwood mining interests) lambasted the novel, calling it, “The latest in a series of Nor Eastern propaganda meant sow fear in the hearts of a populace that’s been told, ‘Blackwood is running out! Don’t rely on it to much, for tomorrow you may find yourself huddled around the dying embers of a bygone age, unable to find your way in the newly fallen dark!’ This author has no respect for his reader; there is nothing wholesome or inspiring in this story, just utter human savagery. Alas, another modern writer who has confused cynicism for insight.”

Echoing Wallace’s criticism about cynicism is author Marta Starling, who writes, “[Kene], while a vibrant writer who in the past has displayed great wit, seems to have sacrificed having a point in the service of a broad edge; his characters swear with the gleeful abandon of adolescent boys and characters are killed for no apparent reason in the most mean spirited ways possible. His depiction of women is rather confused, as well: they are at once some of the most complex and well written characters in the novel, and yet, Kene still manages to get them out of their clothes  and put them on display at every turn without putting any thought into how it serves the story. It’s very strange.”

Not surprising, The Gutted Earth has met with praise in Nor Easter. Critic Jaques Marques calls it “Necessary reading for the populace of a society on the edge of a great cultural shift. The relevance of Blackwood’s growing scarcity cannot be ignored. This book shows that speculative fiction is more than strange stories of time travel and lurid, backwards-thinking tales of indigenous peoples who terrorize invading explorers.  It is a window into a world that might have been, and could possibly be in the future.”

The stories have already spurred an active following, as well. The majority of this following seems content with the usual behaviors: drawing and dressing up as the characters, writing their own pastiches (usually of a sexual nature), speculating where the story might go, etc. Others, however, have been inspired to activism, discussing what could and should be done in the absence of Blackwood.

The next installment of The Gutted Earth is expected to see print on the fifteenth in Strange Stories Monthly.

Blackwood Gazette #60-First Installments of The Gutted Earth Meet with Mixed Reactions

Blackwood Gazette #45: New Novel Imagines a World Without Blackwood

by Alex Grosset, Arts and Entertainment

23/7- What would our society be like if not for the discovery of Blackwood? That’s the question posed by author Clement Aldridge Kene in his new novel, The Gutted Earth.

The book takes place in a fantasy world, in the fictional land called Almeria. In it, humankind finds itself on the verge of a world dominated by steam based technology, only to discover such a thing would be unsustainable for more than a few years.

“The only reason our own technology has been able to develop along steam based lines is Blackwood,” said Kene in a press release. “Blackwood isn’t a naturally occurring substance, but an alchemically created one. Now, imagine a world where Blackwood didn’t exist…we’d quickly find that a steam based society could not last more than a few decades. Entire forests would be leveled for wood, coal mines depleted. Where would the world turn?”

Kene writes that his first instinct was to imagine a purely electric based world, but that idea was scrapped.

“With electricity, you’d still need a fuel source to produce it,” said Kene. “So I did some research and found a real world analogue, in Sarnwain’s recent developments with refining oil.”

In the book, humanity develops the ‘internal combustion engine’, and technology develops along oil based lines. The results are horrific.

“We know from our own failed attempts at developing oil based tech that fuel combustion is less than savory,” said Kene. “Imagine a world where everyone has an auto powered not by the soothing pops and bubbles of a boiler, but the grating, thunderous boom of a mechanical beast burning oil and coughing thick, soot ridden smoke into the air.”

What makes the novel even more disturbing, Kene warns, is that the world imagined in his book could be something that actually happens in the next two hundred years.

“Blackwood, theoretically, is a renewable resource. The problem is, the alchemical process has been lost; no one knows how to make more. And we’ve all heard the rumors that, as our influence spreads across the globe, so does the need for Blackwood. Blackwood may burn clean, and it may burn slow, but it won’t burn forever.”

The Gutted Earth will be released serially, and makes its debut next month in Stories of the Strange Monthly.

Blackwood Gazette #45: New Novel Imagines a World Without Blackwood