3 Dieselpunk Excerpts You Should Read
We previously mentioned some dieselpunk novels you should check out. Today, we grabbed dieselpunk excerpts for you to enjoy!
Dieselpunk Epulp Showcase
A collection of tales and short stories, enjoy this taste…
MID-WESTERN COMMONWEALTH, CHICAGO.
“Well if it ain’t that then what was it?”
“It was all those damn fool bankers in New York.”
“Yeah, bankers. They’re the ones who caused everything that’s happened. A huge pack of New York bankers got greedy. And the country was the one to cop it in the teeth when it all headed south.”
“Nah. It weren’t that.”
“It was too. And everyone knows it. Bankers got greedy, they sold Louisiana back to the French and that’s why the Grand Dream of the United States of America is now just a footnote in history.”
Mickey thought about this for some time before shaking his head. “Nah, that ain’t it. That don’t explain half the crazy things that have happened.”
Mack growled. “Jus’ listen.” He began checking points off on his fingers. “New York sold Louisiana to the French. Which made everyone else really mad. Which made Chicago form the Mid-West militia. Which meant New York had to stop pretending and actually get serious about The Prohibition act. This made the North West secede to Canadia, which made California blame New York and change their name, which made Texas want nothing to do with no one no more, which made everyone else agree that Texas had the right idea.” He emphatically flicked his glowing cigarette butt into the cold, dark shadows. “From there it was all downhill. No more Union. No more United States of America.” He grinned. “And plenty more space ‘round the edges for young upstanding ‘entrepreneurs’ like ourselves. So we can make a little dosh on the side when we ain’t running booze for the gin joints.”
Mickey clutched himself tighter against the cold. “I’m sure that ain’t it. Me old man explained it diff’rent. A lot diff’rent. It had something to do with the Great War and zeppelins and aether and… stuff.”
“Well your old man don’t know his head from his toes. And that’s when he’s sober.” Mack stamped his feet in the sludge left over from the previous night’s snow. Then he started fishing inside his coat for his cigarette case. “Speaking of which – where the hell’s your hat? You look like a bum, huddled out here with no hood for your head.” He found the case and flipped it open. “You look like someone rolled you and left you wanting.”
City of Smoke and Iron – Season One: A Thrilling Anthology of Diesel-Pulp Fiction
Filled with cool short stories, here’s one…
I step from the rusted bloat of my airship onto a dock reaching out from the wharf’s edge. Narrow alleys and cramped warehouses loom over the river, daring me to test my luck in their shadows. I can feel the city’s hunger for me, but I’ve landed early and don’t plan on staying long enough to give it a taste.
Long may be what I’m in for, because – just like pop said – my man isn’t here. Don’t listen to family much, but I may start after this.
A flick of amber draws my eyes two docks down. Squinting, I see a shape in an alley, sparking a flint and wick lighter. I watch him flick it two more times, and wait for him to stamp down on his cigarette twice. He does, and I start walking the moment the second foot falls.
Three flicks and two stomps. Nothing out of place, but still eye catching. It’s what made it a good signal, even when given from the wrong damn spot.
Coming closer, I slow when I realize he’s not the one I’d paid. Pop would have pinned him as an ‘emgree by the stormcloud tint of his skin, but who hadn’t migrated since the Union fell. Either way, this man was two decades past when he should have settled from this game. My shoulders tighten, but a glance over the wharf for toughs waiting in alleys shows only dockhands sweating through air so thick they can drink it. It’s as alone as one gets in this city and I need what I came for. I stop close and let the unfamiliar man say his piece.
Seems my contact, this man’s boy, gained a tail of constables and can’t bring my pack. Damn. The ‘cons here took the same bills as any, but never from out of towners. Bribing one would get me shot if lucky, or dragged to the old ‘emgree who owned the waterfront if not. Pop said he’d left more bodies in the river than the trench claimed before I was born. I’m not looking for a swim, so I turn and start walking back to my boat.
“Please.” the old man says behind me, “I’ve got your pack. Just let me help my boy.”
Desperation in his voice makes me pause. Family business, I can understand that. I still need the pack, if only to show pop that this city, this business, will make our family strong.
I turn to give the old ‘emgree another chance and find sharp, factory-stamped iron waiting a hair’s width under my chin. It’s as heavy and bent-edged as pop’s relic from the trench and I know that even breathing deep will ruin my shave.
“Easy, old time–.”
“One warning. No competition on the docks.”
His voice is soft and used to being heard. I don’t know the accent but the tone reminds me of pop and his early days. He earned the right to be heard from too, and I decide that this old man won’t see me shake.
“Old ‘emgree named Hesk owns these docks.” I say, waiting for a pause, for a hitch, and a chance to fight free. “And word is he doesn’t give any warnings.”
“Word’s right.” he says, his knife carving deep. “I don’t.”
Tin Can Tommies: Darkest Hour
This one is a gripper…
THE BOY IN THE CRATER shivered.
Death crouched in waiting nearby.
Cowering in a pool of blood and filth, the boy gripped his rifle with trembling hands.
Fear gripped him tighter.
Lowering his Lee-Enfield, the boy looked nervously about the mist, his breath pluming in the chill twilight air. A second boy, younger, his head wrapped in bandages, hunkered in the dirt beside him, shaking fearfully. They were a far cry, thought the boy, from the king’s men exemplified so splendidly on the conscription posters back home in Blighty. A year prior, he had been a bakers’ apprentice with a bright future and the prettiest girl in the village on his arm. Now he was here, trapped in this hellhole waiting to die.
An executioner’s whistle had sent them over the top, but their charge, cut short by the enemies’ guns, had been in vain. The boys’ unit had been massacred in seconds, and the remains of their friends were now scattered across the battlefield—glistening piles of meat that hours earlier had smoked and played cards, joked and sang songs and—
Shouts in the mist.
Faint at first, then louder as their enemy closed in. It was only a matter of time.
The boys had long since given up hope of being rescued. They were the only living proof that men had been there at all—twin survivors now slowly consumed by the battlefield’s nightmare gloom. Stranded on the front-line they were alone, unwilling participants in a war as grotesque as the horrors that lay around them.
More shouts, louder now—they’d been flanked!
Shrinking into the mire, the boys fought the urge to cry out. Their lungs clamored for air as terror constricted their chests. The Germans were taunting them, of course, trying to flush them into the open and the crosshairs of their guns, which were eager to spit death.
Unable to contain his fear, the bandaged boy cried out involuntarily—then, wide-eyed, clamped both hands over his mouth.
Abruptly, the shouting ceased.
Silence swept over No Man’s Land.
Then something whistled through the air. It bounced down nearby, sloshing into a puddle—a canister. Hissing irritably, it rolled from side to side, releasing a plume of yellow smoke that crawled inexorably toward the boys.
The boys scrambled to snatch gas bags from their belts and pull them down over their heads. The toxin swirled around them, obscuring their vision. Sulphur mustard—the name derived from the odor it produced—was a poison that at worst caused horrific injuries, at best a swift death.
As the canister whistled dry, a breeze across No-Man’s Land curled wisps of smoke and flame, dissipating the poison. As dusk bled into night, the yellow haze diminished.
Thunder rolled overhead.
It started to rain.
“Was haben wir hier?”
The boys looked up and saw raindrops spatter against the spiked Pickelhaube helmet of a German infantryman. Dressed in muddy boots and a trench coat, he stared at the boys through the misty lenses of a gas mask, his dripping rifle poised.
Resigned, the boys threw down their Lee-Enfields and raised their hands.
The German jabbed his Mauser carbine at them, its bayonet scythed the air. “Ratten, uh?” he sneered, as the shouts of his comrades echoed through the mist.
Thunder rumbled again. The shower became a deluge.
“Ich spreche ihnen, junge! Wo kommen Sie her?”
The boys shook their heads in ignorance, but the man’s intention was clear.
“Gehörlose, als auch die toten!” the German growled. He slowly raised his Mauser, took aim, and started to squeeze the trigger.
The ground began to quake.
The German paused, looked up.
Something was pounding toward them.