Please join me in welcoming this weeks author, Jonah Knight, to the blog!
M: Welcome Jonah. It's wonderful to have you by the blog today.
JK: Thank you for having me.
M: The story title, The Giant Killer, sounds like a spin on Jack and the bean stock. Maybe?
JK: Jack and the Beanstock and Jack the Giant Killer arose as separate legends, as far as we know. Over time, a couple of the “Jack” stories melded together to become the way many of us think of Jack these days.
M: Could you share what your story is about?
JK: In the original, Jack basically goes from giant to giant defeating them in different ways with different tools. That core idea is where I started.
In this version, the giants- built during the Civil War as a defense measure- are malfunctioning, causing mayhem, and disrupting the city. So, almost reluctantly, our heroine gathers her devices and goes out into the streets of Boston to stop them, using techniques similar to those used in the original tail.
M: What drew you to tell the story The Giant Killer in a steampunk setting?
JK: Years ago I read Charles De Lint’s novel Jack, the Giant Killer. In his book, Jack was a title bestowed on anyone who killed a giant. I’ve always loved that idea and wanted to use it in a way completely unlike the way De Lint did.
When I heard about this anthology I had been writing a series of steampunk short stories about a young woman inventor (almost Tony Stark-like) journeying by train, constantly being waylaid by strange events (Lovecraftian creatures, Confederate soldiers). The idea of her having to fight giant automatons seemed to be a perfect fit.
M: What steampunk item did you use in the story that you would love to have?
JK: It’s not an item, per se. I don’t know what I would do with Paul Revere’s sword. As someone who has never been particularly crafty, I would love to have the ability to build impressive devices out of simple components. Magnetic scarves, spring-powered boots, and clockwork giants would be everywhere.
Awesome! I love the sounds of this one as well! Thank you Jonah!
An Excerpt from The Giant Killer
based on Jack the Giant Killer
EXCUSE ME,” SAID HANNA LEE. SHE LEANED IN, JOINING THE PORTER to look out the train window. “I could not help but notice that these people seem to be, what is the proper description? Fleeing in terror?”
The porter nodded and turned from the window to face the sixteen-year-old woman before him. “It’s one of the giants, I expect.”
“I thought that the giants were inactive?”
The porter shook his head and his cap wiggled. “They been getting ornery after their maker died. Confederates never got to Boston, of course, but three of the steam-work giants patrol, same as before the war. I seen Cormorgan marching around the train yards plenty of times. Looking for an army to fight.”
“I see,” said Hanna, watching the people scatter beside the tracks as her train slowly approached North Union Station. “It would appear his behavior has changed.”
Grinding steel brakes rattled the car, bringing them to a sudden stop amidst the screaming Bostonians. Typical, thought Hanna. Every mission she had been sent on to recover artifacts from the War Between the States had found her diverted and sidetracked. And now giants. “Nothing to do about it, I suppose,” she said to herself.
Hanna put her hand on the porter’s shoulder and firmly turned his nose from the window. “Perhaps you could see us safely from the train?” She held the little smile on her lips, and motioned to the car full of near-panicking passengers. The porter nodded, straightened his vest, and began calling out orders, ushering the people toward the exit in a calm fashion.
Hanna secured her bonnet and scarf, and carrying her reticule, a sizable handbag, descended onto the dusting of Boston snow. She turned away from the rest of the fleeing passengers and went to see the spectacle.
Three train cars ahead of her stood Cormorgan. The steam-work man was only about eight feet tall, but he was as wide as three men and round like a barrel. He had torn open the side of the coal car and was shoveling the fuel into his furnace through a door in his chest. Flames spilled out, blackening his iron hide. Hardly a giant, really.
Hanna watched a pair of police officers creeping up behind the giant. One held a long iron rod like a spear and the other aimed a rifle. The rifleman fired and hit, but the bullet ricocheted harmlessly away.
Cormorgan’s head rotated around in its socket, his three eyeholes focusing on the officers. His body turned about, rotating at the waist, squaring off with the police. The fire exhaled from his chest as he spread his arms out wide and lurched forward.
His thick legs reminded Hanna of Greek columns. They were not steady, but the giant moved with surprising speed above the waist. He clamped his hands around the chest of the rifleman. The man screeched as Cormorgan lifted him, crushing his bones. As the man flopped lifelessly, the giant pulled him in, cramming the broken body into the gaping furnace as well.
Hanna could smell flesh burning even at this distance. She held her scarf up to her nose to block the stench and looked about the train yard for a few moments before a plan came together. She began to jog alongside a neighboring track that housed a train loaded with lumber. She loosened her scarf, positioning herself behind the remaining officer.
The officer, with the red whiskers and wild eyes, yelled to her, gesturing with his spear. “Go! Get away!”
“Keep your eyes on the task before you,” Hanna replied, calmly looking about for a safe place to set her reticule, before spying a mostly dry spot under the train. Now then, she thought, as she pulled the scarf from her neck and rubbed its ends together.
Hanna lived on trains much of these last few years and, when she had the good fortune to procure a private car, she would spend her hours building useful devices to assist in her non-traditional occupation. She was particularly proud of this scarf and its magnetic properties although, she had to admit, it was truly her aunt’s design.
The blood splattered across Cormorgan’s body smoldered as the giant advanced. He clumped awkwardly, one step at a time, arms quickly lashing out. The remaining officer ducked and scrambled to stay out of his reach.
“Excellent,” Hanna said. “Lure him this way if you could.” She felt the magnetism within the scarf begin to activate. Just a few more moments, then, she thought, and counted down from ten.
She twirled the scarf in front of her and walked in front of the officer. “What are you…” began Red Whiskers.
Cormorgan stepped onto the track as Hanna counted three. She pulled her arm back on two, and threw the scarf on one.
The scarf stiffened, attaching itself in part to Cormorgan’s left leg and in part to the train track. Hanna began to count down again. The giant lunged forward, but finding himself anchored, tipped over crashing into the ground.
“You trapped it,” Red Whiskers said in awe, as Cormorgan spun his arms in the dirt.
“Not for long,” said Hanna, pulling the spear from his hands. Eight, she counted. She jumped up onto the nearest lumber flatbed, perched on a log, and with the spear began prying at the latches holding down the pile of wood.
“What are you doing?” asked Red Whiskers.
“Attempting to bury the giant,” she said, straining in a most unladylike manner. Six, she counted. The first latch popped off and the logs shifted. The officer scrambled out of the way as Hanna dug the spear into the second latch.
Fire spilled out of Cormorgan’s chest as he lay face down, pounding at the earth. Three, counted Hanna as the second latch popped. She jumped aside and watched as the logs stayed exactly as they were. One. The scarf lost its magnetic charge and Cormorgan began to push himself back to his feet. Hanna took a breath, wedged the spear into the pile of logs, and threw her weight behind it.
The timber spilled, flowing over the side of the flatbed, raining down on the giant. His back dented, his arms cracked, his head split. When the deluge ended, all that could be seen of the giant were the bottoms of his feet sticking out from the pile of wood.
“Ah,” said Hanna to herself, brushing her gloved hands together lightly to remove the dust. “That seemed to turn out just fine. Would you mind,” she held out her hand toward Red Whiskers, “helping me down?” The officer shut his slack-jawed mouth and rushed around the logs to offer his assistance as the porter ran up beside them.
“You killed Cormorgan,” the porter said in a soft voice, picking up her scarf.
“In my defense,” said Hanna, draping her arm around the officer’s neck as he lifted her to the ground, “he didn’t leave me many options. Thank you,” she said, accepting the burned scarf. “It does look a bit damaged, doesn’t it? Out of commission for the time being. I trust we are still on schedule to depart for Bangor this evening?”
Red Whiskers cleared his throat. “I’m afraid not, miss. The mayor has put a halt to all trains until the giant situation is resolved.”
“Are they all revolting?” asked the porter.
“Only two others,” said Red Whiskers. “Two-headed Thunderdel in the Public Gardens and Galigantus in the harbor.”
“And no one can stop them?” asked Hanna.
Red Whiskers shrugged. “The maker built them in a secret laboratory. Seemed a fine idea until he died and no one knew how to turn them off.”
Hanna pouted. True, her schedule did have flexibility, but she did not want to set a precedent of attending to every local crisis she encountered in her travels. However, she considered, these were the famous giants of Boston. Incredible machines that had not yet seen their equal.
“Well,” she said, turning toward the porter. “If the trains will not depart before the matter of the giants is resolved, perhaps you would care to escort me?”
“To your hotel?”
“To slay the giants.”
About the Author:
Jonah Knight is a paranormal modern folk musician specializing in songs about ghosts, monsters, and steampunk. He is a five time musical guest of honor at various conventions and has released six albums of weird and/or creepy songs. His steampunk album Age of Steam: Strange Machines brought him to the attention of The Steampunk World’s Fair and The Pine Hill Steampunk Festival, both of whom featured his live performances. This is his first published story. Listen to his music at www.jonahknight.com
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Release day, May 29, 2016.