“Payload” now available in print in Startling Stories!

Hey everybody, M. here,

The day has finally arrived – the long anticipated first issue of the relaunched Startling Stories from Wildside Press, edited by Doug Draa, is out in paperback and available on Amazon (and with, as you can see, a different cover than the prospective one that was floating around early last year). This relaunch of the classic pulp science fiction magazine contains my science fiction story “Payload” alongside a bunch of other cool brand new stories, not to mention a ‘50s one by Silverberg (a story which was, from what I understand, written originally for the classic incarnation of the mag).

I had a whole big blog planned exploring the ins-and-outs of “Payload.” Firstly because I do believe that, as a story about intertwining and mutating varieties of contagion, it’s more germane to the world as it now looks – in the midst of a pandemic with one or perhaps numerous infodemics happening alongside it – than it would have been had it run closer to when I had written it. In fact I think the story probably speaks more to the experience of living through a pandemic in a technologically advanced society than it would have had I written something more immediately, directly recognizable as a piece of pandemic fiction. Secondly, waiting for a long time for something gives you a lot of time to think about it. And boy have I thought.

So I could honestly probably talk for an hour or two about this one – about its Ballardian (I think?) vibe and where that might fit in the context of Campbell-era of science fiction, about the approach to virology and epidemiology and how that might have changed given that concepts like spike proteins and adenoviral vectors are now, bizarrely, part of the common parlance, and about a million other aspects of this story. Some parts of it have a long, long history in my brain, despite it all having come together, as these thing sometimes do, rather quickly. But in attempting to write such a blog I found that I was just asking myself questions that I hadn’t been asked and then answering them, which felt sort of silly. More importantly, as I’ve said elsewhere, it’s a story not a philosophical treatise – one that I hope will keep people guessing and deliver some entertaining thrills more than anything. So check it out and get Startled!

And if you want more M. Stern in your head…
Earlier this week my cosmic horror-comedy “After the After Party” — a story with quite a different sensibility than “Payload” — made its appearance in Lovecraftiana: The Magazine of Eldritch Horror. Check it out in print or e-book, as nothing goes down better after an M. Stern story than an M. Stern chaser, so they say. “They” being, in this case, me. Anyway take care everyone, stay safe.