Michael R. Underwood | Tor.com
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Michael R. Underwood

Fiction and Excerpts [9]

Fiction and Excerpts [9]

Read the First Three Chapters of Michael R. Underwood’s Annihilation Aria

Max is a cheery xeno-archeologist from Earth, stranded and trying to find a way home. Lahra is a stern warrior of a nearly extinct race searching for her people’s heir. Wheel is the couple’s cybernetic pilot running from her past and toward an unknown future…

The trio traverse the galaxy in Michael R. Underwood’s space opera adventure Annihilation Aria, publishing July 21st with Parvus Press. Read an excerpt below!

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Born to the Blade

For centuries, the Warder’s Circle on the neutral islands of Twaa-Fei has given the nations of the sky a way to avoid war, as their chosen warders settle disputes through magical duels of blade and sigil. But that peace is on the edge of crumbling, crushed between the aggression of the Mertikan Empire and the determination of the still-free nations to not be consumed.

Twaa-Fei may be neutral, but it is also home to a million intrigues, schemes, and deadly intentions. Michiko and Kris arrive in this treacherous world together, bladecrafters eager to serve their countries—Michiko as a junior warder for Katuke, a vassal of the empire, Kris as an upstart challenging to win a seat for his home, Rumika, in the Circle. But before the young bladecrafters have even settled in, a power struggle erupts, a man’s head is parted from his shoulders, and every good thing Michiko thinks she knows about the empire comes into question.

A storm is coming, and Kris and Michiko stand at its eye. Will it bind the nations of the sky together… or tear it apart?

Born to the Blade—a new series co-written by Marie Brennan, Cassandra Khaw, Malka Older, and Michael R. Underwood—launches April 18th with Serial Box. Episode 1 is free to all, and new episodes appear weekly.

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Transformed on the Fury Road

Walking out of the theater after seeing Mad Max: Fury Road for the first time felt like nothing so much as a conversion experience. I knew that what I’d seen had changed how I would view all action movies from that point forward, and had both challenged me to do more with my own storytelling and provided a glimpse at a roadmap of how to do better.

I’ve loved action movies, comics, and stories for nearly my whole life. I’ve watched and read a lot of them. With that in mind, I want you to know that I watched the first thirty-something minutes of Mad Max: Fury Road with my jaw on the floor. I caught my breath when the flare went out, then maybe twice more during the film. I was completely transported to a world of visual action perfection, where movement and combat was crisp and clear, where character was communicated in every little movement, and where a two-hour chase sequence was also a Guide to Dismantling the Patriarchy.

The way that the film uses action, and specifically uses action to reveal and develop character, is a master class that I hope to keep learning from for the rest of my life.

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The Absconded Ambassador

Fiction is more important than you think. When stories go wrong, the Genrenauts step in to prevent the consequences from rippling into our so-called real world.

When a breach is discovered in Science Fiction World, rookie genrenaut Leah Tang gets her first taste of space flight. A peace treaty is about to be signed on space station Ahura-3, guaranteeing the end of hostilities between some of the galaxy’s most ferocious races, but when the head architect of the treaty is unexpectedly kidnapped, it’s up to Leah and her new colleagues to save the day. At any cost.

The Absconded Ambassador, the second novella in Michael R. Underwood’s Genrenauts series, is available February 23rd from Tor.com Publishing.

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The Stand-Up Hero: Third Time’s the Charm

When I was designing the cast of Genrenauts, I started by thinking of them in terms of archetypes, drawing on influence from Leverage and other crime/heist narratives. I had a Specialist (Shirin), an Operator (Roman), an Actor (Mallery), a Mastermind (King), and Leah’s original archetype was Storyteller. In the development, I shifted focus, since all five of them were storytellers—the trick then became thinking through how each of them approached storytelling.

For that, Leah was easy. Very early on, I settled on making Leah a stand-up comic. Stand-up comedy with an improv background gave me a protagonist who would be prepared to think on her feet, who could roll with the punches of a situation, and work her way into a story in progress.

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The Post-Modern Western

When I was a kid, my bedtime stories for a good two years or so were Louis L’Amour’s Westerns Books on Tape (aka old-school audiobooks). I didn’t retain the details of the individual plots very well, nodding off between 10 and 30 minutes in, but what I did absorb was the aesthetic and the feel of the genre—the archetypes, the common stories—the lawman vs. the bandits, the prostitute with a heart of gold, the reluctant killer who has to take up the gun again to protect the town/their lover/etc., the lone hero struggling through the desert, the loyal deputy, the schoolmarm, and so on.

These days, Westerns mostly show up in hybrid form, combined with other genres—weird Western, Western SF, Western romance, etc. The familiarity of that genre brings recognizable but interesting contrasts with other genres, or uses other genres to invigorate the tale types and archetypes of the Western.

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The Shootout Solution

Leah Tang just died on stage. Well, not literally. Not yet.

Leah’s stand-up career isn’t going well. But she understands the power of fiction, and when she’s offered employment with the mysterious Genrenauts Foundation, she soon discovers that literally dying on stage is a hazard of the job!

Her first assignment takes her to a Western world. When a cowboy tale slips off its rails, and the outlaws start to win, it’s up to Leah – and the Genrenauts team – to nudge the story back on track and prevent a catastrophe on Earth. But the story’s hero isn’t interested in winning, and the safety of Earth hangs in the balance…

We’re pleased to present an excerpt from The Shootout Solution, episode one of Michael R. Underwood’s new novella series, Genrenauts—available in paperback, ebook, and audio format November 17th from Tor.com!

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The Younger Gods (Excerpt)

Jacob Greene was a sweet boy raised by a loving, tight-knit family… of cultists. He always obeyed, and was so trusted by them that he was the one they sent out on their monthly supply run (food, medicine, pig fetuses, etc.).

Finding himself betrayed by them, he flees the family’s sequestered compound and enters the true unknown: college in New York City. It’s a very foreign place, the normal world and St. Mark’s University. But Jacob’s looking for a purpose in life, a way to understand people, and a future that breaks from his less-than-perfect past.

When his estranged sister arrives in town to kick off the apocalypse, Jacob realizes that if he doesn’t gather allies and stop the family’s prophecy of destruction from coming true, nobody else will…

opens in a new windowGideon Smith amazon buy linkThe Younger Gods, available October 13th from Simon and Schuster, is the start of a new series from author Michael R. Underwood. Read an excerpt below!

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Science Fiction and Fantasy 101: Thinking Academically About Genre

At ReaderCon this past month, I discussed the idea of introductory (100-200-level), intermediate (300-400-level), and advanced (500-700 level) texts in the Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. I’ve thought about books as being 100-level for a while, but only in that conversation did I really flesh out the idea from 100-level to 700-level.

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Defining Character: The Opening Scene of The Clockwork Dagger

“Octavia Leander’s journey to her new source of employment was to be guided by three essential rules: that she hide her occupation, lest others take advantage; that she be frugal with her coin and avoid any indulgences that come with newfound independence; and that she shun the company of men, as nothing useful or proper is bound to happen.

Not ten feet from being let out of her carriage, Octavia was prepared to shatter Miss Percival’s most strongly advised first rule.”

There’s an impressive and savvy opening scene in Beth Cato’s forthcoming debut novel The Clockwork Dagger that does at least three important things for a fantasy novel first chapter: present an immediate challenge, reveal character, and explain the magic system.

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Series: That Was Awesome! Writers on Writing

Shield and Crocus (Excerpt)

Check out an excerpt from Michael R. Underwood’s Shield and Crocus, available June 10th from 47North! You can also read more about Stephan Martinière’s cover art here on Tor.com.

The city of Audec-Hal sits among the bones of a Titan. For decades it has suffered under the dominance of five tyrants, all with their own agendas. Their infighting is nothing, though, compared to the mysterious “Spark-storms” that alternate between razing the land and bestowing the citizens with wild, unpredictable abilities.

It was one of these storms that gave First Sentinel, leader of the revolutionaries known as the Shields of Audec-Hal, power to control the emotional connections between people—a power that cost him the love of his life.

Now, with nothing left to lose, First Sentinel and the Shields are the only resistance against the city’s overlords as they strive to free themselves from the clutches of evil. The only thing they have going for them is that the crime lords are fighting each other as well—that is, until the tyrants agree to a summit that will permanently divide the city and cement their rule of Audec-Hal.

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Celebromancy (Excerpt)

Check out the sequel to Michael R. Underwood’s Geekomancy, Celebromancy, out on July 15 from Pocket Star:

Things are looking up for urban fantasista Ree Reyes. She’s using her love of pop culture to fight monsters and protect her hometown as a Geekomancer, and now a real-live production company is shooting her television pilot script.

But nothing is easy in show business. When an invisible figure attacks the leading lady of the show, former child-star-turned-current-hot-mess Jane Konrad, Ree begins a school-of-hard-knocks education in the power of Celebromancy.

Attempting to help Jane Geekomancy-style with Jedi mind tricks and X-Men infiltration techniques, Ree learns more about movie magic than she ever intended. She also learns that real life has the craziest plots: not only must she lift a Hollywood-strength curse, but she needs to save her pilot, negotiate a bizarre love rhombus, and fight monsters straight out of the silver screen. All this without anyone getting killed or, worse, banished to the D-List.

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Geekomancy (Excerpt)

We’ve got the second chapter from Michael R. Underwood’s Geekomancy! Check out the first chapter here if you like!:

Ree Reyes’s life was easier when all she had to worry about was scraping together tips from her gig as a barista and comicshop slave to pursue her ambitions as a screenwriter.

When a scruffy-looking guy storms into the shop looking for a comic like his life depends on it, Ree writes it off as just another day in the land of the geeks. Until a gigantic “BOOM!” echoes from the alley a minute later, and Ree follows the rabbit hole down into her town’s magical flip-side. Here, astral cowboy hackers fight trolls, rubber-suited werewolves, and elegant Gothic Lolita witches while wielding nostalgia-powered props.

Ree joins Eastwood (aka Scruffy Guy), investigating a mysterious string of teen suicides as she tries to recover from her own drag-your-heart-through-jagged-glass breakup. But as she digs deeper, Ree discovers Eastwood may not be the knight-in-cardboard armor she thought. Will Ree be able to stop the suicides, save Eastwood from himself, and somehow keep her job?

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