Eric Flint: Ring of fire II

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Eric Flint Ring of fire II
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    Ring of fire II
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Eric Flint


Ring of fire II

Preface

This is the second of the Ring of Fire anthologies, following the one that came out four years ago, in January of 2004. As was the case with the original Ring of Fire, the stories in this anthology are all part of the 1632 series which I began in 2000 with the founding novel, 1632, and have since continued with the following novels:

1633

1634: The Baltic War

1634: The Galileo Affair

1634: The Bavarian Crisis

1635: The Cannon Law

In addition to the six novels so far published in the series and the two Ring of Fire anthologies, other stories in the 1632 setting have been published in the part-anthology/part-novel titled 1634: The Ram Rebellion, as well as the Grantville Gazette. The Gazette is an electronic magazine devoted to the 1632 series which I began publishing in 2003, the fifteenth issue of which has just come out. Beginning in the summer of last year, the Gazette is published on a regular bi-monthly basis. The first three volumes of the magazine were published by Baen Books in a paper edition, and the fourth volume is coming out in paper in June of this year.

(For information on how to subscribe to the Gazette, see the end of this preface.)

To put it another way, short fiction is as integral a part of this series as novel length stories. "Integral," not simply in the sense that the stories are part of the setting, but that they often play a major role in shaping the series. They are not simply, as is usually the case with spin-off anthologies attached to a popular series, stories "off to the side." What happens in these stories very often lays the basis for major developments in the novels, as well as either introducing important characters or developing them still further.

That's especially true of the stories which appear in the Ring of Fire anthologies. There is no sharp and clear dividing line between stories that appear in the Gazette and stories that appear in the RoF anthologies. The distinction is certainly not one of literary quality in the abstract. But, as much as possible, I try to select stories for the Ring of Fire anthologies which connect more directly with the series as a whole than do most of the stories in the Gazette.

That was true for the first Ring of Fire anthology, as I explained in some detail in my preface to that volume. It is true of this second one, as well. To give some examples:

Andrew Dennis' "Lucky at Cards" is an integral part of the story line which he and I began in 1634: The Galileo Affair, developed further in 1635: The Cannon Law, and will be continuing in novels to come. It depicts an episode in the career of Giulio Mazarini-now Jules Mazarin, having taken service with Cardinal Richelieu's France.

Gorg Huff and Paula Goodlett's "A Trip to Amsterdam," along with Iver Cooper's "The Chase," develop further the adventures of a group of young American entrepreneurs whose story was begun by Gorg as far back as the first volume of the Gazette (see "The Sewing Circle") and has continued in a number of stories published in later issues of the magazine. So far, those characters and their activities have only received incidental mention in the novels, but that will be changing in the future. These kids are not about to go away, to say the least.

David Carrico's "Command Performance" is one of several stories he's written, the first of which appeared in the Gazette, that depicts the impact of the time-transplanted Americans on seventeenth-century music and musicians. These same characters will figure prominently in a murder mystery novel he and I are co-authoring titled 1635: Symphony for the Devil.

K.D. Wentworth's "Eddie and the King's Daughter" tells the story of how the romance between Eddie Cantrell and the Danish king's daughter Anne Cathrine, which figured prominently in 1634: The Baltic War, got started in the first place.

Virginia's DeMarce's "Second Thoughts" continues the story of Noelle Murphy, one of the central characters in 1634: The Ram Rebellion, and serves as a preface to the final story in this anthology.

That's my own short novel, "The Austro-Hungarian Connection," which ties the development of Noelle as a character to major changes taking place in political and military developments in Austria and Hungary with the accession to the throne of a new emperor. The story also features Denise Beasley, one of the major characters in a new novel I've co-authored with Virginia entitled 1635: The Dreeson Incident, which will be coming out within a year.

And this preface is probably long enough. I hope you enjoy the book.

Eric Flint

July, 2007

Horse Thieves


Karen Bergstralh

Fall 1633

The rain pelted down solidly, stirring up the puddles in the road's many ruts. Four men and a boy slowly rode along, huddled in misery. This stretch of road passed through several still-abandoned villages and the nearest inn lay several miles down it.

"Why does it always rain when the four of us travel together? Twice I've gone with Herr Parker and it only rained a little. It didn't rain at all when we went to Magdeburg and Jena with Fraulein Parker. Why does it do so now? If we had brought them, would they keep the rain from falling?" The soft tenor grumble came from Reichard Blucher, a huge man with a cheerful smile not reflected in his voice.

"It rained plenty when Rob was with us," Dieter replied. "I think it is just France telling us it is time to go home."

"We've been out of France for a week," Wilfram Jones muttered back. A trickle of cold water traced down the back of his neck and he tried fruitlessly to adjust the collar of his rain slicker. The battered old Stetson he wore directed the rain away from the back of his neck better than any other headgear he'd worn, yet some cold water always got through. The true miracle was the slicker. It shed water better than any oiled wool cloak and was far lighter.

"Papa, will it rain all the way home?" Jacques asked. The thirteen-year-old boy had been adopted the previous year. Some of the former mercenaries had stumbled into Jacques' village and found only two women and four children alive. Christian was now married to one of the women and had adopted the surviving children. This horse-buying trip was the first time Jacques had come along.

"No, son," Christian replied, smiling at the boy. That gentle smile on Christian's face always surprised the other men. Christian du Champ generally looked like a priest about to launch into a three-hour sermon on mortal sin.

Despite the rain, it had been a good trip. The results, forty large horses, followed quietly on lead ropes behind the men. On this trip they had gone to Le Perche in their search for draft horses. The mercenaries-turned-horsetraders had gotten a good selection of young mares and two yearling colts. The animals were slated for Ev Parker's heavy horse breeding program, but only the colts belonged to Herr Parker. All the rest belonged to them.

A sense of satisfaction settled on Wilf. Two years before they had all been mercenaries in one of Tilly's tercios, marching on Badenburg. The tercio had found out that the rumors of "wizards" nearby were true, as up-time guns had shattered it. Taken prisoner, the men had been saved by Gretchen Richter. It still amazed him, to have gone from mercenary to prisoner to hired farm help and now to partner in Herr Parker's draft horse breeding operation-all in the space of those two years. Give them another year like the last, and they would be rich men. A better end, he thought, than his father had predicted years before. Maybe next spring he would travel back to England and see if his father still lived.

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