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TO DANCE AMONGST THE STARS (short stories) by Steph Bennion

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A LONG TIME FROM NOW IN A GALAXY WE CALL HOME...

It is the twenty-third century and scientists, dreamers, crooks and believers have bridged the vast cosmos, staking their claims where distant suns burn fierce in the sky. Yet for all of humankind’s technological marvels, life for many is far from a wondrous fairytale.

A petty thief is offered riches to steal a very special device, but has he let the genie out of the bottle? Can a poor, down-trodden kitchen slave find her prince in the shape of a young, dashing space captain? A priest is rescued after a quest to find the mythical alien home world ends in disaster, but who is the mysterious stranger wearing his boots? A man caught up in a war wonders if he can go on, so why does a hologram taunt him by showing the greatest blunders of his life? A trader and his young daughter seek refuge in a mysterious starship crewed by a beastly robot, but can she stop herself being spirited away for good? Can a hot-headed young job applicant really hope to impress by stealing Christmas? It is supposed to be the season of goodwill!

This collection brings together the prequel seasonal tales from the space-opera Worlds of Hollow Moon:

The December 2021 edition of this collection now also includes all other prequel tales published elsewhere:

(* Revised text exclusively published in this anthology.)

The timeline interviews are a light-hearted look at how the various novels and short stories fit together. In this volume, Private Inari and Corporal Namtar run through the key events leading up to the five systems of the late twenty-third century.

HOLLOW MOON CHRISTMAS SHORT STORIES have been published every December since 2011. These are generally science-fiction reinterpretations of traditional tales popular in the British tradition of pantomime, while fitting into the overall story arc of the novels. This collection was revised and reissued in December 2019 and 2021.

(First published 12 December 2017. Last updated 21 December 2021; approx 84,000 words.)

Cover artwork by WyrdStar; 'Dancers' image by OpenClipart-Vectors on Pixabay.

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~ THE WORLDS OF HOLLOW MOON ~

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Prequels
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Book 1
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Book 2
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Book 3
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Book 4
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Book 5
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Main Sequence
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Intro Anthology

Timeline Interviews, part 1: Prequels

So how do the novels and short stories in the Hollow Moon series fit together? Via the wonders of extra-dimensional space-time portals, author Steph Bennion interviews Private Inari and Corporal Namtar, twenty-third-century royalist soldiers from the Epsilon Eridani moon of Yuanshi...

AUTHOR: You’ve both survived a fair few mishaps! The alien-worshipping Dhusarian Church became a potent force on Yuanshi under Maharaja Kashyap. Taranis, the movement’s spiritual leader, comes across more like a creepy mad scientist than a priest.

INARI: I remember the telepathy machines in church. They were into cloning and mind control and stuff like that. Taranis disappeared on some quest (“The Watcher And The Priest”) and we all thought he was dead. Then nine years later he’s back, scaring the life out of poor young Ravana and her friends. Though we did that too.

NAMTAR: Coincidentally, it was while Taranis was away that the rebellion against Que Qiao became a civil war. I find it curious that in these stories the mysterious Athene was apparently present at both junctures, though after the way it ended with Ravana and Taranis, nothing about these so-called ‘watchers’ surprises me anymore (Hollow Worlds). Ravana and her father Quirinus lived on Yuanshi at that time; they were preparing to flee when their ship was hijacked by the Maharaja’s widow and young son (“It’s A Blunderful Life”). As you know, all found a safe haven on the fringes of civilisation in the Barnard’s Star system, aboard the century-old colony ship Dandridge Cole. It was a forgotten ark to a world few cared for, circling a sun too dim to see. Their little hollow moon was a place to hide, a refuge for the runaways fleeing the rank and file of someone else’s great game. I remember it well.

INARI: Then we turned up and kidnapped the young Raja (Hollow Moon). Taranis and Kartikeya wanted him at the peace conference on Daode. That didn’t go well.

NAMTAR: That was years later! Please don’t jump ahead. Anyway, the civil war on Yuanshi and the corporation’s heavy-handed response caused upset across the five systems. The secret agent Commander Kedesh makes an appearance around the time of the Maharaja’s assassination (Part One of “Psyche’s Seven”, Merry Christmas, Mister Wolf), as does young Cethlenn in Alpha Centauri (“The Non-Existence Of Gravity”). Both were destined to cross paths with Ravana and friends in the years to come (Paw-Prints Of The Gods and The Avalon Job). Governor Jaggarneth and his ilk only had themselves to blame for the upheavals that followed.

AUTHOR: Then we come to odd stories like the strange tale about young Damkina from the hollow moon, a magnificent starship and a beastly robot that wanted rather more than she was prepared to offer (“The Narcissus Solution”). Do things like that happen often in the five systems?

INARI: Giving machines brains is stupid. Fancy robots are invented by people who think being clever is smart, when it ain’t.

NAMTAR: My word. That may be the most profound utterance I have ever heard you belch from your lips. Have you perchance been replaced by an educated robot yourself?

Read the full interview with Private Inari and Corporal Namtar in TO DANCE AMONGST THE STARS!


Short stories in this volume...

ebooks Individual short stories are also available for free...
If you enjoy these offerings and wish to support the work of the author (beyond buying books, of course!), it is really appreciated if you can find time to spread the joy to friends and family, or via a quick review at your favourite ebook website. Alternatively, you may wish to leave a PayPal tip on the way out... Steph.

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PROLOGUE: IN THE LAP OF THE GODS

Watchers play their Great Game. Solar System: 120 years before HOLLOW MOON.

There are those who would stop at nothing to keep Professor Krakenspreken’s innovative extra-dimensional drive from becoming a reality. For the investigating police officers, reality stretched further than they expected. Events lead them to suspect that perhaps fate is best not left in the lap of the gods, especially when the mysterious Athene is involved...

(Revised version first published 21 December 2021. Originally published in Wyrd Worlds, September 2013; approx. 7,000 words.)

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G.E.N.I.E. AND THE L.A.M.P.

Inari is 'Aladdin' trouble! Epsilon Eridani: 17 years before HOLLOW MOON.

A young Angelos Inari, petty thief and self-professed laziest man in Epsilon Eridani, is offered more money than he's ever seen to help steal a top-secret corporation interrogation device. Before the night is out, the Local Ambient Megastructure Projector has surrounded him in riches and won him the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, the mysterious Namtar has no intention of letting Inari keep his wonderful new prize...

(First published 21 December 2014; approx. 9,000 words.)

Read "GENIE And The LAMP" now! (Free ebook, single story only).

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TO DANCE AMONGST THE STARS

Hanuman finds Ganesa is no 'Cinderella'. Epsilon Eridani: 15 years before HOLLOW MOON.

It is the twenty-third century and humanity has settled where distant suns blaze in the sky; yet for all the wonders of science, life for many is far from a wondrous fairy tale. Can the poor, down-trodden kitchen slave Ganesa find a Prince Charming in the shape of young, dashing space captain Hanuman? As they meet for the first time on the dance floor at the American Embassy's Christmas Ball, she is the first to admit he's not exactly her type in this tongue-in-cheek pastiche of Cinderella.

(First published 11 December 2011; approx. 8,000 words.)

Read "To Dance Amongst The Stars" now! (Free ebook, single story only).

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THE WATCHER AND THE PRIEST

Athene is a mysterious 'Puss in Boots'. Procyon: Nine years before HOLLOW MOON.

Priest Taranis is far from home and close to death, his quest to find the mythical world of the alien greys having ended in disaster. Against the odds, help is at hand, but who is the mysterious stranger wearing his boots? Caught between masters and slaves, sacrifices must be made if the dark priest of destiny is to live to tell his tale...

(First published 20 December 2015; approx. 9,000 words.)

Read "The Watcher And The Priest" now! (Free ebook, single story only).

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IT'S A BLUNDERFUL LIFE

Fenris is unconvinced that 'It's A Wonderful Life'. Epsilon Eridani: Shortly after "The Watcher And The Priest".

It is Christmas Eve and the moon of Yuanshi is falling into civil war. Maharaja Kashyap is dead, his widow and child are fleeing into exile and his followers are on the run. Pursued by armed agents, Fenris contemplates his fate as he prepares to end it all with a midnight leap from a bridge. Then what he thinks is a Samaritans hologram arrives, but why does the mysterious stranger taunt him by showing the greatest blunders of his life?

(First published 1 December 2012; approx. 9,000 words.)

Read "It's A Blunderful Life" now! (Free ebook, single story only).

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THE NON-EXISTENCE OF GRAVITY

Cethlenn's big bang theory. Alpha Centauri system: Eight years before HOLLOW MOON.

Fifteen-year-old Cethlenn was lucky to be working with her Aunt Morrigan, a crazy yet talented engineer with a custom spacecraft workshop on the moon of Asgard, Alpha Centauri. That is until Luison, an undercover corporation agent, tricks Cethlenn into a dangerous scrapyard experiment aboard the derelict USS Goliath...

(First published in Brave New Girls vol.2, August 2017; approx. 8,000 words.)

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THE NARCISSUS SOLUTION

Damkina has no desire to play 'Beauty and the Beast'. Barnard's Star: Four years before HOLLOW MOON.

Space trader Birtum and his fourteen-year-old daughter Damkina leave the hollow moon for Ascension to reclaim a lost fortune, but are forced to seek refuge in a mysterious starship after an accident at the orbital dock. The magnificent yet strange vessel has no crew, only a beastly robot that takes a shine to the young girl. Can Damkina unravel its true intentions before she is spirited away for good?

(First published 16 December 2019; approx. 14,000 words.)

Read "The Narcissus Solution" now! (Free ebook, single story only).

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ROCK OF AGES

Kedesh steals some letters and uncovers a startling secret. Solar System: Three years before HOLLOW MOON.

Letters from the past were hidden for a reason. For secret agent Kedesh, breaking into the secure facility was child’s play compared to an unexpected family reunion. What is the connection between Krakenspreken’s daughter and her own lost uncle? Tea and cake at the spaceport was a welcome distraction. The mysterious woman calling herself Athene less so...

(Revised version first published 21 December 2021. Originally published in Wyrd Worlds II, September 2014; approx. 8,000 words.)

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STEALING CHRISTMAS

Laverna plays 'The Grinch' to get a job. Alpha Centauri: Three years before HOLLOW MOON.

It is Christmas Eve and Laverna is in no mood for seasonal goodwill. Cashiered from military academy with zero career prospects, she is put to the test in a job trial like no other. The people hiding away in their smug little community are ill-prepared for her spirited sales pitch. Can she find her final target and show them what a girl of action can do?

(First published 21 December 2021; approx. 4,000 words.)

Read "Stealing Christmas" now! (Free ebook, single story only).


STAR SYSTEM CHARTS

"I know Earth has seen better days, but is it really worth leaving it all behind?” asked Tanith. “Or is this just about the urge to explore?"
[To Dance Amongst The Stars, "In The Lap Of The Gods"]

Alpha Centauri Barnard's Star Epsilon Eridani Solar System Tau Ceti

PUBLICATION HISTORY

Do you have the latest version? Ebooks are periodically revised to update endpapers following new releases and to correct any errors...

EBOOK: ISBN: 978-1466197091 (Smashwords); ASIN: B006M2EESY (Kindle).

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DECEMBER 2017 - First ebook edition (approx. 130 pages).

DECEMBER 2019 - Updated to include new short story and revised timeline interview.

DECEMBER 2021 - Updated to include further short stories and revised timeline interview. First publication of revised versions of "In The Lap Of The Gods", "Rock Of Ages".

[NOTE: Publication date on Amazon and Smashwords is that of earlier single-story edition, i.e. December 2011.]

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DECEMBER 2014 - First ebook edition (WyrdStar pdf only).

MARCH 2017 - Text corrections; endpapers updated December 2016.

DECEMBER 2017 - Published in To Dance Amongst The Stars anthology.

JULY 2018 - Published in Space Opera Mashup anthology.

OCTOBER 2021 - Minor text corrections.

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DECEMBER 2011 - First ebook edition (WyrdStar pdf, Smashwords and Kindle ebooks).

MAY 2012 - New formatting layout; endpaper update.

DECEMBER 2012 - Text corrections; endpaper update. Kindle ebook withdrawn, replaced with Three Tales For Christmas.

OCTOBER 2016 - Smashwords ebook revised: 'Ebook Extras' added.

DECEMBER 2016 - WyrdStar pdf ebook reissued with new font and layout.

NOVEMBER 2017 - Second ebook edition (WyrdStar pdf and Three Tales For Christmas only).

DECEMBER 2017 - Smashwords ebook withdrawn and replaced with To Dance Amongst The Stars anthology.

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DECEMBER 2015 - First ebook edition (WyrdStar pdf only).

MARCH 2017 - Text corrections; endpapers updated December 2016.

DECEMBER 2017 - Published in To Dance Amongst The Stars anthology.

OCTOBER 2021 - Minor text corrections.

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DECEMBER 2012 - First ebook edition (WyrdStar pdf and Three Tales For Christmas only).

DECEMBER 2016 - WyrdStar pdf ebook reissued with new font and layout.

NOVEMBER 2017 - Second ebook edition (WyrdStar pdf and Three Tales For Christmas).

DECEMBER 2017 - Published in To Dance Amongst The Stars anthology.

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DECEMBER 2019 - First ebook edition (WyrdStar pdf); published in To Dance Amongst The Stars anthology.

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DECEMBER 2021 - First ebook edition (WyrdStar pdf); published in To Dance Amongst The Stars anthology.

NOTE: If you obtained this ebook from Smashwords, you can download subsequent updates at no extra cost.

Ebook stores and Digital Rights Management (DRM) - Ebooks distributed from Smashwords are DRM-free, which means that once you have purchased a title, you can download it as many times as you like (and in whatever format you like) and make back-up copies if necessary (for personal use only!). WyrdStar's preferred sales outlet is Smashwords, not least because the author gets a larger slice of the list price there than anywhere else! WyrdStar ebooks downloaded from third-party partners (Amazon, Apple Books, etc.) are subject to the vendor's terms and conditions.