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January 21, 2013 / Philip Athans & Mel Odom


An excerpt from a new Fathomless Abyss short story by J.M. McDermott.

The first thing I remember was feeling the light on my back from the Sunstrip, though I did not know the name of the source of light, yet. It was a good feeling, and not traumatic. Our births are warm, slow, and peaceful. I rose slowly up, in one long, gentle breath from the cracked pod of the vine, not even knowing what roots or feet were. I reached my limbs up to the warmth. It is a sacred moment when my body has stood enough, and grown enough, to realize that I’m standing sideways, and everyone else who walks past is much taller than me, and right-side up, with gravity below their feet and air above. It takes a long time, but I get standing straight, and find a way to turn myself to capture all the Sunstrip light that I can. I was still very small, and still attached on the precipice where the vine that birthed me grew. I wondered why no one else was like me, or reaching out to me the way I was reaching out to them. I looked around at the living and the fading and the falling, and saw only the vine where I was born in all spectrums of being. The empty husks where seeds burst forth but did not germinate, and the ones that had and have since become empty, were all else that could have been someone like me. The first moment of true sadness in my whole life came months after my birth when I realized I had been born alone of my kind from a vine that had long ago stopped reaching out to others. It was hardly the only sadness or despair I would face, soon enough.

I grew. Then, I could crawl on four limbs, and explore this world, and I was almost waist high to the other moving creatures of this escarpment. I felt like I was moving faster, or the people and fading ghosts of the world were slowing down. One of the two was happening, or both. At that exciting and hopeful stage in my growth, where I could almost keep up with the moving world, I wanted to travel and see more of everything. I was curious. I climbed down because it seemed easier than climbing up. I climbed not like the other moving things climbed, for they could not touch the rock like I could with twining roots. I went straight down the cliffs. I felt no pull in any direction except for gravity and the Sunstrip beside it, so that is all I knew. I went down, and I kept in the light, reaching out into it.

This is where I was found by the hunter that came for me. Before I knew I had any enemies in this world, a lash was strapped around my massed leaves, and though I struggled, I could not move fast enough, yet, to get away, and the lash was so tight I felt it choking at the flow of life up and down inside of me.

After he had me caught, and I accepted that I could not escape, I let him lift me away from the wall, with my four limbs dangling naked and in pain in the open air. This capture was the second horrible feeling I had ever known. First, I realized I was alone. Then, I was captured and dragged away from the things that sustained me—light and ground—and I was terrified that I was to join the ghosts falling down into the Abyss.

Read the rest now, exclusively for the Kindle!

December 31, 2012 / Philip Athans & Mel Odom


I know you got one. My kids ended up with three each, totaling $100. And I know you’re poking around looking for just the right thing. But what to buy?


Buy this first, for only 99 cents:



Don’t have a Kindle? That’s okay, you have a smart phone and/or a tablet of some kind, or at least a PC, so go get the free Kindle app.

There, now you have a Kindle.

Tales From The Fathomless Abyss was awesome wasn’t it? You want more, you say? The next purchase:




And then:


While you’re reading those, we’ll be writing more.


I promise!


—Philip Athans

December 17, 2012 / Philip Athans & Mel Odom

The Nihlex

The nihlex are a species of highly intelligent winged simians who are so fully adapted to life in the Fathomless Abyss some people (including some of the nihlex’s own clergymen) think they actually evolved there naturally. This fuels the nihlex belief that the Abyss is their world, and everyone else, especially these arrogant humans, are invaders.

A great nihlex queen from the deep levels journeys in a constant caravan with all her wealth and court up from the lower reaches of the pit to trade and sort of “show the flag.” The Nameless Queen then makes her way back down in a cycle that simulates a “year” for the people of the Abyss. Her arrival in Watershed is greeted as if it were a new year, anyway. The queen does not speak to anyone, and refuses to reveal even her name. Her courtiers carry her in a decadent palanquin, and praise their queen as they travel. The courtiers engage with the villages, trading and gossiping, but none are permitted to reveal the name of their queen.

Rumors abound that the Nameless Queen isn’t really a ruler at all, but the whole thing is simply a bit of elaborate theater to intimidate newcomers to the Abyss. Still, no one has really gathered the nerve to put the Nameless Queen and her court to the test.

A nihlex caravan camp described by J.M. McDermott in his story “It’s Mine”: “. . . roosting along shrub-lined walls. Their great tents were hooked with claws of bone and steel and rope pulleys to keep their many tents attached, like insect nests, upon the rocky walls. The serfs and servant men, all colors and sizes and ugly and dirty, hung from their feet by rocky outcroppings and grazed upon the hard, turquoise leaves of the shrubs. The women in the tents, and their chosen males, would never come out until it was time to fly again to new pastures, new trading . . .”

The nihlex serve, too, as the mailmen of the Abyss. Teams of nihlex messengers routinely pass through all the known towns and cities, carrying news and information, and ferrying goods.


November 26, 2012 / Philip Athans & Mel Odom


The Smog takes up the first 2-10 miles under the Crown. When the pit opens, traders from villages that border along the smoky sections, known as the Tabagie, race up through the Abyss to seek out trade. People determined to escape the pit also tend to congregate as close to the edge of the smoky wasteland as they can, waiting for an opportunity to escape. At first, only the poor and disadvantaged would brave living close to the toxic fumes of the Smog, those who had no other choice. But over the years the Tabagie have found ways to adapt to the Smog, and though they’re the first to suffer any disasters that might ensue when the Crown opens, they also have first access to any available riches.

Most people live on ledges or in caves, but there are also “hanging cities.” The hanging cities are houses hung from chains attached to steel supports that are secured to the pit walls.

Other examples of human and alien ingenuity are prevalent, from rope bridges to more permanent stone structures.

Some people go the cliff swallow model and build vertically. Certain alien creatures build very large nests, which humans then drive out and take over, like starlings do. Vines that grow up and down the pit walls can be harvested or trained to construct natural bridges, but any bridge has to take the Sunstrip into account.

The nature of the space makes agriculture difficult, but where there’s a will there’s a way, so various people have cooked up ways to grow crops, from vertical gardens to cave-dwelling hydroponics lit by some kind of UV-emitting bioluminescent life form. Herds of animals are hard to keep, but not unheard of (no pun intended). Still, most meat is gathered by hunting.

There is no empire, or other Abyss-spanning political body. But that doesn’t mean that our people live in entirely primitive tribes. All manner of political experiments are being run in various far-flung communities. And people don’t just bring the high-level stuff (race, creed, religion) into the Abyss with them, but all the mundane stuff, good and bad, as well. They fall in love, sometimes tragically. They bring in prejudices. They’re bipolar or outright schizophrenic. They have cancer, heart problems, diabetes, and so on. They’re racist, sexist, or homophobic. They’re judgmental, puritanical, or hedonistic. There are drunks and drug addicts, natural leaders and outcasts.

And maybe most important of all: There are people who only recently arrived and are still trying to sort out what’s going on, and then there are Nth generation Abyssals: people born and raised in the Fathomless Abyss, who have never actually seen “the Outside.” The farther removed you are from the ancestor who first climbed or fell into the pit, the more Abyssal you are. For every person desperate to escape, there’s a person who couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

And when people die, their bodies are dropped into the Abyss or floated out on a hot air funeral basket when the Crown is open. Sometimes they’re ground up for fertilizer or cremated. Variety is the spice of death as much as it is the spice of life!


October 30, 2012 / Philip Athans & Mel Odom


A Seed on the Wind by Cat Rambo is available now for the







October 18, 2012 / Philip Athans & Mel Odom


“At the heart of it, science fiction and fantasy authors are at play in the fields of wonder, fueled by “what if” and held hostage by the people, places and problems that populate our wacky, slightly-offset imaginations and spill out of us in Story. And if you love Story, you’re in for a solid meal here. And this is just the appetizer. Over the next few months, the real meal begins as the individual titles make their way into the world.”

—Ken Scholes, from his introduction

Combine six of the finest fantasy authors working in the genre today: Mike Resnick & Brad R. Torgersen, Jay Lake, Mel Odom, J.M. McDermott, and Cat Rambo, and mix in veteran editor and New York Times best-selling author Philip Athans and award-winning artist Mats Minnhagen, and what comes out is the Fathomless Abyss: a wild new fantasy world where the laws of physics only work against you, there’s no way out, and time means nothing.

This is the world of the Fathomless Abyss, a bottomless pit that opens who-knows-when onto who-knows-where, just long enough for new people from a thousand different worlds and a million different times to fall in and join the fight for survival in a place where the slightest misstep means an everlasting fall into eternity.

Tales From The Fathomless Abyss features six new short stories, and it’s only the beginning. From here, each author will branch out to spin a series of new books sharing this impossible, explosive, infinite setting.

Your fall into the Fathomless Abyss begins here.

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