Medusa In the Graveyard - Tor/Forge Blog



$2.99 eBook Sale: Medusa in the Graveyard by Emily Devenport

The ebook edition of Medusa in the Graveyard by Emily Devenport is on sale now for only $2.99! Get your copy today!

Image Placeholder of - 56About Medusa in the Graveyard:

Oichi Angelis, former Worm, along with her fellow insurgents on the generation starship Olympia, head deeper into the Charon System for the planet called Graveyard.

Ancient, sentient, alien starships wait for them—three colossi so powerful they remain aware even in self-imposed sleep. The race that made the Three are dead, but Oichi’s people were engineered with this ancient DNA.

A delegation from Olympia must journey to the heart of Graveyard and be judged by the Three. Before they’re done, they will discover that weapons are the least of what the ships have to offer.

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This sale ends 1/31/2020.


Congratulations, You’ve Overthrown the Bastards! (Now You’re the New Bastards)

You’ve thrown a revolution! Now the real work begins.

Medusa in the Graveyard, the second book in Emily Devenport’s Medusa Cycle follows Oichi Angelis in the aftermath of her takeover of the generation starship Olympia. Below, Devenport explores what it means to overthrow a government and the potential to become the new “bastards”.

By Emily Devenport

Place holder  of - 35The Good Guys won the revolution and the Bad Guys lost, so everything the Good Guys do to fix things must work out wonderfully, right?  Because the Good Guys are smart, so they must know how to keep the lights on and the trains running on time.  But alas, winning a war, or a revolution, or an election, is not the same thing as knowing how to run a government.

Complicating your efforts are the Old Guard who know how to run things, but who also know how to gum them up.  It’s pretty easy for them to make you look bad, because you’re going to help them do that with your good intentions (which turn out to be not as feasible as you thought, and which also have unintended consequences).  Oligarchs may feel the ensuing chaos is good for them if they can manipulate banks and courts into ruling in their favor, but farmers, manufacturers, and consumers don’t like chaos, they want stability – and they vote.  This is the challenge every incoming administration faces on Earth: entrenched interests and oligarchs fight any change in the status quo, even though most citizens don’t like things as they are.  Move that situation to a generation ship, and things become  simpler in some ways, more complicated in others.

In Medusa Uploaded, a lot of the oligarchs were assassinated, which was convenient for revolutionaries trying to make the transition to clan leaders.  However, regardless of who the Old Guard may be, or in what sort of gravity well they may abide, they always have a support network of bureaucrats, officials, and technicians who actually know how to do things.  Do these folks deserve a probation period, in which the incoming administration attempts to cultivate them?  If you’re going to replace them, should you at least give them a chance to school their successors?  Make it worth their effort; reward their good work and give them input in the new administration, even if you don’t agree with their ideology.  This is how consensus is built, and though it is rarely as successful as it ought to be, it’s far better than having to re-invent the wheel every time there’s a regime change.

Unfortunately, incoming administrations rarely seem to grasp the value of conferring with the officials who are departing, whether they’re trying to get their own government running, or they’re trying to create an interim government after a war.  The results are predictable.  If you get rid of all of your “enemies,” you may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  We’ve seen this happen time and again in human history.

For example, it’s amazing how naïve the Bush administration was about their reformation of the government of Iraq – until you consider that they had just done something similar when they took over the U.S. Government.  These days, when new administrations bid farewell the previous bureaucrats, they do so with considerably more distaste than they used to; people are more polarized in their ideology.  It’s possible that Bush and his appointees ignored the extensive briefings prepared for them by outgoing officials, just as they ignored advice about not tampering with the equilibrium in the Middle East, when they blundered in to create their “flower of democracy.”  This is the sort of situation I pondered when trying to figure out what comes next for the population living on Generation Ship Olympia. 

In Medusa in the Graveyard, our heroes are finding out that assassinations don’t solve everything.  In fact, they can makes things worse.  Diplomacy, negotiations, trade agreements, regulations – those are the things that get your society running smoothly.

However, what seems like negotiations to some, plays out more like war to others.  You may believe you’ve gotten rid of all your enemies, but you’re likely to find out you’re wrong – and also that you’d better get over it and shift gears.  Olympia is moving into a solar system with well-established trade agreements; the Olympians discover that their new neighbors have treaties with their old enemies, and with other people they haven’t even met, yet.  What’s the first thing they need to do?

In my opinion, they need to get trade started.  Everything else springs from that.  To illustrate why, I need only refer to the disastrous trade policy of the Trump administration.  I suspect it will go down in history as a classic example of how not to negotiate with partners.  If Oichi and her cohorts decided to slap tariffs on goods coming into Olympia, and those tariffs made it impossible for Olympian soy farmers to compete in the new market, she might find herself on the wrong side of an airlock.

Many people voted for Trump because he was the guy who said the right things about manufacturing and mining jobs.  If he had made those remarks on Olympia, he would have been expected to follow through with them.  The fact that he hasn’t, casts light on a problem in government – the empty campaign promise.  In a country the size of the United States, you can get away with those shenanigans for quite a long time.  On a generation ship like Olympia, the failure to follow through can cost lives.  Your promises have to be realistic, especially if your citizens suffered under the old regime with little or no say in the decisions that affect their families.

If that’s the case, how do you please people who have been restricted their whole lives?

By making some concessions.  Give them something they want, with an indication that things could continue to improve if everyone works together.  Make sure you deliver on that promise, and be realistic when you observe the results.  What is sustainable?  What creates opportunities for all of your citizens, instead of just a select few?

True, you may ultimately discover that you need to make deals with some of those old bastards, after all.  That’s the toughest lesson of all – that the Bad Guys believed they were the Good Guys.

So what does that make you?

If you want to be one of the Good Guys, you better keep asking yourself that question.

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New Releases: 7/23

New Releases

Happy New Releases Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Medusa in the Graveyard by Emily Devenport

Image Place holder  of - 11Oichi Angelis, former Worm, along with her fellow insurgents on the generation starship Olympia, head deeper into the Charon System for the planet called Graveyard.

Ancient, sentient, alien starships wait for them—three colossi so powerful they remain aware even in self-imposed sleep. The race that made the Three are dead, but Oichi’s people were engineered with this ancient DNA.

A delegation from Olympia must journey to the heart of Graveyard and be judged by the Three. Before they’re done, they will discover that weapons are the least of what the ships have to offer.


Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald

Image Placeholder of - 18A Dragon is dead.

Corta Helio, one of the five family corporations that rule the Moon, has fallen. Its riches are divided up among its many enemies, its survivors scattered. Eighteen months have passed .

The remaining Helio children, Lucasinho and Luna, are under the protection of the powerful Asamoahs, while Robson, still reeling from witnessing his parent’s violent deaths, is now a ward–virtually a hostage– of Mackenzie Metals. And the last appointed heir, Lucas, has vanished of the surface of the moon.

Only Lady Sun, dowager of Taiyang, suspects that Lucas Corta is not dead, and more to the point—that he is still a major player in the game. After all, Lucas always was the Schemer, and even in death, he would go to any lengths to take back everything and build a new Corta Helio, more powerful than before. But Corta Helio needs allies, and to find them, the fleeing son undertakes an audacious, impossible journey–to Earth.

In an unstable lunar environment, the shifting loyalties and political machinations of each family reach the zenith of their most fertile plots as outright war erupts.


Music Uploaded: A Playlist for Medusa Uploaded

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Ever wish you had a music database in your head, where you could listen to whatever you wanted to, never having to worry about sharing a set of headphones with someone? If you answered yes to any of the above, then you’re sure to be jealous of Oichi in Medusa Uploaded who’s got one implanted – even though it’s technically forbidden technology. 

Emily Devenport’s interweaving of music (and movies!) throughout the plotline serve to enhance characterizations and ground this futuristic story in both past and present playlists. What constitutes an oldie centuries in the future? 

Oichi’s list is sure to give you some beautiful new orchestral music, a country classic, and some notable Broadway tunes to read along with. What would your brain’s music database look like? (and no, we don’t mean your Spotify library)

video soruce

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Excerpt: Medusa in the Graveyard by Emily Devenport

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Poster Placeholder of - 31Oichi Angelis, former Worm, along with her fellow insurgents on the generation starship Olympia, head deeper into the Charon System for the planet called Graveyard.

Ancient, sentient, alien starships wait for them—three colossi so powerful they remain aware even in self-imposed sleep. The race that made the Three are dead, but Oichi’s people were engineered with this ancient DNA.

A delegation from Olympia must journey to the heart of Graveyard and be judged by the Three. Before they’re done, they will discover that weapons are the least of what the ships have to offer.

Medusa in the Graveyard by Emily Devenport is on sale July 23. Please enjoy the following excerpt and go here to read the first chapter of Medusa Uploaded, the first book in the Medusa Cycle.


Establishing Normal

My name is Oichi Angelis, and I shall always be a worm, regardless of where I go, because of where I have already been.

I was born and bred in the endless tunnels of a generation ship. All my life I have plotted and maneuvered. I have killed and I have avoided being killed. I have communicated with three ancient spaceships on a planet called Graveyard. Now I will have to negotiate with the powerful Weapons Clan who made us.

What seems like negotiations to some, plays out more like war to others. Perhaps that’s why I told the emissaries from the Weapons Clan to dock their ship in Lock 212. It has seen more than its fair share of bloodshed.

She was a sleek little craft, called Merlin, probably named after a bird of prey rather than the wizard. She sat complacently while our scrubbers re­ moved toxins generated by her thrusters. Medusa and I abided on opposite ends of Olympia; our link allowed us to spy together on Merlin’s crew, through their security systems and their intercoms, even through the big view win­dow on her bridge. They hadn’t seemed alarmed about where we told them to dock. That was because they didn’t know what Medusa and I had done to other people inside Lock 212.

The name Merlin had me thinking about sorcerers, so the score for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice played in my head as she was towed into Lock 212. I loved the music by Paul Dukas, and its accompanying images from the animated movie Fantasia—the marching brooms and their unrelenting bucket brigade. Two flutes and piccolos, two oboes, two soprano clarinets and bass clarinet, and three bassoons and contrabassoon (instruments that are underused, in my opinion). Four horns, two trumpets, two cornets, three trombones, and a collection of timpani, glockenspiel, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, harp, and strings. Do I imagine the perfect tones of a celesta in there? Lending bright magic to this sorcerous collaboration? All of them marching together with a tum-te-tum te-tumpetty-tum?

The scrubbers, our version of the ensorcelled brooms, scurried from their cubbies to clean every inch of Merlin’s surface. It was a job they had not done very often, so I imagined they wanted to be extra diligent.

People peered out of Merlin’s view windows and into our lock, but I doubted they could see much. A few emergency lights were on; I kept the main lights off for the time being. That made it easier to see into Merlin, whose interior was brightly lit. Communications Officer Narm spent the most time looking out, along with a pale young man named Wilson, who was one of the engi­neers, and a tiny woman with white hair and skin the color of dark plums. The lady was named Cocteau; the ship’s roster identified her as another en­gineer.

<Two engineers,> I remarked to Medusa.

<Do you suppose Cocteau is a descendant of Jean Cocteau?>

Medusa referred to the director of another of our favorite movies, La Belle et la Bête. That bumped Dukas’s apprentice out of my head and replaced him with Georges Auric’s score for Jean Cocteau’s film, which was far more ro­mantic but still appropriate. The score is played by a full orchestra, including a choir, and it lends La Belle et la Bête an emotional potency to comple­ment its gorgeous images. <There may be thousands of Cocteaus,> I mused. <Millions . . . >

<They should have their own planet,> said Medusa.

When the last minute of the decontamination period expired, Narm sent a message. “Our captain and Representative Lee are standing by for your di­rections as to where and when the meeting will take place.”

“This is Oichi Angelis,” I replied. “I will rendezvous with your captain and your representative inside the lock.”

I messaged Medusa. <It’s time.>


Merlin’s crew sat in front of the observation windows as if engrossed in a movie, watching Olympia’s scrubbers take one last spin over the exterior of their ship. I continued to surveil them and listen to their conversation through the open link. Perhaps it would get more informative, now that our meeting was imminent.

“Anyone show up yet?” said Captain Thomas.

“Nope,” said Mirzakhani. She was a medical tech whose roster profile stated she could also do field surgery. “It sure is dark out there.”

“Maybe they have better night vision than we do,” said Narm.

Engineers Wilson and Cocteau both shook their heads. “These folks thought they were alone out here,” said Cocteau. “They conserve energy where they can.”

I heard a rustle in the hall behind me and turned to see Medusa moving around the corner. She was the Prima, the Queen of the lightning­fast death blow, my superstrong biometal friend.

She joined me at the pressure door and flowed over me. Her suit sealed around me, her face settled over mine, and we became one. Now I could hear with her sensitive ears. I could see with eyes that could stare into the heart of a sun without blinking, yet also see the movement of a bee gathering pollen on a distant flower.

I stretched her tentacles luxuriously. <I’ve missed you. We don’t do this as much as we used to.>

<You would prefer to go back to the days when we skulked together on Olympia’s hull, plotting the downfall of the Executives?>

I felt an unexpected stab of longing.


<It’s showtime,> I said.

The scrubbers crawled off Merlin and scurried to their cubbies. I opened the pressure door.

Inside Merlin, Mirzakhani let out a little gasp. “There’s a light!”

We stood in that bar of light, and because the source was behind us, our dark twins stretched far ahead of us.

“Are those tentacles . . . ?” said Narm.

Our shadows moved toward Merlin like a sea monster reaching for prey.

<We may have overdone it a bit with the shadowy tentacles,> said Medusa after we had been waiting for a while and no one came out of Merlin’s air lock.

I sighed. <I should have killed the lights in the hallway first. Oh well. Lesson learned.>

The outer door of Merlin’s air lock opened.

“It smells okay.” I heard what I assumed was Representative Lee’s voice. “Feels drier than I would have thought, considering they have a big habitat for crops in here.”

Captain Thomas peered down the ramp and past the light that lit a path into the air lock. We had moved out of it, trying to diminish that whole tentacle­monster effect. Medusa waggled the tip of an appendage, hoping to capture her attention.

Thomas whispered to Lee, “Did I ever tell you how much I admire your calm?”

“It’s a complete sham,” he replied sotto voce.

“I admire that even more.”

It wasn’t a sham. We could hear Lee’s heartbeat. It remained slow and steady. Captain Thomas started to move down the ramp, but Lee put a re­ straining hand on her arm. “Some things I say or do may not make sense,” he said in the same low voice that he apparently didn’t know we could hear.

Thomas kept a straight face. “And that’s different from the usual—how?”

“Good point.” Lee withdrew his hand.

The two of them descended the ramp. Lee’s heartbeat continued steady, while Captain Thomas fought to stay the same. She used her breathing to get control. I admired her for that.

When they were within ten paces, I stepped into the light again.

They stopped abruptly. The captain spoke in a steady voice. “I’m Epatha Thomas, captain of Merlin, and this is Representative Lee. Thank you for al­ lowing us to dock.”

I selected a voice from my database that resembled the tone and cadence of Captain Thomas’s speech patterns. “I’m Oichi Angelis. And this is Medusa.”

I didn’t realize how baffling that sounded until they frowned.

“I’m wearing Medusa,” I explained. “We are two people, though at the moment, we appear to be one.”

Medusa pulled her tentacles in closer. Fully extended, they can stretch six meters in all directions. They could have broken our visitors’ necks before either of them had a chance to register alarm.

“You came from the Weapons Clan ship?” I said. “The one at the outer edge of the Charon system?”

“Yes,” said Captain Thomas.

“How long did it take you to get to us from there?”

“About three weeks.”

“Weeks. We don’t use that term. My records indicate it’s from Old Earth.

It took us a year to cross the same distance. Our drive is primitive compared with yours.”

“If it is,” said Thomas, “nothing else about Olympia is primitive. Your ship is a marvel.”

I didn’t answer. Medusa’s tentacles coiled and uncoiled languidly. We watched Captain Thomas’s autonomic system wreak havoc with her pupils.

Yet her voice remained steady when she said, “Merlin is locked down ac­ cording to your security specifications. As we discussed when you gave us clearance to dock, my crew numbers six people, including Representative Lee and myself.”

I focused on Lee. His pupils, heartbeat, and respiration betrayed no ner­vousness. I wondered what made him so confident. Was it experience? Or did he have some advantage we weren’t guessing?

Medusa’s lips curved in a faint but perceptible smile, and we heard Cap­tain Thomas’s heart stutter.

“I will introduce you to the Security Council,” I said. “You may relay your message to them. Do not attempt to share it with me as we make our way to the House of Clans. Please follow me.”

Medusa and I pivoted and walked to the outer door. Thomas and Lee fol­lowed in our wake.

When our backs were turned, we heard Captain Thomas taking another deep breath. I suspected she would need to do so again.

Because she was about to see more tentacles.

If dreadful things have happened inside Lock 212, you could say the same thing about the House of Clans. True—blood had not literally been spilled there, but if you knew the long history of outrages Executive clan leaders had legis­lated therein, you could understand why it had been shed everywhere else.

Despite its history, Order and Law are personified in the graceful lines of the House of Clans. One could almost believe it had grown naturally inside the Habitat Sector, along with the garden that framed it. I escorted the emis­saries up its expansive central aisle. At the far end, the Security Council knelt on low daises, in a semicircle. The tentacles of each of their Medusa units towered overhead and moved as if stirred by a gentle tide. The members wore fine but austere clothing woven from a blend of cotton and silk.

The whole scene made me feel as if I were an actress who had stepped into a Japanese Noh play. That’s normal on Olympia. Protocol dictates every step we take in here. Courtesy and decorum comfort us. I led our guests past empty rows, where clan leaders sit when debates are held and votes are cast, and halted when we were within ten paces of the council members.

The Council Prime sat near the center of the group. Kumiko covered his face, her expression serene. “I am Terry Charmayne,” he said. “Please tell us why you have come.”

Merlin’s captain seemed to become more poised under pressure. “I am Ep­atha Thomas, captain of the Union Ship Merlin, and this is my colleague”— Thomas gestured—“Representative Lee. We come as messengers for Bomarigala of the Weapons Clan.”

Perhaps that was the only thing Thomas had planned to say to the Secu­rity Council, but Terry asked her a question before Lee could begin his spiel. “What is the Union?”

“The Union,” said Thomas, “is a collective of worlds, governments, and entities that share laws and treaties. In particular, Union worlds have agreed to base their laws on a Bill of Rights.”

“The Weapons Clan also follows this Bill of Rights?” said Terry.

I thought he had zeroed in on an awkward point, but Thomas answered confidently. “The Weapons Clan does not consider itself to be a member of the Union. They observe Union laws when doing business with members of the Union.”

“Are you a member of the Union, Captain Thomas?”

“Yes. I am a contractor, sir. I am not a member of the Weapons Clan.” Kumiko’s eyes shifted to regard the representative. “And you, Lee. Are you a member of the Weapons Clan?”

“No,” said Lee. “I am a professional courier. My delivery of this message will fulfill my contract. My role is to be a messenger of the Clan, not to act as their spokesperson.”

That was an interesting distinction.

“What is the message?” said Terry.

Lee did not possess a fine voice, but he spoke clearly. “The Weapons Clan regrets that indignities were suffered by the people of Titania and Olympia during this voyage that has brought you to the Charon system. They wish you to know that events beyond their control separated them from you. If their agents had awakened when they were supposed to, they would never have al­ lowed the destruction of your sister ship, Titania.”

He paused as if expecting questions at that juncture, but we waited to hear the rest.

“The Weapons Clan regrets the loss of life from Titania,” he continued. “They invested enormous resources into Titania and Olympia. They wish to propose a contract with the survivors on Olympia. If you will accept employ­ment with the Weapons Clan, all debts will be paid. You will find their pa­tronage beneficial. You need fear no reprisals for any destruction of property belonging to the Weapons Clan. You may show your good faith by declaring Olympia to be an outpost of the Weapons Clan when you establish orbit around Graveyard. Details of your employment will be negotiated once you have done so.”

Lee dipped his head. “That is the full message.”

The Security Council studied Lee and Thomas. Each Medusa unit wore her own expression. Some of them looked amused. Others seemed concerned. One of them curled her lips in a scornful smile. Their tentacles continued to move to the same slow current.

“Did you memorize the message?” Terry Charmayne asked at last. “You spoke it exactly as it was delivered to you?”

“Sir, I did,” said Lee.

“Do you endorse it, Representative Lee?”

“It is not my place to endorse the message,” said Lee. “Most Union offi­cials would advise you to think carefully before you sign any contracts.”

I wondered how the Weapons Clan would react if they learned that Lee had added that caveat. They might not be so eager to pay him. At least—not with credit.

Did he imply that the Union was more honorable? I doubted the Weapons Clan placed their highest value on that quality.

“We will consider the offer,” said Terry Charmayne, “and the advice of Union officials. Oichi will take you back to your ship now.”

“Thank you,” Thomas and Lee said together. We pivoted and walked back up the central aisle.

The aery Habitat Sector contrasts starkly with the narrow tunnels that riddle the hide of Olympia. Movers can take you far, but quite a lot of worming is required to travel between the House of Clans and Lock 212. Our passages are lit only at intervals. Darkness pools between the lights, and I wondered each time Thomas and Lee followed us into another shadow, did they think it might be their last?

When we escorted them into a mover, Lee cleared his throat. “I’m assum­ing the people responsible for the destruction of Titania were prosecuted, according to your laws?”

“You could say that,” I replied. If you don’t mind stretching the definition a bit.

Thomas and Lee didn’t look at us the rest of the way back. They seemed preoccupied. Representative Lee wore his bland expression as comfortably as I wore Medusa. Captain Thomas had frown lines between her brows. I thought I should do something to ease the tension, and I doubted my conversation would do the trick, so I played Rachmaninoff in the mover. I’m not sure the music made them feel any better, but it certainly improved my mood.

A few suites and one piano concerto later, we emerged near the pressure door of the air lock that housed Merlin.

“I will see you to your door,” I said.

Even Lee’s heart rate jumped at that prospect.

Nostalgia buoyed me as we walked them in, traveling on my feet. Medusa’s tentacles towered over us, casting serpentine shadows on Merlin’s hide. Their movement calmed me. I felt prepared for the task at hand.

I let myself savor a few memories as we walked past seldom­used equip­ment and tow cables. Just over here we broke Percy O’Reilly’s neck. Over there, we pulled Ryan Charmayne off his feet and had a nice (if brief) conversation with him.

When we had reached Merlin’s ramp, Captain Thomas paused and turned to us. “Thank you for letting us deliver the message.”

“You’re welcome,” I said, my tone warm.

Perhaps a little too warm. Thomas frowned. We suffered an awkward mo­ment until they finally turned and walked up the ramp.

That left us at their backs. We watched them for a moment, then started up after them.

Startled, they looked over their shoulders at us. Lee said, “Medusa— please . . .”

<Ah­hah!> Medusa stopped dead. Without her, I couldn’t move, which was awkward. <Oichi, we must rethink this.>

I didn’t want to rethink it. Once again, I tried to move forward, to thrust her tentacles at the emissaries of the Weapons Clan, but Medusa wasn’t budging—at least not in that direction. She had no problem with reverse.

“We’ll talk again,” I said, and made the most dignified exit I could.

Thomas and Lee stayed frozen while we moved away. The pressure door spun shut behind us, taking our light with it. We used the Security surveil­ lance cameras to watch them as they backed up, all the way into Merlin’s air lock.

Through their intercom, I heard Lee say, “We almost got killed.”

Captain Thomas closed their outer door. I imagined her typing the secu­rity code as fast as her fingers could go—that’s what I would have done. She said, “Her tone was too friendly at the end, there. That mask over her face made it hard to tell what she was thinking.”

“That mask is Medusa,” said Lee. “I think that mask talked Oichi out of killing us.”

Except that Medusa hadn’t talked me out of it. She simply hadn’t co­ operated.

<Medusa,> I said, <what the hell just happened?>

Copyright © 2019 by Emily Devenport

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Spree Killers and Serial Killers: A Conversation

Why are we so fascinated with fictional murder?

Maybe it’s our collective love of morbid humor, mysteries, assassins and most of all, real stakes. Whatever the reason, the fact remains: we love reading about killers. And thankfully, there are authors out there who love writing about them!

With Candice Fox’s new mystery Redemption Point this spring and Emily Devenport’s intense SF sequel Medusa in the Graveyard coming this summer, we thought it was high time to revisit their fascinating conversation on killers real and fictional.

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Candice Fox is the author of Crimson Lake (and its sequel Redemption Point!), a thriller set in Queensland Australia whose heroes have both been accused of terrible crimes. Emily Devenport is the author of Medusa Uploaded(and its sequel Medusa In the Graveyard!), a science fiction tale of a woman correcting the social order on a generation ship—one murder at a time. So of course, we asked them to discuss some of the most intriguing types of killers: serial killers and spree killers!

Candice Fox: I’m going to put it out there: I think it’s harder to be a serial killer than a spree killer. Think about it. These guys (and yes, we’re primarily talking about guys with both spree and serial killers) are attempting the inconceivable—they want to accommodate their sadistic fantasies within their normal, everyday lives.

Emily Devenport: The serial killer can think circles around the spree killer.

Placeholder of  -32Granted, this may be mostly hype. In fiction, serial killers are guys like Hannibal Lector—super smart, fearless, able to wage both psychological and physical war. Those fictional monsters are practically demigods. In real life, there have been some very smart serial killers, but few of them rise to the level of Francis Dolarhyde (from Red Dragon). I suspect most serial killers are successful because they’re so focused and single minded in their killing, while the rest of us are just trying to live our lives. They see opportunities to kill where we see opportunities to mow the lawn, visit the laundromat, or pick up a gallon of milk. They tend to watch for opportunities and plan carefully. And that’s what makes them so dangerous.

Candice Fox: But someone like Dennis Rader (BTK) managed, for seventeen years, to terrorize a city with his killing games while at the same time maintaining the appearance of a (relatively) normal family. How do you do that? You pretend. You develop incredible skills of deception. You learn how to hide your trophies in your picture-perfect, suburban home, and you smile for photos when your mind is filled with evil. Rader knocked off a whole family one morning while they were sitting down to breakfast and wasn’t even late for work. That’s gotta be tough, and it’s why sometimes serial killers do stupid things to get themselves caught. It’s probably because they’re exhausted.

Emily Devenport: Spree killers are people who have come unraveled. They tend to be young people with a poor grasp of consequences, and they also tend to be couples. Their spree generally begins because of some triggering event, and then they’re killing her parents and stealing the family car, killing his uncle for the cash, killing the gas station attendant because the uncle didn’t have enough cash, robbing the till, then driving to Vegas because they think they’re going to win a million dollars playing blackjack. They can end up hurting a lot of people, because they may not seem dangerous until they’re waving the gun in your face. But I think they’re easier to get away from, because they haven’t planned everything out. If you can think fast, you may be able to get out of their way.

Candice Fox: Most spree killers plans for an ending—either in a shootout with police, or by taking their own lives, and they’re usually successful in that. They only have to keep their secret as long as they plan for the act.

Emily Devenport: If a serial killer targets you, you’re in big trouble. That guy might be somewhat disorganized, someone who goes after a victim because of opportunity, but even under those circumstances he probably has good reason to feel confident you can’t get away, because he’s got the handcuffs, and the chloroform, and/or the secret, reinforced cellar he’s excavated for just this occasion. If I was going to be targeted by one or the other, I’d have to say I’d prefer the spree killer. They’re less likely to have a hypo full of etorphine handy.

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