Short Fiction

Art for “Amnesty” by Chris Pepper (Black Gate 7, 2004)

Thanks for your interest in my stories.

I’ve written four long novellas that appeared in Black Gate magazine:

The Haunting of Cold Harbour” (Winter 2002)
There’s a Hole in October” (Spring 2003)
Amnesty” (Fall 2004)
The Soldiers of Serenity” (Summer 2008)

Links will take you to story excerpts published at Black Gate.

Some extremely kind folks reviewed my stories when they first appeared, and to this day I am still enormously grateful for the attention they paid th these early pieces. Here’s a few quotes, because I can’t resist sharing.

Todd McAulty is Black Gate‘s great discovery.

— Rich Horton, Locus

McAulty to me appears to be world class… If I was crazy enough to want to be an editor, I’d be trying to poach him, or wheedle work out of him, or kidnap him and have him chained up and guarded by a woman with blunt weaponry. That sort of thing. “The Haunting Of Cold Harbour” is great. I am not sure how many people are familiar with Larry Niven’s Dream Park novel. This story is like a 21st century update of that sort of thing, for want of a better comparison. McAulty, however, is better and throws in some surprises… His other stories include a drugrunner that becomes a saviour for a group of psychic kids, one based in Hell, with a robot, and a manic business intrigue with the Devil… I’ve read quite a lot of books and short stories, and while Sumner’s work is good, for example, there are no real surprises. McAulty has surprised me multiple times with what he has come up with. In fact, every time, I think.

— Free SF Reader, The Best Of Black Gate Magazine – An Appreciation

If you subscribe or happen to buy issue 12 of Black Gate, you MUST READ the story by Todd McAulty. It is Superb!!! … “The Soldiers of Serenity” by McAulty read like a novel. In so many short stories, the payoff is quick, sometimes dirty. Just as you “get” the characters, the story is over. Not So Here. McAulty took his time. He introduced characters. He ran down corridors. He twisted a bit… he teased. It’s all ordinary, right? But you knew every character held a key, every detail mattered. I kept wanting to check to see how much story was left because I just KNEW the pay-off was a few pages away! I couldn’t read fast enough! WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, DAMMIT?????…

This story was entertaining, smart, twisted. An excellent read.

— Bear Mountain Books

The Spring Black Gate [contains] serious work… such as the excellent “There’s a Hole in October” by Todd McAulty, a notable new voice in short fantasy. McAulty’s narrative of a Canadian man trying to import drugs into the US but instead becoming embroiled in ferocious supernatural intrigues — and in as tense a road chase as genre fiction affords — is magnificent storytelling, begging expansion into a novel. Of course, the subtext is a moral and spirtual malaize menacing the very survival of the modern world… the color of the month is funeral black.


— Nick Gevers, Locus, May 2003

“There’s a Hole in October” by Todd McAulty [features] Pierre Lassiter, relaxing at a cafe before crossing the border into Canada. The crossing would be a lot easier if he wasn’t 5% caffeine by volume and if he didn’t have $15,000 worth of drugs in his trunk. He’s so stressed that he’s sure he’ll blow the customs check at the border when a bunch of young kids hit Lassiter up for a ride. They’re in trouble and Lassiter can’t bring himself to say “no.” What they haven’t told Lassiter is their last ride — a trucker — just died in a fireball wreck.

Smooth, easy prose, a hero who declares his own life as “dogshit” with an attitude that probably keeps even him guessing whether he’s going to do the right thing made this a surprisingly enjoyable story, one of my favorite stories so far this year. Todd McAulty’s ear for his characters, especially Lassiter, made this thoroughly enjoyable.

— Alan Lattimore, Tangent Online

The issue hits its high point with “There’s a Hole in October,” by Todd McAulty. Those who read his debut story, the superb “Haunting of Cold Harbor” in Black Gate #3, will be expecting another riveting tale and this one does not disappoint. The time is a cold October during which a local rash of child murders have taken place, the place the Canadian side of the border just above Michigan, the problem a young man, Pierre, who intends to cross the border with 1500 bux worth of “pure,” in order to solve his financial problems. Pierre is extraordinarily nervous as he sits brooding in a coffee shop before commencing the final run to the border. This is not the time for Pierre to be approached by a seven-year-old boy named Eric who begs for a ride. Pierre finds himself agreeing to take not just Eric but several other kids .. about the time Pierre discovers there is something not quite right about the kids, they pass a horrible wreck-and the three-year-old informs them that the dead driver is their previous ride… the pace accelerates from there. McAulty’s characters are memorable, his voice sure, the story impossible to outguess — the ending carries well beyond the last line.

— Sherwood Smith, SF Site, May 2003

Black Gate‘s most intriguing discovery is Canadian writer Todd McAulty. His first sale, “The Haunting of Cold Harbour” (Black Gate, Spring 2002) attracted plenty of praise, and he’s back in the Spring 2003 issue with “There’s a Hole in October.” A truck driver in Ontario, heading to the US with some illegal drugs, unwillingly picks up some unusual children at a restaurant. He thinks his problems are confined to how to sneak them and his cargo past customs. But the children seem to be fleeing another man, and also seem to have unusual abilities. McAulty ups the ante a few more times by the end, and adds a smart twist or two. The story is exciting, scary, and resolved ambigiously and honestly. He’s a writer to keep an eye on.

— Rich Horton, Locus, May 2003

The next story — this issue’s longest — is by far the best. “The Haunting of Cold Harbour” by newcomer Todd McAulty takes place in a VR (virtual reality) world of the near future when society is in another Great Depression and has retreated to VR worlds for comfort and solace. In one particular VR world, the Cold Harbour of the title, strange things are afoot. In a world of ghouls and gremlins, a mass murderer is loose and is killing child characters. Sammy Ron, the executive of the company that produces and maintains Cold Harbour who is responsible for the world, is given the task of finding the murderer before the news leaks out and the world is shut down. This story is enjoyable because it works on so many levels. On the surface, it’s a fun and well-written near-future dystopia. But it’s also a mystery, as well as tipping its hat to cyberpunk. Dig a little deeper, however, and it begins to reveal itself as a meditation on the essence of reality.

— Matthew Scott Winslow, The Green Man Review

The best stories in the Winter 2002 issue are by newcomers, however: “A Taste of Summer” by Ellen Klages, a neatly nuanced Bradburyesque relation of a child’s adventures in the company of an ice-cream confectioner; and the genuinely arresting “The Haunting of Cold Harbour,” by Todd McAulty, a baroque vision of serial killings in a Virtual Reality World that sounds well worth visiting, a place of ghouls and garish combats… A novel probably beckons, and it’s a prospect to relish.

— Nick Gevers, Locus, April 2002

“The Haunting of Cold Harbour” ought to appeal to all readership; its virtual gaming world will be breathtakingly innovative for a new reader… The story opens with the protagonist, Sammy Ron, about to blow up a hotel room. His associate discovers something nasty instead of the target, and as a result Sammy blows up the entire hotel… The existence of Cold Harbour is threatened, there’s a nasty killer on the loose, and Sammy has to call on some very strange beings indeed, including some AIs who may or may not be “real,” in and out of the virtual world. The pacing is frenetic, the voice strong and vivid, the characters fascinating. I reached the end wishing that this were a novel. Hard to believe that this is McAulty’s first fiction sale.

— Sherwood Smith, SF Site, February, 2002

Back issues of Black Gate magazine are still available here.