About The Golden Rays of the Morning Sun

My short story, The Golden Rays of the Morning Sun, is now up in the 1st Quarter 2021 (January 1) issue of Abyss & Apex. Nice way to start off the new year, yes?

This post goes into how that story came to be, and as such, is pretty much chock full of spoilers. So, if you haven’t read it yet, I invite you to do so now.

<Spoilers Ahead!>

For me, a story idea usually starts out in my head as a picture, or an imagined experience, or a particular application of some science fictional or fantastical technology. In Golden Rays that initial image was of a group of rays–like manta rays or stingrays–floating over a hillside, rather than underwater. (Along the way I learned that a group of rays is called a fever.)

I’ve been a fan of Australian artist (and now novelist) Kathleen Jennings for several years, from back when I stumbled upon her Dalek Game illustrations. Way back in 2016 she tweeted (as @tanaudel) a sketch, to which I replied mentioning this particular image I’d had in mind, and then…she replied.

Needless to say I was over the moon that she sketched that up. (Oh, and I might add that a few years later Kathleen won the 2020 World Fantasy Artist Award, so there’s that.)

With this sketch in hand, or at least on-screen, all I had to do now was actually fashion a story around it. Which, for me, is a very time-consuming and strenuous effort. Some writers can just whip out stories left and right–I’m not one of those. It’s a lot of work for me to devise a plot, then get the characters all working to put that plot into motion. And…sometimes the story ends up going where you wouldn’t necessarily think it would.

For instance, as you now know by having read the story–you have, right?–those rays that Kathleen drew do eventually show up in The Golden Rays of the Morning Sun (get it? Rays? Get it?), along with private military contractors, cyborgs, and brain rehosting.

So, like, who knows where an initial story idea (or sketch) might take you?

The final version of Golden Rays doesn’t differ drastically from the first draft I eventually settled on to send out to readers for critiques. Though there was a LOT of meandering about while getting from the vague plotline I’d come up with to that first draft.

One of the things I was uncertain about was simply the structure of the drafted story. There’s a lot of ways to tell a story, but the default is sorta that you introduce the characters, set up the problem, grow the tension, then have a boss fight at the end. Arguably Golden Rays does do that–if you squint at it and don’t expect any fist/sword/light sabre fights. But here’s how I characterized its structure:

  • ACTION! ACTION! ACTION!
  • Debate
  • Flight
  • Debate
  • Journey’s end

Not exactly a Marvel movie plotline, eh? I asked the opinion of those who provided critiques how well that structure worked for them, and they assured me it worked just fine. (And clearly, as it turned out, Wendy at Abyss & Apex thought so as well.)

The one place that did need work, and I’m very grateful to Paul H for pushing me on this, was the plausibility of Mika’s resistance to rehosting. I mean, there’s honestly a lot to recommend it, especially if your body hasn’t been very good to you over the years. Initially I went with “a human requires a body to be human.” But what about when you could do so much more if you were unconstrained by the biological limitations of flesh? The human body alone can’t survive in space, or in the deep seas, or without food or air, but what if you could rehost into another physical form that could? Would you? And if not, why not? Discuss. That’s exactly what Mika and Kibo did. They reached different conclusions, but each had very good reasons for the choices they made.

Win. Win.

Awards Eligibility 2020

I had two short stories published in 2020 that are eligible for upcoming fantasy and science fiction awards if one deems them worthwhile. Both are solidly in the science fiction domain, so nominate accordingly 🙂


Memento Amicum (3400 words) appeared in Issue #3 (September 1, 2020) of Cossmass Infinities.

People, events, practices, and cultural touchstones pass away and slip into the past, kept alive only within the memories of those still around, and only for as long as they care to and can remember. In the future, we may not be the ones doing the remembering, our creations may end up taking on that responsibility–intentionally or not, until they too power down.

“Memento Amicum” by Marc A. Criley is the poignant and touching story of a graveyard populated with AI versions of the deceased.
— Gwen C. Katz, in The Future Fire

(Right now Memento Amicum is only available by purchasing that issue, though the stories are incrementally released online over time. I will add a link here when it becomes available.)

Cossmass Infinities 09-01-20 Cover

He stepped around to the front of the headstone and waited. The mementa screen opaqued, masking the splendidly etched-in-granite rendition of Ellanora Hawks. A moment later her mementa’s well-worn but equally splendid visage resolved on the screen

Be grateful for friends that will remember you.


Glory Whales (4700 words) was published August 23, 2020 in Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores.

An unraveling comet! Doomed spaceship! Explosions! Alien artifacts! WHALES!!

Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores has a lovely story in August with “Glory Whales” by Marc A. Criley.  A happily married couple [are] diverted to check out an interstellar voyager. [W]ill they live to see what grows from the seeds dispersed by the visitor?
— Karen Burnham, Locus (Recommended Reading)
Glory Whales lead pic
Illustration Credit: Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores

I squinted past the reflected comet dazzle on her visor. Yep, a smile that outshone Mars, this blazing comet, and the incandescent golden jewel of the sun. A smile that’s taken me from one end of the solar system to the other.

Come for the whales, stay for true love.


Thanks for your time and any consideration for awards you may give to these stories!

About Glory Whales

Glory Whales lead pic
Illustration Credit: Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores

My story Glory Whales is now up at Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores. Here I want to talk for a minute about relationships between main characters, and what I found special about Dominic and Maya’s.

It’s quite common in stories having two or more primary characters that part of the drama in the story arises from friction between those characters. One character has hurt or betrayed another (or is about to in the story), and they’re then forced to find an accommodation so they can together overcome the primary obstacle facing them.

I see this so often–which isn’t surprising since it’s usually pretty effective–but I personally do tire of it. I like teamwork. I like seeing a group of individuals pulling together to achieve success. And not with the caveat that the group members first had to “set aside their egos” and come together. No, there’s no egos to set aside, because they’re good, mutually supportive individuals from the get-go.

This is a big factor in why I like Marko Kloos’ Frontline milSF series. His main character, Andrew Grayson, works well with the others in his unit, and is also quite fond of his wife. Interpersonal friction does happen from time to time, but never seriously amongst that core group closest to him.

THAR SHE BLOWS! SPOILERS AHEAD FOR GLORY WHALES!

The main characters of Glory Whales, Dominic and Maya, are a happily married couple that have been trucking around the solar system for a decade and a half. This idea appeals to me. They’re not crotchety with one another, they’re not sick of the long hauls, the tedium, of each other. They’re not on the verge of going their separate ways–embarking on this trip in a last-ditch effort to salvage their relationship.

No. They’re a “happily married couple that have been trucking around the solar system for a decade and a half.” They chose this life, they enjoy it, because of what it is. They like each other. They respect one another, count on one another, look out for one another. They’re teammates, partners, and lovers. These are the kinds of story protagonists I like to see, at least now and then.

Ol Smoothie
© Root-Beer.org

And when a comet carrying tangible proof that life exists beyond our solar system blows up in their face, they’re dropped into a life-or-death struggle to survive. They have to pull together to do everything they can to keep themselves and what they’ve found alive. It’s not just the big, thrilling, desperate efforts they pursue to save themselves, but also the simple caring for one another, the encouragement and mutual support that is essential. There are critical tasks that require relentless, tireless effort; but quiet breaks to recharge and renew are just as important. Both Maya and Dominic have each other’s backs throughout this ordeal. Their love and joy and perseverance makes me happy.

I’m grateful that Glory Whales found a home at Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores and I hope those who read it find it adds a bit of joy to their life.