Book Smugglers Publishing Inspirations and Influences Quarterly Almanac

“Nice”: A.E. Ash on Inspirations & Influences

“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their Inspirations and Influences. In this feature, we invite writers to talk about their new books, older titles, and their writing overall.

In which we invite A.E. Ash – author of Luminous, a SciFi Romance we published two years ago – to talk about her new short story with Book Smugglers Publishing. “Nice” is one of the original short stories included with The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac Vol IV (out now) and a prequel to her upcoming SciFi Romance novella Temporary Duty Assignment (out from us in the summer)


Please give it up to A.E Ash!


I’m so incredibly excited…excited to see one of the pieces I most enjoyed writing come to one of my favorite publishers, and super!excited to share how it came about. To celebrate the publication of my short story “Nice”, I’m here today at The Book Smugglers squeeing about the idea’s creation, sharing thoughts on post-dystopian narrative, and introducing the not-all-bleak futuristic megacity I needed, and so created.

About three years ago, I was hanging out with a couple of friends chatting, as we often do, about gaming. One of them mentioned an interactive GPS game that was like laser-tag but with stealth/tactical elements and instead of a cramped, loud arcade, the entire city was the playing field for intrepid, mobile-device soldiers. This led to me forming a strategy for such a game: if you want to sneak up on another player remember to be utterly unremarkable, to look harmless or disinterested, to dress blandly, to move about casually like any other work-a-day person doing their thing.

This idea stayed around enough that I got to pondering what I meant by ‘unremarkable.’ I thought about all the times I’ve been shopping or out and about and have felt myself blending into my surroundings, masked by monochrome clothing and the non-threatening mask I wear so as not to scare the folks I encounter with my normally intense, Dredd-like frownyface (seriously–I have resting Dredd face).


I was kind of shocked to realize that in talking about “unremarkable,” I was describing my not-so-far-from-middle-age, everyday self. Deferential but not to the point of being noticed, blandly polite in that way I was taught to be back in the day in Charm School when going about one’s business, and even likely forgettable unless I showed what I really feeling, or opened my mouth to say anything but “thank you ma’am” and “have a nice day.”

This stuck in my craw.

I got to unpacking why I couldn’t get these thoughts out of my head. I came to the conclusion that, at least as a woman who is me and grew up where and when I did with the experiences I’ve lived, I find safety in anonymity and in being relatively unseen. It’s harder to be hurt, accountable, harassed, or even just inconvenienced when you’re barely a blip on the radar. When I realized that I was also freeing myself up to operate as I wanted, unquestioned and free of social pressures and move about as I pleased, tendrils of narrative sprouted from this notion in the way a philodendron snakes out its shoots so casually it’s almost hard to see (that I used a philodendron is important, or at least, relative to my story but you’ll have to read it yourself to see why).

Cue “Nice”.


IN A WORLD (movie trailer voice-over and dramatic bass-heavy music) where The Big Apocalyptic Thing has gone down but now people are mostly over it as much as people can be in their remarkable resiliency and capacity for hope, everyday heroes rise to the challenge of healing the land. Humans band together in the remaining functional megacities to help one another live the best lives they can. Some of these people are merchants, construction workers, bio-engineers, chefs, transit operators. Some are military police. In particular, Metro Central’s best covert operative is never seen, never noticed–is some lady in the grocery line, giant frumpy purse full of prototype ammo and extra socks.

That was what really started it all. I wrote “Nice”, the first story set in my new world in a couple of days, shopped it around, and ended up just sitting on it. I could tell, it needed more. It needed to be populated, thought out, and extended. I decided that another story was going to happen–longer form, probably a novella. T.D.A. was hence born but I’ll talk about that another time, muahaha.

I took “Nice” and ran with it. I wanted to create a narrative where the giant, cyberpunk city of the future was beautiful, full of life and highly functional–where people, despite their hardships, were mostly happy and well cared-for. I wanted to show the surrounding wastelands being resuscitated by tireless farmers, mechanical and biological engineers, plant pathologists, and corporations working with all them with humanity’s best interests in mind. I’d never heard the term solarpunk back then, but I knew one thing–I was feeling depressed by the concept of the bleak sci-fi dystopian future (even then before the ass-kick that was 2016 into now). I had no word yet for what I wanted to create so I used post-dystopia–the time after the crappy stuff. It might be old hat to some, but I wanted an urban oligarchy that actually served the needs of its people, law-enforcement acting out of humanitarian concern, and almost nobody being okay with cultivating tendencies that would lead to mistakes like the one that caused The Big Apocalyptic Thing in the first place. I wanted a world where green was the best thing ever. I hope I’ve delivered on at least some of this, and I’m excited to share the teeming Metro and the many people who live there with readers.

You can find “Nice”, the first Metro story in the Book Smugglers Quarterly Almanac and on their website. Stay tuned for news about T.D.A – Temporary Duty Assignment, a Metro novella coming later this year. Happy reading, all…have a nice summer!

How to Get the Story



A quarterly collection of awesome, selected and edited by The Book Smugglers

Collecting original short fiction, essays, reviews, and reprints from diverse and powerful voices in speculative fiction, THE BOOK SMUGGLERS’ QUARTERLY ALMANAC is essential for any SFF fan.


    A.E. ASH
    (With a brand new story called “Nice”, set in the world of the upcoming novella Temporary Duty Assignment)
    (An essay, about Slipfic)
    (A reprint of the author’s award-nominated short story “The Mussel Eater”)
    (An essay, on body horror and coming out as trans)
    (An essay, on diversity and language)
    (A new short story called “Nini” about an AI, a space station and an old goddess. The cover art is based on “Nini”)
    (An essay, on superhero registration tropes, power fantasies and Western-centrism)
    (A new short story, “El Periodista y la Guerrera”, a story featuring LGBTQIA superheroes fighting for justice for marginalized groups)
    (An essay, on romance, women who lust and The Courtship of Princess Leia)
    (A review of Bitch Planet volume 2)
    (An essay, Where to Start With the Star Wars Expanded Universe)

How To Procure Your Copy of The Almanac

The Almanac is available now as an ebook with major retailers and soon, as a Print On Demand paperback! Get your copy by using the links below.

Buy the Book:

Weightless Books ¦Smashwords ¦ Amazon US ¦ Amazon UK


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