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Stepan Chapman

- About the Book

The Troika
by Stepan Chapman
Published by Ministry of Whimsy Press

Under the glare of three suns, three beings travel across an endless desert. They argue, whine, wheedle and needle each other. Sometimes they switch identities when the sandstorms roar in. As The Troika rolls on, we learn more about Alex, who started out as a man, then became cyborg, then jeep. About Naomi, a veteran soldier who woke up from her cryogenic storage tank to a new life, now a dinosaur. About Eva, who fled her native land to escape her fate as an organ-donor for the emperor. Fantasy? Surrealism? The desert landscape spins and alters as we look at the man behind the curtain: mad angel Dr. Mazer, testing a controversial therapy program at his isolated asylum. Science fiction after all?

Winner of the Philip K. Dick Award for 1997,The Troika is speculative literature at its finest. --Bonnie Bouman

Paul J. McAuley, Interzone:"It's a remarkable debut, with the inventive power of Steve Erickson or Jonathan Lethem."

Kathleen Ann Goonan, SF EYE :"If you enjoy finely controlled absurdity, freewheeling invention pinned down with precisely detailed description, black humor, and language that is breathtakingly engaging, there is little more to be said except 'Read this!' "

Review of Contemporary Fiction: "absurd fantasy beautifully rendered in detail. The surreal landscapes of isolation are reminiscent of Waiting for Godot...you'll walk away smiling for being whipped through surprising twists and loops."

Michael M. Levy, Science Fiction Research Association:"Chapman successfully combines traditional science-fiction techniques with sophisticated surrealism and theological fantasy reminiscent of James Morrow to create a novel of unusual beauty and power. In case you hadn't noticed, I strongly recommend Stepan Chapman's The Troika."

Paul DiFilippo, Asimov's: "A masterful dream voyage through realms of terror and strange beauty. Like Ellison's 'I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream,' this novel portrays the indomitability of the human spirit, all the while permuting reality in fascinating ways."

Publisher's Weekly: "[The Troika] abounds with savage imagery reminiscent of William S. Burroughs, and, sentence for sentence, the writing is brilliant, lucid, and poetic... as startling and satisfying as a painting by Dali, Magritte, or Klee, whose compositions it resembles."

SF Age: "Here's further proof that the small presses can compete with the big dogs at their own game. This tale of a bizarre trio's journey across a desert planet delivers the goods."

John Shirley: "Any book that can fairly be described as a surrealistic, high energy tour de force is supposed to also be tedious and self indulgent - but The Troika is an entertaining read as well as being brilliant and would even be a good companion on an airplane."

Brian Stableford: "Stepan Chapman's The Troika is cornucopia with a cutting edge: a vivid phantasmagoria crowded with bizarre imagery which contrives to remain heartfelt and engaging. It has style, it has wit, it has guts and it has showmanship; what more could anyone want?"

Kathe Koja: "...completely unlike everything else that's out there...an ambitious yet playful work, with a clear pleasure in language."

Eliot Fintushel: " I...make...a habit of reading Publisher's Weekly...so...I...read the...review...of Stepan Chapman's The Troika...from which...the Ministry of Whimsy...excerpted a...rave for their ad in NYRSF 113...I am an admirer of Chapman...and...that particular review was...really...genuinely good... Let's hope...they...do it again."

Arabu Minnekotubu, Banu Warrior Daily: "Of all the loose-leaf novels out there, this one was a really good wipe."


Copyright ©1997 by Stepan Chapman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not duplicate or distribute this file without permission from the author. Thank you.

- Excerpt


The Troika

by Stepan Chapman


The excerpt, below, is taken from Part One of THE TROIKA, a highly acclaimed novel by Stepan Chapman. In April, THE TROIKA won the Philip K. Dick Award for best original science fiction paperback published in the United States. Stepan Chapman is the only author ever to receive a Philip K. Dick Award for a novel published by a small, independent press -- The Ministry of Whimsy out of Tallahassee, Florida.

THE TROIKA follows three characters in their journey across an inhospitable planet. One of those characters -- Alex -- relates in this excerpt the event that started his transformation into a machine.

The Philip K. Dick Award is one of science fiction's highest honors. THE TROIKA has also received praise from many of the publications that review science fiction. Yet it is still difficult to find this breakthrough novel in conventional bookstores. Information about how to order the book follows the excerpt. I hope you'll take this opportunity to become acquainted with the work of a brilliant new writer on his way to sci-fi stardom.


by Stepan Chapman

I was living in Chicago and working at a factory that made model kits out of styrene plastic. I worked the graveyard shift at the Production Department, in an old part of the factory with grimy brick floors and cranking skylights. My job was mixing up barrels of polystyrene granules and feeding them into the hoppers of the injection molders.

Rubber conveyor belts carried endless processions of delicate plastic twigs. Leafing out from the twigs were model parts. There were aircraft fuselage sections and exhaust manifolds. There were landing gear and observation bubbles and halves of pistons with tiny pins to fit in tiny sockets. The other wage slaves sat on stools, packing twigs and instruction sheets into cartons.

But the machine that did in my hand wasn't one of those big injection molders. *That* particular machine stood in a dim gallery of the factory with windows on Wrightwood Avenue. The whole press was maybe two yards on a side, but tall. Each molding cycle took over a minute, and it shook and hissed when it ejected a part down its chute. My job was scooping flaky yellow Bakelite into its hopper.

So it was two in the morning, and I was topping up the hopper on this particular machine. I glanced at the collection bin to see whether the parts looked okay. The parts were heads for the pilots of toy Mega-Manbot Water Striders. Crash helmet, goggles, resolute chin. Hundreds of goggles looked back at me from the bin. Hundreds of resolute, cleft chins.

I checked the molder's gauge panel. The needle for the mold thermometer was in the green. Too low.

I looked closely at the mold. The upper and lower halves weren't locking. Those compression molders were a real nuisance.

Rattling loudly, servos whirling, the press lifted the mold's top half. Then I could see the problem. Three pilot heads pancaked one on top of another, mashed flat. The ejection hoses hissed at them in vain. But for a half a minute or so, until the mold closed again, I had access.

I pulled my jackknife from my back pocket and poked at the jammed pilot heads. I got the near side of the pancake pried up easily. But to loosen the far side, I had to reverse my grip on the knife, brace my left hand on the molder's casing, and lean a little further forward.

I should have noticed the mold closing. I must not have been getting enough sleep.

The first thing I noticed was the smell. Like frying sausages. Then I saw the closed mold on the end of my arm, where my hand was supposed to be.

I thought to myself, "When did that happen?"

Only then did I hear the sound of the mold's closing. A dull thud, a cracking of small bones, and a rush of escaping steam. I heard all that after it had happened.

The worst part was that before I could pass out, I had to wait for the mold to open again. To pass out with the mold still closed, I would've had to fall off my wrist, that is, rip my arm off the edge of my hand, a thing I wished to prevent, and did not wish to see. To avoid seeing it, I would have had to close my eyes, a thing which I greatly feared to do, because of my certainty that if I did close my eyes, my hand would start to hurt, a thing I did not wish to feel. So I stood, and waited.

My throat tasted of burnt plastic. In the collection bin, hundreds of miniature, yellow faces looked through hundreds of goggles in hundreds of directions. I wondered who would keep the hoppers filled while I was riding off in an ambulance.

When the mold opened, I lay on my back on the red bricks and stared at the roof. I did *not* want to look at my arm. Eventually someone noticed me and set off the fire alarm. A mangling isn't exactly a fire, but I could understand the thinking. All the sprinkler heads under the roof began to spray out a cold mist, which settled on the bricks like a fine rain. The clamor of the factory blurred into a single sound, like the fading of some gigantic gong. I passed out.

Sometimes I wonder what became of that hand. The foreman must have scraped it out of the molder. I wonder whether he bothered to wrap it in a napkin and send it along to the emergency ward. I wonder whether a nurse dropped it discretely into a trash bin. I wonder whether a garbage truck hauled it off to some landfill with the tongue depressors, snotty tissues, and foil trays of meat loaf and peas. I'll never know.


Copyright ©1997 by Stepan Chapman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not duplicate or distribute this file without permission from the author. Thank you.

About the Author

Stepan Chapman was raised in Illinois, kidnapped by giant cicadas, and studied the 12 languages of the arthropods of The Academy of Ancient Trilibites, deep below Antarctica. The United Nations recently appointed Stepan as chief translator for its new subcommittee on Vertebrate/Arthropod relations. Stepan's translations of insect folktales have appeared in the Orbit and Leviathan anthologies, and in Chicago Review, Wisconsin Review, Hawaii Review, Cyanosis, and Lies. His drawings and comic strips have been published in Aura, Fuel, Long Shot, and Brutarian. He is the author of Danger Music, Ten Fables and The Troika. Between translation assignments, he is working on a new novel called Burger Creature, as well as a short story collection, Ants In Space and Other Disasters.



Copyright ©1997 by Stepan Chapman. All Rights Reserved. Please do not duplicate or distribute this file without permission from the author. Thank you.

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