Edition 24

Cover SQ Mag 24

Edition 24: Notes From the Editor

2016 is a very welcome sight. It’s been a fantastic year for SQ Mag, and both the publisher Gerry and I are very proud of what the ezine has become. There’s been many successes for the stories of 2014 and we look forward hopefully to see what the collected works of 2015 will bring.

But it has been a very disrupted year for this editor, and I’m extremely grateful for the hard work behind the scenes from: our readers Gareth, Louise and Paula; of our reviewers Damien and Mysti; and most of all from Gerry, the publisher. Putting out a magazine requires a village, and I couldn’t do any of it without them.

In case you missed the announcement, Star Quake 3, Best of SQ Mag 2014 is now available to purchase. It’s got a variety of internationally-recognised authors, representing many different regions, and in my biased opinion, Tais Teng’s wonderful cover makes it a stunning addition to any bookshelf. A wonderful gift for anyone who likes things that whirr and tick, or fantastical journeys, or even a little bit of spine tingling. There’s also a particular concentration of incredible Australian authors, and so it will be a great introduction for readers unfamiliar with the authors of this fine country. And of course, for many other stories, authors and reasons.

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Edition 24: Broken Stars by Tang Fei (translator: Ken Liu)

Jiaming often dreams of the white woman, who predicts the future in her stars. School dominates her teenage life, and she seeks the attachment and happiness she doesn’t find at home with her distant father. Despite all other predictions, her life begins to spiral out of control. This dark, supernatural fantasy from Tang Fei captures the shallow and excruciating existence of the teenager, and their detachment from others.  SY


If I really think about it, the stars did not arrange such a fate.

But the stars are broken, and so the definitive proof is gone. This moment is a vertex where time caves in: to the left is the past, to the right—

To the right should have been the future.

But the stars are broken.

Also, I met Zhang Xiaobo.

1.

She didn’t bring an umbrella though the weather forecast said it was going to rain. After dinner, as she passed by the shoe rack, she missed the umbrella that had been specifically set out for her.

A few other students were scattered along the sidewalk, gradually gathering into a trickle of school uniforms that crossed the road and entered the school. Tang Jiaming entered the lecture hall from the back, at the top of the tiered seats, just as the first bell for evening study hall rang.

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Edition 24: Stewards of the Land by Anthony Rella

The Warrens move to share the Fremen’s property, a generous gift. But their home is also shared with others, those unseen, who are tied to the Fremens and the land. As Lar Fremen and Tim Warren grow, the world intrudes upon the little idyll, and there will be consequences. Anthony Rella brings to live an urban supernatural horror teeming with underground resentments in a perfectly placed backwater setting. SY


Durrell Fremen, Lar’s father, sipped his coffee by the kitchen window, watching the Warrens unload their car and trailer. “They got a boy about your age,” Durrell said. “Once they’re all moved in, you better go show him around, tell him about the spirits.”

At eight years old, Lar barely understood the spirits herself but felt obliged to do as he asked. That night, her family walked over to the house on their land where the Warrens now lived, and Lar introduced herself to the youngest boy, Tim.

“Let’s go walk around,” she said. “I’ll show you the forest.”

“Chuck, you go with them,” Tim and Chuck’s mother said. Chuck whined about how he was too old to tromp around with babies.

“What are you going to do?” their father asked. “Sit around playing video games?”

“They’ll be fine together,” Durrell said. “Lar’s been walking the woods since she was four.”

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Edition 24: Festival of Dissolution by Dennis Mombauer

Franok cannot wait to be grown and attend the outlandish Festival of Dissolution. He stalks the tent with his friends, hoping to dispel the mystery. Quinton and Jodee travel within a technicolour ice cavern, ever changing and treacherous.  It’s a fantastical dream that Dennis Mombauer draws you into, perhaps so good that you won’t want to leave. SY


– I –

The Festival of Dissolution is coming to town, and just like the years before, Franok is too young to go.

He and his friends know very little about the festival, only that it is in a clearing deep in the forest, only adults are allowed visit it, and there is a great tent in which all the celebrations take place.

The interior of this festival tent is enigmatic in itself: it is often described as “a flat landmass drifting in the center of the ocean” or “a desert of salt and engine parts”, but Franok doesn’t know what this means.

He has tried to sneak in with his friends two years in a row, but it took them all night to reach the clearing in the forest, and they had found only trampled grass and little piles of garbage.

Everyone in their group has a theory about what is going on, and everyone claims to have heard some story from an adult, most of them wildly unbelievable. There are tales of bacchanalian rites, of wine, drugs and naked skin; of elaborately choreographed theatre performances and much stranger things.

Some speak of artists that make teeth disappear—not by archaic brutality or the professional horrors of a dentist, but through alchemical means, with some mouthwash that dissolves them without a trace or the slightest sensation.

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Edition 24: Papaya Leaf Falling to the Surface of a Puddle Reflecting Streetlights by Jamie Killen

Dao has the dubious honour of being chosen by a rider, an alien keen to have a human experience. She is not the only one, but is subject to the whim of her rider, a relationship she did not consent to. Jamie Killen’s story won the 2015 Story Quest Competition of Unlikely Partnerships, with her delightful science fiction partnering of an alien and street kid; an usual choice of host. SY


Dao awoke to rain hammering on the tiled roof. She lay in bed watching it fall past her window and into the garden below.

Go out now? Puddle asked. Go out feel rain?

Dao sighed. “Fine. But you’ll have to wait until I eat something.”

Dao’s mother was just laying out a plate of cut fruit when she came out of her room. “Good morning, Mother.”

Puddle made a little chittering sound of excitement at the sight of papaya on the plate.

“Good morning, Dao,” she replied. Then, as always, she pressed her hands together in a wai and lowered her eyes. “Good morning, Lord Puddle.”

Dao tucked the metal braids of her harness behind her ears as she ate. The first few days she hadn’t been able to stop scratching, the weight of the coiling metal ropes and fiber-optic cables within pulling along the edges of her scalp. Now she only noticed if one of them dangled into her food.

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Edition 24: Book Review: Manners and Mutiny by Gail Carrier

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 Reviewed by Mysti Parker


manners and mutiny cover

Since my review of the first in Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series back in Edition 8 of SQ Mag, I’ve loyally followed the misadventures of Sophronia Temminick aboard an airship finishing/espionage school. Our young heroine has learned quite a bit of deadly, yet mannerly knowledge since books two and three. She’s experienced both success and failure in trying to stop the nefarious deeds of various enemies. Now we come to the end, in a fourth book that wraps up the story quite nicely with exploding pastries, werewolves, and Picklemen. Oh my. Read the rest of this entry

Edition 24: More than Flies by Brennan Gilpatrick

On the surface, life is crowded, chaotic and dangerous. Dallas is caught unluckily at the end of his shift with a delivery to the undesirable Ghost District. One unfortunate misstep and Dallas lands in real trouble, in the land of mechanical nightmares. Brennan Gilpatrick leads us into the horror of an overpopulated world and how the unethical choose to fix it. SY


Though he couldn’t hear her over the roaring crowd, Dallas knew the old woman was pissed. Her beet-red face and violent hand gestures made that very clear. He could only guess what obscenities passed through her grinding dentures as he ignored her. She was furious. Hell, she had every right to be. She’d probably been standing around for half an hour, waiting on an eggroll that took less than a minute to prepare. Hers were among several fists beating on the cashier counter, demanding their orders from Great City Wok. Dallas gazed across the restaurant; his coworkers scrambled like ants to appease the starving masses. He resigned to fiddling with the broken cash register, as the futile task would easily consume the remaining ten minutes of his shift.

“Can you even hear me?” the old woman screeched, leaning over the counter.

“I’m fixing the register, ma’am,” sighed Dallas. “Please take your order to another—”

“I just want my fortune cookie, asshole!”

He knew the kitchen’s cookie supply dried up an hour ago, but the task of searching gave him a place to hide.

“Of course.” He beamed. “I’ll go grab you one.”

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Edition 24: Kai by Ellen Denton

Sometimes the dream feels so real. John is on his first adventure as a budding archeologist. Both he and the Professor dream of Native Americans, long gone. However, there’s a piece of the past that won’t rest until uncovered once more.  Ellen Denton placed second in the Unlikely Partnerships Story Quest Competition with the unlikely partners of long-since gone spirits and a university student. SY


John woke up screaming out loud. In his nightmare, he was someone named Kai Longbow, and strips of flesh were being ripped from his body by the claws and teeth of a rampaging bear. Now, as he sat up wide-eyed in the darkness, he could still smell the pungent animal odor of the creature’s fur and its hot breath, and feel its saliva dripping against his face.

When the perceptions from the dream faded, he lay back down, but the bed sheet was damp with sweat; he would sleep no more this night.

~~~

Fifteen minutes later, he sat looking out the window with a mug of coffee warming his hands. He had an exam at the university today and needed to be at his best, but felt too distracted to focus on the notes spread out on the table before him.

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Edition 24: Book Review: X’s For Eyes by Laird Barron

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 Reviewed by Damien Smith


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Regular readers of cosmic horror will likely be familiar with Laird Barron. Before I tackled X’s For Eyes, however, I was entirely unfamiliar with his works, having picked up this novella on the back of a recommendation on Facebook. There’s a lesson here that can’t be driven home often enough-if you like a book or an author, give them a plug. The minor signal boost is invaluable for anyone who’s not J.K.Rowling or Stephen King, and it really works.

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