Category Archives: Edition
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
When we finished All is Fair, we left Cathy as the new Duchess of Londinium, having rescued a house full of women and servants inconvenient to the political aspirations of the powerful Aquae Sulis ruling class. She is secure in the love and respect of her husband, Will Iris, believing that he will back her as she challenges the Victorian-era status quo.
In free-bioform Hong Kong, Dorotéia Fernandes performs on her lute. A meeting with Kailee, part bat-part woman, lingers with her well beyond their evening conversation. A whole new world opens before her. -SY
Puffs of breeze were the first I knew of her. A gust of wind first tickling at my hair from behind, then blowing into my face. Then a voice: “Dorotéia.” And a few seconds later: “Ms. Fernandes.” It was a thin, high-pitched woman’s voice, with only a hint of Cantonese accent, and it came from somewhere above me.
It was late, and dark. I’d just finished my recital at Hong Kong University’s concert hall, and I was in the nearby Tai Mo Shan Park, trying to walk off my post-performance adrenaline. The path I was on was dimly lit, and when I looked up there was at first only a black sky. But in the next moment I saw a flicker of movement, a shape. She was flying, hovering, then landing on the path in front of me. The span of her wings must have been eight or ten feet, but her body was tiny, the top of her head barely my waist-height. She was dark brown, almost black, and whatever she was wearing was close to the same shade as her membranous wings and the skin of her face. Only her hair was a different color; a splash of closely-cropped blonde curls at the top of her head and disappearing behind huge, pointed ears.
“Ms. Fernandes,” she said again, “please don’t continue down this path. There are some men ahead who look…unsavory.”
Reviewed by Lee Murray
I thought I’d start 2017 with a short and explosive read to launch us into the New Year, so James Rollins’ Crash and Burn, a Sigma Force short story was the perfect choice.
For readers not familiar with Rollins’ Sigma Force novels, the series focuses on a clandestine division of the United States’ DARPA (Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency), a band of former special forces operatives retrained as scientific field officers and assigned to protect US interests against everything and anything that can go wrong in military experimental science.
He’s just a poor boy from a fishing family but his heart is captured by a bird of paradise, flitting out of his reach. Tino has a plan to bring his dreams of life with Delice to fruition, but every dream requires that some part of yourself is given up. – SY
The crunch of dirt mixed with the coppery taste of blood. Tino worked his jaw, opening and closing his mouth slowly. A burst of fireworks erupted behind his eyes, but it appeared nothing was broken. He rose to his knees and leant his head against the limestone wall that ran the perimeter of Delice’s house. Her house? Nay, her prison. He spat a russet-stained wad onto the ground; and with it his anger and shame.
Delice. Delice. The sound of her name was like running his nails down a skein of finest satin in the marketplace. He had seen her there first. She walked alongside her father, stopping at stalls to test the ripeness of a papaya, or watch a potter turn his wheel. It was as if she sensed his presence, and she’d turned to meet his stare. Eyes the colour of the sea kissed by morning sun.
He held himself in those eyes for as long as he dared; the net he wove forgotten in his hands. It was his grandfather’s voice that broke the spell.
“What exquisite bird of paradise keeps you from your task?” Grandfather kept at his work, strong fingers braiding and pulling, but a knowing smile stretched his sun-creased face. Tino blushed. He busied himself refolding and hanging their wares around the little stall that had served as his family’s livelihood for four generations.
And then, there she was. A net in her hand. Examining the grid-like pattern; turning the fibres this way and that. Her slim fingers traced the rows of tight knots, and Tino wondered what it would feel like to have those fingers run down his spine.
The stand was near the back of the flea-market, wedged between a crumbling brick wall and another stand where a young woman was selling tie-dyed pants. The sign above it read “Edna Lewis’ Yes/No box. Your questions answered”.
Below that, someone had taped a piece of cardboard with the words “Closing down: All answers half price. Today only!” handwritten in red marker.
I was intrigued, so I stepped up to the stand. An old bald man with a thick, almost white beard looked up from his book.
“Can I help you?” he asked, with a slight Dutch accent.
“What’s this about?” I asked, pointing at his box, the sign.
He reached below the desk and pulled out a box, jet black, about the size of a biscuit tin.
“You give me 50c,” he said, “then you ask your question here.” He pointed to a small protrusion on the side of the box. A microphone, I guessed.
“Then,” he continued, “if the question has a yes or no answer, one of these two lights will blink.” He pointed at a green and red light in turn. “Green for yes, red for no.”
“And it’ll give me the right answer?”
“Yes. Yes,” he said, sharply.
When a childhood prank lands his sister in trouble, Jaran starts along a path that he feels he cannot escape. Evil deeds seem to breed and Jaran is sure he is the cause. Sometimes you can never go home again. – SY
Jaran never forgot the first time he met evil. Not witnessed an evil act, not listened to the unkind gossip he heard the adults mutter when they thought he was sleeping, but saw the very substance of it. Evil in its raw, unrefined state. The kind of evil that only the Black Healers had the skill to extract.
That was the day Aliya turned fifteen. Jaran had contrived to ruin the new dress his sister wore, a gift from the village women to mark her coming of age. It was a fine dress, shimmering white like sunlight reflecting off a lake, and woven from the finest arachia threads painstakingly harvested a few strands at a time each morning while the dew still glistened.
The urge that drove him was more than jealousy, more than his resentment of Aliya’s firstborn privileges though he had no words to explain his feelings, not even to himself. He scraped moss and algae from beneath rotting branches in the forest, forming a little cake of green slime. It was a cruel choice. A splattering of mud might have washed out leaving no stain. But to Jaran that seemed a thing half done; a compromise.
Whenever I ran in from playing outside, I knew something about me made them unhappy. Their disapproval grew in the quiet spaces—whispering eyes, heavy-lidded glances, a barely noticeable sucking of the teeth. Each day I felt myself shrinking, until one day, my aunties informed me of the cause of this silent shame: the sun was taking away my magic.
This explained why I had gone from being big enough to share a bed with my sister, to sleeping in a shoebox, and then a pickle jar, and finally, a thimble. As I poked my head out from my temporary bedroom, they explained the sun’s evils and the horrible audacity it possessed to rob a little girl of her powers. I nodded along, and when they told me not to worry, that they would assist me in restoring my magic, as was their maternal duty, my smile prompted them to lovingly call me beta and stroke the top of my head with the tip of their fingers.
Welcome back for 2016’s last edition for SQ Mag. We’ve been busy bees the last couple of weeks: the Story Quest Contest has begun (don’t forget to submit); our new submissions are currently open; Star Quake, Best of 2015 has been finalised and submitters notified.
We’re excited to open for serialised fiction again, and we have also opened for general submissions. To ensure that we are getting a mix of wonderful authors previously published with us, and new talent, we’ve got two areas for submission.
While there is a new method in place, which I think will make the whole experience better, there will be some tweaking of the process as we go on—we will make sure we don’t need to take long hiatuses and also so we can get our responses back to authors sooner. It’s part of big ideas, crucial to preparing for bigger and better.
Nettie Lonesome follows her senses to a small town, to accidentally embroil herself in family politics and pettiness. Lila Bowen brings us into a world of fantastic intrigue, navigated as only a skin-walking vulture can. -SY
A story set in the world of The Shadow
A bird’s sinister shadow sweeps over a small town nestled between jagged mountains, rippling over neatly painted buildings and swept porches and a dusty thoroughfare. The bird has passed a dozen such goddamn towns, shiny as eggs in rough nests, but it hasn’t stopped a single time. Until now.
Something down there must’ve caught its eye.
Circling widely, the ungainly critter lands in a dirty yard by a clothesline. It’s not quite a vulture but close, ugly as sin with a bald head and a great mass of twisted tissue where one eye should be. It doubles over, quivers, and…becomes a girl just as rough and ugly as the bird. She goes by the name Nettie Lonesome, most of the time. Lanky and rib-bone thin, frizzy black hair thick with grime. She coughs into a hand, then quickly covers her chest, looking about shiftily to see if anyone noticed. Within moments, she’s stolen a faded shirt and pants off the line, slipping into them like a fish sliding back into the water. They’re fit for a child, and her bony ankles and wrists show, but at least she’s covered. At least she looks like a boy again.