Welcome again all to our November edition and Happy Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve to our northern hemisphere readers. I love this time, caught between the two hemispheres, of all the colour of these stages of life; the bursting forth of the new, ready to begin, and the slow whiling away of the old in a last burst of vivacity into decrepit waste.
Our edition unintentionally came together with a bit of a spooky feel. There’s a psychic who sees ghosts, a portal to the afterlife, a collection of dark and twisted tales reviewed, and another novel assessed with ghosts at its heart. Perhaps the forces of the other side have helped bring it all together for appropriate enjoyment for those still amongst the living…
We are on a bit of a science fiction kick at the moment in our submissions, which is lovely, as it had been lacking for a while there. There’s several stories in this edition to evidence just how versatile a genre it is. It also ties in particularly well with the great 70s and 80s-style sci-fi cover brought to you by the talents of artist and writer Andrew J. McKiernan. Thanks for the nostalgia, Andrew!
It’s do or die for Endless Jones: she’s taken a last chance at finding her past and left the only home she’s ever known. This delightful piece by Meryl Stenhouse should ring a true note with any of us that ever felt that we didn’t belong. SY
Endless Jones shifted her grip on the brickwork and very carefully did not look down. The wind tugged at her woollen tunic with icy fingers and whipped dark hair into her eyes, bringing with it the sharp tang of the ocean. She glanced over her left shoulder, towards the east and the high, cold mountains where the Sky Gods came from. Moonlight shone on the bars of the cage she carried on her back.
“Can’t we discuss this in a logical manner?” said the canary from his cage. “Possibly somewhere closer to the ground?”
“No,” said Endless. The howl of marauding wolves and the frantic bleating of sheep drifted up the valley. Endless felt a pang of guilt for abandoning the sheep. But tomorrow was the first day of spring, the day when the Sky Gods would sweep over the valley on their annual cycle, as regular as the seasons. It had to be tonight.
“I mean, I’m all for someone chasing their dreams, but I’m not sure you’ve considered all the consequences—”
“I know what I’m doing, bird. I’ve got a plan.”
“Oh, well, if you’ve got a plan we’re all fine then, aren’t we?”
The final straits of the charge through the Moreland Plain are taking their toll on both the pursued and pursuer. It’s a death march to the end, and only one will come out victorious. Will Marcos Xzen and the Sartrap finally run down Logan Drewry? SY
On a distant world, a gate stands open to the beyond. Perhaps it draws those only seeking to understand it, but the messages are enough reason to resist. An alien worlds sci-fi, this short piece by Matthew Spence touches on the fact that there are some technologies that should never be explored. SY
If you go to the world known as Far Passage and ask its inhabitants about the arch, they’ll tell you to look for the man known as Lehman. He still lives near the arch, out in the Great Desert where he makes a marginal living as a silicate supplier for fabricators.
He lives in a small dome, left over from the original expedition, where he can stay protected from the desert’s thousand-plus degree temperatures. He’ll tell you how his team found the arch, and why he used it only once and never again, and why it’s forbidden now, except for the dead or terminally-ill who don’t want extension treatments or a post-organic existence.
There are words written on the arch in a language that was dead when humans were still carving pictures on rocks. Lehman knows what the words mean, their significance and why they’re both a greeting and a warning.
If you’re smart, you’ll listen, and not try to use the arch yourself while you’re still alive and healthy.
The system that was home to Far Passage wasn’t important in the grand scheme of things. Few outsiders went there, and human deep space telescopes had found it by accident. Those ships that did perform flybys did so mostly because their navigational systems were using Far Passage’s parent star as a reference point while on their way somewhere else. But Far Passage did have its small share of human colonists, who lived in those hemispheres that had climates that were technically tolerable for them, with the aid of pressure domes and suits. They’d made contact with the natives, who had first told them of the arch. Lehman had been one of those who wanted to see it for themselves.
Lara Clarke offers another service that stays off her business cards. Not everyone is ready to have the darkness of their past stirred up. But for those special customers, Lara has a special skill, and sometimes they come looking for her help. The touch of the seedy underside of Hollywood in this paranormal psychic adventure leaves you feeling like a dirty deal has been done. SY
“So how does it work?” the client asked, not even taking off his sunglasses.
I get that question every time. People expect lots of chanting gibberish, incense that smells like burning a hippie’s sandals, furniture thumping, lights going out…You know, all that poltergeist crap. My specialty services are not listed in my front office brochure. Lara Diane Clarke, clinical physical therapist, can get you back on the team after that sports injury or back to work after that fender bender.
Not many people know about my paranormal services. He only found me by word of mouth, and even through his sunglasses, I could tell he didn’t believe.
I told him, “You just need to sign the waiver and I’ll prick your finger with a sterile needle. That’s it.”
“That’s it?” he asked skeptically.
He scanned around the room like he was searching for the hidden camera. I couldn’t blame him for being suspicious. What I do is pretty strange.
“Shouldn’t I fill out a questionnaire or tell you something about my—”
“No,” I said. “That’s what you pay me for. I don’t do interviews. I get results.”
I deliberately used that word, interview, knowing the impact it would have on an actor.
Reviewed by Damien Smith
My absolute favourite author in the world is Sir Terry Pratchett. So often I read a book with the promise that it’s by “the next Terry Pratchett” because it’s funny, only to be disappointed by a series of cheap puns and unlikely slapstick circumstances. I wasn’t attracted to Paul’s book with the promise of the next Pratchett—nor is he (but then, is anyone?)—but in my eternal search for some decent humourous fiction I found a book that finally pulled me in.
Dani’s vids are getting cut by a new guy, Bialystock, and he’s making her look bad, dragging her down all over the metanet. It spells disaster until suddenly, Dani finds a little perspective. Science fiction ruled by some cyberpunk, Jackie Neel’s tale is an acerbic comment on how connectedness hurts us in the digital age. SY
[Hey], I graff to the guy sitting at the bar. He’s cute, maybe a little shorter than the guys I would normally go for, but my standards are low lately.
[Hey, yourself.] His graff appears to float in white just off the center of my vision. He flashes me a bad boy grin, the type my dad used to warn me about. His name, floating by his graff, is Hunter.
I open a fresh frame in my MindsEye. I snap in a new cam and set it to check him out from the back. Nice toosh.
My main frame glows blue, letting me know someone new has set a cam on me. I pop a new frame and clone the cam—it’s his, and he’s returning the favor. From his smile I suppose those hours on the stair stepper must have done some good.
The game is alive in me, the give and take of pulling. I can almost feel his fingers brushing my neck already, warm and soft and urgent. And I can see already how I’ll cut my vids—a months-long dry spell, a disastrous failed hookup with that Chad guy, and then fade to black as we slip into my apartment. A clean little narrative.
But his smile fades when my frame turns green. He’s looking at my main page, flipping through my vids, checking out the comments and votes. He picks up his beer and turns away.
Reviewed by Mysti Parker
With the Halloween season comes the pull toward all things spooky. So, for this edition of SQ Mag, Rooms by Lauren Oliver looked like it fit the bill. The book is the first foray into adult fiction by this bestselling YA author. For the most part, the writing was superb, but unfortunately the actual story didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
Rooms opens with the two main protagonists, ghosts Alice and Sandra, taking bets over whether the house’s current resident, Richard Walker, will die at home or in the hospital. After his death, his estranged family arrives to take care of the arrangements. We’re introduced to his ex-wife Caroline (an alcoholic), son Trenton (a suicidal teen), his daughter Minna (a sex addict), and her daughter Amy (a normal six-year-old).