Edition 21: Notes From the Editor
I can’t believe it’s July already. Here we are more than half way through the year. Most of the major awards for our genres have announced their best of 2014, and we’d like to congratulate all of the nominees and the winners.
We’ve currently closed to new submissions as we work on updating the way we process the stories we receive. It’s a work in progress and as soon as there’s a straightforward option, we’ll let you know.
Very soon we’ll also be organising our annual ‘Best of’ anthology (Star Quake 3), so keep an eye out for news on that front.
Coming to the stories now… This edition had no particular aim or theme. Somehow when I was planning it out, I managed to pick up a good several of our stories that were first person. This is not the favoured point of view in our industry; it is hard to tell a first person story well sometimes in a smaller word count and if you lump world-building on to that…
However, we’ve found some examples of intriguing stories from this perspective, so we hope you enjoy them.
Edition 21: Florist by M. B. Vujačić
In one swift cull, Eve has lost her dream of a family. The only love left is her garden, and even that is out of control, overrun by a weed. If only she could harness its hardiness for herself. M.B.Vujačić nurtures a fantasy of loss into a transformation. SY
Eve stared at the cocaine on the coffee table.
She was sitting on the living room couch, her legs bent beneath her, her shoes lying forgotten on the carpet. Sunlight streamed through the patio doors, giving everything a shiny, dreamlike quality. Somewhere outside, birds were chirping.
Eve sucked in her lips. She still couldn’t shake the impression that something was wrong with the house. The TV was the problem: it wasn’t turned on. Back when Joe was here, the TV was always on. Sports, music, talk shows, newscasts, whatever; the house was always live with its chatter. The only times Joe ever turned it off was when they slept and when they made love. Now, with him gone, the only projection on its screen was her own muddled reflection. In the ensuing silence, the coke was the loudest thing in the room.
She lit another cigarette, took a deep drag, coughed a little. She had quit smoking four years ago. For the baby’s sake. Earlier today, driving home from work, she stopped at a supermarket and bought three packs. A few lungfuls later, she realized she didn’t like the taste anymore. She kept smoking anyway.
Edition 21: Stairwell by Ron Riekki
For a Westerner, the culture of China can be hard to fully appreciate. To become immersed in it, you must do more than just watch. Ron Riekki brings us a dash of fantasy from the misunderstandings of a Westerner in urban Shanghai. SY
I sat watching the girls walk by. This was my second week in Shanghai, my first time in Asia. The girls looked like they were heading to funerals. Their expressions, their clothing, their entire demeanor screamed death to me. In Montréal, where I had come from, there was an equal affinity for black, but the vibe was catwalk. Montréal was runway; Shanghai felt like runaway.
Maybe it was simply because I didn’t understand the culture. I was thoroughly Canadian. I grew up in Sudbury, which got me used to air pollution, the way that the sky can look like artistic renditions of lung cancer, beautiful gray carcinoma mornings.
The boss told me to get out of the office. He said my hyperactivity would scare the clients. That I didn’t know how to shut up. The Chinese like silence. First person to talk loses. He told me to roam the streets.
A Chinese coworker warned me of “the three hands.”
“The three hands? What’s that?”
Edition 21: Book Review: SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest edited by Brown/Spedding
Reviewed by Damien Smith
SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest is the fourth instalment of the SNAFU military horror anthology series from Cohesion Press, due for release very soon. Having not read the preceding offerings, I went in with no preconceptions and was smacked firmly in the face by a strong and varied collection of monsters and military might.
The collection as a whole flowed well, but each and every story in here is worthy of a mention:
First off is Badlands by S.D. Perry. The opening line of this story sets a tone for the entire collection. What follows is a dark and action-filled story of Korean War veterans facing down the impossible in the form of badder-than-usual zombies. An appropriately unsettling start.
Of Storms and Flame by Tim Marquitz & J. M. Martin caught me off guard and made me realise that military horror is not just modern, as we are thrust back to a Viking invasion gone awry with the mighty Bard and his companions set against magic and monsters. Read the rest of this entry
Edition 21: Home Delivery by Michelle Jager
It’s been different since the angels came to town. That dirty little secret can now follow you around, and while others won’t know what it represents, it won’t be long before they find out. Michelle Jager is back with a dark fantasy that gives wings to your sins. SY
I’m lying on the couch semiconscious and barely aware of the flickering light from the TV. Some perky presenter announces something about a supposed celebrity and her new line of handbags. Half opening my eyes, I see that the remote control is just out of reach—perhaps if I roll just a little I can grab it. But if I roll, I will be fully awake, fully aware. There’ll be no drifting back to sleep. I’ll be forced into reality. And I can hear reality in the next room. Hear it trying to compete with Miss Perky on TV.
It can’t compete.
There is something about Perky’s pitch which is beyond its reach. Babies or cats might stand a chance. Things with vocal chords. But not it.
This should be a good thing, but Miss Perky’s B-B-B-Berocca voice is positively skipping, twirling and high-fiving itself across my brain it’s so faaarking elated. Her Colgate, too-white-to-be-real smile is penetrating my eyelids and slamming into my hangover. Which, mind you, is a fixed state at present, but one I thought couldn’t get any worse.
Edition 21: Book Review: Currents of Change by Darian Smith
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
I wish to disclose that I have appeared alongside Darian in The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales from Phantom Feather Publishing, and subsequently connected as writers online. However, this review was unsolicited, and I purchased the novel of my own volition. – Sophie
While traditional speculative fiction publishing houses are currently disinclined to publish paranormal romance, this subgenre won’t take no for an answer, so is growing in indie and self-publishing arenas. Currents of Change is a New Zealand paranormal romance self-published from a denizen of the same country, Darian Smith.
Sara O’Neill arrives in the small town of Kowhiowhio on the crest of traumatic life changes. She’s hiding out in her grandmother’s childhood home, there for as long as she needs to be.
Edition 21: Inner Dragon by James Aquilone
Peter dreams of becoming famous, world-renowned for his writing. But is he happy to pay the price for his success? This tale from James Aquilone crosses between science fiction and Asian self-help fantasy to warn of the dangers of ego. SY
“Peter, are you ready to take the arduous journey toward your ultimate destiny? To face the abyss and let the abyss face you?”
Dr. De Graat stopped suddenly, looked at me with laser-focused eyes. They were quite beautiful blue eyes, I noticed. Sort of a cerulean-blue with flecks of green.
“Peter?” he said, eyebrows raised.
“Sorry. That wasn’t a rhetorical question?”
“Peter.” The sound of disappointment in his voice made me want to evacuate my bowels. “Tell me, what it is you want?”
“I want to be a successful writer. A bestselling author.”
Edition 21: Audiobook Review: The Doll Collection (ed. Ellen Datlow)
Reviewed by Mysti Parker
For this edition of SQ Mag, I decided to step out of my usual e-book reading and chose an audiobook instead. Being the weird and creepy story lover that I am, this anthology caught my eye immediately. Anyone who knows me could guess why—it was that creepy doll on the cover and the title that promised a collection featuring my worst phobia. Not to mention that most of these stories were authored by notable names in the literary and entertainment industry like Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen Gallagher. What I listened to, however, wasn’t quite what I expected, but not entirely in a bad way.
Edition 21: Bot Malfunction by Iulian Ionescu
Medical technology keeps getting smaller and smaller, and smarter than you can imagine. But it’s not infalliable and Iulian Ionescu imagines that world for us in a piece of flash science fiction. SY
My speed hover-bike was pulling left, so I hardened my grip, trying to keep it straight, dashing inches away from rows of manned ships and aero-trucks, under the public air-bus.
Jane would kill me if she’d find out. Girls.
Deep down she loved that I was a bad boy. Don’t they all?
That was my last thought as the right bike handle tapped the side of one of the ships. I spun in the air and then everything went black.
When I opened my eyes I had one of those ‘Phew!’ moments. The rhythmic beeps of the machines, a mattress under my back, and some kind of device immobilizing my head suggested I was still alive.
I smiled. The guys were going to talk about this one for years. I opened my eyes and the white of the hospital room dazzled me. I sneezed.
“Be careful there, Mr. Strauss.” A red face and a pair of glasses hovered over me. “Don’t get too excited, all right?”