Greetings from the SQ Mag team, and thank you for joining us again for Edition 25.
We’ve the pleasure of hosting a piece of the indomitable Mike Resnick, veteran and lord of the science fiction genre. We’d like to welcome him to SQ Mag as our featured author. Mike’s piece, Occult.net, is a great snapshot of a writer who will do anything to succeed. Anything.
Our line-up for the edition includes authors both new and old friends. Kristin Janz’s Thou Hast by Moonlight at Her Window Sung drops you into another world, seductive in its beauty. S. Marston returns to SQ with Mwah, with a programmer savant whose past has followed him online. We also welcome Deborah Sheldon with What the Sea Wants, a tale of wordless terror on the high seas. PJ Keuning spins us a delightful steampunk tale of life in the airborne cities of the UK in Radar Love.
Trapped in another world, lured there with lies, the servants of the castle toil in the kitchen at dishes both tantalising and glorious. If not for the beauty of this world, perhaps they could leave… SY
The flames and glowing coals on the three hearths pour heat into the kitchen like the midday sun on the Sonoran desert. I’m wet under my arms, under the cumbersome dress they make me wear, wet between my legs from clinging sweat. But my face prickles in the kitchen’s dry heat, my forehead and nose itch, and when my tongue grazes the corners of my mouth I taste salt.
I bend my head to chopping, my back to the fires, bent over one of the five tables in the center of the room. There’s a servant at every table, cutting or arranging or stirring at the overseer’s direction, and more of us running back and forth to fetch or carry.
One girl reminds me of my best friend back in another life, petite and sloe-eyed; when she’s hard at work she bites on her lower lip and scowls to intimidate the food into submission.
Watch Andy’s fingers skip deftly across the keyboard. Notice the speed, their steady rhythm, how each fingertip uses a little more force than is needed, implying anger or frustration of a sort. Now draw back and look at him, all of him, hunched and heavy over the laptop with his eyes fixated on the screen, a focus that would put Buddhists to shame. He’ll stay like that, in that very position, coding and calculating until he passes out, when the need to dream finally surpasses the coke and ephedrine. That smell is of Andy’s making. That’s weeks of sweat coating his body, from the mismanagement of the thermostat and an aversion to showering. The urine stagnating in the nearby toilet isn’t helping. Last week’s milk, in those unfinished bowls of cereal, might be long-life but it’s not immortal.
Normally he makes it to his bed, though sometimes he’ll go down right there at the desk to a restless sleep. He works for the logic, the kindest distraction that the world will offer him. When he wakes, he remembers her; then he returns to his computer. He sits and scripts new features for his creations and years have passed like this.
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
The mere excerpt of Binti, published on the Tor.com website, drew this reader in. A Himba woman, painted in the clay of her homeland, Binti is leaving to take her place among the stars at Oozma University, leaving behind everything that has ever been important to her. She leaves behind a destiny in astrolabe creation and the familial and cultural confines of her loving family on Earth.
Fanny and Wolfram, with their faithful hound Helen, are drawn to Beesdon, investigating an usual disappearance. Their experience in paranormal investigations didn’t quite lead them to expect an offender hiding in such plain sight. Meghean’s submission to the 2015 Story Quest contest charmed the judges into making her a finalist. SY
The Maiden rumbled along the tracks, cutting through a low valley of wildflowers and docile cows. Morning dew nestled onto the crisp leaves as the sun crept across the sky. It was a picture of a rural paradise that was slowly dying. Fanny Helhouse peered over her newspaper to eye the idyllic surroundings. She had kept herself in the city, bundled in the soothing cacophony of noise and violence. But as her eyes wandered the horizon to the lazy tendrils of smoke from snug cottages, she uncovered a forgotten comfort.
Her husband, Wolfram, slouched across from her with a boot on the edge of her seat. Helen, their Leonberger, rested her head on his lap. Both were drifting in and out of sleep. Wolfram’s bowler hat had slid over his eyes. Fanny wasn’t quite able to relax as well as them. The carriage jostled her dreams, leaving her restless and irritable. She flipped through the pages of her newspaper, half-reading, half-worrying.
Fanny prodded Wolfram gently with her boot. “Darling,” she chirped, “We appear to be close to civilization.”
The Mary Jane sails away from the storm that almost took her, and it looks like plain sailing hereon out to Joseph. However, the sea is a fickle mistress, hiding all manner of plans behind her deceptively gentle waves. SY
The gale passes with the dawn. The Mary Jane barely lifts on the swell, her mainsail fortified with the bonnet and drabbler to better catch the breeze, her square-sail full on the mast. The North Sea lies as green and calm as an English meadow. Joseph puts on his cap but the cold still bites at his ears. The wintry air, like a ghost, moves through anything it pleases, stinging his fingers and toes, slicing without resistance into his belly, his marrow. It’s a familiar discomfort.
Joseph leans on the gunwale to better enjoy this rare moment of rest.
The sky shines pale and clear, a sign of good fishing. Once thrown, the nets will be full of cod and herring within a few hours. Joseph longs for something to eat other than fish. Mostly, he craves bacon and potato pie. His wife, Amelia, is a good cook. He sighs. The Mary Jane has been at sea for weeks. It’s best not to think about one’s wife and the various pleasures that she can offer.
Mortimer loves horror, but he’s never been any good with work of his own. He lucks out with an interview with a hero of the genre, who sets him on the path of his dreams, if only he knows what he will need to give up to achieve it. SY
Ever since I was a kid I’ve been addicted to horror stories. I was desolate that I missed the end of Weird Tales. Hell, I was even bitter about being born too late for Terror Tales and Shock Mystery Tales, which were not exactly horror’s gold standard.
I worshipped H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith (and of course Bram Stoker), and would take bus rides more than one hundred miles from home just to attend an autographing by Stephen King or Peter Straub. Even if they were known for other work, I collected—and read, and re-read—the few horror stories by Ray Bradbury and Fritz Leiber and Joe Lansdale.
I even tried my hand at it when I got out of college, but while I could push nouns up against verbs with some minimal grace, I simply couldn’t come up with notions that were original, or saleable, or preferably both. I began to think that every good horror story had already been told. Then I’d pick up a new novel or anthology and suddenly realize that no, they hadn’t all been told. They just weren’t going to be told by me.
Reviewed by Damien Smith
Once I’d happened upon a book billed as “Monty Python meets Gladiator”, purporting to combine my loves of absurd humour and gratuitous sword-and-sorcery violence, there was no way I was returning to my ever-teetering To Read pile without first giving War God Rising a go.
Moatvey knows Kayrill has done it this time, though what it is, he can’t quite figure out. But that won’t stop him. He has a plan to sort out Kayrill and his schemes before it’s too late. Tied third in the 2015 Story Quest contest, Jason’s unlikely partnership turned a mirror on the deviousness of these monsters. SY
Darkness was complete, but there was heat, and it moved in ways it shouldn’t, in silent rushes first this way and then that, like the chugging of some great beast breathing out over the surface of this far-flung planetoid.
Heat was how Moatvey always found Kayrill. Kayrill should have figured that out by now, but, as luck would have it, he hadn’t, and that was fine by Moatvey. He was his people’s rightful hero, after all.
He saw Kayrill’s cloaked harvester fine through his specs, even on a world as black as this. It sat there, as it pleased, collecting ore as fast as it could, as if Kayrill didn’t realize it was poaching on a planet surrounded by monstrous aliens that would pick it apart if they ever found it.
After a quick perimeter check, he jumped to the harvester’s port and scurried inside. He made sure to check for traps as he went. Kayrill had left snares and the like inside the last few ore collectors he had stolen.
Chris is the only woman who works in the Radar Room. While her parents seek her a suitable marriage, Chris looks for an escape. One suitable suitor later, and Chris wonders if the freedom she dreams of may be within reach. SY
I love the Radar Room; I can be alone here. Away from my parents’ constant needling, away from the glares and the whispers behind my back; away from the oppression of doing what is expected. In the Radar Room I am free to be myself.
They only let me work the night shifts because I am not supposed to be here. They can pretend I am not here, cover the shame of a girl doing a man’s job. I pretend there is nothing else, just me and the Radar Room. No expectations, no need for propriety, no pressure to marry.
Just the job and me. The radar is my window to the world outside.
My shift ends when Mr Grumpy arrives.
‘Quiet night, Christine?’
Christine is his label for me; I am just a silly girl in his eyes. I have a label for him, he is Mr Grumpy, but I keep it to myself.
‘Yes.’ I look towards him. ‘Henry, can you please call me Chris?’
‘No girl, I won’t be doing that. It not be a proper name for a girl. It’s bad enough that you’re doing a man’s job, instead of getting yourself married.’
I stare at the radar screen, pretending to check it is clear so I do not have to look into his judgmental eyes. ‘I am not ready to be married.’