When you are such a small team, there’s no room for the slack. We’ve had a delay in releasing due to an illness, and we apologise for any inconvenience or the delay of the thrill of publication for our authors. Both the publisher Gerry and I know that delight, so we empathise.
We welcome you to Edition 27 and a collection of excellent stories. There’s names that our readers might recognise in our line-up. Russell Hemmell brings us relentless alien mercenaries in Green is the Colour of Doom. Rue Karney is making a name for herself in the Australian speculative fiction community and appears here in the delicious fantasy The Butterfly Pie. Well-known horror name Patrick Freivald darkens an attic doorway in Splinter, making sure no one will ever look at an oak in the same way again. We welcome Ryan Cage and his first publication with the excellent sci-fi, Evie and Zeke. Always a soft spot for the robot survival story. Finally we finish with Austin Hackney’s steampunk, The Wrangler, a reminder that the revolution rarely is bloodless. Read the rest of this entry
Reviewed by Lee Murray
Shared-world anthologies—stories by multiple authors writing in a single universe—are difficult to get right. They require a collective mind-set and a sometimes lengthy collaborative process to develop the world building in a way that resonates for all the book’s players. Max Booth III, the editor of shared-world anthology Truth or Dare explains: “if you want to put together a shared-world anthology, please take your time. Know your universe in and out. Every crack, every pebble. Every buried corpse in the local graveyard. Every haunted house and every cannibalistic witch.” (Lit Reactor, December 2014) But done right, shared world-writing can be an innovative and exciting experience for participants as fantasy superstar George R.R. Martin describes: “writers work together, bouncing off of one another and reacting to each other’s stories and characters like a group of talented musicians jamming…” (Tor.com, June 2011). Read the rest of this entry
Anna loves her garden, and the little tasty treats that are gratis for her lovely fresh herbs. The discovery of a purple spot on her finger leads her down a path where her two loves drop her in deep trouble. Rue Karney’s dark little fantasy will have us all questioning what’s in a name. SY
Anna squatted in the herb garden, secateurs in hand, and snipped off the head of each grasshopper she spied. Among the glossy leaves of basil and parsley, she cut off small green heads with tiny black eyes. Between the pale sage and dark, woody thyme, she chopped through green necks and sliced off plump-winged bodies until, through the shades of green, a bright purple spot caught her eye. She spread the secateurs’ curved blades open. She peered closer. The purple spot did not move or squirm or wriggle. It did not sprout wings and fly away. It did not belong to a garden predator.
It belonged to her.
The purple spot was small and perfectly round. It sat on her finger like a faceted jewel, perched in the centre of the flesh of her middle finger, between the knuckle and the joint. Anna twisted her hand, turning it this way and that, and contemplated drawing a line around her finger, circling the purple spot in gold felt-tip pen. Perhaps she’d flash it around like an antique heirloom at work, give the other nurses a giggle.
She picked a caterpillar off the underside of a half-chewed basil leaf. ‘Bloody pests.’
She squished the grub. Pale green caterpillar flesh oozed out between her fingertips. She wiped it on her gardening apron and searched for more.
Brutally stripped from her place in the forest, the oak remembers. As she feels the call of new life, she takes steps to return her life. Patrick Freivald strips back our love of wood and shows us the horror of our consumption, and the consequences. SY
She remembered the men, the saws and the smoke and screaming agony and bleeding sap. She remembered the darkness, when they took her and stripped her and killed her and shaved her down to cruel planks. She remembered the darkness, the tepid warehouse harsher than any winter, and the brief kiss of sunlight before her imprisonment.
But she didn’t remember before. The dappled sunlight through the forest, squirrels scrambling through her boughs, the deer resting in her shade, the rabbit warren under her roots. She knew these things, but she couldn’t recall them.
Brutal geometry stole her form, a giant kiln her essence, mankind her purpose. Jagged steel screws bound her to dead sisters, gave her a form both alien and hostile. Wrapped in cold vinyl and fiberglass and sheetrock, she hardened, stiffened, became as bone to this new thing, this monstrosity, this structure. Eyes of glass saw nothing but her sisters’ torture, and concrete roots drew no water to slake her thirst. Read the rest of this entry
Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
After the decimation of the original twelve antivirals, The City of Mirrors continues hot on the heels of the settling dust. Read the rest of this entry
Evie will not move on without Zeke, her companion. As she works she remembers their time together, the circumstances that lead to Zeke’s accident. Ryan Cage’s sad little science fiction, reminiscent of other robots we might have seen before, reminds us all of the need for companionship, for help. – SY
“Hello, anybody in there?” she asked through the swirling sandstorm, well aware that there would likely be no answer.
The robot’s optical sensors were dark and its chassis, leaned up against the remnants of a building, was covered in dried oil and hydraulic fluid. It fit the model she was looking for, so in a way she was hoping it would not answer. But it would have been nice to have someone else to talk to.
After a few more minutes, when the bot’s eyes and body failed to fire to life, she set about her grim work, eventually finding what she was looking for near the base of the spine of the robot. It was a small gyro, about the size of a golf ball. But that little ball signified five years of scavenging. Storing it away, she made for home.
Home was once an automotive repair garage, complete with a large worktable, a car lift, and a grand litany of power tools. Granted, the tools nor the lift worked, but the large table had its uses. Approaching it, she withdrew the gyro and sat it down softly next to a pile of mechanical pieces and spools of wiring—one of the last pieces in the most vital of puzzles. Read the rest of this entry
Reviewed by Mysti Parker
Just when I thought familiar paranormal tropes couldn’t result in a unique story, Holly Messinger proved me wrong. This beginning to a series (though it’s not clear as on the cover) takes us back to the Old West, to cowboys, horses, ghosts and werewolves. Oh my. And even with these common elements, the rich tale woven around them makes it one interesting historical paranormal read.
The story begins in 1880 in St. Louis, when Civil War veteran and former almost-priest Jacob Tracy responds to a summons from a Miss Fairweather. He and his partner, Boz, normally work odd jobs like escorting supply lines out west, but there’s not much work to be had. Miss Fairweather promises some good pay for what seems like a very simple fetch and deliver task for a little trinket box she’s inherited from a deceased friend.
Those on top have always used their big, fancy boots to stamp downwards. No change to the status quo is bloodless and the Bollingers have landed right in the middle of the trouble. Austin Hackney’s bloody steampunk will have anyone looking over their shoulder. SY
The noise of galvanized horses and the stink of engine oil had stuffed Sam Garrick’s ears and nostrils since as long as he could remember. His uncle had taught him wrangling. But his uncle was bone-rot now and the work was his.
He grinned. Saliva glistened on his rotting teeth. He spat tar-black tobacco spit onto the engine, watching it sizzle.
“A bit o’ flesh-slicing an’ death-dealing,” he said, relishing the words. “That’s what it’s time for. Engine’s good, horses are hot and it’s time.”
Sam’s calloused hands hovered over a rack of blades. The pain in his swollen knuckles bothered him and he cursed to make a whore blush. He selected a thin blade, testing it on his tongue, lightly, and tasting blood. Satisfied, he slipped the blade into its sheath.
He opened the steam valve, cranked back the release lever and let out a manic cry. The fly-wheel screamed into action. The horses clanked and clattered into mechanical life, hot steam spurting from their nostrils. Read the rest of this entry
Reviewed by Damien Smith
Apocalypse Machine is the latest Kaiju Thriller option from Jeremy Robinson, who I initially discovered through reviewing SNAFU: Survival of the Fittest. Read the rest of this entry