Reviewed by Sophie Yorkston
Stephen Hunt’s novel, The Court of the Air, is set in a steampunk world built on gas and steam with a very Victorian flavour. It is the first in a series set in this world, beginning with this novel in 2007. The latest, From the Deep of the Dark, was published in February 2012.
There is very old magic in Africa that only the isangoma know. Lloyd, in his quest for science, discovers viruses can create astounding influence when used in a particular way. Lloyd’s work begins in pure curiosity, but even the best of intentions can be perverted. SY
Before the NASDAQ and the dollar; before the Dutch took their first wind; before credit, paper, gold; this currency was traded and it was old even then.
In Africa, a ten dollar bill as the last page in your passport will get you across a border, but it will not sway the darkness. The original darkness. That one that was on the face of the abyss, at the beginning of all of this; for that entity, there is only one thing with which to trade. Now a goat’s blood will suffice as the price to remove a wart, or cure cramps. But for the big ticket items, for life or wealth, love or freedom, it won’t be a goat bleeding at your feet. The price takes the form of an organ. A small piece of someone. And that object, the soft tissue in itself is not the issue, but rather the act, the means, the bleeding. As was the lesson taught to Shakespeare’s merchant.
After donating his great story “Creeper” to us for SQ Mag 2, we got to pick Daniel’s brains on his career, horror, association membership and what editors are looking for in a story. SY
Interview by Sophie Yorkston
SQ: How long have you been writing horror and what was your first successful breakthrough?
DIR: I started writing in 2004, beginning with short stories that developed into novels. While I’ve not been as prolific as perhaps I could have been, I feel I’ve been pretty constant throughout that time, with something always on the go be it my own stories or editing the work of others.
To raise his station, Nigel Taylor takes to the stars with the army. He returns a glorious hero, lauded by his countrymen. But will it win him the hand of the woman he loves or were his discoveries for naught? Many thanks to Gerry for donating this story, as we would love more steampunk, but we have not caught the attention of the market yet. SY
Three weeks following her return journey through the Alpha Centauri halo, the HMES Indomitable entered the Earth’s atmosphere. Slowly and precisely she exposed her antigravity coils, causing a reduction in the rate of her descent, allowing the ether ship to gracefully approach terra firma. The London-Berkshire region was covered in slate-grey rain clouds; the moisture gathered and glistened on the teakwood and brass finish of the giant ship in her approach for landing. Many of the Indomitable’s thick, glass portholes contained eager faces peering through them.
The giant conical ship silently descended towards the drenched green fields of the Sandhurst Military Etherdrome, her eight landing pads impressed upon the grass with a heavy thud. As the enormous weight of the ship settled on the pads, and the thick steel springs absorbed its enormous kinetic energy, the antigravity coils were fully covered with lead shielding, followed by the shutting down of power systems.
We had the opportunity to get to know Jay Lake a bit better, and we really appreciate him taking the time to chat to us. We talk about steampunk, writing and his brave battle with cancer. SY
Interview by Sophie Yorkston
SQ: Jay, you have written many steampunk stories and several of your novels are based on a clockwork world you created. What would you say are the strengths of this genre and why do you enjoy writing it?
JL: The great strength of steampunk as a genre is that it is hugely entertaining, and likewise it is nearly purely entertainment. Steampunk isn’t on a mission, doesn’t have a manifesto, and in my opinion doesn’t really even qualify as a literary movement in any deep sense. It’s a style, or a skin. So where cyberpunk, for example, was infused with cultural critique, and the New Wave was infused with political critique, steampunk is just messing around for the sheer joy of the thing. That’s precisely why I love writing it.
A great science fiction short by renowned writer Jay Lake. The women of the world once lived among the stars, but have been worn low by their unwanted masters. Their stories tell them their way back, but do they have the strength and knowledge to make their way back. SY
We work the ship mines like our mommas did before us. After we’re gone, our girls and grandgirls will be at their turns. We break our backs, a line of women stretching far across the fallen years, to keep something alive under the evil that lives in the night sky.
That something is hope.
Franklin’s final attempt at bringing his daughter back to life occurred on a steamy August night in Montana in a cave with a group of Satanists. He had reservations about people who claimed to follow the Devil, but God, if he existed, obviously took a big dump on Franklin when he took Grace away.
He watched with detached interest as Torquemada, the leader of these weirdos, plunged his short sword into a living goat’s flesh repeatedly while his followers chanted in what sounded like Latin; probably demon’s name or something ridiculous like that.
Torquemada lifted the dagger, now caked with the goat’s blood and chunks of its organs, and walked over to the pentagram he and his followers spent two days drawing on the cave floor.
Franklin’s mind screamed this was wrong, that it was time to let Grace go.
The tree was over two thousand years old, the oldest, Obasan had told her, on the island of Honshu, perhaps in all of Japan. Its smooth, ashen trunk was as wide as Obasan’s house, its crown so high Saki had to jerk her head far back in her wheelchair to see it through the leaf canopy of the surrounding Bodhis.
When Obasan had first shown Saki the old tree, they had approached it from the cliff side. Now alone, Saki reassured herself that the ascent up the slope had not been too steep. Obasan had followed behind her, her hands on the back handles of the chair only a precaution as Saki deftly maneuvered her power chair by means of the sip-and-puff mouthstick specially designed by her father’s colleague at the observatory. She could make the trip on her own and get back before Obasan noticed she had gone, in plenty of time to welcome her father home after his year away, in time to enjoy her birthday dinner, the last dinner, if the announcement were true, they or anyone else was ever to have.
As she sat facing the door that stood in the back of the kitchen, a droplet of sweat curled down Saki’s cheek, settling just to the right of the corner of her mouth. She stretched and twisted her tongue to lick it off. It was hot late this afternoon and would only get hotter as the evening pressed on. More sweat would pour down her face and into her eyes and mouth, and there would be nothing she could do about it. She would just have to push through.
Reviewed by Mysti Parker
I have an unspoken rule when it comes to reading, and that is to reserve judgment on a book until I’ve reached the end. There are exceptions if a story is so atrocious I cannot stomach another page. Generally, though, the rule applies to books that give me mixed feelings from early on and leave me wondering (and worrying) how I’ll feel at the end. Such was the case with the first book of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy.
We are pleased to have this short from Gary McMahon, a successful dark horror writer from the UK. This story deals with what it means to do what others do because it is fashionable, but how you may not realise what it meant to you to begin with. Enjoy! SY
When my wife came back from the hospital with Toy, it took us both a short time to adjust to the changes in our routine.
I remember the day well. I was sitting in the conservatory, reading the daily news on my laptop, when I heard her come through the front door. I could sense the change immediately; there was something different about the air as she moved through it.
“I’m back,” she said, making a bit of a racket in the dining room behind me.