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Speculative Fiction from Around the World

Short Story Highlight: “Unathi Battles The Black Hairballs” by Lauren Beukes

South African author, winner of the recent Clarke Award,  Lauren Beukes‘ new story, “Unathi Battles The Black Hairballs” (originally published in South African anthology Home Away in 2010) is now available to read online at SFX Magazine:

Unathi was singing karaoke when the creature attacked Tokyo. Or rather, she was about to sing karaoke. Was, in fact, about to be the very first person in Shibuya’s Big Echo to break in the newly uploaded Britney come-back hip-hop remix of the Spice Girls’ classic ‘Tell Me What You Want (What You Really Really Want)’.

It was, admittedly, early in the day to be breaking out the microphone, but Unathi was on shore leave, and the truth was that she and the rest of Saiko Squadron weren’t up early so much as they were still going from last night, lubricated on a slick of sake that ran from here to Tokohama.

Unathi stepped up onto the table in their private booth, briefly giving her madoda a flash of white briefs under her pleated miniskirt. When she was on duty as Flight Sergeant of the squadron, she kept strictly to her maroon and grey flightsuit or the casual comfort of her military-issue tracksuit.

In her private life, however, Unathi tended to be outrageous. Back in Johannesburg, before she’d been recruited to the most elite mecha squadron on the planet, she hung out at 44 Stanley and Newtown, where she’d been amakipkip to the max. Named for the cheap multicoloured popcorn, the neo-pantsula gangster-punk aesthetic had her pairing purple skin-tight jeans with eye-bleeding oranges and greens, and a pair of leopard-print heels, together with her Mohawk, added five inches to her petite frame.

In her newly adopted home, she tended towards Punk Lolita. And not some Gwen Stefani Harajuku-wannabe Lolipunk either. In civvies, she wore a schoolgirl skirt cut from an antique kimono that had survived the bombing of Hiroshima according to the garment dealer’s providence and she’d grown her hair out into little twists that were more combat-friendly than her Mohawk. But the highlight of her look was a pair of knee-high white patent combat boots made from the penis leather of a whale she had slaughtered herself. – continue reading!

July 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Short Story Highlight: “Eyes of Carven Emerald” by Shweta Narayan

SF Signal have posted Indian writer Shweta Narayan‘s story, Eyes of Carven Emerald, from the anthology Clockwork Phoenix 3:

Sunrise glinted bloody on giant tumbles of statue; it edged the palace beyond with blood.

A limestone arm, severed elbow to thumb, came almost up to Alexandros’ waist. Fingers thick as logs lay scattered behind it. Sunrise glimmered in the statue’s blank, rain-filled eyes and trickled down the pitted stone cheek. So too would Dareios of Persia have fallen, had the coward not fled.

But the statue had been a symbol of Persia’s might; it could serve Alexandros’ purpose well enough. “Leave it,” he said, turning away. To his general Kleitos’ raised eyebrows he added, “They will see our victory in it.”

“But…” Kleitos shook his head. “Basileu, it had nothing to do with our victory. We simply outnumbered—”

“It trembled in fear of our coming, and fell at the taste of defeat.”

“It did?”

“They will see it so.” As they saw him, more clearly with every city he took, as unstoppable. With Egypt, with all the length of Persia’s royal road, and now even Persepolis in Alexandros’ power, Dareios knew he fought a losing war, and his knowing made it so.

Which was as it should be. And yet . . .

“As you say.” Kleitos’ voice held little understanding and less curiosity; like most of the men, he fought only for land. Alexandros bit back irritation and wished once more that he had Hephaistion at his side. At his side, on the field, in his bed; but his reasons were the same ones that had sent Hephaistion, not Kleitos, back to Babylon to quell an uprising.

He said, “Call it a reminder.”

“And of course they will need that reminder, Basileu,” said a woman’s voice, “because you and your restless army will move on.”

He spun, hand going to his sword; felt Kleitos brush by. A piece of the statue’s crown shifted. It spread wings and hopped with a whirr of gears onto the nose. Its feathers were tarnished bronze, blurred with age, and it had human hands instead of claws. Not sharp. Little chance they would be poisoned. Keeping an eye on the beak for darts, Alexandros said, “Of course. Persepolis could not hold me, not with half the world yet to see.”

“And conquer.”

He lifted a shoulder, not bothering to respond to the obvious. “Do Persian automata generally speak to kings without offering so much as a name?”

“I wouldn’t know,” said the bird. “Those creaking parodies aren’t worth my words.”

Alexandros’ eyes narrowed with the first glimmerings of interest. What might this mechanism be, if not Persian? Surely not Northern barbarian work; it was too fine, though it wore around its neck a ring of shining gold, as they did. It looked old, but shifted without noise or stiffness. And it spoke Greek like a Persian; badly, but with meaning beneath the words.

And that last mystery implied a challenge worth taking. Alexandros said, “To whom do you belong? A king who is long dead, it would seem, or else one who neglects you.”

The bird rustled its feathers. “The last king who tried to own me died of slow poison while his city burned.”

“A queen, then.”

A rapid, ratcheting click, and the wings rose. Kleitos stepped in front of Alexandros, arm up. Alexandros put his own hand on the arm and said, “Do you mean me harm, bird?”

“Not yet, King of Asia.” The wings came slowly down. “But keep trying to weight me down with an owner, and I might. I had heard the Greeks were barely civilized, but I had expected better from a student of Aristoteles.”

“And not from a son of Zeus-Amun?” said Alexandros around a surge of anger. To dismiss one the Oracle had named half-divine as a mere student—

The bird laughed, a strangely human sound. – continue reading.

February 10, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Short Story Highlight: “Monsters” by Lavie Tidhar, at Fantasy Magazine

Lavie Tidhar’s latest short story is online: Monsters, published at Fantasy Magazine.

I first ate a man when I was eight years old. In the history of humanity, cannibalism is more common than you might think. Rather than the mark of a savage, as several rising civilizations on the continent of Europe tried to make it, eating another person’s flesh is a mark of the outmost respect. On the islands, people ate people for centuries. Later, we learned to talk of the devel I kakai man, the cannibal spirit—the word devel comes to us from the English devil, brought over by the missionaries along with bibles and guns. But one does not eat another human being out of anger, or greed. One, rather, eats from respect. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust is a lie, brought to us but never truly believed. We believe in renewal, and a man’s remains, once digested, will then in turn feed the trees in a man’s garden. The mango you bite into has been fertilised with the bodies of those who tended and ate from it before.

But I digress. – read the full story.

 

October 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Comments Off

Introducing Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud

French author Georges-Olivier Chateaureynaud has a new story, The Excursion (translated by Edward Gauvin) online at Joyland. Chateaureynaud is one of the leading French writers of fantastic fiction, and his first collection in English, A Life on Paper: Stories has recently been published by Small Beer Press. The book contains 22 stories, and is translated by Edward Gauvin.

Here is a long – and fascinating – interview with Edward Gauvin.

On Chateaureynaud:

I think it highly unlikely any English speaker would have heard of him before Words Without Borders published “Delaunay the Broker” in 2005. I can count on one hand the number of times his name appears in an English language publication before that: World Literature Today, the French Review, the Times Literary Supplement, andPaths to Contemporary French Literature (the latter two both in articles written by John Taylor). He had no Wikipedia entry in English, which is a contemporary standard for anonymity.

Even after “Delaunay,” Châteaureynaud appeared mostly in literary journals that don’t attract the attention of a wide or genre audience. It wasn’t till “Icarus Saved from the Skies” got picked up by F&SF that I think he got some attention in the blogosphere. He’s been translated into thirteen other languages, but in many ways English remains the gateway language. I hope that with this book, his presence in English and elsewhere is just beginning.

On French SF:

French sf is still probably best known for kicking off sf way back with Jules Verne. There’s a very specific French sf tradition—like Andrevon, Klein, Wul, Pelot, Ayerdhal, Dunyach, writers all to be found in various English anthologies—that arguably grows out of Barjavel, France’s Bradbury. This is more sf as we American readers think of it—space travel, apocalypse, alien races—though arguably the themes are less technological and more hard-humanities.

The fantastic, as differentiated from fantasy in general, is a very specific vein born of the transition from Romantic to Modern. In Tzvetan Todorov’s famous formulation, the fantastical tale forces the reader’s hesitation between natural (psychological) and supernatural (marvelous) explanations for the apparently impossible events that befall its protagonist. The genre is thus usually said to lie between the marvelous (fairy and folk tales, magical creatures, secondary worlds) and psychological suspense. Poe and Hoffmann are among the early practitioners whose work laid the foundations for the genre.

Here are biographical notes on both author and translator:

Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud is the author of nine novels, two young adult novels, and over one hundred short stories. Despite a lifelong fear of flying, he has been to Peru—his only time on a plane—and lived to pen a travel memoir about the experience. He is the recipient of the prestigious Prix Renaudot, Prix Goncourt de la nouvelle (for short stories), Prix Giono, Prix Valéry Larbaud, and the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. His work has been translated into fourteen languages.

Born in Paris in 1947, Châteaureynaud was a solitary child who became a voracious and unprejudiced reader, ingesting Treasure Island as avidly as Lady Chatterley’s Lover.He studied English at the Sorbonne, discovering Stevenson, Shelley, Stoker, and Wells, and later took a degree in library science from the École Nationale Supérieure des Bibliothèques. In 1968, he embarked on a series of odd jobs—including antiques dealer and auto assembly line laborer—that comprised, in his words, an “apprenticeship in human nature,” cementing his sympathy for the marginal, outcast figures who would become his luckless, well-meaning, Everyman heroes and narrators. Grasset published his first collection in 1973, Le fou dans la chaloupe.

With novelist Hubert Haddad, and fellow Goncourt winners Frédéric Tristan and sinologist Jean Lévi, Châteaureynaud is a founding member of the contemporary movement La Nouvelle Fiction: “New” because it rose up against the prevailingly minimalist and confessional tendencies (autofiction) of recent French writing, seeking to rouse it from what critic Jean-Luc Moreau called “the slumber of psychological realism,” and to restore myth, fable, and fairy tale to a place of primacy in fiction.

In 1983 and 1990, Châteaureynaud was a representative of the Foreign Services Ministry to Quebec and then to Greece. He has been consistently involved with the Centre National du Livre and the SGDL (Société des Gens de Lettres de France). He plays an active part in fostering new talent, serving on the juries of such diverse prizes as the Fondation BNP-Paribas Young Writers Award, the international Prix Prométhée de la nouvelle, the Prix Renaudot, and the Prix Renaissance. Châteaureynaud sees his enthusiastic participation in these institutions as a way of repaying the literary community that has allowed him the luxury of dedication to his craft. An Officier des Arts et Lettres of France, he is currently the editorial director of foreign literature at Editions Dumerchez. In 2006, he was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.

Edward Gauvin has published Châteaureynaud’s work in AGNI OnlineThe Southern Review, ConjunctionsHarvard Review, Words Without BordersLCRW, Postscripts, Epiphany, The Café Irreal, Eleven Eleven, Sentence, and The Brooklyn Rail. A graduate of the Iowa Workshop, he has received a Fulbright grant as well as fellowships from the Centre National du Livre, the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) and the Clarion Foundation and residencies from the Maison des Écritures Midi-Pyrénées, Ledig House, and the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. Other translations of his have been featured or are forthcoming in PEN America, Tin House, Interfictions 2, Subtropics, Silk Road, Two Lines, and Absinthe. A consulting editor for graphic literature at Words Without Borders, he translates comics for Archaia, First Second, and Tokyopop. He has lived in Austin, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, New York, Taipei, and Amiens, France.

And here are some more free short stories by Chateaureynaud!

“Châteaureynaud’s stories are disorienting, bizarre, mythical. The stories don’t end with epiphanies or a tidy wrapping-up. Some of the endings are abrupt, even unsatisfying; they feel more like a beginning. So what? A Life on Paper is fantastic in both meanings: it’s fantastic, as in strange, unreal, weird, imaginary; and it’s fantastic, as in absolutely fucking awesome. People will call A Life on Paper magical realism. A few will call it irrealism. I don’t care what you call it. I just want you to read it.”
Bookslut

October 19, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Issue 2 of Basement Stories released

New e-zine Basement Stories has released its second issue, featuring international contributors Lavie Tidhar (Covenant), Eliza Victoria (Philippines, Incidental Light) and RJ Astruc (New Zealand) & BV Czopyk (Propagation).

October 17, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Comments Off

Short Story Highlight: “Salvaging Gods” by Jacques Barcia

The latest issue of Clarkesworld Magazine features none other than Brazilian writer Jacques Barcia, with his first – but hopefully not last! – story there, Salvaging Gods.

Gorette found her second godhead buried under piles of plastic bottles, holy symbols, used toilet paper and the severed face of an avatar. No matter how much the scavengers asked, the people from Theodora just wouldn’t separate organic from non-biodegradable, from divine garbage. They threw out their used up gods along with what was left of their meals, their burnt lamps, broken refrigerators, tires, stillborn babies and books of prayer in the trash can. And when the convoys carrying society’s leftovers passed through the town’s gates, some lazy bureaucrat would mark in a spreadsheet that another mountain was raised in that municipal sanitary landfill, the Valley of the Nephilim. And to hell with the consequences.

Her father says no dead god is dead enough that it can’t be remade on our own image. The old man can spend hours rambling about over-consumption, the gnostic crisis, the impact of all those mystical residues poisoning the soil and the underground streams, how children are born malformed and prone to mediunity, and how unfair it is that only the rich have access to miracles. People will do what’s more comfortable, not what’s best for everyone, he’d finally say. It’s far easier to buy new deities than try to reuse them. So he taught her how to recycle old gods and turn them into new ones, mostly, she believed, because he wanted to make a difference. Or maybe because he was the one true atheist left in the world.

It was a small one, that godhead, and not in a very good shape. Pale silver, dusty, scratched surface and glowing only slightly underneath the junk. At best, thought Gorette, it’d have only a few hundred lines of code she’d be able to salvage. Combined with some fine statues and pieces of altars she’d found early that morning, perhaps she’d be able to assemble one or two more deities to the community’s public temple at Saint Martin. The neighborhood she was raised in had only recently been urbanized, so that meant the place was not officially a slum anymore. But still, miracles were quite a phenomenon down in the suburbs.

“Hey, daddy. Found another one,” Gorette said, covering her eyes from the burning light of midday. “Can we go home now, please?”

The egg-shaped thing had the pulse of a dying heart, and fitted almost perfectly in her adolescent hand. So she arranged a place for it amongst the relics in her backpack, inside the folds of a ragged piece of loincloth, and into a beaten up thurible where it’d be safe enough to survive the hour-long ride back to the city.

Her father stood next to a marble totem, sweeping the field with a kirlian detector. The pillar was part of a discarded surround-sound system with speakers the size of his chest, and served as a landmark to the many scavengers exploring the waste dump. When he heard her daughter calling him, he took his gas mask off and said “That depends,” his low-toned voice coming like a sigh, tired. “Do you think this will do? We’re running out of code and there are many open projects in the lab.” – continue reading!

October 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Short Story Highlight: “Last Days” by Dave Chua

The latest issue of Chizine is now online, including a story from Singaporean writer Dave Chua, Last Days.

Ted’s car stalled at the top of the hill and rolled back into the clambering mass. We could hear his car honking and one of the neighbours told him to shut up.

Simon was trapped in the exercise room of the condo. He called to say goodbye and to forget the fifty dollars I owed him, but told me if I had paid him back he would have bought that Bowflex for his living room. He hung up saying he had other people to call and I wasn’t the last person he wanted to talk to.

I took the family photograph from the mantelpiece, so I could remember the boys as they were. Curious and kind, not like the last Thanksgiving; rebellious and stuck to their video games and mobile phones, unwilling to help their me in the lawn or their mom in the kitchen unless threatened with having their allowance or tuition fees docked.

We waited for Carl to call but he didn’t. We couldn’t get through to his phone.

We were thankful for a car with good MPG, even if the bumper dragged.

Jo said They couldn’t keep on walking like this without food. They had to have something to feed on. I asked him if he knew for sure They didn’t feed on each other in desperation.

You slept against my shoulder, tears still flowing from your eyes.

Max our cat kept silent for the journey. He didn’t even meow. He just looked tired.

We saw a helicopter fly past and when we waved and shouted at them it came back spraying bullets. Jo said the pilot was smoking cigars.

The 12-car pileup at the highway was a trap.

Stay together, Jo said. Always stick together. – continue reading.

October 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Comments Off

Short Story Highlight: “Generation E” by Guy Hasson

Several story highlights in the coming week, beginning with Israeli author Guy Hasson‘s latest: Generation E: The Emoticon Generation, over at Midnight East.

Six months ago, I snuck into my fifteen-year-old daughter’s room when she was asleep, ‘borrowed’ her iPhone, and started checking up on everything she’s been up to.
It was late at night, and I’d just seen Brian Williams profile pedophiles on the web. They’re out there, talking to teenagers anonymously, luring them away from their computers and into meetings in the physical world. Parents have no idea what their teenagers are doing on the web. And, yes, Williams gave us the money line, “Do you know what your kids are up to?”
The path from there to exercising my parental right to violate my daughter’s underage privacy was short: five minutes, all told.
Here’s what I discovered. For the last two weeks she has been getting literally tens of thousands of different-colored exclamation marks and tens of thousands of little moon-shaped icons on her iPhone from almost all her contacts. Thousands of the moon icons were half-moons, thousands were quarter-moons, thousands more were eighth-moons, and the rest were even smaller than that. At the same time, she had been sending the same enigmatic moon icons and strangely-colored exclamation marks back to almost all her contacts. By. The. Tens. Of. Thousands.
Do you know what the moon icons mean or why exclamation marks have colors? I certainly didn’t. – continue reading.

Meshuggener Smiley created by Refael Chalfine for Generation E.

October 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Comments Off

Short Story Highlight: “Logovore” by Joseph Nacino, at Fantasy Magazine

The latest story at Fantasy Magazine is Logovore, by Filipino writer Joseph F. Nacino:

He lives on words.

Literally, he eats them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes he has them for snacks too.

For example, the word “effervescent’” is a tasty morsel, a bit on the spicy side with a light tinge of sweetness. Or the words “cavalcade” and “arboretum” are good together, the former’s saltiness combining well with the basil after-taste of the latter. He loves the feel of words on his tongue before he swallows them.

Of course, he eats and drinks what other people do. No point in letting others see what you really are. Like now, sitting with his fellow college English teachers from Ateneo de Manila University at a bar along Katipunan Avenue—he is drinking San Mig Light beer and eating appetizers like sisig and tokwa’t baboy while exchanging gossip.

It’s fun, sometimes. Sometimes being the operative word, of course.

So Cherie goes and tells him to pass the varsity player even after he drops all his classes.

No shit! Well, what did he expect?

Yeah. It’s all about winning, I know. What I hate is if you get on Cherie’s bad side. She can be a real nasty bitch when she puts her mind to it.

He can’t resist now and then snatching words around him. For example, a couple is talking dirty to each other at a nearby table. Words like “torrid” and “climax” are aphrodisiac to him—until someone says “orgasmatory” and he loses all appetite.

New words always leave a bad taste in his mouth.

I still don’t get what the new program is all about.

Me, all I understand is that I’m overloaded with students clamoring for classes.

You’re overloaded? Almost all my subjects have been cancelled because there haven’t been enough students!

He wonders if there are others like him. Others who share his preference. Are there others who like the taste of Cyrillic? French? Or even a dialect like Bisaya with its hard words like “kadyot” or “pesteng yawa”?

That’s one way he eats. The other is a bit. . . noticeable.

Fuck!

What’s the problem?

I’m trying to remember this poem by Neruda. But there’s this word at the tip of my tongue that I can’t. . . Aggh!

He smiles at the taste blossoming on his tongue, like a claret of good wine, dry and sharp like blood: “melancholy”.

Hey Kathy! Over here!

It’s at that moment that Kathy walks into his life. – continue reading.

September 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Comments Off

Short Story Highlight: “Bloodlines” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, at Fantasy Magazine

Mexican writer Silvia Moreno-Garcia‘s latest story, Bloodlines, is now up at Fantasy Magazine:

Elena flipped the picture of San Antonio de Padua on its head and placed thirteen coins before him. She split a coconut, bathed it in perfume and whispered his name. When neither worked, she phoned Mario. Five minutes later she was yelling at the receiver. My mother was shaking her head.

“She should have given him her menstrual blood to drink. Now there’s no way she’ll bind him. He’s out of love.”

“But they’ve had fights before. He’ll come back to beg her forgiveness before next week,” I said, and wished it true even though my wishes don’t count.

“Not this time.”

“Maybe there’s something you could do.”

“Ha,” my mother said.

The screaming stopped. Elena stomped through the living room and went to her room, slamming the door so hard San Antonio’s portrait fell to the ground and cracked. – continue reading.

September 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Comments Off

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