‘It’s two-dee made to look like three-dee,’ Sergei says.
‘Freaky –‘ from Hong.
We look at each other. Our avatars look like dolls. We move jerkily. We are in an abandoned street. There are signs for products I have never heard of. Avatar corpses litter the street. The dead are everywhere, silent, motionless, frozen in the act of life. We are beyond the known worlds or – the thought strikes me hard. I know this place. I saw pictures, images in old textbooks, a lost world – impossible. We are not beyond the universe, I think, we are too deep inside it. Approaching the core. This is – can only be –
South African writer Nick Wood’s short story, “Lunar Voices (On the Solar Wind)”, which won Redstone Science Fiction’s Accessible Futures Contest, is now up on their site.
A new story, “Where it Ends”, by Indian writer Swapna Kishore, this time at Strange Horizons:
I left California on Friday, not sure I would return. I was worried because Amma had summoned me home without giving any reason. Her phone call, her first contact after years of mutual silence, had yanked me out of my comfortable routine; it reminded me that people had started exchanging puzzled whispers about me, and that I needed to renew myself. I could do that when I went home. Then, after I’d finished whatever Amma wanted from me, I could decide the direction of my life. By the time I sank into my economy-class seat, three decades of my San José life wrapped up, I felt drained emotionally and mentally.
The man in the adjacent seat glared at me. An Indian like me—late fifties, bald. A wrinkled face, very familiar. Extremely familiar. Too old to be one of us. Damn. I toyed with the idea of a complete denial. Or perhaps I could be my own younger sister. Or daughter.
“Chikki,” he said.
Bhaiyya? His voice sank inside me, throwing up ripples of memories I did not want to face. I peered at him; God, he looked so old. What had gone wrong?
What could I do now? I couldn’t fool my own brother, no way. I was stuck now, in a seat next to him, for the duration of an intercontinental flight. Over the hours our rift would widen, dark with the shadow of Ronjona.
“How are you? How’s Ronjona?” I managed to squeak.
“Ronjona died.” His face was stiff.
“I . . . sorry.” Such a trite condolence, but I could think of nothing else.
“You married a Tamilian, no?” He flung it like an accusation, as if saying, See, you married an outsider yourself.
“It’s over.” Jagdeesh and I had been married for twenty years. We had lived together for two years before our incompatibility became obvious, but we continued intermittent contact over the next several years—divorce was a dirty word in his community. Our last-ditch trial to make it work, seven years ago, failed in just a couple of months. Though mutual consent had finally freed us, I found the memory of all that wasted emotion hurtful.
Silence weighed on the air between Bhaiyya and me. I wondered whether his presence was a coincidence, or whether he was heading to India to obey our mother’s summons. – continue reading.
This week’s Fantasy Magazine features a new story by Indian writer Swapna Kishore, Perhaps this is Kushi’s Story:
Elder Sister places pebbles to mark people in her sand village. She pats walls in place. She smiles in her know-it-all way as if to remind me that it is she who will marry the headman’s son and decide what our tribe does–all because she was born an hour before me. When she stands back to admire her work, I kick it in.
“Younger Sister, why?” She gives a mournful look.
“You hadn’t posted guards,” I mock. “A city is more than fields and huts and granaries.”
“Hmmm.” She flattens the sand and drags a twig to sketch a new plan, this time including watch towers. She cups her hands around moist sand to shape buildings again.
I hate it when she doesn’t fight.
She will take time to build anything worth kicking, so I turn to the Maasa river. The pebble I throw skims over the flat blue water, touching the surface once, twice, three times before it sinks. The air smells of river spray and fresh grass and ripe wheat—too peaceful for me. My dreams have soldiers flashing swords and cities full of buildings and the sounds of song and dance. In my dreams, I rule people.
My hand is moving to my bosom, as if that will stop the buzz of things I crave, when I notice Tribemother watching me. I straighten up; I do not want her to suspect anything. Tribemother’s face is so thick with wrinkles I never know when she is frowning. She must be over a hundred years old, because no one remembers her as young. They say she knows everything that can be known. They say she reads minds; at times like this, I worry it may be true.
Yet I have not done anything wrong. Not yet. – continue reading.
About the author:
Swapna Kishore lives in Bangalore, India, and writes both fiction and non-fiction. Her speculative fiction has appeared/ is forthcoming in Nature (Futures), Ideomancer, Strange Horizons, Sybil’s Garage 7, and other publications. For more about her, please visit her at http://swapnawrites.com.
A new story from fast rising Finnish star Hannu Rajaniemi, over at Subterranean Magazine – Elegy for a Young Elk:
The night after Kosonen shot the young elk, he tried to write a poem by the campfire.
It was late April and there was still snow on the ground. He had already taken to sitting outside in the evening, on a log by the fire, in the small clearing where his cabin stood. Otso was more comfortable outside, and he preferred the bear’s company to being alone. It snored loudly atop its pile of fir branches.
A wet smell that had traces of elk shit drifted from its drying fur.
He dug a soft-cover notebook and a pencil stub from his pocket. He leafed through it: most of the pages were empty. Words had become slippery, harder to catch than elk. Although not this one: careless and young. An old elk would never had let a man and a bear so close.
He scattered words on the first empty page, gripping the pencil hard.
Antlers. Sapphire antlers. No good. Frozen flames. Tree roots. Forked destinies. There had to be words that captured the moment when the crossbow kicked against his shoulder, the meaty sound of the arrow’s impact. But it was like trying to catch snowflakes in his palm. He could barely glimpse the crystal structure, and then they melted.
He closed the notebook and almost threw it into the fire, but thought better of it and put it back into his pocket. No point in wasting good paper. Besides, his last toilet roll in the outhouse would run out soon.
“Kosonen is thinking about words again,” Otso growled. “Kosonen should drink more booze. Don’t need words then. Just sleep.”
Kosonen looked at the bear. “You think you are smart, huh?” He tapped his crossbow. “Maybe it’s you who should be shooting elk.”
“Otso good at smelling. Kosonen at shooting. Both good at drinking.” Otso yawned luxuriously, revealing rows of yellow teeth. Then it rolled to its side and let out a satisfied heavy sigh. “Otso will have more booze soon.”
Maybe the bear was right. Maybe a drink was all he needed. No point in being a poet: They had already written all the poems in the world, up there, in the sky. They probably had poetry gardens. Or places where you could become words. – read the rest of the story.
Lavie Tidhar’s latest short story, “Set Down This”, has just been published in audio form at Pseudopod, read by South African voice actor Elan Russel. The story was originally published in Phantom, an anthology edited by Sean Wallace and Paul G. Tremblay.
On my brother’s computer, a video file shows an American fighter plane pinpointing a group of men in Iraq.
‘Do it?’ the pilot says.
‘Ten seconds to impact.’
Where the men have been there is a huge explosion, and black smoke covers the grainy grey streets. ‘Dude,’ the pilot says.
I have no faces and no names to put to the men. The black smoke must have contained the atoms of their flesh, their bones (though bones are hardy), vaporized sweat, burnt eyebrows and pubic hair and nose hair (unless they used a trimmer, as I do), in short, the atoms of their being. Later, I think, one could find, lying in the street, a tooth or two, the end of a finger that had somehow survived, fragments of bone, a legless shoe. These men are nothing to me. They are pixels on a screen, a peer-shared digital file uploaded from sources unknown, provenance suspect, whose only note of authenticity is that young pilot’s voice when the smoke rises and he says, quietly – ‘Dude.’
Part of what we’re trying to do with the WSNB is highlight individual short stories by international writers as they’re being published. You can click on both the 2010 stories or the short story highlight tags to see previous posts.
The latest story we wanted to turn your attention to is Somadeva: A Sky River Sutra, by Vandana Singh (you can also read our interview with her for the WSNB from a little while back). The story is published this week on Strange Horizons.
I am Somadeva.
I was once a man, a poet, a teller of tales, but I am long dead now. I lived in the eleventh century of the Common Era in northern India. Then we could only dream of that fabulous device, the udan-khatola, the ship that flies between worlds. Then, the sky-dwelling Vidyadharas were myth, occupying a reality different from our own. And the only wings I had with which to make my journeys were those of my imagination. . . .
Who or what am I now, in this age when flying between worlds is commonplace? Who brought me into being, here in this small, cramped space, with its smooth metallic surfaces, and the round window revealing an endless field of stars?
It takes me a moment to recognize Isha. She is lying in her bunk, her hair spread over the pillow, looking at me.
And then I remember the first time I woke up in this room, bewildered. Isha told me she had re-created me. She fell in love with me fifteen centuries after my death, after she read a book I wrote, an eighteen-volume compendium of folktales and legends, called the Kathāsaritsāgara: The Ocean of Streams of Story. – read the rest of the story.
Netherlands-based Filipino writer Rochita Loenen-Ruiz has a new short story up at Fantasy Magazine entitled “Hi Bugan ya Hi Kinggawan”. Here’s an excerpt:
If not for the Mama-oh’s quick actions, you would have grown up without a mother. With a bamboo tube, and a woven blanket, she captured your mother’s spirit just as it was leaving her body, and so your mother was restored to life.
Your father came to see you when he was told all was well.
He looked at you, and he looked at your mother, then he took you in his arms and he gave you your name.
“We will call her Bugan,” he said.
“A wise choice,” the Mama-oh replied. “The Sky Goddess will be pleased.”
The old woman in the grocery store stares at the floor and doesn’t look up. She examines the date printed on a chunk of cheese, and her hand shakes. She turns around, drops the cheese into one of the two carts nearby. It’s the wrong cart, and a small child sees the cheese fall, then hit a pack of frozen chicken legs. There’s a terrible tearing noise, and the old woman is split in two. Blood and stomach and intestines spray all over the place, and then there’s a gargling noise, and then silence.
Everyone ignores this, keeping their heads down.
Except for the little boy, who’s waiting patiently with his mother in the line in front of the cash register. He still doesn’t understand the need to lower your head. His mother covers his ears and eyes with her hands, but it’s too late.
From somewhere in the air comes the sound of beating wings. – read the rest of the story.