Over at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, yet another story by this young author from Thailand, The Crows Her Dragon’s Gate:
Before the end there would be love-songs to a passion so fierce that the offspring of my body turned into suns; tales of our courtship a wildfire that scorched the world.
The annals of heavens may not always be trusted. They were texts carefully edited, passed to chosen scholars; it did well to remind the warlords—and once empire dreams had come true, the monarchs calling themselves heaven’s sons—that above them reigned paradise, and above paradise an everlasting emperor.
Much was elided and confused. But in the beginning, it was mostly that I was young.
The Huang He was new, freshly disgorged from a dragon’s gullet, brimming with stomach-lizards and fish with scales thick as lamellar. The heat drew me, as it too must have drawn him. And so I found Dijun by the banks with knees drawn up like a boy, gazing into the waters. In his palms flame detonated into monsters that cavorted to the edge of his nails and spilled onto the grass, turning green to black-brown.
I measured and watched him through the frame of my hands. What did I know of him then? That he was an oddity, not unlike me; that he was without a place at court, without sworn brothers earned through blood and fire. A lack that left him wifeless, for all that women gazed upon him as they would on rare silverwork. They would glance at him, and sigh a little, and look away. Untitled and unpositioned, what husband could he make?
I did not think of positions or titles.
He noticed my approach, and his smile intrigued me, for aesthetically it was most pleasing. Being young I mistook this for something else; being young I thought beauty was all there was.
“Would you like to try?” He held out his hand, where many-eyed beasts spun through their deaths and rebirths, purer each time, finer with each cycle.
“How did you know?”
“Your shadow moves on its own even when heaven’s light stands still. Like calls to like.” Dijun hesitated. “And I find I cannot look away from your radiance.”
I inclined my head. Men offered flattery; women accepted with poise. That was the way of things. – continue reading!
The latest issue of Clarkesworld Magazine is headlined by new Thai author Benjanun Sriduangkaew, with “Annex”:
On the eve of Samutthewi’s entry into the Costeya Hegemony, Esithu was sloughing off the shell of their birth-body. There would be speculation afterward what Esithu was born as—someone’s son, someone’s daughter? To that Esithu would always say, “I was born as I am now,” which became a stretch after Esithu obtained a second then a third body. A hardware upgrade, they liked to say. You can never have too many.
That was much later.
Esithu was a creature of solitude but, afflicted with being so new in a world so old, they found themselves craving company.
This close to the heels of conquest, sedition was a rife, busy game, and it drew Esithu as war drew soldiers. They came to it—or it came to them—in a little club on the outskirts of Vithansuthi, the city in which everything happened.
On the walls, flowers fought and devoured each other, mouth-tipped stamens tessellating in choral fury. Onstage a dancer moved in simpatico, mercury limbs shimmering silver, a body of animated liquid.
“It is said,” Esithu’s table companion began, a non-sequitur to follow a conversation they never started, “that the universe was sung into being by a divine androgyne.”
At that point Esithu was not yet acquainted with quantum theories, though even further along in life they would find said theories little more than superstition. Blunt, they asked, “Are you some sort of evangelist?”
The woman’s eyes glittered. Her sclera and irises were hidden behind compound lenses, all ruby facets. “Truth is always in need of evangelizing. Now more than ever, and I’m not talking about creation myths.”
“This is a bad climate for demagogues.”
“Indeed no; it’s never been better.”
“We lost, you realize.” Their government bent so quickly to surrender there’d hardly been casualties. Esithu had bet on that, and reaped a tidy profit against friends more patriotic.
“Our defeat is opportune. It is now that we can subvert them from within.”
Esithu snorted. Newly assimilated border planets subverted nothing except their own sense of self. Samutthewi would lap and swallow until it was as Hegemonic as the rest.
“But now is the time,” the woman insisted. “Not five years from now when we’ve grown comfortable; not ten years from now when we think back and say, ah, it used to be untidy and now that we’ve the Hegemony breathing on our neck everything is better—faster—more beautiful. Then it will be nearly impossible.”
They laughed in her face. “It is impossible now.”
A second dancer vaulted over the first, feet and fingers full of fire. – continue reading!
New author Benjanun Sriduangkaew, from Thailand, has a new story up at Giganotosaurus, Woman of the Sun, Woman of the Moon:
It is the aftermath of the world’s end, and nine birds–nine suns–lie dead while Houyi cradles the curve of her bow, her fingers locking around the taut hardness of its string. The tenth sun, the last, has fled. Chastise them, Dijun said, a father’s plea. But there is the land and the horror and the dryness, desiccated corpses in empty dust trenches that were rivers not long ago. There are dead dragons, too, and snake women with bright eyes–and is it not right to bring down the suns, is it not what Houyi is meant to do? She is a god who protects; she is a god given a duty.
The birds are dead. They no longer burn, but the places where they have fallen will long after be black scorch marks, indelible. There will be consequences. It does not matter that her first shot meant to warn: wing clipped, the eldest sun plunged and shattered on the earth. Seeing their brother fall they attacked, and she had to defend herself.
Behind her Chang’e is inhaling and exhaling shallow scraps of air. They will not let this pass. What will you do now? Where will we go?
And the archer whispers, I saved them all.
She knows, as she has known since she notched that first of nine arrows–even in the firestorm of their rage she was a peerless shot, one arrow per bird all she needed–that for her there will be no thanks. They have transgressed enough, wife and wife, and this shall be the final insult tolerated.
So Houyi only takes Chang’e’s hand and says, I am sorry.
Night comes, and with it the first drops of rain. Somewhere a dragon king or queen serpent stirs and tastes the air with a forked tongue. The Sea Mother sifts sand out of her eyes, which have been so parched, so dry. Out of their bellies and mouths rivers will surge forth, tides will rise bright-green with brine, and the world can go on as it did before the convening of ten triple-legged suns. This is their duty, as the murder of sun-crows has been hers. – continue reading!
Short Story Highlight: “Courtship in the Country of Machine-Gods” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Thailand)
New Thai writer Benjanun Sriduangkaew has a new story in The Future Fire magazine: Courtship in the Country of Machine-Gods:
In the shadow of machine-gods I tell wayfarers of a time where my people was a nightmare the color of hemorrhage and glinting teeth.
There are other narratives, but this is one they want to hear most, the one they pay with their adoration and bright-eyed want, for they’ve never known us for anything but peace. Conflict juts out from the skein of Pojama’s history, broken glass-shard, rupturing and ruptured.
I smile; I oblige. Though the story is for me there are parts that I share simply for the reality of speaking it out loud, for the virtue of being heard.
My mouth moves, output for one of my cranial chips. My fingers sketch, autopilot, the forms of our heroes and enemies from a continent whose name and life have now been lost. My voice murmurs the tragedies and sings the heroics of Kanrisa and Surada, rising for climax, falling soft for denouement. The visitors’ district is machine-dead. What thrill it must be to hear the thunderclap notes of my gloves, behold the psychedelic fires that pour from my nails.
Once, they interrupt. The figures of our enemies do not seem real. They are right: with sagging eyes the hues of cheap jades and faces like skulls, even for villains they are too fantastical, too unhuman.
“My great-grandmother told of them so,” I say and shrug. “Perhaps she was senile.” With a motion I turn the figures into shapes more familiar, shapes more like ours.
Inside the vessel of my thought—a garden of sliding intelligences who whisper to me, childhood mates grown to adults next to my ventricles and lungs—a different story unfolds. – continue reading.
There’s a lady on the moon and she has a rabbit; at mid-autumn we have mooncakes when her husband visits.
Long ago the moon grew a city on its skin like nacreous shell around a pearl, and in this barren city lives a goddess who was once a girl.
The goddess counts the years, at the beginning.
She folds gold paper and silver paper in the proper months, and burns them for her mother. She makes houses of glassy yellow windows and pale walls, double-storeyed, and burns those so that her mother will have a comfortable residence in her passage through death. She makes animals, companions, furniture. When she begins counting in decades instead of years she starts burning offerings for her niece. It is the wrong way around; she is the elder, and she should be the one waiting beyond for her niece’s sendings.
But she is immortal, and her family is not. – continue reading.