QSFers Kit Campbell, Siri Paulson, KD Sarge, and Erin Zarro have a new queer fantasy anthology out: Love Shines Through – FF, M/NB, and MF.
The world was whole before the war.
But war is a terrible thing, and terrible things are done in the name of defense and protection. And this war tore the world apart, fractured it, separated families and lives and dreams. The reasons why no longer matter, but the effects still linger. They cause pain, though the war is over.
But despite the monsters and the poisons and the despair, there is a glimmer of light. And hope and love are not gone from the world.
These four stories, set in the Fractured World, explore how light can make it through the darkness. How hope can conquer fear. And most of all, how love can still flourish, even when the world is bleak.
A young woman braves monsters to see the sky.
A reluctant man chooses forgiveness over suffering.
Lovers reunite to save a child and their community.
Best friends risk everything for each other.
Come see the light for yourselves.
From “Dream of Lions,” by KD Sarge
The latrines stank. Of course they did. And filling them in was disgusting, because each plop of dirt increased the smell and sometimes the sewage splashed no matter how careful Syn was. She had the big treated apron to protect her, but that didn’t keep the splashes from being disgusting. Horrid. Putrid. There weren’t enough words for how awful dealing with the latrines was.
And Breccia and her friends were laughing. Talking, making jokes about how awful it was. And barely working. They took turns, Geode and Oxide, and Breccia prodded them on and flirted but didn’t work at all.
“Hey, goody goody,” Breccia called. “Slow down. Enjoy it.”
“Enjoy it?” Syn snapped. “I just want it done!”
“Get it done, they give you another,” Geode said. He was the only one of them working, and he shoveled at a leisurely pace, tipping the gravel into the ditch with barely a plop. “You wanna do them all?”
“But—the sergeant said—”
“They lied.” Oxide lounged on the rocks by Breccia’s feet. “There’s no end. And they won’t stop finding reasons you should be doing the worst jobs, either. Welcome to delinquency.”
“Always happens,” Geode said. “Dad says every civilization is built on the lowest caste. He just never figured his son would be part of it.” He turned to grin at Breccia. “He says I have loser friends.”
“His fault he raised a loser,” Breccia said, flipping a pebble at him with the toe of her shoe. “Probably bad genes.”
“Inbreeding, maybe,” Oxide suggested. “Isn’t your mom his cousin?”
“Fourth cousin, and approved by your faculty,” Geode growled. “If you wanna start throwing stuff, I got a shovelful right here.”
“What do you say?” Oxide murmured. Breccia leaned forward, hair hiding her face.
“Almost,” she said softly.
“Almost what?” Syn demanded.
“Almost time for little girls to go sing songs and hug trees!” Breccia said with a big fake smile and wide bright eyes.
“We’re not taking her,” Geode said, leaning the shovel on the wall.
“Take me where? To the next latrine?”
“In ten,” Breccia said, taking the light crystal from the lamp. Stealing City property!
“I’m a citizen,” Breccia said. “It’s mine too.” She deftly wrapped a cloth around it until it dimmed to barely visible. “Lose the apron, goody.” Oxide stood casually. Geode pulled the apron off over his head. “Five…passing outer corridor…” She passed the wrapped light to Geode. “Four…three…two…”
She grabbed Syn’s wrist and dragged. “Do you like latrine duty?” she demanded as Syn resisted. “Come on!”
Geode and Oxide ran light-footed down the far corridor. Breccia ran after, and Syn followed because what were they going to do if she got caught? Put her on latrine duty?
“Left, now!” Geode snapped, leaping that way out of the corridor. Oxide followed then Breccia and Syn, and they were all crammed into a narrow dead-end tunnel less than a meter from the corridor where she now heard trotting footsteps.
Breccia yanked her arm, turning her sideways to the main corridor. “Eyes reflect,” she breathed. “Look away.”
To Syn’s right, the corridor where more footsteps could be heard. In front of her, Breccia, her head tilted so her hair blocked the light from her face but still Syn could see the thrill she got from their escape in her dancing eyes. To Syn’s left, where she pressed against them to get as far from the corridor as possible, Geode and Oxide kissed urgently.
“No sucking noises this time,” Breccia whispered, and a breathless giggle escaped from one of them.
Someone hurried by in the corridor, footsteps pattering away. Others—a larger group, moving slower, maybe looking around—were still approaching. Syn’s heart thumped. What if they were seen? What would be done to them then? There had to be worse than latrine duty, though she couldn’t think what it might be.
The footsteps were near. Syn’s hair wasn’t long enough to hide her face from the side. She turned more towards the end of their little hall. Breccia squeezed her wrist.
“I can feel your heartbeat,” she breathed, barely audible, though her soft exhalation moved the hair by Syn’s ear. “Are you scared, little goody?”
In a thudding heartbeat, it all changed. The shadows sharpened as the dark came alive. The sounds of the kiss set her nerves alight. Every footstep resonated through her body, and the grip of Breccia’s hand on her sent waves of heat through her. Dread vanished, burned away by excitement. Escape loomed ahead. Air on her skin, sounds, alive to the bottom of her soul…
“Scared, goody-goody?” Breccia breathed in her ear. “Poor little trembly girl…”
“Ready,” Breccia warned and the kiss broke off. “Now,” she said and spun, dragging Syn after. “Run!”
About Siri: Siri Paulson loves nothing more than mixing up genres to see what will happen. She also wears the hats of non-fiction editor by day and chief editor of Turtleduck Press by night. Her other passion is contra (folk) dancing. Thankfully, her long-suffering husband is good at keeping himself occupied. After growing up in Alberta, Canada, she moved to Toronto and achieved her lifelong dream of buying an old house, dubbed the TARDIS because it’s bigger on the inside. Other lifelong dreams include publishing novels (one and counting), travelling the world (so far, so good), and becoming an astronaut (still waiting on that one).
Siri’s debut fantasy novel is set in the same world as Love Shines Through, several hundred years later. City of Hope and Ruin, co-written with Kit Campbell, was published in 2016 and is available at http://turtleduckpress.com/wordpress/2016/05/09/city-of-hope-and-ruin/.
Her short SF&F fiction has been published in the 2017 “A Holiday to Remember” collection from Mischief Corner Books (https://www.mischiefcornerbooks.com/a-new-year-on-vega-iii.html), in Queer Sci Fi’s flash fiction anthology Renewal(https://queerscifi.com/announcement-renewal-qsfs-flash-fiction-anthology/), and on Daily Science Fiction. More short fiction and the anthologies she has edited can be found on her Turtleduck Press bio, at http://turtleduckpress.com/wordpress/2010/11/30/who-is-siri-paulson/.