The crowgirl decided they would set up camp on a low hill at the eastern edge of a cornfield. There was a dark copse of trees to the south and a slow muddy stream, its shore sharp and crunching with crayfish corpses. To the north was the roofless barn, pale brown beneath the red and purple clouds; the stench of rotting horses was so strong that even the crows avoided the place as they darted between the dry cornstalks, looking for mice. From the camp on the hill they could see everything, the river and the barn with its silos of molding grain, the hunting crows, and far to the west, in the square white farmhouse with its padlocked cellar door, the congregation of the Dead.
(One for sorrow, two for joy.)
New Poetry and Translated Fiction
Two of my poems placed in this year's SFPA poetry contest. "We Pay Our Fare in Apples Here" won first place and "Wolf's Four Questions" won third place, both in the short poem category.
"Final Exam" has been reprinted - and translated into Japanese! - in the November 2013 issue of SF Magazine.
The only portrait of Vespasian Marat to outlive her—that is, to survive the mysterious fire that charred half of Grimoire Street the night she disappeared—shows her seated on the floor of her gallery in the Marat family’s ancestral home, surrounded by the objets d’art whose sinuous provenances would so puzzle the city’s historians. Vespasian, dark skin gleaming like copper in the gallery’s gaslight, is a round-shouldered figure in a mustard-colored coat, incongruous between a marble goddess and the portrait of an elegant nude. She has a round face, long teeth, a nose as broad and handsome as a panther’s. One museum curator has noted that “Vespasian looks like an ancient temple virgin or a guardian priestess, ensconced in her family’s treasury, neither willing nor able to leave” (Alabaster Quincy, The Marat Legacy, p. 51; original emphasis). This painting was completed on her twenty-ninth birthday.
Like Vespasian, most of the treasures immortalized by Zephyr Townsend’s brush have vanished from history, and the bright oils on this wall-sized canvas constitute their only image and description. Earlier this year, lithographer and art historian Hebenë Yacob set out to catalogue the painted gallery’s contents. The monograph, titled A Survey of the Gallery Portrait of Vespasian Marat by Zephyr Townsend, was issued as a handsome, calf-bound, lemon-yellow volume by Foster-Neela and Daughters, Publishers; but the edition has not sold well, owing to its great length (in excess of 1200 pages) and a propensity of the yellow binding to produce psychotic rages in its readers. Out of respect for the time and psychological welfare of the Board, a brief summary of Yacob's findings pertinent to the current discussion follows.
“It’s the best bargain you’ll get in this town,” the faery woman says. She’s standing by a cracked kitchen sink with mold between the tiles, rinsing diced tomatoes and crooked green jalapeño rings. “A heart for a heart. And my heart’s more than what she’s used to, I’ll tell you that. You couldn’t find better if you went door-to-door from every house in the tithe-projects.”
She tips the plastic mixing bowl onto the counter. Dark wet tomatoes and thin peppers and pungent wisps of cilantro spill across the gray-green Formica. A little flower has sprouted among them spontaneously: a tiny white chrysanthemum, browned by the acid. She plucks it out with annoyance and shoves it under her tongue.
"So?" she asks, chewing. "What do you say?"
"The Copperroof War" in PodCastle 265
It began in the south wing, near the long cold Hall of Empires and the chambers of the Duke of Cloud. Helene, the Duchess, woke at midnight to the metal sound of marching in the corridor, and farther away, the hollow ring of drums.
"Final Exam" tied for Best Short Story in the 2013 Asimov's Reader's Award poll. Thanks to everyone who enjoyed and voted for the story! This is a great honor!