Mother, I have seen such marvels. Like the ocean aglow at night with a cold green fire and a fish with a child’s face and two fleshy whiskers. (No man would eat it. We blessed the creature and tossed it back.) I’ve seen a corpse with golden hair in a boat set adrift; his eyes were the slits on a newly born kitten.
In This Issue: Dec. 2015 (Issue 59) – Queers Destroy Fantasy! Special Issue
This is a perfect example of the dividends of just simply sitting in a chair, showing up every morning to write, and discovering something. I had absolutely no idea where this story was going. I sent that longboat over the edge not knowing, then it seemed my fingers described an old woman appearing, drawn back by cordage into our world. Where the heck did that come from? Once the metaphysicals began to reveal themselves to me—that longing was itself the rope out of the afterlife—I just followed the thread.
Here’s what we’ve got lined up for you in this special issue: Original fantasy—edited by Christopher Barzak—by Catherynne M. Valente, Kai Ashante Wilson, Carlea Holl-Jensen, and Richard Bowes; Reprints—selected by Liz Gorinsky—by Caitlin R. Kiernan, Austin Bunn, Shweta Narayan, and Nicola Griffith; Nonfiction articles—edited by Matthew Cheney—by merritt kopas, Matthew Cheney, Keguro Macharia, Ekaterina Sedia, Mary Anne Mohanrag, and Ellen Kushner; plus an original cover illustration by Priscilla Kim and original interior illustrations by Goñi Montes, Odera Igbokwe, Sam Schechter, Elizabeth Leggett, and Vlada Monakhova.
War is a dinner party. My ladies and I have spent the dregs of summer making ready. We have hung garlands of pennyroyal and snowberries in the snug, familiar halls of Laburnum Castle, strained cheese as pure as ice for weeks in the caves and the kitchens, covered any gloomy stone with tapestries or stags’ heads with mistletoe braided through their antlers. We sent away south to the great markets of Mother-of-Millions for new silks and velvets and furs.
The image I was always building to, from the moment I started thinking about the story, was the two young women kissing under the manchineel tree in the rain and remaining unharmed, the steam rising from their skin. Manchineels are real trees, and you really can be poisoned and even killed by standing under them while it rains through the toxic leaves. I discovered it while researching poisons for the story, and from then on it became the heart of it, that everything else circled around.
We know that queers need fantasies. We believe that queers specifically need fantasies of the future to sustain us moving forward. We need utopian dreams of worlds that could be, because, as Jose Muñoz argued, without fantasies we cede the not-yet-here to the imperatives of reproductive futurism. We argue that we need fantasies not just of the future, but of the past.
It hadn’t come down since great-grandparent days, but as its last descent had left no stone on stone—nor man, woman, child alive—anywhere people had once dwelled aboveground on the continent, the hero would go up before it came down again, and kill the kaiju maximus. They would go too: the hero’s weakness, and her strength.
I had a sudden fierce urge to write some tie-in fiction—for Star Wars, or a Bioware video game, something like that. But since I’m just about the last the author likely to be chosen/approached for such a project, I quickly realized I’d have to make up my own media property if it were to happen at all: thus, the video game Kaiju maximus®. It nearly broke my mind—in a fun way!—trying to tell a straight-ahead genre story as tie-fiction for a media property that doesn’t exist.
Hal Duncan is the author of many novels, stories, poems, blog posts, and other works, including the Book of All Hours diptych, Vellum and Ink, as well as the novella Escape from Hell! (Monkeybrain Books), the chapbook An A to Z of the Fantastic City (Small Beer Press), the libretto Sodom! the Musical, the essay Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fiction (Lethe Press), and the story collection Scruffians! (Lethe Press). Vellum was nominated for the Crawford, Locus, BFS, and World Fantasy awards, and won the Spectrum, Kurd Lasswitz and Tähtivaeltaja awards; both Rhapsody and Scruffians! are, as I write this, nominated for the BFS award.
Hidden by the feathers of the Peacock Throne, Jahanara watched the Frenchmen’s heads appear at the top of the steps. Diwan-i-Khas, the hall of so-called private audience, would loom before them now. Morning light caught on its outer pillars and scalloped arches, setting the whole aglow: marble embers sparking with pearl and silver inlay in creeper patterns wound around gearwork. Light slanted through the hall, danced on silk and dust and metal, and threw the delegates’ shadows in before them unannounced.