[7RQ] 2018-03-04

Are you people still here


Well, this weather really has done a number on everyone's plans. Postponing the Harrogate event turned out to be a move of uncharacteristically wise aforethought — I was completely snowed in, and even if I could have dug my car out, half the roads were closed anyway. So organisers Imagined Things and Destination Venus have rescheduled the event with a new date of THURSDAY MARCH 15 at 7pm. See you there. https://www.facebook.com/events/181707169090755/

Dunfermline Comic-Con, on the other hand, couldn't easily be rescheduled, and you're getting this newsletter because I'm currently sitting in my house rather than a Scottish hotel. I've never been to Dunfermline, so was really looking forward to this event. But a combination of guests from outside Scotland, and the venue being declared unsafe for the public (!) because of snow, led to its inevitable cancellation. Commiserations to the organisers, who've been stellar throughout; assuming they can recover and stage the event next year, I'll do my damnedest to be there. In the meantime, you can help ensure there is a next year by donating to their fundraiser. https://www.gofundme.com/savedunfermlinecomiccon

The day after Jek gave her the guitar, she bought four souls from Blind Mazzy and hooked them up to compression saddles sculpted over her wings. As first experiments went, it wasn't a complete disaster.

The guitar was a different matter.

'Holy shit, that for real?'

'Found it in my dad's stuff,' Jek shrugged. 'Don't even remember seeing it before. Figured more your thing.'

Shoska took it and walked back inside, not closing the door. Jek was a thousand assholes rolled into one, and if she had any sense she'd have slammed the door on his cheekbones as soon as she saw them. By the weekend she'd wish she'd done that anyway. But last week his father had put on an old suit, opened a lock, walked out, and unsealed. Calm as anything, you could see from the streams. He used to work the canyon, he knew his way around. By the time the cops suited up and brought the old man's body back inside, he was three feet tall.

Broken heart, everyone said. Never been the same since he lost his wife, Jek's mom, in the Closure. Later they found lesions on his brain, but the truth never stood a chance against a romantic legend, not when it involved the Closure.

And everything did, these days.

Shoska flinched at the hard metallic click of the door latch behind her, but Jek didn't see it. She put the guitar on the couch and started digging through a pile stacked up in the corner. They'd only split a couple months back, but that was plenty of time for the piles to grow. Circuit boards, wire bundles, three-octave key sets, wireless chips, rusting metal sheets, wave sequencers, graffiti edgers, a hundred microphones. The freak puppets with inhuman joints, the half-finished models of extractor craft, the enormous black dresses of lace and stiff plastic. What was neek, what was mass? Spend long enough in Shoska's one-room, you'd stop asking.

'What you looking for?' asked Jek.


'Real book?'

'All the way from home. Mom's.'

'How is she?'

'Same. Got you, fucker.' Still bent over, she held it up over her shoulder to show Jek. She knew he'd seen books before, and most of them right here in her one-room, but not this one. Unnecessarily baroque typeface, A History of Post-Imperial Music.

And right there on the cover: 'Why's she hugging it?'

Shoska stood, looked at the cover, laughed. 'That's a man, with long hair. Assume that's how you play it.' She cleared space on the couch, sat down, handed him the book. 'Hold it up.'

Jek did, and she used the book like a mirror, fidgeting into position. She remembered enough, from reading it years before, to brush her fingers over the cords that ran the instrument's length. A sequence of dull ringing sounds, high to low.

'Thanks, Jek. Nice thought.'

'I know.'

And there it was. He still held the book, standing over her, staring down her shirt. She reached out to one side, giving him an even better view as she picked up a small red box. Held it out, thumbed the side button, hissing sparks circled the business end. Jek recoiled.

'Grateful,' she said, 'Not that grateful.'

He put down the book, put up his hands, backed out, paused at the door. 'See you at The Quiet, yeah? Put me on the list, for the guitar?'

'Sure,' she said, watching him leave.

That's from SOUL MUSIC, my new SF story featured in INTERZONE #274, now on sale. 7,000 words of semi-dystopian avant-garde audio-gothic makerpunk, about a performance artist who's just trying to make sense of a world suddenly cut off from the rest of the universe by 'the Closure'. I'm hoping to write more stories set in the same world, so let me know what you think. Bonus: IZ editor Andy Cox also kindly invited me to write this issue's guest editorial, where I talk about why influences matter so much in SFF fiction. http://ttapress.com/1970/interzone-274/ (buy the issue, or get it free when you take out an IZ subscription)
Cover art by Vince Haig: http://barquing.com
Photos of dogs: http://instagram.com/antonyjohnston
Attempts at humour: http://twitter.com/antonyjohnston
Occasional rants: http://facebook.com/antonyjohnston