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The Invisible Valley: Chapter 1 Ghost Bride

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Author’s Note

In the late 1960s, at the call of Chairman Mao, 20 million Chinese students of middle- and high-school age streamed from the cities to the countryside as part of the “Down to the Countryside” movement. For years they lived among the peasants, separated from their homes and families, forced to give up formal schooling to be “re-educated” through hard agricultural labor. It was a time of great idealism and incalculable hardship.
In the southern province of Canton one million students were downcountried, many of them to state-run rubber plantations in the tropical highlands of Hainan Island.

Chapter 1: Ghost Bride

The Invisible Valley coverBlood-red snakeclouds gathered in the western sky, and the rubber trees glowed as if on fire. Lu Beiping counted the pits he’d dug that day on the recently denuded hillside, picked up the squad leader’s notebook, recorded his number, and stood scanning the list of names for Fong’s mark.

Nothing. She’d vanished. And their squad leader, Sergeant Fook, was nowhere to be seen either. With a sigh, Lu Beiping swatted away the head that hovered inquisitively over his shoulder.

—Okay, Chu, I don’t need the National Joint Newscast to tell me that they’re off Seeking Peer Support again. Am I right?

Seeking Peer Support: It was a fashionable term in those days. Sometimes they called it a “Revolutionary Heart-to-Heart.”

—Well, said Chu, smirking: I can’t speak to her whereabouts. But she did mention she was hoping you’d pick up her share of pork scraps at the ration supp tonight. And some of that frozen fish they just brought in from Whitehorse Harbor. Read more

An excerpt from Sherwood Nation

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An excerpt from Sherwood Nation by Benjamin Parzybok.


How it happened:
Sherwood Nation cover It happened slowly. The fishermen called the rogue and unpredictable changes at sea El Pescadero. Winds came from differing directions, currents looped back on themselves, temperatures fluctuated. It wasn’t seasonal like El Niño, though at first everyone thought it was. It didn’t go away. Governments fought bitterly about whose fault was whose, and who ought to do what about it.
Along with El Pescadero came an increase in oceanic salinity. There were lots of theories there. When you swam in the ocean, the new buoyancy was subtle, but pleasurable.
The bone-dry summers of the west lingered deeper and deeper into winter. Everyone could see that the snow pack was melting. When was the snow pack not melting? All you had to do was look up at any of the balding mountains.
Then the great Deschutes River, elegant and fast, a river which cut across the Oregon desert like a streak of lightning across a dull gray sky, dried up in a single summer.
The farms that depended upon it followed suit. There were strikes and protests. Blood was spilled. Then, quickly, other rivers diminished.
Finally, the greatest of them all, the Columbia River, its sources choked in mud, leaked its deathsong through the gorge, and became only a scaly alligator skin of memory. In its wake, valleys turned to deserts, fertile farms to dust, and the great migration East began.
As the hordes of Droudies poured into the Midwest and Eastern United States and the last of the surface water seeped deep into the ground, anger over the millions of incoming refugees escalated. Finally, borders along the Rocky Mountains were sealed to Westerners and a meager aid strategy was conceived by the bankrupt government for the many millions abandoned to their dry fates out west. Read more

An excerpt from A Summer in the Twenties

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Read the first three chapters from A Summer in the Twenties by Peter Dickinson:

Hendaye, 6th April, 1926

A Summer in the Twenties cover‘EVERYTHING’S CHANGING so fast,’ she said. ‘Isn’t it stunning to wake up every morning and feel that the whole world’s brand-new again, a present waiting for you to unwrap it?’
For emphasis she stabbed her foot-long cigarette holder towards the Pyrennees, to declare them part of the present, with the snow-glitter along the peaks a little tinsel to add glamour to the gift.
‘It’s all yours,’ he said, generously including in his gesture not only the mountains but the nearer landscape, and the cubist spillage of roofs down the slope below the terrace and the two crones in black creaking up a cobbled alley, and nearer still the elderly three-piece band nobly attempting a Charleston while their souls still pined for the Vienna Woods, and even the braying group of young French rich, already into their third cocktail at half past three. Read more

An excerpt from The Liminal People

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From The Liminal People, by Ayize Jama-Everett.

Chapter One

The Liminal People cover - click to view full sizeNordeen was right to send me. I feel three heartbeats at the ridges of the ancient crater we’re resting in. Snipers. I don’t know for sure, but their hearts are tense and their trigger fingers twitchy. As soon as I got out of the car their right eyes all zoomed in on something. If they’re not snipers then they’re one-eyed caffeine freaks with muscular dystrophy in their fingers. At least they’re smart enough to know not to shoot me right away. Their boy, my date, Omar, wants what we have. If it’s not in the car and they shoot us, they’re shit out of luck.

“Stay in the car, no matter what,” I say, leaning into the passenger side of the twelve-year-old Mercedes-Benz that has dragged me to this ancient and massive hole in the ground. The meteor that crashed here centuries ago is as cold as Fou-Fou’s response to my command. His steady sub-Saharan heartbeat is the only answer I get from the 240-pound menace. He’ll play it smart. Always does. The kid in the back is who I’m really speaking to. Nineteen, can’t pee straight, and ready to scrap, the native Moroccan looks more spooked than ready. “Understand?” I bark at him in his native Berber instead of the usual French patois we play with. Read more

Second Line: The Value of X, Chapter 1

by Poppy Z. Brite

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From Second Line by Poppy Z. Brite.

The Value of X

“Awright,” said Mrs. Reilly to her eleventh-grade algebra class, “if Y equals thirty-six, who can tell me what X equals?”

Surveying the class slumped in their desks, she could not blame them for their apathy. Though it was only April, the weather was already hinting at another brutal New Orleans summer. For public schools to be without air conditioning in 1990 was a disgrace, but such things were usual in this little corner of the United States that might be more properly called part of the Third World. Mrs. Reilly suddenly felt hopeless and decided to call on her one dependable student. “Gary?”

But this time there was no answer.

“Gary Stubbs? Are you paying attention?”

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Hound, Chapter 1 & Chapter 2

by Vincent McCaffrey


From Hound, by Vincent McCaffrey.

Chapter One

Death was, after all, the way Henry made his living.
The books he sold were most often the recent property of people who had died. Book lovers never gave up the good ones without cause. But then, the books which people sold willingly were not the ones Henry really wanted. The monthly public library sales were stacked high with those—the usual titles for a dollar apiece, yesterday’s best sellers, last year’s hot topics.
But not always. Occasionally, some relative—often the child who never cared much for Dad’s preoccupation with medieval history or Mom’s obsession with old cookbooks—would drop the burden their parents had so selfishly placed upon them by dying, and there they would be, in great careless mounds on the folding tables in the library basement or conference room. Always dumped too quickly by a “volunteer” from the “friends” committee, with the old dust jackets tearing one against the other.
Like encounters with sin, Henry had occasions of luck at yard sales, though not often enough to waste a weekend which might better be spent at home reading. His favorite haunts were the estate auctions, and the best of these were the ones held at the very house where the old geezer had kicked the bucket. And there was always that thin network of friends who knew Henry was a bookman—who heard of book lots being sold and passed the word on. Albert, of course, had been a regular source for this, simply because his trash-removal business so often involved houses being sold where the books had accumulated over the years and the dead were recently departed.
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The King’s Last Song – Chapter 1

by Geoff Ryman

“Oh you who are wise, may you come more and more to consider all meritorious acts as your own.”
Sanskrit inscription on the temple of Pre Rup,
translated by Kamaleswar Bhattacharya

“As wealthy as Cambodia.”
Traditional Chinese saying


You could very easily meet William.

Maybe you’ve just got off the boat from Phnom Penh and nobody from your hotel is there to meet you. It’s miles from the dock to Siem Reap.

William strides up and pretends to be the free driver to your hotel. Not only that but he organizes a second motorbike to wobble its way round the ruts with your suitcases.

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Generation Loss – Chapter One

by Elizabeth Hand

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Generation LossThere’s always a moment where everything changes. A great photographer — someone like Diane Arbus, or me during that fraction of a second when I was great — she sees that moment coming, and presses the shutter release an instant before the change hits. If you don’t see it coming, if you blink or you’re drunk or just looking the other way — well, everything changes anyway, it’s not like things would have been different.

But for the rest of your life you’re fucked, because you blew it. Maybe no one else knows it, but you do. In my case, it was no secret. Everyone knew I’d blown it. Some people can make do in a situation like that. Me, I’ve never been good at making do. My life, who could pretend there wasn’t a big fucking hole in it?

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Travel Light – Chapters One and Two

by Naomi Mitchison

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Chapter 1
The Bears

Travel LightIt is said that when the new Queen saw the old Queen’s baby daughter, she told the King that the brat must be got rid of at once. And the King, who by now had almost forgotten the old Queen and had scarcely looked at the baby, agreed and thought no more about it. And that would have been the end of that baby girl, but that her nurse, Matulli, came to hear of it. Now this nurse was from Finmark, and, like many another from thereabouts, was apt to take on the shape of an animal from time to time. So she turned herself into a black bear then and there and picked up the baby in her mouth, blanket and all, and growled her way out of the Bower at the back of the King’s hall, and padded out through the light spring snow that had melted already near the hall, and through the birch woods and the pine woods into the deep dark woods where the rest of the bears were waking up from their winter sleep.

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Storyteller Excerpt: Can Writing Be Taught?

by Kate Wilhelm

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StorytellerClarionOne of the questions Damon and I returned to often was simply: can writing be taught? There are many writers who say emphatically that the answer is no. I see their point. High school and college creative writing classes are too often a joke, taught by non-writers without a clue about the real world of publishing and what makes for a publishable story in contemporary markets. For most writers struggling alone, the learning curve from the first attempt to write to becoming an accomplished writer is very long; years in many cases. And all the while they are being taught by rejection slips, by trial and error; they are learning what works for them and what doesn’t. Even after they have published a few stories, often they can’t see why one story was accepted and not another.

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Carmen Dog – Chapter One

by Carol Emshwiller

Carol Emshwiller| Carmen Dog

Chapter 1: Outlandish Changes

There is more matter in the universe than we at first thought.
–CBS newscaster

Carmen Dog“The beast changes to a woman or the woman changes to a beast,” the doctor says. “In her case it is certainly the latter since she has been, on the whole, quite passable as a human being up to the present moment. There may be hundreds of these creatures already among us. No way to tell for sure how many.”

The husband feigns surprise. Actually he’s seen more than he’s telling, and right in his own home.

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The Mount: Chapter One

by Carol Emshwiller

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Carol Emshwiller

The Mount

The MountWe’re not against you, we’re for. In fact we’re built for you and you for us — we, so our weak little legs will dangle on your chest and our tail down the back. Exactly as you so often transport your own young when they are weak and small. It’s a joy. Just like a mother-walk.

You’ll be free. You’ll have a pillow. You’ll have a water faucet and a bookcase. We’ll pat you if you do things fast enough and don’t play hard to catch. We’ll rub your legs and soak your feet. Sams and Sues, and you Sams had better behave yourselves.

You still call us aliens in spite of the fact that we’ve been on your world for generations. And why call aliens exactly those who’ve brought health and happiness to you? And look how well we fit, you and us. As if born for each other even though we come from different worlds.

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