Letter From The Editor - Issue 55 - February 2017

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Issue 12
Stories
Over There
by Tim Pratt
The Multiplicity Has Arrived
by Matthew S. Rotundo
Somewhere My Love
by Stephen Mark Rainey
The End-of-the-World Pool
by Scott M. Roberts
Hologram Bride: Part One
by Jackie Gamber
Folk of the Fringe Serialization
WEST
by Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card Audio
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
The Crack
by David Lubar
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Essay
American Idol
by Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury

Writing Fantasy

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-   -   -   -   P   r   e   v   i   e   w   -   -   -   -

WEST
Artwork by Scott Altmann
WEST
    by Orson Scott Card

Free Lancers: Alien Stars IV, ed. Elizabeth Mitchell (Baen, September 1987)
The Folk of the Fringe (Phantasia Press/Tor, April 1989)

It was a good scavenging trip eastward to the coast that summer, and Jamie Teague had a pack full of stuff before he even got to Marine City. Things were peaceful there, and he might have stayed, he was that welcome. But along about the start of August, Jamie said his good-byes and headed back west. Had to reach the mountains before the snows came.

He made fair time on his return trip. It was only September, he was already just west of Winston -- but Jamie was so hungry that kudzu was starting to look like salad to him.

Not that hunger was anything new. Every time he took this months-long trip from his cabin in the Great Smokies to the coast and back, there were days here and there with nothing to eat. Jamie was a champion scavenger, but most houses and all the old grocery stores had their food cleaned out long since. Besides, what good was it to scavenge food? Any canned stuff you found nowadays was likely to be bad. What Jamie looked for was metal stuff folks didn't make no more. Hammers. Needles. Nails. Saws. One time he found this little out-of-the-way hardware store near Checowinity that had a whole crate of screws, a good size, too, and not a speck of rust. Near killed him carrying the whole mess of it back, but he couldn't leave any; he didn't get to the coast that often, and somebody was bound to find anything he left behind.

This trip hadn't been as good as that time, but it was still good, considering most of the country was pretty well picked over by now. He found him some needles. Two fishing reels and a dozen spools of resilient lime. A lot of ordinary stuff, besides. And things he couldn't put in his pack: that long visit in Marine City on the coast; them nice folks north of Kenansville who took him in and listened to his tales. The Kenansville folks even invited him to stay with them, and fed him near to busting on country ham and sausage biscuits in the cool of those hot August mornings. But Jamie Teague knew what came of staying around the same folks too long, and so he pushed on. Now the memory of those meals made him feel all wishful, here on fringe of Winston, near three days without eating.

He'd been hungry lots of times before, and he'd get hungry lots of times again, but that didn't mean it didn't matter to him. That didn't mean he didn't get kind of faint along about midday. That didn't mean he couldn't get himself up a tree and just sit there, resting, looking down onto I-40 and listening to the birds bullshitting each other about how it was a fine day, twitter twit, a real fine day.

Tomorrow there'd be plenty to eat. Tomorrow he'd be west of Winston and into wild country, where he could kill him a squirrel with a stone's throw. There just wasn't much to eat these days in the country he just walked through, between Greensboro and Winston. Seems like everybody who ever owned a gun or a slingshot had gone out killing squirrels and possums and rabbits till there wasn't a one left.

That was one of the problems with this part of Carolina still being civilized with a government and all. Near half the people were still alive, probably. That meant maybe a quarter million in Guilford and Forsyth counties. No way could such a crowd keep themselves in meat just on what they could farm nearby, not without gasoline for the tractors and fertilizer for the fields.

Greensboro and Winston didn't know they were doomed, not yet. They still thought they were the lucky ones, missing most of the ugliness that just tore apart all the big cities and left whole states nothing but wasteland. But Jamie Teague had been a ways northward in his travels, and heard stories from even farther north, and what he learned was this: After the bleeding was over, the survivors had land and tools enough to feed themselves. There was a life, if they could fend off the vagabonds and mobbers, and if the winter didn't kill them, and if they didn't get one of them diseases that was still mutating themselves here and there, and if they wasn't too close to a place where one of the bombs hit. There was enough. They could live.

Here, though, there just wasn't enough. The trees that once made this country beautiful were going fast, cut up for firewood, and bit by bit the folks here were either going to freeze or starve or kill each other off till the population was down. Things would get pretty ugly.

From some stories he heard, Jamie figured things were getting pretty ugly already.

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