Letter From The Editor - Issue 55 - February 2017

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Issue 13
Stories
Beautiful Winter
by Eugie Foster
Hologram Bride: Part Two
by Jackie Gamber
Second String
by David A. Simons
Command Transfer
by Darren Eggett
Folk of the Fringe Serialization
Salvage
by Orson Scott Card
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
De-Fence
by David Lubar
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews

Writing Fantasy

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

Beautiful Winter
    by Eugie Foster
Beautiful Winter
Artwork by Nick Greenwood

I'm not sure how long I've known that Mama found me something of a disappointment. Not, certainly, when I was a little girl. She loved taking me into her arms at night and telling me stories from when she was growing up. How beautiful she was when she was young, so graceful and lovely that the tsar himself came to watch her dance. Imagine that, the tsar coming to a peasant village to see the daughter of a muzhik! Mama had danced so fine, her hair streaming in a golden braid down her back, the hem of her sarafan flashing as she twirled and leaped, that the tsar even clapped along with the music.

But there came a time when her stories seemed to chide more than delight, when I saw that my hair -- all muddy drabness, so brittle it breaks before it can grow long enough to plait -- was nothing like hers, when I realized I had Papa's ruddy cheeks and long nose, not Mama's flawless skin and delicate features. And there was the matter of dance. I have no aptitude for it. None. Aside from my inability to stay on (or find, for that matter) tempo, I was as graceful as a waddling duck, less graceful in truth, since I was as likely to sprout wings and fly across the Volga as become a dancer worthy of the tsar.

For a while, I avoided mirrors and took solace in childish pastimes. As soon as Papa taught me to grip a charcoal crayon, I began fashioning shadows and contours on any receptive page -- a study of a knobby oak tree, the cook's plump dog napping beside a basket of apples, an amber ring from Mama's treasure box. But my drawings couldn't help me avoid Mama. She prepared sticky rinses for my skin that made me break out in spots, and continuing our daily lessons in balance and poise, she counted louder and louder as I floundered and tripped, as though by volume alone she could impel me to some semblance of grace.

"You can't make an elephant out of a fly!" I told her. "I can't dance, Mama! When will you accept that?"

I'd have done better convincing a fish to whistle. She crossed her arms and declared, "God does not give to the cow that butts, Prascovia. You just have to work harder."

Some days we quarreled until we were both hoarse as grit, our eyes red and glaring. By my sixteenth birthday, we had reached an impasse which promised to persist until I either managed, through some miraculous providence, to catch the fancy of some rich (possibly blind) nobleman who would whisk me away from Mama's ambitions, or I mustered up enough courage (or desperation) to run away and join a convent.

Then a third option presented itself, one which healed the gulf between us like nothing else could have.

Papa became ill.

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