Letter From The Editor - Issue 55 - February 2017

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Issue 15
Stories
Body Language
by Mary Robinette Kowal
Lo'ihi Rising
by Geoffrey W. Cole
Sweet as Honey
by Bradley P. Beaulieu
Aim for the Stars
by Tom Pendergrass
Folk of the Fringe Serialization
Pageant Wagon
by Orson Scott Card
Orson Scott Card Audio
Aim for the Stars, by Tom Pendergrass
Read by Orson Scott Card
Tales for the Young and Unafraid
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews

Writing Fantasy

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Pageant Wagon
Artwork by Scott Altmann
Pageant Wagon
    by Orson Scott Card

Deaver's horse took sick and died right under him. He was setting on her back, writing down notes about how deep the erosion was eating back into the new grassland, when all of a sudden old Bette shuddered and coughed and broke to her knees. Deaver slid right off her, of course, and unsaddled her, but after that all he could do was pat her and talk to her and hold her head in his lap as she lay there dying.

If I was an outrider it wouldn't be like this, thought Deaver. Royal's Riders go two by two out there on the eastern prairie, never alone like us range riders here in the old southern Utah desert. Outriders got the best horses in Deseret, too, never an old nag like Bette having to work out her last breath riding the grass edge. And the outriders got guns, so they wouldn't have to sit and watch a horse die, they could say farewell with a hot sweet bullet like a last ball of sugar.

Didn't do no good thinking about the outriders, though. Deaver'd been four years on the waiting list, just for the right to apply. Most range riders were on that list, aching for a chance to do something important and dangerous -- bringing refugees in from the prairie, fighting mobbers, disarming missiles. Royal's Riders were all heroes, it went with the job, whenever they come back from a mission they got their picture in the papers, a big write-up. Range riders just got lonely and shaggy and smelly. No wonder they all dreamed of riding with Royal Aal. With so many others on the list, Deaver figured he'd probably be too old and they'd take his name off before he ever got to the top. They wouldn't take applications from anybody over thirty, so he only had about a year and a half left. He'd end up doing what he was doing now, riding the edge of the grassland, checking out erosion patterns and bringing in stray cattle till he dropped out of the saddle and then it'd be his horse's turn to stand there and watch him die.

Bette twitched a leg and snorted. Her eye was darting every which way, panicky, and then it stopped moving at all. After a while a fly landed on it. Deaver eased himself out from under her. The fly stayed right there. Probably already laying eggs. This country didn't waste much time before it sucked every last hope of life out of anything that held still long enough.

Deaver figured to do everything by the book. Put Bette's anal scrapings in the plastic tube so they could check for disease, pick up his bedroll, his notebooks, and his canteen, and then hike into the first fringe town he could find and call in to Moab.

Deaver was all set to go, but he couldn't just walk off and leave the saddle. The rulebook said a rider's life is worth more than a saddle, but the guy who wrote that didn't have a five-dollar deposit on it. A week's wages. It wasn't like Deaver had to carry it far. He passed a road late yesterday. He'd go back and sit on the saddle and wait a couple days for some truck to come by.

Anyway he wanted it on his record -- Deaver Teague come back saddle and all. Bad enough to lose the horse. So he hefted the saddle onto his back and shoulders. It was still warm and damp from Bette's body.

He didn't follow Bette's hoofprints back along the edge of the grassland -- no need to risk his own footsteps causing more erosion. He struck out into the thicker, deeper grass of last year's planting. Pretty soon he lost sight of the gray desert sagebrush, it was too far off in the wet hazy air. Folks talked about how it was in the old days, when the air was so clear and dry you could see the mountains you couldn't get to in two days' riding. Now the farthest he could see was to the redrock sentinels sticking up out of the grass, bright orange when he was close, dimmer and grayer a mile or two ahead or behind. Like soldiers keeping watch in the fog.

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