Letter From The Editor - Issue 56 - April 2017

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Issue 16
Stories
Return to Sender
by James Maxey
Through the Blood
by Mette Ivie Harrison
Odd Jobs
by Josh Vogt
Mudlarks
by Kat Otis
Mean Spirited
by Edmund R. Schubert
Folk of the Fringe Serialization
America
by Orson Scott Card
IGMS Audio
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews

Writing Fantasy

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Mudlarks
    by Kat Otis

Mudlarks
Artwork by James Owen

The river Thames collects the rubbish and sewage of London's residents. Mudlarks are poor children who survive by scavenging for that rubbish in the mud at the river's edge. They work in crews, each with its own territory, each with its own leader.

Jennet trotted down the Temple Stairs and wondered if she had mistimed her arrival. The Thames was retreating towards the sea so most of the stone steps lay exposed to the afternoon sun, but she couldn't see any of the riverbed beyond the end of the stairs. One of the watermen - a gruff, heavy-handed man named Edward Averell - sat in his boat at the bottom of the stairs, so the river couldn't be too shallow yet.

When she reached the last of the exposed steps, she carefully slipped her right foot into the water and greeted the river. The Thames answered her, telling her everything she needed to know for her crew to safely scavenge on its riverbed. The tide would turn in two hours; at the moment the Thames ran knee-high over its riverbed for almost a rod's length from the river wall, before becoming much deeper; the current was stronger than usual today because of storms further inland.

Jennet pulled her foot back out of the water, severing her link with the river. She waved to her second-in-command, who waited with the rest of her crew at the top of the Temple Stairs. "Reade!"

Reade waved back before he began shepherding the crew down to the river. One of the younger girls - Bess - came careening down the steps at a speed which made Jennet wince. If Bess slipped and broke something, she could end up crippled. But Bess made it all the way down without trouble and stopped at the edge of the water, barely reining in her eagerness.

"No more than a rod away from the wall," Jennet said. "Remember that today!"

"I will," Bess promised, like she always did, then leapt into the water and began splashing around.

While Bess played, Reade set the rest of the crew to work on the other side of the stairs, scouring the riverbed for anything of value. The new girl - Jennet had dubbed her Kensal because she was new-come to London from Kensal Green - hesitated for a long time at the bottom of the stairs. Reade finally had to push Kensal off the stones and he rolled his eyes at Jennet before he followed Kensal out onto the riverbed.

Jennet shared some of Reade's impatience. After a fortnight, Kensal really ought to be over her fear of the river. It wasn't as if the girl hadn't understood Jennet's rules when she joined the crew - those who wanted to be fed had to work whenever the river was shallow. Only the two youngest boys were allowed to stay on the stairs; they were far too little to go into the water, so they were in charge of guarding the others' finds.

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