Last month, Nebula award-winning author and editor Eugie Foster passed away at the way too early age of 42. Eugie was, and is still, one of the most impressive people I've ever known.
She was a prolific writer (over 100 stories published) but literature wasn't the only artistic endeavor she engaged in. She danced, she modeled, and she was a sharp and incisive observer of science fiction and fantasy media and culture. She is a dear friend and I'm going to miss her.
A few months ago, when talking about Octavia Butler, I observed that "when a writer passes before her time, readers and fans often mourn not only the loss of her presence in the world, but the loss of the words she may yet have written." I find that very true for Eugie as well. The day she died, Daily Science Fiction published the last story she sold. Reading it reminds me all over again that this may be the last new Eugie story I'll ever see. And I'll miss her fiction almost as much as I'll miss her.
If you haven't yet discovered Eugie Foster's fiction, you have a particular kind of luck as there are so many great stories for you to discover. I suggest you start with this last one.
Image: cover detail from Clarkesworld, October 2014, by Sandeep Karunakaran
When it Ends, He Catches Her by Eugie Foster | Daily Science Fiction
Aisa pirouetted on one long leg, arms circling her body like gently folded wings. Her muscles gathered and uncoiled in a graceful leap, suspending her in the air with limbs outflung, until gravity summoned her back down. The stained, wooden boards creaked beneath her, but she didn't hear them. She heard only the music in her head, the familiar stanzas from countless rehearsals and performances of Snowbird's Lament. She could hum the complex orchestral score by rote, just as she knew every step by heart.
Act II, scene III: the finale. It was supposed to be a duet, her as Makira, the warlord's cursed daughter, and Balege as Ono, her doomed lover, in a frenzied last dance of tragedy undone, hope restored, rebirth. But when the Magistrate had closed down the last theaters, Balege had disappeared in the resultant riots and protests.
When your whole life is dedicated to an art—not just your intellect but your body—and the familiar world dissolves around you, what else is left but to cocoon yourself in said art?
The descriptions of the dancer's movements transported me to this lonely theatre. The intensity and focus it takes to control the body — Eugie captures it perfectly. Especially at the climax.
Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast by Eugie Foster | Escape Pod
Each morning is a decision. Should I put on the brown mask or the blue? Should I be a tradesman or an assassin today?
Whatever the queen demands, of course, I am. But so often she ignores me, and I am left to figure out for myself who to be.
Dozens upon dozens of faces to choose from.
1. Marigold is for murder.
Several of Eugie's stories made it to the various Escape Artist podcasts, but this one is my favorite. It shows just how much a great narrator can elevate an already great story to another level.
The Great Detective By Sarah Brooks | Strange Horizons
It was the alien that made Mayumi's Grandma into a detective.
'Not just any detective,' says Grandma. 'The Great Detective.'
'Obāchan, you have an inflated sense of your own importance,' says Mayumi.
But Grandma just smiles, and goes off to do some detecting.
This is a nice mix of slightly humorous with slightly sad and should positively ping anyone who has or had an extraordinary grandmother. There's so much more going on in the background of this story than in the foreground, which makes it feel deep and rich, even as it's short and compact.
Seeking boarder for rm w/ attached bathroom, must be willing to live with ghosts ($500 / Berkeley) by Rahul Kanakia | Clarkesworld Magazine
This is a quiet residential neighborhood, full of children and dogs. You must have your own telephone, but all other utilities shared. Place is wired for DSL. I want to build a comfortable home based on communication and shared responsibility. Share with owner (me), a sixty-one-year-old gay male and small business owner who works in the ectoplasmic removal / storage sector and has lived in the home for thirteen years.
Sole caveat: The living room, garage, basement, and third bedroom are used primarily for ectoplasmic storage. Don't know if you've ever seen them, but ghost flasks are small, unobtrusive, and thoroughly safe. However, mine do emit a slight noise. The previous boarder, a twenty-seven-year-old medical student, is leaving due to excessive emotional involvement with the ghosts, and I'd prefer if my next boarder attempted to leave them alone as much as possible.
Other than the small nitpick that I don't quite believe that some of the later listings would be as detailed in "real life" as they are in this story, I love everything about Seeking Boarder. Kanakia is good at building a credible world without explaining too much or too little, and the world he creates here is creepy and sad. The main character is equally creepy and sad and I'm impressed with how much I came to feel for him while simultaneously being repulsed. Excellent crafting here and highly recommended.
I'm looking for more creepy horror stories to read this month. Any suggestions? Drop 'em in the comments.