This week’s stories are about the consequences of corruption, of home ownership, and of accepting birthday presents from dubious sources. Also: Gene Roddenberry.

Sacred Cows: Death and Squalor on the Rio Grande by A.S. Diev | Giganotosaurus

As Carlos parked the truck in front of his trailer and climbed out, he heard the familiar sound of a herd approaching–the random bellowing of the cows, the turbine roar of the rancher’s engine. He looked up and saw a herd of about 30, moving at a good clip. Some were spotted, some a solid brown. A single, jet-black longhorn bull was flying in the lead.

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They were so low in the morning sky that Carlos could see the lead bull’s dangling pizzle, the swinging udders of the cows, the sunglasses and white Stetson of the driver in a bright red air skiff behind them. The massive wings of the cattle pumped up and down in heavy, emphatic rhythms. Their legs jerked with each beat, kicking uselessly at the empty air beneath them. Each leathery wingstroke was a lunge upward, clawing at the air to climb a few feet, buying a little time in which to lift the heavy wings for the next cycle. From behind them Carlos heard country music playing on the skiff’s radio, cranked loud enough to be heard over the engine.

It had been a long week for Carlos, and the vodka was starting to loosen him up. He later explained to the police that he had worked too many hours and was just tired–of the grinding factory work, the petty supervisors, the low wages, the chronic debt. He was tired of American country music. And he was especially tired of cattle flying overhead, raining urine and feces onto the tin roofs and dirt yards of his trailer park as they flew northward and over the wall to the United States.

This novelette is worth settling in to read and spend some time to think about. The imagery of a herd of cows flying through the sky is somewhat comical, though that aspect quickly dissipates as the narrative goes on. It’s a story about corruption, corporations, and rich men who get away with far too much because they are rich. That concept is hardly futuristic, I know. But so many people fail to question the doctrine of “because we can” that permeates so much of everyday people’s lives.

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Something one of the characters says toward the end really sums up everything about this story: “It’s not that they are bigger and stronger. It’s not that they win every contest, and have more of everything, even while some of us truly don’t have enough. It’s that they still want more. They have to be above you, and step on you, and defecate on you. They have to rub it in your face.”

Image Credit: Dave Wild “Secret History” on Flickr

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I know it’s been a while since I exhorted you all to subscribe to magazines. This month I have two good reasons to do so.

Remember last year when Charles Coleman Finlay guest edited an issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction and I declared it one of the best issues in years? Back in January the official word came down that Finlay was taking over editorial duties permanently. The current issue (May/June) is the second to bear his editorial stamp, and it’s a good one.

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So, I suggest you buy this issue or, better yet, subscribe and give Finlay a year to prove his worth!

If you buy this issue, then you can read this great story:


Entanglements by David Gerrold | The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (May/June 2015)

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I am going to kill that Pesky Dan Goodman.

I do not yet know how or when, but count on it. It will happen.

I will have a perfect alibi. That’s part of the plan too. I’m a writer. Ninety percent of what I do is research. The other ten percent is planning revenge. And I learned this one a long time ago — the best revenge doesn’t have the author’s fingerprints on it. That way the recipient can only blame karma.

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...

Now (you may ask) why have I decided to kill That Pesky Dan Goodman?

It’s simple.

Self defense.

Every time the man inserts himself into my life, the consequences are painful, expensive, and traumatic.

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Reading this story was like wandering into a party at a big con and somehow stumbling on the corner where some giant of the field is quietly holding court, and only those lucky enough to have torn themselves away from (or escaped) some less interesting blowhard get to be witness to it. This giant of the field is telling you a story, and that story probably has a straightforward version, but he keeps veering off into these tangents, and you don’t care because these tangents include tidbits about that time Gene Roddenberry bought his first computer and Majel Barrett freaked out because the simplistic AI was just complex enough to make it seem like it was carrying on a conversation and so on...

But then, oh then, you get to the meat of the story this guy has been trying to tell for an hour and you are stunned, just stunned, because he just blew your mind with insight and you’re wiping tears from your face because you see yourself in bits of that story (especially that bit about still owning a Zune because it was better than the iPod and shut up) and now you’re contemplating the meaning of your life and he’s got up to go to the bathroom and... wait... what was that about killing a man?

TL;DR Go buy that magazine and read this story.


One more subscription suggestion: Uncanny Magazine. They’re having a subscription drive at the moment, so through May 19th you can get 12 months for $2 less ($21.88 total). This magazine is new, but has made a strong showing over the past 6 months. Including this story...

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The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate by A. C. Wise | Uncanny Magazine

Section 2: Squatter’s Rights

This method of obtaining property, while not the most advanced covered in this guide, is not without its risks (and rewards!). Historical precedent may be on your side—for example the case of Dee St. Pierre in Cape May, NJ, who successfully moved into a darling cottage occupied by an elderly couple and refused to leave. Through patience and the judicious baking of apple pies, she managed to endear herself to the couple to such a degree that they legally transferred ownership of the property to her in their joint will. A similar case study would be that of Carson Dewitt in Etobicoke, ON, who moved into an empty house being used by no one in particular. Multiple attempts were made to dislodge him. However, like the proverbial cat, he continually returned until the police and city officials simply gave up and let it be.

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Not every witch has the patience or tenacity for this method and the potential for legal trouble may be more than you wish to deal with, especially if this is your first home.

Just a fun and beautiful story about witches, houses, and relationships. Or maybe it’s a metaphor...

Which of these stories did you like best (I seriously want to know! Let flow your opinions in the comments, I know you want to!). Have I missed any good ones this week? Tell me so below.

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K. Tempest Bradford is a speculative fiction author and media critic. Follow her on Twitter, G+, Tumblr, or her blog.