The cover art for this month is Icaria by Tomislav Tikulin, whose distinctive and stylish art is very reminiscent of the ’70s and ’80s and has graced the covers of many legendary SF, fantasy, and horror books, including Larry Niven’s Ringworld Engineers, Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama, Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine (50th anniversary edition), and Stephen King’s Carrie. He can be found online at tomtikulin-art.com.
(Both of our stories for this week were originally published in the anthology Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West.)
Short Fiction: “Dead Man’s Hand” by Christie Yant
Deadwood, Dakota Territory, 1876
The whisper of the cards as they’re shuffled is a deception, a ritual enacted to make you believe that your hand will be fairly dealt.
The fly that lands on the whiskey glass by the dealer’s hand means that the deck is cut three cards deeper than it would have been. The hand you’re dealt is not the one that would have been dealt a moment before.
Your cards are dealt anew every moment of every day. So are the cards of the other players.
A ♦ A ♣ 8 ♠ 8 ♣
Christie Yant is a science fiction and fantasy writer, Associate Publisher of Lightspeed Magazine and Nightmare Magazine, and editor of the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue of Lightspeed, which won the British Fantasy Award for Best Anthology in 2015. Her fiction has appeared in in print and on the internet in such places as Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2011 (Horton), Armored, Analog, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, io9, Wired.com, and China’s premier science fiction magazine, Science Fiction World. She lives on the central coast of California with two writers, one editor, two dogs, three cats, and a very small manticore.
For more information about Lightspeed‘s special double-issues devoted to showcasing the work of underrepresented and marginalized creators, visit destroysf.com.
Main Story: “Neversleeps” by Fred Van Lente
Monument Valley, Near Navajo Territory, Northbound on the Northwest Pacific Express, 120 years after the Awakening:
There were three Pinkertons. There were always three. One was a white man, one was black, and the other was a Celestial. They may have been something else before, but now they were Pinkertons. Same brownish- grey tweed suits, same bowler hats, same obese-caterpillar mustaches lurking below their noses.
Simon Leslie was playing hold-’em in the parlor car when the train slowed between two mesas in Monument Valley with a puff of steam and a sigh. Through the window he saw the Pinkertons get off and march in a flawless triangular phalanx up the nearest brick-red ridge. From the looks of it, they emerged from the express car in the center of the train; maybe the railroad kept them stacked in crates with the sacks of parcels and the safe where they laid, stiff-necked, their tattooed eyes open and unblinking, waiting to be needed. They were nicknamed “Neversleeps” for a reason. Simon Leslie knew. It had not been so long since he was one of them.
Fred Van Lente is the #1 New York Times bestselling, award-winning writer of comics such as Archer & Armstrong (Harvey Award nominee, Best Series), Action Philosophers! (American Library Association Best Graphic Novel for Teens), and Cowboys & Aliens (with Andrew Foley), the basis for the feature film. His many other titles include Resurrectionists, The Comic Book History of Comics, The Incredible Hercules (with Greg Pak), Taskmaster, Marvel Zombies, and The Amazing Spider-Man. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, the playwright Crystal Skillman, and some mostly ungrateful cats. Fred loves hearing from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find him online at fredvanlente.com.
“Neversleeps” was shortlisted for the Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy in 2015.
About the Narrator(s):
Seth Williams is the avatar for a three-kilometer sentient starship that is parked (probably uncomfortably) close to the third planet. Surprisingly he has not yet been discovered. He is very happy that the inhabitants have discovered enough technology to that he can communicate in this limited fashion. Any communications can be directed to theboojum.org.
Tim Maroney has an endless fascination with ideas and invention, the things that keep life spicy and interesting! He believes everyone’s got a tale to tell and enjoys “Talking Story!” He enjoys playing music, mostly on guitar. He’s even been the opening act for a 10-band rock concert. Learning new things, like podcasting, excites him. He’s been on four of the seven continents and has seen some of the wonders of our Earth. While in the Navy, he earned the rare and coveted dual Snake Plisskin Award: he escaped from New York AND LA, same as Snake (though they were two of the five submarines he served on). Not too bad for a guy from a small town in North-Central Florida!