First Story: “Lost Arts” by Stephen Dedman
Tao’s was the only office on Hathor. It was a conventional flexiroom bisected by a temporary wall; the smaller chamber served as an ante-room, mainly in case the mayor was asleep when unexpected visitors arrived. Many of her neighbors had chambers that were similar, but they called them studios or studies or libraries or galleries.
Being mayor of Hathor wasn’t normally a demanding job, as the more routine details were handled by her Turing-tested secretary Aidan. Tao’s role was mostly oversight, and dealing with those inhabitants who wanted to speak to a fellow human.
Stephen Dedman is the author of the novels The Art of Arrow Cutting, Shadows Bite, Foreign Bodies, and Shadowrun: A Fistful of Data, and more than 120 short stories published in an eclectic range of magazines and anthologies and reprinted in his collections The Lady of Situations and Never Seen by Waking Eyes. For a full bibliography, go to his webpage www.stephendedman.com
Second Story: “Nor Iron Bars a Cage” by Deborah J. Ross
Tax collection day dawned clear and bright over the walled city of Ghillensa. Farmers arrived even as the first light softened the ancient battlements; wooden gates swung open to admit a procession of ox-carts creaking under late summer’s bounty, sacks of wheat and barley, tubs of pale-gold butter, sheaves of clover-grass to keep cattle fat over the winter, bushels of carrots and cabbages, kegs of country-ale. A market had set up in the shadow of the gray-walled Affliction Tower where it was said kings had gone in and never seen the sun again, until their ghosts wandered the endless corridors, so confused they did not know they had died. Others said there were no ghosts, only the endless, weary sighs of common criminals.
Deborah J. Ross writes and edits fantasy and science fiction. She’s a former SFWA Secretary and member of Book View Café. Her short fiction has appeared in F & SF, Asimov’s, Star Wars: Tales From Jabba’s Palace, Realms of Fantasy, Sword & Sorceress, and various other anthologies and magazines. Her most recent books include the Darkover novel, The Children of Kings (with Marion Zimmer Bradley); Lambda Literary Award Finalist Collaborators, an occupation-and-resistance story with a gender-fluid alien race (as Deborah Wheeler); and The Seven-Petaled Shield, an epic fantasy trilogy.
About the Narrators:
Geoffrey Welchman is a voice actor, writer, and producer who lives in Baltimore, Maryland (USA). You can learn more at www.geoffreywelchman.com
Nicola Seaton-Clark lives in the wilds of (almost) Eastern Europe with her long-suffering husband, phenomenal children and a grumpy cat. Trained as an actress and singer, she has worked in entertainment for over 20 years and currently splits her time between writing speculative fiction, helping her husband run their voice-over company, Offstimme, and voicing everything from commercials and documentaries to public transport announcements. She also hosts this podcast…..