I just learned that there are only a handful of copies of the limited edition left and only a few dozen copies of the trade edition of Speculative Horizons, an anthology compiled and edited by Yours Truly. Before the anthology is sold out, we want to give the book a bit more exposure, as we try to move those last remaining copies.
If you want to help raise funds for cancer research, or if you are just curious and wish to give the anthology a shot, it's available via the Subterranean Press website. Otherwise, if you want to get it at a discount, it's also available on various Amazon sites: Canada, USA, Europe.
You can read an extract from C. S. Friedman's short story here, and one from Hal Duncan's short story here.
Here's the blurb:
Speculative fiction is wide in scope and styles, and Speculative Horizons showcases the talent and storytelling skills of five of the genre’s most imaginative voices:
In C. S. Friedman’s “Soul Mate,” it’s love at first sight for Josie at the arts and crafts festival when she meets the handsome Stephan Mayeaux. It all sounds too good to be true until her newfound boyfriend starts to act strangely and unexplained occurrences begin to take place around her.
In Tobias S. Buckell’s “The Eve of the Fall of Habesh,” contragnartii Jazim must carry out one final assignment before the armies of the Sea People lay waste to the city he loves.
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to the universe of his bestselling Recluce saga in “The Stranger.” A young herder’s existence will be forever changed by the unexpected arrival of the black-clad man recounting tales of angels living on the summit of the Roof of the World.
In “Flint,” Brian Ruckley introduces us to a young and inexperienced shaman who must venture into the spirit world to discover the source of the sickness which afflicts his tribe before they are all wiped out.
Talk to any cop working for Homicide, Narcotics, or Vice, and they’ll tell you that they get the worst cases imaginable. But in Hal Duncan’s “The Death of a Love,” you realize that they have nothing on Erocide.
In addition to the two aforementioned extracts, here's an excerpt from L. E. Modesitt, jr.'s "The Stranger."
The late light oozed over the hills at the foot of the Easthorns that harvest afternoon, a light that gave the early snows on the higher peaks to the east the faintest tinge of orange. I heard the hoof-beats on the lane before I saw the man ride out of the sunset toward the cot and the sheep shed. I had just closed the door behind the flock. In those days, the mountain cats were far more numerous and far bolder, and any shepherd who left a flock outside was tempting fate. The fiercest of mastiffs were no match for a pair of cats. A young herder wasn’t, either, and I was barely old enough to sprout a few hairs on my face. I also had no real weapons, just an iron-tipped staff and a belt dagger. Ma had sold the big old sword that had been Da’s after he’d died when the Prefect had conscripted all the locals for an attack on Axalt. No one’s ever breached the walls of the trading city, and the Prefect’s forces didn’t then, either. Ma got a death-gold, and that didn’t even pay for the three lambs and the ewe that the armsmen took after they gave her the coin.
I glanced back at the shed for a moment. I was worried about the old ewe. She’d gone into season in spring for the first time that year, and the ram had covered her before we’d known, and she was showing signs her time was near.
Anyway, the hoof-beats got louder, and it was just before supper when the man rode up to the shed. He wore a black tunic, and black trousers, and even a black leather cloak. He wasn’t young, and he wasn’t old, but his face had the look of a man who’d traveled some. His hair was mahogany-red, but it didn’t look that way then. In the sunset, it was more like the color of blood. He was also clean-shaven… or mostly so, like he’d shaved a day or two before.
“Young fellow, might a man find a hearth and a meal here?”
I didn’t understand his words at first.
He asked again, and he spoke slowly. I still had to struggle to understand him because he spoke the way the traders from Suthya did, not quite the same, but close enough. What they called the old way of talking, sort of the way they did in Cyador, Caetyr told me later.
“We’re not an inn, ser.”
He smiled, sort of shyly. “I wasn’t looking for an inn. I was looking for honest folk who wouldn’t mind a few coppers for sharing their meal and letting a stranger sleep. I’d even sleep in the loft of the shed.”
By then, Ma had come out into the yard. She just looked at him.
He turned in the saddle and bowed his head to her for a moment. “Mistress, I was asking the young fellow about whether I might pay you for a meal and a place to sleep.”
“One way or the other, I’m no mistress.” She paused. “There’s an inn in town.”
“A stranger traveling alone is often safer with honest herders.” He smiled, and it was sort of a sad smile.
“That’d be so in places.”
“And you’re closer to Axalt. That’s where I’m headed.”
“You said you’d pay?” asked Ma.
“I did. Three coppers? Would that suffice?”
“We’ve only got a thick soup and fresh bread. No ale, nothing like that. Water’s good, though. We got a clean spring backside of the hill.”
“A thick soup would be wonderful.” When he dismounted, I saw that he had two swords at his belt, both on the right side, and both sheathed in something like double scabbard, and a long dagger on his left side. The two swords were short blades, like nothing I’d ever seen. It was more than warm, but he wore a dark gray leather glove over his right hand, the kind that extended part way up his forearm under the sleeve of his tunic.
He slipped his wallet from his belt and deftly slid out three coppers one-handed, extending them to Ma.
“I guess you’re our guest,” Ma said with a smile.
“I thank you.” He glanced toward the shed. “Might there be a place to put my mare? She’s carried me more kays than I’d want to count.”
“There’s a large stall at the end of the shed,” Ma said. “She’ll have to share.”
“She’s done that before.”
His horse was a black mare, and she did fine in with the old gelding. He groomed her with a worn brush that had leather straps that fitted over his gloved hand, and before long the three of us were sitting at the old table by the hearth.
Ma dished out the soup. She even used the better bowls and set the bread in a basket in the middle of the table.
“Would you like to say a blessing?” she asked.
“If you wouldn’t mind… mine’s a little different.”
“A blessing’s a blessing,” Ma said warmly.
He cleared his throat gently before he spoke. “May we all live in order and peace, and may that order keep chaos and evil at bay. May we always understand the goodness of order and the perils of chaos, and live so that others do also, and may we always strive for the goodness that order brings, both for ourselves and others.”
“That’s a good blessing,” Ma said. “Different, but good.”
“You talk like you’re from the west,” I said.
“I’m from a place called Carpa. It’s in Lornth.” He broke his bread one handed, with his left hand. I watched him for a moment. He didn’t use his right hand at all.
He looked at me. “You’re very observant. My right hand was hurt years ago. I can do some things with it, but eating’s not one of them.”
Ma gave me a look. So I asked, “Where have you been lately?”
“I was in Passera a while ago.”
“That’s two eightday’s ride,” Ma said.
“I didn’t ride it. I came downriver to Elparta on a flatboat. It took four days.” He shook his head. “It might have been better to ride.”
“It take you a long time to get here from Carthan?” I asked.
“Carpa.” He laughed, soft-like. “Ten years or so.”
“Lornth is beyond the Westhorns. Did you see the ones they call Angels when you came east?”
“I have seen them,” the man said.
“Are they six cubits high with silver hair and eyes, the way they say?”
He laughed, again. “Some have silver hair. I saw one who had silver eyes. None was taller than four and a half cubits, perhaps not that.”
“There must be a lot of them.”
“There were only thirty or so who came from the Rational Stars. That’s what they told me, and they don’t lie.”
“All folks lie at times,” Ma said.
“They don’t bother with it. At least, the ones I knew didn’t.”
“They’re all women, aren’t they?” That was what I’d heard.
“Most of them. Not all. One was a black mage, and a smith. His name was Nylan. He could bend the fires of heaven and draw something even hotter from a simple charcoal forge. He hammered out blades there on the Roof of the World that could cleave through the best iron in Candar. He forged other things, too.” The stranger’s eyes got a faraway look in them for a moment.
“What about the women?” I asked.
“Frankyr…” Ma said that in her quiet voice, the one that told me I was being rude.
“They were warriors, like no one in Candar has ever seen before, even more skilled and deadly than the fabled Mirror Lancers of ancient Cyador. I watched the one they called the marshal, Ryba of the Swift Ships of Heaven. She was tall for a woman, almost as tall as I am. With nothing but a pair of short blades she killed three Lornian armsmen and sliced off the sword hand of a fourth in less time than it takes to tell it.” He shook his head. “Folks don’t believe me when I say that, but it’s true.”
“Those short blades the kind you have?”
He looked at me. “They are. They were forged by Nylan.”
“They don’t seem very big, not like the sword Da had.”
“They’re very good, especially for close fighting on horseback. They can also be thrown. Saryn of the black blades could throw one hard enough that it would pierce a breastplate and the point would come out through a man’s back.”
“You saw that?”
“Once.” The stranger nodded, then stood. “I thank you for the supper, and I’ll be headed out to the loft.”
I watched him from the side of the cot, but he did pretty much what he said he’d do. Then I walked back inside and barred the door.
Ma looked at me. She was still sitting on the bench. “He’s a strange man. I think he’s a good one, though.”
“Someone must be chasing him,” I said. “Why would he want to stay here? What he gave you would almost pay for a meal and bed at the inn.”
“He’s not a common armsman,” Ma said.
“With all that black, you think he’s an assassin or a bravo?”
“He might have been… before he hurt his hand.” She shook her head. “He doesn’t swagger.”
“Maybe he was a captain or an undercaptain.”
“He doesn’t want to say… but he’s not common.”
Neither one of us said what we were thinking – that with his weapons and his skills, he could have taken anything he wanted. In the time before I dropped off to sleep, I wondered why he’d avoided the town.