From Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian.
So by the time you get there, you figure you've done pretty much everything a man can do in this life, right?
And you're tired of worrying about consequences and all that – right?
I know. I've been there.
Under the leaded skies of Low Port, anything looks possible. You amble out of the ship like you haven't got a care in the world, when all the time you're feeling just a tiny twinge of discomfort. Like there's something you ought to remember, something from way back when, before you were so God-almighty sure of yourself and everything you do. Only it's just on the tip of your tongue, and you're not talking.
They left a map in the cabin yesterday, when they finished cleaning up your mess and changing the sheets. Something to guide you through the down time, while the ship's in for maintenance. You leaf through it while you eat breakfast in the morning, checking out the ads, looking over the list of local customs. Amateur stuff, really, complete with tips for getting along with the natives. There's a picture of one, and some small print you ignore. They're humanoid, like most of the settled universe. That'll do.
You hadn't thought about natives when you decided to come here, but it's no big deal. You're always a stranger, and strange places are nothing new. You've always landed on your feet. Sometimes, when you're drunk enough to believe in an Almighty, you think He probably has a special place in His heart for you. Nothing else could explain your kind of luck, or the bullets you've dodged. Even on the ship, your luck's been holding, but you only indulged yourself once. You're pretty proud of that, of showing some restraint. It isn't easy.
So you walk down the gangway and out into the night.
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...A graveyard. Night. Lurid branches scrabble across the blood-red moon. Silence, whispers, then a hush of anticipation. Fifteen boom boxes encircle a grave. Giant woofers (removed just that morning from an unsuspecting car) sit with bass ends flat against the massive gravestone.
Here at peace at last lies Thor
Troubled by the Dark no more
The four aging fans in attendance for the midnight show -- the ritual -- had polished their studs, mangled their hair, added dye where needed and bleach where not. They wore their finest black leather, but left the jackets open to expose too-small T-shirts from concerts past, fabric memories that paid homage to their hero's mind-blowing shows, when he'd been alive. Thor. The writer of the greatest song in the history of mankind.
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Review from scifi.com:
"Mahmoud's Wives," a look at the oppression of women in extremist Islamic cultures, stalks its reader with the deadly patience of a jaguar.
...Mahmoud bore her invective in silence. Truth be told, the exceptionally good soya harvest of last year had allowed him to afford a third wife, and in all likelihood it was getting crowded in there. Still, if Fatimah would only exercise more as he'd suggested, instead of just dragging around all day like a landsnail, she would probably lose some of that extra weight and fit in there quite comfortably. There were plenty of air holes.
Carter has been exiled from his diocese on Earth to minister among the heathen of Low Port. Left to his own devices, he discovers more than he'd dreamed possible, and finally understands what it is to be truly human.
...he loved her fecundity, the womanly wealth that thrived on and gave nourishment to the holy seed within her, and spewed Him forth in a river of blood from that mystical slit between dung and urine. Blood of the lamb, the same lamb that stretched in an unbroken line from Abraham's early sacrifice to his own, here in Low Port, with the unadjusted heat and the dotted line of itching pustules surfacing on his neck even now.
From New Voices In Science Fiction, ed. Mike Resnick; DAW Books, December 2003. Mike Resnick, one of the most notable anthologists in the field, assembled this book of short stories by the "young" authors he considers to be the most promising. Also includes stories by Kage Baker, David Barr Kirtley, Julie E. Czerneda, Susan Matthews, Shane Tourtelotte, Cory Doctorow, Kay Kenyon.
A tourist takes an unintended walk on the wild side when he arrives on an island for his annual vacation..
So I be chicken, man, what is it to you? You who always have that full belly stretched like a washboard over them disgusting ribs. It be the little things in life make a person happy. Me happy being chicken, what your problem with it? 'Sides, give me something to do on the weekend… otherwise this girl get into trouble, too much time on the street.
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From I, Alien; includes stories by Harry Turtledove, Kristine Rusch, Robert Sawyer, Available through Amazon.com
Asked to write a short story from the viewpoint of a non-human, Janis responded by penning a series of letters to the editor of this anthology, Mike Resnick.
Dear Mike, Thank you for your many answers, and the lesson on punctuation?!#...I did not realize a sentient of your standing was permitted only one wife. Is this by custom or by chance? Also, what do you do when she is worn out? Are there many replacements available?
Available in the paperback I, Alien at amazon.com.
Available in the magazine Galaxy's Edge at amazon.com.
A very young man meets a very old djinn--with predictable results.
…From his reading, he'd expected something fearsome. Something that would strike terror into his heart, and awe into his soul. Something that would make him revise the atheism he'd adopted in college.
Instead there was a squat, blubbery…thing standing in his kitchen, waistline rolling over its jeweled belt, rolls of fat bunching around the formidable hips. It wore pince-nez glasses and carried a purse. A light blue dirndl shirt with embroidered neck and elbow-length sleeves allowed folds of skin to escape under the elastic. A tweed skirt completed the ensemble, ending just above the knees. Ed found himself goggling at the djinn's legs, wondering how it had managed to stuff feet that size into such small shoes. Then again, the shoes were almost obliterated by the mass of watery fat cascading over them from the ankles. It looked to be somewhere between sixty and a hundred years old, and female.
He felt faint.
The djinn noticed his expression and roared with laughter. Apparently this had happened before.
From Young Warriors: Stories Of Strength, ed. by Jo Sherman & Tamora Pierce; Random House. Also features stories by Black and Brent Hartinger, Tamora Pierce, Doranna Durgin, Laura Ann Gilman, Julie Czerneda.
An unassuming Jewish boy meets a dybbuk, who has chosen to inhabit his beloved's body. For Young Adults.
It was getting on toward mid-afternoon of the Sabbath when Eli met the dybbuk.
The dreamy-eyed son of Mordechai and Ruth was walking along the edge of the Tsar's forest, searching for stray bits of wood his mother could use to build the fire up before sundown, for after sundown all work would be forbidden for the next twenty-four hours. Although why keeping warm was work, Eli did not understand as yet, for he'd only studied Torah a few years now. He kept a careful eye on the sun as he calculated the remaining daylight hours. It wouldn't do to be late.
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From Women Writing Science Fiction As Men, ed. Mike Resnick. DAW Books, June 2003.
* Honorable Mention Year's Best SF 2004, ed. Gardner Dozois.
Sometimes the only choice a man can make is the one that hurts him most.
I took the Lone Star from base down Hope Highway, where I switched to a local. After a couple of transfers I managed to catch the last bus toward Prayerville. It was mid-morning by then, the orange sun just beginning to cast long shadows on the grass. I had a million things to do before we mustered out the next morning, but I'd put this off about as long as I could.
The kit bag lay lighter in my lap than a week before; my stops had seen to that. This would be the last.
It didn't hold much any more; a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to tide me over, a razor to keep me from scaring the natives, and Joe's effects. Didn't seem like enough to warrant crossing half a light year, but there you have it. A job's a job, and the Army tries to pick the best man for it. Namely, me.
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A small-time swindler from Scottsdale finds himself in hell, and is just about fed up with it. The heat, hard labor, and lousy food is bad enough, but the endless parade of gorgeous over-sexed demons keeps his tortured mind on pleasures of the flesh he can't satisfy ... An adventure of familiar characters and run-of-the-mill sinners await as he hitches a water ski ride across the river Styx to El Diablo's palace--where he intends to confront The Big Guy?
I lost all interest in sex after I died.
Even worse luck, I still had my appetite. After all those years of counting calories, you figure at least death will put an end to it, you know what I mean?
I'd always said that life wasn't fair, but trust me, it's got nothing on death.
We lived in Scottsdale until Mamie passed away. 44 years we were together. All right, so it wasn't a perfect marriage, but it's not like I cheated. "Cheat" is such an unflattering word. I just kind of fooled around a little, and believe me, it was for the noblest of reasons: to take the sexual pressure off her (though she never quite saw it that way). It's amazing how blind women can be about essentially gallant motives.