This week, new fiction by Zahra Mukhi and some Gold…
New today in IZ Digital, ‘Of Sweet Seas and Starlight’, a beautifully-written story of resurrection and realisation by Zahra Mukhi.
Here is the opening:
It was said that schools were built on top of graveyards in this city. Only children believed in this; it was considered an urban legend too trivial to be given a second thought. There was a school in the centre of this city, in the middle of which there was an old neem tree. It spilled over the entire courtyard, giving shade to all. It was also said that an old and powerful jinn lived in this tree. Some said this jinn took refuge in the tree to hide. From what? From a rival? From its own sins? From a past life? From an angel, a demon? From itself? From friends turned enemies? They kept spinning their stories.
Others said the jinn grew with the tree; it was harmless and only wanted a peaceful life. Whatever anyone believed, no one would venture close to the school as soon as the evening call to prayer would begin.
At the end of the main school building, there was a path that led to the very edge of the boundary wall. There, in a corner, the ground was raised just slightly. It could easily be mistaken as a construction error – uneven paths were very common in the city. Beyond the boundary wall was an open naala, a sewer. This connected with the main sewerage system of the city and anyone going towards the back of the school would always, always have something around their nose to lessen the intensity of the smell. Now, this was a fairly normal occurrence in the city. But there was something unusual too; anyone who stood on the mound could smell fresh roses lightly sprinkled with water, mixed with the delightful aroma arising from the naala. And then, something even more perplexing would occur. The smell would change to that of dried roses shuffling on the parched ground, mixing in with all the smells of the wind. Except no one could quite place that smell.
The chowkidar of the school, an old man who had been around for as long as anyone could remember, was so used to the smell he would deny its oddity. He had a small room in the school, where all the extra school supplies would be kept. That room hadn’t been cleaned and sorted out in living memory, and no one wanted to try either.
The story is illustrated by Sumit Roy:
Today I received a review copy of The Other Shore by Hoa Pham, a novel out next month from Gold SF, a new imprint from Goldsmiths Press publishing new voices in intersectional feminist science fiction. I’d already been sent a PDF of Hoa Pham’s book, and what I read had me hooked. I'm looking forward to reading the rest.
I hope Gold SF thrive. Their list is exciting and packed with exactly the type of book I would love to see more of in the future.
You can find out a little bit more about them at the Goldsmiths Press submissions page.
Thanks for reading and supporting Interzone in all its forms!
Gareth Jelley, Editor & Publisher
Interzone & IZ Digital
‘My name is Kim Nguyen. I’m sixteen years old and my secret middle name is from a poem that means “of good heart” in Vietnamese. I have kept many things I see and hear to myself. This protects me, being a plain, ordinary schoolgirl in uniform, a white do dai that is impossible to keep clean. I do not show off at school, because the pres-sure of the student competition and the ritual picking on the weakest students by the teachers is too much for me I learnt about competition on the first day of high school from my best friend, Ngoc, who told me not to get angry at the teachers’ jibes about me being the ugly sister.
‘“They will be silent after they receive a gift,” she told me.
‘This was my first encounter with corruption – a corruption everyone expected. ’
— Hoa Pham, The Other Shore