Bardic Tales and Sage Advice anthologizes the best of the 2005 Bards and Sages Writing competition: sixteen fresh voices selected from over two hundred entries representing new and original science fiction, fantasy and horror from eleven countries. From a dark twist on "Sleeping Beauty" to new-job hell, from waning gods to an enchanted glass eye and menacing pet cats,
these stories span a range of tones from funny to bizarre to terrifying to epic.
In Elena Clark's atmospheric "Winter of the Gods," a young woman cloistered in the last Northern holdout against invading foreigners turns to the wolves of the wintry mountain forest to preserve the old gods for as long as she must. Deanna Marie Emmerson's epic poem "Reflexions" reveals the cataclysmic mystery and magic enwrapping the scientific truths of alternate reality and anti-matter through two young women linked through the skin separating our universe.
Those stories of reclusive old women living among veritable armies of felines take on a sinister cast in "The Cat Lady" by Melissa Herman. In a trio of flash fiction - "The Face She Remembers" by Swapna Kishore, "The New Guy" by Ashley Tamerline, and "Heroes" by Anthony Cooke - a young woman faces a beast and seals her eternal fate in the blink of an eye, a nervous novice purchasing agent sweats the competition and quotas, and the ultimate good guys in their superhero capes take a work-a-day smoke break.
With menacing Orwellian overtones, a touch of The Prisoner and a zot of A Clockwork Orange, David Lawrence's deliberately ambiguous "Through the Data Storm" imprisons us in what is either a dystopia too close to our own for comfort, or the ravings and delusions of a lonely lunatic. "The Lucky Card" by Jenue Brosinski invokes O. Henry's ghost when an anonymous birthday gift proves to be a mixed - and hard to shake - blessing. In a near-future U.S. of Ross Raffin's "Netherlands Roulette," where guns have been outlawed and violence against others nearly squelched by genetic engineering and iron-fisted consequences, nothing makes people feel more alive than flirting with death.
An unfortunate accident resulting from a schoolboy crush bestows a new but not necessarily better way of seeing things on an unlucky young man in "The Glass Eye" by David Stephenson. Nature, reason and opposite (but not necessarily equal) reactions infuse the raging voice of something - someone? - unnaturally immortal and bent on vengeance in "It Is..." by Anthony Cooke. Hard-living sea bandits face an implacable terror in Bob Quinn's "Pirates," and the catastrophic price of a forbidden love is too great for an eternal being to bear in Jerry Kline's "In the Beginning."
"Again-Les Fleurs du Mal" by Lynn Veach Sadler evokes a serene, even idyllic sojourn on the isle of Mauritius for a young couple expecting their first child, the tale
twisting to an end in a beautifully barbaric ritual. Mark Torrender's "Them" turns a harrowing tale of alien abduction on its head. In the final story, Meghan McVey's "Dragon's Ire, Phoenix Flame," a dragonslayer's hubris destroys all he holds dear, setting him on a world-spanning, life-consuming quest for redemption.
Founded in 2002 to encourage and support young writers of speculative fiction, poetry and role-playing game materials, Bards and Sages (www.bardsandsages.com) offers publication opportunities and provides information on writer resources and other markets. Bardic Tales and Sage Advice provides a stage for these developing, sometimes mesmerizing voices, and a glimpse into the future of speculative fiction.