This anthology features 21 stories and six essays about women who defy genre stereotypes. Here, it's not the hero who acts while the heroine waits to be rescued; Hath No Fury's women are champions, not damsels in distress. Whether they are strong, bold warriors, the silent but powerful type, or the timid who muster their courage to face down terrible evil, the women of Hath No Fury will make indelible marks upon readers and leave them breathless for more.
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RIDING EVER SOUTHWARD, IN THE COMPANY OF BEES
Honey for the baker, sweet and gentle on the tongue;
Honey for the teacher, for the virtue of the young.
Honey for the doctor, for the kindness of the bees,
Honey for the lovers. May they do just as they please.
Sunlight like honey on I-5 southbound, dribbling in thick streams, pooling at the center of the road, where it casts blacktop phantoms against the blistering sky. It lacks honey's sweetness, honey's forgiving nature, but the comparison is a natural one, especially in this season, especially on this road. Sunlight like honey, the rolling tires like the buzzing wings of bees, turning distance into dreams, turning the long haul into something that tastes a little bit like hope when it's balanced on the tongue. A little bit like freedom.
A little bit like loss.
The gas rations don't apply to us, not during pollination season: we roll in full glory, taking up the entire road. It's a parade rich in pomp and circumstance, and I hate it, because it paints a target on our backs the size of the central valley. When the roar of engines is audible from a mile away, people know what's coming. They know what we have. And yeah, there have been problems. There are always going to be problems when something familiar goes scarce, turns from common coal into dearest gold. Hell, we saw it happen with coal and gold themselves, when Kentucky burned, when all the gold in the world stopped being enough to buy an extra drink of water.
They use gold in bee-shrines these days, decorate their plaster honeycomb with chains and coins and pray that somehow, their schoolyard alchemy will undo what man has done. Will turn the honey in the air into honey on the tongue; will bring back the bees. Oh, how they yearn for the bees. What once they swatted without thought has become a symbol of a better time, a better world, a better life for them and everyone that they care about. So we roll down the road like a traveling fortress, ever watching the hills around us, ever waiting for the attack.
This is the honeycomb structure of our hive:
At the front, the bikes, four of them, two riding point and two hanging back just enough to form a blunted V-shape. They clear the road for us, keeping things rolling smooth. Any one of them can call off the ride if they feel like things are going sour, and any one of them would die to keep that from happening. They know how important what we do is to the survival of the state, to the souls of the people who watch us from the hills as we roll by, gold chains in their hands and honey in their hearts.
Behind the bikes, the three advance cars, all pre-Burn, all kitted to run on whatever we grind and stuff into their tanks, all tough enough to take a direct missile hit and keep on racing the horizon. When we get closer to the fields the bikes will fall back and the cars will move forward, trading places in a dance that we have long since choreographed to perfection. While each bike has a single rider, each car carries two: one to hold the wheel and one to hold the gun. The lead car's gunner, Poppy, has been making this run for fifteen years. She wasn't in the first convoy, but she was in the second, and she has a bee tattooed on her left arm for every person she's killed in the process of getting the bees to the fields. When she takes her shirt off, it looks like a swarm taking flight, swirling endless toward the sky. When she puts her arms around me, it's like being in the heart of the hive.
The ink on her latest tattoo was still fresh and weeping when we loaded up for this trip. She's running short on skin that hasn't been striped black and gold and bitter with another life lost; she's said, several times, that she hopes she can make it just one run without adding to her arm. So do the rest of us. We've always been hoping for that sort of peace.
Behind the advance cars, the truck, ghost of a shipping company's label still visible through the gaudy paint that decorates its sides, wheels armored with makeshift shields that weigh the vehicle down but have done almost as much to keep it moving through badland routes as the bikes, as the guns, as the whole damned human orchestra of violence and hope and hopelessness. Six people ride atop the vehicle, strapped into bolted-down chairs, guns at the ready, drenched in sun like honey and praying, just this once, to make a life-giving run without taking it at the same time.
Behind the truck, three more cars; behind them, two more bikes, riding single-file, the stingers on the bottom of the bee. Unlike the advance bikes, these have passengers, sharpshooters trained in the strange and delicate art of picking off a target from a distance. All told, we ride thirty strong, from the drivers to the alternates to the ones who hold the guns. It's not enough. It's never enough. We could ride with fifty, with a hundred, and it still wouldn't be enough, because there would always be someone so desperate or so foolish that they would look at our convoy, rolling down the line, and think that we were a target worth taking.
Desperate times. Desperate measures. And sunlight like honey, bleeding over the horizon, drowning us all.
Honey for the liar, help him spin a sweeter tale;
Honey for the sailor, help her set a swifter sail.
Honey for the student, help the pen write swift and true,
Honey for the farmers. May they plant the world anew.
When it's not pollination season, the last bees on the west coast are kept in a secure facility in Muir Woods, surrounded by fences and snipers and everything a tiny pollinator could want to ensure that they don't wind up trapped in a jar and sold on the black market to someone who doesn't know the first thing about bees, or beekeeping, or why the hive is so important. They just know that once, bees were everywhere, and food was plentiful and cheap, and paintbrushes were something you bought for your kids to paint with, not tools that narrowed the gap between your hand and the end of the world.
I grunt, eyes still on the honey-soaked road. We left the Bay Area this morning, when the sky was still pink and the heat of the day was still an unfulfilled rumor that might yet be proven untrue. It hadn't been, of course; there hasn't been a cool day any lower than Portland since before I was born. Every day, the sky burns, and the sun bleeds honey, and we struggle with cooling units and ever-moving convoys to keep the world alive for a little bit longer, while clever scientists in secret bunkers work to heal the world.
Nijmi rides with the point bikes, following Lou, who says the bunkers are a lie. Lou likes to claim she rode all the way to Ames, Iowa, once to bang on the bunker door and ask to be let in, only to find a rusted-out hole in the side of a mountain, leading down to nowhere. She likes to tell the newbies that we're the only true salvation of the world. Us, and the bees, who don't understand that things have changed. They only understand the age-old dance of field and flower, and the slow manufacture of honeycomb and hive. It must be nice, to be a bee.
Alan sighs. "We have to stop soon," he says. "The engines don't like going this hard in the heat. We need to give them a chance to cool down."
"We're still six hours from the first farm on this route." Six hours from an armed militia standing ready to receive us, to guide us and our precious cargo to the fields where the bees will be allowed, at last, to dance. There used to be more farms, but most of them have dried up and blown away, consigned to memory and dust. Others are still struggling for survival, paintbrushes in hand and children flooding the fields to do the work of insects. They've dropped off our route for other reasons: failure to pay, failure to protect, failure to follow the rules. We can't afford repeat offenders. Not with the resources already stretched so thin. Not with the hives so few, and so precious.
"Doesn't matter." Alan shrugs, expansive as a mountain range. He's a skink of a man, all long torso and quick-moving limbs, but he still somehow manages to take up twice his share of space. "The engines don't care how far we are from farmland."
I grunt, wishing I had a better objection, knowing that Alan will overrule me if I try. He's the lead mechanic for this convoy: without him, we'd be hauling our bees on foot down the curve of the coast. We all know how long that would last. The lesson of the Oregon hives is not one any beekeeper will forget any time soon.
Alan looks at me expectantly. Finally, I sigh and hit the horn, two long bursts, signaling the bikes to fall back, because a stop is coming, and they're going to need to follow my lead.
"There's a small settlement about twenty miles up," I say. "We dropped them off the list because they weren't big enough to be worth taxing the hives, not because they did anything aggressive or against the rules. They hand-pollinate their fruit trees. We can swap them a few hours pollination for water and a chance to rest the engines."
"There we go," says Alan, content in his victory.
I wrinkle my face into a scowl and blow the horn again. I hate unscheduled stops almost as much as I hate smug mechanics, and the loss of the open road.
Honey for the children, let them know what we have done;
Honey for the mothers, for their trials have just begun.
Honey for the fathers, let them keep what any can.
Honey for the drivers. May they find a better plan.
There are children in the trees when we pull off the road, the whole convoy rolling in noisy tandem, like the hand of God reaching out to touch these people's lives for no good reason. I can see their faces speckled through the leaves, eyes wide and staring in awe at the vehicles, which must seem like something from a fairy story of the before-time. People who work a farmstead like this, they're not thinking about hitting the road and heading for the horizon; not when there's a paintbrush in their hand and work still to be done. And there is always work to be done.
Poppy and I got Nijmi on a farmstead a lot like this one, payment offered for a turn with the hives and a chance at a better growing season. We wouldn't have done it — we don't trade in slaves — but we could see the way she was looking at the bikes, and the way the boys in my age group were looking at her. She needed out. We needed someone with young reflexes and sharp eyes who was ready to be indoctrinated into the way of the honey and the hive. A deal was struck, a price was paid, and if her parents slept poorly for the loss of her, good. They deserved to understand what they'd done. Maybe they kept a better eye on their girls these days. Maybe they were better about making sure that they were safe.
Nijmi is the youngest of us. She doesn't remember clean water from every faucet, electric hair dryers, air conditioning in every room. For her, the world has always been the black and broken road, the honey on the tongue, the eager eyes of everyone who sees us and knows what we carry, cargo more precious than bread, more irreplaceable than shade. It's almost refreshing, watching her interact with the world. For her, there is nothing left to lose.
The orchard is a stunted crescent of pink and green. Peach trees, from the looks of them, water-intensive and hard to hand-pollinate. Both qualities that make them rare in this world, and hence valuable. Even a small crop will be enough to trade for almost everything they need to keep body and soul together. Not much more. There's never much more.
Some of the children must have run ahead when they saw the trucks coming, or maybe the engines are even louder than I thought: a group of adults is already waiting for us when we come around the curve of the orchard and pull into the open space at the center of the settlement. The bikes circle as the cars settle into position around the truck, making sure that I am never undefended. When I kill the engine they stop, rear wheels inward, headlights and weapons pointed at the locals. It's unfriendly. It's untrusting. It's the only way to even approach safety, and all of us know that if these people were better-fed or better-armed, it wouldn't be nearly enough. We are the greatest treasure in this part of the world, and the temptation we represent has turned the heads of better men than these.
No one moves toward us. They wait, and so I unhook my belt, open my door, and swing my whole body out of the truck with a single practiced motion, jumping down rather than taking a single, vulnerable step to the ground. The shotgun in my hands bounces a little with the impact, metal socking against the skin of my palms with a small but audible slap. All around me I can hear the clicks of safeties being released — the weapons that have safeties, anyway. About half of us ride with weapons that can't be rendered useless without removing the bullets, because sometimes that split second is too much to spend. We've lost a few drivers to friendly fire, over the years. It's always been worth it.
A woman steps forward. She's older than I am by at least twenty years, or looks it, anyway; it can be hard to estimate the age of the people who still farm out here, purifying their own water and pollinating their own trees. That kind of labor ages a body long before its time.
"To what do we owe the honor of this visit, Beekeeper?" she asks. There's a quaver in her voice. She's trying so hard not to allow herself to hope that they have somehow been put on this year's list. Not an impossible dream: every year, the curators select a few farms that were dropped for inability to pay and put them on the route. It's important for us to have stops, and for the people to continue thinking that the system is fair.
It's not fair. How could it ever be? When you compare the number of farms we can service with the number of starving people left in this state alone, fairness doesn't even enter the equation. Only survival matters, now that the sun is honey and the road is the closest thing to equality any of us will ever have.
"Our engines need to cool," I say, and watch the light go out in her eyes. We can stop here for as long as we like, we can demand whatever we want from their supplies, and they can't ask anything in return; not if they want any chance at the list.
There are some Keepers who would take advantage of this, strip the place of clean water and whatever fresh fruit they've managed to hold back for themselves, tell the people they leave hopeless and hungry that this will guarantee them a better spot on next year's list. Those Keepers maybe outnumber the rest of us, at this point.
But I am not among them.
"We have honey," I say. Every person within the range of my voice goes still, even the ones who ride with me, who knew that this offer would be coming. Their stillness is warier than the stillness of the settlers: they know that my announcement, which seems so generous and good, could very easily be the thing that tips us over into anarchy. Some treasures are too great to be spoken of in open spaces such as this.
"Honey?" asks the woman. She makes no effort to hide the longing in her voice. She's honest, this one: she knows that I would know her for a liar if she tried to keep her hope at bay.
"Honey," I say. I do a quick count of the faces I can see, and compare it to the children who peeked at us through the trees, the ones who still aren't here. I know what I have. I know what we can spare. "Three jars, in exchange for water for our engines and a sample of whatever it is you grow here. I'd like to taste your land."
A low, disbelieving murmur breaks out among the crowd, not unlike the gentle buzz of bees. Finally, the woman asks, "What else do you want?"
"Nothing," I say. "Time for our engines to cool. Your assurance that no hands will be raised against us. Perhaps a tour of your orchards, if you're feeling generous."
Her laughter is as dried out and enduring as her land. "You've just offered my people honey. For that, we're more than generous. Whatever you like."
I smile a little, turning to Poppy and offering her the nod. She presses her rifle into Nijmi's hands and heads for the truck, moving so that her body is shielded by the great metal beast. It wouldn't do to have anyone see the combination on our safe, the way the keys are meant to be turned, any of the things that keep our treasures locked away.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Hath No Fury"
Copyright © 2018 their respective authors.
Excerpted by permission of Outland Entertainment.
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Table of Contents
FOREWORD – Robin Hobb,
INTRODUCTION – Margaret Weis,
RIDING EVER SOUTHWARD, IN THE COMPANY OF BEES – Seanan McGuire,
SHE TORE – Nisi Shawl,
THE SCION – S.R. Cambridge,
HARRIET TUBMAN – Melanie R. Meadors,
CASTING ON – Philippa Ballantine,
FOR THE LOVE OF ETTA CANDY: ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FEMALE FRIEND – Shanna Germain,
SOME ENCHANTED EVENING – Anton Strout,
BURNING – Elaine Cunningham,
IT AIN'T BAD TO GET MAD: THE ANGRY HEROINES OF SF/F – Sarah Kuhn,
A DANCE WITH DEATH – Marc Turner,
ADA LOVELACE – Melanie R. Meadors,
PAX EGYPTICA – Dana Cameron,
A WASTELAND OF MY GOD'S OWN MAKING – Bradley P. Beaulieu,
ECHOES OF STONE – Elizabeth Vaughan,
ANGER IS A FRIEND TO LOVE – Diana M. Pho,
THE MARK OF A MOUNTAIN POPPY – Erin M. Evans,
SNAKESKIN: A MUTANT FILES STORY – William C. Dietz,
A SEED PLANTED – Carina Bissett,
THE BOOK OF ROWE – Carol Berg,
CHING SHIH – Melanie R. Meadors,
SHE KEEPS CRAWLING BACK – Delilah S. Dawson,
A HERO OF GRÜNJORD – Lucy A. Snyder,
THE UNLIKELY TURNCOAT: A GENRENAUTS SHORT STORY – Michael R. Underwood CRAFT – Lian Hearn,
RECONCILING MEMORY – Gail Z. Martin,
THIS IS NOT ANOTHER "WHY REPRESENTATION IS IMPORTANT" ESSAY – Monica Valentinelli,
TRENCH WITCH – M.L. Brennan,
LAST OF THE RED RIDERS – Django Wexler,
CHRISTINE JORGENSEN – Melanie R. Meadors,
RISE OF THE BONECRUSHERS – Eloise J. Knapp,