QSFer Rachel A. Rosen has a new Sci-Fantasy Cli-Fi book out: Cascade.
In the wake of a worsening climate crisis, magic runs rampant and demons roam across the Canadian prairies. A long-dead god stirs in the Pacific Ocean, while the wilderness is choked by invasive, screaming grass.
The Cascade has shattered political stability, leaving a scandal-plagued government clinging to power in Ottawa. As catastrophe looms ahead, a precognitive rainman, Ian Mallory, stands between run-of-the-mill corruption and a nightmarish, dystopian future. It is up to a diverse and unlikely band of activists, scientists, journalists, and one underpaid, emoji-spell wielding intern to save their beleaguered country from its own worst impulses.
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As the door shut behind him, Sujay sighed ever so slightly. Oh, Jonah had time to think, right before the glamour dropped, she’s an illusionist.
At first he thought it was his own eyes failing before the rest of him started aging, the colour draining from his vision. But the office—the obligatory flag and formal photo of the Prime Minister, the brass lamp on the desk, the neglected but nevertheless tenacious cactus—didn’t change, nor did the robin’s egg of Ian’s tie. It was just Ian himself, unglamoured, hair grey, irises grey, skin and lips, all that same dreary monochrome. If he could still smile, his gums would be grey.
“Fucking hell, Mallory,” Jonah said. “What the fuck did they do to you?”
“Whadda y’at?” Ian shook his hand, his grip as vigorous as ever, then collapsed back into his chair. Without the glamour and the veneer of colour, the lines in his face were more pronounced. Politics, as the good Doctor Hunter S. Thompson had put it, was a drug, and magic an even more potent one. It wasn’t exactly surprising that Ian had become a self-destructive speed freak in the five or so years since Jonah had seen him last. He looked like he hadn’t slept in centuries. A handshake was all Jonah would be allowed; anything more and Ian would no doubt crumble to ash.
“That,” Jonah gestured vaguely at the closed door, “is not an intern.”
“She’s my apprentice.” His accent was thicker when the door closed. “Talented girl. Probably keeping the entire country from falling apart lest they behold the monster I’ve become. I got lucky when she turned up.”
“How much are you using your powers that you’ve gone all Fifty Shades of Grey?”
“Didn’t hire you to be my fuckin’ mother, Joe.” He rubbed at his eyes. Even the bloodshot was grey. How did that even work, scientifically speaking? “We’re talking Instapot levels of pressure. It’s the fucking Siege of Stalingrad up here. They’re out for blood this time.”
“Saw your interview.”
Ian slid a paper under the mess of folders; Jonah caught only the slightest glimpse. A Pattern, the continuation of the ward labyrinth on his shoulder, drawn over architectural plans. “Tan’s nothing. I liked the picture though—it’s on my fridge at home.”
“You’re losing it. Losing them. The people who voted Abel in.”
“The fuck I am.” Ian picked up a pen on his desk and twirled it. There was no natural light in the office, because of course there wasn’t, but the metal clip caught the lamp and scattered gold over the gleaming wood. There was a thousand times more colour in those few little bright sparks than anywhere on Ian. “No one wants to be governed by fucking wizards. No one even wants to worry that they might, in some remote, abstract, indirect way, be governed by fucking wizards. You’ll all happily surrender every bit of autonomy to data mining companies who use your private information to force you to buy shit you don’t need, but the thought of someone influencing your opinions through magic is a massive subversion of democracy?”
“Well…” Jonah started, then, “you’re preaching to the converted here.”
“They’re not wrong. It’s just too late. The genie’s out of the bottle, and if the other side doesn’t already have someone like me, you can bet it’s not for lack of trying. And when they do, they’ll use him the exact same way the Party uses me. They’re just not going to be all open about it like I am.”
“Yeah.” He studied the dips and speckles of light. Ian had freckles, he remembered, that first summer up at the reclamation camp. He could, he thought, drag Ian out of this drab little office, into the sunlight. They could get in the car, and drive, and drive, until they were out of the city, its fecal toxicity, drive until the colour returned to his face. They could, but Ian wouldn’t. “You’re just a regular open book, aren’t you?”
“The worst thing,” Ian said, “is that I’m the most honest fella in this massive shitehole of a city.”
“Now that is terrifying.”
RACHEL A. ROSEN lives and makes trouble in Tkaronto (Toronto) in the country currently known as Canada. A genre strumpet with an outlook darker than VantaBlack, she straddles urban fantasy, cosmic horror, dystopian futures, and eco-fiction. Her stone-cold bummer of a first novel, Cascade (The Sleep of Reason Book 1), was published by The BumblePuppy Press in 2022, and with Zilla Novikov, she’s the co-author of The Sad Bastard Cookbook: Food You Can Make So You Don’t Die. When she’s not hammering out the next book in the Sleep of Reason series, you can find her either under one of several cats, designing book covers, or indoctrinating the youth in hopes of getting them to come to class every now and again.