QSFer Elizabeth F. Shearly has a new queer post-apocalyptic book out (ace, bi, gay, lesbian): Dread Spring.
After nuclear armageddon, Chloe’s days have fallen into a routine: wake up from the nightmares at four a.m., farm chores with Vishesh, schooling with the kids, fight with Monty, and then an early bedtime. As long as their vegetable patch stays viable, they can avoid a slow and painful death.
But this season their field is contaminated. Short of asking for help from the walking towns—mechanical hulks developed to decontaminate land and water—there’s no recourse. Chloe risks going behind Monty’s back to contact the towns, but the response isn’t at all what she expected. Now that she knows there are bigger problems out there, she can’t just leave well enough alone. But what can a former computer scientist hope to do in a world of seeds and soil?
Warnings: Domestic abuse, pregnancy, death of family member, occasional use of obscenities, gunshot wound
A chirp and trill broke the morning silence, and a finger of dread curled in Chloe’s gut. Outside, the little robin landed and hopped across the bare yard, carefully avoiding the last little patch of snow that hadn’t yet melted. The excuses were wearing thin—testing the soil couldn’t be delayed forever. The grandfather clock in the corner of the dining room ticked over and struck seven a.m.
While snow had glistened on the ground and the bare branches had rattled in the frigid wind, pretending winter would never end had been easy. Pretending their food stores would never run dry had been easy. None of them were genuinely fooled, not even the kids.
“Look! A robin!” said Terry as he popped through the doorway from the kitchen. He ran to the window to get a better look.
“That means it’s spring,” said Connor, trudging in after him. He would know best of any of the kids what spring meant for the farm. He sat across from Chloe with his back to the window and crossed his arms.
“Yup, spring is right around the corner,” said Chloe.
Vishesh stepped into the dining room, carrying a couple of steaming mugs. He must have heard their chatter, because he raised his eyebrows at Chloe as he laid a mug on the table in front of her. Vishesh’s tea wasn’t caffeinated, but having a hot drink in the morning was better than nothing. Chloe took a sip and winced. Very slightly better than nothing. The dandelion root was always more bitter than she expected.
“Can I help with the testing?” said Connor.
“Nah, don’t worry about it,” said Chloe. “Vishesh and I have it covered. Besides, don’t you have a book report to work on?”
“He does,” said Sheila as she swept in from the kitchen, carrying breakfast. Flora dodged in after her and joined Terry at the window.
“Sheila won’t mind if I do it next week,” said Connor.
“Yes, she will, and she’s sitting right there,” said Chloe.
Connor rolled his eyes, snatched his breakfast off the table, and slouched out of the room.
Teenagers. His stomped retreat rattled their dishes and echoed up the stairs. If he wasn’t careful, he’d wake up Monty.
Vishesh sat across from Chloe. “To the table, littles,” he said.
As always, they scampered to obey him. Flora climbed up beside Chloe, and Terry plunked himself between Vishesh and Sheila on the other side. Monty’s chair sat blessedly empty at the head of the table. And at the foot . . . Chloe swallowed down the pang that Gloria’s empty chair sent to her heart. She couldn’t get Gloria back any more than she could all the other folks they had lost, but with some work, and probably a lot of luck, she could keep everyone else she loved alive a little bit longer.
Elizabeth F. Shearly writes science fiction and fantasy tales, from flash fiction to novels and everything in between. She holds a B. Sc. in physics, and you’ll find plenty of science in her science fiction, though the fiction always takes precedence. No matter what she writes about—spaceships or magic, walking cities or medieval castles—romance always finds a way to blossom, whether as the main plot or as a background story.
When she’s not watching characters play-act in her head, you can find her relaxing on the couch with her two cats, playing a video game or knitting a sweater.