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Uncanny Magazine Issue 5 Cover and Table of Contents!

All of the content will be available in the eBook version on the day of release.

The free online content will be released in 2 stages- half on day of release and half on August 4.

Don’t forget eBook Subscriptions to Uncanny Magazine are available from Weightless Books, and you can support us on our Patreon.


Uncanny Magazine Issue 5 Table of Contents


Antonio Caparo- “Companion Devices”


The Uncanny Valley

New Fiction

Mary Robinette Kowal – “Midnight Hour” (7/7)
E. Lily Yu- “Woman at Exhibition” (7/7)
Shveta Thakrar- “The Rainbow Flame” (7/7)

Charlie Jane Anders- “Ghost Champagne” (8/4)
Sarah Monette – “The Half-Life of Angels” (8/4)
Delilah S. Dawson- “Catcall” (8/4)


Scott Lynch- “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” (8/4)


Natalie Luhrs- “Ethics of Reviewing” (7/7)
Sofia Samatar- “Writing Queerly: Three Snapshots” (7/7)

Michael R. Underwood- “21st Century Heroes – Representation in Marvel & DC’s Cinematic Universes” (8/4)
Caitlin Rosberg- “Representation Matters: Embracing Change in Comics” (8/4)


C.S.E. Cooney- “The Saga of Captain Jens” (7/7)
Bryan Thao Worra- “Slices of Failure in Super Science” (7/7)

Sonya Taaffe- “Σειρήνοιϊν” (8/4)


Deborah Stanish Interviews E. Lily Yu (7/7)
Deborah Stanish Interviews Delilah S. Dawson (8/4)

Podcast 5A (7/7)

Mary Robinette Kowal – “Midnight Hour” as read by Amal El-Mohtar
C.S.E. Cooney- “The Saga of Captain Jens” as read by the Author
Deborah Stanish Interviews Mary Robinette Kowal

Podcast 5B (8/4)

Charlie Jane Anders- “Ghost Champagne” as read by C.S.E. Cooney
Sonya Taaffe- “Σειρήνοιϊν” as read by Amal El-Mohtar
A Deborah Stanish Interview

Remembering Peggy Rae Sapienza

Helen Montgomery

I can’t believe that Peggy Rae Sapienza is gone. I got the news while on the train, and managed to mostly hold it together until getting to my office, where I am now just sitting and crying and reading all the beautiful tributes. I had so hoped that she would pull through this, and I’d see her later this year at Worldcon or Smofcon, and she’d be her usual smiling, beautiful self.

I met Peggy Rae during the Chicago in 2008 Worldcon Bid. In 2006, not long after we lost, Peggy Rae came to Chicago. Dave McCarty and I had dinner with her, and she looked at both of us and said “So, what are you going to do for Japan?” Dave ended up as the Events Division Head, and I solicited ads for the program book. Because one simply did not say “no” to Peggy Rae. It was impossible to do so.

Even though we had been bidding for a Worldcon, Peggy Rae actually gave us both our first ever Worldcon jobs.

She was our Fan Guest of Honor in 2012 at Chicon 7, and I am so proud that we were the ones to honor her, especially in light of the role she played for both Dave and I in the Worldcon community.

My deepest condolences and love go out to John Sapienza, Peggy Rae’s family, and her friends. I will miss her more than words can say.


Chuck Serface

I’ve been involved with fandom since 2011, when I joined the Bay Area Science Fiction Association (BASFA). Over my first few months of attending meetings, my new friends convinced me that Worldcon was the place for anyone wishing to learn more about science fiction. I purchased my membership for the then upcoming Chicon 7, and my friend Maurine Starkey invited me to the Hugo Award ceremony and related parties as her escort. What a thrill to get an insider’s look at these doings, to meet Neil Gaiman, and to see Maurine score the Hugo Award for Best Fan Artist. During the evening, Maurine introduced me to another who quickly won my heart, Peggy Rae Sapienza.

Rarely have I connected with any individual so quickly. Peggy Rae and I spent hours over the next two evenings discussing everything imaginable. Obviously, she’d devoted enormous energies to conventions, which I deduced from her stories and from the reverence paid to her by others. Silly me – I hadn’t even realized that she was the Fan Guest of Honor at that Worldcon. She predicted that although I was a latecomer, soon I would evolve into a fan who watched out for others, for the community at large. Her tone revealed her deep commitment to fandom and that she expected no less from me.

After that Worldcon, I again encountered Peggy Rae at several conventions and conferences. We’d dine, and then sequester ourselves for deep conversations. Through Peggy Rae, I became involved in the Nebula Awards weekend, where I presented the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, quite an honor for a fellow who only had wandered in off the streets three years before. Always she added so much to any event we attended together.

A few noticed our rapidly growing friendship and weren’t shy with opinions. Some viewed Peggy Rae as a modern-day Lucrezia Borgia. The majority described her in ways that brought to mind Eleanor Roosevelt. The Borgia camp most likely had experienced the just hand she administered when running conventions, perhaps feeling hurt that certain decisions hadn’t gone their way, failing to understand that it wasn’t personal. The Roosevelt camp appreciated the skills she’d brought to any endeavor she guided. Any fool could see the talent and wisdom she possessed. What a loss to our community her death signifies.

My last contact with Peggy Rae happened by email. She wrote a short note thanking me for advice I’d given regarding sexual harassment at conventions. Two weeks later, Warren Buff informed me that she was facing serious bypass surgery, and I realized her note constituted a goodbye, a “you’re pretty good, Chuck” nod before she began her final step. I regret not answering that email, not reading between the lines, and not knowing about her illness. She knows I’ll atone, however, with my mower’s sharp blades. I have mowed Peggy Rae’s lawn. I’ll do so again. I’ll steer my mower straight and true, leaving even impressions in the grass and never missing a spot. As I stated above, she’d expect no less from me. So, of course, I’ll deliver no less.

Uncanny Magazine Weightless Books Subscription Drive

Uncanny Magazine is recruiting new members for its Space Unicorn Ranger Corps! We named the Uncanny Kickstarter backers the Space Unicorn Ranger Corps after our amazing Space Unicorn mascot. Now, you can become a member of the Corps by subscribing at Weightless Books!

This is the perfect time to join because Uncanny is going on sale! From May 5-19, a year’s subscription to Uncanny Magazine is $2 less than the typical current cover price (only $21.88)! It’s the least expensive way to subscribe we’ve ever offered.

Each bimonthly issue of Uncanny contains new and classic speculative fiction, poetry, essays, art, and interviews.  We seek out and share pieces we can’t stop thinking and talking about, because of how they make us feel. We’re also deeply committed to finding and showcasing fantastic works by writers from every possible point of view and background.

We debuted Issue One of Uncanny in November 2014 and we’re thrilled with Year One. We’ve included contributions from phenomenal authors such as Neil GaimanJim C. HinesMaria Dahvana HeadleyMax GladstoneKen LiuChristopher BarzakSam J. MillerSofia SamatarSarah Pinsker, Catherynne M. Valente, Elizabeth Bear, John Chu, Kameron Hurley, and Amal El-Mohtar, plus many newer voices. We can’t wait for you to read what’s coming next.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 1New or renewing subscribers to Uncanny Magazine from May 5-19, 2015 will be eligible for giveaways and  a whole bunch of Uncanny swag!

  • When we reach a total of 50 new/renewing subscribers we’ll unlock an ebook of Issue One for *every* new/renewing subscriber. Plus, we’ll randomly draw 2 winners for Uncanny swag packs: postcards, a sticker, and a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch!
  • At 100 new/renewing subscribers, every new subscriber will receive an ebook of Issue One and Two. Plus, we’ll draw for a set of signed cover-art posters and a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch!
  • At 150 new/renewing subscribers, all new/renewing subscribers will receive ebooks of Issue One, Two, and Three (all caught up!), and we’ll draw 2 winners for signed books: The Republic of Thieves MMPB by Scott Lynch and Karen Memoryhardcover by Elizabeth Bear, plus a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch for each winner!
  • Uncanny Magazine Issue 2At 200 new/renewing subscribers, we’ll draw for a mega-swag pack that includes postcards, a sticker, a patch, signed cover art, and both signed books!
  • At 300 new/renewing subscribers, we’ll draw for a Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 7.0″ Android tablet, a Space Unicorn Ranger Corps patch, and a sticker!

There may also be random prize drawings throughout the subscription drive. You never know with the Space Unicorns . . .

Don’t miss out: subscribe now!

Uncanny Appearances at C2E2

Space Unicorns! If you’re attending the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) (April 24-26) in Chicago this weekend, you have several chances to check out panels featuring some of Uncanny‘s staff and contributors:
Additionally, Uncanny contributor Ytasha L. Womack will be in Artist’s Alley at booth E3 all weekend, and Mary will be signing books on Friday, 5:15-6:16pm at Autograph table 16.
Hope to see you there!

Uncanny Magazine Issue 4 Cover and Table of Contents!

All of the content will be available in the eBook version on the day of release. The free online content will be released in 2 stages- half on day of release and half on June 2.

Don’t forget eBook Subscriptions to Uncanny Magazine are available from Weightless Books.


Uncanny Magazine Issue 4 Table of Contents


Tran Nguyen- “Traveling to a Distant Day”


The Uncanny Valley

New Fiction

Catherynne M. Valente- “Planet Lion”
A.C. Wise- “The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate”
John Chu- “Restore the Heart into Love”
Elizabeth Bear- “In Libres”
Lisa Bolekaja- “Three Voices”


Delia Sherman- “Young Woman in a Garden”


Mike Glyer- “It’s the Big One”
Julia Rios- “Top Five Myths about YA”
Kameron Hurley- “I Don’t Care About Your MFA: On Writing vs. Storytelling”
Christopher J Garcia- ““The Force That Was Peggy Rae Sapienza”
Steven H Silver- ““Peggy Rae: Friend, Mentor, Superhero””


Alyssa Wong- “For the Gardener’s Daughter”
Ali Trotta- “From the High Priestess to the Hanged Man”
Isabel Yap- “Apologies for breaking the glass slipper”


John Chu Interviewed by Deborah Stanish
Delia Sherman Interviewed by Deborah Stanish


Podcast 4A
Story- Catherynne M. Valente’s “Planet Lion” as read by Heath Miller
Poem- Alyssa Wong’s “For the Gardener’s Daughter” as read by Amal El-Mohtar
Interview- Deborah Stanish interviews Catherynne M. Valente

Podcast 4B
Story- Elizabeth Bear’s “In Libres” as read by C.S.E. Cooney
Poem- Isabel Yap’s “Apologies for breaking the glass slipper” as read by Amal El-Mohtar

Kat Howard’s “Translatio Corporis” Inspires Liz Argall’s Webcomic

First, please read Kat Howard’s phenomenal “Translatio Corporis” from Uncanny Magazine Issue 3 (or listen to Amal El-Mohtar read it on the Uncanny Magazine Podcast 3A).

Future Uncanny Magazine author Liz Argall is the creator of the charming webcomic Things Without Arms and Without Legs: A Comic about Creatures Who Are Kind. Liz enjoyed “Translatio Corporis” so much, she created some fan art for the story, starring her webcomic creations.

This pretty much made everybody’s day when we saw it.

Thanks, Liz!


SPOILERS FOR “Translatio Corporis” BELOW!





Free Issue of Uncanny Magazine to People Taking Bradford’s Challenge

K. T. Bradford’s recent article, “I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year” asks readers to reexamine their reading habits, step outside their comfort zones, and discover books and stories they might have otherwise overlooked:

“The ‘Reading Only X Writers For A Year’ a challenge is one every person who loves to read (and who loves to write) should take. You could, like Lilit Marcus, read only books by women or, like Sunili Govinnage, read only books by people of color. Or you could choose a different axis to focus on: books by trans men and women, books by people from outside the U.S. or in translation, books by people with disabilities.

After a year of that, the next challenge would be to seek out books about or with characters that represent a marginalized identity or experience by any author. In addition to the identities listed above, I suggest: non–Christian religions or faiths, working class or poor, and asexual (as a start).”

Fellow Space Unicorns, we love lots about this idea! One of Uncanny’s founding principles is a deep investment in exploring all that SF/F has to offer, by finding stories that both evoke a sense of the familiar and seek out the unknown from authors with many different backgrounds.

So in support of people taking this challenge, we’re offering a FREE COPY of our upcoming Issue Three to anyone who is taking up this challenge or simply broadening their reading. Uncanny Magazine Issue Three features new short stories by Sofia Samatar, Kat Howard, Maria Dahvana Headley, Sarah Pinsker, Emily Devenport, and Fran Wilde, classic fiction by Ellen Klages, essays by Ytasha L. Womack, Stephanie Zvan, Amal El–Mohtar, and L.M. Myles, poetry by C.S.E. Cooney, Jennifer Crow, and M Sereno, and interviews conducted by Deborah Stanish with Sofia Samatar, C.S.E. Cooney, and Ellen Klages. Issue Three is being released on March 3.

Simply send us an email using our contact form telling us you’re taking the Bradford Challenge or some variation of it, and we’ll send you an eBook copy of Uncanny Magazine Issue Three (EPUB, MOBI, PDF).

If you enjoy Issue 3, back issues and subscriptions are available from Weightless Books.

Happy reading!

Uncanny Magazine Issue 3 Cover and Table of Contents!

All of the content will be available in the eBook version on the day of release. The free online content will be released in 2 stages- half on day of release and half on April 7.

Don’t forget eBook Subscriptions to Uncanny Magazine are available from Weightless Books.


Uncanny Magazine Issue 3 Table of Contents


Carrie Ann Baade- “Unspeakable #2”


The Uncanny Valley- Editorial by Lynne M. Thomas & Michael Damian Thomas

New Fiction:

Sofia Samatar- “Those”
Rosamund Hodge- “The Lamps Thereof Are Fire and Flames”
Kat Howard- “Translatio Corporis”
Maria Dahvana Headley- “Ivory Darts, Golden Arrows”
Sarah Pinsker- “When the Circus Lights Down”
Emily Devenport- “Dr. Polingyouma’s Machine”
Fran Wilde- “You Are Two Point Three Meters from Your Destination”

Classic Fiction:

Ellen Klages- “In the House of the Seven Librarians”


Ytasha L. Womack- “Afrofuturism Rising”
Stephanie Zvan- “Family Matters: How Geek Communities Turn Dysfunctional”
Amal El-Mohtar- “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Desolation of Armies”
L.M. Myles- “Cushing in Space”


C.S.E. Cooney- “Deep Bitch”
Jennifer Crow- “Cloudbending”
M Sereno- “The Eaters”


Sofia Samatar Interviewed by Deborah Stanish
C.S.E. Cooney Interviewed by Deborah Stanish
Ellen Klages Interviewed by Deborah Stanish

Podcast 3A:

Kat Howard’s “Translatio Corporis” as read by Amal El-Mohtar, C.S.E. Cooney’s “Deep Bitch” as read by the author, Kat Howard interviewed by Deborah Stanish, Jim C. Hines interviewed by Michi Trota

Podcast 3B:

Sarah Pinsker’s “When the Circus Lights Down” as read by C.S.E. Cooney, M Sereno’s “The Eaters” as read by Amal El-Mohtar, Sarah Pinsker interviewed by Deborah Stanish

Ivory Darts, Golden Arrows by Maria Dahvana Headley

Editors’ Note: Please enjoy a special weird Valentine’s Day gift for Uncanny‘s readers by Maria Dahvana Headley

It was a headcold of a February day, a day for hiding in the dark, but the postmistress was out in it nonetheless, bundled but for her fingertips, moving with her cart.

She came from a long line of mail deliverers: her mother, and before her mother, other mothers. They weren’t pony expressers, but they were close. Horse and carriage. Stage coachers. They’d done it all, over the years, and now they were represented by Miss Kisseal.

Her last name was like another last name, Licksticker, and maybe that had been the original and maybe it had not. Maybe a great grandmother had gotten it changed with a bribe. It was all slang for what one did with envelopes, when one was herself enveloping nothing. By choice.

As far as the postmistress was concerned, every word used in the mail trade was another word for empty. An envelope was nothing without a letter and postcards were out of fashion. No one sent the contents of their hearts uncovered for anyone to enjoy anymore. It was all manifestos. She delivered them. It was her business, but she doubted the state of affairs.

Miss Kisseal was the postmistress of Fley, a little village wedged between two mountains, each mountain in the custody of a rival band. Fley was the neutral zone, but the mail went back and forth between, all of it through the Fley office, which was small with a rounded roof. It was an attractive office, and had been made, long ago, of a tremendous striated shell donated by one of the first postmistresses of Fley, a great-great grandmother of Miss Kisseal.

Working inside it, looking through the translucent walls, Miss Kisseal thought of her great-great, who’d delivered the mail during one of the wars between the residents of the two mountains, ducking to avoid arrows and spears, and she felt part of a grand tradition. She had been born to this, and it was her calling.

Miss Kisseal knew the secrets of both sides, at least those they printed. She knew about the mail order grooms, who’d come to tend the horses, and the mail order bridges, which were installed a board at a time over gaps in the roads, connecting places that weren’t meant to connect. She knew about excessive alcohol and questionable groceries, about longstanding hatreds between siblings, about the women who lived in the town on the highest tip of the eastern peak, and didn’t come down at all. She didn’t blame them. She went to them instead, pulleying her cart up the high road with a series of hooks and ropes.

They received a shocking quantity of mail, these women at the top of the peak, for women who wore black and spent their days sorting saints. They were in charge of waking the dead twice a year, walking between the two upper peak churches on a tightrope, ringing bells. This was enough employment that they were left alone the rest of the time. Each January and June the villages on the rival mountains festivaled a goodbye to those who’d died, and then the women from the peak went back to their normal business. Miss Kisseal brought them their mail: small packages of sweets, needles, pistols, thread, bullets, poisons, and lottery tickets. They tipped her, and gave her tea or whiskey before her descent, and she didn’t mind it. They were pleasant enough.

Lower down the western peak there were worse things, a settlement of grooms without horses, who lamented all day, weaving mourning bracelets of horsetails, calling for the mares they were denied. Miss Kisseal had little patience for them. Their mail was all mane and tail, and the grooms whined for lack of love.  It was her opinion that no one had any business whining about that. Love was not a right. Love was luck, and plenty of people didn’t get lucky. Miss Kisseal, for example, was single, and had always been, but she was not lonely. She was surrounded by shipments and open hands waiting for letters. How could one be lonely when words flew around her every day, all day long?

On the eastern mountain there was a colony of children who sent away for prizes, and she delivered them in sacks, heavy shipments of tiny monsters, X-ray glasses, and skipping ropes that could, when properly used, render the skipper capable of skipping time and space. Miss Kisseal worried a bit about those children. Occasionally one would disappear and months later come walking back into the village, skinny and covered in paint or dirt. They had no parents, and maybe never had, as certainly no one on the peaks was minded toward love, but they called for their mail nonetheless. They seemed to live on shipments of cereal.

Miss Kisseal put on her sensible boots, freezing even in her double woolens. She wished for a stagecoach, but there was none. There wasn’t even a donkey. Things were sliding in Fley. There’d been three avalanches, and her post office had a new roof of snow.

She tugged her coat over her shoulders. Her nose felt blue. February was meant to be solitary, and instead it was full of deliveries.

Miss Kisseal wrapped her head in a shearling hat with flaps, and made her way up the east mountain, hauling the sack. She pulled her retractable mittentips over her fingers, and kept her mouth closed so that her tongue wouldn’t freeze.

One day, she thought, she’d organize a pulley for days like this, a system of ropes and canisters, some way to deliver the mail without delivering herself along with it, but today wasn’t that day. There was a new address on an envelope, and the envelope was odd. It was made of a soft, pale leather, and the address was stamped onto it in red ink, rather than written. It didn’t exist, this number, and Miss Kisseal might have, had she been less intrigued, returned it directly to its sender. She knew the houses on the east peak, and this one wasn’t there. Nevertheless.

The ladies had mail too, and she knew by the sound of their shots that they’d killed a boar three days earlier, so there’d be stew at the top of the mountain. They had a parcel of oranges, sent from some admirer in the south. Miss Kisseal had already touched the oranges and smelled their oil on her skin. The post office was fragrant with them, and that was enough to make her deliver the mail to them. It wouldn’t do to let them spoil. Besides, the new address was up there too, above the ladies. That was how she knew it couldn’t possibly be real.

In the kitchen, though, the ladies ladled stew into a bowl, and told her it was true.

“Someone’s moved in up there, they have,” said the eldest sister, and pointed to the peak. Steam rose from her fingertip like she was working a spell. The ladies regularly received contraband cigars. The smoke twirled off in an arrow of judgment, pointing up the mountain, a small path into the rocks, a place that Miss Kisseal had always assumed led only to nests.

“Up where?” said Miss Kisseal. “Where the bats live?”

“Where the bats and the bees and the worst of the birds live,” said the eldest, and shook her head in annoyance. “It’s a filthy thing that’s moved onto the mountain, that’s the truth, and it’s got itself a set of wings.”

Miss Kisseal ate a bite of stew, and considered. She liked nothing about bats, and nothing about birds. She finished her biscuit.

“Whatever it is, it’s got a piece of mail,” she said, and heaved her sack onto her back. Later she’d take the tightrope to the other peak and deliver her way down. It was ill-planned, that. She hated the tightrope on days this cold, but she hated tobogganing on her mail sack more. The tightrope had been left behind by a migratory circus one summer, along with a trapeze and a crotchety old albino elephant named Lemon, which had walked up over the mountains and departed, trumpeting its aggravation all the way.

She fidgeted the fingertips off her mitts, and made her way to the trail.

“Be careful,” said the youngest sister. “It’s an awful dirty thing with an ill temperament what lives up there. Worse than us and worse than the rest on this peak too. All it does is shout lewd enticements.”

“Dirt doesn’t frighten me,” said Miss Kisseal. “Neither does filth.”

She’d once faced down a madman with a machete in the post office in Fley, the man insisting his packet of cocaine had been stolen by the rivals on the other moutain, Miss Kisseal informing him it was only a delay of a dead horse, for heaven’s sake. Miss Kisseal had the manner of a kindly aunt with children, and most adults found her to be peaceful and pleasant, but she had another side. She’d killed three reprobates over the years, and called in the grooms to dispose of them, down the ravine at the backside of the western peak. She saw no point in fuss. She was well-armed, and choosy about companions. If she had ever seen one she’d liked, she would have had them into her house by now.

DO NOT ATTEMPT THE POSTMISTRESS, said the sign in the post office, nicely hand-lettered, but firm. Her location in neutral territory did not mean the things some thought it ought to mean.

Now Miss Kisseal inched along the trail, listening to the crunching of the snow. A feather before her, first a red and then a white.  Too large to belong to a bird.

A circus again, perhaps. That first one had hung about for the summer months, fan dancers, contortionists, and toe walkers, their silver sequins signaling falsehoods to planes, their leotards dripping glittery sweat down into the valley from the tightrope.

They’d sent postcards from Fley to everyone they’d ever met, asking for money and adoration, and gotten nothing but the occasional paperclipped bill in return. Boxes full of burlesque paraphernalia had arrived, and Miss Kisseal lugged the mail up the mountain while strongmen and thinmen watched her struggle. She did not relish another circus. Let it migrate to a warmer climate, not be stalled at the top of the peak pissing a hot river into the ice. The last circus had not known enough to dig an outhouse. Fley had been forced to run it out of town on a rail, and it had taken some time, the residents of both mountains collaborating on carrying an entire fence, the troupe straddling it and making a mockery of the entire thing. Lemon the elephant had kicked the post office as he departed, bashing in two safe deposit boxes full of ingots, and leaving a hole in the shell the size of an elephant foot. Patching it had been no minor matter.

There was cooing and whirring ahead, and Miss Kisseal revised her thinking. A cote of something nasty, then. Lovebirds. There’d been a shipment of those too, two years back, someone from one mountain looking out with binoculars, thinking to romance someone from the other. The birds arrived stuporous in a crate, dyed pale pink, and once fully awakened they’d revealed themselves to be cannibals. That hadn’t been a pretty day in Fley. The lovebirds had eaten one another, all over the trees, and then, when they’d finished eating one another, they’d eaten a chihuahua. They’d not been lovebirds at all, it had turned out, but some ferocious variety of tiny falcon. Love and these mountains did not align.

Something zinged past Miss Kisseal’s ear, and she flung herself sideways to avoid it. She turned her head slowly. She wasn’t inclined toward speed, even in emergencies. She liked to get a full picture of a situation, and who would dare to shoot at the postmistress?

Embedded in a tree, though, there was an arrow, and this a hundred years past those first wars. Fletched with a red feather, and bearing a golden tip. She tugged it from the bark and considered it. It was very, very sharp.

“I’m the postmistress!” she shouted.  “Don’t shoot!”

Miss Kisseal squinted.  “You’ve received a letter down in Fley,” she said. “I’m only trying to deliver it to you. You might try to behave yourself, whoever you are.”

Miss Kisseal took a cautious step. Feathers, yes, a mess of them. White, pink, and red, like those accursed lovebirds. The feather wearer raised its face and smiled. It had eyes the shade of violets, and lips the color of roses. It had been made for loving. She’d never seen anything so beautiful.

“What are you, then?” asked Miss Kisseal, somewhat taken aback.

“A monster stranded by snow,” it said, and quick as that it had somehow shot another arrow, this time hitting Miss Kisseal’s mail sack, no doubt spearing X-ray glasses, or damaging someone’s paper crown. She looked at this arrow. Silver tip. Ostrich plume. The creature was showy if nothing else.

“I’m supposed to be flying from end to end of the world,” said the monster, with a voice that sounded suspiciously like a whine. “I’m supposed to be tending to lovers. My wings are waterlogged.”

Miss Kisseal had no patience for this line of whimpering.

“I’ve met other things lonelier than you. These mountains are populated by isolates. All the people keep to themselves, all the caves are filled with moaning bears, and all the nests are full of eggless sparrows. There was a war a long time ago, and now no one speaks to anyone else. If babies are born, they’re left at the post office, and I mail them off to other places. At least you’ve got someone sending you mail. This looks to be a love letter. I don’t know that you deserve it.” She tossed the envelope at the heap of feathers.

The creature unfolded from its crouch, and stretched. Naked, vast, neither, both, all. It was twice her height, and not from any place she’d been. It had clearly flown in from somewhere else. The creature was more beautiful standing than sitting. The wings were large enough to enfold anyone, and the arms were too. It was a walking missive, an unrolled scroll, and its sleek skin had iridescent scales like the belly of one of the serpents that sometimes wended their bodies into words on one part of the west mountain.

This was not a human, but that didn’t startle Miss Kisseal. She had her own secrets, and who ever saw them? She kept them covered.

The creature took a step toward her, violet eyes blinking. It stretched out its hands, and wrapped them about her waist, as though this was a normal state of affairs, as though it seduced everyone. It had an entire quiver of golden arrows on its back. Perhaps it did.

Another arrow zinged out, this time hitting the lapel of her coat. She felt it slice through the wool and into her breast, a shocking act, an appalling act, and her knees went weak.  She found herself sitting on the ground, flummoxed.

“Thank you for bringing my love letter,” said the creature, and leaned over Miss Kisseal, looking mildly at her as she unbuttoned her coat to check herself for damage. She unearthed her wound, through seven layers of woolens. It was small. She touched it, delicately. She felt unspeakably annoyed.

She also felt unspeakably in love. It was the arrow that had done it.

“You sent the love letter to yourself,” she said. “To lure me up here.”

The creature shrugged. “Do I not deserve adoration? Love is my business. Love of all sorts.”

Miss Kisseal unfurled her coat in an attempt to get up. She noticed that her dress was open. She did not care. If the creature before her was naked, she’d be naked, too. What could it do? She was the postmistress. She was well accustomed to those who thought postmistresses were nothing more than letter-sorters.

“Do you know everything about love, then?” she asked the creature. “Love between all creatures? Do you know, for example, about snails?”

“They inch along,” it said proudly, and fluffed its wings, looking desirable, looking like a pornographic letter made flesh. “They are baked in garlic and oil. They sizzle. They are a romantic meal.”

The creature smiled at her.

Miss Kisseal unbuttoned another button. The arrow had been effective. She was, it was true, full of a golden certainty. There was a love letter in her heart, and she considered it. It was sharp and stinging, but it would melt into honey. She felt herself melting too. It had been years since she’d seen anyone she’d been inclined toward. She’d always had terrible taste in lovers, like everyone in this vicinity. One of her cousins specialized in poisoning those she slept with, and the disposal of bones was something the postmistress was accustomed to. Into the ravine they went.

This one was clearly a terrible creature, but she found she didn’t mind.

The winged one approached her, considering her unbuttoned dress. It traced a finger from her throat to her navel. It was caressing her now, hands on her breasts, mouth on her neck. The arrow, it was true, had made her inclined, and perhaps she would have been anyway. But she did not take orders from anyone. She was the postmistress of Fley, and she was not what she appeared to be, Cupid or no. She was from a long line of the impossible.

She waited for the creature to fold its wings about her shoulders, all red and pink, a bouquet of feathers. She waited like a mailbox for Cupid’s tongue, and when she found it, when her own mouth was open, and her hands were twisted in its wings, she showed it what she’d been hiding.

For Miss Kisseal was not always a Miss. Miss Kisseal was not always, even, a human. A dart flew from her body, long as her arm, pointed ivory, stabbing out from her skirt and into Cupid’s throat. She had a quiver of her own.

The winged one gasped, transforming.

The wings remained, but the body changed. It had been everything at once, as gods were wont to be, but Miss Kisseal’s dart forced a choice.

The god looked down in bewilderment at a body newly equipped with things that had not been there a moment before. Miss Kisseal’s star-shaped dart stuck out of Cupid’s throat, and quivered.

“Do you know what snails do when they fall in love?” Miss Kisseal asked again.

“No,” said Cupid, and looked at her with wide eyes. Gods could not be expected to know the ways of everything, every creature. Gods specialized. This one specialized in order-giving and seduction.

“When it comes time to mate, we choose for one another who bears the children.” She touched the dart. “I’ve chosen.”

“You’re a woman,” said Cupid, in some disbelief. “You’re a postmistress. You’re not a god.”

“I’m everything,” said Miss Kisseal. “You shot me with your arrow. I shot you with mine.”

She stepped forward, and, entranced, Cupid stepped forward too. She was the natural mate of a love-bringer, this letter carrier. She was a deliverer.

Kisseal knelt and pressed postmaster’s lips to the goddess.

An hour later the god fucked the postmistress.

Another hour and it was a tangle of feathers and genders and letters, shells and scales, hands and eyelashes, darts and arrows, mouths and orifices unimagined.

It was that way amongst the lowest and the highest, the divine and those who moved along the ground, and who was to say what was the regular way of things?

When Miss Kisseal made her way back down the mountain to the ladies, they looked at her disheveled garments and shook their heads, but some of them smiled, there amongst their shipment of oranges and contraband cigars.

They were those who woke the dead, and the dead remembered days like this day in February. Miss Kisseal delivered them a sack of loveletters, each tattooed with red ink, each in a soft leather envelope, and the ladies laughed and walked the tightrope as they opened them.

The mail-order grooms looked at the mail-order bridges, and began to lay them from mountain to mountain. The bears woke in their caves and stepped out, baying for mates. The children skipped rope and leapt time and space, wearing their X-ray glasses, seeing through all of it. The babies that had been born between these mountains came walking back home. Far away in the south, an albino elephant named Lemon danced with an elephant named Orange, and five ghosts smoked cigars and sang Cole Porter.

The snow had turned to feathers. The sleet had turned to falling stars.

Cupid went winged and glorious through the sky, bearing a quiver filled with arrows with sharp golden tips and an ivory dart shaped like a star, violet-eyed and rose-lipped, a living loveletter, a beautiful everything, newly pregnant with the daughter of the postmistress of Fley.

Author’s Note: Inspired by everything from Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love) which contains references to the mating rituals of everything from oysters to centipedes, but mysteriously leaves out the love darts of gastropods, to John Donne’s Valentine poem detailing the marriage of a variety of different sorts of birds. There’s a school of thought that believes the mythology of Cupid and his arrows was inspired by the naturalists of ancient Greece observing the mating behaviors of snails, the firing of these quite large, and quite suggestively-shaped love darts–which do not impregnate, but are instead apparently lubricated with gender-assigning hormones(!!!)–into the bodies of their mates. And of course, the gods are frequently casual about matters of gender. I decided to salute all these versions and write a story in which a spinster postmistress gets Cupid pregnant.

Happy Valentine’s Day!