Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

Jonathan Wood’s story “Notes on the Dissection of an Imaginary Beetle” from Electric Velocipede 15/16 is available online.

Archive for the ‘Women’s Battle College Isle of Skye’ Category

Dana Yamamoto Writes a Dirty Poem

Monday, December 13th, 2010

This is my last regularly scheduled story for the Daily Cabal.  I have contributed since 2007.  I leave reluctantly—but like Dana I try to do what I say will, and my professional writing commitments are about to increase.  Thank you to all our readers, and thank you to everyone at the Cabal, especially Rudi, for your support and your patience!  Enjoy this last offering, and please visit me at

Mirabelle Hayes discovered early on that Dana Yamamoto would take any dare if Mirabelle looked at her out of the corner of her eye and lifted her chin.  Yet so far from getting Dana in trouble over Samhain, she found she’d raised Dana’s status instead.  Frustrating.

Getting Dana to spook Dr Somerville’s horse helped a bit.  More promising: convincing her to write a dirty poem in Japanese on the doorsill of Dr Fujiwara’s tea house while the Doctor was away.  Mirabelle didn’t accompany her; by now she knew that Dana would do whatever she said she would do.

Dana waited in the dojo until the last light in the teacher’s quarters went out.  She thought of all the dirty poems she knew in Japanese.  She wondered if she would be expelled.  She thought about Hayes.  Samantha MacKinnon had asked Dana, “Why do you let her have such power over you?”  Dana had snapped, “Don’t you think I ask myself that every day?”

If they sent her home, her mother the General would lift her chin and look at her out of the corner of her eye.  Dana remembered a particular look from the day she had told her mother she was afraid to compete in the kendo bouts at school.  She never told her mother she was afraid again, ever.

Suddenly she understood why Hayes had power over her.

Still: the ink was drying on the inkstone, and she always did what she said she would.  She drew back her sleeve, lifted the brush at the correct angle, and began to write.

By the time Dr. Fujiwara returned, everyone had seen the graffiti, though none could read it all.

“I will leave the matter up to you,” said Dr Eire.

Dr Fujiwara read the poem and smiled.

“Do you recognize the handwriting?”  Asked Dr Eire.

“I don’t need to; she put her name in the poem.”

She translated.

After they finished laughing, Dr. Fujiwara looked towards the faces at the door.

“Bring me Yamamoto,” she said.

Everyone else came too, of course.  Dana tried hard not to shake.

Dr. Fujiwara said, “I believe you have defeated your adversary in the most important of bouts.  Please translate your poem for the benefit of the school; no other punishment awaits you.”

Dana read:

Rich soil Fuji gives

From dirt roots

I have grown mountains

Thank you

This ink is


The Ancestor

Monday, November 1st, 2010

The first time Dana Yamamoto seated herself on a College horse, she had a fleeting daylight vision: she was riding south down a steep slope, holy Mount Fuji in the narrow view of her helmet, her armor heavy on her shoulders.  She blinked; the vision was gone; she didn’t remember it until that night in Hall, when someone passed her a message from her mother the General.  She thought then, ‘I should ask Mother about that.  Some ancestor of mine, perhaps?’

She felt she might even guess who, as she felt sure the warrior riding down the slope had been a woman.  One of the greats, maybe—Tomoe Gozen, or Nakano Takeko?  Were they in her lineage?

It was spring on Skye; Dana had been at the Women’s Battle College for nearly a year.  The next day she sat with the reins in her hands, looking across the bay to the hills beyond, while her horse shifted beneath her and stamped one hoof, sensing her mood.  She wanted to turn him, jump the fence and ride straight across the moor to the Red Cuillins, firing arrows and practicing saddle cuts all the way, howling like a mad warrior.  Had her family had a war cry?  She thought again of asking her mother.

It felt good, the weight of the shield, the bow and the quiver on her back, the padded wooden sword thrust in her belt.  These weren’t the weapons of a modern soldier, it was true, but her mother had sent her here to learn more than modern soldiering.  She waited, daydreaming, while everyone else arrayed themselves and mounted; waited some more, daydreaming, until she realized Dr Somerville had been speaking for several minutes.

Oh gods, what was she supposed to be doing?

Dr Somerville rode towards the gate.

“We will proceed at a trot, remaining on the trail to avoid laming our horses.  When attacked, we will strive to give good account of ourselves.  Please take a moment to check the padding on your weapons as I would prefer nobody lose an eye today.”

She looked them over, her hand on the gate.

“At the ready, then.  I will wait, and follow you.”

They rode out the gate.  The vision Dana had forgotten returned again; in the pounding of the hooves she thought she heard a woman laughing through her helmet.

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