Black Wine opening

I really love the opening to Candas Jane Dorsey’s Black Wine (1997).


There’s a scarred, twisted old madwoman in a cage in the courtyard. The nurse throws a crust at her as he passes, therefore so does the girl. Others bring a can of water, or a trencher of meat cut up small, to stuff through the bars. The woman shoves the food into her mouth, dribbling and drooling and muttering.

“Why do they keep her?” says the girl. “She is useless. She is crazy. She eats too much.”

“So do you,” says the nurse offhandedly.

“But I work,” says the girl. “I am a slave.”

“She is not a slave.”

“She is in a cage.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

The old woman babbles in a language the waif understands but the others don’t. She calls names, she recites recipes, she counts things. Sometimes she talks of hanging, and carrion crows. The girl thinks she calls like a crow herself, and the voice makes her shiver with an atavistic fear she hardly notices, so like the rest of her life it is.


Black Wine

About Victoria Janssen

Victoria Janssen [she, her] currently writes cozy space opera for Kalikoi. The novella series A Place of Refuge begins with Finding Refuge: Telepathic warrior Talia Avi, genius engineer Miki Boudreaux, and augmented soldier Faigin Balfour fought the fascist Federated Colonies for ten years, following the charismatic dissenter Jon Churchill. Then Jon disappeared, Talia was thought dead, and Miki and Faigin struggled to take Jon’s place and stay alive. When the FC is unexpectedly upended, Talia is reunited with her friends and they are given sanctuary on the enigmatic planet Refuge. The trio of former guerillas strive to recover from lifetimes of trauma, build new lives on a planet with endless horizons, and forge tender new connections with each other.
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