Mosaic of Air

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New cover for Arachne Press version of mosaic - image copyright Melina Traub

New cover for Arachne Press version of Mosaic of Air – image copyright Melina Traub

1993 Reviews of Mosaic of Air

Cherry Potts writes with economy, punch, panache.  her voice is lucid and assured as she travels through freshly imagined corners of Amazonia, whether the subject to hand is highly charged lesbian space-opera or a very new slant on old Helen of Troy

Ellen Galford

Definitely about women in space, not the usual glossy tomboys of standard sf.

Gwyneth Jones

Delightful … both a hilarious spoof of one-man-and-his computer myths such as 2001, a Space Odyssey; and a reflection on the limits of love and power.

Zoë Fairbairns, Everywoman March 1993

The Stories vary widely in style, from fairy tales to Greek myths, from wild romance to 20th Century realism, but all contain surprises,and challenge or assumptions about who is, or was a lesbian. Those elderly ladies wheeling stiffly across the floor at a tea dance? Helen of Troy? That stuffy quiet, middle-aged school teacher? Your Mother? Across age and race and history we are challenged.Why do I assume, though I am a lesbian, that all my relatives are not?…This collection trips and twists and jars us into seeing afresh…We are legion and have always been so. After I’d read this book I wandered round Leeds and saw lesbians everywhere.

‘The Lone Dyke’ Northern Star 14/1/1993

An entertaining tale of intrigue in space … the characters develop their own eccentric momentum and I was sorry to say goodbye to them when I reached the end.

Lucy Whitman, Lesbian London

2013 reviews

‘Mosaic of Air’ is an interesting parable featuring a proto-post-feminist lead, a computer programmer whose programme becomes sentient which surprisingly encases an abortion debate.

If you read nothing else in this book you must read ‘Arachne’s Daughters’; this takes apart a myth about Arachne (a human) challenging Athene (the goddess): ‘”Now, can you believe anyone would be so stupid?” ‘.  It’s set as a speech given at a women-only meeting with a clever twist on why so many women shouldn’t fear spiders despite the extra legs and pincers ‘ “Forgot something though didn’t they?…[Men]… How many Cancers and Scorpios are in the audience?”


British Fantasy Society

Mosaic of Air

A collection of sixteen stories originally published by Onlywomen Press in 1992. Republished by Arachne Press September 2013 you can order a copy here

Mosaic of Air

Computer decided it was time to wake Cal from her stupor.

<Good morning Cal,> she said. Cal started, confused. She had been travelling the sweep of a galaxy, lost in the myriad of unnamed colours. The computer not only spoke with her voice, it knew her name. Just what had she done? She tried to rub her eyes, but her arm would not move. She had done something pretty stupid, she reminded herself. She dressed with difficulty, supporting her left arm in her jacket, hand resting on her right shoulder. It felt like someone else’s hand, it made her uneasy. She tried to dismiss it. There were more important things to think about. She had more important things to do, like learning what this computer had become.

Second Glance

You are a stranger here. You are tired and thirsty, so you prop the bar, desperation tempering your impatience, so that the lines of your body are tense and angry as you pretend not to notice the barman ignoring you.

You roll your five-pound note between two fingers, an apparently idle movement that flashes the blue faced queen at him again and again as he jokes with his cronies. You shift, putting the other foot up on the rail, because you’re tired, tired, tired of it.

Arachne’s Daughters

Have you ever noticed the way your resident spider hunches up in fear when you come into the room, plays dead until she has the chance to use her legs to run for cover?

Why? Because she is afraid. She is hoping you won’t put her out in the rain, or let the cat play with her, or just step on her. She isn’t going to hang around and give you good advice under those circumstances, is she. Which is a pity, she could become your best friend if you only let her. Try saying hello next time you see Suzannah in the garden, or Babette scaling your cooker, you might be pleasantly surprised, we can be quite cuddly.

Winter Festival

I survey my ten hours of solitude. I am well provided against the day. A day like any other, except perhaps for our expectations of it: unreasonable, companionable expectations. That is a lie, I don’t have those expectations. I have had nine years to get used to your not being here on this particular day, although I still like to be unreasonable if the mood takes me.

Trying to Tell You…

Anna and Charlotte converse in a monotone of discrete but dreary news. One can listen or not as one pleases, it requires as little effort to tune in as to tune out. I catch the essentials; Michael –  Tony – Bedspread – Pressure cooker. Of such things are their worlds built.

The Ballad of Polly and Ann

You shall decide the parish of her birth, but be sure it is near the sea, be sure to provide her with a rustic accent to soften her voice.

So, here is Annie, from Suffolk or Northumberland, or Ireland, as the afternoon closes on a wet autumn day; and she sits to her loom for the remains of the dying light.

Perhaps you are wondering where the father of her child might be, her Jack, or Billy? Away at the war would be a safe answer.

So, Annie stirs her fire, and peers out the window towards the road that leads from the port of… you decide.


If I try, I can hear the sea, or perhaps it is my own breath, or Todd stirring the gravel with an impatient foot, as he worries about the state of the tide.

If I try, I can hear you fastening your cloak, pulling up your hood, creeping down the stairs; the fifth one creaks, you wait.

Nothing. You go on. You draw the bolt, oiled specially this morning. You lift the latch. Slowly, slowly.

The Bone Box

Windwoman called out,

“Who is in that tower?”

Fulke trembled. Rainwoman stopped her sobbing for a while and looked around. No longer blinded by fright, she saw him for the first time.

“There is a man,” she answered her beloved.

“Then make him open the door.”

Rainwoman looked at Fulke, and Fulke looked at Rainwoman, hardly daring to believe he actually had her within his walls.

“I do not think he will open the door,” said Rainwoman. Fulke folded his arms and nodded at her.

“Then I will blow down his tower,” said Windwoman. Rainwoman looked at the walls.

“I do not think that you can,” said Rainwoman, and started to cry again.

Member of the Family

Previously published in Perfect Pitch

Ladies Pleasure

How she had danced. Grace had always longed to dance like that, to dance with Jessica Markham, who had been quite stunningly beautiful.

Then she remembered who had danced the Tango with Jessica. Rosa.

“So, tell me who you are.” Jessica suggested.

” I used to be Grace Carew,” she replied without thinking. Jessica laughed.

“And who are you now?”

Grace smiled, and thought that she really wasn’t the same person she had been all those years ago. Not that she was planning on explaining that to Jessica.

“I got married during the war. I only meant I had changed my name.”

“I avoided that trap, thank god,” Jessica said.

She always had been a rebel, Grace thought, almost affectionately. Thinking of endless misdemeanours, thinking almost without being aware of it, of Rosa.

“You always were a rebel.” she said, and somewhere between thought and tongue the meaning had twisted, becoming bitter and angry.

Jessica’s eyelids drooped and the glance she shot Grace was hurt, and careful and distant. She ground out her second cigar butt and did not answer, but she too, thought of Rosa.

Holiday Romance

We unpack, and Mother prances about deciding what-to-wear-to-meet-Frances, in an uncharacteristic flurry of frivolity. I decide not to go on this first exciting rendezvous, despite the urge to lurk behind Ma in a trench coat, with a discretely obvious .38 (or .45 or whatever they are) in my pocket.  Well you never know.  Even libraries in small coastal towns can harbour killers…

Rowan’s version

Dearest Em. Couldn’t you have arranged this a little better? If you had to go and get mangled by a lorry, couldn’t you at least have signed the will? A draft copy on pink paper with crossings out and exclamation marks won’t save me from the poor house. You always did leave things until it was almost too late; you just misjudged it this time. You wouldn’t have been out at all if you hadn’t left the shopping until last thing.

Baby Pink/Electric Blue

They had got to the part about showing just cause, speaking now, or forever holding your peace. Marlene cleared her throat, turning slightly so that she could just see Leo. His nostrils flared a little, but he stayed sat down.

When Dinah got married, she had all but leapt up at this point to denounce her. She had almost told the entire congregation that Dinah was already married, to her. But she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Not in the Lord’s house. She had been so shamed by her cowardice that she had rushed out, got in her car, and drove and drove.

Marlene found her feet under her, her knees straightening, propelling her out of her pew. She was surprised, she hadn’t been planning on standing up. She sidled out of the pew and tiptoed down the aisle as quiet as she could. Not like for Dinah. For Dinah, she had run.

Behind the Mask

Paris came: Paris, who had been promised the most beautiful woman in the world for his wife; Paris, who came as a guest to Menelaus’ house, and left carrying away his host’s wife: not her choice.

Helen was unused to being wooed, it alarmed her. She distrusted it and distrusted Paris; but he pressed his suit so insistently that she could scarce take breath, and it made a change. He was charming and gentle and at least seemed interested in her. he shook her out of her depression, like the creases being shaken out of a long stored length of cloth, so that she billowed and flowed in unexpected freedom of thought and sensation. But nothing Paris could do would still her restlessness; freedom of thought, yes, shackles fell from her mind in constant clamour, but where was her escape from her marriage, from her position, her beauty?

Penelope Is No Longer Waiting

previously published in  In and Out of Time

Reason to Believe

Laura’s heart pounded, her feet skidded on the grass. Her breath came in short gasps. Over and over she said to herself, it can’t be true, this isn’t happening. But it was true, it was happening. Philip was drowning her husband in the tarn. The world fell away from her, and she stopped running.

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