short stories

First published in 1999, Yoon’s fiction ranges from military science fiction to fairy tales. Click any story’s title to view additional author’s notes.


Officially, the five exiles on the station were the Initiates of the Fermata. Unofficially, the Concert of Worlds called them the swanwatch.

The Unstrung Zither

“They don’t look very dangerous,” Xiao Ling Yun said to the aide. Ling Yun wished she understood what Phoenix Command wanted from her. Not that she minded the excuse to take a break from the composition for two flutes and hammered dulcimer that had been stymying her for the past two weeks.

Through a one-way window in the observation chamber, Xiao Ling Yun saw five adolescents sitting cross-legged on the floor in a semicircle. Before them was a tablet and two brushes. No ink; these were not calligraphy brushes. One of the adolescents, a girl with short, dark hair, leaned over and drew two characters with quick strokes. All five studied the map that appeared on the tablet.

The Fourth Horseman

They’d left the horses behind. This was not, so much as any of them had noticed, a loss. They carried the brimstone hooves and smoke-dream manes with them.

Architectural Constants

The citizens of the silklands and the soldiers of the webroad and the singers of the tunnels have no name for the city. There are other cities upon the world’s restless wheel. There are others more celebrated, whether for the rooted topiary birds that line their boulevards, or their sparkling, improbable hyperbola fountains, or the tame inky warding poems that patrol their walls. There are others with taller spires to focus the unlight of the phantom moon, or deeper dungeons with which to contain the abysses of desire.

Blue Ink

It’s harder than you thought, walking from the battle at the end of time and down a street that reeks of entropy and fire and spilled lives. Your eyes aren’t dry. Neither is the alien sky. Your shoulders ache and your stomach hurts. Blue woman, blue woman, the chant runs through your head as you limp toward a portal’s bright mouth. You’re leaving, but you intend to return. You have allies yet.

Notes on the Necromantic Symphony

Few reliable records have survived of the premiere of Mrod Zogorith’s last and greatest work, the Symphony No. 36 in Mode 9. Zogorith herself vanished after the performance, and morbid rumors in its wake caused the wags to dub it the Necromantic Symphony. It is likelier that Zogorith fled the region during the subsequent Siege of Taruon, or was killed.

The Inferno

Jenna Freeman was beginning to think that she should have listened to her sister before she bought the new viola. It wasn’t that she was superstitious. But the instrument had survived two fires—it still had scarring on its ribs—and the last owner had nicknamed it the Inferno. Jenna’s sister had said, “Don’t you think that’s a bad omen? It’ll inspire a new category of viola jokes.” Only half-listening, Jenna had played a transposed fragment of a Bach partita and was entranced by the Inferno’s tone. It sounded like dark chocolate and red satin ribbons and all things shadowy, exactly the way a viola should be. After that, there was no way not to buy the Inferno.

The Shadow Postulates

Kaela Navus was reading a beginners’ sword-dancing manual when a hand descended upon her own, blotting out the diagram. She looked up, mouth opening in protest, only to have the scroll plucked from her grip and rolled shut. The black lines faded into ricepaper-white. “Teris!” Kaela said.

Her roomsister, Teris Tascha, set the scroll down on the escritoire out of Kaela’s reach. “You won’t learn the pattern for the Swallow Flies Home from a diagram,” she said. “It has to live in your muscles.”


“Pigeon or canary?”

Cadet Serren Psora halted before the entrance to the briefing room and blinked up at the gaunt. She hadn’t realized how many bones you could see in such a translucent face. “Sir?” she said.

The gaunt’s upper lip curled away from his silvery teeth. No, not silvery; more a shimmer, as though he weren’t all there. Which, of course, he wasn’t. “Too polite to act bright, is that it?” he asked.

Behind the Mirror

Her sister did not live behind the mirror.