Courting Trouble

Courting Trouble by Cora Buhlert Once, Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov were soldiers on opposing sides of an intergalactic war. They met, fell in love and decided to go on the run together.

Now Anjali and Mikhail are trying to eke out a living on the independent worlds of the galactic rim, while attempting to stay under the radar of those pursuing them.

But when Anjali and Mikhail stumble upon a protection racket during a routine shopping trip, they have to make a choice: Lay low to avoid attracting attention or stay true to their personal ethics and intervene?

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More information:

  • This is a story of 6700 words or approx. 23 print pages in the In Love and War series, but may be read as a standalone. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
  • Courting Trouble was one of the stories I wrote during the 2016 July short story challenge. The idea was to write a short story per day in July 2016.
  • Like many stories in the July challenge, Courting Trouble was inspired by a piece of concept art, namely this painting by Christian Quinot, 2016 best fan artist Hugo nominee.
  • I initially created Anjali and Mikhail to tell the story of how they met and fell in love (coming soon from Pegasus Pulp). However, I also wanted to write stories showing them as an established couple having adventures. Courting Trouble is such a story.
  • The city of Demirkan as well as one of the racketeers are both named for Turkish German actors. The second racketeer is named for a person working in the administration at the university I attended.
  • Food plays a big role in all of the In Love and War stories and this one, which has Anjali shopping for spices and Mikhail tagging along, is no different. I suspect that part of the reason why I focus so much on food in this series is that in a lot of classic and modern science fiction, food plays barely any role at all. And where it does, people are only too happy to consume food pills or protein sludge or standard twenty-first century western fast food, while other food traditions hardly play any role at all. However, since the universe of In Love and War is multi-ethnic, I assumed that many food traditions would survive, albeit in somewhat altered form. And besides, I like food and writing about it.
  • Mikhail’s conflicted relationship to food due to the hunger he experienced during his childhood and adolescence, as seen in Dreaming of the Stars, comes to the fore again in this story.
  • We also learn a bit more about Mikhail’s family and his childhood on Jagellowsk, including memories of – once again – food.
  • In one scene, Mikhail remembers the samovar and the set of tea glasses with ornamented metal holders that his grandmother used. These holders – called podstakannik in Russian (which literally means “thing under the glass”) – are still commonly used in Russia and other ex-Soviet states (and it’s pretty obvious that the original settlers of Jagellowsk hailed from there), but they were pretty common in (West) Germany as well at least into the 1990s. My parents and grandparents always had tea glasses with metal holders, though they seem to have become uncommon in the past fifteen to twenty years or so. The holder embossed with images of starships and planets BTW is a description of a podstakannik from which I drank tea while travelling on a Russian train in the dying days of the Soviet Union in the fall of 1989. I immediately fell in love with the glass and would have loved to buy one, but unfortunately the train attendant intensely disliked the bunch of western teenagers she was forced to deal with, so I never dared to ask her. This image found online is pretty similar to the one I remember.
  • The cover is stock art by Grandfailure.
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