R. DJÈLÍ CLARK “A Dead Djinn in Cairo.” Novella. Special Investigator Fatma el-Sha’arawi #1. First published online by Tor.com. Also available in Kindle format, May 2016.

   In an alternate history version of Egypt, circa 1912, Fatma el-Sha’arawi, a special investigator with the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities has a problem to solve: who, or what, killed the djinn, twice as tall as a human with aquamarine scales, whom the authorities have found lifeless and drained of blood in his apartment.

   The first thought is that he has been killed by the ghuls that have been infesting the city, but if that were the case, they would never have left his body behind. A closer look suggests that he committed suicide, but since djinns are nearly immortal, the question as to why has no answer.

   Fatima’s world is now a strange steampunk conglomerate of exotic Cairo and demons from another plane of existence. It seems that forty years ago, a mystic by the name of al-Jahiz bore a hole to the Kaf, another-realm of magic, allowing not only the djinns and ghuls to cross over, but angels (of some variety) as well, perhaps better described by the following paragraph:

   Fatma sat back in a red-cushioned seat as the automated wheeled carriage plowed along the narrow streets. Most of Cairo slept, except for the glow of a gaslight market or the pinprick lights of towering mooring masts where airships came and went by the hour. Her fingers played with her cane’s lion-headed pommel, watching aerial trams that moved high above the city, crackling electricity illuminating the night along their lines.

   There are flying machines, mechanical beings, and a clockwork threat to Fatima’s entire world, but with a kickass female priestess’s assistant named Siti, worldwide catastrophe is narrowly averted at nearly the last instant.

   I apologize for giving the ending away, in a very general sense, but it’s the telling that’s the more important here. This is a world of enchantment that Fatima lives in, one that is fascinating to visit but you really wouldn’t want to visit there:

   The Clock of Worlds stood here she has last seen it — a towering contraption of plates and wheels. Only now they moved with harmonious ticks or precision, and the numerals on those large plates glowed bright. A deep blue liquid had been poured around the machine. The djinn’s missing blood, she presumed. In an larger circle sat the bodies of ghuls in a pile of twisted limbs. Their heads had been removed and their stomachs slit to reveal the devoured flesh of an angel…

   There is a definition of the word “enchantment” that describes what’s happening here, isn’t there?