Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Crossing the Midday Gate

Dan Linh had walked out of the Purple Forbidden City not expecting to return to it—thankful that the Empress had seen fit to spare her life; that she wasn’t walking to her execution for threefold treason. Twenty years later—after the nightmares had faded, after she was finally used to the diminished, eventless life on the Sixty-First Planet—she did come back, to find it unchanged: the Midday Gate towering over the moat; the sleek ballet of spaceships between the pagodas and the orbitals; the ambient sound of zithers and declaimed poetry slowly replacing the bustle of the city at their backs.

Latest Fantasy Story

The Dragon of Dread Peak (Part 2)

Back in originspace, Basher sobbed in Doom Maiden’s arms. Sparks stared at the ground. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I wanted to punch something. Mostly I wanted to punch myself. Or maybe Domino. If only he had listened to me! Why did I ever think I could be a leader? Not even my best friend listened to me when it counted. How could I have been so stupid? How could he? “We’ll get him back,” Basher said. She was frantic. “He’s still alive. Right, Sparks? He’s still alive.”

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Latest Nonfiction

Media Reviews: October 2017

This month, Christopher East turns his pen to some of the new television of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Defenders and Legion.

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Longing for Stars Once Lost

The ship dies in orbit above an abandoned world. Kitshan curses. Metal bones shudder around him as the last of the ship’s breath is sucked into vacuum. His skill at the helm and hasty patch jobs have kept the engines together, but luck is scarce out here, and his is gone. The ship is unminded. Lifeless metal, basic programming, and manual flight operations are things he can tolerate better than another consciousness wrapped against his. The viewscreen flickers and a cold vista stretches across the interior curve of the cockpit: the small star, bright and distilled against the void.

The Walk Up Nameless Ridge

It was difficult to sleep at night, wishing good men dead. This was but one of the hurtful things I felt in my bones and wished I could ignore. It was an ugly truth waving its arms that I turned my gaze from, that I didn’t like to admit even to myself. But while my bag warmed me with the last of its power and my breath spilled out in white plumes toward the roof of our tent, while the flicker of a whisperstove melted snow for midnight tea, I lay in that dead zone above sixty thousand feet and hoped not just for the failure of those above me, but that no man summit and live to tell the tale. Not before I had my chance.

What I Told My Little Girl About the Aliens Preparing to Grind Us Into Hamburgers

Pretty much everybody made peace with it very early on in the process. It wasn’t the most pleasant prospect in this world, or any other. But it had been explained to us in the most rational and persuasive terms imaginable, in sentences so simple that even the dumbest among us were capable of getting it; and once we swallowed that pill and incorporated it into our daily lives, it really didn’t make much of a difference in the scheme of things. We were adults about it. But that doesn’t make much of a difference when your four-year-old daughter looks up at you with her big brown eyes and asks you, “Daddy? Why are the space men going to grind us into hamburgers?”

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The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle

This story is at least a thousand years old. Its complete title is “The Tale of Mahliya and Mauhub and the White-Footed Gazelle: It Contains Strange and Marvelous Things.” A single copy, probably produced in Egypt or Syria, survives in Istanbul; the first English translation appeared in 2015. This is not the right way to start a fairy tale, but it’s better than sitting here in silence waiting for Mahliya, who takes forever to get ready. She’s upstairs staining her cheeks with antimony, her lips with a lipstick called Black Sauce. Vainest crone in Cairo.

The Dragon of Dread Peak (Part 1)

When I made the decision to take up an after-school job closing trans-dimensional portals into pocket-worlds full of dangerous monsters and traps, I thought it would be easier—or at least more fun—than working the counter at a fried cockatrice joint or selling newssheets on a street corner at the crack of dawn. My team’s first outing into dungeonspace—when we defeated The Cavern of the Screaming Eye on our first try—had gone pretty good. Since then, we’d been running low threat level, poorly synced dungeons as practice, the kind that don’t actually kill you if you take damage inside them.

Becoming

The stranger emerged from the shadows by the backstage door, proffered lighter held in long pale fingers. Winged eyeliner emphasized the charcoal of his heavy-lidded eyes. He wore the absence of a smile like expensive jewelry. Morgan leaned in for the light. “Hello,” she said huskily. She liked the look of him. She was stuck working this show as a stagehand, staring at the actresses who could get real work, and she wasn’t even supposed to smoke during her well-earned breaks.

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