Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Science Fiction

The Heart’s Filthy Lesson

The sun burned through the clouds around noon on the long Cytherean day, and Dharthi happened to be awake and in a position to see it. She was alone in the highlands of Ishtar Terra on a research trip, five sleeps out from Butler base camp, and—despite the nagging desire to keep traveling—had decided to take a rest break for an hour or two. Noon at this latitude was close enough to the one hundredth solar dieiversary of her birth that she’d broken out her little hoard of shelf-stable cake to celebrate.

Marcel Proust, Incorporated

It’s 12:15, and Monica West is late for our lunch. We’re meeting at a trendy Greenwich Village bistro, one of the few to survive the depression that bankrupted the City, and so many of its residents, nearly two decades ago. There are few reminders of those trying times here now. The place is packed with the young power elite, the air thick with talk of mergers and screenplays and spring designer collections. I order a glass of Cabernet and wait.

Yakshantariksh

The Yakshantariksh is beyond one’s imagination, yet that is where its existence is made manifest. It is a being so real that it can only be sensed by that most intangible of organs: the mind! What a delightful paradox! And yet it is so. It was discovered in a dream—supporting evidence came later. Thus a tick living on the body of an elephant may never realize the elephant exists, unless, perhaps, the elephant speaks to it mind to mind. So it is with the Yakshantariksh, which is as vast, perhaps vaster than galaxies.

The Heart’s Cartography

Jade was the sort of backwoods girl who had a map of the countryside tattooed on her heart, and she could feel it in her bones when the pieces of her world shifted. So when the new family moved into the house across the road that late summer, she felt ripples of wrongness radiating out from them and their too-bright clothes, their bizarrely old-fashioned wood-paneled station wagon, and their rolling words.

Dragonflies

The dragonfly hung in the thick, humid air like a jeweled miracle, wings beating so fast that they became a blur. Its body was an oil slick of shifting colors, greens and blues and purples, blending together in patterns that would have seemed garish if they hadn’t been natural. It had a cocker spaniel clutched in four of its six legs.

This Is for You

There was one girl I really liked in school when I returned to Earth, but it took me three months to say hello. I wasn’t good with human beings. We’d just gotten back from Pitipek (a red-dwarf star system “just left” of Tau Ceti, as the joke goes). My father had been stationed there for two years with the TU’s Planetary Safety Agency, and living with the slow, enigmatic, bipedal Pitipeki—especially in one of their villages, and under those endless clouds—tends to make you lose your people skills.

Ratcatcher

Pepper’s vision fades slowly away in the empty midnight as he tumbles end over end. His eyes frost over, moisture crackling and icing over pupils, hardening against his eyelids. The pinpoint stars fracture behind the fractal cold of the ice, then shatter into a multitude of glittering refractions. Unseeing, he still stares wide-eyed into the vacuum.

Someone to Watch Over Me

“I still hate this,” Trevor said. “That you’re doing this to Becky.” “So you’ve told me,” I said wearily. “Many times.” We sat in the clinic waiting room, done in Martian rust reds, very trendy for such an illegal operation. But, then, this was very upscale illegality. Trevor, who had so much money he never […]

Seven Permutations of My Daughter

I’ve sought a world with a higher-than-average ratio of sunny days and a pharmaceutical industry that developed a decade before my own. Sun, of course, improves mental health. And a more developed pharmaceutical industry implies a more liberal outlook towards chemical intervention, a more specific range of treatment plans. It isn’t easy to write equations for these variables.

If Lions Could Speak: Imagining the Alien

Many have written on this subject to confess failure; who am I to claim success? The objections line up like policemen: Alien intelligence does not, in fact, exist. So when we try to describe it, our thoughts do not connect to any object except ourselves. The words we put into an alien mouth, the feeling into an alien heart, the tools into alien hands, what can they be but imitations of our words, feelings, tools?