Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Devil You Know by K.J. Parker

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Fiction

Fantasy

Of Metal Men and Scarlet Thread and Dancing with the Sunrise

Rudolfo’s Gypsy Scouts found the metal man sobbing in an impact crater deep in the roiling smoke and glowing ruins of Windwir. He crouched over a pile of blackened bones, his shoulders chugging and his bellows wheezing, his helmet-like head shaking in his large metal hands. They approached him silently, ghosts in a city of ghosts, but the metal man still heard and looked up.

Science Fiction

The Birth Will Take Place on a Mutually Acceptable Research Vessel

When they inform you the birth will take place on a mutually acceptable research vessel, you nod and smile as if it was your choice all along. Because smiling and nodding is what you’ve been doing since the beginning. Because this is bigger than you. Because at least this way it feels like you’re being honored and feted instead of herded and controlled. Mr. Kagawa, courteous and diplomatic by profession, does his best to make it all seem like a request.

Fantasy

The Knobby Giraffe

My name’s Irit Ziv. I have a low-rent apartment in the East Village that I used to share with my girlfriend, Shirley Chen. It’s April now, and Shirley died four months ago. Ever since then, I’ve been visiting Ma and Pa’s flat in Brooklyn Heights a lot. An awesome spot, with a full view of lower Manhattan. The trees by the river are turning green. I’m a grad student at NYU, trying to finish a PhD thesis in the physics department. Physics was probably a bad choice for me, but it’s too late to change.

Science Fiction

Collateral

They got Becker out in eight minutes flat, left the bodies on the sand for whatever scavengers the Sixth Extinction hadn’t yet managed to kill off. Munsin hauled her into the Sikorsky and tried to yank the augments manually, right on the spot; Wingman swung and locked and went hot in the pants-pissing half-second before its threat-recognition macros, booted late to the party, calmed it down.

Fantasy

Lily, with Clouds

Eleanor Tolliver’s heels clicked on the sidewalk—click click, click click, like a cantering horse, if a horse could canter in size seven and a half shoes. It was odd, this lopsided step, in a woman whose lavender suit had been bought last week at Lord & Taylor. Really, she admitted to herself as she clicked down Elm Street, she should not have bought the narrows. The left shoe, in particular, pressed against her corn and produced the cantering gait we have noticed.

Science Fiction

Origin Story

Living in Commerce City, odds are you’re going to get caught up in something someday—pinned down in the crossfire of some epic battle between heroes who can fly and villains with ray guns, held captive in a hostage crisis involving an entire football stadium, or even trapped by a simple jewelry heist or bus hijacking. When my turn came, I got stuck in a bank robbery.

Fantasy

Dragon Brides

Dragon brides are notoriously difficult women. We have lived with dragons, after all, those strange and terrible animals with their curiously human eyes, and some of us come back down from the broken mountains with their hisses still in our ears. I was taken by the green dragon of Mahr when I was fifteen, and it was a full year before my lord brought me back down. Forty years would pass before I would come to those steep paths again.

Science Fiction

Cause For A Haunting

Kate took the hatbox to the dining room table, lifted the top, and removed the items: a glass brooch, a wood carving of a beaver, an empty perfume bottle, a blue silk scarf. It was the photograph she picked up: four by six, black and white, but well preserved beneath glossy finish. A man and woman stood in front of a small, red-bricked house—this house, but minus the coniferous shrubs and mature trees, it appeared different. Bleak almost, the coziness that had lured Kate and Shawn absent.

Fantasy

Michael Doesn’t Hate His Mother

At rest, coiled up, Michael’s mother is about the size of a riding mower. Michael’s living room is not much bigger than her.
With a shudder, she rises. Her little piston feet march, pulling her out of her coil. Lifters above the feet kick out like dancers in a line. She snakes into the kitchen. Julie shrieks in horrified delight. Their mother opens the refrigerator. Julie and Michael watch as she prepares them lunch. She nudges them into chairs at the table. They haven’t eaten at the table in a long time. Maybe she’s getting better.

Science Fiction

The Waiting Stars

The derelict ship ward was in an isolated section of Outsider space, one of the numerous spots left blank on interstellar maps, no more or no less tantalising than its neighbouring quadrants. To most people, it would be just that: a boring part of a long journey to be avoided—skipped over by Mind-ships as they cut through deep space, passed around at low speeds by Outsider ships while their passengers slept in their hibernation cradles.