Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Fiction

Fantasy

Hapthorn’s Last Case

My assistant said, “You have received an invitation from Holk Xanthoulian. He is embarking on a new menu and invites, and I quote, ‘a select coterie of the cognoscenti to sample its superlative assemblage of tastes, textures, and titillations.’” “He has a flair for the alliterative,” I said. “Sadly, that is true,” my assistant said. “Shall I decline?”

Science Fiction

Oversite

“It doesn’t hurt, Gram,” Renata says. My sixteen-year-old daughter pulls up her t-shirt sleeve to show her bare arm, the skin summer brown and the muscle swelling slightly into smooth biceps, flawless. “I had it done when I was little and see, you can’t even tell.” My mother is sitting in the little examining room at the assisted living complex. Everything is white and hospital-like but there’s no examining couch.

Fantasy

Other Worlds and This One

When I finally visit Hugh Everett, it’s 1982. We sit down and pahnah pours himself a glass of sherry and lights a cig before asking me about the purpose of my visit. We’re in Hugh’s bedroom. He’s sitting on his bed, in full suit and tie, taking deep drags from his cigarette. I take a seat in a chair next to the window. I tell him I want to hear about his theory. This isn’t true. I know his theory well.

Science Fiction

Talk to Your Children About Two-Tongued Jeremy

His name was Two-Tongued Jeremy; he was a monitor lizard with a forked tongue, thick glasses, and a wild, wagging smile meant to convince children that learning could be fun, too. He came highly rated. He updated automatically. When our promising children propped their tablets against their stacks of textbooks, their glazy angelic eyes took on that ferocious determination we liked to see in ourselves.

Fantasy

Queen Lily

Once upon a time, there was a princess named Little Snowdrop, who had six brothers and four sisters. Her brothers were ravens, and her sisters were swans. Whenever they wished, they would fly around the castle on their black or white wings, but Snowdrop, not having any wings of her own, could not join them. She could only wave at them from the window of a high tower as they flew by. Her father was the King, and he loved her very much.

Science Fiction

America: The Ride

We have a kid now and another on the way and—the idea is, the hope is—that we are, at least in a technical sense, adults. We’d always assumed we would know more, would have accomplished more, by the time we got to this point, assumed we would have turned into different people, better people. That was the idea. That was the hope. Looking back over our shoulders, we can see the track stretching out behind us, an unbroken line from where we got on to where we are now. The voice of the American ride says: Please keep your attention focused in a sideways direction.

Fantasy

Ten Deals with the Indigo Snake

I’m fourteen the first time I bargain with the indigo snake. I find it basking on the rocks that are piled against the south side of our house, a lazily drawn line of black, like a cursive letter that has gotten away from itself. It lifts its head as I walk up. “Can you hurt Sam Mueller?” I ask. I’ve taken health class by this point, so I know that I’m not supposed to speak to snakes. There are videos about what happens to the kids who do. But they’re so poorly made, the actresses too peppy and the snakes no more than plastic-eyed puppets. Hardly sinister.

Science Fiction

Tribute

NASA died two hundred and three nautical miles above the planet Mars. It died when Daniel Chen, the last surviving crew member of Pilgrim 2, ran out of breathable atmosphere. At that point, Chen pulled himself close to the nearest camera lens. Even though NASA was not sharing the feed, hackers inevitably populated it across the internet. Millions witnessed Chen’s death. He was a beloved figure, a brilliant scientist as well as a twenty-first-century Will Rogers dispensing wisdom and humor on the talk show and lecture circuit, in books and web TV specials.

Fantasy

The Dream Curator

It is the business of the Dream Curator to choose, and at the moment he is doing so. On his left, an uninspiring rococo fantasia on a childhood humiliation; on his right, a fractured symbolist nightmare of mollusks and walls of televisions. Neither is permanent-gallery material, but both tempt him to reshuffle the rotating exhibit space near the front of the museum. He samples them again, and makes the correct decision. Too much beauty in a museum, he thinks to himself, is not necessarily a good thing. And the mollusks will look good in the newspapers.

Science Fiction

The Real You™

We were getting coffee, which we used to do all the time, when Tierney told me she was thinking of having it done. “Really?” I asked, half-laughing—I didn’t think she was serious. “Why?” “What do you mean, why?” Tierney looked annoyed. “Do I need a reason? Why did you get your tattoo?” I’d hurt her feelings. I hadn’t meant to. As I tried to think of what to say I followed the line of her eyes to a woman who’d just walked in and was ordering a latte. Her face was merely a suggestion, like a Cycladic head or a more abstract Brâncuși.