Science Fiction & Fantasy

Missing Signal

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Fiction

Fantasy

A Coward’s Death

Well, the 101,201st Emperor needed some levies to build a huge statue of himself, so he said, “Okay, all of my recently subjugated peoples: If you’ve got at least two sons, you need to give me your first-born. But don’t worry, I’ll give him back, assuming he can survive ten years of lifting these big heavy stones.” In some places, people weren’t happy about this. The city of Yashar revolted, and in response the Emperor’s legions killed the men, castrated the boys, and sold all the survivors into slavery.

Science Fiction

Jamaica Ginger

“Damn and blast it!” Plaquette let herself in through the showroom door of the watchmaker’s that morning to hear Msieur blistering the air of his shop with his swearing. The hulking clockwork man he’d been working on was high-stepping around the workroom floor in a clumsy lurch. It lifted its knees comically high, its body listing to one side and its feet coming down in the wrong order; toe, then heel.

Fantasy

The Seventh Expression of the Robot General

In his later years, when he spoke, a faint whirring came from his lower jaw. His mouth opened and closed rhythmically, accurately, displaying a full set of human teeth gleaned from fallen comrades and the stitched tube of plush leather that was his tongue. The metal mustache and eyebrows were ridiculously fake, but the eyes were the most beautiful glass facsimiles, creamy white with irises like dark blue flowers. Instead of hair, his scalp was sandpaper.

Science Fiction

Four-Point Affective Calibration

Of course I can be angry. But I wear a headscarf. The moment I’m angry, you put me in your mental box labeled “TERRORIST” in neat, tidy small capitals. You store me under “Potential Danger” in the warehouse of your mind. When I cross the parking lot to the grocery store, sometimes people hit the gas, not the brakes. And this is a university town, supposedly liberal—or is it? I’m not a Muslim, but it’s not like most people around here can spot the difference.

Fantasy

The Quiet Like a Homecoming

Travel to Scandinavia if you can, the older cats told me, the queens in their raftered kingdoms. The coffee there, they said, is bitter as an old lie. The Norsemen are beautiful, their women even more sublime, but most importantly, they are quiet. Preoccupied only with Nordic things, disinterested in the outside world. This is crucial. This is what makes them safe. But this is not the only reason I am here.

Science Fiction

Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance

After battle with the Fleet of Honest Representation, after seven hundred seconds of sheer terror and uncertainty, and after our shared triumph in the acquisition of the greatest prize seizure in three hundred years, we cautiously approached the massive black hole that Purth-Anaget orbited. The many rotating rings, filaments, and infrastructures bounded within the fields that were the entirety of our ship, With All Sincerity, were flush with a sense of victory.

Fantasy

The Court Magician

The boy who will become court magician this time is not a cruel child. Not like the last one, or the one before her. He never stole money from Blind Carel’s cup, or thrashed a smaller child for sweets, or kicked a dog. This boy is a market rat, which sets him apart from the last several, all from highborn or merchant families. This isn’t about lineage, or even talent. He watches the street magicians every day, with a hunger in his eyes that says he knows he could do what they do.

Science Fiction

Someday

Daya had been in no hurry to become a mother. In the two years since she’d reached childbearing age, she’d built a modular from parts she’d fabbed herself, thrown her boots into the volcano, and served as blood judge. The village elders all said she was one of the quickest girls they had ever seen—except when it came to choosing fathers for her firstborn. Maybe that was because she was too quick for a sleepy village like Third Landing. When her mother, Tajana, had come of age, she’d left for the blue city to find fathers for her baby.

Fantasy

Divine Madness

He blew smoke through the cigarette and it grew longer. He glanced at the clock and realized that its hands were moving backwards. The clock told him it was 10:33, going on 10:32 in the p.m. Then came the thing like despair, for he knew there was not a thing he could do about it. He was trapped, moving in reverse through the sequence of actions past. Somehow, he had missed the warning. Usually, there was a prism-effect, a flash of pink static, a drowsiness, then a moment of heightened perception . . .

Science Fiction

The Eyes of the Flood

The river’s in flood again, and it feels like a blessing from God. You emerge from your home, built with wood and plastic scraps of ancient towns, and stand on the green hill high above the rushing waters. You remember from when you were young that the river would spill over its banks every year, submerging the low-lying land, turning fields that had lain fallow through the darkness and bitter cold of winter into lakes of rushing, wild water. And then when the waters had drained away, the corn could be planted in the deep sediments left behind.