Science Fiction & Fantasy

Beren & Luthien by J.R.R. Tolkien

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June 2016 (Issue 73)

This month, we’ve made another special double issue for you: People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! We’ve brought together a team of terrific creators and editors of color, led by Guest Editors Nalo Hopkinson and Kristine Ong Muslim. We’ll have ten pieces of original science fiction by exciting SF authors: Karin Lowachee (“A Good Home”), Steven Barnes (“Fifty Shades of Grays”), Isha Karki (“Firebird”), Lisa Allen-Agostini (“Depot 256”), Brian K. Hudson (“Digital Medicine”), Sofia Samatar (“The Red Thread”), Nick T. Chan (“Salto Mortal”), Dayo Ntwari (“Omoshango”), Terence Taylor (“Wilson’s Singularity”), and Gabriela Santiago (“As Long As It Takes to Make the World”). We also have a special flash fiction section curated by the talented Berit Ellingsen. We have flash from S.B. Divya (“Binaries”), Fabio Fernandes (“Other Metamorphoses”), Teresa Naval (“An Offertory to Our Drowned Gods”), Nin Harris (“Morning Cravings”), Jennifer Marie Brissett (“Breathe Deep, Breathe Free”), T.S. Bazelli (“The Peacemaker”), Caroline M. Yoachim (“Chocolate Milkshake Number 314”), Naru Dames Sundar (“A Handful Of Dal”), Kevin Jared Hosein (“Hiranyagarbha”), and JY Yang (“Four And Twenty Blackbirds”). Our nonfiction editor, Grace Dillon, has brought us some incredible essays and articles, and we have our usual assortment of author and artist spotlights. For our ebook readers—and for those who seek out the print edition of our special issue—we also include have our usual novella reprint and a novel excerpt. But as a special treat, Sunil Patel has collected the more than two dozen essays on life as a PoC reader and creator of science fiction that originally ran in our People of Colo(u)r Kickstarter campaign. All that, and of course we also have our usual assortment of author spotlights, along with an extra special book column.

In This Issue: June 2016 (Issue 73)

Editorial

The People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! Manifesto

I have no mouth, and I must scream, proclaims the title of Harlan Ellison’s classic work of science fiction. Like most “classic” works of science fiction, it was written by a white man. For centuries, white voices have been boosted, have been heard more than those of POC (a muddled term, to be sure, but one that facilitates a necessary discussion). It’s been their mouths doing the screaming.

Science Fiction

A Good Home

I brought him home from the VA shelter and sat him in front of the window because the doctors said he liked that. The shelter had set him in safe mode for transport until I could voice activate him again, and recalibrate, but safe mode still allowed for base functions like walking, observation, and primary speech. He seemed to like the window because he blinked once. Their kind didn’t blink ordinarily, and they never wept, so I always wondered where the sadness went.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Karin Lowachee

I just struck on this idea, after seeing reports on VA hospitals and being aware of the issues surrounding the government’s responsibility for returned veterans, that if in the future we created androids to fight in our wars—what would happen to them after? I didn’t want to make the government the Big Bad necessarily—even if they might struggle with how to deal with their decisions and are in some way always catching up to the fallout. I wanted to think that the government would at least try to help their wounded warriors—whether human or android.

Science Fiction

Salto Mortal

Three days ago, Paul had thrown Mary onto the kitchen floor and kicked her everywhere except her face. For the first two days, the only time she left her bed was to go to the bathroom, drops of clotted blood from her insides deposited like coins in the toilet bowl. On the third day, high on oxycodone, Mary dreamed about the lucha libre. She hadn’t thought about wrestling since she’d left Mexico, but the hallucination was as bright and sharp as grief.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Nick T. Chan

I’d like a diverse list of voices taking speculative fiction in all kinds of directions. Any community needs the constant influx of new ideas and new perspectives in order to remain vital and healthy. Although there’s chaos and displacement involved with new voices, a mature community is enriched by them. Personally, I’d like to see writers from cultures I don’t know very well. From an Australian perspective, indigenous writers are underrepresented in speculative fiction.

Science Fiction

People of Colo(u)r Destroy Flash Fiction!

As part of our People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction! special issue, we opened up Lightspeed to flash fiction for just the third time. The flash fiction section was guest-edited by critically acclaimed writer Berit Ellingsen. Half of the flash selections are available online, while the other half are exclusive to the print/ebook edition.

Science Fiction

Four and Twenty Blackbirds

The doctor congratulates them. The baby is human, and healthy. Richard is on her instantly, bruising her shoulders with his joy, planting kisses on her forehead and neck and face. His—their—fortune is the five-month-old smudge in the grain of the sonogram, soft-boned and quivering and reassuringly feather-free. It’s been six long years: Years of cajoling, years of trying, years of navigating the risks. Now they are here.

Science Fiction

Other Metamorphoses

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself in his bed. He hadn’t been transformed into a gigantic insect. Disappointed, the small velociraptor started to weep. And braced himself to enter dreamtime again. Samsa was a member of that elusive caste known as the Oneironauts. Dream travelers—people who, since the dawn of time, were able to master their dreams and bend them at their will.

Science Fiction

Hiranyagarbha

Remember when I first see it while boating through the mangroves in Caroni Swamp. Was early morning—you coulda still see the flicker of a candlefly here and there. I was following a trail of dead tilapia floating belly-up in the water. Wasn’t the first time I see something like that—but not to this extent. Their lifeless bodies was washing up on the silt. Black halos of corbeaux circling overhead, like angels of death.

Science Fiction

Binaries

Year 1: I come into the world wet and squalling and ordinary, born of heterosexual bio-parents. Year 2: A flat photo shows me on my first birthday with a shock of red hair, wide green eyes, and an expression of distaste at the sticky white frosting on my fingers. My mother stands on one side looking not at all Jewish; my Goan, lapsed-Catholic father stands on the other.

Science Fiction

An Offertory to Our Drowned Gods

The bodies floating on the streets look fuller than Johnnyboy feels. They are pink and bloated, like the click-flash tourists who once inhaled the spirits of their cities. No one talks about the drownings, but Johnnyboy’s father sometimes puts his hands together and whispers to the newly baptized. The water carries sound much faster, he says, this is why no one has secrets any more. The tide brings in so many things: keyboards, used condoms, crucifixes, textbooks. The tide is how Johnnyboy finds a name—a faded basketball jersey, the number seven, Johnnyboy in purple lettering.

Science Fiction

Double Time

Skaters in black practice outfits swerved around Shelly. Her music was playing over the PA system. She had right of way. A scattering of figure skating fans sat in the rink’s hard, blue, plastic seats. Even to a practice session, some had brought their flags. Her mom sat near the boards and waved her US flag as though if only it had shook more fiercely last night, Shelly would have landed her triple Lutz-triple toe jump combination in the short program.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: John Chu

Shelly evolved as I wrote. At the start, I knew that she was a Chinese-American girl. Despite the speculative element, I wanted the story to take place in more or less the present. Given that I wanted to write a figure skating story, that meant the mother had to be this huge Michelle Kwan fan. It’s hard to overestimate the impact Michelle Kwan had on Chinese-Americans of a certain age. Everything else about Shelly more or less fell out of that.

Nonfiction

Doing Dhalgren

Dhalgren takes root and blossoms in the mind of the reader. It plants so many ideas that it takes time for some to become recognizable. I suspect that each time I read it, the novel could reveal something new, but after this reading I feel what Delany says is that a writer must abandon traditional roads to find his or her voice, and to seek literary freedom and success by entering unknown territory unafraid.

Science Fiction

The Red Thread

Dear Fox, Hey. It’s Sahra. I’m tagging you from center M691, Black Hawk, South Dakota. It’s night and the lights are on in the center. It’s run by an old white guy with a hanging lip—he’s talking to my mom at the counter. Mom’s okay. We’ve barely mentioned you since we left the old group in the valley, just a few weeks after you disappeared. She said your name once, when I found one of your old slates covered with equations. “Well,” she said. “That was Fox.”

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Sofia Samatar

Childhood is a wellspring for a lot of writers, I think, a place of intense feelings and clarity of vision. And of course those are also the reasons we need art—to experience powerful emotions and to see things in a new way. A kid’s perspective is great for that. When you write a young voice, you remember how it was to be utterly, stupidly passionate about things, and to perceive the injustices we often learn to close our eyes to later. Kids are not fooled when we try to cover up inequality.

Science Fiction

Wilson’s Singularity

Wilson woke in bed, back to back with his husband, as warm morning sunlight crept around the room and settled on his face like a lazy cat. He tried to stay asleep, tried to block it out by nestling deeper under the covers, but it was no use. Now that he was awake, Unity would pop up the time and temperature in midair before him, and offer news updates and messages. The news would be filled with his name and today’s ceremony, and he’d heard enough about that for the last week.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Terence Taylor

We communicate almost continuously in smaller and smaller bursts, email chains, Facebook, texting, Twitter—a trend ultimately expressed in Instagram, where we reduce what we have to say to a single image. The adage that a picture tells a thousand words has become literally literal in that and emoticons. Because of that constant interchange, I know more about what’s going on with more of my friends who live over a greater distance than ever before. But I see them less than ever.

Nonfiction

Book Reviews: June 2016

This month, Sunil Patel reviews novels by POC writers: Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger, United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas, Infomocracy by Malka Older, and The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi.

Science Fiction

Fifty Shades of Grays

Terrorist. That’s what they call me, but I am something worse: both successful traitor and failed saboteur. I want to die, for all of this to be over. For my last request, I asked to have paper and pen to write my last will and testament. They won’t let me have it, forcing me to use the mindsynch. Damned Traveler tech. Maybe they’re scared I’ll ram the pen up my nose, scribble on my brain, and cheat the hangman.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Steven Barnes

The original story notion is some twenty years old, but I wasn’t writing short pieces then. I think that the theme of an ad man who accidentally ends the world was a reaction to black people being encouraged to straighten their hair and lighten their skin . . . and encouragements for black women to find white men sexually appealing while simultaneously erecting barriers between black men and white women. That’s a very old game between males, and there are some nasty side effects.

Science Fiction

Delhi

Tonight he is intensely aware of the city: its ancient stones, the flat-roofed brick houses, threads of clotheslines, wet, bright colors waving like pennants, neem tree-lined roads choked with traffic. There’s a bus going over the bridge under which he has chosen to sleep. The night smells of jasmine, and stale urine, and the dust of the cricket field on the other side of the road. A man is lighting a bidi near him: face lean, half in shadow, and he thinks he sees himself.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Vandana Singh

I really believe in place as character. Modern humans like to pretend geography is not important, since we can now live in deserts or mountaintops, but that is really an illusion. Geography shapes us, shapes our cultures and our imaginations, and in that sense, place is character. I am very much affected by place—whether it is a concrete jungle or wilderness. As a physicist, I am particularly aware that matter speaks—through physical laws, through constant interaction with its surroundings.

Nonfiction

The Thunderbird’s Path: Indigenous Seeds of Science Fiction

I was told by my Métis grandfather that it was unbecoming to stare at the Milky Way, the Thunderbird’s Path, because the Thunder beings were not to be disrespected by gawking. So even though I am now about science and, yes, science fiction, and say to myself, sometimes the Milky Way is just stars, I do still clasp the talismanic meteorite medallion I wear as a sort of magical protection. But it is hard to look away from a flight of stars gliding silently overhead like a flock of snowy owls.