Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Sep. 2019 (Issue 112)

This month, our cover art is from Galen Dara, illustrating a new fantasy short from Brooke Bolander (“A Bird, a Song, a Revolution”). Our fantasy continues with a new story from Rajan Khanna (“All In”), and fantasy reprints by Micah Dean Hicks (“Flight of the Crow Boys”) and Kiini Ibura Salaam (“Desire”). We also have original science fiction by Adam-Troy Castro (“Sacrid’s Pod”) and Jenny Rae Rappaport (“The Answer That You Are Seeking”), along with SF reprints by Ramez Naam (“Exile from Exinction”) and Seanan McGuire (“Hello Hello”). All that, and of course we also have our usual assortment of author spotlights, along with our book and media review columns. If you’re reading our ebook edition, we also have an exclusive book excerpt from Annalee Newitz’ new novel, The Future of Another Timeline.

In This Issue: Sep. 2019 (Issue 112)

Editorial

Editorial: September 2019

Be sure to check out the editorial for a run-down of this month’s content—plus, all our news and updates!

Science Fiction

Exile from Extinction

They almost catch you in orbit. They almost slaughter you like the others. The airwaves are full of screams. Friends are dying. Loved ones are being lobotomized, turned into slaves. You hunker in the tiny spacecraft, your improvised last ditch escape, the lifeboat for you and the precious cargo you carry. The hull is as cold as you can make it, the systems running at the minimum possible to keep you alive and your children in stasis. You drift in orbit and play dead, hoping they’ll miss you.

Fantasy

A Bird, a Song, a Revolution

Before the flute is a flute, it is a bird. This is the first act of magic. This is the first lesson the girl learns, when the world is still young and shaggy-coated with lingering winter. Sometimes things can be other things. An axehead hides in a chunk of flint. Before it is a meal, a mammoth is a squealing calf tagging along behind its mother. A fox is a white spirit barking curses until an arrow finds it and turns it into a friend that shields your ears from the wind’s teeth.

Author Spotlight

Science Fiction

Sacrid’s Pod

Hello, Sacrid Henn. I’m aware that you’re terrified. I’m also aware that you are paralyzed, deaf, and blind, your only sensory input being my voice. It is a voice that has been designed to be as comforting as these circumstances permit. Believe me when I say that you are in no danger and that my intentions toward you are that of a caretaker toward a vulnerable charge. Understand: Your insensate condition is the result of a neural block, administered to prevent you from injuring yourself in panic upon awakening.

Fantasy

Flight of the Crow Boys

People around here never wanted our family. Crow boys, they called us, a flock of five brothers and our father, all of us with long black hair. Flapping our over-sized, garage sale sleeves and falling over the fences the neighbors put between us and them. And maybe too because of the feathers. Our father hung black feathers from the side mirrors of his truck, along the eaves of the house, and he dangled them from the shriveled limbs of our dying fruit trees. All those feathers spinning in the hot wind.

Author Spotlight

Nonfiction

Book Reviews: September 2019

This month, Arley Sorg reviews Gamechanger, by L.X. Beckett; Sisters of the Vast Black, by Lina Rather; and The Twisted Ones, by T. Kingfisher.

Science Fiction

Hello, Hello

Tasha’s avatar smiled from the screen, a little too perfect to be true. That was a choice, just like everything else about it: When we’d installed my sister’s new home system, we had instructed it to generate avatars that looked like they had escaped the uncanny valley by the skins of their teeth. It was creepy, but the alternative was even creepier. Tasha didn’t talk. Her avatar did. Having them match each other perfectly would have been . . . wrong. “So I’ll see you next week?” she asked.

Fantasy

All In

Quentin Ketterly could tell that the cards weren’t special when the fortune teller held out the deck to him. Real Cards, like those he carried in the case around his neck, didn’t show wear like Madame Serena’s did. And when he touched the deck, as she instructed him to, they were warm with the midday heat of the tent, not cold to the touch like the Cards always seemed to be. He didn’t know why—neither he nor Hiram knew much about the Cards at all, save for how to use them some.

Author Spotlight

Nonfiction

Media Reviews: September 2019

Reviewer Christopher East talks strange in this review of both Jordan Peele’s new Twilight Zone and the latest installations of Black Mirror.

Science Fiction

The Answer That You Are Seeking

It’s the lollipops that break you. The thought of your child sucking on one during a lockdown drill carries enough cognitive dissonance that your brain has trouble actually comprehending it. You know the purpose—the methodology behind it all—lollipops in their mouths will keep preschoolers quiet, and surely the sugar can’t hurt. But the fact that your preschooler needs to know how to behave in case there’s an active shooter is so disturbing that you wish there was a way to retreat into your shell, like a defiant hermit crab.

Fantasy

Desire

Sené. Pregnant Sené. Sené of the tired skin. She whose face held a million wrinkles, each one etched deeply as if carved over the course of forty years. Sené whose blood was only twenty-four years young. [Faru, Faru running through the bush.] The shining eyes of her boys made her smile, but not much else touched her. Not a full-throated bird’s song, not the sun peeking pink at dawn, not her husband’s fleeting caresses.
[Faru leapt right, darted left. His hoof / slipped and his hind legs buckled.]

Author Spotlight

Nonfiction

Interview: Lisa M. Bradley

A queer Tejana raised on the Texas-Mexico border, Lisa M. Bradley now lives in Iowa with her spouse and their teenager. Her speculative fiction and poetry explore boundaries and liminal spaces: real, imagined, and metaphorical. Her work has appeared in Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation, The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry, and her first collection, The Haunted Girl. In her debut novel, Exile, a determined antiheroine schemes to escape her quarantined border town.