Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Science Fiction

Swing Time

He emerged suddenly from behind a potted shrub. Taking Madeline’s hand, he shouldered her bewildered former partner out of the way and turned her toward the hall where couples gathered for the next figure. “Ned, fancy meeting you here.” Madeline deftly shifted so that her voluminous skirts were not trod upon. “Fancy? You’re pleased to see me then?” he said, smiling his insufferably ironic smile. “Amused is more accurate. You always amuse me.”

Science Fiction

The Sun God At Dawn, Rising From A Lotus Blossom

Dear Sir: I hope you will forgive the impropriety of this personal letter sent without the benefit of previous acquaintance, but I feel compelled to write you in order that I might, indeed, introduce myself, and also so I might render to you my personal wishes for your hale and happy birthday. And, as I am scheduled to go on display in just a few days’ time, I would additionally like to express my genuine and incalculable pride that I am soon to be joining your illustrious ranks.

Science Fiction

The Last Flight of Doctor Ain

Dr. Ain was recognized on the Omaha-Chicago flight. A biologist colleague from Pasadena came out of the toilet and saw Ain in an aisle seat. Five years before, this man had been jealous of Ain’s huge grants. Now he nodded coldly and was surprised at the intensity of Ain’s response. He almost turned back to speak, but he felt too tired; like nearly everyone, he was fighting the flu. The stewardess handing out coats after they landed remembered Ain, too: a tall, thin, nondescript man with rusty hair.

Fantasy

Acres of Perhaps

If you were a certain kind of person with a certain kind of schedule in the early sixties, you probably saw a show that some friends of mine and I worked on called Acres of Perhaps. By “certain kind of person,” I mean insomniac or alcoholic; by “certain kind of schedule,” I mean awake at 11:30 at night with only your flickering gray-eyed television for company. With any luck, it left you feeling that however weird your life was, it could always be weirder.

Science Fiction

Mix Tapes From Dead Boys

The derelict hangs in Neptune’s blue orbit, a chip of shadowy flint from a distance. Up close, it’s old and rusting, myriad old systems cobbled together, and Hadley swallows her nervous and exhilarated heart a dozen times as she latches the pod to its belly, makes a hard seal at the airlock, and geckos her team inside. The exterior of their spatulae suits—hands and knees and hips—permits them freedom of movement even in zero gee. Especially in zero gee. She glances back at their pod once.

Fantasy

A Touch of Heart

Many years ago, in Shangdong Province, there lived an unfortunate farmer by the name of Dou Zhuo. Like most of us who walk this teeming Earth, he was trapped in the circumstances that fortune had provided him. He owned a patch of land that supported crops only after backbreaking effort, and then with results that betrayed its resentment of the demands he put on it. His cucumbers were bitter, his cowpeas difficult to boil, his leeks over-pungent, his pak choi stiff, and his edible amaranth hardly deserving of its name.

Fantasy

Stitches

The first time the wrens sang at night was three years ago, when I used a rusty saw to cut off Pa’s left foot. The birds drowned out his screams. Wrens don’t normally sing after sunset, but I wasn’t surprised by it. Birds are known as spirit carriers in mountain lore. When someone dies, birds of all kinds carry them back and forth between this world and the afterlife, so folk can keep watch over their living loved ones, even after they’re gone.

Science Fiction

The Law of Conservation of Data

“Slots Palace,” says Suze. You all stare at her. Staring at her is worth doing. She’s moved into a new bod since coming here, and the change has been a big improvement. There wasn’t exactly anything wrong with the one she initially adopted for the pentagon’s pre-consensuality union, but she became dissatisfied with it and the dissatisfaction affected the rest of you—especially Kagura, who said it reminded him in all the wrong ways of a past consensual of his who turned out badly.

Science Fiction

The Heart’s Filthy Lesson

The sun burned through the clouds around noon on the long Cytherean day, and Dharthi happened to be awake and in a position to see it. She was alone in the highlands of Ishtar Terra on a research trip, five sleeps out from Butler base camp, and—despite the nagging desire to keep traveling—had decided to take a rest break for an hour or two. Noon at this latitude was close enough to the one hundredth solar dieiversary of her birth that she’d broken out her little hoard of shelf-stable cake to celebrate.

Fantasy

The Magical Properties of Unicorn Ivory

Vocations don’t grant vacations. I’m supposedly on holiday in London when I get an offer no reporter could refuse: to see a unicorn in the wild. I’m with my friend Samantha, hanging out at her Dad’s pub after a long night’s clubbing, still wearing our dance-rumpled dresses, dying to get out of our heels. Sam’s father, Will, is tending bar tonight, so it’s the perfect spot for late-night chips and hair-of-the-dog nightcaps. Plus, most of the clientele is over fifty. We wouldn’t have to spend all evening judo-throwing chirpsers.