Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Podcasts

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.

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

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.

Fantasy

The Substance of My Lives, the Accidents of Our Births

I seem to make an outcast of myself every time I’m a teenager. Which is fine, I guess. I’ll take one good dog and one good friend over being a phony and fitting in. Alicia points. “There he is, Jamie!” A couple hundred feet away, our trailer park’s newest resident grabs a box from the van parked in front of his single-wide. He’s gray-haired and buff, like if The Rock were an old man. Alicia and I are sprawled on top of a wooden picnic table in the park’s rusted old playground.

Science Fiction

The Streets of Babel

The city surrounded him while he slept. He had been fleeing it for four days. Long before its walls became visible, it was a grayish smudge on the horizon, beneath which the air shimmered in silent testimony of its radiant heat. It was one of about ten living cities he knew of and he had avoided it for as long as he could, staying out of their usual migratory paths, contenting himself with the company of the small tribes who had also managed to keep out of the reach of the cities, living on roots and the small animals that fell to his bow.

Fantasy

You Will Never Know What Opens

One of the doors in the closet, behind the boxes, leads to a harsh desert world. The first time you stepped through, you didn’t bring water, and nearly died as you crouched beneath the sun, waiting for the door to open again. You were saved only by the unexpected appearance of someone draped in gray, who gave you water before showing you a mottled face of lizard skin. You screamed. By the time you returned, you could barely stand. Your head pounded; your skin was badly burnt.

Science Fiction

A Third of the Stars of Heaven

Henrietta followed the receptionist down the hall of Schneider Hospital. The woman’s keys jangled as she walked, mixing with the echoing clicks of Henrietta’s blue church shoes. No other noises greeted them. Henrietta watched her shadow stretch itself in each unlit room, her form made large by the ultra-bright fluorescent lights of the hallway. One of the lights in the hall blinked on and off. Henrietta pinched her eyes closed to ward off dizziness. Her lower belly throbbed and she stifled a groan.

Fantasy

The House at the End of the Lane Is Dreaming

Your name is Alex and you live in a small town at the edge of the sea. You have a sister and two parents and no pets. In your town, everyone follows their destiny: They cross the street, cook endless meals, stand in the same room, deliver the same mail every day. You can’t remember most of their names. It’s the way it’s always been. You’re different. You wake up one morning and know something’s wrong. It’s an unsettled ache in your chest. Bad things will happen soon. Unfortunately, you can’t articulate these feelings. No one but you knows anything is different about today.

Science Fiction

The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant

Engineer’s meat wept and squirmed and wriggled inside her steel organ cavity, so different from the stable purr of gears and circuit boards. You couldn’t count on meat. It lulled you with its warmth, the soft give of skin, the tug of muscle, the neurotransmitter snow fluttering down from neurons to her cyborg logic center. On other days, the meat sickened, swelled inside her steel shell, pressed into her joints. Putrid yellow meat-juices dripped all over her chassis, eroding away its chrome gloss. It contaminated everything.