Science Fiction & Fantasy

CHOSEN ONES

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Science Fiction

Byzantine Empathy

You’re hurrying along a muddy path, part of a jostling crowd. The commotion around you compels you to scramble to keep up. As your eyes adjust to the dim light of early dawn, you see everyone is laden down with possessions: a baby wrapped tightly against the chest of its mother; a bulging bed sheet filled with clothing ballooning over the back of a middle-aged man; a washbasin filled with lychees and breadfruit cradled in the arms of an eight-year-old girl.

Everything and Nothing

Start with a romance: a man and a woman who are wildly and irrevocably in love with each other. Or two men. Or two women. Or two people, because life is beautiful and complex. Just know that these Lovers are important. The fate of the galaxy rests on their shoulders—because, of course, the fate of an entire portion of known space can be determined by two people in love. The laws of physics are remarkably vulnerable to the laws of love.

The Shadow Prisoner’s Dilemma

Vivian sat at a café opposite Cass. Everything around her had a gritty, dingy quality. Even Cass looked run down, their face deeply tanned and distressingly wrinkled. They were old now, many decades past being the child that Vivian remembered. She looked down at her hands, so different than the black shadows that she’d grown accustomed to seeing during all her years as a Shade—the skin was covered in age spots and hung loose on the bones.

The Ambient Intelligence

The air over Chicago was thick with drones. There were at least two dozen I could see from the beach. Most were small, no more than slow-moving specks against the clouds, probably simple reconnaissance units. But at higher altitudes the big Venezuelan military birds prowled, formidable machines the size of Buicks. They moved through the sky with purpose. I had the suit zoom in on one, high over the lake.

Machine Learning

You asked me once if I had any favorites, and I asked you which of your sons you most loved. Do you remember? It was when I was on your radio show, the one where between the music you interview machines. Do people ever listen to this show? I do. I like hearing how the other machines think, what they’re building, what’s next. I hear the tiredness in their voices. I wonder if you do too.

Note to Self

The notion of the quantum mirror was first floated by two graduate students (Sapna Gupta and Mark Shaw) over a fourth round of beers in a small pub in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and therefore one should consider the role of intoxication in its initial conception. This is not to say that the notion itself was a foolish one; the subsequent procession of events should be sufficient proof that it was not.

Shadow Prisons of the Mind

With the right overlays, the city was charming—apartment buildings done up like giant row houses, seamlessly blending Victorian and modern sensibilities, boutiques and cafés on tree-lined streets, parks bathed in sunshine. Vivian Watanabe had lived on this block, once, in a high-rise apartment painted cornflower blue with trim in teal and white. She couldn’t see it now, not the way she used to.

The Author’s Wife vs. the Giant Robot

The year I turned five, my father got taken out by a giant robot. I was present and I took it very personally. You honestly don’t expect that kind of thing when you’re a kid, not even if you’ve seen the giant robot from a distance every day of your life and have been taught what random carnage the giant robot got up to. I had grown to that tender age knowing that the giant robot killed people at the rate of one a day.

Sing in Me, Muse

O Mother, dear Mnemosyne! It is I, Anisah, fifteenth of my line! Here is my song. Long have I waited for this, the end of my first shift; at last I am a daughter grown old enough to sing. I have sat at my post—I have looked out my mirrored window—I have logged my report with the cousins who keep the histories. But for you, my mother, on my first night’s watch, I will confirm that, port and starboard, there is nothing out my window but the black and endless sea.

My Base Pair

The kid was a cruise, you could see it in his eyes even if you’d never seen a single film made by his diminutive action star original. Something hungry flickered there; hungry and hunted. “He’s one of those kids,” you’d say, and depending on your own particular prejudices, you’d respond with disgust, lewd intrigue, inappropriate questions.