Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Fiction

Fantasy

How to Find a Portal

I remember as children we were warned about the women who drove the unmarked white vans that circled around our neighborhood during those long hot summers, in particular creeping slowly down the boulevard which ran alongside the park, where if you positioned yourself at the right angle, I suppose in front of the swings, you might be able to see a flash of a child’s private yellow underwear as they pumped their legs upward.

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.

Science Fiction

Marcher

“It seemed to me that it was too easy to disparage jobs of that kind. Mickey over there, for example . . .” (Huw pointed to a university lecturer with tousled hair), “or Susan there. They are always having a go at me about the iniquities of forcing people to go home when they want to stay here. ‘No-one leaves their own country except for a very good reason,’ Mickey always says. But what I always ask him is this: Is he saying that there should be no immigration controls at all?”

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.

Fantasy

Substitutes

When Claudia’s six-year-old daughter Jane disappeared, Claudia was making love to a man who was not her husband. All her life she’d made mistakes and here was one more, worse than the others. This was in the house of Jane’s friend Magda. Magda and Jane were downstairs playing an aggressive doll game they’d invented; Claudia and Magda’s father were in the guest bedroom. He’d steered Claudia away from the master bedroom, the way he might any old house guest on a tour of the upstairs.

Science Fiction

Love Engine Optimization

I rooted her system on the first day. It was the only way to be sure. Sure that she’d love me. Step by matching step, I walk her under the boughs of great elms in Prospect Park, while the slanting sun passes through the tangled mesh of leaves to dapple her smiling face. When her heart rate spikes, I know she’s excited. When it slows, she’s bored.