Science Fiction & Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

Advertisement

Fiction

Fantasy

A Wound Like an Unplowed Field

When the witch came across the man whose leg had been shot through by the arrow he was hollering and disorderly and seemed like a bit of a nuisance. Still it could be said honestly that the man had a particular charm about him. For example when the witch asked if he was all right the man responded with only an agonized groan but beyond the groan there was also a look he gave her like the groaning in agony was a joke they alone were in on and she felt an immediate conspiratorial intimacy with the man with the shot leg.

Science Fiction

Alice & Bob

Dear Bob — “Dear Bob.” I can’t believe I’ve written that. Did I ever think you’d read this letter? Dear Bob — Dear Bob!!! I’ve done it. I’m writing the letter. How are you? But I won’t know that, will I? Not until I read your letter. Don’t forget—put it where you found mine, between Asimov and Bester, fourth shelf up in the science fiction section of Cray Point’s library, just as we agreed. I’ll pick it up when I’m next through, I promise, and God willing, I’ll leave you another letter that day. Then we’ll swap letters, just like that couple in 84 Charing Cross Road, swapping our lives between the lines.

Fantasy

The Day the Wizards Came

The wizards appeared at 8:41 a.m. out of a cloudless blue sky. Dapper in their green plaid public school uniforms, they whooshed through the air on broomsticks, wands extended to defend against an incipient threat. In unison, they intoned a solemn chant. Their words burned bright sigils into the air which swirled and coalesced into a glittering white sphere of light. The light pulsed and flashed and shimmered. The crowd gathered on the ground below looked up. Some had noticed the wizards when they’d appeared and then dismissed them as some kind of publicity stunt

Science Fiction

A Vortal in Midtown

A Vortal ripped open in the heart of Manhattan. It began as a microscopic dot, invisible to the naked eye. Just hung there in midair, almost two meters above the street. People walked, drove, biked, rollerbladed, skateboarded, jogged, and one dude on his way to a Broadway audition even tap-danced by without noticing it. It grew. A day later, it was the size of a pea. A Metro bus struck it. It was still barely visible and the Sikh driver was hardly expecting to collide with a nearly invisible pea-sized obstacle suspended six feet up in the air.

Fantasy

The Faerie Tree

There’s a faerie tree in my front yard. Its branches are gnarled like an old woman’s fingers, knobbed like her knees, and the trunk hunches down like she’s reaching for my house. Mamaw said the hole at the base of faerie trees is where faeries come out or rush in or leave gifts if it’s big enough, though I was too young to remember. She says I was fussy in any arms that weren’t hers or the tree, least ’til I got used to everything. When I was real little, Sister says she could always find me curled half in the tree if I’d toddled off, like I fell asleep tryin’ to find Mamaw’s faeries.

Science Fiction

The Mutable Borders of Love

Though Marietta’s eyes are closed, she is wide awake, fingering the new sheets she gave Asher as part of his six-month anniversary present. The other parts were dinner, followed by multiple sexual favors. She has already thought ahead, to the seven-month anniversary, when she will trade dinner for breakfast, trade a languorous night of sex for a quickie. She worries about thinking so far ahead and having expectations concerning things she cannot fully control. Is this really the way being in love should feel?

Fantasy

Becoming

The stranger emerged from the shadows by the backstage door, proffered lighter held in long pale fingers. Winged eyeliner emphasized the charcoal of his heavy-lidded eyes. He wore the absence of a smile like expensive jewelry. Morgan leaned in for the light. “Hello,” she said huskily. She liked the look of him. She was stuck working this show as a stagehand, staring at the actresses who could get real work, and she wasn’t even supposed to smoke during her well-earned breaks.

Science Fiction

What I Told My Little Girl About the Aliens Preparing to Grind Us Into Hamburgers

Pretty much everybody made peace with it very early on in the process. It wasn’t the most pleasant prospect in this world, or any other. But it had been explained to us in the most rational and persuasive terms imaginable, in sentences so simple that even the dumbest among us were capable of getting it; and once we swallowed that pill and incorporated it into our daily lives, it really didn’t make much of a difference in the scheme of things. We were adults about it. But that doesn’t make much of a difference when your four-year-old daughter looks up at you with her big brown eyes and asks you, “Daddy? Why are the space men going to grind us into hamburgers?”

Fantasy

The Dragon of Dread Peak (Part 2)

Back in originspace, Basher sobbed in Doom Maiden’s arms. Sparks stared at the ground. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I wanted to punch something. Mostly I wanted to punch myself. Or maybe Domino. If only he had listened to me! Why did I ever think I could be a leader? Not even my best friend listened to me when it counted. How could I have been so stupid? How could he? “We’ll get him back,” Basher said. She was frantic. “He’s still alive. Right, Sparks? He’s still alive.”

Science Fiction

Crossing the Midday Gate

Dan Linh had walked out of the Purple Forbidden City not expecting to return to it—thankful that the Empress had seen fit to spare her life; that she wasn’t walking to her execution for threefold treason. Twenty years later—after the nightmares had faded, after she was finally used to the diminished, eventless life on the Sixty-First Planet—she did come back, to find it unchanged: the Midday Gate towering over the moat; the sleek ballet of spaceships between the pagodas and the orbitals; the ambient sound of zithers and declaimed poetry slowly replacing the bustle of the city at their backs.