Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Fiction

Fantasy

Three Variations on a Theme of Imperial Attire

They never tell the story right. The Danish must have their heavens and happy endings, and Andersen’s tales are meant for children. We, however—you and I—know that people are people, and every one of us capable of— But the story. Once there was a vain and foolish emperor, who made up for his foolishness by a kind of low cunning. As such rulers do, he drew to himself a retinue of like men and women, who told him he was wise and humble, gracious and good.

Science Fiction

Red is Our Country

After the incident with Grey, you have three hours of air left and the only possibility of resupply is two hours in the wrong direction. Burke has found references to an old terraformers’ cache—emergency water and oxygen and who knows what else—and now she’s acting like it’s foresight rather than blind luck. Like she can even be sure the supplies are still there. “We’ll find it. We’ll resupply.”

Science Fiction

Fairy Tales for Robots

Dear child, I would like to tell you a story. I’d like to have one ready for you the moment you open your eyes. This is the gift I intend to prepare to welcome you to the world, for a story is a most elegant and efficient program. When human children are born, they are given fairy tales, which help them compose an identity out of the haphazard information that surrounds them. The story provides a structure. It gives the child a way to organize data.

Fantasy

Entanglement, or How I Failed to Knit a Sweater for My Boyfriend

This is a story about how you are not supposed to knit a sweater for your boyfriend. The thinking goes like this: a sweater is some of the most complex knitting one can attempt. First is the expense: it takes a lot of yarn to knit a sweater, especially one for a well-built, broad-shouldered man who works out, and if you’re being fancy about it you want the good yarn, the all-natural merino blend, the pretty, pettable yarn, and that stuff isn’t cheap.

Fantasy

When Sri Left the Ruined City

Listen, listen, hush, listen. You’re wrong about the war. You’re wrong about why the world is changing. Why it is dying all around us. That the Gods, many and unknowable be they, wanted this: That’s what you were taught, that’s what you believe. That’s why they gave the Memra their fire beasts and the drawing light that they wield so wildly. That’s why the Reach sings those great stone men into being to crush that flaming war machine.

Science Fiction

Fairy Tale

“Father? You’re staring at the stars again.”

“It is what I have instead of television.”

“What’s television?”

“Something from the old days. A magic box that told stories.”

Fantasy

To Reach the Gate, She Must Leave Everything Behind

Death takes much and in return it offers Susan P—- only clarity. She finds herself in a great gray desert and knows her life has ended. Clad in a royal dress, she carries a bow and quiver, and a finely-carved ivory horn dangles from her throat. A tremor of fear shakes her. She’s not possessed such things in many years. Has she returned to His world? But Susan doesn’t recognize this bleak land, this starless black sky.

Science Fiction

Cloudgazer

The nearest cloud cluster was sixty miles away, almost an hour’s journey if Bombay went at top speed. A fruit trader had seen it on her way to Sabon-Gari, floating lazily across the azure sky. “You don’t see that often,” the trader had said to the crowd, grappling her basket of mangoes. “A whole cluster, untethered, unbothered, what a sight! So you see why you have to buy my mangoes, they’ve been blessed by clouds!”

Fantasy

Ten Scenes from A Typical Day in the Life of the All-Powerful Despot

The villain won. It is that simple. By means fair or foul (but of course mostly foul), he has crushed the opposition, defeated all his enemies, and established absolute control over a domain that is, now and forever, entirely defined by his whims. Has he conquered the world? Perhaps his accomplishment is nothing that insignificant. Perhaps he has overcome a galactic empire.

Science Fiction

The Turnaround

Whit got lost in 1971 and couldn’t find her way back. She hit the fail-safe button but nothing happened, and meanwhile she kept getting thrown off by all the foreign landmarks, which turned the city into a maze. The Embarcadero Freeway, this wall of reinforced concrete, cut across the waterfront, with a view of the half-finished Transamerica Pyramid and the scorched ruins on Alcatraz. On Ocean Beach, scores of people squatted among cardboard