Science Fiction & Fantasy

THECONDUCTORS

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Fiction

Fantasy

The Bear Prince

I have heard it on the rumors that when the tale-spinner’s guild gathers in their secret places a full half of them are sworn to never tell the truth, and the other half to never tell a lie, even if it mean their life. Being one of that trade myself, I can tell you that that’s more or less the shape of it, and I tell you so you’ll know that this tale I tell you is true, just as it happened and just as it was told to me, for I am one of the ones sworn to the truth. The name I’m called is Dusty Boots, I come from the valley of Erwhile, and I am in love with a girl that I can never have.

Science Fiction

Dispatches from the Cradle: The Hermit—Forty-Eight Hours in the Sea of Massachusetts

Before she became a hermit, Asa –π had been a managing director with JP Morgan Credit Suisse on Valentina Station, Venus. She would, of course, find this description small-minded and obtuse. “Call a woman a financial engineer or a man an agricultural systems analyst, and the world thinks they know something about them,” she wrote. “But what does the job a person has been channeled into have to do with who they are?” Nonetheless, I will tell you that she was responsible for United Planet’s public offering thirty years ago.

Fantasy

Olivia’s Table

Olivia blew into town with the storm and headed straight for the Grand Silver Hotel. Pots and containers of sauces and marinades clattered in the trunk of her Toyota, packed in with the rest of the groceries she’d brought from Phoenix. The evening sky hung heavy with dark clouds, but the shrinking Arizona sun still burned her arms through the car windows. Bisden was one of those mining towns that had sprung up in the eighteen hundreds, flourished for a while, and then all but died once the silver ran out.

Science Fiction

Homecoming

Only when Marlo and her mother have followed the attendants through the faux-marble foyer and into the room filled with diffusers and soft jazz and laid down on the massage tables covered in crisp, clean-smelling sheets; only when someone has placed a cool gel pack over Marlo’s eyes and set something against her skin that starts kneading, a familiar, needling motion that ignites a distant spark of recognition within her; only then does Marlo understand where her mother has taken her. She pushes back her eye mask and sits up.

Fantasy

Destinations of Beauty

It has become increasingly clear to your guidebook writers that the beauty of any destination should be measured not simply by the magnificence of its architecture or the lushness of its landscape, but by the splendor that its citizens collectively produce. In cities where mayors make sure flowers are planted every spring and the baker sends us off with a free roll, the streetlamps are bound to burn brightly with the warmth of welcome. In fact, the wonderful time we’ve had in any destination was due almost entirely to the kindness of those we encountered along the way.

Science Fiction

Sidewalks

I hate when I have a call in Inglewood. It’s still the 1990s in Inglewood, and for all I know, people still care about Madonna. Los Angeles County has a forty-bed psych facility there. Arrowhead looks like a nursing home: a long one-story building with a wide wheelchair ramp and glass doors and overly bright, easy-to-clean floors. I stop at the reception desk and check in. “Rosni Gupta,” I say. “I’m here to do an evaluation.” The young man at the desk catches his bottom lip in his teeth and nods.

Fantasy

Small and Bright

I dream again that I am lost in the tunnels of our cities. The fires extinguished, but still a cool blue glow lights my way. The faster I run, the higher I ascend in the city toward the surface, and the light becomes brighter and burns my skin. I fill with knowing, knowing the place where I am going. More and more light fills each room. My skin burns and then becomes darker somehow. And then I am there at the door in the surface, and if I climb through, death and freedom await me. I stand there looking up. Up.

Science Fiction

Me Two

For as long as I can remember, I have always been two people. My earliest recollection is of myself as a three year-old boy, Danny—and at the same time as a girl of the same age, Cristina. Another early memory is of playing in the rubble of the bomb-ravaged streets of London, when I asked a little boy, “Who will you be tomorrow?” He looked at me as if I were mad. I took it for granted that everyone I met, everyone in the world, was two people like me.

Fantasy

The Memory of a Memory Is a Spirit

After Sumé left her last home in ruins, there was no place left to go except back to the island she’d abandoned years ago. Except when her boat scraped against the shallows, she found the island’s dock slumped from rot and disuse. And the path leading from the docks was smothered by vines and ferns, so overgrown it was almost invisible. The stink of stagnant water and algae assaulted her. The emptiness, the neglect confirmed her worst fears. She was the first person to step on the island in twenty years.

Science Fiction

Bulletproof Tattoos

Allen was watching news of the nearest shooting when he decided he needed a tattoo to cover his neck. He had one over his heart, and one on each eyelid. His forehead and cheeks were covered, and enough of his lungs that he might live if he got lucky. He didn’t have the money to ink his back or chest, but he had saved enough for the neck, where more and more people were getting shot these days, he explained to his wife. “More and more people are not getting shot in the neck,” she said, lighting a joint, her eyes narrowing to slits as she dragged.