Science Fiction & Fantasy


Aug. 2015 (Issue 63)

We have original science fiction by Chen Qiufan (“The Smog Society”) and Sarah Pinsker (“And We Were Left Darkling”), along with SF reprints by Vandana Singh (“Life-pod”) and Vylar Kaftan (“Civilization”). Plus, we have original fantasy by Sam J. Miller (“Ghosts of Home”) and Genevieve Valentine (“Given the Advantage of the Blade”), and fantasy reprints by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (“To See Pedro Infante”) and Ursula Pflug (“Python”). All that, and of course we also have our usual assortment of author and artist spotlights, along with our latest book review column and a feature interview with the celebrated author Kazuo Ishiguro. For our ebook readers, we also have “Equinoctial” by John Varley as our novella reprint, along with novel excerpts from ZERO WORLD by Jason M. Hough and FINCHES OF MARS by Brian W. Aldiss.

In This Issue: Aug. 2015 (Issue 63)


Editorial, August 2015

Be sure to check out the Editorial for all our news and updates, as well as a rundown on this month’s contents.

Science Fiction

The Smog Society

Lao Sun lived on the seventeenth floor facing the open street, nothing between him and the sky. If he woke in the morning to darkness, it was the smog’s doing for sure. Through the murky air outside the window, he had to squint to see the tall buildings silhouetted against the yellow-gray background like a sandy-colored relief print. The cars on the road all had their highbeams on and their horns blaring, crammed one against the other at the intersection into one big mess.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Chen Qiufan

I started outlining this story back in 2006, when Beijing’s smog problem was nowhere near as severe as it is now. But my body is very sensitive to the surrounding environment, and so when the air quality declined, I could clearly sense changes in me, both physiological and psychological. I was living and working in Beijing’s international trade central business district, in the heart of the city, where conditions were especially crowded, busy, and oppressive.


To See Pedro Infante

“Pedro Infante has died!” someone yelled. “His plane went down in Yucatán! They said it on the radio!” Cecilia stood by the window, a ream of paper in her hands, and her soul flew out of her body. Cecilia met Pedro the previous spring, at the offices of Lic. Luis Barragán. She was pretty and the fastest typist on her floor. She also exuded an air of superiority which kept the other secretaries far from her and made the young men quiver.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Many of my stories are about a desire to escape, which is simply one of the earliest emotions I recall. I cannot speak about fiction in general but my fiction is based on my life and the people in my life. One of the things that happened when you were a woman, and still happens, is that you exist with a set of limited opportunities. Men, they can go to sea and explore the seven seas, but for a long time in many societies women could not do the same thing.

Science Fiction


Sometimes the Eavesdropper remembered being a mother. She would stare at the single empty life-sac and think about the man who should have been lying there in cold sleep, the man who had once been the boy she’d held in her arms. At other moments she was convinced that she had done no such thing, that motherhood had never happened to her, that all she had ever been was what she was now.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Vandana Singh

I’ve always been interested in themes of home and family, since I have spent so much time apart from the place and the people who formed me. I am also well aware of the Indian colonial legacy from 200 years of British rule, and how it shapes us today. As an accidental Indian expatriate living in America, the notion of otherness fascinates me — how we humans distance each other and then attempt to build bridges of connection.


Given the Advantage of the Blade

Put them all in a room together, and give them each a knife. They’ll hardly notice the change of circumstances. Their tales are nothing but this struggle, and they’re well enough used to being run through. You begin. At first it would be chaos. Fragile beauty and a kind heart does you no good here. (Never does; that’s what made it fairy stories, that so many people would help them just for kindness.)

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Genevieve Valentine

The relationships between women in folklore seem sadly mapped over the myth of exceptionalism we see so often today — one woman’s the fairest or the kindest, and the others are wicked and cruel. You see so many news stories about how a woman is “the next X” (a replacement for that one elusive position) or a headline with a “vs.” in it, like just having two women existing at the same time means they’re in a standoff.


Interview: Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro is a British author and winner of the Booker Prize for his novel THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (1989), which was later adapted into a film starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson. He has also published the dystopian science fiction novel NEVER LET ME GO (2005), which was adapted by screenwriter Alex Garland into a film starring Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield. He has recently published THE BURIED GIANT, a fantasy novel set in a semi-historical Britain ruled by King Arthur.

Science Fiction

And We Were Left Darkling

I don’t remember her birth. My dream baby, the baby I have in my dreams, the one who crashed into my head one night and took roost. She is a day old, a week old, a year old, eight years old, three weeks old, a day old. She has fine blond hair, except when she has tight black curls. Once she had cornrows that lengthened every time I looked away. “Her hair grows faster than I can cut it,” I said to my dream family.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Sarah Pinsker

I’ve always had vivid and strange dreams that don’t map well to interpretation. I’m interested in the idea that dreams are the brain’s way of working out something that is going on in the present by applying past experiences. That makes more sense to me than the idea that a dream of a wind-up toy monster spitting sparks across a backdrop of Georgia O’Keeffe skyscrapers would somehow mean the same thing to everyone.



A day at the edge of spring. Faith, Magnolia, and Jim sit in the bar, looking out at the square. The unlikely New Orleans snow is melting, making puddles on the asphalt, for the wind that blows is warm. Clouds scud across the sky; the pavement’s alternately light and dark. People stand about in the square, wearing opened jackets, the way they do in later spring up north in New York. It’s really too cool still but they do it anyway.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Ursula Pflug

The story isn’t literal truth — it’s a fantastical quest inspired by the feel of New Orleans and my memories of Mardi Gras. When writing semi­autobiographical fiction, I tell students, there’s a point where you change everyone’s names, appearances, and styles of dress, and they start to behave in ways that are divergent from the people who inspired them, and have undreamed of adventures.


Book Reviews: August 2015

This month, Sunil Patel takes a look at novels from Wesley Chu, N.K. Jemisin, Ken Liu, and Daniel José Older, and gives you the real scoop on what to read.

Science Fiction


You have a civilization! It doesn’t matter which one — let’s say it’s modern Western civilization. It’s got fast food and sporting events, which is all you really need. Western technology gives you great military power — you have fantastic unstoppable tanks, and heat-seeking missiles to keep you safe. It’s a good place to start.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Vylar Kaftan

I hoped people would see that despite the way humanity repeats the same damn mistakes over and over . . . we do make progress. A little, even when it seems hopeless. And that the best way to handle the utter chaos of the bigger world around us is to remember to love and connect to each other. Those deep connections are intensely meaningful.


Ghosts of Home

The bank didn’t pay for the oranges. They should have — offerings were clearly listed as a reimbursable expense — but the turnaround time and degree of nudging needed when Agnes submitted receipts made the whole process prohibitive. If she bugged Trask too much around the wrong things she might lose the job, and with it the gas card, which was worth a lot more money than the oranges.

Author Spotlight

Author Spotlight: Sam J. Miller

There’s an estimated eighteen million empty homes in this country — and an estimated three million homeless households. (That means every homeless family could have six homes!) Because property rights trump human rights in this country — they always have, going back to when human beings were property. But the banks aren’t dumb, and they’ll put a lot of resources into keeping their buildings in good shape — I just started thinking about what that would look like in a more magical world.

Artist Showcase

Artist Showcase: Reiko Murakami

Reiko Murakami was born in Yokohama, Japan in 1982. She studied at the Rhode Island School of Design. She works as a concept artist and illustrator specializing in surreal fantasy and horror characters. Her website is