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Dec. 2019 (Issue 115)

We have original science fiction by Pat Murphy (“Motherhood”) and Matthew Baker (“A Bad Day in Utopia”), along with SF reprints by T.L. Huchu (“Njuzu”) and Rick Wilber (“Today Is Today”). Plus, we have original fantasy by KT Bryski (“The Path of Pins, the Path of Needles”) and Molly Gutman (“The End of the Sleeping Girls”), and fantasy reprints by Daniel Abraham (“The Mocking Tower”) and Cat Rambo (“The Silent Familiar”). All that, and of course we also have our usual assortment of author spotlights, along with our book and media review columns. For our ebook readers, we also have an excerpt from Sisters of the Vast Black, a new novella by Lina Rather.

In This Issue: Dec. 2019 (Issue 115)

Editorial

Editorial: December 2019

Be sure to read the editorial for a rundown of this month’s content, and to keep up with all our updates.

Science Fiction

Today Is Today

In one tiny part of one of the new bubbles emerging from the bubble that is our particular universe, there is a place and time where you might exist and I might exist where I have a daughter named Janine. Perhaps, in that tiny bubble, I may have been lucky with sports and found some success. As quarterback in high school, I’ll have converted to a tight end in college at the University of Minnesota, where I’ll bang heads and block like a demon, catching most of the passes they throw my way.

Fantasy

The Path of Pins, the Path of Needles

In the very heart of winter, the forest holds its breath. Frozen earth sleeps without dreaming; brittle sunlight breaks and scatters in gasps between the trees. The girl walks through the woods, boots crunching the crusted snow. There is always such a girl, walking alone. Little footprints point the way back to a clutch of hovels; she peers half-dazzled through shadow and snow-flash. A basket hangs dispiritedly from her arm. Sausage end. Hardened loaf. The creeping doubt in spring itself.

Author Spotlight

Science Fiction

Njuzu

Water looks the same everywhere. It’s only the background, lighting, and impurities that differ. I peer at the silver-gray surface of Bimha’s pond, calm and still, undisturbed by wind. It’s deep and the bottom is a black abyss. Midday here is like dawn on Earth in the middle of the Kalahari. Light shines through the transparent panelling of the pressurised geodesic dome that prevents the water boiling straight into vapour. “This is where it happened,” VaMutasa says to me on the crackling open channel.

Fantasy

End of the Sleeping Girls

All winter, the sisters make their beds in fruits. Ingrid sleeps in a pomegranate, Yasmin in a persimmon. At night they enter the cocoons they’ve carved from each warm globe. The flesh conforms to their flesh. Mornings they emerge sticky, and Yasmin, the smaller one, coats her legs in a lotion of persimmon pulp. The pulp is like soft, wet hair. Ingrid thinks this style flatters Yasmin, as if she’s wearing fashionable stockings. Ingrid, on the other hand, emerges like she’s been caught unawares in heavy rain.

Author Spotlight

Nonfiction

Book Reviews: December 2019

This month, reviewer Arley Sorg starts off with a look at a new novel from Tochi Onyebuchi: Riot Baby. For all of you short fiction lovers, he also dives into Ken Liu’s new collection, The Hidden Girl and Other Stories, and the anthology The New Voices of Science Fiction (edited by Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman).

Science Fiction

Motherhood

Hello Senator. Thank you for returning my call. I’m so glad to speak to you at last. Yes, I did say in my message that this is a matter of life-or-death. It is. Absolutely. Oh, no—you misunderstand, sir. It’s not your life that’s threatened. It’s the life of a child. The life of your unborn child, in fact. First, congratulations are in order. I understand that Julia Banks, your former intern, informed you that she is pregnant. I believe that was just over a month ago. She’s just entering the second trimester.

Author Spotlight

Pat Murphy

Fantasy

The Silent Familiar

The Wizard Niccolo was not happy. At the age of 183—youthful for a wizard, but improbable for an ordinary human—he had thought certain things well out of his life. Sudden changes in his daily routine were one. And romance was another—even if it was his familiar’s romance, and not his own. “Could make an omelet with it, I suppose,” he grumbled to that familiar, the tiny dragon Olivia. She sat on the cluttered mantle, wrapped around her egg, still marveling at its production and entirely too pleased with herself.

Nonfiction

Media Reviews: December 2019

Christopher East overcomes a lifetime aversion to time travel stories when he reviews Amazon’s new show Undone, as well as the newest season of  the German series Dark.

Science Fiction

A Bad Day in Utopia

She’d had a hard day. Earlier that morning she’d discovered that the game her company was developing, which was already months behind schedule for release, had a glitch somewhere in the code that caused the game to crash if the player character was equipped with diamond armor on the level with the meteors, and nobody could figure out why. It didn’t make any sense. It was a total nightmare. Anna, her boss, was mad at her for leaving dirty dishes in the kitchen again.

Author Spotlight

Fantasy

The Mocking Tower

Old Au saw the thief first. Squatting in the garden, she commanded a long view of the east road; gray flagstone straighter than nature amid the green scrub and bramble. Rich soil breathed its scent around her as she took an offending root in one hand and her garden knife in the other. Between the moment she began sawing and when she pulled the first tangle of dirt and pale vegetable flesh out of the ground, the thief appeared, a dot on the horizon. She worked as he approached. His cloak hung limp in the humid summer air.

Nonfiction

Interview: Daniel José Older

Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult series The Shadowshaper Cypher, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, the middle-grade historical fantasy series Dactyl Hill Squad, and Star Wars: Last Shot. He won the International Latino Book Award and has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Mythopoeic Award, the Locus Award, the Andre Norton Award, and the World Fantasy Award. Shadowshaper was named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read.