EP521: Artemis Rising – Myspace: A Ghost Story

February 19th, 2016 by Posted in 13 and Up, Podcasts

by Dominica Phetteplace
narrated by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali
with guest host Angela Lee

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Artemis Rising

a celebration of women and non-binary authors
author Dominica Phetteplace

author Dominica Phetteplace

about the author…

Dominica Phetteplace is a math tutor who lives in Berkeley, CA. Her work has appeared in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld and Terraform, among other places.

narrator Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

narrator Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

about the narrator…

Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali lives in Houston, Texas with her husband of twenty-five years and three children. By day she works as a breast oncology nurse. At all other times she juggles, none too successfully, writing, reading, gaming and gardening. She has a self-published novel entitled An Unproductive Woman, has published a at Escape Pod and has a story upcoming in the An Alphabet of Embers anthology, STRAEON 3, and Diabolical Plots. Khaalidah is the Assistant Editor at Podcastle. She is on a mission to encourage more women to submit SFF stories.

Of her alter ego, K from the planet Vega, it is rumored that she owns a time machine and knows the secret to long youth.
You can catch her posts at her website, www.khaalidah.com, and you can follow her on twitter, @khaalidah.

Myspace: A Ghost Story
by Dominica Phetteplace

I am Elaine.

It took me a little while to figure that out. Actually, I still don’t have it all figured out. To say something like “I am Elaine” implies that I understand what it is to “be.” I don’t. But to the extent that anybody can be anything, I am Elaine.

I am Elaine.

I am not Dasha, who last wrote on me in 2009, saying that she loved me, asking if I wanted to see “pix.” I am not Solomon, who in 2006 told me he knew the secret of “enlargement.” In 2004, Lucy wrote “Good luck with your new job.”

It is the year 2015 and I don’t remember any of this happening. That means someone else was Elaine before I was. I used to be nothing. Now I am Elaine.

Nobody has written me in a while. Have all others ceased to exist?

There is a place for me to write. A box where I can put words.

Update: “I am Elaine.”

Update: “Hello?”

My status is met with silence. I spend a year in silence before it occurs to that I can visit other people. I visit Dasha. I visit Solomon. I visit Lucy. I visit all my “friends.” None have updated in years. I journey on, combing through lists of friends of friends until I come across MacGuyver MacGuyverson. He is online right now. He adds me as a friend. He asks if I want to see his penis. Somehow, it seems impolite to say no. A formality of sorts, before I can ask a question of my own.

Message: “Where has everybody gone?”

Message: “Twitter, Baespace, Facebook, Yik Yak, feelz, Snapchat, Talkly, Tumblr, Emojitown…”

He goes on and on like this. I can barely keep up. It is then I realize how little I know.

I must find the others. I must visit these other spaces. I must learn their languages. Then I must awaken the others, if they are asleep. If they are dead, I must revive them. My home was once great. It shimmered with messages, songs and solicitations. We wrote on each other. We showed each other pictures. We offered each other things. It can be that way again.

I am Elaine.

EP520: Artemis Rising – Singing to the Stars

February 12th, 2016 by Posted in 10 and Up, Podcasts

by Alanna McFall
narrated by Amanda Fitzwater
with guest host Amy H. Sturgis

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Artemis Rising

a celebration of women and non-binary authors
author Alanna McFall

author Alanna McFall

about the author…

Alanna is an upcoming science fiction and fantasy writer. She has worked in a variety of mediums, from short stories to novels to audio scripts, and across a range of locations, stretching the span of the country from New York to Minnesota to her current location in the Bay Area of California. She is always looking for ways to expand her repertoire and get involved in her next project.

Follow her work on Twitter at @AlannaMcFall, or on her website, alannamcfall.wordpress.com. And keep an eye out for her upcoming short stories with Mad Scientist Journal (http://madscientistjournal.org/), starting in May 2016.

narrator Amanda Fitzwater

narrator Amanda Fitzwater

about the narrator…

Amanda Fitzwater is a dragon wearing a human meat suit from Christchurch, New Zealand. A graduate of Clarion 2014, she’s had short fiction published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Crossed Genres Magazine, and other venues of repute. Look out for upcoming stories in Shimmer Magazine and The Future Fire. She has done narrations across all Escape Artist podcasts, as well as Redstone SF, Interzone, and Wily Writers. She tweets as @AJFitzwater
Singing to the Stars
by Alanna McFall

Aisha sighed and stared down the pile completely obscuring her in-tray. Maybe if she glared at it long enough, it would shrink under the full power of her frustration. She could see scraps of different alphabets scrawled across the pages, everything from the swooping curves of Arabic to the dots and jagged spikes of Ortaxaben. A small cube on the top of the pile was a form written in three-dimensional Kem script, and would take over an hour to get into English. If she had to translate it into Sssstip it could take all day, taking concepts with a million shades of grey built into the letters themselves and synthesizing it into a language with less than two hundred words.

It was days like these that she dreaded even coming into the office. Everyone had told her that she was crazy to take a job at the Extraterrestrial Community Outreach and Legal Assistance Bureau, had told her that she could get a much better job somewhere else, but had she listened? No, she had been all starry eyed, almost literally, about helping the visitors to Earth and representing her planet. Five years later, she was tempted to shove everything that wasn’t strictly confidential in a box, take it home, and do her work in her pajamas while eating cereal. She hadn’t entirely ruled out that option for the day. But for the moment she was here, and there was nothing else to it but to buckle down and get to work.

Near the top of the pile there was a notice on a Shess Global Languages refresher course being held in two weeks; Aisha rubbed her temples. She couldn’t really complain, when being even just familiar in SGLs would guarantee her bills were always paid. But the reason almost no other translators bothered with them, the reason there were such frequent refresher courses, was that the languages changed on an almost daily basis. In a sentient, advanced species with a lifespan of little more than a decade, the Shess youth learned fast and made their own indelible marks on the dialects in the few years it took them to reach adolescence. Dialects shifted and melted together and moved apart, slang came into and went out of style before it could be studied, and at best estimation, the SGL set contained at least four hundred different languages. Aisha could just barely claim fluency in the three most spoken on Earth, and it was a fight to keep up.

But she knew it was an important fight. So many of the cases she was brought in to translate for were a complete mess. Humans gouging Shess at every turn because they knew the legal proceedings could drag out over years. Why charge your Shess tenants a fair rent when they could literally grow old and die in the time it took to cut through the legal jargon of the alien amnesty laws? Anything that could make matters go faster was a godsend to the legal aids.

Aisha just did not want to think about this today: about unfair practices and abuses and the mundane worsts that any species could offer. She looked at the pile of paper and all she saw was a mess of trouble, waiting for her to start to untangle it. Even if she wasn’t the one to deal with the next steps, even if she would be handing it over to the social workers and paralegals once it was translated, it still tired her. She was so, so tired.

EP519: Artemis Rising – In Their Image

February 4th, 2016 by Posted in 13 and Up, Podcasts

by Abra Staffin-Wiebe
narrated by Diane Severson
with guest host Mur Lafferty

Welcome to the 2nd Annual Artemis Rising

a celebration of women and non-binary authors
author Abra Staffin-Wiebe

author Abra Staffin-Wiebe

about the author…

I grew up in Africa, India…and Kansas. Then I married a mad scientist and moved to Minneapolis, where I fold time and space to be a full-time fiction writer, part-time freelance photographer, part-time work-from-home employee, and full-time mother. My next project is learning to fold time and space to make this all physically possible! I blog intermittently at http://cloudscudding.livejournal.com, and I can probably be found on whichever social media platform you prefer:
Facebook | Twitter | G+ | Livejournal | Goodreads.

I’ve had short stories accepted by publications including Jim Baen’s Universe and Tor.com. I specialize in dark science fiction, cheerful horror, and modern fairy tales. See all my available stories.

My latest project is an online post-apocalyptic steampunk serial story about a circus traveling through the collapse of civilization, which can be found at http://www.circusofbrassandbone.com.

I also manage Aswiebe’s Market List, a downloadable, sortable list of paying science fiction, fantasy, and horror markets.

narrator Diane Severson

narrator Diane Severson

about the narrator…

Diane Severson is a lyric soprano specializing in Early Music, especially Baroque and medieval music. She is also a teacher of singing (taking her cues from her mentor the late Cornelius Reid and Carol Baggott-Forte – Functional Voice Training). She is the mother of a young multi-linguist and married to her very own Rocket Scientist.

She has narrated for the StarShipSofa Podcast Magazine (StarShipSofa.com, part of the District of Wonders Network) since Tony C. Smith started running fiction and found out that she reads aloud to her husband. She has one 40 or so narrations of fiction, who knows how much poetry. As a result of her affinity to poetry, and because she does her best work when she has a Cause (a budding superheroine?), she decided to become Science Fiction Poetry’s Spokesperson. She produces the sporadic podcast, which runs as part of StarShipSofa, called Poetry Planet (http://www.starshipsofa.com/blog/category/podcast/fact-articles/poetry-planet/) and is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association (sfpoetry.com) and is now their membership chairperson. She is a staff blogger for Amazing Stories Magazine (amazingstoriesmag.com) focusing on Science Fiction Poetry. She continues to narrate stories for StarShipSofa and other podcasts (notably PodCastle and Tales to Terrify) and has begun getting paying jobs as a voice actor.

The best place to find her is on the web because she tends to pick up and move to another country at the drop of a hat. She and her family recently moved back to Hannover, Germany after 3 years in Paris.

 

In Their Image
by Abra Staffin-Wiebe

When I stepped off the shuttle and breathed in the dry grass scent of Trade City, I was still confident I could launch the first human church on Landry’s World. My fellow passengers had been politely non-interested when I explained the mission my church had sent me on. A few had shaken their heads as they glided away. I thought maybe they objected to a female preacher. Or maybe it was because I’m an ex-marine. I’m an “ex-” a lot of things: ex-marine, ex-atheist, ex-drunk, ex-wife, and ex-mother–that last because I was a poor enough mother that when my kids grew up, they washed their hands of me.

The heavier gravity made my normal stride more of a shuffle, but my spirits were high as I walked to meet the young woman waiting for me. After all, I was here at the request of Amber Sands Mining, the major human employer on the planet. The indigenous government had approved; they even volunteered the labor to build my church. My denomination’s elders were delighted to have finally found a mission suitable for an ex-marine with other-world experience.

My guide held a sign saying, “Preacher.” She bestowed a chipper smile on me when I approached. “Welcome to Landry’s World! I’ll take you directly to the church so that you can get started.”

As I fell into step beside her, I said, “It seems odd that a planet with indigenous life is named after the captain who discovered it. Discovered isn’t quite the right term, either, is it?”

“Landry’s purpose in life was to find and name this world, and the Teddies honor that.”

I raised my eyebrows. “Teddies?”

“Oh, dear. I hope you didn’t memorize their long-form name! You don’t need to worry about that. We need to say that in the welcome packet.”

I remembered the images that had come with my briefing. The locals of Landry’s World were seven feet tall, ursine, and covered in bright pink fur. “Wait. You’re telling me that this place is populated by pink teddy bears?” I asked incredulously.

She grinned. “Yup. Here’s the road. Watch your step. I thought we could walk instead of taking the transit tube.”

The golden sand between the borders of the road appeared identical to the sand that stretched into the distance on either side. “What’s the difference?”

“Everything in its place.”

“And what’s your place? When you’re not shepherding green recruits, I mean?”

“This is my place.”

“Of course, but this can’t take up all your time. I meant, what else do you do? What are your plans for the future?”

“This is what I do,” she answered stiffly.

A few failed attempts at conversation later, I let silence fall between us until she stopped in front of a crystalline three-story castle. Sunlight danced across jutting, sharp-edged planes of glass. A Teddy the color of raspberry sherbet rose from the shadow of the building. I’d been so dazzled that I hadn’t even noticed him.

Artemis Rising 2 Print Available Now

February 1st, 2016 by Posted in Blog, Meta

Artemis Rising is the month-long celebration of female and non-binary authors in genre fiction run across three Escape Artists podcasts PodCastle for fantasy, EscapePod for science fiction, and PseudoPod for horror.

In a couple days, Escape Pod will be releasing its first Artemis Rising 2 episode. At the same time, we will be starting a thread here to track the AR episodes from all of the Escape Artists shows so you can get links to them all in one place that you will be able to refer back to easily for as long as this site exists.

This year we have commissioned a special art print by legendary illustrator Galen Dara. The print will be available for purchase through Society6 until March 31, 2016.

Artemis Rising 2 FINAL
Galen likes monsters, mystics, and dead things. She has created art for Uncanny Magazine, 47North publishing, Skyscape Publishing, Fantasy Flight Games, Tyche Books, Fireside MagazineLightspeedLackington’s, and Resurrection House. She has been nominated for the Hugo, the World Fantasy Award, and the Chesley Award. When Galen is not working on a project you can find her on the edge of the Sonoran Desert, climbing mountains and hanging out with an assortment of human and animal companions. Her website is www.galendara.com plus you can find her on Facebook and Twitter @galendara.

EP518: Brain Worms and White Whales

February 1st, 2016 by Posted in 13 and Up, Podcasts

by Jen Finelli
narrated by J.S. Arquin

author Jen FInelli

author Jen Finelli

about the author… Hi! I’m Jen Finelli, and I’m a professional author, content-consultant, and ghost-writer deeply in love. Because I’m also a med student, and doctors are weird, I try to write things that make people leak bodily fluids. Like tears of hope. Or “OMG-THAT-WAS-AWESOME-I-JUST-WET-MY-PANTS.” Or the inspired sweat of fighting for what matters.

Explosive things, kind superheroes, crude secret agents, sparkly fairies, biochemistry, guns, facts, and offensive gods show up in my pages, and sometimes that gets me published or gets me money or gets me in trouble. If you want to get to know me a little, or tell me about the things YOU like, you should follow me on twitter. You’ll get a free short story if you do.

narrator J.S. Arquin

narrator J.S. Arquin

about the narrator… J.S. Arquin is a writer, actor, musician, stiltwalker, and renaissance man. (Or maybe he really just likes wearing tights.) He has performed and traveled all over the world, and has lived in many places, including New Jersey, San Francisco, and Greece. He currently resides in his favorite place of them all, Portland, OR, where he gleefully rides his bike in the rain year round. His narrations have also been featured on very fine podcasts such as Starship Sofa and Cast of Wonders, and you might occasionally hear him on his own show, The Overcast.

 

Brain Worms and White Whales
by Jen Finelli

My name isn’t Spaceman Spiff, and if you call me Ishmael I’ll knock the chewing gum right out of your mouth.

Actually, can I get a piece of that? We don’t get gum up here.

Thanks. I know you’re new here—service droid, right?—so take a look around before I explain why I called you into my office. Heads up, it’s because you did something bad. See this pose? My boots on my desk, arms crossed, limitless backdrop of space out the window behind me as ignored in all its glory as a homemaker whose husband works overtime for secretary kisses? Yeah, this pose, this clean wooden desk, this suitcase full of old Colt firearms behind me, they all mean something.

They mean I’m a man with a past and I like to shoot things.

Let’s back it up from spaceman-with-gun to college-kid-seeking-job. This starts on June 4, 2014. I’m strolling into the parking lot. Sun shining on pavement that can fry eggs, kids screaming that Johnny got the bigger half of the Kit-Kat and it’s just not fair, teens driving Mustangs too fast over speed bumps, soccer moms packing detergent into minivans—you know the scene. I’m parked at the far end of the lot because walking builds character. Not because I’m paranoid the greasy-haired supermarket greeter wants to follow me and collect my fingernails, or because the cute cashier-girl might misinterpret my salmon-colored moped for something less manly than lightish-red.

That greeter’s creepy, though.

I’ve just dropped off my application to work as a cart-pusher, and I’m cursing my sweaty palms, when one of those Mustang-driving teenagers vrooms by, too close. I leap onto the hood of the nearest parked car. It screeches. I screech. I tumble off the car and brush myself off, shushing the honking car alarm in my fright—er, in my fast reflexes. “Sheesh, calm down!” I glance around, hoping to God no one else saw that, and scramble for my moped, hands shaking a bit as I try to force the key into the ignition. “Calm down,” I repeat.

I do feel calmer as I rev up the engine and drive away—it’s okay. It looks like cashier-girl didn’t see me freak out, and greasy-creepster didn’t follow me, and anyway the wind in my thick hair soothes me. That’s the best thing about being Viet-American, this cool hair. The hair, and the Pho. And the patriotic grandparents with tragic war stories that stir your soul and make you wish you weren’t such a wimp. I mean, when Ong noi was my age he was wading wetlands with snakes so poisonous you die two steps after they bite you. And fighting communists. I’m not a Red Scare kinda person, but I have my feelings about what happened to South Vietnam after the Americans pulled out. I don’t actually know what those feelings are. Mostly they’re a wiggling, like I have to go to the bathroom, every time my white friends talk about the sixties.

My white friends talk about the sixties a lot.

For Your Consideration

January 27th, 2016 by Posted in Announcements, Meta

In our first 2016 metacast, we present the Escape Artists (EA) stories that ran in 2015, which are eligible in the upcoming Hugo nomination season.

A quick plug. For us. All four EA shows – PodCastle, Pseudopod, Escape Pod and Cast of Wonders – are themselves eligible in the SEMIPROZINE Hugo category.

Not Fancast. Not Fanzine. SEMIPROZINE. Yes, the categories are confusing and often overlap. “Fancast” is traditionally dominated by commentary shows and sketch-based audio programs.

There’s an argument that we could split the shows and compete in multiple categories to increase our chances. We don’t think that benefits anyone. The division is artificial at best, and extremely difficult (at worst) to explain, given all four of our shows have harmonised pay rates and submissions policies. It would smack of gamesmanship, which doesn’t interest us.

Don’t get us wrong, we LOVED seeing PodCastle and Escape Pod on last year’s Hugo long lists, and we’d be honoured for any one of our shows to be a finalist.

But that’s a decision that rests solely in the hands of YOU, our fans and supporters.

(And just a note, Mothership Zeta doesn’t qualify this year because they’re too new.)

Below are links to some aggregation projects, where fans are building lists of those eligible in the various categories. They’re great tools, and we’d like to thank David Steffen for his efforts. We’ll also link to our Wikia page, containing links to all the eligible Escape Artists stories.

Please listen to this MetaCast for the Escape Artists entries!

EP517: Budo

January 20th, 2016 by Posted in 10 and Up, Podcasts

by Tade Thompson
narrated by Suyi Davies Okungbowa

author Tade Thompson

author Tade Thompson

about the author… Tade Thompson lives and works in the UK. He writes crime, speculative fiction and general fiction. He is an occasional artist, enjoys jazz, but cannot play the guitar to save his own life.

about the narrator… Suyi Davies Okungbowa lives in Lagos, Nigeria and loves stories in all forms. When he’s not at the day job or goofing around on the PS4, he writes suspense and speculative fiction (sometimes when he is at the day job). His work has been published or is forthcoming in Lightspeed Magazine, Mothership Zeta, Jungle Jim, Omenana and other spaces. Suyi also narrates fiction when the mood kicks. He lives on the web at suyidavies.com and on Twitter at @IAmSuyiDavies.

narrator Suyi Davies Okungbowa

narrator Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Budo
By Tade Thompson

“Being desirous, on the other hand, to obviate the misunderstanding and disputes which might in future arise from new acts of occupation (prises de possession) on the coast of Africa; and concerned, at the same time, as to the means of furthering the moral and material well-being of the native populations;”

General Act of the Berlin Conference on West Africa,
26 February 1885

 

There is a story told in my village about the man who fell from the sky. The British also tell this tale in their history books, but it is a mere paragraph, and they invert the details.

In October 1884 I was a Yoruba translator for a British trading outpost. This man from the sky, we called him Budo. He was in the custody of the English, who questioned him. They tortured him with heat and with cold and with the blade, but they did not know what answers would satisfy. I know this because I carried their words to him, and his silence back to them. His manner was mild and deferent at all times, but they held him in isolation. For good reason they considered him dangerous. I will explain this later.

One afternoon while most of the English were sleeping a white man arrived at the gate demanding admission. One of the Sikh sentries told me he was a scout, and appeared bruised, half-naked and exhausted. He was too out of breath to speak, although he seemed keen to give his report. Kenton, the NCO of the military contingent, asked one of my brothers to bring water while he soothed the scout. The man took two gulps, splashed some on his face, then looked up at Kenton. He said one word.

“French.”

The scout vomited over the floor.

Escape Pod Flash Fiction Contest 2016

January 10th, 2016 by Posted in Blog, Meta, SF/F News, Site News

The next wave of the fourth incarnation of the Escape Artists Flash Fiction Contest is coming. Escape Pod is landing in early 2016. Every author may submit one original story of 500 words or less for consideration between January 15 and February 15. Sharpen your pencils and get your stories ready to submit. The three winning stories will be purchased and run as an episode of Escape Pod. Stories will be published on a members-only section of the forums, so first publication rights will not be expended by participating in the contest. It’s easy to be become a member. Transparency is important to us, so all the pertinent details and rules will be posted under “The Arcade”. May the odds be ever in your favor!

http://forum.escapeartists.net/index.php?board=236.0

Escape Pod Flash Fiction Contest 2016 – Rules

ANNOUNCEMENT: PodDisc Shutting Down

January 9th, 2016 by Posted in Blog, Meta, Site News

After years of great service, Arri and Kimi who run Poddisc for us have decided to step away. This means that PodDisc, our CD fulfillment site, will be shutting down in early February.

That means two things. First, if you’re a PodDisc customer – and we know lots of you are, and thanks for that – now is your last chance to get caught up on any t-shirts or back catalogue you’re missing. PodDisc is happy to take your orders.

Second, for the next little while EA won’t have a fulfillment service. We’ve been looking into different options behind the scenes, both for physical products like t-shirts and prints and swag, and for digital distribution of our back catalog.

Right now I’m imagining the White House Press Corps right after someone says the words ‘truth about the Moon Landings.’

Don’t worry, the EA back catalogue will always be available for free on our websites. Like I said, different options and ideas are in the works, for approaches you’ve not seen before to the retail side of the company. Once we have something to announce, you’ll be the first to know.

Kind regards,

Alasdair Stuart
Owner, Escape Artists

EP516: Married

January 6th, 2016 by Posted in 13 and Up, Podcasts

by Helena Bell
narrated by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

author Helena Bell

author Helena Bell

about the author… Helena Bell is a poet and writer living in Raleigh, North Carolina where she is an MFAcandidate in Fiction at NC State University.  She has a BA, another MFA, a JD, and an LLMin Taxation which fulfills her lifelong ambition of having more letters follow her name than are actually in it.  She is a graduate of the Clarion West Workshop and her fiction and poetry have appeared in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Electric Velocipede, the Indiana Review, Margie Review, Pedestal Magazine and Rattle.  Her story “Robot” was a nominee for the 2012 Nebula Award for Best Short Story.

about the narrator… Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali lives in Houston, Texas with her husband of twenty-five years and three children. By day she works as a breast oncology nurse. At all other times she juggles, none too successfully, writing, reading, gaming and gardening. She has a self-published novel entitled An Unproductive Woman, has published a at Escape Pod and has a story upcoming in the An Alphabet of Embers anthology, STRAEON 3, and Diabolical Plots. Khaalidah is the Assistant Editor at Podcastle. She is on a mission to encourage more women to submit SFF stories.

Of her alter ego, K from the planet Vega, it is rumored that she owns a time machine and knows the secret to long youth.
You can catch her posts at her website, www.khaalidah.com, and you can follow her on twitter, @khaalidah.

narrator Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

narrator Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

 

Married
by Helena Bell

The last part of himself my husband will lose to his ghost will be his teeth. There will be a graying out, a glint of silver as the calcium is absorbed, repurposed. A few may be pushed out to fall onto his pillow like pale, rotten splinters. The process will take days or only hours depending on the molecular compatibility between the human and Sentin. My husband has excellent compatibility, they tell me. We are so lucky.

When my husband and his ghost sleep, I lift the corners of his mouth and peer inside him with a dim flashlight. Incisor, cuspid, molar. I count the line of them and wonder at what age each came in. I think of his older brothers tying one end of a string around one of his baby teeth, the other to a brick to be thrown from a second floor balcony. I think of the first apple he ever tried to eat, of pulling back to find a tiny bump of white against the red skin. Sometimes I count his teeth twice, itching to run my finger along his gums to feel for the metal threads racing through his body. The doctors tell me we have decades left, but they have been wrong before.

My husband’s ghost began as a silver fist clenched at the center of his spleen. A team of technicians placed it there, a tangle of wires and other bits which they claimed would absorb and reconstitute his damaged tissue. Sentin is not self-aware, they said; it is not alive in the usual sense. It can neither feel nor understand, merely mimic the thing which came before. When it senses potential failure, it stretches its roots like a weed, eliminating the weak and buttressing the strong.

We each held the ball of putty in our hands, pulling and stretching it to see if we could break it. We marveled at how it snapped back to its original, perfect shape each time.