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A House of Her Own
By B. Balder
Aoife was only eleven when she caught the little house in the forest. She surprised it as it drank from a puddle, half-hidden under a writhing tree root as large as her own body. Fast as an eel, she snaked her hand around it and held on tight. It was no bigger than a strawberry, all soft and furry and yellow. Even in the gloom of the giant, bad-tempered trees, it shone like a candle flame.
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Seb Dreams of Reincarnation
By Aimee Ogden
They unplugged Seb’s neurodes at the end of his ten-year tour of duty. He’d known it was coming, had been told before he ever signed the contract that if they left him in any longer his health would start to deteriorate. What they hadn’t mentioned was that his health would deteriorate anyway. Once, Seb had kept six hundred people alive, responded instantly to their needs, and their wishes too when those fell within his power. He had carried them all in his belly, made them part of himself. He thought he would implode under the emptiness of having lost them.
Today, though, his only job was to leave his apartment: something he hadn’t done since the first week he’d moved in. He had groceries delivered, the occasional takeout, odds and ends as he needed them. Supermarkets and corner stores might as well have been on another planet. If they were, he might have actually cared to visit them. He stared out his ninth-floor window while trying to summon up a reason to go out, let alone the will to do so. His fleet-assigned shrink had given him the task and called it homework. Which was of course the exact opposite of what it actually was. Out-of-home work. (Continue Reading…)
Daya had been in no hurry to become a mother. In the two years since she’d reached childbearing age, she’d built a modular from parts she’d fabbed herself, thrown her boots into the volcano, and served as blood judge. The village elders all said she was one of the quickest girls they had ever seen — except when it came to choosing fathers for her firstborn. Maybe that was because she was too quick for a sleepy village like Third Landing. When her mother, Tajana, had come of age, she’d left for the blue city to find fathers for her baby. Everyone expected Tajana would stay in Halfway, but she had surprised them and returned home to raise Daya. So once Daya had grown up, everyone assumed that someday she would leave for the city like her mother, especially after Tajana had been killed in the avalanche last winter. What did Third Landing have to hold such a fierce and able woman? Daya could easily build a glittering new life in Halfway. Do great things for the colony.
But everything had changed after the scientists from space had landed on the old site across the river, and Daya had changed most of all. She kept her own counsel and was often hard to find. That spring she had told the elders that she didn’t need to travel to gather the right semen. Her village was happy and prosperous. The scientists had chosen it to study and they had attracted tourists from all over the colony. There were plenty of beautiful and convenient local fathers to take to bed. Daya had sampled the ones she considered best, but never opened herself to blend their sperm. Now she would, here in the place where she had been born.
She chose just three fathers for her baby. She wanted Ganth because he was her brother and because he loved her above all others. Latif because he was a leader and would say what was true when everyone else was afraid. And Bakti because he was a master of stories and because she wanted him to tell hers someday. (Continue Reading…)
People call Matt a librarian, but he doesn’t mind. He takes care of the books, so the name makes sense, even if most of that care involves cleaning up their shit and piss, and feeding them nutritious glop in those moments between hits. If he can convince them to eat. If they aren’t so taken over by ledge they don’t move for months at a time, muscles withering like grapes on the vine.
Matt feels more like a drug dealer, even though he is, at best, an enabler. The libraries spit out blue wedges of ledge for anyone to pick up. He’s tried to get rid of the the libraries before, herding them away from the centers of human population, but no matter how far he drove them, a few days later they’d return to where they’d been, their stubby little crab legs clicking on the concrete. And because the libraries follow demand, the streets outside Heyman’s are littered with the little fuckers. He’s just thankful they don’t come inside—some latent biological programming keeps them from entering buildings.
Matt stores the books in what used to be Heyman’s Department Store, a four-story monstrosity which probably took up an entire city-block on Earth, in whatever city it was taken from, but here it’s lost among randomly scattered skyscrapers, row houses, suburban nuclear-family homes, churches, clubs, and sports arenas. He thinks of it as a temple. Or a museum. He tries not to think of it as a tomb. Most of the time, he’s the only non-ledged human there. (Continue Reading…)
From the moment she left the train station, absolutely everybody stopped to look at Calla. They watched her walk across the plaza and up the steps of the Northward Military Hospital. In her dull gray uniform she was like a storm cloud moving among the khaki of the Gaantish soldiers and officials. The peace between their peoples was holding; seeing her should not have been such a shock. And yet, she might very well have been the first citizen of Enith to walk across this plaza without being a prisoner.
Calla wasn’t telepathic, but she could guess what every one of these Gaantish was thinking: What was she doing here? Well, since they were telepathic, they’d know the answer to that. They’d wonder all the same, but they’d know. It would be a comfort not to have to explain herself over and over again.
It was also something of a comfort not bothering to hide her fear. Technically, Enith and Gaant were no longer at war. That did not mean these people didn’t hate her for the uniform she wore. She didn’t think much of their uniforms either, and all the harm soldiers like these had done to her and those she loved. She couldn’t hide that, and so let the emotions slide right through her and away. She felt strangely light, entering the hospital lobby, and her smile was wry.
Some said Enith and Gaant were two sides of the same coin; they would never see eye to eye andwould always fight over the same spit of land between their two continents. But their differences were simple, one might say: only in their minds. (Continue Reading…)
Outside his window, seventy stories up, the advertisement bloomed, melon yellow, racecar red. A shoal of squid rippled across the holo, a tangram pattern that morphed into a human face. Almost human, but with a Vrellan’s ruby eyes. Then a blush of shimmer-pink as the slogan scrolled onscreen: “Let’s All Share a Cherry Squid” in all caps like a scream.
Fresh cherry scent wafted on the air. Then the ad faded to black before replaying, an endless loop of fragrance and light.
“A stupid, looping nonsense,” Adam called it.
The Mobius-strip of cherry squid peeled out from its backlit blue. I said, “I think it’s pretty.”
“They try too hard to be like us,” Adam said.
I edged onto the oval of his windowsill and watched the sun plait silver into the spillways. I said, “They are like us. The scientists say we share a common ancestor. We just evolved differently.”
Adam crooked a three-pod stool against his vid-wall. He popped open a can of Dr Pepper, one from his dwindling cache of Earthly goods. He said, “You don’t believe that crap, do you? The whole Selkie Evolution thing?”
The Vrellan face floated into view, its mouth wide as it chased the squid across the screen.
“How can you not?” I asked. “His face is like ours. The eyes are the same shape. Even his teeth–”
“–One,” he said. “You don’t even know if he’s a He. And two. They don’t have bones, Barbara. It’s all cartilage. Like a cuttlefish.”
“So?” I said.
“Really?” he deadpanned. “That’s your grand rebuttal? So?”
I said, “I still think they’re pretty.”
Adam sipped from his soda can. He said, “You think everything is pretty. Besides, you’re near the uptake land, tree-lined parks and all the quiet you can stand.”
“Yep,” I said. “My neighborhood wins, and you know the reason why.”
Adam’s nose twitched. “’Cause of Mercy,” he said.
“They put families in the Sheon-ho,” I said. “You could’ve joined us. Mercy and me get the hive dome. You get the pod-apartment.”
“For now,” Adam said. “We’ve been through this. Once they sort your daughter’s visa and she finally gets here, she’s gonna have to acclimatize to a whole new culture. Us all living together — major complications.”
“Mercy’s 17,” I reminded him. “After moving to another planet, the living together thing is not that big a deal.”
The ad splashed us yellow-white. Adam ground out a sigh.
I said, “I did not ride all this way to hear you bitch about your view again.”
Adam crushed his empty soda can. “Yeah,” he said. “Whatever.”
Fifty thousand feet above Tempest’s highest clouds, Antarag Vel-heth invites me to sit beside him in the lobby of Lindorm Refueling Station. It’s a desolate, littered expanse of tables, party-streamers, and plastic people with unceasingly flapping jaws.
“What… what are they doing?” I whisper, sweating despite the room’s merciless air conditioner.
“Eating,” Antarag winks. “Talking.” His pitted skin stretches like a weather-beaten tarp across a knobby skeleton and skull of aquiline protrusions.
The plastic people have no food that I can see. One of them leaps up from its chair, arms raised in silent declaration while the others applaud with rubbery hands. Discolored mouths swing open and shut on cheap hinges.
Antarag grins at me with pained, frank interest—I wonder when the last time he’s had a real, flesh-and-blood female visitor up here with him. He knows I’m from Bellcap 51. He knows we’re all Jains there, with our shaved heads, monastic robes, and vows of celibacy. Still, my eyes dart nervously to his holstered pistol.(Continue Reading…)
Artemis Rising returns to Escape Pod for its third year! This month-long event highlights science fiction by women and non-binary authors. We have five original stories this year that range in topics from biotech to far-flung A.I, virtual reality, and nanotech.
By Kristene Perron
It begins with breath.
In. Wrap my hand around the handle at the bow of the kayak. Out. Drag the boat across the rocks. In and out, in time with the low moan of the fog horn in the distance. I welcome the grey of dawn though my muscles ache from the damp and cold.
Ten years since I set foot on the shores of Barclay Sound, since I smelled the salty sweet decay of the open Pacific. The blood pulses in my veins and no matter how hard I fight it a single word rises from the depths like a corpse: home. (Continue Reading…)
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.
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. (Continue Reading…)
Robert Lowell Russell* is a writer and trophy husband (obviously). He is a SFWA member and a member of the Writeshop and Codex writers’ groups. He is a former librarian, a former history grad student, a former semi-professional poker player, and is now pursuing nursing degree (say “ah!”).
Rob has also just noticed how outdated and lame his website has become and will be modifying it in the near future here: robertlowellrussell.com
His stories have appeared (or will appear) in Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show, Penumbra, Digital Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction (thrice!), Stupefying Stories (fice? what’s the word for five?), and a whole bunch of other places (see complete list on the right side).
*RLR finds it a bit silly to write about himself in the 3rd person.
about the narrator…
My name is Ethan Jones, I live in Melbourne, Australia. I have a passion for audio drama, and this passion led me to create my own. All on my lonesome, I have created ‘Caught Up’, an audio drama about three men who are unwillingly thrust into a world of crime after a shocking encounter with a hardened criminal. You can find this podcast on iTunes by searching my name or ‘Caught Up’, or find more info and subscribe via RSS on the website: http://caughtuppodcast.tk
Gorlack the Destroyer’s All You Can Eat Adventure
by Robert Lowell Russell
Seven hundred battered cases of “Unleash Your Inner Awesome!” mega-nutri-bars dotted the purple grass for kilometers in every direction. Pelle the Silicate rested his rocky body on one of the battered metal crates and sighed.
Noxious smoke from the wrecked “Do-It-Yourself and Save!” cargo lander wrinkled Pelle’s nose. He wondered if the “environmentally friendly materials” the lander was constructed from were in fact sarki beetle shells and dung.
Pelle had bet the Silicate colonists on this distant world would trade their exotic spices and rare materials for a little taste of home. Now, those little tastes were baking in their crates under an alien sun, a thousand kilometers from the nearest settlement.
“I’m ruined,” he muttered.
Gorlack the Destroyer fixed his gaze on the rough-skinned alien sitting on the metal box.
“Bah! Zarg, my friend, it is only another of the stone creatures.”
Zarg shook his head. “These are trying times.”
The troop of warriors and women gathered behind Gorlack murmured its discontent.
“A number three fusion blade will pierce the creature’s hide,” said Zarg, “but leave its soft, inner flesh intact. They taste like kana.”
Gorlack spat on the grass. “Everything tastes like kana. I long for a proper meal.” He turned to Zarg and rested a furred paw on the other’s shoulder. “The number three blade it will
be, but first, honor demands I offer the creature challenge.”
“The coward will refuse.”
Gorlack nodded. “Undoubtedly.” He strode boldly through the grass, approaching the alien. The murmurs turned to silence.
Gorlack addressed the alien telepathically. “I am Gorlack the Destroyer. You are my prey.” He waddled forward, flaring his hips. “Observe the size of my genitals. My many children will feast on your flesh.”
He opened his eyes wide and wiggled his rounded, furry ears. “If you flee, I will find you. If you hide, I will hear you.”
He flexed his fingers. “The Goddess did not give my people pointed claws, yet I will rend your flesh.” Gorlack opened his mouth, showing smooth, rounded teeth. “The Goddess did not give my people sharp teeth, yet I will consume you.”
Gorlack held his arms wide. “Look upon your doom and despair!” Then he filled his lungs, and he screamed aloud the ancient war cry. “Hagmay!” (Continue Reading…)