from Wikipedia: Constance Elaine Trimmer Willis (born December 31, 1945) is an American science fiction writer. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for particular works —more “major awards” than any other writer — most recently the year’s “Best Novel” Hugo and Nebula Awards for Blackout/All Clear (2010). She was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Science Fiction Writers of America named her its 28th SFWA Grand Master in 2011.
Several of her works feature time travel by history students at a faculty of the future University of Oxford—sometimes called the Time Travel series. They are the short story “Fire Watch” (1982, also in several anthologies and the 1985 collection of the same name), the novels Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog (1992 and 1998), as well as the two-part novel Blackout/All Clear (2010). All four won the annual Hugo Award and all but To Say Nothing of the Dog won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards.
Rachael K. Jones is a science fiction and fantasy author, and the Submissions Editor of Escape Pod. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons,PodCastle, the Drabblecast, Intergalactic Medicine Show,Crossed Genres, Daily Science Fiction, and Penumbra. She has a degree in English and is currently pursuing a second degree in Speech-Language Pathology. She lives in Athens, GA with her husband and perpetual alpha reader, Jason.
You can follow her on Twitter @RachaelKJones.
about the narrator…
Dave Thompson is the California King and the Easter Werewolf, and is the host and co-editor of PodCastle. He has narrated audiobooks (by Tim Pratt, Greg van Eekhout, and James Maxey), written short stories (published in or forthcoming from Apex, Drabblecast, Pseudopod, and Escape Pod), and lost NaNoWriMo twice. He lives outside Los Angeles with his wife and three children.
The Mercy of Theseus
by Rachael K. Jones
Greta and Jamal have three arms, two legs, and one working kidney between the two of them. The kidney belongs to Greta. Its twin went to her little sister three years back, and now she has a laparoscopic keyhole scar over her belly button to remember it by. She can feel it pull tight when she rolls her creeper beneath the chassis of the next project in the shop. Thanks to the war, Jamal has lost the arm, the legs, and the other two kidneys.
All his parts have since been replaced.
When Greta picked up Jamal in Washington, D.C. three days back, the first thing she did was insult him.
“You look like shit,” she said. His left hand–the good one–flew up to his right cheek where the surgical scars stood out like red cords. His bionics were top notch–the Army had to put you together again before they could legally discharge you–but you could still see where the silicone skin ended and his real face began.
Greta snorted. “Not your face, you moron. Your sweatshirt. You look like a psycho killer.”
Jamal wore an oversize gray Army sweatshirt with the hoodie cinched tight beneath his chin. He dropped his hand and sidestepped when she tried to hug him. “Where did you park? Let’s get out of here.”
She ignored the slight and led the way to the parking lot. She felt secretly gratified when Jamal’s jaw dropped at the sight of the ancient Mercedes. “Jesus fucking Christ, Greta! You found Mercy!”
Greta sidled up behind him and eased the duffel bag from his hand–the bionic one. It looked like a real hand up close. Just not like Jamal’s hand. “Get in. We’re going on a road trip.” She slung the duffel bag on a stack of Heinleins in the back and took the driver’s seat.
Sam Ferree grew up in what Neal Stephenson called a Midwestern American College Town (MACT) and has never really left. That, and being surrounded by lawyers for most of his life, has made him somewhat obsessive-compulsive about supporting his comments with citations and factual evidence.
In 2010, Sam graduated from the University of Iowa with a BA in English after spending a year abroad in Freiburg, Germany. He spent most of his college career haunting the Mill and Java House, producing short plays with Free Association Student Theatre, agonizing through writing workshops, and pestering the college and English department into making a undergraduate creative writing program.
After graduating, he did that cliche post-English-BA-thing and worked in a coffee shop and bookstore before signing up for AmeriCorps. He moved to New Orleans and wrote grants and copy for a housing rehabilitation nonprofit. In June, he moved to St. Paul and now works as a communications associate at another small nonprofit.
In the summer of 2011, Sam published his first short story with the great Sybil’s Garage, and his work has since appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magainze, Deimos eZine, and Daily Science Fiction. His play, “The News is Next,” won the Nicholas Meyer Scholarship for Dramatic Writing and he is a alumnus from Young Playwrights’ Incorporated from 2006. Mostly he writes speculative fiction, personal essays, and plays and takes a perverse pleasure in copy and grant writing.
Also, Sam reads a lot, and drinks too much coffee. He wears sports coats for the pockets and has a habit of ending his sentences with “so…” He is estranged from reality and divorced from practicality. Driving instructors have said he is a master at parallel parking.
about the narrator…
As an undergraduate at Georgia Tech, I was very involved with the campus radio station, WREK 91.1 FM. I’m back doing some things for them now, including an airshift (that I no longer do but I’m leaving the page up.) That page has some of my play lists from when I was doing the shift – jazz, baby! WREK is a very good and very different station, so follow the links and learn more about it. I rebuilt their automation system, revamped their database and did the CGI scripts that show you (limited) playlists, recent additions to programming and the music database search.
I now have online a project that I did in some AI courses in grad school. It is a digit recognition neural network and if I say so myself, I think it is pretty cool. It was one of the first things I did in Java, so it isn’t as elegant in design and execution as it could have been, but it does the trick.
The Law of Gravity
by Sam Ferree
That sunrise was the best they had made yet. The air was cool, not cold, and the Termination was just the right shade of pomegranate red around the sun. The light breeze smelled like oranges. It reminded me of candy, not real fruit, just that imitation flavor that somehow tastes better than the real thing.
“I think Lauren’s dead,” Lukas repeated, his avatar’s young face contorted in disgust. Lukas had chosen a runner’s physique, because, out there, he’d been a track star in college; why that mattered to him was beyond me.
“What do you mean you think she’s dead?” I asked. We were sitting at Reel Café — a not-so clever pun, I thought — at the edge of the patio. We had met there every Monday morning for years.
My coffee was cold and my cigarette spent. Lukas had ordered his usual Earl Grey and a grapefruit, but he hadn’t touched either one.
Lukas shook his head. “Her avatar is in Smith Field. Just standing there, staring off at nothing. It’s been doing that for weeks. I spoke with a friend of mine, an administrator. They’re shutting down her account because her fees are overdue. She hasn’t been away from the Flat for more than two days in decades. She’s dead, Noah.”
“So she’s been away for a few weeks. That doesn’t mean anything.”
“But it’s a pretty good sign she isn’t coming back.”
The orange scent was fading and Lukas was silent. I said, “Well, what do we do?”
“What?” Lukas looked up. Eventually, he shrugged. “I suppose we arrange a funeral.”
I nodded, but said, “I don’t actually think she’s dead.”
“She is,” Lukas muttered. His twenty-something avatar wore an old man’s bitterness.
I picked up my coffee. The mug looked like it had been made by a five year old. Everything about the Reel Café had that hokey-imperfection. When you sat in the chairs, you half-expected a distinguished looking gentleman to walk up and ask you to please not sit on the dadist art.
I dropped the mug. It shattered with a disappointing crack. A nearby waiter started toward me, glowering and brandishing a towel like a gladiatorial weapon.
“Why did you do that?” Lukas asked.
“Just testing,” I said, knowing that Lauren would have been less than amused. (Continue Reading…)
I live with my husband Brian, his brother John, and two adorable cats, in a 1930s neo-colonial that we unworthy slobs do not keep up.
I’m currently employed as the webmaster for the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.
I’m a member of the Cajun Sushi Hamsters from Hell – a science fiction writer’s group. I sold a story to an online magazine (now defunct) in 2009 that garnered a Nebula nomination (probably from my friend Mary), and in 2013 I attended the Clarion Science Fiction Workshop in San Diego, CA. In 2014, I became a member of SFWA, the Science Fiction Writers of America professional organization. You can find links to my stories and more about my writing at my author’s website: http://marievibbert.com
I’m also a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, squired to Sir Ephraim ben Shlomo.
Since 2010 I’ve been playing football for the Cleveland Fusion, a women’s tackle football team. I’m a lineman.
about the narrator…
Tatiana fell in love with New York City when she took a school trip to the city at 16 years old. Six months later she had her feet and a suitcase on the New York City asphalt as a new student accepted into New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts which began her New York career. She adores traveling and counts her lucky stars that acting and dancing have taken her all over the United States, to Montreal, Vancouver, Ireland, and Holland… but she loves coming home to New York where it all started.
Equally at home speaking heightened language in a corset, in a leather jacket spouting obscenities, and as a dancer she has been compared to such dark, vivacious heroines as Helena Bonham Carter, a young Winona Ryder and Ellen Page. This depth and facility with multiple genres garnered her a New York Innovative Theatre Award Best Featured Actress nomination for her work in The Night of Nosferatu. Her facility with accents has landed her quite a few audiobooks and numerous on- camera roles including the role of Evgenya in the award winning I am A Fat Cat. Tatiana is a proud member of Actor’s Equity Association.
by Marie Vibbert
Nanlee was a woman with the sort of past that necessitated moving to a non-extradition treaty country, but that didn’t mean she hadn’t planned on enjoying her “retirement” on Luna Colony. She was Facilities Manager – a polite term for the boss of all janitors. Her staff jumped anxiously at her every glance, and waste was down nine percent since she had taken office. She was still important; the life of the colony depended on her work. No one bothered her. Which was fortunate, given how she used to deal with people who bothered her.
Luna Colony concerned itself with maintaining the Ungodly Huge Array on the dark side of the moon and serving as a weigh station between Earth’s inconvenient atmosphere and the rest of the universe. Nanlee concerned herself with minding her own business.
She was at her desk when the alarms started. A male voice recorded long ago grunted “Evacuate. Imminent danger of decompression. Evacuate.” No doubt he had thought he sounded important and tough. Nanlee sighed and locked her workstation.
Vince, her assistant, fell to a halt against the door as she was picking up her cane. “Boss! The station—”
“Yes, I heard. I do have two working ears. Probably a drill, but gather everyone to the garage.”
Vince’s hazel eyes just about vibrated, so wide open she could see the white all the way around the iris. “It isn’t a drill! This is ‘we could all die tonight’ bad news.”
Nanlee paused, half on her cane, half on the edge of the desk, pulling herself out of her chair. She fell back into the seat. She could feel her hot-tub calling to her. “Metaphorical death or literal?”
“Literal. Two tons of titanium on a crash-course with our dome.” He tapped her desk surface, hurriedly typing in his password and pulling a document, which he rotated with a flick of his hand to point at her.
It was an orbit decay projection. They always looked the same. “And this is too big for the dome to handle?”
“It’ll crack us like an egg!”
Vince sounded excited, almost gleeful, at the prospect. He was young.
“What the hell is it?”
“The last stage of a Saturn V rocket. Sucker’s been orbiting Luna for a hundred years. Maybe it got hit by some other debris, maybe it’s just decided now’s the time to land.”
Nanlee stopped herself from asking “Saturn what?” because Vince was looking at her like he’d just won the lottery. “Does Trey know about this?”
Trey was the mayor of the colony, Nanlee’s boss.
Vince rolled his eyes. “Of course Trey knows.” Like that was any less valid a question than asking her if she had heard the evacuation announcement. Nanlee wasn’t going to waste breath pointing it out. “He sent me to tell you we’ve got a little less than a day.”
“Well pack shit up!” She poked her cane against the wall behind her to get a little boost forward. “Get Percy and take the organic filters off-line. They won’t survive decompression. Also—“
“No. We’ve got a day to try and save the colony.”
Nanlee arched an eyebrow. “We?”
“Trey has put waste management on this. Everyone else is booking it.”
“Why the hell is this my jurisdiction?”
“Because,” he smiled ruefully, “it’s trash.”
With surprising strength, Nanlee pushed Vince out of her way and started down the corridor. She didn’t bother playing up her limp like she usually did – it never hurts to be underestimated. “Where is he? Where is Trey?”
“Uh… he’s gone. Central administration relocated before the alarm.”
“Damn.” Nanlee bounced upward as she struck the floor with her cane. Vince ducked as she whirled in place and started toward the equipment bays. “If we’re staying, our gear is staying. Don’t tell me that coward commandeered a single maintenance vehicle.”
Angi Shearstone is an award-winning professional artist with an MFA in comics, a small herd of cats, strong geek tendencies and a fondness for ska-core. She’s worked in children’s books with Mercer Mayer, in comics on Batman: Gotham County Line with Scott Hampton, collaborated with Mur Lafferty on Beyond the Storm: Shadows of the Big Easy, and otherwise has self-published a handful of comic book projects, two of which with Joe Sutliff Sanders.
She currently teaches nifty computer stuff to keep the bills paid while trying to get this epic-sized fully painted comic book series off the ground. Pitches have been made, grants have been applied for, BloodDreams is to be released sometime in the unspecified but not-too-distant future.
by RM Graves
Dog sat at her kit, in the cavernous dark at the back of the stage, with Meg’s kiss chilling on her lips. That hadn’t fixed her nerves at all. Now Dog’s chest shook worse than her hands, jacked up on the worry of letting her girlfriend down, again.
The crowd didn’t see or care. As Meg took her spot out front, they thrummed the darkness with their chanting, “Rock… Work! Rock… Work!”
Dog’s sticks were already slick in her palms as she snapped rubber bands around them. She shuffled in her seat, checked contacts, toggled switches and sensed Meg’s impatience, standing in the dark between the drums and hungry fans. Dog brushed trembling fingers over the kit and it twitched around her, jittery. It hated gigs.
“Come on, Rocky,” she whispered and cogs whirred back at her. She shook her head. “Purring? Seriously?”
The kit’s blind trust made Dog gulp an urge to up and run. No. This time. This time Meg would be proud of her. Proud of them. No screw-ups. No zoning out.
She took a deep breath and kicked a volley of hard thumps into the black. The audience hushed. Cannon-shot beats echoed, overlapped, and swelled like an approaching army. A machine-gun of rimshots and the lights, and the crowd, exploded.
Dog scowled into the glare of spotlights as the ‘Rockwork’ burst into life around her; a kit stretched beyond drums to form an entire robotic band. Butchered musical instruments twitched and writhed in a hellish chromed engine of noise. Cogs spun plectrums at wire. Hammers rapped on the broken teeth of piano keys. Thumbscrews wrenched raw electric scales out of strangled frets.
Dog set her features into maniacal control, sweat already trickling over her bald head, pooling in her eyebrows; her arms gleaming pistons at the snare and toms.
Meg swayed her hips to Dog’s driving cacophony; her playful nonchalance creating a tantalizing silhouette to the audience, but taunting Dog behind. Hinting at what she had to lose. The music press were in tonight, but there was more than the band at stake.
The Rockwork was autonomous to a point, but it relied on Dog to keep it in line. Left unchecked it would spin off on its own groove without regard to Meg. Or the audience. Dog pressed her lips, rolled an extravagant fill across the toms, thrashed out her anxiety in the splash and crash. Meg’s cue.
The fans bounced along with the opening bars. Meg tossed Dog a warning frown, the gobo’s lit her up, and her voice rang out. The crowd, already jumping, flung its hands in the air like antennae for more and howled in pleasure. (Continue Reading…)
(from Wikipedia) Robert Sheckley was born in Brooklyn, New York. In 1931 the family moved to Maplewood, New Jersey. Sheckley attended Columbia High School, where he discovered science fiction. He graduated in 1946 and hitchhiked to California the same year, where he tried numerous jobs: landscape gardener, pretzel salesman, barman, milkman, warehouseman, and general laborer “board man” in a hand-painted necktie studio. Finally, still in 1946, he joined the U.S. Army and was sent to Korea. During his time in the army he served as a guard, an army newspaper editor, a payroll clerk, and guitarist in an army band. He left the service in 1948.
Sheckley then attended New York University, where he received an undergraduate degree in 1951. The same year he married for the first time, to Barbara Scadron. The couple had one son, Jason. Sheckley worked in an aircraft factory and as an assistant metallurgist for a short time, but his breakthrough came quickly: in late 1951 he sold his first story, Final Examination, to Imagination magazine. He quickly gained prominence as a writer, publishing stories in Imagination, Galaxy, and other science fiction magazines. The 1950s saw the publication of Sheckley’s first four books: short story collections Untouched by Human Hands (Ballantine, 1954), Citizen in Space (1955), and Pilgrimage to Earth (Bantam, 1957), and a novel, Immortality, Inc. (first published as a serial in Galaxy, 1958).
Sheckley and Scadron divorced in 1956. The writer married journalist Ziva Kwitney in 1957. The newly married couple lived in Greenwich Village. Their daughter, Alisa Kwitney, born in 1964, would herself become a successful writer. Applauded by critic Kingsley Amis, Sheckley was now selling many of his deft, satiric stories to mainstream magazines such as Playboy. In addition to his science fiction stories, in 1960s Sheckley started writing suspense fiction. More short story collections and novels appeared in the 1960s, and a film adaptation of an early story by Sheckley, The 10th Victim, was released in 1965.
Sheckley spent much of 1970s living on Ibiza. He and Kwitney divorced in 1972 and the same year Sheckley married Abby Schulman, whom he had met in Ibiza. The couple had two children, Anya and Jed. The couple separated while living in London. In 1980, the writer returned to the United States and became fiction editor of the newly established OMNI magazine. Sheckley left OMNI in 1981 with his fourth wife, writer Jay Rothbell a.k.a. Jay Sheckley, and they subsequently traveled widely in Europe, finally ending up in Portland, Oregon, where they separated. He married Gail Dana of Portland in 1990. Sheckley continued publishing further science fiction and espionage/mystery stories, and collaborated with other writers such as Roger Zelazny and Harry Harrison.
During a 2005 visit to Ukraine for the Ukrainian Sci-Fi Computer Week, an international event for science fiction writers, Sheckley fell ill and had to be hospitalized in Kiev on April 27. His condition was very serious for one week, but he appeared to be slowly recovering. Sheckley’s official website ran a fundraising campaign to help cover Sheckley’s treatment and his return to the United States. Sheckley settled in Red Hook, in northern Dutchess County, New York, to be near his daughters Anya and Alisa. On November 20 he had surgery for a brain aneurysm; he died in a Poughkeepsie hospital on December 9, 2005.
about the narrator…
Nathaniel Lee is Escape Pod’s assistant editor and sometime contributor. His writing can be found at various online venues, including Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and all of the EA podcasts. He lives somewhat unwillingly in North Carolina with his wife and son and their obligatory authorial cats.
Keep Your Shape
by Robert Sheckley
Pid the Pilot slowed the ship almost to a standstill, and peered anxiously at the green planet below.
Even without instruments, there was no mistaking it. Third from its sun, it was the only planet in this system capable of sustaining life. Peacefully it swam beneath its gauze of clouds.
It looked very innocent. And yet, twenty previous Grom expeditions had set out to prepare this planet for invasion—and vanished utterly, without a word.
Pid hesitated only a moment, before starting irrevocably down. There was no point in hovering and worrying. He and his two crewmen were as ready now as they would ever be. Their compact Displacers were stored in body pouches, inactive but ready.
Pid wanted to say something to his crew, but wasn’t sure how to put it.
The crew waited. Ilg the Radioman had sent the final message to the Grom planet. Ger the Detector read sixteen dials at once, and reported, “No sign of alien activity.” His body surfaces flowed carelessly.
Noticing the flow, Pid knew what to say to his crew. Ever since they had left Grom, shape-discipline had been disgustingly lax. The Invasion Chief had warned him; but still, he had to do something about it. It was his duty, since lower castes such as Radiomen and Detectors were notoriously prone to Shapelessness.
“A lot of hopes are resting on this expedition,” he began slowly. “We’re a long way from home now.”
Ger the Detector nodded. Ilg the Radioman flowed out of his prescribed shape and molded himself comfortably to a wall.
“However,” Pid said sternly, “distance is no excuse for promiscuous Shapelessness.”
Ilg flowed hastily back into proper Radioman’s shape.
“Exotic forms will undoubtedly be called for,” Pid went on. “And for that we have a special dispensation. But remember—anyshape not assumed strictly in the line of duty is a foul, lawless device of The Shapeless One!”
Ger’s body surfaces abruptly stopped flowing.
“That’s all,” Pid said, and flowed into his controls. The ship started down, so smoothly co-ordinated that Pid felt a glow of pride.
They were good workers, he decided. He just couldn’t expect them to be as shape-conscious as a high-caste Pilot. Even the Invasion Chief had told him that.
“Pid,” the Invasion Chief had said at their last interview, “we need this planet desperately.”
“Yes, sir,” Pid had said, standing at full attention, never quivering from Optimum Pilot’s Shape.
“One of you,” the Chief said heavily, “must get through and set up a Displacer near an atomic power source. The army will be standing by at this end, ready to step through.”
“We’ll do it, sir,” Pid said.
“This expedition has to succeed,” the Chief said, and his features blurred momentarily from sheer fatigue. “In strictest confidence, there’s considerable unrest on Grom. The Miner caste is on strike, for instance. They want a new digging shape. Say the old one is inefficient.”
Pid looked properly indignant. The Mining Shape had been set down by the Ancients fifty thousand years ago, together with the rest of the basic shapes. And now these upstarts wanted to change it!
“That’s not all,” the Chief told him. “We’ve uncovered a new Cult of Shapelessness. Picked up almost eight thousand Grom, and I don’t know how many more we missed.”
Pid knew that Shapelessness was a lure of The Shapeless One, the greatest evil that the Grom mind could conceive of. But why, he wondered, did so many Grom fall for His lures?
(source: wikipedia) “Clifford Donald Simak (August 3, 1904 – April 25, 1988) was an American science fiction writer. He was honored by fans with three Hugo Awards and by colleagues with one Nebula Award. The Science Fiction Writers of America made him its third SFWA Grand Master and the Horror Writers Association made him one of three inaugural winners of the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Simak was born in Millville, Wisconsin in 1904, son of John Lewis and Margaret (Wiseman) Simak. He married Agnes Kuchenberg on April 13, 1929 and they had two children, Richard (Dick) Scott (d. 2012) and Shelley Ellen. Simak attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison and later worked at various newspapers in the Midwest. He began a lifelong association with the Minneapolis Star and Tribune (inMinneapolis, Minnesota) in 1939, which continued until his retirement in 1976. He became Minneapolis Star’s news editor in 1949 and coordinator of Minneapolis Tribune’s Science Reading Series in 1961. In a blurb in Time and Again he wrote, “I have been happily married to the same woman for thirty three years and have two children. My favorite recreation is fishing (the lazy way, lying in a boat and letting them come to me). Hobbies: Chess, stamp collecting, growing roses.” He dedicated the book to his wife Kay, “without whom I’d never have written a line”. He was well liked by many of his science fiction cohorts, especially Isaac Asimov. He died in Minneapolis in 1988.
Simak became interested in science fiction after reading the works of H. G. Wells as a child. His first contribution to the literature was “The World of the Red Sun”, published by Hugo Gernsback in the December 1931 issue of Wonder Stories with one opening illustration by Frank R. Paul. Within a year he placed three more stories in Gernsback’s pulp magazines and one in Astounding Stories, then edited by Harry Bates. But his only science fiction publication between 1932 and 1938 was The Creator (Marvel Tales #4, March–April 1935), a notable story with religious implications, which was then rare in the genre.
Once John W. Campbell, at the helm of Astounding from October 1937, began redefining the field, Simak returned and was a regular contributor to Astounding Science Fiction (as it was renamed in 1938) throughout the Golden Age of Science Fiction (1938–1950). At first, as in the 1939 serial novel Cosmic Engineers, he wrote in the tradition of the earlier “superscience” subgenre that E. E. “Doc” Smith perfected, but he soon developed his own style, which is usually described as gentle and pastoral. During this period, Simak also published a number of war and western stories in pulp magazines. His best-known novel may be City, a collection of short stories with a common theme of mankind’s eventual exodus from Earth.
Simak continued to produce award-nominated novels throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Aided by a friend, he continued writing and publishing science fiction and, later, fantasy, into his 80s. He believed that science fiction not rooted in scientific fact was responsible for the failure of the genre to be taken seriously, and stated his aim was to make the genre a part of what he called “realistic fiction.”
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, and her website is www.helbell.com.
about the narrator…
Donna Scott is a writer, editor, comedian, poet and general weirdo. Originally hailing from the Black Country, she now lives in a Victorian shoemakers’ terraced house in Northampton with one husband and two cats. Her space is being steadily encroached by books and bicycles. What could they possibly want with her?! She is also the Chair of the British Science Fiction Association.
The Aliens Made of Glass
by Helena Bell
Sister Charles Regina, formerly of the Daughters of Perpetual Help, attends to her boat, the Nunc Dimittis, as if it were the sole member of her parish. She scrubs the white transom, the gunwale, the wooden steps leading to the bridge, and the metal railings. She vacuums the carpet in the salon, empties then refills the refrigerator and checks the interior cabinets for ants. Once a week she cleans the bottom of the hull and even in this she is practiced and ritualed, reciting a dozen rosaries in time with the digs of her paint scraper, the bodies of barnacles swirling around her like ash. It gives her peace. Each action and inaction she commits will lead to consequences and she revels in the knowledge that everything worn away will be built up again. In these moments she does not miss the convent or her religion or God. She does not mind that the aliens are coming.
Sister Charles Regina, née Kathleen, brings the dock-master filets of tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi and sheepshead. For this and her company, Gray gives her electricity, use of the slip, and help with the lines. They watch the evening news together, and Gray does not ask about her lack of prayer over the meal. Kathleen does not ask after his parents or sister. He is her family; she is his. It is enough.
“The aliens passed Neptune today,” the local weather girl says, but she has been announcing the passing of Neptune for several days. A countdown glows in the right-hand corner with flickering dates and estimations. They will be here in 467 days, three years, or seven years, decades, soon, soon, sooner than we are ready.
The aliens move as slowly and perpetually as shadows on a sundial. The anchors express disbelief that we spotted them near Pluto at all. Should not they have zipped in at the speed of light? At warp? Hyperspace? Should not they be in our skies one minute, the valleys of the moon the next? Kathleen wonders if space is more like the ocean than anyone thought with currents and tides and troughs. She pictures the aliens adjusting a compass set to the pull of opposing suns. She imagines long, bone white fingers turning the knobs of a LORAN adjusted for eleven-dimensional space.
Instead of sports, a man in a checkered suit announces the decision of all space-faring nations to reroute their shuttles, their satellites, and refitted weather balloons. Like marathon racers or a soapbox derby, the line of them stretches from Baikonour to the moon. A tech company has announced a prize for the first privately-funded spaceship to reach the aliens. A second prize for the first to establish meaningful contact. A third for the first to determine their intentions and draft an appropriate response.
The checkered man begins to stutter, his face reddening under the studio lights. He misses basketball and baseball, where the most threatening stories were coaches throwing metal chairs across the gleaming laminate floors. He takes a deep breath. He has a job, a purpose; his world is not so different that he has forgotten to be professional. “Whether the prize will be in currency or fame or nonperishable foodstuffs is unknown at this time.” He smiles and hands off to a field reporter at a local high school. The seniors intend to build rockets. They do not expect them to reach the aliens, or orbit, or the upper levels of the atmosphere, but on each rocket the students will write a message in any and all languages in which they have proficiency. English, Latin, Spanish, German, French, Klingon, Elvish, Binary. . . They no longer care about prom or AP English exams, but of a future filled with higher-level mathematics.
N(ora). K. Jemisin is an author of speculative fiction short stories and novels who lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been nominated for the Hugo (three times), the Nebula (four times), and the World Fantasy Award (twice); shortlisted for the Crawford, the Gemmell Morningstar, and the Tiptree; and she has won a Locus Award for Best First Novel as well as the Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award (three times).
Her short fiction has been published in pro markets such as Clarkesworld, Postscripts, Strange Horizons, and Baen’s Universe; semipro markets such as Ideomancer and Abyss & Apex; and podcast markets and print anthologies.
Her first five novels, the Inheritance Trilogy and the Dreamblood (duology), are out now from Orbit Books. (Samples available in the Books section; see top navigation buttons.) Her novels are represented by Lucienne Diver of the Knight Agency.
She is currently a member of the Altered Fluid writing group. In addition to writing, she is a counseling psychologist and educator (specializing in career counseling and student development), a sometime hiker and biker, and a political/feminist/anti-racist blogger.
You can reach her at njem at earthlink dot net.
about the narrator…
Stephanie is a librarian-in-training, a voracious biblio- and audiophile, an occasional writer of short stories, and a voice and stage actor. She has narrated short stories for PseudoPod, PodCastle, and Cast of Wonders, guest-blogged on subjects ranging from creative writing to zombie turkeys, and performed Shakespeare in a handful of weird churches. She is currently working toward a degree in Media Studies, which is really just a sneaky way for her to discuss her favorite fandoms in an academic context. She blogs at Scribbleomania.
by N. K. Jemisin
There are three things Zinhle decides, when she is old enough to understand. The first is that she will never, ever, give less than her best to anything she tries to do. The second is that she will not live in fear. The third, which is perhaps meaningless given the first two and yet comes to define her existence most powerfully, is this: she will be herself. No matter what.
For however brief a time.
“Have you considered getting pregnant?” her mother blurts one morning, over breakfast.
Zinhle’s father drops his fork, though he recovers and picks it up again quickly. This is how Zinhle knows that what her mother has said is not a spontaneous burst of insanity. They have discussed the matter, her parents. They are in agreement. Her father was just caught off-guard by the timing.
But Zinhle, too, has considered the matter in depth. Do they really think she wouldn’t have? “No,” she says.
Zinhle’s mother is stubborn. This is where Zinhle herself gets the trait. “The Sandersens’ boy — you used to play with him, when you were little, remember? — he’s decent. Discreet. He got three girls pregnant last year, and doesn’t charge much. The babies aren’t bad-looking. And we’d help you with the raising, of course.” She hesitates, then adds with obvious discomfort, “A friend of mine at work — Charlotte, you’ve met her — she says he’s, ah, he’s not rough or anything, doesn’t try to hurt girls — ”
“No,” Zinhle says again, more firmly. She does not raise her voice. Her parents raised her to be respectful of her elders. She believes respect includes being very, very clear about some things.
Zinhle’s mother looks at her father, seeking an ally. Her father is a gentle, soft-spoken man in a family of strong-willed women. Stupid people think he is weak; he isn’t. He just knows when a battle isn’t worth fighting. So he looks at Zinhle now, and after a moment he shakes his head. “Let it go,” he says to her mother, and her mother subsides.
They resume breakfast in silence.
Zinhle earns top marks in all her classes. The teachers exclaim over this, her parents fawn, the school officials nod their heads sagely and try not to too-obviously bask in her reflected glory. There are articles about her in the papers and on Securenet. She wins awards.
She hates this. It’s easy to perform well; all she has to do is try. What she wants is to be the best, and this is difficult when she has no real competition. Beating the others doesn’t mean anything because they’re not really trying. This leaves Zinhle with no choice but to compete against herself. Each paper she writes must be more brilliant than the last. She tries to finish every test faster than she did the last one. It isn’t the victory she craves, not exactly; the satisfaction she gains from success is minimal. Barely worth it. But it’s all she has.
The only times she ever gets in trouble are when she argues with her teachers, because they’re so often wrong. Infuriatingly, frustratingly _wrong_. In the smallest part of her heart, she concedes that there is a reason for this: a youth spent striving for mediocrity does not a brilliant adult make. Old habits are hard to break, old fears are hard to shed, all that. Still — arguing with them, looking up information and showing it to them to prove their wrongness, becomes her favorite pastime. She is polite, always, because they expect her to be uncivilized, and because they are also her elders. But it’s hard. They’re old enough that they don’t have to worry, damn it; why can’t they at least try to be worthy of her effort? She would kill for one good teacher. She is dying for one good teacher.
In the end, the power struggle, too, is barely worth it. But it is all she has.
# (Continue Reading…)
Jason Sanford is the award-winning author of a number of short stories, essays, and articles, and an active member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Born and raised in the American South, he currently lives in the Midwestern U.S. with his wife and sons. His life’s adventures include work as an archeologist and as a Peace Corps Volunteer.
Jason has published more than a dozen of his short stories in the British SF magazine Interzone, which once devoted a special issue to his fiction. His fiction has also been published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog: Science Fiction and Fact, InterGalactic Medicine Show, Tales of the Unanticipated, The Mississippi Review, Diagram, The Beloit Fiction Journal, Pindeldyboz, and other places. Book anthologies containing his stories include Year’s Best SF 14, Bless Your Mechanical Heart, and Beyond the Sun.
A collection of Jason’s short stories, titled Never Never Stories, was published by a small press in 2011.
Jason’s awards and honors include being a finalist for the 2009 Nebula Award for Best Novella, winning both the 2008 and 2009 Interzone Readers’ Polls for best story of the year (and being a co-winner of the 2010 Poll), receiving a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship, being nominated for the BSFA Award, and being longlisted for the British Fantasy Award. His stories have also been named to the 2012 and 2013 Locus Recommended Reading Lists along with being translated into a number of languages including Chinese, French, Russian, Polish, and Czech.
Jason co-founded the literary journal storySouth, through which he ran the annual Million Writers Award for best online fiction. His critical essays and book reviews have been published in a number of places including SF Signal, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and The Pedestal Magazine. He also writes a regular column for the Czech SF magazine XB-1.
about the narrator…
“I may not be perfectly wise, perfectly witty, or perfectly wonderful, but I am always perfectly me.” -Anonymous
I’m a horticulturist by trade, current stay at home mom for two children, team mom for the local Goalball team, and advocate for Blind/Visually Impaired causes and adoption causes. I love D20 gaming, reading, camping and canoeing, card playing, and music.
by Jason Sanford
“Ah Paprika, you dance so well,” Satoshi exclaimed each bright-sun morning, his praise always pleasing no matter how many times Paprika heard it. And Paprika could dance, she really could. Not like some of the olds, who’d spent millennia shaping their locked-down bodies through graceful movements. But still she could dance. Ballet. The Twist. The Bhangra.
Sometimes she’d make herself as tiny as Satoshi’s hand and pirouette for hours on his workbench while he reformed nano into exciting, long-lost toys. Other times she’d dance full sized–child sized as Satoshi would say, although Paprika knew to never speak that depressing word to customers. Paprika would create a full-flowing lehengas skirt–always the brightest of greens–and she’d dance in the store window, spinning and spinning until she was so overcome with happiness she’d dance through the window into the outside world, leaping and spinning to imaginary partners, bowing and smiling to the boys and girls who never came, flying across the deserted streets and passing in and out of the empty but perfectly preserved buildings surrounding Satoshi’s shop.
But whenever any of the few olds left in the city visited, Paprika restrained herself by simply sitting at her table in the window display. Not that she was for sell–Satoshi always made that clear to any customer who mistook her for other than what she was. With her young girl’s body and innocent happiness, Paprika knew she helped Satoshi sell more than merely the bright toys which populated his store. She sold nostalgia. Happy memories of long-vanished childhoods.