Law of Tongue

FICTION by Naim Kabir in Issue 195 – December 2022

The fact that they insisted we keep calling them “killer whales” should really tell you something. The orcas of Puget Sound are vicious in negotiations. “Listen,” I say. “The talks are in two weeks. We can’t just throw away months of work when we’re so close to the finish line.” The old matriarch spyhops once […]

Keiki's Pitcher Plant

FICTION by Bri Castagnozzi in Issue 195 – December 2022

A maintenance request called Ina down to the old dispensary on the sixtieth Reclamation. Her wife, Maya, was pulling lemon grass from the belly of a roasted suckling pig, wood-choked and salty fine for the guests of the Reclamation Feast. Twelve other young pigs were placed by their chefs throughout this western part of Palawan, […]

The Resting Place of Trees

FICTION by Ben Berman Ghan in Issue 195 – December 2022

“I knew it all along. The heart of the world is blue.” —Maggie Nelson: “Bluets” On the edge of the desolate wreckage of a crashed ship, the honeybee trembled, climbing downwards from the motionless stalks of the machine’s antenna. In its bee mind, it feels only order and structure, and something that might have been […]

Murder by Pixel: Crime and Responsibility in the Digital Darkness

FICTION by S.L. Huang in Issue 195 – December 2022

From the first time I visited Mariah Lee-Cassidy in prison, she radiated defiance. The poisonous orange of her prison jumpsuit might have been the decision of the state, but everything else about the twenty-nine-year-old, from her aggressively spiked hair to the rakish tilt of her chin, seemed calculated to scorn others. I was the first, […]

Upstart

FICTION by Lu Ban, translated by Blake Stone-Banks in Issue 195 – December 2022

: Your name, sir. : Just call me K. : Apologies, sir. This process is meticulously controlled. You are required to state your full name and surname. : It’s K Li. : Alright, Mr. Li. Shall we begin? My colleagues have completed your health and background checks. Now, I’m here to assist with the final […]

Left to Die

FICTION by Vandana Singh in Issue 195 – December 2022

They had left her to die. Binu had realized that too late. At the time she thought she was only being pragmatic, and perhaps a bit noble. “Leave me, I’ll be all right,” she had rasped, gritting her teeth against the pain, looking into Niko’s eyes as he bent over her. Her mouth had tasted […]

To Exorcise Mechanical Ghosts

FICTION by Laney Gaughan in Issue 195 – December 2022

Andy’s arm had belonged to a dead man before it had been screwed into his socket, wires spliced onto his nerve endings, and the thrumming metal drum plunged into the cavity of his ear. The doctor had done his best, of course, as well as could be done with a part hastily severed years ago. […]

The Lightness

FICTION by Alex Sobel in Issue 195 – December 2022

Trish is only a month along when the Goolan parents die. She doesn’t speak Goola well enough to understand the details, but the point gets across. A freak accident. Stupid. Meaningless. The kind of thing that makes you pay attention to randomness, to fragility. When she finds out, Trish goes to Annie because she has […]

The Rhythm of the Soul

FICTION by Michelle Julia John in Issue 194 – November 2022

I was ten years old when my father broke the world with the sweet notes of a steel pan. He created a new version, called it the S-pan, short for soul pan. Like any other, he made it from a repurposed steel drum. Streaks of gold ran up the sides of its five-inch skirt tucked […]

Accountability, and Other Myths of Old Earth

FICTION by Aimee Ogden in Issue 194 – November 2022

The Architects judged Earth, and found its people guilty, before anyone ever knew they were watching. When they made themselves known, they did so entirely. Around the world, at 13:17 Greenwich Mean Time, phones and laptops flickered to life, and TVs changed channels. Where there were no screens to be had, other things served as […]

Calf Cleaving in the Benthic Black

FICTION by Isabel J. Kim in Issue 194 – November 2022

The technical term is “generation ship cascade failure.” Cryogenic collapse. Millennium drive breakdown. Failed ship-in-a-bottle revolution against the corpostate hegemony. I call all the outcomes whalefalls, though. Because that’s what they are: the carcasses of something that used to be alive, floating slowly down through the black. I guess that makes me one of those […]

The Lonely Time Traveler of Kentish Town

FICTION by Nadia Afifi in Issue 194 – November 2022

I clutch a flaky sausage roll and a miniature bottle of prosecco as I sit on the Northern Line train, waiting for my appetite to return. It’s hard to eat, though less hard to drink, after witnessing a public burning. The smell of smoke clings to my nostrils, tinged with something fouler. The unique, searing […]

Hummingbird, Resting on Honeysuckles

FICTION by Yang Wanqing, translated by Jay Zhang in Issue 194 – November 2022

Red for temperature. Blue for ignition. Green for airflow. It takes four hours and forty-two minutes for you to finish your transformation into a pile of white ashes. I keep a patient vigil over those three primary colors on the cremator’s monitor, making sure that nothing is left behind. Nothing that can be linked to […]

The Transfiguration of the Gardener Irene by the Dead Planet Hipea

FICTION by Ann LeBlanc in Issue 194 – November 2022

The first of Irene’s memories I eat is the night she learned I had been murdered. It was karaoke night—not the official one for the cruise ship passengers, but an illicit one Irene organized for a few of the other crew. They weren’t supposed to be in the botanical garden, but it was still two […]

The Whelk

FICTION by Samara Auman in Issue 194 – November 2022

Nostalgia died a quiet death, wrapped in cellophane and power cords. The future had killed it. The ghosts of yesteryear’s fragrances no longer haunted, no longer hung and clung to the passersby. Instead, those ghosts lay shriveled like salted slugs in the perfectly modulated light of streetlamps and roadside LEDs. And I, a robot programmed […]

Junk Hounds

FICTION by Lavie Tidhar in Issue 193 – October 2022

The walls were beige and you could see where the rust took hold. A tiny dead robot floated past Amir, feelers drooping. It was the same color as the walls and shaped like a grasshopper. Amir made a grab for it but a hidden maintenance duct sucked it up and it vanished with a soft, […]

Coding Van Gogh

FICTION by Elaine Gao in Issue 193 – October 2022

A paintbrush, still dipped in Prussian blue, dissolved into a stream of code. Tara peeked at the 0s and 1s snaking up her wired arms, dimly illuminating the very human veins underneath. Her eyes shut. Starry Night. Violently controlled waves, tamed only by the canvas, cupped in its palms—gold, amber, and rusted orange wheels, stuck […]

Sweetbaby

FICTION by Thomas Ha in Issue 193 – October 2022

Won’t Hurt, I Know You don’t look Sweetbaby in the eye when he pushes out from under the tree throw. We know that now. Instead, the ears, or what’s left of them, are a better place to settle your gaze. They’re close enough to the face that you can tell which way he’s looking and […]

Lost and Found

FICTION by M. L. Clark in Issue 193 – October 2022

The uniform’s design was out of date by the time Essen made orbit over Drasti Prime—but then, so was Essen, so she kept it as is, fiddling in sequence with the pocket flaps and interface protector while the autofeed caught her up on twenty-three years of Partnership intel: personal, professional, interplanetary, and puerile. The inner […]

Fly Free

FICTION by Alan Kubatiev, translated by Alex Shvartsman in Issue 193 – October 2022

“I needed a true monster, so I went with a bird.” “Why?” “It’s impossible to reach an accord with a bird.” —From a conversation with film director Juraj Herz Bird-speak was the only reason Crowley got this job. Without it, he couldn’t have dreamed of landing such a cushy, well-paying gig. He had cautiously constructed […]

Giant Fish

FICTION by Chu Shifan, translated by Stella Jiayue Zhu in Issue 193 – October 2022

1. K’un died. It breathed for tens of thousands of years and, at long last, life came to an end. Its body was washed ashore. Pale red scales plowed through vegetation as the bulging exoskeleton grazed against dunes. Its enormous carcass formed an imposing mountain range along Pearl Island’s shoreline. Countless miners abandoned their digs […]

The Secret Strength of Things

FICTION by Gregory Feeley in Issue 193 – October 2022

The Snow Woman was away, far away. The winds that blew round the frozen world would take “days” to bear her to where Kitsune sheltered, even though both lay beneath the blue light of Ryujin, which the Chinese call Hǎiwángxīng and the white folks call Neptune. The atmosphere was too thin to loft anything denser […]

Rondo for Strings and Lasergun

FICTION by Jared Oliver Adams in Issue 193 – October 2022

Theme While the main theme of Quispe’s Rondo for Cello and Orchestra hugs the shoreline of Romanticism, the episodes between refrains climb the Andes to harvest the folk music of the composer’s youth, returning richer for each excursion. Chasca Huapaya loses herself in the performance. Her bow glides, skitters, bounces, grinds. She uses the body […]

The Slow Deaths of Automobiles

FICTION by Fiona Moore in Issue 192 – September 2022

In the woods, on the edge of the ravine, we found the corpse of a car. It was so close to the cliff edge, a determined push would have sent it tumbling down to the river. We climbed in and sat inside the rusting shell, on the sun-bleached fabric and perishing foam of the seats. […]

Border Run

FICTION by Octavia Cade in Issue 192 – September 2022

A lifetime of sailing and Sefa had never got used to the thrill of it, to the wide blue spill of horizon, and how it held in the world. He’d stood in storms and calm weather and every stage in between, stood against salt railings and on decks so heaving he could barely keep his […]

Sub-son

FICTION by Amal Singh in Issue 192 – September 2022

Everyone was on time, but the sub-son was late. No one had expected this from the sub-son because he had always been the most responsible, the most thoughtful, and the most present. The sub-son walked with the weight of the family on his shoulders, never hunching, never crumbling. The sub-son had always been there, despite […]

Shining Bursa and the Listening Post

FICTION by Sarah Pauling in Issue 192 – September 2022

“Bursa,” Seafaring says, their hindwing brushing the bedding, their long abdomen sinking the mattress near Bursa’s feet. “Wake up, please.” Bursa peers through one cracked eyelid and the remains of a dream about hollow spaces. His nictitating membrane diffuses the long-suffered intruder into stars. Above them both, his royal chamber vaults into a ceiling so […]

Live Update

FICTION by Lettie Prell in Issue 192 – September 2022

1 This is real, or real enough. It’s not memory, not dream. I’ve achieved the lucid clarity of the present moment, which I used to take for granted. Now it’s a gift. Around me, what passes for reality is a flimsy scaffold. I can see through everything. That’s good, because I must find the others, […]

Timekeepers' Symphony

FICTION by Ken Liu in Issue 192 – September 2022

To keep time, you must first invent it. 1. Flicker—A piacere Time travels in divers paces with divers persons. I’ll tell you who Time ambles withal, who Time trots withal, who Time gallops withal and who he stands still withal. —William Shakespeare, As You Like It, III.ii. In the cloud forests of Paek Sigma II, […]

Rivers Bend

FICTION by James Sallis in Issue 192 – September 2022

You don’t know me, but my name’s Al. I’ve been reading your books, especially those that feature Cal Harrison. They, in turn, have had me thinking seriously about writing one of my own, though I am not at all certain at this point what I might write about. I can’t quite say what it was, […]
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