The Plasticity of Youth

FICTION by Marissa Lingen in Issue 185 – February 2022

The warning light went on as soon as Jess started the car. Low tire pressure. The obstetrician expected her in forty-five minutes, and it was a half-hour drive. She got back out to look at the tires, sighing with what little lung capacity she had in her cramped, shared body. The passenger’s side front tire […]

You're Not the Only One

FICTION by Octavia Cade in Issue 185 – February 2022

Disappointment is such a solitary affair. Worse, it tends toward self-involvement, to shutting people out, and the determined failure to recognize there are disappointments that, if not worse than yours, are at least equally valid. I couldn’t stand to shut myself up with my own. It would have been unkind, and not only to myself. […]

Informed Consent Logs from the Soul Swap Clinic

FICTION by Sarah Pauling in Issue 185 – February 2022

TECHNICIAN: Recording new consent document, procedure 228. Patient is a thirty-nine-year-old female. C-could you state your name for the record? PATIENT “BLUE”: Sure! I’m [BLUE]. Is this, like, really formal? TECHNICIAN: Um. Fairly. C-can you tell me about any reservations you have regarding the procedure? BLUE: Probably what I’m most, like, nervous about—besides learning how […]

The Old Moon

FICTION by John McNeil in Issue 185 – February 2022

Viburn couldn’t believe I liked the cold. “I mean the deep cold,” I said. “At the bottom of a crater on the old moon, in a permanent shadow.” “But that must have been, that must have been,” shuddered Viburn. “If it never got starlight?” “Never.” I poured water onto Viburn. “And there was no atmosphere […]

The Direction of Clocks

FICTION by Jess Levine in Issue 185 – February 2022

Before the mechanics of stellar travel seemed remotely achievable, humanity had already devised many names for the perimeter beyond explored space. The deep, the ether, the black, the void—an ever-expanding collection of inapt metaphors. Even with the farthest stars finally within reach, humankind had yet to coin a phrase that truly captured the nature of […]

Babirusa

FICTION by Arula Ratnakar in Issue 185 – February 2022

SEARCHING FOR NEURODATA . . . NEURODATA NOT FOUND ERROR: PROGRAM_BABIRUSA STARTING SHUTDOWN OF FUNCTION_GRIND The Untangling Today, Painterman is staring out from the framed acrylic scene on the sixth wall, grinning at us with painted teeth and leaning against the trunk of an oak tree, its leaves and branches rendered in delicate, careful brushstrokes. The paintbrush he […]

The Uncurling of Samsara

FICTION by Koji A. Dae in Issue 184 – January 2022

Day 1 Mother prints the ceremonial wheat berry pudding. I want to cook it the traditional way, but Mother insists it takes too many resources to print the ingredients separately, and the Samsara isn’t equipped for cooking. I know all this, but it’s for Gram. What I should have done was finish the recipe Gram […]

The Lion and the Virgin

FICTION by Megan J. Kerr in Issue 184 – January 2022

Esteban calms me the most. His voice comes to me through the speaker just above my head. It drifts over me, hazy in the way sound gets distorted over distance. Gentle, and I think he must be lying down as well, half asleep with his eyes almost closed. A little breathy, as if everything he […]

The Five Rules of Supernova Surfing or A For Real Solution to the Fermi Paradox, Bro

FICTION by Geoffrey W. Cole in Issue 184 – January 2022

First rule of supernova surfing: timing is everything. A lightyear out from the dying red supergiant, Reef put on the music. Hundreds of semi-sentient AIs sprang to life at the back of the 2025 VW Microbus and began to strum, tickle, blow, and stomp the virtual instruments he had laid out for them. Metallic bossa […]

Bishop's Opening

FICTION by R.S.A. Garcia in Issue 184 – January 2022

Old as she was, the Kiskadee had done three full delivery runs without a single safety incident. So naturally, with the crew relaxed after a fourth successful delivery and launch, and eight cycles after Reece slingshotted the starship around Tavaco to head back to the Roost and their next job, their luck ran out. Sebastian […]

No One at the Wild Dock

FICTION by Gu Shi, translated by S. Qiouyi Lu in Issue 184 – January 2022

“Humanity will die.” The first time he heard the instructors say that, he was a baby who’d just started school, with nothing more than a huge head devoid of any knowledge. That day, the instructors had been muttering among themselves when they suddenly asked him, “Who are you?” He stared blankly as he rummaged around […]

Learning to Hate Yourself as a Self-Defense Mechanism

FICTION by Andrea Kriz in Issue 184 – January 2022

Your friend releases a virtugame. “You shouldn’t play it,” she says dismissively when you ask. “It’s not really your thing.” You listen, but it becomes impossible to ignore when, despite being ironically titled Best Game, it appears in glowing review after review from your favorite virtuTubers, which you avoid watching, in highly upvoted posts on […]

For Whom the Psychopomp Calls

FICTION by Filip Hajdar Drnovšek Zorko in Issue 184 – January 2022

We picked the psychopomp up on Svetove. That’s the far end of the arc, far from Earth as anyone ever been. Little station, off the ecliptic, automated most times save when there were deep space haulers like us in residence. Raw material goes in, antimatter fuel comes out, and if the conversion goes bad, least […]

You Are Born Exploding

FICTION by Rich Larson in Issue 183 – December 2021

When Elisabeth takes the baby to the beach on Thursday afternoon, another shambler has got through the fence. “Stay ten meters back,” the guard says, his translucent face mask fogged with the heat. “Yes, yes,” Elisabeth says. “And the child. Ten meters.” “We’re fully inoculated,” Elisabeth says, annoyed. “Of course, ma’am.” He seems to be […]

The Cold Calculations

FICTION by Aimee Ogden in Issue 183 – December 2021

Once upon a time, a little girl had to die. It’s just math. Wrong place, wrong time. Bad luck; too bad, so sad. We’ve all heard such stories, told them, shared them, collected them. Not in the way that we collect trinkets; more like how a sock collects holes. We’re submerged in such stories, we […]

Beneath the Earth Where the Nymphs Sleep

FICTION by Meghan Feldman in Issue 183 – December 2021

Rana supposed she should feel flattered that the Council of Ages chose her to outlive all the gene techs who called the Enclave home. Some brainless techs would feel grateful. Especially if they had half-hacked implants and a price on their head like she did. But Rana had no intention of being trapped again, so […]

Vegvísir

FICTION by David Goodman in Issue 183 – December 2021

That’s the thing you have to remember about Kobayashi drivetrains. They work until they don’t. Not like a Selenex or a Rostov unit. Those things tell you all the time how they’re feeling. Grumble grumble. You’re out there in your suit, putting on the spray lube, picking bits of regolith out of the intakes, every […]

Other Stories

FICTION by Wang Yuan, translated by Andy Dudak in Issue 183 – December 2021

This story is sincerely dedicated to my Mother. 1 Tom called Adriana Honey-Bunny, and she called him Pumpkin. A moment by a window. An orange California morning. Tom snapped his fingers, the waiter understood and came and refilled his cup with fragrant coffee. The sun shone on their table and the street outside was crowded. […]

Just One Step, and Then the Next

FICTION by E. N. Díaz in Issue 183 – December 2021

Doña Chuy was sitting in her living room, the heavy smell of the summer rains wafting in through the open door. She hated that smell, but the house was too warm, and her air conditioner no longer worked, so she had to leave windows and doors open to keep it cool. She didn’t worry about […]

A Series of Endings

FICTION by Amal Singh in Issue 183 – December 2021

This is the story of Roopchand Rathore, time traveler, fighter, poet, cancer-survivor, inventor. While his story has many endings, there’s only one true beginning, and it takes place in the humid but pristine backwaters of sun-drenched Kerala. A scene from a movie, but a true-to-roots, hand on heart, scene of value, scene of promise, scene […]

Mom Heart

FICTION by Will McIntosh in Issue 182 – November 2021

The front door banged open. “Daddy! Dadd-deee!” Bluet wailed. I rushed to Bluet. Bluet’s eyes were wet. Karina hung back, blank-eyed, as Bluet bolted forward. “Regan called Mommy dead.” I wrapped Bluet in a hug. “I’m sorry.” My voice was muffled, my face pressed into Bluet’s hair. “That was not a nice thing to say.” […]

Dark Waters Still Flow

FICTION by Alice Towey in Issue 182 – November 2021

The nitrogen was rising in my aeration basins as an autumn wind scattered crimson leaves on the water. It was a chill wind for this time of year, when the late rays of the farsun normally add a final burst of summer; it was going to be a long, cold winter. As I surged my […]

This Stitch, This Time

FICTION by Anna Martino in Issue 182 – November 2021

What do you mean, Why didn’t I warn them before? Are you serious? I did! Answer me this if you are so smart. If you had seen it, what would you have done? It all began with a scrap of fabric I used to test the machine’s tension. Over and over and over, white cotton […]

City of Eternity

FICTION by Pan Haitian, translated by Carmen Yiling Yan in Issue 182 – November 2021

Strange boulders littered the Mountain of the Empty. They were ovoid in appearance and similar in size, their corners and edges smoothed away by the wind, so that even the moonlight shining upon them found no purchase. Like ghastly white skeletons, they lay half-buried in the earth, large and small. They all seemed to be […]

The Language Birds Speak

FICTION by Rebecca Campbell in Issue 182 – November 2021

Alex cantilevered from her hip, his neck arched, knees and elbows braced against her gut. Gracie widened her stance so they wouldn’t pitch forward onto the kitchen floor while he screeched, an emphatic, full-bodied “NO” that felt like the crunch of a car accident one block over. Except he didn’t really say “NO,” it was […]

Between Zero and One There is Infinity

FICTION by Shari Paul in Issue 182 – November 2021

0.1 Nil knows at once that she is no longer on the cargo vessel. Immanuel is kneeling on the floor across from her, eyes wide, face flushed, glancing frantically at someone nearby she cannot see. That stops her for a moment, she used to have access to everywhere at once, from all angles. She turns […]

The Death Haiku of the Azure Five

FICTION by L Chan in Issue 182 – November 2021

The Orbital Defense System A thousand sharp eyes Staring into the darkness Closed only in death The fleet lurked beyond the heliopause of our system, out of the range of our largest weapons. Sensor sweeps didn’t reach them, but we knew they were there. The darkening of the signal buoys on the rim announced their […]

Paper of Elephants

FICTION by Brenda Cooper in Issue 181 – October 2021

Eleanor watched the tourists’ faces as Siaal finished the last flourish on the painting in front of him, a bright blue streak simulating a sky. Three visitors watched the elephant hold his trunk straight up for a moment, the paintbrush clutched in his curled trunk. The small family spoke Italian but lived in America. The […]

The Answer Was Snails

FICTION by Bo Balder in Issue 181 – October 2021

The alien must have been reading up on humidity conditions for its terrarium, because we’d already gotten three mistings today. I lifted my head above the mud, where I’d lain hidden since dawn. I breathed through my snorkel reed, which was nearing the end of its usefulness. Another obstacle in my already busy day. It […]

Legend of the Giant

FICTION by Fei Dao, translated by Ken Liu in Issue 181 – October 2021

1. “Chi-a! Chi-a!” Just as dawn is about to chase away the night, the silence is broken by a distant, earth-rumbling chant. A roiling, dark column of smoke snakes toward the rosy clouds. The giant, towing a rusty furnace behind him, each stride infused with pride, marches into sight from over the horizon. Lit by […]
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