Issue 196 – January 2023

5340 words, short story

Symbiosis

AUDIO VERSION

When I had been chosen to have a child, I was apprehensive more than ecstatic. All the other “lottery winners” seemed to be joyous. On the holoscreens, I saw them cry happy tears. I tried to mimic that but could not. I tried to smile like I had won a bag of chocolates. I wish it were a bag of chocolates. Chocolate caramels layered with taro cream. Instead, I was the one leaking cream, leaking all sorts of fluids from the bodily changes. It wasn’t sweet. I had terrible dreams. I dreamed of my belly distended, engorged, growing, and growing, until I floated right past the atmosphere into cold space. I could see myself floating past the colonies, past the blue coin that was Earth and toward the sun. Why would the fetus lift me up like that? Maybe it wanted to feel the warmth of the sun, seeing I was not warm enough, I conjectured. It was a dream; it had no meaning. I shouldn’t have assigned it any. But I did.

I was younger then, and I had visions of myself, not as a Carrier but alone journeying on. On to the other asteroids that made up the belt. Not stuck in the colonial city. Carriers had responsibilities. The progeny must drink. We would be implanted with specialized hydration tubes after the operation, hanging from our torsos like tethers dangling off EVA suits. People talked of these tubes lovingly, like it was their hair, about how they would make them up, braid them into plaits and decorate them. What are you thinking of etching onto your tubes? asked another Carrier when they found out I was chosen. They had mentioned phoenixes with bright tails and oranges that blossomed into prosperity that could glow in ethereal beauty from the conduits from my chest. They suggested iconographs of the shuttling machines and the labyrinth of journeying pathways of vehicular traffic that others had professionally scrawled onto their tubes with the help of artisans. Conduits, they said. It was a perfect embodiment of their function. Or perhaps I would be more satiated with etching onto my to-be-installed tubes the colored rocks that lined the beds of the Celestial garden? Something simple but possessing ethereal beauty that spoke of home and hearth? I shook my head. Mumbled something about cleanliness and choices. I was not sure it made sense, just that I had to clear my head, and I was paralyzed by options. I said this slowly as I looked at their brown-green eyes that flickered with a kind of anticipation, waiting for me to return the question. The eyes told me they had an answer to their own question, a unique scrawling that would signify their fidelic connection to the yet implanted offspring I did not. I stepped away. I could not even think that far in advance. I had honestly forgotten about the tubes, so stunned I was about the news. The tubes would be temporary, until the progeny weaned. But, Carriers adored these accoutrements. I was too disconcerted, startled into stillness by the unexpected nature of the broadcast. I stared at the patterns flashing from the holoscreens, comparing one specific configuration to the shape-shifting brand on my arm. Yes, that was me alright. I even called up a lab technician. The genomic resonance that they included was certainly mine. I had run the analysis scan on it, and that was nearly foolproof.

To say I was flummoxed would have been an understatement. There was just no way I could be chosen. I had a defect. I was not socialized the way others had been, as I was brought up with the Celestials. I was blunt, and I also did not have the kind of cosmetic beauty and immaculate health credentials that would have been selected for Carriers. Everyone called the process “a lottery,” like a huge boon when chosen, but we all knew there was always someone or ones behind the scenes making a choice—that it was a deliberate decision given the phenotypical expressions. I thought I was immune to this fate. When my Best Sibling came with the message, saying that the chimes were for me, that I needed to open the holoscreen to check, I couldn’t comprehend what the High Restorative Center was saying. I accused my Best Sibling of pranking me. They denied it and looked hurt. They didn’t talk to me for a few days after, until I gave penitence by offering them some of my Ejecta festival cakes. I gave them my best one, flavored with durian and peppered with numbing spices. That appeased them, and they told me they were happy for me. I looked at them with grave eyes I tried to make crinkle and said, me too. I didn’t want to start another fight. I only had three more cakes left and months before another shipment from beyond.

Since I had been assigned (I did not want to say “won” since I did not see it as a boon), I made the motions. Everyone had a duty to do. If I didn’t, I would be Noncompliant. Noncompliance meant potential ejection from the colony city and the asteroid belt around it. You would be a Wafter, like a hungry ghost, living past the belt, in the scourge of the cold and ice, among the civilizational detritus that had been spewed there from neglect. I liked a good adventure, but I was not in favor of sleeping in an artifact of a washing machine assemblage or coasting in a half-frozen milling tank tube, as the stories would have you believe. They said things about the Wafters, probably all made up and fantastical. Perhaps to scare you into compliance. They said they craved light and food and any sustenance since they were deprived of all things that made us Us. I knew it couldn’t be completely true. But, the nugget of truth that may be locked in the stories was enough of a frightening prospect to lock me into place. Besides, I liked the colony city. It was vast and smooth, with its laser-like aerial course-ways for travel and organized weather patterns. I liked our educational trips to the closest asteroids, but I never imagined myself living there either. I was a city person. Granted, I was an outlier from the bulk of metropolitan kind, having been raised with the Celestials at the outer temple, but it still constituted a part of that diverse fabric of society in our bustling urban region.

The first clue that something was awry was the lack of feeling. Not my cold numbness, which was pervasive at the time. No, it was the lack of nausea. They had scanned me, told me things were progressing. They looked satisfied and again I tried to smile wanly. But, I had not fallen sick like the other Carriers. They were clutching onto filtering heaving pouches, their faces twisted into incredible dreadful expressions of misery, despite their spurious smiling eyes for having been chosen. I was out and about, running to the lab to deliver machinery, running the used rags and soakers to the recombination system. I was on my feet while they cried for me to get them some anti-nausea serums. I did. The Celestials always kept me busy, except for ordained downtime while conducting Carrier duties. My downtime was ordained, an edict from the headquarters of the city, but I didn’t feel the need to slow. Serums, herbs, and elixirs filled my purses and pockets as I shoveled handfuls to unwell, but grateful Carriers.

Perhaps I should have made a show of being sick, despite feeling at the top of my health. Perhaps I should have staggered in, clutching my abdomen, and pretended to heave periodically to fall into line with expectation. I could have done this with a crinkle in my eye to suggest I didn’t mind at all, no, not at all—a way to exhibit ailment and enthusiasm at once. But, I was not much into theater, and it felt silly to feign ailment. I was proud of being in tip-top health, and I wanted to be operational and contributing. Sure, one can argue that being a Carrier is contributing enough, no need to stride around saving the world. But, I simply enjoyed being active.

Many were grateful but being so active while others suffered brooded resentment. Why are you so awake, my fellow Carrier? What gives your feet the lightness of a child’s holograph projector and not the heaviness of a meteor that makes a crater? Why do you look like a guardian lion who has shed his ball? Have you so chucked away the structured world and can now prance so effortlessly? I didn’t stop my inactivity, but I did stop interacting with some folk, deciding to employ intermediaries to deliver remedies to them.

The second clue that something was awry was my appetite. Other Carriers had gained food aversions and the green on their faces implied that their appetites had all but slipped away. Mine was so strong and was laced with such potency, it could have easily been characterized as indecent. I did not eat for two; I ate for ten. I ate everything in sight: hydroponic taro leaves, milyum bars, lotus seed pastes by the spoonful, charred tofu satay, mycelium mochi, spherified grass jellies, braised red bean foams, and tapioca suspensions.

Surprisingly, the anatomy scan at Week Twenty showed no aberrations. Like many procedures at the High Restorative Center, they were strictly confidential. Not even Carriers were allowed to view the scans. They said it would violate the sanctity of the miracle of the Package within. Like peeking at red envelopes before New Year’s. Or ripping open gifts before the Cold Season Fests. I thought, maybe I had a chance, maybe the Celestials would gain the information and pass it on to me. I made some queries and waited on both the High Restorative Center and Celestial Temple’s responses, but the docs had nodded politely and said nothing. Nothing came of my appeals to the Celestials, as well, except light castigations of being impatient.

The third clue of something amiss was the Owl. We were all assigned owls as the growth of our Packages progressed and our bellies became distended, marked with the sign of ancient rivers. They said that the stretch marks were good signs, passed down through unseen Wisdoms, with the imprint of the rills of the land on our skin. When I passed my hands over these marks, I could feel their coarse texture, our epidermides collectively trying to keep up with the burgeoning, a competition of taut circumference and volume.

The point of our Week Twenty-Eight scan was precisely to configure an AI, contained in a relatable, feathery shell: an avian construct counterpart. This AI would be able to indicate to us the kind of Carrier we would be and how the bond between Carrier and Package would play out. They took another whole-body scan. I hummed in the machine patiently as flashes burst in my eyes. They would use physiological, cosmetic, and affective resonances to perfectly curate our Owls.

When my Owl came, it was a tropical one, and rare. The owls were based based on past and present variations from Earth. Mine was severely threatened and loved islands. I was told they were printed in genetic labs and were beautiful replicas, down to the spectrum of colors in facial ruffs. Mine was a prepossessing peppered brown and had piercing yellow eyes with big black pupils. It was a Ryūkyū scops owl, its shape-shifting brand on the blank on its flank told me. Its mung bean-colored bill tapered to a point, and it blinked hard at me as if trying to figure me out. I had never landed in the cloudy blue glass disk, the terra firma, origin of our kind. But for a moment, I felt transported there, seeing this majestic creature. Granted, my Owl’s insides were more a mixture of sinews and screws, tissues and sprockets, and hamstrings and springs than the organic type that once nested on Earth. But, it sure did look like the real thing, as far as my untrained eye could tell. It hooted at me, short yelps funneled through a translation device. It said, “Well, you look the paradigm of health.”

I wasn’t sure if that was a sarcastic tone or not. “I suppose I am rather sprightly for a Carrier of this advancement,” I responded.

The Ryūkyū scops AI owl, which I brilliantly nicknamed Ryū, had this way of blinking at me that made me feel unnerved and judged. It was still an alluring, majestic creature, nonetheless. It pecked at the mechanical mouse I had in my hand and sometimes when it lifted its beak, I could see the remnants of metal within, and its curve sometimes unsheathed, not one hundred percent layered in rhamphotheca.

It tsk tsked at my relentless activity.

“Keep that up, and you’ll have me redundant. I don’t want to sit idle. I’m supposed to take care of you. Like, nudge you to drink water, and rustle my feathers into your soft tissues, and relieve your sore spots. You’re going to make me idle. Your posture is supposed to be wonky, and your pelvis pulled forward. But, you walk like the Lunar Princess of the Ages and each step is like the sinuous grace of the irrigation system flowing to life.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of it. The Owl was strange to me, and I did not feel that affection that the Other Carriers spoke of theirs, starry eyed with devoted tones. I poked at it curiously and gave it a pat on the head, which it turned away, almost in indignance. This one was a curmudgeon. It complained about everything. Who knew an Owl could complain about me being too healthy seeming, too capable? My Best Carrier Sibling said it was an aberration. That I should take it back for review. I didn’t want to raise any flags.

The Owls were supposed to be nurturing, supportive. They reflected your own temperament and behavior and were a harbinger of your upcoming bond with your Package. The Owl of my Best Sibling had helped them through the worst nights of their insomnia and brought them synthetic bladders of nourishing hydration. Their Owl had guided them through the implantation of catheter systems for the proper drainage of their excess fluids and sat to warm their swollen feet as if that was the most comfortable place to roost. Mine refused to eat off my hand, disparaged my naming abilities, did not rustle when called, and pecked at me at the most monstrously inappropriate times, which was especially unnerving during my release of human waste discharge when it somehow gained access to my private portal. It griped that it could not find my sore spots, that I had none, and perhaps I was feigning my Carrier position for some relief of duties.

Admittedly, there were times I was incensed and threw the mechanical mouse that it cherished over my shoulder. Ryū didn’t need to eat anyway. It was an AI, wrapped in muscular tissue. If in minor disrepair, it would regenerate on its own, and for anything more than a scratch, it got serviced by the prenatal zoological engineers. The mimicry of feeding was more of a quote sacred soldering rite, a kind of bonding to cement our reliance on one another. But, admittedly, it soldered one thing, resentment of its constant unwanted companionship. It was beautiful to look at, but when it squinted at me, the gaze contained so much scrutiny, as if a judge pronouncing a distasteful verdict.

I was getting fed up. Fed up with its constant tagalong tendencies, irate at its comments.

On the flip side, a very interesting and polar opposite phenomenon occurred. I started to appeal to my Package for help. I wanted someone on my side. I gave my Package a voice, spoke for it, listened for appeals and squeals of laughter and encouraging acknowledgment when I said something witty and caustic to Ryū. I imagined the Package inside me, colluding with me against this foul fowl. The voice was somewhat timid but grew more assured over the days and weeks. “Yes, Carrier, my only Carrier, you were right to call it a brute. It sure is pinning its sharp beak into your soft spots.” Surely, the Package did not truly have a voice. No Package could speak through the fluids and develop the ability to carry sounds to me. Yet, I interpreted the new sensations of quickening, of spasms and tumbles as language. It was exalting! “Do you want to play with the mouse instead of Ryū?” I asked it, and my Package would respond, “Yes, yes, let’s see what tricks it can do today.” I would leave Ryū to grumble and fly about, flapping its wings, soaring above me and stepping on my head to get my attention as I amused myself with its rather intelligently programmed feed. The mouse solved puzzles, and Package and I disassembled my meals and snacks and developed mazes made of chopsticks and chocosticks, French fries and mozzarella strings. I had a Collaborator at last, albeit one who communicated in hazy pulses, tapping and bubbly spurts.

I knew it could have been an overactive imagination assigning meaning where there was none. But, I started to enjoy these sensations, these little tales that my Package regaled to me in spastic physiological commotions. Whether it was real or imagined, I didn’t care, and it bore no difference. Myself, well, I was starting to shift. I saw the change happening, unraveling. I came to really think of myself as Carrier, but not simply Carrier, rather a combination of both Carrier and Package, a true amalgamation with a relationship as entangled as the rhizosphere, an ineffable intertwining of banyan roots and mycelium.

I saw myself grow in proportion, both physically and spiritually, buoyed by the knowledge that I had indeed advanced into a new life-form, into something much more than the sum of its parts. I grew to see myself as a Symbiont, a new expression of my dual identity. A part of a whole, as well as being whole, plural, and singular at once. We spoke in plural pronouns, and we collaborated, congregated, and conspired. A jab to the ribs, a swish in my gut, a sharp wriggle at my bladder. The interpolation of Packages’ gesticulations with my own motionings. The welding of these thoughts, conversant and generative.

Package was witty, I noted, and so was I, in repartee. Package had a lot of thoughts about culture, politics, economics, society, food, and fashion. They did not all agree with me, but they were also a part of me. We chatted about the days getting longer, the famines in the South and the rebellious activities in the Outer Lands. We giggled about newfangled baked goods and the constant rotation of synthesized snacks marketed for Carriers with ridiculous names and even more ridiculous shapes and branded icons, printed, pressed, and sculpted. We chittered like birds, even more so than Ryū, about the new designs in stores on EVA wear, the light-slick shawls that were so in fashion, that supposedly caught and displayed cosmic lights. We had such a good rapport that I’m sure Ryū was jealous. More than once did they ask me what I was jittering on about in my sudden good spirits.

Perhaps that should have been a warning. No other Carrier seemed this wrapped up in the inner workings of the load they conveyed. Yes, they honored their Package, made them comfortable and sometimes spoke a few words of assurance. But, as far as I was aware, they did not engage in a secondary surreptitious world of tête-à-têtes and whispering confidences.

The bulge in me grew. The veins on my epidermis got ever bolder, imprinting me in dark waters, like my blood begging to reach to surface, to cover me in its tendrils. The feelings became stronger, both physical and emotional. The kicks and jabs came in like a boxer gunning for glory. Our conversations, not spoken aloud but carried through our shared wavelength, like satellite transmissions, became more rushed, more nuanced, more complex. Ryū would often intervene, with hoots interpreted to audible words, snapping the seamless cord of conversation that I engaged with Package. Sorry, Ryū, but I began to ignore it.

Strangely, I started to think of the Package as Ryū, but a different kind of Ryū. Not the Ryū or Ryūkyū, but rather, as a homonymic dragon. Owl’s provenance was of a different orthographic character altogether. The designation of dragon felt befitting—Package squirmed in me, with such latent power. Some combination of dragons of diverse backgrounds wrapped up in one stunning figure. Fire breath and wings of flame, but also gliding with power over water. Hot, passionate, and arresting. Buoyant and flowing. We were that together now. That sense of hot, passionate, arresting, buoyant, and flowing was indeed us.

I liked being two. I liked having them in me, our symbiosis so complete. A perfect union of flavors and textures. My reticence and coarseness, their eruption in ardor and blaze. Our combined heat, generating so profusely in our abdomen.

And it became time. The Date of Expectation. They did not want to come out. I did not want them to come out. We were meant to be two. All other Carriers had already gushed with water, mucus plugs discharged, Packages let loose and the paroxysms of crying. Mine would not budge. I was perhaps not so secretly pleased. Stay in there, I whispered.

The technicians prattled about inducing. They strapped me to machines to check their progress. The Package has stopped growing and is ripe, they said. Conditions are perfect. The Date of Expectation had passed, and they were antsy, as if dealing with an overdue checked-out holoscroll. Like the checked-out holoscroll, what did it matter? I always thought these numbers were figments, best guesses. Maybe they were as illusory as digital due dates of borrowed knowledge, never needing to be returned. There were so many other holoscrolls out there. Why should this process be any different?

The Suckling Academies screamed of Conveyed Packages and hydration tubes. We would pass by as we tended to our errands. Yes, I was still active then. We could hear the cries through the windows. The laughter, the whimpering, the begging for Areola Sap, tube-drained and glistening in soft pursed suckles. Owls flown to-and-fro, carrying supplies, picking up waste cloths. Our Owl, Ryū, had been listless, in what appeared to be abject misery, waiting for a role.

We had more to worry about than a despondent Owl. The threats of bodily invasion became less than a figment. They would induce us. They would strap us up to their machines, pump us with pharmaceutical concoctions, and wrench our symbiotic counterpart away. We would be not one again, but half, so much that we thought of us as Us. We did not want to be a fraction. We wanted to be whole, fulfilling, binary, and complete.

We ran away. The Package and I agreed. We agreed. With a series of deft elbowing, they conveyed to me their vexations over the procedure. We would not be separated. We hoarded packs of water and shelf-stable meals. We scurried into Meal Stations, nonchalant and overlooked, swiping fare left and right.

We ran through the hydroponic woods, our abdomen in one hand, knapsack in tow as a sling wrapped around us. Despite the heaviness of our combined weight, we felt giddily light. Our feet were like light kisses on the regolith. And we parried out the branches, dodging and weaving, like adept Dragon Boat shuttle pilots soaring past space debris.

We journeyed to the Remote Area, where noise and phosphorescent light were near-nonexistent, and we marveled at the vastness of an enormous crater before us. We slid down this large crater, planning to camp here, for as long as we needed. We would be together. No more probing, no more tests, not a whisper of separation.

Of course, I did not know at the time, they tracked us down easily. Our footprints and resonant signatures beelining the dark spaces were all as apparent as a shuttle delivery trajectory. We were giddy with escape and with tools far less sophisticated than the institutional tech. How could they miss just one? Just one Carrier with one package? We were a statistical oversight, we had thought. An infinitesimal value that could be dismissed. But, they had not forgotten us, and they would retrieve their assets.

When we first heard the rustle, we thought of escaping to the Celestials. Perhaps they will keep us hidden and safe, we hoped. We knew a few sympathetic folk, who spoke less willingly and less fondly of the Package Production practices. They did so in whispers, and there was talk of them supporting covert operations, ones that defied the orders and sanctity of current posterity management ways.

We tried to scramble up the crater on the other side, away from the end closest to inhabitants, away from the clicking and scratching sounds we knew to be the probes. Was it my imagination, or did I hear hoots? Ryū would not track us down with them, would it? We never felt any kinship with that Owl, but still, always imagined goodwill. We shook our heads. No, it couldn’t be. Not our Owl.

We managed to climb through a rill, so much like the ones on my, our, abdomen skin, like we were journeying through a path that was my, our, tumefied epidermis itself. Though we were haunted by the pursuit, we were excited by the coincidence, the correlation of the rills to the marks that have bloomed on our extended self.

We had dropped half our victuals in our haste, but we did not despair. We had each other and allies to seek out. The sounds of scratching, beeping came upon us, and we hurried faster, the detritus of our refuse an unfortunate trail for the probes to follow. But, what could we do? Hold on to them and have the litter weigh us down? They would rot and the putrefied smell would be on us, even easier to track. Better to bury it and hide, but the probes could still detect them perhaps, sniff them out and track them in their own mechanical fashion.

We were nearly by the outermost signposts that led to the Celestial temple when they caught us. We felt a sticky encumbrance overtake our limbs, causing us to tumble. We protected ourselves, balling up in the fall. Falls are not good for symbionts, we knew. Statistically worrying in their potential cause of inflictions. But, at least the regolith was soft.

We thrashed our limbs, trying to get out. Caught, like space debris in the giant nets, no longer drifting and floating in our orbits, but subject to that of higher power. We resisted, pummeling the strands, using teeth and nails and elbows. For a moment, we saw feathers, but perhaps it was a figment of our stressed imaginations. We continued to flounder, writhe, and squirm, with all our sharp parts extended. I, we, felt like the Package at its most active, clobbering from within, in a chamber of textile. I felt contained.

It was then I worried about something else, not just being seized. Just me, not with the Package. Painfully, I severed my mind from theirs, for a fraction of a moment, becoming a fraction. I worried I had smothered them in my need for duality, for our symbiosis. Was I being selfish? But we wanted to be Us. We had discussed this. But, how much was it an imposition of one with greater experience to one with lesser? But, they were fire and heat, steam and water, a dragon, no less. There was no way I could smother a will of that latency. I conceded, no, we had agreed, as counterparts.

When they brought us to the tables again, to the machines that would drown us in pharmaceutical elixirs and tug at our nether orifices, we were not ready. Our body was not relaxed but taut, strained, and reverberating with tension. We had convulsions. They decided against the extraction probing appendages and opted for the lacerations that would rip me, us, open and heave out Package. We cried. There was no sign of Owl, but its feathers haunted my eyes, projections from a lack of sleep and anxiety. Perhaps they retired it.

When they opened me, us, up, the cavity was empty. Just a chasm, as wide and dark as the crater itself. We saw it through the monitor, which they had threatened to turn off for our intransigence, but someone had perhaps inadvertently left it on as a procedural norm or pity, we didn’t know. But, we felt each other. Despite the look of our offspring chamber being deserted, we knew that inside me, us, we were flourishing. My symbiotic counterpart had whispered to me not to worry, they would camouflage themselves, burrow deep, and hide. They became transformed, blossomed through all the time in cultivation, until they were something altogether more beautiful and different. And cunning. And refused to be harvested.

I, we, do not know how many days we spent with our body in inquisition, subject to examinations and probes. It was an inquest into my, our, anatomy. They at the High Restorative Center expected something perhaps, a carcass. But, the Package had receded away into our depths. They told me not to worry and became almost indetectable, even to me. They burrowed so deep and so profoundly, it was like they integrated into my, our, very veins and fibers, coursing through our shared blood, seeping into our being, sharing our most intimate thoughts.

I heard them again every now and then, soothing, with a voice voluptuous and passionate. The fieriness of their will entangled with my own. We were two, we were one, we were together. We would not concede to conquerors. We would not let them govern over our bodies, we roared. They would not excavate our beloved Package, for our Package had a name, and we had an identity. They would give up, end their probe, and move on. We were one, Symbiont, destined to be physically and affectionately intertwined. We were bigger than them and smarter, a sum greater than its parts.

And when we were finally left alone, not alone as in singular per se, together . . . but at least unattended and pleasantly forsaken by the endeavoring intruders, we heaved a sigh of relief and emitted warmth and an overwhelming sense of catharsis. They would not separate us. We were whole and would remain whole until the end of time. We would leave here, to somewhere where we would be understood. Where we would not be known as aberrations or defectors and would be accepted. Perhaps even past the Wafters, if we had to, into the abyss beyond. Our pulses vibrated in unison, our blood coursed in intense satisfied splendor, as if the rills on our distended abdomen had curved into a knowing smile. But, there was another sensation, one of flight, of feathers raised to glide. It was the tickling of suppressed aviation, with the thrill of lift, skimming the thin atmosphere. One we could never have reached before in our limited terrestrial ties. Perhaps it was an illusory vision, a phantasm of sorts, a hope for escape. No matter, we set that sensation aside, relishing in our oneness. We had much to celebrate. We were filled with blaze and glory, with pinpricks of exploding hurrahs, like the light of stars touching a newly unveiled telescope. We were burgeoning with euphoric bliss. We had won. And no one, unless they wanted to contend with our collective fire- and rainstorm of will, could stop us.

Author profile

D.A. Xiaolin Spires steps into portals and reappears in sites such as Hawai’i, NY, various parts of Asia and elsewhere, with her keyboard appendage attached. Her work appears in publications such as Clarkesworld, Analog, Nature, Terraform, Fireside, Star*Line, Liquid Imagination, and anthologies such as Make Shift, Ride the Star Wind, Sharp and Sugar Tooth, Deep Signal, and Battling in All Her Finery. Select stories can be read in German, Spanish, Vietnamese, Estonian, French and Japanese translation.

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