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"The Weight of the Sunrise" by Vylar Kaftan for Best Novella
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Four moons dotted the distant horizon, pale ghosts half-lost in shadow and framed on either side by Cjoi’s heavy black boots propped up against the observation glass. She slouched in her chair, mute earpiece dangling at the base of her neck, her eyes and attention on the gas giant below. Ammonia clouds seethed and spun endless bright rivers of gold across its radiant face, deadly and compelling. Her dive-sphere was rolled toward the oncoming night, engines in stand-by, no interior lights except the tiny blips of critical systems to break the spell.

If she dared close her eyes, she knew the planet would still be there. She had no doubt it would be the last thing she ever saw; it was just a matter of when. Not today, she told herself. Tomorrow is a possibility.

She laughed, a hollow sound; from orbit, tomorrow was as near or as far as she wanted or dared. Assuming she didn’t get caught, of course. The unspoiled view wasn’t the only reason for running dark.

Somewhere out there, Helise was watching.

 

They’d met, each surprised and uncertain to see the other, on the viewing platform of the Protectorate orbital station. Helise stood straight and tall, standing out against the backdrop of motley, milling tourists in her crisp white uniform. Cjoi spotted her first, and froze in the crowd as those too-bright eyes swept slowly over the meaningless people to be stopped, startled, by a too-familiar face.

“Kinni-inhass,” Helise had said. Little flyer. “You’ve hardly changed.”

I tried, Cjoi did not say. Instead, they clasped arms and embraced, old friends, lovers once. “You stayed,” she said.
“And you returned,” Helise answered. “I never thought you would.”

“Neither did I,” she said. Need was an unbearable master.

 

She kept her sphere in the updraft of a high-pressure band, trailing just outside the uneasy junction between dusk and night. The blinding glare of the sun was behind her, ripping through the clouds below. Tiny traces of green and brown stained the edges of the upwell, the light catching, here and there, in the faint diamond sparkle that had earned Pahlati the nickname Shining Giant.

When she’d first been brought here aboard the Ama, the glimmer had been a glare, like stars themselves were being born in the planet’s toxic halo. How could it have dimmed, while that day was still seared, permanent and bright, across all the fields of her mind?

“Do you know me?” she asked the planet below her feet. It didn’t answer, its churning face a vast, inscrutable mask. If planets had a memory, it would.

 

“Dinner,” Helise had said, not really a question so much as an assumption. It was easy to say yes; with food to fill the space between them, other things might be less obvious.

Cjoi didn’t have anything to wear, beyond the clothes on her back, that wasn’t meant for space. Black tank top, black pants that had been cut to de-emphasize her thick, muscular build, black boots that gave her extra height to hide from the world that she’d been “grown small.” She’d given up caring enough to hide her skin, saw it as a defiance. Helise hadn’t flinched, hadn’t cared, all those years ago; at this moment, Cjoi despised her for it, for being here now.

There was a café on the upper decks of the station, the ceiling a dome of thick xglass that was all that lay between the chattering people poking at their desserts with shining forks, and a short, sharp death. . . .

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Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine: 30th Anniversary Anthology

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"A truly extraordinary sampler of tales.... Every piece in this superlative collection is a nugget of pure science fiction gold."

-Publishers Weekly, starred review

This anniversary anthology presented in chronological order showcases 30 years of excellent stories published in the legendary magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction. Asimov’s Science Fiction was founded in 1977. As one of science fiction’s most influential and prolific writers, Isaac Asimov wanted to provide a home for new SF writers—a new magazine for young writers could break into. Asimov’s Science Fiction remains that home, as well as the publisher of some of the field’s best known authors.

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