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Current Issue Highlights

 

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March/April 2020

Our March/April 2020 blockbuster novella, “Semper Augustus,” by Nancy Kress is practically a novel. This thrilling tale of the near future takes on complex multi-generation family members, poverty and violence, extreme wealth disparity and revolution, as well as genetics, aliens, and some startling revelations. Don’t miss it!

Nathan Hillstrom’s far-future tale considers the dangers and possibilities of “Opportunity Space”; in “As Long as We Both” Tom Purdom considers the politics of marriage in a future where partners are very long-lived; Mercurio D. Rivera shows us that “Beyond the Tattered Veil of Stars” reality may not be quite as it appears; Derek Künsken explores deep time and space to find out why “Tachyon Hearts Do Not Love”; Garrett Ashley exposes us to some unsettling “Skin”; we’ll find “Rena in the Desert” in new author Lia Swope Mitchell’s story about the barren west; after a disastrous interstellar expedition, Ray Nayler holds out hope that a “Return to the Red Castle” will bring some solace; for James Gunn, the resolution of a couple’s quest to determine if humanity’s sorrows are due to an indifferent universe or a malignant intelligence may be found “In Our Stars”; and “A Summary of Our Neighbor­hood’s Salvation After the Storm” by Jason Sanford is a sometimes tragic and often wry depiction of certain philosophical and earthly mysteries.

Robert Silverberg’s Reflections column jolts us with the galvanizing question: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Popes?”; James Patrick Kelly’s On the Net asks “Who Are You Calling Punk?”; Peter Heck’s On Books says enough with the questions, let’s all read works by Suzanne Palmer, Sarah Pinsker, Chuck Wendig, Cixin Liu, Richard K. Morgan, and others; plus we’ll have an array of poetry and additional features you’re sure to enjoy. Look for our March/April 2020 issue on sale at newsstands on February 19, 2020.

Get your copy now!

Novella

Semper Augustus

by Nancy Kress

The trucks stood in a ragged row in gray October rain. Beyond them a lurid red light blinked on and off: TR CK STOP EAT SHOWER FUEL SLEEP. The girl lumbered into the lot, rain sliding over her huge belly, and smiled sourly. “Trick stop,” she said to no one. Then another pain came and she bent over, gasping.

When the contraction passed, she took tools from her duffel. Bypassing the self-driving vehicles with their e-locks, she chose a large, dented truck with a cab, one transom window, and red letters:

BRENNAN HOUSEHOLD MOVING
The Personal Touch for Long-Distance Moves

Deftly, the girl picked the lock and peered into the truck. Cardboard boxes, furniture covered with cloth pads and roped to the sides of the truck, oversized plastic bags. Some space left, but not enough to pick up another household’s belongings. Grunting, she hauled herself inside and pulled the door closed.

In the dim light from the transom, she broke open a big plastic bag. Her pains were coming faster now. She tossed sofa pillows, knitted throws, and a child’s bedspread on the narrow floor space, pulled off her pants, and lay down. READ MORE

Novelettes

Opportunity Space

by Nathan Hillstrom

Kova floated in darkness. She dragged webbed fingers through the water, settling into the human-standard morphology of her new body. Her limbs hung off her torso like ballast. She hoisted her arms and pivoted, slipping around an unfamiliar center of gravity. Vertigo twisted her core, and she thrashed, directionless.

A hundred tiny feelers found and steadied her. Light seeped in as she established vision. A wall of brown, opaque mucus, centimeters from her nose: a Washe, up close. The alien wheeled her upright with rough, cilia-like feelers, and let go. She’d lobbied the Fiscality for this opportunity, trained for it—and now, an actual Washe floated centimeters away. It had even touched her.

They hung in the center of a water-filled, oblong chamber. Ambient light radiated from mother-of-pearl walls and diffused a halo around the amorphous alien. Kova took a breath to calm herself, cool water flooding her lungs. READ MORE

Poetry

Your Clone Seeks Cardinal Truth

by Robert Frazier

Consumed by metrics, her motto:
An equation for everything
And everything in its equation.

READ MORE

Departments

Guest Editorial: Thoughts on a Definition of Science Fiction

by David D. Levine

One of the perennial arguments in the SF field is “what exactly is science fiction, anyway?” and in particular where the line between SF and fantasy is drawn. When this question comes up around me, my immediate and glib response is, “Have you ever been to Disneyland? There’s a ride there called Dumbo the Flying Elephant—elephants that go around and up and down. There’s another ride called Astro Orbiter—rocketships that go around and up and down. They are the same ride with different paint jobs.” In other words, if you strip away the trappings of the setting, science fiction and fantasy are basically the same thing. But even though it’s a good line, and true in its way, it’s reductionist and insufficient. The real differences between the two genres, in my opinion, are a lot deeper and subtler. READ MORE

 

Reflections: Do Androids Dream of Electric Popes?

by Robert Silverberg

A long time ago I wrote a story called “Good News from the Vatican,” telling of the election of the first robot pope. My friend Terry Carr was starting to assemble material for a new anthology called Universe, and he asked me to do a piece for him. I very quickly obliged with a lighthearted little item that fit neatly into Terry’s first issue. “This is the morning everyone has waited for,” the story begins, “when at last the robot cardinal is to be elected pope. There can no longer be any doubt of the outcome. The conclave has been deadlocked for many days between the obstinate advocates of Cardinal Acciuga of Milan and Cardinal Carciofo of Genoa, and word has gone out that a compromise is in the making. All factions now are agreed on the selection of the robot.”

Someone who speaks Italian might have been able to tell, simply from that first paragraph, that I was not being entirely serious. “Acciuga” is Italian for “anchovy.” “Carciofo” is Italian for “artichoke.” These are, let us say, not exactly common surnames in Italy. READ MORE

 
 
 

On the Net: Who Are You Calling a Punk?

by James Patrick Kelly

origins

Once upon a time the word punk meant something very different from our current usage here in the realms of the fantastic. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, it originally referred to a prostitute. The first citation, from 1575, quotes the lyric from an entry in a volume of Loose & Humorous Songs: “Soe fellowes, if you be drunke, of ffrailtye itt is a sinne, as itt is to keepe a puncke.” By 1698 punk might also have referred to a “boy or young man kept by an older man, a catamite.” These sexual definitions have faded over the centuries; by the late 1900s, a new meaning of punk emerged, one closer to Chandler’s usage in the quote above. To our grandparents, a punk was a worthless or contemptible person, sometime young, sometimes a criminal, almost always a man. When Chandler’s Roger Wade, an alcoholic, self-pitying novelist suffering from writer’s block, confesses his “punkness” to gumshoe Philip Marlowe, he is comparing himself to the lowest of the low, talking about failure and moral collapse. READ MORE

 
 

On Books

by Peter Heck

Palmer’s debut novel—after a noteworthy career in short fiction, including a good number of well-received stories in this magazine—features Fergus Ferguson, a sort of interstellar repo man whose latest job is to recover a stolen spaceship. The ship is in a deep space settlement called Cernee, an isolated group of orbiting habitations connected by a network of cable cars. Ferguson’s job seems simple enough—find the ship, override its security systems, and get it back to its owners. All in a day’s work, right? READ MORE

 

The SF Conventional Calendar

by Erwin S. Strauss

Easter is coming up soon, a big weekend for cons. Norwescon, MiniCon and the UK National Con are long-time traditions on this weekend. I’m considering being at MystiCon or MarsCon; definitely at HELIOsphere. Plan now for social weekends with your favorite SF authors, editors, artists, and fellow fans. For an explanation of our con(vention)s, a sample of SF folksongs, and info on fanzines and clubs... READ MORE

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