Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Sara Genge’s story “Godtouched” may be found in Strange Horizons.

Kat Beyer’s Cabal story “A Change In Government” has been nominated for a BSFA award for best short fiction.

Trent Walters, poetry editor at A&A, has a chapbook, Learning the Ropes, from Morpo Press.

Archive for November, 2009

Fragments of a Distant Future

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

The Coelacanth Coat
A coat of coelacanth skin, royal blue with milky patches. Vat-grown to order and seamless. Lost tech out of the lost time. The fit always reminded Aurelia the coat was tailored for someone centuries dead: shoulders loose, waist tight, arms a little long.

When she got it, she emptied the pockets, kept the contents in a box in a desk drawer.

Take things there to recharge. Leave them overnight. Come back.

Lingering’s said to be unhealthy. There’s a shivering you feel in the air, and you can tell it’s coming from outside you, not inside.

They’re big, multitiered platforms like circular parking garages.

Drive your car in on the pad of the lowest level or climb the stairs in the central column to charge smaller objects on the upper levels. Set them on the concrete, or on the wooden shelves that seem to decay too quickly. No metal shelves, and you’ll want to leave coins and belt buckles outside.

What Was in the Coat Pockets
Coins with geometric designs, a scrap of scarlet paper. A metal cylinder, the segments of which could be twisted so that the lines etched on it connected in different ways. It didn’t do anything else.

The Powerhouse at the Foot of the Mountain
Powerhouses nearer to the reinhabited cities had managers and waiting lists; this one had nothing but a few pilgrims and the occasional curious visitor. So the Walking City stopped there twice a year to unload its powercells and recharge.

The first years after she came to the future, Aurelia travelled with the Walking City. One time they stopped there, she climbed the spiral stair to the top floor and left that metal cylinder on a shelf between a straylight mirror and a couple of moon keys.

Powerhouse By Night
She reconsidered, went back just after sunset.

Her fillings tingled. The ring she’d forgotten to remove ached. The night spooky with all the charging objects glowing. A sound like rushing wind, but the air utterly still.

Her coat’s scales were dull dead brown.

The metal tube was now a telescope that showed a world that didn’t exist anymore, a world of crystal towers and floating bubblecars. The future that had come and gone while she’d been in suspension. Looking through, she felt a sort of sunset sadness.

She gave it to a friend, someone future-born. He loved it.

The Magic Black Belt

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Dana Yamamoto was the worst martial artist in school. When she first stepped on the mat, Mirabelle Hayes jeered, “Are you dead?”

Dana didn’t challenge her to a duel. She just blushed and hunched.

“She means you’ve got your gi on backwards,” Samantha MacKinnon said.  “Left side over right. You put the right side over the left on a dead person.”

Nobody told her that at least one girl a year stepped on the mat dressed as a dead person.

She drove her sparring partners wild, the way her hands shook like the Mars lander.

The day she tore her gi pants for the sixth time, Hepplewater Sensei followed her into the dressing room. She settled across from Dana, who sat mending the gusset with Mars lander hands.

“Must be hard, being the daughter of a general,” said Sensei.

“Yes, Sensei.”

“She expects a great deal of you, I imagine.”

“Yes, Sensei.”

“And what do you want?”

Dana looked up.

“I w-want to be the best student in the school,” she blurted out. “And,” she added, shocking herself further, “I want to th-throw Mirabelle Hayes all the way across the mat.”

“Hurt her, you mean?” Sensei Hepplewater asked.

“No. Just throw her.”

Sensei nodded. Dana thought to herself, this is where Sensei decides to train me in secret, or gives me a magic black belt. Or sends me on a quest to a distant mountain, so I come back able to fight off six attackers and fly over the roofs. She waited.

“You can be the best student in the school, though what that means may change for you. And you can throw Hayes all the way across without hurting her. But you must do one thing.”

“What?” Dana’s hands shook even more than usual.

“Keep training.”

Hepplewater Sensei left the dressing room. Dana stitched and cried, and left an hour later. She lay awake all night thinking and crying, so that the next day she arrived so tired that she broke her wrist taking falls, and had to sit on the bench for three months.

“Do I have to watch class every day, Sensei?” she pleaded.

“Yes,” replied Hepplewater Sensei.

She sat and watched, every day. When she returned to the mat, she threw Samantha MacKinnon halfway across it.

“Your hands don’t shake anymore,” accused Mirabelle Hayes as she came in for the attack.

“Th-they don’t,” agreed Dana.

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