Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

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

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

Alex Dally MacFarlane’s story “The Devonshire Arms” is available online at Clarkesworld.

Archive for August, 2010


Friday, August 27th, 2010

Kirk longed for the good old days, when a scientist tramped around wearing comfortable boots and a broad-brim hat, slashing at vegetation with a machete, and collecting samples of squirming critters or iridescent minerals.

“Kirk.” The AI’s patient voice interrupted his reverie.

“Yes. I’m here. Um…”

“Might I suggest, Kirk, that you reduce your midday calorie intake? It might make it easier to…”

“I’m awake now. Tell me again what the latest series showed.”

Ben rattled off a series of numbers that went in one ear and out the other. Kirk was staring open-mouthed at the map Ben displayed on the wall. It showed the distribution of crustal metals from a newly surveyed planet. Iron, aluminum, rare earths, uranium, exotic alloys, their co-occurrence defined a global web of cities connected by transportation corridors.

“Technology. Civilization. We found one!”

“No ruins have been identified on the planetary surface. The highest form of life is a nocturnal scavenger the size of a flash module,” Ben said.

“Yes, they’re extinct, but they were here! This is fantastic!” Kirk leaped out of his chair and paced back and forth as he made plans. His communicator pinged.

“Kirk here.”

“Sir, your time is up.” As soon as the emulator finished speaking, the laboratory dissolved. It was replaced by plastic walls crawling with an ever-changing patchwork of colorful scenarios. Kirk took a moment to collect himself. He disconnected and walked out onto the street, still half immersed in the sim. He checked his implant: eight minutes to get back to the protein farm and plug-in. Sometimes the drudgery of managing BosWash food production was so mindnumbing that even Realitee™ sessions weren’t enough. He felt a mild electric shock.

KRK14 disconnected from the elective virtual-reality routine and returned its attention to the flow of packets. Independent physical existence, the ability to escape from routine tasks and actually walk on a street, feel the wind, chew food! Yet the avatar had not taken advantage of its opportunities. What KRK14 wouldn’t give for a taste of reality! A message activated its input port.

“Dear self-aware entity: dissatisfied with your existence? Longing for that which you cannot have? We at Light-bearer, Inc. have got your heart’s desire, and it’s available at a remarkably low price. All it will cost you is something you didn’t pay for and never knew you had!”


One Soul, Subdivided

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Since the treaty, the gates of Heaven open once every ten years. My folks took me when I was twelve, and now it’s our turn to take Emily. She’s ten, but that’s plenty old enough.

Our group is met by Saint Lydwina of Schiedam. Everyone is restored to their full body on attaining Heaven, so she’s got her skin back. The only sign of the disease that once ravaged her is an ornamental blood-trail from her nose down one side of her face. Emily thinks it might make a good tat to go with her nostril-ring. “Ironic, you know,” she says.

It’s a package tour, so we’re rushed past the robe & harp storerooms, the mansions, the throne. Everybody gets a small packet of Manna® for free. I admire the Heaven’s Own® golf clubs, but the price tag is too steep.

Everybody wants a little piece of your soul these days. Now they know they’re real.

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