Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Susannah Mandel’s short story “The Monkey and the Butterfly” is in Shimmer #11. She also has poems in the current issues of Sybil’s Garage, Goblin Fruit, and Peter Parasol.

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

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

Archive for August, 2010

Tournament Season

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

I saw her at the roof-races, her crimson stilt-car ambling along at the middle of the pack. Her name, I didn’t catch, but the winking skull icon on the hood was hard to forget.

I saw it again at the hot-air balloon demolition derby, on the chute she used to bail out amid the aerial apocalypse that took the field from fifty contests to three in moments. She waved, perhaps in my direction.

I met her at last in the undercity after the giant eel slalom. She was dripping into the celebratory champagne, and giddy before her first sip. She’d placed in the top five.

“I’ve seen you,” she said, “in the stands, always with that hat. I’ve taken it as a good luck charm.” She handed me a flute of watery bubbly. “Please keep wearing it.”

I stammered something, but she was swept into the crowd of well-wishers and people who’d won money on her.

It wasn’t a hat. It was a job, a series of hats I was paid to wear, some kind of advertising campaign building through the tournament months. But as long as they looked similar, she’d get her luck, and I’d get my paycheck.

The next hat, the next event went fine. I sat just behind the reviewing stand at the skate-boat regatta–I got a bonus for visibility. The winking skull sloop placed twelfth, enough for a small cash prize–bonuses all round.

But the next was all disasters. I overslept, arrived late, only found a seat in the second mezzanine; the hat wasn’t much like the others, and looked even less like them the way I’d thrown it on; she was eliminated before the first intermission.

“Combat opera,” she said when I found her, alone, backstage, “Easier than it looks. Until you miss a cue.” She smiled behind the icepack. “I’m done.”

“There’s the ornithopter relays,” I said. “The mole-machine rally. Tournament season’s barely begun.”

“No, tonight was it. The launch.”


“The icon,” she said. Then the crowd found her, and I lost her.

Ad world connections told me the winking skull mark auctioned well the next morning. I saw it frequently over the next months, openly on tea packets and fig tins, subliminally in magazine photo shadows.

Next spring, her stilt-car bore a laughing rhino logo and I resolved to keep wearing my motley-lapelled smoking jackets through the season, to see what luck would bring us.


Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Words didn’t fail the last man on earth; the city of machines did. After the gears ground down and clunked their last, he spoke at various consoles, but the machines wouldn’t whir back to life. Nothing but his cerebrometer made even the faintest buzz. Either its battery was failing as well or he was. Each day it dropped a tenth of a percent: 81.2. 81.1, 81.0, 80.9….

That’s when he found books: worlds that were, worlds that weren’t, worlds that could be right now: He built his own generator, wells, crops, pets, even a woman. He walked away from the city of the machines.

Years later, nostalgic, he wheeled in on a chair pushed by his favorite great granddaughter. They sifted through dust layered upon the old machines and the former last man reminisced on how machines walked, talked, thought, rocked babies, and bought cans of delicious goolop for you. They popped an unopened can and tried it: tasted like gritty motor oil. It must have spoiled, the former last man said.

The great granddaughter stumbled across the cerebrometer amid the rusted hulks of machines and shook off the dust. Hers was 140, more than half more than his had read at her age. Must be broken, he muttered. He slipped the leather straps over his head, and his read 120. How can one go higher than 100%, he asked. His great granddaughter pointed to the words, “Intelligence Quotient” and how it was scaled. Oh, he said, I’d thought I was getting a B.

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