Posts Tagged ‘free fiction’

NASA recently released the Artemis II roster for the next crewed lunar mission. As one article put it, “this is not your grandfather’s moon mission” and that’s a good thing. The crew is 25% female, 25% African American, and even (gasp!) 25% Canadian! (Think you too have what it takes? Here’s a link to get started: Astronaut Selection Program | NASA. Good luck!)

Why go to space? There are a lot of potential answers. Given the complex, diverse and fascinating future of exploration, here’s a collection of stories and essays that address this very question.

Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities: A Collection of Space Futures from ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination

Stories by: Madeline Ashby, Steven Barnes, Eileen Gunn, Ramez Naam, Carter Scholz, Karl Schroeder, Vandana Singh

Essays by: Jim Bell, Lawrence Dritsas, Linda T. Elkins-Tanton, Emma Frow, Roland Lehoucq, Andrew D. Maynard, Clark A. Miller, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Steve Ruff, William K. Storey, Sara Imari Walker, G. Pascal Zachary

Interview with: Kim Stanley Robinson

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Photo by Armand Khoury on Unsplash

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I found this short in a digital pile of old draft material. If I remember correctly, it was written after seeing a documentary on nature in cities, and the problems that can cause for people and especially animals. 

So I won’t lie, it’s a little bit of a downer (unless you are an alien? If so, maybe try talking before breaking out the ray guns?). But there is much more to humanity than the negative, and (oddly) capturing some of the not-great like this helps me remember what’s good.

And since it’s the Ides of March, a day to remember that not everything in life is trustworthy, the theme of this story could also apply to AI.

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You and Yours

I came from the stars to meet you. I was happy. Excited, even. First contact with your verdant world. Think of all that we could share with you.

“You” could have meant a lot of things. I started with the most populous. An insect.

I remember little of what it was like, a flash of light, a warm wriggle in a puddle after rain. The feel of wind in my wings.

It’s embarrassing to say this now, but I was promptly eaten.

I was a spider next, all cool calculation and advanced engineering. A small corner of a log, beaten down by storm and time, dark with possibilities. I lasted longer there. Ate my former fellow insects and waited, and watched. 

A bird came next. Such wondrous flight! I could barely remember what it was to crawl on the ground. I wasn’t as happy, though, too busy searching for more of my kind, for clean water and air, for food that didn’t come in a take-out container. What is it about those golden arches that you like so much, anyway?

The weather turned, and I lost a step. Two, if you count both feet, and I do because the cat got them both along with all the rest of me. Stealth, fear, and longing. The shivers began then, side effects of the sickness building up inside me. Without my equipment I couldn’t tell you the cause, but I felt it deep inside. 

The coyote came next, hungry for an earlier time and a better place. I made do with city food, crippled squirrels and bird’s eggs, mice and the occasional half-eaten burger.

It was a hard life, hemmed in by development, but I found someone, as one does. I built a den, raised a family and was almost ready to send them out into the world when you came.

Too much wild near their streets, they said. As if they hadn’t put those streets into the wild in the first place.

I escaped, but my kits did not. Now the twisting in my gut was more than sickness, more than an accumulation of multiple lives. 

I waited. I watched. And now I am the officer who shot my kits rather than wait for animal control.

I no longer remember the happiness I felt when I began this journey, this introduction to you and yours. 

All I feel now is sorrow, and an aching need for my people to collect me and my data. They will be able to cure the accumulated poisons but they cannot give me back what I’ve lost. Optimism and hope have been replaced by something darker, something sharp and selfish and hard.  

We came to meet you, to understand, in the most fundamental ways, who and how you are. We are mirrors. We observe you, absorb what’s yours. Reflect it with intention until we achieve comprehension. 

Then we introduce you to me and mine. 

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Photo by Robby McCullough on Unsplash

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Jessie Mihalik, author of several series I enjoy, is putting out a short new serial called Books & Broadswords. As she says, “It’s strictly just for fun. :)”

Here’s the link to Chapter 1

I set the royal mark on the counter, and the merchant’s eyes glowed, first with greed, then regret. “I can’t make change for that,” he murmured, his gaze on the gold coin. “You’ll need to go to the bank.”

“I don’t want change,” I replied quietly, trying to keep the barely contained excitement out of my voice. “I want books.”

Well, that seems like a fine start. Follow along online, and enjoy!

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Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

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I am pleased to announce that the new edition of Polar Borealis is out, and it includes “A Needle Pulling Thread.”

I wrote the story in 2018 but the themes of humanity and hope still strike a chord. My thanks to editor R. Graeme Cameron, who remains dedicated to furthering the cause of Canadian speculative fiction, and congratulations to all those in the issue.

Find the free PDF online:

POLAR BOREALIS #24 – February 2023

Poems by Roxanne Barbour, Rodolfo Boskovic, Carlyn Clink, Robert Dawson, Catherine Girczyc, Jim Smith, Richard Stevenson, and Dean Wirth. 

Stories by Warren Brown, Victoria K. Martin, J.R. Johnson (hey, that’s me), Cathy Smith, Rhea E. Rose, Jacqueline Thorpe, Gerald L. Truscott, and David Wiseman.

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Photo by Santoshi Guruju on Unsplash

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For today’s bit of fun, here’s a Nature‘s Futures story by Marissa Lingen: So your grandmother is a starship now- a quick guide for the bewildered.

Your grandmother is becoming a starship! She has gone through many phases in her life already — infant, child, teenager, young adult, student, worker, in many cases spouse, parent, retiree. She has had hobbies like knitting, volleyball and carbon mitigation. She has travelled in planetary atmosphere whenever her circumstances allowed. Now she is uploading her consciousness into a starship! The circle of life is beautiful.

I am now going to imagine that my grandmother is a spaceship.

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Photo by Shyam on Unsplash

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Tuesdays don’t have to be all bad. You may remember I mentioned a call for optimistic fiction about our climate future. Here is the resulting free collection.

Imagine 2200: The 2022 climate fiction collection | Fix

This year’s three winners and nine finalists bring new perspectives to the vital genre of climate fiction, with short stories that offer visions of abundance, adaptation, reform, and hope. Join us in celebrating an uprising of imagination with 12 stirring, surprising, and expansive looks at a future built on sustainability, inclusivity, and justice.

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Photo by Davide Cantelli on Unsplash

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I tested out yet another version of my tofu pudding recipe, hazelnut chocolate this time. It’s a little sweet, but I may try layering it with passionfruit whipped cream and see what that’s like. Because half the fun is in the making.

Ok, maybe not half. But it is fun.

In honor of the connection between food, experimentation and the evolution of humanity (by humans or… not), check out this short story by CB Droege in Nature.

Alfie’s ice cream
It was almost time. After months of calibration and fine tuning. After dozens of years of research, theory, testing and production. After centuries of anticipation and dreaming. The SCS Alfred Nobel, Alfie as he called himself, was finally going to try some ice cream.

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Photo by Andres Molina on Unsplash

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While chatting with my father about a sci-fi book he’s reading, I remembered this short bit of free fiction from John Scalzi. Now I share it with you, too.

When the Yogurt Took Over: A Short Story | Whatever

When the yogurt took over, we all made the same jokes – “Finally, our rulers will have culture,” “Our society has curdled,” “Our government is now the cream of the crop,” and so on. But when we weren’t laughing about the absurdity of it all, we looked into each others’ eyes with the same unasked question – how did we ever get to the point where we were, in fact, ruled by a dairy product?


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Photo by Mae Mu on Unsplash

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It’s a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon and (full transparency here) I find myself sorely lacking in motivation. Since we’ve had a mini “aliens on Earth” theme this week, let’s round it out with a short story from Fireside

The Tourist by Em Liu

He goes to Earth alone.

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Photo by Chris Ried on Unsplash

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What do you know, some people actually did read Playboy for the articles!

Read 10 of the Best Stories Ever Published in Playboy ‹ Literary Hub

…while Hefner was indeed a man who collected and commodified women and called it “feminism,” it doesn’t change the fact that the joke about reading Playboy for the articles isn’t really a joke. The magazine has published some fantastic interviews, essays, and—most importantly for our purposes here—fiction over the years, the latter thanks in part to expert fiction editor Alice K. Turner…

Since its inception, Playboy has published work by Vladimir Nabokov, James Baldwin, Shirley Jackson, Nadine Gordimer, Doris Lessing, John Updike, John Cheever, P. G. Wodehouse, Arthur C. Clarke, John Irving, Roald Dahl, Frank Herbert, Stephen King, Norman Mailer, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip K. Dick, Ray Bradbury, Annie Proulx, and many other greats.

Almost all of the stories on this list are available to read online (via sites that will not get you in trouble at work, bonus). So enjoy the classic fiction, folks, while appreciating the venues we now have for sci-fi and other fiction.

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Photo by Bernd Klutsch on Unsplash

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