Wait for Night

A day laborer hired to clean up a flooded creek outside of Boulder, Colorado uncovers what could be a valuable find—if it doesn’t kill him first.     It was just a day-labor gig. Really, the only reason I’d signed on was because, for insurance reasons, hiring on meant getting fitted for a brand-new pair of lace-up Red Wing boots. It was new policy that summer. Some punk from a few months before had come back and sued the owners for how his right foot had gotten caught up under the tread of a little ditch witch. He’d argued he was going to have a game foot the rest of his life, and that would impact future employment, happiness, his dreams of being a kicker for the Broncos—everything, to the tune of a few hundred thousand dollars. Before anyone else could ease what they considered their least important foot in the way of any of the equipment, it was new boots all around—composite toes, ankle support—and all you had to do to lace those boots on was sign papers that, since your feet were now protected, you and you alone would be legally liable for them. After this story, I’d asked...
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For Every Jack

Humanity has settled space and left Earth to its destruction. Connor and Ines have traveled back to Earth on a preservation project to find the human “jacks” that sacrificed their bodies to prop up the United States’s failing infrastructure. But the jacks hold a secret, one Connor would rather keep hidden than risk the truth being made public.     Connor met Ines first in the shuttle, but they had both been sedated for the drop. He met her properly now in the restored center-city of historic Philadelphia, where the white-painted wood and orange brick of colonial buildings still sparkled with a coat of dead nano from just finished reconstitution. Connor tried to read her from her movement in the liftsuit. She was never still, but it did not seem nervous. Each motion was controlled, testing the limits of the pressure of the exoskeleton, the power of the jets, her own endurance in the unfamiliar gravity. Connor felt awkward in his suit. It was harder to stabilize and drift on the jet boots than in the microgee the suit was meant to mimic, and the pressure of the skeleton on his limbs kept pulling him from his train of thought just...
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Flight

As a girl, Maggie dreamed of joining the Sisters, a group of women who enjoy the status and attention afforded by their beautiful wings. Now, years later, she has wings of her own. But an encounter in the woods forces her to reckon with her past—and the painful price her wings demanded. Content warning for fictional depictions of sexual violence.   Now They are coming out of the woods when Mateo grabs one of Maggie’s wings and tugs, hard. This has long been his way of getting her attention and she has always let him do it, wanting to be a good mother, reminding herself that this is a phase, that he is only five years old, that little boys who do bad things are not destined to become bad men. But now she wheels on him, the force of her movement yanking her wing from his grasp. “No!” she says, and he blinks and reels back. Two women are walking ahead of them with their children. At the sound of her voice, their heads flick back to watch. “You’re a big boy now,” Maggie says, her voice rising. “You can’t touch them anymore.” Out of the corner of her eye,...
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Exile’s End

Exile’s End is a complex, sometimes uncomfortable examination of artifact repatriation and cultural appropriation. An artifact of indescribable and irreplaceable beauty created by an “extinct” culture has been the basis of another culture’s origin stories. The race who created the artifact has survived on a distant world and has sent a representative to reclaim it, throwing everything into question. Inspired by the SF camp in Danzhai, China, which is co-hosted by the Future Administration Authority (FAA) and Wanda Group.                                                                               Let’s sing of the lightbeam journey                                                                           Of the man who was not a man                                                                ...
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The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex

Each of the Empire’s houses keeps secrets, even from themselves. For the bookish academics of the Sixth, every secret is a mystery, and every mystery is a puzzle to be solved or a paper to be published. Deep in the bowels of their house, one such secret is about to reveal itself. The study of the famed academic Donald Sex, sealed since the moment of his death, is about to open, and archivists are ready to dissect what he left behind. They are not ready for the macabre surprise that awaits them. Enter Palamedes Sextus and Camilla Hect, age thirteen.     “I count that as the first time we surprised them,” the Warden said whenever he was reminded of it. He was only a Scholar then. I was thirteen and nine months and he was thirteen and six. Surprised them was right. A gifted thirteen-year-old necromancer in the Library doesn’t muster interest. Every thirteen-year-old necromancer in the Sixth House is gifted. Even the presence of really smart ones is just the system working as designed. But in the Sixth, any necromancer—thirteen or otherwise—who can solve a problem with their own prefrontal cortex and nothing else is going to rouse comment....
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Yellow and the Perception of Reality

“Yellow and the Perception of Reality” by Maureen McHugh is a science fiction story about a woman who delves into the mystery of why and how her twin sister, a physicist, has been brain damaged in a lab accident in which two of her colleagues died.     I wear yellow when I go to see my sister. There’s not a lot of yellow at the rehab facility; it’s all calm blues and neutrals. I like yellow—it looks good on me—but I wear it because Wanda is smart and she’s figured it out. She knows it’s me now when she sees the yellow. The doctors say that Wanda has global perceptual agnosia. Her eyes, her ears, her fingers all work. She sees, in the sense that light enters her eyes. She sees colors, edges, shapes. She can see the color of my eyes and my yellow blouse. She can see edges—which is important. The doctor says to me that knowing where the edge of something is, that’s like a big deal. If you’re looking down the road you know there’s a road and a car and there is an edge between them. That’s how you know the car is not part...
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Everything’s Fine

Eric’s day is off to a rough start: his regional managers are in town, he’s running late to work, the moon seems to be falling apart, and he just can’t seem to get his tie right. At least he has his priorities straight: it’s the little things that matter. The world may be plunging into chaos, the neighborhood children might be mutating into abominations, but that doesn’t mean he can let his standards slip. If he and his co-workers can survive their nightmare walk to the office, then Eric has a plan for success…     Something happened to the surface of the moon while Eric Eldridge struggled to adjust his tie that morning. He was terrified of this, the way the fabric refused to yield to his shaking fingers, the way it alternately came undone with sudden abandon or compacted into a hardened, ugly snarl. Hadn’t he tied a goddam tie before? Granted, he was trying to pull off a Balthus knot, a calculated risk when he had only an hour to get to work. Sebold told him those ostentatious knots were in with the trifecta of regional managers visiting the office this week, hinting this minor change would garner...
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Juice Like Wounds

In the course of every great adventure there are multiple side-quests. All too often these go unreported—perhaps because the adventurers in question fail to return to the main narrative due to death or other distractions, and sometimes because the chronicler of the events decides to edit out that part of that particular history for reasons of their own (historians are never infallible)—but occasionally we get another window into our heroes’ world. In Juice Like Wounds we once again get to meet Lundy, and some of her companions. Lundy’s main adventure is detailed in In an Absent Dream (which is nominated for a Hugo Award, this year!) and you should definitely read that. Before or after this tale is up to you. Remember: Side quests are fun. For the reader, at least…     This is the story of three girls who went into the woods together, and the two girls who came out the other side. I tell you this so that you will know, even from the beginning, that to become overly attached is only to do yourself a profound and primeval harm. Stories are weapons, you see. All stories. Some are swords and some are cudgels, but all of them can hurt you, if...
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The Necessary Arthur

Some days you find out that the world is nothing like what you think it is. An archaeologist named Tamara working near Hadrian’s Wall is approached by a very annoyed-looking, silver-haired woman with an incomprehensible message: The game is moving on, the time has come to play a hand, and Tamara is on point. Time to find the Necessary Arthur and get down to business!     Tamara Tafika often came to the Sheepstones in summer, late in the long evenings, as the sun was sliding down all red into the west. The stone circle wasn’t much, as stone circles went, nothing to rival Stonehenge or Avebury. There were only seven stones in all, and none were actually standing, the most upright of them leaning drunkenly at a sixty degree angle, the others all long since succumbed to the horizontal. The stones weren’t that big either, the largest only five feet long and about two feet wide. They were limestone, brought a great distance in Bronze Age terms. A 1980s study had shown they likely came from western Yorkshire to their resting place here, just north of Hadrian’s Wall. They had been roughly worked to give them some shape, but otherwise...
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The Ones Who Look

Ethical Empire built the gate to heaven, and their employees hold the keys. By offering custom-built afterlives through full-brain uploads, they answered the needs of a society pushed to the brink by climate change and cascading antibiotic failure. But for Zoe, who works daily to assess the sins of users and decide who’s worthy of salvation, heaven is not so simple. Despite the urging of the angels on her shoulder, she is determined to uncover heaven’s secrets, no matter the cost.     Zoe had met Henri at the office. Of course she had. It wasn’t like she went anywhere else. She’d thought Paris would be different than Arlington, Virginia, that she’d get out more, eat fabulous meals and meet fabulous people. But it was the same life against a different backdrop. She still spent most of her time hunched before a screen, combing through the sordid details of other people’s lives and tallying points to enter into the endless Ethical Empire database. When she got out of work, half the places in her neighborhood were already closed. She usually ended up swiping snacks from the office for dinner because she didn’t want to cook, and then going home to watch...
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The Night Soil Salvagers

The Night Soil Salvagers no longer need to perform the service they have provided for longer than memory can account for. Instead, they pass the nights in playful and profound acts of artistry, music, trickery, gardening, and honoring the city they know and belong to more so than anyone. Uncover the heart of this mysterious community through the tales they tell each other, the tales that others tell of them, and the scores of their Dadaesque nocturnes, as they strive to lessen the burden of the city on the Earth.     The Night Soil Salvagers spend little time these days attending to their ancient calling. Sixty percent of the city is now connected to the sewer system, and public privies provide for a fair portion of the rest. The Salvagers can visit the remaining households, those of the low slums and the great estates, in no more than a third of the night’s hours. Some of the night’s remaining hours are spent gathering other types of waste: food scraps and food to be scrapped, the street leavings of horse and dog, the ceaseless shower of detritus the city sheds that can be put to use elsewhere and otherwise. And as...
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Two Truths and a Lie

Stella thought she’d made up a lie on the spot, asking her childhood friend if he remembered the strange public broadcast TV show with the unsettling host she and all the neighborhood kids appeared on years ago. But he does remember. And so does her mom. Why doesn’t Stella? The more she investigates the show and the grip it has on her hometown, the eerier the mystery grows.     In his last years, Marco’s older brother Denny had become one of those people whose possessions swallowed them entirely. The kind they made documentaries about, the kind people staged interventions for, the kind people made excuses not to visit, and who stopped going out, and who were spoken of in sighs and silences. Those were the things Stella thought about after Denny died, and those were the reasons why, after eyeing the four other people at the funeral, she offered to help Marco clean out the house. “Are you sure?” Marco asked. “You barely even knew him. It’s been thirty years since you saw him last.” Marco’s husband, Justin, elbowed Marco in the ribs. “Take her up on it. I’ve got to get home tomorrow and you could use help.” “I don’t mind....
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We’re Here, We’re Here

Joining a boyband gave Tyler everything he ever dreamed of. A close-knit group of friends, the chance to model a beautiful masculinity, and a vocal implant that lets him sing even better than he did before transitioning. But deep on tour, Tyler realizes he wants more from one of his bandmates, yearns for a love that would never fit the image that has been carefully crafted for him. His manager wants him to be the heartthrob: available, wholesome, and pure. And since his manager gave Tyler his voice, he can always take it away again.   Jeff opens the app on his phone while we warm up. While we run through scales and diction exercises and harmonies. While we breathe in—two, three—out—two, three. While four voices unite to become one, each a band in a rainbow of sound. While Jeff adjusts the timbre of my voice. It didn’t always sound like this. That’s part of why I auditioned for Back 2 Back—for the vocal implant. A chance to sing like I used to before my vocal chords thickened. I wanted my range back, wanted the soaring feeling of a note held against the swell of harmony. I clear my throat. “Sounds...
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The Tourist

A young academic has been granted permission to travel to a mining outpost on a small planetoid far from the sun to study the culture of a small squatter population that lives in total darkness.     “It is a simple prescription. Avoid the darkness. It is a simple prescription, but you will not follow it.” – Loren Eiseley   The company pounder jostled down a long tunnel in the bowels of the rock. Its eight legs drummed a steady rhythm that Chocky felt in his bones. When the tunnel curved, and the pounder changed direction, the bodies inside it kept moving. Thing called momentum. Chocky didn’t know how many there were. The pounder could hold two tons of ore; instead it was full of people. Those on the outside of the huddle slammed up against riveted walls, caked with frost from their breathing, so cold that skin stuck to it and got pulled off in strips when yanked away. The ones who touched the walls fought their way inward desperately, biting and clawing and kicking toward the warm center of the huddle. Those nearer the center clawed back. Chocky fought savagely, thinking he could feel himself dying but never really...
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