Letter From The Editor - Issue 60 - December 2017
Happy holidays from Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show! We've got an issue chok-a-blok with goodies for girls and boys both well-behaved and nefarious. We don't discriminate.
The holidays are a time for families to come together in all their odd shapes and sizes and
celebrate the important things. IGMS is pleased to welcome Allison Mulder back to our pages,
and even more pleased that she brought her own strange little family with her:
When Penelope first answered the knock at the front door--expecting Dad--the monster
didn't bother acting human, let alone maternal.
It rhino-charged into her front hallway, slathering and bellowing, an amalgamation of
every frightful thing Dad had ever woven into his bedtime tales of terror. Gnashing, dripping
fangs, and lashing scorpion tail, and hands that were huge, stubby fusions of paws and lobster
Pen fell back scrambling on the hall floor, and she knew if she kept staring at the
monster, she would wet herself. So instead, she stared over its bulk to all she'd ever known of her
mother: the picture on the wall, framed and lovely like not much else in the house aside from a
few of Dad's writing awards. The woman at the beach, head ducked, hair gleaming, a burnt-gold
curtain between the camera and the sun. As she crab-scuttled away from the door and the
monster, Pen's eyes didn't leave the framed woman's tanned shoulders or the mole on her arm.
"Mom--" she sobbed.
Believe in the magic of the holidays! No message is broadcast more often this time of year than
that simple call to place trust in something that eyes cannot see. Sophie Bird brings us a story
along a similar theme:
I can see it, finally, cradled against his chest: the gossamer outline of my brother Jasper's
glass hand. The flesh of his arm ends at his wrist with a neat tuck of skin, and glass continues the
curve of his palm, sweeping uninterrupted into the curl of his three remaining fingers.
He won't let the nurses near him. I walk him from the hospital ward to reception, and he
hunches forward to shield it, his other hand guarding against stray strands of my hair. The
ghostly shape barely obscures the blue weave of his jumper. Something silver-fluid pulses
I can't bring myself to say anything. So Jas, about that time where we all thought you cut
your own hand off and had you committed? Yeah, sorry about that. We chat about my newly-ex
boyfriend and the funding cuts to my research while the hospital staff finish the paperwork, and I
try not to stare.
"There's not much we can do," the doctor says.
Like many traditional holiday celebrations, Kurt Pankau's "Dry Run" begins in a church with a
rather bored guy who doesn't particularly want to be there. And like many families do this time
of year, the protagonist--a technopsychologist working for the Navy--has to make a trip to visit
some folks he doesn't particularly want to visit:
Eswar listened as the AI recounted the deaths of all forty-three members of its platoon in
detached formal detail--purely formal, in fact, which was unusual if not exactly noteworthy. A
fresh-out-of-the-box BND would probably have attempted a hybrid between formal and
conversational, given the choice, but these were designed to adapt to the preferences of their
At the end of the report, he thanked Brandy for its time and switched back over to
Commodore Bridge's line.
"So what do you think?" she asked.
"Nothing stands out," said Eswar, looking at his watch. "Although I don't know what you
thought I was going to find. The machine seemed contrite over its inability to prevent the loss of
life. Its answers were well within normal parameters. I don't really see a problem."
"The problem is that Keloss Beta was uninhabited," said Commodore Bridge.
No time of year--not even April Fool's day--offers quite as many opportunities for surprise as
do the holidays. Stephen L. Moss's "The Stowaway" offers a few surprises of its own, none of
We were all there, crowded around the door to sick bay, when the stowaway came to.
"Where am I?" he asked with a thick Russian accent. The urge to strangle him came over
me, but I quashed it. The war was over. We were all friends now, right?
"You're safe," Doc Obel told him, though that couldn't be farther from the truth.
"What's your name?"
"Grovnik," he answered. "What ship am I on?"
Obel hesitated, the way docs do when they're about to tell a patient the disease is
terminal, hoping God will strike them down before they have a chance to deliver the bad news.
"There's no easy way to say this," Obel finally said. "You're on the Second Chance, a
Global CDC quarantine ship. Everyone here is infected with influx, a space born pathogen with
no cure. I don't know how you got here, but I'm afraid you can never leave."
How he'd gotten here was by getting himself sealed into our latest food shipment from
the International Space Station. Roberts had found him, zipped up in an emergency enviro-suit,
nearly out of air.
A more direct analogy to our holidays is found in Stewart C. Baker's "Mercy at Eltshan-time."
There are unexpected guests, traditional greetings, talk of family and God, and even special
And so, as ordered, I led my squadron of fire-spitters into the largest of the ships, a
bulbous, segmented, shimmering hulk, which might once have been beautiful. In the swollen
star's light, it looked strange and unnatural.
Inside the ship, we found death, but not the violent, battle-scarred death we had expected.
Short, pale-furred exots with snouts like dogs and multi-jointed arms lay unmoving in every
corridor. They looked almost peaceful, save for their eyes, which--to a one--had burst.
(I must insert, here, a reply to your father's inevitable complaint about the content of this
letter. Your father thinks you too young to know the dangers of planets the Empress's mercy has
not yet pacified. He does not want you scarred, he says, by the threat exot cultures pose to our
peace and our safety.
Your father lives softly. Do not hate him for his fears. But a year from now you will be
old enough to enlist in the Empress's ranks, and if you aspire to command like mine you must
know what we face.)
Our audio offering this month is Caleb Williams's 'Primum Non Nocere' read by Stuart Jaffe.
The holidays are seen as a time of healing, and nothing quite says healing like a surgical robot:
Fire consumes the aircraft. I carry the pilot, mindful of the broken leg, one hundred
twenty meters clear of the debris field and cut them out of their exosuit.
Dull gray eyes, prominent cheekbones, and shaved head. Facial match: 4th Recon
Company, Captain, Renee Tolliver. She's seen better days.
I scan her personal records. Blood type, known allergies, flight history. Two tours of the
circumstellar belt. A veteran pilot. She must have known better than to fly below the tropopause.
Her wide, delirious eyes fix on me. I must appear strange, probes and antennae
protruding from my head. My reflexive polymer weave reconstructs my face into some
nonthreatening ethnic amalgamation. My chest cavity expands and contracts in preset intervals
creating the illusion of eupnea.
And for your after-holiday enjoyment, IGMS's very own jolly elf, Lawrence Schoen, delivers an
interview, a finely aged reprint, and bonus content, all from Julie E. Czerneda.
Scott M. Roberts
Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show