Letter From The Editor - Issue 62 - April 2018
Spring has broken out (at last!) across the northern hemisphere of this little blue marble. In my
neck of the woods, that means cherry and pear trees are blossoming, and for a brief month or so,
Washington DC becomes a picturesque and stately city. It's easy to forget, walking around on a
cool April morning, about the impending DOOM that every talking head assures us is coming
soon if society, as a conglomerate body doesn't vote right, believe right, and buy the right brand
of washing powder.
At the Intergalactic Medicine Show, we have cherry-and-pear-blossom hopes, too. We hope, for
example, that as you peruse our collection of stories that you either forget your troubles for a
moment or find strength to squash them beneath your heel. We are not particular about which
path you feel inspired to walk--or slither--upon. Perhaps you are the doom the world needs, and
the stories we offer will ease your conscience as you set about making an end to the corrupt and
frail institutions we previously treasured.
Maybe, though, you're heroic. Let's go with that.
Our lead story, "Failing Constructs," comes from Alter Reiss, featuring a hero, of sorts,
investigating a conspiracy.
Everything about Tenth Division Street--the awnings, the posters
plastered on posters plastered on crumbling walls, the bars on the shop windows,
the barrels of fish and clams and pickled beets--looked the way it should. But
without the crowds, it was the corpse of a street, and like any corpse, it looked the
same as the living thing, but different and wrong. Like any corpse, Vozsi didn't
want to see it. Tenth Division Street looked like it had right after the Dissolution,
when the generals had declared martial law in Marakov, and tried to take the
Ville Meriläinen, in "Pindaughter's Grove," features some folks who believe they're heroes.
Snow sifted down as the last rays of red bled away from the treetops. Our
guides had insisted we walk without torches until night was upon us in
full, and shivers of relief overcame me when they struck flames to bring
our small group out of shadows. Having light with us felt warmer than all
my furs and the thick gloves the vicar had bought me.
From the corner of her eye, the Pinedaughter observed me with an
amused look. I turned away from her, fixed my gaze on the elk-made path
of trampled moss at my feet. She made the strange sound I'd come to take
as suppressed laughter, a kind of low hum deep in her chest that made the
guides shift with discomfort and the vicar glower at her.
"Scared of the dark, fishwife?" the Pinedaughter asked. She'd given me
the nickname during our voyage from England, when I was the only one
who didn't get seasick.
"Of the northern dark," I replied, without turning. "It's much too deep.
Cold and bitter."
Her hum overflowed into laughter. "This wood, it is my home. You
have no need to fear it. You are my guest. The others, though . . ."
"Be quiet, demon," the vicar said. "And you too, Constance. If it won't
stay silent otherwise, gag it again."
IGMS is pleased to once again host Marie Vibbert, this time with a tale about robots who are not
learning heroism, so much as they are learning to be human.
All robot logic is alike. Every human's logic is logic in its own way.
I was the newest of Frida's creations. The only one of my siblings "at
home" was Irving, who had been returned due to error. It was good having Irv
around, because Frida rarely had use for me. I'd missed her attention since the day
she'd patted my ceramic cheek and said, "I think you're done."
Like myself, Irv was smaller than an adult human, with stylized, child-like
features. He looked delicate perched on the table in the repair lab. The table was
rough-hewn wood with fat goblet-shaped legs. The lab had once been a dining
room and the faux-gothic decor was an artifact of that more domestic use.
Irv hugged himself. "I'm not crazy."
"I don't think you are." I patted his arm. "You passed all the tests. I think
your owners just didn't like you talking to yourself."
It would take a heroic effort "For a Rich Man to Enter" the kingdom of heaven, the scripture
says. The implication that it is impossible to maintain one's grasp on the worldly while also
trying to hold to the divine, is common to most of the religions I'm aware of. Susan Forest
examines those efforts--albeit from a political and technological standpoint, rather than a
theological one--in her short science fiction piece:
One of the medics lifted her head from her handheld. "It's his back this
time, Mandira." The medic returned to Ahbed's stretcher. "Ahbed, face it. You're
going to have to let Christine supervise this project."
"I'm an Earthling. Need to pull my weight."
"Not for a while, you don't," the medic said. "Check with the doctor, but
I'm guessing you're going to be off work for a few weeks this time."
"This is your third fracture, Ahbed," Mandira reminded him.
Ahbed's smile dampened. "Hell. Damned Earthlings, eh?"
"Ahbed--" Mandira warned.
"Kind of makes you wish you hadn't kept us after the war."
The tone was neutral but the words stung. "Mercurians don't discard you
because you can't clean a septic tank." An idea popped into her head. "How about
I put it in your native language: I don't want you using up hospital resources."
He laughed and the winced. "Now you make sense."
Josh Ogden, in his speculative fiction debut, features an observer and a child. Both have heroic
dreams of "The Stars Beneath the Leaves."
Whether the soul of the Robot was the Earth or merely a consequence of
seeing the beauty she carried, the Robot didn't know. But the fact that he had one,
in some way because of her and her beauty, made him love her and made him
filled with near complete joy.
The Robot watched in floating serenity. It truly is beautiful, he thought
Then the sun broke its way through the Earth, taking her neck between its
infected jaws and twisting violently, and she was all gone in a moment, in less
time than should have ever been allowed.
Only I am beautiful now, thought the Robot. The memories he held of
beautiful things were all that was left of the soul of the Earth.
Our last original story features neither heroism nor dreams--unless the dream of a good customer
service experience is heroic. Alex Shvartsman tells us a truly fantastical tale of a "Customer
Service Support Ticket at All-American Wizardry Supply and Custom Floor Mat Emporium."
Dear Emporium Customer Service,
The other week I stumbled upon a magic e-shop and ordered a little
enchanted gazebo for my garden which was supposed to help my flowers grow
better. Turns out it's cursed instead. The gazebo howls at night and occasionally
tries to eat people. Also, my petunias are wilting. When I tried to return the
gazebo, the e-shop's website was no longer there.
That singing hippogriff in your commercials always claims there's no
magical problem you can't fix. Please help!
Finally, I'm saddened to announce that after multiple years of heroically interviewing stellar authors and
collecting their reprints for us, Lawrence Schoen has departed from IGMS in order to focus on his own
writing. We hope the best for you, Lawrence, and REALLY hope to see some Barsk or Amazing Conroy
shorts in our editorial queue.
To that end, our editorial staff has some advice for everyone who attempts the hurdle of being published
at IGMS. Take a peek at my interview with them to find out what they're each looking for. Chances are
excellent that if they like a story, I'll like it too.
And don't miss our Vintage Fiction--this time from Eric James Stone!
Scott M. Roberts
Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show