Letter From The Editor - Issue 66 - December 2018
Happy holidays, everyone! I find myself anticipating this year's festivities a bit more than usual, as
my oldest two children wing home from college to take up residence with us for a little bit before
flying back to their studies. Parenting! You spend so long prepping your kids to get out, to fly off,
to have their own adventures; you live (essentially) for their independence and self-hood. Then
when that job is accomplished all you can think about is getting them back.
Well, that's how I am.
Wherever, whatever you celebrate this time of year, we hope these "scary ghost stories and tales
of . . . glory" find you well, working hard, and having the time of your life.
Stephen Case's "Occultation of the Bright Aspects" is a genre-bending story of stealth,
assassination, and parental relationships. Just in time for Christmas.
I saw the room where the computers were burned. They were all from
the village, mostly women. The chamber had not been cleaned, and
there were bones among the ashes and scraps of parchment. Whatever
they had been calculating, none would pass on the knowledge to
The sisters wanted me to see. They wanted to see my reaction, to test
the effectiveness of my training. I did not care. Let them see my tears.
I had known these women. My training was not written on my face
anyway. It lived in my arms.
"Do you know what they computed?" I was asked.
I wiped my cheeks but kept my voice even. "Celestial positions. The
dance of planets and Aspects."
"And do you know what they found?"
I turned to face them. My sisters' thick dark robes were dyed illegal
shades of blue and purple and matched my own.
"They found whatever it was Mother was seeking," I said. "She will
tell me what I need to know."
In my part of the world (outside Washington D.C., USA, North America, western hemisphere,
Earth, Sol System, Milky Way Galaxy, the Universe, the mind of God . . .) things are pretty
brown at this time of year, much like Filip Wiltgren's garden in "To Tend a Garden". Winter will
eventually give way to spring, and the world will be green and new again (rather than brown and
damp). Wiltgren's garden has no such natural cycle; the price for fecundity is staggering but must
The garden is a wasteland, mounds of rock-strewn sand so dry it
flows around my toes as I walk through it. The few thorny stumps that
prickle the yellow earth are all dried gray. The garden is desolate, but
not dead. If it was dead it wouldn't exist.
So I sink to my knees and shove my hand into the sandy earth. I
remember the roses in bloom, whites, reds, yellows, purples veined in
indigo. And the spices. The whole garden smelled of coriander, thyme,
saffron, and always a hint of spearmint. There must be life here
somewhere. There must. I pick a small mound and start digging.
The sun hangs overhead, its heat pounding me, but I keep digging. My
hands are soon ruined, the tips of my fingers leaving trails of blood in
The damage doesn't matter, nor the pain. I will be well as soon as I
wake up. If only I could find whatever it is that remains alive here. As
long as there is life in the earth, I can restore the garden. I can bring
it back. I can make it a place of healing again.
Steven Pantazis's sci-fi action novella, "God of War," continues in this issue, with the Potterville
band of human survivors getting a new weapon that may turn the tide in the war with the
machines. Prepare yourselves for tense, fast-moving, apocalyptic fiction.
Blake waves wildly at us. "Something's coming. Hide!"
We quickly hide behind a stack of concrete slabs from a collapsed
building. I sink my mech as low at it will go, and wait. I've got my
external audio maxed out. It's quiet in the late afternoon, just the
sound of some pigeons cooing in the clearing. The ground thumps and
they take flight. Something massive shakes the ground. I chance a
peek between a break in the slabs and see a six-legged walker the size
of a house climb down onto the field. It's moving parallel to us, about
a hundred meters away, twin turrets swiveling in 15 degree
increments. My HUD IDs it as a superwalker. They were used in the
old War days as bunker busters, ripping through fortifications with
their massive claws. They're the hardiest of Isaac's seek-and-destroy
units, not something any of us would want to mess with.
The walker pauses midfield and aims its turret toward us.
I tense. Dan Vogel readies his rocket launcher over his shoulder. It's
a one-shot-one-kill device, and if you miss, it's game over. We don't
have the firepower to take down a superwalker with just small arms.
Seconds pass. All of us are rigid, waiting. A trickle of sweat runs
down my forehead.
Rhiannon Rasmussen's „Companionship" deals with several holiday themes: family, togetherness,
food, intergalactic voyages interrupted by crashing into a sentient space vessel . . .
Arkaadi grew in the mother-ship's belly. We watched him grow with
our many eyes, with our reaching tendrils and our grasping polyps,
though we did not know his name then.
We knew him only as the child of calamity, the single-bodied life that
crawled from wreckage alone and mewling while our flesh bubbled
and burnt around it. For all we knew, he was born then, a tiny
interphase cell spilled forth of fire and of metal. We had other
concerns: our bleeding, our wounds, the inorganic shattering that
splintered our walls and inflamed our tissue. It was not the first impact
we had sustained during the journey, but it was the sharpest, the
hottest, a lancing pain that penetrated our skins and seized our
muscles into long, wracking spasms.
How did he survive those fiery cycles? Only on scavenging his
ancestry, child; memory and meal, as do we all survive. He was
talkative, but we were occupied with the quick actions and chemicals
of survival, and we paid his vocalizations no mind. The stars speak as
well, in the long dark silences between them, but they are pattern
without intent; how were we to know his cries were different? When
he quieted, that seemed no more a message than his noises had.
Terra LeMay's "Carousel" is our audio offering this month--a story of genetic manipulation and
horse breeding. And family, again--it's like a theme, this month.
You always ruin your first horse.
That's what they used to say back when I was a kid saddle-breaking
my first season of two-year-olds fresh in from the upper pasture, my
grandfather's scrubby crossbreeds, part Quarter Horse, part Hackney
or Morgan or I don't know, little more than ponies, really, and all I
had to do was get the buck out so my Grandpa could take them to the
local livestock sale. The goal: to give me enough experience so I
wouldn't ruin the first horse I would call my own. But you always ruin
your first horse. People said it because it was true.
They were still saying it a few years later when I was putting mileage
on young show jumper prospects for my mother's friends and, by the
end of that summer, her clients. Still saying it a few years after that,
too, the first time somebody who didn't know any better said, "Jack,
will you teach me how to ride like you do?"
They don't say it anymore, though. Now they say, "Better luck next
We are also pleased to offer a reprint of Holly Heisey's "The Tiger's Silent Roar."
Scott M. Roberts
Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show