Letter From The Editor - Issue 66 - December 2018

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Issue 66
Stories
To Tend a Garden
by Filip Wiltgren
Gods of War Part II
by Steve Pantazis
Companionship
by Rhiannon Rasmussen
Carousel
by Terra LeMay
IGMS Audio
Carousel
Read by Emily Rankin
InterGalactic Medicine Show Interviews
Vintage Fiction
The Tiger's Silent Roar
by Holly Heisey
Bonus Material

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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 others.

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 be borne.

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 dirt.

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 ā€˛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 time."

We are also pleased to offer a reprint of Holly Heisey's "The Tiger's Silent Roar."

Scott M. Roberts
Editor
Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show


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