The May–June issue of Britain’s longest running science fiction and fantasy magazine contains new novelettes and stories by Tyler Keevil, Malcolm Devlin, James Van Pelt, Rich Larson, and Gwendolyn Kiste. The 2016 cover artist is Vincent Sammy, and interior colour illustrations are by Richard Wagner and Martin Hanford. Features: Editorial by Elaine Gallagher; Ansible Link by David Langford (news and obits); Mutant Popcorn by Nick Lowe (film reviews); Laser Fodder by Tony Lee (DVD/Blu-ray reviews); Book Zone (book reviews); Jonathan McCalmont’s Future Interrupted (comment); Nina Allan’s Time Pieces (comment).
Breadcrumbs by Malcolm Devlin
illustrated by Richard Wagner
Ellie is alone in her bedroom on the fifteenth floor. She sits cross-legged on her bed, a brightly illustrated book in her lap that has been passed down from her mother, from her grandmother. Its cover has faded with age, its spine is creased and broken, but the pages are still vivid, their stories preserved. Her hands rest upon the illustration of a beautiful white cat, its head bowed and docile before a prince with a sword.
Starlings by Tyler Keevil
illustrated by Richard Wagner
They cut you out of me. That’s the first thing you should know. It wasn’t supposed to be that way. Everything had been so carefully planned, even preordained. For all of you. The doctors had dictated when you were conceived, and throughout my pregnancy they had been monitoring me obsessively: my calorie and nutrient intake, the amount of exercise I did, my stress and hormone levels. They had determined your size and weight, had calculated when I would go into labour, to within minutes. And they had intended your birth to be safe and natural. There are numerous health benefits to this; for all our technological advances, we still can’t match the human body when it comes to bearing our young. The other starling babies slipped out of their mothers on schedule, just as they’d been designed to do. But not you. Not you. I didn’t understand at the time. I do now. You must have known that it was the beginning of them separating me from you, the start of space being put between us.
Mars, Aphids, and Your Cheating Heart by James Van Pelt
Imagine that time, space and motion are contained in an ocean infinitely long, broad, and deep. And imagine further that you are God, and you know everything about your ocean. No part of it is unknown to you. The tiniest movement is known; the most minuscule detail is obvious. Beginnings and endings are equally known, and they have no difference. There is no cause and effect; there is only detail next to detail next to detail. Narrative, then, is an illusion created by ordering details in relation to each other chronologically, but the stories are illusions because they are already in the ocean. They don’t ‘happen’. They float, complete, unchanging, and within the context of the ocean’s all-encompassing existence.
Lifeboat by Rich Larson
illustrated by Martin Hanford
Synthetics encroaching on Lazy Susan, maybe they can smell her dying sun like blood in the water. Scattershot probes beam sharper images down every day and you see them in any supshop or café you visit: crystalline castles sliding through black space, parts turning like clockwork, all flanges and serrations. A whole fleet of them, though Stork says you can’t call it a fleet, not really, not any more than you’d call a bunch of birds flying together a fleet.
The Tower Princesses by Gwendolyn Kiste
Everybody knows a tower princess.
She might be the daughter of a friend of a friend. Or the girl next door who hides behind drawn blinds. Sometimes, she’s no more than an urban legend, like Bloody Mary, alive only when kids whisper about her late at night after their parents retire to bed.
Tower princesses aren’t as exotic as they sound. They aren’t really royalty. They aren’t really anything. Just girls living in regular neighborhoods with mothers and fathers and a sibling or two. Plain as can be, or at least as plain as every other girl in the world.
As plain as me.
Except for the tower.