Tag: science fiction

49 articles
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Fiction Pick of the Week: "Dark Air"

A trip to the country turns into nightmare beset by mysterious creatures and body transformations.

"When we went over to look at the creature, it was mostly flattened. It looked like a crow, except the feathers had fallen off its back. Underneath, the flesh was scaly and pink. The exposed skin was split in half by a row of translucent spikes. The spikes were moving slightly, pointing first in this direction, then in that. The smell made me wrinkle my nose. It was an oddly sweet smell to find outdoors, like an open vat of lollipop flavoring."

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The Eyes Have It

A public domain story of paranoia by the sci-fi master.

"Binary fission, obviously. Splitting in half and forming two entities. Probably each lower half went to the cafe, it being farther, and the upper halves to the movies. I read on, hands shaking. I had really stumbled onto something here. My mind reeled as I made out this passage."

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The Overview Effect

Drug trips in space; from Motherboard's new science fiction series.

"During the Earth trials, someone told her that being in orbit was just falling around the planet forever. Back in the safe house somewhere in the Midwest, with 2,000 milligrams of MDMA ricocheting across her brain stem, it wasn't practical information. But she had retained it. Ground Control didn’t know the first thing about throwing a party. The drugs were free, but those nights on Earth always ended with psychonauts sobbing in the corners of the room, touching each others’ faces in the darkness. Of course, the Earth was falling too—around the sun."

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The Peripheral

Gamers, celebrities, military veterans, and publicists populate a capitalist future in these four chapters from Gibson's forthcoming novel.

"She bent her phone the way she liked it for gaming, thumbed HaptRec into the log‑in window, entered the long-ass password. Flicked go. Nothing happened. Then the whole display popped, like the flash of a camera in an old movie, silvered like the marks of the haptics. She blinked."

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Guardians

A space cowboy, an alien girl, a a quest; A Housleyian spin on Guardians of the Galaxy.

"They nodded at one another and closed ranks, each of them wobbly but still standing. Their foe was reduced to a pile of smoking robes. The thing they were fighting for – the thing they now knew could either save or destroy the universe – was steaming off-center among the scorched remains of their foe. They held their breath, all of them, while the Space Cowboy picked up the thing they had been fighting for, tossed it in the air, caught it in his other hand, and passed it to the Queen."

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A Planet for Rent

Trials and dangers abound for an interplanetary social worker.

"The Planetary Tourism Agency always compensated the family members of the unlucky victims of dematerialization, giving the evergreen excuse that on Earth they didn’t have enough experience managing such advanced equipment, because extraterrestrial technicians were reluctant to train human crews to run teleport booths. Maybe there was a bit of truth in that. Surely newly trained human teletransport specialists would get off the planet as fast as they could: artists, scientists, athletes—they all ran from their birth world as soon as extraterrestrial credits made them understand where true happiness could be found."

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Spew

A Profile Auditor goes sniffing after anomalies in the consumption habits and personal data of an unsuspecting hotel clerk.

"Through the Demosphere we fly, we men of the Database Maintenance Division, and although the Demosphere belongs to General Communications Inc., it is the schmos of the world who make it - every time a schmo surfs to a different channel, the Demosphere notes that he is bored with program A and more interested, at the moment, in program B. When a schmo's paycheck is delivered over the I-way, the number on the bottom line is plotted in his Profile, and if that schmo got it by telecommuting we know about that too - the length of his coffee breaks and the size of his bladder are an open book to us. When a schmo buys something on the I-way it goes into his Profile, and if it happens to be something that he recently saw advertised there, we call that interesting, and when he uses the I-way to phone his friends and family, we Profile Auditors can navigate his social web out to a gazillion fractal iterations, the friends of his friends of his friends of his friends, what they buy and what they watch and if there's a correlation."

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Every Thought, Every Motion

An Antarctic data hack.

"Still inside the joy, he moved quickly and quietly through the cold, barren corridor, past a row of humming, refrigerated steel doors labeled 'BSL-4 Biohazard,' into the sterile, white labs. Four five-thousand-liter liquid nitrogen tanks were lined up against the wall, the tubes that fed them thick with insulation against the extreme chill of the coolant. The third vat was open and breathing ice crystals into the air. He was glad he had loaded out with a virus filter in the mask. The power was still on, so the tank might freeze again. He pushed the lid shut, holding his breath just in case."

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The Men Who Flew Away

Three ambassadors find themselves on a familiar yet alien planet.

"He sees a red and white building that looks just like the pharmacy where he once filled prescriptions. He recognizes a squat building with a black awning and patio that looks similar to a restaurant where he and his wife once dined on Sunday afternoons. He spots a building that looks exactly the same as a bar all three men visited after their final training session at the space station across the city, sharing the last pitchers of beer they drank together before rocketing from earth."

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Authority [Chapter One]

The director of a covert organization arrives for his first day at work.

"Control took his time staring at the women, although their appearance told him little. They had all been given the same generic uniforms, vaguely army- issue but also vaguely janitorial. Their heads had all been shaved, as if they had suffered from some infestation, like lice, rather than something more inexplicable. Their faces all retained the same expression, or could be said not to retain any expression. Don't think of them by their names, he'd told himself on the plane. Let them carry only the weight of their functions at first. Then fill in the rest. But Control had never been good at remaining aloof. He liked to burrow in, try to find a level where the details illuminated without overwhelming him."

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Annihilation [Chapter One]

Four scientists begin exploring a sinister wilderness.

"We were on a dirt trail strewn with pebbles, dead leaves, and pine needles damp to the touch. Velvet ants and tiny emerald beetles crawled over them. The tall pines, with their scaly ridges of bark, rose on both sides, and the shadows of flying birds conjured lines between them. The air was so fresh it buffeted the lungs and we strained to breathe for a few seconds, mostly from surprise. Then, after marking our location with a piece of red cloth tied to a tree, we began to walk forward, into the unknown. If the psychologist somehow became incapacitated and could not lead us across at the end of our mission, we had been told to return to await 'extraction.' No one ever explained what form 'extraction' might take, but the implication was that our superiors could observe the extraction point from afar, even though it was inside the border."

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The Urashima Effect

In deep space, a physicist tries to cope with his isolation.

"He read several classic novels and philosophical texts to pass the next few days and exercised on the stringy, wiry contraption collapsed into one wall. The long hibernation had melted the muscle from him and congealed the quick currents of his mind, but he had to be alert, intelligent, and at his peak physical condition when he arrived. He was supposed to be disciplined. He was not supposed to replay his wife’s voice over and over, with longing and anxiousness. So he selected his parents’ recordings."