The Sound Barrier – Tony Clavelli

The airlock releases with a clank and a cough and she’s out. Sunghee Cho floats down as the first of the Valiant’s crew to touch the surface. The ground crunches and she slides, scraping along the ice. The rover shuttle waits a short distance away, a hulking windowless box on caterpillar treads. The whole walk is unnecessary. There’s a jetway to the transport. It was how I arrived. But despite the radiation risk, people prefer…

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A question for L. Chan

Q: What prompted you to write this particular story?

A: The idea for Whalesong popped into my head one day, probably when two random factoids muddled around in my brain and bumped into each other. The first was the 52-hertz whale, dubbed the loneliest whale in the world because it sings in a different frequency to other whales of its species (this is still up for debate). The other was the cleanup of the great garbage patches around the world’s oceans. The sentence that popped into my head was the 52-hertz whale is the hero, and the rest grew from there.

L. Chan’s story “Whalesong” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 15 April 2016. Subscribe to our e-mail updates so you’ll know when new stories go live.

A day with the drillworms

A day with the drillworms

I met Skazit the day I landed. Khamun IV is a hard planet, all gorges and boulders and sharp crystal surfaces. It’s dark, too, when the rings are angled just right in winter. I was young then; I landed in the dark zone anyway. I lost track of the ship right away. The duraline sliced in half on a crystal, and the locator beacon reflected off so many surfaces it might as well have been off. I stayed calm, though. I had a full tank of air, and all I had to do was backtrack. Think and backtrack. Take my time. If it hadn’t been for the drillworms, I’d have been fine.

We still don’t know much about the drillworms. They only come out in the dark, and they tunnel straight up through whatever’s in their way. We’re not sure what happens when they reach the air, but evidence suggests they explode. That’s what the feet of my lander suggest, anyway. Maybe that’s how the worms reproduce.

Anyway, there I was, lost in the dark, surrounded by edges, and only half a k from my lander. I’d have been able to see it if I could climb onto one of the boulders. I picked the one that looked the least sharp, and I’d put one foot into a handy notch when I felt a buzz at the sole of my other boot. I’d like to say it tickled, but truth is, it scared the heck out of me. Instinct took over, and I pushed down on the upper foot. I kicked pretty hard, I guess; I launched up in the air to the top of that boulder. I got a glimpse of my lander off to the right. Down below, where I’d been standing, something jagged and black was just poking through the surface. I windmilled for all I was worth, trying to swim through that thin atmosphere to the top of the boulder – only it wasn’t there anymore. What I’d taken for a rough sphere was now a broad cup of dark obsidian. I hit hard, and that transparent stone just folded over me as I gasped for breath. We rolled like a pinball, dancing around boulders and chasms in a rough line toward my lander. I got banged around plenty, but could see it, every revolution when my head came up top, if it happened to face that way. There were little bursts of bright orange light every now and then, and then a light tinkle. I guess that was the drillworms exploding; at the time, it looked like blaster fire. When we got to the lander, I didn’t even have to get out – the obsidian just shaped itself into a long tube that went straight up to the hatch, and spit me into the airlock. I landed on my feet and threw the hatch shut behind me. I lay there for the next hour, just shivering, except for one time, when I thought I felt something vibrate under me. Turned out it was just a kinked compressor tube.

I don’t know her name’s really Skazit; that’s just what I call her. I don’t know she’s female, either; that’s just a label. She saved my life, though. I go out there, sometimes, in the summer. Maybe late spring, early fall. Never winter. There’s a big boulder out there, about where I landed. I sit there by it and tell her how I’m doing. I bring presents sometimes. A Malatherian root-crystal, a chunk of spaflerite, maybe a shear of high-pressure axonot. They vanish. I like to think she takes them. Once, I thought I could see a crust of amethyst, deep inside the obsidian. Maybe it was just the sun.

I have a little dome now, here at the pole. We’ve got the orbital mirror to keep the lights on all the time. Not a lot of people come. It’s a beautiful place, though, if you know how to see it.

from the notebooks of B. Morris Allen

The Flight Home – Kaitlin McCloughan

The bees are as alive as they ever were. They glide through Jianmen village with sun glinting from metal wings, swooping between the faded white lattice of the town’s ornate bridge. The bees, originally programmed only to search for plants to pollinate, are drawn into orbit around an aging farmer hoeing a small plot of land. The farmer doesn’t flinch when the bees crawl up his sleeves and land in his hair. Unlike their long-gone…

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Submission statistics – the first 6 months

Up to 31 March 2016 Genre (as listed by author): Fantasy – 41% SF – 36% Other/mixed – 23% These rates have stayed fairly steady. Word count Stories average about 3,500 words, regardless of genre. Our responses Rejected – 70% Rejected but encouraged to submit other work – 22% Rejected but encouraged to submit a rewrite – 5% Accepted – 2% Feedback we gave Prose score Red line – where we knew it wasn’t for…

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