The fifth of Ben Baldwin's 2012 covers is called The Priestess.
Wonder by Debbie Urbanski
illustrated by Richard Wagner
My mom has a friend named Alex who lives on the other side of the phone. He wants to know everything about her. He asks what she ate for breakfast, and what shirt she wore, and the color of her underwear. She sings him bits of funny songs and her voice gets soft when she sings, I pretend she’s singing to me. Alex knows about our private things because my mom’s told him. She used to be someone else. We used to live somewhere else. We used to live in a valley with a lot of other people, where my mom wore a brown dress every day until it smelled, and I wore a button shirt and brown pants like my dad and Jacob, who is my brother. I don’t like it when my mom talks about where we came from. She makes my dad and our old home sound stupid. “The stupid shit you do when you’re young,” she says to Alex. She forgets about the water pump my dad pushed down and up and down whenever we got thirsty, and the four red chickens we chased around the yard, and how every day little girls braided my mom’s hair so she looked pretty. I think she should tell Alex about the day we left, because that day my mom woke us before the sun came out, and Jacob and I ate pretzels, a whole bag, we never got to eat pretzels, and in the sky I saw every star, but my mom never tells that story. Instead, she says everybody had to wash in each other’s dirty bath water. Also she says my dad was crazy, he woke us up whenever he wanted, even at two in the morning he woke us up and made us go downstairs to listen to him talk.
The Message by Ken Liu
illustrated by Mark Pexton
The alien city was a perfect circle about ten kilometers in diameter. From the air, the buildings – cubes around the edge of the city, cones, pyramids, tetrahedra in the middle – were forbidding spikes. Ring-shaped streets divided the city into concentric sections.
Needlepoint by Priya Sharma
illustrated by Martin Hanford
The ladies at court call me Needlepoint. Princess of Pins. Lady of the Skein.
I walk to the far end of the gallery, to my seat below the leaded window panes which cast the brightest sunlight.
I take my place before my canvas, tacked onto its frame.
I pull out one of my needles and go to work.
Beyond the Light Cone by C.W. Johnson
illustrated by Richard Wagner
O my Boyo, my love, my son. When you were a wee babe and you smiled and burbled at me with lips red and shiny as candy, I told myself this happiness would fill me up forever, that the bubbling joy would make up for any future sorrow.
I am so sorry.
Where you had been is now a massive emptiness, blacker than any hole between the stars, and I craved to fill it with news of you. So I went and did a stupid thing, only I didn’t know it was stupid until I got a reply. Even before the message finished deconvolving, I could see it was bad. Very bad.
The Remembered by Karl Bunker
illustrated by Richard Wagner
Call him Sam; call her Sarah. Their real names were nothing like this, of course, being instead a series of clicks made by a chitinous beak, accompanied by the display of certain colors in the chromatophoric cells of the speaker’s face. This is using the word ‘face’ loosely, of course, since the species we’re speaking of were aquatic invertebrates, with a roughly cylindrical head and body and six tentacles extending from the end opposite the head.
Strigoi by Lavie Tidhar
illustrated by Warwick Fraser-Coombe
One day in spring a strigoi came to Central Station.
A Shambleau. Her hair was done in a style then popular in Tong Yun: long dreadlocks woven with thin, flexible metal wires that corresponded to an invisible engine, and moved like snakes in the air about the girl’s head, extending lazily from her skull.
Ansible Link by David Langford
news and obituaries
Book Zone by Jim Steel, Juliet E. McKenna, Jack Deighton, John Howard, Ian Hunter, Stephen Theaker, Nathaniel Tapley, Andy Hedgecock, Peter Loftus, Ian Sales, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Duncan Lunan, Peter Tennant
book reviews including Existence by David Brin (with author interview by Jim Steel), Cursed by Benedict Jacka, 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton, The Devil's Nebula by Eric Brown, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente, Nest Scrolls by Rudy Rucker, Railsea by China Miéville, The Killing Moon/The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin, The Last Man Standing by Davide Longo, Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia A. McKillip, The Moon Moth by Jack Vance/adapted by Humayoun Ibrahim, Adrift on the Sea of Rains by Ian Sales, Seven Wonders by Adam Christopher, Bluegrass Symphony by Lisa L. Hannett, Bread and Circuses by Felicity Dowker
Mutant Popcorn by Nick Lowe
film reviews including The Watch, Ted, Brave, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, The Lorax, Ice Age 4: Continental Drift, The Dinosaur Project, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Sound of My Voice
Laser Fodder by Tony Lee
DVD and Blu-ray reviews including The 25th Reich, Bloodstorm, Outpost II: Black Sun, Planzet, Starship Troopers: Invasion, Ao: The Last Hunter, Battleship, Lockout, Alphas Series One, Wrath of the Titans
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