Berenice by 2015 cover artist Martin Hanford
Nostalgia by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam
illustrated by Richard Wagner
Tori takes another hit of nostalgia; the smoke is creamy mint cookie down her throat, smooth and hot. It fills her lungs, tickles, burns, and as she coughs it out she laughs, smoke pouring from her lips. Fog fills her head. The live oaks’ winter skeletons crisp into focus as the drug takes hold. Tori feels the cold on her skin as if she is a little girl in the snow, her hand in her father’s glove, surrounded by his smell of smoke and vodka. Her mother hates the cold but watches from the window. Tori’s belly is full. It hasn’t been this full for years, not since home, that word a lighthouse beacon she will never again reach without this burn of throat, cloud of mind, her parents having pushed her out once they met her first girlfriend. Tori passes the pipe to her companion.
An Advanced Guide to Successful Price-Fixing in Extraterrestrial Betting Markets by T.R. Napper
illustrated by Warwick Fraser-Coombe
The key to walking up and down the stairs was both to randomise, and to play by the rules. The rules said you could not step on every stair, and wherever possible, not step on stairs with obvious stains: knots for wooden stairs, chewing gum for concrete, that sort of thing. So the rules, as such, were not too onerous. Randomising was basically to ensure that the aliens placing bets on which stairs I would step on would have a viable betting market. Some days I’d be creative – miss three steps, walk on one, miss another three. Those times I just knew there was some lucky alien punter up there grinning while they cashed in their long-shot ticket. Most of the time though I’d be rushing, or indifferent, or just exhausted and zombie-shuffling down them, bothering only to skip the last step. Those days I’d simply be guaranteeing minimal, steady returns for your conservative alien gambler. That’s what I did this morning, missing only the last step as I slouched off the middle set of stairs, into the kitchen.
The Ferry Man by Pandora Hope
illustrated by Ben Baldwin
The first thing I do when I wake up is try to think of a reason not to die.
There used to be reasons. I woke up with them I guess, an unheard background noise that was always there. I never noticed, till the reasons just left.
Back on the waterways the boys used to joke how I found my bride on the cursed rock of Kjosfossen, where most ferries found only disaster when their hulls were ripped out. Heldig, they called me – the Lucky One.
The fjordsmen know that one day your ferry will arrive at the black shore, even if your name is the Lucky One and you’ve caught yourself a siren for a wife. Your span of luck starts running when you leave the morning shore and the ferry moves across the water to the shores of night. Each man prays for an ocean to lie between the shores, but sometimes the sea is as thin as a finger bone. The fjordsmen are a superstitious lot and while they might wear Christ’s cross, they carry Njord’s rune stone in their pockets.
Tribute by Christen Gholson
illustrated by Richard Wagner
Mother told me that there is always a beginning before the one we believe came first. She said that before we were spinners of sun and dust, we were weavers of starlight and dust. Before that, we wove the black space between stars. How that is possible, I don’t know. She said she sometimes had quick flashes of memory from that time: when light was the same as song; and song a tunnel of gas creating space out of nothing…
Fish on Friday by Neil Williamson
Hello, Ms MacArthur? Hi, there. This is a courtesy call from ASDaTESCo. My name is— ASDaTESCo. The Agency for Sport, Diet and Technology Empowering Scotland’s Citizens. My name is Aiden—
Spoilermania by Tony Lee
Future Interrupted by Jonathan McCalmont
The Allure of Ambiguity The older I become and the more I read, the more I am drawn to ambiguity. I am bored by stories that tell me what to think and energised by stories that encourage me to reach my own conclusions and create my own interpretations. I am not a passive recipient of story and neither are you.
Time Pieces by Nina Allan
The Road Goes Ever Onwards? Monica Byrne’s debut novel The Girl in the Road did not follow an easy path to publication. Rejected many times over a period of several years, Byrne struggled first to find an agent whom she considered properly sympathetic to her project, and then a publisher with sufficient independent-mindedness to risk their dollars. She believed in her work though, and the tough-mindedness necessary to the creation of such an original novel in the first place was surely the determining factor in her eventual success in finding the book a home. The Girl in the Road was published in 2014. In it, two women, Meena and Mariama, each embark on a journey to discover the truth about their past and about the personal tragedies that have brought them to where they now are. Their stories take place in a near future, where India has become the dominant superpower and the latest superfuel is metallic hydrogen. Some race, gender and class barriers have been broken down, others remain, morphed into new expressions of an older ignorance. Two interwoven narratives approach each other from opposite sides of the compass, finally intertwining and becoming one. There is a sense of crisis but no overt resolution, which is all to the good. Byrne’s imagined future is evoked with a skill and a level of understatement that makes it feel imminent. I read this novel with pleasure and admiration, and look forward to seeing more of Byrne’s work in the future. Why then did I finish The Girl in the Road pursued by a nagging demon of disappointment? Why, whilst I would certainly recommend this novel to others, would I not feel able to recommend it unreservedly?
Ansible Link by David Langford
News and obituaries
Vote for your favourite stories of 2014
Wayne Haag: 2014 Cover Artist
Steven J. Dines interviews Wayne Haag about his work as a concept artist and matte painter for TV and film
Book Zone by Elaine Gallagher, Maureen Kincaid Speller, Duncan Lunan, Stephen Theaker, Matthew S. Dent, Lawrence Osborn, Ian Hunter, John Howard, Paul Graham Raven, Jack Deighton, Peter Tennant
Book reviews including Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie (plus author interview); Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan; The Brick Moon/Another Brick in the Moon by Edward Everett Hale & Adam Roberts; Willfull Child by Steven Erikson; Retribution by Mark Charan Newton; Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets edited by David Thomas Moore; Modern Masters of Science Fiction: Greg Egan by Karen Burnham; Sibilant Fricative by Adam Roberts; Irregularity edited by Jared Shurin; Solaris Rising 3 edited by Ian Whates; Sacrifice on Spica III by Eric Brown; Of Whimsies & Noubles by Matthew Hughes
Mutant Popcorn by Nick Lowe
Cinema releases including Interstellar; The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies; Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb; The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1; Horns; The Remaining; Ouija; What We Do in the Shadows
Laser Fodder by Tony Lee
DVD/Blu-ray/VoD reviews including X-Men: Days of Future Past; Out of This World: Little Lost Robot; Spirited Away; The Congress; Patema Inverted; Left Behind; Before I Go to Sleep; The Giver; Beyond; Ejecta
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