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DAILY SCI-FI
Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.






Fantasy

Other Worlds


Mystical colony worlds, portal worlds from modern normalcy, Piers Anthony style parallel worlds ruled by magic. All fit under this rubric.

by Therese Arkenberg
“Please, leave my son!” Jain Harley didn’t reply, in part because it would do no good, in part because the boy she was dragging from the corner of the shack’s single room was obviously not the son of the sobbing woman who claimed him.
Published on Sep 24, 2010
by Bruce Boston
A weak December sun falls like a faltering beacon against the shadows that surround us. We enter another vine-choked alley. The red breath of our laser rifles sizzles through the intrusion of leaves, blackening them to ash. The forest is driven back one more time, but we know it will return. Once we lived as civilized residents of a civilized metropolis. Now we retreat, losing ground to the mutations of the wild. As their multifarious forms multiply, their mythology invades our lives, a compulsion for those who embrace the heresy of a bestial faith, a prison for those of us who resist the onslaught. We survive as a pocket of humanity in a deluge of green terror, cut off from the North, facing a relentless enemy from the South. Already more than a third of the city has been abandoned to the wilds. # On a routine sweep of City Center I find her in a decaying subbasement of the old Opera House where the classic tragedies of Verdi and Donizetti had once been performed. The beam of my torch momentarily blinds her dark eyes, unaccustomed to the light. I can see from her stricken glance that she is one the Mutant Rain Forest has made good use of. She has become a tragedy all her own. The stalk binding her bare body to the bare dirt, a curve both graceful and horrific as it clings to the base of her spine, resembles that of a mushroom, thick and spongy, white blotched by patches of gray. And she is now its naked human cap. My happenstance comrades, roaming the deserted stage and hallways above, sound the all-clear. And after a moment of indecision I answer in kind, turning my torch away from her eyes, leaving her to the shadows of her damp fungal hermitage and whatever monstrosity she has become. Not a word is exchanged between us. Of course I recognize her in those flash seconds, despite the intervening years and how pale she has become. Yet it is only hours later in the dim hall of the barracks, lying sleepless on my cot among the unending noise of sleeping men – snores and sighs and dream whimpers – that I replay the details of our past together. A wealthy landowner’s daughter and the son of a servant, we had played together as children. The forest was distant then, no more than a threat sometimes used to frighten us into obedience. We played together for hours and days on end, oblivious to our origins. Until time and age made them manifest, forcing the adult world into our existence. Then she left me behind for a life of rich parties and shopping sprees, private tutors and trips abroad, a privileged world I was never allowed to enter. Still I watched from afar as the girl I had known began to mature into a woman. And fool that I was, I nurtured an adolescent infatuation that I called love. I embarked upon an awkward courtship, sending her furtive notes to which she never responded. I once stood beneath her lighted window with a cheap guitar and serenaded her with a cheap love song. Only the night answered. And eventually her father’s rage, who insisted that such nonsense must come to an end. My thoughts had returned to her more than once over the years. Wistful and unfulfilled. Now I wonder what hazardous course her life had taken that has transformed her to a prisoner and slave of the forest. I know that her father is no longer the wealthy landowner, that the forest has long since claimed his cultivated fields and mansion. Yet how has it seduced her when I had failed? Harboring vague regrets, I drift into a restless sleep. # I wake to a scream engendered by someone’s nightmare. I don’t realize I am the culprit, the scream my own, until I hear the exclamations and curses of those around me that I have also awakened. Whatever that dark dream, it instantly flees from my consciousness. Yet my troubled sleep has formed a resolution in my mind. I dress hurriedly in the dimness and make my way to our makeshift armory. There I choose a machete whetted razor sharp. When I test its edge a small drop of blood purls upon my finger. With my laser rifle strapped across my shoulder and the machete shoved into my belt, I enter the dark streets. It is a cold night and a bone-raking chill fills the air, heightened by a light yet steady wind from the south that carries the fragrances of the Mutant Rain Forest into the city. Some claim that it is only this cold that protects us from the forest’s ruthless onslaught. They say that with the rains of spring and the heat of summer the mutations of the forest, both animal and vegetable, will thrive. They will grow more profligate and insistent, attacking with renewed vigor. Others of my kind, those who sleep by day and guard the city by night, now patrol the streets. I pass freely among them, nodding or exchanging greetings with those I know. I make my way to City Center and the old Opera House, a hulking shadow against a cloud-clotted sky that absorbs and diffuses the city lights. There are no stars visible. As I descend into the depths of the building, my torch guiding me, I begin to shiver. It seems even colder here than in the streets above. I have decided that I will either free her from her enslavement or end her life trying, for surely death is a fate preferable to the one she now endures. I find her as I had before, in the same dank subterranean chamber. This time, as my torch exposes her naked body, she gives out a short sharp cry, more avian than human. Yet her eyes do not blink from the light. Instead, they meet mine in a grave and curious stare. I wonder if she knows who I am, if she recognizes me from our shared past. In my fatigues, with my untrimmed beard and shaggy hair, I appear a far different man than the youth she once knew. Just as she must be a far different woman, if woman you could still call her. I wonder how much of her mind and thoughts remain or if her human awareness has been completely stripped away by the forest. I approach her and raise the machete. Yet as my arm descends to sever the stalk that binds her body to the dirt, she reaches out swiftly to grasp and hold my wrist with a strength I did not expect from her slender form. The blade falls from my hand. She rises up, her arms encircling my neck, and pulls me down toward her. She begins soundlessly showering my face and neck with kisses. And fool that I once was, fool that I remain, I fall to my knees beside her, dropping the torch and returning her embrace. It rolls away, throwing its beam against a rough stone wall, leaving us in relative darkness. Her bare flesh is not cold but warm to the touch, radiating a heat all its own, stripping the chill from my body. Her mouth and tongue are feverish and urgent. Lying by her side, I awkwardly remove my clothes with one hand, holding her close to me with the other. Although I do not know if she is human or an extension of the forest, it no longer matters. My reason is lost, my senses trapped by a rising passion that has endured for years without consummation. I begin whispering endearments to her in the dark, speaking her name over and again. She does not answer. No sound escapes her lips except for her heavy breathing and the sighs of passion. Then I enter her and although my body and senses remain engaged in a act both terrifying and sublime, my mind and my vision are all at once traveling elsewhere I take on the form of a great bird of keen eye and iridescent plumage sailing high above the Earth, flying through the stratosphere, far higher than any bird has a right to fly. I see the continent spread beneath me, the mottled blanket of mutant infestation stretching forth from the Amazon Basin to cover near half the land, its tentacles snaking north to the Isthmus and south to Patagonia. I swoop lower and am suddenly plummeting downward through dense green leaves and a riotous florescence of blossoms to the forest floor. I am a horned jaguar standing over sixteen hands high, gliding sinuously through the foliage, my nostrils flared, testing the fragrances of the thick night air in search of prey. I am a millipede python, dropping hundreds of feet through the tortuous branches of a towering mahogany onto the muscular back of that same jaguar, my spurred legs digging through its fur and into its flesh, injecting a soporific venom, my body winding round its torso, crushing the breath from its body. I am a miniature winged albino monkey, no, a whole tribe of winged albino monkeys, a hive mind, no larger than insects, flitting and leaping and chattering through the highest branches of that same tree. I am a copse of huge black and gold orchids being devoured to extinction by a herd of ravaging tapirs, their variegated hides shaded by saffron and amber and celadon. It is as if through the union of our bodies the forest and its manifold incarnations are speaking to me, immersing me in their beauty and their horror. I am imbued with the sentience of the forest, not a singular sentience as some believe, but a thousand warring ones that conspire to a whole, eliciting an overriding consciousness that wars against the world at large, as if the acts of slaughter and consumption within its borders, the endless round of creation and death and recreation, provide it with further sustenance and growth. And as my final thrusts within her seal our union, I am hurled from the sum of that consciousness into exhaustion and down the black well of a dead sleep. # And it is blackness to which I awaken. I have no idea how many minutes or hours have passed. The batteries in the torch have run down while I slept and we lie together in complete darkness. I try to rise only to find her body rising with me, pulling me back to the earth. I feel a sharp pain along my chest and stomach and thighs. I cry out and she cries with me, in that same piercing avian tone I heard before. Reaching between us I feel the ropey fungal tendrils that have spread from her flesh to mine. In rising panic, I grapple for the machete, but wherever it has fallen, it is beyond my reach. And it is probably useless in any case. Even if I could stand the pain of severing those tendrils, I am no doubt already infected as she. So I wait in the dark, bound irretrievably to a lover I have desired and sought for so long. Or at least a simulacrum of that lover. Just as I am bound to the mind of the forest. Already I can feel my individual thoughts becoming increasingly cloudy and intoxicated. And I know this is how they will find us, with their lasers rifles in hand. Unless our forest finds them first.
Published on Aug 16, 2012
by Jeremy Erman
She was depressed. There was darkness everywhere in her life, and pain she could not express. At school the other girls treated her with contempt, and the boys seemed not to notice her. But home was the worst: her mother was so wrapped in her own pain that she had no time for Melissa. If Melissa had been braver she might have called her father, but he was so far away he might as well have been on another planet. It was easier and safer to do nothing, to let the pain consume her. Three weeks into the school year the dreams began. She walked on soft grass under a dark purple sky, and the grass and trees around her shimmered and quivered with light. It was no place she had ever been, no place that could be in the world she knew, but she was calm there, and content. And one night a young man joined her, dressed in bright clothes and laughing gaily--and for the first time in ages she did not feel alone.
Published on Aug 15, 2013
by Ari B Goelman
Later, Martin couldn't say what had awakened him. A sound maybe. Or maybe the smell - his bedroom was full of a strange smell. Rich and green. He and Laura had hiked in a rain forest when they had visited Vancouver a few summers before and it smelled like that. "A massage for your lungs," Laura had said. Whatever it was, Martin rolled over. Still half asleep, he reached out to touch Laura's hip, before he remembered. Almost three months now. He closed his eyes, wishing he could go back to sleep. Since Laura had died, sleep had become Martin's favorite activity. He lay there for some time, hoping that he could fall asleep again, but he just became more and more aware of the forest smell. And a sound downstairs.
Published on Nov 8, 2010
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
A knock sounded on the door. Arly was sitting at the table with her little brother Sim on her right. Sim was eight, and would have been gone by now if Mama had been normal. Mama sat at the head of the table with the turkey in front of her, and Now-dad sat at the foot of the table with the gravy boat and the mashed potatoes. Across the table from Arly and Sim sat their older sister Kitty, and Granny. Nobody had eaten yet.
Published on Jul 24, 2014
by Alexis Ann Hunter
I am almost fourteen years old the day I kill my grandmother.
Published on May 22, 2020
by Nathaniel Matthews Lee
"Can't wait to get out of this place," Turk growled. "Friggin' weirdos all over." He prodded a Jellyfish with the muzzle of his rifle. The bulbous thing drifted away on the breeze, emitting a musical tinkle like laughter. Somehow, the relatively normal grass, trees, and skyline made the presence of things like the Jellyfish worse. "Can it, Turk," Liebowitz said, spitting to emphasize her point. "We've got ten more miles to scout, and then it's just as far back to base camp. I don't need you whining the whole way."
Published on Apr 25, 2011
by Jennifer Linnaea
A school of tiny pearlescent fish dart before my face, turn onto Al-Azraq Way, and stop to hover in a cloud around the scarf-covered head of the cabinet maker's daughter. She is opening a painted drawer for a customer, gesturing to the ornate carvings, miming placing something special inside. In the watery light the scales of the fish shine like a halo of stars around her head. I wonder if she has ever seen stars, but even as I think it I know she hasn't. The customer, an old man, comes from the sailing ship anchored high above. When he leaves her stall he carries his cabinet wrapped in cloth and kicks hard against its weight. At sunset the ship will sail away, taking him and all its passengers, and the sunken market will belong to the sunken folk once more.
Published on Aug 7, 2012
by Andrew E. Love, Jr.
I'll start by being blunt--the answer is no. The shared background for fiction called "Earth" is exhausted. All the good ideas and far too many of the bad ones have used up all the originality that the concept once had, and I see no hope for anyone to write a new story on "Earth" that is both good and genuinely original. If authors and readers face up to this, we can take literature into new and more productive areas; if not, we're doomed to tedious rehashings of scandals, wars, and ever-more-ghastly crimes.
Published on May 14, 2020
by Aimee Ogden
The young man comes to visit Patrice every day. The ink from his fresh-printed pamphlets stains her fingers when he presses one upon her, as he does each day. He never seems to hear her protestations that she doesn't know how to read. Every time he sees her he asks her if she's read what he's written, and every time she tartly replies that the paper has found its way into the garbage heap with all the rest. What she doesn't tell him is that before it meets that grim fate, she asks one of her sisters, one of the lettered few among them, to read the smudged words to her by the fading light of the afternoon sun, before the evening settles in and Patrice's customers come seeking her.
Published on Feb 12, 2016
by Kat Otis
Meztli and the other boys of his year-group snuck into the Daylighter village just before dawn. One by one, they split off from the group as they each chose their targets. The more timid boys picked the yards of houses near the edge of the village, with easy access and a quick escape afterwards. The more cocky cracked open windows and doors, slipping right into the homes of the sleeping Daylighters. Meztli was neither timid nor cocky--he picked a house with a walled garden that would earn him extra notches on his coup stick, but he had no intention of going inside the house itself. He scaled the wall and found the family had left their laundry out drying on a clothesline. Perfect. He ghosted across the garden and pulled down an article of clothing at random.
Published on Jul 21, 2011
by Aimee Picchi
Problem 1 It is 7 p.m. on a snowy January evening, and Penny is a 13-year-old who likes fruity lip balms, wears leggings, and notices everything, like how she's expected to wash the dishes but her older brother is excused to finish his homework. On this night, she insists her brother do the dishes because she has an algebra test and it's only fair. Her parents explain girls can do anything--everything, in fact. She can wash the dishes plus get top grades. Her brother smirks as he escapes upstairs. Penny scrubs the dishes extra hard as she thinks about the unknowns in her life, like what she could do if she weren't expected to excel at everything. She dries her hands on her leggings and reapplies her strawberry lip balm, then walks through the split-level house, running her hands along drywall and peering into closets. She hopes to find a portal to a world with a warm patriarchal figure who will encourage her to spend long days in a library without any housework duties. After two hours, she gives up.
Published on Jan 3, 2020
by Patricia Russo
The flowers never hugged him. When Kolay was a child, Grannie Brian had had a garden of motile plants. The grown folk looked askance at this. Wasting time playing with genes, when half the communities north of the river went hungry in the winter and starved in the spring. And flowers, of all things. Grannie Brian said there was more to life than carrots and turnips and a few puny squash, and he said it with a smile, which only made the other grown folk mutter that having brains wasn't the same as having sense. Grannie Brian never had to worry about his larder. He did more than splicing in his neat little lab. He'd seen what was coming a good ten, fifteen years in advance flat; he'd stockpiled. He traded drugs, he traded knowledge, he traded reassurance. Kolay liked to hear Grannie Brian switch his voice, his words, his accent, depending on who he was talking to. He tried to learn how to do it himself, but never got the hang of it. He didn't mind very much; different folks had different talents, and when he was little, he believed he'd discover what his own talents were soon enough. He was sure, as most children are, that he possessed loads of them. But it did make him sad that the flowers never hugged him. Grannie Brian had nearly a whole acre of them, and he let the neighborhood kids play in the flower garden any time they wanted, as long as they didn't bring any sticks or balls with them. The motile flowers hugged all the other children. Wrapped themselves around their legs. Their shoulders, too, if the kids crouched down. The children would giggle and squeal, and run home grinning after the flowers loosened their embrace. When Kolay walked in the garden, the flowers stood rigid on their stalks, even if there was a breeze blowing, They didn't merely ignore him; they shunned him. Grannie Brian took the blame on himself, said he must've slipped up somewhere in the recombinations, but then Grannie Brian worked hard at being kind. Kolay cried about how the flowers spurned him, but he did it where Grannie Brian couldn't see.
Published on Aug 19, 2011
by Victoria Sonata
I wish… Delicate, semitransparent wings flittered and glittered in the breeze as Shiyo held it up against the rich gold of the late afternoon sun that spilled through the open sitting room doors. It was her eleventh butterfly, folded and cut carefully out of the glittering tissue paper that she'd taken from the box beneath the low table beside her. Eleven butterflies for her eleventh birthday.
Published on Jan 28, 2011
by Eric James Stone
There are no guards at the borders of Faerie. No one will ask for your passport, or if you have anything to declare. You won't have to take off your shoes, place your laptop in a separate container, and stand--arms raised--inside a scanner that bathes your whole body with millimeter-wave radiation, creating an image on a remote monitor of your naked body that has supposedly been anonymized to protect your privacy. Whether the purpose of your visit to Faerie is business or pleasure does not need to be revealed. You will not need to pay an entry fee. No one would have told your child she needed to wait for her mommy or daddy. There are no signs on the borders of Faerie. No placard proclaims: Welcome to Faerie. Nothing warns: Now leaving the human world. No notice declares: You must be at least this tall to enter Faerie. There's no red circle with a diagonal line through the silhouette of a child. Nothing would have let your child know not to take one more step. There are no maps of the borders of Faerie. It is not possible to draw a line in the sand between Faerie and any human land. Siri can't give you turn-by-turn directions to Faerie, and it's not on Google Earth. Even if you could hack your GPS to accept imaginary numbers for latitude and longitude, you wouldn't get anything from it except an endless repetition of Recalculating. There is no point to pinpointing possible locations based on news stories of mysterious sightings, of unexplained occurrences, or of missing children. You will never find the border of Faerie if you are looking for it. There are no walls along the borders of Faerie. Neither barbed-wire nor chain-link fence lines the edge. Nobody ever promised to build a wall and make Faerie pay for it. No no-man's land filled with land mines separates the human world from Faerie. There are no entrance gates beneath the inscription Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate, for it is not those who enter who should abandon all hope. There are no cares within the borders of Faerie. Nobody wants to click their heels together three times while saying "There's no place like home." No human tears dim the gleam of Faerie cities, be they alabaster or emerald. And your little girl definitely does not cry herself to sleep each night calling out for her mommy. You would no longer regret losing her, if you ever crossed the border yourself. But you would not care if you met her again, if you ever crossed the border yourself. Fortunately for you--or not--there are no guards at the borders of Faerie.
Published on Sep 7, 2021
by Naru Dames Sundar
First Course: Rathwan's in Kur district is a study in white on white, the floor tile and tables arranged in a tessellation of rectangles whose sides matched the holy ratio of seven to three. Rathwan's is empty today, save for one table, one lone guest--the Gedt general whose soldiers now pillage and loot the silk strewn arbors of the district.
Published on Jun 2, 2015
by Lavie Tidhar
They say he saved every one of us. They say he's a hero. I guess it's a matter of perspective. I guess it depends on who you believe.
Published on Jun 30, 2015
by Greg van Eekhout
Jessica might have been able to resist temptation had the shop smelled of dust and ghosts or perhaps perfume and Saharan sand and sold music boxes that played the tinkling melody of her every treasured and trampled childhood memory. Or, had it stocked books with titles like Shakespeare's "Tragedy of King Arthur" or Hemingway's "Saigon" or "Martin Luther King, Jr., Biography of a President," she might have kept going and walked right on by. But it wasn't that kind of shop.
Published on Nov 18, 2010