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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.


Marissa Lingen is a science fiction and fantasy writer living in the Minneapolis suburbs. Her work has appeared in Tor.com, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Strange Horizons, Uncanny, and more.

1. Compromised
"That was purposeful."
"Yes, no curling. Not posturing, he's in there. Mr. Lund? Ed? Can you wiggle your toes for me, Ed?"
The daughter stepped forward, hesitant, hand on the rail of the bed. "How will we know if he--when he--"
The patient's color was better. He had tried to cough on his own.
"See here, the way he tries to get away when you pinch him?"
The daughter flinched.
"Not too hard," the doctor said kindly. "But there's a different flinch for just a stepped-on-a-tack reflex. This is purposeful. He's in there."
2. Artificial
"It's programmed to do parabolas," Lois objected. "It's going to do parabolas. They prove nothing."
"These are green," said Terry stubbornly.
"What's the code in green?"
"It's not a code, it's a purpose."
"What purpose?"
"Well. We still have to find that out. That's our purpose."
"I can't believe my purpose is figuring out green," Lois grumbled.
Terry shrugged. "Pretending it has no purpose is worse." Lois sighed and began to dig further into the data.
3. Collective
The pebble fell.
Then another.
None of them made a pattern by themselves; that wasn't how patterns worked. Which ones were random? Which driven? Was it possible to choose the right frame to be able to tell?
If there was someone in there--not in one, but in all of them together--would the humans ever know?
Another pebble.
Another tick closer to beauty, as good a purpose as anyone had ever formed.
4. Developmental
"I'll do what I want! You can't stop me!"
The door slammed.
"He's never going to make anything of himself at this rate. Slouching around after those hoodlum friends."
"Harold, that's not fair."
"He needs direction!"
"Not... necessarily yours."
Harold paused. "What other kind is there?"
5. Xenological
"Is it an arm, do you think?"
"Maybe a tendril?"
"But in this frame it's moving. Reaching."
"I think that's heliotropic."
"Why are you both so opposed to thinking there's someone on Wasat Four who wants that shiny rock as much as you do?"
"What would they want it for?"
He smiled. "It's kind of nice, isn't it?"
6. Ontological
"What's the point? It's all chemicals firing anyway."
"Yours aren't."
"Oh, shut up."
"The point is what you make it. The point is what you brought with you."
"Well, I didn't bring one."
"You didn't bring enough meaning of life to share with the whole class?"
"Oh, shut up."
"You could start."
"I don't know where."
"Anywhere. What have you got to do that's better?"
A sigh. "I guess. Neurology always sounded kind of cool...."
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Author Comments

This was a story I wrote in my traveler's notebook in my dad's ICU room in the weeks before he died. He would have been the first person to want me to take up my pen in those circumstances. I miss him every day.

- Marissa Kristine Lingen
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