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"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.

Second Edition

Jen Nafziger is an award-winning writer, cosmic poet, and daydreamer who lives in Lisbon, Portugal. Her publishing credits include small presses, chalked-up sidewalks, bar napkins, and hastily-written notes tacked to overflowing bulletin boards.

One day you'll find an eyelash in a small library book, a slight, black curve that's tucked into the margins like some long-forgotten tribute to the intoxicating text. You tap the hair against your finger, pull it close to view. The static of the world glues the intact follicle to the subtle ridges of your skin, your distinctive human fingertips. The lash belongs to someone who loved this book, like you, whose passion for the page deserved a human sacrifice. If only you could meet the woman who loved the story, too.
Then, you'll slide the eyelash into a test-tube, take it to the lab, and make yourself a clone (it isn't so expensive anymore). Clones, they grow like dandelions, and soon you'll have a friend, a cheery, egg-yolk yellow bud you can rub upon your cheeks. You discuss great novels while sharing Found Greens salad in the Hipster coffee place that's just out of your budget. You both have the same taste, you and the clone. Neither have much money, hence the libraries and food sharing.
You'll begin to wonder if she's human, or if she's even real. She's a copy. A second edition, pressed again by popular demand. Her pages stuffed with words others read already, but you don't even care. Each new chapter is singular to you. You, with the literature-loving, bitter-salad eating, eyelash-shedding clone.
And then one day, you disagree. She finally reads your shared and sacred book. You have a better job now, so you purchased it in hardback from the independent bookstore that's blissfully disorganized. She's furious. "This book is crap," she shouts, a severe, soul-wrenching slog. She cried the whole way through. She stands, red-faced, rubbing puffy eyes. You take the little book, pages damp with clone tears, and you see a brand-new eyelash there, stuck inside the binding. Does she always use the pages like a tissue?
The clone will pack her bags and call a cab. You'll wonder as she leaves, was it like this before? Is that how the eyelash first appeared? Lonely now, you look down at the open book, the fine, dark silk curl, waiting like an unfinished parenthesis. You'll trap it in another sterile test tube.
This time, it will be different.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, August 9th, 2021

Author Comments

Like anyone who frequents libraries, I've come across sporadic stray hairs in borrowed books. These discoveries always make me wonder about the owner's personality. I like writing playful (and somewhat unsettling) stories about mundane people who encounter fantastic, other-worldly scenarios and am intrigued by the border between darkness and whimsy.

"Second Edition" came from considering the funny paradox of human connection--we crave unconditional love for ourselves, but often fail to accept the flaws of other people. Even in a future of ultra-advanced, on-demand science, can we ever escape the delusion of human perfection?

- Jen Nafziger
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