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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.

Fairest World

Chris Bailey is a new British writer with fiction previously published in Shoreline of Infinity and Andromeda Spaceways.

The crew working the consoles in the orbiting spaceship were reporting their analyses of the new world below.
"Gravity, E plus five per cent."
"Atmosphere 21 per cent oxygen, 78 nitrogen, remainder inert gases."
"Day 26 E-hours, year 400 E-days."
"Only a slight axial tilt. Little seasonal variation. Temperate all year over most of the world."
"Approximately sixty percent ocean."
"Ten per cent of the land is desert, twelve is mountain, remainder is forest, grassland."
"All the major phyla..."
"Birds, animals, insects, fish--give us more time here, the system can't manage. It's all too much...."
"No signs of cultivation, housing, roadways, any sort of infrastructure. Almost certainly there's no intelligent life...."
Camera drones skimmed the surface of the new world and the crew could see sunlight glittering off serene rivers and tranquil lakes, and seas laced with silvery backs and blue fins; grasslands grazed by placid ruminants, and meadows bright with multi-colored blooms; soft breezes rustled the leaves of the trees and flocks of songbirds wheeled overhead in exuberant arabesques.
"It's perfect!" No one disagreed.
And the Captain spoke.
"Recall the drones. Withdraw to standard operating distance. Arm the devices."
Two hours later the planet glowed red with unnatural blooms.
In total, there were more than ten thousand such missions.
Until finally it could be said, without contradiction, that Earth--broken, polluted, diseased--yes, that Earth was the galaxy's fairest world.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, February 24th, 2022

Author Comments

Reading about a wartime incident triggered this story. In August 1944, realizing that his forces were about to lose Paris, Adolf Hitler ordered the city to be destroyed (von Choltitz, his commander in Paris, disobeyed the order). It's a nasty little human trait, not exclusive to dictators - if I can't have this nice thing, I'm damned if you're going to--and one senses that it's not going to die out any time soon.

- Chris Bailey
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