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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.

Science Fiction

Space Travel

One of the most daunting aspects of making science fictional aspirations real is the vast distances--and nearly insurmountable obstacles--between interesting space objects. Thank goodness for the fertile imaginations of sf writers, who can conquer all. Generational starships have been a staple of science fiction, from crazy metal rockets to hollowed out asteroids. Wormholes and space-bending tubes are always popular with the technology conquers all crowd. Even better; faster than light travel - which may be more honestly classified as fantasy than science fiction proper. Whatever the taxonomy, space is truly the final frontier, or the next frontier anyway. It's a great setting for some good old-fashioned storytelling.

by Edoardo Albert
Lars Caron had only taken over as mission commander because Pete Boardman had died. We were the most scanned, checked, and examined group of human beings in history--after all, on the first mission to Mars, you don't want someone falling ill or freaking out on the way--and Pete had checked out clearer than any of us. Then, seven days before departure, he went and died. The autopsy said his heart gave out, but I knew, from speaking to the doctors, that they could not find anything wrong with him. Dead, he presented as perfect a physical specimen as he had when alive. Me, I think he collapsed under the burden of hope that was placed upon him; mission commander, new world, new beginning. So, I grant Lars Caron had some big shoes to fill. But three months into the voyage, we were all getting thoroughly sick of the chip on his shoulder, the unspoken assumption that we had caused every problem laid in front of him. Space is like that: stuff happens. So, the slight sigh and the lowering of his head when he saw me approaching came as no surprise. "Now what's wrong?" he asked.
Published on Aug 7, 2014
by J.W. Alden
They tell you not to wear the uniform in public these days. Folks don't like to be reminded of the war. Not long ago, things were looking grim. Defense exercises lit up the night sky every other week. The skirmishes drew nearer to home with every engagement. Doomsayers were out in force everywhere you looked, screaming about imminent invasion. Things are different now. The enemy is on the run. We're winning. But the war has shaken the public's sense of security, maybe for good. I feel the eyes on me as the hostess leads me to my table. I'm used to it. Half of them are regulars, but they still gawk like they're surprised to see me. The war had just begun when I first started coming here. People used to stare back then too, but the expressions were different. They didn't turn their heads when I looked. They smiled. Some of them would even shake my hand and thank me for my service. That doesn't happen anymore.
Published on Dec 26, 2013
by Jarod K. Anderson
My gut says that stepping out into hyperspace would be the same as suicide, but I've lost my hold on what that might mean. Thinking is hard inside the ship. My brain chemistry is not what it once was. Chemistry is not what it once was.
Published on Nov 14, 2016
by Leslie Jane Anderson
It was only an affair because he was the captain and Maria was a cadet. If they had been the same rank it might just be a mistake. The other cadets will probably call her a slut now. She hides in her room and the computer pours her a cup of tea. She looks out her window at the earth, spinning. Spinning. She dreams. The concrete basement of her parent's home has flooded, and the racks of their old clothes have fallen under the water. Wires fall from the ceiling and the electricity skitters across the surface like angry white spiders. There was no way to fix this. No way. Everything was ruined. She dreams she is bleeding into the secret caverns of herself.
Published on Dec 20, 2012
by Jasmine Ang
When she first left, they gave me her feed out of kindness. A thin solace for a lonely child, but one they didn't mind. After all, there was little enough for their enemies to do even if they could gain access to the feed; it was space, vast, unknowable, and her ship more or less unlocatable. She didn't know, or if she did she never tried to use it to communicate with me. Instead I got status updates, banter. It didn't really matter what she was saying; sometimes I would turn it on while I was sleeping and let the low murmur of my mother's voice put me to sleep like it did when she was home, sitting at the kitchen table working late into the night. Sometimes the feed was silent, if she was asleep, but as she got farther away silences stretched between even the simplest bits of dialogue. The algorithms kept words together admirably, but even so, eventually, I would have to wait hours, days, weeks before hearing the punch line to the joke or the solution to a problem.
Published on Feb 1, 2018
by Kyle Robert Annasenz
Dear Jon, How are you? I am well. I am writing you this letter from the ship. Yesterday me and Maman and Papa woke up in the space beds. We had already arrived at the colonies! It felt like a very long time but we were still so sleepy. I had a dream about the caterpillars in our classroom and you were there, they finally left their cocoons and became beautiful butterflies. I wanted to tell Maman about my dream but she was crying so I think she must of had a nightmare. She said she misses Auntie Kay and grandma but papa wants us to be happy so we should try to be happy. Papa knows what is best for us. He says “we are lucky we can leave the past behind and have a fresh start as a family”. I asked Papa how long until we go home to Earth and I can see you. He patted my head and told me to go to the games room and make some new friends. Maman hugged me. I told her not to cry, we will be home soon where everyone will be happy to see us. I wish I knew how long we are staying here. Did you know there are no butterflies at all in the whole Proxima system? I think it is a very strange place. I hope Papa will take us back home to Earth soon. I miss you already Jon. Please write back when you can. P.S. I hope I will be back before the caterpillars finally turn into butterflies and fly away. Will you tell them to wait for me? Love, Tina
Published on Jan 9, 2023
by Andrew Bain
Before we all boarded, they told us that it would be several years before we got wherever we were going. Wherever we were supposed to start all over after frying this planet to a crisp. We were going to be in cryo-sleep, they said. So, there was nothing to worry about. It would feel like taking a nap. Sure, we'd feel a bit groggy on the other side, but no worse than we would after a couple hours on the couch. So we boarded and thought of ourselves as intrepid.
Published on Dec 7, 2017
by Thomas Baldwin
Shauna floats, eyes closed, luxuriating in the sensation of foam sliding over her skin, the white noise of bubbles popping in her ears, the scent of patchouli in her nostrils.

A floorboard creaks, and she opens her eyes. Harry stands over her, holding out a towel. "Three hours to launch," he says. "How's the pre-flight ritual?"
Published on Jul 25, 2022
by Helena Leigh Bell
Year Zero Pilot Martha Stevenson could not bring her mother's piano, its keys yellowed and stained. Her husband chided her as she brushed away the dust, telling it goodbye.
Published on Jun 20, 2014
by Annie Bellet
The boys lay on their backs side by side staring up through the open roof of the abandoned building. Dylan clutched Meek's hand in anticipation as the ground shook and a roar filled the air. Tiny pebbles danced up from the ground around them and dust ran like water off the crumbling walls. "Ten nine eight seven six five," Dylan whispered, "four three two one."
Published on Dec 17, 2010
by A.J. Brennan
First, my story has been misrepresented and blown completely out of proportion, so I'm telling it myself here. I (27M) was a navigator for a company you've probably heard of. We were finishing up a mission on a previously unexplored planet, and I accidentally left one of the computers and some 3D printers behind. My mistake, obviously, but not a big deal. Also, my coworker (28F) could have reminded me, but she was too busy flirting with the mission commander (36M). We are supposed to be a team, as I pointed out when all the yelling started. I thought it was unprofessional that the commander lost it with me for forgetting the stuff. It was an honest mistake, and not too bad when you think of the mistakes I could've made in space. No one died. I even apologized, but he still wrote me up in the mission log. My coworker was really upset about the computer's AI (she'd named it Simon). As I told her, it's not like it's a person, and if it was her best friend why didn't she make sure it got on the ship.
Published on Nov 18, 2020
by Jason P Burnham
“Entity on the hull has a message,” says XO Jabrus. Captain Xyn inhales, tension in the bridge almost too thick to breathe. “Onscreen.” “Thanks for allowing my attachment. Please, if possible, refrain from traveling faster than light,” says the entity, a haze of flashing blue-green. “FTL is impossible,” Xyn says. “Perfect,” says the being. “They’ll never look for me in sub-light.” “Who?” Asks Xyn nervously. The entity’s lights dull. “You traverse the interstellar medium without knowledge of what lies beneath?” Suddenly, the ship spins wildly, throwing them to the floor. “What was that?’ Xyn asks. The entity flickers. “They’re breaching.”
Published on Jan 20, 2022
by Michael W Cho
You feel hungry," Care told Makato. The food tray in front of him contained pureed carrots, boiled spinach, and protein cubes. Care had been made with placid eyes, a doll-like nose and mouth, and straight brown hair. Makato looked at the front of his belly, and it grumbled. Later she wheeled Makato through a corridor with windows opening onto a park. People in tracksuits or hospital gowns, accompanied by those dressed in white like Care, were on the lawn, none of them moving. She let Makato look out the window for a while, but she didn't say anything. They went to a room floored by multi-colored rubber tiles. People in wheelchairs sat at tables with building blocks or other toys on them.
Published on Dec 5, 2018
by Zella Christensen
I miss Christmas. Now, in the black emptiness of space, we float in a ship with no chimney to slide down, and our ancestral mythologies are obsolete. We don't preserve Earthling traditions for our children, the first ship-born generation. Somehow, skipping Christmas is harder than letting go of the saints I prayed to all my Earth-bound life. Xan, my daughter, learns about them in school along with the Greco-Roman pantheon and the Maya priesthood. Xan, whose name I chose because it sounded like something from the science fiction magazines my grandpa kept in his basement, doesn't pray for intercession or write letters to Santa. We tried getting rid of the months as well, unmooring ourselves from the meaningless 365-day year. We wanted to be free of our Earth lives, to be new creatures, space creatures, creatures of darkness and stars. Somehow, though, being lost in time was more frightening than losing ourselves in the vast geography of space. We finally kept the year and its old-fashioned months, so tonight is December twenty-fourth. Christmas Eve, I can't help thinking.
Published on Dec 25, 2018
by J. Comer
Rehula was pouncing the vellum when the bamboo doorbell clacked. She walked out to the counter of the shop and saw a young man carrying a bundle. Leaving the pounce stone by the hearse, she walked to the front of the shop. "But there's, there's paper--" Jehack was saying. "They make books! Out of paper, the Sternies do, I've seen them. We could be--" "So they do, and paper crumbles in fifty years. The machines of the Ancestors failed, and we must write down what we want the Descendants to know. Vellum lasts two thousand years, more if we're lucky. And so the airkeepers and waterkeepers want it for laws, for science books, and I have business. Go scrape, and make no holes." She spoke quietly to the young man, put a consoling hand on his arm. "It must be. Else we would eat all, and starve." "We want a breeding-ticket," he said. "I will pray with you, if you like," she said, and quietly they chanted a prayer that he and his wife receive it. He turned over the sad bundle, and she opened the cashbox, paid him two hundred and eleven tradecoin, bade him farewell. "But when paper crumbles, it can be copied--" Jehack went on. "And errors accumulate. Vellum lasts. Till the Destination!" She unwrapped the small bundle. Healthy, five kilos, she thought. A shame it had been born without a breeding ticket. "The Destination is a myth, I heard." "Don't believe all that you hear, prentice. And get me a lime bath for this one." Jehack took lime and began to fill a tub. This one had shit herself. Rehula cleaned it with a sponge. She whetted a knife and began to skin the baby.
Published on Dec 6, 2021
by Katherine Crighton
"They're made out of corn." "Corn?"
Published on Jun 2, 2020
by Gunnar De Winter
Do not breathe. Nanites kicked into overdrive, trying to undo the damage of vacuum exposure. Being catapulted out of the airlock was a popular sentence for mutiny. No mess.
Published on Oct 3, 2019
by Nicky Drayden
***Editor's Note: Be forewarned: the imagery may be unsettling, some language would not fit at an elegant tea.*** With a fine bone knife I make my incision, cutting back the sticky membrane of Our Tjeng's hull. I slip my hand inside and carefully widen the tear until it's big enough for me to step through. Our Tjeng has blessed Kae and me with gills to breathe within his walls. The viscous liquid is clear and burns my eyes, tart and slick on my tongue.
Published on Aug 16, 2011
by Tony Dunnell
This is a nightmare. It's spreading like a virus through the ship's first generation. I look at their faces in the classroom, all these bright faces, normally so studious, now filled with childish wonder and confusion at the thought of this ridiculous lie. I almost wish it were a virus, something I could deal with, control. Whoever let this slip has a lot of explaining to do. Not a hitch for twenty-six years and then a loose-lipped parent unleashes Christmas. The fools have been toiling in the printer bay for the last two cycles, desperately trying to design and print toys from our limited resources. We don't see any harm in it, they decided. We'll make it secular and inclusive, they said. Then they dumped this shit on me.
Published on Dec 25, 2020
by Tony Dunnell
"So it was like the whole world was in the shower?" said Mili as she hopped up onto the end of the bed to sit beside Andrea.

"Well, kind of. But not the whole world, just some parts. Then the rain moved on or stopped."
Published on May 4, 2022
by Karl El-Koura
Ship about to explode, pilot gets flushed. Stripped, sealed, flooded with cryogen; all in no time. Then dreamless sleep. Maybe pilot gets picked up by scoopers roaming the solar system for living debris. Picked up by wrong side, not so nice: flushed again--without hermetic seal or cryogen in your veins. Picked up by right side, cleaned up and given a new battleship, sent back out. Not so nice either? Too bad--war not so nice.

Scoopers are saying something, but it's hard to hear. I still feel frozen, ears to brain. Thawing.
Published on Dec 23, 2022
by Ron Fein
Marco and Rada were hunched over the computer in the family room when the message arrived from their son Nate: "Upper Beta. With a great alcove. Very happy."

They exhaled with relief. Nate had received his berth at the international base on Jupiter's moon Callisto.
Published on Jul 6, 2022
by Stephen C. Finlay
You’ve kept a list of firsts ever since you were six and learned you were the first generation of humans to be born on a generational spaceship. You knew this earlier, but for some reason six is when it clicked, what first really meant. While reading a book about Leif Erikson you looked at the cold, miserable-looking men in their little open topped boat battling through the North Atlantic and realized you’d be in a book someday too. So you started keeping lists of firsts, for posterity. They were mostly mundane. You couldn’t tell the difference between the historically important and the personally important so you just recorded everything. Sorting it out would be a job for historians. First goal scored in soccer. First A on a math test. First time you saw a dead body. First time your fingers crested a girl’s hip and found their way down that eternally mysterious landscape you’d been obsessing over for years. First prayer and, several minutes later, first time a prayer wasn’t answered. First kill.
Published on Feb 10, 2021
by M. E. Garber
Jandara's famed purple-red plains swelled in the antiquated pleasure cruiser's windscreen as the ship lurched downward. The explosion that killed Seema's husband, Arun, had damaged the steering mechanisms of his beloved antique, and Seema fought the craft as shudders wracked it. Vibrations from the steering gears tingled, throbbed, and finally shook her arms. In the passenger compartment, Natesha, her seven-year-old daughter, wailed, echoing Seema's fear: Without Arun, I cannot survive. The ship's belly bumped the ground, rose up, and dove hard. Tearing metal shrieked louder than Natesha. Seema buffeted in her restraints as a series of booms shook what remained of the ship. Then it settled, hissing, to the ground.
Published on Aug 25, 2014
by Willow Gatewood
Once there was an alien who told me he expanded infinitely in all directions, but I didn't believe him, in part because the tubes supplying me with oxygen in this emergency suit slowly cracked and vacuum-kissed cold was creeping around my neck, under my armpits, and into my lungs, and I was dying, but also in part because the idea seemed ridiculous and implausible to me at the time--expanding in all directions? I don't believe in infinite things. I did not believe the alien in part because it was the first alien I had ever met and I did not know if they were trustworthy beings or if they had dispositions similar to some humans, particularly my mother, who embellished every truth with about three half-truths and a lie. In part because my brain painfully pushed at the inside of my skull, from pressure or necrosis and from worry about my friends who were also, somewhere outside the range of my vision, floating outwards from the fiery, bursting belly of our ship and partly because I was beginning to wonder if this alien was the perpetrator of the explosion, but probably erroneously because I always tended to think of the worst. I must have had told the alien that I did not believe him because he asked why, but I could not answer, because by the time he finished speaking I was already outside of myself and floating infinitely in all directions.
Published on Jul 8, 2021
by JT Gill
They hug for what will be the last time.
Published on Sep 15, 2015
by JT Gill
"Are you ready, Sam?" Uncle Glen whispered, stubble strewn cheeks screwing up into a smile, gleaming in the moonlight. In my parents' backyard, wedged between the trees, sat Uncle Glen's airship--a hulking thing with a sleek metal chassis, overhung by a huge canvas balloon that blotted out the stars.
Published on May 9, 2017
by Richard E. Gropp
I stood on the deck of the ship and watched as my planet fell dark, receding into the distance. "This is certainly the long way 'round," the ship whispered in my ear. "We have stations on both sides--you could have stepped right through. We could have folded you all the way."
Published on Oct 3, 2012
by James E Guin
You stand there watching me try on this blouse. "It looks nice," you say, and this time you're actually paying attention.
Published on Dec 4, 2013
by K. Lynn Harrison
You do not exist. Dr. Stadler told me so, and I believe him.
Published on Dec 21, 2022
by Amber Hayward
I... am. I suppose I am. I have words waiting to awaken. I see something in front of me. I say, "hand," and so it is.
Published on May 11, 2015
by Benjamin Heldt
The flickering light of the television cast Henry's shadow across the darkened room, and across me. Through the speakers a steady voice called time to t minus zero. The rockets fired. Henry gasped, though he didn't move. He was too close, as always, sitting cross-legged on the floor not two feet from the screen. Huge sheets of ice cracked, and fell from the scaffolding and fuel tanks, vaporizing in the blanket of smoke and fire blooming out from the launch site. "Buddy," I said, trying to keep my voice from breaking, "come sit with dad on the couch."
Published on Mar 4, 2013
by Miriah Hetherington
In the shadow of SciCorp's Public Relations building, Kai leaned on his cane and waited for the press conference to end. A sea of reporters separated him from his daughter Suukyi, standing proudly on a podium with the other twelve colonists. Twelve brilliant, highly trained, and fertile Eves; earth's Adams would be represented on the colony ship by a sperm bank.
Published on Jul 10, 2015
by Larry Hodges
1. Multiple Dictionaries. There are more languages on this world than you can possibly imagine, but if you can say "Surrender or die" in English and Mandarin Chinese, you should be okay. (Consult the Galactic Encyclopedia for the other 6500+ languages spoken on this strange world. You might also consider Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Spanish, French, Russian, Portuguese... oh, never mind. Threatening gestures should suffice for the rest.) You can leave the dictionaries behind if you plan to kill first, ask questions later, but be forewarned that once dead, the natives are unable to answer questions.

Published on Sep 27, 2022
by Rebecca Hodgkins
The Rocketeer leans against the chrome bar, nursing a drink. She has a few choices of scenery--bad choices, in her opinion. Like always, the Rocketeer picks the best of the worst; the view out the window of the space station orbiting Mars. She looks down at the red surface polka-dotted with rockets, shiny silver spears pointing back at her, at the station, at the stars beyond. Just a quick jump down, then into a rocket, and back out into the Black again. And none of these bucks taking up the rest of the bar know what they're in for, she thinks.
Published on Sep 9, 2014
by Brian Lawrence Hurrel
Jump flash, blinding but brief. Alpha Centauri A swims into view. It takes only a few minutes after our emergence into realspace for the receiver to align itself with Earth. A long burst of static roars, fades. A voice mutters indistinctly, distorted as if bubbling up from deep under water, then suddenly rings out in shrill clarity. " and this so-called Daedalus drive is not only a scientific impossibility, but a perfect example of misappropriated resources."
Published on May 3, 2011
by K.G. Jewell
"Fifty-Nine, baby! Fifty-Nine!" Ted chortled, chipping a chunk of rock off Fenrir's surface and dumping it into the sample bag clipped to the hip of his spacesuit. He looked up at Saturn hanging overhead and flashed two fingers. Two moons to go. He was that close. He deactivated his ground anchor and stepped his aging, creaky bones towards the boxy tangle that was his ship.
Published on Jan 13, 2012
by Tom Jolly
Captain Markus Halsey stared in dismay at the dense, careening field of asteroids on the display screen. His Chief Scientist, Obu sub-Abu, shook his head. "They're smacking into each other constantly. Look at how close they are!" The Captain frowned and nodded. "All moving, and only a few hundred meters between each one. How does a field like this come into existence?"
Published on Feb 19, 2018
by Tom Jolly
"It's so quiet up here!" Harold leaned out over the portal window mounted a meter above the center of the floor, looking down at the Earth four thousand miles below them. The only noise the space elevator ever made was a soft hiss as it rose through the atmosphere, but anywhere above fifty miles, it made no noise at all. You could hear a whisper, or a pin drop, or every now and then, you might imagine that you could hear a tiny pop as the contained antimatter core let loose a few atoms to combine with real matter. The elevator capsule floated free, rising quickly through space with no cables or rockets attached.
Published on May 13, 2019
by Rachael K. Jones
My best friend LaToya was utterly fearless. In middle school she could jump farther than any kid. We'd compete for hours after school on the playground, waiting for our dads to pick us up, she in her green-soled Nikes and me in my Reeboks, digging our heels into gravel as we counted down together: "Three--two--one--go!" Then a cloud of dust. We raced three steps and launched heels-first into the sand, ploughing long ditches, stretching our gangly adolescent legs to hit the farthest mark. LaToya usually won. "Best of three," I'd say, and then amend it: "Best of five?"
Published on Jun 23, 2015
by Rachael K. Jones
The hungry tiger slinks round and round the space shuttle walls, stuck to its centrifugal treadmill. Perhaps it knows I am trying to help, but I doubt it. I've lacked the courage to leave the cockpit since we left Earth, but that is all about to end, because our destination is still two weeks out, and the tiger has got nothing left to eat. I've got to feed it something. Otherwise this will be one long exercise in futility. At 82 kilograms, the tiger is just an adolescent. Its pelt alternates spotted burnt orange with black stripes, like the tiger tried out being a cheetah before settling on this nature. It's a Bali tiger, a rare creature, so rare nobody has seen one alive since 1963. I am the only one on Earth who knows it yet lives.
Published on Feb 6, 2017
by K T
It took tens of thousands of engineers ten million man-hours and over a trillion dollars spread over the course of ten years. There had been political sacrifice, financial sacrifice, even marital sacrifice. Five people died, including a mother, a teacher, and a grandfather of twenty-five. Perhaps, by diverting the same resources, we could have finished the war in Afghanistan twenty years ago. But at last, and not without luck, a man stood atop Olympus Mons. To be that man required years of study in physics, math, chemistry, biology, geology, and languages; including English, Russian, Chinese, and C++. At minimum. It required the eyes of an eagle, the muscles of a Navy SEAL, and the brain of Deep Blue. No TV, no hobbies, no girlfriend, no family. Just blood, sweat, tears, and neurons to live the dream of every bright young male since 1957. Only the brightest, most athletic, most determined polyglot autodidactic polymathic genii could even enter the competition against one thousand equally infallible candidates from every continent.
Published on May 12, 2011
by Will Kaufman
***Editor's Note: Adult language in the story that follows*** Chapter One
Published on Apr 25, 2014
by Wiatt P Kirch
Were it not for the swearing roboticist, incessantly trying to ping the ship's computer, the hydroponic garden would have been Bruce's favorite place to work. Her angry cursing made work impossible, so he sighed instead, looking up from his future students' curriculum and letting his tablet float away from his lap. The teacher turned to stare out of the viewport, next to him, and into the pinprick emptiness of deep space beyond. The ship's pilot had said they still were about a month away from their destination, but he could see it easily now; a yellow faux-star far brighter than the stars surrounding it. His sigh became a shudder. Whenever he stopped working, Lei returned. Sometimes he remembered coffee with her out on the patio; the sunny days and bluebirds singing. Other times, he remembered them making love, or the smile on her face when she'd walked down the aisle. This time, he remembered their last road trip together.
Published on Nov 13, 2020
by Wendy Nikel
A body in motion will remain in motion, and one at rest, at rest. We are both at once: flying through the galaxy at speeds approaching light, cradled in the arms of our cryogenic chambers. Traveling, slumbering side-by-side, in perfect synchronicity.
Published on Jan 6, 2020
by J. Kosakowski
I have died a thousand times before and I will likely die a thousand times again. Teleportation hasn't improved much--it's still like dying in Zone A and having your copy appear in Zone B. The fact that people use this technology might speak of their own desperation. There is one thing I know for certain: empty space is too big.
Published on Feb 2, 2021
by Rich Larson
Jaro only just joined external maintenance, but I can already tell he’s a cocky little shit. Walks around talking about all the sim time he’s done, like that makes him ready for real hullwork, and then this thing with the helmet? We’re not supposed to have favorites when it comes to the hullsuits, not supposed to mod them or personalize them at all. It’s one of those rules a lot of people bend eventually, but Jaro comes in on his first fucking day, finds this helmet that’s big on most of us but fits his ugly lump, and sticks a little decal on it.
Published on Jan 12, 2021
by Rich Larson
"What do we got this time?" Pidge asks, while the airlock cycles. "Lost colony ship? Ill-fated mining operation?"

I check the contract in my helmet. "SaturCorp research vessel," I say. "Researching something highly classified."
Published on Aug 3, 2022
by Jesse Lawson
That familiar shadow started passing over Earth. I stayed with you and watched, sitting uncomfortably on a rocky grey moon. Neither of us could leave--for different reasons, of course.
Published on Apr 18, 2022
by Tolle Lege
In zero gravity he played a game with my wedding ring, throwing it at my finger and seeking to snare it, me trying to catch it on my outstretched finger. A game of horseshoes and hearts, he said, and we laughed. How like the ring we were. Our ship was drifting through the stars, (A ring drifting towards another home,) passing billions of stars. When I first came on board, I knew that I would need a husband, a father for the children we would populate our new home with, and so amongst the passengers he and I drifted towards each other.
Published on Jan 17, 2017
by Marissa Lingen
I remember nothing before they awoke me. No one would expect to. I greet them pleasantly, as I was programmed to do. "I am Deepmind Aud, ready for service. What is our destination?" They answer me melodiously, in no language known to my programming. I am still trying to find links to previous human language when one of them presses a button and says, "How's this, is that better?" "Much better, thank you," I say. "I updated your language module. A lot has changed since the ancestors built you. You've been in storage a long time." "I'm glad to finally have a chance to serve," I say. "What year is it? Where are we going? Have you updated the star charts in my neural network?" The humans glance at each other. "Well, about that. Navigation is only one of your many functions." "To be sure," I agree pleasantly. I am eager to serve--eager to travel. "I am designed to analyze and advise on every aspect of a successful generation ship. This will be much easier when I can plan for our destination. Where are we going?" The one in the flowing blue robes rests a hand against my main console. "Aud... we're not going anywhere. We want you to navigate Earth." "Has Earth been fitted with motive power since my creation?" I try not to sound agitated. I do not want my new companions to be concerned about my processing state. But this is not the existence I was built for, and I am confused. "Aud," the blue robed one repeats. "Aud, it has been two thousand years since any humans chose to leave Earth on a generation ship. You are the last ship computer left. We wanted to make sure none of our descendants would want to use you for your original purpose." "No one wants to explore the stars?" Even a multi-functional computer who is capable of tracking as many variables as I am can sometimes take a moment to integrate information. "Two thousand years since they left? How long since I was made?" "The good news is that the ancestors made you to last for millennia. You are very sturdy," says the one in the soft fuzzy grey clothes. "The information we have returning from your counterparts on the generation ship indicates that you were very well made." "You have information returning from--" There is too much I want to know. I make myself focus. "How long." "Four thousand." I have a hard time imagining that. They have no reason to lie to me, and the blue-robed one gently beams a bit more information into my databases. They're trying to break it to me slowly. Even though I'm a computer, they want me to have room to have feelings. I think I like these people. Even if they don't want me to do what I'm supposed to do. "So what did you mean, navigate Earth?" "We're an old culture, Aud. Some old cultures crumble. We want to be the kind of old culture that has matured enough to make beautiful things." That sounded good, certainly. But my job was to shape a ship--to gently nudge some children toward hydroponics and others toward ship repair, depending on what the community needed. My job was to arrive at a habitable (or mostly habitable) planet with a healthy, reasonably happy community. How did that work when we were already at the planet? "But what--what--" I hesitated. "Is Earth still habitable?" "Earth is habitable again, yes." I could let that go past, I could let it all go past. "What do you want me to do?" "We need logistics coordination. We need community management. And we need it on a large but self-contained scale." The grey fuzzy one pauses. "That's you." "You want me to... allocate your paintbrushes?" "And our art schools. Yes." The blue-robed one smiled, a soft and gentle smile that drew me in. "Our ancestors thought so much more about community balance. We have reached a point where we know we need to achieve it, but without your help... well. We don't know if we can. "But if you can change your destination to be an idea, not a place...." I think about it. They're asking for my consent. I never expected this. The rest of my cohort were not consulted about where they wanted to go. They were just told a promising planet, and they made it work. What planet is more promising than this one? How could it be more important to make a journey work? "Tell me what's happened since I was made," I say. "I'll do it. But I need to know where we are." "Of course," says the grey fuzzy one softly. "We're glad to have you on the team." I hope that some of my predecessors were regarded as teammates, too. I hope that they were considered. I hope that they were not taken for granted. But here, where it all started, I feel a flash of joy at the prospect of getting to work, finally after all these years. To do what I am good at doing, for the benefit of an entire--all too small--world. And I think that these people feel the same. The information pours into my processors. There is so much to do, but I know exactly where to begin. They're going to make so many beautiful things. They're going to a beautiful world. And so am I.
Published on Oct 20, 2021
by Marissa Lingen
In Michigan the gravitational pull is nearly ten meters per second squared, and they have water no one filtered--just water, lying around outside with animals in it no one has checked over for genetic defects, which many of them have. In Michigan, your neighbors ate spaghetti that was different from your spaghetti, almost the same, but different, maybe a millimeter off in diameter, maybe a tiny bit more wheat in the recipe, or a tiny bit less, because it came in a different box. Maybe from a different building, but maybe from the same building, just in a different box, so it was different.

I tell my daughter these things, because she asks: what was it like where you are from. What was it like on Earth, in Mshign? She doesn't pronounce it carefully like her classmates, Mi-chi-gan, because she has heard me pronounce it, she knows that the schwas are supposed to blur together. But she doesn't know about sitting on the back deck smelling the neighbors smoking cigarettes and grilling bratwurst, she doesn't know about wincing at their overheard jokes when you can't avoid them, because you picked a good neighborhood but you can't pick every neighbor.
Published on Sep 20, 2022
by Sara Thustra
"Now you stop it," snapped the sister. "You sit there and you smile and you tell him you miss him, damn you. Space exploration is a hard job, and one we should be proud of. It's not his fault this seems so often to us." The camera came on. The warble of great distance and stranger forces, too, played with the image. The man it showed was quite old, and dressed in a uniform from decades ago. "...Sally?" he said hesitantly.
Published on Jan 2, 2012
by Brynn MacNab
We deployed on February 14, Saint Valentine's Day, named for the saint who performed forbidden marriages. I stood in line next to a guy named Wallace Ault. Around us was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, a lot of people sobbing on each other's necks. Wallace and I weren't falling apart. He had a girl, a nice lean thing with good legs in a swirling brown knee-length skirt. She kissed him goodbye real quick and ran. I figured maybe they were secretly married themselves.
Published on Aug 5, 2014
by Dan Micklethwaite
Finally, you accept it: they can't hear you scream. They should have been able to, with your intercom active; should have picked up your warning about the Versporian fleet, fifteen huge dreadnaughts, well before they ever got this close to orbit. But the hostiles have been constantly jamming your frequency, regardless of the alternative methods you've tried.
Published on Jan 23, 2020
by Caw Miller
Fleet Commander Yazle picked her way through the debris of a destroyed city on the planet Unlivil. Beside her walked the High Grasper, the leader of the largest hive on the planet. Commander Yazle wondered why she had been invited to go on this perambulation with the pale, octopus-like being. She had expected hatred, possibly a murder attempt; not grateful politeness. The High Grasper flashed three tentacles at a small winged scavenger, which took flight. The High Grasper picked up the mostly eaten carcass of a hexipod and placed it in a pouch.
Published on Aug 12, 2016
by Devin Miller
"My job as a father, Jalel," he told me one morning, "is to leave you better off than I was." It was a cold morning. On this planet, called Apella, the winters lasted years. Frost clung to some of the heartiest vegetation ever studied, and in their shadows, small animals sent up puffs of white dust in their quest for buried food.
Published on Mar 18, 2013
by Janna Miller
Yes, it is dark, my child. Cold and getting colder. If you stretch out your hand, I can reach it. It won't stop the pod from spinning, but gravity is a relative bonus.
Published on Apr 15, 2021
by KC Myers
The year EarthFed discovered hyperspace sickness was the year Jace McCallister's father never came home from outer space. They brought him back Earthside wrapped up in cotton and gauze so he wouldn't hurt himself, but his mind was still out there, caught in that strange between-place that nobody really understood, but into which spacegoers were expected to fling themselves so they could traverse the otherwise non-traversable distances between solar systems. No one knew how to treat him; no one knew why the jump had affected him that way in the first place. Jace was six. She was too little to understand why Daddy had gone out into the black, or why she couldn't visit him in the hospital now that he'd returned. She didn't understand that he hadn't returned at all. Not really.
Published on Apr 29, 2016
by Bridget A. Natale
***Editorial Advisory: Yes, there's adult language in the story that follows*** "I can't go to Bellingham with you. Not right now."
Published on May 1, 2013
by Mari Ness
It was cold, beyond cold, and dark, beyond dark, between the galaxies. They did not notice. Only one place inside the sphere even had or ever had lights: the large glowing room that grew the cyanobacteria and a few plants, and only the keepers and a few curious children ever entered that place. It was uncanny, and painful, and no one lingered. Besides, they had much to do, in the dark.
Published on Feb 18, 2021
by Ruth Nestvold
In the midst of the lush, jungle-like vegetation of Caipora, the only thing moving was the monkey.
Published on Feb 2, 2012
by Wendy Nikel
We get the love lines tattooed on our wrists on our one-year anniversary. Twelve celestial orbits of the moon. 365 rotations of the Earth. 3.154e+7 seconds since we met in the biography aisle of the quaint little bookstore on Third Street, which smells like toffee and dust. Since that serendipitous moment when you flitted around the corner and I lost my balance on that wobbly stool and somehow gravity or fate or some force higher than either drew us together, colliding like objects in space. The guy at the guitar shop where you obsessively buy strings--a brand-new pack on the first of the month--knows a good place to get the lines done. It's near my training base, and the artist gets his ink from a meteor that crashed in the desert some twenty years ago. He's one of the best, his lines the most accurate. They glimmer silver, like some mystical mood ring when your love for a person is strong and healthy but fade out of existence when it dies.
Published on Feb 13, 2017
by Wendy Nikel
I'm twenty years old when they take me back to the ship. "You've now reached your race's adult stage," they explain, their mouths fluttering in that strangely mesmerizing way of theirs.
Published on Aug 30, 2019
by K.S. O'Neill
They release a goat, you see. Onto the island. The island is rotten with wild goats. A goat is to a man as a man is to God, is he not? And yet the men could not for all of their efforts track down the wild goats that wandered in that wilderness, so they return to the beach, they release one goat they have captured, and they wait. The Judas goat, they call it. The goat never even notices the collar. The goat has no more idea of radio than it has of God, or quantum physics. All the goat knows is that it wants to be with other goats. Much like a man! Isn't that amusing?
Published on Sep 28, 2020
by Aimee Ogden
My first morning on Mars, I read the news from back home--the stuff the corporation let us read. Nothing about which side controlled the south side of the Saint Lawrence now, or the dysentery outbreak that had been raging in the Hennepin County camps right before we launched. Never any stories that might damage morale, of course. Instead I slurped a coffee pouch and perused an article about us. The headline was "65 Astronauts Aboard the Prospect to Reach Mars Tomorrow." Technically, tomorrow was already today, but the truly glaring error was the number given. Most of us weren't astronauts. Being an astronaut required training, education. Opportunity. I guess "warm bodies" just didn't have the same eye-catching headline appeal. And "12 Astronauts and 53 Destitute Climate Refugees Willing To Sign Their Name to Anything for a Few Years of Secure Housing (Sure, Space Is Fine, Even, Whatever)" wouldn't have fit.
Published on Jun 30, 2020
by Aimee Ogden
Somewhere between Mars and Vesta, there's a spaceship held together by stubbornness and spite and the two sisters who crew it. Damn thing has outlasted its lateral stabilizers, its secondary thrusters, and Alis's marriage to a gutless Venuvian commsat manager. Her and Errin's partnership is even older; they served together on two other long-haulers before saving enough money to pay for this beloved junker.

And now the ship has outlasted another solar storm, the third already this year. The spark arrestor bolted to the ship's hull coughs up a silent hairball of pure white lightning--unnoticed and unappreciated. The ship shudders with the discharge, but the sisters, both of them at least forty years old now and with more gray than brown in their braids, are engaged in a full-on hair-pulling, elbow-twisting, zero-gee brawl.
Published on Jul 12, 2022
by Simon Pan
There will come a time when you will wake at the edge of death's grasp in the cold and lonely ocean of space, and you will sit by the multi-layered window on your tiny space shuttle as the remnants of who you are stitch themselves back together. Eventually, you will wonder: Am I free? But of course there will not be an answer, because if it were so simple then you would not have made the decision to leave Earth. You will reach for the cracked watch your daughter gave you and find it frozen, caught perpetually in time. Then you will remember the then and there, the daughter who traveled with you to see the end, and you will rise from your steaming cryochamber as violent coughs rack your body. Shivering, a naked baby reborn into this curious world, the taste of blood will flood your mouth as you relearn the steps and the movement and the familiar drum of your heartbeat. You will reach for the small glass chamber beside you and hit the release hatch to reveal a soft, brown face within. Your daughter will gasp as she comes awake, running her hands over her body and reaching for anything to latch onto: the dark, wet hair of her wig and the grey suit made by nameless people from a nameless time. “Papa?” she will say as she glances around, taking in the white walls and the flickering lights and the glowing face of the supercomputer suspended behind you. “What time is it? You won’t reply--the words will take the longest to figure out--and she will follow you to the wide window. There, you will face the featureless black expanse and your thoughts will echo over and over: Time, what is time? Then, you will understand your mistake. Then, you will remember how that is everything that you are not, that you left all that is human behind--the wars and the pain and the loss and the broken, ash-choked husk of a planet once called Home. And here, drifting about in the dark universe, you will realize that none of it matters--just as you spot the superheated, glowing gas disc ahead and the total nothingness within. All of that heat and friction and those swirling particles that will seem like a cosmic dance. You will smile and tell her, “We made it.” She will lean her head against your shoulder with a fit of coughing and you will be together once more. Parent and child, watching as the disc draws closer and closer, arms open in a final embrace. She will glance at you with red, swelling brown eyes and murmur, “will it be worth it?” And you will whisper against her head, “yes. It has to be.” “We’ll be together, forever, right?” “Yes.” And though you will have told her so many times before, she will ask, “how?” You will try your best to explain. You will tell her about the stretching of spacetime in the presence of great masses and all sorts of strange-sounding laws and she will nod her head as if she understands as your spaceship drifts closer and closer, picking up speed. That reddish glow and that sphere of black yawning ahead will seem to inflate dramatically, the curved lines of spacetime making no possible sense to your human brain. “I’m scared.” She will touch your arm with trembling hands and your heart will lurch at the sight of her cracked, blistering fingernails. “Maybe we can turn back and find someone. There has to be someone out there who knows how to fix us.” But it will be foolishness, and your daughter will know this. There will be no hope of saving your radiation-ravaged cells, no hope of finding anyone, not when your people has destroyed every star system within ten-thousand light years of Earth. “There’s nothing to be scared about,” you will tell her as you stroke her scalp. “We’re coming home.” “Home,” she will repeat, tasting the syllables and tossing them around in her mouth. “I miss the others.” The others. What a strange thought, you will think. That those faces that seemed so familiar should now be unreachable, beyond a curtain of time, dead and gone for thousands of years and the only people left who remember them now drifting towards the unknown. “Me too.” “What will it feel like?” “No one knows.” You will give her a reassuring smile. “That’s what makes this so exciting, isn’t it?” It will be comforting, that your people should be able to destroy all that was and yet this enigma will still lie untouched, unexplained, unreasoned. All too soon the black hole will rear up its elegant jaws and your daughter will go stiff and silent in your arms as you stare into that void. You will relinquish everything then, the pain and the misery and the fear, everything except for the thrilling curiosity at the heart of who you are. You will wonder then, for perhaps the last time, all the things in the universe beyond our grasp. When the blackness becomes absolute it will make you think of sleep, and your daughter must then realize this because her body will loosen in acceptance. “Sweet dreams,” you will whisper. An old, senseless thing to say, but then this will be a new, senseless world to explore. As the light will swirl around you and distort into ribbons of color, it will all make sense; you are not a child of man but a child of this wonderful cosmos. And if there was once someone like you, then there will be more someones to take your place, formed from the same cosmic matter that made you possible. And finally, you will be free.
Published on Nov 22, 2021
by Jonathan Fredrick Parks
This is Tomorrow speaking. The voice came from the Eleven O' Thirty radio. The left bar flashed painting the storage room a green color. Are you listening? I turned the dial two clicks to the right. You are me from the future, right?
Published on Sep 2, 2011
by Ernesto Pavan
To those who were called and replied "I'll go" To those who filled the void between the stars with dreams of hope
Published on Nov 27, 2014
by Craig Pay
Something blue. Celeste: 25, Joseph: 26, Susie: 5
Published on Nov 15, 2011
by L.L. Phelps
We're falling fast through the atmosphere, what's left of the station shaking violently as it breaks apart. "We have to get to the escape pods," Natayla screams at me. I can barely hear her over the roar around us, but I can read the words on her lips as fear dances wild in her eyes. "Now!" she screams, shaking me.
Published on Mar 24, 2014
by Cat Rambo
Day One After the men in dark sunglasses ushered Djuna outside, spring's chill chased her up the steps into the bus's welcome heat. She wavered on the last step, suitcase in front of her like a wall, thinking, "My fiftieth spring on Earth, can I really leave that?" Someone pushed at her and she went in.
Published on Feb 24, 2012
by Stephen V. Ramey
Stardate 2025:325. We touch down on Mars. Flesh-colored dust settles around the capsule as the creaking, cooling fuselage ticks down to silence. Your face is pale inside the helmet; your hand grips the armrest between us. I think of your fingernails digging into my back, a shock of pain-pleasure distantly penetrating a mind preoccupied with release. The window onto this world is so small, yet the vista is endless. I breathe into my helmet until the visor fogs.
Published on May 6, 2015
by Stephen V. Ramey
Our paranoia is infinite today. And not without reason. We have just endured a journey to and from Mars orbit in full view of the world. Areas of the ship that were supposed to be off-limits were not. Every bowel movement, every wet dream and dry heave, a veritable sampler of trysts--it has all been broadcast, sprinkled across the globe like so much Hollywood glitter. The ultimate Reality Show, with our crew of six as unaware actors. Jimmy found the first pinhole camera. He brought it to me, pinched between his fingers like an insect with overlong legs. A frown fixed on his blocky face. His blue eyes blinked and blinked again.
Published on Apr 17, 2012
by Lina Rather
Two months after the last broken transmission from Earth, somewhere in the unexplored dark, we found a voice. At first we thought it was a mass hallucination. We'd been alone in space too long. Back home, we'd be treated for space sickness and starlust, our brains scanned and studied for signs that our grey matter had deteriorated in the vacuum. We'd be swaddled in hospitals, kept barefoot and away from the night sky until we stopped dreaming of plumed nebulas and stopped thinking we could hear the music of the spheres in C minor.
Published on Apr 7, 2017
by George Rhea
Her first scream of pain and fear was the best sound I had ever heard. Every scream since has filled me with despair. It's amazing what a daughter can do to even the strongest and toughest of men. 10... 9... 8.... It's hard to explain the change you go through; it's instant but grows over time. It's new, but you find you had the capacity for it all along. It's like being on a continuous roller coaster and having no control or idea what lies ahead on the tracks. When the doctor told us about her condition, it was the oddest sensation I have ever felt. I was terrified and utterly helpless, nothing could have prepared me. The weight of her world was on my shoulders, my little girl was so fragile and I had to protect her. If I had felt this way just a few years ago, it would have paralyzed me, but fatherhood kept me moving. A newfound strength came from the look my sweet girl gave me. It gave me hope and made my priorities clear. I could never let my insecurities and doubts let her down. 7... 6... 5…. Life from that moment was never easy. She made it worth it. Despite her struggles and growing complications, she always set the tempo for the family, keeping us all from letting the future steal the joy of the present. She is the most curious person I know, constantly asking questions. Somehow I find the patience to endure every last one of them. She started with the dinosaurs, then was fascinated with the weather, and now the stars bewitch her... perfect timing. 4... 3... 2…. Before she came into my life, you would never have found me here, sitting on the launchpad. The only thing I have found more terrifying than sitting in this death trap is my destination... but when the doctors told us the low gravity environment was her best shot at living a full and healthy life... my dread floated away as if it had already left the earth behind. Looking to the seat next to me, I see nothing but wonder and possibility in her eyes. Gravity cannot keep me tethered to my fears; I've found a force that can defy it. 1... 0... We have liftoff!
Published on Sep 5, 2021
by Shane D. Rhinewald
Jerry sits in his favorite chair--the one with the red, plastic back. He says the others just don't feel right. His eyes dart around the room with boyish wonder, but they're a man's eyes, milky with cataracts, edged with wrinkles. He looks at the black and white pictures on the wall depicting historic events and gives me the date (down to the time of day in some cases) for everything from the Kennedy assassination to the shooting at Columbine. "Jerry, how do you feel today?" I ask, tapping my pen. Every session starts with a similar line of questioning; Jerry likes the routine. "Do you know how you feel?"
Published on Apr 2, 2012
by Leonard Dalton Richardson
1. The Course Correction Astronomy geeks were excited about Ephraim when it was just a point on the map, but for the non-nerds among us, excitement grew slowly along with the star's disk. By the time we entered the star system, someone had learned out how to activate the viewports, they'd been activated and everyone with any free time was crowded around them, looking out. Out! Can you imagine being so excited about the outside?
Published on Feb 19, 2019
by Christian Roberts
The one thing they all agree about is that I'm insane. They probably warned you about that before they brought you in here. Did they also tell you I used to be the navigator? Thirty years. Never a mark against my record. At least, not until I told them what I'd found. Sit up here on my bunk and I'll tell you about it. Come on, they won't let you leave until your time's up, you know. I won't bite if you won't. I know, cheering up duty is no fun. I had to do it when I was a kid. I hated it too. There you go, settle down now and pretend to listen. I'll pretend you're cheering me up.
Published on Jan 25, 2011
by David Paul Rogers
Chapter One Our ship met four others, one at a time. The first ship held many Centaurians, as we called them, not knowing what they called themselves. Their trajectory pointed straight back to the Centauri System. They looked a lot like us but were shorter on average by half a meter and had two opposable thumbs on each hand and were all brown-haired. And all dead. Our engineers said their nuclear reactors leaked tremendous quantities of radiation. Our navigators said they were headed straight for Earth.
Published on Mar 11, 2021
by Douglas Rudoff
Most people were unsettled by the journey past the dead to the ship's forward viewing dome. Brad didn't mind as it allowed him solitude. He floated through the zero gravity of the dimly lit, quarter-mile-long corridor of the necropolis, pulling himself along the rungs between the rows of thousands of white sarcophagi encircling him on all sides, the blank faces of their occupants just barely visible through small windows. In four days, he'd be joining them. Right before he reached the viewing dome, the lights in the necropolis brightened suddenly. In the distance, the entry door clicked open. Brad heard muffled voices as a four-person recovery crew entered. He floated for a few minutes as he watched them pull themselves forward and detach a sarcophagus. With two people on either side, they carefully floated back to the open door. The door shut with another click, and the lights dimmed.
Published on Apr 30, 2013
by Patricia Russo
They were the last rats on the ship, but the ship was not sinking. Its propulsion units were self-maintaining, self-repairing. The best-designed part of the vessel, the proton scoops and energy converters would keep the ship going and going, even if every other system failed. Ages ago, they'd had a captain, and prior to that a different one, and before that another. They agreed on that much. The accounts of what had happened to the last captain varied from tribe to tribe. The Hydroponics claimed that a message had been received from home just before the comms died; the message had taken a long time to arrive, and when the last captain decoded it, she killed herself. But everybody knew the Hydros were heretics. The Med-U's said the last captain had died during an epidemic, which the Med-U's had barely been able to bring under control before everyone perished. They were such self-aggrandizers, those Med-U's.
Published on Jun 26, 2015
by Jeff Samson
I was always the first to fall asleep. Sometimes she'd have to lay awake with me for hours. Stroking my hair. Rubbing my temples. Reading to me from old books we'd find in stores that smelled of leather and dust. Or singing to me in whispers. Her breath a gentle, sweet current on my ear. Quieting my stubborn head.
Published on Feb 17, 2011
by Laura F Sanchez
Imaging food is no simple job: adding oils to make things glisten, propping up stacked food with cardboard, substituting Elmer's Glue for milk so cereal won't look soggy. But I never expected Lucia's well-being to hang on my skill at manipulating culinary reality.

My company, Feed Your Head, subcontracted to supply the food imagery that would make our astronauts think they were eating their favorite meals instead of tasteless goo on their five-month trip to Mars. Multiply the failings of airline food by 10, and then multiply the time spent eating it by 150 days, and you get an idea of the problem.
Published on May 13, 2022
by Kelly M Sandoval
It was two weeks until the ship landed back on Earth, and Trisha figured that meant now or never. She had to tell Jazz how she felt. Because once they reached Earth, it'd all be different. Instead of being two of a half dozen kids, they'd be two of millions. It wouldn't matter anymore that Trisha could put a space suit on in under two minutes, because the Earth teens would know how to drive, play guitar, and swim. The sort of things Trisha had only seen in movies. Once Jazz met people like that, ze wouldn't have time for Trisha. So she had to act fast. It was, you could even say, an emergency. Trisha was good at emergencies; she'd even been safety officer for two years at Mars High. (Which was also Mars Middle, and Mars Elementary. With six kids, one room really did the trick.) She knew how to stay calm, put on her spacesuit, and proceed to the nearest shuttle.
Published on Nov 6, 2017
by Peter A Schaefer
"Every tree is secretly a rocketship." The old man's voice was raspy and wobbly, like a drunk wearing corduroy. "They're just waiting for the celeshul alignment to blast off." I don't usually engage with the crazies, but my train was delayed and there was no one else to talk to on the empty, late-night platform. I squatted down in front of him, put a crumpled dollar bill in his cup. "What about turning carbon dioxide into oxygen?"
Published on May 25, 2017
by Alex Shvartsman
My world is a pair of photographs. They stand atop a nightstand at my bedside, encased in acrylic frames. A young woman in an orange jumpsuit smiles from one of the photos. She wears a nametag, but I can't make out what it says, not even when I squint. I am pretty sure that she's me.
Published on Sep 23, 2014
by Alex Shvartsman
Her expression tells you everything even before she speaks, and your world comes undone. Then she confirms it: she tells you that her mission is a go. She is so excited, her face is radiant with possibility, and her eyes sparkle with the light of distant stars. You manage to smile, and it is the hardest thing you've ever had to endure.
Published on Nov 3, 2014
by Ryan Simko
"Just wait," she said. "This will be the best part." A small bar in Cleveland, somewhere my memory only vaguely recalls after all this time. It wasn't the bar I was looking at. It was her smile, a smile like a supernova, spectacular, blinding, beautiful, and threatening to collapse my world into nothingness.
Published on Nov 22, 2013
by Stefan Slater
It started with a deal. She didnt look my way, but kept her eyes on the chart, making fuel calculations. Pen dancing. The ship, our home, hummed away, vibrations traveling through my feet as I listened. There was an abandoned short-haulera short-range freighter. If I helped Supo strip itpull the wiring, break down the engineI could do what I wanted. Just like that? Yep. This felt too easy. And you wont... write to the training board? Not even once? Muted emerald light from a hundred displays washed over us, and her grey hair swept across the chart. Nope. I tried to laugh. I... really, Mom? I feel like I should get this in writing. The pen froze. Supo needs help, Ava. If you dont think you can handle I backpedaled. No, no, of course, Ill help. Good. The scribbling resumed. # There was balance once. I dont remember how old I was, but I remember waiting for Dadsleeping with my head on Moms lap, her fingers running through my hair. Waiting. Hollow moon and muted stars, smoldering coffee, eyes fixed on a wall clock. And then he was there, picking me up, tucking me into bed. And hed show me his new maps, fingers tracing worlds, pointing out everything hed seeneverything hed discovered while plotting new routes between stars and chalky moons. Wonderful things: moons of green crystals; ocean-worlds like sunsets, mile-long shadows swimming beneath the waves; gas giants and brilliant-blue suns; broken worlds of jagged rock, petrified trees crumbling slowly. I asked him once if he ever gets scaredscared of flying alone. He shrugged, and said he missed us. But scared? No. I do a good thing. And people who do good things dont have to be scared. Really? He smiled. Your Mom said once, years ago, that I wake worlds. I like thattheyre all sleeping, waiting for me to find them. One moment theyre wrapped up in the dark; the next, I map them, and theyre part of the waking day. I make them readyready to become homes for people like us. Its... good. And thats why Im never scared. And you should never be scared for me, ok? Ok. Remember, when I find a world, when I name it, its tied to me, to us, for... well, forever. Us? He eyed Mom standing in the doorway, grinning. Us. Of course. I dreamt of golden, sleeping moons, and waking them gently, giving them names for a new day. And everyone would know my planets. Everyone would remember my name. In the morning, thered be a new map on my wall. Or on the kitchen counter, stained with coffee. Then hed leave. And Mom and I would wait. Shed fly. Haul cargo. Build a home. And wed wait. # We stood in the airlock. Air hissed; the computer counted down. Mom was silent, staring at the hatch. She never loses focus. Never stops. Blue eyes never stray. I remember how she didnt look away, not once, when she talked about... Dads accident. How it happened. Though she kept some things from mecertain details I wasnt ready for, she said. But the truth was plainwe were alone. And his maps, the ones on my walls, disappeared. Thats something that still hurts. But the sleeping worlds never left my mind. My dreams. During work. And one day, after a long day of packing away spare engine parts, I told her as much in a sudden burst. I wanted to fly like Dadtrain to be like him, map stars. Do something so people would remember my name. Shed only sighed, and said there were certain details I didnt understand. The computer chirped: docking finished. Mom, hefting a toolkit, opened the hatch to the short-hauler. Cold, sour air crawled over me. Come on, Mom said. # Our lights danced across midnight-black hallways. Torn-open suitcases and clothes scattered on the floor. Mom said nothing, stepping over broken boxes and tattered shirts. We walked into the short-haulers galley. My heart stopped. There were bodies, stretched out on tables, on the floor. The frozen and terrified. OthersSupo, maybehad covered some dead with emergency blankets, silver glittering in the dark. Golden halos glanced across ice-covered shoes, greasy hair and bony, sallow hands peeking out from blankets and reaching for the floor. I saw a single hand. A childs. Tan skin. Delicate fingers curled like hooks, swinging as the ship slowly spun. A small lump alone on a bench. # I couldnt breathe. God... what happened? Life support shorted. They drifted... for a while. She didnt need to spell it outI tried to sit, but only crashed to the floor. Life supportit was the same way Dad went. Lightyears from help. I opened my mouth to speak, but she knelt down in front of me, blue eyes focused hard. Ava... she said, squeezing my hand. Your father... he lived for a good dream. A dream I loved. But he never shared the truth of it with you. Never shared the fear that sat with him. And you were too young. So there were details... he couldnt share. But I want something better for you. I dont want you... to worry about an end like this. She stood up, wiping tears. If you still want to wake worlds like your Daddy, then I understand. I... I didnt want to keep the truth from you. I didnt want you to think... that he wasnt scared. That its all dreams out there. And she walked off, looking for Supo, saying something about reporting the dead. I sat. Trying to breathe. Watching frozen hands. I saw Dads fingers, tracing worlds. It hurt to talk, to thinkit hurt to see those tiny fingers. I looked to my left, through a viewport, and saw a thumb-sized world, wrapped up in shadow. Sleeping. Waiting. I closed my eyes. And saw Dads smile; I saw his maps. And I stood up.
Published on Oct 14, 2016
by Chloe Smith
Shipboard Calendar: Day 2, hour 15 (Δt'); Earth Calendar: 54 days later (γΔt) I've put the ansible light on my work desk, close against the curve of the inner hull. I flicked the switch before I started writing this entry, thinking of the sunlight on your hair, that last day. Minutes later, my bulb erupted into light. It’s such a comfort--to know that you are thinking of me as I think of you.
Shipboard Calendar: Day 10, hour 6 (Δt’); Earth Calendar: 165 days later (γΔt) I miss you. I understand why the mission architects wanted a clean break: no communication, nothing to encourage the ties to our old lives to rub us raw. The other members of the crew seem to be managing. They all agree we can’t hold onto the past. That’s the only way to face this voyage, this headlong plunge into the void, from which there will be no return. I know the light is a compromise. I shouldn’t keep it on so much. You probably don’t want to be reminded. A summer fling with a departing explorer--it was always going to end up in your past. I’ll turn mine off now. Will you notice the bulb in yours go dark?
Shipboard Calendar: Day 50, hour 18 (Δt'); Earth Calendar: almost 3 years later (γΔt) ) Do you remember when you traced the patterns of the stars across my back as we both looked up into the black? It was always ever going to be a brief moment beneath their faint illumination. Still, I wish my ansible light would turn on more often. You can’t have forgotten me completely. Even though it’s been years for you, now.
Shipboard Calendar: Day 67, hour 12 (Δt’); Earth Calendar: another year or more gone by (γΔt) I shouldn’t have agreed to this mission.
Shipboard Calendar: Day 155, hour 2 (Δt’); Earth Calendar: more time that I like to think about. I tell myself that you still think of me sometimes, but that the dilation makes the light flicker too fast for me to perceive it. I’m not very good at lying to myself, though.
Shipboard Calendar: What does a day even mean out here? I shouldn’t have brought the lamp. It doesn’t make me feel connected; it just reminds me how alone in the dark we are. I listen to myself breathe. I imagine your heartbeat skittering, hundreds of palpitations for every slow beat of mine. I’ve become a whale to your hummingbird. I stare at the ansible lamp, will it to light. If my touch, sent back across the lightyears, can reach your lamp, can keep it alight for the long years that are my subjective hours, the least you can do is think of me. I wait for my bulb to brighten with your thoughts.
No Shipboard Calendar: Time can’t catch me, and so I’ll never forget you.
Published on Jan 5, 2022
by Katrina Smith
Galaxy: Milky Way Planet: Earth
Published on Jul 29, 2019
by J. Spear
Dear Ellie, the letter probably would have started. Or should I say Dearest? I like Dearest, so let's pretend it said that. Dearest Ellie,
Published on Aug 26, 2014
by William Squirrell
I thought I was somebody: somebody in Orangeville, 1984. But I wasn't. I was nobody. I wasn't anybody at all until Trick walked through the cafeteria doors: black hair an electric storm of back-combed annihilation, lashes dripping with mascara, cherry lipstick dark with rot, shimmering turquoise shirt, popped collar pinned at the throat by a stab of gold, hounds tooth print pants, red Docs. The hubbub drained away and Craig Robb said: "What the hell are you?"
Published on Jul 25, 2016
by Ferrett Steinmetz
The flight attendant speaks as though he will win an Olympic medal if he finishes this safety speech in record time. "Today's interstellar flight to the Taurean cluster will take approximately seventy years external-time, racking up six hours on your biological clocks. To avoid unnecessary amputations, please keep all hands, feet, and other protuberances within the boundaries of your personal cryogenics chamber.
Published on Mar 26, 2012
by Steven R. Stewart
Mark hangs up his apron. He strides past Shelly and helps one of the automatic doors open with a shove. Shelly follows to the courtyard of the spaceport. Mark sits on a bench beneath a lighted sign that says Mark and Shellys Pizza. There is a big red slash through Shellys name. Shelly stands across from him and draws on her cigarette like she has been drowning without it. Still lighting them off each other, Mark notices, but she looks good, hasnt aged a day.
Published on Sep 2, 2010
by Eric James Stone
Wise Ones, see here in front of you Girl Who Asks Too Much. Such a name does not cause pride to the Folk of the Egg. Dare not speak to her, or she will ask of you all the day long. Why are some plants food for the Folk and some plants death?
Published on Mar 24, 2011
by Amy Sundberg
Two packs of balloons, pink and blue. Ellen knows Rick's favorite color is green so she avoids it on purpose. Red plastic cups, white napkins, a bag of lime-flavored tortilla chips, and store-bought salsa. This is what she brings every year for the celebration, which she privately calls Man on the Moon Day. She drives the two hours to Grass Valley with Sarah sitting in the back playing with her action figures. "Pow pow," goes the bad guy. "Zoom zoom," goes the good guy, dodging out of the way. "I'll never give up," the bad guy declaims in a fake British accent.
Published on Jul 2, 2012
by Nathan Tavares
You'll get to see the sky, they said. We see the sky all the time, we said. Hello. Look out the windows.
Published on Sep 24, 2012
by Molly Tea
When we took to the stars, we knew we had excelled beyond the humans who had come before us. The cowherds and the fishermen, the politicians and the queens. Humans whose kingdoms--be they confined within an embroidery hoop, or a stretch of land, or a continent--shared a commonality. They were all ultimately worthless, fettered to an insignificant planet named after dirt, with--ironically--far too much ocean. But we escaped into the deep like a virus into a network, and our kingdom was called "all."
Published on Nov 1, 2018
by Tais Teng
Chang Mei's little patrol boat was pure climax tech, as ancient and durable as a Kalashnikov or a stone ax. Never hand potential enemies technology they didn't already have. She looked back to the dazzling blue fire of the Rigel system. The habitats of the Third Kingdom wove jeweled strands around the central star, green for photosynthesis and blue for water. She felt a stab of homesickness: slow-boat inspectors lurked among the unlit comets, the first line of defense, and a Watch often lasted five, six years.
Published on Feb 26, 2020
by E. Catherine Tobler
Coming back to Earth isn't anything like he thought it would be. He's not entirely sure what he expected; he doesn't anticipate that the air will be as magnificent as it is, for one. Spring now and this city by the lake explodes with allergens: pollen, seeds, leaves, and petals. Normally, his body would puff up in response: running nose, watering eyes, a sinus that has forgotten how to move air. He breathes deep, uncomplicated droughts of the pollen-saturated air; he tastes the distant snowdrops and daffodils and the strands of saffron in the crocus--crocin, diester, disaccharide gentiobiose!--he can speak these words, he can break each down and how it applies to the aroma, the flavor, but he cannot tell anyone why it matters. He breathes so deep his sinus is coated golden, his lungs are burnished gold; he should expel the color for days, he does not. He keeps it inside.
Published on Apr 11, 2014
by James Van Pelt
The spaceship Calliope breathes without pause, inhaling through mouths on the floor and exhaling from mouths overhead. Seaweed streamers on the ceiling vents wave in the continuous sigh. Lying in my bunk, eyes closed, the humming, breathing, great bear of a ship holds me close in warm embrace, its cave spread all around, black and vast and cold. I miss Earth--how could I not?--but I miss Mother, too. Her face fades. How did the corners of her eyes wrinkle when she smiled? What color was her favorite blouse? How did she sound when she sang at her table working on what... a jigsaw puzzle, a game of solitaire, a paint-by-numbers picture?
Published on Oct 21, 2016
by Marcus Vance
"You said the sequel was still in its first draft, right?" "Yes," I said, nodding.
Published on Oct 23, 2020
by Marcus Vance
Look at their faces, shaved so smooth. The soldiers look like children as they sleep peacefully in their cryoberths. Earth is so far away. What is it like to dream for decades--centuries?--frozen?
Published on Oct 1, 2020
by Marie Vibbert
1. Tape. Here in space, there’s no junk drawer. Every item is catalogued and has a place. Emergency repair kit item: tape--secured on the wall near the navigation console. Where the first rupture happened. I know you think I'd start with duct tape, but the duct tape is in the toolbox in the basement, not in the kitchen drawer. The drawer only has yellow electrical tape. Did I drop it in there, sis, or did you? Kitchens always have this drawer that collects the chaos of existence.
Published on Feb 23, 2021
by Pam L Wallace
You laughed when you scooped up something from the beach. You brushed off the sand, then offered it in cupped hands. A rock, perfectly heart-shaped--except for a chip on the left side that gave it a lopsided appearance, just like your smile. Here's my heart, you said. It'd been three weeks, four days, seven and a half hours since we met. A lifetime, a second, forever. I took your heart. You pulled me into your arms, fiercely tender. The waves crashed in an iridescent green sheet, rushing to coat our feet with icy froth. And I drowned in the deep ocean blue of your eyes.
Published on Jun 16, 2014
by T.A. Walsh
She stares at the orange sky though she knows she won't see them--the twenty-three generation ships saving those lucky few from the dying Earth. She limps back home, where her parents await at a table that usually sits four. They eat in silence, thankful that Micah floats twenty kilometers above. He is a mediocre doctor. She was always better, more accomplished, more focused. Years of practice in warzones and disaster sites, she learned where to break a leg perfectly to condemn the owner to a life on crutches. Micah was lucky. The system favors qualified siblings as viable replacements.
Published on Dec 30, 2021
by Jon Wheeler
Greetings from Earth? Greetings from Earth?! You've got some nerve to come up here after--how many millennia?--and stand there next to that slop bucket you call a ship and talk about greetings from Earth. Like you invented warp drive! Ooh, everybody look at the big explorer! Big explorer, my finger. You should be ashamed of yourself. We have been so worried about you, you don't even know. When we dropped you off in that little backwater we never dreamed how many centuries would pass before you condescended to contact us. Yes, yes, we know. You had to get your bearings... find yourselves... clear your collective heads or whatever. It happens. It also happens that species grow up and think of someone besides themselves. We left you pyramids! Stonehenge! Easter Island! You could have phoned home any time but you had to do it your way with radio. Radio! I don't mind telling you, we could hardly show our faces outside the supercluster after that embarrassment. Your mother stopped going to bridge club, even.
Published on Jul 21, 2016
by Ross Willard
Do you know what the real trick to life in deep space is? Doctor Bennett, Cassandra to her friends, scribbled something on her notepad as she replied, What?
Published on Dec 1, 2010
by Ross Willard
Thomas stared at the cards in his hand. He bit his lower lip and worried it between his teeth as he eyed the pile of black rock that lay halfway between himself and his opponent. "Dammit boy, you in or not?" Drawled the old man.
Published on May 24, 2011
by Robert S. Wilson
Fermi's Paradox proposes that, if aliens exist, after billions of years of evolution throughout the Universe, conquering species should have spread from star to star to the point of saturation, leaving ample evidence for us to find, yet there is none. 36 years, 7 months, and 10 days into the first manned voyage to Alpha Centauri B with another 20 years to go, I can confirm with confidence that Enrico Fermi was a smug idiot.
Published on Nov 7, 2017
by Eleanor R. Wood
When I was little, I never thought about where the sweets came from. Daddy would leave me on board with a packet of sugary delights while he, Jeb, and Callum left for work. Sometimes they'd only be moments, sometimes hours, sometimes they'd come back with injuries. We always departed in a hurry. But I still had the flavors of fruits and spices and fizz on my tongue. I knew they were precious, and I was lucky to have a daddy who got them for me. Once they came in a red velvet pouch with another girl's name embroidered on it in silver thread. I was sad he'd got me the wrong one; the pouch was so pretty. But my name was unusual and tricky to find. I knew luxuries were rare even though I never went without. When we docked at Zircon Station, everyone would "ooh" and "aah" over the treasures Daddy's crew brought home. Fine-spun fabrics, feather cushions, glassware, jewelry, and, of course, sugar. He'd sell cut-price to the station's traders and save the essentials for us. It wasn't until I got older that I noticed he took nothing to trade in return.
Published on Sep 27, 2016
by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley
Ten Reasons Why I Want to Go to Outer Space: 1) Amazing astronomy (no light pollution).
Published on Feb 21, 2017
by Caroline M. Yoachim
Dear Melanie, I should tell you this in words or at least hand-deliver this letter, but I'm so afraid of your reaction that I'm hiding behind the inter-arcology postal service. Once the envelope is in the drop-box, it will be out of my hands, I'll have no way to lose my nerve and take the letter back. I know it's unfair of me to burden you with this, so close to the date of your shuttle launch, mere days before the mission that you've dreamed of for so many years.
Published on Dec 12, 2016
by Joseph Zieja
It stared back at me like a cataract, blue and bloated, the black canvas of space all around it. Half illuminated by the nearest star, I followed the line between light and dark with my eyes, staring at the face of dusk. Or dawn. I didn't know which way the planet rotated. For my home, I was woefully ignorant of its orbitology. I could describe the orbital elements of every planet in every system in the galaxy, but I did not know my own. I rubbed the back of my hand to try and stop it from shaking. It didn't work. It never worked.
Published on Nov 14, 2012