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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

Virtual Reality

Of all the science fictional tropes this may be the one we are slamming into headlong at the most blistering pace. Go to Second Life, play with your friends vie Wii, even share virtual messages in a bottle on your iphone. Take a look at the amazing motion capture on Microsoft's new gaming technology. It's happening. The effect on societies, and the all-important individuals within them, is far less clear.

by Philip Apps
"Daddy?" "Yes, baby girl."
Published on Nov 27, 2017
by M. H. Ayinde
You’ve done it. You’ve won! You squeal in excitement.
Published on May 28, 2021
by Robert Bagnall
I have an avatar. I am forty-three years old. I am balding and thickening around the middle. I have a mediocre job with a mediocre company which has outward ambitions to be in the top twenty in their sector in five years, but inwardly merely wish to be still in business. My ambitions mirror theirs.
Published on Jun 18, 2014
by Peter M Ball
***Editor's Note: Adult Language in the adult story that follows*** They've been together long enough for this to become ritual: Deanna Sable in the clawfoot bath, head resting against the curve of the tub, her fingers coiled around a Stuyvesant smoked down to the filter; Kirk seated at the door, bare-chested and nursing his third beer, drawing what comfort he can from the proximity to the cracked tiles. Watching one another, half a smile shared between them, looking for new ways to fill the idle silence.
Published on Nov 15, 2013
by T.Z. Barry
Please answer each question by circling "Yes" or "No." Question 1: Is it possible the technology to create a digital copy of your consciousness will be invented within your lifetime? (Yes / No)
Published on Aug 1, 2018
by James Beamon
Aaron ran down familiar streets. He slayed the familiar monsters. His shoes clinked on cobblestone. Here it was Victorianesque: ornate brick buildings lurching into gray overcast skies, narrow shadow-filled alleys, steam boiling out of grates. For his part, he wore a dated dark suit under a gray high collar overcoat and a top hat--all of it weightless.
Published on Jan 18, 2019
by Mike Buckley
Published on Jul 13, 2016
by Mike Buckley
Published on Jul 14, 2016
by Mike Buckley
Published on Jul 15, 2016
by Maggie Clark
The tour boat stopped two blocks updream from their final attraction, the long-term sleepers' zone rendered in immaculate detail: airships, nine-dimensional manifolds, labyrinthine menageries filled with improbable birds and beasts. Everything viewed prior, generated off shift-work, appeared cartoonish along the fuzzy border between mental matrices, and small chatter gave way to genuine oohs and aahs as the boat lurched, then settled at its edge. Cash turned to give the tourists better shots, the whirs and clicks of meme-drives like persistent mosquitos too lucrative to swat. Headache? came Jezi's voice through the brain feed.
Published on Oct 9, 2015
by Matt Cowan
We apologize for the interruption in network coverage. Please be advised that normal service will resume shortly. Do not be alarmed. All is well. You may feel confusion, and a tightness in your chest. This is normal. Try to relax. Breathe.
Published on Jul 30, 2019
by Koji A. Dae
The protective foam case around the tablet is cracked, but its thickness makes the tablet easier for Grace's arthritic hands to grasp as she searches for the power button. The tablet is slow. It was an old model when she bought it for Steven over fifty years ago. It's a miracle it still connects to the net at all.
Published on Aug 31, 2020
by Dustin J Davis
***Warning: Story Content Mature and Disturbing Near-Future.***
Published on Aug 10, 2018
by J.R. Dawson
You ask me to tell you a story. So I sit on the floor next to your bed, and I tell you the same story I told you last night and the night before.
Published on Sep 17, 2019
by Gunnar De Winter
She splashed some water in her face and stared at the mirror. Good morning, Toni.
Published on Feb 22, 2017
by JD DeHart
When the duo passed him on their way into the attractions, they paused and he said, "Help me," as the female leaned close.
Published on Sep 11, 2014
by William Delman
"Remember, keep him talking." Doctor Hofstadter's cobalt eyes are glued to mine, her expression serious as a funeral mask. "You can help him make a better choice." Her concern feels as real as her hand on my shoulder.
Published on Mar 5, 2020
by Peter S. Drang
Hellfire consumes my flesh... Lord Parrington laughs... I choke... the world becomes an indigo swirl of partial differentials.... "Snap out of it, lady."
Published on Jan 8, 2020
by Karl El-Koura
Published on Jun 1, 2016
by Shannon Fay
Though there was a bowl of hammer pills in the living room ("Hammer pills! For a quicker than liquor buzz!") Cora elbowed her way through the crowd and went into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine. Getting drunk the old-fashioned way always calmed her down. It gave her that warm fuzzy feeling of being a child again and stealing fingers from her dad's bourbon bottle. The party seemed to be a success. People were laughing, talking, dancing. Some of the more attractive/confident guests were playing spin the bottle in the corner (What were they, twelve? Not that Cora was any expert on what people did at parties). Her mom would be so proud of her, playing hostess, drinking socially rather than alone on the couch. "Oh Cora," her mother had sighed after catching teenaged Cora sneaking into the liquor cabinet once again. "Drinking alone is just too sad. Drink with friends and no one will say boo."
Published on Aug 4, 2014
by Shannon Fay
It took several blows before the monster stayed down. Even then I kept swinging, the axe head moving like a sped-up metronome. I didn't stop until my knees started to buckle. Only then did I put the axe down and survey my work. The red stain on the floor was a familiar scene, except instead of a young woman a middle-aged man lay smeared on the ground. It was over. No more visions, no more being plunged into the mind of a serial killer at the moment of kill.
Published on Jan 10, 2017
by Ronald D. Ferguson
"I speak for the President." Drugs make the words difficult to say, but the man asked about my job. "He's not the press secretary, but our sources say he regularly sees the President. Hmm. Charles Milford. Top security clearance. Maybe a speech writer. He'll do."
Published on Feb 11, 2013
by Ronald D Ferguson
"I told the boy's parents there was no hope, but so long as he has brain activity they won't give up. Poor kid. He's only fourteen." "Doesn't matter. His body is shutting down. Kidneys are already gone. We can prolong it for a few days, but we can't repair so much trauma. Still maybe there's something...."
Published on Mar 27, 2014
by Nick Fink
If you find these tablets, we hope that you will be able to decipher them. Unfortunately there is little chance that language as we know it will survive the sands of time. There is also a slight issue with legibility since these words are being scribed by the light of a micro laser. In short, our race has run out of time. Generations of squandering precious resources and constant abuse of the environment has created a poisoned planet that cannot recover. Those who have not yet died from the radiation will soon perish from lack of breathable air. Even the elite will not be able to purchase their supply because we no longer have the materials to purify it. To my knowledge, our team possesses the last known reserve and it shall be used to carry out this final mission.
Published on May 31, 2018
by Michael R. Fletcher
Alex Baker - UNPLUGGED. Thursday, Oct 19th, 2023. 9:45 pm
Published on Dec 9, 2011
by Eric S. Fomley
You’re in the living room this time, but the horrible look on mom’s face is the same no matter which way you play it. Her bottom eyelids swell with tears as her mouth hangs open. “How?” Her voice cracks. It hasn’t gotten easier. You’re pretty sure someone’s wringing the air from your lungs. “It was an accident. We snuck out to do an orbital walk. We were just messing around and his suit ripped. I tried to patch the leak, but he couldn’t breathe. We were too far away from the airlock. I couldn’t save him.” This time she sinks to her knees and screams. Your vision blurs as you stand over her. You don’t know what to do, what to say. This is all your fault. The door slides open and you quickly end the program. Mom walks into the empty holoroom with a smile on her face, until she sees yours. “Hey, what’s the matter? Where’s your brother?” You swallow hard.
Published on Oct 21, 2021
by M. J. Francis
Insert coins for more Sanity. My hand lingers in my pocket, fingertips contemplating the burden of coins.
Published on May 12, 2015
by Carl Gable
"I'm not sure, Doctor. I want to be fully open with you, but I am afraid of how this is going to make me look." In fact, the man speaking looked terrible. He was maybe fifty years old, shoulders slightly stooped, with a receding hairline, but one could be forgiven for thinking he was older, the way his hands were shaking as he clasped them in front of him. Across the table was a meticulously dressed woman in her forties, hair pulled back in a bun and a look of tempered concern on her face. She held a small notebook, open to a page already a quarter full of handwritten notes. "You are worried I might think you're... crazy, Mr. Hollis? Don't be. There is no 'crazy' here. Only problems to be dealt with. Yours may be comparatively minor. Believe me, I've heard it all."
Published on Dec 11, 2020
by Anastasia Gammon
This has been the most difficult commission of my career. I've been to corners of the dark web I didn't know existed and talked to people running identity protection software that messed up my system for days. But I did it. I found the only licensed digital reproduction of Van Gogh's The Starry Night on the entire Virtual Reality Network and I sold it to Victor for an eye-watering price that I definitely earned. "It probably would have been easier to find the real thing, hey?" he jokes as our avatars stand next to each other in his digital apartment, admiring the bunch of pixels I've spent the last two months of my life tracking down. I laugh. "Yeah," I tell him. "Probably." He transfers my fee and we make awkward small talk while I wait for the number in my account to update. Then we say goodbye and I log off, thinking if I never see his avatar again it'll be too soon. I do enjoy the surprise on his animated face in the second before I go offline though. Most people never bother these days, so it must be a novelty for him to watch my avatar wink out of existence. I tell people the walls of my digital house are so sparse because I sell all the good art to other people. The truth is, it's because I'm old fashioned. I still like to spend my cryptocurrency in the real world. I have filled my real home with things only I will ever see. And Victor was right, the real thing was so much easier to find.
Published on Sep 12, 2021
by Stephen Gaskell
Passing Mr. Lao's office, she noticed he'd left his door open. On the far side, light spilled through the margins of the door that led outside. Maybe it was a sunny day. She tried to remember the feel of sunlight, the sensation of almost looking into the sun, the shape of the clouds, but her mind was full of the pixelated forms.
Published on Oct 4, 2010
by Preston Grassmann
Erwin stands outside the door of his house/her house and wonders if his wife is home/not home. He has just finished another long day of theoretical discussions about cats and boxes and he just wants to sleep. He knows that whether or not she is there depends on the observation of that morning's event. In quantum entanglement, if the measurement of one entangled particle is known (clockwise), the other will have an inverse corresponding value (counterclockwise), no matter how far apart they are.
Published on Jun 4, 2014
by A. T. Greenblatt
One First and most importantly, believe you're doing the right thing. Tell yourself this guide will work--tell yourself whatever you need to in order to step into your POD, close the door, hook up, and log into the game. After that, act normal. Wear your avatar like the mask it is.
Published on Oct 19, 2015
by Gregory John Guevara
My most treasured memory is not my own. It hangs on my dresser, captured in a stained glass bubble. I bought it for a week's worth of work. It was not an easy find. There are laws in place to prevent people from slapping a memory piece on an infant, so I had to go through the black market. But it was worth it.
Published on Dec 22, 2017
by Erin M. Hartshorn
Sally patted her grandmother's shoulder. "It's time to go." "I don't want to. I can still be useful."
Published on Nov 3, 2011
by C.J. Heckman
It was supposed to be a vacation. That was how it started anyway. Like most first timers, I had some concerns. I had heard all the nightmare stories. People plugging into the sim and never coming out. At least not until their savings dried up and they were pulled out by force.
Published on Jun 29, 2021
by Aubrey Hirsch
Now if we, like those characters in recent movies, discovered specific clues in the world around us suggesting that we do in fact live in a simulation, we would of course consider those clues carefully to see what they say about how we should live our lives. --Robin Hanson Listen. We're fairly certain it's true. The laws of the universe just don't make sense the way they should and it's more and more apparent with every atom of gold we run through the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider and every electron we smash up at the Large Hadron Collider that we are living in a universe especially constructed for us. And, since we all know infinities cannot be constructed, we must conclude that our universe has been simulated.
Published on Aug 30, 2011
by Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Sitting on the fence between dreams and reality, Annie peered into the swirling storm of other people's nighttime imaginations, looking for her mother, who had died eleven years earlier. Sometimes they managed to connect in dreams, although Annie wasn't sure if it was Real Mom or a Mom from her imagination. Annie hadn't asked Dream Mom questions Annie didn't know answers to and Real Mom might. She had enjoyed her encounters with Dream Mom, who was free of the dementia that had claimed Real Mom's last six years. Sharp, sometimes cutting, always opinionated and bossy, Dream Mom had given her good advice about moving into the retirement community of manufactured homes on the edge of a small lake. Annie lived in a house free of history now, clean of memories of the abusive husband who had made her life so difficult. Here in her new home, she reconnected with all the artistic pursuits Morton had beaten out of her. She was painting watercolors again, and gathering with musicians on her back patio. And she had found someone to love. Carola squeezed her hand. Annie remembered what she wanted to do tonight. "Mom?" she called into the maelstrom of spinning dream fragments--a train rolling across an arctic landscape being pursued by a shambling creature; bunnies driving a chariot pulled by chickens and lizards; a cafe full of creatures who weren't human--"Mom?" "Use your heart string," Carola whispered from reality, and Annie remembered what Carola had told her about delving into the dreamlands and beyond, to where death took people. Carola said a cord stretched from Annie's heart to everyone she had loved and lost. She touched her chest and stared out into the populated wilderness until she saw a red thread stretching from her heart into the dreams. She closed her hand around the thread and tugged on it. "Mom." Dream Mom rode a brown-and-white pinto pony out of the midst of the dreams. "Annie," she said, and slid off the horse's back. "Thanks, Dawn Treader." Mom stroked the horse's face, then pulled an apple out of a pocket of her colorful muumuu and fed it to the horse. "Daughter, are you all right?" "Yes, I'm lovely. Mom, is that really you?" Mom laughed the full-throated laugh Annie hadn't heard in years. It had only happened once a year or so, when Mom could rise from her misery and enjoy something wholly. Annie's heart warmed. "It's me enough," Mom said. "How can I help?" "Mom." Annie tugged on Carola's hand, pulling her astral self to the fence. "This is Carola. Yesterday I proposed to her, and she said yes." "How wonderful!" said Mom. She kissed Carola. "Congratulations, Annie. Happiness at last." Annie smiled through her tears. This couldn't be Real Mom. Real Mom wouldn't have been happy about Annie's choice. Maybe Real Enough Mom was better.
Published on Nov 1, 2021
by Jonathan Holmes
I don't understand. All I did was fix her. All my life--since before I can remember!--you've been telling me to take care of Emmy, and I have! I do! Better than anyone. I always make sure she's got food and I take her everywhere I go and make sure she's ok. She almost NEVER gets hurt when I'm watching her, and ok, there was that one time, but that wasn't my fault! She just stuck her hand in the maker--how was I supposed to know she'd do something like that? Everyone knows you're not supposed to--it says so right on the front!
Published on Sep 9, 2015
by KJ Kabza
Terry bit the inside of his cheek again. He felt disconnected from himself, from this single-window room. In fact, it wasnt like a hotel room at all. More like somewhere between a forgotten closet and a prison cell. Despite the neutral colors, the telephones dark cradle gave the rooms nature away. Listen Terry began, slowly. No, I know, said the voice of Margie. I know all about it. They scan your brain, take your memories of your spouse, and make a program you can talk to--just once, one year later--to say goodbye. For closure.
Published on Nov 11, 2010
by Michelle M Kaseler
From the cavernous walk-in closet, I survey the master bedroom of a person I’ve never met. Seven-year-old Sadie Jenkins sits by my side, but neither of us are really there.
Published on Feb 9, 2021
by Shari L Klase
Susanna closed her eyes in death and opened them to the glittering, golden streets and pearly gates of Heaven's entrance. There waiting for her were her mother, sister, and grandmother. She knew all along that they would be there. After her initial registration by St. Peter and some paperwork, she rushed into her mother's arms. "So wonderful to see you," Mom said.
Published on Oct 15, 2014
by Rich Larson
It was an aching white blank, with little fissures where code leaked out like drizzling rain, but nobody seemed to notice except Adelaide. "Nina, look," she said at recess, on the squeaking playground swings. "The sky's got a glitch." She kicked out hard, trying to soar high enough to touch the faulty firmament.
Published on Feb 9, 2015
by Rich Larson
Cassie's six month contract passed like a fleeting dream, and then she was awake in neural recovery, sipping out of prepackaged cups of water and letting a bot festooned in yellow smiley face stickers check her vision, her balance, her reflexes. The wallscreen across from her showed a blue sky where the puffy white clouds spelled out date and time. She'd gone under in March and now it was August. Her mother was not there to harangue the human doctors and exhaust the administrative AIs, but Cassie had known not to expect her. Not after Cassie arrived home for holidays with fresh gauze scarving her neck, her skin still puffy around the shiny white neural notch that would let a digitized human consciousness sit at the top of her spinal column and inhabit her, move her, be her.
Published on Sep 29, 2015
by Rich Larson
"Come on, Bea. I said I was sorry. Can't we just roll back?" Bea is sitting on the couch with one hand clenched between her knees, the other propping up her head. She is staring straight ahead, but her Stream is shielded so Tyus can't tell if she's watching a show or messaging her sister or just staring straight ahead.
Published on Jun 5, 2018
by Terra LeMay
Published on Dec 26, 2014
by Alex Livingston
To read the Dear John letter, I had to throw something away. To free up some memory in my apartment. As I slapped one of my bedside lamps into Recycle, I wondered if breaking up had been easier when people had physical bodies. Before we all uploaded ourselves. Before the Simulation's inviolable objects-per-owned-volume policy forced you to get rid of a thing you loved each time you wanted something new. But I didn't want anything new. I only wanted to know why David had left me.
Published on Apr 16, 2012
by Mary E. Lowd
It feels strange to me, deep in my stomach, that I can't find my ten-year-old girl in real life--but that, maybe, I can find her here. My hand shakes on the computer mouse as I log in to Second World, using one of the default avatars--a woman with straight blonde hair like a plastic shell and the expressionless face of a crash-test dummy. I try messaging my daughter through the in-game chat window right away, but my message bounces back. I check for her name, "fluttercat," on the online user list, but it's not where it should be between "flutter14" and "flutterkid." My throat constricts with a swallowed sob, but I refuse to believe this tenuous connection to my missing daughter won't pan out. Maybe she's set her status to "hidden."
Published on Jul 10, 2012
by Dan Malakin
Veterans are most in demand. The rawest memories, brutal and blood-sticky, they're what people want. The movie studio found Josh through the veteran's register, then did research. No friends, no family, an old alcoholic living on disability. His life lost to the pain of the past. They're the ones with the best stories to tell.
Published on Oct 5, 2015
by Avra Margariti
My online friend is writing an essay about the depleting bee population. I look out my bedroom window at the lavender bushes. Fuzzy insects land on dainty purple blossoms. "How come our bees are all alive and thriving?" I ask my parents during homeschool.
Published on Jan 27, 2020
by Bob McHugh
Admit it, the idea has occurred to you before. Maybe this entire world revolves around you. Maybe everything is an intricate illusion. Maybe you're the only actual person on a show about your life that the universe watches. You quickly dismiss the thoughts, never vocalizing them. Only sociopaths and narcissists would think such a thing. That was Rick's idea. It's not egotistical at all to have those thoughts. They're right. The clues are all there. But Rick suggested that we make such a thought seem self-involved. We created platitudes about humility and instructed our craziest characters to articulate similar theories so that you would be ashamed of forming your own. Rick turned out to be right.
Published on Mar 24, 2016
by Nick McRae
The God-King of the East lay at her feet, one arrow jutting from the gap between his bronze cuirass and his skirt of studded leather, another through the eyehole of his crested helm. She had fulfilled every part of the prophecy.
Published on Apr 22, 2016
by Cosmo Mercurio
When I cut this cord, it will seem terrifying at first. But it is for your own good. The mechanics of it don't matter; I barely understand it myself. Some kind of malevolent signal. There are others like me who seem to be immune, but most of us go insane or kill ourselves. Not me; I have the curiosity of a cat. I spent years trying to identify it. And when I did, I refused to die until I traced it to its source. And then instead of dying I spent twenty years more working my way up in the facility. All the while pretending, all the while eating cat shit with a smile.
Published on Feb 21, 2019
by Dany G. Zuwen
Sam knew Elena wanted him to leave his dead wife. He peered up at Elena's eyes. Her squint of disapproval egging him on, he opened the door to the Room. The bright light scorched his eyes like when he was little and stared at the sun and Mom said it'd blind him. But eventually, after the door closed behind Sam with a metallic click, his sight adjusted.
Published on Oct 24, 2012
by Megan Neumann
Sarah sticks the needle in her arm and falls backwards, feeling the pain of the wound and the soft sheets of her bed. It doesn't hit her immediately. Several minutes pass as the nanites travel through her bloodstream and latch onto her brain. To Sarah, those minutes last an eternity. Each time she injects, the wait feels longer than the time before. She craves for the connection to be initiated, to be alive with the world again. The nanites will attach to the neurons in her brain and enable a wireless data connection. The interpreter software she installed months earlier render the webpages as something that can be interacted with by thought alone.
Published on Jul 15, 2015
by Gemma Elizabeth Noon
***Editor's Note: Adult language She manifests about three feet away from him, a moment of static and then a perfectly formed human being. She is a blend of his favorite aunt, his primary school teacher, and the barista in his local coffee bar. She is pretty, in a nonsexual kind of way. She is as bland and nonthreatening as the plain white room they are standing in, and he knows instinctively this whole staging point is designed to put him at his ease.
Published on Jun 24, 2014
by K. S. O'Neill
Maddy's working a half-day even though it's Friday. She gives me a smooch and looks sideways at the cameras in the kitchen. "They're off!" I tell her, rolling my eyes a bit.
Published on Jul 3, 2014
by Xander Odell
Every morning Mom says, "Today is the day I get my new body." And I lie and tell her, "No, Mom, that's tomorrow."
Published on Nov 24, 2020
by Aimee Ogden
Sure, I'll state my name for the record. It's Maggie Rodgers, with a D. Like "and Hammerstein," not like "Mister." Where should I start? All the way at the beginning? So, on paper the project was called the Supersimulation, but privately, we called it "The Nine Bajillion Names of God." Hard to get research funding under the auspices of an inside joke.
Published on Aug 28, 2018
by Mary Ogle
Nathaniel remembers this. The leather wrapped around the steering wheel stays cool beneath his grip. His fingers are clenched tight and his hands are losing feeling. Now they are as numb as the rest of him. He knows every dip and crack in the hard-packed dirt of the road. He knows which tree branch will strike the roof of the truck. He knows he will kill a man. Nathaniel doesn't try to swerve when the hunched figure steps out in front of him. He remembers this. He doesn't flinch when the body flies up and over, hitting the windshield and leaving jagged cracks that disfigure his vision. The sound of the body rolling off the hood is like an echo and his feet leave the pedals as the truck rolls to a stop.
Published on Dec 21, 2015
by Brian Gene Olson
Mr. Capen's Comparative World Literature Class Quiz 1
Published on Apr 10, 2017
by Jez Patterson
Styler leaned towards the clock and pinched something from the air. I felt the room move. Everything move. She held it out to me and I dropped the paper plane I'd spent all afternoon folding and refolding and never getting right. "A second," she said, pushing my grasping hands away and plucking the handkerchief from the top pocket of my jacket. Pinstriped, my suit a perfect miniaturized copy of my father's. Styler wrapped the second in it, made me put it in the inside pocket, the one that carries things closest to your heart. Usually a man's wallet. Figures.
Published on Apr 11, 2017
by C. Richard Patton
You are there again. Near the rock. In the blackness; in the void. I know that it is you, even though I cannot see that it is you. I know it is not me. I am not there. Not there, where you are. You slump against the rock. It is a small, unnaturally round, boulder. It supports your back as you recline against it, uncomfortably. You roll to your left, twisting, and push off the rock, into a standing position. You lift one foot, place it on the rock, for reference as much as for support. Your faded trousers, cut off below the knees, show a gap of hairy calves above sandaled feet--or they would if it were less dark. You still wear your glasses, useless though they are in this continual night. You have no shirt; you are comfortable enough and you are easier for me to monitor without it. You step up, onto the rock. With this exertion I can sense that you are in good shape, your muscles are lean and your joints smooth even though you have begun the second half of your natural lifespan. You step carefully off the rock and amble forward into the dark.
Published on Aug 8, 2012
by Nina Pendergast
It's the chance of a lifetime. Or at least, that's what they tell her. She only knows that the cameras are rolling and the company has been planning this for months and she is, in actuality, nothing more than a glorified guinea pig. The first woman to experience simulated time travel created from pieces of her own memory. "Due to the simulator's design, we really have no idea what kind of experience you'll have," her boss explained to her several days earlier, ten minutes before the final press conference. "We loosely control the setting and structure of the environment, but as for dialog, interaction, character realism..." He leaned back in his chair, arms crossed casually behind his head. "That's where you come in." She imagined herself as the last point on his checklist, a tidy box to be filled in, imagined him thinking: See, it's done. Look what I accomplished. She nodded, but the words "character realism" left a bitter edge in her throat. It'll be me in there, she thought. My fourteen-year-old self.
Published on Oct 25, 2013
by Stephen R. Persing
"It's always a beautiful day." Those words, not spoken but thought, fell across Ward's mind. He even noted, with a chuckle, that the "voice" in his head had the same Massachusetts accent as he did. It spoke his language; anything to make him feel at home.
Published on Dec 9, 2013
by Andrija Popovic
Camille knew the moment she picked up the package a Mirror Man would hunt her. They infested the shopping districts. Shoulder forward, she pushed down the crowded street. The consumers parted around her. Focused on their personal networks and visual clutter editors, their early warning systems guided them away from collisions. No one could see her. She was a blocked object. No one saw the dirt on her boots, or the cracks in her third-hand leather jacket, or the ribbons on her dreadlocks. No one saw the personal network contacts in her eyes flashing red every two seconds.
Published on Oct 16, 2015
by Conor Powers-Smith
***Editor's Note: Cursing in this story*** "This is where the magic happens," Louis said.
Published on Aug 16, 2013
by Cat Rambo
When he realized how upset his wife was, George wondered if he might have miscalculated. Normally a quiet and loving partner, she was unpacking the dishwasher with a great deal of clattering and muttering. "It's not as though you even ever dated her!" she said, slamming a series of mugs into the cupboard.
Published on Jun 27, 2014
by Cat Rambo
It's dark and I'm here alone. Not entirely dark. My fire casts a tiny wavering circle on the sand. Out in the darkness, I hear waves crashing on the beach.
Published on Mar 23, 2015
by Robert Reed
***Editor's Warning: Adult-Themed Story, for Mature Readers Only***
Published on Aug 13, 2016
by Melanie Rees
The curtains billowed as a cold gust swept through the open window. Unknown voices whispered on the breeze with a metallic tincture, sending chills down Miranda's spine. "Someone's out there," she said.
Published on Sep 17, 2013
by Mike Reeves-McMillan
Meredith looks up from her second Scotch and meets the gaze of a tall man, straight dark hair, blue eyes. He smiles, and glances away almost immediately. Shy. He's just her type. Though she doesn't remember ever going out with a guy this good-looking.
Published on Nov 17, 2016
by Alter S. Reiss
"I can't actually change the way things are. More than anyone else can, I mean." The shop looked like a crappy antiques store, not like what Jane had expected, and the guy looked like some college kid working at Target, not like... whatever someone who could change reality should look like. It'd all been some stupid prank anyway, and Jane had made an idiot out of herself again.
Published on Jun 21, 2019
by Peter Roberts
It was a beautiful day, bright and almost cloudless. Sunlight slanted through the tall windows that ran along the east side of the gently aging, 60's-era Sciences Building. The effect, Vikram sometimes thought, was like being in an open corridor in a cloister. He was heading back to his office, having just refreshed his cup of tea, when the door of the Department Head's office opened, and the great woman herself stepped out. Vikram knew that this was not a coincidence; it never was. "I just saw your paper in Physical Review, Vikram. I thought it was very well done. However..."
Published on Feb 16, 2016
by David Paul Rogers
When Rigel first read of the “discovery,” he keyed in the eye-roll emoji and kept scrolling. The idea that the world was only a simulation had been around for centuries. The notion was at least as old as Plato, who used the fame of his former teacher, Socrates, to promote his own wild ideas. Today, Rigel thought, Plato would be the king of internet conspiracy theorists. If the existence of Flat-Earthers defied explanation, try dealing with one who might claim it doesn’t matter if Earth is flat or round because the entire material world is only a projection. Rigel still didn’t worry when rumors began to circulate beyond weird corners of the internet, when whispers and comments were heard in offices and on street corners. Graffitists took up the idea: Repent, for the world is a simulation and the end is nigh! appeared in colorful spray-painted letters in alleys and occasionally on pieces of high-profile real estate. Similar-themed NFTs were auctioned online for unbelievable prices. Rumors have a way of turning into reality. Even after it was widely accepted that the world was only a simulation, things seemed mostly normal for a while. Soon, however, people started to get careless. Jobs were neglected. Breakfasts and dinners were not cooked. Lawns went unmowed, bills unpaid. Let the simulation deal with the simulated consequences as best it could, people decided. Did I program the world to be this way? they asked. No? Then if you don’t like how things work, talk to the Programmer. Nobody knew who that was, of course. Rigel, meanwhile, went to work every day at his ordinary job as an accountant at the regional office of an unremarkable mid-size corporation. He did start to record the various changes in his old-fashioned blog, A Cultural History of the End of the World. Blogs were hopelessly out of date, he knew, but he’d been blogging since before “social media” became a one-size-fits-all term used to dismiss internet fads. He wasn’t about to stop now. Soon, more serious problems were allowed to fester. Bridges collapsed. Children wandered into traffic. Launch codes for nuclear arsenals were forgotten. Yet when people were confronted about the consequences of their irresponsibility, nonchalant attitudes persisted: why worry--where was the harm in a little simulated death and destruction? After all, none of it was even real. The tenor of perceptions changed, Rigel noted in his blog, after the stranger came to town. Nobody noticed when he quietly checked into the hotel, but soon the stranger was seen taking pictures and making notes, and whispers began. A few people later told reporters the stranger had questioned them about dirty streets and crumbling buildings and littered parks and alleys. They answered, since it was all just a simulation, what did any of it matter? He nodded and made more notes, refusing to say anything specific about his origin or purpose. “Just a routine report on the progress of the experiment,” he said. “We all have to justify expenses, you know.” Apathy was gradually replaced by paranoia. Three days after the stranger arrived, he disappeared and was not seen again. People worried even more seriously when the shortages began--food and medicine, fuel, electricity, things that did actually make differences in everyday life. No one panicked until that last morning, when the sheriff issued orders for everyone to stay inside. The sun rose, briefly, but soon the sky turned black. Inky, moonless, midnight black. A rumbling, crackling roar was heard from the edge of town. The ebony sky extended horizon to horizon and swallowed the town, dirty streets and all. Rigel pointed his phone out the window of his apartment and recorded the spreading darkness. It rolled down the street like fallout from a mushroom cloud, everything in its path vanishing quickly as five-year-old balance sheets through the office paper shredder. So now we float here in nearly absolute darkness and empty space, Rigel wrote, with nothing to do but stare at words that blink around the black horizon: This Simulation Discontinued. Reprogram Pending. I'll be happy if the new simulation just has food and water, he typed, determined to blog till the bitter end. I hope the reprogramming starts soon. Empty space is quite cold and I am rather hungry. Thirsty, too. And the battery on my phone is dying.
Published on Nov 22, 2021
by Kaoru Sakasaki, translated by Toshiya Kamei
Mrs. Yamano had told us about you beforehand. She said a new kid would soon be joining our class. His name was Satoru, a middle school student like the rest of us. An accident left you paralyzed, so you would be coming to school encased in a robot body. That’s all she told us. Mrs. Yamano is nearing her retirement, so you can’t fault her too much for being a bit old-fashioned. Even so, when the word “robot” came out of her mouth, it sounded antiquated. At first, I thought she was pulling our legs. When I first saw you, Satoru, the word “robot” flashed into my mind. On TV, I had seen kids attending classes remotely, but the technology in use seemed more sophisticated. Some wore android suits while others rode highly individualized mechas. To be honest, your robot looked like an older model, because some parts were hardly painted. But it’s far more advanced from any so-called robot from the previous century.
Published on May 7, 2021
by Erica L. Satifka
On days like these, when the boredom reaches down Park's throat like a debutante's finger, it's all he can do not to hop on his board and hoist a hearty double-middle-finger salute to this crummy slice of consensus reality called Home Sweet Home. He'd do it too, if he knew the subroutines wouldn't reel him in, fish-flopping on the macadam. No way in hell am I going through that again, he thinks, shuddering.
Published on Jul 4, 2014
by Erica L. Satifka
Monday: Slide a steak knife up your sleeve. Smile when you enter the office through the plate-glass window that faces the sidewalk. The glass will shatter, but it cannot harm you. Because you, my friend, are a Winner.
Published on Sep 10, 2014
by Erica L. Satifka
After Tina's parents got divorced and she and her mom moved to Earth, she spent summers with her dad in the hyper-labyrinth of Ganymede Station 9-B, in a far-off world called reality. She'd liked it when she was twelve. She'd run all up and down the corridors of the Station, oblivious to the milling engineers and bureaucrats, until the spider-like structure of the All-Seeing Eye jabbed a syringe into her neck and put her gently to sleep. But now that she was older, she was so over it.
Published on Oct 2, 2015
by Darragh Savage
The resurrection was, in its early days, a little underwhelming. Here is my father: imperfect in the living room, where light renders his manifestation wan unless the shades are drawn, but vibrant and perfected in Space (as we all are). He looks a little younger than me, which I find strange, so we adjust his settings until he is appropriately gray.
Published on Mar 22, 2019
by Peter A Schaefer
Susan wasn't comfortable playing, not after Dan read that you had to name your piece after yourself, and she said so. "It's just a game," they said, and so she played. It was a game where you moved your piece around familiar if generic locations: home, the library, downtown, and places related to school: class, the cafeteria, the athletic field, and behind the bleachers. Since it was just a game, Susan made choices she'd never make in life. That's why she skipped class with Dan behind the bleachers. When she kissed him in the game, she blushed in real life. She smoked a little, drank a little, tried marijuana. Her grades were fine, but her game-parents grounded her more than once. The consequences didn't matter to her, but her friends grew judgmental.
Published on Dec 8, 2016
by Alex Shvartsman
I move through the aisles slowly, with the casual gait of a bored shopper who's there to kill fifteen minutes while his spouse is trying on shoes across the street. Someone not likely to make an actual purchase and, therefore, ignored by the salespeople. I disregard the flashy displays of electronics piled up high and the enticing discounts. Instead, I study the cameras, the location of the clerks, and the security tag detector equipment by the exit.
Published on Mar 12, 2012
by Susan Taitel
The set looks exactly like her apartment. Down to the smallest detail. Except it’s larger and the walls can be moved to make room for the camera crew. There is no angle they can’t shoot from. The actress who will be playing her wife doesn’t look much like Katherine, but she’s got the same gap-toothed grin and has obviously studied her mannerisms. The first run-through is full of mistakes and flubs and goes much later than scheduled. Afterward, she goes home to her real apartment. Katherine is still up, waiting to reheat the Chicken Tikka Masala she made hours earlier and to hear how it went. She recounts it for her, exaggerating the errors to the point of farce. They agree that to greenlight it would be absurd. Katherine goes to bed and she soon follows, relieved that the experiment has come to an end.
Published on May 3, 2021
by Clive Tern
While we ate, the news warned of power outages. Hopefully we'll make it through the night. The world may be warmer than thirty years ago, but it still drops to forty degrees overnight, cool enough to need the heat on. After tea we sit on the couch.
Published on Sep 7, 2016
by R.L. Thull
Jackie pulled into the drive of a blue rambler with thirsty brown grass, her next assignment. She always took the company van on her runs, a nondescript white box without rear windows, and--for discretion--side panel branding that vanished as she neared her destination. The company had an app for its field employees with all the relevant details--the subject's name and birthdate and photo, the home and work addresses. And of course, the cover story.
Published on May 4, 2018
by Marie Vibbert
Disclosure: I was not paid for this review, but I did receive a free copy of "Jesamie: 0-39" by Interpolative LifeLogs LLC in exchange for my honest review of the product. Jesamie's life was recommended to me by fellow fans of "Twenty Day Cleanse" and "Monk for a Month" because of my interest in ascetic meditation.
Published on Aug 30, 2018
by Leslie What
"Heat the mac and cheese when the timer beeps," said their mom. Andrew loved her voice, She sounded like the hospital elevator woman who announced every floor. "Could I take you to Show and Tell?" he asked.
Published on Jun 19, 2019
by Ian Whates
***Editor's Note: Adult story with adult language/themes follows*** Her figures were tumbling, which was a disaster. Numbers in the top left hand corner of her field of view continued to fall in quick-fire ones and twos--the countdown to obscurity. Taylor didn't get it. She looked good, she knew she did.
Published on Nov 13, 2014
by Filip Wiltgren
Everybody finds this letter eventually. It's in the terms of use. What you do with it, is entirely up to you. First, the specifics. Yes, this world is made just for you, all the content procedurally generated moments before you encounter it. No, we can't tell you why you chose this particular world, or why it was chosen for you. We cannot confirm if this was a desired outcome, or if the world is created from a random seed. All we are contractually obliged to tell you is that this world exists, and so do you. What you do with this information is entirely up to you.
Published on Nov 19, 2020
by Brian Yamauchi
"What are you thinking?" she asks. I wrap my arms around her shoulders as the waves roll onto the beach. The California sun falls toward the horizon, and the autumn breeze cools our wet bodies.
Published on May 19, 2014
by Christie Yant
***Editor's Warning: Brief adult language, and graphic details of dying and death live here.*** I never saw my mother's body after she died. The man on the other end of the line asked me if I wanted to--whether they should delay the cremation so that I could make the two-and-a-half hour drive up the coast to where she lay in storage. Pale and spotted with bright red cherry angiomas, her sides striped with purple scars from multiple kidney surgeries and her arms mottled with worn red gashes where the tremors had caused her to scratch herself, I had seen enough of my mother's body when she had been alive.
Published on Oct 18, 2012
by Kenton K. Yee
The curtains were shimmering behind a moth's silhouette jostling over the doctor's head. "If you can't, turn yourself in first thing tomorrow," he said. "They'll come get you if you're not accounted for by eight. Personally, I'd do it myself."
Published on Dec 8, 2017
by ana gardner
The verdict surprised no one. It was the sentencing they'd come for; the reason they'd packed themselves into the sweaty old courtroom, wall-to-peeling-oakwood-wall, five hundred bodies gripping iClickers, slurping in eager unison from their NutriShake rations. The judge banged for silence and the accused stood. Breaths stopped. A thousand eyes fixed the Hi-Fi Sentencing Widescreen, stretched tall and black behind the judge's seat.
Published on Jan 28, 2020