114

Inchoate beings in the Corvus constellation wrap beaks around space-time, creating parabolic curves to hook succulent temporal anomalies.

On Earth, scientists have found that crafty ravens make tools such as hooks to scoop up food at a faster pace (as the only non-human hook-making animals in the wild). Meanwhile, in the Corvus (raven) constellation, D. A. Xiaolin Spires’ inchoate beings are displaying the same complex brainpower and engineering capacity to signal intelligent life. As we’ve seen in past stories, ravens are known for their intelligence, able to recognise faces, and more. Who knows what else their parallel raven constellation brethren could do? 

//D.A. Xiaolin Spires manufactures hooks using her sharp beak. Work in Clarkesworld, Analog and Fireside. @spireswriter//

113

RE: SORRY
Hi! Don’t be silly! You didn’t seem ‘a bit slow’.
I was tired too. Yes, you always cook pasta. 😉
Call me when you install the CO2 scrubbers.
P.S. It’s ‘sorry.’

Climate change has featured heavily in popular media as one of the greatest risks to humanity in the 21st century. As increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide escalate and drive climate change, we may have more to worry about than just rising sea levels and increasing temperatures. High levels of CO2 are known to decrease our cognitive function and if elevated enough, prove toxic to humans. Horrified by this research, Nathan Williams decided to put a humorous twist on a terrifying future. Will access to carbon scrubbers and improved cognitive function become the new divider between the classes?

//Nathan Williams is a journalist and climate communications person and has spent the last 8 months writing his first novel. Twitter @New_Nathan//

112

“I think they’re ready,” she said, and jumped up to check the incubator. Four tiny, luminous universes glimmered back at her.

In a lab she was consulting at one day, Kit Greenhouse looked down and saw keys to worlds in brain cells grown in Petri dishes. This incredible moment spiraled out of control in her brain and inspired this story. In what Jon Hamilton described as the ‘weirdest and coolest advance in brain science’, scientists are now able to grow mini-brains in labs. These minibrains could lead to greater knowledge of brain development, better testing of experimental drugs for brain diseases and viruses that affect the brain. Whatever the outcome, Kit confirms that these brain cells ‘really do glow under the right lights, and they’re pretty incredible’.

//Kit Greenhouse is an autistic public health professional who somehow ended up writing speculative fiction. Tweets at @kitwritesthings & @pseudelight.//

111

Overhead, our flaming arrows blocked out the sun, but one soot-black raven picked up slivers of bone, and forced the tower door’s lock open.

In the past, human exceptionalism has driven scientists to conclude that all animals are driven by immediate needs – hunger, survival in the face of danger. Yet, as more and more studies show that this is not the case, this human exceptionalism has crumbled. Take, for one example, the raven (the best bird).  Mathias Osvath from Lund University, who has 16 ravens on his farm, has proven that ravens have foresight and will select tools that can help them solve a puzzle in the future. Inspired by this discovery, Carrie Cuinn casts the raven as the ultimate companion on a fantasy journey and, potentially, your ideal RPG character. 

//Carrie Cuinn is a writer, editor, historian, and geek. Find her online at @CarrieCuinn or at http://carriecuinn.com.//

110

Staff stripped by austerity, the last great telescope closed its eye to the heavens, and was gutted for scrap. No one saw the comet coming.

In a recent analysis of disaster movies by scientists at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, it was found that humanity would rather blame human greed or ego than simple ignorance for disasters. This finding could extend far beyond environmental disasters. Globally, austerity measures cause potentially irreparable damage to vulnerable communities, public health systems, and scientific research, with even the ISS endangered by funding losses. Inspired by the news that Brazil’s science funding would be cut by another 40% in 2018 endangering observatories, Carrie Cuinn looks to the stars and imagines a threat unseen – not because of human ego, but because we were simply ignorant.

//Carrie Cuinn is a writer, editor, historian, and geek. Find her online at @CarrieCuinn or at http://carriecuinn.com.//

109

Retiring Faux-Meat Competitive Eater Checks Into A Diet Facility
Surgeons penetrate her skull, implant an electrode into her basal
forebrain and press the trigger. ~
Zz!~ Her cravings switch off.

 In the first serial story published by the Vault, D. A. Xiaolin Spires serves us up a second helping of competitive eater Yamamoto. Reading that innovative approaches to food cravings and impulsive behavior may lead to new methods of dietary supervision, Spires surrenders her character to another stage for observation by a crowd – a diet facility. Is this technology new in her universe? Or are cravings now pathologised? That is up to the impulses of our readers. // Alex Massey

//D.A. Xiaolin Spires chomps on a faux-meat “Sham Jim”. Work in Clarkesworld, Analog and Fireside. @spireswriter//

108

Flecks fly from Yamamoto’s lips. She soaks another lab-grown burger in water, swallows it whole. The crowd cheers, waving flags featuring animations of stem cell extraction.

As lab-grown meat grows in popularity, the public begins to turn its attention from the scientists who created it to where it will be sold. Contemplating this, D. A. Xiaolin Spires blends together the notions of promotional stunts and extreme sports to create a new competitive eating contest. In the crowd, the ethical consumer cheers, waving flags made of digital OLED fabrics. In Spires’ future, GIFS are printable, and meat is vegetarian. Will her fiction become fact before our very eyes? // Alex Massey

//D.A. Xiaolin Spires waves from a billowing fabric screen. Work in Clarkesworld, Analog and Fireside. @spireswriter//