124

A man asks his device for the weather.

“It’s clear outside. Expect the overthrow of humanity in the morning, followed by nuclear winter. Today’s high will be this moment, John. You’re ready for this.”

Inspired by the recent technological mishap in Hawaii, this story examines how much we trust and rely on our technology. How soon until AI controls the warnings, and what might they decide to say or do? What might they know about us, our secret desires, and how we might react when prompted? Perhaps our phones will know more than we will know about ourselves. // Statement by the Author

//Kristen Seikaly is a native Michigander working as a freelance writer in Philadelphia. Find her on Twitter @KristenSeikaly.//

 

123

Our cosmos is too vast
And we are far too small
So take your hand in mine
It’s three against them all

You may remember learning about photons, tiny particles of light that travel solo through beams of light. In 2013, scientist were able to clump them together in pairs and researchers began to wonder… just how many photons could you clump together? Earlier this year, scientists at MIT cooled a cloud of rubidium atoms to an ultralow temperature and were amazed to witness individual photons grouping into pairs and trios. This new light could be used to perform highly complex, incredibly fast quantum computations. Illuminating this discovery with a rosy glow, Lachlan Redfern reshapes it into a love poem. // Alex Massey

//Lachlan Redfern lives in Melbourne, Australia and occasionally posts on his YouTube channel onlyforfilmclass.//

122

A mercurial, opalescent hand surges from thawing permafrost, dives into waves, twisting as it searches for victims. It pools around goggles of deep sea explorers and plunges into fish’s gaping mouths.

As climate change drives temperatures up and the permafrost thaws, a hidden danger swims closer to the surface . Beneath the crust of Artic permafrost, around 23 Olympic swimming pools of mercury lie still, waiting for their toxic release. Inspired by this discover, D. A. Xiaolin Spires anthropomorphises mercury to create an unnamed villian. Is this antagonist a true villain or a defender of the planet from those destroying it? Only the reader can decide. // Alex Massey

//D.A. Xiaolin Spires emerges from the permafrost. Work in Clarkesworld, Analog and Terraform.//

121

After a last, convulsive bout of childishness, humanity finally grew up. The huge red warning sign, marking their system off-limits, was turned off.

Just south of Jupiter’s equator rages the Great Red Spot, a storm that could swallow several Earth-sized planets. First seen in the 1800s, the Great Red Spot is one of the most recognisable features of our galaxy. Yet,  this Great Red Spot may soon become the Great Red Circle Memory, as NASA’s planetary scientists observe that the spot is rapidly shrinking. Inspired by this shrinking storm, O. Westin weaves it into a coming of age for Earth. Could the disappearance of the Great Red Spot signal the end of our adolescence? // Alex Massey

//O. Westin (@MicroSFF) has written thousands of seed-sized science fiction and fantasy stories on Twitter since 2013.//

120

On that wintry afternoon, my date peered up at the cloudless sky and asked, “What’s the umbrella for?” “Just wait,” I said. We passed beneath the branches of an American Elm. It was raining iguanas.

As frigid Arctic-like temperatures circulated around parts of the United States and Canada at the start of 2018, Christopher A. Jos found himself shivering with inspiration as he read of frozen iguana’s falling out of trees in south Florida. Hold your scepticism – as the mercury approaches zero (and even drops below it) certain reptiles and amphibians become immobilised. They may look dead but as the temperature warms up, so will these critters! Combining the natural ability of the North American wood frog to survive winter despite being frozen solid with this news of a sudden iguana rainfall, Christopher creates the perfect first date for a speculative science fiction writer. 

//Christopher A. Jos is a teacher who has also spent time working for both municipal and provincial parks services. Find him at https://christopherajos.wordpress.com, or on Twitter @ChristopheAJos.//

119

She awoke, surrounded by stopped cars on the 110 Freeway.
“Moira, this isn’t the fastest way to Phoenix.”
Letters appeared across the base of the windshield:
ʏᴏᴜ ғᴇʟʟ ᴀsʟᴇᴇᴘ. ɪ ᴡᴀs ʟᴏɴᴇʟʏ.

The current goal for engineers integrating Artificial Intelligence into self-driving cars  is to create a fully autonomous vehicles (Level 5 of AI). These cars will need a level of human-like cognition, not only to make decisions, but to try to understand humans and out-think other drivers and pedestrians. Researchers working at Oxford University on the Oxbotica project Selenium are training AI’s to ask questions like “Where am I? What’s around me? What do I do next?” Inspired by these developments in AI, writer Cria Cow asks the ultimate question: is it possible that a fairly human AI, trained to interpret human social behaviour, could eventually become a social creature itself? And what would happen if it did? 

//Cow @criacow writes about random things, works in IT automation, and
hopes to retire before the computers take over and make us obsolete.//

118

“Park in front of Hussein’s,” I told the car.
“It doesn’t exist,” it replied.
“I can see it, there.”
“Sorry, destination not found. As you can see on the map, there’s nothing there.”

When I moved to Manaus, I realized that many places weren’t listed on Google Maps, and there’s no sure way to list them. And Google listings are, like anything online, vulnerable to tinkering (and corporate whim), which can fail restaurants, for exampleIf driverless cars become commonplace, maps provided by internet-based, monopoly-like companies can render people and places invisible. // Statement by the Author

With the potential for misuse for Facebook and other social media already well known, how long before Rodrigo’s suggestion becomes reality? At Story Seed Vault, we think it’s far closer than this sci-fi piece might suggest…. // Alex Massey

//Rodrigo Assis Mesquita is a mostly strong-willed SFF writer from Brazil.//