40

The pack is just out of reach, resting on its wormstrip. Shadow in a bend of the shaft holds back my salvation. Awaiting sunrise and no clouds.

Research into self-propulsion by inanimate objects without the use of a mechanic system has been common over the past decade. Recently, scientists at Eindhoven University of Technology and Kent State University have developed a new material that propels itself forward under the influence of light. Harold Gross casts this discovery into a chase scene, full of shadows and sunrise. // Alex Massey

//Harold Gross has been a professional actor and a computer professional for many years. His writing has appeared in F&SF, Analog, on Pseudopod.org, as well as in several anthologies and magazines in the US and UK.//

39

We scan a mammoth’s mummified brain; hear screams: “Tusks fall! My bones beneath fur snap like glaciers. Hidden predator. Crack!”

Woolly mammoths are thought to be a creature of the ice age, yet evidence shows a remnant of their population survived on an isolated island until a few thousand years ago. Studies of their remaining bones have shown that the dwindling population had a significant effect on the mammoths genome resulting in ‘mutational meltdown’ and diseases like osteoporosis.  D. A. Xiaolin Spires weaves this discovery with the potential for scanning brains for emotions – could we discover how the past looked to those who lived it? // Alex Massey

//D.A. Xiaolin Spires stares at skies and wonders what there is to eat out there in the cosmos. Spires aspires to be a 3-D printing gourmand, but will happily concede with producing and consuming quixotic fiction and poetry. Her works have appeared in or are forthcoming in publications such as ClarkesworldGrievous AngelStory Seed VaultRetro FutureLONTAR and Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Her fiction also appears in anthologies such as Broken Eye Book’s Ride the Star Wind (on Cthulhu-inspired space opera); and Upper Rubber Boot’s Sharp & Sugar Tooth (on creepy and weird tales of culinary delight).//

38

We became purely digital; to maximize cooling efficiency we slept until the universe finished expanding; we never expected it feel so alone.

As of 2017, Earth has not yet found any traces of extraterrestrial intelligence, and the questions raised by Enrico Fermi’s Paradox continue to generate multiple hypotheses. Jonathan Twain takes the Aestivation Hypothesis and imagines the world from the perspective of the extraterrestrial societies. Aestivation suggests  that advanced civilisations not only exist but have become purely digital. They are waiting in hibernation and will awaken at a time when they can maximize the computational strength of their society – the Big Chill. But will they be the only society left?//Alex Massey

//Jonathan Twain lives in Wisconsin, blogs at jonathantwainwriter.blogspot.com/, and is woodworker who writes speculative fiction.//

37

Grateful for new friends, companion bots eased human loneliness everywhere. They began by making cookies that tasted of childhood.

Humanity is driven to seek companionship and with the invention of humanoid robots, companion bots aren’t far behind. Annabelle Woodger has taken this concept and put a childlike spin on it. However, their scifi is not that far from reality. Currently, several companion bots exist, including Toyota’s Kirobo Mini and SoftBank Robotics robot Pepper. While these bots may help ease human loneliness, their ties to the Internet of Things raise further questions about ethics and the potential for misuse of conversational robots.//Alex Massey

//Annabelle Woodger loves making things with words and/or pictures. You can find her at @yayannabelle, passionately yelling about stuff.//

36

Princess Philodendron glides up sunlit steps to the masquerade in hir dress awash with pink variegation, hir mask a cotton-candied shroud.

When you look through a garden, you may see the Philodendron erubescens ‘Pink Princess’ is a climbing perennial plant with pink variegated leaves. Botanist Simcha Lev-Yadun suggested that some patterns of leave variegation may be a part of a defensive ‘masquerade strategy’. Taking this concept and combining it with fairy tale fantasy, Rae White weaves an enchanting story.

//@wings_humming is a non-binary poet and writer from Brisbane. They’ve been published in @slinkchunkpress, @corditepoetry and others.//

35

Lonely asteroid seeks caring planet to orbit. Promises regular meteor shows, added features to eclipses and no GPS disturbances.

This story by Russell Hemmel is purely fictional. It has no basis in fact. In our galaxy, asteroids orbit the Sun, and most can be found in a broad band 19,400,000 miles wide between Jupiter and Mars. Yet, this asteroid could find a caring planet to orbit. Trojan asteroids orbit the sun at the same distance as large planets. You will find them at the Lagrangian Point, where the gravity of the Sun and the planet is equal. In 2021, a NASA led mission will be undertaken to study Jupiter’s Trojan’s.  //Alex Massey

//Russell Hemmell is a statistician and social scientist from the U.K, passionate about astrophysics and speculative fiction. They can be found at their blog earthianhivemind.net and on Twitter @SPBianchini.//

34

After ripples were detected in the fabric of space time, intergalactic engineers were flooded with urgent requests to design a cosmic iron.

In 2017, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory detected gravitational waves for the third time. Described as ripples in space and time, the waves were generated when two black holes collided to form a larger black hole. In this story, Alex Massey combines this discovery with the knowledge that clients can rarely resist a good pun when making research requests.

//Alex Massey @angry_pidgey lives in a house with a cat and an unshakable thought that they left the iron on. They haven’t used one in years.//