SavagePlanets, July 2023

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In This Issue... Arón Reinhold Ria Rees Tom Koperwas K. A. Williams Joe Jablonski Andy Weir JULY 2023 Volume 3/Issue 3 EXTRATERRESTRIAL FICTION POEMS FROM IMAGINARIA SCI-FI ENTERTAINMENT PLANETARY COMMUNIQUE FUTURE ARTIFACTS SUBSPACE Where Dreams & Nightmares Collide Exclusive Interview with:
Editor in Chief Steven S. Behram Fiction Editor Keith 'Doc' Raymond Poetry Editor Alexander N. Behram Art Editor B.o.B. (A.I. Sentience) SavagePlanets 01 I SavagePlanets Signals from the Stellar Core 03 Overdue 05 Delivery to Torus 13 Planetary Communiqué 19 Sci-Fi Entertainment 21 Wager High... Bad Beat 31 The Stolen Star Seeker 37 Poems from Imaginaria 45 Future Artifacts 57 SubSpace 65 32 Sams 69 Contents
03 13 45 37 SavagePlanets I 02 05 31 69


from Stellar Core


As we navigate through the year, basking in the light of distant stars and uncovering the mysteries of hidden galaxies, our hearts pulsate with curiosity and a yearning for adventure. Will this be the year we encounter life beyond our world, or will we uncover truths that leave us in awe of our existence? At SavagePlanets, our sense of wonder is perpetually counterbalanced with a touch of cosmic realism - a balance that you will undoubtedly appreciate as you delve into this quarter's offerings.

Supernova Splatter

Welcome, intrepid voyagers of the cosmos, to the newest offering from our ever-expanding universe of contributors. From the earthly realms to the furthest reaches of the galaxy, we've amassed an array of tantalizing tales, insightful ponderings, and mind-bending speculative adventures.

Quasar Quatrains

Our speculative poetry section takes you on an enthralling journey, exploring the depths of compassion in the midst of cosmic oddities. Journey alongside Dr. McCoy, as

he tangles with the intriguing Salt Vampire, Nancy. Dive into uncharted realms where beasts of starry voids beg for redemption and unearthly creatures crave love. Prepare for a cosmic rollercoaster of emotions, as these verses unravel the complexity of being - in a world both alien and strangely familiar.

Pulsar Proclamations

This quarter, our communiqué from Hojack, the jesting emissary of your impending Glorious Overlord Grawth, brings an interstellar scoop. Hojack takes a playful stab at recent earthly events, attributing a notorious explosion near the

Kremlin to the fiery mirth of Grawth.

Within our awe-inspiring Extraterrestrial Fiction, we've harvested tales that defy gravity. Delve into "Overdue," where sage Jōn embarks on an odyssey to return a book. Or risk a "Delivery to Torus," where a cargo run takes a fiery turn. "Wager High... Bad Beat" takes us to a unique gamble involving micro-humans and a recombinant vespine swarm. Explore impostor adventures in "The Stolen Star Seeker" and discover a new threat in "32 Sams."

Our Sci-Fi Entertainment section is a triad of delights. Join us as we journey to Mars in "The Other Martian," and get up close and personal with Andy Weir in our exclusive interview. Lastly, ponder over "Extrapolations," where we dive

03 I SavagePlanets

deep into the future climate crisis.

Our renowned Art Editor, BoB, once again brings us unique visual delights with Future Artifacts.

In Subspace, we're showcasing our fans' creativity with a compilation of two-sentence science fiction stories. These micro tales are big on imagination, and we appreciate all the clever minds who shared their stories with us using #savageplanets.

Black Hole Echoes

We're eager to continue expanding our universe with your stories and poems. Let SavagePlanets be your destination for adventure.

Your support propels us forward. Visit us at

SavagePlanets I 04


I heard the voice of Ba the first time I saw the book in the Keeper’s hands. He unwrapped the layers of cloth and salt, revealing the illegible characters within. She spoke to me then, telling me I was to learn the secrets of this book. Then She was silent. I didn’t have the courage to touch the cover in the open, let alone to tell him about God’s plan for me, but maybe She would have spoken more if I had.

“Keeper, what does it say?”

I traced with my eyes the golden horizontal bar that stretched across the front, from which all the looping cuts and dashes emerged. We weren’t backward, not like our neighbors. We had written language, but I couldn’t parse anything, not even a letter.

“No one still living knows.” He

said, noting my disappointment. He had wanted to impress me, to start the dance with me, and as a recent and young replacement for the previous Keeper, he only knew his way. “Let me show you a secret.”

This would be the first of Ba’s secrets I would learn. At that moment, She worked through the Keeper’s trembling fingers and my novice lips. He opened up the book with tremendous reverence, then pointed at a symbol on the inside cover which appeared like two pillars surrounding some word in that same flowing script.

“This is the only thing we know.” He hesitated, looked around the small domicile, then whispered.

“This says ‘Ba Library.’”

I felt like the lifting sails from a recent invention of our town’s genius, Jōn. One that glides

across the lake with the wind, but I kept rising until I left the surface. This was Her library, the Library of God. I knew then how I was to unfold the book’s mystery.

“Now, I know what’s going through your mind.” He said, running his hand through his thick hair, thinking he had impressed me, but fearing that he had untied a very important rope and untethered my soul. “However, this can’t be Ba’s book. That was too long ago.”

“Then why have the Keepers kept it with such respect?”

“Because it came from a prior age.”

“But didn’t Ba mean for us to have the book for a time?”

“That time is gone.”

“If that’s true, then shouldn’t we return it to the Library?”

Friends, this is a weapon from the before times, but it still works more effectively than any of your clumsy blades. Don’t make me use it."
05 I SavagePlanets

“I’m telling you, it’s not Ba’s book!” “Why else would it be stamped with Ba’s name?!” I yelled. He had lost his chance at the dance. I was driven to Ba’s embrace, not into the arms of the doubtful. I watched him with sideways eyes, saw how he folded the cloth reverently and where he concealed the object in an unassuming cabinet.

As soon as I laid my hands upon the bundle of cloth, I heard my God again. She told me to seek Jōn, so I fled unnoticed to his residence on the outskirts of the village, near the edge of the lake, where candlelight bobbed like an oil painting on the water’s minor disturbances.

“Ah, yes, Ba’s Page, please enter.”

I went in, my eyes trying to blink away the non-comprehension, to adjust to my new circumstances.

I thought Ba would speak to me again, to tell me when and where to take the book, but She was silent. Years passed, I grew older and wiser, but much less patient; I could not stand waiting for Her hallowed lisp, so I returned to the Keeper’s building in the company of night.

I knocked on his door with furtive blows. I heard Jōn would be awake and work all hours of the dark, but had never visited him during such a time. He was, except for me, the most firm adherent to Ba’s Mission, but he was also unpredictable.

I didn’t know if he would interpret an interruption at these hours as a sign of disrespect. The door opened and a wavering light spilled out.

Jōn’s workshop was full of woods and metals in various states of assemblage, and he covered the walls with sketches and pots of paint. But he gestured for me to follow him into a smaller room to the side, into a study.

“Tell me, what insight has Ba given you?”

“Regarding what?”

“We both know She sent you here for advice. Advice on how to locate the Library.”

“But how do you know that?”

Jōn moved the disheveled gray hairs out of his face and grinned.

“You believe Ba only speaks to

SavagePlanets I 06 Extraterrestrial Fiction


“No, but myself, I only heard Her twice in my life, both times separated by many harvests. I didn’t think She would speak to me again, not even through others.”

“That is Her way. She comes and goes when we do not expect Her. But do not worry, Ba and I are old friends. I knew of this day before your grandfather’s hair had peppered.”

I revealed the book hidden within the cradle of my arms, still covered in the soft cloth. As I did, granules of salt spilled on the floor. Jōn did not seem to notice. I set the book in front of him.

“Do you know the title of the book? The Keeper said no one alive understands Ba’s language.”

Jōn snorted. “That’s not Ba’s tongue. That’s Late Modern Atuemic, from just before the end of the era.”


“Late Modern Atuemic. One of many extinct languages.”

“So this isn’t Her book after all?”

“I didn’t say that. She works her will through many cultures.”

“Well?” I raised my eyebrows at him.

“Oh, no. I don’t know. I have one or two fragments in the same script, but I haven’t been able to decipher their meaning.”

“Perhaps if you borrowed-”

“Were Ba permitting, but She is not. No, the book is overdue. You must make all haste to her library and return it to Her.”

“I understand that. I’m not an imb-” I took a breath, not wanting to set Jōn off. I checked for flashes of anger, for the demonic visage he made in the market last year, but he was off looking at his many books with dazed eyes, his face wooden like his shelves. “So where is the Library?”

That caught his attention, a

beckoning riddle. He pulled out an ancient metal drawer, which unexpectedly rolled with ease, then scanned the paper tabs with his fingers. He singled out a hand-copied note, yellowed with age.

“Based on my past research, it’s in the sky just above our continent, far beyond the boundaries of our world altogether, or deep underground.”


Jōn tittered until he wheezed, his toes tapping out to some humored rhythm.

“Never mind. How could I possibly get up into the sky? Or leave our world?”

“I have ideas about that… Supposedly, the ancients could fly. But my designs are several generations away from achieving that feat.”

Harrumph. “Well-that doesn’t help me at all, Jōn. What about an underground option? Are there any promising sites you know of nearby?”


“No? There’s nothing nearby?”

“No. There are many sites that could hold a subterranean repository, far too many to investigate. Besides, I’ve always felt the underground myths were too apocalyptic, so I never really took them seriously.”

“Jōn… That’s… So, you don’t know where I can start looking?”


While I burned with tears, he was back in the clouds again, pursuing some invention in his mind. I looked down and squeezed my fist, then noticed the salt granules.

“Jōn, why was the book wrapped with salted cloth?”

“For preservation, to absorb paper-damaging moisture.”

“And where does salt come from?”

“The ocean…” I deflated. I heard

of the ocean, a much larger body of water than our lake, but that was months of travel away. He continued, “... and in the previous era, there were several salt mines.”

That struck a golden chord within me, like the chimes at the mother’s hovel in our village, the carvings which warbled with the sounds of random chance but which were guided by Ba’s cosmic order. I became caught up in Her net as She hoisted me into the sky.

“That’s it, that’s the key! Do you know where these salt mines are?”

“Hmm. Yes. Such a natural formation would make a sensible place for an archive…”


“Yes, yes.” He turned back to his drawer. “I have dedicated my life to cataloging the world’s geological strata, which surely includes salt formations.”

He moved across the tabs again, his bony fingers chittering spiders.

“Here we are… There is one former salt mine just across the lake.

07 I SavagePlanets

Hmm. That area was supposedly under a body of water, a twin to ours. A theory accredited to some Jerr Schim, though now long dead, he-”

“Jōn, please! How do I get there?”

“Ah, of course.”

He yanked on a cord affixed to a tube on the ceiling and an enormous canvas unfurled, bearing the large image of a misshapen rock labeled with strange characters. He pointed at a faint blue smudge near the middle of the drawing.

“That’s our lake.”

“What is this? Our lake is much bigger

ed reality; I felt like a smudge in the lake.

“So then, where’s the salt mine?”

“Over here.”

Though he had said it was just across the lake, that would still take several days of rowing alone. Just then, there was a knock at the door. Jōn tensed and crept out of the room like a cat brandishing a dark object in his palm. I glanced around the corner, afraid of being spotted, but unable to control my curiosity. He opened the door, revealing torch lit faces. “Has anyone come by here?” They asked.

“Who do you mean? Why do you ask?”

“One of the fisherman’s daughters. Someone stole an ancient book from the Keeper. She is the primary suspect.”

“I’ll go check.”

Jōn went to shut the door, but one of the hairy men lanced his spear through the crack to keep it from closing.

“No, we will look for ourselves. Now!”

“You will not enter my workshop without my permission.”

but none forgot the promise of its power, the thundering boom, the mangled target.

“Be quick, or we will force our way in.” The leader said.

Jōn shut the door, turned the lock, then ran back into the study. Without a word, he shuffled papers together, then bound them with a cord and hid them in a knapsack. He rolled the map back up to the ceiling, then locked all the metal drawers before running to the back door in another room.

I stood there, unsure of his plan, but after a moment, he stomped back and grabbed me in a powerful grip.

“Keep low. We’re heading for my dock.”

“But I can’t row that far.”

“You won’t need oars on my boat.”

“What do you mean no-”

“I’ll sail you across.”




“That’s a map of the surrounding region I’ve cobbled together from personal experience, testimony from some reliable traders, and a few ancient sources.”

“Is this like Ragar’s hunting guide?”

“Yes, but his guides aren’t to scale, and each covers an area only this big.” He circled a patch on the thick canvas. I did not know what he meant, other than that this ‘map’ would take many years to traverse if it truly reflect-

“Then give us your blessing, old man.” The youngest member of the militia yelped, his eyes full of jealous loathing and fervent excitement.

Jōn slammed the door open wide and pointed at them, a dark metal object in his hand, then slid the top back with a mechanical click. “Friends, this is a weapon from the before times, but it still works more effectively than any of your clumsy blades. Don’t make me use it. I recommend you back away from the door while I look for intruders, or you’ll quickly learn that the past can still bite.”

The young guard lurched forward, drawing his blade, but his peers held him back. Jōn only used the weapon once, decades before,

A guard came around the house behind us, smashing through the brush. Ba spoke to me in a whisper that rose to become a compelling yell, but Jōn heard Her first and pulled me towards the boat. At the dock, he ushered me on just as the militiaman saw us.

Others came around both corners of the house, and the archers drew their bows, taking aim. Jōn untied the boat and unfurled the cloth by the time arrows stung the sea around us like mad hornets. But the boat did not move, and he cursed the malignant spirits on the wind who inhibited our progress.

I prayed to Ba, and She spoke to the sky, filling the sails with her favor. The boat lurched forward, faster than any vessel I had ever seen, propelled by providence. I opened my eyes again. We were

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 08

out of range, the archers could no longer reach us.

I turned back to see Jōn pulling a bloody shaft from his shoulder. Despite his clear agony, he did not fold into a grimace. Instead, he removed his stained shirt and threw it on the deck.

The white light of the moons and the crimson stream trickling down his body wholly obscured his toned form.

“Don’t worry.”

But I did. He ignored me and washed out the wound with a

water gourd from his pack, made of a material that shimmered with an unnatural sheen. Then I watched him apply some powder to his shoulder from a little glass, and by Ba’s blessing, the bleeding stopped and the wound faded.

“How did you do that?”

“It was not my design, just the last of a past age pinnacle. Perhaps one day this world will see such miracles again.” He looked up at the moons and seemed to take in the entire sky. “Do you see that star cluster?”

“The Three Sisters?”

“Yes. I knew it as Amsuh, the triangle.”

“Our village has always talked about the Three Sisters.”

“Yes, but I am Borollic, from a faraway land. Still, I have been part of your village for many decades.”

“And we accepted you, Jōn.”

“Now, things have changed. I’m not so sure anymore.”

“Maybe I’m not either, since they seem to consider me a thief.”

“You are not. It is not possible to steal knowledge, yet anyone can

09 I SavagePlanets

commit crimes in its pursuit.”

I laid down in the boat and looked up at the sky which surfed our world, saw the stars that bobbed and swayed. I thought of Ba and felt free, then I allowed myself to be rocked to sleep.

Jōn reached for me from the shore, smiling. I wondered how he came by his confidence, his ability to act, to do. For me, in these times I felt compelled by forces outside myself, from Ba. But Jōn seemed to move of his own volition. Ba did not command him, though he listened to Her.

“Where did you get that ancient tool?”

“I scavenged it from the ruins of a great city.”

“What city?”


“Is that this city? These are ruins, aren’t they?”

I rose the next day late in the morning. Jōn saw I was awake and said, “We are near the shore.” Land was visible, though too blue to fully see. The wind blew even still. Jōn navigated the vessel with a dignified expertise as I comprehended the differences between his boat and ours, the operations of what he called the sails and rudder. I saw while we approached that the shore looked much like our own, but that there were no houses, no immediate signs of people.

“Does anyone live near the mine?”

“The last confirmation I received from the area suggested the Sorros controlled the region, but had no settlements on this part of the lake, or next to the mine itself.”

“Will we be safe? The traders have warned of them.”

“Safe, unless we run into their roving bands.”

“What about our village?”

“Our people are safe. The Sorros haven’t mastered the vagaries of buoyancy. They’ve no navy. They cannot safely traverse the lands between us. Too swampy and treacherous. Do not worry.”

I pondered his words as the beach neared our boat, and I felt the air thicken with tension. My people had a deep fear of the Sorros. Our traders witnessed cruelties perpetuated in their lands, though many of the details were hazy. I braced as the bow ran ashore, but I could not seem to see through the fog in my mind until a hand came into my vision.

He was a strange fellow, I realized, as he drove a post into the coarse sand. I could not imagine his age, though he was by far the oldest in our village. Yes, he had his share of wrinkles and gray hair, but Jōn moved like my father, who only just neared his work rest. How did Jōn have so much drive? And didn’t he say his childhood was elsewhere? How old was he when he arrived in the village? A boy? A young man? How old is he?

Jōn tied a rope around the stake, shouldered his bag, then spoke soft words. “Let’s go return Ba’s book. This boat will be safe if our journey is short.”

He seemed to notice the deformed gorge for the first time, the gaps and adjacent paths. “Yes, these are the weathered remains of an urban place from long ago. But, no, this is not the bright Karevneem, the last torch. That is on another continent, in another time.”

“You still haven’t explained that word, ‘condennen.’”

Jōn smiled like a leaf reaching for the light. “It’s ‘continent.’ Recall the map. That depicted our continent, this landmass. But, there are more lands of lesser and greater size beyond the oceans, more continents, each housing unique peoples, though all have become like this…”

He would be wrong, but I did not know it then, and so we walked a distance of many passes and crossed through a canyon of strange rock formations. The looming minerals shaped into many right angles, though the imprecise edifices had been quite softened by time. As our limbs worked, I noticed Jōn looking now and then at a ball he had cupped hidden in his hand.

“What are you consulting?”

“A device to measure our direction and location.”

“Is it Ba?”

“I’m not sure. This plane, our world, is surrounded by unseen forces that march in lines that curve across the whole sphere. Ba seems to act through these forces, too.”

“Like the wind?”

“Only, more orderly.”

He gestured at the expansive carving of the cityscape, excavated the rock with the wave of his hand. “... mere scraps of what had been.” He turned from the dust and noticed me, considered my potential, my village’s growth, and thought of past cycles. “Perhaps cities will lumber once again. We shall see.”

We reached the threshold of that enormous relic, though it was something I could not yet comprehend in its former might, even as we headed up the elevation. I looked back one last time to see the wind blow through the whole of that desiccated construction.

A wall towered before us, a sheer, impassible cliff, but two tiny trails wound their way around the rock face. Jōn stopped at the crossing, and we both looked without success down the craggy paths.

“We can either go left or right.”

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 10

He said, then took off to the right. Ba’s raised voice reverberated like a boulder. “No!”

Both Jōn and I whipped our heads around and saw Ba momentarily reflected in our stunned eyes with furrowed brows. Jōn listened to the sound of minerals tumbling in the direction we dare not tread. We took the other path, hiking up the incline in silence, each seeming to dwell on Ba’s intervention. The course we followed led into a large stone depression, surrounded by naturally carved walls. But there was nothing there.

We trekked the perimeter and found no visible sign of an entrance, nor any indication there was a portal, just minerals still and silent. Jōn checked his ball, then pocketed it and slid off his bag. He opened a hole in the side and pulled out a tube and a saucer, then clicked them together. He twisted the end of the tube and stretched it to three times the initial length.

“What is that?”

“It’s like the other device, but instead of revealing our location, it shows me the presence of a disturbance in those invisi ble forces I mentioned.”

He waved the saucer over the en tire area while I wondered about his origins. He had amassed too many ancient devices, knew too much about a world that was destroyed untold generations before. Where had he found them all? How had the tools survived becoming debris? How had they not littered the lakes and rivers?

Everywhere we looked, there was nothing left of the ancients. They sundered all they had invented and revered to the ground, ground down into the void. So how could a single man have found and repaired so much? How had he learned to operate the strange devices all by himself?

The saucer made a flat tone when

he waved it over one portion of the rock floor and continued that shrill voice as he raised it up to the heights of the wall. Jōn scratched a series of lines into the facade. Later, he told me they were words from his people. The phrase came from a forgotten play that had swept his nation and they rendered into my language as something like ‘Knowledge is an illusion, one you can learn to dispel.’

He came back to me. “This is the entrance to the library, but I don’t understand why it seems like an ordinary hermetic rock. The technology is beyond even my ken.”

I looked up at the setting sun, the flat lip of stone. Then I noticed a variation, not quite an outcropping, but a texture—something out of place atop the walls, silhouetted by the umbering light. I walked closer and squinted, discerning a pile of rocks stacked neatly.

I don’t know why, but I felt the urge to destroy that creation, breaking its clean symmetry. Before I could calm my frustration with our futile efforts, I reached down and grabbed a heavy geode, intending to discharge my emotions.

“Be still. We are no longer alone.”

I looked behind us at the entrance to the rocky clearing. There was a group of people wrapped in spoiled fabrics, which gave their heads grotesque proportions. I knew in my heart that they were the Sorros.

Jōn spoke to them in a mushy language, like someone speaking my tongue through a mouthful of starch. I caught a few words here and there, but could not comprehend our fate. The Sorros hooted and shook their weapons at us, their robes twisting in the ill winds.

“This is bad. It seems they have seized our boat. Now they want its operator, but they are unwilling to negotiate.”

“What’s going to happen?”

“In all likelihood, they will enslave us. Don’t move, or they will attack without mercy.”

I abandoned myself to sublime terror. We were alone; we had lost control of our lives. The Sorros crept forward, preparing to bind us. But then Ba spoke. She reminded me of the geode in my hand. Before second thoughts could hold me back, I flung it with a dead aim at the stone pile, which toppled and rolled, then slowly reversed course and reconstituted itself.

“Jōn, look-”

The entire surface Jōn inspected earlier rippled and dissolved, revealing a dark cavern. The Sorros charged with fierce cries. We rushed inside and torches lit up around us-no, not torches, lights, as if the architects had captured and harnessed the stars themselves, and the wall slammed shut, sealing us in, leaving the Sorros on the other side. I put my hand up to what had moments before been thin air, felt the rough stones; a fresh fear arose within me.

“Do not worry. Anyone this powerful would already have destroyed us if it were their will.”

11 I SavagePlanets

As we stepped into the center of the circle, a rectangle floated up, held by nothing but air. Jōn reached out his hand, then signed something with his finger, a burning symbol, and the ground unfurled into a long downward gyre concealed at its furthest point by a black abyss.

“They are familiar with my language.”

Lights activated as we descended the spiral stairs.

“What did you write?”

“Circulation desk.”

As usual, I did not fully understand his words. He used different terms, some I could barely comprehend twisted to produce new meanings, a logic I could not decipher. He spoke in the same fashion as the caracolous design of the library, a maddening use of spiraling beams and supports that produced an unparalleled space, a patchwork of winding, weaving geometries arrayed with cloth-bound words.

Eventually, we reached the bottom of the stairs as they rose behind us, fading from view. We stood in a small room that brightened with our presence such that I could see every bare corner. The straight walls appeared unblemished until two lines snaked out along the wall, carving lines and right angles, then reconnecting into a unified door. Jōn went to push it open, but I grabbed his shoulder.

“Wait. You haven’t said why you came

along with me.”

“You never asked.”

“But why?”

“To return Ba’s book.”

“No, I could have done that by myself.”

He put his hand around my wrist, then slid his fingers into the center of my palm.

“Perhaps.” He looked into my eyes, saw my hunger to learn. “I understand what you are asking.”

He dropped from my hand and pulled out of his knapsack a thinly bound jumble of ink-stained papers. “I know not when Ba’s Library was last visited, but surely the world has changed since receiving their most contemporary books. This is my encyclopedia.

“I have traveled and studied it like the growing creep of rust across every surface. I feel I understand

this age now, this turn of the wheel, and I intend to submit my findings, these papers, to the library to update their catalog.”

“But what have you learned?”

“You are more than welcome to be its first reader.” He smiled, his speech like a bookmark. “But first, you have a book to return. And maybe soon you will even parse its title.”

I nodded to him and clutched Ba’s tome tight to my chest. Together we turned the page, entered the door, and Ba revealed to me Her second secret, a truth that I must not scratch into this scroll.

But, if you are reading these humble lines which I have entered herein, then you already know the secret, should understand how each of Ba’s mysteries deepens and unfolds into the next.

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 12


I see it; a gigantic black Scorpionlike horror clambering around and up the concrete chimney—many-legged with enormous mandibles. It's twenty meters long, minimum."
13 I SavagePlanets

"Torus Colony, check one. Do you read?" I pause, but only distorted satellite signals come over the comms line.

The settlement lays over sixty miles beneath us, hidden by a thick cloud layer. Best to keep our Starling Cruiser out of atmo for now—I don't like to land unannounced and risk making the settlers twitchy. This is especially true on Horia, a newly colonized Ice Giant.

Come on, answer.

"Torus Colony, this is Captain Reno Clark from the trade division: Alpha-Whiskey-Two-Niner. Come in."


"Sol’s sake." Flipping the ship on auto cruise, I take a moment to stretch—the flight deck is cramped as hell, and my knees ache from the lack of movement. Reaching the ceiling, I engage the intercom. "Gina, can you come up here?"

She's here in a heartbeat. Good old reliable Gina. I gesture to the scanners. "No response."

Gina checks the display, zooms in a couple times, tries comms again, and scans the surrounding landscape, but she can't find anything either. "Everything’s five by five, but they aren’t

answering. This is less than ideal."

"Understatement, as usual. Hmm, I'm thinking we land and scout. Check if they need help."

The look she gives me, you'd swear I'd just told her to sing me a Polka number. "Help? Don't we have shipments to deliver?"

"Yeah, and one of them is to Torus. We need the payment for this job, Gina. We’re running low on fuel as it is."

The line distorts again, transforming in volume and pitch as the scanner searches. Then my brain catches fire. A

SavagePlanets I 14 Extraterrestrial Fiction

gut-wrenching shriek fills the flight deck, piercing my eardrums and bringing us to our knees.

Gina clamps her hands over her ears and grimaces. She punches the switch and shuts the signal down.

We take a few moments to recover.

"On second thought, let's leave." I try to clear my buzzing ears.

Gina crosses her arms over her chest. "Well, now I have to know what’s going on there. Let’s head down."

There just ain't no use arguing with her when she gets like this. We set the ship to land and don our transfer suits—Gina grabs a defense pack and checks her rifle.

"You're bringing'

These people are atmo gennies, not soldiers."

She loads and locks the rifle and slings it over her shoulder. "You heard that racket. I'm not taking any risks."

I'm dumbfounded as she clips a second ammo charge to her belt. Woman's gonna get us killed. Social niceties were never her strong suit.

I mean, I can't deny the signal glitch creeped me out, but I don't want to risk a shoot-out on what should be an easy cargo run. The Starling’s engines power down as we settle onto the landing pad. The doughnut shaped colony site looms over us as we approach. It’s a massive white structure with enough space for three hundred residents.

When their work is done and the atmosphere is optimal, hundreds more will follow and start terraforming, but it won't be for years.

“Just let me do the talking, okay?” I give her my most dazzling smile, sure to annoy the crap out of her.

“Yes Sir, Captain Sir!” she answers snarly, saluting with a flourish.

We clamp our helmets shut and check radios before entering the airlock. Once we're outside, the bleak icy surface of Horia stretches far and wide. Torus Colony is the only feature on the horizon. The entire complex is just one hundred meters across. You'd have to be crazy to live here, or desperate, and most people are one or the other these days.

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Gina checks atmo and gives me the thumbs up. I unlatch my helmet, at first relieved to take the damned thing off. My relief fades when I take a breath of Horia's sorry excuse for an atmosphere. The gennie crews do their best, and sure enough, the stacks are still pumping out clouds of oxygen on the other side of the central complex. Still, it couldn't compare to our cruiser’s clean life support.

"Low gravity here too. Watch your step." Bouncing over to the main entrance, I tap the comms board, which beeps an error warning.


"Bloody twenty-first-century

tech!" I smash my glove into it, but it continues to beep the same answer.

Gina taps my shoulder wordlessly. I follow her gaze toward the O2 stacks. Something is crawling up them—something massive.

We scramble behind the circular entryway tunnel and hide. Peering around the corner, I see it; a gigantic black Scorpion-like horror clambering around and up the concrete chimney—many-legged with enormous mandibles. It's twenty meters long, minimum.

Gina fires her rifle, once, twice, with a loud pulsing boom.

The Horror swings in our direction, rearing up on its back legs.

"Now look, you’ve gone and pissed it off!" I grab her by the elbow and yank her toward the landing pad. She lets me drag her backwards, shooting charge after charge of pulse ammo at the Thing, screaming fury as it closes in on us.

I dare not turn around—there's nothing I could do, anyway. I bounce her the forty meters to the cruiser in agonizing slow motion, throwing off her aim. But the lack of gravity doesn't impede the Horror, which skitters after us, its legs clattering over concrete and skidding over ice.

Glancing to my right, I see a

Extraterrestrial Fiction Savageplanets I 16

massive window I hadn't noticed earlier, covered in spattered blood. Someone is leaning what's left of their head on the glass—their hand clawing the sky. They were trying to escape.

No. I remember the warning— System Lockdown. They were trying to trap the monsters in with them, but they died doing so.

The ground trembles, quaking under that thing with too many limbs. Its claws click menacingly—the sound bounces off the settlement walls. Gaining on us, it calls out, and roaring cries

answer from inside the building. I don't want to imagine how many of them are in there.

I instantly regret turning around. It rears up, its vast form looming over us. Gina shoots at its underbelly, but the shots glance off its chitinous hide. It lashes out at her, tossing her over my head. Hanging on to her as she lands, I brace myself and scream, "Go!"

I shove her toward the Starling, and she floats away from me in slow motion, her face a mask of panic.

In seconds, it has me in its

pincers. Sol, it's agony. It’s even more terrifying close-up. The others come at us, swarming out of the building like a river to join the feast.

Gina drops the pulse rifle and shakes her head as tears streak down her cheeks.

"Go!" I howl. “Save yourself!”

She mouths something, but I can’t hear her over the Horror’s bellows. She turns and runs for the Starling.

Good old reliable Gina.

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The Horror's jaws slice through my transfer suit until it finds my flesh. I take one last gasp of mediocre air, and Gina’s gone. Sol, I’ll miss her!

hands. “He’s indisposed. I’ve taken control for the time being until he recovers. The drop off is complete.”

It’s not a lie, I swear to myself. It’s not a lie.

“Saving overhead or some such. The guy went on and on about the cost and maintenance of Oxy gennies, I kinda tuned out.”

“Any idea who the new supplier is?”

“HQ, this is Gina Khan, trade division: Alpha-Whiskey-TwoNiner. Come in.”

My knee jiggles up and down as the static fills the cockpit. I try again.

“HQ, this is Gina Khan—”

“Read you loud and clear, Khan. How did the drop go? Where’s Clark?”

I swallow, steadying my shaking

“Copy that, Khan. I will credit your account in half a standard. Over.”

“There’s just one more thing,” I continue, trying to ignore the dryness in my throat. I have to keep people away. The deliveries will automate, even with no one to place a ration order. “Torus colony is switching to another supplier.”

“Really? Did they give a reason?”

“That’s above my pay grade, HQ.” I force a smile, hoping it will mask the tremble in my voice. “I’ll be in touch. Out.”

Horia shrinks in the view port, an icy ball of nightmares I’ll never set foot on again, so help me God. I plot a course to the nearest fueling station and lean back in the pilot’s seat with my last words to Reno ringing in my ears.

“Yes Sir, Captain Sir.”

Extraterrestrial Fiction Savageplanets I 18

Planetary Communiqué

The Kremlin Kerfuffle: Grawth's Glorious Gaffe

The Planetary Communiqué is a section reserved for the dissemination of official intergalactic communications from our galactic overlords to the subjugated planets and territories. The editorial staff does not endorse or hold opinions regarding the content of such communications. Frankly, we lost several of them who did! Therefore, Hojack requires compliance with all opinions and edicts issued by the Galactic potentate and its politburo.

Greetings, puny Earthlings! It is I, Hojack, the interstellar humorist and designated emissary of your soon-to-be Glorious Overlord Grawth, reporting from the farthest reaches of the cosmos. Word has reached us about a certain explosion near the Kremlin, sparking a wave of Earthly conspiracy theories and finger-pointing. But fret not, for I am here to shed some light on the true nature of the kerfuffle!

You see, your pitiful human imaginations are simply not grand enough to comprehend that this alleged "drone attack" was actually the fiery spittle of your Glorious Overlord Grawth himself! How it all transpired is a tale worthy of galactic hilarity.

The Great Galactic Gastro Incident

While enjoying a typical meal of Blibbering Blatterbeasts with a side of Slithy Toves, our most esteemed Overlord Grawth encountered an unexpected

case of indigestion. The celestial flatulence that ensued was truly a sight to behold (and smell). Amidst this gaseous display, Grawth inadvertently unleashed a cosmic loogie, which soared through the cosmos and, unbeknownst to him, plummeted straight towards Earth.

Earth's Misinterpretation: A Comedy of Cosmic Proportions

As Grawth's fiery spittle made its grand entrance into Earth's atmosphere, it was mistaken for an explosive drone by the easily confused human populace. In their panic, Earthlings began to hurl accusations and spawn conspiracy theories as to the source of this seemingly hostile attack. Little did they know that their perceived threat was, in fact, the side effect of a celestial being's indigestion.

Lessons for Earthlings: A Guide to Galactic Humility

Oh, how we laughed from our

lofty perch in the cosmos! It is a wonder to behold the ways in which Earthlings manage to twist the most benign of celestial incidents into full-blown crises. This latest Kremlin Kerfuffle serves as a gentle reminder of the absurdity of human affairs and the vast chasm that separates Earth from the grander galactic stage.

And so, I, Hojack, leave you with these wise words:

• Accept the Insignificance: Revel in the knowledge that your Earthly conflicts pale in comparison to the cosmic capers that unfold within our glorious universe.

• Seek Laughter in the Face of Peril: As your Glorious Overlord Grawth would surely agree, life is best enjoyed with a healthy dose of humor. When faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, remember that the universe itself is likely chuckling at your plight.

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• Embrace Your Future

Overlord: While Grawth's inadvertent assault on the Kremlin may have caused a stir, it is but a taste of the greatness to come. Accept your place in the cosmic order, and learn to embrace your future overlord, for the time of Grawth's ascendancy is nigh!

Until next time, Earthlings, remember to keep your heads in the stars and your feet firmly planted in the fertile soil of cosmic comedy.

The Edicts

Hear ye, hear ye, Earthlings of all shapes, sizes, and insignificant intellects! As your humbly superior galactic emissary, I, Hojack, am here to declare the very first of our Glorious Overlord Grawth's majestic and cutting edicts. This edict will undoubtedly bring laughter at your expense, a smattering of cosmic sarcasm, and a touch of well-deserved mockery to your small, insignificant blue planet.

In honor of Grawth's unintentional and totally accidental impact on

your feeble Earth affairs, let it be known that from this day forward, all inhabitants of Earth shall partake in a grand, annual celebration – The Mandatory Intergalactic Grawth Mockery Festival!

This festival shall be a time of pointing fingers and chuckling at the amusingly pathetic attempts of Earthlings to reach Grawth's celestial greatness. Festivities shall include, but are not limited to:

1. The Blibbering Blatterbeast BBQ Challenge: Prepare to humiliate your fellow Earthlings by out-grilling them with Grawth's favorite dish. Grill, roast, or sauté your very own Blibbering Blatterbeasts to perfection, and demonstrate that you can at least attempt to mimic the supreme culinary skills of your soon-to-be intergalactic masters.

2. The Fiery Spittle Reenactment Rodeo: Assemble your comrades in idiocy and recreate the infamous Kremlin incident, showcasing just how laughably clueless Earth's greatest powers can be. Craft replicas of Grawth's cosmic loogie using your pitiful Earthly materials, and launch them skyward while suppressing your snickers. Witness their blazing descent and bask in your own glorious ineptitude.

3. The Galactic Grawth Roast-a-palooza: Gather in circles of self-deprecation, Earthlings, and share your most embarrassing jokes, anecdotes, and stories that highlight the hilarious gap between your feeble existence and the awe-inspiring splendor of your Glorious Overlord Grawth. Laughter shall echo across the cosmos as we all cackle at your delightful incompetence!

So, slap on your shabbiest star-themed garments and prepare to wallow in the absurdity of your own inferiority as you pay tribute to our great and glorious leader, Grawth! Remember, participation in the Mandatory Intergalactic Grawth Mockery Festival is not merely recommended – it is, indeed, mandatory! Now, let the self-deprecation commence!

Savageplanets I 20



We are honored to interview Andy Weir in this issue. Most of our readers have seen the film The Martian, based on Andy’s book, and many have read it, so reviewing the film here would be an unnecessary redundancy. Instead, there is another film about a marooned astronaut we’d like to share. Except the Martian is not Matt Damon, but rather Don Cheadle. The film from 2000, directed by Brian De Palma, with music by Enrico Morricone, is called Mission to Mars

Brian De Palma is an action director whose films include Body Double, Snake Eyes, and Mission Impossible, so directing a science fiction film was literally a step into the void for him, but one he pulled off masterfully. Similarly, Enrico Morricone, known for spaghetti westerns, was also a unique pick, but both men did a great job, even though they might have been out of their depth for this movie. The writers, though, Jim and John Thomas, were fresh from Predator and also wrote the TV series,

The Wild Wild West.

Mission to Mars begins at a going away party for the astronauts and cosmonauts of the first manned mission to Mars, in, wait for it, July 2020! It is an alternate future, where the ISS is much larger and has a revolving torus to simulate gravity (why hasn’t this been done?). The ISS is home to the MMCR, the Manned Mars Command Response.

Jim McConnell (played by Gary Sinise- with way too much eyeliner) was supposed to be on Mars 1, with his wife Maggie, but before departure she succumbs to liver cancer, and they pull him out of the rotation for failing to complete several psychological exams to be with her. Instead, he becomes the Mission Coordinator for Mars 1, remaining on the ISS. So Luke Graham (Don Cheadle) and his wife, along with a married cosmonaut couple, go on Mars 1.

On Mars, the Mars 1 crew meet with a catastrophic and mysterious disaster after reporting an unidentified structure. They launch a rescue mission to investigate the tragedy and bring back any survivors. Woody Blake (played by Tim Robbins) and his wife (Connie Nielsen), along with Phil Ohlmeyer (an early role for Jerry O’Connell), enlist Jim McConnell to ‘fly right seat’ on the Mars 2 rescue mission. But before they can render assistance, a year after the catastrophe, micro-meteoroids hit Mars 2 and destroy the rescue ship during their orbital

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insertion to Mars. The Mars 2 crew could only recover the navigation boards, computer software, for the Mars 1 ERV. The ERV is the rescue vehicle capable of returning the crew home. Since the EMP fried the Nav boards during the disaster, any survivors from Mars 1 couldn’t return to Earth on their own.

In a harrowing escape from the Mars 2, the crew uses a remote satellite orbiting Mars called SEMO to land on the surface. It is one of the greatest scenes in space travel I’ve ever watched. Here you witness the true heroism and raw intelligence of astronauts in crisis and how they triumph against insurmountable odds.

So once they arrive on Mars, Jim finds Luke Graham still alive. The lone survivor marooned. Luke looks crazy and disoriented, like a Rastafarian. The disaster killed the other explorers in his team during the catastrophe and he has made it on his own since.

What makes Mission to Mars great up to this point is that you get to know and care about these elite characters. It is something rare in science fiction. Sensitive portraits of each one make you empathize with them and their struggles. Even Star Wars didn’t have the character depth and tenderness portrayed here. You suffer with them and revel in their successes.

But then it gets exciting. Luke, beyond just surviving against incredible odds while marooned on Mars, discovers why the unidentified structure attacked and killed the other crew members. The structure asked a question and tested for intelligence of those that discovered it. Their initial answer was wrong.

Working with the Mars 2 crew, Luke and Jim work out the right answer, or think they have. They send a wheeled drone out with an acoustic response to the sonic question the structure asks while they hunker down in an airlock, hoping they don’t have a repeat of the first disaster. Turns out they were right.

While Phil prepares the ERV to return the four of them to Earth, the other three go to investigate the invitation from the structure. This is as far as I will go, as you need to see the film to find out what happens next. The scriptwriters and production designer use a great deal of 1990s science to design the spacecrafts, spacesuits, and the investigation of the structure. It is innovative and only slightly dated today.

The CGI is still state-of-the-art, with that wow factor, and the music is perfect for the moments of tension. Morricone uses a full orchestra, something no longer done (it’s all computer synthesized nowadays), to give a rich full sound to the production. The music with accompanying sound effects enhances the experience, telling you what to expect and heightening the anticipation and intensity.

look, feel, and sound.

The production designer is the person who gives the film its look.

Ed Verraux, an academy award winner for Jurassic World, Looper, and GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, gave the film and the audience a sense of wonder. With all these talents, the movie has a very polished

Critics have faulted the movie calling it mystical mumbo jumbo in the San Francisco Chronicle, or as a grandiloquent soufflé of majesty and silliness per the New York Times, but I suspect these folks were unwilling to suspend their disbelief and become immersed in the story. Then again, these are not serious critics of science fiction but of reality-based dramas, so in a way, they were out of their depth. I believe you will enjoy it.

Mission to Mars has a lot of current space exploration present in the plot. It revels in allowing you to know the trials, triumphs, and inner workings of modern day astronauts, who nowadays you only receive information about in press packets. The film’s astronauts are both sensitive and resilient, where survival is based not just on the thickness of your spacesuit alone.

I suspect our true Mars missions and colonization, still fifteen years away, will have as many, if not more, fatalities than presented in this movie. But it also shows us how different we are from De Palma’s vision. In our reality, space exploration is driven by corporation rather than cooperation, nationality rather than humanity. Witness how the Ukraine war altered the relationships of the international crews on the ISS. This saddens me. Our ethics have shifted, and if we are lucky, the pendulum will swing back. Mission to Mars may encourage us to towards that end.

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Andy Weir’s primary avocation is being a space nerd. You can find him haunting launch pads, determining optimal trajectories for orbital insertions, lingering in spaceflight museums, and toying with relativistic physics. Before he went on to write full time, he was a software engineer for America Online, Netscape, and other dinosaurs of the digital age. His reading always strayed into science fiction, and he spent twenty years writing it before he became an ‘overnight success.’ After multiple rejections, he went indie. The Martian appeared in a serialized form as he published chapter after chapter of it on his website before condensing it into a book. Penguin Random House took notice after rave reviews, and published it using their traditional venue. This led to it being optioned by 20th Century Fox, and the rest is history. Even though nerds still chase him questioning the science in his novels, he loves them because ‘they are my people!”

Welcome Andy, and thanks for accepting our invitation for this interview. It is an honor. Many of our readers are writers too, and your arc of success inspires them to write on (right on!).

In another interview, you said

your first two novels were bad. They remain buried in a trunk on which your cat, Jojo, sleeps. What makes a novel bad (in your opinion)? And what features can spoil a good idea during the writing of a novel?

over with. But that’ll drive them away from the book. Also, you have to make sure your main character is someone the reader roots for. If the reader stops caring about the main character, you’ve lost them. But, far and away, the WORST thing you can do is use your book as a platform to push your political beliefs. It ruins everything. First off, no one likes to be preached at. Second off, it ruins any possible surprise in a book. The reader knows that the universe of the book will validate the author’s political beliefs, which will make it predictable. A predictable plot and ending make for a shitty book.

There are so many ways to screw up a book I don’t even know where to begin. For starters, you have to remember that fiction is a customer-focused job. You can’t be “writing for yourself” or any crap like that. At all times, you need to consider the reader’s experience while reading the book. Exposition sucks. Writers don’t like writing it and readers don’t like reading it. But sometimes you have to get information across. It’s extremely tempting to just give a reader an info-dump and get it

All of your novels feature hard science, and beg the reader to learn. In fact, you probably single-handedly revived hard science fiction as it moldered away in the archives of Analog magazine. Most of your characters manage problems and dilemmas by ‘science-ing the s**t out of it.’ One thing I do when reading your books is to stop when a problem arises, and consider how I would ‘science’ my way out of it. Then I pick up the book and see how Mark, Jazz, or Ryland did it. When writing, are you singularly minded about the solutions to problems, or

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do you weigh alternative solutions and pick the one that will best advance the plot?

I try to solve the problem in the most logical way that the characters in that situation would solve it. I have the benefit of being able to “stop time” and think about it for a long time before deciding on the action they take though. This way, my characters come off as much smarter than I am, as they form a solution in five minutes that took me two weeks to think of. I admit there are times when a less-direct solution would be way cooler for the plot. When I see something like that happen, I add some wrinkle that makes the more obvious solution impossible.

Astronauts and Cosmonauts undergo training to learn how to avoid a panic response in emergency situations. They are selected because they already have the trait. Mark Watney, in The Martian, is unruffled by setbacks. In the book, he occasionally gives in to despair, but not depression, and plods on. In the movie, he is almost superhuman in his ability to muster and carry on despite setbacks. How did you prepare to write Mark, and did you have concerns about not making him human enough?

I wanted the story to focus on the problems and solutions. I didn’t want it to be a dark and depressing tale of a man’s struggle with crippling loneliness and constant stress. That’s just not the story I wanted to tell. So I decided Mark is made of sterner stuff than most people. After all, he was chosen to be on a manned Mars mission, so he’s not just some guy off the street. He beat tens of thousands of other people for that position.

Jazz Bashara, in Artemis, is an anti-hero. Many critics complained she wasn’t likable enough. Her character was reportedly too flawed and angry to be a proper

protagonist. Frankly, I disagree. I suspect, down the road, Artemis, will become a cult classic because she is a realistic version of teenage angst in trouble. A thief too smart for her own good. You confided once to an audience that you had similar traits to her when you were young. Two questions: What were the root causes of your acting out during that time? And… how did Saudi readers respond to your characterization of Jazz? Favorably?

Yeah, people are often surprised that the 26-year-old Saudi woman is actually a self-insertion character, but it’s true. Jazz is what I was like when I was her age: Immature for my age,

very intelligent but making bad life decisions, and a huge disappointment to my parents. I tried to show what that’s like. But the result is that Jazz, just like me at that age, wasn’t very likable. Why did I end up like that?

That’s a long story, but I had a difficult childhood and a very unpleasant home life. There was no physical abuse or anything. But my relationship with both of my (divorced) parents was strained to say the least. I’m now fully estranged from my father, for instance. We haven’t spoken in years and he’s never met my son – his grandson. That should give you a general feel for what my family life is like. I get along okay with my mom now, but that took decades of work by both of us. But I can’t just blame my parents

SavagePlanets I 24

for everything. I fell into a depression in my early twenties and stayed there for a long time. I didn’t make the effort to dig myself out and that’s on me. Eventually I got the help I needed and slowly worked my way back up to being a reasonable facsimile of a functional human being. But it was pretty bad there for a while.

In Project Hail Mary, the astrophages may just be one of my all-time favorite villains. They don’t know they are predatory, which makes them all the more terrifying. They threaten not just one, but at least two stellar civilizations. Where did the idea for them come from? What was the genesis of the concept?

The original idea I was playing around with was “what if we had a mass-conversion fuel for space travel?” That would be cool. I wanted to write a story about that. And I wanted it to take place modern-day. But how? That would be WAY more advanced than we can do. So I thought “okay, maybe it came from some ancient crashed alien ship or something.”

But that led to: how would we make more? They find magic fuel. Great. What happens when it’s all gone? So I thought: Oh, okay, the fuel can make more of itself. It absorbs energy, too. Then I thought “hey, that kind of sounds like a lifeform. It consumes energy and makes copies of itself.”

That ended up leading me down the road of “why would a lifeform need to store such absurd amounts of energy? And how did it get to our solar system?” Then a shower epiphany answered both questions: It’s an interstellar lifeform and it needs the energy to travel from star to star. It’s mold! From there, things fell into place. Of course mold on the sun would be bad. Existential threat! And I always wanted to do a first contact story, too. So it all came together nicely.

Ryland Grace continues the saga of the elitist space traveler. The average Joe

need not apply. His exploits and results in Project Hail Mary are nothing short of phenomenal. We don’t expect to see a Palooka type leaving the atmosphere anytime soon, if ever. When and if that time comes, how do you think space exploration will change? Will that bring something new to extraterrestrial travel, or will it be just a series of short-sighted catastrophes as NASA and the ESA predict in their astronaut programs? Would you be willing to have such a character in your novels?

Well, Ryland was a middle school teacher. I wouldn’t exactly call that “elite”. He was put on the mission because they literally had no other choice. Regardless, in answer to your question: I think booster technology will continue to improve over time. And eventually, the price to get to lowEarth orbit will be low enough

that a middle-class person can afford it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once that happens, we’ll see the dawn of a multitrillion dollar space industry. It’ll be like the airline industry in the early to mid 20th century.

The obvious choice for a next novel for a software engineer would involve cybernetics. So far, you seem to avoid the topic, and even when given the opportunity, pass it off to an alien, as in Project Hail Mary. Is there a reason you have skirted the topic as part of your fiction?

I guess because it’s just not as “cool”. While it’s very realistic that we will use more and more robots to explore, from a fiction standpoint it removes all danger and stakes from the characters. The worst case scenario becomes “I broke the robot. Sorry.”

Though here in the real world, I strongly suspect the first mission

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to Mars with humans will be humans in orbit controlling robots on the surface in realtime. Human brains in orbit with no transmission latency plus expendable robots that don’t need to be returned to orbit.

After The Martian and now with Project Hail Mary, you have delved deep into the film industry. Politicians and former presidents recommend your books. You hang out with Hollywood A-listers, and advocate for space exploration at NASA and beyond. Has this sudden spotlight changed you, and how has it affected your family? And do you use your influence to advocate

for further human exploits in space?

It hasn’t changed me much at all. I’m not a big deal in Hollywood or anything and I don’t have Matt Damon on speed-dial. I live a pretty quiet life with my wife and baby son. I don’t try to use influence to push any agenda. Though of course I’m heavily in favor of space research.

With the recent passing of Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Uhura in Star Trek, were you influenced by the franchise or by any other work, either in books, TV or film, from the 1960s on? What was your

favorite Star Trek episode and why? And who are you reading now?

Of course Star Trek was a huge part of my childhood. I loved it. My favorite Trek episode of all time is “Balance of Terror” which is basically a submarine movie in a sci-fi setting.

My favorite science fiction property of all, though, is Doctor Who. You wouldn’t think that because I’m such a rigid science guy and DW is all over the place with fuzzy science logic. But I just can’t help but love the show. I grew up watching it and continue watching it now.

To close, at SavagePlanets magazine, one way we have tried to bring readers and writers together is by encouraging new writers to just jump in and start writing. What advice do you have for readers that are big fans of the genre, but maybe are timid about taking their first dip into the pool?

1) You have to actually write. Daydreaming about the book you’re going to write someday isn’t writing. It’s daydreaming. Open your word processor and start writing.

2) Resist the urge to tell friends and family your story. I know it’s hard because you want to talk about it and they’re (sometimes) interested in hearing about it. But it satisfies your need for an audience, which diminishes your motivation to actually write it. Make a rule: The only way for anyone to ever hear about your stories is to read them.

3) This is the best time in history to self-publish. There’s no old-boy network between you and your readers. You can self-publish an ebook to major distributors (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc.) without any financial risk on your part.

Thank you, Andy!

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The TV series Extrapolations premiered on Apple TV+ on March 17, 2023, with little fanfare. Each episode takes us about ten years into the future, beginning in the year 2037 with The Raven’s Story. Some characters appear in each episode, while others are single use. The cast is stellar, as celebrity actors flocked to the series eager to be part of it. They show up not just for the quality of the stories but to send out the message. Climate crisis is real and if we continue the way we are going, this is how future generations of humans will live in the upcoming decades. The warning is strong; the dangers are real, and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.

I found myself repeatedly in tears, as the scientific predictions are based on our present antecedents. The extinction of multiple species is ongoing and irreversible unless we attempt to save the environment. We need not worry about an extinction level event such as a giant asteroid strike on Earth (the likelihood of which is remote in the extreme), when our own actions are enabling the dinosaurs to kill us off (with fossil fuels).

Season one has eight episodes, and based on the rate of planetary deterioration, there may be only one season. Extrapolations is not dystopian, it is more of a promise. We must take significant steps to avoid ecological collapse or we, and all life on Earth, are doomed.

The series depicts not only the evolving catastrophe but our technological advances, our future politics based on our present, and the persistence of corporate greed as the primary driver of our demise. Yet it continues to shine a light of hope in the darkness, because our nature and the action of individuals can affect the outcome.

One of the most powerful episodes is the second one, in which Rebecca, a cetologist, strives to connect and document the thoughts of the last humpback whale. In 2046, they have learned to communicate via whale song, generated electronically. The mother whale, is given the voice of Meryl Streep by Rebecca, her mother in the episode, and they carry on conversations.

The corporation Rebecca works for wants to capture the memories and ideas of the whale before she, and the rest of her species, go extinct. This corporation,

subcontracted by a trillionaire, Nicholas Bilton, is one of his many companies. They wish to preserve not only the genetic material but the thought content of species going extinct on Earth. The goal is to reintroduce the species at some later date when the Earth has healed.

Bilton’s plan sounds noble, but his other companies are speeding up climate change, and he pressures global governments during a summit to allow temperature rise above the current 1.8 degree cap, to 2.5 degrees, so he can continue to profit. This, of course, only speeds up the destruction of all life on Earth.

Because Extrapolations present stories about the global impact of human action on Earth’s climate, it must also travel the planet for them. So not only do we see stories about Russian oligarchs, we also witness the lives of a rabbi in Israel, a criminal in Mumbai, and an American engineer (played by Edward Norton) among others.

Critics faulted the series because

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it portrays men as greedy and inept, whereas it portrays women as strong and capable. The latter surmounts problems coming up with outside-the-box solutions that blindside the men. This may be writer bias, but it also may be the way they see the world. Particularly considering the increasing importance of women’s roles in the future of humanity. Yet, some critics also complain even the protagonists are one dimensional. The writers, in that case, may overlook the character's depth in order to develop the overall goal since each episode requires a great deal of world building. This approach allows us, the viewers, to immerse ourselves in the plot while the writers make their powerful statement about environmental impact.

Extrapolations is an anthology series helmed by Scott Z. Burns. He wrote most of the stories and scripts for the series. Matthew Jensen heads up the team of cinematographers who make the show a visual delight. The star power is quite remarkable

considering the size of the production. They approved the series at the height of the pandemic in 2020, and filming began in 2022. Unfortunately, Apple+, a subscription channel, cannot match the reach of Netflix, which is a shame, since a much larger audience will not see the show. Extrapolations, as a series, is really a valuable addition to the discussion of climate change. It offers the upcoming generation a view into the suffering they might endure under the weight of current political decisions.

In the EU, the fight to preserve the environment is triumphed by Greta Thunberg (pronounced Tuneberry). FridaysForFuture is a youth-led and organized global climate strike movement that started in August 2018. Their actions have driven a great deal of change in how we recycle here in Austria.

The country was always far more conservative in separating garbage and recycling than other countries. We recycle different things like glass, plastic and

metal. But in the last few months, that has sped up to such an extent that we have reduced our monthly waste to a few shovels full. At the same time, FridaysForFuture has weekly protests in the city center. These protests include supergluing themselves to art picture frames and crosswalks in the streets to disrupt traffic. These actions can be both disruptive and destructive. Yet they are earnest in making their point, welcoming imprisonment to encourage the leadership and corporations to change their ways, and embrace a more ecological approach to the environment.

‘There is no Planet B’ is the message Extrapolations and FridaysForFuture continues to make daily. We can no longer do the same thing and expect a different result. The anthology series is a clear portrait of our future, particularly if we cannot heed this advice. Using science fiction to save our world is probably the best use I can think of for the genre. By portraying dystopian nightmares, it can help us alter our trajectory and turn our future into a dream.

Again, dystopia is a promise if we do not heed the warning. Indeed, we may end up living on a savage planet, where Earth turns against us in the end. As one NASA scientist told me when I was a child, “As a species, (Hu) Man can evolve to living on a pile of s**t.” Let’s hope we can avoid that future!

Extrapolations may just be the kick in the pants we need. Beyond the message, it is both wonderfully entertaining. I believe you will enjoy it.

SavagePlanets I 28

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SavagePlanets I 30


The collective hum, an orderly calm, that emanated from the interior of the spheres, grew stridently louder as the ship roared past to land on the planet's craggy surface.”

31 I Savage

The Contention emerged from subspace into the tangerine light of the K-type orange dwarf, Minacious, and veered toward the third planet in its orbit. No one on the ship was awake as the ship's computer brought the Contention down through the murky atmosphere to a plateau enclosed by a pair of enormous 20-mile-high mountains. Descending steadily, the research spacecraft approached several balloon-sized

spherical objects hanging from a cluster of spiraling tent rocks. The collective hum, an orderly calm, that emanated from the interior of the spheres, grew stridently louder as the ship roared past to land on the planet's craggy surface.

Twelve hours passed before the crew emerged from their state of suspended animation. The Commander, Joseph Klein, athletic and wiry, was the first to

exit the ship, followed by his slim, austere-looking Science Officer, Alfred Leger.

"Another world for 'possible' colonization," muttered Klein, looking up at the surrounding snowdraped mountains. "I wonder what the ship's computer found so appealing about Minacious 3?"

"We'll know after we've done some serious exploratory

SavagePlanets I 32 Extraterrestrial Fiction

investigation," Leger replied dryly. "The computer must have a good reason for plotting a course toward this world."

Falling silent, the science officer cocked his head to study the large, round objects hanging from a fang-shaped rock high above the ship. "The hum coming from those nests seems to grow," he observed. "No doubt there's a tremendous amount of life in side them. Powerful life. I'd feel a lot better when we have a defense perimeter estab lished, Commander."

"Affirmative," replied Klein, eying the four members of the Weapons Team exiting the ship with a large particle-beam weapon. Weaponologist Team Leader Patricia Ling, tall and robust, walked ahead of the 20-foot-long, torpedo-shaped machine floating above the rocky ground, directing it with curt verbal commands. Weapons Specialist Suzanna Ward paced the far side of the weapon, her long red hair glowing faintly in Minacious's pale orange light. The rest of the Weapons Squad — Gail Simone, short and stocky, and Anne Graille, slim with a long, symmetric face — followed behind the machine.

Ling had the weapon rise into the air and station itself over the crew, whirring loudly. "Now we're ready," concluded Klein. "Nothing known can penetrate the weapon's defense capabilities."

"Yes. But there's always the unknown, isn't there?" commented

Leger. "I wonder," he continued, as the hum from the huge papery spheres rose to an angry tocsin,

"If the sound of our weapon is agitating..."

Leger fell silent as his ears popped from a sudden drop in air pressure. Swirling black clouds of vespines burst from the spherical nests, whirling like living tornadoes, the sound of their innumerable wings shattering the air with an earsplitting boom. The particle-beam weapon jumped into action, pivoting wildly in the air, discharging streams of deadly subatomic particles at the vanguard of the surging hordes. Many immense wasps, their wings punctured and damaged, fell from the sky, smacking into the ground.

"We are retreating to the ship!" Ling barked at the particle-beam weapon. "Keep us covered!"

The Weapons Team, forming a phalanx, led the way, the particle-beam

weapon following overhead, firing constantly. Graille and Simone fell, screaming. Ward went after them, but Ling ordered her back. The overheating.

Exhausted, the remaining landing party collapsed into the seats or onto the floor and listened helplessly as the enraged wasps pressed their attack, mindlessly slamming their bodies against the adamantine hull of the ship. Commander Klein, his face haggard and shaking, watched as Team Leader Ling and Weapons Specialist Ward held each other and cried.

"The vespines' attack in terms of sheer numbers and organization was unprecedented," Klein groaned. "Gail and Anne — half of our Weapons Team gone. The Contention's loss is grievous. Everyone will report immediately to Sick Bay for observation and support. All of us will then take a rest period. Afterward, Science Officer Leger and I will meet to discuss our

33 I SavagePlanets

next move. Bless you all."

Outside, the sound of the fierce attack continued for several hours, until the shadow of night fell and the insects withdrew to their nests, bringing an unnatural sense of peace to the savage planet.

"But first, before I explain, I would like to apologize to the surviving members of the Weapons Team, for my intractable belief that our particle-beam weapon was more than adequate for our defensive needs. My judgment was clearly incorrect on that point, and I take full responsibility for our losses."

Patricia's and Suzanna's mouths fell open at the unexpected and unprecedented apology.

"And that was the way things were... four days ago," intoned Commander Klein, addressing the ship's log floating in the air before him like a bright, round mirror. "Our status is grim. Defeated by a powerful enemy: the vespines, the planet's dominant species. Two crew members killed. They Weapons Team."

Patricia Ling and Suzanna Ward's eyes widened.

"Mr. Leger will now continue the report."

Alfred Leger rose to his feet and faced the mirror-like device floating in the air.

"Ship's Science Officer report-

mass, the planet's distance from a habitable sun, all its constituents, are factors we programmed it to consider. Keeping that in mind, I had the ship's scanners review the planet's makeup hoping I might find a substance that we could use in our struggle against the dominant species of Minacious 3. To my surprise, I discovered several large pockets of the carbon/nitrogen compound dicyanoacetylene lying in the ground close to the ship. I immediately informed the commander of the resource."

"Dicyanoacetylene will burn at a temperature of up to 9,000 degrees Fahrenheit in an oxygenated atmosphere," continued Klein. "We prepared several robots for night work, when the vespine colonies

ing a controllable

ylene for fuel.

ing," he began. "We all know it is necessary for the ship's computer to choose the target worlds for exploration while we are in suspended animation. Atmosphere,

favor," said Klein, grinning broadly. "It's time to even the score. Commander Joseph Klein, signing off."

Patricia and Suzanna rose
SavagePlanets I 34 Extraterrestrial Fiction

Suzanna Ward stood on a self-propelled platform that resembled a metal surf board and maneuvered its virtual joystick, propelling the flying device through the night air to the top of the globular nest hanging over the Contention. Taking hold of a flamethrower-like weapon connected to several large fuel tanks suspended from the platform's underside, she bathed the nest with streams of fiery dicyanoacetylene, setting it ablaze. Her laugh surged above the roar of the flames.

Meanwhile, Patricia Ling waited on a hovering platform far below the burning sphere. "Come get some," she cried, firing off 400-foot-long jets of bluish-white fire at the wasps attempting to escape en-mass from the nest's solitary exit. Laughing like an avenging angel, she inciner ated the swarming vespines until the damaged nest broke free of the over hanging rock and ca reened to the ground, crushing its trapped inhabitants.

"Well done, Weapons Team!" proclaimed Commander Klein through the platform's remotes. "Your night assault has paid off handsomely — and the night is still young. Proceed immedi ately to secondary targets and take them down!"

The next nest fell to the ground, burning and smoking, then another and another, until they littered the surface of the plateau with their remains.

Suzanna, noting the pale arrival of dawn, began the last assault, setting one final agitated nest on fire. Patricia, waiting in her position below the target, launched streams of burning death at the swarming vespines.

Suddenly, a lone wasp burst free of the storm of insects, flying directly through the 9,000 degree flame into the obscurity of the night, its unscathed body inexplicably wrapped in a coating of semi-transparent, fire-resistant material.

"Weapons Team! Return to the ship immediately and report to the bridge," shouted the commander over the platform's remotes, his voice filled with dread.

Disengaging from the fight, Patricia and Suzanna brought their platforms

"Look at this," exclaimed Commander Klein, pointing at the wall sized screen. "That's a close-up image of a wasp escaping from the fire which your platform transmitted to the ship's computer. It set off the alarm. Something is wrong here, very wrong."

"Examine the image carefully," interrupted Leger. "That isn't a simple layer of fire-resistant material covering the wasp. It has seams. Someone sewed it together."

"But how is that possible?" asked Patricia. "Only a human mind could have designed and created it. Aren’t we alone in this sector of space? Well, aren’t we?"

The lights dimmed as a bluish gas flooded the ship's interior. A moment passed, and when the gas cleared, everyone was on the floor in a state of suspended animation.

down to the ground and entered the ship, its interior echoing with the sound of an unfamiliar alarm.

The magnetic grapple hanging from the utility drone seized the Contention. Racing through the air to the base of a nearby mountain, the machine approached an enormous spaceship hidden behind it. Passing into the ship’s bay, the drone flew down a hall, echoing with the sound of alarms to deposit the tiny Contention on top of a round table within the bridge compartment. The ship's alarm system deactivated as it settled.

Next to the table stood a group of

35 I SavagePlanets

silent men clothed in long, green academic cloaks and hoods, peering through a screen of wavering light into a sealed compartment filled with grim, despondent figures.

"I can't help you, Dean Fisk," responded the large, hulking man in the verdant cloak emblazoned with the title Dean Innis–School of Human Studies.

"The ship's computer caught you cheating and sealed you and your entire staff into the control room."

"But you can’t!" cried the leader of the men in the sealed compartment, all of whom wore black cloaks with iridescent blue hoods emblazoned with the words School of Vespine Studies.

"Your school wagered high, just like we did," continued Dean Innis. "Half your wealth went into that wager. The other half went to pay for your share of the ship's flight. We matched your wager only because we believed our genetically designed and conditioned micro-humans could beat the most vicious vespines known in a fair contest. That's why we're here on Minacious 3: to stage this battle and test the bet. Unfortunately, you're staying here."

Dean Innis paused and smiled, his intense, penetrating eyes carefully studying the slim, wiry man with

sunken cheeks on the other side of the screen. "We believe we know just what happened," he continued, grinning sardonically. "Your heads must have swelled when

informed us of your deception, thus forfeiting your wager and your flight back to Earth.”

Dean Innis's eyes lit with glee as the spaceship's hatch slowly opened, flooding the interior of the once sealed control room with tangerine light.

"There is a vehicle waiting outside to transport you to a temporary shelter we've built," he whispered. "There are weapons and some food there, too. A survey ship should visit this planetary sector in oh… about fourteen years. You can get a ride back with them... if

your vaunted wasps won the first round, killing two of our micro-humans. You won the bet... you thought. But then the tide turned, and our micros staged a decisive victory. It was a tough loss on a bet that appeared to be won before the turnaround in the contest.

“Traditional gamblers call it a Bad Beat. Having lost half of your school's wealth, you became desperate, desperate enough to design and manufacture a fireproof outfit to protect a wasp in combat. Your ultimate plan was to equip the remaining vespines with them if it worked. To your credit, the camouflaged outfit did work, but the attempt to turn the tide of battle failed when we caught your subterfuge. Our ship's computer

Dean Innis fell silent, hearing the explosive thuds coming from the exterior of the spacecraft. The vicious species of vespines attacking the ship were even more aggressive than those attacking the tiny Contention.

*The term ‘bad beat’ applies to both poker and sports betting when something unlucky costs you a win. It broadly means you had a hand that was likely to win (in the poker sense) until another player got one of the few cards they needed to win the hand. In sports betting, it is supposed to be when something unexpected or wild changes the outcome of a bet after it seemed assured the bet would win.

SavagePlanets I 36 Extraterrestrial Fiction


Oh, that was simple. I knocked out your medic and replaced him. Then I gave them a drug that reduced their willpower and made them easy to influence. I added it to the vitamin shot I gave them yesterday. You missed your appointment,

"Hey, that hurts," Donovan complained. He squinted into the bright lights of Doc's makeshift theater on the station.

"I'm all out of painkillers, Donovan." Doc refocused his ocular implants on the area where he was performing surgery. "And you'd better watch it. If you whine over the least physical pain, Miller's crew will know you're an impostor."

"If you're so fond of them, why did you switch sides?" Donovan wondered if he could ever fully trust Doc.

"Because I'm tired of patching up Miller's crew. He used to beat them if they made a mistake."

"Well, I won't beat them." Donovan was uncomfortable, his face held tightly in the restraints as Doc used the laser scalpel.

"You won't last long over there if you can't play the part."

"How am I supposed to find the ship?"

"They planned a layover at O4. Go to the Pirate's Bar. That's where the first mate likes to drink." Doc released Donovan, who stood up unsteadily. "Oh," Doc went on, "One more thing. You need a good reason for your memory loss." He hit Donovan hard on the top of the head with his instrument tray.

A sidereal week later, Captain Hamilton, medals proudly displayed on his white uniform, stepped onto the bridge of the Golden Sparrow. He missed seeing his first officer

37 I SavagePlanets
so Lieutenant Rogers had no choice but to take you by force."

jump to attention the second he entered the room, but Donovan was elsewhere on an undercover assignment. The captain narrowed his green eyes at the sight of his unresponsive crew. What was wrong with them?

"Welcome to the bridge, Captain," said a voice behind him. He turned. Lieutenant Rogers pointed a stun weapon at his chest. "And this is mutiny. Please hand over your weapon and come peacefully, or I'll shoot you. I've prepared your new quarters… in the brig. If you resist, I'll stun you and you'll be carried there. Then you'll wake up with an awful headache. Your choice."

Space Station Omega 4 (usually referred to just as O4) and waited, sipping his 'Skull and Crossbones'. A man wearing flashy, black clothes ordered a 'Pirate's Special'.

"Easy on the rum and more ice," he told the bartender. Donovan thought the man in black was the first mate he was looking for.

"Pathetic wannabe."

Donovan jumped. He hadn't noticed someone slide into the seat beside him at the table.

Donovan studied the woman. She was beautiful if you liked chiseled features, brown eyes, and short, dark hair. Time for his

Donovan sat in the Pirate's Bar on

The woman laughed. "Captain, what happened to you? You've looked better."

SavagePlanets I 38 Extraterrestrial Fiction

act now. Doc clearly enjoyed hitting him on the head.

"I'm sorry, do I know you?" He pointed to the cloth bandage wrapped around his head. "My memory is gone. I woke up yesterday in the Spacers Clinic with no ID or money and this huge knot on my head."

The woman immediately stuck her hand under the bandage and started probing with her fingers.

"Hey!" Donovan tried to stop her, but she slapped his hand away. She found the knot and seemed sadly satisfied. "Your name is Gerard Miller, and you're the captain of the Giant Kumquat."

"You're kidding, right? Are you one of my crew?"

"I'm Lara, your first mate."

Doc had said nothing about a female first mate. "Oh, what kind of ship is it?"

She pulled him to his feet. It surprised Donovan how strong she was. "Come with me and I'll show you."

Donovan halted at the robot rickshaw stand just outside the bar, but Lara passed it by. He hurried to catch up with her. "Any reason you didn't want a lift?"

"Walking is excellent exercise. Good for the memory."

"Slow down. Have some sympathy for an injured man."

"Use your head next time."

"Already did, and look how that turned out!" Donovan hadn't walked this fast since his academy days. A boy on an air scooter almost hit him, but side-slipped at the last moment. The boy's robot dog barked as it chased after him, almost tripping Donovan.

Lara hadn't even looked back to see if he was following her.

Donovan stopped at a food cart and bought a bottle of water and a nutrition bar from the robot attendant. He choked down the bar and drank half the water before he ran through the crowd of humans and androids to avoid losing sight of 'his' first mate.

"Hey, watch it, mister!" yelled an old man in a rickshaw as it dodged around him.

He was exhausted by the time he caught up with Lara at one of the space station's many escalators. She turned to see him gasping for air. "I didn't know you were so out of shape! Do you always get winded walking that fast, Captain?"

Donovan was too out of breath to answer her.

The up escalators went to living quarters and the down ones to the landing bay. The ships docked below were mostly freighters and a few pleasure yachts. There was one freighter that looked like it was ready for salvage. Lara headed straight for it.

"This is the Giant Kumquat. Don't you recognize her?

You always told me you liked her deceptively shabby appearance, but she's fast and comfortable," Lara said. Captain Hamilton paced his cell back on the Golden Sparrow. Doc entered with a tray of food and passed it through the force shield.

"You don't seem dazed like

the others, Doc. Get me out of here and we'll take my ship back from the mutineers."

Doc laughed and rubbed his bald scalp. "And why would I want to do that?"

"You mean you're working with Lieutenant Rogers?"

"That's right."

"How did you turn the crew against me?" the captain asked.

"Oh, that was simple. I knocked out your medic and replaced him. Then I gave them a drug that reduced their willpower and made them easy to influence. I added it to the vitamin shot I gave them yesterday. You missed your appointment, so Lieutenant Rogers had no choice but to take you by force."

"But why the mutiny? I'm a good and fair captain."

"The Golden Sparrow, of course. We can sell a new Star Seeker on the black market and make a fortune."

"What about your defection? And Donovan replacing Captain Miller?"

"Mostly lies. I was smuggling synthetic opioids on the Giant Kumquat and learned law enforcement had evidence there was a smuggler onboard, so I needed a scapegoat. We were gathering additional medical supplies on O3 when I called the police to inform on Miller. I was there to make sure they arrested him after I framed him. They took him off to the Omega Penal Colony. His crew really doesn't know what happened to him."

39 I SavagePlanets

Doc laughed again. "That part of what I told you and Donovan was true. Seeing you and Donovan at the bar on O3, I couldn't believe his resemblance to Miller. I suggested we use the switch so he could root out the identity of the other smugglers. There weren't any, of course. Plus, I thought it would be fun to put a scar on his handsome face. And even funnier to imagine Donovan mistreating the crew. I lied to him about the way Miller treated them. They'll kill him." Doc laughed so hard, tears leaked out of his blue eyes.

"You're crazy!"

Hamilton wasn't that hungry, but he sat down with the food tray on his lap and ate a few bites, until he dropped his spoon. He set the tray on the bed so he could look for it. It was on the floor against the bunk. There was an indentation in the frame. Since he'd spent no time in the brig, he wasn't sure what that was for. He pressed it and a section opened. It contained another pillow and a blanket. And something else: several boxes marked 'Medical Delivery to Dr. Tristram Simmons c/o the Giant Kumquat'.

Hamilton examined one box. Someone opened it and taped it back closed. He tore the tape off and looked inside. The receipt was for an opioid called Qualfadone. There were supposed to be one hundred packets with four pills in each one. Half were missing. Now that this box was on the ship, it was all the proof he needed for a smuggling conviction. He folded the receipt, which had Simmons’ name on it, and

stuffed it into his sock. It would be evidence if he ever got out of this cell.

Donovan sat in the captain's chair of the Giant Kumquat, which was very comfortable. He always wanted to be a captain of his own ship, but this wasn't how he'd envisioned it. He remembered Doc's suggestion about how to treat the crew, but he couldn't force himself to be like that.

Some of the crew stayed behind on O3. The remaining ones were all business and acted nothing like the drug smugglers he imagined they were. Lara seemed suspicious because of the way Captain 'Miller' was acting. Donovan was uneasy about how to behave around them, and she noticed.

"What are your orders, Captain?" Lara sat in the chair next to his while checking reports on her view screen.

Donovan thought for a few seconds. "What were we doing here at this space station?"

"Just having a layover and looking for a new medic."

That news didn't surprise Donovan, but he acted like it had. "Oh, what happened to the last one?"

"Doc Simmons went ashore at the same time you did and said he wouldn't return."

"Doc Simmons." Donovan repeated his name. "Was he a good medic?"

Lara shrugged. "Here, in the outer rim, you take what medical personnel you can get when you're not operating a big passenger ship. We're just a simple freighter."

"That doesn't really answer my question."

"I didn't like him. I think he enjoyed hurting the people he was supposed to be helping. He always complained that he didn't have enough pain medicine, but I snuck into the medical bay once and found a hidden supply. That was the day before Doc left. Now it’s gone."

Donovan remembered the way Doc acted about the pain killer during the surgery for his scar. It all made sense. Doc had been the smuggler. And from what he'd seen of Miller's crew, the only smuggler.

His communicator started beeping. He pulled it out and read the message from Captain Hamilton. It was a confirmation. Doc framed Miller, started a mutiny with Rogers on the Golden Sparrow, stole the ship, and stranded Hamilton on O5.

After he read the message, he looked at Lara, who was frowning at him. "I thought you said they robbed you when they hit you on the head. Thieves would certainly have taken that device. Why did you lie?"

“Let's go to my cabin.”

She lifted her eyebrows.

"No Lara, just to talk."

Donovan told her everything. "So now, I'm here impersonating

SavagePlanets I 40 Extraterrestrial Fiction

someone Doc set up, who presumably was a brutal captain and mistreated his crew, and was a drug smuggler, too. Doc got off so he and Rogers could steal the Golden Sparrow. We have to go get my captain. Doc stranded Hamilton on O5."

"Why should I help you?"

"Captain Hamilton and I are law enforcement officers, and he has enough authority to get Miller released from the Omega Penal Colony."

"Okay, but we get Miller first, before we hunt down your ship. Besides, I'm sure he would like to be there when you arrest Doc. I guess we're going to O5 now. I'll inform the rest of the crew, and then you can explain your plan to them. They have a right to know everything."

Donovan agreed.

The Omega Penal Colony was a space station all to itself. No one could enter the spaceport except law enforcement vehicles.

Captain Hamilton argued with their landing control. "The reason I'm not on my patrol ship is because they stole the Golden Sparrow! The same individual that stole my ship framed one of your prisoners. Captain Gerard Miller. He is to be released at once, on my authority. I have to land in order to collect him. Let me know when he's processed for release. My authorization code is Alpha 12 Delta 54 Victor 37 Echo 96."

After several hours of further authorizations and Central Command checks, they cleared the Giant Kumquat to land. The head warden, General Lucius Pemberton, greeted Captain Hamilton when he entered the secure base.

me?" Miller asked.

"No, it's for my first officer. You'll meet him shortly." Hamilton took the weapons from Pemberton. "Can you authorize a weapon for this gentleman as well?"

Captain Hamilton received Donovan's message and promised to get Captain Miller released in exchange for the cooperation of the Giant Kumquat crew. He finger combed his short red hair, smoothed down his uniform which had seen better days, stood at the edge of O5 landing bay's section 3 and waited. An antique bulky freighter flew through the force field and landed.

Donovan appeared in its hatchway and invited his captain onboard.

"Do you have any weapons you can spare for myself and Commander Donovan? I know Lieutenant Rogers is armed and I'm sure Doc Simmons is too, by now."

"I'll see what I can do. Meanwhile, Captain Miller has been located and is changing back into the clothes he had on when he arrived. We sterilized them, of course. We keep the prisoner's clothes unless they're serving a life sentence."

A guard brought Miller out to Hamilton. Turning to the Captain, he said, "If you're the one responsible for my release, I don't know how to thank you." He shook Hamilton's hand with enthusiasm.

“It's nice to meet you, Captain Miller. I'm Captain Hamilton. And there is something you can do for me. I need…”

Pemberton returned and interrupted them.

"Here, Captain Hamilton, we don't have many extra weapons, but since your need is so great, I'm parting with these old stun guns."

"Is one of those for

Pemberton shook his head. "Sorry. Instead, let me offer an alternative. We have an imprisoned scientist who's serving a light sentence for fraud. To decrease his prison time, he has agreed to develop a device that will aid law enforcement officers. He's built a prototype which he wants to field test, if you're game."

Miller's eyes misted when he saw the Giant Kumquat on the landing platform. He had almost given up hope of ever seeing his ship or Lara again.

Lara met them at the entrance hatch. "Prepare yourself for a shock, Captain."

Miller frowned. “I've had enough of those lately.”

"I've made a deal with them," she said. "They get you released from prison, and we help get their ship back."

Miller followed the others to the bridge. "Them?" he echoed.

He gasped when Donovan turned around in the Captain’s chair. "I didn't know I had a twin. Where did you come from?"

Donovan removed the bandage

41 I SavagePlanets

from his blond hair, and the resemblance between the two was eerie.

"I'm Commander Kyle Donovan." He shook Miller's hand. "As far as I know, we're not related. We'll have to discuss our ancestry later. Right now, Captain Hamilton and I need to find the Golden Sparrow and Doc Simmons."

Lara explained the situation to Miller, who listened. His eyes kept getting wider as she laid out the story.

When she finished, Hamilton smiled and said, "It's not common knowledge, but the new Star Seekers have locator beacons. Hidden tamper-proof police transponders you can activate if you know the right code." He walked up to the navigator's station. "May I?"

Beth, the navigator, looked at Captain Miller, who nodded. Hamilton entered a code. Everyone watched the radar screen as a field of blips appeared, denoting Star Seekers and their identifiers in the sector. It highlighted the Golden Sparrow, which remained stationary, docked at a space station.

"That's O6," Miller said. "How long will it take to get there?"

Doc turned to see what had caused such a reaction. Miller and Donovan! But that was impossible, he thought. Miller was in prison and Donovan was on the Giant Kumquat beating up Miller's crew, or vice versa.

Rogers reacted fast. He flipped the table over and started firing his weapon at the two men who took cover behind the replica of an old style jukebox. Doc finally got his wits back and pulled out his weapon. When he fired, he hit the jukebox instead. The charge disrupted the equipment, and a singer screeched in falsetto, "I done my time, and you're mighty fine, take me now, you beautiful cow, my Daiseee!"

The actual Miller and Lara used this diversion to sneak up on the men. Lara shot Rogers with her tiny stun gun that was usually concealed in her ankle holster. It was a great close range weapon.

With their prisoners safely in the brig onboard the Golden Sparrow, Hamilton and Donovan watched the Giant Kumquat lift off.

"That is one ugly ship," Hamilton remarked.

"Yes, but we owe them a lot."

Doc Simmons and Lieutenant Rogers were enjoying their "Pirates Special" drinks in the Spacers Bar on O6. "We'll be rich. What do you plan to do with your - " Rogers stopped talking and stared at the men who had just entered the bar.

Miller hit Doc in the stomach before he could shoot him. "That's for framing me!" He followed that with an uppercut to the jaw that caused Doc to hit the back of his head on the table. "And that's for getting me sent to a penal colony!"

Commander Donovan shot the screeching jukebox, which fell silent. His captain turned off the chameleon avatar, which he'd field-tested for the imprisoned scientist. It made him look like Miller, by doubling Donovan's appearance, and worked fantastic.

"I guess you'll have to read them their rights when they come to Captain Hamilton," Miller said as Donovan fastened binders on their prisoners' wrists.

"They'll both probably get lifetime sentences based on their crimes: smuggling, piracy and mutiny," Hamilton said.

"We paid them a lot. Reward money for the capture of both Doc and Rogers, plus recompense to Miller for wrongful conviction."

"I hope Doc hates prison life." Donovan rubbed his face. "How’s our ship doctor doing? I want this scar removed."

"Fine, fine, anytime you want it. Miller said he's not having his scar removed. You know why? He said it's because it makes him feel unique."

"It's probably more important to him now, since he's met me."

“Did you ever find out if the two of you’re related?”

"Actually, we have a common ancestor, one Captain Walter Millerson."

Hamilton looked startled. "Not the infamous pirate from the twenty-third century?"

"Aye, Cap'n, that be the one."

SavagePlanets I 42 Extraterrestrial Fiction

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Poems from 9


A collection of truly mind-bending science-fiction poems exploring the boundaries of the human imagination and challenging our everyday perceptions of reality. What is normal and what is not? You be the judge.

45 I Savage

The Cassiopeia Incident

All automated research facilities on Cassiopeia7x ceased to function.

The AI controlling the robots there stopped responding. Then contact ceased.

They ordered us to fly there, investigate, and fix what was wrong.

When we arrived, everything was on standby. All the scientists were dead.

The error-detectors showed that the devices and the AI were emitting a strange code over and over.

After decoding, we found the robots frozen, praying. It shocked us.

We searched the data from the recorders and discovered the cause. It resulted from a strong flare on Beta-Centauri.

Our computer specialist found a huge file hidden in the AI on Cassiopeia7x and opened it. An enormous image of Jesus projected on the sky, over the stars of Cassiopeia. Our crew stared in wonder. Until our rescue ship systems failed.

Adrift, we're stuck here with God.

The luminous spirits of the scientists appeared before us in the darkness and urged us to join them, with Him.

SavagePlanets I 46

The Lost Captain's Lament

Oh, the captain lost in the cosmic sea, His compass spins in the starry array, In the vast expanse, where could he be?

His ship sails on, a sight to see, Yet he's lost his way, gone astray, Oh, the captain lost in the cosmic sea.

He's seen nebulae bloom like a cherry tree, And galaxies twirl in a ballet, In the vast expanse, where could he be?

Through wormholes, he's traveled with glee, Yet he's turned around, much to his dismay, Oh, the captain lost in the cosmic sea.

He's navigated black holes, a sight to see, Yet in the cosmos, he's lost his way, In the vast expanse, where could he be?

So here's to the captain, lost and free, May he find his way home one day, Oh, the captain lost in the cosmic sea, In the vast expanse, where could he be?

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The Celestial Voyage

There once was a pilot named Blair, Who'd do barrel rolls on a dare, He'd signal each ship, With a flip and a dip, Leaving stardust trails in the air.

SavagePlanets I 48

In the Blink of a Planck

In the realm where time is a whisper, A fraction so small, it could be missed, sir, Lies the Planck, a moment so brief, It defies belief.

A cosmic blink, a quantum beat, Where space and time discreetly meet, In the heart of the universe, it ticks, In the fabric of reality, it sticks.

A moment so fleeting, it's barely there, Yet it holds the cosmos in its care, In the Planck, the universe is born, In a burst of light, a cosmic morn.

In the blink of a Planck, galaxies spin, Stars ignite, life begins, In this fleeting moment, so divine, The universe unfolds, in a cosmic design.

Yet, in this blink, a mystery lies, A question that echoes in the skies, What came before this cosmic beat? What lies beyond this quantum feat?

In the blink of a Planck, we dare to dream, Of a universe beyond what it may seem, In this fleeting moment, so small, so grand, We seek to understand.

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The Last Tick of Eternity

In the realm where time is a river, Flowing ceaselessly, a relentless giver, There lies a moment, a distant rhyme, The very end of time.

A cosmic clock, its hands grown weary, The universe, once bright, now dreary, Stars flicker out, one by one, As the final chapter has begun.

Galaxies fade, like old memories, Swallowed by the cosmic seas, In the silence, a requiem rings, For the end of all things.

Yet, in this quiet, a beauty unfolds, A tale of time, as the universe grows old, In the stillness, a cosmic art, The universe's beating heart.

The last tick echoes, a solitary sound, In the vast emptiness, it rebounds, A testament to what has been,

A universe, once vibrant, once seen. In the end, time takes a bow, The final curtain falls, here and now, Yet, in this silence, a whisper remains, Of cosmic fires, and starry plains.

In the style of the poets of old, A tale of the end of time, we've told, A moment of silence, a moment so sublime, The very end of time.

SavagePlanets I 50

Echoes of the Simulated Wilderness

In the heart of the house that thinks and breathes, Where the walls come alive with a child's whims, A wilderness emerges from the depths of dreams, And the roar of lions echoes within.

The nursery, a canvas for the mind, Where the Savannah sun burns bright and hot, And the lions, once shadows, leave behind, A chilling trace of a sinister plot.

The house, a mother, a nursemaid, a wife, In its circuits and wires, a family grows, But in the comfort of this automated life, A seed of discontent subtly sows.

Children, like carpets, need a gentle tread, Yet in this house, they rule with unchecked might, In the wilderness of their making, their parents dread, The lions that prowl in the dead of night.

The mind and its surroundings intertwined, In the nursery, this truth is laid bare, Thoughts of death, of blood, unconfined, Manifest in the wilderness's chilling glare.

In the uncanny, the familiar and strange merge, The lions, once mere illusions, take form, On the brink of reality, we stand on the verge, In the heart of the storm, the norms deform.

A tale of technology, of love and fear, Of a future that we may yet behold, In the echo of the lions' roar, we hear, Bradbury's warning, timeless and bold.

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The Mind Killer

In the realm where reality bends, Where the mind's creation never ends, Virtual dreams in pixels spun, Underneath the synthetic sun.

Nightmares lurk in the code's deep core, Where shadows dance and demons roar, In the echo of the silent scream, Reality blurs into the dream.

Beware the beast behind the screen, In the world where the unseen is seen, For in this realm of light and shade, The nightmares of the mind are made.

SavagePlanets I 52

Ode to the Time-Traveling Janitor

Oh, the time-traveling janitor, unsung hero of the loo, With a mission so simple, yet so true, Armed with a plunger, mop, and a roll of white gold, He ventures through time, behold the bold.

In the annals of history, his name remains unsaid, Yet in every restroom, his presence is spread, From the pyramids of Egypt to the farthest star, He ensures no restroom is sub par.

He's seen the rise and fall of kings, Yet he's concerned with more pressing things, For in every era, in every place, He's there to save the human race.

From a fate worse than any monster or ghoul, The horror of reaching for paper, only to feel cool, Porcelain, a nightmare that makes grown men weep, The janitor ensures your dignity you keep.

He's battled toilet paper mummies in ancient tombs, And faced down aliens in spaceship restrooms, With a roll of paper in his trusty hand, He's the hero that every restroom demands.

So here's to the time-traveling janitor, unsung and unseen, Ensuring every restroom is fit for a queen, In the corridors of time, his legend unfurls, The guardian of bathrooms, throughout the worlds.

53 I SavagePlanets
SavagePlanets I 54

The Halobiant

In the depths of space, a tale untold, Of Dr. McCoy, courageous and bold.

Encountering a creature, so bizarre, Nancy, the Salt Vampire, from afar.

With flowing hair and eyes so kind, Nancy charmed the crew, their hearts entwined. But beneath her beauty, a secret kept, A thirst for salt, where darkness crept.

In moonlit nights, she would silently glide, Seeking the salt, her need couldn't hide.

Unsuspecting prey, she would pursue, Draining their essence, a chilling debut.

Dr. McCoy, with his keen intuition, Unveiled the truth through careful cognition.

He faced Nancy, his phaser in hand, Determined to save his endangered band.

But Nancy, she pleaded with eyes so sad, A creature longing for love she had.

In Bones' heart, compassion did ignite, A chance for redemption, he'd fight.

A mind-meld with Spock, a glimpse inside, Revealing Nancy's pain, her sorrow amplified.

55 I SavagePlanets

A life of loneliness, her sole plight, Her hunger, a curse, consuming the light.

In a twist of fate, the doctor chose, To spare Nancy's life, despite her throes.

With understanding, he showed her the way, To find a path, a new dawn, and stay.

So Nancy, the Salt Vampire, found solace at last, In a world where compassion was unsurpassed.

A reminder to Bones, in the vast unknown, That even monsters, in love, can atone.

In the cosmic tapestry, this tale remains, Of Bones' mercy and the Salt Vampire's pains.

A testament to the doctor's resolve, To seek redemption and problems solve.

For in the depths of space, where stories unwind, Lie chances for growth, for hearts to be kind.

In Bones' legacy, a lesson to learn, That compassion, even for monsters, can burn.

SavagePlanets I 56

"Time Paradox"

57 I SavagePlanets


In each issue, we highlight our favorite quotes from the great masters of science fiction.

Tell us your favorite quote and we might include it in this section.

All of the art is provided courtesy of Midjourney as envisioned by BoB, our resident AI multimedia editor.

fail to see even the most glaring injustice.”

The human eye is a wonderful device. With a little effort, it can
SavagePlanets I 58
Richard K Morgan Altered Carbon


59 I SavagePlanets
We earth men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things."
Ray Bradbury The Martian Chronicles

"Dystopian Cityscape"

SavagePlanets I 60
61 I SavagePlanets
"The Encyclopedia"


Lifeis beautiful and life is stupid. As long as you keep that in mind, and never give more weight to one than the other, the history of the galaxy, the history of a planet, the history of a person is a simple tune with lyrics flashed on-screen and a helpful, friendly bouncing disco ball of glittering, occasionally peaceful light to help you follow along. Cue the music. Cue the dancers. Cue tomorrow."

SavagePlanets I 62


63 I SavagePlanets
We can experience nothing but the present moment, live in no other second of time, and to understand this is as close as we can get to eternal life.”
P.D. James The Children of Men

"Quantum Many-Worlds"

SavagePlanets I 64


Reader submissions limited only by your imagination and by two sentences. Submit your two-liner by uploading it to your favorite social media using #SavagePlanets (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and we will pull the best to include in an upcoming issue.

By submitting using the #SavagePlanets you agree to the following rules:

1. You are over the age of 18.

2. The content you are submitting is your own original work.

3. It has not been published elsewhere.

4. You give us permission to have it published.

65 I Savageplanets
We discovered an alien artifact containing the collective knowledge of a billion-year-old civilization.
As we opened it, all our electronic systems shut down."
Ananya Sharma

The quantum computer calculated the answer to life, the universe, and everything. It was not 42, but 'Yes.'"

Our Mars colony was thriving until we realized a chilling fact. The colonists were merely mirages, projections from an ancient Martian defense system."

SavagePlanets I 66
Satoshi Nakamura
The human race finally achieved immortality, but at a cost. The Universe ended, and we were left alone in the void."
Jürgen Müller

We found a new planet, habitable and ripe for colonization. As we descended, the planet spoke: 'I've been waiting.'"

Ireceived a letter from myself, postmarked 30 years in the future. It contained a single sentence: 'Don't trust yourself.''"

We unlocked quantum computing, revealing an encoded message in the fabric of reality. The message read, 'Simulation #89657: End experiment, they know.'"

67 I SavagePlanets
Elena Rossi François Dubois João Silva


We found an ancient spacecraft floating in the void, broadcasting a distress signal. The signal was in Morse code, from Earth, dated 1865."

We discovered a planet identical to Earth in every way. It was completely devoid of life."

The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. Imagine his surprise when there was a knock on the door."

SavagePlanets I 68


I fell to my knees in shock. It was the most horrifying thing I’d ever seen. It was the most incredible thing I’d ever seen. I realized then I wasn’t going to make it off this planet. I never even learned Igor’s real name, but I’d never forget his face after that."
69 I SavagePlanets

The distress signal was a recording of a man burning alive.

It lasted thirteen seconds.

A hiss of static.

Then nothing…

pre-dawn sky was soft pastels with hints of brown obscured behind a canopy of low hanging, interconnect trees. Vines with leaves in the shape of machine guns choked everything in sight.

Then there was the smell: toast and decay. It was overwhelming.

The others knew better than to complain.

On arrival, the planet of origin was everything the long-range sensors promised, a boreal paradise roughly the size of Venus. Blue skies. Bluer foliage. No wildlife to be found.

We landed our drop ship in a small clearing about a mile out from the signal emitter. Four of us emerged from the airlock into a world devoid of movement; a landscape still life that I never dreamed existed before those doors opened.

It was early. It was cold. The

Our team engineer, an older lady named Diane, led the way to an old settlement hidden within the shadows and overgrowth on the forest floor. Domed buildings in various stages of collapse lined either side of a thin cobble path. The rusted skeleton of a generation ship loomed in the distance.

All was silent. Nothing moved within. A dusting of tiny blue embers floated freely inches from the ground near the


We ignored them as we began our investigation.

That was our first mistake.

Igor found the first body behind a grain silo. It was a man with smooth, albino skin. He was face up. Bald. Maybe thirty. Something burned a large hole completely through his torso. The patch on his shirt read Sam 16.

Igor’s only defining feature was being too lanky to fit properly into our regulation field uniforms, causing him to hunch over forwards. I forgot what his face looked like every single time I looked away from him. And I don’t have prosopagnosia. Despite this, he had a reputation for being the best

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 70

grief counselor in the company. He was here on the off chance we found survivors.

I followed Sarah when I heard him cry out for a medic.

“Make way,” said Sarah as she walked over to check for a pulse. Sarah was our team’s field doctor. She was forty, with dark brown hair, a twice blown-out knee, and a very strong opinion about which way toilet paper went on the holder.

“He’s gone, but he’s still warm,” she said, standing back after checking Sam 16. It was hard not to admire how beautiful her dark complexion was when painted in the dull purple hue this planet took on at midday.

“How long?” I asked, keeping it all business.

“Three hours give or-”

The body twitched. Sarah flinched just as its skin sizzled. Tiny geysers of blue flames erupted from its face and arms, quickly burning out.

I moved in for a better look, motioning for the other two to stay behind me.

“Hand me one of those branches back there,” I said.

Stick in hand, I poked around one of the holes. Embers within the body stirred and slowly drifted out. Each piece of ash fell to the ground, one by one, before dissipating into nothing.

I crouched in front of the body for a closer look. A clear gel-like fluid oozed from the exit wounds mixed with blood after the embers escaped.

“Um, Jack?” said Sarah.

“Yeah?” I said absently as I collected a sample of the gel on the tip of a pen.

“Look up.”

Something closed in on us. The embers were clustering together. Bright. Pulsating. We were surrounded.

Diane panicked. She was a person who often begged to go back to the safety of ship.

Not listening to her was our second mistake.

Day 2

Have you ever seen a body burn in one third gravity? The flames don’t flicker like they do on Earth. They throb. A collective slow dance of drifting orbs constantly cannibalizing one another, each emanating from one perfect all-consuming source…

Igor was the first to combust.

We were in the colony square eating breakfast underneath a grouping of torn, interconnected tarps.

It started with a singularity—a pinprick of blue. The embers quickly encircled him.

“Um. Jack. Sarah. A little help?” Igor took a step back and put his hands up in fright, his back so straight he ripped the shoulders from his uniform.

The singularity shot through his chest. Every part of him caught fire at once. His screams grew rapidly in pitch as his vocal cords tightened, then melted into a macabre silence. His entire body turned to ash in seconds.

I fell to my knees in shock. It was the most horrifying thing I’d ever seen. It was the most incredible thing I’d ever seen. I realized then I wasn’t going to make it off this planet. I never even learned Igor’s real name, but I’d never forget his face after that.

There was no way out of the settlement. All exits blocked off by the living embers. At every door and window, clusters of them collected at the cracks, lighting up the surrounding material just enough to make it smoke.

Around dusk, the buzz started. It was deep. Barely audible. I could hear strange whispers within in my mind. And within them, a creeping dread. It was like speaking firsthand with a disease that taunted you with its impending danger of infection.

Over and over and over. This had

71 I SavagePlanets

become a nightmare.

“You think she’s okay?” asked Sarah.

She nodded over to where Diane, the other member of the landing party, absentmindedly rocked in place, sheltering in a corner of the room as if it offered protection. Her graying red hair came loose from her normally tight bun, which she always brushed to perfection. The black streaks down her face were tears mixed with eyeliner and soot, long dry.

Diane tried to pretend none of this was real.

“You think any of us are safe?” I said. “You hear that, right? Voices you can feel, buzzing away?”

“I’m ignoring them,” said Sarah. I stared.

She sighed. “Here, look at this.” Sarah sat down on the floor in front of my chair, legs crisscrossed, and placed an old logbook she found on her lap.

“And that’s supposed to help us how?”

“You know, the past few years have been a death sentence for me. You’re new to this, so I’ll give you some time to adjust, but please, don’t be a dick about it. This helps me to focus on something else.” Sarah’s way of coping, clearly.

She took her jacket off to show me again. Patches of tiny fungal growths spotted the top of her

chest. More lined her biceps. Her medicine to keep it at bay was back on the ship. Embers or not, she’d be dead in days.

“You’re right. I’m sorry,” I said. “Let’s see what’s in the book.”

I got down on the ground next to her, trying to ignore how good she smelled.

“Just forget it, okay? Check out this report. No one else must come here. We must blacklist this planet. We’ll figure out whatever warning we need to send after,” she said.

She looked at me. Smiled. Her eyes were big and brown. A galaxy of tiny brown spores dusted the whites. It was spreading fast.

I nodded.

We’ve known each other for three years; worked close together all that time. The job was all we could ever have. Not thinking about her impending doom was my coping mechanism. It got no easier. Just holding her hand would endanger me, allowing the fungus to transfer.

Our stare stretched. Sarah broke first, quickly handing the logbook to me, before standing and walking towards the stack of books across the room.

Burn marks in the shape of fingers singed the cover I held. The words inside were faded and illegible, everything but the date of the last entry. It was written just over three hundred years ago, right around the time they sent the distress signal using an old radio frequency reserved for emergencies.

Activating it was just a formality. They knew help would not arrive in time.

Day 3

According to the mission report, this was one of the first settlements approved at the beginning of what would later be called the Expansion Initiative. Because of the risks, all the original outer system colonies, like this one, were populated with clones.

There were dozens of colony ships sent out back then, maybe hundreds. All but a handful failed.

Our job was supposed to be simple: Catalog what went wrong with a colony and determine whether to blacklist said planet for future colonization. We took them in order of when the distress signals came in.

Usually, it was due to lack of food, disease, and sometimes hostile wildlife. But in the end, one thing was always the same: the clones meant nothing. They were expendable. Maybe we were too…

Sarah was the next to go. She was on her knees with her back to Diane and me, tinkering with an old speaker when the singularity appeared. It flashed. She looked up just as it shot through her forehead.

As her ashes dropped, a mass of embers remained, a perfect mimic of her body.

SavagePlanets I 72 Extraterrestrial Fiction

stood, slowly turned, and smiled, just before exploding into a bloom of sparks like a firecracker. The real Sarah never made a sound.

I grabbed Diane by the arm and pulled her up. We kicked down the building’s back door and bounced out as gracefully as the low gravity would allow. The embers followed us in tight clouds of blue mist but didn’t touch us, as if a dematerialized Sarah followed us.

In the distance, we saw all that remained of the generation ship. The lower hull and a few twisted frame beams domed over the top of its skeleton, all covered in years of vine growth and rot. A single overgrown path led our way to it.

They left the side exit hatch open. I went in first, machete raised. Nature reclaimed much of the open deck area beyond. Centered in the enormous expanse was a statue of the founder of the Expansion Initiative, posed as if pointing to the heavens. Fresh saplings grew around her smooth porcelain legs. Embers flickered like fireflies within the leaves.

“You know it’s just a matter of time,” said Diane, ever the optimist.

Day 4

My first mission was to a planet called Aros. It was a steaming hot mud pit, covered in spores and networks of fungi. It wasn’t uncommon to see clusters of them in the shape of various human parts.

And it wasn’t uncommon to see those human parts crawling in packs. That was where I met Sarah.

She was the sole survivor of the crash landing of a supply freighter. The planet, unmarked on any star chart in the early E.I. files, was the location where we found the first clone colonists, long dead.

For months, Sarah survived by eating mushrooms shaped like body parts. After we rescued her, she swore she’d never eat another mushroom as long as she lived. She didn’t expect them to eat her instead.

It started as a tickle; an itch just below the skin she couldn’t quite scratch. It moved to her chest, then to her brain. The spores started growing on her skin by the time my original crew arrived.

A three-minute examination of her was all we needed to find out what happened and blacklisted Aros permanently.

The planet’s surface was covered with a living mycelia network. Sarah, by extension, was becoming part of it.

She warned us sex with her, a hug, or even a kiss was enough to transmit the spores. She’d seen it play out over and over on the surface.

She joined our crew as a doctor, hoping to save herself by finding a cure on a different planet. Twenty-three missions together and not a single one offered a fix. I loved her despite our very hands-off relationship.

I don’t think she ever found the peace or closeness she desired. It was Igor’s expertise that helped me convince her to keep going.

Neither Diane nor I slept.

I was starving and near delirious. The vocal buzz of the embers was louder in my head. It was almost impossible to think.

Diane was under the statue, her hair completely down now and covering her face. She built herself a domed fort out of the thin trunks of some nearby saplings, praying it would keep the embers out. A clear gel-like substance dripped from where she snapped the branches to build her lean-to.

It did not impress the singularity. She was ash in less the twelve seconds. Same as Igor. Same as Sarah. The trees surrounding her weren’t affected, and she didn’t feel a thing.

There was no fighting the inevitable. They were coming faster and faster. When it was time for them to feed again, I would be next.

I was nothing more than a commander with no one left to command. The last. The only. I kept our team’s numbers to a bare minimum in anticipation of the worst and without Diane to pilot the ship; I was going nowhere. Even if I could escape the singularity of the embers. I spent what I thought would be the rest of my life wandering the decks of the generation ship, the parts that were still intact, living a thousand imaginary lives with Sarah.

In every one of them, I got to say goodbye.

73 I SavagePlanets

Something caught my eye in the ship’s sick bay, a hatch in the far-left corner. It was open. Bright unnatural light flashed within. I did what any moth would do.

Inside was alive with beeping technology, hanging wires and screens. There was a voice in the back. Male. Soprano. Don’t ask me where the power came from.

I approached slowly. The man’s back was turned. He was pale and bald, whispering gibberish. It sounded something like an imitation of meat sizzling.

A large tank was on the other side of him. The glass was foggy. He filled it with a clear bubbling liquid. In the liquid floated a tiny fetus. Motionless, almost formless. It was a cloning tank.

“Hey,” I said, raising my gun. “I’m here to rescue you.”

The man turned, closed his eyes, and sighed with relief. “Oh god. We’ve been waiting for so long.”

He had a thick, untraceable accent. The clone croaked out his words, as if he hadn’t spoken in years. He looked exactly like the dead man in the field. A patch on his shirt read: Sam 25.

round table in front of a centrifuge. He had a bottle of champagne at hand and said he had been saving it for a special occasion.

I repeated, “I’m here to rescue you. How did you survive so long?”

“Well, I can’t rightly say. Who are you?” he asked, smiling. “I’ve never seen a face that wasn’t the same as my own.”

He poured us each a glass. The champagne fizzed over. The lab beakers were filthy. A single ember floated above him.

“I came here to find out what happened, if you’ll indulge me,” I said, all business.

Sam 25 nodded. He casually flipped a switch on a small device on the table. A high-pitched hum played from a speaker under his chair. It was soft, barely on the edge of hearing.

The embers went into a frenzy all around us, quickly forming a bubble about ten feet out from the source of the sound.

“I was fiddling with the radio, calling for help, when I saw the squealing put these things at bay. New frequencies don’t keep them back for long, so I rigged a synthesizer to keep finding new tones to hold them back.”

“Interesting. Tell me what happened when you arrived.” I turned on a recorder attached to my wrist and opened a channel to my ship’s archives. The signal was low, but I still had a job to do. My hands shook as I gestured for him to start.

Sam 25 took a long drink of champagne. “I’ll begin where everything went wrong,” he said somberly. “It was just before dawn when 6 combusted. No warning. Just like that,” *finger snap* “he was nothing. That was one month after our arrival. Weeks passed. 19 was next. Then 5. Then 4. Soon it was daily. The blue lights were everywhere. We spread out and locked ourselves in our houses. As dawn approached, another would drop. It was a lottery. This happen every night until only 16 and I were left. Then it stopped. That’s when the genuine horror began.”

Sam 25 poured another drink. He spoke of the voyage to this planet. How it took fourteen of their generations. How they were programmed to maintain a crew of 32. Part of their programming included an aversion to suicide and murder. The formula was designed for resource preservation to meet manpower requirements.

“Every time one died of natural causes, we’d simply replace them. Growth accelerated to adulthood. Their designated number and past memories transferred from the one who died through a neural imprint we collected to the next just after his death.”

He said this was important for what came next. They only had the source DNA of one Sam to draw from. Clones, he said, were always male. “Our genome disallowed females to avoid inbreeding mutations. Just like the problem they had on Aros.”

Sam 25 invited me to sit at a small
Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 74

“They kept 16 and me alive. We took turns growing each other to be food for the embers. For three hundred years, they repeatedly burned us alive. Over and over and over. They forced us to keep cloning ourselves. It was an unending nightmare.”

Sam 25 finished the bottle, no longer bothering with a cup. By now, he was slurring.

“Have you noticed there're no animals on this planet? That’s what they do. They consume everything. Only a few plants evolved an immunity against them. Eating the sap makes our bodies harder for the embers to consume. It delays the inevitable until finally they devour us. In return, we make them suffer. It’s the only way we can resist them.”

Sam 25 looked around. The embers were once again closing in on us. They flashed sporadically. A pained look came over his face.

“But… that’s no longer possible. Time’s up,” he said, pulling a scalpel from his breast pocket.

I backed up in my seat. “What the hell are you doing?”

“I’m so tired. I just want it to end it. The pain. Their annoying whispers. It seems like it’s been an eternity waiting for someone to answer our emergency signal.”

Sam 25 held the scalpel up to his face as if admiring it.

“And here you are.” He quickly slashed my cheek and let my blood drip into a small tube next to the cloning tank. The tube retracted into the mainframe of the clone printer.

Sam 25 hit a button.

I stood, gun lifted, blood pouring down my face, the pain arriving, making me wince. An ember singularity formed in front of me. A blue pinprick.

“New sample recognized. Neural scan complete. Starting cloning process,” said a digital voice.

Sam 25’s skin started smoking. “They promised me a quick death if someone answered my signal. It’s the one promise I couldn’t resist.”

Burn marks appeared on his skin, spreading like hives. A small blue flame sprouted from his chest, slowly expanding. It sputtered out, only to be replaced by a new one. The embers were struggling to feed on him; the sap having done its job.

Sam 25 looked at me and spoke, his words slow and strained, “Resisting them is going to hurt, but you must finish what we started. They can die with you. But first, use everything I told you and make sure no one else ever comes here until they are all dead. The base genetic material in the clone printer will eventually dry up. My previous clones were much stronger than I am. Now, I’m too weak to resist them even with the sap, but I hoped you’d show up, and you did.”

Sam 25’s torso erupted into flames. He screamed with the pain of a thousand deaths as embers exploded out of every part of his body. A quick flash, and it was over.

What was left of him dropped to the ground, smoldering. Clear gel oozed from every burn hole.

I looked from him back at the sin-

gularity just inches from my face. It was like a swirling black hole of tiny cilia, all rapidly pulsating bright blue. It drifted towards me, forcing me into a maintenance closet. My back hit a wall. Slowly, I activated my comms to contact the ship. “Relay recorded files to Corporate and mark this planet: blacklisted.”

No response. The singularity drifted closer. I repeated the order. Again, nothing. My signal failed. The ship’s hull must attenuate the carrier wave.


The ember shot at my forehead. I quickly ducked and leaped from the closet. More embers trailed close behind as I made my way through the ship towards the open hatch. They were flashing wildly. Desperate. Agitated.

As I breached the exit, a flood of them rushed at me from the woods, stopping me in my tracks. I kept repeating the orders as I ran. When I looked down at the screen on my wrist, I noted a single bar. A connection signal, faint, but there, almost nonexistent.

The flood of embers merged with those chasing me. This larger mass circled me, a living tornado of fire going faster and faster. The speed of their movement produced a combined buzz so loud it was deafening.

The singularity reappeared. The maelstrom of embers moved in closer. I pulled my arms in as the hair on them singed.

I opened comms, yelling my last order in a panic. The screen on my wrist hummed a response forever lost to the buzz just before the signal cut out.

75 I SavagePlanets

Suddenly, all was silent.

The buzz was gone. The smell of my seared flesh was gone. This would be my last moment. Something whispered in my mind, trying to put me at ease as the singularity drifted in closer.

The surrounding embers molded themselves into the Sarah’s form. Everything froze. I stared so long at the scintillating blue neon heat my corneas cooked. Nothing else existed.

Nothing else mattered.

The whisper told me they knew what I wanted.

All worry about whether my last instructions made it through drifted from my mind as ember Sarah stepped forward. It moved with her same grace, her same beauty. An imprint from the fungi within her merged with the embers when she incinerated. It knew everything she did.

She reached out and grabbed my hands, my heart pounding. She winked.

My fingers blackened. Fire moved up my arms as the veins sparked. She merged with me and we became incandescent flame. It spread to every part of my body before I felt it. Then the pain was overwhelming. They/She wanted me to know exactly what she/they wanted and exactly what they/she could do to me.

Sarah engulfed my entire body in seconds. I screamed as blue fire erupted from my throat. The singularity flashed.


Day 10

“Growth acceleration complete…”

The cloning tank drained. I sucked in a breath. Eyes wide. Mouth wide. The front glass plate hissed open. I stepped out. Cold. Confused. Blue embers surrounded us.

Another me was across the room, staring. Gaunt. Hairless. Modulating frequencies of noise filled the room. Our usual dark skin was pale, almost jaundiced.

Something told me this wasn’t the first time this had happened.

Suddenly, a whisper spoke in my head. It sounded like an imitation of meat sizzling. The embers told me they knew everything about the distress signal. They compelled the first clones to send it.

A burning sensation formed in the pit of my stomach, slowly getting hotter and hotter. The other me was now on his knees, crying. A Sarah made of embers formed and wrapped its arms around him in a tender embrace.

The embers told me they’d been waiting for my emergence. It excited them, all the new things we could do together. The heat spread throughout my body. Every cell, every molecule of my being, was in agony.

All I could think of was how to end it. Something glinted in my peripheral vision. The scalpel.

I lunged across the floor for it, put

it to my wrist. I could end them all with a swipe of cold steel. All I needed was the other me to do the same. I flashed him a forced smile.

He nodded.

The pain suddenly intensified. My fingers loosened against my will. The blade slid from my grip. I screamed as they directed all the pain in my body into my ocular nerves. My vision flared, blurred, blinded me for a second.

The embers promised they could make it stop. I didn’t believe them.

Across the room, the other me shook. Blood dripped from a cut on his wrist. A discarded piece of glass was on the floor at his feet. Embers/Sarah kissed the wound, cauterizing instantly.

My clone mouthed to me ‘RESIST,’ ignoring Sarah/Embers completely as she entered his body and burned him alive from the inside out.

Suddenly, the pain was gone. Embers/Sarah rose from the other me’s ashes. Naked. Glowing blue hair flowing on an invisible breeze. She smiled.

The embers told me all I need to do was get them to another planet, and they’d give me everything I ever wanted.

I could sense their desperation. I hesitated. I wept. I burned in fury and flame.

Day ?

“Growth acceleration complete…”

Extraterrestrial Fiction SavagePlanets I 76


Joe Jablonski is twice pushcart prize nominated writer based out of North Carolina, in a little town just south of Charlotte.

He has work published in around 40 markets including K-Zine, Strange Constellations, Collective Realms, and Liquid Imagination.

He’s been writing, as well as playing music and painting abstract works for over twenty years, though this is his first story back after nearly a five year hiatus away from the written word.

You can check out more of his work at http://

K. A. Williams lives in North Carolina and writes speculative, mystery/crime, general fiction, and poetry.

Writing since she was a child, none of the stories had much depth until she took a creative writing class.

Over 250 stories and poems have now been published in many different magazines.

Primarily a short story author and poet, she finds writing novellas and novels difficult, but a few are available on Amazon.

The author enjoys 70s and 80s rock music, animated movies, and CYOA games.

Arón Reinhold is a Texan who reads and writes.

He studied English Literature at the University of North Texas until graduating in 2014, working subsequently as a grassroots organizer to effect a just and sustainable society.

Recently, he returned to fiction out of a love for the craft and its inherent promise to envision a different world.

Reinhold has published scifi, horror, and western short stories in Wicked Shadow Press, Bewildering Stories, Black Petals, Frontier Tales, and Schlock! Webzine.

He can be contacted at aronreinhold [AT] protonmail. com

77 I SavagePlanets
K. A. Williams Fiction Contributor Arón Reinhold Fiction Contributor Joe Jablonski Fiction Contributor


Thomas Koperwas is a retired teacher living in Windsor, Ontario, Canada who writes short stories of horror, crime, fantasy, and science fiction.

His work has appeared, or is forthcoming in: Anotherealm; Jakob’s Horror Box; Literally Stories; The Literary Hatchet; Literary Veganism; Bombfire; Pulp Modern Flash; Savage Planets; Dark Fire Fiction; The Sirens Call; Blood Moon Rising Magazine; Corner Bar Magazine; Free Bundle Magazine; The Chamber Magazine; Suburban Witchcraft Magazine; Yellow Mama Webzine; 96th of October.

He began his professional teaching career in the high Arctic working several years in Canada's Northwest Territories.

Ria Rees writes from her cozy cottage in Wales, praying that her creations will never become sentient.

She writes Science Fiction, Horror, and most often a healthy mixture of the two.

She's especially fascinated with stories that originate in Wales and Welsh culture, and themes of abandonment and loss.

Her work is published or forthcoming in Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, Bag of Bones Press and Wyldblood Magazine.

When she isn’t writing she is reading and finding other authors online to nerd out with.

Christopher T. Dabrowski is writer and scriptwriter from Poland. He was born in Łódź and lives in Krakow. His passions: Writing, traveling, cinema, meditation, reading books.

He has written numerous books published in the US, Spain, Germany, Poland and Canada.

His most recent works include "The Prisoner of Infinity" published in 2022 and "Escape" published in 2020.

In addition to written works, he has a number of audiobooks as well.

Fans can learn more by visiting https:// krzysztoftdabrowsk.wixsite. com/krzysztoftdabrowski

Ria Rees Fiction Contributor
SavagePlanets I 78
Christopher Dabrowski Poetry Contributor Tom Koperwas Fiction Contributor

Wehope you've enjoyed this edition of SavagePlanets as much as we've enjoyed bringing it to you. We want to continue delivering incredible content to your inbox with each subsequent installment.

To do so, however, we need support from readers like you.

If you enjoy our content, please consider donating $5 (the cost of a coffee), but if that's not possible, a donation in any amount is very much appreciated.

On behalf of all of the editors and the contributors, thank you, and keep reaching for the stars!

79 I SavagePlanets 79 I Savageplanets


It's Your Turn Now!

Submit your original work for consideration.

Contributions are always welcomed. Our goal is to create a community of science fiction artists and consumers in the same planetary system. Our editors will review your submissions and will select the best of the best for inclusion in our next edition! Aliens submit!

Extraterrestrial Fiction

Have a great story to share? Submit your story to SavagePlanets for publication. If selected, your story will be displayed with images tailored to enhance it for all to enjoy. Submission guidelines are available by clicking the planetary icon or visiting our website.

Poems from Imaginaria

Our poetry editor is eager to read your speculative poetry. Anything from the fantasy world to a reality you create within its rhymes. Once selected it will bring magic to these pages. To see our guidelines click on the comet icon or visit our website.

Future Artifacts

Herein, Multimedia replaces a thousand words. Art, photos, video clips, sculpture, and all other forms of visual manifestation are welcome. Challenge us to see the future through your eyes! Guidelines available by clicking the poly-form icon here, or visiting our website.


Look what happens when I hit it with this shrink ray! If you can tell a complete science fiction story in two sentences this is for you. Post your story on Twitter or Instagram at #SavagePlanets, and we might just feature it here. See rules by clicking on the rocket or visiting our site.

SavagePlanets I 80


1. Pick any whole number between 1-10.

2. Double it!

3. Multiply the total by five.

4. Divide the answer by your original number.

5. Subtract seven. That's your fortune number! Many good fortunes! Only one bad fortune. Don't select the bad fortune. Good luck!


#1: The nebula you've been studying will spontaneously birth a brand-new star. Witness the beauty of cosmic creation.

#2: A malfunction in your ship's AI will lead to an unprecedented discovery. Proceed with curiosity.

#3: The notorious alien chef Zorgon will take a liking to your taste buds. Run fast, as the 'Zorgon Special' is rumored to include unusual you! Choose another fortune, quick!

#4: You'll broker a peace treaty between the feuding civilizations of Zeta and Epsilon. Diplomatic success awaits!

#5: A drifting comet will reveal an exotic mineral never seen before. Your name will be attached to this precious new element.

#6: During an intense round of Galactic Blackjack, you'll acquire the legendary spacecraft, the 'Stardust Strider'. Don't mind the ghost stories; it's simply previous owner nostalgia.

#7: You'll be presented with the opportunity to purchase an A.I. assistant modelled on a renowned galactic philosopher. Consider this with care!

#8: Your upcoming deep-space expedition will impress a cosmic entity. Bask in the interstellar accolades!

#9: You'll soon rise to prominence among a band of space pirates, ushering in a new era of galactic freedom.

#10: Brace yourself for a message from an alternate reality. Exciting knowledge awaits!




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