SavagePlanets, October 2021

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SavagePlanets k,,l

Contents Signals from the Stellar Core


Sam's Pair of Gilas


Destroy with Love


Planetary Communiqué


Sci-Fi Entertainment


Felony Contempt of a Business Model


Rescue Mission


Poems from Imaginaria


Galactic Graphica


Future Artifacts




Where the Sand Meets the Snow


01 I SavagePlanets

Editor in Chief Steven S. Behram

Fiction Editor Keith 'Doc' Raymond

Poetry Editors Angela Yuriko Smith Steven S. Behram

Art Editor B.o.B.







31 SavagePlanets I 02


from the

Stellar Core

By Steven S Behram, MD Editor-In-Chief

In the third issue of SavagePlanets, we welcome both our newest contributors and many of our old friends. We have selected stories, poems, and art to spark the imagination and to titillate the mind. The stories will take you to strange new worlds or perhaps give you an eerie sense of deja vu. Either way, they may offer both comfort and terror in equal measure. Because here, dreams and nightmares collide! These Trojan Asteroids In our last publication, we asked for your help to grow and expand our sci-fi family. Thank you to the many writers, artists and contributors that heeded our call. Your contributions form the backbone of this publication. Kudos to our growing community. A Vision for Future Generations Speculative fiction is about the future. In this publication, we sample the futurist spirit in several ways and from a variety of different perspectives. We see poems of love and sacrifice. We see stories of torment and malfunction. And we see art of pain and pleasure. 03 I SavagePlanets

The Galactic Bulge In the Planetary Communiqué, news travels faster than light as we receive punishment from our extra-terrestrial Overlord, who goes to even further extremes to ridicule us and our space program. It seems billionaires in space are a fine recipe to amuse and entertain other alien civilizations throughout the galaxy. Keep up the good work and remember we are all here at the pleasure of our extra-terrestrial Overlord. In Extraterrestrial Fiction, we present five wonderful tales. "Sam’s Pair of Gilas" shows the extremes

in sacrifice required to safeguard future generations. "Destroy with Love" takes us on a journey into the dark and bizarre world of the Shadow Crow. In "Felony Contempt of a Business Model" we see the hollow and inhumane world created by soulless corporations eager to use us for rent extraction. In “Rescue Mission” the best laid plans can go awry. And, finally, “Where Sand Meets the Snow” we leave you with a heart-pounding, action-packed saga of a man and his Oldsmobile! Our Entertainment section is chock full of interviews with science fiction writers and reviews of current media and computer games. Meet Cory Doctorow, savor Cyberpunk 2077, and live in the ashfall of Katla, among others.

Poems from Imaginaria presents five speculative poems covering themes ranging from Asian monsters to aliens and fae behind waterfalls. While in our section, Galactic Graphica, we present the continuing saga of "X Planet." A graphic novel about life in a secret world where boys will be boys and all life-sustaining planets exist in the functional equivalent of Spring Break. Then, in Future Artifacts, we showcase more computer-generated art paired with our favorite science fiction quotes. Our A.I. art editor provides the titles, and the computer generates art in this hypnotic feast for the eyes. Finally, in Subspace, our fan based sci-fi section, we offer seven cleverly written speculative stories, comprising only two sentences each!

Now you can get your science fiction fix in under a minute!

The Virgo Cluster We want your feedback and support. Please visit us on and consider contributing content to our next edition.

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SAM’S PAIR OF GILAS by Benjamin DeHaan

My thoughts grow vulgar. But the situation I am in is because of protocol Dom Ex Ten. The environment they have subjected me to has made me into what I am now. I am a furious mother who couldn’t meet her daughter."

I won’t let the Gilas die. Letting an entire race vanish from the starry outback of our home system is deviltry beyond what my mind can tolerate. I’ve seen too much death. I’ve been so close to it I can still smell it from my womb. I rub my stomach just below the belly button where the machine sliced me open and took the life I created, only to return my hand to the pod’s manual steering console. I try not to think of that time, but the memories run on repeat as my mind tries to make sense of it. In the end, I’m not ready to handle the reality of what I lost and will forever miss. The Gilas’ eggs they stole are on the transporter ahead of me. It’s the last lot. It is a Ganan square that runs on photon pulse 05 I SavagePlanets

energy and only exists to serve the Dominion Ex Legislature of expansion. Humans only, all other species scheduled for extermination. Genocide. I look through the infrared scanner on my rescue pod. I detached it from the mother ship last night. Out the emergency exit port, I see they scooped up a hefty number of younglings to be thrown into Gorza 2. The Gila (pronounced Geela, not Heela as Passa keeps saying) are just egg cores to be tossed into the stellar furnace of the star and boiled to goo. They are the last eggs of their species. Maybe two hundred. A drop in the bucket compared to the forty billion strong that existed just two years ago.

The life I once had in me was innocent. But they took her from me too because she lacked qualities of the future Dom Ex Ten human protocol that required all newborns to conform to their strict specifications. The Planetary federation legislature believes the only way to save humanity is to make sure that it breeds genes of excellence into future generations. Inferiority in the human genome brought forth too many plagues, wars, and economic destruction. They cut Jala out of me and put a nuke charge into her brain, vaporizing her into dust. They sucked her out of a vent like exhaust. I hate going over this. My jaw tightens every time. I take a deep breath and exhale, but the loss remains.

Extraterrestrial Fiction

The hook, the Ganan squares docking station, comes into view and I begin my approach. The heat from Gorza 2 cooks the pod’s surface like a weld joint under a jet flame and the outside of my viewing panel flickers and spits fire. They will launch the eggs soon. My pod creaks under the immense radiation and heat. “We know what you are doing…” Passa says. The comm crackles and burps, but I will have none of it. Listening to the commander’s voice, listening to someone that wants nothing more than to cook embryos so humanity can dominate yet another sector of worthless galactic space brings bile up into my eardrums. My pod latches on and rumbles to a halt.

The seal hisses, and the pod door sucks like a thick kiss and opens. It’s time to go, but I have an unsettling mixture of conflicting emotions. I set my welder ray to C-5 and hope whatever container is holding the eggs deep inside doesn’t require much more power to sever it from its mooring. Passa’s voice comes again. “Sam, disobeying extinction protocol puts you at about twenty years inside a cold square of concrete. Is that what you want?” Passa is my commander. But she won’t dissuade me. Not now. She’s pissed, I know that snarl in her voice. Passa may not like that I just stole a pod from her precious little ship, but I don’t care. She doesn’t deserve to be pissed; I do. “Screw you,” I answer, and my

forearm tightens to tungsten carbide on the controls. I hear her scoff through the pod’s intercom. Releasing the manual steering joystick, I make my way back down the corridor of the colossal brick I spent weeks in under cryo-sleep. I need a break from the pain. I need release. My pod detaches and returns via auto pilot to its own hook. Passa lays into me. When the Yodmen come, I can see Passa’s brown eyes peeping through all of them. The little metal contraptions roll forward on all four walls of the white corridor. I almost chuckle. Passa is them and the Yodmen are her. I see her body wrapped tight as a tick in piezo film, relaying her will to the little maggots that scramble across my vizzosplay. SavagePlanets I 06

I check my pod’s remote cam on my gauntlet. The eggs are in clusters in the other transporter surrounded by thick hardened reinforced carbon PVA. It will take my welder a little more time to break through. I reach back and touch the muzzle of my Sinner strapped to my shoulder blade and almost feel sorry for whoever takes a bite from this bitch. My thoughts grow vulgar. But the situation I am in is because of protocol Dom Ex Ten. The environment they have subjected me to has made me into what I am now. I am a furious mother who couldn’t meet her daughter. Anger doesn’t explain what festers in me. It’s something else. People try to explain things to themselves. Scholars and scientists try to put things into terminology and define things. But you can’t define everything. You can’t know everything. Everyone has personal stories they can’t quantify no matter how many conscious root-ripping encoders they apply to a brainstem. I lift a canteen of Plug bug juice to my lips, watching the Yodmen. It goes down like an elixir from the

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petroleum days. It tastes so friggin’ good I barely realize I have a mission to complete. The floor vibrates and the air stinks as I stir from my day trance. The Yodmen come. I bet they are easy targets. Any mere small fry transporter pilot like me could wipe them out like an eye crust in the morning. I can almost hear the Sinner on my shoulder laughing. Giant cockroaches. I smell their fuel mist and by the time my smile withers; the air sparks into a roaring flame. Heat blows past my ears. And then a mushroom of glazed flame snakes at me quicker than I expect and my vizzosplay flares white. I land on my side and clench my teeth. My shoulder blade smashes onto the metal deck and makes a pop. Crap. Heat and fire flash over my head, and a bitter smoky smell lingers. My skull feels like it’s peeling and my right arm hangs useless. The Yodmen unit that flamed me approaches on its mini tank treads, and I smell the petrol stink again. Four more surround that one and

idle, no doubt I can drink the air, it’s so thick with fumes. Passa runs the Yodmen with a gamer’s precision in her little safety capsule. Probably a wall ten inches thick in titanium reinforced graphite protecting her tight little commander’s body. When this is all over, she will have to bathe in the aftermath of her decisions. It’ll be a strong acid, leaving burns that won’t last. On her, they never do. I rotate the Sinner off my back and into my left hand while smashing my right shoulder into the wall. POP. I bring the plasma rifle up into firing position. Passa screams through the comm. The Yodmen that flamed me flashes into blue neon and its platinum head bursts open like a zit. The other four try to fire on me, but they flickered, their fumes igniting them, like boiling eggs, and they explode. The ceiling drips with their metallic remains. A domino effect ignites the gas coming off the other Yodmen. The walls blister, exposing burnt, frayed wire, and fused silicon

a new future. I take two of the eggs and place them carefully in my backpack. A male and a female. They are both the size of an earth musk melon and they fit perfectly into my pack. But they are heavy, my shoulders pulled down by their weight. I love it. These two beauties are coming with me to a place I know they will flourish. It will take centuries perhaps, but they will restore the Gilas back to their former greatness. They may even find a joy that their ancestors never would have dreamed possible. I know it; I believe it. Believe in them, and maybe someday they will remember my selfless act. Likely they won’t. I’ll be dead, but I’ll leave something for them in the end. An effigy they can remember me by. Yet even stone crumbles. At least in this life, I will know that I acted to save them and did the right thing. Control your fate, I believe. That seems impossible. I run back to my pod at the other end of the mother ship. Passa’s in full battle gear that looks like crystal, impossible to scratch even if you rubbed diamond against it. Plasma shells flash by, detonating above and beyond me. G-forces like hammer blows, making my head spin. It’s hard to get a grip on what’s real and what’s not. The pulsoid rifle rounds distort the air in localized space and create incredible compression waves equivalent to what soldiers felt under bombardment back in the oil days. Everything blurs. Don, Don, Don. They come fast and heavy, thick and tough. Gyon, Gyon, Gyon. The shells are spraying rainbows of refracted light. I see Passa’s smile emerge from the thick spun metal crystal of her suit.

My vision tunnels as the explosions redefine my world. I’m not sure I’ll make it. I arrive at the pod door with my ears pounding, and bang my fist on the latch so hard I swear I feel bones snap in my hand. My brain sloshes around in my skull from the shock waves as I jump into the pod. Screams come from the corridor, but the hatch latches shut with a quick suction and hiss and I am finally by myself with my pair of Gilas. I worry about them. They are the last of their kind and I’m not sure how they’ll make it to our destination. My mind fades. The hatch glows, and I know Passa is about ten seconds from breaching the pod. “You stupid bitch!” she screams. “I thought I could trust you.” Trust? I forgot trust when she carried out her orders to exterminate the Gilas. As a pilot that has dealt with extra-terrestrials in all the known sectors, all I can muster forth is another, “Screw you.” The pulsoid rounds after-effects are more than I can handle. Pounding away at the control panel repeatedly missing the pressure plate to activate the pod’s launch sequence, I can’t shake the sonic forces aftermath. I turn my head and everything I see duplicates to infinity. I throw up. My vision blackens, and before I can attempt to fight back, the pod shudders. Escape vector enabled. Then darkness pulls me backward and washes my mind into a slate of nothingness.

Extraterrestrial Fiction

carbide. Fortunately, the firestorm blew away from me rather than toward, or I would have been incinerated too. Passa rages. Virtually burning in her piezo wrap along with her toys. I just collapsed her toughest security firewall. Not only was I able to get past Passa’s Ganan square encryption, I popped my pod off its hook without issue. Sometimes it helps to make hacker friends Earth-side. I make my way through the labyrinth of ash covered corridors and approach the transporter’s hatch leading to the eggs. I can barely breathe as I march. This plan felt like a fantasy when I worked it out on my pad. I ran simulations back in my bunker, but now it’s almost too real. My mind scrambles and my body trembles with the adrenaline. My welder cuts through the lock like butter and I push the door open. They piled the Gila eggs in a pyramid. The container it was in looked like a dome inside the transporter. A chamber of death to be boiled in Gorza 2’s fire. Before I can even take another breath, I feel my tears trickle down my chin. It’s not fair. They haven’t even broken their shells that keep them safe from the elements. Passa would incinerate them before they even got to taste life. I wipe the sweat dripping into the fresh burn wound on my temple. The sting is nothing compared to my heart pumping with pain. Pain, the Gilas parents might feel losing their brood. Giving into my despair, I almost wave the white flag, but then I slap myself. I am going to get them out. I’m going to rescue them. Their destiny isn’t something that has to end in a stellar furnace. I will pry it away, change it, and guide them to

I’m not sure If I’m awake yet. But I know that this dream I’m having is definitely not in my snug little pod set on a course to TX-5. It’s a white room. I see the entire SavagePlanets I 08

room as if I’m looking through a spy cam stuck to the ceiling. A woman is on her back on a gantry and she slides into a large contraption shaped like a giant grain of rice. Only her head protrudes from the top. She looks wildly in all directions as two doctors cross the black checker tile floor to a data terminal. My camera lens zooms in. She’s weeping. Her face is red, lips puffy, saliva running down the sides of her cheeks; her brown hair matted with sweat. She looks lost. It’s me. I’m Sam. There’s Jala. We are supposed to be together now. I am supposed to be watching her grow, become a lady. Empower her to take on the world and not give up. But she’s gone now and so is my heart. The white oval chamber glows, servos hum. A robotic arm comes down toward the gantry, piercing my neck and delivers the anesthesia. I feel prickly. My head goes limp and my eyes close, but I can still see myself from above through the eye in the ceiling, I can hear the wet slicing, and smell burnt skin cauterize. A flash of fluorescence from within spills across my face. The doctors nod at each other. My body slides back out from the oval chamber. Below my belly button there is a puffy, swollen pink line from hip to hip. I’m still drifting, head limp, eyes half open, staring up at the ceiling, up at me, looking down in the dream. I waken slowly. The doctors’ eyes grow wide, looking above their clipboards at me. Then, like a nail hammered hard into flesh and bone, I let out a scream. I try to remember. There was something significant about that scream, something that induced such 09 I SavagePlanets

sadness and pain in the moment. I remember it, because I didn’t even have time to see Jala’s face. No. That’s not it. It was something else. It was something more significant. It had to be, because I could never hold her in my arms. The lack of touch. Not being able to feel her soft skin against my own. I think that’s it, but I’m still not convinced. I remember my scream. And I think that’s my voice. I screamed because I never had time to see her come into this world. I screamed because they silenced her and I didn’t get to hear her cry. We never got to cry together.

I wake in the pod shaking, face drenched, and my brain still feels like Passa squeezing it in her vice. Her pulsoid rifle did a number on me. I take in deep breaths, the spinning gratefully slowing as my vision clears. All the objects in front of me settle into one location and I see straight now. On the orange neon holo-map, my pod dances back and forth, in and out of an asteroid cluster. The cursor blinks over TX-5 when it appears on the display. I put a hand on the pair of Gila eggs, resting in my poly foam case strapped to the wall. They are the only hope for their species. What a responsibility to have. I want to see them flourish; I want to see them grow, and become a noble race again. My stomach feels sour at the thought of not being able to see them prosper. We need each other now, that’s all that matters. We need to take each other to the place we really belong. These Gilas, these little eggs, they’ll give me a chance to redeem myself

in this life. Countdown to atmosphere finishes with a great jolt to the pod. We slam into TX-5’s thermosphere. A red fiery of flame tails out into the void from my side view panel. The pod, a ball of fire, vibrating as molten plasma from the nose cascades past the view port. I take the egg pack from the wall and strap it to my chest. Though the shells are about

three millimeters thick, I can’t take a chance. I hold them in tight to my womb as if trying to incubate them. The eggs rumble and I can feel the Gilas swim and bump into the shell walls. It won’t be long before they come cracking into this world. I need to hurry. The parachute opens.

Gilas, forcing them onto ships to be incinerated. But today it will be different. This will be the place they are reborn, the first place they will come forth like blooms opening after a week’s worth of rain. Emotions flood, tears flow, and I realize that instead of being just a simpleton pilot, my efforts mean

something. I’m doing something in this life that has value, that has purpose, that has standing power in a galaxy that overlooks genius, ability, charisma, and power. I will not deprive the Gilas the opportunity to spike evolution. To move forward fast and furious, true and thorough. My efforts probably will go unrecognized. It fades into gray nothingness. Forgotten, like a stone tossed into the middle of the sea in a storm. Is this truly what you deserve? Are these thoughts what you really desire? My mind spins with questions and even at this last step, it tries to derail the mission at hand, but I’ll have none of it. The only thing that matters now, at this moment, is to see these eggs hatch on this world. So they may fight against the black infectious will of Dom Ex to erase them from galactic history. The more I think about it, the more I want to crack the universe in half and see it rot to the core and become the darkest hue of black, a thick fat darkness that can’t even escape itself from a black hole’s gravity pull. As I contemplate this, my pod slams into the lake, skipping like a stone until it slows and settles, steaming. We float along with the surface wind like a bobber in a summer pond until the sound of scraping tells me we grounded on the island. Sinner strapped to my shoulder, Gilas placed back in my pack. I slam my fist on the pod door release, and look up as the hatch opens with a hiss. I close my eyes and breathe in the air of this Dom Ex designated planet. TX’s star shine defrosts my bones and the light that bathes me feels like a

warm blanket in mid-winter. “Soon this place will be yours,” I say to the little eggs, and begin my trek to the middle of the island through thick woods and wet air. The humidity wears me down. It’s the only thing left that Dom Ex hasn’t been able to perfect in their terraforming protocol. It doesn’t matter. This world will be the land of Gilas once more. Then my work will be done. I believe this to the core. By bringing them to life once again, even if the enemy tries, they won’t be able to exterminate them. I took an immunity serum effective against their wicked, relentless genocide. My little pair will also get a dose for themselves in the end. I come to the center of the island, a barren grassland with thick brush, grass, and young Tisa trees no taller than knee height, and feel a quietness in the air that makes me tremble. A stream of ice water runs along my spine despite the hot, humid air of the island. I see brown soil ahead and at the center of the grassland there’s buried deep, a marble cross in the ground. It is a gravestone, it’s the monument to their genocide. Written on the stone are these words: ‘Let us honor the Gilans, let us pray to them, and let us live with them in our memory. Here lies the last place of the Gilans, forever remembered, forever recognized as a stepping stone to the glory of Dominion Ex and humanity. Love thy humans, love thy worlds, love thy eternal prosperity.’ I stare at the rock built by my people—a thing stuck in the ground, something meaningless—and want nothing more than to send a plasma round from my Sinner into it and blow it apart. Blow it to oblivion. “Hand them over, Sam!”

Extraterrestrial Fiction

Another g-force pull. The viewport clears. A smile cracks across my face as TX-5’s surface comes into view. A lush green fills the viewport. Gray mountains surround a lake. At the center, there it is. My pair of Gila’s home, the lake island, a grassy knoll, lonely and secluded. The last place that was purged. The last place they rounded up the

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The hair on my neck stands. I gulp down a lead ball and tightness slithers down my esophagus. And then, I swing my Sinner into firing position. Passa’s head is in my sights. She also has me in hers. Two soldiers behind her dance into the periphery of my vision, lasers on my face, looking just as eager to pull the trigger and kill me as Passa does. This clearly will not end well. I’m outnumbered and I’ll be dead before I get off enough shots to protect the Gilas. They vibrate in my bag. I feel their warmth against my stomach. My ears ring and I grow dizzy. My vision blurs. I hear screams as a recoil throws me backward. “You must kill them!” Passa cries out in agony. I hear grunts and rough breathing. That must be the soldiers. Then there are thick, fast gurgles. I shake my head, trying to clear my vision. I need to see what’s going on. Why am I not dead? Why do I hear nothing but hot choking and heavy breathing? The high pitch whining fades, coming from the Gilas eggs, then grows faint as my vision clears. I approach, the three bodies limp and dismembered in death. Their eyes bulge and crimson flows from every orifice, including where their limbs used to be. I am in awe of the eggs nestled on my belly over my womb. Their irresistible power. Like claymore 11 I SavagePlanets

mines, they blew the threat away. Directional destruction in an act of self-preservation. Sensing the threat, they acted, a skill that would normally take them at least five Earth years after hatching to master. They are special, making me even more eager to bring them forth into this world. Help them take back home, to what is theirs. I return to the marble cross

and lean back against it. The sky is perfect. Thick milky clouds bursting on a blue canvas. The eggs settled down and I lift them out of the bag and place them beside me. I take my top off and bare my skin to the elements. I take an egg in each hand. The one

in my left hand is turquoise and she will be stronger than the male. There is already a long crack forming on the side of the shell. She must have been the one who focused their hypersonic shock waves on Passa and the others, sending them to their eternal sleep. The male egg is speckled black and white. My boy will also come cracking into this world, but just like his sister, he will need help to make it to his next stage. They need nourishment. I sense it now more than ever. I point the eggs’ soft tips down and plunge them hard through the opposite ends of my womb scar. And, like a shot, the pressure releases the Gilas and they swim inside me, tearing through me. I can feel them gnawing, chewing, hollowing me out. The searing pain climbs all the way into my heart. My breasts fill with milk for them. But nothing hurts as much as the thought of not seeing them grow and thrive in the world that is theirs. Weaker now, it’s my time to go. My whole body goes numb and the pain fades. I can do nothing but enjoy the little ones as they snuggle inside me. “It’s almost time,” I say to my lost baby. And when I open my eyes for the last time and look to the sky, I see a cloud shaped like a hand. I see Jala reaching out for me. She says, “Come home.”

Extraterrestrial Fiction

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SavagePlanets I 12


Their strange homes smelled of nothing but still burned the foliage, tainted the soil until it cracked painfully. Shadow Crow didn’t trust them. His world could eject them, if it could reach them, but they stay sealed away for the most part. But Eva could reach them."

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Extraterrestrial Fiction

Eva watched the moons rise, following each other in a path across the setting sun like a rope of pearls against molten gold. The gathering shadows called forth the luciferin in the soil. It rose as a luminous mist, like the aurora borealis she’d seen on Terran feeds, but its unearthly glow seemed wasted on the cold stars. Here it was life giving as the microbes drifted across her skin, feeding and re-vitalizing her. Her flesh glittered as the mist settled

on her, drawn to her warmth. The rest of her colony feared it, but Eva knew this world was alive. The mist was symbiotic. It was beneficial. It was only her people that refused to cooperate and integrate with the macro-biome. A Plutonian plume drifted across her vision and Eva knew her friend, the Shadow Crow, was with her. “Why are you dark?” he asked, his words as sharp as his beak. “That is my purpose.” The bioluminescence

recoiled from him. Between them was an absence of life and light. The shadow ruffled his feathers and hopped forward to eye the chain of moons and the small settlement below. “Why are you dark?” He asked again and turned to look at her. His eyes were gleaming, intensely white, illuminating her face. He studied her for a half minute before shielding the glare behind his secondary and third lids.

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Blinded, any other colonist would recoil under such burning observation, but not Eva. Shadow Crow was her friend. But he was right. Today they were both cloaked in gloom. “They have chosen me to procreate,” she finally said. Her voice was flat and emotionless. “I either accept this fate and hate myself or don’t accept it, and they will hate me. Either choice leaves me with hate.” She blinked against the spots that swam in her vision and turned to him. “My people don’t belong here. They don’t understand this place. We should destroy them.” His vacant, ember gaze swept over her. A young girl raised in a bubble with no stories to tell. She had no tears to nourish her soul. She had no experience to understand her words. But what she said was true. The settlement sat on the horizon like toxic bones that never decayed. Governed by logic and law, the people that built these aberrations rejected the ways of their new home planet. They bit into the flesh of the land, leaving it scarred. They reviled the night mist that nourished all things living, choosing instead to consume their own chemical nourishment. Their strange homes smelled of nothing but still burned the foliage, tainted the soil until it cracked painfully. Shadow Crow didn’t trust them. His world could eject them, if it could reach them, but they stay sealed away for the most part. But Eva could reach them. “Your people leave a death stink. I would like to be rid of them, but you will be alone here with no companions. Is procreation so vile you would exterminate your people and die alone in this place. A place

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strange to you?” She thought of the governor with his superior genetics. Genetics that he must pass on by legal decree. She thought of her sister, she who procreated with him last year. Her sister’s body rejected his biological burden, paying the ultimate price, and died. The colony said it was because she had not been grateful for the gift of new life he gave her. Eva didn’t think she would be grateful, either. “Yes,” she answered. “But this place is not strange to me. I don’t remember my past world, just this one. Will you help me?” The Shadow Crow studied her, turning his head this way and that to peer through his translucent lids at this strange creature. She did not reject his

world. Perhaps it should not reject her. “We can see.” “What can I give you in return?” asked Eva. “We shall see,” he said. He spread his wings until they blotted out the moons, sunk his talons into her shoulders and rose into the air. He flapped, straining to carry her added weight. The girl’s wails of pain cut through the night and filled the Shadow Crow’s wings with vengeance, lifting him above

the settlement and carrying them into the hills. He did not want to hurt her, but pain often came with healing. He flew her through the gathering night, through shadowed canyons to a bacterial spring, and set her down. Her shoulders ran with blood where his talons pierced her during the flight, because the wind fought against him, attempting to snatch her away. He had to grip her tightly or lose her in the forest below. “If the spring does not kill you, you will become one with this world. You can bring its power back to destroy your people...” Above them, the sky turned crimson. The spring bubbled directly from the living heart of the world. Lush and alive, the liquid ebbed and flowed, a pulsing part of the planet’s circulatory system. Pale, like jade milk, the rising sun set the microbes living within it into motion. They glinted, sparks of opal fire, as the light caught their movement. The pool invited her. She

stepped down into it. The living water flowed around her, warm and viscous. It tingled on her skin as it absorbed, entering her bloodstream with gifts of

endo and o slipp was her p Crow bran in to The d more watc yield lost t happ Durin move The t ing fr the s air be Whet part subte the b knew syne Eithe these

th the p

pearlescent moons were vanishing one by one beneath he horizon, she came out of pool. She had changed. Her

youthful body had matured from flat planes to curves. Like the spring, her skin glowed like jade milk, a subtle vitality flowing beneath it. Her eyes sparked with fragmented fire like opals. She stepped onto the shore and the liquor flowed from her flesh, leaving her glistening in the air. “And now?” asked the Shadow Crow. “I return!” He took her back, but this time she rode on his back, face buried in his ebony feathers. No more the outsider. She was now just a different aspect of this world. Not other, but another. The settlement still sat on the crust of the world, an ill-fitting prosthetic shoved into place with no obvi- ous need for it. He set

down, and she slid off. “And now?” asked Eva. “Destroy them. Now, I return!” Like a shadow passing before the sun, he vanished in a blink of an eye. Stepping through the door into the plasticine pod, so did she. And the planet spun on. The moons rose and set and everything changed. Years later, the Shadow Crow found himself back by the place of strangers. The white cocoons were still there, but they no longer clung to the surface like bloodless

scabs. They had become part of the landscape. The plant growth, once injured by their noxious touch, had adjusted and made concessions. These opposing species had compromised and made peace. The huts had multiplied, now built from soil and vine, grown from the planet as opposed to pasted onto it. In the huts lived strange people with jade milk skin and flashing opalescent eyes. The children of Eva… and then Shadow Crow saw Eva herself. Older, bent, but still strong. Her skin wrinkled, but still vital. Her eyes flashed vividly, with opal fire recessed in her deeply carved cheeks. There was much life still there. Eva saw him on the edge of the settlement, dark and alone, and welcomed him as an old friend. Drawn to walk among them, the Shadow Crow was a celebrity. The children danced about with excitement. “It’s him! The Shadow Crow! For real! Eva’s stories are true!” There was only love in their eyes. “I thought you were going to destroy them,” said the Shadow Crow. “I thought you had no choice!” They stopped in the shade made from living, interlaced branches. A loquat-like yellow fruit hung low, enchanting them with a sweet scent. She plucked one and handed it to him. The taste was like sunlight and honey. It was strange to him, but wonderful. “I destroyed them!” she said. “Destroyed them all with love. To destroy with love — a thing no one can defend against, but then, no one dies from either.” Shadow Crow plucked another fruit and marveled as the juice ran down his beak. It was both wonderful and strange.

PlanetsRising I 16

Extraterrestrial Fiction

orphin, serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin. She smiled as she ped beneath the surface. This a feeling she’d never known in plasticine world. The Shadow w found a tangled copse of nches, built a nest, and settled wait. day passed, yielding once e to the parade of moons. He ched the galaxies spin until they ded back again into day. He track of how many times this pened because it didn’t matter. ng that time, there was no ement in the spring. thick waters continued passrom the planet’s interior up to surface, sucking sunlight and efore vanishing underground. ther the girl had become of that flow, slipping through erranean arteries or just lay at bottom of the pool, he neither w nor cared. The planet would ergize with her or reject her. er way, the planet would know e aliens. And then one morning, as the

Planetary Communiqué 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.

Your Overlord Grawth, the Gaseous, has permitted your race to view our most primitive surveillance technologies on your planet. We are aware that you refer to our surveillance drones as Tic-Tacs. If you want the instrument of your doom to be named after a breath mint, so be it. I am Hojack, your underlord and this is your quarterly communiqué. First, know your place: Your species is like a piece of gum that gets stuck to the bottom of our shoes. We are trying to scrape you off on the nearest curb without getting our hands dirty, but you continue to stick to us in the most aggravating way. We are an expansive and space faring race. The furthest you’ve gone in your tiny little vessels, with only three people, is to your only satellite. A puny dead moon orbiting your world. We have colonized planets by the billions. You must leave one of your astronauts circling in a ship while two descend and land on the surface of that *blech* clingon asteroid. Your so-called science is an insult to all life-forms, both intelligent and backward. The latter of which you did not even qualify to be called. Our sensors regularly beam back images of your scientific “progress” for immediate transmission to our comedy channels back home. You are the basis of a very popular program called “Sapiens in Space.” It has been an instant hit for the past six decades in the outer arm of the 17 I SavagePlanets

galaxy. We find Einstein and Murdin particularly amusing! Black holes, seriously?! So take your multi-millionaires and billionaires and continue to launch them on a trip-to-nowhere in your little toy rockets. It’s a comedic boon for us back home! The ratings have been through the roof as you contemplate “… to the moon, Mars, and beyond.” What a joke! We have school children that build more advanced vessels to travel to nearby solar systems for homework. Pathetic. It pleases your Overlord Grawth that your race is so contrary. One of the few reasons he has not atomized your planet for the crime of gross stupidity. It’s because he likes when evolution goes wrong, the result is so hilarious we can’t help but to stop and stare. You are one of evolution’s greatest jokes. Apes on typewriters, you might say, in your idiom. Lord Grawth believes humans may be ready to take the next step into space, but space clearly isn’t ready for disgusting humans. We hope you continue to embarrass

yourselves for decades and decades, adding humiliation to yourselves and comedy to our lives, as you bumble your way onward and take your first steps off your miserable, insignificant planet. Remember, the only thing that will save you from the wrath of Lord Grawth will be ratings. Try to do something semi-intelligent. If you stumble and fall, your civilization will have nothing of value to offer the Overlord. Let me tell you, I know it will certainly spell your doom. He’s smashed entire systems for less. We call our second highest entertainment series, “Extinct Species” and I am sure, one day soon, it will feature Humans. Edict #1 Your billionaires must continue to build rockets that blatantly look like human male genitalia. This is hilarious to our viewers. While our engineers assure us that there is no basis in science for such a rocket design, we enjoy seeing your erections at work.

Edict #2 You must send all your celebrities into space. We love it! Our space tourists, in their stealth luxury craft, particularly enjoy catching glimpses of your aging social icons, staring out of those tiny windows with that dumbfounded look on their faces. It is priceless. We feature snaps of them on asocial media. Just so you know, for some time, our experts thought you were exiling your celebrities and launching them off world because of low ratings. This triggered a huge scholarly debate on many of our civilized planets, as there was no good explanation for this bizarre behavior. There was even a minor war that briefly erupted over this scholarly dispute. But the Overlord resolved it with the detonation of a Tri-cobalt device (I wonder if I should have shared that techno tidbit with you, but then probably it’s beyond your measly minds), resulting in the death of some three billion inhabitants.

Why achieve space travel in a decade, when you can prolong your stalled progress and take a century or longer? And how much fun is exploration when you add a profit motive? Yes, we insist your companies compete and conceal their discoveries and innovations! We count on it. After all, many sentient beings have already colonized the galaxy. We can’t wait for you to exploit us with your greed and ulterior motives. Oops, one Slashveganian fell off his tripod laughing! What amazes us is that you actually believe you're tough enough to step off your world? You’ll find that the ‘big boys’ that you encounter out here are a diverse group of trans-sentient organisms that will devour you, chew on your bones, and spit you out into the vacuum just because of your misogynistic comment about calling them ‘big boys!’ We can’t wait! Please step off your planet and face humiliation! We divided life in the Universe into two groups: those who get it, and those who don’t. You are special because you do not fall into either category. An oblivious species incapable of even understanding what you do not yet understand. You send these ‘passengers’ to space, yet you do not understand that they’re not really going into space. They are still within the atmosphere of your planet! How can I put it in your vernacular, you’re dingbats? Your overlord intends to allow you to continue your suborbital flights. He requests you commercialize it by plastering logos on the outside of your genital-shaped ships and charging exorbitant fees to rich idiots to travel on these flying billboards. His Highness also requests that the creatures you call “CEOs” continue to rib each other regarding this most serious of human endeavors. They say you cannot hear someone scream in space. This is true. But really, you should hear us laugh at you in the despicable silence. One day, when the humor of your space flight attempts has worn off, we will prohibit you from space travel altogether to avoid your contamination of the galaxy. Until then, 3…. 2…. 1…., and Blast Off!

Edict #3 I remain your humble Underlord Hojack. I hereby order you to continue to make space a “competitive arena.” As hard as space travel has been for you, we appreciate your continued tradition of competition instead of cooperation. Not to mention your laughable Space Force! But then, why should nations compete when large corporations (by your standards) can join in the fun?

PlanetsRising I 18


The thing that makes film noir so engaging is not what we can see but what we can’t. It is the eeriness out there in the dark that threatens to grab the characters and drag them off into the night. Although one might not think of the Netflix series Katla as film noir, I believe it falls into that category. The main character is an actual volcano named Katla. One that never speaks a word and yet is an ever imposing presence, turning day into night. The story and the series starts on a farm, in a church, in a

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hotel, and at a research station all covered in the falling ash in and around the town of Vik. The ash clings to you, and when you brush it off, it leaves a smudge. A metaphor for what the viewer experiences. You can’t breathe the ash, and people near Katla must wear respirators and gas masks. The locals have abandoned the region. It is no longer safe. Those that remain in the nearby town are stubborn or have to be there, like the police chief, the hospital doctor, the farmer and his wife, and the odd hotel owner that reads tarot, not to mention the vulcanologists at the research station. Each of them will come under the spell of the volcano. They will question their sanity as they fall prey to folklore, history, and the strange happenings they

can’t explain. Katla is a weird blend of the macabre, combining mystery with the wonder of people facing a series of impossibilities. It will give the viewer shivers and provide insight into the culture of Iceland. Created and written by Sigurjón Kjartansson, and directed mostly by Baltasar Kormákur, they take the viewer into this sub-glacial reality. One both chilling and inspiring. Emerging from the ash, people who have died, people from twenty years before, and others. Rescued from the mountain by those remaining in town. These strangers walk from the glacier beneath the volcano, all painted black. At first we think they are survivors trapped there while hiking, but we soon discover they are more. Much more. There is talk of similar events occurring seven hundred years before. Events the locals are experiencing now. The vulcanologists examine samples from the volcano under the microscope and are finding rare and inexplicable elements present. They believe they come from a meteorite that fell a thousand years

before uncovered by the eruption. The strangers do not haunt all the researchers. Those affected by the strange events have roots in the area, as smoke and ash continue to billow from the active volcano. Our first impression that something is not right is the death of a crow that hangs around the house of the police chief. It is identifiable because of a clump of white feathers in its black coat. The Chief finds it dead one morning and buries it. Only to find it sitting on top of the pile where he buried it, very much alive the next day. Is it the same bird? The crow is the first of the changelings to appear. Soon there are others. Some of which actually duplicate the living, with significant differences in their personalities. Differences that help them resolve personal issues. Differences spawned by the locals themselves. While these ideas sounds confusing, in a way they are to all concerned. It adds to the unsettling nature of what is going on in the series as one watches it. It does not give us immediate answers, instead there are more questions and mysteries as several plots unravel. Katla is not quite horror, but it is not quite drama either. The characters are victims of their own personal dilemmas, and the changelings seek to help them, correct them. But the changelings themselves are flawed. They represent the perceptions of those who they think these replacement individuals are, rather than accurate copies of who they truly are. Characters that stand out are the depressed Grima, the younger sister of Ása. Ása disappeared a year before, and they believe she died after falling into a crevasse by the glacier. Thor, a mechanic, is the

father of Grima, Ása, and Björn. The latter of which is the son of Gunhild, a Swedish woman, who had an affair with Thor twenty years before. While Grima’s husband, Kjarsten, tries to save both his cows and his marriage beneath the ash fall. The actual Katla is a large volcano in southern Iceland. It is very active; they have documented twenty eruptions between 930 and 1918, at intervals of 20–90 years. It has not erupted violently for 103 years, although there may have been small eruptions that did not break the ice cover, including ones in 1955, 1999, and 2011. Someone supposedly named the volcano after a cruel sorceress living in the twelfth century. She worked as a housekeeper at a South Icelandic coast monastery for the Abbott. She had enchanted pants that gave anyone who wore them the ability to run without getting tired. A shepherd named Bardi borrowed them to find his lost sheep. When Katla found out he ‘borrowed’ her pants, she drowned him in acid during the winter. The acid which the monastery used to preserve food. The monks sought retribution for Katla’s crime when they found the body the following summer, but

she escaped and hid in a magma chamber. Supposedly, her enchanted pants caused the eruption, a massive one that killed her. Perhaps Bardi’s reappearance in the summer led to the idea of the series. Adding a meteor to the mix might have provided the inspiration for the creation and arrival of the changelings. For those that enjoy a bit of the dark and the unusual in their life, Katla will charge their imagination, or haunt their nightmares. A second season is currently in production, but with a return of tourists to Vik, shooting the exterior sequences will be more challenging. Who knows, we may see the return of the cruel sorceress in the next season of the series?

Promotional images are only used here for the purposes of criticism, comment and news reporting. SavagePlanets I 20

SCI-FI ENTERTAINMENT AN INTERVIEW WITH CORY DOCTOROW by Keith ‘Doc’ Raymond Science Fiction has many things to contribute to modern society beyond entertainment. One of the most potent contributions is an evaluation of current political crises. By couching today’s problems in different worlds, science fiction writers may safely test and propose solutions. Solutions that not only can go viral, but alter our future here and now. Cory Doctorow is one such author. He proposes and identifies problems, and seeks solutions, using his craft as a gateway to understanding today’s social and political issues. His recent book Radicalized does just that. Let’s take a closer look

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at the man behind the answers. First question: When your daughter is an adult, will she live in a better world or a worse world than we live in now (pandemic aside). Whichever way you say, what are the seeds of that brave new world circulating now, ready to take root? A bunch of stuff is going to happen.

We'll have more civic unrest, more floods and wildfires, more refugee crises. More pandemics. We have sunk enough heat into the seas that the poles will probably go, at least in large part (and no one is going to repeal the second law of thermodynamics, so that's that). Whether that's a better or worse world depends on what we do about it. If we deny it, or pursue non-solutions like cap-and-trade, or do anything except make profound systemic reforms, from relocating the world's coastal cities to reorienting the productive economy towards refugee crises, public health, and famine-resistant crops, then we will have a better world. Because it will be a world where we are not prisoners of fate. If we don't make that kind of

profound shift, then the world will be much, much worse. 2. /Little Brother/ is arguably your most acclaimed book. Is it your favorite? If not, which one is, and why? Sorry, I don't have favorites. I find that people who have a favorite book tend to base their lives around some pretty objectionable volumes like Mein Kampf or The Fountainhead. 3. Unlike many speculative fiction writers, you use science fiction as a platform for your politics. Have you written a story or novel that goes against your belief system, and as a result has changed your beliefs? I find it pretty easy to embody the values of my political adversaries (see the protagonist of MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH or the two mentors of ATTACK SURFACE), but writing their points of view, even making them sympathetic, doesn't change my views. The reason I hold my views is that I've already (to the best of my ability) tried to understand what the objections to them are. I've done the "iron man" (as opposed to the strawman) debate in my head. This is a pretty Marxist approach, FWIW the dialectic. So the very same exercise that lets me set out my opponents' views well is the reason that I am not swayed by those arguments. If the arguments have merit, I've already adopted those elements into my own views.

4. Virtual work, virtual education and virtual relationships are altering the architecture of human interactions. Globally, do you believe that this will create a new class structure, those that do and those that don't interact electronically? How will they differ? The more significant effect is going to be the way we, as a society, view the provision of digital network services. The current US infrastructure results from a historic accident: you had AT&T, which enjoyed nearly a century of regulated monopoly status, which was broken up at the dawn of the digital era as the last gasp of Reagan's neutered antitrust system. The subsequent re-concentration and monopolization of telecom systems turned digital networks from a nervous system for the 21st century into a giant, surveilling, badly maintained rent-extraction grift. March 2020 coalesced the chorus of widely distributed individual complaints about monopolistic carriers and poor service into a full-throated roar about the brittleness, immiseration and economic deprivation that comes of treating that one wire that delivers free speech, free association, access to employment, politics, civics, education and health as a novelty that comes bundled with your cable TV. Infrastructure projects are at the heart of the American story. Reagan staked public subsidies for rail, post, roads, electrification and phone

service through the heart and then Clinton cut off its head, stuffed its mouth with garlic and sewed its lips shut and GW buried the head at a crossroads. Trump spent four years pissing on the mourners. Can we kindle the abused, aggrieved millions who have been so horrendously screwed-over by the telecoms sector into a political force? Watch the PAC and Comcast/AT&T money that flows into Dem primary challenges and Super PACs to find the answer. 5. AI is increasingly a feature in society. Will it dehumanize humans as computers become more human? How will this alter our relationship to systems of control? There's no AI at all in our society. There's "machine learning," which, itself, is nothing more than statistical inference. It's good at identifying recurrent phenomena (if something that happens in the future is similar to something that happened in the past) and that's about all. That automates a lot of tedious tasks and may free up a lot of human capacity to do important stuff like relocate all our coastal cities 20km inland over the next 200-300 years, but it won't turn into AI any more than increasingly sophisticated horse-breeding will yield a diesel engine. We don't have a working definition of intelligence. We have no technologies that even approximate anything that looks like any of the fragmented definitions of intelligence. AI SavagePlanets I 22

may be on our horizon, but we have no existing research paths that plausibly lead to it. AI, like time-travel and FTL, is a conceit of science fiction, not a technology whose policies will be salient in the foreseeable future. 6. Your writing uses what ifs to make commentary about politics today. Will any of these become plausible scenarios, or are they simply vehicles for putting forth your ideologies? They have to be plausible in order to evince a willing suspension of disbelief, but that's not the same as them being "likely" or even "predictions." Everyone who's ever claimed to know the future was kidding themselves or kidding everyone else. Far more interesting is to influence the future, by giving people what Dennett calls 'intuition pumps' - mental rehearsals that inform their view on the correct way to tackle the challenges looming on our horizon. 7. Nationalism is the source of many of the political problems we see today. Are we entering an age of Global Government, and if so, how will it affect movement of people around the world? We already live in a world of transnational, consequential governance. The rise and rise of nontaxable corporate multinationals who secure "investor-state dispute resolution" clauses in trade agreements (which give them the

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power to overturn national safety, environment or health laws), empowered to buy and neutralize any nascent competitor and merge with any major competitor. Moreover, the firms that notionally watchdog these behemoths, the Big Four accountancy/ auditing firms, are not merely colluding with the companies they're supposed to be overseeing, they're also owned by the same major investors. So the question is: will we create publicly accountable authorities that can check these private, unaccountable ones that serve the interests of tiny minorities? It seems likely if we get there, the global fair taxation movement will be the driver. While wealthy, "monetarily sovereign" countries (countries that borrow in the currency that they issue, like the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, the UK, etc.) don't need tax revenues to fund operations (the US Treasury can just conjure up new money) and mobilize idle labor and resources without creating inflationary pressure, since this doesn't alter the supply-demand ratio; the world's majority live in monetarily un-sovereign conditions, like Zimbabwe and Venezuela. They are horribly indebted in currencies they don't control, and can't use fiscal or monetary policy to climb out of their holes. Meanwhile, rich nations STILL need to tax the wealthy, not because we need their money, but because we need to blunt their power. Elon Musk shouldn't

be able to buy his way out of observing COVID safety rules and risking his workers' lives. Sheldon Adelson (may he burn in a hole) shouldn't be able to mobilize his fortune to buy up newspapers, fire reporters who criticize his empire, then pump out propaganda for Trump. So you have rich and poor nations allied with the need to tax the rich. Financial transparency has made enormous strides, even under Trump, with public registers of the beneficial owners of assets (like real estate), which makes it possible to tax them. The massive finance leaks (FinCEN, Paradise Papers, Luxleaks, Panama Papers, etc.) reveal the urgency of the cause. A coalition of the willing could simply strand any off-the-books assets. So the Eurozone could start by banning the repatriation of any untraceable assets, your dirty money couldn't be spent in the Eurozone. Expand that to the EU. Then the OECD. Eventually, dirty money will be stuck in places where it can’t be spent. This is basically Thomas Piketty's plan for a global wealth tax. 8. In your recent book / Radicalized/ is the story called /Unauthorized Bread/. It presents the concept, among others, of corporate sabotage to maximize a product's planned obsolescence. I, myself, have received advice provided by a computer company that intentionally shortens Lithium battery life on my device. Further research online

suggested the optimal alternative. Have you found other examples of this leading to your inspiration of the story? Or was it something else? UB isn't a story about planned obsolescence. It's about rent-extraction. Planned obsolescence is old news, but smart devices can refuse to work in ways that are bad for shareholders, even if they're good for their owners. Printers won't take third-party ink; iPhones, ventilators, tractors and cars won't accept third-party parts or service; tractors gather farmers' field telemetry and refuse to share it with the farmer, transmitting it to Bayer-Monsanto instead; phones only let you install apps the manufacturer has approved of; smart coffee-makers won't take third-party pods; and Abbott Labs' glucose monitors won't communicate with insulin pumps. 9. Money and currency are undergoing change. Does cryptocurrency and Block chain have a serious role in the future of transactions, or will they remain a niche industry? Have you written on this issue? Cryptocurrencies aren't currencies. They're unregulated speculative assets. They fail as both a store of value and a unit of exchange. Blockchains based on "proof of work" are environmental disasters. Those based on "proof of stake" increase the returns to scale, funneling wealth from small players to rich ones.

The ones based on secure attestation require DRM and are intrinsically brittle. A failure in a class of secure enclaves (something that already happens in the wild) exposes the entire ledger to subversion. Tax created money. Money that arises when a government needs to get stuff done, build roads, pay cops or soldiers, provide health care, whatever, and then it issues some kind of token (coin, paper, ledger entries) and demands that you have a certain number of these tokens at the end of the year to pay a tax. If you don't have the tax, you get punished. So people do work for the state to get money, and then people do work for the people who have money to get money, and then at the end of the year the state demands some of that money back and annihilates it, and makes new money to fund the next year's expenditures. Taxes don't fund governments. No one has any money to pay their tax until the government has spent the money into existence first. Governments are where the money comes from. Governments that run "balanced budgets" annihilate all the money they spend into existence, leaving nothing behind for the rest of us to spend, so we borrow credit-money from banks (which are chartered to serve as governments' fiscal agents), which produces interest revenue for shareholders. This is why rich people love tight monetary policy, not because it fights inflation, but because it allows the finance

sector to tax all productive economic activity by charging interest on money that would otherwise be easy to get if the government were spending to full employment. 10. What are your primary inspirational materials you used to explore and develop story ideas? For 20 years, I've maintained a daily blog; for the first 19 years that was at Boing Boing, now, it's a Synthesizing, analyzing and publishing on every news story I see is a powerful tool for organizing source materials and finding inspiration. Biography: Cory Doctorow ( is a science fiction author, activist, and journalist. His latest book is ATTACK SURFACE, a standalone adult sequel to LITTLE BROTHER. He is also the author HOW TO DESTROY SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM, nonfiction about conspiracies and monopolies; and of RADICALIZED and WALKAWAY, science fiction for adults, a YA graphic novel called IN REAL LIFE; and young adult novels like HOMELAND, PIRATE CINEMA and LITTLE BROTHER. His first picture book was POESY THE MONSTER SLAYER (Aug 2020). He maintains a daily blog at Pluralistic. net. He works for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, is a MIT Media Lab Research Affiliate, is a Visiting Professor of Computer Science at Open University, a Visiting Professor of Practice at the University of North Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science and co-founded the UK Open Rights Group. Born in Toronto, Canada, he now lives in Los Angeles.

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by Eric Fomley

After CD Projekt RED took the third person fantasy role playing video games (RPG) world by storm with the release of The Witcher 3, they switched gears from their critically acclaimed cash cow to a near future, first person science fiction RPG set in the fictional cyberpunk themed Night City. Though many questioned the developer’s decision to move away from pumping out Witcher sequels to the end of time, what the developer has created might be one of the best video games of the past decade. If not all-time. Cyberpunk 2077 is stunning. The neon lights of Night City as you fly or drive through the midnight streets, the grungy, dirty alleyways and hideouts of the enemies you fight, and the amazing body and tech upgrades of the people you meet will blow you away visually. CD 25 I SavagePlanets

Projekt RED has taken all of what makes the near future sci-fi genre good and implanted it in one amazing visual package. The textures are smooth, the animations crisp, and the ambient lighting will have you just wanting to walk around the city to explore the depth and attention to detail that makes the expansive map so great. That being said, the game plays best on a personal computer (PC), with noticeable performance dips in next gen consoles, and nearly unplayable glitches

and lag on PS4 and XBOX ONE consoles. Even though the developer has been transparent with the issues of playing Cyberpunk on consoles, and even offers refunds to affected players, they have dedicated many patches and hot fixes to the

game as they strive to make things right. But if you’re a gamer that plays on PC and have a middle to high-end rig, you won’t be dissatisfied with the graphics this game offers. Another key point that sets this game apart is the all-star cast. Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand, Jason Hightower as Jackie, and Cherami Leigh as V all put on stellar performances. The dialog between characters is great. Even when there’s no info dumping about a mission or discussion about what to do next, the interaction between Johnny and Jason is dynamic, and the frequent randomly generated conversations while driving are great. The developer did a wonderful job making the characters feel real and human, creating interesting relationships with the people in the world around them. When pairing the voice acting with the fully realized character models, CD Projekt RED has invented memorable characters that will stick with me for a long time. The dominant story follows V along with a Streetkid, Corpo, or Nomad (player’s choice) in the background. All three potential stories puts V starting a new life in Night City with his friend and local thug, Jackie Welles. After doing a mission for a local crime boss to snag a biochip known as “The Relic,” he draws unwanted attention from the local police, and they shoot V in the head and leave him for dead in a local landfill. Because of circumstances

I won’t spoil here, V had to put The Relic in his head. The biochip cannot be removed, and a war veteran, turned rockstar, Johnny Silverhand, now haunts V, whose personality they sequester in the chip. Johnny’s memories are infringing and replacing V’s and if V doesn’t figure out how to get the chip out, he’ll wind up losing himself. And that’s just the beginning. They did something similar to what they did with Witcher 3, yet Cyberpunk is so much more than the main quest. The central storyline is lengthy and developed, with satisfying plot twists that tie up well in the end. But the game offers so much more in the way of side quests, contracts, and relationships you make with other people on the streets of Night City, that it adds layers of enjoyment. In the same way Witcher felt like you could play it endlessly, Cyberpunk is much the same. The expansive map has so many avenues and places to stumble across new missions and content and the side quests never give you the feeling you’re grinding or doing the same mission over and over in a new locale. The developers are experts at making big games with

large maps actually feel expansive and full of content. Despite some of the performance issues on console, my only other issue with this game is the FirstPerson Shooter (FPS) mechanics. It’s not that the cover system or FPS mechanics are bad, per se. But the game certainly doesn’t feel like it’s coming from a developer that specializes in shooters. The combat feels a little grindy and lackluster and I often tried to hurry through it to get to the next part of the story. I also feel the game could have benefited from more unique combat options, especially with all the cool tech available in the world they’ve created. Overall though, this isn’t so much a hindrance as a minor issue that they could have improved to make the game play better. Cyberpunk 2077 is great. It’s a game I’ll be playing and replaying for a long time because I love the world and characters they’ve created. It’s beautiful, expansive, and I hope CD Projekt RED continues to expand on this franchise. Promotional images are from CD Projeckt RED and only used here for the purposes of criticism, comment and news reporting.

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BUSINESS MODEL by Cory Doctorow

Sir yes that is correct. To ensure food safety and the proper delivery of your Disher experience, your Speckless will not switch on if it detects unknown objects; only authorized Disher Kitchen Store products are certified for use with your Disher Speckless" > Thank you for contacting Disher technical support. My name is May and I am pleased to help you with your Disher Experience! Are you human? > That's a rather personal question! Let me talk to a human > I'd be happy to help you make your Disher Experience the very best one possible Human

> One moment please! Have a great day! > Thank you for contacting Disher technical support. My name is May and I am pleased to help you with your Disher Experience! Are you human? > Yes sir. I am a live human operator. I am based in Charlestown, Nevis, at Disher's own in-house support center. How may I help you? My dishwasher won't wash my

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dishes > Sir are you using Disher approved products from the Kitchen Store? Yes > Sir I show that you have purchased a family starter set of Burberry Gentility dishes with the optional entertaining expansion pack and a cocktail party upgrade from the Disher Dubai store in June 2024. Are these the dishes you are using in your

Extraterrestrial Fiction

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Disher Speckless? Yes. I left my parents' wedding china in storage because my last dishwasher wouldn't wash them > Sir yes that is correct. To ensure food safety and the proper delivery of your Disher experience, your Speckless will not switch on if it detects unknown objects; only authorized Disher Kitchen Store products are certified for use with your Disher Speckless I am using Disher dishes. The ones I bought in Dubai. > Sir yes thank you. Please stand by while I investigate your account.


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HAVE ANY COMMENTS, CONCERNS OR COMPLIMENTS ABOUT YOUR DISHER EXPERIENCE PLEASE LET US KNOW > Sir thank you I am back. I see from your IP address and other telemetry that you are in Melstone, Montana. Is that correct? Yes. I took a new job and got relocated here. > Sir thank you I see your problem. Your dishes were sold for use within Shia territories in the Middle East and Asian regions. They are not authorized for use in the USA. What? Are you crazy? They're Disher dishes, this is a Disher dishwasher! > Sir I am sorry you are unhappy. However, I must correct you. Please allow me to offer this frequently asked question:

Q. ARE PRODUCTS BOUGHT IN FOREIGN KITCHEN STORES USABLE WITH MY DISHER SPECKLESS? A. NO. The trademarks and other intellectual property in the products sold by different Disher affiliated companies through the regional Kitchen Stores are licensed for use on a territory-by-territory basis. In many cases, different territorial licensors own the exclusive right to manufacture and distribute different brands in the Kitchen Store, and part of Disher's commitment to respecting international laws and intellectual property is our use of the sensors in Disher Speckless systems to optimize your Disher experience by ensuring that our devices do not violate these important contractual arrangements. You're joking.

Q. MAY I BRING MY DISHER PRODUCTS FROM ONE TERRITORY TO ANOTHER? A. NO. Because the trademarks in Kitchen Store products are licensed on a territory-by-territory basis, you may not export them beyond their licensed territories. Taking Kitchen Store products across national borders may create criminal and civil liability for you, under global anti-counterfeiting treaties and national laws. Disher takes no responsibility for any legal problems you may incur as a consequence of exporting products from the Kitchen Store. At Disher, we have zero tolerance for counterfeiting. Wait wait wait. WHAT? Counterfeits? I bought these in a Disher store! They're licensed product from your own store. > Sir, I'm very sorry but Disher Dubai and Disher USA are separate firms with their own licensing agreements with Disher Worldwide. You should not have brought these products across an international border. Had they been detected at the customs checkpoint, you could have faced severe penalties. What was I supposed to do? Sell them before leaving Dubai and buy another set in Montana? > Sir your license agreement is nontransferable. Sale or other transfer of your Disher Kitchen Store purchases will result in their use in all Disher products being terminated. If you leave a territory, we recommend contacting an appropriate recycling center for safe disposal of your Kitchen Store purchases.

Montana. I work in shale gas and the company is providing my housing. I'm in the ass-end of nowhere here. Even if I could buy a new dishwasher without this crap in it, they wouldn't let me install it. I've just spent everything relocating halfway around the planet and now you're telling me to throw away my dishes and buy another set? > Sir may I refer you to a frequently asked question? Q: WHY SHOULD I USE KITCHEN STORE PRODUCTS IN MY DISHER SPECKLESS? A: Your Disher Speckless is designed to provide the finest food hygiene experience in human history. Food-borne illnesses have killed more people than all wars combined. By controlling the cleaning experience from beginning to end, your Disher Speckless can guarantee that everything you wash will come out sparkling clean, and free from harmful pathogens, without pre-rinsing or harsh chemical agents. Your Disher Speckless is water-smart, hygienic, and safe, and the only way we can make that guarantee is by eliminating badly designed and substandard dishes, cups and cutlery from the mix. We think it's a small price to pay and we know you'll agree! Oh come on. > Sir is there anything else I can help you with today? > Sir are you there?

> Sir may I refer you to a frequently asked question? Q: SHOULD I MODIFY MY DISHER SPECKLESS TO ACCEPT UNAUTHORIZED PRODUCTS? A: NO. This not only voids your warranty and risks your health, it is also illegal. Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibits tampering with or removing effective means of access controls for intellectual property and provides for a $500,000 fine and/or 5 years in prison, for a first offense. Disher values intellectual property law and takes necessary steps to protect its own intellectual property. If tampering is detected, your Disher Speckless will automatically notify Disher and local law enforcement. If your Disher Speckless needs service, please contact Disher for a referral to an authorized service depot.

Extraterrestrial Fiction

> Sir I'm afraid it's not a joke. Please allow me to offer this frequently asked question:

That sounded like a threat, May. > Sir is there anything else I can help you with today? > Sir are you still there? > Sir I hope you will take a moment to complete a short customer-satisfaction survey > Sir thank you for being part of the Disher family!

This story originally appeared in print in Reason under the headline "Sole and Despotic Dominion".

Look, May. I took this job in SavagePlanets I 30

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By Toshiya Kamei

Rescue a princess held captive on an alien planet. Why bother? Why can’t we cut our losses and leave the aliens alone? No suitable answer comes to me, except that we’re a meddlesome bunch."

I wake with a jolt, covered in sweat. As usual, I can’t tell how long I slept. Could have been years, could have been decades. I take a moment to remember where I am. Disorientation comes with the territory, but it should pass soon. I slowly open my eyes and gaze at the youngish woman staring back at me from the translucent glass a few inches from my face. It takes a moment to place her ragged face. To my mild dismay, she reminds me of my biological father, sans the beard, whom I know only from a few faded photographs. With my index finger, I trace the furrow between my brows. I’m

getting too old for this. Rescuing a princess? I groan at the triteness of it. The thing is, we’re trained not to question the nature of our mission, however trivial it seems. Then another, more urgent thought hits me: “I need a haircut.” My hair has grown out from the marine buzz cut I’ve always worn. It’s a good thing that I’m a low-maintenance girl. There’s no denying that the hyper-sleep pod resembles a coffin. I can hardly move, can hardly breathe. I push away the glass and take a deep breath. My worst nightmare is not waking up. I try not to breathe through my nose, as I can

Extraterrestrial Fiction


still smell the septic odor filling my lungs. I roll out of the pod and stagger to my locker. My knees feel weak, but it’s only temporary. I pull on a snow-white tank top and slip into camouflage pants. I shave my head. Clumps of hair drop to the surrounding floor. This auto-piloted ship is not much larger than the pod itself. Regardless of our mission, the short-handed Space Force is stingy when it comes to allocating personnel. Earth is sparsely populated due to plummeting birth rates and skyrocketing death rates. SavagePlanets I 32

I’m alone, accompanied only by an unfriendly AI spewing out information tidbits at inopportune moments. “125679: Did you know that the plastic tube on the end of a shoelace is called an aglet?” Mute is a godsend. “Aglet this!” I answer. My latest mission is hopelessly banal. Rescue a princess held captive on an alien planet. Why bother? Why can’t we cut our losses and leave the aliens alone? No suitable answer comes to me, except that we’re a meddlesome bunch. But the good soldier I am, I follow orders. The military is my only family. When I lied about my age and enlisted to escape my foster home, they took away my name and gave me a number. Far be it from me to question authority. I land in the middle of an empty plain. When I crawl out of the spacecraft, before I can inhale fresh air and take in the landscape, I’m surrounded by humanoid aliens wearing colorful robes. Unlike back home, nobody wears a hazmat suit or a gas mask. I reach for my laser gun, but I stop midway. To my surprise, the aliens point at me but carry no weapons. Their disarming smiles confuse me. Their eyes reflect a warm benevolence. There’s not a smidgen of hostility. They must have seen my descent. Even so, they didn’t shoot me down. How did they know I wasn’t a threat? Dressed like medieval nuns, they emit floral scents. The one that appears to be the leader steps closer. I dub her Sumire for her violet robe. “Greetings, stranger.” Sumire bows. I returned her bow. “Where is the Earth princess, and why did you kidnap her?” I demanded. Why anyone would go to the trouble of taking a useless royal is beyond me. “We wanted to show you earthlings 33 I SavagePlanets

our way of life.” “Seriously? What for?” “You’re so destructive.” I remain silent. She’s quite right. When I left Earth, much of it was already uninhabitable. A series of senseless wars have ravaged our home world. Climate change has done further irreversible damage. “Unfortunately, all life on your planet is no more. Look.” Sumire conjures a sphere above her palm. I barely recognize it, but the outline of continents tells me it’s Earth. Frozen. It looks like a snowball.

mumble my thanks and sip. Despite its grassy scent, the drink is delicious. Flavor bursts against my taste buds, accustomed to barely edible synthetic food, I’m momentarily overcome with joy. Between the drink and the view, I can hardly keep my thoughts on the task at hand. Earth sucked, but it was home. The only home I

I gasp, my hand flying to my mouth. I shake my head in denial. “What is this? Some kind of magic trick?” I barely get the words out. I flip open my communicator, pressing the button that will link me to my commander. Seconds pass. I wait. But no reply comes. “I’m afraid not.” Sumire looks at me with sincere pity. “You have no home to go back to. I’m sorry.” “Damn.” I lock my jaw, swallow the knot in my throat, and blink back tears. Soldiers don’t cry. What now? Despite everything, I remind myself of my mission. After all, I’m a soldier. “I demand to see the princess. Now!” Sumire waves her hand and a hovercraft swishes by. I crawl in, and we speed toward a sprawling city. The vehicle hardly makes a noise. I’m curious about their technology, but I’m too stunned to make small talk. We fly over mushroom-shaped dwellings piled up one on top of another. In the distance, beyond the zigzagging coast, the ocean lies like a giant amoeba. Sumire hands me a drink. Judging from its texture, it’s plant-based. I

ever had. What now? A castle towering over an emerald fern forest comes into view. The hovercraft slows down and stops. We walk through maze-like corridors while I try to memorize an escape route. Eventually, I give up after all the twists and turns. Sumire leaves me in a large hall with a vaulted ceiling. “Princess Eiko.” I recognize her right

“Dear me! What do we have here?” Eiko’s face brightens

tips her tiara. She holds out her hand to kiss, but I ignore her. “I’m here to rescue you.” I drop to one knee before Eiko. “125679 at your service.” “No, definitely not. Thank you.” Eiko steps back from me and into Zooey’s embrace. “There’s no need. No one bothers me here, unlike Earth. Not even the paparazzi. The locals adore me, but they respect my privacy. Of course, I can’t say the same about my subjects.” “Are you saying you don’t want to be rescued?” I can’t hide my disappointment. “Whatever their intentions may be, they’re clearly in the wrong. You can’t stay here. We can’t allow this. You have a duty to your people. And I am under orders. We must adhere to existing interplanetary law.” “Give me a break, soldier.” Eiko rolls her eyes, stepping towards me. “Don’t you see? This is my home now.” “But—” “I’m not going anywhere.” Eiko says haughtily, glancing at her alien companion. She takes Zooey’s hand and gently tugs her back into her arms. Zooey smiles reassuringly.

with joy. She smiles at the alien beside her, dripping with sarcasm. Eiko’s long, jet-black hair cascades over her shoulders. “Another fellow earthling?”

“I’ve come all this way for nothing?” My voice barely croaks out of my throat. My knees tremble. “It looks that way.” Eiko averts her gaze and laughs in an irritating manner.

“Are you all right, your highness?” I say, all business.

“Your Highness, I am under orders!” I feel like she punched me in the gut. Abandoning my mission. What will become of me? Command will court martial and imprison me. This won’t do.

“Of course. Why shouldn’t I be? As you can see, I’m being well taken care of.” Eiko shoots me an icy look. “This is Zooey.” The alien sways a little and

“Hell, I relieve you of all your duties, if that makes you feel any better.” Eiko sighs. “I don’t care. Just go away and leave me alone.” She glares at

me. Then she looks lovingly into Zooey’s eyes and lightly squeezes the alien’s arm. “Suit yourself.” I throw up my hands. “Tell me your given name, soldier.” Zooey’s regal voice boomed across the hall. I push aside the number popping up in my head. I try to remember my real name, what my parents named me, but I come up empty. “Poor thing,” Zooey sympathized. Her eyes flash with what seemed like pity. “She must be exhausted. Can’t even recall her own name!” I flush red and awkwardly curtsey. Zooey rings a small bell that hangs at her side. A hidden door in the wall opens a crack, and a lady-in-waiting peers out. “Find this soldier a billet and feed her.” Zooey points her chin towards me.

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away. Photogenic or not, they photographed all the members of the royal family to death. I’m no fan, though. She may not be a complete asshole, but even then, she’s not my type. In her public appearances, she always comes off as a snob, because she takes herself so seriously. Her haughty air rubs me the wrong way.

I follow the lady-in-waiting to the servants’ quarters in the basement. I take a seat at a wooden table in the kitchen, full of cheer, bustle, and pleasure. Nothing is going according to plan. My mission has run aground. Setbacks pile up. A tantalizing aroma wafts across my nose as a maid brings in a dish on a tray. Bemoaning my misfortune, I dig into the home-cooked meal. I’ve never imagined how sensual dining can be. Having no choice, I may as well stick around here for a while and get to know this place better. Why not? I have no reason to hurry back to a frozen planet or a court martial at some military outpost on a forgotten world.

SavagePlanets I 34


O Me


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Inventory changes quarterly. Surprise the alien in your life. Ships to North America and Europe.

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Poems from

Imaginaria 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.

The Nukekubi

by Angela Yuriko Smith

plastered to her shrieking face--silent, hateful screams.

I thought she was there just for me---my own terror--a resident ghost.

Like slick tentacles her neck cords trailed to the ground disembodied face

It made sense to me. soaked wet from The house was Victorian drowning in the deep, deep South. or perhaps from her own tears. Such places have She couldn’t tell me. ghosts. She hung behind me, My nukekubi mid-air out of place in her face contorted Tennessee… out of place like me. her hair streaming down

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That Dull Blue Planet by Joshua Fagan

They say its Home But how can that be if Ive never been there before? A cold sapphire gem in midst the black-diamond wastes billions of light-years away Thats all it is to me. They say Im their last Hope But how can that be when I dont know what Im supposed to Hope for? Thrusters ignite, blue and white fiames Landing would be the hard part, they said But E=MC2, so theyre all dead Twelve years here, twelve hundred there Splashdown, and a crushing weight as I stagger to the shore Gravitys demoniac spell They say the cold sapphire gem is beautiful, and theyre right Shimmering shore-dirt, emerald plant-stalks Sunlight-draped miracles, but not a soul to share them with.

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Behind the Falls

by Keith Doc Raymond sheltered, secreted, in the crashing, a splashing silence, hidden behind the waterfall, dewdrops on my lanugo hair. Frisky, I disrobe balancing on slippery rocks, shedding trail sweat into the cool, arms open, embracing the mist, pulsing into me, there is an urge, a sudden fullness between my legs, swelling, unfolding, engorgement. Closing my eyes, rhythmic rubbing joining the spray, an invocation, river naiad peak through the water curtain, sprites dance on the edges, and nymphs separate cattails to stareTogether we caress, sensations spiralingin spawn and dance. Stardust in bellies, sparkles beneath skullcaps, spinal fireworkssucking in the foam, exhaling joy, weaving eros, philautia, and agape into a pleasuring swirl. And then, and then, and then, before the release, giggles! My eyes wide, their eyes wider, a gaggle of geese. Rather than honk and retreat, they advance! first I am proud, then shy, dressing quickly... it seems they want to practice the local polyglot, removing hands from their open mouths. I greet and twirl, invite them closer in this cavern, whip of tails, glittering eyelashes, private grins, and they admit they would have done the same too, secreted in the folds behind this water chime.

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The First

by John Grey The captains asleep, as are the science officer and the chief engineer and the sun is a giant ame ball whose yellow mists roll across glowing treetops and I, in my cabin, unshaven, half undressed, but with shades drawn, am saying out aloud, I saw it first. First to see shadows of enormous birds skirt the rim of suns fire. First to see mountains populate once dark spots in the sky. First to see the herds emerge, descend on the billowing grasses. First to see the white glass towers of the distant city. Of all the crew, I am the one whose burgeoning purview is well above his station.

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The Lion

by Bruce McAllister h W y is it that the mountain lion you thought you saw for a moment in the bed covers of the bedroom at your parents friends when you were four, terrified, running down the hallway to your mothers arms, never really disappeared from your life, but followed you through childhood, looking out from park shadows, from bedroom closets, from under beds, from hedges on sidewalks where the street lamps were broken, always asking with eyes you could never quite see why you did not give it a name that day when you could have. Every living thing, within us or without, deserves a nameyou see that noweven the ones that scare us most when we are four, or forty-five and trying to sleep (but failing) , or ninety and slipping toward the arms of death. Instead, you grew up to write stories about fearless women and men in a distant future carried by clever starships to stunning worlds, all of which bear names you have given them, as do those men and women, who, like you (never confessing it to a soul) , fear one thing and one thing only: a shadow darker than any in a bedroom closet pursuing them under the glorious blaze of twin stars on a tough yet beautiful planet so important to the fate of humanity in the stories you keep writing, pursuing them (and you) because a child they have never met, lost as he is to time and another world, did not name what must always be named.

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PlanetsRising I 47

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Galactic Graphica SavagePlanets I 48

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Galactic Graphica SavagePlanets I 50

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Galactic Graphica SavagePlanets I 52

"Space Seeds" 53 I SavagePlanets

FUTURE ARTIFACTS Hope is a variable in an integral driving dystopia to utopia. She injects life into the inanimate and gives cause to the hopeless. We stood in Zanzibar, flew on Barsoom, and laughed at attack ships off the shoulders of Orion. With her, we surf social turbulence, rising into wonder’s starscape. All of the art is provided courtesy of The Big Sleep as envisioned by BoB, our resident A.I. multimedia editor.


can't help thinking somewhere in the universe there has to be something better than man. Has to be." Taylor Planet Of The Apes

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ou could not live with your own failure. Where did that bring you? Back to me.” Thanos Avengers: Endgame

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"Living Cities" SavagePlanets I 56

"Crystalline Lifeform" 57 I SavagePlanets



ou said science was about admitting what we don't know." Murph


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ver have that feeling where you're not sure if you're awake or dreaming?" Neo The Matrix

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"Stargate Explosion" SavagePlanets I 60

SUBSPACE 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.


eneath the canopy of feathers, she hooted. Knowing she was about to be eaten, what surprised her was the ecstasy she felt as the creature above her sprayed her with a lulling perfume." Sarah Ruckey

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er assignment was to study the mating rituals of the non-binary race of Nerus 6. Her voice quavered when she noticed several young singlets zeroing in on her attracted by her unique figure." Dennis Tamblin


he planet literally spun around him as his bones broke in the quake, and the lander keeled over and shattered a short distance away. Werner decided his best course of action was to crack his helmet and suck the sulfurous methane atmosphere rather than to suffer any longer; game over." Victor Stamkos

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eing is different than seeming. Their hands passed right through the image of the creature they worshiped; and one gasped, while another collapsed in that moment of supreme understanding." Aung Nuk Cheong


loating through the comet’s tail, Leftenant Mock shivered despite his suit’s heater, seeing the ice particle pass around him, occasionally bouncing off his face plate. The beauty overwhelmed him as he emerged, and heard Corporal Lansing inform him, she was sending a cable out to retrieve him from the mother ship." Bela Gibson

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e wanted to scream at the cosmos about all of the injustices he had experienced in his life. But, instead, the vacuum of space mercilessly sucked out his last breath from him with cold indifference."

Steven S. Behram

Johannes Grenzfurthner


om had never believed in the paranormal all his life. Not until the ghost of the girl he murdered ripped the heart out of his chest and at the last moment of his life, he believed. Pamela K. Kinney

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THE SNOW By Eric Farrell

A barrel-chested white robot ambles toward her with a low hum, dwarng the lithe teen, wearing far too little clothing for her age. The robot’s globular torso has an omnidirectional camera encased in a thin strip of smoky plastic, suggesting eyes."

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Extraterrestrial Fiction

Lotto rolls up to the Yucca Valley Halmart bald tires screeching, his Oldsmobile wheeling into a parking spot far from the hypermarket entrance. The sparkling navy of his ’88 Cutlass reflects sinister sunlight. The faux-wood paneling on the side has long since faded away. When Lotto slams his door shut, the dusty-sweet scent of fake vinyl, strangely nascent, wafts out into the stifling dead heat of the Joshua Tree desert. As he heads for the door, some panicked Angelenos scurry past him, the eyes of their body-cams winking. Lotto’s relieved that the

two apathetic rent-a-cops standing beside the hemming and hawing automatic doors pay him no mind. One of them is drawling on about an apparent domestic dispute with their husband. Lotto heads in, hearing the murmurs of some three hundred shoppers within the great cavernous store. The crowd sounds anxious, riddled with quivering hollers and hushed bickering. The jittery chorales jangle his nerves. Passing the McRonald’s food court, he listens to the snaresnap of flip-flops racing across the glazed tile floor.

Lotto counts three visible thongs, several more tramp stamps, and plenty of lifted eyebrows. Flat-billed caps are pulled tight over the eyes of men too tough to be seen here. He beelines toward the back of the store, all kinds of shaky. Lotto meanders a path toward where he thinks the ammunition section ought to be. He needs to snatch as much compatible ammo as he can. The only problem is, he’s got no money. His weary eyes scan for threats, section by section. In men’s shoe ware, a lone shopper browses the

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chaotic racks of technicolor flip-flops. An old-school bro type, leathery red skin sweating around the opaque glare of his wrap-around sunglasses. His starchy black shirt, hanging extra-large over his narrow frame, is screen-printed in bold font. The shirt reads “29mafia.” Lotto slides past, carefully maintaining cadence, rhythm, and cool. 29mafia is just a bunch of cherry-pickers anyway, he reasons.

Don’t sweat it. Got that? Don’t sweat it, Lotto, he insists to himself. But he can’t ignore the fact that the thug back there put him on high-alert. If the bro is with 29mafia, then he’s with Todos Orejas, too. 29mafia’s just a weak-ass group of posers, claiming some small-time neighborhood. But they’re a sub-sect of the greater Todos Orejas. They’re the major traffickers through the desert. The most brazen and deadly gang from 29 Palms to Banning. Whom, as luck

would have it, Lotto is in debt to, big time. Chances are, the sunburned man staring daggers at him is just another desert face in the yielding womb of Halmart. But to be safe, Lotto heads in the opposite direction. He sidesteps a desiccated abuela mincing a shopping cart through the baby section. His eyes meet this ancient Mexican grandmother, slowly herding a motley crew of children ranging from infantile to prepubescent. She smiles, pronouncing her frown lines, oblivious to Lotto’s troubles. Right now, all the money Lotto has to his name is invested in the ’88 Cutlass parked outside, and whatever fuel, weed, and booze he’s got left in it. He dimly recollects a bottle of some plasticized, sun-baked hooch rolling around in his back seat. Not to mention the roach he’d stubbed out in the driver-side armrest before coming in here. Add to that vast stash, the monetary value of a quarter tank of gas, and you’ve calculated his

net worth. He forgets two things: First, the Ruger LCP pistol tucked in the small of his back, concealed by a cheap windbreaker jacket. Second, the vintage 1887 lever-action Winchester shotgun jammed down his pants. The jagged little teeth of its sawed-off barrel have nearly drawn blood as the gun pokes into his leg with each step. He checks his reflection in a vertical mirror flanking the maternity ware section. The off-brand gray tapered sweat pants cling to his skin, but the blood hasn’t seeped through. His jacket drapes off his lanky frame, unbuttoned at the front to reveal his bare chest, mottled with stick-and-poke tattoos from a bygone era. The skin on his face is taut against his skull. He’s so scrawny he appears feral. His eyes are set deep behind the gauntness of his cheeks. He checks his vibe. Why are you looking so friggin’ scared? He challenges himself, sweeping his hair back, macho. Then he galvanizes that look, all business. The weapons empower him; vindicate him; calm him. He stumbles through the ranks of grocery aisles. He stares at the ghostly faces enamored by the angelic white

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lights framing each refrigerator door, the same austere fluorescent white as the ceiling lights far above. A staccato voice hollers from a nearby rent-a-cop’s walkie-talkie. Guards like these are looking to hound any BOLO suspects the entrance guards ping at the front door that may be heading for a snatch and grab. Be On The Look Out, the BOLO alert goes out. They coordinate so the guards can stake out potentials and maintain contact with the suspects as they shop.

Did I raise any suspicion? Lotto wonders, insisting to himself the guards at the entrance hadn’t even glanced his way. The sandpaper walkie-talkie voice grates on his ears, throwing his paranoia up a couple of notches. when he asked them what a harpsichord was. Dead silence Cool off, he urges, trying to until someone laughed. Then dismiss it. He’s imagining they all laughed. things. No doubt they are looking for someone else. He has Lotto nervously accepted the to succeed in his mission. He terms of his restitution. Todos needs the ammo to do the job Orejas dumped him in the he has to do. For Todos Orejas. highlands over Rimrock. They His family’s lives are all on the left him penniless. line. Worse than that, they left him The cartel gave him these without ammunition for the guns when his back was guns they gave him to do the against a wall and unable to job. pay. Lotto kissed their feet, grateful for their supposed Todos Orejas knows everything benevolence. going on in their region. They’ve locked up local trafBut they didn’t make it easy. ficking, from 29 Palms down They told Lotto to rob a pawn to the hotbeds of Banning shop in Banning. He needs where he’s ultimately headto steal an old harpsichord ed. It’s a critical stretch of concealing a stash of methSouthern California, arcing amphetamine worth seven gracefully around the eastern figures. They almost shot him San Bernardino Mountains.

Looming high over the desert is the San Gorgonio peak, where the sand meets the snow. Picturesque. Lotto will soon cruise down the highway toward those prim mountains, flexing their cragged visage before the setting sun. Guns in hand and fully loaded, he’ll be ready to pay Todos Orejas back. His detour around the 29mafia punk has him back on the broadside of the store. He’s unnerved by the white glow in the cosmetics section, chaste and clinical. The corners of his vision blacken, the blinding lights flash like a strobe throwing photo-negatives into his eyes. As usual, there’s a babbling teenager in the section, wholly SavagePlanets I 68

consumed by her phone. “Oh my god,” she hollers, “just look at this lipstick! Oh hey, I mean… how are you doing, Sir!” A barrel-chested white robot ambles toward her with a low hum, dwarfing the lithe teen, wearing far too little clothing for her age. The robot’s globular torso has an omnidirectional camera encased in a thin strip of smoky plastic, suggesting eyes.

everyone just needs something sweet nowadays,” the black woman hovering above him says. Just a damned good Samaritan, steeped in compassion and maternal instinct. “Come away, Mamma. That needle boy don’t look like he needs no sugar,” her partner says, a weary look on his face. “Thanks,” Lotto says, groggily propping himself up on his knees.

The babbling chick, the threatening droid, and the overwhelming pressure of the situation are getting to him. He’s screwed if this doesn’t work. Bile burns up his esophagus. Fear turns to nausea. It’s all too much!

A static burst precedes the announcement made over the faulty PA system.

As the robot bears down on them, the rest of the aisle spins into a blur. The automaton shifts toward Lotto with a jerk. A grid of red lasers moves across, then down, then back across each shelf. A “Hello, My Name is” tag has been slapped by some wise guy on its chitinous white hull, labeling the droid ‘Sheffield.’ It’s the last thing Lotto sees before darkness closes completely over him, and he faints from the pressure.

“God bless,” the lady says, disappearing down the next aisle, the problem no longer hers.

The teenager stares at Lotto for a second, then goes on talking, stepping around his seized body.

“Guest assistance needed in aisle 14,” a lackadaisical voice crackles over the speakers.

Lotto picks himself up off the floor. The robot has rounded the corner and is busy scanning items on the next aisle. Sheffield’s red saber of light lances through the shelves of cosmetics at a record pace. The sinister light flashes back at Lotto, who has now definitely attracted the attention of the nearest rent-a-cop. He sees the aisle fourteen sign over his head.

Lotto wakes to a stranger shoving candy through his lips. Disoriented, he bites down, the sweet taste of artificial watermelon exploding in his mouth.

The guard hurries over from the main walkway, his badge dangling around his tactical vest, worn bare over a wife-beater tank top. The punk pauses, looking worried, eyeing the black couple weaving through the adjacent aisle. Take advantage, Lotto reasons, quickly.

“You’ll be all right now. Seems

The guard’s pace is halted

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when he notices Lotto’s sudden resurrection. His eyes dart from Lotto to the couple. A few feet in the opposite direction, Sheffield scurries down the aisle, the whining purr of its motors engaging with each jolting shift forward. Lotto bursts straight past the robot, fleeing the human guard. Just run. Don’t think. Just… keep… running. He notices another robot identical to Sheffield a few aisles over. The playfully misplaced name tag slapped on its crustaceous milky white husk blurs as Lotto’s jog turns to a fullon sprint. Above the excitable babble of the surrounding shoppers, he hears a rent-a-cop shriek panicked orders into his walkie-talkie. Halmart’s proprietary digital radio system relays the message to a synchronized task force, and in moments they mobilize the store’s guards for inventory protection. Like beautiful choreography on a maudlin, empty stage, the rent-a-cops silently converge. Moving through streams of foot traffic, bisecting the store incrementally, they corner Lotto like a cockroach. Lotto’s running along the outer wall, past bulging bags of dog food, budget-priced New York Times bestsellers, and package-deal eighties comedy DVDs, towards his goal. The Back-toSchool section is an eerie ghost town. Empty notebook planners lay in disarray against the wall rack. He’s approaching the corner of the store where Auto Care blends into the sporting goods

The droid shudders and freezes. The lasers scan one last winding, intersecting shelf before blinking out. “Wha-” Lotto gasps, head on a swivel. The rent-a-cops have secured a loose perimeter, stationing themselves at choke points along the intersecting aisles. One of them has just emerged, a few walkways back. The punk stares at the various cooking magazines on one aisle’s end cap. Turning, he sees his target, his bowed legs frozen in fear. He’s paid enough to track, but not enough to intervene.

Lotto’s still instinctively watching the robot. He hears the empty, metallic thud of internal mechanisms shifting. The robot twists around, pointing its lasers straight in his direction. Thinking it’s a threat, he bounds out of the robot’s sight, crashing toward the ammo counter straight ahead. The rent-a-cops can’t flush the shoppers out of this corner of the store in time. Over the store’s digital radio, the two cashiers manning the ammo counter hear the distressed warning about their imminent next customer. Lotto sees they’re both terrified; one a middle-aged man with a face betraying the fact that this job is the only thing he’s got, the other an apathetic Latina in her early twenties. Lotto knows his luck hinges on whoever just made a purchase at the ammo counter. He yanks the sawed-off Winchester out of his pants and slams it down on the counter. It has the desired effect. Twisting around to look at the immediate shoppers,

he sees them enter a state of escalating panic. “Give me rounds,” Lotto hisses. The middle-aged man’s lips quiver, like he’s about to recite Halmart’s policy on how the ammunition drawers only open after a completed credit and safety check. Lotto re-frames the question, “9mm or 12-gauge. Did anyone just buy either? Just keep cool and tell me. Point them out to me. Which way did they go? Are they still here?” The Latina’s eyes dart over Lotto’s shoulder. A short, stout Chicano in a counterfeit Doyer’s t-shirt turns a corner, heading toward the exit, boxes of shells in his fists. Lotto books after him in pursuit, catching glimpses of more security guards bearing down on him as he races past each aisle.

Extraterrestrial Fiction

section. Lotto spots another robot across the way in the DIY & Done section. It’s bulbous white plastic shaped dome bumbles along, like phallic rocketry. Its lasers, encased within the robot’s black powder-coated out-rigging, send beams of red searing light zigzagging at a surgical pace through various leaf blowers and weed whacker attachments.

A third robot has emerged, intercepting Lotto in the toy aisle frighteningly close to a group

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of kids. Its lasers form a red dot aimed on the center of Lotto’s chest. He dives, sliding feet first into the bottom segment of a white plastic arthropod. Kicks the bot off balance, the pinpoint laser beam rocking back and forth, back and forth. Then Lotto launches himself up and forward, body-slamming the robot back and over its haunches, crashing it against the glazed Halmart floor. “Didja see that, did ya?” the kids ask one another in wonder. Lotto ignores them and screams at the guy with the ammo, “You! Stop, you friggin' son of a bitch, just stop. Right where you are! Back up and turn around. Hands up in the air!” Lotto’s nerves reed, reducing his voice to a quavering screech. The short Chicano Dodgers fan, entirely nonplussed, stops, lifts his hands, holding a box of shells in each one. He does this like it’s an everyday occurrence. “You! Come towards me, that’s right. Down the aisle, slowly… come on… come on.” Lotto approaches the man, moving down the aisle of cheap plastic toys, licensed super hero products, and anthropomorphized canine mercenaries. He nudges an abandoned shopping cart with his foot, keeping his shotgun trained on the man as he comes toward him. He’s got 12-gauge rounds in his hands. As the Chicano approaches, Lotto gestures with the Winchester to put the boxes in the cart. The guy complies and takes a step back. Lotto 71 I SavagePlanets

pops open the lever of his shotgun, tears open a box, and thumbs two buckshot slugs into the chamber. Then pockets as many shells as he can. The Chicano slowly backs away. “We done here, foo?” Lotto nods. The Doyers fan takes off. Lotto figures his best chance is to run along the wall the way he came. This will reduce the risk of dealing with multiple security guards at once. It would be a gauntlet, but he has no choice… He shoves the shopping cart down the aisle and turns, sprinting back the way he came. He immediately encounters a renta-cop, an old, stiff black man entirely too slow on the draw. Lotto, like a wide receiver, dodges his way past the guy, saving what rounds he pocketed. Leaving the slovenly guard in his rear view, Lotto bounds forward, running smack into another robot. This one looks to be set in combat mode. His shotgun shreds through the chitinous robot head, the buckshot burning fiery little holes through the plastic carapace. The boom sounds a panicked chorus in a distant part of the store, beyond the perimeter the security has set. The robot’s lasers blink out along the side of its torso. It whines, a mechanical blend of gears grinding and computers expiring. Then it falls over, seemingly in slow motion.

taser gun glance off Lotto’s shoulder, sticking into a topshelf of a Lego set. Lotto dropkicks the snarky redneck who fired on him, reluctant to waste another round on the lowly flesh of a rent-a-cop. Sooner rather than later, he’s going to have to cut into the main square of the store. There’s going to be collateral damage. All of this because of the sick game Todos Orejas is playing with him. He needs to get it done, though, to settle his debts. His family is out by the Salton Sea, under the listless tangerine skies. The local Todos Orejas won’t go away until he pays his debt. They’re watching his home. His wife. His daughters. They're all hostages of his greed. Acid-soaked desert sunlight pours in from the glass foyer where Halmart underlings check receipts at the door. He dashes down a bicycle aisle, taking peeks at the main concourse through the webbed array of spokes. Six rent-a-cops form a blockade at the exit. They are a flying wedge, lined up like bowling pins.

Lotto shivers at how animalistic it sounds, dying in his wake.

In front of them is Sheffield, transformed from a jolly, jittering inventory scanner into a weapons platform. Now, its lasers converge into a thick, visible stream of light aimed straight at Lotto’s beating heart, its sensors tracking his pulse. Sheffield is shaking, stirring, and making a piercing whirring sound. The energy is concentrating, building…

The poorly aimed fangs of a

Lotto spin cocks his shotgun,

The beam arcs straight through the barricade formed by the rent-a-cops. Upon direct exposure to the lance of light, each guard drops to their knees, violently ill, retching. Their stomach contents spill out over the glazed tile floor.

He’s speed walking, shoving the shotgun back in his pants, past more weary Angeleno tourists. He keeps glancing over his shoulder, half expecting to hear gunshots.

Next thing Lotto knows, he’s made it out into the stifling Joshua Tree heat, the sound of agony and disarray at his back.

And now he’s cruising in his ’88 Cutlass, down the highway toward where the sand meets the snow.

But he’s made it.


Patronage Has Its Rewards... 1. Support us on Patreon. 2. Select your perks. 3. Get on the Protected Scrolls*. *Alien invsasion is uncertain. There is no guarantee that Patreon supporters can be fully protected from an aliet attack.

SavagePlanets I 72

Extraterrestrial Fiction

twirling the gun around by the lever to engage the firing pin. He levels it on Sheffield, firing the second round from his chopped 1887 at the robot’s bottom carapace. Striking the plastic-encased trolley housing its rubber wheels, the plastic carapace explodes. As Sheffield begins tipping over, the beam flares out, searing a path through Halmart’s main concourse.

CONTRIB Keith 'Doc' Raymond Poetry Contributor

Benjamin DeHaan Fiction Contributor

Eric Fomley Entertainment Contributor

Dr. Raymond is a Family and Emergency Physician that practiced in eight countries in four languages. Currently living in Austria with his wife.

Benjamin DeHaan is a speculative fiction writer, road runner, and circular economy promoter.

Eric Fomley is a member of the Codex Writers Group and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He writes primarily short and flash fiction and his stories have appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Galaxy’s Edge, Flame Tree Press, The Black Library, and various other magazines and anthologies around the web.

Entertainment Contributor Fiction Editor

When not volunteering his practice skills, he is writing, lecturing, or scuba diving. In 2008, he discovered the wreck of a Bulgarian freighter in the Black Sea. He has multiple medical citations, along with publications in Flash Fiction Magazine, The Grief Diaries, The Examined Life Journal, The Satirist, Chicago Literati, Blood Moon Rising, Frontier Tales Magazine, and in the Sci Fi anthologies Sanctuary and Alien Dimensions among others. Currently, he is the Fiction Editor for SavagePlanets.

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He was born and raised in southern Wisconsin and now lives and works in Japan. His fiction can be found in Novel Noctule Magazine, Lovecraftiana, Write Ahead The Future Looms, The Dark Corner Zine and other various venues. More info at his website https://

When Eric isn’t writing, he’s usually reading or playing video games, both of which give him more and more ideas. He lives in Garrett, Indiana with his wife and three children. You can follow his work and read more of his stories by traveling to his website ericfomley. com or by following him on Twitter @PrinceGrimdark.

BUTORS Eric Matthew Farrell Fiction Contributor

Angela Yuriko Smith Poetry Contributor

Toshiya Kamei Fiction Contributor

Eric Matthew Farrell is a beer vendor by day, and speculative fiction author by night. His writing credits stem from a career in journalism, where he reported for a host of college, local, and metro newspapers including the OC Register,, and the Grunion Gazette.

Angela Yuriko Smith is an American poet, publisher and author with over 20 years of experience in newspaper journalism.

Toshiya Kamei is a fiction writer working in English and Spanish. His short fiction has appeared in Bending Genres, Revista Korad, and SmokeLong en Español, among others. His short story has been reprinted in Insignia 2021: Best Asian Speculative Fiction.

Some of his flash and short fiction can be found on his website, Stygian Space ( "Where the Sand Meets the Snow" is based loosely on a hiking trip he took with his friends last year, in the middle of the pandemic. They stopped in the Walmart in Yucca Valley to stock up. Yucca is a little town outside the gates of the national park. That was the first time any of them had seen the new inventory scanning robots that are rolling out in big-box stores around the country. That's when he knew he had to write a story about that Walmart.

Fiction Contributor Poetry Co-Editor

Her first collection of poetry, In Favor of Pain, was nominated for a 2017 Elgin Award. Her novella, Bitter Suites, is a 2018 Bram Stoker Awards® Finalist. In 2019 she won the SFPA's poetry contest in the dwarf form category and has been nominated for a 2020 Pushcart Prize for poetry. She co-publishes Space and Time magazine, est. 1966. For more information visit or

He enjoys listening to Latin music on Spotify. While he’s not writing, he’s bingewatching telenovelas. His favorite shows include Caso Cerrado, La Patrona, and Mariposa de Barrio. He’s currently working on a short story collection.

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e hope 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 instalment.

To do so, however, we need support from readers like you. We are asking for a very small donation to make the next issue a reality. Your generous contribution, combined with those of other readers, will make it possible for us to continue to build and grow on what we have started. On behalf of all of the editors and the contributors, thank you, and keep reaching for the stars!

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CONTRIBUTE! 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. Subspace 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 76


STORIES Science Fiction & Fantasy for a New Age In all worlds and times, our tales revolve around those individuals and groups who bring meaning and value to the world, whose actions are of consequence, and whose dreams are the vanguard of things to come.



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