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Current Issue Highlights



November/December 2018

We open November/December with “Empress of Starlight” by G. David Nordley. When stars begin “disappearing,” a crew takes the long trip out to the Dyson sphere they suspect is causing it, but what they find is even bigger and more astounding than they imagined.

Our fact article then tackles the remote but very real possibility of a cataclysmic terrestrial asteroid impact, and what can be done to prevent it, in “Defending the Earth,” from Marianne J. Dyson.

And of course we have a wide array of other stories, including an epic space opera with a very big idea, from Christopher McKitterick, “Ashes of Exploding Suns, Monuments to Dust”; a look at how daunting a seemingly-simple skill can be to learn for the inexperienced, from Joyce and Stanley Schmidt, in “Mixipoxi Learns to Drive”; a most unusual reality show contestant in “Pandora’s Pantry,” from Stephen L. Burns; “Hubstitute Creatures,” a new Hub story from Christopher L. Bennett; and plenty more, from Jerry Oltion, Rich Larson, Marissa Lingen, Cynthia Ward, Tom Jolly, C. Stuart Hardwick, and others, plus all of our regular outstanding columns and features.

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Empress of Starlight

by G. David Nordley

Somebody was stealing stars.

“A star eight times the mass of the Sun doesn’t just suddenly disappear,” Dr. Amber Cloud said, quietly, from her office at the rim of Shackleton Crater, Luna.

“It isn’t completely gone. There’s a coincident infrared source,” Tony M’tonka replied three seconds later, bringing up a display of IC 2602, with the vanishing star’s location marked. “And a pair of very faint polar jets. So something’s still there.”

“Uh-huh.” Amber said. Even in the twenty-third century, graduate students should be kept guessing as to what their professors were thinking.

“Not only that,” Tony continued. “But the Galactic Library files show this has happened before, at roughly twenty-million-year intervals. A new high mass star fades away just after it settles down to the main sequence. But it isn’t gone. Ten million years later or so it shows up again, ready to expand into a subgiant, as if nothing had happened. Then, after another million years or so, it happens again.”



Pandora's Pantry

by Stephen L. Burns

It was an imperfect storm of sorts, a Hell’s grocery list of factors and circumstances coming together in a chaotic casserole of half-baked improbability. It was a basic cable television broadcast that damn near killed me, and it was beautiful.

Our show is Pandora’s Pantry, and yes, it’s a reheated and reseasoned knockoff of other cooking competition shows such as the venerable Chopped. While we may not earn many points for originality of concept, over four seasons we’ve built a solid show with our own peculiar rules and staging, an eccentric complement of judges, a particularly magnetic host, and the mind-boggling diversity of our contestants.

That has always been one of the quiet but luminous glories of most cooking shows. On a daily basis, we and they blithely embrace a level of diversity unmatched by most other show forms. No surprise there, you never know who will turn up in the kitchen.



Past Pluto

by Eric Pinder

Once upon a time
our grandparents chased off the edges
of maps the same swift lions as Sacagawea,... 


Reader's Departments

Guest Editorial: Dystopic? Or Myopic? 

by Edward M. Lerner

I read and watch a fair amount of science fiction. More and more, in that reading and viewing, I encounter dystopias: societies whose distinguishing characteristics are hopelessness and misery.


Note that I’m not criticizing literary classics like Brave New World (Aldous Huxley, 1932), Anthem (Ayn Rand, 1938), and Nineteen Eighty-Four (George Orwell, 1949). I get why the societies presented therein are so terrible and repressive. The entire point is an existential conflict between extreme, soul-crushing tyranny and the protagonist’s aspirations for autonomy and dignity. That the circumstances under which each dystopia arose are not fleshed out? READ MORE


The Alternate View: Icecube and the Source of Cosmic Rays

by John G. Cramer

A major breakthrough in cosmic ray physics was recently achieved by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a major astrophysics project funded by the U. S. National Science Foundation and constructed between 2004 and 2010 at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. IceCube uses 85 detector strings spaced 125 meters apart in a hexagonal pattern, each string containing sixty light-sensing digital optical modules that send the data from detected light flashes to the surface where the data processing equipment is located. The top module of each string is located at 1,450 meters below the surface of the South Pole, and the bottom module is at a depth of 2,450 meters, just above the Antarctic bedrock. The IceCube Collaboration consists of about three hundred scientists from 12 countries. READ MORE


Biolog: Bruce McAllister

by Richard A. Lovett

Bruce McAllister has been writing short stories for long enough that, by one definition, he made his start in the Golden Age . . . though not by much. His first sale was in 1963, Isaac Asimov’s pick for that era’s finale.

At the time, McAllister was a high school student with big dreams and the chutzpah to go for them. He discovered science fiction in seventh grade when he saw a copy of Astounding sticking out of a classmate’s purse. “On the cover was a lumberjack faced with a door to an alien planet,” he says. Intrigued, he went to a newsstand and bought his own copy. Soon enough, he was writing science fiction, and by age 16, he’d sold his first story to Fred Pohl at If. READ MORE


The Reference Library

by Don Sakers

Once again it’s that time, when we all start thinking of year-end holidays and the gift-giving that often accompanies them.

In my younger days I discovered that books make great presents. No matter what a person’s interests, it’s always possible to find a book that addresses them. Friends and family who are committed readers always enjoy another book; non-readers (who usually don’t receive books) generally feel flattered and delighted to get such an uncommon and extravagant luxury.

In recent decades I’ve grown more brazen. It is now my well-considered opinion that the default gift for just about anyone on your list is a science fiction or fantasy book. READ MORE


Upcoming Events

by Anthony Lewis

Check here for the latest conventions upcoming in November and December. READ MORE



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