At its best, science fiction presents us not just with a vision of the future, but with more understanding of ourselves and how to get to that future. It presents us with ways to think about relationships and people. And this time, it’s about the shapes of relationships.
In these eight stories, we run the gamut. Whether a shipboard fantasy about a captain that turns into more or the new fiancé meeting the former spouse, people remain people, with loves and confusion.
Sometimes the love lies very close to jealousy and hatred, as in “Bodies!” Sometimes, it grows out of an unpleasant necessity, such as “Similar Species” and “Expectations.”
Occasionally, it is the mother of creativity and invention, in “Tether”or just food for a species that feeds on emotions, from “A Very Emotional Scene.” And sometimes, it can leave people wondering if it was real or not, as it does in “Wide Awake.”
Love and sex are two very powerful drives and in these futures, they propel us far beyond our own world.
From “Wide Awake” by Aeryn Jaden
I forcibly regulated my breathing, taking smaller and smaller gulps of air. Now that I was calm, I could feel that something was terribly wrong. And it wasn’t just a bone-deep intuition. The air was wrong, too thin and cold for Arkana. It resembled…cryo-regulated air. Medical kept the air thinner when resuscitating us, something about not shocking our lungs. Only it was for a couple of minutes at most. I had mentally counted five minutes from the moment I regained consciousness.
My eyes did not want to cooperate. I needed to see. I smelled something burning, and that worried me. Arkana was very careful about wildfire, as their homes were suspended constructions in forests of wild vegetation. An uncontrolled fire was certain death for the prey that sustained the population. They were absolute carnivores, unlike humans. They needed the animals to thrive and survive.
Both the cryo-air and the scent of smoke were becoming insistent. A sick feeling started in my stomach, but I still did not want even to suspect why it all seemed so familiar.
By now another couple of minutes had passed. Wait, why am I waiting for the flux of air to change?
My eyes popped open and I screamed. “No, no nonono!”
My fists hit the plexiglass of the lid and my breathing was ragged. I was suffocating again. The rational part of my brain knew I had to calm down and assess, or I would be dead in minutes.
The tiny crack in the transparent lid covering my capsule was not providing enough oxygen loss for a freak-out.
I did not understand what was happening, but I knew I would not survive if I did not calm the fuck down. K’Aran’s worried face flashed in my mind. He was depending on me to get through this and come back to him. I had promised. I’d never broken a promise to him and I wasn’t starting now.
A sharp piece of metal had fallen and caused the damage to my cryo capsule. It was my cryo capsule, I knew it. I saw the small paper photo, a silly ancient image of a children’s cartoon long forgotten. I carried it everywhere with me, stamped on the left side of the lid. I had kept it there for all of my cryo sleeps, always in the same place. I knew I had put that there, it was arranged exactly how I used to when I worked for the AEF. Only… I had lost that photo when I… When did I lose the photo?
“I will not hyperventilate again. And I should stop talking to myself.”
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