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Half a billion seconds ago it started. It was mid-1997 CE. A geek of a voracious, science-fiction-reading human, not much more than a gigasecond old himself, mused about the future of publication online. He considered how the fresh, shiny, slow internet might become the ultimate leveller. He hoped that it would eventually become widespread on faster computers, better than flickering displays, and wider than plain-old-telephone-system data pipelines. He’d been using computers since 1974. They were tools — surely to be put to good use. And what better use than radical reading?
This bespectacled man also mused about the great speculative stories and ideas that never see publication, and the authors that write them — and added a dash of an awakening notion that resistance is not futile, that it’s refreshing and important to turn plots, ideas, milieus, and characters upside down. To make them Antipodean, if you like — and to keep it all free.
Well, it was something like that, and more.
A website was born from the tips of that man’s keyboard-pounding fingers, and now, thousands of stories and contributors later, it’s time to post Issue 200.
Clive Fitzgerald hung by a thread. He looked up the web's face, and snorted in grim amusement. Yes, there was another one, up there, hiding in the shadows cast by the threads.
Many threads touched the street below him. Sydney City's George Street, once full of people, held few now, few and wary.
I am not happy, but I am not sad.
The Sad People are sad.
You'll see them sitting, their knees curled up against their chests, their hands cupped and cradling their faces (a solitary sort of comfort, but sadness is solitary, sadness is alone, all foetal without a mother's heartbeat).
Devils! You either love them or hate them. The first settlers, especially chook farmers, hated them. They nearly went the way of the Tassie tiger until they were protected in 1941. Too late for the tiger, though. That poor bastard went extinct in 1936, when the last known animal died in the Hobart zoo.
Hers was an elder race. An advanced race. A doomed race. When the end came and their civilisation crumbled, scientists sent a fleet of genetically amorphous babies out to every known habitable planet across the galaxy. A society in bottles set afloat on interstellar tides in the hope that some would be retrieved, and a remnant saved.
“Good afternoon, you’ve reached International Recuse, Tracey speaking … can you speak up please, there’s rather a lot of background noise … no, International Recuse, my name is Tracey, I believe you may have mistaken us for another — can I ask, please, just curious, what exactly is going on in the background?
By the time the drexlers finished paving the moon, little remained within human control. Anything under datum was either an impurity in a glowing shell of iron, or roofed by it.
Tranquility, ground zero of the asteroid-hollowing smart drill test, went offline early.
By midday another city looms in the distance, yet it stays elusive, out of our grasp. Night falls, and my grandson and I pitch our tent, eat a meagre dinner and watch.
One light shines in one window in one apartment tower. No other signs of life there, but at least a glimmer of hope. So few people now.
'It's hardly enough
to say anything,' she said.
'Character can't grow
The site looked like a dome farm. One huge transparent dome housing a network of dozens of smaller domes, each packed with greenery, some of it concealing small, scattered buildings. Beside it a sea of churned earth, home to a new cluster of half-finished domes, surrounded by a foundation trench for a second huge dome.
The social-and-economic-intervention starship was parked in a high, geo-stationary orbit. It was heavily cloaked against any humble detection technologies that could exist on the clearly ravaged and polluted world below. Inside the ship, two men considered that world's fate and future.
Tumbling downwards, falling into the darkness, bouncing off spongy leaves, sliding down gland-tipped branches. Down into an empty place where he could hide and forget.
Nights without rest, staring at the inside of grey rubbery flowers, covered by scentless pollen.
Perched up at the L4 Trojan Point, with nothing in front of me except open space, I realize it's an excellent launch point into the galaxy. The universe looks such a miraculous place from here, sitting in perfect gravitational equilibrium with the Earth, Moon and Sun. I have, however, seen Sol and her system's treachery up close.
Jacob Manning suffered for us. And they say suffering brings you closer to God.
I wasn’t there at the beginning. I was in my final year at university, studying journalism, determined to become a damn fine reporter, or at the very least a damn rich and famous one. So I wasn’t there in the Infant Jesus Church when a handsome young man, about my own age, marched up the aisle from the back, stood up straight and proud in front of the congregation and declared himself a healer.
Bunyip raised his head and snorted water out of his snout. He sucked in a lungful of hot, dry air, and pulled his body out of the billabong up onto the bank. It never felt right, moving from water to land. To be bloody honest, it hurt, and he hated doing it. Why would anyone in their right mind want to leave a billabong? Especially this one.
Andrew could have sworn he'd seen something move — no, jump — across the road in front of him.
A dark shape, bounding across the tarmac. The briefest reflection of a pair of eyes, caught by the headlights of their hired car, then gone.
Salvatore struggled with the rock climbing. Even with six legs, he struggled. Seeing the electric one in front of him go over helped his motivation. Understanding that his people would follow each other, and to do what was expected, or die — well that helped also. Like the old Vasiola family.
Coming In Issue 201
Bar And Grill
by Tom Grayhorse
by Jane Thomson
by Harris Tobias
Earth's Grand Master
by PJ Keuning
by Kevin J. Phyland
by NM Clark
The Booby Prize To Beat All Booby Prizes
by Wes Parish
by Terry Ibele
by Eris McEncroe
by Michael T Schaper
Online Since Feb 1998
17th Anniversary Issue
Hamal February 7
Driving Lesson — by Liz Sawyer
Flawed Justice — by Rob Bleckly
The Arms Dealer — by Harris Tobias
Algieba February 14
Freezer Burn — by Timothy Gwyn
The Right Decision — by Andrew Barnett
Trophy Hunting — by Chris Andrews
Getting Tickled — by Natalie Satakovski
Diphda February 21
The Venusian Artist Residency — by Robin Wyatt Dunn
Snip Snipetty Snip — by Ed Errington
The Day Jupiter Burned — by David Kernot
Saiph February 28
Jeeves & The Zombie Apocalypse — by Tony Owens
Only The Best — By Shaun A. Saunders
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The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.
The monthly program features all of the issue's flash stories, usually narrated by the authors themselves, with occasional longer stories.
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We should grant power over affairs only to those who are reluctant to hold it and then only under conditions that increase the reluctance.