Conception

By Jon Michael Kelley

sfgenreJanice Sterling stared at the immense screen, focusing on a small censored quadrant in the upper right corner: a green, distant planet called Avery. Glittering like diamond dust, the Milky Way’s helical rim demanded the rest of the exhibition. It would have been an even more impressive sight had the array been shone holographically, but she chose to leave it flat; rudimentary. What she was preparing to show General Maestas was shattering enough without the added dimension.

In the grid’s centre, a blue neon orb: Earth.

Always placing ourselves at the centre of the universe, she thought grimly.

A tinny male voice spoke inside her ear: “The general’s here, Ma’am.”

Janice absently stroked the thin mic hovering in the periphery of her lips, and sighed.  “Very well. Clear out all non-essential.”

“Yes, Ma’am,” said the voice. Then, almost instantaneously, that same voice swelled dispassionately within the vast auditorium. “All personnel below Level Six Clearance depart and immediately proceed to secondary stations.” The voice repeated these instructions once more, then went silent.

The arena was deserted swiftly and orderly; a regular fire drill.

Janice let the hush settle; then said into her mic, “Lieutenant?”

“Yes, Ma’am?”

“I just wanted to say it’s been a pleasure working with you.”

“The pleasure’s been all mine, Ma’am.” A pause, then: “Ma’am?”

“Yes?”

“It kind of puts a humbling perspective on everything, don’t you think?”

“You mean we’re not the giants we thought we were?”

“Exactly my thoughts.” Then: “He’s here.”

Janice turned toward the approaching footsteps, sprite and crisp on the gleaming marble. “General Maestas,” she said without fanfare. She did not salute, was not required. Janice was of civilian ilk.

“Doctor Sterling, it’s always a pleasure,” the general said, extending a hand. But there was no smile on his face, nothing to indicate that he found their date pleasurable at all. Brilliant accoutrements of loyal service cloaked his right breast, jingling as they shook hands. “I understand you have some home movies to show me?”  

“Have a seat.” Janice gestured toward a chair at a nearby console. “What you’re about to see is quite … sobering.”

Maestas nodded. “How long have you been sitting on this?”

Janice shrugged. “A few months.”

“A few months?” The general’s eyes widened. “That takes some seriously large balls, doctor. Are you aware of that?”

Janice smiled. “Funny you would use such an analogy.”

His eyes narrowed. “Funny how?”

Janice engaged her mic: “Lieutenant, enhance C-34 to full screen.” She turned to the Maestas. “We received this data from a deep probe, just a few light clicks outside our galaxy.” She directed the general’s attention to the screen; now a vast black curving window filling with stars. A green sphere slipped quickly into view.

Janice cleared her throat. “The planet there is Avery. Unoccupied, it’s one of six in that system. You’ll want to watch this.”

Maestas leaned back in his chair; clasped his hands behind his bald head. A relaxed posture, but Janice wasn’t buying it. He was here at the behest of the Council, and being anywhere under such auspices would have provoked unease in the most stolid commanders.

Janice continued to watch the general, wanting to see his reaction. She was betting that he, cynical as they came, would never come close to accepting the truth no matter how damning the evidence.

Objects swam into view. Maestas slowly leaned forward, hands now firmly on his knees. He was staring raptly at the screen. “My God,” he whispered. “Those look like—”

“Yes,” Janice said. “That’s exactly what they are.”

The general was staring dubiously at Janice, an awkward smile capturing his face. “Certainly you’re not serious. I mean, sure, they look like… But there’s obviously some other … celestial explanation. Has to be.”

“How I wish there were,” she said. “But there’s no mistaking them, nor their intent.”

The general gasped. “Look at the way they’re undulating.” Many more were now coming into view, swarming the screen from all sides, racing toward Avery. “Good God, how many are there? How large?”

“Thousands,” Janice said. “And we estimate their lengths to be somewhere−” She paused, sighing. “Relative to the planet’s size, given its obvious role in this, they’re functionally proportional.”

“Bullshit!” he shouted, bolting from his chair. He ran a hand across his shiny pate, laughing nervously. “This is ridiculous. I know what you’re implying and it’s absolute garbage. I can’t believe that you and your elite staff have allowed yourselves to be duped so easily. Christ! Those … things are not what they appear to be!”

She nodded. “Just watch what happens to Avery, general. Watch.”   

Seconds later hundreds of tadpoles descended upon the planet, then after moments of intense bombardment the image zoomed to show the first one to wriggle through and completely disappear beneath its surface. The remaining tadpoles immediately scattered, regrouped a short distance out, and then were quickly lost from screen.

Cautiously, Maestas eased himself back down into the chair. “Oh my dear God.”

A dull glow now radiated from the planet, its continents and oceans steadily evaporating into translucency.

Janice allowed the general a moment to digest the event, then said into her mic, “Lieutenant, forget the time-lapse sequencing we’d planned and just bring up the most recent data from Avery.”

For a brief moment the giant screen went black, then a round, golden image appeared, fuzzy and indistinct.

The general once more leaned forward, squinting.

“Increase magnification, please,” Janice said.

The ball instantly expanded, revealing greater clarity and detail.

“This is Avery as of seventeen-hundred hours yesterday,” Janice said. “Approximately nine weeks after conception.”

“Can’t be,” Maestas whispered. With great effort he rose again from his chair, pointing shakily at the image. “Those are land masses. Atmospheric distortions of some kind. Those red bifurcating lines are simply ancient canals in infrared…”

Still in denial, thought Janice. She grabbed Maestas by his forest-green lapels and shook him. “It’s a foetus, general! A foetus!” She raised her chin to the screen. “Don’t you see? We were created in His own image!” She let go of him. “All the while we’ve been thinking ourselves grand when we should have been thinking minuscule.”

As Janice turned away, Maestas grabbed her arm. “How long before they reach Earth?”

She shrugged him off, laughing. “What makes you think they’re coming here?”

“The Council wouldn’t have sent me if there wasn’t a perceived threat.”

Janice removed the communication apparatus from around her head. “Alright. We have until spring. You know, that season rife with romance? Ironic, isn’t it? She placed her headset on the console and walked away.

“What do I tell the Council?” Maestas yelled after her.

Janice stopped; turned. “Just tell the truth, general.”

“What’s the truth?”

Feebly, she smiled. “Just tell them that God had an orgasm.”

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About the Author

Jon Michael Kelley

Jon Michael KelleyJon Michael Kelley is an internationally published author and novelist of literary speculative fiction.

His debut novel Seraphim from Evil Jester Press received stellar reviews, and he has been anthologised with such genre luminaries as David Morrell, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, John Skipp, and Thomas F. Monteleone.

His short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, to include the multiple award-winning anthologies Chiral Mad, Chiral Mad 2, and Qualia Nous (2014 Bram Stoker Award Finalist for Best Anthology) by Written Backwards Press.

He has also worked with music industry professionals as a collaborative lyricist, assigning copyrights of numerous authored song portfolios to a prominent New York City producer. Jon currently exhumes his inspiration from a small gold mining town in the mountains of Colorado. 

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Please consider joining the Australian Science Fiction Foundation, a prime supporter and promoter of speculative fiction down-under.

<https://asff.org.au>

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF's Production Crew

nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.

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mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name.

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 286

A Fish Story
By Harris Tobias

A Girl Among the Stars
By Malena Salazar Maciá - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Aye Robot
By Tim Borella

Butt F**k Nowhere
By Col Hellmuth

Dreaming in the Clouds
By Yuki Fuwa - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Her Laughter, Bright and Sweet
By Myna Chang

Linda and Elton's Lucky Day
By Althea Hughes

Swimming with Daffodiles
By Marc Ruvolo

The Chartist
By Michael T Schaper

The Inverness Soliloquies
By Andrew Dunn

Zippo
By Ed Errington

AntipodeanSF June 2022

ISSUE 285

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes adult short stories and stories for children and has been published in anthologies for both. In 2018, one of her children’s short stories placed second in The Buzz Words Short Story Prize and she won an ASA Emerging Writer’s Mentorship. She currently works part-time as a hospital pharmacist and as an online creative writing tutor.

She’s fascinated by stories that expand upon today’s technology, addressing the moral and ethical issues that might arise. Equally, she enjoys the creative freedom that writing for children allows. Right now, she’s writing a young adult novel, reworking a middle grade novel and writing adult short stories when inspiration strikes. She lives with her husband, Tim, in Yungaburra, Far North Queensland and dreams of one day taking a European gap year.

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone and The Tiger's Eye (YA/Fantasy) White Fire (Sci-Fi) and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided (a unique collection of short stories set during the events of White Fire/Sci-Fi). 

You can read more of her work on her blog <www.solothefirst.wordpress.com> Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

Rambles, writing and amusing musings

Smile! laugh out loud! enjoy the following

<www.solothefirst.wordpress.com>

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tim borellaTim Borella is an Australian author, mainly of short speculative fiction published in anthologies, online and in podcasts.

He’s also a songwriter, and has been fortunate enough to have spent most of his working life doing something else he loves, flying.

Tim lives with his wife Georgie in beautiful Far North Queensland. For more information, visit his Tim Borella – Author Facebook page.angle mic

ed erringtonEd lives with his wife plus a magical assortment of native animals in tropical North Queensland.

His efforts at wallaby wrangling are without parallel — at least in this universe.

He enjoys reading and writing science-fiction stories set within intriguing, yet plausible contexts, and invite readers’ “willing suspension of disbelief.”

He believes stories might also contain an element of humour — however small — to enrich the plot and/or heighten the drama.

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pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba.

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mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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carolyn eccles 100

Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and NewMyths.com, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <timothygwyn.com>.

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marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.

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The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

The weekly program features the stories from recently published issues, usually narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show is also broadcast on community radio, 2NVR, 105.9FM every Saturday evening at 8:30pm.

You can find every broadcast episode online here: http://antisf.libsyn.com 

SF Quote

When I die I’m going to leave my body to science fiction.

Steven Wright

The Contributors

diana grove 200Diana writes speculative fiction about weird people doing weird things.

Her short stories have been published in anthologies by Trembling With Fear, Night Parrot Press, Crystal Lake Publishing and Black Hare Press.

She also writes dark stories for kids, and they have appeared in The Caterpillar and Balloons Lit. Journal.

She lives in Perth with her feline friends, and you can find her on Twitter: <@ImaginaryGrove>.

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leon d furzeLeon D Furze moved to Australia in 2009 and now lives on a farm in Western Victoria with his wife and three children.

He is an English teacher and school leader and until recently stuck to writing educational textbooks and resources for other teachers.

After a lifetime of reading sf, he decided to give fiction a go, and hopes that it will lead to a long and fruitful career of writing strange, speculative, and surprising things. <leonfurze.com>.

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Jon Michael KelleyJon Michael Kelley is an internationally published author and novelist of literary speculative fiction.

His debut novel Seraphim from Evil Jester Press received stellar reviews, and he has been anthologised with such genre luminaries as David Morrell, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, John Skipp, and Thomas F. Monteleone.

His short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications, to include the multiple award-winning anthologies Chiral Mad, Chiral Mad 2, and Qualia Nous (2014 Bram Stoker Award Finalist for Best Anthology) by Written Backwards Press.

He has also worked with music industry professionals as a collaborative lyricist, assigning copyrights of numerous authored song portfolios to a prominent New York City producer. Jon currently exhumes his inspiration from a small gold mining town in the mountains of Colorado. 

Wesley Parish is an SF fan from early childhood. Born in PNG, he enjoys reading about humans in strange cultures and circumstances.

His favourite SF authors include Ursula Le Guin, Fritz Lieber, Phillip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard and Frank Herbert.

Wes lives in Christchurch, NZ, is an unemployed Java and C programmer, and has recently decided to become a mad ukuleleist, flautist and trombonist, and would love to revert to being the mad fiddler and pedal steel guitarist..  "Where oh where has my little pedal steel got to ... ?"

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 lynne lumsden green 200Lynne Lumsden Green lives in Queensland, Australia, though – in reality – she lives inside her head (it’s cosy in there). She writes both fiction and nonfiction.

She has had stories and articles published by Queensland Writing magazine, DailySF, AntipodeanSF, Every Day Fiction, Aurealis magazine, and in over a dozen anthologies of fiction.

She wants her stories to live in her readers’ heads.

You can find her blog at: <https://cogpunksteamscribe.wordpress.com/>.

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col hellmuthCol Hellmuth lives a quiet, uncomplicated life, off-grid in the Daintree rainforest of Far North Queensland.

He has scratched out a living in a variety of different jobs (and locations) over the years; these days he scratches out words in various sequences, and dreams of a day when he might be able to convert some of these ramblings into food.

When he is not writing or enslaved at work he is usually found bumming around his local beach dodging crocs in his kayak or jamming on the blues-harp.

He doesn't have any fancy letters after his name, or a pet cat, but does read a lot.

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Botond's bio is missing at his request...

ed-erringtonEd enjoys creating stories that ideally enable readers to relate to content with believable contexts — realistic relationships - and characters with something to say. All set at some exotic/ or imaginative but relatable point in the future and/or past.

He enjoys unpacking what characters make of the situations they find themselves in — and what they do about it — and why. Ed likes to incorporate the occasional political comment when fictional characters’ experiences overlap with those in the real world.

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Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of two novels: The Greer Agency & A Felony of Birds. He has written dozens of short stories many of which are available on line at <quantummuse.com>. He is the author of many children’s books including At The Robot ZooMoonRivet Saves His Skin and An Alphabet Book of Bugs available in print from CreateSpace and as ebooks for Nook & Kindle. You can find links to his writings here: <harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com>

ps cottier 200PS Cottier is a poet who lives in Canberra, with a particular interest in speculative poetry.

She has been published widely at home and in Canada, England, New Zealand and the USA.

Two of her horror poems were finalists in the Australian Shadows Awards for 2020. Her latest books are Monstrous, which is a volume of speculative poems, and Utterly, which is non-genre.

PS Cottier is the Poetry Editor at The Canberra Times and blogs at <https://pscottier.com>

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Where you see strange dreams, cockatoos and other nonsensical nostrums congregate, there’s a good chance you’ll also come across our author.

By day he’s all manner of mundane things: a board member, business association manager, policy adviser, researcher and scholar - in Canberra.

At night he lets those wild ideas of his run, well, wild.

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kevinjphyland 200Old enough to just remember the first manned Moon landing, Kevin was so impressed he made science his life.

Retired now from teaching he amuses himself by reading, writing, following his love of weather and correcting people on the internet.

He’s been writing since his teens and hopes he will one day get it right.

He can be found on twitter @KevinPhyland where he goes by the handle of CaptainZero and his work is around the place if you search using google or use the antisf.com.au archive.

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