Emallgration

By Brianna Bullen

sfgenreThe eucalypts closed around the sun like muscles around a bright surveillance eye. Emerging from the grove, his jacket snared as if the forest would keep him in its grasp. 23.9.2098#279 let it go, for it was not his to lose. Indeed, if the environment desired it, he was happy to part with it. In exchange, he sought other night cover, and found a piece of tarp offered up by the trees further along the beachline.

Permanence was ownership; transience was ethical. Damp shade confronted sand-dry exposure with a step, resulting in sweat. He emerged from the treeline. Fifty or so people stood gathered yet separate on the beach, walking with strictly maintained bodily distance.

A pile of thrown sticks were huddled on the beach, gnarled and sun-bleached, looking like stacked bones. The body of the cleaner, 23.9.2081#792, lay atop the pyre. The man’s brittle bones shrank from responsibility, his waxen face was sealed with an expression of close-eyed embarrassment at being the centre of attention. His pale body was as naked and dried out as a landed fish. It had been stripped of clothing for redistribution, with three personal items strewn nearby as sea offerings. His forearm sported a square of missing skin, a red birthmark-like spread.

Few of the milling survivors knew about the cleaner; they thought the fixed-up coverings, ready-made sleeping sites, and occasional bowls of food left beside those sleeping to be gifts from the land.

Those who had spotted the strange man hunting or foraging, however, knew more. The inequality of exchange was an affront to their valued independence, but because he did not indicate reciprocity, he went unchallenged.

Secretly, 23.9.2098#279 was rather envious of the cleaner’s selflessness, while simultaneously holding an affinity with him. They shared a birthday, and a similar last name-number. He’d seen the identification tattooed on the man’s forearm once when the cleaner had sneakily tried to deposit a bowl of raspberries beside his sleeping head.

Earth stragglers universally shared a number system for naming and district-issued necessities — water containers, knives — but retained only three other personal items. Ownership, the root of the selfishness, had destroyed the world — nevertheless people lost meaning without anchors, object-memories to define themselves.

Many survivors, those that knew of his existence, realised the cleaner had passed when holes remained unpatched in their tents. They now emerged from those decaying dwellings — hearing ghostly moans and cries from the beach — yet most remained in the forest.

Meanwhile, ahead of 23.9.2098#279, those here on the sand shuffled around, not touching, not talking, trying to resurrect old funeral rites. They did this upon finding any body, but never seemed to make it work. None had the words necessary for commiseration. Language was a foreign code; compassion a fugue state. They grunted and sobbed like fairytale beasts, emotion expressed unmediated yet stilted.

23.9.2098#279 knew the danger. He stood unprotected by the trees’ engineered filters, the beach air thick with toxins, memories of disaster echoing in radiation and intense heat.

A willy-wagtail skittered along the forest path behind him, but quickly arched back around, turning back from the sand, little white brows like frown lines.

The man advanced. This was the first time 23.9.2098#279 had seen sky in months; human beings from the past orbited through it in data code, invisible, but he swore he could see them lit up by the rays of the sun, like dust particles in binary.

An old man stepped within three feet of him, and he hissed at the intrusion. The man, myopic, hobbled away in fear, dropping an item in the sand. 23.9.2098#279, prayed that sand would blow over the photograph so he could not be accused of thievery and over-consumption. He felt sorry that the man had lost one of his legally permitted personal items, but chasing him would only result in drawing attention to himself. Taking people’s time was a shameful offense.

The family photo flipped up at the corner in the breeze, showing a woman folding over herself to hug two children. He stepped closer, hoping nobody would be alert to the action. It must have been a photo taken just before the Singularity. There were no family units now. You couldn’t own a person; marriage was tantamount to interpersonal slavery. As soon as you aged into double digits, you were left to find your own resources, retaining nothing but a photograph of your guiding mother.

23.9.2098#279 patted his front shirt pocket, angling himself back in the direction of his jacket hoping he had not left the image in its pocket. Thankfully, his mother still rested by his heart. He took her out, as he did on rare occasions when he forgot what her face looked like. He had taken the distant shot. She was a woman who liked to be viewed from far away because she thought it made her enigmatic, but her gaze looked more baffled than oracular, framed by beige hair hacked short by her standard-issue knife.

Memory of speech echoed, a foreign language. Sometimes, when 23.9.2098#279 was by himself, he would grunt out sounds approaching syllables. He wondered if others did the same.

Smoke and the stench of roasting flesh scurried across sand. The cleaner’s pyre struggled to rival the heat of the sun. It slowly consumed the body, not quite built up with enough kindling to burn hard. Nobody knew what to do about that, so they let it gently char the man, flickering up his flesh until entirely consumed.

Everything returned to ash.

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About The Author

Brianna Bullen

brianna bullen 200Brianna Bullen is a Deakin University PhD candidate writing a creative thesis on memory in science fiction. She has had work published in journals like LiNQ, Aurealis, Verandah, Voiceworks, and Buzzcuts. She won the 2017 Apollo Bay short story competition and placed second in the 2017 Newcastle Short Story competition.​

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 236

Australia, A Story
by Ovidiu Bufnila

Castle Bridegroom Bear
by Michael Richards

Decrypted Message Thread
by Theodore Irvin Silar

Non-Event Horizon
by Kevin J. Phyland

Satisfaction
by Nicholas Sheppard

The Traveller
by Robert David

The Twelve Moments
by Eugen Samolin

Upstairs
by David Scholes

You Can Always Change The Past
by George Nikolopoulos

You Can't Always Get What You Want
by Wes Parish

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AntipodeanSF February 2018

ISSUE 235

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

20th Anniversary Issue

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AntiSF Narration Team

 

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,

And is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

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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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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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david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <wordsbydavid.com>

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laurie bell 150Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She spent years writing and making audio plays with her sister using an old tape player. Life is a performance! She is a singer and has performed on stage once for her local theatre company. Now she helps out as a volunteer. She loves to read her stories out loud to anyone who will listen. She has recorded several audio readings of her own short stories here at Antipodean SF and is now a member of the audio team.

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

Laurie's debut book The Butterfly Stone will be published in Autumn (Aus) 2018 and another titled Blood Fever will be published in Winter (Aus) 2018.

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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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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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SF News

SF News

AntiSF Author Eugen M. Bacon Publishes Two New Anthologies

Antipodean SF author Eugen Bacon has published two new speculative fiction anthologies:

Dying & Other Stories, <http://www.fiction4all.com/books/b13195-dying-and-other-stories.htm>. Literary speculative fiction that offers up death. Dirges that cross genre.

Thirteen Wicked Tales, <http://www.fiction4all.com/books/b13148-thirteen-wicked-tales.htm>. A collection of literary speculative fiction by Fiction4All

Congrats AntiSF Author Laurie Bell...

Laurie Bell is set to have two new novels published in 2018. One is an adult sci-fi noir thriller novel "Blood Fever" through Incendia Books, and the other is a young adult urban fantasy "The Butterfly Stone" from Wyvern's Peak Publishing.

ASFF Supports The Swancon Short Story Competition 2018 - Entries Now Open

Swancon 2018, the 57th Australian National Science Fiction Convention, is running a short story competition with the support of the Australian Science Fiction Foundation. More information at the Swancon website. Theme: Transformation

For more SF news why not join the ASFF and get the ASFF newsletter “The Instrumentality” delivered straight to your inbox!

Upcoming Aussie Cons

Walker Stalker Convention: Walking Dead convention The Dome at Sydney Showgrounds. 3-4 February 2018 and 10-11 February 2018 Melbourne Showgrounds. <http://walkerstalkercon.com/sydney/>.

Confurgence 2018: Furry convention 23-25 February 2018. Amora Hotel Riverwalk, Melbourne. <http://ausfancons.com/confurgence/>

Swancon 2018 (Natcon): Pan Pacific Hotel, Perth. This is the 2018 Australian National Convention: “Transmogrification”, (Easter) 29  March to 02 April 2018 . Guests: Kameron Hurley, Ryan Griffen, Barb de la Hunty.  More information: <http://swancon.com.au/>

Continuum XIV: Conjugation. Melbourne’s SF Convention. 8th – 11th June, 2018. More information: <http://www.continuum.org.au/>.

Nullus Anxietas VII: The Australian Discworld Convention – will be held in Melbourne on April 12-14, 2019, and is themed on Going Postal. More information: <https://ausdwcon.org/>

For more up-to-date Aussie SF info join the ASFF: <asff.org.au>

AntiSF will be at the National Convention, Swancon (2018).

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AntiSF Radio Show

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

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SF Quote

There’s no real objection to escapism, in the right places… We all want to escape occasionally. But science fiction is often very far from escapism, in fact you might say that science fiction is escape into reality… It’s a fiction which does concern itself with real issues: the origin of man; our future. In fact I can’t think of any form of literature which is more concerned with real issues, reality.

Arthur C. Clarke