The Gods in their Galleries (Part Three)

By Rick Kennett

<If you haven't read part one yet, please read it here at the NLA>

<If you haven't read part two yet, please read that here at the NLA>

sfgenreShe woke into darkness and the feeling of lying horizontal in a sleeping bag. But it was so cold. She could feel it on her upturned face.

It'd been warm that afternoon. After their basketball game, they'd set up a portable barbecue while Cy had helped move the plasma arc from the tomb entrance, rigging it to light their impromptu camp as dusk steepened in. She'd chowed on half-burnt meat with no comment from anyone about Martian vegetarianism, and had sampled wine fermented by chemists working among the wrecks back east. They'd toasted this enterprising group, then the mysterious aliens whose suspected art had made their expedition possible.

Afterwards Cy had regaled the company with stories of deep space: the Battle of Procyon where a dog long dead helped win a victory; the action off the gas giant Cue Ball where she vaporised a damaged Martian troopship in which lay someone she had once loved; observing aliens exploring the Mars-like world New Hell that ended in her slamming an asteroid into the planet.

“One of the few things in my career I'm not ashamed of,” she said.

Later she'd leaned across and propositioned Naomi.

Cy sat up in the truck's oversized seat. She switched on the light. The cab was empty. Naomi had politely declined her advances, she remembered now. So she'd bedded down by herself in the truck with windows open to the warm night air. The others had retired to the vehicle's cargo bay in the rear or down to the transport parked on the shore. She'd somehow expected to see Naomi wander off with Zhores, but he wandered off with Danny.

She closed the windows against the cold, muttering “Weather,” in disgusted tones, having lived most of her life within controlled artificial environs.

Outside something was happening. A stir of dark on dark. Turning off the cab light she fished into her tunic pocket for the light boost goggles.

There among the trees some indistinct shape moved in the murk of amplified star shine.

Someone caught short, she told herself, then realised how unlikely that was. Those sleeping aboard the transport had access to its facilities, and she would've heard anyone in the truck's cargo bay exit via the tailgate. She pulled on her boots and slipped outside, her clothes at once adjusting to the cold.

Through the goggles the cooling barbecue faintly glowed in infra-red. She felt along its work top till her fingers touched the handle of something she guessed was the carving knife Zhores had used so dexterously at dinner. She gripped it ready in defence. Hesitating beside the arc light that'd illuminated their camp, she decided against using it. Right now darkness was an advantage.

The outlines of the mushroom trees lay ahead within an unfocussed grey. She advanced, trying to discern if any of those vague shapes was the hatch to the tomb swung open.

Movement again within those shapes, something shuffling through the trees. As far as she could make out it was about half the size of a Xenoid — but they could shape-shift. There was a suggestion of a head with an irregularity atop it that appeared to sprout horns. And though the background swam in and out of a grey murk, she was certain the tomb hatch was indeed swung open.

The figure lurched forward, halted, leaned back and lurched forward again while those horns waved and waved in time to its dance. Oddly, none of the motivating berserker rage bubbled up inside her, the consuming, obscene happiness she felt when battle was imminent.

She took a step back. The figure abruptly stopped. The shape upon its head seemed to squirm. The horns waved independent of body movement and were joined by two more long, thin outgrowths of shadow. The whole of the apparition remained motionless a moment, then lurched towards her.

“Lieutenant.”

Cy swung around and in the grey glimpsed the form of Zhores close behind. “Get your people into the ship,” she whispered, “and prepare to lift.” 

The approaching shadow had left the trees now and was crossing the clearing.

Zhores, also wearing light boosts, glanced across the clearing, then at Cy. With a distinct smile in his voice he said, “Lieutenant … are you aware you're brandishing a hamburger flip?”

“Huh?” She brought the flip up to eye level for a squinted second, then threw it aside, turned and bolted past him.

He stared after her as she vanished into the grey. Then instinctively he too turned and ran.

But he'd only gone a few steps when close by in the murk he heard a metallic clatter and saw the grey shadow of the Martian girl pulling at the frame of the arc light, her small form struggling to reach the downward-angled lamp. He skidded to a halt in the frosting fungus grass, finding himself nose to sudden nose with a figure looming up in front of him. Lantern glare dazzled in his amplifying goggles as they gripped one another for support.

Zhores wrenched the light-boosts up and blinked against the racing green lines in his vision. “Danny! Get back to the ship!”

“What's happening?” Danny asked.

“Get back to the ship! Get everyone aboard and ready to lift!”

“But —”

Now!” Zhores broke from Danny's grip, turned, snapped the light boosts over his eyes and ran across to the arc light.

By now Cy had climbed the frame and angled the lamp into the horizontal but had yet to swivel it about. With his greater height Zhores grabbed the lamp housing and helped swing it around.

Cy's hissed, “Get to the ship!” was the only thanks he got.

“Why haven't you?”

“Because I'm insane.” She glanced across the clearing to where the figure continued to advance in its staggered dance. She dialled the arc light output to FULL and made a final adjustment to the lamp, estimating where the Xenoid's great bulbous orb should be. “Mind your eyes!”

They threw off their goggles and Cy hit the switch.

The landscape lit bright as high noon, everything revealed in a wide blaze of stark white: the curved trunks of the mushroom trees, the fungus grass, the upraised hatch of the tomb twinkling metallically. In the centre of the clearing was Cy De Gerch herself. Or rather a fungus replica of her younger self sprouting from a snaking vine and dressed in ragged fungus clothes.

Cy stumbled from behind the light and stared at her pale mushroom self.

Zhores stepped up beside her and they stared together. Then they chuckled, their chuckles becoming a long, loud laugh — the laughter of sheer relief. The laughter of realising they weren't about to die. What had looked so menacing in the dark looked ludicrous in the glaring light.

Cy's laughter changed to a cry of joy.

Lazarus!

Atop the figure was a creature black and hairy and obviously not a fungal growth. Its eight legs gripped the scalp of the replica but the upraised claws and eye stalks waved. They waved at Cy in excited recognition.

She laughed, this time in pure exuberance, cried “Lazarus!” again, and with open arms and a heart overfilled with happiness ran across the clearing to clasp her long-lost friend, and that's where memory ended.

***

She opened her eyes to daylight.

Her first though was that she'd slipped and fell. She was now lying on her side, though that didn't explain the shadows of late morning stretching across the empty clearing. She sat up, trying to remember what she'd been doing. She'd been running and immensely happy about something ...

Memory returning, she looked about the empty clearing. No fungal replica and no Lazarus. Where she'd seen the tomb hatch flung wide there was now only a circle of purple grass somewhat paler than the rest.

 She began a search, calling to the spider. She called and searched until an emptiness opened within her and she sagged to the ground, dully aware the air was warm again.

There were long indentions in the grass, showing where the vine sprouting her duplicate had slithered.

Zhores was lying beside the arc light, stretched out full length on his left side, head resting on a thickness of grass. She knelt beside him. His breathing was regular; he seemed simply asleep. The arc light had been switched off, and she stared for a moment at a hamburger flip sitting neatly on the barbecue's work surface.

Danny was lying on his side beside the tailgate of the truck. Evidently he's fallen  while warning those inside and was, like Zhores, fast asleep, his head resting on a pillow of grass. Cy stepped over him, looked into the truck and found everyone lying on their sides in their sleeping bags. Someone was snoring.

She was about to investigate the transport ship parked on the shore, its forward hatch open, when a low moan from the clearing had her returning to Zhores. He'd rolled onto his back, one leg bent, the other splayed out. He rubbed his eyes, his head half raised as if undecided whether to sit up.

Cy chuckled as a line from her psych clinic play, The Importance of Being Earnest, came suddenly to mind. In an imperious voice she intoned, “Arise, sir, from this semi-recumbent posture. It is most indecorous.” She wasn't sure what indecorous meant, but Zhores' ungainly sprawl was bound to be close.

He looked blankly up at her as if struggling to remember who this young woman in purple-stained military fatigues was. Then his face animated with returning memory and he said, “You did play Lady Bracknell.”

Cy gave a concise description of what she'd found and the condition of Danny and those   in the back of the truck. “But you've woke and I've woke. They should be waking too soon.” A glance in the direction of the truck showed Danny beginning to stir.

“Funny that we should be all laying on our left sides,” said Zhores.

“Is it? Remember your first aid? It's the safest way to position an unconscious person. And those grass pillows under our heads didn't just happen to be where we fell.”

“Some one's looking out for us.”

“More likely gently brushing us aside while they get on with more important business.”

“If their business was obliterating the cryogenic chamber then what have they done with the Xenoid?” He looked quickly about in alarm, at the empty clearing, at the mushroom trees beyond. “Could they have re-animated it and let it lose?”

“And have it run about till it starves to death? No, Zhores, that wouldn't be right —” Cy broke off, surprised. Had she just expressed sympathy for the enemy? “My guess is they moved it to some other cryogenic crypt.”

They crossed to Danny as he got to his feet. He looked about himself with a puzzled expression, first at the daylight then at Zhores. Sounding uncertain he said, “Are we still lifting?”

“No, Danny. False alarm. It was just a mushroom going for a walk.”

They embraced. Cy, not wanting to intrude, busied herself examining the vine's slithered impressions in the grass. Evidently it'd passed the truck and slid toward the transport. She followed the track along and was relieved to see it didn't enter the transport but veered away onto a sandy beach.

There she found the vine tangled in the mushroom jungle. The detached replica of herself lay at the water's edge, shapeless and deflated.

The mushroom jungle nearby was flecked in white. The bud had gone through its pollination cycle, jetting spores high into the air before collapsing — just as she'd witnessed two years before when other buds, replicating the actions of aliens carrying their dead, had pollinated the jungle of the neighbouring island.

Not expecting a response, she called again for Lazarus, moving along the beach and into the mushroom trees before making her way back to the transport. Those aboard, she guessed, should now be awake.

She almost collided with Naomi in the hatchway. She blinked at Cy and frowned. “What's happened?”

“Looks like we've been knocked out for a while, maybe eight or nine hours.” Cy recounted what happened on the clearing the night before, leaving out only the reappearance of her beloved spider in deference to Naomi's arachnophobia, going on to what had been found on wakening.

Unnerved by what had occurred, Zhores and his crew were all for returning to the wrecks on the yellow plain. Even Cy quietly admitted to herself she'd be happier out of there.

So they lifted. But as they gained altitude they saw the far side of the island and what now lay there on rising ground beyond the mushroom trees.

Random broken things were scattered across fields of odd pattern enclosed on a large, levelled plateau, perfectly square and perhaps ten kilometres on a side. Metallic bulks, rounded, jagged, chunky, angular, crumpled and elongated, lay prone, lay heaped, jutted from the ground. Black and grey and shining silver, poised in attitudes, spacings and juxtapositions that suggested meaning if only it could be grasped.

“Another artwork?” said Danny, straining to comprehend. “More land-locked steamships?”

“More than that,” said Cy, unaware she was whispering as she struggled to reconcile the sight of familiar objects in a shockingly unfamiliar setting.

They landed and filed out onto this plateau of the broken hulls of the Terran cruiser McMurdo Sound and the three Xenoid ships. positioned as slanting towers, as angled planes, as equally spaced pyramids of debris. Arranged like so many garden ornaments

Unheimlich,” Zhores said.

“Pardon?” said Naomi.

“A Freudian term describing the unease created by the commonplace projected into the bizarre — the recognisable contrasting with the weird.”

“Like the land-locked ships.”

“Exactly.”

Drones were sent into the wrecks.

The humans, dwarfed as they approached the nearest spills of cosmic metal, divided their attention between the hulks physically before them and the holographic-bubble images of the interiors transmitted by the drones. The non-Euclidean perspectives from inside the Xenoid ships where nothing could be comprehended by the human mind were disconcerting. Cy averted her eyes from these, watching the gliding images from within the Terran wreck while a cold expectancy tightened her stomach. Any rounding of a twisted corridor, any cresting of a folded bulkhead might reveal human remains, littered, crushed and smeared.

Here a passage leading to a gaping rent; here a deck ravaged by fire-virus; here the crumbled chaos of her fire-control station … at least she thought it was, so shattered and disjointed. The scene spoke of unimaginable brute force, yet it was so clean, so sanitary. Where was the blood she'd seen forming like red storm clouds in the sudden loss of gravity during the battle? Where were the rendered body parts that had slapped against her?

Then she reminded herself that they were dealing with a race that apparently disbelieved in the permanence of death. With some relief and some alarm she felt a growing surety there'd be no biological remains to be seen. These were not the graves of humans and Xenoids. Their graves, she felt sure now, lay elsewhere.

A raised area, suggestively empty and flat, lay on the far side of the plateau ...

“You thinking what I'm thinking?” said Zhores, noticing her speculative gaze.

“That there's another cryogenic tomb here?” Cy nodded. “It'd explain why they closed the one in the clearing. But that flat clearing might be natural. And even if there is another tomb who's to say it's on this planet at all?”

Part of the hologram began to swirl and pulsate.

“Priority call coming through,” said Naomi. “Probably management. The situation report I sent before we left the beach won't reach them for hours yet.”

“They're probably getting impatient,” said Zhores. “Naomi, if you would ...”

She nodded and jogged back to the transport.

“Best we scan that empty area if only to say it's been done,” said Zhores. “But I've got a feeling searching for their new tomb will be like looking for the legendary needle in the haystack, and unproductive if we did find it. I mean, what would we do?” He paused then added thoughtfully, “And yet ...”

“And yet what?” asked Cy who had no idea what a haystack was.

“Death is a great leveller, Lieutenant. Somewhere our people and the Xenoids lie together, waiting to be returned to life. What if we did find this place? What if we could use it as a meeting point for our two races? A common ground serving as the first stepping stone to peace.”

With the Xenoids? Cy thought. In your dreams, baby! In my nightmares!

Naomi returned, carrying a data wafer. “It's from Terran Command, Electra B.” She handed it to Cy.

She read it through, read it again, barked a short, sharp laugh, then sobered. “I'm to return to my ship 'with all despatch',” she said as the others gathered round. “To do this I've been authorised to commandeer any civilian vessel.” She glanced meaningfully back at the transport. “I'm sorry,” she said to all with genuine regret.

“You're sorry?” Zhores said, studying the message. “Wait … it doesn't say why you're being recalled.”

“Telling me why won't get me there any faster. Would you like to guess?”

He made to speak, caught his breath, then in a hoarse whisper said, “The wrecks! The wrecks at Electra B have disappeared!”

“Don't jump to conclusions. It might be the Xenoids are swarming in again. Too bad we haven't found that common ground yet, eh?”

He looked at her sharply. “What you expect to do if the wrecks have disappeared is beyond me. Humanity is hardly in a position to engage a race that can do all this for the sake of art.”

“If the wrecks have disappeared,” said Cy, “what we'll do is wait for them to turn up as pretty artworks and know the dead of both sides are safe. We'll wait until we're smart enough to cure death or at least stop inventing things like me. What else can we do? Not just because they're so godlike, but because they have such a reverence for all life. Who are we to pick a fight with beings like that?”

Zhores, raising his voice, addressed his people. “This side trip to Electra B should take about a day, but it could take much longer as we don't know what's going on there, so we should all go together. However, would anyone be willing to stay here and set up camp and do preliminary ground scans? It would minimise the delay to our examination of this site and there could be a bonus involved.” He looked squarely at Keiko and Sten. “It would look very impressive on your employment records.”

The two interns glanced at each other and shrugged, knowing Zhores had not as much made a suggestion as given a direction. Of the others only Naomi seemed to trust the promise of a possible bonus and volunteered.

Twilight was upon them and the stars were coming out by the time they'd unloaded supplies for the three. Cy, recognising Electra B brightening in the east, wondered what was happening there now. Were the Xenoids attempting to invade that system again, necessitating a need for her peculiar talents? Or were the gods gathering more materials for their galleries, creating havoc among humanity? Although she wanted it to be the latter, she couldn't help hoping it was the former. In her head she heard the martial beat of drums. She felt that wonderful, almost sensual thrill of anticipation, and it made her sick.

Just before they were due to lift, large spiders sporting claws and eye stalks appeared spontaneously among the wrecks. Cy lingered a moment to delight among them. Naomi fled for the ship, leaving interns Keiko and Sten in sole possession of the new exhibit.

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About the Author

Rick Kennett

rick kennett 200I'm a life-long resident of Melbourne, Australia, where I work in the transport industry. I like to explore graveyards, an odd hobby I call necrotourism, although I believe the correct word is taphophile.

I've been writing since 1979 and have had SF and ghost stories in many magazines, anthologies and podcasts. In 2008 my story "The Dark and What It Said" won a Ditmar, and in 2013 my podcast stories "Now Cydonia" and "The Road to Utopia Plain" won two Parsec Awards. I'm presently the podcast reporter for the M.R. James journal Ghosts & Scholars.

"The Gods in their Galleries" is a sequel to my novel "Presumed Dead", available on Amazon.

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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 277

00001001 Lives (Part One)
By Alistair Lloyd

Adaptation: A Dialogue in 10 Parts
By Greg Beatty

Claim Jumper
By D. M. Woolston

Essence
By Tim Borella

In the City of Swordfighting Robots
By Tara Campbell

Moral Module 6: Urashima Taro
By Jeana Jorgensen

Once Again on the Beach
By Umiyuri Katsuyama Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Soggy, Soggy Nights
By Wes Parish

Terrarium
By Chris Karageorge

The Life of a Computer
By Matthew McAyeal

The Return of Rahab
By R. E. Diaz

AntipodeanSF September 2021

ISSUE 276

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

You may find him on Twitter as <@mr_al> and online at <alistairlloyd.com>.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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ed erringtonAlthough a writer of the baby boom persuasion, Ed has not boomed for quite a while.

He lives with his wife plus a menagerie of non-domesticated — native Australian animals intropical North Queensland.

His writing within the ‘real’ science fiction context of COVID-19 is intermingled by long night sky vigils — searching for pesky aliens intent on maintaining their social distance to the nth degree.

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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

We should grant power over affairs only to those who are reluctant to hold it and then only under conditions that increase the reluctance.

Frank Herbert, Chapterhouse: Dune

The Contributors

brian mahon 200Brian Mahon is a former cook, wanderer, lab technician, submariner, and present day now-and-then writer.

He splits his remaining energies seeking knowledge, fighting age, doing laundry, attempting to join the 1,000 pound club, and using flash fiction as a creativity relief valve.

Further information is available on his website, <www.mahanimalism.net>.

greg foyster 200Greg Foyster is a writer, illustrator and author of the memoir Changing Gears.

His stories and cartoons have appeared in The Age, The Saturday Paper, ABC, Meanjin, Eureka Street and others.

His fiction has appeared in The Big Issue, Page Seventeen and Verandah.

He currently works in communications for an environment charity and is finishing a book of short stories. Website: <www.gregfoyster.com>.

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StanleiBellan 200Stanlei Bellan, like any respectable time traveler, has many stories to tell. Some of the most fun and witty are in his book T is for Time Travel.

In other timelines, Stanlei has been a physics professor, an engineering graduate, a start-up entrepreneur, and a winner of six Cannes Lions awards for his creative work in advertising and entertainment.

An immigrant from Brazil who was adopted by California, Stanlei is still learning how to bend time to fit his wife, two sons and a daughter, a cat, his business partners, and his many hobbies (like playing Dungeons & Dragons and uncovering fascinating historical facts).

Stanlei’s writing is inspired by an unquenchable desire to transcend reality into fantasy. You can chat with Stanlei on twitter at @stanlei or visit <https://stanlei.com> to get a FREE STORY!

julian roberts 200I grew up in Elizabeth, SA but have fallen in love with Adelaide's southern coastal suburbs (there's just so much more nature down here).

I live with my wife, The Boss, and my toddler who's a sentient squeal obsessed with dinosaurs and going to the zoo.

We have four cats. They're not awful, but they could be more helpful around the house.

I have a long-distance relationship with depression and have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Cycling is my favourite way to get around and I'm pretty into basketball too (go 36ers).

Cartoons are my favourite thing to binge.

"Be excellent to each other"

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Chad has a B.S. in Biochemistry from California State University, Dominguez Hills.

His fiction has appeared in Farther Stars Than These, Larks Fiction Magazine, 365 Tomorrows, Verdad Magazine, and AntipodeanSF.

nick petrou 200Nick Petrou works as a freelance writer out of Perth, Western Australia, where he likes to read unsettling fiction and complain about the sun.

His short fiction is with or forthcoming with The Arcanist, Ghost Orchid Press, Quill & Crow, and others.

You can find out lots more about him at <nspetrou.com>.

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Umiyuri Katsuyama 200Umiyuri Katsuyama is a multiple-award-winning writer of fantasy and horror, often based on Asian folklore motifs.

A native of Iwate in the far north of Japan, she later moved to Tokyo and studied at Seisen University.

In 2011, she won the Japan Fantasy Novel Award with her novel Sazanami no kuni.

Her most recent novel, Chuushi, ayashii nabe to tabi wo suru, was published in 2018.

Her short fiction has appeared in numerous horror anthologies in Japan.

Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

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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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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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. He 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 ... ?"

aus25grn

rick kennett 200I'm a life-long resident of Melbourne, Australia, where I work in the transport industry. I like to explore graveyards, an odd hobby I call necrotourism, although I believe the correct word is taphophile.

I've been writing since 1979 and have had SF and ghost stories in many magazines, anthologies and podcasts. In 2008 my story "The Dark and What It Said" won a Ditmar, and in 2013 my podcast stories "Now Cydonia" and "The Road to Utopia Plain" won two Parsec Awards. I'm presently the podcast reporter for the M.R. James journal Ghosts & Scholars.

"The Gods in their Galleries" is a sequel to my novel "Presumed Dead", available on Amazon.

aus25grn