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We’re back!

It’s been a long journey, and we’ve missed you. It is a personal delight to be able to announce that we have the team back together and the site up and running. As of today, we’re soft-launching our new website, restoring access to the AE archives and bringing all the amazing stories we’ve published over recent years back online.

We’re also getting ready for a fresh new issue of AE after a year long hiatus: we’re accepting new submissions from authors and artists, and can’t wait publish AE Issue #23. The stories we’ve accepted so far are amazing – and we know you’ll love them.

In the meantime, take a look at the new site and let us know what you think. We’ve officially recognized some of our favourite stories with a brand new feature: the Editor’s Choice Award. These stories are some of our favourites, and is the perfect place to start if this is your first time here.

Don’t forget to sign up for the mailing list, and we’ll be sure you’re invited to the launch party when we release our first (new) issue.

Love and lasers,

Paul, Helen, Duff, and the rest of the AE Team.

Ten Things to Consider When Blinking

0. Don’t worry. The fact that you are reading this implies that your universe exists.

We recognize unease regarding the blink. This is normal. Anxiety is to be expected. The following list of considerations has been created to address this understandable concern.

1. Don’t worry. What you are about to experience, though becoming common, is not actually physically possible. It is a well established scientific principle that the amount of energy required to accelerate even a single colonizing vessel beyond light speed is more than the energy contained in the entire universe.

2. Nonetheless, it will take your vessel seven impossible blinks to reach one of the first-wave colony worlds. We are working to bring that number of impossibilities down to one or two, but for now things are gravitationally complex at either end of the journey. Smaller blinks are easier to calibrate.

3. Don’t worry. You will not feel anything. The thing you will not feel is the energy required for each impossible blink being siphoned from a network of neighboring universes.

4. Don’t worry. The drain is randomly distributed across universes that lie closest to our own on the higher-dimensional multiversal manifold. Some universes contribute very little of their total energy. Others contribute all of theirs. It is mathematically impossible to determine how much energy is contributed by any single neighboring universe.

5. Remember: the multiverse is an inexhaustible resource. Quantum mechanics implies that each minute variation in our own universe spawns a new one. This means in the moment it takes you to ponder the ethical implications of siphoning energy from neighboring universes, the processes of consciousness alone—the variations of the billions of quantum states involved in thinking—have generated another trillion universes.

6. Of course, if you are still troubled by the ethics of sacrificing entire realities for the sake of instantaneous travel, you are welcome to join the relativistic colonizers venturing outward in hibernation ships for the thousand-year journey to the first-wave colony worlds at a fraction of light-speed. You may find comfort in the knowledge that a centuries-long dreaming will birth billions of realities from variations in every conceivable aspect of your dreaming.

7. In addition, consider that there are countless universes in which you decided to board a relativistic colonizer vessel, even if in this reality you are choosing to blink. And there are billions of universes in which various versions of you are blinking.

8. Don’t worry. The statistical probability of any one particular universe (this one, for instance) being siphoned of energy to allow for a blink in a neighboring universe is effectively zero. (If you are still worried, please see the first item at the head of this list.)

9. Consider: this is the universe in which we get there. This is the reality that endures. Every decision creates universes that this you is not a part of, universes from which you are permanently excluded. Those alien universes for all intents and purposes do not exist for you and for everyone else in your own universe. You owe those universes nothing. Let them be the fodder that gets us to the stars.

10. The first-wave colony worlds are waiting. Don’t worry.

Comets Are Named for Their Discoverers

In the weeks leading up to the visit from his other woman, my man buys the following things—an expensive telescope, a fold-out camping chair, a book of star maps—then sets up his makeshift observatory by the toolshed out back.

His other woman has an orbital period of 5.6 years. He told me an easy way to remember is it’s slightly longer than Kowal’s Comet. I said I’d only heard of the famous one, Halley’s. He frowned: “Oh, well, that one’s much longer, about 75.”

Caty’s man, Henry, his other woman has an orbital period of 0.63 years. That’s every seven and a half months. He doesn’t even bring his camping chair inside.

My man won’t tell me what it’s like, fucking a million tiny particles of ice and dust, just that she’s warmer than I’d think, smells cleaner too. Just that it’s a man’s right, I know that. A taste of the heavenly, periodically, allows them to tolerate their otherwise ordinary lives.

We call them the other women because our men don’t have names for them.

I like to imagine she’s named him, though. After herself, or something functional for cataloging. Alphanumeric, or her language’s version of that.

Dead Stars

Far from Earth, in a peculiar region of dead space, hang dark stars that somehow seem yet to blaze.

Ship pulled into orbit by groping gravity; sensors showing nothing – something strange – normality – nothing again. Crews’ minds’ eyes reveal more – mad shapes, contorted, longing for release – through the depthless void.

As they wait, watch, the dark star seems to snap open like a silent and lightless nova, revealing life at its heart. From within, a writhing black singularity takes form inside minds seeking to impose image, order upon something unimaginable, entirely alien.

It reaches out, desiring companionship, swallows the vessel whole.

Kanchenjunga’s Hopes

Every summer solstice, we trailed Father as he sought Lord Shiva’s home. The quest for the mythical place was his, yet he required us to be servants of a kind, carrying his gear and his hopes. We never bested the raging winds of a crevasse which looked like a frown from afar. In our teens we complained that we no longer wanted to climb Kanchenjunga. We much preferred to sing, dance, and drink beers.

We moved away, found love and heartbreak, and joked about Crazy Father. After returning home one summer, Father answered the door in furs, the only visible area his nose and round cheeks. He handed us picks and said there was little time left.

Climbing the mountain in silence, we trudged through chill winds. The frowning crevasse had been replaced by a flat bed of earthen snow. Father broke out into a run, a wild bear on a chase. When he reached the summit, we all looked out, clouds drenching our bodies. We looked above to an infinite abode of stars. Father fell on his knees and put his arms to the sky, letting out a roar. We did the same.

Pull the Plug

“I’m cold.”

“I know, sweetie. Don’t worry, when we get home we’ll crank up the heat and make ourselves nice and toasty, alright?”

Watching the mother and daughter approach, Hyp stood and held up his placard; ‘Energy’s not Infinite! Conserve and Preserve!’

The pair hurried past, avoiding eye-contact.

Watching them go, Hyp lowered the sign and sat back down on his patch of newspapers. It wasn’t a nice feeling, being ignored, but he was used to it by now.

Tilting his head, he gazed up at the sun shining dully in the clear blue sky. The light felt feeble and weak. So weak in fact, if he squinted he was convinced he could actually see the Dyson Pump on the solar surface; churning away, sucking up the star’s energy, beaming it down to the planet.

A persistent buzzing from his pocket pulled him from his thoughts. Reaching in, he withdrew a small communicator.

“Sir, it’s time.”

“Already? You’re sure?”

“Sector solar reserves are down to 20%. That’s the cut-off point; we all agreed.”

“Yeah, I know,” Ambassador Hyperius sighed.  “Alright, switch to Plan B.”

“Kill all the humans?”

“Kill all the humans.”

With My Kind

They’ll be coming for me. Fine. Anyway, there’s something so satisfying about a high-speed chase through space involving a Crip at the helm.

Huh.

Funny how our leadership brags that our planet’s a galactic god of tech, but they’re oblivious to the spirit of disabled sentients. Whatever. I’m here, alone for the moment, lights off but with life support, staring at the stars.

I’d been scheduled for “restructuring.” Well, the collective They felt people with legs that don’t leg were an impediment to their medical accolades. Being corralled to the Institute (read: institution) with about a hundred others was super fun. Thank goodness for Sheena. Our late-night convos from our bunks made everything bearable.

“You’re a star,” she’d sign. “You need to shine with your own kind.”

I finally had the courage to sign back, “I love you,” the night before they took her away.

She wasn’t voiceless. I heard her screams. The restructuring didn’t take.

So, for the next weeks, I watched. Each security team, what they carried, when they took breaks.

They shouldn’t have left that hoverchair unattended.

Nor the Crip Carrier.

Gorgeous ship, too.

I’m with my own kind now, Sheena.

“I love you.”

Ninja Stars

The shuriken winks under the light of the moon, slipping from Saito’s fingers into his adversary’s back.

The enemy collapses inches from the riverbed; his blood spews into the water.

When his movement stills, Saito approaches, his katana drawn, footsteps cautious.

Saito rolls the body over to grasp the identity of his enemy and recognizes the face as his own.

In silence, he smears the clone’s face with thick mud and sets the body back in a downward position.

Suddenly, the sound of crackling leaves cuts through the silence and surrounds Saito.

He prepares to retreat when seven men step into view, the moonlight bathes them in a soft glow and paints them his allies.

Oda, his closest comrade, greets him mirthfully and the men regroup around a campfire.

The circle passes around tea, stories of war, and the great Legend of Starcopies, a chilling myth of celestial yokai stealing the form of men and haunting them to take their place.

Meanwhile, Oda sips the matcha in silence, his keen eyes glued to the scar on Saito’s right hand that used to be on his left.

The Seventh Sister

Look up, up at us. Then look us up.
You will not find her.

Looking up, you will count a little cluster of six.
Visible to the naked eye in a clear night sky.
Someone will say, there, the Seven Sisters. Though the seventh, of course, is invisible.

If you look us up in a book or online, you will learn many things, some of them true.
Our names, or who our father was, how he held up the sky.
How we are named after mother.
How “lustful” Orion chased us, back when we were mountain nymphs.
How Zeus intervened. Made us first birds, then stars.

Then, some theories about our sister’s conspicuous absence, why she might be hiding.
Is it shame for being the only one of us to have stooped to loving a mortal man?
Or maybe grief over mortals’ wars?

You can believe that if you like. But it’s not what happened.
The truth is: Our sister isn’t hiding with us. She is not here at all.

She is out there, knife in hand, facing down the rapist Orion and his disciples. Protecting us.
Every time she strikes, her blade’s sparks rain down as shooting stars.

Wood Buffalo Scullery

We built the star scullery, on the moor that used to be Wood Buffalo National Park. The land looked nothing like the boreal forest from great-grandmother’s tales of Canada’s final wildness.

It was scrub grass and deep pits with metal and concrete protruding at odd angles.

The scullery was a cloth house, with removable spines, we carried on our backs. If anyone had been interested in leaving the city, we’d have patented it.

Fairy tale sculleries had washstands. We had a telescope, an antique thought useless by our generation who doubted the existence of stars.

We arrived in July. During the brief night, the light clouds from Edmonton and Yellowknife kissed. We waited. Great-grandmother’s tales told of long nights in December. By late November, at midnight there was a thin piece of navy visible to the naked eye.

It was just a sliver, but enough that we thought it might be possible to wedge a bit of true darkness back to the earth.

In the false darkness of the scullery, we took turns looking through the telescope lens.

I was the first to see it. A star on December 21, 2145, an honest to goodness star.