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Ban Fiction: 'The Empire Cashes Back' by Mazin Saleem

Economies Of Scale

“I shan’t thank you for coming to see me. Your report stated, bragged even, that you’d chosen to use the proper channels rather than - what exactly? I didn’t know any improper channels still existed. No don’t look worried, I’d been meaning anyway to have this chat.

“You’ve questioned our spending over - forget the last quarter - the last four decades. Implied, a question of priorities. You’ve stated, with I detect some polite horror, that the first station cost 10 trillion, or ‘thereabouts’. A lot hangs on that word. The real figure was closer to 100.

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Fiction: 'Alf' by Mazin Saleem

Pornokitsch

Time travel was invented twice. First, by the woman who burst into the lab of Rosa Maravu looking like an older version of her. She gave the young physicist a hand-drawn plan, sobbed, then disappeared. Rosa worked on this plan but also became convinced of something: her own indestructibility, at least till that point in her future when she’d travel back and hand the plan to herself. Quashing her nervous nature, she took to parasailing and was struck by lightning (tow rope sizzling to the boat deck in an exclamation mark). Time travel was invented by her lab partner, Maria Seini; it appeared that the present was an ultimate point, forever unfurling. All that existed: the glacier of the past.

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Fiction: 'Jade City' (Extract) by Fonda Lee

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Even in the shade, sweat trickled down the backs and faces of the year-eight students. Ten of them stood nervously, each behind a short tower of hot bricks. “One more,” said the master, and the assistant year-threes hurried to the fire pit with tongs, carefully but quickly removing bricks from the flames and placing another on top of each of the ten smoldering stacks. One of the waiting year-eights, named Ton, muttered quietly, “Ah, what to choose, pain or failure?”

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Fiction: 'Four Feet' by Kirsty Logan

Howard Hardiman - Four FeetOnce upon a night, a girl tiptoed on slippered feet into a garage, clutching a rag and a tin of beeswax. The only sound was the steady tick of the watchman's cane as he passed, but Eliska stood motionless on the step for another moment. The garage smelled of cold air and the sweet tickle of beeswax. She checked again to make sure that her feet were properly encased in their slippers – a cold floor might cause untold damage to a girl's feet – and stepped across to her animus.

The animus was a bull with golden horns and engraved wheels, and Eliska rose before dawn every other month to polish the horns until the tips were sharp enough to pierce the clouds. She knew that she cut a pretty figure, perched high in her animus with her hands resting on the controls.

With the rag gripped in her fist, Eliska scooped a fingerful of beeswax from the tin and started to rub tiny half-moons onto the clouded haunches of her animus. Within moment she was lost in her task. The servants never polished the animus properly, and Eliska could feel it down under her lungs: the shining surface hushed by cloud-fat whorls of grime and grit. She could not bear to have her breath tightened and her eyes blurred by her imperfect animus. It was a part of her, and the servants – they with the shell-hard soles and flattened arches – could never understand that. They could polish from dinner until breakfast and still Eliska would find a smudge at the very tip of her animus's horns.

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Fiction: 'An Affinitive Romance' by John Kendrick Bangs

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I. MR. AUGUSTUS RICHARDS'S IDEAL

Mr. Augustus Richards was thirty years of age and unmarried. He could afford to marry, and he had admired many women, but none of them came up to his ideals. Miss Fotheringay, for instance, represented his notions as to what a woman should be physically, but intellectually he found her woefully below his required standard. She was tall and stately—Junoesque some people called her—but in her conversation she was decidedly flippant. She was interested in all the small things of life, but for the great ones she had no inclination. She preferred a dance with a callow youth to a chat with a man of learning. She worshipped artificial in-door life, but had no sympathy with nature. The country she abominated, and her ideas of rest consisted solely in a change of locality, which was why she went to Newport every summer, there to indulge in further routs and dances when she wearied of the routs and dances of New York.

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Fiction: 'The White Fox and the Red' by E.J. Swift

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The year the world changed forever was the year the foxes changed colour. Well, it didn’t happen as quickly as that, within a single season, but it might as well have. One year they were white, the next they were red. Bigger too, and bolder. Out on the tundra she called home, a long way from any other living soul, the old woman known as Aapia found a red fox carcass, its belly slashed and open to the cold skies. She took the carcass home and made a coat from its fur. In the old days, its russet blaze would have been fatal for hunting, but the snow had gone along with the white foxes.

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Fiction: 'Confidence Game' by James McKimmey

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George H. Cutter wheeled his big convertible into his reserved space in the Company parking lot with a flourish. A bright California sun drove its early brightness down on him as he strode toward the square, four-story brick building which said Cutter Products, Inc. over its front door. A two-ton truck was grinding backward, toward the loading doors, the thick-shouldered driver craning his neck. Cutter moved briskly forward, a thick-shouldered man himself, though not very tall. A glint of light appeared in his eyes, as he saw Kurt, the truck driver, fitting the truck's rear end into the tight opening.

“Get that junk out of the way!” he yelled, and his voice roared over the noise of the truck's engine.

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Fiction: 'Grave-Worms' by Molly Tanzer

Graveworms_final_clay_300dpi_jpgThe grey flannel suit might have looked masculine on the rack, or on another woman, but the close cut of the cloth, and the way the expensive fabric skimmed over the lines of her straight, slender figure was intensely, wholly feminine. If you saw her from behind, you might have thought she looked frail, or saint-like with her close-cropped hair—but when she turned, the determination that shone brightly from the grey eyes almost lost behind her long black lashes was anything but fragile.

Or innocent.

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