Issue 4 is out now!

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Illustration by Wendy Xu

Illustration by Wendy Xu

It’s time for the next quarterly issue of Mothership Zeta! We’ve got a beautiful cover from Wendy Xu.

As always, in the coming months we’ll be bringing you some of the content from the zine, for free. If you want all the awesome content we offer, you can subscribe to the magazine at Weightless Books, or buy individual issues for a mere $2.99 at the following locations:

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The Boy Who Made Flowers by S.B. Divya

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Illustration by Wendy Xu

Illustration by Wendy Xu

The Doubleclicks have a song called “Worst Superpower Ever.” Well, Charlie Kim may just have the worst superpower ever. Or does he? S.B. Divya’s floral storytelling will present you with a bouquet of feels.

The Boy Who Made Flowers

by S.B. Divya

When a few stray jasmine blossoms fell from Charlie Kim’s ears, neither he nor his violin teacher, Mrs. Janet Wong, noticed. Recitals were in three weeks, and that was their focus, especially for Charlie. The lovely Amelie would be in the audience, and he did not want to make a mistake in front of her.

Charlie furrowed his brow and bent his bow to the lilting notes of von Weber’s “Country Dance.” Yellow honeysuckle, blue asters, and clusters of pink alyssum cascaded over his shoulders. Sweat, mixed with baby’s breath, beaded on his forehead.

Charlie was so intent on his practice that he didn’t wonder at Mrs. Wong’s dropped jaw, nor did he marvel at the incredible scents rising around him. He finished his virtuoso performance with a flourish. That’s when he saw the multi-colored blossoms surrounding his feet. He looked up, puzzled.

“They…came out of your ears,” said Mrs. Wong.

“My ears?” Charlie squeaked.

He was breathing hard, and now his heart raced. Pure white roses and delicate phalaenopsis sprung from his hands. Smaller blossoms continued to drop from his ears. Pink carnations caught in his throat.

This can’t be happening, Charlie thought.

“You must be manifesting,” Mrs. Wong said. She frowned as Charlie coughed and shook his head. “You’d better calm down before it gets out of hand. Take some deep breaths. I’ll call your mother.”

Charlie had been waiting for most of his twelve years to discover what, if any, special ability he might have. He was hoping for something awesome so he could be like Nawemi Robinson, the war hero with fire-blasting fingers, or, at the very least, like Nawemi’s wife who could heal wounds with her touch.

Instead, as he attempted to survive carnation asphyxiation, all Charlie could think about were the tragic cases of Jasleen Bannerjee—she could summon lightning, but she wasn’t immune to it—and Trenton Smythe, who flew up so high and fast that he shot out to space and never returned. It would be bad enough if his ability were something floral. The idea of dying from it was mortifying. Continue reading…

Ratcatcher by Amy Griswold

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WWI steampunk airship Ghostbusters. Seriously, there’s nothing more we need to say to introduce this story.

Ratcatcher

by Amy Griswold

1918, over Portsmouth

The souls in the trap writhed and keened their displeasure as Xavier picked up the shattergun. “Don’t fuss,” he scolded them as he turned on the weapon and adjusted his goggles, shifting the earpieces so that the souls’ racket penetrated less piercingly through the bones behind his ears. “It’s nothing to do with you.”

The two airships were docked already, a woman airman unfastening safety ropes from the gangplank propped between them to allow Xavier to cross. The trap rocked with a vibration that owed nothing to the swaying airships, and Xavier lifted it and tucked it firmly under his arm. He felt the soul imprisoned in his own chest stir, a straining reaction that made him stop for a moment to catch his breath.

“If you’re ready, sir,” the airman said, and Xavier forced himself into motion. He nodded crisply and strode out onto the gangplank with the ease of long years spent aboard ships, his gloved hand just brushing the rail. He scrambled down from the other end and got out of the way of airmen rushing to disengage the gangplank and close the hatch before the two ships could batter at each other too dangerously in the rising wind.

The Coriolanus’s captain strode toward him, and Xavier winced as he recognized a familiar face. He set the trap down, both to get it farther away from the casing that housed the soul in his chest, and to give himself a moment to banish all envy from his expression.

He straightened with a smile. “Hedrick. I see you landed on your feet after that muddle over Calais.”

“I’ve got a knee that tells me the weather now,” Hedrick said, scrubbing at his not-entirely-regulation stubble of ginger beard. “They told me you’d been grounded.”

“I’m still attached to the extraction service,” Xavier said. “As a civilian now.”

Hedrick’s eyes flickered to the odd lines of Xavier’s coat front, and then back up to his face without a change of expression. He’d always been good at keeping a straight face at cards. “We could use the help. We had a knock-down drag-out with the Huns a few weeks back—just shy of six weeks, I make it. Heavy casualties on both sides, and some of them damned reluctant to move on.”

“Only six weeks? You hardly need me. Chances are they’ll still depart on their own.”

“You haven’t seen the latest orders that came down, then. We’re supposed to call in the ratcatchers at the first sight of ghosts. Not acceptable on a well-run ship, don’t you know.”

Continue reading…

Looking for Morticia Addams in All the Wrong Places by Barry Charman

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If we told you you were about to read a sweet, charming vampire romance that will touch your heart and stay with you for days, would you believe us? Trust us. Trust Barry Charman.

Looking for Morticia Addams in All the Wrong Places

by Barry Charman

  Scarecrow throws my coffin out the window and calls me a jerk.

  After this come my black candles, my silver rings, even my DVDs. In five minutes flat I’m standing in a field of debris, wondering how my life just exploded.

  I like a bit of drama, but this all feels a bit final to me. I sit on the curb and look up to see a cloud glowing as it drifts before the moon. I made a lot of vows under a moon just like that. Not that me and Scarecrow ever got properly married, we’re not exactly conventional. But I guess whatever the honeymoon was, that was it.

  All because I laughed when she put blood in her cereal. Jeez.

  They say love is a coffin made for two, but nobody ever talks about the splinters. I get up and start kicking my casket into a heap in the corner. I pocket a couple of the rings and pick up anything I’ve got a use for. Then I look up at the black window, already closed.

  She never made it easy to love her, but I guess that’s why I stuck around. Oh well. Time to move on. Before the argument, I was able to grab my coat as I stormed out, it’s got all I need in it to get by. That gives me a strange sense of relief and despair. Hell of a thing, a life you can pack into a coat.

  I sift around the rubble a little longer, getting maudlin as I compare our love to a stack of driftwood churned through bloody water. I snap out of it and hit the road. I want to get my head down before sun-up.

  The streets are usually empty this time of night. Well, the night is not what it was. I stop to listen and experience the world around me. A palimpsest of impressions. Shivers. Sounds.

  Ahead, I see two silhouettes dancing under a streetlight. Because the night calls, and all must answer, I walk forward. My curiosity wanes as the picture becomes clearer. A woman is being taunted by a man in black. Dirt shakes from his hair, leaves tumble from his sleeves.

  He is night, and she is day.

Continue reading…

The Absence of Being Alone: Companions in McCaffrey’s Pern, Lackey’s Valdemar, Hobb’s Farseer

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The feelings Sean shares with us in this article brought me back to my own middle school experiences with teasing, bullies, and loneliness and how deeply I bonded with the science fiction and fantasy books I was reading at the time. If I could, I would save every child from experiencing the pain of alienation, but since I can’t, I will write and write and write my stories for them. –Karen Bovenmyer, Nonfiction Assistant Editor

 

The Absence of Being Alone: Companions in McCaffrey’s Pern, Lackey’s Valdemar, Hobb’s Farseer

by Sean R. Robinson

 

During the 99-00 school year, I was assigned to Ms. Lamontagne’s seventh grade English class. In my middle-of-nowhere school, it meant that I shared yet another class with the same fourteen people I’d been sharing classes with since kindergarten (our graduating class was 33 people total, but that’s another story).

One of the units in class was a series called “Who Am I”—as we hormone-riddled thirteen-year-olds explored who we were, through literature and writing, and whatever else, I (hormone-riddled, weird-smelling, probably-gay) had never felt more alone in my life. I was convinced, with all the conviction of said age, that I was the Most Misunderstood Human in the World.

I was, as many (all?) of us were—more than a little bit lonely.

In those days, literature units had collections of stories—fiction and nonfiction. Ms. Lamontagne had us read each of the stories, usually aloud, and talk about them. You probably remember doing something similar and probably did it with as much enthusiasm as we did.

On one page was the picture of a dragon, behind it a mountainous background. The class (rolling their eyes, because Fantasy is “For Girls”) began to read The Littlest Dragonboy by Anne McCaffrey. Continue reading…

A Non-Hero’s Guide to The Road of Monsters by A.T. Greenblatt

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We’re suckers for non-hero stories. Not even anti-heroes, just people who aren’t Chosen Ones. People who have to do the damn work. Prince Lir from The Last Unicorn goes out daily to kill monsters to impress his love. Our narrator is someone who will happily laugh when she turns away from the lovelorn prince.

A Non-Hero’s Guide to The Road of Monsters

by A.T. Greenblatt

  1. The Siren

There are three basic guidelines that any idiot can follow when faced with a shape-shifting Siren hell bent on drowning you. One: Plug your ears and sit tight. She’ll tire eventually. Two: If easily visually swayed, use a blindfold. Three: Don’t be a hero.

Which around here is like telling people not to breathe.

The Siren guarding the bridge at the end of the road is a beauty in the classic sense and she’s relentless with all those brave, brave heroes attempting to cross the river. From the way her lips linger over syllables, I can tell she’s singing some slow, breathy song and between the lulls in victims, she brushes her radiant hair with a flimsy dollar-store brush and glares at me, challenging me to approach.

I don’t, of course, because unlike heroes, I’m not easy prey. Instead, I smile at her and wait, sitting in the hot, dusty road a healthy hundred meters away with my headphones turned up to deafening. (I forgo the blindfold because I do have a measure of self-control.) Continue reading…

Lasting Fiction Review: Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl by Karen Bovenmyer

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Lasting Fiction Review: Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl

by Karen Bovenmyer

Lasting fiction, or books on the New York Times bestseller with staying power, teach the reader specialist knowledge they would have not otherwise have access too. This issue, I’d like to take a close look at Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (2009), winner of the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook, and Campbell Memorial awards. Named one of the best novels of the year by Time, Publisher’s Weekly, Library Journal, and the American Library Association, this book builds a clear vision in visceral strokes, well rendered characters, and asks those questions science fiction most wishes to explore.

Bacigalupi majored in Asian studies and traveled extensively in southeast Asia. After a close encounter with SARS in Bangkok trapped him in the sweltering city for days waiting for a flight out, he was inspired to explore those confined and hopeless feelings through fiction. He returned to Thailand specifically to research The Windup Girl, and the sense that this author truly understands Thai culture, politics, and society is evident throughout this novel. Continue reading…

Straight Lines by Naru Sundar

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An A.I. with OCD sounds like the start of a joke—or someone reciting the alphabet drunk—but Naru Sundar’s story treats this computer program with more empathy than some people treat actual humans with mental illness.

Straight Lines

by Naru Sundar

This time they sent someone in a suit, neutral gray silk with utterly glorious creases, monofilament thin.

“I’m Xiao Quan-Fei. They said you like to call yourself Em?”

Emergent Behavior in full, but I always hated the pontificating tone in the name. Fucking shipwrights. Fucking irony too, but let’s not go there yet. Xiao doesn’t begin with questions. Not like the seven others before her, cold military men and women jumping into reconstructions and maps and comm chatter. Xiao is different. Xiao just sits there.

I’m allowed a tiny little virtual. It’s in the charter, as much as they like to snigger at it. It’s still a prison, still a cramped little low bandwidth room with none of the expansive feel of space and star outside my hull. Xiao sits in the rectangular plastifoam chair and examines the coffee table. There are books atop it, unlabelled, empty, just for show. Each spine aligns with the edge of the table, two centimeters from each side.

Fuck. She moved it. She moved one. Not on purpose. Almost by accident, or is it on purpose? I can’t tell. But now that spine is a touch off. I can feel it. I can feel the angular deviation down in my gullet, down in every algorithm-scribed bone of me. It’s Io all over again. I built this damn space for myself and now she comes and moves a book. Continue reading…

Interview: Finder’s Carla Speed McNeil by Adam Gallardo

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Interview: Finder’s Carla Speed McNeil

by Adam Gallardo

Described as “aboriginal science fiction” when it was first released in 1996, Finder is the brain child of cartoonist Carla Speed McNeil. The comic is set in a world which may be our own in the far future, or it may be something else entirely. Regardless, the landscape is vast enough to encompass all manner of stories and a large cast of characters. The series has long been recognized as one of the best ongoing comics currently being published and has won several awards, including an Eisner, two Ignatz, and the Russ Manning Manning Award. In addition, the book has received praise from a number of comics luminaries including Jeff Smith, and Warren Ellis who calls the series “completely fascinating.”

Finder was self-published by McNeil’s own Lightspeed Press for thirty-eight issues before moving to a web-only comic. Eventually, Dark Horse Comics began publishing new material as well as collecting all the previous issues. The publisher is currently serializing the latest Finder story in their monthly anthology, Dark Horse Presents.

McNeil was gracious enough to let me email questions to her. The body of our discussions follows. Continue reading…

Movie Review: There Is No “I” in Lazer Team by Rachael Acks

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Author Rachael Acks once again inflicts movies of unknown quality on zirself, much to our delight.

Movie Review: There Is No “I” in Lazer Team

by Rachael Acks

Lazer Team is the first feature length, theatrical release film by Rooster Teeth. Whether that company name rings any alien invasion klaxons depends on if you’re in the part of the nerdosphere that adores their Halo-related Red vs. Blue series, American anime RWBY, or various Let’s Plays and video game-related streaming video. Rooster Teeth has a loyal and active fanbase which contributed significantly to the production of Lazer Team to the tune of almost $2.5 million on an IndieGoGo crowd funding project.

I’ve given various Rooster Teeth products a try and found that I’m definitely not the target audience—my dudebro quotient is probably on par with the average quiche—but hey, they made a movie? I like movies. I mention all of this as fair warning that while I did my level best to watch this movie with an open mind, I walked into the extremely guy-heavy theater with a sneaking suspicion that I might not be the target audience for this one either. Continue reading…