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:

Continue reading…

Mothership Zeta Hiatus After Issue 6

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Hello everyone,

We have good news and bad news.

Let’s do bad news first; Mothership Zeta is being placed on hiatus after issue 6. No work has been purchased for issue 7 yet, so we won’t be letting any authors down. Anyone with subscriptions that continue past issue 6 will be offered a refunded, or can choose to wait out the hiatus.

That’s the bad news.

The good news? MZ isn’t going away.

We believe in the magazine and, at WorldCon in particular we were given ample proof that our readers and writers do too. The team at MZ have done extraordinary work in bringing new writers to their first pro sale and helping bring diverse new voices to genre.

That’s going to continue. We just need to figure out how. Hence the hiatus. We’re taking a look at alternate funding models (yes, including Patreon, we hear you), whether the magazine will work better with a higher frequency of publication and what, if anything we need to add to the mix.

In short, we’re putting MZ in dry dock for a refit, not breaking it down for parts. We’ll have news for you once it’s ready to relaunch and believe us, we won’t be bashful.

Be Mighty,
Mur Lafferty, Editor in Chief
Karen Bovenmyer, Assistant Editor, Nonfiction

PS- Issue 5 is coming soon!

Staff Announcement

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Sunil Patel has resigned as Fiction Assistant Editor at Mothership Zeta, effective immediately. We thank him for all his hard work on the magazine’s first six issues.

Inside the Matrix by Pamela L Gay

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We are pleased Dr. Gay consented to speculate in this article about the science behind creating a permanent singularity like the possible future presented in “For the Children” by Jamie Wahls. Well, science and space pirates.


Inside the Matrix

by Dr. Pamela L. Gay


Since the beginning of the computer era, people have been speculating that our reality might exist within a computer simulation. This idea was first popularized in 1956, by Isaac Asimov in The Last Question, and famously re-articulated in 1999’s Oscar-winning The Matrix.  Today, prominent thinkers, ranging from Neil Tyson to Elon Musk, are publicly stating that there are good odds that what we call reality is just a simulation. If you are like me, the idea that we are simulated souls living our lives according to complex software is not entirely comforting. Making things even more confusing is the idea that we have the potential to someday download ourselves into future computers. This seems to imply that we could become simulated people simulated in a simulated universe, which I think makes it simulations all the way down. Continue reading…

The Story Doctor Is (In) by James Patrick Kelly

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James Patrick Kelly is back with another Story Doctor article, this time about Jamie Wahls’s “For the Children.” This is a special treat because JPK has edited an anthology on the Singularity and readily shares some of his expert knowledge on the subject.

The Story Doctor Is (In)

by James Patrick Kelly

In a 1993 essay provocatively called “The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era,” Vernor Vinge asked the world in general – and science fiction writers in particular – to contemplate a dire future. “Within thirty years,” the abstract of his paper warns, “we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly after, the human era will be ended.” Forget what that might mean for the New York Stock Exchange and Major League Baseball, think about what it would mean for hardworking writers like Jamie Wahls and me! “More and more, these writers felt an opaque wall across the future. Once, they could put such fantasies millions of years in the future. Now they saw that their most diligent extrapolations resulted in the unknowable … soon.” Now it is true that Vinge didn’t develop the concepts behind the Singularity all by himself, and that current thinking about the Post-Human Era, by Vinge and others, has evolved. For one thing, Vinge’s timetable seems a bit optimistic these days. But nonetheless, the Singularity has become a touchstone controversy in our genre. Those who believe in the Singularity have created a thriving subgenre of fiction exploring its implications while many of those who doubt feel compelled to account for why it isn’t part of their futures.

If you’re going to write about the Singularity, you need to figure out how to tell stories on the far side of Vinge’s “opaque wall.” Brilliant writers like Charles Stross and Hannu Rajaniemi have risen to the challenge with stories that approach the informational density of neutron stars, stories which some readers find … well … daunting. In “For the Children,” Jamie finds a more accessible narrative strategy, one that provides handholds for the reader and locates the essential humanity of these characters in their sense of humor.

Continue reading…

For the Children by Jamie Wahls

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What will the human race be like hundreds, even thousands of years in the future? What does identity mean if your consciousness is digital? Exactly how snarky can an artificial intelligence be? Jamie Wahls explores these questions and more in a story about one big diamond and the fate of a species.

For the Children

by Jamie Wahls

The explosion rocked the ship. Air gushed from the hole, salting the cold vacuum with fire and oxygen and fish. Riva was squeezed out the hole, her body pulped and frozen and in a hundred other ways destroyed in ways evolution hadn’t planned for.

She died.

She woke up.

“Dammit,” she said.

Memory loss 0.003%, apologized the ship. New body ready in four minutes.

“Ugh,” groaned Riva, exasperated. One thing after another.

With her mental hands she seized the viewing eyes of the ship and dragged them into her head. The pleasantly ambiguous background of the space between flesh cut away, and her camera eyes fixed on the hole in her ship’s side.

A jagged diamond the size of mankind’s first space shuttle had opened her ship like a tin can. It was punctured through a hydrogen tank, through a cargo bay, through the cockpit, and into the aquarium.

#momo: nice one

#reaver: Shut up

#momo: no I mean that’s a real nice diamond

#momo: shame we found it so…ballistically

#reaver: Shut up

#momo: sorry about your fish though

#reaver: Yeah

#momo: hey, you okay?

#reaver: Yeah. Died, lost 3 delta.

#momo: oof, steep

#reaver: Catch me up. Was I doing anything important before I died?

#momo: eh, not really. Basically Humanity chewed us out because they want to get going already. You told them to hold their collective horse-analogues. “If you think you can do it better, come out here and do it, ya crotchety beam-of-light people.”

#reaver: Ok

#momo: “Now get off my lawn, ya damn kids. Granny Riva is working.”

#reaver: Ok

#momo: And I think you said something about how much you loved those fish

#reaver: UGH

#momo: Lol

Continue reading…

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.


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…