Looking for Sentience

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Luna Station Quarterly, June 2019


“I know you help robots prove their sentience, and I believe I’m sentient. I know I’m not a robot, but I can’t find anyone who helps people like me.”

Light glinted off the tips of the spires that rose from the rocky asteroid base of Kau Meti as Gerengelo’s shuttle approached.  The yellow sunlight caught the metal of the spires in just the right way to gleam enticingly, like a wink and the promise of a shiny, exciting future.  Gerangelo was not impressed.  He was familiar with the promises humans made to themselves and others — with words, with shiny buildings, even with contracts filled with legally binding language.  They made promises and broke them.  Sometimes, though, when they wouldn’t break their own promises, Gerangelo had to break their promises for them — fight his way through with a machete of righteousness. Continue reading “Looking for Sentience”

Twelve Days of Snow on Crossroads Station

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, May 2021


“It was as if an angel of winter had kissed the air inside the spinning wheel space station. So cold, so beautiful, so unexpected.”

When the snow began falling inside Crossroads Space Station, all of the aliens stopped what they were doing and held very still.  The snowflakes caught on long fuzzy manes and feathered wings; they pinged lightly against hard insectile carapaces and shimmering reptilian scales.  The white flakes hung in the air, stirred by the puffs of breath from snouts and beaks.  The breaths themselves crystallized in the sudden chill.

It was as if an angel of winter had kissed the air inside the spinning wheel space station.  So cold, so beautiful, so unexpected. Continue reading “Twelve Days of Snow on Crossroads Station”

Furry Fiction: The Squishy Edges and the Heart

by Mary E. Lowd

Adapted from threads written on Twitter, May 2021


The definition of furry fiction is really very simple: it is fiction featuring anthropomorphic characters.

Let’s talk about the squishy edges of the genre of furry fiction.

Why?

Because a lot of people clearly have no idea what the genre is.  And then, once we’ve talked about the squishy edges, let’s also talk about the heart. After that, we’ll take a brief tour through the most common sub-genres. Let’s get this whole question of the nature of furry fiction truly sorted out!

The first question I always get asked by people who’ve never heard of furry fiction before is, “What about lizards? Or fish?” Continue reading “Furry Fiction: The Squishy Edges and the Heart”

The Christmas Tree Barn

by Mary E. Lowd

First published in Nature Futures, December 2021, by Springer Nature


“Our trees can recognize faces and everything. They’re approximately as smart as Labrador Retrievers.”

The concrete floor of the basement was freezing cold right through Becca’s socks, and the air smelled moldy.  She hadn’t properly aired the basement out since it had flooded most of a year ago, last spring.  Becca yanked on the corner of the old, beat-up cardboard box with the robotic Christmas tree in it, and the box scraped across the floor as it pulled out from under the tool shelves. Continue reading “The Christmas Tree Barn”

The Dreaming Arm

by Mary E. Lowd

A Deep Sky Anchor Original, December 2022


“The dreaming arm had doomed them all, urging them to spend energy they didn’t have to spare…”

One arm sagged.  Seven arms writhed and worked, puckering their sucker discs and pulling the joint-being they composed across the slippery rocks.  The gaspingly dry, slippery rocks.  But the sagging arm — as little as it helped with pulling, and as much as it acted like a dead weight needing to be pulled — had dreamed about crossing the rocks.  It had dreamed of wonders on the other side.  And seven other arms had listened to those dreams.  Been compelled by those dreams, drawn to explore the rocks at the top edge of the ocean. Continue reading “The Dreaming Arm”

Toaster Dragon

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in The Lorelei Signal, July 2021


“If Tzora couldn’t fly through the deep blue sky with her sisters, then she wanted no sight of their taunting flips and barrel rolls among the puffy clotted-cream clouds above.”

Smoke rose from Tzora’s flared nostrils.  Gray and pungent and entirely lacking in flame.  Not a single spark.  Not enough heat to rewarm a cold dinner roll, let alone toast her doughy, unbaked wings.  Tzora huffed in disappointment, hoping her frustration would translate into a glowing ember inside her scaly nose.  But no luck.  She was still too young to breathe fire like her older sisters.  And that meant she was still too young to fly.  No one else would toast her wings for her.

Too young to toast, too young to fly.  That’s what every Breadragon always said. Continue reading “Toaster Dragon”

Dark Father

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Theme of Absence, June 2020


“As if in a dream, I activate my robotic arm. The false skin boils away, and with a musical hum that I had hoped to never hear, the laser coils power up.”

I didn’t cry. I didn’t flinch. I barely reacted at all.

Even the soldiers on the bridge — trained clones, grown in vats, raised to be soldiers — exclaimed in horror and shock. How could anyone order the destruction of an entire planet?

But Erith Danaya is more than a warlord to me. He is my father. Not the absent kind. He didn’t abandon me and my mother, though every day I wish he had. Continue reading “Dark Father”

Dealership with the Devil

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Theme of Absence, January 2016


“Go as fast as you like, and you’ll never hit anything, never get pulled over.”

The salesman, Devin, shows me another junker — dented fender, bald tires, and a crack in the windshield.

“These cars look like death traps,” I say.  “You don’t seriously expect anyone to buy them?”

Devin laughs, a hollow, plastic sound.  “They’re all bargains!”  He looks over his shoulder, back at the dealership building with a half-burned out neon sign, Bob Reaper’s Autos, over a window with venetian blinds.  A gaunt man, probably Bob himself at a place this small, stares at us through the blinds. Continue reading “Dealership with the Devil”

The Arsenal of Obsolescence

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in The Voice of Dog, June 2021


“Clearly, these gerbils weren’t as primitive as they looked, and she needed to trust them. She needed to trust someone.”

Lieutenant Vonn crashed through the undergrowth of the wild alien rainforest.  The uplifted yellow Labrador felt like the branches were grabbing at her, tearing at her Tri-Galactic Navy uniform.  She hated this planet.  Usually, she liked planets.  Ground missions were her favorite — getting off the stuffy, artificial halls of the starship Initiative, and setting paw to dirt.  She lived for that stuff — fresh air, walking about in the sunshine!  But right now, all she could think about was Commander Wilker and Consul Tor, stuck in a hole in the ground — a deep, dark ditch; a trap lined with primitive pointed sticks that kept her from climbing safely down after them. Continue reading “The Arsenal of Obsolescence”

The Words in Frosting

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, July 2019


“…it wasn’t her place to judge. It was her place to bake cakes and to kick sad androids out of her bakery if they didn’t shape up and start buying some cake…”

Gary was a humanoid android, programmed to experience the complete range of human emotions.  Right now, he was sad.  His broad shoulders slouched, and his head hung, framing his handsome face with his beautiful raven hair.  He had been designed to be beautiful.

Chirri wasn’t sure what to do with this sad android who’d shown up in her bakery, so she served him a piece of cake on the house.  The felinid-alien slid a gold-embossed ceramic plate in front of Gary, and the android stared disconsolately at the piece of fudgy caramel cake on it for several seconds — a very long time for an android — before saying, “I don’t eat.” Continue reading “The Words in Frosting”