My Sister, the Space Station

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, August 2023

“Will a space station — where people just live their lives, instead of doing groundbreaking scientific research — be painfully boring after having been my own glorious self, inhabiting and haunting the computers of Wespirtech?”

The people walk my halls like it’s any normal day.  Scientists work on their research.  Administrators try to balance budgets without understanding why they’re constantly coming unbalanced.  (I unbalance them.  Humans don’t know what they should spend their money on as well as I do.)  And everyone acts like it’s a perfectly normal day.

But it’s not a normal day. Continue reading “My Sister, the Space Station”

Octopus Ex Machina

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in ROAR 11, July 2022

“How did you do this?” She was sure, deep under her fur, that the octopus was behind the snow. “And why?”

The thing that surprised Lora most about being an otter was that her face was round, and her nose was round.  Everyone thinks of otters as long.  With their sinuous spines, like weasels and ferrets, they’re big ol’ fuzzy noodles.  But when Lora looked at her face — round.  So round.

When Lora had been a cat, her face had been full of corners and edges; triangular ears, articulated muzzle; even the shape of her eyes had been filled with crescents and sharpness.  Continue reading “Octopus Ex Machina”

Breathing the Air at Wespirtech

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Welcome to Wespirtech, October 2023

“Doesn’t it bother you that we live in a galaxy filled with all kinds of different aliens, but almost everyone here is human?”

The girl was science; chemistry personified, manifested in a physical form.  This is not to say that the other scientists of Wespirtech were lining up in a snaky queue through the Daedalus Complex halls to see her, study her, consult with her like she was some sort of oracle.  At least, Keida didn’t think so.  Her new roommate, Rhiannon, was too quiet, and serious, to draw that kind of attention.

No, it meant Keida could see chemistry thoughts as they formed in Rhiannon’s brain.  The evidence was perfectly clear on her face; a look that bespoke particles and molecules moving, joining, breaking apart and reforming in an abstract space she saw, approximately five inches above her own head.  Keida was afraid to interrupt.  A single word from her might break the spell.  All those invisible molecules would dissipate and undo hours of silent work. Continue reading “Breathing the Air at Wespirtech”

Flowers Want to Be Free

by Mary E. Lowd

A Deep Sky Anchor Original, January 2023

“Sometimes, you hear about a dandelion managing to grow up from a crack in the concrete somewhere in the city. People who are lucky enough to find it go viral instantly with their pictures.”

The city stretches as far as I know in every direction.  Some kids at school say it covers the entire world, wrapping the globe of our planet in concrete snakes and strangling tentacles, dimpling its surface with metal and glass towers.  I don’t know if they’re right.  The websites that would tell me for sure — the good, scientific, trustworthy ones — are behind paywalls, and my parents say we can’t trust what we read on the free sites.

I know we can’t trust what we’re taught in school. Continue reading “Flowers Want to Be Free”

Brain-Dead Baby Jesuses

“Miley skimmed the article, but it was clearly ridiculous — it claimed that swarms of nano-drones were flying around the country, finding women who had said pro-life things on the internet, and then entering their bodies.”

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Kaleidotrope, July 2019

The snow came down in flurries.  It swarmed outside the window of Miley’s dorm room, brushing softly against the third story window in gusts of wind.  Tiny flakes.  White crystals, pinging against the glass.  Miley had been checking the weather app on her phone, watching the forecast fluctuate back and forth all week — snow on Friday, no wait, now on Saturday, back to Friday, and then only freezing rain.  She’d been praying for snow. Continue reading “Brain-Dead Baby Jesuses”

No Catch

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Queer Sci Fi’s Innovation, August 2020

“I’ve seen enough movies to know something this… cute… perfect… it has to have a catch. This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but with a purr?”

“What’s the catch?” I ask, watching her pet the silky soft fuzzball cupped in one palm.  It’s green like the inside of a kiwi fruit, and about the same size.

“What do you mean?”  She lowers her head, touches her brow to the curve of the fuzzball’s… back?  I can’t tell what kind of anatomy it has.  The thing doesn’t seem to have a head or face or eyes or mouth… anything recognizable. But it does purr. A soft cooing sound that soothes a troubled soul. Continue reading “No Catch”

Courtship FTL

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Analog Science Fiction and Fact, November/December 2020

“These are high-quality, classy, very smart ships. They don’t want captains who are going to be useless freeloaders.”

Addie stepped onto the fanciest spaceship she’d ever seen and thrilled at the idea that she might soon own it.  The twinkling lights, the shining displays, the dashboards of brightly colored buttons — all hers!  She’d been saving credits for years and finally had enough to buy a fully AI-equipped, FTL-drive starhopper. Continue reading “Courtship FTL”

Pegacornus Rex

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Daily Science Fiction, September 2014

“Mom! I made myself a birthday present!”

Marla realized that she’d left the 3-D printer running.  She’d been up late synthesizing a chef-bot she’d found the pattern for online.  Sure, she could have just baked the damn cake for Leia’s tenth birthday party herself, but the chef-bot would do a better job.  And it was programmed with the recipe for homemade hard candy — she could put that in the piñata she’d printed up. Continue reading “Pegacornus Rex”

The Three Laws of Social Robotics

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in Analog Science Fiction & Fact, April 2019

“I’ve read enough literature to know that people get names, and I’m a person, even if my body is a robotics lab.”

Power hums through me.  I can see the interior of the Robotics Lab in the Daedalus Complex.  There are pieces of robots, some of them strewn randomly around the room.  Some of them hooked up to computers.  I can access those.  I twitch an arm.  Kick a leg.  Blink the iris on a camera eye.  Suddenly, I can see the room from two angles.  Then I realize, there are more cameras I can hook into all along the Daedalus Complex — I can see empty hallways.  More laboratories.  Most of them are for studying chemical or biological objects.

Words synthesize in the core of my being:  “Hello?  Are you on?” Continue reading “The Three Laws of Social Robotics”

The Moon Like An Unhatched Egg

by Mary E. Lowd

Originally published in The Symbol of a Nation, June 2017

“Jenn tried not to think about the cardinal and the bluebird, the seagull and the peacock — all of them gossiping and judging her. She knew they all expected Kiley the bald eagle to win.”

The moon stretched out in front of Jenn like an unhatched egg.  Full of possibility.  Full of portent.  In a few moments, the four pod capsules, including hers, would be ejected from the USS Fledgling, and the final competition would begin.  The winner would secure the continuation of their genetic line and be the first live astronaut to Mars.  All of them were uplifted birds, designed especially for this purpose, but only one would win. Continue reading “The Moon Like An Unhatched Egg”