The stories in the first issue of James Gunn’s Ad Astra each address themes of communication and information. From alien languages to pervasive implanted network connectivity, the authors give us plenty to ponder. In all of them, the protagonists exemplify the role of the “other” in speculative fiction, allowing us to glimpse what it means to be human even in the face of inhumanity.
Sometimes the most human characters in these stories typify the worst of our failings, yet the most alien or their proxies strive for something greater or more noble. This is what it means to be creatures who are driven by the need to communicate and propagate information into the future. Whether by memory download or animal hums, what we leave to posterity are ideas.
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- Children of the Thousand Days - by Peter Charron — When the next generation of Earth's children are infected with an alien language, the response is widespread fear and violence. Who will protect the children when even their parents wonder if they are still human?
- Native - by Eric Cline — A veterinarian confronts his native heritage when dealing with a trapped wild Grandee, better known to the public as a Bigfoot.
- Colorless Green Ideas - by Shaenon K. Garrity — The death of an alien exchange student may mean the end of peaceful coexistence on Earth unless one teacher can decipher the aliens' linguistic nonsense and find a way to bridge the communication gap.
- The Agreement - by Adria Laycraft — A clone struggles to find her place in the world while living in the shadow — and service — of her Original. Will breaking The Agreement mean freedom or death?
- Branches on My Back, Sparrows in My Ear - by Nikki J. North — Sub-q ink gives most of humanity full-time access to the world datastream. When one woman finally gets what everyone else takes for granted, she may find the cost is too high.
- Racing the Moon and the Hill that Burned the World - by Adrian Simmons — Gamma's world burned when the strange two-legged creatures made first contact. Now his people must adapt or be destroyed by their fellow natives.
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