Seasons of Glass and Iron (Nebula Winner-short story- 2016)

Available for free read here

Congratulations on Nebula, and congratulations on tricking me into reading Fantasy.

This story in its essentials, felt like a modern day retelling of two Brothers Grimm fairy tales – Bearskin and Old Rinkrank that I barely remember from my childhood (my memory might as well be wrong here). What I loved about the narrative was the ambiguity that followed Tabitha and Amira, like they were already part of a well expanded universe, the details of which readers are free to imagine. In this retelling or extended act of passing reference, Author intertwined the essentials of both fairy tales into one lovely story, making them female centric and in poles with the original perspective. My ambitious and embarrassing attempts to understand the metaphors are given below.

Number 7, from a Biblical view point represent perfection or completion and number 1 stands for unity or oneness, the numbers which the female protagonists of this story identify themselves to be bound in by magic. So Tabitha before reaching completion of penance(of her and her were-wolf-would-be-man husband) by exhausting the ‘seven’ pairs of shoes, gets to taste the ‘Apple’ of Glass Mountain(which could be argued as this story’s Eden). She then decides to be ‘one’ with Amira and leaves her baggage, thanks to the new found wisdom. And they both leave the safety of Glass and Iron(their personal paradises), for ‘Away’(Earth) with nothing but the company of each other and the sense of freedom.

I think I might have heavily misread the ‘things’, this allegorical reading was supposed to explore the nuances of. Nevertheless the lovely prose will have every reader covered for sure.

Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers by Lawrence Watt-Evans

1931778This story and Coherence movie could greatly complement each other,though the latter one offers more thrill and grittiness to the concept.

In this first person narrative, a young man from the countryside shares with readers, his strange experiences at Harry’s all-nighter, where he worked his teenage days off. Harry’s All night Hamburgers could be considered as a Way Station, unlike Simak’s Intergalactic one, this version works on Interdimensional platform. Narrator encounters strange beings, multiple versions of same person and is occasionally seduced by the possibility of being an Interdimensional travel bug.

Most striking fact about this story is, that even in its pompous setting of parallel universes and wanderlust, it is essentially a pleasant travel motivation short. And the feelings I am left with, after the read, goes something like this.

I should make it to Banaras at least this year :).

full text available here for free read


The Crystal Spheres by David Brin

In this Hugo winning short story, David Brin looks back into our modern history to postulate a probable, though completely fictional explanation to Fermi Paradox. His interesting yet unclear universe includes Crystal Spheres – invisible envelopes, around every galaxy. Unlike the usual sci-fi route of metaphysical arguments, Brin’s Crystal Spheres are completely materialistic with seemingly protective intentions – like Kandor in Fortress of Solitude or dust cloud surrounding planet Krikkit in Hitchhikers.

Background of the story involves futuristic Earth with Interstellar travel and deep space dwellers,and Milky Way with ‘broken by accident’ Crystal Sphere. What troubles me is the entire breakage of so called gargantuan envelope in one single impact, whose physics and existence are completely unfathomable. God would have been like, ‘I need to shield every universe from each other, lets get the most brittle material for that’. Anyway, since then, humans were on an active SETI mission that ends in one solid clincher- unbreakable Crystal Spheres enveloping other universes. At the wake of the novella, a deep spacer is called for duty , on discovery of a broken Crystal Sphere, which could be humanity’s First Contact, and bright answer to many disappointing frustrated years.

cnhBrins argument actually aligns with the progressive Segan thought (aliens exists) and the relatively hegemonic yet pessimistic Hart- Tipler (where are they if they do exist) thought. Though fascinating and full of imagination, story didn’t work well with my rigid mind.

  • Included in The River of Time, collection, 1994, Bantam Spectra.
  • A well read audio version is available under this link starshipsofa


There were few things I couldn’t get my head around. Unnecessary word building, the whole idea of fixing cosmic stuff as Shards from Crystal Spheres and the voting out of night from Earth(?) would be a few. Also the incentive of meeting intelligent life seems far less convincing for suspended animation (or stuff) of a whole civilization (Natarals),since it practically bookends progress, leaving them inferior to the very intelligent life they seek so badly for.

The Explorer

There was a time.


When everyone wanted me, or better said I was a necessity. People used to take pride in using me. I was invited everywhere, was absolutely needed at every puny explorations. During those days, thankfully, not many were matured enough to look for alternatives, for I was beautiful enough.


Things started to change. Guess I started to age. There were new players in the scene, prettier ones. Also to have a stand in this field, one had to be constantly updated on client preferences, better equipped for the changing audience. I felt the compulsion to change as well. Still, I stayed like an old mechanical watch with clockwork precision in a world of emerging quartz crystals. Or better said, my Masters for some reason wanted me that way, reasons I could’t comprehend. Again, I never lost my elite prime status. I was the first to be consulted, the default, before moving into other superior foxes, with far better tricks up their sleeves.


I had a lot of clients back during my inception. Rich and powerful people, people with power to change my world and world as a whole. I was their tool and I liked being used. I was popular, too popular in fact, young ones around looked up to me, with reverence at first, which graduated over time to pity and finally disdain. They wanted my clients, they longed for the fame I enjoyed. I was made this way, with little capability to think or understand, but possibilities were endless. I was a tool, for pleasure, for learning, for knowledge, for sometimes for testing. But it all depended upon my connection to the higher intelligence, without which all of us were useless dolls.


The higher intelligence itself was changing, expanding and getting faster. It increased the clients, more and more people were interested in us. Pleasure and time pass started overshadowing knowledge and companionship. I used to be solely an escort medium once, the one people used to convey messages to others. Now with the ever growing higher intelligence, I find myself reduced to the status of a mere spectator, an unavoidable tool to get to the fancier ones. I watched my old clients taking escorts in operas, having fun in safaries and feeling elite with new foxes. Maybe “cougar” isn’t a bad usage for old players after all.


Everything is moving fast around me, except myself. My clients are heavily reduced. My Masters were constantly tweaking to upgrade the old tricks, but age was still a factor. They even made versions of me, none gained the fame I enjoyed or other contemporary models for that matter. Pleasure is what everyone is looking for these days. Even in other fields, others could give far better results than me. I was soon reduced as the first showcase model, a collectors vintage item. But there were people who still preferred me. Not puny new comers, but high class government officials. They trusted me, that mere knowledge was more than enough to keep me going.


But now, it is almost the end. I have reached my expiry date, none of the updates served the purpose of keeping me up with the game. People wanted novelty, speed and better experiences. I had none of them to offer. Still they all went through me first. I was a necessary evil to get to the prettier ones. People started developing upgrades for the new ones, giving them more features than masters gave me, giving them the power to explore themselves more.


It is high time they shut me off, freeing the young ones off my shadow. They might age and reach my stage, probably not. I hope not, for I was originally an explorer developed for amusement and information, with the expectation of a perpetual life. And now when the masters are finally plugging me off, reducing me to history, I hope you will remember me.


As your first browser, as Internet Explorer


—-George J Jr.