Following the success of their Locus Award-winning anthology The New Space Opera, editors Gardner Dozois and Jonathan Strahan now up the ante with The New Space Opera 2, new stories from some of the biggest names in science fiction’s biggest genre. With contributions from Cory Doctorow, Elizabeth Moon, Garth Nix, John Scalzi, Bruce Sterling, Tad Williams, and a host of other science fiction luminaries, The New Space Opera 2 is yet another “reminder of why science fiction captured the hearts and minds of generations of generations of readers” (Orson Scott Card).
|6.10(w) x 9.06(h) x 1.15(d)
About the Author
Jonathan Strahan has co-edited The Year's Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy series of anthologies for HarperCollins Australia, co-edits the Science Fiction: The Best of . . . and Fantasy: The Best of . . . anthology series with Karen Haber for Simon & Schuster/ibooks, edits the Best Short Novels anthology series for the Doubleday Science Fiction Book Club, and co-edited The Locus Awards for Eos with Charles N. Brown. He is also the Reviews Editor for Locus: The Magazine of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Fields, and reviews for the magazine regularly. He is currently working on The New Space Opera II.
Read an Excerpt
The New Space Opera 2
Diving back into the universe (now that the universe is a finished object, boxed and ribboned from bang to bounce), Carlotta calculates ever-finer loci on the frozen ordinates of spacetime until at last she reaches a trailer park outside the town of Commanche Drop, Arizona. Bodiless, no more than a breath of imprecision in the Feynman geography of certain virtual particles, thus powerless to affect the material world, she passes unimpeded through a sheet-aluminum wall and hovers over a mattress on which a young woman sleeps uneasily.
The young woman is her own ancient self, the primordial Carlotta Boudaine, dewed with sweat in the hot night air, her legs caught up in a spindled cotton sheet. The bedroom's small window is cranked open, and in the breezeless distance a coyote wails.
Well, look at me, Carlotta marvels: skinny girl in panties and a halter, sixteen years old—no older than a gnat's breath—taking shallow little sleep-breaths in the moonlit dark. Poor child can't even see her own ghost. Ah, but she will, Carlotta thinks—she must.
The familiar words echo in her mind as she inspects her dreaming body, buried in its tomb of years, eons, kalpas. When it's time to leave, leave. Don't be afraid. Don't wait. Don't get caught. Just go. Go fast.
Her ancient beloved poem. Her perennial mantra. The words, in fact, that saved her life.
She needs to share those words with herself, to make the circle complete. Everything she knows about nature of the physical universe suggests that the task is impossible. Maybe so but it won't be for lack of trying.
Patiently, slowly, soundlessly, Carlotta begins to speak.
Here's the story of the Fleet, girl, and how I got raptured up into it. It's all about the future—a bigger one than you believe in—so brace yourself.
It has a thousand names and more, but we'll just call it the Fleet. When I first encountered it, the Fleet was scattered from the core of the galaxy all through its spiraled tentacles of suns, and it had been there for millions of years, going about its business, though nobody on this planet knew anything about it. I guess every now and then a Fleet ship must have fallen to Earth, but it would have been indistinguishable from any common meteorite by the time it passed through the atmosphere: a chunk of carbonaceous chondrite smaller than a human fist, from which all evidence of ordered matter had been erased by fire—and such losses, which happened everywhere and often, made no discernible difference to the Fleet as a whole. All Fleet data (that is to say, all mind) was shared, distributed, fractal. Vessels were born and vessels were destroyed, but the Fleet persisted down countless eons, confident of its own immortality.
Oh, I know you don't understand the big words, child! It's not important for you to hear them—not these words—it's only important for me to say them. Why? Because a few billion years ago tomorrow, I carried your ignorance out of this very trailer, carried it down to the Interstate, and hitched west with nothing in my backpack but a bottle of water, a half-dozen Tootsie Rolls, and a wad of twenty-dollar bills stolen out of Dan-O's old ditty bag. That night (tomorrow night: mark it) I slept under an overpass all by myself, woke up cold and hungry long before dawn, and looked up past a concrete arch crusted with bird shit into a sky so thick with falling stars it made me think of a dark skin bee-stung with fire. Some of the Fleet vectored too close to the atmosphere that night, no doubt, but I didn't understand that (any more than you do, girl)—I just thought it was a big flock of shooting stars, pretty but meaningless. And, after a while, I slept some more. And come sunrise, I waited for the morning traffic so I could catch another ride but the only cars that came by were all weaving or speeding, as if the whole world was driving home from a drunken party.
"They won't stop," a voice behind me said. "Those folks already made their decisions, Carlotta. Whether they want to live or die, I mean. Same decision you have to make."
I whirled around, sick-startled, and that was when I first laid eyes on dear Erasmus.
Let me tell you right off that Erasmus wasn't a human being. Erasmus just then was a knot of shiny metal angles about the size of a microwave oven, hovering in midair, with a pair of eyes like the polished tourmaline they sell at those roadside souvenir shops. He didn't have to look that way—it was some old avatar he used because he figured that it would impress me. But I didn't know that then. I was only surprised, if that's not too mild a word, and too shocked to be truly frightened.
"The world won't last much longer," Erasmus said in a low and mournful voice. "You can stay here, or you can come with me. But choose quick, Carlotta, because the mantle's come unstable and the continents are starting to slip."
I half-believed that I was still asleep and dreaming. I didn't know what that meant, about the mantle, though I guessed he was talking about the end of the world. Some quality of his voice (which reminded me of that actor Morgan Freeman) made me trust him despite how weird and impossible the whole conversation was. Plus, I had a confirming sense that something was going bad somewhere, partly because of the scant traffic (a Toyota zoomed past, clocking speeds it had never been built for, the driver a hunched blur behind the wheel), partly because of the ugly green cloud that just then billowed up over a row of rat-toothed mountains on the horizon. Also the sudden hot breeze. And the smell of distant burning. And the sound of what might have been thunder, or something worse.
"Go with you where?"
"To the stars, Carlotta! But you'll have to leave your body behind."
I didn't like the part about leaving my body behind. But what choice did I have, except the one he'd offered me? Stay or go. Simple as that.
It was a ride—just not the kind I'd been expecting.
There was a tremor in the Earth, like the devil knocking at the soles of my shoes. "Okay," I said, "whatever," as white dust bloomed up from the desert and was taken by the frantic wind.
Don't be afraid. Don't wait. Don't get caught. Just go. Go fast.
Without those words in my head, I swear, girl, I would have died that day. Billions did.
She slows down the passage of time so she can fit this odd but somehow necessary monologue into the space between one or two of the younger Carlotta's breaths. Of course, she has no real voice in which to speak. The past is static, imperturbable in its endless sleep; molecules of air on their fixed trajectories can't be manipulated from the shadowy place where she now exists. Wake up with the dawn, girl, she says, steal the money you'll never spend—it doesn't matter; the important thing is to leave. It's time.
When it's time to leave, leave. Of all the memories she carried out of her earthly life, this is the most vivid: waking to discover a ghostly presence in her darkened room, a white-robed woman giving her the advice she needs at the moment she needs it. Suddenly Carlotta wants to scream the words: When it's time to leave—
But she can't vibrate even a single mote of the ancient air, and the younger Carlotta sleeps on.
Next to the bed is a thrift-shop night table scarred with cigarette burns. On the table is a child's night-light, faded cutouts of SpongeBob SquarePants pasted on the paper shade. Next to that, hidden under a splayed copy of People magazine, is the bottle of barbiturates Carlotta stole from Dan-O's ditty bag this afternoon, the same khaki bag in which (she couldn't help but notice) Dan-O keeps his cash, a change of clothes, a fake driver's license, and a blue steel automatic pistol.
Young Carlotta detects no ghostly presence nor is her sleep disturbed by the sound of Dan-O's angry voice and her mother's sudden gasp, two rooms away. Apparently, Dan-O is awake and sober. Apparently, Dan-O has discovered the theft. That's a complication.
But Carlotta won't allow herself to be hurried.The New Space Opera 2. Copyright © by Gardner Dozois. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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“...Dozois and Strahan bring together some of the finest writers in the field...”
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“This anthology is a reminder of why science fiction captured the hearts and minds of generations of generations of readers.”
“Dynamic and exciting, THE NEW SPACE OPERA is...an essential roadmap to the cutting edge of SF today...”