I am beyond thrilled to have my first ever story in Analog Science Fiction & Fact (September/October 2023 issue).
The title is “Fly Straight & Don’t Get Eaten,” and it’s my first published solarpunk piece. To avoid spoilers, I’ll just say that it imagines a green-tech solution to the problem of flooding in isolated rural areas. It’s also a story about a teenage boy forced to spend a weekend with an aunt he barely knows, which ruins his summer plans and possibly changes his life.
Here is a teaser. Please consider buying the issue or subscribing to Analog to read the whole thing. And if you do–thank you so much, and I hope you enjoy!
Fly Straight and Don’t Get Eaten
by Vera Brook
The payload was right ahead, a fat asteroid loaded with ice worth premium points.
Noah clenched his jaw and hurled his ship at the giant squid in his way. The massive alien tentacles whipped and slashed at him, glinting with electricity ready to zap him into oblivion. But he dodged them one by one. Evan and Blake could suck it. They’d never beat him. Almost there…
He couldn’t help it: his gaze swung to the door. Or where he knew the door to be, though he couldn’t see it through his VR headset. A split second of inattention, but that’s all it took.
A tentacle rushed at him, filling his vision, all sharp teeth and vicious knobs.
Then—a burst of brightness and ear-splitting static.
He was dead. Game over.
Noah ripped off his headset and tossed the game controller on the bed. “Mom! What do you want? I’m busy!”
His mother glanced around his room. “Where’s your bag? You’re supposed to be packing.”
Noah didn’t budge. “I told you I’m not going.”
“Nonsense.” His mother crossed to the closet, pulled down his duffel bag from the top shelf, and dropped it on his bed. “You’ll have lots of fun. Your first camping trip! Your dad and I used to go camping all the time before the floods.”
Noah cringed. “You mean, cooking weird food over a fire and sleeping in a tent?”
His mother gave a light laugh. “Don’t worry. You’ll eat and sleep with the project crew. I’m sure the food and the sleeping arrangements will be just fine.”
“Wait. What project crew?” Noah felt a stab of annoyance. His parents were always trying to trick him into doing something he had zero interest in doing, making it sound like the most amazing experience of his life. But this was crossing the line. “You said it was a vacation. She expects me to work for her? I’m not looking for a job, Mom.”
Anyway, it was his last summer before college, and he was already booked. The Space Horrors tournament was in August, and he, Evan, and Blake were planning to compete as a team, which required an intense training schedule. Noah estimated at least five hours a day for team practice, plus two more hours to study the strategy tutorials and past tournament videos. Distributed across their three households, so their parents didn’t freak out about the screen time or complain about video games being a waste of time like they always did. Noah’s parents especially.
“Relax,” his mother said now. “It’s not a job. Just family time with your Aunt Meg.”
Copyright © 2023 by Vera Brook