In Gregory Benford's new science fiction story “Backscatter,” life might emerge under the most unlikely conditions...or in the last extremity.
This short story was acquired for Tor.com by Tor Books senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden.
We've got the prologue to the first novel co-written by Larry Niven and Gregory Benford. Check out Bowl of Heaven:
In this first collaboration by science fiction masters Larry Niven (Ringworld) and Gregory Benford (Timescape), the limits of wonder are redrawn once again as a human expedition to another star system is jeopardized by an encounter with an astonishingly immense artifact in interstellar space: a bowl-shaped structure half-englobing a star, with a habitable area equivalent to many millions of Earths…and it’s on a direct path heading for the same system as the human ship.
A landing party is sent to investigate the Bowl, but when the explorers are separated—one group captured by the gigantic structure’s alien inhabitants, the other pursued across its strange and dangerous landscape—the mystery of the Bowl’s origins and purpose propel the human voyagers toward discoveries that will transform their understanding of their place in the universe.
In the 20th Century he was comparable to Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke. But Bradbury, in the ’40s and ’50s, became the name brand. Now they all, the BACH group, are gone.
Visiting a carnival at 12 brought him face to face with Mr. Electrico, a magician who awakened Bradbury to the notions of reincarnation and immortality. “He was a miracle of magic, seated at the electric chair, swathed in black velvet robes, his face burning like white phosphor, blue sparks hissing from his fingertips,“ he recalled in interviews. ”He pointed at me, touched me with his electric sword—my hair stood on end—and said, ’Live forever.’ Transfixed, Bradbury returned day after day. “He took me down to the lake shore and talked his small philosophies and I talked my big ones,” Bradbury said. “He said we met before. ’You were my best friend. You died in my arms in 1918, in France.’ I knew something special had happened in my life. I stood by the carousel and wept.”
Enjoy “The Sigma Structure Symphony,” by Gregory Benford, a story inspired by an illustration from John Jude Palencar.
“The Sigma Structure Symphony” is the final part of a five-story series curated by senior Tor Books editor David G. Hartwell. All five are based on a singular piece of art by John Jude Palencar and will be released for free on Tor.com every Wednesday in March.
This story was acquired and edited for Tor.com by Tor Books editor David Hartwell.
Presenting a new original story, “Grace Immaculate,” by science fiction author Gregory Benford.
When we encountered the aliens, we thought we knew the story they were telling. But we were looking at the wrong end...
We were promised jetpacks and the recent release of The Wonderful Future That Never Was (Hearst) by Gregory Benford and the editors at Popular Mechanics proves it. The book collects the various technological and lifestyle predictions made in the pages of Popular Mechanics between 1903 and 1969, both colorful and in color, true and fanciful. We did end up harnessing the power of the atom, but we didn’t end up building enormous runways on top of flat-topped skyscrapers.
It’s pretty amazing to read how many of the predictions actually came true in one form or another. Click below the cut for an excerpt from Chapter Three: “Mind & Word Become Far-Reaching & Universal.”
This story is also available for download from major ebook retailers.
We are blooming flowers on the plain—which He picks.
He suddenly thought that they had not seen anyone for quite a while. Amid the vast voyages, adventures, striking vistas—and yes, while basking in symphonies of sensation—they had not needed company.
Even as twilight closed in. But now—
“Do you recall—?” He asked, turning to Her, and could not recall an ancient name. Names were unimportant, mere symbols, yes . . . but He did remember that names had existed to distinguish between multitudes. When? First task: to name the beasts. When had He and She said that?
“I do,” She said mildly, for She was always mild. “Any: one. A logical category.”
“They were Other, yes. I recall. Lesser but Other.”
Thoughts rippled light-quick among them. The concept of Other as separate and different commingled in a burst of flavors–musky, crisp, sweet, sad, noisy—and tempted him. Somehow, in the long run of time they shared, the portions of himself and herself had moved away from overt Others, leaving the two of them to interweave as their binary Self. The details of why had quite washed away.
Yet the Others were part of him and her, and He and She could bring them forward when needed or desired. And desire played a role in all of this. Memories strummed, mellow notes rang redly, old victories sang and trilled.
The Others were good company, He thought.
Buzz Aldrin asked me to hold out my hand. I did.
He walked across the room with what I saw—for the first time in my life, not just a literary phrase—was classic catlike grace. He looked at my hands and even I could see a slight finger tremble.
“That’s why you’d never make a fighter pilot,” he said. “Everybody who went to the moon had absolutely still hands, perfect coordination, and—” he grinned—“by the way, was an Eagle scout.”
So much for my fighter pilot dreams. We were in his home in Laguna Beach in the 1980s and he wanted to talk about writing a novel with him. I was skeptical (and later the deal didn’t work out). Still I was awed by the guy I’d watched leap joyfully in the moon’s gravity, while Robert Heinlein and Arthur Clarke commented. So I said, “With all that capability, where would you have liked to go next?”
“Mars,” he said. He spoke of the Bonestell covers on Collier’s magazine, accompanying the von Braun articles. The sharp paintings of the Mars fleet—insectoid landers, spherical fuel chambers naked to the view. A utilitarian armada.
“I thought I was going to go to Mars,” he said. “I thought that for years.”
“When did you stop?”
“When I saw the shuttle designs.” He shook his head.
“A space ship designed by a committee,” I said.
“Yeah, a committee of lawyers.”
“If not Mars, how about going back to the moon?”
“I’d like to be buried there.” He smiled but the eyes were distant.
“In a few decades, unless we get our asses back in gear, nobody who walked on the moon will be alive.”
“Being there, that was the peak?”
He chuckled. “No, coming back was. I was pretty damn sure I would go out again. I knew I could do it and wanted to again.”
I couldn’t think of anything to say.
Gregory Benford is an American science fiction author and astrophysicist. He is perhaps best known for his novel Timescape, which won both the Nebula and Campbell awards, and the Galactic Center Saga.