Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Worldfest-Houston 2015: Animation/CGI Shorts

The 48th Annual Worldfest-Houston

Animation/CGI Shorts, Monday, April 13, 2015
Monday 4/13/15, 9 p.m.

I've been looking forward to my second Worldfest-Houston ever since I saw the Sci-Fi Shorts there last year. This year, I'm going to try to see a lot more, but it still won't be as much as I want to (in part because two sets of shorts I want to see will be screened against each other on Sunday!).

According to the head of the short film jury, there were over 1,400 short films entered into this year's festival. That's a lot of entries! I love knowing that people are out there creating art and trying to make connections with viewers.

Without further ado, here are my thoughts on tonight's screening of Animation/CGI Shorts.

Director: Ying-Fang Shen
Screenwriter: Ying-Fang Shen
Length: 10:25 minutes
Category: Animation
Country: USA
Film website

I wish I knew the technical terms for different kinds of animation (or that the Worldfest-Houston program book would list such things for the animated films). I'm not sure if I'm correct in this description, but this seemed to me like a stop-motion animation film using two-dimensional paper "puppets" or "cut-outs," as well as more sophisticated graphics as the film went on.

In any case, "Humanexus" presents a history of human communication, from cave paintings and the first alphabets up through the printing press, the Pony Express, telegrams, Morse code, telephones, and, of course, the Internet and personal devices. The film did a terrific job conveying how people were reacting to the technology, with no dialog until the point when the people stopped interacting with each other directly, and the questions "Is this what we want?" and "What do we want?" were repeatedly posed. The scenes then re-wound to a certain point and replayed at a quicker pace, leaving us at a place where we can have both connectivity without losing the personal interaction.

This little film was highly polished and well-designed, and it's not surprising to me that it's won a number of film festival awards according to the film's website. I especially liked the way people were assaulted by and almost buried under e-mail -- I'm sure many of us can relate to that! It even incorporated the concept of cyberbullying, which is pretty darn relevant these days.

Directors: Daniel Clark and Wesley Tippets
Screenwriter: Wesley Tippets
Length: 05:07 minutes
Category: CGI/Student
Country: USA
YouTube "making of" video

This short was adorable, and if this is student work, then the big animation studios certainly have a lot of talent to pull from in the future -- or maybe they should just be worried that their competition is going to get fierce!

In "Owned", an overweight and slovenly video gamer is a bit too ruthless in crushing his unseen online opponents. He's just defeated his latest challenger, a little boy who just wants to have fun, when that boy's baby sister takes over the controls and shows the champion a thing or two. Turns out that teething babies chewing on the game controls sometimes result in hidden powers becoming activated....

This short was full of humor and nerdy jokes, and it was incredibly professional. I didn't realize Brigham Young University had this amazing computer animation program. This film earned the program not only another Student Emmy for their collection, but a Student Academy Award as well.

Death and the Robot
Director: Austin Taylor
Screenwriters: Austin Taylor, Alex Thompson
Length: 11:32 minutes
Category: Animation
Country: USA
Film on YouTube

This was one of my two favorite films of the evening. It reminded me of Wall-E as done by Tim Burton, yet with a style of its own. A female Angel of Death sits lonely in a barren graveyard, while a robot grows and waters flowers in an underground greenhouse, but ultimately they're both moved to venture out of their safe havens and find each other. The robot teaches Death to wear gloves when tending the flowers so as not to kill them with her touch, and he contemplates going back to his greenhouse as his power supply wanes, but can't bring himself to leave his new friend.

I'm not embarrassed to admit that this lovely story made me cry, and the animation was exquisite, especially in how well it portrayed these non-traditional characters' emotions. This one is from the University of North Carolina's School of Filmmaking.

Hanging by a Thread
Director: Catya Plate
Screenwriter: Catya Plate
Length: 09:55 minutes
Category: Animation
Country: USA
Creator's website

I found this film a little harder to relate to, but I absolutely would give it an A+ for originality and creativity. The program description notes that humanity may only be a memory in the future, but three figures from a needlepoint pillow come to life and learn to harvest what's left. We learn that these are the Clothespin Freaks, named Pelvis Catcher, Brain Grabber, and Foot Licker, respectively. They assemble new skeletal creatures out of these particular body parts (pelvic bones, brains, and feet), all the while observed by two birds.

I'm not entirely sure what the audience is supposed to take away from this, but the beauty of short films is that they can be vignettes, and they can be experimental. And I did enjoy watching these odd creatures at their odd work.

The Oceanmaker
Director: Lucas Martell
Screenwriter: Lucas Martell
Length: 10:04 minutes
Category: Animation
Country: USA
Studio's website

This film, "The Oceanmaker", was the other of my two favorites of the evening. The program tells us that after the seas have disappeared, "a courageous young female pilot fights against viscious sky pirates for control of the last remaining source of water: the clouds." But as with my other favorite, "Death and the Robot", the story was told so well that no description was necessary to understand exactly what was happening.

The animation, presumably CGI, was gorgeous, with haunting imagery of boat "bones" half-buried in the sand, an aircraft carrier, a lighthouse, and even a half-submerged submarine surrounded by makeshift windmills. The desert, mountains, and clouds were amazing, not to mention the planes. And even that area in which computer animation can so often fall down, human faces, was terrific. I got a sort of steampunk Mad Max feel to this as the pilot tried to seed clouds with her Rainmaker technology, only to be fired upon by the sky pirates who would rather collect the water vapor only for themselves.

This one made me cry too. That's not to say short films have to make me cry to be my favorites; it just happened to work out that way this time.

Luna and Lars
Director: Anna Zlokovic
Screenwriter: Lia Woodward
Length: 08:06 minutes
Category: Animation
Country: USA
Facebook page

In this short, two marionettes come to life and dance together to the music of an old Victrola, until one night when Lars becomes tempted by the mirror he discovers in their attic home.

My favorite aspect of this film was the visual style, and the story reminded me a little of the feature-length animated film Coraline, about those "grass is always greener" alternate worlds. I especially liked Lars and Luna's expressive eyes, which in his case became very creepy indeed.

20Twelve / 20Zwoelf
Director: Christian Stahl
Screenwriters: Madleen Kamrath, Julien Wilkdens, Jens-Henrik Kuiper
Length: 03:34 minutes
Category: CGI
Country: Germany

This film managed to pack quite a wallop for being less than four minutes long. Here's another case where I wish I knew what to call the technique: film of live actors was processed to give it a surreal feel, especially as the people were placed on cartoon streets lined with cartoon buildings.

The story is simple: this alternate modern-day Germany has a new Chancellor who controls all information, but he says it's okay because he just wants everyone to be happy. A young man tries to warn people, but they don't see or hear him. In my mind, this can be viewed as a commentary on not only governmental control of information, but also corporate control.

The Looking Planet
Director: Eric Law Anderson
Screenwriter: Eric Law Anderson
Length: 16:38 minutes
Category: Science Fiction
Country: Brazil/USA
Film's website

This film was extremely sophisticated but a little confusing in parts. Well, not exactly confusing -- we know that one young alien belonging to a group that engineers the universe has his own ideas, which don't necessarily correspond to the laws of physics as we know them. A textual prologue at the beginning of the film indicates that the Earth's moon is so large that we're really our own "double planet" system, something that would very rarely evolve naturally. So I interpreted this to mean that the character, whose name I think was Lufo, was responsible for giving Earth the moon it has.

What wasn't clear to me was exactly what Lufo was doing to the moon. I think he was creating the dark maria (seas) by using his jackhammer-like tool to allow the darker material to come to the moon's surface in various areas, and that he towed the moon to where he wanted it, having foreseen that it would help life on Earth evolve. But I wasn't sure which was the looking planet: the Earth or the moon. And I actually thought that Lufo was a child at first, since it seemed his mother was talking to him as one, but then we see that he is physically as big as the others around him. I also found the characters' vocal inflections strangely flat most of the time. It can be argued that they're aliens so they wouldn't talk like us, but most of their other traits were very, very human.

These are minor quibbles, though; overall the film was visually gorgeous (lots of planetary rings, plus Jupiter, my all-time favorite planet) and quite humorous, but with the message that artistic expression is important no matter who you are.

Director: Mike Grier
Screenwriter: Jason Gallaty, Michael Grier, Josh Grier
Length: 25 minutes
Category: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Country: USA/Japan
YouTube trailer

The last film of the evening was the longest and was mostly live action, so it had the least percentage of animation -- but what animation! In a post-ecological-disaster world, a man trained as a Tracker, or one who studies the balance of nature, abandons his training when his daughter dies. Years later, he is tempted back out from behind the city walls by a profiteering friend who wants his Tracker experience to guide them to the possible source of a plague, which he thinks will make them rich.

Much of the animation in this film consisted of tiny creatures that evolved to feed upon the toxic materials poisoning the waters, as well as insects that look like but clearly aren't butterflies. The size scale increases dramatically as the man nears the source of the plague and has to face it one on one. In my mind, the animation, special effects, and even the general cinematography were on par with the brilliant film Pan's Labyrinth. "Dust" also reminded me of the books The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey and Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer, but the story still feels original. Oh, and it was also very well acted, particularly the main character.

This was extremely high quality work that would make a rich feature-length film. "Dust" will be shown again on Sunday April 19 at 3 p.m. as part of the Fantasy Shorts screening. (I personally consider it science fiction rather than fantasy, but I'm sure they had some juggling to do in the schedule.)

Whew! I'm looking forward to seeing lots more short films later this week. For information on Worldfest-Houston, go here.
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Monday, April 6, 2015

The House of Yes

I cannot for the life of me remember where I first heard about this movie, or even when it first entered my DVD collection. It came out in 1997, and while it's from Miramax, which isn't exactly a small studio, it definitely has the independent film vibe, in part because it stars Parker Posey, who's all about the indy films.

In this movie, Parker plays Jackie-O, a young woman with mental problems living at home with her mother (Geneviève Bujold) and her younger brother, Anthony (Freddie Prinze, Jr.). Her twin brother, Marty (Josh Hamilton) is coming home from New York City, but unbeknownst to Jackie-O, he's bringing a fiance, Lesly (Tori Spelling). Over the course of one hurricane-filled night, Lesly learns that Jackie-O is not the only person in the family with serious mental issues, and that Jackie-O and Marty have a very unusual relationship for siblings, based in part on their fascination with the JFK assassination. That's not to say they're studying it or trying to figure out if there was a conspiracy; no, they like to re-create the scene, which for some inexplicable reason turns them on.

I had mixed feelings watching this movie again, because I'm more aware now than I used to be that there are real people out there in the world for whom the assassination is still a very personal tragedy. I feel that way about those Darwin Award books too -- assuming the anecdotes are true, somebody actually died, and how must their survivors feel to see their deaths being turned into cocktail party entertainment? So on the one hand, it seems in poor taste to use the JFK assassination for comedy. On the other hand, this is very much a dark comedy, and part of the fascination is that it's hard to believe that these characters could be so screwed up, yet they make you believe it. And it's kind of the point that it's in bad taste to use the assassination for ... well, things other than comedy. This is one sick family.

The entire film is very well acted; even Tori Spelling, whose work I would not normally seek out, was well cast in the role of the sweet, naive, and not very bright Lesly. Geneviève Bujold is positively scary as the mother, Freddie Prinze Jr. somehow manages to be even more creepy than his incestuous older siblings, and of course we all know that Parker Posey can play crazy. I should also note that Rachael Leigh Cook does a nice job playing a younger version of Jackie-O in some flashback sequences. Josh Hamilton as Marty is the least distinct in a way, but that's also appropriate as he's the one family member who is actually trying to escape to Normal-town. Choosing a sweet but unremarkable fiance is part of that plan. Yet it seems he cannot resist Jackie-O once he's back under the same roof with her.

The film is on the short end at only 85 minutes, and it has a tiny cast. IMDB notes that the play was written by Wendy MacLeod and was adapted for the screen by Mark Waters. For such a "little" picture, it sure is memorable. I'll admit that I don't understand the relevance of the movie's title, but perhaps it refers to the fact that Jackie-O is a master manipulator and people, even her scary mother, only seem able to say "yes" to her. In any case, I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who likes dark comedy.
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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Dance Salad

The program for the Dance Salad festival, which is now in its twentieth year, describes it as a "variety of fresh dance ingredients by choreographers and dancers serving you a fusion of East and West contemporary and classical dance, tossed with modern and classical music, seasoned with the poetic sensitivity of beautiful choreography." This year, the companies performing over the span of the three-day festival were from New York, Texas, Australia, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, and Korea. The audience, too, is international; the couple sitting next to us spoke German, and I heard both Russian and French from the crowd at intermission.

Dance Salad runs Thursday, Friday, and Saturday every year, and if you go more than once, you'll see some overlap but some new things as well, as several of the companies come with more than one piece prepared. The first piece we saw was "Trompe L'Oeil", choreographed by Jiří Kylián and performed by Introdans, the company from the Netherlands. It featured two female and two male dancers, starting out in chairs as a sort of mime version of wind-up dolls, and moved through several sequences, including one in which a couple's pas de deux is interrupted when he gets a cell phone call. Much of the choreography was clever, but I had a bit of trouble with this piece because it seemed random and unconnected with itself. There were some vocal elements mixed in and we did get another hint at music box dancers later in the piece, but in the end I couldn't find anything to fasten on to, and the cell phone routine in particular didn't seem like it belonged in the piece. My husband and two friends disagreed with me, though, so clearly this is a matter of personal preferences.

We certainly all agreed on the next piece, though, which was titled "Short Dialogues". It was choreographed by Nils Christe and performed by members of the Queensland Ballet. It featured three couples dancing in individual but sometimes overlapping pas de deux, to Concerto for Violin and Orchestra by Philip Glass. I should also mention that the lighting for this piece was most effective; the stage is divided by light into three windows, with the couples most often but not always remaining within their own defined space.

I knew of Philip Glass, of course, but I wouldn't have been able to place his music. Now I'll be able to, because this was absolutely haunting. The program describes this piece as "a tantilizing, sometimes unsettling, glimpse into three couples' relationships." I saw the combination of music and choreography as an assertion that love and passion can be desperate and painfully beautiful at the same time. There's a line in Shakespeare in Love in which Viola says that she wants to have love that is "unbiddable, ungovernable, like a riot in the heart, and nothing to be done about it, come ruin or rapture." I saw this as the ruinous heartbreak that is still better than never having loved at all. I absolutely have to track down that music.

For the third piece, we had disagreement once again: my three companions loved it and I struggled with it. Performed by the Norwegian National Ballet, this piece was titled "Ibsen's Ghosts", with music by Nils Petter Molvær and choreography by Cina Espejord. The program noted simply that this was adapted from Henrik Ibsen's play Ghosts, which was staged in 1882, and the dancers are listed as the characters Oswald, his mother Helene, her maid Regine, her father Jacob, and a local minister. It was difficult for me to reconcile those character identities with the dancers and costumes, though, particularly because the maid was dressed in a simple, flowing blue dress. Our friend, who hadn't read the program, thought she was possibly the other woman's daughter, and in the meantime I forgot that her father was her father, and viewed him as her abusive husband or lover. Funnily enough, we all read "incest" into the piece, but not necessarily in the same relationships. In flavor, I was reminded of a cross between A Streetcar Named Desire and the somewhat gothic opera Turn of the Screw. The choreography and the dancing were superb, but once again I had difficulty connecting. I did like the use of projected moving images of a young boy and girl at the back of the stage, suggesting that the young man had had a haunted childhood, and that he and the maid were childhood sweethearts.

After an intermission, the show continued with a pas de deux titled "Shadow Lovers" that was danced by Connor Walsh and Melody Mennite, guest artists and principals of the Houston Ballet Company. This was choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa to Dido and Aeneas by Jenry Purcell, and was described in the program as being about "the memory of a lost love and the consoling power of letting go." One of my friends said that he thought the execution was wonderful as always with these dancers, but that he found the choreography a little flat. I disagreed; I didn't think it had the amazing passion of "Short Dialogues", but I found it beautiful, and I liked that I could simply absorb the dance and the simple story without sitting there trying to figure out complicated relationships.

I did find the next two pieces flat, however. They were also both pas de deux, one by dancers from a New York company named Armitage Gone! Dance, and the other by dancers from Semperoper Ballett Dresden in Germany. In both cases the dancing was precise and powerful but I got no emotion from them whatsoever, and there was nothing "pretty" about the movements. I don't feel that's fair of me, because by no means should all dancing be required to be pretty! But I also felt that neither piece lived up to its description. For "Ligeti's Essays", the one danced by Armitage Gone! Dance, we're told that the piece "expresses the full gamut of our complex and contradictory natures: from the humorous to the trivial and sarcastic, with passages of languorous, beautiful daydreams." The excerpt from "Workwithinwork" by Semperoper Ballett Dresden is called "opulent in its sparseness" (!) and "a lush, tender courtly duet." I did not see how these descriptions fit the pieces at all.

My absolute favorite work of the evening was the last: "Rigor Mortis" performed by Eastman, a Belgian company. It took me a while to understand the program description, which says that this was curated for Dance Salad from "Genesis", "TeZukA", and "Shell Shock". In reading further, I learned that the overall piece combined three separate works choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, "taking sections of music and movement from these pieces, and adding new related ideas." In fact, the integration was so seamless that I could not tell with any certainty where one piece ended and another began.

The piece began with one female and six (I think) male dancers with long wooden rifles; the men were dressed in different ragtag soldier's uniforms while the woman was dressed a long-skirted army nurse. There was an execution by firing squad, and the rifles were used to great effect to prod the dancers' limbs and move them in certain ways. Similarly, a stretcher was continuously manipulated, with a different dancer on it each time it was turned over, or end over end. I'm not entirely sure I'm remembering the different elements in the correct order, but that wasn't what was important; it was the overall feeling that the piece evoked, which was the horror of war. There was one absolutely stunning sequence in which the female dancer took off the nurse's uniform to reveal a white slip; she then took a brush and painted streaks of blood on her torso, her arms, and her face, dancing all the while. Her movements were anguished, but at the same time it was as though she was making love to death, like it had been courting her and she was so utterly relieved to finally give in to it. Later in the piece, the dancers held glass globes in their hands, passing them to one another in intricate sequences before one dancer used them to revive a fallen soldier and manipulate his body.

And here for me was the difference between this last piece, and the "music box dancer" and "ghost" pieces from the first act. In those pieces, I was constantly distracted by trying to figure out what was going on. In "Riger Mortis", while I would not be able to explain exactly what those little glass globes were meant to signify, for example, it didn't matter because I was so caught up in the piece that I just absorbed everything I saw at face value. There was definitely a "story" to "Rigor Mortis", but my ability to experience the story didn't depend on my ability to precisely define it. Clearly, "Ghosts" worked the same way for my companions; they got enough of the story without needing it to be spelled out for them. I guess just as no two people ever read the same book, no two people ever see the same dance performance.

We don't always manage to see Dance Salad every year, because it often conflicts with another event we attend in early April. This was our third or fourth time, and we hope to get to go more often in the future, because it's a great chance to see some wonderful dance from all over the world.

[Images: 1) Dance Salad logo; 2) Clare Morehen and Keian Langdon in "Short Dialogues", photo by David Kelly; 3) Connor Walsh and Melody Mennite in "Shadow Lovers", photo by Jaime Lagdameo.]

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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Short Fiction - March 2015

This month, due in large part to the deadlines for Hugo nominations and final Nebula voting, I read 50 stories, and am up to 126 so far for the year. Here are my favorites from my March reading; by "favorites," I mean the stories to which I would give 4 1/2 or 5 out of 5 stars. I briefly listed several of these in my March 9 post about Hugo nominations, but here I go into more detail on those and a few other stories. I also enjoyed many of the other 44 stories I read (scroll down for list).

Favorite Short Stories read in March 2015

(alphabetical by author)

"The Magician and Laplace's Demon" by Tom Crosshill

Published in Clarkesworld in December 2014, this novelette explores artificial intelligence, magic, and the nature of proof and belief. This story is currently on the final Nebula ballot, and I won't be surprised if it shows up on the Hugo ballot as well. Artificial intelligence is a popular theme in science fiction, but this one has a new take -- it's not often an AI has to cross figurative swords with a magician, after all. I thought that the sense of suspense the author builds made this story seem shorter than it was, and that's a compliment. (Read here)

"Stealing Arturo" by William Ledbetter

Hard science fiction is my first love, although I have to admit that not all the books I adored as a teen hold up for me well now. That's why I'm so glad that these days, it's a little easier to find hard SF that has well-developed characters. In this novelette, a widower named Clarke Kooper anticipates finally being able to escape an asteroid mining facility that keeps a tight rein on what are essentially its indentured servants, but he hadn't counted on becoming emotionally involved with a bright nine-year-old named Nora, so his plans have to change. Intelligent, problem-solving SF with characters I truly cared about? More, please. (Published by Baen; read story here.)

"Even the Mountains are Not Forever" by Laurie Tom

I don't know why, but I have always craved stories about years of quiet, dedicated study in monastic settings, and stories of sacrifice for the sake of knowledge. In this story, a woman called "the Kunchen" sleeps in a cryo-chamber and is woken every ten years to check on and advise her people, but the time is drawing near when she needs to choose a successor. The setting was just alien enough to fit the story, and the resolution was unexpected. A lovely, quiet story. I note this one was published in 2015, so not eligible for awards until next year. (Published in Strange Horizons; read here.)

"Jackalope Wives" by Ursula Vernon

I am nothing if not biased in my story likes and dislikes, but this time I was very, very surprised. I can recognize when I come across one that is well-written, but in general I simply do not like stories about shapechangers, especially when they are female foxes/geese/bears who are trapped in human form, usually out of love, and still longing to revert to their wild natures.

But I loved this one. There was such a naturalness to the prose, as if the story was just spoken by someone who'd told it many times before. And it had the perfect ending for this tale. This one was published in Apex Magazine and can be read or listened to in podcast form here.

"Toad Wives" by Ursula Vernon

It's astonishing to me that someone was able to take this simple fairy tale concept -- one daughter is "cursed" so that frogs and toads fall out of her mouth when she speaks, while the other is "gifted" with gold and jewels when she speaks -- and infuse it with so much meaning in so few words. But maybe it shouldn't be surprising, considering it's the same author who made me love a shapechanger tale. It's my understanding that this piece of flash fiction originally appeared on the author's blog here, and that it's also the title story in the author's collection under the name T. Kingfisher. It's a fabulous story.

And if there is one thing that my personal read-a-story-a-day goal has taught me, it is that flash fiction is not to be underestimated.

"Five Stages of Grief After the Alien Invasion" by Caroline M. Yoachim

This is another author who has elevated flash fiction beyond the norm. It's my understanding that this piece was originally an attempt to write a series of related but separate flash pieces, but they had a mind of their own and wanted to come together as one story. You can see the division, but it's a whole piece, and thus has a lovely underlying structure. In this story, different (but related) characters experience the five stages of grief in response to an alien invasion that leaves many dead. [Minor spoiler ahead] One of the loveliest parts is that the aliens appear to be grieving as well. This story can be found in Clarkesworld here.

Other stories read in March 2015:

(alphabetical by author)

- "Final Corrections, Pittsburgh Times-Dispatch" by M. Bennardo
- "Pioneer Possessions" by Lee Budar-Danoff
- "They are Legion. They are Pigeon." by Lynda Clark
- "The Conquest of Gliese 518-5B" by Gary Cuba
- "The Breath of War" by Aliette de Bodard
- "Practical Hats" by Cheryce Clayton
- "The Egg" by S.B. Divya
- "Hokkaido Green" by Aidan Doyle
- "The van der Rohe Forgery" by Raymund Eich
- "The Story of His Life" by David W. Goldman
- "Makeisha in Time" by Rachael K. Jones
- "Gallery" by KJ Kabza
- "America, Etc." by Michael Kardos
- "Machine Washable" by Keffy R.M. Kehrli
- "A Death" by Stephen King
- "The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye" by Matthew Kressel
- "In the Forests of the Night" by Jay Lake (audio)
- "Night of the Living Poet" by Michael Landau
- "The Clockwork Soldier" by Ken Liu
- "The Tides" by Ken Liu
- "The Husband Stitch" by Carmen Maria Machado
- "The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family" by Usman T. Malik
- "City of Salt" by Arkady Martine
- "Welcome to Argentia" by Sandra McDonald
- "Time Debt" by D. Thomas Minton
- "Communion" by Mary Anne Mohanraj
- "The Hair Club for Fairytale Princesses" by Heather Morris
- "This is the Story That Devours Itself" by Michelle Muenzler
- "Drones Don't Kill People" by Annalee Newitz
- "Amplexus" by Jonathan Penner
- "Until They Come" by Trina Marie Phillips
- "Bit Player" by Cat Rambo
- "Ice" by Patrice E. Sarath
- "The Saving Breath" by Michael Seese
- "How Earth Narrowly Escaped an Invasion from Space" by Alex Shvartsman
- "Bronze-Art, the Ferret Master, and the Auspicious Events at Swift Creek Farm" by Adrian Simmons
- "The Play's the Thing" by Fred Stanton
- "We Call Her Mama" by Natalia Theodoridou
- "The Fattest Dog in the World" by Cathy S. Ulrich
- "Everything's Unlikely" by James Van Pelt
- "The Mirror in the Bathroom" by Melon Wedick
- "The Fisher Queen" by Alyssa Wong
- "Goat Milk Cheese, Three Trillion Miles From Earth" by Caroline M. Yoachim
- "Sugar Showpiece Universe" by Caroline M. Yoachim

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