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Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress(1948- )
Nancy Kress is an American science fiction writer. She began writing in 1976 but has achieved her greatest notice since the publication of her Hugo and Nebula-winning 1991 novella Beggars in Spain which was later expanded into a novel with the same title. In addition to her novels, Kress has written numerous short stories and is a regular columnist for Writer’s Digest. She is a regular at Clarion writing workshops and at The Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland. During the Winter of 2008/09, Nancy Kress was the Picador Guest Professor for Literature at the University of Leipzig’s Institute for American Studies in Leipzig, Germany. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with her husband, SF author Charles Sheffield.

Sleepless

Sleepless — (1991-1996) Publisher: In a world where the slightest edge can mean the difference between success and failure, Leisha Camden is beautiful, extraordinarily intelligent… and one of an ever-growing number of human beings who have been genetically modified to never require sleep. Once considered interesting anomalies, now Leisha and the other “Sleepless” are outcasts — victims of blind hatred, political repression, and shocking mob violence meant to drive them from human society… and, ultimately, from Earth itself. But Leisha Camden has chosen to remain behind in a world that envies and fears her “gift” — a world marked for destruction in a devastating conspiracy of freedom… and revenge.

science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress Sleepless 1. Beggars in Spain 2. Beggars and Choosers 3. Beggars Ridescience fiction book reviews Nancy Kress Sleepless 1. Beggars in Spain 2. Beggars and Choosers 3. Beggars Ridescience fiction book reviews Nancy Kress Sleepless 1. Beggars in Spain 2. Beggars and Choosers 3. Beggars Ride

Beggars in Spain: Liked the ideas, didn’t love the characterizations

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Beggars in Spain by Nancy Kress

Nancy Kress won a Nebula and a Hugo in 1991 for her novella “Beggars in Spain,” about genetically altered humans who don’t need to sleep. In 1993 she expanded the novella into a novel and ultimately into a series.

The first quarter of Beggars in Spain is basically the original novella, in which the reader meets Leisha Camden, the genetically altered child of multi-billionaire Roger Camden. Lithe, golden-haired, blue-eyed and beautiful, Leisha is also extraordinarily intelligent and sleepless. How do people feel about Leisha and the others like her, dubbed The Sleepless? The question is more pointed in Leisha’s case — and more personal — because she has a fraternal twin, Alice, who is a Sleeper.

This book is an “idea” book, less about the character and more about how humans, on the individual level, in the aggregate ... Read More

Act One: A Thought-provoking and moving story

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Act One by Nancy Kress

Ever since reading Kress' wonderful collection Nano Comes to Clifford Falls and Other Stories I've been keeping an eye out for her short fiction. A number of her short works won Nebulas and Hugos, the most recent was a Hugo in 2009 for her novella The Erdmann Nexus, which unfortunately I haven' t read yet. The novella Act One was nominated for the Hugo, Locus and Nebula award but won none of them. It was originally published in Asimov's in 2009. As usual, it is a thought-provoking and moving story.

I always have trouble reviewing shorter works without giving too much of the story away. The text below is a bit spoilerish.

Barry Tenler is the manager of the ageing, and in recent years none too successful, actress Jane Snow. Still, there is a new opportunity waiting a... Read More

After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall: Hard SF Done Right

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After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress

In recent years, I’ve hesitated to pick up a hard science fiction novel. The quantum physics one must be familiar with to enjoy the novel is so far beyond me that I feel I need a physics course or two as a prerequisite. It’s hard to appreciate a novel when you haven’t the faintest idea what’s going on.

Trust Nancy Kress to write a hard science fiction novella that is so clear, so precise and so well-written that the reader is never left behind. It is no surprise that After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall has been nominated for a Nebula Award this year. It has finely drawn characters (especially Pete, from the future, and Julie, from the present), and is based (at least in the sections set "during the fall") on solid scientific principals with a touch of imagination — just enough to pow... Read More

Yesterday’s Kin: Tries to do more than it actually does

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Yesterday’s Kin by Nancy Kress

Yesterday’s Kin, by Hugo and Nebula award winning author Nancy Kress, is a first-contact story set in a not so distant dystopian future. We follow Marianne Jenner, a geneticist who is celebrating a recent career breakthrough — the discovery that all human beings are descended from a common female ancestor — when she is unexpectedly called to a meeting set up by the secretive aliens that have landed recently in New York Harbor. Not understanding why, of all people, the aliens have asked her to be part of the first visiting committee to speak with the aliens, she quickly discovers that there is a surprising link between the aliens and her recent discovery.

That link, however, is secondary to why the aliens have chosen to allow, for the very first time, people to visit their base. There is an incoming interstellar spore clo... Read More

The Best of Nancy Kress: A good storyteller who is fearless about wondering

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The Best of Nancy Kress by Nancy Kress

Reading Nancy Kress’s work is a disconcerting experience for me. I love her ideas; there is no one quite like her when it comes to integrating a Big Idea into a believable world. On the other hand, I often don’t understand her characters’ motivations and frequently find them unengaging. Subterranean Press’s new story collection, The Best of Nancy Kress — edited by Kress herself — provides some insight into her ideas and her storytelling, and is an educational, entertaining read.

There are twenty-one stories in the book, each with a brief afterword by Kress (one afterword is so brief that it’s just a set of initials). Kress discusses each story’s history, and many of these are award winners; she also includes a few that... Read More

Magazine Monday: Clarkesworld, September 2013

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Issue 84 of Clarkesworld begins with “Mar Pacifico” by Greg Mellor, which I found to be one of the two best stories in this issue. It’s hard to resist a story that starts, “A pale dawn spread across the Pacific as my dead mother emerged from the waves.” The first person narrator’s mother is formed by a bloom of algeron. Algeron developed from nanotech built by humans “to bring the carbon cycles back into balance and enhance the power of the oceans to absorb more carbon from the polluted air.” But as it evolved, it overran its safeguards and washed inland, absorbing nearly every living thing on the planet. The narrator and her daughter are the only ones left, so far as they know, and they are slowly starving to death. But the algeron seems to have achieved a sort of consciousness; it is able to assemble itself into a form the narrator recognizes as her mother. Ultimately, the narrator must decide whether to... Read More

Magazine Monday Special Edition: Nebula-Nominated Novellas, 2014

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No, you have not jumped forward in time two days; it’s still Saturday. But the Nebula Awards will be handed out tonight, so this special edition of Magazine Monday discusses the nominated novellas.

The late, lamented Subterranean Magazine first published Rachel Swirsky’s “Grand Jeté.” The story is about Mara, a 12-year-old child who is dying of cancer, her father, who loves her very much, and the android Mara’s father has built that mimics Mara in every way, right down to her thoughts and feelings. It is an amazing technological accomplishment that Mara’s father sees as a gift to his daughter. Mara, however, sees it as a replacement for her, a confirmation of her fear that she ... Read More

Magic City: Recent Spells: A solid urban fantasy anthology

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Magic City: Recent Spells edited by Paula Guran

Things you should know:
1. This is a reprint anthology. If you read a lot of anthologies in the field, you will probably have read some of these before. I had read three, though two of them were among the best ones, and I enjoyed reading them again.
2. It still has some worthwhile stuff in it, especially if you're a fan of the big names in urban fantasy (Jim Butcher, Carrie Vaughn, Patricia Briggs) and haven't read these stories before.
3. It isn't just "urban fantasy" by the usual definition (our contemporary world plus the supernatural). There's a sword-and-sorcery story from Read More

More speculative fiction by Nancy Kress

Probability — (2000-2002) Humankind has expanded out into interstellar space using star gates-technological remnants left behind by an ancient, long-vanished race. But the technology comes with a price. Among the stars, humanity encountered the Fallers, a strange alien race bent on nothing short of genocide. It’s all-out war, and humanity is losing. In this fragile situation, a new planet is discovered, inhabited by a pre-industrial race who experience “shared reality”— they’re literally compelled to share the same worldview. A team of human scientists is dispatched-but what they don’t know is that their mission of first contact is actually a covert military operation. For one of the planet’s moons is really a huge mysterious artifact of the same origin as thestar gates… and it just may be the key to winning the war.

science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress 1. Probability Moon 2. Probability Sun 3. Probability Space science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress 1. Probability Moon 2. Probability Sun 3. Probability Space science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress 1. Probability Moon 2. Probability Sun 3. Probability Space


Crossfire — (2003-2004) Caught in the Crossfire A human colony settles on a distant planet, a colony formed by Jake Holman — a man trying to escape a dark past. But as this diverse group of thousands comes to terms with their new lives on a new world, they make a startling discovery: primitive humanoid aliens. There are only a few isolated villages, and the evidence seems to indicate they aren’t native to the planet — despite the aliens living in thatched huts and possessing only primitive tools. When a handful of human colonists finally learn the truth, they will face the toughest decision of their lives, a decision that could determine not just the fate of their new home, but the fate of all humanity.

science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress 1. Crossfire 2. Crucible science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress 1. Crossfire 2. Crucible


Stand-alones and collections:

science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress The Prince of Morning BellsThe Prince of Morning Bells — (1981) Long out of print, this novel by one of the major voices in contemporary science fiction and fantasy will enthrall you, charm you, and make you care deeply about two of the most engaging characters you’re ever likely to meet between the two covers of a book. Smile a lot, yes, and then weep a little, and hold your breath, and wonder at the wisdom and the whimsy of it …depending on how much you bring to it, the book is metaphor, it is fable; it makes a statement, has a moral, looks back at you, from time to time, like a mirror.’ ~ Theodore Sturgeon science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress The Golden Grove


The Golden Grove — (1984) A haunting green island. A stand of trees known as the Golden Grove. In the moonlit darkness, the webs gleam faintly, stirring in the warm night breeze. Arachne and the women sit at their looms around the Grove, weaving tapestries from the silk of the golden spiders, tapestries of life and time, clarity and light, the pattern of their world… But the Grove is dying. The spiders are sick — their offspring disfigured, their webs malformed. The mysterious aura is waning, the peace and harmony fading. Shadow falls over Island, strange ships are seen on the horizon, and Arachne fears that the pattern is about to change… forever.


science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress The White PipesThe White Pipes — (1985) A novel of love, power, and magic.science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress The Aliens of Earth


The Aliens of Earth — (1985) For over a decade, Nancy Kress has written a succession of science-fantasy stories in which a depth of imagination is conjoined to an uncommon perception of human nature. Even Kress’s most committed partisans, however, were unprepared for the appearance of her two awesomely accomplished nouvelles, “Beggars in Spain, ” and “And Wild for to Hold.” The former – a Hugo and Nebula recipient – has become an acclaimed novel; the latter – a time-travel adventure involving Anne Boleyn – explores the uneasy interface between technology and humanity as one of the eighteen stories in this outstanding collection: “The Price of Oranges, ” “Glass, ” “People like Us, ” “Cannibals, ” “To Scale, ” “Touchdown, ” “Down behind Cuba Lake, ” “In a World like This, ” “Philippa’s Hands, ” “Inertia, ” “Phone Repairs, ” “The Battle of Long Island, ” “Renaissance, ” “Spillage, ” “The Mountain to Mohammed, ” “Craps, ” “And Wild for to Hold, ” and “In Memoriam.”


science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress Trinity and Other StoriesTrinity: And Other Stories — (1985) A collection which includes: With the Original Cast (1982), Casey’s Empire (1981), Talp Hunt (1982), Against a Crooked Stile (1979), Explanations, Inc. (1984), Shadows on the Cave Wall (1981), Ten Thousand Pictures, One Word (1984), Night Win (1983), Borovsky’s Hollow Woman (1983) with Jeff Duntemann, Out of All Them Bright Stars (1985), Trinity (1984)science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress An Alien Light


An Alien Light — (1988) The human species is at war with the Ged, a collective species that is baffled by humankind’s ability to turn violence upon itself & yet advance into space. In order to defeat the humans, the Ged must first understand them. So they go to a world called Qom, where a lost Earth colony has forgotten its origins & regressed to pre-industrial society. They are split into two warring city-states: Delysia, town of merchants, & Jela of Spartan wariors. The Ged build a walled city out in the wilderness, promising riches & new weapons for anyone brave enough to stay in the city one year. The offer attracts a diverse collection of outcasts & adventurers, Jelite warriors & Delysian artisans. Once inside, they’re taught the secrets of science & technology. In watching them learn, the Ged hope to find out how humans think. But they don’t anticipate the few humans who will cross feudal boundaries to unite against the Ged, deducing more than the Ged meant to teach about the nature of the universe & the origin of humans on Qom.


science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress Brain RoseBrain Rose — (1989) Caroline Bohentin, Joe McLaren, and Robbie Brekke meet at a fashionable private hospital where each has signed up for a new — expensive and exclusive — procedure: Previous Life Access Surgery. This procedure removes barriers in the human brain and allows patients to recall memories from all of their previous incarnations throughout human history. But the memories are not under conscious and willful control. After the operation, each patient must begin his or her journey into the past with moments of discovery and surprise, whose meaning and significance are often unclear. Meanwhile, in the outside world, which is ravaged by plagues that destroy the body’s immune defenses, a crisis is building, both medically and politically. The mutated plague virus is destroying people’s memories at an ever-increasing rate. And only those who have had the surgery seem to be immune. As Caroline, Joe, and Robbie begin to remember flashes of previous lives, it becomes more and more evident that they are somehow connected to each other and that their connection has fateful implications for the entire future of the human race.


science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress Oaths and MiraclesOaths and Miracles — (1996) FBI agent Robert Cavanaugh thinks he’s on to something. The showgirl lover of a dead New York mafioso is murdered in Las Vegas. Her last words are difficult to understand but included the name of Verico, which might refer to a bio-research company in New Jersey. An Ivy League scientist is found dead in a Boston parking lot after a job interview at Verico. And the Mafia has secretly invested in this firm doing cutting-edge work with recombinant DNA. Cavanaugh knows it’s all tied together, but not how, and he doesn’t have enough hard evidence to convince his boss there’s a case anywhere. People keep dying, but nothing makes sense, and Cavanaugh gets more desperate to find the key.


science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress Dancing on AirDancing on Air — (1997) As in her Hugo and Nebula-award winning Beggars in Spain, Dancing on Air finds Nancy Kress once more exploring the moral ambiguities of genetic engineering that have become her hallmark. This novella-length chapbook combines an intriguing murder mystery, involving a reporter’s investigation into the competitive world of professional ballet, with the thought-provoking science fiction we have come to expect from Nancy Kress. This story is among her finest work. BACK COVER: Like Walter Miller’s “The Darfsteller,” [Dancing on Air] follows the future of an artform through ethical quagmires. – Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine


science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress Maximum LightMaximum Light — (1997) By the middle of the twenty-first century the worldwide fertility rate has declined nearly eighty percent. No one knows why. Now the average age in the United States is fifty-four, and children are treasured and spoilt by those lucky enough to have them and coveted by the vast majority who can’t. Maximum Light is the story of three people from different sections of this very different American society. Nick Clementi is seventy-five years old, a doctor, and an advisor to the Congressional Advisory Committee for Medical Crises. Shana Walders is twenty-six and has just finished her two years in the National Service Corps. Cameron Atuli is twenty-eight, a primcipal dancer with the National Ballet, and has willingly had a portion of his memory removed; what it was and why he did it, he doesn’t know. In her last days of National Service, Shana witnesses something so horrible that it is immediately brought to the attention of Clementi’s committee, but so shocking that even the committee would like to believe that it can’t be true. And what Cameron can’t remember may be the key to the mystery.


nancy kress Beaker's DozenBeaker’s Dozen — (1998) The twenty-first century, it’s often remarked, will transform our knowledge of biology, in the same way that the twentieth century transformed physics. With knowledge of course, comes application. And with the application of all we are learning about genetic engineering come social and ethical questions, some of them knotty. This is where science fiction enters, stage left. Scientific laboratories are where the new technologies are rehearsed. Science fiction rehearses the implications of those technologies. What might we eventually do with out new-found power? Should we do it? Who should do it? Who will be affected? How? Is that a good thing or not? For whom? Of the thirteen stories in this book, eight of them are concerned with what might come out of the beakers and test tubes and gene sequencers of microbiology. Not everything in these stories will come to pass. Possibly nothing in them will; fiction is not prediction. But I hope the stories at least raise questions about the world rushing in onus at the speed — not of light — but of thought.


nancy kress stingerStinger — (1998) FBI Agent Robert Cavanaugh has been transferred from the organized crime unit to the slow-paced field office for southern Maryland, where the biggest federal crime is the condition of the roads. But things take an unpleasant turn when a nurse at a local hospital notices a sudden increase in the incidence of fatal strokes among otherwise healthy black adults. The trail leads to a new strain of malaria that causes rapid blood clotting in people with sickle-cell trait, who begin to die. It’s an unlikely natural mutation, yet there’s no hard evidence of human intervention. Did a fringe hate-group arrange for a bioengineered weapon to decimate the African-American population? As more people die, Cavanaugh must convince the FBI to look for the answers before it becomes an epidemic that threatens millions of lives … or even race war.


science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress Nothing HumanNothing Human — (2003) Told from the perspective of several generations of teenagers, this science fiction novel involves an Earth ravaged by mankind, high-tech manipulative aliens, and advanced genetics. Early in the 21st century, global warming has caused sickness and death among plants, animals, and humans. Suddenly aliens contact and genetically modify a group of 14-year-olds, inviting them to visit their spacecraft. After several months of living among the aliens and studying genetics, the students discover that the aliens have been manipulating them and rebel. Upon their return to Earth, the girls in the group discover that they are pregnant and can only wonder what form their unborn children will take. Generations later, the offspring of these children seek to use their alien knowledge to change their genetic code, to allow them to live and prosper in an environment that is quickly becoming uninhabitable from the dual scourges of global warming and biowarfare. But after all the generations of change, will the genetically modified creatures resemble their ancestors, or will nothing human remain?


Nancy Kress DogsDogs — (2008) The threat of terrorism and biological warfare become all too real in this riveting thriller when the danger comes from a family’s most cherished pets. Tessa Sanderson, ex-FBI agent, has moved to a sleepy Maryland town to escape her tragic past. When the town’s beloved dogs begin viciously attacking pet owners, federal CDC agents determine that the dogs are carrying a mutated flu affecting the aggression center of their brains, for which their is no known cure. Tessa offers to help round up and quarantine the dogs, even though some unconvinced locals are preparing to protect their pets by any means necessary. But she has another reason for getting involved — someone has been sending her threatening emails in Arabic claiming responsibility for the virus, and Tessa is resolved to go deep undercover to expose this deadly conspiracy. Combining hard science with thoughtful narrative, this chilling tale of science fiction explores the complex relationships between dogs and their owners.


science fiction book reviews Nancy Kress Nano Comes to Clifford Falls: And Other StoriesNano Comes to Clifford Falls: And Other Stories — (2008) Blending a focus on cutting-edge technology with deep emotional impacts, this enticing collection draws its stories from various Year’s Best and Reader’s Choice lists. The pathos of the human condition is explored in such stories as “My Mother, Dancing,” in which seedlings are planted and those responsible must decide if they will play God with them, or let natural selection progress; or in “Nano Comes to Clifford Falls,” where nanotechnology brings every wish to everyone — yet dire problems still ensue. The narratives reveal many forms of artificial intelligence including a persecuted slave in “Computer Virus,” a controlling force of the universe in “Mirror Image,” or even one that’s entirely indifferent to humans in “Savior.” From the center of the galaxy to the swamps of Earth, all 13 inventive tales offer a trademark mix of hard science fiction interacting with flawed humanity.


Nancy Kress Steal Across the SKySteal Across the Sky — (2009) The aliens appeared one day, built a base on the moon, and put an ad on the internet: “We are an alien race you may call the Atoners. Ten thousand years ago we wronged humanity profoundly.  We cannot undo what has been done, but we wish humanity to understand it.  Therefore we request twenty-one volunteers to visit seven planets to Witness for us.  We will convey each volunteer there and back in complete safety.  Volunteers must speak English. Send requests for electronic applications to [email protected]” At first, everyone thought it was a joke.  But it wasn’t. This is the story of three of those volunteers, and what they found on Kular A and Kular B.


Nancy Kress Five StoriesFive Stories — (2011) Five science fiction stories by award-winning author Nancy Kress, including “The Flowers of Aulit Prison,” which won the 1997 Nebula and Sturgeon. Paired with the novelette are four short stories, all of them chosen for various Best of The Year collections.


Nancy Kress Flash PointFlash Point — (2012) Young adult. Reality TV meets a chillingly realistic version of America — and the fame game is on! Amy had dreams of going to college, until the Collapse destroyed the economy and her future. Now she is desperate for any job that will help support her terminally ill grandmother and rebellious younger sister. When she finds herself in the running for a slot on a new reality TV show, she signs on the dotted line, despite her misgivings. And she’s right to have them. TLN’s Who Knows People, Baby — You? has an irresistible premise: correctly predict what the teenage cast will do in a crisis and win millions. But the network has pulled strings to make it work, using everything from 24/7 hidden cameras to life-threatening technology to flat-out rigging. Worse, every time the ratings slip, TLN ups the ante. Soon Amy is fighting for her life — on and off camera.


Nancy Kress Future Perfect: Six Stories of Genetic EngineeringFuture Perfect: Six Stories of Genetic Engineering — (2012) Nancy Kress is unrivaled in her treatment of genetic engineering. In 1991 she wrote the ground-breaking classic novella Beggars in Spain (Hugo/Nebula) and since then has only enhanced her outstanding reputation of telling stories set in the near-future and dealing with genetics. This collection brings together six of these stories written between 1984 and 2008, including “The Flowers of Aulit Prison” which won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best short story.Nancy Kress AI Unbound: Two Stories of Artificial Intelligence


AI Unbound: Two Stories of Artificial Intelligence — (2012) Nancy Kress is the author of twenty-two novels and numerous short stories. She is perhaps best known for the “Sleepless” trilogy that began with BEGGARS IN SPAIN. Her fiction has won four Nebulas, two Hugos, a Sturgeon, and the 2003 John W. Campbell Award (for PROBABILITY SPACE). These two outstanding stories give us a fascinating look into the evolution of artificial intelligence and the impact it has on human society.


Nancy Kress The Body Human: Three Stories of Future MedicineThe Body Human: Three Stories of Future Medicine — (2012) Nancy Kress is famous for creating realistic near-future societies based on technological advances and then studying the impact those technological changes have on our society. Here is a collection of three outstanding stories that deal with innovations in medical science and how they affect our lives.


Fountain of Age: Stories Fountain of Age: Stories — (2012) Nine new stories from a long-time star of the science fiction field including the Hugo Award winner “The Erdmann Nexus” and the caper-inspired Nebula Award winning title story “Fountain of Age.” Kress unpacks the future the way DNA investigators unravelled the double helix: one gene at a time. In many of these stories gene sculpting is illegal yet commonplace and the effects range between slow catastrophe (“End Game”), cosmic (“First Rites”), and tragic (“Safeguard”). Then there’s the morning when Rochester disappears and Jenny has to rely on “The Kindness of Strangers.” There’s Jill, who is kidnapped by aliens and trying to learn the “Laws of Survival.” And there’s Hope, whose Grandma is regretting the world built “By Fools Like Me.” “End Game” & “The Kindness of Strangers” are available as podcasts and many of these stories have been reprinted in The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, and Best of the Web.


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