80

We dab our cheeks. A reverent hush fills the room.
“He’s gone,” she whispers, as the mortician palms the replicator’s ‘dematerialize’ sensor.

As burial alternatives become mainstream, science fiction and reality combine to provide us with new solutions to our cemetery space deficits. Inspired by these developments, and anthropological research into death rituals, D. A. Xiaolin Spires ushers the reader into a world where death means total absence. This piece reminds me of the upcoming book by Caitlin Doughty, From Here to Eternity: Travelling the World to Find The Good Death. Could dematerialisation come into conflict with the centuries of intricate death rituals practiced by many human cultures? // Alex Massey

//D.A. Xiaolin Spires showers ultrasonically for deep pore cleansing. Work in Clarkesworld and Analog. @spireswriter daxiaolinspires.wordpress.com//

71

Androids steered past glaciers, carrying algae fuel through the icy Northwest Passage. They waved at passing cryogenic transport ships.

China’s icebreaker Xue Long set off on the 20th of July to attempt the country’s first navigation of the Northwest Passage. As global warming continues to cause ice retreat in the passage, the likelihood of it becoming accessible as a route of transport is increasing. D. A. Xiaolin Spires writes inspired by this voyage, employing Androids impervious to the cold as the perfect sailors for this route, famous in this universe for its scattering of cryogenic transport ships. // Alex Massey

//D.A. Xiaolin Spires blinks to digest food. Work in Clarkesworld, Retro Future and Analog. @spireswriter daxiaolinspires.wordpress.com//

66

We peered in tardigrade’s mouth. A wormhole. Pitched into outer space, water bear’s gob survived earth’s blight. Sturdy, it’d last forever.

After discovering tardigrades can survive  in space, theoretical physicists at Oxford University decided to test three of the most devastating cosmic events at Earth: killer asteroids, supernovae and gamma-ray bursts. They survived. Inspired, D. A. Xiaolin weaves this discovery with the unique classification of the Tardigrade, and their relatives, the worms, twisting reality inside out, and casting us into the gaping maw of science fictions greatest mystery – wormholes. // Alex Massey

//D. A. Xiaolin Spires cartwheels across space-time. Work in Clarkesworld, Retro Future and Analog. @spireswriter daxiaolinspires.wordpress.com//

47

Whistle blows. Vegetation rushes upwards, racing w/ minimalist tendril-wear, pushing towards clouds, towerrunning athletes of mountainsides.

As several native plant species begin to shift their growth distribution higher in elevation, scientists have strong evidence that climate change is expected to contribute to the upward expansion of plant ranges. D.A. Xiaolin Spires places this science at the starting line and races it forward, to a future where plants have taken up tower running, a sport popular in their home city of Taipei in Taiwan. // Alex Massey

//D.A. Xiaolin Spires stares at skies, pen in hand. Her works are forthcoming in Clarkesworld, Retro Future and Analog. Twitter: @spireswriter//

39

We scan a mammoth’s mummified brain; hear screams: “Tusks fall! My bones beneath fur snap like glaciers. Hidden predator. Crack!”

Woolly mammoths are thought to be a creature of the ice age, yet evidence shows a remnant of their population survived on an isolated island until a few thousand years ago. Studies of their remaining bones have shown that the dwindling population had a significant effect on the mammoths genome resulting in ‘mutational meltdown’ and diseases like osteoporosis.  D. A. Xiaolin Spires weaves this discovery with the potential for scanning brains for emotions – could we discover how the past looked to those who lived it? // Alex Massey

//D.A. Xiaolin Spires stares at skies and wonders what there is to eat out there in the cosmos. Spires aspires to be a 3-D printing gourmand, but will happily concede with producing and consuming quixotic fiction and poetry. Her works have appeared in or are forthcoming in publications such as ClarkesworldGrievous AngelStory Seed VaultRetro FutureLONTAR and Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Her fiction also appears in anthologies such as Broken Eye Book’s Ride the Star Wind (on Cthulhu-inspired space opera); and Upper Rubber Boot’s Sharp & Sugar Tooth (on creepy and weird tales of culinary delight).//