THE NEW VOICES OF SCIENCE FICTION preview: “OUR LADY OF THE OPEN ROAD” by Sarah Pinsker
In celebration of the recently released THE NEW VOICES OF SCIENCE FICTION, Tachyon and editors Hannu Rajaniemi and Jacob Weisman present
glimpses into the future of science fiction from several of the volume’s
OUR LADY OF THE OPEN ROAD
middle-aged cowboy wandered over to stare at our van. I pegged him
for a legit rancher from a distance, but as he came closer I noticed
a clerical collar beneath the embroidered shirt. His boots shone and
he had a paunch falling over an old rodeo belt; the incongruous image
of a bull-riding minister made me laugh. He startled when he realized
I was watching him.
made a motion for me to lower my window.
plates!” he said. “I used to live in Hagerstown.”
smiled, though I’d only ever passed through Hagerstown.
to drive a church van that looked kinda like yours, too, just out of
high school. Less duct tape, though. Whatcha doing out here?”
kidding! You look familiar. Have I heard of you?”
Fire,” I said, taking the question as a prompt for a name. “We
had it painted on the side for a while, but then we figured out
we got pulled over less when we were incognito.”
think I know the name. I used to have a band, back before …”
His voice trailed off, and neither of us needed him to finish his
sentence. There were several “back befores” he could be referring
to, but they all amounted to the same thing. Back before StageHolo
and SportsHolo made it easier to stay home. Back before most people
got scared out of congregating anywhere they didn’t know everybody.
not playing around here, are you?”
shook my head. “Columbus, Ohio. Tomorrow night.”
figured. Couldn’t think of a place you’d play nearby.”
our kind of music, anyway,” I agreed. I didn’t know what music he
liked, but this was a safe bet.
any kind. Oh well. Nice chatting with you. I’ll look you up on
not on StageHolo,” I called to his back, though maybe not loud
enough for him to hear. He waved as his Chauffeur drove him off the
you’re a terrible salesperson,” Silva said to me.
I hadn’t realized he’d been paying attention.
know he recognized you. All you had to do was say your name instead
of the band’s. Or ‘Blood and Diamonds.’ He’d have paid for
dinner for all of us, then bought every T-shirt and download code we
then he’d listen to them and realize the music we make now is
nothing like the music we made then. And even if he liked it, he’d
never go to a show. At best he’d send a message saying how much he
wished we were on StageHolo.”
we could be …”
we won’t be.” Silva knew better than to argue with me on that
one. It was our only real source of disagreement.
neon “open” sign in the restaurant’s window blinked out, and I
took the cue to put the key back in the ignition. The glowplug light
came on, and I started the van back up.
movement roused Jacky again. “Where are we now?”
didn’t bother answering.
had guessed, the owner hadn’t quite understood what I was asking
for. I gave him the engine tour, showing him the custom oil filter
and the dual tanks. “We still need regular diesel to start, then
switch to the veggie oil tank. Not too much more to it than that.”
enough. There was a gray area wherein perhaps technically we were
skirting the fuel tax. By our reasoning, though, we were also
skirting the reasons for the fuel tax. We’d be the ones who got in
trouble, anyway. Not him.
course,” I said, then changed the subject. “And the best part is
that it makes the van smell like egg rolls.”
smiled. We got a whole tankful out of him, and a bag full of food
he’d have otherwise chucked out, as well.
guys were over the moon about the food. Dumpster diving behind a
restaurant or Superwally would have been our next order of business,
so anything that hadn’t made a stop in a garbage can on its way to
us was haute cuisine as far as we were concerned. Silva took the lo
mein—no complimentary bread—screwed together his travel
chopsticks, and handed mine to me from the glove compartment. I
grabbed some kind of moo shu without the pancakes, and Jacky woke
again to snag the third container.
we go someplace?” Silva asked, waving chopsticks at the window.
anything in mind on a Tuesday night in the boonies?”
was up for something, too. “Laser tag? Laser bowling?”
the age gap was a chasm. I turned in my seat to side-eye the kid.
“One vote for lasers.”
dunno,” said Silva. “Just a bar? If I have to spend another hour
in this van I’m going to scream.”
took a few bites while I considered. We wouldn’t be too welcome
anywhere around here, between our odor and our look, not to mention
the simple fact that we were strangers. On the other hand, the more
outlets I gave these guys for legit fun, the less likely they were to
come up with something that would get us in trouble. “If we see a
bar or a bowling joint before someplace to sleep, sure.”
can look it up,” said Jacky.
I said. “Leave it to fate.”
two-thirds of the moo shu, I gave up and closed the container. I
hated wasting food, but it was too big for me to finish. I wiped my
chopsticks on my jeans and put them back in their case.
miles down the road from the restaurant, we came to Starker’s,
which I hoped from the apostrophe was only a bar, not a strip club.
Their expansive parking lot was empty except for eight Chauffeurs,
all lined up like pigs at a trough. At least that meant we didn’t
have to worry about some drunk crashing into our van on his way out.
backed into the closest spot to the door. It was the best lit, so I
could worry less about our gear getting lifted. Close was also good
if the locals decided they didn’t like our looks.
got the long stare as we walked in, the one from old Westerns, where
all the heads swivel our way and the piano player stops playing.
Except, of course, these days the piano player didn’t stop, because
the piano player had no idea we’d arrived. The part of the pianist
in this scenario was played by Roy Bittan, alongside the whole E
Street Band, loud as a stadium and projected in StageHolo 3D.
you want to leave?” Jacky whispered to me.
it’s okay. We’re here now. Might as well have a drink.”
least it’s Bruce. I can get behind Bruce.” Silva edged past me
toward the bar.
A few at leasts: at least it was Bruce, not some cut-rate imitation.
Bruce breathed punk as far as I was concerned, insisting on recording
new music and legit live shows all the way into his eighties. At
least it was StageHolo and not StageHoloLive, in which case there’d
be a cover charge. I was willing to stand in the same room as the
technology that was trying to make me obsolete, but I’d be damned
if I paid them for the privilege. Of course, it wouldn’t be Bruce
on StageHoloLive, either; he’d been gone a couple of years now, and
this Bruce looked to be only in his sixties, anyway. A little flat,
too, which suggested this was a retrofitted older show, not one
recorded using StageHolo’s tech.
For more info about THE NEW VOICES OF SCIENCE FICTION, visit the Tachyon page.
Cover art by Matt Dixon
Cover design by Elizabeth Story