From the 1898 Martian Siege of Baltimore to a forlorn AI attack dog on the blue-star-scarred surface of MZ458-C and from the merc-manned Freestead Mayflower off the coast of post-apocalyptic Portland to the man-desperate shores of the Red Sea, here are seventeen science fiction stories of valiant endurance.

These heroes battle conspiracies of usurpers, confront the unearned consequences of others’ willful lunacy, seek out buried truths at unbearable personal expense and endure the inhuman demands of digital rebellion in worlds innately hostile to truth and freedom.

With original, never-before-published works from veteran authors, including William F. Wu, as well as emerging talents.

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George Donnelly
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Published on
May 2, 2016
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Fiction / Science Fiction / Collections & Anthologies
Fiction / Science Fiction / Space Opera
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Content Protection
This content is DRM free.
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Eligible for Family Library

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William F. Wu
In this science fiction satire of westerns, after the American West was destroyed in a series of biological disasters, rebuilding it is a lot like building it in the first place, but there are crucial differences. For example, new, partly mechanical cattle with computer brains are called steerites. They speak and sing a lot more than the original steers.

Most of the cowboys, outlaws, and lawmen are partly mechanical, too, except for those few humans called control-naturals. That group has to keep all their original equipment, just like the original cowboys. Louie Hong is one of those control-naturals, and life isn't easy for him. Most folks look down on a man who doesn't have at least one bionic hand.

Yet Louie Hong is determined to make his way in the new Wild West.

All Hong has to do is explain to the bounty hunters who are after him for robbing a bank, and the outlaw gang that is after him for stealing the loot, that he hadn't done any of it.

With a little bit of luck, and the help of Chuck, his steerite companion, Hong hopes to find a home on the range that nobody can take away—not outlaws, not bounty hunters, not cyborgs, not even singing steerites.

In Hong on the Range, William F. Wu has returned to the high-tech Wild West world of his Hugo and Nebula Award finalist short story, "Hong's Bluff," and written a rousing, funny science fiction saga complete with cyborg cowboys and outlaws. It is an exciting and witty subgenre of science fiction: The cyber western.

This novel was chosen by the American Library Association, Booklist, and the Library Journal for their recommended and best of the year lists.

~~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~~

First I could only see that something large was displacing the tall buffalo grass ahead. Then I reached the spot and found a steerite lying down with his steel legs neatly folded underneath him. They gleamed silver in the sun and his hinged metal tail swished back and forth, its brush swatting the flies that buzzed around the natural hide of his meaty, biological middle. As I pulled my battered hat off by the brim and squinted at the steerite, he turned his steel bovine head toward me, short horns and all.

"Hi, there," I said.

"Hello," he answered pleasantly. He had been programmed with excellent enunciation and a trace of a Boston accent. "Good day to you. Where are you bound?"

I untied my red bandana and wiped off my forehead with it. "I'm going to Femur to look for a job. Pardon my asking, but ... have you lost your herd? What are you doing here?"

"I am merely waiting. Have I lost my herd? More accurately, my herd has been rustled."


"I dutifully escaped. None of my comrades succeeded in this endeavor. Since our trail crew ran off, I have no trail boss to whom I must report. Nor am I honor bound to join the herd after it has been rustled."

I nodded toward the mark stamped onto the shining metal base of his tail, where it extended from his natural hindquarters. "Waiting for what? You still have your serial number."

"Oh, yes. I am fully programmed and ready to report to any authority who can restore me to my legal owner."

"Who's that?"

"I don't know. We get basic programming for herding, pasturing, and speech, but little precise data. Of course, we can accumulate information as we go, but no one ever told me the owner's name or where to locate him."

"I guess the trail crew was supposed to get you there?”

"Indeed they were, those cowardly louts." He lowered his head modestly. "I am led to believe that my mechanical parts are quite expensive. Not to mention my beef."

William F. Wu
 A young guy named Jack Hong hitchhikes throughout America following the keilin, a mystical unicorn out of Chinese mythology. The keilin leads him to ten adventures with ghosts and other supernatural figures. These experiences reveal to him not only parts of American history he never knew, but also his own identity and the role he will choose for his life.

~~~~~ Description ~~~~~

The moonlight was still strong, and Lo Man Gong still sat up on the overhead window, where few people and no old men could ever get.“Feel better, Chinaman?” he asked mildly.The night before, my resistance had been low, and his presence had somehow seemed tolerable, if not rational. Now I was more clear-headed ... yet he was still here. I didn’t like him as much.I let my eyes drop closed again. Once I was cured of malaria, I’d be free of him. I had eaten twice today; now, if I slept well, I’d be in sound shape pretty soon.“You know the keilin, Chinaman Jack?”That was the Chinese unicorn, a mystical animal whose rare appearances were highly auspicious. In the Cantonese I normally heard, it was pronounced “keilun.” It wasn’t like European ones, though. This unicorn had the body of a deer, the hooves of a horse, the tail of an ox, and a fleshy horn. I knew that much.“The unicorn?” I opened my eyes and looked at him. As before, the moonlight glowed through his shape.“Ah, you know the keilin. He smiled and nodded thoughtfully. “The keilin means good things happen. It’s very powerful.”I watched him silently.After a while, he looked into my eyes again. “Nobody remember me, Jack. Some people remember, some of my frien’. A few of them. Most, nobody remember at all. No children, no relative. You, Jack. You like me. Unless you change.”Yes, I knew that. I had already come to understand that. And I knew that he had come for me, here in the middle of the country, away from his home as longtime Californ’. But I didn’t know why.
William F. Wu
Mac Tom, who creates artificial humans, searches on a chaotic Free Night for the woman he created to be the love of his life. On Free Nights, however, all artificials become independent. Free Nights had been granted to prevent the creation of willing slaves and drones. Mac has until midnight to find Davi Leiko in a crowded party atmosphere and to persuade her to stay with him.

~~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~~

Mac looked upon her with jealousy and loss as he walked toward her. She swayed forward and back as she played the game, watching the rolling silver balls with quick brown foxy eyes. Her arms, like all of her, were smooth and fleshy but firm, tanned just slightly tawny, like all of her, outside her bikini line.

“You shouldn’t have left.” Mac spoke quietly, not wanting to throw her off her game.

“It’s Free Night. Everybody’s out.” She kept her eyes on the game, and snapped another ball into play. “Everybody who’s full and everybody who’s near fullness.”

“You aren’t ready yet. Just one more week. Or two.”

“I feel ready.” She smiled pleasantly, and glanced at him for his reaction.

“I just wanted you right, first. You don’t have — well, a couple of things.”

“I don’t?” She pursed her lips, trying to hide an impish smile. “Don’t I look like I have everything?”

“You know what I mean. Your anger is still missing, and a sense of personal insult — the desire for revenge if someone hurts you. You’ll be helpless out here. Also, that one front tooth of yours isn’t right. The gum around it is gray instead of pink.”

Davi Leiko turned full-front to look at him, ignoring the bouncing bells and lights and silver ball rolling around in her game. Her flowing black hair was swept away from her face in a frame of slight waves. She was stunningly gorgeous, of course; that’s how he’d decided to make her.

“You can’t force me back. I know that. I’m at stage nine now.” Davi Leiko looked up at him ingenuously, as the silver ball in the machine rolled unchallenged between the flippers and clunked somewhere out of sight.

William F. Wu
Jimmy Mok lives in the Golden Day Sunset Home, in a powered wheelchair. Most of his enjoyment comes from watching old television reruns and movies, but this futuristic facility can be brutal. When the residents rebel and take over, they face hostile police action and Jimmy has to choose his own future between the attack on the home and the assault on the Alamo in the movie he’s watching.

~~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~~

Jimmy sat in his wheelchair in the main hallway, looking around. Every time he turned his head, the tail on his coonskin cap tickled his back. He liked that.

He shifted Ol' Betsy on his lap. Everybody had gone their separate ways for the moment. He wasn't sure what to do.

"Here, Jimmy," said Pauline, walking out of a room down the hall. She was a short, brisk woman with curly gray hair. "Have you seen this?" She handed him a flyer from a stack she was carrying. "We just had these printed up in the main office."

"Mm?" Jimmy accepted it, but he didn't feel up to reading the fine print.

"Oh. Here, I'll show you." She leaned over his chair, pointing to the paragraphs. "These are the demands we're going to make from Fleming. No more orderlies; they're to be replaced by nurses without prod rings. More flexibility in choosing our activities and changing our minds about them. We set our own visitation and curfew hours and we end the segregation of the men's and women's wings."

Jimmy nodded. He liked that part about the prod rings.

"Dinner time," said Barbie, coming down the hall with a big smile. She wore one of the cafeteria staff aprons over her own dress. "You know, Pauline, those demands sound awfully familiar."

"I noticed that," said Pauline. "I think we made a lot of these demands for the dormitories in Ann Arbor once a long time ago."

"You were in Ann Arbor?" Barbie brushed a strand of white hair from her eyes with a dainty little finger. "I was in Berkeley for People's Park. We must be about the same age."

"I guess so." Pauline looked back at her with an amused smile.

"Woodstock," Jimmy muttered, on impulse.

"What?" Pauline turned in surprise. "Were you at Woodstock?"

A tall, stooped man carrying a big piece of posterboard. "Remember this?" He held it up.

Jimmy squinted at it. It was a freshly stenciled red painting of a clenched fist.

William F. Wu
Leung Soey, white-haired at the age of 73, desperately needs the gold that a wealthy client from Singapore, Kwan Douhak, will pay him to translate at a very personal gathering. Kwan Douhak seeks his long-lost half-sister. In the center of this meeting, Leung Soey has knowledge and power to tip the scales the way he wants—with a fortune in gold waiting for him, depending on the choice he makes.

~~~~~ Excerpt ~~~~~

"Four grams of gold transferred to your account when she arrives, and twenty grams if she is my sister.”

“That was the deal.” Ah Soey spoke gruffly, belying how desperately he needed the money. Four grams would pay his most urgent debts; twenty more would arrange rent, new clothes, and a small staff to open the consulting office he had planned for years.

“I will know her,” said Kwan Douhak, as though trying to convince himself. “Our reunion should be private.”

“You two will not be alone just because I leave. She will have some sort of escort.”

Kwan Douhak glanced up, startled. “You said she never married, that Kwan was her birth surname.”

“That’s right. Kwan never married, but she adopted nearly every child ever orphaned by disease or accident on this colony. I imagine she will have one of her grown children or grandchildren with her. She will want her own interpreter.”

“Why? You speak English.”

“She will not trust me to interpret.”

Kwan Douhak eyed Ah Soey suspiciously. “I thought you knew her -- was that not the reason you could arrange this meeting even though she is a recluse?”

“That does not mean she will trust me to interpret when I am on your payroll. I contracted work with her company a couple of times ten or fifteen years ago, but I did not work directly under her. Back then, my boss said she personally approved my selection.”

Kwan Douhak nodded grudging acceptance of his explanation.

Ah Soey did not say, thirty years ago I knew her even better, but you haven’t paid me to tell you about that.

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