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"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.


Brynn Olenberg Sugarman is a published author of both speculative short stories for adults, and children's fiction. Her picture book Rebecca's Journey Home (Kar-Ben/Lerner) won a Sydney Taylor Award in 2008. She has a Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing from SUNY Binghamton and a Master's degree in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
,br> SF/Speculative fiction is her longtime favorite genre: as a kid, she adored A Wrinkle in Time, all of Ray Bradbury's books, and The Twilight Zone. She has time traveled both backwards and forwards, having written about everything from cave people to space people. She lives in Israel, where she is inspired by both the rich archeology of the land, and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea.

We have returned to the alien world which defines us: for thousands of years, we've been told that this turquoise globe is home.
Thanks to electromagnetic field propulsion, it has taken us just three Terran years to arrive. That is nothing compared to the one-way, intergenerational voyage from here to Proxima which our ancestors took. They left this planet, knowing that they themselves would never be coming back, or even landing anywhere at all. It took their descendants half a millennium to reach Proxima. Endless centuries have passed since then. I think of these pioneers: I am their ambassador.
I was chosen by the others to deliver a speech, which I wrote in transit. Delvarn, the only native Proximan in our delegation, and my best friend, had wanted to see it.
After perusing it, he handed back my pocket screen, his third eye fluttering. 'Son of Terra?" he inquired. "Seriously?!"
I looked away from him, and shrugged.
As soon as we were close enough, we made contact with Terra, and our hosts now await us. Before exiting our spaceship, we hold a collective breath. Then we unlatch the hatches.
Our hosts embrace us. Their bodies feel dense, meaty. After all, the mass here is stronger than on Proxima.
Estrella is having the hardest time with the gravity. "It's pulling me into the ground," she whispers.
I hold her hand, and Delvarn takes the other.
We are walking across something green, called grass, so unlike the carmine-colored cliffs and rocky soil of home. We gaze at colossal trees. We have heard of these wonders, they are in our lore. On Proxima, the atmosphere is too thick for such giants, so instead we have shrubs.
There is also a riot of color in neat rows. "They must be flowers," Estrella breathes.
My electronic translator accidentally eavesdrops on our two guides. "They're so light-boned, it's like touching air."
"And their skin is so shiny and undefined!"
"And what about their fingers?! Like salamanders' digits."
"And just like that native Proximan's, except he has twelve fingers instead of ten! I'd bet twelve toes, too."
"Twelve toes is the least of it, with him," the other replies, pointing to his own brow.
Unlike me, they have not grown up with three-eyed Proximen. Wanting to be more like Delvarn, I had once painted a third eye on my own forehead as a young child. My mother had made me scrub it off. "No, Bjorn. You are a Terran."
They are also right about Delvarn's toes, which are currently hidden in his boots.
We are led to tables of food and drink. "Time for some refreshments! After that, we will have the assembly over there, in the auditorium."
The word conjures up the theaters back home, carved into canyons, just like our homes. All of my schooling took place on those stone steps, but the buildings here are artificially constructed. Yet in spite of our stone architecture, it is we who have the technology to swiftly come here, and our hosts seem as eager to learn about our energy sources as they are to learn about us.
We try to identify the exotic foods. "I think this is some kind of nut," I say.
Estrella looks around. "No fried locusts," she says, disappointed.
"Or borgotta roots," Delvarn says. They are his favorite, especially when smothered in wami sauce and fargo leaves.
Estrella hands me a plate full of white cubes, sprinkled with spice.
We are being watched. "Are you familiar with tofu?"
Estrella tries it. "It tastes just like wango cutlets."
"Well, I don't know what those are, but tofu is made from soybeans, which originally came from Asia." Our guide smiles benevolently, leaving us to wonder if Asia is a planet.
In the auditorium, we are given individual microphones. Video clips are flashing on the walls. They are thousands of years old, from a Terran time capsule: our ancestors, immigrating to Proxima. One way, final, and forever. They wave as they board. Their new home, The Adventurer, was a spaceship so huge that it may as well have been its own small planet.
We know the ruins of The Adventurer well. They lie at the bottom of a canyon on Proxima. We Terrans go there on pilgrimage holidays. One such day is Yuletide, which means 'glad tidings,' since the passengers of The Adventurer were greeted so kindly upon landing. The other holiday is Passover, which celebrates the passing over from Terra to Proxima.
Now here it is, our shrine, projected all around us as a vital ship, and not a hajj site!
The video zooms in on a young girl, with tears streaming down her face. I assume that she hadn't been given any choice about leaving Terra. Could I be her descendant? I can't tell. These ancestors look every bit like our living cousins - and not at all like us.
Despite being a Terran, I am ash-toned, like Delvarn, while here on Terra people are every color except gray. Estrella places her smoky hand over mine. "We can't really come from them," she whispers.
An orator has mounted the podium. "Evolution is remarkably swift. Less than three millennia ago, these Terrans' forerunners landed on a new world. Astronomically speaking, this was yesterday. And yet here they are, changed to suit their new environment. Resilience and adaptability, my friends, is the key to survival.
New environment. The word burns like a brand, an affront to Proxima, the only home I've ever known.
I am being beckoned. After mounting the podium, I gaze down at my mini-screen, but my speech blurs before my eyes. I slip the device into a pocket of my robe, and look across the room for Delvarn, "On behalf of all of us, thank you for your warm welcome," I begin. "My name is Bjorn Burrows, and I am a proud son of Proxima."
Delvarn's third eye is gleaming. Slowly, with exaggerated flourish, he winks.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, August 12th, 2022

Author Comments

I write what I want to read, and I enjoy Sci Fi which focuses primarily on the emotional, human dimension of space and time travel. Although Proxima is in the running as a potentially habitable planet, what really inspired me to write "Homecoming" are the principles of evolution and identity.
Since change is the only constant, what would it be like for the descendants of a generation ship upon returning to Earth? How might those individuals and their tales/religious beliefs have evolved beyond recognition? Since it is sometimes easier to identify with a place of origin when one is far from it, what sort of reality check might one encounter when those assumptions are challenged?

In the tension between nature and nurture, the latter wins out in "Homecoming."

- Brynn Olenberg Sugarman
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