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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.


Ken Poyner has appeared in Asimov's, Analog, Black Denim, Poet Lore, and a host of other places. His latest book of short fictions, Constant Animals, is available from Amazon, and from myriad links on his web, www.kpoyner.com. He is married to Karen, a world-class power lifter. They travel the country lifting heavy objects and publicly reading bizarre compositions. Beyond that, they parent four rescue cats and two seemingly happy betta fish.

Everyone knew how the Meritones wage war. In their opposing masses they gather a few furlongs apart and--like two lone piano top spiders on opposite sides of a metronome--hurl their songs at each other, each new canticle more violent and ragged than the last, each round more shockingly different from the one formed and cast from the other side. Quickly, what was an oration of similarities becomes a maelstrom of disharmonies, a clash of individual notes, a tearing of melody upon anti-melody.
Their conflicts can last for days. Little by little, common soldiers are worn away either able to abide the striking sound of their enemy's songs no longer; or pulled into fatal exhaustion by the work of collecting and thrusting skyward their own harmonies.
So, when the Meritones declared war upon us, we hardly replied. They did not understand war the way we understand it. Sing what you want, we thought. Flail us with your music. We do not understand the language, we cannot uncalibre the melodies. We opined: you take it into your twelve-chambered hearts to dislike us, and threaten us with song. Do what you can.
As their voices rose from their clapboard spaceships tethered clumsily to our atmosphere, our clairaudient rose with a warning. We did not have at the ready the mathematics to believe them. By the time the more level amongst us understood, the Meritones had been singing for days.
By then, we held our breaths and watched as our atmosphere cracked, as the harmonics entered the spare spaces of our bodies, as the elements began to separate. No, it was not our ears that licked at the edge of their singing, it was our molecules, the simple bonds that fluttered in the unseen waves and eventually could be induced to hideously dance. We were lost in silence.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Author Comments

This was inspired by a comedy piece I saw many years ago about two formal choirs trying to outdo each other--a competition which ended up with no artistry, only volume. But the matter goes deeper, and just last night I was working on a piece where lifeforms based on chemistry were trying to understand lifeforms based on physics. Assumption is the mother of all failings.

- Ken Poyner
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