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The Road Unravelled

The Earlyworks Press Science Fiction Challenge

 “We're looking for stories that are a credible picture of where we might be heading - or where we could end up if....  Stories should conform to the sci-fi 'What if...' genre, that is, they should be predictions backed by credible if not actual science. 

But the science must stay in the background. We want stories you can read without having an MSc!  And they must have real, in depth characters, not just manikins to drive the space ships.

There are lists of ‘over-used sci-fi plots’ going around the web. Can you make one of these plots worth visiting again, or do you have a truly original idea?”

That was the challenge, and this book is the authors’ answer to it. They have given us theories about god, genetics, mortality and human responsibility. They have asked what can and cannot be done with computers, robots and AI, and what it is that makes us human. The result is some startling predictions that raise some mind-melting questions. Enjoy them, think on them, and sleep if you dare!

Here are some extracts…

 From Chucking Out Time by R D Gardner 

“Matt, what would I have to do?”

“Have another beer, and shut your eyes: this has to go in your spinal cord.”

“Er, Matt, how much have you had?”

“Relax, I’ve never impaled a rat yet.”

The needle went into the back of my neck.


I don’t remember to this day what we did then, or how I got home: the students next door assured me I came home at sunrise, singing:


Never get bombed with a boffin, you never know where it might end,

Don’t get laboratory ratted, and do what you didn’t intend...


From Experimental Use of the Drug Axenphenicol Lithium Sulphate in Forensic Criminology 

by David Dennis


Strands of seaweed stroked my face, like the hair of some mermaid or lost maiden. I tried to catch them in the vain hope that they were anchored to some rock which might help me save myself. There was a roaring in my ears. When I came up for air I saw the shining sea wall and on it was some writing in white foaming letters, tall and broad:  ‘DID DADDY TOUCH YOU?’ it said.

Then someone dived in and rescued me.


 From Going Away by Vanessa Lafaye


On the drive to the Facility, Julianne and James revisited their favourite moments from the past on the handheld viewer. They were conspiring together, both focused on the happy images of their miniature selves being replayed in the back seat of the taxi.…

 “How long?” he asked. She closed and opened her eyes to view her Life Clock and said flatly, “20 minutes.” He stroked her hand, hoping that his touch would register even if she was almost beyond the reach of his voice.


From Transcript by Clive Gilson



The Boss leans forward.

“Run silent!”

Lights shift to red. Unlike ancient submariners, silent running means that all external scans and counter-measures are killed. Sound is immaterial. We exist within our cloak, blind, with our ears cocked for the sound of heavy footfalls over our shoulder.

“Destroyer peeling off and dropping in behind us,” Dewey explains. “Thing is, we don’t know if it’s seen us or if it’s routine. They drop back in rotation every couple of hours to see if anyone is following. Standard defensive tactics.”

I struggle to make my mouth work, swallowing to force the glands in my mouth to produce saliva. My heart is thumping in my chest. “How do we know…”

“If you see a very bright white light then you’re dead.” He laughs out loud. “Only way to know for sure. If you’re still looking at me in ten minutes then chances are they’re none the wiser. Tick-tock, tick-tock.” The bastard is grinning like a Cheshire Cat.


From Mission Statement by Peter Caunt


The return into normal space came with a heavy jolt, and a striking pain down his left side. At least it would have been pain if he had been human. The damage sensors had simply registered a severe fault condition on the port engine intakes, but he liked to think of it as pain.


From Zingibers  by Kim Green


Nervous. Excited. Satisfied. Outraged. These were some reactions to the new enclosure of The Earth Zoo… Everyone agreed though, that the new enclosure was important, and could not be dismissed from the mind easily by anyone who cared for the future of the Earth.


From Hippo with Three Eyes by Martin Pevsner


            Hey, man. Need any more of that? Need anything at all? I whip round, see that I’m being watched. He’s a mean-looking bloke, weasel face, greasy brown hair centre-parted, thin lips, sharp nose. He’s smiling at me knowingly. He’s seen me necking the pill. I say nothing, looking him over. I register his lasertat, an XXX, on his neck. It’s the symbol of the Pig klan, a large Bandon crew, not to be messed with.

            Where you from, Blud? he asks. I tell him. You lads are cool. Well known fact, the Hiiippos from Kroyden are the hardest village klan. I’d be honoured to do some business with you.


From An Invisible Rose by Catherine Edmunds


Kevin shuffled a pile of plasma records on Rachel’s desk and patted her head, looking disconcerted when his hand fell straight through her scalp.

“Urrgh,” he muttered, turning away blushing.

“Sorry Kev, you were saying?”  

…Kevin spun round and marched away, tripping over a waste-plasma bin. Rachel watched the mechanised safety rope swing into action, lassoing his wrist to prevent him falling, but pulling his arm out of its socket in the process. A medic-droid dropped down from the ceiling and whacked Kevin on the shoulder, fixing the problem with startling efficiency.


From The Beautiful Mind of Samuel Bland Arnold by David Dennis


I will tell you why I cannot reveal my love for Patty.  There is only one phrase for it: fear of rejection.  How can you continue to command a ship this size when your deputy has told you she does not reciprocate your love and yet you are both immortal? You would have to live with your shame and embarrassment forever. ... If I were wrong it would stain my memory with ugliness and breach the Arcado Doctrine.


From The Extinction Paradox by Kenneth Shand


“So what’s your future, Gorn?’ Kayib was getting aggressive.

“I’ll operate the Faith Stream a while longer, maybe get promoted, have lots of little Gorns…”

“Let me stop you right there.”

“I’ve seen them. All my flame haired little Gorn-alikes.”

“You mean you get them all to look like you?”

“Every one of them.”

“That’s so vain it’s despicable.”

“Well I’m the perfect model after all.”

“And you’ve seen them?”

“On screen I have, and I’ve had them dance around as avatars.”

“Despicable, I tell you.”

“Aleph help us all.”


From Catherine and the God Market by Sheila Adamson


On Tuesday night Catherine answered the doorbell to find two aliens outside. It took her a while to work out how to react to that.

“Hallo!” said the alien on the left. “Can we interest you in a message of hope and gladness?”

“Uh?” she said.

The alien smiled brightly. At least, she thought it was smiling. It had a huge lipless mouth, which it was stretching widely; and huge owl eyes which it was blinking enthusiastically. It also had three arms, three legs and rather scaly grey skin. Presumably in an attempt to blend in, it was wearing a dark business suit. “Are you happy?” it enquired.


“Truly happy?”

Catherine felt herself edging backwards. Strangers weren’t supposed to ask you questions like that. Of course she wasn’t happy. What business was it of anyone else’s, human or not?

“We’d like to tell you about true happiness,” said the second, smaller alien.

“And eternal life.”

“May we come in?”


The Road Unravelled – 

220 pages, 23 pieces of brand new science fiction containing real humans. 

£9.75 + £1.50 p&p to UK addresses



Or you can order by post. Cheques payable to Kay Green. Please post to Earlyworks Press, The Creative Media Centre, 45 Robertson Street, Hastings, Sussex TN34 1HL



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