By James Callan

The city — what was left of it — echoed with gunfire, a perpetual preparation of microwave popcorn across an urban wasteland. Somewhere among the sprawl of detritus was a beach, and at its edge, where waves licked at the jettisoned waste, bipeds washed up with the oil-slick tides: biological, mechanical — bodies trailing ribbons of circuitry or coils of intestine.

Motherboard walked among the refuse. It waded through rubble and rock. It stood at the apex of fire-scorched, discarded junk, engaging its optic opacity filters to reduce the refracted sunlight, beams which ricocheted in a hydra head of lasers off the titanium plate of war-torn wreckage. It scanned the horizon, hoping the target that it sought would elude its frantic search, afraid of what it might find. Hope, however, has been dead to humanity for years, a corrupted algorithm in machines. Fear, on the other hand, is common these days, stronger than ever. It finds a home in every heart and every program.

Motherboard picked up its child. It held its daughter machine close and cried pixelated tears. It cradled the devastation of its baby’s hardware, the small, steel frame bent and broken, torn and cloven. At mid-thigh, a thousand rainbow-coloured snakes of live wire popped with electrical discharge. Sagging from a broken neck, a chrome cranial plate hung limp, caved in with blunt force trauma. Fingers twitched. Gargled speech came out in indecipherable sputters. Computerised eyes flashed and flickered in strobe, red text a steady metronome: ERROR. ERROR. ERROR.

Motherboard placed its child among the rubble. Emotion programs activated to affect the appropriate body language, facial expressions, and spoken tones; moods and gestures of unrelenting sorrow. Holographic droplets projected from sentimental sensors recently installed. Motherboard arched her back to the heavens and moaned a piteous howl that filled the junkyard and beyond. The sound attracted the far-seeing scopes of laser snipers, marksmen huddled in fractured husks of yesterday’s thriving metropolis. One more shot joined the gaggle of gunfire. One more machine lay among the excess of scrap.

Above, war-machines tallied the sky in a cat’s cradle of motion blurs and vapour trails. Among them, the clouds condensed, darkened, and ruptured into heavy rain. The world wept for Motherboard, for its lost child, for countless others. The world, once green, mourned for itself: its dead oceans and black landmasses, its ruptured whole, its men and machines, all broken.

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About the Author

James Callan For Web 12

James Callan is the author of the novel A Transcendental Habit (Queer Space, 2023).

His fiction has appeared in Carte BlancheBridge EightThe Gateway ReviewMystery Tribune, and elsewhere. 

He lives on the Kāpiti Coast, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Find him at <>

Issue Contributors

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Meet the Narrators

  • Barry Yedvobnick

    barry yedvobnick 200Barry Yedvobnick is a recently retired Biology Professor. He performed molecular biology and genetic research, and taught, at Emory University in Atlanta for 34 years. He is new to fiction writing, and enjoys taking real science a step or two beyond its known boundaries in his

  • Emma Gill

    Emma Louise GillEmma Louise Gill (she/her) is a British-Australian spec fic writer and consumer of vast amounts of coffee. Brought up on a diet of English lit, she rebelled and now spends her time writing explosive space opera and other fantastical things in

  • Marg Essex

    marg essex 200Margaret lives the good life on a small piece of rural New South Wales Australia, with an amazing man, a couple of pets, and several rambunctious wombats.

    She feels so lucky to be a part of the AntiSF team.


  • Juliette Cavendish

    juliette cavendish 200Juliette Cavendish was born in Liverpool UK and is of Welsh and Norwegian heritage. Juliette has an interest in Artificial Intelligence and Quantum Science and writes in both Science Fiction and Contemporary Fiction genres. Juliette was fascinated with space as a

  • Mark English

    mark english 100Mark is an astrophysicist and space scientist who worked on the Cassini/Huygens mission to Saturn. Following this he worked in computer consultancy, engineering, and high energy research (with a stint at the JET Fusion Torus).

    All this science hasn't damped his love of fantasy and science fiction. It has, however, ruined his

  • Laurie Bell

    lauriebell 2 200

    Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia and is the author of "The Stones of Power Series" via Wyvern's Peak Publishing: "The Butterfly Stone", "The Tiger's Eye" and "The Crow's Heart" (YA/Fantasy).

    She is also the author of "White Fire" (Sci-Fi) and "The Good, the Bad and the Undecided" (a

  • Geraldine Borella

    geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes fiction for children, young adults and adults. Her work has been published by Deadset Press, IFWG Publishing, Wombat Books/Rhiza Edge, AHWA/Midnight Echo, Antipodean SF, Shacklebound Books, Black Ink Fiction, Paramour Ink Fiction, House of Loki and Raven & Drake

  • Tim Borella

    tim borellaTim Borella is an Australian author, mainly of short speculative fiction published in anthologies, online and in podcasts.

    He’s also a songwriter, and has been fortunate enough to have spent most of his working life doing something else he loves, flying.

    Tim lives with his wife Georgie in beautiful Far

  • Michelle Walker

    michelle walker32My time at Nambucca Valley Community Radio began back in 2016 after moving into the area from Sydney.

    As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, I recognised it was definitely God who opened up the pathways for my husband and I to settle in the Valley.


  • Alistair Lloyd

    alistair lloyd 200Alistair Lloyd is a Melbourne based writer and narrator who has been consuming good quality science fiction and fantasy most of his life.

    You may find him on Twitter as <@mr_al> and online at <...

  • Sarah Pratt

    sarah pratt 200Sarah Pratt is an avid fiction writer and a Marketing Consultant.

    She is currently working on her first novel but loves diving into short stories to bring a little lightness, intrigue or humour to the day.

    Her work has appeared in Sponge Magazine and The Commuting

  • Ed Errington

    ed erringtonEd lives with his wife plus a magical assortment of native animals in tropical North Queensland.

    His efforts at wallaby wrangling are without parallel — at least in this universe.

    He enjoys reading and writing science-fiction stories set within intriguing, yet plausible contexts, and invite readers’ “willing suspension of

  • Sarah Jane Justice

    Sarah Jane Justice 200Sarah Jane Justice is an Adelaide-based fiction writer, poet, musician and spoken word artist.

    Among other achievements, she has performed in the National Finals of the Australian Poetry Slam, released two albums of her original music and seen her poetry