Same Journey Road

By Ben F. Blitzer

sfgenreElmore shuffled back into his bedroom of the retirement village. He saw the Italian lying on his bed again, his eyes fixed to the ceiling, about to nod off. Elmore told him to take his shoes off the bed. The bed belonged to Elmore.

“They’re clean,” Giuseppe protested.

Elmore used the end of his cane to poke him in the ribs, but Giuseppe grabbed it from him and threw it away. That impressed Elmore because Giuseppe was legally blind.

Clyde, standing nearby, picked up Elmore’s cane.

Clyde was tall and of Hungarian ancestry, with a dark, bushy moustache. He’d often tell people that he joined the French Foreign Legion when he was eighteen and had fought in the Crimean War. Even though everyone suspected he hadn’t (since it would have made him one-hundred and seventy years old, or even older), no one said a word.

“Did you know I was the recipient of the Legion of Honour?” Clyde asked Frank.

Frank sat by the window in his wheelchair. He watched Clyde brandishing the cane as if it were a sword. “No.”

“And the Victorian Cross, too?”

Frank smiled. “How many baddies you maimed?” he asked Clyde. 

“A hundred.”

Giuseppe laced his fingers behind his head, grinning, staring blindingly at the ceiling again. He seemed rather contented with himself.

Elmore, meanwhile, hobbled forward and pleaded to Clyde for his cane back. The toe of Elmore’s slipper caught the heel of the other, and he fell to his knees. He got up with Clyde’s help.

“We waited outside the sickroom,” Clyde said, returning the cane back to Elmore, “but you’d gone.”

“I had an errand to run,” Elmore said.

Frank asked Elmore about Bernardo, their wise friend who also resided at the retirement village. They admired Bernardo for his honesty and resolve. He was far older than he had let on, though.

“I can’t say if any one of us is living when all we seem to do is talk about dying,” Bernardo had once told them.

Elmore said, “He’s —”

“If you see him again,” Giuseppe broke in, “tell him he still owes me ten dollars for that wager we agreed upon.”

Frank, sitting in his wheelchair, gasped, wheezed and coughed. Elmore held his hand to comfort his sudden distress. Frank settled down. He said, “She can’t remember her own name let alone her husband’s.” Frank was referring to Bernardo’s wife.

Giuseppe frowned. “He shouldn’t have wagered, then,” he said in his thick Sicilian accent.

Frank got livid because Bernardo was laid up in bed after spending some time in hospital, having complained about shooting chest pains. It was his heart.

Giuseppe conceded the wager was dishonest but stopped short of an apology.

Giuseppe didn’t like Frank all that much, but they got along all the same on account of their age.

“Bernardo’s dead,” Elmore said.

Frank shook away Elmore’s hand in disbelief.

Clyde lit a cigarillo, a pleasure he seldom afforded himself anymore.

Elmore opened the window for the bitter smoke. “Put it out,” Elmore stressed.

“It’s what Bernardo would have wanted,” Clyde said, meaning as a way to celebrate a life lost by indulging in a smoke.

Elmore shook his head. To Clyde, he said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about what he had said about us not living.”

“We’re alive, aren’t we?”

“Yes.” Elmore looked around at the faces in his bedroom, in particular to that of Frank’s. “But I don’t think we’re living the way we ought to be,” he finished saying.

Clyde said, “How do you mean?”

“It was iffy from the get-go, wasn’t it?” Frank asked Elmore. “His heart, I mean?”

Elmore nodded and then poked Giuseppe in the ribs again, and Giuseppe stirred, sat up, and swung his legs out over the edge of the bed.

“Remember that story Bernardo told us about,” Elmore said, “the one about when he was fighting the communists in Korea?”

“Do you suppose anyone’s told his wife?” Giuseppe asked.

Clyde said that if somebody had, she’d have asked the person who Bernardo was. She had dementia.

“Bernardo,” Elmore began again, “told us that story about the soldier, remember?”

“The dead soldier?” Frank asked from his wheelchair.

“Yes.”

Giuseppe also remembered it. It was too vivid not to. “We’re that soldier, aren’t we?”

“Yes,” Elmore said.

“What do you suggest we do, then?”

“I went to the library —”

“That’s not my idea of living,” Clyde interjected. He rested his cigarillo on a teacup saucer, on Elmore’s chest of drawers, to let it extinguish itself out naturally. “I don’t have the stamina to read more than a few words at a time,” he said.

“I think you’re sore because you can’t string them all together,” Frank remarked.

Giuseppe snorted. “That just about sums up Clyde’s love life too, I’d say.”

Elmore held up a set of vehicle keys. They belonged to the van. The van belonged to the retirement village they all resided in. Elmore said they kept a spare set in the library office.

“Let’s get out of here for a few hours,” Elmore added.

“Okay,” Giuseppe said.

“Okay,” Frank agreed.

And Clyde, stroking his bushy moustache pensively, said, “Heck, I’ve nothing to lose.”

They left Elmore’s bedroom and headed for the parking lot. The mid-afternoon sunlight felt warm upon their faces.

“Bernardo might’ve died from a broken heart instead,” Frank conjectured quietly to himself. “He loved his wife.”

They pushed Frank and his wheelchair up the ramp and into the van. Clyde secured the wheelchair down, during which time Elmore helped Giuseppe slide onto the backseat and fastened him in.

“Who’s driving?” Elmore asked, leaning on his cane. He couldn’t drive himself because of his bad knees.

“I will,” Clyde said, “obviously.”

“Can you drive?”

“Sure.” Clyde hadn’t held a driver’s licence since nineteen eighty-one.

Elmore sat beside Clyde as he fastened his seatbelt, inserted the key into the ignition and turned it. The van lunged forward. He put the van into neutral. He turned the key and it started.

Giuseppe asked if anyone had thought about where they all were going to go.

“Let’s just drive around,” Frank suggested.

“Okay.”

Clyde backed the van out of the space and into a speed bump sign. He got out, checked the taillight, got in and drove off. At the end of the block, he got back out, checked the taillight, got in and drove out of the city.

“Tell me,” Clyde said to Elmore, “how’d that story go again, the one about the soldier? But don’t go into much detail.”

Giuseppe said the devil’s in the detail.

“Let me see,” Elmore said. “It happened during the Korean war, in someplace hostile. Bernardo happened across a soldier, a corporal, on the bank of a small river. At first, he thought the soldier was dead, but he wasn’t. He was one of ours. ‘Where are you shot?’ Bernardo asked him. The soldier said, ‘I don’t want to die.’ They strapped him to a stretcher and carried him over to the truck, the medic and Bernardo did. By then the soldier had died, passed on. The medic checked the soldier’s body over for his injuries, turned to Bernardo, and shook his head disbelievingly. ‘That’s strange,’ he said to Bernardo. ‘What is?’ ‘This soldier wasn’t shot, not a scratch on him, sir.’”

“I’ve heard similar stories before,” Clyde said. “Elmore, have I told you about the time I saw Jesus?”

“No.”

“Well, then, let me tell it to you in some detail. It involves a toasted slice of bread.”

“Okay.”

“I guess it’s just a matter of time before we all get to see Him,” Frank muttered. He closed his eyes and fell asleep to the sound the van made travelling on the asphalt. Then Elmore and Giuseppe slept, too.

Elmore awoke, sore all over, sometime after sunset. “It’s late,” he said sleepily, wincing. “Let’s go back, Clyde.”

Clyde, having also slept briefly himself, stirred awake from behind the steering wheel, indicated left and slowly accelerated the van down a lonely country road, crunching the gears.

An hour later, Giuseppe, the blind Italian, woke up. “Are we home yet?” he asked. “I’m awfully hungry.”

Just then, the van shuddered. Clyde pulled the van over onto the shoulder of the road. The fuel gauge indicated that they were in need of fuel.

They got out. Clyde checked the taillight, and then helped wheel Frank down the ramp with Elmore. Frank wheezed. Giuseppe waited by the van in the dark.

“I wish I’d been able to read,” Clyde said.

“I’m cold,” Frank said.

Giuseppe said, “Me, too.”

“I’d say we’re lost,” Elmore said. “I thought you knew where you were going, Clyde.”

Clyde wheeled Frank out onto the road. The road was all but deserted. Elmore relied on Giuseppe to keep balance as Giuseppe relied on him to be his eyes.

Frank started to wheeze and cough again. He had bad asthma.

“Where’s your inhaler?” Elmore asked.

He told Elmore he’d left it back at the retirement village.

They made it to the crest of the road so that each (except for Giuseppe, of course) had a view of the desolation that lay before them. Behind them, they could see the van with its hazard lights flashing. Clyde towered over the rest of them. No one owned a mobile phone.

Elmore saw a ghostly apparition on the road, in the distance. It looked like a soldier. Frank decided they should all follow it. The apparition vanished just as quickly as it had appeared.

“Come on,” Elmore said, “let’s go.” The arthritis in his knees started to play up. He forgot to bring his tablets.

Clyde said, “Have I told you about the time I invented the light globe?”

“No,” Frank gasped. “Why don’t you tell us?”

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About the Author

Ben F. Blitzer

In recent years, Ben F. Blitzer has produced three unpublished literary novels and an unpublished novella, set in or around Perth, Western Australia.

Some of his shorter works of fiction, however, feature science-fiction, fantasy, and horror themes.

He lives in Western Australia.

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AntiSF & The ASFF

AntipodeanSF supports the ASFF

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Please visit the ASFF website and consider joining for up-to-date info about Australian SF cons, awards, competitions, and to receive the Foundation's newsletter, Instrumentality, and more.

<https://asff.org.au>

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF's Production Crew

nuke conflux 2017 200Ion Newcombe is the editor and publisher of AntipodeanSF, Australia’s longest running online speculative fiction magazine, regularly issued since January 1998, and conceived back around November 2007. He has been a zealous reader and occasional writer of SF since his childhood in the 1960s, and even sold a few stories here and there back in the '90s.

“Nuke”, who it turns out loves editing more than writing, lives in the New South Wales North Coast holiday destination of Nambucca Heads, where he is self-employed in IT training, computer support, desktop publishing, editing, writing, and website implementation. He is also the resident tech-head, skeptic, and board member of community radio station 2NVR, where he produces a number of shows including The AntipodeanSF Radio Show.

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mark web 200Mark Webb's midlife crisis came in the form of attempting to write speculative fiction at a very slow pace. His wife maintains this is a good outcome considering the more expensive and cliched alternatives. Evidence of Mark's attempts to procrastinate in his writing, including general musings and reviews of books he has been reading, can be found at www.markwebb.name.

One of Mark’s very best forms of writing procrastination is to produce the eBook series for AntipodeanSF, which he has been doing since issue 175.

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In The Next Issue...

Coming In Issue 266

And Then There Was One
By Tim Borella

Barkeep
By Bethany Tatman

Beyond the Cold Light
By Kevin J. Phyland

Body Dysmorphia
By Daniel Purcell

Chase v. Lee, or, The Green Sheep Hip Wiggle Case
By Anya Ow

Hullu City Murder Mystery; East Texas Town Rocked by Killings
By Wes Parish

Implant
By Roger Ley

Smoking
By Kyosuke Higuchi - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

Sneak
By Robert W. Caldwell

The Interview
By Chris Gladstone

The Rorne Model
By David Scholes

The Sponsor
By Shaun A. Saunders

The Visitor
By Thomas Tilton

Time Warp Donors
By Barry Yedvobnick

The Contributors

danielmackisack 200Daniel is a sociologist, social entrepreneur, sci-fi fanatic and belligerent optimist.

Raised on Star Trek, other early influences include Kim Stanley Robinson and Douglas Adams.

In addition to writing, Daniel is a former diplomat, cofounded media transparency organization 'Write In Stone', spent 4 years studying revolution and democracy in the Arab Spring and leads workshops on collective decision making.

Umiyuri Katsuyama 200Umiyuri Katsuyama is a multiple-award-winning writer of fantasy and horror, often based on Asian folklore motifs.

A native of Iwate in the far north of Japan, she later moved to Tokyo and studied at Seisen University.

In 2011, she won the Japan Fantasy Novel Award with her novel Sazanami no kuni.

Her most recent novel, Chuushi, ayashii nabe to tabi wo suru, was published in 2018.

Her short fiction has appeared in numerous horror anthologies in Japan.

Benny Thang was born to immigrant parents and lives in Melbourne, Australia.

He enjoys stories in all its forms and hopes to write more things in the future that others might perhaps one day come across in-between the mundane things of their everyday lives.

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kyosuke higuchi 200Kyosuke Higuchi writes science fiction, speculative fiction, and literary essays. His debut novel, Kōzōsōshi [Structure Elements], won the fifth Hayakawa SF Contest in 2017. 

His short fiction has appeared in Syosetsu Subaru, S-F Magazine, and Bungei, among others. 

His latest book is a collection of essays entitled Subete namonaki mirai (2020). 

Kyosuke lives with his wife and young daughter in Nagoya, Japan. Find him on Twitter at <https://twitter.com/rrr_kgknk>.

Daphne has read SF since childhood. She writes poems, flash fiction and short stories which vary from the darkly humorous to the vaguely sinister. She is currently working on a flash novella, and a collection of short stories.

Daphne reads regularly at Perth Poetry club and has recorded two podcasts for ILAA on Kalamunda radio.

She lives with her partner and a holographic cat.

Her pamphlet The Blue Boob Club is published by Indigo Dreams Press: <https://www.indigodreams.co.uk/daphne-milne/4594486684>.

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rudy diaz 200A Physicist in Engineer’s clothing, Rudy worked 20 years in the Defense Aerospace Industry, from performing Lightning Protection analysis on the Space Shuttle to the design of Radar Absorbing Materials. He then joined Academia as a Professor of Electrical Engineering, where for another 20 years he attempted to infect unsuspecting students with a love for Maxwell’s equations.

Since High School he has spent most of his free time either writing Science Fiction or trying to figure out how to make Science Fiction a reality. (His students' latest work has led to the demonstration of efficient RF antennas that radiate using true magnetic (not electric) currents.) His speculative fiction short stories have appeared in Residential Aliens, Ray Gun Revival, The Untold Podcast, and the Crossover Alliance Anthology Volume 2. The rest of his work is in the peer reviewed Physics and Engineering literature.

Rudy has also been involved in Jail Ministry for about 30 years. He and his wife Marcy live in Phoenix, Arizona.

<https://rediazauthor.com/>

In recent years, Ben F. Blitzer has produced three unpublished literary novels and an unpublished novella, set in or around Perth, Western Australia.

Some of his shorter works of fiction, however, feature science-fiction, fantasy, and horror themes.

He lives in Western Australia.

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Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas.

His translations have appeared in venues such as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and World Literature Today.

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 <alistairlloyd.com>.

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Maree Collie loves the idea of Flash Fiction. So much to say in such a little space. She also dabbles in short stories, monologues and plays.

Maree has had pieces published in anthologies, a play performed in 2018, and a monologue slated for performance October 2019.

She has completed a BA in Professional and Creative Writing at Deakin University.

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roger ley2 200Roger Ley is a retired lecturer in Computer Aided Engineering. He writes speculative fiction because it stops him drinking hard liquor and chasing fast women.

‘Lone Orbit’ is one of the stories in his speculative fiction collection, 'Dead People on Facebook' which will cost you half a cup of coffee.

His three other speculative fiction books are similarly available on Amazon AU or visit his website.

Find Roger at: <https://rogerley.co.uk>.

Roger’s Amazon author page: <https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B01KOVZFHM>.

His YouTube playlist: <https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHDmc8dxD57cPaMnsYfuJhQIirRohnaWY>.

George Nikolopoulos is a speculative fiction writer from Athens, Greece, and a member of Codex Writers' Group. His short stories have been published in Galaxy's Edge, Daily Science Fiction, Factor Four, Grievous Angel, Helios Quarterly Magazine, Unsung Stories, Best Vegan SFF, The Year's Best Military & Adventure SF, Bards & Sages Quarterly, Havok, SF Comet, Mad Scientist Journal, Truancy, Digital Fiction QuickFic, The Centropic Oracle, StarShipSofa, 600 Second Saga, Antipodean SF, Manawaker Studio's FFP, Fifty Flashes, 9Tales from Elsewhere, Event Horizon 2017, and many other magazines and anthologies.

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Where you see strange dreams, cockatoos and other nonsensical nostrums congregate, there’s a good chance you’ll also come across our author.

By day he’s all manner of mundane things: a board member, business association manager, policy adviser, researcher and scholar - in Canberra.

At night he lets those wild ideas of his run, well, wild.

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kevinjphyland 200Old enough to just remember the first manned Moon landing, Kevin was so impressed he made science his life.

Retired now from teaching he amuses himself by reading, writing, following his love of weather and correcting people on the internet.

He’s been writing since his teens and hopes he will one day get it right.

He can be found on twitter @KevinPhyland where he goes by the handle of CaptainZero and his work is around the place if you search using google or use the antisf.com.au archive.

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Wesley Parish is an SF fan from early childhood. Born in PNG, he enjoys reading about humans in strange cultures and circumstances; his favourite SF authors include Ursula Le Guin, Fritz Lieber, Phillip K. Dick, J.G. Ballard and Frank Herbert. He lives in Christchurch, NZ, is an unemployed Java and C programmer, and has recently decided to become a mad ukuleleist, flautist and trombonist, and would love to revert to being the mad fiddler and pedal steel guitarist..  "Where oh where has my little pedal steel got to ... ?"

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Shaun Saunders lives at the beachside suburb of Merewether, in Newcastle, NSW. He particularly enjoys Asimov's Foundation universe, and stories from the 'golden age' of SF. He is a regular contributor to AntipodeanSF, and winner of 2003 & 2004 AntiSF awards, and the inaugural 2005 SFSSC. His novel Mallcity 14 has been favourably compared with both 1984 and Brave New World.

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AntipodeanSF October 2020

ISSUE 265

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

geraldine borella 200Geraldine Borella writes adult short stories and stories for children and has been published in anthologies for both. In 2018, one of her children’s short stories placed second in The Buzz Words Short Story Prize and she won an ASA Emerging Writer’s Mentorship. She currently works part-time as a hospital pharmacist and as an online creative writing tutor.

She’s fascinated by stories that expand upon today’s technology, addressing the moral and ethical issues that might arise. Equally, she enjoys the creative freedom that writing for children allows. Right now, she’s writing a young adult novel, reworking a middle grade novel and writing adult short stories when inspiration strikes. She lives with her husband, Tim, in Yungaburra, Far North Queensland and dreams of one day taking a European gap year.

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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.

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garry dean narratorGarry Dean lives on the Mid Coast of New South Wales Australia, and has been a fan of SF for most of his natural life. Being vision impaired, he makes good use of voice recognition and text to speech in order to write. Many of his stories have appeared in AntipodeanSF over the years, and his love of all things audio led him to join the narration team in 2017.

You can read examples of Garry's fiction on his website <https://garrydean.wordpress.com>

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ed erringtonAlthough a writer of the baby boom persuasion, Ed has not boomed for quite a while.

He lives with his wife plus a menagerie of non-domesticated — native Australian animals intropical North Queensland.

His writing within the ‘real’ science fiction context of COVID-19 is intermingled by long night sky vigils — searching for pesky aliens intent on maintaining their social distance to the nth degree.

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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 enjoyment of rainbows, colourful flames on romantic log fires, and rings around the moon. He has previously been published in Stupefying Stories Showcase, Everyday Fiction, Escape Pod, Perihelion and also on AntipodeanSF where he is part of the narration team.

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tim borellaTim Borella has never lost his childhood passion for SF and writing in general and has been lucky enough to have worked most of his life as a pilot — in other words, he’s never properly grown up.

He lives in country Far North Queensland, has won awards for songwriting, and has had various other writing achievements, the most recent being an honourable mention in the 2018 international Literary Taxidermy Short Story Competition.

He also has bachelor degrees in science and teaching, and has completed a couple of as-yet unpublished SF novels. He’d dearly love to spend more time writing, but will have to continue juggling for another couple of years until the kids have fully left the nest.

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carolyn eccles 100

Carolyn's work spans devising, performance, theatre-in-education and a collaborative visual art practice.

She tours children's works to schools nationally with School Performance Tours, is a member of the Bathurst physical theatre ensemble Lingua Franca and one half of darkroom — a visual arts practice with videographer Sean O'Keeffe.

(Photo by Jeremy Belinfante) 

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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 Book.

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timonthy gwyn 100Timothy Gwyn is a professional pilot in Canada, where he flies to remote communities. During a lull in his flying career, he was a radio announcer for three years, and he is also an author.

In addition to short stories at AntipodeanSF and NewMyths.com, his SF novel is available internationally in print and ebook formats. "Avians" draws on his love of alternative aviation to tell the tale of a girl who runs away from home to join a cadre of glider pilots on a world without metal or fossil fuels.

On Twitter, he is @timothygwyn, and his blogs are at <timothygwyn.com>.

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lauriebell 2 200Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She was that girl you found with her nose always buried in a book. She has been writing ever since she was a little girl and first picked up a pen. From books to short stories, radio plays to snippets of ideas and reading them aloud to anyone who will listen.

She is the author of The Butterfly Stone (YA/ Fantasy — available now) and White Fire (Sci Fi — available now)

You can read more of her work on her blog Look for her on Facebook <www.facebook.com/WriterLaurieBell/> or Twitter: <@LaurienotLori>

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The AntipodeanSF Radio Show

AntiSF Radio Show

antipod-show-50The AntipodeanSF Radio Show delivers audio from the pages of this magazine.

The weekly program features the stories from recently published issues, usually narrated by the authors themselves.

Listen to the latest episode now:

The AntipodeanSF Radio Show is also broadcast on community radio, 2NVR, 105.9FM every Saturday evening at 8:30pm.

You can find every broadcast episode online here: http://antisf.libsyn.com 

SF Quote

Reality is the part that refuses to go away when I stop believing in it.

Philip K. Dick

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