The Chocolate Bar

By Matthew Harrison

sfgenreMackay at last had the chance to raise the question of funding. But Henderson the Project Director just sat, fingers pressed thoughtfully together, gazing through the window at the rolling parkland outside the headquarters. His bald head segued into his round smooth-shaven face as if the whole had been an inflated ball. Strange, Mackay thought — he hadn’t noticed that before. A chocolate bar, lying among the papers on Henderson’s desk, was the only redeeming note.

“An extraordinary feat,” Henderson was saying, without conviction.

Mackay seized on this. “The collective effort of mankind,” he nodded vigorously. “A sort of collaborative Moonshot.”

“It was found on the Moon,” Henderson mused, still looking out of the window. Then he turned to Mackay, eyes looking through him. “What do you need?”

Mackay drew a breath. A world-leading project — and this from the Director! But he swallowed his indignation. “In a word, funding,” he began. “The initial money covered us for six months, and we’ve got a long way into determining the material’s properties, but we need more, especially for the electromagnetic effort, which in fact I’m heading.”

Mackay saw Henderson’s gaze drawn back to the window, caught by the trees outside which were rocking as if blown by the wind. How could he get the man’s attention?

In sudden inspiration, Mackay pulled out his pocket handkerchief. “The thing is about this size,” he said, brandishing it, “like a piece of silk, but under certain electromagnetic stimuli, it flexes itself into complex shapes. The molecules form a crystalline lattice of extraordinary hardness,” he made a fist under the handkerchief, tapped it to indicate the hardness, “which, on further stimuli, can just as easily be collapsed back into the original silken form,” he made his fist limp. “We had, in effect, to reverse-engineer an entire app of alien code”, he concluded, allowing himself a smile of pride.

Henderson was at last looking at him. “So what’s left to do?”

There was something wrong with the trees outside, but Mackay, bristling, could not focus on that. “The thing’s inexhaustible!” he cried. “We think we’ve cracked the code at a practical level, but there’s more, much more. What about the coding language? The meta-concepts — what do they reveal about the mind of the coder? And there’s the shapes the material makes when folded. The topology team’s starting to think that they can only be understood within a six-dimensional frame of reference … ”

Henderson’s attention had at last been caught. The eyes in that expressionless round face looked at Mackay quizzically. “Higher-dimensional beings, these aliens? Able to take interstellar distances in their stride?”

Mackay laughed, despite his irritation. “Well, we don’t know their means of transport! But yes, they must have means to get here — energy sources, shielding, lasers … ” He had in fact given thought to this very problem, although it was outside his field. What did the unique artifact reveal about the aliens’ technology? And would the aliens return?

Mackay was about to launch into his tentative ideas on this, when he recalled the purpose of the meeting. Funding! How could he have forgotten? He opened his mouth with new urgency.

But a bright metallic sphere had suddenly appeared in mid-air in front of them, and was expanding, pushing aside the desk. And Henderson himself — his face had become completely round, truly a ball.

Mackay gasped. Now almost hidden by the expanding metallic mass in front of him, the window showed parkland dotted with similar spheres. With a kind of detachment, he realised that this was the end. Yet the scientist in him wanted something, wanted knowledge even when knowledge was of no further use.

“What was it?” he shouted, stepping back as the sphere filled more and more of the room. “What was that scrap of stuff?”

Henderson’s face was merging into the expanding sphere of his body. But he — or it — extended a strangely elongated arm and caught something that at that moment slipped from the toppling desk. With preternatural clarity of vision, Mackay saw that it was the chocolate bar. The fingers moved deftly, and the little chunk of chocolate fell to the floor, prompting in Mackay an absurd twinge of regret.

The arm was raised, the fingers held up a crumpled scrap of foil and paper. There was a crackling rustle.

“A wrapper,” came Henderson’s voice, itself metallic now, as the roof fell in.

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About The Author

Matthew Harrison

matthew harrison 200Matthew Harrison lives in Hong Kong, and whether because of that or some other reason entirely his writing has veered from non-fiction to literary and he is currently reliving a boyhood passion for science fiction.  He has published more than eighty short stories and is building up to longer pieces as he learns more about the universe.  Matthew is married with two children but no pets as there is no space for these in Hong Kong.

<www.matthewharrison.hk>

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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.

<http://asff.org.au>

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 238

A Hand Full Of Sand Can Save Your Life
by Laurie Bell

A Man Full Of Shadows
By Eugen M. Bacon

A Short Tail
By Michael T. Schaper

Fuel
By Sean Mulroy

Help Us
By Wendy Campbell

Meeting With A Misanthrope
By Bart Meehan

Non-Zero
By Lynette Frey

Senseless
By Kevin J. Phyland

The Hyperspace
By Botond Teklesz

Waking Up
By Chris Cole

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"Trust me, you want this free speculative fiction e-zine."
(Rob Hood)

AntipodeanSF April 2018

ISSUE 237

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

 

pixie willo 100Pixie is a voice actor, cabaret performer & slam poet From the Blue Mountains in NSW.

She enjoys writing short fiction, plays for radio and stage as well as her own brand of weird poetry.

She hosts the 'Off-Beet Poetry Slam' held bi-monthly in Katoomba,

And is a theatre reviewer for 2SER FM in Sydney.

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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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laurie bell 150Laurie Bell lives in Melbourne, Australia. She spent years writing and making audio plays with her sister using an old tape player. Life is a performance! She is a singer and has performed on stage once for her local theatre company. Now she helps out as a volunteer. She loves to read her stories out loud to anyone who will listen. She has recorded several audio readings of her own short stories here at Antipodean SF and is now a member of the audio team.

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

Laurie's debut book The Butterfly Stone will be published in Autumn (Aus) 2018 and another titled Blood Fever will be published in Winter (Aus) 2018.

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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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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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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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david whitaker 200David Whitaker is originally from the UK though has travelled around a bit and now resides in India. He has a degree in Journalism, however decided that as he’s always preferred making things up it should ultimately become a resource rather than a profession.

His stories, covering everything from sci-fi to philosophy, have been published across the globe and links to each can be found at <wordsbydavid.com>

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SF News

SF News

Congratulations Edwina Harvey

Edwina Harvey, a contributor to AntipodeanSF since the very first issue, is a worthy recipient of this year’s A. Bertram Chandler Award.  She has been an active member of Australian science-fiction fandom: writing, publishing and with her amazing artwork for 40 years.

Read more information about Ed's Award here at the ASFF.

Swancon (Natcon) ASFF Short Story Competition 2018 Results

Under 14s

  • First place: "Butterflies - Rebecca" by Bryn Eremaea
  • Runner-up: "The Dark Night Labyrinth" by Cayley Adams

Under 18s

  • First place: "Advik, Chantelle, and That One Time a Portion of the Moon Was Turned Into Leeks" by Annie Budgie

Open

  • First Place: "A Burning Thing" by Lachlan WaterRunner-up: "A Light Over Fathom" by Brett AdamsCongratulations to all the winners. We look forward to seeing your future work.

For more SF news why not join the ASFF and get the ASFF newsletter “The Instrumentality” delivered straight to your inbox!

Upcoming Aussie Cons

Speculate <https://www.specfic.com.au> — Victorian literary festival that celebrates Fantasy and Science Fiction by bringing together Australia’s finest speculative writers for a day centred around the craft of writing. April 28 2018, Gasworks Theatre, Middle Park, Melbourne.

Supanova, Peter Capaldi and John Barrowman. Melbourne Show Ground 20-22 April. Gold Coast Convention & Exhibition Centre, 27-29 April: <http://www.supanova.com.au/events/melbourne-2018/about/>

Continuum XIV: Conjugation. Melbourne’s SF Convention. 8th – 11th June, 2018. More information: <http://www.continuum.org.au/>.

Conflux 14 - The Unconventional Hero — Vibe Hotel, 1 Rogan Street, Canberra Airport ACT 2609. 29/09/2018 - 01/10/2018. More Information: <https//conflux.org.au>

Nullus Anxietas VII: The Australian Discworld Convention – will be held in Melbourne on April 12-14, 2019, and is themed on Going Postal. More information: <https://ausdwcon.org/>

For more up-to-date Aussie SF info join the ASFF: <asff.org.au>

AntiSF will be at the National Convention, Swancon (2018) over Easter in Perth. Rock up and say hello!

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 

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SF Quote

...today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups...So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms...it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.

Philip K. Dick