The First Artifact to Reach the End of the Universe

By Haneko Takayama - Translated by Toshiya Kamei

sfgenreThe master craftsman dipped his brush into the ink and let its tip touch the surface of the paper.

“Mass manufacturing can also create incredible, one-of-a-kind paint brushes,” he mumbled. “No, rather, mass producing companies are the ones creating most masterpieces,” he lowered his voice and added in haste.

Absorbed in his words, I failed to get a firm grip on the teacup his wife offered me. The cup fell on the floor, its contents spilling.

I scrambled to wipe the spill, profusely apologising. It was completely my fault. Yet, his wife insisted on washing my old handkerchief I used to clean the spilled tea.

As she didn’t take no for an answer, I handed her the tea-stained handkerchief and accepted a replacement. Apparently designed by the master himself, the immaculate, brand-new handkerchief had an indigo-dyed, vegetable pattern on a white background.

I lingered right behind the master as he let his brush scurry across the paper as I observed his creative process.

Needless to say, artisans of yesteryear went through a highly elaborate process to create brushes. Furthermore, they used materials hard to come by these days. Stoat hair, ivory pivots, and shafts made of rare bamboo—all have become endangered or extinct. Thus, the antique brushes command exorbitant prices in the marketplace.

Still, many masterpieces came into existence in the past when the brush was the principal writing tool. In other words, as handmade brushes were available in abundance at that time, the possibility of finding ones of exceptional quality was naturally high. However, it’d take a miracle to come across a masterpiece among the leftover ones that are presently parceled out one by one. Maybe I’ll have better luck with mass-produced synthetic brushes in a corner of a stationery store.

Moreover, a masterpiece is not regarded as such only because of its purpose. As for colouring brushes, ones with hard tips aren’t suited well for colouring. They come handy for drawing lines such as fine hair and facial expressions. A brush is considered a masterpiece based on how it’s used.

I gazed at the eggplants and tortoises the master had drawn on a scroll.

Perhaps it’s not just brushes. The best of all the tools are still handcrafted, but mass producers are occasionally capable of replicating such mastery. When products are made in large quantities, more masterpieces may be found among them. However, we may not notice their existence as they serve as mere consumable goods before they come to the end of their life.

At the entrance, I exchanged a few words with the master and thanked him for his hospitality.  When I stepped outside, the sound of water reached me from the direction of the kitchen door. His wife was washing my handkerchief in the basin. She looked up, noticing my presence.

“Oh, you’re leaving already. Our washing machine is acting up these days. I intended to dry it and iron it before you go home. I’m really sorry.” She gave a deep bow as if she had committed a terrible offense.

“No, please don’t worry,” I said, feeling embarrassed. “I'm the one who should be apologising.”

“I’ll give it back to you next time. You can keep the one I gave you. It’s a gift.” She bowed again.

I left the master’s house and went down a hill with a white guardrail at the bottom. Beyond the waist-high rail stretching horizontally lay an empty lot overrun with bamboo, vines, and other weeds.

I groped my back pocket, took out a misshapen pack of cigarettes, and pulled out a wilted one with care. I took the cigarette between my teeth and reached in my breast pocket for my lighter.

I clicked it a few times, producing only sparks.

Still with the cigarette between my teeth, I clicked my tongue, wound up, and hurled the lighter with all my might skyward.

Even so, I heard no thud of the lighter landing on the grass.

So far humans have managed to make space rockets only in small batches, so no matter how elaborately our engineers make them, they may not make it to the end of the universe. On the other hand, a cheap lighter that cost me 100 yen is a jumble of small parts that were put together. Unbeknownst to me, it may be capable of accomplishing a tremendous feat besides lighting a cigarette. Yet, as we expect lighters to function merely as lighters, they won’t be used for something else before we discard them.

I put the cigarette back into the pack and gazed upward. A glimmer of light flashed across the sky. It might have been a sparrow.

After a while, the master’s wife returned my handkerchief to me. It seemed unfamiliar because it was ironed out smoothly. Her rough hands alarmed me a bit when she handed it to me. Then several days passed without incident.

A few weeks later, the media ran a transmitted satellite image showing a peculiar artifact, causing a stir among the public. Because of the lapse of time, it took me some time to recall the incident at the vacant lot.

I snatched away the tabloid—well known for sniffing out dubious stories—from my colleague as we headed toward our office. I stared at the blurred image printed in dots on recycled paper, ignoring his protest.

“See an arrow there?” he said behind my shoulder. “That cuboid must be some kind of artifact.”

With excitement, my co-worker pointed to the artifact in the image. I was sure what it was.

“Look at this shape,” he said. “You know what it is? Well, a twin tub washing machine, of course.”

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About the Author

Haneko Takayama

haneko 200Haneko Takayama is an award-winning Japanese writer. In 2009, her short story “Udon, Kitsune tsuki no” was a runner-up for the Sogen SF Short Story Award. 

Her story collection of the same name was a finalist for the Nihon SF Taisho Award in 2014. In 2020, her novel Shuri no uma won the Akutagawa Prize.

 

 

About the Translator

Toshiya Kamei

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.

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 270

333 Years
By Susan Cornford

Evan
By Ian Breen

Golf for Beginners
By Joanna Galbraith

HSC (Hancer School Certification)
By Sue Oliver

Incident at the Yarralumla Shops
By Wes Parish

Karen's Secret Story
By Gillian Polack

Luck - A Matter of Perspective
By Brian Catto

Maelstrom
By Kevin J. Phyland

Name Please
By Elwood Scott

Snuggles
By Ashley Noel

The Birthday Party
By Chris Karageorge

The Box
By James Patrik

Noisy Winds
By Binta Ohtaki - translated by Toshiya Kamei

The Hive
By Botond Teklesz

The Senate Inquiry
By Len Baglow

Worksite Stories
by S. F. Lowe

The Contributors

Of Indian origin, Sultana Raza’s poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Columbia Journal, and The New Verse News, London Grip, Classical Poetry Society, spillwords, Poetry24, Dissident Voice, and The Peacock Journal. Her fiction has received an Honorable Mention in Glimmer Train Review (USA), and has been published in Coldnoon Journal, Szirine, apertura, Entropy, and  ensemble (in French). She has read her fiction/poems in India, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, England, Ireland, the US, and at CoNZealand,

Her creative non-fiction has appeared in countercurrents.org, Litro, impspired, pendemic.ie, Gnarled Oak, Kashmir Times, and A Beautiful Space. Her 100+ articles (on art, theatre, film, and humanitarian issues) have appeared in English and French. An independent scholar, Sultana Raza has presented many papers related to Romanticism (Keats) and Fantasy (Tolkien & GRR Martin) in international conferences.

<https://www.facebook.com/sultana.raza.7>

<https://tinyurl.com/yd9j8546>

tim dwyer 200Timothy Dwyer is an American science-fiction writer living in New Zealand.

He has written a novel (The Emergence) and a number of short stories.

He holds a degree in Electrical Engineering and was a consulting engineer for 25 years, specializing in Instrumentation and Controls.

Before his engineering career he was a professional musician — and he remembers most of it.

He loves cats.

"Carl grew up on a diet of Stephen King and "The Twilight Zone" - all re-told and (slightly) edited by his mum.

Consequently, he has an aversion to clowns, remote hotels and anyone who says they are 'your biggest fan'.

In and around teaching English, he writes stories, plays games and tries to do enough exercise to avoid ending up like the guy in this tale!"

haneko 200Haneko Takayama is an award-winning Japanese writer. In 2009, her short story “Udon, Kitsune tsuki no” was a runner-up for the Sogen SF Short Story Award. 

Her story collection of the same name was a finalist for the Nihon SF Taisho Award in 2014. In 2020, her novel Shuri no uma won the Akutagawa Prize.

Ashley Noel is a writer from Sydney, Australia. She is currently employed in the Early Childhood sector.

As a keen reader, with a quirky imagination she turned her hand to writing ten years ago and is at present searching for an agent to represent her first novel.

Ashley connects with a wide audience on her social media accounts, Medium and Instagram.

She is excited about being published on AntipodeanSF and looks forward to submitting future work.

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kerrie noor 200Kerrie Noor was born in Melbourne Australia in 1960 but has spent most of her adult life in Scotland.

She has, in the past been a regular on Dunoon Community Radio, taught and performed Belly dancing, ‘done’ a little stand up, performed as a story teller and appeared at the Edinburgh Festival.

She has had one radio script performed on BBC Scotland and has been short listed for the Ashram short story award.

She writes both Sci fi comedy and romantic comedy and is about to publish her fourth book in her Planet Hy Man series The Rise Of Manifesto a Sci Fi comedy with a twist.

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Connor Orrico is a student and field recordist interested in global health, mental health, and how we make meaning from the stories of person and place we share with each other, themes which are explored in his words in The CollidescopeBurning House Presshedgerow, and X-Peri, as well as his sounds at Bivouac Recording.

amy logan 200Amy Logan's first work was published on October 29, 1970. It has been a bit of a dry spell since, so  she is very excited to have the opportunity to contribute to AntipodeanSF.

She is a lifelong fan of speculative fiction and the short story and has returned to writing the weird tales that she loves.

She lives in Eastern Washington state, not far from the Canadian border with her human family as well as 2 cats, 1 dog, and a llama.

keech ballardKeech has been writing fiction and poetry for 40 years, and is currently working on a speculative novel of the Afterlife, focusing on Victorian literature, though it is technically set in the near future.

He recently published a short piece of creative nonfiction in Ellipsis Zine.

This is his first SF story to be published. Thanks for listening!

Bruce photoBruce is an older Australian, living in Adelaide, who enjoys reading and writing, especially short stories and flash fiction.

He has a master’s degree in science, specialising in computer science.

He has over forty years of experience in fields such as software engineering and systems engineering, particularly the development of complex systems.

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Michael Casey is a writer from Melbourne, Australia.

He has had short stories featured in publications such as Colp magazine, Fudoki Magazine, Scarlet Leaf Review, Black Scat Review, and Ash Tales, and he has had articles published in Cracked.com, Poplurker, and Nerdbot.

His novels and short stories areavailable through the following link: <https://amazon.com/author/caseymichael>.

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myna changMyna Chang writes flash and short stories in a variety of genres.

Her speculative fiction has been featured in Best Indie Speculative Fiction 2020, Daily Science Fiction, Antipodean SF, Mad Scientist Journal, and Twist in Time, among others.

She is the winner of the Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction for 2020.

Read more at <MynaChang.com> or find her on Twitter at <@MynaChang>.

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.

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.

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 and The Tiger's Eye (YA/Fantasy) White Fire (Sci-Fi) and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided (a unique collection of short stories set during the events of White Fire/Sci-Fi). 

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

Rambles, writing and amusing musings

Smile! laugh out loud! enjoy the following

<www.solothefirst.wordpress.com>

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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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AntipodeanSF February 2021

ISSUE 269

Speculative Fiction
Downside-Up
ISSN 1442-0686

Online Since Feb 1998

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AntiSF's Narration Team

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 and The Tiger's Eye (YA/Fantasy) White Fire (Sci-Fi) and The Good, the Bad and the Undecided (a unique collection of short stories set during the events of White Fire/Sci-Fi). 

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

Rambles, writing and amusing musings

Smile! laugh out loud! enjoy the following

<www.solothefirst.wordpress.com>

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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.

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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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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

Any dogma, primarily based on faith and emotionalism, is a dangerous weapon to use on others, since it is almost impossible to guarantee that the weapon will never be turned on the user.

Isaac Asimov, Foundation

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