“Dark was the night, and cold the ground” by Miguel Fernández-Flores (1300 words)
This story imagines a future where it’s not only humanity that has finally reached into the ink void and make highways among the stars. Indeed, the story is largely about what has changed on Earth since the first Voyager missions, namely that humans have discovered how to communicate with animalians, finding that pretty much all animals are sentient beings with their own opinions on so very, very much. And really, yes, it might largely be a technique the author uses in order to have a reason to write about a foul-mouthed chicken, but I do rather enjoy the chicken, so I’m not really complaining. That huge shift in human and Earth perspective, though, had opened the world to great advances in technology to the point that, as the story unfolds, people how have access to very fast spacecraft, and the limitations of the past have largely fallen away. And I like the tone of the piece, the way that it mixes humor into its science, the general absurdity of all animals being sentient to make something of a point that humanity isn’t a constant, and that the rather romantic, rather noble project of the golden disks of the Voyager missions is...well, not exactly flawed, but certainly now due to be updated. Really, though, the story is more a re-affirming of the impulse that sent this lonely probe out of the solar system, out into the unknown. The songs might not be in keeping with what we’d call “the best” that humanity has to offer. The images are very much rooted to a certain view of the world. But the project is still romantic, is still noble. Because it does capture something about us, something about humanity. And the story is ultimately heartwarming and fun, a fitting tribute to the spirit of discovery and vast dark of space. A fine read!