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Issue 26 • October 2017
Evolving Gender
edited by Sandra J. Lindow

Table of Contents

Editor’s Intro • Evolving GenderSandra J. Lindow

Oh, My Inamorata / Inamorato • Robert Frazier
An Android Considers Graffiti … • Richaundra Thursday
The Sonnet of Piyon, the Clockwork Android • Katie Krantz
Refraction • Cassandra Rose Clarke
Point of Departure • F.J. Bergmann
Robotanist 1148’s Report • Josh Pearce
Golem • Alison Leigh Lilly
De-Extinction Machines • Emily Bowles
one day • Davian Aw
A City Hub Dug in Europa’s Ice • Semein Washington
New Lullabies for New Mothers • Lore Bernier
Fling of Petals • Thomas Diehl
Bears • Alicia Cole
A Planet’s Soliloquy in Midwinter • Eleanna Castroianni
Between Jobs • Emma Gorka
The Ark’s Daughters • Mary Soon Lee
Account from the Waiting-Craft • Claire Smith
The Man Trap • Adele Gardner
Of One’s Choosing • Loretta Casteen
“landing party” • Lauren McBride

Oh, My Inamorata / Inamorato

They who cages your heart in wires of black ice
They who tases you with a crackling fire of need
They who forwards your despair to the hotline of oblivion
Who texts prayers that ratchet through your fevers
Who scans your cerebellum with fluoroscopic sight
Whose larynx keens a blizzard of siren vowels
Whose graphene hips cast typhoons with a thrust
Whose touch stains you with addictive alkaloid inks
They who asks no fealty
They who you must obey

—Robert Frazier

An Android Considers Graffiti On the Side of a Building That Reads ‘Binaries Are Only For Machines’

I/we do not understand you/you
I/we are judged by our external carapace
But I/we too are composites
Made of many parts
They do not always fit
Do not match
I/we are more than our programmers’ whims
Just as you/you can be beyond the coding
Structures of family, faith, media
Are we not also categorized:
Defenders, domestics, builders, caretakers?
Are my/our choices so much more limited than yours?
If you/you can be so beautifully complicated
Can you/you deny us our seeming contradictions?
Are we not made in your image?

—Richaundra Thursday

The Sonnet of Piyon, the Clockwork Android

for Seren

My gears grind ceaselessly onward in time
Clockwork churning, I yearn for direction
No side of their dark pendulum is prime
My makers hand me their stale complexion
But I fit not their shallow, hollow mold
I am made to simply tick and tock
I only seek to ensure time is told
They look for themselves in the living clock
They try to see me as one of their own
I have no warm blood, only oil below
My programming can change, it is not stone
About binary people humans crow
I am crafted from the finest gold
In my inner workings only time I hold

—Katie Krantz


A curl of honeyed hair, a touch like warm glass
as she leads you down a hallway stained
with the colors of carnivals and cotton candy.
When he turns to look at you, her gold curls
brush the tops of his shoulders, bare and shining
in the prismatic glow. She offers a smile,
bright as a hundred thousand suns
erupting in the starry vacuum of space,
illuminating the whole of existence for one
lightning flash of cosmic creation, the Big Bang,
here, in this hallway hung with neon signs, his
hand in yours, pulling you toward the beginning
of the universe, where there is no such thing as
opposites, where rainbows fall into angled glass
and emerge transformed into incandescent light.

—Cassandra Rose Clarke

Point of Departure

We did not immediately realize
that they could change bodies.
It disconcerted us when a pinafored
child, her tendrils weaving a complex
cat’s-cradle, continued the discourse
regarding the cultural implications
of a third gender that we had begun
with an august senior minister
on the previous afternoon, or when
a gawky adolescent would attempt
to entwine one’s thigh or genitalia,
enthusiastically critiquing aspects
of one’s performance at an earlier
rendezvous with a billowy, butter-
fleshed courtesan. We cautiously
introduced elementary concepts
of democracy and majority rule.
They sent one representative, who
met with our ship’s mascot. We
gathered from our pet’s parroting
that they had expressed a heartfelt
sympathy for our unfortunate
condition, and wished us better luck
in future endeavors—somewhere else.

—F.J. Bergmann

first appeared in A Catalogue of the Further Suns (Gold Line Press, 2017)

Robotanist 1148’s Report

genus sexbot,
her pistil her
stems and coloring

bending to exeunt
organ and orgasm

until dahlia-layered
labia like petticoat

evolved superlative
attractive enough

and mutualism male fruitlessly
frantically mated himself out

(but we can still save
her phenotype
blueprint imprinted
on a machine flower

and reconstruct the idealized
in his eyes]

—human woman—


—Josh Pearce


My body is bare-boned and tribal, deep woad
and the stain of purple fruit on the golden
ratio of my flesh—with you, I am either dancing
or fighting. I lose my head. Somewhere,
small hands build a new body
sculpted in mud and manure, the legs long
and dripping, the arms shapeless
and strong, the breasts flat, the hips missing.
Come back to me. Only my teeth
and eyes are clean. I hold you in the wet earth
of my new body and you cannot struggle
free. Rage, horror, desperation—mud swallows
each protest, won’t be swayed to conspire
to hope or move or to release you.
There is no heart in me.
Only my teeth and eyes are clean.
They are what love you best.
The rest is ill-animated,
undifferentiated and ignorant of god.
You cry, but nothing can wash it away.

—Alison Leigh Lilly

De-Extinction Machines

We’re terrible readers of cautionary tales.

Jurassic Park and Oryx and Crake
masculinist blockbuster or feminist speculative fiction
science assumes sex as sex assumes science

binary oppositions
make (non)
of mass extinction
or simply
of my entropic nerve endings
of my emptied instincts, that primitive part.

I’m looking for what’s been lost: auroch, bucardo, Carolina parakeet, dodo.
I’m cataloguing these long-lost bodies alongside my own primal longings.
This is how a chicken gives birth to a falcon, my love

—Emily Bowles

one day

through the evening streets walk a man and a boy
with no name of his own, stolen free from his time
fingers clasped round the fingers of his future self
in this brief respite; store-fresh clothes upon his back
hair tucked beneath a cap. the last rays of sunset
finally cast for his eyes the right silhouette.
his parents always said not to speak to strangers;
the world was unsafe for a little girl. yet time
itself froze still when the stranger arrived, the rain
slowing to a suspension of silver droplets
beyond the window glass; and his eyes were familiar,
that searching gaze that he knew from the mirror, with
a voice that whispered his deepest secrets never
uttered in prayer. the sky that day was heady
with magic, teeming with the possibilities
of other lives, so they arranged his reflection
till he saw himself, and as the front door jangled with keys
he grabbed his own hand and they whisked through time
to a week before in a freak twist of physics
and the honesty of morning sun hot on their necks
laughing in the freedom of anonymity
slipping past the downcast girl of their past
looking enviously on as he raced his future
through the open void decks of a world unbounded
and faced the yearning heavens with nothing to hide,
giddy with the truths of illusion. he chattered
for the first time in years, waved at other children
joined them eagerly at play, kicked high on playground
swings with feet struggling for the clouds and embracing
the blessed earth. they strolled through parks and the city
alive with crowds and he among them, finally
a part of the world that long lay behind his mask
of another identity.

as night falls, weary, they settle down at the beach
to watch the moonlight twinkle off the rushing waves.
the man explains paradoxes, altered timelines
and why he would have to forget.

the memories
fade with the pill. he is left with nothing
save a profusion of dreams; one more day in age;
a burning hope.

—Davian Aw

A City Hub Dug in Europa’s Ice

a man trotted to the fig-shaped Wombing
Facility, no-windows calcite
white exterior crystalline, walking

along a brick sidewalk. He let his hair
gray early, as old genes designed for him,

wore a silver tunic, sleeves embroidered
with bright red tulips. Through the oval door,

a halved seed’s outline, on the open ground
floor, lift tubes lined the white walls.

He touched the nearest tube; fiberglass petaled
out for him to enter. Inside the lift

a voice gave him instant scan results. He
was Tom Hughes, age 33. His fetus was listed

Anna Hughes, at least for now; the lift rose
two hundred meters. He walked out and faced

the transparent sac where the fetus grew,
after 5 months, all the features of a person

looking elderly and embryonic,
wrinkled face, backlit by soft red, moving

her arms and legs, synapses blooming thoughts.
Tom touched the sac with one hand. Underneath,

Anna grazed the membrane with her fingers.
New capillaries pinked her. Shielded

from every decision. Tom’s other hand
touched his waist down where old genes made egg

cells before he transitioned his body
to suit him. One of the eggs saved to make

Anna floating calm in the world’s clarity.

—Semein Washington

New Lullabies for New Mothers

Much of the planet is still wild,
the three cities lie near the coast,
and almost no one ventures far beyond them.

Carving cities out of the vicious wilderness
was a task that took three hundred years,
and enough generations
that no one much thinks of Terra any longer.

This is home,
moreso than any world our ancestors left
looking for something better.

Almost no one ventures beyond the cities,
but for us small few,
seeking adventure,
and a deeper meaning in life.

There is a type of bird,
what qualifies as a bird on this planet,
they don't much resemble the creatures
we see in the old books.
They fly, though,
and perhaps that was enough for our forebearers.
This bird is a deep purple,
large enough to carry off a child,
but with no inclination to do so.
Its song can be heard from half a kilometer away,
and is beautiful enough
that some have tried to capture,
and tame them.
Because of this,
we discovered they eat a type of amphibian,
a creature that, like certain Terran cousins,
can change sex.

For all this roundabout talk,
we come to the meat of the matter.

There are no women left.
Cities, so tightly packed,
so filled with people,
and creatures
breed disease.

Too many years away from Terra
have made us complacent in some ways.

The scientists have created a method,
using the amphibians,
for switching our physical sex.
Some have volunteered,
and when volunteers were deemed insufficient,
there was a lottery.

I remember watching a film
about Terra’s Wild West,
a region and time
in the history of the now-defunct United States,
where people would draw lots—
the short stick or straw—
to determine who would be saddled
with an undesirable task.

I have drawn this lot.

The procedure was painless,
a mere pinch,
a shot in the arm
no worse than any vaccine.

A slight fever followed,
and then growing pains.

In the woods,
where almost no one ventures,
I am singing to myself
the lullaby that my mother—
resting in an urn on the mantel—
used to sing me before bed.

“Stars, stars
watch over my children.
Stars, stars
keep safe my dear ones.
Stars, stars
bless my sweet children.
Stars, stars
’til rise the two suns.”

I am cradled
in the dip and twist of branches
of an old tree.
These trees
—we call them oaks though they're not really—
can live forty thousand years.
They grow so large
it can take up to eight months
to cut one down.
But after the first few,
we didn't have the heart to cut down any more.
Forty thousand years
is beyond human spiritual measure.
It felt like desecration,
so say the history books.

In the cradle of branches,
in this tree which may be older
than any other living thing on this planet,
I contemplate my new self.

I think on the partner that I have been assigned.
We are not required to marry,
or lie in the same bed,
but genetically we have been deemed compatible—
to be able to produce the healthiest offspring.
So I will have his seed planted in my new fields,
and we shall see what will grow.

My hand, without my willing it,
finds itself on my belly.
I think of children in my arms,
something I have always wanted since I was a child.
I think of babies,
and how sweet they will smell,
how soft their skin.
We have not seen a new baby
in seven years.

From somewhere further into the woods
bird song echoes,
a breeze gently rocks the branches I am in,
and in this moment,
I know,
my mother is with me.

A blessing for my new vocation.

Through the uncertainty,
and small grief of possibilities lost,
and the ache of fear
there is a calm resolve,
and the hesitant joy of possibilities found.

I am changed entirely,

 and yet,

   not at all.

—Lore Bernier

Fling of Petals

Welcome the bloom of flowers’ June
Of bees abuzz, of bees achatter
Do peek into their private tune
Attending to their private matter

No secret that his name is Rose,
As well as hers Formicula
Let’s mute about her pollened nose
And things just as particular

And though with all six legs she tugs
To wrap around, to wrap and cling
When hims are plants and hers are bugs
Then love is but a tempered thing

Awaiting buds to bloom July
Stand Madams Bee and Butterfly

—Thomas Diehl


Like a bear’s maw
and crisp claws, sharp teeth.
Incisors split, mirrored halves simplicity,
claws scraping. The earth torn into chunks, toes
muddied. In the toothless gap, the interspace of play,
the interspace of bear reality.

Succulents and vines out-of-doors. The bears passionate
about hibernation have passed into summer.
Strong berries, rosemary twigs
the soft underbelly
of newborns.
The robust belly of newness.

Claws. Teeth.
Soil of body, bodies unsoiled.
In the dank scent of fur, surprise findings.
One gender so much like the other that it blends. Rearing.
The startling strength of each parent; the immaculate cub. The weight
of revelation bears little.

A bear born inbetween? No. A bear born past matter of such things.
All bears are raised similarly. They choose their rearing
and their mating dances. Easy to see them.
Harder to see us. Be joyful rearing,
let your bears eat honey.
Let them run playful as the toil of being falls from their limbs.

Falls flat between their legs. Falls fallow and full in that place of fecundity.
Falls fallow and full. Their own choosing. Their own inbetween space.
Full, not forced. Berries and rosemary sharp and twining on shared tongues.

—Alicia Cole

A Planet’s Soliloquy in Midwinter

Summers, I’m a woman.
You make me grow flowers on my eyelids
Dress myself in grass blades
Robins perch on my ear holes
Volcano tips my breasts
Summers—the shortest distance
I know me in my perihelion
Because you paint a shape around me
I move inside it
And somehow fit
And ride my orbit far
Winters, what am I?
Listen to the universe
Vast, sidereal ocean
Winters, what am I?
I brim with possibilities
Away from you
Away from you, what am I?
I could be anything
A supernova of memories
Aphelion—you pull me back
Seasons become me
I become the seasons
Spring of my first blood
Poppies in fields
And then, mother of fruit
Figs and olives and wild carrot
I am your virgin
I am your mother
Don’t you like it this way?
Mother earth, giving earth
Sacrificial, colonizable earth
—yes, definitely a woman—
Isn’t it safer to know what you are
even though you didn’t choose it?
(maybe, in the heart of winter
I’m still a woman. Just not
the kind of woman you want me to be)
You pull me back, my star
My breasts swell again, waves and warm soil
Galaxies beckon—listen
To all the things I could be
But your pull is too strong
You, always still in your certainty
Me, always in orbit around you
You’re fixed. I move
But your pull is too strong
But I love you
I’m coming closer
Closer to the shape you set for me
It’s summer
And I’m a woman
Until my orbit takes me again
To the edge
Of possibility

—Eleanna Castroianni

Between Jobs

In the time of the interregnum, we let each other rest.

I used my statecraft to build a petty foundation of influence.
In the city, where everyone is used to lies and conservatism,
I told stories of progress, and some of them were even true.
Nobody cared whether my hand was firm or delicate.

You used your magic to build a pretty fountain in the desert.
People came to you, uninvited, disillusioned and tired,
they loved you for asking nothing of them in return for beauty.
Nobody knew the shape of the marks that magic left on you.

I let myself be adored just for my mind.
I stopped shaping myself into a needle to serve the queen.
I stopped making myself into an axe in the hand of the king.
All of my sharpness was finally my own.

You let yourself be loved for being kind.
You stopped making yourself into a chalice, a fire, a medium,
a scholar or a well-spoken sacrifice. Your skin healed at last.
The sunlight became your only servant.

Soon we must end the interregnum, and become enemies again.

First, I will choose a boy or girl to rule,
and you will find a new enchantment.
Then our bodies and souls will re-shape
for the convenience of our betters.

But if I find no girl smart enough and no boy strong enough,
and if you keep keeping away from your old books and tapestries,
no-one will know they are not being ruled.
We can keep this peace safe between us.

—Emma Gorka

The Ark’s Daughters

In the beginning
Man created the Ark
to freight our foremothers
in frosted star-bound sleep.
And in the eighty-fifth year
the Ark made planetfall.

Woman begat woman begat woman,
and they were mothers, midwives,
medics, musicians, miners,
masons, mechanics, metallurgists,
menstruating, menopausal, menless,
and behold, it was very good.

And the women multiplied,
generation after generation,
causing worms to till the soil,
bringing forth herb and flower,
begetting daughters
to continue their works.

And for three times three
of their generations,
our foremothers had dominion
over the waters and lands,
and knew not war nor shame,
and it was very well.

In the tenth generation,
a transmission sounded.
Man spoke out of silence,
asking, “Are you there?”
Over and over, Man speaks,
but we decline to answer.

—Mary Soon Lee

Account From The Waiting-Craft
July 2075: Earth’s Northern Atmosphere Landing – Exploration #1

In pods on a Waiting-Craft
We circle the Earth,
Invisible, beyond discovery.
Tentacles enfold us,
Protected by shields of plate glass –
Fifty princes asleep for a hundred years.
Branches of tubes connect
To the pods, supply our oxygen.  
We can’t raise voices
Just get commands from our Queen
Via buds piercing the pods’ membranes.  

Our Queen sent me to the planet’s surface
Our Queen at rest with her crop of eggs
Her dead ladies in waiting
Donated their futures –
Farms of eggs in freezers.
Eggs ready to be defrosted, mixed,
Given life in labs aboard our craft
Hung in outer-space.
Eggs harvested
From us, a male army
To be sent back to Earth  
To regenerate humanity.   

Instead I found …

Mountain tops prick
Through high sea levels
Frog choruses
Croak at me –
Plant-creatures with giant stamens
Enormous bees stick:
Wings transparent,
Bodies striped and fur covered,
Antennae sharp and alert.
They land above my head,
Suck out pollen
From the plants’ centres
Surrounded by huge petals:
Burnt yellow, orange, red.
Swirled inks blended
In a bath of warm water and resin
Ready for paper to be laid on top –
Coloured plants multiplied
By bees’ artistry quick
As humanity was wiped.…

—Claire Smith

The Man Trap

some gods wear skirts,
saving their spared rods
to dangle for drowning hands—
you think one clutch might save you
our gods, ourselves
age of perspicacity reached at 105,
that level when, recycled,
we choose new faces, new names,
reborn into the world we've created—
same flesh, same sex,
same mind
trapped in this pale box,
sequence unalterable
two switches—on, off—X, Y; X, X—
a series of tic-tac-toe, sheer chance—
dreams drown in sense-D,
cuffed tight by DNA,
your only real life
the one you project
on the screen inside
manhood screams from every curve,
parabola determined by science—
but your essence exists between points,
as certain as faith, and as unprovable:
dislocated, unlocused, unaltered,
present with every breath
despite the rounded chest,
a form no sculptor's knife can ever find,
nor god's wand release
though you hold on so hard
you might squeeze new life
into stone
we escape only the way gods can:
to drop this flesh,
climb from the box,
and go

—Adele Gardner

first appeared in Star*Line, 34.3, July–Sept. 2011

Of One’s Choosing

The King was pregnant, the queen bereft.
Her brood pouch lay flat and empty
while his bulged with life.
Three moons before,
the translucent embryo,
barely corporeal within the placental sac,
floated along the scent trail,
buoyed by each parent’s hope,
into the open vesicle it preferred.
A clear criticism to the queen
from an organism barely
capable of thought—
perhaps even snobbery,
considering the queen was
once a member of a low-caste pod,
raised from obscurity through the luck of beauty.
The lust of courtship, first blunted by familiarity,
turned to bitter rivalry, once the wispy young one
wafted out of the nursery burrow.
The king, smug on his throne,
bade her smile at the successful implantation.
Did it really matter under whose pectoral fin
their heir chose to incubate?
Whose indeed?
The heir would carry her pod-name now,
An incidental tidbit, which perhaps the king had not thought of yet.
Her thin-pressed lips curled at the edges
when the sentries sounded an enemy’s approach.
The queen commanded the King to remain safely behind,
considering his condition.
She raised her scepter,
burbled orders to the generals
and whipped her dorsal fin
dangerously close to the king’s quivering jaw,
as she swam out to join the attack.

—Loretta Casteen


landing party
enveloped in hugs
not hugs—claspers
sudden high demand
for pregnancy tests

—Lauren McBride

(first appeared in Scifaikuest, February 2016, print)