Phantom Sense and other stories

Phantom Sense and other stories

Phantom Sense CoverA collection of science fiction stories from the pages of Analog magazine by the award-winning team of Richard A. Lovett and Mark Niemann-Ross, including the 2011 Analytical Laboratory (reader's choice) Award winning novella "Phantom Sense" and the 2006 Analytical Laboratory Award winning novelette "NetPuppets."

Lovett and Niemann-Ross have written some of the most thought-provoking and entertaining stories I've read in years

- Nebula award winner Jerry Oltion

Come explore the dark space between science and humanity - with a bonus look at the science that just might make it come true. In these pages, you will meet:

  • Sgt. Kip McCorbin, who must choose between the military's special-ops sixth-sense and the love of his family.
  • Courtney Brandt who lies frozen on a glacier, but warm to the touch, as her killer is already claiming another victim.
  • Valerie Akwasi, who stumbles into the deadly side of a vineyard.
  • Michael Graves, who could be your best friend or your worst enemy -- but who doesn't care because to him you're just an experiment.

It is interesting when one writer releases a series of short stories, but when two notable ones join together, anything can happen, and it has with this award-winning team. - Sandra Scholes for SF Site.

Phantom Sense . . . is a lesson in how to write a short. . . From the start it grabs you and never lets go. In every way this story reminded me how good Science Fiction shorts can be. - Tangent Online

Lovett is probably Analog's best regular writer.-- Locus, July 2011

Lovett and Niemann-Ross are 'two halves' of one of the best science fiction "writers" Analog magazine has ever discovered. - Three-time Hugo nominee David R. Palmer

Phantom Sense Book Cover

Authors: - and Genre:Science Fiction - Winners of 2005 and 2010 Analog Analytical Laboratory Awards - Publisher:Strange Wolf Press - ISBN:9781468130003

Excerpts from each story

Phantom Sense - Winner of the 2010 Analog Best Novella Award

I've never understood how it could be stalking if all you're trying to do is keep her safe. I just want to be a good father. Make up for all those years of being AWOL because CI-MEMS is a full-time job. You can't be a father and CI-MEMS. That is, you can be one -- that's the same as for anyone else. You just wind up with big chunks of time when you have to choose between being AWOL from the Corps or from your family. And if you give your family more than a generic because-my-country-needs-me hint as to why, then you're both in trouble.

Or that's how it had been back before I became Staff Sgt. Kip McCorbin (Ret.). Before the (Ret.) bit, that is. Once that happened, it was just me ... and the secrets.

Twenty years of missions. Twenty years of always being away. Chad, Ethosmalia, Kurdistan, the Altiplano Breakaway. Twenty years of never being able to explain. Then, when it ended and I finally could get my family back, it came at a price, like suddenly being blind. No, that's not right. There are schools for the blind, a whole infrastructure for helping them learn to cope. As long as I had the Sense, I wouldn't even mind being blind. Who needs eyes of their own when they have hundreds at their command? When you've been given a sense beyond eyes, beyond anything the norms have ever experienced?

Phantom Science The facts behind "Phantom Sense"

Ten years ago a company called WiCab purchased a construction-worker's hardhat and wired it with an accelerometer -- a device that measures the force of movement (and gravity) in any direction. Output from the accelerometer went to a computer linked to 100 tiny electrodes held in contact with the helmet wearer's tongue via a special mouthpiece.

The goal was to let balance-impaired users "taste" balance cues delivered as mild buzzing sensations to their tongues. If you stood upright, you felt the buzz in the middle of your tongue. If you swayed, it moved. Your task: figure out how to stand so the buzz stayed centered, where it "should" be.

"It's a very simple concept," one of the inventors, Mitch Tyler, told On Wisconsin, the alumni magazine of the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "It's like having someone place a finger on top of your head to indicate you're upright. If you tip your head, you feel the finger slide off to one side, and you naturally move your head back to compensate. You're just correcting for a deviation in your position relative to a marker."

A Deadly Intent

There's an ineffable something about a frozen corpse. And sadly, if you hang around high elevations and the Antarctic as much as I have, you eventually see a few. Not that this stopped me from dropping my pack, yelling Courtney's name, and running to her. It's called denial. Your hindbrain figures that if you act quickly enough, maybe you can roll back the clock and stop the disaster that's already happened. Your conscious knows better, but for the moment it's just along for the ride.

She was sprawled facedown in the snow, wearing nothing but turquoise panties, about a dozen feet from her tent. If there was any doubt she was frozen, it was dispelled when, ignoring the fact it was fifty degrees below zero and blowing like a bitch, I stripped off my gloves and reached out to take her pulse. Her arm was unbendable, and not from rigor mortis. That doesn't exist at minus fifty. If you die without a thermal suit, you freeze solid long before rigor can set in.

There was just one other thing wrong: Courtney Brandt was warm to the touch. Which was truly bizarre because she was so solidly frozen I couldn't depress her skin enough to have found a pulse if there'd been one to find. But even though the wind was rapidly sucking the heat from my hands, she was most emphatically warm. Nice, toasty, body-temperature warm. Feverishly so, in fact.

New Wineskins

Valerie Akwasi gave a last look in the rearview mirror, checking her makeup before surrendering her car to the valet. She hated these things: mingling with the posh and self-important, pretending to be interested as cocktail conversation yo-yoed from gallery openings to gossip, all while ordering drinks that didn't even allow her to share the cocktail-hour buzz. "I'll just take a tonic and guava juice with a twist of lemon,"" or some such silliness that sounded like a real drink but wasn't. The waiters probably figured she was a recovering alcoholic rather than a reporter needing a clear head for her story.

But tonight there would be no cocktails. The valet bore the crisp, maroon-and-grey livery of Angel's Head Winery, which was hosting this fundraiser for Congressman Blaine's bid for the Senate. The race had opened up a month ago, when 89-year-old Senator Crooke had had his long-overdue heart attack, and it promised to be the most exciting in ages. But not the fundraisers. Their whole purpose was to tell donors what they wanted to hear, fill them with booze, and wait for them to open their checkbooks. Barely a story unless Blaine tripped over the carpet or something, which wasn't likely. As trim and athletic as Crooke had been decrepit, he'd started his first congressional campaign by joining thousands of cyclists on a 100-mile tour of his district, raising money for cancer. Then he'd walked a marathon, shaking hands and smiling, all the way. Not the type to trip over his own feet.

NetPuppets - Winner of the 2005 Analog Best Novelette Award

Dennis Brophy wasn't a born leader. He was more a listener than a talker: a questioner, not an idea person. But if the old saw about silver tongues ever got extended to computer mice -- that would fit Dennis to a tee. Who needs to be a great orator when you can make computers dance to your whim? Dennis had never met an operating system he couldn't master, nor an interface so arcane he wasn't the first to deduce its logic.

If he'd wanted to, Dennis could have been a millionaire many times over, but he enjoyed playing with computers more than he did figuring out ways to make money with them. As long as he could afford the latest upgrades and wasn't starving, he was happy.

Lately, he'd become fascinated by orphan web sites. It was amazing how many there were, established by people who spent a great deal of effort constructing them only to abandon them. The best lurked on academic computers, where processing time and disk space were essentially free, paid for by academic funny money no bean counter would ever notice.

Dennis was deep into one of these when a strand of long, brown hair brushed his cheek. He jumped, looked up, and found Linda Frasier leaning across his shoulder, reading the monitor.

All material copyright 2011 by Richard A. Lovett and Mark Niemann-Ross


Top-flight science fiction from masters of the craft... These stories are based in remarkably clever future science and brilliant story-telling. Buy the book; read them. Be happy.
, Author of Emergence & Tracking August 28, 2012

They are emotionally touching, with the title story, Phantom Sense, and the last story, Net Puppets, the best of four really enjoyable reads.
SF Signal
Science Fiction and the Futurist - by , April 1, 2011

Gripping and Thought-Provoking I became familiar with Richard Lovett's stories in Analog, where his unforgettable main characters and provocative themes often leave me thinking long after I finish reading. Phantom Sense had the same effect. The four short stories are by turns thrilling, hair-raising, thought-provoking, or just plain emotionally gripping.
I read for emotional appeal first, but with sci-fi I'm always looking for the "aha" use of technology. In Phantom Sense the technology is very "ripped from tomorrow's headlines," featuring imaginative applications of current technology or that's under development. Lovett and Nieman-Ross clearly know their stuff, as the brief afterword for each story describes the extensive research that went into the story development.
All in all, a very enjoyable, satisfying read.
Bookworm - January 16, 2013

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Contact the authors

Mark Niemann-Ross

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