New Homestead Act by Erin K. Wagner

We staked out fifty acres of the red soil and squatted there, waiting for claim jumpers. Hold it for three months, the ad said, and it’s yours

Pa couldn’t take the quiet of it, the tick and hiss of the air ventilators. He left the pod without a suit, his arms held out to the strange horizon. Two months in.

It was quieter without him. We could hear rovers but we couldn’t see them, hidden by sharp ridges. We worried it would be someone coming for us, but it wasn’t.

We locked our boots, hunkered down, felt the planet rotate.

Erin K. Wagner is an English professor in the SUNY system—Appalachian born and transplanted into the Catskills. Erin’s speculative fiction has appeared in a number of magazines, including Apex, Clarkesworld, and Kaleidotrope. Erin’s second novella, An Unnatural Life, was published by in 2020.