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David Afsharirad is a writer and Associate Editor at Baen Books. He lives in Austin, TX.


SEE THE FAIRVILLE ODDITY!

For the last fifty miles, Aaron had seen this message proclaimed from various sun-bleached billboards as he travelled along Highway 285. These weren't the big steel contraptions that lined the interstate, but old wooden structures, made of painted plywood, most falling down and nearly illegible. He wondered how old they were. Fairville, his phone's GPS informed him, wasn't on the map anymore, just another ghost town in the vast empty of West Texas.

It had been a mistake to take the back roads, he thought now. He'd reasoned it would be a good way to see some of the country as he travelled from Austin to Los Angeles, where Megan awaited, but though the views had been intermittently lovely, overall the trip made him lonely. Rural Texas had been emptying out for decades, everyone moving to one of the major cities along the I-35 corridor. Driving these lonesome roads, it would sometimes be hours before he saw another vehicle, and the small towns he stopped in had the hollowed out look of someone waiting to die.

And it was taking forever. He thought of an old saying he'd heard from his grandmother. The sun has rose and the sun has set and we ain't out of Texas yet.

SEE THE FAIRVILLE ODDITY!

Like the others, this sign featured a giant yellow question mark and a listing for how many miles still separated the weary traveler and the aforementioned oddity. Twenty-five, in Aaron's case.

This particular billboard looked to be in slightly better repair. And the one at the ten-mile mark looked like it might even have been touched up in the last decade. Was it possible, Aaron wondered, that though Fairville itself had gone the way of the dodo, the Oddity remained?

He hoped so. In addition to the Oddity, the billboard promised FOOD and GAS, and he could stand both. He remembered his mom always packed a cooler full of food when the family went on long road trips back when he was a kid, but this habit hadn't been passed down to the younger generation. Whenever Aaron took to the road, the fuel he ran on was McDonald's cheeseburgers and Taco Bell burritos, with the occasional gas station hot dog thrown in for good measure. What he hadn't counted on was that most of this back-country route did not fall in the shadow of the Golden Arches. Yesterday, he'd stocked up on beef jerky and Hostess cupcakes (not nearly as good as he remembered), but his supply was dwindling. Some real food would be nice. And he could top off the tank. At a little less than half-full, he wasn't in dire need of gas, but like fast food establishments, gas stations were in short supply along this forgotten stretch of road, and he did not want to have to get out and push.

So yes, he's stop and grab a bite and fill the tank—and see the Fairville Oddity, while he was at it. If, he reminded himself, there was still food and gas to be had and an Oddity to be seen.

SEE THE FAIRVILLE ODDITY!

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Elaine Midcoh of Pembroke Pines, Florida, has won the grand prize in the 2022 Jim Baen Memorial Award competition for her short story, “Man on the Moon.”

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To all of those who expressed interest and support for Baen's Bar in recent weeks, we are happy to announce it is back on-line, though with some changes. Baen is handing the Bar over to its users, and will henceforth be run by SFF Forums, LLC, and may be found at https://www.baensbar.net. Returning users will be able to use the Bar as usual, but new members will have to make a purchase at baen.com before they can log in. (Note: New users will not have to buy a book; there is a Bar tipjar option so they may contribute to the maintenance of the forum).

—Toni Weisskopf for SFF Forums


Baen Books announces the top ten finalists for the 2021 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award for best original fantasy short story.

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Innovative Independent Publisher to Bring Author Readings, Q&As, and Convention-Style Programming to Facebook LIVE

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Over 170 titles from Baen Books to be published as audiobooks over the next three years

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