Daily Science Fiction: May Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

A whole year of stories have gone by and here I am, 4 months behind. I’m catching up though. DSF does it make it easy for me. As long as they keep picking good ones, I’ll keep reading.

On to this month’s offeringsâ€

 

The Stories

A vampire comes to visit an old man on his deathbed in “Her Old Man” by Chuck Rothman (debuted 5/2 and reviewed by Anonymous). It is obvious that they had some sort of relationship earlier in their lives and he is resentful of the other female vampire that turned her. She makes him an offer…

This is quite a short story, but I wasn’t really taken with it. I love vampire stories and I think perhaps that is the problem: I am fairly certain I have seen this premise before, so it didn’t feel like anything new. It was well written, though and the twist at the end may appeal to others…

 

“Starlight Cantata” by Brian Laurence Hurrel (debut 5/3 and reviewed by Anonymous)

“Starlight Cantata” follows the first interstellar, faster-than-light space craft as it takes in new solar systems whilst sampling the delights of Earth’s ever expanding electromagnetic emission shell. The further they move from Earth, the older the broadcasts they hear–like traveling backward through time.

This didn’t really feel like a story to me as their was no actual conflict, no plot, no characters (the narrator is unnamed)–nothing really happens apart from observations. It was, however, a thoughtful piece and I quite like how it ended. I sat and thought about this story a little before writing this review and decided that this story itself was like piece of music and tails off quite nicely…

I think that was the effect the author was aiming for and, on that basis, I’d recommend it. Recommended.

 

The church raffle has finally received a donation worth bidding for in “R is for Raffle” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/4). Serena Draffin has donated her life. She may be sick of it but the prospects of stepping into a marriage with a handsome husband and lovely home makes it a grand prize indeed. The novel idea sparks others to donate things about them that others may find valuable. The church will have no trouble filling its treasury this year.

Quite clever, inventive and fun. One of the better stories the Quartet wrote.

 

Yesterday boy lives in the past, but is threatened by street thugs in the present in “Barb the Bomb and Yesterday Boy” by Julian Mortimer Smith (debut 5/5 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Barb the bomb intervenes, suffering the consequences. She is saved by her mother. The yesterday boy, stuck in the past, does not know about his savior, yet.

This is a nice little diversion, well done and with a nice message. It leaves one asking the question about how our actions of today will affect the future.

 

“Values, Vision and Mission” by James Van Pelt (debut 5/6 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Crockett is typical of someone in today’s corporate world that just wants to do his job, but management’s business of “teambuilding” constantly gets in the way. The connection to his dog Max foreshadows a new meaning to the old saw, “It’s a dog eat dog world.”

This story isn’t for everyone. It’s a nice fable about the modern corporate world. A fable not because of the obvious, but because of the idea that someone who actually does the work gets rewarded.

 

“Unveiled” by Ron S. Friedman (debut 5/9 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). This story is reminiscent of H.G. Wells, “The Time Machine”, where the inventor has a difficult time making his friends believe his tale of time travel. In this case the inventor has a novel means of proof.

The story appealed to me on a couple of levels, the obvious tip of the author’s cap to Wells, but also the unexpected twist of the proof. It is so simple that you wonder why Wells didn’t use it, but of course then he would have no story to tell.

 

“Facts about Gel, Glop and Other Semi-Viscous Substance You May Have Encountered Recently” by Michael Canfield (debut 5/10 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). This is a fact sheet, complete with misspellings and mistakes normally found in all such works, about a product gone awry. The author even includes the obligatory appeal at the end.

Given the debacle we see every day from corporate America (and other countries for that matter), governments and agencies I’m not sure if the author expects us to laugh or cry. I laughed.

 

Encephalon awaits death and the end to everything in “S is for Solipsism” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/11). The former supervillain (once known as Brainwave) has concluded that the world is a product of his imagination. His rival, Deathdrive, has come to end his tyranny once and for all. Encephalon is eager for it all to end, as his enemy.

An intriguing tale. Much of it is told as a classic bad guy monologue, pontificating to their enemy in the mist of a battle. The imagery is quite good, serving well to the satire the story is. This was one of the best the Quartet has written. So good I’m going to give it a†Recommended

 

The first man on Mars needs to be one driven dude in “Can’t Stop” by K T (debut 5/12).

Countless sacrifices, sums of money, and candidates are weeded through to get to the one person who will first set foot on the red planet. Such a man will have regrets to reach that goal.

Cute story. Not bad for such a brief tale.

 

“As Fast As You Can” by Nathaniel Matthews Lee (debut 5/13 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). What is it about super-hero stories that fascinate us? We read them and watch them and seemingly can’t get enough. Is it because like no other character, we wish we were them? We wish we could fly or that we were very strong.

Sideswipe is a speedster. He not only moves fast, but spends his moments in a state of sped up, so that we are all moving very slowly. He saves as many victims of accidents as he can, they, not knowing he was even there, believe they have simply been teleported to safety. But Sideswipe is also running from his pain. A failure to save his lost love which eats away as his seemingly eternal existence.

On the surface, perhaps we’ve seen these things before, but author Nathaniel Matthews Lee takes us beyond the mere facts and delves into the emotions of the characters/heroes and we learn not all is as it seems. Pain is found in the truth, and in the lies. This short story has more depth of character than some super-hero movies I’ve seen, and pound for pound, just as much action and gadgets.

Lengthier than most stories you’ll find at Daily Science Fiction, this one is worth every micro-second spent reading it. Recommended.

 

“The Instructions” by Amanda C. Davis (debut 5/16 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a harmless, fun little piece of writing about how to improve your life through the benefit of elvish folk, what they take in payment, and why not to slack off when the going gets good.

This isn’t a story per se in that it has a plot, but is nevertheless a fun, short read regarding the mythological creatures we sometimes take for granted.

Or at least, that’s what the instructions say we’ll do.

 

An epidemic paralyzes relationships in “Say Zucchini, and Mean It” by Peter M Ball (debut 5/17). The phrase ‘I love you’ has turned many into babbling catatonic patients. They repeat the words over and over. Hospitals fill and love ones are left behind. Changing the meaning of words seems to be the only hope.

This story revolves around the protagonist and Alice. The two have drifted together, her boyfriend and his roommate fallen victim to the strange disease. The protagonist strives to come to grips with his relationship and the world inflicted with plague driving mankind indifferent.

This tale was odd, and its oddness went beyond the strange premise. The story had the effect on me the author’s fictional disease had on characters. It left me down and indifferent.

 

Getting on the latest reality show should be a piece of cake for the muse of dance in “T is for Terpsichore” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/18). The muse stands in the long line for auditions and watches and absorbs the other contestant’s routines. By the time it is her turn, she should have all she needs to win.

This story reminds me of the time Dolly Parton participated in a Dolly Parton look-a-like contest and finished second. An amusing work of flash fiction.

 

The League of Heroes has lost one of it’s own in “They Do It With Robots” by Eric James Stone (debut 5/19). A grisly stage show out at sea has led Guillermo to Ogden’s trail. Only a robot would be used to cut out a man’s heart, or a hero who had let his love down.

This short piece had an extraordinary premise to it, but the symbolism of it was grand. My only complaint was its short length hampered its execution. Nice idea. Would have been better with more words, in my humble opinion.

 

A model’s will to endure is the theme in “A Study in Flesh and Mind” by Liz Argall (debut 5/20). The protagonist in this story is a nude model for an art class. The instructor is known as the Great Teacher. He is hard and harsh on his students, and on his models as well. A job like this is hard to come by. Holding onto it will test her limits of endurance.

“A Study in Flesh and Mind” is a story of cruelty. There is only one word that fits the Great Teacher , sadistic. The model has worked hard and overcame much to get where she is. She takes pride in her ability to hold her position and interpret the pose her instructor desires. The Great Teacher seems to be bent on stretching the limits of what she can take, and does his best to shove her over the cliff.

This is a story I could have gotten into more if I knew anything about modeling, or even participated in a sketch class before. Where the setting left me feeling a bit out of place, the authors ability to submerge the reader into the protagonist head made this story a work of art. It is only from her point of view can we experience the sadistic cruelty of the Great Teacher and see the session for what it really is , a one-sided battle of wills. I could feel the protagonist’s anger and hatred for the Great Teacher, and I could identify with her exhaustion at the end. Special note: the ending was fabulous.

It is only because of the slow start and my opinion that this story was a bit on the long side that reserves me from giving this piece my full-fledged recommendation, but if you’re looking for the definition of a character driven story, by all means, read this one.

 

A village combats a horrible monster in “Shades of Orange” by Caroline M Yoachim (debut 5/23). Demons deposit Ao, an orange, poisonous creature in the middle of the village. The villagers chose the protagonist, a fellow farmer, to lead the fight against it. The battle is hard fought. Victory means little for the monster’s poison has already infected the land.

This story has its roots in the Vietnam war and associates what Agent Orange did to the poor people over there. The tale failed to move me. Too depressing and predictable.

 

Two asteroid prospectors contemplate how they will spend their riches in “Men of Wealth” by Ross Willard (debut 5/24). Thomas and Geezer have just found the big score. They gamble as they wait and talk of what they will both do when they get back to the station.

This is one of those tales where you have to wait to the end to find the piece of this puzzle of a story you know is missing. The author set this up as well he could, but I still felt cheated in the end.

 

“U is for Ubiquitous” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/25) Privacy? This 68-word story hinges on the present day dual definition of window. Not bad, considering its length.

 

The World CafÃ’ offers six beverages in “To Soothe Ravaged Throats” by Allison Jamieson-Lucy (debut 5/26). The items on the menu are potent, and are more exotic the further down the list you read, save the last. That one item is a noble choice, and for a price anyone can afford.

A quaint story with an appropriate length. There is little to quibble about it, but not one I would describe as special. Not a bad ending.

 

Friendship runs deep in “Cloaks and Gloves” by Patricia Russo by (debut 5/27). Rall is afraid of the world. Verenisse wishes to help her talented friend and offers to go on a quest to get him a pair of hero gloves. With the help of her cloak, Verenisse braves the harsh world to get her friend the courage he needs.

An editor friend once remarked how amazed he was to receive so many stories that were about characters who walked out their door and go for a walk without anything much happening to them. “Cloaks and Gloves” didn’t have that empty of a plot but it was close.

The story is set in a fantasy dystopia. Civilization appears to have crumpled. Sinister creatures called ‘Rat Folk’ lurk about. Rall creates and sells charms to guard against the monsters, but he makes the charms with his bare hands, a bad idea in this world.

Verenisse, a maker of cloaks, is his friend. Her cloaks give her a false appearance. She dons a cloak of an old woman and braves the outside world.

This tale has all the makings of a dark and scary fantasy. It was setup for a conflict, but a conflict never came. Much was made of the ‘Rat Folk’ yet the characters never come across one. Verenisse does confront a group of ‘Breakers’, which are nothing more than a gang of children. The encounter becomes a non-event, which is how I would describe most of this story.

Despite its eerie setting and ominous promise, “Cloaks and Gloves” became nothing more than a story of a shopping trip in the end.

 

A desperate voice is trying to reach from the other side of your computer screen in “Remember” by Will Arthur (debut 5/30). You are John Samuels, a member of the resistance. You have discovered an important secret about the invaders, so important they placed you in a memetic coma. You now believe you are someone else, living peacefully in 2011. This is your last chance to be free of your illusion.

This story is reminiscent of the movie The Matrix. The play on this tale is you are reading very important information while you read your computer. Not a bad attempt but really, it’s been done before. So ignore the story or we’ll unplug your brain.

Â

A time traveler’s dire warning is wasted on the wrong crowd in “Just Enough Time” by Douglas K. Beagley (debut 5/31). The protagonist and his four friends are enjoying their time in Starbucks when a lovely woman from the future bursts through the door with news of the future. The five latte sippers interrupt her and ignore her pleas to listen, eager to have their own innate curiosities answered instead.

The protagonist engages in prattle in this piece. He (like his friends) come off as extraordinarily self-absorbed. His narration is, you know, like totally dumb or something , if you get my drift. A story about modern twenty-something’s refusing to get the gist of future forewarnings is one thing. Babble with a time traveler as a back-drop is quite another.

Analysis

ÂI haven’t mentioned any before but May’s cover art I really liked. The black, sinister dragon under a full moon with a castle in the background is cool.

David Steffen is the editor and owner of Diabolical Plots. It is by his good graces that you are able to read these reviews of Daily Science Fiction. But other than providing space for them, he hasn’t done a damn thing to help. Nope. Hasn’t bothered to lift a finger at all. It seems he’s too busy establishing a “writing career”.

He completely ignores my suggested path to success – buttering up the publisher with compliments – instead choosing to “submit his best material” and relying that they’ll select his work based on “merit”. Please. Like that will get you anywhere.

Sure, he has some success, managing professional sales to places like Bull Spec, Digital Science Fiction, One Buck Horror, AE Canadian Science Fiction Review, and DAILY SCIENCE FICTION!?!

I guess congratulations are in order, Dave. Could you at least try to not look so happy about it?

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David Steffen

David Steffen is an editor, publisher, and writer. If you like what he does you can visit the Support page or buy him a coffee! He is probably best known for being co-founder and administrator of The Submission Grinder, a donation-supported tool to help writers track their submissions and find publishers for their work . David also writes articles here and edits the fiction. He is also the editor and publisher of The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List series. David also (sometimes) writes fiction, and you can follow on Twitter for updates on cross-stitch projects and occasionally other things.

6 thoughts on “Daily Science Fiction: May Review”

  1. I’m the only author to get a tag? 😉 😛

    I’m glad Dustin enjoyed the story. I was aiming for a sort of Astro City vibe, but in text. Superheroes are harder to do without an artist to work with, y’know? (I hesitate to compare myself to Kurt Busiek in any meaningful way, but I will say that if you like “As Fast As You Can,” you should definitely check out Astro City. “The Tarnished Angel” is my personal favorite of the graphic novels, but they’re pretty much all worthwhile. Don’t read “The Dark Ages” first, though.)

  2. If you mean ‘recommendation’ the answer is no. Two others received them, but I do congratulate you for receiving one.

    We do have a high standard for our recommendations, the stories are just that good at DSF to not have one (can’t recommend them all, you know), so to impress Dustin that much really shows you how much of an impression you left on him.

  3. Frank, I believe he means the tags:
    Tags: Daily Science Fiction, Frank Dutkiewicz, Nathaniel Lee

    Nathaniel, I told Frank in my e-mail that I liked the story from the first paragraph. Sometimes, you can just tell…

    I’m trying to pick up the pace for July so we can get all caught up. “Work” has never been so much fun.

  4. I think Dustin’s right, he’s talking about the tags on the post.

    I’m the one who types those in, so any oddities in the tags can be blamed on me. I usually try to tag the main topic (Daily Science Fiction), the author (Frank Dutkiewicz), for sure, and then whatever else suits my whims. Maybe it would be better for me to tag the 31 author names? This time, at least, I didn’t. But since Nathaniel is a friend of the site and has contributed content, I thought I’d put in a tag for him. 🙂

  5. Yes, the tags, not the recommendations. It just amused me to see only three names down there, with Dustin (who wrote my review) not even being one of them. 🙂

    It’d be pretty mind-numbing to tag every author for these things. Wasn’t saying it was bad or anything. I just tend to notice my name when it pops up places. The tags at Mirrorshards are a mess, since I tend to write them on the spur of the moment in about three seconds and thus have only like a dozen tags out of three hundred that have more than one story attached to them, making them completely worthless as a navigational tool.

    *awaits accusations of vote-rigging and backroom deals*

    (If we go all House of Cards with trading favors for recommendations, I call the drunk guy. Francis is cool, but his Daddy thing creeps me out.)

  6. I really should add in the other reviewers to the tags, at the very least.

    And if one is looking to rig the recommendations, providing content is probably not the way to go (it might make me more likely to tag your name). Buying a beer for James or Dustin or Frank or Anonymous would make much more sense. 🙂

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