Daily Science Fiction: December 2011 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

This marks the end of Daily Science Fiction‘s first full year of publication. Speculative fiction’s first email service magazine has done well for itself. Although it has lacked the fanfare it deserves, its grass roots ascension in the market has not gone completely unnoticed. Two respectful award organizations (Million Writer’s awards and the Micro awards) have nominated several stories that debuted on DSF. Congratulations to Daily SF and its authors.

Now onto this month’s storiesâ€

 

In “Found in the Wreckage” by Marge Simmons (debut 12/1 and reviewed by Anonymous), the author re-works a theme from Maria Doria Russell’s The Sparrow. A young woman is found in a crashed spacecraft, by a human-like alien male.

The male alien is obviously very taken with the woman despite some differences in their physical design and takes it upon himself to look after her. He decides she could be ‘improved’, does the job himself, and then takes her as his mate. Surprisingly, they are clearly compatible, as she becomes pregnant.

This is a story about a how we can impose our own values and beliefs onto others and cause great harm despite not meaning to. I thought the story was smoothly written, but I didn’t get much of an alien feel from the ‘alien’. I am left wondering how they could mate successfully when they have evolved (presumably) on different planets in different systems. I’d rate this as five out of seven rocket-dragons.

 

“The Girl in the Next Room is Crying Again” by Peter M Ball (debut 12/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). I don’t fully understand the connection between smelling and altering someone’s memories, but author Peter Ball makes it work because this is a Story. (Capital S).

We don’t know what the narrator did to warrant a death sentence against his soon-to-arrive former boss, but that doesn’t matter, because we’re firmly planted in the narrator’s shoes and the present is the only thing that matters. To pass the time while waiting for Morley, his former boss to arrive, the narrator listens to and smells and tastes her bitter memories. However, he can’t quite make out why she’s in distress, so he makes up names, histories, and reasons for her sadness.

But what does one do with all these stories, now that they’ve been thought up, they kind of exist, right?

 

Short, sweet, to the point, written well, and what a fun ending! “SchrÃ’ dinger’s Outlaw” by Matthew W Baugh (debut 12/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) has a small prerequisite, in that you know of Erwin SchrÃ’ dinger and his famous “cat” experiment. The experiment is both obscure and well known. The name, yes; the details, generally no.

Presented here are the details, so no need to look any further, only, this time we have the Witchita Kid… and he’s in a quantum state.

 

The author of “Substitution” by Brooke Juliet Wonders (debut 12/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) does a fine job of slowly revealing the true nature of the narrator. Given the short length of the story, this is quite a feat.

The narrator has been replaced by a younger, (newer?) model and is responsible for training him. Yet, the narrator has fallen in love with his owner, and, while perfectly obedient, can’t help but notice all the flaws inherent in the new model.

While reading I felt genuinely sad during most of the story, which is why I rated this quite high. Assuming that was the author’s goal, she succeeded brilliantly. Worth a look.

 

An automated coroner yearns to learn more about death in “Autopsy” by Budge Burgess (debut 12/7 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is an AI unit built to investigate the causes of death. It is very good, but has much it still needs to learn.

“Autopsy” is a slow to develop story, which served it really well. The protagonist is successfully cast as cold and calculating, very fitting indeed. Mr Burgess’s bio says he is a crime writer; he’s good at it. My only complaint is the reveal was sprung a little too quick for me. Nevertheless, a well done story for a sci-fi horror.

 

Jordan (Jonah) is from the future in “A Time to Kill” by Melanie Rees (debut 12/8 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), sent to prevent catastrophic events by eliminating their perpetrators. His current target is Ella, a girl from a time and place just prior to his own. During the execution he comes to question the nature of his tasks, and the infallibility of the council selecting the targets. When the messenger brings the next assignment, he also brings answers to Jonah concerns, but not answers that provide comfort.

This was an interesting thought piece about the nature of time travel and the consequences of “adjusting” the timeline. I was somewhat put off by the writing, however. The story was a little confusing at first, part of the reason may have been the duality of names for the main character. I also found parts of it a little uneven, but overall I liked the story. I would have enjoyed it more if execution were a little better.

 

“Character is What You Are” by Michael R. Fletcher (debut 12/9 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Alex Baker is a Senior Systems Architect at a company obsessed with security. Their primary method of maintaining security for their intellectual property involves a mind plug that ensures loss of the memories accrued during the workday. This sets up a conundrum for Alex, his friend Jason and fellow Senior Systems Architect, Raajaa when off duty and workplace relationships overlap.

This story has a number of interesting facets. The primary interplay between friends and lovers when half your life can’t be remembered is the primary thread. The story also deals with things like corporate ethics, what is reality and what forms our essence. The writing, however, is a little uneven. After a rocky start it settles down to a smoothly told tale that sets up the issues nicely. The ending, however, is a little too smooth given the potential issues set up earlier. It seemed like the author chose to just put together a “and they lived happily ever after” ending without fully addressing some of the deeper elements he brought up earlier.

 

“Inflection” by Tina Connolly (debut 12/12 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is about an Earth woman whose alien friend is leaving. He won’t take her with him. He wants no record of his visit.

Her thoughts are told in short Hemingway type sentences. “She had thought she would not see him again. Thought he would return to his home a billion miles away and never say goodbye. Leave her to her own decisions.”

The dialog is minimal. The title apparently comes from both characters relying heavily on body language. The alien touches parts of his and her body to supplement his words. “Beth had told him her name but he never used it. His name for her was “you,” with a light touch on her chin. He did it now as he spoke, and the anisette of him curled along her skin. She did not know how he would describe her when he returned home, how he would represent she when she was not around to have her jaw line stroked. Silent now, his brittle hands touched her hair, her neck, her jaw again. Without the spoken pronoun what did the touch on her chin mean to him? Half a language was an echo, perhaps, a whisper, voices dying in the distance.” As he is saying goodbye, she distracts herself by cutting up boxes. We get detailed descriptions of this process. “She ran her box cutter down taped seams, split the tape with slashing strokes that ran into the cardboard, ran through the corrugation, frayed bits of brown into fringe.”

The flattened boxes represent the dismantling of their relationship. She agrees there will be no record. The Earth woman is pregnant. The tiniest box represents the baby.

Were they lovers? Is he the father? Has she told him he’s the father? Is he leaving to escape the complications of being a parent to a mixed species? Is she considering an abortion? Such a child would certainly be a record. Is this what he is hinting at when refers to no record? Would she go through with such an abortion? Was she just telling him what he wanted to hear when she said there would be no record? The author lets us draw our own conclusions.

For such a short piece of fiction, “Inflection” has a high percentage of literary devices. No small feat. A good one for the literature textbooks.

 

Peter is a teenager who fishes in the ocean as a hobby. Vesea is a mysterious woman he meets on a train. She has magical powers. When she touches glass, the scenery changes from air to sea. Turns out Vesea is a mermaid type creature. In “Lures, Hooks, and Tails” by Adam Colston (debut 12/13 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter), Peter gets a chilling history lesson about Vesea and her species. Fantasy-horror. Pretty good.

 

“A Stitch in Space-time” by Nicky Drayden (debut 12/14 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a tale of interdimensional monsters, forbidden technology, and betrayed love. Monsters from another dimension feed on electric pulses, so technology is banned. Before the monster invasion, the husband was a movie actor. Now he has to settle for the stage. But his wife wants to make a movie for him and starring him. Trouble is, if the movie is too long, the monsters break through from the other dimension in search of the electric pulses from the camera. The premise is clever, but the characters are arch typical and the plot is all too predictable, so pass on this one.

 

“Not a Prince” by Kathryn Yelinek (debut 12/15 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a very unoriginal story about teenage heartbreak and teenage mischief. The plot is thickened by magical powers and a police investigation. But this ending is also predictable, so pass on this one too.

 

“The Black Spirits Which Rage In The Belly Of Rogue Locomotives” by Rahul Kanakia (debut 12/16 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter).

“On the evening that Jack’s mother became a robot, she was enmeshed in the cushions of a sofa as another Law and Order plot was poured into her, one dripping burst of photons at a time, twenty-four times per second. Her mind was ensnared, as per seven o’clock routine, by the grotesque symmetries of situation and resolution, the carefully-crafted simulation plugging itself into her cerebellum through the bare sockets of her eyes, the whirring circle of plot squaring itself in memetic resolutions, each frame carrying the genetic code to build an entire episode, an entire series, an entire world.”

Can you resist such an opening? But if the entire story is like this, the reader quickly overdoses.

“That was the death-impulse: thanatos. It wasn’t very strong, and even the slightest danger made the neurons dance and brushed it back with the need for immediate and decisive action. And even after we conquered danger, for a while the effort of keeping our foot on the world’s neck was enough to stave off death’s final victory, even as, unknowing, we built up the huge edifice of annihilation higher and higher around us and walled ourselves inside it.”

I have no doubt that this makes perfect sense to the author, but it’s all one hand clapping to me. And again, the story contents a very large dose. But author doesn’t stop with fiction. From the author’s notes: “Baudrillard singled out J. G. Ballard’s Crash as “the first great novel of the universe of simulation”. In order to try to wrap my head around what Baudrillard’s aesthetic might mean in practical terms, I went ahead and read Crash. I cannot say that I enjoyed the novel. At the time, I wrote that Crash was “one of the only books I’ve read that has physically nauseated me. Reading it is like driving for twelve hours straight. Your head starts to throb and you get a sick, twisting feeling in your stomach.” That’s exactly how I felt reading “The Black Spirits Which Rage In The Belly Of Rogue Locomotives” by Rahul Kanakia. The title should have clued me into what was in store for me.

“I did not understand it, but there was an incandescence in those foreign polysyllables. It’s a rhetoric that uses technical and mechanical terminology to achieve effects that science fiction rarely strives for. I decided to write a story that tapped into that same rhetoric. The title of this story comes from a line in F. T. Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, which has fascinated me for years, and which certainly seems like some kind of spiritual forebear to Crash in terms of singing the beauty of speed.” Perhaps write a Master’s thesis about this, but don’t torture sci-fi/fantasy fans with it. At least we can say that since this was published digitally, brains were fried but no trees died.

 

A young girl sees the world differently in “Butterfly Shaped Objects” by George Potter (debut 12/19 and reviewed by Frank). The little girl sees the world as a lie. Living things are but mechanical objects to her. Knowing not what to do with her, the people put her in an institution, where she lives for the rest of her short life.

I was not satisfied with this tale. The reader is left to wonder if she is mad or possesses an ability no one else has. Whatever the case, the ending is bleak and the story is unresolved.

 

“Are You There? Are You Safe? Is The Flock Safe?” by D. Robert Harman (debut 12/20 and reviewed by Frank) is the story of a man who watches over engineered birds on a colony world. The birds are copies , the DNA of the originals were damaged on the voyage. Turner studies the birds and learns their calls. The copies are different than the Earth’s species, becoming a far tighter group than its original cousins.

“Are You There?” is one odd bird of a tale. Turner becomes an outdoor recluse, choosing to remain a part of the phony birds’ community rather than be a part of society. The story fizzles and the end left me wondering of its greater point.

 

“Crickets” by William Greeley (debut 12/21 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a SETI story with a snippet of a plot and an unclear purpose. There seems to be a message. If the message is deliberate, it’s a decidedly anti-SETI message.

 

“Naughty or Nice?” by James S. Dorr (debut 12/22 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is about a civilized, self-justified, vampire prostitute who takes Christmas off and writes to Santa. She hangs with human working girls and compares her services with theirs. She describes her relationship with her clients. She delves into past life dating back hundreds of years. Is she naughty or nice? Readers are left to draw their own conclusions. Suffice it to say, she makes a strong case for herself. Never mind pondering whether she can convince Santa she’s nice and not naughty. No, ponder instead Santa’s reaction. Surely he’s never read a letter like this one. The premise would make a basis for an enjoyable novel, movie, or maybe even a TV series. Since this story is flash, the reader is left wanting a longer dairy of this very sexy and very charming bloodsucker.

 

“Don Sebastian’s Treasure” by Colin Harvey (debut 12/23 and reviewed by Frank D).

Rob is a tourist, drawn to the island of Ceftanalona in search of a locomotive that doesn’t exist. The train is said to be the property of Don Sebastian, martyr of the revolution that freed the island from Spain a century before. Rob is rebuffed by his tour guide, Isabella, when he questions her about the train. Rob’s grandfather saw it in his youth and now Rob wants to fulfill a promise by proving it exists.

The tale of Don Sebastian proves to be grander than a mere train, though. The martyr was said to have no family to carry on his name but plenty of descendants. Legend has it that he found the fountain of youth, but claims that he was immortal is dismissed as several Don Sebastian’s who continued on with his name. The legend of Don includes a curse against his descendants and a promise of death for those who dared to touch his train.

“Don Sebastian’s Treasure” is a complicated tale. Rob’s desire to prove the train existed puts him at odds with Isabella. Rob softens the hard woman when he offers to watch over her Alzheimer-inflicted mother so she can work.

I found “Don” a chore to follow. The tale is far more intricate than I felt it needed to be. It had the flavor of a far longer romantic tale, and in truth, the story may have had a greater appeal if lengthen and marketed as such.

This is the second, and last, tale of the late Mr Harvey DSF published. I adored his first but wasn’t as taken in with this one. Nevertheless, Colin’s skill was on full display here. His characters were brought to life for me and his premise was filled with creativity that is hard to match. A true talent that we will all miss.

 

A schoolboy outcast uses his gift of precognition to avoid teasing in “Ten Seconds” by Scott W. Baker (debut 12/26 and reviewed by Frank D). Max is a favorite target of bullies. His ability to see into the future a mere ten seconds helps only a little, making him a challenging target for tormentors. A new girl offers him a reprieve, a chance to make someone else the target. Belinda is just the person to get him off the bottom rung of the pecking order, but using another as fodder is no way to get ahead, and they may be more alike than Max could have foreseen.

“Ten Seconds” is a unique spin on childhood hazing. Max’s gift has a limited ability. It has its benefits in helping him look bright in the classroom but is of no use in a test. Belinda is understanding, giving Max a break and proving she can more of an asset than an alternative target for him.

I found this tale fun, cute, and fitting. I would like to think a ten second gift of precognition would be more of benefit than dodging spitballs but we are talking about ten year olds after all. This short story is one worthy of brightening your morning.

 

“Gifted and Talented” by Sadie Mattox (debut 12/27 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of young artist who can bring his drawings to life. Charlie shows he has the gift but does he have the talent to make his gift worthwhile? Charlie’s parents take him to a place that measures gifted children.

“Gifted” is a very odd tale. The twist is truly twisted. While reading it, I wondered where the author was heading with the premise. Man did I find out the hard way. A good read for those who like a Stephen King right turn in their fantasy.

 

“Lists” by Annie Bellet (debut 12/28 and reviewed by Frank D) is just that, a to-do list. The list is rather mundane but filled with items meant to repel vampires. I found it as exciting to read as my list of to-do’s I have at home.

 

“Cold Cuts” by Don Norum (debut 12/29 and reviewed by Frank D). A pair of astronauts must make a tough choice. They’re too heavy and must shed enough weight if they hope to make a tight window to be able to land, but they have thrown out all the extra material they have left. They look at each other, wondering where the dead weight is.

“Cold Cuts” has one wicked twist in store for you. The obvious solution turns out to be not so obvious at all. A well done tale.

Recommended.

 

A family from Earth attempts to fit in, in “Chit Win” by Deborah Walker (debut 12/30 and reviewed by Frank D). Samuel and his family have migrated to a graviller colony on an alien world. Work is what has drawn the family here but the customs of the aliens do not sit well with half of the family. Samuel is eager to be a part of the local clique, so when his sister, Veronica, captures a native veole, he claims it as his own. The veole are prized mole-like creatures the local graviller youth use to stage battles, much like cock fights of Earth. Veronica doesn’t want her new pet to be abused like that but Samuel needs the puny animal if he wants to be part of the gang. Status is everything on this alien colony. Family happiness may have to take a back seat.

“Chit Win” is a tale of the effects of chauvinism on a family. Co-operation Law demands customs follow the native species of the planet, and since the Gravillon founded the colony, their customs reign supreme. The women of Samuel’s family are not taking well to their new home but his father appears to be fitting right in. The strains of their new predicament is starting show on Samuel’s parents, but the colony has a job for Pa, and changing the customs is beyond these Earther’s abilities.

The premise for this story is easy to imagine. Picture a liberal family moving into a very conservative community. For the men, the transition is easy but the girls are now second-class citizens. The capture of the veole brings a new dynamic to the family. A challenge to battle Veronica’s pet by a graviller youth offers a Samuel an opportunity to be part of the group. A clash of acceptance and respect comes to bear, lending to a twist that turns the community on its head.

The tale is told through young Samuel’s eyes. The author, I think, wanted to show chauvinism through of a character who is collaterally caught between two sides. The age of the character lent to a simplification of the narrative , a telling style full of information dumps , not one for me. I found the solution a little too convenient and unlikely. Perhaps an expansion of the idea may have helped but as it is, “Chit Win” was a story not fitting of my tastes.

 

A Fallen Warrior

ÂLast August, the world lost one of its pillars of speculative fiction. Colin Harvey was a man whom I have never met or corresponded with in any fashion, but we had mutual friends and were becoming aware of each other peripherally. His sudden and unexpected death caught everyone by complete surprise. His electronic fingerprints on the internet showed no signs that his time was near. Postings days before his fateful last day spoke of grand and exciting plans.

His story, Chameleon , was the first story of Daily SF I recommended. On his blog, he modestly statedâ€

I’m staggered because as I said in an earlier post, the story virtually wrote itself, and I don’t feel that anything that easy to write could be that good.

Samuel Lemberg apparently disagreed with him, moved enough by it to make a film short of it.

Mr Harvey proved to be a bit prophetic about Daily SF, adding this comment about our early efforts at DPâ€

“â€and to get the insight that many review sites won’t review DSF because ‘there’s too much to review.’ Hopefully Diabolical Plots doesn’t feel that way, and will produce a review of October and subsequent month’s contents, because an awful lot of new, upcoming and talented writers are publishing new there , and it’s free to read.”

I am pleased to say – so far – we have. Daily SF honored Colin by posting at the head of his last published work of fiction, a small retrospect of his contributions to speculative fiction. Colin, like many proud authors, would announce his latest sales on his blog. Judging that he never mentioned Don Sebastian’s Treasure, it’s acceptance likely came after his untimely demise.

So on behalf of all the writers whose trail you helped to blaze before you, I hold my glass in a toast to you. So long my good man whom I would have liked to called a friend. I barely knew ye.

 

Colin Harvey (11/11/1960 , 8/15/2012)

Colin was a driving force in the speculative fiction field in England. A writer, reviewer, and editor, he was nominated for both the British Fantasy Award and the Black Quill Award. He has written several novels including Winter Song, edited anthologies like Dark Spires, and published a collection of his short stories called Displacements.

You can find these and other works of Colin’s at Angry Robot publishing

 

Review: Daily Science Fiction – Sept 1, 2010 to Sept 30, 2010

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Daily Science Fiction is the ambitious project of Clarion alumni and Writers of the Future author, Jonathan Laden, and King Arthur fanatic, Michele Barasso. The duo jumped feet first into the growing SF & F industry with an idea that is innovative and ideal with the ever-changing information age. The pair have dedicated getting the best of what today’s writers have to offer, and bringing it right into the laps of the most devote readers of speculative fiction, delivering it as easy (daily email) and as cheap (free) as a lover of fantasy and science fiction could hope for. To insure they’ll have only the best for the cliental, they have offered an attractive pay rate (8 cents a word) to entice the best authors out there.

Why have they embarked on this crazy idea, you may ask?

Our kids refuse to let us read them Harry Potter, so we needed another outlet for our love of SF” is the answer they offer. Whether their real reason is noble or they really are greedy to read new and fresh fiction before anyone else has a chance to view it, publishing good speculative fiction requires more than a nice pay rate as bait. They need to be able to pick out gems that will make readers want to come back for more. Do Jon and Michele have the ability make DSF a success? I read the first month to find out for myself.

The Stories

“An Adventure in the Antiquities Trade” (debut 9/1/10) by Jeff Hecht is the perfect themed piece to open a mass email project like Daily Science Fiction. The story involves two collectors, and is set in the mid to late 21st century. The protagonist presents a correspondence to a Mr. James, one written on an old manual typewriter in the mid 20th century, when such things were still done on paper. The correspondence tells the tale of a clerk in Nigeria that has uncovered a scheme by the trading company he is working for. The company is bilking the Nigerian government and hiding the profits in a Swiss bank account. The clerk has asked a random American for his bank account so he can transfer 43 million, and promises a 10% kick back as a reward (sound familiar?).

I found “An Adventure in the Antiquities Trade” to be a clever and crisp story. Although it was a bit short, and the twist ending predictable, it was fitting as a debut story for a science fiction magazine looking for a unique way to stand out.

“Mark and ,S-h-e-l-l-y-‘-s-“ (debut 9/2/10) by Steven R Stewart is a story of a pizza shop owner named Mark and his one time romantic interest and former partner, Shelly. Shelly suddenly appears at the spaceport stand, not looking a day older, after a ten-year absence. The sign out front is still the same but her name has been crossed out. The bitter Mark feels cheated, abandoned, and is not interested in any excuse his former partner has to offer. Shelly regrets leaving in a huff all those years ago and admits in making a wrong turn, a turn that may have cost her everything but her youth.

“Mark and ,S-h-e-l-l-y-‘-s-” is a science fiction twist on the old ‘bitter lovers reuniting’ premise. The story is Mr. Stewart’s first publication (nice catch). I found the brief tale to be a cute idea but the present tense narration was a big negative for me. It was unnecessary and lent to a disconnection with the characters and plot.

Butterfly gets her first tattoo on her 13th birthday and receives a gift she didn’t ask for in “Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” (debut 09/03/10) by Lavie Tidhar. The young granddaughter of the Head of the Council can hear the Rogon, long dead aliens cocooned in the trees of the forest. At first, the incomprehensible murmurs are nothing more than idle chit-chat in Butterfly’s ears, than one day their tone changes. Butterfly believes they are calling her, and they need her help.

At over 9000 words, “Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” is one of the longest stories you’ll find in Daily Science Fiction. I couldn’t help thinking while reading it that it didn’t need to be so. An awful lot was thrown into the story that had little to do with the overall plot. Much was made about Butterfly’s relationships with other characters when they had little to do with the solution to the story. All the extra material slowed the pacing to a crawl. Another problem I had was the age of the cocoons. The aliens were supposed to be dead for a quarter of a million years, wouldn’t they be fossils by now? What I did like was the unexpected reveal of the nature of the voices Butterfly hears. Unfortunately you had to get through two-thirds of the story to get to it.

“Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” would make a nice sci-fi mystery if it were shorter. The author took great pains to show Butterfly as a normal girl with a unique problem. Lavie Tidhar made the story mundane in the process.

“Fiddle” (debut 09/06/10) by Tim Pratt opens with a small history lesson on the Roman Emperor Nero, told by a mysterious guide. The guide speaks of the legend of Nero playing a fiddle while Rome burned in the first century AD and offers a unique explanation of how it may have come to life.

“Fiddle” is more like a tease than a story. Its short size limits what I can say about it without ruining it for the reader. Hard for me to recommend it. I found it not attractive enough to call it cute, but I did like that last line.

In “Ezra’s Prophecy” (debut 09/07/10) by Debs Walker, Ezra is a hermit living in a cave. She studies the book of God’s Prophesies with only a weekly visit from a young village woman to look forward to. Then one day the Gods grace her with a vision. Ezra is eager to write her own book of prophesy but takes advantage of her brief gift of premonition to see what effect her holy book will have in the future.

I had two different impressions of “Ezra’s Prophecy”. The first two thirds I found slow and I worried that the plot was headed nowhere. The last third, however, was a making of a classic tale. I found it deep,an outstanding concept on religion and of the people who founded it. Ezra is granted a great gift from the God’s and makes a choice that proves to be an even greater one to her people.

The first half of “Ezra’s Prophecy” is dull, but the end made the pay off worth it.

The protagonist in “Hobo Signs” (debut 09/08/10) by Ree Young is an elderly lady who finds a hobo on her porch. The man has alcohol on his breath and a tale of aliens on his mind.

“Hobo Signs” is almost cute. The story is told from an old woman’s perspective and done well, but I wanted to scream ‘get on with it!’ at her at one point. The story doesn’t have much to it, at least not enough to satisfy me.

“Tag, You’re It” by Melissa Mead (debut 09/09/10) is a tale of a lost soul and a devil playing a childhood game with the playing field Earth. The hider hides as an ordinary person (and other things) while the seeking player hunts them down.

If character growth defines what makes a good story for you than “Tag, You’re It” is your kind of piece. The devil learns much about life as he takes on a trio of different personalities in the game. I rather liked the story. I found the ending fitting. A well done work of flash fiction.

“Seek Nothing” (debut 09/10/10) by Cat Rambo is the story of Sean Marksman, a clone psychologist who specializes in scent alterations. Sean is eager to escape his religious, puritan home. The planet he has escaped to is in need of a specialist like him, but his fellow humans are suspicious of his fundamentalist background. Sean has been raised to believe clones are beings without a soul. His fellow workers treat them as if they are machines , machines that can be abused. As time drags on, Sean begins to identify with the clones plight.

“Seek Nothing” is not a story for everyone. The plot drags and the protagonist is a hard one to like. The supporting characters are portrayed as unsympathetic and aloof , or worse – and the clones are nothing more than living mannequins. However, by the end of the story a realization of the depth of this masterpiece fell on me like a ton of bricks.

This story is one of repression. Sean tires of his purist early life and wants to be a normal man, one free of the guilt of sin his father weighed on him. However, young Sean hooks up with people that are anything but normal and as degenerate as could be imagined. He is like an Amish boy whose first experience with the outside world is with exiled men alone in the Arctic. Added to this jaded experience, details of Sean’s own past surfaces as the story progresses. What we witness in this tale is the disassembling of a man to the point where he feels on par with soulless machines. RECOMMENDED.

“Chameleon” (debut 09/13/10) by Colin Harvey is set in an America under attack by a race of aliens called Dragons and their Chinese allies. The Dragons have the ability to mimic humans, and have gotten good enough at it to make them indistinguishable from the person they are imitating. Major Emily Sparrow has been brought into the ruins of the Pentagon to help determine if her husband is really an alien in disguise.

“Chameleon” is an excellent example on how intriguing and thorough a short story can be. Mr. Harvey opened up a big world and introduced wonderful characters in a handful of words. The story was extra special for me because of its ending. I knew there was a twist coming yet was still caught off guard when the reveal hit me; so subtle and unexpected. It was the whipped cream on top of delicious sci-fi work of art. RECOMMENDED.

“On the Sweetness of Children” (debut 09/14/10) by Michelle Muenzler opens when the Green Fairy falls dead in the middle of blessing the infant princess. She drops at the word ‘hunger’ and the princess becomes a glutton as a result. The round royal is sensitive about her weight, and isn’t above devouring her critics, which isn’t good for her public image. But when you have a bottomless pit for a stomach, public image becomes secondary.

“On the Sweetness of Children” is a very cute story. It is a birth of a fairy tale, which I always find neat. Enjoyable but not “finger licking good.”

Dain talks the crew of the ‘Maidens Crescent’ into stopping at every satellite while traveling through the Sol System in “Mercury in Hand” (debut 09/15/10) by Amanda M Hayes. The Zero-rank magician wants a piece of every planet for a wealthy client to take with him.

I would like to delve deeper into the point of the story but it was completely lost on me. The who, what, and why of the tale is a mystery to me. I didn’t get it and still don’t after I read it three times in an attempt to understand it.

In “Azencer” (debut 09/16/10) by Rigel Ailur, two sisters with the gift of telekinesis battle for the right to be queen.

At a hundred words, Azencer is as short as a complete tale can get. The author did well with so few words.

“American Changeling” (debut 09/17/10) by Mary Robinette Kowal takes place in a quiet Oregon town on a planet called Earth. Kim is the daughter of two faerie changelings. She has been raised for the day to open the gate between the Faerie world and Earth. The key to unlock the gate has been hidden in iron (deadly to faeries) and protected by Catholic magic. Kim is the only one that can resist both, but the enemies to the queen are aware of her and are ready for the great event.

“American Changeling” is an adventure story. It is one of the longest stories in DSF but it reads quick. The characters stand out and the action is well done. The story is done quite well but the general plot is very familiar. Nevertheless, the reading experience is very enjoyable but I would expect nothing less from a pro like Ms. Kowal.

“Flint’s Folly” (debut 09/20/10) by J Chant is a story about a Nobel Prize winning scientist’s, Professor Flint, greatest discovery. His most trusted assistant, Mattius, attends the press conference where Antarctica’s most respected scientist unveils his faster-than-light machine. The demonstration is a success, making the already famous scientist a giant on the world stage. As a close associate, Mattius basks in the professor’s glory, but soon discovers it only takes one mistake to erase a legacy.

“Flint’s Folly” is my kind of story. The author introduced a complete world and set of circumstances that I could buy into. The premise of the story is one I could see happening one day, and circumstances of our not-too-distant past have proved this type of mistake has been made before. Mattius is successfully presented as a loyal comrade. He believes in his mentor and is proud of his past accomplishments. You can feel the validation he feels when the rest of the world cheers for the professor’s breakthrough discovery. Telling the story from his viewpoint was genius with the direction the author decided to take. At the risk of revealing too much, I particularly enjoyed Professor Flint’s attempt to salvage pride at the end, emotionally well done.

This story was great. RECOMMENDED.

Young Revka is ten and has yet to discover her talent in “Picture in Sand” (debut 09/21/10) by Susan A Shepherd. Her mother discovered her woodcarving gift right away, while her father had to search through all nine talents before finding his own. It can be a lot of work before your talent is discovered, or if you’re lucky, your talent may discover you.

Ms Shepherd put a lot of thought into creating her magical world in this story. Impressive considering she didit in so few words. Unfortunately I think the story needed more for it to work. This heartwarming piece came off as flat to me.

“The Man who said Good Morning” (debut 09/22/10) by Ralph Gamelli is set in a future where everyone reads minds and talking is considered taboo. That doesn’t stop Louis McKalty. He first works his voice on his wife, chasing her as if he were holding a dead mouse. He then proceeds to greet the world with his rediscovered gift of speech. The world isn’t prepared to listen to his primitive mode of communication, and if he doesn’t listen to reason, society will send his brand of ‘getting to know each other’ the way of the Neanderthal.

“The Man who said Good Morning” is a fun story about a man who is having some innocent fun. Louis is rediscovering himself and that makes others uncomfortable. I liked how Mr. Gamelli decided to introduce a society where only silent, psychic interaction is allowed. Nice story that could have used some expanding.

Annalisa begs her father to take her to an unsavory fair in “The Jug Game” (debut 09/23/10) by Jennifer Moore. While her father disappears in a beer tent, Annalisa is encouraged to play a jug game. The prize is she gets to keep the soul inside if she wins.

“The Jug Game” puzzles me. The stories ending left me unsatisfied and I wondered if I read the complete version.

“The Fosterling” (debut 09/24/10) by Therese Arkenberg starts off in a shack of a house that is the home of the future king, Hepastian IV. It has been seven years the young prince has lived in the slums and it is Jain Harley’s duty to retrieve the boy and take him to New Geneva to reunite him with his father the king. The foster mother is not ready to give up her ‘Jacky’ and the boy isn’t eager to leave the only home he has known. Jain is chosen for this duty because she does it well, even when crushing migraines afflict her without mercy.

“The Fosterling” is a good story that is written very well. Jain Harley is convincing as a duty bound Captain of the Guard who has a job that simply sucks. All the past kings have spent their first seven years living in the slums so they will learn compassion. Jain is mystified on why Jacky doesn’t want to leave the ghetto he was raised in and wonders at one point “Didn’t all kids dream of being princes?” Coupled with the stress of tearing a young child from the only home he knows, a recurring migraine inflicts Jain.

I could find little fault with this piece. Therese Arkenberg is a very skilled writer. The story is solid and quick but is thin with content. Nevertheless I enjoyed reading it very much.

“Long Pig” (debut 09/27/10) by Matthew Johnson, is the name of a new restaurant featuring a popular chef. The menu is unique and the food is delicious thanks to a chef with a unique past and a commitment to put all he has into his creations.

It wasn’t too difficult to figure out what “Long Pig” was all about. Too many clues made it obvious early on. The chef’s willingness to share his past to his customers made him more creepy than interesting to me.

The restaurant’s customers may have found “Long Pig” appetizing but it didn’t satisfy me.

“Sparks” (debut 09/28/10) by Mari Ness is about a man who has replaced his hands with wands. The protagonist is drawn to the mysterious man and the lovely sparks his wands create. She takes great effort to not stare at his wands and wants to learn why he would make such a trade.

“Sparks” is a story of desire. The protagonist clearly has fallen for the stranger. I however was not drawn into his spell and fail to see the appeal he has over her. The appeal didn’t translate to me.

Unlike the protagonist, I failed to fall under “Sparks” ‘spell.

Jack and Sarah share tea in their home, drinking it out of their favorite cup, just as they always did in “Small Differences” (debut 09/29/10) by Tim Patterson. The only problem is this is the first time they met.

“Small Differences” is a story set in a world where alternate universes have intersected. People are switched into a new one that is very similar to the one they originated in. Slight changes make it different. Sarah and Jack shared a life with their alternate selves and their not-quite-the-same past makes their meeting painful and hopeful.

Not a bad story but one that was too brief for me to enjoy. Not that it needs expanding. I think the author got as much as he could from the idea.

George Washington is about to attend his inaugural in “A Little-Known Historical Fact” (debut 09/30/10) by Tim McDaniel. He talks with his aide Billy and tells him what his mother said he could accomplished if he applied himself.

This short story is just plain silly. The premise relies on GW’s mother knowledge of a term that I believe didn’t exist in her era.

Overview

I asked an editor of a leading review outlet on why DSF is ignored. The answer I got back was there was too much to review and the editors must be nuts if they think they can keep up throwing so many stories, at the rate they pay, for essentially free. Maybe Mr. Laden and Ms Barasso have deep pockets, maybe they have a business model other publications should emulate. I don’t know. I do know, word count wise, they publish as much as Analog, F & SF, and Asimov do each month. Sure they’re putting out 20 plus new stories a month, but 80% are under 2000 words and most are flash fiction size; an easy to get through length if you’re looking for a daily outlet. The question is, does the quality match up to what other pro-rated magazines have to offer. The answer is yes.

I found almost all the stories of a high quality. Because they were so high, my standards for recommendation were raised. If Jon and Michele can continue to publish such thoughtful, creative, and outstanding fiction, I see no reason why Daily Science Fiction won’t be the next big thing in publishing today.

My personal favorite of the month was “Chameleon” by Colin Harvey. I just simply loved it.

I recommend that you all sign up to receive a daily hand-delivered story from Daily Science Fiction. You can sign up for them, and read these stories and other ones here.

Frank is lurking back around in Diabolical Plots again. Other places have throw him out on his ear but Dave is a sucker for people that have worn out their welcome elsewhere. So Dave has Frank review to keep him out of his hair.