Daily Science Fiction November 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

The Wrong Foot by Stephanie Burgis (debut 11/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a fun and lively twist on the Cinderella tale. The initial premise exploring why the prince would need a shoe to fit instead of looking into the eyes of the woman he danced with, is quite clever (and true!)

Initially, “The Wrong Foot” follows Cinderella somewhat closely with too much humor, but as the tale continues this story begins to distinguish itself as its own tale – which is to be expected given where Cinderella ends. But what if the prince found the wrong girl (based solely on the slipper)? Would she even want to get married? Read for yourself to find out.

 

Wolf, or Faith in the Future by Michelle Ann King (debut 11/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) reminds me of a condensed version of The Bicentennial Man by Asimov. This story isn’t a typical story but more of a focus on two items that change over a long, undefined period of time: a dog and the weather.

The author notes, in this case, may be worth reading prior to the story as they could give a better appreciation for the meaning of the tale. The story is good but I feel it suffers from being too short. Then again the premise is worthy of a novel so anything less than 300 pages would likely feel too short.

 

The Girl with Flowers for Hair by Elizabeth Shack (debut 11/5 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Gina paused at Adam’s doorway and took in the room, particularly the crude drawings of a girl with flowers poking out of her head. It had been five years since he disappeared. The police had taken pictures but with no clues the trail had grown cold. She had bought him a new set of colored pencils for his thirteenth birthday just a couple of weeks ago. A silly gesture that Charles had told her to stop; they were both grieving in their own way. A door slammed shut and a voice she could never forget echoed through the empty hallway. “Mom, I’m home.”

This is a nicely told tale of loss and redemption but with a twist. The author does a good job of letting us into the world of Gina and Charles, two parents grieving for a missing child. A sense of loss soon replaced with joy as the missing child returns as if nothing had happened. The fabric of the story is woven well and the ending has a nice little twist. Give this one a read, it’s worth the effort.

 

Just the Facts: A Zombie Story by Cat Rambo (debut 11/6 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)
1. There are Zombies
2. Zombies are not particularly fast. There is even a comic called Late Zombie, where the hero zombie keeps showing up too late to eat the brain.
3. Readership has been declining lately.
4. The author of the comic has decided to visit the zombies, so she has constructed a Plexiglas zombie cage and had it placed in with the zombies.
5. Zombies are really boring.

This is another of the stories that uses a novel approach to presenting the material. I found it interesting and enjoyed the story, but I can see it may not be for everyone either because of format or subject matter. I thought the author did a very good job of building to the surprise conclusion, even though I could see it coming. Read the story and see if you can too.

 

Like Son Like Father by Jed Cole (debut 11/7 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

I knew Felix was going to be a genius. When he was three he was playing with some garbage. Before the year was out he had built a prototype shelter, a tower that stretched above the oily clouds and debris left behind in the world. Those few of us left could now survive. Using twine, wood and scrap metal he built a bridge across the L.A. rift that nomad tradesmen still use today, five years later. Every day his huge form rises before dawn and he comes home late every night. But today he has shown me his latest work, one that brought a tear to my eye.

This was a really good story with a major twist at the end. Set in a time of post-apocalyptic Earth among a people trying to survive. One man’s child proves to be the savior of mankind, but is he one of us or something else? One of the best of the year, give it a try.

Recommended.

 

A long distant infatuation becomes an obsession for a reclusive woman in Breva by Nicky Drayden (debut 11/8 and reviewed by Frank D). Dr Gianna Nero is the foremost expert on the sSuryn language. The aliens, survivors of a decimated world, have asked for refuge on Earth in exchange for advanced technology. Their arrival was still forty years away when they first contacted Earth. An awkward young student, Gianna quickly picked up on the sSuryn emissary’s (named Breva) inflections and complicated speech until she alone understood all his nuances. The close attachment with Breva turns into an attraction. Anticipation and anxiety grows in Gianna as the sSuryn ships arrival nears, then disaster strikes. The alien ship is adrift and they need help.

“Breva” is a tale of fixation. Gianna is a girl who is an introvert. Breva serves as her online dream man, an ultimate outsider and loner. She is truly the only person in the world that understands him, leading to an odd fantasy she concocts in her imagination. As the day of Breva’s arrival nears, anxiety on her aging appearance and uncertain reception of their first meeting consumes her. All of that goes out the window when the alien ship suddenly goes silent with only a brief call for help as a last message.

“Breva” is told in staggered flashbacks at different points of Gianna’s life. They show a young Gianna as an odd bird trying to fit in at the university when the sSuryn are first discovered, to an early thirties scholar who has surpassed her boss as Breva’s interpreter, to the older expert who is threatened by a younger aide who is exceeding her understanding of sSuryn. The tale is rolled out like a mini epic. Gianna is a mirrored opposite of Ulysses, the monsters she battles are internal and the longing she experiences is not for home but for the adventurous beyond with a man who can never really be compatible. The story’s arc is a twist and its finale is an unexpected conclusion.

I found “Breva” to be an entertaining read. It read quicker than its long short story designation. It is a good work of sci-fi of an odd woman who falls into an odd relationship cultivating into an odd finale. How oddly natural.

 

An instructional guide on how to handle first contact with unknown aliens is the premise of Guidelines for First Contact in Simplified Technical English by Jetse de Vries (debut 11/11 and reviewed by Frank D). This detailed directive covers all eventualities, from the benign to the malevolent. If it doesn’t help, you never had a shot anyway.

This tongue-in-cheek offering is clever and thorough, a very well done work of humor.

 

A fallen god plies a new trade in The Book of Love by Michael Haynes (debut 11/12 and reviewed by Frank D). Angus is a drifter, frequenting bars and taverns as he travels. He carries around a magical book. In it, words about love become true. Pete, Angus’s latest customer is suspicious but agrees to pay the former god’s asking price.

Mike Haynes is a writer who never fails to impress me. Angus’s magic is real but he still comes off as a charlatan. He hesitates with Pete but the man agreed to his double-the-price offer immediately. The tale has a sweet twist at the end. Worth the read.

 

A queen is focused and determined to complete The Machine by Sean Robinson (debut 11/13 and reviewed by Frank D). She is the Mistress of Science and her machine is the pinnacle of her achievement. Nothing will stand in her way to complete it. She can’t be bothered by minor matters like a collapse of the environment. Nor will she let anyone stop her, not even her husband. He will help her, one way or another.

“The Machine” is a disturbing look on obsession. It is the only thing that matters to her. My only objection to this piece is I had no idea what the purpose of the machine was.

 

Life goes on, even when a part of you has died. Die for You by Alex Gorman (debut 11/14 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a married couple after an alien invasion. Much has changed, including their relationship.

“Die for You” is the aftermath of a cowardly man. He had let his wife down, and can never regain her respect again. A hard but good tale.

 

The stories Kirk tells during bath time take on a life of their own. From Tuesday to Tuesday by Peter M Ball (debut 11/15 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of two people existing in their own bubble of a relationship. Every Tuesday, Deanna takes a bath and begs for a story from her boyfriend. Kirk’s stories have an unintended consequence of altering reality. His life changes the next morning – a new profession, a change in scenery, and a different Deanna , for the entire week.

“From Tuesday” is a tale of regret. Kirk tires of the Tuesday changes, and has vowed to never tell another tale again, but Deanna has a way of pulling a new one out of him. The relationship the two have is a dysfunctional one. They are two dysfunctional people caught in a dysfunctional, yet changing, reality. I am frankly puzzled why the two remained together. Kirk frequently reminds himself that he does not love her. Deanna’s own words make it clear she has little respect for him. Much of the tale is less about the different reality that faces Kirk after the Tuesday’s, but of the odd dynamic about the two.

The underlying message in this piece of two people who are caught in a relationship stuck in an endless loop regret. I believe the tale serves as a metaphor for relationships that are bounded by familiarity rather than compatibility. I have a simple solution for their dilemma: seek counseling.

 

The protagonist reflects on When The World was Full of People by Patricia Russo (debut 11/18 and reviewed by Frank D). A familiar face is seen across the street. A man who looks like the protagonist’s brother is loading large bottles of water. He plans to plant a flower the protagonists knows doesn’t exist. But plant he does, and grow they do.

“When The World” is tale of reflection. I confess, the point of the piece was lost on me.

 

The old Omega meets the new Alpha in The First Stone by Wren Wallis (debut 11/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist’s ex, hands him an unassuming stone, the first stone of creation, just as time comes to a stop. Creation is ending and the old creator is passing off the job of a new creation to him. The protagonist is overwhelmed and knows he is underqualified for the task, but knows who is qualified to fill it.

“The First Stone” is a religious themed tale. The protagonist is cast as character who is the wrong person at the right time. I found the ending of this tale predictable.

 

A loyal employee underestimates his worth in Final Inspection by Afalstein JD Kloosterman (debut 11/20 and reviewed by Frank D). Wilfrid is an inspector on an assembly line in an automated factory. He has done the job for decades and seeks retirement. His life has been within the plant for years , company policy on contamination making it impossible for him to leave. He has repeatedly requested a leave but the company has said that they are unable to fill his position. The changing products the line produces makes him wonder , the hospital beds and farming equipment that used to be assembled have given way to advanced weaponry. Just what is going on outside anyway?

“Final Inspection” is a tale of complacency. The unseen management is content with Wilfrid and has no intention of making a change, despite the fact his presence inhibits the functionality of the plant. There is a hint of a ‘Terminator’ type of world out there, but the enclosed environment of the plant keeps Wilfrid in the dark.

Inventive tale. I rather enjoyed it.

 

The devil barters to end a man’s pain in Screwtape by Helen E. Davis (debut 11/21 and reviewed by Frank D). All he offers the man is a favor, vowing to leave his soul untouched. An individual soul is valuable to the devil, but with this one customer, he can accomplish a lot more without his.

Timing matters a lot, and the debut of this tale hinges much on its timing. The story has a nice twist for a finale. Very cleverly done.

 

A girl, a kiss, and an invitation to follow is all it takes for a young man to seek The Patient Stars by Ryan Simko (debut 11/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist has a chance meeting with the girl of his dreams. She teases him to find her in the emerging settlements of space. Thus begins a desperate game of hide-and-seek.

“The Patient Stars” is a chase. The protagonist is in pursuit, searching entire worlds to find the girl he met in a chance encounter on one lonely night. He travels across the stars, aging slowly as he jumps from world to world. Human civilization grows around him and leaves him behind; an old relic of a long gone age.

“The Patient Stars” is more of future history of the rise of galactic man than it is about one man’s search for a woman. Although I did appreciate the view of our future us, the story never had a destination for the reader.

 

A gladiator is near his freedom in Three is a Sacred Number by Carrie L. Cadwallader (debut 11/23 and reviewed by Frank D). Kloth is a blue skinned alien, champion of 99 bouts. One more and he’ll win his freedom. Only one other has accomplished that feat, and that champion doesn’t want to see his record matched.

“Three” is an alien tale. The hero is a slave forced to fight. He doesn’t savor in the glory but the exercise has made him a hard individual. Interesting tale. It left me intrigued.

 

Your right to exist will be allowed once you can claim that I Have Read the Terms of Use by Kenneth Schneyer (debut 11/26 and reviewed by Frank D).

“I Have Read” is a legal document for those about to be born. A very clinical (and humorous) look if birth was a legal agreement.

 

An endless winter grips two lovers in The World Will End in Fire by K. C. Norton (debut 11/27 and reviewed by Frank D). The world is freezing, and for the protagonist and his wife, staving off the inevitable becomes a pointless exercise. Viva does not want it to end this way and prefers to choose a brilliant way to leave the world.

“The World” is a tale of two people faced with the end of the world. The sun has gone out and whatever warmth is left is quickly evaporating. The story is a small slice of two people’s life in the final act of a greater tragedy.

 

Remembrance in Stone by Amanda C. Davis (debut 11/28 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Fire is pain and air does not quench it. If Gera had lived to teach her air, she’d be prepared. Instead the runes fell on her shoulders. Gera had taught her water, but even when she enters the sea she is swept away by it. Rolled and tumbled until she is nearly dead, then the sea spits her out as if tired of her presence. She starts a fire that does not warm her, calls a wind that does little to dry her. Finally she wanders back to the house and stares at the rectangle where Gera lays. She wasn’t even able to cut the lines straight. If only Gera had lived to teach her.

I found this one a little jumbled and confusing. The writing was so vague that I never did really identify with the character. Then, at the end of the story, the main character makes an abrupt change in demeanor and thought process. It’s almost as if the author said, “OK time to end the story and make the character change her perception.” It simply didn’t work for me. The author spent so much time setting up the conflict that the ending was disappointing.

 

Tell Me How All This (And Love too) Will Ruin Us by Sunny Moraine (debut 11/29 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

You were screaming when I pulled you from the boat. I’d bound your legs with steel poles and doused you with whiskey. I thought you might die in peace, and I made myself ready for my own death. By the time we reached the island it was sunset, and I pulled the boat ashore. I made a fire from driftwood and wrapped you in blankets. How much of this will you remember? Enough to care? I’ll show you in the most vicious way possible. You may be lucid, but that’s another thing I’ve given up caring about.

We seem to be in a month for strange surreal stories. This is another one I never really understood. The author chose to weave a disjointed tale about two people, at least I think the other being is a person because it is told in a somewhat rambling soliloquy and I was never sure who or what he was prattling on about. About two paragraphs in I wished I’d never started it. So maybe there is a good story in there you can find, I certainly couldn’t.

 

A Year of Outstanding Work

Although we have yet to publish our December’s reviews, I would like to give you my top ten choices for the year. Give them a look. If you like any of them enough, consider nominating one for the upcoming Million Writers Award. I have my pick for the year.

Love’s Footsteps by Cat Rambo

“A Phone, My Heart, and Maybe My Last Shred of Dignity” by Luc Reid

“Five Minutes” by Conor Powers-Smith

“The Bargain” by Henry Szabranski

“Holy Diver” by Gra Linnaea

“Such Days Deserved” by Lee Hallison

Sparg by Brian Trent

The Perfect Coordinates to Raise a Child by Barbara A. Barnett

Highest Possible Setting by Em Dupre

Andâ€

Melancholia in Bloom by Damien Walters Grintalis

In my June review, I compared Ms Grintalis’s story to some of the best Twilight Zone episodes ever to debut on TV. “Melancholia” is sad, beautiful, and special. It had an ending that was bitter, but as I pointed out in my reviewâ€

“†(the) Twilight Zone proved that the very best tales don’t have to have a happy ending for them to be enjoyable. In fact, the bitterest endings in that show are where it achieved its greatest accolades, and like those memorable but bitter episodes this story deserves praise reserved for a true classic.”

If there ever was a published Daily SF story that deserved an award, “Melancholia in Bloom” would be it. I will be nominating it for the Million Writer’s Award. It has earned it.

 

On The PremisesFrank Dutkiewicz has put his snooty and pretentious opinions to good work as a full time finalist judge for On The Premises. A guest judge in the past, he will now help decide the winners of the tri-annual online magazine every issue.

On The Premises is a contest publication. Each contest challenges writers to produce a great story based on a broad premise supplied by our editors. Here is their mission statement.

Our Purpose
On The Premises aims to promote newer and/or relatively unknown writers who can write what we feel are creative, compelling stories told in effective, uncluttered, and evocative prose. Entrants pay no fees, and winners receive cash prizes in addition to exposure through publication.

For writers eager for a fair shot in the publishing world, On The Premises is a blind read contest , all entrants are instructed to submit their work without their name on their script. From the award winning authors to first time writers, all have an equal shot.

Daily Science Fiction: October 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

It is, at the time of this writing, the weekend after Thanksgiving. This is the first time I’ve managed to complete my monthly review of Daily SF in under a month of the last story’s debut. Hooray for being current! But enough of my self-congratulatory back-patting, let’s look at something that deserves real praiseâ€

 

Darcy believes in her men in “Mama’s Science” by Shane D. Rhinewald (debut 10/1 and reviewed by Frank D), but Mama warns her not to misplace her faith in such an unreliable creature. Darcy’s father leaves for the stars when she is just five. Bitter, she blames her cynical mother for driving him away. Thus begins a lifetime of head-banging between the two as Darcy builds and shatters relationships.

“Mama’s Science” is a tale of a girl who can’t pick a good man to save her life. Her mother is the pessimistic one, predicting failure and disappointment whenever a man springs on the scene. The story is a commentary that Darcy was in search of support when she needn’t look no further than her mother. But to me, Darcy’s mom hardly comes off as a supportive parent. In the real world, cynical views of the opposite sex from a parent will have a negative effect on a child’s future relationships and I can’t help but to wonder if this was one of the reasons why Darcy couldn’t keep (and pick) a good man.

 

A woman falls for a merman in “What the Sea Wants” by P. Djeli Clark (debut 10/2 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is greeted by a young boy with deep black eyes, once again. He is beckoning her to rejoin him in the sea, a request she was unable to deny several times before. But she is now an old woman, and memories of the people she hurt before, steel her from his charms.

“What the Sea Wants” is a tale of time and evolving legend. The protagonist first met the merman when she was a child, diving into the deep blue off her father’s boat when she became mesmerized by the boy’s dark eyes. She is drawn back to shore where she learns much time has passed and a legend of her disappearance has a risen. The merman returns after many years, pleading for the protagonist to return with his alluring eyes.

I found “What the Sea Wants” to be an enchanting tale. The conflict of desire versus obligation plagues the stories heroine. Each time she returns to the shore, a fresh legend of her disappearance, and knowledge of the broken lives she shattered when she left, is there to greet her. The merman always comes back, years later, to reclaim her. The story is sound and gripping but the ending is a dark one. Well worth the time for a quick read.

 

“Not the Destination” by Richard E. Gropp (debut 10/3 and reviewed by Frank D). Protagonist embarks on trip in space and takes the slow route.

“Not the Destination” is very brief and left me full of questions. It is not known if his motives are for solitude or scenery. Not knowing made the story unsatisfying for me.

 

Kelley accepts the only thing her mother wanted to protect in “Scraps” by Michael Haynes (debut 10/4 and reviewed by Frank D). Her chain smoking mother has passed away, not done in by cigarettes as Kelley predicted but in the horrible fashion of a house fire. She is handed a small fireproof safe, the only thing to survive the blaze. Inside is an item that was a bone of contention in their relationship, a dollar store scrapbook her mother gave her for a Christmas gift. Inside the pages are mementos of heartbreaking events in their relationship , programs to a school concert Kelley played in, a cast list to spelling bee her mother never made it too, and such. The book revives bitter memories Kelley would just as soon forgot but these little scraps have memories of their own.

“Scraps” is a tear jerker of a tale. Kelley remembers a mother who was rarely there for her. Kelley believed her mother threw the book away after her fit when Kelley opened the gift. Other bitter memories surface as she thumbs through it, but when her hand brushes against one of the items a new vantage point of an event flashes in her head; memories that belong to her mother.

The first half of “Scraps” is of Kelley’s recollection of her relationship with her mother. In her eyes, mom was an irresponsible parent. The author does an excellent job of getting the reader to sympathize with Kelley, but as in most contentious relationships, there is another side, and we get to see it. The story is a reflection that many people who have lost a loved one who were difficult to love can identify with.

I found “Scraps” to be a wonderful story. The only gripe I had with it was the disconnected perspective the author used. The 2nd person perspective gave the story an extra layer of distance when the premise deserved a close and personal one. It dulled some of its emotional impact. It robbed a very good story from becoming a rare jewel of the ages. Nevertheless, “Scraps” is a must read.

Recommended.

 

Jiao needs to know more about a nerd’s magic coat in “Nathan and the Amazing TechnoPocket NerdCoat” by K J Kabza (debut 10/5 and reviewed by Frank D). Attractive, she has been propositioned by geeks before, but when Nathan pulls out a teapot too big to hide in his coat, out of a pocket, she agrees to meet him after work.

“Nathan” is a tale of a curious waitress and man who is hiding more than storage closet’s worth of items in his coat. Jiao is sure the Ichabod Crane-ish man isn’t being honest with her when he claims his teapot trick was just a sleight-of-hand ruse. She isn’t buying his denials as his story keeps changing and the amount of things coming out of his coat keep growing. Her curiosity becomes horror when a hand reaches out of one of the pockets.

I found the story long in development but with a satisfying twist in the last half of the tale. I hesitate to write more so as not to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it but I will say the ending had a nice poetic justice finish to it.

 

An alien is losing her mother again in “Blue Sand” by Caroline M Yoachim (debut 10/8 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a squid-like creature. She has just pushed her mother’s corpse into the sea where it can live a happy afterlife and visit her when the tide is low. She becomes concerned when the blue sand covering the beach is showing signs of change. The aliens from Earth have come to take the sand , as souvenirs and to use as glass , and now her mother and the other ghosts are beginning to fade.

The aliens of “Blue Sand” have a unique connection to their ancestors. The blue sand that lines the beaches are the broken down remnants of the departed. The protagonist can visit her mother skittering on the surf and talk to her. Strange pebbles of green slivers first begin to appear then the blue sand slowly begins to be replaced by white. Her mother is disappearing, and this time for good.

“Blue Sand” is an environmental message wrapped within a Far Eastern mythological theme. The unseen humans cannot see the ghosts and have no idea what they are doing to the life on this world. The protagonist is powerless to stop them but has a connection too strong to allow it to be abandoned. Well told. I liked the ending.

 

Renan paints for his master in “Caput Mortuum” by Andrew Kaye (debut 10/9 and reviewed by Frank D). He is a dim man who can see colors outside ordinary people’s viewable spectrum. He paints what he can see for his master, a trait that aids his master’s experiment.

“Caput Mortuum” is told from the perspective of a mentally challenged man. He can see the remnants of magic. His talent is crucial to his employer , Esteban Soliente , as he works to develop an armor to protect ordinary men against magical weapons.

The author of this tale did a wonderful job writing from the perspective of a clueless protagonist. Esteban is working on a revolutionary protective gear that could tip the balance of power, which makes him dangerous to many. The reader is in the unique position of knowing more than what the protagonist can grasp. Difficult to do, masterfully done.

 

Each day the postman delivers a piece of life lost along the way to an old man in “Lost and Found” by Jamie Todd Rubin (debut 10/10 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). The young caregiver watches as each is delivered and relished as the old man comes to remember things long forgotten. It is the week in a life of all of us at some point in time. A week that will end on a Sunday sometime in the future.

This was very well written. It took a while to get into it, required an investment from me, but the payoff was well worth it. The author did a good job of pulling me into the life of the main character and showing me a bit of his life. As the story moves to its inevitable end, I came to know the man and feel what he felt. Well done.

 

Commander Thero watches the destruction of the planet from his bridge. In “This is the Way the World Begins” by C. L. Holland (debut 10/11 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), they will need to destroy all life before they can begin reshaping it for their purposes. The Prefector wants his own planet and it’s the commander’s job to give it to him. In spite of some problems with enslaved beings they use to wipe out the world’s population everything is proceeding as planned, or is it?

This is a nice little morality tale. The author set it up nicely, but the plot was a little too obvious. It is still nice to get a little reminder that absolute power, or the illusion of such, can ultimately lead to our own demise. Nicely written and the point is well made. Give this one a read if you’re in the mood for a little twist of fate.

 

The protagonist is keeping it real in “Shimmer” by Amanda C. Davis (debut 10/12 and reviewed by Frank D). She is an artist in high school. Too many of her other classmates are caught up in the latest craze, shimmer. It is the ability to turn perception into reality. Do you want to be tall and beautiful? Improve your image and your peers will perceive you as so. Trying to become something you are not does not sit well with the protagonist, but a successful artist in this altered-percption world requires a good front for the admirers of art. She must decide if her desire to showcase her vision worth her self-respect.

The protagonist is appalled by shimmering so she becomes disappointed with her good friend, Benjie, when he pastes a photo-shopped image of himself , taller and handsome – in the form of a poster on the walls in school. She wishes everyone could simply be themselves and not the false faÃ’ ade that shade people in their lives. An invitation to present her art gets her to compromise her principles. Benjie is put off by her hypocrisy, forcing her to reflect on her decisions.

“Shimmer” is an odd premise. The constant changing perceptions of others morphs the features of people from moment to moment. Why such a technology would be desired is lost on me. The heroine of this tale wins an opportunity to present her work in an art exhibit , a one in ten thousand chance. She wants to look her best for the exhibit (an understandable reaction) but her friend Benjie can’t help but to shove her own words back at her.

“Shimmer” is a tale featuring a deep protagonist in a sea of shallow characters. The story is a commentary on society’s constant need for improvement of self-image at the expense of our own self-respect. An odd set of circumstances brings the protagonist’s love of art at odds with own values, setting up a finale fitting for an artist eager to make a statement. I found the story to be heavy on message, and thought the storyline was stretch. Perhaps readers who remember high school as a cruel place can appreciate the message in “Shimmer”. I for one would sooner forget it.

 

Gar-gag is out for another conquest in “Trophy Wife” by Samantha Murray (debut 10/15 and reviewed by Frank D). He is after his seventh alien life-giving organ trophy. This new world has a different form of contest, and is out to master the art of the battle the call ‘dating’.

This short tale is a tongue-in-cheek look at the hazards of internet dating. Cute but with a predictable outcome.

 

“The Chosen One” by Huston Lowell (debut 10/16 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a complex tale that debates the contrast of blind faith and scientific analysis. Two men, in their search for the Chosen One, watch a little boy playing and while one man sees signs in everything the boy does, the other suggests caution and further study.

I found myself confused when one man accused the other of being the Chosen One, especially after they’d described the specific conditions the Chosen One need be born under, but I believe that was immaterial to the true purpose of the story, which was the debate mentioned above.

 

“The New Kid Is No Angel” by James Valvis (debut 10/17 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is having a hard time getting along with a new friend. The two can’t come to an agreement on which superpower is better.

A tongue-in-cheek flash tale of a geeky comic book loving pair. Mildly amusing.

 

The protagonist attempts to get in touch with her mother in “My Mother’s Body” by Christie Yant (debut 10/18 and reviewed by Frank D). Her mother has succumbed to a horrible but unidentifiable disease. She has the same illness and is taking the action her mother sought.

I confess, I didn’t fully grasp the premise of this piece. The images of what her mother went through are disturbing but I am quite lost at what she is doing to counteract it. It appeared a healthy human being had sacrificed herself for reasons that are unclear to me.

 

Mark finds his special someone in “Phone Booth” by Holli Mintzer (debut 10/19 and reviewed by Frank D). In a city full of superheroes, an occasional detour in your day from a villain can be expected. Mark’s train is diverted where he meets the girl of dreams, Lisa. The two hit it off and a budding relationship soon follows. She is a guarded woman, often gone on business trips and errands but spends every available moment she has with him. When the world is full of ‘capes’, and villains to keep them busy, disruption in a relationship can be expected, can’t they?

“Phone Booth” is the tale of an everyday man within a world rich in superheroes. Lisa is just the type of girl he has been in search of his entire life; lovely, thoughtful, caring, and with a bit of mystery about her. Their relationship is a slow developing one. Lisa’s friends are wary of Mark and protective of her. Of course, on this world, disaster can strike in any moment.

“Phone Booth” has a premise that is pretty transparent. It isn’t hard to see where the story is headed. It is (spoiler alert) very much like the movie “My Super Ex-girlfriend”, minus the corny and dark humorous component. This story examined what it would be like when you live in a battlefield of good versus evil on grand scale. The author wanted to keep a story with an out-of-this-world premise grounded. Nice tale of a sweet romance set in the most extraordinary settings.

 

Losing your memory at 30,000 feet can be an experience. In “Don’t Look Down” by Anatoly Belilovsky (debut 10/22 and reviewed by Frank D) the protagonist is a man suffering from dementia. Sky diving is his idea of treatment. Nothing like seeing your life flash before your eyes to spur those old memories into action.

I had to read the author’s comments to understand the concept for this story. I was confused on why he was suddenly hit with amnesia. “Don’t Look” is a tale with a very slight speculative element. It seems to me, he is suicidal and his daughter is irresponsible for allowing him to flirt with death like this.

 

An introvert enjoys a cup of coffee in a diner. “The Number Two Rule” by Lesley L. Smith (debut 10/23 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a woman who is lost. She spends her time watching an especially cute little girl play in the park every day. She must never interact with anyone. She should be invoking rule # 2, but it is a very difficult rule to follow.

“Number Two Rule” is a story set for a twist. For me to reveal anymore would be revealing too much. I rather liked this tale.

 

Sam needs to say his final goodbye to his departed wife in “Over There” by Dany G. Zuwen (debut 10/24 and reviewed by Frank D), but is not sure he can face her to do it. Ellen, his wife, died years before but had her essence downloaded. He can see her holo-image in the Room where they can talk but not touch. A depressed Sam met Naomi six years before when he last visited the Room. He plans on visiting Ellen one last time to let her know he found someone new, but discovers old feelings are a hard thing to dismiss.

“Over There” is set in a future where the afterlife is real, made possible with technology. Sam is racked with guilt, and his departed wife’s understanding words only makes it worse for him. She is willing for him to move on.

This tale has quite a poetic ending. Because of her ability to traverse the electronic net, Ellen has kept tabs on her husband. Sam comes off as man who should have invested in on grief counseling. Interesting story. I’m glad I read it.

 

An origami artist competes without his hands in “Susumu Must Fold” by Tony Pi (debut 10/25 and reviewed by Frank D). Susumu is an origami master who lost his hands in a tragic accident. Cyberneticists were unable to attach arms that would return the digital dexterity he needs for his craft. Entering the hall with one arm and hand covered in a glove, Susumu is out to demonstrate that hope is never lost.

“Susumu” is a tale of perseverance. The origami master must overcome his own limitations and the taunting words of a rival. In his corner are miniscule robots he is mentally connected too. The method of folding is different but art is something that comes from the heart.

I read an earlier version of “Susumu” when it appeared in the writer’s group contest the author referred to in his comments after the story. I thought then that the protagonist had an unfair advantage over his opponents then, just as I do now, but the issue of what is fair play is not the point of this tale. The competition Susumu is not against his fellow competitors but rather against the disability thrust upon him. I feel the message in “Susumu” would have had more meaning if the protagonist had been a painter instead. A story of microbots folding paper just seems too much like cheating to me.

 

Mia fights the Empty. “A Handful of Glass, a Sky without Stars” by Damien Walters Grintalis (debut 10/26 and reviewed by Frank D) follows a week in the life of a young woman surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Toxic fumes have poisoned the air, a result of a war fought a generation before. The citizens are devoid of feelings , the Empty. An inhalant combats the condition but its effects fade over the course of a few days. Many chose to end it all before Saturday , the day to regenerate against the Empty. TGIF is now a matter of life and death.

The world of “A Handful” is a depressing lot. The city of which Mia lives is an island of refuge in a sea of devastation. Much of the world is dead. Protestors insist the rest of humanity should follow suit. Mia clings to her fleeting feelings and dreams of the stars her father claimed beyond the dark, polluted sky.

I found it difficult to believe a city like the one in “A Handful” could exist. It is a faÃ’ ade; its citizens operating as if their world is still functional, inconceivable when the very air and soil is toxic. The story is an examination on how civilization could continue when hope itself is gone. I am unsure how the drug Mia took could counteract it, or how the government could feed the masses. Viability of the storie’s premise left me with too many questions to give the tale’s message a fair shot.

 

Caroline is her father’s daughter in “My Mother’s Shadow” by Henry Lu (debut 10/29 and reviewed by Frank D). She is a little girl, one of the cursed born without a shadow. Her mother married a man without one and the trait has been passed down. Shadowless people have been condemned by god and are shunned. Caroline wishes she could be more like her mother, but is too full of resentment to know it isn’t her shadow that makes her mother so special.

“My Mother’s Shadow” is a tale of prejudice. The shadowless people are treated as harshly as the Jewish people were under the Nazis. Caroline misses her father but resents others like her, feeling as if they’re responsible for her misery. The tale is told well in the eyes of a small child who is discriminated for no reason other than sharing a lineage with a cursed race. Her anger is misplaced as she attempts to make sense of the hatred towards her.

Nice but sad story. The ending may have been too open ended for some but I rather liked how it was concluded.

 

The protagonist has a best friend who is always watching over her in Just Today by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 10/30 and reviewed by Frank D). Ben is a ghost, killed in a hit-and-run accident while they were trick and treating. Usually, he is watching out for her but fails to warn her when the neighborhood bully corners her. It’s too bad Ben can’t help her, but he keeps trying anyway.

“Just Today” takes place while the protagonist as on her way to school. Several images from different movies (A Christmas Story, Ghost, Sixth Sense) came to mind while I was reading this, making it feel as if the author borrowed heavily with the premise as she wrote it. The story drifted and the plot had trouble remaining grounded. Cute idea but the incomplete ending and jumbled storyline lessened the enjoyment of the story for me.

 

Little Red Riding Hood boards the bus to Grandma’s house in “Red at the End of the World” by Lynda E. Rucker (debut 10/31 and reviewed by Frank D). This darker version of a famous fairy tale begins very un-fairy tale-ish. The famous Red’s attempts to remain low key are foiled by a blabby bus driver. A cute young man , Snow White , attaches himself to her and the pair embark on the journey to granny’s together.

“Red” is a strange retelling of the legendary Grimm classic. It took a good third of this tale for me to realize who the protagonist was. Red takes an instant liking to Snow White (how SW became a he is beyond me) and is expecting the grisly scene when she arrives at Grandma’s.

I confess, I have no idea what point the author was trying to make in this story. I found the needless sub-plots , the Snow White character, unexplained references to anarchistic events, grisly scenes of violence , to be distracting and head-scratching to their relationship to the rest of the story. Particularly puzzling was the ending. It alluded to a larger backstory. Instead of a creepy ominous feeling of dread I think the author was after, it left me shrugging my shoulders in indifference.

 

Helping to fertilize a grass roots movementâ€

If there is a person who has the capability to generate a buzz via the web in the closed universe of speculative fiction writing, that person would be John Scalzi. If you don’t know who he is, then you don’t read enough science fiction. His acclaimed novel, Old Man’s War has been in every Best Science Fiction Novel list I have taken the time to read. His latest novel, Redshirts, debuted at number 15 on the New York Times hardcover fiction best sellers list. To list all his accomplishments would likely force Dave to get out his scissors and preform a rare edit for one of my reviews. So to summarize, John Scalzi is one popular guy.

His blog, Whatever, gets a lot of web traffic (as Diabolical Plots once discovered a couple of years back in a redirected link from Mr Scalzi, thank you very much, sir). With a daily visitor rate in the neighborhood of 50,000, John has been all too willing to share his vast network of followers for the up and coming writers. One way he has done that is with an Award Awareness Post. For two years running, he has given authors and editors the opportunity to promote their works for consideration for the Hugo’s. The thread is very long (205 comments) but I was delighted to find a good 7 or more authors mentioning their Daily SF stories as candidates (some of them I felt were worthy). At the tail end of the long lists of posts, you will find DSF editor Jon Laden’s own list of stories he felt were deserving.

Did any of them get nominated? Sadly, no, however, making the long list for Hugo’s Best Semipro Magazine, was Daily Science Fiction. Although it only garnered 5% of the vote, it beat out several publications that made the short list in the past. Not bad for an often ignored , but innovative , email publication.

Thanks to the voting members who wrote in the magazine. Hopefully, they’ll get DSF to crack the top five next year (not an easy feat when you see who they’re up against). And hopefully, Jon and Michele will make the editor’s category next year.

Have you ever watched an old Star Trek episode and thought it would suck to be the guy wearing a redshirt on an away mission?

John Scalzi’s Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas is a novel for you. This New York Times bestselling ‘soon to be classic’ is a tale of a young redshirted ensign assigned to the Intrepid, where wearing the redshirt on an away mission is a death sentence. To learn more, visit macmillan.com