Daily Science Fiction: October 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

No need to chatter on in an intro today. Instead, why don’t you enjoy our insights for Daily SF‘s October tales.

 

Space Mama by Karen Heuler (debut 10/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is written in a series of short humorous articles similar to Dear Abby – in space. This isn’t a traditional story, as you will discern quite quickly.

Read this if: You’re up for some micro-stories (They really are quite clever). If you want bits-o-humor. If you only have a few minutes. (Keep it up on your phone and read a few as you go.) Or you wonder what people’s personal problems might be like five hundred years from now.

 

Willy by Deanna Kay Morris (debut 10/2 and reviewed by Frank D).

Willy is a janitor who has lost his arm. The missing appendage doesn’t mean his career is over, however. A small vacuum is put in its place. The replacement allows him to keep his job, and advancement is possible, as long as he doesn’t mind an upgrade or two.

“Willy” is a tale where workers are faced with choices , if you want to benefit in this society, you must be willing to make sacrifices. The subtle moral was not lost on me.

 

A forgotten school girl has attached herself to Connor. In Echo by Alexander Grunberg (debut 10/3 and reviewed by Frank D), Connor picks up a pencil that has fallen under his desk and hands it back to its owner , the girl seated behind him. The brief encounter has left an impression on the poor girl. She loses herself, completely, and becomes Connor’s shadow.

“Echo” is a tale of wanting. The girl has become somewhat of a soul mate of Connor, except Connor doesn’t wish to reciprocate her desire. The shadow accompanies him through life and is a nuisance at first. An elder Connor discovers he has come to need his permanent shadow.

I would describe this tale as a flashback love story (going to trademark that term). I liked it.

 

Superhero Art by Cat Rambo (debut 10/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

Rarely do we see superheroes during downtime. Let’s face it: without super villains, is there much for a hero to do? But what if they had the same problems we did, and what if they cheated on their wives?

Cat Rambo takes us on a disturbing journey through the lives of several superheroes through the eyes of a biographer. What he sees isn’t always pleasant, but for us readers it’s always interesting. Note: Heed the Editor’s note on this one. There’s quite a bit of salty language and explicit situations.

 

The Frog Prince by Jonathan Vos Post (debut 10/7 and reviewed by Frank D), is another take on the ‘princess kisses enchanted toad’ fairy tale, technically speaking. The protagonist contemplates her upcoming nuptials to a less-than-bright prince when she encounters a frog with an equal intellect as herself.

This tongue-in-cheek retelling of a popular tale has two characters that use scientific jargon to converse. I pictured Sheldon Cooper and his girlfriend Amy (of Big Bang Theory) in the roles as I read it. Neat.

 

Parents that are willing to sacrifice for their children leave an even greater burden on their offspring in The Perfect Coordinates to Raise a Child by Barbara A. Barnett (debut 10/8 and reviewed by Frank D). Stacie house-hunts in a neighborhood where all the children excel. All it takes is a small self-sacrifice , such as a body part , and your child will be a genius. The association representative conducts a tour with her brilliant daughter, Rosalie: a child who can relate the precise coordinates of any location. Stacie worries what she will need to lose for the sake of her unborn child until Rosalie offers her the coordinates of a house where Stacie should raise her baby.

“The Perfect Coordinates” is a tale of parental ambition. The people of the home owners association sacrifice an extraordinary amount for the sake of their prodigy children without realizing what their kin lose in the process.

A delightful tale. An excellent metaphor on vicarious aspirations.

Recommended.

 

Revenge is a complicated dish to create. Gather Your Bones by Jenn Reese (debut 10/9 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale narrated from the perspective of a witch. Her latest client is broken-hearted and seeks emotional restitution. The protagonist examines her client’s memories and asks for the items that defined their relationship.

“Gather Your Bones” is a story narrated by a witch who delights in her client’s bitter mood. The protagonist savors in the man’s thirst for revenge against his former lover. The story makes me grateful that a witch like the protagonist does not exist, because I could see such an evil woman enjoying a thriving business from an abundance of customers. An excellent tale, wonderfully told.

Recommended.

 

Chronology of Heartbreak by Rich Larson (debut 10/10 and reviewed by Frank D).

Time-traveler preempts a nasty breakup. Very brief and a bit cryptic.

 

Every person has a hero hidden within, and a villain bursting to come out. Doomsday Will Come With Flame by Anaea Lay (debut 10/11 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a brave inventor whose exploits earned him a spot among Earth’s greatest heroes. The protagonist is the only one capable enough to counter the evil Maligno’s carnivorous flying monkeys. The Vigilance League is fighting a losing battle until a new mysterious hero, named Ti, appears to save the protagonist and stop Maligno for good. She has a soft spot for the protagonist inventor, but has a hidden agenda that makes her far more dangerous than a dozen supervillains.

“Doomsday” is a tale of deceit and attraction. Ti is nothing like a hero. Her supernatural powers are beyond superhuman. The heroes of the Vigilance League are in over their heads and only the unassuming inventor has any chance of stopping her. But the man never really wanted to be a hero, and Ti is one woman who can offer him something different.

As a person who has had a chance to view many of Anaea Lay’s works before they had the chance to see the light of day, I confess I marvel at her ability to write wonderful and brilliant short stories. This one, however, left me confounded and confused. By her explanation for her inspiration for this piece, it appears this is one tale that got away from her and turned into something she never planned. If so, the story itself serves as a metaphor on her own writing process. Well done?

 

Conjugation by Rich Kloster (debut 10/14 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

I led her through my cities, slowly, saving the best for last: Berlin in the old Weimar Republic. We walked through the park, stood on the bridge and stared in the black water. Then we made love. When it was time, and the keepers had come, we bartered: exchanging memory and sensory feelings with each card we passed between us. And when she was gone I met with Sidra. Her exchange with Maia’s partner had also been successful, if more practical. “You liked her.” Sidra said. “Yes, humans can be very interesting,” I said.

I found this story a little predictable and a little confusing at the same time. The author does a good job of creating characters you can relate to, however I never got a real sense of what their motivation was for what they were doing. Did they lack the ability to really develop their own feelings, or was this like an exchange of ideas for some kind of pleasure-seeking exercise? Others seemed to have liked it more than I did, so if you are into existential metaphors check it out.

 

Home Invasion by Steve Rasnic Tem (debut 10/15 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

The two officers at the door looked skeptical. Maybe it was the rundown neighborhood. Maybe it was the lateness of the hour. Perhaps it was the aluminum shorts Clarence had fashioned for protection. He didn’t mind their doubts, he been laughed at before – which he might have taken better if it hadn’t been his analyst doing the laughing. Clarence is being invaded by small aliens, or thinks so. But just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

I really liked this story. An interesting take on the old premise of: what if those that we think are crazy are the ones that are really sane? The author does a good job of putting us in Clarence’s shoes with humor and empathy. Give this one a read and you’ll have a better day. Unless, of course, you start to notice some smaller pieces of aluminum that seem to constantly be out of place.

 

Negative Space by Antonia Harvey (debut 10/16 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

It took a long time for Lucy Morgan to die. Hers was an unremarkable death, a slow unraveling skin and synapses that left nothing behind but dust and the lingering scent of lavender. It began that morning in the shower, when she noticed that her idle fancies were slowly being washed down the drain. On the way back from the store her sense of perspective sloughed off like a snakeskin and formed puddles in the street. At work the photocopier was clogged by dark hair and the memories of her father.

This short story is very long on metaphor, but it was a little too esoteric for me. The author is very creative in the use of symbolism to intertwine the physical and the metaphysical, but for me it was just one long series of metaphors. The author appears to be more interested in demonstrating their mental capacity than keeping the reader interested.

 

Crisis on Titan by Powers-Smith (debut 10/17 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

“Now we switch to Shavonne Robinson for a report on the Quality Mining Company disaster on Titan.
“Thank you Janet, the disaster that has claimed the lives of seventeen hundred†”
“That would be 2350, Shavonne”
“What?”
“We hadn’t counted the families of the miners lost.”
Bottom third scroll: [Death toll on Titan nears 3,000]
“Oh,..”
“You’re sure we will be able to see the moon, Jupiter is awfully far away.”
“It’s Saturn, Janet, and yes we should be able to see the moon in this quadrant. The fire has ignited the methane lakes so it should be quite visible.”

This story is done as a mock newscast with both the talking head and the supposed science “specialist” demonstrating a unique lack of knowledge about the disaster taking place. The story highlights the premise that even though we may progress technologically we seem to be regressing intellectually as a species. The author does an excellent job of drawing out this premise throughout the story. He also focuses on the parochial nature of the species with the ending. Well done and well worth the read.

 

In Another Life by Kelly M Sandoval (debut 10/18 and reviewed by Frank D).

Clara lives another life. She slips into an alternative reality where another Clara didn’t drive away the love of her life. Slipping is dangerous, but she isn’t like others who have destroyed their brains, lost in a world that isn’t theirs. Clara slips as a validation that her life with Louise isn’t over. She just needs to show Louise the other reality, and prove that they were really meant to be.

“In Another Life” is a grass-is-greener tale. Clara is obsessed with Louise, and addicted to her alternative life. Her psychologist isn’t fooled by her lies. Louise (her Louise) has moved on. Clara believes her alternative self is living her dream life.

This story is interesting with a finale that is very fitting. Nice twist.

 

One by Sinead O’Hart (debut 10/19 and reviewed by Frank D).

The protagonist of this overcrowded dystopia future is a school-aged girl named Unubert, adapting in a cold, only-child society. Her mother has awakened ill. Her father is annoyed while young Unubert has a slight concern that her Mum will be decommissioned. Decoms are bitter but a part of life. After all, there is only so much room in the world, and in a family member’s heart, to spare.

“One” is a tale that serves as an entertaining commentary on the one-child policy some eastern nations have adapted. The world in which Unubert lives is hard and unforgiving for the unwanted. Ms O’Hart brings to light the drawbacks of allowing only a single child in a family, and of the detriment to the women of such a policy. Well done.

 

Flying Matilda by Gio Clairval & Cat Rambo (debut 10/22 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Every time they saw the apparition it meant more acrobats would die; the shimmering glow forcing them to unhitch their harnesses and crash to their deaths. The headlines read, “Pale Glow, The Merciless Killer”; and “The Man of the Mist won’t stop until all the Acrobats are dead”. Hunts were commissioned, all failed. Then she came along and took the job. She alone was impervious to his will. All the hunters and acrobats around her fell to their deaths, she unhooked herself and floated out to meet him at the top of the tent.

This story is a fantasy set around a world that lives within a circus. The authors did a good job of setting up their reality and creating a conflict, it just wasn’t enough to draw me in. They had a decent enough premise, that of the interplay between humanity and artifact, but for me it was too obscured by the fantasy of the world they had created. Fantasy lovers should enjoy the tale though.

 

Nesting by Mariel Herbert (debut 10/22 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

I was on my third drink when she walked in the bar. “Is that what I look like?” I thought to myself. All long legs and desperation she melted into the chair next to me. Some small talk and we ended up in bed for the night. The next morning was all too familiar. After my shower I was prepared for the standard “Good-bye” speech, but she surprised me and asked to stay and share the apartment. “I could take some of your clients. They’d never know it wasn’t you.” So after some discussion we embarked on a new life, the two of us.

This story asks the question, “Can robots of the same sex find true love?” I thought the author did an excellent job of setting up both the reality and the premise as he rolled out a somewhat tilted noir scenario. The old veteran takes the younger novice home, only to fall in love with her. The homosexual overtones aside, I thought she did a very good job of conveying both context and subplot throughout the story. Nicely done. Not for everyone, but worth the read.

 

A series of simple questions are the theme of this un-simple title in 36 Interrogations Propounded by the Human-Powered Plasma Bomb in the Moments Before Her Imminent Detonation by Erica L. Satifka (debut 10/24 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this list compiled story is of a human altered into a weapon. The questions are aimed at a benevolent alien species. No answers were forthcoming.

Hmmm. I somehow expected a different outcome.

 

A woman travels back into her memories to visit her younger self in Time Travel, Coffee, and A Shoebox by Nina Pendergast (debut 10/25 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is about to make history as the first woman to experience simulated time travel. The journey is to broadcast as a reality TV program. Upon seeing her younger self, the protagonist realizes some things are just too precious to share.

“Time Travel” is a tale of rediscovery. The visit, although only a simulation, is nevertheless real to the protagonist. She revisits dreams she had long forgotten and examines past concerns that seem silly now. The visit for her is like meeting a departed relative. I found the story sweet and enlightening.

 

Irresistible offerings in rare vending machines tempt three men in Cuddles by A. A. Lowe (debut 10/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Genetically altered pets are the desire of one character in this odd premise. The men search old motels in hopes of finding a kitten.

Strange piece.

 

A customer awaits the final delivery for a desirable package in Lost in Transit by K.B. Sluss (debut 10/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Body parts arrive by mail, one package at a time. The protagonist’s excitement grows as her product is assembled. One last delivery , the most important part , is expected, but alas, it never arrives.

“Lost in Transit” is a neat little tale. Shocking that such a complete and stimulating tale was written in the frame work of a flash tale. Very well done.

 

A daughter visits her intrusive mother in The God of Rugs by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 10/30 and reviewed by Frank D). Karen rarely visits her Mom. The rugs in her place have a mind of their own, limiting Karen’s freewill without consequences. A throw rug gets a little intimate with Karen when her mother leaves the room.

I found this piece to be a little weird.

 

A grieving spouse is willing to pay a magicians stiff price to resurrect their better half in The Bestowal of the Magician by Tianyue Zhang (debut 10/31 and reviewed by Frank D). The husband of a departed mate has pawned much of their belongings to finance a necromancer’s fee. His wife won’t remember much, which will be a shame because the final price to bring her back is great indeed.

I found this story clever but predictable.

 

A million and three-hundred and thirteen

storySouth’s Million Writers Award has published their winners for 2013. Sadly, none of the Daily SF tales were in the running but several DSF authors did make their short list. storySouth will be accepting nominations for their 2014 awards very soon. We at Diabolical Plots will be providing our own best of 2013 DSF tales in the coming weeks. Please give our suggestions a look and consider them as your nominee for the award.

We would also like you to consider our own prolific David Steffen for the awards honor as well. 2013 has been a banner year for him, his work appearing in nine publications over 2013. Most of them were flash fiction publications, which aren’t eligible for the award, but his story “Could They But Speak” published at Perihelion is eligible.

Million WritersEach year, the Million Writers Award offers prizes to the authors of the winning story, a runner-up, and an honorable mention. These prizes are possible thanks to your generous support. Please click on the donate link below to offer your support. Donors have the option of being listed on the Million Writers Award Page or remaining anonymous. Donations are not tax-deductible. Except for the small percentage collected by PayPal to facilitate the transaction, all of your donation goes to fund the Award.

For additional questions or inquiries about the Million Writers Award, contact storySouth editor Terry Kennedy at terry@storysouth.com. For general updates about the award, be sure to check out storySouth.

Daily Science Fiction: June 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Did you contribute to Daily Science Fiction‘s Kickstarter campaign? If so, thank you very much. They made their goal with room to spare. That means the daily emails with delightful and never-read-before work of science fiction and fantasy will continue. Did you catch all that June had to offer? If not, this is what you missedâ€

 

“Pictures in Crayon” by Elizabeth Shack (debut 6/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) takes place in a far-future, dystopian world where the earth is dying, and children are taken off-world via a lottery drawing. The narrator wants to see other stars, wants to get off earth, wants to live, but she’s not the only child in her family.

I thought the ending was somewhat predictable, however, it was no less enjoyable, and melancholy.

 

“Note to Self” by Hans Hergot (debut 6/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) starts in such a humorous way that I was expecting a continuous laugh riot. However, the story turned sentimental and became the best of both worlds.

Thomas’s future self has won a time-travel contest in which he’s allowed to write six words to his past self to be delivered at a particular time. (Which isn’t fully explained, but doesn’t really matter.) I won’t spoil what the six words are, because what they mean is greater than what they say, which is what makes this story so great.

 

“Three Wishes” by Melissa Mead (debut 6/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

In another delightful, twisted fairy tale from Melissa Mead, a golden coyote is stuck in a trap and thus rescued by a simple woodcutter. The woodcutter is given three wishes and mistakenly, and humorously, wastes the first two. His wife lets him have it for his foolishness, but demands the third wish be saved for something wholly selfish. She is a good wife. However, (spoiler) the woodcutter’s second wish absolutely needs to be undone.

This story, aptly, comes with a twist you might expect from a three-wish story. The twist, however, has a lot of heart.

 

“True Love” by Alex Shvartsman (debut 6/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

At Temporal Excursions, Inc., you can step inside the mind of a past figure and experience their lives precisely as they did, minute by minute, in only an hour.

Molly seeks the experience of pure love. The kind, she says, that just isn’t seen around. However, she is repeatedly discouraged by the real lives of Helen of Troy and Cleopatra. Apparently our history books aren’t as accurate as the true day to day lives of these historic women.

But after each disappointment Travis, an employee of Temporal Excursions, is there to listen just as he is there to plug Molly back in during each subsequent visit until. Through with the past, Molly just might have discovered something of interest in her present.

 

“The Ships That Stir Upon The Shore” by Rahul Kanakia (debut 6/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

In a future where the earth’s temperature is a deadly problem, people have been relegated into domes to survive. (However, this is not the focus of the story.) A broker of homes’ possessions sets his sights on a wealthy home whose owner is still alive. In the hopes that everything goes according to plan, based on past performance, he brings his family along to assist in the transition between the previous owner and them.

At first I was confused. The world made a lot of assumptions that I knew what the heck it was talking about. Then it settled into its story and I was sucked in – completely. What unfolds is as heartwarming as it can be in this quite dystopian future. I wished for a little more set-up regarding the change of heart. However, I still feel this is a top-notch story.

 

Simon gets an awesome gift that will spare him from pain in Jumping Into The Sky” by Samantha Murray (debut 6/10 and reviewed by Frank D). Grandma had finally sent Simon a birthday gift worth using: invulnerability cream, good for one day. He always wanted to jump off a cliff, remembering the look on Laura’s face when he backed out on a dare from before. The cream grants him the courage to dive ahead; an easy thing to do when the consequences are eliminated.

“Jumping” is a tale for those who wished they could summon courage from a jar. This predictable storyline has an unpredictable finale. The side effect was logical, but unforeseen. Well done.

 

A miracle drug promises to cure everything in Curing Day” by Dustin Adams (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a nine year old boy centuries old. Pathway is a miracle inoculation that fixes all but erases memory. Shamus is one of the few who retains his memory. He alone sees the decay and remembers the ones who have died from accidents. The world is slowly falling apart and he alone can remember the slight changes of the effects disrepair.

“Curing Day” is a story I read in an infant draft. This final draft is a testament on how much work it takes to turn a good idea into a marketable story. Loved the concept of this piece , a world that decays while a society is locked in a pharmaceutical induced amnesia. Well done, my friend.

 

A bullied boy seeks sanctuary in his City of Chrysantemum” by Ken Liu (debut 6/12 and reviewed by Frank D). Bobby is a target of bullies. The small boy is tormented and beaten daily. On the pages of his art and in the corner of his mind he imagines a prince like himself in a city where boys aren’t forced to fight and are free to live in peace.

“Chrysantemum” is a fantasy only in the mind of the author’s protagonist. Bobby has a tale so many can identify with. His school is his dungeon. His two classmates are his predators, seeking him out so they can dish out their sadistic punishment for their own pleasure.

“Chrysantemum” is likely the least speculative story DSF has ever published. The tale is sad because there is too much realism in it. Bobby is not just a victim of cruel kids who say hurtful words that will inflict harm on his confidence. He is practice for future felons earning their own education in what should be the safe confines of a public institution. Bobby’s make believe kingdom serves as is his sanity’s refuge, his way of coping in his adolescent hell.

If you are sensitive to children being abused, avoid this tale. But in my opinion it is a story we should all read.

 

A superhero finds her rival, friend, and lover in Dark, Beautiful Force” by Jessica May Lin (debut 6/13 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a defender of justice who competes with another hero. The two develop a relationship as they battle the forces of evil and become intimate. The battle between good and evil will always carry on, regardless of the obstacles in life.

“Dark, Beautiful Force” is a tale of an extra special woman and her soul mate. The powers of the characters are unknown and the villains they fight are faceless. The struggle in this tale is of the inner turmoil the protagonist battles as she first competes than falls in love with her rival. The protagonist loses her unborn child while battling a vague antagonist. The loss leaves her hollow inside, and her depression drives a wedge between the two heroes. Her soulmate hatches a plan to save her from herself.

The vagueness of this superhero tale robs the story of its superhero flavor. The story almost could have been told without superhuman powers. The only fight that matters , to the protagonist and the reader , is the battle our heroine had with herself from the start. The plan her lover hatches (I would imagine) would do the heroine more harm than it could possibly do good. For all its vagueness, I found this tale nevertheless enjoyable, despite its dark conclusion.

 

“I’ll Leave The Light On” by Patricia Russo (debut 6/14 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Dahyana found the boy throwing rocks at a stop sign. She recognized him immediately by the glow. Mrs. Miller told her she would recognize them, and she had because they were like her. She took her time slowly developing rapport, drawing in the angry young man. He would always be angry until she could bring him to others like her. Bring him in, train him, teach him; only then can he fulfill his purpose.

I found the writing in this one a little uneven in spots, particularly the opening paragraph. If you work your way past that particular sandbar, you will find an intriguing story about people that live among us, but have a very different reality. I would encourage you to put in some extra effort and give this story a try.

 

“The Silver Witch” by Tara Calaby (debut 6/17 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

When Rosalind was discovered straddling Leda the townspeople knew she was a witch. When the miller (whom she had rejected), the priest, and Leda’s betrothed testified they were sure. The decision was made. Rosalind must die to cleanse Leda’s soul of her spell. But when they tried to carry out the sentence the townspeople discovered something about the power of love.

This story is well written and gives us something to consider about how and who we fear in the world. It does so with a twist that that shows us even more. It also says something about the power of love. Give it a try.

 

A priest is sent to hell to find a man among the damned in Holy Diver” by Gra Linnaea (debut 6/18 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is chosen by God to find a single soul in the fiery pits of hell. God had him sacrifice himself so he would gain entrance into the underworld. Hell is like a prison, priests are singled out , as if they are criminals who have committed a crime judged too heinous even for the fellow prisoners to accept. The protagonist learns to adapt in hell, as he searches for a man God so badly wants him to find.

“Holy Diver” is so much like a war story. The protagonist is on a mission in enemy territory. He knows nothing of the man he is searching for or the reasons why God wants him to find him. He is just a loyal soldier in God’s army and does not question his unknown orders.

I found “Holy Diver” to be an extraordinary and risky tale. The mystery of what the damned priest could be looking for , and the landscape of hell he walked through – had me hooked from the start. The answer to this mystery was a stunner. A warning to the faithful: the twist to this story you may consider blasphemous, so you may want to avoid it. I, however, loved the direction and the implications of the finale.

Recommended.

 

The Big Bad Wolf plans a big meal in Big Bad’s Hot Date” by Melissa Mead (debut 6/19 and reviewed by Frank D).The wolf of “three pigs” fame, plans a nice pork roast for his date. The trick is getting the slippery porkers to join in the meal. Thanks to his ingenuity, and the pigs’ predictable pattern, his date is destined to turn out just fine.

Inventive take on an old classic. I liked the way Ms Mead’s devious mind thinks. Well done.

 

Part of an immortal conscience faces irreversible death in Restorative” by Andy Dudak (debut 6/20 and reviewed by Frank D). The 3877th instance of Fingal Boyd is told he cannot rejoin the collective conscience because he has been inflicted with a virus. His shell, or ‘meat puppet’ , a man named Ciaran who has whored out his body, reflects with bitter irony that they will die together. Regret fills 3877 as death nears. He has never cared for his host body before, but weighing your actions of your life , and how they affected others , is a new experience for the greater being of Boyd.

“Restorative” is a tale set in a repressive society. Although the story is too short to fully explore the ramifications of a conscience impressing itself into one of the downtrodden, the plot to this piece centers on one part of a split being abandoned by its greater self. The vessel 3877 has occupied was once its own person. Ciaran had sold himself to be used, and abused. Now used up, 3877 feels the consequences of what he has done to Ciaran, and 3877 does not like it.

My main complaint to “Restorative” is it was far too short. A far larger , and better , story was left untouched. A thought provoking story with a satisfying ending.

 

A grieving actress is asked to reprise a memorable role in While Memory Holds a Seat” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 6/21 and reviewed by Frank D). Rose is a member of a planet-hopping traveling theater troop. Dark and tragic events in her past transformed the once bubbly girl into a withdrawn and depressed woman. A decision of what to preform must be made for the troop’s next stop. Verna, her daughter, suggest they do ‘Beauty and the Beast’, and wants Rose to play Belle.

“While Memory” is a story about a woman who has condemned herself to her own hell. A tragic accident has left her hollow inside. The tale is mostly a mini-biography of Rose’s past. It is all a set up for climactic finale that was dulled by the lengthy and depressing backstory.

 

A couple attempts to rid their world of a pest in All Kinds to Make a World” by Georgina Bruce (debut 6/24 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist and his wife find a creature outside their home and do their best to kill it, but try as they might the little bugger refuses to die. They don’t give up at first, but in a weird Stockholm syndrome twist they come to adore the monster.

“All Kinds” is a strange story (I mean that with modest sincerity). Like the creature in the tale, I became endeared with it by the end.

 

Two young students pine for each other in Pinned and Wriggling on the Wall” by Usman T Malik (debut 6/25 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is spending one last evening with his girl, Sara , a med student with a talented hand for sketches that come to life. They are in love but her father makes it impossible for them to be together.

The subplot to “Pinned” is the two-dimensional beings that Sara has drawn in her notebook. One drawing attempts to escape while the protagonist makes a play for Sara’s heart. I confess, I did not connect the relevance and/or metaphor the author was seeking for this tale. I am afraid the story’s point was lost on me.

 

The innocence of youth can be quite tragic in Such Days Deserved” by Lee Hallison (debut 6/26 and reviewed by Frank D). Annie and her young friends have claimed the empty lot as their own. They have dug a hole and called it their fort. So when their fort is occupied by a strange – and scary looking – visitor from beyond, they react in a most human way.

“Such Days” is ET gone wrong. The opening paragraphs open with Annie and her innocent hopes as she stares up at the stars, which makes the gravity of what happens afterwards very shocking. I think the events of this tale would probably be the most likely outcome of a first contact scenario. I think the choice of using children made this worked best. Well done.

Recommended.

 

A soldier’s bid to fight repression crosses lines in The Frenchman’s Jihad” by JT Howard (debut 6/27 and reviewed by Frank D). Jean is part of an elite fighting unit combating the spread of contraband seed in the farming community. The son of a farmer cut down by thugs, Jean is happy he no longer works in the fields. His unit is out to stop the illegal seed trade, no matter what.

“Frenchman” is a tale set in a world of tyranny. It is a story where a soldier suddenly realizes he is on the wrong side. The author is an experienced warrior, and the tone and details shows the depth of his knowledge. “Frenchman” is a sci-fi war story very much like the speculative fiction tales told in the height of the Cold War. I found it to be crisp and compelling.

 

A sick woman exhausts the memories she stored for her daughter in Melancholia in Bloom” by Damien Walters Grintalis (debut 6/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Helen has a family heirloom for her daughter Rebecca: a magical box that stores memories. It is a treasure Helen found after her mother died, and in it, are the strips of cloth and the notebook her mother left for her explaining the magic of the box. For years, Helen has stocked the box with rose petals full of memories and a diary she has kept for Rebecca, but a debilitating disease has struck Helen and memories meant for Rebecca are the only things that keep her connected to this world.

“Melancholia” is a story told from two perspectives. From Rebecca’s point of view seeing her mother as a once lively woman now locked in a vacant shell, and from the words in Helen’s diary as she lives with the horror of losing her mind. Rebecca’s story is one that thousands of people could tell; the experiences of watching a loved one succumb to Alzheimer’s. Her mother is a woman who is lost to her; a walking catatonic, a parent who has left this Earth, yet still lives. The pain of viewing the vibrant woman she once knew now locked in a shell is too much for her to bear. Helen’s story adds an extra dimension to the tale. The magical box of memories is an heirloom passed down through untold generations. She found it after her mother passed away and discovered the gifts of memories inside. The rose petals she placed inside the box are memories she intended to leave her daughter, but the memory-fading disease that has her in its grip makes the temptation to re-experience what she lost to great for her to resist.

This story has a premise very much like Michael Haynes’s Scraps, but, where Mr Haynes’s piece was a tale of beautiful discovery, Ms Grintalis’s is a heart-wrenching tragedy. The two subplots of “Melancholia” complement each other. Helen is aware of the injustice she is doing to the boxes legacy and of the gift she is robing her own daughter, but the reader can’t blame her for it. Her written confession that choosing not to seeing a doctor when the first signs appear because it would ‘make it real’ is something we all can sympathize with. The recaptured memories allow Helen to be normal once again, even if it is for a brief moment. They keep the disease at bay, but the memories she has stored , and meant for Rebecca to experience , are finite in number and will be gone once spent.

I wondered when I finished this tale if Daily SF was Ms Grintalis’s first choice to publish her story. I’d imagine that a good many publications would have told her that it wasn’t right for them; a modern fantasy, short in length, a quick narrative and , most of all , an ending that was anything but happy. Not quite dark enough for a publisher of horror but the complete absence of cheer would have likely disqualified it for a bunch of publications and that is too bad. The early speculative fiction TV classic 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.

“Melancholia in Bloom” is a dynamite work of art. From its aptly named title to its somber finale this is a tale worthy of remembrance. Thank you Daily SF for delivering it to my email box.

Highly recommended.

 

And then there was oneâ€

On June 27th Dr. Steven Wittenberg Gordon announced on his writer’s blog , Songs of Eretz – that he would no longer be reviewing Daily SF on a regular basis. For an entire year, Dr. Gordon wrote a review of every DSF story the day it debuted , no small feat. His reviews were honest and thoughtful, and he didn’t miss one in all that time , including the ones that were written by the Diabolical Plots staff. And to prove we can take it, as well as dish it out, here is what he thought of our work.

“Coin Op” by David Steffen
The business-like, complete lack of emotional response from the android was amusing, as were its sexual extortion tactics. A snide comment at the end of story detracted a bit; there was a missed opportunity to make this a moral tale with a chilling (ahem) climax. 3 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

“This Is Your Problem, Right Here” by David Steffen
This story was revolting and hilarious at the same time. Original and memorable. 7 out of 7 rocket-dragons

“Curing Day” by Dustin Adams
There is certainly the grain of a great story here. I wish Mr. Adams would have provided some explanation for how the anti-aging drug works and why the side-effect occurs. The story is a little difficult to follow, but its original premise makes it worth reading. 4 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

“Fool’s Gold” by Frank Dutkiewicz
A good story, but the intellectual dialogue from the mouths of supposedly uneducated serfs was distracting. 5 rocket-dragons.

Dr. Gordon provided what I’ve been claiming Daily SF deserves from the leading reviewers of speculative fiction , insightful, thoughtful, and honest assessments of the works offered by one of the leading publishers of short, genre specific fiction in the industry. It is a disgrace that the recognized reviewers have been neglected by them and a shame Songs of Eretz will no longer picking up their slack. We will miss reading the doctor’s opinions.

But hey, if the good doc would like to keep a toe hold in DSF reviews, we would be happy to make room for him. I’ll keep your work load light, Steve.

 

MB_JLWhy are these two people so happy? Because you came through for them. The editors asked for your help in funding Daily SF and you didn’t disappoint. They met their goals with room to spare. On behalf of Jon and Michele, thank you for your support.

Daily Science Fiction: November 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Did you have a Merry Christmas? Have your holidays been happy? You have some down time you need to fill? Well curl up to whatever Internet access you use and click on Daily SF’s home page. It’s a perfect time to catch up on those stories you may have missed. For starters, try digging into these November jewelsâ€

 

Tsunami waves can’t wash away a man’s ties to his home in “The Tides” by Ken Liu (debut 11/1 and reviewed by Frank D). The moon’s orbit has altered, swinging it dangerously close to Earth. Its decaying orbit will eventually spell doom for the world. Ansa is the daughter of a grieving father. Enormous tides swept her mother away. Her father cannot evacuate the doomed Earth. He builds a tower out of the debris that is left on the shore. Ansa will not leave her ol’ man even when her prince has offered to whisk her away,

“The Tides” is a story about loyalty. Ansa’s father can’t bear to leave her mother behind but is aware that he is condemning his only child by staying behind. You usually can’t go wrong with a Ken Liu story but I felt this tale wasn’t his best effort. The premise, although sweet, I thought was flimsy (tower made of scraps holding up against a wall of water?) and the ending unsatisfying.

 

Papa has lost himself in “Ansa and the Lost Things” by Sophie Wereley (debut 11/2 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist and her sister, Ansa, become worried when their forgetful father leaves the house and hadn’t returned. The stress is too much on her mother. Migraines from coffee and worry have consumed her. The two sisters hatch an elaborate plan of trapping a unicorn in hopes of it solving their family’s problem.

“Ansa” is a story too odd for me to accurately describe. Without the magical element, this story would be about two children raised in one seriously dysfunctional family. In short, it was too weird for me to fully appreciate it.

 

“Early Draft of Talking Points for the Sixth Emergency Broadcast with Editorial Suggestions by the Office’s Interns Bob and Isabelle” by Helena Bell (debut 11/5 and reviewed by Frank D). This humorous look at an emergency broadcast has two interns inserting their own commentary between lines.

“Early Draft” is just plain silly. The two intern’s comments reminded me of the old Sci-Fi channel show “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. Although amusing, I thought the tale would have been funnier without the pair’s annoying banter.

 

The future is not what you expected in “Since You Seem to Need a Certain Amount of Guidance” by Alexander Jablokov (debut 11/6 and reviewed by Frank D). This short tale is a message from the future. The messenger tells the reader that the future is better but dull. Not much to fear but they apparently don’t seek out adventure. The future in “You Seem” sounds like a nice place to retire but no place to have fun.

 

 

“Old Flames” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 11/7 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). The war is over. Gunthar sat in his chair and watched the fire; Ada was sewing, making a dress for their daughter. They recalled when they met, after another defeat for some, a victory for others. There will be a new ball, one for a new prince and a young woman hoping for a fairy tale ending.

This was a nice blend of fantasy and real world. The author gives the reader a new perspective in a well written story. I doubt I will ever watch a Disney movie the same way again. Definitely one to check out.

 

A crow carries on with his bioengineered life in “Nevermore” by Renee Carter Hall (debut 11/8 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a crow who once had a purpose that served man, but now man is no more, done in by their own means. The crow stays true to its ingrained habits and watches a dead city.

I found this tale to be curious but lacking sufficient content to make it satisfying.

 

A farming family holds tight to their way of life in “This Place From Which All Roads Go” by Jennifer Mason-Black (debut 11/9 and reviewed by Frank D). Mari is a young woman. She is one of the few who have elected to remain on the land to weave her magic. Many children leave the rustic lifestyle for the allure of the city, and the government has taken notice and is about to evict them out of their historical romanticized life.

“This Place” follows Mari through a summer of hardship, tragedy, and desire. Her family plays host for students who study their ‘primitive’ ways. Mari has little patience for them. She has a brother to worry about and a grandmother to mourn. Worse, the government aims to remove them from their land and drain whatever essence they have left. Mari dreams of the girl who she once loved and is intimidated by a student who has taken a shine to her.

As a former farmboy, I can appreciate the tale the author wove in “This Place.” I can see the parallels between this magical world and our own. Most of the students in this story treat the family as if they are an anthropological curiosity. The farm life is a hard one and the magic they weave takes their toll on them. It makes Mari a hard woman, so hard that getting through her exterior proves to be a task too great for many of the visiting students.

“This Place” is a long tale. The story is unraveled like a novel that was compressed in a compactor. Much happens in this one summer of Mari’s life. It is a difficult summer, even for a farmer. Calling the events in Mari’s life interesting would be an understatement but the laundry list of things that go wrong Mari are so much that they begin to feel like the author was piling on by the end. The author does her best to give this story a happy ending but the load of depressing material almost makes any attempt to end on a high note a lost cause.

 

Ancient stone circles have what Maggie has been missing her entire life in “Speed of Love” by Deborah Walker (debut 11/12 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this brief tale is a woman who hasn’t had much luck in men. The ancient stone circles have opened a gateway to another world. Men are coming, but you’ll need patience.

“Speed” is the story of a lonely woman finding love in a man half her speed. The men in this tale move at a snail’s pace. Maggie’s sister becomes upset with her when she discovers Maggie has taken up with a slow man. I must say I failed to see the appeal Maggie would have with a person stuck at a glacial pace. Equally, the tale itself failed to appeal to me as well.

 

Trolls, once mighty, and noble, and superior, have been relegated to employment as pool filters. The cast off sweat, grease, skin, and hair are enough to sustain trolls without breaking the long-standing pact of not eating humans. Oh yes, all this and more can be found in “This Is Your Problem, Right Here” by David Steffen (debut 11/13 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

The new owner of a public water park is surprised to learn she’s inherited the troll/filter who, having had nothing to eat for quite some time, has already digested the other members of his family. This is a particularly fun story that is easy and enjoyable to read. If you missed it when it came up as the daily story, go back, and have a look. Oh, and bring your copy of Wiccan Soup for the Troll.

 

Greg is “The Most Important Man in the Universe” by Joseph Zieja (debut 11/14 and reviewed by Frank D), and his mother couldn’t be prouder. He has returned to his homeworld, in orbit, where he speaks to mother via a viewable link. The plague has ravaged the planet, and only he can make the decision on what must be done.

This tale is about one cold man. He contacts his mom, for reasons I’m not quite clear about. “The Most” is an unemotional tale of an emotional moment. It has an obvious twist. Seeing it coming from a mile away dulled the climatic ending line. I don’t know if the protagonist was supposed to have feelings but his lack of them affected my feelings toward this story.

 

Poachers know the right bait is key to setting a good trap in “The Trap” by Steven Kahn (debut 11/15 and reviewed by Frank D). Bakti takes his young lover for the first time to his poaching traps. He is weary, the jungle is a dangerous place, but she is undaunted and eager. Besides, what is there to fear? They are, after all, the masters of the wild.

“The Trap” is a tale of two people guilty of crimes against nature. The author, however, does a good job of having them appear as something less than evil. Bakti is well aware that there is more to fear than a four-legged predator in the thick jungle of Borneo, but has completely underestimated on where he lies on the hierarchy of the food chain.

“The Trap” is named well. Like the protagonist, I knew there was more than a simple trap afoot but was still snared in the twist. I enjoyed the back and forth between the two characters and the delightful poetic justice finale. I am tempted to call the unexpected turn in events a cheat, but the grin on my face of getting blindsided tells me the twist in plot was well executed.

Recommended.

 

A colony is in danger of failure in “The Dying Season” by Gwendolyn Clare (debut 11/16 and reviewed by Frank D). Bennu’s Hollowheart trees are dying. They have been the colonists saving grace from Bennu’s harsh winters, but their death as the moon approaches its decades long winter will mean the colony will need to be abandoned when the mining ships arrive. Nicolai will not leave the only home she has come to know. She knows there must be a solution but can she find it in time?

“The Dying Season” is a science fiction mystery. Nicolai is sure her fellow humans are a factor on why the trees are sick. Sorting out all the variables makes it difficult for her to find the solution. Nicolai is not just combating a native life epidemic but an apathetic colony that has already given up. The harsh weather of the world will soon get worse as the moon will be locked in a synchronistic orbit behind its parent world. The scoop of the problem gets larger the further Nicolai digs. For as complicated as the circle of life for this world is, she can’t help but to feel an answer is within sight.

The author brings an ecological dilemma to life with intricate details of the problem Nicolai faces. It is both convincing and intriguing. The nice developing mystery, however, comes to a quick halt, deflating my growing excitement of the story. An ending that I found to be too pat and convenient left me disappointed. I thought the tale was shaping up nicely and felt it should have continued on. Perhaps a longer novella would have suited this storyline better? I don’t know, but “The Dying Season” ended up frosty and incomplete for me.

 

“‘You’re Heads,’ She Says. ‘You’re Tails'” by M. Bennardo (debut 11/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this tale is the boy toy of a scientist. Once, she decides between two men, different models of the same clone make. He always wins, the Head of an imaginary coin flip. “You’re perfect” she says, every time, but perfection has an expiration date, and another month goes by. Time for another coin flip.

“You’re Heads” is a story told from the perspective of man who is the property of a very fickle girl. You can suspect what the story, and its conclusion, will be early on but the author’s superior story telling leaves just enough mystery to carry the tale through. Good writing and intriguing premise makes this one of the best offerings of the month for me.

Recommended.

 

The protagonist makes a living as an irritant in “The Key to the Everything” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 11/20 and reviewed by Frank D). When different galactic species intermingle in close quarters, it becomes crucial for the servant help to keep their cool. The protagonist is a man who specializes on testing the limits of other people’s patience. His latest assignment is a bar with a large Rikrik clientele coming in. He is very good at his job, as is the bartender. Interrupting a Rikrik ritual is not always wise, especially when the bartender is so skilled with a ritual slicer.

“The Key” has a premise that was very difficult for me to buy. I found it hard to believe a client would want a man specializing in getting under the help’s skin to test their employees when they are busy with sensitive customers. Nice writing but story crosses the line of what I’m willing to believe.

 

A woman follows her mother down a dangerous road in “The Safe Road” by Caroline M. Yoachim (debut 11/21 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is on a path through eternity. She follows her mother while generations of her offspring follow behind her. The road is wrought with danger. Her mother tells her how to combat them and the protagonist passes the information down. Poisonous and surreal creatures attack them at every turn. Her daughter asks why they must destroy them, and for the first time, the protagonist wonders if there is a better way.

“The Safe Road” is a metaphorical tale. The generation before protects the one behind it, dealing with each threat harshly. The generation coming after seeks another answer. The message to this surreal story is a reflection of how we react to our own environment. An intriguing but odd tale.

 

A woman falls for a merman in “Homo Homarus” by Ellen Denham (debut 11/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a diver who finds a half-man, half-fish creature. She is taken in with him, convincing him to join her on land. The strange creature loses his fins and grows legs, but he is too much like a fish out of water. Before long, the protagonist realizes her mistake.

I am unsure if this was the author’s intention but “Homo Homarus” proved to be an excellent metaphor on fickle and hasty relationships. The protagonist is instantly attracted to the merman and must have him. The feelings are mutual but the poor creature has no idea what he is in for when he leaves the depths for dry land. With no ability to speak, and forced to live with legs he never had to use before, the merman soon becomes a burden. She commands him to return to the sea but doesn’t realize it may be too late for him to do so.

I couldn’t help but to feel the merman gave his all to this woman. He did all he could to make her happy but discovered he was a different creature in the end and incapable of giving her what she needed. Although the ending didn’t specify this, I believe the poor creature was just a victim of a broken heart.

 

Children of the apocalypse avoid the unseen danger in “A Wizard of the Roads” by Therese Arkenberg (debut 11/23 and reviewed by Frank D). One lonely boy and a wandering group of teenagers cross paths. Will believes he is a wizard. He can feel it in his bones. Jenna encourages her group to take in the isolated boy, as odd as the staff-carrying boy appears to be. The children avoid the empty homes and stick to the road, always on the move and on the run from what they do not know. Jenna can feel that Will can protect them, but her group’s leader, Royce, doesn’t want to take any chances.

“A Wizard” is a story suited for a young adult crowd. All the adults are gone. The homes are filled with empty dangers. No explanation of where everyone went or what the dangers are, are given to the reader. The children have become wanders, on their way to a roaming ‘Lord of the Flies’ existence. If this group of kids had any remorse for all the missing people, it apparently left them long ago. Jenna feels like an anchor attached to the troop, still feeling bad for not erecting a tent correctly the night before. She is immediately drawn to Will when they find him. Will is written as an oddball. He doesn’t miss his parents, even enjoying the alone time.

I felt there was much left to be desired reading “A Wizard.” The pacing was slow and the prose simple. Too many holes and unanswered questions were left on the table for me. 90% of the tale was nothing more than a bunch of kids on hike. I had no idea what the danger was, or if it was really a danger after all. Some sort of idea of what happened to everyone would have helped as well. I’m still not sure if the story was one about a future Merlin in the making, or about a group of superstitious kids putting their faith in a weird kid carrying a stick.

 

“Shattered Amber” by Mari Ness (debut and 11/26 reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this light fantasy falls hard for a new love. His new girl gives him a gift, a necklace with a fly encased in amber. The amber is warm, a reflection of her love for life. He wishes he could have given her a gift as meaningful.

“Shattered Amber” is a fickle tale about a fickle couple. Young love can be fleeting but can burn hot from first spark. The fly in the amber comes to life when his girl begins to drift, and becomes agitated with jealousy when the protagonist eye begins to wander.

There was much to like about this tale. I found the amber idea intriguing and the ending fitting, but the story – a boy meets girl , was a bit light in content.

 

Nothing will stop the show from going on, even the end of the world in “The Show Must” by Matt London (debut 11/27 and reviewed by Frank D). Broadway carries on even when chaos is reigning in the streets. The world’s end is at hand, and like orchestra on Titanic’s deck, the actors and support staff perform for one last show.

“The Show” is a tale of a few who choose to face pandemonium with normalcy. The play is filled with capacity as an audience prefers to live their last minutes by viewing what made mankind great. The nature of Earth’s end is a mystery to the reader, but this is a tale where the ‘how’ matters little. A warm story. I rather liked it.

 

A doctors miracle cure proves to be a disastrous failure for an unfortunate soldier in “MiracleMech” by Tim Dean (debut 11/28 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is the creator of a medical nanotech technology created to save a soldiers life. The system proved to work well, saving the life of Private Hicks, the only member in an ambushed squad implanted with the advanced technology. The only problem is, the man retrieved is not Hicks.

I am just going to say it. This story was cool; a first class science fiction with a unique twist. The unlikely event told in this tale serves as a possible dilemma in our distant future. Nice idea, good sci-fi.

Recommended.

 

The bitter, remorseful, reflective, and smart alecs among us tweet their final thoughts in “Live-Tweeting the Apocalypse” by Ian Creasey (debut 11/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Six obsessive tweeters communicate as the world ends.

I am not much of a fan of Twitter, but of what I have observed, the characters are a fairly accurate reflection of the shallowness the communication fad attracts. I must say, if the end of the world were to come, I would sure hope no one would waste their time like these people had.

 

Infidelity and guilt consume two sisters in “Under a Sky of Knives” by Michele Muenzler (debut 11/30 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a woman who has betrayed her sister, Helene. A moment of passion overwhelmed her as she had fallen for Willem’s charm, her sister’s husband. She is forced to watch the replay of her indiscretion with her bitter sister. A scar on her hand, a knife wound from Helene, is just the down payment for her penance. The Anafeal’s mountain, the last stop for the ones consumed with grief, calls to her sister, and the protagonist will do anything to stop her and earn her forgiveness.

The protagonist in “Under a Sky” is an exhausted woman running on passion and guilt. Her affair with her brother-in-law weighs on her soul. Her sister’s scorn is more painful to her than the throbbing knife wound in her hand. Despite the regret from her betrayal, the passion she feels for Willem still leaves her weak in his presence. Fearful that her sister’s bitterness has driven her to Anafeal’s mountain, she runs to its slopes, only to discover the burnt remains of the gatekeeper’s homes. A wronged woman intends to climb the mountain to fulfill her destiny, and the protagonist will give anything to stop her.

In the author’s bio, Ms Muenzler states that her fiction†leans toward dark fantasy with a twist of new weird, and if nobody dies in a story, then it probably wasn’t written by her†“Under a Sky” fulfills that mission statement to a tee. The protagonist is a woman caught between an acrimonious sibling and her alluring husband. Willem is a cad, devoted more to his own selfish needs than his commitment to his own wife. The story runs on the grieved emotions of the protagonist. She has wronged her sister and only desires to earn her forgiveness, but Helene is in no forgiving mood. Blood from unforgiving family is the hottest, and the protagonist will need it to keep her warm as she pursues a bitter woman up the slopes of a snowy peak.

If uplifting is what you are after, steer clear of this tale. The story does indeed take an unexpected turn. The woman in this tale appears to leap after people fueled by passion, without looking to see where she will land. I found the writing first class. It was easy to identify with this woman’s dilemma , impressive considering I have never been a woman and don’t intend to be one in the future. For a tale of dark and depressing, I found it to be an enjoyable read.

 

 

Appreciating the appreciationsâ€

I was posed with the questionâ€

Why do writers review?

The question was framed as what good could it do for a writer to stick his opinions out there for all to see? After all, wouldn’t the negative (hurt feelings, repercussions, black listing) far outweigh any benefit for a reviewer? There is a simple answer to that question: writers deserve to know that their stories have been read.

An editor friend of mine boasted to me when his ezine reached its 2000th subscriber to his newsletter. His magazine is a free one, and writers are not required to subscribe to the newsletter to be able to submit to his magazine, but to participate in his mini-contest (and collect his little jewels of wisdom), you need to subscribe. So 2000 was a bit of a milestone for him, but he added at the end of his boastâ€

I wish I knew how many of them actually read the magazineâ€

As a writer, nothing tops making a sale. Seeing it appear in print , be it on paper or electronically , is a thrill like no other. But the elation you feel is quickly followed with doubt. Just because it is appearing for all to see and read, will any bother?

We at Diabolical Plots want all the writers (and its editors) to know Daily SF is not ignored. Sure, thousands of emails are sent out every day, but how many of them are deleted unread? And does anyone ever browse through the archives? To answer the second question, yes, someone does. As far as the first question goes, I don’t.

One of the reasons why we do such a thorough job , even for tales that are few hundred words in length , is so writers will know their story was read, not just looked at, but read.

Some writers have voiced their appreciation for the reviews, I would like to say thank you for acknowledging them. Seeing your comments on our comments (in your blogs, chat rooms, etc†), means a lot to us.

Keep up the good work.

Have a Happy New Year!

This is Anthony Sullivan, Diabolical Plots’s other editor. I have never met him, talked to him, seen him at the Christmas party, company meetings, at the coffee machine during break, outside the backdoor where the employees sneak a smoke, the cafeteria, mail room, parking lot, or in the lobby hitting on the cute receptionist like the rest of us do. I don’t know if he writes, reads Daily SF, reads at all, is aware of Diabolical Plots, or understands English for that matter. Truthfully, I’m not sure this is him or even if he exists at all (Dave has told me his salary eats up the company’s profits which is the reason why I haven’t received a Christmas bonus for the third straight year. Hmmmmm….).
Anthony is a person who we hold in the very high regard, one we usually reserve for icons like Bigfoot and Santa Claus. His is a very integral and valuable part of Diabolical Plots.

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

Daily Science Fiction: July 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Riddle time! Where would you find Shakespeare, Merlin the magician, the Green Lantern, time machines, aliens, dragons, dead worlds, the afterlife, creation and (most impressive of the bunch) is over 900 pages long? The answer is below…

 

A day of celebration is a bitter reminder for Ellen in “Man on the Moon Day” by Amy Sundberg (debut 7/2 and reviewed by Frank D). Today is the day when the neighborhood acknowledges favorite son, Rick Murray, one of the first colonists on the moon, father of the lovely Sarah, and the man responsible for making Sarah a single parent.

Man on the Moon Day” is tale of a wet blanket. Ellen is bitter. Her daughter idolizes the man who abandoned them. It is unclear the circumstances but it appeared that her pregnancy happened on the eve of Rick’s last days on Earth. What Ellen was hoping for from him is never explained but she seems to blame him for her current state of affairs.

 

An abused boy’s friend opens his eyes for him in “Suburban Pixies” by Story Boyle (debut 7/3 and reviewed by Frank D). Ben’s father has beaten him once again. India invites him over to her house and offers him a place to stay. Her house has its own protectors, and she has said only people who can use your real name can control you.

Suburban Pixies” is a story where the metaphysical is reality. Pixies fly about the yard like mayflies in the spring while other mythical creatures reveal themselves to Ben’s opening eyes. India shows Ben the world is not as it seems and only his perception governs what is real in his reality.

Suburban Pixies” is an escapist’s wet dream. India is a girl who refers to her mother by her first name. The horrifying looking pixies mean little to her. She claims people are less real because of the forces of electrons keep anything from coming into contact. We are mostly blank space. This claim is hollow when Ben has broken ribs from a father who has no trouble making ‘contact’ with a son who failed to make the football team. The lesson of this tale is if your reality is not how you like it, then reject it exists. Perfectly fitting for one who prefers fantasy over reality.

 

Tom is a careful man in “Too Careful” by Seth DeHaan (debut 7/4 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), he has to be if he is to survive. He is careful in his habits, meticulous in his precautions and thorough in his study of those around him. Returning from his monthly shopping trip his caution pays off, he detects the tell-tale differences in his neighbor Kyle. But his attack, meant to protect himself from those chasing him, only shows he is wrong in his assessment. Wrong again with tragic consequences.

The author did a good job putting us in Tom’s world. It isn’t a world of sanity, but one of paranoia. We feel Tom’s pre-occupation with his personal safety and his sorrow at being wrong again, at being too careful once more. There are a couple of syntax issues and a few constructions I found difficult to read, but otherwise a good story.

 

“X Marks the Spot” by Kat Otis (debut 7/5 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Ever since they found the map on the dead trapper, the one marking the site for the treasure, Ranulf has become more paranoid about it. When they reached the marked meadow Ranulf attacks his partner of five years to prevent him from sharing in the treasure. It is unfortunate when Ranulf is killed in the struggle that ensues. But when his partner gets a good look at the map, the X has moved to another spot, but it’s the change in appearance of the thing that is more disturbing.

Nice ghost story set in the old west of trappers and buried treasure. The history of the time is littered with tales like this, most of them tinged with truth. Every western town has a tale of its own Flying Dutchman Mine, and every one of these tales is just as intriguing as this one. A well told tale.

 

“Love, the Mermaids, and You” by Holli Mintzer (debut 7/6 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

After her graduation a girl visits a group of mermaids, her friends since the day she almost drowned some years ago. Since that event the mermaids have provided advice and help for the girl, advice that has helped her grow into the person she is now. With each life event changes come into the girls life. They have helped her through her parent’s divorce, school and now as she goes to college.

I really didn’t care for this story. Not that it’s written badly and not that I didn’t particularly not care for the subject matter, but it may be a little too gender specific. I didn’t ever really grow to like the main character or get that involved in her problems. It may be a story for someone else that is interested in the mermaids and their advice.

 

A wizard is dissatisfied with a “Disputed Delivery” by Alter S. Reiss (debut 7/9 and reviewed by Frank D). Sycorax the Dread’s order for basilisk hide goes horribly wrong when the delivery company drops off live monsters to his door. Complicating the matter, the delivery company still demands payment for the basilisks. Unable to reach an agreement, Sycorax settles the matter with an equal trade.

This is one of many tales at Daily SF I have had the pleasure to read before hand, a result of my good fortune of participating in Codex’s yearly Weekend Warrior challenge. I found “Disputed Delivery” to be a delight to read then, just as I do now.

Recommended.

 

The protagonist enters cyberspace to find her daughter in “The Most Complicated Avatar” by Mary E. Lowd (debut 7/10 and reviewed by Frank D). Daria is hiding from her father. It is the abusive man’s weekend with her and she doesn’t want to go. The protagonist is Daria’s mother. Unable to find her daughter in the real world, she searches the one place where she knows she can find Daria.

The Most Complicated” is a sign of things to come. Second World is Daria’s virtual reality escape. She has been building an avatar for herself in it. As her home life becomes more stressful, her avatar takes on traits to make her stand out. The protagonist, as many parents with today’s technology, is slightly out of her element in this virtual world, and finding Daria in there will not necessarily help her locate the scared child’s real location.

Ms Lowd deserves accolades for this inventive idea. Aside from a near future I find very likely, she examines the psychological eventuality young children will use with this ultimate form of escape. “The Most Complicated” is a story that could have ended very badly but I am one that was satisfied with the conclusion to this piece.

Science fiction shines when authors can show us a world that may yet come while exposing our own faults of our present. When this is achieved, writers win awards. By this definition, Ms Lowd deserves consideration for her efforts.

Recommended.

 

Happily Ever After rarely is in “Seven Sins” by Melanie Rees (debut 7/11 and reviewed by Frank D). A marriage counselor has a difficult job counseling fairy tales. His current clients, Mr and Mrs Charming, are having trouble getting along. With a lobby full of Disney characters, and a brewing headache, the protagonist is bracing himself for a very long hour.

Seven Sins” is a tongue-in-cheek look at what the ‘after’ in ‘happily ever’ is like. The story focuses on Snow White after her marriage to Prince Charming. The story pokes fun at the very nature of fairy tales. Amusing.

 

In “After the Earthquake” by Caroline M. Yoachim (debut 7/12 and reviewed by Anonymous) a young man goes to visit his grandmother after an earthquake and finds that some of the vases she stores her memories in have broken. In this story memories are liquid-like and can be stored in containers–she likes to store them in pretty vases. He sets about to help his grandmother rescue what he can, but she appears to be dementing, having lost so many memories.

I thought this was an excellent story. It was well-written, thoughtful, poignant and moving. What more can I say? Oh yeah…seven out seven rocket dragons.

Recommended.

 

An indentured servant is asked to betray her master in “The Suicide Witch” by Vylar Kaftan (debut 7/13 and reviewed by Frank D). Yim is a village mortician in the ancient Far East. Property of a warlord, she prepares the deceased souls for their afterlife. Her specialty is presenting those who have taken their own lives so their dead ancestors will not torment them for eternity. Her talents are necessary, but make her a pariah among her people.

The Suicide Witch” has a dual plot. Yim leads a solitary life. As a peasant girl of the streets, a suicide witch is about as good as it can get for her, but she is still the property of her lord. Then one day the duke’s son stops by to pay her a visit. Jiang Kai-hu is the lover of the girl his father has chosen for a wife. He plans on giving her a paralysis potion then whisking her away after her funeral. For his plans to work, he needs Yim’s cooperation. He offers Yim a normal life – normal for a back breaking peasant – and promises her an unbearable hardship if she refuses.

Yim is a woman who has accepted her life, then Kai-hu enters her world to disrupt it. He offers her freedom, but the privileged man born into wealth does not know what that word truly means to Yim. Yim’s resentment to the well off in society surfaces as she is forced into a plan that is all risk and little benefit for her.

The Suicide Witch” explores the life of a woman who has never had control of it. She has always been someone else’s pawn, and the love struck Kai-hu is willing to put the pawn at risk for his own selfish desires. Yim is left with few choices, as it would seem. The author works hard to make her protagonist seem reprehensible, yet sympathetic – a hard task to accomplish. It is difficult to pull for Yim, but knowing she is a woman who never had a chance to make a real choice in her life is enough to remain invested in her blight. For a story that looked like a viewing of an unwilling partner of deceit, I can say the ending to this tale had a delightful twist.

The Suicide Witch” is just the type of story the editors of DSF receive complaints for being ‘too long’. It is a tale that requires an investment for the reader to follow. But the depth of a character like Yim cannot be told in a flash sized tale.

 

The king has passed away and 13 maiden warriors in arms ride to Death’s Gate to ask the gods for his return in “The Cost” by Laura Anne Gilman (debut 7/16 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) . The king’s daughter pleads, but there’s no returning; so says the god/dog.

The first person narrator of “The Cost” might be considered the sidekick, until her lady is presented with a riddle only a loyal, loving companion can solve.

Fresh and tight writing, but unfortunately not an earth-shatteringly new idea.

 

“Broken Glass” by Jacquelyn Bartel (debut 7/17 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a story of a curious boy who gets an opportunity, through a genuine crystal ball, to witness his own future. It flashes through his mind in scenes that make him tremble and weep.

How would a child deal with adult themes being thrust upon him? Would there be any basis for understanding what he sees? Can he comprehend the emotions behind what he sees? I feel there’s a great set up for the answers to these questions, but sadly the story ends without having explored these theme as much as I feel it could.

Still an interesting concept, even if not fleshed out enough for my tastes.

 

“The Mechanical Heart of Him” by Cate Gardner (debut 7/18 and reviewed by Anonymous).

A woman and a man are in a failing relationship and “The Mechanical Heart of Him” by Cate Gardner (debut 7/18 and reviewed by Anonymous) charts the final few days of it. What is different is that the two people are members some unexplained fantasy version of humanity, made from cogs, strings and flesh. The emotional connections that people have to each other result in a tiny version of that person living within their body and affecting it–pulling heart strings. If they are in love with that person then the little version of that person lives close to their heart and may be quite large, etc. It all requires quite an explanation.

The actual story is simply about the break-up of this couple and how another woman has found her way into the man’s heart. I wasn’t particularly engaged with the story as I found all the emotion-made-literal a bit hard-work and the unfolding of the story a little predictable. The writing was nice, and the idea was novel but that doesn’t equal a great story. Four rocket dragons.

 

“The Power of the Cocoon” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 7/19 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Christmas is a sad time of year for Emma; the debris of shiny paper and ribbon reminds her of promises unfulfilled. The holiday reinforces she is not the most talented, smartest or best looking in her family. But this year her Grandma will provide Emma with special gift that shows her everyone has a talent that can make them special.

This is a story for all of us who think we aren’t the smartest or the most talented. Each of us has a special talent, if only we can find the right teacher and mentor. This is a nice little story with a nice moral undertone, if a little predictable. It carries the expected teaching point forward with deft writing and well drawn characters, but without the lasting impact that will stay with the reader long-term.

 

“Twenty Ways the Desert Could Kill You” by Sarah Pinsker (debut 7/20 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Her mother moved her to the desert from Baltimore, taking only what little they could carry. It was an “adventure”, Mother had said, but the girl knows it’s more. Mother has her telescope trained on a “star” that grows bigger each night. Why are they here? She thinks she knows, her mother is protecting her, but from what?

The author weaves the little tale of loss and loneliness between a list enumerating all the dangers in the little girl’s new world in the desert. The author does a good job of building the story of the girl and her mother while using the list of dangers to show the girl’s angst about living in a different environment. It was well done and has a nice air of suspense about it.

 

“Henry, Caesar of the Air, His Life and Times, or, The Book of Qat: Parts 1 – 5” by Lavie Tidhar (debut 7/23 – 7/27 and reviewed by Frank D).

The uturgurgur find a white giant of a man sprawled on the ground. They take the mysterious stranger to their village where he finally awakes. Henry is a man who has vague recollections of who he was – a man who once flew metal birds in the sky – but the memories are a like a dream, difficult to grasp and quick to fade. Like Gulliver, he finds himself in a strange place and he should beware because the land of Qat is filled with jealous and mischievous spirits.

Henry” is a story adapted to a Melanesian myth. Henry is a WWII pilot shot down on Vanua Lava, an island in the South Pacific. He finds himself in a mystical world where spirits transform from man to beast. Henry falls for one of these spirits, the wife of Qat, Iro Lei. He will need to battle and blend in with the creatures of this world to fight for his love.

Lavie Tidhar is a very popular author. His work has appeared in almost every meaningful publication that features fantasy, and he is one of the favorites of the editors at DSF. “Henry” makes his 7th appearance for Daily SF, and it is the publication’s first week long series. If any author deserved the honor of being a ‘first’, multi award nominated Tidhar would top the list. Clearly, he has an appeal to a large audience. Unfortunately, I am not one who finds his writing all that appealing.

I have been reviewing speculative fiction for the past three years for four different outlets. Lavie Tidhar is the author whose works that I have reviewed the most. My reaction to them range from lukewarm to meh. Usually, I find his tales have a fine craftsmanship quality to them, but the plots are, for the most part, incomplete. I have even passed some of his stories to my helpers, thinking perhaps it is all a matter of taste, hoping one of my crew would find the genius of his tales and show me the light. Alas, their reactions have been similar to mine.

Henry” is a departure from his other stories. It is written as a mythology. According to his bio, Mr Tidhar lived in Vanuata, which is how he likely became familiar with the South Pacific myth. The story is laid out just like a religious myth, reading as if it was translated from an ancient and archaic language, much like how the first half of Tolkien’s The Similarion is set up. And like a mythology, the tale lacks the intimacy to its readers that modern epics strive for. Everything is told from a distance, third hand, with glossed over descriptions to important details – battles, intimate moments, and such. It is difficult to get grounded into this tale, and often impossible to make heads or tails with what is going on. As a result, becoming invested in any of the characters proved to be too great of a task for me. I was grateful that the editors choose to break this up in five installments, I must say. Trying to take in “Henry” in one big bite might have been more than I could handle.

 

Clare yearns for a change in her diet in “Sweet as Peaches” by Shane D. Rhinewald (debut 7/30 and reviewed by Frank D). Her family lives on a constant diet of meat. At school, her friends will sometimes share their vegetables and fruit with her. Her parents can’t afford things like celery and apples. So if Clare wants fresh fruit, she’ll have to grow it herself.

The premise to “Sweet as Peaches” is based on an advancement in genetics. Meat is grown in a vat, quickly and cheaply, while the land to grow produce is expensive. Clare spends her hard earned allowance to buy a peach tree. As a child who was raised on a small farm, I could appreciate the trouble Claire had in trying to grow a peach. What she chose to do with the tiny fruit she raised made this tale one of the sweetest stories I have read on DSF yet.

Recommended.

 

“The Curious Case of Version 47.13” by Ekaterina Fawl (debut 7/31 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist to this tale is an android, a companion and servant for Jenny. He looks after her, in tune to her habits and whims. He is due for an upgrade to his software, but the version 47.13 has an error in it and now Jenny’s poor android feels broken.

The Curious Case” is a curious look at a future us. The android in this tale is something of a pet. It is loyal and concerned for its owner’s well-being. The software upgrade it has installed has given it the equivalent of an anxiety attack. Like a pet however, part of the android’s problem is Jenny’s own anxiety and how it feels powerless to fix it. I found this story to be sweet and possibly prophetic.

 

Over Salad and Soup…

Recently, I was very fortunate to be in Jon Laden’s neck in the woods. Since I didn’t get the chance to attend Worldcon, we decided a nice lunch at a local Panera Bread would suffice. We had a delightful conversation, and Jon hand delivered an astounding book that I already read before it made print.

Not Just Rockets and Robots is a collection of Daily SF‘s first year of publication. I took the time to reread a few of my favorite stories when I got back to my hotel. For substance, the book cannot be beat. Most of the stories are short, perfect if you need a quick bedtime story to tell little Suzy (although, I would heed the warnings headlining each one if you do intend to replace it with Mother Grimm). I can’t praise the content enough, and I would be redundant if I did so, but it wouldn’t be review outlet if I didn’t voice my complaints instead of keeping them to myself.

One thing I was sad to have seen missing is all the wonderful art. Aside from the cover, there are 11 months of brilliant and inspiring works of imaginative speculative scenery that didn’t make DSF’s first year collection. That is too bad because they were just as much a part of the publication as the stories were. I hope, if there is a year two collection, the next Daily SF to reach print won’t exclude them.

And since we are speaking of a year two, I would like to see a different type of break up in the material. Not Just Rockets and Robots is presented just as the publication was debuted, chronologically as they were sent out. I would rather see a break up in genres, as they are in archived on the publications web site. NJR&RII (try to figure that one out) would be nice if broken into 11 ‘chapters’ with an introductory work of art (from the year’s collection) heading off the chapter. Stories fitting the art’s theme (this could be tough) would follow. Of course, art work # 12 would be the cover of the book. I think mixing up the order of the stories would give it a refreshed look.

Jonathan Laden is one of the editors of Daily Science Fiction, publisher of the very heavy book you see, and the guy who created that very neat T-shirt. You can buy the book, but the shirt is the only one he has, at the moment. Bug him if you discover you can’t go on with life without one.