BOOK REVIEW: Corporate Gunslinger by Doug Engstrom

written by David Steffen Corporate Gunslinger is a science fiction action/drama novel by Doug Engstrom premiering this week with Harper Voyager. Full disclosure: Doug has been a friend for years and is a member of the same small writing group as me, this review was based on an advanced reader copy from the publisher. Kira … Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: Corporate Gunslinger by Doug Engstrom

DP FICTION #62B: “On You and Your Husband’s Appointment at the Reverse-Crematorium” by Bill Ferris

You place the urn carefully onto the examination table. The doctor opens the lid, takes a peek inside, sniffs a little. He nods, like he’s evaluating a new blend of coffee, then dumps half of your husband’s cremains into a big metal mixing bowl, the kind they had in the restaurant kitchen you used to … Continue reading DP FICTION #62B: “On You and Your Husband’s Appointment at the Reverse-Crematorium” by Bill Ferris

DP FICTION #60A: “Invasion of the Water Towers” by R.D. Landau

The water towers never showed up on film. That should have been a sign. In the before times, there were water towers on every rooftop. They were highly visible, distinct from the rest of the landscape, cylindrical bodies with conical heads and long spindly legs. Maybe if we hadn’t been so busy whining about work … Continue reading DP FICTION #60A: “Invasion of the Water Towers” by R.D. Landau

DP FICTION #58B: “The Problem From Jamaica Plain” by Marie L. Vibbert

I was waiting for the teakettle to boil, and the office wasn’t due to open for, oh let’s say three minutes. The phone blinked and I considered not answering, what with those three minutes of leisure ahead of me, but I needed every client I could get. I put on my phone voice and chirped, “Jasmine Alexa, Attorney at law.”

The voice on the other end trembled with fear and flat, Bostonian vowels. “I’m not shuh, but Ah think I might have killed someone.”

That was as good as a shot of straight caffeine. “Excuse me? Wait… right now?”

There was an unsettling long pause. “No?” It was a woman’s voice, rough and deep, but definitely feminine.

You are no doubt thinking exactly what I was thinking at this point: This person is a murderer. After years of handling divorces and wills, I was suddenly transported into an episode of Law and Order: Special Weird Calls Unit. 

Before my brain could decide if murderers paid well, my mouth said, “I’m sorry, this is a civil law office. I don’t do criminal cases.”

“Crap. Wrong number.” She hung up.

DP FICTION #58A: “Consequences of a Statistical Approach Towards a Utilitarian Utopia: A Selection of Potential Outcomes” by Matt Dovey

Maximised Total Happiness

Michelle smiled, exhausted, as her baby’s cry filled the hospital room. The lights above her were harsh and cold, and the sheets beneath her were tangled and scratchy, soaked in her sweat and stinking of iodine, but none of that mattered against such a beautiful sound. She heard it so rarely—just once a year.

“Congratulations, Mrs Bergeron,” said the midwife. “It’s a girl.”

“Oh, thank you so much! I’m ecstatic!” She looked over at Nathan, cradling baby Danielle face down in his strong arms. A Happiness Moderator stood by them, uniformed with the usual black suit and easy smile; he lined up a large needle at the base of Danielle’s skull and implanted the HappyChip with a swift movement. Danielle’s cries quieted, then turned to a happy giggle.

GAME REVIEW: Xevious

written by David Steffen Xevious is a 1983 vertical-scrolling top-down shooter arcade game published by Namco. In the game you have two weapons: a laser that fires straight forward that can destroy air targets, and a bomb that fires forward suitable only for land-based targets. As you travel through the level, other flying ships are … Continue reading GAME REVIEW: Xevious

DP FICTION #56B: “Save the God Damn Pandas” by Anaea Lay

My job? Purity shaming pandas. It’s great. You loom over a living, breathing, talking embodiment of the international fixation on world peace and you shout, “Why won’t you fuck, you lazy motherfucker?” And then you play them some porn. 

Okay, it’s not actually like that.

At all.

Really, my job kind of sucks.

DP FICTION #56A: “Tracing an Original Thought” by Novae Caelum

It’s like this: if the world has a food shortage, you eliminate hunger by leaving the planet, taking all your animals and plants in your genetic ark, and finding a new planet on which to grow and flourish. 

It’s also like this: if the world has a distribution of wealth crisis, you eliminate poverty by never having elites in your new society. At least for a little while. At least, that was the plan.

And if the world has a gender crisis, an inability for equality, you eliminate gender. 

DP FICTION #55A: “Empathy Bee” by Forrest Brazeal

I’m at the microphone for the first round of the 32nd Annual National Empathy Bee, and I can’t feel a thing.

*

ROUND ONE

Good morning, Alex. A man is sitting in a banker’s office. The banker says: “You have great collateral — I’ll give you credit for that.” Is this a joke? If so, why is it funny?

*

Press photographers in the front row dazzle my eyes with flashbulbs. The hotel ballroom stretches behind them, vast and dim, a fog bank of blurry faces. Mom sits somewhere in the audience, but I’ll never spot her with the naked eye from up here on the stage.

Fortunately, my brain implant has an image processing feature. I scroll through options in my mind, zooming, enhancing, upscaling. There she is, slumped on a straight-backed gilt chair with her “guardian of contestant” credentials drooping around her neck. The seat beside her, Dad’s seat, is empty.

DP FICTION #53B: “Lies of the Desert Fathers” by Stewart Moore

The Abbot’s eyes stared up at the ceiling. The reflections of blue-robed angels flew across his gray irises. Not much blood had spattered on his face. His chest was another story. The stains had finally stopped spreading from the rents in his brown wool robe. I noticed a smear near the hem of my long skirt where I stood too close. 

Revulsion erupted in my throat and I clamped my hands over my mouth. I could feel the dampness of the blood on my leg. I fought the urge to tear the bottom of the skirt off.  I needed to stay calm. If I panicked, all was lost. 

On the Abbot’s shaven scalp, the lights of his implanted sanctifications still blinked, attempting to change the thought patterns of a dead brain. One finger slowly twitched. The motor cortex must be getting extra juice. I focused on that. A simple, physical issue in the neurological wiring. I could fix that. I slowed my thinking around that problem.  

For some reason, the Abbot’s other hand held a saw. That problem I couldn’t solve right now.