Diabolical Pots Special Issue Editorial, by Kel Coleman

Originally, I wasn’t going to write this editorial. Guest-editing this issue—from slush-pile to final selections to working with the authors—has been a dream, but I was kind of planning to skip this bit.

First, because non-fiction is hard. Second, because every time I tried to write this, instead of a fun food fact or a light-hearted anecdote about a special meal, all I could think about was my family and how much I miss seeing them during the holidays.

Ugh, now I’m weepy, so I might as well…

The holidays are a rare chance for my huge family to gather, filling my aunt’s house with noise and people and of course, food. I’ve always had behind-the-scenes access to the meal-planning because my mom, who knows how to run a high-volume kitchen, coordinates who brings what. It’s an impressive feat and everything is delicious. (Special acknowledgments have to go to my mom’s sweet potatoes and my aunt’s mac n’ cheese.)

However much I miss the meal, though, it’s nothing compared to how much I miss my family. I’d been living across the country for a few years when I realized I needed to be closer to them again. So my husband and I moved within a couple hours of my hometown, figuring occasional travel would be straightforward and that we wouldn’t have to miss family gatherings anymore. We had just settled into our new home and found out we were expecting our first child when the pandemic began and you know the rest…

You probably also know the hope that followed the disappointment. All throughout my pregnancy, which was really isolated, I held onto the image of their first Thanksgiving with the family. When that couldn’t happen safely, I thought, there’s next year but of course, next year didn’t happen either. I know there’s plenty of time for my toddler to experience big family get-togethers, but for now, my heart is hurting. When we do finally gather again, it’s going to be bittersweet.

Considering my thoughts returned to my family every time I started this editorial, it’s appropriate that each story in the issue links food to relationships. They are all unique in tone, voice, and approach to the prompt, yet there’s this shared examination of connection with others or longing to connect. This wasn’t something I was actively looking for, but it clearly resonated with me. I really can’t wait for you to read these incredible stories when the issue drops tomorrow. It’s been so hard keeping them all to myself.

I appreciate you taking the time to read this editorial, and I hope it finds you well!

– Kel Coleman, Guest Editor

Diabolical Plots 2021 Award Eligibility

written by David Steffen

Hello! This is one of those posts where we look back at the year and all of the things we did to consider for award eligibility and hey just to look back at the year and what happened. This last year was the first year that anything from Diabolical Plots was nominated, so it doesn’t feel as far-fetched as it has in the past.


Diabolical Plots itself is eligible for the Hugo Award For Best Semiprozine.

David Steffen is eligible for Hugo Award For Best Editor (Short Form) for editing Diabolical Plots.

Locus Awards have a category for Publisher, which would be Diabolical Plots, L.L.C. for Diabolical Plots, as well as being the entity responsible for The Submission Grinder.

Related Work and Fan Writer

We’ve dialed back on nonfiction articles, but published one nonfiction piece: “UTH #2: The Story of Valkyrie and Zen” finding connections between the roles of Tessa Thompson in several films, for related work, and David Steffen as fan writer.

Websites are eligible for related work, so The Submission Grinder is also eligible.

Short Stories

Of course, most of the award eligible work that we are involved in is the original short stories we publish on the site! All of the following stories are eligible for Short Story categories in various awards (they are all under 7500 words, so the Short Story category is the one to go with. If you would like short excerpts of each of the stories check out the Recent Stories page.

“Everyone You Know is a Raven,” by Phil Dyer

“Unstoned,” by Jason Gruber

“Energy Power Gets What She Wants,” by Matt Dovey

“A Study of Sage,” by Kel Coleman

“Boom & Bust,” by David F. Shultz

“The Void and the Voice,” by Jeff Soesbe

“The Day Fair For Guys Becoming Middle Managers,” by Rachael K. Jones

“For Lack of a Bed,” by John Wiswell

“The PILGRIM’s Guide to Mars,” by Monique Cuillerier

“Three Riddles and a Mid-Sized Sedan,” by Lauren Ring

“One More Angel,” by Monica Joyce Evans

“We Will Weather One Another Somehow,” by Kristina Ten

“Along Our Perforated Creases,” by K.W. Colyard

“Kudzu,” by Elizabeth Kestrel Rogers

“Fermata,” by Sarah Fannon

“The Art and Mystery of Thea Wells,” by Alexandra Seidel

“Rebuttal to Reviewers’ Comments On Edits For ‘Demonstration of a Novel Draconification Protocol in a Human Subject’,” by Andrea Kriz

“A Guide to Snack Foods After the Apocalypse,” by Rachael K. Jones

“Audio Recording Left by the CEO of the Ranvannian Colony to Her Daughter, on the Survival Imperative of Maximising Profits” by Cassandra Khaw and Matt Dovey

“It’s Real Meat!™,” by Kurt Pankau

“Forced Fields,” by Adam Gaylord

“Lies I Never Told You,” by Jaxton Kimble

“There’s an Art To It,” by Brian Hugenbruch

“There Are Angels and They Are Utilitarians,” by Jamie Wahls

Universal Transitive Headcanon (UTH): A Metafiction Framework Proposal

written by David Steffen

I would like to propose some terminology for a particular type of headcanon that can be applied across many media, though centered around actor-based media like movies and TV based on actor-transitivity and character-transitivity: the Universal Transitive Headcanon (UTH). This proposal will be the basis of a series of posts that I intend to write analyzing movies, books, comics, and other media through the UTH.

For those who are not familiar with the term, “headcanon” refers to an unofficial interpretation of a work of fiction, which may or may not have any support in the source material, but which are not part of the official canon as defined by the source material.

Once a work of fiction goes out into the world, the creator no longer has complete control over it. The beauty of this is that fans can find their own interpretations whether or not the creators actually agree with those or not, and those interpretations can have an incredible life of their own even when (as the vast majority of the time) they are not considered by the creators to be canonical–they are officially not official.

The foundational concepts of the Universal Transitive Headcanon are:

  • Actor-Transitivity: Every character played by a single actor is part of the same continuity. For example, this would dictate that Darth Vader and Mufasa are part of the same character story.
  • Character-Transitivity: Every actor that plays a single character is part of the same continuity, as well as in non-acted media like comic books. For example, this would dictate that Adam West’s Batman is part of the same continuity as George Clooney’s Batman, as well as the Batman of comics and cartoons.
  • Multiple-Layer Transitivity: A continuity connection need not be limited to one transitive step. By this premise, it becomes to possible to, for example, examine how Beetlejuice and Edward Cullen are part of the same character story. Because: Michael Keaton played Beetlejuice, Michael Keaton played Batman, Robert Pattinson played Batman, Robert Pattinson played Edward Cullen.
  • Acting as Themself: If an actor plays Himself/Herself/Themself in a work of fiction, then by that extension the actor themself is part of their UTH, and so everything extending out from their acting roles is autobiographical. This may also imply that, for instance, one actor is the secret identity of another actor.
  • Disregarded Factors: Particular details that make contininuities difficult or impossible to correlate may be disregarded as necessary to make a unified narrative–such as differing character appearances, different family structures, different countries of origin, simultaneous or out-of-order timelines, or the fact that multiple characters combined by the continuity have canonically died (I’m looking at you, Sean Bean).

Future posts will further explore the possibilities of the Universal Transitive Headcanon for metafiction storytelling!

STORY ANALYSIS: “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly

written by David Steffen

I am trying out a new feature that I might run occasionally here, where I pick a story that I particularly liked, and pick it apart to try to figure out why it worked so well. For this first entry, I’ll be talking about “The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly, first published in Tor.com, and nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo award.

You can read it at Tor.com, or you can hear an audio adaptation in Cast of Wonders.

I’m not going to avoid SPOILERS after this paragraph, but in this paragraph, I will give a very brief overview. The story is about a woman who worked with her husband in their bakery until the government was overthrown, at which point he was taken as the private baker by the new monarch, the Traitor King, because he has developed the skill in making special pastries that evoke strong memories that suit a particular mood. The main story takes place at a banquet with the monarch, prepared by her husband, where she is the food taster to ensure that the food is not poisoned.

The most interesting thing about this story is the way that it uses the flashbacks that are evoked by the pastries. The power of the flashbacks is threefold:
1. The first is the typical power of flashback, to give character backstory, to help you understand character motivations. Throughout the story you see when she first met her husband, you find out about what happened to her sister, about the rise of the tyrant, and about the development of her husband’s skills.
2. The second is to develop an understanding of the memory-pastries. Each pastry eaten at the banquet has a different flavor, like the first section “Rosemary Crostini of Delightfully Misspent Youth”, each flashback is titled by the pastry that describes the type of memory that it evokes, and you find out about what kinds of pastries Saffron recommends to different customers to what reason.
3. During the main timeline of the story, Saffron and her husband have been separated for quite a while, ever since her husband was taken to be the pastry chef of the Traitor King, preparing banquets for the kings and his nobles. They were very close, and know each other very well, and they worked very closely together every day in the bakery. Saffron volunteered as the taste tester because it was the way she could get the closest to him, and the Traitor King took the opportunity because he trusted that her husband wouldn’t poison her or torture her with more cruel desserts. But now the only route of communication between them is the desserts themselves. He knows her well enough to have a pretty good idea what particular desserts will evoke what memories for her, so they are hints, and a warning of what to come. He has been doing research while imprisoned, and she doesn’t know what new desserts he’s developed. She hopes that he will do something with his special desserts but she doesn’t know what he can do that would do the job, especially since she knows he wouldn’t kill or torture her.

I have never seen flashbacks that do so many things at once; it is an incredible idea, and wonderfully executed. The descriptions of flavor on top of it made my mouth water, I would absolutely love to visit this bakery if it were a real place.

I also appreciated seeing the very different but very real strengths of the characters. Her husband’s strength is obvious, his special pastries that form the basis of the story. But her role in the bakery was no less important. She learned to read people, to help decide how to recommend what pastry would suit them the best. Everyone loves the ones that give you a sweet memory, but the regretful pastries have their uses, and others. And no occupation could have suited her better for her present circumstances–before she became the taster she didn’t have much experience at dissembling, but here she is surrounded by those she has to mislead, and everything here depends not only her husband’s pastries but on her ability to be able to keep it to herself when the time comes for her husband’s plan to come to fruition.

And the finale is perfect. When it finally comes to the finale, as she takes it and relives all of the times when she hurt someone else, but feeling the pain for herself, they can tell from her face that it was unpleasant, but the Traitor King enjoys watching the other nobles squirm taking the less pleasant ones, and even when she admits a bit of what it is, he thinks that his own remorseless nature means that he will enjoy it. But not only does he feel the pain of reliving these memories, because he has been cruel to so many people, it leaves him incapacitated long enough for his throne to be taken, and then wakes up in a cell, with the only food available to him another of the same pastry. Even in the end, as she watches this, she is self-aware enough to know that if she took another bite of that kind of pastry she would relive that moment.

I can see why this story got its nominations. Tina Connolly is an incredible author.

Award Recommendations 2018

written by David Steffen

Here are some recommendations for selected Hugo and Nebula categories. (Note that I’ve listed them in alphabetical order, rather than order of preference, and have listed more than the 5 ballot options when possible). I don’t think I’ve read any eligible novels this year, so that category is not represented.

Best Novella

“Umbernight” by Carolyn Ives Gillman, in Clarkesworld Magazine

Best Novelette

“A Love Story Written On Water” by Ashok K. Banker, in Lightspeed Magazine

“A World To Die For” by Tobias S. Buckell, in Clarkesworld Magazine

“The Last To Matter” by Adam-Troy Castro, in Lightspeed Magazine

“Dead Air” by Nino Cipri, in Nightmare Magazine

“Hapthorn’s Last Case” by Matthew Hughes, in Lightspeed Magazine

“The Fortunate Death of Jonathan Sandelson” by Margaret Killjoy, in Strange Horizons

“To Fly Like a Fallen Angel” by Qi Yue, translated by Elizabeth Hanlon, in Clarkesworld Magazine

“House of Small Spiders” by Weston Ochse, in Nightmare Magazine

“Thirty-Three Percent Joe” by Suzanne Palmer, in Clarkesworld Magazine

“Master Zhao: An Ordinary Time Traveler” by Zhang Ran, translated by Andy Dudak

Best Short Story

“After Midnight at the ZapStop” by Matthew Claxton, in Escape Pod

A Scrimshaw of Smeerps” by Shannon Fay, in Toasted Cake

“Variations on a Theme From Turandot by Ada Hoffman, in Strange Horizons

“Secrets and Things We Don’t Say Out Loud” by José Pablo Iriarte, in Cast of Wonders

“Octo-Heist in Progress” by Rich Larson, in Clarkesworld Magazine

“Hosting the Solstice” by Tim Pratt, in PodCastle

“Marshmallows” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires, in Clarkesworld Magazine

“The Death Knight, the Dragon, and the Damsel” by Melion Traverse, in Cast of Wonders

“Some Personal Arguments in Support of the BetterYou (Based on Early Interactions)” by Debbie Urbanski, in Strange Horizons

Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form / Ray Bradbury Award

Ant-Man and the Wasp

The Incredibles 2

Kevin (Probably) Saves the World

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, for Nintendo Switch

A Wrinkle In Time

In Loving Memory of Timmy Steffen

  • by David Steffen

  In Loving Memory of Timmy Steffen
Born April 1, 2002
Adopted August 22, 2009
Died January 17, 2018

This is the story of our oldest dog, our gentlest and quietest dog, who lived much longer than anyone expected.  This is the story of Timmy the apricot poodle.

Timmy’s Life

Bringing Him Home

Our city allows up to three dogs or cats, and we were interested in getting one more dog to go with the two we already had–Mikko the white poodle, and Aria the black-and-white papillon.  So, we took a trip to local poodle rescue Picket Fence Poodles, where we had adopted Mikko the year before.

There were several dogs available at the time that we did a meet and greet with.  Before we met any of them, I had Rosie the one-eyed Pekingese in mind, because I thought that a one-eyed dog might have a lot more trouble getting adopted than the other dogs in the group, but Heather had her eye on Timmy.  There was Jasmine, Timmy’s littermate, who was still so timid around people that we barely saw her.  And there was Timmy, bouncy little ball of energy, despite being seven-years-old and already with some health problems.  We took Mikko and Aria along for the visit to try to spot any social issues that might arise with different choices, and Aria and Rosie did not get along together, at least on that visit–they both tried to boss each other around, and so we thought that that might not be a good choice.

Timmy took to us, and Heather in particular, right away–enthusiastic, energetic, just like a puppy.  He cuddled right up with the other dogs on his first day.  His fur was red, almost an apricot color, with some lighter patches that turned almost white on his hair and chest when he got older (it never ceased to amuse me when he wore sweaters and his white chest hair stuck out of the neck).  He had lived his first seven years as a breeder at a puppy mill and even had a USDA numbered chain around his neck, and many of his teeth were already rotten from lack of care, but despite a rough and neglectful first seven years, he was never afraid of people, and had an infectious puppy-like energy.  We decided he would be a good match for our other two energetic dogs and we took him home with us.

Timmy immediately became Heather’s shadow.  He would follow her from room to room when she was doing laundry or whatever other things around the house.  If she left a room when he didn’t see, he would bound from room to room like a little deer until he found her again.  If we needed to find him, like if I needed to take him outside, then I would just need to yell “Tim-a-Tom-a-Tim-a-Tom!” and he would immediately bound toward the source of the cry, ready for whatever I needed him for.

His hair was course, almost wiry when we first got him, probably from the utilitarian diet of the puppy mill–his hair softened up before long.

Timmy fit in with the other dogs right away, loving to roughhouse and bask in the sun and go for walks.  Timmy loved to follow what the other dogs were doing, and they welcomed him into the pack immediately.  Timmy was never interested in being the alpha of the group, and he was content to follow the others, so there weren’t any hierarchy struggles like you sometimes get when you integrate a new dog.

Since Timmy didn’t fight for a higher place in the pack hierarchy, I was surprised that when he went on walks marking was always very important to him.  No matter how long you walked, he would always have a little pee left in the tank for more marking, even if he had marked two dozen spots already.  When we had Aria, Mikko, and Timmy, they would sometimes all pee on the same spot one after the other–Mikko first because he didn’t care, Aria because she wanted to cover up his spot, and Timmy because even though he didn’t care about the hierarchy in general, he wanted to have the last word.  We kept going, wanting him to empty his tank, and it would take quite a while, much longer than the other dogs who would always empty their bladders within a couple pees.  But he was never one to have accidents in the house (until he got older and was on diuretic medicines).

Shortly after we got him, we had to have quite a few of his teeth pulled, so that the rotten teeth wouldn’t spread infection and cause bigger problems elsewhere in his body.  We were worried about the surgery, but he was better than ever afterward, ready to chew on bones with whatever teeth he had left immediately afterward.

With the Other Animals

With Aria

The very playful Aria always wanted to play with him, and he loved to play when he was younger, but Aria was SO rambunctious she would scare him.  They would roughhouse a little, doing play-growls and circling each other, rearing up to grapple with each other, but then Aria would perform her favorite roughhousing move– flip over on her back and piston her legs up in the air and he would get scared and run away, leaving her wondering where her buddy went.

Aria was the pack leader when she was with us, and Timmy was content to let her have that role, though he would defend a bone that he’d claimed if necessary.

We never expected that Aria would pass away before he did, but she passed away unexpectedly when she was only five.  We noticed after she passed that he wouldn’t bark for food in the same way; he must’ve fed off of her excitement.

With Mikko

Mikko and Timmy took to each other immediately–always ready to roughhouse, they would play-growl and rear up on their hind legs and chase each other around and tip over.  Mikko always wanted to fight for a higher spot in the hierarchy, always ready to challenge, but it probably helped that Timmy didn’t really care about that.

With Violet

Violet and Timmy always got along pretty well.  Both dogs are mostly pretty mellow.  The only exception would be that, as Timmy got older, when he tended to wander aimlessly from room to room, he would sometimes stumble across wherever Violet was sleeping and she tended to get scared and defensive when she was suddenly woken up.  But apart from that they always got along.

With Cooper

Cooper dislikes all dogs, and wants nothing to do with them, and would rather all dogs stay away from him.  Except for Timmy.  Timmy he was absolutely enamored with, for some reason.  Probably because Timmy was indifferent toward him.  Timmy was happy to be around anyone, except Cooper.  Maybe it’s just because Cooper jammed his nose up Timmy’s butt one too many times, but Timmy just wanted Cooper to stop pestering him.

With the Cat-in-Laws

Timmy and the cat-in-laws generally did not interact much. I’m sure part of this was that the cat-in-laws weren’t adopted until Timmy was already 14 or 15 years old and so wasn’t interacting much with the dogs either. For the most part the biggest interaction was that Lucy would pick a spot to sit and if he wandered near her she might bat at him, but I really don’t think he knew she was there, and so it was pretty scary to suddenly get slapped around by someone he didn’t know was even there.

With the Kid

The kid was born when Timmy was about 11 years old, so he was still pretty spry and able to go for walks for the kid’s first few years.  Timmy was always the kid’s favorite because the other dogs learned to be scared in the rampaging toddler stage and so would try to be scary as a deterrent.  Timmy got used to the kid before the other dogs, partly because he was still Heather’s close shadow at that time, and for that maternity leave and the rest of the first year Heather sat in the kid’s room to pump breast milk.  Timmy always wanted to sit on the chair with her while she did that, and so he was around the baby a lot.  But Timmy never got mad at the kid, even though the kid would often accidentally kick Timmy for not watching for him.  The kid even walked Timmy sometimes, because Timmy was mellow enough that we weren’t afraid of the leash slipping away.  Timmy was the easiest one to practice gentle hands on, and the kid said he was sad when Timmy went to heaven, though he also said he was excited to get a new dog (but we told him we didn’t need to rush into it).

What Made Him Special


I have rarely met a dog as gentle as Timmy. Except in very specific, unusual circumstances, he was always very slow to anger, and even slower to act aggressively even if frightened or intimidated. He was the one dog that we would leave out of his kennel when we let a contractor into the house because he never barked at people or showed any signs of aggression. He would just mosey around the house, eye the newcomer curiously, but otherwise leave them alone and just stay out of the way.

On Halloween, he was the only dog we left out, because the other dogs would bark when they saw people approaching the door and that would scare the kids. Timmy would just hang out in the room, not even fussing about his dragon costume, and kids would comment on how cute he was.

Whenever we had guests over to our house, our other dogs would always have an adjustment period to go from freaking out about these new people in the house to finally accepting their presence and calming down. This sometimes bothered guests, especially if they were only there for a short time or if they came in and out of the front door to get things from their car, because the adjustment period clock would restart all over each time. But Timmy just accepted whoever came in and however often, and so he would always make new friends whenever we had guests, who would often comment that they wanted to take Timmy home with them.

His fur was never very thick, and the winter cold would bother him.  But he also didn’t mind wearing sweaters.  The other dogs would be indignant and rebellious if you put a shirt on them, but Timmy didn’t mind, and he certainly liked to be warmer.

When Timmy farted, it would always be a dainty little squeak that was barely audible.


He was Heather’s shadow.  He loved to cuddle, except during the times when his coughs were bothering him.  In bed when he was younger he would cuddle up against Heather’s neck or in the small of her back, reassured by her touch.

He was so excited to get on the bed every time to sleep, he would stand on his hind legs by the edge of the bed and just hop-hop-hop to try to get up.  He never got his back legs more than, like, 4 inches off the ground, but that wouldn’t stop him from trying repeatedly every night: hop-hop-hop.  If he saw you reaching to pick him up he would hop right into your hands too (which you had to learn to be careful of, or he’d slip right out!).

When Heather took a bath at night, and he didn’t see where she went, he’d run into the bathroom and stand on his hind legs to peek into the tub to make sure he knew where she was, then he could settle down again.

He was always the best traveler of our dogs.  He would settle down and just cuddle up and sleep against Heather or another dog in the backseat.  He was never particular about where he sat, like Mikko, and he never got carsick like Violet.


Timmy had a hard first half of his life, but he was such a joyful dog, finding pleasure in the small things.  An afternoon spent basking in the doorway in a beam of sunlight until he was panting from the heat of it.  His happy bounding when he ran from room to room was one of the most wonderful sights.  He loved to chew bones, even if sometimes he really preferred the secondhand bones that were already soft and gummy from dog spit, so while another dog was chewing he’d stand and stare at them until they lost interest, and then he would take his chance.

Timmy was never one for sweet treats, maybe because the sugar would bother his bad teeth.  But he was always the first in line if someone started slicing a cucumber, and crunchy cranberry liver treats were his favorite for a long time.

A walk, whether up the street or at the park, would always be a major source of excitement.  When he walked, he was always the one dog that would walk as straight as an arrow along the path you were going on, apart from brief marking detours.  Mikko always zigzags, Violet always wants to walk beside you, and Aria always strained against the leash, but Timmy would walk the same speed as you directly along the path with his little tail pointed straight up like a radio antenna.

While he was never a big barker at people as the other dogs always have been, Timmy did still love to bark.  He would bark for his meals (especially before Aria passed).  He even did this odd little move where he would prod your leg with his nose while he was waiting for a meal–it took us quite a while before we figured out what that poking sensation was, but it was Timmy’s nose every time.

If he saw Mikko and Aria barking he would always want to bark, too, but he wouldn’t pay a lot of attention to where they were barking.  It wasn’t unusual for all three dogs to be barking, but in all different directions: Aria on the couch looking into the back yard, Mikko at the front door barking at a passing car, while Timmy was pointed at the bedroom even though there’s never anything to bark at in that direction.  But he didn’t care, it was all part of the fun.

Timmy’s bark was a gruff little bark, much different than the shrill nail-in-the-ears bark of Mikko.  He could bark all day and it wouldn’t bother me.  He even barked occasionally when he was older, sometimes you’d hear his gruff little ruffs from the kennels when you got home.

His stiff little tail would wag as regularly as a metronome almost all the time, and certainly whenever there was any excitement.  If the excitement died down and his mind started to wander, you could almost see his attention shifting gears because the metronome would start to wind down, still moving but slower and slower as his eyes wandered to other things.  But then if you said his name again or one of the other dogs barked it would kick it at full rhythm again.

He did this weird little stretch with his back legs where he would extend one back leg straight backwards from his butt, then switch to the other leg, and repeat that 3 or 4 or 5 times.  The rate of the switching was a function of how excited he was, sometimes you could get him riled up with some vigorous petting and he’d do it really quick like an aerobics routine.


He was never interested in being the alpha, but when there was something that he felt was worth fighting for, he would.  Usually this was to keep hold of a bone.  Or trying to get Cooper’s nose out of his butt.

He had so many medical conditions all fighting for each other by the end, and until the very end he just kept on pushing through them, so much longer than anyone would’ve expected.  He was only about five pounds most of his life, but he could fight.


When one of our other dogs are worked up about something, we would usually be able to distract them.  By petting them, or giving them a treat, or in extreme cases bundling them up in a blanket.  Timmy, when he was worked up about something, seemed to turn into a ball of legs that could kick in every direction at once.  Never would this become more obvious than when his phobia of flashing lights kicked in.  We don’t know why he was scared of flashing lights, but our theory is that he might have been exposed to the weather during thunderstorms and always thought that flashing lights were lightning.

During thunderstorms, Mikko would always sleep through unfazed.  Aria or Violet would be nervous and would want to cuddle.  Timmy always wanted to run and hide (usually behind a toilet), and no amount of comforting would convince him otherwise.  After a lot of broken sleeps and frustration, we discovered that the only way to calm Timmy down was for me to take him to the basement and cuddle him up to my belly under a blanket on the couch.  It wouldn’t work if Heather tried it.  It wouldn’t work if I tried it on our bed or anywhere else.  It had to be that couch, and it had to be me.  I don’t know if he was just comforted by the routine action of it, or if he associated the smells of the couch and blanket with safety, but once I brought him down there he would almost always calm down and then we could all get some sleep.

In the winter, the strobe light on the snowplow would trigger the same phobia if Timmy happened to notice it.  So, if one of us woke up to the sound of the snowplow scraping, then it would save a lot of trouble if we would remember to put the blanket over Timmy’s head to block the light.  (This wasn’t entirely reliable, because the blanket on his head would sometimes wake him up and then he’d want to see what was happening)

This posed a real problem with trying to get a decent photograph of Timmy because a bright camera flash would also trigger his phobia.  The camera we had at the time we got him wasn’t a problem, but we got a bigger camera with a bigger flash a few years later and that one scared him.  This made it nearly impossible to get him to sit still for a photo, bribery with treats didn’t even make any difference.  We got portraits done with the dogs when the kid was an infant, and the photographer didn’t listen when we told him that we would like to take dog pictures first before Timmy realized what was happening.  The photographer claimed he was so good with dogs there would be no problem.  Predictably, the photographer was wrong, having never met that dog before that day and claiming that he knew how the dog would react, and so Timmy looks terrified.  We took portraits with the dogs again this last year before Christmas, and his vision had gone enough that the flashes didn’t bother him anymore.  We were very glad we got that portrait in.

Our tiny little dog was so stubborn that as he got older Heather would accompany him to the groomers for two-hour appointments so she could corral him while he was getting groomed, because he would otherwise have coughing fits that would magically clear up as soon as the thing he didn’t like stopped, or he would deploy his “ball of legs” move.

When driving on car trips, if we happened to get a whiff of skunk in the car, the other dogs never cared, but no matter how deep of a sleep Timmy was in, he would always perk up and sniff the air.  His sense of smell never faded.

While he was always a gentle dog, and almost always a sweet dog, he did have a spiteful streak that would come out occasionally when he was younger.  If you were making him do something he didn’t like, he would find something in the house to mark, and then he would stare you in the eye as he was doing it.  It would’ve been funny if he weren’t at the time saturating something with urine–he didn’t do this as he got old, probably just lacking the energy for such spite.

The Sad Part

We adopted Timmy knowing that his time with us might be brief, between his advanced age and neglected health.  We figured that if we got two or three years with him that we would be exceptionally fortunate.  We would never have guessed that Aria would pass away before he would or the he would last more than eight years, almost to the age of 16.

As he got older, he had issues with a variety of health conditions.  One condition that caused him problems for several years was a persistent cough.  Sometimes it was dry, but most often he would cough several times to work his way up to what almost sounded like vomit, but was really a wet throat clearing.  There was a stretch of time where it was hard to even pet him because it would tend to trigger coughing.  He stopped playing with Mikko because they would play for a few seconds and then Timmy would have to take a cough break.  It wouldn’t be unusual for him to wake up in the middle of the night and do it for a while and we found a few coping mechanisms to help him deal with it.  If you rubbed his shoulder blades in the same rhythm as his cough it would sometimes distract him enough to settle back down.  Sometimes if I took him to another room, to the couch downstairs or to the kid’s room, the change in scenery would be enough to distract, or if I took him outside.  After a while the vet discovered that he had an enlarged heart from congestive heart failure, and the fluid swelling in there was causing his heart to press against his trachea, which made it collapse sometimes.  Some heart medication helped this immensely, with diuretics to draw the fluid out.  This also made him have to pee constantly and so even though he’d gone so many years without having any accidents in the house, he just couldn’t hold it long enough to wait anymore, so we started putting diapers on him all the time while he was awake.  He was small enough that we could use size 1 baby diapers and wrap them around his midsection like a wrap–which was handy because they were much cheaper than dog diapers.  During the day we set up an exercise pen with piddle pads so he could pee whenever he wanted to without it being a big trouble.  He could sleep through the night fine without peeing, he was never incontinent, so we could let him air out a little bit then at least.

He never had very thick fur, and he was always pretty sensitive to the cold.  Wearing sweaters for most of the winter would help with this, and he never seemed to mind wearing them.  But he got more and more sensitive to the cold as he got older.  Until, the winter when he was 14, we decided we didn’t need to let him outside at all that winter.  Every time he went outside he would shiver for a long time afterward and it would take him a long time to recover.  He’d already been wearing the diapers for peeing for a while, and we just dealt with the poop when it happened, trying to get him to the hardwood when possible.

He lost his hearing completely.  It was a sad day when we realized that he couldn’t respond to the call of “Tim-a-Tom-a-Tim-a-Tom” anymore.

He also had more and more vision problems.  First he became super sensitive to bright lights so that he couldn’t even enjoy his beloved sun-basking anymore.  Bright lights would make him flinch in what looked like a very painful way, and if lights were too dim he wouldn’t be able to see at all and he would bump into things.  He still seemed to be able to see shapes in the right lighting, and he could walk from room to room without running into anything, and find his way to the water bowl.  In December 2016, after the Christmas tree was up, he wandered into a low-hanging branch and the tree needles poked his eye, and we had to deal with some ointment to make sure that healed up.  We learned to put low barricades of boxes around the tree to keep him away from it.

In his last year he was prone to wandering at night.  He would sleep for much of the day, but around 8 or 9 pm, he would want to start wandering.  He would usually do laps between the living room, kitchen, and dining room.  We’re still not sure what drove him to do this–if he thought he was lost or if he just wanted to walk and didn’t have anywhere in particular to go.  We would try to soothe him at first, let him know where we were so he didn’t feel alone (especially given how he was so much Heather’s shadow when he was younger), but he would always get up and start walking again.  So, we put him in front of the water to make sure he had something to drink, would maybe offer him some food, and we’d just let him wander.  Sometimes he would get stuck in corners, not sure how to get out, so we would help him find his way.  Generally he would settle down very well for bed, so I don’t know if that exercise helped him work out his restlessness.  I suspect that it helped him keep his muscle mass up at least because otherwise he slept so much of the day I think his muscles might’ve atrophied to the point where he couldn’t walk.

Although he never lost the ability to walk, his muscles did get weaker and weaker, probably partially from being inactive for much of the day, age, and trouble eating.  When he stopped having the endurance to walk at the park I would still take him a block up the street, until he started turning around at the mailbox and looking longingly back at the house–I didn’t make him keep going when he didn’t have the energy.  We bought a dog stroller we could put him in to take him to the park but his light sensitivity was so extreme by then that he still didn’t do very well at the park.  We started to have to carry him up and down stairs, and between that and his vision problems, him falling off of things and hurting himself was an ongoing danger. One day he fell off of a chair, just from the height of a normal chair, maybe two feet off the ground, and immediately after he tried to get up and walk but he dragged his back legs and we were afraid he had paralyzed himself.  We brought him to the vet, they found a hairline fracture, but not anything they could do anything about.  We couldn’t put him on furniture without someone holding him after that.  We had installed a baby gate when the kid was young, and we have left it up since then because it prevented Timmy from falling down the stairs. The hardwood floors became harder and harder for him to walk or even stand on, and even on carpet his gait took on a strange bouncing rhythm with his front legs walking normally and his back legs taking odd little hops.

He always like lying in dog beds, but as he got older, he was less and less particular about how much of him and which specific parts got in the bed, so he’d often only have his butt in the bed, or only his head, or just one elbow.

The dogs sleep in our bed, in a line between us, and Timmy slept up by our heads so that if he got up to wander in the night he would have to step on someone before he walked off the bed, so we would either feel it or Violet would growl when he bothered her, so we could get up and help him with whatever he needed.  We started putting him in a dog bed on the bed because that would help him sleep but it did make it more crowded in the bed. Especially in the last year, I would often take Timmy to the kid’s bedroom, where I would sleep on the floor with him in a dog bed next to me, because I wouldn’t need to worry about him falling in there, and he would often sleep better in there anyway, without us jostling him.

From the time we got him, his teeth were a problem.  We had to have several teeth pulled immediately, and we had to repeat the process several times, always afraid that he wouldn’t wake up from the general anesthesia when he woke.  It was important to pull them when they got too rotten because the infection could spread to other parts of his body, including his brain–sometimes we could tell it had gone a bit too far because he would discharge a milky fluid from his nose.  For the first five days of every month he was on an antibiotic course to try to limit infections, and even then sometimes we had to start it a bit early or go a bit longer to quell a rising infection.  His last tooth pulling was a few years before he passed–after that one he was down to just three teeth, including one gigantic lower canine tooth that was so big and so deeply rooted in his jaw that they were afraid that they would break his jaw trying to extract it.

A recurring problem partly caused by the teeth were that he became pickier and pickier about food.  Early on, he was happy to eat the same thing the other dogs were eating–some kibble with maybe some soft food.  But for Timmy we had to rotate foods periodically, or he would get bored and would stop wanting to eat it.  If he missed the occasional meal it wasn’t a big deal at the time, because he had a bit of extra weight on him.  But the missing teeth, rotten teeth, and picky appetite, this was a frequent battle we had to fight, and especially when we traveled we would have to make sure we had something he would eat.  If he missed a couple meals, then his belly would start growling and bothering him, but this made his appetite worse not better, so that was always a downward spiral we had to watch out for.  We would supplement with people food to get some food in him and then switch back to dog food again.  By the spring of 2017, he was pretty much done with dog food, we couldn’t get him to eat it anymore at all, and he had a bout of diarrhea that the vet thought might be a sign of end-of-life.  We braced for the end, trying to decide from day to day what we should do, how long we should let it go on before we made the hard decision.  We ended up putting him on people food for every meal, though we were advised against it by our vet because it doesn’t have the proper nutrition for a dog.  But at that point we had the choice between feeding him what he would eat or letting him starve to death.  His most reliable meal was a brand of honey-battered chicken nugget we could find at Target, so reliable that he rarely missed a meal for months, for most of the rest of 2017.

A few years ago, he was also diagnosed with kidney failure.  Among other things this meant we had to be careful how much other medications we gave him, so we tried to taper his dose down on the diuretic in particular.

Between the diuretic and the rotten teeth, Timmy would have trouble staying hydrated enough, and dehydration would make all of his other conditions worse.  We asked the vet for suggestions, and they said that subcutaneous fluid might help him stay hydrated.  They taught us how to inject saline under his skin, and we did that ourselves for a while, and Timmy took it pretty well for a while.  After a month or two, he started to get more squirrelly when we were doing it, and he would get afraid when we got the stuff out to do it, we eventually started taking him for a weekly vet visit to have the vet techs administer subcutaneous fluids.  This became a part of our weekly routine, and the vet techs were very close to him from their weekly visit from Timmy, where he would frequently become the stubborn ball of legs, but they were able to handle it, and every week he would perk way up from the fluids.

Around Christmas, we thought he might have poked his eye on something, so we took him in to treat him for that.  His appetite started getting a little shaky, and we weren’t sure why, maybe it was the cold weather that was having some days of negative highs.  After he’d been on some eyedrops for that for a while, Heather noticed that his breath smelled terrible, and so we got him on an antibiotic dose right away, his tooth had probably been bothering him.  Then the antibiotic probably was making him feel ill, and so the appetite problems continued.  He would no longer eat his beloved chicken nuggets, and he was even having trouble eating food on his own, so I would have to hand feed him to get him to eat anything.  This was difficult because, if the pieces of food were too big he didn’t have the teeth to chew them, but if they were too small he would have trouble gripping them enough to keep them in his mouth to eat them.  Arby’s roast beef was the sweet spot because he could still smell the warm meat, a wad of roast beef was easy to pick up, but the thin layers would tear apart as he chewed them so he wouldn’t choke.  Chicken McNuggets were another mainstay in those days.

But his digestion and appetite continued to get worse and worse, and he had more trouble eating and less interest in it.  Because he was eating so little his bowel movements became less and less frequent, until several days passed between.  The vet said that the best way to help him was just to keep him hydrated, so we kept taking him in for fluids, which helped a little bit, but not enough.  He took less and less even of his favorite people food, and slept more and more.  We decided that we wouldn’t try to force-feed him, that would only cause distress and discomfort, if he wasn’t going to eat he wasn’t going to eat.  We made it to the end of the antibiotic course, and we hoped that with it over his appetite would improve, but it didn’t and it soon became clear that we needed to schedule his last vet visit.

The day before the scheduled day, I was sick and I spent the day home with him cuddling for most of the day, making sure he was as comfortable as he could be.  If he passed we didn’t want him to pass in his kennel by himself while we were at work.  That night he perked up some, enough for some decent pictures with us, but still wasn’t eating.  The next day, the day of the appointment, he was very out of it, barely awake at all.  He didn’t seem to be in pain, but he was clearly very weak.  We took him to the vet, and they laid out a towel for us to wrap him in.  He was so out of it at that point that he wasn’t even worried about being at the vet.  He passed away peacefully with both us with him, touching him and comforting him to the end.

We are comforted to know that it was the right time.  Every time we were told this might be the end, we tried to give him a chance to recover, and so many times he did and then was able to be back to normal for a while.  This last time, waiting any longer wouldn’t have helped.  He was tired and uncomfortable, and he was ready to go.

A broken routine
even inconvenient
marks a lost loved one.

I had a lot of trouble sleeping that night.  His comfort had taken precedence for so long, with the bulky dog bed, and sleeping on the floor, and getting up with him so he wouldn’t wander in the dark and bump into walls looking for a spot to pee.  With the need for all of that gone, it felt wrong to be able to lie in bed so comfortably, without him interrupting my sleep.  Mealtime became much faster, without the need to watch his bowl so the other dogs wouldn’t eat his feed, and without the hand-feeding of the recent weeks. Even though all these things were inconvenient and time-consuming, they were expressions of love for Timmy, and every change in routine reminds of his absence.

But life goes on.  We have many other things to be thankful for, but we’ll never forget sweet, gentle Timmy.


2017 Hugo/Nebula Award Recommendations!

written by David Steffen

Having previously listing out award-eligible works that were written or published by me, here is my list of works that I think you might want to consider for Hugo and Nebula awards that were not written or published by me.

I’m working mostly from the Hugo Award categories, with a focus on fiction categories.

The Short Story category is the one that means the most to me, so to help suggest more reading for anyone interested, I’ve listed 10 stories instead of 5.

I left out the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, because I know a lot of amazing people on that list and I don’t want to make people feel bad they got left out (but I’m still going to have to pick 5 for my actual ballot!).



The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden, Harper Collins

It Devours by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, Harper Collins



“River of Teeth” by Sarah Gailey, Macmillan

“The Dragon of Dread Peak” (and part 2) by Jeremiah Tolbert, at Lightspeed



“The Bridgegroom” by Bo Balder, at Clarkesworld

“Who Won the Battle of Arsia Mons?” by Sue Burke, at Clarkesworld

“The Chaos Village” (and part 2) by M.K. Hutchins, at Podcastle

“Owl Vs. the Neighborhood Watch” by Darcie Little Badger, at Strange Horizons

“The Secret Life of Bots” by Suzanne Palmer, at Clarkesworld

“Remote Presence” by Susan Palwick, at Lightspeed

“That Lingering Sweetness” by Tony Pi, at Beneath Ceaseless Skies

“A Series of Steaks” by Vina Jie-Min Prasad, at Clarkesworld


Short story

“How I Became Coruscating Queen of All the Realms, Pierced the Obsidian Night, Destroyed a Legendary Sword, and Saved My Heart’s True Love” by Baker & Dovey, at No Shit There I Was, reprinted in Podcastle

“Unit Two Does Her Makeup” by Laura Duerr, at Escape Pod

“Planetbound” by Nancy Fulda, in the anthology Chasing Shadows, reprinted in Escape Pod

“Infinite Love Engine” by Joseph Allen Hill, at Lightspeed

“The Greatest One-Star Restaurant in the Whole Quadrant” by Rachael K. Jones, at Lightspeed

“Home is a House that Loves You” by Rachael K. Jones, at Podcastle

“Vegetablemen in Peanut Town” by August Marion, at Escape Pod

“All the Cuddles With None of the Pain” by J.J. Roth, at Podcastle

“Carnival Nine” by Caroline M. Yoachim, at Beneath Ceaseless Skies

“Texts From the Ghost War” by Alex Yuschik, at Escape Pod



Dramatic Presentation, Long Form


The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

The Lego Batman Movie

Star Wars: The Last Jedi



There are quite a few that I might list here, but mostly I would love to see some award recognition go to my favorite podcasts at Escape Artists: Escape Pod, Podcastle, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders.  For too long podcasts have been thought of in fiction as afterthoughts, but they’ve proven that they can find amazing original fiction and present it professionally.


Editor, Short Form

Likewise, I’d be especially excited to see Escape Artists editors get nods here.  S.B. Divya, Mur Lafferty, and Norm Sherman for Escape Pod (you can nominate jointly).  Jen Albert and Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali for Podcastle.  Shawn Garret and Alex Hofelich for Pseudopod.  Marguerite Kenner for Cast of Wonders.

Award Eligibility 2017

written by David Steffen

The year is almost over, and here we are with the obligatory award eligibility post!

Usually I start with my own stories, but no new fiction written by me has appeared anywhere in 2017, so I will start with the new fiction that’s been published in Diabolical Plots.

ETA: I thought no new fiction written by me was going to appear in 2017, but one new story was published right under the wire on December 30th, so I’ve added that in since it was originally posted.

Please note that I’m not asking anyone to vote for these things.  There is a lot of amazing work out there and I hope you all read as much as you can and vote for what you think is the absolute best, no matter who publishes it.  But I do like to put these posts together partly to look back at what happened this year for myself, and also to put some links together for others who might be interested in checking some of this out.

If you would like to share your own award eligibility posts, please feel free to leave links in the comments to those.

Short Stories by David Steffen

“Cake, and Its Implications” by David Steffen, published at Toasted Cake

Diabolical Plots Short Stories

This was the first year with two stories per month at Diabolical Plots, though not quite for the whole year, for a total of 21 stories.

“Curl Up and Dye” by Tina Gower

“The Avatar In Us All” by J.D. Carelli

“Bloody Therapy” by Suzan Palumbo

“O Stone, Be Not So” by José Pablo Iriarte

“The Long Pilgrimage of Sister Judith” by Paul Starkey

“The Things You Should Have Been” by Andrea G. Stewart

“The Aunties Return the Ocean” by Chris Kuriata

“The Existentialist Men” by Gwendolyn Clare

“Regarding the Robot Raccoons Attached to the Hull of My Ship” by Rachael K. Jones and Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

“Monster of the Soup Cans” by Elizabeth Barron

“The Shadow Over His Mouth” by Aidan Doyle

“For Now, Sideways” by A. Merc Rustad

“Typical Heroes” by Theo Kogod

“Strung” by Xinyi Wang

“The Entropy of a Small Town” by Thomas K. Carpenter

“Lightning Dance” by Tamlyn Dreaver

“Three Days of Unnamed Silence” by Daniel Ausema

“When One Door Shuts” by Aimee Ogden

“Shoots and Ladders” by Charles Payseur

“Hakim Vs. the Sweater Curse” by Rachael K. Jones

“The Leviathans Have Fled the Sea” by Jon Lasser


Diabolical Plots itself is eligible for the Hugo Best Semiprozine category as a fiction publication.

Editor, Short Form

I am eligible for the Hugo Best Editor, Short Form category, both for editing Diabolical Plots and the Long List Anthology series.

Fan Writer

I am eligible as a fan writer for the reviews of various books (including the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris) and other nonfiction I post here on Diabolical Plots.

Laurie Tom is also eligible for the anime TV and movie reviews she posts here on Diabolical Plots.


Other Categories


People sometimes ask if the Submission Grinder is eligible for the any Hugo Awards.  As far as I can tell: no.  Which makes sense, the Hugo Awards being a fan-focused award, there are no categories for tools that help writers do their writing business.  Other awards might have suitable categories, such as the Preditors and Editors poll which typically has a category for writer’s tools, or the World Fantasy Award, which I think has categories for websites.

In any case, I really appreciate your interest!


Hugo/Nebula Award Recommendations!

written by David Steffen

Having previously listing out award-eligible works that were written or published by me, here is my list of works that I think you might want to consider for Hugo and Nebula awards that were not written or published by me.

I’m working mostly from the Hugo Award categories, but a few of these categories overlap with the Nebulas as well.

The Short Story category is the one that means the most to me, so to help suggest more reading for anyone interested, I’ve listed 10 stories instead of 5.

Note that I have skipped any categories that I didn’t think that I was sufficiently knowledgeable enough about during the year of 2016.

Also, in any given category, the ordering does not mean anything–the order is not rank-order, so the first is not any different than the last, etc.

I left out the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, because I know a lot of amazing people on that list and I don’t want to make people feel bad they got left out (but I’m still going to have to pick 5 for my actual ballot!).


Best Novel

FIX by Ferrett Steinmetz

United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas

Best Novella

“Everybody Loves Charles” by Bao Shu, translated by Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)

“Chimera” by Gu Shi, translated by S. Qiouyi Lu and Ken Liu (Clarkesworld)

“The Snow of Jinyang” by Zhang Ran, translated by Ken Liu and Carmen Yiling Yan (Clarkesworld)

Best Novelette

“Fifty Shades of Grays” by Steven Barnes (Lightspeed)

“The Calculations of Artificials” by Chi Hui, translated by John Chu (Clarkesworld)

“The Venus Effect” by Joseph Allen Hill (Lightspeed)

Best Short Story

“Archibald Defeats the Churlish Shark-Gods” by Benjamin Blattberg (Podcastle)

“Beat Softly, My Wings of Steel” by Beth Cato (Podcastle)

“The Bee-Tamer’s Final Performance” by Aidan Doyle (Podcastle)

“The Night Bazaar For Women Becoming Reptiles” by Rachael K. Jones (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“The First Confirmed Case of Non-Corporeal Recursion: Patient Anita R.” by Benjamin C. Kinney (Strange Horizons)

“The Modern Ladies’ Letter-Writer” by Sandra McDonald (Nightmare)

“A Partial List of Lists I Have Lost Over Time” by Sunil Patel (Asimov’s)

“The Sweetest Skill” by Tony Pi (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“Thundergod in Therapy” by Effie Seiberg (originally published in Galaxy’s Edge, but the link is to free reprint in Podcastle)

“In Their Image” by Abra Staffin-Wiebe (Escape Pod)

Best Graphic Story

Gravity Falls: Journal 3 by Alex Hirsch and Rob Renzetti

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

Finding Dory

The Secret Life of Pets



Best Editor (Short Form)

Jen Albert (Podcastle)

Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld)

Graeme Dunlop (Podcastle)

Rachael K. Jones (Podcastle)

Norm Sherman (Escape Pod)

Best Professional Artist

Galen Dara

Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies


Escape Pod


Strange Horizons

Best Fanzine


Quick Sip Reviews

Best Fan Writer

Mike Glyer (File770)

Charles Payseur (Quick Sip Reviews)





Award Eligibility 2016

written by David Steffen

The year is almost over, and here we are with the obligatory award eligibility post.  I know some people get annoyed by these, but to me they’re kind of like those Christmas letters from family members–I like reading other people’s posts to see what they’ve been up to for the year if nothing else.

I’ll start with my own stories, then on to Diabolical Plots stuff (I thought about making separate posts, but for those who don’t care for award eligibility posts I thought that might just be twice as annoying).

Please note that I’m not asking anyone to vote for these things.  There is a lot of amazing work out there and I hope you all read as much as you can and vote for what you think is the absolute best, no matter who publishes it.  But I do like to put these posts together partly to look back at what happened this year for myself, and also to put some links together for others who might be interested in checking some of this out.

If you would like to share your own award eligibility posts, please feel free to leave links in the comments to those.

My Stories

Not too bad of a year, with 5 original stories by me published at various places (especially since I’ve written almost nothing new!)

These are eligible in the Short Story category for most awards.


“A Touch of Scarlet” at Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show

This is one of my favorite stories of anything I have ever written.  Described as briefly as possible, it is a YA coming-of-age science fiction story in a democratic dystopia.  Our nameless protagonist has reached the age where they are no longer sheltered in the childrearing creche, and is beginning their year of transition between childhood and adulthood.  Inside the creche, they were accustomed to constant contact with all of the other children.  In the world of adults, that kind of contact is forbidden.  For one year, they will have contact with their Mentor who is tasked with helping them acclimate, but apart from that temporary connection, no personal connection with other citizens is allowed, nor any expression of identity that would set them apart from anyone else.  Violation of these laws (which are determined by instant voting across all the citizenship) is punishable by death for adults, though adolescents are allowed some latitude.

You can read the beginning of the story and see the wonderful illustration here.  The rest of the story does require an IGMS subscription.  But, the subscription is quite a good deal.  $15 gives you access to not only the upcoming year’s stories, but also every issue in their back catalog.  So, if you’ve a mind to catch up on some of those stories, the price is very affordable for a whole lot of fiction.

“Mall-Crossed Love” at Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine

A star-crossed lovers story that takes place in a ubiquitous shopping mall.  A boy from the tech shop and a girl from the stationery shop across the way falling for each other despite the hostilities between their families.  It’s absurd, action packed, romantic, and fun.

You can pick up the copy of ASIM, or I can send a copy of the story on request.

“Divine Intervention” at Digital Fiction Publishing

A science fiction story of a man going into the drug slum known as Heaven to save his brother.  His brother has joined a techno-drug cult that, among other things, installs metallic halos onto their members as part of their ritual, and no one has been broken away from the cult if more than 24 hours has passed since joining.

You can pick up a copy on Amazon for 99 cents.

“Morfi” at The Colored Lens

This is my attempt to write a story reminiscient of my childhood favorite author:  Roald Dahl.  The story begins as young Johnny arrives at class (late as usual) with a sample of the mythical and magical morfi fruit.  Hijinx ensue.

The story is free to read, and it’s rather short, so I won’t talk about this one further.

“Subsumation” at Perihelion

Science fiction/horror story from a non-human point of view, as an alien crash lands.  It’s very short, and free to read, so I’ll leave you to it.  It’s probably not safe for work.

Diabolical Plots Fiction

This was the first full year of fiction at Diabolical Plots.  Since the stories are all free to read, I’ll stick to very short teasers for each.

The first two stories I put on the top of the list because they have been ones that have gotten particularly strong traffic and feedback, so I think they might be of particular interest.

These are all eligible for Short Story categories.

“Further Arguments in Support of Yudah Cohen’s Proposal to Bluma Zilberman” by Rebecca Fraimow

“The Banshee Behind Beamon’s Bakery” by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

“The Osteomancer’s Husband” by Henry Szabranski

“May Dreams Shelter Us” by Kate O’Connor

“One’s Company” by Davian Aw

“The Blood Tree War” by Daniel Ausema

“The Weight of Kanzashi” by Joshua Gage

“Future Fragments, Six Seconds Long” by Alex Shvartsman

“Sustaining Memory” by Coral Moore

“Do Not Question the University” by PC Keeler

“October’s Wedding of the Month” by Emma McDonald

“The Schismatic Element Aboard Continental Drift” by Lee Budar-Danoff

Other Categories

Diabolical Plots itself is eligible for the Semiprozine category in the Hugos.

I (David Steffen) am eligible for Editor, Short Form in the Hugos, between my editing of Diabolical Plots and the Long List Anthology.

Laurie Tom and I are both eligible for Best Fan Writer category for our articles here, and individual articles could be for Best Related Work.

People ask me once in a while what the Submission Grinder is eligible for in the Hugos.  The answer is:  nothing.  The Hugo Awards are focused on things of interest to science fiction fans, who aren’t as a whole going to be interested in online tools for writers, so there is (fittingly) no category that it would really fit into.  Which is fine.  Probably the closest way to send a nomination for that would be to nominate Diabolical Plots as a semiprozine, since the Submission Grinder is one of the features of that, even if your average SF reader isn’t going to care about the Grinder.

People also ask me once in a while what Hugo categories the Long List Anthology editions are eligible for.  The answer again is: nothing.  The Hugo Awards don’t have an anthology or collection category.  For most anthologies, one could nominate the anthology indirectly by nominating your favorite stories in it, but because of the premise of these anthologies, all of the stories are from the previous year and so are ineligible for this year’s awards.  The closest way would be to nominate for Editor, Short Form.