Review: Hugo Novella Nominees 2013

written by David Steffen

And here’s the last of the short (ish) prose fiction categories, the almost-a-novel aka Novella, which covers fiction from 17,500-40,000 words. This was a tough category to pick my favorite in, so for this one I’m glad that the Hugo awards use an instant runoff voting system so that if your favorite doesn’t win your lower votes can count towards the result.

Hugo Award for Best Novella

1. The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson (Tachyon Publications)
The Emperor’s wife has been killed and the Emperor has been injured in an attack by assassins, via a crossbow bolt to the head. The best magic of the legal variety can heal his flesh, but cannot heal his mind, leaving him catatonic. The Emperor’s highest ranking officials are the only ones who know of the outcome of the attack. The official mourning period for the Emperor’s wife is one hundred days, at which the Emperor will be expected to speak in public. If he cannot, the Empire will be thrown into chaos. They have but one chance to salvage the situation with the recent capture of the criminal Forger Wan ShaiLu. Various legal branches of the art of Forgery, which can rewrite the history of an object, can be practiced in the Empire. Shai, however, practices the forbidden branch of art which allows even a person’s soul to be Forged into something else. This criminal, this blasphemer, is their only hope, if she can reforge the Emperor’s soul using only journal entries and interviews with his counsel.

Brandon Sanderson is great at inventing new magic systems. I enjoyed Warbreaker, and I enjoyed this. The details are intricate, but logical, so that the magic is more of an alternate-world-science, something which appeals to my engineer mind. Shai is an expert in certain areas of her craft, and she goes at the work with the zeal and skill of an expert craftsman, all while contemplating how to escape before she is inevitably killed to silence her. The situation maintains constant tension while maintaining intellectual curiosity and emotional depth. The art of Forging depends upon understanding the history of a person or thing completely and then creating a manmade branching point to change that history, so to pull of this most difficult of all Forgeries she has to exercise her powers of empathy like she never has before.

Great story, well written. One of my new favorites. Well done!

 

2. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon Publications)
An apocalypse hits the Earth in 2014, killing most people and rendering most of the planet unliveable. Very few people survived, and those were saved from certain death by boxlike tentacled figures (nicknamed Tesslies) that would appear in a shower of golden sparks, grab the person, and take them somewhere else. These survivors wake up in a building with no doors to the outside, with machinery meant to serve their basic food and sanitation needs. The Tesslies never told them what was happening, but their best interpretation is that aliens have attacked earth and kept some humans as specimens. Many years later a new piece of machinery they call the Grab machine appears in the Shell which periodically makes a window through time to the years before the apocalypse. Whoever goes through, the Grab machine yanks them back to the future with whatever they’re touching, so they use it to grab supplies and to grab children to help repopulate the future (adults die when they pass through). This part of the story follows Pete, a fifteen year old boy who is a child of some of the original survivors.

Meanwhile, back in 2013, mathematician Julie Kahn is working with a police task force trying to determine a pattern to the robberies and kidnappings.

I related completely to both Pete and Julie, even when they did things I didn’t agree with or when their actions were in direct opposition to each other. This story had me interested from beginning to end and it felt neither too long nor too short. Well done, Ms Kress, well done. Unfortunately, I hadn’t finished reading this before the Nebula voting period ended, and Sanderson’s story squeaked past this one for my top vote, but with the instant-runoff system I can still show my love.

 

3. San Diego 2014: The Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (Orbit)
The first outbreak of the zombie epidemic happens during the overcrowded opening night of San Diego Comic-Con 2014. This story is the chronicle of that chilling event, told as a 30-year retrospective.

This story is well-written with believable characters and a strong emotional core. The main reason why this didn’t rank higher on my list is that I didn’t feel that it trod any new ground. Zompocalypse stories have been too common in recent years, probably only second to sexy vampires as overused tropes. I’d rather see an original speculative element, an original setting, or both. This story didn’t vary from the familiar zompocalypse rules, at least not in any significant way, so it’s not an original speculative element. I don’t recall seeing a zombie story set at a convention before, and I suspect that’s why it’s been popular enough to get nominated. But, personally, it just strikes me as lazy, trying to keep the writing in a comfort zone rather than trying something different. Kind of like a Stephen King story about a writer that takes place in a sleepy town in Maine.

Also, the story is formatted as though it’s a documentary, but the story itself admits that much of it is conjecture based on known facts. This in itself wouldn’t be problematic, except that by my reckoning, probably 80% or more of the events have to be either pure speculation on the part of the media because the deathtoll was high enough to make after-the-fact compilation of stories problematic. The story would’ve been better if it had just discarded the idea of using a framing story and just told it as a standard narrative.

 

4. The Stars Do Not Lie by Jay Lake (Asimov’s, Oct-Nov 2012)
Morgan Abutti, 4th degree Thalassocrete, member of the Planetary Society, has discovered something new in the stars that violates the truths taught by both the Lateran and the Thalassojustity belief systems that rule the world. He has arranged for a public discussion of his findings, which could shake the world. Bilious Quinx, master of the Consistatory Office (aka Inquisition) must find Abutti before he makes his heresy public. Eraster Goins, head Thalossocrete, has very different motives for finding Abutti.

As you might be able to tell from this brief explanation, there are several religious factions which at least to my mind were never clearly differentiated. Maybe that’s an intentional statement about religious schisms, maybe it could’ve been made clearer, or maybe I just don’t get it. I generally liked the Morgan Abutti character who did not consider his findings a heresy but only wanted to share his findings of the universe to expand their understanding of it, a scientist trying to work within a religious government system. But I just didn’t find the stakes all that riveting. Whether or not Abutti’s announcement becomes public, some other scientist will discover the truth anyway (as the story itself points out), so the events of the story feel pretty moot to me. It doesn’t help that the grand discovery has implications for major future changes, which don’t make it into the space of this story. Those major future changes are what I’m really interested in. If Jay writes a story about the events after this story I will read it eagerly.

 

5. On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
Cousin Linh has arrived on Prosper Station, seeking refuge from the Emperor, whom she has rebelled against in a token fashion. Quyen, magistrate of the station, allows her refuge grudgingly. Linh’s visit causes no end of trouble.

The world of the story takes traditional beliefs and uses futuristic technology to reinforce them. In particular, people in this society are not only expected to honor their ancestors, they also have memchips implanted in their brains that allow their ancestors to give them advice on everything that is happening around them. Very cool idea. The station’s systems are run by the Honoured Ancestress, a being that is sort of a metahuman, with an altered version of a human mind that allows it to run all of the day-to-day affairs of Prosper, and allowing residents of the station to interact with this mind by entering the trance. There’s something wrong with the Honoured Ancestress of Prosper.

I loved the worldbuilding in the story, but I just wasn’t that interested in the main events that took up the bulk of the story. Linh and Quyen’s conflicts didn’t really interest me. I didn’t particularly relate to either one, and it didn’t matter to me which one succeeded or failed in their goals. The state of the Honoured Ancestress was, to me, my biggest interest in terms of plot, but it did not have as much text devoted to it as I would’ve liked, and the solution to the problem was presented without a lot of interesting development to get there.

So this story just wasn’t for me. It was just too long to justify the parts of it I was actually interested in. It didn’t help that the length was such, and my free time segmented enough, that it took a dozen sittings to get through it.

 

Review: Hugo Short Story Nominees 2013

written by David Steffen

And, my favorite award category of the SF award season, the Hugo Award for Best Short Story. The Hugos are my favorite bunch of awards since they are meant to represent the tastes of fandom itself (albeit the portion of fandom that has the money and time and inclination to register and read to vote). And the short story length in particular because that’s the length that I prefer to do most of my reading.

Interesting this year that there are only three nominees for this category, due to a requirement that all stories on the final ballot must have received at least 5% of the overall vote. On the downside, there are less nominees to read and review. On the upside, it seems like a good sign that there is a good portion of quality speculative fiction being published regularly that there were no clearer standouts for the votes!

 

Hugo Award for Best Short Story

1. Immersion by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld, June 2012)
A very interesting setting, set in Longevity, a world which has been recently conquered by a galaxy-spanning Empire. The war is over, but the conflict continues as the Empire sends tourists through to absorb the culture. The biggest element of this absorption is a technology called an immerser, which all of the Imperials use heavily to interact with their world, acting at its most basic level as a translator but altering perceptions of reality in everything you do. To deal with Imperials at all, the locals have to user the immersers as well. It’s a battle to maintain your own beliefs and perceptions in the face of reality overlays.

This was published in Clarkesworld, where I first heard it on their podcast. It’s a solid story, well written. The worldbuilding in this one was especially good.

 

2. Mono No Aware by Ken Liu (The Future is Japanese, VIZ Media LLC)
Hiroto is one of the survivors of the end of the world, riding on a solar sail away from the earth that has been rendered unlivable by a meteor. The story is written as a recollection of interactions with his father who was not one of the survivors, who taught him many lessons about life and what it is to be Japanese.

I’m rather torn on my opinion for this story. I wanted to like it, there were characters, there was good basis for emotion and a plot, a definite speculative element. For me it walked the line between effective emotional writing and being a wee bit sentimental. I like a story that makes me feel, but there’s a fine line that separates that from being able to see the author pulling the strings.

 

3. Mantis Wives by Kij Johnson (Clarkesworld, August 2012)
Eventually, the mantis women discovered that killing their husbands was not inseparable from the getting of young… It was believed that mantis men would resist their deaths if permitted to choose the manner of their mating; but the women learned to turn elsewhere for nutrients after draining their husbands’ members, and yet the men lingered. And so their ladies continued to kill them, but slowly, in the fashioning of difficult arts. What else could there be between them?

This excerpt from the first section of the story pretty much sums it up. The rest of it is the same, but more so. It’s written like a lovingly-written Kama Sutra style book for Mantis Wives to read to think of new ways to torture their husbands to death. That is all it is. No characters. No plot. Just descriptions of torture written as if they were descriptions of sex. That’s not a story. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not a story.

This is one of those nominees that really frustrates me because I don’t understand what anyone could see in it it, let alone the minimum 5% of the nominating population picking this as one of their 5 favorite short stories of the year. I have no idea what people found appealing about this. If you are reading this and you liked it, perhaps you could leave me a comment and clue me in.

Review: Nebula Novella Nominees 2012

written by David Steffen

On to the next category for Best Novella. I find this one another awkward one, covering word counts from 17,500 to 40,000. I like novels because they have room to spread out and really make you care about a broad range of characters in an intricately woven plot. I like short stories because they can really hit you with a story, worldbuilding, or other elements, get in and get out while you’re still excited. Novella I find is kind of awkward length, like a story that wants to be a novel but somehow just doesn’t have the stamina to make it all the way up there.

But, if I’m going to read novellas, I may as well start with the ones that others consider the best of the year, so here goes.

As soon as the Nebula nominees were announced I started reading through each category from Short Story up, intending to get as far as I could before the voting period ended on March 30. Since each category covers fiction that is progressively longer, the rate at which I can read them drops as I move on to each category. Unfortunately, I’m a pretty slow reader, so I didn’t have time to finish them all, and then I’ve moved on to Hugo-nominated works.

There were six nominees in total. I was able to read five of the six nominees, but I ran out of time before I could finish them all, and then the Hugo nominees were announced, giving me another load of stories to read. Katabasis (F&SF 11-12/12) by Robert Reed is the story that I didn’t get to read. Sorry about that, Mr. Reed! I’m a pretty slow reader and the Nebula voting window just wasn’t long enough.

This will be my last of the Nebula nominee reviews for this year, because it’s all that I had time to read in the scant time between announcing the stories and the voting deadline. Coming soon will be the Hugo nominees (some of which overlap with these)

 

Nebula Award for Best Novella

1. After the Fall, Before the Fall, During the Fall by Nancy Kress (Tachyon)
An apocalypse hits the Earth in 2014, killing most people and rendering most of the planet unliveable. Very few people survived, and those were saved from certain death by boxlike tentacled figures (nicknamed Tesslies) that would appear in a shower of golden sparks, grab the person, and take them somewhere else. These survivors wake up in a building with no doors to the outside, with machinery meant to serve their basic food and sanitation needs. The Tesslies never told them what was happening, but their best interpretation is that aliens have attacked earth and kept some humans as specimens. Many years later a new piece of machinery they call the Grab machine appears in the Shell which periodically makes a window through time to the years before the apocalypse. Whoever goes through, the Grab machine yanks them back to the future with whatever they’re touching, so they use it to grab supplies and to grab children to help repopulate the future (adults die when they pass through). This part of the story follows Pete, a fifteen year old boy who is a child of some of the original survivors.

Meanwhile, back in 2013, mathematician Julie Kahn is working with a police task force trying to determine a pattern to the robberies and kidnappings.

This is one of the very few novellas I’ve ever read that worked effectively at its published length. I related completely to both Pete and Julie, even when they did things I didn’t agree with or when their actions were in direct opposition to each other. This story had me interested from beginning to end and it felt neither too long nor too short. Well done, Ms Kress, well done. Unfortunately, I hadn’t finished reading this before the Nebula voting period ended, but there’s a good chance that it will garner my Hugo vote for the same category.

 

2. All the Flavors by Ken Liu (GigaNotoSaurus 2/1/12)
Elsie Seaver is the daughter of a business owner in Idaho City in 1865. Much of the town, including her father Jack’s store have been burned down. Needing the money, Jack rents houses to Chinese miners despite his wife’s misgivings about their unfamiliar way of life. Elsie befriends the miners, especially a distinctive man named Lao Guan who tells her stories about a Chinese god who bears a very close resemblance to Lao Guan himself. They learn a great deal from each other in the time they spend together.

I ranked this story at 2nd because I liked the characters the most of the three that I read. I really liked Elsie and I enjoyed very much her interactions with Lao Guan. The story switches back and forth between Elsie’s time and Lao Guan’s stories, drawing some parallels between Lao Guan and the god in the story but never making the connection entirely concrete. The stories took up so much of the story space I wanted them to mean something, to tie into the main story in some way that was significant. So this story as a whole was either way too long, because it could’ve been split up into two component stories and the one about Elsie and Lao Guan would’ve been all the better for its conciseness. Or the story is way too short, lacking the space to really tie together its halves and making me really care about those other stories.

 

3. Barry’s Tale by Lawrence M. Schoen (Buffalito Buffet)
This is the story of Conroy, an interstellar businessman and his buffalito companion. Buffalito look just like buffalo but are the size of a dog, they can eat literally anything, and they fart oxygen. he has traveled to a planet called Colson’s World where a single family lives, all the adopted children of Colson himself. Most of the visitors to the planet are there for the barbeque cookoff, but Conroy is there to make a business proposition to Colson, to convince him of the value of buffalito that are Conroy’s business. While he’s there he meets Bethany, a little girl who has dangerous powers that have prompted her mother to keep her sedated for the safety of everyone. Only now the medication isn’t working anymore.

Hey, good to see what the buffalito thing is about–I know Lawrence Schoen was giving away buffalito plushies at his WorldCon reading, and I saw them on people’s shoulders throughout the weekend. Apparently two of his books have been published around buffalito, and this was part of a short story collection.

This story took way too long to get going. The first hook for me was about halfway through, which is entirely too far in a novella length work, where the stakes are finally revealed to try to save the girl from those who want to kill her to prevent her killing others accidentally (stakes that I can care about) that give our protagonist something more interesting to do than trying to sell buffalito breeding rights (about which I don’t give a damn). The second half of the story was action packed and interesting, but it was buried behind that first half.

It seemed, too, like I was supposed to be enamored with Reggie the buffalito and how irresistibly cute he’s supposed to be. And yes he is cute. But not enough to carry thousands and thousands of words on his own. It’s very possible that this story was targeted at people who’ve read Lawrence’s buffalito books, in which case I’m just not part of his target audience.

 

4. The Stars Do Not Lie by Jay Lake (Asimov’s 10-11/12)
Morgan Abutti, 4th degree Thalassocrete, member of the Planetary Society, has discovered something new in the stars that violates the truths taught by both the Lateran and the Thalassojustity belief systems that rule the world. He has arranged for a public discussion of his findings, which could shake the world. Bilious Quinx, master of the Consistatory Office (aka Inquisition) must find Abutti before he makes his heresy public. Eraster Goins, head Thalossocrete, has very different motives for finding Abutti.

As you might be able to tell from this brief explanation, there are several religious factions which at least to my mind were never clearly differentiated. Maybe that’s an intentional statement about religious schisms, maybe it could’ve been made clearer, or maybe I just don’t get it. I generally liked the Morgan Abutti character who did not consider his findings a heresy but only wanted to share his findings of the universe to expand their understanding of it, a scientist trying to work within a religious government system. But I just didn’t find the stakes all that riveting. Whether or not Abutti’s announcement becomes public, some other scientist will discover the truth anyway (as the story itself points out), so the events of the story feel pretty moot to me. It doesn’t help that the grand discovery has implications for major future changes, which don’t make it into the space of this story. Those major future changes are what I’m really interested in. If Jay writes a story about those I will read that story eagerly. But this one just didn’t feel all that relevant even within its own context.

 

5. On a Red Station, Drifting by Aliette de Bodard (Immersion Press)
Cousin Linh has arrived on Prosper Station, seeking refuge from the Emperor, whom she has rebelled against in a token fashion. Quyen, magistrate of the station, allows her refuge grudgingly. Linh’s visit causes no end of trouble.

The world of the story takes traditional beliefs and uses futuristic technology to reinforce them. In particular, people in this society are not only expected to honor their ancestors, they also have memchips implanted in their brains that allow their ancestors to give them advice on everything that is happening around them. Very cool idea. The station’s systems are run by the Honoured Ancestress, a being that is sort of a metahuman, with an altered version of a human mind that allows it to run all of the day-to-day affairs of Prosper, and allowing residents of the station to interact with this mind by entering the trance. There’s something wrong with the Honoured Ancestress of Prosper.

I loved the worldbuilding in the story, but I just wasn’t that interested in the main events that took up the bulk of the story. Linh and Quyen’s conflicts didn’t really interest me. I didn’t particularly relate to either one, and it didn’t matter to me which one succeeded or failed in their goals. The state of the Honoured Ancestress was, to me, my biggest interest in terms of plot, but it did not have as much text devoted to it as I would’ve liked, and the solution to the problem was presented without a lot of interesting development to get there.

So this story just wasn’t for me. It was just too long to justify the parts of it I was actually interested in. It didn’t help that the length was such, and my free time segmented enough, that it took a dozen sittings to get through it.

 

Review: Nebula Short Story Nominees 2012

written by David Steffen

This is the first, and quite possibly the only, year that I’ve been eligible to vote for the Nebula Awards. The Nebula Awards, for those who don’t know, are one of the biggest awards of science fiction fandom. This is the one voted by members of Science Fiction/Fantasy Writers of America, as opposed to the fan-voted Hugo awards.

So to make the most of it, I’m reading as many of the nominees as I can find to do before the voting period ends. Here are my rankings of the Short Story category in order of preference from favorite to least (for the voting I pick only one, but to flesh it out as a full review I found this helpful). The Short Story category covers all speculative fiction stories of 7500 words or less.

 

Nebula Award for Best Short Story

1. Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain by Cat Rambo (Near + Far)
Tikka works as a Minor Propagandist on the fantastical Planet Porcelain, where all the residents are all made of varying qualities of clay or porcelain. She is one of the very few of the lower-class variety to find employment in an upper-class region. Having spent so much time writing top five lists intended to attract tourists to the planet, much of the story is told in a numbered format as she is used to structuring her thinking that way. She meets an off-world stranger, and forges a connection with him.

This was first published in Cat’s excellent Ace-Double style dual anthology. A solid and emotional connection with the character, with an interesting setting and occupation. I really felt for her.

 

2. Immersion by Aliette de Bodard (Clarkesworld 6/12)
A very interesting setting, set in Longevity, a world which has been recently conquered by a galaxy-spanning Empire. The war is over, but the conflict continues as the Empire sends tourists through to absorb the culture. The biggest element of this absorption is a technology called an immerser, which all of the Imperials use heavily to interact with their world, acting at its most basic level as a translator but altering perceptions of reality in everything you do. To deal with Imperials at all, the locals have to user the immersers as well. It’s a battle to maintain your own beliefs and perceptions in the face of reality overlays.

This was published in Clarkesworld, where I first heard it on their podcast. It’s a solid story, well written. The worldbuilding in this one was especially good.

 

3. Robot by Helena Bell (Clarkesworld 9/12)
Written as instructions to a domestic robot that also acts as a medical aid. The instructions make it very clear that this robot is meant to follow these instructions very closely. The robot is meant to eat the narrator’s dead flesh as a disease eats away at her. This one sided conversation has all kinds of nuances that you are left to unravel on your.

This was published in Clarkesworld, where I heard it on the podcast. There are some seriously creepy undertones that seem to suggest there’s something deeper. I’m not sure I was ever able to fully unravel them. It served as an interesting puzzle, especially trying to understand the narrator’s motivations and personality only from her instructions. It’s very well written, and has some definite emotional connection. The reason I didn’t rank this one higher is that I didn’t feel there was any character or plot arc–nothing changed. I enjoyed it for sure, but to pick it as my favorite story of the year it has to have something more.

This story also seriously needed a better title. Single-word titles, when the word is from the dictionary, are often not very evocative. But this is the least evocative title I think I’ve ever seen. I saw this on a suggested reading list for the Nebula, and I knew I must have heard it on the Clarkesworld podcast but the title brought back absolutely no memory of the story. I’m sure I’ve read dozens of stories in the last year that involved some kind of robot, and I didn’t have any recollection which one it would be.

 

4. The Bookmaking Habits of Select Species by Ken Liu (Lightspeed 8/12)
This is written as a sort of documentary of the writing and reading habits of interstellar species, a half dozen or so very interesting ideas.

Ken Liu is a great writer. He wrote last year’s “The Paper Menagerie”, which was a well-deserved winner last year. This story showcases some of Ken’s great creative thinking, but to me it read more like a set of outlines that he never got around to making into stories. Among other things, there are no characters, just alien races. They’re great ideas! But I’d rather read the stories, instead of the outlines. To pick something as the best story of the year, I want a plot and characters.

This was published in Lightspeed, where I heard it on their podcast.

 

5. Fragmentation, Or Ten Thousand Goodbyes by Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 4/12)
The story of a dying mother and her son Rico who wants to preserve her in some fashion after. They can create digital uploads of people who can live in virtual environments. He is trying to plan ahead for her death, planning an environment for her simulacrum to live in.

This story has a good emotional core, and there is a character arc. I felt like I should have enjoyed it more. It seemed to me like the core idea (which was referred to in the title) was meant to be deep and philosophical since the entire story focused around it, but it never really spoke to me.

This was published in Clarkesworld, where I heard it on the podcast.

 

6. Nanny’s Day by Leah Cypess (Asimov’s 3/12)
A story that takes place in a future where anti-bioist parenting movements are the norm. Working mothers turn for more and more of their childcare to their nannies. After a landmark case kicks up the anti-bio-ist movement that says that biological parents should have no priority over custody of their own children, encouraging the child to choose who he/she wants to be their guardian. Parents have become paranoid, to the point that no one keeps nannies for more than a few months at a time. The protagonist is a mother who suspects that her nanny is going to try to make a grab for custody.

This was published in Asimov’s, and Leah posted it to her website to read for free. I didn’t really care for this one. It had a character arc, and a plot arc, which are definite pluses. But it just felt very preachy to me very early on, a lecture more than anything, and that feeling never went away. It was well written, but it was just so heavy on message I just couldn’t get into it. Not the story for me.

 

7. Give Her Honey When You Hear Her Scream by Maria Devahna Headley (Lightspeed 7/12)
This story is about… Well, if you know what it’s about, feel free to let me know. A… love story between a magician and a witch… I think.

This one was published in Lightspeed, where I heard it on their podcast. Quite frankly, I found this one completely incomprehensible. Each section switched the style, often speaking in hypotheticals, changing the details of the situation. I was never really sure what was happening or why in the hell I’m supposed to give a damn about anything that’s happening. Everything changed so frequently that it wasn’t exactly a plot or character arc, but more like Brownian motion twitching in any and every direction. Clearly I didn’t get this one at all, and it’s not for me.

 

 

 

Daily Science Fiction: March 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

I have been looking forward to this month for a very long time. Why? Read onâ€

 

The protagonist teaches his daughter on the realities of genie-powered electricity in “Genie Electric” by Andrew Kaye (debut 3/1 and reviewed by Frank D). A light bulb has burned out. The genie who powered it, died. This makes the protagonist’s daughter sad but genies are what makes the world go around.

“Genie Electric” is a parallel world where genies are electrically charged beings. A history lesson using the same names who discovered how to harness electricity in our world, as the masters who learned how to harness the magical being’s power. The little girl in this tale becomes regretful that we have used others as slaves to improve our own welfare.

The story is cuter than my harsh synopsis. For a flash story, I found it to be very clever. Well worth a read.

 

“The Sacred Tree” by Mike Resnick (debut 3/2 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) is a story of the Yakima. They are a Northwestern tribe and are threatened by the white man, who has come to claim their land, their women and their souls. When the Indian agent threatens to conscript members of the tribe as scouts, killing two men in the process, the tribe seeks help from the spirits. The medicine man asks for help from the sacred tree, his wish is granted, but at what cost?

I loved this story, but that may be because I grew up in the west and went to school at a university that has a Native American tradition. The lore of the indigenous peoples is strong in the west and this story captures that essence beautifully. The author also manages to drive the tale forward to today, and shows us that powerful gifts often require great sacrifice. I recommend this story to everyone who wants to understand this culture.

 

“The Way” by Frank Dutkiewicz (debut 3/2 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). John and Helen are old and feel they are becoming a burden to their children. They set out on one last adventure, one last memory before all the memories fade. One more spin around the block before life winds down. What they find is themselves and the joy they once knew.

This is a well written tale of life and love. It wraps the reader in the lives of these two people, nearing the end of their journey. While the tale is about John and Helen, most of us will see ourselves in their story. The author has done a superb job of weaving hope and joy into that last stage of life. I can recommend this story to anyone who wants to feel that for themselves.

 

“Painted Haven” by Michael Banker (debut 3/6 and reviewed by Frank D). Light is taking over. Not sunlight but brightness with substances. The strange stuff frightens Alyssa. She runs to her old boyfriend; confident Henry will know what to do. She finds him painting his apartment, a last ditch solution to keep the light at bay.

“Painted Haven” is one of those rare short stories that had me on the edge of my seat in the first paragraph. The strange light that falls like snow had me completely intrigued. I had hoped Henry would have some sort of answer but the guy turned out to be a flake. The promising and intriguing premise quickly became something I hadn’t bargained for when I first dove in. Although the story took a path I’d rather not gone down, a touching moment of the once couple reminiscing, painting scenes of there life together while they cover the walls to keep the unknown at bay.

Although the second half of this tale didn’t turn out the way I hoped, “Painted Haven” still was a nice story. I’m betting more than a few were glad it traveled in the direction the author took it.

 

A man makes it his life long quest to discover “How Love Works” by Stephen Gaskell (debut 3/7 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this tale suffers a broken heart from his first teenage love and spends the rest of his life recovering from it.

The story is part of the numbers quartet, using Planck’s Constant as its trigger. The lad in this tale lives a full life, full enough to make me envious. The tale thinly links to the trigger.

 

In “Prophet” by Laura Lee McArdle (debut 3/8 and reviewed by Anonymous), a precocious 4 year old is conversing with God about his decision to make a rather unimaginative and orderly woman a pre-school teacher. It is an interesting conversation and is well-written and nicely paced, and, of course, you’d imagine God has all the answers..

Let’s just say God provides the raw materials…

I enjoyed this short story and would give it a 5 and half rocket dragons (out of seven).

 

The main character in “Insomnia” by A.G. Carpenter (debut 3/9 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) is an assassin, but the good kind. His job is to eliminate people who will cause problems for mankind in the future. The side effect is a never-ending parade of hallucinations and endless insomnia. When he is tasked to kill the witness of his latest hit he can no longer stand the strain and saves her. After all, he wonders, how much damage can one person do.

This is a nice story, well setup and neatly plotted. The writing is crisp and clear. There is enough of a twist in the vaguely familiar tale to keep you interested. I also liked the slightly noir overtone in the story. A nice read for a little daily diversion.

 

“The Take” by Alex Shvartsman (debut 3/12 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Ever wonder what happens to actors when new technology replaces older forms of entertainment? Like those silent stars that lost their jobs when talking pictures came into being, plays and movies become extinct when real life experiences become possible to experience? What will those involved in the more traditional theater have to give up to stay employed?

The story here is one of confused reality occasioned by new technology. The author has done a fairly good job of giving us some insight to those left behind as science advances. The theme has been handled by better by others, but this is a good effort. It is well written and works on a basic level.

 

A patient is being given some terminal news in “Mortal Coil” by Ian Nichols (debut 3/13 and reviewed by Anonymous). This story is told from the perspective of the doctor. Apparently the patient suffers from a syndrome that causes him to reject some of the technology floating in his bloodstream–tech that keeps living. The doc has to give him the bad news…

A nicely written flash story with a simple twist at the end. I quite enjoyed it and the medical elements were well done. Five out of seven rocket dragons.

 

Space and time separate Vu and Loi. The distance between the two siblings is as great as their link is strong in “The Heartless Light of Stars” by Aliette de Bodard (debut 3/14 and reviewed by Frank D).

Loi was the eldest of his Vietnamese family, keeper of the ancestral shrine. Despite the eight year distance in time, Vu eagerly awaits Loi’s video messages. An ansible station has immediate information but such equipment is out of the reach of ordinary citizens. Vu instead must wait for eight year news, even when he is aware of the eventual outcome in Loi’s destiny.

“Heartless” focuses on the family structure of this sibling pair but the real draw of this tale is the eight year day-to-day information Vu receives even when he knows of his brother’s fate. When the gravity of the story is revealed, the reality of what Vu is putting himself through, turns the story into a voice from the past instead of a letter from overseas experience. The subtleness of Ms Bodard’s ability to spring a twist sets her apart from many other writers. A pity the twist made the backstory almost irrelevant, but then again, that may be why the twist works so well.

 

“The Body Shop” by Devin Wallace (debut 3/15 and reviewed by Frank D). James needs to buy his daughter something important. Body shops need to turn a profit, however. Fortunately, James has just what they need for him to complete a trade.

“The Body Shop” is set in a future where pawn shops we’ll deal with anything. James is a parent who proves he is willing to do anything for his angel. The most impressive thing about this tale was the author is still in high school. I see big things in young Mr Wallace’s future.

 

A girl sacrifices truth to satisfy her vanity in “No Gifts of Words” by Annie Bellet (debut 3/16 and reviewed by Frank D). Afua is ugly. She wishes to be beautiful so attempts a foolhardy theft of a witches’ potion. The witch catches her in the act and condemns her to a life of lies.

“No Gifts” is the tale of a girl living with the consequences of her actions. Afua had hoped to be free from the torment of being different. The potion granted her beauty but a curse of never being able to tell the truth had left her friendless. Her life takes a twist when a handsome king stops near the field in which she works. She declares herself a queen of the lemurs to him. The lie amuses the king. A few days later, a lemur appears. The creature becomes mesmerized by Afua as she tells her lies of amusement to him.

I found this story attractive. Although it drifted, and the twist was predictable, I couldn’t help but to be drawn into this curious tale. A well-written fable.

 

“Memories of My Mother” by Ken Liu (debut 3/18 and reviewed by Frank D). Amy’s mother is dying. She has only a couple years to live but thanks to the miracle of light speed space travel, she can see her daughter grow up.

“Memories” is a collection of short visits Amy has with her mother. Once every seven years, Mom returns for a day. Catching up on seven years in one day is no way to carry out a relationship. Amy is left confused with each visit, caught between resentment and gratitude for a mother she sees briefly.

I can’t imagine a woman, even a dying one, would leave after spending a day with a child , or rebellious teenager. It would feel like abandonment to me and I can’t see how anyone else wouldn’t see it the same way. Original idea, would have been better if lengthened and the premise hashed out in greater detail.

 

“Guaranteed to Work” by Lee Hallison (debut 3/20 and reviewed by Frank D). The magic has gone out of Ruth and Frank’s marriage. Retirement has not turned out as Ruth had envisioned it. Instead of traveling and enjoying the last years of their life, Frank has become crotchety and distant. Resentment builds for her. A kindly old man at the coffee shop has a solution to her problem; a love potion. A powder that make them forget all the petty annoyances that has become their life.

“Guaranteed” is a fantasy story that is frighteningly close to reality. The everyday irritations that bugs Ruth about her husband has crescendo to a constant nails-on-chalkboard nuisance. You can see her feelings toward Frank has become something closer to hate than love. Ruth’s godfather offers her a chance to bring back the love they had in their youth. The choice sounds like a no-brainer until Ruth analyzes what ‘change’ really means.

I confess, I reread the ending several times and I’m still not sure exactly what happened. Although I felt unsatisfied with the conclusion I must say this tale was more of an eye opener than most I’ve read before. Ms Hallison deserves a lot of credit for making a fantasy story read a lot more real than the majority of non-speculative stuff I’ve read before. Well done.

 

“Godshift” by Nancy Fulda (debut 3/21 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) has something for everyone.

Science discovery: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have just provided experimental validation for string theory.”

Hard science: “String theory predicted that space-time encompassed ten or more dimensions, most of them curled up so tightly as to be unobservable. Even the Large Hadron Collider was unable to generate enough energy to perceive them. Ilyona had first suggested using M-brane topologies to uncurl localized segments of higher-order dimensions.”

Mysterious, global phenomenon: “Over the past three days, there have been 165 cases of criminals brought to justice by natural forcesâ€And all of them, every last one, occurred during one of our five-minute luminosity peaks”

Science debate: “Give up the search for the extra dimensions predicted by string theory, just because a series of absurdities occurred while we were accelerating particles?… Co-occurrence does not imply causality.”

Famous science device: “Large Hadron Collider, world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator.”

Fundamental science concepts challenged: “All of the results agree with each other if we assume a change in the generally accepted physical constants.” “Physical constants don’t change. That’s why they’re constants.” “Well, yesterday, they did. For exactly five minutes, the gravitational constant decreased by 0.003 Ã’- 10â˒11. The speed of light increased by 512 meters per second. And the weak nuclear force appears to have fluctuated, as well.”

Science premise: “If one supposed that God existed within the fabric of the Universe–was the Universe, for lack of a better description–and if one used the Large Hadron Collider to alter the physical constants that governed the Universe…Then one must, of necessity, have also altered the nature of God.”

Religious-philosophical debate: “Because if you’d ever believed in Him–really believed–you’d have asked yourself, eventually, why He allows horrible things to happen in this world. You’d have asked yourself how God can let children suffer; why He doesn’t come down and do something about it.” “Well, according to every religious nut on a soap box, He did something about it today.”

Office romance, his version: “He probably should not have slept with her. They always got arrogant afterwards. But he had such a weakness for students who were so obviously dazzled by his brilliance.”

Office romance, her version: “It wasn’t smart to snap at your thesis advisor. Especially not when you were sleeping with him to make sure your name actually ended up on the research papers.”

In the midst of all the discussion about data and debate about implications, God manifests. How’s that for an ambitious plot device.

“Godshift” is about the age old struggle between a scientist and a religionist. Both are true believers. Despite ensuring that his name will be a household word for the rest of the history of the human race, the scientist isn’t satisfied. He wants to keep pushing buttons. The religionist cannot accept tampering with God and intervenes to stop the scientist from pushing any more buttons. Judging from the ending, the religionist will probably prevail. Ah, but in the interval, the scientist has enough time to push plenty more buttons.

The presentation is mostly pedestrian, but Fulda ‘s flare that we saw in her two Nebula stories – “Flashback” and “Movement” – peeks through in a few places: “The feeling was back again, a vague sense of wrongness that had permeated each of their research runs over the past three days. It was a fleeting, tentative thing, hard to put your finger on; like walking into a familiar room and finding all the furniture moved one inch to the rightâ€And it was back again: the sense of wrongness, as if all the light in the room suddenly came from a different direction.”

This story is part of a series by 4 established authors who refer to themselves as the Numbers Quartet. Every story is based on a dozen physical and mathematical constants – pi, zero, speed of light, etc. In this case, infinity. The other three authors are Aliette de Bodard, Stephen Gaskell, and Benjamin Rosenbaum. All the stories are short pieces and were published in Daily Science Fiction between January 12 and March 28, 2012. The stories appeared in chronological sequence, with the oldest developed concept, pi, being first.

 

“The Fabulous Hotel” by Sandra McDonald (debut 3/22 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

In a dystopian future, one man’s vision of a grand hotel is well received. Permission granted, he sinks deep, deeper than anyone should, into his plans. Abandoning everything but his vision, he draws, and draws, and draws.

I liked this story, but I’m not sure if it’s a commentary on never reaching perfection, or a straight tale of futility in a futile world. Read it, decide for yourself.

 

“Frog/Prince” by Melissa Mead (debut 3/23 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

Normally when a princess kisses a frog, he springs into manly form, fully clothed and with a grasp of language that I’m still working to attain. Thanks to Melissa Mead, we get the perspective of a frog who is, well, a frog. Becoming a man was not on his short list of things to do today. (List provided by the author.)

At first he wrestles with having to become a prince, but later embraces it. After all, the princess – is a princess. Around 3/4 through is where this fairy tale really gets turned on its ear. What happens when a once-frog and a princess have… offspring?

I subtracted one rocket because I felt the ending could have had a little more punch, but the intent is solid, as is the story. Worth checking out.

 

You may want to pay attention to the pre-flight instructions “In The Unlikely Event” by Ferret Steinmetz (debut 3/26 and reviewed by Frank D). This tale is a futuristic look at the hazards of interstellar travel. The story is a friendly announcement from the friendly crew before your spaceship takes part in its decades long journey.

Mr Steinmetz’s inspiration for this humorous piece came to him while he listened to check list of horrible possibilities of air travel the stewardess cheerfully announced before his plane took off. Funny work of flash.

 

“A Different Rain” by Mari Ness (debut 3/27 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Mary had spent her life in space and was eager to enjoy her home planet. She wanted to experience everything, especially the rain. She had only seen it once before and when a sudden storm arose she had her chance. She ran to enjoy it, even if it was a different kind of rain.

This is a nice little tale about expectations. Those things we dream of are seldom what we expect when we finally get them. Sometimes they are better, but more often than not they are worse. Mary would find that fulfilling expectations is difficult. I found this story interesting enough, even if it was somewhat expected.

 

She found the dark cloak in her closet, buried in the bottom in “Underneath” by Amelia Beamer (debut 3/28 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) . Now she can go out in public and no one will see the self-loathing, the cloak will hide it. But this cloak has a life of its own and soon she can’t separate it from herself. Maybe if she can destroy it she can be herself again. Or can she?

This is either a tale of madness or magic. Maybe it’s both. The author makes an attempt to draw us into the world of the main character and she does a fairly good job, but in the end it fell short for me. The writing is solid enough, but perhaps the subject matter is too dark and conflicted. Maybe the madness too close to the surface to be fully engaging. Some will find this story to their liking, but I wasn’t one of them.

 

A spaceport employee is “Offering Solace” by Jamie Lackey (debut 3/29 and reviewed by Frank D) to travelers. Her solace is a liquid in a bowl. She offers passerby’s a free whiff. The aroma is unique to each customer. The protagonist feels unappreciated, for she pours herself into her work.

“Offering Solace” was a sweet story that had an unexpectedly dark ending. It left me not knowing how I should feel about it.

 

A Wizard’s loyalties are tested in “The White Raven’s Feather” by David D. Levine (debut 3/31 and reviewed by Frank D). Ibude is a prisoner. A wizard, spoil of a lost war, serves his master , the Karshan Warhalt Kraig. He works on a magical spell he and lost wife had been working on before his home, Ubini, had fallen. He is still a year away from completing his work but Kraig is becoming impatient. Ibude does the only thing he can do to aid his master, reveal the positions of enemy.

But the spell shows Karshan’s enemy and former ally, the Svaargelders, soldiers massing near a cliff. Ibude recognizes the spell the enemy is about to use and realizes his wife and partner in magic, Ejira, work.

“White Raven” is a gripping tale of a man forced to use his genius to aid a people who destroyed all he held dear. An agreement between Karshan and Svaargelder split the married pair. Ibude was told if he were to die or escape his wife would be immediately executed. It is his genius that has kept him alive. He is overjoyed when he learns that his wife is still alive. His plot to be reunited with her takes a turn when Svaargelder soldiers coalesce out of thin air and are within the walls of the city.

I found myself intrigued with this tale. The tension and anxiety Ibude experience’s is brought to life for the reader. He is a pacifist forced to abandon his principles. His belief that Ejira shares his morals is dashed deep in the story. What I really enjoyed was the path Mr Levine chose for a resolution to Ibude’s dilemma.

Good Sci-fi and fantasy use the wide open settings only those genres are capable of bringing to life, as a canvas of commentary of the people we are today. Great writers can do it so well you may not even notice the subtle metaphor they so artfully articulate.

Recommended.

 

Should the name say it all?

I recently turned an avid reader of all types of fiction onto DSF. He said (not first time I heard this) that he didn’t realize DSF published fantasy. He assumed the magazine published only science fiction. He has come to enjoy receiving their daily emails but his confusion brings to light an inherent problem Daily SF has.

Daily SF is one of the most inclusive speculative fiction markets in the industry, but you wouldn’t know that unless you actually took the time to view their library (or read more than a weeks worth of material). A lot of people won’t read science fiction. Too many place the genre in a Star Trek/Star Wars box. The fact of the matter is more lovers of speculative fiction gravitate to fantasy than science fiction, and horror (vampires, zombies, and the like) is quickly coming up the rear. DSF publishes all of this (and a lot more) but too many readers don’t know it.

So, is a name change in order? Would the magazine be more attractive to a wider audience if DSF became Daily Science Fiction and Fantasy? Maybeâ€.

Have you seen Mr Anonymous? His whereabouts are unknown. I haven’t heard from him in a very long time and I am getting concerned. I would give you a description but my arrangement with him forbids me to do so. So I can’t tell you his height, age, race, hair color, if he has hair, where he lives, what hemisphere he resides in, what he drives, if he drives, his spouses description, his sexual preference, or what type of pet he has. I can’t even confirm his real gender. But, if you have seen, him, her, them (?), please let me know.

Daily Science Fiction: February 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Well, so much for that pledge. Disaster hit me a month plus ago. My laptop died. Fortunately, most of the stuff I was working was backed up, except for the reviews of Daily SF. No big deal, just had to reread, rewrite, and resave the entire month of reviews I did. Good thing these stories are worth a second readâ€

 

“Worlds Like a Hundred Thousand Pearls” by Aliette de Bodard (debut 2/1 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Okay this is the part of the review where I tell you a synopsis of the story. The problem is that after reading this several times I’m not sure what that story is. It starts out with an explanation of the transcendental number, e, and progresses through Buddhism, ending in a parable wrapped in a metaphor. Maybe it’s just because I read it on the 20th of April. (If you don’t know the significance of that date, ask a college student.)

This story definitely isn’t for everyone, because it sure wasn’t for me. I found it confusing, muddled and I’m still not sure what the point was. I guess there was an attempt to build a pseudo-existential parable, but it was lost on me. There were some good little descriptions in there, like the worlds being stacked on one and other like a child’s stacking toy, but they are too few and not joined by any connective tissue. In the end the story felt like a bad saying I had found inside some fortune cookies.

 

The death of a monkey is seen from several perspectives in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Monkey” by Ruth Nestvold (debut 2/2 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). As we progress from the simple statement, that a monkey was alive and then died, to more detailed descriptions, the impacts are revealed. This is a story in thirteen vignettes each building on the previous ones. They tell a story of man’s inhumanity and the ape’s all too human reactions to it.

I liked how this story changed perspectives with each segment, and how the author used this perspective change to touch our sensibilities. He leads us down the path we know we must go, but rebel against. Good story, handled with deftness and a clever setup.

 

The main character is pulled into a game night in “Cloudburst” by Robert Reed (debut 2/3 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), forcing him to put aside business and focus on mundane interactions with his wife and son. A sudden storm interrupts and as it grows in intensity and destructiveness he is forced to view the world differently, often applying his own particular prism to the events.

This is a simple tale proceeding from a mundane night at home to more profound thoughts. The author does a good job of injecting wonder and mystery into a seemingly simple set of natural events. I liked the way he managed to weave several levels of consciousness into what might seem a simple night of homebound normalcy interrupted by a simple storm. The writing is clear and crisp as the air after that cloudburst and as evocative as the display of lightening in the northern sky.

 

Be careful what you pour down a drain is the theme of “Biomass” by Alexander Stanmyer (debut 2/6 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this tale is a commercial genetic therapist, working within the confines of a Living City. A botched batch of a concoction to boost a client’s immune system is dumped into the city’s waste reservoir, and now the city is showing signs that it isn’t feeling so well.

This story is set in a future where cities are living breathing life forms; tailored to absorb our waste, see to our needs, and grow the infrastructure a city needs. The author presented it as one person’s confessional, keenly aware he is the instrument of the city’s oncoming death. Perhaps because of its short size, the tale is eerily dark, making it appealing and revolting, depending on your particular flavor of speculative fiction. I must confess I loved this premise but was disappointed because of the brief manner in which it was told. This is a tale that deserves a far larger narrative. A novella or novel is the proper venue to tell a tale like this correctly, and I encourage the author to bring it to life so we can view what a metropolitan involuntary manslaughter crime truly looks like.

 

“Magic Enough” by Chuck Von Nordheim (debut 2/7 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). Sometimes there’s just enough magic. As adults, we wouldn’t know. Perhaps the real world and our bills and busy lives steal the magic from us, or perhaps it just fades with time.

For young Evan, he’s got just enough remaining to conjure his invisible friend and pass a tangled message to his best friend who is about to pass from our world. The boys know, they understand, even if the parents only wonder.

 

“Angry Child” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (debut 2/8 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is an interesting story of a man, plummeting to his death, contemplating who is to blame for his falling; himself, for not catching hold of the window as he was pushed through it, or his daughter, for having done the pushing.

Other contemplations take place during the life-flashing fall but for the most part, the plot through-line, that which led his fall, is what I found most gripping.

This is the first story I’ve read by Benjamin, so I can’t say if his style is traditionally wordy and purple, but this particular prose was a bit too over-the-top for me to fully sink my teeth into. However, the story is sound.

 

The Empress Uvay is dying and must choose her heir in “The Steel Throne” by Eric James Stone (debut 2/9 and reviewed by Frank D). The hard empress has two descendants to choose from; a son , the rightful heir, and her daughter , child of her heart. The two have their own strengths that would benefit the great nation she helped to create, but would lead the empire in opposite directions. She has only one real choice to make, and only she can change it.

“The Steel Throne” is mostly a historical look back at the empire Uvay created. The narrative explains how the nation came to be and shows why her choice is so difficult to make. The path the author took to tell this story made it obvious that a twist was on its way. It read like one big set up for an ending that had only one of two ways to go, which turned the reveal into a coin flip for the reader.

Early tension. A prophesy. A mysterious girl. A kingdom under tyranny. What more could you ask?

 

In “The Age of Three Stars” by Kenneth Schneyer (debut 2/10 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), the author draws a complex life for Petros, the aging protagonist. His station, blacksmith’s apprentice, and his age, say a lot about his character. A self-professed coward, he hid during a preliminary uprising, and was the only rebel to survive.

Now, thirty some years later, the prophecy of a new age, heralded by an eclipse, should be about to come true… but he’s the only one who remembers the date.

He relates the prophecy through song to Zandra, a young street urchin dead-set on being his apprentice, thus unburdening his tainted soul.

The conclusion and how the prophesy plays out is best told by Kenneth, not I. So please sit back and read this Friday offering. You won’t be disappointed.

Recommended.

 

A man seeks a magical item that will give him an advantage in “The Pencil of Truth” by Shamus Maxwell (debut 2/13 and reviewed by Frank D). Magnus knows his shops, asking the owner for a “magical object that will change my life for the better, then for the worse, After turning down the first two choices, the owner offers him a pencil that writes only the truth.

“The Pencil” was a delightful story. The pencil changes anything the writer writes but what it reveals can never be predicted. Waiting for information you’ll find useful can take some time, and may reveal facts you really didn’t need to know. For a work of flash, the twist and turns in this tight narrative had me on the edge of my seat. The ending was to die for.

Recommended.

 

“Joey LeRath’s Rocketship” by Julian Mortimer Smith (debut 2/14 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a recently missing boy recruited to pilot a vagrant’s cardboard rocketship. Billy is lost. He ran off when his parents began to argue in the crowded Crouchtree market near a nuclear weapons stand. Joey LeRath finds him and offers the scared lad a bit of candy and a safe place out of the crowd. Joey has made a spaceship, flimsy as a weathered shack. He needs a pilot, and Billy is just the man for the job.

“Joey LeRath’s Rocketship” is a fantasy story set in a science fiction world. Billy’s family has torn itself apart on the eve when the Earth is about to do the same. The tale was difficult for me to buy. Although I found the writing solid, I was left unsatisfied following along. The ending left me wondering what the whole story was about.

 

“Pulse” by Stephen Gaskell (debut 2/15 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is an interstellar probe on its way the Crab Nebula.

“Pulse” is one of the Numbers Quartet’s offerings. The story receives its inspiration from the Elementary Charge equation. I failed to make to connection between the equation and the story.

 

In, “In Her Arms of Dresden Place” by Damien Walters Grintalis (debut 2/16 and reviewed by Anonymous) a glassblower repairs what appears to be the broken remains of a glass woman and somehow breathes life back into her. The story is about his relationship with the re-animated statue and how his ‘help’ may be contributing to the problem of adjusting that the statue has. I think this story is a metaphor for the heart and mind, and although the metaphor is taken quite literally it works quite well on that level. Nicely written.

 

Tom has the solution to Marla’s allergies in “Nanomite” by Patricia Duffy Novak (debut 2/17 and reviewed by Frank D). Marla’s husband is a bit extrinsic who has a habit of jumping to conclusions and solving paranoid problems with grand schemes. He is sure Marla’s cold is caused by dust mites, but not to fear. The latest technological advancement is guaranteed to solve the problem, for good.

“Nanomite” is told from the perspective of a wife with an excitable husband. Marla sniffles is all the proof he needs to pepper the house with tiny robots to exterminate dust mites. After going a summer without a running nose, the first signs of a cold returns in the fall, spurring a new worry for Marla.

The story is slightly science fiction. It is more of an everyday tale with a small futuristic element inserted to make it fit DSF. Although I enjoyed the voice, I expected a grander resolution to this tale. The ending left me slightly disappointed.

 

“Digital Blues” by Greg Mellor (debut 2/20 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) starts as a wistful siren’s call. It beckons the reader to come visits old places, feelings. The passion and feelings are laid bare, as if the teller wants to show us how entwined the two of us are. Slowly it is the depth of an algorithm’s love for its mainframe that is revealed as the two lover’s quest for fulfillment.

This story started out almost as verse, but without any underlying meter. It was as if Shakespeare wrote in a mixture of prose and mathematics, but lacked a soul. The story pulled me in by unraveling the twine. But alas, it was not to be, for the ending did not live up to the promise of the beginning. The strong foundation laid by the earlier passion was weakened by the tepid ending. It was a piece of such promise left unfulfilled.

 

A pilot crashes on the home planet of a race his force is keeping imprisoned by blockade in “The Prisoners” by D.K. Latta (debut 2/21 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). He is remarkably uninjured, but is held captive by the reptilians that are his hated enemy. While the elder being set to watch him seems unthreatening, the pilot knows their true nature. Though he is uninjured, the pilot cannot move; he cannot imagine how the telepathic race has bound him. If he could free himself Chanthrow would kill his captor with his bare hands and escape. The price for his release may be too high to pay, the truth often is.

This is an excellent story of how our perception can be colored by prejudice, whether it is of our making or not. The story does a good job of drawing us in spite of a few strange word choices, such as “.., like a wave slamming him against the surf.” This phrasing caused me to stumble once or twice. These few minor glitches aside, the writing is clear and crisp, the underlying theme timeless. One of the best I’ve read on this site.

 

An imaginary friend seeks a purpose in “Nilly” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (debut 2/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The boy who imagined Nilly has died. Now the imaginary child wishes to attach someone new.

“Nilly” is a small tale within a far larger, yet unknown, story. Something awful happened to Nilly’s creator. Somehow, Nilly is responsible. An effort to attach himself to the boys sister goes all wrong and now Nilly is left alone.

I am not sure what was going on in this tale, but in a good way. The unanswered questions left me wanting for more. Not knowing the entire story inhibits me from giving this intriguing story a full recommendation. However, I feel as if there is enough to this brief universe to warrant a greater work of art.

 

A boy finds a treasure from a dead civilization in “Saurus” by John Van Pelt (debut 2/23 and reviewed by Frank D). The book he brings to his clan he hopes is filled with stories. The words within are eloquent but does it hold the treasure he is after?

I found this brief tale curious but nothing more.

 

“Bus Ride to Mars” by Cat Rambo (debut 2/24 and reviewed by Frank D). Djuna boards a bus headed to Paradise. The bus to Mars is a five-day journey with many stops along the way. The passengers are just as intriguing as the bus’s multiple destinations.

“Bus Ride” is a people watchers tale. Djuna doesn’t want to go to Mars, or get to know her fellow passengers, but the odd people on the bus tell their own tales within earshot of Djuna. The passengers on the bus are as odd as the alien bar in Star Wars.

I confess, I am befuddled on the point of this tale. The cast of characters are a mish-mash of competing genres and are as odd as the aliens in the bar scene in Star Wars. The passengers sound more shallow than interesting to me. Djuna, the protagonist, I’m guessing would agree with me. The entire story left me confused because I was never sure if Djuna had passed and ‘Paradise’ was indeed heaven (the unanswered question of why heaven would be on Mars makes me believe otherwise). The bulk of the tale are tracks of sidebar stories the passengers tell, which made me wonder if “Bus Ride” was a retelling of the Canterbury Tales. Whether it was or not matter little. The real attraction to this piece is Ms Rambo’s ability to compile an array of odd individuals with random tales and turn it into a single story.

 

“Storytellers” by Jen Brubacher (debut 2/27 and reviewed by Frank D). Beatrice and Gary have stories to share. The pair compete to tell about the extraordinary events of their day.

“Storytellers” is a dual perspective narrative of two tale-weavers. Beatrice has the ability of making mundane events sound compelling while Gary’s astounding tale has a way of coming out humdrum. Gary’s ghost tale proves to be far more interesting than even he imagined but Beatrice’s boring story may end up one-upping him in the end.

Like Ms Brubacher’s characters, I have two different reactions to this piece. I found the overall premise of “Storytellers” to be silly. It took an extraordinary right turn that (in my opinion) cheapened the greater tale. The story’s final lineâ€

“Well, that makes sense.”â€

â€I couldn’t have disagreed with more. The real draw to this piece was Ms Brubacher’s portrayal of two polar opposites through different perspectives. I enjoyed following along while one character listened and judged the other while they told their exciting tale. A true jewel of a gift for the author to bring characters to life like that. If it wasn’t for the way the tale ended, I would have given this story an enthusiastic recommendation.

 

Anna needs one last operation for her to achieve immortality in “The Procedure” by L.E. Elder (debut 2/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Her last biological component , her brain– is defective. She is one of the last of the bio-residued beings , or humans , left. Her daughter is eager for her to become Alltech. Only ten percent of her components are bio, what could she possibly miss if she were to ditch the last of it.

There is a curious moral to “The Procedure”. Anna was an early advocate for cyborg rights. The opposition gradually gave way, not because they were swayed but rather because they died out and while the techno-enhanced lived on. The ‘people’ in this story have lost all their humanity but have retained their consciousness. Anna is the unique position of realizing the people she opposed ended up being prophetically correct.

I liked this tale a lot. “The Procedure” put a price on immortality, the fare being the loss of your soul. But the ‘people’ in this tale don’t care, having likely lost the sense of the true value of what they once possessed. The author in this tale established the fine line of where humanity strides and where being human ends.

I found this story to be thought provoking , what science fiction is all about.

Recommended.

 

“The Princess of the Perfumed River” by Aliette de Bodard (debut 2/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Thein has been waiting for Kim. She left two years before to investigate the Artifact , an alien vessel in space. She is back on Earth but so distant she might as well be light years away.

This tale is part of the number quartet series. The in feels left behind, hoping Kim will be the one to save him. Her distance leads him to believe she will never come back, but he may have misunderstood why she is so far away. Distance isn’t always one person’s inability to separate. Sometimes it may be one person’s inability to find their way back.

The theme to “The Princess” was difficult to decipher. As a fan of several of Ms Bodard’s works, I have become accustomed to the deep nature of her plots. The short narrative did not make this easier to puzzle out. In fact, its brief size made it more difficult. It took a second reading for me to fully grasp this storyline. Even so, I wished more answers would have been available to me.

 

Congratulationsâ€

The Million Writer’s Award is an award for speculative fictions most notable online short stories. To my dismay, only one story from Daily SF made the list, but if you could only pick one story for the award, you couldn’t have gone wrong with Eugie Foster’s “Requiem Duet, Concerto for Flute and Voodoo”. In our September 2011 review I wrote in my recommendationâ€

I first heard of Eugie Foster years ago. A friend told me he read the best story ever in a popular critique group. That story went on to win the Nebula in 2009. If “Requiem” is any indication on how well she writes, you can expect several more awards to come her way in the near future. The story was just plain dynamite. It is the best Friday story I have read at DSF yet.

â€and it is still the best Friday story I have read yet at Daily SF. Although I disagreed strongly with Million Writer’s Award choice last year, I am hoping they will get this one right and choose “Requiem” as their overall choice and give Daily Science Fiction a much deserved feather in its cap.

 

Dave Steffen is editor and owner of this wonderful ezine Diabolical Plots. He recently reached a goal many writers desire, the chance to become a full-fledged member of the Science Fiction Writers of America organization. Congratulations, my friend.

Review: Eight Against Reality

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

I’ve sold stories. Dave’s sold stories. A sizable portion of the people reading this blog have sold them as well. Everyone (don’t deny it if you have sold one) couldn’t have done it without help. A friend to give it a look, lend a helping hand, and tell you when you are off your rocker and to change that thing you thought was so clever when you wrote it.

Writers never go it alone. Stories are their babies, babies that have had more than one uncle or aunt to help bring it to maturity. Most writers belong to a critique group. Some are large with an open door policy to all that want to join (Critters, Hatrack), while others are exclusive (Codex).

Eight Against Reality is an anthology put together by a very exclusive writers group called Written in Blood. It’s eight members vowed to help each other through thick and thin. So confident are they with each other’s abilities that they all contributed a story for all of us to read.

Let’s just see how good this exclusive club of writers isâ€

The Eminence’s Match by Juliette Wade

Eminence Nekantor is a difficult man to please. If His Eminence isn’t happy, then no one will be happy, and His Eminence is rarely happy. Bureaucrats run from his fury. The house-servants cringe from his cruelty. An entire nation will suffer when His Eminence is on a rampage. The task of pleasing Nekantor, and suffer the brunt of his fury, falls upon his Imbati manservant, a job that proves difficult to fill.

Kurek, an experienced manservant, is the latest to fail. Now the Service Academy must ready another. The Director is set to send one of its top students, but Details Master Arkad believes Xinta is the only one capable of handling His Eminence’s extrinsic need for perfection. Xinta has proved to have trouble dealing with the abuse of the academy, but Arkad senses a quality in him that may be just what His Eminence has desired all along.

The Eminence’s Match is a tale of a powerful man with an obsessive-compulsive disorder that has run amuck. It opens with the reader experiencing Nekantor tormenting his manservant, Kurek. Nekantor expects a level of perfection that any rational person would consider impossible. Trapped in his own sickness, Nekantor seeks to share his misery by making a game of breaking his Imbati manservants’ calm disposition.

The Service Academy is a school designed to teach young men to endure the abuse Grobal noblemen dish out on their manservants. The students must suffer through a gauntlet of physical abuse while a Grobal instructor verbally assaults them. The lessons taught within its walls would be considered felonious in any modern day western society. Xinta is a convincing timid and meek man-child that has been stripped of most of his pride so he will be able to live a life as a human punching bag.

The strength of this story is the characters. The tale is told from four separate points of view with most of it done through Nekantor and Xinta’s eyes. All the people are under an enormous amount of stress. From the start, the reader is led to believe that Nekantor is a spoiled man that is cruel only because it gives him pleasure, but he is in reality suffering from a mental illness that has him on the verge of rendering him incapacitated. The OCD that has consumed him is overwhelming, but not obvious from Nekantor’s perspective. In fact, Ms Wade did such a splendid job that the reader is able to piece together what is wrong with Nekantor without the character being aware of it himself.

The story done from Xinta’s eyes is equally as astounding. The academy challenges its students to defy the ‘turning the other cheek’ axiom they need to adhere to if they are to succeed. Ms Wade offers how such a character could rationalize enduring such an irrational task. I found him convincing and very likeable.

The Eminence’s Match is about insane people set in a crazy circumstance that is told so rational people can sympathize with it all. Juliette Wade managed an impossible task by bringing these people to life and making it all believable. I found the characters delightful and the story powerful, but like the theme of her story, all was not perfect. I have one complaint, and it is a big one.

The tale ended just as the really story was about to begin. The title and plot led me to believe that a titanic battle of wills was about to commence. The story from the first word to the last scene was written as a set up for a classic ‘unstoppable force vs the immovable object’ struggle. Instead, Ms Wade chose a different ending. The resolution was too simple and unsatisfying. I wanted, and expected, more.

The writing in The Eminence’s Match is first class. I loved Ms Wade’s style and her ability to bring her dysfunctional people to life. The story is fitting for an opening act for any best selling anthology.

Kip, Running by Genevieve Williams

Kip is a freerunner. She runs in a future Seattle that has grown tall and is connected with a complex mass-transit system. The races are run through the city’s skyline and the rules are simple; get to the finish line any way you can but you must do it on foot or by riding for free. Kip’s aim is to beat her rival, Narciso, and win the object of her affection in the process, Lily, Narciso’s girlfriend and freerunner groupie.

A freerunner race is a daring and dangerous game. The object of the race is to grab onto anything that moves to get you to the finish line, not unlike what modern day skateboarders do by grabbing the bumpers of passing cars, except this game has a 3-dimensional element to it with mass-transit lines running 80 stories above the ground. The racers give a whole new meaning to the concept of train jumping.

Kip, Running is a rollercoaster of a story. Kip glides through the tall skyline like a flying squirrel in a redwood forest. Following her run is an exciting adventure. Particularly enticing is the futuristic Seattle. The fast-paced city is very different from today, but not so different that it is alien to the reader. I could visualize Kip flying through its skyline, very well done.

Not as exciting is Kip’s obsession with Lily. Kip believes defeating her rival will win his girlfriend’s heart. It becomes the reason for her to risk her life, not the adrenaline surges of leaping from train to slidewalk hundreds of feet above an unseen street. Her obsession dulls the edge of a sharp adventure. It cheapened the thrill of the piece and made me less sympathetic for Kip. The sidebar story set up for a disappointing finish. I cannot remember an ending line that I disliked more. I would have preferred reading ‘The End’ in its place.

Despite my disappointment with the ending, I found Ms Williams’ story telling professionally well done. The writing is very solid and the visual narrative first class. I did enjoy 90% of Kip, Running and can see why it was chosen for this anthology.

The Lonely Heart by Aliette de Bodard

A thin street girl named Xia eyes a statue at Chen’s merchant stall. The girl is reminder of a life Chen escaped, but unlike Chen, Xia has fallen prey to a pimp. Powerless to help her, Chen returns home to the husband that rescued her ten years before and his mother. She tries to put the tormented child, and her pimp’s threatening words, out of her mind. Then Xia appears at her door. Chen is torn between looking out for her family’s best interest and the guilt of Xia’s empty life. But there is more to Xia than meets the eye. Chen has yet to learn how empty of life Xia is.

The Lonely Heart is a sad story that shifts unexpectedly to a creepy one. Chen is portrayed as one of the fortunate early in the story. She was lucky to survive the homeless existence of her youth to become a member of China’s lower middle-class. She is grateful to her husband for rescuing her. Ms Bodard does a masterful job of showing a life that most would find dismal as a blessing.

Xia has an effect on Chen immediately. Her presence tugs at Chen’s conscience. As the story progresses, Xia forces Chen to realize her role in her marriage, and why her husband rescued her long ago. The story would have been great if Ms Bodard would have stuck with this extraordinary theme, but she inserted a twist that I didn’t see coming. High marks for that.

I found The Lonely Heart special. A disguised horror that was so much more. Ms Bodard successfully created a character that is subtly filled with guilt. She set up a convincing past and a unique set of circumstances to make Chen’s choice believable. For anyone else, the price she paid at the end would be too high. Ms Bodard sold me that it wouldn’t be too high for Chen. Masterfully done.

The Flying Squids of Zondor: The Movie Script by Doug Sharp

Commandrix Dron and her valiant (and dense) crew of the Trigon have been saddled to play host to the female prince, and heir to the Tandori crown, Galina. To relieve her indignity of being relegated to a ‘whoremonger’, Dron spots a planet filled with flying squids to take her anger out on. The Planet Zondor is ruled by the giant squid Zondor the Fertile. The squids are a peaceful race (except for the second in command, Zondor 2). The primitive Zondor squids spot the Trigon approaching from deep space (no explanation how they were able to detect it), and do nothing.

Dron instructs her rocket crew to attack and floors it. Galina does her best to yank on the steering wheel (interstellar ships have steering wheels?). They crash on the planet, suffering only 60% casualties in the process. They proceed to attack the palace (the only structure on the planet) and that is when things get really weird.

The Flying Squids of Zondor: The Movie Script is more of a 20 minute skit than a movie script. If written, it would need a lot of actors. There of 17 speaking parts, 32 actually, considering MAN-16 is in fact 16 humans melded into one being. Reading it as a script is odd in itself. The narrative is preachy (just like a script), which made the story fast, as in a blur. Smooth prose was not an objective for this piece.

It is clear that Mr Sharp really wasn’t pitching the next great movie. The story is really a Sci-Fi satire. Well, more of a farce. I believe Mr Sharp was really writing a bit, but not one you would find on Saturday Night Live. I’m guessing Doug was going for more of a Monty Python flavor. The dialog, for example, was way over the top.

Treat Commandrix Den Dron like a whoremonger will you? Hump blatantly in my fearsome Trigon?

Record my vow: I shall wreak dreadful vengeance upon the Tandori crown.

The Flying Squids of Zondor: The Movie Script is simply silly. A silly premise filled with ridiculous characters. Some of the funniest comedies in history are controversial and misunderstood. The more over the top (Three Stooges, Family Guy, Cheech and Chong), the more diverse the opinions will be about them.

Writing funny stories in the fantasy/sci-fi genre is something I like to do, at least I think they’re funny when I write them. I bet Doug thought the same thing when he wrote this.

Humor is subjective, but when you are pushing the line on ridiculous, there is a point when the effort negates the humor. Kind of like when a horror movie goes way over on the gore and screaming women, it ceases to be scary to anyone.

I believe writing this as a movie script was a mistake. Sticking to the tried and true prose of a short story could have made this work. Some jokes need a set up, not much set up here. The Flying Squids of Zondor: The Movie Script is a story of punch lines, but no substance.

Spoiling Veena by Keyan Bowes

Shalini worked hard to make Veena’s birthday special and her best efforts are falling short. The snowfall she ordered became hail. The cake she bought was supposed to be a replica of the Snow Castle, instead they got America’s Congressional Capital. All Shalini wanted for her gender-manipulated daughter, was to make her princess happy. What will make Veena happy may be more change than Shalini expected.

Spoiling Veena is a tale of a parents desire to do what is best for their child. The story explores a future where gender tailoring is a possibility and how it affects the people around them. The author wisely sets the tale inside a future India, where old prejudices still linger in the progressively advancing society. Shalini’s generation is caught between her daughter’s ‘do what makes you happy’ philosophy and her mother’s ‘god intended people to be one way’ morals. The premise is a potential future problem, which makes for good Sci-Fi.

I liked the idea but I didn’t like the author’s decision to write it in a present tense format. The story is written over a time frame that covered a few months. I am not against the present tense style but it didn’t feel right for this one.

I found the ending fitting, one of those little twists that I like. Good idea. The story didn’t bowl me over but did make me think.

Man’s Best Enemy by Janice Hardy

The people of Atlanta, all 98 of them, are expecting this year to be one of the best in a long time, then one of their own falls to a juvie. News that the dogs are near is tragic. Hunters are needed to take it down. Shawna volunteers, but no one wants the doctor’s apprentice to go. Armed with only javelins, bringing down a juvie isn’t always easy. Juvies have a way of becoming adults, and if you aren’t careful, you may find yourself on the wrong end the food chain.

Man’s Best Enemy is set inside an Atlanta a generation removed from a devastating plague. Man’s best friend has become its vicious enemy. Searching for remnants of dwindling supplies is dangerous, but finding an undisturbed store may be worth the risk.

The dogs of Atlanta have grown and are now the top predator. The few people left are holding the downtown area, protecting their dwindling livestock in the abandoned stadiums, and doing their best to rebound in hopes of rebuilding a civilization. Shawna wants to become a hunter like her mother was and brother is. A fallen hunter, and her brother’s infection from a dog bite, has granted her a rare opportunity.

Man’s Best Enemy is hair-raising excitement. The young teens have become the front line defenders against a lion-sized enemy. The people of Atlanta are under siege and are holding the last bit of ground that isn’t overrun by packs of vicious maneaters. Ms Hardy has done a splendid job with this dystopia tale. I found the MC likeable and the Atlanta’s blight believable. I could see why they would be wary of using the last of their guns’ ammunition but found it odd they only brought javelins with them. Spears are easy to make and would do well against even a large dog. The tactics the young defenders used seemed foolish as well. Trying to outrun a predator is just plain suicide.

Although I could poke all kinds of holes in it, I still found Man’s Best Enemy a good story. I liked it.

Love, Blood and Octli by T. L. Morganfield

Ayomichi has found favor with a feathered serpent. Ehecatl is the wind god and gives Ayomichi a gift for her people, creating happiness for all. Ayomichi becomes priestess for her Ehecatl. She discovers that gods do have more than one side to them. Ayomichi and her people learn that gods are like strangers, and that you should be wary when they come bearing gifts.

Love, Blood, and Octli is a fable, a retelling of an Aztec myth. The story is told as Ayomichi grows from a small child to a leader of her tribe. Mankind is changed by Ehecatl’s gifts. Ehecatl himself changes as the story progresses. In the form of a snake, the god molts, and takes on a new personality when he does.

If you are one that can’t get enough of Aesop, than you’ll probably love Love, Blood, and Octli. The story does run a lot longer than a Greek fable and the moral isn’t as clear as the ones reflected in Aesop’s wisdom. In fact, I’m not all sure there is a moral in this tale. Never lose faith, perhaps?

I must say that I think it was a mistake sticking to the fable format. Yes, this was based on a myth, but it could have still been written in a style that was less like a religious lesson than a work of fictional entertainment. I think I would have enjoyed it more if it were.

Dancing by Numbers by Dario Ciriello

Lyra is a dedicated ballerina. She has been working on her focus, concentrating her whole being to find her center of balance, when she slips into another world and different Lyra. She has discovered a new reality, and realizes that she can repeat the process. Lyra becomes an explorer, an explorer of other Lyras. Her friends and workmates worry that she is losing it. When every decision that was ever made can spawn a new reality, losing it becomes just another possibility.

Dancing by Numbers is a new look at alternate universes. Dario Ciriello came up with a concept that makes it seem almost possible. Lyra One (as she comes to call herself) starts a trend. Once combined with her other selves, memories and thoughts become one. The brief visits spur her counterparts to make their own leaps. Lyra One becomes the pebble that starts a ripple in a sea of multi-able universes.

Mr Ciriello’s knowledge of history is a big plus. The universe of a Carthage victory I would have liked to know more about. Too bad he didn’t delve deeper into the different universes for us to learn more.

Alternate universe stories are like time travel ones. Questions that defy the premise arise for readers. For me, the story is too tight. I would have liked more of Lyra(s). The tale is crisp, but brief. I liked the idea and Mr Ciriello’s style, but the tale needed more story for me to fall into it.

Final Thoughts

I envy the Written in Blood writers group for their perseverance. I was once part of a group that attempted the same thing they did. We were about the same size with the same goal; get a group of emerging writers together and work for the benefit of all. Instead of equals that were eager to help each other, we devolved into something like a dysfunctional family sitting together for a disastrous Thanksgiving dinner. The group lasted less than a month. Three years later, Written in Blood is still going strong. Standing ovation for that feat.

Eight Against Reality is a risky endeavor. The separate styles in writing and shifting genres may turn some away. I love reading such anthologies but more than a few gravitate to collections that share a theme that interests them. The only theme to this collection is a shared history between the authors. However, if the only criteria that concerns you is the quality of the writing, then you have nothing to worry about.

I have yet to read an anthology with so many different authors where I liked all the stories. Eight Against Reality does not break that streak. However, rarely will you find the quality of writing this consistently high.

I found almost all the stories professionally done. Two were exceptional, in my opinion.

If you are looking for an example of a character driven story, study Aliette de Bodard’s The Lonely Heart. Ms Bodard took a character who lived a life that I could never envision, and brought her to life for me. Masterfully done.

Juliette Wade’s The Eminence’s Match was that and so much more. Yes, I was disappointed with the end, but only because I was not ready for it to end. Her characters, seeing what they saw and feeling what they felt, made for a powerful reading experience. If I were granted the honor of nominating one story for a major award (Nebula, Hugo, Campbell), I would be placing The Eminence’s Match on my short list of ones to consider at the end of the year.

Eight Against Reality was a pleasure to read. I give this anthology of virtual unknowns a solid recommendation.

This is the gold award that Frank proudly displays in his home. Emery Huang threw it through his living room window after readingÂFrank’s review of Writers of the Future Vol 25. Frank now plans on reviewing Eugie Foster’s works so he can add a Nebula to his collection.