Long List Anthology Kickstarter: The Home Stretch!

written by David Steffen

A City On It's Tentacles (1)It occurs to me 20 days into a 26 day Kickstarter campaign for the Long List anthology that I have not actually mentioned the Kickstarter campaign on my own website.  It has been a crazy 20 days and so much has been happening this particular thing has been postponed while I was working on other factors related to the campaign.  Well, better late than never, and with 6 days left in the campaign there is still some time for those who are interested to back the project to get their rewards and to help push toward the couple of remaining stretch goals.

You can read more detailed information on the Kickstarter page, but I’ll give a brief rundown here.

Purpose

Every year the Hugo Awards celebrate short stories (and other content) related to SF fandom as nominated and voted by supporters of WorldCon.  The works on the ballot receive a great deal of attention as they are distributed in a packet to voters and the voters discuss them.  Every year after the awards are given out, the Hugo administrators publish a longer list of nominated works which receive much less attention though they are also works that were greatly loved by the voting fanbase.  The purpose of the Long List anthology is to publish as many of the works from that longer list as possible.

Goals

The campaign’s base goal was relatively modest–only covering the purchase of nonexclusive reprint rights for the stories in the short story category, with stretch goals to add novelettes and novellas.  The campaign got off to big start with the base goal being reached just 2 days into the campaign, and the stretch goals being reached only a few days later.  Since the stretch goals were reached so early in the campaign I got to work making ever larger and ever more exciting stretch goals.  This added up to three stretch goals to produce an expand an audiobook of those stories for which audio rights could be acquired, produced by Skyboat Media who you may know as the folks who produce the excellent award-winning Lightspeed Magazine podcast.  The first of those goals has been reached, so there will be an audiobook which will contain 8-9 of the short stories.  There are two stretch goals remaining to add novelettes and novellas to the production.  I am very excited to have the opportunity to work with Skyboat Media–they have produced many of my favorite podcast fiction recordings and I am very excited to hear their productions.

Table of Contents

The following is the list of the table of contents of stories that will be part of the anthology.

Note that there will be 3 formats of the anthology:
1.  Ebook:  Will contain all of the stories (180,000 words of short fiction).
2.  Print book:  Will contain all of the short stories and all of the novelettes. May contain novellas depending on printing constraints. (around 140,000 words for short stories and novelettes)
3.  Audiobook:  Will contain at least 8-9 of the short stories (close to 40,000 words, which I think comes out to perhaps 4 hours of produced audio?), and if higher stretch goals are reached may contain novelettes and novellas which will add more content.

The following is the full list of stories:

Short Stories

  • “Covenant” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “This Chance Planet” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “Goodnight Stars” by Annie Bellet
  • “The Breath of War” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “The Truth About Owls” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “When It Ends, He Catches Her” by Eugie Foster
  • “A Kiss With Teeth” by Max Gladstone
  • “Makeisha in Time” by Rachael K. Jones
  • “Toad Words” by T. Kingfisher
  • “The Vaporization Enthalpy of a Peculiar Pakistani Family” by Usman T. Malik

Novelettes

  • “The Magician and LaPlace’s Demon” by Tom Crosshill
  • “The Litany of Earth” by Ruthanna Emrys
  • “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i” by Alaya Dawn Johnson
  • “The Bonedrake’s Penance” by Yoon Ha Lee
  • “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch
  • “The Husband Stitch” by Carmen Maria Machado
  • “We are the Cloud” by Sam J. Miller
  • “Spring Festival: Happiness, Anger, Love, Sorrow, Joy” by Xia Jia, translated by Ken Liu
  • “The Devil in America” by Kai Ashante Wilson

Novellas

  • “The Regular” by Ken Liu
  • “Grand Jeté (The Great Leap)” by Rachel Swirsky

 

Rewards

There are a variety of backer rewards left for those who might be interested, listed briefly here.

  • Copies of ebook, print book, audiobook or combinations thereof.
  • A sonnet or sestina written by Ruthanna Emrys
  • A question for Rachel Swirsky which she’ll answer in a blog post
  • A “Women Destroy Science Fiction” (Lightspeed Magazine special edition) audiobook autographed by Gabrielle de Cuir
  • Special thank you within the audiobook
  • 11×17 poster prints of the wonderful cover art for the anthology “A City On Its Tentacles” by Galen Dara)
  • Custom digital art by Sam J. Miller in which he will sketch an animal of your choice in the occupation of your choice
  • Studio recording copy of the Long List anthology with director notes and narrator autographs
  • Audio recording of your story by voice actors Stefan Rudnicki, Wilson Fowlie, or Graeme Dunlop
  • Voice mail recording by voice actor Stefan Rudnick (of Skyboat Media)
  • Story critiques by Yoon Ha Lee, Anaea Lay, or me
  • Consultation with Skyboat Media regarding suitability of book for audiobook format
  • Lunch with Skyboat Media at WorldCon 2016 in Kansas City
  • Breakfast and watching recording session at Skyboat Media in Los Angeles
  • Audiobook co-producer credit

“WorldCon 2012 Con Report” or “David Steffen Finds Fandom”

written by David Steffen

I’m beginning to write this article from the huge lobby of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago. It’s 10 o’clock Monday morning, the last day of WorldCon, which this year is Chicon 7. As I sit here and watch the escalators, ambushing familiar faces to sneak in some goodbyes, I am feeling very nostalgic about the weekend already.

This is the first big SF convention that I’ve ever been to, and the only one where I came with a large number of friends I’d known ahead of time. The only convention I’ve been to besides this has been MiniCon in the Twin Cities, which is a few hundred people, and although I’ve made some friends there, I didn’t know any of them ahead of time. Here at WorldCon there are literally dozens of people whom I have met in some respect, varying from casual acquaintances from forums, to editors who have considered my stories for their magazines, to close friends who I’ve been in continuous contact with for years. I tried to write down all the names of these people I’d met, and came up with at least 60, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some, with another dozen that I would’ve liked to meet but never quite got the chance.

I think I finally understand, to a much larger extent, what fandom is all about. The greatest thing about SF fandom is how welcoming it is to everyone. No matter what race, nationality, religion, sexuality, body type, no matter what, you are welcomed with open arms. I’ve always loved that, but previously–I don’t know exactly how to explain this–although I never felt unwelcome, I don’t think I ever felt like I was a PART of the group. I felt like I was being welcomed warmly into a group but not exactly part of the group. I think that everything about it was the way I have approached MiniCon attendance. I go to MiniCon during the day, show up at the first panel that I’m interested in and leave after the last panel I’m interested in. Since so much of the programming emphasizes panels, it seemed to me like panels were what it was about (despite others telling me that that wasn’t the point at all). And I would talk to people as the opportunity arose, but since I was so panel-focused, most of the time I spent was sitting listening to other people talk without a lot of opportunity for conversation with others. But now I’m realizing that the way that I have been approaching MiniCon is all wrong. Panels are good, but they’re not the point.

I can pinpoint the moment when this became real to me. One of the first panels I went to was “Short Story as Proving Ground” with some panelists that I’ve known online, Brad Torgersen, Vylar Kaftan, and others. I arrived late, and so I didn’t get a chance to talk to anyone beforehand. After the panel, I met quite a few people that I’ve known online for a long time, shook some hands and was quite happy to be meeting them. But when I met Annie Bellet, who’s been a friend online for years, she didn’t go for a handshake, she immediately gave me a big hug. And moments later a similar greeting from another longtime friend, Laurie Gailunas. I really felt, at that moment, like these people aren’t just friends, aren’t just colleagues. These people are family, welcoming me with open arms. I realize that sounds corny. But that’s how it felt, and that feeling has persisted through the rest of the con. So, thanks Annie, Laurie, and thanks everyone else who has made me feel so welcome.

I’m not even sure where to get started with this con report.

Dude, you’re really only getting STARTED? You’ve written flash fiction stories that are shorter than that introduction.

Don’t pay attention to that italicized bit. That’s my internal critic. He’s just cranky from being ignored–I don’t know how he got out of the dungeon. Anyway, back to the topic of where to get started: I thought about splitting it up by day, but figured that would get a bit too dry of a “list” format that wouldn’t at all match how I feel about my first big con experience.

The People

There is no way that I can possibly list all of the people that I met this weekend, so I’m not even going to try. I will mention a few. I roomed with Donald Mead and Bryant Thomas Schmidt, both very nice guys. I was very excited to meet Annie Bellet, Hugo-nominated Brad Torgersen, Laurie Gailunas, and Alastair Mayer, who I’ve been in a writing group with for the last few years. There are so many others that I met that I know through various forums or publications, Brennan Harvey, Thomas Carpenter, Alex Kane, Laurie Tom, Dawn Bonnana, Christie Yant (who wrote my favorite story in years, the Three Feats of Agani), Nancy Fulda, Gio Clairval. Many others whose work I have enjoyed over the years, like Rajan Khanna, David D. Levine, Ferret Steinmetz. And I got an autograph from Mr. George R. R. Martin, while managing not to go too fanboy on him.

As I have been sitting here writing this article, others have come and gone around me. I have been sitting next to a woman for the last hour as I type away, and moments ago realized that the woman is LaShawn Wanak, whom I have had many a discussion about fiction on the Escape Artists forums over the last few years! Man this is a crazy place, to meet so many people I know digitally.

The Editors

Wait, wait, aren’t editors people? What kind of stupid categories are these, anyway?

I concede that editors are people. Many of them might even be entirely human. Not John Joseph Adams, clearly, because he regularly violates causality by sending rejections from his Lightspeed EVEN BEFORE the story has been sent to him and somehow he does this without unraveling spacetime. On top of that, no flesh and blood human being could possibly juggle all the anthologies that he puts together all at the same time. Regardless of his superhuman state, he seems to be a very nice guy, even though he’s rejected my stories more than any other editor on the planet.

Also met Gordon Van Gelder, who was one of the first editors I submitted to at Fantasy & Science Fiction. And Stanley Schmidt, the current editor of Analog who has seen all the SF stories I’ve written, as well as Trevor Quachri, who will soon be inundated by my stories in Stan’s stead. Jason Sizemore. And Mur Lafferty, who has the unique distinction in my mind of being the only magazine editor I’ve met who has bought a story from me (for Escape Pod).

It was fun meeting these people, whom I’ve corresponded with so often, if in only the most spare and businesslike way.

Those dulcet tones

What kind of stupid category is that? “Those dulcet tones”. Sheesh.

There was one very small category of people whom I was especially excited to meet.

Wait, wait, so you had a category called “The People” followed by two categories which are subsets of people. Your Software Engineer’s license is going to be revoked if anyone ever founds out–

Ah, that’s better. I found my handy dandy internal critic club that I’d left in my other pants, and put it to good use. He’s back in the dungeons where he belongs. Anyway…

So this very small category is but a category of two, podcast hosts who have been keeping me company in a unidirectional fashion on my daily commute. Mur Lafferty, editor and host of Escape Pod, and Kate Baker, host and narrator of the Clarkesworld podcast. I have talked to both of them before this convention. Mur has bought one of my stories. I’ve talked to Kate before, both as part of her work as a staff member of SFWA, and to share my Best of Clarkesworld lists. Corresponding with them via email was one thing, but easy enough to separate from the podcast because of the different medium. Talking to them in person, though, was very strange (in the best possible way). I have listened to both of them for SO many hours, I felt like I was talking to best friends of many years. They both have such beautiful reading voices.

It sort of reminded me of those times when I’ve gone to a play with incredibly good actors, and then greeted the actors afterward. Theater can establish such a perceived intimacy that it’s easy to feel like you know the person as a close friend, and so if I follow my instinct and greet them as a warm friend without thinking, it’s very confusing for both parties. I think in this case it was more so, because I have listened to them both for so many hours. I kept waiting for Kate to say “Let me tell you a story.”

It was really, really surreal, as if I talked to my iPod and it suddenly started responding to me. And, so far, I haven’t been served a restraining order, so at the very least I think I managed not to creep either of them out with one-sided over-familiarity.

The Parties

Every night, parties. Usually I don’t like parties much, but these are writer parties. Many familiar faces, and you can stand around and talk about writing. There’s not really anybody in real life that I talk to about writing without them getting bored after a few minutes, so this was a lot of fun. Tor and Baen both hosted big parties, but one of the highlights of the weekend was the “Pink and Blue” release party of Cat Rambo and Stina Leicht. Cat Rambo just released an anthology of her short stories titled “Near + Far” (she’s the pink) and Stina Leicht (she’s the blue) something as well, I think it was her book “Of Blood and Honey”. This was a highlight of the weekend, a good turnout with lots of people I wanted to meet.

Panels/Events

I’ll just list the ones I went to briefly, for anyone who’d like to know more than I said, ask in the comments.

Thursday

Opening Ceremonies–formatted like a late-night talk show with the entertaining John Scalzi as host, he interviewed all of the major guests of the con.
Mike Resnick Reading
Nancy Fulda Reading
The Short Story as Testing Ground–This was the first panel I went to that I’d mentioned previously, with Brad and Vylar as panelists. Good content, but especially exciting to meet a bunch of people after.

Friday

Mark J. Ferrari Reading–I’ve critiqued some book chapters of Mark’s upcoming book, was nice to meet him
George R. R. Martin Autograph Session–Got a copy of “Game of Thrones” autographed
John Joseph Adams Reading–Fiction reading of stories bought by JJA, including by Christie Yant and David D. Levine. Very enjoyable, especially Levine’s clever parody of Superman from a Lex Luthor point of view justifying his seemingly evil actions.
Filling the Magazines–Great panel of editors, Gordon Van Gelder, Stanley Schmidt, John Joseph Adams, Jason Sizemore, Ellen Datlow
Ferrett Steinmetz Reading–I think Ferrett’s really hit his stride lately, I like each story more and more.
Open Mic Reading–Ferrett inexplicably was scheduled for another 90 minute session and he opened it up for volunteers. I was very happy about this since I registered for the con much too late to be in any programming. So I read my favorite of my own work, the unpublished “Hungry Void”. I had a lot of trouble keeping my voice steady because that story always makes me want to cry.

Saturday

Codex Breakfast–Great fun to meet dozens from my favorite online writer’s forum
George R. R. Martin Interview
Effective Habits for Aspiring Authors–
A panel with Annie Bellet and Brad Torgersen
Critique Session–My sole programming commitment, Deirdre Saoirse Moen and I lead a critique session of 3 authors who signed up. A very enjoyable experience. I like critiquing anyway, was enjoyable to do this in person for a change.
Escape Pod Meetup–I showed up very late for this due to the critique session commitment, but was happy to find some people still hanging around. Met some great people involved in one of my favorite podcasts.

Sunday

The Future of Analog–Panel including Stanley Schmidt (editor until Friday), Trevor Quachri (editor after Friday), Brad Torgersen and Richard Lovett to discuss the editorial change and just generally the future of the magazine.
Podcasting 101–Okay, so I have little interest in starting a podcast (though I’d like to try some voice acting). I mostly went to hear Mur Lafferty and Kate Baker talk.
Neil Gaimain Theatre–One of four plays performed at this convention written by Neil Gaiman, this one a reimagining of the Snow White story with the stepmother as the hero and Snow White as a vampire. It feels entirely more real than the original story.

The Hugos

The Hugo award ceremony was a lot of fun. John Scalzi made a very entertaining host. This was an odd experience too, because it had a feel very much like the major award ceremonies you see on TV (but without the upstaging and with half the runtime), but I KNOW some of these people. I was particularly rooting for Brad Torgersen, Mur Lafferty, and Nancy Fulda to win in their respective categories. They didn’t, but I hope they’re not too disappointed about it–to be voted by fandom to be one of the top 5 favorite in any category is an amazing accomplishment.

I won’t list all the winners here, because those have been published for days. I was excited to see Jim C. Hines win for Best Fan Writer. If you haven’t read his blog posts about female and male poses on fantasy covers, you should–he actually reproduces all of the poses he discusses, to both thought-provoking points and comic effect. I was disappointed that the “Remedial Chaos Theory” of Community didn’t win for Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form, because that category is always dominated by Dr. Who. Game of Thrones Season 1 on HBO won Best Dramatic Presentation Long Form, against a tough field. Ken Liu‘s “Paper Menagerie” for Best Short Story, a well deserved win, that story is so good.

Wrap Up

I’m wrapping this up in my office at home on Wednesday, having hopped a plane home on Monday and gone back to my engineering work yesterday. I still feel a bit disoriented, culture-shock I guess, at being back in my daily life instead of this brief but intense visit into the convention scene.

This has been a really great experience for me, which I’m having trouble finding just the right words to describe. I feel like I’ve found fandom, after never quite being able to see quite where or what it was, and when I finally got here someone had saved a seat for me. Thank you to everyone who has made me feel so welcome–even just the little things added up to a great experience.

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: December 2011 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

This marks the end of Daily Science Fiction‘s first full year of publication. Speculative fiction’s first email service magazine has done well for itself. Although it has lacked the fanfare it deserves, its grass roots ascension in the market has not gone completely unnoticed. Two respectful award organizations (Million Writer’s awards and the Micro awards) have nominated several stories that debuted on DSF. Congratulations to Daily SF and its authors.

Now onto this month’s storiesâ€

 

In “Found in the Wreckage” by Marge Simmons (debut 12/1 and reviewed by Anonymous), the author re-works a theme from Maria Doria Russell’s The Sparrow. A young woman is found in a crashed spacecraft, by a human-like alien male.

The male alien is obviously very taken with the woman despite some differences in their physical design and takes it upon himself to look after her. He decides she could be ‘improved’, does the job himself, and then takes her as his mate. Surprisingly, they are clearly compatible, as she becomes pregnant.

This is a story about a how we can impose our own values and beliefs onto others and cause great harm despite not meaning to. I thought the story was smoothly written, but I didn’t get much of an alien feel from the ‘alien’. I am left wondering how they could mate successfully when they have evolved (presumably) on different planets in different systems. I’d rate this as five out of seven rocket-dragons.

 

“The Girl in the Next Room is Crying Again” by Peter M Ball (debut 12/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). I don’t fully understand the connection between smelling and altering someone’s memories, but author Peter Ball makes it work because this is a Story. (Capital S).

We don’t know what the narrator did to warrant a death sentence against his soon-to-arrive former boss, but that doesn’t matter, because we’re firmly planted in the narrator’s shoes and the present is the only thing that matters. To pass the time while waiting for Morley, his former boss to arrive, the narrator listens to and smells and tastes her bitter memories. However, he can’t quite make out why she’s in distress, so he makes up names, histories, and reasons for her sadness.

But what does one do with all these stories, now that they’ve been thought up, they kind of exist, right?

 

Short, sweet, to the point, written well, and what a fun ending! “SchrÃ’ dinger’s Outlaw” by Matthew W Baugh (debut 12/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) has a small prerequisite, in that you know of Erwin SchrÃ’ dinger and his famous “cat” experiment. The experiment is both obscure and well known. The name, yes; the details, generally no.

Presented here are the details, so no need to look any further, only, this time we have the Witchita Kid… and he’s in a quantum state.

 

The author of “Substitution” by Brooke Juliet Wonders (debut 12/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) does a fine job of slowly revealing the true nature of the narrator. Given the short length of the story, this is quite a feat.

The narrator has been replaced by a younger, (newer?) model and is responsible for training him. Yet, the narrator has fallen in love with his owner, and, while perfectly obedient, can’t help but notice all the flaws inherent in the new model.

While reading I felt genuinely sad during most of the story, which is why I rated this quite high. Assuming that was the author’s goal, she succeeded brilliantly. Worth a look.

 

An automated coroner yearns to learn more about death in “Autopsy” by Budge Burgess (debut 12/7 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is an AI unit built to investigate the causes of death. It is very good, but has much it still needs to learn.

“Autopsy” is a slow to develop story, which served it really well. The protagonist is successfully cast as cold and calculating, very fitting indeed. Mr Burgess’s bio says he is a crime writer; he’s good at it. My only complaint is the reveal was sprung a little too quick for me. Nevertheless, a well done story for a sci-fi horror.

 

Jordan (Jonah) is from the future in “A Time to Kill” by Melanie Rees (debut 12/8 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), sent to prevent catastrophic events by eliminating their perpetrators. His current target is Ella, a girl from a time and place just prior to his own. During the execution he comes to question the nature of his tasks, and the infallibility of the council selecting the targets. When the messenger brings the next assignment, he also brings answers to Jonah concerns, but not answers that provide comfort.

This was an interesting thought piece about the nature of time travel and the consequences of “adjusting” the timeline. I was somewhat put off by the writing, however. The story was a little confusing at first, part of the reason may have been the duality of names for the main character. I also found parts of it a little uneven, but overall I liked the story. I would have enjoyed it more if execution were a little better.

 

“Character is What You Are” by Michael R. Fletcher (debut 12/9 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Alex Baker is a Senior Systems Architect at a company obsessed with security. Their primary method of maintaining security for their intellectual property involves a mind plug that ensures loss of the memories accrued during the workday. This sets up a conundrum for Alex, his friend Jason and fellow Senior Systems Architect, Raajaa when off duty and workplace relationships overlap.

This story has a number of interesting facets. The primary interplay between friends and lovers when half your life can’t be remembered is the primary thread. The story also deals with things like corporate ethics, what is reality and what forms our essence. The writing, however, is a little uneven. After a rocky start it settles down to a smoothly told tale that sets up the issues nicely. The ending, however, is a little too smooth given the potential issues set up earlier. It seemed like the author chose to just put together a “and they lived happily ever after” ending without fully addressing some of the deeper elements he brought up earlier.

 

“Inflection” by Tina Connolly (debut 12/12 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is about an Earth woman whose alien friend is leaving. He won’t take her with him. He wants no record of his visit.

Her thoughts are told in short Hemingway type sentences. “She had thought she would not see him again. Thought he would return to his home a billion miles away and never say goodbye. Leave her to her own decisions.”

The dialog is minimal. The title apparently comes from both characters relying heavily on body language. The alien touches parts of his and her body to supplement his words. “Beth had told him her name but he never used it. His name for her was “you,” with a light touch on her chin. He did it now as he spoke, and the anisette of him curled along her skin. She did not know how he would describe her when he returned home, how he would represent she when she was not around to have her jaw line stroked. Silent now, his brittle hands touched her hair, her neck, her jaw again. Without the spoken pronoun what did the touch on her chin mean to him? Half a language was an echo, perhaps, a whisper, voices dying in the distance.” As he is saying goodbye, she distracts herself by cutting up boxes. We get detailed descriptions of this process. “She ran her box cutter down taped seams, split the tape with slashing strokes that ran into the cardboard, ran through the corrugation, frayed bits of brown into fringe.”

The flattened boxes represent the dismantling of their relationship. She agrees there will be no record. The Earth woman is pregnant. The tiniest box represents the baby.

Were they lovers? Is he the father? Has she told him he’s the father? Is he leaving to escape the complications of being a parent to a mixed species? Is she considering an abortion? Such a child would certainly be a record. Is this what he is hinting at when refers to no record? Would she go through with such an abortion? Was she just telling him what he wanted to hear when she said there would be no record? The author lets us draw our own conclusions.

For such a short piece of fiction, “Inflection” has a high percentage of literary devices. No small feat. A good one for the literature textbooks.

 

Peter is a teenager who fishes in the ocean as a hobby. Vesea is a mysterious woman he meets on a train. She has magical powers. When she touches glass, the scenery changes from air to sea. Turns out Vesea is a mermaid type creature. In “Lures, Hooks, and Tails” by Adam Colston (debut 12/13 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter), Peter gets a chilling history lesson about Vesea and her species. Fantasy-horror. Pretty good.

 

“A Stitch in Space-time” by Nicky Drayden (debut 12/14 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a tale of interdimensional monsters, forbidden technology, and betrayed love. Monsters from another dimension feed on electric pulses, so technology is banned. Before the monster invasion, the husband was a movie actor. Now he has to settle for the stage. But his wife wants to make a movie for him and starring him. Trouble is, if the movie is too long, the monsters break through from the other dimension in search of the electric pulses from the camera. The premise is clever, but the characters are arch typical and the plot is all too predictable, so pass on this one.

 

“Not a Prince” by Kathryn Yelinek (debut 12/15 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a very unoriginal story about teenage heartbreak and teenage mischief. The plot is thickened by magical powers and a police investigation. But this ending is also predictable, so pass on this one too.

 

“The Black Spirits Which Rage In The Belly Of Rogue Locomotives” by Rahul Kanakia (debut 12/16 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter).

“On the evening that Jack’s mother became a robot, she was enmeshed in the cushions of a sofa as another Law and Order plot was poured into her, one dripping burst of photons at a time, twenty-four times per second. Her mind was ensnared, as per seven o’clock routine, by the grotesque symmetries of situation and resolution, the carefully-crafted simulation plugging itself into her cerebellum through the bare sockets of her eyes, the whirring circle of plot squaring itself in memetic resolutions, each frame carrying the genetic code to build an entire episode, an entire series, an entire world.”

Can you resist such an opening? But if the entire story is like this, the reader quickly overdoses.

“That was the death-impulse: thanatos. It wasn’t very strong, and even the slightest danger made the neurons dance and brushed it back with the need for immediate and decisive action. And even after we conquered danger, for a while the effort of keeping our foot on the world’s neck was enough to stave off death’s final victory, even as, unknowing, we built up the huge edifice of annihilation higher and higher around us and walled ourselves inside it.”

I have no doubt that this makes perfect sense to the author, but it’s all one hand clapping to me. And again, the story contents a very large dose. But author doesn’t stop with fiction. From the author’s notes: “Baudrillard singled out J. G. Ballard’s Crash as “the first great novel of the universe of simulation”. In order to try to wrap my head around what Baudrillard’s aesthetic might mean in practical terms, I went ahead and read Crash. I cannot say that I enjoyed the novel. At the time, I wrote that Crash was “one of the only books I’ve read that has physically nauseated me. Reading it is like driving for twelve hours straight. Your head starts to throb and you get a sick, twisting feeling in your stomach.” That’s exactly how I felt reading “The Black Spirits Which Rage In The Belly Of Rogue Locomotives” by Rahul Kanakia. The title should have clued me into what was in store for me.

“I did not understand it, but there was an incandescence in those foreign polysyllables. It’s a rhetoric that uses technical and mechanical terminology to achieve effects that science fiction rarely strives for. I decided to write a story that tapped into that same rhetoric. The title of this story comes from a line in F. T. Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, which has fascinated me for years, and which certainly seems like some kind of spiritual forebear to Crash in terms of singing the beauty of speed.” Perhaps write a Master’s thesis about this, but don’t torture sci-fi/fantasy fans with it. At least we can say that since this was published digitally, brains were fried but no trees died.

 

A young girl sees the world differently in “Butterfly Shaped Objects” by George Potter (debut 12/19 and reviewed by Frank). The little girl sees the world as a lie. Living things are but mechanical objects to her. Knowing not what to do with her, the people put her in an institution, where she lives for the rest of her short life.

I was not satisfied with this tale. The reader is left to wonder if she is mad or possesses an ability no one else has. Whatever the case, the ending is bleak and the story is unresolved.

 

“Are You There? Are You Safe? Is The Flock Safe?” by D. Robert Harman (debut 12/20 and reviewed by Frank) is the story of a man who watches over engineered birds on a colony world. The birds are copies , the DNA of the originals were damaged on the voyage. Turner studies the birds and learns their calls. The copies are different than the Earth’s species, becoming a far tighter group than its original cousins.

“Are You There?” is one odd bird of a tale. Turner becomes an outdoor recluse, choosing to remain a part of the phony birds’ community rather than be a part of society. The story fizzles and the end left me wondering of its greater point.

 

“Crickets” by William Greeley (debut 12/21 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a SETI story with a snippet of a plot and an unclear purpose. There seems to be a message. If the message is deliberate, it’s a decidedly anti-SETI message.

 

“Naughty or Nice?” by James S. Dorr (debut 12/22 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is about a civilized, self-justified, vampire prostitute who takes Christmas off and writes to Santa. She hangs with human working girls and compares her services with theirs. She describes her relationship with her clients. She delves into past life dating back hundreds of years. Is she naughty or nice? Readers are left to draw their own conclusions. Suffice it to say, she makes a strong case for herself. Never mind pondering whether she can convince Santa she’s nice and not naughty. No, ponder instead Santa’s reaction. Surely he’s never read a letter like this one. The premise would make a basis for an enjoyable novel, movie, or maybe even a TV series. Since this story is flash, the reader is left wanting a longer dairy of this very sexy and very charming bloodsucker.

 

“Don Sebastian’s Treasure” by Colin Harvey (debut 12/23 and reviewed by Frank D).

Rob is a tourist, drawn to the island of Ceftanalona in search of a locomotive that doesn’t exist. The train is said to be the property of Don Sebastian, martyr of the revolution that freed the island from Spain a century before. Rob is rebuffed by his tour guide, Isabella, when he questions her about the train. Rob’s grandfather saw it in his youth and now Rob wants to fulfill a promise by proving it exists.

The tale of Don Sebastian proves to be grander than a mere train, though. The martyr was said to have no family to carry on his name but plenty of descendants. Legend has it that he found the fountain of youth, but claims that he was immortal is dismissed as several Don Sebastian’s who continued on with his name. The legend of Don includes a curse against his descendants and a promise of death for those who dared to touch his train.

“Don Sebastian’s Treasure” is a complicated tale. Rob’s desire to prove the train existed puts him at odds with Isabella. Rob softens the hard woman when he offers to watch over her Alzheimer-inflicted mother so she can work.

I found “Don” a chore to follow. The tale is far more intricate than I felt it needed to be. It had the flavor of a far longer romantic tale, and in truth, the story may have had a greater appeal if lengthen and marketed as such.

This is the second, and last, tale of the late Mr Harvey DSF published. I adored his first but wasn’t as taken in with this one. Nevertheless, Colin’s skill was on full display here. His characters were brought to life for me and his premise was filled with creativity that is hard to match. A true talent that we will all miss.

 

A schoolboy outcast uses his gift of precognition to avoid teasing in “Ten Seconds” by Scott W. Baker (debut 12/26 and reviewed by Frank D). Max is a favorite target of bullies. His ability to see into the future a mere ten seconds helps only a little, making him a challenging target for tormentors. A new girl offers him a reprieve, a chance to make someone else the target. Belinda is just the person to get him off the bottom rung of the pecking order, but using another as fodder is no way to get ahead, and they may be more alike than Max could have foreseen.

“Ten Seconds” is a unique spin on childhood hazing. Max’s gift has a limited ability. It has its benefits in helping him look bright in the classroom but is of no use in a test. Belinda is understanding, giving Max a break and proving she can more of an asset than an alternative target for him.

I found this tale fun, cute, and fitting. I would like to think a ten second gift of precognition would be more of benefit than dodging spitballs but we are talking about ten year olds after all. This short story is one worthy of brightening your morning.

 

“Gifted and Talented” by Sadie Mattox (debut 12/27 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of young artist who can bring his drawings to life. Charlie shows he has the gift but does he have the talent to make his gift worthwhile? Charlie’s parents take him to a place that measures gifted children.

“Gifted” is a very odd tale. The twist is truly twisted. While reading it, I wondered where the author was heading with the premise. Man did I find out the hard way. A good read for those who like a Stephen King right turn in their fantasy.

 

“Lists” by Annie Bellet (debut 12/28 and reviewed by Frank D) is just that, a to-do list. The list is rather mundane but filled with items meant to repel vampires. I found it as exciting to read as my list of to-do’s I have at home.

 

“Cold Cuts” by Don Norum (debut 12/29 and reviewed by Frank D). A pair of astronauts must make a tough choice. They’re too heavy and must shed enough weight if they hope to make a tight window to be able to land, but they have thrown out all the extra material they have left. They look at each other, wondering where the dead weight is.

“Cold Cuts” has one wicked twist in store for you. The obvious solution turns out to be not so obvious at all. A well done tale.

Recommended.

 

A family from Earth attempts to fit in, in “Chit Win” by Deborah Walker (debut 12/30 and reviewed by Frank D). Samuel and his family have migrated to a graviller colony on an alien world. Work is what has drawn the family here but the customs of the aliens do not sit well with half of the family. Samuel is eager to be a part of the local clique, so when his sister, Veronica, captures a native veole, he claims it as his own. The veole are prized mole-like creatures the local graviller youth use to stage battles, much like cock fights of Earth. Veronica doesn’t want her new pet to be abused like that but Samuel needs the puny animal if he wants to be part of the gang. Status is everything on this alien colony. Family happiness may have to take a back seat.

“Chit Win” is a tale of the effects of chauvinism on a family. Co-operation Law demands customs follow the native species of the planet, and since the Gravillon founded the colony, their customs reign supreme. The women of Samuel’s family are not taking well to their new home but his father appears to be fitting right in. The strains of their new predicament is starting show on Samuel’s parents, but the colony has a job for Pa, and changing the customs is beyond these Earther’s abilities.

The premise for this story is easy to imagine. Picture a liberal family moving into a very conservative community. For the men, the transition is easy but the girls are now second-class citizens. The capture of the veole brings a new dynamic to the family. A challenge to battle Veronica’s pet by a graviller youth offers a Samuel an opportunity to be part of the group. A clash of acceptance and respect comes to bear, lending to a twist that turns the community on its head.

The tale is told through young Samuel’s eyes. The author, I think, wanted to show chauvinism through of a character who is collaterally caught between two sides. The age of the character lent to a simplification of the narrative , a telling style full of information dumps , not one for me. I found the solution a little too convenient and unlikely. Perhaps an expansion of the idea may have helped but as it is, “Chit Win” was a story not fitting of my tastes.

 

A Fallen Warrior

ÂLast August, the world lost one of its pillars of speculative fiction. Colin Harvey was a man whom I have never met or corresponded with in any fashion, but we had mutual friends and were becoming aware of each other peripherally. His sudden and unexpected death caught everyone by complete surprise. His electronic fingerprints on the internet showed no signs that his time was near. Postings days before his fateful last day spoke of grand and exciting plans.

His story, Chameleon , was the first story of Daily SF I recommended. On his blog, he modestly statedâ€

I’m staggered because as I said in an earlier post, the story virtually wrote itself, and I don’t feel that anything that easy to write could be that good.

Samuel Lemberg apparently disagreed with him, moved enough by it to make a film short of it.

Mr Harvey proved to be a bit prophetic about Daily SF, adding this comment about our early efforts at DPâ€

“â€and to get the insight that many review sites won’t review DSF because ‘there’s too much to review.’ Hopefully Diabolical Plots doesn’t feel that way, and will produce a review of October and subsequent month’s contents, because an awful lot of new, upcoming and talented writers are publishing new there , and it’s free to read.”

I am pleased to say – so far – we have. Daily SF honored Colin by posting at the head of his last published work of fiction, a small retrospect of his contributions to speculative fiction. Colin, like many proud authors, would announce his latest sales on his blog. Judging that he never mentioned Don Sebastian’s Treasure, it’s acceptance likely came after his untimely demise.

So on behalf of all the writers whose trail you helped to blaze before you, I hold my glass in a toast to you. So long my good man whom I would have liked to called a friend. I barely knew ye.

 

Colin Harvey (11/11/1960 , 8/15/2012)

Colin was a driving force in the speculative fiction field in England. A writer, reviewer, and editor, he was nominated for both the British Fantasy Award and the Black Quill Award. He has written several novels including Winter Song, edited anthologies like Dark Spires, and published a collection of his short stories called Displacements.

You can find these and other works of Colin’s at Angry Robot publishing