DP FICTION #48B: “How Rigel Gained a Rabbi (Briefly)” by Benjamin Blattberg

Rabbi Dov Applebaum argued—quite eloquently, he thought—for keeping the spaceship to its original flight plan. After all, there were Jewish children on Orion Station who needed Torah lessons before their upcoming B’nai Mitzvah. And yet the AI refused to listen to him and instead plotted a new course towards the distress signal on Rigel-7.

When the AI stated that intergalactic law compelled them to answer a distress call, Dov might’ve kept quiet—he wouldn’t actually have kept quiet, but he might have—but when the fakakta computer started citing Jewish law, Dov had to object.

“True, Leviticus says not to ‘stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor,'” said Dov, “but there are many interpretations of the Jewish law around distress signals. For one, what is a neighbor, galactically speaking?”

Dov could have discussed this for days, turning the argument about so that every angle of interpretation caught the light. But he only had hours before landfall and the AI had stopped actually listening anyway. Dov was used to that. His students throughout the galaxy didn’t listen, so why should his ship? Dov tried to imagine the Jewish children on Orion Station wailing and rending their garments over the delayed arrival of their favorite rabbi, but it was easier to imagine them eating synth-pork and forgetting what it meant to be Jews.

To add to Rabbi Dov’s woes, as his ship entered orbit and prepared to descend to the surface of Rigel-7, the Rigelian ambassador Cho’sun called on the viewscreen to forbid Dov from landing.

The spider-like Rigelian spoke its own language, which sounded to Dov like Coney Island being picked up with little warning and shaken. Luckily, Dov had a universal translator, a small black box clipped onto the upper sleeve of his flight suit, loaded with an AI that had been trained specifically to Dov’s native language. The box seemed to hum and clear its throat before translating.

“Listen, schmuck,” said the Rigelian through the translation box, “we have no laws to protect outsiders and you’ll just have to live with the consequences.”

Dov glanced at the translation box skeptically and tapped at it with one chewed nail. He couldn’t hear any loose parts in there—and if there were, what could he do about it?

“You hear me, schmuck?” Cho’sun waved its anterior arms in emphasis.

“Ah,” said Dov, as he attempted to stroke his red-brown beard thoughtfully, as his teachers had done and their teachers before them. The effect was rather ruined by his beard’s tendency to float up in microgravity, the curly mass haloing his jaw. “But you see, Ambassador, I am not landing—the ship is.”

Cho’sun made a sound like a garbage disposal chewing up dinosaur bones. The universal translator rendered this as laughter at first and then clarified: “Dismissive laughter.”

“Ambassador,” said Dov, “intergalactic law demands that distress signals be answered by the nearest available ship.” Even if that ship was a weaponless family transport that currently held no family, just Dov and his collection of Judaica, including a parchment Torah in a chased silver case all the way from Earth. That treasure he rarely brought out: only for brief ceremonies and never while his people were noshing.

“Universal law, shmuniversal law.” The ambassador flexed its claws, which might have been body language for emphasis or negation or something else entirely. Dov had skipped taking xeno-linguistics in college and the translator had its limits. “And in any case, Mr. Bigshot, we plan to take care of our own distress call, thank you very much.”

“Ah, so there is nothing to be distressed about?” Dov looked over at the terminal where he imagined the AI to be, a slight air of triumph in his raised eyebrow.

“Nothing at all distressing,” agreed Cho’sun. “As soon as we find them, we will kill off the entire unclean species that is sending whatever call you are receiving.”

Dov grimaced like he’d tasted a bad piece of whitefish. “It sounds, Ambassador, like you are speaking of genocide.”

Insofar as a spider can smile, the ambassador did. “Aha, now you understand.”

Dov’s bad fish expression deepened and he sighed. He couldn’t see any way to avoid landing on Rigel-7. He raised his hands and shrugged, the ancestral Jewish gesture for “What can I do about this? Nothing.”

Even the ambassador, who had probably never met a Jew before, seemed to take Dov’s meaning. Its voice took on a husky edge: the Empire State Building being scraped the length of Long Island. “We will cleanse Rigel-7 of this degenerate species and if you interfere, your life will be forfeit, schmuck.” The viewscreen went dead, the communication cut.

After a long moment of sighing, Dov flipped on a tablet, calling up commentaries on mediation by the most esteemed rabbis, as well as accessing a brief summary of the Rigelians. Their description—violent, xenophobic—sounded to Dov much like his ancestors’ stories of growing up with the Italians in Yonkers. And hadn’t they made peace there before moving to Scarsdale and Florida?

Perhaps Dov could be the one to bring Rigel-7 into the intergalactic community. He’d rather keep to his schedule and be teaching Torah to ungrateful children on backwards space stations, true, but if he had to make peace between two warring tribes on Rigel-7 and go down in history, so be it.

Perhaps, with his help, no one would die.


They were all going to die.

Cho’sun had called these other aliens a “species,” but the ambassador had called Dov a “schmuck,” too, so what did he know? Truth be told, Dov felt less like a schmuck and more like a schlemiel: not the clumsy waiter spilling the soup, but the guy the waiter spills soup on. Only in this case, it was more like the universe itself was spilling soup on Dov.

To Dov, these aliens didn’t seem like a distinct species. For one thing, there just weren’t that many of them, maybe ten total, camped out here in the middle of the green-black jungle. The jungle itself smelled faintly of burnt sugar, like overspun cotton candy, and was lush and thorny. Dov had time to discover the thorns as he hiked a few miles from the only clearing where his ship could land, since this benighted planet hadn’t any spaceport or roads or Chinese food. It was unpleasant, even if the air was breathable and the only large predators here were the man-sized, spider-like Rigelians.

Like the ones standing in front of Dov, asking for help, and not really listening when he said he couldn’t give them any.

“No, I don’t have ray guns on my ship,” explained Dov again. “What should I have ray guns for?”

The aliens talked to each other in voices that sounded like the Long Island Expressway being rolled up and eaten like pastrami, in the same language that Cho’sun used. Not only did they speak the same language and look nearly identical to Cho’sun—the same dark compound eyes, chitinous exoskeletons, and abundant limbs—but they waved away Dov’s well-thought-out arguments with the same motions. Dov wasn’t sure what set these Rigelians apart or why he hadn’t become a dentist with a nice little practice on Mars.

“Given your similarities, why do the Rigelians hate you so?” asked Dov.

Yen’tah, a smaller and slightly reddish but just as horrifyingly chitinous and hairy spider-thing, bristled, rising on its posterior four legs. “I reject your question—we too are Rigelian! It’s divisive speech like that—”

The other Rigelians began to yell at Yen’tah, making even more noise than it did. Dov’s translation box parsed their commingled cries: “hush, sheket, enough already!” Yen’tah made a gesture that Dov assumed was rude among egg-laying, non-binary sentients, but it stopped speaking and a moment later the ones who had shouted Yen’tah down quieted to a low grumble.

“The Kin hate us Other-kin because they do not believe in change and we have changed,” said Buch’ker, who was larger than all the other Rigelians and spoke in a voice that sounded like a Ferris wheel making love to a container ship. Buch’ker cocked its head to one side and then the other, a gesture that indicated thought among the Rigelians. Buch’ker was considering how to explain to Dov, and eventually it said, “We see the world differently.”

“Ah, a philosophical difference,” said Dov. “As a Jew, I have some experience—”

The Otherkin around him cut him off, their bulbous abdomens grumbling. The whole noisy rabble reminded Dov unexpectedly of a congregation held too long at service, with the promised land of cookies and gossip so close.

Buch’ker pointed to one of its eyes, as shiny as new challah, and said slowly, as if to a young child, “We see the world differently.”

After some clarification, with Buch’ker talking ever slower, Dov eventually realized this talk of “seeing the world differently” was the literal truth, as well as a metaphor. As metaphor: whereas the Kin avoided change and only maintained the technology they had inherited, the Otherkin believed change was acceptable, particularly when it would help them avoid extinction. And as literal truth: the Otherkin had experienced a genetic shift that allowed them to sense many different wavelengths. Though as they hadn’t developed a theory of genetics yet, Buch’ker explained this as simply a difference between its family—all the spider-aliens here being closely related—and the other Rigelians.

Also, Yen’tah explained, their thoraxes were smaller or hairier or something, but Dov couldn’t see it.

While Buch’ker explained this, two of the Otherkin scuttled up the trees and began to dismantle their nests high in the canopy overhead. These nests were temporary structures, Buch’ker had said before, put up and taken down as the Otherkin migrated through the jungle, staying ahead of their distant cousins and would-be murderers. A few others began to look up at their nests, realizing that Dov couldn’t help them, that running away would be their only hope. Maybe, if they were lucky, the next starship they called with their distress beacon would be more help.

And if not, more running, more distress calls, and more running.

The original distress beacon was still beeping—Dov’s ship relayed the call to his suit, despite his request to the AI to not do that, please. Dov had even asked the Otherkin to turn off the beacon, fearing that the Kin could track it.

Alas, explained the Otherkin named Gon’nef whose eyes were oddly close together, they had just recently invented the distress beacon and had not yet invented the off switch. A few Otherkin made a noise that seemed like laughter at that.

But Dov decided to leave that topic alone, especially after Buck’ker told him that the Kin had viewscreen technology that operated only on that frequency, but not a lot of other communication technology. The Kin couldn’t track this new signal since they didn’t invent any new technology, just lived with whatever old things they had and never changed.

“This taboo against change, this is taught to the Kin from your Creator or Creators?” asked Dov then, looking forward to discussing comparative religion rather than the first topic the Otherkin had wanted to discuss: ray guns.

“What kind of a cockamamie question is that?” grumbled Yen’tah.

“No,” said Buch’ker, “the Creators didn’t teach anything to the Kin before the Kin ate them.”

But now, with the Otherkin packing their nests and preparing to run, Dov felt rather sympathetic to that distress beacon, calling off into the interstellar night for help that might never come. There was something deeply Jewish about it. Dov could almost imagine the Otherkin as the Israelites of the book of Exodus, under the cruel yoke of the pharaoh.

“I have a plan,” said Dov proudly. “We run.”

“This he calls a plan?” Yen’tah sneered.

“If we run, we can escape,” said Dov, “as long the Kin can’t track our signal.”


“We easily tracked your signal,” said Ambassador Cho’sun, as it entered Dov’s prison cell, high up in an ancient tower. “But then you probably figured that out when we caught you.”

Dov turned from the window, where he’d been watching his spaceship’s rocket trail, but after he saw the look on Cho’sun’s face, Dov almost turned back. On a human, Cho’sun’s expression would’ve been called a deep frown, but on a human that expression wouldn’t have exposed so many chitin-brown, needle-sharp teeth.

Dov pulled at his flight suit to try to smooth it out and got his beard caught in the suit’s velcro at the neck. “Ambassador, intergalactic law demands that I be allowed to communicate with my home government.”

Cho’sun ignored him. It placed a black box between them and settled itself into the narrow room as best as it could. To fit here, Cho’sun had to fold and tuck its legs under it, like a spider who had extensively practiced yoga. Like most of the city that Dov had seen—while being carried by angry Rigelians—this room was built to a different scale and shape than these natives. The Kin literally lived in houses made for others who had come before them, which, even for Dov, was taking respect for tradition a little too far.

Cho’sun tapped the black box, paused, then tapped it again, this time harder.

“Ambassador, I demand—”

Cho’sun picked the black box up and held it up to its ear canal and shook it, before placing it down and pressing it one more time, firmly. Dov heard a slight pop, like a jar of garlic pickles being opened. Cho’sun clicked its mandibles, which Dov had learned was the Rigelian way of nodding to oneself. Then it began to talk.

“You putz, I told you not to land and what did you do?” Cho’sun fell silent, staring at Dov.

After far too long a silence, the Rigelian added, “That’s not rhetorical, mister. This is your trial right here, nu? You want we should execute you now? Don’t say anything, fine with me.”

Dov paused stroking his beard, getting it caught in velcro again. Buch’ker had told him the Kin would hold a trial before executing and eating him—more respect for tradition, Dov supposed. He just hadn’t thought his impending death would be quite so impending. Dov considered his situation against the long history of the Jews: this was not the worst situation his people had been in. It was not a very comforting thought.

“You want me to explain what I did?” asked Dov.

“Blockhead! We know what you did—you had the gall to save those unclean things with your…” Words failing it, Cho’sun waved a claw towards the window, towards the rocket trail, a column of smoke in the daytime sky. “They all escaped, so I hope you’re happy with yourself.”

Dov considered for a moment before deciding, yes, he was a little happy with himself. It hadn’t been, all things considered, a bad plan for him to run while broadcasting a signal the Kin could detect on the viewscreen technology, while the Otherkin made their way to Dov’s ship, following a signal only they could detect. Dov had a deep, rabbinical urge for symbolism, which was satisfied by the fact that the signal the Otherkin followed was their own distress beacon, relayed from his ship.

Only now he realized the plan’s tragic flaw: he was going to die. It had seemed so clear—and so righteous—at the time for Dov to be the decoy: if any of the Otherkin were left behind, they’d be immediately killed and eaten. At least Dov got this farce of a trial. Not a long enough trial for people to come rescue him, but at least it was something, right?

“We know what you’re guilty of,” said Cho’sun, “we just want to know why. You can explain yourself. And then, the execution.”

“But what am I really guilty of?” asked Dov, a sudden flash of inspiration rising to the surface of his brain like a matzah ball of the perfect lightness and airiness. “The Rigelians wanted to cleanse Rigel-7 of the Otherkin”—Cho’sun bristled at that word, the tiny hairs covering its body vibrating with anger, no xeno-linguistics degree necessary to read that—”and I have done that. There are no more of… them on Rigel-7.”

“Our world is cleansed,” said Cho’sun flatly, “but we were looking forward to killing them all. And now we have to be satisfied with killing only you. And speaking of that,” and Cho’sun reached out to turn off the black box.

“Wait, I can explain better,” said Dov, half-reaching out to swat away Cho’sun’s claw. He caught himself and steepled his fingers as if in thought. “We Jews have an old saying from the Babylonian Talmud—a book of commentary on our laws—that says, ‘whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.'”

“I do not understand,” said the Rigelian, claw still hovering over the black box.

“Ah,” said Dov, nodding, “you see, it’s a moral calculation that asks us to consider—”

Cho’sun waved him off. “Schmuck, it’s ‘book’ I don’t understand. Whatever those are, we don’t have them and don’t want them.”

But then Cho’sun cocked its head to one side and then the other, the Rigelian gesture for considering.

“And how is one life equal to a world?” asked Cho’sun.

“A lesson like that has to be interpreted,” Dov said quickly. He paused as he heard steps coming up the narrow stairs to his tower cell. The steps were halting and clumsy, the narrow stairs not at all suited to the Rigelian’s sprawling legs. And on top of the click of Rigelian claws, Dov heard something else being dragged, bouncing on each hard step with a clunk. Dov had a moment of vivid worry, imagining them dragging some torture device up to his cell.

Cho’sun had to move aside for the other Rigelians to make their way into the cell and drop what they were carrying in a pile at Dov’s feet. The Jewish children of Orion Station would’ve said it was a torture device, but after wiping away some leaves and mud, Dov recognized it all as his collection of Judaica and teaching materials.

They were dented here and there and all jumbled together—the Seder plate next to the shofar horn, his tefillin straps tangled around Elijah’s and Miriam’s cups, the menorah with one arm bent down, the Torah surfing on a sea of yarmulkes, and a classroom’s worth of tablets, loaded with lessons on everything from basic Hebrew to the most abstruse rabbinical commentary.

“We have only you and all of this,” said Cho’sun, gesturing to the pile. And then, with a little more hope in its voice, it added, “Is any of this edible?”

“No,” Dov admitted, “but I can explain how a life is worth a world.” He picked up a tablet, the least dented and mud-covered, checking that it was still working. He turned it on, flipped to the first page, and turned it to face Cho’sun. “This, here, is the letter aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.”

Cho’sun looked skeptically at the image of the aleph on the tablet’s screen. “Listen, bubele, no more nonsense—this you call the answer to my question?”

Dov considered that for a moment, before answering. “It’s the beginning of an answer.”

“How long will this answer take?”

For once, Dov didn’t say what he thought—hopefully long enough for a ship to come rescue me—but merely shrugged, hands up, and gave Cho’sun the same answer his rabbis had given Dov back when he was a student. “It takes as long as it takes.”

Cho’sun looked back at the tablet, its head cocked first to one side, then the other. “Oy vey,” it said finally, and then clicked its mandibles. “What comes next?”


© 2018 by Benjamin Blattberg


Author’s Note: The seed of this story was probably planted by William Tenn’s “On Venus, Have We Got A Rabbi!” Not the story—just the title. (Though eventually I did read the story and you might want to check it out, too.)


Ben Blattberg is a software developer, improviser, and writer currently living in Austin, TX, as long as there are no follow­up questions on any of those facts. His stories have appeared in Tina Connolly’s Toasted Cake, Crossed Genres, Pornokitsch, Podcastle, and Pseudopod.








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The Best of Pseudopod 2017

written by David Steffen

Pseudopod is the weekly horror podcast edited by Shawn Garrett and Alex Hofelich. 2016 marked some major moments in the podcast’s history.  2017 marked a major landmark for them when they were added to the SFWA list of professional short fiction publications, after raising their flash fiction pay rates to be in line with their pay rates for longer fiction, which means that all four of the Escape Artists podcasts are on the list–Escape Pod, Podcastle, Pseudopod, and Cast of Wonders.

After running a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016 for their 10th anniversary to fun an anthology, that anthology went live in 2017, Of Mortal Things Unsung which included many Pseudopod favorites as well as some brand new original fiction.  (My story “What Makes You Tick” that had previously appeared on Pseudopod was reprinted in the anthology.)

In February Pseudopod once again participated in the Artemis Rising theme across the Escape Artists podcasts, publishing horror stories by women (including some originals picked out from a special slushpile just for this purpose).

Pseudopod publishes episodes weekly, with occasional Flash on the Borderlands episodes that collect 3 similar-themed flash stories for a single episode, for a total of 66 stories published in 2017, by my count.

Stories that are eligible for this year’s Hugo and Nebula Awards are marked with an asterisk (*), all of which would be credited to Pseudopod as the original publisher.

The List

1.  “Under the Rubble” by John Wiswell*
This story as told by survivors in a collapsed grocery store, which collapsed for reasons unknown.

2. “The Hole at the Top of the World” by Benjamin Blattberg*
What is at the top of Mount Everest?  What will happen when the summit is reached?

3. “Granite Requires” by T.J. Berry*
Each kind of stone requires its own sacrifices, some much more extreme than others, to everyone who lives in this small town.  Granite is among the most demanding.

4. “The Corpse Child” by Chris Kuriata*
It is believed that there is a cure of a sick child that involves placing the corpse of a child underneath their bed for the night.  Does it really work?

5. “Passover” by Caspian Gray*
In a concentration camp, a worker finds a body that won’t burn.

6. “An Unsent Letter From an Unnamed Student” by Aaron Fox-Lerner*
Who decided who is the monster?  What if both sides think that they’re haunted?

7. “Indiscretions” by Hillary Dodge*
All the little details in Mary’s day tell her something is wrong.  But what is it?


Honorable Mentions

“Four Hours of a Revolution” by Premee Mohamed*

“A Howling Dog” by Nick Mamatas*

“When First He Laid Eyes” by Rachael K. Jones




Announcing the Diabolical Plots Year Four Fiction Lineup!

written by David Steffen

Diabolical Plots was open for submissions once again for the month of July, to solicit stories to buy for the fourth year of fiction publication.  1003 submissions came in from 720 different writers, of which 25 stories were accepted.  Now that all of the contracts are in hand I am very pleased to share with you the lineup, which will start as soon as the Year Three stories have wrapped up in March.

This year I think the overall submissions were more on-target to my peculiar tastes than ever.  Emphasis on the weird, with a lot of great stories that involve religion without preaching or demonizing it.  I am very excited to share these excellent stories with the world.

Since I accepted 25 stories instead of 24, there is one month that will have three stories (which I’d like to see as a regular thing if the recurring funding is there for it).

April 2018
“Giant Robot and the Infinite Sunset” by Derrick Boden
“Her February Face” by Christie Yant

May 2018
“The Efficacy of Tyromancy Over Reflective Scrying Methods in Divining Colleagues’ Coming Misfortunes, A Study by Cresivar Ibraxson, Associate Magus, Wintervale University” by Amanda Helms
“Graduation in the Time of Yog-Sothoth” by James Van Pelt

June 2018
“Tank!” by John Wiswell
“Withholding Judgment Day” by Ryan Dull

July 2018
“Crimson Hour” by Jesse Sprague
“Jesus and Dave” by Jennifer Lee Rossman

August 2018
“Medium Matters” by R.K. Duncan
“The Vegan Apocalypse: 50 Years Later” by Benjamin A. Friedman

September 2018
“Glass in Frozen Time” by M.K. Hutchins
“The Fisher in the Yellow Afternoon” by Michael Anthony Ashley

October 2018
“Pumpkin and Glass” by Sean R. Robinson
“Still Life With Grave Juice” by Jim Moss

November 2018
“The Memory Cookbook” by Aaron Fox-Lerner
“The Coal Remembers What It Was” by Paul R. Hardy

December 2018
“The Hammer’s Prayer” by Benjamin C. Kinney
“For the Last Time, It’s Not a Ray Gun” by Anaea Lay

January 2019
“The Divided Island” by Rhys Hughes
“The Man Whose Left Arm Was a Cat” by Jennifer Lee Rossman
“The Dictionary For Dreamers” by Cislyn Smith

February 2019
“Local Senior Celebrates Milestone” by Matthew Claxton
“How Rigel Gained a Rabbi (Briefly)” by Benjamin Blattberg

March 2019
“Heaven For Everyone” by Aimee Ogden
“The Last Death” by Sahara Frost

The Best of Podcastle 2016

written by David Steffen

Podcastle is the weekly fantasy podcast published by Escape Artists.  At the beginning of the year it was co-edited by Rachael K. Jones and Graeme Dunlop.  Partway through the year Rachael retired and her co-editor seat was filled by Jen Albert.  As well as weekly full-length feature episodes, they also publish occasional standalone flash stories as bonus episodes, as well as triple flash stories for the occasional feature episode collection.

Within 2016, Podcastle also increased their pay for flash fiction, which I believe should have started their 1-year counter for becoming a SFWA-qualifying market!  Hoping that will happen anytime soon now.

In February Podcastle once again participated in the Artemis Rising event across the Escape Artists podcasts, publishing fantasy stories written by women and nonbinary authors.

I will note, too, that this has been the hardest of the Best Of lists to make this year because there were so many stories that I was simply in love with that it was hard to weed it down to a list of reasonable length.  Everything on this list I loved, and there were some I had to make the hard decision to bump off the list that I also loved.

Every story that is eligible for Hugo and Nebula nominations this year which were first published by Podcastle are marked with an asterisk (*).

Every story that is eligible for Hugo and Nebula nominations which were first published by another publisher and then reprinted in Podcastle are marked with a double asterisk (**)–if you want to nominate them, follow the link to find out who the original publisher was to give them proper credit.

I pondered for quite a while whether I should feel free to include the #5 on the list, since I was the original editor and publisher of it here on Diabolical Plots.  I exclude my own stories from any of my lists with the reasoning that I can’t properly judge my own work, and I wondered whether I should do the same for stories that I published.  I came to the conclusion that I CAN judge stories that I published, because I already had to do so to publish them in the first place, picking those stories out of the much larger slushpile.  These stories won’t automatically make a Best Of list, but I feel it’s reasonable to consider them.  But, in case anyone would rather not see a story I didn’t published bumped off the list by a story that I did publish, I have included one more story on the list than I normally would have, so that I didn’t have to bump one off.

The List

1. “Beat Softly, My Wings of Steel” by Beth Cato*
Science fantasy story in which the souls of dead horses can be reborn in mechanical pegasus bodies, and how this is used for the war effort.  Our protagonist wants to use such a body to escape a war zone.

2. “Golden Chaos” by MK Hutchins
Different regions have different natural/magical laws, including the chaos which is constantly in flux.

3. “The Bee Tamer’s Final Performance” by Aidan Doyle*
The fleet of circus ships have been taken over by bees living in the hollowed-out corpses of clowns.

4. “Archibald Defeats the Churlish Shark-Gods” by Benjamin Blattberg*
Hilariously unreliable narrator, telling the story of a research trip with a companion in which he is always the hero, even when he obviously isn’t.

5. “Further Arguments in Support of Yudah Cohen’s Proposal to Bluma Zilberman” by Rebecca Fraimow**
Written a letter of proposal from a rabbinical student to the woman he wishes to marry.

6. “Thundergod in Therapy” by Effie Seiberg**
Zeus tries to find his place in the modern world, while undergoing therapy for some of his more problematic behaviors.

7.  “Defy the Grey Kings” by Jason Fischer
Humanity lives under the oversized heel of our elephant overlords.

Honorable Mentions

“Send in the Ninjas” by Michelle Ann King*

“Love Letters on the Nightmare Sea” by Rachael K. Jones**

“Squalor and Sympathy” by Matt Dovey**

“Tumbleweeds and Little Girls” by Jeff Bowles*