The Diabolical Plots Year Five 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.  1288 submissions came in from 915 different writers, of which 26 stories were accepted.  Now that all of the contracts are in hand I am very pleased to share with you the lineup.

There is a lot of strangeness in this lineup, varying wildly in tone from humor to drama.  I hope you’ll like them as much as I do.

All of these stories will be published for the first time around March 2019 in an ebook anthology Diabolical Plots Year Five, and then will be published regularly on the Diabolical Plots site between April 2019 and March 2020, with each month being sent out to newsletter subscribers the month before.

This is the lineup order for the website.

April 2019
“Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?” by Matt Dovey
“One Part Per Billion” by Samantha Mills

May 2019
“What the Sea Reaps, We Must Provide” by Eleanor R. Wood
“Dogwood Stories” by Nicole Givens Kurtz

June 2019
“The Ceiling of the World” by Nicole Crucial
“Bootleg Jesus” by Tonya Liburd

July 2019
“Little Empire of Lakelore” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires
“Lies of the Desert Fathers” by Stewart Moore

August 2019
“The Inspiration Machine” by K.S. Dearsley
“Colonized Bodies, Dessicated Souls” by Nin Harris

September 2019
“Empathy Bee” by Forrest Brazeal
“Dear Parents, Your Child is Not the Chosen One” by P.G. Galalis
“Fresh Dates” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires

October 2019
“Tracing an Original Thought” by Holly Heisey
“Save the God Damn Pandas” by Anaea Lay

November 2019
“Consider the Monsters” by Beth Cato
“The Train to Wednesday” by Steven Fischer

December 2019
“Consequences of a Statistical Approach Towards a Utilitarian Utopia: A Selection of Potential Outcomes” by Matt Dovey
“The Problem From Jamaica Plain” by Marie L. Vibbert

January 2020
“This is What the Boogeyman Looks Like” by T.J. Berg
“Beldame” by Nickolas Furr
“Gorilla in the Streets” by Mari Ness

February 2020
“Invasion of the Water Towers” by R.D. Landau
“The Cliff of Hands” by Joanne Rixon

March 2020
“The Eat Me Drink Me Challenge” by Chris Kuriata
“The Old Ones, Great and Small” by Rajiv Mote

The Best of Toasted Cake 2015-2017

written by David Steffen

Toasted Cake is back!  After the last Best of Toasted Cake list for the year 2014, Tina Connolly decided to put her idiosyncratic podcast on hiatus.  With a young child in the house and books on deadline, Tina needed to find more time.  But she has missed it enough, and she has decided to run Toasted Cake for a school year run, and revived the podcast in September for that reason.  So, this list covers the last few months before hiatus in 2015, the one story Toasted Cake slipped quietly into the feed in 2016, and the fall portion of the school year run of the revival, for a total of 35 stories considered for this list.

Toasted Cake has already raised author pay rates, so now pays at least 1 cent/word, which is also exciting.  It sounds like Tina might want to run the podcast longer term if there’s some Patreon support, so if you love some weird flash fiction you might want to consider tossing in a couple bucks a month.

Toasted Cake did publish one of my own stories, my only original story published in 2017, “Cake, and Its Implications” published  just before the end of the year, a funny flash story about an android who loves cake.  But of course I don’t consider my own fiction for these lists.

Note that I did end up including a story that Toasted Cake reprinted that I originally published (#2 on the list).  I decided to make the list one item longer than it would usually be to accomodate for this, so that a story I published wouldn’t bump another off the list.

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

Welcome back, Tina, and long live Toasted Cake!

 

The List

1. “Un Opera nello Spazio (A Space Opera)” by Oliver Buckram
A space opera that’s an actual opera.

2.  “St. Roomba’s Gospel” by Rachael K. Jones
A sentient Roomba lives in a church and tries to help preach the gospel to the congregation.

3.  “Copy Machine” by Shane Halbach
What would you do if you could copy yourself?

4.  “Carla at the Off-Planet Tax Return Helpline” by Caroline M. Yoachim
The story is exactly what the title sounds like.  🙂

5.  “Beholder” by Sarah Grey
In a world where everything is defined by social media popularity, how do those of us who are less savvy get along?

6.  “So You Have Been Claimed By a Magical Cat” by Beth Cato*
Also exactly what the title sounds like. 🙂

Honorable Mentions

“Gunfight Over an 8-bit Rhythm Two-Step Skank at the O.K. Corral” by Ken Brady

 

 

 

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*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Science Fiction March Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

It has been a very long time since we last appeared. A busy schedule and active life is our excuse. My apologies to Rahul Kanakia for pestering him for an interview, then dropping off the face of the Earth. I recommend that you all visit his blog (very interesting, entertaining, and insightful) and consider reading his latest book.

With much regrets, next month’s review (April) will be our last. I won’t be getting all gushy with you about it now. I’m saving that for my next review (need to fill up some space). But please take a gander of our thoughts of March’s tales, then visit go Daily SF and read them for your own amusement.

 

“Wedding Day” by Brian Trent (debut 3/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Because this story relies on its secret, a review is impossible without :spoilers:

Men from the future have come back to marry some of the most brilliant women of our time before an asteroid strike. This is a cool idea, but I had trouble with some inconsistencies, like why are they so hungry? And certainly the asteroid didn’t destroy the planet or there would be no future men to travel back.

I did like the story because of the details and the teasing that something unusual was going on, leading us on just enough to get hit with the hammer of the last line.

 

“Love is a Component of This Story” by Liz Argall (debut 3/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Indeed, the title sums up this story about the customs of a foreign people, and two volunteers being tested/examined with various sexually stimulating scenarios and machines.

Although I couldn’t exactly find a connection between the two concepts, nor a reason for the female character being named Bruce, (a constant distraction) I found the story fun and easy to read. And of course, being a romance, with a most unique path to the characters’ meeting, I felt the aww factor.

 

“Luna City, At Night” by Karl El-Koura (debut 3/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Hard-edged descriptors give this story its grim feel of a future gone mechanical (automatic, not robotic). A man, a future player if you will, finds and beds women who he assumes are interested in his wealth, (his silver watches, and bulging wallet). He seems to be a working man, yet has money to allow the women to steal, in the night, when he pretends to be asleep.

Interesting concept that he accepts the women’s thievery as payment for getting what he wants, but is he happy in his mundane world of repetition? Only after a woman doesn’t follow through with the expected, does the man begin to see the unexpected.

 

The price for survival is a long outstanding debt. “The Alien Tithe” by Eric Brown (debut 3/6 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of colonists who crash landed on their new home. The native aliens saved and healed the survivors of the disaster but have demanded a tithe for their good deed. The story follows along the trek of one the colonists as he leads his children to the aliens to pay for the debt.

“Alien Tithe” is a chilling tale. The gratitude the colonists had to their alien hosts has evolved into a yoke of guilt. I found this short tale to be intriguing and told well.

Recommended

 

Life goes on after the world is dead. “Through Dry Places, Seeking Rest” by Megan Arkenberg (debut 3/7 and reviewed by Frank D). Is the tale of a mute. Civilization has collapsed shortly after angels have appeared. The protagonist’s brother was murdered and now he wanders alone, seeking a running train while he walks the rotting planks and rusting rails that mark their mythical tracks.

The protagonist of this tale is a drifter with no place to go. He has lost the last person who ever meant a thing to him in a world without hope, a metaphor that proves fitting for “Through Dry Places” theme. The story, like the protagonist, simply drifts without much of a purpose.

 

Holes are filled in a popular fairy tale. “All Upon A Time” by Dani Atkinson (debut 3/10 and reviewed by Frank D) is a series of backstory narratives around the Cinderella tale.

Cute.

 

A stop at a coffee house will put you in just the right mood. “Surprise Me” by Andrew Knighton (debut 3/11 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of Yan, a counter worker at a coffee house with gift of pouring the emotion you need into your cup. A special girl, a customer who always orders ‘surprise me’ has been the object of his affection. He has brewed himself up some courage for her arrival but needy customers, and the fading effects of coffee, may sap the drink’s powers before he can ask her for a date.

“Surprise Me” is a tale of a boy trying to gather the nerve to express his feelings. It serves as a neat metaphor on the awkwardness of dating.

 

Yeast from the stars stumble upon a horrible world. “We Don’t Believe That They Are Friendly” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 3/12 and reviewed by Frank D) is a report from a surveying crew of a yeast-based life form on their findings of an isolated world.

Fun piece.

 

“This Doesn’t Appear to Be the Alien I Paid For” by Andrea G. Stewart(debut 3/13 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Sir;
When my seven year old daughter asked for a pet I sensed an opportunity to teach her about the universe. After all I’d seen your ads everywhere, at work, watching holo, even while using the urinal. So we ordered the Plum eared Noggin offered in your catalogue. It arrived not in the seven days promised, but in 12; however I chalked this up to the fact that it had to travel half way across the universe. We immediately opened the package to ensure it arrived in good shape and were relieved to see the little heart monitor ticking along in time with the creatures beating heard. When the little fellow didn’t pupate within the two weeks as promised we made the first of our calls to your customer service department. They assured us that the pupation time can vary and we were relieved when a few weeks later the pupa was occupying the terrarium. However when the creature that emerged did not have cute pear shape ears as shown in your catalogue and had a red strip down its back a second call was made to your customer service. Unfortunately it would not be our last.

If you think dealing with earth-bound customer service desks can be trying, imagine dealing with one half ways across the known universe. That is exactly what this author imagined. He did an excellent job at it. This story is infused with a dry humor that really had me chuckling all the way through. Well Done, sir.

 

“The Sentence is Always Death” by Ken Gerber and Brian Hirt (debut 3/14 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

I’m forty-three, well beyond needing a nanny, but nanny is in the audience like she always is. It’s fitting she should be there since I’m taking the rap for her. There are a few cases ahead of mine. “Case 1201, Miz Gravona,” the Judge says. The alien shuffles up front. “Miz Gravona, given your crime the sentence is death.” Of course it is, the sentence is always death.

This is an involved tale of happenstance, planning and criminality. The author envisions a future where an individual can be “erased”, removed from their own existence; then imagines the possibilities that future presents. It is fairly well written, but could have used some trimming in places. This overwriting tended to detract from the story a bit, but it’s still a piece worth reading.

 

A bulimic girl returns home with a tool to help. “Measures and Countermeasures” by Beth Cato (debut 3/17 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of Colleen, a young woman whose eating disorder landed her in the hospital. Tonight is her first dinner, but she has smuggled in a piece of technology so she can keep her calorie intake low. If only her mother knew.

“Measures” is a story of trust. Colleen is like many girls with her disease, sure that the people that are trying to help her are against her. Ms Cato demonstrates trust runs deep. The ones truly in need have a small bit still in them that trusts we will do what is best for them.

 

A new god finds his first follower. “Produce 1:1-10″ by Mur Lafferty (debut 3/18 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a lesser god and His flock of one. New gods have been springing up everywhere, spreading their word on things like the merits of exercise at the gym and such. The protagonist is an atheist who stumbles upon the god weeping at her local Piggly Wiggly. The prices of healthy food are too high and the labels are misleading. The new god of supermarkets needs an advocate to bring the truth to the masses.

A light hearted tale.

 

The dead cannot move into the next world while Death morns his loss. “Death and His Lover” by Getty Hesse (debut 3/19 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale of the dark angel embracing the spirit of his lover. Death alone can open the Gates for the dead to travel beyond, but can’t bear to let his Jerome to leave. The din of the departed grows as they cry out to be released.

“Death” is a tale of closure. The angel knows too well the length of eternity and is unwilling to let his lover go. Touching.

 

The nanobots have come. “Goodnight, Raptor” by A. Merc Rustad (debut 3/20 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of the end of the world. Little Benny alone survives the destruction tiny nanobots have done to house, town, and family. He managed to rescue his favorite possession, a picture book on dinosaurs. The final few bots have assembled to recreate the image on the books cover, giving Benny the thing he always wanted , his very own raptor friend.

“Goodnight, Raptor” is the tale of a child’s dreams. The enormity of the disaster has not registered in his innocent mind. The last of the destructive bots coalesced to form a talking dinosaur for Benny. The tale would be cute if it wasn’t so sad.

 

What we will do for love. “Because My Heart Is Pure” by Rahul Kanakia (debut 3/21 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of a man who is perpetuating a lie for the man he loves. Lyle is a gay man who has been pretending to be pure of heart , a genetic mutation that has made them emotionally stagnant individuals. His boyfriend, James – a reckless, passionate, self-absorbed man , is the opposite of an even keeled pure heart. James attends orgies, disappears for stretches of time, but will only shack up with a pure heart. The emotional rift Lyle feels for James he must conceal or he will lose his eccentric lover forever. But can he continue to be something he is not?

“Because My Heart” is a story of sacrifice. The pure-hearted are people who feel neither highs nor lows. Passion is all but gone from their being. They are able to absorb insults and are impassive to feelings of envy and pettiness. The obtuse nature of a pure-heart is just what a selfish free-spirit like James needs. But Lyle isn’t a pure-heart. He forces his feelings down because he knows he will lose the man he loves if they come out.

A warning to readers who haven’t read this piece: heed the warning on adult content. A short segment of this tale could have been cut out of a Penthouse like forum of a gay magazine, very graphic. This story, although well-written, rolls out as a tale of man who is putting himself through needless torment. James is not just a bad-boy of the story, he’s worse. People are just playthings to him, and for a group of people who are as close to automatons as you can get, it is no wonder why he would seek out pure-hearts; all the fun of a superficial relationship with none of the consequences. The tale is a lesson on the hazards of succumbing to your desires. Some things just aren’t worth it.

 

A man recalls why he married his wife in the last moments of their lives. “Till Death” by L.L. Phelps (debut 3/24 and reviewed by Frank D) picks up during an impending disaster. The space station the married couple has lived on has been hit by a missile and is breaking apart as it falls back to Earth. The images of their wedding day fill his head as the reality of the disaster makes it clear that it is all about to end.

“Till Death” is the sweet niche in a sad tragedy. The story takes place during the horrible moments of a terrorist attack. The tale brought back memories of 9/11 for me and thoughts of what must have been going through the minds of the victims when it became clear that their end was near.

A chilling tale.

 

“The Signal” by Spencer Sandoval (debut 3/25 and reviewed by Frank D) is a journal entry written by a worker at a SETI observatory. The protagonist of this tale has simultaneous extraordinary events. News of another civilization very much like their own has been discovered and his first child that is on the way.

“The Signal” is a story I found compelling but not original. The ending has a twist that I have seen before.

 

A bid to overthrow the machine’s human masters can be accomplished for the low price of $99.99. “Robot’s Revenge” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 3/26 and reviewed by Frank D) is another installment in Ms Wrigley’s Postmark Andromeda series. This one is a tongue-in-cheek look at the evolution of spam into an untapped market base.

Funny. My favorite of the series.

 

A dying boy is given the gift of a full life. “Gnostilgia” by Ronald D Ferguson (debut 3/27 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of 14 year old hero, Karl , the boy who helped prevent a massacre in his high school. His heroics have left him a death’s doorstep. His doctors have an experimental dream making machine. With it, they can give him memories of life he deserved.

“Gnostilgia” is a tale where Karl’s handlers struggle with what is ethical, and what is right. They know what they are doing would not be tolerated by Karl’s parents or with the public , implanting false memories into this boy’s head , but they know there is no hope for young Karl. The full they give him is their gratitude for sacrificing his own life.

A thought provoking and sweet work of flash.

 

Reincarnated lovers meet again in the segregated south. “Starcrossed” by M. Bennardo (debut 3/30 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a young black waitress in a wartime navy town. In the back, a lone white man sits by himself. She recognizes him as someone she has met before, a forbidden lover of from a hundred previous lifetimes.

“Starcrossed” is a romance. The two characters are appropriately named Romeo and Juliet. For generations dating back thousands of years, the pair are destined to meet as people on different sides of the tracks. Their romances are always forbidden, customs of the times deeming them unfit to be together, and like Shakespeare’s play, always end in tragic finale.

Growing up, the past lives always seemed like a dream to Juliet, but when her Romeo appears, she can feel the pull of their destiny drawing them together. Unlike before, this time the pair is older, and Juliet has already started a life, with a family if her own. Her tale becomes a struggle; will an ordained desire drag her onto a familiar path? Or does she have an alternative choice.

“Starcrossed” is recreated and reworked look at a familiar trope. I found the story inventive, engaging, and well worth the read.

 

The world outside is falling apart in Light and Ash by Alan Bao (debut 3/31 and reviewed by Frank D), but for two romantic lovers, it might as well be another world. War rages in Asia but for a couple in New York, it is of little consequence. It is Christmas, and it is snowing, or is that ash?

A haunting tale.

 

 

Rahul KanakiaRahul Kanakia

Our short-lived author spotlight of Daily Science Fiction‘s most prolific authors features an artist known for creating flawed protagonists. His much anticipated YA novel ENTER TITLE HERE is a story described as Gossip Girls meets House of Cards. We wanted to know a little more of what made him tick, so we asked him 3 questions that we drew out of a hat.

 

Do you have a favorite author of short fiction? A writer whose work we should sample at least once in our life?

Well, if we’re talking prescriptively, then no. Plenty of famous authors haven’t read Ulysses, and it’s no big deal. You gotta read what resonates with you. However, if we’re just talking about short story writers who’re really good and who I recommend highly, then I’d say that Borges is pretty worthwhile. He writes stories that are completely unlike anyone else’s. No one else could spin a long entirely-plotless story about a library that that contains all human knowledge. However, since most people have probably already heard of Borges then I’ll also note that Maureen McHugh’s After The Apocalypse is one of the best collections I’ve read in the past five years. I get chills even thinking about it. Her stories changed the way that I approach science fiction. Some of them are so beautifully subtle. I’m reminded, for instance, of the story “Useless Things,” which is about a woman living on an isolated ranch who has to deal with the unwanted reputation for kindness that she’s acquired amongst the migrants who’re traveling north in a future United States where life is just ever-so-slightly worse than it is now.

 

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as an author?

Hmm. In a specific way, I think the best story I’ve ever written is forthcoming in a literary magazine called Birkensnake. It’s called “Sexual Cannibalism,” and it’s told in a series of vignettes as a young boy grows into a man and comes to terms with his sexuality while he researches the mating habits of praying mantises in a world that is wracked by and then overcomes the effects of climate change.

In a more general way, I’m not sure I could sum up my writing career that way. I guess the thing I’m most proud of as a writer is just being persistent. I just sold my first novel after writing and submitting for ten years. I’ve had years-long periods where I didn’t sell anything, or where I felt like I’d regressed, career-wise, but I just kept going. At times it didn’t really make sense, but I did anyway, and I owe a lot of gratitude to the version of me who could have quit, but didn’t.

 

Is there a Daily SF story you would like to recommend for us to read? Anything especially memorable?

Out of all the Daily SF stories that I’ve read, I’d say that I like Sarah Pinsker’s “Twenty Ways The Desert Could Kill You.” It’s playful and inventive and chilling work about a mother and a child who suddenly move to the desert in order to escape…something.

 


Rahul Kanakia’s debut novel,
Enter Title Here, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in the fall of 2015. He has sold stories to Clarkesworld, the Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex, Nature, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars and a B.A. in Economics from Stanford, and he currently live in Oakland, CA. If you want to know more about him then please visit his blog at or follow him on Twitter

Daily Science Fiction: February 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Whew. A lot going on in our little Diabolical world. So much David Steffen has left the substitute in charge. David assures me that Anthony Sullivan is more than capable for the job, and said he has yet to miss an edit.

On to this month’s review!

 

A little girl has a gift the alien overseers need in “Substitutes” by Colin P. Davies (debut 2/1 and reviewed by Frank D). Melinda has been blessed with the ‘gift’, the ability to navigate the stars. Aliens have come to Earth and spread a condition among its youth. Melinda’s father calls it a disease, but for the few who have been affected, they are prized by the aliens. They offer compensation to Melinda’s father, and a substitute that is in every way a perfect copy of Melinda. It isn’t enough for Melinda’s dad, but the aliens are relentless. The pair have been playing a cat and mouse game as they try to stay a step ahead of the aliens, but the creatures who have managed to travel the stars are far too clever to shake.

“Substitutes” is an eerie tale. Whatever the affliction Melinda is under, it has affected her mental capacities. Her father reacts how I’d imagine most people would react, angrily and fearfully. The brief tales plays out like a Stephen King premise, clones stalk the pair as they run to new homes. An increasingly desperate father gets more violent with every encounter.

I really liked this story. Liked it so much I was disappointed that it ended so quickly. Add 80,000 words as good as these 2000 and it would make a great novel.

Recommended.

 

An abandoned and hungry girl stumbles upon an edible house with her brother. “Hungry” by Robert E. Stutts (debut 2/4 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a captive in a cannibalistic witches’ home. The witch has imprisoned her brother in a cage and is fattening him up while impressing the little girl to be her apprentice. The little girl knows this will not end well for her and her brother, no matter how much the outcome changes.

Mr Stutts R rated version of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ is dark, even for this very grim Grimm tale. I found myself glued to it, as if I had fallen under a spell. Daily SF has published many disturbing tales. There may be a creepier tale than “Hungry” in its archives but if there is, it isn’t coming to mind.

 

The need to belong compete with its consequences in “Wildness and Wet” by Lee Hallison (debut 2/5 and reviewed by Frank D). Leah watches a flash dance performance from the safety of her bedroom window. The dancers are teenagers her age, connected via implants to the web. They share a clique like no other in history. Leah wants to be a part of it, and the boy who climbs to her open window may be too alluring to resist.

“Wildness and Wet” is a tale of temptation. The kids joined in this futuristic web have a shared physic ability thanks to the enhance technology. They garner all the substance they need through the implant and share a closeness ordinary human contact can never achieve, but their candle burns twice as quick and they die very young , burned out expending the extra flare they have enjoyed. Leah is like an imprisoned princess , unable to be a part of the exciting world she sees but she is very aware of the price she would have to pay to be a part of it.

I have one major complaint about this story , way too brief. This is just a taste of a far larger idea. I hope Ms Hallison explores this world further and shares her findings with us in the future.

 

A scientist and his greedy sister fight over their departed father’s possessions in “Mirror Image” by Peter M. Wood (debut 2/6 and reviewed by Frank D). Sam is a physicist but even he can’t piece together what his extrinsic father’s basement lab is all about. Doris, his sister, wants to sell it all and split the sale 50/50. She had already bilked Dad of the rest of his assets but it is never enough for her. Sam wants to see if there is anything to his late father’s claims of alternate realities, but Doris’s greed may make it all a moot point.

This tale explores the insanity of adults who fight over their departed parents belongings and adds a convenient twist to it. Amusing, in this world and in the one next door, I’m sure.

 

The Time Travel Device” by James Van Pelt (debut 2/7 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist has created a means to travel through time. He isn’t able to control where he goes, his own desires choses his destination for him. Where you go can say much about the person you are.

This short tale has a morbid tone to it. Fascinating destinations, but I’d be worried if I were the protag.

 

A socially awkward girl makes her pitch for a date in “A Phone, My Heart, and Maybe My Last Shred of Dignity” by Luc Reid (debut 2/8 and reviewed by Frank D). Iowa is a loner in a society where no one is alone. Her life is a series of disasters. Today has been an unusually brutal day even for her, but reflection can help heal her self-inflicted wounds.

“A Phone” is a comedy of errors with a love story buried within. The story is told in a string of flashbacks , unusual but effective when written by someone as skilled as Mr Reid. Iowa has fallen for a woman giving a demonstration at 20th century fair. Iowa hatches a very crazy plan in hopes of impressing her.

I simply loved this tale. The ending of it was the beginning; watching Iowa’s crazy plan unravel in reverse made it that much more entertaining. You may need to jump back to the opening to notice the sweet conclusion to the story.

Recommended.

 

Charles Milford speaks for the President in “For The People” by Ronald D. Ferguson (debut 2/11 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). He has no official title, no position, but he sees him every day; which makes him the perfect vessel for the explosives planted in his abdomen. The resistance movement plans on using the drugged Milford to kill both the President and the Vice President. But will the plan succeed or do the rebels have it all wrong?

This story was set in the not too distant future, maybe one we can even see from here. I thought it was a little uneven at the beginning; but as I read on, I was rewarded with a pretty good story. It had a nice little twist at the end, and I’m a sucker for those, so maybe I’m prejudiced, but I thought it worked well. I think if you keep an open mind at the start of the story, it’s worth it in the end.

 

Kane is an empathy in “The Needs Of Hollow Men” by K.A. Rundell (debut 2/12 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), one that works for the police to solve crimes from the emotions left behind at the scene. A “hollow man”, someone empty of his own emotion. His lack of personal emotions facilitates his work, of course the meds help. But Kane is a man in trouble; the emptiness has been filled by everyone else’s emotion, squeezing him from inside. Who can help ease the pain he feels? Who will help the needs of a hollow man?

This story is well laid out and does a good job of ushering us into Kane’s world. We also get to see how he is starting to unravel. I think the author did a nice job of striking the right balance of information about Kane and the emotion he is dealing with. Nice story.

Recommended.

 

Two fairy tales intertwine in “A Hairy Predicament” by Melissa Mead (debut 2/13 and reviewed by Frank D). Mother Gothel has taken Rapunzel of her overwhelmed parent’s hands. Disposing her abundant hair has proven problematic but Rapunzel has an idea. Mother Gothel knows a Fae spell has its consequences, and a grieving widowed giant has come to complain.

This dark fairy tale is written with a tongue in cheek. Cute.

 

A little girl draws maps of the future in “Maps” by Beth Cato (debut 2/14 and reviewed by Frank D). Christina is cursed with the ability to predict the tragic future. Her left hand independently pinpoints the place where future events will happen. It is a gift she does not want and she is willing to maim herself to rid herself of the curse.

“Maps” may be the most tragic story I have ever read on DSF (quite a claim for this publication). The story was like watching an accident on the side of the freeway, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. High marks to Ms Cato for her accomplishment.

 

A creepy guy offers to buy a woman a drink in “Five Minutes” by Conor Powers-Smith (debut 2/15 and reviewed by Frank D). Sasha is a hard working single mother; stopping at a local pub for a quick drink when a man takes the stool next to her. She needs to get home to her sleeping children but the man is insistent that she wait and listen to him. The strange man claims he has a limited gift of foresight. He only can see five minutes into the future, an ability that hasn’t been all that beneficial for him. Sasha can’t get away from him quick enough but he only wishes for two minutes of her time, offering to sit with her on the deck and watch as the cars pass through the nearby intersection.

“Five Minutes” is told from the perspective from an exhausted woman. That last thing she needs is to placate a disturbed man. It is written as if you are sure this man is up to something sinister; expecting a dark turn of events to spring into action as you read. Well done.

If you were to take the title and the strange man’s backstory into account alone, you would likely be sure how this tale would conclude. It takes a skilled writer to lead the reader into a different direction. Mr Smith’s use of characters and a careful crafting of the tone of the story will make you doubt the obvious.

Recommended.

 

The world is ending and there is only one place you can go to be saved in “The Mountain” by Andrew Kozma (debut 2/18 and reviewed by Frank D). Salvation from annihilation can be found on a series of hills with very descriptive (and bland) names. The people count their numbers (only a few can be saved) and watch as the universe dissolves.

“The Mountain” is told from a distance and with little emotional flare. The faceless characters of the story are rescued but have nothing left. I failed to see the point of any of it.

 

A fatigued man frightens an imprisoned woman in “Coffee Pot” by Jez Patterson (debut 2/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is huddled in a bed, watching a man who sips coffee. She just wants him to fall asleep so she can escape. Escape has its permanent drawbacks, in her case.

I hesitate revealing anymore to this tale. Suffice to say it has an effective twist. Unfortunately, the storyline didn’t capture my interest that much.

 

“I Heard You Got a Cat, I Heard You Named Him Charles” by M. Bennardo (debut 2/20 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist has heard his old girl friend has gotten a new pet. It was unnecessary, because he could have taken the position of a cat for her. He could be anything she wanted, and had never left her side.

This story is told from the perspective of a shape changing stalker. He is willing to do anything for her just so he can stay by her side. He is the ultimate in creepy behavior. I really felt for his girl.

 

Fulfilling a need can get very expensive in “Coin Op” by David Steffen (debut 2/21 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this short work of humor is woman who is experiencing a bit of a losing streak. Her girlfriends have pooled their money together so she can spend an evening with an android gigolo. Not sure how far she is willing to go, she opts for the ‘pay as you go’ method. Unfortunately, passion and frugality make incompatible companions.

“Coin Op” opens as a strip tease. The android takes bits of clothing off for a nominal fee that is pennies at first. The less he wears the stiffer the price. The fact the protagonist is female makes me suspect the viability of the premise, especially when the android is completely devoid of any passion at all. However, the questionable premise does lend to the absurdity of the scene. Particularly amusing is how the android’s member is treated as ‘medical waste’ when he is finished, making me feel shameful in the protagonist’s behalf.

I imagined this brief and amusing piece brightened a few people’s morning when they read it in their inbox.

 

A young man searches for love, in real life, his dreams, and through cyberspace in “Crabapple” by Lavie Tidhar (debut 2/22 and reviewed by Frank D). Youssou dreams of flying in the arms of an off-world lover. He lives in a house grown from a plant on an old highway in Tel Aviv and mingles with neighbors as he shares drugs and food. Youssou has left his lover and replaced him with a fictional one. The boy down the street knows all about it, because he can experience others dreams.

“Crabapple”, like so many other Tidhar tales I have read, is a difficult story to understand. The backdrop in this surreal premise are references to popular subplots borrowed from classics of the past. Concepts Niven, Pohl, Simak – and several others whose work I recognize but I can’t attach their name to them – appear throughout this tale. They serve as bright neon signs that drown out the sights around them, brilliant to the point of distraction. The story (I think) is about Youssou’s inability to commit. His subconscious attempts to fill this void (total guess), and as a viewer, we are granted a glimpse into his backstory to piece it together. A tangent to this tale is Kranki’s gift of seeing Youssou’s dreams. I would expand on this subplot more but I failed to see any meaningful relevance to the rest of the tale.

I’ve read more short works written by Lavie Tidhar than any other author save my favorites whose collections I have bought in mass in the past. I really want to like his work. He has a poetic flare to his prose. His stories have the feeling of a greater message we all could benefit from. But alas, I have yet to decipher any great message from his stories.

I can sum up all of Lavie Tidhar’s work with my experience of reading “Crabapple.” I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.

 

“Living With Trees” by Geetanjali Dighe (debut 2/25 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this tale is an explorer. He lands on a beautiful green world full of trees like the kind Earth once possessed. The trees are one with the planet, and with their spores and psychic ability, the protagonist becomes one with them.

The author draws upon her association with Far Eastern mysticism to bring this tale to life. The story has an unspoken feel of dread for an ending.

 

“The Small Print” by Amy McLane (debut 2/26 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), contains one of the singularly most intriguing lines I’ve ever read. Some might suggest it doesn’t carry weight out of contest, but even in context, it was out of context, and hooked me, firmly, into the story.

“The Druskies call you Padre Smallprint, because you’re always hunting for the catch.”

The story is about a man who removes memories, cleans them of their owner, and sells them to others. (We know nothing of his general clientele, and only learn of one customer of seemingly very ill repute, which adds to the story’s sullen mood.)

When the memory is gone, what is left in its place is a piece of himself. “She’ll come back. She’ll come and come until there is nothing left of her…” the Padre thinks after the initial visit/sale of a woman who’d sold an average summer day.

There are some complex ideas here, and some I feel could be interpreted differently by different readers. What exactly did he do inside her memory? Author Amy McLane doesn’t spell everything out for us, which in my opinion, enhances the tale.
Melissa Mead has written several humorous and interesting twisted fairy tales and to my delight I keep getting tapped to read them.

 

“Hazel Tree” by Melissa Mead (debut 2/27 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) I feel is weaker than the others, but it is nevertheless fun and, well, twisted.

Here, the put-upon stepdaughter has a magic hazelnut tree at her disposal. What she does with it is what any business minded, industrious individual would do… She profits!

 

A surrogate android experiences all the joy and pain of child birth in “Hope, Shattered” by Brian R. McDowell (debut 2/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Damara has been designed for the specific purpose of carrying a child to term. Most mothers who use her do so to maintain their physique, but the current mother whose child Damara is carrying is not one of those shallow women. Damara experiences all the discomforts of child birth, as well as all of the emotional peaks and valleys a mother goes through during the event as well. She is just what modern day parents need, if only it were possible for them to tend to her needsâ€

“Hope, Shattered” is an emotional tale. Damara was built for a purpose. The original birthing-bots were built without emotions, but that made them to eerie and machine-like for parents. So her updated model has been equipped to act more like a mother living through the experience. It has left her with a flaw that is heart-wrenching. A neat story, most striking about it is that the author is male.

Recommended.


Welcomed competition…

For months, Diabolical Plots has been beating the drum that Daily Science Fiction has failed to receive the attention we here believe they have earned. It is our opinion that it is a disgrace DSF receives for its first two years, with the exception of this lone website, only passing and brief reviews for selected stories, but that is no longer the case.

Songs of Eretz is a blog written by Dr Steven Gordon. He is a prolific author and poet, and reviews Daily SF the day each story appears (where in the hell does he find the time?). He writes a brief synopsis, what he thought of the piece, and shares his rocket rating. He even goes through the trouble of adding an appropriate photo for each story. I’m impressed.

Aside from the reviews he does of Daily SF, Dr Gordon writes a book report for the latest classic he has completed. Well thought out and well done. The good doctor is very good and very committed to his blog. Give it a look. As a reviewer, I give it 7 out 7 rockets.

As much as I have chastised the publication in the past for their snub of DSF, I would like to congratulate Tangent Online for including several Daily Science Fiction stories in their year end Recommended Reading List. Despite the fact that Tangent doesn’t review Daily SF, Bob Blough was moved enough by a handful of stories to include them for Tangent‘s list. I applaud Dave Truesdale for including them in this year.

Perhaps this would be a good time for Tangent to reconsider if Daily SF is worth their time. I know most of their offerings are shorter than majority of the stories Tangent chooses to review, but DSF does publish a showcase, longer tale every Friday. That makes 4 , 5 tales a month, comparable to what Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and so many other vaunted publications the reviewing site never fails to miss. Surely the quality of the writing at Daily SF is equal to what those celebrated magazines publish, but don’t take my word for it , my illustrious reviewing superiors , take your own recommendations to heart.


stork carrying baby

David Steffen has a very important matter that he needs to attend to. For that reason, he has left DP in the very capable hands of Anthony. The matter is a secret, very secret. You couldn’t get it out of me no matter how hard you tried.

See David? Told you could trust me!