Interview: Karl Bunker

interview by Carl Slaughter

Karl Bunker sold “Gray Wings” to Asimov’s a few months ago and followed it almost immediately with “The Women From the Ocean.” One the heels of his first two stories to Asimov’s, he sold “This Quiet Dust” to Analog. Three stories to the two leading science fiction magazines in rapid succession. Has he arrived? Diabolical Plots inquires about this and more.



Well, the amount of success I’ve had so far certainly seemed like a fantasy back when I started writing. But I haven’t received any awards yet — no Hugo, no Nebula, no Pulitzer, no Nobel — so I feel like I’ve still got a lot of “arriving” to strive toward and fantasize about.



I guess most writers would say this, but I like stories about people — about human feelings (though it may not be “humans” who are doing the feeling). But I’m also drawn to old-fashioned gosh-wow, sense-of-wonder science-fictional ideas. SF lets us writers come up with strange and wonderful situations, and then look at how people (human or otherwise) might react to those situations. It’s that latter part that makes a story worthwhile, in my opinion. My upcoming Analog story is unusually idea-oriented for me, but even with that one I see the core of the story as being about feelings — about hope and curiosity and love overcoming fear. In terms of sub-genre, I’m drawn to post-singularity as a theme, but of course post-singularity stories are hard to write, since (by definition) they’re about a future that can’t be straightforwardly extrapolated.



The answer to both questions is “I don’t know.” Ideally of course, I’d like to think that I made more sales as I went along because I was learning to write better, and that’s the end of it. I know that when I’m looking for a story to critique on Critters, I try to find something that looks like it’s going to be interesting and well-written, and as I scan through the first few paragraphs of a batch of stories it’s easy for me to make that judgement without being distracted by whether or not I recognize the author’s name. So I assume professional editors can do the same. But there’s no way to know what goes on in the minds — and perhaps the subconscious minds at that — of editors, so my opinion is that it’s best not to worry about that.



After selling a couple of stories to F&SF, it appears that I can count on a personal reply from Gordon Van Gelder. With Sheila Williams at Asimov’s, I got a lot of wonderfully encouraging personal responses from her before she ever bought anything from me. Now that I’ve sold them a couple of stories, she doesn’t have as much praise and encouragement for me, either in acceptance or rejection notices. So that’s kind of funny; I guess she figures that I’ve “arrived,” as you put it, and so she doesn’t have to coddle me any more. With Analog, I never got anything other than form rejections up until I sold a story to them. I haven’t had anything to submit to them since that first sale, but I’ll be curious to see if I still get that (rather insulting, IMO) “how to write SF for dummies” form rejection of theirs.



I do suffer from a sort of low-grade chronic writer’s block. In all of 2012 I think I finished only two stories and sold one. I’ve been a lot more productive so far this year, but I don’t think I’m “cured” of writer’s block yet. It may be that writing will always be slow and painful for me. At a rough estimate, I’ve probably finished fewer than 30 short stories in my life.



I don’t have any novels in the works, and i’m not sure I ever will. It’s perhaps a misfortune of mine that I have a tremendous love and respect for the short story as an art form — more so than the novel. I much prefer reading short stories to novels, and the prospect of writing a novel feels to me like a horrible grind of a chore that stretches off to infinity. And that’s too bad, because it’s awfully rare for an author to make a name for him/herself solely from short stories.



I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever reach a point where I feel that critique groups are superfluous for me. I know I still learn a lot every time I put a story out for critique, and critiques have often saved me from embarrassing blunders. They’ve also sometimes convinced me to completely rework a story, or to give up on one, and even on one occasion to believe in a story that I was ready to call a failure and give up on. And I still feel that I have a lot to learn from writing critiques, and a lot to learn _about_ writing critiques. All parts of the process — reading something with writing a critique in mind, writing a critique, reading and making good use of critiques about one’s own work — all of these things are complex and difficult skills in themselves, and there’s a lot to learn and know about all of them. Of course I often get “bad” critiques, where I feel that the critiquer is just totally clueless about how to read, or how to read for a critique, or how to think about writing, or how to write a critique, or all of the above. But for the time being anyway, it’s hard for me to imagine giving up on critique groups.



I can’t really think of any advice to give my younger self. Writing was something I had to learn — and still am learning — and I think I’m doing okay with that learning process. On the other hand, I’m quite shockingly old to be a “new” writer, so perhaps it would have been good for me to start working seriously at writing several decades earlier in my life. At least then my fans (if I ever have any) will have a longer body of work to look forward to. But on the other other hand, it’s good to be working on something new in one’s life, regardless of one’s age.



Perhaps one thing: For god’s sake, don’t just read within your preferred genre. For SF writers in particular, I would wish that they would read literary fiction, and learn to appreciate and love it. It’s my feeling that that’s how real quality and richness will be brought into the genre, and into each writer’s writing


Carl_eagleCarl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

His training is in journalism, and he has an essay on culture printed in the Korea Times and Beijing Review. He has two science fiction novels in the works and is deep into research for an environmental short story project.

Carl currently teaches in China where electricity is an inconsistent commodity.


To Critique or Not to Critique: Kristine Kathryn Rusch Weighs In

interview by Carl Slaughter

KKRWorkshop instructors Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith take a different approach to coaching writers:

“We do critiques at first because people want them. We time the critiques and give rules:

  • If you liked this and would have bought it as an editor/reader, then say that and nothing else.
  • If it’s not your genre or your kind of story, say that and nothing else.
  • If you would like it and would buy it if x, y, and z were fixed, then say that.
  • And say what you believe is strong about the story. No grammar nits.
  • You have only one minute in which to say all of this. If you go over, you get cut off. If you’re under, that’s good.

Then we teach them how to read like editors/readers. If they don’t get caught by the beginning, they don’t have to keep reading.

They’re done. They can move onto something else.

From that point, the “critiques” are this:

  • “Stopped at page 1, paragraph 2”
  • “Read until page 10, liked it, then stopped on paragraph 3 because the character did something unbelievable.”
  • “Read it, liked it, not sure I want to buy it.”
  • “Read it, liked it, but not enough to buy.”
  • “Read it, loved it, will buy it.”

And that’s all.

Dean and I will then interpret,if everyone stops on paragraph two, there’s clearly a problem with the opening, but if people fade out,some stop on page 10, some on page 5, most on page 7, then the pacing is off, etc.

If we hated the story, but 3/4 of the class loved it, we don’t critique it in depth, because all that writer has to do is mail the story, and 3/4 of all readers who like that kind of story will probably like this story.

We have great success with this method because it mimics the real-world way people read.”


Carl Slaughter: Much if not most of this is in direct contrast to other workshop strategies and rules. For example, at Critters, the largest and oldest online speculative fiction workshop, the minimum word count for getting full credit is 200. Longer critiques and detailed critiques are encouraged. They even offer a Most Productive Critter Award for people who crank out the highest volume of feedback. Clarion, the Harvard of onsite workshops, devotes a large portion of its schedule to peer critiquing. At Odyssey, 50% of classroom time is peer critiquing: “Everyone in the class learns to become a top-notch critiquer, providing insightful feedback on your work. Workshopping sessions are designed to maximize their helpfulness.” How did you arrive at conclusion that brief peer critiquing is better than the longstanding and almost universal practice of extensive peer critiquing?

Kristine Kathryn Rusch: I am an editor, and I know what an editor’s job is. The editor must find something that readers will like and buy. Readers don’t care if a comma is missing on page 64. Readers want to know if the story is good, if the characters are memorable, and if the book pulls you all the way through to the end. When you reach the end, do you want to read the next book. If not, then your book failed. It’s really very simple.

If you look at the history of peer critiquing, you’ll see that it came out of the university system. The man who “invented” it later repudiated it. It’s a way to keep students busy without doing much work yourself. Now it’s become this monster that destroys writers and builds up critics rather than helping writers.

If critiquing were so important, then great writers of the past would have come out of workshops rather than out of their own practice and enjoyment of great fiction.


CS: Jeanne Cavelos, former senior editor of Bantam Doubleday Dell, is director of the Odyssey workshop. She says, “You should not apply unless you are ready to hear about the weaknesses in your writing and ready to work to overcome them †We target those weaknesses one by one and work to conquer them †In critiquing stories, I give the same unflinchingly honest, concrete, detailed feedback that I provided as a senior editor.” But you were an editor too. You were the editor of a leading magazine for 6 years. You said you shared that view back then, but now you believe in emphasizing strengths. How did your view evolved?

KKR: I have spent the last ten years teaching professional writers how to save their careers. Most careers fall apart for two reasons: 1) a lack of understanding of business and 2) a lack of belief in your own voice. Workshops destroy voice and make a writer doubt. I have “repaired” so many writers who went through decades of peer critiques. Those writers stopped listening to “what’s wrong,” started learning what they did well, and began to sell their work again. Hell, most of them started writing again, because peer critiques had frozen them and made them stop writing altogether.


CS: OK, so you’ve got a system for establishing popularity. What about recognizing literary value. From “War of the Worlds” to “Harry Potter,” many classic stories were initially rejected by leading editors. Some were rejected several times, “Dune” being the most famous example. Suppose the census of the workshop critiques is to pan what turns out to be the next “Flowers for Algernon.”

KKR: Oh, the art question. It’s so silly. Readers determine literary value. They always have. They pass memorable works to their friends and then to the next generation. If you don’t have readers, your work will never have literary value. It’ll never get passed on. So popularity and literary value are related. Do most popular novels get read 100 years later? No. Were all novels we read 100 years later popular in their day?

Most workshops do pan works that will become popular, because those works are based on voice and vision, something peer critiques destroy. You cannot write by committee. You cannot learn to write from a committee, particularly one that reads critically.

Readers read for enjoyment. Writers in peer critiques do not. So they automatically misread a story when it’s presented to them.


CS: Your workshops are 4 days and 8 days, whereas others are several weeks. Why only a fraction of the usual time?

KKR: Because working writers (and people with day jobs) don’t have several weeks to devote to a workshop. Only students and retired people do. When Dean & I teach workshops, we look for people with drive. People with drive generally can’t take a summer out of their lives to sit around and chat about literature. In fact, people with drive get bored at such things.

We structure our workshops to appeal to people who have the drive to succeed, the willingness to work hard, and the ability to learn.

By the way, even though our workshops are shorter than the other workshops, we force our students to write more. They write tens of thousands of words at our workshops. At the others, they might write a story or two.


CS: Do you and Dean provide verbal or written feedback or both? How long are your written critiques? How long are your written critiques?

KKR: We provide some verbal and written feedback. We tell writers they can ignore everything we say. We never write more than a paragraph on the back of a manuscript. We also write and mark what’s good about the manuscript.


CS: How much time do the workshops devote to feedback versus revision?

KKR: We don’t believe in revision. That’s a waste of time as well. Write the next story. No musician becomes good by going over the same piece of music at the expense of all others. We move the writers forward, asking them to write new material while keeping in mind what they learned about the old material.

We spend a lot of time debunking the “revision” myth. You cannot fix a broken manuscript. The manuscript is not the story. If you like the story and it didn’t work, then you must start from scratch and write it all over again.


CS: What portion of your feedback is devoted to structure, clarity, character development, etc? How much macro focus and how much micro focus?

KKR: All of it focuses on the story, character, and voice. None of it focuses on the words.


CS: Stanley Schmidt once said, “The first sentence of a story usually tells me whether I’m in good hands.” Sheila Williams said, “Get my attention in the first paragraph.” Mike Resnick said, “Put everything you’ve got into the first page.” The cutoff for the Hatrack workshopis 13 lines. How much of your workshops are devoted to opening sequences?

KKR: We don’t waste time on sentences or words. I really can’t emphasize that enough. Nor are the above comments from Sheila, Stan & Mike about words. They’re about how fast the writer takes the reader into the story and away from the real world.


CS: Is this practice even a good idea for editors and authors alike? How many good stories have been rejected because the first impression wasn’t awesome?

KKR: None. If the opening isn’t good, the story isn’t good.


CS: Are your workshops for short fiction, novels, or both?

KKR: It depends on the workshop.


CS: What are the most common misconceptions writers have and how do you address those misconceptions?

KKR: That words and critique are important. Story and business will give them a career. Focusing on one manuscript won’t help at all. Most workshops teach writers how to write one beautiful story. Most do not teach writers how to have a career. Yet writers want a career, and they’ve just wasted their precious time learning stuff that will hurt their careers rather than ever help them.


CS: What are the most common mistakes writers make and how do you address those mistakes?

KKR: They don’t learn how to write fast, how to write a lot, how to practice, and how to tell a story. That’s craft. But the biggest mistakes they make are ignoring and refusing to learn business. It doesn’t matter how well you write. If you can’t tell a story, your work won’t sell. If you can tell a story and don’t know business, someone will take advantage of you. It happens all the time.


CS: Do you advise writers to submit stories indefinitely or do advice them to put a story on the shelf after half a dozen or so rejections?

KKR: Keep submitting. Or self-publish.


CS: Do you ever tell a writer to adopt a different vision for a story? As in, “This story would be better/more marketable if you took it in a fundamentally different direction?” At what level of revision does the story cease to be the writer’s story and become the instructor/editor’s story?

KKR: Never. Never, never, never, never. That’s horribly destructive.


CS: Do you ever completely rewrite a passage or scene for a writer?

KKR: No.


CS: Is there a place for telling an author, “This story is fundamentally flawed. It has no hope. Abandon this project and move on to something workable.”?

KKR: God, no. And anyone who says that should never be allowed near writers again.


CS: Is there a place for telling someone, “You’re not cut out to be a writer.”?

KKR: Who voted that critic God? No!!!! That’s horrible. Again, that person should never ever ever be allowed near writers again.


CS: What about your new online workshop for beginners. How will that be organized? What skills do you teach? How many stories do they submit? How many times do they revise the same story?

KKR: They’re craft workshops. The writers learn new tools. They become aware of the tools. They do not submit stories. They do not revise stories (see above). They certainly do not waste their time revising the same story.


CS: The Clarion website says one third of participants get published. Odyssey cites a success rate of 56% of graduates. Critters has an announcements page for critiqued stories that get published. Do you keep statistics for stories that got critiqued in a workshop and later got published, or writers who participated in a workshop and later got published? How do you, and potential students, know your new approach works?

KKR: We don’t take credit for our students’ successes. We provide information. If they want to use that information, that’s their business.


CS: Now that you’re conducting your own workshops and now that you’ve adopted a different workshop philosophy/MO, does this mean you won’t be participating in other workshops?

KKR: No one asks any more. We tried teaching our way at Clarion in 1992 and got banned. I suspect others don’t want us either.


CS: What do you recommend for writers who can’t afford a workshop, can’t travel, can’t take time off from work, haven’t been able to beat the competition for a workshop seat, and so on, and therefore don’t have the advantage of personalized feedback from experienced writers and editors?

KKR: Stop stressing about it. You’re probably better off not going. Write a lot, practice new techniques, mail everything you write even if you think it’s bad, and keep at it. Learn business. You’ll be a success eventually if you do all those things.


Carl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he hCarl_eagleas traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

His training is in journalism, and he has an essay on culture printed in the Korea Times and Beijing Review. He has two science fiction novels in the works and is deep into research for an environmental short story project.

Carl currently teaches in China where electricity is an inconsistent commodity.

Interview: Carl Frederick

interview by Carl Slaughter

CF1Nebula nominee, frequent Analog byliner, Writers of the Future first place award winner, 2 time Phobos Fiction Contest winner, 6 time Analog Readers Choice Award winner, Odyssey graduate, and longtime Critters member Carl Frederick is camera shy. As you can see from the photo, even his pet cat is shy. He likes cats and dogs and they are prominent characters in many of his stories. Frederick is known for his hard science stories. He’s had 40 plus short stories published in Analog. Lately, without letting up on the hard science stories, he has delved deep into character driven stories and even literary science fiction. Or rather, stories with strong character development well blended into the hard science element – and vice versa.


CARL SLAUGHTER: Is “Trojan Carousel” your first novel?

CARL FREDERICK: It’s the third or forth. I’m not sure. And as for my first two novels, I’d sort of like to forget that I’d written them. They say a writer needs to write a half million or so words of crud before the good stuff can get out. I think I’m well past that number now.


TOSHIBA Exif JPEGCS: The main characters are boys in a science school. Does this mean YA is the target audience?

CF: Partially, yes.

But the Harry Potter books were a sea change. Up until then, books with kid protagonists were indeed read by adults, but with a sense of embarrassment. Now, post Potter, adults can read such books even in public places. So ‘Trojan Carousel’ is also aimed at adults who might like reading about kids.

Most of my short story output has gone to Analog Magazine which is not generally perceived as a YA magazine. But I believe it is. Most of the stories therein have the sense of wonder, the avoidance of bored cynicism and sophistication, the optimism, that IMO characterizes the world view of kids.

Thinking about it now, I guess I consider ‘Trojan Carousel’ a book for bright kids or for physicists (who in many ways are like bright kids).


CS: Why a novel about preteen boys?

CF: Richard Feynman speculated that if kids were introduced to quantum mechanics concepts at an early age, they might (unlike physicists in general) be completely comfortable with those concepts. Exploring that idea is one of the thrusts of the novel.


CS: The adults are minor characters. Why not have them more involved in the plot? Why not have them more involved in the lives of the boys?

CF: I wanted the book to have something of the flavor of ‘Lord of the Flies’: Kids’ lives unconstrained by adult supervision/control. I also wanted the book to reflect the ‘school story’ genre. Arguably the finest example of same might be ‘Stalky and Co.’ by Kipling–one of my favorite books when I was a kid. The three boys in ‘Trojan Carousel’ who are dorm-mates parallel the three study-mates in ‘Stalky’.


CF2CS: Identify the themes of the story and explain, without major spoilers, how those themes are addressed.

CF: Outwardly, the book is about kids (aged twelve or thereabouts) in two schools on one campus: one (The Amdexter School) a traditional posh faux British boarding school and the other (The Feynman Elementary School for Advanced Physics) is for super-bright science and math kids. The two school populations coexist on friendly terms at the start. But then due to a clash of cultures, things gradually turn bad, leading to a war between the boys of the schools.

The subtext is modern science and how we interpret it, and also on the nature of scientific inquiry.

I acknowledge that this is a poor answer to your question. But I think an author is the very last person to consult about the themes in his writing.


CS: One of the main characters dies. Why is this necessary?

CF: Oh, gosh. I tried very hard not to kill him. But I couldn’t make the book work with him remaining alive. And his death allows the protagonist to deny the death somewhat in the way of ‘SchrÃ’ dinger’s Cat’, i.e. he’s not dead (or alive) until observed as such. That interpretation, by the way, is not what SchrÃ’ dinger intended. He proposed the cat paradox to show that in some instances quantum mechanics gave unrealistic answers. He considered that a problem with the science.


CS: Science exercises are sprinkled throughout the book. How do these science exercises serve the story?

CF: They’re not exercises, exactly. And they’re at the back of the book. In a number of chapters, when the reader gets to the end, s/he can continue the science discussion in the chapter by going to the back of the book where the chapter continues. Or one can skip the back of the book and simply continue with the story. The ideas of quantum mechanics are interwoven throughout the novel, and I wanted the reader (if desired) to be able to appreciate those ideas–to appreciate the wonderful and beautiful weirdness of quantum physics.


CS: You’re known for your hard science stories. Why not a hard science novel?

CF: I think it IS hard SF, maybe very hard SF. I consider much of what is called hard science fiction to be actually science engineering. I don’t see many science concepts in SF and I wanted ‘Trojan Carousel’ to be about science. I think the novel after ‘Trojan Carousel’, ‘Wizards of Science’ is much more in the traditional mold of a hard SF novel.


CS: Lately, you’ve been writing more character oriented stories. What’s the explanation for this and will the trend continue? Have you had any success marketing these types of stories? Any success marketing “Trojan Carousel?

CF: In addition to doing physics, I’m also an engineer in the fast moving electronics industry. And compared to high-tech industry, book publishing is very slow. I’d say even compared to the movement of glaciers, book publishing is slow. I don’t have the patience for it. So I’d decided to self-publish e-book versions for Kindles and Nooks. The problem there is getting noticed. I found I didn’t have the stomach for self-promotion that self-publishing seems to require. My e-book sales therefore, are not exactly stellar. Occasionally nice things happen though. Last year, after one story of mine in a series came out in Analog, someone in Germany found the other stories in the series in the Kindle version. S/he bought them and a few hours later, bought one of my novels. By the next morning, s/he’d bought everything I’d written. And a few days later came another sale (presumably to another person) from Germany. But there it stopped. No chain reaction, unfortunately. But it was neat finding I had a fan.

In general though, I think most of my sales come from people stumbling on my titles. My best selling title is a short story collection, ‘SF++ Science Fiction Stories for Linux Geeks’. I rather imagine the buyers had been looking for technical books about Linux.

I’m considered a successful sf short story writer. But ‘successful short story writer’ is rather an oxymoron. Very few can make a living doing it. I guess I write because I want to be read, not to make money from it–although some money would be nice.

To answer your question about marketing ‘Trojan Carousel’: very little success, mainly, I think, because I don’t do any marketing.


CS: Most of your stories are in Analog. The longtime editor of Analog recently retired. Will that affect your relationship with the magazine? Will you branch out into other markets?

CF: I know and like (and have long worked with) the new editor. So I hope my relationship won’t change. But the previous editor, Stan Schmidt, is a physicist, as am I. And I believe we physicists think differently and have different reading tastes than ‘civilians’. So the new editor’s reading preferences might be less similar than previously to my writing preferences. I hope I’m wrong.

As to new markets, I admit that yes, I am looking for them.


CS: Any more novels in the works?

CF: Several. I’m working on one now, ‘Duplex Alpha’. It posits that world and science problems have become too complex to be addressed by the human brain. But evolution has come to the rescue by bringing forth a new type of identical twins who (by their ‘twin language’) can to a large degree think as one (an extreme example of ‘two heads are better than one’). They are feared and oppressed by the establishment.

I also have the sequel to ‘Eridion’ (a space opera) in the works.


CS: Do you run all your manuscripts through the Critters Workshop? How does the feedback affect your revisions and how do the revisions affect the marketability of your stories?

CF: I rely heavily on Critters and run all my short stories through the workshop. I rewrite heavily based on the critiques and believe that, in all cases, the rewrites have resulted in greatly improved stories. I do weigh the critiques based on the critiquers. Some of the critiquers hate everything and seem to just like to tear down writers and writing. Some seem to have just started learning English. Some write absolutely incomprehensible critiques. But most are terrific. And many find ideas in my stories that I didn’t even know about. I don’t know what I’d do without Critters. I write individualized thank yous to every critiquer of my stories.

And speaking of thanks, thank you, Carl, for giving me the chance to discuss ‘The Trojan Carousel’. Because of the (optional) back of the book chapter continuations, I regard the novel as something of an experiment. I’m very fond of the book and still, when I think of the aforementioned death, my eyes tend to mist over.

While yes, it would be great if people bought the e-book (or any of my books) for Kindle from Amazon, I’m more concerned with readership than with income. Accordingly, if readers of this interview want copies, I’d be happy to provide them by e-mail. Readers can go to my website, click on e-books and further click the book title and then click on the ‘e-mail for free copy’ button.


Carl_eagleCarl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

His training is in journalism, and he has an essay on culture printed in the Korea Times and Beijing Review. He has two science fiction novels in the works and is deep into research for an environmental short story project.

Carl currently teaches in China where electricity is an inconsistent commodity.


Our Hugo/Nebula Eligible Work 2012

written by David Steffen

The SF award nomination season is here. The Nebulas (the writer-voted award) have been open for a while and close in February. The Hugos (the fan-voted award) opened on January first. Both sets cover works published in the 2012 calendar year. About this time of year, every writer and their dog posts a list of their eligible works.

I won’t tell you to nominate these works. I haven’t heard of anyone nominating us in the past and I don’t expect that to change. Of course it’s all of phenomenal quality, because we wrote it and stuff. 🙂

And don’t worry, I’ll write up a separate post in the near future to make recommendations of what I’d like to see win the awards. I figured it would make sense to separate them so that I wouldn’t have to try to objectively compare my own work to theirs. In THAT post I’ll also ask for nomination suggestions from people, but we’ll keep those out of this post.


Best Short Story (Nebula and Hugo)

Marley and Cratchit by David Steffen at Escape Pod (free)

This Is Your Problem, Right Here at Daily Science Fiction (free)

Constant Companion at Drabblecast (free)

Door in the Darkness at Stupefying Stories

Never Idle at Specutopia

Mysterious Ways at Uncle John’s Flush Fiction Anthology


Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

Marley and Cratchit at Escape Pod, read by Emma Newman

Constant Companion at Drabblecast

The Quest Unusual at Cast of Wonders

Turning Back the Clock at Beam Me Up


Best Fanzine Hugo

Diabolical Plots by David Steffen, Anthony W. Sullivan, Frank Dutkiewicz


Best Fan Writer Hugo (follow links for examples)

David Steffen

Especially notable are the “Best of” podcast lists.

Frank Dutkiewicz

Especially notable are the “Daily Science Fiction” reviews; we’re the only ones who regularly review them.

Carl Slaughter

Quite a few notable interviews.


Best Fan Artist Hugo

Anthony W. Sullivan, for Canny Valley comics


Best Related Work Hugo

The Priceless Value of that Story You Hate by David Steffen


Go! Nominate!

Interview: Dean Wesley Smith

interview by Carl Slaughter

Most people who comment on the changing publishing landscape concentrate on the problems. Bestselling author and blue chip workshop instructor Dean Wesley Smith has a can-do make it happen attitude and concentrates on solutions. And unlike self proclaimed experts, he’s a proven success. The business model he blogs about on his website and teaches in his workshops isn’t theory. He sells books with that business model. Lots of books. At a profit. In this interview with Carl Slaughter, he plays myth buster for writers who have reservations about making the transition from print publishing to electronic publishing and from traditional publishing to self publishing. At, he dispels conventional wisdoms on a regular basis.


MYTH: How can an author sell books without the massive marketing apparatus of a publisher? It’s logistically impossible to make contact with bookstores all over the country. Nor can they afford advertising in national magazines.


FACT: Well, that’s a huge myth. Of course any indie publisher can get into bookstores and actually, it’s fairly easy and not very expensive. And no, it’s not impossible to make contact with bookstores all over the country. In fact, it’s easy. One way to even find out about how to do that is just go to the ABA (American Booksellers Association) website and you can download their bookstore lists state by state for free. And by joining the ABA as a publisher (about $300 per year) you can join into their programs such as the different box programs, get electronic proofs to bookstores and so much more. But of course, this takes doing print books as well as electronic. And Kobo will be going into all the indie stores with electronic books shortly. Also, you can get to the major chain stores as well, just takes a little more research. But first a publisher has to get past the myth that it’s impossible. It’s far from impossible.


MYTH: With a SmashWords type strategy, there are editors, no reviewers. No vetting or evaluation process. This means every author could post every one of their stories. With such a massive number of stories available, how can readers find my story, how can my story stand out among so many others?


FACT: It’s a bogus fear. In fact, it’s now easier to find books online than it ever was when readers had to go into bookstores. The key for writers is just to keep writing better and better stories and let the fans spread the word for you. The more quality stories you have available to readers, the more they will find you. But it takes time to build that kind of readership. If you expect it within a year or less, you will be setting yourself up for disappointment.


MYTH: To sell books online, you have to use a credit card or PayPal. These services charge per sale. If one person buys 10 books, that’s not a comparatively steep service expense. But if 100 people buy one book each, you’re paying that fee 100 times. How does that factor into the ebook/self-publishing business model?


FACT: It’s called a “cost of doing business” and it’s very, very minor. And only comes into play if you are selling off your own web site, which most should not do at first.


MYTH: How much can you charge per customer for a short story? 50 cents? One dollar? At that rate, can you make as much as selling the same story to a magazine or anthology?


FACT: You get 65 to 70% of all money from any distributor like Amazon or B&N. And most of the people I know sell short fiction for $2.99 per story.


MYTH: All that time spent formatting your story is time spent clicking on a browser instead of time spent typing on a keyboard. All that time spent on bookkeeping is time spent tapping on a calculator instead of typing on a keyboard. A writer who isn’t typing is a writer who isn’t making money. How do you weigh routine maintenance time against the time spent writing 2, 3, 4 stories?


FACT: This is a serious question that all writers must deal with. Before the electronic world, there was always business time sending off manuscripts and dealing with editors and agents. But the key is always go back to writing when in doubt. My friend, Scott William Carter has a great test when he looks at doing production vs. writing. He calls it his WIBBOW test and he asks it about everything. (Would I Be Better Off Writing?) When you ask that, you tend to do the business and production stuff at odd hours when you wouldn’t be writing anyway.


MYTH: How much are customers willing to pay for an ebook if they know the production cost is only a fraction of print books?


FACT: What does production costs have to do with anything? If you sent a book to a publisher, they must pay overhead, they must pay editors, they must pay copyeditors, and production for the electronic and for the covers. The only production you are talking about is printing and shipping costs. Those are the only things that vary at all. A $15.99 trade paper should have about a $7.99 electronic book. That feels fair to readers and works fine for authors as well. And covers publisher’s costs just fine. It is a huge myth that there are no costs to electronic books. A huge myth. Costs are less, yes, but there are costs.


MYTH: Suppose the next electronic book display technology goes through a revolution and the Kindle type gadgets go the way of 45s, 78s, reel to reel, 8 track, and floppy? Then you’ve got to reformat all your stories for the new technology. If you ¹ve got a publisher, you just keep writing and let someone in New York handle format issues.


FACT: Even if there isn’t a formatting revolution in the near future that renders your current formatting obsolete, doesn’t every website and ever gadget have its own formatting requirements? This question would take an entire class to answer. It’s called staying up with the field of changes. Nature of the beast of being a professional writer. Things are going to change. If you don’t stay on top of the changes, you end up not selling and getting left behind. And also your question assumes that traditional publishers would stay up as well, and that has been proven false in the last three years.


MYTH: Suppose my name isn’t Dean Wesley Smith and I therefore don’t have an established reader base. How do I draw traffic to my site?


FACT: Why would you want to? I tell writers who come to workshops here to have a static web site and only change it when they have a new book or story to tell their fans. That’s all you need. Blogging and all that crap is far too much work.


CARL: Share some success stories. Writers who followed the advice from your blog, seminars, and books and became commercially successful.


DEAN: Oh, wow, I don’t take credit for anyone’s success. Success in this business comes from writing and keeping at it for a long time and working to keep learning. Anyone who got successful from anything I said was because they worked hard and wrote hard. My advice is just more of a suggestion to go in a direction. The writer must go and do that work. And no writer is the same, no career the same. So I would never, ever think of taking credit for anyone’s success.

Carl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

His training is in journalism, and he has an essay on culture printed in the Korea Times and Beijing Review. He has two science fiction novels in the works and is deep into research for an environmental short story project.

Carl currently teaches in China where electricity is an inconsistent commodity.

Interview: Lois Tilton

interviewed by Carl Slaughter

Lois Tilton is the short fiction reviewer for Locus Online. ÂPreviously, she reviewed short fiction for the Internet Review of Science Fiction. ÂShe won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History in the short form category for her story “Pericles the Tyrant” in 2006. In 2005, her story, “The Gladiator’s War” was a nominee for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette. ÂShe has also written several novels concerning vampires and media-related novels, one each in the Babylon 5 and Deep Space Nine universes. She has published 4 novels: Vampire Winter (1990), Darkness on the Ice (1993), Written in Venom (2000), Darkspawn (2000). She sold over 70 piece of short fiction between 1985 and 2009, many of which appeared in Asimov’s and Realms of Fantasy. Many of her stories have been included in anthologies.


CARL SLAUGHTER: What type of relationship does a reviewer have with the science fiction community? Do you hobnob with authors and publishers? What happens at conventions when fans, authors, editors, and publishers discover you’re the Locus reviewer? Do they argue with you, thank you, lobby you on behalf of an upcoming story, avoid you?

LOIS TILTON: Essentially, I don’t have a relationship with the science fiction community. I don’t believe I’ve been to a convention since I started reviewing. For one thing, they don’t invite me. And I don’t really see the use in it. I don’t particularly enjoy most conventions, where I find myself with nothing much to do except maybe the token panel. An author goes to these things to rub the elbow with agents and editors, bask in the presence of the famous, hang out with the posse. I’m not there anymore.

Almost all my previous interaction with the SF community has been online, but online has gone Elsewhere these days and I feel no inclination to chase it around. This makes me fairly insulated from the tides of community opinion, which I consider to be an advantage. It lets me form my opinion of a story without being influenced by prevailing views. I don’t know what stories are currently popular on Facebook or being denounced on Twitter. Think of a hermit in a cave with limited internet access.

CS:Â How does your background as a successful writer influence your reviewing?

LT: It’s a huge advantage that I’m no longer writing fiction. I don’t have to be concerned about the reactions of publishers and editors who might be in a position to reject my stuff. In my first column at IROSF, I wrote as my manifesto: “I consider that my mandate is to the readers, not the authors or editors of the stories I review. I have no one else to please and no one else’s opinion concerns me, save that of the editors of IROSF.” This still holds true, mutatis mutandis, with Locus. If it didn’t, I wouldn’t keep doing reviews. When I reached the age of curmudgeonhood I decided that the rest of life is too short to let other people tell me what I can and can’t say.

CS:Â Have an author or publisher ever tried to fire or prevent you from reviewing any more of their stories, or wrote you nastigrams, or publicly corrected your review?

LT: If any publishers have ever attempted to get me fired, it apparently hasn’t worked so far. On a very few occasions, publishers have indeed been peeved by my opinions enough that they stopped sending me stuff for review. Sometimes I review it anyway, and it doesn’t work in the case of online zines that anyone can read.

As far as author reaction goes, I find that it usually falls into two categories: “Lois Tilton trashed my story, who the hell does she think she is?” and “Lois Tilton recommended my story, what a great reviewer!” Writers tend to take critical reaction personally. I do everything I can to keep it from being personal on my side. So if it comes to that, and it has, I’ll write a negative review of a friend’s story and recommend stuff from a person I happen to dislike.

CS:Â Do meet or correspond with other reviewers and what do you talk about?

LT: I’ve always liked reading reviews, by which I mean reviews with something to say, not just lists with a few stars next to the titles. I like to read other reviewers’ opinions of the stories I’ve read, to see how far we agree and disagree. Have I seen many reviews from other sources that totally changed my assessment of a work? Not really. Sometimes I think, well, that’s a good point. Sometimes, “Duh! How could I miss that!”

Even where there is strong disagreement, it’s definitely a Good Thing to have reviewers who come to a work from different points of view, using different scales of critical measurement. There’s a lot of subjectivity in these things. Even in factual matters, if an author, say, misstates the size of the solar system, different reviewers will assign more or less importance to the error.

Earlier this year, the three regular short fiction reviewers from Locus , Horton, Dozois and Tilton , did a roundtable thing for podcast on reviewing the year’s stories, but there were technical difficulties in the recording. Which was too bad, I think readers would have found it interesting. One thing on which we all agreed was not having enough time to read many novels.

CS:Â Tell us about the reviewing process.

LT: The advantage I have, reviewing online, is the absence of space constraints. I don’t have the word limits that reviewers for print venues have to put up with. When I started doing this, it was common for reviewers to pick out the most notable stories in a magazine and skip over the rest. There wasn’t a lot of negative commentary. Because I don’t have the space constraints, I decided I would comment on every story in every publication I review, including the bad ones. This definitely means some negative reviews. Authors may not like this, but as I’ve said, I’m writing for readers, not authors.

In choosing publications to review, I first look at what I think most readers will be reading. The digests, the regular prozines, both print and online. I also like to review the little magazines and less-seen publications of higher quality, to point potential readers in their direction. I’ve made it a point to read any new publication sent to me, but that doesn’t guarantee I’ll review it if I find the quality to be sub-professional. In essence, I want to review publications that I think readers will want to read.

There don’t seem to be many high-quality original anthologies anymore, and publishers don’t always send them to me, which is vexing. I miss out on some good stuff that way. But another policy I adopted when I started this gig is “Text flows to the reviewer.” Which means I don’t spend my own money on material for review. I’m also not happy about jumping through hoops to access stuff from third-party sites with proprietary formats and encoding.

CS:Â Do you wear kid gloves when you review a story by a new writer?

LT: I don’t hold new authors to a different standard. If a story is supposed to be good enough to be professionally published, this means it ought to be ready for review as a professional story. It does no one a favor if I say, “Well, this one is good enough for a new writer.“ I think readers want to find good stories, regardless of the author’s age or experience. What I will do, particularly in the case of excellent work from a new author, is point out that the writer is new to the game so that readers can look out for more stuff from that author.

CS:Â Any stories you labeled duds that won awards; stories you consider a jewel that received little or no attention; cases of the rest of the speculative fiction community agreeing with you that a story is a dud or a jewel?

LT: The trouble with awards is that most of them are made on other grounds than quality. There’s the popularity of some authors, there’s outright logrolling, there’s contagious groupthink, whereby people assume that if so many other people like a given work, it must be good. And beyond all that is the inescapable fact that most readers, including some of those who vote on awards ballots, don’t read all that widely. They may only read stuff by their friends, or stuff recommended by their friends; some people will vote for stuff by their friends without bothering to read it.

Knowing this, it’s no surprise when inferior fiction ends up getting awards. I very much doubt if a negative review by me has ever changed this. I do think that a strong recommendation from me may have helped boost some stories into contention. At least, I’d like to think so.


Carl Slaughter is a writer, reviewer, critiquer, muse, English teacher, recruiter, webmaster, editorialist, essayist, and journalist. His essay on Chinese culture is in Beijing Review and his essay on Korean culture is in Korea Times. His latest essay is on Internet piracy. He is also the editor of ESL Book Review. He has traveled to 19 countries on 4 continents. He has a collection of 1500 DVD movies and TV shows, a collection of Asian and Egyptian art, and an almost unmanageable number of ESL, history, law, business, and science textbooks. At the moment he is teaching ESL in China. He reviewed extensively for Tangent for 2 years, has participated extensively in the Critters Workshop for 5 years, contributes research frequently on the Writers of the Future Forum, and currently writes reviews and conducts interviews for Diabolical Plots. His career plans include contest judge, anthologist, magazine editor, and eventually television producer.

Interview: Leah Cypess

interview by Carl Slaughter

Leah Cypess is a fantasy author with 2 novels under her belt (“Mistwood” and “Nightspell”, 2 recent stories in Asimov’s (“Twelvers” and “Nanny’s Day”), another novel due in early 2014 (“Deathsworn”), and a fist full of rave reviews. A free anthology of her short stories is entitled “Changelings and Other Stories” and is available from B&N, Amazon, and Smashwords. Her website is

“I wrote my first story in first grade. The narrator was an ice-cream cone in the process of being eaten. In fourth grade, I wrote my first book, about a girl who gets shipwrecked on a desert island with her faithful and heroic dog (a rip-off of both The Black Stallion and all the Lassie movies, very impressive). After selling my first story (Temple of Stone) while in high school, I gave in to my mother’s importuning to be practical and majored in biology at Brooklyn College. I then went to Columbia Law School and practiced law for almost two years at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, a large law firm in New York City. I kept writing and submitting in my spare time, and finally, a mere 15 years after my first short story acceptance, I sold my first novel to Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins). I live in Brookline, Massachusetts (right outside of Boston) with my husband Aaron, a researcher and doctor at the Joslin Diabetes Center, and our three children.”

Carl Slaughter: You have 2 stories in Asimov’s, science fiction’s leading magazine. How does an author who specializes in fantasy accomplish such a feat?

Leah Cypess:Â By writing science fiction stories! For years, I submitted borderline fantasy stories to Asimov’s and got form rejections. But as soon as I started submitting science fiction stories, I got positive responses and then, rather quickly, my first acceptance. Even though I write mostly fantasy, I read both fantasy and science fiction, so writing science fiction stories is not difficult for me (although since it often requires research, it does take longer).

CS: You gave up a promising career in law to become a full time fiction writer. How has that worked out for you so far? Ever tempted to second guess yourself?

LC:Â It has worked out great so far. And I’ve never second guessed myself, because even though law pays very well, it is a very all-consuming lifestyle. For people who enjoy what they’re doing, that’s great. I didn’t enjoy the practice of law enough to do it all the time, and because of that, the lifestyle made me very unhappy.

CS: You’ve had 3 children while forging career as a highly successful author. Raising a child, especially a young child, is the ultimate challenge, and you’re doing triple duty. So how have you accomplished THAT task?

LC:Â That one I’m still figuring out! A part of the answer is that my kids are naturally, and are encouraged to be, rather independent. Another part of the answer is that I definitely do not get enough sleep.

CS: Your newest novel, “Deathsworn,” was originally scheduled for fall 2013, then pushed back to winter 2014. This is summer 2012. I assume you wrote “Deathsworn” in spring 2012. Why does it take so long to get a book into print?

LC:Â The book wasn’t actually pushed back; fall 2013 was my agent’s estimate of when it would be published, but when the publisher put it into the schedule, it went in winter 2014. It takes at least a year to get a book into print because of all the work that has to go into the manuscript first — multiple rounds of revision, copyediting, proofreading, etc. And once that’s done, the publisher needs time to get the advance copies into the hands of librarians, bookstore owners, reviewers, etc. Plus, of course, publishers are working on many books simultaneously, so no single book can get rushed through all those steps at maximum possible speeds.

CS: Is the plot to “Nightspell” related to “Mistwood”? Is “Deathsworn” related to “Nightspell” or “Mistwood”?

LC:Â All 3 of those books are stand-alones. Nightspell takes place a few years after Mistwood, but in a different part of the world and with a different main character. There is one crossover character, but aside from that there is no connection between the books. Deathsworn is set in the same world but hundreds of years in the future, when things have changed a lot; I’m not even sure if my publisher will call it a companion novel or a completely new duology.

CS:Â Will “Deathsworn” be one story or will one of the novels be a prequel/sequel?

LC:Â Deathsworn is the first in a duology. It has a complete story arc of its own, with a beginning, end, etc.; no cliffhangers, I promise! But the sequel will pick up where the first book left off.

CS: For several years, you’ve been a member of the Critters Writers Workshop. What kind of feedback do you get from other members and to what extent does that help you? Do you submit all your stories to Critters? Do you make major revisions based on workshop critiques? Do you have other first readers besides on Critters? Have you tried other workshops?

LC:Â I get all sorts of feedback from Critters, and I find it all very helpful. One of the things I like about Critters is that you get multiple feedback from different people who are not bouncing off each other, so it’s very helpful in spotting trends. (i.e. If one person is confused by a sequence in my story, but everyone else seems to get it, I’ll react very differently than if 7 out of the 10 critiquers are confused by it.) I submit all my stories to either Critters or my other critique group, Codex, before sending them out. If the critiques seem to call for it, I do make major revisions, often multiple rounds of revisions.

CS:Â Why do so many of your stories feature ghosts?

LC: I hadn’t realized they did, and had to stop and think about it myself! Ghosts are one of those enduring tropes that you can play with in so many ways, and of course they tie into the ultimate mystery, which is what happens to someone after they die. Fantasy is all about the unknown, and the idea that there’s more to life than what you can plainly see, so I guess my love of fantasy segues naturally into a love of ghost stories.

CS:Â Why a medieval type setting so often?

LC:Â Short answer: Tolkien.

Longer answer: I love fantasy books that take on new, non-medieval non-European settings, but at the same time, I think there is a reason why that setting is so popular. The limitations on technology in medieval times lends itself naturally to being a fantasy setting. In addition, the fact that it IS the default fantasy setting means that readers have an understanding of it and know what to expect, which means you get to spend less time on the worldbuilding and more time on telling your story.

CS:Â Why YA?

LC:Â When I was writing Mistwood and Nightspell, I actually didn’t realize that I was writing YA. All the high fantasy I’d read until then was published as adult (even though so many of them featured teenage characters, coming of age stories, etc.), and I just assumed high fantasy had to be adult. Problem was, I told the story in 70,000 words, which I was told repeatedly was too short. I didn’t want to pad the story with another 30K words, so I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, at about that time I read Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, which made me realize just how much the YA genre had expanded since I’d grown up reading L.J. Smith. When I began submitting Mistwood to YA publishers, I got immediate positive responses, which made me realize that at heart it really was a YA story after all.

CS: Your science fiction stories don’t follow a distinct pattern. But almost all your fantasy stories involve the main character trying to solve a mystery about themselves and the people around them. The plot resembles a detective story, with pieces of the puzzle uncovered scene by scene and chapter by chapter, with the final revelation reserved for the very end. What’s the explanation for this pattern?

LC: Probably that I love detective stories, and that’s the pattern I naturally fall into for most stories. My science fiction stories tend to follow a different track from my fantasy stories — rather than starting out with a character and a situation, as I do with fantasy, I usually start with an idea. My main job is figuring out how to build a story around that idea, and often it’s enough work weaving the idea into the story without adding other secrets and mysteries as well. (Often! Not always.)

CS: So many fantasy writers rely on traditional magical beings. Dragons, unicorns, mermaids, vampires, werewolves, zombies, angels/devil. In your case, witches, ghosts, and shapeshifters. Why not original characters?

LC:Â I agree — why not original characters? — and I don’t hesitate to write readers who do use original characters. Myself, I find it much more fun to play with tropes. I also think that the tropes cover a lot of ground, and some writers seem to bend themselves over backward making up names and descriptions for some sort of original creature when, actually, it’s just a dragon (or whatever) with some changes. When writing the fantastical, I think any tropes or standards you can assume the reader shares with you are things to be taken advantage of rather than scorned.

Carl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries. His training is in journalism, and he has an essay on culture printed in the Korea Times and Beijing Review. He has two science fiction novels in the works and is deep into research for an environmental short story project. Carl currently teaches in China where electricity is an inconsistent commodity.

Diabolical Plots Talks With Mike Resnick

interview by Carl Slaughter

Quick! Who is in second place as the award winner for short fiction (according to Locus)? I have no idea, but it isn’t Mike Resnick. He’s first. Mike has been a writer of speculative fiction for the past 50 years. He has been a writer, an editor, featured speaker, judge for Writers of the Future, father of a best-selling authorâ€the list just goes on and on.

Let’s face it, Mike has done it all (at least everything I wish I could do). He has been one of my favorite authors of all time, and one of the reasons why I still read science fiction today. His novel Soul Eater, was the first paperback I couldn’t put down. His success speaks for itself. If science fiction had a crown for the leading writer, it would be Mike’s head that would be wearing it.

It is not easy feat to be so successful, for so long, in this small corner of literature. Print and publishing has changed dramatically since the days Mike first burst on the scene. The small bookstores I first shopped to find Mike’s writings are all but gone. The big chains that supplanted them are against the ropes as well. Selling fiction, and marketing it, isn’t what it used to be. Our own Carl Slaughter wanted to know what Mike thought about these changing times and wondered what advice Mike had for the up and coming writers. , Frank Dutkiewicz

Carl Slaughter:Â Which conventions are the most worthwhile for an aspiring writer?

Mike Resnick:Â In order: Worldcon, World Fantasy Con, DragonCon. Reason: that’s where you find the greatest concentration of editors. Worldcon is much the best; not only does it draw the most editors from here and abroad, but it has the added advantage that it lasts almost a week, which gives the newcomer more time to make contact.

Carl: What’s the first thing an aspiring writer should do at a convention? What’s the second thing an aspiring writer should do at a convention? Third, fourth, and fifth?

Mike:Â There are things he should do before the convention: try to make appointments to see any editor or agent he wishes to see, and try to find some experienced fan or pro to show him around. Again, I’m speaking of those three major conventions. Most conventions are fun to attend, but totally useless from a business point of view unless you know a particular editor you want to deal with is showing up , and most cons don’t draw any editors at all.

Carl: What’s the best way to approach an editor at a convention? Invite them to lunch with the writer picking up the tab? Hand them a manuscript? Inquire about the type of stories that interest them? Give a quick verbal rundown of a story? Just write down the writer’s website?


  1. The writer never picks up the tab.
  2. Primarily because of that, it’s bad form for a writer to invite an editor to a meal.
  3. Editors aren’t errand boys, and they’re not at the con to read your manuscript or carry it home with them.
  4. Simply describe what you’re writing, or planning to write, and see if the editor is interested.

Carl:Â What’s the worst way for an aspiring writer to approach an editor in person?

Mike:Â Bragging, when you’ve few or no accomplishments to brag about, is as counter-productive a way as any. Interrupting the editor when he’s clearly conferring with another writer is another. As in all other endeavors, good manners will get you farther than bad.

Carl: Should a writer break in through 2nd and 3rd tier markets or target 1st tier markets exclusively? If the former, how long does a writer stay in lower tiers before targeting 1st tier markets exclusively?

Mike:Â You don’t hit the moon if you don’t shoot for it. Also, I’m very leery of what you call 2nd and 3rd tier markets. There are professional markets, as defined by SFWA, and non-professional markets, and you do your reputation and your future absolutely no service by appearing in non-professional or semi-professional markets.

Carl:Â Is it possible to become a successful science fiction writer without ever getting a story published in Asimov’s?

Mike:Â Of course. I’d list all the major writers who haven’t sold Asimov’s, but I’m sure you have space limitations.

Carl: Are free markets a good way to build a resume? After all, even free markets choose stories from a slushpile. So a story chosen for a free market has been vetted by a team of editors.

Mike:Â If by “free markets” you mean non-paying markets, the answer is a resounding No. Appearing in a semi-pro or free market is a public declaration that your story couldn’t compete in the economic marketplace, and the very best thing you can hope for is that no professional editor you wish to sell ever becomes aware of it.

Carl: Suppose an editor expresses interest in a story by a new or unestablished writer, but requests a revision that would take the story in a different direction than the writer originally envisioned. Should the writer sacrifice the story for sake of getting a foot in the door?

Mike:Â “Sacrifice the story” gives a false impression: that the novice writer knows more about good, saleable fiction than the experienced editor. That might be true 3% of the time; for the other 97%, the assumption is invalid.

Carl: If an editor requests a major revision, should the writer make the revision on faith or request a contract? Does requesting a contract risk alienating an editor?

Mike:Â No editor is going to give a novice writer a contract based on the good faith that the novice will make the major revision to the editor’s satisfaction. Requesting a contract simply tells the editor you’re a clueless beginner. It won’t alienate him, but you won’t get the contract until the changes are made and he approves them.

Carl:Â Is it fair for writers to expect some type of feedback about why a story was rejected?

Mike:Â No. Back in 1996, I asked the various editors , for an advice column I was writing , how many slush submissions (i.e., unagented, by writers they didn’t know) they received in a month. Asimov’s got about a thousand, F&SF about 750, etc. So the answer, of course, is that the editor isn’t going to give detailed feedback to 1,000 beginning writers a month. The meaningful feedback that he gives to every unsaleable story is a rejection slip.

Carl: Why would a magazine editor ask if an author is published? Shouldn’t the story be judged on its own merits? Isn’t it an injustice to the readers when the criteria is the author’s resume instead of the story’s value?

Mike:Â The criterion for selling isn’t the author’s resume. The criterion for moving up in the slush pile is sometimes the resume. And remember that this is the real world. One reason, for example, that it’s almost impossible for an unknown to sell a novella is because the magazine is in the business of making money, and no professional editor wants to turn over 40% to 50% of his issue to a name he can’t put on the cover, a name that won’t help sell a single extra copy.

Carl:Â Which magazine and anthology editors are keen on new writers?

Mike:Â Any of them will buy a brilliant story from a newcomer. Most would buy a piece of garbage from a Heinlein or an Asimov if they could put his name on the cover. Like I say, this is the real world, and it’s a business.

That said, I have probably bought more first stories than any other editor, but again, it’s a function of the business. When I edit an anthology, and I’ve edited 41 of them thus far, I need 12 to 15 Names I can put on the cover, but that lets me buy half a dozen stories (on average) from newcomers. If I edited one of the digests I could only buy 5 or 6 stories an issue, and I could occasionally sneak in one beginner, one name that didn’t have to pull its weight on the cover.

Carl:Â How can a fiction writer maximize the system to make $750 off a story instead of $250?

Mike:Â People will talk about e-publishing the story, but that doesn’t work for unknowns. There are a million e-stories out there; why should anyone look for yours before you establish a following? The best way to maximum your earnings from a story is to sell it to a major market , either a digest, or one of the handful of “prestige” e-markets such as Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Subterranean,, or another (they change all the time) , and then, with that credential, start selling foreign rights to it. My personal record is 29 foreign and reprint sales for a single story (“For I Have Touched the Sky”; and 28 for “Kirinyaga”), but I average about 5 sales per story, even the less-than-distinguished ones.

Carl: Let’s talk about SFWA. With pro paying markets being so difficult to break into, wouldn’t it make more sense to lower standards to increase membership? What could go wrong with ushering in talented writers who are getting published and getting paid? Wouldn’t broadening membership give the organization more power?

Mike:Â No, the broader the membership, the less clout is has. When I joined SFWA more than 40 years ago, we were a lean fighting machine, boycotting publishers and making it stick, publicizing bad contracts and bad agents, auditing publishers and actually winning hundreds of thousands of dollars in unreported royalties for our members. But we were all full-time writers. Then we stopped insisting on requalification every 3 years, and our membership went from maybe 150 real writers to 1,500, of which more than 1,300 are not full-time writers and do not have the same professional interests as the full-timers. As a result, we are now pretty much powerless to act as an organization whose first duty is to protect its membership, because our membership no longer consists of people who write for a living. We have not conducted an audit in 30 years; we have not publicly evaluated a contract in 25 years; we have not publicly evaluated agents in 25 years; we do not report the average wait time , above and beyond what is contracted for , for a publisher to pay the signature advance, the delivery payment, or to issue the royalty statement; and we have totally disbanded our piracy committee. All this is a direct result of becoming a less professional organization with every passing year and more of a social club, so you’ll forgive me if I think that lowering the standard even more will be anything but deleterious.

Carl: Imagine an editor gets 2 novels. One from a SFWA member, one from a nonmember. The editor is thinking, “If I go with a SFWA member, I risk SFWA intervention, which could result in publishing delays and legal fees. But the nonmember, he just wants to get published, so he’s not going to make things complicated.” Is that a realistic scenario?

Mike:Â Absolutely not. SFWA rarely intervenes, and then only when asked to by the writer , and all other things being equal (such as the quality of the manuscripts) buying from an author with some credentials, however minimal, is certainly no worse, and probably more beneficial to the publisher, than buying from an author with no credentials.

Carl: What about style. Is show really better than tell? Is third person really better than first person? Is narrative really better than dialog and vice versa? Are dream sequences and infodumps really inherently problematic? Is changing POV in the middle of a scene really a cardinal sin? Is white room syndrome really a handicap? Is it really good/bad to use alternate verbs instead of “said”? Is a 3 act play really the best way to arrange a story? Is opening with the most dramatic moment in the story and then rewinding really more effective? ÂShouldn’t the story determine the style, not the style the story?

Mike:Â This is a typical beginner’s question. There’s no right answer, of course. If you write a fine story, whatever you use , first person, dialog, alternate verbs, et cetera , has gone into creating that story. And if you write a turkey using those same things, the fault does not lie with them, but with you.

Carl: A lot of writers swear by workshops. Others see no benefit in workshops. Where do you stand?

Mike: I think most workshops are ineffective. The exception is Clarion , but there’s a reason. In a one-or-two-day workshop I can point out everything that’s wrong with your story and suggest how to fix itâ€but then the workshop is over and you’re on your own. Clarion lasts six weeks, and the instructors can see the story through half a dozen rewrites to its conclusion. Also, Clarion has a different major writer teaching each week, so the students get more viewpoints and opinions to pick and choose from.

Carl: What about online workshops and forums like Critters, Hatrack, WOTF, and Codex. No editors, few established writers, but lots of first readers.

Mike:Â I haven’t attended/taught any online workshops, so I can’t speak to their methodology. I’ve judged Writers of the Future the past three years, and I’d say their roster of successes over the years is every bit as impressive as Clarion’s.

Personally, I prefer working one-on-one with writers. Over the past quarter century I’ve accumulated about 20 of what Hugo winner Maureen McHugh calls “Mike’s Writer Children”. When I find a talented newcomer whose work impresses me, I collaborate to get them into print, I buy from them for my anthologies, I introduce them to editors and agents. I must be doing something right, because 9 of them have been nominated for the Campbell Award, which goes to the best newcomer each year.

Carl: Workshops like Clarion are expensive. Are they worth it?

Mike:Â Meaningless question. They’re worth it if you learn and improve because of them, and they’re not if you don’t.

Carl: At 5 cents a word, can someone who specializes in short fiction ever recuperate the cost of a famous workshop? Wouldn’t they have to win a lot of Hugos/Nebulas and get invited to a lot of conventions to eventually justify the investment?

Mike:Â If their goal is to sell 5-cents-a-word markets for the rest of the careers, they can never recoup the cost. If their goal is to graduate beyond bottom-of-the-barrel markets and they apply themselves, then of course they’re worth it.

And it’s been a fact since the 1950s that you cannot make a living writing short fiction, so of course you also plan to do novels, which are what pay the major bills.

Carl: What about fiction software. Can a computer program really write a story? By the time you fill in the plot outline forms and character development forms, you’ve answered hundreds of questions. Plus the time invested in learning how to use the software. Is it worth it? What about the claim by software companies that 80% of scriptwriters us fiction software?

Mike:Â If you want to be uncreative and write stories that reflect that lack of creativity, I can think of no better way than to use fiction software.

Carl: There is a longstanding debate in the science fiction community. One camp says science fiction writers should strive for literary worth in their stories. The other camp insists the science element is supreme, that the literary aspect is optional, even a hindrance. Shouldn’t science fiction be primarily about exploring the possibilities, results, and implications of science? Aren’t there literary markets for writers who value storytelling over science premise?

Mike:Â There is a school of thought , less and less each year , that says that In science fiction the Idea is king, far more important than the characters or anything else. Then there is a school of thought, to which I belong, that says that in any type of fiction the characters are the most important thing. I feel that if a story makes you think, so much the better; but that if you don’t feel it has failed as a work of fiction. The other side thinks that if a story makes you feel or care, so much the better; but if it doesn’t make you think, it has failed as science fiction. I think over the years my side has pretty much won the battle.

Carl: The science fiction genre has evolved into a very large umbrella with many subgenres. Old schoolers disapprove of most of these subgenres using the term science fiction. They want the genre to change its name to “speculative fiction” and leave the term “science fiction” for stories that are science oriented. Is that a fair proposal?

Mike:Â It’s just a term, and by the way, “speculative fiction” was first proposed by Robert A. Heinlein back in the 1950s. Either is fine with me, but more to the point, I just write the stuff; it’s up to the publisher and his marketing team to decide what to call it.

Carl:Â How long before the only place we can see a print version of one of your stories is in a museum?

Mike:Â Not in my lifetime, but probably within 50 years of its end.

Carl: Several online magazines have experimented with various business models. The Internet has convinced readers they can get online content free. Ad strategies haven’t worked. So what’s the solution?

Mike:Â It’s a conundrum that’s not going to be solved anytime soon. proved that there is so much free crap online that readers will pay for reprints by names they know, and Amanda Hocking to the contrary, you’re more likely to make money publishing e-books if you have a following among readers than if you don’t.

Carl:Â Can an ebook become a hit without editors and marketing agents behind it?

Mike:Â Yes, Hocking proved it , but I would say that a conservative estimate would make the odds about three million to one against it being a bestseller, and a couple of hundred thousand to one against a beginner making enough that way to live on. With an established audience, the odds go way down.

Carl: Advocates of ebooks use this reasoning: An ebook can stay online indefinitely, therefore an author can eventually make as much money as a print run, even if it takes several years. Whereas with a print run, the book is off the shelf in a few months and therefore not even available as income. Is this strategy viable?

Mike:Â No. It doesn’t take into account the marketing arm of a publisher who himself is just a cog in a multi-billion-dollar international conglomerate. It doesn’t take into account the fact that, at present, a lot of countries where you can sell your foreign rights for substantial money have so few e-readers that there’s virtually no market for e-books. It doesn’t take into account the fact that almost every book published , paper or electronic — is pirated and available for free on the internet, if you know where to look, within months (and usually weeks) of publication. And of course it doesn’t take into account that a self-published author, whether in paper or phosphors, does not receive an advance, which is what most authors live on.

Carl: Some ebooks advocates are also predicting publishers will become extinct. Is that an exaggeration?

Mike:Â Yes. Some will go under, some won’t. And the smaller presses, who have targeted their audiences, will do just fine. Difficult to sell an autographed, numbered, leatherbound book in electronic form.

Carl: There’s a debate raging over piracy. One side claims tolerating a certain amount of piracy increases exposure. The other side considers this idea heresy. Apart from the moral and legal issues, which side has been vindicated in terms of sales?

Mike:Â Much too early to tell, but I suspect the added exposure doesn’t equal the lost income. After all, if someone reads one of my pirated e-books and loves it, what is he more likely to do , take $25 or $28 and go buy my latest hardcover, or hunt for more of my free pirated e-books online?

Carl: You once said that you make a comfortable living as a writer while your genre friends struggle. Do you have a better financial strategy? A better marketing strategy? More talent? More output? More revision? A better style? More appealing stories?

Mike: Some of my genre friends struggle. Some far out-earn me. Many things go into making a comfortable living as a writer. First, I’ve been at it for just about 50 years, so I have half a century’s worth of contacts, an intimate knowledge of the business, and readerships in countries all over the world. I like to think my stories and books are outstanding, but that’s subjective. Mostly I have a huge output , over 100 books and over 250 stories in this field alone , of material that is at least saleable. I have a top agent. I have editorial contacts all over the world. I have optioned numerous books and stories to Hollywood, and even sold some screenplays, both of which come from a knowledge of how the movie industry works at least as much as from the quality of what I’ve optioned. I have always adjusted instantly to new markets , audio, e-books, whatever. Writing constitutes 100% of my living, so it takes up an enormous amount of my timeâ€and as I have been lecturing beginners for close to half a century, you can be an artist until you type “The End”, but then you’d better morph into a businessman or you put yourself at a huge competitive disadvantage.

Carl: You recently reached your 70th birthday, 50th year in sci-fi, and 50th wedding anniversary. Looking back, what would you have done differently?

Mike:Â I wouldn’t have wasted a whole year being engaged to my wife before I married her. Other than that, no regrets.

Carl: You’ve been writing a lot of sentimental stories lately. What’s the explanation?

Mike: Aren’t old guys allowed to be sentimental? I should point out that my first two awards for science fiction stories in 1977 and 1978 were for sentimental stories, so it’s nothing new. And I should also point out that according to my bibliographer, I’ve sold over 125 funny stories, more even than Robert Sheckley.

Carl: You spend an awful lot of time on the fan circuit. What are the most frequent questions and requests you get at conventions?

Mike:Â The fans want stories about the old days , or at least my old days , and about the giants they never met who are no longer with us. The hopeful writers want to know how to sell and why the world is against them.

Carl: You have more awards than any writer in the history of the genre and you are the most popular living author among the fans. Asimov had a magazine that still bears his name. Orson Scott Card started his own magazine. Robert Silverberg is trying to revive Amazing Stories. Any chance we’ll be reading “Resnick’s Speculative Fiction Magazine” before you retire?

Mike:Â I’d love to see “Resnick’s Speculative Fiction Magazine”, but I’m smart enough not to invest one penny of my money in it, and I have a feeling that sentiment will be shared by every potential investor.

Carl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.


His training is in journalism, and he has an essay on culture printed in the Korea Times and Beijing Review. He has two science fiction novels in the works and is deep into research for an environmental short story project.


Carl currently teaches in China where electricity is an inconsistent commodity.

Carl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

His training is in journalism, and he has an essay on culture printed in the Korea Times and Beijing Review. He has two science fiction novels in the works and is deep into research for an environmental short story project.

Carl currently teaches in China where electricityÂis anÂinconsistent commodity.

Daily Science Fiction: January 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

One of my reviewers called me out the other dayâ€

“â€It creates a credibility problem for you when you take Tangent and Locus to task for not covering Daily Science Fiction, then fall four months behind on your reviews.”

Guilty as charged. As I said to him, I could give plenty of valid excuses for falling behind but excuses is all they would be. I made a pledge that I would continue to review Daily Science Fiction as long as I stayed at least six months current. Complacency, and nothing else, allowed me to get lax in my duties. It is my new pledge to be as current as possible. One reason why I have taken on this task to review this much-ignored, but strong in quality, SFWA-qualified magazine is because authors like to see that their hard work has been read, and appreciated.

So to live up to my part of the bargain, here are this month’s storiesâ€


“Happy Birthday” by Sara Thursta (debut 1/2 and reviewed by Frank D). A family puts on a show for their father, an astronaut in deep space. It is his birthday, once again.

“Happy Birthday” examines a hazard of space travel, time differential. The astronaut’s dutiful family does their part to keep his spirits up. Cute, but the premise has a huge hole in it. How could any conversation be conducted if the difference in which time travels is as glaring the story suggested?


A man misses his wife but believes he’s found a replacement in “Still Life Through Water Droplets” by D. Thomas Minton (debut 1/3 and reviewed by Frank D). Brandon lost his wife to cancer but saved her personality. All he needs is a suitable ‘volunteer’ to download all she was into a fresh body. The local pick-up joint is a good place to find one.

Odette seems to be the perfect woman. Lovely, out of town, and eager to spend some time with him, Brandon finally has the opportunity he has been waiting for, all he needs now is the courage to go through with it.

“Still Life” is a theft, theft of a body for a new soul. The story is clever but predictable once it gets rolling. Mr Minton shows his writing skills off with this brief tale.


A Christian spy seeks to discover the secrets ofÂÏ€ (pi) in “The Mind of Allah” by Stephen Gaskell (debut 1/4 and reviewed by Frank D). Emiliano has penetrated the home of a famed Moslem mathematician. Faisal al-Khalsi has calculated pi to a ninth place. Emiliano is eager to find out how he calculates the strange equation and suspects the answers lie in the basement of Faisal’s home.

This historical story reminds me of Harry Turtledove’s alternative history short story collection Agent of Byzantium, both in style and premise. I found it to be well thought-out and clever, although barely speculative. As a lover of AH, I thoroughly enjoy it.


Two brothers return to Earth to cash in on a get rich quick scheme in “Saviors” by James Beamon (debut 1/5 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist endures MEAT and VEGETABLE rations to join his brother on his hair-brained idea, unaware that mankind’s abandoned home world is their destination. The planet is off limits and empty of useful raw material. What could this locked-in-an-ice age-world possibly hold? It’s been picked clean of everything except thousands of cryogenically frozen people left behind.

This tale was about as appetizing as the ration packs the two characters held. Strong writing but the plot left much to be desired. Points added for the author using himself as a prop though. The only real problem for me was the reveal. Really? That’s what’s going to make them rich? Minor issues with the premise (no one’s enforcing the Heritage Laws?) but as a humor piece, it kind of works.


“Calling Down the Moon” by Diana Sherman (debut 1/6 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) Jason Marsten has just lost his mother and now his father is sending him to live with his aunt. The boy wants to stay with his father, in the mountains, by the observatory he loves. Daniel realizes his son needs more. While the father is making arrangements the son goes outside and falls from a tree into a cold dark lake. He is saved by a woman named Cynthia, the embodiment of the moon goddess Diana. The story is about the relationship between father and son, as well as the love they both share for the lure of the moon.

I liked this story a lot. The embodiment of the moon in a woman who serves as nurse, friend, mother and confidant is nice. I thought the opening could have been handled a little more smoothly to bring you into the story better, but that is a small quibble. I found myself drawn in anyway, and I was drawn to the characters. Their feeling for each other and Jason’s son really comes through. In the end this is a story about fathers and sons.


“Look Who Came to Dinner” by Susan Franceschina (debut 1/9 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Marcia’s just had her first close encounter. An alien just walked in on her taking a bath. She calls Randy for sympathy, but he calmly explains that the visitors are just curious and goes over some things she can do next time. Marcia’s still mad and even more taken aback when she discovers the alien is still there.

This was a nice little story. It had some witty, dry comedy and a pretty nice twist at the end that most will appreciate. I was a little put off at the start because the wording was a little like the audience was younger, but after the first few paragraphs it grew up. Nice premise and nicely handled otherwise.


“Electric Company” by Melissa Mead (debut 1/10 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Emily Marcia Stewart’s faithful TV has died. In an effort to replace the loneliness in her house she visits the adoption center looking for a new set. She’s put off by the brash new models, so she journeys to Schenectady, NY., the home of the wild appliance park. After many adventures with wild residents she comes to find a human partner, and a few electrical ones as well.

This is a nice anthropomorphic story, similar to “The Bicycle Rebellion” story of last year. The humor in this piece is front and center and the author has some nice puns included, like the stream of flowing electrical current. The opening was a little too generic for me because it took until she gets to Schenectady for me to realize the main character is female. That small quibble aside, this story was nicely written and the sense of humor came through quite well.


“Things Exist by Imitation of Numbers” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (debut 1/11 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). This story is smarter than me. Which is fine, I can accept that. Reading along I tried to find a common ground with a story clearly outside my intelligence. Poetic, yes. But what… else?

In the end, the author comments are the only words that made sense to me. In the end, I didn’t get it, but apparently, it’s there.

What this story is about, is how it goes about doing it. Normally, that’s a huge plus for me, but this time, I was just lost. Hopelessly lost.


“Into the Forest” by Dana Dupont (debut 1/12 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). Upon a second reading, I appreciated/liked this story more. I think because I knew the surprise, I could better watch for the set up.

To tell any of the plot, is to give away the plot, but with a story this short, I’d suggest giving it a read. It’s complete in its brevity, and not the worse for it.

Although I rated the story 3 of 7 rocket dragons, due to it’s use of a common trope, I appreciated the writing, and the skill behind it, as I’ve come to expect from DSF stories.


“Sixty-one by Seventy” by K. G. Jewell (debut 1/13 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). After Ted Winstead retired, he looked forward into the mundane, boring emptiness and made a decision. He’d visit each of Saturn’s 61 moons, taking a chunk of rock as a souvenir from each, and getting his name in the record books as the first to do so.

No rush. That is, until a bouncy, young student named Elise sets out to beat him to the punch. (Her motivation is classic.)

With two moons to go, there’s a showdown. Whose got what it takes to be the first to all 61 moons?

You’ll have to read for yourself.


“Do I Tell Her” by Steven Peck (debut 1/16 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is the agonizing thoughts of a husband who is trying to decide whether to tell his wife she’s a clone, copied when the original died in an accident. Classic surprise ending. The author teaches bioethics: “I started wondering what ethical issues might come into play if you could actually make a copy of someone (including their neurology). The technology may be here soon. Already people are making micro-scans of brains and cloning is making progress. It may not be long before the elements of this story could actually take place.”


“Dumb as Dirt” by Garth Upshaw (debut 1/17 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter). Two boys play a prank on some zombies. The mother of one boy severely scolds him and punishes him. He doesn’t understand why she takes the situation so seriously. In a surprise ending, she reveals why. The storytelling style is folksy, first person narrative.


You might remember Nancy Fulda from her recent Nebula stories “Flashback” and “Movement.” After reading these two stories, I wrote to her to say, “I’ve read only two of your stories, but they both have something in common and I’ve guessing your other stories do too. A lot of writers have talent and experience, so when they get an idea, they can whip out a story. But it’s all formula and no passion. Your stories are loaded with passion.” Well, it’s too early to say, but I might have been wrong. “All or Nothing “by Nancy Fulda (debut 1/18 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is cleaver and vivid, but there’s not much passion.

Tommy and Edna are childhood friends. In the opening sequence, she pronounces him a zero. He lets the words affect him and never amounts to anything as a child. He even scores zero on his exams. In the second half for the story, his efforts to romance her lead to inventions and discoveries involving the number zero - frictionless, perpetual motion machine; research paper defining a new mathematical system based on division by zero; architectural diagram for a zero-energy house; industrial method for burning fossil fuels without carbon emissions; existence of the zeroth element on the periodic table; zero-point energy.

“Edna Peterson stood with her hands on her skirt and her feet planted in the dark, rumpled soil of the rutabaga patch. Her eyes scrunched into an expression of righteous fury exclusively reserved for seven-year-old girls.” “Tommy Jenkins borrowed his Dad’s beat-up saw and cut scrap wood into building blocks. He built towers so high he had to stand on a chair to reach the top, with arches and buttresses and entire platforms spanning the length of the kitchen. â€˜It won’t fall down unless you push on it,’ he told Edna when her mother sent her over to borrow a cup of sugar. â€˜All the forces are in equilibrium’. Edna scratched her elbow and didn’t want to admit that she didn’t know what ‘equilibrium’ meant. She edged out the doorway without saying anything.”

These scenes are so well written, I can picture them in my mind almost as well as if they were on a movie screen. It reminds me of the stories in my middle school reading textbook: impressively descriptive, but not terribly meaningful. “All or Nothing” is cute and enjoyable, but I’ll take passionate any day.

This story is part of a series by four established authors who refer to themselves as the Numbers Quartet. Every story is based on a dozen physical and mathematical constants - pi, infinity, speed of light, etc. In this case, the number zero. 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.

While I would prefer Fulda keep her stories in the passion vein, I applaud her versatility and will continue to follow her career.


“The Professor’s Boy” by Erik Goranson (debut 1/19 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter). A knowledge “vampire,” referred to as a “collector,” targets a dying professor. The extraction process - nanomites injected through his IV - involves the death of the “host.” After a surprise encounter with the professor’s boy, the collector realizes he got a bit more than he bargained for.


“The Stoker Memorandum” by Lavie Tidhar (debut 1/20 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is part alternate history, part horror, part alien, part conspiracy. The prose is tedious and full of 19th century names and the writing style seems like it deliberately imitates 19th century literature, so the story is hard to follow. It has something to do with reptile royalty on the throne in Europe, monsters created by a Jekyll-Frankenstein serum, other monsters that are half machine, and an impending extra-terrestrial invasion. However you define this genre, you have to be hard core to relish this story.


Johnny has failed his drug test and may get kicked out of school in “Midnight at River’s Edge” by Ron Collins (debut 1/23 and reviewed by Frank D). His father has given him an ultimatum. John now must make a choice. What he really wants to do is be an artist but drugs and art do not mix.

“Midnight” is so much like a thousand tales in everyday kids these days except it has a speculative twist that was way too obvious considering where it debuted. Mr Collins talents adds a bit of flavor to this vanilla-ish tale.


Evolution adapts to pollution in “Inconstant Nature” by Colum Paget (debut 1/24 and reviewed by Frank D). Earth’s species are changing and thriving in the cesspool man has created. Plants and animals are now adding to the toxic environment, making the air unbreathable to man. So many species have died but a few of the lower life forms have adapted. Olisa has created a mixture of tailored species to combat the evolved toxic species and reclaim the Earth, but the new species have adapted to the new environment, and may not give in without a fight.

“Inconstant Nature” centers on two observers, Olisa and Zina. Zina is more at home in this new and dangerous world while Olisa may be homo-sapiens’ last best chance to survive. I found the plot inventive but the storyline began to wander. I did see the twist coming (one hint too many) but I won’t claim it was obvious. I did like the tale but wasn’t overwhelmed with it.


“i: the imaginary quantity equal to the square root of minus one–symbol i, first quantified through the work of Rafael Bombelli in 1572 AD.” So begins “The Death and Rebirth of Anne Bonny” by Nancy Fulda (debut 1/25 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter). Neither Anne Bonny nor any of the 3 main characters actually die in this story. Anne Bonny was an 18th century female Irish pirate who operated in the Caribbean . The main character and her father pretend she’s Anne Bonny as they roam the beach in search of pretend buried treasure, pretending they are guided by fake maps. They are accompanied by a pretend parrot appropriately named Aye, as in aye matey, who figures significantly in the story. The catch is, the girl doesn’t know its all make believe. When she realizes her father made the maps and that the real Anne Bonny was just a thief rather than a noble person, her life and her relationship with her father take a tragic turn and the fantasy magic is gone. But in the end, everything is restored. No, not pretend restored, really restored. Thus the title. “The Death and Rebirth of Anne Bonny” is one of three stories Fulda wrote for the Numbers Quartet series. Whereas the other 2 stories rely heavily on math and the drama is skeletal, this includes no numbers at all and relies completely on literary quality. A well told story with a classic theme. Very satisfying.


“+1” by James Luke Worrad (debut 1/26 and reviewed by Frank D). Walter greets a man from NASA at the site of a crashed capsule. Walter is taken aback at the man’s indifference, appalled that a dead astronaut would be considered a mere “setback”.

“+1” is very brief with a twist I hadn’t seen coming and with implications I still do not fully comprehend. Nice story and I liked the open-ended question left unasked.


“Good Taste” by Derek Ivan Webster (debut 1/27 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale of uninhibited greed. The elites of the galaxy have gathered for a sol-eating event. The very rich have taken the essence of a star, and made it a drink. It is a symbol of excess, for tasting the center of a star requires wealth entire planets cannot afford. Baneford is neither privileged nor rich, but Earth’s poor inhabitants have scraped their pennies together for him to masquerade as one. For this particular event, the wealthy will be tasting the rarest of treats, the center of a black hole.

I found “Good Taste” intriguing. The premise was unique and with a message the author must have wanted to share. The tale had a political take whose moral could fit into our present day’s issues. Message aside, I found the preachy final commentary to be unnecessary. It turned the narrative into a tale of vengeance instead of work of poetic justice, which was unfortunate.


“Visiting Planet Earth” by Eric Brown (debut 1/30 and reviewed by Frank D). An alien returns to Earth, solemn for its mortal inhabitants. The young are pleasing to deal with but the old have trailers that creep out our visitor from the stars.

A very interesting work of flash fiction. The story is told from the perspective of a being who may have been more corporeal than alien. The short tale has a line of withheld information the author gradually reveals. Normally, such a tactic I would frown upon but the author does a good job of making the premise appealing. Not my favorite tale of the month but I did like it.


Patience is the key to a well-laid trap in “The Long Con” by Megan R Engelhardt (debut 1/31 and reviewed by Frank D). Rumpelstiltskin has been foiled to take the princess’s child, or has he?

This tale is done from the perspective of the antagonist of the fabled Grimm fairy tale. Its outcome is easily predictable and I can foresee many readers having an indifferent opinion of it. I, however, do not feel that way at all.

Ms Engelhardt tackled the task of retelling a familiar tale using my favorite tactic, exposing the real story from behind the scenes. She successfully showed Rumplestiltskin as a clever con-man. Revealing a carefully laid plan and the inner workings of his mind in the process. Knowing the outcome matter little when we are granted a viewing of the mechanics of a sophisticated trap. Excellent writing, delightfully executed.


Unclear Criteria

ÂAn email correspondence with one of the two leading reviewers of speculative fiction was shared with me by a fan of Daily SF. The email asks why they (the reviewer) have chosen to not review DSF.

“â€But this comes down to the question – what are reviews for? (We) don’t review to promote publications or authors. (We) do it to inform and please readers,

Well, from Diabolical Plots perspective, I can safely assume that the promotional value between us and Daily SF is at best, a two-way street with DP getting the far better end of the deal. In fact, Locus and Tangent Online would both be hard pressed to claim they steer any meaningful readership to any of the venues they cover. I would be willing to bet that the publication with the smallest audience that Tangent and Locus covers beats either reviewing outlet in readership. If there is any promotional value gained from being reviewed by the two big boys, it is for recognition in the awards categories. Way too many stories to read (even without DSF‘s vast library) for the judges to pick the best in class on their own.

But hasn’t Daily SF proved they are worthy of the benefit of pleasing and informing the readers? If awards are an indication of what makes a publication and its authors worthy of informing and pleasing readers, than allow me to promote a few nominated authors.

Mary Robinette Kowal , Nebula and Hugo; novella

Ken Liu , Nebula and Hugo; novella, short story

Ferret Steinmetz , Nebula; novelette

Nancy Fulda , Nebula and Hugo; short story

Aliette de Bodard , Nebula; short story

Mike Resnick , Hugo; short story

Congrats to these 2012 Hugo and Nebula nominees, all of who have appeared in Daily SF. News I finding informing, and pleasing.

We have received numerous complaints and queries, so we would like to make it absolutely clear that our own Anonymous is not synonymous with He Who Must Not Be Named. The former has chosen to reveal no name. The latter has a name that even children somehow know, even though no one says it. The former has reviewed stories for Diabolical Plots. The latter is an evil wizard who wishes to rule over the world. Capice? A notice to Death Eaters in particular: please stop attempting to send messages to him through us. Has it ever occurred to you that he just doesn’t want to talk to you? Thank you.

Daily Science Fiction: November 2011 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Month # 14. If you ever took the time to browse through DSF’s library and checked out the authors who have contributed, you’d see many of the same people who have had stories published at Daily SF are published in the same publications Locus and Tangent Online deem worthy to promote and review on a regular basis. I have pointed this out before but it is clear those two big boys could care less what I think. I can’t let that stand.

I could continue to hammer away at Locus for their snub, but only one person reviews short material there (how Lois Tilton does it baffles me) and at least they did take the time to read one week’s worth last year (even recommended a few). Still, Locus can’t be taken completely off the hook – more on them later. The real injustice is Tangent Online‘s insistence that Daily SF is still not worth their attention, and this will not do.

In Tangent‘s own mission statement they have made a promiseâ€

“â€of reviewing as much of the professional short fiction venues in the fields of science-fiction and fantasy as possible.”

It is a promise they almost keep. The editor, Dave Truesdale, has consistently maintained a fine staff of reviewers. Together, they have been able to review every SFWA magazine still in publication save Daily Science Fiction. To add insult to injury, Tangent has expanded beyond its mission statement to include semi-pro, non-SFWA publications and anthologies. Yet, you will not see a single mention of Daily SF anywhere in their pages. Not in their online publication or in Tangent‘s news feed. As far as Mr Truesdale and Tangent is concerned, Daily Science Fiction really doesn’t exist.

I am not going to guess on Mr Truesdale’s motives, and he isn’t interested in sharing his opinion with me, but the time has come for Tangent Online to either review something of Daily SF or change their pledge to accurately reflect what their true intentions in the field of speculative fiction are, because it can’t be about “reviewing as much of the professional short fiction venuesâ€as possible” if they won’t even acknowledge the existence of the fastest growing publication in the field today.

But alas, this hasn’t been the first time I have sung this song. All of my bitching hasn’t even raised an eyebrow of one of the “leading” reviewers of speculative fiction yet. But if can’t beat them down, then I’ll get them to join me.

I would like to invite our newest reviewer to Diabolical Plots, Carl Slaughter.ÂCarl has reviewed for Tangent Online for the pastÂtwo years. He was one of its leading writers, reviewing most of the material Tangent routinely covers. He is known for his hard hitting and in-depth reviews. He is a long time member of the Critters Writers Workshop and has seen (and predicted) the rise of many of its novice writers into the professional stalwarts authors of today.

Carl’s separation from Tangent has granted him spare time to focus on his own writing, but reviewing is in his blood. So I begged him asked if he would like to join our team. Surprisingly, he never heard of Daily SF until I introduced it to him. So will Mr Slaughter think highly (as I do) of DSF? Or will he prove that Tangent‘s policy of ignoring the publication is justified because of inferior content? I was eager to find out, so I had Carl lead off with this month’s reviews so we could all see for ourselves.


The Stories

“Dark Swans” by Terra LeMay (debut 11/1 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is about a girl who goes trick-or-treating. But she’s no ordinary girl, so her parents know she can’t do ordinary trick-or-treating or go to an ordinary Halloween party. So they make special arrangements. And this is no ordinary Halloween night for this girl zombie. It is a joyous occasion for her, but a bittersweet ritual for them. This is billed as fantasy, but it’s better described as tragic horror. “Dark Swans” is a moving story with a creative premise. Highly recommended.


“Call Center Blues” by Carrie Cuinn (debut 11/2 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a not very original service robot story with not very much content and a very predictable ending. Pass.

Time for a grandmother to depart this reality. She doesn’t want to leave yet. She wants to continue contributing to the family. Her granddaughter has devised a way, though not to the grandmother’s liking.


“Time to Go” by Erin Hartshorn (debut 11/3 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) strikes me as amateurish. This science fiction story is definitely the runt of the litter. But it’s only a few paragraphs, so taste for yourself.


“And The” by Alyc Helms (debut 11/4 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a Dragon sacrifice story with a twist. The chosen girl spends a year in the dragon’s lair learning her way around, then the two play a deadly game of hide and seek. The year includes many conversations full of intriguing banter. The first thing she discovers is that he’s a dragon but not a dragon. Meanwhile, she spends a lot of time in his library. Then there is the mysterious amber orb and the rhythmic humming, both of which, of course, are the key to the game. The premise and the conclusion are so obvious, yet so elusive. If you’re a description lover, the first scene is a feast. If not, you may want to skip to the dialog. The story is a bit too long but enjoyable and the ending is very satisfying. Don’t miss this one.


A man questions a professor on his speech in “Geniuses” by Christopher Kastensmidt (debut 11/7). A man who attended the protagonist’s lecture on geniuses interrupts the professor, while enjoying a beer at the local bar. The man makes a wager with the professor that he can’t name 10 geniuses of this century.

The story is of lost geniuses. Most of the geniuses, in the man’s wager, are people who were lost to tragic events before their brilliance can ever be realized. Frustrated with the futility of the strange man’s bet, the professor leaves.

I found “Geniuses” to be a frustrating story. The identity of the wage-maker ended up being a mystery. He could have been an angel, time-traveler, or alien , we never found out. What I found particularly puzzling was what could the professor possibly do with the information? If mystery man knew these people were to be saviors of mankind, why didn’t he do something to make sure they lived to their full potential? For a guy who knew an awful lot about geniuses, he didn’t appear to be very bright.


A fallen king seeks revenge on the prophet who misled him in “A Great Destiny” by Eric James Stone (debut 11/8). Groshen, now a deformed commoner, finds the man who prophesized his victory over the Emperor, when he was still a king. The prophet’s two predictions ended disastrously for Groshen, believed to be dead (and lucky to be alive), he corners the prophet in alley. Just as his about to exact his revenge the prophet has one last prediction for him.

“A Great Destiny” is short, yet is well-constructed story with an intriguing premise. Not his best, but Mr Stone again demonstrates why he is one of the top writers in speculative fiction today.


Ned the Neanderthal pays a visit to the doctor in “Ned Thrall” by Amalia Dillin (debut 11/9). Ned is the first viable Neanderthal to walk the Earth in a very long time. Dr Habber, his creator, is checking on his progress.

“Ned Thrall” is a tongue-and-cheek story set in a future where genetic altering is a common practice. I found the tale cute and funny but incomplete. It read like a first scene to something much larger.



“Trading the Days” by M. E. Castle (debut 11/10) is a person’s contemplation of a day’s worth. The protagonist describes a bad day, and wonders if he/she should discard it, but some days are the days you wait for, and any given day lost, cheapens any day worth saving.

If my assessment of “Trading the Days” confuses you, than I did my job of explaining what I got out of this piece. I am not sure if this was a metaphorical exercise, or if trading one’s days in is a possibility in this difficult to grasp premise.


A teacher must determine how far a pair of apples have fallen from their tree in “Fields of Ice” by Jay Caselberg (debut 11/11). Marsius has the task of determining if the fallen Tyrant’s children share his dark talents in magic. Prince Sten has his father’s looks, and his cocky attitude as well, while Princess Antalya is withdrawn. It is Marsius’s job to determine if these two are spoiled offspring of the privileged, or a dangerous threat.

The formerly royal children of the fallen tyrant are prisoners. Marsius instructs the children on the basics of magic. Prince Sten is eager to show off his limited talents while Antalya sits quietly and watches, cautious as a young girl locked in a prison would be. Their future depends on how they perform in these tests. And Marsius’s future depends on how well he does on his test.

“Fields of Ice” is told from the perspective of a man who must decide if two children are innocent or potential monsters. The Tyrant had power that must never be unleashed again. If an inclining of his talents has been inherited, than drastic means will become necessary. Marsius must be sure. He is the judge and executioner, and such a task is not easy when it involves children.

“Fields of Ice” is a very good stand-alone tale that looks as if it was pulled from a much larger story. Not the grandest of tales from DSF but well worth the read.


Celeste has a chance to explore the stars in “Silver Sixpence” by Craig Pay (debut 11/15). She will be gone for years while her husband and daughter remain behind. The relativity time difference will mean she will age slower than her family, but it is only one trip and just a few years. How much could she miss?

“Silver Sixpence” is a story of a woman’s ambitions in conflict with her family responsibilities. Celeste’s husband and daughter are forced to take a backseat to her drive and desire to see new worlds. The story is a new twist on an old premise; a family divided because of a workaholic’s inability to recognize what is important.


“Everyone Loves A Hero” by Fran Wilde (debut 11/16 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) covers a lot of ground in this short story about a hero – and his heroic live-in. She cooks, she cleans… she pays the bills. The hero is too heroic to receive payment of any kind – from anyone.

But what is credit card debt compared to saving the world? The answer may surprise you. I know I was, pleasantly so.

This story – very well written and great for a grin. I rated it 6 of 7 rocket dragons.


In “The Last Necromancer” by Thomas F Jolly (debut 11/14 and reviewed by Anonymous), a wannabe necromancer has located all the ingredients required to complete a complex spell to raise the dead. Who better to try it on than the spell’s inventor, a long dead famous necromancer. The find the crypt housing the dead necromancer and cast the spell to bring the dead back to life, and the corpse reanimates. The old (and recently dead) necromancer has a question for the two who brought him back to life–a question about the specifics of the spell.

I thought this story was the exploration of a concept (an interesting one), but I wondered if more could have been done with it. It was nicely written, but didn’t wow me. I would give it 5 out of 7 dragons.


“Everyone Gets Scared Sometimes” by Ari B Goelman (debut 11/17 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a story about a girl, exact age unknown, who has reintegrated into society after living many years in the “Dead Zone”. The dead zone being where the zombies are.

An interesting twist on the zombie genre, because life has returned to normal, or at least as normal as it can be for those living in the city – but still living with fear.

The girl, known only as She, seems helpless, and able to be taken advantage of. Though not as clearly drawn as I would have liked, we find out this isn’t at all the case.

I rated this story 5 out of 7 Rocket Dragons.


To completely review “Meet Archive” by Mary E. Lowd (debut 11/18 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), would be to give away plot points that reveal themselves as expertly and flawlessly as the rings of an onion. So I will merely hint, and urge you to read this wonderful story for yourself.

Archive is a story teller. He spends his time in the All Alien Cafe, regaling those who listen with “stories about his world… Though he never knew it.” We hear bits and pieces, enough to leave us wanting more, but the true tale lies in who – or what – Archive really is, and what he means to the one who loves him.

This is the epitome of a short story. Brilliant. I gave this story 7 out of 7 Rocket Dragons.



In “Safe Empathy” by Ken Liu (debut 11/21 and reviewed by Anonymous) a young woman is leaving a party with her partner. He hasn’t had a great time and he wants to ‘share’ his negative feelings with her as a way of unburdening himself. In the story, the mechanism of sharing is kept vague, but appears to be a more direct experience than simply talking about problems.

The girl ruminates that in the past he would share his triumphs and happiness as well as his sorrows, but nowadays he only seems to want to share his sorrows. She doesn’t appreciate such a negative diet and consequently uses ‘protection’–a kind of condom for the heart. It isn’t clear how this works either.

The story talks about classes at school where these condoms for the heart were shown to the kids and their use explained.

This story didn’t really work for me. It was well written with nice clear prose, but the main elements–the sharing of emotions and the ‘protection’–were left vague. The plot was pretty thin and can be summed up as follows; she was unhappy with her partner–reasons were given–and so she left.


As the title to “The Bicycle Rebellion” by Laura E. Goodin (debut 11/22 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) implies this is a modern day fable about the day bicycles rebel and attempt to overthrow humans as the dominant species on earth. Set in Australia it follows the growth of the rebellion and the determination of one bicycle repairwoman to set it right. Can she accomplish her task in the face of the determination of the mechanical mobs and the interference of humans looking to their own interests?

I think someone has been spending too much time with their bicycle. This tale is well written and drew me in despite the fact that it’s not exactly my cup of tea. The author did a good job of taking a premise that is silly on the surface and making it sound believable. It’s worth a read, even though it might not sound like your thing.


“Daddy’s Girl” by Leigh Kimmel (debut 11/23) is the tale of a daughter who clings to her father’s love. The protagonist lives a harsh as punishment to her father’s sins. She has held true to her promise to always remember that he loved her. She endures the injustice of guilt by association so she would one day join him in heave.

“Daddy’s Girl” is a long set up for a final scene in the afterlife. The author successfully makes her protagonist a sympathetic girl forced to live a life of torment. Her father is known for his cruelty and is remembered as one of the most evil in history but to her, he was always the apple in her eye.

The ending becomes an indictment, one that made me uncomfortable. It turned a sweet tale into an awkward moment.


A goddess is on the prowl in “Venus at the Streetlight Lounge” by Cheryl Wood Ruggiero (debut 11/24). Venus stalks an unfaithful man nuzzling with a young lady in a bar. She gets him alone, where she learns all is not as it seems.

“Venus” is a modern day telling of a Roman Goddess. It is short and has a twist. Not grand but worth a read.


“Sand-Child” by Marie Croke (debut 11/25 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a coming of age story. A barren woman, at her husband’s insistence, creates a child from sand. But she gives him only positive emotions. There is much agonizing by all 3 about who blames who for what. A recurring theme is the mother’s nagging doubts. She is concerned that her child has a crucial flaw.

“He has all he needs to be happy,” she said, more confidently than she feltâ€despite all her labor, she worried. Useless misgivings, she told herself, but that did nothing to ebb her feelingsâ€She bit her lip, not wanting to admit how badly she felt something was amissâ€She wished she had his steadfast belief. She wished her insecurities could be smoothed as easilyâ€Abi cringed inside at Akelbi’s faith, her mind reeling in her worry that perhaps she had not created him as strong as she thought she hadâ€She wanted to scream the answer at him, but it hid in the recesses of her mind, burying itself somewhere she could not reach so that Kel would not know, leaving only a tendril of dread that refused to be pacified by words, no matter how smooth they sounded.

Through tragedy she discovers that her fears were justified. Through pain, she mends the flaw. A well written story containing many lessons about life, relationships, and humanness.


A desperate girl searches an online dating service for a knight in “Looking for a Knight in Shining Armor” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 11/28). The protagonist takes note of silky webs growing in the snow-covered pines. “Wyrms,” is what the old crazy guy claims and hands her a can of spray to take of them. But as in an infestation, you never get them all, and there are only two ways to take care of a dragon.

This story was quite cute. Very amusing and well written.


An old boyfriend appears at Mia’s door in “A Puddle of Dead” by Grayson Bray Morris (debut 11/29). It has been 15 years since Henry left Mia for drugs. Mia went on with her life but Henry’s reappearance has rekindled old emotions. Henry is clean, looking better than Mia remembers. He has come to spend one last evening with Mia, a goodbye he didn’t give her before.

The story dives us right into the middle of an older Mia’s next chapter of her life. She has married and has children, but tosses them aside the second she sees Henry again. It isn’t until after dinner, and a bit of romance, the subject of their split up is brought out into the open. And just as he appears out of the blue, Henry leaves, but Mia has no intentions of just letting him go and tails her long lost love. She discovers that people don’t change as easily as a they appear on the surface, and finds out what lengths of sacrifice the people we love will make to make us happy again.

“A Puddle of Dead” is meant to be a moving story of love and sacrifice, but anger is the emotion it spurred from me. The two characters in this piece do indeed love each other but their actions are of selfish and needy people who have no regard of the people who have given everything they have to them, unconditionally. It made me furious that Mia would fall into a man who took her love for granted 15 years prior, at the risk of ruining her loving family. Worse, Henry’s loving final goodbye is nothing more than a passive aggressive gambit. How dare he drop in like that to disrupt her life, one last time. If he truly loved her, he would have just left well enough alone and allow the love of his life to live hers without additional complications.


A new breed of hog drops in London in “The Butcher’s First” by Seth DeHann (debut 11/30). Strange ships from the sky crash into a pre-20th century England. The cargo they carry are of animals similar to pigs. The local butcher takes advantage of the new beasts, crafting cuts of the latest delicacy to hit London.

The story is an impressive take of a dedicated butcher presented with a new product. Not sure if the animals were extraterrestrial livestock, or something more. I felt the ending of this piece left the story incomplete.


â€And about the other guyâ€

Locus has posted their award poll for 2011. It has asked its readers to vote for the favorites in a variety of categories. You’ll find few of the authors listed as contributors to Daily SF, but sadly, none of the stories printed in DSF made their list. A bummer, but the real injustice is their category for favorite magazines. Locus has compiled a list of 34 publications of short fiction to choose from. Daily Science Fiction did not make it. The next category for their awards is for best editor. 40 people have made that list but you won’t find a Jonathan Laden or Michele Barasso anywhere on it. So what gives? How can this be? I used to complain with a tongue planted firmly in my cheek that a conspiracy was afoot when it came to embarrassing absence of Daily SF. Could this be a simple oversight? I can’t fathom how, but this will not stand.

If you are reading this, you likely find something special about Daily Science Fiction. Locus has allowed write in votes for all categories. For the sake of fair play, I am asking all to please visit Locus’s voting page and write in Daily Science Fiction for favorite magazine and Jonathan Laden and Michele Barasso (separately) for Best Editor. And if there was a story you thought was extra special, by all means write that in as well.

A common premise in speculative fiction is of individuals making a difference in their world. This is a time when your simple action would make a big difference. Jon and Michele have bent over backwards for providing us all a venue to read fresh material from our favorite genres. It is time we all show them a little of that love back.


Carl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

His training is in journalism, and he has an essay on culture printed in the Korea Times and Beijing Review. He has two science fiction novels in the works and is deep into research for an environmental short story project.

Carl currently teaches in China where electricityÂis anÂinconsistent commodity.

Welcome aboard, Carl.