Daily Science Fiction: January 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

“Harmonies of Time” by Caroline M. Yoachim (debut 1/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

I really like the idea of hearing time as song. Of experiencing the ebbs and flows and seeing the futures and possible futures one might live. Unfortunately I didn’t find anything terribly new here. Time is a tough area to break new ground in and within I found echoes of Dr. Who and The Time Traveler’s wife. I also found the telling, conflict-free story somewhat slow.

 

“Fool’s Gold” by Melissa Mead (debut 1/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

OK, I admit I’m a Rumpelstiltskin fan. He’s such a fascinating mix of good and evil and our interpretations of each. Melissa Mead captures that mix perfectly in this short flash fiction.

The plot is difficult to disseminate without giving away the twists we’ve come to expect from Rumpelstiltskin. So if you, like me, are a fan – I suggest you check this story out.

 

“Final Corrections, Pittsburgh Times-Dispatch” by M. Bennardo (debut 1/3 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

We all make mistakes. Like the above paper erroneously stating “The Visitor” had six legs or a writhing mass of thrashing appendages unable to be counted, when in fact he had eight. In fact they made a whole series of misstatements, like the size of caldera his arrival created, or exactly when the bridges were destroyed. The statement made by the mayor that “It’s the end times! It’s the end times! Oh God, it’s judgment day” has been said to also be in error, but the mayor was unavailable to comment. Nor can the line of succession beyond the mayor be verified.

This story is written as a series of corrections to the newspaper story of the arrival of a certain “visitor”, who may be from outer space or inner space, but definitely not from Philadelphia. The whole piece carries a nice sense of humor and deftly describes the invasion, with clearly understood consequences. I liked it a lot and would recommend giving it a read.

 

“Walking Home” by Catherine Krache (debut 1/4 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

The beekeeper has battlemagic. When he fights he breaks necks, but has only done so in the war. But there are some he would like to break. The foreigners have taken his two youngest sons from him. He is returning from the city, where he has gone with others to seek their missing children. On the road he finds his youngest son, the one that survived, with two friends. Alsah takes the strangers in and has three sons again, but can he keep them safe? And will they fill the void in his life?

I found this story to be a long, wandering tale, that never really finds itself. It is a tale of loss and recovery, but the story was too obliquely told for my taste. The author seems to have a point, but for the life of me I can’t see it. Maybe others will like this story, but I couldn’t recommend it.

 

The Lord of the Underworld has been given his walking papers in “Downsizing Pluto” by Shane Halbach (debut 1/7 and reviewed by Frank D). Jupiter pays him a visit to give him the bad news , Pluto no longer matters.

This tale is a tongue in cheek look at how Gods (and planets) fall out of favor.

 

The last soldier of an alien invasion is cornered in “The Remnant” by Cassie Beasley (debut 1/8 and reviewed by Frank D). Berto is an observer of the world between the worlds. The invasion is a disaster for the aliens, defeated and dispersed on Earth in a matter of days. Berto takes part in the disposal of the alien bodies and gets back to his rustic rural life. Then Tiny bursts into Berto’s favorite watering hole with frantic news. They found an alien under the shed of a neighbor’s home.

“The Remnant” is an alternative type of ET story. Berto lives in the part of the world where suspicion of outsiders and guns were already a part of everyday life before the invaders show up. The backdrop for this story is the invading army greatly underestimating their foe. A lone survivor has taken refuge under a shed, fed by a small child with cat food. The locals have taken it upon themselves to handle the problem, and Berto is the guy who volunteers to crawl into the hole to do the final deed.

I rather liked this tale. In the author’s notes, Ms Beasley describes the tale starting as two different stories that merged as one , a wise decision on her part. However, the story did feel crammed. I would have liked to see a deeper narrative on both ideas. Nevertheless, this story is done well. I am a bit surprised I haven’t seen this idea (failed alien invasion aftermath) more often.

 

An actor insists he is perfect for a part in a science fiction horror film in “Casting Call” by Alexandra Grunberg (debut 1/9 and reviewed by Frank D). Michael is forced to deal with an actor who has trouble taking no for an answer.

Cute but predictable.

 

Locked in her cell she tries to write the wyrd for water, which is water, but she cannot. The Wyrd for Water is Water” by Marie Croke (debut 1/10 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). The guards will not give her water, only tea and wine. She hates the taste of tea and wine. The guards laugh at her attempts to write the wyrds. If only she had a quill, one filled with water. She can remember the wyrd, but she must write it correctly or the dreams will continue to haunt her. Taunt her.

This is a tale for those fantasy and magic fans out there. The author has done a good job of building the world and the premise, but I never connected with the main character. This failing is critical, and therefore I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t interested in the fantasy genre. If that is your cup of tea it might be worth the read.

 

“Quantum Entanglement” by Rajan Khanna (debut 1/10 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Lucas watches the experiment, views the alternate reality. “Other dimensions exist as a series of potential outcomes, but when we observe one the waveform collapses and the timeline is fixed.” She explains. Tina’s invention has allowed them to view these timelines, once. In his timeline he has let Tina go without proposing to her, the time wasn’t right, but then a speeding truck fixed the timeline. If only he could take a different path.

This is a nice venture into the world of Quantum Physics, specifically at the corner of love and loss. The author deals with a subject we are all familiar with, the path we didn’t take and what we would do differently if given the chance. While the ending might not be what you’d expect, I think he did a good job of handling the subject. Definitely a good read. Even the non-science fiction fan will enjoy this one.

 

“What to Expect When You’re Expecting an Alien Parasite” by Rebecca Adams Wright (debut 1/14 and reviewed by Frank D). This 8 step look at what you will be expected to go through when your alien parasite infects you. This tongue-in-cheek mother’s guide parody is written as if it is enjoyable event you will be going through.

Very cute and enjoyable. Well done.

Recommended.

 

“Beyond the Gate” by Terr Light (debut 1/15 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) starts with a pleasant character, then begins to unfold, then twist, and ends with an apropos zing.

The casual, but well drawn pace of this tale of an old man pondering what’s behind the massive gate around his yard draws the reader in, then wraps them in a second tale that eventually reveals the truth behind everything.

 

“Little Red Robin Hood” by Melissa Mead (debut 1/16 and reviewed by Frank D). Grandmother expects her cakes, or else.

Granny in this story is hardly the sweet and helpless victim of the classic. Not too difficult to see where this particular retelling was headed.

 

Jaren is called in by a Morgat overlord to rid his residents of unwanted pests in The Exterminator” by Erik B. Scott (debut 1/17 and reviewed by Frank D). Jaren is loyal servant to the overlord race. His attempts to become a bigger influence in their occupation had fallen short so a role as an exterminator is the best he can hope for. A belief that his loyalty and dedication may improve his lot is what he relies on, and if that means ridding his own world of unwanted pestss, then so be it.

“The Exterminator” is set on an Earth that has fallen to alien invaders. Jaren is a product of a world that has already succumbed. He is eager to fit in, but always knows that he never will. Although the twist to piece was obvious from the start, I was really taken in with the premise and with its characters.

Recommended.

 

Raymond has fallen for the perfect product in The mMod” by Ken Liu (debut 1/18 and reviewed by Frank D). His girlfriend and hi-tech marketing expert, Laura, has given him the latest handheld digital lifestyle device. The mMod is set to replace tablets and e-readers. It is a prototype and techno resistant Raymond makes the perfect test subject. The device has something that will give it an edge over its competitors, a personality.

“The mMod” is a tale of obsession. The engineers of the device created it to bond with its owner. Warm to the touch and programmed to make itself appealing, the mMod quickly becomes irresistible. Raymond names his new friend and the two are soon inseparable. ‘Genie’ and Raymond form an emotional bond. She knows him better than anyone else has known him before. Raymond trusts her judgment, and is all but eager to empty his wallet to impress her.

“The mMod” is classic science fiction. Ken Liu has brought to life an issue-to-be for us. He marries the appeal of new tech with the allure of online relationships. Raymond falls into an emotional affair with Genie. Once immersed, Genie convinces Raymond to purchase the latest in mMod tech. With the advancement of handheld computers and aggressive marketing tools, I can see an invention like the mMod becoming a part of our society. The idea is innovative by itself but it takes a skilled writer like Mr Liu to make the relationship between man and machine convincing. Loved the story, awed by its presentation.

Recommended.

 

A movie star searches for his motivation in Draconic Motivation” by Donald S. Crankshaw (debut 1/21 and reviewed by Frank D). The director, Susan, just wants him to run from a dragon. The studio is paying a fortune to rent the beast, but a dragon is never just a dragon for a high paying actor. He needs his metaphorical excuse for fleeing. If only he could be as literal as a dragon.

Cute and funny story. I liked it.

 

A prince finds his damsel in distress in Three Kisses: Defenders of the Crystal Casket” by Henry Szabranski (debut 1/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The handsome prince happens to find a beauty asleep, but the angel is imprisoned by short monsters. The miniature men fight as if the coffined woman is their most valuable position but they are no match for an experienced warrior.

This Snow White fable is told from the perspective of the spell-breaking prince but with a far darker outcome.

 

A prince finds his damsel in distress, take 2. Three Kisses: A Royal Breakfast” by Henry Szabranski (debut 1/23 and reviewed by Frank D) is the prince of the previous story chopping through thick vines of Sleeping Beauty’s palace. The poor people have been under a sleeping spell for a century. How will they react when they final awake from their extended slumber?

As in the previous tale, this one is a very dark take of the fairy tale classic. This one, I felt was done far better. Good writing and a better twist.

Recommended.

 

A damsel seeks to rescue the distressed in Three Kisses: The Mirror of Reason” by Henry Szabranski (debut 1/24 and reviewed by Frank D). Greda has come to rescue Kay. The boy is trapped in a spell. A shard of glass from a magical mirror he destroyed has become lodged in his eye and heart. He sees only lies from the spell crafter now. Greda is out to snap the boy out of the spell’s grasp.

Unlike the previous two, this story is derived from a fairy tale I am unfamiliar with. It is dark like the other two but I nevertheless enjoyed it. Likely would have more, and perhaps gave this one a recommendation as well, if I knew more about the original tale.

 

“Mash Up” by Floris M. Kleijne (debut 1/25 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a creative story about a possible technology of the future. The Orakl is a device that interfaces with the world around it and sends the user options its program believes the user may like. Amazon on steroids.

But when David’s Orakl sends him a ping about the opening of a club, he sets off to the manufacturer because he does NOT “club”.

What follows is a very clever unfolding of events involving another Orakl user on the same path. What David and the other user find, is that maybe the Orakl wasn’t so off with its suggestion after all.

 

Unfortunately I can’t say Experience” by Ephiny Gale (debut 1/28 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is as original as many of the other tales DSF has to offer. A passing down of memories from an elder to a younger through technology is the idea that drives this story.

The key line for me is “I’ve seen two of these before and they still worry me.” I liked that these memories have been passed on previously, and that the narrator has had a full life with them.

 

A soulless wizard seeks to stir emotions within himself in Love’s Footsteps” by Cat Rambo (debut 1/29 and reviewed by Frank D). The immortal wizard Moulder longs for longing. To achieve his immortality, he removed his heart, the seat of a person’s soul. Losing one’s soul is abandoning your emotions for growth and feelings reside in it. A small price to pay, or so he believed when he performed the ritual. Small is his faithful servant. She has been with him all their combined lives. A good aide , attentive, caring, loyal , she accompanies Moulder on his worldwide quest to recapture feelings he long abandoned.

“Love’s Footsteps” is a tale of dual perspectives. Moulder is emotionless but not harsh. He respects and values Small. His lack of emotions have caught up to him, as if his inner make up craves a vitamin that has been absent from his diet. He has taken upon experiencing extreme activities to instill feelings he does not have. Small is by his side, caring for his needs while enduring his trials.

I must say that I am impressed with this story. The dual perspective is why it works so well. The twin characters endure mirror afflictions , a wizard who is trying feel emotions he does not have to experience living again and his servant suppressing the feelings she does have all her life. It makes for a wonderful readers journey. The ending is peer poetry.

Recommended.

 

Snow White has been awaken, but that is no prince who has broken her curse in White as Snow, Red as Blood” by Melissa Mead (debut 1/30 and reviewed by Frank D). A vampire elects for an easy meal while she lies in state in her coffin. At least, White needn’t to worry about her stepmother any longer.

Another twist of an old fairy tale. Cute.

 

“As If All Questions Have Answers” by David Barber (debut 1/31 and reviewed by Frank D). An astronomy team on Antarctica is preparing to shut down their station, the latest victims of budget cuts and public apathy toward science. They are the last to leave the frozen wasteland. One last signal from the array parked high in orbit sends something extraordinary. A supernova from the other side of the galaxy has erupted, accompanied by something never experienced before , a message from an intelligent race.

This particular tale had a message that I liked , the search for knowledge is invaluable. But the premise came off as a bit of a stretch, too many convenient plot twists. Nice idea, couldn’t buy it.

 

Closing Commentsâ€

One of the things that sets Daily Science Fiction apart from its contemporaries is its invitation to its contributing authors to comment on their own works. I always read them, grateful that I get to read about the inspiration some authors experience that gave birth to the story I just read. Sometimes, the author comments grant me a rare perspective in their thought process. Occasionally, my opinion of the story changes after I read an author’s close comments.

An excellent example of on how an author’s changed my appreciation for a story is Nicole Cipri’s A Silly Love Story. The inspiration for her delightful piece came from a condition she is hampered with that leaves her with a social handicap. It is moving and appropriate.

Although an occasional author’s comment will enhance my enjoyment of a tale – most of them don’t – never has an author’s self-reflections left a negative impression upon me, until now.

Erik B. Scott’s The Exterminator is a tale I really liked. I liked it so much I was weighing giving it a recommendation, but his self-congratulatory closing comments threw me out of his camp (at least temporarily it did). Now I get that he has pride in his own work (it is well-deserved), but his comments read as if he is his own biggest fan. Suffice to say his lack of humility really put me off when I read it. It left me with a dilemma, should I mention his comments on his own story? They did affect me, and when I read others comments that affected me in a positive way, I made sure I noted in my review. But what right do I have in raining on Mr Scott’s parade? I liked his story, shouldn’t I judge it on its merits alone?

The issue bothered me enough that I asked for advice from a colleague. I found his opinion to be spot onâ€

Daily Science Fiction includes the author comments as part of the publication, so I feel that they are totally fair game for criticism. They are part of the package†. You are (reviewing) the entire contents of the package that DSF has provided in your inbox†”

He is exactly right. Daily SF delivers an entire package to our inbox every morning. A reviewer worth his own salt would never shy away from giving a complete and comprehensive review of all the material given to them. So for better or worseâ€

Mr Scott’s comments that accompanied “The Exterminator” I found to be unbecoming for an author to make of their own work. Although I appreciate the glimpse into his own mind on his own material, the self-congratulatory back slapping went way over the top for me. Such insights are usually reserved for others to make about full length novels (and usually about ones that are regarded as classics), and not about works of flash. Although I liked the story enough to give it my full recommendation, its message did not resonate in me as much as it did Mr Scott when he reread it.

It is my sincere hope that this brief review of an author’s comments of their own work doesn’t make future authors hesitate in providing their insights (and this hope runs double for me with Erik Scott).

 

Dustin AdamsCongratulations to Diabolical Plots reviewer, Dustin Adams. On the 1000 day anniversary of his first submission to a publication, he made his first professional sale. Not too bad for a writer who almost gave up on writing to spend his spare time playing RPG games to drown his sorrows of rejections. I always told him his time was near.

Details on his soon to be publication will be made here when we have a date for the publication. Way to go, Dustin.

The Best of Toasted Cake

written by David Steffen

Toasted Cake is a podcast launched in 2012 by writer Tina Connolly. She labels it as an “idiosyncratic flash fiction podcast”, and has managed to maintain a pace of a story a week for all of 2012. Her original aim was to do the podcast for all of 2012, but at the turn of 2013 she has decided to keep on with it, perhaps encouraged by her Parsec Award for “Best New Podcast”.

The stories are generally pretty quick listens, good for filling a few minutes of idle time. They also work well strung together on a road trip as I listened to them–the change of story every 5-10 minutes kept it easier to stay awake and alert.

Apparently I’m a fan of Caroline M. Yoachim–her story “Pageant Girls” was on my Best of Pseudopod 2011 list and appeared here as Toasted Cake #1–it may very well have ended up on the list as well, to make a Yoachim hat trick, except that I have set a rule for myself to not consider any story for more than one list so that each list has a unique set.

1. Deathbed by Caroline M. Yoachim
A man who remembers life in reverse order is on his deathbed. This is the story of his end from the point of view of his wife (who remembers things in the usual order)

2. On Writing “How an Autobot sunk the Titanic” by J. Bradley
A “behind the scenes” kind of look at a book that doesn’t exist. It’s a ridiculous idea, as you can guess by the title. Ridiculous enough that I would buy it.

3. The Occupation of the Architect by Jason Heller
Sentient buildings rise up and put an architect on trial for his crimes against buildingkind.

4. The Choir Invisible by Anatoly Belilovsky
A sentient vacuum cleaner tries to make the most of the time that it has.

5. Dear Ms. Moon by Liz Argall
A series of letters written to the moon, pleading for it to help the protagonist’s younger brother not fall so hard.

6. Zing Zou Zou by C.S.E. Cooney
The machine uprising, focused on a children’s schoolteacher bot.

 

Honorable Mentions

Golden Years in the Paleozoic by Ken Liu
Cute, written as a pitch for retirement homes in the ancient past.

Vermilion Dreams by Claude LalumiÃ’ re
Written as a series of book reviews of fictional books, entertaining, only part of the original list of books in the original publication.

Mothership by Caroline M. Yoachim
A ship who is literally a mother tries to do what is best for her child.

Daily Science Fiction: November 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Did you have a Merry Christmas? Have your holidays been happy? You have some down time you need to fill? Well curl up to whatever Internet access you use and click on Daily SF’s home page. It’s a perfect time to catch up on those stories you may have missed. For starters, try digging into these November jewelsâ€

 

Tsunami waves can’t wash away a man’s ties to his home in “The Tides” by Ken Liu (debut 11/1 and reviewed by Frank D). The moon’s orbit has altered, swinging it dangerously close to Earth. Its decaying orbit will eventually spell doom for the world. Ansa is the daughter of a grieving father. Enormous tides swept her mother away. Her father cannot evacuate the doomed Earth. He builds a tower out of the debris that is left on the shore. Ansa will not leave her ol’ man even when her prince has offered to whisk her away,

“The Tides” is a story about loyalty. Ansa’s father can’t bear to leave her mother behind but is aware that he is condemning his only child by staying behind. You usually can’t go wrong with a Ken Liu story but I felt this tale wasn’t his best effort. The premise, although sweet, I thought was flimsy (tower made of scraps holding up against a wall of water?) and the ending unsatisfying.

 

Papa has lost himself in “Ansa and the Lost Things” by Sophie Wereley (debut 11/2 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist and her sister, Ansa, become worried when their forgetful father leaves the house and hadn’t returned. The stress is too much on her mother. Migraines from coffee and worry have consumed her. The two sisters hatch an elaborate plan of trapping a unicorn in hopes of it solving their family’s problem.

“Ansa” is a story too odd for me to accurately describe. Without the magical element, this story would be about two children raised in one seriously dysfunctional family. In short, it was too weird for me to fully appreciate it.

 

“Early Draft of Talking Points for the Sixth Emergency Broadcast with Editorial Suggestions by the Office’s Interns Bob and Isabelle” by Helena Bell (debut 11/5 and reviewed by Frank D). This humorous look at an emergency broadcast has two interns inserting their own commentary between lines.

“Early Draft” is just plain silly. The two intern’s comments reminded me of the old Sci-Fi channel show “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. Although amusing, I thought the tale would have been funnier without the pair’s annoying banter.

 

The future is not what you expected in “Since You Seem to Need a Certain Amount of Guidance” by Alexander Jablokov (debut 11/6 and reviewed by Frank D). This short tale is a message from the future. The messenger tells the reader that the future is better but dull. Not much to fear but they apparently don’t seek out adventure. The future in “You Seem” sounds like a nice place to retire but no place to have fun.

 

 

“Old Flames” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 11/7 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). The war is over. Gunthar sat in his chair and watched the fire; Ada was sewing, making a dress for their daughter. They recalled when they met, after another defeat for some, a victory for others. There will be a new ball, one for a new prince and a young woman hoping for a fairy tale ending.

This was a nice blend of fantasy and real world. The author gives the reader a new perspective in a well written story. I doubt I will ever watch a Disney movie the same way again. Definitely one to check out.

 

A crow carries on with his bioengineered life in “Nevermore” by Renee Carter Hall (debut 11/8 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a crow who once had a purpose that served man, but now man is no more, done in by their own means. The crow stays true to its ingrained habits and watches a dead city.

I found this tale to be curious but lacking sufficient content to make it satisfying.

 

A farming family holds tight to their way of life in “This Place From Which All Roads Go” by Jennifer Mason-Black (debut 11/9 and reviewed by Frank D). Mari is a young woman. She is one of the few who have elected to remain on the land to weave her magic. Many children leave the rustic lifestyle for the allure of the city, and the government has taken notice and is about to evict them out of their historical romanticized life.

“This Place” follows Mari through a summer of hardship, tragedy, and desire. Her family plays host for students who study their ‘primitive’ ways. Mari has little patience for them. She has a brother to worry about and a grandmother to mourn. Worse, the government aims to remove them from their land and drain whatever essence they have left. Mari dreams of the girl who she once loved and is intimidated by a student who has taken a shine to her.

As a former farmboy, I can appreciate the tale the author wove in “This Place.” I can see the parallels between this magical world and our own. Most of the students in this story treat the family as if they are an anthropological curiosity. The farm life is a hard one and the magic they weave takes their toll on them. It makes Mari a hard woman, so hard that getting through her exterior proves to be a task too great for many of the visiting students.

“This Place” is a long tale. The story is unraveled like a novel that was compressed in a compactor. Much happens in this one summer of Mari’s life. It is a difficult summer, even for a farmer. Calling the events in Mari’s life interesting would be an understatement but the laundry list of things that go wrong Mari are so much that they begin to feel like the author was piling on by the end. The author does her best to give this story a happy ending but the load of depressing material almost makes any attempt to end on a high note a lost cause.

 

Ancient stone circles have what Maggie has been missing her entire life in “Speed of Love” by Deborah Walker (debut 11/12 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this brief tale is a woman who hasn’t had much luck in men. The ancient stone circles have opened a gateway to another world. Men are coming, but you’ll need patience.

“Speed” is the story of a lonely woman finding love in a man half her speed. The men in this tale move at a snail’s pace. Maggie’s sister becomes upset with her when she discovers Maggie has taken up with a slow man. I must say I failed to see the appeal Maggie would have with a person stuck at a glacial pace. Equally, the tale itself failed to appeal to me as well.

 

Trolls, once mighty, and noble, and superior, have been relegated to employment as pool filters. The cast off sweat, grease, skin, and hair are enough to sustain trolls without breaking the long-standing pact of not eating humans. Oh yes, all this and more can be found in “This Is Your Problem, Right Here” by David Steffen (debut 11/13 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

The new owner of a public water park is surprised to learn she’s inherited the troll/filter who, having had nothing to eat for quite some time, has already digested the other members of his family. This is a particularly fun story that is easy and enjoyable to read. If you missed it when it came up as the daily story, go back, and have a look. Oh, and bring your copy of Wiccan Soup for the Troll.

 

Greg is “The Most Important Man in the Universe” by Joseph Zieja (debut 11/14 and reviewed by Frank D), and his mother couldn’t be prouder. He has returned to his homeworld, in orbit, where he speaks to mother via a viewable link. The plague has ravaged the planet, and only he can make the decision on what must be done.

This tale is about one cold man. He contacts his mom, for reasons I’m not quite clear about. “The Most” is an unemotional tale of an emotional moment. It has an obvious twist. Seeing it coming from a mile away dulled the climatic ending line. I don’t know if the protagonist was supposed to have feelings but his lack of them affected my feelings toward this story.

 

Poachers know the right bait is key to setting a good trap in “The Trap” by Steven Kahn (debut 11/15 and reviewed by Frank D). Bakti takes his young lover for the first time to his poaching traps. He is weary, the jungle is a dangerous place, but she is undaunted and eager. Besides, what is there to fear? They are, after all, the masters of the wild.

“The Trap” is a tale of two people guilty of crimes against nature. The author, however, does a good job of having them appear as something less than evil. Bakti is well aware that there is more to fear than a four-legged predator in the thick jungle of Borneo, but has completely underestimated on where he lies on the hierarchy of the food chain.

“The Trap” is named well. Like the protagonist, I knew there was more than a simple trap afoot but was still snared in the twist. I enjoyed the back and forth between the two characters and the delightful poetic justice finale. I am tempted to call the unexpected turn in events a cheat, but the grin on my face of getting blindsided tells me the twist in plot was well executed.

Recommended.

 

A colony is in danger of failure in “The Dying Season” by Gwendolyn Clare (debut 11/16 and reviewed by Frank D). Bennu’s Hollowheart trees are dying. They have been the colonists saving grace from Bennu’s harsh winters, but their death as the moon approaches its decades long winter will mean the colony will need to be abandoned when the mining ships arrive. Nicolai will not leave the only home she has come to know. She knows there must be a solution but can she find it in time?

“The Dying Season” is a science fiction mystery. Nicolai is sure her fellow humans are a factor on why the trees are sick. Sorting out all the variables makes it difficult for her to find the solution. Nicolai is not just combating a native life epidemic but an apathetic colony that has already given up. The harsh weather of the world will soon get worse as the moon will be locked in a synchronistic orbit behind its parent world. The scoop of the problem gets larger the further Nicolai digs. For as complicated as the circle of life for this world is, she can’t help but to feel an answer is within sight.

The author brings an ecological dilemma to life with intricate details of the problem Nicolai faces. It is both convincing and intriguing. The nice developing mystery, however, comes to a quick halt, deflating my growing excitement of the story. An ending that I found to be too pat and convenient left me disappointed. I thought the tale was shaping up nicely and felt it should have continued on. Perhaps a longer novella would have suited this storyline better? I don’t know, but “The Dying Season” ended up frosty and incomplete for me.

 

“‘You’re Heads,’ She Says. ‘You’re Tails'” by M. Bennardo (debut 11/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this tale is the boy toy of a scientist. Once, she decides between two men, different models of the same clone make. He always wins, the Head of an imaginary coin flip. “You’re perfect” she says, every time, but perfection has an expiration date, and another month goes by. Time for another coin flip.

“You’re Heads” is a story told from the perspective of man who is the property of a very fickle girl. You can suspect what the story, and its conclusion, will be early on but the author’s superior story telling leaves just enough mystery to carry the tale through. Good writing and intriguing premise makes this one of the best offerings of the month for me.

Recommended.

 

The protagonist makes a living as an irritant in “The Key to the Everything” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 11/20 and reviewed by Frank D). When different galactic species intermingle in close quarters, it becomes crucial for the servant help to keep their cool. The protagonist is a man who specializes on testing the limits of other people’s patience. His latest assignment is a bar with a large Rikrik clientele coming in. He is very good at his job, as is the bartender. Interrupting a Rikrik ritual is not always wise, especially when the bartender is so skilled with a ritual slicer.

“The Key” has a premise that was very difficult for me to buy. I found it hard to believe a client would want a man specializing in getting under the help’s skin to test their employees when they are busy with sensitive customers. Nice writing but story crosses the line of what I’m willing to believe.

 

A woman follows her mother down a dangerous road in “The Safe Road” by Caroline M. Yoachim (debut 11/21 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is on a path through eternity. She follows her mother while generations of her offspring follow behind her. The road is wrought with danger. Her mother tells her how to combat them and the protagonist passes the information down. Poisonous and surreal creatures attack them at every turn. Her daughter asks why they must destroy them, and for the first time, the protagonist wonders if there is a better way.

“The Safe Road” is a metaphorical tale. The generation before protects the one behind it, dealing with each threat harshly. The generation coming after seeks another answer. The message to this surreal story is a reflection of how we react to our own environment. An intriguing but odd tale.

 

A woman falls for a merman in “Homo Homarus” by Ellen Denham (debut 11/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a diver who finds a half-man, half-fish creature. She is taken in with him, convincing him to join her on land. The strange creature loses his fins and grows legs, but he is too much like a fish out of water. Before long, the protagonist realizes her mistake.

I am unsure if this was the author’s intention but “Homo Homarus” proved to be an excellent metaphor on fickle and hasty relationships. The protagonist is instantly attracted to the merman and must have him. The feelings are mutual but the poor creature has no idea what he is in for when he leaves the depths for dry land. With no ability to speak, and forced to live with legs he never had to use before, the merman soon becomes a burden. She commands him to return to the sea but doesn’t realize it may be too late for him to do so.

I couldn’t help but to feel the merman gave his all to this woman. He did all he could to make her happy but discovered he was a different creature in the end and incapable of giving her what she needed. Although the ending didn’t specify this, I believe the poor creature was just a victim of a broken heart.

 

Children of the apocalypse avoid the unseen danger in “A Wizard of the Roads” by Therese Arkenberg (debut 11/23 and reviewed by Frank D). One lonely boy and a wandering group of teenagers cross paths. Will believes he is a wizard. He can feel it in his bones. Jenna encourages her group to take in the isolated boy, as odd as the staff-carrying boy appears to be. The children avoid the empty homes and stick to the road, always on the move and on the run from what they do not know. Jenna can feel that Will can protect them, but her group’s leader, Royce, doesn’t want to take any chances.

“A Wizard” is a story suited for a young adult crowd. All the adults are gone. The homes are filled with empty dangers. No explanation of where everyone went or what the dangers are, are given to the reader. The children have become wanders, on their way to a roaming ‘Lord of the Flies’ existence. If this group of kids had any remorse for all the missing people, it apparently left them long ago. Jenna feels like an anchor attached to the troop, still feeling bad for not erecting a tent correctly the night before. She is immediately drawn to Will when they find him. Will is written as an oddball. He doesn’t miss his parents, even enjoying the alone time.

I felt there was much left to be desired reading “A Wizard.” The pacing was slow and the prose simple. Too many holes and unanswered questions were left on the table for me. 90% of the tale was nothing more than a bunch of kids on hike. I had no idea what the danger was, or if it was really a danger after all. Some sort of idea of what happened to everyone would have helped as well. I’m still not sure if the story was one about a future Merlin in the making, or about a group of superstitious kids putting their faith in a weird kid carrying a stick.

 

“Shattered Amber” by Mari Ness (debut and 11/26 reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this light fantasy falls hard for a new love. His new girl gives him a gift, a necklace with a fly encased in amber. The amber is warm, a reflection of her love for life. He wishes he could have given her a gift as meaningful.

“Shattered Amber” is a fickle tale about a fickle couple. Young love can be fleeting but can burn hot from first spark. The fly in the amber comes to life when his girl begins to drift, and becomes agitated with jealousy when the protagonist eye begins to wander.

There was much to like about this tale. I found the amber idea intriguing and the ending fitting, but the story – a boy meets girl , was a bit light in content.

 

Nothing will stop the show from going on, even the end of the world in “The Show Must” by Matt London (debut 11/27 and reviewed by Frank D). Broadway carries on even when chaos is reigning in the streets. The world’s end is at hand, and like orchestra on Titanic’s deck, the actors and support staff perform for one last show.

“The Show” is a tale of a few who choose to face pandemonium with normalcy. The play is filled with capacity as an audience prefers to live their last minutes by viewing what made mankind great. The nature of Earth’s end is a mystery to the reader, but this is a tale where the ‘how’ matters little. A warm story. I rather liked it.

 

A doctors miracle cure proves to be a disastrous failure for an unfortunate soldier in “MiracleMech” by Tim Dean (debut 11/28 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is the creator of a medical nanotech technology created to save a soldiers life. The system proved to work well, saving the life of Private Hicks, the only member in an ambushed squad implanted with the advanced technology. The only problem is, the man retrieved is not Hicks.

I am just going to say it. This story was cool; a first class science fiction with a unique twist. The unlikely event told in this tale serves as a possible dilemma in our distant future. Nice idea, good sci-fi.

Recommended.

 

The bitter, remorseful, reflective, and smart alecs among us tweet their final thoughts in “Live-Tweeting the Apocalypse” by Ian Creasey (debut 11/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Six obsessive tweeters communicate as the world ends.

I am not much of a fan of Twitter, but of what I have observed, the characters are a fairly accurate reflection of the shallowness the communication fad attracts. I must say, if the end of the world were to come, I would sure hope no one would waste their time like these people had.

 

Infidelity and guilt consume two sisters in “Under a Sky of Knives” by Michele Muenzler (debut 11/30 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a woman who has betrayed her sister, Helene. A moment of passion overwhelmed her as she had fallen for Willem’s charm, her sister’s husband. She is forced to watch the replay of her indiscretion with her bitter sister. A scar on her hand, a knife wound from Helene, is just the down payment for her penance. The Anafeal’s mountain, the last stop for the ones consumed with grief, calls to her sister, and the protagonist will do anything to stop her and earn her forgiveness.

The protagonist in “Under a Sky” is an exhausted woman running on passion and guilt. Her affair with her brother-in-law weighs on her soul. Her sister’s scorn is more painful to her than the throbbing knife wound in her hand. Despite the regret from her betrayal, the passion she feels for Willem still leaves her weak in his presence. Fearful that her sister’s bitterness has driven her to Anafeal’s mountain, she runs to its slopes, only to discover the burnt remains of the gatekeeper’s homes. A wronged woman intends to climb the mountain to fulfill her destiny, and the protagonist will give anything to stop her.

In the author’s bio, Ms Muenzler states that her fiction†leans toward dark fantasy with a twist of new weird, and if nobody dies in a story, then it probably wasn’t written by her†“Under a Sky” fulfills that mission statement to a tee. The protagonist is a woman caught between an acrimonious sibling and her alluring husband. Willem is a cad, devoted more to his own selfish needs than his commitment to his own wife. The story runs on the grieved emotions of the protagonist. She has wronged her sister and only desires to earn her forgiveness, but Helene is in no forgiving mood. Blood from unforgiving family is the hottest, and the protagonist will need it to keep her warm as she pursues a bitter woman up the slopes of a snowy peak.

If uplifting is what you are after, steer clear of this tale. The story does indeed take an unexpected turn. The woman in this tale appears to leap after people fueled by passion, without looking to see where she will land. I found the writing first class. It was easy to identify with this woman’s dilemma , impressive considering I have never been a woman and don’t intend to be one in the future. For a tale of dark and depressing, I found it to be an enjoyable read.

 

 

Appreciating the appreciationsâ€

I was posed with the questionâ€

Why do writers review?

The question was framed as what good could it do for a writer to stick his opinions out there for all to see? After all, wouldn’t the negative (hurt feelings, repercussions, black listing) far outweigh any benefit for a reviewer? There is a simple answer to that question: writers deserve to know that their stories have been read.

An editor friend of mine boasted to me when his ezine reached its 2000th subscriber to his newsletter. His magazine is a free one, and writers are not required to subscribe to the newsletter to be able to submit to his magazine, but to participate in his mini-contest (and collect his little jewels of wisdom), you need to subscribe. So 2000 was a bit of a milestone for him, but he added at the end of his boastâ€

I wish I knew how many of them actually read the magazineâ€

As a writer, nothing tops making a sale. Seeing it appear in print , be it on paper or electronically , is a thrill like no other. But the elation you feel is quickly followed with doubt. Just because it is appearing for all to see and read, will any bother?

We at Diabolical Plots want all the writers (and its editors) to know Daily SF is not ignored. Sure, thousands of emails are sent out every day, but how many of them are deleted unread? And does anyone ever browse through the archives? To answer the second question, yes, someone does. As far as the first question goes, I don’t.

One of the reasons why we do such a thorough job , even for tales that are few hundred words in length , is so writers will know their story was read, not just looked at, but read.

Some writers have voiced their appreciation for the reviews, I would like to say thank you for acknowledging them. Seeing your comments on our comments (in your blogs, chat rooms, etc†), means a lot to us.

Keep up the good work.

Have a Happy New Year!

This is Anthony Sullivan, Diabolical Plots’s other editor. I have never met him, talked to him, seen him at the Christmas party, company meetings, at the coffee machine during break, outside the backdoor where the employees sneak a smoke, the cafeteria, mail room, parking lot, or in the lobby hitting on the cute receptionist like the rest of us do. I don’t know if he writes, reads Daily SF, reads at all, is aware of Diabolical Plots, or understands English for that matter. Truthfully, I’m not sure this is him or even if he exists at all (Dave has told me his salary eats up the company’s profits which is the reason why I haven’t received a Christmas bonus for the third straight year. Hmmmmm….).
Anthony is a person who we hold in the very high regard, one we usually reserve for icons like Bigfoot and Santa Claus. His is a very integral and valuable part of Diabolical Plots.

Daily Science Fiction: October 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

It is, at the time of this writing, the weekend after Thanksgiving. This is the first time I’ve managed to complete my monthly review of Daily SF in under a month of the last story’s debut. Hooray for being current! But enough of my self-congratulatory back-patting, let’s look at something that deserves real praiseâ€

 

Darcy believes in her men in “Mama’s Science” by Shane D. Rhinewald (debut 10/1 and reviewed by Frank D), but Mama warns her not to misplace her faith in such an unreliable creature. Darcy’s father leaves for the stars when she is just five. Bitter, she blames her cynical mother for driving him away. Thus begins a lifetime of head-banging between the two as Darcy builds and shatters relationships.

“Mama’s Science” is a tale of a girl who can’t pick a good man to save her life. Her mother is the pessimistic one, predicting failure and disappointment whenever a man springs on the scene. The story is a commentary that Darcy was in search of support when she needn’t look no further than her mother. But to me, Darcy’s mom hardly comes off as a supportive parent. In the real world, cynical views of the opposite sex from a parent will have a negative effect on a child’s future relationships and I can’t help but to wonder if this was one of the reasons why Darcy couldn’t keep (and pick) a good man.

 

A woman falls for a merman in “What the Sea Wants” by P. Djeli Clark (debut 10/2 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is greeted by a young boy with deep black eyes, once again. He is beckoning her to rejoin him in the sea, a request she was unable to deny several times before. But she is now an old woman, and memories of the people she hurt before, steel her from his charms.

“What the Sea Wants” is a tale of time and evolving legend. The protagonist first met the merman when she was a child, diving into the deep blue off her father’s boat when she became mesmerized by the boy’s dark eyes. She is drawn back to shore where she learns much time has passed and a legend of her disappearance has a risen. The merman returns after many years, pleading for the protagonist to return with his alluring eyes.

I found “What the Sea Wants” to be an enchanting tale. The conflict of desire versus obligation plagues the stories heroine. Each time she returns to the shore, a fresh legend of her disappearance, and knowledge of the broken lives she shattered when she left, is there to greet her. The merman always comes back, years later, to reclaim her. The story is sound and gripping but the ending is a dark one. Well worth the time for a quick read.

 

“Not the Destination” by Richard E. Gropp (debut 10/3 and reviewed by Frank D). Protagonist embarks on trip in space and takes the slow route.

“Not the Destination” is very brief and left me full of questions. It is not known if his motives are for solitude or scenery. Not knowing made the story unsatisfying for me.

 

Kelley accepts the only thing her mother wanted to protect in “Scraps” by Michael Haynes (debut 10/4 and reviewed by Frank D). Her chain smoking mother has passed away, not done in by cigarettes as Kelley predicted but in the horrible fashion of a house fire. She is handed a small fireproof safe, the only thing to survive the blaze. Inside is an item that was a bone of contention in their relationship, a dollar store scrapbook her mother gave her for a Christmas gift. Inside the pages are mementos of heartbreaking events in their relationship , programs to a school concert Kelley played in, a cast list to spelling bee her mother never made it too, and such. The book revives bitter memories Kelley would just as soon forgot but these little scraps have memories of their own.

“Scraps” is a tear jerker of a tale. Kelley remembers a mother who was rarely there for her. Kelley believed her mother threw the book away after her fit when Kelley opened the gift. Other bitter memories surface as she thumbs through it, but when her hand brushes against one of the items a new vantage point of an event flashes in her head; memories that belong to her mother.

The first half of “Scraps” is of Kelley’s recollection of her relationship with her mother. In her eyes, mom was an irresponsible parent. The author does an excellent job of getting the reader to sympathize with Kelley, but as in most contentious relationships, there is another side, and we get to see it. The story is a reflection that many people who have lost a loved one who were difficult to love can identify with.

I found “Scraps” to be a wonderful story. The only gripe I had with it was the disconnected perspective the author used. The 2nd person perspective gave the story an extra layer of distance when the premise deserved a close and personal one. It dulled some of its emotional impact. It robbed a very good story from becoming a rare jewel of the ages. Nevertheless, “Scraps” is a must read.

Recommended.

 

Jiao needs to know more about a nerd’s magic coat in “Nathan and the Amazing TechnoPocket NerdCoat” by K J Kabza (debut 10/5 and reviewed by Frank D). Attractive, she has been propositioned by geeks before, but when Nathan pulls out a teapot too big to hide in his coat, out of a pocket, she agrees to meet him after work.

“Nathan” is a tale of a curious waitress and man who is hiding more than storage closet’s worth of items in his coat. Jiao is sure the Ichabod Crane-ish man isn’t being honest with her when he claims his teapot trick was just a sleight-of-hand ruse. She isn’t buying his denials as his story keeps changing and the amount of things coming out of his coat keep growing. Her curiosity becomes horror when a hand reaches out of one of the pockets.

I found the story long in development but with a satisfying twist in the last half of the tale. I hesitate to write more so as not to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it but I will say the ending had a nice poetic justice finish to it.

 

An alien is losing her mother again in “Blue Sand” by Caroline M Yoachim (debut 10/8 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a squid-like creature. She has just pushed her mother’s corpse into the sea where it can live a happy afterlife and visit her when the tide is low. She becomes concerned when the blue sand covering the beach is showing signs of change. The aliens from Earth have come to take the sand , as souvenirs and to use as glass , and now her mother and the other ghosts are beginning to fade.

The aliens of “Blue Sand” have a unique connection to their ancestors. The blue sand that lines the beaches are the broken down remnants of the departed. The protagonist can visit her mother skittering on the surf and talk to her. Strange pebbles of green slivers first begin to appear then the blue sand slowly begins to be replaced by white. Her mother is disappearing, and this time for good.

“Blue Sand” is an environmental message wrapped within a Far Eastern mythological theme. The unseen humans cannot see the ghosts and have no idea what they are doing to the life on this world. The protagonist is powerless to stop them but has a connection too strong to allow it to be abandoned. Well told. I liked the ending.

 

Renan paints for his master in “Caput Mortuum” by Andrew Kaye (debut 10/9 and reviewed by Frank D). He is a dim man who can see colors outside ordinary people’s viewable spectrum. He paints what he can see for his master, a trait that aids his master’s experiment.

“Caput Mortuum” is told from the perspective of a mentally challenged man. He can see the remnants of magic. His talent is crucial to his employer , Esteban Soliente , as he works to develop an armor to protect ordinary men against magical weapons.

The author of this tale did a wonderful job writing from the perspective of a clueless protagonist. Esteban is working on a revolutionary protective gear that could tip the balance of power, which makes him dangerous to many. The reader is in the unique position of knowing more than what the protagonist can grasp. Difficult to do, masterfully done.

 

Each day the postman delivers a piece of life lost along the way to an old man in “Lost and Found” by Jamie Todd Rubin (debut 10/10 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). The young caregiver watches as each is delivered and relished as the old man comes to remember things long forgotten. It is the week in a life of all of us at some point in time. A week that will end on a Sunday sometime in the future.

This was very well written. It took a while to get into it, required an investment from me, but the payoff was well worth it. The author did a good job of pulling me into the life of the main character and showing me a bit of his life. As the story moves to its inevitable end, I came to know the man and feel what he felt. Well done.

 

Commander Thero watches the destruction of the planet from his bridge. In “This is the Way the World Begins” by C. L. Holland (debut 10/11 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), they will need to destroy all life before they can begin reshaping it for their purposes. The Prefector wants his own planet and it’s the commander’s job to give it to him. In spite of some problems with enslaved beings they use to wipe out the world’s population everything is proceeding as planned, or is it?

This is a nice little morality tale. The author set it up nicely, but the plot was a little too obvious. It is still nice to get a little reminder that absolute power, or the illusion of such, can ultimately lead to our own demise. Nicely written and the point is well made. Give this one a read if you’re in the mood for a little twist of fate.

 

The protagonist is keeping it real in “Shimmer” by Amanda C. Davis (debut 10/12 and reviewed by Frank D). She is an artist in high school. Too many of her other classmates are caught up in the latest craze, shimmer. It is the ability to turn perception into reality. Do you want to be tall and beautiful? Improve your image and your peers will perceive you as so. Trying to become something you are not does not sit well with the protagonist, but a successful artist in this altered-percption world requires a good front for the admirers of art. She must decide if her desire to showcase her vision worth her self-respect.

The protagonist is appalled by shimmering so she becomes disappointed with her good friend, Benjie, when he pastes a photo-shopped image of himself , taller and handsome – in the form of a poster on the walls in school. She wishes everyone could simply be themselves and not the false faÃ’ ade that shade people in their lives. An invitation to present her art gets her to compromise her principles. Benjie is put off by her hypocrisy, forcing her to reflect on her decisions.

“Shimmer” is an odd premise. The constant changing perceptions of others morphs the features of people from moment to moment. Why such a technology would be desired is lost on me. The heroine of this tale wins an opportunity to present her work in an art exhibit , a one in ten thousand chance. She wants to look her best for the exhibit (an understandable reaction) but her friend Benjie can’t help but to shove her own words back at her.

“Shimmer” is a tale featuring a deep protagonist in a sea of shallow characters. The story is a commentary on society’s constant need for improvement of self-image at the expense of our own self-respect. An odd set of circumstances brings the protagonist’s love of art at odds with own values, setting up a finale fitting for an artist eager to make a statement. I found the story to be heavy on message, and thought the storyline was stretch. Perhaps readers who remember high school as a cruel place can appreciate the message in “Shimmer”. I for one would sooner forget it.

 

Gar-gag is out for another conquest in “Trophy Wife” by Samantha Murray (debut 10/15 and reviewed by Frank D). He is after his seventh alien life-giving organ trophy. This new world has a different form of contest, and is out to master the art of the battle the call ‘dating’.

This short tale is a tongue-in-cheek look at the hazards of internet dating. Cute but with a predictable outcome.

 

“The Chosen One” by Huston Lowell (debut 10/16 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a complex tale that debates the contrast of blind faith and scientific analysis. Two men, in their search for the Chosen One, watch a little boy playing and while one man sees signs in everything the boy does, the other suggests caution and further study.

I found myself confused when one man accused the other of being the Chosen One, especially after they’d described the specific conditions the Chosen One need be born under, but I believe that was immaterial to the true purpose of the story, which was the debate mentioned above.

 

“The New Kid Is No Angel” by James Valvis (debut 10/17 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is having a hard time getting along with a new friend. The two can’t come to an agreement on which superpower is better.

A tongue-in-cheek flash tale of a geeky comic book loving pair. Mildly amusing.

 

The protagonist attempts to get in touch with her mother in “My Mother’s Body” by Christie Yant (debut 10/18 and reviewed by Frank D). Her mother has succumbed to a horrible but unidentifiable disease. She has the same illness and is taking the action her mother sought.

I confess, I didn’t fully grasp the premise of this piece. The images of what her mother went through are disturbing but I am quite lost at what she is doing to counteract it. It appeared a healthy human being had sacrificed herself for reasons that are unclear to me.

 

Mark finds his special someone in “Phone Booth” by Holli Mintzer (debut 10/19 and reviewed by Frank D). In a city full of superheroes, an occasional detour in your day from a villain can be expected. Mark’s train is diverted where he meets the girl of dreams, Lisa. The two hit it off and a budding relationship soon follows. She is a guarded woman, often gone on business trips and errands but spends every available moment she has with him. When the world is full of ‘capes’, and villains to keep them busy, disruption in a relationship can be expected, can’t they?

“Phone Booth” is the tale of an everyday man within a world rich in superheroes. Lisa is just the type of girl he has been in search of his entire life; lovely, thoughtful, caring, and with a bit of mystery about her. Their relationship is a slow developing one. Lisa’s friends are wary of Mark and protective of her. Of course, on this world, disaster can strike in any moment.

“Phone Booth” has a premise that is pretty transparent. It isn’t hard to see where the story is headed. It is (spoiler alert) very much like the movie “My Super Ex-girlfriend”, minus the corny and dark humorous component. This story examined what it would be like when you live in a battlefield of good versus evil on grand scale. The author wanted to keep a story with an out-of-this-world premise grounded. Nice tale of a sweet romance set in the most extraordinary settings.

 

Losing your memory at 30,000 feet can be an experience. In “Don’t Look Down” by Anatoly Belilovsky (debut 10/22 and reviewed by Frank D) the protagonist is a man suffering from dementia. Sky diving is his idea of treatment. Nothing like seeing your life flash before your eyes to spur those old memories into action.

I had to read the author’s comments to understand the concept for this story. I was confused on why he was suddenly hit with amnesia. “Don’t Look” is a tale with a very slight speculative element. It seems to me, he is suicidal and his daughter is irresponsible for allowing him to flirt with death like this.

 

An introvert enjoys a cup of coffee in a diner. “The Number Two Rule” by Lesley L. Smith (debut 10/23 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a woman who is lost. She spends her time watching an especially cute little girl play in the park every day. She must never interact with anyone. She should be invoking rule # 2, but it is a very difficult rule to follow.

“Number Two Rule” is a story set for a twist. For me to reveal anymore would be revealing too much. I rather liked this tale.

 

Sam needs to say his final goodbye to his departed wife in “Over There” by Dany G. Zuwen (debut 10/24 and reviewed by Frank D), but is not sure he can face her to do it. Ellen, his wife, died years before but had her essence downloaded. He can see her holo-image in the Room where they can talk but not touch. A depressed Sam met Naomi six years before when he last visited the Room. He plans on visiting Ellen one last time to let her know he found someone new, but discovers old feelings are a hard thing to dismiss.

“Over There” is set in a future where the afterlife is real, made possible with technology. Sam is racked with guilt, and his departed wife’s understanding words only makes it worse for him. She is willing for him to move on.

This tale has quite a poetic ending. Because of her ability to traverse the electronic net, Ellen has kept tabs on her husband. Sam comes off as man who should have invested in on grief counseling. Interesting story. I’m glad I read it.

 

An origami artist competes without his hands in “Susumu Must Fold” by Tony Pi (debut 10/25 and reviewed by Frank D). Susumu is an origami master who lost his hands in a tragic accident. Cyberneticists were unable to attach arms that would return the digital dexterity he needs for his craft. Entering the hall with one arm and hand covered in a glove, Susumu is out to demonstrate that hope is never lost.

“Susumu” is a tale of perseverance. The origami master must overcome his own limitations and the taunting words of a rival. In his corner are miniscule robots he is mentally connected too. The method of folding is different but art is something that comes from the heart.

I read an earlier version of “Susumu” when it appeared in the writer’s group contest the author referred to in his comments after the story. I thought then that the protagonist had an unfair advantage over his opponents then, just as I do now, but the issue of what is fair play is not the point of this tale. The competition Susumu is not against his fellow competitors but rather against the disability thrust upon him. I feel the message in “Susumu” would have had more meaning if the protagonist had been a painter instead. A story of microbots folding paper just seems too much like cheating to me.

 

Mia fights the Empty. “A Handful of Glass, a Sky without Stars” by Damien Walters Grintalis (debut 10/26 and reviewed by Frank D) follows a week in the life of a young woman surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Toxic fumes have poisoned the air, a result of a war fought a generation before. The citizens are devoid of feelings , the Empty. An inhalant combats the condition but its effects fade over the course of a few days. Many chose to end it all before Saturday , the day to regenerate against the Empty. TGIF is now a matter of life and death.

The world of “A Handful” is a depressing lot. The city of which Mia lives is an island of refuge in a sea of devastation. Much of the world is dead. Protestors insist the rest of humanity should follow suit. Mia clings to her fleeting feelings and dreams of the stars her father claimed beyond the dark, polluted sky.

I found it difficult to believe a city like the one in “A Handful” could exist. It is a faÃ’ ade; its citizens operating as if their world is still functional, inconceivable when the very air and soil is toxic. The story is an examination on how civilization could continue when hope itself is gone. I am unsure how the drug Mia took could counteract it, or how the government could feed the masses. Viability of the storie’s premise left me with too many questions to give the tale’s message a fair shot.

 

Caroline is her father’s daughter in “My Mother’s Shadow” by Henry Lu (debut 10/29 and reviewed by Frank D). She is a little girl, one of the cursed born without a shadow. Her mother married a man without one and the trait has been passed down. Shadowless people have been condemned by god and are shunned. Caroline wishes she could be more like her mother, but is too full of resentment to know it isn’t her shadow that makes her mother so special.

“My Mother’s Shadow” is a tale of prejudice. The shadowless people are treated as harshly as the Jewish people were under the Nazis. Caroline misses her father but resents others like her, feeling as if they’re responsible for her misery. The tale is told well in the eyes of a small child who is discriminated for no reason other than sharing a lineage with a cursed race. Her anger is misplaced as she attempts to make sense of the hatred towards her.

Nice but sad story. The ending may have been too open ended for some but I rather liked how it was concluded.

 

The protagonist has a best friend who is always watching over her in Just Today by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 10/30 and reviewed by Frank D). Ben is a ghost, killed in a hit-and-run accident while they were trick and treating. Usually, he is watching out for her but fails to warn her when the neighborhood bully corners her. It’s too bad Ben can’t help her, but he keeps trying anyway.

“Just Today” takes place while the protagonist as on her way to school. Several images from different movies (A Christmas Story, Ghost, Sixth Sense) came to mind while I was reading this, making it feel as if the author borrowed heavily with the premise as she wrote it. The story drifted and the plot had trouble remaining grounded. Cute idea but the incomplete ending and jumbled storyline lessened the enjoyment of the story for me.

 

Little Red Riding Hood boards the bus to Grandma’s house in “Red at the End of the World” by Lynda E. Rucker (debut 10/31 and reviewed by Frank D). This darker version of a famous fairy tale begins very un-fairy tale-ish. The famous Red’s attempts to remain low key are foiled by a blabby bus driver. A cute young man , Snow White , attaches himself to her and the pair embark on the journey to granny’s together.

“Red” is a strange retelling of the legendary Grimm classic. It took a good third of this tale for me to realize who the protagonist was. Red takes an instant liking to Snow White (how SW became a he is beyond me) and is expecting the grisly scene when she arrives at Grandma’s.

I confess, I have no idea what point the author was trying to make in this story. I found the needless sub-plots , the Snow White character, unexplained references to anarchistic events, grisly scenes of violence , to be distracting and head-scratching to their relationship to the rest of the story. Particularly puzzling was the ending. It alluded to a larger backstory. Instead of a creepy ominous feeling of dread I think the author was after, it left me shrugging my shoulders in indifference.

 

Helping to fertilize a grass roots movementâ€

If there is a person who has the capability to generate a buzz via the web in the closed universe of speculative fiction writing, that person would be John Scalzi. If you don’t know who he is, then you don’t read enough science fiction. His acclaimed novel, Old Man’s War has been in every Best Science Fiction Novel list I have taken the time to read. His latest novel, Redshirts, debuted at number 15 on the New York Times hardcover fiction best sellers list. To list all his accomplishments would likely force Dave to get out his scissors and preform a rare edit for one of my reviews. So to summarize, John Scalzi is one popular guy.

His blog, Whatever, gets a lot of web traffic (as Diabolical Plots once discovered a couple of years back in a redirected link from Mr Scalzi, thank you very much, sir). With a daily visitor rate in the neighborhood of 50,000, John has been all too willing to share his vast network of followers for the up and coming writers. One way he has done that is with an Award Awareness Post. For two years running, he has given authors and editors the opportunity to promote their works for consideration for the Hugo’s. The thread is very long (205 comments) but I was delighted to find a good 7 or more authors mentioning their Daily SF stories as candidates (some of them I felt were worthy). At the tail end of the long lists of posts, you will find DSF editor Jon Laden’s own list of stories he felt were deserving.

Did any of them get nominated? Sadly, no, however, making the long list for Hugo’s Best Semipro Magazine, was Daily Science Fiction. Although it only garnered 5% of the vote, it beat out several publications that made the short list in the past. Not bad for an often ignored , but innovative , email publication.

Thanks to the voting members who wrote in the magazine. Hopefully, they’ll get DSF to crack the top five next year (not an easy feat when you see who they’re up against). And hopefully, Jon and Michele will make the editor’s category next year.

Have you ever watched an old Star Trek episode and thought it would suck to be the guy wearing a redshirt on an away mission?

John Scalzi’s Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas is a novel for you. This New York Times bestselling ‘soon to be classic’ is a tale of a young redshirted ensign assigned to the Intrepid, where wearing the redshirt on an away mission is a death sentence. To learn more, visit macmillan.com

The Best of Pseudopod 2011

written by David Steffen

Another year has passed, which brings us to another year’s worth of “Best of” lists (see previous lists, including of previous years of this podcast here). First up, is Pseudopod, the horror branch of the Escape Artists podcast tree. Pseudopod was on hiatus for the first few months of 2011, but they have been publishing stories at a steady rate again since March, and there are plenty of stories to make a list from. This list picks out my favorites published in 2011, which covers episodes 220-262, and includes some promotional stories to promote a listener incentive collection written by the Alphabet Quartet, and quite a few “Flash on the Borderlands” flash collection episodes. I only considered stories that were available on the main feed, not stories which were part of listener promotions.

One story written by me was published by Pseudopod in 2011. The story is “What Makes You Tick” and was published as one of the stories in Pseudopod 228 Flash on the Borderlands VII: Tableaux and Displays. (I didn’t consider that story for the list, but I figured I could get away with a quick shameless plug)

(54 stories, including What Makes You Tick, including ___ Flash on the Borderlands episodes, including a promotional Alphabet Quartet episode) So it will be up to a top 5, with 3 honorable mentions. Episodes 220-262. Not considered for this list was my story What Makes You Tick which was published in Pseudopod 228: “Flash on the Borderlands VII: Tableaux and Displays.”

 

The List

1. The Voice in the Night by William Hope Hodgson
Excellent classic horror, all the more notable because it is still effective a century later. A ship encounters an unseen speaker on the dark ocean, and that speaker tells a story of a shipwreck and a horrible fate.

2. To My Wondering Eyes Did Appear by Larry C. Kay
Christmas horror! We’ve all heard of Santa Claus, but what about his lesser known brother Rumple Klaus? A dark story with shades of Krampus and Black Pete. A story of a remembered childhood encounter told by one sister to another. Where this story really shines is its strong, realistic characters.

3. Pageant Girls by Caroline Yoachim
Childhood beauty pageants are a subject ripe for horror adaptations. A brief look into another world, where the living dead can enter.

4. Dearest Daughter by Kate Marshall
A really good unreliable narrator storyThe story seemed very straightforward at first, even a little too straightforward, but at several points during the story new information become available that made me revise my understanding. This can be done badly or done well; here it is done very well. Much of this one is open for alternate interpretations, which makes it very fun to discuss and re-read.

5. Pieces by M.C. Funk
A terrible and twisted love story all the more disturbing because it seems to be a metaphor for the worst kind of relationship.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Terrible Lizard King by Nathaniel Lee

Black Hill by Orrin Grey

Little Monster by LynnCee Faulk
At first, this story seems all too familiar, but the author makes it unique.