My Hugo/Nebula Picks 2012

written by David Steffen

In the previous post I suggested my own Hugo/Nebula nominated work. This post has the purpose of sharing my picks for these categories other than our own work. I welcome any and all to post in the comments with their own suggestions.

I’m a bit of an odd duck in my reading habits, in that I ready only a small niche of the types of stuff out there, but I read that very deeply. Almost all of my fiction intake comes from fiction podcasts, which are all Short Story categories, but are often reprints from previous years which are not eligible. I do read novels, but have not read any written in 2012 yet, because I am a slow read and because I re-read the entire Wheel of Time series that pretty much took all year, in preparation for the 2013 release of the final book.

Which is to say, most of the categories that I’ve voted for I am very well read in, but I just left off those categories in which I have not read at all, or haven’t read enough to have some solid picks.

Best Short Story Hugo and Nebula

This is the category I’m most interested in, covering SF/Fantasy/Horror fiction of 7500 words or less.

1. The Three Feats of Agani by Christie Yant (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

2. Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain by Cat Rambo (Near + Far)

3. All the Painted Stars by Gwendolyn Clare (Clarkesworld)

4. Devour by Ferrett Steinmetz (Escape Pod)

5. Worth of Crows by Seth Dickinson (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)


Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) Hugo

Best dramatic presentation of 90 minutes or longer

1. The Hunger Games

2. Game of Thrones Season 2

3. True Blood Season 5

4. The Avengers

5. Wreck-It Ralph

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form) Hugo

Best dramatic presentation of less than 90 minutes.

1. “Digital Estate Planning” –episode of Community

2. Devour–Escape Pod

3. The Dead of Tetra Manna–Dunesteef

4. The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward–Drabblecast

5. The Music of Erich Zann–Drabblecast


Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation (Not a Nebula)

Related to the Nebulas, but not a Nebula itself, this seems to combine the long and short dramatic forms used in the Hugo.

1. The Hunger Games

2. Game of Thrones Season 2

3. True Blood Season 5

4. Wreck-It Ralph

5. “Digital Estate Planning” — Community


Best Editor (Short Form) Hugo

Editor of short fiction.

1. Norm Sherman (Drabblecast)

2. Scott H. Andrews (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

3. Neil Clarke (Clarkesworld)

4. John Joseph Adams (Lightspeed, various anthologies)

5. Bruce Bethke (Stupefying Stories)


Best Profession Artist Hugo

1. Michael Whelan (especially this Analog cover)


Best Semiprozine Hugo

This is the most complicated category to define. It is not a professional market, which means that neither of the following are true: (1) provided at least a quarter the income of any one person or, (2) was owned or published by any entity which provided at least a quarter the income of any of its staff and/or owner. In addition, it generally has to pay contributors in something other than copies of the magazine, or only be available for paid purchase.

I’m not totally sure that all of the ones that I’ve picked here are eligible. There might be others that I’m ruling out as not being eligible that are. This category confuses me. but these are my best shot at nominations for it.

1. Drabblecast

2. Escape Pod

3. Beneath Ceaseless Skies

4. Pseudopod

5. Stupefying Stories


Best Fancast Hugo

This is a new experimental Hugo that might get voted in as a permanent one. It is split off from the Best Fanzine Hugo, but must be an audio or video presentation. I’m not totally sure that Toasted Cake qualifies, since they do pay a few dollars per story, but I thought it was low enough that it might be considered as more of an honorarium and let me nominate it.

1. Journey Into…
see my Best Of Journey Into… list for examples.

2. Toasted Cake

3. Beam Me Up
A science fiction radio show and podcast–how cool is that?


John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (Not a Hugo)

1. Jake Kerr
I very much enjoyed his Old Equations on Lightspeed, for one.

2. Mur Lafferty


Cat Rambo Book Release and Giveaway

Cat Rambo’s new collection officially appears today, and this blog is part of the giveaway. Post a comment or question about the book below within 1 week (Wednesday September 26) and you’ll be entered to win one of the pieces of jewelry based on the Near + Far interior art by Mark W. Tripp that Cat’s been making.
ÂThe collection is both near and far future science fiction, divided into two parts, with one on each side, reminiscent of the old Ace Double format. The stories themselves, many of which have appeared in places like Asimov’s and Clarkesworld, range from gritty realism to glossy slipstream, told with Rambo’s usual sense of humor, insight, and love of language. Available from Hydra House as well as on and B&N, the book is a work of love and art that deserves a place on a number of Christmas lists.
If you want to know more about Cat, check out her website.

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

written by David Steffen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The People

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

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

The Editors

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

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

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

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

Those dulcet tones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Parties

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


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


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


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


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


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

The Hugos

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

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

Wrap Up

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

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

Daily Science Fiction: February 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Well, so much for that pledge. Disaster hit me a month plus ago. My laptop died. Fortunately, most of the stuff I was working was backed up, except for the reviews of Daily SF. No big deal, just had to reread, rewrite, and resave the entire month of reviews I did. Good thing these stories are worth a second readâ€


“Worlds Like a Hundred Thousand Pearls” by Aliette de Bodard (debut 2/1 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Okay this is the part of the review where I tell you a synopsis of the story. The problem is that after reading this several times I’m not sure what that story is. It starts out with an explanation of the transcendental number, e, and progresses through Buddhism, ending in a parable wrapped in a metaphor. Maybe it’s just because I read it on the 20th of April. (If you don’t know the significance of that date, ask a college student.)

This story definitely isn’t for everyone, because it sure wasn’t for me. I found it confusing, muddled and I’m still not sure what the point was. I guess there was an attempt to build a pseudo-existential parable, but it was lost on me. There were some good little descriptions in there, like the worlds being stacked on one and other like a child’s stacking toy, but they are too few and not joined by any connective tissue. In the end the story felt like a bad saying I had found inside some fortune cookies.


The death of a monkey is seen from several perspectives in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Monkey” by Ruth Nestvold (debut 2/2 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). As we progress from the simple statement, that a monkey was alive and then died, to more detailed descriptions, the impacts are revealed. This is a story in thirteen vignettes each building on the previous ones. They tell a story of man’s inhumanity and the ape’s all too human reactions to it.

I liked how this story changed perspectives with each segment, and how the author used this perspective change to touch our sensibilities. He leads us down the path we know we must go, but rebel against. Good story, handled with deftness and a clever setup.


The main character is pulled into a game night in “Cloudburst” by Robert Reed (debut 2/3 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), forcing him to put aside business and focus on mundane interactions with his wife and son. A sudden storm interrupts and as it grows in intensity and destructiveness he is forced to view the world differently, often applying his own particular prism to the events.

This is a simple tale proceeding from a mundane night at home to more profound thoughts. The author does a good job of injecting wonder and mystery into a seemingly simple set of natural events. I liked the way he managed to weave several levels of consciousness into what might seem a simple night of homebound normalcy interrupted by a simple storm. The writing is clear and crisp as the air after that cloudburst and as evocative as the display of lightening in the northern sky.


Be careful what you pour down a drain is the theme of “Biomass” by Alexander Stanmyer (debut 2/6 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this tale is a commercial genetic therapist, working within the confines of a Living City. A botched batch of a concoction to boost a client’s immune system is dumped into the city’s waste reservoir, and now the city is showing signs that it isn’t feeling so well.

This story is set in a future where cities are living breathing life forms; tailored to absorb our waste, see to our needs, and grow the infrastructure a city needs. The author presented it as one person’s confessional, keenly aware he is the instrument of the city’s oncoming death. Perhaps because of its short size, the tale is eerily dark, making it appealing and revolting, depending on your particular flavor of speculative fiction. I must confess I loved this premise but was disappointed because of the brief manner in which it was told. This is a tale that deserves a far larger narrative. A novella or novel is the proper venue to tell a tale like this correctly, and I encourage the author to bring it to life so we can view what a metropolitan involuntary manslaughter crime truly looks like.


“Magic Enough” by Chuck Von Nordheim (debut 2/7 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). Sometimes there’s just enough magic. As adults, we wouldn’t know. Perhaps the real world and our bills and busy lives steal the magic from us, or perhaps it just fades with time.

For young Evan, he’s got just enough remaining to conjure his invisible friend and pass a tangled message to his best friend who is about to pass from our world. The boys know, they understand, even if the parents only wonder.


“Angry Child” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (debut 2/8 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is an interesting story of a man, plummeting to his death, contemplating who is to blame for his falling; himself, for not catching hold of the window as he was pushed through it, or his daughter, for having done the pushing.

Other contemplations take place during the life-flashing fall but for the most part, the plot through-line, that which led his fall, is what I found most gripping.

This is the first story I’ve read by Benjamin, so I can’t say if his style is traditionally wordy and purple, but this particular prose was a bit too over-the-top for me to fully sink my teeth into. However, the story is sound.


The Empress Uvay is dying and must choose her heir in “The Steel Throne” by Eric James Stone (debut 2/9 and reviewed by Frank D). The hard empress has two descendants to choose from; a son , the rightful heir, and her daughter , child of her heart. The two have their own strengths that would benefit the great nation she helped to create, but would lead the empire in opposite directions. She has only one real choice to make, and only she can change it.

“The Steel Throne” is mostly a historical look back at the empire Uvay created. The narrative explains how the nation came to be and shows why her choice is so difficult to make. The path the author took to tell this story made it obvious that a twist was on its way. It read like one big set up for an ending that had only one of two ways to go, which turned the reveal into a coin flip for the reader.

Early tension. A prophesy. A mysterious girl. A kingdom under tyranny. What more could you ask?


In “The Age of Three Stars” by Kenneth Schneyer (debut 2/10 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), the author draws a complex life for Petros, the aging protagonist. His station, blacksmith’s apprentice, and his age, say a lot about his character. A self-professed coward, he hid during a preliminary uprising, and was the only rebel to survive.

Now, thirty some years later, the prophecy of a new age, heralded by an eclipse, should be about to come true… but he’s the only one who remembers the date.

He relates the prophecy through song to Zandra, a young street urchin dead-set on being his apprentice, thus unburdening his tainted soul.

The conclusion and how the prophesy plays out is best told by Kenneth, not I. So please sit back and read this Friday offering. You won’t be disappointed.



A man seeks a magical item that will give him an advantage in “The Pencil of Truth” by Shamus Maxwell (debut 2/13 and reviewed by Frank D). Magnus knows his shops, asking the owner for a “magical object that will change my life for the better, then for the worse, After turning down the first two choices, the owner offers him a pencil that writes only the truth.

“The Pencil” was a delightful story. The pencil changes anything the writer writes but what it reveals can never be predicted. Waiting for information you’ll find useful can take some time, and may reveal facts you really didn’t need to know. For a work of flash, the twist and turns in this tight narrative had me on the edge of my seat. The ending was to die for.



“Joey LeRath’s Rocketship” by Julian Mortimer Smith (debut 2/14 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a recently missing boy recruited to pilot a vagrant’s cardboard rocketship. Billy is lost. He ran off when his parents began to argue in the crowded Crouchtree market near a nuclear weapons stand. Joey LeRath finds him and offers the scared lad a bit of candy and a safe place out of the crowd. Joey has made a spaceship, flimsy as a weathered shack. He needs a pilot, and Billy is just the man for the job.

“Joey LeRath’s Rocketship” is a fantasy story set in a science fiction world. Billy’s family has torn itself apart on the eve when the Earth is about to do the same. The tale was difficult for me to buy. Although I found the writing solid, I was left unsatisfied following along. The ending left me wondering what the whole story was about.


“Pulse” by Stephen Gaskell (debut 2/15 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is an interstellar probe on its way the Crab Nebula.

“Pulse” is one of the Numbers Quartet’s offerings. The story receives its inspiration from the Elementary Charge equation. I failed to make to connection between the equation and the story.


In, “In Her Arms of Dresden Place” by Damien Walters Grintalis (debut 2/16 and reviewed by Anonymous) a glassblower repairs what appears to be the broken remains of a glass woman and somehow breathes life back into her. The story is about his relationship with the re-animated statue and how his ‘help’ may be contributing to the problem of adjusting that the statue has. I think this story is a metaphor for the heart and mind, and although the metaphor is taken quite literally it works quite well on that level. Nicely written.


Tom has the solution to Marla’s allergies in “Nanomite” by Patricia Duffy Novak (debut 2/17 and reviewed by Frank D). Marla’s husband is a bit extrinsic who has a habit of jumping to conclusions and solving paranoid problems with grand schemes. He is sure Marla’s cold is caused by dust mites, but not to fear. The latest technological advancement is guaranteed to solve the problem, for good.

“Nanomite” is told from the perspective of a wife with an excitable husband. Marla sniffles is all the proof he needs to pepper the house with tiny robots to exterminate dust mites. After going a summer without a running nose, the first signs of a cold returns in the fall, spurring a new worry for Marla.

The story is slightly science fiction. It is more of an everyday tale with a small futuristic element inserted to make it fit DSF. Although I enjoyed the voice, I expected a grander resolution to this tale. The ending left me slightly disappointed.


“Digital Blues” by Greg Mellor (debut 2/20 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) starts as a wistful siren’s call. It beckons the reader to come visits old places, feelings. The passion and feelings are laid bare, as if the teller wants to show us how entwined the two of us are. Slowly it is the depth of an algorithm’s love for its mainframe that is revealed as the two lover’s quest for fulfillment.

This story started out almost as verse, but without any underlying meter. It was as if Shakespeare wrote in a mixture of prose and mathematics, but lacked a soul. The story pulled me in by unraveling the twine. But alas, it was not to be, for the ending did not live up to the promise of the beginning. The strong foundation laid by the earlier passion was weakened by the tepid ending. It was a piece of such promise left unfulfilled.


A pilot crashes on the home planet of a race his force is keeping imprisoned by blockade in “The Prisoners” by D.K. Latta (debut 2/21 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). He is remarkably uninjured, but is held captive by the reptilians that are his hated enemy. While the elder being set to watch him seems unthreatening, the pilot knows their true nature. Though he is uninjured, the pilot cannot move; he cannot imagine how the telepathic race has bound him. If he could free himself Chanthrow would kill his captor with his bare hands and escape. The price for his release may be too high to pay, the truth often is.

This is an excellent story of how our perception can be colored by prejudice, whether it is of our making or not. The story does a good job of drawing us in spite of a few strange word choices, such as “.., like a wave slamming him against the surf.” This phrasing caused me to stumble once or twice. These few minor glitches aside, the writing is clear and crisp, the underlying theme timeless. One of the best I’ve read on this site.


An imaginary friend seeks a purpose in “Nilly” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (debut 2/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The boy who imagined Nilly has died. Now the imaginary child wishes to attach someone new.

“Nilly” is a small tale within a far larger, yet unknown, story. Something awful happened to Nilly’s creator. Somehow, Nilly is responsible. An effort to attach himself to the boys sister goes all wrong and now Nilly is left alone.

I am not sure what was going on in this tale, but in a good way. The unanswered questions left me wanting for more. Not knowing the entire story inhibits me from giving this intriguing story a full recommendation. However, I feel as if there is enough to this brief universe to warrant a greater work of art.


A boy finds a treasure from a dead civilization in “Saurus” by John Van Pelt (debut 2/23 and reviewed by Frank D). The book he brings to his clan he hopes is filled with stories. The words within are eloquent but does it hold the treasure he is after?

I found this brief tale curious but nothing more.


“Bus Ride to Mars” by Cat Rambo (debut 2/24 and reviewed by Frank D). Djuna boards a bus headed to Paradise. The bus to Mars is a five-day journey with many stops along the way. The passengers are just as intriguing as the bus’s multiple destinations.

“Bus Ride” is a people watchers tale. Djuna doesn’t want to go to Mars, or get to know her fellow passengers, but the odd people on the bus tell their own tales within earshot of Djuna. The passengers on the bus are as odd as the alien bar in Star Wars.

I confess, I am befuddled on the point of this tale. The cast of characters are a mish-mash of competing genres and are as odd as the aliens in the bar scene in Star Wars. The passengers sound more shallow than interesting to me. Djuna, the protagonist, I’m guessing would agree with me. The entire story left me confused because I was never sure if Djuna had passed and ‘Paradise’ was indeed heaven (the unanswered question of why heaven would be on Mars makes me believe otherwise). The bulk of the tale are tracks of sidebar stories the passengers tell, which made me wonder if “Bus Ride” was a retelling of the Canterbury Tales. Whether it was or not matter little. The real attraction to this piece is Ms Rambo’s ability to compile an array of odd individuals with random tales and turn it into a single story.


“Storytellers” by Jen Brubacher (debut 2/27 and reviewed by Frank D). Beatrice and Gary have stories to share. The pair compete to tell about the extraordinary events of their day.

“Storytellers” is a dual perspective narrative of two tale-weavers. Beatrice has the ability of making mundane events sound compelling while Gary’s astounding tale has a way of coming out humdrum. Gary’s ghost tale proves to be far more interesting than even he imagined but Beatrice’s boring story may end up one-upping him in the end.

Like Ms Brubacher’s characters, I have two different reactions to this piece. I found the overall premise of “Storytellers” to be silly. It took an extraordinary right turn that (in my opinion) cheapened the greater tale. The story’s final lineâ€

“Well, that makes sense.”â€

â€I couldn’t have disagreed with more. The real draw to this piece was Ms Brubacher’s portrayal of two polar opposites through different perspectives. I enjoyed following along while one character listened and judged the other while they told their exciting tale. A true jewel of a gift for the author to bring characters to life like that. If it wasn’t for the way the tale ended, I would have given this story an enthusiastic recommendation.


Anna needs one last operation for her to achieve immortality in “The Procedure” by L.E. Elder (debut 2/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Her last biological component , her brain– is defective. She is one of the last of the bio-residued beings , or humans , left. Her daughter is eager for her to become Alltech. Only ten percent of her components are bio, what could she possibly miss if she were to ditch the last of it.

There is a curious moral to “The Procedure”. Anna was an early advocate for cyborg rights. The opposition gradually gave way, not because they were swayed but rather because they died out and while the techno-enhanced lived on. The ‘people’ in this story have lost all their humanity but have retained their consciousness. Anna is the unique position of realizing the people she opposed ended up being prophetically correct.

I liked this tale a lot. “The Procedure” put a price on immortality, the fare being the loss of your soul. But the ‘people’ in this tale don’t care, having likely lost the sense of the true value of what they once possessed. The author in this tale established the fine line of where humanity strides and where being human ends.

I found this story to be thought provoking , what science fiction is all about.



“The Princess of the Perfumed River” by Aliette de Bodard (debut 2/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Thein has been waiting for Kim. She left two years before to investigate the Artifact , an alien vessel in space. She is back on Earth but so distant she might as well be light years away.

This tale is part of the number quartet series. The in feels left behind, hoping Kim will be the one to save him. Her distance leads him to believe she will never come back, but he may have misunderstood why she is so far away. Distance isn’t always one person’s inability to separate. Sometimes it may be one person’s inability to find their way back.

The theme to “The Princess” was difficult to decipher. As a fan of several of Ms Bodard’s works, I have become accustomed to the deep nature of her plots. The short narrative did not make this easier to puzzle out. In fact, its brief size made it more difficult. It took a second reading for me to fully grasp this storyline. Even so, I wished more answers would have been available to me.



The Million Writer’s Award is an award for speculative fictions most notable online short stories. To my dismay, only one story from Daily SF made the list, but if you could only pick one story for the award, you couldn’t have gone wrong with Eugie Foster’s “Requiem Duet, Concerto for Flute and Voodoo”. In our September 2011 review I wrote in my recommendationâ€

I first heard of Eugie Foster years ago. A friend told me he read the best story ever in a popular critique group. That story went on to win the Nebula in 2009. If “Requiem” is any indication on how well she writes, you can expect several more awards to come her way in the near future. The story was just plain dynamite. It is the best Friday story I have read at DSF yet.

â€and it is still the best Friday story I have read yet at Daily SF. Although I disagreed strongly with Million Writer’s Award choice last year, I am hoping they will get this one right and choose “Requiem” as their overall choice and give Daily Science Fiction a much deserved feather in its cap.


Dave Steffen is editor and owner of this wonderful ezine Diabolical Plots. He recently reached a goal many writers desire, the chance to become a full-fledged member of the Science Fiction Writers of America organization. Congratulations, my friend.

Daily Science Fiction: February Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Onward! Still plugging away. It feels as if I am finally making ground reviewing this very ambitious project.

This month we have the return of Cat Rambo and the debut of the very successful Jay Lake, but it is also the month that has the most unfamiliar authors to me yet. I believe it is because this is when Daily Science Fiction had reached its stride in the industry. Because of the its pay scale, ease of its submission process, volume of material needed, and friendly availability to its readers; the amount of fresh material and authors , both pro and amateur , likely surpassed or equaled any other publication about the time Jon and Michele received the stories that ended up in this month’s email out. It is a testament of the success of this innovative project. The readers and authors have realized how good of a publication Daily Science Fiction has become. When is the rest of the industry going to acknowledge it?

I will continue to beat the drum, but I’m having trouble turning up the noise.


The Stories

“The Elephant Man’s Love Child” by Leslie What (debut 2/1) is the story of a girl imprisoned in a hospital. The girl is the discarded offspring of the Elephant Man, abandoned for unknown reasons by her mother. She gazes at a photo of her father every night, wishing she could be a part of his life.

I can’t really see the point of this story. The protagonist’s plight is sad but nothing much happened in it. This is a tale where the author’s comments would have been useful.


The protagonist is an imprisoned fairy in “E is for Excrement” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 2/2). The fairy has been caged by the MacAllister family for generations and now is the property of a college boy. The first rule on caring for the magical being is to never let him out of the cage. The lad lives in a dorm, a place filled with mischievous young men influenced by peer pressure. A chance for freedom is available thanks to the boys’ desire to try the outrageous.

This brief lettered tale was neat. Gross when you really think about it but done cleverly from the perspective of a clever protagonist. A very nice work of flash.


“The Uncharted Isle” by James Hutchings (debut 2/3 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) asks if you ever sat and pondered where that old flame is today? Is she married, with kids? Does she ever sit and ponder where you are? Well here’s the answer.

Nice little thought exercise, sort of Ulysses for the modern man. This little ditty touches on the deepest desires of us all, the desire to be loved, in a short little story.


In “Imaginary Enemies” by Colum Paget (debut 2/4 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), Sandra Barclay is in a contest of wills, with herself. Her personality has been split by a radical medical procedure and now she is tormented by her alternate personality, Ingrid. A new procedure can restore her personality, but can she live with herself afterward?

Reminiscent of a common theme of P.K. Dick, what is reality, this story looks at it from the standpoint of the individual. The question of who we are and what we are is deftly handled and leads to an interesting conclusion.


“Gathering Glory” by Steve Stanton (debut 2/7 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Nigel Harris meets his publisher for the first time at a conference. He soon discovered the meeting was more than just about his first story. He was to discover more about himself than he thought.

This story covers some familiar ground with a different perspective. It was interesting to see how the author pulled together the threads of the story. In the end, however, it still seemed a little too familiar.


Reliving cherished memories can have many benefits in “Memory Bugs” by Alter S. Reiss (debut 2/8). The protagonist has a memory hive in his home, bugs that record events in your life. He uses the bugs to remember fine details of his date with Susan, beneficial when you wish to impress, debilitating when memories become more important than new experiences.

The memory hive is a tool the protagonist needs for his job. The bugs in them imprint fine details and pass them along into mites (in which you ingest) so you can re-experience them later. The story focuses on the protagonists evolving relationship with his girl, covering several years in a few paragraphs, and takes the shape of an addiction tale. How they work was glossed over. The protagonist’s inability to grasp the downsides of overusing the hive made him unlikable.

Interesting concept pasted onto a plotline that has been told in variety of ways. Not a grand story but okay.


“F is Forever” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 2/9) is about one hell of a resort and spa! Hell has become kinder and gentler. The damned are now treated to a heavenly vacation. Each customer has the ultimate pleasure just a fingertip away, and it won’t get any closer.

“F” is hell with a makeover. Eternal damnation has changed with the times, as has its choice of fitting torture. Entertaining work of flash. I liked it.


In “Swallowing Ghosts” by Cat Rambo (debut 2/10 and reviewed by Anonymous), a boy, never named, fails to cover his mouth with his hand when he yawns and his dead Grandma’s warning comes to pass; he swallows a ghost (see title). Said unnamed boy troops over to his Grandpa and, despite his ghost-acquired handicap of involuntary verbal gobbledy-gook, is able to recruit the eccentric old man to his ghost bustin’ cause.

But can Grandpa exorcise the ectoplasmic visitor?

I have read quite a few Cat Rambo stories, and although this isn’t my favourite story–it’s pretty short and fairly simplistic–I still like it. It doesn’t showcase her talents in quite the way I have seen in some of her more complex and darker stories. That said, this story is simply a bit of fun.


“The Birdcage Heart” by Peter M Ball (debut 2/11 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) begins with a hint of sadness and a touch of cruelty and degrades from there. It also began with such a foreign concept that it was initially hard to imagine and grasp. Yet, the human mind adapts and soon I had accepted that a man literally has a bird cage in his chest in which various species of birds are kept.

The man’s affections for a woman whose motivation reeked of fetishism was sympathetic. Most of us have been in poisonous relationships where we’ve done the bulk of the changing. The man in this story is no different, only, he’s got a bird cage in his chest cavity.

The story circles around to where it began, and the man learns to trust himself. After taking so much external emotional damage, he’s able to risk some internal for the sake of allowing himself to feel an attachment to the birds he keeps within himself.

I appreciated the metaphor at the end of the story, but found the journey to get there a bit cumbersome.


“Boy Seeds” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 2/14 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), suffers from one major and devastating problem: it is too short. It’s a novella or novel crammed into short form, and while the story itself was interesting enough, I found I couldn’t latch on to any one aspect of it because of the speed in which it moved. One does not visit a fine art gallery then run full tilt through it.

Noma lives in a Big Brother like society in which she’s expected to conform to certain normalities. However, she’s always had her own mind and has gotten into trouble for this in the past. So, when it’s time for her to grow her own boy, she dives in and invents one who is sure to touch her heart. However, with an expiration date of six months, this is not a wise idea.

The story ends sort of abruptly and if there’s a moral, I didn’t discover it, however I do believe this is merely a fault of the story’s length. If it were say a hundred pages, or two or three, I would read every word because that is what this idea needs. It needs to grow, and live – for more than six months.


A sick mother, approaching army, and a ribbon-happy shaman shape “A Ribbon For A Shaman” by S. J. Hirons (debut 2/15). The protagonist is a young man. His father cares for his ill mother while the silent shaman ties a ribbon around everything of value, a sign that it should be left alone. The village worries for the sanity of their shaman and consider replacing him. The protagonist is not ready to give up on his mother, or the shaman, and learns the old man has plans for him.

“Ribbon” is a complicated tale. The author wrote the shaman as a man losing it. The rules of the ribbon seemed silly to me though. I saw no reason why the ribbon law had to be obeyed. A hint of a consequence would have made the story more convincing for me. Not a bad piece but sticking with the story took a bit effort.


Mal’llandri, God of a Thousand Tongues, has come to Earth in “G is for Graven” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 2/16). The god destroys Las Vegas as demonstration of his power. He rewards worshippers with supernatural gifts. The sculpturist protagonist wishes for the power of psychometry to help her improve as an artist. She should be wary of all-powerful gifts from all-powerful beings.

“G” is the tale of misguided faith. The new god proves to be more devious than his mortal cohort’s envision. The protagonist unwittingly discovers how a gift she thought would help her create would destroy her humanity. A well-done letter.


In “Tonight with Words Unspoken” by Jeff Samson (debut 2/17) a couple is off to make a new home on a distant world. They have developed a habit of falling asleep and waking separately as a couple and decide they should enter their deep-sleep chambers the same way. Habits can be difficult to break, and some can break the habit makers when broken.

“Tonight” is a dark tale of grief. The ending, although sad, became an unnecessary travesty compounded. The enormous expense of traveling to another star is erased by the protagonist’s inability to adjust to loss. I’d hope any psychological examine would weed out individuals like him.


“Rinse or Repeat” by Sylvia Hiven (debut 2/18) is the tale of an unfaithful man hoping to fix the mistakes of his past. In a modern day Manhattan populated with immigrating mythical beings, Gabriel braves Chinatown in hopes of finding a displacer. The middle-aged husband of an understanding wife fell hard for a fairy and now wants to return to the moment when he first pumped into the Merridy Redwing to prevent the events that ruined his marriage and eventually broke his heart. It is regret that leads Gabriel to take this fateful step, but desire can prove to be an equally powerful of an emotion.

“Rinse or Repeat” is a short but full tale. The story is under 5000 words but had more detail, setting, and intrigue than most novelette size tales. Ms. Hiven wrote a very convincing love-struck Gabriel a year removed from a steaming affair. She set him in a New York with dragons lurking in the shadows and fairies intermingling as temptress vixens run amok. We view a society in which fairies take advantage of men and get a brief insight of their non-human motivations. Ms. Hiven also introduces us to a method of time travel with clear and strict rules, an important element for me (can’t make time travel too easy).

Gabriel is resolute in his decision to change his past. His earlier risk-taking confirms his commitment to the reader. But as the story evolves, and the more we learn of affair, his resolution starts to waver. The ending serves as the pinnacle of the tale, Gabriel standing at a fateful, irreversible moment between desire and healing.

I was very satisfied when I reached the end of this story, but it wasn’t until I wrote this review that I learned how much I really enjoyed it. I didn’t think I would be praising it so much but I am impressed with the impression it has left on me. This is the first work of Sylvia Hiven I have read. I will be looking forward to her next. Recommended


In “Vestigial Organs” by Katie H. Camp (debut 2/21 and reviewed by Anonymous), a couple is worried about their child who appears to be special. She laughs at things the parents don’t understand, steals toys from other children without them realising; the parents consult a physician who quickly diagnoses the problem–her eyes function perfectly. She lives in a society of blind people who don’t like the advantage it confers on the odd person born with eyes, but they have a solution for this problem…

I thought the story was well written, but felt the premise was weak. I am no expert, but seeing confers a major survival advantage, which was the major complaint the parents seemed to be making, they couldn’t control the young child (ergo, an advantage). What about the poor or those who can’t afford physicians? No society is without its critics andÂI wondered how this society could defend itself against a single determined sighted man.

In the Country of the Blind, the One-Eyed man is king.

A story isn’t merely its prose, characters, or dialogue, it is also the premise.ÂFor me the premise seemed flawed, which sapped the pleasure from this well-written tale.


A gun is the main protagonist in “Hello, said the Gun” by Jay Lake (debut 2/22). The story is of an artificially intelligent handgun who was left in an oak tree a century and a half before. He encounters a girl who happens to be walking by. Lonely and neglected, the gun seeks to be held once again.

“Hello, said the Gun” is a tale with twin perspectives. We learn of a character known as only ‘Girl’, a loner left to fend for herself in a harsh world. She is wary of Men and her solitude has left her suspicious of everything. Gun only wants to talk to someone. It’s AI programming has allowed it to learn, adapt, and improve on itself. Being left in a tree for so long runs counter to what its designers intended for it. Of the two characters, the weapon comes off as the one most human.

Jay Lake’s accomplishments speak for itself. So impressive they are that the editor’s joked that their publication “â€set a record for being the longest to publish a Jay Lake” tale. Well I think it may have been wise to wait a bit longer. As always, Mr. Lake has a way with words that makes his stories easy to follow, but switching perspectives in a tight narrative rarely works, and it certainly didn’t work in this one. I had a problem with a premise that had a character who experienced so little human interaction in her life (talking about the human one here) and yet was able to converse fluently. The ending also came off as non-eventful to me.

I have read plenty Jay Lake stories and found them fabulous. The praise for most of his work is well deserved but with this one instance, I am left disappointed.


An old racing mare is the subject of “H is for Horse” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 2/23). She has lived a long life, birthing many champion horses. She longs not for her youth when she could run like the wind but of a majestic prince she knew long ago. Fine horses like herself are often treated like princesses. This princess awaits her prince.

“H” is a story with a unique twist, one you won’t suspect. The authors did well using the perspective of a horse without turning into a Disney-cartoonish narrative. The ending of this flash piece is done really well. I rather liked this letter of the quartets.


Paolo wants to forget in “Trick of Memory” by D. A. D’Amico (debut 2/24). He wishes to erase the memory of his time with his abusive wife, Lisa, and has purchased a pill called Vive. The drug has the capability to erase recent pain, in moderation, but Paolo just swallowed an entire dose just as Lisa walks in. The couple duel as Paolo waits for her to be a stranger to him once again. Lisa can’t just let him off that easy. Being a tormentor can require some craftiness.

“Trick of Memory” is an odd tale. Although it isn’t really one, I liken it to a couple’s final moments, as one is about to commit suicide in front of the other. Paolo has suffered some wicked abuse over the months and erasing his memory of her comes across as his way of giving her the finger rather than an escape from pain. Lisa seems to delight in giving him hell, and reacts as if letting him off the hook would be like allowing him to escape the fiery underworld while she was left to burn in its flames.

The story I found very interesting but following a dysfunctional couple, not bright enough to part ways, made it tough for me to care what happened to them.


An old family harpsichord returns in “The Mysterious Barricades” by Lyn C.A. Gardner (debut 2/25). The musical instrument has been in Lucy’s family for years. Believed to be lost in a fire that killed her mother years ago, it has been returned to her, partially restored. The harpsichord has a history of dividing her family, and now it has ended up with her just as the love of her life, Adrienne, is leaving for a job in Paris. Now old memories are reborn to mingle with a present that is crumbling around her.

“The Mysterious Barricades” is a weird ghost story. Lucy is a woman who is suffers from separation anxiety. She can’t handle Adrienne out of her life. The harpsichord is anchor to her past. Family ghosts haunt it. They replay old events in her life and help her reassemble the old musical machine. The flashbacks that play before her eyes remind her of the effect it had as its very presence drove a wedge between her parents and grandparents. The strange events all lead to an odd climax, and strange ending.

It was a weird trip following this story. Lucy story may be more of one person’s mental breakdown than it was about ghosts.


“Waiting in the Corners” by Brian Dolton (debut 2/28) is more of a confessional than a story. The mysterious narrator is elusive about who and what it is, hinting that is less a thing of substance but an instiller of fear and apprehension.

I really don’t know how to comment on this one. The narrator seems to be warning the reader without implying any kind of threat. It is ominous but harmless at the same time. In short, it becomes a journey into a haunted house that is scarier on the outside than the inside.



The Alphabet Quartet still delights me, as does the growing variety of fiction and authors. On to March.

Frank Dutkiewicz, Dustin Adams, and Anonymous each contributed to this review and all had their turn in the sun. Time to shine a light on someone else.

James A. Hanzelka graduated from University of Utah with a degree in Chemistry in 1972. After graduation he became the property of the US Army for the next twenty years. He later found work as a Physical Scientist, developing test methods for evaluation chemical defense equipment for the US Forces. He has developed several unique methodologies, which resulted in both National and International awards. He was a member of the international community developing standards for protective equipment used by militaries around the world. He is the author of over 150 different technical documents and papers. Since 1998 he has been involved in private consulting on chemical defense equipment development, and is currently in pursuit of a career in writing. He holds degrees in chemistry and industrial engineering and claims to know nothing of a guardian angel that hovers over his left shoulder.

Review: Daily Science Fiction – Sept 1, 2010 to Sept 30, 2010

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Daily Science Fiction is the ambitious project of Clarion alumni and Writers of the Future author, Jonathan Laden, and King Arthur fanatic, Michele Barasso. The duo jumped feet first into the growing SF & F industry with an idea that is innovative and ideal with the ever-changing information age. The pair have dedicated getting the best of what today’s writers have to offer, and bringing it right into the laps of the most devote readers of speculative fiction, delivering it as easy (daily email) and as cheap (free) as a lover of fantasy and science fiction could hope for. To insure they’ll have only the best for the cliental, they have offered an attractive pay rate (8 cents a word) to entice the best authors out there.

Why have they embarked on this crazy idea, you may ask?

Our kids refuse to let us read them Harry Potter, so we needed another outlet for our love of SF” is the answer they offer. Whether their real reason is noble or they really are greedy to read new and fresh fiction before anyone else has a chance to view it, publishing good speculative fiction requires more than a nice pay rate as bait. They need to be able to pick out gems that will make readers want to come back for more. Do Jon and Michele have the ability make DSF a success? I read the first month to find out for myself.

The Stories

“An Adventure in the Antiquities Trade” (debut 9/1/10) by Jeff Hecht is the perfect themed piece to open a mass email project like Daily Science Fiction. The story involves two collectors, and is set in the mid to late 21st century. The protagonist presents a correspondence to a Mr. James, one written on an old manual typewriter in the mid 20th century, when such things were still done on paper. The correspondence tells the tale of a clerk in Nigeria that has uncovered a scheme by the trading company he is working for. The company is bilking the Nigerian government and hiding the profits in a Swiss bank account. The clerk has asked a random American for his bank account so he can transfer 43 million, and promises a 10% kick back as a reward (sound familiar?).

I found “An Adventure in the Antiquities Trade” to be a clever and crisp story. Although it was a bit short, and the twist ending predictable, it was fitting as a debut story for a science fiction magazine looking for a unique way to stand out.

“Mark and ,S-h-e-l-l-y-‘-s-“ (debut 9/2/10) by Steven R Stewart is a story of a pizza shop owner named Mark and his one time romantic interest and former partner, Shelly. Shelly suddenly appears at the spaceport stand, not looking a day older, after a ten-year absence. The sign out front is still the same but her name has been crossed out. The bitter Mark feels cheated, abandoned, and is not interested in any excuse his former partner has to offer. Shelly regrets leaving in a huff all those years ago and admits in making a wrong turn, a turn that may have cost her everything but her youth.

“Mark and ,S-h-e-l-l-y-‘-s-” is a science fiction twist on the old ‘bitter lovers reuniting’ premise. The story is Mr. Stewart’s first publication (nice catch). I found the brief tale to be a cute idea but the present tense narration was a big negative for me. It was unnecessary and lent to a disconnection with the characters and plot.

Butterfly gets her first tattoo on her 13th birthday and receives a gift she didn’t ask for in “Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” (debut 09/03/10) by Lavie Tidhar. The young granddaughter of the Head of the Council can hear the Rogon, long dead aliens cocooned in the trees of the forest. At first, the incomprehensible murmurs are nothing more than idle chit-chat in Butterfly’s ears, than one day their tone changes. Butterfly believes they are calling her, and they need her help.

At over 9000 words, “Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” is one of the longest stories you’ll find in Daily Science Fiction. I couldn’t help thinking while reading it that it didn’t need to be so. An awful lot was thrown into the story that had little to do with the overall plot. Much was made about Butterfly’s relationships with other characters when they had little to do with the solution to the story. All the extra material slowed the pacing to a crawl. Another problem I had was the age of the cocoons. The aliens were supposed to be dead for a quarter of a million years, wouldn’t they be fossils by now? What I did like was the unexpected reveal of the nature of the voices Butterfly hears. Unfortunately you had to get through two-thirds of the story to get to it.

“Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” would make a nice sci-fi mystery if it were shorter. The author took great pains to show Butterfly as a normal girl with a unique problem. Lavie Tidhar made the story mundane in the process.

“Fiddle” (debut 09/06/10) by Tim Pratt opens with a small history lesson on the Roman Emperor Nero, told by a mysterious guide. The guide speaks of the legend of Nero playing a fiddle while Rome burned in the first century AD and offers a unique explanation of how it may have come to life.

“Fiddle” is more like a tease than a story. Its short size limits what I can say about it without ruining it for the reader. Hard for me to recommend it. I found it not attractive enough to call it cute, but I did like that last line.

In “Ezra’s Prophecy” (debut 09/07/10) by Debs Walker, Ezra is a hermit living in a cave. She studies the book of God’s Prophesies with only a weekly visit from a young village woman to look forward to. Then one day the Gods grace her with a vision. Ezra is eager to write her own book of prophesy but takes advantage of her brief gift of premonition to see what effect her holy book will have in the future.

I had two different impressions of “Ezra’s Prophecy”. The first two thirds I found slow and I worried that the plot was headed nowhere. The last third, however, was a making of a classic tale. I found it deep,an outstanding concept on religion and of the people who founded it. Ezra is granted a great gift from the God’s and makes a choice that proves to be an even greater one to her people.

The first half of “Ezra’s Prophecy” is dull, but the end made the pay off worth it.

The protagonist in “Hobo Signs” (debut 09/08/10) by Ree Young is an elderly lady who finds a hobo on her porch. The man has alcohol on his breath and a tale of aliens on his mind.

“Hobo Signs” is almost cute. The story is told from an old woman’s perspective and done well, but I wanted to scream ‘get on with it!’ at her at one point. The story doesn’t have much to it, at least not enough to satisfy me.

“Tag, You’re It” by Melissa Mead (debut 09/09/10) is a tale of a lost soul and a devil playing a childhood game with the playing field Earth. The hider hides as an ordinary person (and other things) while the seeking player hunts them down.

If character growth defines what makes a good story for you than “Tag, You’re It” is your kind of piece. The devil learns much about life as he takes on a trio of different personalities in the game. I rather liked the story. I found the ending fitting. A well done work of flash fiction.

“Seek Nothing” (debut 09/10/10) by Cat Rambo is the story of Sean Marksman, a clone psychologist who specializes in scent alterations. Sean is eager to escape his religious, puritan home. The planet he has escaped to is in need of a specialist like him, but his fellow humans are suspicious of his fundamentalist background. Sean has been raised to believe clones are beings without a soul. His fellow workers treat them as if they are machines , machines that can be abused. As time drags on, Sean begins to identify with the clones plight.

“Seek Nothing” is not a story for everyone. The plot drags and the protagonist is a hard one to like. The supporting characters are portrayed as unsympathetic and aloof , or worse – and the clones are nothing more than living mannequins. However, by the end of the story a realization of the depth of this masterpiece fell on me like a ton of bricks.

This story is one of repression. Sean tires of his purist early life and wants to be a normal man, one free of the guilt of sin his father weighed on him. However, young Sean hooks up with people that are anything but normal and as degenerate as could be imagined. He is like an Amish boy whose first experience with the outside world is with exiled men alone in the Arctic. Added to this jaded experience, details of Sean’s own past surfaces as the story progresses. What we witness in this tale is the disassembling of a man to the point where he feels on par with soulless machines. RECOMMENDED.

“Chameleon” (debut 09/13/10) by Colin Harvey is set in an America under attack by a race of aliens called Dragons and their Chinese allies. The Dragons have the ability to mimic humans, and have gotten good enough at it to make them indistinguishable from the person they are imitating. Major Emily Sparrow has been brought into the ruins of the Pentagon to help determine if her husband is really an alien in disguise.

“Chameleon” is an excellent example on how intriguing and thorough a short story can be. Mr. Harvey opened up a big world and introduced wonderful characters in a handful of words. The story was extra special for me because of its ending. I knew there was a twist coming yet was still caught off guard when the reveal hit me; so subtle and unexpected. It was the whipped cream on top of delicious sci-fi work of art. RECOMMENDED.

“On the Sweetness of Children” (debut 09/14/10) by Michelle Muenzler opens when the Green Fairy falls dead in the middle of blessing the infant princess. She drops at the word ‘hunger’ and the princess becomes a glutton as a result. The round royal is sensitive about her weight, and isn’t above devouring her critics, which isn’t good for her public image. But when you have a bottomless pit for a stomach, public image becomes secondary.

“On the Sweetness of Children” is a very cute story. It is a birth of a fairy tale, which I always find neat. Enjoyable but not “finger licking good.”

Dain talks the crew of the ‘Maidens Crescent’ into stopping at every satellite while traveling through the Sol System in “Mercury in Hand” (debut 09/15/10) by Amanda M Hayes. The Zero-rank magician wants a piece of every planet for a wealthy client to take with him.

I would like to delve deeper into the point of the story but it was completely lost on me. The who, what, and why of the tale is a mystery to me. I didn’t get it and still don’t after I read it three times in an attempt to understand it.

In “Azencer” (debut 09/16/10) by Rigel Ailur, two sisters with the gift of telekinesis battle for the right to be queen.

At a hundred words, Azencer is as short as a complete tale can get. The author did well with so few words.

“American Changeling” (debut 09/17/10) by Mary Robinette Kowal takes place in a quiet Oregon town on a planet called Earth. Kim is the daughter of two faerie changelings. She has been raised for the day to open the gate between the Faerie world and Earth. The key to unlock the gate has been hidden in iron (deadly to faeries) and protected by Catholic magic. Kim is the only one that can resist both, but the enemies to the queen are aware of her and are ready for the great event.

“American Changeling” is an adventure story. It is one of the longest stories in DSF but it reads quick. The characters stand out and the action is well done. The story is done quite well but the general plot is very familiar. Nevertheless, the reading experience is very enjoyable but I would expect nothing less from a pro like Ms. Kowal.

“Flint’s Folly” (debut 09/20/10) by J Chant is a story about a Nobel Prize winning scientist’s, Professor Flint, greatest discovery. His most trusted assistant, Mattius, attends the press conference where Antarctica’s most respected scientist unveils his faster-than-light machine. The demonstration is a success, making the already famous scientist a giant on the world stage. As a close associate, Mattius basks in the professor’s glory, but soon discovers it only takes one mistake to erase a legacy.

“Flint’s Folly” is my kind of story. The author introduced a complete world and set of circumstances that I could buy into. The premise of the story is one I could see happening one day, and circumstances of our not-too-distant past have proved this type of mistake has been made before. Mattius is successfully presented as a loyal comrade. He believes in his mentor and is proud of his past accomplishments. You can feel the validation he feels when the rest of the world cheers for the professor’s breakthrough discovery. Telling the story from his viewpoint was genius with the direction the author decided to take. At the risk of revealing too much, I particularly enjoyed Professor Flint’s attempt to salvage pride at the end, emotionally well done.

This story was great. RECOMMENDED.

Young Revka is ten and has yet to discover her talent in “Picture in Sand” (debut 09/21/10) by Susan A Shepherd. Her mother discovered her woodcarving gift right away, while her father had to search through all nine talents before finding his own. It can be a lot of work before your talent is discovered, or if you’re lucky, your talent may discover you.

Ms Shepherd put a lot of thought into creating her magical world in this story. Impressive considering she didit in so few words. Unfortunately I think the story needed more for it to work. This heartwarming piece came off as flat to me.

“The Man who said Good Morning” (debut 09/22/10) by Ralph Gamelli is set in a future where everyone reads minds and talking is considered taboo. That doesn’t stop Louis McKalty. He first works his voice on his wife, chasing her as if he were holding a dead mouse. He then proceeds to greet the world with his rediscovered gift of speech. The world isn’t prepared to listen to his primitive mode of communication, and if he doesn’t listen to reason, society will send his brand of ‘getting to know each other’ the way of the Neanderthal.

“The Man who said Good Morning” is a fun story about a man who is having some innocent fun. Louis is rediscovering himself and that makes others uncomfortable. I liked how Mr. Gamelli decided to introduce a society where only silent, psychic interaction is allowed. Nice story that could have used some expanding.

Annalisa begs her father to take her to an unsavory fair in “The Jug Game” (debut 09/23/10) by Jennifer Moore. While her father disappears in a beer tent, Annalisa is encouraged to play a jug game. The prize is she gets to keep the soul inside if she wins.

“The Jug Game” puzzles me. The stories ending left me unsatisfied and I wondered if I read the complete version.

“The Fosterling” (debut 09/24/10) by Therese Arkenberg starts off in a shack of a house that is the home of the future king, Hepastian IV. It has been seven years the young prince has lived in the slums and it is Jain Harley’s duty to retrieve the boy and take him to New Geneva to reunite him with his father the king. The foster mother is not ready to give up her ‘Jacky’ and the boy isn’t eager to leave the only home he has known. Jain is chosen for this duty because she does it well, even when crushing migraines afflict her without mercy.

“The Fosterling” is a good story that is written very well. Jain Harley is convincing as a duty bound Captain of the Guard who has a job that simply sucks. All the past kings have spent their first seven years living in the slums so they will learn compassion. Jain is mystified on why Jacky doesn’t want to leave the ghetto he was raised in and wonders at one point “Didn’t all kids dream of being princes?” Coupled with the stress of tearing a young child from the only home he knows, a recurring migraine inflicts Jain.

I could find little fault with this piece. Therese Arkenberg is a very skilled writer. The story is solid and quick but is thin with content. Nevertheless I enjoyed reading it very much.

“Long Pig” (debut 09/27/10) by Matthew Johnson, is the name of a new restaurant featuring a popular chef. The menu is unique and the food is delicious thanks to a chef with a unique past and a commitment to put all he has into his creations.

It wasn’t too difficult to figure out what “Long Pig” was all about. Too many clues made it obvious early on. The chef’s willingness to share his past to his customers made him more creepy than interesting to me.

The restaurant’s customers may have found “Long Pig” appetizing but it didn’t satisfy me.

“Sparks” (debut 09/28/10) by Mari Ness is about a man who has replaced his hands with wands. The protagonist is drawn to the mysterious man and the lovely sparks his wands create. She takes great effort to not stare at his wands and wants to learn why he would make such a trade.

“Sparks” is a story of desire. The protagonist clearly has fallen for the stranger. I however was not drawn into his spell and fail to see the appeal he has over her. The appeal didn’t translate to me.

Unlike the protagonist, I failed to fall under “Sparks” ‘spell.

Jack and Sarah share tea in their home, drinking it out of their favorite cup, just as they always did in “Small Differences” (debut 09/29/10) by Tim Patterson. The only problem is this is the first time they met.

“Small Differences” is a story set in a world where alternate universes have intersected. People are switched into a new one that is very similar to the one they originated in. Slight changes make it different. Sarah and Jack shared a life with their alternate selves and their not-quite-the-same past makes their meeting painful and hopeful.

Not a bad story but one that was too brief for me to enjoy. Not that it needs expanding. I think the author got as much as he could from the idea.

George Washington is about to attend his inaugural in “A Little-Known Historical Fact” (debut 09/30/10) by Tim McDaniel. He talks with his aide Billy and tells him what his mother said he could accomplished if he applied himself.

This short story is just plain silly. The premise relies on GW’s mother knowledge of a term that I believe didn’t exist in her era.


I asked an editor of a leading review outlet on why DSF is ignored. The answer I got back was there was too much to review and the editors must be nuts if they think they can keep up throwing so many stories, at the rate they pay, for essentially free. Maybe Mr. Laden and Ms Barasso have deep pockets, maybe they have a business model other publications should emulate. I don’t know. I do know, word count wise, they publish as much as Analog, F & SF, and Asimov do each month. Sure they’re putting out 20 plus new stories a month, but 80% are under 2000 words and most are flash fiction size; an easy to get through length if you’re looking for a daily outlet. The question is, does the quality match up to what other pro-rated magazines have to offer. The answer is yes.

I found almost all the stories of a high quality. Because they were so high, my standards for recommendation were raised. If Jon and Michele can continue to publish such thoughtful, creative, and outstanding fiction, I see no reason why Daily Science Fiction won’t be the next big thing in publishing today.

My personal favorite of the month was “Chameleon” by Colin Harvey. I just simply loved it.

I recommend that you all sign up to receive a daily hand-delivered story from Daily Science Fiction. You can sign up for them, and read these stories and other ones here.

Frank is lurking back around in Diabolical Plots again. Other places have throw him out on his ear but Dave is a sucker for people that have worn out their welcome elsewhere. So Dave has Frank review to keep him out of his hair.

The Best of Podcastle

podcastle-iconPodcastle is a podcast of fantasy stories, which I’ve been listening to for the past couple of months to get caught up on their backlog. They’ve provided a whole lot of great stuff for free distribution. They do ask for donations, but they are not required to listen to their fiction. Now that I’ve listened to all of their episodes, I’ve made a list of my top ten favorite episodes (and some honorable mentions that almost made the list).

If you like this article, you might also want to check out The Best of Pseudopod, in which I make a similar list for Podcastle’s horror counterpart, and The Best of Escape Pod, the science fiction counterpart.

1. Cup and Table by Tim Pratt
Read by Stephen Eley

Superpowered agents on a quest to find the Holy Grail. You can’t get much cooler than that! On top of that, the protagonist has a confused time sense, and Pratt’s writing of the story in non-chronological order works surprisingly well. And if that’s not enough, the ending was both cool and unpredicted (by me anyway).

2. A Heretic by Degrees by Marie Brennan
Read by Paul Tevis

Worldbuilding at its best. The strange world of Driftwood is revealed to the reader bit by bit. I know from experience that this is a tough balance to strike. Too much at once and it gets boring. Not enough and it’s confusing. Parallel worlds have always been one of my favorite fantasy elements.

3. Fourteen Experiments in Postal Delivery by John Schoffstall
Read by Heather Lindsley

This one starts out relatively normal and ramps up the weird as it goes on which, for me, made it easier to digest. I don’t particularly like the protagonist of this one, but she feels like a real person and that’s more important to me than likeability anyway. If you’ve never read any surrealism you might want to give this one a try just to see what you think. There are some lewd images and swear words–they fit well within the story, but just FYI.

4. Captain Fantasy and the Secret Masters by Tim Pratt
Read by Matthew Wayne Selznick

Clearly Tim Pratt’s style is well suited to my reading tastes! This is a very long one, one of the Podcastle “Giant” episodes, and one of the few Giants that I’ve liked. Most stories this long are much longer than they need to be–they could benefit by cutting their length in half and they seem to be padded for word count. This one is worth every word, every second. I do love superheroes, and this story gives nods to old-school superheroes alongside more modern styles, and has some unique ideas I haven’t seen in any other superhero stories (which is hard to do in this day and age). Lots of good rip-roaring action, as well as some good mystery elements.

5. Come Lady Death by Peter S. Beagle
Read by Paul S. Jenkins

This is an oldie but a goody. First published back in 1963, it tells the story of Death in human form who attends a party. The setting is similar to Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, but the style and plot are all their own. It’s not the first time I’ve seen a female Death figure (Susan Bones from Pratchett’s Discworld series, for instance), but this incarnation is distinct and provides an enjoyable experience.

6. Nine Sundays in a Row by Kris Dikeman
Read by Kane Lynch

I have a lot of respect for anyone who can do a nonhuman point of view well, and Kris Dikeman has done that with this story. It’s the tale of a deal with the devil with the point of view of the devil’s dog, sent to watch over the supplicant who must spend every Sunday night at a crossroads for nine weeks in a row in order to earn a meeting with the devil. The characters are great, and the ending is fitting. A great story.

7. Komodo by Tim Pratt
Read by Cat Rambo

Yes, another one by Tim Pratt! Apparently I’m a huge fan, though I made the list on the stories without thinking much about the authors. His style and subject matter must just be particularly well-suited for my tastes. So I’ll definitely be watching for more from Pratt. This is the tale of a very powerful sorceress living in the modern day, when she comes up against something that seems to be beyond her abilities. She’s a well fleshed-out character, and the magic system in this is really good, not like anything else I’ve read.

8. Colin and Ishmael in the Dark by William Shunn
Read by MarBelle

Usually I don’t like omniscient point of view, where the narrator is an apparently corporeal third party in the room, unable to affect, only to observe. But it works well in this story, describing an encounter between a prisoner and a guard in a pitch black jail cell. The story is told almost entirely through dialogue between the two, and because the scene is dark, the actual events that are occuring are not always straightforward to interpret. This helps keep the story as disorienting for the reader as it is for the characters, which is quite a trick.

9. The Evolution of Trickster Stories Among the Dogs of North Park After the Change by Kij Johnson
Read by Heather Lindsley

The premise of this story is very interesting, with domesticated animals suddenly gaining the ability to speak, and it focuses on the interaction between dogs and their former masters. As the dogs develop a lingual culture, they develop (as the title states) trickster stories, which are interspersed with the narrative itself. I actually liked the trickster stories better than the main narrative, despite their short disconnected nature. I wish the world had been fleshed out a bit more, animals gaining the ability to speak didn’t have nearly the effect that I would’ve expected, but there’s still a lot to love about this story, and the trickster stories themselves made them worth the listen.

10. Castor on Troubled Waters by Rhys Hughes
Read by Alasdair Stuart

This is a ridiculous tale told by a character who has quite a story to tell in the time honored tradition of making stuff up to get out of paying people money. This is clear from the very beginning, which just makes his tale all the more funny.

Honorable Mentions

It was hard to pick out just ten, so here’s a few that were strong contenders to make the list.

The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe
Read by Cheyenne Wright

I know, it’s nearly a crime for Poe to be on the honorable mentions and not on the actual list. I’ve loved Poe’s writing since I first read them in English class, and this is one of my favorite authors. I love Cheyenne’s voice, and he narrated this quite well, except for one detail. The word “Amontillado” is mispronounced throughout, which drove me to distraction. One mispronunciation isn’t the end of the world, but since the word is used many times within the story, is in the title itself, and is in fact the central motivation for one of the characters, I found it hard to ignore. Even if it had been pronounced phonetically, it would have been better. In any case, Poe is one of my favorite authors of all time, I still wanted his story to be mentioned.

In Ashes by Helen Keeble
Read by Marie Brennan

The Twa Corbies by Marie Brennan
Read by Elie Hirschman

In Order to Conserve by Cat Rambo
Read by Mur Lafferty

Onward and upward: Cat Rambo

Cat Rambo
Cat Rambo

My guest today is Cat Rambo, fantasy and science fiction writer and editor of Fantasy Magazine, a market recognized as being professional by SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). Check out her website at and check out Fantasy Magazine’s website at

David Steffen: Cat, thanks for coming. I really appreciate you taking the time for this interview.

Cat, what plots or types of stories are you tired of seeing?

Cat Rambo: I am tired of seeing retold fairy tales that don’t do anything new with the fairy tale, where they just kind of say, okay I’m going to retell Cinderella but it’s going to be a shopping sale at the mall and don’t do anything new with that.

I have a great fondness for sword and sorcery. I grew up reading sword and sorcery. I read Fritz Lieber and C.L. Moore and a lot of Michael Moorcock, but I think there again you have to do something new for me to be interested. I get a lot of stories that are sort of Conan the Barbarian revisited but they’re not as good as Robert E. Howard. Unless you are as good as Robert E. Howard it’s probably best for writers to steer their way away from that.

David: Do you prefer certain subgenres of fantasy such as urban fantasy, contemporary fantasy, high fantasy, etc?

Cat: I love urban fantasy. Paradoxically enough, given how much of it is out there, I don’t get a lot of good urban fantasy. I like stories that tend to work on more than one level. We have, for example, a story that was very popular with our readers last year, Elena Gleason’s Erased, which I was just looking at again. That story on one level is about someone’s boyfriend who is invisible and what do you do when you’re confronted with an invisible boyfriend. But on the other hand, at a deeper level, it’s about what do you do in a relationship when the other person is vanishing. So I like the stories that work on more than one level. The stories where you go away and you find yourself thinking about later and think “Oh, yeah, okay, it works like this too.”

David: Are there any big changes on the horizon for Fantasy Magazine?

Cat: Oh, onward and upward for Fantasy Magazine. We have a web comic that will be appearing soon. We have been reorganizing and getting a lot of people in to drive individual areas like TV or books, and comics. So there’s going to be a lot. We’re hoping to up the amount of content to put out something interesting at least two or three times a day.

David: Can you elaborate about the web comic?

Cat: It’s a fantasy comic based on a setting that will be familiar to a lot of our readers, which is inside a fantasy role-playing game.

David: Are there any features coming up in Fantasy Magazine that you’re particularly looking forward to?

Cat: Right now we’re running a series called “Game-mastering NPCs”. The first of the five part series was just posted last week, talking about the importance of NPCs (non-player characters) to a roleplaying game campaign. Also, I’m particularly looking forward to some articles by Genevieve Valentine.

David: Which were you first, a writer or an editor?

Cat: First and foremost, always a writer.

David: Do you think that being an editor has changed the way you write?

Cat: Not really. It’s one more thing nibbling at my writing time. I think every writer experiences that in some form or another.

David: Has being an editor provided you with extra skills that have been useful as a writer?

Cat: Yes. One thing about reading slush is that it gives you greater confidence in your own writing. It has really driven home the importance of making the first paragraphs of a story draw the reader in.

David: Has the economic crisis impacted the magazine at all?

Cat: Not really. Previously we hadn’t been drawing in as much advertising revenue as we could have. We’re making an effort to do better in that respect, so we may actually be doing better now than before.

David: SFWA added Fantasy Magazine to their list of professional markets earlier this year. Has this sparked any change in submissions, either quantity or quality?

Cat: Yes, in both respects. We’re getting 500-600 submissions a month now, as well as seeing submissions from some pro writers we hadn’t seen before. It’s been a good thing we have the new online submission process, which speeds things up significantly.

David: I have noticed in my submissions a large reduction in turnaround time since the new online submissions system was set up. How exactly does that system make things faster?

Cat: We were just using Gmail before, so every couple weeks we had to check the junk folder just to make sure that things weren’t getting lost there. And there was stuff bouncing every once in a while. Someone’s spam filter would eat our stuff. So it just makes it a lot easier to track what’s going on and you’ve got a system also where we can see which slushreader is reading and who is slacking and go prod them. *laughs*

David: What are your personal pet peeves when reading stories?

Cat: Personal pet peeves? In terms of the stories or in terms of the way they’re presented?

David: Like little grammar mistakes that you see too often, things like that.

Cat: Oh, “its” and “it’s” drives me nuts. I taught composition a few times and I always tell students that is the one error that will get under my skin. Its/it’s and they’re/their/there. Nowadays we have spellchecker, so there’s really no excuse for having too many actual misspellings but we still see alot of the it’s/its.

David: How about other things that bother you. For instance, some editors really dislike reading stories that begin with the character waking up.

Cat: I don’t like the beginnings that start out with kind of two heads talking in space where there’s no sense of location and you don’t know what’s going on. I don’t like beginnings that aren’t well-grounded and give us a sense of the story world.

I don’t like the endings, not so much the beginnings, where someone wakes up as the endings and is “Oh my God it was all a dream.” And it’s like “Oh, come on!”

David: It sort of makes you wonder “Why did I spend my time reading this?”

Cat: That’s it, it insults the reader: “Ha ha I tricked you and you wasted all your time.” I don’t like stories that take the “I’m cleverer than you approach” to the reader.

David: I’ve heard that some editors like a little humor, but so many people have different views on what’s funny. How do you judge a humorous piece in submission to Fantasy or do you generally steer clear of humor pieces?

Cat: I like humor. I love a good funny story. I love, for example, the Terry Pratchett books which I think are just wonderful, or the Jasper Ford Tuesday Next stories. I like humorous pieces that don’t depend on cliches. If it’s a joke that’s been told before, I’ve heard it before, so I don’t really want those. Good humor is very hard to write and it’s far too scarce in the submission pile.

David: What was the last book you read?

Cat: It was a really cool Japanese murder-myster that Ann Vandermeer turned me onto. I just did a workshop with her and she recommended it. It’s titled “Out”, written by Natsuo Kirino.

David: Your favorite book?

Cat: I will go with a classic and say Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte D’Arthur which is one of my desert island books.

David: Who is your favorite author?

Cat: I will be slightly pretentious and say James Joyce because I do love what James Joyce does with language.

David: What was the last movie you saw?

Cat: We went and saw The Hangover which I thought was a lot of fun. We love Zach Galifianakis. We’d seen him in a documentary called the Comedians of Comedy and he was so hysterical in that.

David: I saw that last week as well. There are a few moments in that movie that are sure to be nominated for the MTV Movie Awards’ WTF award.

Cat: *laughs*. It just had so many moments like that where you were just like “Oh my god where are they going to go with this”

I kind of want to go so Land of the Lost simply because I loved it when I was a kid. I like Will Ferrell but I”m just not sure the combination is going to work. I like Will Ferrell. I have liked him in a great many things, and then I have seen him in many things where I’ve said “Well okay that’s not as interesting as it could be.”

David: What is your favorite movie?

Cat: I really love the Wizard of Oz.

David: I just wrote a story specifically for a Wizard of Oz horror anthology called Shadows of the Emerald City.

Cat: Oh cool, what a neat idea. I had just been reading John Kessel’s The Baum Plan for Financial Independence. Which I think kind of pokes gentle fun at the economics of Oz which is kind of a funny way to do it.

Who’s putting out the horror anthology?

David: Horror writer JW Schnarr:

David: Do you have any upcoming publications that you’d like to tell us about?

Cat: Indeed I do. I have a collection coming out with Paper Golem Press. The title is “Eyes like Sky and Coal and Moonlight.”

David: That’s a catchy title.

Cat Rambo: That’s the title story.

David: Is it a collection of reprinted stories or all-new writing?

Cat: I think It’s about half and half, there is about 50 percent new stuff, and a couple Strange Horizons stories, and the Weird
Tales stories. Kind of the best stuff that’s appeared in publication. I’m really happy about that, because somethings appears in small magazines then sort of vanishes like a leaf on the wind. It’s nice to get a chance to put stories I’m really pleased with out in front of folks.

David: If you could give only one piece of advice to aspiring writers trying to get published, what would it be?

Cat: Be persistent. More than anything else you have to cultivate the hide of a rhinoceros, put your head down and keep plugging away.

David: Do you have any works in progress you’d like to tell us about?

Cat: I am finishing up a young adult novel called Phat Fairy. It is my reaction in some ways to reading the Twilight series.

David: What did you think of the Twilight series?

Cat: I thought that they were decently written but I thought they were just an appalling message for young women. You have this utterly passive heroine whose main motivation is nailing her man. I really didn’t think they were a good message for young women at all. I have a goddaughter who will at some point be reading YA fiction, so I wanted to make sure there was at least one book out there with a healthier message. Though I am not trying to write a message-driven book either.

David: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions, Cat, and letting us get a glimpse into Cat’s world of writing and editing. Also, thanks to Frank Dutkiewicz, Brad Torgerson, and Gary Cuba for your contributions to this interview.

Stay tuned for more interviews! I’ve got a full schedule, at two interviews a month, lined up through mid-October!