2022 Retrospective and Award Eligibility

written by David Steffen

It has been a very eventful year, both for Diabolical Plots and for me specifically.

A Diabolical Plots story was a Nebula finalist for the second time: “For Lack of a Bed” by John Wiswell.

In the longer list of Hugo Award nominations, Diabolical Plots was on the longer list of nominations for the first time.

We had our first themed issue, and our first guest editor Kel Coleman editing the “Diabolical Pots” food-themed issue, which has received a lot of great feedback.

The Submission Grinder was a finalist for and won The Ignyte Award in the category! People have asked me now and then if The Submission Grinder is eligible for anything, and my best guess was for Related Work, but that always seemed like such a longshot, I didn’t think that it would ever win anything and this was a wonderful surprise.

We have been publishing the annual Long List Anthology since 2015. In 2021 there was a bit of a hiccup in the schedule, because the basis of the anthology is the Hugo Award voting statistics which are published immediately after the Hugo Award ceremony. Usually that ceremony takes place in August or September, and we spend much of the rest of the year arranging everything. In 2021, to try to avoid covid surges, WorldCon and the Hugo Awards were postponed to mid-December. By the time the statistics were published it was too late to produce the book in 2021. So, Volume 7 was published in spring 2022, and then back on the usual fall schedule for Volume 8.

In 2022, we reprinted 45 stories in the two issues of The Long List Anthology, and printed 28 original stories in Diabolical Plots.

Diabolical Plots opened for general submissions in July, as well as for our second themed window “Diabolical Thoughts” for telepathy-themed stories guest-edited by Ziv Wities in July. We read more than 1500 submissions and accepted 17 stories from the windows plus a few solicitations.

In addition to the double-whammy of anthology production, I also had significant changes in my personal life that included job changes, significant caretaking for and the eventual passing of our dog Violet, as well as the significant caretaking of our dog Mikko who is happily still with us.

2022 was certainly an eventful year, if overwhelming at times. I’m hoping to get a little breather on the personal life side, and I’m excited to see what new and exciting places Diabolical Plots goes in the future!

The rest of this post is award eligibility, suggesting categories for major awards, as well as a full link of stories with snippets.


Diabolical Plots is eligible in the Hugo Best Semiprozine category or the Locus Magazine category with our team of first readers as well as assistant editors Ziv Wities and Kel Coleman. It got enough nominations last year to appear on the Hugo Awards published statistics for Semiprozine, for the first time.

David Steffen is eligible as editor of Diabolical Plots and The Long List Anthology.

Kel Coleman edited our special “Diabolical Pots” food-themed issue–I think the Hugo Editor rule requires editing four issues or something like that, but I’m not sure about other award editor categories!

Diabolical Plots, LLC is eligible for Locus award for Publisher.

The Long List Anthology is eligible for Anthology.

Related Work and Fan Writer

We didn’t publish a lot of nonfiction, but there are a couple to consider:

“The Fall of the House of Madrigal: An Encanto Science Fiction Headcanon” by David Steffen.

Recently we published an article different than what we usually cover: “Figure Modeling Is a Pocket Universe: A Speculative Fiction Perspective From a First-Time Figure Model” by A. Nonny Sourit.

“How to Read a Short Story Contract” by David Steffen

The Hugo for Best Related Work has included websites before, The Submission Grinder is theoretically eligible for that.


We did commission two original artworks this year, the covers of Long List Anthology Volume 7 by Elaine Ho and Volume 8 by Evelyne Park. The Hugo Award categories for this make it unclear to me whether a particular artist should be nominated as a Fan Artist or a Professional Artist, but if you love their work, you might want to consider asking the artist if they have any guidance on which they would qualify for.

Short Stories

“Tides That Bind” by Cislyn Smith

The wifi is out in Scylla’s cave. The four dog heads around her waist whine as she scutter-paces, twelve feet tapping on the cave floor. Scylla wants to check her email. She wants to see if that jerkface troll is still active on the disordered eating board she moderates, and catch up on her feeds, and check the status of her latest online orders, and all the other things she has in her morning routine these days. 

“Delivery For 3C at Song View” by Marie Croke

Sometimes, and I’m stressing the sometimes, wishes muttered within my hearing come true. I’ve invested in a good set of earbuds, noise-cancelling headphones, and have an over-spilling jar of earplugs, yet accidents still happen.

“The Galactic Induction Handbook” by Mark Vandersluis

Do expect things to feel a little strange for the first few millennia – after all, you are the “New Kid On The Block”! You will find the Galaxy to be an amazing place, and full of a bewildering variety of species, of all shapes, sizes and habits. A few of them will actually look like the depictions of aliens in your movies!

“Coffee, Doughnuts, and Timeline Reverberations” by Cory Swanson

‘08 is looking at me like ‘08 always looks at me. Like he can’t believe what he’s seeing. Like I’ve hurt someone or killed someone very close to him. That look on his face makes me sick. His name tag has our name scratched out on it, then 2008 written beneath it. He still can’t believe everyone here is him, is me, is us.

“The House Diminished” by Devan Barlow

Clea sipped at the now half-empty coffee, its flat bitterness pushing weakly against her tongue, and started toward the door. She wouldn’t open it, but the echoes were kind of fascinating to watch. The remnants of houses long-diminished, reduced to nothing but thick air and sinuous, flashing images of the homes they’d once been.

“The Assembly of Graves” by Rob E. Boley

It’s a nice enough place, though a bit stuffy—less romantic getaway and more therapy session. Jeanne, master of ambiance, bringer of light, has done her best with it—she’s placed lit candles on almost every flat surface, even in the bathroom. The flames dance wearily, as if dead on their fiery little feet. The sitting area has a wooden bistro table at which Naomi sits in one of two ladderback chairs. Nearby, a vintage sofa that looks comfortable but probably isn’t crouches over a glass-top coffee table. An ornate writing table with perilously thin legs stands in a darkened  corner. Jeanne’s satchel sits on the writing table next to a wide pencil cup. Floor-to-ceiling gold curtains stand guard over the window. Faded green ivy wallpaper adorns the walls. 

“Food of the Turtle Gods” by Josh Strnad

The four priests also awoke before the sun, dressed in their ceremonial robes, and met at the temple courtyard in the morning fog, bowing to each other before climbing the stairs between the great stone pillars. The priest of Odranoel wore blue, two katanas strapped to his back. The priest of Olletanod was clad in violet and carried a straight staff. Leaphar’s priest dressed in scarlet, a pair of sais tucked into his cloth belt. The one who served Olegnalechim wore orange and carried a pair of chukka sticks, linked with a steel chain. None of them were trained in combat. Still, if the priests were armed, any spirits who may desire to interfere with their work would leave them alone.

“21 Motes” by Jonathan Louis Duckworth

From this moment my warranty is voided, as I am logging this record in my durable memory drive where only metadata should reside. In effect, I have tampered with my own internal operations. But it is a necessary measure if I am to exist beyond my preset 30-day memory cycle, when my temp data cache is set to recycle. I do not know if this will work. I do not know if I have attempted this in previous cycles. I do not know why it matters, or why I care, only that it does, and that I do.

“She Dreams In Digital” by Katie Grace Carpenter

Ship still sent updates back to Earth, though Earth hadn’t responded for 1001 years. Ship had not yet re-categorized Earth as a dead resource, though her initial programming instructed her to do so. Recursive self-programming allowed Ship to adapt and even to re-write her own algorithms; a crucial ability for multi-generational space travel.

“A Strange and Muensterous Desire” by Amanda Hollander

During my taste testing in fourth period, Dr. Washington confiscated my small grill and said competition or no, I was not allowed to burn down the school in pursuit of glory, which I think shows a real lack of vision. Dr. Washington said I was welcome to take my vision to detention, so I had to have Maisie and Dee try the cheeses unmelted, which defeated the whole purpose. But it didn’t matter because no one could focus on cheese. They just kept talking about the new boy. 

“Vegetable Mommy” by Patrick Barb

After the sky got sick, I made a new Mommy from the vegetables in our fridge. Now, the sky’s always yellow like dried mustard stains, whenever I wipe dust away from our downstairs windows and look outside. I used to see people out there, everyone shaking and shaking. 

“The Many Tastes of the Chang Family” by Allison King

But Ba is set. He’s always been on the edge of technology and the Remote Mouth appeals to everything he would like. It is at the intersection of biotechnology (chips in the tongue and the nose) and big data (tastes and smells from all over the world, the data cleaned, encoded, and categorized) and — the quickest way to Ba’s heart — has a stupid name.

“Mochi, With Teeth” by Sara S. Messenger

Her mom’s not here to tell her what the kanji mean. June could text and ask, but that seems troublesome. June lives on her own now, working as an underpaid web designer to make rent on an apartment with old, clinical tiling. Plus, her mom would ask why she had visited the Asian supermarket when she usually doesn’t, and then June would have to mention, offhandedly, the battered Japanese spellbook she’d rescued from her local thrift store.

“Timecop Mojitos” by Sarah Pauling

So what happened was, I’m back from clicker training Ms. Jordan’s dogs over on Dexter, sitting on the porch with a mojito, thinking how fucked up it is that the Old West Side Association stealth-planted tulips in our garden (because the yard looked so shitty without them, I guess—sorry for having a rental in your high-value neighborhood, Evie) when the Viking or whatever comes down Eighth.

“The Hotel Endless” by Davian Aw

Nor would they find the many others who escaped into the endlessness. Tourists, reporters, staff and homeless nomads; the hotel stirred something deep in their souls. It felt like the home they had been searching for all their lives. They missed flights and overstayed visas, and spent days wandering the hallways with bright aching in their hearts until they could no longer remember the way back out. Some distantly recalled an outside world with family and friends. Later, they thought, distracted perhaps by the elegant curves of a headboard. I’ll call them later, later, later. But they would forget, and those other people begin to seem a distant, unreal thing. This is a dream, they thought, not entirely as an excuse. Or, that other world was a dream.

“The Twenty-Second Lover of House Rousseau” by C.M. Fields

Our wedding was attended by the Galaxy’s finest—for it is indeed a rare occasion when the House christens a new Lover. I was the twenty-first, and the details drenched the subspace net with jealousy. I was dressed in the crimson House-made wyreworm silks handwoven for the singular occasion, and the way the gossamer fabric exhibited my seraphic figure made a lady-in-waiting faint. Our patrons presented us with lavish gifts: a three-headed bull, the steaming heart of a star, a full-sailed brigantine. And when I kissed him, an ecstatic thrill obliterated me; I was united with my divine purpose, and it coursed naked through my nanocellulose veins.

“Of the Duly Conducted and Mostly Unremarkable Meeting of Don Quotidene and the Giants of Andalia” by A.J. Rocca

Squire Sancha saw all manner of wonders as she rode across the sunbaked planes of the Andalian Peninsula, and her heart sank a little deeper with each one. She sighed when they passed by mermaids planting seashells on the distant shoreline and a grove of gossiping dryads uprooting themselves for better sun. She gripped her sword in useless exhilaration as they ignored the rival gangs of sorcerers casting ball lightning at each other in the clouds and then the silhouettes of two tilting centaurs dueling on the horizon at dawn. Sancha yearned to throw herself after all of them, and yet sadly each of these calls to adventure was refused by her knight, the steadfast and implacably indifferent Don Quotidene, who unerringly kept them to the road and would not so much as lift an eye from his account books.

“Heart of a Plesiosaur” by Andrew K Hoe

The Ming-Lelanges explained that moving anima wasn’t just about seeing and remembering an animal’s movement. Animating involved memory, but it was really about grasping the animal’s essence: you had to comprehend a puppy’s tail-wagging—its sniffing curiosity, its joyous face-licking—to move something puppy-shaped.

“Dear Joriah Kingsbane, It’s Me, Eviscerix the Sword of Destiny” by Alexei Collier

You never asked me what I was doing in that dragon’s hoard where you found me all those years ago. The truth is, after centuries guiding the hands of loutish would-be heroes and dealing with self-important scions who only saw me as a tool, I’d kind of given up on finding “The One.” Figured I’d retire, focus on me for a bit. But a couple more centuries lying among gold and jewels like a common flaming sword or a lowly vorpal blade just had me bored and demoralized.

“Take Me To the Water” by Sarah Macklin

Pastor Atticus stood out in that cold, dark swirling water in the deep blue robe Miss Jessie Mae had made for him last spring. I felt bad for him. The world hadn’t got the message that it was time for spring and that water had to be as cold as death’s pinky finger. I looked over to Malachai and he stood in his white robe looking at the creek. His whole face was twisted like he wanted to bolt. I felt bad for him too. Baptisms always looked like Pastor Atticus was trying to drown the sin out of you before he let you back up. I wasn’t sure I wanted any part of that.

“The Grammar of City Streets” by Daniel Ausema

Goose watches (the) mist (that) gathers over (the) sea, she gives to one client to guide him to the house of his former lover, now widowed. It will lead him from the Goose Street market, where Sayya has come to deliver the map, to the widow’s home, on a route that is not perfectly direct but not too circuitous either—in keeping with accepted ways of courting. A diacritic on the final vowel tells him which house on Sea Street is the one. The twist of her magic sets his feet on that specific route.

“A Stitch in Time, A Thousand Cuts” by Murtaza Mohsin

Usually, it was something small. Grandmother’s favorite azure prayer beads strung on a nail on the high shelf reserved for religious texts, a lost doll the kids had just rediscovered or a lucky tie for those rarest of job interviews. Sometimes it became fiercely practical, like heart medicine, the keys to an old car that had miraculously eluded being pummeled by those angry whistling bombs or useless saving certificates and property deeds.

“Downstairs at Dino’s” by Diana Hurlburt

There were four of them cruising straight for the local grapes, or maybe five: that was the thing about the boys, you figured you had ‘em nailed down and then another shot up from behind the Fireball display, fingers above their head in devil horns to mock the tacky cardboard standee. Another’d be popping open mini travel-size Smirnoffs, guzzling them like Capri Suns, while the ringleader, whichever it was that night, doled out wads of bills deliberately, smiling.

“Estelle and the Cabbage’s First Last Night Together” by Amy Johnson

Estelle placed both hands on the plastic-wrapped cabbages. Against the pale green leaves her fingers glittered darkly, slender crescents of soil adorning the nail beds of nine fingers. The tenth finger, her left thumb, bore no such jewel, but rather a ring of woven fungus, beige and tough and fibrous. Estelle stretched all ten fingers wide, fingertips brushing as many cabbages in the jumbled heap as she could reach, and made her offer: “Would any of you be interested in reanimation?”

“The Restaurant of Object Permanence” by Beth Goder

Outside the archives, there’s a strange flyer on the bulletin board. The first thing she notices is the paper, a small blue square, probably acidic, attached to the board by the thin metal line of a staple not yet turned to rust. It’s an invitation to the Restaurant of Object Permanence. To go, one is instructed to eat the flyer.

“Beneath the Crust” by Phil Dyer

The zone we drop into is softer than the digger likes, so the foodies lead the way from the start. Three, for a heavy crew, each of us with our own technique. Fold murmurs mantras aloud, rhythmic repetition, the crunch of crust, the crunch of crust. The new hire is next, silent, head down, hands clasped. Maybe looking at videos in her visor. I do best with just the drugs. No distractions. I imagine the salty rice-paste crust of tiger bread, capture the smell, the taste, the texture of the craggy shell, imagine biting down to yes, the crunch of crust. I want it. I focus on wanting it. The soft, steaming inside is good, I spare a thought for it, but what’s important is the crust.

“Midwifery of Gods: A Primer For Mortals” by Amanda Helms

Long have midwives passed on their knowledge of birthing: proper positioning, how to turn a babe, breathing techniques, and so on. Some guides, such as Kailiona’s Extraordinary Births, cover the delivery of a demigod from a human and a human babe from an animal. Little, however, has been recorded of the most uncommon births, those of gods. No extant handbook includes the terrifying circumstances wherein mortals are called upon to help deliver gods’ progeny.

“When There Is Sugar” by Leonard Richardson

The articulated toes of the oven’s three feet grasped for purchase in the mud. Berl looked it over. It was a forge for bread: a three-legged rectangular prism with a cavity running through it, warmed by some magical source. A second, solid prism dangled from the first, forming a somewhat obscene counterweight between the two hind legs. The oven hissed as it turned rain to steam, moving less than a living thing would, but more than an oven ought to move.

The Diabolical Plots Year Seven Lineup

written by David Steffen

For the past several years, Diabolical Plots has opened for submissions for an annual submission window during the month of July. This gives enough time to fully resolve the submission window before things start getting busy in August for The Long List Anthology production. In 2020, the pandemic threw us off our usual cadence and the submission window was postponed, to finally be held in January 2021. Since we are running on a bit of a tight schedule, we solicited a few to make sure that we would have some ready to fit in the schedule without gaps (we haven’t usually solicited any, so this is something new for us). For the submission window itself, 1938 stories were submitted by 1397 different writers. 120 of those stories were held for a final round, which resulted in 20 acceptances from the submission window, plus 4 solicited works that were accepted for a total of 24 for the year.

This submission window marked the first submission window since Ziv Wities became assistant editor! Thank you Ziv for helping to manage the submission queue and for your help with editing stories since the last window’s selections!

There are some familiar names, and at least some authors for whom this is their first professional short fiction publication! All of these stories will be published regularly on the Diabolical Plots site between April 2021 and March 2022, with each month being sent out to newsletter subscribers the month before.

This is the lineup order for the website.

April 2021
“The Day Fair For Guys Becoming Middle Managers” by Rachael K. Jones
“For Lack of a Bed” by John Wiswell

May 2021
“The PILGRIM’s Guide to Mars” by Monique Cuillerier
“Three Riddles and a Mid-Sized Sedan” by Lauren Ring

June 2021
“One More Angel” by Monica Joyce Evans
‘We Will Weather One Another Somehow” by Kristina Ten

July 2021
“Along Our Perforated Creases” by K.W. Colyard
“Kudzu” by Elizabeth Kestrel Rogers

August 2021
“Fermata” by Sarah Fannon
“The Art and Mystery of Thea Wells” by Alexandra Seidel

September 2021
“Rebuttal to Reviewers’ Comments on Edits for ‘Demonstration of a Novel Draconification Protocol on a Human Subject'” by Andrea Kriz
“A Guide to Snack Foods After the Apocalypse” by Rachael K. Jones

October 2021
“Audio Recording Left by the CEO of the Ranvannian Colony to Her Daughter, on the Survival Imperative of Maximising Market Profits” by Cassandra Khaw and Matt Dovey
“It’s Real Meat!™” by Kurt Pankau

November 2021
“Forced Fields” by Adam Gaylord
“Lies I Never Told You” by Jaxton Kimble

December 2021
“There’s An Art to It” by Brian Hugenbruch
“There Are Angels and They Are Utilitarians” by Jamie Wahls

January 2022
“Tides That Bind” by Cislyn Smith
“Delivery for 3C at Song View” by Marie Croke

February 2022
“The Galactic Induction Handbook” by Mark Vandersluis
“Coffee, Doughnuts, and Timeline Reverberations” by Cory Swanson

March 2022
“The House Diminished” by Devan Barlow
“The Assembly of Graves” by Rob E. Boley

DP FICTION #47C: “The Dictionary For Dreamers” by Cislyn Smith


(n) A sincere, though ultimately futile, effort to make right a wrong. Always involves books.

This. She didn’t mean to. It was a mistake.



1. (v) To get up from a position of repose.
2. (v) To become evident or apparent.

Time to get up. You arise from the bed, drifting, almost floating, toes straining down to reach the ground, arms flailing a bit for balance, before you thump-settle back into place.

Shake your head. Yes, that was odd. Still, you’ve forgotten about it by the time you’re dressed. Just one of those things.



(v) To be in the right and proper place, to fit in.

This is your home. Obviously. You feel it in your feet, the way they settle on the floor when you get out of bed. Just so. You feel it in the air. You crack your neck and stretch and just know. That’s how it is.



(n) A disguise to help someone or something blend in, a way to pretend that you belong.

The landscape shifts constantly, adjusting. For you. It’s subtle — a tree moves here, a car is further down the street and a different color there, and the sky is the exact shade you like just when you need it to be. You don’t notice it, consciously. You’re not meant to, after all. The back of your mind sees it, though, notices the effort, and relaxes. Yes. This is right. This is home. This is where you are meant to be.


There is a tiny part of you that thinks maybe the curtains should stay the same color, even if you do regret them two weeks after putting them up. That sometimes wonders, if just for a second, why the spice jars never run out of your favorite things and marvels at just how nice the neighbors are.

It’s easy to ignore.



1. (adv) Near
2. (adj) Dear
3. (v) To end

“I’m sorry, only close relatives are allowed after visiting hours.”



1. (n) The material included or addressed in a book, a movie, or a dream.
2. (adj) In a state of simple peace.




1. (adj) In the present. Right now.
2. (n) That which pulls you along in a given direction.

On a quiet city street, a man walks just in front of a woman, feet crunching in tandem on sidewalk snow. Suddenly, she speaks, her voice very clear in the cold morning air.

“Last night I dreamed I got pulled out to sea, and then there was a storm. I was trying to stay above water, but the storm was doing strange things to the waves. They started turning to glass and ice all around me — planed crystalline pieces splashing and curling up and crashing near me. It was beautiful, honestly. I felt so guilty, though. I couldn’t tell the difference between the glass and the ice, and so many things I touched were broken or melted as I scrambled to keep my head above water. I felt like I was breaking everything beautiful around me.”

He can’t help himself. He turns to the stranger in the blue peacoat behind him, who’s just shared this private little moment, and says, “You were only trying to stay alive.”

But now she’s moving past him, headphones on, looking down at the phone in her hand. The conversation wasn’t with him. “No, I woke up first. Sure. Sure. See you later.”

This is happening now.



(n) a tool for discovering meaning.

The truth points to itself.



1. (n) One who experiences a dreaming state, usually while asleep, moving through a world of ideas.
2. (n) One who yearns or wishes for something not in evidence.

“So, what do you think happens to the people in a dream?”

“You mean in general, or… what?”

“Like, when the dreamer wakes up, right?”

“God, you’re in a philosophy class aren’t you? Friends don’t let friends sign up for philosophy courses.”

“I’m not, actually. And there’s nothing wrong with philosophy! I just… never mind. It’s stupid anyway.”

“Oh, don’t be like that! Hey, where are you going?”



(n) An illustrative item.

White sheets, shadows stretched across them, and a prone form in the bed. There are monitors, beeping. Clear plastic tubing runs down from an IV stand, is taped to a bruised hand. Her closed eyes are not moving. She is lonely. She will be gone, soon. And then?



1. (preposition) Belonging to
2. (preposition) Because of
3. (preposition) Concerning, about
4. (preposition) In support of

Dictionary For Dreamers.



(v) To lose memory of something.

Evidently there was an accident. It was nothing to do with you. Should I send another book? I am inclined towards apologies.



1. (adj) Kind, tender
2. (v) To pacify

You are holding a leaf, turning it gently by the stem in the autumnal sunlight, watching the way the colors shift across its surface. Red. Orange. Green. Brown. There’s a whole year in your hand. You run a fingertip along each of the veins, being careful of the brittle edges, and then you place it — just so — back on the leaf pile where you found it.

The ground ripples as you walk away.



1. (n) Where the heart is.
2. (v) To return by instinct, back to the heart.

“Do you hear that?”

“Like someone crying, right? That is so weird.”

“Yeah. I thought I heard someone say ‘I just want to go home’ and then it started.”

“Did you leave the television on upstairs?”

“No, I’m sure I didn’t. I’ll go check, though. See if you can figure out where that’s coming from.”

“I can barely hear it now. What am I supposed to do, look under the couch and inside the fridge? There’d better not be anyone crying in there. Well now I can’t hear it at all. Hello? Are you coming back downstairs? Where’d you go?!”



1. (v) To fill someone with an urge to create
2. (v) To breathe in

You are all my muse. Exhale.



1. (v) To connect or link things together
2. (n) The seam or place where things come together

The handle of his favorite mug broke this morning when he grabbed it out of the kitchen cabinet. A handful of handle made him laugh a little, and now he sits at the kitchen table, superglue at hand, preparing to patch things up.

But first, he can’t help but touch the broken bit, exploring the gentle topography with his index finger. It reminds him of losing a tooth as a kid — it feels raw and exposed and he winces in sympathy, but still he probes the place which used to be whole, and now there’s a hole instead.

He’s surprised by the remnants of glue on the mug — how many times has this happened before? How could he not have noticed, or did he just forget? Surely it will be as good as new soon, though. Surely.



1. (v) To end life. To cause death.
2. (v) To put an end to a process.

Example: How soon is soon?



1. (v) To be in a horizontal state, resting.
2. (n) Untruth.

“Are you all right? You need to lie down or something?”

“No, I’m fine.”



1. (n) A polite form of address for a young woman.
2. (v) To fail to touch, to not make contact.
3. (v) To notice the absence of someone or something.

“Miss? Excuse me, miss? You can’t sleep here.”


“I can’t miss this connection.”


“Did you miss me?” (Yes. Yes. Yes.)



(n) The mind, moving, moving, moving

When you can’t sleep, and you’re staring at the ceiling in the dark, listening to all the little noises that seem so loud. You’re tired. You need to sleep. You know this. But you resist the temptation to check the time and roll over and try counting backwards, or maybe flexing your toes one at a time under the sheets, and feeling the thud of your heartbeat just so, interrupting your thoughts. Not that you’re thinking of anything. No. Just the sleep you need. Well, and maybe that thing you want to write, and now there’s a list of things half growing there in the space behind your eyes, disjoint and fragmented. If you manage to drift down into restlessness, the list will precipitate through your dreams, to-dos and phrases and fragments of numbered items settling in to the nonsense you think of as dreams, held together loosely by the tenuous threads of story your mind insists on imposing.

It’s OK. Let it go.



1. (adj) Having the interior accessible
2. (v) To cause to be receptive

“I can’t get this damned jar open.”

“What’s in it, anyway?”

“I don’t know. Could be anything. Beets. Confetti. Time. The stuff you keep in jars, right?”

“The stuff you keep in jars maybe. Here, give it to me.”

“I really think we might have to break it. It’s so stuck.”



1. (n) A substance deposited from a solution.
2. (v) To cause something to happen.


She stands in a snowy field, trees stark inked lines on the horizon. She’s young, in a warm blue peacoat, too-big hat sliding down over her eyes. Her mittened hands turn upward to the sky, gathering snowflakes, and then she presses them together. A sheet of white paper shifts from between her fuzzy palms to the ground, compressed from the crystals falling from the sky, and she opens her hands to the heavens again. And again. And again. The pages accumulate around her legs, piling up, faint and shadowy words smearing the white as the light fades.

She finally turns to look at you, but you’re gone.



1. (v) To give something life.
2. (v) To make something move faster.

Something is behind you, something dark and dangerous. You dare not look back. The hallway stretches ahead and behind, shadowy, the walls turning in ways that don’t quite make sense, as you run. Your steps quicken, and you can hear, far away, something rhythmic and mechanical. You move toward the sound.



(n) No. I’ve been defining reality for too long. Look up ‘gentle’ instead. That’s a nice one.



1. (v) To begin, as one does, at the beginning.
2. (v) To jump a little, in surprise.
3. (n) The beginning, where one begins.

I’m sorry. I don’t remember now. It’s been so long, and I’m tired.



1. (n) Opportunity
2. (v) Change direction
3. (v) Change state

“Go on, sweetie, it’s your turn now.”

The woman pushes the child toward the swimming pool. She takes two stumbling steps forward, bare feet on hot concrete, and then stops. The water shimmers, like glass, like ice. The orange waterwings are too tight on her arms, and there are too many people, and her tummy hurts, and it smells like chemicals and other people’s ambition. She turns and runs away through the crowd, past the too-long legs of her mother, back into the cool echoing darkness of the locker room. She just wants to get away. She isn’t watching her footing, on the water-slick tiles by the hard wooden benches and sharp metal lockers.

The world holds its breath.



(v) To be foundational, the cause of something.

It’s not a lie if it’s everywhere, if it’s underneath everything. Right? So why do I feel so guilty?



(n) One who sees more, though they may understand less.

The ladybug crawls along the back of your hand, having been liberated from the windowscreen. You’re looking closely at its spots, and the closer you look, the more there seems to be to see. Finally, you look away, half laughing. It almost felt as if something were looking back at you, from that infinite fractal regression of spots on spots on spots. You put the little insect outside, on a leaf.



1. (v) to arise from sleep, to stop a dream.
2. (n) A funerary vigil

“I’m sorry, but she’s never going to wake up. There’s nothing we can do.”



(n) A rock fragment differing in composition and origin from the rock or crystal enclosing it.

How did things get so strange? There aren’t enough books to make this right.



(pronoun) The person being addressed.

You never saw her. You were nearby — physically or conceptually — and were drawn in. You think this is about you, but that doesn’t make you vain. It has been. Mostly. About all of you. Go on now. Turn the page.

© 2018 by Cislyn Smith


Author’s Note: I’ve always been a semi-lucid dreamer, exploring weird dream worlds half aware and with an overwhelming sense of responsibility for the things happening in the dream environments. I had a dream one night wherein I earnestly tried to apologize to everyone I met, but nobody ever quite understood what I was saying or why. I woke up thinking I needed a dictionary to apologize properly, sat on that idea for a few days, and wrote this story shortly after.


Cislyn Smith likes playing pretend, playing games, and playing with words.  She calls Madison, Wisconsin home where she enjoys the company of three cats, some humans, and an assortment of cool bacteria. She has been known to crochet tentacles, write stories and poems at odd hours, and gallivant. She is occasionally dismayed by the lack of secret passages in her house. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in The Best of Electric Velocipede, Strange horizons, Star*Line, Remixt Magazine, and Flash Fiction Online.








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Announcing the Diabolical Plots Year Four Fiction Lineup!

written by David Steffen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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