Daily Science Fiction: August 2013 Review

It’s almost Christmas and I’m still looking at summer stories. Time to get my rear in gear. Fortunately, August had some jewels to help me deal with the frigid weather.

 

An apology is like giving up a little piece of yourself, so says the author of Apology Accepted by Kathryn Felice Board (debut 8/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). Within the story, apologies cure on a physical, as well as emotional, level but come at the cost of the giver.

But what if the giver is a therapist, and people’s pain too unbearable for her to deny them a piece of herself, an apology from her to them? Would she eventually run out? If so, what kind of person would remain?

I thoroughly enjoyed this thought-provoking, emotional story. I imagine I’ll recollect it often in the days to come.

Recommended.

 

Inspired by a true story, For Sale by Owner by Kate Heartfield (debut 8/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) tells the tale of a man, Ron, who watches out his window, toward a cliff, for would-be jumpers. In a simple fashion, Ron invites them to his nearby home for “a cup of tea and a chat.” He has saved most, and lost many, but he himself endures stubbornly, seeking the day when his replacement comes along.

The mark of an extraordinary tale is one that makes all of life’s distractions disappear and loses the reader in the telling. This is one such story. This is why we read stories. This is why fiction exists, to enlighten the human condition, and to share it with others. This story, and the true story that inspired it, are both worth reading.

 

What could have been “another zombie story” turned out to be quite the opposite. In Zombie Widows by Natalie Graham (debut 8/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) we have a woman, recently widowed, who desperately misses her husband. Because zombies are created from any remaining DNA, a house must be purged of everything that once belonged to the deceased loved one, which makes for a sad tale indeed.

 

An abandoned pet waits vigilantly for his family to return in Sparg by Brian Trent (debut 8/6 and reviewed by Frank D). Sparg is making breakfast. He has observed his owners carefully during their morning ritual. The batter is difficult to stir, and bowl large to hold with his tentacles, but he so desperately seeks their approval and happiness. He is doing his best for them. Now if they were only hereâ€

“Sparg” is the tale of loneness. He is a squid-like pet living in a low gravity environment. Clever, loyal, and eager to please, he wonders what he could have done to make them leave so suddenly as they did. The dominant member of the human family , Deepvoice , mentioned something about a war as they rushed out the door.

“Sparg” is a unique tale told from the perspective of a very bright pet. Although I was never sure of his species (squid sounds right), it is clear that he is capable of far more than any ordinary human companion. You can feel the loneliness of the abandoned family member and can sympathize with him while he attempts to right any wrong he believes he has done.

From “Old Yeller” to “Lady and the Tramp”, I have experienced many pet tales before. This one was out of this world.

Recommended.

 

A man foresees his future in Memories of Forgetting by Kenneth S Kao (debut 8/7 and reviewed by Frank D). Memories of a life yet to be unravel for a young man when he is approached by his future wife. The memories surface only when she is near and fade as soon as she leaves.

Intriguing tale. Not bad.

 

A new apprentice discovers innovative and improvement has little chance against the ingrained and familiar. The Traveling Raven Problem by Ian Watson (debut 8/8 and reviewed by Frank D) follows Igar on his first day as an indentured servant for a carrier raven service. The Corvomaester has little use for his new helper’s questions and suggestions. The service has run on the same routine for three millennia. Clearly it isn’t broke, so there is nothing that needs fixed.

“The Traveling Raven” is a tale of entrenchment. Igar’s boss is uneducated and is comfortable with his position as Corvomaester. It is clear ‘new’ ideas fall way outside his comfort zone. The story is filled with back-and-forth dialog. The Corvomaester speaks a guttural dialect , very difficult to understand. Although I found the lesson of this tale intriguing, piecing together the speech of these characters was a chore.

 

Just Like Clockwork by K.G. Jewell (debut 8/9 and reviewed by Frank D). Hemiz is the zookeeper of a clockwork zoo. His animals are all mechanical works of dials, springs, and gears , except for the only Galactic Tech piece, the Shurilian lion. The lion is supposed to be indisputably accurate, so when its roar is slightly off in the zoo’s show, the perfectionist zookeeper won’t rest until he finds out why.

“Just Like Clockwork” is a sci-fi physics mystery. Earthquakes have plagued the technologically isolated planet of Krinnia ever since the Shurilian built their space elevator. The Shurilians have said their elevator has nothing to do with the quakes, and its lion is in tune with the planets rotation and cannot possibly be malfunctioning. Hemiz is sure all his clockwork animals are functioning as designed, and finds it unlikely his zoo animals couldn’t all be off at the same time. He has a theory, a theory that could prove dire for his world.

This story has a resolution I found cunning but the premise of two owners of a novelty attraction solving it I found difficult to believe. The villain of this piece was cut from the same cloth as a James Bond antagonist, foolishly revealing their plans for no good reason other to gloat.

 

A patient doesn’t know if he’s coming or going in Hiking in My Head by Gareth D Jones (debut 8/12 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is in a mental hospital, but doesn’t know why. He sees people in his head, yet cannot remember who they are or who he is. The doctor says he is cured but his brain doesn’t know it yet.

“Hiking” is a story based on a theory I’ve never heard of before, where some dreams are influenced by outside events are memories run in reverse. An odd tale I had to read twice to partially understand it.

 

Explorers find the edge of the world and discover what lies below. In Nova Verba, Mundus Novus by Ken Liu (debut 8/13 and reviewed by Frank D) the crew of the Sesquipedilian brave the Atlantean Ocean, and with the aid of an aerostat, float over its side. The world is as he Hindu’s describe it , a flat disc resting on the back of an elephant, who stands on a stack of turtles. The lower they descend, the simpler they become. What changes are in store for this brave crew?

“Nova” is a lighthearted, yet clever, work of flash from one of the brightest writers of our time.

 

A curse afflicts a bride in Seaweed by Mari Ness (debut 8/14 and reviewed by Frank D). The woman in this tale awakes in a blanket of seaweed every morning. Despite the best efforts of many in the kingdom, nothing can be done to halt this curse. She (and her husband) know from whence this curse came, and she is determined that her husband takes responsibility for his part.

This is an odd tale and I’m not quite sure if I got the point of it.

 

A depressed and lonely girl finds solace and companionship In Dreams by Jeremy Erman (debut 8/15 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist dreams of a place with purple skies every night. It is a place for people like herself, withdrawn and shunned. She meets a boy, establishes a relationship. Like romances in real life, the dream and their feelings for each other fade, but she does not leave the surreal place empty handed.

This brief tale has a twist that many readers may have missed. So subtle.

 

A man hired to find the meaning of life for the dying searches for the meaning of living in The Black Bough by Conor Powers-Smith (debut 8/16 and reviewed by Frank D). Louis Gibbs is a dreamer. He absorbs the complete memories of his clients , every second of their life , and reflects upon it to give them the answers that always eluded them. Louis has the memories of sixteen people in his head when he absorbed his latest client’s memories. Henry is a widower afflicted with a terminal disease. Before Louis can finish mulling over Henry’s past, Henry dies. It has happened before, but while contemplating his client’s memories, sadness overtakes him with the knowledge of what Henry children will think of their fathers passing.

“Black Bough” is a tale of reflection. The middle-aged Louis has little trouble separating the memories of clients twice his age from his own. He managed to perform his job with a detached distance surgeons need to do to be effective. Henry’s long but common life becomes a tipping point for Louis on the heels of tragic news , his leukemia has returned.

This protagonist in Powers-Smith’s tale is a man who is suddenly struck with issues when he was absent of them before. His news has left Philosophy major emotively empty. Searching for his own meaning in life would be incomplete. His business, with its abundance of memory files, can offer so much more.

I contemplated why Louis would choose the course of actions which led to the finale of this piece. Without spoiling the ending for you (if I haven’t already), I can only assume he wasn’t really searching for an answer. Rather, he just became overwhelmed with a reality he couldn’t handle. Intriguing story but I’m unsure of its meaning.

 

An unassuming sidekick receives his just rewards in Recognition by Bill Glover (debut 8/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a loyal assistant to a superhero, the Checked Avenger. He has an inconspicuous nature for a power – others fail to notice him when he is present. Despite his unpretentious gift, he has never failed to miss the superhero award banquet. It is quite unexpected when his boss receives an award, but what happens next surprises the protagonist most of all.

Liked the moral of this tale but I do wonder, considering his power, how did the protagonist manage to get invited to the banquet in the first place?

 

A mailman falls for an extrinsic, yet reclusive, mysterious woman in The Matchmaker by Sara Puls (debut 8/20 and reviewed by Frank D). Don has hand delivered packages to Ruthetta for thirty years. Always marked fragile, Ruthetta has hinted to Don that they are filled with fairy tale characters. Don has always been drawn to the bubbly but alone woman, but never had the courage to tell her how he felt. As the frequency begins to slow to a trickle, then not at all, Don worries that he has waited too long to express himself.

“The Matchmaker” is a two tiered love story. Ruthetta cares for fairy tale creatures, doing her best to find them someone that will care for them. Don worries that poor Ruthetta never bothered to think of herself. Sweet little story.

 

A ghostly alien wonders about the strange orbs that circle the stars in An Impossible Matter by Sylvia Anna Hiven (debut 8/21 and reviewed by Frank D). Thorn is drawn to the 3rd orb an alluring blue and green ball of matter circling a star. The Grand Patri tells his inquisitive underling that nothing of importance can exist on such things.

“An Impossible Matter” is a short tale told from a unique perspective. A new story from a well-worn idea.

 

A family visits Granny in Tomorrow is Winter by Callie Snow (debut 8/22 and reviewed by Frank D). In this dystopian future, the protagonist is a little girl accompanying her parents to a retirement home. The first day of winter is coming. The day is a holiday, of a sort, but is celebrated as if the cold that marks the season rarely happens anymore.

“Tomorrow is Winter” has a storyline that is half metaphor. The story is told from a growing child who sees the hypocrisy of the celebration. Her town is covered in a dome to protect it from the pollution outside, making observing any changes of seasons irrelevant. An intriguing angle to this tale is Isabella’s (protagonist) corrective protocols to monitor her behavior. She is equipped with some sort of Pavlov-ian device that shocks her for her social faux paus. I would have liked to know more of this subplot. “Tomorrow” had some intriguing aspects but their details were elusive. A deeper story would have been preferable.

 

A heartless girl contemplates her cold demeanor in A Change of Heart by Rachel Halpern (debut 8/23 and reviewed by Frank D). Clara is an unusual child. She is well aware that she lacks the emotional peaks and valleys she sees in others. She has learned to mimic feelings, mindful of responsive cues to simulate face expressions and appropriate verbal responses to emotive situations. Faking it hasn’t left Clara satisfied, and she is wondering if the empty space in her chest may have something to do with her wooden condition.

“A Change of Heart” is a Tin Man tale. Clara’s parents fill in the pieces for her when they show her a wooden box and explain of the unusual procedure Dr. Annin preformed that saved her life at a young age. Her heart was dying, so the doctor removed it and stored it in the box, where it still beats. As long as it remains in the box, Clara is safe and immortal, but Clara knows that a life without a beating heart is not a life at all.

I have mixed emotions about “A Change of Heart”. Although the story is a solid one, I felt it was longer than it needed to be. The narrative seemed to drag, as if the author had trouble telling an emotional tale through the eyes of a protagonist who lack emotions. The result was too much backhanded explanations, a simile or two too many, and long stretches of internal contemplations. I felt the tale could have been stronger as a short-short, or maybe, as a work of flash. Nevertheless, the concept was an interesting one. I can see why the editors decided to publish.

 

Friendship is the theme of A Crown of Woven Nails by Caroline M. Yoachim (debut 8/26 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a little girl who makes friends with a shape shifting alien. The Splitters came to Earth to help rebuild civilization after an atomic war. Gratitude evolves into suspicion as fear compels humanity to imprison the Splitters. The little girl remembers her friend, Cobalt, and tries to rekindle their friendship years later after the aliens are free, but people change, as do the aliens who change shape at will.

“A Crown” revolves around the memory of gift the protagonist receives from Cobalt when they were adolescents, a crown Cobalt transforms from discarded nails. The story is much like any story could tell from their own experiences , a memory of a long ago friend from an innocent time. Although the shape-shifting aliens gave it a new flavor, the story’s theme I found less than remarkable.

 

An unwanted guest has a habit of crashing weddings in Three Weddings and an Objection by M. M. Domaille (debut 8/27 and reviewed by Frank D). An off world ice fishing community celebration is interrupted by a defense probe, ruining a blessed couples special day. The guests all flee before the murderous probe mistakes them for a rebel assembly. Two more weddings are attempted but the probe still appears each time. Will love conquer all?

This tale set in an isolated setting has a usual angle to it. There is a slight twist to the story, and a slight appeal to the tale.

 

Psychic abilities ruin a love affair in Love is Orange, Love is Red by Eric James Stone (debut 8/28 and reviewed by Frank D). A sickness afflicts a couple that grants them the ability to sense the emotions of each other. Disappoint is the result when they discover their feelings don’t run at equal depths.

Mr. Stone explores the consequences of knowing exactly how another feels about you. The protagonist attempts to explain his mundane emotional state for his lover with an analogy of viewing colors differently. Intriguing tale but this passion driven story is told from an emotional distance. It loses its luster in the processes, giving it a clinical feel to it.

 

Flip Side by Chip Houser (debut 8/29 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

The woman sat beside the road in her tattered dress. She argued with herself about the past. Was the accident her fault? Was she driving too fast? Or was it Tommy’s for not watching where he was going? She throws her empty bottle in frustration. The old man eases his way across the street, dodging the crumbling asphalt and broken glass. Standing next to her he pulls out a bottle and holds it out to her. “Whiskey?” she asks. “Something better,” he replies. She drains the bottle, choking on the sickly sweet liquid. “You’ve poisoned me!” she cries. “No I’ve set you free,” he replies. “It will be better this time.”

“Flip Side” is a story about what could have been and what you would give to set the past right. The author deftly unfolds the tragedy that stunted this woman’s life, and shows us that there are worse things than death. He then offers us hope that someone out there will give us a second chance. Someone that will give us back the chance to make the right choice. I liked how well he did this and still found the room to paint such a vivid picture of the participants. This one is worth the read.

 

I’ll Never Find Another You by C J Paget (debut 8/30 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

He first sees her at the party. She’s dressed like a genie. There’s something familiar about her, but he can’t quite place it. He works his way over to her and they exchange banter, agreeing to flee the boredom of the party. She retrieves her coat from the Jag and follows him to his Audi. “Nice car,” he says. “It’s stolen,” she replies. As they drive she asks about finance, and quantum mechanics. At his place he opens the gate and watches her face, the disappointment is obvious. “Not what you expected?” he asks. She shakes her head like it doesn’t belong there. “Now what’s this all about he asks?” “Quantum Mechanics,” she replies.

This story meanders along the trail of alternate universes and what-could-have-beens, ending in the only way it could. The author takes their time laying out the premise, which doesn’t help in my mind. Once you get to the end you’ll find you don’t care much for either of the two characters that populate the story. It has some interesting premises, but the inherent flaws in the characters are just too much to get past. I found myself hoping for the end to come, and it didn’t come fast enough.

 

Sound Check

A few reviews ago, I suggested the editors take a look into the audio market to help get their vast library out there. They responded to me by offering me the audio editor’s job. After sending several unanswered queries to the largest audio publishers out there, I can confidently confirm that I suck as an audio editor. I am clearly out of league but do firmly believe that an audio version of Not Just Rockets and Robots would be a hit. So†.

I am asking for help, advice, a shovel to help me dig out of this hole that I am in, to get Daily SF on its rightful place in the audio section of literature. Anyone got anything for me?

snapperFrank Dutkiewicz needs no introduction.

Daily Science Fiction: February 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

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

On to this month’s review!

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Recommended.


Welcomed competition…

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

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

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

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

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


stork carrying baby

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

See David? Told you could trust me!