Daily Science Fiction: July 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Whew. Just emptied a big pile of commitments on my desk and can finally get around to reviewing some excellent material. So while I’m going over August’s offerings, why don’t you take a gander at what July’s stories were all about.

 

Remembrance by David G. Uffelman (debut 7/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

The Old Mother of a herd of elephants hears news of grief from her distant counterpart. As she prepares to move the herd, to pay respects, she’s questioned by her eldest daughter and eventual successor. This is a good lesson for the younger, and for all. They set out on their journey because the Old Mother knows best.

What I didn’t know until after reading the story comments is that the human, the object of the elephants’ grief and respect, was based on Laurence Anthony. The “Elephant Whisperer.” I felt the tale was lovely, and after learning this fact, I gained a deeper appreciation for the entire story.

 

Memories like Bread, Words like Little White Stones by Cecile Cristofari (debut 7/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

When an elderly man loses his memories, his wife, unable to watch him drift away, picks up a summer job delivering mail. At first, she sees a postcard that reminds her of an earlier holiday.

Before long, like the real life postman (Ferdinand Cheval) who collected stones along his route to build a palace, the woman’s letters grew into a house. But in fiction, the house could become real, and inviting, and welcoming.

Beautifully written, the story builds, a piece at a time, toward a warm and peaceful conclusion.

 

Scramble! by Melissa Mead (debut 7/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

A twist on Humpty Dumpty, living on a different planet, guarding other eggs. When the king’s men knock him down, crack him, and refuse to put him back together again…

Humpty Dumpty gets even.

 

In Portal Worlds and Your Child: A Parent’s Guide (With Examples) by Matt Mikalatos (debut 7/4 and eviewed by Dustin Adams) we have a wonderful guide (with examples) of what to do, and how to react, should your child be able and inclined to travel or have traveled via portal to another world.

I appreciated the layout of the story, and following one particular girl through her travels there and back, but one thing hung me up a bit. On the one hand we have the guide, which begins firmly entrenched in the fantastic reality of a child– “Watch for imaginary friends, talking
animals, or strange behaviors (avoiding sidewalk cracks, fear of open closets, obsessively locking bedroom windows, etc.).” Which I loved, because I figured this would be a story that would leave me questioning my perception of reality. On the other hand, the story itself journeyed into the realm of fantasy, becoming its own fantastic world, which, for me, negated the “reality” of the earlier writing.

However, that said, this remains an enjoyable read. (And a handy guide.)

 

Memories of Mirrored Worlds, by Barbara A. Barnett (debut 7/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) gives us glimpses of the life of Alison Marie, Queen of the Nightlands, daughter of reality, and Servant of Death. This tale is filled with the melancholy of someone who is physically torn between two worlds, but also emotionally. Alison Marie wishes to return to the world where she is a queen, and is visited many times over her life by those beckoning for her return, but she cannot because to go is to forget her own mother.

While I appreciated the sadness and the duality within Alison Marie, I felt somewhat let down by the introduction of a new character late in the story, who is granted that which Alison Marie cannot have. Seemed too easy.

 

Of Ash and Old Dreams by Sara Grey (debut 7/8 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

She is no longer a young girl sweeping ash from a fireplace and dreaming of true love; she is a queen. But her feet have grown fat and the glass slippers hurt to wear. The years wear on and the magic gown of her youth becomes a worn and faded reminder of the past. The parade of years will eventually turn her hair to grey and she can no longer muster the strength to attend the affairs beside her king, but what else can she do she is a queen?

This is a very good story that explores the concept of what happens after the ball where Cinderella meets her prince charming. The author has done a masterful job of capture the slow decay brought on by time and leads us to a place we all get to eventually. Well written and well-paced this is a very good story. Take the time to read it.

 

Tell Them of the Sky by A. T. Greenblatt (debut 7/8 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

She first came into his shop wearing a silk robe, the crÃ’ me color so out of place in the city. Aya plays with the toy birds and kites, but doesn’t ask the question. Over the years she and Kitkun dance around her desire to know what is above the black layer of smog overhead. She asks about the sky, but isn’t ready to seek it. In time she goes to fight in the latest war and Kitkun fears he has lost her, but when she returns she is sadder and wiser. Will she seek the sky?

This is a nice story, well told and well-paced. In it you can find the quest of youth for the unknown and the determination to seek your dreams later in life. The characters are well drawn and the author does a very good job of building relationship. Give this one a read.

 

Bedtime Stories by Jayson Sanders (debut 7/10 and reviewed by Frank D). The Creator is putting down His children for their great sleep. They beg and plead that they are not ready, but it is time for them to go. They are due on last story before they make room for those who come next.

“Bedtime Stories” is a tale of a deity ushering out mankind. It is written as a loving parent tucking in their children for their nighttime rest. A brief and distant tale.

 

The Flight Stone by KJ Kabza (debut 7/11 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a starving orphaned girl selected to become an air knight. The airborne horses cannot handle a heavy load so the small and light are needed to fill the duty. The best chance to become a knight is to remain thin. Failure means expulsion. As cruel as the school is, it is far better than the streets.

“The Flight Stone” is a tale of desperation. The children have nothing but the school, but to remain, they have to weigh almost nothing. Even the smallest of growth spurts dooms a candidate. This tale is a metaphor for the conditions that creates bulimia. The story is difficult to get through and sad. Knowing why air knights are so important would have helped. Without it, the tale was nothing more than a needless child abuse story to me.

 

A fighter climbs into unlucky number thirteen in On The Big-Fisted Circuit by Cat Rambo (debut 7/12 and reviewed by Frank D). Jane is a mecha-suit fighter, battling in four story robots for the honor of corporate sponsors. The suit has twelve previous pilots, and thirteen is the unwritten limit of a suit. The previous pilot backed out but that isn’t an option for Jane. She fights so her impoverished family will have a better life, and fights like this pay too well, even when the outcome is ordained.

“On The Big-Fisted Circuit” is Riley in an Aliens hydraulic suit set in a Real Steel premise. Jane has a problem many up-and-coming athletes have today; they are the sum of the hopes and dreams of their impoverished family. The self-sacrificing premise is a common one and made this story of Ms Rambo’s disappointing and impressive at the same time for me. The storyline was a thin one, and its outcome predictable. It is a testament to Ms Rambo’s skill that she could stretch it out and compile it to make it more than it really was. Nevertheless, “Big-Fisted” was a story I’ve heard before. Only the setting, and Ms Rambo’s fresh paint, gave it an original feel.

 

A married couple shops for fruit in Theories of Pain by Rose Lemberg (debut 7/15 and reviewed by Frank D). The two characters in this tale buy an apple, wait for it to rot, while they live their life. The changing events are like the different textures of fruit (or I could be completely wrong).

Truthfully, I’m not sure what this was about. I couldn’t make the connections between the analogies and metaphors the author was after. The point of the piece was lost on me.

 

A persistent novelist makes his pitch to a publisher in Diamond Doubles by Eric Brown (debut 7/16 and reviewed by Frank D). A series of letters is presented as a possible explanation for the disappearance of a book publisher. The letters are a series of pitches, accompanied by manuscripts, speaking of life in the far future, written by a “T Traveler”. They hint of the authors past, and of our distant future.

This tongue and cheek tale has a premise that is quite predictable. Cute.

 

A hasty hostage taking creates a new opportunity for the protagonist in The Negotiation by D. Thomas Minton (debut 7/17 and reviewed by Frank D). Samson is a desperate man, down on his luck with a series of bad choices has led him to strap explosives to his chest, demanding money from a bank. Alexandre used to hold a job to deal with poor souls like Samson: attempt to appeal to their good side and save them for themselves. He was terrible at it. Samson presents a new opportunity for Alexandre, and this job appeals to his previous weakness. He just needs Samson to cooperate.

The premise to this story relies on the twist. A bit out of the blue (the twist) but a good one nevertheless. Not bad.

 

A temporal maintenance worker follows time tourists in Join Our Team of Time Travel Professionals by Sarah Pinsker(debut 7/18 and reviewed by Frank D). Its Magda’s first day of her job. She is a disguised bag lady tailing tourists of the future in modern day New York. Her job is to pick up the trash they leave behind , remnants of the future , and follow them until the pick-up point. Then it occurs to her, what if she misses the pick-up point?

“Join Our Team” examines the menial work of time travel. It is cheaper to hire people like Magda to pick up after time tourists then it is to train the tourists to blend in the past. Magda needs this job , so much she didn’t read the fine print when she signed her contract. Amusing little piece.

 

For Your Protection by Steven Mathes (debut 7/19 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Joseph has his weekly appointment for a brain scan. He prepares himself, both physically and mentally: new clothes and reminders to not answer the voices in his head out loud. As he nears the park the female voice tells him to take a cab; he resists but finally hails a car. Halfway around the park the air shimmers and the veil drops, trapping most of the people inside. By the time he gets to the mental health center only a few bots are left chasing papers that are blowing in the wind. He turns and heads into the center with the waiting scanner.

This is the beginning of a really good story, but unfortunately this tale doesn’t live up to the promise of these early scenes. The world Joseph inhabits is a mishmash of crazy, aliens and intrigue, but the reader is never sure which. This can be a decent premise if well handled; this one wasn’t and I never developed a real affinity for Joseph or a good sense for his world. I would have liked more.

 

Demonic Summoning, Ratings and Reviews by Simon Kewin (debut 7/19 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

This collection of ratings is a summary of user’s reviews for the app Demonic Summoning. It seems the users found the app to work less well than expected, unless the instructions are followed explicitly. Even then mixed reviews seem to indicate some difficulty with making the app run properly. A few users were cut off mid review, indicating the software may contain discontinuities of a critical nature. Still the developer does ensure that these issues will be corrected and encourages prospective users to give it a try. I will report on our success as soon as I can locate my researcher.

This is a very cleverly done little ditty done as a collection of user reviews of software for summoning demons. The author has done a good job of leading us along with the path from negative reviews, to positive reviews, to downright scary results. A nicely done ending caps the thing off. It may not be your cup of tea, but I enjoyed it immensely.

 

An enticing invitation to an unknown destination tempts an overworked student in Breaking Orbit by Rachael Acks (debut 7/23 and reviewed by Frank D). A dragon rolls up to the platform in place of Ayako’s usual train. It tells Ayako to jump on, but the wary student hesitates. A homeless man warns Ayako that the dragon will stop coming if she keeps refusing, but what good can come from pursuing a whim?

“Breaking Orbit” is a tale of choices. The dragon represents the sum of Ayako’s dreams. She has responsibilities with her education. Would it be wise to turn her back on them? The tale is a good metaphor for all who weigh of pursuing frivolity against boring practicality.

 

A time traveler helps a boy face his bullies in Sticks and Stones by Kevin Pickett (debut 7/24 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist stands next to a small child who is about to pummeled by four larger and meaner boys. The cloaked guardian has a way of evening the odds for the child who will grow up to do great things.

Not a bad time traveling tale. Didn’t catch the subtle twist until my second read.

 

Squeak by Emma Osbourne (debut 7/25 and reviewed by Frank D). Keesa wanted to be a lion, but instead becomes a mouse when her time for transformation arrives. She doesn’t understand why the gods refused her wish, until the hunters arrive.

Squeak is a story of faith. The protagonist learns why our prayers are sometimes ignored and how a curse can be a blessing in disguise. A good short tale.

 

By The Hands of Juan Peron by Eric James Stone (debut 7/26 and reviewed by Frank D).

Tomas Peron is summoned by his father, Juan Peron , Emperor of Latin America. The Emperor informs his Catholic priest son that he will be the next person in line to the throne. Tomas does not approve of his father’s heavy hand, nor does he like the Emperor’s treatment of the church, but Juan has trump card that can change Tomas’s mind. God exists, and he can prove it.

“By The Hands” is an alternative history tale involving the late Juan Peron of Argentina. His nation is the dominant nation of Earth in this timeline. Their technological superiority was made possible thanks to a crashed saucer and surviving alien in 1947. The Argentinian timeline is one of five diversions from a common historical thread marked by the dropping of the atomic bombs in World War II. The surviving alien, named Angelica, has said the multiple timelines are made possible by design and is watched over by the Prime Observer. The Observer decides which timeline is worthy to pursue and is usually determined by a major event that gathers His attention. The Argentinians have used the alien technology to keep tabs on the other timelines. Juan knows God (or Prime Observer) will erase all but one line, and he has a plan to make sure the Argentinian line that will be the one that must survive. So when one alternative timeline has discover the means to travel to other lines, Juan decides to execute a plan that will attract the attention of God so He will show favor on his world , a plan that will involve the death of millions.

I admit, nothing gets me excited like a well-planned work of alternative history. “By The Hands” is a tale that stays true to the genre. The premise is nicely detailed, complete with a firm set of rules. Juan Peron is a hundred year old man, still very much alive thanks to alien assisted rejuvenation technology. He rules with an iron hand, much to the dismay of Tomas. Tomas agrees to his father’s request to be his heir but has second thoughts when he grasps his fathers ‘ends-justifying-the-means’ plan for survival.

“By The Hands” is a good tale. True to history with teasers for histories that never were. If you like Alternative History as much as I, then you won’t want to miss this one.

 

He was the most expert programmer in the world, in The Programmer and the Social Worker, or, A Love Story about Feature Creep by Tina Connolly (debut 7/29 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), but when his wife fell sick he packed up his seven laptops, unrolled CAT6 cable, and escaped to the cellar. She went to work, shopped, read her library books and slept alone. After seven days he emerged with bloodshot eyes and full of caffeine. He drug her to Sweden for the cure. Each time they put her under she demurred, but they cajoled, pleaded and begged until she relented. In the end she was permanently cured, her code perfected. But would the feature creep end the love story?

This is a strange little tale. Lots of computer speak and gobbledygook to wade through, but underneath is a nice love story and two opposites. The story winds on, with the programmer driven to save his wife, she trying to hold on to the normal. He succeeds beyond his wildest imagination, or at least hers, but in doing so she starts to leave him behind. When she turns back to beckon him to her, will he follow? I liked this story, not as much as some, but the subtext was quite endearing. Give it a try.

 

Super-Parents Last All Childhood Long by Erica L. Satifka (debut 7/30 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Caleb planned to break up with Shora after the movie, but when they got back to her room and she removed her shirt, he couldn’t do it. Still she was crazy to believe her parents were robots. Well not crazy, but definitely strange. Later, he went to the bathroom and searched her medicine cabinet, but found no pills. She wasn’t crazy, just strange. Later, at the store, as he buys a paper to look for work he starts to notice how distant and remote people are. Just the result of today’s isolated society, or was it?

I never did get fully into this story. Maybe it was by design because it was drawing a comparison to the remoteness of interaction in today’s society and what we perceive as the blandness of robotic emotions. To me, however, the plot just never fully developed. It just sort of bumped along with the underlying subtext, but never drew me in to the characters.

 

A man is plagued by an object of his guilt in The Dollmaker’s Grief by Michelle M. Denham (debut 7/31 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist recognizes an android doll standing in a shop’s window. The object is a reminder of a dark and regrettable moment in his life. The doll is missing something, something the protagonist can never give it.

“The Dollmaker’s Grief” is a solemn tale with a depressing twist. I was impressed that the author managed to make a sad story even sadder.

 

Making Your Money Work For Youâ€

For a good three years Daily Science Fiction has been laying a foundation as an attraction. With an original distribution plan, a rate to attract the best talent, and a selection of material that spans the breadth of speculative fiction, the publication has become a magnet for readers around the world. In short, you couldn’t find a better billboard if drove the length of the Washington Beltway (go ahead and try, I dare ya).

If you have a book, event, film, or Fortune Five Hundred product (McDonalds or Coca-Cola would be fine), and you want to focus your message on a specific audience, you can’t find a better place than Daily Science Fiction. DSF‘s readers are not a group of comic book nerds who hide in the closet to read by flashlight. No. They were a group of comic book nerds who used to hide in the closet to read by flashlight, but are now doctors, lawyers, professors, and successful career business men and woman. They are bright, on the upper half of money earners, and above all, loyal. Your Ad showcased on the electronic pages of DSF will be seen and your item will be noticed. Looking for an edge in a crowded market? Daily Science Fiction will help your product stand out in a crowd.

And because the friends of our friends are Diabolical Plots’ friends, here is this month’s bio featuring Daily SF‘s first advertising customer.

 

UFO2cover-200x300Why does science fiction and fantasy have to be so serious? Who says it has to be?

Alex Shvartsman (got to be funny with a name like that) has given us his latest anthology of side-splitting works of speculative fiction. Unidentified Funny Objects 2 is now available for purchase. Featuring original works from Mike Resnick, Robert Silverberg, Ken Liu, and Tim Pratt (to name just a few), UFO2 promises to be a hit. It’s funny. I should know, and I’m not saying that just because I helped to pick them out.

Associate Editor’s pick: “Class Action Orc” by James Beamon. Some lawyer jokes just never get old.

Daily Science Fiction: September 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

We would like to share an announcement for the opening of the third year of Daily Science Fiction. The very successful publication has been running on the sheer determination of two editors. Well, the weight of responsibilities of putting out a fresh story five days a week, and the reading of the enormous pile of submissions, has been much to bear for Jon and Michele. So they did what any wise and overworked editors would do, accept help.

Daily SF‘s crew has become a bit larger. 5 new editors have arrived to help the dynamic duo. Who are they? Sure, I’ll introduce them, but first this month’s reviewsâ€

 

In “The Gifter” by Torrey Podmajersky (debut 9/3 and reviewed by Anonymous), a young person, a gifter, is being interviewed by her senior at work. Her role is to give people things, things that will help them, and she has been selecting some rather odd gifts of late. She gave chickenpox to a child so that he could have a play-date with another child who also had chickenpox. She gave two cases of gonorrhea to a woman and her husband so that the woman would have the proof of her husband’s infidelities.

The gifter is, of course, a faery and her faery boss frowns on her style of ‘gifts’, preferring the sort of happy gift he used to give before his promotion to management. She is suspended, but she still has a final gift to give.

I loved this short story and thought it nicely done. My writer’s eye caught the twist before it happened, but it still worked beautifully for me. The ‘gifts’ were great and wonderfully selected. Six out seven rocket dragons.

Recommended.

 

A curator of a library receives his first visitor in five millennia in “Summer Reading” by Ken Liu (debut 9/4 and reviewed by Frank D). CN-344315 was designed to watch over the collective knowledge of mankind’s existence while on Earth. The human race had left for the stars long ago. What had once been a museum world that attracted pilgrims to see man’s cradle of civilization, is now a forgotten planet. The data files, no longer viewed, have been recycled as scrap. He now is relegated to take care of brittle books. All that is left of a form of information reviewing long dead before the library was built, is a few hundred books. They are precious and priceless and his lone purpose in life. Then the unimaginable happens, a visitor in the form of a little girl , and she would like to read one of the books.

Summer Reading” is set in a fascinating future. The protagonist of this tale is a nostalgic robot. He has taken great care of preserving the deteriorating pages of the last books known to exist. The thought of allowing this small girl to hold one appalls him but he is forced to recognize what the purposes of the books once were. What happens next is magical.

I have read a lot of Ken Liu over the past couple of years. He rarely disappoints me. The timing of this tale coincides the day after he received a Hugo. The theme of it is fitting. “Summer Reading” is a story any writer can appreciate and any parent who has read to a child can love. I have much more to say about it but I would hate to ruin the reading experience for you.

Recommended.

 

Brietta would like a change in “Third Time’s a Charm” by Melanie Rees (debut 9/5 and reviewed by Frank D). She is bored and embarrassed. Her mother has dragged the teenager to the carnival. She feels like she is being treated like a kid and so much wants to be like the blonde girl surrounded by cute boys. There is something familiar about the girl as she stares enviously at her. A woman selling trinkets has an amulet that will grant Brietta her wish, once again.

Third Time” is a ‘grass is greener’ story. Brietta is a girl who isn’t sure what she wants but knows whatever she has now isn’t it. The story is heavy on set up. The majority of the piece examines Brietta’s teenager feelings. It made the tale slow but teed up a very good twist. I did wonder how far we were into an endless loop but the question is probably irrelevant anyway.

 

Joel reaches out to an abused android in “The Touch of Love” by Day Al-Mohamed (debut 9/6 and reviewed by Frank D). The Loveland Companion model 6739 (Honey) has been severely damaged by its owner and husband. The android companion has been sent to be repaired and captures the mechanic’s sympathy and affection. Joel professes his love for her. Honey returns her love, the only way she knows how.

The warning the editors post at the beginning of the story is one readers should heed. “The Touch” is a strong commentary on abuse. I found the tale strongly written with a unique poetic justice conclusion, but the events of the piece are indeed disturbing. If you are easily offended, avoid.

 

There is a ghost living in Jeremy’s closet, in “A Silly Love Story” by Nicole Cipri (debut 9/7 and reviewed by Frank D), and that isn’t the oddest thing in his life. The ghost is harmless to all but Jeremy’s clothes, turning his t-shirts inside out and steadily unraveling the fabric of his only suit. Jeremy tells his close friend, cupcake connoisseur Merion, of his strange haunting. The two friends devise a plan to reach out to the thing hidden in Jeremy’s closet.

A Silly Love Story” is a fitting title to this tale. It is a weird story of two odd friends shielding their feelings from each other. Merion is bi-gendered, her/his sex changes from day-to-day. Merion and Jeremy hang together as awkward friends. Their conversations are hypothetical ‘what if?’ scenario’s. The tale is told from Jeremy’s perspective. He is in love with Merion. The reader can sense the feelings are mutual but Jeremy values their friendship too much to risk damaging it by telling Merion so.

This odd tale intrigued me to want to know more about the author so I paid a visit to her blog. I learned “A Silly Love Story” is an autobiographical work of fiction. A question posed to Nicole, that 99.999% of the population would find insulting, was the inspiration for this tale. It made me appreciate this story more. Despite the very odd circumstances in this premise, the Jeremy and Merion story is a relationship most of us have seen before, close friends who hide their true feelings from each other. It can be sad and sweet at the same time.

A Silly Love Story” is not for everyone. Reading about Merion and Jeremy might tell you a bit about yourself. Prejudices run very deep within us. An involuntary reaction in your soul, as you absorb the vision of Merion, and Jeremy’s feelings toward him/her, is natural. When you feel it, give Nicole Cipri’s blog a visit.

 

Erin needs help with a stitch in “Falling, Rising” by Leah Thomas (debut 9/10 and reviewed by Frank D). Erin is just like her mother, dead. She died in a car accident but rose from the coroner’s table (a common occurrence). The living girls her age don’t take kindly to the undead, and do their best to make her know it. The dead don’t feel pain, but even so, mothers are always there to make things better.

Falling, Rising” is a tale where the dead live a second life. They will attempt to carry on where they left off but must deal with a prejudice from the living. The tale was too brief for me. I would have liked to adjust to the characters a bit more.

 

Simon cannot say goodbye in “Mortless” by Henry Szabranski (debut 9/11 and reviewed by Frank D). His wife has died in a plane crash. His money, and clone technology, can bring her back just as she was before. But he wants her back the way he prefers.

Mortless” is a tale of man used to getting his way. Simon refuses to let go and the story slides into a spoiled temper tantrum. He is a selfish protagonist and any sympathy for him goes out the window halfway through the short tale.

 

James and Fredrick have come to the Dragon’s Lair in search of gold in “Fool’s Gold” by Frank Dutkiewicz (debut 9/12 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Seeking escape from their menial lives they are willing to risk in exchange. Their quest appears to be successful as they relish the pile of gold and jewels they have found, until James wonders aloud what a dragon needs with a pile of gold and jewels.

Nicely set up little tale, and I liked the ending. I did have an issue with some of the choices, such as, “…his expression matching the farmer’s they crossed when they admitted they were headed for Cirole’s cave.” That phrasing seemed a little odd. Overall though it was well written.

 

“Old Friends” by Shane Wilwand (debut 9/13 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a blue robot. His master is dissecting his friend, robot J1-A. His master says J1-A will be improved. Since it is that easyâ€

Old Friends” is a reversal Frankenstein tale. Short and cute.

 

An imprisoned princess has a voice in her head in “Said the Princess” by Dani Atkinson (debut 9/14 and reviewed by Frank D), and it is out to help her anyway it can. Princess Andrienna is being held in an ivory tower. She is the prisoner of a jealous witch, information provided to the reader by an ominous third-person narrator. Andrienna can hear every word the strange voice says in his fairy tale-esque narration. Where he came from, Andrienna doesn’t know, but a third person narrator has a perspective that proves beneficial.

Said the Princess” is an idea I wished I thought of. A voice that described every action you made would drive most people crazy, but the resourceful Princess uses it to her advantage. The villain of the tale is a crafty sorceress – an excellent antagonist for a brilliant, funny, and delightful tale.

I know enough about humorous stories set in a speculative fiction genre to say not everyone will like this tale, but I honestly don’t know how you couldn’t like it. One of the funniest stories (this is coming from a guy who read slush for a pro-level humor anthology, and judged a humor contest) I have read this year.

Recommended.

 

A politician is looking for an edge in “The Whisper” by Douglas Sterling (debut 9/17 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a Senator. He is about to download the latest in information technology; the Whisper. Whisper is twitter for your subconscious. It lets you know of events as they happen. With Whisper, information is instantaneous. But beware of Spamâ€

The Whisper” is a tale that gives you a taste of what may come. It comes with a moral that everything has a price, and nothing is for free. Interesting but an idea like this deserved a storyline that was less ominous.

 

A conqueror’s guide to global dominance is the theme of “Triumph” by Robert Reed (debut 9/18 and reviewed by Frank D). The narrator of this tale instructs the path to achieving conquest. It starts as a simple survey, a feeler to see if the natives know how to execute the plan. Then details on how to shove humanity into chaos, making them do the heavy lifting. It will work, it always does.

Triumph” is†different. The story is written as a guide, but unravels as if the task has already been accomplished. The details are hazy but presented as if the answer was obvious. As a patriotic Earthling, I refuse to believe our world is that fragile or the plan could be that simple. In short, I had trouble buying into the premise.

 

Two professors compete to be the one who makes the greatest discovery ever in “Professor Jennifer Magda-Chichester’s Time Machine” by Julian Mortimer Smith (debut 9/19 and reviewed by Frank D), and will do anything to make it.

This humorous tale has two characters that are willing to change history in order to achieve fame. The protagonist brings new meaning to the term ‘going too far’. I found the story to be delightful.

 

Strict adherence to religious doctrine is for dinosaurs in “Intolerance” by VG Campen (debut 9/20 and reviewed by Frank D). Why pay attention to the small and furry preaching that the end is near?

You can’t miss the metaphor of this flash. Clever.

 

Missing something important to you? Penelope can find it for you. “Where You End and the World Begins” by Sam Ferree (debut 9/21 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of a woman who can find whatever has eluded you. An odd talent for a girl who is herself lost. It took her a week to realize the bearded man sitting her couch pontificating about the meaning of life was her roommate. Her newest client has a challenging request, she can’t find her shadow.

The storyline to “Where You End” is very much like the characters in this story, drifting without a direction to go. Penelope’s talent first became apparent when her mother lost her wedding ring. It was then she discovered missing items had a way of finding her. Penelope is a girl who has lost her home. Her parents divorced and moved away. Penelope lost her phone shortly after and her only means of contacting her parents.

I found Penelope to be intriguing. She interviews her clients, searching for the reasons why the objects they lost have left them. Often the reasons are metaphorical, as is the case with her current client.

On the author’s notes for this tale, he admits that he was a bit lost while writing it. The fact “Where You End” lacks a clear direction fits with how this tale turned out. I found the ending to be fantastic and I suspected it found the story instead of the author finding it. I can imagine a few readers wondering ‘what was that about?’ when they read “Where You End” but it is just the type of story that explains a lot without a question ever being asked.

This story is not for everyone but it was for me. Not a full recommendation but nevertheless, I liked it a lot.

 

A starship’s children have been promised a new home in “From the Divide” by Nathan Tavares (debut 9/24 and reviewed by Frank D), but they will have to leave the only home they’ve ever known to move there.

From the Divide” is a story told from the perspective of children raised aboard the sterile confines of a starship. The tale focuses on how change is not always embraced.

 

Even the undead need a hobby. In “Blood Oranges” by K C Shaw (debut 9/25 and reviewed by Frank D), Friedrich prefers cooking. Vampires have little use for tasty treats, however. But Friedrich is eager to impress his love, Nikolita. If only there was a way to get her to want and try a bite.

Blood Oranges” is dark. Vampires are the dominant species, keeping humans to follow them around like poodles on a leash. Friedrich is a talented chef. Nikolita could care less for the parfait he made but her young human thrall’s mouth waters when she gets a glimpse at it.

Blood Oranges” is meant to be disturbing. I think the author accomplished her task. The dishes in this story is would be fitting for a ghoulish ‘Food Channel’ in an alternative reality.

 

The last two members of humanity approach a new star system in “Last” by Rich Larson (debut 9/26 and reviewed by Frank D). The last man has abducted the last woman to join him on a new world. He is out to save mankind. Some things aren’t worth saving.

Last” is a brief tale that took me a second read to completely grasp what happened. I liked the ending.

 

“Lyria” by Miah Sonnel (debut 9/27 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). In the future, we have the technology through cybernetics to create stand-ins for the criminally minded. They are called drones.

In this story, someone who would be registered as a sex offender is due to be given a gender and age appropriate drone. His chance of relapse is high. The drone will help him reintegrate into society. So says his therapist–and the court. Guilt ridden and trapped by law is the programmer, the “father” of the drone. As he installs her finishing touches; his creation, understanding her future, speaks to him, and begs not to be powered down on her final night of freedom.

 

The protagonist is the ultimate infiltration unit in “My Mask, My Humanity” by D. Thomas Minton (debut 9/28 and reviewed by Frank D). He is a mimic , a man with the ability steal another’s DNA and memories to assume their identity. He is the property of a tyrant governing the Saturn moons. She has been winning a war to put down a rebellion. Her rival, Timothy Marcus, leads the rebellion. It is his job to find him and kill him. But to do this he must murder a man who was Marcus’s right hand lieutenant former lover and assume his memories. The job will bring out feelings that are not his, but he’s been trained to overlook them for his hard master.

My Mask” is a layered tale. The story evolves from a cold-hearted killer’s tale to a conflicted man’s dilemma. The protagonist’s master warns her tool ‘not to underestimate Marcus’. The first visual of the rebellion’s leader contradicts her warning but she proves to be far more prophetic than even she could know.

I found this tale’s premise to be remarkably similar to a twist of one of Mike Resnick’s popular novels. I like the set up to a twist I should have seen coming, but didn’t. A lengthy story , for DSF , but a solid science fiction tale in the classic definition of the term.

Recommended.

 

Daily SF’s Superfriendsâ€

Elektra Hammond: Elektra Hammond emulates her multisided idol Buckaroo Banzai by going in several directions at once. She’s been involved in the copyediting and proofreading end of publishing since the 1990s for presses small and large and nowadays concocts anthologies, is an editor and reviewer at buzzymag.com, reviews books for the TICA Trend, and is acquisitions editor for the Dark Quest Books imprint Sparkito Press. Her steampunk story “AThe Case of the Duchess=s Dog@” appears in the anthology In An Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk. Elektra lives in Delaware with her husband, Mike, and the cat herd of BlueBlaze/Benegesserit catteries. When not freelancing or appearing at science fiction conventions she travels the world judging cat shows. Find Elektra’s website at http://www.untilmidnight.com.

Rachel McDonald: Rachel McDonald started reading short stories regularly a few years ago when she started a real job and needed something shorter to read during her lunch break. Before that she mostly read novels of the huge epic fantasy variety (but with a hefty sprinkling of other forms of speculative fiction). The dream is to use her MA in Professional Writing and Editing to edit SFF novels; her current day job entails editing college criminal justice textbooks and their supplements while trying to get college professors to adhere to their project deadlines and follow directions. Rachel also works as a theater tech in her spare time and has discovered that the Tarzan and Oz novels make great backstage reading.

Sarah Overall: Sarah Overall is the head of the editorial department at UysFaber, a Toronto-based indie comics publisher. Since UysFaber is quite a small company, this means that she is the editorial department. She’s never been a department before, and rather likes it. When she isn’t beating errant commas and hyphens into submission, Sarah spends her time reading, gaming, and embroidering TARDISes.

Manuel Royal: Manuel Royal was born, like Tristram Shandy, with a broken nose. He will die. In between, he lives and writes in Atlanta.

Brian White: Brian White is the editor of Fireside Magazine, a multigenre fiction and comics magazine. His day job–well, it’s actually a night job–is on a newspaper copy desk. He lives near Boston with his wife, who is a theatrical lighting technician, and their two cats. You can find him online at his blog, Talk Wordy to Me, at talkwordy.com.

 

The new editors of Daily SF have assured Jon and Michele that they have plenty of experience editing. Their methodology is dated but their results are tried and true. They’re a little bit behind the technological eight ball but they are updating in an effort to get with the times. In fact, their clay mold typesetter is almost ready for production. Next week, Jon plans on introducing them to the wonders of electricity.

 

 

 

Independent Science Fiction

written by Samuel X. Brase

Science fiction often questions the value of success and happiness in the future,usually by contrasting what it means today against unreal alien circumstances. A couple of new short stories offer traditional answers, as well as food for thought when refracted onto the medium of their publication: independent e-magazines.

“Thief of Futures” by D. Thomas Minton demonstrates value in terms of wealth and talent; the story is only concerned with characters who are either rich or possess a very certain innate skill. Everyone else is consigned to the background. “Antiquities and Tangibles” by Tim Pratt examines value through connections and luck; the more social-oriented tools of achieving success and accruing value. Those without connections and luck have no chance of exploring happiness to the extent the main characters do.

On the other hand, the stories themselves have been made available for free on the Internet, by independent publications unrelated to major publishers and the traditional approach to literary success. The medium undercuts the message.

I’ve taken value as one of my main concerns because it opens up discussion to issues that are increasingly relevant within our current political situation. How much do we value corporations and how much leverage should we allow them? The same with political parties, the same with wealthy individuals. Where do we draw these lines, and how do those boundaries influence society?

Independent art reinterprets these questions through guerilla tactics: Free availability of art, approachable artists, new venues. Each tactic challenges formal institutions, such as corporate publishing, by providing alternative means of creating and enjoying art.

Redefining the value of art is important because it helps differentiate literature. Art death occurs when one set of teachers raise generations of students to believe the same lessons and dogma about writing. Established knowledge is not a bad thing, but it is something to be resisted, because progress doesn’t come from the establishment,progress is found on the boundaries, the edge of understanding and form.

Why is progress necessary? Maybe the establishment has it right.

Old forms of art cannot address the issues of contemporary society. Outdated tools are useful, instructional, and entertaining; but they lack the scope our present times demand. Thus, while the establishment may have been “right” when it became entrenched, it has little hope of being “right” now. Is there really any question that literary methods from fifty years ago are able to dig into the issues of our present day?

Independent science fiction can slide into this role. Stories such as “Thief of Futures” and “Antiquities and Tangibles” are the very beginning of the discussion; they speak from the status quo, but are presented through the new medium. Such juxtaposition reveals the demand our present times place on literature. Once the free and immediate nature of the Internet influences stories, twenty-first century fiction will truly begin to find its stride, and will separate itself from what came before. Science fiction is uniquely poised in this regard; as genre writing, it is forced to stand on the outside to begin with,all the better to test form and content. I encourage all writers of independent science fiction to let the medium seep into their writing, to let ideas of free and immediate fiction run wild.

Samuel X. Brase is the editor of Cosmic Vinegar, a monthly e-magazine dedicated to independent science fiction and politics. You can read more about the two stories discussed here in the November 2011 issue, available for free.