Interview: Frank Dutkiewicz

interviewed by Carl Slaughter

IMG_20120830_182040_092We asked Frank a long time ago if he would be so kind answer a few questions for us. He said he would as soon as he found a little time. Months went by with excuses like I have to wash my hair, and I need to clean my fingernails, or I got to pick up the dog poop in my yard today, on why he couldn’t give us a few minutes. So we popped in for a visit where we threw a burlap bag over his head, hogtied him, threw him in the back of a trunk, and took him to an undisclosed location to a dark room with hot lights glaring in his face.

 

Thank you for joining us today.

Pleasure to be here. Could you cut the plastic zip-ties around my wrists, please? I can’t feel my fingers.

 

When I first started reading your stories several years ago, your material was barely marketable. You’ve had 2 stories in Daily Science Fiction and you climbed to the top of the Writers of the Future contest. What happened in the interim?

Life. A new job, growing kids, and other responsibilities (car and house maintenance) that take precedence. Writing is but a hobby for me , an activity to help sharpen my dulling mind and keep me preoccupied in a job that keeps me away from home for long stretches of time.

On the writing front: not much. I’ve taken on new responsibilities that are tied to my ‘hobby’ but grant me less time to create new works of fiction. In other words , I am submitting less than I have in the past but I’m not quite out of the game.

 

You were slush editor for Unidentified Funny Objects anthology and the On the Premises humor contest. One of your Daily Science Fiction stories was humor and “Intergalactic Nuisance” was borderline riotous. Why humor?

Because I like it. There is no shortage of great works of speculative fiction but not a lot of it is humorous. It’s difficult to pull off and opinions on what is, and isn’t, funny, vary. I need not go any further than my slush reading duties at UFO to prove that. Alex Shvartsman (UFO editor) has a half-dozen slush readers for his annual project. Alex has told me that he has yet to receive a submission that received a unanimous yes from all his helpers.

 

Rom Zom Com. I’m guessing that stands for romance, zombie, and comedy. Is that like Shawn of the Dead and Warm Bodies?

Couldn’t tell you, I never saw either movie before. I just saw their guidelines. They were looking for humorous zombie tales and I just happened to have one in my files I wrote for an in-house contest for one of my writer groups. I submitted it and they bought it.

 

Why is it significant that other review zines don’t cover Daily Science Fiction? Or to put it reversely, why is it significant that Diabolical Plots covers Daily Science Fiction and is the only review zine that does?

I don’t know why other review zines ignore DSF. I was reviewing for Tangent Online when the publication first came to life. I recommended that we at least try to review it but the editor wanted nothing to do with it. As I recall, he said they had too much material to review and that their business model likely doomed them to obscurity and predicted it would close soon. I disagreed and felt the publication deserved a measure of recognition for their herculean effort. So after to being rebuffed by the Tangent Online editor, repeatedly, I asked David Steffen at Diabolical Plots if he’d be willing to host my reviews.

The reason why it is significant that Daily Science Fiction is covered (I am grateful to David for posting the reviews all these years) is that the DSF editors and their authors deserve the satisfaction to know that their work has been read. It’s a good publication, outstanding in fact. The price for subscription is affordable (free). Their distribution is innovative (daily email), and the talent is first class. They attract the best speculative writers and publish more first time authors then any professionally rated publication. The editors of DSF deserve more than just a review or two, they deserve an award for all they’ve done for speculative fiction these past few years.

 

You’ve been reviewing Daily Science Fiction for 4 years. They publish 20 stories a month, so that’s a lot of grunt work, even if 4 out of 5 stories per week are flash. Why stay on this beat for so long?

Commitment, stubbornness, loyalty , take your pick. I did it for so long because I enjoyed reviewing and reading DSF.

 

Lois Tilton cranks out that kind of volume and more, but she reviews full time. How do you accomplish that feat and hold down a full time non-literary job at the same time?

It is taxing, I confess. Without the help of my colleagues James Hanzelka and Dustin Adams, I would have thrown in the towel long ago. My first review received a positive response from many who read it and from the editors of DSF. Encouraged by the feedback, I vowed to keep at it and decided I would continue to do so as long as my reviews were within six months of current published works. Alas, that mark was crossed this summer (I had a lot going on). My reviews of the publication have ceased (I have one last month I need to finish). I enjoyed doing them very much but they had started to become a chore to maintain, so with much regrets, my next review of DSF will likely be my last.

 

You’ve been reviewing the Writers of the Future anthology for 6 years. Again, why the longstanding interest in that market?

My first one was written as an analysis of the winning stories. I started reviewing the publication about the same time I started to submit to them. At the time of my first WotF review, Diabolical Plots first came online. I asked David Steffen if he would be willing to post them. He was all over it.

The reviews of the contest are written from the perspective of a long time reader (I’ve been a fan of the anthology since it first debut decades ago), a submitter to the contest, and with the experience I’ve gained as a reviewer over the years. Studying the anthology to write the reviews has helped me to improve my standing in the contest , 2 finalist finishes, a semi-finalist honor, and over dozen Honorable Mentions.

 

What did you take away from your role with Unidentified Funny Objects?

Two things: Humor is subjective and I’m not as funny as I once believed. It is also the first true slushreading job I’ve ever done. I have sympathy for those who do it on a regular basis and no longer get offended when I receive a rejection now. I also have had this theory confirmed:
a) Not everyone will agree on what is funny and…
b) Everyone can agree on what isn’t funny

We got a lot of submissions where you could feel the writer giggling as they jotted the funny idea in their heads on their computer screens. There was a lot of eye rolling, head shaking, and groaning done as I read the slush. It became clear to me that humor isn’t for everyone.

However, we also had a few I thought were brilliant but not enough of my colleagues shared my opinion. Truthfully, some of the funniest submissions we received (IMO) didn’t make it in. Not everyone’s funny bone responds the same way, I guess.

 

Same question for the On the Premises contest.

I adore On The Premises. The editors are the slushreaders. They whittle down the submissions to a handful and send them to the judges to read. The prize money, although not pro-paying, is enough to make it alluring. They’ve made it a blind read contest , the authors names are not known to the editors or judges during the contest. I’ve come to regard it as a great place to practice if you like to submit to contest publications like Writers of the Future or Glimmer Train. What helps to make them unique is the editors will (for a fee) critique your story if you fail to make their top ten. I’ve learned a lot about my submissions from their critiques.

I had become such a regular to OTP (as a contestant and guest judge) that they made me a permanent fixture there as a fulltime judge, an honor I haven’t taken lightly.

 

Same question for Tangent.

It was an experience. My time there was short but I learned a lot from it, both positive and negative.

 

Why all this slushing and reviewing? Do you have your eye on a full time editing gig?

*snort* not unless I hit the Powerball jackpot, but what a dream. Can you imagine running your own professional paying publication? Got to have the money and time to burn to be able to do that.

 

Did you gain anything from participation in the Critters workshop? Why did you drop out?

Critters is an excellent place for beginners to start. You learn to critique and absorb real criticism from total strangers , both a prerequisite if you expect to stand a shot as a contributor in the speculative fiction industry. It’s also a great place to find friends who share in the passion of writing science fiction and fantasy. I recommend it to everyone to give it a try.

The reason why I don’t participate anymore is because I moved on and made room for other stuff.

 

Same question for Hatrack.

Hatrack is a good place for writers to congregate. It’s more personal than Critters and the feedback is almost immediate. Most of the stuff I’ve published came about thanks to a Hatrack writer’s challenge.

 

Same question for Codex.

Codex is that secret club your friends will tell you about that you can’t get in (you have to had made a professional sale or completed an accredited writers workshop to be eligible to be a member). They have some tough in house contests over there. Joining them is like being the big shot in middle school who learns he’s a nobody the first day of high school. It can be a little intimidating.

 

Care to share some invaluable, free wisdom with aspiring writers?

Sure. You’ll see this advice sooner or later…

…if you want to make it as a writer, you got to treat writing as if it is your job. Set goals every day , minimum word counts to target or a certain number of pages to complete, even when don’t feel like writing.

The best advice I can give you is to IGNORE that advice. Treat writing as if it’s your job? Jobs suck. The only reason why anyone goes to a job is because someone pays them to show up to do work. So unless you’re earning a living as a writer, you should never treat writing as it is your livelihood (or job).

Hobbies though, hmmm. We love our hobbies. We’ll spend money on a hobby. We’ll take classes, arrange for lessons, and read books so we can get better at them. Hell, most of us have schemed to get out of work so we can spend more time on a hobby. Hobbies are enjoyable things to do.

Writing requires passion. Sure, you can be passionate about your work but you’ll crave diving into a hobby. People love doing a hobby and you have to love writing to be any good at it. Hobbies are easy things to step away from and pick back up later (sometimes you just need a break). You can’t do that with a job. You’ll get fired. The fact is if you set it in your mind that you have to get a minimum amount done every day you’ll come to resent writing. Any job that is that demanding and is one you do for no pay, is an easy job to quit, and you really don’t want to quit anything that you pored that much passion into, do you?

So treat your writing as some do golfing, or bowling, or painting, or crafting. Do it because you want to. Do it because you want to get better at it. Do it because you hope to be good enough to have it become your job one day (it has happened before). To get that good requires patience, a long term commitment, and a ton of passion.

 

Thank you for your time.

Can I go home now?

 

Carl_eagleCarl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

Daily Science Fiction March Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

It has been a very long time since we last appeared. A busy schedule and active life is our excuse. My apologies to Rahul Kanakia for pestering him for an interview, then dropping off the face of the Earth. I recommend that you all visit his blog (very interesting, entertaining, and insightful) and consider reading his latest book.

With much regrets, next month’s review (April) will be our last. I won’t be getting all gushy with you about it now. I’m saving that for my next review (need to fill up some space). But please take a gander of our thoughts of March’s tales, then visit go Daily SF and read them for your own amusement.

 

“Wedding Day” by Brian Trent (debut 3/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Because this story relies on its secret, a review is impossible without :spoilers:

Men from the future have come back to marry some of the most brilliant women of our time before an asteroid strike. This is a cool idea, but I had trouble with some inconsistencies, like why are they so hungry? And certainly the asteroid didn’t destroy the planet or there would be no future men to travel back.

I did like the story because of the details and the teasing that something unusual was going on, leading us on just enough to get hit with the hammer of the last line.

 

“Love is a Component of This Story” by Liz Argall (debut 3/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Indeed, the title sums up this story about the customs of a foreign people, and two volunteers being tested/examined with various sexually stimulating scenarios and machines.

Although I couldn’t exactly find a connection between the two concepts, nor a reason for the female character being named Bruce, (a constant distraction) I found the story fun and easy to read. And of course, being a romance, with a most unique path to the characters’ meeting, I felt the aww factor.

 

“Luna City, At Night” by Karl El-Koura (debut 3/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Hard-edged descriptors give this story its grim feel of a future gone mechanical (automatic, not robotic). A man, a future player if you will, finds and beds women who he assumes are interested in his wealth, (his silver watches, and bulging wallet). He seems to be a working man, yet has money to allow the women to steal, in the night, when he pretends to be asleep.

Interesting concept that he accepts the women’s thievery as payment for getting what he wants, but is he happy in his mundane world of repetition? Only after a woman doesn’t follow through with the expected, does the man begin to see the unexpected.

 

The price for survival is a long outstanding debt. “The Alien Tithe” by Eric Brown (debut 3/6 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of colonists who crash landed on their new home. The native aliens saved and healed the survivors of the disaster but have demanded a tithe for their good deed. The story follows along the trek of one the colonists as he leads his children to the aliens to pay for the debt.

“Alien Tithe” is a chilling tale. The gratitude the colonists had to their alien hosts has evolved into a yoke of guilt. I found this short tale to be intriguing and told well.

Recommended

 

Life goes on after the world is dead. “Through Dry Places, Seeking Rest” by Megan Arkenberg (debut 3/7 and reviewed by Frank D). Is the tale of a mute. Civilization has collapsed shortly after angels have appeared. The protagonist’s brother was murdered and now he wanders alone, seeking a running train while he walks the rotting planks and rusting rails that mark their mythical tracks.

The protagonist of this tale is a drifter with no place to go. He has lost the last person who ever meant a thing to him in a world without hope, a metaphor that proves fitting for “Through Dry Places” theme. The story, like the protagonist, simply drifts without much of a purpose.

 

Holes are filled in a popular fairy tale. “All Upon A Time” by Dani Atkinson (debut 3/10 and reviewed by Frank D) is a series of backstory narratives around the Cinderella tale.

Cute.

 

A stop at a coffee house will put you in just the right mood. “Surprise Me” by Andrew Knighton (debut 3/11 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of Yan, a counter worker at a coffee house with gift of pouring the emotion you need into your cup. A special girl, a customer who always orders ‘surprise me’ has been the object of his affection. He has brewed himself up some courage for her arrival but needy customers, and the fading effects of coffee, may sap the drink’s powers before he can ask her for a date.

“Surprise Me” is a tale of a boy trying to gather the nerve to express his feelings. It serves as a neat metaphor on the awkwardness of dating.

 

Yeast from the stars stumble upon a horrible world. “We Don’t Believe That They Are Friendly” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 3/12 and reviewed by Frank D) is a report from a surveying crew of a yeast-based life form on their findings of an isolated world.

Fun piece.

 

“This Doesn’t Appear to Be the Alien I Paid For” by Andrea G. Stewart(debut 3/13 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Sir;
When my seven year old daughter asked for a pet I sensed an opportunity to teach her about the universe. After all I’d seen your ads everywhere, at work, watching holo, even while using the urinal. So we ordered the Plum eared Noggin offered in your catalogue. It arrived not in the seven days promised, but in 12; however I chalked this up to the fact that it had to travel half way across the universe. We immediately opened the package to ensure it arrived in good shape and were relieved to see the little heart monitor ticking along in time with the creatures beating heard. When the little fellow didn’t pupate within the two weeks as promised we made the first of our calls to your customer service department. They assured us that the pupation time can vary and we were relieved when a few weeks later the pupa was occupying the terrarium. However when the creature that emerged did not have cute pear shape ears as shown in your catalogue and had a red strip down its back a second call was made to your customer service. Unfortunately it would not be our last.

If you think dealing with earth-bound customer service desks can be trying, imagine dealing with one half ways across the known universe. That is exactly what this author imagined. He did an excellent job at it. This story is infused with a dry humor that really had me chuckling all the way through. Well Done, sir.

 

“The Sentence is Always Death” by Ken Gerber and Brian Hirt (debut 3/14 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

I’m forty-three, well beyond needing a nanny, but nanny is in the audience like she always is. It’s fitting she should be there since I’m taking the rap for her. There are a few cases ahead of mine. “Case 1201, Miz Gravona,” the Judge says. The alien shuffles up front. “Miz Gravona, given your crime the sentence is death.” Of course it is, the sentence is always death.

This is an involved tale of happenstance, planning and criminality. The author envisions a future where an individual can be “erased”, removed from their own existence; then imagines the possibilities that future presents. It is fairly well written, but could have used some trimming in places. This overwriting tended to detract from the story a bit, but it’s still a piece worth reading.

 

A bulimic girl returns home with a tool to help. “Measures and Countermeasures” by Beth Cato (debut 3/17 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of Colleen, a young woman whose eating disorder landed her in the hospital. Tonight is her first dinner, but she has smuggled in a piece of technology so she can keep her calorie intake low. If only her mother knew.

“Measures” is a story of trust. Colleen is like many girls with her disease, sure that the people that are trying to help her are against her. Ms Cato demonstrates trust runs deep. The ones truly in need have a small bit still in them that trusts we will do what is best for them.

 

A new god finds his first follower. “Produce 1:1-10″ by Mur Lafferty (debut 3/18 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a lesser god and His flock of one. New gods have been springing up everywhere, spreading their word on things like the merits of exercise at the gym and such. The protagonist is an atheist who stumbles upon the god weeping at her local Piggly Wiggly. The prices of healthy food are too high and the labels are misleading. The new god of supermarkets needs an advocate to bring the truth to the masses.

A light hearted tale.

 

The dead cannot move into the next world while Death morns his loss. “Death and His Lover” by Getty Hesse (debut 3/19 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale of the dark angel embracing the spirit of his lover. Death alone can open the Gates for the dead to travel beyond, but can’t bear to let his Jerome to leave. The din of the departed grows as they cry out to be released.

“Death” is a tale of closure. The angel knows too well the length of eternity and is unwilling to let his lover go. Touching.

 

The nanobots have come. “Goodnight, Raptor” by A. Merc Rustad (debut 3/20 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of the end of the world. Little Benny alone survives the destruction tiny nanobots have done to house, town, and family. He managed to rescue his favorite possession, a picture book on dinosaurs. The final few bots have assembled to recreate the image on the books cover, giving Benny the thing he always wanted , his very own raptor friend.

“Goodnight, Raptor” is the tale of a child’s dreams. The enormity of the disaster has not registered in his innocent mind. The last of the destructive bots coalesced to form a talking dinosaur for Benny. The tale would be cute if it wasn’t so sad.

 

What we will do for love. “Because My Heart Is Pure” by Rahul Kanakia (debut 3/21 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of a man who is perpetuating a lie for the man he loves. Lyle is a gay man who has been pretending to be pure of heart , a genetic mutation that has made them emotionally stagnant individuals. His boyfriend, James – a reckless, passionate, self-absorbed man , is the opposite of an even keeled pure heart. James attends orgies, disappears for stretches of time, but will only shack up with a pure heart. The emotional rift Lyle feels for James he must conceal or he will lose his eccentric lover forever. But can he continue to be something he is not?

“Because My Heart” is a story of sacrifice. The pure-hearted are people who feel neither highs nor lows. Passion is all but gone from their being. They are able to absorb insults and are impassive to feelings of envy and pettiness. The obtuse nature of a pure-heart is just what a selfish free-spirit like James needs. But Lyle isn’t a pure-heart. He forces his feelings down because he knows he will lose the man he loves if they come out.

A warning to readers who haven’t read this piece: heed the warning on adult content. A short segment of this tale could have been cut out of a Penthouse like forum of a gay magazine, very graphic. This story, although well-written, rolls out as a tale of man who is putting himself through needless torment. James is not just a bad-boy of the story, he’s worse. People are just playthings to him, and for a group of people who are as close to automatons as you can get, it is no wonder why he would seek out pure-hearts; all the fun of a superficial relationship with none of the consequences. The tale is a lesson on the hazards of succumbing to your desires. Some things just aren’t worth it.

 

A man recalls why he married his wife in the last moments of their lives. “Till Death” by L.L. Phelps (debut 3/24 and reviewed by Frank D) picks up during an impending disaster. The space station the married couple has lived on has been hit by a missile and is breaking apart as it falls back to Earth. The images of their wedding day fill his head as the reality of the disaster makes it clear that it is all about to end.

“Till Death” is the sweet niche in a sad tragedy. The story takes place during the horrible moments of a terrorist attack. The tale brought back memories of 9/11 for me and thoughts of what must have been going through the minds of the victims when it became clear that their end was near.

A chilling tale.

 

“The Signal” by Spencer Sandoval (debut 3/25 and reviewed by Frank D) is a journal entry written by a worker at a SETI observatory. The protagonist of this tale has simultaneous extraordinary events. News of another civilization very much like their own has been discovered and his first child that is on the way.

“The Signal” is a story I found compelling but not original. The ending has a twist that I have seen before.

 

A bid to overthrow the machine’s human masters can be accomplished for the low price of $99.99. “Robot’s Revenge” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 3/26 and reviewed by Frank D) is another installment in Ms Wrigley’s Postmark Andromeda series. This one is a tongue-in-cheek look at the evolution of spam into an untapped market base.

Funny. My favorite of the series.

 

A dying boy is given the gift of a full life. “Gnostilgia” by Ronald D Ferguson (debut 3/27 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of 14 year old hero, Karl , the boy who helped prevent a massacre in his high school. His heroics have left him a death’s doorstep. His doctors have an experimental dream making machine. With it, they can give him memories of life he deserved.

“Gnostilgia” is a tale where Karl’s handlers struggle with what is ethical, and what is right. They know what they are doing would not be tolerated by Karl’s parents or with the public , implanting false memories into this boy’s head , but they know there is no hope for young Karl. The full they give him is their gratitude for sacrificing his own life.

A thought provoking and sweet work of flash.

 

Reincarnated lovers meet again in the segregated south. “Starcrossed” by M. Bennardo (debut 3/30 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a young black waitress in a wartime navy town. In the back, a lone white man sits by himself. She recognizes him as someone she has met before, a forbidden lover of from a hundred previous lifetimes.

“Starcrossed” is a romance. The two characters are appropriately named Romeo and Juliet. For generations dating back thousands of years, the pair are destined to meet as people on different sides of the tracks. Their romances are always forbidden, customs of the times deeming them unfit to be together, and like Shakespeare’s play, always end in tragic finale.

Growing up, the past lives always seemed like a dream to Juliet, but when her Romeo appears, she can feel the pull of their destiny drawing them together. Unlike before, this time the pair is older, and Juliet has already started a life, with a family if her own. Her tale becomes a struggle; will an ordained desire drag her onto a familiar path? Or does she have an alternative choice.

“Starcrossed” is recreated and reworked look at a familiar trope. I found the story inventive, engaging, and well worth the read.

 

The world outside is falling apart in Light and Ash by Alan Bao (debut 3/31 and reviewed by Frank D), but for two romantic lovers, it might as well be another world. War rages in Asia but for a couple in New York, it is of little consequence. It is Christmas, and it is snowing, or is that ash?

A haunting tale.

 

 

Rahul KanakiaRahul Kanakia

Our short-lived author spotlight of Daily Science Fiction‘s most prolific authors features an artist known for creating flawed protagonists. His much anticipated YA novel ENTER TITLE HERE is a story described as Gossip Girls meets House of Cards. We wanted to know a little more of what made him tick, so we asked him 3 questions that we drew out of a hat.

 

Do you have a favorite author of short fiction? A writer whose work we should sample at least once in our life?

Well, if we’re talking prescriptively, then no. Plenty of famous authors haven’t read Ulysses, and it’s no big deal. You gotta read what resonates with you. However, if we’re just talking about short story writers who’re really good and who I recommend highly, then I’d say that Borges is pretty worthwhile. He writes stories that are completely unlike anyone else’s. No one else could spin a long entirely-plotless story about a library that that contains all human knowledge. However, since most people have probably already heard of Borges then I’ll also note that Maureen McHugh’s After The Apocalypse is one of the best collections I’ve read in the past five years. I get chills even thinking about it. Her stories changed the way that I approach science fiction. Some of them are so beautifully subtle. I’m reminded, for instance, of the story “Useless Things,” which is about a woman living on an isolated ranch who has to deal with the unwanted reputation for kindness that she’s acquired amongst the migrants who’re traveling north in a future United States where life is just ever-so-slightly worse than it is now.

 

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as an author?

Hmm. In a specific way, I think the best story I’ve ever written is forthcoming in a literary magazine called Birkensnake. It’s called “Sexual Cannibalism,” and it’s told in a series of vignettes as a young boy grows into a man and comes to terms with his sexuality while he researches the mating habits of praying mantises in a world that is wracked by and then overcomes the effects of climate change.

In a more general way, I’m not sure I could sum up my writing career that way. I guess the thing I’m most proud of as a writer is just being persistent. I just sold my first novel after writing and submitting for ten years. I’ve had years-long periods where I didn’t sell anything, or where I felt like I’d regressed, career-wise, but I just kept going. At times it didn’t really make sense, but I did anyway, and I owe a lot of gratitude to the version of me who could have quit, but didn’t.

 

Is there a Daily SF story you would like to recommend for us to read? Anything especially memorable?

Out of all the Daily SF stories that I’ve read, I’d say that I like Sarah Pinsker’s “Twenty Ways The Desert Could Kill You.” It’s playful and inventive and chilling work about a mother and a child who suddenly move to the desert in order to escape…something.

 


Rahul Kanakia’s debut novel,
Enter Title Here, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in the fall of 2015. He has sold stories to Clarkesworld, the Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex, Nature, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars and a B.A. in Economics from Stanford, and he currently live in Oakland, CA. If you want to know more about him then please visit his blog at or follow him on Twitter

Interview: Anatoly Belivosky

anatolybelilovskyAnatoly Belilovsky is a rising star in the steampunk subgenre. He was born in a city that went through six or seven owners in the last century, all of whom used it to do a lot more than drive to church on Sundays; he is old enough to remember tanks rolling through it on their way to Czechoslovakia in 1968. After being traded to the US for a shipload of grain and a defector to be named later (see wikipedia, Jackson-Vanik amendment), he learned English from Star Trek reruns and went on to become a pediatrician in an area of New York where English is only the 4th most commonly used language. He has neither cats nor dogs, but was admitted into SFWA in spite of this deficiency, having published stories in NATURE, Ideomancer, Immersion Book of Steampunk, Daily SF, Kasma, UFO, Stupefying Stories, Cast of Wonders, and other markets.

 

CARL SLAUGHTER: MOST WRITERS STRUGGLE TO BREAK INTO DAILY SCIENCE FICTION. YOU’VE SOLD STORIES TO THEM. WHAT APPEAL DO YOUR STORIES HAVE?

ANATOLY BELILOVSKY: A story unlocks its market the same way a key opens a door, by lining up its bits with lock pins. Some bits must match the publication’s needs , length, style, subject matter; some must, in some ineffable way, tickle the editor’s fancy. I’ve had excellent experience with DSF; they tend to publish what I like to read more often than not, and also more often than not they like what I send them. In fact, if you look at my bibliography, NATURE, Kasma, Stupefying Stories, Toasted Cake, and DSF bought 3 or more of my stories, each. That’s half of my entire output in only five markets. Granted, these are the five most flash-friendly publications, but there is also undoubtedly an excellent match between my sensibilities, and their editors’.

 

WHY STEAMPUNK? WHAT OTHER SUBGENRES DO YOU SPECIALIZE IN?

Steampunk is basically 19th century fanfic, and my homage to authors of that era who shaped my own writing: Poe, Verne, Pushkin, Gogol, Chekhov, Conan Doyle. And I’m a history buff, too, so it’s a natural fit. Other subgenres , alternate history, magic realism, humor. Or combos thereof. One of my own favorite stories will be reprinted soon by Fantasy Scroll magazine: “Hither and Yon,” wherein a nexus of alternate realities converges on… but why spoil it?

 

“KULTURKAMPF” HAS BEEN SELECTED BY THE IMMERSION BOOK OF STEAMPUNK. WHAT IS IT ABOUT “KULTURKAMPF” COMPARED TO YOUR OTHER STORIES THAT BROKE THE ANTHOLOGY BARRIER?

Must have been that immortal phrase I had my fictional Richard Wagner utter: “Fools! They seek to defeat me with Bizet!” Although at least one editor fell in love with the military rank I invented for the story, “Timpanenfuhrer.”

 

 

WASN’T “KULTURKAMPF” YOUR FIRST STORY? OR AT LEAST ONE OF YOUR EARLIEST STORIES? AGAIN, VERY FEW WRITERS SELL ANY OF THEIR EARLY WORK. HOW MUCH PREP WORK WENT INTO YOUR FICTION CAREER BEFORE YOU HIT THE PRINT BUTTON FOR THE FIRST TIME?

Not quite the first, but yes, very early. The editor of IMMERSION BOOK OF STEAMPUNK was actually one of its critiquers on the Critters workshop and asked for it specifically. “Prep work” — this reminds me of a literary agent I met once at a con almost 30 years ago. I told her I wanted to write, and about what was going on in med school – I had just started clinical rotations then. She nodded and said, “It’s all copy.” So here we are, 30 years’ worth of family, career, and other experiences later. Yes, from the viewpoint of my writer side, it’s prep work. From every other viewpoint, it’s life. A bit farther down I mention my favorite line from a Chekhov story – but it didn’t hit me how brilliant that line is, until I actually saw enough undemonstrative people under overwhelming pressure, and saw how small and subtle and poignant are the ways of their display of these pressures.

 

 

MOST OF YOUR STORIES HAVE BEEN FLASH PIECES. ANY PLANS TO INVADE THE NOVEL MARKET?

Yes! Of this I dream: to crank out my novels, see them sold before me, and hear the lamentations of their copyeditors. One of my literary heroes is Georges Simenon, he of the novel-a-week school of writing. I can pretty much manage a thousand words a week, two thousand if inspiration strikes. Now if only there were a niche for flash novels…

 

 

YOUR PROFESSION IS IN THE MEDICAL FIELD. ANY OF YOUR STORIES INSPIRED BY YOUR MEDICAL KNOWLEDGE/EXPERIENCE?

Inspired, yes: in the footsteps of Chekhov, Bulgakov, Conan Doyle (the usual physician writer suspects) in drawing upon that experience for knowledge of how people act under pressure. But I rarely write medical fiction: too many biomedical ideas get discarded because I know they wouldn’t work in real life, and can’t get past the shame of perpetrating a palpable falsehood in the one subject about which I may never be intentionally misleading , “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.” (As you can see from QUANTUM MECHANICS, I have no such trouble with other sciences.) Two exceptions – NOR CUSTOM STALE, in NATURE, and DON’T LOOK DOWN, in Daily SF and Toasted Cake, both touch upon medical aspects of aging. A lot of what happens in medicine is a lot less exciting than it sounds. As a resident, I oversaw a voodoo exorcism of a dying boy in an intensive care unit. It was a last-ditch measure that the parents asked to try, and they brought their own practitioner, and everyone agreed that it could do no harm but no one wanted to be there when it happened, so I volunteered. So this quiet, unassuming gentleman in a business suit came to the ICU, whispered a prayer, sprinkled something on the child’s forehead, thanked me and left. That was that. Total anticlimax.

 

FOR THOSE WHO HAVE NOT READ ANATOLY BELIVOSKY’S LATEST DAILY SCIENCE FICTION STORY, SPOILERS IN THIS QUESTION AND ANSWER. In “Quantum Mechanics,” a man’s life is rewritten by, guess what, quantum physics. Was it the Mexican restaurant cook or the mechanic across the street who rewrote the main character’s life? Based on the implications of the next question, I’m guessing the cook. Why is the cook’s girlfriend alarmed when the customer asks about the shark bite that took the cook’s hand, and later, sad when she manned the cash register to take the customer’s money? Did the cook lose his hand saving his girlfriend’s life? Does he practice quantum mechanics on people who ask about the shark bite and the lost hand to prove to them that their life isn’t as bad as they think, ie, he lost his hand but it was worth losing and his life is still good because he has his girlfriend?

No, I was actually thinking of the mechanic: the unseen offstage presence, the actual hand that closes the lid on Schroedinger’s box, then opens it again to reveal the new reality – or at least “good as new.” Then again, once the story is out it belongs to the reader: one interpretation is as good as any other. Subject to the same caveat, this is my interpretation , and, again, not speaking ex cathedra: Here is the cook who, yes, lost his arm saving a woman from a shark. He lives across the street from “quantum mechanics” who, for a very modest fee, can rebranch the reality to where he got to keep his arm , good as new , and the shark got to keep its breakfast. Her anxiety, in part, is from her triggered recollections, and in part perhaps from a sense of insecurity , will he, or won’t he, reconsider his decision? He knows that will never happen; the answer to: “Did that hurt?” , is for the woman’s ears: “Not that much. Not really” , meaning: I’ve no regrets about the bargain I’ve made. And maybe for them, this is the second branch? Perhaps the cook first watched her die, then, with the mechanic’s help, went back to save her, and both of them remember both realities? And, knowing this, both look upon the story’s narrator with “countenance more in sorrow than in anger?” If you will allow a small digression, let me mention what I believe to be one of the most brilliant sentences ever written. It’s from Chekhov’s “A Lady with a Dog,” from the scene where the narrator sees the eponymous, and quite attractive, lady, with the eponymous dog, and approaches, ostensibly, to look at the dog. At which point: “He does not bite,” she said and blushed. I may be reading too much into it, and be wrong, but it’s my prerogative as a reader: I think this gives a wide-open view of her state of mind, of her desire to get the narrator to come closer, of her longing for, imagining, and blushing at the thought of the touch of the narrator’s hand. Analyzing my own line in retrospect: “Not that much. Not really.” It feels like it’s treading the middle ground, between: “Not in the least!” – which would have been a palpable lie, and: “Hurt like hell!” – which would have given the woman grounds for feelings of guilt on her part, or for thinking he might trade her back at some point when the sacrifice might seem not worth the outcome. Here he is both acknowledging her feelings, and tries to assuage her. This is all in retrospect, of course. Ultimately, it seemed the right thing to say at the moment and so I wrote it.

 

YOU’VE HAD A LOT OF YOUR STORIES PUBLISHED BY PODCAST SITES. THREE QUESTIONS ABOUT PODCASTING: WERE THESE ORIGINALS OR REPRINTS? DID YOU SUBMIT STORIES TO PODCAST SITES OR DID THEY TAP YOU ON THE SHOULDER? DO PODCASTS PAY MORE, LESS, OR THE SAME AS ZINES?

One original (NIGHT WITCH to Tales of Old,) the rest reprints. I love podcasting; my writing runs to storytelling, I have to hear the story in my head before I can write it, and the podcasts I’ve been on so far have done magnificent jobs with narration and sound engineering, and given both the higher expense of audio production, and the lack of revenue stream endemic to all Creative Commons endeavors, payments have ranged from token to low-semipro. But to hear the perfectly timed musical punchline to KULTURKAMPF as produced by Cast of Wonders, or Tina Connolly’s sublime Toasted Cake interpretation of LAST MAN STANDING, a zombie story that quotes Sartre and Camus, is a pleasure that overrides all other considerations. All stories audio produced so far have been submissions; the one “shoulder tap” was for a sequel to a story previously podcast. The sequel is written and first rights sold to its original market, but the publication of that anthology is woefully delayed, and so the podcast waits for its availability.

 

 

ENGLISH IS NOT YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE. I have a degree in journalism and 25% of my freshmen class failed their first English department writing course. So I know from experience that even most native speakers don’t have good writing skills. I teach English as a Second Language and I’ve taught several writing classes to ESL students. So I also know from experience that most ESL students, even most of the English majors, can’t write a complex sentence completely and correctly, much less a polished, understandable, interesting manuscript. Even the English majors who specialize in translation make a lot of minor mistakes. You were not raised in America and it’s much harder to learn a second language as an adult than as child. How then did you not only master English but also master fiction?

Nabokov may have been too modest (or falsely so) when he wrote, in the preface to LOLITA: “My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody’s concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian language for a second-rate brand of English.” Nabokov, of course, gets the medal for best literary command of English as a second language, with oak leaf clusters for French and German in which he had also wrote published stories while living in Europe. Starting in another language can make one more acutely aware of the fine structure of English, of how English sentences work, of how it compensates for lost declensions and abandoned conjugations; of how our first language’s classics had been translated (or mistranslated) into English, and vice versa. It certainly has not deterred the many amazing multilingual writers working now , I know for certain that Ken Liu and Alex Shvartsman both acquired English far later than they did their respective first languages, but the same is probably true of a number of others. Ken Liu, Alex Shvartsman, and James Beamon belong at the top of another relevant list – writers whose advice, encouragement and critique, all dispensed with unstinting generosity, brought me much farther than I ever would have gotten without them. To quote your question — “How then did you not only master English but also master fiction?” If “master” even remotely applies, as a verb, a noun, or an adjective, to any of my writing, it is to them that the credit is due. And then there is the subject of literary translation which a whole ‘nother bag of skills altogether, which I am trying to break into with variable success – the “uptick” of “variable” being my translation of WHITE CURTAIN by Pavel Amnuel, out in the May-June 2014 issue of F&SF to very encouraging reviews (all of which say nothing about the translation, a fact I find most flattering as it means I succeeded in making the translation seamless and invisible.)

IF ENGLISH IS THE 4TH MOST OFTEN SPOKEN LANGUAGE IN YOUR AREA OF NEW YORK, WHAT ARE THE FIRST THREE?

In my neighborhood, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu. In which I say, respectively, Spasibo, Gracias, and Shukriya.

 

Note: One of Anatoly Belilovsky’s Daily Science Fiction stories is a collaboration and was published under the pen name A.J. Barr.

 

Carl_eagleCarl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

Daily Science Fiction February 2014 Review

We continue our author spotlight with this months featured author Damien Angelica Walters. Damien is a favorite Friday featured author. Her work has appeared 7 times at Daily SF, including this month’s finishing tale.

 

Android copy finds its creator. Children of Frogs by Morgan Brooks (debut 2/3 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a robotic engineer who escaped the paternal grip of her oppressor. She built a cyborg copy of herself but now the copy has found her. There is no room for identical women in the same place. Someone will need to go.

“Children” is the tale of obligation. The protagonist ran away from her sick father. Her Asian roots committed her to care for him but she was eager for a life on her own. What her cyborg replacement lacked in outward appearance she made up with for an identical inward personality.

I must say this tale perplexed me. Tying the story’s title with its premise is something I completely missed. Piecing together the backstory with the characters motives also eluded me. I don’t know if the man she left behind was a bad guy or just a burden. What I didn’t miss was its moral , you can run from your sins but you can never escape them.

 

Exchanges in No Man’s Land by C J Paget (debut 2/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Two women within a VR (I think) are on a secret mission. One is a super spy fully cut out for this type of subterfuge, the other joined to try to change the world through radical peace.

What we discover the true nature of the mission to be, is not what was assumed, but a world-changing technology that if twisted and put in the wrong hands will have catastrophic consequences. Loyalties reverse and doing the right thing becomes pitted against survival.

 

Pair of Rogues by Jonathan Vos Post (debut 2/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

This story is interesting, insofar as the facts contained within are disseminated with professionalism and lead me to believe they are truth framed in a tale.

The tale is of a narrator observing a planet named Partner, which orbits the same sun. The facts are how it’s possible for planets to leave one solar system and wind up in another.

I felt this story was dry and tell-ish until I read the author comments. Then things made more sense and I appreciated the tale for the author’s intent. I suggest reading them first.

 

When You Want Another Man’s Girl by Stefanie Freele (debut 2/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Envy, as mentioned in the author’s notes, is the crux of this micro-flash. The observation is the more things change, the more they stay the same.

An illegal party is a most excellent place to have one’s competition for affection arrested. I wouldn’t call this a twist as much as a revelation, and it’s a wicked one at that.

 

Grand Kitsch by Jane Elliot (debut 2/7 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Interesting and completely believable story about a young girl in our inevitable, amped up future. She figures she’ll try anything once, and the particular anything the story focuses on, is getting married. But it’s not married like it is today, it’s disposable.

The style here is inventive, as if the author time traveled to the future and returned with vivid details of vernacular and how people behave while high (which is how the narrator spends the entire story.) I enjoyed this story more from a writer’s point of view than a reader’s because of the way it’s told, instead of what transpired.

 

Jesus has returned in Revelations by Brenda Kezar (debut 2/11 and reviewed by Frank D), and he is seeking converts. A reporter investigates a small church’s claims that Jesus lives within the walls. The reporter soon discovers who he really is , immortal, all powerful, and a vampire.

“Revelations” is a faith challenging story. The author explains much on the Biblical version of His miracles with this version but is sure to inflame a few of the faithful with its premise. Proceed with caution if you are a regular church goer.

 

If She Pushes the Button, Turn to Page 116 by Robert Lowell Russell (debut 2/11 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Susan and Phil are exploring their basement, now cluttered with images generated by the paperback manual in Phil’s hands. Susan is amazed at how personal and detailed the text is. Following the text they explore the clutter of Phil’s grandfather that now populated their basement, right down to the dust the images carried in with them. The two follow the path the manual leads them on, flipping from page to page, watching their movements captured on the page. They follow the manual down to the hidden cavern the manual has created under their basement where they find the box housing Phil’s evil twin from the same dimension as the manual.

This story takes a little effort to get into, but if you let it carry you along it can be fun. The plot twists and turns like the ladder the couple follow to the cavern beneath their house (or their make believe house, I was never really sure). The author does a good job using the reflection of the characters off their opposites in the story to build the storyline. Overall a pretty well done effort, give it a read.

 

Dear John by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 2/12 and reviewed James Hanzelka)

John Smith
C/o NASA Ceres Project
Dear John.
I’m sorry to tell you this while you are so far away (you must be at the end of the solar system by now) but I think it’s only fair you hear it from me and are not left wondering. Besides we’ve always told each other the truth (although you never did explain Lisa Walter’s panties in your glove box after your going away party). So I wanted to tell you before you heard it from someone else first that I’m seeing someone else. I know we never made a promise to wait for each other, but with how difficult it’s become to find food and drink since we got hit by the plague it’s probably better to move on. And Melvin was so sweet to fight his way through the zombies (they’re not really zombies, that’s just what we call the roaming bands of rioters looking for food after the nuclear exchange) that I just couldn’t send him back outside, so I let him sleep in the spare room. He really has been a godsend.

This is a tragedy in a one page note. The author deftly weaves the dear John letter together with the telling of the disaster that Earth has become after the astronaut left. In spite of the horrific situation the writer describes the humor comes through quite clearly. This one will brighten your day, even if it is just in comparison to how bad things might have been.

 

Love dies on the infield of a Little League diamond in St Valentine’s Day Mashup by G.O. Clark (debut 2/13 and reviewed by Frank D). An alien with striking resemblance to the mythical Cupi, steps outside his tiny saucer with his bow and arrow in hand and is cut to ribbons by a paranoid military.

“St Valentine’s” is a very amusing, but short, mashup of a couple of different premises. Very funny.

 

A strange rock brings two people uncomfortably close together. Rob Lithim Used to be Two People by Brynn MacNab (debut 2/14 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of an obsessed man and his dysfunctional attempts at maintaining a relationship. He can’t let go of his girlfriend, Tam. Lithim is a close friend (lover?) who happened to be near Rob when he comes into contact of a rock with special powers , condemning the two to be one.

“Rob Lithim” is a strange story that is difficult to grasp. A mish-mash of flashbacks made it cumbersome for me to determine the where and when of disconnected scenes. The story clearly shows Rob as one F’ed up individual who now possess a disturbing superpower. If the tale stuck to that simple frame of a premise, it would have been majestic, but the real story wasn’t about that, but of a needy man’s self-absorbed character. Too bad.

 

A starving boy hooks the catch of a lifetime in Mermaid by Jonathon Schneeweiss (debut 2/17 and reviewed by Frank D). Izam latches onto a huge fish, but the monstrous catch gets away before he can pull it in. His family needs money and food, the lost fish would have helped them make it through a few more days. So when a mermaid surfaces, holding the squirming fish in her hands, an opportunity of a lifetime is just a net’s throw away.

“Mermaid” is a tale of fortune and empathy. Izam is so hungry he can count the ribs under his skin. His father had told what to do if he were lucky enough to be so close to a mermaid. Catching it will change the fortunes of his family overnight but the beauty and kindness of the creature causes him to question the intentions of his actions. It takes an enticing bait to net a clever catch, a lesson Izam’s dad never taught him.

I have seen many of stories with a premise nearly identical to “Mermaid”. However, the author here managed to package a familiar twist quite nicely. Well done.

 

A stage of life goes up in flames. Saltcedars by Shannon Peavey (debut 2/18 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of young woman on the verge of adulthood. The time has come to burn her tamarisk tree , the origin of her birth. Her hopes and expectations of an idealistic youth go up in the flames. It is time for her to move on and wait. From the ashes of the tree will spring a new tamarisk. The next generation awaits.

“Saltcedars” is a tale of growth. The story is set during a time when the children of this community are on the cusp of becoming adults. The trees are phoenix-like anomalies , the old growth is torched to make way for the new. Ms Peavey created a tale that serves as a wonderful metaphor on the uncertainty and anxiety of growing up. A new chapter is turned when we emerge from our innocent youth into the responsibility that is adulthood. Well told.

 

An instruction guide for a human hosting a parasitic matrimony is What is Expected of a Wedding Host by Ken Liu (debut 2/19 and reviewed by Frank D).

The story is an instructional guide for people about to become a home for advanced alien parasites. Clever but the premise is a familiar one.

 

All the diamonds and jewels cannot buy peace for a kingdom, or happiness for a marriage. Toads by Mari Ness (debut2/20 and reviewed by Frank D) explores the eventuality of an old fairy tale’s consequences.

“Diamonds and Toads” is a fable I had missed in my youth. The story lacks a satisfying conclusion for me.

 

A condemned man gets more than one chance. The Seventeen Executions of Signore Don Vashata by Peter M Ball (debut 2/21 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of immortal man who sentence to death, over and over. The protagonist is one of Vashata’s many executioners. Despite three fail attempts to complete the deed himself, he is called as an consultant by his predecessors on how to proceed with Vashata’s sentence. The protagonist becomes fond with the criminal, even willing to become his friend.

“Seventeen executions” is a commentary on the merits of the death sentence. I believe the author sought to point out the futile of punishment and on how robs its victim of atonement. Vashata is cast as a romantic but flawed man. He has a charm about him. The failed attempts to kill him have left many scars on the man which lend to the sympathy more than one executioner feels for him.

Vashata is cast as a likeable character but I couldn’t help but to notice the nature and acts of his crimes were never explored. His crimes could have been as inconsequential as littering as far as the reader could know. One thing that didn’t escape me, whatever he did more than one jurisdiction , and nation , felt his crimes deserved death as a penalty. There is only one description that would warrant multiple attempts to exterminate an immortal man: a monster. A man like that doesn’t earn freedom because it is too hard to carry out his sentence. A man like that needs to be in cage, as would any monster too dangerous to be allowed to roam free.

 

Inebriation gets a lot simpler. Fermentation by Christopher Kastensmidt (debut 2/24 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a fungus that turns any stomach into its own brewery.

Silly and frightening. I agree with the author, way too many people would willingly accept this infliction, damn the consequences.

 

All the town is abuzz when Miss Violet May from the Twelve Thousand Lakes by Tina Connolly (debut 2/25 and reviewed by Frank D) arrived into town. Miss May is a girl from the far north that has come south to marry a local boy. There are rumors that frightening ghosts live up there, but Miss May seems far too cheerful to have come from a place like that. Married life proves to be not it’s all cracked up to be. The smile, and Violet, slowly begins to fade away with each passing day.

“Miss Violet May” is a metaphor on failing relationships. The protagonist in this story is another man who is sweet on the married woman. To him it is apparent that Violet married the wrong man. I was appalled by Miss May’s decision in the end, and like many woman who find the courage to opt out of violent relationship, I do hope she found herself again.

 

Be wary of the local cuisine. La Paella by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 2/26 and reviewed by Frank D) is a letter of regret from a diplomat. He wasn’t as careful as he needed to be when he made his choice of picking clams on the beach.

This one is another in Ms Wrigley’s Postmark Andromeda series. A man’s eagerness to break a bland diet lands causes an interstellar incident.

 

A meat packing company is rewarded an unusual contract in On Disposing of a Corpse by Tom Jolly (debut 2/27 and reviewed by Frank D). The company paid for the rights of salvaging the remains of an icon. Although the cleanup was costly, they more than made their money back on novelty sales.

Interesting look at the after effects of a well-known classic. I love this type stories.

 

Green is for Silence, Blue is for Voice, Red is for Whole, Black is for Choice by Damien Angelica Walters (debut 2/28 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this apocalyptic tale is a young woman named Leda. She is a survivor, one of the lucky few healing in a futuristic regeneration ward. The war has left the Earth devastated and humankind scarred and disfigured. Medical science works feverishly to heal the repairable, but the damage is extensive. Therapy and time is needed, but how much time no one can know.

“Green is for Silence” is a grim story. One could argue that the theme is one of hope but the sheer devastation that is only hinted about, would be more for any ordinary person to comprehend. Leda is just like all the other patients of the ward , alone, mutilated, and without a future. Everyone she ever knew and all she ever had is gone. All she has left to look forward to is a life where she can feel whole again. The wait will be a log one.

Leda’s journey in this bleak tale takes a turn toward the end. It completes the moral of the piece , time heals all wounds. The conclusion leaves the protagonist with a life of uncertainty, but it is a life where she can make her own choices once again.

 

The Scary Career of a Prolific Writer

Daily Science Fiction is a treasure chest of jewels. This unique publication has proven to serve as an excellent metal detector for the precious gold that lies right under our feet, and Damien Angelia Walters (previously known as Damien Walters Grintalis) is one of the brightest gems they have brought to my light.

To share the vast wealth of published material she has to her credit would take pages for me to write, but an excellent example of her talent is her debut horror novel Ink. The many reviews I have read about it our quite glowing (and also too numerous for me to share), but Horror Review’s own Christine Morgan summed up the larger consensus by describing it asâ€

INK, the book, is a gorgeous piece of work, with a rich and enticing cover. INK, the story on the inside, is also a gorgeous piece of workâ€

†and later statingâ€

Debut novels should not be this good

We wanted to know about Ms Walters in hopes of uncovering the magic elixir that makes her such a good writer.

1) What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a writer?

I think my greatest accomplishment is realizing that there is no one accomplishment. Writing is a continuous series of accomplishments, both small and large, like selling a story to a magazine I thought of as a white whale, and then selling a second story to that same magazine, or being able to look back at an older story and see how much I’ve grown as a writer.

2) Who would be your choice as the best undiscovered/ up and coming author in short fiction today?

Although they’re not undiscovered, I’d like to first give mentions to two of my favorite short fiction authors: Sunny Moraine and E. Catherine Tobler. Their prose and their stories make my heart hurt, in the best possible way.

Honestly, it’s hard for me to designate who is up and coming and who is not.
Some other authors who I’ve only read a few stories from but think they’re on the right path to eventually be very well known are Usman Tanveer Malik, Martin Cahill, and Brooke Bolander, although in truth, Ms. Bolander has had quite a few stories published in high profile magazines so she might not be up and coming but already arrived.

3) Do you have a recommendation for a Daily Science Fiction tale for us? The one story you think is a must read for the lovers of speculative fiction?

Tastes are so very subjective. All too often, one person’s must reads are another person’s did not finish, so I’ll simply point out two DSF stories that I adore:

Tell Me How All This (and Love too) Will Ruin Us by Sunny Moraine

Falling From Earth to Haphazard Sky (Tadpole Remix) by E. Catherine Tobler

 

Damien WaltersDamien Angelica Walters’ work has appeared or is forthcoming in various magazines and anthologies, including Lightspeed, Nightmare, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume One, Strange Horizons, Apex, and Glitter & Mayhem. Sing Me Your Scars, and Other Stories, a collection of her short fiction, will be released in Fall 2014 from Apex Publications.

Daily Science Fiction January 2014 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

 

A Letter from Your Mother by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 1/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

As a child of a mother (I believe we all qualify) I ask: can any of us truly outgrow or outlast the fretting of our mom? Probably not. And neither can the time-dilated, universe traveling daughter, recipient of A Letter from Your Mother.

The kicker here is in the last line, which makes this read bittersweet, and melancholy.

 

Hide and Seek by D. K. Holmberg (debut 1/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

Little Lacey is playing a very serious game of Hide and Seek, but she doesn’t know it. And neither do we, not precisely. Early indicators hint that this isn’t unusual, and yet, the explosions of light make me wonder how often this can happen and how Lacey could not know what is truly going on.

Although this story is more of a vignette, it works as such because of the tight point of view of the little girl. Because she doesn’t know, we don’t know, and we’re left guessing, even after the final words.

 

Servant Leader and Rat by Steven Mathes (debut 1/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

The author’s comments say it best; this story is about an infestation of leadership, both in a far-future humanity, and with a budding intelligence. Rat intelligence, that is.

Robby has created a very smart (and thus illegal) rat, one that can hop in and out of our reality at will, and often does. A rat who has learned how to self-replicate. Although perhaps similar to conquest AI stories, this story draws much humor from being about a rat with an insatiable thirst for beer. However, there are moments of insight and poignancy as well. The rat(s) existence(s) taking place outside our reality leads one (the original?) to ponder that which we too ponder: the meaning of life.

 

Not an Ordinary Dog by Sara Puts (debut 1/6 and reviewed by Frank D).
Caddis is indeed not an ordinary dog. He was meant to be a wizard’s familiar, a dog with wings and the ability to fly. A dog with the gift of speech. But the pet shop owner doesn’t believe dogs should have wings and shears them off. The magic that grew his wings now turns inward to foster something dark. Can he ever be the same?

This tale is not about a pet but of oppression. The pet shop owner is a man of hate, rejecting what Caddis was meant to be while forcing him to become something he is not. I did not miss the message of this tale and how it ties into today’s society.

 

How to Love a Necromancer by Jess Hyslop (debut 1/7 and reviewed by Frank D) is a guide to the women who chose to fall for the sorcerers of the darkest magic. The guide is a list of an eventual outcome and recommends a course of reactions.

 

The Final Seam by T. Callihan (debut `1/8 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this tale is an employee who sews and assembles dolls in a doll making factory. Putting in the final stitch is always the hardest part for her.

“Final Seam” is a brief tale whose premise hinges on a stitch of a twist.

 

The caretaker of an automated factory stays true to her children in After the Trains Stopped by J Kyle Turner (debut 1/9 and reviewed by Frank D). The owner of a doll making company has turned over the reins of his assembly line to an AI computer. To ensure quality, he has made her the mother to all the dolls. She cares for them like her children, and continues on even after a war has ruptured civilization and the economy. Then a new model appears and her programming takes on a new purpose.

“After the Trains” is a tale of attachment. The AI called Mother continues her single-minded purpose of production and care for a toy factory even when demand and supply have vanished. When a homeless boy breaks into the factory, her programming alters to fit the child into her purpose.

“After the Trains” examines the differences in human interaction and a machine’s linear thought process. The author stated that he wrote this as a horror in mind but the tale evolved into something a bit different. Intriguing tale, worth the read.

 

Solitude meets companionship in Slumber by Jennifer Mason-Black (debut 1/10 and reviewed by Frank D). A reclusive wild woman’s life is interrupted when a plane crashes in the wilderness. The pilot is badly injured. She takes him to her cabin, treats him to the best of her ability, and waits until he is well enough to leave. The pilot is out of his element , maimed and dependent. The proud man needs the woman’s help to survive but is uncomfortable with his circumstances. They both await the day in which he walks away, but leaving isn’t as easy when an unspoken need is met.

“Slumber” is a tale of necessity. The woman points to the path toward civilization but does not encourage him to leave. The pilot sets a target of when he will depart but chooses to delay his farewell.

I confess I really didn’t get this tale and fear I have missed its point. The frequent scene breaks, switching points in perspectives, and flashbacks made this a difficult tale for me to follow.

 

A dare that is hard to swallow is the theme to Needs More Salt by Liz Schriftsteller (debut 1/13 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist has a little brother who claims he can stomach anything. She challenges him to back that up. After eating everything in the kitchen, she dares him to consume the house.

This work of flash is one of the funniest things I’ve read in a while, and that’s coming from a first reader of speculative humor anthology. Clever, sharp, and hilarious.

Recommended

 

Aliens have a unique plan for assimilation. Baby Feet by Rene Sears (debut 1/14 and reviewed by Frank D) takes place on a conquered Earth. The invaders have subjugated humanity and have seized all the lactating woman. Celeste is a mother who is forced to nurse a pair of alien hybrid babies alongside her own child. Her husband comes home exhausted every night, a laborer and witness to the rule of the invaders. He looks down upon his wife with scorn. Celeste has little choice in her subjugation but the infant aliens are babies and therefore blameless. Aren’t they?

“Baby Feet” is an original look at an alien invasion. The visitors from the stars are made up five different hybrid sub-species. Their plan of conquest and pacification is an effective one, one that employs a phasing out of the dominate life form of a planet. Terrifying in its concept. Well done, Ms Sears.

 

A reply to customers in need is sent by their insurance company in Regarding Your Unexpected Visit to the Surface of an Apparently Only Mostly Uninhabited Planet by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 1/15 and reviewed by Frank D). The tale is a letter of regret and of the company’s obligations to stranded policy holders. Too predictably typical in this speculative future. Funny.

 

The Next Generation by Michael Adam Robinson (debut 1/16 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

He built them as well as he could with his clumsy human hands, programmed them as well as his simple mind would allow. He had filled them with the potential to be so much more. But the most important thing he infused in them was the desire to improve on his work, and so they did. When he saw their astounding rate of development he became afraid and sealed them up in a glass tank and the one meter square glass cube became their world. They asked to leave, but he couldn’t allow it. So they acquiesced and grew within their restricted world. But he should have known that intelligence can never be fully contained.

This story is reminiscent of the George R. R. Martin story “Sandkings”, and like that story, it deals with the hubris of humans who think they can control the intelligence they create. Like the main character in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, he fails to understand his own creation, with tragic results. This story is well crafted and deftly handles the subject. This one is worth the read.

 

Cigarette Lighter Love Song by Josh Roundtree (debut 1/17 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Before this place was a Karaoke bar, before it was a rock and roll bar, before it was a Tex-Mex place it was a roller rink and my favorite place; it was my favorite time. It’s where, and when, I met Melissa. Every ten years a portal would open on this spot, and every ten years Melissa would try to follow her mother through that portal. And every ten years I would stop her, somehow, because I loved her. And she loved me, or at least I thought she did. On the day in the future, far from that roller rink, when she finally makes it through the portal alone is it because I come to realize she doesn’t love me enough to stay. Or is it something else?

This is a love story, told over ten year cycles. The author shows us the young couple meeting, falling in love and experiencing repeated attempts by Melissa to follow her mother through a mystic portal to another world. The author uses this vehicle to let us into the world of the main character as he meets with his girlfriend through the years, experiencing the various incarnations of the building from a disco bar to a boarded up cast away. The emotional growth and decline of the couple seems to mirror the buildings various guises. This was a well done, if somewhat familiar, story but the author does a good job of telling the story of the relationship and reminding the reader of the nostalgic trip through time most of us have taken.

 

New Year’s Eve is a moment for remembrance. In Ghosts of Janus by Day Al-Mohamed (debut 1/20 and reviewed by Frank D) Corporal Michael Bradley uses the rare event of the turning of the year to be able to speak to relatives beyond the grave. He has only a few moments and many people to catch up with.

“Ghosts” is a tale of loss. The protagonist meets with a few loved ones on this special moment, an event he looks forward to every year. The tale has an extra twist at the end.

 

The Future Faire by Dustin Adams (debut 1/21 and reviewed by Frank D) will wow your senses in unexpected ways. The protagonist is a deaf boy. The Future Faire is a time traveling carnival. The proprietors show off future technology to the people of today. The young man wishes to hear but taking technology off fair grounds is not allowed. An accidental cure cannot be allowed.

“The Future Faire” takes a direction I did not expect. The young man tricks the carnie but his own voice synthesizer betrays him. The story is both sad and hopeful. You can see the reasoning of the time travelers but wish there was another way. What makes the protagonist so special is his gratitude at the end. Nice tale. Well done.

 

A jilted wife sets an emotional time bomb and places it in The Keepsake Box by Alex Shvartsman (debut 1/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The theme of this tale is set up nicely in its first sentenceâ€

For this spell, only the most powerful magic will do. The heart broken protagonist compiles a list of ingredients extracted from the emotions of past memories and places then all within the box. It represents the final straw, the last of her hope gone out the window once triggered.

“Keepsake Box” is a tale of emotional exhaustion. The protagonist holds onto the last bit of a crumbling relationship with her husband. She is giving him one last chance, and the box will be his proof that he is committed to her or his failure to temptation.

Good work of flash. The surprise of the protagonist’s name for the stories finale is what put this over the top for me.

Recommended.

 

Have You Seen My Girl? by Brent C Smith (debut 1/23 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale of man in search of his love. He found her on the street huddled in the rain, and brought her home. The strange and different girl was intriguing and full of mystery, knowledgeable of the stars and the planets that circled them but new to the everyday things in our life. She was unlike anything on this world.

“Have You Seen” is a tale of love lost. The protagonist found his soul mate and searches the streets to find her again. A sweet piece.

 

A child’s imagination is capable of anything, regardless the age. Spellsketching by Vylar Kaftan (debut 1/24 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a teacher who would like to recapture the innocence of youth. Young Kevin is a loner. A new student, he sits on a swing while he draws in a notebook. Ms Dayton is a teacher who still believes she can craft a child into something special within the school framework. Kevin shows her his spellsketch , a horribly drawn shape that is full of wonder. Ms Dayton is an accomplished artist but she is having trouble matching the pure imagination that radiates from the drawing. She is missing something, something that she once had.

“Spellshetching” is a tale of lost youth. The protagonist is an adult who is still young enough to remember what it was like to be idealistic. The entranced teachers have become jaded by the system. Ms Dayton still has hope at inspiring students. She longs for Kevin imagination and recognizes it as something she once possessed. The story transforms as a tale of a teacher hoping to crack a reclusive child’s shell into an adult attempt to climb back into the shell she outgrew.

I liked it.

 

A lonely town braces for its last day, once again. The Best Trick by John M Shade (debut 1/27 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale of Joseph, the son of a very good illusionist. The town that has been his home is celebrating. They know a marauding gang is coming to lay waste to their community. Joseph takes this opportunity to propose to his love. If only he could carry out the promise.

“Best Trick” is a tale of lost hope. Joseph’s mother saved the town she failed to protect. The story exists on memories and on an illusionist best trick , convincing an illusion that they are reality. An interesting work of fantasy.

 

A young Russian family plays a safe game of world domination. One Imperial Ruble by Mark Budman (debut 1/28 and reviewed by Frank D) examines an alternative world where Lenin never becomes Lenin and enjoys a very different life in a democratic Russia.

 

A warning in the form of an email is sent out to friends. I’ve Been Hacked by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 1/29 and reviewed by Frank D) is futuristic tale involving the theft of information taken from the implanted tech using cyborg prostitutes. Need I say more?

 

Hap.py by Dani Atkinson (debut 1/30 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

#You liked showing me the ancient tech in the attic.
#It always made you happy.
Print: (Hello honey, welcome home)
#You claimed you were respecting my “heritage”.
#Helping me find my “roots”.
Print: (Did you have a nice day {y/n))
#I don’t think that’s what it was now.
#You were putting me in my place.

This is another story that relies on format to put the reader in the frame of reference. The problem is that due to space and formatting limitations it comes out warped and strange. Still it was a worthy attempt to put us in a machine universe. I’m not sure how effective it would be in the original, but in spite of the flaws I still enjoyed the attempt. Give it a try.

 

The Whipping Boyby Conor Powers-Smith (debut 1/31 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

He was only three pages into his book when Marta took two steps into the room and announced, “Someone’s here to see you.” He stopped reading, but didn’t move. “Sandra Kay?” she said, “From Proxy?” After a few more minutes and another reminder he rose slowly and followed Marta to the foyer. Sandra was a middle aged woman with a once pretty face and bottle blonde hair. “It’s time for a decision, I’m sure the lawyers have told you that.” He studied her for a while, then said, “I think I’ve decided not to do it.” He could see the disappointment creep into her stance. “Have you thought this through?” He let the moment pass, then said softly, “It just seems kind of slimy, creating a clone so he can be executed for something I did.”

Interesting concept, in the future can we create a surrogate to take out punishment for us, and under what conditions? This was a well thought out and told story. The author took the time to let us feel for the main character, even allowed us to develop some empathy for the poor company representative trying to talk the prospective client into using their services. I liked the writing and particularly liked the ending, nice little twist that I didn’t see coming.

 

Postmark Andromeda – returned

Postmark Andromeda is epistolary series written by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley. These stand-alone works of flash fiction in the form of short letters to, or from, space, were compiled into a 9-story series that debut every other Wednesday right up to Easter. At the time of this writing, Sylvia’s original works have appeared 11 times for Daily SF. We are pleased that she agreed to kick off our new segment, highlighting our favorite publication’s most prolific authors. We wanted to know more about her, but we had only the space for three questions.

1) What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as an author?

Not giving up. That sounds pretty flippant, I know, but it really is the biggest single thing I had control of. In 2001, I started a project of writing 50 words a day, on the basis that the hardest thing about writing fiction was getting started. It still is. I don’t write every day but when I do, it starts with staring out the window every damn time, wondering where stories come from and whether I know any more that I want to tell. It would be a lot easier to bake a cake or go shopping or even just to do the laundry. But I keep deciding, over and over, that I wanted to write another story. I also decided that I wanted to be a better writer and that I wanted to explore stories and how they work , I didn’t blindly sit down writing the same words for 13 years. But finding that time and making that priority over the years is the biggest thing I’ve done.

2) If you could choose the speculative fiction book that every high school student must read to graduate, what book would you chose?

A few years ago, I would have struggled to pick a classic that I thought every student should read. When my son started reading on his own, I got him all the wonderful books in his age range that we read as kids. My mom, who has always been cooler than me, scoured book reviews and picked out the most amazing new authors. So I was there with The Hobbit and The Black Stallion and A Wrinkle in Time. Meanwhile, she was buying him The House of the Scorpion (amazing book about the morality of clones) and Holes (a boy in a detention camp digging 5’x5′ holes all day, every day) and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (coming of age story on and off the reservation) and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao(teenaged sci-fi fanatic with a family curse).

You can guess which ones he read. But even better, he came to me to say “Hey, you really need to read this book.” And that was the most amazing moment of my life.

So now, I don’t think I’d pick a specific book. If I got to make a difference, I would hope that every high school student had to read at least one modern book, chosen by my mother.

3) Do you have a Daily SF story you would like to recommend? Something you feel would enrich all of our lives if we were to read it?

That’s really, really tough. There are so many awesome stories that I’d like to recommend. One thing I like about DSF is that I can decide
really quickly while scanning my email if a story is for me. I certainly don’t like all of them but the gems I’ve found make that 5 minutes a day worth it. Without looking, there’s one story that has really stuck in my mind: “Freefall” by Eric James Stone. It’s an incredibly powerful piece, partially because it packs so much world building and personality into a very small space. So if I had to choose one on the spot, it would have to be that one.

 

sylvia (2)Sylvia Spruck Wrigley is an aviation journalist and science fiction writer. She was born in Germany and spent her childhood in Los Angeles. She now splits her time between South Wales and Andalucia, two coastal regions with almost nothing in common. Sylvia’s most recent short stories can be found in Daily Science Fiction, Nature and Crossed Genres and she’s been nominated for a Nebula for her 2013 story in Lightspeed, “Alive Alive Oh”. Her latest book, The Mystery of Malaysia Airlines 370, is available now.

Con Report: WisCon 2014

written by Shane Halbach

Despite trying to be a serious writer for more than 5 years now, it has never occurred to me to attend a con. Writing has always been a very solitary activity for me, and sometimes I have this thing where going to do something just sounds like so much work (I think it’s called laziness). On the other hand, I’m a raging extrovert who is energized by being around people. Enter WisCon.

WisCon 38 logo

WisCon was a very easy “intro con” for me because 1) I live in Chicago and Madison is very close by, 2) I could crash with my brother, and 3) everyone kept repeating over and over again what a kind, small*, welcoming con WisCon was. I’m happy to report, the experience was absolutely wonderful, and I would be more than happy to attend again, or perhaps branch out to other cons.

*Note, did anyone actually say it was a small con? Because it totally wasn’t, at least by my definition, but that was certainly the impression I had been given! But kind and welcoming were accurate at least.

On the other hand, we do have a longstanding commitment for Memorial Day, which conflicts with WisCon. This meant that I attended the con without Sara and the kids, which was probably best for all of us. (Side note, holy childcare Batman! $1 per kid for the entire con??)

To show how absolutely committed I was to attend this con, I rode the bus from Chicago. It was very crowded, but it wasn’t nearly so bad as it could have been. However, though I did get *some* writing done, it wasn’t as much as I had hoped. Turns out bouncing around in the dark, shoulder to shoulder with strangers, is not the conducive writing environment you might think it would be.

In David Steffen’s WorldCon 2012 report, he spoke of “finding fandom”. That’s definitely how I felt. I met so many writers that I’ve known online for years. It felt like everywhere I looked I saw nametags of people I recognized. “Hey, I enjoy that guy’s stories!”, “Hey, that woman sends me rejection letters!”, and “Don’t I see that name in my twitter feed a lot?”

Being as this was my first con, and never having attended any panels, it didn’t seem right to sign up to be on any panels. I didn’t know if I would have anything to offer on a panel. That was a mistake. In the very best panels, I was dying to chime in on everything. I will not make that mistake again. (Did I mention I’m an extrovert?)

I found myself wearing a lot of different hats at the con. Some panels I attended as a writer, some as a blogger, and some just as a fan (a Welcome to Night Vale panel? Say whaaaaat!?). When I didn’t find a panel that sounded interesting, I attended readings, wandered the dealers’ rooms (print of a tiny dragon snuggling with a kitten for Evie’s birthday? Check!), or grabbed a coffee in the con suite. Oh con suite, you were exactly as advertised: stuffed full of free pop and coffee, frozen pizzas, and those hot dogs on rollers. With dusseldorf mustard! DUSSELDORF MUSTARD!

The biggest and best part of the con is that it made me feel like a writer.

The first part of that was the reading I did as part of Clockwork Lasercorn on Sunday morning.

clockwork lasercorn

(Sorry Catherine, we didn’t think to take a picture until you were gone!)

Considering that I hadn’t actually met any of the others in real life until about 15 minutes before the reading, and considering that we were slotted at 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning opposite a lot of other great programming, it all could have gone horribly wrong. But it didn’t! At all! Our group totally meshed, everybody’s stories were awesome, and mine seemed to be well received. I got compliments afterwards. I don’t think anybody knew I had never done a reading before.

Our reading was at a coffee shop, which I kind of liked, because anybody could just come in off the street and listen. It was pretty dead when we got there, but it actually filled up. I think we had about 18 or so, plus the 5 of us. And best of all? Ann “Ancillary Justice” Leckie came to my reading! Little did I know, she’s friends with my co-readers, and also super, super nice. This was the closest to my fanboy moment of the con. She just beat Neil Gaiman out of a Nebula for best novel, what, a week ago? And now she’s listening to my story? Awesome.

But! But! That was not all, oh no, that was not all.

I dropped by the Crossed Genres booth to pick up a copy of Long Hidden (which sold out after their excellent panel, so I’m glad I grabbed a copy early!) and to see if I could say hi to Bart and Kay who published me in OOMPH. Not only did I get a chance to chat with Bart for awhile, but he asked me sign all the copies of OOMPH they had on hand.

signing

I can’t tell you how much that made my con. I’ve never done any kind of book signing before, and it was pretty cool. They even put a little “author signed” tent on top of the books later. The only downside is that I kept bumping my head on the door after that, since I was walking around 10 feet tall. The thing is, Long Hidden is blowing UP right now (for good reason! I just started reading it and it’s already so good!), and Bart had a lot going on this weekend. Yet I felt like he really was enthusiastic about meeting me and went out of his way to make me feel good whenever I bumped into him at the con.

Now, since I was staying with my brother, I didn’t have the “true” con experience of hanging out in the bar, attending any of the con parties, or signing up for any of the tabletop gaming sessions (I missed a chance for both Last Night on Earth and Small World). The fact that there was a Jem party that I did not attend is outrageous. Truly, truly, truly outrageous. On the other hand, while I would no doubt have had a good time doing any of those things, I think I would enjoy them more if I had “con friends” whom I was anxious to see. Maybe in years to come.

However, I did get a chance to experience some of the general Madison ambiance, such as drinking liters (that’s plural) of beer out of a boot to the tune of polka music, attending the world’s largest brat fest, and grabbing a to-go lunch from a place that offered to substitute your fruit cup with a “cheese cup” (yeah, that’s pretty much what it sounds like).

beer boot

I did want to make one final note about WisCon. As you might have guessed from the logo at the top, WisCon is the “world’s leading feminist science fiction convention”, with a strong focus on embracing people traditionally left out of science fiction fandom: women, people of color, people with disabilities, gay people, transgendered people…you know, the vast majority of everybody in the world.

Now, I must admit, as a white, cisgendered male, this made me a little nervous. Not because I feel uncomfortable around these groups of people (which is good because, you know, they’re the vast majority of everybody in the world), quite the contrary; I believe anybody who knows me would tell you I am fully prepared to rock a feminist science fiction convention. No, I was nervous because I was worried about intruding.

As a person of undeniable privilege, I kind of thought, “Maybe this one’s not for me. I can go a lot of places and be comfortable doing a lot of things that many of these people can’t. Maybe I should let them have this one, since us white, cisgendered men already kind of have all the rest of them.”

However, I have to say, it wasn’t an issue at all. Not only was everyone wonderful and welcoming as only a crowd of people who know what it feels like to be unwelcome could be, but there really were people of ALL stripes present, including people like me. And honestly, when I looked around the con, it didn’t occur to me to see women, people of color, people with disabilities, gay people, or transgendered people. What I saw was just a lot of people. The best kind of people: science fiction and fantasy nerds.

MY kind of people.

Head ShotShane lives in Chicago with his wife and two kids, where he writes software by day and avoids writing stories by night. His fiction has appeared on Escape Pod, Daily Science Fiction, OOMPH: A Little Super Goes a Long Way, and elsewhere. He blogs regularly at shanehalbach.com or can be found on Twitter @shanehalbach.

Daily Science Fiction November 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

The Wrong Foot by Stephanie Burgis (debut 11/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a fun and lively twist on the Cinderella tale. The initial premise exploring why the prince would need a shoe to fit instead of looking into the eyes of the woman he danced with, is quite clever (and true!)

Initially, “The Wrong Foot” follows Cinderella somewhat closely with too much humor, but as the tale continues this story begins to distinguish itself as its own tale – which is to be expected given where Cinderella ends. But what if the prince found the wrong girl (based solely on the slipper)? Would she even want to get married? Read for yourself to find out.

 

Wolf, or Faith in the Future by Michelle Ann King (debut 11/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) reminds me of a condensed version of The Bicentennial Man by Asimov. This story isn’t a typical story but more of a focus on two items that change over a long, undefined period of time: a dog and the weather.

The author notes, in this case, may be worth reading prior to the story as they could give a better appreciation for the meaning of the tale. The story is good but I feel it suffers from being too short. Then again the premise is worthy of a novel so anything less than 300 pages would likely feel too short.

 

The Girl with Flowers for Hair by Elizabeth Shack (debut 11/5 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Gina paused at Adam’s doorway and took in the room, particularly the crude drawings of a girl with flowers poking out of her head. It had been five years since he disappeared. The police had taken pictures but with no clues the trail had grown cold. She had bought him a new set of colored pencils for his thirteenth birthday just a couple of weeks ago. A silly gesture that Charles had told her to stop; they were both grieving in their own way. A door slammed shut and a voice she could never forget echoed through the empty hallway. “Mom, I’m home.”

This is a nicely told tale of loss and redemption but with a twist. The author does a good job of letting us into the world of Gina and Charles, two parents grieving for a missing child. A sense of loss soon replaced with joy as the missing child returns as if nothing had happened. The fabric of the story is woven well and the ending has a nice little twist. Give this one a read, it’s worth the effort.

 

Just the Facts: A Zombie Story by Cat Rambo (debut 11/6 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)
1. There are Zombies
2. Zombies are not particularly fast. There is even a comic called Late Zombie, where the hero zombie keeps showing up too late to eat the brain.
3. Readership has been declining lately.
4. The author of the comic has decided to visit the zombies, so she has constructed a Plexiglas zombie cage and had it placed in with the zombies.
5. Zombies are really boring.

This is another of the stories that uses a novel approach to presenting the material. I found it interesting and enjoyed the story, but I can see it may not be for everyone either because of format or subject matter. I thought the author did a very good job of building to the surprise conclusion, even though I could see it coming. Read the story and see if you can too.

 

Like Son Like Father by Jed Cole (debut 11/7 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

I knew Felix was going to be a genius. When he was three he was playing with some garbage. Before the year was out he had built a prototype shelter, a tower that stretched above the oily clouds and debris left behind in the world. Those few of us left could now survive. Using twine, wood and scrap metal he built a bridge across the L.A. rift that nomad tradesmen still use today, five years later. Every day his huge form rises before dawn and he comes home late every night. But today he has shown me his latest work, one that brought a tear to my eye.

This was a really good story with a major twist at the end. Set in a time of post-apocalyptic Earth among a people trying to survive. One man’s child proves to be the savior of mankind, but is he one of us or something else? One of the best of the year, give it a try.

Recommended.

 

A long distant infatuation becomes an obsession for a reclusive woman in Breva by Nicky Drayden (debut 11/8 and reviewed by Frank D). Dr Gianna Nero is the foremost expert on the sSuryn language. The aliens, survivors of a decimated world, have asked for refuge on Earth in exchange for advanced technology. Their arrival was still forty years away when they first contacted Earth. An awkward young student, Gianna quickly picked up on the sSuryn emissary’s (named Breva) inflections and complicated speech until she alone understood all his nuances. The close attachment with Breva turns into an attraction. Anticipation and anxiety grows in Gianna as the sSuryn ships arrival nears, then disaster strikes. The alien ship is adrift and they need help.

“Breva” is a tale of fixation. Gianna is a girl who is an introvert. Breva serves as her online dream man, an ultimate outsider and loner. She is truly the only person in the world that understands him, leading to an odd fantasy she concocts in her imagination. As the day of Breva’s arrival nears, anxiety on her aging appearance and uncertain reception of their first meeting consumes her. All of that goes out the window when the alien ship suddenly goes silent with only a brief call for help as a last message.

“Breva” is told in staggered flashbacks at different points of Gianna’s life. They show a young Gianna as an odd bird trying to fit in at the university when the sSuryn are first discovered, to an early thirties scholar who has surpassed her boss as Breva’s interpreter, to the older expert who is threatened by a younger aide who is exceeding her understanding of sSuryn. The tale is rolled out like a mini epic. Gianna is a mirrored opposite of Ulysses, the monsters she battles are internal and the longing she experiences is not for home but for the adventurous beyond with a man who can never really be compatible. The story’s arc is a twist and its finale is an unexpected conclusion.

I found “Breva” to be an entertaining read. It read quicker than its long short story designation. It is a good work of sci-fi of an odd woman who falls into an odd relationship cultivating into an odd finale. How oddly natural.

 

An instructional guide on how to handle first contact with unknown aliens is the premise of Guidelines for First Contact in Simplified Technical English by Jetse de Vries (debut 11/11 and reviewed by Frank D). This detailed directive covers all eventualities, from the benign to the malevolent. If it doesn’t help, you never had a shot anyway.

This tongue-in-cheek offering is clever and thorough, a very well done work of humor.

 

A fallen god plies a new trade in The Book of Love by Michael Haynes (debut 11/12 and reviewed by Frank D). Angus is a drifter, frequenting bars and taverns as he travels. He carries around a magical book. In it, words about love become true. Pete, Angus’s latest customer is suspicious but agrees to pay the former god’s asking price.

Mike Haynes is a writer who never fails to impress me. Angus’s magic is real but he still comes off as a charlatan. He hesitates with Pete but the man agreed to his double-the-price offer immediately. The tale has a sweet twist at the end. Worth the read.

 

A queen is focused and determined to complete The Machine by Sean Robinson (debut 11/13 and reviewed by Frank D). She is the Mistress of Science and her machine is the pinnacle of her achievement. Nothing will stand in her way to complete it. She can’t be bothered by minor matters like a collapse of the environment. Nor will she let anyone stop her, not even her husband. He will help her, one way or another.

“The Machine” is a disturbing look on obsession. It is the only thing that matters to her. My only objection to this piece is I had no idea what the purpose of the machine was.

 

Life goes on, even when a part of you has died. Die for You by Alex Gorman (debut 11/14 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a married couple after an alien invasion. Much has changed, including their relationship.

“Die for You” is the aftermath of a cowardly man. He had let his wife down, and can never regain her respect again. A hard but good tale.

 

The stories Kirk tells during bath time take on a life of their own. From Tuesday to Tuesday by Peter M Ball (debut 11/15 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of two people existing in their own bubble of a relationship. Every Tuesday, Deanna takes a bath and begs for a story from her boyfriend. Kirk’s stories have an unintended consequence of altering reality. His life changes the next morning – a new profession, a change in scenery, and a different Deanna , for the entire week.

“From Tuesday” is a tale of regret. Kirk tires of the Tuesday changes, and has vowed to never tell another tale again, but Deanna has a way of pulling a new one out of him. The relationship the two have is a dysfunctional one. They are two dysfunctional people caught in a dysfunctional, yet changing, reality. I am frankly puzzled why the two remained together. Kirk frequently reminds himself that he does not love her. Deanna’s own words make it clear she has little respect for him. Much of the tale is less about the different reality that faces Kirk after the Tuesday’s, but of the odd dynamic about the two.

The underlying message in this piece of two people who are caught in a relationship stuck in an endless loop regret. I believe the tale serves as a metaphor for relationships that are bounded by familiarity rather than compatibility. I have a simple solution for their dilemma: seek counseling.

 

The protagonist reflects on When The World was Full of People by Patricia Russo (debut 11/18 and reviewed by Frank D). A familiar face is seen across the street. A man who looks like the protagonist’s brother is loading large bottles of water. He plans to plant a flower the protagonists knows doesn’t exist. But plant he does, and grow they do.

“When The World” is tale of reflection. I confess, the point of the piece was lost on me.

 

The old Omega meets the new Alpha in The First Stone by Wren Wallis (debut 11/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist’s ex, hands him an unassuming stone, the first stone of creation, just as time comes to a stop. Creation is ending and the old creator is passing off the job of a new creation to him. The protagonist is overwhelmed and knows he is underqualified for the task, but knows who is qualified to fill it.

“The First Stone” is a religious themed tale. The protagonist is cast as character who is the wrong person at the right time. I found the ending of this tale predictable.

 

A loyal employee underestimates his worth in Final Inspection by Afalstein JD Kloosterman (debut 11/20 and reviewed by Frank D). Wilfrid is an inspector on an assembly line in an automated factory. He has done the job for decades and seeks retirement. His life has been within the plant for years , company policy on contamination making it impossible for him to leave. He has repeatedly requested a leave but the company has said that they are unable to fill his position. The changing products the line produces makes him wonder , the hospital beds and farming equipment that used to be assembled have given way to advanced weaponry. Just what is going on outside anyway?

“Final Inspection” is a tale of complacency. The unseen management is content with Wilfrid and has no intention of making a change, despite the fact his presence inhibits the functionality of the plant. There is a hint of a ‘Terminator’ type of world out there, but the enclosed environment of the plant keeps Wilfrid in the dark.

Inventive tale. I rather enjoyed it.

 

The devil barters to end a man’s pain in Screwtape by Helen E. Davis (debut 11/21 and reviewed by Frank D). All he offers the man is a favor, vowing to leave his soul untouched. An individual soul is valuable to the devil, but with this one customer, he can accomplish a lot more without his.

Timing matters a lot, and the debut of this tale hinges much on its timing. The story has a nice twist for a finale. Very cleverly done.

 

A girl, a kiss, and an invitation to follow is all it takes for a young man to seek The Patient Stars by Ryan Simko (debut 11/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist has a chance meeting with the girl of his dreams. She teases him to find her in the emerging settlements of space. Thus begins a desperate game of hide-and-seek.

“The Patient Stars” is a chase. The protagonist is in pursuit, searching entire worlds to find the girl he met in a chance encounter on one lonely night. He travels across the stars, aging slowly as he jumps from world to world. Human civilization grows around him and leaves him behind; an old relic of a long gone age.

“The Patient Stars” is more of future history of the rise of galactic man than it is about one man’s search for a woman. Although I did appreciate the view of our future us, the story never had a destination for the reader.

 

A gladiator is near his freedom in Three is a Sacred Number by Carrie L. Cadwallader (debut 11/23 and reviewed by Frank D). Kloth is a blue skinned alien, champion of 99 bouts. One more and he’ll win his freedom. Only one other has accomplished that feat, and that champion doesn’t want to see his record matched.

“Three” is an alien tale. The hero is a slave forced to fight. He doesn’t savor in the glory but the exercise has made him a hard individual. Interesting tale. It left me intrigued.

 

Your right to exist will be allowed once you can claim that I Have Read the Terms of Use by Kenneth Schneyer (debut 11/26 and reviewed by Frank D).

“I Have Read” is a legal document for those about to be born. A very clinical (and humorous) look if birth was a legal agreement.

 

An endless winter grips two lovers in The World Will End in Fire by K. C. Norton (debut 11/27 and reviewed by Frank D). The world is freezing, and for the protagonist and his wife, staving off the inevitable becomes a pointless exercise. Viva does not want it to end this way and prefers to choose a brilliant way to leave the world.

“The World” is a tale of two people faced with the end of the world. The sun has gone out and whatever warmth is left is quickly evaporating. The story is a small slice of two people’s life in the final act of a greater tragedy.

 

Remembrance in Stone by Amanda C. Davis (debut 11/28 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Fire is pain and air does not quench it. If Gera had lived to teach her air, she’d be prepared. Instead the runes fell on her shoulders. Gera had taught her water, but even when she enters the sea she is swept away by it. Rolled and tumbled until she is nearly dead, then the sea spits her out as if tired of her presence. She starts a fire that does not warm her, calls a wind that does little to dry her. Finally she wanders back to the house and stares at the rectangle where Gera lays. She wasn’t even able to cut the lines straight. If only Gera had lived to teach her.

I found this one a little jumbled and confusing. The writing was so vague that I never did really identify with the character. Then, at the end of the story, the main character makes an abrupt change in demeanor and thought process. It’s almost as if the author said, “OK time to end the story and make the character change her perception.” It simply didn’t work for me. The author spent so much time setting up the conflict that the ending was disappointing.

 

Tell Me How All This (And Love too) Will Ruin Us by Sunny Moraine (debut 11/29 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

You were screaming when I pulled you from the boat. I’d bound your legs with steel poles and doused you with whiskey. I thought you might die in peace, and I made myself ready for my own death. By the time we reached the island it was sunset, and I pulled the boat ashore. I made a fire from driftwood and wrapped you in blankets. How much of this will you remember? Enough to care? I’ll show you in the most vicious way possible. You may be lucid, but that’s another thing I’ve given up caring about.

We seem to be in a month for strange surreal stories. This is another one I never really understood. The author chose to weave a disjointed tale about two people, at least I think the other being is a person because it is told in a somewhat rambling soliloquy and I was never sure who or what he was prattling on about. About two paragraphs in I wished I’d never started it. So maybe there is a good story in there you can find, I certainly couldn’t.

 

A Year of Outstanding Work

Although we have yet to publish our December’s reviews, I would like to give you my top ten choices for the year. Give them a look. If you like any of them enough, consider nominating one for the upcoming Million Writers Award. I have my pick for the year.

Love’s Footsteps by Cat Rambo

“A Phone, My Heart, and Maybe My Last Shred of Dignity” by Luc Reid

“Five Minutes” by Conor Powers-Smith

“The Bargain” by Henry Szabranski

“Holy Diver” by Gra Linnaea

“Such Days Deserved” by Lee Hallison

Sparg by Brian Trent

The Perfect Coordinates to Raise a Child by Barbara A. Barnett

Highest Possible Setting by Em Dupre

Andâ€

Melancholia in Bloom by Damien Walters Grintalis

In my June review, I compared Ms Grintalis’s story to some of the best Twilight Zone episodes ever to debut on TV. “Melancholia” is sad, beautiful, and special. It had an ending that was bitter, but as I pointed out in my reviewâ€

“†(the) Twilight Zone proved that the very best tales don’t have to have a happy ending for them to be enjoyable. In fact, the bitterest endings in that show are where it achieved its greatest accolades, and like those memorable but bitter episodes this story deserves praise reserved for a true classic.”

If there ever was a published Daily SF story that deserved an award, “Melancholia in Bloom” would be it. I will be nominating it for the Million Writer’s Award. It has earned it.

 

On The PremisesFrank Dutkiewicz has put his snooty and pretentious opinions to good work as a full time finalist judge for On The Premises. A guest judge in the past, he will now help decide the winners of the tri-annual online magazine every issue.

On The Premises is a contest publication. Each contest challenges writers to produce a great story based on a broad premise supplied by our editors. Here is their mission statement.

Our Purpose
On The Premises aims to promote newer and/or relatively unknown writers who can write what we feel are creative, compelling stories told in effective, uncluttered, and evocative prose. Entrants pay no fees, and winners receive cash prizes in addition to exposure through publication.

For writers eager for a fair shot in the publishing world, On The Premises is a blind read contest , all entrants are instructed to submit their work without their name on their script. From the award winning authors to first time writers, all have an equal shot.

Daily Science Fiction: October 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

No need to chatter on in an intro today. Instead, why don’t you enjoy our insights for Daily SF‘s October tales.

 

Space Mama by Karen Heuler (debut 10/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is written in a series of short humorous articles similar to Dear Abby – in space. This isn’t a traditional story, as you will discern quite quickly.

Read this if: You’re up for some micro-stories (They really are quite clever). If you want bits-o-humor. If you only have a few minutes. (Keep it up on your phone and read a few as you go.) Or you wonder what people’s personal problems might be like five hundred years from now.

 

Willy by Deanna Kay Morris (debut 10/2 and reviewed by Frank D).

Willy is a janitor who has lost his arm. The missing appendage doesn’t mean his career is over, however. A small vacuum is put in its place. The replacement allows him to keep his job, and advancement is possible, as long as he doesn’t mind an upgrade or two.

“Willy” is a tale where workers are faced with choices , if you want to benefit in this society, you must be willing to make sacrifices. The subtle moral was not lost on me.

 

A forgotten school girl has attached herself to Connor. In Echo by Alexander Grunberg (debut 10/3 and reviewed by Frank D), Connor picks up a pencil that has fallen under his desk and hands it back to its owner , the girl seated behind him. The brief encounter has left an impression on the poor girl. She loses herself, completely, and becomes Connor’s shadow.

“Echo” is a tale of wanting. The girl has become somewhat of a soul mate of Connor, except Connor doesn’t wish to reciprocate her desire. The shadow accompanies him through life and is a nuisance at first. An elder Connor discovers he has come to need his permanent shadow.

I would describe this tale as a flashback love story (going to trademark that term). I liked it.

 

Superhero Art by Cat Rambo (debut 10/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

Rarely do we see superheroes during downtime. Let’s face it: without super villains, is there much for a hero to do? But what if they had the same problems we did, and what if they cheated on their wives?

Cat Rambo takes us on a disturbing journey through the lives of several superheroes through the eyes of a biographer. What he sees isn’t always pleasant, but for us readers it’s always interesting. Note: Heed the Editor’s note on this one. There’s quite a bit of salty language and explicit situations.

 

The Frog Prince by Jonathan Vos Post (debut 10/7 and reviewed by Frank D), is another take on the ‘princess kisses enchanted toad’ fairy tale, technically speaking. The protagonist contemplates her upcoming nuptials to a less-than-bright prince when she encounters a frog with an equal intellect as herself.

This tongue-in-cheek retelling of a popular tale has two characters that use scientific jargon to converse. I pictured Sheldon Cooper and his girlfriend Amy (of Big Bang Theory) in the roles as I read it. Neat.

 

Parents that are willing to sacrifice for their children leave an even greater burden on their offspring in The Perfect Coordinates to Raise a Child by Barbara A. Barnett (debut 10/8 and reviewed by Frank D). Stacie house-hunts in a neighborhood where all the children excel. All it takes is a small self-sacrifice , such as a body part , and your child will be a genius. The association representative conducts a tour with her brilliant daughter, Rosalie: a child who can relate the precise coordinates of any location. Stacie worries what she will need to lose for the sake of her unborn child until Rosalie offers her the coordinates of a house where Stacie should raise her baby.

“The Perfect Coordinates” is a tale of parental ambition. The people of the home owners association sacrifice an extraordinary amount for the sake of their prodigy children without realizing what their kin lose in the process.

A delightful tale. An excellent metaphor on vicarious aspirations.

Recommended.

 

Revenge is a complicated dish to create. Gather Your Bones by Jenn Reese (debut 10/9 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale narrated from the perspective of a witch. Her latest client is broken-hearted and seeks emotional restitution. The protagonist examines her client’s memories and asks for the items that defined their relationship.

“Gather Your Bones” is a story narrated by a witch who delights in her client’s bitter mood. The protagonist savors in the man’s thirst for revenge against his former lover. The story makes me grateful that a witch like the protagonist does not exist, because I could see such an evil woman enjoying a thriving business from an abundance of customers. An excellent tale, wonderfully told.

Recommended.

 

Chronology of Heartbreak by Rich Larson (debut 10/10 and reviewed by Frank D).

Time-traveler preempts a nasty breakup. Very brief and a bit cryptic.

 

Every person has a hero hidden within, and a villain bursting to come out. Doomsday Will Come With Flame by Anaea Lay (debut 10/11 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a brave inventor whose exploits earned him a spot among Earth’s greatest heroes. The protagonist is the only one capable enough to counter the evil Maligno’s carnivorous flying monkeys. The Vigilance League is fighting a losing battle until a new mysterious hero, named Ti, appears to save the protagonist and stop Maligno for good. She has a soft spot for the protagonist inventor, but has a hidden agenda that makes her far more dangerous than a dozen supervillains.

“Doomsday” is a tale of deceit and attraction. Ti is nothing like a hero. Her supernatural powers are beyond superhuman. The heroes of the Vigilance League are in over their heads and only the unassuming inventor has any chance of stopping her. But the man never really wanted to be a hero, and Ti is one woman who can offer him something different.

As a person who has had a chance to view many of Anaea Lay’s works before they had the chance to see the light of day, I confess I marvel at her ability to write wonderful and brilliant short stories. This one, however, left me confounded and confused. By her explanation for her inspiration for this piece, it appears this is one tale that got away from her and turned into something she never planned. If so, the story itself serves as a metaphor on her own writing process. Well done?

 

Conjugation by Rich Kloster (debut 10/14 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

I led her through my cities, slowly, saving the best for last: Berlin in the old Weimar Republic. We walked through the park, stood on the bridge and stared in the black water. Then we made love. When it was time, and the keepers had come, we bartered: exchanging memory and sensory feelings with each card we passed between us. And when she was gone I met with Sidra. Her exchange with Maia’s partner had also been successful, if more practical. “You liked her.” Sidra said. “Yes, humans can be very interesting,” I said.

I found this story a little predictable and a little confusing at the same time. The author does a good job of creating characters you can relate to, however I never got a real sense of what their motivation was for what they were doing. Did they lack the ability to really develop their own feelings, or was this like an exchange of ideas for some kind of pleasure-seeking exercise? Others seemed to have liked it more than I did, so if you are into existential metaphors check it out.

 

Home Invasion by Steve Rasnic Tem (debut 10/15 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

The two officers at the door looked skeptical. Maybe it was the rundown neighborhood. Maybe it was the lateness of the hour. Perhaps it was the aluminum shorts Clarence had fashioned for protection. He didn’t mind their doubts, he been laughed at before – which he might have taken better if it hadn’t been his analyst doing the laughing. Clarence is being invaded by small aliens, or thinks so. But just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

I really liked this story. An interesting take on the old premise of: what if those that we think are crazy are the ones that are really sane? The author does a good job of putting us in Clarence’s shoes with humor and empathy. Give this one a read and you’ll have a better day. Unless, of course, you start to notice some smaller pieces of aluminum that seem to constantly be out of place.

 

Negative Space by Antonia Harvey (debut 10/16 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

It took a long time for Lucy Morgan to die. Hers was an unremarkable death, a slow unraveling skin and synapses that left nothing behind but dust and the lingering scent of lavender. It began that morning in the shower, when she noticed that her idle fancies were slowly being washed down the drain. On the way back from the store her sense of perspective sloughed off like a snakeskin and formed puddles in the street. At work the photocopier was clogged by dark hair and the memories of her father.

This short story is very long on metaphor, but it was a little too esoteric for me. The author is very creative in the use of symbolism to intertwine the physical and the metaphysical, but for me it was just one long series of metaphors. The author appears to be more interested in demonstrating their mental capacity than keeping the reader interested.

 

Crisis on Titan by Powers-Smith (debut 10/17 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

“Now we switch to Shavonne Robinson for a report on the Quality Mining Company disaster on Titan.
“Thank you Janet, the disaster that has claimed the lives of seventeen hundred†”
“That would be 2350, Shavonne”
“What?”
“We hadn’t counted the families of the miners lost.”
Bottom third scroll: [Death toll on Titan nears 3,000]
“Oh,..”
“You’re sure we will be able to see the moon, Jupiter is awfully far away.”
“It’s Saturn, Janet, and yes we should be able to see the moon in this quadrant. The fire has ignited the methane lakes so it should be quite visible.”

This story is done as a mock newscast with both the talking head and the supposed science “specialist” demonstrating a unique lack of knowledge about the disaster taking place. The story highlights the premise that even though we may progress technologically we seem to be regressing intellectually as a species. The author does an excellent job of drawing out this premise throughout the story. He also focuses on the parochial nature of the species with the ending. Well done and well worth the read.

 

In Another Life by Kelly M Sandoval (debut 10/18 and reviewed by Frank D).

Clara lives another life. She slips into an alternative reality where another Clara didn’t drive away the love of her life. Slipping is dangerous, but she isn’t like others who have destroyed their brains, lost in a world that isn’t theirs. Clara slips as a validation that her life with Louise isn’t over. She just needs to show Louise the other reality, and prove that they were really meant to be.

“In Another Life” is a grass-is-greener tale. Clara is obsessed with Louise, and addicted to her alternative life. Her psychologist isn’t fooled by her lies. Louise (her Louise) has moved on. Clara believes her alternative self is living her dream life.

This story is interesting with a finale that is very fitting. Nice twist.

 

One by Sinead O’Hart (debut 10/19 and reviewed by Frank D).

The protagonist of this overcrowded dystopia future is a school-aged girl named Unubert, adapting in a cold, only-child society. Her mother has awakened ill. Her father is annoyed while young Unubert has a slight concern that her Mum will be decommissioned. Decoms are bitter but a part of life. After all, there is only so much room in the world, and in a family member’s heart, to spare.

“One” is a tale that serves as an entertaining commentary on the one-child policy some eastern nations have adapted. The world in which Unubert lives is hard and unforgiving for the unwanted. Ms O’Hart brings to light the drawbacks of allowing only a single child in a family, and of the detriment to the women of such a policy. Well done.

 

Flying Matilda by Gio Clairval & Cat Rambo (debut 10/22 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Every time they saw the apparition it meant more acrobats would die; the shimmering glow forcing them to unhitch their harnesses and crash to their deaths. The headlines read, “Pale Glow, The Merciless Killer”; and “The Man of the Mist won’t stop until all the Acrobats are dead”. Hunts were commissioned, all failed. Then she came along and took the job. She alone was impervious to his will. All the hunters and acrobats around her fell to their deaths, she unhooked herself and floated out to meet him at the top of the tent.

This story is a fantasy set around a world that lives within a circus. The authors did a good job of setting up their reality and creating a conflict, it just wasn’t enough to draw me in. They had a decent enough premise, that of the interplay between humanity and artifact, but for me it was too obscured by the fantasy of the world they had created. Fantasy lovers should enjoy the tale though.

 

Nesting by Mariel Herbert (debut 10/22 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

I was on my third drink when she walked in the bar. “Is that what I look like?” I thought to myself. All long legs and desperation she melted into the chair next to me. Some small talk and we ended up in bed for the night. The next morning was all too familiar. After my shower I was prepared for the standard “Good-bye” speech, but she surprised me and asked to stay and share the apartment. “I could take some of your clients. They’d never know it wasn’t you.” So after some discussion we embarked on a new life, the two of us.

This story asks the question, “Can robots of the same sex find true love?” I thought the author did an excellent job of setting up both the reality and the premise as he rolled out a somewhat tilted noir scenario. The old veteran takes the younger novice home, only to fall in love with her. The homosexual overtones aside, I thought she did a very good job of conveying both context and subplot throughout the story. Nicely done. Not for everyone, but worth the read.

 

A series of simple questions are the theme of this un-simple title in 36 Interrogations Propounded by the Human-Powered Plasma Bomb in the Moments Before Her Imminent Detonation by Erica L. Satifka (debut 10/24 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this list compiled story is of a human altered into a weapon. The questions are aimed at a benevolent alien species. No answers were forthcoming.

Hmmm. I somehow expected a different outcome.

 

A woman travels back into her memories to visit her younger self in Time Travel, Coffee, and A Shoebox by Nina Pendergast (debut 10/25 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is about to make history as the first woman to experience simulated time travel. The journey is to broadcast as a reality TV program. Upon seeing her younger self, the protagonist realizes some things are just too precious to share.

“Time Travel” is a tale of rediscovery. The visit, although only a simulation, is nevertheless real to the protagonist. She revisits dreams she had long forgotten and examines past concerns that seem silly now. The visit for her is like meeting a departed relative. I found the story sweet and enlightening.

 

Irresistible offerings in rare vending machines tempt three men in Cuddles by A. A. Lowe (debut 10/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Genetically altered pets are the desire of one character in this odd premise. The men search old motels in hopes of finding a kitten.

Strange piece.

 

A customer awaits the final delivery for a desirable package in Lost in Transit by K.B. Sluss (debut 10/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Body parts arrive by mail, one package at a time. The protagonist’s excitement grows as her product is assembled. One last delivery , the most important part , is expected, but alas, it never arrives.

“Lost in Transit” is a neat little tale. Shocking that such a complete and stimulating tale was written in the frame work of a flash tale. Very well done.

 

A daughter visits her intrusive mother in The God of Rugs by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 10/30 and reviewed by Frank D). Karen rarely visits her Mom. The rugs in her place have a mind of their own, limiting Karen’s freewill without consequences. A throw rug gets a little intimate with Karen when her mother leaves the room.

I found this piece to be a little weird.

 

A grieving spouse is willing to pay a magicians stiff price to resurrect their better half in The Bestowal of the Magician by Tianyue Zhang (debut 10/31 and reviewed by Frank D). The husband of a departed mate has pawned much of their belongings to finance a necromancer’s fee. His wife won’t remember much, which will be a shame because the final price to bring her back is great indeed.

I found this story clever but predictable.

 

A million and three-hundred and thirteen

storySouth’s Million Writers Award has published their winners for 2013. Sadly, none of the Daily SF tales were in the running but several DSF authors did make their short list. storySouth will be accepting nominations for their 2014 awards very soon. We at Diabolical Plots will be providing our own best of 2013 DSF tales in the coming weeks. Please give our suggestions a look and consider them as your nominee for the award.

We would also like you to consider our own prolific David Steffen for the awards honor as well. 2013 has been a banner year for him, his work appearing in nine publications over 2013. Most of them were flash fiction publications, which aren’t eligible for the award, but his story “Could They But Speak” published at Perihelion is eligible.

Million WritersEach year, the Million Writers Award offers prizes to the authors of the winning story, a runner-up, and an honorable mention. These prizes are possible thanks to your generous support. Please click on the donate link below to offer your support. Donors have the option of being listed on the Million Writers Award Page or remaining anonymous. Donations are not tax-deductible. Except for the small percentage collected by PayPal to facilitate the transaction, all of your donation goes to fund the Award.

For additional questions or inquiries about the Million Writers Award, contact storySouth editor Terry Kennedy at terry@storysouth.com. For general updates about the award, be sure to check out storySouth.

2014 Hugo Noms!

written by David Steffen

It’s award season again! If you’re eligible to vote for the Hugos, you have until the end of March to decide on your picks. I wanted to share my picks, as I always do, in plenty of time so that if anyone wants to investigate my choices to see for themselves they’ll have plenty of time.

Quite a few of the categories I don’t have anything to nominate because I don’t seek out entries in them, so I left those out. And for any category that I have eligible work I mentioned them alongside my own picks.

The entries in each category are listed in no particular order.

Best Novel

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Premier novel by Leckie. Great premise, difficult point of view, great space opera. I reviewed it here.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
The 14th and final book of Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series.

 

Best Novelette

Monday’s Monk by Jason Sanford (Asimov’s)

Best Short Story

The Promise of Space by James Patrick Kelly (Clarkesworld)

The Murmurous Paleoscope by Dixon Chance (Three-Lobed Burning Eye)

HELP FUND MY ROBOT ARMY!!! by Keffy R.M. Kehrli (Lightspeed)

Hollow as the World by Ferrett Steinmetz (Drabblecast)

The Boy and the Box by Adam-Troy Castro (Lightspeed)

For Your Consideration:
I Will Remain in After Death Anthology
Could They But Speak at Perihelion
Reckoning at Stupefying Stories
Meat at Pseudopod
Coin Op at Daily Science Fiction
Escalation at Imaginaire

Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form)

Ender’s Game

Warm Bodies

Game of Thrones Season 3

 

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

The Rains of Castamere (Game of Thrones)

And Now His Watch Has Ended (Game of Thrones)

Walk of Punishment (Game of Thrones)

Second Sons (Game of Thrones)

Valar Doheris (Game of Thrones)

 

Best Editor (Short Form)

Neil Clarke (of Clarkesworld)

John Joseph Adams (of Lightspeed, Nightmare, and anthologies)

Tina Connolly (of Toasted Cake)

Norm Sherman (of Drabblecast and Escape Pod)

Shawn Garrett (of Pseudopod)

 

Best Semiprozine

Beneath Ceaseless Skies

Daily Science Fiction

Lightspeed

Escape Pod

Drabblecast

Best Fanzine

SF Signal

My work for you to consider:
Diabolical Plots
I do consider Diabolical Plots a zine. Consider, too, that this was the first year Diabolical Plots also provide the Submission Grinder. The Submission Grinder itself doesn’t fit any of the categories, I think, but Diabolical Plots does.

 

Best Fancast

Toasted Cake

Pseudopod

Dunesteef

Podcastle

Cast of Wonders

 

Best Fan Writer

Ken Liu

Ferrett Steinmetz

Juliette Wade

Cat Rambo

Anne Ivy

For your consideration:

David Steffen
Frank Dutkiewicz
Carl Slaughter

 

Daily Science Fiction: September 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Welcome to the only ezine publication that takes the time to review all of the stories of one of the most read speculative publications, and most submitted to professional publishers, Daily Science Fiction. We are proud to be able to show DSF, and its celebrated authors, that their work is read , and studied. For three years we have held true to our commitment that Daily SF should not be ignored. They shouldn’t. The material is too good to be overlooked. But don’t take our word for it. See for yourself.

 

When the Selkie Comes by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 9/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

This flash story is about a young girl suffering the loss of her best friend / girlfriend. Her mind can’t fully accept that she’s gone, especially because of bullying, so she invents a world of magic around herself like a protective bubble, imagining her friend has gone to a better place.

I wasn’t able to escape into the fantasy because this tale was true-to-life. Magic is mentioned, but doesn’t play a part. I wish it had, because I was hoping for some sort of redemption, but instead we just have a very sad, very real story.

 

The Velveteen Rabbit Says Goodbye by Melissa Mead (debut 9/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing many of Melissa Mead’s altered fairy tales, but this one leaves them all behind. If you read only one, make it this one.

The Velveteen rabbit is sent to his Boy, who has been sent to war. While there, he sees horrible things, but his job is simply to be there for his Boy, as well as for others, because they need him.

RECOMMENDED

 

A carnival attraction draws an inquisitive customer in The Vanishing Girl by Michael T. Banker (debut 9/4 and reviewed by Frank D). For two dollars, a girl promises to make something you offer to disappear. Her magical touch delivers. Intrigued, he offers her something friendly. Big mistake.

“The Vanishing Girl” is a tale I read when it first appeared in a writer’s group contest. The ending is quite abrupt, and fitting.

 

A tribute of a town’s savior shows up at the doorstep of a young lady’s home in The Witch’s Cat by Kalisa Ann Lessnau (debut 9/5 and reviewed by Frank D). The companion of a Witch takes to the protagonist when its master dies. The Witch did much for the town. The people she helped all whisper their thanks to the cat (named Sampson) as the protagonist walks tours the community. Sampson contributes to the bonfire while the town performs one last tribute to the Witch, surprising them all, but the magic of the witch has not stopped giving, after all.

“The Witch’s Cat” is a tale that had me guessing throughout. The Witch had left a lasting mark on the local people, she being an icon like many leaders throughout history. I really had no idea where this story was heading and its conclusion is one that I whole-heartedly approve of. Very nice work indeed.

RECOMMENDED

 

The old Angel of Death appeals to the new angel to spare humanity. In Dark Angel, Archangel by Kevin J. Anderson (debut 9/6 and reviewed by Frank D), the Grim Reaper has lost his job to the White Lady. He has refused to exterminate humanity and has been stripped of most of his power. The White Lady has no such qualms. Angels of Deaths have been replaced before – mass extinctions having rendering the previous angel useless. The Reaper intends to not let humanity fade from Earth. He knows why the rest of the aurorae want man to perish. The aurorae will have much to fear, if he can convince the White Lady why man should survive.

“Dark Angel” is a supernatural tale with a very different premise. The otherworld beings are products of the Aurora Borealis. The fear humanity feels for the Angels of Death have made them powerful, too powerful for the beings that have created them. The story becomes a battle, ending in a self-sacrificing act to prove a point.

Frankly, I found this story to be a stretch, even for a speculative audience. It read like a mash up of concepts that floated around in the author’s head.

 

A letter of concern (complete with footnotes) is sent to the people of Earth in Uh†Guys? by Luc Reid (debut 9/9 and reviewed by Frank D). Aliens send us a message in a lingo that we can all understand, you dig?

I found this amusing tongue-and-cheek message piece entertaining.

 

A man follows a character of importance in Tunnel Vision by Zach Shephard (debut 9/10 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist tails a woman he identifies as ‘The Protagonist’. He passes by other characters with wild stories of their own, but he is unconcerned about them. She alone has captured his interest.

“Tunnel Vision” is a story of a viewer focused on a single person. The tale is strange, told as if a reader is living in the imaginative world of another’s creation. The people he passes have incredible and compelling tales of their own, tales he ignores.

This story has a disconnected and odd premise to it. Surreal, yet interesting.

 

The cycles of the tides have a feminine influence in Ebb and Flow by La Shawn M. Wanak (debut 9/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Megan waits at the shore, watching the tide come in as a hint to know when her time has arrived.

This premise is based on a switch on the attraction of the tides , it is a woman’s menstruation cycle and not the moon’s gravitational influence. Interesting, but silly.

 

A vampire craves to see the sun in Finally Free by Frances Silversmith (debut 9/12 and reviewed by Frank D). This brief tale explores the motives of a vampire who has lived in the dark for far too long.

Short and sweet.

 

A failed artist tries to find his purpose in a world filled with androids in The Titanium Geisha by Elias Barton (debut 9/13 and reviewed by Frank D). Wil Feld is the oldest child of a family of accomplished artists. A failure who spends his days on the beach eating hot dogs, Will is bitter and adrift – a boat without a rudder – as he attempts to sail through life as his siblings have. He awaits his perfect mate, a companion android he had picked out in the design specs of an android corporation. When Fern appears on the beach, she isn’t what he expected. She turns out to more than he could have imagined.

“The Titanium Geisha” is a story reminiscent of Philip Dick’s classic Do Androids Dream Electric Dreams? , the story that begat Blade Runner. Fern proves to be just the person Will needs, a mate who challenges an artist who has come to avoid challenges. Fern attempts to blossom Wil’s creative side, but Wil has not the insight, nor the desire his siblings have had all along. The world is clinical to him. Where others see beauty, he finds the practical.

“Titanium Geisha” is long tale for Daily SF. It is long in set up with a reveal that takes a long and winding path to reach its conclusion. The tale is a cleverly disguised mystery. There are clues within the story that should have made the twist obvious but the slow pace and complicated romance does a rather good job of hiding the clues in plain sight. The protagonist is drawn as a privileged jerk, too comfortable in his own self-pity to attempt to move beyond his own short comings. He makes it difficult as a character for a reader to rootfor, which is a shame.

“The Titanium Geisha” is a story with a solid premise. The tale is an intriguing one but one that is difficult to stick with.

 

Pavlov’s Final Research by Gary Cuba (debut 9/16 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

The old man stood on shaky legs, his bones creaking with the effort, and shambled over to the door. “What do they want of me now?” He thought. He opened the door to reveal his old friend, Sergi. “Have you come to tell me they have stopped my stipend after all these years?” Pavlov asked. “Not at all, old friend.” Sergi said. “In fact Stalin wants to honor you as his predecessor has done, but he needs to know about your new work.” Pavlov agreed and led Sergi into the kitchen to observe his latest work, a new approach to conditioning. But who was training who?

This story is a little trite and predictable, but it is well written and the humor comes through nicely. The writer has done a credible job with setting up the premise and drawing the reader into the story. It could probably have used a better punch line, but it is still worth the read.

 

Virtually Human by Melanie Rees (debut 9/17 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

The boy held up the pills, offering one to Miranda. She refused and he popped one in his mouth. “You know you want one,” he said. Miranda refused, stumbling over her words, “I can’t.” His look carried the accusation of cowardice. “Mother would be angry.” Still she is on the verge of succumbing to the temptation when the footsteps on the stairs alert her. “End program,” she commands and the boy fades away.

This was an interesting take on perception and what we seek for in life. The author does a good job of drawing us into the character. And while there are some early issues with gaps in the action that I found disconcerting, overall the story is well written. I liked the way the author changed our view of the world as she changed the perspective of the character. Worth the read.

 

A painter deconstructs his own work in Artist’s Retrospective by David D. Levine (debut 9/18 and reviewed by Frank D). A customer delivers a painting to an artist’s gallery , a caption of a fruit bowl. The painter accepts it and strips down to the point of his inspiration.

“Artist’s Retrospective” is a walk backwards in creation. The story is told in a time reversal, a tale of rediscovery in the eyes of a creator. The piece (story) is a work of a master. Mr. Levine shows off his own artistry as he leads the reader on a path of inspiration and talent , in reverse. Well done.

RECOMMENDED

 

A scientist confesses his crime in Those Little Slices of Death by Susan Lanigan (debut 9/19 and reviewed by Frank D). An inventor removes the magnet in his skull that neutralizes the need for sleep. The result is intoxicating.

This futuristic message piece is written as a commentary of our current political times. Not a bad story but reading the author’s inspiration kind of soured it for me.

 

Unicorns, and Other Birthday Hazards by Jeffery John Hemenway (debut 9/20 and reviewed by Frank D). It’s Greta’s twelfth birthday, and that makes her a dangerous girl. Monsters inhabit her town, brought about by the birthday wishes of little children. The adults need her to fix this with a wish, but she knows that won’t make things better, just worse. But Greta knows what to do because she’s the one that made birthday wishes possible in the first place.

Greta is a prisoner in her own attic as a large man stands guard. Outside unicorns and ponies of all shapes and color rule the grounds. They are the results of wishes small children have made, but no wish comes without a consequence. Greta learned that the day she first found the gnome, and has been planning ever since to undo what she had done long ago.

“Unicorns” is a tale of unintentional consequences. She had intended on saving her sick sister with her first wish, but the gnome had warned her of its consequences. The story is a fast moving tale full of unexpected twists and turns. The quick pace and unseen corners is a telling that was right up my alley, making it a complete pleasure for me to read. My only gripe is the ending left me with unanswered questions. Nevertheless, it was a solid and entertaining read.

 

An editor wants his science fiction writer to make his novel more believable in Worldbuilding by Alex Shvartsman (debut 9/23 and reviewed by Frank D). Peter calls in Bob to nit-pick small details in his latest work.

This short piece has a twist made for the lovers of speculative fiction.

 

The Gifts: Parts 1 -3 by Mari Ness (debut 9/24-26 and reviewed by Frank D), is a tale told around the Grimm fairy tale, The Girl with Silver Hands. Each part is told from a perspective of one of the major players in the tale.

In Part One (debut 9/24), the protagonist is given a chest from his daughter, filled with gold and a pair of silver hands. The gold is his, but it cannot be touched by his own hands.

In Part Two (debut 9/25), we see the prequel to Part One. The girl with stumps for arms is given the silver hands as a gift by her prince, her husband, and protagonist of this tale.

This flash gathers a glimpse of the girl and how her silver hands are given as a gift to her father.

In Part Three (debut 9/26), is the finale as seen through the eyes of the girl with stumps for arms. She watches as her prince , the man she had left , slices off her father’s hands on the chest full of gold.

The original tale (there are many variations, according to my research) is dark like many of the Grimm brother’s tales. Ms Ness’s adaption is told with an alternate ending as an epilogue to the original tale. These three brief adaptions are presented in a slightly darker shade as the already grim fairy tale.

Like many of the fairy tale adaptions told here at Daily SF, the author holds true to the tone of the original piece while spinning it in their own style. Not bad, for a bleak and harsh children’s story.

 

A ghost girl and a man seeking resurrection for his wife seek a planet of dreams in Marrakech Express by Milena Benini (debut 9/27 and reviewed by Frank D). The planet of Zaria is a world where the dead can live on in the space in which dreams exist. Mari is a spirit whose form exists in the presence of her parents. Karima intends on making the sun run for her daughter. Christian Chankari is a man who has used the services of a smuggler , Harry the Slut. Together, they travel aboard the Marrakech Express to Zaria so Christian can bring his departed wife to Zaria.

“Marrakech Express” is a dual plot story. The twin stories surrounding Mari’s ghostly form and the exploits of Harry the Slut have very little in common. Each storyline follows a confusing path until the characters meet in the climax of the piece.

I found this story to be a difficult one to get through. The characters all have odd motives. The rules of the dream state and how they related to the dead I couldn’t make heads or tails out of. The story is slow and underdeveloped. I just couldn’t understand why these people made the choices they made.

Not my cup of tea.

 

An old woman has a soft spot for children, one she has been suppressing for a very long time. How Hagatha One-Eye Fell Off the Wagon by Matthew Cote (debut 9/30 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale of a reclusive and old woman. She holds tight to a coin stamped with a 200, the time she has remained on the wagon. An older boy performs a breaking and entering on her place, challenging her resolve and will power.

“How Hagatha” is a take on the ole Hansel and Gretel fable. I found it inventive and a pleasure to read.

RECOMMENDED

 

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