Daily Science Fiction: August 2013 Review

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

Intriguing tale. Not bad.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Sound Check

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

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

snapperFrank Dutkiewicz needs no introduction.

Daily Science Fiction: July 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Humpty Dumpty gets even.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Making Your Money Work For Youâ€

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Daily Science Fiction: June 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Did you contribute to Daily Science Fiction‘s Kickstarter campaign? If so, thank you very much. They made their goal with room to spare. That means the daily emails with delightful and never-read-before work of science fiction and fantasy will continue. Did you catch all that June had to offer? If not, this is what you missedâ€

 

“Pictures in Crayon” by Elizabeth Shack (debut 6/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) takes place in a far-future, dystopian world where the earth is dying, and children are taken off-world via a lottery drawing. The narrator wants to see other stars, wants to get off earth, wants to live, but she’s not the only child in her family.

I thought the ending was somewhat predictable, however, it was no less enjoyable, and melancholy.

 

“Note to Self” by Hans Hergot (debut 6/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) starts in such a humorous way that I was expecting a continuous laugh riot. However, the story turned sentimental and became the best of both worlds.

Thomas’s future self has won a time-travel contest in which he’s allowed to write six words to his past self to be delivered at a particular time. (Which isn’t fully explained, but doesn’t really matter.) I won’t spoil what the six words are, because what they mean is greater than what they say, which is what makes this story so great.

 

“Three Wishes” by Melissa Mead (debut 6/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

In another delightful, twisted fairy tale from Melissa Mead, a golden coyote is stuck in a trap and thus rescued by a simple woodcutter. The woodcutter is given three wishes and mistakenly, and humorously, wastes the first two. His wife lets him have it for his foolishness, but demands the third wish be saved for something wholly selfish. She is a good wife. However, (spoiler) the woodcutter’s second wish absolutely needs to be undone.

This story, aptly, comes with a twist you might expect from a three-wish story. The twist, however, has a lot of heart.

 

“True Love” by Alex Shvartsman (debut 6/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

At Temporal Excursions, Inc., you can step inside the mind of a past figure and experience their lives precisely as they did, minute by minute, in only an hour.

Molly seeks the experience of pure love. The kind, she says, that just isn’t seen around. However, she is repeatedly discouraged by the real lives of Helen of Troy and Cleopatra. Apparently our history books aren’t as accurate as the true day to day lives of these historic women.

But after each disappointment Travis, an employee of Temporal Excursions, is there to listen just as he is there to plug Molly back in during each subsequent visit until. Through with the past, Molly just might have discovered something of interest in her present.

 

“The Ships That Stir Upon The Shore” by Rahul Kanakia (debut 6/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

In a future where the earth’s temperature is a deadly problem, people have been relegated into domes to survive. (However, this is not the focus of the story.) A broker of homes’ possessions sets his sights on a wealthy home whose owner is still alive. In the hopes that everything goes according to plan, based on past performance, he brings his family along to assist in the transition between the previous owner and them.

At first I was confused. The world made a lot of assumptions that I knew what the heck it was talking about. Then it settled into its story and I was sucked in – completely. What unfolds is as heartwarming as it can be in this quite dystopian future. I wished for a little more set-up regarding the change of heart. However, I still feel this is a top-notch story.

 

Simon gets an awesome gift that will spare him from pain in Jumping Into The Sky” by Samantha Murray (debut 6/10 and reviewed by Frank D). Grandma had finally sent Simon a birthday gift worth using: invulnerability cream, good for one day. He always wanted to jump off a cliff, remembering the look on Laura’s face when he backed out on a dare from before. The cream grants him the courage to dive ahead; an easy thing to do when the consequences are eliminated.

“Jumping” is a tale for those who wished they could summon courage from a jar. This predictable storyline has an unpredictable finale. The side effect was logical, but unforeseen. Well done.

 

A miracle drug promises to cure everything in Curing Day” by Dustin Adams (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a nine year old boy centuries old. Pathway is a miracle inoculation that fixes all but erases memory. Shamus is one of the few who retains his memory. He alone sees the decay and remembers the ones who have died from accidents. The world is slowly falling apart and he alone can remember the slight changes of the effects disrepair.

“Curing Day” is a story I read in an infant draft. This final draft is a testament on how much work it takes to turn a good idea into a marketable story. Loved the concept of this piece , a world that decays while a society is locked in a pharmaceutical induced amnesia. Well done, my friend.

 

A bullied boy seeks sanctuary in his City of Chrysantemum” by Ken Liu (debut 6/12 and reviewed by Frank D). Bobby is a target of bullies. The small boy is tormented and beaten daily. On the pages of his art and in the corner of his mind he imagines a prince like himself in a city where boys aren’t forced to fight and are free to live in peace.

“Chrysantemum” is a fantasy only in the mind of the author’s protagonist. Bobby has a tale so many can identify with. His school is his dungeon. His two classmates are his predators, seeking him out so they can dish out their sadistic punishment for their own pleasure.

“Chrysantemum” is likely the least speculative story DSF has ever published. The tale is sad because there is too much realism in it. Bobby is not just a victim of cruel kids who say hurtful words that will inflict harm on his confidence. He is practice for future felons earning their own education in what should be the safe confines of a public institution. Bobby’s make believe kingdom serves as is his sanity’s refuge, his way of coping in his adolescent hell.

If you are sensitive to children being abused, avoid this tale. But in my opinion it is a story we should all read.

 

A superhero finds her rival, friend, and lover in Dark, Beautiful Force” by Jessica May Lin (debut 6/13 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a defender of justice who competes with another hero. The two develop a relationship as they battle the forces of evil and become intimate. The battle between good and evil will always carry on, regardless of the obstacles in life.

“Dark, Beautiful Force” is a tale of an extra special woman and her soul mate. The powers of the characters are unknown and the villains they fight are faceless. The struggle in this tale is of the inner turmoil the protagonist battles as she first competes than falls in love with her rival. The protagonist loses her unborn child while battling a vague antagonist. The loss leaves her hollow inside, and her depression drives a wedge between the two heroes. Her soulmate hatches a plan to save her from herself.

The vagueness of this superhero tale robs the story of its superhero flavor. The story almost could have been told without superhuman powers. The only fight that matters , to the protagonist and the reader , is the battle our heroine had with herself from the start. The plan her lover hatches (I would imagine) would do the heroine more harm than it could possibly do good. For all its vagueness, I found this tale nevertheless enjoyable, despite its dark conclusion.

 

“I’ll Leave The Light On” by Patricia Russo (debut 6/14 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Dahyana found the boy throwing rocks at a stop sign. She recognized him immediately by the glow. Mrs. Miller told her she would recognize them, and she had because they were like her. She took her time slowly developing rapport, drawing in the angry young man. He would always be angry until she could bring him to others like her. Bring him in, train him, teach him; only then can he fulfill his purpose.

I found the writing in this one a little uneven in spots, particularly the opening paragraph. If you work your way past that particular sandbar, you will find an intriguing story about people that live among us, but have a very different reality. I would encourage you to put in some extra effort and give this story a try.

 

“The Silver Witch” by Tara Calaby (debut 6/17 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

When Rosalind was discovered straddling Leda the townspeople knew she was a witch. When the miller (whom she had rejected), the priest, and Leda’s betrothed testified they were sure. The decision was made. Rosalind must die to cleanse Leda’s soul of her spell. But when they tried to carry out the sentence the townspeople discovered something about the power of love.

This story is well written and gives us something to consider about how and who we fear in the world. It does so with a twist that that shows us even more. It also says something about the power of love. Give it a try.

 

A priest is sent to hell to find a man among the damned in Holy Diver” by Gra Linnaea (debut 6/18 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is chosen by God to find a single soul in the fiery pits of hell. God had him sacrifice himself so he would gain entrance into the underworld. Hell is like a prison, priests are singled out , as if they are criminals who have committed a crime judged too heinous even for the fellow prisoners to accept. The protagonist learns to adapt in hell, as he searches for a man God so badly wants him to find.

“Holy Diver” is so much like a war story. The protagonist is on a mission in enemy territory. He knows nothing of the man he is searching for or the reasons why God wants him to find him. He is just a loyal soldier in God’s army and does not question his unknown orders.

I found “Holy Diver” to be an extraordinary and risky tale. The mystery of what the damned priest could be looking for , and the landscape of hell he walked through – had me hooked from the start. The answer to this mystery was a stunner. A warning to the faithful: the twist to this story you may consider blasphemous, so you may want to avoid it. I, however, loved the direction and the implications of the finale.

Recommended.

 

The Big Bad Wolf plans a big meal in Big Bad’s Hot Date” by Melissa Mead (debut 6/19 and reviewed by Frank D).The wolf of “three pigs” fame, plans a nice pork roast for his date. The trick is getting the slippery porkers to join in the meal. Thanks to his ingenuity, and the pigs’ predictable pattern, his date is destined to turn out just fine.

Inventive take on an old classic. I liked the way Ms Mead’s devious mind thinks. Well done.

 

Part of an immortal conscience faces irreversible death in Restorative” by Andy Dudak (debut 6/20 and reviewed by Frank D). The 3877th instance of Fingal Boyd is told he cannot rejoin the collective conscience because he has been inflicted with a virus. His shell, or ‘meat puppet’ , a man named Ciaran who has whored out his body, reflects with bitter irony that they will die together. Regret fills 3877 as death nears. He has never cared for his host body before, but weighing your actions of your life , and how they affected others , is a new experience for the greater being of Boyd.

“Restorative” is a tale set in a repressive society. Although the story is too short to fully explore the ramifications of a conscience impressing itself into one of the downtrodden, the plot to this piece centers on one part of a split being abandoned by its greater self. The vessel 3877 has occupied was once its own person. Ciaran had sold himself to be used, and abused. Now used up, 3877 feels the consequences of what he has done to Ciaran, and 3877 does not like it.

My main complaint to “Restorative” is it was far too short. A far larger , and better , story was left untouched. A thought provoking story with a satisfying ending.

 

A grieving actress is asked to reprise a memorable role in While Memory Holds a Seat” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 6/21 and reviewed by Frank D). Rose is a member of a planet-hopping traveling theater troop. Dark and tragic events in her past transformed the once bubbly girl into a withdrawn and depressed woman. A decision of what to preform must be made for the troop’s next stop. Verna, her daughter, suggest they do ‘Beauty and the Beast’, and wants Rose to play Belle.

“While Memory” is a story about a woman who has condemned herself to her own hell. A tragic accident has left her hollow inside. The tale is mostly a mini-biography of Rose’s past. It is all a set up for climactic finale that was dulled by the lengthy and depressing backstory.

 

A couple attempts to rid their world of a pest in All Kinds to Make a World” by Georgina Bruce (debut 6/24 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist and his wife find a creature outside their home and do their best to kill it, but try as they might the little bugger refuses to die. They don’t give up at first, but in a weird Stockholm syndrome twist they come to adore the monster.

“All Kinds” is a strange story (I mean that with modest sincerity). Like the creature in the tale, I became endeared with it by the end.

 

Two young students pine for each other in Pinned and Wriggling on the Wall” by Usman T Malik (debut 6/25 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is spending one last evening with his girl, Sara , a med student with a talented hand for sketches that come to life. They are in love but her father makes it impossible for them to be together.

The subplot to “Pinned” is the two-dimensional beings that Sara has drawn in her notebook. One drawing attempts to escape while the protagonist makes a play for Sara’s heart. I confess, I did not connect the relevance and/or metaphor the author was seeking for this tale. I am afraid the story’s point was lost on me.

 

The innocence of youth can be quite tragic in Such Days Deserved” by Lee Hallison (debut 6/26 and reviewed by Frank D). Annie and her young friends have claimed the empty lot as their own. They have dug a hole and called it their fort. So when their fort is occupied by a strange – and scary looking – visitor from beyond, they react in a most human way.

“Such Days” is ET gone wrong. The opening paragraphs open with Annie and her innocent hopes as she stares up at the stars, which makes the gravity of what happens afterwards very shocking. I think the events of this tale would probably be the most likely outcome of a first contact scenario. I think the choice of using children made this worked best. Well done.

Recommended.

 

A soldier’s bid to fight repression crosses lines in The Frenchman’s Jihad” by JT Howard (debut 6/27 and reviewed by Frank D). Jean is part of an elite fighting unit combating the spread of contraband seed in the farming community. The son of a farmer cut down by thugs, Jean is happy he no longer works in the fields. His unit is out to stop the illegal seed trade, no matter what.

“Frenchman” is a tale set in a world of tyranny. It is a story where a soldier suddenly realizes he is on the wrong side. The author is an experienced warrior, and the tone and details shows the depth of his knowledge. “Frenchman” is a sci-fi war story very much like the speculative fiction tales told in the height of the Cold War. I found it to be crisp and compelling.

 

A sick woman exhausts the memories she stored for her daughter in Melancholia in Bloom” by Damien Walters Grintalis (debut 6/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Helen has a family heirloom for her daughter Rebecca: a magical box that stores memories. It is a treasure Helen found after her mother died, and in it, are the strips of cloth and the notebook her mother left for her explaining the magic of the box. For years, Helen has stocked the box with rose petals full of memories and a diary she has kept for Rebecca, but a debilitating disease has struck Helen and memories meant for Rebecca are the only things that keep her connected to this world.

“Melancholia” is a story told from two perspectives. From Rebecca’s point of view seeing her mother as a once lively woman now locked in a vacant shell, and from the words in Helen’s diary as she lives with the horror of losing her mind. Rebecca’s story is one that thousands of people could tell; the experiences of watching a loved one succumb to Alzheimer’s. Her mother is a woman who is lost to her; a walking catatonic, a parent who has left this Earth, yet still lives. The pain of viewing the vibrant woman she once knew now locked in a shell is too much for her to bear. Helen’s story adds an extra dimension to the tale. The magical box of memories is an heirloom passed down through untold generations. She found it after her mother passed away and discovered the gifts of memories inside. The rose petals she placed inside the box are memories she intended to leave her daughter, but the memory-fading disease that has her in its grip makes the temptation to re-experience what she lost to great for her to resist.

This story has a premise very much like Michael Haynes’s Scraps, but, where Mr Haynes’s piece was a tale of beautiful discovery, Ms Grintalis’s is a heart-wrenching tragedy. The two subplots of “Melancholia” complement each other. Helen is aware of the injustice she is doing to the boxes legacy and of the gift she is robing her own daughter, but the reader can’t blame her for it. Her written confession that choosing not to seeing a doctor when the first signs appear because it would ‘make it real’ is something we all can sympathize with. The recaptured memories allow Helen to be normal once again, even if it is for a brief moment. They keep the disease at bay, but the memories she has stored , and meant for Rebecca to experience , are finite in number and will be gone once spent.

I wondered when I finished this tale if Daily SF was Ms Grintalis’s first choice to publish her story. I’d imagine that a good many publications would have told her that it wasn’t right for them; a modern fantasy, short in length, a quick narrative and , most of all , an ending that was anything but happy. Not quite dark enough for a publisher of horror but the complete absence of cheer would have likely disqualified it for a bunch of publications and that is too bad. The early speculative fiction TV classic 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.

“Melancholia in Bloom” is a dynamite work of art. From its aptly named title to its somber finale this is a tale worthy of remembrance. Thank you Daily SF for delivering it to my email box.

Highly recommended.

 

And then there was oneâ€

On June 27th Dr. Steven Wittenberg Gordon announced on his writer’s blog , Songs of Eretz – that he would no longer be reviewing Daily SF on a regular basis. For an entire year, Dr. Gordon wrote a review of every DSF story the day it debuted , no small feat. His reviews were honest and thoughtful, and he didn’t miss one in all that time , including the ones that were written by the Diabolical Plots staff. And to prove we can take it, as well as dish it out, here is what he thought of our work.

“Coin Op” by David Steffen
The business-like, complete lack of emotional response from the android was amusing, as were its sexual extortion tactics. A snide comment at the end of story detracted a bit; there was a missed opportunity to make this a moral tale with a chilling (ahem) climax. 3 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

“This Is Your Problem, Right Here” by David Steffen
This story was revolting and hilarious at the same time. Original and memorable. 7 out of 7 rocket-dragons

“Curing Day” by Dustin Adams
There is certainly the grain of a great story here. I wish Mr. Adams would have provided some explanation for how the anti-aging drug works and why the side-effect occurs. The story is a little difficult to follow, but its original premise makes it worth reading. 4 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

“Fool’s Gold” by Frank Dutkiewicz
A good story, but the intellectual dialogue from the mouths of supposedly uneducated serfs was distracting. 5 rocket-dragons.

Dr. Gordon provided what I’ve been claiming Daily SF deserves from the leading reviewers of speculative fiction , insightful, thoughtful, and honest assessments of the works offered by one of the leading publishers of short, genre specific fiction in the industry. It is a disgrace that the recognized reviewers have been neglected by them and a shame Songs of Eretz will no longer picking up their slack. We will miss reading the doctor’s opinions.

But hey, if the good doc would like to keep a toe hold in DSF reviews, we would be happy to make room for him. I’ll keep your work load light, Steve.

 

MB_JLWhy are these two people so happy? Because you came through for them. The editors asked for your help in funding Daily SF and you didn’t disappoint. They met their goals with room to spare. On behalf of Jon and Michele, thank you for your support.

Daily Science Fiction: May 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Hey there fans of Daily Science Fiction. Have you’ve been enjoying all the free works of speculative fiction all these years? If you have, maybe you can show the editors some love. First, here are this month’s storiesâ€

 

Stories about or containing affairs as plot are fairly common, yet “Persephone at Arm’s Length” by Bridget A. Natale (debut 5/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) stands out because of how polar opposite the two characters are.

The protagonist puts up with more than any man rightly should (which is deftly “shown” not “told” by the author). And she is solely in need of companionship while her husband is away(Where he is gives this tale quite a boost).

There’s a distinctly lopsided relationship here, even for two people married to others, and I gather that it’s not likely to change.

 

“Lyam” by Jez Patterson (debut 5/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a fun, flash piece about human parents struggling to come to grips with their adopted baby. Their alien baby.

The father is on board, ready to go, and soothes his wife with humor and love, but she — she’s not so sure. Decent story. Simple, and enjoyable.

 

“Things We Leave Behind” by Alex Shvartsman (debut 5/ 3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a story about a Russian couple and their son leaving their country, town, and legacy, not so much to find a better life but to escape a not-so-great one. Fueled by the matriarch and with the young son eager to explore, the father eventually acquiesces and parcels their belongings, including his vast collection of books. The books that have kept their town safe for generations.

Personally, I enjoyed this story very much. There’s subtle hints of magic here and the timing of world events leads the reader to believe they are absolutely true.

 

“The Taking Tree” by Emily C. Skaftun (debut 5/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) according to the author’s notes was inversely inspired by The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. While I can certainly see the author’s motivation I admit I was disappointed to discover this fact because I quite enjoyed the story as-is.

A tree, having been cut down by a life-long friend, grows anew around the stump with rings of saplings that together become the mightiest tree in the forest. Sadly, however, the tree’s thoughts are bitter and when other children come to play she doesn’t trust them; she hurts them.

 

“Smaug, MD” by Andrew Kaye (debut 5/7 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a brilliant story in which dragons have returned to the Earth but are small enough to become our physicians. They’re better at doctoring than their human counterparts, and have set up complex insurance programs which culminate in the consumption of the patient at the time of death.

However, the narrator’s father is let in on a secret mere moments before he is to be eaten that shakes his foundation, and that of his daughter. What did the dragon tell him?

Unfortunately, I found myself so interested in what the revelation was, that the story itself, the journey, lost some of its luster. Good stories start with a question that’s answered at the end, and this one was great. Possibly too great.

 

“Puss” by Melissa Mead (debut 5/8 and reviewed by Frank D). The famous fairy tale cat readies himself for the next chapter in his life, and takes a previous rival as a convenient companion.

In this alternate fairy tale, Puss has had enough , electing to strike out on his own. It isn’t clear to me if this is an unwritten epilogue of the old classic, or a divergence in the original story.

 

Peter Whitt stands accused of the most heinous of crimes, the attempted assassination of the angel. In “Ichor” by Jess Hyslop (debut 5/9 and reviewed by Jim Hanzelka) he shows no emotion as the charges and sentence of death is read. He stares straight ahead not looking at the priest as he rolls up the scroll. He doesn’t react as the executioner strides to the handle, doesn’t acknowledge the jeers and thrown dirt clods from the crowd. Only when he falls through the trap door does he react. He smiles. It is as if he knows something no one else does.

This is an interesting story. I can’t say I really cared for the layered flashback structure the author uses to tell the tale, but still the sense of the story comes through. The author does a pretty good job of setting and character development for a short work and the ending works well. Overall an interesting read, if not one of my favorites.

 

The princess withers under the overbearing hand of her father in “The Princess and Her Tale” by Mari Ness (debut 5/9 and reviewed by Jim Hanzelka). She is aware of her value only as a princess, but her father sees her as the reincarnation of her mother and seeks to hold her unmarried at his side. The minister concocts a plan to free the princess. She adopts a disguise and with her maid leaves the city. Along the road they meet three women who give them gifts to aid in their goal to have the princess meet and marry a princess from another land.

The author has crafted a well written tale that flows well for the most part. The problem is it seemed a little too familiar and in the end just wasn’t interesting enough to hold my attention. The story also seemed cramped in this format with not enough space to allow the spectacle to flourish or the tale to unfold gently. Overall not a story I would recommend, unless you are a devotee of fairy tales, then it may be worth a read.

 

A medium has a special bond with her dead in “Forgiving Dead” by Jeff Stehman (debut 5/13 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is visited by a pair of customers. Like many, they wish to contact a lost relative , a victim of a tragic accident.

“Forgiving Dead” is a story of condolence. The protagonist’s gift is her own penance, a reminder of her role in the spirits of this tale’s fate. A nice, but not jarring, twist at the end. I rather liked it.

 

The yearly family get together would not be complete without the telling of the traditional tale in “The Troll (A Tale Told Collectively)” by Marissa Lingen (debut 5/14 and reviewed by Frank D). Telling the tale , much like the outcome of the tale , always ends in disaster.

This light-hearted look at family reunions centers around the conflicting story of a troll that had a habit of disrupting past reunions , until the day long-gone grandpa rudely put the trolls intrusion to an end. The telling of the tale is never completed but the story within the story wasn’t really the story anyway. “The Troll” is a tale of dysfunctional family dynamic and is an excellent analogy on why so many of us don’t look forward to holiday gatherings every year.

 

Faith powers the “Airship Hope” by Laurel Amberdine (debut 5/15 and reviewed by Frank D). The lighter-than-air ship is a vessel prophets deemed necessary. A labor of a thousand years, monks ride in search of a new land, steering through the skies on the power of prayer. Only doubt can doom the vessel. Those who lose faith, are cast aside , no matter how important they are.

“Airship Hope” is a tale of commitment. The captain of the craft is the bishop of the order. A test craft proved doubt will spread and spell the end of the vessel. Blind faith is a must. The tale has a slight twist but it isn’t the climax of this short tale. The bishop’s own faith is tested, and you can see the seeds of his own doubt sewn in the fabric of the finale.

 

A hard woman makes her man hard in “Puppet Man” by Cate Gardner (debut 5/16 and reviewed by Frank D). Walter is a mealy married to an overbearing woman. Maeve is a bully who is never satisfied with her husband. To combat her boredom (and to get away from Walter) she acquires a hobby , taking up woodworking at the local college. Her instructor also teaches sorcery, and Mauve is eager to combine the two talents, and experiment on Walter.

“Puppet Man” is a tragedy. Walter is a spineless man who can’t please , but never stops trying , his wife. Maeve is the worse type of spouse; judgmental, unsympathetic, rude, selfish, bossy – and with all the tenderness of a cactus. She doesn’t like her husband one bit. Walter is very unhappy with his marriage but lacks the courage to put his foot down. Maeve is out to change him once and for all.

The story is told from Walter’s perspective. The reader ends up hating Maeve and her lack of any redeeming quality whatsoever. Weak, indecisive, complicit; Walter doesn’t come off well either in the sympathy department. He internally contemplates leaving Maeve but outwardly endures her masochistic actions. “Puppet Man” attempts a twist but twist fails to turn the story. The changes Maeve imposes on Walter does nothing to change him or his mind. Instead, it only serves as another pin for Maeve to poke her man with.

 

An extrinsic cybernetic man buys “The Last Tiger” by Joanne Anderton (debut 5/17 and reviewed by Frank D). Edward is a wealthy man. He fills his home with replicas of extinct animals. The Last Tiger is his most unique possession , a creature that is mostly alive. Its brain and heart are cybernetic units – such are the limitations of biological components – but the creature smells, defecates, and acts like the predator it once was. The living creature requires a lot of care but there is something alluring to it. Edward is drawn to its primeval need to hunt, as if its desire to kill is what makes it seem so alive.

“The Last Tiger” is a tale of decay. Earth has become a sterilized world where the electronic has merged with the biological. Society, the landscape, and personalities mimic what once was. The tiger in this tale acts like an overgrown house cat for Edward, seeking his owner’s affections and bringing his fresh kills for Edward as ‘gifts’. The large creature drives a wedge between Edward and his wife, and between Edward and his reality. So fascinated he is with his pet that he forgoes the basics of substance for himself. The story at this point changes. What was set up as a metaphor on our decaying society becomes a diverting Trojan Horse finale.

I found this story to be well-conceived. The people of this future are barely people anymore and I got the impression that civilization was operating on an auto-pilot. Biomechanical humanity has become a sterilized society; a mimic of what we once were. This portion of the premise attracted me. However, the payoff I was expecting never came when a twist took the story in a direction I wasn’t expecting and into a conclusion I didn’t fully understand. Let me just say the disguised antagonist’s motives I don’t get. It left me scratching my head and wondering ‘why?’

 

“Private Memories” by Michael Haynes (debut 5/20 and reviewed by Jim Hanzelka).

The main character can control time and is using this ability to prevent Sara from killing herself. Over and over again he tries to change the events, failing each time. Five, six, seven tries are not enough. Finally he succeeds, finds the right words to pull her back. But someday the time will come when even this ability isn’t enough, and the fates will have their due.

This story has an interesting premise. If you had the ability to go back in time and correct some mistake, should you; or are you doomed to eventually pay the price. While I like the concept, I can’t really say I care for the execution in this case. The author has chosen to put this in a first person format that felt a little distant to me. I never really felt for his characters, therefore I found the piece a little flat.

 

The narrator is in the basement with her friend’s lover in “The Left Side of Your Lover’s Broken Face” by Brynn MacNab (debut 5/20 and reviewed by Jim Hanzelka), but they are only playing ping pong. She’s comfortable with him as a friend, maybe more so than her female friend. Their discussion ranges from politics to cows to shoes. The lover is distracted by the conversation, which leads to an unfortunate accident with a ping pong ball. This event cascades into a darker event, one that reveals a secret that changes the narrator’s perspective on life. Eventually.

This is another oddly constructed story, but with a less interesting premise. I found the characters oddly flat and distant. Even the narrator seemed to display a lack of passion, even when fleeing for a weekend. Even odder, the author tries to portray her as terrified, but the next week she’s back acting as if the traumatic event is merely bad socialization. I found the whole story a little disjointed.

 

A princess seeks an escape in “A Little Sleep” by Melissa Mead (debut 5/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a bright daughter of a widowed king. His only surviving child, she will make an excellent bargaining chip for an endowment. She does have a choice but it is a radical one.

“A Little Sleep” is a darker side to the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ fairy tale. The princess is well aware of the curse on her head, but has managed to steer clear of spindles thus far. Her predicament, as a married off princess, is not to her liking, which makes the allure of the spindle actually enticing.

I liked Ms Mead’s addition to this tale. Logical and gives the story more meaning. The ending had an amped up dark mystery to it as well. Well done.

 

Family togetherness involves a “Nitpick” by K. S. O’Neill (debut 5/23 and reviewed by Frank D). The characters of this story live in a future where parasites are accepted companions.

This story’s point was lost on me. There were a lot of subplots that had no obvious connections to me. The central theme to this story is the tolerated lice that live on their human hosts. The humans have come to frown upon the serious arts , like science and math , while pushing their children to take up frivolous activities.

I hate to nitpick at “Nitpick” but I found this tale not that all fulfilling and a little bit gross.

 

Pest, pet, or partner? “An Exodus of Wings” by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam (debut 5/24 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of three people whose lives intersect from a fairy infestation in Michael’s apartment. He had always taken steps to keep them at bay but when he fell for Heidi, his attention to detail waned and the fairies soon appeared. He doesn’t dare harm them when she is around. It becomes clear that it is the fairies that draw her to his apartment and he realizes that there will be no future between the two. Time to call an exterminator.

“An Exodus” is a tale of three perspectives. The writer chose to tell each person’s tale in a different point of view (distant 3rd person, 1st person, and 2nd person), unique and accomplished well. It takes talent to pull that challenge off well , kudos to Ms. Stufflebeam. Although her story telling skills are impressive, the story itself was thin. The tale was just about a boy who was willing to live with an inconvenience to impress a girl. The fact that the inconvenience was a magical pest made the premise only slightly different. The ending left me unfulfilled.

 

A man strikes a deal to achieve everything in “The Bargain” by Henry Szabranski (debut 5/27 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is in the midst of the final scene in a final act of a tragedy of his own creation. He had made a deal with the devil without weighing the costs.

“The Bargain” is a very short tale on greed. It is written as if it were the final page of a much longer story. What happens before is not known to the reader but it doesn’t matter with the conclusion that is left for us anyway.

A great work of flash. I can imagine plenty of readers unsatisfied with its brief telling and sharp conclusion but I liked this commentary on overpaying for your deepest desire.

Recommended.

 

“The Wheel of Fortune” by Alexander Lumans (debut 5/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Aliens have invaded Earth and are tearing up the ground to extract its minerals. The protagonist is a young soldier whose dreams are big and plans bigger.

This story is told with headers pertaining to cards in a Tarot deck. I don’t know of the orders of the cards or their meanings, so part of the point of this tale may have been lost on me. That aside, I could only follow about half of what the story was about. The conclusion felt as if a large section of the tale was missing. I got the nature of the interstellar conflict, but the protagonist’s inner turmoil fell out of my grasp.

 

Four witches are out to concoct a special thing from the “Jumbo Gumdrop Serenade” by E. Catherine Tobler (debut 5/29 and reviewed by Frank D). The thing they have been waiting for has arrived on their porch. The four brew their potion, speak their spell, dance their dance, in hopes of creating something greater than themselves. What they get is a something so different from what they are.

“Jumbo Gumdrop” is a tale I had to read twice, and read slowly to grasp what it was about. A big mystery is kept from the reader as the author dangles encrypted hints. The effort of deciphering it was laborious. The ending did have an appropriate twist that made reading the story worth it.

 

A ghost baby cries relentlessly in “Ghosts in the Walls” by Shannon Peavey (debut 5/30 and reviewed by Frank D). The spirit of a baby in Laura’s apartment wall is a wailer. It cries until an earthquake comes then is silent as if it is rocked asleep. Its screams are wearing on Laura nerves but she is compelled to endure them.

The protagonist in “Ghosts” is a woman racked with guilt. She is in the midst of a divorce. Her child was lost in a crib death months ago. Earthquakes plague the city but leave her building unharmed. Any or all of these occurrences may be the reason why the baby in her wall screams but the reader and protagonist are clueless why. The story does have a straightforward conclusion, which likely was the reason why I never saw it coming. It was hidden in plain sight along.

“Ghosts in the Walls” is a very good ghost story. Short, sweet, and little sad. Everything a ghost story should be.

Recommended.

 

A political pundit lives on with the help from “The Suit” by Robert Reed (debut 5/31 and reviewed by Frank D). Garrett is a writer on matters of public policy. His articles are popular and his Sunday appearances on news programs are influential. His conservative principles hold much influence but his mental faculties take a hit after a small stroke. Ill-conceived words threaten his credibility, but a wealthy fan offers him a solution so he won’t fade from the public eye; an artificial intelligence assistant hidden in a suit.

“The Suit” is a long tale in a small package. The protagonist is a crafty man who has done well masking an average intelligence with timing and keen insight on outward appearance. His conservative opinions strike a fascist tone one day, nearly derailing him for good. A benefactor salvages his credibility and enhances his intelligence with the help of his suit. Soon, his radical notions become policy. He is a star once again, but age has its effects, ending his life. However, the suit remains, and the people closest to Garrett would love to wear it.

You cannot ignore the veiled distaste the author has for his protagonist. Although Garrett could represent one of many real life pundits, the fictional character’s beliefs really didn’t matter. The story could have been told if his views were a mirror opposite on the left. The tale was a commentary of the effects of artificial intelligence and how its benefits for a few could have disastrous effects for those who have not the means to acquire such assistance for themselves. Although the story made its ‘point’, it lacked a discernible moral I would have expected for a politically motivated piece. It was very much like the political debates on TV; thoughtful words from (a) smart sounding pundit(s) to make you believe you are learning something, but in reality resolve nothing when it ends.

 

A Chance to Settle a Paying Forward Debtâ€

As I have stated before, a leading editor and reviewer once told me that he doubted Daily Science Fiction would have a long lifespan because of a non-existent (at least one he couldn’t see) business model. Jon Laden and Michele-Lee Barasso proved him , and many other , doubters wrong. They have managed to maintain DSF as a free distributor of speculative fiction for three years strong , and counting. At eight cents a word and publishing hundreds of thousands of words a year you don’t have to be a mathematician to know that can’t be cheap. Paying authors aside, there is the expense of maintaining and sending a story to 7000+ subscribers every work day. A friend of mine once calculated what the cost of just running the web page must be for the editors. I was floored.

So, our two founding heroes have done it without asking for a dime, but the pot they found at the end of the rainbow just might becoming a little bit light. They now could use some help.

Through Kickstarter, – an online project funder , DSF is asking its long standing members for a small donation. The amount they are asking for I don’t think will fund a month’s worth of stories, but it is all they are requesting. If every subscriber donated $1, they would meet their goals with enough left over for them to each grab a coffee or two at Starbucks. Of course, you know that guy next to you won’t give a cent (freeloader), so it’s up to you to throw in an extra buck for him.

Note: At the time of this writing, the campaign still needs over 2 grand more to meet its goals , and has two weeks left to do it. I confess, I am bit surprised they didn’t reach the very modest target in the first few days. So be a champ, and give.

Editor’s note: at the time of scheduling this post, the campaign needs about $700 in 7 days. Deadline is August 16–4 days from when this post becomes public.

 

Dustin AdamsThe Lord of the Underworld and all the damned souls in his realm would like to thank Diabolical Plots contributor Dustin Adams for achieving another sale , thus saving them a costly air conditioning bill for this month. His latest work will soon be appearing in an upcoming issue of Plasma Frequency. Congrats Dustin. And here I was worried it would take another million words for you to get published again.

Daily Science Fiction: April 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

It has been a while since I posted a review , I’ve been a very busy writer. The editors of Daily SF have been busy as well. They have proudly announced that Year 2 of Not Just Rockets and Robots is about to go into print. If you haven’t had a chance to read Volume 1, by all means, order a copy. You won’t regret the purchase. Now onto this month’s storiesâ€

 

On first read, I enjoyed reading “Past Tense” by James Beamon (debut 4/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) very much. I let it happen and followed the time line to a catchy conclusion. There’s a kind of all-life-in-an-instant vibe that I particularly enjoy.

However, in trying to frame my review, thus reading the story over, I became confused and started asking questions. I also noticed the distinct lack of space the character(s) inhabit.

My advice: Read this one once. You’ll like it more if you don’t look too deep.

 

“Parallel Lines” by Russell James (debut 4/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

At first I thought I’d comment on the characters being simply “he” and “she” which, in my opinion, leaves them without much personality. (There’s something about a name, even for fictional characters.) However, as the story progressed, more and more details were revealed, and eventually, I discovered there was a good reason for the vagueness upfront. Next, I was going to comment on the lack of a speculative element early on, but here too the story catches up and then soars with its idea.

“Parallel Lines” refers to parallel Universes, and about the more healthy of the two aged protagonists has found a way to tap into and record the lives of those more happy other he’s and she’s.

Russell James scores a heartwarming story with Parallel Lines. It may start slow, but keep reading, you’ll be glad you did.

 

I fear that if I provide a review about “Rocket Dragons” by Larry Kincheloe (debut 4/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), a story that is about stories, I may create a circular paradox and the entire universe will be destroyed. So I will sum up.

A girl from a dystopian post-dystopan future, living in a time where today’s conveniences and technology have been forgotten by all but the eldest, finds a copy of a DSF book. She enjoys the stories, but can’t resolve what it means to rate a story by Rocket Dragons.

The tongue-in-cheek, inside-joke, breaking the fourth wall combination makes for a sure-fire smile-on-face read.

 

The Sandman brings dreams to boys and girls using dust in a sack he wears around his waist in “The Sandman’s Dream” by Jess Hyslop (debut 4/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). He’s followed one girl, Susan, into adulthood. At some point, she needs to put an end to his visits. Dreams are for the young.

Unfortunately, this story didn’t have the effect on me I believe was intended. I found the Sandman eerie and stalker-like. He’s a child, who wants to play and give dreams, and does to children, such as Susan’s son, but also to her well into her adulthood. She tells him, “I have a husband now, a son.” Which he already knows. So her dreams must end, but he asks if he can still visit the son, to which Susan replies yes. Not exactly solving the problem created in the opening, which is that it’s time for the Sandman to go.

 

“When The Trumpet Sounds” by Sean Melican (debut 4/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

I’m torn on this one. First, it starts out with a boy having his blood drawn. He’s got a cold, and this is significant. He’s thrown out and won’t be going. If that sounds difficult to follow because of a lack of world info, then you’ll understand why I’m torn. Because once I figured out what’s going on, and saw the details and images of the world, the story started to rock. In time, I learned that we’ (humans) are getting off planet. The giant ship in the sky (ark) is recruiting based on what the main characters can only speculate is logic. An untold number of humanity is standing on the line, some several days away from being examined, and the narrator “works the line” for his livelihood.

This story is more about the journey than the destination. Let it unfold, and trust everything will make sense.

 

Duty outweighs our most cherish possession in “Leaving Home” by Kurt Pankau (debut 4/8 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is visited by an Eraser-man. This is the second time she has met one but the details of the previous visit are unclear. He has come for her son, Chris, but not to arrest him. He has decided to join the force.

“Leaving Home” is a tale about loss. The mysterious agency the Eraser-man represents enforces disturbances to the timeline. Chris will lose his existence to be a member. His mother will to remember him, a reality she senses as he walks out the door. A good work of flash, heart-wrenching with a sad ending.

Recommended.

 

An enterprising young woman offers a nostalgic service in “Cleaning Lady” by J. Kyle Turner (debut 4/9 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this tale is an out of work college graduate who creates a niche in the market , cleaning done by human hands. Her clients prefer the human touch of a cleaner, so she puts on a show while they are watching. Once satisfied, the clients leave her to her work, which is when she brings out the robot.

“Cleaning Lady” is the tale of a clever girl. The cleaning robots are flawless , and that apparently bothers some. The protagonist lets the robot do its work while she flows behind it to give the job the flaws that make a human touch. The story follows a woman who employs the old bait-and-switch tactic and puts it to good use. I give her crooked but brilliant business practice a high five. Nice idea and an original premise. I liked it.

 

“Snake Sister” by Melissa Mead (debut 4/10 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is the sibling of a cursed girl. The jewels she vomits when she speaks have attracted a prince, but the jewels are not long for this Earth. The protagonist is determined to fix the problem and force the witch to remove the curse. Instead, the witch rewards the protagonist for her sharp tongue.

“Snake Sister” is based on a fairy tale that I am unaware of. The story is told with a vengeful voice. The open ended finale has a dark promise. I found the tale delightfully sinister.

 

“Daughter of Mettle” by Aaron DaMommio (debut 4/11 and reviewed by Frank D).

The protagonist of this tale is the child of a superhero, angry atthe lack of time he has for her. But she has a plan to force him to make time for her and keep his promises.

This tragic tale is written from the perspective of regret. The story could have been told from an attention neglected child of a celebrated fireman, police officer, or soldier , as a little girl would be envious that others receive her hero’s heroics rather than her.

 

“Heart of Joy” by Kate O’Connor (debut 4/12 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Luscinda, the dancer from Ymir, has stolen the heart of the most powerful man in the galaxy. Feon, the Senior High Chancellor, delights in her public performances and her private attentions. When he is given an automaton that can dance perfectly, however, the relationship cools. Luscinda eventually leaves to go home, but can she leave the emotional attachment behind?

This is a love story. Like so many it deals with the loss of love through indifference or misperception. The author handles the subject well and it gives us a new take on the subject. The metaphor of dance for love is clear. I found the story entertaining, not really something I would seek out, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Give it a try, particularly if tale of love and loss are your cup of tea.

 

“Never Leave Me” by Michelle Ann King (debut 4/15 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Katrine loves Aron, but hears the stories about him when he delivers his wares to the village. She has visions of him in others’ arms. When she visits the old woman in the forest to put a spell on him to remain true, the old witch refuses. In desperation Katrine kills the old woman and takes her power. Now she can hold on to Aron, but at what cost?

This is a poignant story about love and fear of loss. It was well written and engaging, and there is a strong cautionary ending. The story does tread a well-worn path, so there’s a bit of predictability to the ending. It is still worth the time spent in reading it.

 

A magician uses the art of misdirection on a very direct man in “Legerdemain” by Gabriel Murray (debut 4/16 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist tempts a lustful man. Geoffrey Spencer is a man of free love, and is used to getting what he desires. Geoffrey’s wife introduces him to Claude, a talented illusionist. Geoffrey is interested in Claude’s vanishing trick and in Claude. A good magician will never reveal his trick, but may allow you to experience it.

“Legerdemain” is a tale of deception. The author of it preforms a deception on the reader while his protagonist preforms it on a disloyal misogynist. Not fair, Mr. Murray. At least Geoffrey had a chance to see the illusion coming.

 

The Chosen One has a destiny to fulfill in “The Chosen One Can’t Lose” by Sean Vivier (debut 4/17 and reviewed by Frank D), and it will be fulfilled, no matter which path is taken.

“The Chosen One” is a parody of the ‘chose your path’ adventure books, where the reader decides the direction the protagonist travels in the tale. In this particular tale, more than one path is offered but all roads lead to the destination. Loved the ending of this funny tale.

 

“What Merfolk Must Know” by Kat Otis (debut 4/18 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

She first saw the Deathships when she was ten migrations old; from then on she was filled with curiosity about the humans they carried. But the humans were dangerous. Counseled by her Mamma to avoid the ships and the dangerous humans they carried, she avoided the ships. Until she was twenty migrations old, then she went out to find answers to her questions, but with the help of the Sea Witch finds more.

This is a nice little fable that fits in with any number of other stories. The writer does a pretty good job of blending the old with her own vision. I found myself drawn into the main character’s struggle to follow her own curiosity in spite of the warnings of her mother. This is a good read and worth investing the time in it.

 

“Paradise Left” by Evan Dicken (debut 4/19 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Rob was feeding Whistler when Ashley stormed in from the Rebellion. Five and a half feet of ash covered Rebellion. “How did the war go?” Rob asked. “Great,” Ashley replied. But it wasn’t great, though they’d beaten the machines and been granted the right to govern themselves, it was all a charade. The machines were humoring them, allowing them to live in a faÃ’ ade of the world. Rob had left the rebellion because he saw no reason to fight anymore; Ashley could never give it up. The rift was growing, but would it drive Ashley to another world? And if it did, would Rob follow?

This is classic science fiction. The author deftly explores subjects like the relationship between man and machine and that between man and woman. He also pictures a future where the machine’s loving care for humans provides an Idyllic world that smothers individuality. Some can live in it, succumb to the lotus blossoms, others rebel against it. A well crafted story and one I would recommend, particularly those that love old school SF.

 

A codebreaker turns to an old Cold War veteran for help deciphering small snippets of signals from the stars in “Snippets” by k. b. dalai (debut 4/22 and reviewed by Frank D). A National Security data analyzer is given the task of determining if years of random SETI signals have meaning. The snippets of data are random and few, buried in the back ground noise of the galaxy. He turns to his father-in-law, an old communications expert. The old vet points out what everyone has missed, and leaves the protagonist with disturbing questions that need to be answered.

“Snippets” is a collaboration effort from a married couple. This is a rare work of flash that touches on a present day scientific dilemma and sets it in an outstanding science fiction premise. The story is set up as a mystery , mysterious signals without a meaningful pattern , that leaves small clues for the reader to piece together; very difficult to do but is outstanding when done well. This compelling tale has a finale I found chilling, and left me questioning our place in the universe.

Good flash fiction is rare. Outstanding flash fiction should be celebrated. I can’t remember a work this brief that had me this hooked and left me this satisfied when I read it. Rarely do I feel compelled to reread any work immediately, this one I did twice.

Recommended.

 

A son’s error in time cannot be undone in “Grief In The Strange Loop” by Rhonda Eikamp (debut 4/23 and reviewed by Frank D). A ten year-old boy is left to watch over his father’s time machine while Pop makes a jump, and makes a mistake that strands his dad centuries in the past. His mother has never forgiven him. Racked with guilt, he spends decades trying to correct his mistake. The entire family discovers time changes people, and that time can produce wounds that weren’t there before.

“Grief” is a story of guilt. The protagonist sandwiched between opposite ends of blame spanning centuries, and an even wider gap of a few decades. The parents of this tale act like spoiled children in this tale. Resentful, bitter, and shallow , the mother and father seem like two people that do not deserve children who moved the very heavens to make them happy.

 

An envious sister wants to fly in “Swan Song” by Melissa Mead (debut 4/24 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this dark tale is the sibling of a boy born with wings instead of arms. Her parents and friends mistake her bitter demeanor as concern for her deformed brother, but her brother understands that what she feels is envy.

“Swan Song” is based on a tale I am unfamiliar with. The girl wants to experience flight and forms a plan that will be doomed to failure. It has a very ominous exclamation point for a conclusion.

 

A man has fallen for the light of his life in “The Lady Electric” by Gary B. Phillips (debut 4/25 and reviewed by Frank D) but society needs that light. A brilliant inventor named Edison can put the energy she secretes to good use. “Lady Electric” is a tale of man who will do anything for the woman he loves. His love has become a prisoner to Edison, but our hero has a plan to rescue her.

“Lady Electric” takes a couple of dark turns. The protagonist’s plan relies on Edison’s vanity. I found the tale murky; details of the woman’s condition, origins, and how she became to be a source of electricity were never explained. The story hints that she is a mystery. I would have preferred a solved mystery or two to go with its conclusion.

 

A dying and honorable breed is sacrificed for its healing power in “Chasing Unicorns” by Terra LeMay (debut 4/26 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a desperate man in league with desperate people. They hunt unicorns, using their virginity as bait for the magical beasts. Although they cannot resist the allure of a virgin, the unicorns are not defenseless.

“Chasing Unicorns” is written from the perspective of an addict. The horn of the magical beast can heal anything , even the poison men put in their own bodies. The protagonist is eager to cure his brother, an addict in bad shape. Anticipation for the hunt begins to haunt him in his dreams. Unicorns are becoming rare, and may soon be gone. A conflict of helping blood against destroying a natural treasure wracks the potential killer.

“Chasing Unicorns” is a tale a modern day poacher could tell. Guilt competes with greed. Knowledge that he may be ending a great species tears at the protagonist. Compounding his dilemma is the unicorn’s psychic link with its virgin.

The disclaimer before the tale warns the reader of a dark tale, and dark it is indeed. There are no sympathetic characters to root for , even the unicorn proves to be deceptive. Guilt fills the protagonist from the start and he becomes so saturated with it that the reader absorbs his overflow by the end. If you don’t wish to feel dirty after reading, you may want to steer clear of this tale. If you’re the type that would want to see a poacher feel awful by his deeds, by all means, dive right in.

 

“Shades Of The Father” by M. Adrian Sellers (debut 4/29 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Aubrey is amused by the graffiti scrawled across the Marty-Mart wall as he pulled in front of the building. Inside he can’t help but laugh while paying for the pack of smokes. Martin Paxton notes he is wearing his old man’s sunglasses, the only possession his late father left him. The sadness and confusion about the gift brings Aubrey back down from his temporary high. As he drives back home each building has graffiti on it, almost as if someone had tagged the whole neighborhood overnight. The witty words of wisdom pull him back from his funk and he starts to appreciate his father more than he did in life.

This is a good tale for the month of Father’s Day. It deals with fathers and sons. The story lets us understand how sometimes we don’t appreciate the relationship until it’s too late. I loved the premise and how well the writer let us in on the inside joke, as well as how he made us feel about the relationship of Aubrey and his father. It also reminds us that often the best gifts are the ones we least expect. Take the time to read this story; you won’t be disappointed you did.

 

“It’s Good to See You” by Douglas Rudoff (debut 4/30 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Most on the ship don’t like the Necropolis, but one has to pass through it to get to the viewing port. Brad doesn’t mind because it gives him time to reflect on what he left behind on Earth. Anyway he will be joining the dead soon, taking his eight year shift in darkness. As he stands at the nose of the ship, he thinks ahead to the end of the forty year journey. A message from his ex-wife pulls him back to the past. It’s been fifteen years since they parted and somehow they had ended up on the same ship. Was he strong enough to go back emotionally? It was a question that would also answer his strength to go on.

Set in the future, where mankind is leaving Earth, searching for new worlds to explore, the piece does a good job of showing the burdens we will carry along with us. The author lets us see Brad’s pain, but helps us to understand that in order to move ahead we sometimes have to deal with the past. This one is well worth the read.

 

To Be Heard, Or Not To Be Heardâ€

†that is my question. Daily Science Fiction is a publication that has earned its stripes. It is a top market, in readers and in pay rate. It is receiving more accolades for its efforts every year (not as many as I believe it should but that is another topic for another time). It is still the only publication that uses the Internet’s email delivery system to distribute its product. I applaud it’s originality for tapping into this outlet, but think it is time that it expands into a new and growing market.

My profession as a traveler has granted me an outsider’s view in the rise in the audio book market. The racks for the CD imprinted publications in traveler stops has become larger than the video (movies and TV serials) DVD/DVR shelves, at many places, and dwarfs the printed paperback carousels and music CDs. Audio books are becoming a hit, yet few authors have cracked into it.

A few wise bestselling names (Stephen Coonts, Danielle Steele, Clive Cussler, Tom Clancy) have gone all in and dominate the shelves. Others , like Stephen King , are testing the waters and are displaying old classics in this market. There are a couple of publishers (Angry Robot) who have elected to showcase new works and authors. The shelves have a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. Most are old bestsellers but a few are new. You’ll find a science fiction tale or two, but there is one type of book I have yet to see; the short story collection.

As someone who drives for hours at a time, I have wondered why no one has tried to market the short story (i.e. anthology or collection format) in an audio market. Quick, a tight frame, and complete , they’re perfect for a person who needs a distraction to help pass the miles but doesn’t require an audience’s complete attention that would divert their mind from the road. Listening to a short story would be also like listening to a single cut on an album. It is a niche that needs filling.

I recommend the editors of DSF consider looking into this market, but if they do, to dip their toes warily into this water. Not Just Rockets and Robots would be a great collection to listen to, but at 425,000 words, would be a logistic nightmare to record , and likely be too expensive to market. Dividing it up into smaller bites would be the ticket. The first three to four months of Daily Science Fiction would be a great place to start. With the right readers, the collection would be affordable and short enough to encourage potential customers to give it a chance. Reliving previous DSF tales would be a whole new experience when it is read by another, hopefully with all the minor inflections that come with storytelling.

So what do you say, Jon and Michele? Care to take a shot at another innovative leap?

Me and my Bob_EnhancedFrank Dutkiewicz writes. Frank Dutkiewicz eats. Frank Dutkiewicz probably excretes, but for some reason Frank Dutkiewicz is reluctant to talk about it. Frank Dutkiewicz puts his pants on one leg at a time, except when he doesn’t. Frank Dutkiewicz flies a spaceship. Unlike Han Solo, Frank Dutkiewicz can make the Kessel Run in only nine parsecs. Frank Dutkiewicz has a cybernetic badger/weasel hybrid as a friend. When Frank Dutkiewicz says “Jump,” frogs say “How high?” If Frank Dutkiewicz jumped as hard as he could one night, the Earth would fall into the sun. Frank Duktiewicz’s last name is hard to spell. Frank Dutkiewicz’s last name is also hard to pronounce. Frank Dutkiewicz says that anyone who says these things about his last name is just jealous. Frank Dutkiewicz did not write his own bio this month.

 

Daily Science Fiction: February 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

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

On to this month’s review!

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Recommended.


Welcomed competition…

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

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

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

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

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


stork carrying baby

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

See David? Told you could trust me!

 

“Coin Op”

written by David Steffen

I’m a bit tardy in posting this, but in February Daily Science Fiction published another of my stories: “Coin Op”. It’s a comedy, based around sex. It is definitely mature content, so if you don’t care for that sort of thing, just skip it. And feel free to let me know what you think of it. Here it is.

Enjoy!

Our Hugo/Nebula Eligible Work 2012

written by David Steffen

The SF award nomination season is here. The Nebulas (the writer-voted award) have been open for a while and close in February. The Hugos (the fan-voted award) opened on January first. Both sets cover works published in the 2012 calendar year. About this time of year, every writer and their dog posts a list of their eligible works.

I won’t tell you to nominate these works. I haven’t heard of anyone nominating us in the past and I don’t expect that to change. Of course it’s all of phenomenal quality, because we wrote it and stuff. 🙂

And don’t worry, I’ll write up a separate post in the near future to make recommendations of what I’d like to see win the awards. I figured it would make sense to separate them so that I wouldn’t have to try to objectively compare my own work to theirs. In THAT post I’ll also ask for nomination suggestions from people, but we’ll keep those out of this post.

 

Best Short Story (Nebula and Hugo)

Marley and Cratchit by David Steffen at Escape Pod (free)

This Is Your Problem, Right Here at Daily Science Fiction (free)

Constant Companion at Drabblecast (free)

Door in the Darkness at Stupefying Stories

Never Idle at Specutopia

Mysterious Ways at Uncle John’s Flush Fiction Anthology

 

Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form)

Marley and Cratchit at Escape Pod, read by Emma Newman

Constant Companion at Drabblecast

The Quest Unusual at Cast of Wonders

Turning Back the Clock at Beam Me Up

 

Best Fanzine Hugo

Diabolical Plots by David Steffen, Anthony W. Sullivan, Frank Dutkiewicz

 

Best Fan Writer Hugo (follow links for examples)

David Steffen

Especially notable are the “Best of” podcast lists.

Frank Dutkiewicz

Especially notable are the “Daily Science Fiction” reviews; we’re the only ones who regularly review them.

Carl Slaughter

Quite a few notable interviews.

 

Best Fan Artist Hugo

Anthony W. Sullivan, for Canny Valley comics

 

Best Related Work Hugo

The Priceless Value of that Story You Hate by David Steffen

 

Go! Nominate!

Daily Science Fiction: November 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Did you have a Merry Christmas? Have your holidays been happy? You have some down time you need to fill? Well curl up to whatever Internet access you use and click on Daily SF’s home page. It’s a perfect time to catch up on those stories you may have missed. For starters, try digging into these November jewelsâ€

 

Tsunami waves can’t wash away a man’s ties to his home in “The Tides” by Ken Liu (debut 11/1 and reviewed by Frank D). The moon’s orbit has altered, swinging it dangerously close to Earth. Its decaying orbit will eventually spell doom for the world. Ansa is the daughter of a grieving father. Enormous tides swept her mother away. Her father cannot evacuate the doomed Earth. He builds a tower out of the debris that is left on the shore. Ansa will not leave her ol’ man even when her prince has offered to whisk her away,

“The Tides” is a story about loyalty. Ansa’s father can’t bear to leave her mother behind but is aware that he is condemning his only child by staying behind. You usually can’t go wrong with a Ken Liu story but I felt this tale wasn’t his best effort. The premise, although sweet, I thought was flimsy (tower made of scraps holding up against a wall of water?) and the ending unsatisfying.

 

Papa has lost himself in “Ansa and the Lost Things” by Sophie Wereley (debut 11/2 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist and her sister, Ansa, become worried when their forgetful father leaves the house and hadn’t returned. The stress is too much on her mother. Migraines from coffee and worry have consumed her. The two sisters hatch an elaborate plan of trapping a unicorn in hopes of it solving their family’s problem.

“Ansa” is a story too odd for me to accurately describe. Without the magical element, this story would be about two children raised in one seriously dysfunctional family. In short, it was too weird for me to fully appreciate it.

 

“Early Draft of Talking Points for the Sixth Emergency Broadcast with Editorial Suggestions by the Office’s Interns Bob and Isabelle” by Helena Bell (debut 11/5 and reviewed by Frank D). This humorous look at an emergency broadcast has two interns inserting their own commentary between lines.

“Early Draft” is just plain silly. The two intern’s comments reminded me of the old Sci-Fi channel show “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. Although amusing, I thought the tale would have been funnier without the pair’s annoying banter.

 

The future is not what you expected in “Since You Seem to Need a Certain Amount of Guidance” by Alexander Jablokov (debut 11/6 and reviewed by Frank D). This short tale is a message from the future. The messenger tells the reader that the future is better but dull. Not much to fear but they apparently don’t seek out adventure. The future in “You Seem” sounds like a nice place to retire but no place to have fun.

 

 

“Old Flames” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 11/7 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). The war is over. Gunthar sat in his chair and watched the fire; Ada was sewing, making a dress for their daughter. They recalled when they met, after another defeat for some, a victory for others. There will be a new ball, one for a new prince and a young woman hoping for a fairy tale ending.

This was a nice blend of fantasy and real world. The author gives the reader a new perspective in a well written story. I doubt I will ever watch a Disney movie the same way again. Definitely one to check out.

 

A crow carries on with his bioengineered life in “Nevermore” by Renee Carter Hall (debut 11/8 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a crow who once had a purpose that served man, but now man is no more, done in by their own means. The crow stays true to its ingrained habits and watches a dead city.

I found this tale to be curious but lacking sufficient content to make it satisfying.

 

A farming family holds tight to their way of life in “This Place From Which All Roads Go” by Jennifer Mason-Black (debut 11/9 and reviewed by Frank D). Mari is a young woman. She is one of the few who have elected to remain on the land to weave her magic. Many children leave the rustic lifestyle for the allure of the city, and the government has taken notice and is about to evict them out of their historical romanticized life.

“This Place” follows Mari through a summer of hardship, tragedy, and desire. Her family plays host for students who study their ‘primitive’ ways. Mari has little patience for them. She has a brother to worry about and a grandmother to mourn. Worse, the government aims to remove them from their land and drain whatever essence they have left. Mari dreams of the girl who she once loved and is intimidated by a student who has taken a shine to her.

As a former farmboy, I can appreciate the tale the author wove in “This Place.” I can see the parallels between this magical world and our own. Most of the students in this story treat the family as if they are an anthropological curiosity. The farm life is a hard one and the magic they weave takes their toll on them. It makes Mari a hard woman, so hard that getting through her exterior proves to be a task too great for many of the visiting students.

“This Place” is a long tale. The story is unraveled like a novel that was compressed in a compactor. Much happens in this one summer of Mari’s life. It is a difficult summer, even for a farmer. Calling the events in Mari’s life interesting would be an understatement but the laundry list of things that go wrong Mari are so much that they begin to feel like the author was piling on by the end. The author does her best to give this story a happy ending but the load of depressing material almost makes any attempt to end on a high note a lost cause.

 

Ancient stone circles have what Maggie has been missing her entire life in “Speed of Love” by Deborah Walker (debut 11/12 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this brief tale is a woman who hasn’t had much luck in men. The ancient stone circles have opened a gateway to another world. Men are coming, but you’ll need patience.

“Speed” is the story of a lonely woman finding love in a man half her speed. The men in this tale move at a snail’s pace. Maggie’s sister becomes upset with her when she discovers Maggie has taken up with a slow man. I must say I failed to see the appeal Maggie would have with a person stuck at a glacial pace. Equally, the tale itself failed to appeal to me as well.

 

Trolls, once mighty, and noble, and superior, have been relegated to employment as pool filters. The cast off sweat, grease, skin, and hair are enough to sustain trolls without breaking the long-standing pact of not eating humans. Oh yes, all this and more can be found in “This Is Your Problem, Right Here” by David Steffen (debut 11/13 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

The new owner of a public water park is surprised to learn she’s inherited the troll/filter who, having had nothing to eat for quite some time, has already digested the other members of his family. This is a particularly fun story that is easy and enjoyable to read. If you missed it when it came up as the daily story, go back, and have a look. Oh, and bring your copy of Wiccan Soup for the Troll.

 

Greg is “The Most Important Man in the Universe” by Joseph Zieja (debut 11/14 and reviewed by Frank D), and his mother couldn’t be prouder. He has returned to his homeworld, in orbit, where he speaks to mother via a viewable link. The plague has ravaged the planet, and only he can make the decision on what must be done.

This tale is about one cold man. He contacts his mom, for reasons I’m not quite clear about. “The Most” is an unemotional tale of an emotional moment. It has an obvious twist. Seeing it coming from a mile away dulled the climatic ending line. I don’t know if the protagonist was supposed to have feelings but his lack of them affected my feelings toward this story.

 

Poachers know the right bait is key to setting a good trap in “The Trap” by Steven Kahn (debut 11/15 and reviewed by Frank D). Bakti takes his young lover for the first time to his poaching traps. He is weary, the jungle is a dangerous place, but she is undaunted and eager. Besides, what is there to fear? They are, after all, the masters of the wild.

“The Trap” is a tale of two people guilty of crimes against nature. The author, however, does a good job of having them appear as something less than evil. Bakti is well aware that there is more to fear than a four-legged predator in the thick jungle of Borneo, but has completely underestimated on where he lies on the hierarchy of the food chain.

“The Trap” is named well. Like the protagonist, I knew there was more than a simple trap afoot but was still snared in the twist. I enjoyed the back and forth between the two characters and the delightful poetic justice finale. I am tempted to call the unexpected turn in events a cheat, but the grin on my face of getting blindsided tells me the twist in plot was well executed.

Recommended.

 

A colony is in danger of failure in “The Dying Season” by Gwendolyn Clare (debut 11/16 and reviewed by Frank D). Bennu’s Hollowheart trees are dying. They have been the colonists saving grace from Bennu’s harsh winters, but their death as the moon approaches its decades long winter will mean the colony will need to be abandoned when the mining ships arrive. Nicolai will not leave the only home she has come to know. She knows there must be a solution but can she find it in time?

“The Dying Season” is a science fiction mystery. Nicolai is sure her fellow humans are a factor on why the trees are sick. Sorting out all the variables makes it difficult for her to find the solution. Nicolai is not just combating a native life epidemic but an apathetic colony that has already given up. The harsh weather of the world will soon get worse as the moon will be locked in a synchronistic orbit behind its parent world. The scoop of the problem gets larger the further Nicolai digs. For as complicated as the circle of life for this world is, she can’t help but to feel an answer is within sight.

The author brings an ecological dilemma to life with intricate details of the problem Nicolai faces. It is both convincing and intriguing. The nice developing mystery, however, comes to a quick halt, deflating my growing excitement of the story. An ending that I found to be too pat and convenient left me disappointed. I thought the tale was shaping up nicely and felt it should have continued on. Perhaps a longer novella would have suited this storyline better? I don’t know, but “The Dying Season” ended up frosty and incomplete for me.

 

“‘You’re Heads,’ She Says. ‘You’re Tails'” by M. Bennardo (debut 11/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this tale is the boy toy of a scientist. Once, she decides between two men, different models of the same clone make. He always wins, the Head of an imaginary coin flip. “You’re perfect” she says, every time, but perfection has an expiration date, and another month goes by. Time for another coin flip.

“You’re Heads” is a story told from the perspective of man who is the property of a very fickle girl. You can suspect what the story, and its conclusion, will be early on but the author’s superior story telling leaves just enough mystery to carry the tale through. Good writing and intriguing premise makes this one of the best offerings of the month for me.

Recommended.

 

The protagonist makes a living as an irritant in “The Key to the Everything” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 11/20 and reviewed by Frank D). When different galactic species intermingle in close quarters, it becomes crucial for the servant help to keep their cool. The protagonist is a man who specializes on testing the limits of other people’s patience. His latest assignment is a bar with a large Rikrik clientele coming in. He is very good at his job, as is the bartender. Interrupting a Rikrik ritual is not always wise, especially when the bartender is so skilled with a ritual slicer.

“The Key” has a premise that was very difficult for me to buy. I found it hard to believe a client would want a man specializing in getting under the help’s skin to test their employees when they are busy with sensitive customers. Nice writing but story crosses the line of what I’m willing to believe.

 

A woman follows her mother down a dangerous road in “The Safe Road” by Caroline M. Yoachim (debut 11/21 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is on a path through eternity. She follows her mother while generations of her offspring follow behind her. The road is wrought with danger. Her mother tells her how to combat them and the protagonist passes the information down. Poisonous and surreal creatures attack them at every turn. Her daughter asks why they must destroy them, and for the first time, the protagonist wonders if there is a better way.

“The Safe Road” is a metaphorical tale. The generation before protects the one behind it, dealing with each threat harshly. The generation coming after seeks another answer. The message to this surreal story is a reflection of how we react to our own environment. An intriguing but odd tale.

 

A woman falls for a merman in “Homo Homarus” by Ellen Denham (debut 11/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a diver who finds a half-man, half-fish creature. She is taken in with him, convincing him to join her on land. The strange creature loses his fins and grows legs, but he is too much like a fish out of water. Before long, the protagonist realizes her mistake.

I am unsure if this was the author’s intention but “Homo Homarus” proved to be an excellent metaphor on fickle and hasty relationships. The protagonist is instantly attracted to the merman and must have him. The feelings are mutual but the poor creature has no idea what he is in for when he leaves the depths for dry land. With no ability to speak, and forced to live with legs he never had to use before, the merman soon becomes a burden. She commands him to return to the sea but doesn’t realize it may be too late for him to do so.

I couldn’t help but to feel the merman gave his all to this woman. He did all he could to make her happy but discovered he was a different creature in the end and incapable of giving her what she needed. Although the ending didn’t specify this, I believe the poor creature was just a victim of a broken heart.

 

Children of the apocalypse avoid the unseen danger in “A Wizard of the Roads” by Therese Arkenberg (debut 11/23 and reviewed by Frank D). One lonely boy and a wandering group of teenagers cross paths. Will believes he is a wizard. He can feel it in his bones. Jenna encourages her group to take in the isolated boy, as odd as the staff-carrying boy appears to be. The children avoid the empty homes and stick to the road, always on the move and on the run from what they do not know. Jenna can feel that Will can protect them, but her group’s leader, Royce, doesn’t want to take any chances.

“A Wizard” is a story suited for a young adult crowd. All the adults are gone. The homes are filled with empty dangers. No explanation of where everyone went or what the dangers are, are given to the reader. The children have become wanders, on their way to a roaming ‘Lord of the Flies’ existence. If this group of kids had any remorse for all the missing people, it apparently left them long ago. Jenna feels like an anchor attached to the troop, still feeling bad for not erecting a tent correctly the night before. She is immediately drawn to Will when they find him. Will is written as an oddball. He doesn’t miss his parents, even enjoying the alone time.

I felt there was much left to be desired reading “A Wizard.” The pacing was slow and the prose simple. Too many holes and unanswered questions were left on the table for me. 90% of the tale was nothing more than a bunch of kids on hike. I had no idea what the danger was, or if it was really a danger after all. Some sort of idea of what happened to everyone would have helped as well. I’m still not sure if the story was one about a future Merlin in the making, or about a group of superstitious kids putting their faith in a weird kid carrying a stick.

 

“Shattered Amber” by Mari Ness (debut and 11/26 reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this light fantasy falls hard for a new love. His new girl gives him a gift, a necklace with a fly encased in amber. The amber is warm, a reflection of her love for life. He wishes he could have given her a gift as meaningful.

“Shattered Amber” is a fickle tale about a fickle couple. Young love can be fleeting but can burn hot from first spark. The fly in the amber comes to life when his girl begins to drift, and becomes agitated with jealousy when the protagonist eye begins to wander.

There was much to like about this tale. I found the amber idea intriguing and the ending fitting, but the story – a boy meets girl , was a bit light in content.

 

Nothing will stop the show from going on, even the end of the world in “The Show Must” by Matt London (debut 11/27 and reviewed by Frank D). Broadway carries on even when chaos is reigning in the streets. The world’s end is at hand, and like orchestra on Titanic’s deck, the actors and support staff perform for one last show.

“The Show” is a tale of a few who choose to face pandemonium with normalcy. The play is filled with capacity as an audience prefers to live their last minutes by viewing what made mankind great. The nature of Earth’s end is a mystery to the reader, but this is a tale where the ‘how’ matters little. A warm story. I rather liked it.

 

A doctors miracle cure proves to be a disastrous failure for an unfortunate soldier in “MiracleMech” by Tim Dean (debut 11/28 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is the creator of a medical nanotech technology created to save a soldiers life. The system proved to work well, saving the life of Private Hicks, the only member in an ambushed squad implanted with the advanced technology. The only problem is, the man retrieved is not Hicks.

I am just going to say it. This story was cool; a first class science fiction with a unique twist. The unlikely event told in this tale serves as a possible dilemma in our distant future. Nice idea, good sci-fi.

Recommended.

 

The bitter, remorseful, reflective, and smart alecs among us tweet their final thoughts in “Live-Tweeting the Apocalypse” by Ian Creasey (debut 11/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Six obsessive tweeters communicate as the world ends.

I am not much of a fan of Twitter, but of what I have observed, the characters are a fairly accurate reflection of the shallowness the communication fad attracts. I must say, if the end of the world were to come, I would sure hope no one would waste their time like these people had.

 

Infidelity and guilt consume two sisters in “Under a Sky of Knives” by Michele Muenzler (debut 11/30 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a woman who has betrayed her sister, Helene. A moment of passion overwhelmed her as she had fallen for Willem’s charm, her sister’s husband. She is forced to watch the replay of her indiscretion with her bitter sister. A scar on her hand, a knife wound from Helene, is just the down payment for her penance. The Anafeal’s mountain, the last stop for the ones consumed with grief, calls to her sister, and the protagonist will do anything to stop her and earn her forgiveness.

The protagonist in “Under a Sky” is an exhausted woman running on passion and guilt. Her affair with her brother-in-law weighs on her soul. Her sister’s scorn is more painful to her than the throbbing knife wound in her hand. Despite the regret from her betrayal, the passion she feels for Willem still leaves her weak in his presence. Fearful that her sister’s bitterness has driven her to Anafeal’s mountain, she runs to its slopes, only to discover the burnt remains of the gatekeeper’s homes. A wronged woman intends to climb the mountain to fulfill her destiny, and the protagonist will give anything to stop her.

In the author’s bio, Ms Muenzler states that her fiction†leans toward dark fantasy with a twist of new weird, and if nobody dies in a story, then it probably wasn’t written by her†“Under a Sky” fulfills that mission statement to a tee. The protagonist is a woman caught between an acrimonious sibling and her alluring husband. Willem is a cad, devoted more to his own selfish needs than his commitment to his own wife. The story runs on the grieved emotions of the protagonist. She has wronged her sister and only desires to earn her forgiveness, but Helene is in no forgiving mood. Blood from unforgiving family is the hottest, and the protagonist will need it to keep her warm as she pursues a bitter woman up the slopes of a snowy peak.

If uplifting is what you are after, steer clear of this tale. The story does indeed take an unexpected turn. The woman in this tale appears to leap after people fueled by passion, without looking to see where she will land. I found the writing first class. It was easy to identify with this woman’s dilemma , impressive considering I have never been a woman and don’t intend to be one in the future. For a tale of dark and depressing, I found it to be an enjoyable read.

 

 

Appreciating the appreciationsâ€

I was posed with the questionâ€

Why do writers review?

The question was framed as what good could it do for a writer to stick his opinions out there for all to see? After all, wouldn’t the negative (hurt feelings, repercussions, black listing) far outweigh any benefit for a reviewer? There is a simple answer to that question: writers deserve to know that their stories have been read.

An editor friend of mine boasted to me when his ezine reached its 2000th subscriber to his newsletter. His magazine is a free one, and writers are not required to subscribe to the newsletter to be able to submit to his magazine, but to participate in his mini-contest (and collect his little jewels of wisdom), you need to subscribe. So 2000 was a bit of a milestone for him, but he added at the end of his boastâ€

I wish I knew how many of them actually read the magazineâ€

As a writer, nothing tops making a sale. Seeing it appear in print , be it on paper or electronically , is a thrill like no other. But the elation you feel is quickly followed with doubt. Just because it is appearing for all to see and read, will any bother?

We at Diabolical Plots want all the writers (and its editors) to know Daily SF is not ignored. Sure, thousands of emails are sent out every day, but how many of them are deleted unread? And does anyone ever browse through the archives? To answer the second question, yes, someone does. As far as the first question goes, I don’t.

One of the reasons why we do such a thorough job , even for tales that are few hundred words in length , is so writers will know their story was read, not just looked at, but read.

Some writers have voiced their appreciation for the reviews, I would like to say thank you for acknowledging them. Seeing your comments on our comments (in your blogs, chat rooms, etc†), means a lot to us.

Keep up the good work.

Have a Happy New Year!

This is Anthony Sullivan, Diabolical Plots’s other editor. I have never met him, talked to him, seen him at the Christmas party, company meetings, at the coffee machine during break, outside the backdoor where the employees sneak a smoke, the cafeteria, mail room, parking lot, or in the lobby hitting on the cute receptionist like the rest of us do. I don’t know if he writes, reads Daily SF, reads at all, is aware of Diabolical Plots, or understands English for that matter. Truthfully, I’m not sure this is him or even if he exists at all (Dave has told me his salary eats up the company’s profits which is the reason why I haven’t received a Christmas bonus for the third straight year. Hmmmmm….).
Anthony is a person who we hold in the very high regard, one we usually reserve for icons like Bigfoot and Santa Claus. His is a very integral and valuable part of Diabolical Plots.

Daily Science Fiction: September 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

Daily SF’s Superfriendsâ€

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

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

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

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

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

 

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