Daily Science Fiction: May Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

A whole year of stories have gone by and here I am, 4 months behind. I’m catching up though. DSF does it make it easy for me. As long as they keep picking good ones, I’ll keep reading.

On to this month’s offeringsâ€

 

The Stories

A vampire comes to visit an old man on his deathbed in “Her Old Man” by Chuck Rothman (debuted 5/2 and reviewed by Anonymous). It is obvious that they had some sort of relationship earlier in their lives and he is resentful of the other female vampire that turned her. She makes him an offer…

This is quite a short story, but I wasn’t really taken with it. I love vampire stories and I think perhaps that is the problem: I am fairly certain I have seen this premise before, so it didn’t feel like anything new. It was well written, though and the twist at the end may appeal to others…

 

“Starlight Cantata” by Brian Laurence Hurrel (debut 5/3 and reviewed by Anonymous)

“Starlight Cantata” follows the first interstellar, faster-than-light space craft as it takes in new solar systems whilst sampling the delights of Earth’s ever expanding electromagnetic emission shell. The further they move from Earth, the older the broadcasts they hear–like traveling backward through time.

This didn’t really feel like a story to me as their was no actual conflict, no plot, no characters (the narrator is unnamed)–nothing really happens apart from observations. It was, however, a thoughtful piece and I quite like how it ended. I sat and thought about this story a little before writing this review and decided that this story itself was like piece of music and tails off quite nicely…

I think that was the effect the author was aiming for and, on that basis, I’d recommend it. Recommended.

 

The church raffle has finally received a donation worth bidding for in “R is for Raffle” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/4). Serena Draffin has donated her life. She may be sick of it but the prospects of stepping into a marriage with a handsome husband and lovely home makes it a grand prize indeed. The novel idea sparks others to donate things about them that others may find valuable. The church will have no trouble filling its treasury this year.

Quite clever, inventive and fun. One of the better stories the Quartet wrote.

 

Yesterday boy lives in the past, but is threatened by street thugs in the present in “Barb the Bomb and Yesterday Boy” by Julian Mortimer Smith (debut 5/5 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Barb the bomb intervenes, suffering the consequences. She is saved by her mother. The yesterday boy, stuck in the past, does not know about his savior, yet.

This is a nice little diversion, well done and with a nice message. It leaves one asking the question about how our actions of today will affect the future.

 

“Values, Vision and Mission” by James Van Pelt (debut 5/6 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Crockett is typical of someone in today’s corporate world that just wants to do his job, but management’s business of “teambuilding” constantly gets in the way. The connection to his dog Max foreshadows a new meaning to the old saw, “It’s a dog eat dog world.”

This story isn’t for everyone. It’s a nice fable about the modern corporate world. A fable not because of the obvious, but because of the idea that someone who actually does the work gets rewarded.

 

“Unveiled” by Ron S. Friedman (debut 5/9 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). This story is reminiscent of H.G. Wells, “The Time Machine”, where the inventor has a difficult time making his friends believe his tale of time travel. In this case the inventor has a novel means of proof.

The story appealed to me on a couple of levels, the obvious tip of the author’s cap to Wells, but also the unexpected twist of the proof. It is so simple that you wonder why Wells didn’t use it, but of course then he would have no story to tell.

 

“Facts about Gel, Glop and Other Semi-Viscous Substance You May Have Encountered Recently” by Michael Canfield (debut 5/10 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). This is a fact sheet, complete with misspellings and mistakes normally found in all such works, about a product gone awry. The author even includes the obligatory appeal at the end.

Given the debacle we see every day from corporate America (and other countries for that matter), governments and agencies I’m not sure if the author expects us to laugh or cry. I laughed.

 

Encephalon awaits death and the end to everything in “S is for Solipsism” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/11). The former supervillain (once known as Brainwave) has concluded that the world is a product of his imagination. His rival, Deathdrive, has come to end his tyranny once and for all. Encephalon is eager for it all to end, as his enemy.

An intriguing tale. Much of it is told as a classic bad guy monologue, pontificating to their enemy in the mist of a battle. The imagery is quite good, serving well to the satire the story is. This was one of the best the Quartet has written. So good I’m going to give it a†Recommended

 

The first man on Mars needs to be one driven dude in “Can’t Stop” by K T (debut 5/12).

Countless sacrifices, sums of money, and candidates are weeded through to get to the one person who will first set foot on the red planet. Such a man will have regrets to reach that goal.

Cute story. Not bad for such a brief tale.

 

“As Fast As You Can” by Nathaniel Matthews Lee (debut 5/13 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). What is it about super-hero stories that fascinate us? We read them and watch them and seemingly can’t get enough. Is it because like no other character, we wish we were them? We wish we could fly or that we were very strong.

Sideswipe is a speedster. He not only moves fast, but spends his moments in a state of sped up, so that we are all moving very slowly. He saves as many victims of accidents as he can, they, not knowing he was even there, believe they have simply been teleported to safety. But Sideswipe is also running from his pain. A failure to save his lost love which eats away as his seemingly eternal existence.

On the surface, perhaps we’ve seen these things before, but author Nathaniel Matthews Lee takes us beyond the mere facts and delves into the emotions of the characters/heroes and we learn not all is as it seems. Pain is found in the truth, and in the lies. This short story has more depth of character than some super-hero movies I’ve seen, and pound for pound, just as much action and gadgets.

Lengthier than most stories you’ll find at Daily Science Fiction, this one is worth every micro-second spent reading it. Recommended.

 

“The Instructions” by Amanda C. Davis (debut 5/16 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a harmless, fun little piece of writing about how to improve your life through the benefit of elvish folk, what they take in payment, and why not to slack off when the going gets good.

This isn’t a story per se in that it has a plot, but is nevertheless a fun, short read regarding the mythological creatures we sometimes take for granted.

Or at least, that’s what the instructions say we’ll do.

 

An epidemic paralyzes relationships in “Say Zucchini, and Mean It” by Peter M Ball (debut 5/17). The phrase ‘I love you’ has turned many into babbling catatonic patients. They repeat the words over and over. Hospitals fill and love ones are left behind. Changing the meaning of words seems to be the only hope.

This story revolves around the protagonist and Alice. The two have drifted together, her boyfriend and his roommate fallen victim to the strange disease. The protagonist strives to come to grips with his relationship and the world inflicted with plague driving mankind indifferent.

This tale was odd, and its oddness went beyond the strange premise. The story had the effect on me the author’s fictional disease had on characters. It left me down and indifferent.

 

Getting on the latest reality show should be a piece of cake for the muse of dance in “T is for Terpsichore” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/18). The muse stands in the long line for auditions and watches and absorbs the other contestant’s routines. By the time it is her turn, she should have all she needs to win.

This story reminds me of the time Dolly Parton participated in a Dolly Parton look-a-like contest and finished second. An amusing work of flash fiction.

 

The League of Heroes has lost one of it’s own in “They Do It With Robots” by Eric James Stone (debut 5/19). A grisly stage show out at sea has led Guillermo to Ogden’s trail. Only a robot would be used to cut out a man’s heart, or a hero who had let his love down.

This short piece had an extraordinary premise to it, but the symbolism of it was grand. My only complaint was its short length hampered its execution. Nice idea. Would have been better with more words, in my humble opinion.

 

A model’s will to endure is the theme in “A Study in Flesh and Mind” by Liz Argall (debut 5/20). The protagonist in this story is a nude model for an art class. The instructor is known as the Great Teacher. He is hard and harsh on his students, and on his models as well. A job like this is hard to come by. Holding onto it will test her limits of endurance.

“A Study in Flesh and Mind” is a story of cruelty. There is only one word that fits the Great Teacher , sadistic. The model has worked hard and overcame much to get where she is. She takes pride in her ability to hold her position and interpret the pose her instructor desires. The Great Teacher seems to be bent on stretching the limits of what she can take, and does his best to shove her over the cliff.

This is a story I could have gotten into more if I knew anything about modeling, or even participated in a sketch class before. Where the setting left me feeling a bit out of place, the authors ability to submerge the reader into the protagonist head made this story a work of art. It is only from her point of view can we experience the sadistic cruelty of the Great Teacher and see the session for what it really is , a one-sided battle of wills. I could feel the protagonist’s anger and hatred for the Great Teacher, and I could identify with her exhaustion at the end. Special note: the ending was fabulous.

It is only because of the slow start and my opinion that this story was a bit on the long side that reserves me from giving this piece my full-fledged recommendation, but if you’re looking for the definition of a character driven story, by all means, read this one.

 

A village combats a horrible monster in “Shades of Orange” by Caroline M Yoachim (debut 5/23). Demons deposit Ao, an orange, poisonous creature in the middle of the village. The villagers chose the protagonist, a fellow farmer, to lead the fight against it. The battle is hard fought. Victory means little for the monster’s poison has already infected the land.

This story has its roots in the Vietnam war and associates what Agent Orange did to the poor people over there. The tale failed to move me. Too depressing and predictable.

 

Two asteroid prospectors contemplate how they will spend their riches in “Men of Wealth” by Ross Willard (debut 5/24). Thomas and Geezer have just found the big score. They gamble as they wait and talk of what they will both do when they get back to the station.

This is one of those tales where you have to wait to the end to find the piece of this puzzle of a story you know is missing. The author set this up as well he could, but I still felt cheated in the end.

 

“U is for Ubiquitous” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/25) Privacy? This 68-word story hinges on the present day dual definition of window. Not bad, considering its length.

 

The World CafÃ’ offers six beverages in “To Soothe Ravaged Throats” by Allison Jamieson-Lucy (debut 5/26). The items on the menu are potent, and are more exotic the further down the list you read, save the last. That one item is a noble choice, and for a price anyone can afford.

A quaint story with an appropriate length. There is little to quibble about it, but not one I would describe as special. Not a bad ending.

 

Friendship runs deep in “Cloaks and Gloves” by Patricia Russo by (debut 5/27). Rall is afraid of the world. Verenisse wishes to help her talented friend and offers to go on a quest to get him a pair of hero gloves. With the help of her cloak, Verenisse braves the harsh world to get her friend the courage he needs.

An editor friend once remarked how amazed he was to receive so many stories that were about characters who walked out their door and go for a walk without anything much happening to them. “Cloaks and Gloves” didn’t have that empty of a plot but it was close.

The story is set in a fantasy dystopia. Civilization appears to have crumpled. Sinister creatures called ‘Rat Folk’ lurk about. Rall creates and sells charms to guard against the monsters, but he makes the charms with his bare hands, a bad idea in this world.

Verenisse, a maker of cloaks, is his friend. Her cloaks give her a false appearance. She dons a cloak of an old woman and braves the outside world.

This tale has all the makings of a dark and scary fantasy. It was setup for a conflict, but a conflict never came. Much was made of the ‘Rat Folk’ yet the characters never come across one. Verenisse does confront a group of ‘Breakers’, which are nothing more than a gang of children. The encounter becomes a non-event, which is how I would describe most of this story.

Despite its eerie setting and ominous promise, “Cloaks and Gloves” became nothing more than a story of a shopping trip in the end.

 

A desperate voice is trying to reach from the other side of your computer screen in “Remember” by Will Arthur (debut 5/30). You are John Samuels, a member of the resistance. You have discovered an important secret about the invaders, so important they placed you in a memetic coma. You now believe you are someone else, living peacefully in 2011. This is your last chance to be free of your illusion.

This story is reminiscent of the movie The Matrix. The play on this tale is you are reading very important information while you read your computer. Not a bad attempt but really, it’s been done before. So ignore the story or we’ll unplug your brain.

Â

A time traveler’s dire warning is wasted on the wrong crowd in “Just Enough Time” by Douglas K. Beagley (debut 5/31). The protagonist and his four friends are enjoying their time in Starbucks when a lovely woman from the future bursts through the door with news of the future. The five latte sippers interrupt her and ignore her pleas to listen, eager to have their own innate curiosities answered instead.

The protagonist engages in prattle in this piece. He (like his friends) come off as extraordinarily self-absorbed. His narration is, you know, like totally dumb or something , if you get my drift. A story about modern twenty-something’s refusing to get the gist of future forewarnings is one thing. Babble with a time traveler as a back-drop is quite another.

Analysis

ÂI haven’t mentioned any before but May’s cover art I really liked. The black, sinister dragon under a full moon with a castle in the background is cool.

David Steffen is the editor and owner of Diabolical Plots. It is by his good graces that you are able to read these reviews of Daily Science Fiction. But other than providing space for them, he hasn’t done a damn thing to help. Nope. Hasn’t bothered to lift a finger at all. It seems he’s too busy establishing a “writing career”.

He completely ignores my suggested path to success – buttering up the publisher with compliments – instead choosing to “submit his best material” and relying that they’ll select his work based on “merit”. Please. Like that will get you anywhere.

Sure, he has some success, managing professional sales to places like Bull Spec, Digital Science Fiction, One Buck Horror, AE Canadian Science Fiction Review, and DAILY SCIENCE FICTION!?!

I guess congratulations are in order, Dave. Could you at least try to not look so happy about it?

Daily Science Fiction: April Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Cripes! When was the last time I posted a review? Falling behind, falling behind. Someone needs to review these finely crafted tales. Too bad those someone’s aren’t Locus, Tangent Online, or one of those other award nominated reviewing sites. One of these days the rest of the industry will acknowledge the fine work posted at DSF, and Jon and Michelle’s innovative idea of using the internet. One of these days they all will! You’ll see!

Whew. I usually save that rant for my 3rd party political obsession. Instead of politics, lets focus on things far more important. Like this month’s DSF offeringsâ€

 

The Stories

“The Blue Room” by Jason Sanford (debut 4/1) opens with a bored mid-teen named Aiesha. She lives with her grandfather on the family farm in the middle of Wyoming, an unlikely place for a young black lady who spent most of her life in the city. Sensitive to her isolation, Grandpa Loren opens a door she has never seen before and reveals a crystal clear pool. Steps descend into the pool and lead to a stone arch far below. Grandpa claims the water is history and its depths are rich with experiences of her ancestors. She can talk to her lost grandmother and experience past events of her great-great grandfather who first settled the land. The water is a connection to her past, or a trap to keep her there forever.

“The Blue Room” has a plot as deep as the depth of the pool. The wide-open prairie is hardly a place a black girl would choose to live. A few in the white community have not rolled out the welcome mat for her, but it isn’t all bad for Aiesha. A handsome boy from school has taken a shine to her.

Coe lives on a ranch nearby. His family shares a past with Aiesha, and it is a violent one at that. As much as Coe loves the land, he is ashamed of the way his ancestors treated Aiesha’s. The boy defends her honor and as payment Aiesha shows him the Blue room. Grandpa Loren hasn’t forgotten the stories of violence a century and a half ago, and neither have the waters.

“Blue Room” is a delicate mystery. The readers are shown the waters but are left to guess of its true nature. Grandpa Loren is eager to join its depths and can hear his departed wife in its waves. Aiesha loves to swim in it and can experience the past the deeper she dives. It is the mystery of what the waters that kept me glued to this story.

There were plenty of possible outcomes for this piece. The direction in which Mr Sanford chose to take is not one I would have taken but I prefer Jason’s approach. The waters in the tale prove to be a catalyst of events rather than a mirror of the past. What I especially enjoyed about the story was the way it ended, poetic and fitting.

“The Blue Room” is a finely crafted work of art. Not sure I like it enough to hang the art on my wall but I do believe it is lovely enough for any museum. Mr Sanford demonstrates why he is always a threat to win the leading awards every year.

 

Doctor Monveve works in a cryogenic storage facility in “The Rules of Regeneration” by Andrew L Findlay (published April 4th, 2011 and reviewed by Anonymous) and is surrounded by dead but frozen corpses of people wishing to be revived when/if whatever killed them becomes curable. Obviously in a world driven by market forces, the cryo company is forced to ‘wake’ some of its customers earlier than expected when their funds for storage turn out.

The story focuses on the good doctor waking one such individual. I thought the story was well written and an easy read, but it was a little plot-thin. The prose was interspersed with quotes from the company’s rule book for regeneration, but otherwise it felt more like vignette than a plot. The tiny twist is delivered at the end, was very tiny, but was it enough? Not sure it was for me.

 

In “Wings for Icarus” by P. Djeli Clark (published on 5th April 2011 and reviewed by Anonymous), a young boy misses his father, a part time inventor (in his shed). The boy’s father died when one of his inventions–a set of silver wings–fails to perform and he falls from the sky.

The boy finds the wings in the shed and sets about repairing them in secret…

This is well written story with good characterisation, but it didn’t work for me. I didn’t really believe the story; it felt a little contrived in the end. Perhaps others wouldn’t wonder how a boy could repair and fly the wings that his more experienced father couldn’t, but I did.

 

Eternal youth has lost its appeal in “N is for Nevermore, Nevermore Land” by The Alphabet Quartet (debut 4/6). A fairy appears at Ember’s window with an offer reminiscent of Peter Pan. Even if the woman with wings isn’t crazy, Ember isn’t one to throw away the good thing she has for a life in a grim fairy tale.

Rather liked this very brief tale. Ember is the type of child we all hope our children turn into.

 

Our main character meets Femi in a break room and is immediately smitten, in “Break” by Mishell Baker (debut 4/7 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). She warns him that it’s only a spell and that he will see the true her in time. She gives him something to help the process, but he’s sure that it’s not as simple as that.

Nice little story and interesting to follow the two characters through this brief encounter. You keep hoping for something special between them. I enjoyed following them through the process.

 

“Outer Rims” by Toiya Kristen Finle (debut 4/8 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). On their way back from a visit to the rapidly vanishing shoreline, a mother and her kids pick up a hitchhiker. When he shows signs of sickness they take him to the hospital, which is overrun with other victims. The new sickness is virulent and devastating. Can they find a cure before the next storm inundates the place?

I was a little thrown off by the definition at the start, seemed a little confusing. Once into the story, however, it moved forward with a nice pace and interesting twists along the way. Pretty good read.

 

A species of a small world threatens all the realities in “The Pen is Mightier” by Mik Wilkens (debut 4/11). Anseel partitions the Chamber of Overlords to destroy Earth. The inhabitants’ active imaginations have created an entertainment called ‘fiction,’ resulting in an abundance of multiverses in its locality. The splits in reality have become so numerous they threaten to unravel the multiverses and destroy all the realities in the process.

I found this tale clever. How do I love a story that ends the way that it begins.

 

An unusual family’s lives are changed when the authorities crash down their door in “Shards” by Leah Thomas (debut 4/12). The crime they have committed is harboring a golem. The golem was created by the mother to serve as her son’s father. Now men have come to destroy it, imprison her, and take the boy away.

This story is told in three separate letters in the voices of each family member. They are apologies and confessions – explanations of how they felt for each other. They tell of the day when they last saw each other and of the mark that day left on their soul. The tone, attitudes, and perspectives are so very different in this odd world Ms Thomas created. I found them masterfully done.

I waited the good part of a day before I wrote this review. The more I thought of the story, the more impressed I became with it. The premise and narrative left its own mark on me. The ending was surprising, one of which I approve. A story that sticks to your psyche as if it were gum on the bottom of your shoe is one worth recommending. Recommended.

 

“O is for Obfuscation” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 4/13) is the tale of a boy who wishes to be invisible. The genie warns he would be blind (simple physics) if he were granted that gift but has a solution so he can’t be seen.

Cute story. I like clever genies. The protagonist gets his wish. I liked the outcome of this flash piece.

 

“Selfless” by Kenneth S Kao (debut 4/14 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). Imagine a version of you watching you, judging every move you make with the life that was once theirs.

This story begins with a man, cured of his wasting disease, about to restart his life, only to find he’s a clone of his dying self. There was no cure, only transition.

The clone will live the life he’s always lived, only now he’ll be looking over his shoulder. For the man who is the same man he’s always been, this added insecurity is a bane to his future daily existence. After all, he didn’t decide to clone himself, his “parent” did. So, while his memories are all the same, he is a different man, on a different path.

This feels wrong somehow. Unfair. The author of this piece, Kenneth Kao, did a great job of making me feel for this character and I wonder what his new life will be like. This story, while short in word count, is large in creativity. It will make you think.

 

Young Veri is one of the lucky chosen to ride the mysterious elevator in “The Elevator” by Erik M Igoe (debut 4/15). The elevator is an old relic, set alone in a desert, rusted and weathered. Only a few, winners of a lottery, are granted a rare ride in it. Those who have ridden it before have never spoken of their trip.

Eight-year old Veri receives his invitation in the mail. Telling no one that he was selected, he boards a bus destined to the elevator, where he meets several others lucky enough to be chosen as well.

“The Elevator” is a “Canterbury Tales” collection of conjecture. Each passenger on the bus has their own idea of what the elevator is and what is in store for them. Their opinions vary greatly but all the riders have grand expectations of what is to come. Veri is the lone passenger who hasn’t formed an opinion, he is only eager to experience the unknown the elevator represents to him.

I found this tale to be all build up to a great event that didn’t pay off, which is what the story was about. All the passengers are filled with hope, yet all, except Veri, miss the hope the elevator offered.

The tale ends up being a metaphor of cynicism. Unfortunately, I shared the feelings many of the characters experienced. This finely crafted story failed to have the payoff I hoped for. I suppose that makes me self-absorbed in my own selfish expectations, like most of the author’s characters

 

Megan confronts her school counselor about her friend Susie in “The School Counselor” by Mark Sarney (debut 4/18). The 22nd century is a job-scarce, highly competitive society. Only driven students have a chance of achieving their career desires. Megan believes her friend is destined for poverty unless their counselor pushes Susie to apply herself.

American schools have become career-engineering specialists in Mr Sarney’s bleak future. To stand a minimal chance, students must commit to countless hours of training. Megan is one of the few who is driven to beat the odds, regardless of the cost. Much of this flash is told in miniature bios, usually a turnoff but they served this piece well. For such a short tale, I found the characters engaging and the ending done well. Not too bad for the author’s first publication.

 

Too much of a good thing is better than nothing at all in “Pippa’s Smiles” by Cat Rambo (debut 4/19). Marcus falls for a shipwrecked beauty. Pippa knows little of his language but clings to her new husband as if he is her life preserver. Marcus cannot take her obsession for him. He leaves her the keys to his shop, choosing to remember her warm smile as he walks off to experience life and adventure for himself.

“Pippa’s Smiles” is Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ in reverse. Marcus searches for the love of his life he imagined instead of staying with the love he left behind. Much happens to Marcus in his travels (I will not indulge so as not to spoil it for you) but the ending is predictable the moment he walks out the door. Ms Rambo’s tale is one big moral, a moral that has been told over and over for millennia.

Although the details and events of “Pippa” are new, this is a story everyone has read before.

 

Everyone loves a parade in “P is for Parade” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 4/20). This futuristic event has much in common with parades of today, but so much is so different.

This very brief tale by the group is by far the weirdest one they have done, yet. I just don’t know what to make of it.

 

“Writing on the Wall” by Vaughan Stranger (debut 4/21 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

What would happen if machines became self aware? How would that affect daily life for those used to them? This subject has been handled by many authors and in many films. This is a short work that takes on that subject.

Nice humorous look at what happens as machines begin to think like humans. Not a deep and philosophical as longer stories by someone like P.K. Dick, but in a short work still manages to take on the subject with humor and deft. Very well done.

 

“The Ambiguity Clock” by Lavie Tidhar (debut 4/22 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

This story is set in Southeast Asia. The main character is forced to search for something called an Ambiguity Clock. Set in the near future where technology is rampant he encounters many strange things along the way that are both dangerous and wonderful.

This one started a little slow for me, but I found myself drawn into it. The author did a pretty good job of setting the world and creating interest in the search. Worth a read, just stay with it.

 

In “Necessities” by Nathaniel Matthews Lee (debut 25th April 2011 and reviewed by Anonymous), a squad patrolling on an alien world come across a family of humans living in a house in a clearing. They are invited to share a meal–the fruit of a nearby tree. When they peel their orange-like fruits they find cheeseburgers and other unexpected treats. Apparently the tree gives people what they need, not necessarily what they want.

The soldiers immediately wonder if the tree would grow on Earth, but then find out the tree can produce more than just food.

I liked this story. It was well-written, interesting and the premise was fresh (like fruit from a tree). It’s a pretty short story but works well, although there is no explanation of how the tree works. I initially believed the story was a sci-fi story, but then the introduction of the tree made me think it was a fantasy story.

Still, I liked it. Nice mini-twist at the end.

 

A weary woman’s train has finally arrived in “This Life” by Lee Hallison (debut 4/26). An exhausted Hope is ready to board the crowded A-train. Work is tedious and her dull apartment, and life, hardly seems worth it. The train that arrives is old and empty. An old woman joins her, asking if Hope is ready for a change.

“This Life” is a tale of an offer to start anew. The train destinations are new opportunities. All Hope has to do is step off and a fresh start awaits her. She only needs to decide if a change is what she really needs.

The story’s execution didn’t quite work for me. If in Hope’s position, I imagine I would have chosen differently. However, the old woman knitting may have kept me from making a choice. The story was just too strange for me. Hope’s actions may be understandable because this offer of new opportunity felt too much like an abduction.

Like the train, this tale felt too rushed for me.

 

The different perspective of the tale of Beowulf is the theme of “Q is for Quit” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 4/27). The hero of the fable contemplates his coming fight with the beast. Eager to confront an equal, for once, in his ongoing battle with evil.

This tale focuses on the motives of Beowulf. I found it intriguing but unsatisfying. Just when it piqued my interest, the story ended.

 

A breakthrough in limitless energy has been discovered in Vacuum Decay by Ramon Rozas (debut 4/28). There is a concern of uncertain disaster. Will history repeat itself? Not in this universe.

I found this very brief story cute but unremarkable.

 

An older woman must convince a dragon in search of beauty her splendor runs deeper than skin deep in “The Beauty Garden” by Damon Shaw (debut 4/29). Eurwen’s village has lost a battle with the white dragon’s army. Now the village must present it a trophy, a beautiful maiden that will satisfy the dragon, or the village will be destroyed. Eurwen’s young and fairer days were long in the past, but she is betting the dragons definition of beauty has a deeper meaning than what lies on the surface.

“The Beauty Garden” has the broadest plot I have read in DSF yet. The white dragon has a desire and motivation I found odd for a mythical reptilian beast. It commands an army and is set on a war of conquest for the sole purpose of collecting living works of art for its own fancy. Eurwen’s plan is a hasty one and it evolves as events are presented to her. The changing premise made the story less and less believable the further I read. The white dragon’s reaction to Eurwen’s continuous attempts to deceive it I found unlikely, especially for a ruthless tyrant.

The author’s comments at the end of the story explained why the story felt incomplete. It is the second installment of a trilogy. The tale read too much like a large excerpt of a much larger piece. I am a fan of many dragon tales but I do have narrow standards of what it takes to make a good dragon story. “The Beauty Garden” falls outside those standards. The author’s excellent writing did draw me in but the unsatisfying storyline left me disappointed in the end.

 

Analysis

I have made much of so many of the brief tales Jon and Michele have given us. So much that I have neglected on giving the lengthy Friday editions their due. With four (sometimes five) works at five thousand words or more, the Friday stories alone represent more literature than acclaimed publications like Lightspeed, Fantasy, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several others provide in a month.

The Friday stories are as good, if not better, than what the other professional publications have decided to publish. Maybe I’m not as impressed with the other editors’ choice of literature. Or maybe my tastes in fiction run more in line with DSF than the rest, I don’t know. What I do know is the authors I tend to like who have appeared in those other publication I have found in DSF as well. I contend again. I believe many of those authors are sending their best to DSF first.

Keep up the good work, Michele and Jon.

I like to thank Jim Hanzelka, Dustin Adams, and the Anonymous one. Without their help I likely would have cried uncle by now. You three are priceless to me.

 

Daily Science Fiction April 2011

Cripes! When was the last time I posted a review? Falling behind, falling behind. Someone needs to review these finely crafted tales. Too bad those someone’s aren’t Locus, Tangent Online, or one of those other award nominated reviewing sites. One of these days the rest of the industry will acknowledge the fine work posted at DSF, and Jon and Michelle’s innovative idea of using the internet. One of these days they all will! You’ll see!

 

Whew. I usually save that rant for my 3rd party political obsession. Instead of politics, lets focus on things far more important. Like this months DSF offeringsâ€

The Blue Room by Jason Sanford (debut 4/1) opens with a bored mid-teen named Aiesha. She lives with her grandfather on the family farm in the middle of Wyoming, an unlikely place for a young black lady who spent most of her life in the city. Sensitive to her isolation, Grandpa Loren opens a door she has never seen before and reveals a crystal clear pool. Steps descend into the pool and lead to a stone arch far below. Grandpa claims the water is history and it’s depths is rich with experiences of her ancestors. She can talk to her lost grandmother and experience past events of her great-great grandfather who first settled the land. The water is a connection to her past, or a trap to keep her there forever.

 

“The Blue Room” has a plot as deep as the depth of the pool. The wide-open prairie is hardly a place a black girl would choose to live. A few in the white community have not rolled out the welcome mat for her, but it isn’t all bad for Aiesha. A handsome boy from school has taken a shine to her.

 

Coe lives on a ranch nearby. His family shares a past with Aiesha, and it is a violent one at that. As much as Coe loves the land he is ashamed of the way his ancestors treated Aiesha’s. The boy defends her honor and as payment, Aiesha shows him the Blue room. Grandpa Loren hasn’t forgotten the stories of violence a century and a half ago, and neither has the waters.

 

“Blue Room” is a delicate mystery. The readers are shown the waters but are left to guess of its true nature. Grandpa Loren is eager to join its depths and can hear his departed wife in its waves. Aiesha loves to swim in it and can experience the past the deeper she dives. It is the mystery of what the waters that kept me glued to this story.

 

There were plenty of possible outcomes for this piece. The direction in which Mr Sanford chose to take is not one I would have taken but I prefer Jason’s approach. The waters in the tale prove to be a catalyst of events rather than a mirror of the past. What I especially enjoyed about the story was the way it ended, poetic and fitting.

 

“The Blue Room” is a finely crafted work of art. Not sure I like it enough to hang the art on my wall but I do believe it is lovely enough for any museum. Mr Sanford demonstrates why he is always a threat to win the leading awards every year.

 

 

Doctor Monveve works in a cryogenic storage facility The Rules of Regeneration by Andrew L Findlay (published April 4th, 2011 and reviewed by Anonymous) and is surrounded by dead, but frozen corpses of people wishing to be revived when/if whatever killed them becomes curable. Obviously in a world driven by market forces, the cryo company is forced to ‘wake’ some of its customers earlier than expected when their funds for storage turn out.

The story focuses on the good doctor waking one such individual. I thought the story was well written and an easy read, but it was a little plot-thin. The prose was interspersed with quotes from the company’s rule book for regeneration, but otherwise it felt more like vignette than a plot. The tiny twist is delivered at the end, was very tiny, but was it enough? Not sure it was for me.

In Wings for Icarus by P. Djeli Clark (published on 5th April 2011 and reviewed by Anonymous), a young boy misses his father, a part time inventor (in his shed). The boy’s father died when one of his inventions–a set of silver wings–fails to perform and he falls from the sky.

The boy finds the wings in the shed and sets about repairing them in secret…

This is well written story with good characterisation, but it didn’t work for me. I didn’t really believe the story; it felt a little contrived in the end. Perhaps others wouldn’t wonder how a boy could repair and fly the wings that his more experienced father couldn’t, but I did.

Eternal youth has lost its appeal in N is for Nevermore, Nevermore Land by The Alphabet Quartet (debut 4/6). A fairy appears at Ember’s window with an offer reminiscent of Peter Pan. Even if the woman with wings isn’t crazy, Ember isn’t one to throw away the good thing she has for a life in a grim fairy tale.

Rather liked this very brief tale. Ember is the type of child we all hope our children turn into.

Our main character meets Femi in a break room and is immediately smitten, in Break by Mishell Baker (debut 4/7 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). She warns him that it’s only a spell and that he will see the true her in time. She gives him something to help the process, but he’s sure that it’s not as simple as that.

 

Nice little story and interesting to follow the two characters through this brief encounter. You keep hoping for something special between them. I enjoyed following them through the process.

Outer Rims by Toiya Kristen Finle (debut 4/8 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). On their way back from a visit to the rapidly vanishing shoreline, a mother and her kids pick up a hitchhiker. When he shows signs of sickness they take him to the hospital, which is overrun with other victims. The new sickness is virulent and devastating. Can they find a cure before the next storm inundates the place?

 

I was a little thrown off by the definition at the start, seemed a little confusing. Once into the story, however, it moved forward with a nice pace and interesting twists along the way. Pretty good read.

 

 

A species of a small world threatens all the realities in The Pen is Mightier by Mik Wilkens (debut 4/11). Anseel partitions the Chamber of Overlords to destroy Earth. The inhabitants active imaginations have created an entertainment called ‘fiction,’ resulting in an abundance of multiverses in its locality. The splits in reality have become so numerous they threaten to unravel the multiverses and destroy all the realities in the process.

I found this tale clever. How do I love a story that ends the way that it begins.

 

An unusual family lives are changed when the authorities crash down their door in Shards by Leah Thomas (debut 4/12). The crime they have committed is harboring a golem. The golem was created by the mother to serve as her son’s father. Now men have come to destroy it, imprison her, and take the boy away.

This story is told in three separate letters in the voices of each family member. They are apologies and confessions – explanations of how they felt for each other. They tell of the day when they last saw each other and of the mark that day left on their soul. The tone, attitudes, and perspectives are so very different in this odd world Ms Thomas created. I found them masterfully done.

I waited the good part of a day before I wrote this review. The more I thought of the story, the more impressed I became with it. The premise and narrative left its own mark on me. The ending was surprising, one of which I approve. A story that sticks to your psyche as if it were gum on the bottom of your shoe is one worth recommending.

Recommended.

 

 

O is for Obfuscation by the Alphabet Group (debut 4/13) is the tale of a boy who wishes to be invisible. The genie warns he would be blind (simple physics) if he were granted that gift but has a solution so he can’t be seen.

Cute story. I like clever genies. The protagonist gets his wish. I liked the outcome of this flash piece.

Selfless by Kenneth S Kao (debut 4/14 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). Imagine a version of you watching you, judging every move you make with the life that was once theirs.

This story begins with a man, cured of his wasting disease, about to restart his life, only to find he’s a clone of his dying self. There was no cure, only transition.

The clone will live the life he’s always lived, only now he’ll be looking over his shoulder. For the man who is the same man he’s always been, this added insecurity is a bane to his future daily existence. After all, he didn’t decide to clone himself, his “parent” did. So, while his memories are all the same, he is a different man, on a different path.

This feels wrong somehow. Unfair. The author of this piece, Kenneth Kao, did a great job of making me feel for this character and I wonder what his new life will be like. This story, while short in word count, is large in creativity. It will make you think.

Young Veri is one of the lucky chosen to ride the mysterious Elevator in The Elevator by Erik M Igoe (debut 4/15). The elevator is an old relic, set alone in a desert, rusted and weathered. Only a few, winners of a lottery, are granted a rare ride in it. Those who have ridden it before have never spoken of their trip.

Eight-year old Veri receives his invitation in the mail. Telling no one that he was selected, he boards a bus destined to the elevator, where he meets several others lucky enough to be chosen as well.

“The Elevator” is a “Canterbury Tales” collection of conjecture. Each passenger on the bus has their own idea of what the elevator is and what is in store for them. Their opinions vary greatly but all the riders have grand expectations of what is to come. Veri is the lone passenger who hasn’t formed an opinion, he is only eager to experience the unknown the elevator represents to him.

I found this tale to be all build up to a great event that didn’t pay off, which is what the story was about. All the passengers are filled with hope, yet all, except Veri, miss the hope the elevator offered.

The tale ends up being a metaphor of cynicism. Unfortunately, I shared the feelings many of the characters experienced. This finely crafted story failed to have the pay off I hoped for. I suppose that makes me self-absorbed in my own selfish expectations, like most of the authors characters

 

Megan confronts her school counselor about her friend Susie in The School Counselor by Mark Sarney (debut 4/18). The 22nd century is a job scarce, highly competitive society. Only driven students have a chance of achieving their career desires. Megan believes her friend is destined for poverty unless their counselor pushes Susie to apply herself.

American schools have become career-engineering specialist in Mr Sarney’s bleak future. To stand a minimal chance, students must commit to countless hours of training. Megan is one of the few who is driven to beat the odds, regardless of the cost. Much of this flash is told in miniature bio’s, usually a turn off but they served this piece well. For such a short tale, I found the characters engaging and the ending done well. Not too bad for the author’s first publication.

Too much of good thing is better than nothing at all in Pippa’s Smiles by Cat Rambo (debut 4/19). Marcus falls for a shipwrecked beauty. Pippa knows little of his language but clings to her new husband as if he is her life preserver. Marcus cannot take her obsession for him. He leaves her the keys to his shop, choosing to remember her warm smile as he walks off to experience life and adventure for himself.

 

“Pippa’s Smiles” is Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ in reverse. Marcus searches for the love of his life he imagined instead of staying with the love he left behind. Much happens to Marcus in his travels (I will not indulge so not to spoil it for you) but the ending is predictable the moment he walks out the door. Ms Rambo tale is one big moral, a moral that has been told over and over for millennia.

 

Although the details and events of “Pippa” are new, this is a story everyone has read before.

 

 

Everyone loves a parade in P is for Parade by the Alphabet Group (debut 4/20). This futuristic event has much in common with parades of today, but so much is so different.

 

This very brief tale by the group is by far the weirdest one they have done, yet. I just don’t know what to make of it.

 

Writing on the Wall by Vaughan Stranger (debut 4/21 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

 

What would happen if machines became self aware? How would that affect daily life for those used to them? This subject has been handled by many authors and in many films. This is a short work that takes on that subject.

 

Nice humorous look at what happens as machines begin to think like humans. Not a deep and philosophical as longer stories by someone like P.K. Dick, but in a short work still manages to take on the subject with humor and deft. Very well done.

 

 

The Ambiguity Clock by Lavie Tidhar (debut 4/22 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

 

This story is set in Southeast Asia. The main character is forced to search for something called an Ambiguity Clock. Set in the near future where technology is rampant he encounters many strange things along the way that are both dangerous and wonderful.

 

This one started a little slow for me, but I found myself drawn into it. The author did a pretty good job of setting the world and creating interest in the search. Worth a read, just stay with it.

 

 

In Necessities by Nathaniel Matthews Lee (debut 25th April 2011 and reviewed by Anonymous), a squad patrolling on an alien world come across a family of humans living a house in a clearing. They are invited to share a meal–the fruit of a nearby tree. When the peel their orange-like fruits they find cheeseburgers and other unexpected treats. Apparently the tree gives people what they need, not necessarily what they want.

The soldiers immediately wonder if the tree would grow on Earth, but then find out the tree can produce more than just food.

I liked this story. It was well-written, interesting and the premise was fresh (like fruit from a tree). It’s a pretty short story but works well, although there is no explanation of how the tree works. I initially believed the story was a sci-fi story, but then the introduction of the tree made me think it was a fantasy story.

Still, I liked it. Nice mini-twist at the end.

A weary woman’s train has finally arrived in This Life by Lee Hallison (debut 4/26). An exhausted Hope is ready to board the crowded A-train. Work is tedious and her dull apartment, and life, hardly seems worth it. The train that arrives is old and empty. An old woman joins her, asking if Hope is ready for a change.

 

“This Life” is a tale of an offer to start anew. The train destinations are new opportunities. All Hope has to do is step off and a fresh start awaits her. She only needs to decide if a change is what she really needs.

 

The stories execution didn’t quite work for me. If in Hope’s position, I’d imagine I would have chosen differently. However, the odd woman knitting may have kept me from making a choice. The story was just too strange for me. Hope’s actions may be understandable because this offer of new opportunity felt too much like an abduction.

 

Like the train, this tale felt too rushed for me.

 

 

The different perspective of the tale of Beowulf is the theme of Q is for Quit by the Alphabet Group (debut 4/27). The hero of the fable contemplates his coming fight with the beast. Eager to confront an equal, for once, in his ongoing battle with evil.

 

This tale focuses on the motives of Beowulf. I found it intriguing but unsatisfying. Just when it piqued my interest, the story ended.

 

 

A breakthrough in limitless energy has been discovered in Vacuum Decay by Ramon Rozas (debut 4/28). There is a concern of uncertain disaster. Will history repeat itself? Not in this universe.

 

I found this very brief story cute but unremarkable.

 

 

An older woman must convince a dragon in search of beauty her splendor runs deeper than skin deep in The Beauty Garden by Damon Shaw (debut 4/29). Eurwen’s village has lost a battle with the white dragons army. Now the village must present it a trophy, a beautiful maiden that will satisfy the dragon, or the village will be destroyed. Eurwen’s young and fairer days were long in the past, but she is betting the dragons definition of beauty has a deeper meaning than what lies on the surface.

 

“The Beauty Garden” has the broadest plot I have read in DSF yet. The white dragon has a desire and motivation I found odd for a mythical reptilian beast. It commands an army and is set on a war of conquest for the sole purpose of collecting living works of art for its on fancy. Eurwen’s plan is a hasty one and it evolves as events are presented to her. The changing premise made the story less and less believable the further I read. The white dragons reaction to Eurwen’s continuous attempts to deceive it I found unlikely, especially for a ruthless tyrant.

 

The author’s comments at the end of the story explained why the story felt incomplete. It is the second installment of a trilogy. The tale read too much like a large excerpt of a much larger piece. I am a fan of many dragon tales but I do have narrow standards of what it takes to make a good dragon story. “The Beauty Garden” falls outside those standards. The author’s excellent writing did draw me in but the unsatisfying storyline left me disappointed in the end.

 

 

Analysis

I have made much of so many of the brief tales Jon and Michele have given us. So much that I have neglected on giving the lengthy Friday editions their due. With four (sometimes five) works at five thousand words or more, the Friday stories alone represents more literature than acclaimed publications like Lightspeed, Fantasy, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and several others provide in a month.

 

The Friday stories are as good, if not better, than what the other professional publications have decided to publish. Maybe I’m not as impressed with the other editor’s choice of literature. Or maybe my tastes in fiction run more in line with DSF, than the rest, I don’t know. What I do know is the authors I tend to like who have appeared in those other publication I have found in DSF as well. I contend again. I believe many of those authors are sending their best to DSF first.

 

Keep up the good work, Michele and Jon.

 

 

 

 

I like to thank Jim Hanzelka, Dustin Adams, and the Anonymous one. Without their help I likely would have cried uncle by now. You three are priceless to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sale! “The Quest Unusual” to Daily Science Fiction

written by David Steffen

My streak of good fortune continues with a third sale in quick succession!

The story:Â “The Quest Unusual”, a story about a strange… knight?

The magazine:Â Daily Science Fiction.

I’m particularly excited about this one, since Frank Dutkiewicz and his reviewer cronies have worked very hard to provide reviews of Daily Science Fiction for Diabolical Plots. I’m looking forward to being involved on the fiction side.

 

Good news! Another new sale, thus reaffirming my irrational superstition that my sales always come in pairs. This time the story is “The Infinite Onion”, an improbable SF story about a research company that is trying to find new ways to profit from portals to parallel worlds. The venue is AE Canadian Science Fiction Review. Huzzah! I am excited! That is all. 🙂 -David Steffen

Daily Science Fiction: March Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Oh, oh. Falling behind once again. Not Daily’s fault. The quality of stories is still first class. See for yourself.

 

The Stories

The cold is creeping in, in “Snowfall” by Jennifer Mason Black (debut 3/1). Cassandra and Tosh have thrown the last log of an enormous pile of firewood into the wood-burning stove. As they watch the embers die and feel the stove go cold, the siblings reminisce about happier days.

“Snowfall” is a tale of two people that have come to grips with the inevitable. The exhausted pile of wood is a symbol of evaporated hope. The two have made peace with what is about to happen – panic and sorrow long gone for them both – as they become the only attendees of their own wake, choosing to remember the life they shared.

I liked this story. I found it accurate for how two people would react in this situation. The disaster that has happened is unknown but it doesn’t matter to these two at this point. Well done.

 

Millie waits for her bus in “I is for Inertia” by The Alphabet Quartet (debut 3/2). The protagonist sees her everyday, knitting away, at the bus stop. She is there when she boards and there when she departs. Millie is eager to board but she isn’t just waiting for any bus.

Millie may be crazy but the protagonist can see her reasons as philosophical ones. The bus she is waiting for has a destination that we all are eager to get to. This letter, like some of the other Alphabet stories, has an open ending that left me unsatisfied.

 

“Surface” by Thomas J. Folly (debut 3/3 and reviewed by Anonymous).

A society lives for thousands of years under the crust and a pair of intrepid young adventurers defy the warnings of the elders and set off to climb to the surface to get a look at the Eden that waited for them above.

As usual, things don’t work out the way they plan (of course!). I must say I didn’t like beginning of the story where a lot of background information was dumped, but the ending was good. A good twist, well delivered.

 

The use of large, multisyllabic words can, at times, be off-putting, meant solely to disseminate the intellectual acuity of the author. In the case of “Epinikion” by Desmond Warzel (debut 3/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), a mouthful in itself, the use of complex words and language was fused so expertly within the narrative that they enhanced the very tale itself. I am reminded of M.T. Anderson.

The story tells of the man who is responsible for cleaning a post victory (or post defeat) battlefield of its Anglo-American corpses. Also in his job description is to retrieve salvageable weapons, and collect dog-tags. He does this with grim determination, and a singing of old battle tunes – to block the sounds of the not-quite-dead-yet fallen.

The details I leave you to discover, and I do recommend you discover them, for this story takes an interesting twist when, due to mechanical difficulties, the Cleaner’s enemy counterpart is forced to land and perform his similar duties simultaneously.

Their meeting is the plot of the story, the character is the heart, and the language is the song. Definitely read this one. Recommended

 

“God’s Gift to Women” by Barbara A. Barnett (debut 3/7 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Omnipotence: All, or unlimited power
Omniscience: The capacity to know everything
Precognizance: Knowledge of events before they occur

There seemed to me to be some confusion about the definitions of the three above words in this story, which for me, ruined the punchline a bit. Which is what I felt this story read like — a long joke one might tell another.

So God walks into a bar… Whether or not the man is truly God isn’t clear as the main character states to us that she believes he is. The truth is unclear, although some may say the action taken at the end of the story removes all doubt.

Sadly, there wasn’t a sci-fi or mystical element to this story. So, while short, and harmless, I didn’t feel like it truly belonged on the pages of DSF.

This isn’t necessarily a story to be avoided, I mean, it was humorous enough in its brevity and content, however I’m sure there are other, more thought provoking stories to read this month.

 

“The Song of the Laughing Hyena” by David G. Blake (debut 3/8 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a delightfully dark take on The Gift of the Magi, with a little Romeo and Juliet thrown in for good measure.

Kalvin, lord of the manor, has taken full advantage of a servant girl and is, rightfully so, a hated man. Kalvin’s solution is to seek a witch to create a love spell thus solving the problem, and creating a deep, powerful bond.

However, such wounds can not be covered by a salve. The servant girl too finds a method to deal with the atrocity and her pain.

Fatefully, love and hatred combine in an ending that must be read in its entirety. I suggest checking this one out.

 

The quartet proves waste isn’t the only thing recyclable in “J is for Junk” by The Alphabet Quartet (debut 3/9). A Discovery Channel film team is off to investigate the Pacific Trash Vortex. Instead of finding a floating pile of garbage the size of Texas, they discover an island formed of discarded material. The expedition goes from odd to weird when their sexy on-camera star turns up missing.

If you ever watched old monster epics, you’ll recognize this plot really quick. Like most recycled material, this tale is really bland when compared to the original. This tongue-in-cheek recreation was just plain silly.

 

“Tuna Fish” by Andrew Kaye (debut 3/10 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) is an interesting take on protein substitutes. Jonathan has a pregnant wife that is very picky on what she can eat without experiencing nausea. When the source is suspect, he proceeds to gather his own, of course when you do that you sometimes get more than you bargained for.

This one was a little over the top for me, but still fun. It did cause me to think about our sources of food and how little we seem to care about the consequences of our actions.

 

“Shark’s Teeth” by T.A. Pratt (debut 3/11 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Nice setting, I love Hawai’i. When a Sorceress is banished to Hawai’i she must find a new line of work. Her friend wants her to open an agency, but she is resisting. That is until she has a chance encounter with a god in human form.

This is a nice use of local Hawaiian customs and folklore blended with a bit of Harry Dresden. I liked the mix, but someone not as familiar with Hawaiian lore might be put off. It is still a good read, and if you are interesting in learning about Hawai’i or just like a bit of fun, dive in.

 

A forgotten mythical beast yearns to feed in “The Cloud Dragon Ate Red Balloons” by Tom Cardamone (debut 3/14). A cloud dragon hungers for the young boys he sees playing in the soccer fields and playgrounds. He is the last of his kind that still roams the Earth, mistaken for a cloud, as other dragons wait for the day to re-emerge.

“The Cloud Dragon” is more of a tale of what dragons used to be than a story of one monster on the prowl. I learned much of Mr. Cardamone’s mythical world, which is what this tale seemed to be, an introduction to his fantasy universe. The story never evolved and therefore sputtered like the spent drops of a depleted rain cloud.

 

Feels conflict with programming in “Skin of Steel” by Siobhan Shier (debut 3/15). The protagonist is a robot who serves as a guard and servant for a spoiled heir of a wealthy corporation. Elaine is the Paris Hilton of her day – beautiful, extravagant, self-absorbed , just as she was designed, perfect in everyway. Not all creations follow all their protocols, while others perform them too well. Public perception is everything so therefore events must be closely managed, especially when disaster is involved.

“Skin of Steel” plays on a conspiratorial notion that nothing is done by accident. Elaine has a flaw in her design, a flaw that most would consider a virtue. Virtues run counter for a company mascot whose unknown job is to stay in the limelight. The protagonist is a robot so is therefore easier to control, but feelings run deep for a machine that has been awarded a measure of free will. New programming forces him to recognize his feelings, feelings held in check by duty.

Ms. Shier portrayal of a spoiled woman, used as a reverse promotional mascot, was brilliant. I found this premise surprisingly plausible. A very inventive work of art.

 

“K is for Kinky” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 3/16) is an advertisement for the latest sex-ploitation. The narrator entices the reader to try sex in a cover; people used to be born with skin. Sex in your epidermal layer is like nothing you can imagine, just be wary of the aroma.

“K” is one of those far future parodies meant to show how much we are attached to the parts of us that can be so gross, when described in detail.

 

Twin sisters resist an alien invasion in “Self and Self” by Jacob A. Boyd (debut 3/17). Jane and Kim take turns watching each other while the other one sleeps. Earth is in the throws of an alien invasion. Squid-like creatures from light-years away will switch places with you while you dream. The girls make sure to wake the other before the switch can be made. The sisters vow to look after each other even when the people they know have gone. Family must always stick together, even if it is from light years away.

“Self and Self” is a new take on the “Body Snatcher” theme. Many in the world have succumbed to the inevitable. Radio broadcasts have announced it is everyone’s patriotic duty to ignore the switches. Jane and Kim are two who have no intentions of giving in to the inevitable. The story tracks their progress as two girls on the run but with nowhere to go. The whole time you get the feeling you are watching a spider in a tub that is battling from going down the drain. An intriguing and well thought out story.

 

Advancing technology in a world of magic is the theme of “Newfangled” by K. G. Jewell (debut 3/18). The protagonist is left irritated at his son, Mark, after a repair bill to fix his fridge leaves his wallet $1535 lighter. The garage ghoul had a case of the munchies after finding Mark’s stash of pot. Dad is out to discipline his son but discovers Mark is in deep with a tutoring demon. Now Dad feels out of the loop and old in a world that is leaving him behind.

“Newfangled” is a story of changing times. The technology of fridge elves and cactus nymphs has gone way past him. Magic has become too advanced for him to understand but isn’t beyond Mark’s, but the boy has gotten over his head with a debt to his demon. Fortunately, not everything new is beyond the reach of people stuck in the past.

I found this story clever. Mr. Jewell wrote a fantasy that anybody a generation removed from high school can identify with. I like his style and imagination. I will be looking forward to more of his work.

 

A director is having trouble getting his actor to cooperate in “That’s Show Business” by Bruce Boston (debut 3/21). He could just turn the actor off but it would take the Hologram Department a week to make another, an expensive decision for a film already over budget. A decision that would be best suited for a producer.

“That’s Show Business” shows us a Hollywood where the entertainment has taken complete control of entertainment. The story was nice but predictable. The ending I found fabulous. High marks for that.

 

A painter discovers his veins holds the vibrant colors in “Iron Oxide Red” by Gwendolyn Clare (debut 3/22). By accident, the protagonist cut his finger while painting a scene in kitchen. His finger bleeds the color he needs. The painting is a hit, so much so his fellow students salivate for the painted fruit within. The painter discovers he will bleed other colors at different parts of his body, bringing a whole new meaning to putting everything you have into your work.

“Iron Oxide Red” is the type of story only Van Gogh could identify with. The painter becomes a cutter for his art. He slices into different parts of himself to see what colors bleed. The story goes from a painter’s self-sacrifice for his art to a self-deprecating man who can’t comprehend the danger he is to himself.

 

In “L is for Luminous” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 3/23), a successful husband and wife burglar team runs into trouble when they come upon a wild angel during a heist. The angel bites the Mrs and curses her with the power of illumination. Now she is as bright as a fluorescent moments before it overloads. A glowing burglar is a retired burglar, unless the con duo can rework a new con.

“L” is an inventive flash; a very detailed plot for a story under a thousand words. This tale had a lot going on and had a clever solution to a brilliant problem. It left me very impressed.

 

“Girl Who Asks Too Much” by Eric James Stone (debut 3/24) is a story of an inquisitive child and an irritated adult. The girl can’t stop asking questions of the Great Egg and why some animals and plants came from it and why others do not. Instead of accepting things as the way they are, she must know why. Unable to silence the girl’s questions, the protagonist takes the girl to the Great Egg. She is eager to get to the truth, and the truth she shall find.

The title of this story, “Girl Who Asks Too Much,” is the name the protagonist gives the young lady. She is like most children who can’t stop asking why, and he is like the adult who tires of the endless why’s that follow each answer. Mr. Stone amazes me on how in depth he can make a story with a thousand words. The reveal may be predictable to a few but it doesn’t damper the appeal of this piece.

 

Trust by David D. Levine (debut 3/25). Michele and her family live in a refuge camp subsiding on a cup and half of rice a day. The rising ocean had forced them away from their California home. So little food, so little hope, she forms a plan that will spare her teenage daughter from a dim a future.

“Trust” is a story of misguided faith and greed. Michele takes advantage of her overprotective husband’s prejudice and despair, using her daughter as a pawn. Michele comes off a despicable person. You gradually learn how demented she is as you follow along and view her convoluted logic in a despaired world.

Some of the best stories I have read were done form the perspective of an unlikable protagonist. However, it is difficult to pull off and Mr. Levine didn’t pull it off in this one. Michele is remarkably shallow, and shallow people are difficult to root for.

 

A writer performs body art that leaves her subject speechless in “Words on a Page” by Allison Starkweather (debut 3/28). A man allows his girl to writing something on him, she continues , writing feelings in different languages , and he can feel the words begin to leave him as she does.

“Words” describes what the man is going through as the woman writes. He tries to imagine what she is writing in the areas he can’t see and the words in the places he can. You get a glimpse of his growing paralysis as she writes on every square inch of his being.

The story is of one character playing at the expense of the other. A first I thought it was a tattoo artist gone wild. The ending sentence came off as contrived.

 

A writer performs body art that leaves her subject speechless in “Written Out” by Terra LeMay (debut 3/29). A girl asks if she can write a word on her boyfriend’s back, then goes hog wild. Her writing takes a life of her own as her subject’s words are taken from him and are exposed to the world on the canvas of his own body.

“Written Out” is a companion story for “Words on a Page”. While Ms. Starkweather’s story done mostly from the man’s point of view, Ms. LeMay’s is done exclusively from the artist’s. The two authors critique each other’s works and submitted their stories together. The decision was wise because, although the pieces worked individually, they are brighter when compared side-by-side.

 

We walk a pattern in “M is for Mall” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 3/30), and if it is disrupted, run for the hills. The protagonist is a security guard at the local mall. Every morning the retired residents of the town arrive to walk their complicated patterns. Then mall management decides to erect a new stand in the way of their routine route. Big mistake.

I found this story to be amusing. Not much to it, and I’m not sure why the results at the end came about, but I still found it fun to read.

 

Victor Frankenstein monster is in search of friends, again, in The Modern Prometheus by Ed Wyrd (debut 3/31).

This is a mini modern retelling of an old classic. The reveal is a ‘when’ the story occurs. Amusing and very short.

 

Analysis

What else can I say? I’m still enjoying DSF. For those of you who have yet to read it, for heaven sakes, subscribe already. Can’t beat the price, that is for sure.

Anonymous is currently on a research project for his next book, The Collective Story about Everyone and Everything. He is 234,764,431 pages into it and has contracted a large section of Washington State for the paper to print it.

Special thanks to Dustin Adams and James Hanzelka for their continuing help.

Daily Science Fiction: February Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Onward! Still plugging away. It feels as if I am finally making ground reviewing this very ambitious project.

This month we have the return of Cat Rambo and the debut of the very successful Jay Lake, but it is also the month that has the most unfamiliar authors to me yet. I believe it is because this is when Daily Science Fiction had reached its stride in the industry. Because of the its pay scale, ease of its submission process, volume of material needed, and friendly availability to its readers; the amount of fresh material and authors , both pro and amateur , likely surpassed or equaled any other publication about the time Jon and Michele received the stories that ended up in this month’s email out. It is a testament of the success of this innovative project. The readers and authors have realized how good of a publication Daily Science Fiction has become. When is the rest of the industry going to acknowledge it?

I will continue to beat the drum, but I’m having trouble turning up the noise.

 

The Stories

“The Elephant Man’s Love Child” by Leslie What (debut 2/1) is the story of a girl imprisoned in a hospital. The girl is the discarded offspring of the Elephant Man, abandoned for unknown reasons by her mother. She gazes at a photo of her father every night, wishing she could be a part of his life.

I can’t really see the point of this story. The protagonist’s plight is sad but nothing much happened in it. This is a tale where the author’s comments would have been useful.

 

The protagonist is an imprisoned fairy in “E is for Excrement” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 2/2). The fairy has been caged by the MacAllister family for generations and now is the property of a college boy. The first rule on caring for the magical being is to never let him out of the cage. The lad lives in a dorm, a place filled with mischievous young men influenced by peer pressure. A chance for freedom is available thanks to the boys’ desire to try the outrageous.

This brief lettered tale was neat. Gross when you really think about it but done cleverly from the perspective of a clever protagonist. A very nice work of flash.

 

“The Uncharted Isle” by James Hutchings (debut 2/3 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) asks if you ever sat and pondered where that old flame is today? Is she married, with kids? Does she ever sit and ponder where you are? Well here’s the answer.

Nice little thought exercise, sort of Ulysses for the modern man. This little ditty touches on the deepest desires of us all, the desire to be loved, in a short little story.

 

In “Imaginary Enemies” by Colum Paget (debut 2/4 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), Sandra Barclay is in a contest of wills, with herself. Her personality has been split by a radical medical procedure and now she is tormented by her alternate personality, Ingrid. A new procedure can restore her personality, but can she live with herself afterward?

Reminiscent of a common theme of P.K. Dick, what is reality, this story looks at it from the standpoint of the individual. The question of who we are and what we are is deftly handled and leads to an interesting conclusion.

 

“Gathering Glory” by Steve Stanton (debut 2/7 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Nigel Harris meets his publisher for the first time at a conference. He soon discovered the meeting was more than just about his first story. He was to discover more about himself than he thought.

This story covers some familiar ground with a different perspective. It was interesting to see how the author pulled together the threads of the story. In the end, however, it still seemed a little too familiar.

 

Reliving cherished memories can have many benefits in “Memory Bugs” by Alter S. Reiss (debut 2/8). The protagonist has a memory hive in his home, bugs that record events in your life. He uses the bugs to remember fine details of his date with Susan, beneficial when you wish to impress, debilitating when memories become more important than new experiences.

The memory hive is a tool the protagonist needs for his job. The bugs in them imprint fine details and pass them along into mites (in which you ingest) so you can re-experience them later. The story focuses on the protagonists evolving relationship with his girl, covering several years in a few paragraphs, and takes the shape of an addiction tale. How they work was glossed over. The protagonist’s inability to grasp the downsides of overusing the hive made him unlikable.

Interesting concept pasted onto a plotline that has been told in variety of ways. Not a grand story but okay.

 

“F is Forever” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 2/9) is about one hell of a resort and spa! Hell has become kinder and gentler. The damned are now treated to a heavenly vacation. Each customer has the ultimate pleasure just a fingertip away, and it won’t get any closer.

“F” is hell with a makeover. Eternal damnation has changed with the times, as has its choice of fitting torture. Entertaining work of flash. I liked it.

 

In “Swallowing Ghosts” by Cat Rambo (debut 2/10 and reviewed by Anonymous), a boy, never named, fails to cover his mouth with his hand when he yawns and his dead Grandma’s warning comes to pass; he swallows a ghost (see title). Said unnamed boy troops over to his Grandpa and, despite his ghost-acquired handicap of involuntary verbal gobbledy-gook, is able to recruit the eccentric old man to his ghost bustin’ cause.

But can Grandpa exorcise the ectoplasmic visitor?

I have read quite a few Cat Rambo stories, and although this isn’t my favourite story–it’s pretty short and fairly simplistic–I still like it. It doesn’t showcase her talents in quite the way I have seen in some of her more complex and darker stories. That said, this story is simply a bit of fun.

 

“The Birdcage Heart” by Peter M Ball (debut 2/11 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) begins with a hint of sadness and a touch of cruelty and degrades from there. It also began with such a foreign concept that it was initially hard to imagine and grasp. Yet, the human mind adapts and soon I had accepted that a man literally has a bird cage in his chest in which various species of birds are kept.

The man’s affections for a woman whose motivation reeked of fetishism was sympathetic. Most of us have been in poisonous relationships where we’ve done the bulk of the changing. The man in this story is no different, only, he’s got a bird cage in his chest cavity.

The story circles around to where it began, and the man learns to trust himself. After taking so much external emotional damage, he’s able to risk some internal for the sake of allowing himself to feel an attachment to the birds he keeps within himself.

I appreciated the metaphor at the end of the story, but found the journey to get there a bit cumbersome.

 

“Boy Seeds” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 2/14 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), suffers from one major and devastating problem: it is too short. It’s a novella or novel crammed into short form, and while the story itself was interesting enough, I found I couldn’t latch on to any one aspect of it because of the speed in which it moved. One does not visit a fine art gallery then run full tilt through it.

Noma lives in a Big Brother like society in which she’s expected to conform to certain normalities. However, she’s always had her own mind and has gotten into trouble for this in the past. So, when it’s time for her to grow her own boy, she dives in and invents one who is sure to touch her heart. However, with an expiration date of six months, this is not a wise idea.

The story ends sort of abruptly and if there’s a moral, I didn’t discover it, however I do believe this is merely a fault of the story’s length. If it were say a hundred pages, or two or three, I would read every word because that is what this idea needs. It needs to grow, and live – for more than six months.

 

A sick mother, approaching army, and a ribbon-happy shaman shape “A Ribbon For A Shaman” by S. J. Hirons (debut 2/15). The protagonist is a young man. His father cares for his ill mother while the silent shaman ties a ribbon around everything of value, a sign that it should be left alone. The village worries for the sanity of their shaman and consider replacing him. The protagonist is not ready to give up on his mother, or the shaman, and learns the old man has plans for him.

“Ribbon” is a complicated tale. The author wrote the shaman as a man losing it. The rules of the ribbon seemed silly to me though. I saw no reason why the ribbon law had to be obeyed. A hint of a consequence would have made the story more convincing for me. Not a bad piece but sticking with the story took a bit effort.

 

Mal’llandri, God of a Thousand Tongues, has come to Earth in “G is for Graven” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 2/16). The god destroys Las Vegas as demonstration of his power. He rewards worshippers with supernatural gifts. The sculpturist protagonist wishes for the power of psychometry to help her improve as an artist. She should be wary of all-powerful gifts from all-powerful beings.

“G” is the tale of misguided faith. The new god proves to be more devious than his mortal cohort’s envision. The protagonist unwittingly discovers how a gift she thought would help her create would destroy her humanity. A well-done letter.

 

In “Tonight with Words Unspoken” by Jeff Samson (debut 2/17) a couple is off to make a new home on a distant world. They have developed a habit of falling asleep and waking separately as a couple and decide they should enter their deep-sleep chambers the same way. Habits can be difficult to break, and some can break the habit makers when broken.

“Tonight” is a dark tale of grief. The ending, although sad, became an unnecessary travesty compounded. The enormous expense of traveling to another star is erased by the protagonist’s inability to adjust to loss. I’d hope any psychological examine would weed out individuals like him.

 

“Rinse or Repeat” by Sylvia Hiven (debut 2/18) is the tale of an unfaithful man hoping to fix the mistakes of his past. In a modern day Manhattan populated with immigrating mythical beings, Gabriel braves Chinatown in hopes of finding a displacer. The middle-aged husband of an understanding wife fell hard for a fairy and now wants to return to the moment when he first pumped into the Merridy Redwing to prevent the events that ruined his marriage and eventually broke his heart. It is regret that leads Gabriel to take this fateful step, but desire can prove to be an equally powerful of an emotion.

“Rinse or Repeat” is a short but full tale. The story is under 5000 words but had more detail, setting, and intrigue than most novelette size tales. Ms. Hiven wrote a very convincing love-struck Gabriel a year removed from a steaming affair. She set him in a New York with dragons lurking in the shadows and fairies intermingling as temptress vixens run amok. We view a society in which fairies take advantage of men and get a brief insight of their non-human motivations. Ms. Hiven also introduces us to a method of time travel with clear and strict rules, an important element for me (can’t make time travel too easy).

Gabriel is resolute in his decision to change his past. His earlier risk-taking confirms his commitment to the reader. But as the story evolves, and the more we learn of affair, his resolution starts to waver. The ending serves as the pinnacle of the tale, Gabriel standing at a fateful, irreversible moment between desire and healing.

I was very satisfied when I reached the end of this story, but it wasn’t until I wrote this review that I learned how much I really enjoyed it. I didn’t think I would be praising it so much but I am impressed with the impression it has left on me. This is the first work of Sylvia Hiven I have read. I will be looking forward to her next. Recommended

 

In “Vestigial Organs” by Katie H. Camp (debut 2/21 and reviewed by Anonymous), a couple is worried about their child who appears to be special. She laughs at things the parents don’t understand, steals toys from other children without them realising; the parents consult a physician who quickly diagnoses the problem–her eyes function perfectly. She lives in a society of blind people who don’t like the advantage it confers on the odd person born with eyes, but they have a solution for this problem…

I thought the story was well written, but felt the premise was weak. I am no expert, but seeing confers a major survival advantage, which was the major complaint the parents seemed to be making, they couldn’t control the young child (ergo, an advantage). What about the poor or those who can’t afford physicians? No society is without its critics andÂI wondered how this society could defend itself against a single determined sighted man.

In the Country of the Blind, the One-Eyed man is king.

A story isn’t merely its prose, characters, or dialogue, it is also the premise.ÂFor me the premise seemed flawed, which sapped the pleasure from this well-written tale.

 

A gun is the main protagonist in “Hello, said the Gun” by Jay Lake (debut 2/22). The story is of an artificially intelligent handgun who was left in an oak tree a century and a half before. He encounters a girl who happens to be walking by. Lonely and neglected, the gun seeks to be held once again.

“Hello, said the Gun” is a tale with twin perspectives. We learn of a character known as only ‘Girl’, a loner left to fend for herself in a harsh world. She is wary of Men and her solitude has left her suspicious of everything. Gun only wants to talk to someone. It’s AI programming has allowed it to learn, adapt, and improve on itself. Being left in a tree for so long runs counter to what its designers intended for it. Of the two characters, the weapon comes off as the one most human.

Jay Lake’s accomplishments speak for itself. So impressive they are that the editor’s joked that their publication “â€set a record for being the longest to publish a Jay Lake” tale. Well I think it may have been wise to wait a bit longer. As always, Mr. Lake has a way with words that makes his stories easy to follow, but switching perspectives in a tight narrative rarely works, and it certainly didn’t work in this one. I had a problem with a premise that had a character who experienced so little human interaction in her life (talking about the human one here) and yet was able to converse fluently. The ending also came off as non-eventful to me.

I have read plenty Jay Lake stories and found them fabulous. The praise for most of his work is well deserved but with this one instance, I am left disappointed.

 

An old racing mare is the subject of “H is for Horse” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 2/23). She has lived a long life, birthing many champion horses. She longs not for her youth when she could run like the wind but of a majestic prince she knew long ago. Fine horses like herself are often treated like princesses. This princess awaits her prince.

“H” is a story with a unique twist, one you won’t suspect. The authors did well using the perspective of a horse without turning into a Disney-cartoonish narrative. The ending of this flash piece is done really well. I rather liked this letter of the quartets.

 

Paolo wants to forget in “Trick of Memory” by D. A. D’Amico (debut 2/24). He wishes to erase the memory of his time with his abusive wife, Lisa, and has purchased a pill called Vive. The drug has the capability to erase recent pain, in moderation, but Paolo just swallowed an entire dose just as Lisa walks in. The couple duel as Paolo waits for her to be a stranger to him once again. Lisa can’t just let him off that easy. Being a tormentor can require some craftiness.

“Trick of Memory” is an odd tale. Although it isn’t really one, I liken it to a couple’s final moments, as one is about to commit suicide in front of the other. Paolo has suffered some wicked abuse over the months and erasing his memory of her comes across as his way of giving her the finger rather than an escape from pain. Lisa seems to delight in giving him hell, and reacts as if letting him off the hook would be like allowing him to escape the fiery underworld while she was left to burn in its flames.

The story I found very interesting but following a dysfunctional couple, not bright enough to part ways, made it tough for me to care what happened to them.

 

An old family harpsichord returns in “The Mysterious Barricades” by Lyn C.A. Gardner (debut 2/25). The musical instrument has been in Lucy’s family for years. Believed to be lost in a fire that killed her mother years ago, it has been returned to her, partially restored. The harpsichord has a history of dividing her family, and now it has ended up with her just as the love of her life, Adrienne, is leaving for a job in Paris. Now old memories are reborn to mingle with a present that is crumbling around her.

“The Mysterious Barricades” is a weird ghost story. Lucy is a woman who is suffers from separation anxiety. She can’t handle Adrienne out of her life. The harpsichord is anchor to her past. Family ghosts haunt it. They replay old events in her life and help her reassemble the old musical machine. The flashbacks that play before her eyes remind her of the effect it had as its very presence drove a wedge between her parents and grandparents. The strange events all lead to an odd climax, and strange ending.

It was a weird trip following this story. Lucy story may be more of one person’s mental breakdown than it was about ghosts.

 

“Waiting in the Corners” by Brian Dolton (debut 2/28) is more of a confessional than a story. The mysterious narrator is elusive about who and what it is, hinting that is less a thing of substance but an instiller of fear and apprehension.

I really don’t know how to comment on this one. The narrator seems to be warning the reader without implying any kind of threat. It is ominous but harmless at the same time. In short, it becomes a journey into a haunted house that is scarier on the outside than the inside.

 

Analysis

The Alphabet Quartet still delights me, as does the growing variety of fiction and authors. On to March.

Frank Dutkiewicz, Dustin Adams, and Anonymous each contributed to this review and all had their turn in the sun. Time to shine a light on someone else.

James A. Hanzelka graduated from University of Utah with a degree in Chemistry in 1972. After graduation he became the property of the US Army for the next twenty years. He later found work as a Physical Scientist, developing test methods for evaluation chemical defense equipment for the US Forces. He has developed several unique methodologies, which resulted in both National and International awards. He was a member of the international community developing standards for protective equipment used by militaries around the world. He is the author of over 150 different technical documents and papers. Since 1998 he has been involved in private consulting on chemical defense equipment development, and is currently in pursuit of a career in writing. He holds degrees in chemistry and industrial engineering and claims to know nothing of a guardian angel that hovers over his left shoulder.

Daily Science Fiction: January Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

A correction is in order for last months review. I called the leading Sci-Fi news outlet in the industry Lotus when every other person on the planet knows it’s Locus. Big mistake, won’t make it again.

The new year marks the beginning of the Alphabet Quartet contributions. Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, and Greg Van Eekhout have won more awards, sold more books, and have appeared in more professional paying publications than my collective friends and my own overactive imagination could hope to accomplish combined. Every Wednesday a new letter of the alphabet graces DSF, (at least until they run out of letters) making it the first weekly serial in ezine history (I think). I have been eager to read them and have avoided the temptation of giving any a look in my emails, just incase they need to be read in order. Aside from this impressive quartet, I see other previously published DSF authors in this months issue. Should be a good one.

The Stories

Roger Ebert once said, “I don’t review a movie based on what it’s about, but how it goes about it.” If I follow that same philosophy, this is the best story I’ve ever read. “Wrath of the Porcelain Gods” by Nicky Drayden (debut 1/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is, word for word, perfect.

It’s written in 2nd person. The subject matter is generally considered vile. The narrator him/herself wonders why they’d taken up such a disgusting hobby. Why then such high praise?

The narrator has studied the excremental activities of all one hundred fifteen sapient species of Vero-Avalon station save one. The documentation and revelation thereof is the plot. The hilarity that ensues is the story. The answer to the question posed above can only be gleaned through understanding. To understand, one must not fight it. (you’ll see.)

Take five minutes out of your day and read this. If you don’t get it, that’s okay, it was only five minutes. However, if you do, you’ll be glad you did. Recommended

 

In the Author Comments section of “Rx” by Jacquelyn Bartel (debut 1/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), Ms. Bartel ponders what a society would be like if it used physical pain to treat mental illness. I can’t help but wonder how such a society would evolve considering this philosophy has been proven not to work by the mental institutions of old.

I delved into the author comments in hopes of shedding some light on the story itself, which was not sci-fi, a little confusing, and unsatisfying. I believe there should be a desire to read the author’s comment, not a need.

Unfortunately I can’t recommend this story. Which, by the way, is about one person in said society who takes a pill to induce pain (assumable) because they have a mental affliction. However, since I was given no indication of said mental state, all I got out of the story was someone ingesting a pain pill then passing out in the store.

 

At the end of his life, William Shakespeare has completed his greatest work in “A is for Arthur” by The Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/5). Will has worked over a year on “Arthur”, a tragedy of the legendary king and his mythical Camelot court. Now a mysterious man from a forgotten time has come to take it from him. Will knows to surrender his play would be to rob generations to come of his greatest of masterpieces, but the stranger aims to show him how releasing to the public it will be an even greater tragedy.

“A” is the first in a series written by four accomplished authors. The story shows how much power Shakespeare has in the imagination of mankind, a power that brings life to his characters in their own reality. The mysterious man (a person whose identity you may be able to guess) has a gift that allows him to transport through time, space, and into the new realities. He is out to stop the reality that will form with Shakespeare’s play.

I have avoided reading any of these tales when they appeared in my email box, not knowing if they should be read in order. I have no idea how the other ones will turn out but act one was fabulous. The author (or authors) captured a skittish Shakespeare, and the rest of a complete cast, rather well. I just loved where they took this tale and how it ended. Recommended

 

“Waiting for Raymond” by Eric James Stone (Published Jan 6th, 2011 and reviewed by Anonymous)

A simple tale told well. I have read a few of Mr. Stone’s stories and have been impressed with the simplicity of his stories. In”Waiting for Raymond” a young beautiful lady–Dee–is preparing for a night out and her preparations are being observed by a poltergeist that haunts her apartment. After putting the finishing touches to her appearance, she realises she is going to be let down by her boyfriend, Raymond, who is always late for everything. He won’t answer his cell phone.

The poltergeist is the kind soul and tries to help Dee any way it can…

I thought this was well written, simple and effective, but not mind-blowing. I liked it, though, but not as much as another of his more recent DSF stories, “The Girl Who Asks to Much”.

 

Diff gets reacquainted with a college colleague, he would rather avoid in “Bit Storm” by Lancer & Shelli Kind (debut 1/7). The programmer has a needy AI companion, a demanding girlfriend, and a nano-created artificial hand. Jack, his AI, wants a cat. Zoe, his girl, is pushing him to go to a Halloween party. While leaving his office, he runs into SickDevil, a college acquaintance who was kicked out of school. SickDevil is brilliant but has an anti-social attitude that many find odd. SickDevil appears to like Diff, even giving him a nano cat for Jack as a gift. Shortly after, Diff’s nano hand starts to ache, something it has never done before.

“Bit Storm” is the longest story DSF has published in months. The story line is centered on Diff. He is in the middle of a hectic couple of days, trying to upload a crucial program with a whining AI to deal with, all while trying to please a pushy girlfriend. SickDevil is a new age anarchist. He ruins an online game Diff and his friends enjoy, then gives his new friend a nano cat for an apology. It isn’t long before all the nano technology begins to react oddly (what a surprise).

I could go into more detail on this story but it would be easier for me to be blunt. I did not like it. The present tense narration gave this a feeling of a movie script, which was fitting considering the plot came off like a bad sci-fi horror flick. Why Diff would accept anything from a person he knew had a head full of loose screws I could never figure out. What was worse SickDevil never suffered any repercussions for his multiple futuristic felonies. This story just didn’t fit my tastes.

 

Joshua searches for his personal diamonds amongst the mountains of rough in “The Junk Artist” by Lavie Tidhar (debut 1/10). He is one of many pickers checking the discarded trash of the Jaffra flea market, scooping up broken toys and obsolete gadgets the street vendors toss aside. Each item he sees as its own work of art, even when their relevant usage is in question. This smelly, depressed area is but a slice of heaven for Joshua.

The story isn’t anything but a readers guide to following a hoarder around as he garbage picks. We view each item as Joshua contemplates its merits, and trust me, everything he comes across can be defined simply as junk. The story takes a turn when a strange cat appears to strike up a conversation with Joshua; so odd and baffling I suspect it was inserted to give this piece its speculative element.

Lavie Tidhar is an enigma to me. His writing is superb. The flea market is so vivid and it is so easy to fall into Joshua’s perspective, a rare gift he has. But, I never get what his stories are about. Often Lavie’s plots seem to go nowhere. Perhaps his themes are beyond the capability of my mortal mind to comprehend.

I’m sorry but I failed to grasp the point of this well written story.

 

A broken dental drill bit in Sally’s mouth gives her the ability to hear aliens in “Bit by Bit” by Karina Fabian (debut 1/11). Poor Sally isn’t sure if it’s the drugs that are making her hallucinate. Her dental insurance adjuster is sure a mental health provider is what she needs. A strange man wearing an aluminum hat gives her some relief. Finally a customer believes her and helps her find an explanation. The line between crazy and savior can be so thin.

“Bit by Bit” is a ‘bit’ fun. The story follows a staggered journey of a woman who hears voices. The events in her life and how she deals with them, gives this a tale a light but jumpy feeling to it. Ms. Fabian chooses not to explore Sally’s feelings and actions during this odd event but rather reports the odd things she does as if it’s a vague log.

I thought the story was fine but what I enjoyed more were Ms. Fabian’s comments on the inspiration for the story. Far more entertaining, in my opinion.

 

Jonas loves climbing the Banyan Tree with his friend, Tabby in “B is for Banyan Tree” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/12). The tree is a real jungle gym, enormous and full of adventure. He follows his friend while playing ‘explorer’, until Tabby disappears. Tabby insists he should have stayed with her and tells him of the tree’s special secret.

Act two of the Alphabet Quartet was a disappointment compared to its opening one. Jonas is sensible but a coward in the eyes of this reader. I feel as if I was robbed of a greater adventure.

 

Two students won’t be turning in their homework in Miss Linderman in “Late Homework” by James Van Pelt (debut 1/13). An accident has claimed the lives of Cathy and Melinda, students in her Literature and Composition class. They are the sixth and seventh to perish in her 12 years on the job. The last row of her class is a reminder of them, and how they were unable to complete their last assignment.

This story is set during Halloween and would have been great if it was posted that week. I can understand why the editors wouldn’t want to wait 10 months to post it, which is too bad because it scored well on the creepy meter. A well-done ghost story.

 

Akorsa is an oracle who hungers for her next song and the soul of the one who sings it in “A Song Never Tasted” by Barbara A. Barnett (debut 1/14). She is one of two supernatural beings left from a long ago time when mortals would praise the oracles as conduits to the gods. Now seen as devils, Akorsa must hide in the bushes and wait to feed on songs gone stale. Then a young woman sings verses Akorsa has believed were lost to time. The beauty of the song is such that Akorsa wishes to spare this angel, but the other remaining oracle, Neashern, has no intention of going hungry when the rich flavor of an old song is there to feed upon.

“A Song Never Tasted” is a tale which gradually evolves into a ghoulish love story. Akorsa fights two battles, one with Neashern and the other with her own vampire-ish hunger. Hirneen is the 16-year old girl who sees visions of the oracles and is blessed with the songs the oracles hunger for. After saving Hirneen from Neashern, Akorsa forms a relationship with the girl and begins to fall in love with her. Akora hungers for Hirnnen’s lips and the taste of the song that comes from them, yet resisting the hunger of its melody, which will kill Hirneen if she dares to feast on it.

This tale left me disturbed. Akorsa’s internal battle gave this story a creepy pedophilic metaphorical feel. Her actions seemed a lot like how an adult would react when they have an attraction to a minor, even when they know those feelings are wrong (It didn’t help when the author spelled out Hirneen’s age). I’m sure that wasn’t Ms. Barnett’s intention and I am not in anyway implying that she was making any such statement, but nevertheless, a story where a really old person preys on a naÃ’ ve girl was one that was not for me.

 

The protagonist in “The Voynich Variations” by Edoardo Albert (debut 1/17) is a musical genius. His latest work is so advanced that not even the greatest musical minds of the age can comprehend it. Knowing his works can no longer be appreciated; he retires and turns to one of mankind’s greatest mysteries to test his intellect.

The premise to “The Voynich Variations” is based on the ‘Voynich Manuscript’, an incomprehensible book written in the 15th century and believed to be a work of encrypted genius. The protagonist believes he has discovered the books secret, a brilliantly disguised musical score. Eager to hear the melody for himself, the protagonist deciphers the score and reveals its secret.

Quite an inventive tale. I had to Wikipedia the legendary script to reacquaint myself with the manuscript. I found this tale compelling and the ending worthy. A nice work of flash.

 

“Family Photo” by Elena Gleason (debut 1/18) is the story of a mother and her son who has inherited an unwanted family trait. Wes is her good boy. He couldn’t help it if he was a monster. Karlen’s father had the same problem, turning into something frightening every full moon. When Karlen saw the first signs her boy shared with his grandfather, she couldn’t bring herself to do what needed to be done. Now every full moon, she kisses her husband goodbye and leaves to do battle with her son.

“Family Photo” is a tale of mother who wants to right a wrong. She puts on a brave face for a husband who was injured when their boy first became a monster. The premise of this story left me baffled. So I don’t ruin it for those who haven’t read it, I won’t go into why but I really do question Karlen’s choices. I don’t know what she really fears at this point.

The stories protagonist’s motives left me scratching my head for this piece.

 

The protagonist in “C is for Crate” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/19) has a life filled with ambitions that she can never seem to fulfill. College dropout, behind on rent, hard to hold down a job; she is a girl holding onto the lowest rung of the ladder of life. Then she finds a sealed crate at the animal shelter labeled ‘Eats Dreams.’ Dreams is something she has plenty of , reminders of what she hasn’t become – and she is willing to part with a few to see what is making the faint mews behind the warning on the crate.

“C” is a Pandora’s Box type of theme. We know so much about the protagonist’s history but so little about her. So little she became more of a mystery to me than the odd creature in the crate. There was no hard punch to this lettered story but it still carried my interest. I liked C better than B but it couldn’t compare to the earlier vowel.

 

Clay is not doing a good job of impressing his date in “Automatic Selection” by Victoria Podmajersky (debut 1/20). He won’t ride the bus and suggests dining in a restaurant with human waitresses. His date is finding him quirky but Clay has a very good reason why he avoids the automated world whenever he can.

“Automatic Selection” has the feeling of a man hiding an obsessive disorder with the advanced technology of the future. The truth of what it is he is hiding proves to be far more of a social disability. The reveal of this twist was well placed but came off as an information dump. Not a bad idea but I preferred an ending that flowed as smoothly as the first 80% of the story.

 

Sibling rivalry is the theme in “Standing Next to Heaven” by Terra LeMay (debut 1/21). Shelia is ten. Heaven is her younger sister and has a potential psychic gift. The gift has a price however. Dangerous seizures inflict Heaven. Shelia must watch after her gifted sister and take a backseat to her parent’s attention.

“Standing Next to Heaven” is a tale millions of people could identify with. The story is told by an older sister who feels slighted and ignored and takes her ill feelings out on her poor sister (as siblings often do). Heaven has a gift that hardly sounds like a blessing. You get the idea the only thing Shelia is envious of is the attention her sister receives. Heaven is like a child with a fatal illness or disability. Shelia has become her caretaker and must follow rules concerning Heaven. Shelia comes off as cruel; not a sadistic type of cruelty, but a meanness all siblings have been guilty of, been a victim of, or both.

This story is the type of speculative tale that says more about the type of people we are today than about what we will be like in the future. I can’t fathom a person who couldn’t identify with the two little girls in this piece but can imagine a person or two that would be uncomfortable with the plot. Shelia is at a crossroads in their relationship, at the stage when she quits being the tormentor and becomes the protector.

“Standing” is not the type of tale that will leave you in awe. It’s a smooth read but not a page-turner, a Twilight Zone tale written as an after-school special. It doesn’t get my full-fledged recommendation but it is one I found great.

 

Elizabeth passes out advice on the health line in “Not with a Bang” by Michelle Ann King (debut 1/24). Epidemics have brought about anxiety across society. The Central Health Line is meant to ease the public’s concerns. Phone screeners like Elizabeth listen to caller’s symptoms and pass out diagnoses and advice. She does it with a smile as she lies. After all, life must go on even when it’s coming to an end.

“Not with a Bang” is not your typical end of the world story. The government has set up a disinformation help line in an effort to keep a public calm. Elizabeth has stock answers and a book to assign a non-fatal illness to match the symptoms a sick caller has. It’s a unique idea, not very plausible in my opinion but still entertaining.

 

The protagonists in “D is for De Gustibus” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/26) is on the search for spices to make some curry when she comes across a little herb shop at the mall. The odd but helpful clerk has some very exotic spices, and is willing to part with them for a handful of change.

“D” was an unsatisfying letter for me. The story felt like an opening to a much larger story. Nothing much happened but you get the feeling much would if the story was allowed to evolve.

 

In “…And a Bottle of Rum” by Melissa Mead (debut 27th Jan 2011) Uncle/Captain Jim is a bed-ridden old man who makes model sky-ships, the magical, wooden-with-masts variety, and generally entertains his grandchildren with tales of derring-do from when he captained a ship and fought sky-pirates. His grandson, Matthew, is entranced by his collection of model ships, each in a bottle, a collection that mirrors ships that actually are in service in the Kingdom. Needless to say things aren’t quite as they seem and there is a twist at the end of this flash story.

I thought the story was well-written and a very smooth read. I enjoyed the glance it allowed me into to a world of sky-ships and pirates. I saw elements of the twist before it happened, but perhaps that was only my writer’s eye spotting the foreshadowing.

A nice read.

 

‘Careful what you wish for’ is the theme of “On Paper Wings” by Victoria Sonata (debut 1/28). Shiyo is turning eleven, the age of passage and the granting of the gift of wishes. The wellspring of Hope grants a wish a person desperately desires. The wish can only be used to influence your own life, and not of others. The bright and bubbly Shiyo already leads a happy life with her mother but there is always room for improvement. Wishing is something her mother has stressed to not take lightly because the wellspring only grants one at a time. To wish another erases the wish before. Shiyo endures many years of hardship to learn some wishes are not worth losing no matter how badly a new one is needed.

“On Paper Wings” follows Shiyo’s life from a young girl to an emerging adult. The village in which she lives is isolated and under constant siege from dark and deadly demons. Hunters are on constant guard from the monsters. Shiyo lives alone with her mother and wants to know what she wished for. Her mother declines to answer but promises she will know one day. Shiyo uses her wishes to fill her most important needs of the time. But such as life is, tragedy changes everything, and helps shape the woman she comes to be, and of the wishes she will make.

Ms. Sonata wrote a very engaging character. Shiyo is convincing as a girl who evolves with the events that shape her world. The rules of the wish is what makes this story so compelling. Is losing your earlier wish worth making another? Depends upon the wish. The big mystery of Shiyo’s mother’s wish ended up being no mystery at all. Much of the story was set up for a big finish of a great reveal but there was only one possibility of what the reveal could be, which made the ending almost pointless (almost). Nevertheless the writing and pacing of an unnaturally long story for DSF made this story a worthwhile read.

 

Jade Dragon by Shelly Li (debut 1/31) is a slice of life story of a Chinese peasant girl. Kai Wen lost her mother at a young age and now lives and works for a man who owns a restaurant. She has no family left, no school to attend, and not much of a future. She feels bitter toward a mother who died, leaving her in this predicament. Then a customer gives her tip, a tip worth six months of her salary.

“Jade Dragon” is based on a real life boy Ms. Li encountered in China. The lad’s hard life inspired her to write this short story. This so-so tale became special when I read Ms. Li’s comments about the encounter and could feel how moved she was when I read her comments. How sad it must have been for her. I hope the boy fortunes improved and he ended up living a prosperous life.

Analysis

Another fine month for DSF. I would like to congratulate Jon and Michele for receiving an honorable mention for best new magazine in the Million Writers Award. There were several magazines who earned the honor but I think the actual award was between the winning publication (Lightspeed) and DSF all along. Hard to beat an editor who has had a lifetime of achievement as John J Adams has, especially when your magazine debuted in the fall. I could make an argument on why DSF was more deserving but I do find Lightspeed solid and entertaining.

Congrats to the four DSF authors who received honors in the MW awards. Of the 3 I reviewed I liked “Out of the Box” the most. Well-written and compelling but I doubt it would have made my top ten for the year (a lot of good stories).

 

Frank Dutkiewicz writes most of these reviews but tires of providing the bio so is passing it off to one of his minions.

Anonymous is famous, a braggart, and too shy to show his face and share his address.

Dustin “The Wind” Adams wrote his first book at age 11 (which Anonymous took complete credit for) then took a little time off, eventually finishing the sequel at age 35. “I needed a break,” was his lame excuse but now things are rolling again. He states in this exclusive interview: “I write way more than I submit. I keep thinking that once I publish, I’ll submit more, which isn’t very Vulcan of me. My goal is to have something published professionally by age 40. I’m running out of time, but the deadline provides a nice steady rush”. Dustin is a U.S. Customs broker who owns his own brokerage firm. He lives in the hills of NY near the PA and NJ borders where he hides his lovely wife as he teaches his two adorable children (ages 13 and 1) to live off the land and distrust everyone. Currently, he is working to get his lights turned back on.

 

 

Daily Science Fiction January 2011

“Wrath of the Porcelain Gods” by Nicky Drayden

“Rx” by Jacquelyn Bartel

“A is for Arthur” by The Alphabet Quartet

“Waiting for Raymond” by Eric James Stone

“Bit Storm” by Lancer & Shelli Kind

“The Junk Artist” by Larvie Tidhar

“Bit by Bit” by Karina Fabian

“B is for Banyan Tree” by the Alphabet Quartet

“Late Homework” by James Van Pelt

“A Song Never Tasted” by Barbara A. Barnett

“The Voynich Variations” by Edoardo Albert

“Family Photo” by Elena Gleason

“C is for Crate” by the Alphabet Quartet

“Automatic Selection” by Victoria Podmajersky

“Standing Next to Heaven” by Terra LeMay

“Not with a Bang” by Michelle Ann King

“D is for De Gustibus” by the Alphabet Quartet

“…And a Bottle of Rum” by Melissa Mead

“On Paper Wings” by Victoria Sonata

“Jade Dragon” by Shelly Li

A correction is in order for last months review. I called the leading Sci-Fi news outlet in the industry Lotus when every other person on the planet knows it’s Locus. Big mistake, won’t make it again.

The new year marks the beginning of the Alphabet Quartet contributions. Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, and Greg Van Eekhout have won more awards, sold more books, and have appeared in more professional paying publications than my collective friends and my own overactive imagination could hope to accomplish combined. Every Wednesday a new letter of the alphabet graces DSF, (at least until they run out of letters) making it the first weekly serial in ezine history (I think). I have been eager to read them and have avoided the temptation of giving any a look in my emails, just incase they need to be read in order. Aside from this impressive quartet, I see other previously published DSF authors in this months issue. Should be a good one.

Roger Ebert once said, “I don’t review a movie based on what it’s about, but how it goes about it.”
If I follow that same philosophy, this is the best story I’ve ever read. Wrath of the Porcelain Gods by Nicky Drayden (debut 1/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is, word for word, perfect.

It’s written in 2nd person. The subject matter is generally considered vile. The narrator him/herself wonders why they’d taken up such a disgusting hobby. Why then such high praise?

The narrator has studied the excremental activities of all one hundred fifteen sapient species of Vero-Avalon station save one. The documentation and revelation thereof is the plot. The hilarity that ensues is the story. The answer to the question posed above can only be gleaned through understanding. To understand, one must not fight it. (you’ll see.)

Take five minutes out of your day and read this. If you don’t get it, that’s okay, it was only five minutes. However, if you do, you’ll be glad you did.

Recommended

 

 

In the Author Comments section of Rx by Jacquelyn Bartel (debut 1/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), Ms. Bartel ponders what a society would be like if it used physical pain to treat mental illness. I can’t help but wonder how such a society would evolve considering this philosophy has been proven not to work by the mental institutions of old.

I delved into the author comments in hopes of shedding some light on the story itself, which was not sci-fi, a little confusing, and unsatisfying. I believe there should be a desire to read the author’s comment, not a need.

Unfortunately I can’t recommend this story. Which, by the way, is about one person in said society who takes a pill to induce pain (assumable) because they have a mental affliction. However, since I was given no indication of said mental state, all I got out of the story was someone ingesting a pain pill then passing out in the store.

 

At the end of his life, William Shakespeare has completed his greatest work in A is for Arthur by The Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/5). Will has worked over a year on “Arthur”, a tragedy of the legendary king and his mythical Camelot court. Now a mysterious man from a forgotten time has come to take it from him. Will knows to surrender his play would be to rob generations to come of his greatest of masterpieces, but the stranger aims to show him how releasing to the public it will be an even greater tragedy.

“A” is the first in a series written by four accomplished authors. The story shows how much power Shakespeare has in the imagination of mankind, a power that brings life to his characters in their own reality. The mysterious man (a person whose identity you may be able to guess) has a gift that allows him to transport through time, space, and into the new realities. He is out to stop the reality that will form with Shakespeare’s play.

I have avoided reading any of these tales when they appeared in my email box, not knowing if they should be read in order. I have no idea how the other ones will turn out but act one was fabulous. The author (or authors) captured a skittish Shakespeare, and the rest of a complete cast, rather well. I just loved where they took this tale and how it ended.

Recommended

Waiting for Raymond by Eric James Stone (Published Jan 6th, 2011 and reviewed by Anonymous)

A simple tale told well. I have read a few of Mr. Stone’s stories and have been impressed with the simplicity of his stories. In ‘Waiting for Raymond’ a young beautiful lady–Dee–is preparing for a night out and her preparations are being observed by a poltergeist that haunts her apartment. After putting the finishing touches to her appearance, she realises she is going to be let down by her boyfriend, Raymond, who is always late for everything. He won’t answer his cell phone.

The poltergeist is the kind soul and tries to help Dee anyway it can…

I thought this was well written, simple and effective, but not mind-blowing. I liked it, though, but not as much as another of his more recent DSF stories, ‘The Girl Who Asks to Much’.


Diff gets reacquainted with a college colleague, he would rather avoid in Bit Storm by Lancer & Shelli Kind (debut 1/7). The programmer has a needy AI companion, a demanding girlfriend, and a nano created artificial hand. Jack, his AI, wants a cat. Zoe, his girl, is pushing him to go to a Halloween party. While leaving his office, he runs into SickDevil, a college acquaintance who was kicked out of school. SickDevil is brilliant but has an anti-social attitude that many find odd. SickDevil appears to like Diff, even giving him a nano cat for Jack as a gift. Shortly after, Diff’s nano hand starts to ache, something it has never done before.

“Bit Storm” is the longest story DSF has published in months. The story line is centered on Diff. He is in the middle of a hectic couple of days, trying to upload a crucial program with a whinning AI to deal with, all while trying to please a pushy girlfriend. SickDevil is a new age anarchist. He ruins an online game Diff and his friends enjoy, then gives his new friend a nano cat for an apology. It isn’t long before all the nano technology begins to react oddly (what a surprise).

I could go into more detail on this story but it would be easier for me to be blunt. I did not like it. The present tense narration gave this a feeling of a movie script, which was fitting considering the plot came off like a bad sci-fi horror flick. Why Diff would accept anything from a person he knew had a head full of loose screws I could never figure out. What was worse SickDevil never suffered any repercussions for his multiple futuristic felonies. This story just didn’t fit my tastes.

Joshua searches for his personal diamonds amongst the mountains of rough in The Junk Artist by Larvie Tidhar (debut 1/10). He is one of many pickers checking the discarded trash of the Jaffra flea market, scooping up broken toys and obsolete gadgets the street vendors toss aside. Each item he sees as its own work of art, even when their relevant usage is in question. This smelly, depressed area is but a slice of heaven for Joshua.

The story isn’t nothing but a readers guide to following a hoarder around as he garbage picks. We view each item as Joshua contemplates its merits, and trust me, everything he comes across can be defined simply as junk. The story takes a turn when a strange cat appears to strike up a conversation with Joshua; so odd and baffling I suspect it was inserted to give this piece its speculative element.

Larvie Tidhar is an enigma to me. His writing is superb. The flea market is so vivid and it is so easy to fall into Joshua’s perspective, a rare gift he has. But, I never get what his stories are about. Often Larvie’s plots seem to go nowhere. Perhaps his themes are beyond the capability of my mortal mind to comprehend.

I’m sorry but I failed to grasp the point of this well written story.

A broken dental drill bit in Sally’s mouth gives her the ability to hear aliens in Bit by Bit by Karina Fabian (debut 1/11). Poor Sally isn’t sure if it’s the drugs that is making her hallucinate. Her dental insurance adjuster is sure a metal health provider is what she needs. A strange man wearing an aluminum hat gives her some relief. Finally a customer believes her and helps her find an explanation. The line between crazy and savior can be so thin.

“Bit by Bit” is a ‘bit’ fun. The story follows a staggered journey of a woman who hears voices. The events in her life and how she deals with them, gives this a tale a light but jumpy feeling to it. Ms. Fabian chooses not to explore Sally’s feelings and actions during this odd event but rather reports the odd things she does as if it’s a vague log.

I thought the story was fine but what I enjoyed more was Ms. Fabian’s comments on the inspiration for the story. Far more entertaining, in my opinion.

Jonas loves climbing the Banyan Tree with his friend, Tabby in B is for Banyan Tree by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/12). The tree is a real jungle gym, enormous and full of adventure. He follows his friend while playing ‘explorer’, until Tabby disappears. Tabby insists he should have stayed with her and tells him of the trees special secret.

Act two of the Alphabet Quartet was a disappointment compared to its opening one. Jonas is sensible but a coward in the eyes of this reader. I feel as if I was robbed of a greater adventure.

 

 

Two students won’t be turning in their homework in Miss Linderman in Late Homework by James Van Pelt (debut 1/13). An accident has claimed the lives of Cathy and Melinda, students in her Literature and Composition class. They are the sixth and seventh to perish in her 12 years on the job. The last row of her class row is a reminder of them, and how they were unable to complete their last assignment.

 

This story is set during Halloween and would have been great if it was posted that week. I can understand why the editors wouldn’t want to wait 10 months to post it, which is too bad because it scored well on the creepy meter. A well-done ghost story.

 

 

Akorsa is an oracle who hungers for her next song and the soul of the one who sings it in A Song Never Tasted by Barbara A. Barnett (debut 1/14). She is one of two supernatural beings left from a long ago time when mortals would praise the oracles as conduits to the gods. Now seen as devils, Akorsa must hide in the bushes and wait to feed on songs gone stale. Then a young woman sings verses Akorsa has believed were lost to time. The beauty of the song is such that Akorsa wishes to spare this angel, but the other remaining oracle, Neashern, has no intention of going hungry when the rich flavor of an old song is there to feed upon.

“A Song Never Tasted” is a tale which gradually evolves into a ghoulish love story. Akorsa fights two battles, one with Neashern and the other with her own vampire-ish hunger. Hirneen is the 16-year old girl who sees visions of the oracles and is blessed with the songs the oracles hunger for. After saving Hirneen from Neashern, Akorsa forms a relationship with the girl and begins to fall in love with her. Akora hungers for Hirnnen’s lips and the taste of the song that comes from them, yet resisting the hunger of its melody, which will kill Hirneen if she dares to feast on it.

This tale left me disturbed. Akorsa’s internal battle gave this story a creepy pedophilic metaphorical feel. Her actions seemed a lot like how an adult would react when they have an attraction to a minor, even when they know those feelings are wrong (It didn’t help when author spelled out Hirneen’s age). I’m sure that wasn’t Ms. Barnett’s intentions and I am not in anyway implying that she was making any such statement, but nevertheless, a story where a really old person preys on a naÃ’ ve girl was one that was not for me.

The protagonist in The Voynich Variations by Edoardo Albert (debut 1/17) is a musical genius. His latest work is so advanced that not even the greatest musical minds of the age can comprehend it. Knowing his works can no longer be appreciated; he retires and turns to one of mankind’s greatest mysteries to test his intellect.

The premise to “The Voynich Variations” is based on the ‘Voynich Manuscript’, an incomprehensible book written in the 15th century and believed to be a work of encrypted genius. The protagonist believes he has discovered the books secret, a brilliantly disguised musical score. Eager to hear the melody for himself, the protagonist deciphers the score and reveals its secret.

Quite an inventive tale. I had to wikipedia the legendary script to reacquaint myself with the manuscript. I found this tale compelling and the ending worthy. A nice work of flash.

Family Photo by Elena Gleason (debut 1/18) is the story of a mother and her son who has inherited an unwanted family trait. Wes is her good boy. He couldn’t help it if he was a monster. Karlen’s father had the same problem, turning into something frightening every full moon. When Karlen saw the first signs her boy shared with his grandfather, she couldn’t bring herself to do what needed to be done. Now every full moon, she kisses her husband goodbye and leaves to do battle with her son.

“Family Photo” is a tale of mother who wants to right a wrong. She puts on a brave face for a husband who was injured when their boy first became a monster. The premise of this story left me baffled. So I don’t ruin it for those who haven’t read it, I won’t go into why but I really do question Karlen’s choices. I don’t know what she really fears at this point.

The stories protagonist’s motives left me scratching my head for this piece.

The protagonist in C is for Crate by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/19) has a life filled with ambitions that she can never seem to fulfill. College dropout, behind on rent, hard to hold down a job; she is a girl holding onto the lowest rung of the ladder of life. Then she finds a sealed crate at the animal shelter labeled ‘Eats Dreams.’ Dreams is something she has plenty of , reminders of what she hasn’t become – and she is willing to part with a few to see what is making the faint mews behind the warning on the crate.

 

“C” is a Pandora’s Box type of theme. We know so much about the protagonist’s history but so little about her. So little she became more of a mystery to me than the odd creature in the crate. There was no hard punch to this lettered story but it still carried my interest. I liked C better than B but it couldn’t compare to the earlier vowel.

 

 

Clay is not doing a good job of impressing his date in Automatic Selection by Victoria Podmajersky (debut 1/20). He won’t ride the bus and suggests dining in a restaurant with human waitresses. His date is finding him quirky but Clay has a very good reason why he avoids the automated world whenever he can.

“Automatic Selection” has the feeling of a man hiding an obsessive disorder with the advanced technology of the future. The truth of what it is he is hiding proves to be far more of a socially disability. The reveal of this twist was well placed but came off as an information dump. Not a bad idea but I preferred an ending that flowed as smoothly as the first 80% of the story.

Sibling rivalry is the theme in Standing Next to Heaven by Terra LeMay (debut 1/21). Shelia is ten. Heaven is her younger sister and has a potential psychic gift. The gift has a price however. Dangerous seizures inflict Heaven. Shelia must watch after her gifted sister and take a backseat to her parent’s attention.

 

“Standing Next to Heaven” is a tale millions of people could identify with. The story is told by an older sister who feels slighted and ignored and takes her ill feelings out on her poor sister (as siblings often do). Heaven has a gift that hardly sounds like a blessing. You get the idea the only thing Shelia is envious of is the attention her sister receives. Heaven is like a child with a fatal illness or disability. Shelia has become her caretaker and must follow rules concerning Heaven. Shelia comes off as cruel; not a sadistic type of cruelty, but a meanness all siblings have been guilty of, been a victim of, or both.

 

This story is the type of speculative tale that says more about the type of people we are today than about what we will be like in the future. I can’t fathom a person who couldn’t identify with the two little girls in this piece but can imagine a person or two that would be uncomfortable with the plot. Shelia is at a crossroads in their relationship, at the stage when she quits being the tormentor and becomes the protector.

 

“Standing” is not the type of tale that will leave you in awe. It’s a smooth read but not a page-turner, a Twilight Zone tale written as an after-school special. It doesn’t get my full-fledge recommendation but it is one I found great.

 

 

Elizabeth passes out advice on the health line in Not with a Bang by Michelle Ann King (debut 1/24). Epidemics have brought about anxiety across society. The Central Health Line is meant to ease the publics concerns. Phone screeners like Elizabeth listen to caller’s symptoms and pass out diagnosis’ and advice. She does it with a smile as she lies. After all, life must go on even when it’s coming to an end.

“Not with a Bang” is not your typical end of the world story. The government has set up a disinformation help line in an effort to keep a public calm. Elizabeth has stock answers and a book to assign a non-fatal illness to match the symptoms a sick caller has. It’s a unique idea, not very plausible in my opinion but still entertaining.

 

The protagonists in D is for De Gustibus by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/26) is on the search for spices to make some curry when she comes across a little herb shop at the mall. The odd but helpful clerk has some very exotic spices, and is willing to part with them for a handful of change.

 

“D” was an unsatisfying letter for me. The story felt like an opening to a much larger story. Nothing much happened but you get the feeling much would if the story was allowed to evolve.

 

 

In …And a Bottle of Rum by Melissa Mead (debut 27th Jan 2011) Uncle/Captain Jim is a bed-ridden old man who makes model sky-ships, the magical, wooden-with-masts variety, and generally entertains his grand children with tales of daring-do from when he captained a ship and fought sky-pirates. His grandson, Matthew, is entranced by his collection of model ships, each in a bottle, a collection that mirrors ships that actually are in service in the Kingdom. Needless to say things aren’t quite as they seem and there is a twist at the end of this flash story.

I thought the story was well-written and a very smooth read. I enjoyed the glance it allowed me into to a world of sky-ships and pirates. I saw elements of the twist before it happened, but perhaps that was only my writer’s eye spotting the foreshadowing.

A nice read.

 

‘Careful what you wish for’ is the theme of On Paper Wings by Victoria Sonata (debut 1/28). Shiyo is turning eleven, the age of passage and the granting of the gift of wishes. The wellspring of Hope grants a wish a person desperately desires. The wish can only be used to influence your own life, and not of others. The bright and bubbly Shiyo already leads a happy life with her mother but there is always room for improvement. Wishing is something her mother has stressed to not take lightly because the wellspring only grants one at a time. To wish another erases the wish before. Shiyo endures many years of hardship to learn some wishes are not worth losing no matter how badly a new one is needed.

“On Paper Wings” follows Shiyo’s life from a young girl to an emerging adult. The village in which she lives is isolated and under constant siege from dark and deadly demons. Hunters are on constant guard from the monsters. Shiyo lives alone with her mother and wants to know what she wished for. Her mother declines to answer but promises she will know one day. Shiyo uses her wishes to fill her most important needs of the time. But such as life is, tragedy changes everything, and helps shape the woman she comes to be, and of the wishes she will make.

Ms. Sonata wrote a very engaging character. Shiyo is convincing as a girl who evolves with the events that shape her world. The rules of the wish is what makes this story so compelling. Is losing your earlier wish worth making another? Depends upon the wish. The big mystery of Shiyo’s mothers wish ended up being no mystery at all. Much of the story was set up for a big finish of a great reveal but there was only one possibility of what the reveal could be, which made the ending almost pointless (almost). Nevertheless the writing and pacing of an unnaturally long story for DSF made this story a worthwhile read.

Jade Dragon by Shelly Li (debut 1/31) is a slice of life story of a Chinese peasant girl. Kai Wen lost her mother at a young age and now lives and works for a man who owns a restaurant. She has no family left, no school for her to attend, and not much of a future. She feels bitter toward a mother who died, leaving her in this predicament. Then a customer gives her tip, a tip worth six months of her salary.

“Jade Dragon” is based on a real life boy Ms. Li encountered in China. The lad’s hard life inspired her to write this short story. This so-so tale became special when I read Ms. Li’s comments about the encounter and could feel how moved she was when I read her comments. How sad it must have been for her. I hope the boy fortunes improved and he ended up living a prosperous life.

Analysis

Another fine month for DSF. I would like to congratulate Jon and Michele for receiving an honorable mention for best new magazine in the Million Writers Award. There were several magazines who earned the honor but I think the actual award was between the winning publication (Lightspeed) and DSF all along. Hard to beat an editor who has had a lifetime of achievement as John J Adams has, especially when your magazine debuted in the fall. I could make an argument on why DSF was more deserving but I do find Lightspeed solid and entertaining.

Congrats to the four DSF authors who received honors in the MW awards. Of the 3 I reviewed I liked Out of the Box the most. Well-written and compelling but I doubt it would have made my top ten for the year (a lot of good stories).

Frank Dutkiewicz writes most of these reviews but tires of providing the bio so is passing it off to one of his minions.

Anonymous is famous, a braggart, and too shy to show his face and share his address.

Dustin “The Wind” Adams wrote his first book at age 11 (which Anonymous took complete credit for) then took a little time off, eventually finishing the sequel at age 35. “I needed a break,” was his lame excuse but now things are rolling again. He states in this exclusive interviewâ€

Daily Science Fiction January 2011

 

“Wrath of the Porcelain Gods” by Nicky Drayden

“Rx” by Jacquelyn Bartel

“A is for Arthur” by The Alphabet Quartet

“Waiting for Raymond” by Eric James Stone

“Bit Storm” by Lancer & Shelli Kind

“The Junk Artist” by Larvie Tidhar

“Bit by Bit” by Karina Fabian

“B is for Banyan Tree” by the Alphabet Quartet

“Late Homework” by James Van Pelt

“A Song Never Tasted” by Barbara A. Barnett

“The Voynich Variations” by Edoardo Albert

“Family Photo” by Elena Gleason

“C is for Crate” by the Alphabet Quartet

“Automatic Selection” by Victoria Podmajersky

“Standing Next to Heaven” by Terra LeMay

“Not with a Bang” by Michelle Ann King

“D is for De Gustibus” by the Alphabet Quartet

“…And a Bottle of Rum” by Melissa Mead

“On Paper Wings” by Victoria Sonata

“Jade Dragon” by Shelly Li

 

A correction is in order for last months review. I called the leading Sci-Fi news outlet in the industry Lotus when every other person on the planet knows it’s Locus. Big mistake, won’t make it again.

The new year marks the beginning of the Alphabet Quartet contributions. Tim Pratt, Jenn Reese, Heather Shaw, and Greg Van Eekhout have won more awards, sold more books, and have appeared in more professional paying publications than my collective friends and my own overactive imagination could hope to accomplish combined. Every Wednesday a new letter of the alphabet graces DSF, (at least until they run out of letters) making it the first weekly serial in ezine history (I think). I have been eager to read them and have avoided the temptation of giving any a look in my emails, just incase they need to be read in order. Aside from this impressive quartet, I see other previously published DSF authors in this months issue. Should be a good one.

 

 

Roger Ebert once said, “I don’t review a movie based on what it’s about, but how it goes about it.”
If I follow that same philosophy, this is the best story I’ve ever read. Wrath of the Porcelain Gods by Nicky Drayden (debut 1/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is, word for word, perfect.

It’s written in 2nd person. The subject matter is generally considered vile. The narrator him/herself wonders why they’d taken up such a disgusting hobby. Why then such high praise?

The narrator has studied the excremental activities of all one hundred fifteen sapient species of Vero-Avalon station save one. The documentation and revelation thereof is the plot. The hilarity that ensues is the story. The answer to the question posed above can only be gleaned through understanding. To understand, one must not fight it. (you’ll see.)

Take five minutes out of your day and read this. If you don’t get it, that’s okay, it was only five minutes. However, if you do, you’ll be glad you did.

Recommended

 

 

In the Author Comments section of Rx by Jacquelyn Bartel (debut 1/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), Ms. Bartel ponders what a society would be like if it used physical pain to treat mental illness. I can’t help but wonder how such a society would evolve considering this philosophy has been proven not to work by the mental institutions of old.

I delved into the author comments in hopes of shedding some light on the story itself, which was not sci-fi, a little confusing, and unsatisfying. I believe there should be a desire to read the author’s comment, not a need.

Unfortunately I can’t recommend this story. Which, by the way, is about one person in said society who takes a pill to induce pain (assumable) because they have a mental affliction. However, since I was given no indication of said mental state, all I got out of the story was someone ingesting a pain pill then passing out in the store.

 

At the end of his life, William Shakespeare has completed his greatest work in A is for Arthur by The Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/5). Will has worked over a year on “Arthur”, a tragedy of the legendary king and his mythical Camelot court. Now a mysterious man from a forgotten time has come to take it from him. Will knows to surrender his play would be to rob generations to come of his greatest of masterpieces, but the stranger aims to show him how releasing to the public it will be an even greater tragedy.

 

“A” is the first in a series written by four accomplished authors. The story shows how much power Shakespeare has in the imagination of mankind, a power that brings life to his characters in their own reality. The mysterious man (a person whose identity you may be able to guess) has a gift that allows him to transport through time, space, and into the new realities. He is out to stop the reality that will form with Shakespeare’s play.

 

I have avoided reading any of these tales when they appeared in my email box, not knowing if they should be read in order. I have no idea how the other ones will turn out but act one was fabulous. The author (or authors) captured a skittish Shakespeare, and the rest of a complete cast, rather well. I just loved where they took this tale and how it ended.

Recommended

 

 

Waiting for Raymond by Eric James Stone (Published Jan 6th, 2011 and reviewed by Anonymous)

 

A simple tale told well. I have read a few of Mr. Stone’s stories and have been impressed with the simplicity of his stories. In ‘Waiting for Raymond’ a young beautiful lady–Dee–is preparing for a night out and her preparations are being observed by a poltergeist that haunts her apartment. After putting the finishing touches to her appearance, she realises she is going to be let down by her boyfriend, Raymond, who is always late for everything. He won’t answer his cell phone.

 

The poltergeist is the kind soul and tries to help Dee anyway it can…

 

I thought this was well written, simple and effective, but not mind-blowing. I liked it, though, but not as much as another of his more recent DSF stories, ‘The Girl Who Asks to Much’.
Diff gets reacquainted with a college colleague, he would rather avoid in Bit Storm by Lancer & Shelli Kind (debut 1/7). The programmer has a needy AI companion, a demanding girlfriend, and a nano created artificial hand. Jack, his AI, wants a cat. Zoe, his girl, is pushing him to go to a Halloween party. While leaving his office, he runs into SickDevil, a college acquaintance who was kicked out of school. SickDevil is brilliant but has an anti-social attitude that many find odd. SickDevil appears to like Diff, even giving him a nano cat for Jack as a gift. Shortly after, Diff’s nano hand starts to ache, something it has never done before.

 

“Bit Storm” is the longest story DSF has published in months. The story line is centered on Diff. He is in the middle of a hectic couple of days, trying to upload a crucial program with a whinning AI to deal with, all while trying to please a pushy girlfriend. SickDevil is a new age anarchist. He ruins an online game Diff and his friends enjoy, then gives his new friend a nano cat for an apology. It isn’t long before all the nano technology begins to react oddly (what a surprise).

 

I could go into more detail on this story but it would be easier for me to be blunt. I did not like it. The present tense narration gave this a feeling of a movie script, which was fitting considering the plot came off like a bad sci-fi horror flick. Why Diff would accept anything from a person he knew had a head full of loose screws I could never figure out. What was worse SickDevil never suffered any repercussions for his multiple futuristic felonies. This story just didn’t fit my tastes.

 

 

Joshua searches for his personal diamonds amongst the mountains of rough in The Junk Artist by Larvie Tidhar (debut 1/10). He is one of many pickers checking the discarded trash of the Jaffra flea market, scooping up broken toys and obsolete gadgets the street vendors toss aside. Each item he sees as its own work of art, even when their relevant usage is in question. This smelly, depressed area is but a slice of heaven for Joshua.

 

The story isn’t nothing but a readers guide to following a hoarder around as he garbage picks. We view each item as Joshua contemplates its merits, and trust me, everything he comes across can be defined simply as junk. The story takes a turn when a strange cat appears to strike up a conversation with Joshua; so odd and baffling I suspect it was inserted to give this piece its speculative element.

 

Larvie Tidhar is an enigma to me. His writing is superb. The flea market is so vivid and it is so easy to fall into Joshua’s perspective, a rare gift he has. But, I never get what his stories are about. Often Larvie’s plots seem to go nowhere. Perhaps his themes are beyond the capability of my mortal mind to comprehend.

 

I’m sorry but I failed to grasp the point of this well written story.

 

 

A broken dental drill bit in Sally’s mouth gives her the ability to hear aliens in Bit by Bit by Karina Fabian (debut 1/11). Poor Sally isn’t sure if it’s the drugs that is making her hallucinate. Her dental insurance adjuster is sure a metal health provider is what she needs. A strange man wearing an aluminum hat gives her some relief. Finally a customer believes her and helps her find an explanation. The line between crazy and savior can be so thin.

 

“Bit by Bit” is a ‘bit’ fun. The story follows a staggered journey of a woman who hears voices. The events in her life and how she deals with them, gives this a tale a light but jumpy feeling to it. Ms. Fabian chooses not to explore Sally’s feelings and actions during this odd event but rather reports the odd things she does as if it’s a vague log.

 

I thought the story was fine but what I enjoyed more was Ms. Fabian’s comments on the inspiration for the story. Far more entertaining, in my opinion.

 

 

Jonas loves climbing the Banyan Tree with his friend, Tabby in B is for Banyan Tree by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/12). The tree is a real jungle gym, enormous and full of adventure. He follows his friend while playing ‘explorer’, until Tabby disappears. Tabby insists he should have stayed with her and tells him of the trees special secret.

 

Act two of the Alphabet Quartet was a disappointment compared to its opening one. Jonas is sensible but a coward in the eyes of this reader. I feel as if I was robbed of a greater adventure.

 

 

Two students won’t be turning in their homework in Miss Linderman in Late Homework by James Van Pelt (debut 1/13). An accident has claimed the lives of Cathy and Melinda, students in her Literature and Composition class. They are the sixth and seventh to perish in her 12 years on the job. The last row of her class row is a reminder of them, and how they were unable to complete their last assignment.

 

This story is set during Halloween and would have been great if it was posted that week. I can understand why the editors wouldn’t want to wait 10 months to post it, which is too bad because it scored well on the creepy meter. A well-done ghost story.

 

 

Akorsa is an oracle who hungers for her next song and the soul of the one who sings it in A Song Never Tasted by Barbara A. Barnett (debut 1/14). She is one of two supernatural beings left from a long ago time when mortals would praise the oracles as conduits to the gods. Now seen as devils, Akorsa must hide in the bushes and wait to feed on songs gone stale. Then a young woman sings verses Akorsa has believed were lost to time. The beauty of the song is such that Akorsa wishes to spare this angel, but the other remaining oracle, Neashern, has no intention of going hungry when the rich flavor of an old song is there to feed upon.

 

“A Song Never Tasted” is a tale which gradually evolves into a ghoulish love story. Akorsa fights two battles, one with Neashern and the other with her own vampire-ish hunger. Hirneen is the 16-year old girl who sees visions of the oracles and is blessed with the songs the oracles hunger for. After saving Hirneen from Neashern, Akorsa forms a relationship with the girl and begins to fall in love with her. Akora hungers for Hirnnen’s lips and the taste of the song that comes from them, yet resisting the hunger of its melody, which will kill Hirneen if she dares to feast on it.

 

This tale left me disturbed. Akorsa’s internal battle gave this story a creepy pedophilic metaphorical feel. Her actions seemed a lot like how an adult would react when they have an attraction to a minor, even when they know those feelings are wrong (It didn’t help when author spelled out Hirneen’s age). I’m sure that wasn’t Ms. Barnett’s intentions and I am not in anyway implying that she was making any such statement, but nevertheless, a story where a really old person preys on a naÃ’ ve girl was one that was not for me.

 

 

The protagonist in The Voynich Variations by Edoardo Albert (debut 1/17) is a musical genius. His latest work is so advanced that not even the greatest musical minds of the age can comprehend it. Knowing his works can no longer be appreciated; he retires and turns to one of mankind’s greatest mysteries to test his intellect.

 

The premise to “The Voynich Variations” is based on the ‘Voynich Manuscript’, an incomprehensible book written in the 15th century and believed to be a work of encrypted genius. The protagonist believes he has discovered the books secret, a brilliantly disguised musical score. Eager to hear the melody for himself, the protagonist deciphers the score and reveals its secret.

 

Quite an inventive tale. I had to wikipedia the legendary script to reacquaint myself with the manuscript. I found this tale compelling and the ending worthy. A nice work of flash.

 

 

Family Photo by Elena Gleason (debut 1/18) is the story of a mother and her son who has inherited an unwanted family trait. Wes is her good boy. He couldn’t help it if he was a monster. Karlen’s father had the same problem, turning into something frightening every full moon. When Karlen saw the first signs her boy shared with his grandfather, she couldn’t bring herself to do what needed to be done. Now every full moon, she kisses her husband goodbye and leaves to do battle with her son.

 

“Family Photo” is a tale of mother who wants to right a wrong. She puts on a brave face for a husband who was injured when their boy first became a monster. The premise of this story left me baffled. So I don’t ruin it for those who haven’t read it, I won’t go into why but I really do question Karlen’s choices. I don’t know what she really fears at this point.

 

The stories protagonist’s motives left me scratching my head for this piece.

 

 

The protagonist in C is for Crate by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/19) has a life filled with ambitions that she can never seem to fulfill. College dropout, behind on rent, hard to hold down a job; she is a girl holding onto the lowest rung of the ladder of life. Then she finds a sealed crate at the animal shelter labeled ‘Eats Dreams.’ Dreams is something she has plenty of , reminders of what she hasn’t become – and she is willing to part with a few to see what is making the faint mews behind the warning on the crate.

 

“C” is a Pandora’s Box type of theme. We know so much about the protagonist’s history but so little about her. So little she became more of a mystery to me than the odd creature in the crate. There was no hard punch to this lettered story but it still carried my interest. I liked C better than B but it couldn’t compare to the earlier vowel.

 

 

Clay is not doing a good job of impressing his date in Automatic Selection by Victoria Podmajersky (debut 1/20). He won’t ride the bus and suggests dining in a restaurant with human waitresses. His date is finding him quirky but Clay has a very good reason why he avoids the automated world whenever he can.

 

“Automatic Selection” has the feeling of a man hiding an obsessive disorder with the advanced technology of the future. The truth of what it is he is hiding proves to be far more of a socially disability. The reveal of this twist was well placed but came off as an information dump. Not a bad idea but I preferred an ending that flowed as smoothly as the first 80% of the story.

 

 

Sibling rivalry is the theme in Standing Next to Heaven by Terra LeMay (debut 1/21). Shelia is ten. Heaven is her younger sister and has a potential psychic gift. The gift has a price however. Dangerous seizures inflict Heaven. Shelia must watch after her gifted sister and take a backseat to her parent’s attention.

 

“Standing Next to Heaven” is a tale millions of people could identify with. The story is told by an older sister who feels slighted and ignored and takes her ill feelings out on her poor sister (as siblings often do). Heaven has a gift that hardly sounds like a blessing. You get the idea the only thing Shelia is envious of is the attention her sister receives. Heaven is like a child with a fatal illness or disability. Shelia has become her caretaker and must follow rules concerning Heaven. Shelia comes off as cruel; not a sadistic type of cruelty, but a meanness all siblings have been guilty of, been a victim of, or both.

 

This story is the type of speculative tale that says more about the type of people we are today than about what we will be like in the future. I can’t fathom a person who couldn’t identify with the two little girls in this piece but can imagine a person or two that would be uncomfortable with the plot. Shelia is at a crossroads in their relationship, at the stage when she quits being the tormentor and becomes the protector.

 

“Standing” is not the type of tale that will leave you in awe. It’s a smooth read but not a page-turner, a Twilight Zone tale written as an after-school special. It doesn’t get my full-fledge recommendation but it is one I found great.

 

 

Elizabeth passes out advice on the health line in Not with a Bang by Michelle Ann King (debut 1/24). Epidemics have brought about anxiety across society. The Central Health Line is meant to ease the publics concerns. Phone screeners like Elizabeth listen to caller’s symptoms and pass out diagnosis’ and advice. She does it with a smile as she lies. After all, life must go on even when it’s coming to an end.

 

“Not with a Bang” is not your typical end of the world story. The government has set up a disinformation help line in an effort to keep a public calm. Elizabeth has stock answers and a book to assign a non-fatal illness to match the symptoms a sick caller has. It’s a unique idea, not very plausible in my opinion but still entertaining.

 

 

The protagonists in D is for De Gustibus by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 1/26) is on the search for spices to make some curry when she comes across a little herb shop at the mall. The odd but helpful clerk has some very exotic spices, and is willing to part with them for a handful of change.

 

“D” was an unsatisfying letter for me. The story felt like an opening to a much larger story. Nothing much happened but you get the feeling much would if the story was allowed to evolve.

 

 

In …And a Bottle of Rum by Melissa Mead (debut 27th Jan 2011) Uncle/Captain Jim is a bed-ridden old man who makes model sky-ships, the magical, wooden-with-masts variety, and generally entertains his grand children with tales of daring-do from when he captained a ship and fought sky-pirates. His grandson, Matthew, is entranced by his collection of model ships, each in a bottle, a collection that mirrors ships that actually are in service in the Kingdom. Needless to say things aren’t quite as they seem and there is a twist at the end of this flash story.

 

I thought the story was well-written and a very smooth read. I enjoyed the glance it allowed me into to a world of sky-ships and pirates. I saw elements of the twist before it happened, but perhaps that was only my writer’s eye spotting the foreshadowing.

 

A nice read.

 

 

‘Careful what you wish for’ is the theme of On Paper Wings by Victoria Sonata (debut 1/28). Shiyo is turning eleven, the age of passage and the granting of the gift of wishes. The wellspring of Hope grants a wish a person desperately desires. The wish can only be used to influence your own life, and not of others. The bright and bubbly Shiyo already leads a happy life with her mother but there is always room for improvement. Wishing is something her mother has stressed to not take lightly because the wellspring only grants one at a time. To wish another erases the wish before. Shiyo endures many years of hardship to learn some wishes are not worth losing no matter how badly a new one is needed.

 

“On Paper Wings” follows Shiyo’s life from a young girl to an emerging adult. The village in which she lives is isolated and under constant siege from dark and deadly demons. Hunters are on constant guard from the monsters. Shiyo lives alone with her mother and wants to know what she wished for. Her mother declines to answer but promises she will know one day. Shiyo uses her wishes to fill her most important needs of the time. But such as life is, tragedy changes everything, and helps shape the woman she comes to be, and of the wishes she will make.

 

Ms. Sonata wrote a very engaging character. Shiyo is convincing as a girl who evolves with the events that shape her world. The rules of the wish is what makes this story so compelling. Is losing your earlier wish worth making another? Depends upon the wish. The big mystery of Shiyo’s mothers wish ended up being no mystery at all. Much of the story was set up for a big finish of a great reveal but there was only one possibility of what the reveal could be, which made the ending almost pointless (almost). Nevertheless the writing and pacing of an unnaturally long story for DSF made this story a worthwhile read.

 

 

Jade Dragon by Shelly Li (debut 1/31) is a slice of life story of a Chinese peasant girl. Kai Wen lost her mother at a young age and now lives and works for a man who owns a restaurant. She has no family left, no school for her to attend, and not much of a future. She feels bitter toward a mother who died, leaving her in this predicament. Then a customer gives her tip, a tip worth six months of her salary.

 

“Jade Dragon” is based on a real life boy Ms. Li encountered in China. The lad’s hard life inspired her to write this short story. This so-so tale became special when I read Ms. Li’s comments about the encounter and could feel how moved she was when I read her comments. How sad it must have been for her. I hope the boy fortunes improved and he ended up living a prosperous life.

 

 

Analysis

Another fine month for DSF. I would like to congratulate Jon and Michele for receiving an honorable mention for best new magazine in the Million Writers Award. There were several magazines who earned the honor but I think the actual award was between the winning publication (Lightspeed) and DSF all along. Hard to beat an editor who has had a lifetime of achievement as John J Adams has, especially when your magazine debuted in the fall. I could make an argument on why DSF was more deserving but I do find Lightspeed solid and entertaining.

Congrats to the four DSF authors who received honors in the MW awards. Of the 3 I reviewed I liked Out of the Box the most. Well-written and compelling but I doubt it would have made my top ten for the year (a lot of good stories).

 

 

 

Frank Dutkiewicz writes most of these reviews but tires of providing the bio so is passing it off to one of his minions.

 

Anonymous is famous, a braggart, and too shy to show his face and share his address.

 

Dustin “The Wind” Adams wrote his first book at age 11 (which Anonymous took complete credit for) then took a little time off, eventually finishing the sequel at age 35. “I needed a break,” was his lame excuse but now things are rolling again. He states in this exclusive interviewâ€

“I write way more than I submit. I keep thinking that once I publish, I’ll submit more, which isn’t very Vulcan of me. My goal is to have something published professionally by age 40. I’m running out of time, but the deadline provides a nice steady rush”.

Dustin is a U.S. Customs broker who owns his own brokerage firm. He lives in the hills of NY near the PA and NJ borders where he hides his lovely wife as he teaches his two adorable children (ages 13 and 1) to live off the land and distrust everyone. Currently, he is working to get his lights turned back on.

 

“I write way more than I submit. I keep thinking that once I publish, I’ll submit more, which isn’t very Vulcan of me. My goal is to have something published professionally by age 40. I’m running out of time, but the deadline provides a nice steady rush”.

Dustin is a U.S. Customs broker who owns his own brokerage firm. He lives in the hills of NY near the PA and NJ borders where he hides his lovely wife as he teaches his two adorable children (ages 13 and 1) to live off the land and distrust everyone. Currently, he is working to get his lights turned back on.

 

 

Daily Science Fiction: December Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

On the day I am writing this, Daily Science Fiction is marking its 7th month of production. The online publication is listed with 41 other pro-paying publications on Ralan. I counted only 6 that offer a better rate for its authors (8 cents a word). Most have a guideline that is narrower on the type of speculative fiction they want, a few have a word count ceiling as high (10,000), and none publish as much as they have. After reviewing four months of DSF, I can’t help but notice the brightest and freshest writers in speculative fiction today have graced its pages (or web pages if you prefer). The quality of the writing I have witnessed convinces me they are sending their best to DSF first. This observation is not from a novice reader, mind you, but as an experienced reviewer (I have reviewed for Atomjack magazine and Tangent Online in the past, and do so for Rise Review currently, in case anyone is interested in my credentials). That is why I am still puzzled that Locus has barely acknowledged the magazine and Tangent Online acts as if it doesn’t exist.

To Locus’s (and Lois Tilton’s) credit, they at least paid DSF a passing review, even recommending a couple of stories for the single week they covered. Tangent Online‘s snub is another matter. The ezine reviewer has a lot more than one person to cover the industry. True, they do delve deeper than a thin paragraph for each story, but are the semi-pro and quarterly offerings they religiously review really worthy of the blanket coverage while DSF is left out in the cold? Why do they ignore the magazine? A former assistant editor for Tangent provided this answer on a popular writer’s blog.

(The editor said),the market couldn’t hope to last paying so much on a regular basis and that they also would not be able to keep up the quality. We had little resources to cover things already so it was a waste of time. The attitude is out there but the sheer volume is indeed a problem“.

I honestly don’t know how Jonathon and Michele are able to fund their project, but I found the quality of the writing improving, not suffering. However Tangent wants to use their resources is up to them but I can attest that reading DSF was anything but a ‘waste of time’. Here’s hoping they acknowledge they were wrong about DSF’s prospects and reevaluate their policy.

But I digress. Who reviews a publication shouldn’t determine whether it’s worth reading or not; it’s the quality of the stories they choose to publish that should define them.

On to this month’s issueâ€

The Stories

The protagonist in “Delusional” by Ross Willard (debut 12/01) is explaining to Dr. Bennett on what deep space is like and why he returned to the past. He likes his job but the work is demanding. The company he works for is generous but if a worker fails to meet the grueling standards of the job, they are recycled. To escape this fate, he returns to Earth, so he claims.

The story is set as if you are watching a health care worker assessing the mental state of a patient. The protagonist’s story is intriguing; you’re just not sure if it is real or not. As a reader you’re sure the truth lies somewhere in between.

I’ve got to hand it to Mr. Willard. I figured “Delusional” had an ‘either/or’ ending. He managed to surprise me by having it land in the middle. Nice story.

 

“Journey’s End” by Christine Lucas (debut 12/02) is a tale of Aisa. She scrubs shirts in the waters of a river, washing away the sins of others. A traveler greets her as he talks of his search for god. This stranger has been wandering for a long time, and his shirt is caked with enough sin to weigh humanity down.

The story is less about one man’s story than it is about a woman’s willingness to relieve her fellow man. Aisa works hard, scrubbing diligently as a service to her fellow man. Some shirts she won’t clean but the man who greets her is no ordinary sinner.

The story didn’t move me as it should have. Perhaps it was because Aisa’s gift (if you can call it that) didn’t really seem all that grand. The twist of who the stranger ended up being I felt mixed about. Maybe because it felt too convenient, I don’t know. “Journey’s End” was a nice attempt at enlightenment, but the ‘light’ wasn’t bright enough for me.

 

“Never the Twain” by Lon Prater is the story of Mark Twain set in a south that won the Civil War, told in the pages of a lost journal. A 70ish old Twain finds himself inexplicably in his 30’s again as he rows a boat into Mobile, unsure how he was transported back into time. The wise ole Twain, now in a young man’s body, acclimates back into southern society, but is soon caught up in the injustice of slavery in the last half of the 19th century. The accomplished author revives an old novel and makes it new to help right a wrong.

This author does a fine job writing a convincing Twain in this alternate historical piece. Unlike other southern victory stories, the Confederacy in this tale isn’t doing as well. The economy is sluggish so owners make due by selling their assets, even when the practice divides families. The great Twain battles the injustice the best way he can, by following Harriet Tubman’s lead.

As a big fan of AE, I take a harder line with the sub-genre. Mr. Prater did his research for this piece but unfortunately he couldn’t make the storyline as engaging as Mr. Twain would have. The story, although told well, became dull. Too bad, because I liked the idea.

 

It is 536289’s first day on the job in the brothel in “Shelia” by A. Merc Rustad (debut 12/06). The android worries she is malfunctioning because she is experiencing anxiety. Her first client is an unlikely john to get. He is interested in 536289 for who she is, and not for the service she was designed for. He knows the android wants to be more than what she was meant to be, and is willing to sacrifice everything for her to receive it.

“Shelia” was a story that went from great to disappointment for me. I rather liked the protagonist in this story, but hated how the author changed her. The last half took a, for lack of a better description, masochistic turn. I did not like the solution to Shelia’s problem. Unnecessary.

 

In “Heartbeat” by “Erin M. Hartshom” (debut 12/07), Ariana and Yara are Siamese twins, princesses with one destined to be queen. Power is never easy to share, and can pull even tightest of family’s apart.

This very brief tale begins in the middle of a spell. The story is too brief to pull off well, in my opinion.

 

Sarah is getting enough attention from Michael in “Surprise Party” by Steven Saus (debut 12/08). She is about to leave him but is giving him one last chance to satisfy her needs. Michael knows there isn’t enough of him to meet her demands. Thanks to advancing technology, he may yet succeed.

The story is set in the moments before Michael springs a surprise party for Sarah. The surprise is meant to shock the reader as much as Sarah. A hint of what was about to happen might have helped. Instead it elicited an eye roll from me.

 

“Flood Myth” by Brian Dolton (debut 12/09) is a lecture. The narrator expounds on the merits of water. The story is philosophical, pointing out how water is essential to the earth and its relationship to clay.

The story can be interpreted as a one-on-one conversation with a higher power. To me it still came off as a lecture.

 

In “Perfect Black” by Will McIntosh (debut 12/10 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), Jahn is a memory junkie and a musician. One day he comes across the most beautiful music he has ever heard in a memory. He can’t stop until he finds the source, Leslie. She ultimately gives him her music but insists he take more of her memories. This leads to a stunning revelation.

This story is very reminiscent of a P.K. Dick story, where the question of what is reality and memory is explored. The path followed by Jahn and Leslie is both engaging and full of twists and turns. It is a good read, particularly for someone into more esoteric questions about what makes us individuals.

 

“Drink” by Tara Barnett (debut 12/13 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

The favored daughter grows a special wine, hoping to lure a husband, only to watch others succeed. As the years pass she becomes more desperate adding and changing the brew with no effect. Finally, no longer seeking a mate, she retreats into the garden and growing things. Is there a man that can succeed in drawing her out of her growing madness?

The story is a pretty good allegory for life and how the early promise of life can be altered by expectations and parental mis-guidance. This tale is highly stylized and may not be for everyone, if one is willing to invest the time they will be rewarded with a richly layered tale with many undertones and meanings.

 

“Buy You a Mockingbird” by Eric James Stone (debut 12/14) is a bedtime story. The protagonist is a mother who is telling her child a tale of a woman who created a time machine and went into the future, only to create a rip in the continuum when she returned.

The protagonist’s narrative is priceless. She is full of regret, but regret you could never imagine. This short tale has an ending I just loved. A well done work of science fiction wrapped in a small package. Recommended

 

A new moon in the sky marks the coming of a new Wizard King in “Maker of the Twenty-First Moon” by Sean Patrick Hannifin (debut 12/15). The wizard kings of the past were all tyrants. Jonlen and Slip have suspected Torkwill of wanting to be the next. A legend speaks of a wizard king’s only moment of vulnerability, on the night they make a moon.

“Maker” is a story with two sides. Torkwill wants to make the world a better place and shares the event with his son. Jonlen and Slip wish to take no chances, breaking into the wizard’s home to drag him into the forest. They refuse to heed the wizard’s warnings, Jonlen sure they are nothing but a bluff. He wants to make sure history is not repeated, even if he is the catalyst for past mistakes.

This story is rather good. It had an outcome I predicted but it was never obvious. Torkwill is convincing as a man trying to save his own life with Jonlen’s perspective. Not too bad.

 

Emjid is out to master an ultimate game of masquerade in “Grocery Games” by Anne Patterson Friedman (debut 12/16). He is a novice alien, mimicking a human as he shops in a grocery store. He believes his research of Earth customs covers all the bases to fool the weary humans, but is research better than experience?

“Grocery Games” has a premise where people are aware of the aliens. For unknown reasons, what seems to be harmless fun is a major problem. The story doesn’t delve into answering why. In fact, the entire story seemed to be a set up for a rather weak punchline.

 

“No Spaceships Go” by Annie Bellet (debut 12/17 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Sometimes, when a dream comes true, it really messes with your life.

Dylan and Meek are from opposite sides of the tracks. Yet they have found a way to be together. One of their favorite activities is watching rockets blast into space en route to exciting places. It’s during these times they daydream of a secret place all their own, a garden where society’s restrictions have all vanished.

When Dylan’s family is selected for the next launch he must leave Earth, and more importantly, Meek. At sixteen, Dylan is powerless to act on his own wishes and must be on the shuttle that will take him from his friend.

Their dream is forever shattered, but Dylan has two weeks to try to make things right, to do… something. He uses his time wisely and builds a secret place for the two of them. A place – where no spaceships go.

I tip my hat to the author, Annie Bellet for capturing so profoundly the pain and angst of a teenager. A truly great story can make you feel what the protagonist feels, not just read what they are doing. This is such a story. Well written, and well done. Recommendation.

 

“The God Solution” by M. E. Castle (debut 12/20) is about an ordinary girl who lives with a god, her little brother. Deliah is Deece’s favorite sister. She always makes sure she has happy thoughts for her gifted brother. They are out to chop down a Christmas tree, that’s all. Anything else Deece wouldn’t like, and hiding anything from Deece would not bode well for his favorite sister.

The story is reminiscent of the old “Twilight Zone” episode “It’s a Good Life”, in which a very young Billy Mumy terrorizes the adults with his omnipotent powers. Deliah is the final member of her family left. Her ability to disguise her real thoughts and feelings has become crucial for her own survival. Deece adores her, as much as a megalomaniac with the power to alter reality can adore a person. Deliah feels she is the last barrier between her brother and the rest of humanity.

This story was well done. I usually frown upon flashbacks but the author used them wisely to tell this tale. The ending sentence didn’t have the impact it should have but nevertheless this story was well worth the price of admission for me.

 

“Nothing but the Truth” by Steven V. Ramey (debut 12/21) is a tale of a mother who wishes to do what is best for son, even when it’s a bad idea. Mrs. Cheney is a single mother. Her teenage boy is making some bad choices. Medical science has the solution for her, a device in his brain that will help him to stay away from bad influences.

This story has a “Clockwork Orange” like theme. Mrs. Cheney is an overprotective hen who hasn’t made the connection that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. She kids herself that her decision is for his good, and not her way of establishing control she never found for herself. I thought the tale was well thought out but found the ending, although poetic, obvious. Nevertheless, it was still enjoyable.

 

The protagonist in “The Pillow Zone” by Scott Lininger (debut 12/22) wakes up on an ordinary Saturday and receives a surprise in his shower, a magical beanstalk that bears delicious fruit.

The first half of this tale had nothing to do with the odd plant growing in the protagonist’s shower drain. It sounded like a great morning in the making but had little to do with the plot. I found the writing to this piece sharp but the story jumbled. The first half could have been missing and the story wouldn’t have changed. As a result, it dulled the luster of the entire piece.

 

“A Christmas Frost” by Robert E. Keller (debut 12/23) is a tale about a rite of passage involving a nasty Christmas tree. Chopping down a wretch tree has been a part of Brian’s family for years. The enchanted trees always put up a fight and require a special axe to chop down but provide protection for a family every Christmas. Brian sports proud scars from trees of the past. His son James is eager to wield the Fungorn’s Axe for himself and can’t wait for his presents on Christmas day. The family’s tough times make the prospects of presents unlikely. James intends to take his disappointment out on the tree for his empty Christmas.

By the date this was published, I can see why the editors bought this piece. The timing for it was right. Brian spends much of the story reminiscing. He feels bad for not having a job but not enough for me to wonder of his level of motivation. The context of a grumpy tree in your living room is admittedly appealing to me. The tree didn’t disappoint but the author to use it so sparingly was.

I expected more from this tale. Perhaps Mr. Keller wanted a piece that was more reflective of the holiday spirit but for me the promising storyline fizzled. The ending left me feeling as cheated as poor James was on Christmas.

 

His Majesty attempts to make amends to his wife in “The Two of Us, After” by Steven Popkes (debut 12/24). King Mark has lived a lifetime of regrets. He wants to forgive his wife and grieves for his nephew Tristan. Mending broken relationships would be easier if he were sure he was awake.

“The Two of Us, After” is a tale of court intrigue from the perspective of a regretful king. His Isolede has not been faithful or honest with her husband but has the sense to be obedient. The story was not grounded in reality, however. Mark slides from dream to dream, each ending in shock displays of uncharacteristic behavior of his loved ones.

The tale was way too soap opera-ish for my tastes. The speculative fiction element was barely there. This story look as if it would have been more at home in a romance or historical genre based publication. If neither of those genres interest you, this story likely won’t be your cup of tea.

 

In “Not the Chosen One” by Amber D. Sistla (debut 12/27) an envious Greki wallows in his own pity of living in the shadow of Ekkli, the Chosen One. Greki is one of the best of a mysterious monastery but a very distant second to Ekkli’s abilities. His jealousy of being bested consumes Greki, but he discovers there are emotions that are far worse to wallow in.

Greki reminds me of the protagonist in the movie Amadeus, how he realizes his great skill is not even in the same league of someone touched by God. Greki’s envy is understandable and to his credit, he attempts to overcome his feelings. His emotional shortcoming is the crux of the twist the author inserts.

The writing is great in this piece, but I was expecting the twist and therefore wasn’t surprised when it happened. “Not the Chosen One” is a nice story but I was immune to the gravity of its emotional impact so wasn’t floored by its ending.

 

“Palindrome” by Will Arthur (debuted 12/28 and reviewed by Anonymous)

A palindrome is something that can read forwards and backwards and is the same. As a point of interest, Wikipedia has a superb example found written on the walls of Herculaneum in Latin.

This story is a loose form of a palindrome with slight twist and, I have to say, it has been done very well. It starts off with a Timeguard who has tracked down a man–his quarry–to a small bar. The problem is the bar and everyone in it are caught in a palindromic time snag. Needless to say things don’t pan out according to plan.

In order to remain with the constraints of a palindromic story an author has to make some sacrifices in terms of details and explanations. With that in mind,ÂI think Mr. Arthur handled the complexity of creating this story very well and achieved, in my opinion, exactly what he states wanted to in the notes after the story –to create a palindromic story that also moves forward. Recommended.

 

“The Plum Pudding Paradox” by Jay Werkheiser (debut 12/29 and reviewed by James Hantzelka). J.J. Thompson is confronted by a stranger who pleads with him to dissuade his student, Ernest Rutherford, from conducting his famous scattering experiment that alters the perception of the structure of the atom. The consequences of this experiment, the stranger argues, are too horrible to contemplate. Thompson finally agrees, but will he write the letter?

This is a truly clever twist on the traveler paradox of time travel. I really enjoyed the story, but it may be a little too esoteric for someone with less of a science background. Despite the few reaches in actual fact, such as the link between Rutherford’s experiment and quantum theory, it is still a good read and cleverly done.

“Variety” by Jill Zeller (debut 12/30 and reviewed by James Hantzelka) Natasha is a homebody, invested in her garden and trappings of modern life, car, home, etc. She is married to Curtis, a budding musician who is working on establishing himself in the business. This leads to Natasha at home and Curtis on the road and to an inevitable conflict as she becomes more invested in home life and he is more interested in his career. Conflicts arise over how to spend money and goals.

To me this story really didn’t go anywhere, nor was I particularly invested in the characters. I felt worse when the dog had to be put down than about any of the interplay and conflict between the two main characters. The story offered me no real insight into these people than I could get from a newspaper article about this period of their lives.

 

In “A Matter of Time” by Jaime Lee Moyer (debut 12/31) a co-worker approaches Julia with a priceless offer, his life for her. Julia’s allotted time is running out. She had weeks left when Myles approaches her with his no-strings gift of an additional twenty years.

“A Matter of Time” is a short story with incredible depth. It is set in a future where your expiration is determined in advance. Factors of life (childhood illness, taxing of social services), determines when time is subtracted. Time can be transferred and is often sold on the black market. Julia lost much of her time while helping others. Myles is a man with relatives in power. He often clashed with them because of how they used that power, but they had a unique way of silencing him. Now he wants to give his life to Julia as a way of making amends for his guilt.

Ms Moyer should be commended for this story. She wrote an intriguing future with compelling characters. The storyline was a bit blue for me, which is the only reason why I balked at a full recommendation. Nevertheless “A Matter of Time” is award-winning writing. I was impressed.

 

Analysis

Even only covering a third of the year, Daily Science Fiction has produced enough outstanding material to fill a “Year’s Best” anthology. Based on these four months I concludeâ€
a)ÂÂÂÂÂ The editors deserve Hugo and Nebula nominations (Unlikely, this year)
b) Many of the stories deserve a further evaluation so they can be included for further honors. Andâ€
c)ÂÂÂÂÂ Hugo and Nebula should be offering a separate award for Flash length fiction

The editor’s should also be commended for their innovation of distribution. Sending a story a day for their readership is genius. Here is hoping they get the recognition they so justly deserve.

 

Frank went a little overboard with his April Fool pranks this year and is currently in hiding.

Special thanks to James Hantzelka, Anonymous, and Dustin Adams, who has an updated blog http://dustintadams.blogspot.com. I appreciate you all, and Dave, for helping me produce these reviews as well as keeping my whereabouts a secret.

Anonymous is an accomplished author. He is credited with writing such classics as The Book of Dead, Beowulf, The Key of Solomon, The Autobiography of a Flea, and Go Ask Alice to name a few. He is also known for writing many works of poetry, inspirational phrases, and several Psalms in the Bible.

Daily Science Fiction: October Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

As I said in my last months review, an editor for a respectable review publication explained that the reason why he wasn’t reviewing Daily Science Fiction was because they had too much to cover. He may have been right, but every problem has a solution. With the help of four great and wonderful writers from my favorite writers workshop, Hatrack, a complete review of October is done. So thank you Todd Rathke, Louis Doggett, Ismail Rodriquez, and Ian Synder for your help.

Now onto another month of great speculative fiction.

The Stories

Joan tries her hand at spelunking. When she emerges out of the cave, she enters a dead world in “Finding Joan” (debut 10/01/10) by David D. Levine. A gamma ray blast from an exploded star has sterilized North America and the depleted ozone is now killing the rest of the planet. A weekend to help find herself has now turned into a lifetime experience.

So what would you do if you found out you were one of the last people left on Earth? When Joan and her three companions exit the cave, they see a sky with brown clouds and death all around them. The quartet discover there are others who have survived, a fortunate few like them that were shielded from the deadly blast. Her friends want to find them but Joan cannot leave her life behind, empty as it is.

“Finding Joan” is great science fiction. The plot is well thought out and the science is sound. The readers are thrown into a world were the worst has happened. Joan is drawn wonderfully as a woman who has lost everything but refuses to restart her life with her companions. A lot of people like Joan would have ended it all, unable to grasp the tragedy around them. Joan instead decides to become Portland’s last resident. Her issue is with closure and it helped carry the reader through the last half of the story. I enjoyed the ending Mr. Levine wrote – very heartwarming and full of hope.

My only issue is the story takes too long to fill in the characters what the readers have realized. We already knew the what but had to wait to find out the why. About a thousand words in the middle of the piece dragged. The rest I found brilliant. Great story by a great story teller.

“Gamed” (debut 10/04/10) by Stephen Gaskell is the story of Zhen, a young Bejing girl working as a gaming assistant for players. The factory she works in is strict. The gamers work without ever seeing the outside. A wooden door leads to the outside and Zhen only wishes to see the sky. A rare chance gives her an opportunity to open the door.

“Gamed” is a “Gotcha!” story. The author does dot the story with plenty of clues so if you’re caught off guard it’s your fault. The story is short (too short) but complete. I had to read it twice to make sure I was getting the correct point it was making. I liked it.

“Losses: A Game” (debut 10/05/10) by M. O. Walsh is about an odd game set in the clouds. The playing field is attached to a rope that a man holds. You pay him and climb. Once on the field, things you lost (big and small, important and insignificant) appear. The object is to stay on as long as you can before regret gets the best of you.

I took “Losses: A Game” to be a philosophical fiction piece. The game is supposed to be popular but I can’t understand how it could be. The idea of reliving everything you lost in your life doesn’t sound likes it’s worth climbing a rope into the sky, or the two bucks for the privilege of doing so. The story was just too odd for my tastes.

Ricky just wants some time to himself in “Solitude” (debut 10/06/10) by Michael Guillebeau. But alone on the All-Party Planet is impossible. There, “â€everybody has to be everybody’s friend.” Lucy has a simple plan to change it. Perhaps talking about it might be better.

An All-Party planet doesn’t sound as fun as it should be. It sounded like Time’s Square at New Years Eve all the time. I wouldn’t want to spend more there ten minutes there myself. This one was too silly for me.

“Fashion Statement” by Peter Roberts (debut 10/07/11) is a conversation between two people. They share opinions on the latest in clothing design and discuss the latest trends in getting sick.

“Fashion Statement” is all dialog. The readers are treated as if they’re trapped in an elevator with two cackling hens gossiping, oblivious to anyone listening. The first part of this short piece sounds just like two privileged busybodies yaking it up, then their conversation twists into something surreal. That twist turned a boring story into an unbelievable one.

A “Fashion Statement” clashed with my tastes.

Jeffery Godfrey sees his dead mother hanging in his closet in “Migrating Bears” (debut 10/08/10) by Helena Leigh Bell. Odd things happen to young Godfrey. Termites like to swarm on him. Small gargoyle statues multiply in his dresser draw. His friend Caroline believes everything he says while his father thinks he is having an issue letting go of his deceased mother.

Jeff is a kid with issues. He is failing fifth grade, again, his father is distant, and his only friend is the one person that is stranger than he is. Then there is all the weird stuff. He rationalizes the unexplained incidents in his life with simple explanations. His world is a supernatural three-ringed circus but he is unfazed by it all.

I didn’t like how the story was told. The reader watches all the odd things happening to Godfrey from a distance. The story is almost devoid of dialog. What little there is comes across like punch lines to an inside joke. I don’t know where Ms. Bell was headed with this story but I jumped off way before the end. It just wasn’t for me.

“Grinpa” by Brian K. Lowe (debut 10/11/10) is a little boy’s telling of the day his grandfather died and when the aliens landed on Earth. The young lad is pulled out of his school to join his mother at the hospital. A world-shaking event is happening simultaneously in the rest of the world. While the aliens are landing outside the UN building, Grinpa is breathing his last breaths.

The two events, an elderly loved one succumbing to old age, and the coming of visitors from beyond the stars, is like comparing apples and oranges in the grand scheme of things. The very ideas seem to clash, but telling them from a perspective of a very young boy gave “Grinpa” an emotional depth that I don’t believe could be accomplished with only one of the events happening.

It may be easy to miss the message in this piece but if you caught it, you wouldn’t be able to escape its emotional impact. The protagonist chooses to miss the first look at the aliens as they step out of the vessel so his Grinpa isn’t left alone. Ironically, his father provides the reason while waiting for the aliens to appear on the TV.

I may be a sucker for Science Fiction with an emotional impact told by children. RECOMMENDED

In “Bless this House” by Beth Cato (debut 10/12/10 and reviewed by Todd Rathke) Emma’s life has hit a rough patch, her husband is bed-ridden, recovery looking grim, and her new born daughter is wailing with colic. Only more sleepless nights are on the horizon. Then a unicorn comes blessing the house.

Every word seemed artfully and perfectly written but when the sentences were put together, it lacked flow, and I found myself lost. Still the story succeeds on some parts. As a reader I feel Emma’s pain, her hopelessness, so much so that I wanted to put a gun to my head to end it all. So I applaud the writer here. But the story doesn’t end there. There are two struggles here, the one for surviving the depression, which leads her to taking the horn, and I assume killing the unicorn in the process. And it is that struggle that I found lacking and feel cheated on. It was hidden, throughout the piece, until the end and shouldn’t have been as it was told in her point of view.

The clocks have all gone crazy in “Zero Hour” by Sue Burke (debut 10/13/10), and the protagonist’s wife is responsible for the change. The world is perfect. Refrigerators tell you what to eat and careers are offered according to your skills. The network does what is best for you, which is why it has to go.

Big Brother is alive in Aunt Becky, the name given for the computer overseer in “Zero Hour.” Aunt Becky has everyone shaking in their boots. Saboteurs tried to disable her but only managed to disrupt the clocks. The protagonist in the story fears for his wife and believes he may have seen the last of her when he leaves for work.

The concept to “Zero Hour” is intriguing but the route the author took robbed it of its intrigue. The story is told with the protagonist spending what he believes is the last morning with his wife. An over lying fear is present, as if eyes on everyone at every second. We never really experience Aunt Becky so the fear feels like an illusion. As a result, the story is flat and the characters failed to entice me.

“Susan 3342 A.D.” (debut 10/14/10 and reviewed by Ismail Rodriquez) by Marge Simon is about a hermaphrodite couple experiencing their long awaited chance at having a State authorized baby. One partner has obvious nurturing instincts while the other, not so much. They then must deal with the devastating news that their healthy newborn is – only female, considered a throwback. This story is a poignant reminder that no matter how much things change, some things never do.

“Susan 3342 A.D.” is a short work of speculative fiction near 600 words. Set in a so-called advanced culture, this couple struggles with personality traits that can’t simply be bred out even by State mandated advanced hermaphroditic techniques. There are also issues with handling difficulties in life that are as apropos today as they might be in a far-flung future. Susan 3342 A.D. is as thought provoking as it is chilling to contemplate the grasp of government in such a fashion as set here. A must read.

“Addendum to the Confessions of St. Augustine of Hippo” by Edoardo Albert (debut 10/15/10) is a tale set in the final days of the Roman Empire. Bishop Augustine of Hippo confesses his greatest regret and speaks of discovering a way to time travel while the city is on the verge of collapse.

“Addendum” has a long title, which is fitting because the story read a lot longer than its 4000 words. The story is set with an urgency of a city about to collapse and a hopelessness of not being able to prevent it. The bishop confesses to his scribe with a detachment to the reality outside. His tale is unbelievable, spoken like a man convinced his delusions are real; delusions a man on the verge of a mental breakdown would dream up. As a result, his tale sounds like a ramble. I had to resist the urge to tune out. The ending had a twist that came off as one big cheat to me. It cemented the ill feelings I had to the piece.

As an avid fan of Alternate History (which is the category this story falls under) I was disappointed with “Addendum.” As a time travel story, a better explanation on how it was possible would have helped.

“Longevity, Inc.” by Geoffery C Porter (debut 10/16/10) is a corporation that uses mice to determine your future health. Jill prods her husband into buying a pair of mice. The company finds a genetic match and puts them on the same diet, exercise regiment and habits of their owners. When the mice die, an evaluation of your future health and what will kill you can be determined.

“Longevity, Inc.” is a novel idea. On the surface, it sounds like a scam someone will eventually dream up in the near future. But the idea has merit, which makes the story intriguing. The first half of the story follows the protagonist and his wife, Jill, when they first apply for the mice. This part seemed needlessly long. I was intrigued with what would happen to the mice but the excitement devolved into something close to the level of waiting to hear lab results on blood work. I did find the ending cute.

In short, “Longevity, Inc.” is solid science fiction. I liked the premise but the characters weren’t all that interesting.

“Chick Lit” (debut 10/19/10 and reviewed by Ismael Rodriquez) by Keyan Bowes is about two co-workers with an unusual problem; Nelli’s new boyfriend has feathers – all over, and her friend doesn’t believe her. They may be good co-workers but they definitely have different values when it comes to acceptance of others. Nelli finds out late about the saying that it’s better to fly with eagles than group with turkeys.

“Chick Lit” is a fictional piece of just over 500 words. It’s about a girl with a problem and a friend/co-worker who could care less. Later, the girl doesn’t have the problem and the friend is more concerned than ever about it. I had to read it several, SEVERAL times over to even come up with anything noteworthy about it. I failed to see what the editors saw in it.

“Group Session” by Terry Bramlet (debut 10/20/11) involves a meeting between the three main computer systems and their human caretaker. Highway, Financial, and Internet have only one problem, there lives would operate perfectly if it wasn’t for all the humans they were designed to service.

“Group Session” is a corporate meeting between civilization-running programs that turns into a therapy session. The three virtual reality simulations act like overstressed people all dealing with the same problem, which they are. I found the story fun, with a few humorous lines throw in. The story wasn’t all that deep but was entertaining.

Memories are stored in finely crafted wooden boxes in “Memory Boxes” by Pam L. Wallace (debut 10/21/10). Sara surrounds her dying husband with their most treasured memories. She opens them one at a time to comfort Darrell as he takes his last breaths.

If only cherished memories could be stored in the lovely boxes in Ms. Wallace’s story and be shared so readily. “Memory Boxes” is heart-warming but thin. Perhaps the story could have been expanded but I believe it would have lost some of its luster if it were lengthened. Nice piece.

“A Theory of Sixth-Sense Aesthetics” by Ciro Fainza (debut 10/22/10) is an introduction into psi-phy, a form of art where the viewer is subjected to a psychic revelation while absorbing an artists sculpture or painting (I wasn’t sure how to describe them). William is accompanying his girlfriend, Simone, at the museum for the latest unveiling. Simone is an artist while William is doing his best to understand the baffling exhibit.

“Theory” takes the tact of following William, a confused patron who is there to support Simone, as he tries to grasp a futuristic pseudo-art crowd fawning over what sounds like garbage they call art. William is lost as he does his best to fit in for the benefit of his girl. He is failing and it is obvious to all in the gallery and to Simone. The story is meant to show how uncomfortable and out of place William is. The author succeeds because I felt as out of place as he did trying to comprehend what he was viewing.

The science fiction of this futuristic art gallery is first class. I can see such a gallery and the snobbish enthusiast it would attract. Part of the problem for me is the author did too good of a job writing snooty characters to make the gallery convincing. Simone just didn’t sound worth it for William to go through all of that work. It would be like dragging a grease monkey to the ballet and expect him to mingle with the dancers afterward.

Ciro Fainza achieved his goal in “A Theory of Sixth-Sense Aesthetics”, but the characters where just too unlikable for me to recommended it. The writing was superior but, like the art, the story failed to draw me in.

“High Mileage” by J G Faherty is set in a future where families are as interchangeable as cars. Sid is jealous of his neighbors improved model. Bob convinces Sid that the investment is worth it considering how much trouble his older model was giving him.

Cloning and behavioral modifications have made fixing marriages and problem children as easy as trading in a rusting Cadillac. The first half of the story is written so as if Bob is talking about a car (not hard to see through). This short piece is cute but predictable. I still enjoyed it.

“A Game of Horse and Dragon” by Sarah L. Edwards, (debut Oct 26, 2010 and reviewed by Ian Synder), tells the story of a small child playing with his toy horse and dragon. The little boy feels bad for the horse because he knows it will always lose, but the horse keeps trying.

It’s strange, at 300-ish words the story feels overdeveloped and underdeveloped at the same time. She speaks of the child being ill and his father brought something from the mountains to help him and leaves that at that, and then speaks of the child’s pity for the horse, saying it was once something else, possibly a man. Some of the unanswered questions could have been left out, or she could have answered them with more words and I would feel better about the story.

Brenda Cannon Kalt has an intriguing and sad tale. The story “Cradle Song” (debut 10/27/10 and reviewed by Louis Doggett) by Brenda Cannon Kalt, takes place on another planet, Pallarus. The story consists of a conversation between two people. One a blue collar woman making sure a ballroom is ready for a going away party that evening, while the other is the planet’s governor, who the party is for.

The conversation is both entertaining and informative. Brenda tells what needs to be explained in a well managed way. EvenÂthough he story is sad, I enjoyed it for it is, what I call sad in a good way. I recommend it for anyone who likes short, short stories with a solid story line with no violence but yet an interesting story line.

In “Flipping the Switch” by Michael Vella, (debut on Oct 28, 2010 and reviewed by Ian Snyder) Vella tells the tale of a pair of men who are working on time travel. The protagonist speaks of deja vu after his partner flips the switch on their machine with no apparent results.

He looks at a picture of his family and regrets the amount of time he has lost with them while working on the project. After he works on the settings for the machine he goes back into the shop and inputs the settings, then tells his partner that he wants to wait till the next day to test the machine, wanting to get home to his family. His partner insists on flipping the switch, bringing you back to the start of the story.

It’s an interesting little story Ala Star Trek: TNG episode Time Squared and Groundhog’s Day.

In “Moonlight and Bleach” by Sandra McDonald {debuted on Oct 29, 2010 and reviewed by Ian Snyder), McDonald spins the yarn of a woman with a very strange affliction, she is a were-maid. Her mother was a werewolf and her father had a cleaning fetish. So now when the full moon comes out she transforms into a maid, black dress, white apron and all.

To help keep questions down about her strange affliction she has her cousin get her cleaning jobs at the full moon from people that don’t ask too many questions. One job he sends her to ends up having a fireman for a next door neighbor, the fireman calls her up after the job and asks if she could clean his place for him. After she declines (Its not a full moon) he asks her out to dinner. She ends up making a fool of herself when the young man starts to ask too many questions.

The young woman tells her cousin she can’t go back to that job again, and he sends her elsewhere on the next full moon. The new client and her dog scare the young woman and send her running. She goes back to the fireman’s building, only to find her previous client is in the hospital with a broken hip. She turns to the fireman in desperation and he takes her to the laundry room of a homeless shelter where he works on the side.

In exchange for the work, the fireman wants to know her story. She tells him of her curse as she cleans and when the night is over he escorts her home, not caring if she is cursed or not.

I personally am not a big fan of romances, but McDonald spins a nice tale here. If you’re looking for a quick romantic jaunt with a side of were-weird then this tale should be what you’re looking for.

The Can’t Miss Listâ€

As my only recommended story, “Grinpa” by Brian K. Lowe tops this months list, but “Finding Joan” by David D. Levine I found to be a delight, the best of the Friday stories (the lengthy ones). My fellow reviewer, Ismail Rodriquez, particularly liked “Susan 3342 A.D.” by Marge Simon but fell short of giving it my high standard recommendation qualification. I should point out a recommended qualification is a story that makes me go ‘Wow!’ after I read it. ‘Wonderful’ won’t get you a recommendation (sorry).

I found October’s DSF still a high standard publication, better than any pro-publication you’ll find out there. However, compared to last month’s, October’s comes in second.

I recommend all of you to subscribe to DSF’s daily email (if you haven’t already).

Frank hasn’t made many friends since he started doing reviews so heÂwent andÂfound a newÂchum.ÂBob is his new best bud but word is they had a recent falling out. Frank was overheard callingÂBob a ‘Windbag’ while mutual friends claim Bob refers to Frank as a ‘Blowhard’ behind his back.

“Chick Lit” is a fictional piece of just over 500 words. It’s about a girl with a problem and a friend/co-worker who could care less. Later, the girl doesn’t have the problem and the friend is more concerned than ever about it. I had to read it several, SEVERAL times over to even come up with anything noteworthy about it. I failed to see what the editors saw in it.

Review: Daily Science Fiction – Sept 1, 2010 to Sept 30, 2010

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Daily Science Fiction is the ambitious project of Clarion alumni and Writers of the Future author, Jonathan Laden, and King Arthur fanatic, Michele Barasso. The duo jumped feet first into the growing SF & F industry with an idea that is innovative and ideal with the ever-changing information age. The pair have dedicated getting the best of what today’s writers have to offer, and bringing it right into the laps of the most devote readers of speculative fiction, delivering it as easy (daily email) and as cheap (free) as a lover of fantasy and science fiction could hope for. To insure they’ll have only the best for the cliental, they have offered an attractive pay rate (8 cents a word) to entice the best authors out there.

Why have they embarked on this crazy idea, you may ask?

Our kids refuse to let us read them Harry Potter, so we needed another outlet for our love of SF” is the answer they offer. Whether their real reason is noble or they really are greedy to read new and fresh fiction before anyone else has a chance to view it, publishing good speculative fiction requires more than a nice pay rate as bait. They need to be able to pick out gems that will make readers want to come back for more. Do Jon and Michele have the ability make DSF a success? I read the first month to find out for myself.

The Stories

“An Adventure in the Antiquities Trade” (debut 9/1/10) by Jeff Hecht is the perfect themed piece to open a mass email project like Daily Science Fiction. The story involves two collectors, and is set in the mid to late 21st century. The protagonist presents a correspondence to a Mr. James, one written on an old manual typewriter in the mid 20th century, when such things were still done on paper. The correspondence tells the tale of a clerk in Nigeria that has uncovered a scheme by the trading company he is working for. The company is bilking the Nigerian government and hiding the profits in a Swiss bank account. The clerk has asked a random American for his bank account so he can transfer 43 million, and promises a 10% kick back as a reward (sound familiar?).

I found “An Adventure in the Antiquities Trade” to be a clever and crisp story. Although it was a bit short, and the twist ending predictable, it was fitting as a debut story for a science fiction magazine looking for a unique way to stand out.

“Mark and ,S-h-e-l-l-y-‘-s-“ (debut 9/2/10) by Steven R Stewart is a story of a pizza shop owner named Mark and his one time romantic interest and former partner, Shelly. Shelly suddenly appears at the spaceport stand, not looking a day older, after a ten-year absence. The sign out front is still the same but her name has been crossed out. The bitter Mark feels cheated, abandoned, and is not interested in any excuse his former partner has to offer. Shelly regrets leaving in a huff all those years ago and admits in making a wrong turn, a turn that may have cost her everything but her youth.

“Mark and ,S-h-e-l-l-y-‘-s-” is a science fiction twist on the old ‘bitter lovers reuniting’ premise. The story is Mr. Stewart’s first publication (nice catch). I found the brief tale to be a cute idea but the present tense narration was a big negative for me. It was unnecessary and lent to a disconnection with the characters and plot.

Butterfly gets her first tattoo on her 13th birthday and receives a gift she didn’t ask for in “Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” (debut 09/03/10) by Lavie Tidhar. The young granddaughter of the Head of the Council can hear the Rogon, long dead aliens cocooned in the trees of the forest. At first, the incomprehensible murmurs are nothing more than idle chit-chat in Butterfly’s ears, than one day their tone changes. Butterfly believes they are calling her, and they need her help.

At over 9000 words, “Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” is one of the longest stories you’ll find in Daily Science Fiction. I couldn’t help thinking while reading it that it didn’t need to be so. An awful lot was thrown into the story that had little to do with the overall plot. Much was made about Butterfly’s relationships with other characters when they had little to do with the solution to the story. All the extra material slowed the pacing to a crawl. Another problem I had was the age of the cocoons. The aliens were supposed to be dead for a quarter of a million years, wouldn’t they be fossils by now? What I did like was the unexpected reveal of the nature of the voices Butterfly hears. Unfortunately you had to get through two-thirds of the story to get to it.

“Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” would make a nice sci-fi mystery if it were shorter. The author took great pains to show Butterfly as a normal girl with a unique problem. Lavie Tidhar made the story mundane in the process.

“Fiddle” (debut 09/06/10) by Tim Pratt opens with a small history lesson on the Roman Emperor Nero, told by a mysterious guide. The guide speaks of the legend of Nero playing a fiddle while Rome burned in the first century AD and offers a unique explanation of how it may have come to life.

“Fiddle” is more like a tease than a story. Its short size limits what I can say about it without ruining it for the reader. Hard for me to recommend it. I found it not attractive enough to call it cute, but I did like that last line.

In “Ezra’s Prophecy” (debut 09/07/10) by Debs Walker, Ezra is a hermit living in a cave. She studies the book of God’s Prophesies with only a weekly visit from a young village woman to look forward to. Then one day the Gods grace her with a vision. Ezra is eager to write her own book of prophesy but takes advantage of her brief gift of premonition to see what effect her holy book will have in the future.

I had two different impressions of “Ezra’s Prophecy”. The first two thirds I found slow and I worried that the plot was headed nowhere. The last third, however, was a making of a classic tale. I found it deep,an outstanding concept on religion and of the people who founded it. Ezra is granted a great gift from the God’s and makes a choice that proves to be an even greater one to her people.

The first half of “Ezra’s Prophecy” is dull, but the end made the pay off worth it.

The protagonist in “Hobo Signs” (debut 09/08/10) by Ree Young is an elderly lady who finds a hobo on her porch. The man has alcohol on his breath and a tale of aliens on his mind.

“Hobo Signs” is almost cute. The story is told from an old woman’s perspective and done well, but I wanted to scream ‘get on with it!’ at her at one point. The story doesn’t have much to it, at least not enough to satisfy me.

“Tag, You’re It” by Melissa Mead (debut 09/09/10) is a tale of a lost soul and a devil playing a childhood game with the playing field Earth. The hider hides as an ordinary person (and other things) while the seeking player hunts them down.

If character growth defines what makes a good story for you than “Tag, You’re It” is your kind of piece. The devil learns much about life as he takes on a trio of different personalities in the game. I rather liked the story. I found the ending fitting. A well done work of flash fiction.

“Seek Nothing” (debut 09/10/10) by Cat Rambo is the story of Sean Marksman, a clone psychologist who specializes in scent alterations. Sean is eager to escape his religious, puritan home. The planet he has escaped to is in need of a specialist like him, but his fellow humans are suspicious of his fundamentalist background. Sean has been raised to believe clones are beings without a soul. His fellow workers treat them as if they are machines , machines that can be abused. As time drags on, Sean begins to identify with the clones plight.

“Seek Nothing” is not a story for everyone. The plot drags and the protagonist is a hard one to like. The supporting characters are portrayed as unsympathetic and aloof , or worse – and the clones are nothing more than living mannequins. However, by the end of the story a realization of the depth of this masterpiece fell on me like a ton of bricks.

This story is one of repression. Sean tires of his purist early life and wants to be a normal man, one free of the guilt of sin his father weighed on him. However, young Sean hooks up with people that are anything but normal and as degenerate as could be imagined. He is like an Amish boy whose first experience with the outside world is with exiled men alone in the Arctic. Added to this jaded experience, details of Sean’s own past surfaces as the story progresses. What we witness in this tale is the disassembling of a man to the point where he feels on par with soulless machines. RECOMMENDED.

“Chameleon” (debut 09/13/10) by Colin Harvey is set in an America under attack by a race of aliens called Dragons and their Chinese allies. The Dragons have the ability to mimic humans, and have gotten good enough at it to make them indistinguishable from the person they are imitating. Major Emily Sparrow has been brought into the ruins of the Pentagon to help determine if her husband is really an alien in disguise.

“Chameleon” is an excellent example on how intriguing and thorough a short story can be. Mr. Harvey opened up a big world and introduced wonderful characters in a handful of words. The story was extra special for me because of its ending. I knew there was a twist coming yet was still caught off guard when the reveal hit me; so subtle and unexpected. It was the whipped cream on top of delicious sci-fi work of art. RECOMMENDED.

“On the Sweetness of Children” (debut 09/14/10) by Michelle Muenzler opens when the Green Fairy falls dead in the middle of blessing the infant princess. She drops at the word ‘hunger’ and the princess becomes a glutton as a result. The round royal is sensitive about her weight, and isn’t above devouring her critics, which isn’t good for her public image. But when you have a bottomless pit for a stomach, public image becomes secondary.

“On the Sweetness of Children” is a very cute story. It is a birth of a fairy tale, which I always find neat. Enjoyable but not “finger licking good.”

Dain talks the crew of the ‘Maidens Crescent’ into stopping at every satellite while traveling through the Sol System in “Mercury in Hand” (debut 09/15/10) by Amanda M Hayes. The Zero-rank magician wants a piece of every planet for a wealthy client to take with him.

I would like to delve deeper into the point of the story but it was completely lost on me. The who, what, and why of the tale is a mystery to me. I didn’t get it and still don’t after I read it three times in an attempt to understand it.

In “Azencer” (debut 09/16/10) by Rigel Ailur, two sisters with the gift of telekinesis battle for the right to be queen.

At a hundred words, Azencer is as short as a complete tale can get. The author did well with so few words.

“American Changeling” (debut 09/17/10) by Mary Robinette Kowal takes place in a quiet Oregon town on a planet called Earth. Kim is the daughter of two faerie changelings. She has been raised for the day to open the gate between the Faerie world and Earth. The key to unlock the gate has been hidden in iron (deadly to faeries) and protected by Catholic magic. Kim is the only one that can resist both, but the enemies to the queen are aware of her and are ready for the great event.

“American Changeling” is an adventure story. It is one of the longest stories in DSF but it reads quick. The characters stand out and the action is well done. The story is done quite well but the general plot is very familiar. Nevertheless, the reading experience is very enjoyable but I would expect nothing less from a pro like Ms. Kowal.

“Flint’s Folly” (debut 09/20/10) by J Chant is a story about a Nobel Prize winning scientist’s, Professor Flint, greatest discovery. His most trusted assistant, Mattius, attends the press conference where Antarctica’s most respected scientist unveils his faster-than-light machine. The demonstration is a success, making the already famous scientist a giant on the world stage. As a close associate, Mattius basks in the professor’s glory, but soon discovers it only takes one mistake to erase a legacy.

“Flint’s Folly” is my kind of story. The author introduced a complete world and set of circumstances that I could buy into. The premise of the story is one I could see happening one day, and circumstances of our not-too-distant past have proved this type of mistake has been made before. Mattius is successfully presented as a loyal comrade. He believes in his mentor and is proud of his past accomplishments. You can feel the validation he feels when the rest of the world cheers for the professor’s breakthrough discovery. Telling the story from his viewpoint was genius with the direction the author decided to take. At the risk of revealing too much, I particularly enjoyed Professor Flint’s attempt to salvage pride at the end, emotionally well done.

This story was great. RECOMMENDED.

Young Revka is ten and has yet to discover her talent in “Picture in Sand” (debut 09/21/10) by Susan A Shepherd. Her mother discovered her woodcarving gift right away, while her father had to search through all nine talents before finding his own. It can be a lot of work before your talent is discovered, or if you’re lucky, your talent may discover you.

Ms Shepherd put a lot of thought into creating her magical world in this story. Impressive considering she didit in so few words. Unfortunately I think the story needed more for it to work. This heartwarming piece came off as flat to me.

“The Man who said Good Morning” (debut 09/22/10) by Ralph Gamelli is set in a future where everyone reads minds and talking is considered taboo. That doesn’t stop Louis McKalty. He first works his voice on his wife, chasing her as if he were holding a dead mouse. He then proceeds to greet the world with his rediscovered gift of speech. The world isn’t prepared to listen to his primitive mode of communication, and if he doesn’t listen to reason, society will send his brand of ‘getting to know each other’ the way of the Neanderthal.

“The Man who said Good Morning” is a fun story about a man who is having some innocent fun. Louis is rediscovering himself and that makes others uncomfortable. I liked how Mr. Gamelli decided to introduce a society where only silent, psychic interaction is allowed. Nice story that could have used some expanding.

Annalisa begs her father to take her to an unsavory fair in “The Jug Game” (debut 09/23/10) by Jennifer Moore. While her father disappears in a beer tent, Annalisa is encouraged to play a jug game. The prize is she gets to keep the soul inside if she wins.

“The Jug Game” puzzles me. The stories ending left me unsatisfied and I wondered if I read the complete version.

“The Fosterling” (debut 09/24/10) by Therese Arkenberg starts off in a shack of a house that is the home of the future king, Hepastian IV. It has been seven years the young prince has lived in the slums and it is Jain Harley’s duty to retrieve the boy and take him to New Geneva to reunite him with his father the king. The foster mother is not ready to give up her ‘Jacky’ and the boy isn’t eager to leave the only home he has known. Jain is chosen for this duty because she does it well, even when crushing migraines afflict her without mercy.

“The Fosterling” is a good story that is written very well. Jain Harley is convincing as a duty bound Captain of the Guard who has a job that simply sucks. All the past kings have spent their first seven years living in the slums so they will learn compassion. Jain is mystified on why Jacky doesn’t want to leave the ghetto he was raised in and wonders at one point “Didn’t all kids dream of being princes?” Coupled with the stress of tearing a young child from the only home he knows, a recurring migraine inflicts Jain.

I could find little fault with this piece. Therese Arkenberg is a very skilled writer. The story is solid and quick but is thin with content. Nevertheless I enjoyed reading it very much.

“Long Pig” (debut 09/27/10) by Matthew Johnson, is the name of a new restaurant featuring a popular chef. The menu is unique and the food is delicious thanks to a chef with a unique past and a commitment to put all he has into his creations.

It wasn’t too difficult to figure out what “Long Pig” was all about. Too many clues made it obvious early on. The chef’s willingness to share his past to his customers made him more creepy than interesting to me.

The restaurant’s customers may have found “Long Pig” appetizing but it didn’t satisfy me.

“Sparks” (debut 09/28/10) by Mari Ness is about a man who has replaced his hands with wands. The protagonist is drawn to the mysterious man and the lovely sparks his wands create. She takes great effort to not stare at his wands and wants to learn why he would make such a trade.

“Sparks” is a story of desire. The protagonist clearly has fallen for the stranger. I however was not drawn into his spell and fail to see the appeal he has over her. The appeal didn’t translate to me.

Unlike the protagonist, I failed to fall under “Sparks” ‘spell.

Jack and Sarah share tea in their home, drinking it out of their favorite cup, just as they always did in “Small Differences” (debut 09/29/10) by Tim Patterson. The only problem is this is the first time they met.

“Small Differences” is a story set in a world where alternate universes have intersected. People are switched into a new one that is very similar to the one they originated in. Slight changes make it different. Sarah and Jack shared a life with their alternate selves and their not-quite-the-same past makes their meeting painful and hopeful.

Not a bad story but one that was too brief for me to enjoy. Not that it needs expanding. I think the author got as much as he could from the idea.

George Washington is about to attend his inaugural in “A Little-Known Historical Fact” (debut 09/30/10) by Tim McDaniel. He talks with his aide Billy and tells him what his mother said he could accomplished if he applied himself.

This short story is just plain silly. The premise relies on GW’s mother knowledge of a term that I believe didn’t exist in her era.

Overview

I asked an editor of a leading review outlet on why DSF is ignored. The answer I got back was there was too much to review and the editors must be nuts if they think they can keep up throwing so many stories, at the rate they pay, for essentially free. Maybe Mr. Laden and Ms Barasso have deep pockets, maybe they have a business model other publications should emulate. I don’t know. I do know, word count wise, they publish as much as Analog, F & SF, and Asimov do each month. Sure they’re putting out 20 plus new stories a month, but 80% are under 2000 words and most are flash fiction size; an easy to get through length if you’re looking for a daily outlet. The question is, does the quality match up to what other pro-rated magazines have to offer. The answer is yes.

I found almost all the stories of a high quality. Because they were so high, my standards for recommendation were raised. If Jon and Michele can continue to publish such thoughtful, creative, and outstanding fiction, I see no reason why Daily Science Fiction won’t be the next big thing in publishing today.

My personal favorite of the month was “Chameleon” by Colin Harvey. I just simply loved it.

I recommend that you all sign up to receive a daily hand-delivered story from Daily Science Fiction. You can sign up for them, and read these stories and other ones here.

Frank is lurking back around in Diabolical Plots again. Other places have throw him out on his ear but Dave is a sucker for people that have worn out their welcome elsewhere. So Dave has Frank review to keep him out of his hair.