DP FICTION #32B: “Three Days of Unnamed Silence” by Daniel Ausema

A letter would be waiting for me at home, a real physical letter, like the old days. I knew about it, knew what it would mean, as I rushed through the day, calibrating grading bots and marking AI tests. As soon as I met my quota and had the batteries for my hDevice fully kinked, I hurried down to the great rotating front door.

The grunt whose effort powered the door slipped just as I approached. It shouldn’t have been a problem. Engineers work all kinds of failsafes into the systems so what a grunt does won’t go directly into the connected machine. Supposed to, anyway. But for some reason, the grunt’s tripping translated into an interruption in the door’s power, which made the door jerk. I slammed my shin into it, limped inside.

Immediately the grunt was dragged away and another thrust into its place.

I rubbed my leg as I waited for the door to resume its usual rhythm, then headed out to the street. That time of day the busses had so many stops and starts, they were always unwinding their screws way too fast, having to pause and shove in new ones. Better to walk.

I cut across the university lawn, though it was a longer way. It was where my letter would come from. A letter adding, appropriately enough, a few key letters to my name. PhD, it sounded good added to the end of my name. I repeated it in time to my steps. P, H, D, P, H, D.

The sidewalk passed by the university library’s subterranean power station. In a gesture at humanitarianism that no one would insist on anymore, the power station had a wide, narrow window to let in the sunlight. The glass was angled into the side of a subtle rise, so that from the sidewalk I could easily see down into the station. The grunts worked furiously, kinking and winding the batteries that kept the library’s power-hungry devices running. Treadmills fed power to other machines, those not connected to the batteries. A great, horizontal wheel in the center of the station had a dozen grunts around it, all pushing together to wind up the massive battery placed in its center.

P, H, D, P, H, D. I left the library behind and walked past the campus center. Its clock tower beamed out the time into the air before it, with a ticker of class news and information. I focused on it for a moment, and the words expanded in my eyes. Was it announcing the new candidates? Would my name be there?

If I opened up my hDevice, I’d surely see my name right there. It was smart enough to display that portion of the ticker for me without asking. But I wanted to keep the batteries full, and searching with my eyes wasn’t worth the effort. I let myself enjoy the knowledge it was there, probably even pushed to the front for any friends who passed by. Knowing it was enough.

Across campus, I caught a moving walk. A waste of energy, most places, but gravity and high use by students meant it was one place a kinetic sidewalk made sense. I joined the crowds, watched them peripherally as we strolled along en masse. Did they realize what was waiting for me? Could they see the aura of the PhD hanging over me as I walked? One young man smiled as I passed at a faster pace, a shy smile that I returned. A stunning, older woman gave me a frank grin, which I returned as well. I smiled at everyone, wanted to ask everyone their names. Tell me them all!

I kept quiet, only thought the words. Still, there was a glow to the people around me, as if they could hear me asking, could hear my new title awaiting me at home. Maybe I only imagined it. But maybe my giddy mood did transmit in some way.

I got off the walk a few streets later and had to wait for a two-biker to pass, its grunts straining to pull a full cart of riders. My street was lined with high wires, twisted so tightly they hummed. By night they would all be loose, as we powered our houses through the evenings, the screens and dinners of home life. Then I’d be glad my hDevice was charged. Did I have all the numbers, all the people I’d want to tell the good news? I planned out my order as I walked.

By morning the grunts would have the wires set for breakfast and showers and the morning rush. By then I’d be a PhD for real. My first full day with a title to my name.

I took the steps up to my flat two at a time, and the hollow ring of my footsteps repeated those letters. P, H, D, P, H, D. My finger unlocked the door, and my house greeted me, though its voice was oddly subdued.

“Any deliveries for me, house?”

“Yes, Entity 37-58231-K. One delivery.”

Why my ent number? My house had never greeted me that way since I first moved in. I shrugged it off and looked in the slot for the delivery. There it was, a single envelope. My hands shook as I pulled it out.

It wasn’t labeled as university mail.

It was addressed to Entity 37-58231-K.

Inside was a government letterhead, and a letter that would have superseded any other deliveries of the day. Somewhere, intercepted by the nets and screens of the oversight offices, was my acceptance letter, but it didn’t matter anymore. The government letter was brief, direct. “Entity 37-58231-K, your lottery number has come up. You are scheduled for un-naming. While you retain your name, the government thanks you for your sacrifice for the good of all. Know that it is appreciated. Please report to the nearest courthouse or administrative center immediately.”

The letter dropped from my fingers.

***

When your name comes up for un-naming, you run. Not everyone does. It’s hopeless to flee, and many simply submit. But not you.

Before the letter has settled to the floor, you tear outside the flat, take the steps down at a leap. Are the officials already coming up the elevator? Maybe they’re at the foot of the steps, expecting this. At the second floor, you leave the stairwell, run to a window. It opens stiffly, but wide enough to drop through.

Alleys or main streets? Hiding or blending in? Either has its problems, so you stick with the small street you’re on, run as fast as you dare, as fast a pace as you think you can maintain. No sense sprinting only to have to walk once you’ve gone two blocks.

People look as you run past, but not to stare. A glance, you’re noticed, you’re forgotten…mostly. Forgotten until some official comes asking them. Someone running by? Oh, yeah. Late for a bus, looked like. Went that way. Maybe better not to run at all.

You slow down, ease in behind a group of deskies chatting with each other on their way home from work. Do they have titles behind their names? Unlikely, yet they still have names, and that’s key. They are still people, not grunts toiling away to serve modern society. You will yourself to be one of them, title-less but still named.

A police car passes by. You huddle into your coat, ease in close behind the deskies. The car doesn’t slow.

Still unnerving. When the group passes a thickly wooded park, you peel away. There are trees for cover, and you’re tired. Come morning, the chase will have cooled, and you’ll be able to leave the city entirely behind.

There are rumors of places off the grid, where sun and wind give power and grunts aren’t needed. You’ll find it, somehow. Somewhere out in the wastes you’ll stumble across a hidden settlement. You’ll befriend an odd stranger who gives you the secret, once you show you can be trusted. That’s how it works.

So you sleep, hidden inside the evergreen bushes, where the branches weave together into a perfect hiding place. No one will be able to find you here.

You wake up, stumble away before light, only to find the bush you chose already surrounded by police. Their guns whine with the pent up energy of their kinked batteries, and two grunts stand ready to recharge them.

As if you could ever put up such a fight.

The police grab you before you can flee, before you can swing a single fist or evade a single attempt to tackle you. None of which prevents the police from kicking, hitting, beating you senseless before they drag you away to your unnaming treatment.

***

The grunt trudges. It might well be the only way a grunt is allowed to move, after all. Once the surgeries and incisions are done to slice away a person’s name, it may be the only way it is still capable of moving. No grunts have ever done anything to undermine the idea, anyway.

It takes its place at a great wheel, grabbing the sawdust-coated handle with gloved hands. It does not know where that wheel is. The same one in the university library? Or any of countless others across the city? All identical, and any attempt to remember a named life causes a shooting pain in its brain.

The sawdust keeps the grunt’s hands from slipping off the wheel as it strains with the other workers to push. The device gives off sparks as they move, twisting and kinking as much power into its strands as the weave can hold.

After hours of mindless motion, the grunt is done for the day. Or for the shift, anyway. The lives of grunts are not organized around days but shifts. It enters a cramped dorm off the power station, eats a bowl full of protein-rich paste, and falls into its cot to sleep.

Another shift, some uncounted number of shifts later. The grunt is sent out to gather unwound batteries from drop boxes around the city. The same city where it used to live? Even thinking the question is enough to bring the sharp pain just behind its ear. It keeps its head lowered, lets the streetlight fall on its bare head.

After gathering the contents of two drop boxes, it pauses. The street is open. Has it forgotten that flight to freedom? Those rumors of another way to live? Nearly so, but a glimmer of that dream breaks through its namelessness. It weighs the bag of unwound batteries in its hands. To throw them? Smash some windows? A lifetime of viewing batteries as just shy of sacred holds firm, though, and it sets the batteries down beside the road.

It turns in a circle, a dog checking its internal compass, a beast following a pre-human instinct. But it doesn’t lie down to sleep. It dashes for the shadows of the nearest alley. Unnamed and so not entirely human, it no longer fears the rats and trash that clutter the alley. It slithers into the smallest place it can find.

Alas that the grunts clean the alleys so well. Alas that the humans know to watch for grunts on the run, especially those that are new. Its hiding is brief, and by the end of the shift it is back at its labor. Many shifts will pass before it is allowed outside again, and many more before it goes beyond the sight of a human overseer. By then even the glimmer of memory will have faded nearly to nothing.

Over time, grunts come to resemble each other. The hard labor, poor hygiene, and lack of names melds one into the next. What do minor variations in skin tone or gender matter in the face of drudgery? The grunt that was once Entity 37-58231-K loses the hair on its head, grows dense muscles on its legs and chest. Like all the others. The intelligence and drive that once nearly earned it a doctorate fades from its eyes.

The next time it goes out to gather unwound batteries, it never deviates from its assignment. Most shifts it plods along, turning the great wheel in its assigned power station, never talking and never complaining, even in demeanor. Along with the other grunts, it powers the city. And it watches its fellow grunts fall one by one and be replaced by the newly unnamed. The relentless kinking and twisting of modern life.

Until the grunts rise in revolt.

It starts at the wheel, with a grunt jumping onto the top and grabbing the central axle that rises up to the ceiling. The wheel kinks the grunt, killing it instantly. Its death jolts the rest of the grunts away from their work. At first, for a moment, they might flee in fright. But one —is it the grunt once known as Entity 37-58231-K? We may never know —checks its flight and lets the anger of unnaming rise up.

Anger? It should have been silenced with its unnaming. The humans remove much that made the formerly-named a human, a surgery physical and mental and psychological. Yet the sight of the dying grunt brings a measure of it back, and not only in one grunt. It is as if such strong emotion is a magnet, drawing out the same anger in grunt after grunt, until all roar in voiceless revolt.

They charge from the power station. At first, the humans don’t know what to do. The grunts are unnamed, unthinking, powerless. What can you do, when the machinery of society fights back? More grunts join, leaving behind their tasks. Spinning batteries unwind, and the twisting machines fall still. The more that join, the easier for the next to jump in too.

Then the shots begin. The police don’t hold back. Grunt after grunt falls. But what are bullets except another form of drudgery? Shot, they press on, even after a named person might give up. And unshot, they don’t shy from fear. What mental room they’ve pried open for emotion is filled with mob-rage.

And as they advance, the shooting lurches into uncertainty. How many bullets do the police have? How fully are their batteries charged? And who will they send to get more when they run out? Not a grunt. Even a person, named, must rely on the grunts to rush to the storerooms or face catastrophic delay.

The grunts gather strength, swell in unnamed fury. The police fall back, conserve their firepower, fear their loss of control.

This is it, the time to overthrow, the time to take back names. They move in concert down the street. Where to? It is not strategy but mob impulse that guides them away from the power station and toward the crueler power of the city center.

Here, where so much of the city is run, there is a greater stockpile of kinked batteries and ammunition. The humans find their resolve, form into lines, trust in their guns once more. Even the advantages of namelessness aren’t enough to overcome the firepower of mobilized human forces. They crest, push again toward their oppressors, and fall down. As more fall, the anger ebbs into fear, and grunts fall away one by one.

Our grunt, who once dreamed of a PhD, is still among those who fight, a tightening knot of grunts who refuse to concede defeat. There must still be a way to find the city’s weakness. The grunt falls. No, that’s another of the grunts…maybe. Their identities blur. The knot barges as one around a corner. More fall. Ours? They are too alike to know.

A choice lies before them, a split they must take. One way leads to the place where they had their names removed. Might they still reclaim them? Or make sure no one else loses theirs, at least? The other way leads outside the city, into the wilderness where rumors place other escapees.

They veer toward the wilderness. Too slow, as forces move in to stop them, humans with stronger weapons, sure now in their ability to stop the grunts before they run out of power. The knot nearly comes undone as they waver between fight and flight. Perhaps it is our PhD who pulls them together, forces them toward the unnaming place.

It is locked. Humans with guns move in. This time the grunts do not fight back. They take their places before the door, stand tall in the view of anyone who might see. With arms outspread, they stand, are shot, fall.

No humans lament their deaths, only the disruption.

The revolt is over, the nameless grunts forgotten. But the bullets that mow them down damage the entryway into the unnaming place. No one may enter. For several days, no one is unnamed, just when the city most needs new grunts. Only when human workers are able to repair the door can new grunts be made.

Three days of unnamed silence. That is the only memorial, the only name that remains of the fallen grunts and their brief revolution. But sometimes, at the limits of namelessness, the word only approaches, approximates everything.


© 2017 by Daniel Ausema

 

Author’s Note: The past couple of years I’ve participated in an event called Wyrm’s Gauntlet, which challenges writers with a series of tasks, winnowing the participants with each round. The final task in 2015 involved a quote about how society relies on stripping us of our identity. I’ve forgotten the exact quote, but at the time is struck me and inspired this story.

 

daniel-ausema-headshot-1A writer, runner, reader, parent, and teacher, Daniel Ausema’s work has appeared in many publications including Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction, as well as previously in Diabolical Plots. He is the author of the Spire City series, and his latest novel, The Silk Betrayal, is coming this fall from Guardbridge Books. He lives in Colorado, at the foot of the Rockies.

 

 

 

 

 


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Announcing the Diabolical Plots Year Three Fiction Lineup!

written by David Steffen

Diabolical Plots was open for its yearly submission window for the month of July. During that time, 803 writers submitted 1070 stories.  This year, the maximum word count was raised from 2000 words to 3500 words, and this year instead of one story per month Diabolical Plots will publish two stories, for a total of 24 stories that will begin running in April 2017 which is when the Year Two stories have all been published.

Thank you to all the writers who submitted.  You made the final choices incredibly difficult, which is a very good problem for an editor to have.  If we had the resources to publish more right now, there would have been plenty of excellent stories to choose from.

OK, without further ado, here is the list of stories and authors and their publishing order!

April 2017

“O Stone, Be Not So” by José Pablo Iriarte

“The Long Pilgrimage of Sister Judith” by Paul Starkey

May 2017

“The Things You Should Have Been” by Andrea G. Stewart

“The Aunties Return the Ocean” by Chris Kuriata

June 2017

“The Existentialist Men” by Gwendolyn Clare

“Regarding the Robot Raccons Attached to the Hull of My Ship” by Rachael K Jones and Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

July 2017

“Monster of the Soup Cans” by Elizabeth Barron

“The Shadow Over His Mouth” by Aidan Doyle

August 2017

“For Now, Sideways” by A. Merc Rustad

“Typical Heroes” by Theo Kogod

September 2017

“Strung” by Xinyi Wang

“The Entropy of a Small Town” by Thomas K. Carpenter

October 2017

“Lightning Dance” by Tamlyn Dreaver

“Three Days of Unnamed Silence” by Daniel Ausema

November 2017

“When One Door Shuts” by Aimee Ogden

“Shoots and Ladders” by Charles Payseur

December 2017

“Hakim Vs. the Sweater Curse” by Rachael K. Jones

“The Leviathans Have Fled the Sea” by Jon Lasser

January 2018

“Six Hundred Universes of Jenny Zars” by Wendy Nikel

“Brooklyn Fantasia” by Marcy Arlin

February 2018

“9 Things Mainstream Media Got Wrong About the Ansaj Incident” by Willem Myra

“Artful Intelligence” by G.H. Finn

March 2018

“What Monsters Prowl Above the Waves” by Jo Miles

“Soft Clay” by Seth Chambers

 

ETA: Note that this list originally include “Smells Like Teen Demon” by Sunil Patel, which was removed from the lineup.  This list has been edited because it is the easiest way to reference which stories are in which year, and I didn’t want this to be a source of confusion.

DP Fiction #14: “The Blood Tree War” by Daniel Ausema

My roots felt only earth. Thin, and good for nothing but wild grass. As I stretched under the ground, I caught the tang of metal, something sharp and not yet rusted. Clean metal, likely dropped when this patch of land was well behind the battle line. Still, the promise it made helped me exert all my energy into those roots, willing them deeper and farther out.

Sunlight glistened off my barbed leaves, feeding its pale energy to my efforts.

I was not the only blood tree growing on the battlefield, and my concentration broke when my sister began chanting. She was double my height already, as if she’d focused her efforts on leaves and branches instead of roots, but her chanting told me she hadn’t needed to work hard below ground. By instinct I recognized the nature of her words, the cadence of syllables sighing from the pores in her leaves. She chanted the lives of those whose blood she drank.

I sent a root toward her, running just beneath the surface. There was blood, battle-spilled blood. My purpose, my need, a far greater energy than the sun’s.

Her roots fought back. They sliced the tip off my root, so I branched out to either side, but they bludgeoned those runners into a pulp. Already, the blood had made her strong.

Over the silent warfare of our roots, my sister’s voice kept chanting the lives of the fallen.

She grew taller, and her leaves turned a green so dark it was nearly black.

I needed a different approach. For several days I tried focusing nearby, redoubling my efforts to dig deep, to widen my circumference. I found one patch of blood, but it was old, no part of the recent battle. It fed me, but its energy was gone too soon, and my voice had no life to chant. The nutrient-poor soil kept me small. Too long of this, and my sister would be able to block the sun from my leaves, as well as the blood from my roots.

My first break came when I discovered I could send a root over the ground. I sent a dozen one night, sipping at the earth as they went deep into her territory. Ah, the blood. She had no defense, since she wasn’t even aware of my presence. I kept them moving, never letting them sink too deeply into the patches of blood, so I might keep their presence a secret.

But my voice I could not keep silent. When the sun rose, I had no choice but to chant. Harsh lives and brief, I sent their deeds into the air. A child who’d lied about his age. A peasant unsure what to do with the weapon in his hands. A woman in disguise who brought down a dozen enemies before she finally fell. One of her victims a veteran of earlier wars who should have been allowed to rest at home.

The words tumbled out into the dawn, and my sister broke off her chanting to counterattack. By noon my runners were dead, spilling no blood by which they might be remembered. My sister’s chants went on.

As the last of the stolen blood passed up to the buds on my twigs, I discovered that even when it was gone I didn’t have to be silent. I had no more lives to chant, but I could sing a strange cry. The blood-fed buds rang out my voice. I imitated my sister’s chants, made up lives to speak. She wasted energy pursuing my roots, trying to find the blood she thought I drank.

She would discover the truth soon. My words wouldn’t fool her forever.

I played with the sounds of my voice, trying other noises that didn’t resemble our usual chants, and a bird came near to investigate. Birds avoid our kind, but my song overcame its instinct. I strangled the bird with a vine and added its blood to my song.

What else might I attempt? I changed the patterns, and squirrels came to see. Their blood tasted of hard nuts and high leaps, and their fur made my leaves droop in distaste. They made my song wilder and louder.

My sister’s trunk twisted in her desperation to find the source of my song. Her own chants continued, of warriors and the many lives lost to blade and spear, but less sure as the days went on. Doubt bled her, even though the blood of birds and rodents couldn’t give me the strength of her soldiers.

Larger animals came to my call, in the days and months that followed. An elk’s blood is strong, but the animals are wary. Wolf blood is rarer still, but when I managed to catch one, it gave me a fierce strength to rival my sister at her greatest. Deer and feral pigs and jittery pronghorns made me grow, made my bark thick.

My sister grew taller than me, though. She tended the battlefield’s blood with care so it aged beneath her without its strength leaching away. We were no longer saplings when she gave up trying to find my secret source of blood and took to attacking me directly. We know the many ways animals hunt, we trees–slow or fast, in darkness or from hiding–and we’ve chanted enough human lives to know the ways of war. When trees hunt, it is like and unlike those. Slower, no doubt. A gradual advance where each of us aims for a sense of the inevitable. But just as bloodthirsty and mindless, a single focus of angry contempt. I wondered if her sap would taste of blood when I defeated her, wondered if I would someday chant her life as I drank all that remained of her. I imagined ruling the entire plain of the battlefield on my own. But most of the time I knew well that I wouldn’t win. Eventually she would drink my sap-blood, would chant my sorry life, would rule alone.

If it was to be a battle, I would need more blood.

I wasted no energy on defense. Nor on attacking. Instead I crafted a new song, put every dram of blood into a summoning.

Humans. They are always ready for war. A simple push, a siren’s call, and they will march. Two armies drew toward me.

As my sister’s branches reached toward me to block the sun, the armies closed in. With my roots I pulled at the ground, channeling their charges toward my meager shade, where I waited to drink. Their clamor tasted of the brightest sunlight any tree has known. I drank and chanted their lives and grew strong.

My sister’s branches shrunk back, and her roots tried desperately to break through to the fresh blood. My chanting became laughter as I beat back every attack she sent. My unlikely dreams of ruling the field might even come true.

Then the humans did something new. Was it simply a flight of fire arrows? An arcane spell? New and explosive technology? I didn’t know, but my sister and I both burst into flame. No amount of blood could put out the fire.

By the time the flames were out, I was reduced to charred roots and a single spire of dead wood. I had no buds to sing even a simple summoning. My sister was similarly broken, her proud strength now nothing.

Every drop of blood in the field was gone, drunk by flames even more greedy than I.


© 2016 by Daniel Ausema

 

Author’s Note:  This one started as a writing exercise. An online writing group I’m part of meets together, roughly once a week, as many as can manage. Someone will post a topic, and we’ll have an hour to come up with whatever we can manage. It’s a great exercise for simply getting used to turning off that questioning voice inside and just writing, so even if none of the exercises turn into viable stories, I recommend it strongly. But given how frequently the members of the group manage to turn those one-hour starts into complete short stories that sell to a variety of places or key character development pieces for their novels, it’s even better than just an exercise, but a great way to get a story down on paper. I can’t even recall the exact prompt for this one, and I’m sure I hadn’t completely finished it when the hour was done, but that was where the story began. Besides, I love trees, and carnivorous plants are simply cool, so the idea of cruel and carnivorous trees that feast on spilled blood was one I knew I had to finish as soon as it occurred to me!

 

Daniel Ausema headshotA runner, writer, reader, teacher, and parent, Daniel Ausema has had fiction and poetry appear in many publications, including Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction. He is also the creator of a steampunk-fantasy, serial-fiction project, Spire City, which is now entering its third and final season. He lives in Colorado, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

 

 

 

 


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Best of Strange Horizons Podcast

written by David Steffen

Strange Horizons is a freely available online speculative fiction zine that also publishes nonfiction and poetry.  They publish a variety of styles of stories and have regularly attracted award nominations in recent years.

All of the stories and poetry in the zine are published in the podcast.

History

When Mary Anne Mohanraj founded Strange Horizons in the year 2000, online publications were often looked down upon in many circles as inferior to print magazines–not getting much attention come award season and that sort of thing.  Since then the attitude has shifted greatly and many of the award honors every year go to online publications.  I believe Strange Horizons is the oldest of those online publications that regularly draws that kind of honor, and Strange Horizons has done a lot to turn around fandom’s opinion about online publications.

Mary Anne Mohanraj was Editor-in-Chief of Strange Horizons until 2003.  Susan Marie Groppi was Editor-in-Chief from 2004 through 2010.  The current Editor-in-Chief is Niall Harrison and the current fiction editors are Julia Rios, An Owomoyela, Catherine Krahe, and Lila Garrott.  There have been other fiction editors in the past, but I’m honestly not sure where to find a full list.

Strange Horizons is a nonprofit organization in the US and is run entirely run by volunteers so that all the money goes toward licensing the publication rights for the content.  Most of their funding comes from their annual fundraising drive, which ended a few days ago.

One of the rewards for reaching goals in their 2012 fund drive was to start producing a fiction podcast, which began publishing in January 2013.  Anaea Lay is the host and also narrates most of the stories.  There is also a poetry podcast if that suits your fancy–I am focusing on the fiction podcast here because I don’t understand poetry well enough for my opinion to be of much value.  Since then, all of Strange Horizons stories also appear on the fiction podcast.

Best Episodes

1. “The Game of Smash and Recovery” by Kelly Link
Wonderfully weird story of two siblings waiting on a strange planet for their parents.

2.  “Broken-Winged Love” by Naru Dames Sandar
Story of a dragon parenting a child with a damaged wing.

3.  “The Suitcase Aria” by Marissa Lingen
A castrato magician hunts an opera house murderer.

4.  “Why Don’t You Ask the Doomsday Machine?” by Elliot Essex
From the POV of a machine that outlasts civilization after civilization.

5.  “Din Ba Din” by Kate McLeod
Living days completely out of order, often years apart.

6.  “Such Lovely Teeth, Such Big Teeth” (part 1 and part 2) by Carlie St. George
A modern story of Big Bad Wolves.

7.  “What We’re Having” by Nathaniel Lee
A skillet serves the food that we’re having tomorrow.

8.  “ARIECC 1.0” by Lillian Wheeler
POV of AI meant to help people with traffic and weather issues.

9.  “Among the Sighs of the Violencellos” by Daniel Ausema
A very interesting and evocative mix of fun elements, including fantasy hero tropes.

10.  “Significant Figures” by Rachael Acks
Alien masquerading as human tries to protect Earth from other aliens. My favorite character is a waffle iron.

 

Honorable Mentions

“The Innocence of a Place” by Margaret Ronald
Cool epistolary tale trying to piece together evidence of a mysterious series of events that happened in the early 20th century, with a historian’s notes on the subject.

“Dysphonia in D Minor” by Damien Walters Grintalis
A world where music is used to build things, and a story about the people who do this as an occupation.

“20/20” by Arie Coleman
Time travel is used to change the result of medical treatment plans that turned out to be incorrect.

“The Visitor”  by Karen Myers
Very cool alien POV and its first contact with humans.

“Never the Same” by Polenth Blake
A sociopath who has learned to function even in a society that scans for sociopaths and treats them differently tries to make a positive difference in an SFnal world.

 

Diabolical Plots Fiction Lineup (Year Two)

written by David Steffen

Diabolical Plots opened for fiction submissions for the month of July, one story per writer for the submission window.  During that month 425 valid submissions arrived in the slushpile.  59 stories were held for a second look.  13 stories were purchased.  Both rounds of the process were judged entirely by me, and author names were hidden from me until the final decisions had been made, so the stories had to stand for themselves.  Here are the story titles and authors for that year of purchases.  I am very excited to bring these stories to readers.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

March 2016
“One’s Company” by Davian Aw

April 2016 
“The Blood Tree War” by Daniel Ausema

May 2016
“Further Arguments in Support of Yudah Cohen’s Proposal to Bluma Zilberman” by Rebecca Fraimow

June 2016
“The Weight of Kanzashi” by Joshua Gage

July 2016
“Future Fragments, Six Seconds Long” by Alex Shvartsman

August 2016
“Sustaining Memory” by Coral Moore

September 2016
“Do Not Question the University” by PC Keeler

October 2016
“October’s Wedding of the Month” by Emma McDonald

November 2016
“The Banshee Behind Beamon’s Bakery” by Khaalidah Muhammad-Ali

December 2016
“The Schismatic Element Aboard Continental Drift” by Lee Budar-Danoff

January 2017
“Curl Up and Dye” by Tina Gower

February 2017
“The Avatar In Us All” by J.D. Carelli

March 2017
“Bloody Therapy” by Suzan Palumbo