The Best of Glittership

written by David Steffen

GlitterShip is a science fiction and fantasy podcast devoted to publishing audio versions of LGBTQ stories from authors of all backgrounds.  Glittership was originally funded by a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, which blew past its base goal and reached several stretch goals beyond that increased the frequency of episodes as well as funding original episodes to be mixed in with the reprints.

Glittership is published, edited, and produced by Keffy R.M. Kehrli.  If you follow Diabolical Plots and you recognize Keffy’s name, he’s also a writer whose stories have featured multiple times on previous Best Of podcast lists right here.

Glittership features short story authors you are probably already familiar with, and others that might be entirely new to you.  Every story has major characters that are unambiguously within the umbrella of LGBTQ, but that’s not necessarily the focus of the plot of every story (though it might be sometimes).  I’ve really enjoyed the podcast largely because I think that having a podcast with a broad range of story topics and types that include characters from this range of demographics can help normalize stories about these demographics, so that they feel less and less like the “other” and just become accepted as more stories that might be rip-roaring adventures or introspective literary stories or any number of other stories, not just defined by that single characteristic.  Keffy has done a great job picking a variety of types of stories to show the variety of stories that can be called LGBTQ stories, and I am happy to help spread the word.

While Keffy generally doesn’t get into a lot of current politics in the episode commentary, it’s also worth checking out the intro to this episode which aired shortly after the US presidential election in 2016 about why he has decided to keep making the podcast.

This list covers the entire history of Glittership thus far since the first episode went live in April 2015.  49 episodes have been published to date, including a few multiple-story episodes, for a total of 55 stories.  The latest issue has just started.  Each issue is first available as an ebook for purchase, and then all of the stories are published on the podcast over the following several months, so if you want to read ahead, you can take advantage of that.

Every short story that is eligible for Hugo nominations this year which were first published by Glittership are marked with an asterisk (*), novelettes are marked with a double-asterisk.

The List

1.  “Sooner Than Gold” by Cory Skerry
A thief is enslaved by an enchantment to run errands for an unknown master.  They finally get the chance to know to meet their enslaver.

2.  “Seventh Day of the Seventh Moon” by Ken Liu
Legends tell of the daughter of the Emperor of Heaven and her lover separated by the River of Heaven who are reunited for one night a year.  The protagonists of the story are chosen to be lifted up by birds to heaven to meet the legendary lovers.

3.  “The Little Dream” by Robin M. Eames*
Sylvia’s superpowers of a minor variety are nice enough on the days that they work, which are also the days when her body is more cooperative.

4.  “The End of the World in Five Dates” by Claire Humphrey
When you can see the end of the world coming… why take care of yourself?

5.  “The Pond” by Aimee Ogden*
Messages from a lost child appear to his mother on the ice of the pond where he died.

6.  “Into the Nth Dimension” by David D. Levine
The nefarious Dr. Diabolus’s newest invention transports the superhero of our story into the “real” world.

Honorable Mentions

“For She is the Stars and the Sun Revolves Around Her” by Agatha Tan

“And the Blood of Dead Gods Will Mark the Score” by Gary Kloster

“How to Become a Robot in 12 Easy Steps” by A. Merc Rustad

 

 

 

Long List Anthology Vol 2 Kickstarter!

written by David Steffen

long-list-antho-cover-art-color-comp-lg-1The Kickstarter has been launched for the Long List Anthology Volume 2!

Same premise as last year, to put together an anthology of works from the longer Hugo Award nomination list.  This year, Galen Dara has been commissioned for original cover art–the art at the top of the post is not the final version, it is a color proof of the art, but the final version will be shared as soon as possible.

Check out the rewards, besides copies of the books there are critiques from Martin L. Shoemaker, Sunil Patel, Erica Satifka and myself.

Check out the Kickstarter page for additional information, but here’s the list of the stories that will be included if funding levels are reached.

Short Stories and Letters (base goal)

  • “Three Cups of Grief, By Starlight” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “Madeleine” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “Pockets” by Amal El-Mohtar
  • “Tuesdays With Molakesh the Destroyer” by Megan Grey
  • “The Women You Didn’t See” by Nicola Griffith (a letter from Letters to Tiptree)
  • “Damage” by David D. Levine
  • “Neat Things” by Seanan McGuire (a letter from Letters To Tiptree)
  • “Today I Am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker
  • “Pocosin” by Ursula Vernon
  • “Wooden Feathers” by Ursula Vernon
  • “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” by Alyssa Wong

Novelettes (stretch goal at $3900)

  • “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” by Elizabeth Bear
  • “So Much Cooking” by Naomi Kritzer
  • “Another Word For World” by Ann Leckie
  • “Grandmother-nai-Leylit’s Cloth of Winds” by Rose Lemberg
  • “The Deepwater Bride” by Tamsyn Muir
  • “The Long Goodnight of Violet Wild” by Catherynne M. Valente
  • Up to 1 other

Novellas (stretch goal at $5000)

  • “The Pauper Prince and the Eucalyptus Jinn” by Usman T. Malik
  • “The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps” by Kai Ashante Wilson

Using SF Podcasts to teach Business and Economics

written by Moritz Botts

Who wouldn’t have liked to have studied their university subject using their favorite science fiction or fantasy stories? I missed a crossover between my favorite genre fiction and the subject he was studying, so when I became a PhD student and lecturer at a German university, I decided to take matters into my own hands and asked my professor if I could teach a business course using Escape Pod as the main source. I might have understated the fact that Escape Pod is a science fiction podcast thoughâ€

The first question of course is, whether science fiction or fantasy stories lend themselves to the subject that is taught. Accounting would be a difficult subject to teach with a Robert E. Heinlein story, and human anatomy courses should probably stick to the regular, human based textbooks. There are certainly fields which are much more open to genre fiction, like anthropology, which Julianna Beaudoin of Western University in London, Canada, teaches via science fiction and fantasy classics. Authors like Ursula K. LeGuin, a daughter of anthropologists, immediately come to mind in this field. Ram Mudambi of Temple University, PA, uses the fantasy novel The Empire of the Zon as a source for his undergrad international business classes. If a manager has to study foreign cultures and their ways of doing business, why not go for a totally foreign, a fantasy culture? I decided to not rely on my students’ motivation to read though, but rather thought that podcasts would be a solution that make it more likely that students could listen to the “required listening of the week” during their commute, while exercising, or while shopping. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that all podcasts offered by Escape Artists are available free of charge.

Before the course began, I asked myself a couple of questions: Were Escape Pod, Podcastle, or even Pseudopod, podcasts I have been following since 2010, suitable for a university course? Would the young generation of students be open to genre fiction? Could podcasts make it easier for students to follow the course? There was only one way to find out!

In the summer of 2014, the course “Business and Economics in Fiction Podcasts” was offered to undergraduate students of international business at a German public university. The university has a strong international focus, and more than 50% of the students who eventually signed up for this course were exchange students from the European Erasmus program, coming from countries such as Poland, Russia, Turkey, France, Italy, or Greece.

Students picked a podcast from a selection of science fiction and some fantasy podcasts, mostly from Escape Pod and Podcastle. I had preselected these podcasts to include some economics or business related topic, often following suggestions from Escape Artists’ forums. These included totally new takes on supply and demand with Nancy Kress’ “Nano comes to Clifford Falls” (EP 075), the meaning of value with Daniel Abraham’s “The Cambist and Lord Iron” (PC 051), or intercultural communication with David D. Levine’s “Tk’tk’tk” (EP 045). You can see the complete list of stories at the end of this article. In many cases, this meant near future stories with social criticism by authors such as Nancy Kress or Cory Doctorow. Even though students would usually be 21 years old or older, no Pseudopod stories were selected.

The course was offered as a “soft skills” course with credits but no grade, to make it easier to experiment a bit. A typical week would include two presentations by student groups and a section on different academic skills, such as presenting, citation, editing podcasts, or creating a wiki. Therefore, even if the idea of using the podcasts terribly backfired, the students would have still taken something useful with them.

The results of the course were somewhat mixed. On the one hand, all stories were suitable to be used as case studies in economics or business on an undergraduate level. One German student mentioned that he had been very skeptical about using science fiction stories at first, but when he listened to his story – Paolo Bacigalupi’s “The Tamarisk Hunter” (EP 384) , he immediately “got it”. A group of Turkish students presented Tobias Buckell’s “Anakoinosis” and expressed a deep concern for the ethical issues discussed in the story. For me, it was initially a bit weird to hear my students present genre fiction authors and talk about the awards they got, but why should a story concerning aliens and spaceships be any weirder than a business case?

The lack of a grade for the course led to a couple of rather lackluster presentations though, and not all students would listen to the podcasts regularly. For future iterations of this course, incentives for a stronger engagement of the students should be given. Also, as the stories seem to “work” in an academic setting, grades could certainly be given, which should raise the quality of the students’ presentations.

To evaluate the course, I handed out a questionnaire during the last class. This survey is not really representative, because of the small class size. Nevertheless, there are a couple of trends that can be seen. Most students hadn’t really heard of podcasts before the start of the course. They usually listened to the course’s story on their computer while not doing anything else. There was only one native speaker of English in the course, and most students found it easier to follow the stories in a written format alongside the audio file.

About half of the students actually like science fiction stories. While most students only listened to a couple of the podcasts, they usually listened to more than one, the most popular being “Tk’tk’tk”.

I am sure that I will offer this course again in an upcoming semester. New and engaging Escape Pod (and Podcastle and Pseudopod) stories will certainly enhance the next course, so keep them coming!

 

Short stories included in the Curriculum

Week 1: From Babel’s Fall’n Glory We Fled… (Michael Swanwick), Escape Pod
Week 2: Accounting for Dragons (Eric James Stone), Podcastle
Week 3: Nano Comes to Clifford Falls (Nancy Kress), Escape Pod
Week 3: The Tamarisk Hunter (Paolo Bacigalupi), Escape Pod
Week 4: Dragonomics (Lance Shonberg), Cast of Wonders
Week 4: The Cambist and Lord Iron (Daniel Abraham), Podcastle
Week 5: Anakoinosis (Tobias Buckell); Dunesteef
Week 5: Special Economics (Maureen F. McHugh), Clarkesworld
Week 6: Anda’s Game (Cores Doctorow), Podiobooks
Week 6: Patent Infringement (Nancy Kress), Escape Pod
Week 7: Just Do It (Heather Lindsley), Escape Pod
Week 7: Tk’tk’tk (David D. Levine), Escape Pod


MoritzBottsMoritz Botts is a research and teaching assistant at European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany. His research focuses on intercultural differences in management, while his teaching includes international management and innovation management. He is also an intercultural trainer and interested in innovative teaching methods with diverse media. He has written a horror short story in German published in an anthology and various academic articles. You can contact Moritz at botts@europa-uni.de

 

Daily Science Fiction: September 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

RECOMMENDED

 

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

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

 

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

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

RECOMMENDED

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Short and sweet.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

RECOMMENDED

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Not my cup of tea.

 

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

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

RECOMMENDED

 

Looking for a little exposure?

Have a book, event, blog, or product you’d like to showcase? Looking for a way to spread the word on your awesome idea? Is there a specific group (like sci-fi or fantasy readers) you’d like to target? Welllll, why not paste an ad in a distributor that hits the email inboxes (not spam) of several thousand’s every day. A publication that attracts loyal readers, dedicated readers, and committed readers of speculative fiction. What is this wonderful place? Let’s see†had the name on the tip of my tongue†wrote it down somewhere†don’t tell me†Here it is!

DAILY SCIENCE FICTION!

Not sure how to contact them. I’ll leave up to the bio guy.

 

logo-overDaily Science Fiction is a popular, professional venue for both science fiction and fantasy. Unlike other online professional magazines, we email stories to our subscribers each weekday. This provides a unique opportunity to reach a set group of dedicated genre readers on their “home turf,” in their inbox, where they’ve invited us to share.

We’re in our fourth year of publication, an established and reliable place for fans to find top names in the field and exciting new authors. The Daily Science Fiction website gets about 65,000 page views every month, reaching more than 12,000 unique readers. Our email subscriber list exceeds 7,500.

The Best of Journey Into…

written by David Steffen

Journey Into… is one of the newer fiction podcasts out there, its first episode running in June 2011. It is the brainchild of Marshal Latham, who I’d mostly known as one of the staff members over at Escape Pod (a forum moderator, among other things). But just because it’s new doesn’t mean that it isn’t quality. He’s had prior production experience as one of the volunteer episode producers for the Dunesteef podcast.

Journey Into… is a little different from the other podcasts I listen to in that mixed in with newly produced fiction, he also mixes in episodes from old time radio fiction like X Minus One and Suspense. Part of the reason he does it is to help with time budgeting so that he doesn’t have so many stories to produce from scratch, but it gives the podcast a unique feel and gives me a chance to listen to some of those old shows that were before my time.

Good work, Marshal, and keep it up!

1. Red Road by David Barr Kirtley
Usually I’m not a big fan of stories with talking animals taking human-like roles. At least not in adult stories–in kid stories they’re fine. I just find them very hard to take seriously. But this story is a strong exception. I first read this in Intergalactic Medicine Show some years ago, and it is very powerful. A good quest with a solid emotional core and solid characters. Parts of this leave me with chills.

2. The Machine Stops (Part 1 and Part 2) by E.M. Forster
A very interesting story of a future world where we have become over-dependent on a network of machines that has joined together into one massive world-spanning machine that makes all of our decisions for us. The world society all but treats it as a deity, but without saying so. But some members of the society are bothered by this.

3. Dream Engine (Part 1 and Part 2) by Tim Pratt
Tim Pratt is my favorite short story author, so it’s no surprise that his story would end up here. This story takes place in the Nex, a city that exists in a hub of parallel worlds, with other worlds constantly rotating around it in near reach. The economy and well-being of this world depends on the engines that grab goods from these nearby worlds, but now a monster threatens the Nex and everyone in it.

4. The Trial of Thomas Jefferson by David Barr Kirtley
Time travel is possible, but you can’t change history because it takes huge amounts of energy to keep the reality on the other side in existence. What you can do is open a portal to the past and pull something back through to your time. In this story, prominent figures from history are pulled through to stand trial for their crimes. No one balks when this is Adolf Hitler, but what about those members of history that most see in a more positive light?

5. Zero Hour by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury does creepy children stories extremely well, as in this story where children claim that invisible aliens are communicating with them.

6. The Last Days of the Kelly Gang by David D Levine
Australian steampunk with a steam-powered armor suit coming into the hands of a legendary outlaw.

 

Honorable Mentions

Hop Frog by Edgar Allen Poe
Never heard of this one by Poe, but it is very good, very dark.

The Fog Horn by Ray Bradbury
You’ve got to love a story that makes you sympathize with a monster.

The Roads Must Roll by Robert A. Heinlein
Instead of developing a highway system for transport, this world creates moving conveyor belt network that covers the country.


 

 

Daily Science Fiction: March 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

I have been looking forward to this month for a very long time. Why? Read onâ€

 

The protagonist teaches his daughter on the realities of genie-powered electricity in “Genie Electric” by Andrew Kaye (debut 3/1 and reviewed by Frank D). A light bulb has burned out. The genie who powered it, died. This makes the protagonist’s daughter sad but genies are what makes the world go around.

“Genie Electric” is a parallel world where genies are electrically charged beings. A history lesson using the same names who discovered how to harness electricity in our world, as the masters who learned how to harness the magical being’s power. The little girl in this tale becomes regretful that we have used others as slaves to improve our own welfare.

The story is cuter than my harsh synopsis. For a flash story, I found it to be very clever. Well worth a read.

 

“The Sacred Tree” by Mike Resnick (debut 3/2 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) is a story of the Yakima. They are a Northwestern tribe and are threatened by the white man, who has come to claim their land, their women and their souls. When the Indian agent threatens to conscript members of the tribe as scouts, killing two men in the process, the tribe seeks help from the spirits. The medicine man asks for help from the sacred tree, his wish is granted, but at what cost?

I loved this story, but that may be because I grew up in the west and went to school at a university that has a Native American tradition. The lore of the indigenous peoples is strong in the west and this story captures that essence beautifully. The author also manages to drive the tale forward to today, and shows us that powerful gifts often require great sacrifice. I recommend this story to everyone who wants to understand this culture.

 

“The Way” by Frank Dutkiewicz (debut 3/2 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). John and Helen are old and feel they are becoming a burden to their children. They set out on one last adventure, one last memory before all the memories fade. One more spin around the block before life winds down. What they find is themselves and the joy they once knew.

This is a well written tale of life and love. It wraps the reader in the lives of these two people, nearing the end of their journey. While the tale is about John and Helen, most of us will see ourselves in their story. The author has done a superb job of weaving hope and joy into that last stage of life. I can recommend this story to anyone who wants to feel that for themselves.

 

“Painted Haven” by Michael Banker (debut 3/6 and reviewed by Frank D). Light is taking over. Not sunlight but brightness with substances. The strange stuff frightens Alyssa. She runs to her old boyfriend; confident Henry will know what to do. She finds him painting his apartment, a last ditch solution to keep the light at bay.

“Painted Haven” is one of those rare short stories that had me on the edge of my seat in the first paragraph. The strange light that falls like snow had me completely intrigued. I had hoped Henry would have some sort of answer but the guy turned out to be a flake. The promising and intriguing premise quickly became something I hadn’t bargained for when I first dove in. Although the story took a path I’d rather not gone down, a touching moment of the once couple reminiscing, painting scenes of there life together while they cover the walls to keep the unknown at bay.

Although the second half of this tale didn’t turn out the way I hoped, “Painted Haven” still was a nice story. I’m betting more than a few were glad it traveled in the direction the author took it.

 

A man makes it his life long quest to discover “How Love Works” by Stephen Gaskell (debut 3/7 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this tale suffers a broken heart from his first teenage love and spends the rest of his life recovering from it.

The story is part of the numbers quartet, using Planck’s Constant as its trigger. The lad in this tale lives a full life, full enough to make me envious. The tale thinly links to the trigger.

 

In “Prophet” by Laura Lee McArdle (debut 3/8 and reviewed by Anonymous), a precocious 4 year old is conversing with God about his decision to make a rather unimaginative and orderly woman a pre-school teacher. It is an interesting conversation and is well-written and nicely paced, and, of course, you’d imagine God has all the answers..

Let’s just say God provides the raw materials…

I enjoyed this short story and would give it a 5 and half rocket dragons (out of seven).

 

The main character in “Insomnia” by A.G. Carpenter (debut 3/9 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) is an assassin, but the good kind. His job is to eliminate people who will cause problems for mankind in the future. The side effect is a never-ending parade of hallucinations and endless insomnia. When he is tasked to kill the witness of his latest hit he can no longer stand the strain and saves her. After all, he wonders, how much damage can one person do.

This is a nice story, well setup and neatly plotted. The writing is crisp and clear. There is enough of a twist in the vaguely familiar tale to keep you interested. I also liked the slightly noir overtone in the story. A nice read for a little daily diversion.

 

“The Take” by Alex Shvartsman (debut 3/12 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Ever wonder what happens to actors when new technology replaces older forms of entertainment? Like those silent stars that lost their jobs when talking pictures came into being, plays and movies become extinct when real life experiences become possible to experience? What will those involved in the more traditional theater have to give up to stay employed?

The story here is one of confused reality occasioned by new technology. The author has done a fairly good job of giving us some insight to those left behind as science advances. The theme has been handled by better by others, but this is a good effort. It is well written and works on a basic level.

 

A patient is being given some terminal news in “Mortal Coil” by Ian Nichols (debut 3/13 and reviewed by Anonymous). This story is told from the perspective of the doctor. Apparently the patient suffers from a syndrome that causes him to reject some of the technology floating in his bloodstream–tech that keeps living. The doc has to give him the bad news…

A nicely written flash story with a simple twist at the end. I quite enjoyed it and the medical elements were well done. Five out of seven rocket dragons.

 

Space and time separate Vu and Loi. The distance between the two siblings is as great as their link is strong in “The Heartless Light of Stars” by Aliette de Bodard (debut 3/14 and reviewed by Frank D).

Loi was the eldest of his Vietnamese family, keeper of the ancestral shrine. Despite the eight year distance in time, Vu eagerly awaits Loi’s video messages. An ansible station has immediate information but such equipment is out of the reach of ordinary citizens. Vu instead must wait for eight year news, even when he is aware of the eventual outcome in Loi’s destiny.

“Heartless” focuses on the family structure of this sibling pair but the real draw of this tale is the eight year day-to-day information Vu receives even when he knows of his brother’s fate. When the gravity of the story is revealed, the reality of what Vu is putting himself through, turns the story into a voice from the past instead of a letter from overseas experience. The subtleness of Ms Bodard’s ability to spring a twist sets her apart from many other writers. A pity the twist made the backstory almost irrelevant, but then again, that may be why the twist works so well.

 

“The Body Shop” by Devin Wallace (debut 3/15 and reviewed by Frank D). James needs to buy his daughter something important. Body shops need to turn a profit, however. Fortunately, James has just what they need for him to complete a trade.

“The Body Shop” is set in a future where pawn shops we’ll deal with anything. James is a parent who proves he is willing to do anything for his angel. The most impressive thing about this tale was the author is still in high school. I see big things in young Mr Wallace’s future.

 

A girl sacrifices truth to satisfy her vanity in “No Gifts of Words” by Annie Bellet (debut 3/16 and reviewed by Frank D). Afua is ugly. She wishes to be beautiful so attempts a foolhardy theft of a witches’ potion. The witch catches her in the act and condemns her to a life of lies.

“No Gifts” is the tale of a girl living with the consequences of her actions. Afua had hoped to be free from the torment of being different. The potion granted her beauty but a curse of never being able to tell the truth had left her friendless. Her life takes a twist when a handsome king stops near the field in which she works. She declares herself a queen of the lemurs to him. The lie amuses the king. A few days later, a lemur appears. The creature becomes mesmerized by Afua as she tells her lies of amusement to him.

I found this story attractive. Although it drifted, and the twist was predictable, I couldn’t help but to be drawn into this curious tale. A well-written fable.

 

“Memories of My Mother” by Ken Liu (debut 3/18 and reviewed by Frank D). Amy’s mother is dying. She has only a couple years to live but thanks to the miracle of light speed space travel, she can see her daughter grow up.

“Memories” is a collection of short visits Amy has with her mother. Once every seven years, Mom returns for a day. Catching up on seven years in one day is no way to carry out a relationship. Amy is left confused with each visit, caught between resentment and gratitude for a mother she sees briefly.

I can’t imagine a woman, even a dying one, would leave after spending a day with a child , or rebellious teenager. It would feel like abandonment to me and I can’t see how anyone else wouldn’t see it the same way. Original idea, would have been better if lengthened and the premise hashed out in greater detail.

 

“Guaranteed to Work” by Lee Hallison (debut 3/20 and reviewed by Frank D). The magic has gone out of Ruth and Frank’s marriage. Retirement has not turned out as Ruth had envisioned it. Instead of traveling and enjoying the last years of their life, Frank has become crotchety and distant. Resentment builds for her. A kindly old man at the coffee shop has a solution to her problem; a love potion. A powder that make them forget all the petty annoyances that has become their life.

“Guaranteed” is a fantasy story that is frighteningly close to reality. The everyday irritations that bugs Ruth about her husband has crescendo to a constant nails-on-chalkboard nuisance. You can see her feelings toward Frank has become something closer to hate than love. Ruth’s godfather offers her a chance to bring back the love they had in their youth. The choice sounds like a no-brainer until Ruth analyzes what ‘change’ really means.

I confess, I reread the ending several times and I’m still not sure exactly what happened. Although I felt unsatisfied with the conclusion I must say this tale was more of an eye opener than most I’ve read before. Ms Hallison deserves a lot of credit for making a fantasy story read a lot more real than the majority of non-speculative stuff I’ve read before. Well done.

 

“Godshift” by Nancy Fulda (debut 3/21 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) has something for everyone.

Science discovery: “Ladies and gentlemen, we have just provided experimental validation for string theory.”

Hard science: “String theory predicted that space-time encompassed ten or more dimensions, most of them curled up so tightly as to be unobservable. Even the Large Hadron Collider was unable to generate enough energy to perceive them. Ilyona had first suggested using M-brane topologies to uncurl localized segments of higher-order dimensions.”

Mysterious, global phenomenon: “Over the past three days, there have been 165 cases of criminals brought to justice by natural forcesâ€And all of them, every last one, occurred during one of our five-minute luminosity peaks”

Science debate: “Give up the search for the extra dimensions predicted by string theory, just because a series of absurdities occurred while we were accelerating particles?… Co-occurrence does not imply causality.”

Famous science device: “Large Hadron Collider, world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator.”

Fundamental science concepts challenged: “All of the results agree with each other if we assume a change in the generally accepted physical constants.” “Physical constants don’t change. That’s why they’re constants.” “Well, yesterday, they did. For exactly five minutes, the gravitational constant decreased by 0.003 Ã’- 10â˒11. The speed of light increased by 512 meters per second. And the weak nuclear force appears to have fluctuated, as well.”

Science premise: “If one supposed that God existed within the fabric of the Universe–was the Universe, for lack of a better description–and if one used the Large Hadron Collider to alter the physical constants that governed the Universe…Then one must, of necessity, have also altered the nature of God.”

Religious-philosophical debate: “Because if you’d ever believed in Him–really believed–you’d have asked yourself, eventually, why He allows horrible things to happen in this world. You’d have asked yourself how God can let children suffer; why He doesn’t come down and do something about it.” “Well, according to every religious nut on a soap box, He did something about it today.”

Office romance, his version: “He probably should not have slept with her. They always got arrogant afterwards. But he had such a weakness for students who were so obviously dazzled by his brilliance.”

Office romance, her version: “It wasn’t smart to snap at your thesis advisor. Especially not when you were sleeping with him to make sure your name actually ended up on the research papers.”

In the midst of all the discussion about data and debate about implications, God manifests. How’s that for an ambitious plot device.

“Godshift” is about the age old struggle between a scientist and a religionist. Both are true believers. Despite ensuring that his name will be a household word for the rest of the history of the human race, the scientist isn’t satisfied. He wants to keep pushing buttons. The religionist cannot accept tampering with God and intervenes to stop the scientist from pushing any more buttons. Judging from the ending, the religionist will probably prevail. Ah, but in the interval, the scientist has enough time to push plenty more buttons.

The presentation is mostly pedestrian, but Fulda ‘s flare that we saw in her two Nebula stories – “Flashback” and “Movement” – peeks through in a few places: “The feeling was back again, a vague sense of wrongness that had permeated each of their research runs over the past three days. It was a fleeting, tentative thing, hard to put your finger on; like walking into a familiar room and finding all the furniture moved one inch to the rightâ€And it was back again: the sense of wrongness, as if all the light in the room suddenly came from a different direction.”

This story is part of a series by 4 established authors who refer to themselves as the Numbers Quartet. Every story is based on a dozen physical and mathematical constants – pi, zero, speed of light, etc. In this case, infinity. The other three authors are Aliette de Bodard, Stephen Gaskell, and Benjamin Rosenbaum. All the stories are short pieces and were published in Daily Science Fiction between January 12 and March 28, 2012. The stories appeared in chronological sequence, with the oldest developed concept, pi, being first.

 

“The Fabulous Hotel” by Sandra McDonald (debut 3/22 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

In a dystopian future, one man’s vision of a grand hotel is well received. Permission granted, he sinks deep, deeper than anyone should, into his plans. Abandoning everything but his vision, he draws, and draws, and draws.

I liked this story, but I’m not sure if it’s a commentary on never reaching perfection, or a straight tale of futility in a futile world. Read it, decide for yourself.

 

“Frog/Prince” by Melissa Mead (debut 3/23 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

Normally when a princess kisses a frog, he springs into manly form, fully clothed and with a grasp of language that I’m still working to attain. Thanks to Melissa Mead, we get the perspective of a frog who is, well, a frog. Becoming a man was not on his short list of things to do today. (List provided by the author.)

At first he wrestles with having to become a prince, but later embraces it. After all, the princess – is a princess. Around 3/4 through is where this fairy tale really gets turned on its ear. What happens when a once-frog and a princess have… offspring?

I subtracted one rocket because I felt the ending could have had a little more punch, but the intent is solid, as is the story. Worth checking out.

 

You may want to pay attention to the pre-flight instructions “In The Unlikely Event” by Ferret Steinmetz (debut 3/26 and reviewed by Frank D). This tale is a futuristic look at the hazards of interstellar travel. The story is a friendly announcement from the friendly crew before your spaceship takes part in its decades long journey.

Mr Steinmetz’s inspiration for this humorous piece came to him while he listened to check list of horrible possibilities of air travel the stewardess cheerfully announced before his plane took off. Funny work of flash.

 

“A Different Rain” by Mari Ness (debut 3/27 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Mary had spent her life in space and was eager to enjoy her home planet. She wanted to experience everything, especially the rain. She had only seen it once before and when a sudden storm arose she had her chance. She ran to enjoy it, even if it was a different kind of rain.

This is a nice little tale about expectations. Those things we dream of are seldom what we expect when we finally get them. Sometimes they are better, but more often than not they are worse. Mary would find that fulfilling expectations is difficult. I found this story interesting enough, even if it was somewhat expected.

 

She found the dark cloak in her closet, buried in the bottom in “Underneath” by Amelia Beamer (debut 3/28 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) . Now she can go out in public and no one will see the self-loathing, the cloak will hide it. But this cloak has a life of its own and soon she can’t separate it from herself. Maybe if she can destroy it she can be herself again. Or can she?

This is either a tale of madness or magic. Maybe it’s both. The author makes an attempt to draw us into the world of the main character and she does a fairly good job, but in the end it fell short for me. The writing is solid enough, but perhaps the subject matter is too dark and conflicted. Maybe the madness too close to the surface to be fully engaging. Some will find this story to their liking, but I wasn’t one of them.

 

A spaceport employee is “Offering Solace” by Jamie Lackey (debut 3/29 and reviewed by Frank D) to travelers. Her solace is a liquid in a bowl. She offers passerby’s a free whiff. The aroma is unique to each customer. The protagonist feels unappreciated, for she pours herself into her work.

“Offering Solace” was a sweet story that had an unexpectedly dark ending. It left me not knowing how I should feel about it.

 

A Wizard’s loyalties are tested in “The White Raven’s Feather” by David D. Levine (debut 3/31 and reviewed by Frank D). Ibude is a prisoner. A wizard, spoil of a lost war, serves his master , the Karshan Warhalt Kraig. He works on a magical spell he and lost wife had been working on before his home, Ubini, had fallen. He is still a year away from completing his work but Kraig is becoming impatient. Ibude does the only thing he can do to aid his master, reveal the positions of enemy.

But the spell shows Karshan’s enemy and former ally, the Svaargelders, soldiers massing near a cliff. Ibude recognizes the spell the enemy is about to use and realizes his wife and partner in magic, Ejira, work.

“White Raven” is a gripping tale of a man forced to use his genius to aid a people who destroyed all he held dear. An agreement between Karshan and Svaargelder split the married pair. Ibude was told if he were to die or escape his wife would be immediately executed. It is his genius that has kept him alive. He is overjoyed when he learns that his wife is still alive. His plot to be reunited with her takes a turn when Svaargelder soldiers coalesce out of thin air and are within the walls of the city.

I found myself intrigued with this tale. The tension and anxiety Ibude experience’s is brought to life for the reader. He is a pacifist forced to abandon his principles. His belief that Ejira shares his morals is dashed deep in the story. What I really enjoyed was the path Mr Levine chose for a resolution to Ibude’s dilemma.

Good Sci-fi and fantasy use the wide open settings only those genres are capable of bringing to life, as a canvas of commentary of the people we are today. Great writers can do it so well you may not even notice the subtle metaphor they so artfully articulate.

Recommended.

 

Should the name say it all?

I recently turned an avid reader of all types of fiction onto DSF. He said (not first time I heard this) that he didn’t realize DSF published fantasy. He assumed the magazine published only science fiction. He has come to enjoy receiving their daily emails but his confusion brings to light an inherent problem Daily SF has.

Daily SF is one of the most inclusive speculative fiction markets in the industry, but you wouldn’t know that unless you actually took the time to view their library (or read more than a weeks worth of material). A lot of people won’t read science fiction. Too many place the genre in a Star Trek/Star Wars box. The fact of the matter is more lovers of speculative fiction gravitate to fantasy than science fiction, and horror (vampires, zombies, and the like) is quickly coming up the rear. DSF publishes all of this (and a lot more) but too many readers don’t know it.

So, is a name change in order? Would the magazine be more attractive to a wider audience if DSF became Daily Science Fiction and Fantasy? Maybeâ€.

Have you seen Mr Anonymous? His whereabouts are unknown. I haven’t heard from him in a very long time and I am getting concerned. I would give you a description but my arrangement with him forbids me to do so. So I can’t tell you his height, age, race, hair color, if he has hair, where he lives, what hemisphere he resides in, what he drives, if he drives, his spouses description, his sexual preference, or what type of pet he has. I can’t even confirm his real gender. But, if you have seen, him, her, them (?), please let me know.

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.