“I Will Remain” in After Death anthology

written by David Steffen

The After Death anthology, edited by Eric Guignard with my story “I Will Remain” is now available for sale. It’s anthology of stories that take place after death, one of my favorite topics to contemplate and write about.

I have good company in the anthology, Deborah Walker, Steve Rasnic Tem, and David Tallerman to name just a few.

My story’s about an English dog who remembers being a man, but it’s not as
straightforward as it might sound–I just don’t want to spoil it because it’s a story that I think will work better without foreknowledge of it.

If you get a chance to read it, let me know what you think!

Daily Science Fiction: November 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Appreciating the appreciationsâ€

I was posed with the questionâ€

Why do writers review?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep up the good work.

Have a Happy New Year!

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

Daily Science Fiction: December 2011 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

This marks the end of Daily Science Fiction‘s first full year of publication. Speculative fiction’s first email service magazine has done well for itself. Although it has lacked the fanfare it deserves, its grass roots ascension in the market has not gone completely unnoticed. Two respectful award organizations (Million Writer’s awards and the Micro awards) have nominated several stories that debuted on DSF. Congratulations to Daily SF and its authors.

Now onto this month’s storiesâ€

 

In “Found in the Wreckage” by Marge Simmons (debut 12/1 and reviewed by Anonymous), the author re-works a theme from Maria Doria Russell’s The Sparrow. A young woman is found in a crashed spacecraft, by a human-like alien male.

The male alien is obviously very taken with the woman despite some differences in their physical design and takes it upon himself to look after her. He decides she could be ‘improved’, does the job himself, and then takes her as his mate. Surprisingly, they are clearly compatible, as she becomes pregnant.

This is a story about a how we can impose our own values and beliefs onto others and cause great harm despite not meaning to. I thought the story was smoothly written, but I didn’t get much of an alien feel from the ‘alien’. I am left wondering how they could mate successfully when they have evolved (presumably) on different planets in different systems. I’d rate this as five out of seven rocket-dragons.

 

“The Girl in the Next Room is Crying Again” by Peter M Ball (debut 12/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). I don’t fully understand the connection between smelling and altering someone’s memories, but author Peter Ball makes it work because this is a Story. (Capital S).

We don’t know what the narrator did to warrant a death sentence against his soon-to-arrive former boss, but that doesn’t matter, because we’re firmly planted in the narrator’s shoes and the present is the only thing that matters. To pass the time while waiting for Morley, his former boss to arrive, the narrator listens to and smells and tastes her bitter memories. However, he can’t quite make out why she’s in distress, so he makes up names, histories, and reasons for her sadness.

But what does one do with all these stories, now that they’ve been thought up, they kind of exist, right?

 

Short, sweet, to the point, written well, and what a fun ending! “SchrÃ’ dinger’s Outlaw” by Matthew W Baugh (debut 12/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) has a small prerequisite, in that you know of Erwin SchrÃ’ dinger and his famous “cat” experiment. The experiment is both obscure and well known. The name, yes; the details, generally no.

Presented here are the details, so no need to look any further, only, this time we have the Witchita Kid… and he’s in a quantum state.

 

The author of “Substitution” by Brooke Juliet Wonders (debut 12/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) does a fine job of slowly revealing the true nature of the narrator. Given the short length of the story, this is quite a feat.

The narrator has been replaced by a younger, (newer?) model and is responsible for training him. Yet, the narrator has fallen in love with his owner, and, while perfectly obedient, can’t help but notice all the flaws inherent in the new model.

While reading I felt genuinely sad during most of the story, which is why I rated this quite high. Assuming that was the author’s goal, she succeeded brilliantly. Worth a look.

 

An automated coroner yearns to learn more about death in “Autopsy” by Budge Burgess (debut 12/7 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is an AI unit built to investigate the causes of death. It is very good, but has much it still needs to learn.

“Autopsy” is a slow to develop story, which served it really well. The protagonist is successfully cast as cold and calculating, very fitting indeed. Mr Burgess’s bio says he is a crime writer; he’s good at it. My only complaint is the reveal was sprung a little too quick for me. Nevertheless, a well done story for a sci-fi horror.

 

Jordan (Jonah) is from the future in “A Time to Kill” by Melanie Rees (debut 12/8 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), sent to prevent catastrophic events by eliminating their perpetrators. His current target is Ella, a girl from a time and place just prior to his own. During the execution he comes to question the nature of his tasks, and the infallibility of the council selecting the targets. When the messenger brings the next assignment, he also brings answers to Jonah concerns, but not answers that provide comfort.

This was an interesting thought piece about the nature of time travel and the consequences of “adjusting” the timeline. I was somewhat put off by the writing, however. The story was a little confusing at first, part of the reason may have been the duality of names for the main character. I also found parts of it a little uneven, but overall I liked the story. I would have enjoyed it more if execution were a little better.

 

“Character is What You Are” by Michael R. Fletcher (debut 12/9 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Alex Baker is a Senior Systems Architect at a company obsessed with security. Their primary method of maintaining security for their intellectual property involves a mind plug that ensures loss of the memories accrued during the workday. This sets up a conundrum for Alex, his friend Jason and fellow Senior Systems Architect, Raajaa when off duty and workplace relationships overlap.

This story has a number of interesting facets. The primary interplay between friends and lovers when half your life can’t be remembered is the primary thread. The story also deals with things like corporate ethics, what is reality and what forms our essence. The writing, however, is a little uneven. After a rocky start it settles down to a smoothly told tale that sets up the issues nicely. The ending, however, is a little too smooth given the potential issues set up earlier. It seemed like the author chose to just put together a “and they lived happily ever after” ending without fully addressing some of the deeper elements he brought up earlier.

 

“Inflection” by Tina Connolly (debut 12/12 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is about an Earth woman whose alien friend is leaving. He won’t take her with him. He wants no record of his visit.

Her thoughts are told in short Hemingway type sentences. “She had thought she would not see him again. Thought he would return to his home a billion miles away and never say goodbye. Leave her to her own decisions.”

The dialog is minimal. The title apparently comes from both characters relying heavily on body language. The alien touches parts of his and her body to supplement his words. “Beth had told him her name but he never used it. His name for her was “you,” with a light touch on her chin. He did it now as he spoke, and the anisette of him curled along her skin. She did not know how he would describe her when he returned home, how he would represent she when she was not around to have her jaw line stroked. Silent now, his brittle hands touched her hair, her neck, her jaw again. Without the spoken pronoun what did the touch on her chin mean to him? Half a language was an echo, perhaps, a whisper, voices dying in the distance.” As he is saying goodbye, she distracts herself by cutting up boxes. We get detailed descriptions of this process. “She ran her box cutter down taped seams, split the tape with slashing strokes that ran into the cardboard, ran through the corrugation, frayed bits of brown into fringe.”

The flattened boxes represent the dismantling of their relationship. She agrees there will be no record. The Earth woman is pregnant. The tiniest box represents the baby.

Were they lovers? Is he the father? Has she told him he’s the father? Is he leaving to escape the complications of being a parent to a mixed species? Is she considering an abortion? Such a child would certainly be a record. Is this what he is hinting at when refers to no record? Would she go through with such an abortion? Was she just telling him what he wanted to hear when she said there would be no record? The author lets us draw our own conclusions.

For such a short piece of fiction, “Inflection” has a high percentage of literary devices. No small feat. A good one for the literature textbooks.

 

Peter is a teenager who fishes in the ocean as a hobby. Vesea is a mysterious woman he meets on a train. She has magical powers. When she touches glass, the scenery changes from air to sea. Turns out Vesea is a mermaid type creature. In “Lures, Hooks, and Tails” by Adam Colston (debut 12/13 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter), Peter gets a chilling history lesson about Vesea and her species. Fantasy-horror. Pretty good.

 

“A Stitch in Space-time” by Nicky Drayden (debut 12/14 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a tale of interdimensional monsters, forbidden technology, and betrayed love. Monsters from another dimension feed on electric pulses, so technology is banned. Before the monster invasion, the husband was a movie actor. Now he has to settle for the stage. But his wife wants to make a movie for him and starring him. Trouble is, if the movie is too long, the monsters break through from the other dimension in search of the electric pulses from the camera. The premise is clever, but the characters are arch typical and the plot is all too predictable, so pass on this one.

 

“Not a Prince” by Kathryn Yelinek (debut 12/15 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a very unoriginal story about teenage heartbreak and teenage mischief. The plot is thickened by magical powers and a police investigation. But this ending is also predictable, so pass on this one too.

 

“The Black Spirits Which Rage In The Belly Of Rogue Locomotives” by Rahul Kanakia (debut 12/16 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter).

“On the evening that Jack’s mother became a robot, she was enmeshed in the cushions of a sofa as another Law and Order plot was poured into her, one dripping burst of photons at a time, twenty-four times per second. Her mind was ensnared, as per seven o’clock routine, by the grotesque symmetries of situation and resolution, the carefully-crafted simulation plugging itself into her cerebellum through the bare sockets of her eyes, the whirring circle of plot squaring itself in memetic resolutions, each frame carrying the genetic code to build an entire episode, an entire series, an entire world.”

Can you resist such an opening? But if the entire story is like this, the reader quickly overdoses.

“That was the death-impulse: thanatos. It wasn’t very strong, and even the slightest danger made the neurons dance and brushed it back with the need for immediate and decisive action. And even after we conquered danger, for a while the effort of keeping our foot on the world’s neck was enough to stave off death’s final victory, even as, unknowing, we built up the huge edifice of annihilation higher and higher around us and walled ourselves inside it.”

I have no doubt that this makes perfect sense to the author, but it’s all one hand clapping to me. And again, the story contents a very large dose. But author doesn’t stop with fiction. From the author’s notes: “Baudrillard singled out J. G. Ballard’s Crash as “the first great novel of the universe of simulation”. In order to try to wrap my head around what Baudrillard’s aesthetic might mean in practical terms, I went ahead and read Crash. I cannot say that I enjoyed the novel. At the time, I wrote that Crash was “one of the only books I’ve read that has physically nauseated me. Reading it is like driving for twelve hours straight. Your head starts to throb and you get a sick, twisting feeling in your stomach.” That’s exactly how I felt reading “The Black Spirits Which Rage In The Belly Of Rogue Locomotives” by Rahul Kanakia. The title should have clued me into what was in store for me.

“I did not understand it, but there was an incandescence in those foreign polysyllables. It’s a rhetoric that uses technical and mechanical terminology to achieve effects that science fiction rarely strives for. I decided to write a story that tapped into that same rhetoric. The title of this story comes from a line in F. T. Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, which has fascinated me for years, and which certainly seems like some kind of spiritual forebear to Crash in terms of singing the beauty of speed.” Perhaps write a Master’s thesis about this, but don’t torture sci-fi/fantasy fans with it. At least we can say that since this was published digitally, brains were fried but no trees died.

 

A young girl sees the world differently in “Butterfly Shaped Objects” by George Potter (debut 12/19 and reviewed by Frank). The little girl sees the world as a lie. Living things are but mechanical objects to her. Knowing not what to do with her, the people put her in an institution, where she lives for the rest of her short life.

I was not satisfied with this tale. The reader is left to wonder if she is mad or possesses an ability no one else has. Whatever the case, the ending is bleak and the story is unresolved.

 

“Are You There? Are You Safe? Is The Flock Safe?” by D. Robert Harman (debut 12/20 and reviewed by Frank) is the story of a man who watches over engineered birds on a colony world. The birds are copies , the DNA of the originals were damaged on the voyage. Turner studies the birds and learns their calls. The copies are different than the Earth’s species, becoming a far tighter group than its original cousins.

“Are You There?” is one odd bird of a tale. Turner becomes an outdoor recluse, choosing to remain a part of the phony birds’ community rather than be a part of society. The story fizzles and the end left me wondering of its greater point.

 

“Crickets” by William Greeley (debut 12/21 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a SETI story with a snippet of a plot and an unclear purpose. There seems to be a message. If the message is deliberate, it’s a decidedly anti-SETI message.

 

“Naughty or Nice?” by James S. Dorr (debut 12/22 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is about a civilized, self-justified, vampire prostitute who takes Christmas off and writes to Santa. She hangs with human working girls and compares her services with theirs. She describes her relationship with her clients. She delves into past life dating back hundreds of years. Is she naughty or nice? Readers are left to draw their own conclusions. Suffice it to say, she makes a strong case for herself. Never mind pondering whether she can convince Santa she’s nice and not naughty. No, ponder instead Santa’s reaction. Surely he’s never read a letter like this one. The premise would make a basis for an enjoyable novel, movie, or maybe even a TV series. Since this story is flash, the reader is left wanting a longer dairy of this very sexy and very charming bloodsucker.

 

“Don Sebastian’s Treasure” by Colin Harvey (debut 12/23 and reviewed by Frank D).

Rob is a tourist, drawn to the island of Ceftanalona in search of a locomotive that doesn’t exist. The train is said to be the property of Don Sebastian, martyr of the revolution that freed the island from Spain a century before. Rob is rebuffed by his tour guide, Isabella, when he questions her about the train. Rob’s grandfather saw it in his youth and now Rob wants to fulfill a promise by proving it exists.

The tale of Don Sebastian proves to be grander than a mere train, though. The martyr was said to have no family to carry on his name but plenty of descendants. Legend has it that he found the fountain of youth, but claims that he was immortal is dismissed as several Don Sebastian’s who continued on with his name. The legend of Don includes a curse against his descendants and a promise of death for those who dared to touch his train.

“Don Sebastian’s Treasure” is a complicated tale. Rob’s desire to prove the train existed puts him at odds with Isabella. Rob softens the hard woman when he offers to watch over her Alzheimer-inflicted mother so she can work.

I found “Don” a chore to follow. The tale is far more intricate than I felt it needed to be. It had the flavor of a far longer romantic tale, and in truth, the story may have had a greater appeal if lengthen and marketed as such.

This is the second, and last, tale of the late Mr Harvey DSF published. I adored his first but wasn’t as taken in with this one. Nevertheless, Colin’s skill was on full display here. His characters were brought to life for me and his premise was filled with creativity that is hard to match. A true talent that we will all miss.

 

A schoolboy outcast uses his gift of precognition to avoid teasing in “Ten Seconds” by Scott W. Baker (debut 12/26 and reviewed by Frank D). Max is a favorite target of bullies. His ability to see into the future a mere ten seconds helps only a little, making him a challenging target for tormentors. A new girl offers him a reprieve, a chance to make someone else the target. Belinda is just the person to get him off the bottom rung of the pecking order, but using another as fodder is no way to get ahead, and they may be more alike than Max could have foreseen.

“Ten Seconds” is a unique spin on childhood hazing. Max’s gift has a limited ability. It has its benefits in helping him look bright in the classroom but is of no use in a test. Belinda is understanding, giving Max a break and proving she can more of an asset than an alternative target for him.

I found this tale fun, cute, and fitting. I would like to think a ten second gift of precognition would be more of benefit than dodging spitballs but we are talking about ten year olds after all. This short story is one worthy of brightening your morning.

 

“Gifted and Talented” by Sadie Mattox (debut 12/27 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of young artist who can bring his drawings to life. Charlie shows he has the gift but does he have the talent to make his gift worthwhile? Charlie’s parents take him to a place that measures gifted children.

“Gifted” is a very odd tale. The twist is truly twisted. While reading it, I wondered where the author was heading with the premise. Man did I find out the hard way. A good read for those who like a Stephen King right turn in their fantasy.

 

“Lists” by Annie Bellet (debut 12/28 and reviewed by Frank D) is just that, a to-do list. The list is rather mundane but filled with items meant to repel vampires. I found it as exciting to read as my list of to-do’s I have at home.

 

“Cold Cuts” by Don Norum (debut 12/29 and reviewed by Frank D). A pair of astronauts must make a tough choice. They’re too heavy and must shed enough weight if they hope to make a tight window to be able to land, but they have thrown out all the extra material they have left. They look at each other, wondering where the dead weight is.

“Cold Cuts” has one wicked twist in store for you. The obvious solution turns out to be not so obvious at all. A well done tale.

Recommended.

 

A family from Earth attempts to fit in, in “Chit Win” by Deborah Walker (debut 12/30 and reviewed by Frank D). Samuel and his family have migrated to a graviller colony on an alien world. Work is what has drawn the family here but the customs of the aliens do not sit well with half of the family. Samuel is eager to be a part of the local clique, so when his sister, Veronica, captures a native veole, he claims it as his own. The veole are prized mole-like creatures the local graviller youth use to stage battles, much like cock fights of Earth. Veronica doesn’t want her new pet to be abused like that but Samuel needs the puny animal if he wants to be part of the gang. Status is everything on this alien colony. Family happiness may have to take a back seat.

“Chit Win” is a tale of the effects of chauvinism on a family. Co-operation Law demands customs follow the native species of the planet, and since the Gravillon founded the colony, their customs reign supreme. The women of Samuel’s family are not taking well to their new home but his father appears to be fitting right in. The strains of their new predicament is starting show on Samuel’s parents, but the colony has a job for Pa, and changing the customs is beyond these Earther’s abilities.

The premise for this story is easy to imagine. Picture a liberal family moving into a very conservative community. For the men, the transition is easy but the girls are now second-class citizens. The capture of the veole brings a new dynamic to the family. A challenge to battle Veronica’s pet by a graviller youth offers a Samuel an opportunity to be part of the group. A clash of acceptance and respect comes to bear, lending to a twist that turns the community on its head.

The tale is told through young Samuel’s eyes. The author, I think, wanted to show chauvinism through of a character who is collaterally caught between two sides. The age of the character lent to a simplification of the narrative , a telling style full of information dumps , not one for me. I found the solution a little too convenient and unlikely. Perhaps an expansion of the idea may have helped but as it is, “Chit Win” was a story not fitting of my tastes.

 

A Fallen Warrior

ÂLast August, the world lost one of its pillars of speculative fiction. Colin Harvey was a man whom I have never met or corresponded with in any fashion, but we had mutual friends and were becoming aware of each other peripherally. His sudden and unexpected death caught everyone by complete surprise. His electronic fingerprints on the internet showed no signs that his time was near. Postings days before his fateful last day spoke of grand and exciting plans.

His story, Chameleon , was the first story of Daily SF I recommended. On his blog, he modestly statedâ€

I’m staggered because as I said in an earlier post, the story virtually wrote itself, and I don’t feel that anything that easy to write could be that good.

Samuel Lemberg apparently disagreed with him, moved enough by it to make a film short of it.

Mr Harvey proved to be a bit prophetic about Daily SF, adding this comment about our early efforts at DPâ€

“â€and to get the insight that many review sites won’t review DSF because ‘there’s too much to review.’ Hopefully Diabolical Plots doesn’t feel that way, and will produce a review of October and subsequent month’s contents, because an awful lot of new, upcoming and talented writers are publishing new there , and it’s free to read.”

I am pleased to say – so far – we have. Daily SF honored Colin by posting at the head of his last published work of fiction, a small retrospect of his contributions to speculative fiction. Colin, like many proud authors, would announce his latest sales on his blog. Judging that he never mentioned Don Sebastian’s Treasure, it’s acceptance likely came after his untimely demise.

So on behalf of all the writers whose trail you helped to blaze before you, I hold my glass in a toast to you. So long my good man whom I would have liked to called a friend. I barely knew ye.

 

Colin Harvey (11/11/1960 , 8/15/2012)

Colin was a driving force in the speculative fiction field in England. A writer, reviewer, and editor, he was nominated for both the British Fantasy Award and the Black Quill Award. He has written several novels including Winter Song, edited anthologies like Dark Spires, and published a collection of his short stories called Displacements.

You can find these and other works of Colin’s at Angry Robot publishing