Interview: Frank Dutkiewicz

interviewed by Carl Slaughter

IMG_20120830_182040_092We asked Frank a long time ago if he would be so kind answer a few questions for us. He said he would as soon as he found a little time. Months went by with excuses like I have to wash my hair, and I need to clean my fingernails, or I got to pick up the dog poop in my yard today, on why he couldn’t give us a few minutes. So we popped in for a visit where we threw a burlap bag over his head, hogtied him, threw him in the back of a trunk, and took him to an undisclosed location to a dark room with hot lights glaring in his face.

 

Thank you for joining us today.

Pleasure to be here. Could you cut the plastic zip-ties around my wrists, please? I can’t feel my fingers.

 

When I first started reading your stories several years ago, your material was barely marketable. You’ve had 2 stories in Daily Science Fiction and you climbed to the top of the Writers of the Future contest. What happened in the interim?

Life. A new job, growing kids, and other responsibilities (car and house maintenance) that take precedence. Writing is but a hobby for me , an activity to help sharpen my dulling mind and keep me preoccupied in a job that keeps me away from home for long stretches of time.

On the writing front: not much. I’ve taken on new responsibilities that are tied to my ‘hobby’ but grant me less time to create new works of fiction. In other words , I am submitting less than I have in the past but I’m not quite out of the game.

 

You were slush editor for Unidentified Funny Objects anthology and the On the Premises humor contest. One of your Daily Science Fiction stories was humor and “Intergalactic Nuisance” was borderline riotous. Why humor?

Because I like it. There is no shortage of great works of speculative fiction but not a lot of it is humorous. It’s difficult to pull off and opinions on what is, and isn’t, funny, vary. I need not go any further than my slush reading duties at UFO to prove that. Alex Shvartsman (UFO editor) has a half-dozen slush readers for his annual project. Alex has told me that he has yet to receive a submission that received a unanimous yes from all his helpers.

 

Rom Zom Com. I’m guessing that stands for romance, zombie, and comedy. Is that like Shawn of the Dead and Warm Bodies?

Couldn’t tell you, I never saw either movie before. I just saw their guidelines. They were looking for humorous zombie tales and I just happened to have one in my files I wrote for an in-house contest for one of my writer groups. I submitted it and they bought it.

 

Why is it significant that other review zines don’t cover Daily Science Fiction? Or to put it reversely, why is it significant that Diabolical Plots covers Daily Science Fiction and is the only review zine that does?

I don’t know why other review zines ignore DSF. I was reviewing for Tangent Online when the publication first came to life. I recommended that we at least try to review it but the editor wanted nothing to do with it. As I recall, he said they had too much material to review and that their business model likely doomed them to obscurity and predicted it would close soon. I disagreed and felt the publication deserved a measure of recognition for their herculean effort. So after to being rebuffed by the Tangent Online editor, repeatedly, I asked David Steffen at Diabolical Plots if he’d be willing to host my reviews.

The reason why it is significant that Daily Science Fiction is covered (I am grateful to David for posting the reviews all these years) is that the DSF editors and their authors deserve the satisfaction to know that their work has been read. It’s a good publication, outstanding in fact. The price for subscription is affordable (free). Their distribution is innovative (daily email), and the talent is first class. They attract the best speculative writers and publish more first time authors then any professionally rated publication. The editors of DSF deserve more than just a review or two, they deserve an award for all they’ve done for speculative fiction these past few years.

 

You’ve been reviewing Daily Science Fiction for 4 years. They publish 20 stories a month, so that’s a lot of grunt work, even if 4 out of 5 stories per week are flash. Why stay on this beat for so long?

Commitment, stubbornness, loyalty , take your pick. I did it for so long because I enjoyed reviewing and reading DSF.

 

Lois Tilton cranks out that kind of volume and more, but she reviews full time. How do you accomplish that feat and hold down a full time non-literary job at the same time?

It is taxing, I confess. Without the help of my colleagues James Hanzelka and Dustin Adams, I would have thrown in the towel long ago. My first review received a positive response from many who read it and from the editors of DSF. Encouraged by the feedback, I vowed to keep at it and decided I would continue to do so as long as my reviews were within six months of current published works. Alas, that mark was crossed this summer (I had a lot going on). My reviews of the publication have ceased (I have one last month I need to finish). I enjoyed doing them very much but they had started to become a chore to maintain, so with much regrets, my next review of DSF will likely be my last.

 

You’ve been reviewing the Writers of the Future anthology for 6 years. Again, why the longstanding interest in that market?

My first one was written as an analysis of the winning stories. I started reviewing the publication about the same time I started to submit to them. At the time of my first WotF review, Diabolical Plots first came online. I asked David Steffen if he would be willing to post them. He was all over it.

The reviews of the contest are written from the perspective of a long time reader (I’ve been a fan of the anthology since it first debut decades ago), a submitter to the contest, and with the experience I’ve gained as a reviewer over the years. Studying the anthology to write the reviews has helped me to improve my standing in the contest , 2 finalist finishes, a semi-finalist honor, and over dozen Honorable Mentions.

 

What did you take away from your role with Unidentified Funny Objects?

Two things: Humor is subjective and I’m not as funny as I once believed. It is also the first true slushreading job I’ve ever done. I have sympathy for those who do it on a regular basis and no longer get offended when I receive a rejection now. I also have had this theory confirmed:
a) Not everyone will agree on what is funny and…
b) Everyone can agree on what isn’t funny

We got a lot of submissions where you could feel the writer giggling as they jotted the funny idea in their heads on their computer screens. There was a lot of eye rolling, head shaking, and groaning done as I read the slush. It became clear to me that humor isn’t for everyone.

However, we also had a few I thought were brilliant but not enough of my colleagues shared my opinion. Truthfully, some of the funniest submissions we received (IMO) didn’t make it in. Not everyone’s funny bone responds the same way, I guess.

 

Same question for the On the Premises contest.

I adore On The Premises. The editors are the slushreaders. They whittle down the submissions to a handful and send them to the judges to read. The prize money, although not pro-paying, is enough to make it alluring. They’ve made it a blind read contest , the authors names are not known to the editors or judges during the contest. I’ve come to regard it as a great place to practice if you like to submit to contest publications like Writers of the Future or Glimmer Train. What helps to make them unique is the editors will (for a fee) critique your story if you fail to make their top ten. I’ve learned a lot about my submissions from their critiques.

I had become such a regular to OTP (as a contestant and guest judge) that they made me a permanent fixture there as a fulltime judge, an honor I haven’t taken lightly.

 

Same question for Tangent.

It was an experience. My time there was short but I learned a lot from it, both positive and negative.

 

Why all this slushing and reviewing? Do you have your eye on a full time editing gig?

*snort* not unless I hit the Powerball jackpot, but what a dream. Can you imagine running your own professional paying publication? Got to have the money and time to burn to be able to do that.

 

Did you gain anything from participation in the Critters workshop? Why did you drop out?

Critters is an excellent place for beginners to start. You learn to critique and absorb real criticism from total strangers , both a prerequisite if you expect to stand a shot as a contributor in the speculative fiction industry. It’s also a great place to find friends who share in the passion of writing science fiction and fantasy. I recommend it to everyone to give it a try.

The reason why I don’t participate anymore is because I moved on and made room for other stuff.

 

Same question for Hatrack.

Hatrack is a good place for writers to congregate. It’s more personal than Critters and the feedback is almost immediate. Most of the stuff I’ve published came about thanks to a Hatrack writer’s challenge.

 

Same question for Codex.

Codex is that secret club your friends will tell you about that you can’t get in (you have to had made a professional sale or completed an accredited writers workshop to be eligible to be a member). They have some tough in house contests over there. Joining them is like being the big shot in middle school who learns he’s a nobody the first day of high school. It can be a little intimidating.

 

Care to share some invaluable, free wisdom with aspiring writers?

Sure. You’ll see this advice sooner or later…

…if you want to make it as a writer, you got to treat writing as if it is your job. Set goals every day , minimum word counts to target or a certain number of pages to complete, even when don’t feel like writing.

The best advice I can give you is to IGNORE that advice. Treat writing as if it’s your job? Jobs suck. The only reason why anyone goes to a job is because someone pays them to show up to do work. So unless you’re earning a living as a writer, you should never treat writing as it is your livelihood (or job).

Hobbies though, hmmm. We love our hobbies. We’ll spend money on a hobby. We’ll take classes, arrange for lessons, and read books so we can get better at them. Hell, most of us have schemed to get out of work so we can spend more time on a hobby. Hobbies are enjoyable things to do.

Writing requires passion. Sure, you can be passionate about your work but you’ll crave diving into a hobby. People love doing a hobby and you have to love writing to be any good at it. Hobbies are easy things to step away from and pick back up later (sometimes you just need a break). You can’t do that with a job. You’ll get fired. The fact is if you set it in your mind that you have to get a minimum amount done every day you’ll come to resent writing. Any job that is that demanding and is one you do for no pay, is an easy job to quit, and you really don’t want to quit anything that you pored that much passion into, do you?

So treat your writing as some do golfing, or bowling, or painting, or crafting. Do it because you want to. Do it because you want to get better at it. Do it because you hope to be good enough to have it become your job one day (it has happened before). To get that good requires patience, a long term commitment, and a ton of passion.

 

Thank you for your time.

Can I go home now?

 

Carl_eagleCarl Slaughter is a man of the world. For the last decade, he has traveled the globe as an ESL teacher in 17 countries on 3 continents, collecting souvenir paintings from China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Egypt, as well as dresses from Egypt, and masks from Kenya, along the way. He spends a ridiculous amount of time and an alarming amount of money in bookstores. He has a large ESL book review website, an exhaustive FAQ about teaching English in China, and a collection of 75 English language newspapers from 15 countries.

Daily Science Fiction March Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

It has been a very long time since we last appeared. A busy schedule and active life is our excuse. My apologies to Rahul Kanakia for pestering him for an interview, then dropping off the face of the Earth. I recommend that you all visit his blog (very interesting, entertaining, and insightful) and consider reading his latest book.

With much regrets, next month’s review (April) will be our last. I won’t be getting all gushy with you about it now. I’m saving that for my next review (need to fill up some space). But please take a gander of our thoughts of March’s tales, then visit go Daily SF and read them for your own amusement.

 

“Wedding Day” by Brian Trent (debut 3/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Because this story relies on its secret, a review is impossible without :spoilers:

Men from the future have come back to marry some of the most brilliant women of our time before an asteroid strike. This is a cool idea, but I had trouble with some inconsistencies, like why are they so hungry? And certainly the asteroid didn’t destroy the planet or there would be no future men to travel back.

I did like the story because of the details and the teasing that something unusual was going on, leading us on just enough to get hit with the hammer of the last line.

 

“Love is a Component of This Story” by Liz Argall (debut 3/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Indeed, the title sums up this story about the customs of a foreign people, and two volunteers being tested/examined with various sexually stimulating scenarios and machines.

Although I couldn’t exactly find a connection between the two concepts, nor a reason for the female character being named Bruce, (a constant distraction) I found the story fun and easy to read. And of course, being a romance, with a most unique path to the characters’ meeting, I felt the aww factor.

 

“Luna City, At Night” by Karl El-Koura (debut 3/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Hard-edged descriptors give this story its grim feel of a future gone mechanical (automatic, not robotic). A man, a future player if you will, finds and beds women who he assumes are interested in his wealth, (his silver watches, and bulging wallet). He seems to be a working man, yet has money to allow the women to steal, in the night, when he pretends to be asleep.

Interesting concept that he accepts the women’s thievery as payment for getting what he wants, but is he happy in his mundane world of repetition? Only after a woman doesn’t follow through with the expected, does the man begin to see the unexpected.

 

The price for survival is a long outstanding debt. “The Alien Tithe” by Eric Brown (debut 3/6 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of colonists who crash landed on their new home. The native aliens saved and healed the survivors of the disaster but have demanded a tithe for their good deed. The story follows along the trek of one the colonists as he leads his children to the aliens to pay for the debt.

“Alien Tithe” is a chilling tale. The gratitude the colonists had to their alien hosts has evolved into a yoke of guilt. I found this short tale to be intriguing and told well.

Recommended

 

Life goes on after the world is dead. “Through Dry Places, Seeking Rest” by Megan Arkenberg (debut 3/7 and reviewed by Frank D). Is the tale of a mute. Civilization has collapsed shortly after angels have appeared. The protagonist’s brother was murdered and now he wanders alone, seeking a running train while he walks the rotting planks and rusting rails that mark their mythical tracks.

The protagonist of this tale is a drifter with no place to go. He has lost the last person who ever meant a thing to him in a world without hope, a metaphor that proves fitting for “Through Dry Places” theme. The story, like the protagonist, simply drifts without much of a purpose.

 

Holes are filled in a popular fairy tale. “All Upon A Time” by Dani Atkinson (debut 3/10 and reviewed by Frank D) is a series of backstory narratives around the Cinderella tale.

Cute.

 

A stop at a coffee house will put you in just the right mood. “Surprise Me” by Andrew Knighton (debut 3/11 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of Yan, a counter worker at a coffee house with gift of pouring the emotion you need into your cup. A special girl, a customer who always orders ‘surprise me’ has been the object of his affection. He has brewed himself up some courage for her arrival but needy customers, and the fading effects of coffee, may sap the drink’s powers before he can ask her for a date.

“Surprise Me” is a tale of a boy trying to gather the nerve to express his feelings. It serves as a neat metaphor on the awkwardness of dating.

 

Yeast from the stars stumble upon a horrible world. “We Don’t Believe That They Are Friendly” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 3/12 and reviewed by Frank D) is a report from a surveying crew of a yeast-based life form on their findings of an isolated world.

Fun piece.

 

“This Doesn’t Appear to Be the Alien I Paid For” by Andrea G. Stewart(debut 3/13 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Sir;
When my seven year old daughter asked for a pet I sensed an opportunity to teach her about the universe. After all I’d seen your ads everywhere, at work, watching holo, even while using the urinal. So we ordered the Plum eared Noggin offered in your catalogue. It arrived not in the seven days promised, but in 12; however I chalked this up to the fact that it had to travel half way across the universe. We immediately opened the package to ensure it arrived in good shape and were relieved to see the little heart monitor ticking along in time with the creatures beating heard. When the little fellow didn’t pupate within the two weeks as promised we made the first of our calls to your customer service department. They assured us that the pupation time can vary and we were relieved when a few weeks later the pupa was occupying the terrarium. However when the creature that emerged did not have cute pear shape ears as shown in your catalogue and had a red strip down its back a second call was made to your customer service. Unfortunately it would not be our last.

If you think dealing with earth-bound customer service desks can be trying, imagine dealing with one half ways across the known universe. That is exactly what this author imagined. He did an excellent job at it. This story is infused with a dry humor that really had me chuckling all the way through. Well Done, sir.

 

“The Sentence is Always Death” by Ken Gerber and Brian Hirt (debut 3/14 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

I’m forty-three, well beyond needing a nanny, but nanny is in the audience like she always is. It’s fitting she should be there since I’m taking the rap for her. There are a few cases ahead of mine. “Case 1201, Miz Gravona,” the Judge says. The alien shuffles up front. “Miz Gravona, given your crime the sentence is death.” Of course it is, the sentence is always death.

This is an involved tale of happenstance, planning and criminality. The author envisions a future where an individual can be “erased”, removed from their own existence; then imagines the possibilities that future presents. It is fairly well written, but could have used some trimming in places. This overwriting tended to detract from the story a bit, but it’s still a piece worth reading.

 

A bulimic girl returns home with a tool to help. “Measures and Countermeasures” by Beth Cato (debut 3/17 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of Colleen, a young woman whose eating disorder landed her in the hospital. Tonight is her first dinner, but she has smuggled in a piece of technology so she can keep her calorie intake low. If only her mother knew.

“Measures” is a story of trust. Colleen is like many girls with her disease, sure that the people that are trying to help her are against her. Ms Cato demonstrates trust runs deep. The ones truly in need have a small bit still in them that trusts we will do what is best for them.

 

A new god finds his first follower. “Produce 1:1-10″ by Mur Lafferty (debut 3/18 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a lesser god and His flock of one. New gods have been springing up everywhere, spreading their word on things like the merits of exercise at the gym and such. The protagonist is an atheist who stumbles upon the god weeping at her local Piggly Wiggly. The prices of healthy food are too high and the labels are misleading. The new god of supermarkets needs an advocate to bring the truth to the masses.

A light hearted tale.

 

The dead cannot move into the next world while Death morns his loss. “Death and His Lover” by Getty Hesse (debut 3/19 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale of the dark angel embracing the spirit of his lover. Death alone can open the Gates for the dead to travel beyond, but can’t bear to let his Jerome to leave. The din of the departed grows as they cry out to be released.

“Death” is a tale of closure. The angel knows too well the length of eternity and is unwilling to let his lover go. Touching.

 

The nanobots have come. “Goodnight, Raptor” by A. Merc Rustad (debut 3/20 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of the end of the world. Little Benny alone survives the destruction tiny nanobots have done to house, town, and family. He managed to rescue his favorite possession, a picture book on dinosaurs. The final few bots have assembled to recreate the image on the books cover, giving Benny the thing he always wanted , his very own raptor friend.

“Goodnight, Raptor” is the tale of a child’s dreams. The enormity of the disaster has not registered in his innocent mind. The last of the destructive bots coalesced to form a talking dinosaur for Benny. The tale would be cute if it wasn’t so sad.

 

What we will do for love. “Because My Heart Is Pure” by Rahul Kanakia (debut 3/21 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of a man who is perpetuating a lie for the man he loves. Lyle is a gay man who has been pretending to be pure of heart , a genetic mutation that has made them emotionally stagnant individuals. His boyfriend, James – a reckless, passionate, self-absorbed man , is the opposite of an even keeled pure heart. James attends orgies, disappears for stretches of time, but will only shack up with a pure heart. The emotional rift Lyle feels for James he must conceal or he will lose his eccentric lover forever. But can he continue to be something he is not?

“Because My Heart” is a story of sacrifice. The pure-hearted are people who feel neither highs nor lows. Passion is all but gone from their being. They are able to absorb insults and are impassive to feelings of envy and pettiness. The obtuse nature of a pure-heart is just what a selfish free-spirit like James needs. But Lyle isn’t a pure-heart. He forces his feelings down because he knows he will lose the man he loves if they come out.

A warning to readers who haven’t read this piece: heed the warning on adult content. A short segment of this tale could have been cut out of a Penthouse like forum of a gay magazine, very graphic. This story, although well-written, rolls out as a tale of man who is putting himself through needless torment. James is not just a bad-boy of the story, he’s worse. People are just playthings to him, and for a group of people who are as close to automatons as you can get, it is no wonder why he would seek out pure-hearts; all the fun of a superficial relationship with none of the consequences. The tale is a lesson on the hazards of succumbing to your desires. Some things just aren’t worth it.

 

A man recalls why he married his wife in the last moments of their lives. “Till Death” by L.L. Phelps (debut 3/24 and reviewed by Frank D) picks up during an impending disaster. The space station the married couple has lived on has been hit by a missile and is breaking apart as it falls back to Earth. The images of their wedding day fill his head as the reality of the disaster makes it clear that it is all about to end.

“Till Death” is the sweet niche in a sad tragedy. The story takes place during the horrible moments of a terrorist attack. The tale brought back memories of 9/11 for me and thoughts of what must have been going through the minds of the victims when it became clear that their end was near.

A chilling tale.

 

“The Signal” by Spencer Sandoval (debut 3/25 and reviewed by Frank D) is a journal entry written by a worker at a SETI observatory. The protagonist of this tale has simultaneous extraordinary events. News of another civilization very much like their own has been discovered and his first child that is on the way.

“The Signal” is a story I found compelling but not original. The ending has a twist that I have seen before.

 

A bid to overthrow the machine’s human masters can be accomplished for the low price of $99.99. “Robot’s Revenge” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 3/26 and reviewed by Frank D) is another installment in Ms Wrigley’s Postmark Andromeda series. This one is a tongue-in-cheek look at the evolution of spam into an untapped market base.

Funny. My favorite of the series.

 

A dying boy is given the gift of a full life. “Gnostilgia” by Ronald D Ferguson (debut 3/27 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of 14 year old hero, Karl , the boy who helped prevent a massacre in his high school. His heroics have left him a death’s doorstep. His doctors have an experimental dream making machine. With it, they can give him memories of life he deserved.

“Gnostilgia” is a tale where Karl’s handlers struggle with what is ethical, and what is right. They know what they are doing would not be tolerated by Karl’s parents or with the public , implanting false memories into this boy’s head , but they know there is no hope for young Karl. The full they give him is their gratitude for sacrificing his own life.

A thought provoking and sweet work of flash.

 

Reincarnated lovers meet again in the segregated south. “Starcrossed” by M. Bennardo (debut 3/30 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a young black waitress in a wartime navy town. In the back, a lone white man sits by himself. She recognizes him as someone she has met before, a forbidden lover of from a hundred previous lifetimes.

“Starcrossed” is a romance. The two characters are appropriately named Romeo and Juliet. For generations dating back thousands of years, the pair are destined to meet as people on different sides of the tracks. Their romances are always forbidden, customs of the times deeming them unfit to be together, and like Shakespeare’s play, always end in tragic finale.

Growing up, the past lives always seemed like a dream to Juliet, but when her Romeo appears, she can feel the pull of their destiny drawing them together. Unlike before, this time the pair is older, and Juliet has already started a life, with a family if her own. Her tale becomes a struggle; will an ordained desire drag her onto a familiar path? Or does she have an alternative choice.

“Starcrossed” is recreated and reworked look at a familiar trope. I found the story inventive, engaging, and well worth the read.

 

The world outside is falling apart in Light and Ash by Alan Bao (debut 3/31 and reviewed by Frank D), but for two romantic lovers, it might as well be another world. War rages in Asia but for a couple in New York, it is of little consequence. It is Christmas, and it is snowing, or is that ash?

A haunting tale.

 

 

Rahul KanakiaRahul Kanakia

Our short-lived author spotlight of Daily Science Fiction‘s most prolific authors features an artist known for creating flawed protagonists. His much anticipated YA novel ENTER TITLE HERE is a story described as Gossip Girls meets House of Cards. We wanted to know a little more of what made him tick, so we asked him 3 questions that we drew out of a hat.

 

Do you have a favorite author of short fiction? A writer whose work we should sample at least once in our life?

Well, if we’re talking prescriptively, then no. Plenty of famous authors haven’t read Ulysses, and it’s no big deal. You gotta read what resonates with you. However, if we’re just talking about short story writers who’re really good and who I recommend highly, then I’d say that Borges is pretty worthwhile. He writes stories that are completely unlike anyone else’s. No one else could spin a long entirely-plotless story about a library that that contains all human knowledge. However, since most people have probably already heard of Borges then I’ll also note that Maureen McHugh’s After The Apocalypse is one of the best collections I’ve read in the past five years. I get chills even thinking about it. Her stories changed the way that I approach science fiction. Some of them are so beautifully subtle. I’m reminded, for instance, of the story “Useless Things,” which is about a woman living on an isolated ranch who has to deal with the unwanted reputation for kindness that she’s acquired amongst the migrants who’re traveling north in a future United States where life is just ever-so-slightly worse than it is now.

 

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as an author?

Hmm. In a specific way, I think the best story I’ve ever written is forthcoming in a literary magazine called Birkensnake. It’s called “Sexual Cannibalism,” and it’s told in a series of vignettes as a young boy grows into a man and comes to terms with his sexuality while he researches the mating habits of praying mantises in a world that is wracked by and then overcomes the effects of climate change.

In a more general way, I’m not sure I could sum up my writing career that way. I guess the thing I’m most proud of as a writer is just being persistent. I just sold my first novel after writing and submitting for ten years. I’ve had years-long periods where I didn’t sell anything, or where I felt like I’d regressed, career-wise, but I just kept going. At times it didn’t really make sense, but I did anyway, and I owe a lot of gratitude to the version of me who could have quit, but didn’t.

 

Is there a Daily SF story you would like to recommend for us to read? Anything especially memorable?

Out of all the Daily SF stories that I’ve read, I’d say that I like Sarah Pinsker’s “Twenty Ways The Desert Could Kill You.” It’s playful and inventive and chilling work about a mother and a child who suddenly move to the desert in order to escape…something.

 


Rahul Kanakia’s debut novel,
Enter Title Here, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in the fall of 2015. He has sold stories to Clarkesworld, the Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex, Nature, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars and a B.A. in Economics from Stanford, and he currently live in Oakland, CA. If you want to know more about him then please visit his blog at or follow him on Twitter

Daily Science Fiction February 2014 Review

We continue our author spotlight with this months featured author Damien Angelica Walters. Damien is a favorite Friday featured author. Her work has appeared 7 times at Daily SF, including this month’s finishing tale.

 

Android copy finds its creator. Children of Frogs by Morgan Brooks (debut 2/3 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a robotic engineer who escaped the paternal grip of her oppressor. She built a cyborg copy of herself but now the copy has found her. There is no room for identical women in the same place. Someone will need to go.

“Children” is the tale of obligation. The protagonist ran away from her sick father. Her Asian roots committed her to care for him but she was eager for a life on her own. What her cyborg replacement lacked in outward appearance she made up with for an identical inward personality.

I must say this tale perplexed me. Tying the story’s title with its premise is something I completely missed. Piecing together the backstory with the characters motives also eluded me. I don’t know if the man she left behind was a bad guy or just a burden. What I didn’t miss was its moral , you can run from your sins but you can never escape them.

 

Exchanges in No Man’s Land by C J Paget (debut 2/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Two women within a VR (I think) are on a secret mission. One is a super spy fully cut out for this type of subterfuge, the other joined to try to change the world through radical peace.

What we discover the true nature of the mission to be, is not what was assumed, but a world-changing technology that if twisted and put in the wrong hands will have catastrophic consequences. Loyalties reverse and doing the right thing becomes pitted against survival.

 

Pair of Rogues by Jonathan Vos Post (debut 2/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

This story is interesting, insofar as the facts contained within are disseminated with professionalism and lead me to believe they are truth framed in a tale.

The tale is of a narrator observing a planet named Partner, which orbits the same sun. The facts are how it’s possible for planets to leave one solar system and wind up in another.

I felt this story was dry and tell-ish until I read the author comments. Then things made more sense and I appreciated the tale for the author’s intent. I suggest reading them first.

 

When You Want Another Man’s Girl by Stefanie Freele (debut 2/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Envy, as mentioned in the author’s notes, is the crux of this micro-flash. The observation is the more things change, the more they stay the same.

An illegal party is a most excellent place to have one’s competition for affection arrested. I wouldn’t call this a twist as much as a revelation, and it’s a wicked one at that.

 

Grand Kitsch by Jane Elliot (debut 2/7 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Interesting and completely believable story about a young girl in our inevitable, amped up future. She figures she’ll try anything once, and the particular anything the story focuses on, is getting married. But it’s not married like it is today, it’s disposable.

The style here is inventive, as if the author time traveled to the future and returned with vivid details of vernacular and how people behave while high (which is how the narrator spends the entire story.) I enjoyed this story more from a writer’s point of view than a reader’s because of the way it’s told, instead of what transpired.

 

Jesus has returned in Revelations by Brenda Kezar (debut 2/11 and reviewed by Frank D), and he is seeking converts. A reporter investigates a small church’s claims that Jesus lives within the walls. The reporter soon discovers who he really is , immortal, all powerful, and a vampire.

“Revelations” is a faith challenging story. The author explains much on the Biblical version of His miracles with this version but is sure to inflame a few of the faithful with its premise. Proceed with caution if you are a regular church goer.

 

If She Pushes the Button, Turn to Page 116 by Robert Lowell Russell (debut 2/11 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Susan and Phil are exploring their basement, now cluttered with images generated by the paperback manual in Phil’s hands. Susan is amazed at how personal and detailed the text is. Following the text they explore the clutter of Phil’s grandfather that now populated their basement, right down to the dust the images carried in with them. The two follow the path the manual leads them on, flipping from page to page, watching their movements captured on the page. They follow the manual down to the hidden cavern the manual has created under their basement where they find the box housing Phil’s evil twin from the same dimension as the manual.

This story takes a little effort to get into, but if you let it carry you along it can be fun. The plot twists and turns like the ladder the couple follow to the cavern beneath their house (or their make believe house, I was never really sure). The author does a good job using the reflection of the characters off their opposites in the story to build the storyline. Overall a pretty well done effort, give it a read.

 

Dear John by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 2/12 and reviewed James Hanzelka)

John Smith
C/o NASA Ceres Project
Dear John.
I’m sorry to tell you this while you are so far away (you must be at the end of the solar system by now) but I think it’s only fair you hear it from me and are not left wondering. Besides we’ve always told each other the truth (although you never did explain Lisa Walter’s panties in your glove box after your going away party). So I wanted to tell you before you heard it from someone else first that I’m seeing someone else. I know we never made a promise to wait for each other, but with how difficult it’s become to find food and drink since we got hit by the plague it’s probably better to move on. And Melvin was so sweet to fight his way through the zombies (they’re not really zombies, that’s just what we call the roaming bands of rioters looking for food after the nuclear exchange) that I just couldn’t send him back outside, so I let him sleep in the spare room. He really has been a godsend.

This is a tragedy in a one page note. The author deftly weaves the dear John letter together with the telling of the disaster that Earth has become after the astronaut left. In spite of the horrific situation the writer describes the humor comes through quite clearly. This one will brighten your day, even if it is just in comparison to how bad things might have been.

 

Love dies on the infield of a Little League diamond in St Valentine’s Day Mashup by G.O. Clark (debut 2/13 and reviewed by Frank D). An alien with striking resemblance to the mythical Cupi, steps outside his tiny saucer with his bow and arrow in hand and is cut to ribbons by a paranoid military.

“St Valentine’s” is a very amusing, but short, mashup of a couple of different premises. Very funny.

 

A strange rock brings two people uncomfortably close together. Rob Lithim Used to be Two People by Brynn MacNab (debut 2/14 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of an obsessed man and his dysfunctional attempts at maintaining a relationship. He can’t let go of his girlfriend, Tam. Lithim is a close friend (lover?) who happened to be near Rob when he comes into contact of a rock with special powers , condemning the two to be one.

“Rob Lithim” is a strange story that is difficult to grasp. A mish-mash of flashbacks made it cumbersome for me to determine the where and when of disconnected scenes. The story clearly shows Rob as one F’ed up individual who now possess a disturbing superpower. If the tale stuck to that simple frame of a premise, it would have been majestic, but the real story wasn’t about that, but of a needy man’s self-absorbed character. Too bad.

 

A starving boy hooks the catch of a lifetime in Mermaid by Jonathon Schneeweiss (debut 2/17 and reviewed by Frank D). Izam latches onto a huge fish, but the monstrous catch gets away before he can pull it in. His family needs money and food, the lost fish would have helped them make it through a few more days. So when a mermaid surfaces, holding the squirming fish in her hands, an opportunity of a lifetime is just a net’s throw away.

“Mermaid” is a tale of fortune and empathy. Izam is so hungry he can count the ribs under his skin. His father had told what to do if he were lucky enough to be so close to a mermaid. Catching it will change the fortunes of his family overnight but the beauty and kindness of the creature causes him to question the intentions of his actions. It takes an enticing bait to net a clever catch, a lesson Izam’s dad never taught him.

I have seen many of stories with a premise nearly identical to “Mermaid”. However, the author here managed to package a familiar twist quite nicely. Well done.

 

A stage of life goes up in flames. Saltcedars by Shannon Peavey (debut 2/18 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of young woman on the verge of adulthood. The time has come to burn her tamarisk tree , the origin of her birth. Her hopes and expectations of an idealistic youth go up in the flames. It is time for her to move on and wait. From the ashes of the tree will spring a new tamarisk. The next generation awaits.

“Saltcedars” is a tale of growth. The story is set during a time when the children of this community are on the cusp of becoming adults. The trees are phoenix-like anomalies , the old growth is torched to make way for the new. Ms Peavey created a tale that serves as a wonderful metaphor on the uncertainty and anxiety of growing up. A new chapter is turned when we emerge from our innocent youth into the responsibility that is adulthood. Well told.

 

An instruction guide for a human hosting a parasitic matrimony is What is Expected of a Wedding Host by Ken Liu (debut 2/19 and reviewed by Frank D).

The story is an instructional guide for people about to become a home for advanced alien parasites. Clever but the premise is a familiar one.

 

All the diamonds and jewels cannot buy peace for a kingdom, or happiness for a marriage. Toads by Mari Ness (debut2/20 and reviewed by Frank D) explores the eventuality of an old fairy tale’s consequences.

“Diamonds and Toads” is a fable I had missed in my youth. The story lacks a satisfying conclusion for me.

 

A condemned man gets more than one chance. The Seventeen Executions of Signore Don Vashata by Peter M Ball (debut 2/21 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of immortal man who sentence to death, over and over. The protagonist is one of Vashata’s many executioners. Despite three fail attempts to complete the deed himself, he is called as an consultant by his predecessors on how to proceed with Vashata’s sentence. The protagonist becomes fond with the criminal, even willing to become his friend.

“Seventeen executions” is a commentary on the merits of the death sentence. I believe the author sought to point out the futile of punishment and on how robs its victim of atonement. Vashata is cast as a romantic but flawed man. He has a charm about him. The failed attempts to kill him have left many scars on the man which lend to the sympathy more than one executioner feels for him.

Vashata is cast as a likeable character but I couldn’t help but to notice the nature and acts of his crimes were never explored. His crimes could have been as inconsequential as littering as far as the reader could know. One thing that didn’t escape me, whatever he did more than one jurisdiction , and nation , felt his crimes deserved death as a penalty. There is only one description that would warrant multiple attempts to exterminate an immortal man: a monster. A man like that doesn’t earn freedom because it is too hard to carry out his sentence. A man like that needs to be in cage, as would any monster too dangerous to be allowed to roam free.

 

Inebriation gets a lot simpler. Fermentation by Christopher Kastensmidt (debut 2/24 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a fungus that turns any stomach into its own brewery.

Silly and frightening. I agree with the author, way too many people would willingly accept this infliction, damn the consequences.

 

All the town is abuzz when Miss Violet May from the Twelve Thousand Lakes by Tina Connolly (debut 2/25 and reviewed by Frank D) arrived into town. Miss May is a girl from the far north that has come south to marry a local boy. There are rumors that frightening ghosts live up there, but Miss May seems far too cheerful to have come from a place like that. Married life proves to be not it’s all cracked up to be. The smile, and Violet, slowly begins to fade away with each passing day.

“Miss Violet May” is a metaphor on failing relationships. The protagonist in this story is another man who is sweet on the married woman. To him it is apparent that Violet married the wrong man. I was appalled by Miss May’s decision in the end, and like many woman who find the courage to opt out of violent relationship, I do hope she found herself again.

 

Be wary of the local cuisine. La Paella by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 2/26 and reviewed by Frank D) is a letter of regret from a diplomat. He wasn’t as careful as he needed to be when he made his choice of picking clams on the beach.

This one is another in Ms Wrigley’s Postmark Andromeda series. A man’s eagerness to break a bland diet lands causes an interstellar incident.

 

A meat packing company is rewarded an unusual contract in On Disposing of a Corpse by Tom Jolly (debut 2/27 and reviewed by Frank D). The company paid for the rights of salvaging the remains of an icon. Although the cleanup was costly, they more than made their money back on novelty sales.

Interesting look at the after effects of a well-known classic. I love this type stories.

 

Green is for Silence, Blue is for Voice, Red is for Whole, Black is for Choice by Damien Angelica Walters (debut 2/28 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this apocalyptic tale is a young woman named Leda. She is a survivor, one of the lucky few healing in a futuristic regeneration ward. The war has left the Earth devastated and humankind scarred and disfigured. Medical science works feverishly to heal the repairable, but the damage is extensive. Therapy and time is needed, but how much time no one can know.

“Green is for Silence” is a grim story. One could argue that the theme is one of hope but the sheer devastation that is only hinted about, would be more for any ordinary person to comprehend. Leda is just like all the other patients of the ward , alone, mutilated, and without a future. Everyone she ever knew and all she ever had is gone. All she has left to look forward to is a life where she can feel whole again. The wait will be a log one.

Leda’s journey in this bleak tale takes a turn toward the end. It completes the moral of the piece , time heals all wounds. The conclusion leaves the protagonist with a life of uncertainty, but it is a life where she can make her own choices once again.

 

The Scary Career of a Prolific Writer

Daily Science Fiction is a treasure chest of jewels. This unique publication has proven to serve as an excellent metal detector for the precious gold that lies right under our feet, and Damien Angelia Walters (previously known as Damien Walters Grintalis) is one of the brightest gems they have brought to my light.

To share the vast wealth of published material she has to her credit would take pages for me to write, but an excellent example of her talent is her debut horror novel Ink. The many reviews I have read about it our quite glowing (and also too numerous for me to share), but Horror Review’s own Christine Morgan summed up the larger consensus by describing it asâ€

INK, the book, is a gorgeous piece of work, with a rich and enticing cover. INK, the story on the inside, is also a gorgeous piece of workâ€

†and later statingâ€

Debut novels should not be this good

We wanted to know about Ms Walters in hopes of uncovering the magic elixir that makes her such a good writer.

1) What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as a writer?

I think my greatest accomplishment is realizing that there is no one accomplishment. Writing is a continuous series of accomplishments, both small and large, like selling a story to a magazine I thought of as a white whale, and then selling a second story to that same magazine, or being able to look back at an older story and see how much I’ve grown as a writer.

2) Who would be your choice as the best undiscovered/ up and coming author in short fiction today?

Although they’re not undiscovered, I’d like to first give mentions to two of my favorite short fiction authors: Sunny Moraine and E. Catherine Tobler. Their prose and their stories make my heart hurt, in the best possible way.

Honestly, it’s hard for me to designate who is up and coming and who is not.
Some other authors who I’ve only read a few stories from but think they’re on the right path to eventually be very well known are Usman Tanveer Malik, Martin Cahill, and Brooke Bolander, although in truth, Ms. Bolander has had quite a few stories published in high profile magazines so she might not be up and coming but already arrived.

3) Do you have a recommendation for a Daily Science Fiction tale for us? The one story you think is a must read for the lovers of speculative fiction?

Tastes are so very subjective. All too often, one person’s must reads are another person’s did not finish, so I’ll simply point out two DSF stories that I adore:

Tell Me How All This (and Love too) Will Ruin Us by Sunny Moraine

Falling From Earth to Haphazard Sky (Tadpole Remix) by E. Catherine Tobler

 

Damien WaltersDamien Angelica Walters’ work has appeared or is forthcoming in various magazines and anthologies, including Lightspeed, Nightmare, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume One, Strange Horizons, Apex, and Glitter & Mayhem. Sing Me Your Scars, and Other Stories, a collection of her short fiction, will be released in Fall 2014 from Apex Publications.

Daily Science Fiction December 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

 

The Key To El-Carim’s Heart by Henry Szabranski (debut 12/2/14 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a dark tale about a king who falls in love, only to be spurned. He locks his heart away behind an encrypted firewall. Free to act without regret, the world falls before him.

I appreciated the emotion of this story, despite it being about a lack thereof in Carim. However, I found the clash of medieval imagery with computer technology difficult to reconcile.

Read this is you’re looking for a no-holds-barred, bleak but well executed story.

 

Lucky Cherry Luck by Kailyn McCaord (debut 12/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is the epitome of speculative fiction. The premise: a girl, with a mysterious yet subtle power to grant good luck by infusing it into sugary cherries, works at a canning factory where she can surreptitiously put them in cans to be sent to the rest of the world.

Much of the story’s (delightful) tension comes from the big brother-like conditions within the factory, and Jolene’s ability to get these lucky cherries inside a can. I was slightly confused by the author’s meaning within the final paragraph, what she imagines the future will bring. However the theme of the story seemed clear to me. If I’m correct, it’s that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

 

A couple says their goodbyes in Patchwork Blouse by James E Guin (debut 12/4 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a woman who is spending her last day with the love of her life. Her man is one of the first settlers to Mars. A shopping trip is how they spend the last of their time together.

“Patchwork” is a tale of separation. The story is unraveled much like a war story , woman saying goodbye to her soldier as he leaves for war. A familiar premise.

 

A hero is a kiss away from breaking a curse. Asleep by Jeremy Minton (debut 12/5 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale of a would-be rescuer. Ralph has accompanied his friend, Tom, to Sleeping Beauty’s palace. Tom fell yards from the prize, done in by a last ring of poison thorns. It is up to Ralph to finish the deed, but death and decay fill this place, which ruins the mood for him.

“Asleep” is a tale of destiny. The destiny of this tale, however, is not meant for the protagonist. Ralph had gone along for the journey, but weighs whether the prize at the end of the destination is worth the price paid.

 

A warrior withdraws from society. Sabi, Wabi, Aware, Yugen by Sam J Miller (debut 12/6 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a revolutionary who cannot live with the horrors he has done. Malcom was one of the downtrodden, a poor citizen fighting against the might of the growing power of multi-national corporations. His desire to escape his past led him into a Buddhist monastery but his water-bending nanomites are still a part of him. A warrior like himself can’t hide forever.

“Sabi” is a tale of reflection and forgiveness. Malcom wishes to forget the evil he has done. His teacher’s goal is to guide him on a path that will not undo his evil, but embrace an existence where his past will be irrelevant, thus erasing the guilt that has consumed him. Running away has not solved anything for Malcom. The truth is what has eluded him and it may still catch up to him yet.

“Sabi” is set in the backdrop of a horrible war. The story has a twist that was unexpected to the protagonist and reader alike. The horror and expectations for what he had done don’t quite pan out for Malcom. For a man who sought enlightenment, running away from his past may be the thing that stands in his way all along. The tale serves as an object lesson for those who chose to hide rather than face their own sins. War does indeed bring out the worse in all of us, but hiding from the truth is never the way to deal with your own crime.

A good story.

 

The first time traveler is the last to appear in Time to go Home by Stephen R. Persing (debut 12/9 and reviewed by Frank D). Ward has traveled into the far future. Millions of years has changed humanity beyond recognition. Twenty time-traveling expeditions have all ended at this point of history. The inhabitants of this future have all decided to be caretakers of these people from the past, imprisoning them in a virtual reality. Ward wants no part of it, wishing only to return home.

“Time” is a tale of false perception. The people of the future have made their world where the virtual is the reality. Ward is told that he can’t go back, the limitations of time travel have deemed it impossible but he wishes to try anyway, asking if he can pursue further along the time in hopes of a future breakthrough that will allow him to go home.

“Time” is a story of competing premises. The tale is half The Time Machine and half Matrix. This story of uncertain perspectives leaves the reader with an uncertain finale. I would have liked a more defined outcome, but I think uncertainty was the point of the piece.

 

A teenage boy resents the winged reptile companions of his tribe. The Clasp by Jarod K. Anderson (debut 12/10 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a boy eager to break away from his tribe. The reptiles, who he refers to as The Swoons, are a symbol of freedom that alludes him. He has come to hate them. He is determined to climb down the butte and brave an unfamiliar world to escape them and his tribe.

“The Clasp” is a tale that serves as a suitable metaphor for the growing pains many young men experience as they ascend into adulthood. The protagonist is filled with nothing but irrational hatred for the Swoons, but the reptiles appear to be indifferent to his people and him. He later learns that just because they choose to not interfere doesn’t mean that they are as indifferent as they appear.

“The Clasp” is a short tale that is long on meaning. The point of the tale was not lost on me. It could have been done in a much longer format but Mr Anderson’s telling in this small frame of a narrative did it justice. Well done.

 

An alien species learns about humanity while playing board games with a child. Games by James Valvis (debut 12/11 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a small boy who has found his own ET. He teaches his friend (and the collective the alien is a part of) the competitive nature of board games and the ruthlessness that is required to win.

“Games” leaves the reader with an ominous ending. I would hope the aliens would be aware of the entertaining aspect of games, but the author leads me to believe they don’t.

 

Followers by S.R. Algernon (debut 12/12 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

The game was winding down and Athena was in control. I reveled at my good fortune to have acquired follower rights to her earlier in the year. The midseason injury had diminished her value somewhat, but now in last game of the year, Athena was back to herself leading the team. Seconds were ticking off the clock, slowly the game was moving toward the end. Athena was saving the last shot for herself, fully confident in her ability to win the game. BID FOR MOTOR CONTROL ENTERED – $250,000 bid by Joe Six pack. That was a lot of cash; Joe must have one heck of a day job. BID ACCEPTED. The game paused. “We have an amateur on the court,” the announcer let the crowd know. The intake of air was palpable. The time wound down, the shot was up, and in. But Joe’s shot wasn’t the best of that fateful night.

This is a well told tale in a few lines. The author does a good job of providing both a sense of place and players. Most of all the ending conveys the emotion of what lies beyond the sports venue. Though set in another time and place, it allows us to relate to the present. Well done.

 

Why Woman Turned To Stone by Heather Morris (debut 12/13 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Tom tried to concentrate on Miss Collingsworth’s flower arranging, but he was distracted by the stone statue under the arbor. “You were bespelled by that ugly statue, weren’t you Mr. Haversham.” She asked. “It is strangely captivating.” He replied. She laughed and related tales of her and her brother “playing” with the stone woman. “You talk like she’s alive,” he said when she wound down. “Of course she’s alive,” Miss Collingsworth replied. “That’s my aunt Hephestia.”

This is a nice little bit of fantasy that explores the subjects of love, loneliness and companionship. The author has done a good job of weaving the story in such a way that it pulls the reader into both the world and the mind of Tom Haversham. The ending is done in such a way as to let us know just how much of his world is beneath the surface of our understanding. This one is well worth the read.

 

A prisoner forms a plan of escape in We Are All But Embers by Gemma Noon (debut 12/16 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is part of a forced labor camp controlled by a drug pumped into his system. His tube fails, allowing his own thoughts to return. He discovers that the guards are lax and tools for their escape are everywhere. All he needs are numbers, and patience.

“We Are” is a straightforward tale of mind control in a forced labor camp. We see the origins of a breakout. The story has shades of several different classic tales written before.

 

A Tower of Babel crisis has an odd effect on a crumbling relationship in Silence by Lydia Waldman (debut 12/17 and reviewed by Frank D). Language, and the ability to understand each other, is disintegrating. Newscasts are become incomprehensible. Soon, even the written language will become gibberish. Society is bracing for an uncertain future. For a couple that has been drifting apart, the shared anxiety is an opportunity to draw closer together.

“Silence” is a story of need overcoming familiarity. The protagonist and her husband have all but abandoned communicating with each other long before the crisis developed. Their deteriorating relationship has them uniquely prepared for this tragedy.

I liked the novelty of this piece but I confess, it didn’t speak to me as it should have.

 

A cloning specialist replaces his daughter’s pet in Goldfish by Elizabeth Archer (debut 12/18 and reviewed by Frank D). Nala doesn’t think their daughter, Malala, will buy the copy of Gibba her father, Adan, created for her. Nala’s motherly instinct knows that Malala will be able to tell the difference. She doesn’t believe the seven-year old is ready to handle the notion of death and worries the little girl will have a relapse when the news hits her. It had been 3 years since her accident, and death may be too much for a girl who came so close to experiencing it for herself.

“Goldfish” is a tale of acceptance. There is an underlying issue that the accident affected Nala more than it did her daughter. Adan tells Malala that death is a part of life, and that their daughter may benefit from the experience.

This tale takes a twist that I found delightful. It is a story that fits very well in the short, sharp, themes that DSF loves to bring to our email inbox’s. Not my favorite tale, but worthy of my recommendation.

Recommended.

 

Two lovers meet under a total eclipse in Totality by Tony Pisculli (debut 12/19 and reviewed by Frank D). While the protagonist catches a solar eclipse in Munich, he spies two lovers who find each other under the shadow of the moon. Their encounter is brief, lasting only the few minutes of the eclipses life, before the woman disappears before the sun’s light.

“Totality” is a tale of commitment. The woman exists only in the shadow of the eclipse. The protagonist becomes obsessed by the pair and seeks them out, chasing each eclipse.

I found the tale too brief to be sweet, and too short in material to be compelling.

 

A conscripted man and his dog make a formidable team. In Tommy and the Beast by Bud Sparhawk (debut 12/20 and reviewed by Frank D) the protagonist is a sheepherder throw into the meat grinder of an interstellar war. The only one to survive his first battle, he is given a dog as a partner and names him Tommy. The pair can communicate better than any human couple, each complimenting the others strength while watching the other’s back. Tommy and his master are deadly to the enemy. Then the day comes when the pair are confronted by an alien team every bit as formidable as they are, and a third antagonist that will bring enemies together in a final stand.

“Tommy” is a boy and his dog story with a bit of Buck Rodgers mixed in. Tommy and his master learned to rely on the other’s cues. With his loyal companions help, the protagonist is transformed from a quiet sheepherder into a professional soldier. The tale’s climax gives way to a twist at its end, giving this companion tale an extra dimension.

“Tommy and the Beast” has a familiar, yet old, feel to it. Like many sci-fi tales written in the height of the Cold War, the story is an ‘us vs them’ military theme. Mr. Sparhawk spent a good deal of effort showing his protagonist in the thick of battle , a not bad effort at that. However, I found the stories opening needlessly long and thought the ending dragged on longer than it needed to be. That being said, the Space Westerns that were once so prevalent in sci-fi are becoming a rare finds these days.

 

A soldier is confronted by a desperate girl. The Decent Thing by Dex Fernandez (debut 12/23 and reviewed by Frank D) tells the tale of a battle harden soldier coping in a war ravaged land. He just shot a revolver-holding woman who killed his buddy, leaving the cold-eyed little girl standing next to her, all alone. The little girl’s next words shock him more than the sight of the two dead people lying before him.

“The Decent Thing” is a tale of devastation. This short story brings the effect of war on the civilians. Survival has left the small child in an automated state. Her eyes and words show how soulless she has become. The appalling opening and following storyline is a set up for a shocking finale. If you were looking to capture the real horrors of war in a flash length tale, this story is the one for you.

 

A young girl values her security. In a Highest Possible Setting by Em Dupre (debut 12/24 and reviewed by Frank D) the protagonist is a single woman who works on the dangerous streets of an unidentified city. She has the latest in protection software uploaded in her brain. Sentinel will help her, calculating the safest routes, cataloguing suspicious faces, and preparing her for the worst. Sentinel will guarantee that she will be safe, and who needs a social life when you can have complete security.

“Highest Possible” is a tale of paranoia. The software implanted in the protagonists skull, is designed for one purpose , lessen the customer’s chances of become a victim of violence. I found this tale to be visionary. The likelihood of such a product becoming available to the public is all but guaranteed, in my view, and the author accurately predicts the downfalls of its usage.

A perceptive work of science fiction.

Recommended

 

Miracles can happen even for the undead. The Christmas Zombie by Marissa James (debut 12/25 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of an adolescent turned zombie named Grrg. His undead parents have done their best to care for their family. The alive neighbors have struck a truce with them, even feeding them dog food to keep them satisfied. Fresh kills have become rare and Grrg hadn’t a real meal since the Christmas Zombie brought them live meat last year. Times are getting tough but Grrg believes in the Christmas Zombie, and hopes he’ll deliver another fresh meal to them this year.

This silly story is a demented tale of hope. Aptly debuted on Christmas, Grrg has faith in the mythical creature. Is he real? Or is the urge to believe too important to abandon?

A funny message piece.

 

The evolution of a role model is examined in Child Soldier by J.W. Alden (debut 12/26 and reviewed by Frank D). A shunned soldier stops in at a restaurant. The once patriotic war he fights is now something the public sooner forget. Most avert their eyes from the protagonist but a young child looks up to him with admiration. The child can’t wait to grow up so he can go to the stars and kill bad guys too. The protagonist knows humanity doesn’t need future warriors. He’s fighting for something more profound.

“Child Soldier” is a tale of hope. The author draws upon the experiences of his family and how society has looked upon the soldier in past wars. The protagonist is looked down on by the citizens. He is a reminder of a past and present that most would like to forget. The young child, who immediately sees him as a hero, represents a future the protagonist is fighting for.

“Child Soldier” is satisfactorily profound for the message the author was attempting to convey. The soldier hasn’t forgotten what is important and why he chose to join the military. The young boy who salutes him just wants to help. The protagonist steers him in a direction where he can. Nice job.

 

A tale of a mixed marriage is the theme of The Dragon and the Bond by Mari Ness (debut 12/27 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a local villager who has been wedded to a dragon. The dragon needs her heart, but he can wait. The two need time to grow into each other. For a pair so unlike, they discover they have more to share than anyone could have imagined.

“The Dragon” is a story about relationships. The dragon will take her heart one day, and nothing will change that. She is left to live her life until the time they are ready. It will take time, but while they wait, the protagonist discovers that such a hard and sharp creature has a soft side indeed.

There is a lesson in this odd tale. Despite their differences, the two gradually start to understand each other. There is a fondness between them that is the sweet to a sour eventuality. The tale reminds me of marriages that are arranged; strangers that learned to first respect then love each other. Although I didn’t see the need for them to be married, I didn’t miss the metaphor of the protagonist giving her heart to her husband.

 

A necessary but thankless job is told in this confession of a 21st Century Dragonslayer’s Lament by Susan E. Connolly (debut 12/30 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a veterinarian. Dragons, thanks to enhanced genetic manipulation, are now a reality. Many have become abandoned, abused, and neglected. It is the protagonist’s job to fix this growing problem.

“Dragonslayer” is an anti-hero tale. As we do with stray and abused pets, the slayer of this story is preforming a distasteful task. The slayer’s job is the opposite of the romantic tales of knights defending the countryside against monsters. Instead, the monsters are the irresponsible people who disregard their commitment to care for them.

The tale serves as a commentary on how we treat our loyal companions in our society.

 

Fairy tale endings aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. And Silver Foundations, Mud by Lisa Nohealani Morton (debut 12/31 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale set inside the premise of Sleeping Beauty. The princess awakes but her hero is nowhere to be found. The kingdom rejoices and the king is ready to wed his daughter off to a worthy prince. The beauty is less than enthused. She has come to miss her walls of thorns and brambles. The good and justice philosophy of her people has lost its luster. It may be time for a change.

The Sleeping Beauty fairy tale is perhaps the most popular of the Daily SF staff. A lot of tales on the subject have been reviewed here. This one didn’t strike me as a particularly original one, but it is one of its darker variety. A different ending.

 

Three Degrees of Separation

In my closing comments for my June 2013 review that debut on September 16th of last year, I noted Dr Stephen Gordon’s announcement that he would no longer review Daily SF on his daily blog Songs of Eretz. Dr Gordon was the only other committed reviewer who tackled the task of reading, reviewing, and sharing his views on the daily speculative fiction email publication. For a full year he commented on each story that was published but said he would no longer do so. We shared our disappointment with you on his decision, shared his opinions on the stories the Diabolical Plots staff had published in DSF, and made a public offer to the good doctor that he could continue to review DSF on a limited basis for us here at DP. I learned two things after my proposal to Dr Gordonâ€

1) The good doctor doesn’t read Diabolical Plots.

2) But a lot more of you than I ever suspected, do

On October 13th, Dr Gordon made this little announcement on passing an impressive milestone for his ezineâ€

I am pleased to announce that Songs of Eretz recently passed 50,000 views. Even more significant is the geometric explosion of views–11,000 of the 50,000 occurred in the month of September 2013 alone! One day in September, there were over 1,000 views in a single day!

Stephen never said which day marked the big explosion of viewers, but if I were to guess, I would say it was the day the editors of Daily Science Fiction posted a link to our review (which is usually around a week after we post it).

So let me first say to all of you, thank you for reading our reviews. It really means a lot to us. Dr Gordon never mentioned the anomaly again. I would like to ask you two favors, if I may. Give Dr Gordon’s splendid ezine another visit and when he comments on the mysterious spike of viewers , and of the odd attraction to a 6 month old post , don’t clue him on why.

 

The SubmissionQ Grinder is very pleased to announce that the Letter Q has renewed its sponsorship of the writer’s submission guide. Despite the Letter X’s offer to triple Q’s contributions, the staff at the Grinder elected to stick with 17th letter of the alphabet. As SG management stated in a company memoâ€

†Q has been with us right from the start, and although we appreciate X’s outstanding offer, being tied to such a salacious and scandalous consonant does not represent the image we envision for the Submission Grinder

So we at Diabolical Plots welcome a return to our partnership with Q as the sole sponsors for the fastest growing writer’s guide website in the industry. It is an honor to be associated with a letter that has supported Her Majesty’s top weapons specialist at the highly classified M spy network for years, as well as lending itself to a superior futuristic multi-dimensional being whose sole purpose is to irritate Star Fleet captains.

Daily Science Fiction November 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

The Wrong Foot by Stephanie Burgis (debut 11/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a fun and lively twist on the Cinderella tale. The initial premise exploring why the prince would need a shoe to fit instead of looking into the eyes of the woman he danced with, is quite clever (and true!)

Initially, “The Wrong Foot” follows Cinderella somewhat closely with too much humor, but as the tale continues this story begins to distinguish itself as its own tale – which is to be expected given where Cinderella ends. But what if the prince found the wrong girl (based solely on the slipper)? Would she even want to get married? Read for yourself to find out.

 

Wolf, or Faith in the Future by Michelle Ann King (debut 11/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) reminds me of a condensed version of The Bicentennial Man by Asimov. This story isn’t a typical story but more of a focus on two items that change over a long, undefined period of time: a dog and the weather.

The author notes, in this case, may be worth reading prior to the story as they could give a better appreciation for the meaning of the tale. The story is good but I feel it suffers from being too short. Then again the premise is worthy of a novel so anything less than 300 pages would likely feel too short.

 

The Girl with Flowers for Hair by Elizabeth Shack (debut 11/5 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Gina paused at Adam’s doorway and took in the room, particularly the crude drawings of a girl with flowers poking out of her head. It had been five years since he disappeared. The police had taken pictures but with no clues the trail had grown cold. She had bought him a new set of colored pencils for his thirteenth birthday just a couple of weeks ago. A silly gesture that Charles had told her to stop; they were both grieving in their own way. A door slammed shut and a voice she could never forget echoed through the empty hallway. “Mom, I’m home.”

This is a nicely told tale of loss and redemption but with a twist. The author does a good job of letting us into the world of Gina and Charles, two parents grieving for a missing child. A sense of loss soon replaced with joy as the missing child returns as if nothing had happened. The fabric of the story is woven well and the ending has a nice little twist. Give this one a read, it’s worth the effort.

 

Just the Facts: A Zombie Story by Cat Rambo (debut 11/6 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)
1. There are Zombies
2. Zombies are not particularly fast. There is even a comic called Late Zombie, where the hero zombie keeps showing up too late to eat the brain.
3. Readership has been declining lately.
4. The author of the comic has decided to visit the zombies, so she has constructed a Plexiglas zombie cage and had it placed in with the zombies.
5. Zombies are really boring.

This is another of the stories that uses a novel approach to presenting the material. I found it interesting and enjoyed the story, but I can see it may not be for everyone either because of format or subject matter. I thought the author did a very good job of building to the surprise conclusion, even though I could see it coming. Read the story and see if you can too.

 

Like Son Like Father by Jed Cole (debut 11/7 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

I knew Felix was going to be a genius. When he was three he was playing with some garbage. Before the year was out he had built a prototype shelter, a tower that stretched above the oily clouds and debris left behind in the world. Those few of us left could now survive. Using twine, wood and scrap metal he built a bridge across the L.A. rift that nomad tradesmen still use today, five years later. Every day his huge form rises before dawn and he comes home late every night. But today he has shown me his latest work, one that brought a tear to my eye.

This was a really good story with a major twist at the end. Set in a time of post-apocalyptic Earth among a people trying to survive. One man’s child proves to be the savior of mankind, but is he one of us or something else? One of the best of the year, give it a try.

Recommended.

 

A long distant infatuation becomes an obsession for a reclusive woman in Breva by Nicky Drayden (debut 11/8 and reviewed by Frank D). Dr Gianna Nero is the foremost expert on the sSuryn language. The aliens, survivors of a decimated world, have asked for refuge on Earth in exchange for advanced technology. Their arrival was still forty years away when they first contacted Earth. An awkward young student, Gianna quickly picked up on the sSuryn emissary’s (named Breva) inflections and complicated speech until she alone understood all his nuances. The close attachment with Breva turns into an attraction. Anticipation and anxiety grows in Gianna as the sSuryn ships arrival nears, then disaster strikes. The alien ship is adrift and they need help.

“Breva” is a tale of fixation. Gianna is a girl who is an introvert. Breva serves as her online dream man, an ultimate outsider and loner. She is truly the only person in the world that understands him, leading to an odd fantasy she concocts in her imagination. As the day of Breva’s arrival nears, anxiety on her aging appearance and uncertain reception of their first meeting consumes her. All of that goes out the window when the alien ship suddenly goes silent with only a brief call for help as a last message.

“Breva” is told in staggered flashbacks at different points of Gianna’s life. They show a young Gianna as an odd bird trying to fit in at the university when the sSuryn are first discovered, to an early thirties scholar who has surpassed her boss as Breva’s interpreter, to the older expert who is threatened by a younger aide who is exceeding her understanding of sSuryn. The tale is rolled out like a mini epic. Gianna is a mirrored opposite of Ulysses, the monsters she battles are internal and the longing she experiences is not for home but for the adventurous beyond with a man who can never really be compatible. The story’s arc is a twist and its finale is an unexpected conclusion.

I found “Breva” to be an entertaining read. It read quicker than its long short story designation. It is a good work of sci-fi of an odd woman who falls into an odd relationship cultivating into an odd finale. How oddly natural.

 

An instructional guide on how to handle first contact with unknown aliens is the premise of Guidelines for First Contact in Simplified Technical English by Jetse de Vries (debut 11/11 and reviewed by Frank D). This detailed directive covers all eventualities, from the benign to the malevolent. If it doesn’t help, you never had a shot anyway.

This tongue-in-cheek offering is clever and thorough, a very well done work of humor.

 

A fallen god plies a new trade in The Book of Love by Michael Haynes (debut 11/12 and reviewed by Frank D). Angus is a drifter, frequenting bars and taverns as he travels. He carries around a magical book. In it, words about love become true. Pete, Angus’s latest customer is suspicious but agrees to pay the former god’s asking price.

Mike Haynes is a writer who never fails to impress me. Angus’s magic is real but he still comes off as a charlatan. He hesitates with Pete but the man agreed to his double-the-price offer immediately. The tale has a sweet twist at the end. Worth the read.

 

A queen is focused and determined to complete The Machine by Sean Robinson (debut 11/13 and reviewed by Frank D). She is the Mistress of Science and her machine is the pinnacle of her achievement. Nothing will stand in her way to complete it. She can’t be bothered by minor matters like a collapse of the environment. Nor will she let anyone stop her, not even her husband. He will help her, one way or another.

“The Machine” is a disturbing look on obsession. It is the only thing that matters to her. My only objection to this piece is I had no idea what the purpose of the machine was.

 

Life goes on, even when a part of you has died. Die for You by Alex Gorman (debut 11/14 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a married couple after an alien invasion. Much has changed, including their relationship.

“Die for You” is the aftermath of a cowardly man. He had let his wife down, and can never regain her respect again. A hard but good tale.

 

The stories Kirk tells during bath time take on a life of their own. From Tuesday to Tuesday by Peter M Ball (debut 11/15 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of two people existing in their own bubble of a relationship. Every Tuesday, Deanna takes a bath and begs for a story from her boyfriend. Kirk’s stories have an unintended consequence of altering reality. His life changes the next morning – a new profession, a change in scenery, and a different Deanna , for the entire week.

“From Tuesday” is a tale of regret. Kirk tires of the Tuesday changes, and has vowed to never tell another tale again, but Deanna has a way of pulling a new one out of him. The relationship the two have is a dysfunctional one. They are two dysfunctional people caught in a dysfunctional, yet changing, reality. I am frankly puzzled why the two remained together. Kirk frequently reminds himself that he does not love her. Deanna’s own words make it clear she has little respect for him. Much of the tale is less about the different reality that faces Kirk after the Tuesday’s, but of the odd dynamic about the two.

The underlying message in this piece of two people who are caught in a relationship stuck in an endless loop regret. I believe the tale serves as a metaphor for relationships that are bounded by familiarity rather than compatibility. I have a simple solution for their dilemma: seek counseling.

 

The protagonist reflects on When The World was Full of People by Patricia Russo (debut 11/18 and reviewed by Frank D). A familiar face is seen across the street. A man who looks like the protagonist’s brother is loading large bottles of water. He plans to plant a flower the protagonists knows doesn’t exist. But plant he does, and grow they do.

“When The World” is tale of reflection. I confess, the point of the piece was lost on me.

 

The old Omega meets the new Alpha in The First Stone by Wren Wallis (debut 11/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist’s ex, hands him an unassuming stone, the first stone of creation, just as time comes to a stop. Creation is ending and the old creator is passing off the job of a new creation to him. The protagonist is overwhelmed and knows he is underqualified for the task, but knows who is qualified to fill it.

“The First Stone” is a religious themed tale. The protagonist is cast as character who is the wrong person at the right time. I found the ending of this tale predictable.

 

A loyal employee underestimates his worth in Final Inspection by Afalstein JD Kloosterman (debut 11/20 and reviewed by Frank D). Wilfrid is an inspector on an assembly line in an automated factory. He has done the job for decades and seeks retirement. His life has been within the plant for years , company policy on contamination making it impossible for him to leave. He has repeatedly requested a leave but the company has said that they are unable to fill his position. The changing products the line produces makes him wonder , the hospital beds and farming equipment that used to be assembled have given way to advanced weaponry. Just what is going on outside anyway?

“Final Inspection” is a tale of complacency. The unseen management is content with Wilfrid and has no intention of making a change, despite the fact his presence inhibits the functionality of the plant. There is a hint of a ‘Terminator’ type of world out there, but the enclosed environment of the plant keeps Wilfrid in the dark.

Inventive tale. I rather enjoyed it.

 

The devil barters to end a man’s pain in Screwtape by Helen E. Davis (debut 11/21 and reviewed by Frank D). All he offers the man is a favor, vowing to leave his soul untouched. An individual soul is valuable to the devil, but with this one customer, he can accomplish a lot more without his.

Timing matters a lot, and the debut of this tale hinges much on its timing. The story has a nice twist for a finale. Very cleverly done.

 

A girl, a kiss, and an invitation to follow is all it takes for a young man to seek The Patient Stars by Ryan Simko (debut 11/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist has a chance meeting with the girl of his dreams. She teases him to find her in the emerging settlements of space. Thus begins a desperate game of hide-and-seek.

“The Patient Stars” is a chase. The protagonist is in pursuit, searching entire worlds to find the girl he met in a chance encounter on one lonely night. He travels across the stars, aging slowly as he jumps from world to world. Human civilization grows around him and leaves him behind; an old relic of a long gone age.

“The Patient Stars” is more of future history of the rise of galactic man than it is about one man’s search for a woman. Although I did appreciate the view of our future us, the story never had a destination for the reader.

 

A gladiator is near his freedom in Three is a Sacred Number by Carrie L. Cadwallader (debut 11/23 and reviewed by Frank D). Kloth is a blue skinned alien, champion of 99 bouts. One more and he’ll win his freedom. Only one other has accomplished that feat, and that champion doesn’t want to see his record matched.

“Three” is an alien tale. The hero is a slave forced to fight. He doesn’t savor in the glory but the exercise has made him a hard individual. Interesting tale. It left me intrigued.

 

Your right to exist will be allowed once you can claim that I Have Read the Terms of Use by Kenneth Schneyer (debut 11/26 and reviewed by Frank D).

“I Have Read” is a legal document for those about to be born. A very clinical (and humorous) look if birth was a legal agreement.

 

An endless winter grips two lovers in The World Will End in Fire by K. C. Norton (debut 11/27 and reviewed by Frank D). The world is freezing, and for the protagonist and his wife, staving off the inevitable becomes a pointless exercise. Viva does not want it to end this way and prefers to choose a brilliant way to leave the world.

“The World” is a tale of two people faced with the end of the world. The sun has gone out and whatever warmth is left is quickly evaporating. The story is a small slice of two people’s life in the final act of a greater tragedy.

 

Remembrance in Stone by Amanda C. Davis (debut 11/28 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Fire is pain and air does not quench it. If Gera had lived to teach her air, she’d be prepared. Instead the runes fell on her shoulders. Gera had taught her water, but even when she enters the sea she is swept away by it. Rolled and tumbled until she is nearly dead, then the sea spits her out as if tired of her presence. She starts a fire that does not warm her, calls a wind that does little to dry her. Finally she wanders back to the house and stares at the rectangle where Gera lays. She wasn’t even able to cut the lines straight. If only Gera had lived to teach her.

I found this one a little jumbled and confusing. The writing was so vague that I never did really identify with the character. Then, at the end of the story, the main character makes an abrupt change in demeanor and thought process. It’s almost as if the author said, “OK time to end the story and make the character change her perception.” It simply didn’t work for me. The author spent so much time setting up the conflict that the ending was disappointing.

 

Tell Me How All This (And Love too) Will Ruin Us by Sunny Moraine (debut 11/29 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

You were screaming when I pulled you from the boat. I’d bound your legs with steel poles and doused you with whiskey. I thought you might die in peace, and I made myself ready for my own death. By the time we reached the island it was sunset, and I pulled the boat ashore. I made a fire from driftwood and wrapped you in blankets. How much of this will you remember? Enough to care? I’ll show you in the most vicious way possible. You may be lucid, but that’s another thing I’ve given up caring about.

We seem to be in a month for strange surreal stories. This is another one I never really understood. The author chose to weave a disjointed tale about two people, at least I think the other being is a person because it is told in a somewhat rambling soliloquy and I was never sure who or what he was prattling on about. About two paragraphs in I wished I’d never started it. So maybe there is a good story in there you can find, I certainly couldn’t.

 

A Year of Outstanding Work

Although we have yet to publish our December’s reviews, I would like to give you my top ten choices for the year. Give them a look. If you like any of them enough, consider nominating one for the upcoming Million Writers Award. I have my pick for the year.

Love’s Footsteps by Cat Rambo

“A Phone, My Heart, and Maybe My Last Shred of Dignity” by Luc Reid

“Five Minutes” by Conor Powers-Smith

“The Bargain” by Henry Szabranski

“Holy Diver” by Gra Linnaea

“Such Days Deserved” by Lee Hallison

Sparg by Brian Trent

The Perfect Coordinates to Raise a Child by Barbara A. Barnett

Highest Possible Setting by Em Dupre

Andâ€

Melancholia in Bloom by Damien Walters Grintalis

In my June review, I compared Ms Grintalis’s story to some of the best Twilight Zone episodes ever to debut on TV. “Melancholia” is sad, beautiful, and special. It had an ending that was bitter, but as I pointed out in my reviewâ€

“†(the) Twilight Zone proved that the very best tales don’t have to have a happy ending for them to be enjoyable. In fact, the bitterest endings in that show are where it achieved its greatest accolades, and like those memorable but bitter episodes this story deserves praise reserved for a true classic.”

If there ever was a published Daily SF story that deserved an award, “Melancholia in Bloom” would be it. I will be nominating it for the Million Writer’s Award. It has earned it.

 

On The PremisesFrank Dutkiewicz has put his snooty and pretentious opinions to good work as a full time finalist judge for On The Premises. A guest judge in the past, he will now help decide the winners of the tri-annual online magazine every issue.

On The Premises is a contest publication. Each contest challenges writers to produce a great story based on a broad premise supplied by our editors. Here is their mission statement.

Our Purpose
On The Premises aims to promote newer and/or relatively unknown writers who can write what we feel are creative, compelling stories told in effective, uncluttered, and evocative prose. Entrants pay no fees, and winners receive cash prizes in addition to exposure through publication.

For writers eager for a fair shot in the publishing world, On The Premises is a blind read contest , all entrants are instructed to submit their work without their name on their script. From the award winning authors to first time writers, all have an equal shot.

Daily Science Fiction: October 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

No need to chatter on in an intro today. Instead, why don’t you enjoy our insights for Daily SF‘s October tales.

 

Space Mama by Karen Heuler (debut 10/1 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is written in a series of short humorous articles similar to Dear Abby – in space. This isn’t a traditional story, as you will discern quite quickly.

Read this if: You’re up for some micro-stories (They really are quite clever). If you want bits-o-humor. If you only have a few minutes. (Keep it up on your phone and read a few as you go.) Or you wonder what people’s personal problems might be like five hundred years from now.

 

Willy by Deanna Kay Morris (debut 10/2 and reviewed by Frank D).

Willy is a janitor who has lost his arm. The missing appendage doesn’t mean his career is over, however. A small vacuum is put in its place. The replacement allows him to keep his job, and advancement is possible, as long as he doesn’t mind an upgrade or two.

“Willy” is a tale where workers are faced with choices , if you want to benefit in this society, you must be willing to make sacrifices. The subtle moral was not lost on me.

 

A forgotten school girl has attached herself to Connor. In Echo by Alexander Grunberg (debut 10/3 and reviewed by Frank D), Connor picks up a pencil that has fallen under his desk and hands it back to its owner , the girl seated behind him. The brief encounter has left an impression on the poor girl. She loses herself, completely, and becomes Connor’s shadow.

“Echo” is a tale of wanting. The girl has become somewhat of a soul mate of Connor, except Connor doesn’t wish to reciprocate her desire. The shadow accompanies him through life and is a nuisance at first. An elder Connor discovers he has come to need his permanent shadow.

I would describe this tale as a flashback love story (going to trademark that term). I liked it.

 

Superhero Art by Cat Rambo (debut 10/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

Rarely do we see superheroes during downtime. Let’s face it: without super villains, is there much for a hero to do? But what if they had the same problems we did, and what if they cheated on their wives?

Cat Rambo takes us on a disturbing journey through the lives of several superheroes through the eyes of a biographer. What he sees isn’t always pleasant, but for us readers it’s always interesting. Note: Heed the Editor’s note on this one. There’s quite a bit of salty language and explicit situations.

 

The Frog Prince by Jonathan Vos Post (debut 10/7 and reviewed by Frank D), is another take on the ‘princess kisses enchanted toad’ fairy tale, technically speaking. The protagonist contemplates her upcoming nuptials to a less-than-bright prince when she encounters a frog with an equal intellect as herself.

This tongue-in-cheek retelling of a popular tale has two characters that use scientific jargon to converse. I pictured Sheldon Cooper and his girlfriend Amy (of Big Bang Theory) in the roles as I read it. Neat.

 

Parents that are willing to sacrifice for their children leave an even greater burden on their offspring in The Perfect Coordinates to Raise a Child by Barbara A. Barnett (debut 10/8 and reviewed by Frank D). Stacie house-hunts in a neighborhood where all the children excel. All it takes is a small self-sacrifice , such as a body part , and your child will be a genius. The association representative conducts a tour with her brilliant daughter, Rosalie: a child who can relate the precise coordinates of any location. Stacie worries what she will need to lose for the sake of her unborn child until Rosalie offers her the coordinates of a house where Stacie should raise her baby.

“The Perfect Coordinates” is a tale of parental ambition. The people of the home owners association sacrifice an extraordinary amount for the sake of their prodigy children without realizing what their kin lose in the process.

A delightful tale. An excellent metaphor on vicarious aspirations.

Recommended.

 

Revenge is a complicated dish to create. Gather Your Bones by Jenn Reese (debut 10/9 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale narrated from the perspective of a witch. Her latest client is broken-hearted and seeks emotional restitution. The protagonist examines her client’s memories and asks for the items that defined their relationship.

“Gather Your Bones” is a story narrated by a witch who delights in her client’s bitter mood. The protagonist savors in the man’s thirst for revenge against his former lover. The story makes me grateful that a witch like the protagonist does not exist, because I could see such an evil woman enjoying a thriving business from an abundance of customers. An excellent tale, wonderfully told.

Recommended.

 

Chronology of Heartbreak by Rich Larson (debut 10/10 and reviewed by Frank D).

Time-traveler preempts a nasty breakup. Very brief and a bit cryptic.

 

Every person has a hero hidden within, and a villain bursting to come out. Doomsday Will Come With Flame by Anaea Lay (debut 10/11 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a brave inventor whose exploits earned him a spot among Earth’s greatest heroes. The protagonist is the only one capable enough to counter the evil Maligno’s carnivorous flying monkeys. The Vigilance League is fighting a losing battle until a new mysterious hero, named Ti, appears to save the protagonist and stop Maligno for good. She has a soft spot for the protagonist inventor, but has a hidden agenda that makes her far more dangerous than a dozen supervillains.

“Doomsday” is a tale of deceit and attraction. Ti is nothing like a hero. Her supernatural powers are beyond superhuman. The heroes of the Vigilance League are in over their heads and only the unassuming inventor has any chance of stopping her. But the man never really wanted to be a hero, and Ti is one woman who can offer him something different.

As a person who has had a chance to view many of Anaea Lay’s works before they had the chance to see the light of day, I confess I marvel at her ability to write wonderful and brilliant short stories. This one, however, left me confounded and confused. By her explanation for her inspiration for this piece, it appears this is one tale that got away from her and turned into something she never planned. If so, the story itself serves as a metaphor on her own writing process. Well done?

 

Conjugation by Rich Kloster (debut 10/14 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

I led her through my cities, slowly, saving the best for last: Berlin in the old Weimar Republic. We walked through the park, stood on the bridge and stared in the black water. Then we made love. When it was time, and the keepers had come, we bartered: exchanging memory and sensory feelings with each card we passed between us. And when she was gone I met with Sidra. Her exchange with Maia’s partner had also been successful, if more practical. “You liked her.” Sidra said. “Yes, humans can be very interesting,” I said.

I found this story a little predictable and a little confusing at the same time. The author does a good job of creating characters you can relate to, however I never got a real sense of what their motivation was for what they were doing. Did they lack the ability to really develop their own feelings, or was this like an exchange of ideas for some kind of pleasure-seeking exercise? Others seemed to have liked it more than I did, so if you are into existential metaphors check it out.

 

Home Invasion by Steve Rasnic Tem (debut 10/15 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

The two officers at the door looked skeptical. Maybe it was the rundown neighborhood. Maybe it was the lateness of the hour. Perhaps it was the aluminum shorts Clarence had fashioned for protection. He didn’t mind their doubts, he been laughed at before – which he might have taken better if it hadn’t been his analyst doing the laughing. Clarence is being invaded by small aliens, or thinks so. But just because you are paranoid, doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

I really liked this story. An interesting take on the old premise of: what if those that we think are crazy are the ones that are really sane? The author does a good job of putting us in Clarence’s shoes with humor and empathy. Give this one a read and you’ll have a better day. Unless, of course, you start to notice some smaller pieces of aluminum that seem to constantly be out of place.

 

Negative Space by Antonia Harvey (debut 10/16 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

It took a long time for Lucy Morgan to die. Hers was an unremarkable death, a slow unraveling skin and synapses that left nothing behind but dust and the lingering scent of lavender. It began that morning in the shower, when she noticed that her idle fancies were slowly being washed down the drain. On the way back from the store her sense of perspective sloughed off like a snakeskin and formed puddles in the street. At work the photocopier was clogged by dark hair and the memories of her father.

This short story is very long on metaphor, but it was a little too esoteric for me. The author is very creative in the use of symbolism to intertwine the physical and the metaphysical, but for me it was just one long series of metaphors. The author appears to be more interested in demonstrating their mental capacity than keeping the reader interested.

 

Crisis on Titan by Powers-Smith (debut 10/17 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

“Now we switch to Shavonne Robinson for a report on the Quality Mining Company disaster on Titan.
“Thank you Janet, the disaster that has claimed the lives of seventeen hundred†”
“That would be 2350, Shavonne”
“What?”
“We hadn’t counted the families of the miners lost.”
Bottom third scroll: [Death toll on Titan nears 3,000]
“Oh,..”
“You’re sure we will be able to see the moon, Jupiter is awfully far away.”
“It’s Saturn, Janet, and yes we should be able to see the moon in this quadrant. The fire has ignited the methane lakes so it should be quite visible.”

This story is done as a mock newscast with both the talking head and the supposed science “specialist” demonstrating a unique lack of knowledge about the disaster taking place. The story highlights the premise that even though we may progress technologically we seem to be regressing intellectually as a species. The author does an excellent job of drawing out this premise throughout the story. He also focuses on the parochial nature of the species with the ending. Well done and well worth the read.

 

In Another Life by Kelly M Sandoval (debut 10/18 and reviewed by Frank D).

Clara lives another life. She slips into an alternative reality where another Clara didn’t drive away the love of her life. Slipping is dangerous, but she isn’t like others who have destroyed their brains, lost in a world that isn’t theirs. Clara slips as a validation that her life with Louise isn’t over. She just needs to show Louise the other reality, and prove that they were really meant to be.

“In Another Life” is a grass-is-greener tale. Clara is obsessed with Louise, and addicted to her alternative life. Her psychologist isn’t fooled by her lies. Louise (her Louise) has moved on. Clara believes her alternative self is living her dream life.

This story is interesting with a finale that is very fitting. Nice twist.

 

One by Sinead O’Hart (debut 10/19 and reviewed by Frank D).

The protagonist of this overcrowded dystopia future is a school-aged girl named Unubert, adapting in a cold, only-child society. Her mother has awakened ill. Her father is annoyed while young Unubert has a slight concern that her Mum will be decommissioned. Decoms are bitter but a part of life. After all, there is only so much room in the world, and in a family member’s heart, to spare.

“One” is a tale that serves as an entertaining commentary on the one-child policy some eastern nations have adapted. The world in which Unubert lives is hard and unforgiving for the unwanted. Ms O’Hart brings to light the drawbacks of allowing only a single child in a family, and of the detriment to the women of such a policy. Well done.

 

Flying Matilda by Gio Clairval & Cat Rambo (debut 10/22 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Every time they saw the apparition it meant more acrobats would die; the shimmering glow forcing them to unhitch their harnesses and crash to their deaths. The headlines read, “Pale Glow, The Merciless Killer”; and “The Man of the Mist won’t stop until all the Acrobats are dead”. Hunts were commissioned, all failed. Then she came along and took the job. She alone was impervious to his will. All the hunters and acrobats around her fell to their deaths, she unhooked herself and floated out to meet him at the top of the tent.

This story is a fantasy set around a world that lives within a circus. The authors did a good job of setting up their reality and creating a conflict, it just wasn’t enough to draw me in. They had a decent enough premise, that of the interplay between humanity and artifact, but for me it was too obscured by the fantasy of the world they had created. Fantasy lovers should enjoy the tale though.

 

Nesting by Mariel Herbert (debut 10/22 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

I was on my third drink when she walked in the bar. “Is that what I look like?” I thought to myself. All long legs and desperation she melted into the chair next to me. Some small talk and we ended up in bed for the night. The next morning was all too familiar. After my shower I was prepared for the standard “Good-bye” speech, but she surprised me and asked to stay and share the apartment. “I could take some of your clients. They’d never know it wasn’t you.” So after some discussion we embarked on a new life, the two of us.

This story asks the question, “Can robots of the same sex find true love?” I thought the author did an excellent job of setting up both the reality and the premise as he rolled out a somewhat tilted noir scenario. The old veteran takes the younger novice home, only to fall in love with her. The homosexual overtones aside, I thought she did a very good job of conveying both context and subplot throughout the story. Nicely done. Not for everyone, but worth the read.

 

A series of simple questions are the theme of this un-simple title in 36 Interrogations Propounded by the Human-Powered Plasma Bomb in the Moments Before Her Imminent Detonation by Erica L. Satifka (debut 10/24 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this list compiled story is of a human altered into a weapon. The questions are aimed at a benevolent alien species. No answers were forthcoming.

Hmmm. I somehow expected a different outcome.

 

A woman travels back into her memories to visit her younger self in Time Travel, Coffee, and A Shoebox by Nina Pendergast (debut 10/25 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is about to make history as the first woman to experience simulated time travel. The journey is to broadcast as a reality TV program. Upon seeing her younger self, the protagonist realizes some things are just too precious to share.

“Time Travel” is a tale of rediscovery. The visit, although only a simulation, is nevertheless real to the protagonist. She revisits dreams she had long forgotten and examines past concerns that seem silly now. The visit for her is like meeting a departed relative. I found the story sweet and enlightening.

 

Irresistible offerings in rare vending machines tempt three men in Cuddles by A. A. Lowe (debut 10/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Genetically altered pets are the desire of one character in this odd premise. The men search old motels in hopes of finding a kitten.

Strange piece.

 

A customer awaits the final delivery for a desirable package in Lost in Transit by K.B. Sluss (debut 10/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Body parts arrive by mail, one package at a time. The protagonist’s excitement grows as her product is assembled. One last delivery , the most important part , is expected, but alas, it never arrives.

“Lost in Transit” is a neat little tale. Shocking that such a complete and stimulating tale was written in the frame work of a flash tale. Very well done.

 

A daughter visits her intrusive mother in The God of Rugs by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 10/30 and reviewed by Frank D). Karen rarely visits her Mom. The rugs in her place have a mind of their own, limiting Karen’s freewill without consequences. A throw rug gets a little intimate with Karen when her mother leaves the room.

I found this piece to be a little weird.

 

A grieving spouse is willing to pay a magicians stiff price to resurrect their better half in The Bestowal of the Magician by Tianyue Zhang (debut 10/31 and reviewed by Frank D). The husband of a departed mate has pawned much of their belongings to finance a necromancer’s fee. His wife won’t remember much, which will be a shame because the final price to bring her back is great indeed.

I found this story clever but predictable.

 

A million and three-hundred and thirteen

storySouth’s Million Writers Award has published their winners for 2013. Sadly, none of the Daily SF tales were in the running but several DSF authors did make their short list. storySouth will be accepting nominations for their 2014 awards very soon. We at Diabolical Plots will be providing our own best of 2013 DSF tales in the coming weeks. Please give our suggestions a look and consider them as your nominee for the award.

We would also like you to consider our own prolific David Steffen for the awards honor as well. 2013 has been a banner year for him, his work appearing in nine publications over 2013. Most of them were flash fiction publications, which aren’t eligible for the award, but his story “Could They But Speak” published at Perihelion is eligible.

Million WritersEach year, the Million Writers Award offers prizes to the authors of the winning story, a runner-up, and an honorable mention. These prizes are possible thanks to your generous support. Please click on the donate link below to offer your support. Donors have the option of being listed on the Million Writers Award Page or remaining anonymous. Donations are not tax-deductible. Except for the small percentage collected by PayPal to facilitate the transaction, all of your donation goes to fund the Award.

For additional questions or inquiries about the Million Writers Award, contact storySouth editor Terry Kennedy at terry@storysouth.com. For general updates about the award, be sure to check out storySouth.

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

 

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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.

Daily Science Fiction: August 2013 Review

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

Intriguing tale. Not bad.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Sound Check

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

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

snapperFrank Dutkiewicz needs no introduction.

Daily Science Fiction: May 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

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

 

A Chance to Settle a Paying Forward Debtâ€

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Daily Science Fiction: April 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

To Be Heard, Or Not To Be Heardâ€

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

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

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

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

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

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

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