The Best of Toasted Cake 2013-

written by David Steffen

Tina Connolly’s Toasted Cake podcast is still going strong! She reduced her publication frequency for a little while to spend time with her newborn baby, but pretty soon Toasted Cake will be back up to its weekly rate. By my reckoning, Toasted Cake published 41 short stories between my last list on January 21, 2013 and the end of 2013.

Two of my own stories were also reprinted on the podcast. I don’t consider my own stories for inclusion in the lists, so I’ll just mention them here in the header: This Is Your Problem, Right Here and What Makes You Tick.

 

The List

1. The Girl Who Was Loved By The Sea by Spencer Ellsworth
The POV character here is the personification of the ocean, who has fallen in love with a girl because of the myths she makes up about it. The ocean tries to interact with her as she grows older.

2. The Oracle of DARPA by Bogi TakÃ’ cs
Written as a transcript of a DARPA researcher with an oracle meant to predict threats. But the Oracle speaks so cryptically so as to be basically useless. Fun stuff! Some of the oracle’s language reminds me of conversations with the Orz when playing Star Control II.

3. Through the Cooking Glass by Vylar Kaftan
When baking gingerbread cookies, a woman finds that she has spawned a tiny little civilization of cookie people.

4. Hazelwitch v. Hazelwitch by K.G. Jewell
Follows the court proceedings involving the breakup of two magic-users.

5. Taking Care of Ma by Lee Hallison
This one reminds me of my dad and his distrust of technology, trying to help out an aging mother with technological solutions.

 

Honorable Mentions

After the Earthquake by Caroline M. Yoachim

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 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

We have another month of reviews for you! Thank you to those who helped me to smoke out find Mr Anonymous. His reviewing talents were desperately needed missed here. Now on to the good stuff.

 

A woman counts the tragedies in her life in “Seven Losses of Na Re” by Rose Lemburg (debut 5/1 and reviewed by Frank D).

The author of “Seven Losses” uses her own memories as a template for this story. The subject of this depressing tale is of a Ukrainian Jewish peasant girl who tells of events in her life ranging from Stalin’s oppression into the later years of the Soviet Union.

 

Alicia finds comfort with a friends creation in “Clem” by Cassandra Rose Clarke (debut 5/2 and reviewed by Frank D). Clem, Alicia’s close friend and co-worker, has passed away. She evades her colleagues by eating her lunch in Clem’s old office. After four days of dining in her departed friend’s work environment, the computer that Clem created speaks to Alicia.

There wasn’t much to this piece. It was a type of story I have seen before, two people connect by a common friend who has died that become fast friends. What made it different was that one of the people was a machine. I had trouble buying that the office Clem worked in would be left vacant yet her equipment would be left undisturbed as if she were on a vacation. It was a hole in the premise that felt should have been filled.

 

The boogeyman returns to the protagonist’s life to ask for a favor in “An Old Acquaintance” by K. G. Jewell (debut 5/3 and reviewed by Frank D). It seems times have gotten hard for Oscar (the name the protagonist has given his boogeyman). Kids have night lights and stay up later these days. He needs a referral, and the much older protagonist has just the kid in mind.

This story is short so I won’t reveal any more of this very delightful and funny tale. I enjoyed it immensely.

Recommended.

 

Becca has a special relationship with her departed uncle in “Dancing in the Dark” by Stephanie Burgis (debut 5/4 and reviewed by Frank D). Becca’s family is getting smaller. Both of her parents have just died. Now her uncles Kev and Rom care for her and her brother Billy. Jack died in a robbery years before but keeps Becca company. A photo she has of him with an old girlfriend is what keeps him around. Only she can see Jack, and she sees him in a different light when the strange woman in the photo shows up at the front door one day.

Dancing” is a sad tale. The grim tone of it made it difficult for me to enjoy. However, after reading the author’s comments on the inspiration of the piece, I can see that the tale was a work of therapy for the author. I did find the end satisfying.

 

Sylvia wants to know from her parents when they’ll be going on their yearly vacation in “One Childhood of Many” by Andrew S. Fuller (debut 5/7 and reviewed by Frank D). Sylvia is eager to start the family trip to Lake Moo-noo fHul-pa, a magical place fitting ‘Alice in Wonderland’. She speaks of the spectacular things they do every year there.

One Childhood” reads more like a spoiled and bored child’s wool gathering in her over active imagination, which may be what the tale was all about in the end.

 

“The Rush of the Wind and the Roar of the Engines, and the Call of the Open Road” by Lavie Tidhar (debut 5/8 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is more of a summation, or a cataloging. For a moment I thought perhaps a character was on a super-futuristic ride, a history of a local portion of the universe, but no. Maybe?

The writing was fine, but I think this story would work best upon a second read. There could be nuances here I didn’t catch reading it though only once. However, I find stories without characters difficult to latch on to. Especially one spanning a time frame, and divulging a history. In the end, I have to ask myself if it’s worth committing this litany of fictional facts to memory.

I’ll skip the second read.

 

The protagonist travels to the Great Library of Tourmaline to read the Tome in “The Tome of Tourmaline” by Ken Liu (debut 5/9 and reviewed by Frank D). The words in the book have power. Power of the inner wonder in each person. It is mysterious, moving, and magical. The story within is the story each person needs to read for themselves. What is in it? You’ll have to read the Tome for yourself to find out.

If you are looking for a story as marvelous as the fictional book in “The Tome”, you might as well pass this story by. This tale is only about how one man is moved by words and a tale you will never see. So what is the point of “The Tome”, you may ask? This story was an exercise in prose. Ken Liu demonstrates on how writing a story that is only about a person reading a story, can be done so well. Even the ending to this piece I found intriguing.

The Tome” is a tale for writers and serves as a lesson on how to write well.

 

In “Wrong World” by Steve J Myers (debut 5/10 and reviewed by Anonymous) the story is delivered as a monologue to doctor (psychiatrist, methinks…). The main character is explaining why he was picked up by the police, naked and ranting on the highway.

The story glances at the idea of a multiverse; a theory that every possibility can happen and does happen in other versions of the universe and there exist an infinite number of universes.

It’s a nice idea to think that in some universe, by making a different decision at some crucial point in your life, you are a rich and famous author, loved by all (or perhaps that’s just me…). In ‘Wrong World’ –the title kinda gives it away–things don’t go as planned for the main character.

I found this story mildly entertaining. The main hook is the explanation of events leading up to the main character being arrested running down the highway naked. I found motivations a little lacking–someone who has saved money for years suddenly risking it all on the roulette table based on some knowledge of physics seemed a little far-fetched. No doubt people do odd things, but I’d want some reason for their sudden change in character (stopped taking his meds?). Turning thirty wasn’t enough for me.

 

“Great White Ship” by Lou Antonelli (debut 5/11 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

A traveler stuck waiting for a flight strikes up a conversation with an old airline employee. The Old Timer tells him a story of a Great White Airship that arrives from a most unusual destination. The story of a craft from an alternate reality and how it got there is only the precursor to the final act.

This is one of my favorite stories from this site. I have a great passion for lighter-than-air craft and their potential as a future means of transport, which opens the story. The author uses this speculation to launch into an engaging tale. As fascinating as the main story line is, the alternate history premise that accompanies it is just as worthwhile. This story was well written and very well thought out. It is well worth the read.

Recommended.

 

The family hears the call in “The Call” by Erin M. Hartshorn (debut 5/14 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), a summons to adventure and new worlds. It’s a call that ends in death; yet it’s a call that none can ignore. Ash heard it first and has answered his last call. His sister has heard it at times, but she know his oldest child is hearing it more strongly, and far too early. When she finally hears it clearly, can she ignore it? Even if she must to protect Ash’s child?

This is a good story about family, far off adventures and unheeded callings. I like the way the author built the suspense and mystery in a short story set in a single venue. She also touched on how differently our destiny calls each one of us. Nicely crafted tale and well written prose.

 

“Dragoman” by Helen Jackson (debut 5/15 and reviewed by Frank D). Amanda is the only person who can save the planet from giant lizards, so the story begins. She is a young girl who plays two grandfathers to get what she wants, and she wants a lizard for a pet. The lizards like to dance, and Amanda seems to know what their steps mean.

Dragoman” starts as a rivalry between two grandpas. The tale drifts away from that subplot and becomes a completely different story. It made me wonder if half the story was needed to tell this tale.

 

Young Jason is on the run from a monster in “Monsters Big and Small” by Jakob Drud (debut 5/16 and reviewed by Frank D). Jason is a troubled child. He just hurt another child and his single parent father is furious at him. His teachers say he is filled with anger, but Jason has a bigger worry; there is a monster under his bed.

Monsters” is a tale where metaphors become reality. Jason is afraid. He really doesn’t believe he is an angry boy but he knows that he is scared. He feels alone and frightened. What he needs is someone to slay his monster for him. Salvation comes from a person who is familiar yet a stranger to him.

It is a very rare feat when an author can write a metaphor within a metaphor. This is a very good story, one worth reading.

 

An Ark to the stars is man’s last chance in “Hoist With an Ark to the Stars” by David Glen Larson (debut 5/17 and reviewed by Frank D). A comet is headed straight towards the Earth. All attempts to stop it have failed. The Ark is the vessel that will repair the Earth. Filled with the genetic make-up of the planet, it is set for a half million year journey back to its home.

Hoist” is told from the eyes of a janitor left roaming in the most important room in history. The fate of Earth has been sealed, but there is no time like the present time for cleanliness. The silliness of that notion was just one of the problems with the premise that I had. The ending to this piece is one that I have seen before.

 

John is marooned on a wasteland in “The Vault” by Leslie Claire Walker (debut 5/18 and reviewed by Frank D), and discovers he has brought with him what he hoped to escape from. John has crashed on a world others avoid. He has done so intentionally but finds his most precious possession in the vault of the ship, his 15 year old daughter, Reya.

John wants to know why his daughter would stow away. She has questions of her own for her father. John discovers the answers are what he was escaping from all along. His journey to get lost becomes an opportunity to be found.

The Vault” is a voyage of self-discovery. Items John has lost and forgotten about, are found with his daughter’s help. A moment in the story shows the wayward soul what true loss is all about. Although heartwarming, I found this tale to be a slow solving puzzle. It took half of the tale for me to figure out what the real dilemma to the story was. By then, any sympathy I had for John’s blight was long gone.

 

The protagonist is waiting for her magical moment in “Fantasies” by Jasmine Fahmy (debut 5/21 and reviewed by Frank D). She counts the day on her calendar, waiting for a letter, sign, event that she has read about in the many books that she has read.

Fantasies” is a cute tale. My own daughter went through the same dilemma the over-imaginative child in this tale goes through. A very enjoyable tale.

 

“The Numbers” by Timothy Moore (debut 5/22 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

The world is plugged in, tied together to the point where everyone can view each other’s emotions. Everyone lives vicariously through the eyes of others. Parties and hedonism is the rule. Danny feels out of place, a schmuck lost in the sea of beautiful people. Now they are sending out numbers, the sum total of you as a being. Danny is sure his will be the source of amusement, something to provide comic relief to the world. He is astonished when they are shown, but he has forgotten how saints are treated in their own land.

This story was well written and shows us a glimpse of a possible future. One where idle frivolity is the rule of the day. Where individuals derive pleasure from the joy and misery of others. Into this the author has placed a genuine good person, one who actually cares for others. The story of what happens is a well written and well thought out cautionary tale. This is a good read.

 

The protagonist searches the bookstore for something to fill her empty life in “Wishes” by Patricia Ash (debut 5/23 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), something to provide brightness she doesn’t have. She finds it in a book titled “Wishes”. She finds more than she bargained for. She finds peace, but will others see it the same way?

This story is a nice little fable. A story of finding solace and our place in the world. A story of finding something that someone else couldn’t understand. It’s also a fable about finding happiness where you least expect it. This is a good story.

Recommended.

 

In “Pocket” by Elizabeth Creith (debut 5/24 and reviewed by Anonymous), a customer at a cafe notices how the pretty waitress, Zenobia (Zen for short) is able to produce, from her tiny pocket, whatever customers need– extra creamer, sugar, ketchup, etc. It is a very small pocket…

He turns up one day unexpectedly and discovers a little too much…

This very short story was nicely done. It is well-written and subtle with a nice tone throughout. I liked the ending, although a touch more explanation wouldn’t have gone amiss. I would give the story 5 out 7 rocket dragons.

 

“Ballad of a Hot Air Balloon-Headed Girl” by Douglas F. Warrick (debut 5/25 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

A young man trains to be a soldier and loves a girl who fantasizes her head will burst into flame and carry her away. The girl has fashioned a balloon to catch the heat from the conflagration and attached it to her body. The boy like to climb trees. As the young man is drawn into the harsh realities of war, the young woman becomes more enmeshed in her fantasy. The girl begins to change, but so does the young man. Finally they have grown apart and she makes a final appeal for him to leave reality and join her, but he cannot. He spends the rest of his life regretting the decision, finally trying to join the girl, but is it too late. Has the chance passed him by, or can he regain what was lost?

This is a tale that interweaves the harsh reality of war and politics with pure fantasy. The author does a good job of playing off both storylines and intersecting them in the lives of two young lovers. The writing is vivid and well structured; though it was long I found it easy to read. The story will not be for everyone, but if you invest the time your will be rewarded.

 

A man toys with death in “Endgame” by Thomas Canfield (debut 5/28 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this tale has received his death machine. It is set at 30 seconds and counts down from there. The voice is seductive, inviting. Once the machine is started, the time cannot be reset but can be stopped. It is scary and alluring.

Endgame” is about dancing with death. Your own means of expiration is in your hands. What will death be like? What will I feel when it comes? The questions have an answer, it is all a matter if your curiosity is stronger than will for preservation. Good story but if it were me, I would have bought a safe and locked the damn thing inside.

 

A pair of research scientists conduct a series of interviews with the were-people in “Brief Interviews With Therianthropes” by Marissa Lingen & Alec Austin (debut 5/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Dr’s Yue and Bjornson contact and question the werewolf, were-bear, were-orca, and such, of society, trying to determine how they fit into today’s world.

This is an amusing tale. A fun piece to read.

 

In “The Girl She Truly Was” by Lauren K. Moody (debut 5/30 and reviewed by Anonymous) Ms Moody re-tells the story of Cinderella. The only difference between this and the classic fairytale is that Cinderella is born a boy, but feels as though he should be girl–what we call gender dysphoria nowadays. Apart from that, the story pretty much unfolds the way you’d expect, with magic filling the gaps and making the whole thing work.

It was well written, but since the twist of the story (what makes it unique) happens at the beginning, the rest of the story seems a little predictable as barely changes from the original.

 

The protagonist is meeting her alien hybrid daughter for the first time in “Sapience and Maternal Instincts” by Krystal Claxton (debut 5/31 and reviewed by Frank D). Twenty years later, she can see a bit of herself in her alien offspring. Gathering the nerve to meet her was difficult but they do share a bloodline, and a bit more she soon discovers.

Sapience” is a unique twist on the parent/child reunion trope. Like a mother who is meeting the child she gave up for adoption, the protagonist is full of anxiety. Unlike those women, she was forced to carry the daughter who is sitting before her. The story evolves into something sweet and loving. I found myself as surprised at the outcome as the protagonist did.

Recommended.

 

Making the List

While looking for material to post here, I found this delightful reviewing site, BestScienceFictionStories. The ezine reviews speculative fiction spanning several decades with links of where you can find them. I just read and enjoyed the sites administrator’s (Rusty) assessment of OSC’s award winning novelette Ender’s Game.

Rusty invites guests to post a review and I found one done by an Amanda Watson. She lists the top four magazines new writers should consider when they are submitting their speculative fiction tales. Daily SF ranked # 3 on her list (behind Lightspeed and Clarkesworld). Here is a short excerptâ€

â€Daily Science Fiction publishes a relatively high volume of stories, many new writers find it to be an excellent site to use as a vehicle to establish themselves in the science fiction writing world. Just don’t be surprised if your first few submissions to this magazine don’t make the cutâ€

#4 on her list is Asimov’s (never a bad thing when you can beat Asimov’s on a list). I found that I agreed with most of Ms Watson’s advice, but heading my list of the greatest understatements of the year, she writesâ€

â€Don’t get discouraged if your story doesn’t get published by one of the magazines listed aboveâ€

Please, please don’t be discouraged if you don’t get published by any of the publications on her list but plan on buying a sheet of drywall if you do. You will need to repair the hole in the ceiling your head made when you jumped for joy when you received your acceptance.

Unidentified Funny Objects edited by Alex Shvartsman is an anthology of humorous speculative fiction. The publication will debut in late 2012 and will be available in print and e-book formats. UFO has already locked up many regular Daily SF authors , such as Mike Resnick, Lavie Tidhar, and Ken Liu (to name a very few) – and has opened up their kickstarter campaign, an opportunity to guarantee your own copy of the book and contribute to expand this ambitious project.

ÂThe editor and Daily SF author, Alex Shvartsman, has said the project is filling up nicely (a claim this associate editor can verify) but says he still has room for more hilarious material. If you think you have what it takes to be funny, feel free to check out UFO’s guidelines. For an idea what it takes, UFO would like to give you a taste of funny with Jake Kerr’s “The Alien Invasion As Seen In The Twitter Stream Of @DWEEBLESS”.