Long List Anthology Volume 3 Kickstarter

written by David Steffen

The Kickstarter for the Long List Anthology Volume 3 is launched as of this morning!  This is the third in a series of anthologies collecting works from the longer list of works that got a lot of Hugo Award nomination votes from the fans.

The art this year is a lovely piece by Amanda Makepeace.


The stories lined up are:

Short Stories (base goal)

  • “Lullaby for a Lost World” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “A Salvaging of Ghosts” by Aliette de Bodard
  • “Ye Highlands and Ye Lowlands” by Seanan McGuire
  • “Things With Beards” by Sam J. Miller
  • “Red in Tooth and Cog” by Cat Rambo
  • “Terminal” by Lavie Tidhar
  • “Razorback” by Ursula Vernon
  • “Welcome to the Medical Clinic at the Interplanetary Relay Station | Hours Since the Last Patient Death: 0” by Caroline M. Yoachim

Novelettes (stretch goal)  

  • “A Dead Djinn in Cairo” by P. Djèlí Clark
  • “Red as Blood and White as Bone” by Theodora Goss
  • “The Venus Effect” by Joseph Allen Hill
  • “Foxfire, Foxfire” by Yoon Ha Lee
  • “The Visitor From Taured” by Ian R. MacLeod
  • “Sooner or Later, Everything Falls Into the Sea” by Sarah Pinsker
  • “Blood Grains Speak Through Memories” by Jason Sanford

Novellas (stretch goal) 

  • “Runtime” by S.B. Divya
  • “Chimera” by Gu Shi, translated by S. Qiouyi Lu and Ken Liu
  • “Forest of Memory” by Mary Robinette Kowal


I hope you are as excited as I am!  Thank you for your support!


Daily Science Fiction: February 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Whew. A lot going on in our little Diabolical world. So much David Steffen has left the substitute in charge. David assures me that Anthony Sullivan is more than capable for the job, and said he has yet to miss an edit.

On to this month’s review!


A little girl has a gift the alien overseers need in “Substitutes” by Colin P. Davies (debut 2/1 and reviewed by Frank D). Melinda has been blessed with the ‘gift’, the ability to navigate the stars. Aliens have come to Earth and spread a condition among its youth. Melinda’s father calls it a disease, but for the few who have been affected, they are prized by the aliens. They offer compensation to Melinda’s father, and a substitute that is in every way a perfect copy of Melinda. It isn’t enough for Melinda’s dad, but the aliens are relentless. The pair have been playing a cat and mouse game as they try to stay a step ahead of the aliens, but the creatures who have managed to travel the stars are far too clever to shake.

“Substitutes” is an eerie tale. Whatever the affliction Melinda is under, it has affected her mental capacities. Her father reacts how I’d imagine most people would react, angrily and fearfully. The brief tales plays out like a Stephen King premise, clones stalk the pair as they run to new homes. An increasingly desperate father gets more violent with every encounter.

I really liked this story. Liked it so much I was disappointed that it ended so quickly. Add 80,000 words as good as these 2000 and it would make a great novel.



An abandoned and hungry girl stumbles upon an edible house with her brother. “Hungry” by Robert E. Stutts (debut 2/4 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a captive in a cannibalistic witches’ home. The witch has imprisoned her brother in a cage and is fattening him up while impressing the little girl to be her apprentice. The little girl knows this will not end well for her and her brother, no matter how much the outcome changes.

Mr Stutts R rated version of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ is dark, even for this very grim Grimm tale. I found myself glued to it, as if I had fallen under a spell. Daily SF has published many disturbing tales. There may be a creepier tale than “Hungry” in its archives but if there is, it isn’t coming to mind.


The need to belong compete with its consequences in “Wildness and Wet” by Lee Hallison (debut 2/5 and reviewed by Frank D). Leah watches a flash dance performance from the safety of her bedroom window. The dancers are teenagers her age, connected via implants to the web. They share a clique like no other in history. Leah wants to be a part of it, and the boy who climbs to her open window may be too alluring to resist.

“Wildness and Wet” is a tale of temptation. The kids joined in this futuristic web have a shared physic ability thanks to the enhance technology. They garner all the substance they need through the implant and share a closeness ordinary human contact can never achieve, but their candle burns twice as quick and they die very young , burned out expending the extra flare they have enjoyed. Leah is like an imprisoned princess , unable to be a part of the exciting world she sees but she is very aware of the price she would have to pay to be a part of it.

I have one major complaint about this story , way too brief. This is just a taste of a far larger idea. I hope Ms Hallison explores this world further and shares her findings with us in the future.


A scientist and his greedy sister fight over their departed father’s possessions in “Mirror Image” by Peter M. Wood (debut 2/6 and reviewed by Frank D). Sam is a physicist but even he can’t piece together what his extrinsic father’s basement lab is all about. Doris, his sister, wants to sell it all and split the sale 50/50. She had already bilked Dad of the rest of his assets but it is never enough for her. Sam wants to see if there is anything to his late father’s claims of alternate realities, but Doris’s greed may make it all a moot point.

This tale explores the insanity of adults who fight over their departed parents belongings and adds a convenient twist to it. Amusing, in this world and in the one next door, I’m sure.


The Time Travel Device” by James Van Pelt (debut 2/7 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist has created a means to travel through time. He isn’t able to control where he goes, his own desires choses his destination for him. Where you go can say much about the person you are.

This short tale has a morbid tone to it. Fascinating destinations, but I’d be worried if I were the protag.


A socially awkward girl makes her pitch for a date in “A Phone, My Heart, and Maybe My Last Shred of Dignity” by Luc Reid (debut 2/8 and reviewed by Frank D). Iowa is a loner in a society where no one is alone. Her life is a series of disasters. Today has been an unusually brutal day even for her, but reflection can help heal her self-inflicted wounds.

“A Phone” is a comedy of errors with a love story buried within. The story is told in a string of flashbacks , unusual but effective when written by someone as skilled as Mr Reid. Iowa has fallen for a woman giving a demonstration at 20th century fair. Iowa hatches a very crazy plan in hopes of impressing her.

I simply loved this tale. The ending of it was the beginning; watching Iowa’s crazy plan unravel in reverse made it that much more entertaining. You may need to jump back to the opening to notice the sweet conclusion to the story.



Charles Milford speaks for the President in “For The People” by Ronald D. Ferguson (debut 2/11 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). He has no official title, no position, but he sees him every day; which makes him the perfect vessel for the explosives planted in his abdomen. The resistance movement plans on using the drugged Milford to kill both the President and the Vice President. But will the plan succeed or do the rebels have it all wrong?

This story was set in the not too distant future, maybe one we can even see from here. I thought it was a little uneven at the beginning; but as I read on, I was rewarded with a pretty good story. It had a nice little twist at the end, and I’m a sucker for those, so maybe I’m prejudiced, but I thought it worked well. I think if you keep an open mind at the start of the story, it’s worth it in the end.


Kane is an empathy in “The Needs Of Hollow Men” by K.A. Rundell (debut 2/12 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), one that works for the police to solve crimes from the emotions left behind at the scene. A “hollow man”, someone empty of his own emotion. His lack of personal emotions facilitates his work, of course the meds help. But Kane is a man in trouble; the emptiness has been filled by everyone else’s emotion, squeezing him from inside. Who can help ease the pain he feels? Who will help the needs of a hollow man?

This story is well laid out and does a good job of ushering us into Kane’s world. We also get to see how he is starting to unravel. I think the author did a nice job of striking the right balance of information about Kane and the emotion he is dealing with. Nice story.



Two fairy tales intertwine in “A Hairy Predicament” by Melissa Mead (debut 2/13 and reviewed by Frank D). Mother Gothel has taken Rapunzel of her overwhelmed parent’s hands. Disposing her abundant hair has proven problematic but Rapunzel has an idea. Mother Gothel knows a Fae spell has its consequences, and a grieving widowed giant has come to complain.

This dark fairy tale is written with a tongue in cheek. Cute.


A little girl draws maps of the future in “Maps” by Beth Cato (debut 2/14 and reviewed by Frank D). Christina is cursed with the ability to predict the tragic future. Her left hand independently pinpoints the place where future events will happen. It is a gift she does not want and she is willing to maim herself to rid herself of the curse.

“Maps” may be the most tragic story I have ever read on DSF (quite a claim for this publication). The story was like watching an accident on the side of the freeway, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. High marks to Ms Cato for her accomplishment.


A creepy guy offers to buy a woman a drink in “Five Minutes” by Conor Powers-Smith (debut 2/15 and reviewed by Frank D). Sasha is a hard working single mother; stopping at a local pub for a quick drink when a man takes the stool next to her. She needs to get home to her sleeping children but the man is insistent that she wait and listen to him. The strange man claims he has a limited gift of foresight. He only can see five minutes into the future, an ability that hasn’t been all that beneficial for him. Sasha can’t get away from him quick enough but he only wishes for two minutes of her time, offering to sit with her on the deck and watch as the cars pass through the nearby intersection.

“Five Minutes” is told from the perspective from an exhausted woman. That last thing she needs is to placate a disturbed man. It is written as if you are sure this man is up to something sinister; expecting a dark turn of events to spring into action as you read. Well done.

If you were to take the title and the strange man’s backstory into account alone, you would likely be sure how this tale would conclude. It takes a skilled writer to lead the reader into a different direction. Mr Smith’s use of characters and a careful crafting of the tone of the story will make you doubt the obvious.



The world is ending and there is only one place you can go to be saved in “The Mountain” by Andrew Kozma (debut 2/18 and reviewed by Frank D). Salvation from annihilation can be found on a series of hills with very descriptive (and bland) names. The people count their numbers (only a few can be saved) and watch as the universe dissolves.

“The Mountain” is told from a distance and with little emotional flare. The faceless characters of the story are rescued but have nothing left. I failed to see the point of any of it.


A fatigued man frightens an imprisoned woman in “Coffee Pot” by Jez Patterson (debut 2/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is huddled in a bed, watching a man who sips coffee. She just wants him to fall asleep so she can escape. Escape has its permanent drawbacks, in her case.

I hesitate revealing anymore to this tale. Suffice to say it has an effective twist. Unfortunately, the storyline didn’t capture my interest that much.


“I Heard You Got a Cat, I Heard You Named Him Charles” by M. Bennardo (debut 2/20 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist has heard his old girl friend has gotten a new pet. It was unnecessary, because he could have taken the position of a cat for her. He could be anything she wanted, and had never left her side.

This story is told from the perspective of a shape changing stalker. He is willing to do anything for her just so he can stay by her side. He is the ultimate in creepy behavior. I really felt for his girl.


Fulfilling a need can get very expensive in “Coin Op” by David Steffen (debut 2/21 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this short work of humor is woman who is experiencing a bit of a losing streak. Her girlfriends have pooled their money together so she can spend an evening with an android gigolo. Not sure how far she is willing to go, she opts for the ‘pay as you go’ method. Unfortunately, passion and frugality make incompatible companions.

“Coin Op” opens as a strip tease. The android takes bits of clothing off for a nominal fee that is pennies at first. The less he wears the stiffer the price. The fact the protagonist is female makes me suspect the viability of the premise, especially when the android is completely devoid of any passion at all. However, the questionable premise does lend to the absurdity of the scene. Particularly amusing is how the android’s member is treated as ‘medical waste’ when he is finished, making me feel shameful in the protagonist’s behalf.

I imagined this brief and amusing piece brightened a few people’s morning when they read it in their inbox.


A young man searches for love, in real life, his dreams, and through cyberspace in “Crabapple” by Lavie Tidhar (debut 2/22 and reviewed by Frank D). Youssou dreams of flying in the arms of an off-world lover. He lives in a house grown from a plant on an old highway in Tel Aviv and mingles with neighbors as he shares drugs and food. Youssou has left his lover and replaced him with a fictional one. The boy down the street knows all about it, because he can experience others dreams.

“Crabapple”, like so many other Tidhar tales I have read, is a difficult story to understand. The backdrop in this surreal premise are references to popular subplots borrowed from classics of the past. Concepts Niven, Pohl, Simak – and several others whose work I recognize but I can’t attach their name to them – appear throughout this tale. They serve as bright neon signs that drown out the sights around them, brilliant to the point of distraction. The story (I think) is about Youssou’s inability to commit. His subconscious attempts to fill this void (total guess), and as a viewer, we are granted a glimpse into his backstory to piece it together. A tangent to this tale is Kranki’s gift of seeing Youssou’s dreams. I would expand on this subplot more but I failed to see any meaningful relevance to the rest of the tale.

I’ve read more short works written by Lavie Tidhar than any other author save my favorites whose collections I have bought in mass in the past. I really want to like his work. He has a poetic flare to his prose. His stories have the feeling of a greater message we all could benefit from. But alas, I have yet to decipher any great message from his stories.

I can sum up all of Lavie Tidhar’s work with my experience of reading “Crabapple.” I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.


“Living With Trees” by Geetanjali Dighe (debut 2/25 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this tale is an explorer. He lands on a beautiful green world full of trees like the kind Earth once possessed. The trees are one with the planet, and with their spores and psychic ability, the protagonist becomes one with them.

The author draws upon her association with Far Eastern mysticism to bring this tale to life. The story has an unspoken feel of dread for an ending.


“The Small Print” by Amy McLane (debut 2/26 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), contains one of the singularly most intriguing lines I’ve ever read. Some might suggest it doesn’t carry weight out of contest, but even in context, it was out of context, and hooked me, firmly, into the story.

“The Druskies call you Padre Smallprint, because you’re always hunting for the catch.”

The story is about a man who removes memories, cleans them of their owner, and sells them to others. (We know nothing of his general clientele, and only learn of one customer of seemingly very ill repute, which adds to the story’s sullen mood.)

When the memory is gone, what is left in its place is a piece of himself. “She’ll come back. She’ll come and come until there is nothing left of her…” the Padre thinks after the initial visit/sale of a woman who’d sold an average summer day.

There are some complex ideas here, and some I feel could be interpreted differently by different readers. What exactly did he do inside her memory? Author Amy McLane doesn’t spell everything out for us, which in my opinion, enhances the tale.
Melissa Mead has written several humorous and interesting twisted fairy tales and to my delight I keep getting tapped to read them.


“Hazel Tree” by Melissa Mead (debut 2/27 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) I feel is weaker than the others, but it is nevertheless fun and, well, twisted.

Here, the put-upon stepdaughter has a magic hazelnut tree at her disposal. What she does with it is what any business minded, industrious individual would do… She profits!


A surrogate android experiences all the joy and pain of child birth in “Hope, Shattered” by Brian R. McDowell (debut 2/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Damara has been designed for the specific purpose of carrying a child to term. Most mothers who use her do so to maintain their physique, but the current mother whose child Damara is carrying is not one of those shallow women. Damara experiences all the discomforts of child birth, as well as all of the emotional peaks and valleys a mother goes through during the event as well. She is just what modern day parents need, if only it were possible for them to tend to her needsâ€

“Hope, Shattered” is an emotional tale. Damara was built for a purpose. The original birthing-bots were built without emotions, but that made them to eerie and machine-like for parents. So her updated model has been equipped to act more like a mother living through the experience. It has left her with a flaw that is heart-wrenching. A neat story, most striking about it is that the author is male.


Welcomed competition…

For months, Diabolical Plots has been beating the drum that Daily Science Fiction has failed to receive the attention we here believe they have earned. It is our opinion that it is a disgrace DSF receives for its first two years, with the exception of this lone website, only passing and brief reviews for selected stories, but that is no longer the case.

Songs of Eretz is a blog written by Dr Steven Gordon. He is a prolific author and poet, and reviews Daily SF the day each story appears (where in the hell does he find the time?). He writes a brief synopsis, what he thought of the piece, and shares his rocket rating. He even goes through the trouble of adding an appropriate photo for each story. I’m impressed.

Aside from the reviews he does of Daily SF, Dr Gordon writes a book report for the latest classic he has completed. Well thought out and well done. The good doctor is very good and very committed to his blog. Give it a look. As a reviewer, I give it 7 out 7 rockets.

As much as I have chastised the publication in the past for their snub of DSF, I would like to congratulate Tangent Online for including several Daily Science Fiction stories in their year end Recommended Reading List. Despite the fact that Tangent doesn’t review Daily SF, Bob Blough was moved enough by a handful of stories to include them for Tangent‘s list. I applaud Dave Truesdale for including them in this year.

Perhaps this would be a good time for Tangent to reconsider if Daily SF is worth their time. I know most of their offerings are shorter than majority of the stories Tangent chooses to review, but DSF does publish a showcase, longer tale every Friday. That makes 4 , 5 tales a month, comparable to what Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and so many other vaunted publications the reviewing site never fails to miss. Surely the quality of the writing at Daily SF is equal to what those celebrated magazines publish, but don’t take my word for it , my illustrious reviewing superiors , take your own recommendations to heart.

stork carrying baby

David Steffen has a very important matter that he needs to attend to. For that reason, he has left DP in the very capable hands of Anthony. The matter is a secret, very secret. You couldn’t get it out of me no matter how hard you tried.

See David? Told you could trust me!


Daily Science Fiction: July 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Riddle time! Where would you find Shakespeare, Merlin the magician, the Green Lantern, time machines, aliens, dragons, dead worlds, the afterlife, creation and (most impressive of the bunch) is over 900 pages long? The answer is below…


A day of celebration is a bitter reminder for Ellen in “Man on the Moon Day” by Amy Sundberg (debut 7/2 and reviewed by Frank D). Today is the day when the neighborhood acknowledges favorite son, Rick Murray, one of the first colonists on the moon, father of the lovely Sarah, and the man responsible for making Sarah a single parent.

Man on the Moon Day” is tale of a wet blanket. Ellen is bitter. Her daughter idolizes the man who abandoned them. It is unclear the circumstances but it appeared that her pregnancy happened on the eve of Rick’s last days on Earth. What Ellen was hoping for from him is never explained but she seems to blame him for her current state of affairs.


An abused boy’s friend opens his eyes for him in “Suburban Pixies” by Story Boyle (debut 7/3 and reviewed by Frank D). Ben’s father has beaten him once again. India invites him over to her house and offers him a place to stay. Her house has its own protectors, and she has said only people who can use your real name can control you.

Suburban Pixies” is a story where the metaphysical is reality. Pixies fly about the yard like mayflies in the spring while other mythical creatures reveal themselves to Ben’s opening eyes. India shows Ben the world is not as it seems and only his perception governs what is real in his reality.

Suburban Pixies” is an escapist’s wet dream. India is a girl who refers to her mother by her first name. The horrifying looking pixies mean little to her. She claims people are less real because of the forces of electrons keep anything from coming into contact. We are mostly blank space. This claim is hollow when Ben has broken ribs from a father who has no trouble making ‘contact’ with a son who failed to make the football team. The lesson of this tale is if your reality is not how you like it, then reject it exists. Perfectly fitting for one who prefers fantasy over reality.


Tom is a careful man in “Too Careful” by Seth DeHaan (debut 7/4 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), he has to be if he is to survive. He is careful in his habits, meticulous in his precautions and thorough in his study of those around him. Returning from his monthly shopping trip his caution pays off, he detects the tell-tale differences in his neighbor Kyle. But his attack, meant to protect himself from those chasing him, only shows he is wrong in his assessment. Wrong again with tragic consequences.

The author did a good job putting us in Tom’s world. It isn’t a world of sanity, but one of paranoia. We feel Tom’s pre-occupation with his personal safety and his sorrow at being wrong again, at being too careful once more. There are a couple of syntax issues and a few constructions I found difficult to read, but otherwise a good story.


“X Marks the Spot” by Kat Otis (debut 7/5 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Ever since they found the map on the dead trapper, the one marking the site for the treasure, Ranulf has become more paranoid about it. When they reached the marked meadow Ranulf attacks his partner of five years to prevent him from sharing in the treasure. It is unfortunate when Ranulf is killed in the struggle that ensues. But when his partner gets a good look at the map, the X has moved to another spot, but it’s the change in appearance of the thing that is more disturbing.

Nice ghost story set in the old west of trappers and buried treasure. The history of the time is littered with tales like this, most of them tinged with truth. Every western town has a tale of its own Flying Dutchman Mine, and every one of these tales is just as intriguing as this one. A well told tale.


“Love, the Mermaids, and You” by Holli Mintzer (debut 7/6 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

After her graduation a girl visits a group of mermaids, her friends since the day she almost drowned some years ago. Since that event the mermaids have provided advice and help for the girl, advice that has helped her grow into the person she is now. With each life event changes come into the girls life. They have helped her through her parent’s divorce, school and now as she goes to college.

I really didn’t care for this story. Not that it’s written badly and not that I didn’t particularly not care for the subject matter, but it may be a little too gender specific. I didn’t ever really grow to like the main character or get that involved in her problems. It may be a story for someone else that is interested in the mermaids and their advice.


A wizard is dissatisfied with a “Disputed Delivery” by Alter S. Reiss (debut 7/9 and reviewed by Frank D). Sycorax the Dread’s order for basilisk hide goes horribly wrong when the delivery company drops off live monsters to his door. Complicating the matter, the delivery company still demands payment for the basilisks. Unable to reach an agreement, Sycorax settles the matter with an equal trade.

This is one of many tales at Daily SF I have had the pleasure to read before hand, a result of my good fortune of participating in Codex’s yearly Weekend Warrior challenge. I found “Disputed Delivery” to be a delight to read then, just as I do now.



The protagonist enters cyberspace to find her daughter in “The Most Complicated Avatar” by Mary E. Lowd (debut 7/10 and reviewed by Frank D). Daria is hiding from her father. It is the abusive man’s weekend with her and she doesn’t want to go. The protagonist is Daria’s mother. Unable to find her daughter in the real world, she searches the one place where she knows she can find Daria.

The Most Complicated” is a sign of things to come. Second World is Daria’s virtual reality escape. She has been building an avatar for herself in it. As her home life becomes more stressful, her avatar takes on traits to make her stand out. The protagonist, as many parents with today’s technology, is slightly out of her element in this virtual world, and finding Daria in there will not necessarily help her locate the scared child’s real location.

Ms Lowd deserves accolades for this inventive idea. Aside from a near future I find very likely, she examines the psychological eventuality young children will use with this ultimate form of escape. “The Most Complicated” is a story that could have ended very badly but I am one that was satisfied with the conclusion to this piece.

Science fiction shines when authors can show us a world that may yet come while exposing our own faults of our present. When this is achieved, writers win awards. By this definition, Ms Lowd deserves consideration for her efforts.



Happily Ever After rarely is in “Seven Sins” by Melanie Rees (debut 7/11 and reviewed by Frank D). A marriage counselor has a difficult job counseling fairy tales. His current clients, Mr and Mrs Charming, are having trouble getting along. With a lobby full of Disney characters, and a brewing headache, the protagonist is bracing himself for a very long hour.

Seven Sins” is a tongue-in-cheek look at what the ‘after’ in ‘happily ever’ is like. The story focuses on Snow White after her marriage to Prince Charming. The story pokes fun at the very nature of fairy tales. Amusing.


In “After the Earthquake” by Caroline M. Yoachim (debut 7/12 and reviewed by Anonymous) a young man goes to visit his grandmother after an earthquake and finds that some of the vases she stores her memories in have broken. In this story memories are liquid-like and can be stored in containers–she likes to store them in pretty vases. He sets about to help his grandmother rescue what he can, but she appears to be dementing, having lost so many memories.

I thought this was an excellent story. It was well-written, thoughtful, poignant and moving. What more can I say? Oh yeah…seven out seven rocket dragons.



An indentured servant is asked to betray her master in “The Suicide Witch” by Vylar Kaftan (debut 7/13 and reviewed by Frank D). Yim is a village mortician in the ancient Far East. Property of a warlord, she prepares the deceased souls for their afterlife. Her specialty is presenting those who have taken their own lives so their dead ancestors will not torment them for eternity. Her talents are necessary, but make her a pariah among her people.

The Suicide Witch” has a dual plot. Yim leads a solitary life. As a peasant girl of the streets, a suicide witch is about as good as it can get for her, but she is still the property of her lord. Then one day the duke’s son stops by to pay her a visit. Jiang Kai-hu is the lover of the girl his father has chosen for a wife. He plans on giving her a paralysis potion then whisking her away after her funeral. For his plans to work, he needs Yim’s cooperation. He offers Yim a normal life – normal for a back breaking peasant – and promises her an unbearable hardship if she refuses.

Yim is a woman who has accepted her life, then Kai-hu enters her world to disrupt it. He offers her freedom, but the privileged man born into wealth does not know what that word truly means to Yim. Yim’s resentment to the well off in society surfaces as she is forced into a plan that is all risk and little benefit for her.

The Suicide Witch” explores the life of a woman who has never had control of it. She has always been someone else’s pawn, and the love struck Kai-hu is willing to put the pawn at risk for his own selfish desires. Yim is left with few choices, as it would seem. The author works hard to make her protagonist seem reprehensible, yet sympathetic – a hard task to accomplish. It is difficult to pull for Yim, but knowing she is a woman who never had a chance to make a real choice in her life is enough to remain invested in her blight. For a story that looked like a viewing of an unwilling partner of deceit, I can say the ending to this tale had a delightful twist.

The Suicide Witch” is just the type of story the editors of DSF receive complaints for being ‘too long’. It is a tale that requires an investment for the reader to follow. But the depth of a character like Yim cannot be told in a flash sized tale.


The king has passed away and 13 maiden warriors in arms ride to Death’s Gate to ask the gods for his return in “The Cost” by Laura Anne Gilman (debut 7/16 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) . The king’s daughter pleads, but there’s no returning; so says the god/dog.

The first person narrator of “The Cost” might be considered the sidekick, until her lady is presented with a riddle only a loyal, loving companion can solve.

Fresh and tight writing, but unfortunately not an earth-shatteringly new idea.


“Broken Glass” by Jacquelyn Bartel (debut 7/17 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a story of a curious boy who gets an opportunity, through a genuine crystal ball, to witness his own future. It flashes through his mind in scenes that make him tremble and weep.

How would a child deal with adult themes being thrust upon him? Would there be any basis for understanding what he sees? Can he comprehend the emotions behind what he sees? I feel there’s a great set up for the answers to these questions, but sadly the story ends without having explored these theme as much as I feel it could.

Still an interesting concept, even if not fleshed out enough for my tastes.


“The Mechanical Heart of Him” by Cate Gardner (debut 7/18 and reviewed by Anonymous).

A woman and a man are in a failing relationship and “The Mechanical Heart of Him” by Cate Gardner (debut 7/18 and reviewed by Anonymous) charts the final few days of it. What is different is that the two people are members some unexplained fantasy version of humanity, made from cogs, strings and flesh. The emotional connections that people have to each other result in a tiny version of that person living within their body and affecting it–pulling heart strings. If they are in love with that person then the little version of that person lives close to their heart and may be quite large, etc. It all requires quite an explanation.

The actual story is simply about the break-up of this couple and how another woman has found her way into the man’s heart. I wasn’t particularly engaged with the story as I found all the emotion-made-literal a bit hard-work and the unfolding of the story a little predictable. The writing was nice, and the idea was novel but that doesn’t equal a great story. Four rocket dragons.


“The Power of the Cocoon” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 7/19 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Christmas is a sad time of year for Emma; the debris of shiny paper and ribbon reminds her of promises unfulfilled. The holiday reinforces she is not the most talented, smartest or best looking in her family. But this year her Grandma will provide Emma with special gift that shows her everyone has a talent that can make them special.

This is a story for all of us who think we aren’t the smartest or the most talented. Each of us has a special talent, if only we can find the right teacher and mentor. This is a nice little story with a nice moral undertone, if a little predictable. It carries the expected teaching point forward with deft writing and well drawn characters, but without the lasting impact that will stay with the reader long-term.


“Twenty Ways the Desert Could Kill You” by Sarah Pinsker (debut 7/20 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Her mother moved her to the desert from Baltimore, taking only what little they could carry. It was an “adventure”, Mother had said, but the girl knows it’s more. Mother has her telescope trained on a “star” that grows bigger each night. Why are they here? She thinks she knows, her mother is protecting her, but from what?

The author weaves the little tale of loss and loneliness between a list enumerating all the dangers in the little girl’s new world in the desert. The author does a good job of building the story of the girl and her mother while using the list of dangers to show the girl’s angst about living in a different environment. It was well done and has a nice air of suspense about it.


“Henry, Caesar of the Air, His Life and Times, or, The Book of Qat: Parts 1 – 5” by Lavie Tidhar (debut 7/23 – 7/27 and reviewed by Frank D).

The uturgurgur find a white giant of a man sprawled on the ground. They take the mysterious stranger to their village where he finally awakes. Henry is a man who has vague recollections of who he was – a man who once flew metal birds in the sky – but the memories are a like a dream, difficult to grasp and quick to fade. Like Gulliver, he finds himself in a strange place and he should beware because the land of Qat is filled with jealous and mischievous spirits.

Henry” is a story adapted to a Melanesian myth. Henry is a WWII pilot shot down on Vanua Lava, an island in the South Pacific. He finds himself in a mystical world where spirits transform from man to beast. Henry falls for one of these spirits, the wife of Qat, Iro Lei. He will need to battle and blend in with the creatures of this world to fight for his love.

Lavie Tidhar is a very popular author. His work has appeared in almost every meaningful publication that features fantasy, and he is one of the favorites of the editors at DSF. “Henry” makes his 7th appearance for Daily SF, and it is the publication’s first week long series. If any author deserved the honor of being a ‘first’, multi award nominated Tidhar would top the list. Clearly, he has an appeal to a large audience. Unfortunately, I am not one who finds his writing all that appealing.

I have been reviewing speculative fiction for the past three years for four different outlets. Lavie Tidhar is the author whose works that I have reviewed the most. My reaction to them range from lukewarm to meh. Usually, I find his tales have a fine craftsmanship quality to them, but the plots are, for the most part, incomplete. I have even passed some of his stories to my helpers, thinking perhaps it is all a matter of taste, hoping one of my crew would find the genius of his tales and show me the light. Alas, their reactions have been similar to mine.

Henry” is a departure from his other stories. It is written as a mythology. According to his bio, Mr Tidhar lived in Vanuata, which is how he likely became familiar with the South Pacific myth. The story is laid out just like a religious myth, reading as if it was translated from an ancient and archaic language, much like how the first half of Tolkien’s The Similarion is set up. And like a mythology, the tale lacks the intimacy to its readers that modern epics strive for. Everything is told from a distance, third hand, with glossed over descriptions to important details – battles, intimate moments, and such. It is difficult to get grounded into this tale, and often impossible to make heads or tails with what is going on. As a result, becoming invested in any of the characters proved to be too great of a task for me. I was grateful that the editors choose to break this up in five installments, I must say. Trying to take in “Henry” in one big bite might have been more than I could handle.


Clare yearns for a change in her diet in “Sweet as Peaches” by Shane D. Rhinewald (debut 7/30 and reviewed by Frank D). Her family lives on a constant diet of meat. At school, her friends will sometimes share their vegetables and fruit with her. Her parents can’t afford things like celery and apples. So if Clare wants fresh fruit, she’ll have to grow it herself.

The premise to “Sweet as Peaches” is based on an advancement in genetics. Meat is grown in a vat, quickly and cheaply, while the land to grow produce is expensive. Clare spends her hard earned allowance to buy a peach tree. As a child who was raised on a small farm, I could appreciate the trouble Claire had in trying to grow a peach. What she chose to do with the tiny fruit she raised made this tale one of the sweetest stories I have read on DSF yet.



“The Curious Case of Version 47.13” by Ekaterina Fawl (debut 7/31 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist to this tale is an android, a companion and servant for Jenny. He looks after her, in tune to her habits and whims. He is due for an upgrade to his software, but the version 47.13 has an error in it and now Jenny’s poor android feels broken.

The Curious Case” is a curious look at a future us. The android in this tale is something of a pet. It is loyal and concerned for its owner’s well-being. The software upgrade it has installed has given it the equivalent of an anxiety attack. Like a pet however, part of the android’s problem is Jenny’s own anxiety and how it feels powerless to fix it. I found this story to be sweet and possibly prophetic.


Over Salad and Soup…

Recently, I was very fortunate to be in Jon Laden’s neck in the woods. Since I didn’t get the chance to attend Worldcon, we decided a nice lunch at a local Panera Bread would suffice. We had a delightful conversation, and Jon hand delivered an astounding book that I already read before it made print.

Not Just Rockets and Robots is a collection of Daily SF‘s first year of publication. I took the time to reread a few of my favorite stories when I got back to my hotel. For substance, the book cannot be beat. Most of the stories are short, perfect if you need a quick bedtime story to tell little Suzy (although, I would heed the warnings headlining each one if you do intend to replace it with Mother Grimm). I can’t praise the content enough, and I would be redundant if I did so, but it wouldn’t be review outlet if I didn’t voice my complaints instead of keeping them to myself.

One thing I was sad to have seen missing is all the wonderful art. Aside from the cover, there are 11 months of brilliant and inspiring works of imaginative speculative scenery that didn’t make DSF’s first year collection. That is too bad because they were just as much a part of the publication as the stories were. I hope, if there is a year two collection, the next Daily SF to reach print won’t exclude them.

And since we are speaking of a year two, I would like to see a different type of break up in the material. Not Just Rockets and Robots is presented just as the publication was debuted, chronologically as they were sent out. I would rather see a break up in genres, as they are in archived on the publications web site. NJR&RII (try to figure that one out) would be nice if broken into 11 ‘chapters’ with an introductory work of art (from the year’s collection) heading off the chapter. Stories fitting the art’s theme (this could be tough) would follow. Of course, art work # 12 would be the cover of the book. I think mixing up the order of the stories would give it a refreshed look.

Jonathan Laden is one of the editors of Daily Science Fiction, publisher of the very heavy book you see, and the guy who created that very neat T-shirt. You can buy the book, but the shirt is the only one he has, at the moment. Bug him if you discover you can’t go on with life without one.

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.



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.



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.



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.



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”.


Daily Science Fiction: January 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

One of my reviewers called me out the other dayâ€

“â€It creates a credibility problem for you when you take Tangent and Locus to task for not covering Daily Science Fiction, then fall four months behind on your reviews.”

Guilty as charged. As I said to him, I could give plenty of valid excuses for falling behind but excuses is all they would be. I made a pledge that I would continue to review Daily Science Fiction as long as I stayed at least six months current. Complacency, and nothing else, allowed me to get lax in my duties. It is my new pledge to be as current as possible. One reason why I have taken on this task to review this much-ignored, but strong in quality, SFWA-qualified magazine is because authors like to see that their hard work has been read, and appreciated.

So to live up to my part of the bargain, here are this month’s storiesâ€


“Happy Birthday” by Sara Thursta (debut 1/2 and reviewed by Frank D). A family puts on a show for their father, an astronaut in deep space. It is his birthday, once again.

“Happy Birthday” examines a hazard of space travel, time differential. The astronaut’s dutiful family does their part to keep his spirits up. Cute, but the premise has a huge hole in it. How could any conversation be conducted if the difference in which time travels is as glaring the story suggested?


A man misses his wife but believes he’s found a replacement in “Still Life Through Water Droplets” by D. Thomas Minton (debut 1/3 and reviewed by Frank D). Brandon lost his wife to cancer but saved her personality. All he needs is a suitable ‘volunteer’ to download all she was into a fresh body. The local pick-up joint is a good place to find one.

Odette seems to be the perfect woman. Lovely, out of town, and eager to spend some time with him, Brandon finally has the opportunity he has been waiting for, all he needs now is the courage to go through with it.

“Still Life” is a theft, theft of a body for a new soul. The story is clever but predictable once it gets rolling. Mr Minton shows his writing skills off with this brief tale.


A Christian spy seeks to discover the secrets ofÂÏ€ (pi) in “The Mind of Allah” by Stephen Gaskell (debut 1/4 and reviewed by Frank D). Emiliano has penetrated the home of a famed Moslem mathematician. Faisal al-Khalsi has calculated pi to a ninth place. Emiliano is eager to find out how he calculates the strange equation and suspects the answers lie in the basement of Faisal’s home.

This historical story reminds me of Harry Turtledove’s alternative history short story collection Agent of Byzantium, both in style and premise. I found it to be well thought-out and clever, although barely speculative. As a lover of AH, I thoroughly enjoy it.


Two brothers return to Earth to cash in on a get rich quick scheme in “Saviors” by James Beamon (debut 1/5 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist endures MEAT and VEGETABLE rations to join his brother on his hair-brained idea, unaware that mankind’s abandoned home world is their destination. The planet is off limits and empty of useful raw material. What could this locked-in-an-ice age-world possibly hold? It’s been picked clean of everything except thousands of cryogenically frozen people left behind.

This tale was about as appetizing as the ration packs the two characters held. Strong writing but the plot left much to be desired. Points added for the author using himself as a prop though. The only real problem for me was the reveal. Really? That’s what’s going to make them rich? Minor issues with the premise (no one’s enforcing the Heritage Laws?) but as a humor piece, it kind of works.


“Calling Down the Moon” by Diana Sherman (debut 1/6 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) Jason Marsten has just lost his mother and now his father is sending him to live with his aunt. The boy wants to stay with his father, in the mountains, by the observatory he loves. Daniel realizes his son needs more. While the father is making arrangements the son goes outside and falls from a tree into a cold dark lake. He is saved by a woman named Cynthia, the embodiment of the moon goddess Diana. The story is about the relationship between father and son, as well as the love they both share for the lure of the moon.

I liked this story a lot. The embodiment of the moon in a woman who serves as nurse, friend, mother and confidant is nice. I thought the opening could have been handled a little more smoothly to bring you into the story better, but that is a small quibble. I found myself drawn in anyway, and I was drawn to the characters. Their feeling for each other and Jason’s son really comes through. In the end this is a story about fathers and sons.


“Look Who Came to Dinner” by Susan Franceschina (debut 1/9 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Marcia’s just had her first close encounter. An alien just walked in on her taking a bath. She calls Randy for sympathy, but he calmly explains that the visitors are just curious and goes over some things she can do next time. Marcia’s still mad and even more taken aback when she discovers the alien is still there.

This was a nice little story. It had some witty, dry comedy and a pretty nice twist at the end that most will appreciate. I was a little put off at the start because the wording was a little like the audience was younger, but after the first few paragraphs it grew up. Nice premise and nicely handled otherwise.


“Electric Company” by Melissa Mead (debut 1/10 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Emily Marcia Stewart’s faithful TV has died. In an effort to replace the loneliness in her house she visits the adoption center looking for a new set. She’s put off by the brash new models, so she journeys to Schenectady, NY., the home of the wild appliance park. After many adventures with wild residents she comes to find a human partner, and a few electrical ones as well.

This is a nice anthropomorphic story, similar to “The Bicycle Rebellion” story of last year. The humor in this piece is front and center and the author has some nice puns included, like the stream of flowing electrical current. The opening was a little too generic for me because it took until she gets to Schenectady for me to realize the main character is female. That small quibble aside, this story was nicely written and the sense of humor came through quite well.


“Things Exist by Imitation of Numbers” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (debut 1/11 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). This story is smarter than me. Which is fine, I can accept that. Reading along I tried to find a common ground with a story clearly outside my intelligence. Poetic, yes. But what… else?

In the end, the author comments are the only words that made sense to me. In the end, I didn’t get it, but apparently, it’s there.

What this story is about, is how it goes about doing it. Normally, that’s a huge plus for me, but this time, I was just lost. Hopelessly lost.


“Into the Forest” by Dana Dupont (debut 1/12 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). Upon a second reading, I appreciated/liked this story more. I think because I knew the surprise, I could better watch for the set up.

To tell any of the plot, is to give away the plot, but with a story this short, I’d suggest giving it a read. It’s complete in its brevity, and not the worse for it.

Although I rated the story 3 of 7 rocket dragons, due to it’s use of a common trope, I appreciated the writing, and the skill behind it, as I’ve come to expect from DSF stories.


“Sixty-one by Seventy” by K. G. Jewell (debut 1/13 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). After Ted Winstead retired, he looked forward into the mundane, boring emptiness and made a decision. He’d visit each of Saturn’s 61 moons, taking a chunk of rock as a souvenir from each, and getting his name in the record books as the first to do so.

No rush. That is, until a bouncy, young student named Elise sets out to beat him to the punch. (Her motivation is classic.)

With two moons to go, there’s a showdown. Whose got what it takes to be the first to all 61 moons?

You’ll have to read for yourself.


“Do I Tell Her” by Steven Peck (debut 1/16 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is the agonizing thoughts of a husband who is trying to decide whether to tell his wife she’s a clone, copied when the original died in an accident. Classic surprise ending. The author teaches bioethics: “I started wondering what ethical issues might come into play if you could actually make a copy of someone (including their neurology). The technology may be here soon. Already people are making micro-scans of brains and cloning is making progress. It may not be long before the elements of this story could actually take place.”


“Dumb as Dirt” by Garth Upshaw (debut 1/17 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter). Two boys play a prank on some zombies. The mother of one boy severely scolds him and punishes him. He doesn’t understand why she takes the situation so seriously. In a surprise ending, she reveals why. The storytelling style is folksy, first person narrative.


You might remember Nancy Fulda from her recent Nebula stories “Flashback” and “Movement.” After reading these two stories, I wrote to her to say, “I’ve read only two of your stories, but they both have something in common and I’ve guessing your other stories do too. A lot of writers have talent and experience, so when they get an idea, they can whip out a story. But it’s all formula and no passion. Your stories are loaded with passion.” Well, it’s too early to say, but I might have been wrong. “All or Nothing “by Nancy Fulda (debut 1/18 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is cleaver and vivid, but there’s not much passion.

Tommy and Edna are childhood friends. In the opening sequence, she pronounces him a zero. He lets the words affect him and never amounts to anything as a child. He even scores zero on his exams. In the second half for the story, his efforts to romance her lead to inventions and discoveries involving the number zero - frictionless, perpetual motion machine; research paper defining a new mathematical system based on division by zero; architectural diagram for a zero-energy house; industrial method for burning fossil fuels without carbon emissions; existence of the zeroth element on the periodic table; zero-point energy.

“Edna Peterson stood with her hands on her skirt and her feet planted in the dark, rumpled soil of the rutabaga patch. Her eyes scrunched into an expression of righteous fury exclusively reserved for seven-year-old girls.” “Tommy Jenkins borrowed his Dad’s beat-up saw and cut scrap wood into building blocks. He built towers so high he had to stand on a chair to reach the top, with arches and buttresses and entire platforms spanning the length of the kitchen. â€˜It won’t fall down unless you push on it,’ he told Edna when her mother sent her over to borrow a cup of sugar. â€˜All the forces are in equilibrium’. Edna scratched her elbow and didn’t want to admit that she didn’t know what ‘equilibrium’ meant. She edged out the doorway without saying anything.”

These scenes are so well written, I can picture them in my mind almost as well as if they were on a movie screen. It reminds me of the stories in my middle school reading textbook: impressively descriptive, but not terribly meaningful. “All or Nothing” is cute and enjoyable, but I’ll take passionate any day.

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

While I would prefer Fulda keep her stories in the passion vein, I applaud her versatility and will continue to follow her career.


“The Professor’s Boy” by Erik Goranson (debut 1/19 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter). A knowledge “vampire,” referred to as a “collector,” targets a dying professor. The extraction process - nanomites injected through his IV - involves the death of the “host.” After a surprise encounter with the professor’s boy, the collector realizes he got a bit more than he bargained for.


“The Stoker Memorandum” by Lavie Tidhar (debut 1/20 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is part alternate history, part horror, part alien, part conspiracy. The prose is tedious and full of 19th century names and the writing style seems like it deliberately imitates 19th century literature, so the story is hard to follow. It has something to do with reptile royalty on the throne in Europe, monsters created by a Jekyll-Frankenstein serum, other monsters that are half machine, and an impending extra-terrestrial invasion. However you define this genre, you have to be hard core to relish this story.


Johnny has failed his drug test and may get kicked out of school in “Midnight at River’s Edge” by Ron Collins (debut 1/23 and reviewed by Frank D). His father has given him an ultimatum. John now must make a choice. What he really wants to do is be an artist but drugs and art do not mix.

“Midnight” is so much like a thousand tales in everyday kids these days except it has a speculative twist that was way too obvious considering where it debuted. Mr Collins talents adds a bit of flavor to this vanilla-ish tale.


Evolution adapts to pollution in “Inconstant Nature” by Colum Paget (debut 1/24 and reviewed by Frank D). Earth’s species are changing and thriving in the cesspool man has created. Plants and animals are now adding to the toxic environment, making the air unbreathable to man. So many species have died but a few of the lower life forms have adapted. Olisa has created a mixture of tailored species to combat the evolved toxic species and reclaim the Earth, but the new species have adapted to the new environment, and may not give in without a fight.

“Inconstant Nature” centers on two observers, Olisa and Zina. Zina is more at home in this new and dangerous world while Olisa may be homo-sapiens’ last best chance to survive. I found the plot inventive but the storyline began to wander. I did see the twist coming (one hint too many) but I won’t claim it was obvious. I did like the tale but wasn’t overwhelmed with it.


“i: the imaginary quantity equal to the square root of minus one–symbol i, first quantified through the work of Rafael Bombelli in 1572 AD.” So begins “The Death and Rebirth of Anne Bonny” by Nancy Fulda (debut 1/25 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter). Neither Anne Bonny nor any of the 3 main characters actually die in this story. Anne Bonny was an 18th century female Irish pirate who operated in the Caribbean . The main character and her father pretend she’s Anne Bonny as they roam the beach in search of pretend buried treasure, pretending they are guided by fake maps. They are accompanied by a pretend parrot appropriately named Aye, as in aye matey, who figures significantly in the story. The catch is, the girl doesn’t know its all make believe. When she realizes her father made the maps and that the real Anne Bonny was just a thief rather than a noble person, her life and her relationship with her father take a tragic turn and the fantasy magic is gone. But in the end, everything is restored. No, not pretend restored, really restored. Thus the title. “The Death and Rebirth of Anne Bonny” is one of three stories Fulda wrote for the Numbers Quartet series. Whereas the other 2 stories rely heavily on math and the drama is skeletal, this includes no numbers at all and relies completely on literary quality. A well told story with a classic theme. Very satisfying.


“+1” by James Luke Worrad (debut 1/26 and reviewed by Frank D). Walter greets a man from NASA at the site of a crashed capsule. Walter is taken aback at the man’s indifference, appalled that a dead astronaut would be considered a mere “setback”.

“+1” is very brief with a twist I hadn’t seen coming and with implications I still do not fully comprehend. Nice story and I liked the open-ended question left unasked.


“Good Taste” by Derek Ivan Webster (debut 1/27 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale of uninhibited greed. The elites of the galaxy have gathered for a sol-eating event. The very rich have taken the essence of a star, and made it a drink. It is a symbol of excess, for tasting the center of a star requires wealth entire planets cannot afford. Baneford is neither privileged nor rich, but Earth’s poor inhabitants have scraped their pennies together for him to masquerade as one. For this particular event, the wealthy will be tasting the rarest of treats, the center of a black hole.

I found “Good Taste” intriguing. The premise was unique and with a message the author must have wanted to share. The tale had a political take whose moral could fit into our present day’s issues. Message aside, I found the preachy final commentary to be unnecessary. It turned the narrative into a tale of vengeance instead of work of poetic justice, which was unfortunate.


“Visiting Planet Earth” by Eric Brown (debut 1/30 and reviewed by Frank D). An alien returns to Earth, solemn for its mortal inhabitants. The young are pleasing to deal with but the old have trailers that creep out our visitor from the stars.

A very interesting work of flash fiction. The story is told from the perspective of a being who may have been more corporeal than alien. The short tale has a line of withheld information the author gradually reveals. Normally, such a tactic I would frown upon but the author does a good job of making the premise appealing. Not my favorite tale of the month but I did like it.


Patience is the key to a well-laid trap in “The Long Con” by Megan R Engelhardt (debut 1/31 and reviewed by Frank D). Rumpelstiltskin has been foiled to take the princess’s child, or has he?

This tale is done from the perspective of the antagonist of the fabled Grimm fairy tale. Its outcome is easily predictable and I can foresee many readers having an indifferent opinion of it. I, however, do not feel that way at all.

Ms Engelhardt tackled the task of retelling a familiar tale using my favorite tactic, exposing the real story from behind the scenes. She successfully showed Rumplestiltskin as a clever con-man. Revealing a carefully laid plan and the inner workings of his mind in the process. Knowing the outcome matter little when we are granted a viewing of the mechanics of a sophisticated trap. Excellent writing, delightfully executed.


Unclear Criteria

ÂAn email correspondence with one of the two leading reviewers of speculative fiction was shared with me by a fan of Daily SF. The email asks why they (the reviewer) have chosen to not review DSF.

“â€But this comes down to the question – what are reviews for? (We) don’t review to promote publications or authors. (We) do it to inform and please readers,

Well, from Diabolical Plots perspective, I can safely assume that the promotional value between us and Daily SF is at best, a two-way street with DP getting the far better end of the deal. In fact, Locus and Tangent Online would both be hard pressed to claim they steer any meaningful readership to any of the venues they cover. I would be willing to bet that the publication with the smallest audience that Tangent and Locus covers beats either reviewing outlet in readership. If there is any promotional value gained from being reviewed by the two big boys, it is for recognition in the awards categories. Way too many stories to read (even without DSF‘s vast library) for the judges to pick the best in class on their own.

But hasn’t Daily SF proved they are worthy of the benefit of pleasing and informing the readers? If awards are an indication of what makes a publication and its authors worthy of informing and pleasing readers, than allow me to promote a few nominated authors.

Mary Robinette Kowal , Nebula and Hugo; novella

Ken Liu , Nebula and Hugo; novella, short story

Ferret Steinmetz , Nebula; novelette

Nancy Fulda , Nebula and Hugo; short story

Aliette de Bodard , Nebula; short story

Mike Resnick , Hugo; short story

Congrats to these 2012 Hugo and Nebula nominees, all of who have appeared in Daily SF. News I finding informing, and pleasing.

We have received numerous complaints and queries, so we would like to make it absolutely clear that our own Anonymous is not synonymous with He Who Must Not Be Named. The former has chosen to reveal no name. The latter has a name that even children somehow know, even though no one says it. The former has reviewed stories for Diabolical Plots. The latter is an evil wizard who wishes to rule over the world. Capice? A notice to Death Eaters in particular: please stop attempting to send messages to him through us. Has it ever occurred to you that he just doesn’t want to talk to you? Thank you.

Daily Science Fiction: August Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

This marks the end of Daily Science Fiction‘s first year run. We have managed to read and review every story for you. It saddens me that no one else has bothered to do that (at least none who I am aware of), but a lack of reviews hardly is an indication of a publications success. More on that laterâ€


The Stories

“Hints of the Apocalypse” by K.G. Jewell (debut 8/1 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Three people are discussing love, life and the end of the world, just minutes before the end of the world as they know it. It’s not a discussion in the traditional sense of the word, but a series of flash fiction vignettes dealing with the subject.

This story reminded me of an old Twilight Zone episode where a demented man brings together three people who he believes has wronged him before the world is destroyed. In the twilight zone episode, however, it’s all in his mind. In this story the end is know up front, only how we get there is unknown. Nice story, cleverly crafted.


“Trails” by James Bloomer (debut 8/2 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Clarke meets Anna at a Trails art party, a party to appreciate the artistry created by the tracking devices everyone uses. It turns out however it’s really a party to eliminate the tracking devices controlling everyone’s lives. When the authorities show up to arrest everyone “going off the Grid.” Will Clarke and Anna be thrown into camps or can they save themselves?

This story is very similar to one which won a “Writers of the Future” contest a few years back. A cautionary tale of how technology, which is supposed to help us, is controlling our lives. In both stories it is a trail back to less technology that is the key to survival. Good story, pretty well crafted.


When I was asked to review “Exit Interview” by Patrick Johanneson (debut 8/3 and reviewed by Anonymous), I was pleased as I clearly remembered reading it the day it arrived in my inbox–always a good sign. I enjoyed it as much reading it a second time. I just love the opening paragraph:

Stella Laine, deputy head of Human Resources, tented her fingers, looked me in the eye, and said, “Your time on Earth is nearly up, Benjamin.”

For a couple seconds I couldn’t stop blinking. Finally I got my eyelids back under conscious control, and, with what I thought was a heroic lack of quaver to my voice, I said, “Do you really have that kind of power?”

As you may suspect the story is an interview–albeit a rather surreal one–between an employee and a human resources officer.

I really enjoyed the story. I thought it was well written, interesting, with good dialogue and humour sprinkled throughout. In fact I have nothing negative to say. A simple idea, well executed.



The son of a woodworker is drawn toward a strange girl wearing a wooden dress in “The Girl in the Wooden Dress” by Angela Rydell (debut 8/4). Emmett spots the girl standing at the edge of the forest. Her dress is lovelier than any stick of furniture he ever laid eyes on. The lovely girl in the form fitting dress tells a tale of the forest taking her in and protecting her in her time of need. But now that she has grown, the forest won’t let her leave. She must shed her dress but needs the young woodworkers help.

“The Girl in the Wooden Dress” is too short. I was completely taken in by this electric tale. I thought the writing was great and the story exciting. How I wish it were longer.



“The Last Librarian: Or a Short Account of the End of the World” by Edoardo Albert (debut 8/5) is the tale of a keeper of a library of rare books. The protagonist is a friend of the librarian. When an unknown copy of a T.E. Lawrence is rediscovered on its shelves, the previously empty library gets a sudden influx of researchers.

“The Last Librarian” is the tale of a curator who values books above his fellow man. In fact, he judges men based on how they treat their books. This futuristic society has little need for books. However, the librarian’s stores have a value of its own. Disrespect the sum of what makes man unique and you have worn out your usefulness.

This tale pulled me but had a twist that was more of a cheat as far as I was concerned. I did not appreciate the ending but did like how the story unfolded.


“The Recruiter” by John Robert Spry (debut 8/8 and reviewed by Anonymous).

A man in a coffee shop tells an attractive woman about the process of alienation that lead to him becoming an actual alien. In his opinion, some children become aliens via a process of continual childhood disappointments and tragedy, resulting in people who look human, but are no longer human. He seems to relish the fact she is listening to his story and his presentation of himself as an dangerous alien. Of course, things are not as simple as they appear and her offer to continue their discussion the next day may not be exactly what he had in mind…

This story was well written, and carried me along but didn’t wow me. The premise of people being manipulated into becoming assassins isn’t new (The Manchurian Candidate), but this does deliver a speculative fiction twist that is quite nicely and subtly done.

It does play along some well-trodden paths in terms of references (JFK), giving the story, albeit briefly, a grander stage–an easy way to do that. In terms of a cost benefit analysis, I would have avoided that.


The author’s comment in “Killer Pot” by James Dorr (debut 8/9 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), “Cast as a conversation between two once-lovers…” helps to see the story in a different light. Perhaps imagining it as a scene from a play.

In this case, being a story, it’s difficult to latch on to what is happening. Because it’s a conversation, there’s no plot per se. Instead, there’s a few ideas mashed together in dialog.

There’s killer pot, the point of which I missed, and considering it’s the title of the story, I probably should have gotten it. There’s the vampire feel, which doesn’t go anywhere, and is befuddled by the mention of going outside, but covering up. Then there’s the interesting idea of someone being “bronzed” while alive, only with silver, not bronze, and smoking pot first, and taking an anesthetic…

I wanted to rate the story higher than one rocket, but I let my emotions get the better of me, which is to say how I felt about the story, and that is: ho-hum.


“The Box That Eats Memories” by Ken Liu (debut 8/10 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). I’ve heard said that when judging a story, there are those who don’t take the title into consideration. That the story should stand on its own. This is bunk.

The title of this story is what gets it started, and each word edges us closer toward a conclusion that is both harsh and justified.

Ken Liu brings us a strong idea, a far out concept, and delivers on it in short fashion. The box that eats memories, keeps the bad ones locked away, stored, and hopefully forgotten. Oh, but they are simply waiting.

I rated this story 5 of 7 rockets.


“A Gentlewoman’s Guide to Time Travel” by Alice M. Roelke (debut 8/11) is written as a warning to those in our past who are traveling to our now.

This cute tale is a reverse time traveler story. I found it fun.


The title explains it all in “How Amraphel, the Assistant to Dream, Became a Thief, Lost His Job, and Found His Way” by Scott Edelman (debut 8/12). Amraphel steals the dreams of mortals for his master, Lord of Dream. He waits by the bedside of the resting, waiting for REM sleep to arrive. He links with the unsuspecting and rides within in their dreams, seizing what he has experienced for his master.

Riding on the backs of a dreamer while they dream is an exhilarating experience. Amraphel is left empty when it is over. To pass the time between assignments, he sits a top of a barstool at his favorite tavern talking shop with his two friends, assistants to the Lord of Love and the Lord of Luck respectfully. Amraphel has often told of the richness of the dream experience while his friends speak of love and luck. Eager to share with his friend’s gifts, Amraphel conceives a plan, one that breaks every rule and has dire consequence if they are caught.

The premise to “How Amraphel” centers around three people who are not quite human. What they exactly were was never explained to my satisfaction, but they all appear to have jobs that determine the fate of mankind. The gifts they dish out are beyond their immortal souls to manufacture. Only when they ‘bless’ a human with their gift do they get a glimpse of what mortals experience. The three assistants only get a taste of their own assigned gifts, so conspire to experience each others’ talents.

I found it odd how beings who couldn’t dream, feel love, or grasp the concept of luck could act so human. How could they be absent of the basic components of what makes us human yet are able to form a novelty concept like friendship? Why even bother going to a tavern to get drunk? It would seem these assistants – who lack dreams, love, and luck – would be incapable of the aspirations to be able to conspire to better themselves, or even would be willing to get loaded as a way of dealing with their problems.

Despite my personal conflict with the plot, I found the opening scene to be a very sharp hook. Solid writing indeed. Too bad the rest couldn’t have pulled me in like it did.


In “Spoons” by Joseph Zieja (debut 8/15 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), Maela obsesses over which spoon to use for breakfast. The variety of spoons is in contrast to the rest of her life, be it food or relationships. But today is an eventful day, her first time joining. Can that add more dimension to her life?

This story was a little slow and definitely not for everyone. It uses the every day to give us a glimpse into a possible future where life is as bland as the white porridge Maela has for breakfast every day. It is also a treatise on how even the mundane would appear novel to us.


“Our Drunken Tjeng” by Nicky Drayden (debut 8/16 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Li and Kae are caretakers performing maintenance on the body of the Fathership. It is exacting work and the Fathership is like us, caught up in our pleasures and comforts at the expense of its body. The caretakers have a full time job to prevent the Fathership killing himself.

This story is not for everyone. It is highly stylized and fairly graphic. It is an interesting take on perspective. It also can be interpreted in several ways. Taken straight up as a story about the caretakers, or as a metaphor for life itself.


When Jacob arrives at the scene of a recent suicide by a Hollywood actress in “True Hollywood Story” by Ryan Gutierrez (debut 8/17 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), he is reluctantly granted access to the body. Carrying only a bag, we don’t yet know what he’s there to do. Hints are given that memory is lost after a short time, and a shot to the head really makes things difficult for him.

I won’t ruin the surprise, but Jacob is indeed there to link to, and work directly with, the memories of the deceased. This is his job.

Great story, written well, nifty idea, and fun/unexpected twist at the end made this offering a pleasure to read.

I rated this story 6 of 7 rockets.


In “Reading Time” by Beth Cato (debut 8/18 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), A longer than expected nuclear winter has an ordinary family of four huddled within a library. They’ve burned every scrap of furniture, all that’s left are the books.

This is the last straw for the family’s patriarch. Among other reasons, the children having more food being one of them, he fashions a noose, and stands ready.

Although I felt his action a little extreme, the situation made it believable, and the reasons to continue, provided by the matriarch, were just as convincing a reason to stay as the solution the daughter (main character) provides.

Reading Time is a well drawn short story, and as all post-nuclear stories, frightening in it’s possibilities.

I rated this story 4 of 7 rockets.


“What Never Happened to Kolay” by Patricia Russo (debut 8/19) is tale of a life and of the opportunities never pursued. Signs of things to come shroud young Kolay when the flowers of Grannie Brian’s garden shun him alone while they hug the other children who play within their rows. As years pass, paths of destiny open to Kolay; paths he fails to pursue. Life passes him by, until his own people shun him, just like the flowers of his youth.

“What Never Happened” is the tale of a non-starter. Kolay is a person everyone knows. The quiet guy who sits alone, keeps to themself, does their job, and goes home. Never interacting with their colleagues. Never maintaining relationships. The fellow who is as unassuming as the bland wallpaper around them. In this speculative tale, real opportunities are offered. Relationships aren’t pursued. Ailments that inflict him later in life are ignored instead of cured. Kolay chooses to never make a choice.

Judging by the way this tale ended, I believe Ms Russo intended a climactic moment to be a commentary of how the pariahs of society have a purpose. After all, even the scary hermit down the road may be useful as the watchful eyes of the neighborhood. The author, I think, aimed to tweak our sympathetic nature and have pity on poor Kolay. Pity is what we can give, but loners like Kolay build their own dens of solitude. We feel sorry for the path they took, but it is their path so we comply by avoiding to tread on it, just as the characters did in this tale.

“What Never Happened to Kolay” is a story of emptiness. Read it, have pity, and live your life knowing you’ll never suffer Kolay’s fate.


What a fun story! In “Alpha & Omega: A Co-creative Tale of Collaborative Reality” by Joshua Ramney-Renk (debut 8/22 and reviewed by Anonymous) we have the monkeys and the typewriters premise, but instead of Shakespeare they write something else. I usually summarise stories when I review them, but this one is exceedingly short and I think I’ve said enough.

I thought this was a witty, sharply done piece. I liked the authorial commentary that threaded throughout the story and the simplicity of the story itself. Not the freshest premise, but superbly executed.



Elian returns to the place of birth in “The Standing Stones of Erelong” by Simon Kewin (debut 8/23). Her foster mother, Mayve, brings Elian to the spot where she last saw Elian’s family. The stones stand in a circle. Elian knows them as her mother made Mayve sing Elian a nursery rhyme, a riddle, of the strange artifact. Elian stands among the stones, contemplating what the mysterious rhyme meant.

“The Standing Stones” starts off with Mayve retelling the day Elian was born. Her brave family holding off deadly Marauders while her mother gives birth. Mayve and the newborn Elian are the only ones to escape. Now a young woman, Elian wishes to reconnect with her family, touching the cold stones while contemplating of their meaning. Suddenly, with the touch of an out of place stone, coupled with memories of the nursery rhyme, all becomes clear.

I am going to be blunt with my assessment. This tale was excellent.



In “Passage” by Lavie Tidhar (debut 8/24 and reviewed by Anonymous) we follow a young American teacher who lives on the Island of Vanatu teaching English to the islanders. While he is there he hears about an infection spreading across America turning average people into mindless drones hungry for human flesh–zombies, although the word is never mentioned (which is odd). The story is really about the young man coming to terms with the news and finding a new place for himself in the world.

Zombie stories are a notoriously hard sell–a bit like vampire stories; so many are written that stories really have to stand out to sell, especially to pro-markets. I can’t say this was a standout zombie story for me. The only thing that stood out was that it was written by a Name Writer. I have read some of Lavie Tidhar’s work and loved it (“Spider’s Moon” springs to mind). That said, the prose was tight and the story meandered to the end with little snippets of insight into the character’s personality. Aspects of it–description–were well done. Nothing really happens apart from the passage of time and the guy dealing with the news.

In the end it was like processed cheese–okay, bland, formulaic but I’ve had better.


Love is paper thin in “Heart on Green Paper” by Gra Linnaea (debut 8/25). The two people in this tale are a couple who share a life together. He loves her. She can’t live with him or without him. She leaves him and constructs a living paper origami replica of him; a crude facsimile that fades faster than real love.

“Heart” is a weird story. I believe Mr Linnaea wrote it that way but its oddness made it difficult for me to get into it. The murky/ill-defined relationship didn’t help it. But I did find the magical solution for a dysfunctional woman to deal with her dysfunctional relationship oddly appealing, and like most relationships like this, life goes on even when events turn so strangely.


“Inside Things” by Melissa Mead (debut 8/26 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a complex tale given its relatively short length. Each word counts in this lovely tale of an autonomous protector who wants to know and be more.

The eternal guardian, like the dragons of lore, protects her mistress from any who would seek to do her harm, or steal her treasures. Yet one young girl passes through the illusions and deadly traps to confront the guardian.

A deep desire to know more than the physical, and to learn, encourages the guardian to allow the girl safe passage to the mistress. The mistress, whose physical body has expired, is in need of a new one. But there is a problem… The body, that of the girl, has been poisoned – by the guardian herself.

I rated this story seven out of seven rocket dragons.


“Distilled Spirits” by Andrew Kaye (debut 8/29 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) give us, in short fashion, the delicious idea that after we’re gone, our soul manifests in a manor fit to drink, and that traditionally, family members drinketh from the cup.

At Great Aunt Abigail’s funeral, young Kate must drink for the first time. Having had a difficult life, Abigail’s soul tastes fairly rancid. However, it is imagined that of her son Reed, the family troublemaker, would taste even worse.

Short and original, Distilled Spirits is worth a read. It even comes with a nifty punchline to send us off smiling.

I rated this story seven out of seven rocket dragons.


Warning: “Rules for Living in a Simulation” by Aubrey Hirsch (debut 8/30 and reviewed by Anonymous) is not a storyâ€

It’s true–it’s more a set of rules and extrapolations based on the premise that we live in a simulated universe. It is, as the title suggests exactly.

I quite like what the author has done here, and there are moments that make you smile and, though it has been handled skillfully, but it isn’t a story, so it had little emotional impact. DSF have published a few similar stories–one about a cocktail menu is on the edge of my memory–and though I often enjoy the prose and skill, I am left unsatisfied by the lack of story.


The devil visits a man who has everything in “What Are You Singing About?” by T.J. Berg (debut 8/31). The devil asks what the protagonist wants. Our man has everything he needs; a happy home life, wonderful family, and perfect health. The devil can offer him nothing, except the one thing not conducive to his wonderful life.

This very brief tale is a set up for a punchline.


I have been more than impressed by the wealth of stories I have read on DSF over the past year. The style and genre have varied greatly but the quality has always remained high. Jonathan and Michele have proven to be excellent judges of talent. They have had no shortage of writers willing to contribute, many of whom who have been recognized for their work elsewhere and honored for it in the form of Nebula’s and Hugo’s.

The magazine has had a gradual increase in readership. Word of it has reached every corner of the speculative world (save maybe Tangent Online and Locus), with their recent SFWA qualifications. Most people would call this one-of-a-kind venue a success, but has it made it?

The answer of that question depends on your definition of the term but here is one accomplishment that might help you persuade your opinion. The list of contributing authors to DSF would make a great who’s who list for up and coming talent for speculative fiction, but what the magazine hasn’t had is what the big three routinely get; an icon of the industry, until now.

In a recent Facebook posting, legendary author, Mike Resnick, announced he sold his story, The Scared Trees, to DSF. No one, not Asimov, Clarke, or anyone else, has won , or been nominated , for as many awards in speculative fiction than Mike has. He is a draw in every convention he attends and likely will be a nominee for the next Hugo awards. He is Mr Science Fiction, so it is fitting that he would appear in a magazine that publishes one daily.

Let’s face it, if he would had offered that story to anywhere else, the publishers would have been wise to accept it, sight unseen. ÂThe fact he submitted it to DSF means that he has recognized DSF as a viable outlet to showcase his work. And that is good news to DSF‘s readers everywhere.

My congratulations to Mr Anonymous. He is a very private man, so what the congrats are about is a highly guarded secret. Let’s just say it’s the type of news that could involve miniature baglets in his future.

Daily Science Fiction: June Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

At the time that I am writing this, DSF has passed its first year of publication. No news has surfaced on whether it is now a SFWA qualifying market. With a subscriber base of over 2600 and website that receives 10,000 visitors a month, I can only imagine that it is the-powers-that-be have yet to do the necessary homework to determine what most of us know already; they’re one of the most widely read speculative fiction venues out there right now. Some may consider their growth slow but I am finding it remarkable considering its expansion has been a grass roots type of campaign. Word is gradually spilling over, links are shared, and ecstatic authors announce their success to this new outlet.

Daily Science Fiction is the way of the future. The higher ups just don’t know yet. If you are still not sure, then check out this month’s reviews and go to their site and read them yourself.


The Stories

An explorer searches for a lost party in “V is for Vamonos” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 6/1). The nameless protagonist braves the jungle to find the Colonel. The Colonel is ill and his camp has been overrun. Has it all been for naught?

This story is set in a world in which animals can speak and have become partners with humans. Other than that I cannot find a redeeming quality about this piece. The story goes nowhere and resolves nothing. I couldn’t even decipher what species the protagonist of the story was. The tale was like the setting, lost in a jungle.


Death has come for the protagonist’s beloved husband in “Dealing with Death” by Brenta Blevins (debut 6/2). She is there when the dark angel arrives to take him. She strikes a deal and accompanies Death as he runs his rounds.

“Deal with Death” shows the grim reaper as a compassionate soul, using his power to relieve the pain the dying suffer. All pain is not so easily seen. The angel aims to spare some of pain that is yet to be received.

The story has a fitting end. Although the tale didn’t wow me, it left me quite satisfied that I read it.


An inconsequential man awakes to learn a time-traveler has come to kill him in “Apology” by Sam Feree (debut 6/3). A young woman from the future sits on his new couch in her muddy shoes, informing him he is the one person in history whose life matters none. He has become the stress reliever for a time traveling society, getting murdered thousands of times. They spend the day together, contemplating life and enjoying it to its fullest.

“Apology” is a dark comedy. I found the two characters very likeable. The time traveler is a fun girl who has had a bad day the day before. The protagonist is a detached fellow, taking the news of his upcoming murder quite well. You get the feeling that learning his life is, and will be, unimportant as a justification of a suspicion he always had. The story evolves into a romantic comedy, without the romance. We follow the pair around Chicago. The soon-to-be-dead hero just rolls with it all. Resigned that he will be murdered and accepting it as an eventuality.

The story line to “Apology” does sound weird but the tale comes off as normal. The two treat the entire affair like a first date, rather than a tragic horror that it should have been. I found Sam Feree’s writing style attractive. The story was easy to follow and enjoyable to read. Maybe it was because I found his protagonist easily identifiable (I hope not). If you are one who detests romantic comedies, this one likely isn’t for you, but overall, I found it not a bad tale at all.


“Sister” by Melissa Mead (debut 6/6). Sister and Brother flee from their cruel Stepfather. The pair take refuge in a cave near an enchanted stream. Despite her warnings, Brother drinks from it and transforms into a deer. He now must avoid the King who hunts in the woods. Perhaps Sister can protect him yet, pleading with the king.

“Sister” is written like an Aesop tale. The story has that halting and disconnected feel to it. The characters have names that our pronouns and the story jumps through long stretches of time. However, like an Aesop tale it has a moral and a fitting end to it.


A man opposed to a fascist society is prepared to perform a mutual assured destructive act in “Dharma Dog and Dogma” by Steven Mathes (debut 6/7). The authorities have busted down Dobbin’s door. He waits with his trusted German shepherd by his side and his thumb on a nirvana bomb. The device will instantly ascend all who are worthy to heaven in a kilometer radius. Potts, the fascist negotiator, is eager to stop him.

I found this premise to be ridiculous. The bomb does two things; bring awareness to all within its range than make all who are worthy vanish. It causes no other damage. I would think a society eager to control would welcome its use, seeing that it instantly rids all who oppose it off the map. I did, however, enjoy the writer’s way of bringing the piece to us. His writing is crisp and engaging.


A disgraced prisoner is found by his warden in “W is for When” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 6/8). Future violent convicts are sent to the past, made female and expected to become upstanding citizens. The warden is disappointed to discover the future felon has made prostitution her profession. She learns the practice of gender switching and exile has been declared cruel and unusual, but taking a job that is considered illegal does not bode well for her. The warden can overlook the indiscretion, if she is willing to do him a favor.

This was one of the better stories the quartet dreamed up. Loved the concept of the future time travel punishment. What made this one great was the poetic justice ending. Recommended.


A junkie constructs his dream woman from a discarded photo in “Building a Future” by Rhonda Jordan (debut 6/9). The protagonist finds an old picture in an abandoned house. He makes up stories of a fantasy past and tells it to others until he finds a female junkie who used to build androids. The pair work together to build their android, gradually forgetting their drug dependency as they create.

The tale is told as a success story. It was, but came off as disconnected success story. The distant feel made this piece not as appealing as it should have been.


Aliens seek to improve our favorite pet in “Made of Cats” by Judith Tarr (debut 6/10). Another invasion from space befalls on Earth. This time the alien’s motives are peaceful. They transform our cutest partners into something even cuter, as a demonstration of their good intentions, proving that even the best marketing sometimes overreaches.

“Made of Cats” is written as a humorous piece. Expect anything else and you’ll be just as disappointed as the protagonist’s five-year old daughter in this tale. I must admit, the story had its moments (the diet crack I found particularly amusing), but I felt it stepped over the line of funny and into the ‘generally silly’ territory half way through. Nevertheless, humor is subjective and subjectively speaking, Ms Tarr did well, but as a guy who likes to weave tales that tickle the funny bone, I can safely say my sides were never in danger of splitting.


Modern progress has come to a potion-maker’s home in “The Thinning” by Christopher Owen (debut 6/13). Becky is not happy at all when the power company arrives to link her house with the electrical grid. She sees no need for it and its very existence is a disruption to her potion creating.

Without elaborating, this tale is woven while Becky is in the middle of a love potion. The two events , making the potion and the arrival of modern convenience , have little to do with each other. The ending of the piece has a twist that mattered little to the overall plot.


In “The Clex Are Our Friends” by Mario Milosevic (debut 6/14), you are a soldier in a galactic war. The story is a manual intended to help you with the occupation and mopping up duty on the planet Cleck. It advises you on how to treat the native species and adapt to their culture. Take heed of its advice, even when it doesn’t make sense.

This satire of military and diplomatic protocol is more ridiculous than humorous. The manual is written as a pep talk, even when its very pages makes the world seem like a tour guide through the slums of a third world nation. Not a fun place at all.


A wizard misinterprets a want ad in “X is for Xylomancy” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 6/15). A Xylomancer shows up for an audition for a xylophonist. It appears they have little use for a sorcerer whose gift is to predict the future by reading sticks but the Xylomancer is out to prove them wrong.

When I read this I thought, “Really? Working for a band is the best this guy can do?” I have chastised many stories on DSF for being about nothing. This story falls in that category but it deserves praise. Sometimes pointless tales can be fun. This story was fun.


June’s reality is up for interpretation in “Blivet for the Temporal Lobes” by Dave Raines (debut 6/16). June’s life changed the day an experimental surgery cured her epilepsy. Her mind now sees people and things as metaphors of their true nature , transforming them how her brain perceives them. Threatening people become horrible monsters while the kind and caring turn into softer images. Her world has become an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kaleidoscope equipped with modern day cultural references. June has learned to adapt to her revived life, accepting her ‘gift’ as a way to see how people really think and behave, until the day a man walks into her life who doesn’t change at all.

“Blivet” is a very inventive tale. Despite its short length, Mr Raines effectively plunged the reader into a world most of us would consider a hell. June’s ability appears to have a psychic quality to it, or at least June assumes it to be as such. She somehow manages to keep her job as a waitress, even when customers morph into wolves, mannequins, and other similes that fit how she perceives them. A man she refers to as Adonis is the lone exception. His failure to transform unnerves her, and turns this tale into a metaphor of its own.

“Blivet” is the type of story for everyone who was suddenly faced with doubts in their own ability. June has come to rely on her gift, using it to see how people feel and grasp at how they treat others around them. Adonis represents her shortcomings and salvation in one package.

It was while I wrote this review, it dawned on me the larger meaning of this story. “Blivet” is not just a well-told tale; it’s a metaphor on human perception. I found it ironic how a story of metaphors so effectively hid one of its own. I hope those who judge which tales of speculative fiction are the outstanding ones in next year’s awards, don’t overlook this one because of its length. Recommended.

Humanity adjusts to a plague of undead in “The Three Laws of Zombie” by Lavie Tidhar (6/17). Susan Hobbes is in search of a zombie who doesn’t obey the three laws that are ingrained in all zombies. Society has come to grips with them, creating religions and rationales for their make up and psychology. Ms Hobbes isn’t interested on how they fit into humanity. She wants to know if they are here to end it.

“The Three Laws” is part satire, part horror, part mystery, with it all mixing like a stew of milk, water, and oil. The story line is disjointed; jumping from action scene, to an article, to a character’s inner contemplation. The title and loose plot devolves into a half-hearted comedic attempt involving Isaac Asimov’s three laws governing robots. The story is difficult to get into. The changing scenes of small slices of society made it impossible for me to get grounded into the plot. One thing I did find interesting was the nature of Tidhar’s zombies, an evolutionary leap as a plant/animal hybrid, allowing them to survive on photosynthesis. The tale is unpredictable with an ending I wasn’t expecting. In fact, I’m still not sure what that ending was about.

Based on Lavie Tidhar’s ability to get his stuff published in almost every publication I have reviewed over the past year plus it is clear he has a following and is able to impress any editor he presents his work to, but I just don’t get it. One thing I will say is he has certain appeal to his writing. His stories do draw me in and his plots are unpredictable, but they almost always lose me before the end. One of these times he’s going to write something that I love; unfortunately, this one ain’t it.


A man on a forsaken world wishes to connect with God in “Godless” by Stephen V. Ramey (debut 6/20). All the worlds of humanity have been linked into the Wholeness, save Earth. Man’s home world has become a worldwide slum, a primitive backwater. The Wholeness is seen as a link to God by the protagonist. He is approached by an off world tourist, a woman who seeks to get dirty on the filthiest of worlds. The protagonist wants to be touched by God, no matter what the cost.

“Godless” is an idea that is taken from A C Clarke’s axiom that advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic to a more primitive society. I liked Mr. Ramey’s approach to this notion, well done; however, I felt the story was too brief to fully explore a future where off world technology outstripped Earth to this degree. Perhaps the author has intentions on building on this. I would like to see his next publication if he does.


A terminally ill John has awoken from a cryonics sleep to be greeted by a brother he never had in “His Brother was an Only Child” by Ronald D Ferguson (debut 6/21). When John Ashley died, he left a dying world. The one he has returned to appears to be rebounding. Enough trees have grown to make a forest, a strange creature called a ‘rabbit’ now has a population of a thousand. The planet appears to be on the mend but the caretakers of the hospital he is confined to are off. Save for his brother, everyone is distant, refusing to speak to him. Another patient shares the ground with him, deformed and shy. John finds it increasingly odd this hospital he is in and wishes to rejoin society again but learns recovery may take more time than he has.

This tale is reminiscent of an old Twilight Zone episode (not going to say which one), but the twist reveal in this story was done far cleverer than that crafty tale. Mr. Ferguson did a splendid job, providing enough clues so when I got to the reveal I was shocked that I didn’t know what was going on all along.

“His Brother” was masterfully done. Recommended.


An ill woman is surrounded by yellow in “Y is for Yellow” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 6/22). The protagonist’s husband has moved her into a home painted in yellow. Everyone who comes to see her is clothed in the school bus color, even the grass is killed to rid it of the green. Her husband has said it is necessary for her cure. Green calls to her, but yellow stands in her way.

This is a clever superhero story, like none I have ever read. The sex of the protagonist threw me off, but it is story line that is too good for the comics. I loved it.

“Y’ isn’t the best story the quartet wrote, it’s not even the best this month, but it impressed me. Recommended.


Angering your time traveling girlfriend can result in unfortunate consequences in “Love at the Corner of Time and Space” by Annie Bellet (debut 6/23). Darrin has been abandoned at the Crossroads of Time and Space. It’s not first time he has made Ashley mad but it is the first time she failed to come back to get him. The surreal corner is nowhere with access points to anywhere, the problem is Darrin has no idea on how to access them. He can continue to wait for her in this place where time isn’t a linear measurement, or find a way out for himself and a way to repair their relationship.

“Love” is the story of man who hasn’t yet grown up. It is clear Ashley is the one in control, and she is vindictive woman with the ability to send her naughty boyfriend into the ultimate time out. The story starts off with Darrin and his passively aggressive, self-pitied attitude stuck, wondering if Ashley is ever going to come back. The rest of the story is Darrin contemplating what he’s done wrong, just like a spoiled child in ‘time out’ would do.

The only appeal of this tale was the setting, a strange and surreal place, but I found its lone character not likeable at all. It sounded like his girlfriend pulled all the strings in their relationship , a narcissist with too much power , but his whining self-contemplation made me think he deserved her.

“The Artwork of the Knid” by John Parke Davis (debut 6/24) is the story of an alien species who have quietly come to live among us. The Knid are small and unassuming creatures. They’re slimy with tentacles for mouths and are intrigued with us. The silent creatures (silent because they don’t speak) have become something of a new age immigrants, performing menial labor work. They appear to absent of any creativity or imagination of their own until the protagonist is granted a rare artistic viewing.

“Artwork” is a strange type of tale. There is a deeper meaning to this piece but I confess it missed me. Part of the story briefly touched on what the knid where doing on Earth. The characters puzzle on this subject, not remembering when they first appeared. An explanation on how they got there wasn’t even explored. From what I gathered, they were just ‘there’ as if they always were.

The tale shifts when the protagonist’s first views a knid’s ‘play’. The event sounded more like a psychedelic trip than artist’s creation. Strange by description, religious by the effect it left on the protagonist. From that point on, the protagonist becomes something of a minor activist for the knid, treating them as a big brother would a smaller and weaker sibling, doing his best to protect them from a cruel world.

“Artwork” is a tale that drew me in. I was genuinely intrigued by the writer’s presentation of the knid and his protagonists perspective of them. I truly wanted to learn more about them. However, like the story itself, once I learned all I could about them, I discovered they weren’t all that interesting after all.


A knot connecting two ladders slips on Hevsen’s ladder, setting in motion a chain of events resulting in the “Fall of the City” by Daniel Ausema (debut 6/27).

“Fall of the City” follows a trail of innocuous circumstances. The story is set in civilization built on webs with machines called ‘spiders’ used like cars. The entire place appears to be overly fragile. I wasn’t sure if the city I was reading about was set in a steampunk genre or an alien civilization.

I thought the tale was told from way too distant of a perspective. The place also was strange, lending to a general disconnect I had with the piece.


What could be a bigger thrill than space jumping from a space elevator? In “Freefall” by Eric James Stone (debut 6/28) we find out. Gina loves to freefall. Her brother and father run the elevator but she is after only the thrill of the jump. Then disaster strikes. The asteroid counterweight breaks free and her brother is on the crawler on the way up. GeoTerminal 1 will be saved but at her brothers expense. She is his only hope.

“Freefall” is excellent science fiction. The premise is based on a future but likely technology with a potentially real problem. The story is quick and thrilling. The protagonist’s solution to the problem I found clever. My biggest complaint was its length. The story could have and should have been larger. It would have likely been fantastic instead of great. Recommended.


Anna is running in “Z is for Zoom” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 6/29), but is she running from something or in search of the thing?

This tale baffled me. Anna just runs. Why? Couldn’t really tell you. There are hints but I was unable to decipher the reasons from them.


In “The God of the Poor” by James Hutchings (debut 6/30), the gods pick who and what they will have dominion over. Only one item is left. Who will look over the poor?

This is a very short, Aesop like tale. It didn’t quite work for me.


ÂThis month marks the end of the Alphabet Quartet’s contributions. I have greedily reserved all the stories for myself to review. The entire series is set to be available soon at Escape Artists. Some of them I thought were wonderful, a few left me scratching my head, a good bunch I recommended. My personal favorite was the first, and longest of the bunch; “A is for Arthur”. This story is high on my best-of list for the year. In fact, it may be # 1. It is worth reading again.

Special note: My fellow reviewers (James Hanzelka, Dustin Adams, and Anonymous) have not abandoned me, nor did I forget to credit them for reviews they have done. This month was all mine but the next will be mostly theirs. I have just received my copy of the latest Writers of the Future. I plan on doing my usual review for the publication so set it upon myself to get all the June reviews done while piling July’s on my minions shoulders so I can turn my attention to the yearly anthology when it came in.


Frank feels like a big boy now, doing a whole months of reviews all by himself. He is so proud but is wondering when he will get his cookie.