written by David Steffen
In 2023 Diabolical Plots published our second guest-edited themed issue, this time for the “Diabolical Thoughts” telepathy theme, guest-edited by assistant editor Ziv Wities.
We have been publishing the annual Long List Anthology since 2015. In 2021 there was a hiccup in the schedule due to WorldCon timing that pushed that year’s Long List Anthology into 2022, meaning there were two volumes of the anthology series in 2022. The entire basis of the anthology is the Hugo Award nomination statistics, so the work to compile the anthology cannot start until those statistics are published, and in 2021 WorldCon (when the statistics are usually published) didn’t happen until December. In 2023, although WorldCon was held in October, they have not published the nomination statistics yet–according to the WSFS constitution they are allowed three months to do so, which means they have until mid-January. This should mean we can get going on the Long List Anthology in January or February, and it will likely be another two-anthology calendar year.
In 2023, we published 23 original stories in Diabolical Plots.
This year we welcomed two new assistant editors to our ranks: Chelle Parker and Hal Y. Zhang (read our staff page for more info on them)
Diabolical Plots opened for general submissions in July. We read more than 1400 submissions and accepted 25 stories from the window. We were running a little behind schedule for publishing stories, so the last few months of 2023 we published one story per month instead of two to stretch the inventory a bit further.
It was a busy year in my personal life as well, including the passing of our dog Mikko who had been a member of the household for fifteen years. This is the second consecutive year that we had to say goodbye to a dog, so I’m hoping we will have a reprieve for a while.
The rest of this post is award eligibility, suggesting categories for major awards, as well as a full link of stories with snippets.
Diabolical Plots is eligible in the Hugo Best Semiprozine category or the Locus Magazine category with our team of first readers as well as assistant editors Ziv Wities, Kel Coleman, Chelle Parker, and Hal Y. Zhang.
David Steffen is eligible as editor of Diabolical Plots.
I don’t know exactly how editor catogories are interpreted. But at least for Hugo Award for Editor, Short Form it specifies that they must have been “editor of at least four (…) magazine issues (or their equivalent in other media)”. Ziv Wities edited our special “Diabolical Thoughts” telepathy-themed issue, but has also edited many of our other stories. Even assuming we should interpret “issues” as ALL of the stories for a particular month of Diabolical Plots, Ziv Wities qualifies with the four most recent months being: August 2023, March 2023 (Diabolical Thoughts), January 2023, and March 2022.
I think that Kel Coleman might also qualify based on DP work depending on how an issue is interpreted. They have edited more than 8 stories for us, which is more than 4 issues of the usual size, but those were sometimes not entire months. (I think it’d be fair to count that though).
Diabolical Plots, LLC is eligible for Locus award for Publisher.
We published just one nonfiction piece this year: “MOVIE ANALYSIS: Elemental (Pixar), a Movie About the Dangers of Government Incompetence” by David Steffen
The Hugo for Best Related Work has included websites before, The Submission Grinder is theoretically eligible for that.
“Dog Song” by Avi Naftali
So you want to determine whether dogs still exist.
First, our association of dogs with obedience. Is obedience dog-like? Or is it to do with horses now, or children, or hamsters. “Hamster-like obedience.” Dogs have retreated into the bodies of hamsters, maybe. They have a real knack for learning, we’re told, and for evolving themselves. There’s no reason they couldn’t take this extra step. Or maybe they don’t exist, dogs have never existed.
“Tell Me the Meaning of Bees” by Amal Singh
On a sunless morning, in the city of Astor, the word ‘caulk’ vanished.
The word didn’t announce its vanishing with trumpets or a booming clarion call. It faded away slowly in the middle of the night, like the last lyrics of a difficult song. The ones who didn’t use the word ‘caulk’ could not even tell what had gone wrong—the non-engineers, the artists and intellectuals—because for all intents and purposes, they would have spent their entire lifetimes not caulking anything.
“The Monologue of a Moon Goddess in the Palace of Pervasive Cold” by Anja Hendrikse Liu
Two centuries ago, I would’ve built thrones made of mooncakes in every room of my silent palace, would’ve filled hot tubs with the fruit sent up on festival night. Nowadays, storing and preserving and pickling feels like a losing race, like if I let even one persimmon spoil in the cold moon air, there won’t be enough to sustain me and Jade Rabbit for the year.
“Devil’s Lace” by Julie Le Blanc
The demon and I had been crocheting for hours, in what appeared to be a sliver of space it’d created between Here and There. Around a plush couch floated pale, winter fog that obscured anything more than a few feet past the limits of the cushions.
“Rattenkönig” by Jenova Edenson
Kim was always having bright ideas. In sophomore year, he’d bought an honest to God stink bomb from the Internet and set it off in the math class hallway. A girl had an asthma attack, and Mr. Allen had to call an ambulance. You brought this up when Kim suggested driving up to Canada from San Diego and back in the span of a week. Kim laughed, and kissed your cheek. He told you that you didn’t need to worry so much about stuff that had happened so long ago. Besides, Evelyn had come back from the hospital with a brand new rescue inhaler.
“The Hivemind’s Royal Jelly” by Josh Pearce
The figure seated on the other side of the plain metal table has a blank look on its face, like its creator gave up halfway through forming its features. It is dressed in an orange jumpsuit, white socks, black slippers. The handcuff that secures it to the table cuts deeply into the waxy pale skin of its wrist.
“The Desert’s Voice is Sweet to Hear” by Carolina Valentine
Zazy tugged her hood forward to get a sliver more shade. Not today, my friend, she replied. She spotted the bonecrawler nest the desert wanted to convince her was a bubbling spring. Heat fatigue washed through her. For a moment, her eyes unfocused and the trickle of insects did resemble running water. Zazy closed her eyes. No, thank you.
“A Girl With a Planet In Her Eye” by Ruth Joffre
For the first thirteen years of her life, the planet was silent. No birdsong. No construction. Only the gentle sway of an ocean pushing and pulling against the aqueous humors of her left eye. Late at night, while her parents slept, she often lay awake and listened to the dense water solidify itself, the salts forming crystals, the crystals becoming pillars in a great, cavernous hall populated at first by no one, and then: music. A pure, high note so sudden it woke her from her slumber and conjured the image of a miniature flautist performing deep in the canal of her ear.
“Re: Your Stone” by Guan Un
Just letting you know: I moved the artwork “Higher, Faster, Boulder” from the ground floor lobby up to the Second Floor Cafeteria as per Asset Movement Request #5340 from Asset Management, could you please let me know why it’s been moved back to the ground floor?
“Bottled Words” by Carol Scheina
Unbottle a voice and it would vibrate through air, giving you one—just one—chance for your brain to turn those waves into recognizable words. But for me, it’s not like I could stop a bottled voice and ask, “Can you say that again?” There was no listening over and over, trying to see if I could recognize a new word here or there. There was no telling a disembodied voice that yes, I could hear it with hearing aids, but no, the sound wasn’t clear enough, or my brain wasn’t able to piece the sounds into words, or that I’d much prefer to read its voice on paper.
“Six Reasons Why Bots Make the Worst Asteroid Miners” by Matt Bliss
1. They think they know everything. Like your twenty years of mining experience is useless compared to a high-acting neural processing drive. Like you’re nothing but a softer, weaker liability, and the only thing you’re good for is greasing their joints and blowing out their compressors. Just one bot and one human to babysit them.
“Diamondback V. Tunnelrat” by Nick Thomas
All parties agree to the following facts. A skirmish broke out between the Diamondbacks and the dwarves during the Brass-Tree autumnal equinox fete. The fete is a centuries-old tradition, occurring every year and held in the foothills alongside the Cenen river. Brawls are as much a part of the festivities as the paper lanterns, the stewing of chicken heads, and the traditional weasel-peasel dance. Neither party makes complaint about the violence done to them or by them at the skirmish.
“They Were Wonderful, Once” by Lily Watson
Even by the third hot, sticky day into our road trip, the humans in the back of the transportation trucks remain fascinating. Theoretically, we know where our blood comes from. But this is different, seeing the little bits of them, poking through the slots on the sides of their container, pressed against the grates for lack of room.
“Interstate Mohinis” by M.L. Krishnan
Sometimes, I dreamed about flowing water. About where I would be—not here, anywhere but here—if my body had survived the accident. Mushed, but still recognizable. With its vestigial humanness that demanded respect, especially in death. My ashes would have been tossed into an ocean or a river in a coursing procession of night-blooming jasmine garlands, women who keened and thumped their chests, and drunken louts who gyrated around my urn until they foamed at the mouth. Until they collapsed in exhaustion or pleasure.
“Glass Moon Water” by Linda Niehoff
The afternoons are sprinklers in the backyard and ice-pops while our sisters and mothers watch flickering soap operas in cold, tomb-like rooms, cold from the AC cranked so low. The nights are sleeping out in the backyard in a tent or a sleeping bag unrolled on porches and decks or even in the grass and looking up at the stars. Listening to the AC click on and hum its silver song through the night.
“The Dryad and the Carpenter” by Samara Auman
Mortals slice us dryads open to count the layers of our lives; it is easier than listening to our stories. They slide their fingers over our rings, thinking that our texture, our shifts in coloration would bring them understanding of their own lives. In their minds, we exist to bring poetry to their sighs and serve as metaphors for longevity.
“On a Smoke-Blackened Wing” by Joanne Rixon
The transformation. The wind under the airplane’s wings buckles as the wings buckle, shake, separate into a beating of hundreds of wings. Out of the fog we come. This time, this first time, we are geese: black-brown wings and furious hearts. We fly awkwardly, at odds with the turbulence; we are newborn, but already the flock is forming as our instincts awaken in the air and we orient ourselves not against the ground or the stars but against each other.
“Shalom Aleichem” by Y.M. Resnik
Every Friday night the angels came, and every Friday night they freaked me the fuck out. Which is probably why I didn’t get a million-eyed, one-footed guardian of my own like the rest of my family. This was totally fine with me. I was in no way jealous that my siblings had angels to accompany them to college while I was stuck sitting alone in an empty dorm room. Who needed a creep-tastic companion whose face consisted of a bizarro series of interlocking cogs and wheels forever whirring?
“Every Me Is Someone Else” by Andy Dibble
I’m a medical assistant coming down the hall in polka dot scrubs. I’m walking on the other side, glancing at me.
No, she. But a different she than my mother. It’s hard to keep track. Each is like an organ, involuntary functions only. My therapist says thinking like that is egotistical, but how am I supposed to care about others, when others is just something I tell myself?
“Requiem” by P.H. Low
This is dawn: fields shading from black to grey, flicker-fading starlight, our voices raised against the wind and the red scarves whipping our faces. Our song levitates us ten feet in the air, above dirt roads packed down by wagon wheels and chariots: Carl Lang’s Canter, an ode to unseen horses and sunrise and longing. When we sing—as long as we sing—our feet do not touch the ground.
“Like Ladybugs, Bright Spots In Your Mailbox” by Marie Croke
Someone began sending hand-written spellcrafted postcards out of DC in July of 2024. Those postcards made the rounds for a good nine months, under the radar, scarcely observed. That was, until the rash of good health, the proliferation of wealth, and the sudden uptick in good living coupled with a grand downtick in big socioeconomic issues the mayor was quick to claim as her own—such as suicides and unemployment—brought the situation to the attention of the East US Coven.
“In the Shelter of Ghosts” by Risa Wolf
They approach the house frame I’ve erected, set up where Dad’s old house once stood. They place the machine on a slate slab I’ve set up by what I hope will be the front door. I uncap my electrical source as one of the mediums puts on ceramic-weave gloves to connect to the leads. I tamp down a flare of worry, reminding myself that I’d just recharged the lead-acid battery at the solar station and redid its plant latex cover a few days ago.
“It Clings” by Hammond Diehl
Of course a dybbuk is flat. Flat as a blini. All the easier for that damn ghost to slip under your collar.
Of course a dybbuk is colorless. That’s why, when you say you’ve got a dybbuk, most people say, no you don’t. Go see Dr. Weiner. Spend a few days in Florida.