DP FICTION #59C: “Gorilla in the Streets” by Mari Ness

He’s hairy. He grunts a lot. He can be – there’s no kind way to put this – a little clumsy, and even his best friends say his table manners could use a little work.

But at barely the age of 30, he’s become Wall Street’s best performing hedge fund manager, with an estimated fortune of $36 billion, and with bankers, CEOs and even – it’s rumored – a United States president and several prime ministers jumping at the mere twitch of his finger.

Despite being a – there’s no way to put this politely – a gorilla.

How, exactly, a lowland gorilla managed to claw his way to the top of the financial industry is one question that’s brought me here today, to this charming New York café overlooking Central Park. Trees have a calming effect on Magot Stanton, I’ve heard, and “calming” is definitely the mood you want when you are about to meet up with a five foot, 10 inch gorilla who can easily rip your arms off, if he wants. At the suggestion of one of his extremely efficient personal assistants, I’ve ordered one of the café specials for both of us: a New York version of a full British high tea. The assistant has assured me that Stanton is particularly fond of the finger sandwiches created with freshly baked banana bread, with strawberries and cream for dessert.

It’s impossible to miss his entrance, marked as it is not just with his signature thumping gait, but the sudden hush, followed by small gasps and whispers. New Yorkers may claim to be used to the presence of a gorilla at their establishments, but the reaction suggests otherwise. Even William and Kate might not get this sort of reception.

Then again, Stanton is said to rarely leave the Wall Street area before 5 pm on weekdays, and although this is Friday, it’s also Central Park.

Stanton doesn’t appear to notice the looks, the gasps, or even the surreptitious attempts to casually point cell phones in his direction, despite his notorious dislike of pictures. (His attorneys note that although social media has linked Stanton to multiple assaults on photographers, none of these allegations have ever been independently verified, and no charges have been made. Indeed, an independent review of records made by The Financials shows that Stanton has a remarkably clean legal record: every lawsuit made against him has been dismissed, and he has never even received so much as a parking ticket.) He stalks through the room on all fours, his knuckles leaving a sharp clang with each step – a clang I later realize is coming from the rings that deck his hands. He can walk on two feet – YouTube once had video evidence, since taken down, but nothing ever quite vanishes from the internet – but for this café, at least, he’s chosen his more natural gait.

I’m calm – at least, I tell myself I’m calm – when he finally reaches the table, sitting down with surprising grace for one so, well, big. Which is when I realize: it’s one thing to see this on TV; it’s another to sit across the table from a talking gorilla.

His suit is impeccably tailored: the three rings that gleam on his hands surprisingly restrained, not just for a gorilla, but for a Wall Street titan. He smiles, and it’s both more charming and alarming than I expected. He begs my forgiveness in advance for any lapse of table manners – he’s recently hurt his left hand, he explains, without offering any further details, and forks and knives are difficult for him at the best of times.

He pours the tea – a delicate oolong, his favorite – and splashes in cream and sugar with, it must be admitted, rather less of that surprising grace. Quite a bit of that cream lands on the table cloth; the sugar ends up going even further. I say nothing as I take the tea pot from him, pouring my own cup. Just now, the café is full of people with far worse table manners; from the corner I can see several people giving us what they seem to believe are surreptitious glances.

That’s hardly uncommon when you’re interviewing a celebrity, but still, something seems, well, different, about this. The waitress assures us that scones, followed by the finger sandwiches, are coming right up. I take a sip of the tea and pull out my tablet. Unlike other interviewees, Stanton didn’t just agree to have the interview taped; he insisted on it. His own tablet, I realize, is out on the table, filming us both.

We are supposed to be discussing his rumored interest in one of Hollywood’s large conglomerates. But since he’s more or less opened the topic, I decide to go ahead and raise the question: how did a lowlands gorilla end up running a powerful hedge fund?

Under the fur, I think his shoulders tense. But he answers the question easily enough, as if he’s prepared for it.

His inspiration, he says, was Tarzan.

“I watched those films over and over. The Disney one, the earlier ones, that really boring British one – I was inspired. I even hunted down the books, and I gotta tell you, reading wasn’t my thing. But the way I looked at it, if a rich white baby could turn himself into a gorilla and lead a tribe – well. This gorilla could turn himself into an ultra-privileged Hamptons brat. The stockbroker stuff was more for something to do.”

And so, as a young gorilla, he swung his way into the hearts – and the home – of a Hamptons family. He readily admits that the family money was a help, although he notes that sometimes getting that money wasn’t easy. Stanton says he found himself regularly challenging and challenged by his father – “one of those natural dominance things, you know? Happens to everyone.” When not fighting with his father, he took class after class, immersing himself in books, languages and mathematics studies. He had plenty of spare time, since he was not allowed to join regular Phys Ed classes (“I scared everyone,”), was not, at the time, much of a partier, and only had a few close friends as distractions. His one hobby, apart from languages (Stanton claims to speak fluent English, French, Portuguese, German, Umbuntu and “some” Arabic, and plans to start learning Mandarin “the second I have a chance”), was music, something he studied mostly alone.

A stint at Yale – completed in three, not the usual four years (“they wanted me off campus as quickly as possible, and I was delighted to comply”) and an MBA from Harvard polished him off, and he was almost ready for his first job at a Wall Street bank. Almost.

“I couldn’t fit through the doorway.”

I spill a bit of my tea. “What?”

“Couldn’t get through the doorway. They’d interviewed me at Harvard, so no one had really thought about this. I showed up, got up the narrow stairs – building looked like it was from the Middle Ages, I swear – and then I come in, and it’s like, one half the size of normal American doors, which are already hard for me to squeeze through.”

I’m fascinated. “No one thought of this?”

“No one.”

“So what did you do?”

“Punched through the door.”

Our scones arrive at just that moment; his large fist closes over one of them and moves it to his mouth before the plate even reaches the table.

“Broke down the door and a bit of their wall.” His mouth widens, showing all the crumbs inside. “God, that felt good. Shortest employment of my life, but damn.”

His next job was a bit more of a success – at least, he said, he could get through the door, although finding a chair that could fit him, and a keyboard he could use comfortably, proved more difficult. He refused to ask for disability accommodations. “I’m not disabled. I’m a gorilla.”

He soon had a bigger problem: at the time, that investment firm was pushing a “soft touch” approach. “And I’m a gorilla.” He could manage this – barely – on the phone, but not, apparently, in person. He says he lasted only three months at the job – the firm’s corporate records say six weeks – and needed about eight solid months of wallowing in banana liquor before he could try again.

“Of course part of the problem was that I really hadn’t done that in college, you know. Much less during my MBA program. Gone on a drinking spree, that is. I was trying to work, to prove to everybody that I could be serious, could be intellectual, could do it. And it worked. Earned two college degrees in four years.” (Yale records confirm that Stanton did earn enough credit hours to make him eligible for two BAs, although he was granted only one, with a triple major in mathematics, history and accounting.) “Which meant I really didn’t do the other things. The human things. I didn’t connect.”

The banana liquor binge did something to help that, as did re-establishing ties with his few friends from Yale, and his family members back in the Hamptons, all of which helped center and stabilize him.

“I went back and watched Tarzan again over and over. I drank. I watched the ocean. I climbed into a few trees. Talked to friends. Sulked, if we’re going to be honest about it.”

At the end of this, he found yet another job at another Wall Street firm. “They were hesitant. Very hesitant. By that time, the story of me and the door had gotten around, and well, I didn’t really have that great of a reputation. Nobody wanted to explain me to an insurance company. But Cutter Holdings thought I might be useful in certain negotiations.”

Useful how?

“Hmm. Er. Well – I think they thought I might intimidate people.”

And did he?

Just at that moment, our finger sandwiches – including a large pile of cream cheese on banana bread – arrive. Stanton’s lips stretch. He swoops up a stack of the sandwiches and crams them into his throat. His hand comes thumping down on the table.

I don’t repeat the question.

After five years at Cutter Holdings, Stanton decided to stake out his own firm. He is legally unable to disclose the terms of his exit from the company, he explains, almost apologetically. I don’t press the issue; a Cutter Holdings spokesperson had said something similar when I was researching this article.

Whatever the circumstances, his exit – and his founding of his new firm – were soon complicated by the unexpected death of his father in what three separate police and a later independent federal investigation determined was absolutely, positively an accident.

That accident is also something I decide not to ask about now; Stanton has just broken a tea cup. It’s swiftly replaced, along with our excellent pot of oolong tea, but still, not the best moment to bring up accidents.

His father’s death left Stanton with a Hampton estate, a waterview home on Palm Island, Miami, and a luxury condo in Aspen, Colorado. Stanton rarely uses the Aspen condo, preferring to lend it out to friends or preferred clients; he doesn’t like the cold. Unlike most other billionaires with Miami homes, he doesn’t own a boat – he reportedly gets seasick – but that cold intolerance does mean that he makes frequent trips to that private estate, startling boaters who see him lounging on his deck.

Both the Hampton estate and the Miami home are, rumor has it, equipped with small hidden jungles under hothouses, where Stanton can retreat from the world and relax. The Hampton estate also contains several large trees which Stanton is rumored to take shelter in, along with several ever-present tablets constantly running different apps and videos. He does not confirm or deny these stories, saying only that watching the sea calms him.

Whatever the three homes – and a Swiss estate purchased just a few years ago – might suggest, Stanton is swift to deny the rumors of women, cocaine, and otherwise high living. “Everyone thinks it’s just like that movie. Wall Street. When the truth is, you just don’t have the time. I’m on my computer, my phone, basically 24/7. You can’t just do this lightly. You have to research. Plan. Calculate. And I’ve got these huge thumbs.”

To help, he’s had specialized keyboards, computer screens and office furniture made to accommodate his bulk and physical limitations. He has six personal assistants to handle “virtually everything” right down to peeling bananas for him – “Living with humans, you learn to dislike the skin. And then, one day, I started calculating just how long I was spending peeling bananas, and I was horrified. Horrified. So it’s a budget thing for me.”

As are several other seeming luxuries: the custom hanging beds in every one of his houses – “I get a bit sick of saying it, but, gorilla –”. Professional masseuses charge additional for gorillas, and the ability to fall asleep immediately is worth millions on its own, Stanton says. The private limousines and drivers – Stanton can drive, but finds most vehicles uncomfortable for his size; getting driven also allows him additional time to speak with clients. The private jet – “Seats are way too small, and I can’t get into those bathrooms, either.” Followed by a short laugh. “And since I own a small percentage of some of those planes – well, damaging those isn’t in my best interest.”

Using a private jet also allows Stanton to avoid most airport security procedures, something not really designed for gorillas. “We have to send out a few warnings in advance – I usually can’t go right through one of those X-Ray machines, for instance, and those new ones – what dy’a call them? The scatter things? You know? Forget it.” He has to be wanded. “Which is fine, but most people aren’t really ready to wand a gorilla, and I just don’t have time for that, you know? Every minute I waste on that is literally one million, easy, gone until I can get back on my phone. At a certain point, you have to look at those millions, and say, enough.”

His tea cup breaks in his hand. A watching waitress is there in an instant, replacing it and offering us a complimentary fresh pot of oolong tea, and assures us that the strawberries and cream and champagne are coming right up, along with more of the banana bread sandwiches – and some additional chicken curry sandwiches for me. I could use the sustenance, and I thank her politely.

A mention of another rumor – that he keeps a small family of gorillas hidden either on his Hampton estate or on a small island in Long Island Sound, depending upon who’s telling the story, complete with a small yet palatial customized jungle – is greeted with a snarl and a mention of his latest major acquisition: a large, near controlling interest in fruit supplier Apes For Fruit. Stanton also refuses to discuss what he eats when not talking to interviewers – a diet said to feature Kobe beef, civet cat coffee, and Hostess Twinkies – or discuss his religion. “Again. Gorilla. We’ll leave it at that.”

We do discuss other things, including his cutthroat reputation for really not liking competition – “I know it gets other folks motivated, but I really really don’t like competition. If there’s too many others after the same thing, either they’re eliminated or I’m out. More often the former –” his rumored upcoming takeover bid of a major media conglomerate – “Really can’t discuss that –” how he chooses his targets – that is, acquisitions – “Research. Research. Research. Sometimes lunch conversations like this –” the layoffs he’s orchestrated – “I’m proud to say that we’ve offered outstanding severance packages to employees who, in the course of events, Stanton Enterprises have determined to be non optimal to the future performance of our assets –” his purchase of six different internet sites focusing on cute animal pictures – “Not ready to discuss where we’re going with that, and it may be a failure – but I can’t resist those things.”

Cute animals?

“The otters get me. Every time.”

We’ve gone through five tea cups and a first round of strawberries before I ask what really, is it like, to be a gorilla working on Wall Street.

His eyes narrow. He pops some strawberries in his mouth before answering.

“It depends.”

Depends?

“On whether or not we’re meeting in person, or via email or phone.”

I stab a strawberry with a fork and gesture at him to keep explaining.

“People I just talk to on the phone, or via text, or email – they know I’m a gorilla, but then again, they don’t know.” He puts the sixth tea cup down. This time it doesn’t break. “People who interact with me in person – well. They know. It’s hard to explain. But there’s a difference.”

And maybe some awkwardness.

“Awkwardness?”

With so many of his fellow – I choke a little on the word – gorillas – remaining either in the jungles, or in zoos.

“Well. Yes.”

He seems to be waiting for a question. I take another sip of champagne.

Does he ever think about them?

“I’ve got a lot of respect for them. They work, you know, 24/7. 24/7. I think that’s something most people don’t appreciate. They go to a zoo, see one of us sleeping there, and they think, yeah, lazy gorilla – but sleeping right there? That’s performing. That’s work. I respect that.”

One of us.

“One of us, yeah.”

Still, it must make it awkward, interacting with people who usually see gorillas in zoos.

“Many of your fellow humans remain in even more degrading conditions.”

It’s a point I can’t deny.

Still. I should pursue this. I remember Stanton’s comment – echoing comments that he’s made to other media – that he really, really doesn’t like competition. I don’t know if that means other business moguls, or other gorillas, or humanity in general. I’ve talked to people: I know this is one of their biggest questions. Is Stanton unique? Or will Wall Street soon by overrun by gorilla billionaires? Is he planning on freeing gorillas from zoos and from their few, swiftly diminishing enclaves in Africa?

If he is planning something – or even contemplating something – it’s probably my responsibility not just as a journalist, but as a human, a Homo sapiens, to find out.

But I also can’t help looking at the pieces of shattered tea cups on the table, or remembering his growl from earlier when I mentioned the rumors of hidden enclaves of gorillas on his estates.

In any case, he’s standing. From the neck down, he almost looks elegant, in his tailored Brooks Brothers suit, now a bit stained from the remains of our tea. If I just look at his chest, I can almost – almost – convince myself he’s human, the way I did when setting up this interview with that so remarkably efficient personal assistant. I look up, at his giant face, now back to the mild expression he wore earlier in the interview, at his large teeth, now red and dripping. From strawberry juice, I remind myself. The interview is clearly over. I stand up and extend my hand, thanking him.

He takes it, but only for the briefest of moments. I wonder if I’ve offended him, tell myself it’s just a gorilla thing. I hope it’s just a gorilla thing. Because – as much as the fragments of china might say otherwise – there’s been a certain thrill to this tea, a thrill I’d like to feel again.

And then he’s off, lumbering past the powerful, the once powerful, and a few stray tourists. Chairs shift out of his path; I fancy I hear small sighs of relief. At the departure of a gorilla, or a Wall Street titan?

Impossible to tell. I don’t try. Instead, I grab my tablet, to start prepping for my next interview – with a name who remarkably didn’t come up in this interview: another multi-billionaire allegedly interested in that same Hollywood conglomerate, a woman who – they say – is really a big, bad wolf. I make reservations at a steakhouse for the two of us, all while wondering just what doors Magot Stanton will break next.


© 2019 by Mari Ness

Author’s Note: Most writers will tell you that Twitter is a distraction – a tempting distraction, but a distraction. And they are right. But every once in awhile Twitter gives me an idea – as here, when a conversation about Tarzan and the apes got me thinking about talking gorillas. I originally had something much sillier in mind – thus the use of the celebrity interview format – but this was the end result. I suppose you can also blame a bad habit of regularly reading celebrity interviews. But sometimes bad habits can lead to something. Sometimes.

Mari Ness lives in central Florida, near a lake filled with hidden alligators. Her fiction has previously appeared in multiple venues, including Tor.com, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Fireside, Apex, Nightmare, Daily Science Fiction, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Her poetry novella, Through Immortal Shadows Singing, appeared in 2017 from Papaveria Press. For more, see her occasionally updated blog at marikness.wordpress.com, or follow her on Twitter at mari_ness.


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The Best of Toasted Cake 2018

written by David Steffen

Toasted Cake is the idiosyncratic flash fiction podcast published, edited, hosted, and most often narrated by writer Tina Connolly. As noted in last year’s Best Of list, Toasted Cake had gone on hiatus for a couple years to make more time for writing deadlines and raising young children, but in the fall of 2017 she brought it back as an ongoing publication, publishing weekly during the school year. 2018 is the first full calendar year of publication after the end of the hiatus.

Tina Connolly has great and varied editorial taste and she’s an experience and excellent narrator as well. If you like flash fiction that is weird and unique and many times fun (but not always, there is serious fare as well), you would do well to check out the podcast.

The List

1.“A Scrimshaw of Smeerps” by Shannon Fay*
Future holiday traditions, wherein we tell the children that cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin comes to our home every year.

2.“Re: Little Miss Apocalypse Playset” by Effie Seiberg
Internal corporate email chain about the business decisions underlying the realistically catastrophic children’s toy

3.“We Need to Talk About the Unicorn In Your Backyard” by Mari Ness
A letter from the homeowner’s association, about the unicorn in your backyard.

4.“Immeasurable” by H.E. Roulo
The new teen trend is to download an app that measures all of your real-life activities by reaching achievements based on your goals.

5.“The Empire Builder” by Eden Robins
The feeling when you wake up with a sentient train in your bed.

Honorable Mentions

“Dear 8B” by Matt Mikalatos






The Diabolical Plots Year Five Fiction Lineup

written by David Steffen

Diabolical Plots was open for submissions once again for the month of July, to solicit stories to buy for the fourth year of fiction publication.  1288 submissions came in from 915 different writers, of which 26 stories were accepted.  Now that all of the contracts are in hand I am very pleased to share with you the lineup.

There is a lot of strangeness in this lineup, varying wildly in tone from humor to drama.  I hope you’ll like them as much as I do.

All of these stories will be published for the first time around March 2019 in an ebook anthology Diabolical Plots Year Five, and then will be published regularly on the Diabolical Plots site between April 2019 and March 2020, with each month being sent out to newsletter subscribers the month before.

This is the lineup order for the website.

April 2019
“Why Aren’t Millennials Continuing Traditional Worship of the Elder Dark?” by Matt Dovey
“One Part Per Billion” by Samantha Mills

May 2019
“What the Sea Reaps, We Must Provide” by Eleanor R. Wood
“Dogwood Stories” by Nicole Givens Kurtz

June 2019
“The Ceiling of the World” by Nicole Crucial
“Bootleg Jesus” by Tonya Liburd

July 2019
“Little Empire of Lakelore” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires
“Lies of the Desert Fathers” by Stewart Moore

August 2019
“The Inspiration Machine” by K.S. Dearsley
“Colonized Bodies, Dessicated Souls” by Nin Harris

September 2019
“Empathy Bee” by Forrest Brazeal
“Dear Parents, Your Child is Not the Chosen One” by P.G. Galalis
“Fresh Dates” by D.A. Xiaolin Spires

October 2019
“Tracing an Original Thought” by Holly Heisey
“Save the God Damn Pandas” by Anaea Lay

November 2019
“Consider the Monsters” by Beth Cato
“The Train to Wednesday” by Steven Fischer

December 2019
“Consequences of a Statistical Approach Towards a Utilitarian Utopia: A Selection of Potential Outcomes” by Matt Dovey
“The Problem From Jamaica Plain” by Marie L. Vibbert

January 2020
“This is What the Boogeyman Looks Like” by T.J. Berg
“Beldame” by Nickolas Furr
“Gorilla in the Streets” by Mari Ness

February 2020
“Invasion of the Water Towers” by R.D. Landau
“The Cliff of Hands” by Joanne Rixon

March 2020
“The Eat Me Drink Me Challenge” by Chris Kuriata
“The Old Ones, Great and Small” by Rajiv Mote

Daily Science Fiction February 2014 Review

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

The Scary Career of a Prolific Writer

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

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

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

†and later statingâ€

Debut novels should not be this good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Daily Science Fiction December 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

A good story.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

A perceptive work of science fiction.

Recommended

 

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

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

A funny message piece.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Three Degrees of Separation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Daily Science Fiction: September 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Welcome to the only ezine publication that takes the time to review all of the stories of one of the most read speculative publications, and most submitted to professional publishers, Daily Science Fiction. We are proud to be able to show DSF, and its celebrated authors, that their work is read , and studied. For three years we have held true to our commitment that Daily SF should not be ignored. They shouldn’t. The material is too good to be overlooked. But don’t take our word for it. See for yourself.

 

When the Selkie Comes by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 9/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

This flash story is about a young girl suffering the loss of her best friend / girlfriend. Her mind can’t fully accept that she’s gone, especially because of bullying, so she invents a world of magic around herself like a protective bubble, imagining her friend has gone to a better place.

I wasn’t able to escape into the fantasy because this tale was true-to-life. Magic is mentioned, but doesn’t play a part. I wish it had, because I was hoping for some sort of redemption, but instead we just have a very sad, very real story.

 

The Velveteen Rabbit Says Goodbye by Melissa Mead (debut 9/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing many of Melissa Mead’s altered fairy tales, but this one leaves them all behind. If you read only one, make it this one.

The Velveteen rabbit is sent to his Boy, who has been sent to war. While there, he sees horrible things, but his job is simply to be there for his Boy, as well as for others, because they need him.

RECOMMENDED

 

A carnival attraction draws an inquisitive customer in The Vanishing Girl by Michael T. Banker (debut 9/4 and reviewed by Frank D). For two dollars, a girl promises to make something you offer to disappear. Her magical touch delivers. Intrigued, he offers her something friendly. Big mistake.

“The Vanishing Girl” is a tale I read when it first appeared in a writer’s group contest. The ending is quite abrupt, and fitting.

 

A tribute of a town’s savior shows up at the doorstep of a young lady’s home in The Witch’s Cat by Kalisa Ann Lessnau (debut 9/5 and reviewed by Frank D). The companion of a Witch takes to the protagonist when its master dies. The Witch did much for the town. The people she helped all whisper their thanks to the cat (named Sampson) as the protagonist walks tours the community. Sampson contributes to the bonfire while the town performs one last tribute to the Witch, surprising them all, but the magic of the witch has not stopped giving, after all.

“The Witch’s Cat” is a tale that had me guessing throughout. The Witch had left a lasting mark on the local people, she being an icon like many leaders throughout history. I really had no idea where this story was heading and its conclusion is one that I whole-heartedly approve of. Very nice work indeed.

RECOMMENDED

 

The old Angel of Death appeals to the new angel to spare humanity. In Dark Angel, Archangel by Kevin J. Anderson (debut 9/6 and reviewed by Frank D), the Grim Reaper has lost his job to the White Lady. He has refused to exterminate humanity and has been stripped of most of his power. The White Lady has no such qualms. Angels of Deaths have been replaced before – mass extinctions having rendering the previous angel useless. The Reaper intends to not let humanity fade from Earth. He knows why the rest of the aurorae want man to perish. The aurorae will have much to fear, if he can convince the White Lady why man should survive.

“Dark Angel” is a supernatural tale with a very different premise. The otherworld beings are products of the Aurora Borealis. The fear humanity feels for the Angels of Death have made them powerful, too powerful for the beings that have created them. The story becomes a battle, ending in a self-sacrificing act to prove a point.

Frankly, I found this story to be a stretch, even for a speculative audience. It read like a mash up of concepts that floated around in the author’s head.

 

A letter of concern (complete with footnotes) is sent to the people of Earth in Uh†Guys? by Luc Reid (debut 9/9 and reviewed by Frank D). Aliens send us a message in a lingo that we can all understand, you dig?

I found this amusing tongue-and-cheek message piece entertaining.

 

A man follows a character of importance in Tunnel Vision by Zach Shephard (debut 9/10 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist tails a woman he identifies as ‘The Protagonist’. He passes by other characters with wild stories of their own, but he is unconcerned about them. She alone has captured his interest.

“Tunnel Vision” is a story of a viewer focused on a single person. The tale is strange, told as if a reader is living in the imaginative world of another’s creation. The people he passes have incredible and compelling tales of their own, tales he ignores.

This story has a disconnected and odd premise to it. Surreal, yet interesting.

 

The cycles of the tides have a feminine influence in Ebb and Flow by La Shawn M. Wanak (debut 9/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Megan waits at the shore, watching the tide come in as a hint to know when her time has arrived.

This premise is based on a switch on the attraction of the tides , it is a woman’s menstruation cycle and not the moon’s gravitational influence. Interesting, but silly.

 

A vampire craves to see the sun in Finally Free by Frances Silversmith (debut 9/12 and reviewed by Frank D). This brief tale explores the motives of a vampire who has lived in the dark for far too long.

Short and sweet.

 

A failed artist tries to find his purpose in a world filled with androids in The Titanium Geisha by Elias Barton (debut 9/13 and reviewed by Frank D). Wil Feld is the oldest child of a family of accomplished artists. A failure who spends his days on the beach eating hot dogs, Will is bitter and adrift – a boat without a rudder – as he attempts to sail through life as his siblings have. He awaits his perfect mate, a companion android he had picked out in the design specs of an android corporation. When Fern appears on the beach, she isn’t what he expected. She turns out to more than he could have imagined.

“The Titanium Geisha” is a story reminiscent of Philip Dick’s classic Do Androids Dream Electric Dreams? , the story that begat Blade Runner. Fern proves to be just the person Will needs, a mate who challenges an artist who has come to avoid challenges. Fern attempts to blossom Wil’s creative side, but Wil has not the insight, nor the desire his siblings have had all along. The world is clinical to him. Where others see beauty, he finds the practical.

“Titanium Geisha” is long tale for Daily SF. It is long in set up with a reveal that takes a long and winding path to reach its conclusion. The tale is a cleverly disguised mystery. There are clues within the story that should have made the twist obvious but the slow pace and complicated romance does a rather good job of hiding the clues in plain sight. The protagonist is drawn as a privileged jerk, too comfortable in his own self-pity to attempt to move beyond his own short comings. He makes it difficult as a character for a reader to rootfor, which is a shame.

“The Titanium Geisha” is a story with a solid premise. The tale is an intriguing one but one that is difficult to stick with.

 

Pavlov’s Final Research by Gary Cuba (debut 9/16 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

The old man stood on shaky legs, his bones creaking with the effort, and shambled over to the door. “What do they want of me now?” He thought. He opened the door to reveal his old friend, Sergi. “Have you come to tell me they have stopped my stipend after all these years?” Pavlov asked. “Not at all, old friend.” Sergi said. “In fact Stalin wants to honor you as his predecessor has done, but he needs to know about your new work.” Pavlov agreed and led Sergi into the kitchen to observe his latest work, a new approach to conditioning. But who was training who?

This story is a little trite and predictable, but it is well written and the humor comes through nicely. The writer has done a credible job with setting up the premise and drawing the reader into the story. It could probably have used a better punch line, but it is still worth the read.

 

Virtually Human by Melanie Rees (debut 9/17 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

The boy held up the pills, offering one to Miranda. She refused and he popped one in his mouth. “You know you want one,” he said. Miranda refused, stumbling over her words, “I can’t.” His look carried the accusation of cowardice. “Mother would be angry.” Still she is on the verge of succumbing to the temptation when the footsteps on the stairs alert her. “End program,” she commands and the boy fades away.

This was an interesting take on perception and what we seek for in life. The author does a good job of drawing us into the character. And while there are some early issues with gaps in the action that I found disconcerting, overall the story is well written. I liked the way the author changed our view of the world as she changed the perspective of the character. Worth the read.

 

A painter deconstructs his own work in Artist’s Retrospective by David D. Levine (debut 9/18 and reviewed by Frank D). A customer delivers a painting to an artist’s gallery , a caption of a fruit bowl. The painter accepts it and strips down to the point of his inspiration.

“Artist’s Retrospective” is a walk backwards in creation. The story is told in a time reversal, a tale of rediscovery in the eyes of a creator. The piece (story) is a work of a master. Mr. Levine shows off his own artistry as he leads the reader on a path of inspiration and talent , in reverse. Well done.

RECOMMENDED

 

A scientist confesses his crime in Those Little Slices of Death by Susan Lanigan (debut 9/19 and reviewed by Frank D). An inventor removes the magnet in his skull that neutralizes the need for sleep. The result is intoxicating.

This futuristic message piece is written as a commentary of our current political times. Not a bad story but reading the author’s inspiration kind of soured it for me.

 

Unicorns, and Other Birthday Hazards by Jeffery John Hemenway (debut 9/20 and reviewed by Frank D). It’s Greta’s twelfth birthday, and that makes her a dangerous girl. Monsters inhabit her town, brought about by the birthday wishes of little children. The adults need her to fix this with a wish, but she knows that won’t make things better, just worse. But Greta knows what to do because she’s the one that made birthday wishes possible in the first place.

Greta is a prisoner in her own attic as a large man stands guard. Outside unicorns and ponies of all shapes and color rule the grounds. They are the results of wishes small children have made, but no wish comes without a consequence. Greta learned that the day she first found the gnome, and has been planning ever since to undo what she had done long ago.

“Unicorns” is a tale of unintentional consequences. She had intended on saving her sick sister with her first wish, but the gnome had warned her of its consequences. The story is a fast moving tale full of unexpected twists and turns. The quick pace and unseen corners is a telling that was right up my alley, making it a complete pleasure for me to read. My only gripe is the ending left me with unanswered questions. Nevertheless, it was a solid and entertaining read.

 

An editor wants his science fiction writer to make his novel more believable in Worldbuilding by Alex Shvartsman (debut 9/23 and reviewed by Frank D). Peter calls in Bob to nit-pick small details in his latest work.

This short piece has a twist made for the lovers of speculative fiction.

 

The Gifts: Parts 1 -3 by Mari Ness (debut 9/24-26 and reviewed by Frank D), is a tale told around the Grimm fairy tale, The Girl with Silver Hands. Each part is told from a perspective of one of the major players in the tale.

In Part One (debut 9/24), the protagonist is given a chest from his daughter, filled with gold and a pair of silver hands. The gold is his, but it cannot be touched by his own hands.

In Part Two (debut 9/25), we see the prequel to Part One. The girl with stumps for arms is given the silver hands as a gift by her prince, her husband, and protagonist of this tale.

This flash gathers a glimpse of the girl and how her silver hands are given as a gift to her father.

In Part Three (debut 9/26), is the finale as seen through the eyes of the girl with stumps for arms. She watches as her prince , the man she had left , slices off her father’s hands on the chest full of gold.

The original tale (there are many variations, according to my research) is dark like many of the Grimm brother’s tales. Ms Ness’s adaption is told with an alternate ending as an epilogue to the original tale. These three brief adaptions are presented in a slightly darker shade as the already grim fairy tale.

Like many of the fairy tale adaptions told here at Daily SF, the author holds true to the tone of the original piece while spinning it in their own style. Not bad, for a bleak and harsh children’s story.

 

A ghost girl and a man seeking resurrection for his wife seek a planet of dreams in Marrakech Express by Milena Benini (debut 9/27 and reviewed by Frank D). The planet of Zaria is a world where the dead can live on in the space in which dreams exist. Mari is a spirit whose form exists in the presence of her parents. Karima intends on making the sun run for her daughter. Christian Chankari is a man who has used the services of a smuggler , Harry the Slut. Together, they travel aboard the Marrakech Express to Zaria so Christian can bring his departed wife to Zaria.

“Marrakech Express” is a dual plot story. The twin stories surrounding Mari’s ghostly form and the exploits of Harry the Slut have very little in common. Each storyline follows a confusing path until the characters meet in the climax of the piece.

I found this story to be a difficult one to get through. The characters all have odd motives. The rules of the dream state and how they related to the dead I couldn’t make heads or tails out of. The story is slow and underdeveloped. I just couldn’t understand why these people made the choices they made.

Not my cup of tea.

 

An old woman has a soft spot for children, one she has been suppressing for a very long time. How Hagatha One-Eye Fell Off the Wagon by Matthew Cote (debut 9/30 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale of a reclusive and old woman. She holds tight to a coin stamped with a 200, the time she has remained on the wagon. An older boy performs a breaking and entering on her place, challenging her resolve and will power.

“How Hagatha” is a take on the ole Hansel and Gretel fable. I found it inventive and a pleasure to read.

RECOMMENDED

 

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DAILY SCIENCE FICTION!

Not sure how to contact them. I’ll leave up to the bio guy.

 

logo-overDaily Science Fiction is a popular, professional venue for both science fiction and fantasy. Unlike other online professional magazines, we email stories to our subscribers each weekday. This provides a unique opportunity to reach a set group of dedicated genre readers on their “home turf,” in their inbox, where they’ve invited us to share.

We’re in our fourth year of publication, an established and reliable place for fans to find top names in the field and exciting new authors. The Daily Science Fiction website gets about 65,000 page views every month, reaching more than 12,000 unique readers. Our email subscriber list exceeds 7,500.

Daily Science Fiction: August 2013 Review

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

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

Intriguing tale. Not bad.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Sound Check

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

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

snapperFrank Dutkiewicz needs no introduction.