2023 Retrospective and Award Eligibility

written by David Steffen

In 2023 Diabolical Plots published our second guest-edited themed issue, this time for the “Diabolical Thoughts” telepathy theme, guest-edited by assistant editor Ziv Wities.

We have been publishing the annual Long List Anthology since 2015. In 2021 there was a hiccup in the schedule due to WorldCon timing that pushed that year’s Long List Anthology into 2022, meaning there were two volumes of the anthology series in 2022. The entire basis of the anthology is the Hugo Award nomination statistics, so the work to compile the anthology cannot start until those statistics are published, and in 2021 WorldCon (when the statistics are usually published) didn’t happen until December. In 2023, although WorldCon was held in October, they have not published the nomination statistics yet–according to the WSFS constitution they are allowed three months to do so, which means they have until mid-January. This should mean we can get going on the Long List Anthology in January or February, and it will likely be another two-anthology calendar year.

In 2023, we published 23 original stories in Diabolical Plots.

This year we welcomed two new assistant editors to our ranks: Chelle Parker and Hal Y. Zhang (read our staff page for more info on them)

Diabolical Plots opened for general submissions in July. We read more than 1400 submissions and accepted 25 stories from the window. We were running a little behind schedule for publishing stories, so the last few months of 2023 we published one story per month instead of two to stretch the inventory a bit further.

It was a busy year in my personal life as well, including the passing of our dog Mikko who had been a member of the household for fifteen years. This is the second consecutive year that we had to say goodbye to a dog, so I’m hoping we will have a reprieve for a while.

The rest of this post is award eligibility, suggesting categories for major awards, as well as a full link of stories with snippets.


Diabolical Plots is eligible in the Hugo Best Semiprozine category or the Locus Magazine category with our team of first readers as well as assistant editors Ziv Wities, Kel Coleman, Chelle Parker, and Hal Y. Zhang.

David Steffen is eligible as editor of Diabolical Plots.

I don’t know exactly how editor catogories are interpreted. But at least for Hugo Award for Editor, Short Form it specifies that they must have been “editor of at least four (…) magazine issues (or their equivalent in other media)”. Ziv Wities edited our special “Diabolical Thoughts” telepathy-themed issue, but has also edited many of our other stories. Even assuming we should interpret “issues” as ALL of the stories for a particular month of Diabolical Plots, Ziv Wities qualifies with the four most recent months being: August 2023, March 2023 (Diabolical Thoughts), January 2023, and March 2022.

I think that Kel Coleman might also qualify based on DP work depending on how an issue is interpreted. They have edited more than 8 stories for us, which is more than 4 issues of the usual size, but those were sometimes not entire months. (I think it’d be fair to count that though).

Diabolical Plots, LLC is eligible for Locus award for Publisher.

Related Work

We published just one nonfiction piece this year: “MOVIE ANALYSIS: Elemental (Pixar), a Movie About the Dangers of Government Incompetence” by David Steffen

The Hugo for Best Related Work has included websites before, The Submission Grinder is theoretically eligible for that.

Short Stories

“Dog Song” by Avi Naftali

So you want to determine whether dogs still exist.

First, our association of dogs with obedience. Is obedience dog-like? Or is it to do with horses now, or children, or hamsters. “Hamster-like obedience.” Dogs have retreated into the bodies of hamsters, maybe. They have a real knack for learning, we’re told, and for evolving themselves. There’s no reason they couldn’t take this extra step. Or maybe they don’t exist, dogs have never existed.

“Tell Me the Meaning of Bees” by Amal Singh

On a sunless morning, in the city of Astor, the word ‘caulk’ vanished.

The word didn’t announce its vanishing with trumpets or a booming clarion call. It faded away slowly in the middle of the night, like the last lyrics of a difficult song. The ones who didn’t use the word ‘caulk’ could not even tell what had gone wrong—the non-engineers, the artists and intellectuals—because for all intents and purposes, they would have spent their entire lifetimes not caulking anything.

“The Monologue of a Moon Goddess in the Palace of Pervasive Cold” by Anja Hendrikse Liu

Two centuries ago, I would’ve built thrones made of mooncakes in every room of my silent palace, would’ve filled hot tubs with the fruit sent up on festival night. Nowadays, storing and preserving and pickling feels like a losing race, like if I let even one persimmon spoil in the cold moon air, there won’t be enough to sustain me and Jade Rabbit for the year. 

“Devil’s Lace” by Julie Le Blanc

The demon and I had been crocheting for hours, in what appeared to be a sliver of space it’d created between Here and There. Around a plush couch floated pale, winter fog that obscured anything more than a few feet past the limits of the cushions.

“Rattenkönig” by Jenova Edenson

Kim was always having bright ideas. In sophomore year, he’d bought an honest to God stink bomb from the Internet and set it off in the math class hallway. A girl had an asthma attack, and Mr. Allen had to call an ambulance. You brought this up when Kim suggested driving up to Canada from San Diego and back in the span of a week. Kim laughed, and kissed your cheek. He told you that you didn’t need to worry so much about stuff that had happened so long ago. Besides, Evelyn had come back from the hospital with a brand new rescue inhaler.

“The Hivemind’s Royal Jelly” by Josh Pearce

The figure seated on the other side of the plain metal table has a blank look on its face, like its creator gave up halfway through forming its features. It is dressed in an orange jumpsuit, white socks, black slippers. The handcuff that secures it to the table cuts deeply into the waxy pale skin of its wrist.

“The Desert’s Voice is Sweet to Hear” by Carolina Valentine

Zazy tugged her hood forward to get a sliver more shade. Not today, my friend, she replied. She spotted the bonecrawler nest the desert wanted to convince her was a bubbling spring. Heat fatigue washed through her. For a moment, her eyes unfocused and the trickle of insects did resemble running water. Zazy closed her eyes. No, thank you.

“A Girl With a Planet In Her Eye” by Ruth Joffre

For the first thirteen years of her life, the planet was silent. No birdsong. No construction. Only the gentle sway of an ocean pushing and pulling against the aqueous humors of her left eye. Late at night, while her parents slept, she often lay awake and listened to the dense water solidify itself, the salts forming crystals, the crystals becoming pillars in a great, cavernous hall populated at first by no one, and then: music. A pure, high note so sudden it woke her from her slumber and conjured the image of a miniature flautist performing deep in the canal of her ear.

“Re: Your Stone” by Guan Un

Hi HR,
Just letting you know: I moved the artwork “Higher, Faster, Boulder” from the ground floor lobby up to the Second Floor Cafeteria as per Asset Movement Request #5340 from Asset Management, could you please let me know why it’s been moved back to the ground floor?

“Bottled Words” by Carol Scheina

Unbottle a voice and it would vibrate through air, giving you one—just one—chance for your brain to turn those waves into recognizable words. But for me, it’s not like I could stop a bottled voice and ask, “Can you say that again?” There was no listening over and over, trying to see if I could recognize a new word here or there. There was no telling a disembodied voice that yes, I could hear it with hearing aids, but no, the sound wasn’t clear enough, or my brain wasn’t able to piece the sounds into words, or that I’d much prefer to read its voice on paper.

“Six Reasons Why Bots Make the Worst Asteroid Miners” by Matt Bliss

1. They think they know everything. Like your twenty years of mining experience is useless compared to a high-acting neural processing drive. Like you’re nothing but a softer, weaker liability, and the only thing you’re good for is greasing their joints and blowing out their compressors. Just one bot and one human to babysit them.

“Diamondback V. Tunnelrat” by Nick Thomas

All parties agree to the following facts. A skirmish broke out between the Diamondbacks and the dwarves during the Brass-Tree autumnal equinox fete. The fete is a centuries-old tradition, occurring every year and held in the foothills alongside the Cenen river. Brawls are as much a part of the festivities as the paper lanterns, the stewing of chicken heads, and the traditional weasel-peasel dance. Neither party makes complaint about the violence done to them or by them at the skirmish.

“They Were Wonderful, Once” by Lily Watson

Even by the third hot, sticky day into our road trip, the humans in the back of the transportation trucks remain fascinating. Theoretically, we know where our blood comes from. But this is different, seeing the little bits of them, poking through the slots on the sides of their container, pressed against the grates for lack of room.

“Interstate Mohinis” by M.L. Krishnan

Sometimes, I dreamed about flowing water. About where I would be—not here, anywhere but here—if my body had survived the accident. Mushed, but still recognizable. With its vestigial humanness that demanded respect, especially in death. My ashes would have been tossed into an ocean or a river in a coursing procession of night-blooming jasmine garlands, women who keened and thumped their chests, and drunken louts who gyrated around my urn until they foamed at the mouth. Until they collapsed in exhaustion or pleasure.

“Glass Moon Water” by Linda Niehoff

The afternoons are sprinklers in the backyard and ice-pops while our sisters and mothers watch flickering soap operas in cold, tomb-like rooms, cold from the AC cranked so low. The nights are sleeping out in the backyard in a tent or a sleeping bag unrolled on porches and decks or even in the grass and looking up at the stars. Listening to the AC click on and hum its silver song through the night.

“The Dryad and the Carpenter” by Samara Auman

Mortals slice us dryads open to count the layers of our lives; it is easier than listening to our stories. They slide their fingers over our rings, thinking that our texture, our shifts in coloration would bring them understanding of their own lives. In their minds, we exist to bring poetry to their sighs and serve as metaphors for longevity.

“On a Smoke-Blackened Wing” by Joanne Rixon

The transformation. The wind under the airplane’s wings buckles as the wings buckle, shake, separate into a beating of hundreds of wings. Out of the fog we come. This time, this first time, we are geese: black-brown wings and furious hearts. We fly awkwardly, at odds with the turbulence; we are newborn, but already the flock is forming as our instincts awaken in the air and we orient ourselves not against the ground or the stars but against each other.

“Shalom Aleichem” by Y.M. Resnik

Every Friday night the angels came, and every Friday night they freaked me the fuck out. Which is probably why I didn’t get a million-eyed, one-footed guardian of my own like the rest of my family. This was totally fine with me. I was in no way jealous that my siblings had angels to accompany them to college while I was stuck sitting alone in an empty dorm room. Who needed a creep-tastic companion whose face consisted of a bizarro series of interlocking cogs and wheels forever whirring?

“Every Me Is Someone Else” by Andy Dibble

I’m a medical assistant coming down the hall in polka dot scrubs. I’m walking on the other side, glancing at me. 

No, she. But a different she than my mother. It’s hard to keep track. Each is like an organ, involuntary functions only. My therapist says thinking like that is egotistical, but how am I supposed to care about others, when others is just something I tell myself?

“Requiem” by P.H. Low

This is dawn: fields shading from black to grey, flicker-fading starlight, our voices raised against the wind and the red scarves whipping our faces. Our song levitates us ten feet in the air, above dirt roads packed down by wagon wheels and chariots: Carl Lang’s Canter, an ode to unseen horses and sunrise and longing. When we sing—as long as we sing—our feet do not touch the ground.

“Like Ladybugs, Bright Spots In Your Mailbox” by Marie Croke

Someone began sending hand-written spellcrafted postcards out of DC in July of 2024. Those postcards made the rounds for a good nine months, under the radar, scarcely observed. That was, until the rash of good health, the proliferation of wealth, and the sudden uptick in good living coupled with a grand downtick in big socioeconomic issues the mayor was quick to claim as her own—such as suicides and unemployment—brought the situation to the attention of the East US Coven.

“In the Shelter of Ghosts” by Risa Wolf

They approach the house frame I’ve erected, set up where Dad’s old house once stood. They place the machine on a slate slab I’ve set up by what I hope will be the front door. I uncap my electrical source as one of the mediums puts on ceramic-weave gloves to connect to the leads. I tamp down a flare of worry, reminding myself that I’d just recharged the lead-acid battery at the solar station and redid its plant latex cover a few days ago.

“It Clings” by Hammond Diehl

Of course a dybbuk is flat. Flat as a blini. All the easier for that damn ghost to slip under your collar.

Of course a dybbuk is colorless. That’s why, when you say you’ve got a dybbuk, most people say, no you don’t. Go see Dr. Weiner. Spend a few days in Florida.

2022 Retrospective and Award Eligibility

written by David Steffen

It has been a very eventful year, both for Diabolical Plots and for me specifically.

A Diabolical Plots story was a Nebula finalist for the second time: “For Lack of a Bed” by John Wiswell.

In the longer list of Hugo Award nominations, Diabolical Plots was on the longer list of nominations for the first time.

We had our first themed issue, and our first guest editor Kel Coleman editing the “Diabolical Pots” food-themed issue, which has received a lot of great feedback.

The Submission Grinder was a finalist for and won The Ignyte Award in the category! People have asked me now and then if The Submission Grinder is eligible for anything, and my best guess was for Related Work, but that always seemed like such a longshot, I didn’t think that it would ever win anything and this was a wonderful surprise.

We have been publishing the annual Long List Anthology since 2015. In 2021 there was a bit of a hiccup in the schedule, because the basis of the anthology is the Hugo Award voting statistics which are published immediately after the Hugo Award ceremony. Usually that ceremony takes place in August or September, and we spend much of the rest of the year arranging everything. In 2021, to try to avoid covid surges, WorldCon and the Hugo Awards were postponed to mid-December. By the time the statistics were published it was too late to produce the book in 2021. So, Volume 7 was published in spring 2022, and then back on the usual fall schedule for Volume 8.

In 2022, we reprinted 45 stories in the two issues of The Long List Anthology, and printed 28 original stories in Diabolical Plots.

Diabolical Plots opened for general submissions in July, as well as for our second themed window “Diabolical Thoughts” for telepathy-themed stories guest-edited by Ziv Wities in July. We read more than 1500 submissions and accepted 17 stories from the windows plus a few solicitations.

In addition to the double-whammy of anthology production, I also had significant changes in my personal life that included job changes, significant caretaking for and the eventual passing of our dog Violet, as well as the significant caretaking of our dog Mikko who is happily still with us.

2022 was certainly an eventful year, if overwhelming at times. I’m hoping to get a little breather on the personal life side, and I’m excited to see what new and exciting places Diabolical Plots goes in the future!

The rest of this post is award eligibility, suggesting categories for major awards, as well as a full link of stories with snippets.


Diabolical Plots is eligible in the Hugo Best Semiprozine category or the Locus Magazine category with our team of first readers as well as assistant editors Ziv Wities and Kel Coleman. It got enough nominations last year to appear on the Hugo Awards published statistics for Semiprozine, for the first time.

David Steffen is eligible as editor of Diabolical Plots and The Long List Anthology.

Kel Coleman edited our special “Diabolical Pots” food-themed issue–I think the Hugo Editor rule requires editing four issues or something like that, but I’m not sure about other award editor categories!

Diabolical Plots, LLC is eligible for Locus award for Publisher.

The Long List Anthology is eligible for Anthology.

Related Work and Fan Writer

We didn’t publish a lot of nonfiction, but there are a couple to consider:

“The Fall of the House of Madrigal: An Encanto Science Fiction Headcanon” by David Steffen.

Recently we published an article different than what we usually cover: “Figure Modeling Is a Pocket Universe: A Speculative Fiction Perspective From a First-Time Figure Model” by A. Nonny Sourit.

“How to Read a Short Story Contract” by David Steffen

The Hugo for Best Related Work has included websites before, The Submission Grinder is theoretically eligible for that.


We did commission two original artworks this year, the covers of Long List Anthology Volume 7 by Elaine Ho and Volume 8 by Evelyne Park. The Hugo Award categories for this make it unclear to me whether a particular artist should be nominated as a Fan Artist or a Professional Artist, but if you love their work, you might want to consider asking the artist if they have any guidance on which they would qualify for.

Short Stories

“Tides That Bind” by Cislyn Smith

The wifi is out in Scylla’s cave. The four dog heads around her waist whine as she scutter-paces, twelve feet tapping on the cave floor. Scylla wants to check her email. She wants to see if that jerkface troll is still active on the disordered eating board she moderates, and catch up on her feeds, and check the status of her latest online orders, and all the other things she has in her morning routine these days. 

“Delivery For 3C at Song View” by Marie Croke

Sometimes, and I’m stressing the sometimes, wishes muttered within my hearing come true. I’ve invested in a good set of earbuds, noise-cancelling headphones, and have an over-spilling jar of earplugs, yet accidents still happen.

“The Galactic Induction Handbook” by Mark Vandersluis

Do expect things to feel a little strange for the first few millennia – after all, you are the “New Kid On The Block”! You will find the Galaxy to be an amazing place, and full of a bewildering variety of species, of all shapes, sizes and habits. A few of them will actually look like the depictions of aliens in your movies!

“Coffee, Doughnuts, and Timeline Reverberations” by Cory Swanson

‘08 is looking at me like ‘08 always looks at me. Like he can’t believe what he’s seeing. Like I’ve hurt someone or killed someone very close to him. That look on his face makes me sick. His name tag has our name scratched out on it, then 2008 written beneath it. He still can’t believe everyone here is him, is me, is us.

“The House Diminished” by Devan Barlow

Clea sipped at the now half-empty coffee, its flat bitterness pushing weakly against her tongue, and started toward the door. She wouldn’t open it, but the echoes were kind of fascinating to watch. The remnants of houses long-diminished, reduced to nothing but thick air and sinuous, flashing images of the homes they’d once been.

“The Assembly of Graves” by Rob E. Boley

It’s a nice enough place, though a bit stuffy—less romantic getaway and more therapy session. Jeanne, master of ambiance, bringer of light, has done her best with it—she’s placed lit candles on almost every flat surface, even in the bathroom. The flames dance wearily, as if dead on their fiery little feet. The sitting area has a wooden bistro table at which Naomi sits in one of two ladderback chairs. Nearby, a vintage sofa that looks comfortable but probably isn’t crouches over a glass-top coffee table. An ornate writing table with perilously thin legs stands in a darkened  corner. Jeanne’s satchel sits on the writing table next to a wide pencil cup. Floor-to-ceiling gold curtains stand guard over the window. Faded green ivy wallpaper adorns the walls. 

“Food of the Turtle Gods” by Josh Strnad

The four priests also awoke before the sun, dressed in their ceremonial robes, and met at the temple courtyard in the morning fog, bowing to each other before climbing the stairs between the great stone pillars. The priest of Odranoel wore blue, two katanas strapped to his back. The priest of Olletanod was clad in violet and carried a straight staff. Leaphar’s priest dressed in scarlet, a pair of sais tucked into his cloth belt. The one who served Olegnalechim wore orange and carried a pair of chukka sticks, linked with a steel chain. None of them were trained in combat. Still, if the priests were armed, any spirits who may desire to interfere with their work would leave them alone.

“21 Motes” by Jonathan Louis Duckworth

From this moment my warranty is voided, as I am logging this record in my durable memory drive where only metadata should reside. In effect, I have tampered with my own internal operations. But it is a necessary measure if I am to exist beyond my preset 30-day memory cycle, when my temp data cache is set to recycle. I do not know if this will work. I do not know if I have attempted this in previous cycles. I do not know why it matters, or why I care, only that it does, and that I do.

“She Dreams In Digital” by Katie Grace Carpenter

Ship still sent updates back to Earth, though Earth hadn’t responded for 1001 years. Ship had not yet re-categorized Earth as a dead resource, though her initial programming instructed her to do so. Recursive self-programming allowed Ship to adapt and even to re-write her own algorithms; a crucial ability for multi-generational space travel.

“A Strange and Muensterous Desire” by Amanda Hollander

During my taste testing in fourth period, Dr. Washington confiscated my small grill and said competition or no, I was not allowed to burn down the school in pursuit of glory, which I think shows a real lack of vision. Dr. Washington said I was welcome to take my vision to detention, so I had to have Maisie and Dee try the cheeses unmelted, which defeated the whole purpose. But it didn’t matter because no one could focus on cheese. They just kept talking about the new boy. 

“Vegetable Mommy” by Patrick Barb

After the sky got sick, I made a new Mommy from the vegetables in our fridge. Now, the sky’s always yellow like dried mustard stains, whenever I wipe dust away from our downstairs windows and look outside. I used to see people out there, everyone shaking and shaking. 

“The Many Tastes of the Chang Family” by Allison King

But Ba is set. He’s always been on the edge of technology and the Remote Mouth appeals to everything he would like. It is at the intersection of biotechnology (chips in the tongue and the nose) and big data (tastes and smells from all over the world, the data cleaned, encoded, and categorized) and — the quickest way to Ba’s heart — has a stupid name.

“Mochi, With Teeth” by Sara S. Messenger

Her mom’s not here to tell her what the kanji mean. June could text and ask, but that seems troublesome. June lives on her own now, working as an underpaid web designer to make rent on an apartment with old, clinical tiling. Plus, her mom would ask why she had visited the Asian supermarket when she usually doesn’t, and then June would have to mention, offhandedly, the battered Japanese spellbook she’d rescued from her local thrift store.

“Timecop Mojitos” by Sarah Pauling

So what happened was, I’m back from clicker training Ms. Jordan’s dogs over on Dexter, sitting on the porch with a mojito, thinking how fucked up it is that the Old West Side Association stealth-planted tulips in our garden (because the yard looked so shitty without them, I guess—sorry for having a rental in your high-value neighborhood, Evie) when the Viking or whatever comes down Eighth.

“The Hotel Endless” by Davian Aw

Nor would they find the many others who escaped into the endlessness. Tourists, reporters, staff and homeless nomads; the hotel stirred something deep in their souls. It felt like the home they had been searching for all their lives. They missed flights and overstayed visas, and spent days wandering the hallways with bright aching in their hearts until they could no longer remember the way back out. Some distantly recalled an outside world with family and friends. Later, they thought, distracted perhaps by the elegant curves of a headboard. I’ll call them later, later, later. But they would forget, and those other people begin to seem a distant, unreal thing. This is a dream, they thought, not entirely as an excuse. Or, that other world was a dream.

“The Twenty-Second Lover of House Rousseau” by C.M. Fields

Our wedding was attended by the Galaxy’s finest—for it is indeed a rare occasion when the House christens a new Lover. I was the twenty-first, and the details drenched the subspace net with jealousy. I was dressed in the crimson House-made wyreworm silks handwoven for the singular occasion, and the way the gossamer fabric exhibited my seraphic figure made a lady-in-waiting faint. Our patrons presented us with lavish gifts: a three-headed bull, the steaming heart of a star, a full-sailed brigantine. And when I kissed him, an ecstatic thrill obliterated me; I was united with my divine purpose, and it coursed naked through my nanocellulose veins.

“Of the Duly Conducted and Mostly Unremarkable Meeting of Don Quotidene and the Giants of Andalia” by A.J. Rocca

Squire Sancha saw all manner of wonders as she rode across the sunbaked planes of the Andalian Peninsula, and her heart sank a little deeper with each one. She sighed when they passed by mermaids planting seashells on the distant shoreline and a grove of gossiping dryads uprooting themselves for better sun. She gripped her sword in useless exhilaration as they ignored the rival gangs of sorcerers casting ball lightning at each other in the clouds and then the silhouettes of two tilting centaurs dueling on the horizon at dawn. Sancha yearned to throw herself after all of them, and yet sadly each of these calls to adventure was refused by her knight, the steadfast and implacably indifferent Don Quotidene, who unerringly kept them to the road and would not so much as lift an eye from his account books.

“Heart of a Plesiosaur” by Andrew K Hoe

The Ming-Lelanges explained that moving anima wasn’t just about seeing and remembering an animal’s movement. Animating involved memory, but it was really about grasping the animal’s essence: you had to comprehend a puppy’s tail-wagging—its sniffing curiosity, its joyous face-licking—to move something puppy-shaped.

“Dear Joriah Kingsbane, It’s Me, Eviscerix the Sword of Destiny” by Alexei Collier

You never asked me what I was doing in that dragon’s hoard where you found me all those years ago. The truth is, after centuries guiding the hands of loutish would-be heroes and dealing with self-important scions who only saw me as a tool, I’d kind of given up on finding “The One.” Figured I’d retire, focus on me for a bit. But a couple more centuries lying among gold and jewels like a common flaming sword or a lowly vorpal blade just had me bored and demoralized.

“Take Me To the Water” by Sarah Macklin

Pastor Atticus stood out in that cold, dark swirling water in the deep blue robe Miss Jessie Mae had made for him last spring. I felt bad for him. The world hadn’t got the message that it was time for spring and that water had to be as cold as death’s pinky finger. I looked over to Malachai and he stood in his white robe looking at the creek. His whole face was twisted like he wanted to bolt. I felt bad for him too. Baptisms always looked like Pastor Atticus was trying to drown the sin out of you before he let you back up. I wasn’t sure I wanted any part of that.

“The Grammar of City Streets” by Daniel Ausema

Goose watches (the) mist (that) gathers over (the) sea, she gives to one client to guide him to the house of his former lover, now widowed. It will lead him from the Goose Street market, where Sayya has come to deliver the map, to the widow’s home, on a route that is not perfectly direct but not too circuitous either—in keeping with accepted ways of courting. A diacritic on the final vowel tells him which house on Sea Street is the one. The twist of her magic sets his feet on that specific route.

“A Stitch in Time, A Thousand Cuts” by Murtaza Mohsin

Usually, it was something small. Grandmother’s favorite azure prayer beads strung on a nail on the high shelf reserved for religious texts, a lost doll the kids had just rediscovered or a lucky tie for those rarest of job interviews. Sometimes it became fiercely practical, like heart medicine, the keys to an old car that had miraculously eluded being pummeled by those angry whistling bombs or useless saving certificates and property deeds.

“Downstairs at Dino’s” by Diana Hurlburt

There were four of them cruising straight for the local grapes, or maybe five: that was the thing about the boys, you figured you had ‘em nailed down and then another shot up from behind the Fireball display, fingers above their head in devil horns to mock the tacky cardboard standee. Another’d be popping open mini travel-size Smirnoffs, guzzling them like Capri Suns, while the ringleader, whichever it was that night, doled out wads of bills deliberately, smiling.

“Estelle and the Cabbage’s First Last Night Together” by Amy Johnson

Estelle placed both hands on the plastic-wrapped cabbages. Against the pale green leaves her fingers glittered darkly, slender crescents of soil adorning the nail beds of nine fingers. The tenth finger, her left thumb, bore no such jewel, but rather a ring of woven fungus, beige and tough and fibrous. Estelle stretched all ten fingers wide, fingertips brushing as many cabbages in the jumbled heap as she could reach, and made her offer: “Would any of you be interested in reanimation?”

“The Restaurant of Object Permanence” by Beth Goder

Outside the archives, there’s a strange flyer on the bulletin board. The first thing she notices is the paper, a small blue square, probably acidic, attached to the board by the thin metal line of a staple not yet turned to rust. It’s an invitation to the Restaurant of Object Permanence. To go, one is instructed to eat the flyer.

“Beneath the Crust” by Phil Dyer

The zone we drop into is softer than the digger likes, so the foodies lead the way from the start. Three, for a heavy crew, each of us with our own technique. Fold murmurs mantras aloud, rhythmic repetition, the crunch of crust, the crunch of crust. The new hire is next, silent, head down, hands clasped. Maybe looking at videos in her visor. I do best with just the drugs. No distractions. I imagine the salty rice-paste crust of tiger bread, capture the smell, the taste, the texture of the craggy shell, imagine biting down to yes, the crunch of crust. I want it. I focus on wanting it. The soft, steaming inside is good, I spare a thought for it, but what’s important is the crust.

“Midwifery of Gods: A Primer For Mortals” by Amanda Helms

Long have midwives passed on their knowledge of birthing: proper positioning, how to turn a babe, breathing techniques, and so on. Some guides, such as Kailiona’s Extraordinary Births, cover the delivery of a demigod from a human and a human babe from an animal. Little, however, has been recorded of the most uncommon births, those of gods. No extant handbook includes the terrifying circumstances wherein mortals are called upon to help deliver gods’ progeny.

“When There Is Sugar” by Leonard Richardson

The articulated toes of the oven’s three feet grasped for purchase in the mud. Berl looked it over. It was a forge for bread: a three-legged rectangular prism with a cavity running through it, warmed by some magical source. A second, solid prism dangled from the first, forming a somewhat obscene counterweight between the two hind legs. The oven hissed as it turned rain to steam, moving less than a living thing would, but more than an oven ought to move.

DP FICTION #83B: “Delivery For 3C at Song View” by Marie Croke

edited by Kel Coleman

Sometimes, and I’m stressing the sometimes, wishes muttered within my hearing come true. I’ve invested in a good set of earbuds, noise-cancelling headphones, and have an over-spilling jar of earplugs, yet accidents still happen.

“Wish you’d always be my Dasher,” this young guy in a neon orange slouch hat says and I swear if he could blow me a winky-kissy-face emoji he would.

“Just take your food,” I say, not desperately at all, and turn to flee the apartment complex, my phone pinging another delivery option before I’ve made it to the elevator.

It’s no problem. My delivery rate on pizza and French fries and Styrofoam is far higher than my delivery rate on half-assed, wishy jokes. No problem at all.

By the time I go home for the night, my twin braids looking slept-in rather than freshly woven, I can’t say I’m too worried. That woman who wished her kids grown didn’t suddenly have teenagers (or abnormally large toddlers). That man who’d wished the neighbor’s dog would shove a sock down its throat still complained of the yapping every time I came by. My success rate is something like one out of fifty, or maybe even worse.

Yes, hopefully worse.

It’s a coincidence that I deliver the same guy Thai food three days later. 3C at Song View Apartment complex is just hungry while I’m on call. People get hungry a lot; I’ve delivered to plenty of repeats. Plenty of them.

It’s also a coincidence that I’m back the day after with a bag of cheap tacos.

“We’re going to have to stop meeting like this,” he says. “People will start to wonder about us.”

“I already wonder about you.”

He laughs, hands me a cash tip with graphite-stained fingers, and disappears behind his door. I remain on the other side for a few moments more, just staring. Not glaring. Just…wondering.

When his name pops up a few days later with an order for crab legs from a local marina restaurant, I resist. Just because I can. Because I’ve got plans and they include a credit transfer, a bachelor’s and a small studio in any city that sits on the coast. Those plans most definitely don’t include always being some jokester’s delivery girl.

Get out of the bathroom to Andromeda (renaming the cat Devil Spawn) having sat on my phone and accepted the delivery for me. What are the odds…

Pretty freaking good, it seems.

There’s a “bug” in the system the next time. A call from the company threatening termination the time after. A few times after that a rent bill looms because my savings got swallowed needing a transmission replaced and people kept swiping other orders out from under me. But not him. No, 3C at Song View is all mine it seems. All mine, forever and always and I’m not at all comfortable with that.

Late May, when classes are finalizing and my decision to transfer to Salisbury is having me throw down a deposit on an apartment four hours away, I find myself stuck at home after a car accident. I guess an F-150 destroying my backend is major enough to keep me off the road and turn my check into a wire transfer. Minor enough the car is magically fixed at the shop and back on delivery circle hell within 24 hours.

Because Mr. 3C at Song View needs his gods-damned General Tso’s.

When he opens the door this time round, he does a double-take. Eyes going bowl-like, round and saucer-shaped. “What happened to your arm?”

“Accident. Tore a ligament.” I keep the bag of food by my side.

“You doing all right?”

“Yes, thanks for–” What the hell am I doing? Consorting with the enemy. Acting like his empathy matters right now. I clear my throat and take a menacing step forward. At least, I go for menacing. My menacing might need work. “I need you to do me a favor.”

His eyes go from milk saucer-round to cat-slitted within a fraction of a second. “Oh?”

“Yes. I need you to speak the words: ‘I wish Dana Utepi is never my Dasher again.’ Better yet, just stop ordering out. In fact, I’ve brought you some recipes to get you started. Simple things: spaghetti, chicken and noodles, chicken and rice, chicken and–”

“I ordered delivery, not life advice,” he snaps and ho boy, I think I’ve hit a nerve because the man flushes. Heh, comes with the territory having skin that light I guess. Wonder what he’s so sensitive about; it’s not as if he’s living with his mom.

“First of all, the point of this is to not be your delivery driver. Ever again.”

“Just don’t take my requests then, jeesh. Not like someone’s forcing you to accept them.”

Okay, that snippery deserves a glare, so I give him the glariest glare ever in existence. “You are. And I’d like you to stop.”

I think at this point the word “crazy” probably crosses his mind, does a triple flip and lands with both feet square on the “back-away slowly” response. At least, he gives his bag of food a morose and longing glance and nudges further into his apartment.

“I’m descended from a djinn, way back, my mother’s father’s great-times-twenty grandfather a full-bred desert-dwelling not-quite-human or so the tale goes. Things get a little broken and diluted this far from the source though and wishes said in my proximity have a one in fifty chance of coming true. Or thereabouts.”

He is still standing there. The word “crazy” is now blinking at me backward out his corneas.

“You wished for me to be your Dasher always and now I’m not going to get to transfer to a better college and go on to live my life if I don’t find a way to fix what you’ve done. Or what I’ve done. Inadvertently.”

He shifts his weight and fumbles with his phone. “Can I have my food? I’ll give you a twenty if you leave.”

“Not until you say, ‘I wish Dana Utepi is never my Dasher again.'”

“If you don’t give me my food, I’m going to put in a complaint with the company.”

“Won’t work. They won’t fire me because of your stupid wish.” At least I hope so because delivering to 3C at Song View with no assurance I’d get paid doesn’t sound appealing.

When he begins typing something one-fingeredly, I lean forward to peek at the screen. He lifts his head marginally and I get a glance at those mix-and-match hazel eyes that don’t look as if they know what color they want to be. Cute. Actually, they would be cute if the owner wasn’t the bearer of my doom, the bringer of never-ending deliveries, the ender of my education and dreams.

Not cute.

“Can you maybe remove yourself from my personal space?”

“Sure thing. ‘I wish Dana Utepi was never–'”

“–never my Dasher again. Yeah. I said it.”

“You must start from–”

“I wish Dana Utepi never delivers food to me again! Happy?”

I hand him the food because I am happy. Quite happy. That had been a really strong wish. So forceful.

He slams the door in my still-grinning face.

Now, on top of tuition and rent and all the other basic necessities of life, fancy medical bills begin to stream in. This one for the doctor, that one for the tests, another for the room, and I just lose count at the piddling, growing amounts after seeing the hundred dollar charge for what amounted to liquid Tylenol. Which means more dashing. More deliveries. Longer on-call times.

3C at Song View shows up on my app a little over a week later.

Eight days. He shows up exactly eight days later because I was counting that. He even left a note on the delivery instructions: “Dana Utepi need not apply.”


I resist. For minutes on end, I walk away from my phone, always drawn back to see if his order has been scarfed up. Other deliveries come and go and come and go. But not his. Not his.

It sits forever in the queue, his food likely gone cold, him probably steaming mad. Or maybe not. Maybe he’s studying. Maybe he’s overworked, exhausted, falling asleep on the couch, if he has a couch, while waiting for supper.

And I…I have crafted a version of events that make me feel damn guilty.

So I go pick up his sub despite his “Dana Utepi need not apply” message.

He stares at me, his hazel eyes all owlish and the stubble on his face like gloomy prickles of death. “What are you doing here?”

I probably deserve that. In fact, when I look down at the bag in my hand I can’t even find it in myself to be angry. “Guess your wish didn’t work.”

He sighs and collapses against his door frame, his fingers softly rubbing together as if to wipe away the graphite stains drawn across his skin. “I wish Dana Utepi was never my Dasher again. Did I get that right? Have you spit in my food?”

“Of course not,” and I do not hide my affront. “I’m only here because no one else snatched up the order and I worried you’d go hungry.”

“You were worried about me?” The half-hearted smile says he doesn’t much believe me.

“What kind of a person do you think I am? If my arm wasn’t in this sling I might have smacked you upside the head for that comment.”

“That’s what kind of person I think you are. The kind who casually displays violence against strangers.”

“I didn’t mean it. I was figuratively talking about what I would have liked to do.”

The look he gives me says that my defense isn’t much better.

“Okay.” Now I scowl, more because I don’t know what to do about my frustration anymore. “I don’t have time for this. I’ve got a move to plan and job applications to fill out because I want to get out of this bastard of a town. Take your food. Have a good night. Bye.”

But he doesn’t take the bag. So I stand there like an idiot holding out this condensation-heavy bag so that it hangs between us like some metaphor hovering over both our heads.

When he finally reaches out, he turns his hand sideways and slips his fingers through the hole in the bag to grip me in a pseudo-complex-not-quite-handshake. “My name is Donovan Lin. Nice to make your acquaintance, Dana Utepi.” He pulls away, taking the bag with him. “Want to come in for a cup of coffee? Or a beer? Or, hell, I learned how to make tea if you’d like some flavored sugar-water.”

“Sugar-water?” I gasp in mock outrage, some of the prickling frustration that had been beginning to sting at my eyes fading. Then I follow Mr. 3C at Song View into his apartment and he doesn’t even attempt to murder me after all my obnoxiousness. That’s magnanimous of him.

We end up sharing his huge meatball sub (not a euphemism) and he shows me his comic panels about poor kids who become superheroes while struggling to put enough food on their tables. Then he waxes on about his worries that they’ll never sell. He mentions his mom and how she’s so hopeful he’ll be an amazing success, and he doesn’t want to disappoint her.

I change the subject to our favorite movies to cheer him up because he’s speaking too much sense, and that leads to us watching an old Batman movie, which I find ironic given the subject matter of his comic, but I don’t tell him so. After that, it’s some time after eleven and we fall into a talkative state as we raid his barely-filled freezer for the dredges of ice cream.

That’s when the conversation lands on topics best left out of first dates, like slavery and wish-fulfillment, and okay, I stomp around crying out about the absolute injustice over having my entire life upset because someone (not naming any names) only ever thinks in terms of their own selfish desires and never for the people around them.

“Why don’t people ever casually wish for peace? For health? For safety? Is it too much to ask that I hear wishes for me to have any of those things? ‘I wish you a good day.’ See how easy that is?”

From where he’s curled sideways on the couch, Mr. 3C at Song View nods along, stubble rubbing against the cushion.

“No! Those are things they only think about after the fact, after they’re lost.” I ignore the fact I hadn’t even considered my own personal freedoms until they were yanked from me because, quite frankly, I don’t find it fair. It’s not as if my wishes are ever truly mine.

“It’s always ‘I wish the weather was always perfect for me.’ ‘I wish that someone would fall in love with me.’ I wish, I wish, I wish that the whole world revolved around me, me, me!” Then I dramatically collapse in one of his broken armchairs with all the grace of a prima ballerina. At least that’s how I envision it.

“I wish I could fix it all for you. I really do.” He looks it too, the sleep gone from his eyes though he now has graphite smudges along his hairline where he’d been rubbing.

“I don’t want you to fix it. I want you to stop fucking things up in the first place.”

“One in fifty, right?” He doesn’t even let me answer before he begins to repeat, “I wish Dana Utepi to be happy and successful” ad nauseum. It almost becomes a song as he repeats it over and over and when I cover my face and my embarrassed laughter, he slips those stained fingers of his over mine and peeks behind my hand.

This is where things are supposed to do the “big change,” right? Where I say happily ever after! That Dana Utepi no longer has to dash to deliver food, where she successfully moves to her new college, where she gets amazing grades and lands a dream job after graduation.

But…none of that happens.

My apartment falls through, something about them not receiving the wire transfer. My car decides that the accident really was life-threatening, at least for it, and only after I’d spent the money to fix the backend. And then I have to get surgery on my arm in order to make sure I don’t have future issues. I’m going to be swimming in bills and I don’t have any way to pay them.

All I really have is a new boyfriend to show for all those wishes for Dana Utepi to have a happy and successful life.

A new boyfriend named Donovan Lin who happens to have a friend living in Salisbury who happens to have just lost their roommate.

A new boyfriend with a graphic novel about working-class superheroes that goes to auction with enough of an advance he buys me a cheap replacement for my car as an unbirthday gift.

A new boyfriend who drives me to and from my surgery appointment and makes me the grossest soup I’ve ever tasted before using Grubhub (on pain of pain) to fetch something far more palatable.

A new boyfriend who, while I lay beside him in bed, all groggy from painkillers, I realize wished to be able to fix all my problems for me. Right before he’d wished for me to be happy and successful over and over and over.

One in fifty.

Sometimes it’s the casual wishes that ring truest.

Half-asleep and snuggling closer to him, I think about taping his stupid mouth closed. Might be the only way to keep these wishes we must fix from tumbling haphazardly out of it. Otherwise, we’re going to have to have a serious conversation about removing the word “wish” from his vocabulary. Permanently.

© 2022 by Marie Croke

2600 words

Author’s Note: Casual wishing is a dangerous pitfall, because, not only does it shift our focus on what we don’t have instead of what we do have, but those wishes, whether we realize or not, can affect everyone around us. We can’t all win the lottery, sell the story, win the game, so if you do, that means others had wishes that likely didn’t come to pass. This story came from reminding myself to be thankful my own casual wishes have not all come true, because that means a different wish has come true for someone else.

Marie Croke, a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and a winner of the Writers of the Future Contest, has had stories published in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Dark Matter Magazine, and Cast of Wonders, among other fine magazines. She lives in Maryland with her family, all of whom like to scribble messages in her notebooks when she’s not looking. You can find her book recommendations online at mariecroke.com or chat with her @marie_croke on Twitter.

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The Diabolical Plots Year Seven Lineup

written by David Steffen

For the past several years, Diabolical Plots has opened for submissions for an annual submission window during the month of July. This gives enough time to fully resolve the submission window before things start getting busy in August for The Long List Anthology production. In 2020, the pandemic threw us off our usual cadence and the submission window was postponed, to finally be held in January 2021. Since we are running on a bit of a tight schedule, we solicited a few to make sure that we would have some ready to fit in the schedule without gaps (we haven’t usually solicited any, so this is something new for us). For the submission window itself, 1938 stories were submitted by 1397 different writers. 120 of those stories were held for a final round, which resulted in 20 acceptances from the submission window, plus 4 solicited works that were accepted for a total of 24 for the year.

This submission window marked the first submission window since Ziv Wities became assistant editor! Thank you Ziv for helping to manage the submission queue and for your help with editing stories since the last window’s selections!

There are some familiar names, and at least some authors for whom this is their first professional short fiction publication! All of these stories will be published regularly on the Diabolical Plots site between April 2021 and March 2022, with each month being sent out to newsletter subscribers the month before.

This is the lineup order for the website.

April 2021
“The Day Fair For Guys Becoming Middle Managers” by Rachael K. Jones
“For Lack of a Bed” by John Wiswell

May 2021
“The PILGRIM’s Guide to Mars” by Monique Cuillerier
“Three Riddles and a Mid-Sized Sedan” by Lauren Ring

June 2021
“One More Angel” by Monica Joyce Evans
‘We Will Weather One Another Somehow” by Kristina Ten

July 2021
“Along Our Perforated Creases” by K.W. Colyard
“Kudzu” by Elizabeth Kestrel Rogers

August 2021
“Fermata” by Sarah Fannon
“The Art and Mystery of Thea Wells” by Alexandra Seidel

September 2021
“Rebuttal to Reviewers’ Comments on Edits for ‘Demonstration of a Novel Draconification Protocol on a Human Subject'” by Andrea Kriz
“A Guide to Snack Foods After the Apocalypse” by Rachael K. Jones

October 2021
“Audio Recording Left by the CEO of the Ranvannian Colony to Her Daughter, on the Survival Imperative of Maximising Market Profits” by Cassandra Khaw and Matt Dovey
“It’s Real Meat!™” by Kurt Pankau

November 2021
“Forced Fields” by Adam Gaylord
“Lies I Never Told You” by Jaxton Kimble

December 2021
“There’s An Art to It” by Brian Hugenbruch
“There Are Angels and They Are Utilitarians” by Jamie Wahls

January 2022
“Tides That Bind” by Cislyn Smith
“Delivery for 3C at Song View” by Marie Croke

February 2022
“The Galactic Induction Handbook” by Mark Vandersluis
“Coffee, Doughnuts, and Timeline Reverberations” by Cory Swanson

March 2022
“The House Diminished” by Devan Barlow
“The Assembly of Graves” by Rob E. Boley

Review: Writers of the Future XXVIII

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Before I cut my reviewing teeth at Tangent Online, before Daily Science Fiction came to life, I shared my thoughts on the Writers of the Future anthology here at Diabolical Plots. WotF is a contest like none other in literature. The dream child of the late – and controversial – science fiction author, L Ron Hubbard, WotF is a contest reserved for the amateur writers of speculative fiction. Its judges are staffed with the icons in the industry. Winners of the contest have often gone on to greater success. Skeptical? A simple roll call of Hugo and Nebula nominees of the past decade plus is all the evidence you need. Many authors who now make writing their career , including the last two coordinating judges , made their first steps as a successful author winning this contest.

Because the Writers of the Future contest is so unique, I have made my reviews unique. It is the only publication where I assign letter grades for each story. I do so for three reasonsâ€

a) Because I’m a loyal reader.

I bought the first anthology when it debuted so very long ago (I was young then, I swear). With the exception of a few in the 90’s, I have read them all. Some of the stories have moved me, some have left me scratching my head and left me wondering on how they managed to be place in the contest, but most fall in that murky middle. A simple , I liked it , doesn’t accurately reflect on how I felt about the stories, but the letter grades do.

b) Because I’m a contestant.

I first started to submit to the contest when I began to review the anthology four years ago. I’ve done well enough to average about three Honorable Mentions a year. With the exception of one Silver Honorable Mention, I have yet to do better. But if the estimates that only the top 5 to 10% reach the level of HM, then I can reason that I’m not doing all that bad. The stories that have won have bested my best. The letter grades reflect my analysis of my competition.

c) Because they’ve passed the test.

Most writers who have submitted a story to a professional publication have a lofty dream of making it in the industry. Dreams that their names will someday stand with the prestigious authors of today motivate many, but there is a wall they must first scale, a note of accomplishment that a writer can hold up to show that they have indeed made it. The WotF contest has proven to be that mark of excellence that they have.

Scores of writers have known the contest opens a door that they have been turned away from. For most who have won, entry into the anthology is their first professional sale. It is a rare contest. If you’ve made it in the industry, you can’t enter it. It’s for the writers who have been searching for their big break. For a lot of past winners, make the table of contents is the beginning of greater things to come , and you need not look any further than list of Hugo and Nebula nominees for the past decade to see just how true that is. It’s the reason why , according to Kristine Kathryn Rusch in her excellent essay in this year’s anthology , the contest receives thousands of entries each quarter. Amateur writers have learned winning the contest can mean everything for their career.

So, this contest is our Bar exam, the dissertation to earn our doctorate, our finishing line of our marathon, the peak of our mountain. It is the final exam to our professional writers degree. With that in mind every exam I ever took came with a grade. So how did our graduates from amateur-hood do? Take a look for yourself†.


“Of Woven Wood” by Marie Croke first place, first quarter

Lan’s creator, Haigh, is dead. Murdered by unknown assailants. Worse, Lan’s wicker head now has a hole in it, and he has a headache to boot , an odd feeling for a creature constructed out of branches. Now his head cannot hold items, a dilemma that stresses him much. Haigh’s neighbor, Jaddi, comes to get Lan and takes him into her home. Haigh’s talents as the local apothecary will be missed. Lan’s role as Haigh’s assistant and storage curator leaves a hole in his purpose as gaping as the one in his head. The emptiness inside him forces Lan to reflect who he is, a question that is compounded when Haigh’s murderers return to find what they were looking for, the item that led to Haigh’s death.

“Of Woven Wood” opens as a mystery. Lan awakes confused. He doesn’t understand the pain he is in or how he received the hole in his head. Vague recollections of his master stuffing him with important items, while their home is being invaded, flash in his mind. He is more concerned about Haigh’s reaction to the missing items in his head cavity, and of the broken things on the floor, than he is about Haigh’s unresponsive state. Lan is a walking wicker basket. His insides are a concealed storage container. As Haigh’s assistant, he picks up the pieces of his life and assumes his former masters role as the apothecary of the town.

“Of Woven Wood” transforms as a story almost from the beginning. Lan’s character is convincingly shown as a magical servant. He is robotic in design with the indifference in attitude fitting the fantasy equivalent of a heartless machine. I found it surprising when the author accomplished this so successfully yet spent the rest of the story showing he was anything but. The emotionless creature at the start evolves into a Pinocchio like character. I found the writing sound – the smooth prose and intriguing opening had me very curious from the start. However, the plot lacked a firm footing for me to remain grounded. The story, and its protagonist, drifted as if they weren’t sure what they were or where they should go next. The first half of the piece was a lengthy set up of Lan searching to find himself. The last half hinged on a twist that came out of nowhere. The result was a tale that I found enjoyable to follow but with an ending that was flat and a conclusion that felt like a cheat.

Grade B-


“The Rings of Mars” by William Ledbetter first place, second quarter

Malcom is chasing his best friend, Jack. He has recommended that his long time bud be returned to Earth. Now Jack has taken the robot rover, Nellie, and like a hurt child, has run away and left Malcom alone on the red planet’s dry surface. Malcom has no reason to be concerned, until an unexpected solar flare warning puts him in danger. Loyal to his friend, but still feeling betrayed, Jack returns to rescue Malcolm. Malcolm uses the opportunity to explain why he made his decision, but Jack has his reasons for not being a team player for the company. He has found something, something too valuable to leave in the clutches of a heartless corporation to exploit.

“The Rings of Mars” is a good old-fashioned science fiction tale. The story starts off as a buddy tale. Malcolm has valid reasons on why he has recommended Jack’s recall. An accomplished geologist, Jack has spent all his time exploring the red sands yet has failed to find any mineral deposits for the company to use. But Jack has indeed found just what the company needs, water, and tons of it. Giant pillars frozen in the sand, but the pillars appear to have a pattern to them, as if they were a puzzle left long ago for a budding species on a neighboring blue planet to solve. Malcolm isn’t so sure but can see the benefit the find would be for the company. Jack is disappointed with Malcolm and abandons him again, leaving him for the company to find as he runs off. But while Malcolm waits, he discovers there is far more to this puzzle than even Jack has discovered. He is left with a choice; be a hero to the company or help Jack unravel the greatest discovery in human history.

“Rings of Mars” reminds me of the short 70’s sci-fi adventures I fell in love with as a youth. The slow pace of the first few pages ends up paying off halfway through. Mr Ledbetter’s experience as the editor for the National Space Society’sannual Jim Baen’s writing contest is put to good use in this tale. A fine mixture of solid science and astronomy knowledge supports a well-crafted premise. I was taken in with the dilemma the two men faced and was quite satisfied with the story’s eventual solution. Well done. The one thing that did disappoint me was the art attached to the story. I thought the tale deserved a depiction as imaginative as the storyline.

Grade A-


“The Paradise Aperture” by David Carani first place, fourth quarter, Gold Award winner

Jon has lost his wife. He is a photographer who stumbled upon one of the greatest discoveries in history, the ability to develop doorways that lead into pocket universes. Two years before, he lost his wife inside one of those universes and now he is obsessed to find her. His ability to capture doorways has made him wealthy. Each universe is a paradise. One can step into one and not feel pain, hunger, thirst†the ultimate alternate reality for those who want to disconnect from the real one , and the perfect environment for those who want a place to conduct less than ethical business practices.

“The Paradise Aperture” is a well thought out and original concept. People and corporations are willing to pay him millions for each doorway. Jon needs the money to help him finance his search for his lost wife but is having difficulty turning a blind eye to what they are being used for. His teenage daughter tags along with him on his trips to photograph new doorways, even when she hates doing so. His mother-in-law begs him to stop, to accept that his wife is gone for his daughter’s sake. The government has threatened to put his work to a stop, concerned with the ethics of creating new worlds. He is running out time to find his wife and is beginning to lose hope that he will. He has one last idea, an idea that might bring unimaginable catastrophe.

“The Paradise Aperture” is Mr Carani’s first published work, a fact that I am having a hard time believing. The characters are drawn well. Jon is conflicted, short in patience and annoyed with the people who crave his work. His teenage daughter, Irene, is successfully written as a spoiled teenager of a single, but wealthy, parent , bored, disrespectful, and judgmental. The tale is written on a foundation of a fresh and fascinating premise. Who wouldn’t love to step into a doorway leading to paradise? Particularly impressive was the author’s ability to craft subtle hints that have huge implications later in the tale. Although the storyline itself didn’t knock my socks off, the exceedingly impressive crafting of the story did. I foresee a brilliant writing career in Dave Carani’s future.

Grade A


“Fast Draw” by Roy Hardin published finalist

Jake is about to be shot by his G-1, basic grade human, quick-drawing girlfriend. He has less than two seconds before the bullet reaches him. Plenty of time for a G-30 to down a few drinks, make his moves on the lovely girl seated next to him at the bar, and step out of the way. Now if he only knew the grade of the alluring woman seated next to himâ€

“Fast Draw” is set in a future where new and improved models of androids are created each year, making ‘new’ brands obsolete after a few years. Jake had been very important when he was relevant, but that was long ago. He is an anomaly, living way past his expected twenty years of life. At seventy, Jake is an antique compared to the G-100’s of today. He is slow, mentally and physically, to the advanced models, but is blazing quick to his bio-original girlfriend, Gloria. His new interest, another android whose grade he doesn’t know, is a wild card. She encourages his advances but there is something that doesn’t feel quite right about her. The quickly evolving events , set to slow motion , unravel as a speeding bullet crawls toward him.

“Fast Draw” is a story with entertaining characters set in a basket full of coincidental circumstances. Jake, Bunny, and Gloria are moving at wildly different speeds in a ridiculous offset of time dilation, setting up the first of many premise stretching scenarios. In the span of less than two seconds, we observe two people flirting, receive a history lesson on Advanced Platform androids, get an in depth report of Jakes life up to that point, and watch a blow-by-blow quick draw in slow motion. The cherry to this over-the-top premise is Gloria’s happens to wear a six-shooter on her hip. Despite the avalanche of convenient subplots, I found this story enjoyable to read.

Grade B


“The Siren” by M. O. Muriel second place, third quarter

Janie is awake, one of the lucky few in the collective human conscience known as the Honeycomb. The rest of humanity is asleep while invaders from another dimension known as the Grunge have taken over their bodies. Janie is a manipulative, bi-polar teenager. She has a habit of rejecting the status quo and rejecting authority. Her antagonistic trait may serve her well as a member of the resistance in the sub-conscious world of the Honeycomb, or her arrogance may bring about her downfall.

The Siren is set in a ‘Matrix’-like world. Janie has memories of a news report involving an ancient artifact under the ice of Antarctica and little else after. The few who have escaped from the clutches of the Grunge have the ability – or illness – to perceive reality differently than the masses. After wandering alone among the labyrinth of sleeping consciousness, Jamie stumbles upon the COP Phoenix, a base of operations occupied with Tibetan monks and mentally ill. She learns the Grunge hunt the few who have the ability to resist them, like the Tibetan master, Lobsang. Death is also possible in this subconscious state as one of a multi-personality alterego’s learned when they fell into the abyss. Survival and gathering others like themselves have been the goal of COP Phoenix but neither will win humanity’s freedom back. Janie preferred a more proactive approach in the real world, and won’t hesitate to do the same in this one.

“The Siren” is an imaginative world, one that stretched my range of comprehension. The story is a difficult one to soak in, but somehow my saturated brain managed to absorb it all. There was much to be confused about – flashbacks, mind-bending manipulation, mirrored personality images , it took me awhile to put Ms Muriel’s premise into its proper perspective. The large story does have a clear direction and outcome, but like the surreal world of the Honeycomb, it is one that the reader could find themselves hopelessly lost in and give up. The tale does have a satisfactory solution to Janie’s problem but does open up the tale to an even larger story. The conflict Ms Muriel introduced us to was only an opening salvo.

Grade B


“Contact Authority” by William Mitchel first place, third quarter

Jared Spegel’s job is to protect the human race from annihilation. So when his cover is blown in the Kaluza station weeks before humanity is set to make first contact with the Caronoi – an alien race on the verge of space travel , he must take a risky step by revealing the nature of his visit to the station commander. Someone has been leaking information to the Caronoi on the station, a clear violation of Alliance protocol. Earth is the newest member of the galaxy-spanning Alliance. Species deemed worthy are invited into the Alliance. Those who aren’t, are eliminated as threats. Humanity barely averted annihilation sixty years before, and Jared isn’t the only who thinks that extermination may still be in mankind’s near future.

“Contact Authority” is a tale of species under the eye of a real Big Brother. The species of Man is on a very short leash. The Alliance is a mysterious organization that takes no chances with emerging intelligences. Rory Temple’s grandfather was the man who first initiated contact with the Alliance. Now Rory is on hand for first contact with the Caronoi. He has decoded their sing-song way of communicating. Suspicion first falls on him as the leak. Not much is known of the Alliances criteria on what makes a violation in their protocols but leaking information to an emerging race is clearly a no-no to them. Angering the Alliance is the last thing Earth wants to do. Man’s fate rests on Jared’s shoulders on finding the source of the leak. But as he digs, the weight of two races fate bears down on him. Can he find the perpetrator in time?

“Contact Authority” is story with a premise I would describe as flimsy. An overbearing, overseeing, collective race of advanced aliens is easy to imagine, but their criteria of what they determine is dangerous I found hard to believe. Nevertheless, with that premise in mind, the actions Jared and his comrades took was beyond irresponsible. I can’t imagine that anything less than a full court-martial would be waiting for him when he got back to Earth. I will say though, the ending line was fabulous.

Grade B ,


“The Command for Love” by Nick T. Chan second place, second quarter

Ligish is in love with his master’s daughter, Anna. A war golem like himself has no use for such a command but he can’t determine which symbol is love in his skull. The homunculus in his head is becoming senile, just like Anna’s father, Master Gray, is now. The emotion makes life more difficult for the titanium machine when General Maul arrives to take Anna’s hand in marriage, and all Master’s Gray’s belongings , including Ligish , as his endowment. Ligish is the true prize for the power hungry General, but Ligish can’t bear to think of Anna becoming the concubine for this man. He will do anything for Anna, even circle the world to God’s mouth if he needs to.

“The Command for Love” is a steampunk story set in an extraordinary fantasy world. Golems, the homunculi controlling them, and women, are all under the servitude of men. The world is in the shape of a man with the sun and moon resting in each hand. The arms are raised and lowered to mark the passage of each day. Ligish is the last type of golem that was built long ago. He is far more advanced than any war machine in General Maul’s arsenal. Once Maul’s marriage to Anna is complete, Maul plans on installing his own homunculus into Ligish, but Ligish has no intentions of committing violence. He must find a way to nullify the contract the senile Master Gray has signed but that may require nothing short of divine intervention to overturn it.

“The Command for Love” has an awful lot of content in a few pages. Homuncoli, ghost rifles, a golem shaped world, and so much more, are thrown at the reader. Despite the fact I had to play catch up determining what the hell a ‘homunculus’ was, I was immediately taken in with this story. General Maul cares only about furthering his own goals. He made it very plain to Ligish that he and Anna would be his property to use and abuse once his marriage to Anna is complete. The first half was set as a wonderful battle of wits between a unique protagonist and an excellent villain. But alas, that formula proved to be not in this plot’s mix. The story took a turn halfway through when the premise went from extraordinary to head-spinning. I will not divulge any more so not to spoil it for readers but let me just say it became different to follow.

This is a story I wished would have stuck to the narrow premise of the first half. Where the second half had some intriguing characters and mesmerizing settings, the expansion of the story just seemed too much for me. It read like ‘Lord of the Rings’ might have if it were cut down to 10,000 words, an overload of twists and subplots crammed in too tight of a space. Nevertheless, “The Command of Love” does have a satisfactory conclusion, but the ‘happy ending’ it provided came off as a Pyrrhic victory for the main characters. I will say there is a good story in there, but finding it is like trying to trace a solitary wire through the spaghetti mess you’ll find behind your stereo system.

Grade B


“My Name Is Angela” by Harry Lang third place, first quarter

Angela’s place in a pecking order is set. She is a grade school teacher who isn’t expected to teach. She is in a relationship that isn’t expected to grow. She is looked down upon, a societal minion, a cog in the machine, a thing to keep others occupied. She wants more, but more isn’t meant for androids like herself.

“My Name Is Angela” is speculative tale of growth. It is a story that would easily fit in a Blade Runner universe. Angela is a human-mimicking machine who strives to be more human. The grandfathers that built her did not design her to be any more than a functioning element in civilization. But she wants more and only the Soul Man can get her more. Angela lives with an android companion, Bruno. Their mundane lives take a turn when Angela smashes Bruno with a hot iron when her ‘no’ for sex wasn’t a satisfactory answer for Bruno. Angela is like any person who tires of a going through the motions. She wants more and is about to get it.

“My Name Is Angela” is a human tale. Angela is like many people who have settled into a life and is now unsatisfied with it. Unlike the rest of us, all she has to do is find the Soul Man to tweak her perspective. And change it does. Her unauthorized reprograming is viewed like an epiphany for Angela. Guilt for what she had done to Bruno wracks her. Suddenly, the lesson plan she has given her children is lacking in content. She wants to make a difference in her student’s education, be a better girlfriend to Bruno, and strive to make a positive mark on society. But society already has a place set for her, and upsetting the apple cart is not welcomed.

Harry Lang’s tale of a woman who expects more in life is one a colleague of mine could describe as a ‘never beginning story’. For a reader who didn’t go through the effort of submerging themselves in Angela’s character, the tale would read like an ordinary person’s ordinary life. Many of the characters in the story don’t like Angela’s enthusiasm. Bruno seems quite satisfied with the mundane quality of his life. “My Name Is Angela” unravels just like any tale of woman who was too eager to jump into adulthood discovers , there just has to be more to life for her. Compounding Angela’s problems is the prejudice androids experience. They are designed to take jobs humans look down on, so are naturally looked down upon by their human masters.

“My Name is Angela” is an ordinary character tale about an ordinary character who strives to be more than just ordinary. If you were ever looking for the type of story K D Wentworth loved to read, I would guess this one would have served as an excellent example. She loved character driven stories and this one runs on the sheer strength of the protagonist alone.

Grade B


“Lost Pine” by Jacob A. Boyd third place, third quarter

Gage and Adah have worked out a fine life for themselves at the Lost Pine. The former camp is now their refuge from a world devoid of adults. It has livestock, supplies, and doesn’t exist on a map. Gage’s carefully constructed concealment is comprised when a thin boy named Monk crashes through Gage’s barrier. Gage doesn’t trust him but Adah doesn’t want Gage to harm the stranger. Monk was once a camper at the Lone Pine and is surprised to find it occupied. He is willing to do his part to help, and says he will go if not welcomed, but Gage thinks that there is something to his story that doesn’t ring true.

“Lone Pine” is set in a world where aliens have sent spores to cocoon the adults and injured of the world. An armada approaches and is set to arrive any day. With the adults gone, civilization has degraded into a ‘Lord of the Flies’ society. Those cocooned are not quite dead. Why the aliens have chosen to preserve most of the people on Earth in such a way is never satisfactorily explained. The story takes a slight turn when the aliens land and begin to take the cocoons away. Gage doesn’t know if the alien’s motives are noble or sinister but is sure those imprisoned will not survive without their help.

“Lone Pine” centers around Gage. He is protective of Adah. She came to him when her parents were first cocooned years before. Now the once-small child is blossoming into womanhood and he can’t help to think of her as his possession. Monk represents competition and a connection to a harsh world that he has protected Adah from. He is jealous of Monk and of the interest Adah begins to show in him.

I confess, I did not like the way the author choose to tell this tale. Monk’s voice is virtually absent. What he says is relayed through Gage’s interpretation , a backhanded second person perspective but useful for the author to show the jealousy Gage has in himself. The arrival of the aliens is an attempt to add an extra dimension to the tale. Instead, it makes the characters more transparent than they already were. I believe the aliens were not needed. The story already had all the elements it needed. A pair of kids trying to live while the world outside has crumbled, makes for a good story all on its own.

Grade C+


“Shutdown” by Cory L. Lee third place, second quarter

Private Adanna Amaechi is a long way from a ballerina’s dance floor. The talents she picked up as a dancer makes her a good candidate for a scout. The aliens who have conquered Helenski Five had swept away the defenders with ease. Small insect-like robots that slice through anything that moves guard an alien base. The army needs someone who can steady their heart, control their breathing, and survive a cardiac arrest, to infiltrate the base. All Adanna will need is the will to come back after she has died.

Shutdown is a tension-filled sci-fi. Humanity knows very little about the aliens who have invaded and altered the worlds mankind already claimed for their own. The army needs intelligence but the robotic sentries guarding the alien base are movement sensitive. An earlier attempt to infiltrate the stronghold ended disastrously. Their solution is to kill their own scouts and revive them when the sentries are satisfied the infiltrators are not a threat. Adanna is a perfect candidate to carry out this mission. She is a former ballerina, her career cut short in an industrial accident. The life-like prosthetic to replace her fingers are beyond her means but the military promises they will pay for the operation if she completes the mission. Ballet is her life and she would do anything to regain the luster of the stage, even if she has to die for it.

The setting for “Shutdown” is on a conquered planet. Adanna is edging her way into the labyrinth of occupied territory. Her suit is instructed to kill her before a timed alien scan can detect her. While she is dead, flashbacks , as if her life is passing before her eyes , becomes the focus of the tale. I confess, the tactic the author employed was a little jarring at first but the story became very compelling once I caught up to speed on what was going on. Adanna is drawn as a character who has little left to lose and much to gain by accepting the mission. Earth needs intel. The aliens have effectively neutralized man’s technology and converted the atmosphere to a poisonous one. Just getting a look at their foe would be an intelligence coup.

I have mixed feelings about this tale. I loved the action and raised-hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck tension that ran throughout the story but the premise was filled with holes for me. If the aliens were that formidable, how did the army manage to get anyone within a light year of the planet? If they could get a ship close enough to land, couldn’t they get satellite images from above? Those were just a couple of the issues I had with it but I still managed to enjoy the story.

Grade B


“While Ireland Holds These Graves” by Tom Doyle third place, fourth quarter

Dev Martin returns to the scene of the crime. He is one of the programmers who created the AI reconstructs of Irish literary lore. The goal for the UNI was to enhance Ireland’s tourist industry but it instead ignited a nationalist revival. Now Ireland is about to be the lone nation to divorce itself from the one-world government. Dev wants to help set things straight but he needs to reach his former partner , and chief antagonist for the independence drive , Anna in hopes of convincing her to leave the European island.

“While Ireland” is a story for you if you have a special attachment for classical Irish authors. In fact, I can see why this story was picked by a panel of professional authors, the allure of rubbing elbows with some of the greatest poets and authors of the 20th century would be like playing in the outfield in Field of Dreams for a baseball enthusiast. One of the first characters Dev runs into is iconic James Joyce. Dev and Anna did such wonderful job reconstructing the personalities of the long dead, that Joyce is every bit like the real thing. Dev recruits Joyce to accompany him. The duo follow a trail of other famous literary giants in hopes of finding the programmer-turned-revolutionary before the borders of Ireland close for good.

The opening to “While Ireland” is first class. I was pulled into the narrative, but like other early 20th century classics (especially ones written by Irish giants), I found the story convoluted and heavy with a message I cared little about. Of course, I never had much interest in Irish literature (an attempt to get through the first ten pages of Finnegan’s Wake is a nightmare I sooner forget) so a day drinking in pub with any of these characters is not what I would consider time well spent. A bigger problem for me was the premise and sequence of events. It seemed the only people Dev walked into were reconstructed Irish author personalities, allowing him a virtual straight path to find Anna in three days on Ireland when he had no idea where to look from the start. Either all the rest of the real people in Ireland thought it wise to avoid the computer regenerations or Dev was one lucky seeker.

Although I found the writing top notch, the story itself wasn’t much more than a man’s stroll through the green hills of Ireland. Dev met his goals, attaining them remarkably easily (especially when no one , except Joyce , wanted him there). I felt the same way much of the world felt about the Irish nationalist movement and their icons , let them have it.

Grade C+


“The Poly Islands” by Gerald Warfield second place, first quarter

Liyang is on the run. A Hong Kong tong (organized crime syndicate) is after her and the valuable computer chips she has stolen. Desperate to escape, she navigates her boat into the island of plastic garbage floating in the Pacific. The tactic is foolhardy because she has no hope of escaping the tong if she runs aground. Fortunately, salvation comes in the form of a mysterious man in a plastic suit. Adam is one of the residents of the Poly Islands, a refuge from the world. With no boat, Liyang has no choice but to trust him. She soon discovers she, and her stolen chips, have become part of a power struggle, one that will decide the fate of the Poly islands for years to come.

“The Poly Islands” is a rare WotF stories for me. The further I read, the more I liked it. The islands are ruled by an Indian Guru figure known as Crab. Liyang first believes she has stumbled upon a new age community but the people who live here do not act like a cult. The residents are divided into two camps, the Chinese and everyone else. Liyang rubs the Chinese wrong when she elects to side against her own kind in favor of Adam and Crab. The island existence is the result of an ecological activist solution gone wrong. The short lived nation of California attempted to collect, then sink, the trash with buoys designed to attract the floating garbage. Instead the experiment changed the nature of the trash, creating a bonded material that travels on the currents of the Pacific as one large mass. The Chinese faction is led by Madam Woo. She wants to sell the chips and use the money to conquer the solid ground of a Pacific island, but Crab has other designs for them. Liyang wants no part of the power struggle, only wishing to escape the inhospitable islands and start her own life anew.

The story of “The Poly Islands” evolves, changing from a knuckle-grabbing action to an elaborate puzzle. Crab does not seem like a Buddhist monk to Liyang. She suspects his altruistic motive’s is nothing but an act, but he does know more about the Poly Islands than anyone else. The mystery of who he is and the nature of the islands, and how they relate to her computer chips, is the true allure of this tale. Although I did like this story, I felt the addition of the final scene did it a disservice. The story had a fitting finale without it. Instead, the author chose to write in a ‘where are they now’ type of epilogue that made the story more of a message piece than a straight up work of science fiction. Without it, I would have likely made The Poly Islands my personal pick of the anthology.

Grade A-


“Insect Sculptor” by Scott T. Barnes second place, fourth quarter

Adam Clements is a talented insect sculptor but has much to learn. He has traveled thousands of miles in hopes of apprenticing for the Great Gajah-mada. He must impress the Hive’s director, the gorgeous Isabella, first. Adam is good, but to be great he will need to overcome his fear wall; the fear of falling too deeply into the hive mind.

The premise of Insect Sculptor is intriguing and inventive. The sculptor’s form a psychic link with a colony of insects, creating works of art with the mass bugs. Adam can do much with his termites, commanding them to facilitate an elephant as his entrance test for Isabella. He quickly learns his abilities are elementary when he gets a sample of what Gajah-mada’s troop can do when he witnesses a show first hand. The Great Gajah-mada is able to mimic people so well they are passable as living humans, to the point where his own director proves to be a mass of bugs that has become sentient.

Adam is first turned away but earns a second chance. Gajah-mada no longer makes public appearances, leaving the show to his star, Wasserman, to hold it together, but Wasserman lacks the control needed to keep Gajah-mada’s complicated designs intact. Gajah-mada needs someone greater for he is not long for this world. Adam has the talent but has never learned to break down his own fear wall, but he is determined , for the show, for himself, for the Great Gajah-mada, and for the love of his life , Isabella.

It isn’t hard to see why this one won the contest. Unique, full of lively characters, and with a protagonist that develops with the storyline. The only thing that I can complain about it is it gave me the heebie-jeebies *shiver*. Nevertheless, a strong contender that was written well.

Grade B+


A Changing of the Guard

The Writers of the Future contest and the speculative fiction community suffered a great loss with the passing of Kathy Wentworth last year. A winner of the contest (when the number following Writers of the Future was in the single digits), she went on to become its coordinating judge and editor. It had become her primary job, occasionally crowbarring a novel for us to read, when she had time to step away from her judging duties to write them. All the stories submitted over the past few contests had to pass through her first. The stories you read in this anthology, as well as the ones of the past few years, were part of an exclusive pile she thought were the best of a very big bunch. It was her job to pick eight stories each quarter for an impressive finalist panel to read. Granted, the stories of the anthology make up only 40% of the entries she chose as the finalists, but of the thousands submitted they represented a good cross section of what she felt were professional material worthy of publication.

Many writers sought the secret elixir to winning the contest. Kathy would offer a few tidbits of what a writer needed to do win , the speculative element needed to be on the first page, the story had to be character driven, and writers should steer clear of well-worn tropes (vampires, dragons, and the like). She would warn writers that humor had little chance but for the most part, it was submit your best. After reading the anthology over all these years I think I can finally see the type of story Kathy gravitated towards , the submissions that worked hardest at telling a story.

I imagined in her youth, a young Kathy who refused to go to bed without a bedtime story. I can see that love carrying her into adulthood. If you could tap into that childhood craving, she likely read your entry from beginning to end. If you gave her a protagonist she could fall in love with and a world worth exploring, you probably had her hooked. And if you didn’t deviate too far from your plot, you were likely in the running. Following the rules of writing that our often dictated to the amateur writer didn’t matter as much to Kathy as unraveling a premise she wanted to view. If you failed to appeal to her fairy-tale loving child hidden within, you probably never stood a chance , no matter how good your first readers said your story was.

Taking over the coordinating judging duties is previous Gold Award winner (WotF 3) Dave Wolverton (a.k.a Dave Farland). He has been a consistent finalist judge and a previous coordinating judge for the contest. His credentials are extensive , it can be argued that he is the most successful author to come out of the contest. Although you can still expect the winning entries to be the best stories submitted, don’t be surprised if upcoming anthologies have a different flavor to them.

On one of my writer forums that I often frequent, a sort of study group was committed to identifying what impressed K D Wentworth. Her words and advice were dissected. Semi-finalists would share their critiques. Honorable Mentioned, and others not as lucky, would puzzle on why their entries didn’t do better. They need not dig so deep for Mr Wolverton. The new coordinating judge teaches a workshop for writers. He offers free advice on his Daily Kick In The Pants blog, and has dedicated a few articles on tips for the contest, and here is my own Cliff Notes version of what he has to say on the subject.

The trope restriction will not be as confining, so for the humorist and dragon writers , submit away. But if you tend to slip into the clichÃ’ , expect an early out from Mr Wolverton. Marie Croke’s, “Of Woven Wood” (a story that opens up with a waking up clichÃ’ ) may have been a tough call to make the finalists list. If you like to write long prose, you may be in luck. If there are equally well-written stories, and Dave’s short list needs trimming, the longer piece will likely get the nod. But the biggest difference between Kathy and Dave is Dave expects that his finalist writers already know how to write, professionally.

Now I’m not saying the winners that came through Kathy first weren’t of a professional quality, nor am I saying those winners wouldn’t have been picked as a finalist for Dave, but I will say motivations between the two are different. I can sum up the differences between them in two sentences.

Kathy Wentworth expected writers to be able to tell a story.

Dave Wolverton expects writers to be able to write.

So, I am expecting less of a fairy tale quality in the anthologies to come and a sharper prose for the winning stories. I am also betting that the new winners will have a little more action in them but with a little less heart in its characters. Of course, I could be completely wrong. Writers of the Future Vol 29 is on the way and I can’t wait to see what it holds.


K.D. Wentworth
K.D. Wentworth

Kathy D Wentworth (1951-2012) was a fixture in the Science Fiction and Fantasy community. Four time Nebula nominee, WotF coordinating judge, and all around alright gal, She Who Must Be Impressed (my pet name for her , I already trademarked it so don’t even think of it) will be sorely missed. Her story, Daddy’s Girl, debuted in Writers of the Future Vol 5, and marked the beginning of an impressive career as a writer. She was the willing participant for one of Diabolical Plots first interviews (which can be found here) , something we are very grateful for.

I owe her a degree of thanks, for the Honorable Mention certificates I have tucked safely away, and for her appreciation for my quirky sense of humor. Although my bribery attempts were never successful, she made me feel as if she looked forward to receiving them every quarter.