“Coin Op”

written by David Steffen

I’m a bit tardy in posting this, but in February Daily Science Fiction published another of my stories: “Coin Op”. It’s a comedy, based around sex. It is definitely mature content, so if you don’t care for that sort of thing, just skip it. And feel free to let me know what you think of it. Here it is.

Enjoy!

Daily Science Fiction: November 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Did you have a Merry Christmas? Have your holidays been happy? You have some down time you need to fill? Well curl up to whatever Internet access you use and click on Daily SF’s home page. It’s a perfect time to catch up on those stories you may have missed. For starters, try digging into these November jewelsâ€

 

Tsunami waves can’t wash away a man’s ties to his home in “The Tides” by Ken Liu (debut 11/1 and reviewed by Frank D). The moon’s orbit has altered, swinging it dangerously close to Earth. Its decaying orbit will eventually spell doom for the world. Ansa is the daughter of a grieving father. Enormous tides swept her mother away. Her father cannot evacuate the doomed Earth. He builds a tower out of the debris that is left on the shore. Ansa will not leave her ol’ man even when her prince has offered to whisk her away,

“The Tides” is a story about loyalty. Ansa’s father can’t bear to leave her mother behind but is aware that he is condemning his only child by staying behind. You usually can’t go wrong with a Ken Liu story but I felt this tale wasn’t his best effort. The premise, although sweet, I thought was flimsy (tower made of scraps holding up against a wall of water?) and the ending unsatisfying.

 

Papa has lost himself in “Ansa and the Lost Things” by Sophie Wereley (debut 11/2 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist and her sister, Ansa, become worried when their forgetful father leaves the house and hadn’t returned. The stress is too much on her mother. Migraines from coffee and worry have consumed her. The two sisters hatch an elaborate plan of trapping a unicorn in hopes of it solving their family’s problem.

“Ansa” is a story too odd for me to accurately describe. Without the magical element, this story would be about two children raised in one seriously dysfunctional family. In short, it was too weird for me to fully appreciate it.

 

“Early Draft of Talking Points for the Sixth Emergency Broadcast with Editorial Suggestions by the Office’s Interns Bob and Isabelle” by Helena Bell (debut 11/5 and reviewed by Frank D). This humorous look at an emergency broadcast has two interns inserting their own commentary between lines.

“Early Draft” is just plain silly. The two intern’s comments reminded me of the old Sci-Fi channel show “Mystery Science Theater 3000”. Although amusing, I thought the tale would have been funnier without the pair’s annoying banter.

 

The future is not what you expected in “Since You Seem to Need a Certain Amount of Guidance” by Alexander Jablokov (debut 11/6 and reviewed by Frank D). This short tale is a message from the future. The messenger tells the reader that the future is better but dull. Not much to fear but they apparently don’t seek out adventure. The future in “You Seem” sounds like a nice place to retire but no place to have fun.

 

 

“Old Flames” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 11/7 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). The war is over. Gunthar sat in his chair and watched the fire; Ada was sewing, making a dress for their daughter. They recalled when they met, after another defeat for some, a victory for others. There will be a new ball, one for a new prince and a young woman hoping for a fairy tale ending.

This was a nice blend of fantasy and real world. The author gives the reader a new perspective in a well written story. I doubt I will ever watch a Disney movie the same way again. Definitely one to check out.

 

A crow carries on with his bioengineered life in “Nevermore” by Renee Carter Hall (debut 11/8 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a crow who once had a purpose that served man, but now man is no more, done in by their own means. The crow stays true to its ingrained habits and watches a dead city.

I found this tale to be curious but lacking sufficient content to make it satisfying.

 

A farming family holds tight to their way of life in “This Place From Which All Roads Go” by Jennifer Mason-Black (debut 11/9 and reviewed by Frank D). Mari is a young woman. She is one of the few who have elected to remain on the land to weave her magic. Many children leave the rustic lifestyle for the allure of the city, and the government has taken notice and is about to evict them out of their historical romanticized life.

“This Place” follows Mari through a summer of hardship, tragedy, and desire. Her family plays host for students who study their ‘primitive’ ways. Mari has little patience for them. She has a brother to worry about and a grandmother to mourn. Worse, the government aims to remove them from their land and drain whatever essence they have left. Mari dreams of the girl who she once loved and is intimidated by a student who has taken a shine to her.

As a former farmboy, I can appreciate the tale the author wove in “This Place.” I can see the parallels between this magical world and our own. Most of the students in this story treat the family as if they are an anthropological curiosity. The farm life is a hard one and the magic they weave takes their toll on them. It makes Mari a hard woman, so hard that getting through her exterior proves to be a task too great for many of the visiting students.

“This Place” is a long tale. The story is unraveled like a novel that was compressed in a compactor. Much happens in this one summer of Mari’s life. It is a difficult summer, even for a farmer. Calling the events in Mari’s life interesting would be an understatement but the laundry list of things that go wrong Mari are so much that they begin to feel like the author was piling on by the end. The author does her best to give this story a happy ending but the load of depressing material almost makes any attempt to end on a high note a lost cause.

 

Ancient stone circles have what Maggie has been missing her entire life in “Speed of Love” by Deborah Walker (debut 11/12 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this brief tale is a woman who hasn’t had much luck in men. The ancient stone circles have opened a gateway to another world. Men are coming, but you’ll need patience.

“Speed” is the story of a lonely woman finding love in a man half her speed. The men in this tale move at a snail’s pace. Maggie’s sister becomes upset with her when she discovers Maggie has taken up with a slow man. I must say I failed to see the appeal Maggie would have with a person stuck at a glacial pace. Equally, the tale itself failed to appeal to me as well.

 

Trolls, once mighty, and noble, and superior, have been relegated to employment as pool filters. The cast off sweat, grease, skin, and hair are enough to sustain trolls without breaking the long-standing pact of not eating humans. Oh yes, all this and more can be found in “This Is Your Problem, Right Here” by David Steffen (debut 11/13 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

The new owner of a public water park is surprised to learn she’s inherited the troll/filter who, having had nothing to eat for quite some time, has already digested the other members of his family. This is a particularly fun story that is easy and enjoyable to read. If you missed it when it came up as the daily story, go back, and have a look. Oh, and bring your copy of Wiccan Soup for the Troll.

 

Greg is “The Most Important Man in the Universe” by Joseph Zieja (debut 11/14 and reviewed by Frank D), and his mother couldn’t be prouder. He has returned to his homeworld, in orbit, where he speaks to mother via a viewable link. The plague has ravaged the planet, and only he can make the decision on what must be done.

This tale is about one cold man. He contacts his mom, for reasons I’m not quite clear about. “The Most” is an unemotional tale of an emotional moment. It has an obvious twist. Seeing it coming from a mile away dulled the climatic ending line. I don’t know if the protagonist was supposed to have feelings but his lack of them affected my feelings toward this story.

 

Poachers know the right bait is key to setting a good trap in “The Trap” by Steven Kahn (debut 11/15 and reviewed by Frank D). Bakti takes his young lover for the first time to his poaching traps. He is weary, the jungle is a dangerous place, but she is undaunted and eager. Besides, what is there to fear? They are, after all, the masters of the wild.

“The Trap” is a tale of two people guilty of crimes against nature. The author, however, does a good job of having them appear as something less than evil. Bakti is well aware that there is more to fear than a four-legged predator in the thick jungle of Borneo, but has completely underestimated on where he lies on the hierarchy of the food chain.

“The Trap” is named well. Like the protagonist, I knew there was more than a simple trap afoot but was still snared in the twist. I enjoyed the back and forth between the two characters and the delightful poetic justice finale. I am tempted to call the unexpected turn in events a cheat, but the grin on my face of getting blindsided tells me the twist in plot was well executed.

Recommended.

 

A colony is in danger of failure in “The Dying Season” by Gwendolyn Clare (debut 11/16 and reviewed by Frank D). Bennu’s Hollowheart trees are dying. They have been the colonists saving grace from Bennu’s harsh winters, but their death as the moon approaches its decades long winter will mean the colony will need to be abandoned when the mining ships arrive. Nicolai will not leave the only home she has come to know. She knows there must be a solution but can she find it in time?

“The Dying Season” is a science fiction mystery. Nicolai is sure her fellow humans are a factor on why the trees are sick. Sorting out all the variables makes it difficult for her to find the solution. Nicolai is not just combating a native life epidemic but an apathetic colony that has already given up. The harsh weather of the world will soon get worse as the moon will be locked in a synchronistic orbit behind its parent world. The scoop of the problem gets larger the further Nicolai digs. For as complicated as the circle of life for this world is, she can’t help but to feel an answer is within sight.

The author brings an ecological dilemma to life with intricate details of the problem Nicolai faces. It is both convincing and intriguing. The nice developing mystery, however, comes to a quick halt, deflating my growing excitement of the story. An ending that I found to be too pat and convenient left me disappointed. I thought the tale was shaping up nicely and felt it should have continued on. Perhaps a longer novella would have suited this storyline better? I don’t know, but “The Dying Season” ended up frosty and incomplete for me.

 

“‘You’re Heads,’ She Says. ‘You’re Tails'” by M. Bennardo (debut 11/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this tale is the boy toy of a scientist. Once, she decides between two men, different models of the same clone make. He always wins, the Head of an imaginary coin flip. “You’re perfect” she says, every time, but perfection has an expiration date, and another month goes by. Time for another coin flip.

“You’re Heads” is a story told from the perspective of man who is the property of a very fickle girl. You can suspect what the story, and its conclusion, will be early on but the author’s superior story telling leaves just enough mystery to carry the tale through. Good writing and intriguing premise makes this one of the best offerings of the month for me.

Recommended.

 

The protagonist makes a living as an irritant in “The Key to the Everything” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 11/20 and reviewed by Frank D). When different galactic species intermingle in close quarters, it becomes crucial for the servant help to keep their cool. The protagonist is a man who specializes on testing the limits of other people’s patience. His latest assignment is a bar with a large Rikrik clientele coming in. He is very good at his job, as is the bartender. Interrupting a Rikrik ritual is not always wise, especially when the bartender is so skilled with a ritual slicer.

“The Key” has a premise that was very difficult for me to buy. I found it hard to believe a client would want a man specializing in getting under the help’s skin to test their employees when they are busy with sensitive customers. Nice writing but story crosses the line of what I’m willing to believe.

 

A woman follows her mother down a dangerous road in “The Safe Road” by Caroline M. Yoachim (debut 11/21 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is on a path through eternity. She follows her mother while generations of her offspring follow behind her. The road is wrought with danger. Her mother tells her how to combat them and the protagonist passes the information down. Poisonous and surreal creatures attack them at every turn. Her daughter asks why they must destroy them, and for the first time, the protagonist wonders if there is a better way.

“The Safe Road” is a metaphorical tale. The generation before protects the one behind it, dealing with each threat harshly. The generation coming after seeks another answer. The message to this surreal story is a reflection of how we react to our own environment. An intriguing but odd tale.

 

A woman falls for a merman in “Homo Homarus” by Ellen Denham (debut 11/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a diver who finds a half-man, half-fish creature. She is taken in with him, convincing him to join her on land. The strange creature loses his fins and grows legs, but he is too much like a fish out of water. Before long, the protagonist realizes her mistake.

I am unsure if this was the author’s intention but “Homo Homarus” proved to be an excellent metaphor on fickle and hasty relationships. The protagonist is instantly attracted to the merman and must have him. The feelings are mutual but the poor creature has no idea what he is in for when he leaves the depths for dry land. With no ability to speak, and forced to live with legs he never had to use before, the merman soon becomes a burden. She commands him to return to the sea but doesn’t realize it may be too late for him to do so.

I couldn’t help but to feel the merman gave his all to this woman. He did all he could to make her happy but discovered he was a different creature in the end and incapable of giving her what she needed. Although the ending didn’t specify this, I believe the poor creature was just a victim of a broken heart.

 

Children of the apocalypse avoid the unseen danger in “A Wizard of the Roads” by Therese Arkenberg (debut 11/23 and reviewed by Frank D). One lonely boy and a wandering group of teenagers cross paths. Will believes he is a wizard. He can feel it in his bones. Jenna encourages her group to take in the isolated boy, as odd as the staff-carrying boy appears to be. The children avoid the empty homes and stick to the road, always on the move and on the run from what they do not know. Jenna can feel that Will can protect them, but her group’s leader, Royce, doesn’t want to take any chances.

“A Wizard” is a story suited for a young adult crowd. All the adults are gone. The homes are filled with empty dangers. No explanation of where everyone went or what the dangers are, are given to the reader. The children have become wanders, on their way to a roaming ‘Lord of the Flies’ existence. If this group of kids had any remorse for all the missing people, it apparently left them long ago. Jenna feels like an anchor attached to the troop, still feeling bad for not erecting a tent correctly the night before. She is immediately drawn to Will when they find him. Will is written as an oddball. He doesn’t miss his parents, even enjoying the alone time.

I felt there was much left to be desired reading “A Wizard.” The pacing was slow and the prose simple. Too many holes and unanswered questions were left on the table for me. 90% of the tale was nothing more than a bunch of kids on hike. I had no idea what the danger was, or if it was really a danger after all. Some sort of idea of what happened to everyone would have helped as well. I’m still not sure if the story was one about a future Merlin in the making, or about a group of superstitious kids putting their faith in a weird kid carrying a stick.

 

“Shattered Amber” by Mari Ness (debut and 11/26 reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this light fantasy falls hard for a new love. His new girl gives him a gift, a necklace with a fly encased in amber. The amber is warm, a reflection of her love for life. He wishes he could have given her a gift as meaningful.

“Shattered Amber” is a fickle tale about a fickle couple. Young love can be fleeting but can burn hot from first spark. The fly in the amber comes to life when his girl begins to drift, and becomes agitated with jealousy when the protagonist eye begins to wander.

There was much to like about this tale. I found the amber idea intriguing and the ending fitting, but the story – a boy meets girl , was a bit light in content.

 

Nothing will stop the show from going on, even the end of the world in “The Show Must” by Matt London (debut 11/27 and reviewed by Frank D). Broadway carries on even when chaos is reigning in the streets. The world’s end is at hand, and like orchestra on Titanic’s deck, the actors and support staff perform for one last show.

“The Show” is a tale of a few who choose to face pandemonium with normalcy. The play is filled with capacity as an audience prefers to live their last minutes by viewing what made mankind great. The nature of Earth’s end is a mystery to the reader, but this is a tale where the ‘how’ matters little. A warm story. I rather liked it.

 

A doctors miracle cure proves to be a disastrous failure for an unfortunate soldier in “MiracleMech” by Tim Dean (debut 11/28 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is the creator of a medical nanotech technology created to save a soldiers life. The system proved to work well, saving the life of Private Hicks, the only member in an ambushed squad implanted with the advanced technology. The only problem is, the man retrieved is not Hicks.

I am just going to say it. This story was cool; a first class science fiction with a unique twist. The unlikely event told in this tale serves as a possible dilemma in our distant future. Nice idea, good sci-fi.

Recommended.

 

The bitter, remorseful, reflective, and smart alecs among us tweet their final thoughts in “Live-Tweeting the Apocalypse” by Ian Creasey (debut 11/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Six obsessive tweeters communicate as the world ends.

I am not much of a fan of Twitter, but of what I have observed, the characters are a fairly accurate reflection of the shallowness the communication fad attracts. I must say, if the end of the world were to come, I would sure hope no one would waste their time like these people had.

 

Infidelity and guilt consume two sisters in “Under a Sky of Knives” by Michele Muenzler (debut 11/30 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a woman who has betrayed her sister, Helene. A moment of passion overwhelmed her as she had fallen for Willem’s charm, her sister’s husband. She is forced to watch the replay of her indiscretion with her bitter sister. A scar on her hand, a knife wound from Helene, is just the down payment for her penance. The Anafeal’s mountain, the last stop for the ones consumed with grief, calls to her sister, and the protagonist will do anything to stop her and earn her forgiveness.

The protagonist in “Under a Sky” is an exhausted woman running on passion and guilt. Her affair with her brother-in-law weighs on her soul. Her sister’s scorn is more painful to her than the throbbing knife wound in her hand. Despite the regret from her betrayal, the passion she feels for Willem still leaves her weak in his presence. Fearful that her sister’s bitterness has driven her to Anafeal’s mountain, she runs to its slopes, only to discover the burnt remains of the gatekeeper’s homes. A wronged woman intends to climb the mountain to fulfill her destiny, and the protagonist will give anything to stop her.

In the author’s bio, Ms Muenzler states that her fiction†leans toward dark fantasy with a twist of new weird, and if nobody dies in a story, then it probably wasn’t written by her†“Under a Sky” fulfills that mission statement to a tee. The protagonist is a woman caught between an acrimonious sibling and her alluring husband. Willem is a cad, devoted more to his own selfish needs than his commitment to his own wife. The story runs on the grieved emotions of the protagonist. She has wronged her sister and only desires to earn her forgiveness, but Helene is in no forgiving mood. Blood from unforgiving family is the hottest, and the protagonist will need it to keep her warm as she pursues a bitter woman up the slopes of a snowy peak.

If uplifting is what you are after, steer clear of this tale. The story does indeed take an unexpected turn. The woman in this tale appears to leap after people fueled by passion, without looking to see where she will land. I found the writing first class. It was easy to identify with this woman’s dilemma , impressive considering I have never been a woman and don’t intend to be one in the future. For a tale of dark and depressing, I found it to be an enjoyable read.

 

 

Appreciating the appreciationsâ€

I was posed with the questionâ€

Why do writers review?

The question was framed as what good could it do for a writer to stick his opinions out there for all to see? After all, wouldn’t the negative (hurt feelings, repercussions, black listing) far outweigh any benefit for a reviewer? There is a simple answer to that question: writers deserve to know that their stories have been read.

An editor friend of mine boasted to me when his ezine reached its 2000th subscriber to his newsletter. His magazine is a free one, and writers are not required to subscribe to the newsletter to be able to submit to his magazine, but to participate in his mini-contest (and collect his little jewels of wisdom), you need to subscribe. So 2000 was a bit of a milestone for him, but he added at the end of his boastâ€

I wish I knew how many of them actually read the magazineâ€

As a writer, nothing tops making a sale. Seeing it appear in print , be it on paper or electronically , is a thrill like no other. But the elation you feel is quickly followed with doubt. Just because it is appearing for all to see and read, will any bother?

We at Diabolical Plots want all the writers (and its editors) to know Daily SF is not ignored. Sure, thousands of emails are sent out every day, but how many of them are deleted unread? And does anyone ever browse through the archives? To answer the second question, yes, someone does. As far as the first question goes, I don’t.

One of the reasons why we do such a thorough job , even for tales that are few hundred words in length , is so writers will know their story was read, not just looked at, but read.

Some writers have voiced their appreciation for the reviews, I would like to say thank you for acknowledging them. Seeing your comments on our comments (in your blogs, chat rooms, etc†), means a lot to us.

Keep up the good work.

Have a Happy New Year!

This is Anthony Sullivan, Diabolical Plots’s other editor. I have never met him, talked to him, seen him at the Christmas party, company meetings, at the coffee machine during break, outside the backdoor where the employees sneak a smoke, the cafeteria, mail room, parking lot, or in the lobby hitting on the cute receptionist like the rest of us do. I don’t know if he writes, reads Daily SF, reads at all, is aware of Diabolical Plots, or understands English for that matter. Truthfully, I’m not sure this is him or even if he exists at all (Dave has told me his salary eats up the company’s profits which is the reason why I haven’t received a Christmas bonus for the third straight year. Hmmmmm….).
Anthony is a person who we hold in the very high regard, one we usually reserve for icons like Bigfoot and Santa Claus. His is a very integral and valuable part of Diabolical Plots.

Daily Science Fiction: September 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

We would like to share an announcement for the opening of the third year of Daily Science Fiction. The very successful publication has been running on the sheer determination of two editors. Well, the weight of responsibilities of putting out a fresh story five days a week, and the reading of the enormous pile of submissions, has been much to bear for Jon and Michele. So they did what any wise and overworked editors would do, accept help.

Daily SF‘s crew has become a bit larger. 5 new editors have arrived to help the dynamic duo. Who are they? Sure, I’ll introduce them, but first this month’s reviewsâ€

 

In “The Gifter” by Torrey Podmajersky (debut 9/3 and reviewed by Anonymous), a young person, a gifter, is being interviewed by her senior at work. Her role is to give people things, things that will help them, and she has been selecting some rather odd gifts of late. She gave chickenpox to a child so that he could have a play-date with another child who also had chickenpox. She gave two cases of gonorrhea to a woman and her husband so that the woman would have the proof of her husband’s infidelities.

The gifter is, of course, a faery and her faery boss frowns on her style of ‘gifts’, preferring the sort of happy gift he used to give before his promotion to management. She is suspended, but she still has a final gift to give.

I loved this short story and thought it nicely done. My writer’s eye caught the twist before it happened, but it still worked beautifully for me. The ‘gifts’ were great and wonderfully selected. Six out seven rocket dragons.

Recommended.

 

A curator of a library receives his first visitor in five millennia in “Summer Reading” by Ken Liu (debut 9/4 and reviewed by Frank D). CN-344315 was designed to watch over the collective knowledge of mankind’s existence while on Earth. The human race had left for the stars long ago. What had once been a museum world that attracted pilgrims to see man’s cradle of civilization, is now a forgotten planet. The data files, no longer viewed, have been recycled as scrap. He now is relegated to take care of brittle books. All that is left of a form of information reviewing long dead before the library was built, is a few hundred books. They are precious and priceless and his lone purpose in life. Then the unimaginable happens, a visitor in the form of a little girl , and she would like to read one of the books.

Summer Reading” is set in a fascinating future. The protagonist of this tale is a nostalgic robot. He has taken great care of preserving the deteriorating pages of the last books known to exist. The thought of allowing this small girl to hold one appalls him but he is forced to recognize what the purposes of the books once were. What happens next is magical.

I have read a lot of Ken Liu over the past couple of years. He rarely disappoints me. The timing of this tale coincides the day after he received a Hugo. The theme of it is fitting. “Summer Reading” is a story any writer can appreciate and any parent who has read to a child can love. I have much more to say about it but I would hate to ruin the reading experience for you.

Recommended.

 

Brietta would like a change in “Third Time’s a Charm” by Melanie Rees (debut 9/5 and reviewed by Frank D). She is bored and embarrassed. Her mother has dragged the teenager to the carnival. She feels like she is being treated like a kid and so much wants to be like the blonde girl surrounded by cute boys. There is something familiar about the girl as she stares enviously at her. A woman selling trinkets has an amulet that will grant Brietta her wish, once again.

Third Time” is a ‘grass is greener’ story. Brietta is a girl who isn’t sure what she wants but knows whatever she has now isn’t it. The story is heavy on set up. The majority of the piece examines Brietta’s teenager feelings. It made the tale slow but teed up a very good twist. I did wonder how far we were into an endless loop but the question is probably irrelevant anyway.

 

Joel reaches out to an abused android in “The Touch of Love” by Day Al-Mohamed (debut 9/6 and reviewed by Frank D). The Loveland Companion model 6739 (Honey) has been severely damaged by its owner and husband. The android companion has been sent to be repaired and captures the mechanic’s sympathy and affection. Joel professes his love for her. Honey returns her love, the only way she knows how.

The warning the editors post at the beginning of the story is one readers should heed. “The Touch” is a strong commentary on abuse. I found the tale strongly written with a unique poetic justice conclusion, but the events of the piece are indeed disturbing. If you are easily offended, avoid.

 

There is a ghost living in Jeremy’s closet, in “A Silly Love Story” by Nicole Cipri (debut 9/7 and reviewed by Frank D), and that isn’t the oddest thing in his life. The ghost is harmless to all but Jeremy’s clothes, turning his t-shirts inside out and steadily unraveling the fabric of his only suit. Jeremy tells his close friend, cupcake connoisseur Merion, of his strange haunting. The two friends devise a plan to reach out to the thing hidden in Jeremy’s closet.

A Silly Love Story” is a fitting title to this tale. It is a weird story of two odd friends shielding their feelings from each other. Merion is bi-gendered, her/his sex changes from day-to-day. Merion and Jeremy hang together as awkward friends. Their conversations are hypothetical ‘what if?’ scenario’s. The tale is told from Jeremy’s perspective. He is in love with Merion. The reader can sense the feelings are mutual but Jeremy values their friendship too much to risk damaging it by telling Merion so.

This odd tale intrigued me to want to know more about the author so I paid a visit to her blog. I learned “A Silly Love Story” is an autobiographical work of fiction. A question posed to Nicole, that 99.999% of the population would find insulting, was the inspiration for this tale. It made me appreciate this story more. Despite the very odd circumstances in this premise, the Jeremy and Merion story is a relationship most of us have seen before, close friends who hide their true feelings from each other. It can be sad and sweet at the same time.

A Silly Love Story” is not for everyone. Reading about Merion and Jeremy might tell you a bit about yourself. Prejudices run very deep within us. An involuntary reaction in your soul, as you absorb the vision of Merion, and Jeremy’s feelings toward him/her, is natural. When you feel it, give Nicole Cipri’s blog a visit.

 

Erin needs help with a stitch in “Falling, Rising” by Leah Thomas (debut 9/10 and reviewed by Frank D). Erin is just like her mother, dead. She died in a car accident but rose from the coroner’s table (a common occurrence). The living girls her age don’t take kindly to the undead, and do their best to make her know it. The dead don’t feel pain, but even so, mothers are always there to make things better.

Falling, Rising” is a tale where the dead live a second life. They will attempt to carry on where they left off but must deal with a prejudice from the living. The tale was too brief for me. I would have liked to adjust to the characters a bit more.

 

Simon cannot say goodbye in “Mortless” by Henry Szabranski (debut 9/11 and reviewed by Frank D). His wife has died in a plane crash. His money, and clone technology, can bring her back just as she was before. But he wants her back the way he prefers.

Mortless” is a tale of man used to getting his way. Simon refuses to let go and the story slides into a spoiled temper tantrum. He is a selfish protagonist and any sympathy for him goes out the window halfway through the short tale.

 

James and Fredrick have come to the Dragon’s Lair in search of gold in “Fool’s Gold” by Frank Dutkiewicz (debut 9/12 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Seeking escape from their menial lives they are willing to risk in exchange. Their quest appears to be successful as they relish the pile of gold and jewels they have found, until James wonders aloud what a dragon needs with a pile of gold and jewels.

Nicely set up little tale, and I liked the ending. I did have an issue with some of the choices, such as, “…his expression matching the farmer’s they crossed when they admitted they were headed for Cirole’s cave.” That phrasing seemed a little odd. Overall though it was well written.

 

“Old Friends” by Shane Wilwand (debut 9/13 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a blue robot. His master is dissecting his friend, robot J1-A. His master says J1-A will be improved. Since it is that easyâ€

Old Friends” is a reversal Frankenstein tale. Short and cute.

 

An imprisoned princess has a voice in her head in “Said the Princess” by Dani Atkinson (debut 9/14 and reviewed by Frank D), and it is out to help her anyway it can. Princess Andrienna is being held in an ivory tower. She is the prisoner of a jealous witch, information provided to the reader by an ominous third-person narrator. Andrienna can hear every word the strange voice says in his fairy tale-esque narration. Where he came from, Andrienna doesn’t know, but a third person narrator has a perspective that proves beneficial.

Said the Princess” is an idea I wished I thought of. A voice that described every action you made would drive most people crazy, but the resourceful Princess uses it to her advantage. The villain of the tale is a crafty sorceress – an excellent antagonist for a brilliant, funny, and delightful tale.

I know enough about humorous stories set in a speculative fiction genre to say not everyone will like this tale, but I honestly don’t know how you couldn’t like it. One of the funniest stories (this is coming from a guy who read slush for a pro-level humor anthology, and judged a humor contest) I have read this year.

Recommended.

 

A politician is looking for an edge in “The Whisper” by Douglas Sterling (debut 9/17 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a Senator. He is about to download the latest in information technology; the Whisper. Whisper is twitter for your subconscious. It lets you know of events as they happen. With Whisper, information is instantaneous. But beware of Spamâ€

The Whisper” is a tale that gives you a taste of what may come. It comes with a moral that everything has a price, and nothing is for free. Interesting but an idea like this deserved a storyline that was less ominous.

 

A conqueror’s guide to global dominance is the theme of “Triumph” by Robert Reed (debut 9/18 and reviewed by Frank D). The narrator of this tale instructs the path to achieving conquest. It starts as a simple survey, a feeler to see if the natives know how to execute the plan. Then details on how to shove humanity into chaos, making them do the heavy lifting. It will work, it always does.

Triumph” is†different. The story is written as a guide, but unravels as if the task has already been accomplished. The details are hazy but presented as if the answer was obvious. As a patriotic Earthling, I refuse to believe our world is that fragile or the plan could be that simple. In short, I had trouble buying into the premise.

 

Two professors compete to be the one who makes the greatest discovery ever in “Professor Jennifer Magda-Chichester’s Time Machine” by Julian Mortimer Smith (debut 9/19 and reviewed by Frank D), and will do anything to make it.

This humorous tale has two characters that are willing to change history in order to achieve fame. The protagonist brings new meaning to the term ‘going too far’. I found the story to be delightful.

 

Strict adherence to religious doctrine is for dinosaurs in “Intolerance” by VG Campen (debut 9/20 and reviewed by Frank D). Why pay attention to the small and furry preaching that the end is near?

You can’t miss the metaphor of this flash. Clever.

 

Missing something important to you? Penelope can find it for you. “Where You End and the World Begins” by Sam Ferree (debut 9/21 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of a woman who can find whatever has eluded you. An odd talent for a girl who is herself lost. It took her a week to realize the bearded man sitting her couch pontificating about the meaning of life was her roommate. Her newest client has a challenging request, she can’t find her shadow.

The storyline to “Where You End” is very much like the characters in this story, drifting without a direction to go. Penelope’s talent first became apparent when her mother lost her wedding ring. It was then she discovered missing items had a way of finding her. Penelope is a girl who has lost her home. Her parents divorced and moved away. Penelope lost her phone shortly after and her only means of contacting her parents.

I found Penelope to be intriguing. She interviews her clients, searching for the reasons why the objects they lost have left them. Often the reasons are metaphorical, as is the case with her current client.

On the author’s notes for this tale, he admits that he was a bit lost while writing it. The fact “Where You End” lacks a clear direction fits with how this tale turned out. I found the ending to be fantastic and I suspected it found the story instead of the author finding it. I can imagine a few readers wondering ‘what was that about?’ when they read “Where You End” but it is just the type of story that explains a lot without a question ever being asked.

This story is not for everyone but it was for me. Not a full recommendation but nevertheless, I liked it a lot.

 

A starship’s children have been promised a new home in “From the Divide” by Nathan Tavares (debut 9/24 and reviewed by Frank D), but they will have to leave the only home they’ve ever known to move there.

From the Divide” is a story told from the perspective of children raised aboard the sterile confines of a starship. The tale focuses on how change is not always embraced.

 

Even the undead need a hobby. In “Blood Oranges” by K C Shaw (debut 9/25 and reviewed by Frank D), Friedrich prefers cooking. Vampires have little use for tasty treats, however. But Friedrich is eager to impress his love, Nikolita. If only there was a way to get her to want and try a bite.

Blood Oranges” is dark. Vampires are the dominant species, keeping humans to follow them around like poodles on a leash. Friedrich is a talented chef. Nikolita could care less for the parfait he made but her young human thrall’s mouth waters when she gets a glimpse at it.

Blood Oranges” is meant to be disturbing. I think the author accomplished her task. The dishes in this story is would be fitting for a ghoulish ‘Food Channel’ in an alternative reality.

 

The last two members of humanity approach a new star system in “Last” by Rich Larson (debut 9/26 and reviewed by Frank D). The last man has abducted the last woman to join him on a new world. He is out to save mankind. Some things aren’t worth saving.

Last” is a brief tale that took me a second read to completely grasp what happened. I liked the ending.

 

“Lyria” by Miah Sonnel (debut 9/27 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). In the future, we have the technology through cybernetics to create stand-ins for the criminally minded. They are called drones.

In this story, someone who would be registered as a sex offender is due to be given a gender and age appropriate drone. His chance of relapse is high. The drone will help him reintegrate into society. So says his therapist–and the court. Guilt ridden and trapped by law is the programmer, the “father” of the drone. As he installs her finishing touches; his creation, understanding her future, speaks to him, and begs not to be powered down on her final night of freedom.

 

The protagonist is the ultimate infiltration unit in “My Mask, My Humanity” by D. Thomas Minton (debut 9/28 and reviewed by Frank D). He is a mimic , a man with the ability steal another’s DNA and memories to assume their identity. He is the property of a tyrant governing the Saturn moons. She has been winning a war to put down a rebellion. Her rival, Timothy Marcus, leads the rebellion. It is his job to find him and kill him. But to do this he must murder a man who was Marcus’s right hand lieutenant former lover and assume his memories. The job will bring out feelings that are not his, but he’s been trained to overlook them for his hard master.

My Mask” is a layered tale. The story evolves from a cold-hearted killer’s tale to a conflicted man’s dilemma. The protagonist’s master warns her tool ‘not to underestimate Marcus’. The first visual of the rebellion’s leader contradicts her warning but she proves to be far more prophetic than even she could know.

I found this tale’s premise to be remarkably similar to a twist of one of Mike Resnick’s popular novels. I like the set up to a twist I should have seen coming, but didn’t. A lengthy story , for DSF , but a solid science fiction tale in the classic definition of the term.

Recommended.

 

Daily SF’s Superfriendsâ€

Elektra Hammond: Elektra Hammond emulates her multisided idol Buckaroo Banzai by going in several directions at once. She’s been involved in the copyediting and proofreading end of publishing since the 1990s for presses small and large and nowadays concocts anthologies, is an editor and reviewer at buzzymag.com, reviews books for the TICA Trend, and is acquisitions editor for the Dark Quest Books imprint Sparkito Press. Her steampunk story “AThe Case of the Duchess=s Dog@” appears in the anthology In An Iron Cage: The Magic of Steampunk. Elektra lives in Delaware with her husband, Mike, and the cat herd of BlueBlaze/Benegesserit catteries. When not freelancing or appearing at science fiction conventions she travels the world judging cat shows. Find Elektra’s website at http://www.untilmidnight.com.

Rachel McDonald: Rachel McDonald started reading short stories regularly a few years ago when she started a real job and needed something shorter to read during her lunch break. Before that she mostly read novels of the huge epic fantasy variety (but with a hefty sprinkling of other forms of speculative fiction). The dream is to use her MA in Professional Writing and Editing to edit SFF novels; her current day job entails editing college criminal justice textbooks and their supplements while trying to get college professors to adhere to their project deadlines and follow directions. Rachel also works as a theater tech in her spare time and has discovered that the Tarzan and Oz novels make great backstage reading.

Sarah Overall: Sarah Overall is the head of the editorial department at UysFaber, a Toronto-based indie comics publisher. Since UysFaber is quite a small company, this means that she is the editorial department. She’s never been a department before, and rather likes it. When she isn’t beating errant commas and hyphens into submission, Sarah spends her time reading, gaming, and embroidering TARDISes.

Manuel Royal: Manuel Royal was born, like Tristram Shandy, with a broken nose. He will die. In between, he lives and writes in Atlanta.

Brian White: Brian White is the editor of Fireside Magazine, a multigenre fiction and comics magazine. His day job–well, it’s actually a night job–is on a newspaper copy desk. He lives near Boston with his wife, who is a theatrical lighting technician, and their two cats. You can find him online at his blog, Talk Wordy to Me, at talkwordy.com.

 

The new editors of Daily SF have assured Jon and Michele that they have plenty of experience editing. Their methodology is dated but their results are tried and true. They’re a little bit behind the technological eight ball but they are updating in an effort to get with the times. In fact, their clay mold typesetter is almost ready for production. Next week, Jon plans on introducing them to the wonders of electricity.

 

 

 

Daily Science Fiction: July 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

 

Over Salad and Soup…

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

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

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

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

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

Daily Science Fiction: June 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Summer is almost done and we have just started with the beginning of Daily SF’s lazy day offerings. So what did we think of them? I’m glad you asked”

 

Debbie’s petunias are dying and her girlfriend Sharon is leaving her, and it’s all the aliens fault in “The Time of Their Visitation” by Lisa Nohealani Morton (debut 6/1 and reviewed by Frank D). Three horned aliens have come to Earth to observe humanity. Debbie is one of the ten percent who can see them. Their entry into our society has changed the way people have thought about their lives and many, like Debbie, resent them for it.

“The Time” is a story about human relationships with voyeuristic aliens as a backdrop. Although harmless, the aliens are getting blamed for every small incident in the world. The reader enters the tale while Sharon is in the middle of moving out. Debbie’s life is falling apart around her and the aliens appear to be enjoying her misfortune.

“The Time” is an examination on how we are quick to blame external events for our own problems. This realization comes to Debbie early into the piece as she observes others attributing the aliens for their own misfortunes. I found this story sweet but too much like other breakup tales. The aliens made it unique but the author wanted to make them a minor subplot so not to take away her real intent for the piece. She succeeded.

 

In “The Princess and the Monster” by Ryan Creel (debut 6/4 and reviewed by Anonymous) a dragon is pursuing its prey. During the pursuit it flies here and it flies there, generally causing mayhem and fear amongst the humans who see it. It eventually finds the elf it seeks and the story ends with jokey finish.

This didn’t work for me on many levels. It was quite a brief story, yet full of jarring usages of a writing style most writers avoid. I found an overuse of conjunctions, particularly with the word ‘And.’ There were several sentences that repeated the same words and phrases, giving the prose an echo effect. A good example being a comparison of the dragons pupils to knives that was repeated. Of course all of this may have been done for a reason (there are no right or wrongs) but to me it felt like the whole thing needed a final edit.

I liked some of the descriptions of the dragon, but ultimately the whole story was based on withholding information from the reader. The dragon knows why it hunts the elf. The reason forms the punchline (or do I mean twist?) of the story, yet this is kept from the reader although it would be foremost in the dragon’s mind. The reader is led to believe it hunts the elf for other reasons. The end of the story felt like a joke–one I have come across before and one that made me feel I’d wasted my time reading the story–and so I felt the ending weakened the story as a whole. Two rocket dragons.

 

“An Open Letter in Defense of Our Alien Overlords” by Katherine Heath Shaeffer (debut 6/5 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) is written as a letter to the editor that outlines the subjugation of Earth by an alien force. The author outlines the good that has come from the occupation, like forced peace and improved environment. He goes on to show how even the alien action of using numbers implanted by genetic tagging serves a higher purpose. But recent changes in the alien force signal changes, but what kind of changes? Will there be renewed hostilities, or is it a signal of something else?

This was an interesting way to cover some standard themes. The author has updated the technology quite well, the biological tagging and violence activated machines were among my favorites. This is a fun romp through a potential future and the author makes the most of a novel take on the subject. Nice story, somewhat reminiscent of the old “War of the Worlds”.

 

“Metal and Flesh” by Steven R. Stewart (debut 6/6 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Sato is human; Kuro-4 is a robot. They are huddled together in the damaged module trying to repair each other so they can survive. Sato needs Kuro-4 to get supplies because the environmental suits have been lost. Kuro-4 needs Sato to provide a reason for someone to come to their aid, because no one would try to save a machine. Mars is forty-four days from Earth. Can they both survive that long?

This is a nicely woven survival tale that is really about what it means to be human. Touching on some of the same themes so common in the work of Phillip K. Dick, this story is very engaging. That alone was enough to endear this story to me, but the author deftly handled the story making it most memorable. Nice little story that you won’t be sorry you took the time to read.

 

Five angels gather for breakfast to discuss business and slaves in “Angel Plantation” by Tina Connolly (debut 6/7 and reviewed by Frank D). The newest member, Angel Jerome, has a fraction of the organslaves his colleagues have. The other plantation owners wonder aloud if he is deserving a spot at their table. Jerome shares their opinion.

The angels in “Angel Plantation” are not like the corporeal beings we all know. The slaves they own are clones of themselves. Where others have work gangs approaching a 100, Jerome keeps only 7. He sees them as extensions of himself, and not tools to further his own wealth.

“Angel Plantation” has a moral that runs back a two centuries and a dilemma we may see in our distant future. It examines what the definition of property is, and touches on the possibility on whether we own our own genetic material. It is a brief tale with many questions we may be faced with yet.

 

An idealist loses her wings in “Fairy Tales” by Eliza Victoria (debut 6/8 and reviewed by Frank D). The Diwata are a lost race. Their world is gone, destroyed by greedy humans. Their magic is powerless without their world and what few that are left, live among humanity. Pauline is a college freelance writer who has been documenting the history of the Diwata people. She has become an expert of their blight. She meets a Diwata noble in the library of the university. Their friendship blossoms, yet they remain too different to become close.

“Fairy Tales” is a complicated tale. What begins as a lone Diwata’s personal tragedy becomes a far larger and grimmer epic. The story is about Pauline’s obsession about a winged fairy-like race. The Diwata that are left are choosing to lose their wings. Some because of injury, others to fit in. The tale follows Pauline and her gradual infatuation with the Diwata and with a lost princess. The wings of the Diwata are their identity, and when the lose them, they lose their future.

“Fairy Tales” is aptly named. It speaks of a naÃ’ ve girl’s hope and of the world a race has lost. It has flashbacks that aren’t written as flashbacks. The tactic turns the story into a disguised mystery, setting up a clever final scene. The story is not for people who gravitate to Daily SF‘s short and sharp fiction, but it is a tale for the ones who appreciate personal struggles. The ending is a promise of a greater tale but is nevertheless satisfying.

 

A better path develops for a distraught man in “Double Exposure” by Lou Antonelli (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Jake is about to end it all. He has been trying to keep his high maintenance wife happy for decades and has needed to embezzle to satisfy her spending habits. Now, on the verge of indictment and abandoned by his spouse, he buys a gun. Before he pulls the trigger, he spies a Kodak one-day photo hut. Curious, he pulls up to the window. They are holding pictures of him and his last girlfriend from 30 years before. The package is a lot thicker than it should be.

“Double Exposure” is listed as an Alternative History story but I would classify it as a Magical Realism tale. It is set as a second chance tale, a look into a life that should have been. The author is inspired by his memories of the old photo huts (I remember them) and of their disappearance. A cool idea (photos of another life), one that I could imagine would make for a great anthology.

 

A disabled man is looking forward to his day of rebirth in “Deathday” by Jonas David (debut 6/12 and reviewed by Frank D). In the future, mankind has found a way to make a better life for everybody. A new mechanical body to replace the withering biological one all were born into. The transfer of consciousness is called your Deathday. The process has proven to be failsafe. Once the transfer is made, the new body oversees the old and dead one into the ground. It is a time of celebration and all your friends are there when you emerge from your changing room. So strange how the ones who have made the step find the celebration necessary, but distasteful.

“Deathday” follows along with a debilitated young man named Cobalt. His Deathday is near and a day behind his closest friends own day of rebirth. He is looking forward to the perfect body he has already seen but rumors of a legendary error plague him. Tales of a transfer that went wrong and of a still alive biological half and a wandering mechanical disturb all who have heard it. When he attends his best friend’s Deathday, her reaction to him when she emerges from the changing room strikes him as odd. Those around him assure him that she will be fine. He hopes so but wonders how he will react when he opens his new eyes for the first time.

“Deathday” is a futuristic tale that mirrors our own views of the afterlife. Excitement yet anxiety lie under the surface of Cobalt’s psyche. Evidence that it will be better is all around him. He had no reason to fear his day of rebirth, but his friend Thallium now makes him concerned. I found the tale a bit on the slow side, making the tale read longer than its actual length. I wondered why the author chose to focus on relationships that seemed to have little to do with the development of the plot. Like the protagonist, it all became clear in the final scene. I find that part to be dynamite and well worth the price of admission. Loved the great final act and parting last line.

 

Elise packs for a move in “British Colonial” by Amanda Clark (debut 6/13 and reviewed by Frank D). They are about to leave Beijing, heading back the West, but her dÃ’ cor controlling husband is missing. He always had a taste for a more Western style of decorations, forcing her to leave many of her enchanted Asian prizes behind.

“British Colonial” is the tale of a resentful woman. She is less concerned about the whereabouts of her husband than she is about the things she is leaving behind. The wonderful paintings and etched carvings in the furniture stir to life with her touch, but her husband never liked them, much to his eventual dismay.

“British Colonial” is one brief but dark tale. The ending shouldn’t have been such a surprise but the author’s heavy descriptive writing makes it easy to miss. A thick but delightful tale.

 

Your deepest desires can be achieved with “The Magician of Words” by Ruth Nestvold (debut 6/14 and reviewed by Frank D). The magician plies his trade in an alley of filled with former lives, if you can find him, and have the courage to let him know what you really desire, the sky will be the limit for you.

I wasn’t sure if this tale was metaphorical or not. I am afraid its greater meaning was lost on me.

 

The future in “The Pretty Woman Without Mercy” by Steven Mathes (debut 6/15 and reviewed by Frank D) is bleak and hopeless. Those who no longer age are not welcome in a world too crowded. Knight flees civilization and to the wilderness, where technology is no longer welcome. The scared man stumbles on a house that is yet to be demolished and begs the woman inside for help. She will give him one night’s stay in return for his DNA.

“The Pretty Woman Without Mercy” is a story with a titles that does not fit. The world in which Knight lives is what is harsh. Her offer for shelter is no small offer. The fact that she has two dogs and a gun is what I would consider wise on her part. Knight is a man who is prepared to die. Those who flee to the wilderness can expect no less, but the Earth is not what it used to be. Although wild life is beginning to reclaim to Earth, it may already be too late for them. The sky is already empty of birds and the trees all look sick. The pretty woman may have the answer for the planet and Knight both.

“The Pretty Woman” had a few issues for me. A protagonist with a name I had to get used too, an incomplete premise, and a mismatched title. It took a good portion of it for me to get grounded. It did, however, have a very sweet ending.

 

The protagonist is off to meet her boyfriend’s parents in the fairy world in “Faerie Food” by Kat Otis (debut 6/18 and reviewed by Frank D). There is one hard lesson they give all human visitors, don’t eat the food. It is a rule she intends to not break, but temptation is a hard thing to resist.

“Faerie Food” is a classic story of “the grass is greener on the other side’. The faerie world is gorgeous beyond belief. She feels out of place and unworthy of her half-human boyfriend, Maelon. And worse, the food smells exquisite. Odder still is Maelon’s human father, at home among these stunning beings while happily consuming their food and drink, with a knowing look in his eye.

This tale serves as an excellent metaphor for those who are in fear of meeting a loved one’s family. Too often many fear we won’t measure up to a standard we could never hope to match, when the truth is we already are an equal. An excellently executed work of flash fiction.

 

A single father mourns for his lost wife in “Ryan’s World” by Paul Ebbs (debut 6/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The colonists are poor on Ryan’s world. Transport land but paying for the things that will heal and benefit the farmer’s lives, are beyond their means to purchase. He is pooling his money so when the same illness afflicts his son, he will be able to save him when he couldn’t his wife.

The majority of “Ryan’s World” is a sad and depressing tale. The protagonist is racked with guilt. He allowed his wife to pass so he could save their son when the time came. Now every Sunday after church, he alone visits her grave.

I have more I would like to say about this tale but a twist at the end prevents me from revealing more. I can say it changed the sad tone of the tale, drastically. Whether you approve or not I cannot say but I will admit it left my feelings conflicted.

 

A convicted sorcerer confesses his crimes to His Imperial Majesty in “Dark Roads for the Eternal Ruler” by Eric James Stone (debut 6/20 and reviewed Frank D). The former right hand man to the prince has decade old offenses had come to light, leaving the future ruler no choice but to convict him. The sorcerer reveals his atrocities to his country’s new emperor. His crimes were made on the prince’s behalf so he could become the ruler, and now he has one last gift to give.

“Dark Roads” is written as a letter. The protagonist expresses joy at the prince’s ascension to power but regrets that he couldn’t be a part of them. His crimes were hidden by an amnesia spell that had expired, and now more will soon be revealed, inflicting the emperor with shame. His letter serves as a confession and a last act of loyalty.

This story has a very clever outcome. Kudos to Mr Stone.

 

A dairymaid plots her rise to power in “Peas, Plots, and Peril” by Melissa Mead (debut 6/21 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a clever and opportunistic cold soul. Through guile, rumors, and false identities; she manages a coup that is the stuff of fairy tales.

“Peas” is an intentionally vague tale. It took me a second read for me to discover that I was reading a tale of the ascension of an evil character in a popular fairy tale. Fascinating, but I found myself wishing for more details.

 

A mysterious boogeyman plagues people in their homes in “The Midnight Knock Again” by Patricia Russo (debut 6/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The first thing parents teach their children is to never answer the “knock’ on the door. It happens at odd times, is distinct from normal knocks, and will change you, or take you, if you answer the door. The “knock’ never comes to the happy in society. Great pains are taken to watch over the depressed and solemn to keep them from making a mistake they will regret. The few that have opened the door have a shell shocked expression that never leaves them. Legends of what is behind the knock vary but only the most down and out would want to answer it ” or the hopelessly curious.

“Midnight Knock” is a creepy tale. The author uses the greater part of the tale to tell about the mysterious knocks and of what happens to those who answer it. The long campfire-ish tale narrative approach works to establish the ominous feel of the knockers. The second half of the story follows along with the protagonist. Some bad fortune has brought the knocks to his door. His curiosity gets the best of him. What he finds is not what he expects.

The “victims’ of the knockers all share a type of amnesia after an encounter. Why this would be is never explained satisfactory. What the story does moralize is a boogeyman may not be so frightening if you’re willing to face it, and most boogeymen live in the dark regions and doubts within us. Although long, “Midnight Knock” is a story that seizes you. I found myself curious to find out what lay behind the knock and satisfied when I found out what it was. I don’t understand why the protagonist had to suffer from amnesia. It turned his adventure into doubt of its reality. What was satisfying was a protagonist willing to find out for the benefit of us all. I found the story to be a nice and enlightening tale.

 

The protagonist buys a vacuum for her mother in “Taking Care of Ma” by Lee Hallison (debut 6/25 and reviewed by Frank D). The vacuum cleaner is a self-reliant, AI unit, but Ma doesn’t want something else doing the cleaning and attaches a handle to the machine. Her daughter is frustrated by her mother’s resistance to technology but the salesman has assured her that the unit will adjust to her mother’s extrinsic behavior.

“Taking Care” is a cute story with a very cute ending that made me smile.

 

“The Watchmaker’s Gift” by Rich Matrunick (debut 6/26 and reviewed by Frank D). An old woman brings roadkill back to life with the golden gears of clockworks. The protagonist is a turtle she saved before. Along with restored life, intelligence is granted to the animals saved. The gears must be wound. Mortality is in the form of spent springs and lives lost.

“The Watchmaker’s Gift” is a different type of Frankenstein tale. The woman in this tale resurrects the animals for reasons that aren’t as noble as the protagonist believed. The story ends up being a tale of companionship. I hesitate summarizing anymore so as not to ruin the outcome of the piece.

 

Monsters make a plea in “The Dream of the Night-Shift Power Worker” by Edoardo Albert (debut 6/27 and reviewed by Frank D). They say the world has become dull, in need of pizzazz and a little excitement. They can give it to mankind (and they won’t bother you at all). All you need to do is turn out the lights.

The tale is more of a bad sales pitch then it is a story.

 

A man must pass a religious loyalty checkpoint in “Sacred Artifacts” by Greg Leunig (debut 6/28 and reviewed by Frank D). In a future fundamentalist America, individuals must prove their commitment to Christianity by stepping on the religious icons of other religions. Those who fail the test are dealt with immediately. The Atheist protagonist contemplates standing for his principles as his parents did.

“Sacred Artifacts” is set in a very dark America. Intolerance for other faiths transforms the nation into a fascist state. The tale is of one man’s resolve.

 

“Answer Man” by A. J. Barr (debut 6/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Mikey Holder has the solution to your problem. His fee is 100 grand and his answer will come at any time. His clients must be willing to accept his call no matter the hour, but satisfaction is guaranteed. The solutions to other people’s problems come to him while he is in the throes of ecstasy, which makes it difficult for him to maintain a relationship when he has to suddenly jump up to make a call.

“Answer Man” is a collaborative work. A story of an extrinsic man with an old talent, it took me until the end to be able to grasp its point. The tale starts off when Mikey abruptly ends an intimate moment to call a client. The solution to the problem his client desperately needed was so simplistically genius it made me laugh. The story takes a turn and Mikey’s life becomes complicated when he meets his soul mate on a flight. Mikey wants to treat his new love like a lady, and not like the inspirational spark that has cheapen every other girl in his life.

“Answer Man” is an odd love story. I can sympathize with his problem (actually, jealous would be a more accurate emotional reaction for me) but I could not understand what the problem was. The premise being that his solution solving had become dry when he met his love. Why? A problem existed for the protagonist when I really saw no reason why it should.

Strong writing, interesting characters, but if you’re looking for a simple solution for the complicated “Answer Man”, you best look elsewhere.

 

Not Just Rockets And Robots indeed

I have a few friends that don’t like reading on a computer screen. I also know of a few writers who will only submit to print publications. So a 21st century novel idea of a publisher sending a daily story via email is something that would never be their cup of tea. Too bad for them, or is it?

There were plenty of reasons for aspiring authors ” and fans of ” speculative fiction to attend this year’s Worldcon in Chicago. At the time of this writing, the con had yet to open, but if you were there hopefully you had a chance to attend Daily Science Fiction’s launch of their first print publication, Not Just Rockets and Robots ” a collection of their first year of stories is now available for your bookshelf.

I haven’t purchased the book but have read enough of those stories to give it an enthusiastic recommendation. I am curious to know if the collection was set in chronological order or not. The collective work of the Alphabet Quartet would have been nice if it were assembled together or not. Regardless how it was done, if you know of a fan of fantasy and/or science fiction, Not Just Rockets and Robots may be the perfect gift for them this Christmas.

 

Michele Barasso and Jonathan Laden are the editors of Daily Science Fiction. Sept 1st marks their second full year of publication. They wanted to make speculative fiction as easily available to its readers as possible. As Mr Laden said in an interview earlier this year to Write 1 Sub 1, “Daily Science Fiction was our way to change the publishing industry. As quotable people have said, “First be the change you want to see from the world”‘.

Daily Science Fiction: August Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

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

 

The Stories

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended

 

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

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

Recommended

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

I rated this story 5 of 7 rockets.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

I rated this story 6 of 7 rockets.

 

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

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

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

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

I rated this story 4 of 7 rockets.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

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

Recommended.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

I rated this story seven out of seven rocket dragons.

 

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

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

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

I rated this story seven out of seven rocket dragons.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: Daily Science Fiction – Sept 1, 2010 to Sept 30, 2010

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Daily Science Fiction is the ambitious project of Clarion alumni and Writers of the Future author, Jonathan Laden, and King Arthur fanatic, Michele Barasso. The duo jumped feet first into the growing SF & F industry with an idea that is innovative and ideal with the ever-changing information age. The pair have dedicated getting the best of what today’s writers have to offer, and bringing it right into the laps of the most devote readers of speculative fiction, delivering it as easy (daily email) and as cheap (free) as a lover of fantasy and science fiction could hope for. To insure they’ll have only the best for the cliental, they have offered an attractive pay rate (8 cents a word) to entice the best authors out there.

Why have they embarked on this crazy idea, you may ask?

Our kids refuse to let us read them Harry Potter, so we needed another outlet for our love of SF” is the answer they offer. Whether their real reason is noble or they really are greedy to read new and fresh fiction before anyone else has a chance to view it, publishing good speculative fiction requires more than a nice pay rate as bait. They need to be able to pick out gems that will make readers want to come back for more. Do Jon and Michele have the ability make DSF a success? I read the first month to find out for myself.

The Stories

“An Adventure in the Antiquities Trade” (debut 9/1/10) by Jeff Hecht is the perfect themed piece to open a mass email project like Daily Science Fiction. The story involves two collectors, and is set in the mid to late 21st century. The protagonist presents a correspondence to a Mr. James, one written on an old manual typewriter in the mid 20th century, when such things were still done on paper. The correspondence tells the tale of a clerk in Nigeria that has uncovered a scheme by the trading company he is working for. The company is bilking the Nigerian government and hiding the profits in a Swiss bank account. The clerk has asked a random American for his bank account so he can transfer 43 million, and promises a 10% kick back as a reward (sound familiar?).

I found “An Adventure in the Antiquities Trade” to be a clever and crisp story. Although it was a bit short, and the twist ending predictable, it was fitting as a debut story for a science fiction magazine looking for a unique way to stand out.

“Mark and ,S-h-e-l-l-y-‘-s-“ (debut 9/2/10) by Steven R Stewart is a story of a pizza shop owner named Mark and his one time romantic interest and former partner, Shelly. Shelly suddenly appears at the spaceport stand, not looking a day older, after a ten-year absence. The sign out front is still the same but her name has been crossed out. The bitter Mark feels cheated, abandoned, and is not interested in any excuse his former partner has to offer. Shelly regrets leaving in a huff all those years ago and admits in making a wrong turn, a turn that may have cost her everything but her youth.

“Mark and ,S-h-e-l-l-y-‘-s-” is a science fiction twist on the old ‘bitter lovers reuniting’ premise. The story is Mr. Stewart’s first publication (nice catch). I found the brief tale to be a cute idea but the present tense narration was a big negative for me. It was unnecessary and lent to a disconnection with the characters and plot.

Butterfly gets her first tattoo on her 13th birthday and receives a gift she didn’t ask for in “Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” (debut 09/03/10) by Lavie Tidhar. The young granddaughter of the Head of the Council can hear the Rogon, long dead aliens cocooned in the trees of the forest. At first, the incomprehensible murmurs are nothing more than idle chit-chat in Butterfly’s ears, than one day their tone changes. Butterfly believes they are calling her, and they need her help.

At over 9000 words, “Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” is one of the longest stories you’ll find in Daily Science Fiction. I couldn’t help thinking while reading it that it didn’t need to be so. An awful lot was thrown into the story that had little to do with the overall plot. Much was made about Butterfly’s relationships with other characters when they had little to do with the solution to the story. All the extra material slowed the pacing to a crawl. Another problem I had was the age of the cocoons. The aliens were supposed to be dead for a quarter of a million years, wouldn’t they be fossils by now? What I did like was the unexpected reveal of the nature of the voices Butterfly hears. Unfortunately you had to get through two-thirds of the story to get to it.

“Butterfly and the Blight at the Heart of the World” would make a nice sci-fi mystery if it were shorter. The author took great pains to show Butterfly as a normal girl with a unique problem. Lavie Tidhar made the story mundane in the process.

“Fiddle” (debut 09/06/10) by Tim Pratt opens with a small history lesson on the Roman Emperor Nero, told by a mysterious guide. The guide speaks of the legend of Nero playing a fiddle while Rome burned in the first century AD and offers a unique explanation of how it may have come to life.

“Fiddle” is more like a tease than a story. Its short size limits what I can say about it without ruining it for the reader. Hard for me to recommend it. I found it not attractive enough to call it cute, but I did like that last line.

In “Ezra’s Prophecy” (debut 09/07/10) by Debs Walker, Ezra is a hermit living in a cave. She studies the book of God’s Prophesies with only a weekly visit from a young village woman to look forward to. Then one day the Gods grace her with a vision. Ezra is eager to write her own book of prophesy but takes advantage of her brief gift of premonition to see what effect her holy book will have in the future.

I had two different impressions of “Ezra’s Prophecy”. The first two thirds I found slow and I worried that the plot was headed nowhere. The last third, however, was a making of a classic tale. I found it deep,an outstanding concept on religion and of the people who founded it. Ezra is granted a great gift from the God’s and makes a choice that proves to be an even greater one to her people.

The first half of “Ezra’s Prophecy” is dull, but the end made the pay off worth it.

The protagonist in “Hobo Signs” (debut 09/08/10) by Ree Young is an elderly lady who finds a hobo on her porch. The man has alcohol on his breath and a tale of aliens on his mind.

“Hobo Signs” is almost cute. The story is told from an old woman’s perspective and done well, but I wanted to scream ‘get on with it!’ at her at one point. The story doesn’t have much to it, at least not enough to satisfy me.

“Tag, You’re It” by Melissa Mead (debut 09/09/10) is a tale of a lost soul and a devil playing a childhood game with the playing field Earth. The hider hides as an ordinary person (and other things) while the seeking player hunts them down.

If character growth defines what makes a good story for you than “Tag, You’re It” is your kind of piece. The devil learns much about life as he takes on a trio of different personalities in the game. I rather liked the story. I found the ending fitting. A well done work of flash fiction.

“Seek Nothing” (debut 09/10/10) by Cat Rambo is the story of Sean Marksman, a clone psychologist who specializes in scent alterations. Sean is eager to escape his religious, puritan home. The planet he has escaped to is in need of a specialist like him, but his fellow humans are suspicious of his fundamentalist background. Sean has been raised to believe clones are beings without a soul. His fellow workers treat them as if they are machines , machines that can be abused. As time drags on, Sean begins to identify with the clones plight.

“Seek Nothing” is not a story for everyone. The plot drags and the protagonist is a hard one to like. The supporting characters are portrayed as unsympathetic and aloof , or worse – and the clones are nothing more than living mannequins. However, by the end of the story a realization of the depth of this masterpiece fell on me like a ton of bricks.

This story is one of repression. Sean tires of his purist early life and wants to be a normal man, one free of the guilt of sin his father weighed on him. However, young Sean hooks up with people that are anything but normal and as degenerate as could be imagined. He is like an Amish boy whose first experience with the outside world is with exiled men alone in the Arctic. Added to this jaded experience, details of Sean’s own past surfaces as the story progresses. What we witness in this tale is the disassembling of a man to the point where he feels on par with soulless machines. RECOMMENDED.

“Chameleon” (debut 09/13/10) by Colin Harvey is set in an America under attack by a race of aliens called Dragons and their Chinese allies. The Dragons have the ability to mimic humans, and have gotten good enough at it to make them indistinguishable from the person they are imitating. Major Emily Sparrow has been brought into the ruins of the Pentagon to help determine if her husband is really an alien in disguise.

“Chameleon” is an excellent example on how intriguing and thorough a short story can be. Mr. Harvey opened up a big world and introduced wonderful characters in a handful of words. The story was extra special for me because of its ending. I knew there was a twist coming yet was still caught off guard when the reveal hit me; so subtle and unexpected. It was the whipped cream on top of delicious sci-fi work of art. RECOMMENDED.

“On the Sweetness of Children” (debut 09/14/10) by Michelle Muenzler opens when the Green Fairy falls dead in the middle of blessing the infant princess. She drops at the word ‘hunger’ and the princess becomes a glutton as a result. The round royal is sensitive about her weight, and isn’t above devouring her critics, which isn’t good for her public image. But when you have a bottomless pit for a stomach, public image becomes secondary.

“On the Sweetness of Children” is a very cute story. It is a birth of a fairy tale, which I always find neat. Enjoyable but not “finger licking good.”

Dain talks the crew of the ‘Maidens Crescent’ into stopping at every satellite while traveling through the Sol System in “Mercury in Hand” (debut 09/15/10) by Amanda M Hayes. The Zero-rank magician wants a piece of every planet for a wealthy client to take with him.

I would like to delve deeper into the point of the story but it was completely lost on me. The who, what, and why of the tale is a mystery to me. I didn’t get it and still don’t after I read it three times in an attempt to understand it.

In “Azencer” (debut 09/16/10) by Rigel Ailur, two sisters with the gift of telekinesis battle for the right to be queen.

At a hundred words, Azencer is as short as a complete tale can get. The author did well with so few words.

“American Changeling” (debut 09/17/10) by Mary Robinette Kowal takes place in a quiet Oregon town on a planet called Earth. Kim is the daughter of two faerie changelings. She has been raised for the day to open the gate between the Faerie world and Earth. The key to unlock the gate has been hidden in iron (deadly to faeries) and protected by Catholic magic. Kim is the only one that can resist both, but the enemies to the queen are aware of her and are ready for the great event.

“American Changeling” is an adventure story. It is one of the longest stories in DSF but it reads quick. The characters stand out and the action is well done. The story is done quite well but the general plot is very familiar. Nevertheless, the reading experience is very enjoyable but I would expect nothing less from a pro like Ms. Kowal.

“Flint’s Folly” (debut 09/20/10) by J Chant is a story about a Nobel Prize winning scientist’s, Professor Flint, greatest discovery. His most trusted assistant, Mattius, attends the press conference where Antarctica’s most respected scientist unveils his faster-than-light machine. The demonstration is a success, making the already famous scientist a giant on the world stage. As a close associate, Mattius basks in the professor’s glory, but soon discovers it only takes one mistake to erase a legacy.

“Flint’s Folly” is my kind of story. The author introduced a complete world and set of circumstances that I could buy into. The premise of the story is one I could see happening one day, and circumstances of our not-too-distant past have proved this type of mistake has been made before. Mattius is successfully presented as a loyal comrade. He believes in his mentor and is proud of his past accomplishments. You can feel the validation he feels when the rest of the world cheers for the professor’s breakthrough discovery. Telling the story from his viewpoint was genius with the direction the author decided to take. At the risk of revealing too much, I particularly enjoyed Professor Flint’s attempt to salvage pride at the end, emotionally well done.

This story was great. RECOMMENDED.

Young Revka is ten and has yet to discover her talent in “Picture in Sand” (debut 09/21/10) by Susan A Shepherd. Her mother discovered her woodcarving gift right away, while her father had to search through all nine talents before finding his own. It can be a lot of work before your talent is discovered, or if you’re lucky, your talent may discover you.

Ms Shepherd put a lot of thought into creating her magical world in this story. Impressive considering she didit in so few words. Unfortunately I think the story needed more for it to work. This heartwarming piece came off as flat to me.

“The Man who said Good Morning” (debut 09/22/10) by Ralph Gamelli is set in a future where everyone reads minds and talking is considered taboo. That doesn’t stop Louis McKalty. He first works his voice on his wife, chasing her as if he were holding a dead mouse. He then proceeds to greet the world with his rediscovered gift of speech. The world isn’t prepared to listen to his primitive mode of communication, and if he doesn’t listen to reason, society will send his brand of ‘getting to know each other’ the way of the Neanderthal.

“The Man who said Good Morning” is a fun story about a man who is having some innocent fun. Louis is rediscovering himself and that makes others uncomfortable. I liked how Mr. Gamelli decided to introduce a society where only silent, psychic interaction is allowed. Nice story that could have used some expanding.

Annalisa begs her father to take her to an unsavory fair in “The Jug Game” (debut 09/23/10) by Jennifer Moore. While her father disappears in a beer tent, Annalisa is encouraged to play a jug game. The prize is she gets to keep the soul inside if she wins.

“The Jug Game” puzzles me. The stories ending left me unsatisfied and I wondered if I read the complete version.

“The Fosterling” (debut 09/24/10) by Therese Arkenberg starts off in a shack of a house that is the home of the future king, Hepastian IV. It has been seven years the young prince has lived in the slums and it is Jain Harley’s duty to retrieve the boy and take him to New Geneva to reunite him with his father the king. The foster mother is not ready to give up her ‘Jacky’ and the boy isn’t eager to leave the only home he has known. Jain is chosen for this duty because she does it well, even when crushing migraines afflict her without mercy.

“The Fosterling” is a good story that is written very well. Jain Harley is convincing as a duty bound Captain of the Guard who has a job that simply sucks. All the past kings have spent their first seven years living in the slums so they will learn compassion. Jain is mystified on why Jacky doesn’t want to leave the ghetto he was raised in and wonders at one point “Didn’t all kids dream of being princes?” Coupled with the stress of tearing a young child from the only home he knows, a recurring migraine inflicts Jain.

I could find little fault with this piece. Therese Arkenberg is a very skilled writer. The story is solid and quick but is thin with content. Nevertheless I enjoyed reading it very much.

“Long Pig” (debut 09/27/10) by Matthew Johnson, is the name of a new restaurant featuring a popular chef. The menu is unique and the food is delicious thanks to a chef with a unique past and a commitment to put all he has into his creations.

It wasn’t too difficult to figure out what “Long Pig” was all about. Too many clues made it obvious early on. The chef’s willingness to share his past to his customers made him more creepy than interesting to me.

The restaurant’s customers may have found “Long Pig” appetizing but it didn’t satisfy me.

“Sparks” (debut 09/28/10) by Mari Ness is about a man who has replaced his hands with wands. The protagonist is drawn to the mysterious man and the lovely sparks his wands create. She takes great effort to not stare at his wands and wants to learn why he would make such a trade.

“Sparks” is a story of desire. The protagonist clearly has fallen for the stranger. I however was not drawn into his spell and fail to see the appeal he has over her. The appeal didn’t translate to me.

Unlike the protagonist, I failed to fall under “Sparks” ‘spell.

Jack and Sarah share tea in their home, drinking it out of their favorite cup, just as they always did in “Small Differences” (debut 09/29/10) by Tim Patterson. The only problem is this is the first time they met.

“Small Differences” is a story set in a world where alternate universes have intersected. People are switched into a new one that is very similar to the one they originated in. Slight changes make it different. Sarah and Jack shared a life with their alternate selves and their not-quite-the-same past makes their meeting painful and hopeful.

Not a bad story but one that was too brief for me to enjoy. Not that it needs expanding. I think the author got as much as he could from the idea.

George Washington is about to attend his inaugural in “A Little-Known Historical Fact” (debut 09/30/10) by Tim McDaniel. He talks with his aide Billy and tells him what his mother said he could accomplished if he applied himself.

This short story is just plain silly. The premise relies on GW’s mother knowledge of a term that I believe didn’t exist in her era.

Overview

I asked an editor of a leading review outlet on why DSF is ignored. The answer I got back was there was too much to review and the editors must be nuts if they think they can keep up throwing so many stories, at the rate they pay, for essentially free. Maybe Mr. Laden and Ms Barasso have deep pockets, maybe they have a business model other publications should emulate. I don’t know. I do know, word count wise, they publish as much as Analog, F & SF, and Asimov do each month. Sure they’re putting out 20 plus new stories a month, but 80% are under 2000 words and most are flash fiction size; an easy to get through length if you’re looking for a daily outlet. The question is, does the quality match up to what other pro-rated magazines have to offer. The answer is yes.

I found almost all the stories of a high quality. Because they were so high, my standards for recommendation were raised. If Jon and Michele can continue to publish such thoughtful, creative, and outstanding fiction, I see no reason why Daily Science Fiction won’t be the next big thing in publishing today.

My personal favorite of the month was “Chameleon” by Colin Harvey. I just simply loved it.

I recommend that you all sign up to receive a daily hand-delivered story from Daily Science Fiction. You can sign up for them, and read these stories and other ones here.

Frank is lurking back around in Diabolical Plots again. Other places have throw him out on his ear but Dave is a sucker for people that have worn out their welcome elsewhere. So Dave has Frank review to keep him out of his hair.