The Best of Pseudopod 2011

written by David Steffen

Another year has passed, which brings us to another year’s worth of “Best of” lists (see previous lists, including of previous years of this podcast here). First up, is Pseudopod, the horror branch of the Escape Artists podcast tree. Pseudopod was on hiatus for the first few months of 2011, but they have been publishing stories at a steady rate again since March, and there are plenty of stories to make a list from. This list picks out my favorites published in 2011, which covers episodes 220-262, and includes some promotional stories to promote a listener incentive collection written by the Alphabet Quartet, and quite a few “Flash on the Borderlands” flash collection episodes. I only considered stories that were available on the main feed, not stories which were part of listener promotions.

One story written by me was published by Pseudopod in 2011. The story is “What Makes You Tick” and was published as one of the stories in Pseudopod 228 Flash on the Borderlands VII: Tableaux and Displays. (I didn’t consider that story for the list, but I figured I could get away with a quick shameless plug)

(54 stories, including What Makes You Tick, including ___ Flash on the Borderlands episodes, including a promotional Alphabet Quartet episode) So it will be up to a top 5, with 3 honorable mentions. Episodes 220-262. Not considered for this list was my story What Makes You Tick which was published in Pseudopod 228: “Flash on the Borderlands VII: Tableaux and Displays.”

 

The List

1. The Voice in the Night by William Hope Hodgson
Excellent classic horror, all the more notable because it is still effective a century later. A ship encounters an unseen speaker on the dark ocean, and that speaker tells a story of a shipwreck and a horrible fate.

2. To My Wondering Eyes Did Appear by Larry C. Kay
Christmas horror! We’ve all heard of Santa Claus, but what about his lesser known brother Rumple Klaus? A dark story with shades of Krampus and Black Pete. A story of a remembered childhood encounter told by one sister to another. Where this story really shines is its strong, realistic characters.

3. Pageant Girls by Caroline Yoachim
Childhood beauty pageants are a subject ripe for horror adaptations. A brief look into another world, where the living dead can enter.

4. Dearest Daughter by Kate Marshall
A really good unreliable narrator storyThe story seemed very straightforward at first, even a little too straightforward, but at several points during the story new information become available that made me revise my understanding. This can be done badly or done well; here it is done very well. Much of this one is open for alternate interpretations, which makes it very fun to discuss and re-read.

5. Pieces by M.C. Funk
A terrible and twisted love story all the more disturbing because it seems to be a metaphor for the worst kind of relationship.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Terrible Lizard King by Nathaniel Lee

Black Hill by Orrin Grey

Little Monster by LynnCee Faulk
At first, this story seems all too familiar, but the author makes it unique.

 

 

Daily Science Fiction: May Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

A whole year of stories have gone by and here I am, 4 months behind. I’m catching up though. DSF does it make it easy for me. As long as they keep picking good ones, I’ll keep reading.

On to this month’s offeringsâ€

 

The Stories

A vampire comes to visit an old man on his deathbed in “Her Old Man” by Chuck Rothman (debuted 5/2 and reviewed by Anonymous). It is obvious that they had some sort of relationship earlier in their lives and he is resentful of the other female vampire that turned her. She makes him an offer…

This is quite a short story, but I wasn’t really taken with it. I love vampire stories and I think perhaps that is the problem: I am fairly certain I have seen this premise before, so it didn’t feel like anything new. It was well written, though and the twist at the end may appeal to others…

 

“Starlight Cantata” by Brian Laurence Hurrel (debut 5/3 and reviewed by Anonymous)

“Starlight Cantata” follows the first interstellar, faster-than-light space craft as it takes in new solar systems whilst sampling the delights of Earth’s ever expanding electromagnetic emission shell. The further they move from Earth, the older the broadcasts they hear–like traveling backward through time.

This didn’t really feel like a story to me as their was no actual conflict, no plot, no characters (the narrator is unnamed)–nothing really happens apart from observations. It was, however, a thoughtful piece and I quite like how it ended. I sat and thought about this story a little before writing this review and decided that this story itself was like piece of music and tails off quite nicely…

I think that was the effect the author was aiming for and, on that basis, I’d recommend it. Recommended.

 

The church raffle has finally received a donation worth bidding for in “R is for Raffle” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/4). Serena Draffin has donated her life. She may be sick of it but the prospects of stepping into a marriage with a handsome husband and lovely home makes it a grand prize indeed. The novel idea sparks others to donate things about them that others may find valuable. The church will have no trouble filling its treasury this year.

Quite clever, inventive and fun. One of the better stories the Quartet wrote.

 

Yesterday boy lives in the past, but is threatened by street thugs in the present in “Barb the Bomb and Yesterday Boy” by Julian Mortimer Smith (debut 5/5 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Barb the bomb intervenes, suffering the consequences. She is saved by her mother. The yesterday boy, stuck in the past, does not know about his savior, yet.

This is a nice little diversion, well done and with a nice message. It leaves one asking the question about how our actions of today will affect the future.

 

“Values, Vision and Mission” by James Van Pelt (debut 5/6 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Crockett is typical of someone in today’s corporate world that just wants to do his job, but management’s business of “teambuilding” constantly gets in the way. The connection to his dog Max foreshadows a new meaning to the old saw, “It’s a dog eat dog world.”

This story isn’t for everyone. It’s a nice fable about the modern corporate world. A fable not because of the obvious, but because of the idea that someone who actually does the work gets rewarded.

 

“Unveiled” by Ron S. Friedman (debut 5/9 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). This story is reminiscent of H.G. Wells, “The Time Machine”, where the inventor has a difficult time making his friends believe his tale of time travel. In this case the inventor has a novel means of proof.

The story appealed to me on a couple of levels, the obvious tip of the author’s cap to Wells, but also the unexpected twist of the proof. It is so simple that you wonder why Wells didn’t use it, but of course then he would have no story to tell.

 

“Facts about Gel, Glop and Other Semi-Viscous Substance You May Have Encountered Recently” by Michael Canfield (debut 5/10 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). This is a fact sheet, complete with misspellings and mistakes normally found in all such works, about a product gone awry. The author even includes the obligatory appeal at the end.

Given the debacle we see every day from corporate America (and other countries for that matter), governments and agencies I’m not sure if the author expects us to laugh or cry. I laughed.

 

Encephalon awaits death and the end to everything in “S is for Solipsism” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/11). The former supervillain (once known as Brainwave) has concluded that the world is a product of his imagination. His rival, Deathdrive, has come to end his tyranny once and for all. Encephalon is eager for it all to end, as his enemy.

An intriguing tale. Much of it is told as a classic bad guy monologue, pontificating to their enemy in the mist of a battle. The imagery is quite good, serving well to the satire the story is. This was one of the best the Quartet has written. So good I’m going to give it a†Recommended

 

The first man on Mars needs to be one driven dude in “Can’t Stop” by K T (debut 5/12).

Countless sacrifices, sums of money, and candidates are weeded through to get to the one person who will first set foot on the red planet. Such a man will have regrets to reach that goal.

Cute story. Not bad for such a brief tale.

 

“As Fast As You Can” by Nathaniel Matthews Lee (debut 5/13 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). What is it about super-hero stories that fascinate us? We read them and watch them and seemingly can’t get enough. Is it because like no other character, we wish we were them? We wish we could fly or that we were very strong.

Sideswipe is a speedster. He not only moves fast, but spends his moments in a state of sped up, so that we are all moving very slowly. He saves as many victims of accidents as he can, they, not knowing he was even there, believe they have simply been teleported to safety. But Sideswipe is also running from his pain. A failure to save his lost love which eats away as his seemingly eternal existence.

On the surface, perhaps we’ve seen these things before, but author Nathaniel Matthews Lee takes us beyond the mere facts and delves into the emotions of the characters/heroes and we learn not all is as it seems. Pain is found in the truth, and in the lies. This short story has more depth of character than some super-hero movies I’ve seen, and pound for pound, just as much action and gadgets.

Lengthier than most stories you’ll find at Daily Science Fiction, this one is worth every micro-second spent reading it. Recommended.

 

“The Instructions” by Amanda C. Davis (debut 5/16 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is a harmless, fun little piece of writing about how to improve your life through the benefit of elvish folk, what they take in payment, and why not to slack off when the going gets good.

This isn’t a story per se in that it has a plot, but is nevertheless a fun, short read regarding the mythological creatures we sometimes take for granted.

Or at least, that’s what the instructions say we’ll do.

 

An epidemic paralyzes relationships in “Say Zucchini, and Mean It” by Peter M Ball (debut 5/17). The phrase ‘I love you’ has turned many into babbling catatonic patients. They repeat the words over and over. Hospitals fill and love ones are left behind. Changing the meaning of words seems to be the only hope.

This story revolves around the protagonist and Alice. The two have drifted together, her boyfriend and his roommate fallen victim to the strange disease. The protagonist strives to come to grips with his relationship and the world inflicted with plague driving mankind indifferent.

This tale was odd, and its oddness went beyond the strange premise. The story had the effect on me the author’s fictional disease had on characters. It left me down and indifferent.

 

Getting on the latest reality show should be a piece of cake for the muse of dance in “T is for Terpsichore” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/18). The muse stands in the long line for auditions and watches and absorbs the other contestant’s routines. By the time it is her turn, she should have all she needs to win.

This story reminds me of the time Dolly Parton participated in a Dolly Parton look-a-like contest and finished second. An amusing work of flash fiction.

 

The League of Heroes has lost one of it’s own in “They Do It With Robots” by Eric James Stone (debut 5/19). A grisly stage show out at sea has led Guillermo to Ogden’s trail. Only a robot would be used to cut out a man’s heart, or a hero who had let his love down.

This short piece had an extraordinary premise to it, but the symbolism of it was grand. My only complaint was its short length hampered its execution. Nice idea. Would have been better with more words, in my humble opinion.

 

A model’s will to endure is the theme in “A Study in Flesh and Mind” by Liz Argall (debut 5/20). The protagonist in this story is a nude model for an art class. The instructor is known as the Great Teacher. He is hard and harsh on his students, and on his models as well. A job like this is hard to come by. Holding onto it will test her limits of endurance.

“A Study in Flesh and Mind” is a story of cruelty. There is only one word that fits the Great Teacher , sadistic. The model has worked hard and overcame much to get where she is. She takes pride in her ability to hold her position and interpret the pose her instructor desires. The Great Teacher seems to be bent on stretching the limits of what she can take, and does his best to shove her over the cliff.

This is a story I could have gotten into more if I knew anything about modeling, or even participated in a sketch class before. Where the setting left me feeling a bit out of place, the authors ability to submerge the reader into the protagonist head made this story a work of art. It is only from her point of view can we experience the sadistic cruelty of the Great Teacher and see the session for what it really is , a one-sided battle of wills. I could feel the protagonist’s anger and hatred for the Great Teacher, and I could identify with her exhaustion at the end. Special note: the ending was fabulous.

It is only because of the slow start and my opinion that this story was a bit on the long side that reserves me from giving this piece my full-fledged recommendation, but if you’re looking for the definition of a character driven story, by all means, read this one.

 

A village combats a horrible monster in “Shades of Orange” by Caroline M Yoachim (debut 5/23). Demons deposit Ao, an orange, poisonous creature in the middle of the village. The villagers chose the protagonist, a fellow farmer, to lead the fight against it. The battle is hard fought. Victory means little for the monster’s poison has already infected the land.

This story has its roots in the Vietnam war and associates what Agent Orange did to the poor people over there. The tale failed to move me. Too depressing and predictable.

 

Two asteroid prospectors contemplate how they will spend their riches in “Men of Wealth” by Ross Willard (debut 5/24). Thomas and Geezer have just found the big score. They gamble as they wait and talk of what they will both do when they get back to the station.

This is one of those tales where you have to wait to the end to find the piece of this puzzle of a story you know is missing. The author set this up as well he could, but I still felt cheated in the end.

 

“U is for Ubiquitous” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 5/25) Privacy? This 68-word story hinges on the present day dual definition of window. Not bad, considering its length.

 

The World CafÃ’ offers six beverages in “To Soothe Ravaged Throats” by Allison Jamieson-Lucy (debut 5/26). The items on the menu are potent, and are more exotic the further down the list you read, save the last. That one item is a noble choice, and for a price anyone can afford.

A quaint story with an appropriate length. There is little to quibble about it, but not one I would describe as special. Not a bad ending.

 

Friendship runs deep in “Cloaks and Gloves” by Patricia Russo by (debut 5/27). Rall is afraid of the world. Verenisse wishes to help her talented friend and offers to go on a quest to get him a pair of hero gloves. With the help of her cloak, Verenisse braves the harsh world to get her friend the courage he needs.

An editor friend once remarked how amazed he was to receive so many stories that were about characters who walked out their door and go for a walk without anything much happening to them. “Cloaks and Gloves” didn’t have that empty of a plot but it was close.

The story is set in a fantasy dystopia. Civilization appears to have crumpled. Sinister creatures called ‘Rat Folk’ lurk about. Rall creates and sells charms to guard against the monsters, but he makes the charms with his bare hands, a bad idea in this world.

Verenisse, a maker of cloaks, is his friend. Her cloaks give her a false appearance. She dons a cloak of an old woman and braves the outside world.

This tale has all the makings of a dark and scary fantasy. It was setup for a conflict, but a conflict never came. Much was made of the ‘Rat Folk’ yet the characters never come across one. Verenisse does confront a group of ‘Breakers’, which are nothing more than a gang of children. The encounter becomes a non-event, which is how I would describe most of this story.

Despite its eerie setting and ominous promise, “Cloaks and Gloves” became nothing more than a story of a shopping trip in the end.

 

A desperate voice is trying to reach from the other side of your computer screen in “Remember” by Will Arthur (debut 5/30). You are John Samuels, a member of the resistance. You have discovered an important secret about the invaders, so important they placed you in a memetic coma. You now believe you are someone else, living peacefully in 2011. This is your last chance to be free of your illusion.

This story is reminiscent of the movie The Matrix. The play on this tale is you are reading very important information while you read your computer. Not a bad attempt but really, it’s been done before. So ignore the story or we’ll unplug your brain.

Â

A time traveler’s dire warning is wasted on the wrong crowd in “Just Enough Time” by Douglas K. Beagley (debut 5/31). The protagonist and his four friends are enjoying their time in Starbucks when a lovely woman from the future bursts through the door with news of the future. The five latte sippers interrupt her and ignore her pleas to listen, eager to have their own innate curiosities answered instead.

The protagonist engages in prattle in this piece. He (like his friends) come off as extraordinarily self-absorbed. His narration is, you know, like totally dumb or something , if you get my drift. A story about modern twenty-something’s refusing to get the gist of future forewarnings is one thing. Babble with a time traveler as a back-drop is quite another.

Analysis

ÂI haven’t mentioned any before but May’s cover art I really liked. The black, sinister dragon under a full moon with a castle in the background is cool.

David Steffen is the editor and owner of Diabolical Plots. It is by his good graces that you are able to read these reviews of Daily Science Fiction. But other than providing space for them, he hasn’t done a damn thing to help. Nope. Hasn’t bothered to lift a finger at all. It seems he’s too busy establishing a “writing career”.

He completely ignores my suggested path to success – buttering up the publisher with compliments – instead choosing to “submit his best material” and relying that they’ll select his work based on “merit”. Please. Like that will get you anywhere.

Sure, he has some success, managing professional sales to places like Bull Spec, Digital Science Fiction, One Buck Horror, AE Canadian Science Fiction Review, and DAILY SCIENCE FICTION!?!

I guess congratulations are in order, Dave. Could you at least try to not look so happy about it?

Website Spotlight: Kongregate

written by David Steffen

I came across a very fun website recently, on the recommendation of Nathaniel Lee (of Mirrorshards fame). The site is called Kongregate and it’s an ever-growing collection of online mini-games. I’m not sure how I haven’t heard of it–it’s been around for a few years. Kongregate is more than just your run-of-the-mill game site. Not only are the games clever and fun,the site has an overarching Achievements system to make everything all the more fun. Most or all of the games are made by indie developers, and I love that this site provides a showcase for their abilities.

When you view a game you can view a list of achievements you can reach by playing this game. They may be things that you would normally do while playing the game anyway like “pass levels 1-5” or they could be something extra that you wouldn’t have thought of if not for the Achievement list. Each achievement is worth a certain amount of points, and higher points upgrade the level of your account. To take full advantage of this, you just have to register for the site which is free and you don’t have to give away any important information to sign up.

According to their “About Us” page, indie developers can upload their games quickly and easily, and the most popular games end up on the home page. The developers retain full rights to their creations (which is great) and also get a share of the advertising and donation revenues. The site provides a lot of extras for them too, such as keeping a persistent list of high scores and player achievements. It sounds like a really great place for indie developers to get their games out to the world.

A Few of the Games

And, here are a few of the games on there that I found the most fun. There is a wide variety of games there, so if these don’t suit your fancy, odds are that something else will.

Amorphous+

My favorite that I’ve found. In this one you’re a blob hunter trying to clear out “gloople” hives. Your weapon: a person-sized meat cleaver. The controls are very simple, the characters walks towards the mouse, and swings his blade wide on a left-click. The first enemies you come against are harmless, little green blobs that will knock you off balance if they bump into you. There are more than a dozen different kinds of blobs, each requiring a different strategy, from the Melties that splash acid everywhere when you splat them, or the Biters that pounce straight at you with teeth flashing. This is a great game, fun and very challenging. One important tip: Use a real mouse. Playing this game with a laptop touchpad really kills the wrist.

Continuity

This is a very close 2nd that I’ve found so far, a very clever little game, a side-scroller puzzle solver with a structure based on those sliding puzzle games that I so rarely solve. You know the type I’m talking about–you have a rectangular grid of rectangles, each with an image, and one of the smaller rectangles is missing so that you can slide the tiles around until you form a larger image out of the tiles. This game isn’t exactly like that because the goal is not to make a big picture. You control a stick figure that exists within this grid of squares and your objective is to collect a key and bring it to the exit door to pass the level. You can rearrange the squares to rearrange the level, but you can only pass from one square to another if the walls along their common edge match up with each other. You pass through each level by alternately controlling the figure and rearranging the level (during which time the figure is frozen in place). The first levels make a good tutorial and seem almost too easy, but the difficulty quickly picks up and things get much more interesting.

The Company of Myself

Another fun side-scroller puzzle solver. In this case you control a self-professed hermit who must find a way to reach the exit door in each level. Okay, so that’s pretty straightforward, but what makes it interesting is his ability to create shadow selves–if you walk around the level, do any action, then press spacebar, then you’ll be brought back to the beginning and a shadow of you will replay your previous actions, requiring you to figure out how to work with your self phased across time to solve the puzzles. There’s a storyline attached to this one, but I thought it was pretty corny.

Gamma Bros.

A neo-retro space shooter game. You can move freely around the screen and fire in the four cardinal directions. A multitude of alien spaceships attack from every direction. This is old-school game challenging, no holds barred. I have not beat this game, but I’ve had a lot of fun losing.

Robot Wants Ice Cream

A side-scroller action game. You controller a little robot up against an army of attacking robots in your quest to find ice cream. The fun of this game comes from seeking out all the upgrades, allowing you to jump higher, upgrade weaponry, and even to fly. Just challenging enough to be fun.

Storygasm Results!

written by Nathaniel Lee

Here are the stories resulting from the Storygasm event in rough chronological order of prompts received. Feel free to take yours and post it elsewhere or link directly to this page. Thanks for contributing!

Prompt – “Lonely Cowbots” by Damon Shaw

Initially, CP0012 ignored it when CP0013 arrived with a Stetson perched on his heat sink. CP0012’s programming contained very few instructions about non-bovine topics. The following day, however, CP0013 began broadcasting sounds and disturbing the herd:

“>10 N=BOTTLESBEER
>20 N=100
>30 PRINT N-1
>40 IF N>0 GOTO 20”

CP0012 opened a communications channel. “Query: Justification for broadcast.”

“Answer: I’m a cowboy! Howdy-howdy-howdy!”

CP0012 filed a repair request and returned to watching cows. Insofar as CP0012 felt anything, he liked cows. Cows were predictable.

In the distance, CP0013 emitted the first sounds of a synthesized harmonica. CP0012 shut down his microphone.

Prompt – “Lost Hearts” by David Longhorn

She answered the door on the fourth ring.

“I want it back,” I said.

She shrugged one delicate shoulder and turned away, leaving the door ajar. I stepped inside. Racks of cages lined the hallway, full of hearts. They were limp, despondent things, gazing out at her with hopeless longing. Three more, a bit better groomed, lurked nervously on the couch. She shoved them aside and seated herself.

“I don’t have it,” she said, crossing her legs.

“You†how?”

She shrugged again. “It got lost. You should take better care of your heart if you don’t want it getting lost.”

Prompt – “Buridan’s Ass” by Loren Eaton

The first thing I saw when I walked into the Philosophy department was Buridan’s naked ass.

“Buridan!” I shouted, covering my eyes. “What-? Are you†floating?”

Buridan rotated towards me, and I felt an odd pressure, as though I were suddenly under ten feet of water. Buridan drifted further away. “I have achieved enlightenment, of a sort,” he said. “Recall the donkey and the hay.”

“The free-will proof?”

“He was trapped between desirables. I, in contrast, loathe everything equally. Thus, I am suspended.”

“Department meeting starts in ten minutes.”

Buridan sighed. “Help me down. I need to find my pants.”

Prompt – “The Relativity of Relativity” by Matt Kempke

“Family Reunion!” the banner proclaimed. White puffs of hair and bristling mustaches bobbed around the pavilion.

“Have you met Cousin Bernie?” Meredith gushed, leading her charge over to the grill. “He’s discovered the reason hot dogs come in tens but buns only in eights.”

“Howdy!” Bernie waved his tongs.

“And here Uncle Cal. He’s discovered the relationship between sound and intelligence. How does it go, Cal? The quieter you are, the smarter you seem?”

Cal nodded solemnly.

“And me, well, this here is my final experiment. A=N^f~1.” Meredith smiled. “As the number of family members increases, personal aggravation approaches one.”

Prompt – “I’m Not Telling You Twice” by Jim Murdoch

“Matthew Roderick Johannson, get down here this instant!” Mom called from downstairs.

“Jeez, Mom. You don’t have to tell me twice.” Matt paused his game.

“I’m not telling you twice,” said Mom from the doorway.

“Oh,” said Matt. “Sorry, Mom1. I thought you were Mom3.” He squinted until the quantum phantasms merged back into a unified Mom, or at least a Mom-shaped cloud representing the current most likely Mom.

“Those games are terrible for your ability to focus. What if you’d slipped into the wrong stream completely?”

“Mom!” Matt rolled his eyes. “The chances of that are like mathematically zero.”

Prompt – “Walrus Planet” by Sam

They gathered in thousands on the vast ice floes. Along the edges, there was a constant transition as hungry individuals slipped into the chill waters while others hooked their tusks into the ice to heave their sated bulks out of the water and rest.

In the distance, off to the south, there were flashes of light, like a sporadic Aurora. Then, a rumble as of far-off thunder. Several whiskery heads lifted curiously, but when nothing further presented itself, they returned to the business of sleeping and digesting.

Another walrus slipped into the water. The southern sky slowly darkened to night.

Prompt – “Oh my god, this wasn’t a dream†it was all real.” by Joey Jordan

“I had such a bad dream,” said Remy. He leapt into the air and spun lazily in a circle, petting the barking dog-tree for comfort. “My house wasn’t endless, and I went outside to go to work, only I couldn’t fly. Then, in the car, the radio just played music and no one appeared or disappeared. I had to drive the whole time. I didn’t skip ahead at all.”

“Sounds unpleasant,” agreed the leprechaun.

“Then I went to get a haircut, and, Remy paused, his hand drifting to his neck. Cool air brushed the freshly shorn skin. “Oh my God,

Prompt – “What kinda person walks around in a yellow hooded cloak? It’s not like it would hide you from anyone.” by Joey Jordan, who apparently didn’t read the rules very closely

Chuck’s finger tightened on the trigger when he spotted the bright yellow figure. He pushed through the foliage.

“Hey,” he hissed. “What are you doing in a yellow cloak? Why are you wearing that?”

The man gave Chuck a quizzical glance. “Because it’s raining out,” he said, gesturing at the sweltering, sunlit treetops with his briefcase. Chuck saw wingtips poking out beneath the rain-slicker. “I’m not getting soaked waiting for the bus.”

Chuck looked for the rest of his squad. When he turned back, the small clearing was empty, save for a distant growling engine and the smell of diesel.

Prompt – “Bargain Messiah” by David Steffen

“There,” Jeezie said. “That’s the best I can do.” Sweat poured from his forehead and soaked his ragged beard as he handed over the cup.

Mary sipped and grimaced. “Cherry Kool-Aid,” she said. “Unsweetened.”

“Sugar is really hard,” said Jeezie, somewhat defensively.

“What about walking on water?”

“Sure!” Jeezie brightened. “I need a vat and a bunch of corn starch. I saw it on Mythbusters.”

Mary sighed. “Salvation?”

“Well†I do know how you can save money on car insurance.”

“Forget it,” said Mary. “Mom was right. Splurge on major purchases and only use the bargain bin for little stuff.”

Prompt – “Axe of Kindness” by Gary Cuba

“Here.”

“No ‘thank you’?” said Leon.

The barista glanced over Leon’s shoulder and paled. “T-t-thanks,” she stammered.

“You’re welcome.” Leon tucked a dollar in the tip jar. “See? Kindness pays.” He walked out with Throckdar in tow. Immediately, they spotted the traffic cop leaving a ticket on Leon’s car.

“Oh, really!” said Leon. “I’m only thirty seconds late.”

Throckdar hefted his axe significantly.

The cop swallowed. “I’ll just tear this up.”

Leon and Throckdar settled into the car, the suspension groaning. “So how’d you get stuck with this, anyway?” Leon asked.

Throckdar shrugged. “Community service. Goblin king had good lawyer.”

Prompt: “The last man on earth sits in his living room. SUDDENLY he
finds his mailbox full of bills” by Sebastian Kempke

Mortimer opened his mailbox. ÂBills, bills, ads, and bills. Automatically generated, computer-printed, sent in pre-paid envelopes through the mechanized mail system. ÂUntouched by human hands from the moment they were printed until the robotic delivery trucks shunted them into Mort’s mail slot. ÂHe handled them carefully, as though they might explode.

“Occupant, current resident…” Mortimer slit the envelopes open and read each word aloud. ÂNobody heard him, of course. ÂHe might be the only person left. ÂOther than the robots, of course.

“Here’s one with my name on it,” Mort told the cleaning bot. ÂIt whirred and trundled blithely on.

Nathaniel Lee is an amateur wordsmith with delusions of grandeur. He’s been writing stories since the second grade, but as yet has not found anyone willing to pay for them. ÂHe maintains a daily writing blog at Mirrorshards.org, and several of those stories have winkled their way onto the Drabblecast (Episodes 154, 156, and 158). Nathan and his wife keep two cats, Ozymandius and Belshazzar, and they spend most of their free time staring into glowing screens of one sort or another. ÂNathan is also an avid board gamer and roleplayer who suffers from a chronic lack of willing participants.

Storygasm: A Deluge of Drabble

written by Nathaniel Lee

DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MAY 31ST! GET YOUR TRIGGER IN!

I am pleased to be featured here on Diabolical Plots, and equally pleased to offer a bit of entertainment for you nice people. Here’s how it works: you give me a prompt, and I’ll turn it into a drabble, a 100-word story for you. The best approach, speaking from personal experience, is to keep the prompt between two and five words long, and to avoid getting too specific. For example, something like “werewolf shampoo” can lead all sorts of directions and gives me something to work with. “A depressed angel commits suicide” nails it down a bit too much; it’s not a horrid prompt, but I don’t have a lot of room to embroider. “Dave the fat clown gets chased and eaten by an alligator” is no fun at all to write, because it’s already got everything in it. To participate, just post your prompt within the next 48 hours (ending 6am central on Wednesday). The resulting drabbles will be posted here on Diabolical Plots for your entertainment.

For a few examples of my drabbles, check out Mirrorshards, where I post a daily drabble. A couple examples: Bag Full of Name, and The Kraken Awakens.

I started Mirrorshards in November of 2008 as a writing exercise. There were several factors; a lack of energy to work on long-term projects, a desire for daily writing practice, and a niggling concern about my consistent failure to maintain any sort of personal journal or blog for any length of time. I remembered reading about a poet who wrote a limerick every day because the strict limits of the form gave him the literary equivalent of a quick morning exercise routine. I thought I’d try for a similar structure in prose. I did some quick research on short-shorts and nanofiction, and I eventually settled on 100 words as a nice round number that wasn’t too short and wasn’t too long. Since then, I have written over 54,000 words, one day and one story at a time. It’s far from the only writing I do, but it’s important to me to maintain that continuity. I pretty quickly migrated to Blogger, and a few months ago I registered a custom domain name. Everything at the site is under a Creative Commons license (Derivative works welcome for non-commercial purposes and with attribution.)

Nathaniel Lee is an amateur wordsmith with delusions of grandeur. He’s been writing stories since the second grade, but as yet has not found anyone willing to pay for them. ÂHe maintains a daily writing blog at Mirrorshards.org, and several of those stories have winkled their way onto the Drabblecast (Episodes 154, 156, and 158). Nathan and his wife keep two cats, Ozymandius and Belshazzar, and they spend most of their free time staring into glowing screens of one sort or another. ÂNathan is also an avid board gamer and roleplayer who suffers from a chronic lack of willing participants.