The Best of Clarkesworld 2014

written by David Steffen

Clarkesworld has been getting bigger and better.  They’re publishing more stories than ever before and they’re good as ever, publishing more episodes than any of the other podcasts I listen to.  Neil Clarke continues to edit and Kate Baker continues to host and usually narrate the podcast.

 

The List

1.  “The Clockwork Soldier” by Ken Liu
I enjoyed this story so much, moving science fiction story involving text adventures (like Zork).

2.  “The Magician and LaPlace’s Demon” by Tom Crosshill
Probability magician vs near-omnipotent AI.  Great stuff.

3.  “Fives Stages of Grief After the Alien Invasion” by Caroline M. Yoachim
Another great one by Caroline, aliens that look like frogs but are intangible mists start making deals with Earth.

4.  “The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye” by Matthew Kressel
Omnipotent super-AI finds a drifting human eras after the rest of humanity has gone extinct.

5.  “The Saint of the Sidewalks” by Kat Howard
Its the rituals that make a saint.

6.  “Seeking boarder for rm w/ attached bathroom, must be willing to live with ghosts ($500 / Berkeley)” by Rahul Kanakia
Pretty much what it says on the tin.

7.  “The Sledge-Maker’s Daughter” by Alastair Reynolds
Hard to describe the parts I liked about it without spoiling it…

Honorable Mentions

“A Gift in Time” by Maggie Clark

“Stone Hunger” by N.K. Jemisin

“Cameron Rhyder’s Legs” by Matthew Kressel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Science Fiction March Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

It has been a very long time since we last appeared. A busy schedule and active life is our excuse. My apologies to Rahul Kanakia for pestering him for an interview, then dropping off the face of the Earth. I recommend that you all visit his blog (very interesting, entertaining, and insightful) and consider reading his latest book.

With much regrets, next month’s review (April) will be our last. I won’t be getting all gushy with you about it now. I’m saving that for my next review (need to fill up some space). But please take a gander of our thoughts of March’s tales, then visit go Daily SF and read them for your own amusement.

 

“Wedding Day” by Brian Trent (debut 3/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Because this story relies on its secret, a review is impossible without :spoilers:

Men from the future have come back to marry some of the most brilliant women of our time before an asteroid strike. This is a cool idea, but I had trouble with some inconsistencies, like why are they so hungry? And certainly the asteroid didn’t destroy the planet or there would be no future men to travel back.

I did like the story because of the details and the teasing that something unusual was going on, leading us on just enough to get hit with the hammer of the last line.

 

“Love is a Component of This Story” by Liz Argall (debut 3/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Indeed, the title sums up this story about the customs of a foreign people, and two volunteers being tested/examined with various sexually stimulating scenarios and machines.

Although I couldn’t exactly find a connection between the two concepts, nor a reason for the female character being named Bruce, (a constant distraction) I found the story fun and easy to read. And of course, being a romance, with a most unique path to the characters’ meeting, I felt the aww factor.

 

“Luna City, At Night” by Karl El-Koura (debut 3/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

Hard-edged descriptors give this story its grim feel of a future gone mechanical (automatic, not robotic). A man, a future player if you will, finds and beds women who he assumes are interested in his wealth, (his silver watches, and bulging wallet). He seems to be a working man, yet has money to allow the women to steal, in the night, when he pretends to be asleep.

Interesting concept that he accepts the women’s thievery as payment for getting what he wants, but is he happy in his mundane world of repetition? Only after a woman doesn’t follow through with the expected, does the man begin to see the unexpected.

 

The price for survival is a long outstanding debt. “The Alien Tithe” by Eric Brown (debut 3/6 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of colonists who crash landed on their new home. The native aliens saved and healed the survivors of the disaster but have demanded a tithe for their good deed. The story follows along the trek of one the colonists as he leads his children to the aliens to pay for the debt.

“Alien Tithe” is a chilling tale. The gratitude the colonists had to their alien hosts has evolved into a yoke of guilt. I found this short tale to be intriguing and told well.

Recommended

 

Life goes on after the world is dead. “Through Dry Places, Seeking Rest” by Megan Arkenberg (debut 3/7 and reviewed by Frank D). Is the tale of a mute. Civilization has collapsed shortly after angels have appeared. The protagonist’s brother was murdered and now he wanders alone, seeking a running train while he walks the rotting planks and rusting rails that mark their mythical tracks.

The protagonist of this tale is a drifter with no place to go. He has lost the last person who ever meant a thing to him in a world without hope, a metaphor that proves fitting for “Through Dry Places” theme. The story, like the protagonist, simply drifts without much of a purpose.

 

Holes are filled in a popular fairy tale. “All Upon A Time” by Dani Atkinson (debut 3/10 and reviewed by Frank D) is a series of backstory narratives around the Cinderella tale.

Cute.

 

A stop at a coffee house will put you in just the right mood. “Surprise Me” by Andrew Knighton (debut 3/11 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of Yan, a counter worker at a coffee house with gift of pouring the emotion you need into your cup. A special girl, a customer who always orders ‘surprise me’ has been the object of his affection. He has brewed himself up some courage for her arrival but needy customers, and the fading effects of coffee, may sap the drink’s powers before he can ask her for a date.

“Surprise Me” is a tale of a boy trying to gather the nerve to express his feelings. It serves as a neat metaphor on the awkwardness of dating.

 

Yeast from the stars stumble upon a horrible world. “We Don’t Believe That They Are Friendly” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 3/12 and reviewed by Frank D) is a report from a surveying crew of a yeast-based life form on their findings of an isolated world.

Fun piece.

 

“This Doesn’t Appear to Be the Alien I Paid For” by Andrea G. Stewart(debut 3/13 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Sir;
When my seven year old daughter asked for a pet I sensed an opportunity to teach her about the universe. After all I’d seen your ads everywhere, at work, watching holo, even while using the urinal. So we ordered the Plum eared Noggin offered in your catalogue. It arrived not in the seven days promised, but in 12; however I chalked this up to the fact that it had to travel half way across the universe. We immediately opened the package to ensure it arrived in good shape and were relieved to see the little heart monitor ticking along in time with the creatures beating heard. When the little fellow didn’t pupate within the two weeks as promised we made the first of our calls to your customer service department. They assured us that the pupation time can vary and we were relieved when a few weeks later the pupa was occupying the terrarium. However when the creature that emerged did not have cute pear shape ears as shown in your catalogue and had a red strip down its back a second call was made to your customer service. Unfortunately it would not be our last.

If you think dealing with earth-bound customer service desks can be trying, imagine dealing with one half ways across the known universe. That is exactly what this author imagined. He did an excellent job at it. This story is infused with a dry humor that really had me chuckling all the way through. Well Done, sir.

 

“The Sentence is Always Death” by Ken Gerber and Brian Hirt (debut 3/14 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

I’m forty-three, well beyond needing a nanny, but nanny is in the audience like she always is. It’s fitting she should be there since I’m taking the rap for her. There are a few cases ahead of mine. “Case 1201, Miz Gravona,” the Judge says. The alien shuffles up front. “Miz Gravona, given your crime the sentence is death.” Of course it is, the sentence is always death.

This is an involved tale of happenstance, planning and criminality. The author envisions a future where an individual can be “erased”, removed from their own existence; then imagines the possibilities that future presents. It is fairly well written, but could have used some trimming in places. This overwriting tended to detract from the story a bit, but it’s still a piece worth reading.

 

A bulimic girl returns home with a tool to help. “Measures and Countermeasures” by Beth Cato (debut 3/17 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of Colleen, a young woman whose eating disorder landed her in the hospital. Tonight is her first dinner, but she has smuggled in a piece of technology so she can keep her calorie intake low. If only her mother knew.

“Measures” is a story of trust. Colleen is like many girls with her disease, sure that the people that are trying to help her are against her. Ms Cato demonstrates trust runs deep. The ones truly in need have a small bit still in them that trusts we will do what is best for them.

 

A new god finds his first follower. “Produce 1:1-10″ by Mur Lafferty (debut 3/18 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a lesser god and His flock of one. New gods have been springing up everywhere, spreading their word on things like the merits of exercise at the gym and such. The protagonist is an atheist who stumbles upon the god weeping at her local Piggly Wiggly. The prices of healthy food are too high and the labels are misleading. The new god of supermarkets needs an advocate to bring the truth to the masses.

A light hearted tale.

 

The dead cannot move into the next world while Death morns his loss. “Death and His Lover” by Getty Hesse (debut 3/19 and reviewed by Frank D) is a tale of the dark angel embracing the spirit of his lover. Death alone can open the Gates for the dead to travel beyond, but can’t bear to let his Jerome to leave. The din of the departed grows as they cry out to be released.

“Death” is a tale of closure. The angel knows too well the length of eternity and is unwilling to let his lover go. Touching.

 

The nanobots have come. “Goodnight, Raptor” by A. Merc Rustad (debut 3/20 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of the end of the world. Little Benny alone survives the destruction tiny nanobots have done to house, town, and family. He managed to rescue his favorite possession, a picture book on dinosaurs. The final few bots have assembled to recreate the image on the books cover, giving Benny the thing he always wanted , his very own raptor friend.

“Goodnight, Raptor” is the tale of a child’s dreams. The enormity of the disaster has not registered in his innocent mind. The last of the destructive bots coalesced to form a talking dinosaur for Benny. The tale would be cute if it wasn’t so sad.

 

What we will do for love. “Because My Heart Is Pure” by Rahul Kanakia (debut 3/21 and reviewed by Frank D) is the story of a man who is perpetuating a lie for the man he loves. Lyle is a gay man who has been pretending to be pure of heart , a genetic mutation that has made them emotionally stagnant individuals. His boyfriend, James – a reckless, passionate, self-absorbed man , is the opposite of an even keeled pure heart. James attends orgies, disappears for stretches of time, but will only shack up with a pure heart. The emotional rift Lyle feels for James he must conceal or he will lose his eccentric lover forever. But can he continue to be something he is not?

“Because My Heart” is a story of sacrifice. The pure-hearted are people who feel neither highs nor lows. Passion is all but gone from their being. They are able to absorb insults and are impassive to feelings of envy and pettiness. The obtuse nature of a pure-heart is just what a selfish free-spirit like James needs. But Lyle isn’t a pure-heart. He forces his feelings down because he knows he will lose the man he loves if they come out.

A warning to readers who haven’t read this piece: heed the warning on adult content. A short segment of this tale could have been cut out of a Penthouse like forum of a gay magazine, very graphic. This story, although well-written, rolls out as a tale of man who is putting himself through needless torment. James is not just a bad-boy of the story, he’s worse. People are just playthings to him, and for a group of people who are as close to automatons as you can get, it is no wonder why he would seek out pure-hearts; all the fun of a superficial relationship with none of the consequences. The tale is a lesson on the hazards of succumbing to your desires. Some things just aren’t worth it.

 

A man recalls why he married his wife in the last moments of their lives. “Till Death” by L.L. Phelps (debut 3/24 and reviewed by Frank D) picks up during an impending disaster. The space station the married couple has lived on has been hit by a missile and is breaking apart as it falls back to Earth. The images of their wedding day fill his head as the reality of the disaster makes it clear that it is all about to end.

“Till Death” is the sweet niche in a sad tragedy. The story takes place during the horrible moments of a terrorist attack. The tale brought back memories of 9/11 for me and thoughts of what must have been going through the minds of the victims when it became clear that their end was near.

A chilling tale.

 

“The Signal” by Spencer Sandoval (debut 3/25 and reviewed by Frank D) is a journal entry written by a worker at a SETI observatory. The protagonist of this tale has simultaneous extraordinary events. News of another civilization very much like their own has been discovered and his first child that is on the way.

“The Signal” is a story I found compelling but not original. The ending has a twist that I have seen before.

 

A bid to overthrow the machine’s human masters can be accomplished for the low price of $99.99. “Robot’s Revenge” by Sylvia Spruck Wrigley (debut 3/26 and reviewed by Frank D) is another installment in Ms Wrigley’s Postmark Andromeda series. This one is a tongue-in-cheek look at the evolution of spam into an untapped market base.

Funny. My favorite of the series.

 

A dying boy is given the gift of a full life. “Gnostilgia” by Ronald D Ferguson (debut 3/27 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of 14 year old hero, Karl , the boy who helped prevent a massacre in his high school. His heroics have left him a death’s doorstep. His doctors have an experimental dream making machine. With it, they can give him memories of life he deserved.

“Gnostilgia” is a tale where Karl’s handlers struggle with what is ethical, and what is right. They know what they are doing would not be tolerated by Karl’s parents or with the public , implanting false memories into this boy’s head , but they know there is no hope for young Karl. The full they give him is their gratitude for sacrificing his own life.

A thought provoking and sweet work of flash.

 

Reincarnated lovers meet again in the segregated south. “Starcrossed” by M. Bennardo (debut 3/30 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a young black waitress in a wartime navy town. In the back, a lone white man sits by himself. She recognizes him as someone she has met before, a forbidden lover of from a hundred previous lifetimes.

“Starcrossed” is a romance. The two characters are appropriately named Romeo and Juliet. For generations dating back thousands of years, the pair are destined to meet as people on different sides of the tracks. Their romances are always forbidden, customs of the times deeming them unfit to be together, and like Shakespeare’s play, always end in tragic finale.

Growing up, the past lives always seemed like a dream to Juliet, but when her Romeo appears, she can feel the pull of their destiny drawing them together. Unlike before, this time the pair is older, and Juliet has already started a life, with a family if her own. Her tale becomes a struggle; will an ordained desire drag her onto a familiar path? Or does she have an alternative choice.

“Starcrossed” is recreated and reworked look at a familiar trope. I found the story inventive, engaging, and well worth the read.

 

The world outside is falling apart in Light and Ash by Alan Bao (debut 3/31 and reviewed by Frank D), but for two romantic lovers, it might as well be another world. War rages in Asia but for a couple in New York, it is of little consequence. It is Christmas, and it is snowing, or is that ash?

A haunting tale.

 

 

Rahul KanakiaRahul Kanakia

Our short-lived author spotlight of Daily Science Fiction‘s most prolific authors features an artist known for creating flawed protagonists. His much anticipated YA novel ENTER TITLE HERE is a story described as Gossip Girls meets House of Cards. We wanted to know a little more of what made him tick, so we asked him 3 questions that we drew out of a hat.

 

Do you have a favorite author of short fiction? A writer whose work we should sample at least once in our life?

Well, if we’re talking prescriptively, then no. Plenty of famous authors haven’t read Ulysses, and it’s no big deal. You gotta read what resonates with you. However, if we’re just talking about short story writers who’re really good and who I recommend highly, then I’d say that Borges is pretty worthwhile. He writes stories that are completely unlike anyone else’s. No one else could spin a long entirely-plotless story about a library that that contains all human knowledge. However, since most people have probably already heard of Borges then I’ll also note that Maureen McHugh’s After The Apocalypse is one of the best collections I’ve read in the past five years. I get chills even thinking about it. Her stories changed the way that I approach science fiction. Some of them are so beautifully subtle. I’m reminded, for instance, of the story “Useless Things,” which is about a woman living on an isolated ranch who has to deal with the unwanted reputation for kindness that she’s acquired amongst the migrants who’re traveling north in a future United States where life is just ever-so-slightly worse than it is now.

 

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as an author?

Hmm. In a specific way, I think the best story I’ve ever written is forthcoming in a literary magazine called Birkensnake. It’s called “Sexual Cannibalism,” and it’s told in a series of vignettes as a young boy grows into a man and comes to terms with his sexuality while he researches the mating habits of praying mantises in a world that is wracked by and then overcomes the effects of climate change.

In a more general way, I’m not sure I could sum up my writing career that way. I guess the thing I’m most proud of as a writer is just being persistent. I just sold my first novel after writing and submitting for ten years. I’ve had years-long periods where I didn’t sell anything, or where I felt like I’d regressed, career-wise, but I just kept going. At times it didn’t really make sense, but I did anyway, and I owe a lot of gratitude to the version of me who could have quit, but didn’t.

 

Is there a Daily SF story you would like to recommend for us to read? Anything especially memorable?

Out of all the Daily SF stories that I’ve read, I’d say that I like Sarah Pinsker’s “Twenty Ways The Desert Could Kill You.” It’s playful and inventive and chilling work about a mother and a child who suddenly move to the desert in order to escape…something.

 


Rahul Kanakia’s debut novel,
Enter Title Here, will be published by Disney-Hyperion in the fall of 2015. He has sold stories to Clarkesworld, the Intergalactic Medicine Show, Apex, Nature, and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. He holds an MFA in creative writing from the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars and a B.A. in Economics from Stanford, and he currently live in Oakland, CA. If you want to know more about him then please visit his blog at or follow him on Twitter

Daily Science Fiction: June 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Did you contribute to Daily Science Fiction‘s Kickstarter campaign? If so, thank you very much. They made their goal with room to spare. That means the daily emails with delightful and never-read-before work of science fiction and fantasy will continue. Did you catch all that June had to offer? If not, this is what you missedâ€

 

“Pictures in Crayon” by Elizabeth Shack (debut 6/3 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) takes place in a far-future, dystopian world where the earth is dying, and children are taken off-world via a lottery drawing. The narrator wants to see other stars, wants to get off earth, wants to live, but she’s not the only child in her family.

I thought the ending was somewhat predictable, however, it was no less enjoyable, and melancholy.

 

“Note to Self” by Hans Hergot (debut 6/4 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) starts in such a humorous way that I was expecting a continuous laugh riot. However, the story turned sentimental and became the best of both worlds.

Thomas’s future self has won a time-travel contest in which he’s allowed to write six words to his past self to be delivered at a particular time. (Which isn’t fully explained, but doesn’t really matter.) I won’t spoil what the six words are, because what they mean is greater than what they say, which is what makes this story so great.

 

“Three Wishes” by Melissa Mead (debut 6/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

In another delightful, twisted fairy tale from Melissa Mead, a golden coyote is stuck in a trap and thus rescued by a simple woodcutter. The woodcutter is given three wishes and mistakenly, and humorously, wastes the first two. His wife lets him have it for his foolishness, but demands the third wish be saved for something wholly selfish. She is a good wife. However, (spoiler) the woodcutter’s second wish absolutely needs to be undone.

This story, aptly, comes with a twist you might expect from a three-wish story. The twist, however, has a lot of heart.

 

“True Love” by Alex Shvartsman (debut 6/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams)

At Temporal Excursions, Inc., you can step inside the mind of a past figure and experience their lives precisely as they did, minute by minute, in only an hour.

Molly seeks the experience of pure love. The kind, she says, that just isn’t seen around. However, she is repeatedly discouraged by the real lives of Helen of Troy and Cleopatra. Apparently our history books aren’t as accurate as the true day to day lives of these historic women.

But after each disappointment Travis, an employee of Temporal Excursions, is there to listen just as he is there to plug Molly back in during each subsequent visit until. Through with the past, Molly just might have discovered something of interest in her present.

 

“The Ships That Stir Upon The Shore” by Rahul Kanakia (debut 6/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams).

In a future where the earth’s temperature is a deadly problem, people have been relegated into domes to survive. (However, this is not the focus of the story.) A broker of homes’ possessions sets his sights on a wealthy home whose owner is still alive. In the hopes that everything goes according to plan, based on past performance, he brings his family along to assist in the transition between the previous owner and them.

At first I was confused. The world made a lot of assumptions that I knew what the heck it was talking about. Then it settled into its story and I was sucked in – completely. What unfolds is as heartwarming as it can be in this quite dystopian future. I wished for a little more set-up regarding the change of heart. However, I still feel this is a top-notch story.

 

Simon gets an awesome gift that will spare him from pain in Jumping Into The Sky” by Samantha Murray (debut 6/10 and reviewed by Frank D). Grandma had finally sent Simon a birthday gift worth using: invulnerability cream, good for one day. He always wanted to jump off a cliff, remembering the look on Laura’s face when he backed out on a dare from before. The cream grants him the courage to dive ahead; an easy thing to do when the consequences are eliminated.

“Jumping” is a tale for those who wished they could summon courage from a jar. This predictable storyline has an unpredictable finale. The side effect was logical, but unforeseen. Well done.

 

A miracle drug promises to cure everything in Curing Day” by Dustin Adams (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a nine year old boy centuries old. Pathway is a miracle inoculation that fixes all but erases memory. Shamus is one of the few who retains his memory. He alone sees the decay and remembers the ones who have died from accidents. The world is slowly falling apart and he alone can remember the slight changes of the effects disrepair.

“Curing Day” is a story I read in an infant draft. This final draft is a testament on how much work it takes to turn a good idea into a marketable story. Loved the concept of this piece , a world that decays while a society is locked in a pharmaceutical induced amnesia. Well done, my friend.

 

A bullied boy seeks sanctuary in his City of Chrysantemum” by Ken Liu (debut 6/12 and reviewed by Frank D). Bobby is a target of bullies. The small boy is tormented and beaten daily. On the pages of his art and in the corner of his mind he imagines a prince like himself in a city where boys aren’t forced to fight and are free to live in peace.

“Chrysantemum” is a fantasy only in the mind of the author’s protagonist. Bobby has a tale so many can identify with. His school is his dungeon. His two classmates are his predators, seeking him out so they can dish out their sadistic punishment for their own pleasure.

“Chrysantemum” is likely the least speculative story DSF has ever published. The tale is sad because there is too much realism in it. Bobby is not just a victim of cruel kids who say hurtful words that will inflict harm on his confidence. He is practice for future felons earning their own education in what should be the safe confines of a public institution. Bobby’s make believe kingdom serves as is his sanity’s refuge, his way of coping in his adolescent hell.

If you are sensitive to children being abused, avoid this tale. But in my opinion it is a story we should all read.

 

A superhero finds her rival, friend, and lover in Dark, Beautiful Force” by Jessica May Lin (debut 6/13 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a defender of justice who competes with another hero. The two develop a relationship as they battle the forces of evil and become intimate. The battle between good and evil will always carry on, regardless of the obstacles in life.

“Dark, Beautiful Force” is a tale of an extra special woman and her soul mate. The powers of the characters are unknown and the villains they fight are faceless. The struggle in this tale is of the inner turmoil the protagonist battles as she first competes than falls in love with her rival. The protagonist loses her unborn child while battling a vague antagonist. The loss leaves her hollow inside, and her depression drives a wedge between the two heroes. Her soulmate hatches a plan to save her from herself.

The vagueness of this superhero tale robs the story of its superhero flavor. The story almost could have been told without superhuman powers. The only fight that matters , to the protagonist and the reader , is the battle our heroine had with herself from the start. The plan her lover hatches (I would imagine) would do the heroine more harm than it could possibly do good. For all its vagueness, I found this tale nevertheless enjoyable, despite its dark conclusion.

 

“I’ll Leave The Light On” by Patricia Russo (debut 6/14 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

Dahyana found the boy throwing rocks at a stop sign. She recognized him immediately by the glow. Mrs. Miller told her she would recognize them, and she had because they were like her. She took her time slowly developing rapport, drawing in the angry young man. He would always be angry until she could bring him to others like her. Bring him in, train him, teach him; only then can he fulfill his purpose.

I found the writing in this one a little uneven in spots, particularly the opening paragraph. If you work your way past that particular sandbar, you will find an intriguing story about people that live among us, but have a very different reality. I would encourage you to put in some extra effort and give this story a try.

 

“The Silver Witch” by Tara Calaby (debut 6/17 and reviewed by James Hanzelka)

When Rosalind was discovered straddling Leda the townspeople knew she was a witch. When the miller (whom she had rejected), the priest, and Leda’s betrothed testified they were sure. The decision was made. Rosalind must die to cleanse Leda’s soul of her spell. But when they tried to carry out the sentence the townspeople discovered something about the power of love.

This story is well written and gives us something to consider about how and who we fear in the world. It does so with a twist that that shows us even more. It also says something about the power of love. Give it a try.

 

A priest is sent to hell to find a man among the damned in Holy Diver” by Gra Linnaea (debut 6/18 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is chosen by God to find a single soul in the fiery pits of hell. God had him sacrifice himself so he would gain entrance into the underworld. Hell is like a prison, priests are singled out , as if they are criminals who have committed a crime judged too heinous even for the fellow prisoners to accept. The protagonist learns to adapt in hell, as he searches for a man God so badly wants him to find.

“Holy Diver” is so much like a war story. The protagonist is on a mission in enemy territory. He knows nothing of the man he is searching for or the reasons why God wants him to find him. He is just a loyal soldier in God’s army and does not question his unknown orders.

I found “Holy Diver” to be an extraordinary and risky tale. The mystery of what the damned priest could be looking for , and the landscape of hell he walked through – had me hooked from the start. The answer to this mystery was a stunner. A warning to the faithful: the twist to this story you may consider blasphemous, so you may want to avoid it. I, however, loved the direction and the implications of the finale.

Recommended.

 

The Big Bad Wolf plans a big meal in Big Bad’s Hot Date” by Melissa Mead (debut 6/19 and reviewed by Frank D).The wolf of “three pigs” fame, plans a nice pork roast for his date. The trick is getting the slippery porkers to join in the meal. Thanks to his ingenuity, and the pigs’ predictable pattern, his date is destined to turn out just fine.

Inventive take on an old classic. I liked the way Ms Mead’s devious mind thinks. Well done.

 

Part of an immortal conscience faces irreversible death in Restorative” by Andy Dudak (debut 6/20 and reviewed by Frank D). The 3877th instance of Fingal Boyd is told he cannot rejoin the collective conscience because he has been inflicted with a virus. His shell, or ‘meat puppet’ , a man named Ciaran who has whored out his body, reflects with bitter irony that they will die together. Regret fills 3877 as death nears. He has never cared for his host body before, but weighing your actions of your life , and how they affected others , is a new experience for the greater being of Boyd.

“Restorative” is a tale set in a repressive society. Although the story is too short to fully explore the ramifications of a conscience impressing itself into one of the downtrodden, the plot to this piece centers on one part of a split being abandoned by its greater self. The vessel 3877 has occupied was once its own person. Ciaran had sold himself to be used, and abused. Now used up, 3877 feels the consequences of what he has done to Ciaran, and 3877 does not like it.

My main complaint to “Restorative” is it was far too short. A far larger , and better , story was left untouched. A thought provoking story with a satisfying ending.

 

A grieving actress is asked to reprise a memorable role in While Memory Holds a Seat” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (debut 6/21 and reviewed by Frank D). Rose is a member of a planet-hopping traveling theater troop. Dark and tragic events in her past transformed the once bubbly girl into a withdrawn and depressed woman. A decision of what to preform must be made for the troop’s next stop. Verna, her daughter, suggest they do ‘Beauty and the Beast’, and wants Rose to play Belle.

“While Memory” is a story about a woman who has condemned herself to her own hell. A tragic accident has left her hollow inside. The tale is mostly a mini-biography of Rose’s past. It is all a set up for climactic finale that was dulled by the lengthy and depressing backstory.

 

A couple attempts to rid their world of a pest in All Kinds to Make a World” by Georgina Bruce (debut 6/24 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist and his wife find a creature outside their home and do their best to kill it, but try as they might the little bugger refuses to die. They don’t give up at first, but in a weird Stockholm syndrome twist they come to adore the monster.

“All Kinds” is a strange story (I mean that with modest sincerity). Like the creature in the tale, I became endeared with it by the end.

 

Two young students pine for each other in Pinned and Wriggling on the Wall” by Usman T Malik (debut 6/25 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is spending one last evening with his girl, Sara , a med student with a talented hand for sketches that come to life. They are in love but her father makes it impossible for them to be together.

The subplot to “Pinned” is the two-dimensional beings that Sara has drawn in her notebook. One drawing attempts to escape while the protagonist makes a play for Sara’s heart. I confess, I did not connect the relevance and/or metaphor the author was seeking for this tale. I am afraid the story’s point was lost on me.

 

The innocence of youth can be quite tragic in Such Days Deserved” by Lee Hallison (debut 6/26 and reviewed by Frank D). Annie and her young friends have claimed the empty lot as their own. They have dug a hole and called it their fort. So when their fort is occupied by a strange – and scary looking – visitor from beyond, they react in a most human way.

“Such Days” is ET gone wrong. The opening paragraphs open with Annie and her innocent hopes as she stares up at the stars, which makes the gravity of what happens afterwards very shocking. I think the events of this tale would probably be the most likely outcome of a first contact scenario. I think the choice of using children made this worked best. Well done.

Recommended.

 

A soldier’s bid to fight repression crosses lines in The Frenchman’s Jihad” by JT Howard (debut 6/27 and reviewed by Frank D). Jean is part of an elite fighting unit combating the spread of contraband seed in the farming community. The son of a farmer cut down by thugs, Jean is happy he no longer works in the fields. His unit is out to stop the illegal seed trade, no matter what.

“Frenchman” is a tale set in a world of tyranny. It is a story where a soldier suddenly realizes he is on the wrong side. The author is an experienced warrior, and the tone and details shows the depth of his knowledge. “Frenchman” is a sci-fi war story very much like the speculative fiction tales told in the height of the Cold War. I found it to be crisp and compelling.

 

A sick woman exhausts the memories she stored for her daughter in Melancholia in Bloom” by Damien Walters Grintalis (debut 6/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Helen has a family heirloom for her daughter Rebecca: a magical box that stores memories. It is a treasure Helen found after her mother died, and in it, are the strips of cloth and the notebook her mother left for her explaining the magic of the box. For years, Helen has stocked the box with rose petals full of memories and a diary she has kept for Rebecca, but a debilitating disease has struck Helen and memories meant for Rebecca are the only things that keep her connected to this world.

“Melancholia” is a story told from two perspectives. From Rebecca’s point of view seeing her mother as a once lively woman now locked in a vacant shell, and from the words in Helen’s diary as she lives with the horror of losing her mind. Rebecca’s story is one that thousands of people could tell; the experiences of watching a loved one succumb to Alzheimer’s. Her mother is a woman who is lost to her; a walking catatonic, a parent who has left this Earth, yet still lives. The pain of viewing the vibrant woman she once knew now locked in a shell is too much for her to bear. Helen’s story adds an extra dimension to the tale. The magical box of memories is an heirloom passed down through untold generations. She found it after her mother passed away and discovered the gifts of memories inside. The rose petals she placed inside the box are memories she intended to leave her daughter, but the memory-fading disease that has her in its grip makes the temptation to re-experience what she lost to great for her to resist.

This story has a premise very much like Michael Haynes’s Scraps, but, where Mr Haynes’s piece was a tale of beautiful discovery, Ms Grintalis’s is a heart-wrenching tragedy. The two subplots of “Melancholia” complement each other. Helen is aware of the injustice she is doing to the boxes legacy and of the gift she is robing her own daughter, but the reader can’t blame her for it. Her written confession that choosing not to seeing a doctor when the first signs appear because it would ‘make it real’ is something we all can sympathize with. The recaptured memories allow Helen to be normal once again, even if it is for a brief moment. They keep the disease at bay, but the memories she has stored , and meant for Rebecca to experience , are finite in number and will be gone once spent.

I wondered when I finished this tale if Daily SF was Ms Grintalis’s first choice to publish her story. I’d imagine that a good many publications would have told her that it wasn’t right for them; a modern fantasy, short in length, a quick narrative and , most of all , an ending that was anything but happy. Not quite dark enough for a publisher of horror but the complete absence of cheer would have likely disqualified it for a bunch of publications and that is too bad. The early speculative fiction TV classic Twilight Zone proved that the very best tales don’t have to have a happy ending for them to be enjoyable. In fact, the bitterest endings in that show are where it achieved its greatest accolades, and like those memorable but bitter episodes this story deserves praise reserved for a true classic.

“Melancholia in Bloom” is a dynamite work of art. From its aptly named title to its somber finale this is a tale worthy of remembrance. Thank you Daily SF for delivering it to my email box.

Highly recommended.

 

And then there was oneâ€

On June 27th Dr. Steven Wittenberg Gordon announced on his writer’s blog , Songs of Eretz – that he would no longer be reviewing Daily SF on a regular basis. For an entire year, Dr. Gordon wrote a review of every DSF story the day it debuted , no small feat. His reviews were honest and thoughtful, and he didn’t miss one in all that time , including the ones that were written by the Diabolical Plots staff. And to prove we can take it, as well as dish it out, here is what he thought of our work.

“Coin Op” by David Steffen
The business-like, complete lack of emotional response from the android was amusing, as were its sexual extortion tactics. A snide comment at the end of story detracted a bit; there was a missed opportunity to make this a moral tale with a chilling (ahem) climax. 3 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

“This Is Your Problem, Right Here” by David Steffen
This story was revolting and hilarious at the same time. Original and memorable. 7 out of 7 rocket-dragons

“Curing Day” by Dustin Adams
There is certainly the grain of a great story here. I wish Mr. Adams would have provided some explanation for how the anti-aging drug works and why the side-effect occurs. The story is a little difficult to follow, but its original premise makes it worth reading. 4 out of 7 rocket-dragons.

“Fool’s Gold” by Frank Dutkiewicz
A good story, but the intellectual dialogue from the mouths of supposedly uneducated serfs was distracting. 5 rocket-dragons.

Dr. Gordon provided what I’ve been claiming Daily SF deserves from the leading reviewers of speculative fiction , insightful, thoughtful, and honest assessments of the works offered by one of the leading publishers of short, genre specific fiction in the industry. It is a disgrace that the recognized reviewers have been neglected by them and a shame Songs of Eretz will no longer picking up their slack. We will miss reading the doctor’s opinions.

But hey, if the good doc would like to keep a toe hold in DSF reviews, we would be happy to make room for him. I’ll keep your work load light, Steve.

 

MB_JLWhy are these two people so happy? Because you came through for them. The editors asked for your help in funding Daily SF and you didn’t disappoint. They met their goals with room to spare. On behalf of Jon and Michele, thank you for your support.

The Best of Clarkesworld 2012+

written by David Steffen

Clarkesworld Magazine has been growing! Some time after my last Best of Clarkesworld post, they did a subscription drive where they promised to go from providing two stories per month to providing three stories per month. That drive was a success, and so they’ve been providing stories at the new rate for more than a year.

And now they’re working on yet another expansion. If they can get another push of subscribers in the near future, they’ll go up to 4 stories per month, which includes a podcast for each one. If you like the stories you read here, consider getting a subscription to help them produce even more! And, on top of that, they’ve brought in Gardner Dozois for a reprint division, which will be yet another story every month.

In September I had the pleasure of meeting Kate Baker, their podcast producer, host, and primary narrator at WorldCon. It was one of the highlights of a great week. She’s just as nice in person as she sounds on the podcast, and it felt very surreal to hear her voice when it wasn’t coming out of my iPod.

On to the list, which covers 53 episodes published since my last list in May 2011.

 

1. All the Painted Stars by Gwendolyn Clare
This is one of my Hugo/Nebula nomination picks for the year, with a shapeshifting alien POV that I found very enjoyable.

2. The Womb Factory by Peter M. Ferenczi
In the future, our products will still be made in 3rd world countries, but instead of being built by hand they will be grown in the wombs of the women who work their.

3. The Wisdom of Ants by Thoraiya Dyer
Great worldbuilding here with metal-eating ants.

4. What Everyone Remembers by Rahul Kanakia
Another great nonhuman POV story.

5. Synch Me, Kiss Me, Drop by Suzanne Church
A story based in the club scene of the future.

 

Honorable Mention

Pack by Robert Reed

Immersion by Aliette de Bodard
One of this year’s Nebula nominees for Short Story category

Robot by Helena Bell
Another of this year’s Nebula nominees for Short Story category

 

Daily Science Fiction: December 2011 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

This marks the end of Daily Science Fiction‘s first full year of publication. Speculative fiction’s first email service magazine has done well for itself. Although it has lacked the fanfare it deserves, its grass roots ascension in the market has not gone completely unnoticed. Two respectful award organizations (Million Writer’s awards and the Micro awards) have nominated several stories that debuted on DSF. Congratulations to Daily SF and its authors.

Now onto this month’s storiesâ€

 

In “Found in the Wreckage” by Marge Simmons (debut 12/1 and reviewed by Anonymous), the author re-works a theme from Maria Doria Russell’s The Sparrow. A young woman is found in a crashed spacecraft, by a human-like alien male.

The male alien is obviously very taken with the woman despite some differences in their physical design and takes it upon himself to look after her. He decides she could be ‘improved’, does the job himself, and then takes her as his mate. Surprisingly, they are clearly compatible, as she becomes pregnant.

This is a story about a how we can impose our own values and beliefs onto others and cause great harm despite not meaning to. I thought the story was smoothly written, but I didn’t get much of an alien feel from the ‘alien’. I am left wondering how they could mate successfully when they have evolved (presumably) on different planets in different systems. I’d rate this as five out of seven rocket-dragons.

 

“The Girl in the Next Room is Crying Again” by Peter M Ball (debut 12/2 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). I don’t fully understand the connection between smelling and altering someone’s memories, but author Peter Ball makes it work because this is a Story. (Capital S).

We don’t know what the narrator did to warrant a death sentence against his soon-to-arrive former boss, but that doesn’t matter, because we’re firmly planted in the narrator’s shoes and the present is the only thing that matters. To pass the time while waiting for Morley, his former boss to arrive, the narrator listens to and smells and tastes her bitter memories. However, he can’t quite make out why she’s in distress, so he makes up names, histories, and reasons for her sadness.

But what does one do with all these stories, now that they’ve been thought up, they kind of exist, right?

 

Short, sweet, to the point, written well, and what a fun ending! “SchrÃ’ dinger’s Outlaw” by Matthew W Baugh (debut 12/5 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) has a small prerequisite, in that you know of Erwin SchrÃ’ dinger and his famous “cat” experiment. The experiment is both obscure and well known. The name, yes; the details, generally no.

Presented here are the details, so no need to look any further, only, this time we have the Witchita Kid… and he’s in a quantum state.

 

The author of “Substitution” by Brooke Juliet Wonders (debut 12/6 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) does a fine job of slowly revealing the true nature of the narrator. Given the short length of the story, this is quite a feat.

The narrator has been replaced by a younger, (newer?) model and is responsible for training him. Yet, the narrator has fallen in love with his owner, and, while perfectly obedient, can’t help but notice all the flaws inherent in the new model.

While reading I felt genuinely sad during most of the story, which is why I rated this quite high. Assuming that was the author’s goal, she succeeded brilliantly. Worth a look.

 

An automated coroner yearns to learn more about death in “Autopsy” by Budge Burgess (debut 12/7 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is an AI unit built to investigate the causes of death. It is very good, but has much it still needs to learn.

“Autopsy” is a slow to develop story, which served it really well. The protagonist is successfully cast as cold and calculating, very fitting indeed. Mr Burgess’s bio says he is a crime writer; he’s good at it. My only complaint is the reveal was sprung a little too quick for me. Nevertheless, a well done story for a sci-fi horror.

 

Jordan (Jonah) is from the future in “A Time to Kill” by Melanie Rees (debut 12/8 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), sent to prevent catastrophic events by eliminating their perpetrators. His current target is Ella, a girl from a time and place just prior to his own. During the execution he comes to question the nature of his tasks, and the infallibility of the council selecting the targets. When the messenger brings the next assignment, he also brings answers to Jonah concerns, but not answers that provide comfort.

This was an interesting thought piece about the nature of time travel and the consequences of “adjusting” the timeline. I was somewhat put off by the writing, however. The story was a little confusing at first, part of the reason may have been the duality of names for the main character. I also found parts of it a little uneven, but overall I liked the story. I would have enjoyed it more if execution were a little better.

 

“Character is What You Are” by Michael R. Fletcher (debut 12/9 and reviewed by James Hanzelka).

Alex Baker is a Senior Systems Architect at a company obsessed with security. Their primary method of maintaining security for their intellectual property involves a mind plug that ensures loss of the memories accrued during the workday. This sets up a conundrum for Alex, his friend Jason and fellow Senior Systems Architect, Raajaa when off duty and workplace relationships overlap.

This story has a number of interesting facets. The primary interplay between friends and lovers when half your life can’t be remembered is the primary thread. The story also deals with things like corporate ethics, what is reality and what forms our essence. The writing, however, is a little uneven. After a rocky start it settles down to a smoothly told tale that sets up the issues nicely. The ending, however, is a little too smooth given the potential issues set up earlier. It seemed like the author chose to just put together a “and they lived happily ever after” ending without fully addressing some of the deeper elements he brought up earlier.

 

“Inflection” by Tina Connolly (debut 12/12 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is about an Earth woman whose alien friend is leaving. He won’t take her with him. He wants no record of his visit.

Her thoughts are told in short Hemingway type sentences. “She had thought she would not see him again. Thought he would return to his home a billion miles away and never say goodbye. Leave her to her own decisions.”

The dialog is minimal. The title apparently comes from both characters relying heavily on body language. The alien touches parts of his and her body to supplement his words. “Beth had told him her name but he never used it. His name for her was “you,” with a light touch on her chin. He did it now as he spoke, and the anisette of him curled along her skin. She did not know how he would describe her when he returned home, how he would represent she when she was not around to have her jaw line stroked. Silent now, his brittle hands touched her hair, her neck, her jaw again. Without the spoken pronoun what did the touch on her chin mean to him? Half a language was an echo, perhaps, a whisper, voices dying in the distance.” As he is saying goodbye, she distracts herself by cutting up boxes. We get detailed descriptions of this process. “She ran her box cutter down taped seams, split the tape with slashing strokes that ran into the cardboard, ran through the corrugation, frayed bits of brown into fringe.”

The flattened boxes represent the dismantling of their relationship. She agrees there will be no record. The Earth woman is pregnant. The tiniest box represents the baby.

Were they lovers? Is he the father? Has she told him he’s the father? Is he leaving to escape the complications of being a parent to a mixed species? Is she considering an abortion? Such a child would certainly be a record. Is this what he is hinting at when refers to no record? Would she go through with such an abortion? Was she just telling him what he wanted to hear when she said there would be no record? The author lets us draw our own conclusions.

For such a short piece of fiction, “Inflection” has a high percentage of literary devices. No small feat. A good one for the literature textbooks.

 

Peter is a teenager who fishes in the ocean as a hobby. Vesea is a mysterious woman he meets on a train. She has magical powers. When she touches glass, the scenery changes from air to sea. Turns out Vesea is a mermaid type creature. In “Lures, Hooks, and Tails” by Adam Colston (debut 12/13 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter), Peter gets a chilling history lesson about Vesea and her species. Fantasy-horror. Pretty good.

 

“A Stitch in Space-time” by Nicky Drayden (debut 12/14 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a tale of interdimensional monsters, forbidden technology, and betrayed love. Monsters from another dimension feed on electric pulses, so technology is banned. Before the monster invasion, the husband was a movie actor. Now he has to settle for the stage. But his wife wants to make a movie for him and starring him. Trouble is, if the movie is too long, the monsters break through from the other dimension in search of the electric pulses from the camera. The premise is clever, but the characters are arch typical and the plot is all too predictable, so pass on this one.

 

“Not a Prince” by Kathryn Yelinek (debut 12/15 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a very unoriginal story about teenage heartbreak and teenage mischief. The plot is thickened by magical powers and a police investigation. But this ending is also predictable, so pass on this one too.

 

“The Black Spirits Which Rage In The Belly Of Rogue Locomotives” by Rahul Kanakia (debut 12/16 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter).

“On the evening that Jack’s mother became a robot, she was enmeshed in the cushions of a sofa as another Law and Order plot was poured into her, one dripping burst of photons at a time, twenty-four times per second. Her mind was ensnared, as per seven o’clock routine, by the grotesque symmetries of situation and resolution, the carefully-crafted simulation plugging itself into her cerebellum through the bare sockets of her eyes, the whirring circle of plot squaring itself in memetic resolutions, each frame carrying the genetic code to build an entire episode, an entire series, an entire world.”

Can you resist such an opening? But if the entire story is like this, the reader quickly overdoses.

“That was the death-impulse: thanatos. It wasn’t very strong, and even the slightest danger made the neurons dance and brushed it back with the need for immediate and decisive action. And even after we conquered danger, for a while the effort of keeping our foot on the world’s neck was enough to stave off death’s final victory, even as, unknowing, we built up the huge edifice of annihilation higher and higher around us and walled ourselves inside it.”

I have no doubt that this makes perfect sense to the author, but it’s all one hand clapping to me. And again, the story contents a very large dose. But author doesn’t stop with fiction. From the author’s notes: “Baudrillard singled out J. G. Ballard’s Crash as “the first great novel of the universe of simulation”. In order to try to wrap my head around what Baudrillard’s aesthetic might mean in practical terms, I went ahead and read Crash. I cannot say that I enjoyed the novel. At the time, I wrote that Crash was “one of the only books I’ve read that has physically nauseated me. Reading it is like driving for twelve hours straight. Your head starts to throb and you get a sick, twisting feeling in your stomach.” That’s exactly how I felt reading “The Black Spirits Which Rage In The Belly Of Rogue Locomotives” by Rahul Kanakia. The title should have clued me into what was in store for me.

“I did not understand it, but there was an incandescence in those foreign polysyllables. It’s a rhetoric that uses technical and mechanical terminology to achieve effects that science fiction rarely strives for. I decided to write a story that tapped into that same rhetoric. The title of this story comes from a line in F. T. Marinetti’s Futurist Manifesto, which has fascinated me for years, and which certainly seems like some kind of spiritual forebear to Crash in terms of singing the beauty of speed.” Perhaps write a Master’s thesis about this, but don’t torture sci-fi/fantasy fans with it. At least we can say that since this was published digitally, brains were fried but no trees died.

 

A young girl sees the world differently in “Butterfly Shaped Objects” by George Potter (debut 12/19 and reviewed by Frank). The little girl sees the world as a lie. Living things are but mechanical objects to her. Knowing not what to do with her, the people put her in an institution, where she lives for the rest of her short life.

I was not satisfied with this tale. The reader is left to wonder if she is mad or possesses an ability no one else has. Whatever the case, the ending is bleak and the story is unresolved.

 

“Are You There? Are You Safe? Is The Flock Safe?” by D. Robert Harman (debut 12/20 and reviewed by Frank) is the story of a man who watches over engineered birds on a colony world. The birds are copies , the DNA of the originals were damaged on the voyage. Turner studies the birds and learns their calls. The copies are different than the Earth’s species, becoming a far tighter group than its original cousins.

“Are You There?” is one odd bird of a tale. Turner becomes an outdoor recluse, choosing to remain a part of the phony birds’ community rather than be a part of society. The story fizzles and the end left me wondering of its greater point.

 

“Crickets” by William Greeley (debut 12/21 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is a SETI story with a snippet of a plot and an unclear purpose. There seems to be a message. If the message is deliberate, it’s a decidedly anti-SETI message.

 

“Naughty or Nice?” by James S. Dorr (debut 12/22 and reviewed by Carl Slaughter) is about a civilized, self-justified, vampire prostitute who takes Christmas off and writes to Santa. She hangs with human working girls and compares her services with theirs. She describes her relationship with her clients. She delves into past life dating back hundreds of years. Is she naughty or nice? Readers are left to draw their own conclusions. Suffice it to say, she makes a strong case for herself. Never mind pondering whether she can convince Santa she’s nice and not naughty. No, ponder instead Santa’s reaction. Surely he’s never read a letter like this one. The premise would make a basis for an enjoyable novel, movie, or maybe even a TV series. Since this story is flash, the reader is left wanting a longer dairy of this very sexy and very charming bloodsucker.

 

“Don Sebastian’s Treasure” by Colin Harvey (debut 12/23 and reviewed by Frank D).

Rob is a tourist, drawn to the island of Ceftanalona in search of a locomotive that doesn’t exist. The train is said to be the property of Don Sebastian, martyr of the revolution that freed the island from Spain a century before. Rob is rebuffed by his tour guide, Isabella, when he questions her about the train. Rob’s grandfather saw it in his youth and now Rob wants to fulfill a promise by proving it exists.

The tale of Don Sebastian proves to be grander than a mere train, though. The martyr was said to have no family to carry on his name but plenty of descendants. Legend has it that he found the fountain of youth, but claims that he was immortal is dismissed as several Don Sebastian’s who continued on with his name. The legend of Don includes a curse against his descendants and a promise of death for those who dared to touch his train.

“Don Sebastian’s Treasure” is a complicated tale. Rob’s desire to prove the train existed puts him at odds with Isabella. Rob softens the hard woman when he offers to watch over her Alzheimer-inflicted mother so she can work.

I found “Don” a chore to follow. The tale is far more intricate than I felt it needed to be. It had the flavor of a far longer romantic tale, and in truth, the story may have had a greater appeal if lengthen and marketed as such.

This is the second, and last, tale of the late Mr Harvey DSF published. I adored his first but wasn’t as taken in with this one. Nevertheless, Colin’s skill was on full display here. His characters were brought to life for me and his premise was filled with creativity that is hard to match. A true talent that we will all miss.

 

A schoolboy outcast uses his gift of precognition to avoid teasing in “Ten Seconds” by Scott W. Baker (debut 12/26 and reviewed by Frank D). Max is a favorite target of bullies. His ability to see into the future a mere ten seconds helps only a little, making him a challenging target for tormentors. A new girl offers him a reprieve, a chance to make someone else the target. Belinda is just the person to get him off the bottom rung of the pecking order, but using another as fodder is no way to get ahead, and they may be more alike than Max could have foreseen.

“Ten Seconds” is a unique spin on childhood hazing. Max’s gift has a limited ability. It has its benefits in helping him look bright in the classroom but is of no use in a test. Belinda is understanding, giving Max a break and proving she can more of an asset than an alternative target for him.

I found this tale fun, cute, and fitting. I would like to think a ten second gift of precognition would be more of benefit than dodging spitballs but we are talking about ten year olds after all. This short story is one worthy of brightening your morning.

 

“Gifted and Talented” by Sadie Mattox (debut 12/27 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of young artist who can bring his drawings to life. Charlie shows he has the gift but does he have the talent to make his gift worthwhile? Charlie’s parents take him to a place that measures gifted children.

“Gifted” is a very odd tale. The twist is truly twisted. While reading it, I wondered where the author was heading with the premise. Man did I find out the hard way. A good read for those who like a Stephen King right turn in their fantasy.

 

“Lists” by Annie Bellet (debut 12/28 and reviewed by Frank D) is just that, a to-do list. The list is rather mundane but filled with items meant to repel vampires. I found it as exciting to read as my list of to-do’s I have at home.

 

“Cold Cuts” by Don Norum (debut 12/29 and reviewed by Frank D). A pair of astronauts must make a tough choice. They’re too heavy and must shed enough weight if they hope to make a tight window to be able to land, but they have thrown out all the extra material they have left. They look at each other, wondering where the dead weight is.

“Cold Cuts” has one wicked twist in store for you. The obvious solution turns out to be not so obvious at all. A well done tale.

Recommended.

 

A family from Earth attempts to fit in, in “Chit Win” by Deborah Walker (debut 12/30 and reviewed by Frank D). Samuel and his family have migrated to a graviller colony on an alien world. Work is what has drawn the family here but the customs of the aliens do not sit well with half of the family. Samuel is eager to be a part of the local clique, so when his sister, Veronica, captures a native veole, he claims it as his own. The veole are prized mole-like creatures the local graviller youth use to stage battles, much like cock fights of Earth. Veronica doesn’t want her new pet to be abused like that but Samuel needs the puny animal if he wants to be part of the gang. Status is everything on this alien colony. Family happiness may have to take a back seat.

“Chit Win” is a tale of the effects of chauvinism on a family. Co-operation Law demands customs follow the native species of the planet, and since the Gravillon founded the colony, their customs reign supreme. The women of Samuel’s family are not taking well to their new home but his father appears to be fitting right in. The strains of their new predicament is starting show on Samuel’s parents, but the colony has a job for Pa, and changing the customs is beyond these Earther’s abilities.

The premise for this story is easy to imagine. Picture a liberal family moving into a very conservative community. For the men, the transition is easy but the girls are now second-class citizens. The capture of the veole brings a new dynamic to the family. A challenge to battle Veronica’s pet by a graviller youth offers a Samuel an opportunity to be part of the group. A clash of acceptance and respect comes to bear, lending to a twist that turns the community on its head.

The tale is told through young Samuel’s eyes. The author, I think, wanted to show chauvinism through of a character who is collaterally caught between two sides. The age of the character lent to a simplification of the narrative , a telling style full of information dumps , not one for me. I found the solution a little too convenient and unlikely. Perhaps an expansion of the idea may have helped but as it is, “Chit Win” was a story not fitting of my tastes.

 

A Fallen Warrior

ÂLast August, the world lost one of its pillars of speculative fiction. Colin Harvey was a man whom I have never met or corresponded with in any fashion, but we had mutual friends and were becoming aware of each other peripherally. His sudden and unexpected death caught everyone by complete surprise. His electronic fingerprints on the internet showed no signs that his time was near. Postings days before his fateful last day spoke of grand and exciting plans.

His story, Chameleon , was the first story of Daily SF I recommended. On his blog, he modestly statedâ€

I’m staggered because as I said in an earlier post, the story virtually wrote itself, and I don’t feel that anything that easy to write could be that good.

Samuel Lemberg apparently disagreed with him, moved enough by it to make a film short of it.

Mr Harvey proved to be a bit prophetic about Daily SF, adding this comment about our early efforts at DPâ€

“â€and to get the insight that many review sites won’t review DSF because ‘there’s too much to review.’ Hopefully Diabolical Plots doesn’t feel that way, and will produce a review of October and subsequent month’s contents, because an awful lot of new, upcoming and talented writers are publishing new there , and it’s free to read.”

I am pleased to say – so far – we have. Daily SF honored Colin by posting at the head of his last published work of fiction, a small retrospect of his contributions to speculative fiction. Colin, like many proud authors, would announce his latest sales on his blog. Judging that he never mentioned Don Sebastian’s Treasure, it’s acceptance likely came after his untimely demise.

So on behalf of all the writers whose trail you helped to blaze before you, I hold my glass in a toast to you. So long my good man whom I would have liked to called a friend. I barely knew ye.

 

Colin Harvey (11/11/1960 , 8/15/2012)

Colin was a driving force in the speculative fiction field in England. A writer, reviewer, and editor, he was nominated for both the British Fantasy Award and the Black Quill Award. He has written several novels including Winter Song, edited anthologies like Dark Spires, and published a collection of his short stories called Displacements.

You can find these and other works of Colin’s at Angry Robot publishing