Daily Science Fiction: February 2013 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Whew. A lot going on in our little Diabolical world. So much David Steffen has left the substitute in charge. David assures me that Anthony Sullivan is more than capable for the job, and said he has yet to miss an edit.

On to this month’s review!


A little girl has a gift the alien overseers need in “Substitutes” by Colin P. Davies (debut 2/1 and reviewed by Frank D). Melinda has been blessed with the ‘gift’, the ability to navigate the stars. Aliens have come to Earth and spread a condition among its youth. Melinda’s father calls it a disease, but for the few who have been affected, they are prized by the aliens. They offer compensation to Melinda’s father, and a substitute that is in every way a perfect copy of Melinda. It isn’t enough for Melinda’s dad, but the aliens are relentless. The pair have been playing a cat and mouse game as they try to stay a step ahead of the aliens, but the creatures who have managed to travel the stars are far too clever to shake.

“Substitutes” is an eerie tale. Whatever the affliction Melinda is under, it has affected her mental capacities. Her father reacts how I’d imagine most people would react, angrily and fearfully. The brief tales plays out like a Stephen King premise, clones stalk the pair as they run to new homes. An increasingly desperate father gets more violent with every encounter.

I really liked this story. Liked it so much I was disappointed that it ended so quickly. Add 80,000 words as good as these 2000 and it would make a great novel.



An abandoned and hungry girl stumbles upon an edible house with her brother. “Hungry” by Robert E. Stutts (debut 2/4 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is a captive in a cannibalistic witches’ home. The witch has imprisoned her brother in a cage and is fattening him up while impressing the little girl to be her apprentice. The little girl knows this will not end well for her and her brother, no matter how much the outcome changes.

Mr Stutts R rated version of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ is dark, even for this very grim Grimm tale. I found myself glued to it, as if I had fallen under a spell. Daily SF has published many disturbing tales. There may be a creepier tale than “Hungry” in its archives but if there is, it isn’t coming to mind.


The need to belong compete with its consequences in “Wildness and Wet” by Lee Hallison (debut 2/5 and reviewed by Frank D). Leah watches a flash dance performance from the safety of her bedroom window. The dancers are teenagers her age, connected via implants to the web. They share a clique like no other in history. Leah wants to be a part of it, and the boy who climbs to her open window may be too alluring to resist.

“Wildness and Wet” is a tale of temptation. The kids joined in this futuristic web have a shared physic ability thanks to the enhance technology. They garner all the substance they need through the implant and share a closeness ordinary human contact can never achieve, but their candle burns twice as quick and they die very young , burned out expending the extra flare they have enjoyed. Leah is like an imprisoned princess , unable to be a part of the exciting world she sees but she is very aware of the price she would have to pay to be a part of it.

I have one major complaint about this story , way too brief. This is just a taste of a far larger idea. I hope Ms Hallison explores this world further and shares her findings with us in the future.


A scientist and his greedy sister fight over their departed father’s possessions in “Mirror Image” by Peter M. Wood (debut 2/6 and reviewed by Frank D). Sam is a physicist but even he can’t piece together what his extrinsic father’s basement lab is all about. Doris, his sister, wants to sell it all and split the sale 50/50. She had already bilked Dad of the rest of his assets but it is never enough for her. Sam wants to see if there is anything to his late father’s claims of alternate realities, but Doris’s greed may make it all a moot point.

This tale explores the insanity of adults who fight over their departed parents belongings and adds a convenient twist to it. Amusing, in this world and in the one next door, I’m sure.


The Time Travel Device” by James Van Pelt (debut 2/7 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist has created a means to travel through time. He isn’t able to control where he goes, his own desires choses his destination for him. Where you go can say much about the person you are.

This short tale has a morbid tone to it. Fascinating destinations, but I’d be worried if I were the protag.


A socially awkward girl makes her pitch for a date in “A Phone, My Heart, and Maybe My Last Shred of Dignity” by Luc Reid (debut 2/8 and reviewed by Frank D). Iowa is a loner in a society where no one is alone. Her life is a series of disasters. Today has been an unusually brutal day even for her, but reflection can help heal her self-inflicted wounds.

“A Phone” is a comedy of errors with a love story buried within. The story is told in a string of flashbacks , unusual but effective when written by someone as skilled as Mr Reid. Iowa has fallen for a woman giving a demonstration at 20th century fair. Iowa hatches a very crazy plan in hopes of impressing her.

I simply loved this tale. The ending of it was the beginning; watching Iowa’s crazy plan unravel in reverse made it that much more entertaining. You may need to jump back to the opening to notice the sweet conclusion to the story.



Charles Milford speaks for the President in “For The People” by Ronald D. Ferguson (debut 2/11 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). He has no official title, no position, but he sees him every day; which makes him the perfect vessel for the explosives planted in his abdomen. The resistance movement plans on using the drugged Milford to kill both the President and the Vice President. But will the plan succeed or do the rebels have it all wrong?

This story was set in the not too distant future, maybe one we can even see from here. I thought it was a little uneven at the beginning; but as I read on, I was rewarded with a pretty good story. It had a nice little twist at the end, and I’m a sucker for those, so maybe I’m prejudiced, but I thought it worked well. I think if you keep an open mind at the start of the story, it’s worth it in the end.


Kane is an empathy in “The Needs Of Hollow Men” by K.A. Rundell (debut 2/12 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), one that works for the police to solve crimes from the emotions left behind at the scene. A “hollow man”, someone empty of his own emotion. His lack of personal emotions facilitates his work, of course the meds help. But Kane is a man in trouble; the emptiness has been filled by everyone else’s emotion, squeezing him from inside. Who can help ease the pain he feels? Who will help the needs of a hollow man?

This story is well laid out and does a good job of ushering us into Kane’s world. We also get to see how he is starting to unravel. I think the author did a nice job of striking the right balance of information about Kane and the emotion he is dealing with. Nice story.



Two fairy tales intertwine in “A Hairy Predicament” by Melissa Mead (debut 2/13 and reviewed by Frank D). Mother Gothel has taken Rapunzel of her overwhelmed parent’s hands. Disposing her abundant hair has proven problematic but Rapunzel has an idea. Mother Gothel knows a Fae spell has its consequences, and a grieving widowed giant has come to complain.

This dark fairy tale is written with a tongue in cheek. Cute.


A little girl draws maps of the future in “Maps” by Beth Cato (debut 2/14 and reviewed by Frank D). Christina is cursed with the ability to predict the tragic future. Her left hand independently pinpoints the place where future events will happen. It is a gift she does not want and she is willing to maim herself to rid herself of the curse.

“Maps” may be the most tragic story I have ever read on DSF (quite a claim for this publication). The story was like watching an accident on the side of the freeway, I couldn’t tear my eyes away. High marks to Ms Cato for her accomplishment.


A creepy guy offers to buy a woman a drink in “Five Minutes” by Conor Powers-Smith (debut 2/15 and reviewed by Frank D). Sasha is a hard working single mother; stopping at a local pub for a quick drink when a man takes the stool next to her. She needs to get home to her sleeping children but the man is insistent that she wait and listen to him. The strange man claims he has a limited gift of foresight. He only can see five minutes into the future, an ability that hasn’t been all that beneficial for him. Sasha can’t get away from him quick enough but he only wishes for two minutes of her time, offering to sit with her on the deck and watch as the cars pass through the nearby intersection.

“Five Minutes” is told from the perspective from an exhausted woman. That last thing she needs is to placate a disturbed man. It is written as if you are sure this man is up to something sinister; expecting a dark turn of events to spring into action as you read. Well done.

If you were to take the title and the strange man’s backstory into account alone, you would likely be sure how this tale would conclude. It takes a skilled writer to lead the reader into a different direction. Mr Smith’s use of characters and a careful crafting of the tone of the story will make you doubt the obvious.



The world is ending and there is only one place you can go to be saved in “The Mountain” by Andrew Kozma (debut 2/18 and reviewed by Frank D). Salvation from annihilation can be found on a series of hills with very descriptive (and bland) names. The people count their numbers (only a few can be saved) and watch as the universe dissolves.

“The Mountain” is told from a distance and with little emotional flare. The faceless characters of the story are rescued but have nothing left. I failed to see the point of any of it.


A fatigued man frightens an imprisoned woman in “Coffee Pot” by Jez Patterson (debut 2/19 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is huddled in a bed, watching a man who sips coffee. She just wants him to fall asleep so she can escape. Escape has its permanent drawbacks, in her case.

I hesitate revealing anymore to this tale. Suffice to say it has an effective twist. Unfortunately, the storyline didn’t capture my interest that much.


“I Heard You Got a Cat, I Heard You Named Him Charles” by M. Bennardo (debut 2/20 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist has heard his old girl friend has gotten a new pet. It was unnecessary, because he could have taken the position of a cat for her. He could be anything she wanted, and had never left her side.

This story is told from the perspective of a shape changing stalker. He is willing to do anything for her just so he can stay by her side. He is the ultimate in creepy behavior. I really felt for his girl.


Fulfilling a need can get very expensive in “Coin Op” by David Steffen (debut 2/21 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this short work of humor is woman who is experiencing a bit of a losing streak. Her girlfriends have pooled their money together so she can spend an evening with an android gigolo. Not sure how far she is willing to go, she opts for the ‘pay as you go’ method. Unfortunately, passion and frugality make incompatible companions.

“Coin Op” opens as a strip tease. The android takes bits of clothing off for a nominal fee that is pennies at first. The less he wears the stiffer the price. The fact the protagonist is female makes me suspect the viability of the premise, especially when the android is completely devoid of any passion at all. However, the questionable premise does lend to the absurdity of the scene. Particularly amusing is how the android’s member is treated as ‘medical waste’ when he is finished, making me feel shameful in the protagonist’s behalf.

I imagined this brief and amusing piece brightened a few people’s morning when they read it in their inbox.


A young man searches for love, in real life, his dreams, and through cyberspace in “Crabapple” by Lavie Tidhar (debut 2/22 and reviewed by Frank D). Youssou dreams of flying in the arms of an off-world lover. He lives in a house grown from a plant on an old highway in Tel Aviv and mingles with neighbors as he shares drugs and food. Youssou has left his lover and replaced him with a fictional one. The boy down the street knows all about it, because he can experience others dreams.

“Crabapple”, like so many other Tidhar tales I have read, is a difficult story to understand. The backdrop in this surreal premise are references to popular subplots borrowed from classics of the past. Concepts Niven, Pohl, Simak – and several others whose work I recognize but I can’t attach their name to them – appear throughout this tale. They serve as bright neon signs that drown out the sights around them, brilliant to the point of distraction. The story (I think) is about Youssou’s inability to commit. His subconscious attempts to fill this void (total guess), and as a viewer, we are granted a glimpse into his backstory to piece it together. A tangent to this tale is Kranki’s gift of seeing Youssou’s dreams. I would expand on this subplot more but I failed to see any meaningful relevance to the rest of the tale.

I’ve read more short works written by Lavie Tidhar than any other author save my favorites whose collections I have bought in mass in the past. I really want to like his work. He has a poetic flare to his prose. His stories have the feeling of a greater message we all could benefit from. But alas, I have yet to decipher any great message from his stories.

I can sum up all of Lavie Tidhar’s work with my experience of reading “Crabapple.” I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.


“Living With Trees” by Geetanjali Dighe (debut 2/25 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist of this tale is an explorer. He lands on a beautiful green world full of trees like the kind Earth once possessed. The trees are one with the planet, and with their spores and psychic ability, the protagonist becomes one with them.

The author draws upon her association with Far Eastern mysticism to bring this tale to life. The story has an unspoken feel of dread for an ending.


“The Small Print” by Amy McLane (debut 2/26 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), contains one of the singularly most intriguing lines I’ve ever read. Some might suggest it doesn’t carry weight out of contest, but even in context, it was out of context, and hooked me, firmly, into the story.

“The Druskies call you Padre Smallprint, because you’re always hunting for the catch.”

The story is about a man who removes memories, cleans them of their owner, and sells them to others. (We know nothing of his general clientele, and only learn of one customer of seemingly very ill repute, which adds to the story’s sullen mood.)

When the memory is gone, what is left in its place is a piece of himself. “She’ll come back. She’ll come and come until there is nothing left of her…” the Padre thinks after the initial visit/sale of a woman who’d sold an average summer day.

There are some complex ideas here, and some I feel could be interpreted differently by different readers. What exactly did he do inside her memory? Author Amy McLane doesn’t spell everything out for us, which in my opinion, enhances the tale.
Melissa Mead has written several humorous and interesting twisted fairy tales and to my delight I keep getting tapped to read them.


“Hazel Tree” by Melissa Mead (debut 2/27 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) I feel is weaker than the others, but it is nevertheless fun and, well, twisted.

Here, the put-upon stepdaughter has a magic hazelnut tree at her disposal. What she does with it is what any business minded, industrious individual would do… She profits!


A surrogate android experiences all the joy and pain of child birth in “Hope, Shattered” by Brian R. McDowell (debut 2/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Damara has been designed for the specific purpose of carrying a child to term. Most mothers who use her do so to maintain their physique, but the current mother whose child Damara is carrying is not one of those shallow women. Damara experiences all the discomforts of child birth, as well as all of the emotional peaks and valleys a mother goes through during the event as well. She is just what modern day parents need, if only it were possible for them to tend to her needsâ€

“Hope, Shattered” is an emotional tale. Damara was built for a purpose. The original birthing-bots were built without emotions, but that made them to eerie and machine-like for parents. So her updated model has been equipped to act more like a mother living through the experience. It has left her with a flaw that is heart-wrenching. A neat story, most striking about it is that the author is male.


Welcomed competition…

For months, Diabolical Plots has been beating the drum that Daily Science Fiction has failed to receive the attention we here believe they have earned. It is our opinion that it is a disgrace DSF receives for its first two years, with the exception of this lone website, only passing and brief reviews for selected stories, but that is no longer the case.

Songs of Eretz is a blog written by Dr Steven Gordon. He is a prolific author and poet, and reviews Daily SF the day each story appears (where in the hell does he find the time?). He writes a brief synopsis, what he thought of the piece, and shares his rocket rating. He even goes through the trouble of adding an appropriate photo for each story. I’m impressed.

Aside from the reviews he does of Daily SF, Dr Gordon writes a book report for the latest classic he has completed. Well thought out and well done. The good doctor is very good and very committed to his blog. Give it a look. As a reviewer, I give it 7 out 7 rockets.

As much as I have chastised the publication in the past for their snub of DSF, I would like to congratulate Tangent Online for including several Daily Science Fiction stories in their year end Recommended Reading List. Despite the fact that Tangent doesn’t review Daily SF, Bob Blough was moved enough by a handful of stories to include them for Tangent‘s list. I applaud Dave Truesdale for including them in this year.

Perhaps this would be a good time for Tangent to reconsider if Daily SF is worth their time. I know most of their offerings are shorter than majority of the stories Tangent chooses to review, but DSF does publish a showcase, longer tale every Friday. That makes 4 , 5 tales a month, comparable to what Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, and so many other vaunted publications the reviewing site never fails to miss. Surely the quality of the writing at Daily SF is equal to what those celebrated magazines publish, but don’t take my word for it , my illustrious reviewing superiors , take your own recommendations to heart.

stork carrying baby

David Steffen has a very important matter that he needs to attend to. For that reason, he has left DP in the very capable hands of Anthony. The matter is a secret, very secret. You couldn’t get it out of me no matter how hard you tried.

See David? Told you could trust me!


Daily Science Fiction: June Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

At the time that I am writing this, DSF has passed its first year of publication. No news has surfaced on whether it is now a SFWA qualifying market. With a subscriber base of over 2600 and website that receives 10,000 visitors a month, I can only imagine that it is the-powers-that-be have yet to do the necessary homework to determine what most of us know already; they’re one of the most widely read speculative fiction venues out there right now. Some may consider their growth slow but I am finding it remarkable considering its expansion has been a grass roots type of campaign. Word is gradually spilling over, links are shared, and ecstatic authors announce their success to this new outlet.

Daily Science Fiction is the way of the future. The higher ups just don’t know yet. If you are still not sure, then check out this month’s reviews and go to their site and read them yourself.


The Stories

An explorer searches for a lost party in “V is for Vamonos” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 6/1). The nameless protagonist braves the jungle to find the Colonel. The Colonel is ill and his camp has been overrun. Has it all been for naught?

This story is set in a world in which animals can speak and have become partners with humans. Other than that I cannot find a redeeming quality about this piece. The story goes nowhere and resolves nothing. I couldn’t even decipher what species the protagonist of the story was. The tale was like the setting, lost in a jungle.


Death has come for the protagonist’s beloved husband in “Dealing with Death” by Brenta Blevins (debut 6/2). She is there when the dark angel arrives to take him. She strikes a deal and accompanies Death as he runs his rounds.

“Deal with Death” shows the grim reaper as a compassionate soul, using his power to relieve the pain the dying suffer. All pain is not so easily seen. The angel aims to spare some of pain that is yet to be received.

The story has a fitting end. Although the tale didn’t wow me, it left me quite satisfied that I read it.


An inconsequential man awakes to learn a time-traveler has come to kill him in “Apology” by Sam Feree (debut 6/3). A young woman from the future sits on his new couch in her muddy shoes, informing him he is the one person in history whose life matters none. He has become the stress reliever for a time traveling society, getting murdered thousands of times. They spend the day together, contemplating life and enjoying it to its fullest.

“Apology” is a dark comedy. I found the two characters very likeable. The time traveler is a fun girl who has had a bad day the day before. The protagonist is a detached fellow, taking the news of his upcoming murder quite well. You get the feeling that learning his life is, and will be, unimportant as a justification of a suspicion he always had. The story evolves into a romantic comedy, without the romance. We follow the pair around Chicago. The soon-to-be-dead hero just rolls with it all. Resigned that he will be murdered and accepting it as an eventuality.

The story line to “Apology” does sound weird but the tale comes off as normal. The two treat the entire affair like a first date, rather than a tragic horror that it should have been. I found Sam Feree’s writing style attractive. The story was easy to follow and enjoyable to read. Maybe it was because I found his protagonist easily identifiable (I hope not). If you are one who detests romantic comedies, this one likely isn’t for you, but overall, I found it not a bad tale at all.


“Sister” by Melissa Mead (debut 6/6). Sister and Brother flee from their cruel Stepfather. The pair take refuge in a cave near an enchanted stream. Despite her warnings, Brother drinks from it and transforms into a deer. He now must avoid the King who hunts in the woods. Perhaps Sister can protect him yet, pleading with the king.

“Sister” is written like an Aesop tale. The story has that halting and disconnected feel to it. The characters have names that our pronouns and the story jumps through long stretches of time. However, like an Aesop tale it has a moral and a fitting end to it.


A man opposed to a fascist society is prepared to perform a mutual assured destructive act in “Dharma Dog and Dogma” by Steven Mathes (debut 6/7). The authorities have busted down Dobbin’s door. He waits with his trusted German shepherd by his side and his thumb on a nirvana bomb. The device will instantly ascend all who are worthy to heaven in a kilometer radius. Potts, the fascist negotiator, is eager to stop him.

I found this premise to be ridiculous. The bomb does two things; bring awareness to all within its range than make all who are worthy vanish. It causes no other damage. I would think a society eager to control would welcome its use, seeing that it instantly rids all who oppose it off the map. I did, however, enjoy the writer’s way of bringing the piece to us. His writing is crisp and engaging.


A disgraced prisoner is found by his warden in “W is for When” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 6/8). Future violent convicts are sent to the past, made female and expected to become upstanding citizens. The warden is disappointed to discover the future felon has made prostitution her profession. She learns the practice of gender switching and exile has been declared cruel and unusual, but taking a job that is considered illegal does not bode well for her. The warden can overlook the indiscretion, if she is willing to do him a favor.

This was one of the better stories the quartet dreamed up. Loved the concept of the future time travel punishment. What made this one great was the poetic justice ending. Recommended.


A junkie constructs his dream woman from a discarded photo in “Building a Future” by Rhonda Jordan (debut 6/9). The protagonist finds an old picture in an abandoned house. He makes up stories of a fantasy past and tells it to others until he finds a female junkie who used to build androids. The pair work together to build their android, gradually forgetting their drug dependency as they create.

The tale is told as a success story. It was, but came off as disconnected success story. The distant feel made this piece not as appealing as it should have been.


Aliens seek to improve our favorite pet in “Made of Cats” by Judith Tarr (debut 6/10). Another invasion from space befalls on Earth. This time the alien’s motives are peaceful. They transform our cutest partners into something even cuter, as a demonstration of their good intentions, proving that even the best marketing sometimes overreaches.

“Made of Cats” is written as a humorous piece. Expect anything else and you’ll be just as disappointed as the protagonist’s five-year old daughter in this tale. I must admit, the story had its moments (the diet crack I found particularly amusing), but I felt it stepped over the line of funny and into the ‘generally silly’ territory half way through. Nevertheless, humor is subjective and subjectively speaking, Ms Tarr did well, but as a guy who likes to weave tales that tickle the funny bone, I can safely say my sides were never in danger of splitting.


Modern progress has come to a potion-maker’s home in “The Thinning” by Christopher Owen (debut 6/13). Becky is not happy at all when the power company arrives to link her house with the electrical grid. She sees no need for it and its very existence is a disruption to her potion creating.

Without elaborating, this tale is woven while Becky is in the middle of a love potion. The two events , making the potion and the arrival of modern convenience , have little to do with each other. The ending of the piece has a twist that mattered little to the overall plot.


In “The Clex Are Our Friends” by Mario Milosevic (debut 6/14), you are a soldier in a galactic war. The story is a manual intended to help you with the occupation and mopping up duty on the planet Cleck. It advises you on how to treat the native species and adapt to their culture. Take heed of its advice, even when it doesn’t make sense.

This satire of military and diplomatic protocol is more ridiculous than humorous. The manual is written as a pep talk, even when its very pages makes the world seem like a tour guide through the slums of a third world nation. Not a fun place at all.


A wizard misinterprets a want ad in “X is for Xylomancy” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 6/15). A Xylomancer shows up for an audition for a xylophonist. It appears they have little use for a sorcerer whose gift is to predict the future by reading sticks but the Xylomancer is out to prove them wrong.

When I read this I thought, “Really? Working for a band is the best this guy can do?” I have chastised many stories on DSF for being about nothing. This story falls in that category but it deserves praise. Sometimes pointless tales can be fun. This story was fun.


June’s reality is up for interpretation in “Blivet for the Temporal Lobes” by Dave Raines (debut 6/16). June’s life changed the day an experimental surgery cured her epilepsy. Her mind now sees people and things as metaphors of their true nature , transforming them how her brain perceives them. Threatening people become horrible monsters while the kind and caring turn into softer images. Her world has become an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ kaleidoscope equipped with modern day cultural references. June has learned to adapt to her revived life, accepting her ‘gift’ as a way to see how people really think and behave, until the day a man walks into her life who doesn’t change at all.

“Blivet” is a very inventive tale. Despite its short length, Mr Raines effectively plunged the reader into a world most of us would consider a hell. June’s ability appears to have a psychic quality to it, or at least June assumes it to be as such. She somehow manages to keep her job as a waitress, even when customers morph into wolves, mannequins, and other similes that fit how she perceives them. A man she refers to as Adonis is the lone exception. His failure to transform unnerves her, and turns this tale into a metaphor of its own.

“Blivet” is the type of story for everyone who was suddenly faced with doubts in their own ability. June has come to rely on her gift, using it to see how people feel and grasp at how they treat others around them. Adonis represents her shortcomings and salvation in one package.

It was while I wrote this review, it dawned on me the larger meaning of this story. “Blivet” is not just a well-told tale; it’s a metaphor on human perception. I found it ironic how a story of metaphors so effectively hid one of its own. I hope those who judge which tales of speculative fiction are the outstanding ones in next year’s awards, don’t overlook this one because of its length. Recommended.

Humanity adjusts to a plague of undead in “The Three Laws of Zombie” by Lavie Tidhar (6/17). Susan Hobbes is in search of a zombie who doesn’t obey the three laws that are ingrained in all zombies. Society has come to grips with them, creating religions and rationales for their make up and psychology. Ms Hobbes isn’t interested on how they fit into humanity. She wants to know if they are here to end it.

“The Three Laws” is part satire, part horror, part mystery, with it all mixing like a stew of milk, water, and oil. The story line is disjointed; jumping from action scene, to an article, to a character’s inner contemplation. The title and loose plot devolves into a half-hearted comedic attempt involving Isaac Asimov’s three laws governing robots. The story is difficult to get into. The changing scenes of small slices of society made it impossible for me to get grounded into the plot. One thing I did find interesting was the nature of Tidhar’s zombies, an evolutionary leap as a plant/animal hybrid, allowing them to survive on photosynthesis. The tale is unpredictable with an ending I wasn’t expecting. In fact, I’m still not sure what that ending was about.

Based on Lavie Tidhar’s ability to get his stuff published in almost every publication I have reviewed over the past year plus it is clear he has a following and is able to impress any editor he presents his work to, but I just don’t get it. One thing I will say is he has certain appeal to his writing. His stories do draw me in and his plots are unpredictable, but they almost always lose me before the end. One of these times he’s going to write something that I love; unfortunately, this one ain’t it.


A man on a forsaken world wishes to connect with God in “Godless” by Stephen V. Ramey (debut 6/20). All the worlds of humanity have been linked into the Wholeness, save Earth. Man’s home world has become a worldwide slum, a primitive backwater. The Wholeness is seen as a link to God by the protagonist. He is approached by an off world tourist, a woman who seeks to get dirty on the filthiest of worlds. The protagonist wants to be touched by God, no matter what the cost.

“Godless” is an idea that is taken from A C Clarke’s axiom that advanced technology would be indistinguishable from magic to a more primitive society. I liked Mr. Ramey’s approach to this notion, well done; however, I felt the story was too brief to fully explore a future where off world technology outstripped Earth to this degree. Perhaps the author has intentions on building on this. I would like to see his next publication if he does.


A terminally ill John has awoken from a cryonics sleep to be greeted by a brother he never had in “His Brother was an Only Child” by Ronald D Ferguson (debut 6/21). When John Ashley died, he left a dying world. The one he has returned to appears to be rebounding. Enough trees have grown to make a forest, a strange creature called a ‘rabbit’ now has a population of a thousand. The planet appears to be on the mend but the caretakers of the hospital he is confined to are off. Save for his brother, everyone is distant, refusing to speak to him. Another patient shares the ground with him, deformed and shy. John finds it increasingly odd this hospital he is in and wishes to rejoin society again but learns recovery may take more time than he has.

This tale is reminiscent of an old Twilight Zone episode (not going to say which one), but the twist reveal in this story was done far cleverer than that crafty tale. Mr. Ferguson did a splendid job, providing enough clues so when I got to the reveal I was shocked that I didn’t know what was going on all along.

“His Brother” was masterfully done. Recommended.


An ill woman is surrounded by yellow in “Y is for Yellow” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 6/22). The protagonist’s husband has moved her into a home painted in yellow. Everyone who comes to see her is clothed in the school bus color, even the grass is killed to rid it of the green. Her husband has said it is necessary for her cure. Green calls to her, but yellow stands in her way.

This is a clever superhero story, like none I have ever read. The sex of the protagonist threw me off, but it is story line that is too good for the comics. I loved it.

“Y’ isn’t the best story the quartet wrote, it’s not even the best this month, but it impressed me. Recommended.


Angering your time traveling girlfriend can result in unfortunate consequences in “Love at the Corner of Time and Space” by Annie Bellet (debut 6/23). Darrin has been abandoned at the Crossroads of Time and Space. It’s not first time he has made Ashley mad but it is the first time she failed to come back to get him. The surreal corner is nowhere with access points to anywhere, the problem is Darrin has no idea on how to access them. He can continue to wait for her in this place where time isn’t a linear measurement, or find a way out for himself and a way to repair their relationship.

“Love” is the story of man who hasn’t yet grown up. It is clear Ashley is the one in control, and she is vindictive woman with the ability to send her naughty boyfriend into the ultimate time out. The story starts off with Darrin and his passively aggressive, self-pitied attitude stuck, wondering if Ashley is ever going to come back. The rest of the story is Darrin contemplating what he’s done wrong, just like a spoiled child in ‘time out’ would do.

The only appeal of this tale was the setting, a strange and surreal place, but I found its lone character not likeable at all. It sounded like his girlfriend pulled all the strings in their relationship , a narcissist with too much power , but his whining self-contemplation made me think he deserved her.

“The Artwork of the Knid” by John Parke Davis (debut 6/24) is the story of an alien species who have quietly come to live among us. The Knid are small and unassuming creatures. They’re slimy with tentacles for mouths and are intrigued with us. The silent creatures (silent because they don’t speak) have become something of a new age immigrants, performing menial labor work. They appear to absent of any creativity or imagination of their own until the protagonist is granted a rare artistic viewing.

“Artwork” is a strange type of tale. There is a deeper meaning to this piece but I confess it missed me. Part of the story briefly touched on what the knid where doing on Earth. The characters puzzle on this subject, not remembering when they first appeared. An explanation on how they got there wasn’t even explored. From what I gathered, they were just ‘there’ as if they always were.

The tale shifts when the protagonist’s first views a knid’s ‘play’. The event sounded more like a psychedelic trip than artist’s creation. Strange by description, religious by the effect it left on the protagonist. From that point on, the protagonist becomes something of a minor activist for the knid, treating them as a big brother would a smaller and weaker sibling, doing his best to protect them from a cruel world.

“Artwork” is a tale that drew me in. I was genuinely intrigued by the writer’s presentation of the knid and his protagonists perspective of them. I truly wanted to learn more about them. However, like the story itself, once I learned all I could about them, I discovered they weren’t all that interesting after all.


A knot connecting two ladders slips on Hevsen’s ladder, setting in motion a chain of events resulting in the “Fall of the City” by Daniel Ausema (debut 6/27).

“Fall of the City” follows a trail of innocuous circumstances. The story is set in civilization built on webs with machines called ‘spiders’ used like cars. The entire place appears to be overly fragile. I wasn’t sure if the city I was reading about was set in a steampunk genre or an alien civilization.

I thought the tale was told from way too distant of a perspective. The place also was strange, lending to a general disconnect I had with the piece.


What could be a bigger thrill than space jumping from a space elevator? In “Freefall” by Eric James Stone (debut 6/28) we find out. Gina loves to freefall. Her brother and father run the elevator but she is after only the thrill of the jump. Then disaster strikes. The asteroid counterweight breaks free and her brother is on the crawler on the way up. GeoTerminal 1 will be saved but at her brothers expense. She is his only hope.

“Freefall” is excellent science fiction. The premise is based on a future but likely technology with a potentially real problem. The story is quick and thrilling. The protagonist’s solution to the problem I found clever. My biggest complaint was its length. The story could have and should have been larger. It would have likely been fantastic instead of great. Recommended.


Anna is running in “Z is for Zoom” by the Alphabet Quartet (debut 6/29), but is she running from something or in search of the thing?

This tale baffled me. Anna just runs. Why? Couldn’t really tell you. There are hints but I was unable to decipher the reasons from them.


In “The God of the Poor” by James Hutchings (debut 6/30), the gods pick who and what they will have dominion over. Only one item is left. Who will look over the poor?

This is a very short, Aesop like tale. It didn’t quite work for me.


ÂThis month marks the end of the Alphabet Quartet’s contributions. I have greedily reserved all the stories for myself to review. The entire series is set to be available soon at Escape Artists. Some of them I thought were wonderful, a few left me scratching my head, a good bunch I recommended. My personal favorite was the first, and longest of the bunch; “A is for Arthur”. This story is high on my best-of list for the year. In fact, it may be # 1. It is worth reading again.

Special note: My fellow reviewers (James Hanzelka, Dustin Adams, and Anonymous) have not abandoned me, nor did I forget to credit them for reviews they have done. This month was all mine but the next will be mostly theirs. I have just received my copy of the latest Writers of the Future. I plan on doing my usual review for the publication so set it upon myself to get all the June reviews done while piling July’s on my minions shoulders so I can turn my attention to the yearly anthology when it came in.


Frank feels like a big boy now, doing a whole months of reviews all by himself. He is so proud but is wondering when he will get his cookie.