Daily Science Fiction: June 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Not Just Rockets And Robots indeed

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

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

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

 

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

Daily Science Fiction: February 2012 Review

written by Frank Dutkiewicz

Well, so much for that pledge. Disaster hit me a month plus ago. My laptop died. Fortunately, most of the stuff I was working was backed up, except for the reviews of Daily SF. No big deal, just had to reread, rewrite, and resave the entire month of reviews I did. Good thing these stories are worth a second readâ€

 

“Worlds Like a Hundred Thousand Pearls” by Aliette de Bodard (debut 2/1 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). Okay this is the part of the review where I tell you a synopsis of the story. The problem is that after reading this several times I’m not sure what that story is. It starts out with an explanation of the transcendental number, e, and progresses through Buddhism, ending in a parable wrapped in a metaphor. Maybe it’s just because I read it on the 20th of April. (If you don’t know the significance of that date, ask a college student.)

This story definitely isn’t for everyone, because it sure wasn’t for me. I found it confusing, muddled and I’m still not sure what the point was. I guess there was an attempt to build a pseudo-existential parable, but it was lost on me. There were some good little descriptions in there, like the worlds being stacked on one and other like a child’s stacking toy, but they are too few and not joined by any connective tissue. In the end the story felt like a bad saying I had found inside some fortune cookies.

 

The death of a monkey is seen from several perspectives in “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Monkey” by Ruth Nestvold (debut 2/2 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). As we progress from the simple statement, that a monkey was alive and then died, to more detailed descriptions, the impacts are revealed. This is a story in thirteen vignettes each building on the previous ones. They tell a story of man’s inhumanity and the ape’s all too human reactions to it.

I liked how this story changed perspectives with each segment, and how the author used this perspective change to touch our sensibilities. He leads us down the path we know we must go, but rebel against. Good story, handled with deftness and a clever setup.

 

The main character is pulled into a game night in “Cloudburst” by Robert Reed (debut 2/3 and reviewed by James Hanzelka), forcing him to put aside business and focus on mundane interactions with his wife and son. A sudden storm interrupts and as it grows in intensity and destructiveness he is forced to view the world differently, often applying his own particular prism to the events.

This is a simple tale proceeding from a mundane night at home to more profound thoughts. The author does a good job of injecting wonder and mystery into a seemingly simple set of natural events. I liked the way he managed to weave several levels of consciousness into what might seem a simple night of homebound normalcy interrupted by a simple storm. The writing is clear and crisp as the air after that cloudburst and as evocative as the display of lightening in the northern sky.

 

Be careful what you pour down a drain is the theme of “Biomass” by Alexander Stanmyer (debut 2/6 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist in this tale is a commercial genetic therapist, working within the confines of a Living City. A botched batch of a concoction to boost a client’s immune system is dumped into the city’s waste reservoir, and now the city is showing signs that it isn’t feeling so well.

This story is set in a future where cities are living breathing life forms; tailored to absorb our waste, see to our needs, and grow the infrastructure a city needs. The author presented it as one person’s confessional, keenly aware he is the instrument of the city’s oncoming death. Perhaps because of its short size, the tale is eerily dark, making it appealing and revolting, depending on your particular flavor of speculative fiction. I must confess I loved this premise but was disappointed because of the brief manner in which it was told. This is a tale that deserves a far larger narrative. A novella or novel is the proper venue to tell a tale like this correctly, and I encourage the author to bring it to life so we can view what a metropolitan involuntary manslaughter crime truly looks like.

 

“Magic Enough” by Chuck Von Nordheim (debut 2/7 and reviewed by Dustin Adams). Sometimes there’s just enough magic. As adults, we wouldn’t know. Perhaps the real world and our bills and busy lives steal the magic from us, or perhaps it just fades with time.

For young Evan, he’s got just enough remaining to conjure his invisible friend and pass a tangled message to his best friend who is about to pass from our world. The boys know, they understand, even if the parents only wonder.

 

“Angry Child” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (debut 2/8 and reviewed by Dustin Adams) is an interesting story of a man, plummeting to his death, contemplating who is to blame for his falling; himself, for not catching hold of the window as he was pushed through it, or his daughter, for having done the pushing.

Other contemplations take place during the life-flashing fall but for the most part, the plot through-line, that which led his fall, is what I found most gripping.

This is the first story I’ve read by Benjamin, so I can’t say if his style is traditionally wordy and purple, but this particular prose was a bit too over-the-top for me to fully sink my teeth into. However, the story is sound.

 

The Empress Uvay is dying and must choose her heir in “The Steel Throne” by Eric James Stone (debut 2/9 and reviewed by Frank D). The hard empress has two descendants to choose from; a son , the rightful heir, and her daughter , child of her heart. The two have their own strengths that would benefit the great nation she helped to create, but would lead the empire in opposite directions. She has only one real choice to make, and only she can change it.

“The Steel Throne” is mostly a historical look back at the empire Uvay created. The narrative explains how the nation came to be and shows why her choice is so difficult to make. The path the author took to tell this story made it obvious that a twist was on its way. It read like one big set up for an ending that had only one of two ways to go, which turned the reveal into a coin flip for the reader.

Early tension. A prophesy. A mysterious girl. A kingdom under tyranny. What more could you ask?

 

In “The Age of Three Stars” by Kenneth Schneyer (debut 2/10 and reviewed by Dustin Adams), the author draws a complex life for Petros, the aging protagonist. His station, blacksmith’s apprentice, and his age, say a lot about his character. A self-professed coward, he hid during a preliminary uprising, and was the only rebel to survive.

Now, thirty some years later, the prophecy of a new age, heralded by an eclipse, should be about to come true… but he’s the only one who remembers the date.

He relates the prophecy through song to Zandra, a young street urchin dead-set on being his apprentice, thus unburdening his tainted soul.

The conclusion and how the prophesy plays out is best told by Kenneth, not I. So please sit back and read this Friday offering. You won’t be disappointed.

Recommended.

 

A man seeks a magical item that will give him an advantage in “The Pencil of Truth” by Shamus Maxwell (debut 2/13 and reviewed by Frank D). Magnus knows his shops, asking the owner for a “magical object that will change my life for the better, then for the worse, After turning down the first two choices, the owner offers him a pencil that writes only the truth.

“The Pencil” was a delightful story. The pencil changes anything the writer writes but what it reveals can never be predicted. Waiting for information you’ll find useful can take some time, and may reveal facts you really didn’t need to know. For a work of flash, the twist and turns in this tight narrative had me on the edge of my seat. The ending was to die for.

Recommended.

 

“Joey LeRath’s Rocketship” by Julian Mortimer Smith (debut 2/14 and reviewed by Frank D) is the tale of a recently missing boy recruited to pilot a vagrant’s cardboard rocketship. Billy is lost. He ran off when his parents began to argue in the crowded Crouchtree market near a nuclear weapons stand. Joey LeRath finds him and offers the scared lad a bit of candy and a safe place out of the crowd. Joey has made a spaceship, flimsy as a weathered shack. He needs a pilot, and Billy is just the man for the job.

“Joey LeRath’s Rocketship” is a fantasy story set in a science fiction world. Billy’s family has torn itself apart on the eve when the Earth is about to do the same. The tale was difficult for me to buy. Although I found the writing solid, I was left unsatisfied following along. The ending left me wondering what the whole story was about.

 

“Pulse” by Stephen Gaskell (debut 2/15 and reviewed by Frank D). The protagonist is an interstellar probe on its way the Crab Nebula.

“Pulse” is one of the Numbers Quartet’s offerings. The story receives its inspiration from the Elementary Charge equation. I failed to make to connection between the equation and the story.

 

In, “In Her Arms of Dresden Place” by Damien Walters Grintalis (debut 2/16 and reviewed by Anonymous) a glassblower repairs what appears to be the broken remains of a glass woman and somehow breathes life back into her. The story is about his relationship with the re-animated statue and how his ‘help’ may be contributing to the problem of adjusting that the statue has. I think this story is a metaphor for the heart and mind, and although the metaphor is taken quite literally it works quite well on that level. Nicely written.

 

Tom has the solution to Marla’s allergies in “Nanomite” by Patricia Duffy Novak (debut 2/17 and reviewed by Frank D). Marla’s husband is a bit extrinsic who has a habit of jumping to conclusions and solving paranoid problems with grand schemes. He is sure Marla’s cold is caused by dust mites, but not to fear. The latest technological advancement is guaranteed to solve the problem, for good.

“Nanomite” is told from the perspective of a wife with an excitable husband. Marla sniffles is all the proof he needs to pepper the house with tiny robots to exterminate dust mites. After going a summer without a running nose, the first signs of a cold returns in the fall, spurring a new worry for Marla.

The story is slightly science fiction. It is more of an everyday tale with a small futuristic element inserted to make it fit DSF. Although I enjoyed the voice, I expected a grander resolution to this tale. The ending left me slightly disappointed.

 

“Digital Blues” by Greg Mellor (debut 2/20 and reviewed by James Hanzelka) starts as a wistful siren’s call. It beckons the reader to come visits old places, feelings. The passion and feelings are laid bare, as if the teller wants to show us how entwined the two of us are. Slowly it is the depth of an algorithm’s love for its mainframe that is revealed as the two lover’s quest for fulfillment.

This story started out almost as verse, but without any underlying meter. It was as if Shakespeare wrote in a mixture of prose and mathematics, but lacked a soul. The story pulled me in by unraveling the twine. But alas, it was not to be, for the ending did not live up to the promise of the beginning. The strong foundation laid by the earlier passion was weakened by the tepid ending. It was a piece of such promise left unfulfilled.

 

A pilot crashes on the home planet of a race his force is keeping imprisoned by blockade in “The Prisoners” by D.K. Latta (debut 2/21 and reviewed by James Hanzelka). He is remarkably uninjured, but is held captive by the reptilians that are his hated enemy. While the elder being set to watch him seems unthreatening, the pilot knows their true nature. Though he is uninjured, the pilot cannot move; he cannot imagine how the telepathic race has bound him. If he could free himself Chanthrow would kill his captor with his bare hands and escape. The price for his release may be too high to pay, the truth often is.

This is an excellent story of how our perception can be colored by prejudice, whether it is of our making or not. The story does a good job of drawing us in spite of a few strange word choices, such as “.., like a wave slamming him against the surf.” This phrasing caused me to stumble once or twice. These few minor glitches aside, the writing is clear and crisp, the underlying theme timeless. One of the best I’ve read on this site.

 

An imaginary friend seeks a purpose in “Nilly” by Benjamin Rosenbaum (debut 2/22 and reviewed by Frank D). The boy who imagined Nilly has died. Now the imaginary child wishes to attach someone new.

“Nilly” is a small tale within a far larger, yet unknown, story. Something awful happened to Nilly’s creator. Somehow, Nilly is responsible. An effort to attach himself to the boys sister goes all wrong and now Nilly is left alone.

I am not sure what was going on in this tale, but in a good way. The unanswered questions left me wanting for more. Not knowing the entire story inhibits me from giving this intriguing story a full recommendation. However, I feel as if there is enough to this brief universe to warrant a greater work of art.

 

A boy finds a treasure from a dead civilization in “Saurus” by John Van Pelt (debut 2/23 and reviewed by Frank D). The book he brings to his clan he hopes is filled with stories. The words within are eloquent but does it hold the treasure he is after?

I found this brief tale curious but nothing more.

 

“Bus Ride to Mars” by Cat Rambo (debut 2/24 and reviewed by Frank D). Djuna boards a bus headed to Paradise. The bus to Mars is a five-day journey with many stops along the way. The passengers are just as intriguing as the bus’s multiple destinations.

“Bus Ride” is a people watchers tale. Djuna doesn’t want to go to Mars, or get to know her fellow passengers, but the odd people on the bus tell their own tales within earshot of Djuna. The passengers on the bus are as odd as the alien bar in Star Wars.

I confess, I am befuddled on the point of this tale. The cast of characters are a mish-mash of competing genres and are as odd as the aliens in the bar scene in Star Wars. The passengers sound more shallow than interesting to me. Djuna, the protagonist, I’m guessing would agree with me. The entire story left me confused because I was never sure if Djuna had passed and ‘Paradise’ was indeed heaven (the unanswered question of why heaven would be on Mars makes me believe otherwise). The bulk of the tale are tracks of sidebar stories the passengers tell, which made me wonder if “Bus Ride” was a retelling of the Canterbury Tales. Whether it was or not matter little. The real attraction to this piece is Ms Rambo’s ability to compile an array of odd individuals with random tales and turn it into a single story.

 

“Storytellers” by Jen Brubacher (debut 2/27 and reviewed by Frank D). Beatrice and Gary have stories to share. The pair compete to tell about the extraordinary events of their day.

“Storytellers” is a dual perspective narrative of two tale-weavers. Beatrice has the ability of making mundane events sound compelling while Gary’s astounding tale has a way of coming out humdrum. Gary’s ghost tale proves to be far more interesting than even he imagined but Beatrice’s boring story may end up one-upping him in the end.

Like Ms Brubacher’s characters, I have two different reactions to this piece. I found the overall premise of “Storytellers” to be silly. It took an extraordinary right turn that (in my opinion) cheapened the greater tale. The story’s final lineâ€

“Well, that makes sense.”â€

â€I couldn’t have disagreed with more. The real draw to this piece was Ms Brubacher’s portrayal of two polar opposites through different perspectives. I enjoyed following along while one character listened and judged the other while they told their exciting tale. A true jewel of a gift for the author to bring characters to life like that. If it wasn’t for the way the tale ended, I would have given this story an enthusiastic recommendation.

 

Anna needs one last operation for her to achieve immortality in “The Procedure” by L.E. Elder (debut 2/28 and reviewed by Frank D). Her last biological component , her brain– is defective. She is one of the last of the bio-residued beings , or humans , left. Her daughter is eager for her to become Alltech. Only ten percent of her components are bio, what could she possibly miss if she were to ditch the last of it.

There is a curious moral to “The Procedure”. Anna was an early advocate for cyborg rights. The opposition gradually gave way, not because they were swayed but rather because they died out and while the techno-enhanced lived on. The ‘people’ in this story have lost all their humanity but have retained their consciousness. Anna is the unique position of realizing the people she opposed ended up being prophetically correct.

I liked this tale a lot. “The Procedure” put a price on immortality, the fare being the loss of your soul. But the ‘people’ in this tale don’t care, having likely lost the sense of the true value of what they once possessed. The author in this tale established the fine line of where humanity strides and where being human ends.

I found this story to be thought provoking , what science fiction is all about.

Recommended.

 

“The Princess of the Perfumed River” by Aliette de Bodard (debut 2/29 and reviewed by Frank D). Thein has been waiting for Kim. She left two years before to investigate the Artifact , an alien vessel in space. She is back on Earth but so distant she might as well be light years away.

This tale is part of the number quartet series. The in feels left behind, hoping Kim will be the one to save him. Her distance leads him to believe she will never come back, but he may have misunderstood why she is so far away. Distance isn’t always one person’s inability to separate. Sometimes it may be one person’s inability to find their way back.

The theme to “The Princess” was difficult to decipher. As a fan of several of Ms Bodard’s works, I have become accustomed to the deep nature of her plots. The short narrative did not make this easier to puzzle out. In fact, its brief size made it more difficult. It took a second reading for me to fully grasp this storyline. Even so, I wished more answers would have been available to me.

 

Congratulationsâ€

The Million Writer’s Award is an award for speculative fictions most notable online short stories. To my dismay, only one story from Daily SF made the list, but if you could only pick one story for the award, you couldn’t have gone wrong with Eugie Foster’s “Requiem Duet, Concerto for Flute and Voodoo”. In our September 2011 review I wrote in my recommendationâ€

I first heard of Eugie Foster years ago. A friend told me he read the best story ever in a popular critique group. That story went on to win the Nebula in 2009. If “Requiem” is any indication on how well she writes, you can expect several more awards to come her way in the near future. The story was just plain dynamite. It is the best Friday story I have read at DSF yet.

â€and it is still the best Friday story I have read yet at Daily SF. Although I disagreed strongly with Million Writer’s Award choice last year, I am hoping they will get this one right and choose “Requiem” as their overall choice and give Daily Science Fiction a much deserved feather in its cap.

 

Dave Steffen is editor and owner of this wonderful ezine Diabolical Plots. He recently reached a goal many writers desire, the chance to become a full-fledged member of the Science Fiction Writers of America organization. Congratulations, my friend.