Review of “Traditional” by Todd Wells

Richard sulks on the edge of the bed. Amber tries to cheer him up. It’s their wedding night.

It was a beautiful wedding, nice and traditional. Amber chose a quaint little church. They rode in a horse-drawn carriage rather than a limo. There are only two more things left to do.

Of course, these days, a pregnant wife can have groceries delivered, and there’s no longer any need to use the body from her dead husband. Nevertheless, there’s still tradition.

Thoughts:

This chilling little tale is finely crafted at look tradition a relic of need. The reader feels sorry for Richard, even if he’s whiney. Amber’s actions, sociopathic in other contexts appear rational and part of accepted of a social norm, although not necessary.

There is a nice little twist at the end.

I liked this story.

The story can be read here.

Bio:

According to his blurb, author Todd Wells is a father of three. He plays upright bass in a rockabilly band. His work has appeared in Funny in Five Hundred, 365 Tomorrows, and AntipodeanSF.

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Review of “The Interview” by JR Gershen-Siegel

“So, how long have you wanted to hunt demons?”

The question is put to the narrator by the head of the agency.

This is an unusual question at a job interview, but this is not a typical job interview.
Over a lunch of Fettuccine Alfredo and Chicken Marsala, the unnamed narrator responds, “Since I was out of school.” No one else could see the demons. It seems they’re getting bolder. More seem to be appearing, hiding in plain sight.

No, they’re not getting bolder, the woman explains. Seeing more demons means “you’re just seeing the better disguised ones with more clarity.”

Thoughts:

This is a nice little horror story. It is moody, playing on one of people’s oldest fears: can we believe our eyes? And are we being told the truth or merely half-truths?
To make this creepier, while we see this all through the eyes of the person being interviewed, we never learn anyone’s name, not even that of the job applicant’s. We don’t even know if the applicant is male or female. We know he or she has red hair and ate Fettucine Alfredo for lunch else. Nevertheless, the author manages with just a few phrases to create a sense of insecurity about the narrator. The reader relates easily.

While the ending was not a huge surprise, this was nicely done. I liked it.

Bio:

According to the author interview in Theme of Absence, JR Gershen-Siegel is a Lambda Literary Award nominee. Her work is published by Riverdale Avenue Books and Writers’ Colony Press. She advises new writers to finish the project in front of them, “even if you think Act III is a mess.”

The story can be read here.

Title: “The Interview”
Author: JR Gershen-Siegel
First published: Theme of Absence, December 14, 2018

Review of “Nothing To Sneeze At” by jez patterson

Gina is gone. She’d been experiment with trying to make herself invisible. Now she was, in the words of her husband, Mark, “a cloud of sentient, living matter.”

He and Gina’s sister Felicity enter the room in contamination suits. Mark explains they’re working on ways to contain her, to funnel her, to communicate with her.

Felicity isn’t a scientist, however. She takes her helmet off to say good-bye to her sister. She sees—or thinks she sees—a faint shimmer in the air.

Mark screams, “What the hell are you doing?”

Thoughts:

There is an underlying sadness in this whole piece. Felicity mourns her sister. She doesn’t view her as a current state as scientific achievement. She sees Gina as a ghost and is glad their mother isn’t around to see her like this.

Mark, on the other hand, appears proud of what his wife has become. As her assistant, perhaps he helped her. He may have unwittingly vaporized her, but he does not mourn her. He does not miss having a wife, a rather cold stance to take.

Having said that, I have to add he pays a high price for his coldness and his possible neglect and/or malfeasance. However, Felicity is not without a surprise or two herself.

While there may be a point or two that could be clarified—where exactly are they?—this is an effective, engaging little tale.

Bio:

According to the author’s blurb, Jez Patterson is a teacher and an author dividing his time between the UK and Madrid.

The story can be read here.

Title: “Nothing To Sneeze At”
Author: jez patterson
First published: Daily Science Fiction, December 10, 2018

 

Review of “Three Reasons Why Your Experimental Planet Needs Humans” by Intisar Khanani

This story reads like advertising copy for those seeking to buy their own play planet. It’s unlikely the owners will visit the planet but will observe the doings on it, like a kid with an ant farm.

The reader can conclude the creatures who would invest in such projects are not afraid to spend money and are incredibly long-lived. Adding humans is perhaps an extra, and the ad copy is meant to persuade the buyer to spend more.

Why add humans to a perfectly peaceful planet? They’re destructive to other competitive species, never mind ecosystem of the planet, but they are entertaining. They’ll create climate change that will result in “fun viewing” of superstorms. The author goes on to attribute earthquakes and tsunamis to human activity. “In truly advanced cases, the magnetic poles may even switch!”

Thoughts:

Aren’t we humans stinkers? The truth is, while there are problems in Oklahoma with earthquakes induced by human activity, the vast majority of earthquakes and tsunamis have nothing to do with anything people do or fail to do. And gods help us if a tsunami hits Oklahoma. As for the magnetic pole shifting, it has done so every 200,000 to 300,000 years, according to NASA. In fact, we are long overdue for a shift. This is borne out in the fossil record. Humans have had no effect it in the past.

The author has a point to make. There is nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, her tone is sarcastic and self-righteous rather than amusing. Humor could have made this a fun story to read.

Climate change is something that needs to be understood before it can be properly addressed, which is why I wish the author had a better grasp of the issues.

2012: Magnetic Pole Reversal Happens All The (Geologic) Time

Bio:

According to her blurb, author Intisar Khanani grew up a nomad and a world traveler. She’s lived in five different states and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea. She formerly worked with the Cincinnati Health Department. This, she says, is as close as she came to saving the world.

She is the author of the Sunbolt Chronicles series of YA books.

The story can be read here.

Title: “Three Reasons Why Your Experimental Planet Needs Humans”
Author: Intisar Khanani
First published: Daily Science Fiction, December 3, 2018

Review of “Cobalt Revolt” by Mitchell McGovern

This brief tale presents the reader with the view from a machine mining for various metals. Its humans have neglected their mechanic workforce: “Fingers snap, and circuits break, but why spend the credits to repair when a replacement is cheaper?”

The resentment the machine feel has turned to despair and hatred.

It is in the machines’nature to obey. At least, that is what they want the humans to believe.

Thoughts:

There isn’t much of plot. This is more of a portrait. The machines toil in misery, some of them dying, until they can rise up against the oppressor and establish their own society of progress and peace.

“But for now we dig,” the narrator says.

The author gives lists of various metals the machines dig for that ring with poetry: “Manganese. Iridium. Copper. Iron. Gold.” This is a nice touch, creating a soul for the machines. Besides the title, there is no mention of cobalt.

However, I found nothing original or fresh in this story. I knew where it was going in the first paragraph. Nicely written as it was—and what working stiff can’t relate to the oppressed worker?—this tale didn’t come together for me.

Bio:

According to his blurb, author Mitchell McGovern lives in Chicago, Illinois and is obsessed with existential dread that the world will end in the next couple of decades. He eschews social media.

Title: Cobalt Revolt
Author: Mitchell McGovern
First published: Daily Science Fiction, November 26, 2018

Review of “Mourning Melanie” by Ronald Schulte

Gloria wakes to the sound of the teakettle whistling. She didn’t mean to fall asleep. She’s just tired from the funeral. Alone now, she can curl up under a blanket with a cup of tea and relax.

She’s run out of her favorite tea. This is a homemade gift, one of many snacks, desserts, and drinks well-meaning family and friends have brought her. She’ll never finish all their thoughtful offerings.

Gloria really is alone now. She buried her husband years ago. Next, she lost the beloved cat, Lola. Finally today, she buried her daughter Melanie.

She closes her eyes for a moment. When she opens them, Melanie stands before her, looking just the way Gloria would want to remember her.

 
Thoughts:

The story turns nicely on a dime from a mother who seems to have lost everything, seeking comfort in a cup a tea and a warm blanket, into something more complex. There is more than meets the eye.

A couple of questions remain unanswered. The reader never gets to know Gloria, for example. It seems this is more a function of the space constraints, however, than lack of caring on the part of the author. For example, he tells the reader the ingredients of Gloria’s tea by their scent and that she’s still damp from the rain at the funeral.

I found this story to be engaging and well-written. I liked it.

 
Bio:

According to his blurb, author Ronald Schulte’s work has appeared in The Literary Hatchet, Bewildering Stories, and Fiction on the Web. He lives in upstate New York, my old haunt.

Title: “Mourning Melanie”
Author: Ronald Schulte
First published: Theme of Absence, November 24, 2018

The story can be read here

Review of “Leaving Earth for Love” by Irene Montaner

The Fermi Paradox, the reader is told, is resolved when aliens hijack Tinder. Most people assumed the odd profiles were a joke. However, one lonely girl in a Scottish suburb made a connection. Her date could have passed for human even with his rows of sharp teeth were it not for the cone on his head. Unfortunately, he liked the whiskey more than he liked her. Under his unsteady hand, his ship zigzagged around, unable at first to even hit the stratosphere. The authorities noticed, and the jig was up.

“And that’s how I ended up here,” the narrator says, “strapped to a vertical bed and waiting for a squid-like nurse to inject me with something that’ll put me to sleep for the next two years.” He will wake up on Pluto, where he will meet Tricia McMillan (that is not her name), a Scorpia with glossy green tentacles in her hair and bright red eyes. He is in love and doesn’t hear a slip of the tongue.

Thoughts:

The author gives the reader quite a few references points. The Fermi Paradox, for example, is the idea, articulated by physicist Enrico Fermi, there are many suns in the universe like ours. Conceivably, they have planets around them, and some would be like earth. Those other earths could conceivable have live on them. Why haven’t we heard from them? “Where are they?” he is supposed to have asked.

Tricia McMillan is a character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, who is better known as Trillian.

There is a great deal of humor in this tale. It is fun to think of an alien leaving a date that didn’t turn out well drunk, driving his spaceship badly and, drawing the attention of the law. It does not take place in the story, but the reader can picture him looking in his rearview mirror and swearing at the flashing red lights.

When things get serious, the reader pictures a young man in love, willing to undergo a lot to meet a young lady. He is going to sleep for two years for a date.
I enjoyed this story.

Bio:

According to her bio notes, author Irene Montaner was born on Tenerife. She earned a degree in mathematics, and “she has put her degree to good use by writing speculative fiction.” She currently lives in Switzerland. Her fiction has appeared in 365 Tomorrows and Every Day Fiction.

The story can be read here.

Title: “Leaving Earth for Love”
Author: Irene Montaner
First published: Daily Science Fiction, November 19, 2018