No Dog Left Behind by Elliott Garber

When I was five, my family got its first dog. We were incredibly fortunate, you see, because we got the best dog in the whole world. I know everyone says that, but I’m not lying. Our sweet, intelligent golden retriever became my best friend the moment we got him, and I have loved him fiercely every day since then. I have never cried harder than when I found out he had died. He’s been gone over a decade, but I still miss him more than you could imagine.

Because of this, I don’t like dog stories. I hate them, actually. They punch me in the gut and leave me feeling angry and sad and heartbroken because I never had the chance to say goodbye to my best friend. His absence is a hole in my heart that no other animal or person has ever been able to fill. I can’t even watch that episode of Futurama (you know the one) without bawling my eyes out. I ugly-cry every time. So when Elliott Garber’s No Dog Left Behind came across my desk, I really, really, really did not want to read it. Continue reading…

Mirrorverse by Joseph Bates

Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear the world ‘multiverse,’ I instantly think of superheroes, villains, and/or Dr. Daniel Jackson trying to explain the phrase to yet another person at Stargate Command. Perhaps that’s because I’m a bit of a nerd. Maybe not just a bit.

Joseph Bates’ Mirrorverse is about the multiverse. But there are no superheroes, no villians, and certainly no Lieutenant Samantha Carter. His story actually concerns what happens when an ordinary person, dissatisfied with life, gets hold of a new technology under the guise of writing a review for a newspaper. The wonderful and bizarre device allows anybody to see what is happening throughout the multiverse, whether that is their own lives or those of famous people. Continue reading…

Winter’s Wife by Elizabeth Hand

Every once in a while, I get the urge to drop everything and move back to Michigan in order to live in a shack. Winter’s Wife is not about Michigan; it’s about Maine. I’ve never been to Maine, but based on the stunning descriptions in this story, it sounds a lot like Michigan but with an ocean and an obsession with seafood instead of venison. I may be way off mark here on this, but now I’m thinking Maine might be lovely, too.

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve got a small love affair going on with magical realism. There’s something about stories that start out ordinary and then skew themselves into a strange and peculiar fantasy. The dovetail here is well worth the wait, which I don’t always think is the case. Continue reading…

Socko’s First Case by Tim Arnot

When I was a kid, I had a pretty unhealthy obsession with the game MindTrap. I never once managed to get anyone to play the actual game with me, but I would pour over the cards and spend hours trying to solve the logic and lateral thinking puzzles. While this would make me absolutely no fun to play lateral thinking games with as an adult, it also turned me into a sucker for locked room mysteries.

Socko’s First Case by Tim Arnot is, above all else, a locked room mystery. The king’s gold has gone missing, stolen out from under its guards’ noses. The room it was in, obviously, was locked with no way in or out. You know the drill with these things. The Kingsman Special Investigation unit is on it, with a seventeen-year-old doing most of the heavy lifting. Continue reading…

The Life You Save Could Be Your Own by Flannery O’Connor

Confession time. I have a deep (and possibly unhealthy) love for Flannery O’Connor. As in, for a long stretch in my early twenties, she was my go-to Halloween costume. Yes, indeed. And no, explaining you are Flannery O’Connor at college parties is not a good way to meet people. Though it is a good way to figure out who all the writers in a room are. So actually, that was probably a win for me.

When most people hear the name Flannery O’Connor, they likely think of A Good Man is Hard To Find, which is probably her most famous and most read short story. I personally think of Good Country People, which is about a door-to-door Bible salesman and a girl with one leg. But I’m actually going to talk today about The Life You Save Could Be Your Own. I think it is the most Flannery O’Connor-esque story ever written. I could be wrong, but in my mind, The Life You Save Could Be Your Own is the most undistilled, humorous version of O’Connor’s world view and the least apologetic. It’s Southern Gothic as fuck, you might say. Continue reading…

Gamma Series by C.C. Kelly

Lets talk about robots for a minute, okay? I think we can all agree that robots are awesome, even when they’re not. I mean, HAL 9000 anyone? Awesome, even if he is a little murderous and also just an ominous red lens. Science fiction has run the gambit of good robots, evil robots, and complete benign robots. Fundamentally, those stories are about how we as people interact with technology, which is there anything that could be more timely?

C.C. Kelly’s Gamma Series is also about robots. No, I mean that literally. Its central scene is a conversation about the problems with creating a robot army that won’t kill all humans indiscriminately, as played out by a scientist, the military, and a bumbling idiot senator tasked with overseeing the whole mess. Continue reading…

Flash Fiction Friday: February 2014

On the first Friday of every month, we are all about the flash fiction. That means short little tales, usually under 1000 words. That’s a lot of story for not a lot of words.

Nothing To Be Ashamed Of by Gerri Brightwell // June 2011 Word Riot // free
A woman comes home from grocery shopping to find her alcoholic husband on the kitchen floor.

Bonnie and Clyde by Lia Mitchell // December 2013 Flash Fiction Online // free
The security guard at a bank makes a judgement during a robbery.

#578 by Foster Trecost // Nanoism // free
Too short for synopsis.

Dangling Now, in the Erotic City of Ghosts by Heather Fowler // Winter 2014 Contrary Magazine // free
In the Erotic City of Ghosts, what sorts of things might you see?

 

57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides by Sam J. Miller

Being a teenager is a tough business. I’m only six years removed from that shit show, but what a shit show it was. There are times when I wonder how any of us get out alive. Sure, being a teenager takes practice and most of us have it figured out by the time we hit 17, 18, or 19, but that’s not a guarantee. Maybe that’s why a lot of really great horror stories are written about high schoolers. Because egads, who doesn’t have a horror story from that time of their life?

Sam J. Miller’s 57 Reasons for the Slate Quarry Suicides is one of those horror stories. While its unusual structure might be off-putting for some, I think it works really well for the story. Written in list-form, with every item beginning with ‘Because,’ Miller achieves an almost hypnotic rhythm that pushes the story forward faster and faster with an unrelenting momentum.

Also, there’s a Carrie reference. Continue reading…

A Child of Wight by A.R. Kahler

I‘ll be the first one to admit that this was a surprising read. Having read much of A.R. Kahler’s body of work, A Child of Wight has a very different tone than his other work. It is sparse, and quiet, and grey, evoking the Edward Gorey books I have loved since my admittedly macabre childhood.

Sparse and quiet and grey are not words usually used to describe either the man himself or his writing. And yet, here we are. Time for something new, something oddly restrained. But for a story about death, and dying, and coming up short of expectations, it works. It works beautifully.

Continue reading…