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Short Stories by M. Darusha Wehm

This is the next story included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

The Care and Feeding of Mammalian Bipeds, V. 2.1

Published: November, 2012 in EscapePod (you can either read or listen to the story at that link)

Genre: science fiction

Setting: someone’s home, near future

Summary: The story is told from the viewpoint of a robot that is just entering service into a family’s home. The family thinks it’s getting a house-bot, but the robot sees itself as caring for a herd of humans. It remarks on events happening within the home and thinks all is well with its herd.

Final thoughts: I remember hearing this story when it came out in EscapePod (it’s one of the short story podcasts I listen to regularly) and it enjoyed just as much now as then. It’s fun to try to figure out what the robot is referring to (the evening “chanting sessions” between the husband and wife, for example). The outsider view says everything is well with the family. The human view, which is able to interpret the situations correctly, realizes the parents are working toward a divorce and the kids are suffering as the parents constantly fight.

Title comes from: The robot is continually referring to a manual to interpret the actions of its human herd. The manual is called The Care and Feeding of Mammalian Bipeds, V. 2.1

Modern Love

Published: May 2012 in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (you can find an audio or print version of it here)

Genre: science fiction

Setting: a college town, near future

Summary: Marian is obsessed with Graeme, a barista at the coffee shop. She’s following him home after work, and watching him go to class. It’s totally creepy, until we flip to his point of view and find out he spiked one of her lattes with a custom pheromone and now she’s obsessed with him.

Final thoughts: As the story started, I thought it was just a gender-swapped version of a stalker story. Interesting to see it with the woman creeping on the guy, but not all that interesting. That thought changed when the perspective of the story changed to Graeme’s voice. He created the situation by surreptitiously drugging Marian and is happy to be the focus of an obsession. Now he’s the total creep and she’s the one being used. A totally unexpected twist that will keep me thinking about the story for a while.

Title comes from: Marian is totally in love with Graeme, but only because he got a custom pheromone created to cause the obsession.

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Collateral Memory by Sabrina Vourvoulias

This is the next story included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

Published: June, 2013 in Strange Horizons (you can also listen to the story from their podcast)

Genre: magical realism

Setting: mostly Guatemala, 1980s

Summary: The narrator recounts a childhood game where the girls (and some boys) would hide in a shed and another group of boys would find them and drag them outside, fighting the whole time, where they were disappeared. The girls would win if the boys didn’t find them all, but the only time they won was when the narrator used magic to hide one of the boys. It seems the kids were re-enacting scenes from when soldiers would enter their houses and grab anyone they wanted.

Final thoughts: the story felt like it was supposed to be portentous and meaningful, but I just didn’t get it. Maybe because I grew up safe and didn’t have to worry about soldiers breaking into my house in the middle of the night and raping or killing a family member or myself. The children’s game reflected the life they were living, with some variation if you were a native Guatemalan or an American missionary or soldier’s kid. There was also a bit of magic thrown in because the narrator was able to pull darkness in around herself or others, but that was a tiny part of the story.

Title comes from: It came from the last lines of the story. “Call it a game. Call it collateral memory. Call it real.”

 

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Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad

This is an old review of a book I picked up because it was on the Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels of the century list, and it fulfilled a classics square on the library summer reading challenge that year.

Published: 1900 (since it was published before current copyright law, you can read it for free from gutenberg.org as well)

Genre: classics

Length: 416 pages

Setting: various locations throughout the world, late 1800s Continue reading

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Another Word for World by Ann Leckie

Sorry I didn’t get a weekend post up. Miss Adventure and I went to a contra dance Saturday night and then we had a soccer tournament for Mr. Curiosity most of Sunday. Today, I have the last story in theĀ Future Visions: Original Science Fiction Inspired by Microsoft anthology (still free for the Kindle!) by Ann Leckie. I’ve been eagerly anticipating this story since I loved her Imperial Radch trilogy.

Published: 2015

Genre: science fiction

Setting: an exoplanet, far future Continue reading

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Short stories by Bogi Takacs

These stories were included in the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

Recordings of a More Personal Nature

Published: November 2013 in Apex Magazine

Genre: fantasy

Setting: the Temple of some other world

Summary: Access to the Archives has suddenly become difficult. This is causing problems in completing administrative and political tasks. Archivists like Idriwu, who grew up accessing the Archives and therefore have part of their personalities within the Archive, are distraught to lose the connection. Even with aides (like drugs), access is becoming more difficult. Idriwu comes up with the idea of writing down the Archives so the information is still available when access to the Archives ends.

Final thoughts: An interesting concept that the culture would never have developed writing because they have perfect oral transmission of information via the Archive and the archivists. It certainly gives members of the Temple power, but no more than would be obtained if those were the only people who could read and write. I can’t believe any one person would be able to come up with a system of writing in a short time period, even starting with some rudimentary signs.

Title comes from: The assistant to Idriwu made the argument that the archivists should be allowed to make written recordings of their lives spent in the Archive as well as matters of state and history.

Mouse Choirs of the Old Matra

Published: July 2013 in Demeter’s Spicebox

Genre: fairy tale

Setting: the island plains in a distant past

Summary: A wise wizard who lives on the island plains makes friends with a mouse one day. When he feeds the mouse, she turns into a young maiden. The maiden decides to live with the wizard and they spend many happy days together. One day, the maiden decides she wants to marry, but only the best of the best. So, the wizard climbs on his trusty steed and looks to find the best of the best.

Final thoughts: This was a sweet story that followed a very traditional arc. I wasn’t surprised at any point in the story, which made it feel like I’d read it before, or at least something very similar.

Title comes from: When the maiden married, the mouse choirs sang for days under the mountain called Old Matra.

 

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Erzulie Dantor by Tim Susman

I’m continuing to work my way through the 2014 Campbellian Anthology.

Published: November 2012 in Apex Magazine

Genre: fantastical

Length: 7 pages

Setting: Bas-Le-Fond, Haiti, just after the big earthquake that leveled much of the country

Summary: Sirene has decided to use the earthquake as an excuse to eliminate her sister, Maisie, and get her house and wealth. Sirene fakes that a je-rouge controlled by Maisie tried to take her baby. She and her husband convince the neighbors that Maisie is evil and should be hanged that night. But, when Sirene and her man move into Maisie’s house, her baby is tempted away from her by a supernatural being and the house collapses around them.

Final thoughts: Interesting since this used Haitian stories as the backbone. It’s basically a story of karma, but the underlying mythology was unknown to me, so I found it very interesting. I also found it interesting that Erzulie Dantor saved the innocent baby before the house fell around Sirene and her husband. The husband had reservations about the plan, but ultimately went through with it and paid the ultimate price.

Title comes from: Erzulie Dantor is a Haitian Vodou spirit often associated with motherhood (at least according to the Wikipedia page). She convinces Sirene her baby is in danger and Sirene should give him to her, just before the house falls on Sirene.

 

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Short Stories by Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam

Monday’s short fiction is from the 2014 Campbellian Anthology, as I slowly make my way through the alphabet.

The Wanderers

Published: February 2013 in Clarkesworld

Genre: science fiction

Length: 8 pages

Setting: a future Earth

Summary: Aliens come to Earth after watching our entertainment. They know we’ll appreciate their ability to dominate and torture, based on all the movies they’ve watched. We’re doing a great job of hiding from them (as piles of ash that only one of the aliens realizes used to be people), but that just means Earth was the perfect place for them to come. They needed a challenge, after all, and their own subjects were boring and died without trying to fight back.

Final thoughts: This one was creepy. We’ve got aliens that think humanity likes torture and violence and horror, since that’s what our entertainment was all about. Of course, be careful around the cars. They must be weapons since they’re always exploding when they crash, which doesn’t match the physics of what should happen. The aliens kept making reference to classic movies that fit the situation (“…more like The Road or I Am Legend, only not like those at all because there was not even one of you left and no monsters in the shadows”). Turns out we killed all of humanity before the aliens could come and do it for us, and the aliens don’t realize it yet.

Title comes from: the aliens were the wanderers, looking for a good planet to inhabit and dominate

The Siren

Published: April 2013 in Strange Horizons; there’s also a podcast of the story

Genre: fantasy

Length: 12 pages

Setting: it felt like suburban California, present day

Summary: Mina shows up one day at Jen’s house. Her mom met her in Greece and invited her home. There’s something odd about her, starting with the bones poking through at her shoulder blades and continuing with the song she sings whenever she’s near the water. Turns out she’s a siren and, although not actively trying to harm Jen and her mother, her song drives them to nearly drowning. Jen decides to help Mina by crafting new wings for her, which sends her to a career of sculpting.

Final thoughts: While not as creepy as the previous story, this one was still quite depressing. None of the characters were particularly happy with their lives. Jen seemed to help the most – the wings she made for Mina did improve her life, and eventually her mom got over her dad’s death. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as The Wanderers.

Title comes from: Mina was a siren.

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