Bedtime Story by James Sallis, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, July/August 2018

This is a very short piece. Only 5 pages. But what Mr. Sallis achieves in such a short time should be commended.

Plot: A man, after some terrible event, returns to his hometown to claim a body from a doctor who has set up shop in a house. Much of the piece centers on the descriptions of people and animals who have been killed–by what isn’t frankly stated. The protagonist/narrator visits a diner where he is told where the doctor is keeping the bodies. The narrator goes and claims the body.

cov1807lg-250Character: This has a lot of character background for such a small piece. Jack, the protagonist, was once part of the resistance with his friend–now the body he has come to claim. The doctor is also the same doctor who delivered Jack. It’s all come full circle to this doctor. Having seen someone who he’d helped birth come back to claim his dead friend’s body.

Setting: The setting is the real intriguing aspect of this piece. Readers are constantly getting clues about what happened here. We don’t know if it’s a zombie plague, disease or what. But the events shape the setting of the piece, which is super clever and a lesson I must remember for my own writing. Events change spaces. Events make people perceive spaces in different ways. (C-)

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The Prevaricator by Matthew Hughes, Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine, July/August 2018

First off, some background about this story. It was written because one of his fans in Belgium wanted a story by Mr. Hughes, that the fan could then commissioned to be illustrated and bound for his private collection.

A Note On Patronage:

This is awesome. More people who love fiction and love a specific writer should do this same thing. So many masterpieces have been created because of patronage. It’s what drove the Italian Renaissance, as well as many other great painters, scultors, writers, et al. This is awesome.

Plot:

cov1807lg-250As a young boy Alphronz discovers that if he goes out into the streets and cries people will give him money. Begins to swindle people of their hard earned cash in this way until he realizes he has become too old. He then begins to set up elaborate and laborious cons that strip wealthy people of their money by offering them fake, high stake investments. But when he tries a new con, one that he can only do with the help of a wizard, his ambitions grow far too large.

Character:

Alphronz is clever and interesting and insightful. Despite his con man profession, he is still rather endearing due to the fact that he understands what drives people to make foolish decisions with their money. Often it is pain, other times it is fear. People will pay almost anything to make pain and/or fear to go away.

The World:

The world is an intriguing one, which I think is the best you can hope for in a short piece like this. I thought the world building was quite good and the magic that was being thrown around didn’t need to be explained because Alphronz never understands it either.

Conclusion:

A fun read for anyone who likes con man stories. It also does double duty for people who like magical worlds in which there isn’t really a bad guy, but nor is there a good guy. (C+)

The Adjunct by Cassandra Rose Clarke, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, July/August 2018

I connected with this story. Maybe because I’ve spent the last 2 years trying to get undergrads and high school students to follow formatting standards for their papers.

The narrator has been teaching at *cough* Miskatonic University. Anyone familiar with H.P. Lovecraft will recognize that place. This narrator has been trying to get her students to use a formatting for their papers, abbreviated as CFSR, which is some strange kind of hybrid citation system that connects experience as well as a bibliography.

Plot:

cov1807lg-250The narrator, a burned out adjunct English Professor, tries to get her students to follow CFSR citation formatting. When many of her students can’t do it correctly, a higher up in the college calls her into his office and insists she makes sure all her students do it perfectly.

Later, when she visits a Starbucks on campus, a long time adjunct professor there tells her to visit the “restricted section” of the library and look for CFSR. She didn’t even know there was a restricted section, so of course, she goes. What she finds is. . . a wonderful joke on the horror genre.

Character(s):

As someone who has spent a lot of time showing students how to format things, giving them examples, outlining the ins-and-outs of MS Word, and then find that only 1/4 of the students listened or even tried to use MLA or APA, I connected with this narrator really well. Her roll of the eyes, her absolute disdain for students who won’t or can’t do what is literally the bare minimum. It all fits horribly well with the eventual outcome. She goes to teach at a community college. (HA!).

Conclusion:

A really well written and fun piece of ironic fiction. I don’t know if this is something everyone would connect with as much as someone who shares the experiences of the narrator. I guess that’s every piece of fiction. But still, it’s a fun jog down a Lovecraftian horror comedy.