Hainted by Ashley Blooms, Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, July/August 2018

Hainted is, first and foremost, a great word. It feels similar to haunted enough that it hints at what this piece will be about without giving it away.

Plot:

Hainted is about a young girl who goes into an old coal mine where her father works. cov1807lg-250Each person who works there, who enters, leaves part of themselves. Her father was once a caring father and husband, but something has been taken from him and now he is gruff, cold, and her parents fight a lot. Haints are just a part of life in this world and a young man leads the protagonist, an 11-year-old girl, into the mine to find her father’s haint and reunite them.

Characters:

Ther characters are mostly interesting. The remembrances of when her father was a kind person fills out a broken home that needs fixing. Her logic of finding his haint is naive but also touching and understandable from her perspective. She wants to put things back the way they were before.

Setting:

Most of this piece takes place in the mine. there isn’t a whole lot of scenery, giving the whole piece a cramped feeling.

Conclusion:

This is a piece about wanting things to be a way they aren’t. Everyone knows that feeling, and so this piece is pretty effective in the sense of connecting with readers. It recalls our childhoods in which we thought we’d never leave until, of course, we did leave them behind. Just as everyone leaves something behind in the mine–and what you leave becomes your haint.

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-)

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+)