Review of “Intergalactic Negotiations” by Joshua Fagan

Image by Shabinh from Pixabay

Plot:

The reader isn’t told what the narrator’s title or job is. He (?) is a scientist with a whiteboard and a lab coat who has had training in diplomacy and experience in negotiating agreements with extraterrestrial species. The first rule of diplomacy, as a professor told him, is to know what the other party wants—better than they do. Once you know what they want, you can drive a hard bargain.

The professor’s advice had served him well over the years. That is, until the Plumarans came along. They’d taken specialized objects from other planets. No one could speak their language or had a clue where they came from. Now they were destroying historic landmarks—the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower—until they got what they came to earth for.

Thoughts:

This is sparsely told. The reader learns little about the narrator. Aside from the whiteboard, there’s almost no scene-setting. All we know about the Plumarans—aside from their lousy temper, of course—is that they have tentacles. The scarcity of details matters little because it’s all a lead-up to a single punchline at the end of the story.

There’s always the risk of such a thing falling flat, but not here. This is cute. While War and Peace may not feel threatened, at least this gets a high chuckle rating.

This was cute.


The story can be read here.

Bio:

According to his blurb, Joshua Fagan started writing science fiction because he was tired of waiting for the future. His favorite stories mix the futuristic and the mundane, the world to come with the world that is. He also appreciates a nice dollop of humor in his sci-fi, because the future isn’t going to be less weird than the present. When he’s not writing interstellar strangeness, he travels the world and eats too much seafood. His work has been published in a variety of publications, including 365 Tomorrows and Plum Tree Tavern. This is his second published story in Daily Science Fiction.


Title: “Intergalactic Negotiations”
Author: Joshua Fagan
First published: Daily Science Fiction, September 21, 2020

Review of “Night of the Lepus” (1972)

Image from IMDB

Saturday pizza and bad movie night lived up to its name. On the bright side, we’ve been buying enough pizza that we scored a freebie! It tastes better if it’s free, I think. We watched this gem with Svengoolie.

Plot:

Arizona rancher Cole Hillman’s (Rory Calhoun) land is plagued with rabbits. The rabbit overpopulation resulted from getting rid of the coyotes. The last straw is the day Cole’s horse breaks a leg by stumbling into a rabbit hole, and he has to shoot him. Just the same, Cole doesn’t want to resort to poison because of the impact it would have on the environment.

He turns to his friend, the administrator of the local college, Elgin Clark (DeForest Kelley, who has just retired from a five-year mission abroad—but I digress.) Clark, in turn, recommends two zoologists the college has recently hired, a married couple, Roy and Gerry Bennett (Stuart Whitman and Janet Leigh). With them is their daughter, Amanda (Melanie Fullerton), who seems to be about ten years old.

Once they have their experimental rabbits in hand, Gerry explains they plan to make “Jack more like Jill and Jill more like Jack” so there won’t be so many juniors. Amanda sees one rabbit as a pet, though, and swaps him for a control rabbit, then takes him out of the lab. Romeo (bad name for an androgynous rabbit) decides he prefers rabbits to intrusive humans and takes off.

The ranchers find tracks near the watering hole that mystifies them. They appear to come from animals that must weigh at least one hundred and fifty pounds. (And intermediate stage? Because the animals who show up later would easily weigh ten times that, I would hazard a guess, based on my in-depth understanding and knowledge of such things)

Later, a delivery man’s car breaks down. He’s attacked and killed by rabbits that tower over those made by Volkswagen.

Thoughts:

As one who grew up in the 70s (yes, by the gods, I’m ancient), I couldn’t watch this movie without hearing Tim the Enchanter saying, “I warned you! But did you listen to me? Oh, no, you knew it all, didn’t you? Oh, it’s just a harmless little bunny, isn’t it? Well, it’s always the same, I always–”

It wasn’t entirely clear to me why trying to make the rabbits sterile—or at least less apt to multiply like rabbits—would make them bulk up in just a few generations to thousands of times in size. That’s an oopsie. Grandma was a harmless little bunny, and the grandkids are charging down Main Street like city buses. And they’re headed for the produce warehouse!

The rabbits do a lot of stampeding. The attack cattle, horses, and humans, including children, though here the viewer sees only the bloody aftermath and not the actual attack. Though they are pretty bloody, Svengoolie assured his audience what appeared to blood on the bunnies was actually ketchup.

Clearly, there’s an environmental message in the movie, as well as an argument for understanding the balance of nature. There’s also a lesson in keeping your car in good repair with emergency equipment nearby. Too many vehicles break down or get stuck in the dirt. Giant killer rabbits are not the first thing that comes to mind when a car breaks down, of course. Of course, there’s also the lesson in keeping an eye on your daughter. Just the same, it wasn’t preachy. The characters are not depicted as evil or foolish but rather simply out of their depth. No one even bawls out little Amanda.

This movie is based on an absurdist science fiction book, The Year of the Angry Rabbit, by Australian author Russell Braddon.

It’s silly and hard to take seriously, but it was fun watching the bunnies leap off “cliffs” to swoop down on their prey and storm down the streets of model towns. One scene shows them sitting down to a banquet.

“Lepus,” as the movie tells the viewer, is a Latin word for rabbit. Doesn’t that make it all sound official?




Title: Night of the Lepus (1972)

Directed by
William F. Claxton

Writing Credits
Don Holliday…(screenplay) and
Gene R. Kearney…(screenplay)
Russell Braddon…(novel)

Cast (in credits order)
Stuart Whitman…Roy Bennett
Janet Leigh…Gerry Bennett
Rory Calhoun…Cole Hillman
DeForest Kelley…Elgin Clark (he’s not a doctor)
Paul Fix…Sheriff Cody

Released: October 4, 1972
Length: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Rating: PG

Review of “The Keeper of the Pit and the Kon” by Joachim Heijndermans

Image by Daniel Kern from Pixabay

Plot:

The Keeper of the Pit is the boss, and the Kon, the employee. They don’t communicate well. Quite literally, they don’t speak the same language. The Keeper determines when the Pit is lit. This sets fire to a Ring around the city to help keep winter’s chill away and to keep people from freezing. However, it also draws invaders. The only way to defend against the invaders is with smoke, which confuses them and drives them away.

It’s already freezing. The Keeper is thinking about lighting the Pit. The Kon points to the clouds and utters a word the Keeper doesn’t understand. Yeah, yeah, whatever. The Keeper orders the Pit lit.

Thoughts:

The Keeper reminded me of more than one boss I’ve had, but aside from that—

At issue are communication and paying attention. If the Keeper had been honest about not being able to speak the Kon language (referred to as “Under”) when he applied for the position, he would not have gotten it. He could have tried to learn on the job, but, well, that takes work and means getting into long, drawn-out conversations. Because he doesn’t understand what the Kon is trying to tell him or understand what’s going on, they’re all screwed.

(At this point, the boss would say, “Why didn’t you tell me?”)

This is a cute little story. The punchline is in the final line of the story, but it doesn’t come out of left field. The reader sees the underlying problem from the beginning. At the same time, it takes a while to figure out who is who, and what they are they doing. Just the same, I like this.


Bio:

According to his blurb, Joachim Heijndermans writes, draws, and paints nearly every waking hour. Originally from the Netherlands, he’s been all over the world, boring people by spouting random trivia. His work has appeared in such publications as Metaphorosis, Hinnom Magazine, Every Day Fiction, Asymmetry Fiction, Kraxon Magazine, Gathering Storm Magazine, and Ahoy Comics. This is at least his third story in Theme of Absence. He’s currently in the midst of completing his first children’s book. You can check out his other work at http://www.joachimheijndermans.com, or follow him on Twitter: @jheijndermans

The story can be read here.

Title: “The Keeper of the Pit and the Kon”
Author: Joachim Heijndermans
First published: Theme of Absence, September 11, 2020

Review of “Screen Time” by Koji A. Dae

Image by Barbara Jackson from Pixabay

Plot:

Grace is buying her three-year-old son a tablet, just a basic device. The clerk advises buying a more complicated machine. Her son is a digital native, right? Grace herself uses an older tablet that Stephen bought for her fifty years before, with a cracked case. But it’s one her arthritic hands can cope with.

The clerk proves to be right. Grace’s son is quickly bored with the tablet.

Thoughts:

This little tale revolves around the idea generations who were born into digital devices, and those who watched digital devices develop are two different types of people. The expanse between them cannot quite be crossed. It is an added dimension to the eternal generational divide.

In the pre-computer/word processing era, it was customary in engineering to use block print lettering on specification drawings or anything handwritten, for example. This was done for ease of reading. How many of the digital natives know this, much less are capable of block lettering? There would be no need.

However, digital devices, by their nature, can add a gulf between humans. And we’ll always need to be with each other. That, I think, is the statement this sad little piece makes.

Bio:

According to her blurb, author Koji A. Dae is a queer American living in Bulgaria with she/her pronouns and anxious depression. She has flash pieces published in several anthologies, Short Edition, and Bards & Sages Quarterly. Her first poetry collection, Scars that Never Bled, an exploration of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein through poetry, will be released in August. When not writing, Koji is mothering, dancing, or riding her bicycle. You can find out more about her at kojidae.ink.

“Screen Time” can be read here.


Title:” Screen Time”
Author: Koji A. Dae
First published: Daily Science Fiction, August 30, 2020

Review of “The Third Visitor” (1951)

from IMDB

For Saturday pizza and bad movie night, we came up with something a little different.

Plot:

Police identify a body found at the home of Ricard Carling (Karel Stepanek) as that of Carling himself, though the face has been so badly mutilated it’s hard to be sure. The viewer has seen two people come to visit Carling. The first was his business partner, Jack Kurton (Hubert Gregg), whom Carling sent out of town on a fool’s errand late at night, knowing that Kurton was tired. He wouldn’t let him stay at his own house, despite knowing that his wife wasn’t expecting him home for another day. Carling appears to be expecting a lady caller.

Instead, James Oliver arrives. There is bad blood between the two of them. Oliver tries to intimidate Carling. He picks up a heavy metal figurine from the fireplace mantel and swings it at Carling. The viewer doesn’t see what happens but hears the noise of a struggle.

Steffy and Bill Millington (Sonia Dresdel and Colin Gordon), who seem to have no connection to Carling, receive their friend, Vera Kurton (Eleanor Summerfield), early in the morning. She is the wife of Jack Kurton, and arrives with a suitcase, begging them to tell Jack she spent the night with them, although she offers no explanation as to where she’s been. Could she be the lady caller Carling expected? Is that why Carling sent her husband on the fool’s errand?

Carling received information while Kurton was still with him that a person named Hewson is now out of the asylum in France. The doctor who committed him had some crooked deal with Carling. Could Hewson have returned for revenge?

Carling was a jerk. Could the butler have done it?

Thoughts:

This is an intriguing flick, but it starts out a little confusing. The first thing the viewer sees is a woman tied to a wall, screaming as some unseen menace approaches her. The next scene is Steffy Millington applying make-up in her bathroom mirror. The phone rings, and she rouses her husband out of bed to answer it. The mood is lighthearted and amusing, a complete contrast to the opening scene. Immediately, the viewer likes these two people. The dialogue here is enjoyable, as it is in most of the film.

When James Oliver tries to bully a woman behind a desk at a hotel for a phonebook to find Carling’s address, he is at first ignored. The woman then asks:

“Phone directory? Which one?”

“Which one?” he echoes. “You have ’em in mint flavor?”

“What letter does the name begin with, sir?”

This film is not a farce. It is in deadly earnest, yet it can sprinkle in these cute exchanges without batting an eye.

The whodunit aspect of the movie is confusing for a while, but it makes sense at the end. No rabbit pops out of a hat. There are enough distractions to keep the viewer occupied. All is not as it seems at first glance. It would be a boring movie if it were.

I also liked the music. So much of movie music, particularly in older movies, tends to be overwrought. They managed to work in some Bruckner.

Of course, it’s not perfect. The airline clerk, supposedly American, sounds awfully British, both in accent and diction. Small gripe.

This is a black-and-white movie from 1951. One cannot expect the booms and boobs of a PG-13 rated film of the present. I enjoyed this film.

For some reason, it’s available on YouTube under the god-awful name The Tertiary Caller. Whether that’s the original name or something else, I can’t say.



Title: The Third Visitor (1951)

Directed by
Maurice Elvey

Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)
Gerald Anstruther…(play)
Gerald Anstruther…(screenplay)
David Evans

Cast (in credits order)
Sonia Dresdel…Steffy Millington
Guy Middleton…Inspector Mallory
Hubert Gregg…Jack Kurton
Colin Gordon…Bill Millington
Karel Stepanek…Richard Carling
Eleanor Summerfield…Vera Kurton
John Slater…James Oliver
Michael Martin Harvey…Hewson (as Michael Martin-Harvey)
Cyril Smith…Detective Horton

Released: January 1951 (UK)
Length: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Review of “Sinister Universe” by R. Michael

Image by ChadoNihi from Pixabay

Plot:

The first to study the vastness of space with the new-christened interstellar engine finds “life” harder to define than previously believed. Their mission is to “explore, seek new life, and assess any threat” if they found sentient extraterrestrials. In doing so, they overturn some accepted science. For example, string theory will have to be modified. Its multiple universes don’t exist. There’s only one besides our own. Only one other universe exists. It bumps into ours occasionally, events which might be behind claims of the supernatural.

They discover a nebula on the edge of the galaxy and watch stars come into existence. The nebula goes dark.

Thoughts:

I read in wonder at the many things going on in this story. The good stuff winks out, and the bad stuff hits the fan. This is cosmic horror of in the vein of H. P. Lovecraft. The people have done little, if anything, to provoke the tragedy. Their only trespass is curiosity. Even then, the offending curiosity is not their own; it’s their job. Unlike Lovecraft, the story doesn’t build horror on horror but begins with the wonders of space travel and discovery. The crew sees stars being born! They start uncovering mysteries about dark energy and string theory.

Unfortunately, the ending was not a surprise. The rest of the story has me hooked.

Bio:

According to his blurb, author R. Michael lives in rural Minnesota and is happily married.  He has one son and a border collie foot warmer.  He has four books published on Amazon and has works published in 365 Tomorrows, Altered Reality Magazine, and Ink & Fairydust Magazine.

He also has at least one other story in Theme of Absence, reviewed here.

“Sinister Universe” can be read here.


Title: “Sinister Universe”
Author: R. Michael
First published: Theme of Absence, August 28, 2020

Review of “Jancy8146 and the RealHouse” by M. E. Garber

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Plot:

Our hero met Jancy8146 on the WorkerCubeFarm network, where he realizes that Jancy has it all figured out—the whole WhisperNet thing, the reason the people in the nice houses get ahead while the rest, like our hero, down in the Shanties barely get by. The WhisperNet allows them to connect at all points, not just through the usual devices.

Jancy and our hero have known each other for about five years, but they’d never met. Our hero refers to Jancy as “they,” indicating he’s unsure if Jancy is male or female. He joined WorkerCubeFarm when he got the factory job. Most of the people were there to bellyache about the government keeping them down, but there were some good people, like Jancy. When the network dissolved, he and Jancy stayed in touch until Jancy disappeared.

One day, an anonymous DM slipped by the spam filters. It extolled RealHouses and gave him links to an exclusive realtor. It was unsigned but ended with smiley faces. Our hero knows it is Jancy. Our hero wants—needs—a RealHouse.

Thoughts:

Many years ago, a person I knew on a particular board had a sig picture with a dog at a keyboard. The tagline read, “On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.” Anonymity can pass for friendship and even, at points, intimacy. That’s part of what I see in this tale. Is Jancy male or female? Is the main character male or female? In the end, it’s not all that important. However, Jancy is not what he appears to be at first. After all, it wouldn’t be much of a story if they were, would it?

The story also pokes fun at the idea of getting ahead by leaving others behind.

I liked the twist at the end.

Bio:

According to her blurb, author M. E. Garber is an itinerant speculative fiction who sadly has neither an AI nor a RealHouse, but at least her phone is pretty smart. Her blog mentions a home in Florida. She occasionally blogs at megarber.wordpress.com and tweets pics of her ridiculously photogenic dog @m_e_garber13.

I agree, her dog is adorable.

The story can be read here.


Title: “Jancy8146 and the RealHouse”
Author: M. E. Garber
First published: Daily Science Fiction, August 23, 2020

Review of “The Curse of Frankenstein” (1957)

from IMDB

Saturday pizza and bad movie night with Svengoolie. So damn hot. Maybe we should have given up and just had ice cream in an ice Jacuzzi.

Plot: (Stop me if you’ve heard this one before….)

This movie’s take on Mary Shelley’s book begins with a priest (Alex Gallier) visiting a man (Peter Cushing) in prison who has been sentenced to die shortly. The man doesn’t want spiritual comfort. He wants to talk to someone who will believe his story.

It starts when he was a boy. After his mother dies, he inherits the Frankenstein fortune and hires a tutor, Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart), to help him finish his education. For some reason, they wander into the medical sciences. Victor develops an interest in reviving the dead, and the two succeed with the cutest puppy ever. When Victor talks about building a human being from odd parts, Paul starts having second thoughts. Victor, on the other hand, goes shopping for body parts.

Just as Paul is getting ready to leave, Victor’s cousin Elizabeth (Hazel Court), arrives. As had his mother before him, Victor has been supporting her and her mother for years. Once the mother passed away, it seems only fitting the two should marry. Paul tries to talk Elizabeth into leaving. The maid Justine (Valerie Gaunt) also raises an objection. Apparently, Baron Frankenstein has been free with his favors and has promised to marry her. What is a mad scientist to do?

Thoughts:

The introduction of the tutor to the storyline provides a moral contrast. Paul constantly tells Victor that he’s crossing lines, that his creation is evil. He doesn’t balk at the puppy because, come on, who could say that about a puppy wagging his tail and licking their faces?

After a certain point, he stays in the Baron’s household not to rein in Victor, something he now sees as longer possible, but to try to protect Elizabeth. The danger to her is hinted at several times. Victor tells her nothing of his work and forbids her to come into his lab. At the same time, he promises that she will one day take part in his experiments. YIKES!

The physical degradation of the poor creature—who never learns to speak—is an indictment of Baron Frankenstein’s moral character rather than his skill as a scientist. He starts out ugly, looking like a stumbling corpse and ends up looking like a stumbling corpse with a bald spot, a reminder of the spot (…sort of…) where Paul shot him and killed him.

One of the (apocryphal?) stories Svengoolie told about the movie is that Christopher Lee complained about not having any dialogue as the Creature. He doesn’t. He shambles along, sometimes chained, sometimes not, murdering innocent townsfolk. “If you think that’s bad,” Peter Cushing is supposed to have said, “I’ve read the script.”

The end is not a big surprise. Evil guy, who never stopped when he had the chance, who killed people, who took advantage of his maid’s affections, and abused his own unholy creation, gets his comeuppance.

One of the things that struck me as goofy was the relative age of the actors. The actor who played young Frankenstein at the beginning of the film, Melvyn Hayes (not Gene Wilder), was about 22. Robert Urquhart, his tutor, was a suitable 36ish. The adult Frankenstein, Peter Cushing, was 44 while his tutor/partner remained… 36ish. Those Frankensteins must live hard, I guess.

This was an acceptable, but hardly a stellar, movie for Saturday night pizza and bad movie night. And the pizza wasn’t half bad either.



Title: The Curse of Frankenstein

Directed by
Terence Fisher

Writing Credits
Jimmy Sangster…(screenplay)
Mary Shelley…(based on the classic story by) (as Mary W. Shelley)

Cast (in credits order)
Peter Cushing…Victor Frankenstein
Hazel Court…Elizabeth
Robert Urquhart…Paul Krempe
Christopher Lee…The Creature
Melvyn Hayes…Young Victor

Released: June 25, 1957
Length: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Awards:

Guinness World Record Award 1957
Winner
Guinness World Record     Tallest actor in a leading role
Christopher Lee

Review of “Night Visions” by Holley Cornetto

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Plot:

After eleven and a half years, he realizes he hates his wife. He isn’t sleeping well, and his hairline is receding. He wants a convertible. His wife snores and farts in her sleep. To make matters worse, she wants a baby. Maybe he should have an affair with some Brittany Spears look-alike—not as she is now, but some girl, er, young woman in pigtails and dressed up in a school uniform licking a lollipop, about twenty years old.

He wakes in the middle the night to find a stranger standing by his wife. He can neither speak nor move.

Stop! His mind screamed. Get away from her. No, do what you want to her, but let me go. Her biological clock is ticking, but I can still reproduce. You owe it to the human race to spare me.

A true knight in shining armor.

This is not the stranger’s last visit, and his attention to our (*cough*) hero’s wife grows all the more intimate.

Thoughts:

Having once been twenty years old, I can say with some degree of confidence that not many twenty-year-olds go around in school uniforms, pigtails, and licking lollipops just waiting for married older guys to stop by and have affairs with them. Forming relationships with twenty-year-olds is not like going to the store to pick up a quart of milk and a loaf of bread. Twenty-year-old women are what you might call human beings.

I suspect the author knows this and is showing how ludicrous the idea is without saying the words. Good for her.

Another interesting device is the nocturnal visits from the stranger. Is he real? He comes and goes. The author doesn’t offer an explicit answer. Again, good for her. Other elements of the story become more important.

I would like to have seen more of what the wife felt about her husband’s actions. She couldn’t have known about his fantasies, but she must have felt his coldness. At one point, she shows him the results of a pregnancy test. His response is, “Don’t put that in my face. You peed on it.” She simply puts the test in her bathrobe pocket. Wouldn’t such a reaction to news of his impending fatherhood hurt or upset most women? (I think at this point, I might have said something like, “Don’t like pee in your face, dear? Better hope it’s not a boy.”)

Just the same, the ending is logical. I enjoyed this little tale.

Bio:

According to her blurb, author Holley Cornetto is a librarian originally from Alabama but now living in New Jersey.

The story can be read here.


Title: “Night Visions”
Author: Holley Cornetto
First published: Theme of Absence, August 21, 2020

Review of “Incarnate” by Dani Atkinson

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Plot:

There isn’t too much of a plot to this, only an explanation. A mother talks to her small child—probably an infant—and explains why he is god. He’s not god in the sense that all people are divine, but in the sense that he really once was god: smiting people, blessing people, and all that follows. He had an adoring priesthood.

The problem with all that, as the mother explains her restless child, is that humanity was commanded to love a god who was impossible to love. Yet, it was impossible NOT to love him. How were they going to work their way out of this dilemma?

Thoughts:

What I found striking about this little piece was not only the cleverness with which people solved the problem of loving a violent, abusive god but the author’s use of language. Most of this is done in baby talk, but it is not mocking or condescending. Her opening paragraph reads:

Once there was a god. And that god was you. Yes, you, sweetie!

Those words are hard to read without hearing the opening of the Gospel of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

While the ending was logical, I wasn’t crazy about it. If the premise is not unique, the presentation is novel and entertaining. I enjoyed it.

Bio:

About the only bio information I could find on this author was that she’s been published three or four times in Daily Science Fiction, and she hates writing author bios.

The story can be read here.

Title: “Incarnate”
Author: Dani Atkinson
First published: Daily Science Fiction, August 17, 2020