Review of “My Long-Term Relationship with Guns” by Daniel Dutilly

This essay is part of a contest sponsored by Memoir Magazine on the topic of guns and people.

Author Daniel Dutilly begins describing his relationship with guns in childhood. His father, a Vietnam veteran, gave him and his younger brother plastic army guns for Christmas. They were four and five years old, and they loved their guns wore them out within months.

Dutilly recounts the excitement of going on his first “range day” with adults, shooting at targets with a single-shot .22.

An incident occurs that changes his perspective on guns. This is a thoughtful, adult piece, sad in many respects. At the same time, the author expresses gratitude without resentment.

Purists may see some rough edges in the writing, e.g., some unnecessary capitalization, but these are minuscule and do not interfere with the meaning.

He does not mention hunting. I’d be curious to see his view on that. The author has only so much room to write, however, and he had other points to make.

According to his author blurb, Daniel Dutilly is from Warwick, Rhode Island, but now lives in the American Deep South “with a pack of rapscallions and their wonderful mother.”

“My Long-Term Relationship with Guns” is a Guns and People Essay runner up

The essay can be read here.

Title: “My Long-Term Relationship with Guns”
Author: Daniel Dutilly
First published: Memoir Magazine, August 2018

Review of “To the editor: Monsters belong in schools” by Zella Christensen

As the title implies, this story takes the form of a letter to the editor, echoing nicely all polite sneering and the righteous indignation often found in such missives.

At issue is the time-honored tradition of keeping various monsters in the dungeons of schools. The letter-writer concedes an earlier point from a “well-intentioned” Miss Tickal that monsters are involved in student deaths. The counterproposals appear modest at first glance, intentionally mimicking those of politicians who support arming teachers or teaching students CPR in order to decrease the body count resulting from school violence.

Thoughts:

The author’s points are well-taken, and the short piece cute, but I did not care for it. I love tongue-in-cheek. It is my native language. I respect that the author took the time to compose the piece in the classic form. Ms. Christensen knows how to write. She is not banging away at the keyboard. Perhaps it was the attempt to meld fantasy magic schools with a grim reality that stumped me, but this work, for all its positive points, just didn’t do it for me.

According to her website, author Zella Christensen grew up in southeastern Wisconsin and recently graduated George Mason University in Virginia with a BFA in fiction writing. She called her writing fiction and “speculative poetry,” a genre she describes as having roots in science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

The story can be read  here.

Title: “To the editor: Monsters belong in schools”
Author: Zella Christensen
First published: Daily Science Fiction, August 27, 2018

Review of “Prodrome” by Amanda Leigh

The title “Prodrome” is defined in an epigraph: “any symptom that signals the impending onset of a disease.”

Sage tells his story in a series of journal entries beginning December 3, 2017. He is outside walking his dog when he sees the old man who lives in the apartment below him walking. The old man turns his cane in Sage’s direction, so the knob of the silver wolf handle reflects “stars of lamplight” across his face. The old man could be sinister. He could be a ghost, singing the song Sage’s father used to sing. He could be all in Sage’s imagination or he could be something else.

Thoughts:

This sad little tale depicts a sense of isolation and fear not uncommon, particularly in Sage’s age group, that is, young adults out on their own for the first time. The reader watches Sage deteriorate and wonders what can be done. Where did he go wrong, if he went wrong? His roommate cares, and his professor cares. No one understands, no one sees.

Some of the imagery is striking. In describing the old man, Sage says, “he’s the only person I know whose cheeks leave steep valleys in the sides of his face like old Swiss cheese.” When he returns home, his roommate, Riley, is sitting on the couch between two women and offers him one. Uncharacteristically, Sage is not interested.

Both women were bland. Without a hint of makeup on either of them, they stared into space with their tired, lackluster eyes. Neither seemed to care about the fact that they were being auctioned off.

One is brunette, the other a redhead with perky boobs wanting to escape her spaghetti-string top. Not so much repulsive, but damn! Dull!

With all that aside, I found this a sad and satisfying read.

According to her blurb, author Amanda Leigh is a freelance poet whose work has been published in journals such as Tipton, Askew, Cultured Vultures, and Better than Starbucks.

This story can be read here.

©2018 Denise Longrie

 

Review of “The Case of the Fiery Fingers” by Erle Stanley Gardner

Perry Mason, attorney at law, is just returning to his office from a long day at court. His secretary, Della Street, has a pile of letters for him to sign, and one client to see. The potential has been waiting for an hour.

Mason at first demurs, but Della tells him the girl is in trouble. Her name is Nellie Conway. She is thirty-two or thirty-three, slender, dark hair, gray eyes, and has “and the most perfect poker face you’ve ever seen.”

After finishing the paperwork, Mason agrees to see the poker-face client. Miss Conway asks how to prevent a murder. She tells him she is the night nurse for Mrs. Elizabeth Bain, who was injured in an automobile accident. She believes her patient’s husband, Mr. Nathan Bain, is trying to kill his wife.

She has brought a vial containing four tablets that she said her employer paid her to give to Elizabeth Bain. Nellie believes they are poison. She has gone to the police. Sargeant Holcomb scorned her and sent her away.

Mason dislikes Nellie immediately. Her story stinks. Nevertheless, he withholds one tablet from her and returns the vial, sealing it in an envelope, and signing the back of the envelope. He asks her to sign it as well.

He is not surprised when the lab tests show the tablet is aspirin. He is surprised when Mrs. Bain dies suddenly of arsenic poisoning.

Thoughts:

Author Gardner throws down a whole truckload of red herrings in this one. When Bain mentions that some of his wife’s jewelry has gone missing, he lays a trap with phosphorescent powder and ultraviolet light, thus the fiery fingers of the title. Unfortunately, he puts his wife’s jewelry chest where any number of people could have seen it or handled it, not just the one points to as a thief.

Just before she dies, Elizabeth Bain receives a visit from her family. She cuts her husband out of the will, so he does not seem to have a motive for killing her. At least, not that motive. By now the reader is sure he is a complete scumbag, a philanderer and he has to be the bad guy. After all, Mason thinks he is. Especially when Elizabeth’s sister-in-law starts talking about the death of Nathan’s first wife.

This is a convoluted tale, with breaking and entering, illegal recordings, and Mason earning a warrant for vagrancy in New Orleans, and witnesses spilling their guts—except Nellie. She is happy to tell Mason, “That’s not any of your business” at certain points. Poker face.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is not realistic, but it is entertaining.

This was made into an episode of the old Perry Mason TV series with Raymond Burr, but with a simplified plot, and originally broadcast May 3, 1958.

Title: The Case of the Fiery Fingers (Perry Mason Mystery #39)
Author: Erle Stanley Gardner (1889-1970)
First published: 1951

Review of “Say ‘Cheese!'” by John Francis Keane

The story opens with an invitation: “Let us go to the place. It is time for us to live forever.” This could mean a couple of things. It becomes especially intriguing when the reader learns the tribe’s children stay behind in the care of “old Sundoo” because they cannot sit still long enough to live forever. Huh? Are they going to starve to death? Some odd form of mass suicide? They seem too happy about it.

The next paragraph describes a modern archeological descent into a cave to examine a stronghold of a Photos Culture, a Cro-Magnon culture who discovered a way to use light and light-sensitive fungus to record images of themselves on cave walls.

I admit this is an intriguing idea. While this cave is the only example of such images, the people achieve a type of immortality, even if their names are long forgotten. Photography develops much earlier with far-reaching effects in this story. However, I could not quite buy it. Granted, the author has little space to develop the idea. I was more engaged with the Cro-Magnon than anyone else in the story.

I enjoyed the story. I just found the ending a little lean.

According to his blurb, authorJohn Francis Keane is a member of the British Sci-Fi Association has published both prose and poetry in several science fiction magazines, including Analog. He has written about the social prototyping potential of science fiction (whatever that is) in management journals as Emergence and The International Journal of Advertising. He is currently working on the Altrisian series, a trilogy of novels about an ancient super race with the power to manipulate destiny across vast spans of space and time.

The story is available here.

Title: Say “Cheese!”
Author: John Francis Keane
First published: August 20, 2018
Read: Daily Science Fiction, August 20, 2018

Review of “Deerstalking: Contemplating an Old Tradition” by Page Lambert

This is a non-fiction memoir.

In striking and memorable images, the author shows the reader first, a deer that died entangled in a barbed wire fence; a tiny fawn, abandoned by its mother, that died of dehydration, despite human efforts; and her children’s reaction to the heart of a deer her husband has killed. In all of this, she lays outs the fundamental paradox of hunting: reverence for the thing you kill.

As the author’s son asks her, “Mom, how come I want to hunt so much but I get sad inside at the same time?” He is still young enough to be tucked in at night.

The reader follows the author and her children as they watch the whitetail fawns grow during the spring and summer near their home in northeastern Wyoming. Along with their dog, Hondo, they walk the deer tracks. The reader sees scrapings on trees limbs from antlers and the droppings on the ground.

This piece is an example of memoir writing doing its job. It makes the reader think and feel. The expressions are eloquent without being self-conscious. The narrative avoids purple passages. Sadness and maturity come through the writing without judgment. The author poses questions to which she admits she has no answers.

According to her blurb, author Page Lambert is a co-founder of the writing organization Women Writing the West. She is the author of the memoir In Search of Kinship (in which the above memoir appeared) and the novel Shifting Stars. She teaches graduate writing courses at the University of Denver.

Title: “Deerstalking: Contemplating an Old Tradition”
Author: Page Lambert
First published: Parabola: Magazine of Myth and Tradition (The Hunter, Summer 1991)
“Deerstalking: Contemplating an Old Tradition” can be read here.

©2018 Denise Longrie

Review of “After the First Comes the Last” by Holly Lyn Walrath

Plot:

Aria’s first spell is almost an accident, but it fills a need. She wants to lift the stain out of the carpet, so her mother will not know she has been smoking. Beyond that, she fills a need she did not know she had. She is satisfied—happy, empowered—that she could make a spell work. Later, when another spell works in front of her mother, she receives congratulations for her first spell. She does not say anything.

Time goes on, and she works spells for herself and for others. Is she helping those people?

Thoughts:

This is a brief, tale, a condensed version of someone growing up and looking back on their life. The metaphor of the spell remains throughout, but it does not mean the same to Aria as an adolescent as it does to Aria when she is a little older. At first, the ability to work a spell is something joyous in itself. Later, Aria thinks she could have used it for something wiser. Then comes the question of what she wants to do with what she has learned.

While this is nothing deep, this is a nice little tale, quickly and nicely told.

Bio:

According to her blurb, Holly Lyn Walrath’s poetry and short fiction have appeared in Strange Horizons, Fireside Fiction, Luna Station Quarterly, and Liminality. She has a forthcoming chapbook of words and images, Glimmerglass Girl. She holds a B.A. in English from The University of Texas and a Master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.

Title: “After the First Comes the Last”
Author: Holly Lyn Walrath (b. 1985)
First published: Daily Science Fiction, August 13, 2018

The story can be read here.

Review of “It Will Be Under the Next Stone” by Jennifer Linnaea

She is the best, Hananh tells the reader. Her name is Gwenneth. Among her sensitivities are the ability to “overhear a conversation between spirits in a gurgling brook or overturn those rare rocks with djinn correspondence carved on the bottom.”

Hananh herself is sensitive. She knows the acacias have been talking about her, but she can no longer hear them. She’s recently gone deaf and called Gwenneth to seek a remedy or at least a reason for that. Hananh brings her mesquite honey and crackers.

Gwenneth eventually leaves the property in her search and takes to the desert, walking down a dry riverbed lined with acacias. Hananh brings her water.

The dialogue is sparse in this little story, but the imagery is rich. The reader sees the desert bluffs and feels the dry desert air. The reader never feels left out of the action. We know Hananh well, follow her on her journey to hear what she can no longer hear, to see what lies under the next stone. Perhaps.

I found the ending unexpected (nice), but still not quite satisfying. Maybe I’m dull, and there’s something I didn’t get, but for me, a “huh?” remained hanging in the air.

All said and done, I enjoyed this tale, even with its don’t-quite-get-it ending.

Title: “It Will Be Under the Next Stone”
Author: Jennifer Linnaea
First published: Daily Science Fiction, August 6, 2018

According to her author’s blurb, Jennifer Linnaea works at a library, studies Japanese, and practices Aikido. Her fiction has appeared recently in Strange Horizons and Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. Her favorite topics are aliens and language, and the novel she’s currently working on involves both of those. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.

The story can be read here.

Review of “The Space Radio (Isaac and Sarah and the Star)” by Wayne Haroutunian

Aging Mortimer Cain still sits on a rocking chair on his back porch, gazing out over the waves at a particular star. The beach by his home is empty now, but a young man—hardly more than a boy—used come to the shoreline in all sorts of weather with a radio. Eyes fixed toward the sky, he’d tune the radio, searching for one certain signal.

This brief story of a thousand words or so successfully creates an atmosphere of isolation and longing. The reader understands from the first lines the characters’ search for companionship in the vastness of the universe.

If it weren’t for one unfortunate turn of phrase, the spell would be complete.

…again the old man saw the chasm in the boy’s eyes, a chasm which yearned deeply to be filled.

But magic there is aplenty. I liked this little story.

According to his blurb, author Wayne Haroutunian is a novelist and longtime short story writer.

 

Title: “The Space Radio (Isaac and Sarah and the Star)”
Author: Wayne Haroutunian
First published: Theme of Absence, August 4, 2018

The story can be read here.

Review of “The Things That We Will Never Say” by Vanessa Fogg

Aside from the science fiction trappings, this is a portrait of an adult daughter’s relationship with her aging mother. The daughter has left home—Earth—for a distant star. She returns, braving the hyperspace travel, bringing her children for a visit with their grandma.

The daughter straddles both worlds now: her adopted home and Earth. She knows her mother will never know what it’s like to live on her world, to “To feel the gene-mods reshaping your lungs, your blood, so that you may breathe the alien air. To undergo the Kairos training and mods that allow a person to see through time.” She, on the other hand, will never know what her mother went through, a single mother, desperate and angry at the end of the Empire.

The daughter knows all this. Yet neither she nor her mother will say, “I understand.”

This was a quiet, thoughtful piece, longer than most in DSF. I gave it 6 out of 7 rocket dragons.

 *****

According to her bio, author Vanessa Fogg lives in Western Michigan, a magical land. She used to work as a research scientist in molecular cell biology and now works as a freelance medical writer, with apparent sidesteps into fantasy and science fiction.

I gave it 6 out of 7 rocket dragons.

Story published 5/25/2018 in Daily Science Fiction