fiction river

A short story collection focusing on steampunk with magic through alchemy.

Publication year: 2015
Format: print
Publisher: WMG Publishing
Page count: 237

“The Rites of Zosimos” by Angela Penrose: the collection starts with a story set in a magic/alchemy school. The story has two such schools. A body is found, naked and boiled. Sir Peter Estridge, assistant to one of the deans, is pressured to investigate the murder together with Lady Catherine Morwood, the Grand Dame of the other school.

“Heart” by Leslie Claire Walker: Sebastian is a powerful necromancer who has an unhealthy obsession with Erynn. Sebastian has also murdered Erynn’s love. Erynn can think of only one way to escape.

“Pennies for Portents” by Diana Benedict: Francie’s brother can build really good mechanical machines. One of them is Madam LeGrue, the mechanical fortuneteller which is the only reason they’re allowed to travel with a carnival. Unfortunately, the fortuneteller has started to behave strangely.

“The Order of the Golden Grapefruit” by Sharon Joss: animated chocolate! Fritz’s father was an animator for the army. Unfortunately, the horrors of war have affected his mind and so he and Fritz are seeking employment from one of the best confectionary shops in Belgium. The shop needs are spectacular display of animated chocolates.

“The Perfect Perfume” by Anthea Sharp: Charlotte’s parents were the best perfumers in London. But when they died, Charlotte wanted to continue their legacy. She just needs something extraordinary as an ingredient to create a truly wonderful perfume for Queen Victoria II’s jubilee.

“The Grand Dangoolie” by Ron Collins: Set in WW2, the Grand Dangoolie is the stage name for August McDormand who claims that he knows real magic. The main character’s boss, Houdini, wants to prove that McDormand is a fraud.
“The Whirring Dreams of Aberrant Blood” by Cindie Geddes: In this world, girls with the correct type of blood, called aberrants, can bring mechanical wonders to life.

“St. Jean & The Dragon” by Brenda Carre: St. Jean is a jinni and his master is Jane Watson, who investigates paranormal happenings. Something is stealing people, and everything seems to be connected to the house of an old woman who herself hasn’t been seen in months.

“Weight in Gold” by Dory Crowe: McKenzie Ross is traveling on a steam ship to the US to study there. Her father is also onboard but in disguise because he’s smuggling gold and knowledge from out of Napoleon’s Empire.

“Heaven’s Flight” by Leigh Saunders: Paige wants nothing more than tinker with all things mechanical. This makes her parents cross because they want to see her married well. However, when one of Paige’s mechanical wonders records a mysterious and threatening conversation, she and her maid must do their best to avert disaster.

“Blood Moon Carnival” by Kim May: Fia is a phoenix, trapped in a half bird, half human form by the Ringmaster who uses alchemy to trap various mythological beings into his circus and display them.

“Makes the World Go ’Round” by Kelly Cairo: 10,000 years ago, two technicians were assigned to work on the pyramid at the same time. The pyramid is responsible for keeping the world turning. The technicians fell in love but now one of them has died and the other must find love again, or the world will stop turning.

“Myrtle’s Boxes” by Louisa Swann: The Philosopher’s Stone is in Myrtle Creek’s left eye socket. Unfortunately, the souls trapped in the stone are driving him crazy and he has to find a way to free them.

These were all delightful tales with various steampunk gadgets and alchemy. I highly recommend this collection if you like steampunk at all.

Only two of the stories were really dark, “Heart” and “The Whirring Dreams of Aberrant Blood” the others are mostly fun. As a chocolate lover, I especially liked “The Order of the Golden Grapefruit”.


The second Fiction River short story collection.

Publication year: 2013
Format: Audio
Running time: 7 and 15 minutes

Narrators: Matthew Buckman, Jerimy Colbert, Kristine Rusch, Dean Smith, Barton Grover Howe, Jane Kennedy, Alison Longuera, Stephanie Reid

Like the name implies, these stories focus on solving problems that humans are facing today. They each focus on a different problem, though, which shows just how many problems we have. All of the stories overcome problems that humans themselves have created, not outside threats like an asteroid hitting the Earth.
I liked most of the stories and my favorites are “Flight of the Little Bird”, “Neighborhoods” and “The Legend of Parker Clark and Lois Jane”.

“The Gathering” by David Gerrold: In this story, a group of people who want to save the world have gathered together and discuss their past successes and failure. And why they always fail.

“Positive Message” by William H. Keith: Sunrise Earth is a company which specializes in solar power. But when the company starts to get real successes, the old oil companies fight back.

“The Legend of Parker Clark and Lois Jane” by Ron Collins: Clark is working on reducing carbon emissions when suddenly his boss tells him to stop work. However, he was very close to a breakthrough, so that decision makes no sense. Until Clark realizes something.

“Your Name Here” by Laura Resnick: the main character works in the population control office. Some people desperately want to procreate despite not passing the tests.

“Flight of Little Bird” by Stephanie Writt: Tara hates her job and feels that she’s very small and worthless. She wants to be so much more, but doesn’t know how. But then she has an idea and everything changes.

“Staying Afloat” by Angela Penrose: many fields are suffering from too much rain. Paola is trying to find some good and cheap solution that small and poor farmers could use.

“The Shape of a Name” by Annie Reed: Anisha is a war orphan who has lost her arm. One day, one white woman comes to the refugee camp and takes her away, to a girl school.

“Neighborhoods” by Dean Wesley Smith: an eccentric millionaire is disgusted with the news of continuing violence in his home city of Chicago and he decides to do something about it.

“Heaven Backwards” by Lisa Silverthorne: In the future, the Earth is a desert because of the sins of people who didn’t follow the Word. But one small settlement still survives. However, some of their children have been disappearing. Then, three outsiders are at the gates.

“Earth Day” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: the mother of the main character was obsessed with saving the Earth and her son continues that trend, although probably not in the way that the mother intended.

“Deus Ex Machina” by Travis Heermann: the world’s first functional artificial intelligence awakens.

A short story collection about… the end of the world.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook, epub
Page count: 252
Publisher: WMG publishing

As you might expect, these are pretty intense stories. All of them are emotional, one way or another. I’m actually not a huge fan of apocalypse stories, except for Terminator movies (and in them, it’s about avoiding the end of the world) but most of these I liked. Most of them are chilling stories, one way or another. When society’s rules break down, some people will only think of themselves but fortunately not all. Otherwise, humanity wouldn’t have evolved to have a society at all. This seems to be something that people are forgetting these days.

I think every story ends the world in a different way. I’m not entirely sure if I should enjoy the creativity or find it chilling.

The stories have been divided into several parts: just before the Apocalypse, the beginning of it, during it, surviving after it, and three stories which describe the whole thing.

Waiting for Apocalypse:
“String of Pearls” by Eric Kent Edstrom: The world has just heard that comets will strike the Earth and end human life. Lucas Piper and his girlfriend Vicki are among them. Lucas regrets not doing anything meaningful with his life. When they go to get more beer from the local small shop, they find out that the elderly shopkeeper has been murdered. Lucas decides to do something.

“The Shoes I Wore This Morning” by J. Daniel Sawyer: Lord Phineas Roxton Summerlee has just returned from an expedition where he and his small party were looking for a city of gold from the Amazons. The locals warned him away from it, but he didn’t listen.

The Beginning of the End
“The Dust Devil, the Riffraff, and the Big Orange Sunset” by Valerie Brook: Charlene Lynn Weaver is a patient on a psych ward. She and all the others have been locked up and nobody has come in the morning to care for them. Dust storms rage outside and the fine dust has filtrated inside so it’s not possible to leave the building. Charlene is one of the few people who know what’s really going on.

“Goin’ to the Chapel” by Rebecca M. Senese: In just three days, Marlee is going to get the perfect wedding she’s dreamed about since she was a little girl. Unfortunately, that’s the day when aliens invade Earth.

“With Wings the End” by Rob Vagle: The world is dying because people’s hearts are turning into blackbirds and flying away. The birds have mirrored bellies and fly in tight formation. Jeffrey wants to stay in his house, away from danger but his wife Laura wants to meet her friend whose heart is changing soon. On the way to the hospital, Laura also contracts the disease (or whatever it is) and Jeffrey brings her home to die.

Amidst the Apocalypse
“Cogs in the Machine” by Paul Eckheart: The Tickers have wiped out much of humanity but the survivors defend the remaining settlements. Tania wants to be part of Major Townsend’s village but she has a secret which might destroy her or save humanity.

“The Faerie Invasion” by Anthea Sharp: Ric Garcia is trying to protect his little sister from murderous fey folk who have invaded all of USA. But Angelina is sick and Ric doesn’t know what to do. Then the Wild Hunt come to their hiding place.

“Demon-touched” by Travis Heermann: Something infests or possesses humans. When they’re “ridden” (as it’s called) they do terrible things but don’t remember any of it afterwards. The narrator is a neuroscientist and one of the few who is still looking for a cause and a cure. But this time he awakes from “being ridden” in a cage with a shotgun in front of his face.

Survivors: Apocalypse came years ago but some survived it and have to continue living in a drastically changed world. This is perhaps my favorite setting for an Apocalypse story.
“Same Time Next Year” by M. E. Owen: 15 years ago something changed many people into Beasts. Still, Arlene’s family has a tradition to gather and celebrate their continued existence. But now they’re late and Arlene is worried for them.

“The Story That Has to Be Written” by Louisa Swann: A giant solar flare has wiped out a lot of humanity and made the whole planet much drier. The narrator, who is seven years old, her little brother, and father are still struggling to survive in a world where food is hard to come by because most of plant life can’t grow and most of the animals are gone.

“Tyrph Rights” by David Stier: USA is a wasteland thanks to genetic engineering gone wrong. Today, Devin and his new partner Rahel are going to try to get inside the Loop – the dangerous remains of the Sears Tower.

From start to finish:
“Paradox. Lost.” by Stefon Mears: The narrator has invented a time machine and it turns out to be a big mistake. Time travel doesn’t work like any of the theories.

“The Night of Brahma” by Leigh Saunders: Reina Varela Harrak can see the future but it hasn’t brought her happiness because only rarely have people believed what she has told them. Including her own family. Partly because they’re struggling to survive in the horrors of the Endless War.

“Three Degrees Above Zero” by Doug Dandridge: Scott Stafford was an astronomy teacher in Florida. Now, he might be the last man left alive on Earth because of a neutron star. The most science oriented story in this selection.

Reprints some of the funniest stories from Fiction River.

Publication year: 2016
Format: ebook, epub
Page count: 146
Publisher: WMG publishing

“Generations” by Steve Perry: from “Fantasy Adrift”: Ziggy and his brothers live in a frontier planet where police aren’t around. When their enemy has a new toy, Ziggy has to get creative.

“Case Cracked” by Joe Cron: from “Fantastic Detectives”: Frank Dumpty is a hard-boiled detective in Magic City Police Department. A troll has been killed and Frank has a strong hunch who is behind it. But getting justice in a corrupt city isn’t a laughing matter.

“Role Model” by Kevin J. Anderson: another funny story from “Fantastic Detectives”: Dan Shamble is a zombie P.I. While working in a Cosplay Convention, he gets a sidekick: someone cosplaying him.

“Finally Family” by Ray Vukcevich: from “Unnatural Worlds”: Bugboy is an alien but he can’t tell people that. He lives in Japan but doesn’t even know the language. Then he meets Kimiko who teaches English to the Japanese.

“Time, Expressed as an Entrée” by Robert T. Jeschonek: from “Time Streams”: time devouring Rainbow Leviathan eats up everything until just one day is left. Then he encounters an anomaly.

“One-Night Stands for Love and Glory” by David H. Hendrickson: from “Universe Between”: the main character is a stand-up comedian. He used to be great but now unfortunately his Artificial Intelligence, which translates the jokes to the local language and culture, has begun to deteriorate.

“Earth Day” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: from “How to save the world”: One man thinks that he can save the world. His mother was an ardent environmentalist and so is the son… in his own way.

“Jelly’s Heroes” by Louisa Swann: from “Valor”: Staff Sergeant Jillian K. Wilson was given the task of training a small group of locals at Centauri VI. However, the locals are small and have no arms or legs. But that doesn’t mean they lack the spirit.

“Nice Timestream Youse Got Here” by Lee Allred: another story from “Time Streams”: the narrator and his good-looking but dumb partner Maizie work for the Temporal Protection Agency. This time they’re in New York City in 1940, looking for their next target. But they aren’t in it to protect any timeline.

“In the Play of Frigid Women” by Dean Wesley Smith: from “Fantasy Adrift”: Poker Boy and his love the Front Desk Girl are superheroes. However, this time they’ve decided to relax on a cruise. Everything goes smoothly at first but then a terrible storm hits. This time, Poker Boy and his gang have to really stretch their creativity to save the day.

These are all fun. I especially liked “Jelly’s heroes”, “Generations”, and “One-Night Stands for Love and Glory”. I’ve read previously about half of these stories but enjoyed them again.

Short stories about crimes which were crimes in the past but are no longer. Well, not in USA anway.

Publication year: 2015
Format: ebook
Page count: 251
Publisher: WMG Publishing

Some of these stories are about rights for other humans than heterosexual white males. But they are still quite a varied bunch, even though most of them are set in the USA. Some of them remind us about things that history tends to forget, like that the Jewish people weren’t the only ones killed in Nazi camps.

However, quite a few of these stories are somber and depressing because the world can be a nasty place, especially when the people around you all condemn you for your actions or simply for existing.

The Color of Guilt by Annie Reed: Josef is a Holocaust survivor and is troubled by his past for many reasons.

Hiro’s Welcome by Patrick O’Sullivan: Sergeant Kintoki Hiro is coming home to California after fighting in the Second World War. He wants to marry his sweetheart. But there’s just one problem: she’s white.

The American Flag of Sergeant Hale Schofield by Kelly Washington: Willa’s father came home from the Vietnam war when she was very young. He has nightmares which won’t stop and he visits the Arlington National Cemetery every year for a fellow soldier’s grave and takes the US flag from it. Then he burns the flag. Willa finally understands why.

Combat Medic by Kris Nelscott: June Eagleton was a medic for five years in the Vietnam war. Now, she lives in Berkeley and is horrified to wake up at the sound of combat helicopters. It’s May 1969 near People’s Park.

Night of the Healer by Tonya D. Price: Pierre-Joseph Wawanolewat is heading to Boston to cure a sick woman. But the journey is filled with danger for the simple reason that he’s a Native American and during this time there weren’t any laws which protected him. And the police officer following him isn’t making things any easier.

The Quality of Mercy by Michele Lang: Mrs. Abigail Abbott’s late husband was a lawyer and he taught Abigail, too. However, in the 1800s women can’t practice law so she has to use more roundabout means to help people.

Daughter of Joy by Cindie Geddes: Ah Toy is a young Chinese wife on her way to America. Her abusive childhood has taught her that gold is the only thing that can give her freedom. So, she will use her only asset.

Democracy by Mario Milosevic: The small town of Glory has a dilemma: the vote for the next sheriff is a tie. Robin is woman masquerading as a man and so she has voted, illegally. Her vote will have more power than anyone in the town would have believed.

Sisters in Suffrage by Debbie Mumford: Emily Tuttle joins the Silent Sentinels who are picketing President Wilson’s office. Little does she know what is to follow.

Knocked Up by Elliotte Rusty Harold: When a high school girl gets pregnant in a small town in Kentucky, her choices are pretty limited.

O Best Beloved by Angela Penrose: Marceau’s wife is giving birth and he’s afraid that his sins will become manifest in the child.

Sunshine by Michael Kowal: The narrator is a gumshoe in 1930s and he’s helping an actress, Little Jackie Sunshine, who has a terrible family.

The Harper’s Escape by Anthea Sharp: Bronagh O’Riada is harper and a bard but after Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland she became a fugitive unable to practice her craft.

As the Berimbau Begins to Play by Paul Eckheart: In Rio de Janeiro, the narrator is introduced to a game which was then technically illegal which was and is very popular.

Death of the Turban by Bill Beatty: Veli Yaziz is a detective in post-Atatürk Turkey where some traditions are illegal and some are merely frowned upon. His assistant works for the secret police and is spying on him while he investigates the murder of a hodja (a holy man) who is now an outlaw.

On the Edge of the Nations by Dan C. Duval: Cellie and her Mama were house slaves but now they’re on the run, trying to keep out of sight from the slave hunters.

Window Frame, Handprint, Bloodstain by M. Elizabeth Castle: A story in a haiku form, set in April 4, 1968.

The White Game by Ron Collins: In 1963 in Alabama, even playing in a baseball game can be a crime with disproportional punishment if your skin has a different color. An old journalist reminiscent what happened and what he thinks happened in May that year.

I liked all of these stories, but my favorites were “The Harper’s Escape”, “Combat Medic”, “The Night of the Healer”, “Quality of Mercy”, and “Death of the Turban”. “Democracy” is deliciously ironic. “Daughter of Joy” and “Sisters in Suffrage” are just chilling but for different reasons.

Short story collection where the idea was to give writers pulp titles and for them to write a non-pulp story based on the title they chose. I loved that idea. The stories cover different genres. Not all of them are SF/F.

Format: ebook
Page count: 237
Publisher: WMG Publishing

“The Revolt of the Philosophers of Fomalhaul” by Phaeda Weldon. Aaron to ordered to kill a child but he struggles with the order and finds out something terrible is happening.

“Marvelous Contrivance of the Heart” by Cat Rambo. Mike builds the most intricate and life-like dioramas. His wife hates the “dollhouses”.

“The Flower of the Tabernacle” by Annie Reed. A young woman appears to have taken her own life in a Catholic church but a determined cop investigates.

“Lost in the Tarnished Cube” by Thomas K. Carpenter. Mage Vance has bought, at long last, a wizard’s tower to himself. Unfortunately, the loan he had to take has stricter terms than he initially thought.

“Crypt of the Metal Ghouls” by Angela Penrose. A group of teens work as salvagers in the ruins of former civilization. They enter into a Ghoul house and find out how it got its name.

“The Imperfect Otter Empire” by Dayle A. Dermatis. Alyse has just lost her fiancée and her job. She’s always adored otters so she goes to the otter exhibit to wonder what she’s going to do next.

“The Unknowable Mansion of the Night” by Sandra M. Odell. In a cyberpunk society where people without constant access are called deadheads, Willy Shakes is one of the deadheads but he also has a reputation as dependable worker. Cecil B. de Millionaire hires Willy to do a job.

“The Portal of Wrong Love” by Dean Wesley Smith. A Poker Boy adventure where couples are disappearing.

“Sacred Poet from the Future” by Kelly Cairo. The main character helps a new employee in her grandfather’s firm and strange things happen.

“Swamp of the Prehistoric Clan” by Christy Fifield. Real estate developers think that the old residents are at their mercy, but some of the “fossils” decide to fight back.

“The Magnificent Citadel” by Rebecca M. Senese. Charlotte has a chance to pay back to her bully at school but is it worth it?

“Night of the Dancing Champions” by Kristine Katheryn Rusch. In 1941 Gertie was the jitterbug champion. Years later, the champions are recognized once again and Gertie relives her glory days.

“The Delicatessen from Beyond the Monolith” by Lisa Silverthorne. Chance is a cop who wakes up every night from an awful nightmare where he kills his partner Boone. Chance, and other cops, have started to think Boone is dirty. And for some reason the local deli owner keeps giving Chance wrong sandwiches.

“Prism of the Crab Gods” by Kelly Washington. Miles isn’t what his father wanted him to be, everyone says he’s slow and he only cares about counting; so his dad beats him and the others in their family, too. Miles prays that his best friends, the crab gods, will help his family.

“The Gleaming Crater” by Thea Hutcheson. Even though Janos is a mage, he feels that his life is going nowhere. But when he gets a vision from a goddess and meets a strange mage, who seems to be part of the vision, he is swept into a grand adventure.

Some of the stories are quiet and “mundane” (without any SF or fantasy elements), many are exciting, and one of them is even epic. My favorites were “the Revolt”, “Lost in the Tarnished Cube”, and “Crypt of the Metal Ghouls”. The cyberpunk story has some interesting elements but the whole plugging your brain to a computer squicks me out too much.

A short story collection.

Publication year: 2014
Format: print
Page count: 273
Publisher: WMG Publishing

This is another of the Fiction River anthologies. I’ve enjoyed the previous ones a lot and was looking forward to reading this one, too. I liked all of the stories but only a couple of them were outstanding to me. Still, some of them are part of ongoing or planned series and if I didn’t have a physical TBR pile of over 100 books (still…) I’d be very tempted to check them out. However, they work just fine as stand-alones. Only two stories have professional detectives (and three various agents), the rest are amateur sleuths.

“Case Cracked” by Joe Cron: Frank Dumpty is a detective in the Magic City Police Department. When a troll is killed Frank finally has a chance to go against one of the more corrupt characters in the city.

“Living With The Past” by Dayle A. Dermatis: A ghost of a Marilyn Monroe impersonator asks Nikki Ashbourne for help and even though Nikki’s life has just exploded, she can’t refuse.

“All She Can Be” by Karen L. Abrahamson: This is a prequel story to Abrahamson’s Cartographer series (which sounds very interesting!). Vallon Drake has the ability to control earth. She uses it in the service of her government and this is her first case; someone has changed US’s landscape and Vallon and her (asshole) partner have to take that person in custody and reverse the change.

“Under Oregon” by Kara Legend: Evangeline’s family has just moved to Oregon but their livelihood, the crops, are in danger. Evangeline makes a potion to save them but angers a local fairy.

“Role Model” by Kevin J. Anderson: Dan Shamble is a zombie P.I. His friend asks him to go to a Cosplay Convention and he agrees. One of the Stormtroopers is murdered. Shamble is on the case and he even gets a sidekick: someone cosplaying him. This was a lot of fun.

“Death In Hathaway Tower” by Ryan M. Williams: Emily Hathaway is the young Lady of the Tower and when a dead body turns up in her library, she has to deal with it. This setting has really ethereal elves which I’m always sucker for.

“Trouble Aboard The Flying Scotsman” by Alistair Kimble: Harland Stone has just resolved the Scottish Affair for His Majesty’s Dashing Chaps and is looking forward to a quiet train ride to London. But then the conductor claims that something has sabotaged the train and only Stone can help.

“Containing Patient Zero” by Paul Eckheart: Zombies in this world result from a virus – except for patient zero. Leroy Star is a reality TV star and also a convicted serial killer who is about to be executed. Unfortunately, he’s also patient zero and Doctor Joseph Nelson is brought in to see Leroy. Fortunately, Joseph knows who can help Leroy and prevent a zombie plague. Unfortunately, that’s person unlikely to help.

“Canine Agent Rocky Arnold Vs. The Evil Alliance” by Judith Nordeen: Rocky is a German Shepard who belongs to an FBI agent. But when the agent takes her dog to the dog park, Rocky is the one who has to figure out a mystery. Another fun story.

“An Incursion Of Mice” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Five rescued cats live in one house with their two human servants. Wall T is their boss and should have caught the mice incursion.

“They’re Back” by Dean Wesley Smith: A Poker Boy story where a vanquished villain returns to torment our intrepid heroes.

My favorites were “Death In Hathaway Tower”, “Under Oregon”, and “Containing Patient Zero”. All had strong atmospheres. As a dog person I also liked Judith Nordeen’s story a lot.

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