Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Static #19

The first story in Black Static #19, Chain Reaction by Steve Rasnic Tem, is an excellent opener. After what appears an ordinary collision, a man wanders from car to car checking on the other casualties. Something is very wrong here. There seemed an undercurrent, a sense of menace, and the ending is open enough to make your own conclusions.

Next up is Beachcombing by Ray Cluley. By picking up and collecting items at the beach, a boy feels the emotions of the person who dropped them. A gorgeous story about lost things and lost people. Joel Lane's Sleep Mask offers us a haunting story about a man with a sleep disorder who dreams of his dead parents. Chilling.

Simon Clark's They Will Not Rest offers a strange Armageddon. Coffins mysteriously appear next to you while you sleep and within weeks most of the country is dead or dying. Taking a line from the story, 'If staying alive means staying awake, how do you do it?' Outstanding, and my favourite story this issue.

Lavie Tidhar concludes the fiction for this issue with The Wound Dresser, a poignant story about the role of angels of Death during World War II. The ending is heart-breaking.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

An Occupation of Angels

An Occupation of Angels is a novella by Lavie Tidhar from Apex Books*. I’ve grown to be a big fan of Tidhar’s work over the last year or so. I’ve read (and truly enjoyed) many of his short stories published in places like Strange Horizons and Fantasy Magazine, and I absolutely loved his novella The Tel Aviv Dossier co-written with Nir Yaniv and released through ChiZine Publications. In fact, The Tel Aviv Dossier is perhaps the most entertaining book I read all year. That said, An Occupation of Angels had a lot to live up to.

Did it live up to my expectations? For the most part, yes, and it passed with flying colors, too. It was a fun, quick read, full of action and intrigue. As far as plot goes you have angelic beings, dark Nazi experimentation, doors to other dimensions, and a female protagonist who is a James Bond-type character jumping across Europe on secret missions. We travel with the protagonist from historic Paris to the remote, frozen wastelands of Siberia and beyond, perhaps even to Heaven itself. The action scenes are well-written and compelling. This is an adventure story, plain and simple.

The fact the book is a plain and simple adventure story might be considered the book’s strength by many readers, but in a way, this fact became a weakness for me and my own high expectations. I guess I just expected more instances of the contemplative and strange from Tidhar. This book felt a little safe in places, relying on spy novel tropes in favor of the fantastic hinted at in the story. It is a novella more inspired by the language of Ian Fleming than Dante. It is an action-packed spy story more than a contemplative fantasy, and I tend to be the kind of reader who prefers contemplative fantasies. So, this was just a matter of my personal reading preferences tainting my enjoyment of the book to a minor extent (very minor).

That said, An Occupation of Angels is a very well-written spy book which I found fun to read and recommend highly, especially if you tend to enjoy spy stories and/or adventure novels. I think rabid fans of Indiana Jones or the Jason Bourne series would absolutely love this novella.

Using my six-pack rating system, I give An Occupation of Angels a solid 4 out of 6 Angel City Ales. I look forward to reading more of Tidhar’s work. He’s the kind of writer who always surprises, rarely repeats himself, and shows a lot of range in his oeuvre.

*Legal Disclosure: received a free electronic review copy of novella through publisher.

"Nevermore" (or "The Feast of Flesh") by David Dunwoody

This is one of two novellas that appear in the first volume of Belfire Press's "Duel" Novella Series. You can learn more about this series by visiting Belfire Press.

Ghost stories tend to have a very familiar quality to them, which is likely due to ghost being the longest surviving horror tropes going--older than even the genre itself. So when an author can come along and offer something a bit different from the norm, and not bungle it, that's a rare treat. David Dunwoody offers one such story with Nevermore.

And it starts off with one of the best opening passages I've read in a while:

"Malcolm Witt died in his sleep at 11:07 PM. Four minutes later, his body rose and walked from the room. Malcolm watched it happen."

That really got me hooked for the next fifty some pages of this story. It's a prelude though, as after that passage the story jumps back in time to early in the night when Malcolm attends a restaurant with friends. Saul, a flamboyant medium--one of those John Edward types--"lenses" Malcolm's third eye as a way to help him discover the identity of the man with whom his ex-lover, Leo, cheated on him. The spell doesn't seem to work though, but when he returns home drunk and passes out, that's when he dies and witnesses his corpse rise up and go absolutely bananas. Well, not so much bananas, but cannibal holocaust on anyone within arm's reach.

While Malcolm has become a kind of ghost, his corpse has become a kind of zombie, but neither term is entirely accurate and as the story ramps up page after page, it's easy to see why. The story starts off very methodically, establishing the characters and setting the stage, but once things kick into high gear they don't let up, and Malcolm has hellish night to figure out what's happened to him, who's responsible, and how to stop his body from going after those closest to him.

After finally getting a chance to read "The Dunwoody's" work, I'm looking forward to seeing what else this guy has up his sleeve.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Orpheus and the Pearl" by Kim Paffenroth

This is one of two novellas that appear in the first volume of Belfire Press's "Duel" Novella Series. You can learn more about this series by visiting Belfire Press. Look for my review of David Dunwoody's Nevermore tomorrow.

Whenever I hear tell of Kim Paffenroth, it's usually in the context of the zombie genre. The man knows zombies. And given this was the first time I've had a chance to read his work, I was fully expecting some gruesome undead fare. And while there is a character risen from the dead in Orpheus and the Pearl, she is not a zombie--at least it's not explicitly stated that she is.

Set in the backdrop of Massachusetts during the early twentieth century, Dr. Catherine MacGuire is called to the residence of Dr. Percy Wallston on an urgent matter concerning one of his patients, a woman in dire need of psychoanalysis. MacGuire is versed in the teaching of Freud and the workings of the mind, a relatively new form of the science, which is exactly why she was chosen by Wallston. To her dismay, she learns the patient is Wallston's wife, Victoria. All the more unsettling is that Victoria died--or was at least said to have died. In fact, Dr. Wallston has resurrected Victoria with startling, violent results, and he desperately needs Dr. MacGuire to find a way to have his old wife back rather than the ravenous and malicious creature he has sequestered in his home.

Paffenroth's story evokes some of that old world charm, as a horrific affliction is shown against a quaint backdrop. It's the whole juxtaposition of the prim and proper engaging in macabre acts. But it's not an entirely gruesome story, and rather relies more on the tensions between Dr. MacGuire and the Wallstons, both in their interactions with each other and MacGuire's past creeping into the back of her mind. And the ending is not at all what I initially expected, which is good in one sense, but on the other hand the end result felt a bit too--I don't want to say chipper, so let's go with neat and tidy.

All in all, it's a good little story. Something off the beaten path from the onslaught of gory depictions of the undead, and the historical setting resonated much better with me than when I read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If you like tales of the undead with a strong emotional core, this might be the kind of story you'll want to check out.

Interzone #230

Interzone always delivers quality fiction and issue 230 is no exception.

Parallel universes converge in Tim Lee's 'Love and War'. A very human story with a compelling lead character. Aliette De Bodard offers us a God versus the machine tale in Age of Miracles, Age of Wonders. Or rather Gods. I think this is the first story I've read by Aliette and I love her voice.

An immortal struggles with grief in Patrick Samphire's Camelot. Unwilling to believe his brother died when his plane was shot down during WWII, Sam searches ruins in France. He expects to find man and not bones despite sixty-years having passed since his brother fell from the sky. My favourite story this issue.

Issue 230 also includes fiction by Lavie Tidhar and Nina Allan.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Circus Wagon

The Circus Wagon by Andrew S. Fuller – The Circus Wagon is a novelette available in a variety of e-book formats from Damnation Books. Fuller provides a compelling quick read. In this story, protagonist Christopher Epstein (an everyman figure) has hazy memories of an old circus wagon that used to sit in the yard of his grandmother’s house. The origin of the wagon is shrouded in mystery as noted in this excerpt from the text:

“Had Grandpa worked in the circus? No, the wagon was older than that, someone said. What was inside—rats? Bats? A lion’s skeleton? A blind old witch? No, tons of mosquitoes swarmed you at once if you got too close, and lightning bugs avoided that part of the yard.”

Through the course of the story, we meet Christopher Epstein as an adult and learn the circus wagon followed him and negatively affects his adult working life and relationships. People die. Surreal insanity subtly overlaps reality. The wagon itself remains an object of mystery and source of unknowable terror. Well done!

Now, I’ll note just a few minor criticisms:

  1. The mystery of the wagon itself never feels fully resolved and remains quite ambiguous, but this could also be a strength of the story depending on the reader. Some might argue the ambiguities add to the overall mystique. Others would argue otherwise. If you are a reader looking for a clear-cut denoument, you might want to look elsewhere. Me, I personally liked that the mysterious aspect remained such a mystery. It left me thinking about the myriad of possibilities behind the wagon’s very existence and purpose.
  2. I felt the protagonist, Christopher Epstein, was a little too passive of a character. Once again, some might argue this is a strength: it makes him an empty vessel in which a reader can possibly project some aspect of their self. But, as a reader, this passivity frustrated me.
  3. My main complaint would have to be length. Yes, it was a short story, but at this price ($2.99) you could buy entire novels in e-book format. At just 7,200 words, there isn’t much reading here for your buck. I read it in one sitting (about twenty minutes) in a doctor’s waiting room. This is no fault of the author, of course, but a slight criticism directed towards the publisher. Damnation Books could better serve their customers by putting together a selection of stories by Fuller (I, for one, was left wanting to read more of his short fiction) and upping the word-count to provide value for the customer. I’ll note here for full disclosure that I received a free copy from the author for review. Had I paid the full cover price, I may have felt a little ripped-off. But I need to give credit where credit is due: the cover art, design, editing, and formatting seemed professional.

To sum up: The Circus Wagon is a very well-written and engagingly mysterious – not to mention ambiguous – piece of supernatural fiction. Using my six-pack rating system, I give this story 4 out of 6 pints of Guinness. For the author, I toss in an extra shot of Bushmills Irish Whiskey as a chaser.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Crow Toes Quarterly

I recently finished Issue 15 of Crow Toes Quarterly and I really wish I had stumbled upon this magazine 15 issues ago.  There is definate delight found in every issue, story and poem.  You would be hard press to dismiss this magazine as average or amateurish.  Indeed, there is quite a craft here.

It is a publication which aims for children's horror, but which is easily accepted by adults as well.  Their latest endeavor features a beautiful mix of the dark, the strange, the unsettling, the morbid, all with a child-like innocence.

The issue begins (aside from the Narrator's introduction) with Rebecca Huggins' story Waiting, where we are introduced to an isolated boy living in a grand mansion, filled with an even grander library.  Yet, despite his isolation, he is quite content with his life, living vicariously through his own imagination.  Until one day a stranger stands outside his window.  A stranger who happens to enjoy hot cocoa and wishes to take the boy on an incredible journey.  A journey we all take at some point in time.

The next story stays true to the uncanny, reminding us that Halloween is not only fun and sugary, but frightening and bitter.  The time Between, by Sherry Isaac, reminds us that at the stroke of midnight anything can happen, especially on Halloween.  For three young children playing in an attic, dividing the rewards from trick-or-treating, midnight becomes far too strange when one of them discovers an old pocket-watch.  Never mess with a watch, especially an old watch, when it's trapped behind blue goo.  Further more, though Halloween is fun and sugary, make sure adults always check the candy for those frightening, bitter pieces.

Next, The Skeleton Doll, by Caspian Gray, is a bone-chilling tale about a mother and her daughter.  Her dead daughter . . . lying in a forest.  This story was my personal favorite as it teetered on the edge of the macabre with a rather sad, yet beautiful rendition of Pinocchio.  An old woman who lives in cabin alone, having recently suffered from the demise of her young daughter, goes to great lengths to restore her happiness.  But just how far is she willing to go?  Having enjoyed her life while her daughter was alive there's no reason she can't enjoy her life while her daughter is dead.  Though, in order to enjoy her life, her daughter must remain with her one way or another.  With a little thread, a little stuffing, happiness can be found. 

Then there's the flash piece by Grier Jewell, The Hand of Holland Rogers: Is It True?  This calls to question the things that keep us awake at night.  When you can't sleep, what do wonder about?  Do you ever ponder something is lurking in the corners of your dark room?  Do you curl under the sheets, seeking protection from the night?  What was that sound?  Is that a finger touching your feet?  Or should you keep such thoughts out of your mind and try to go to sleep?  But exactly how can you go to sleep when you feel a hand touching your leg?  But that's just nonsense . . . isn't it?  (Personally, I've always envisioned shark fins circling my bed.)

Last, we're treated with a witty, disgusting tale about a child who pieces themself together.  Literally.  Brains Coming Out of My Ears, by Anne E. Johnson, is a vivid story about the rewards and misfortunes of having all the brains.  But when you have all the brains, imagine all the things you could accomplish.  Imagine how powerful you'd be!  Especially with an extra set of eyes in the back of your head! 

The magazine doesn't stop there however.  Equally pleasant, and equally dark, are three poems.

Ice Cream Truck, by Shawn Riopelle, takes us through life as it centers around that little, flat piece of wood commonly found in Popsicles, and doctor offices. 

A Prickling  On My Shoulder, by M Sullivan, is a whimsical, avant-garde poem about that funny feeling you sometimes get.

Spider, by Matt Dennison, reminds us that those eight-legged little terrors are always there.

Last, but not least, the magazine is also packed with beautiful illustrations, reminding us that the uncanny is indeed a spectacle worth looking at.  For just a buck-fifty, Crow Toes Quarterly, Issue 15 is available for download in a PDF format from their website:  Filled with all things cute and horrible, this magazine is a must for any zine-fans looking for something a little different, a little innocent, a little odd, a little playful, and all around a little delightful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ponies by Kij Johnson

Intrigued by a sudden splurge of tweets on Twitter today, I followed a link to Kij Johnson's story 'Ponies' over at Glad I did. A gruesome little tale about a girl and her pony who both just want to fit in. It's dark, it's sweet, it's heart wrenching. Highly recommend it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens

Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens . . . is this a metaphorical allegory, something akin the ‘fox in the hen-house’?  Certainly!

It’s a quirky little magazine that specializes in Bizarro--a literary sub-genre focusing on the absurd and the surreal through darkly-inane situations while postulating philosophical inquires (notably absurdism, nihilism and existentialism).  It’s rather humorous in nature, but ambiguously so as it conveys truth though absurdity.  In other words, it’s the logic of the illogical. 

So, what exactly is this magazine and how is it absurd?

It’s an odd-timed print magazine (roughly bi-annual), with a few issues available for download at their website:  Their latest issue, #Y’aing’ngah (Winter 2010), is the fourth issue I’ve read from this delightfully odd press, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

The highlight of this magazine for this reader was Nicole Cushing’s Youth to be Proud Of, a darkly comical and political piece centered around the ever popular and familiar, and dare I say painfully dull and boring, Our Town (the play by Thornton Wilder).  There is so much to say about this piece that it’s just easier to say: high school, small-town life, journalism, “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” and children dangling from wires, limply floating and speaking through unseen voices, conveying morality, spirituality, and seeking forgiveness for their debauchery with a cold, dull lifeless spirit.  Because let's face, the only life worth living is that of an oppressed automaton who just wants to eat shrooms and get pregnant!

Also pleasing was the flash piece Circle Slash Erections by xTx.  Think you have a hard time keeping it up and/or achieving that glorious-resolution at the end of the evening?  Try dating a woman who specializes in the art of non-stimulation.

Equally pleasing was Changing Woman by Brandi Wells, which calls to question the effort of keeping together a relationship involving a leper-zombiesque-splatter-wannabe-Thing-from-The-Adam’s-Family lover.  Warning: Do not eat eggs while reading this piece!

Also worth mentioning is the satirical There’s War by R.E. Greene.  Tyranny, fascism, nationalism, socialism, democracy . . . they all involve the same leader(s): scary people with power and money screaming for obedience as they whip mailboxes and imprison anyone who fornicates with their daughter.  It's hard to earn a living under such constraints, thankfully there's garbage which needs to be collected.

All the stories are worth a read, they’re highly imaginative pieces that play with literary formats, climatic resolutions (or lack thereof) while conveying philosophical themes through illogical scenes and characters.  They also feature reviews of other Bizarro works, inviting readers into the world of the absurd.

Bust Down the Door and Eat All the Chickens is a magazine which will leave you wondering.  What exactly you’ll be wondering is the question . . . perhaps, what?  Maybe, huh?  But most likely: when is the next issue? 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hungur’s Strange Metaphors: An Exploration of Alien Desires

            The vampires in Hungur are stranger than your typical human-vampire. And, as I read the Walpurgisnacht 2010 issue, I became fascinated with a particular type of vampire: the alien-vampire with undefined and elusive motivations. The metaphor of the unfamiliar is powerful. It resonates with the unknowable elements within our lives, within our personal relationships or within our ever-changing and sometimes bewildering society.  

            Hungur 10, offers intriguing stories in which alien-vampires have understandable motivation. I enjoyed Marge Simon’s And Babylon Shall Rise Again which tracked an alien-vampire race manipulating the progress of human history, and R.S. Pyne’s Blood Drive which explored the vampire myth through from the point of view of android whose mind hosted a cabal of vampire old ones.

.           Good stories, but I was looking for something other. I wanted to dig a little deeper into the bones of the unknown and find the desires which hover on the cusp of perception.  

            Hungur’s two ‘first contact stories’, both feature alien-vampires and both stories are told though the eyes of a human.

            In Dev Jarrett’s Monochrome Smile, a space crew encounter a being of mind control, an entity able to hypnotise unwary humans. This unique alien consumes it victims’ bodies and produces a human facsimile, rendered in monochrome sand. This alien doppelganger retains the memories of its victims and an understanding of human emotion. The alien’s constant refrain is that it wants to be loved. In a nice touch, the people on Earth are thrilled at the discovery of an alien life-form, oblivious to the possible dangers. The story charts the struggle of Gregor, a member of the crew, as he strives to escape the alien and the potential catastrophic outcomes of this first contact.   

            Robert Essig’s story, Patrolling the Outer Rim, gives another glimpse into first contact. A human patrol ship lands on a planet to investigate strange human-like readings. Once on planet, they discover creatures in a flux between life and death, but these undead creatures are the lures of an alien-vampire race. The human crew quickly find themselves under attack. Patrolling the Outer Rim is a fast-paced adventure story, detailing the struggle between the crew and the alien-vampires.

            Essig’s and Jarrett’s stories are both told from the point of view of the human characters and the motivations of the alien-vampires are not directly stated. Good stories, but I felt as if the stories demanded that I assign malevolent motivations to the alien-vampires. They did not quite capture the unknowable element I was seeking.  

            I found this elusive strangeness in a story and in a poem from writer and editor Terrie Leigh Relf.  Her story Chimes of Bone has a dreamy, poetic quality which quickly established the strangeness of the setting with the depiction of the world’s three moons. This story is a cautionary tale: a warning to a young girl who has ventured into a forbidden place. The vampire creatures of this story seek the ‘secret codes’ in their victims’ blood which is needed for their transformation, first into monstrous creatures, and then into a disguise which allows them to blend into the native population. This story is full of wonderful strangeness and puzzling images, the narrator is revealed to be a ghost; the story echoes to the sound of the bones chime, made from the vampires’ victims; there are references to time distortion and to the recurring images of the world’s three moons. It is a lovely story full of unanswered questions.

            Terrie Leigh Relf’s haibun poem balances strangeness and familiarity. The poem describes a wine tasting, but quickly establishes an unbalanced and weird world. The final haiku is particularly powerful.

Although it is a pity to reproduce it incompletely, I think this last haiku gives a flavour of the strangeness of Relf’s poem:

extracted before
their contents spill
fertile wombs

             I am fascinated by the exploration of the strange. Hungur with its blending of the alien and vampire metaphors, within its axis of speculative incongruity is a good place to find such strangeness. 


Hungur is published twice a year. You can purchase a copy ($12.50 + $2 S&H) from Sam's Dot's Genre Mall
Editorial guidelines can be found here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Ideomancer, Vol. 9, Issue 3

Ideomancer is a quarterly online magazine of speculative fiction and poetry. This magazine publishes work that is typically on the literary side of genre. One tends to find more work trending towards magic realism here than pulp sci-fi or fantasy. After reading this publication for several years, it is one I have learned to count on for lush prose and beautiful descriptive language.

Per publisher Leah Bobet’s Editor’s Note, the “September 2010 issue delves into some off-kilter relationships: how they go subtly right, or wrong, and what we do about it.” That sums up this issue pretty well, I think.

This issue can be read in its entirety here:


“Fairest in the Land” by Catherine Krahe – A piece of flash fiction which describes the lives of some famous fairy tale princesses from a different perspective. Words are used in a manner that creates striking visual portraits of the characters. However, the wonderful language glosses over the lack of a clear narrative flow. The story is all description with very little in the way of actual story. Also, the hardened princess trope utilized is becoming a little too pervasive in genre culture and this one does not really add anything new for me. Still worth reading for the language alone.

“It Shall Come to Pass on a Summer’s Day” by Lenora Rose – A selkie story, told as a prophesy. There are some interesting twists in the end, and I applaud the author for how she turns a prophet into an unreliable narrator. My only complaint is that the exclusive use of future tense to tell this story tends to be repetitive and awkwardly worded at times.

“Afterglow” by Sandra Odell – Near the beginning of this story, a character states: “Anything is possible if you love deeply enough.” This slightly oedipal romance is alternately sweet and surreal, tender and disturbing. The term Kafkaesque comes to mind. I guess you could say this story is Jungian erotica. Recommended with reservations. Definitely the most memorable and unique story of this issue for me.


“Evening in Pompeii” by Rachel Swirsky – Wonderfully descriptive poem speculating what it might have been like on the eve of Vesuvius’s cataclysmic eruption. I feel this is the strongest poem of this issue.

“diurnal/nocturnal” by David Kopaska-Merkel – Per the author, this is a Fibbonaci-no ku describing a tear in reality. The form for the poem is nice, giving an interesting, somewhat staccato flow to the words when read aloud. However, the author’s “fragmentary ideas” and fragmented imagery gives the poem a fragmentary feel. Without the author’s note at the end, I would have completely missed out on the intended context. On first read, after reading Swirsky’s poem, I thought it might be another piece describing a volcano. All the same, the night/day duality is explored well, and the language is nicely loaded for interpretation.

Moondance” by Mikal Trimm – A tribal chant describing “Nights of blood and hope and abandon.” A very dark feel pervades this piece.

“Time Ghosts by Ann K. Schwader – History repeats itself giving life to new ghosts which are the same as the old ghosts. A short, thought-provoking poem.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

M-Brane SF #22

The day after I joined the Skull Salad Team, the latest issue of M-Brane SF (#22) landed in my inbox. There was no way I was going to be able to resist reading and reviewing it today. Therefore, here is my first Skull Salad review…

Having worked with Christopher Fletcher (the editor) I admire his commitment to genre, his magazine and the respect he has for the writers he works with. This man rocks. He tirelessly puts out a new magazine every month. I don't know how he does it.

It's hard to pick a favourite story from issue 22. Mostly, I'm torn between the African jungle and the strange creatures a scientist has created in Gustavo Bondoni's 'Wyrm of the Mangroves' and the bizarre aliens in Patty Jansen's 'The Invisible Fleas of the Galaxy'. I think Bondoni's tale just nudges over the winning line because I felt Jansen's story ended a little too abruptly. That's not to say it wasn't fun. Oh was it ever. Both stories were also effectively creepy. Trust me, don't mess with DNA and don't mess with aliens however small and seemingly insignificant.

The issue also features fiction from Joseph Auslander, Jr and Bryce Mainville.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Looking for a Few Brave Souls

Here's the deal: Dave Truesdale of Tangent Online has made public Tangent will no longer review publications paying less than "pro" rates (currently 5 cents/word according to both the SWFA and HWA). Jason Sanford has an eloquent response at his blog.

My less-than-eloquent response: that sucks.

No reviews for anything from Clockwork Phoenix, Shimmer, Weird Tales (WEIRD TALES!), Space & Time, Triangulation, Electro Velocipede, Albedo One...

As a writer, I've benefited from several favorable reviews of my stories in Tangent's virtual pages. I don't have the time/energy or expertise to fill the gap left by Tangent's rather narrow focus. I can offer suggestions of short pieces I've read and enjoyed, and will continue to do so here at Skull Salad. What I'm asking is simple:

I need a few brave souls to join me, not as "full-time" reviewers, but as folks who enjoy good, short speculative fiction and would be willing to offer suggestions of reading material from time to time. Nothing big. Even one story recommendation a month goes a long way in keeping the speculative fiction machine alive.

If you want on the list (no obligation), email me. (aaron.polson(at)

From here on, Skull Salad only touches short fiction from venues paying less than "pro" rates.