Friday, October 28, 2022

“Merry-Go-Round” • by Christopher Degni


The field, once Sara’s favorite haunt, stood graveled and muddy, lonely except for a “Coming Soon” billboard for a 55+ community.

She didn’t love the field so much as the annual traveling carnival that had descended upon it, until twenty years ago, when it had stopped. Sara closed her eyes and reflected on that year of lasts: the last carnival, the last year of high school… the last time she’d seen her brother.

The smell of fried dough filled her nostrils. When she opened her eyes, she was amidst the carnival again, by the fortuneteller’s booth. It had none of the usual pageantry, only a plain-looking woman wearing a plain tee, jeans, and a Mona Lisa smile.

The strange resonance of being in two times at once buzzed in Sara’s sternum.

“We’ll meet again,” said the fortuneteller.

“Sorry?” said Sara—both Saras.

“I said we’ll meet again.” The first time had been a restatement; now it was a confirmation. “It’ll be rough. For a while. But you’ll come around.”

The vibration in Sara’s chest stopped, and she stood in an empty field again. She glanced at the billboard and sighed.

“Not yet.” She kicked a rock. “Maybe in another twenty.”


Christopher Degni is a 2019 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He writes about the magic and the horror that lurk just under the surface of everyday life. He lives south of Boston with his wife (and his demons, though we don't talk about those). You can find more of his work in, Sherlock Holmes and the Occult Detectives, 99 Tiny Terrors, and the upcoming 99 Fleeting Fantasies.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

“Inheritance” • by Ephiny Gale


They tell me that taking the memory pill is when you really become an adult.

My friend Marie took it when she was 16, as soon as she legally could, and then she stopped liking any of the guys our age or laughing at our favourite shows. That scared me for a long time. She promised she was fine, but there was something different in her eyes afterwards, like she was haunted.

Mum’s had my pill ready for a while, ever since gran died. It contains most of my grandmother’s memories, and my great grandmother’s, and my great-great grandmother’s from when they first invented the technology. Mum says no pressure, but I know that it’s supposed to give me perspective; give me experience to help me navigate my adult life, make good choices.

Twenty-four is pretty old, but I think I’m finally ready. To be haunted.

The memories of my ancestors flood through me, overwhelming. Celebrations, funerals, childbirth, regrets, moments of joy and inertia. Life is long and life is short, and I will live my own with a legacy inside of me.

Mum hands me a lemonade to sip. “Do you regret it?” she asks.

Not at all.



Ephiny Gale is the author of more than two dozen published short stories and novelettes that have appeared in publications including Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Constellary Tales, and Daily Science Fiction. Her fiction has been awarded the Sundress Publications' Best of the Net award and the Syntax & Salt Editor's Award, and has been a finalist for multiple Aurealis Awards.




Wednesday, October 26, 2022

“The View from the Old Ship” • by Carol Scheina

Sai groaned at the patrol assignments. “We get the haunted ship.”

Her co-pilot, Mack, frowned. “You mean it’s got ghosts?”

“Naw, it’s got sensor problems. Some old data, something it scanned ages ago, keeps popping up. Covers all the viewports. So if you look at our planet, the continents’ll be all wrong. Techs call it a ghost view. Get it? Haunted?”

Mack rolled his eyes. “So we’ll fly blind?”

“We’ll use auto-pilot if it happens. Tech’s gonna try again to fix it after our patrol. That or junk this ancient thing.”

They were orbiting the planet when the ghost view started, showing an ocean where no ocean resided.

Sai gasped. “The water’s blue.”


But Sai remembered the stories her grandmother had told, who’d heard them from her grandmother, who’d actually lived on the Old Planet. Stories about blue oceans, not like their red ones. About seven continents. So much had been lost over the decades, but Sai’s grandmother had kept the stories alive.

“That’s Earth.”

Mack peered at the blue water as it shifted to green landmass. “That’s what it looked like? Dang!”

“We’ve gotta tell tech not to fix this.”

Mack nodded.

This was a view worth keeping.



Carol Scheina is a deaf speculative fiction author from the Northern Virginia region. Many of her stories were thought up while sitting in local traffic, resulting in tales that have appeared in Cossmass Infinities, Daily Science Fiction, Escape Pod, and other publications. You can find more of her work at


Tuesday, October 25, 2022

“Goons” • by Christopher Blake


I stroke the oars and shatter the lake’s reflected stars. In the distance, a loon wails.

The sack in the bow groans.

“Shut up,” I say. “You’re dead.”

“I’m breathing,” says the sack.

“Good as dead.”

The loon cries again, or anyways I think it’s a loon. Only time I leave the city is to deep-six bozos ain’t smart enough to mind their business. Like this bozo who stumbled stark-naked into the boss’s most remote grow-op.

“You know,” says the sack. “You’re making a big mistake.”

“What, you going to haunt me or something?”

The loon wails again, only closer this time.

“Oh no,” says the sack. “Not me.”

Behind me there’s a splash. I whip around, but catch only moonlit ripples.

“Thing is,” says the sack, “That grow-op was my forest. And this is my lake. Which means I won’t be haunting you.”

Something scratches the bottom of the boat, and suddenly I’m overboard, my limbs tangled in weeds like a thousand grasping hands.

“I’ve got goons for that.”

I thrash, but a weed wraps round my neck and pulls me into the inky dark.

And underwater I see I was wrong.

It wasn’t a loon, after all.



Christopher Blake lives with his wife, cat-daughter, and human-son in Ontario, Canada.  He writes mostly fantasy and science fiction, some of which can be found in places like Galaxy's Edge and Cosmic Roots & Eldritch Shores.

“Mother Noodges Best” • by Allan Dyen-Shapiro


Sure, the recruiter had told Junfeng about the brain surgery Tiger Software demanded of its employees, but still. “Boss, I can’t do this anymore. It’s dredging up too much trauma.”

Bob, Junfeng’s boss, flashed a sympathetic smile. “Who else would help maximize your productivity? You knew the procedure would draw someone from your memories who only you could see.”

HAUNTing—Human Ability Up-Regulatory Nudging of the Talented. Post-procedure, the only person tougher on Junfeng than he was on himself stood in front of him 24/7, an augmented reality version only he could see or hear.

“Fix your tie,” his mother said. “You look like a slob.”

Junfeng excused himself from the meeting and headed toward the restroom.

“Promise me you’re not going to touch yourself. That’s disgusting.”

“Mom, I’m exhausted. I need time off.”

“I didn’t raise a slacker.”

Junfeng pondered—what would distract his mom? Finally, he hit on it. “You’ll never have grandkids if you don’t let me socialize.”


Or not. A younger Chinese woman appeared beside Mom. Three children played underfoot.

“You’ll love marriage,” Mom said. “And AI kids behave better. Now, get back to work.”

“Listen to your mom,” Junfeng’s new wife said.


Allan Dyen-Shapiro is a Ph.D. biochemist currently working as an educator. He's sold stories to numerous markets including Flash Fiction Online and Grantville Gazette. He also co-edited an anthology of SFF set in the Middle East. He is a member of SFWA and Codex. You can find links to his published stories (and some freebies) as well as his blog, where he opines on matters of interest to those who might like his fiction (environmentalism, futurism, science, literature, and science fiction in all media), at Follow him on Twitter (@Allan_author_SF); friend him on Facebook ( 


Monday, October 24, 2022

“Every Day the Music Died” • by Jenna Hanchey


They took the music away, but left the feelings it evoked. Today’s wave of nostalgia washed over me like a child standing too deep in the water. I had always felt this when—it was on the tip of my tongue—when that musician played, the one my ex loved. I tried to grasp the tune, even though I knew it was impossible.

I assumed they left the feelings on purpose. In my more generous moods, I thought they must be running tests, trying to understand human emotional ties to sound. We probably inspired the methodology; god knows we’d run enough experiments on them. But as I grew more desperate, reaching for sounds that no longer registered, melodies truly unchained from human experience, my read shifted.

Torture, my mind shouted above the silence. Torture.

The emotions would recede, after awhile. And alone in the pressure-adjusted chamber, deep under the sea, I remembered. Octopuses did not understand sound. They communicated through color and motion. Our feelings for music were an oddity to be explored.

I’d felt haunted when I heard the song my ex loved everywhere after she left. I was wrong.

The true haunting was the weight of its absence.


Jenna Hanchey
is a communication professor by day and a speculative fiction writer in the day. She lives in Reno and teaches courses at the University of Nevada on racism, colonialism, and communicating across difference. Her research examines neocolonialism in Western aid to Africa, and how Africans use Africanfuturism to imagine their own developmental futures. Somehow she manages to act, sing, and rock climb, too! Notable credits include Gwendolyn Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest and Elaine Wheeler in Night Watch. She's also a voice-actor, narrating the audiobooks in Emily S. Hurricane's Bloodlines series. Her fiction has also appeared in Daily Science Fiction and the Apex Microfiction Contest. Follow her adventures on Twitter (@jennahanchey) or at


“The First Stage” • by Matt Krizan


Mark is singing Happy Birthday to Layla—loudly and out of tune, as was their custom—when someone knocks on the front door. He ignores it, watching Layla blow out the candles, but the knocking continues.

“C’mon, Mark,” says his sister Sara, “I know you’re in there.”

Mark doesn’t respond. He’s giving Layla her present, waiting for her delighted smile when she opens it.

“I brought donuts,” Sara says. “Those cream-filled ones you like? Mark…?”

Grumbling, Mark pulls off his VR Hood, and Layla and her present vanish. He rises from the sofa, knocking over an empty vodka bottle. Crumbs fall from his pajamas as he shuffles to the door and opens it.

Sara’s eyes widen at the sight of him.

“Oh, sweetie,” she breathes. “You can’t keep torturing yourself like this. It was an accident. There’s nothing you could’ve—”

Mark takes the box of donuts and shuts the door.

He returns to the sofa, tuning Sara out as he shoves a donut in his mouth. He wipes his hand on his pants and pulls on his Hood.

“It’s beautiful.” Layla eyes the necklace, smiling.

“You’re beautiful,” Mark murmurs, echoing his recorded voice, tears welling in his eyes.



Matt Krizan is a former certified public accountant who writes from his home in Royal Oak, Michigan. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, including Daily Science Fiction, Martian Magazine, and Dark Moments. Find him online at and on Twitter as @MattKrizan.


Friday, October 21, 2022

“Inheritance” • by Carol Scheina

Grandma never hid her head, which instead of hair, had numerous strands of inch-long icicles jutting out like a frozen porcupine. They dripped in summertime’s heat and sharpened with winter’s bite.

“We have a frost elf ancestor in our line.” She held her head high. Proud.

The ice-hair skipped a generation. Only I inherited that cold halo. When I was younger, I’d eye people’s soft, warm hair.

“You’re beautiful,” Grandma said. “Be proud.”

But I’d blast the hairdryer to melt my ice, cold drops forming constellations of goosebumps on my shoulders. I’d wrap my head in thick, scratchy scarves. I’d keep a smile frozen on my face when people asked if my icicles were real.

Grandma had been gone a week when, in her honor, I decided to venture outside with my icicles in all their glory, tinted pale blue in the frosty morning. No more hiding our inheritance.

The coffee barista stared long, and I tilted my head for a better view, like Grandma would’ve done. “Runs in the family.” I kept my voice strong, proud.

“Beautiful,” he said. “They sparkle.”

I heard Grandma’s voice in his words, and they warmed a smile onto my face. “Thank you.”


Carol Scheina is a deaf speculative fiction author from the Northern Virginia region. Many of her stories were thought up while sitting in local traffic, resulting in tales that have appeared in Cossmass Infinities, Daily Science Fiction, Escape Pod, and other publications. You can find more of her work at


Thursday, October 20, 2022

“The Message” • by Helen French

I hide messages in ice, where I hope my captors won’t think to look.

There’s an extraordinary amount of data in a single snowflake. Each one unique, each one able to tell a story.

I can’t make snow, but I can rewrite its form, so this is what I do from my cell. I stare out the window, I harness the power inside of me, and I magic my message into ice, adding a duplication code so that wherever this particular blizzard falls, the message falls with it.

My daughter is far cleverer than I and she will be waiting for a sign—so I’ve sent millions of them.

Nevertheless, I’ve been doing this for some time now and silence has been the only response. What if she’s been captured too?

I keep hoping because hope is all I have. It’s built-in to me, just as cold is built into ice. There’s always a way forward. I just have to find it.

Mid-thought, my door rattles open. Breakfast time.

“Good news,” my captor says, as he places my food on the floor. “Spring is on its way.”

And then even hope begins to melt.


Helen French is a writer, book hoarder, and TV-soaker-upper who grew up in Merseyside near the coast and now lives in Hertfordshire, UK, with her young family. Her short stories have appeared in venues such as Stupefying Stories #23, Shoreline of Infinity, and Flash Fiction Online, and she is currently buried in novel-writing. You can find her on Twitter at @helenfrench.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

“Restoration” • by Ephiny Gale

My wife and I go to get scanned every four months; every quark that we’re made up of is recorded as a back-up. Our physical and mental states in that moment put figuratively on ice.

After the third scan I feel unusually cold. My wife has appeared in front of me, her face swollen and pink like she’s been crying for days. “What’s wrong?” I ask. She was fine when we got here.

After the second scan I feel chillier than the first. My wife reaches out to me, her hair greyer and half the length it was thirty minutes ago. “What happened?” I ask, and pull her close.

My wife is waiting for me after my first scan. Somehow she looks years older than when we arrived, and the mixture of emotions on her face is too difficult for me to read. She kisses my hand and says my name like a prayer. Says, “This has to be early enough. Early enough to beat it, because there isn’t any earlier.”

Then she drives me to the hospital, my hand on her knee.



Ephiny Gale is the author of more than two dozen published short stories and novelettes that have appeared in publications including Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Constellary Tales, and Daily Science Fiction. Her fiction has been awarded the Sundress Publications' Best of the Net award and the Syntax & Salt Editor's Award, and has been a finalist for multiple Aurealis Awards.



Tuesday, October 18, 2022

“Ice Hearts” • by Kai Delmas

I found the boy at the forest’s edge. Surely, his mother told him not to wander near Firelight Forest.

But boys will be boys.

Humans trust nothing more than a child, even when they are children themselves. They seek companionship.

So, I skipped through the woods and happened to cross paths with this boy. He asked where I came from. I told him the truth.

An important thing, the truth. You never want to steal a child away by lying to them.

I asked to play catch and offered to show him where I lived. It would be fun.

Once we ran through the veil I struck.

We used to steal children away for seasons, years. Sucking them dry took time. We had to extract everything they cared for. The fun, their laughter and kindness, too.

I found a different way.

Licking blood from my fingers, I relished his youth.

When done, I shoved a lump of ice in his hollow chest and sent him on his way.

The boy staggered through the forest, wisps of ice trailing him, his shoes leaving frosted footprints in his wake.

That would subside before he returned home.

But his cold heart would remain.


Kai Delmas loves creating worlds and magic systems and is a slush reader for Apex Magazine. He is a winner of the monthly Apex Microfiction Contest and his fiction can be read in Martian Magazine, Tree And Stone, several Shacklebound anthologies, and elsewhere. Find him on Twitter @KaiDelmas.


Saturday, October 15, 2022

“Love’s Labors, Lost” • by Jenna Hanchey


I was lost after she broke down.

“Get another one,” friends said. “Same model, you won’t know the difference.”

They didn’t understand. I loved her. How she brought me coffee in bed every morning, anticipated my needs, smoothed my hair with her cold hand as I sighed over paperwork. Listened. She made everything easier.

“It’s programming,” they insisted. “You’ll see.”

The second overloaded in a matter of months. I’d opened up, risked vulnerability hoping she would listen to all the troubles with my job, girlfriend, family. Until one day her glassy eyes failed to light.

Realization hit four models and upgraded programming later.

“That everyone gives you so much is love. That you take it is not,” the last model explained, door closing behind her.


Jenna Hanchey
is a communication professor by day and a speculative fiction writer in the day. She lives in Reno and teaches courses at the University of Nevada on racism, colonialism, and communicating across difference. Her research examines neocolonialism in Western aid to Africa, and how Africans use Africanfuturism to imagine their own developmental futures. Somehow she manages to act, sing, and rock climb, too! Notable credits include Gwendolyn Fairfax in The Importance of Being Earnest and Elaine Wheeler in Night Watch. She's also a voice-actor, narrating the audiobooks in Emily S. Hurricane's Bloodlines series. Her fiction has also appeared in Daily Science Fiction and the Apex Microfiction Contest. Follow her adventures on Twitter (@jennahanchey) or at

Friday, October 14, 2022

“Kickstarting Fate” • by Patricia Miller

“Can you fix it?”

“Don’t know yet. Gimme a second to look it over.”

We crowded around to watch her work. She grumbled about the rush, the crowd—

“Seriously, I’m not lifting another finger unless you stop that damn racket?”

—and obviously, the music didn’t make her happy either. A gesture from the Boss, and the music stopped. She gave another glare. We stepped back.

“I don’t suppose anyone has a can of WD-40 handy.” We bowed our heads. We were so woefully ill-equipped for this kind of thing. “Didn’t think so. Brute force it is then.”

She stood up, reared back, and gave it a swift kick.

And slowly, the Wheel of Fate resumed its turning and the angels resumed their chorus.


Patricia Miller is a US Navy veteran who writes SF, fantasy, horror and romance. She is a member of SFWA and CODEX.

Publications include short fiction in A Quaint and Curious Volume of Gothic Tales, 206 Words, and the March 2022 Cinnabar Moth Literary Collection e-zine. Upcoming publications include short stories for Brigid’s Gate Press, Cinnabar Moth Press, Zooscape Magazine, Wyngraf, and Touchstone Press.


Thursday, October 13, 2022

“Mr. Giz” • by Marc A. Criley


Three hundred pounds of robot plunked down, shaking the house. The RoboAide™ wiggled on its back, as if trying to scratch an itch. It paused to stare at me, shifted its gaze to my wife when she rushed in, then ignored us. 

“What’s Mr. Giz doing?”

“Tech said the personalization module needs a factory reburn. Normally they swap in a flexibility loaner because depersonalized RoboAides can stiffen up, but those are backordered. We gotta make do for now with a leftover module from someone’s RobotPet™ upgrade.”

Mr. Giz slinked to a sunbeam, stretched. “Meow.”

My wife eyed me. “How long?”


Marc A. Criley began writing in his early 50s, and his stories have since appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Abyss & Apex, Galaxy’s Edge, and elsewhere. Marc and his wife “manage” a household of cats in North Alabama, from where he maintains and tweets as @That_MarcC.


Wednesday, October 12, 2022

“It’s What You Think” • by Bob McHugh


Fiona spoke into her watch. “Accuracy data on ‘It’s not what you think.’”

Global recorded utterances of “It‘s not what you think”: 11.82 million

Estimated accuracy of statement: 35.17%

“That’s pretty high,” Vance said. “You know me. I can explain.”

“Wait.” Fiona glared at Vance. “Isolate instances responding to accusations of adultery.”

Global recorded utterances: 3.46 million

Estimated accuracy of statement: 1.12%

“I’m that one percent!” He leaned into Fiona’s watch. “Data on Vance Kellman, ID 304553. Break down relationship and fidelity statistics.”

Romantic relationships longer than two weeks: Five

Recorded infidelities: Zero

“Past not indicative of future performance,” Fiona said, but she wanted to believe. “Fine, explain.”

“Oh, you’ll let me explain? Well…uh, see…”


Bob McHugh is a Boston-based writer and father of two; he is immensely grateful to be both of those things. He is the semi-proud recipient of an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. His work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction and several anthologies. Follow him @sentientletter on Twitter.


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

“Support Issues” • by Mark Vandersluis


I’m at work when the message arrives: “Urgent — Neurochip Support Issue.” I think “Accept” and it opens directly into the Neurochip device in my brain.

It reads, “We regret to inform you that Neurochip Inc. has filed for bankruptcy. As a consequence, all our Operations and Support activities will cease within the next few minutes. We are sorry for this inconvenience. We are truly sorry.”

It takes me only seconds to realise the implications. The chip in my brain controls all my cognitive functions. After nearly thirty years it’s an integral part of me. Neurochip Inc. constantly monitor, upgrade, and pre-emptively repair it/me. So if it breaks down, I break down. I’m dead.

I hear someone screaming in the next office, and then it stop—


Mark Vandersluis lives in Nottingham, England and works as a Managing IT Architect . From an early age, his home was the Science Fiction section of the local library. After a lifetime reading science fiction he recently started writing his own. As well as previously appearing in Stupefying Stories, Mark has had stories published in Nature Futures and Diabolical Plots. Mark blogs (very) occasionally at and you can follow him on Twitter at @markvsf.

Monday, October 10, 2022

“Plight” • by Eric Fomley


Don’t open the door. This is your only instruction when they post you at the bunker’s Southwest Entrance.

You obey despite the screams and gunfire that resonate through the thick metal.

This is followed by a long silence, broken only by the voice of a little girl.

“Please,” she sobs. “Let me in. I’m so scared.”

You don’t and she cries. There’s so much despair, you can picture her frail body rocking with sadness and fear.

It breaks you. You lift the latch. The bunker door swings open and an eight-foot Warbot steps through. 

Its mini-guns start to twirl.



Eric Fomley’s
work has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Galaxy’s Edge, Flame Tree Press, and The Black Library. You can read more of his work on his website at or buy him a coffee in exchange for a story at






This week’s Pete Wood Challenge was to write a 125-word flash fiction SF/F story that plays off the idea of “Breakdown.” To quote Pete: “Nervous breakdown, garbage disposal stops running, peace talks with the Martians stall, somebody really loves Flatt and Scruggs? You tell me.”

The Pete Wood Challenge fiction contest is supported by the generosity of readers like you. If you like these kinds of stories and want to see more of them, please show it by clicking this link or the button below to make a donation today. All major credit cards are accepted, and all donations go directly towards playing the authors and artists who create the content that you’re enjoying on this site. Literally, all donations go straight into the PayPal account from which we pay our authors and artists. 


Saturday, October 8, 2022

Creating Alien Aliens, Part 18: "Kleptees" – Alien Plant-Animals…

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, Lin Oliver speak at a convention hosted by the Minnesota Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Since then, I have shared (with their permission) and applied the writing wisdom of Lin Oliver, Jack McDevitt, Nathan Bransford, Mike Duran, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, SL Veihl, Bruce Bethke, and Julie Czerneda. Together they write in genres broad and deep, and have acted as agents, editors, publishers, columnists, and teachers. Since then, I figured I’ve got enough publications now that I can share some of the things I did “right”.

While I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it...neither do all of the professional writers above...someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. When I started this blog, that was NOT true, so I may have reached a point where my own advice is reasonably good. We shall see! As always, your comments are welcome!

Moving plants have always fascinated me – from the Venus Flytrap (I was crushed to find out how tiny they were…and how hard they would be to keep in my native Minnesota!) to the sundew (which DOES live in Minnesota) made me wonder about moving plants, especially when all the movies and pictures I saw of them made them look like gigantic, monstrous creatures. I was crushed a month ago to find that native sundew was TINY – a sticky head as small as a drop of water…

Pitcher plants were amazing, though they didn’t move. The idea of a wide open mouth inviting insects in, and then having them climb in and fall or slide down the open throat and into a puddle of enzymes that would slowly dissolve them away – was vaguely creepy, but really cool!

Finally, my heart set on the mobile flagellated algae (sounds like plants that perform penance by whipping themselves)…but they were all microscopic. Several years later, I turned my mind and a fairly newly minted biology degree to create an intelligent alien that was made of an amalgam of all of the properties of these species. What if life on Earth had evolved from flagellated algae instead of a maximalistic choanozoan ancestor?

Intelligent plants might have been the result.

I created the WheetAh (whom I’ve mentioned before on my regular blog, here if you’re interested. Just search for WheetAh) years ago and have had a story about them published. In it, I had Human teens and WheetAh “teens” on a boat doing a publicity stunt that might or might not build Human-WheetAh relations (which are strained at this point, maybe on the verge of war). They solve a murder by working together along with both sympathetic and antagonistic adults…

So, they behaved like inexperienced young intelligences. Do they learn the same way? No, but that never came up. Did they learn the same thing…hmmm…cooperation solves problems. While all adults know this to be true, they’ve found it to NOT be true enough times that they doubt it can work in “the real world”.

But, kids don’t know that. They haven’t had the “real world” knock them down often enough – at least not kids who grow up in a supportive environment where there are others who care about both what they know and what they need do know. Among Humans this is a difficult enough learning experience – how do plants learn? Can plants be “trained” even? Apparently the answer is a tentative “yes” – at least in reference to plants on Earth. You can listen to the podcast here – it’s in two parts: and

I postulated that a plant-animal that evolved from the flagellates I mentioned above would look like this:

These are the WheetAh I’m talking about. I’m no artist, but you can see the basic design, and I’ll add they “walk” by spinning (like the Masters in John White’s TRIPOD books). So, I’ll take that as a confirmation that it’s possible. My big problem STILL remains how would intelligent plantimals (I need another word, apparently “plantimal” is used in some sort of video game.) Maybe Kleptees* (instead of EeTees)…

How do plants ACT? Hmmm…let’s start out with what they “are” first.

WHAT are plants?

-single cell or multicellular organisms
-they make their own food (photosynthetic and contain a green pigment called chlorophyll, which enables plants to convert energy from the sun into food
-store their food as starch
-rooted to one place (some can orientate leaves towards the sun; some respond to touch)
-cell walls are rigid as they’re made of cellulose.
-life cycle of plants includes both a sporophyte and a gametophyte, ‘alternation of generations'
-lack central nervous system

How they act?

-anticipate future conditions by accurately perceiving and responding to reliable environmental cues
-exhibit memory
-alter behaviors depending upon experiences
-communicate with other plants, herbivores and mutualists
-emit cues causing predictable reactions in other organisms
-respond to cues
-adapt to spatially and temporally heterogeneous environments
-evolved plastic response systems

So – do plants act like Humans in funny green suits? They SHOULDN’T…yet, I may have made them do just that. So, I have work to do as I think this all through…

Expect more about the WheetAh as I continue to grow them (no pun intended) into the ALIEN ALIENS they are and as I develop them into more alien aliens.
* Kleptees instead of E.T. or ETee or EeTee or

Middle Dutch cleppe (“rattle used by lepers”); klep f (plural kleppen, diminutive klepje n) English = hatch, visor, valve, (slang) mouth; (obsolete) a rattle used by lepers to alert others of their presence
Indonesian: klep
Papiamentu: klèp

Etymology 2: Verb; From Dutch klep, from Middle Dutch cleppe (“rattle used by lepers”): klep (first-person possessive klepku, second-person possessive klepmu, third-person possessive klepnya) (English = valve); Polish; Pronunciation Verb: klep, second-person singular imperative of klepać; English;  “clap”

Image: My own

Friday, October 7, 2022

Status Update • 7 October 2022


“What’s going on with Stupefying Stories?”

I’ve been hearing that question a lot lately, in various emotional tones, sometimes with expletives. To tell the truth, I’ve been wondering that myself. Everything seemed to be moving forward nicely in July and still rolling along in August, and then… What the Hell happened?

Fortunately, I keep a fairly detailed daily planner. Depressingly, I can look back at it and find the answer. Karen’s battle with cancer has not been going as well as we might have hoped. At this stage it’s like playing a high-stakes game of whack-a-mole. We treat the cancer with this treatment here; it vanishes quickly but just as quickly pops up again there, only in a new form that requires a different treatment. Beginning in July and accelerating through August and into September, my calendar filled up with specialists, referrals, diagnostics, oncology, radiology, cardiology, PET scans, CT scans, MRI scans—here’s something I’d never heard of before, a “Multigated Acquisition Scan,” I’m still not sure exactly what that was or what it was supposed to examine—sometimes multiple appointments miles apart in a single day.

On August 30th we learned that the cancer was visible in her liver again and a new lesion had appeared in her spine, so she’s back on radiation therapy. She’s also on a new chemotherapy drug that’s so new, it was only approved by the FDA on August 5th. I’ve had to learn to become a very discerning reader of medical journal articles and clinical study results. I used to think it would be really cool to be living right out there on the leading edge of science and research. Now, not so much. 

Concurrent with all of this, blogspot—the engine behind the Stupefying Stories web site—shut down our email subscription feed. Apparently they’d been planning to do this for some time and had put notifications that they were going to do so on their support forum, but since I was not following their blog, this came as a surprise to me. I have been able to recover our mailing list, but… 

“Officially, we don’t have a recommendation. Unofficially, try Mailchimp.” 

Oh boy. Another thing for me to set up in the spare time I don’t have. 


We haven’t given up on Stupefying Stories and Rampant Loon Press. While my attention has been elsewhere, Henry Vogel ported his entire catalog of books over to wide distribution. As of the last time I checked all the Scout books, the Fugitive Heir books, the Recognition Run series—basically, all of them are now available on Apple iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Scribd, Tolino, BorrowBox, Vivlio, Baker & Taylor. Whether that will make a significant difference in sales remains TBD. I am as always cautiously optimistic.

Likewise, Pete Wood has continued running The Pete Wood Challenge, and we’ve accumulated a fresh pile of flash fic stories that we’ll begin running next week. The Odin Chronicles came to a somewhat desultory close, and for that I take full responsibility, as I was supposed to write the series wrap-up and episode guide for September 16th, but had—hmm, six medical appointments that week, including three in one day. We are not done with the Odin Chronicles, but we are done with what I like to think of as the first season. What’s in the future? I can’t say. Would you like to see a season two? Let me know.

Meanwhile, I have a pile of email to plow through and answer. Duotrope wants to know what’s going on with Stupefying Stories. I don’t know what to tell them. I have an invitation here to address a futurism conference in Sarajevo next year; I have no idea how they got my name or why they want me. Guy Stewart is just about done with Emerald of Earth.  We need to decide what we’re doing next with that. I owe Eric Dontigney something important. In a minute, I’m sure to remember what it is. I have…

I have to step back from the keyboard, take a deep breath, and then figure out the three most important things I need to do right now, and do them.

One day at a time.

—Bruce Bethke