Enjoy Our Holiday Sci-fi-tri-fecta!


Happy holidays! We’re happy to bring you three speculative-fiction presents this winter: two flash pieces bursting with goodness, plus a recipe.

A recipe?!? For what? you may be asking. Radioactive calimari?

Our answer: hmmm… interesting suggestion… but no, it’s Tomi Welch‘s con suite dessert from this year’s Space Squid culinary contest at Armadillocon! For more details, just read on. We look forward to your dinner party’s expressions when you tell them they’re eating something designed by the Space Squid people.

Enjoy, and don’t forget to support the things you love!


A Cheater’s Guide to the 10 Questions

(Reprinted from the Underground Citizen Advisor, August 1, 2084)

By Hillary Dodge

Before you take the test, there are a few things you need to know.

There are no right or wrong answers, per se. It’s how the answers combine — how the individual words confuse or clarify one another — that matters. But just because you can’t study for it doesn’t mean you can’t be prepared.

Before the test, spend time in the social centers observing others’ behavior. Reread the common laws at the Justice Hall. Keep to your assigned schedule and fill all empty time with Value-Rated activities.

On the day of the test, make sure you are showered, your teeth clean, and your clothes impeccable. Eat a healthful breakfast and spend time with your family sponsors.

This is important: Avoid making any comments or expressing thanks for how they have raised or guided you; this will result in a family quarantine and most likely one or more expungements should you later fail the test.

At the testing center, don’t fidget or look bored. Keeping an expression somewhere in-between is highly advisable but won’t actually affect your test score, we think.

When you are escorted to your assigned seat, thank the proctor, and then keep your eyes down. Sit straight and make sure your hands are always in sight on top of the table.

When the proctor places the test console on the desk in front of you, take a deep breath and remember to remain calm. Either you’ll pass or you won’t. At this point, nothing you do can change the outcome.

Once prompted, and not a second before, you may open the console. Enter your Applicant ID onto the keypad and the test will appear on the screen. Remember that typing your ID smoothly can convey a sense of relaxed confidence. It has been debated whether or not the keys have embedded sensors. If you find that you are sweating or that your fingers are clammy, hit the keys with a soft downward slide rather than a downward tap; this will minimize your contact time with the keys and wipe off any undesirable excretions.

The first five questions are multiple choice. You’ll have a half hour to answer these. The questions are changed on a regular basis so we cannot advise you on their specific content. However, most people find this part of the test the easiest. They will be questions that you can answer easily enough if you’ve paid attention during your Citizenship Readiness classes and the weekly Citizen Forums at the Justice Hall.

It can be hard for one to remember events and issues from five or more years prior so this is something you will want to discuss with your family sponsors prior to the day of the test. They will have the first-hand knowledge that you lack. We advise you to follow-up these discussions with research on your own in the Complete Records Division of the Justice Hall.

Whatever you do, don’t choose “C.” Ever.

Following the multiple-choice section are four questions that are fill-in-the-blank. As you’ve already guessed, how you answer these is crucial. It is also crucial how you physically appear while answering these questions. It is best to put the cameras and the body heat sensors out of your mind; thinking about them will only increase your Undesirable Quotient.

The fill-in-the-blank questions pertain to your mental and emotional state. They should be answered with confidence and only patriotic and loyal sentiments should be used. Avoid dangerous descriptors such as “thoughtful,” “observant,” or “tactful.” Avoid overly-zealous phrases like “with extreme prejudice” and likewise, overly moody statements like “often disappointed.” Aim for words and phrases that encourage feelings of trust and capability. Here are some examples: “compatible,” “earnest,” “pleased,” “joy,” etc.

The final section of the test contains a single essay question. This is the most important question of all.

The final question is behavioral. It will ask how you would respond to an action or statement. It will be very specific and require a very specific answer. Be wary that in certain circumstances, it has been reported that the examples used often come from real life — indeed, even your life.

IF you recognize a situation as being from your own experience, know that you have failed the exam. There is no way to change your outcome.

Following your completion of the 10 Questions, you are advised to retire to your domicile, avoid contact with your family sponsors, and wait until you are notified. Notification will occur at eleven the following morning.

At this point, there are only two possible outcomes.

If you fail, you will be collected and expunged. From what we’ve heard, this is not a clean or gentle process. Many before you, assured of their failure, have removed themselves from the equation prior to possibly being collected. This is, quite simply, the advised course of action in such a circumstance.

If you are fortunate enough to pass the exam, you will earn your citizenship identification card and be assigned an Essential Duty. You are required to fulfill your Essential Duty from the day you turn ten until the day you are summoned to present yourself at the gardens.

We hope this guide has been useful and wish you the best of luck on the 10 Questions.


Career Change

by J.M. Williams

Ulfar watched the smoke billow up from the smoldering corpse of the pillaged hamlet. The air was thick with the smell of sweat, blood and death. But the joy of it all was lost.

When he was young, Ulfar had loved to watch the fire dance across the thatched roofs, to hear the final chorus of those trapped inside. He had been on more raids than he could count; his old, tattooed face bore thick scars as testimony to the fact. But the excitement had long ago started to die. Now it was fully deceased.

He now found himself going through the paces—mechanically screaming his war cry to intimidate the villagers, before he cut them down with his axe. He envied the younger warriors who still had that look of bloodlust on their faces. Oh, the joys of being young and eager.

He didn’t know what to do with himself. The shamans said that he had to die in glorious battle if he wanted to make it to Valhalla—which would then mean an eternity of endless fighting. Ulfar wasn’t sure that was what he wanted after all.

“Ulfar,” one of the younger fighters beckoned to him. It was Bragi, a relatively small man for a Viking warrior, but fierce nonetheless. Ulfar had a lingering respect for Bragi, who worked twice as hard as any other to make his name.

“What is it, whelp?” Ulfar asked with a smirk.

“Skuti has offended me,” Bragi complained. “He has taken what is rightfully mine.”

“What has he taken?” the older warrior asked.

“My prizes from the house of the man I killed. The loot was mine by right, since it was my sword-arm doing the work. But while I continued with the fight, he snuck in and stole the golden pieces. I demand justice. I want you to stand by me when I challenge him to a fight to the death.”

“Are you sure he took them?”

“Yes, I saw the bits spilling from his pockets.”

“And are you sure you can beat him in a fight?”

“With your spirit aiding me, yes, I believe so.”

Ulfar stood for a long moment, in deep thought. There had to be a better way. They spent their days killing villagers and the nights killing each other. All this killing was becoming exhausting. There had to be a better way.

“Do you have any evidence of your claim?” Ulfar asked the younger man.

“Yes, I have the ear of the man I killed, the owner of the house. And many other warriors saw me and commended me on my skill.”

Ulfar drew his hand down his long, white beard. He felt the scars on his chin, hiding deep underneath the matted hair. His sharp mind offered him a solution.

“I will stand by you,” Ulfar said. “But not at the circle of death. I have an idea.”

“What are you thinking?” Bragi asked.

“We will go present your case to the Jarl. I will be your advocate. We will offer him our evidence and plead for his judgment. No one need die, and we can establish a precedent to prevent this sort of dishonorable thievery in the future.”

It was a good plan, in Ulfar’s opinion. He knew he had a sharp tongue. And the new Jarl was rather weak-willed. It could work. And no one would die. There would be a fight, of course, but a totally new sort of fight. Bragi looked unconvinced.

“Trust me,” Ulfar said. “Have I ever lost a battle? I do not intend to lose this one.”

“And you would do this for me?” Bragi asked doubtfully. “What do you get from it?”

“Just a small share of the loot.” Ulfar smiled devilishly.


Your Holiday Recipe: Tomi Welch’s Con Suite Dessert

2017 was our second annual Con Suite Culinary Contest at Armadillocon. These wacky events ask contestants to develop their most alluring mashup dish – sweet or savory – using only the ingredients available in the convention hospitality suite, a self-serve gustatory resource mainly composed of snacks, sweets, fruit plates, condiments, and a few simple staples like hot dogs and chili.

This year, our contest winner was Tomi Welch’s sweet concoction. Her recipe:

  • red grapes, halved
  • a whole mini pecan pie (the kind you find in convenience stores), broken into chunks
  • celery
  • nutella
  • mayonnaise

Break/cut the components into bitesize pieces and blend well. Serves two!


About the Creators

Hillary Dodge is an author who chooses to take the less-conventional path through life. Just over a year ago, she and her husband quit their jobs to relocate their family to South America to travel, eat, and write about it. Soon they will be returning to the US to reconnect with colleagues and friends. But in the meantime, she’s enjoying digging into Chilean history, ghost and folk tales, and eating lots of Chilean food. Follow her adventures online at http://gourmetfam.com or http://hillarydodge.com.

Author, teacher, historian, veteran, J.M. Williams is a fantasy and sci-fi author who is unabashedly into anything pulp. He has had more than thirty short fiction pieces accepted for publication in a wide range of venues including Bards and Sages, Corner Bar Magazine, Bewildering Stories, and The Uprising Review. He also earned an Honorable Mention in the 2017 Writers of the Future contest. His current works-in-progress are an epic fantasy series with Fiction Vortex and a fantasy novella with Fantasia Divinity, both due to release early in 2018. He lives in Korea with his wife and 10 cats—teaching, writing, and blogging at www.jmwilliams.site.

World’s Shortest Creator Interviews

Hillary Dodge:

If, due to some very poor logistics, you had to survive several days in some random tropical wilderness, what would you do to find food, and what species would your imaginary companion be?

Because I’m a foodie, I would probably enjoy the heck out of foraging and crunching down on various insects. And if I had a companion to caper along with me on my tropical adventures, I suppose I would like it to be an immensely powerful yet gentle and protective jungle cat. Preferably, we would be able to communicate telepathically and it could kill things for me to eat.

Due to a bureaucratic mixup, you have just been appointed Czar of All Mammalian Nutrition. What is your first edict?

Oh hell yes. Effective immediately, families would be given vouchers to purchase the supplies needed for at least 1 home-cooked meal a week with the caveat being that they must cook and then sit down and eat together. Nutrition would be a mandatory year-long course for all medical professionals and marijuana would be legalized forever in every country and province.

J.M. Williams:

If, due to some very poor logistics, you had to survive several days in some random tropical wilderness, what would you do to find food, and what species would your imaginary companion be?

Of course, my companion would be a komodo dragon, cause who doesn’t want a dragon! As for food, dragons hunt, right? Basically, I would let the dragon do the work for me and use the chance for a much-needed tropical vacation. Damn, I need a vacation… I just hope this isn’t the Lost island. I never watched the show, so I wouldn’t have a clue what to do about the monster/cultists/evil corporation… what was that show about again?

I’m really into Korean TV drama right now. Why don’t you just talk about that for a bit.

I’ve lived in Korea for almost ten years in total, my first trip starting in 2002, so I feel overly qualified to comment on this. I have seen Korean dramas evolve from little better than US daytime soap operas, to reasonable prime-time dramas. The shows that have come out in recent years look exponentially better than they did a decade ago. And yet, I cannot find any interest in them (blasphemy!). I have always liked Korean films, one of my favorite being the goofy martial arts/fantasy film Arahan. But these days I do not even watch many Korean films, despite them coming out right on my TV here. I do sometimes watch the variety shows that have in countless numbers here. One of my favorites is “Dongmul Nongjang” which means “Animal Farm.” It’s a reality/news-ish program where investigators go around the country to document interesting animal antics. Speaking of Korean film, I still need to see Train to Busan! I’d better get to that!

About the Artists

_Alicja_, axe20, and Stocksnap are visual artists on Pixabay.

Our very own D Chang is a designer and game writer from Austin, Texas. His short fiction has appeared in Avast, Ye Airships! and the Cryptopolis science fiction anthology, and he has a janky retro JRPG on Steam. He does the Space Squid illustrations, editing, and other squid stuff.

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