This Alien Life

insect-scifi

Relax by the poolside with these flash fiction treats! Please enjoy “The Case of the Stolen Slime,” “Teacher Evaluation Results,” and “The Uplift Candidate”… and we’re also featuring “Playing Grubs,” one of the winners from Armadillocon‘s first-ever writing contest! Drink these potent concoctions down to keep your brainhole cool this summer and, as always, read responsibly.

Playing Grubs

by Jacki Moffa
Armadillocon Flash Fiction Writing Contest Winner

Three agonizing hours in the Paradise Lucky, the largest casino along the gold-plated boardwalk in the city of Tzkilth. It was decorated in dark greens and teals, and the air was warm with harnessed magic.

Three bloody hours. And still nothing.

“Come on.” Ageetha eyed the giant grub in the center of the table. It was bright purple, with spikes on its thorax. Odd. They didn’t grow like that naturally. She wondered how the casino stuck them on? Made a good gambler deterrent, though; nobody would want to mess with a grub with those kinds of spikes.

“Make it rain, little guy.”

A snort to her left. “You’re asking for rain… in Bunaji? The hottest country in the world?” Circlet on the head, staff in one hand, half-eaten popsicle in the other.

A drunk magician. Great.

“It was a figure of speech,” she said. The grub scuttled over and snatched one of her tokens in its mouth. It had legs, unlike its more mundane cousins.

“…Hey!”

It dropped her token in the gaping hole in the center of the table. A downward trill of melancholy trumpet notes erupted from nowhere, and the handler palmed her shiny silver coin. Ageetha scowled and cursed.

“Cheer up,” the magician’s friend said, also sporting the circlet and staff that marked their trade. “S’only an ithi.”

“Maybe to you.” She fingered its twin, glinting in the golden light of the illuminated bubbles hovering near the ceiling. “But it’s all I have left.”

If there was one thing Bunaji did better than casinos, it was plays. The one she’d seen last night had been miraculous. She’d cried. She’d laughed. She’d been mugged on the way back. Everything taken but her old umbrella. She’d had the sense to drop it into a nearby pile of dragon dung. If only she’d done it with her purse, instead.

Hmph. Some vacation.

She tapped the coin against her fingers, staring without focus at the center of the table. The umbrella rested at her feet, stinking up to the high gods, but it was worth it. She’d had two spare coins stashed in the compartment of the handle. Seemed the smartest hiding place, given the locale. It was enough to buy her a berth home on a ship, but a ship wasn’t fast enough to get there in time to start her new job.

insect-sci-fiNo. For that, she needed transportation of the magical sort. Which was why she was playing Grubs with the addicts at three a.m. on a bank holiday.

“Hey. ginger. You gonna play the next round or what?”

She gnawed at her lip. If she lost now, she’d have no way to get home. Stuck in Tzkilth forever, doomed to a life of indentured servitude—or worse, accountancy.

“Well? We’re waiting.”

She had no choice. The one coin wasn’t enough on its own. She screwed up her face and tossed the ithi onto the table. It landed with a plink.

Ageetha snatched up the popsicle in its holder next to her. She didn’t know what flavor it was (they all had ridiculous names like Harmonic Rhapsody and Big Blue Blowhole) but it was fruity, and potent, and free, as long as she was at the tables.

“Come on, little grub,” she whispered. She didn’t need a lot. Maybe two golden telli. Coin for transport, that’s all. Not rain. Just a drizzle.

The grub scuttled around the table. Wait… was it… larger than before? And glowing? And going for everyone but the magicians?

“We have a winner!”

The magicians cheered and took their spoils. She sucked harder on her popsicle and flicked her eyes over to the dark corners of the room, where numerous people sat chained to desks, crunching numbers.

No. There was one more round. She still had a chance. The laughter of the magicians tinkled over the softly playing background music.

“What are they doing to you?” She stroked the spike-free head of the bug, which was now almost the size of her forearm. It croaked and nudged into her hand.

“Oi, don’t touch the grub.” One of the magicians pointed at her. “Look. She’s cheating.”

A giant scowl twisted her face. “You’re the ones cheating.”

The handler whistled to the music and flicked his finger to signal the beginning of the final round. Was he bewitched, too? She glanced over at the magicians. They made rude gestures at her with their dripping popsicle nubs.

The grub—ok, it was definitely the size of her whole arm now—scuttled over and rid half the table of their tokens.

Ageetha gripped her own token. No grub was getting it. She was getting home.

One of the Tokenless blubbered at the poor grub, which now hovered several measures above the table, twelve little legs squirming in the air.

Ok, that was enough. She jumped up. “Stop. You’re hurting it.”

“You’re hurting it,” one of the magicians said in a high-pitched voice. They waved their magical staff and the grub drifted toward them, expanding at a rapid speed. The other waved their own and all the remaining tokens on the table lifted toward the discard.

The grub’s epidermis was stretched leaf-thin.

Oh crap.

She dropped below the table. The grub exploded with a splat, its badly-attached spikes flying through the air amid screams. Ageetha snapped open her umbrella to fend off the spurting of punctured magicians. After a few seconds, she re-emerged.

“When I asked for precipitation,” she said to the re-knitting grub on the goo-covered table, “that’s not what I meant.”

Two plunks on the top of her umbrella. Two blood-sodden telli, dripping down the shit-stained fabric and into her lap.

***

The Case of the Stolen Slime

by Pamela Love


“I will be happy to find your missing congealed spit, Ms. Stallworth.” I hoped the translator wasn’t making me sound judgmental or sarcastic. For what the human was offering to pay for its recovery, I’d change my name to Spitseeker and go on a lifelong quest.

The translator blinked and burbled its way through my declaration and the human’s response. At last it emitted enough information in my language for me to understand my error. “Oh, I apologize for misunderstanding. You don’t want me to find spit. Of course that’s unreasonable. What you want me to find is congealed snot.” I squirmed at that bit of data. “Is there some disease vector in it?” I hoped not.

I hadn’t realized that humans could alter their skin color until this one’s face turned the dull red of the mold I scrub from my shoes during the rainy season. More blinking and burbling from the translator. What followed was a lengthy explanation about an Earth creature called an “oyster” which secreted some kind of slime made of calcium carbonate over any irritant that entered its body. Here on my world, Sasipyria, any self-respecting creature would digest a trespassing irritant. I reminded myself not to judge. A locator’s job is finding missing property, nothing more.

The human provided further data and a picture of the item, which she called a pearl necklace. On Earth, she (as many humans apparently did) had purchased multiple slime spheres which had holes drilled through them and were strung together. On numerous occasions, she had draped the resulting abomination (Don’t judge!) around her neck, which other humans admired. (Mental note: Cancel any future plans to visit Earth.)

Deciding that the Sasipyrians would equally appreciate her… aesthetics, Ms. Stallworth, here on a business venture, wore them at a Harvest Day ceremony given by our government two nights ago. She had returned to her room at Earth’s embassy, still wearing the slime collection. That was the last she had seen it. She had noticed they were missing this afternoon.

Something puzzled me. There are many locators in this city, and I’m neither the best nor the least expensive. Either a friend of mine or an enemy of hers had told her to pay me vastly more than I’d ever dream of charging. Considering my friends, the latter was far more likely. “Why did you choose me to assist you?”

Her face twisted oddly. I have seen a human smile. Whatever she was doing was not that. “Vekri, Ambassador DeVry told me he hired you to find his airmobile.”

Which indicated that she hadn’t heard the ambassador’s vehicle was still missing. He knew my actual rates, but had told her I charged twice that. He knew I was (as far as he was concerned) unsuccessful. And yet he’d recommended me to Ms. Stallworth. Interesting.

Earth’s embassy is the largest on Sasipyria. That’s because humans “sleep” one-third of their lifetime. (Each day, instead of sensibly condensing it into seasonal hibernations.) In addition to storage for their belongings, humans need “beds” to store their sleeping selves.

I searched my client’s luggage, storage, and room for the slime, or for clues to its disappearance. My former client joined us as I was emerging from under my current one’s bed, having finished my inspection without success. Ms. Stallworth and Ambassador DeVry spoke the same language and didn’t need a translator. Still, I kept it on so I could understand them. (They either didn’t notice or didn’t object.)

“The theft of my necklace is more evidence of your incompetence. I’ll make sure you lose your job,” said Ms. Stallworth, folding her arms.

“Then I’ll never have to work with you again. Nothing would make me happier. If I never hear another word from you about the food, the climate, the cleanliness of your room, and the—” The ambassador glanced at me, then added, “I will be a happy man.”

Something struck the door three times. A third human entered. The other two nodded to her. She wasn’t a stranger, then. Still, I had to consider her a suspect, especially if she stayed or worked at the embassy.

“Ambassador, the Prime Minister wants to speak to you at your earliest convenience about the trade matter. And Ms. Stallworth, is this your missing necklace?”

I slumped. Finding that slime wasn’t just a matter of supplying urgently needed funds to support myself. It would also be a story to tell other locators—which might mean being treated to intoxicants. But it wouldn’t be much of a story unless I was the one who found it.

Ms. Stallworth lunged toward the strung-together slime spheres the third human was holding up, snatching them away. “Where were they?”

I didn’t need the translator for that question. I’d heard that phrase (or variations of it) in assorted other languages often enough to know what they meant.

The third human (whose name, I discovered, was Ms. Ellison) said that she had searched the Harvest Day ceremony location.

“Impossible,” said Ms. Stallworth. “I brought it back to my room.”

What happened next will haunt my memory until my death.

Ms. Stallworth put the slime spheres in her mouth. She rubbed them against her teeth, like some vile cleaning device. I started to retch. No one noticed.

“Fake!” she bellowed. “Real pearls feel gritty against the teeth.” (I clutched at my gut. How could she know?) “These are fake!” She hurled them at the floor. The string broke. Slime spheres went everywhere. Cringing, I tried to dodge each revolting ricochet.

During the ensuing screaming match, I discovered that insufficient oyster slime exists on Earth to make enough necklaces for all the humans that want them, so some people make fake slime necklaces. Other species worry about food or fuel shortages, but humans

“Arrest her!” screamed Ms. Stallworth, pointing at Ms. Ellison.

It took a lot of burbling through the translator before I could understand what that meant. It took even more before I could make her understand that I have no power to detain anyone. I find things. If they’ve been stolen and the thief won’t return them, then I call the police.

“Besides, this embassy is legally Earth territory,” said the ambassador. “I’m the one with the authority to call the police, if anyone is.”

“I didn’t steal the pearls,” said Ms. Ellison. “I just asked if they were yours.” She looked at the ambassador.

He shook his head. “It was my idea. I was tired of listening to you whine about that necklace, in addition to everything else, Ms. Stallworth. So when Ms. Ellison mentioned that she had a string of pearls, I bought it from her and told her to offer it to you. We agreed to switch them back if yours were found before you left Sasipyria. They look just as good as yours, anyway.”

“Arrest them both!” screamed Ms. Stallworth.

My translator was screeching as it tried to keep up with all this. A wisp of smoke curled out of one corner.

At that point, a cleaner bot rolled into the room. While the humans were shouting, the bot rolled toward the fake pearls. I hit its “pause” button before it could suck up the—what was fake slime made of, anyway? Now wasn’t the time to ask.

Opening the cleaner bot, I inserted my tendrils to see what was in there. It wasn’t the first time.

“Is that where they hid my necklace?” demanded Ms. Stallworth, pointing.

“No.” I carried the cleaner bot out the door. “Wait here. I’ll return shortly.”

“See! It didn’t take the translator. It must be going to the police,” said Ms. Stallworth as I headed down the hall.  

Actually, I wasn’t. But she was right about why I was leaving the translator behind.

I took the cleaner bot to the Sasipyrian who worked as cleaning supervisor of the embassy. I described the missing pearl necklace.

“Oh, was Ms. Stallworth asking about that? I was in the washroom, doing some extra cleaning for her. Her necklace was in the cleaner bot yesterday. Since I didn’t know what it was, I put it through the scanner. It indicated Earth rock material inside whatever that white stuff was. I know humans wear rocks as jewelry. So, I very carefully cleaned off the tiny hidden Earth gems with acid.” Ilvit tilted her head. “Ms. Stallworth complained that Sasipyreans don’t clean her room well. She won’t be able to complain now!”

She handed me a tube containing multiple specks of oyster irritant, and a string. Well, those Earth creatures had made the pearls before. They could make them again.

***

Teacher Evaluation Results

by Tim McDaniel

To the Instructor:

Here are the results of the most recent Teacher Evaluation Survey conducted in your class. It is hoped that you will find these results useful as an aid to self-reflection, as you determine which areas of your instruction you might feel a need to improve.

For each Survey Question, the percentage of only the most common answer is given. If you wish to see the complete set of percentages, please see the Department Secretary. Note that the donation of rare secretions or (revised) celebrity DNA samples is not legally required for the provision of these results.

The percentage totals may not equal 100% if some responses were unclear or disallowed.

The answers to the Open-Ended Questions have been typed by the Department Secretary in order to ensure the confidentiality of the student responders, as required by law and custom. But if you really want to know who wrote what, please see the Department Secretary, with a suitable gratuity (such as desirable rare secretions or lightly-edited celebrity DNA samples) in hand.

Note that, according to the most recent contract, in addition to yourself, only the Department Head, your union representative, an endorsed representative of the Teachers Assassins Guild, or an approved clone of any of the above, may be allowed access to these results.

 

Survey Questions

Item #1. Instructor started and ended class promptly

Most Common Answer: Always (73%)

Item #2.  Instructor returned graded homework within one week

Most Common Answer: Always (93%)

Item #3: Instructor molts in a predictable and non-intrusive manner

Most Common Answer:  Always (60%)

Item #4.  Instructor made grading criteria clear

Most Common Answer: Always (54%)

Item #5.  Instructor’s use of the pain-whip was fair and often non-lethal

Most Common Answer:  Always (31%)

Most Common Answer:  Usually (31%) (tie)

Item #6.  (Redacted)

Item #7.  Instructor abused position by singing off-key during important tests

Most Common Answer:  Never (84%)

Item #8.  Instructor was available for extra help when needed

Most Common Answer:  Usually (18%)

Item #9.  Instructor gave everyone a chance to ask questions

Most Common Answer:  Always (62%)

Item #10.  Instructor gave everyone a fair chance to picture him/her/it nude

Most Common Answer:  Does Not Apply (100%)

Item #11.  Instructor spoke clearly and without spewing forth inordinate amounts of phlegm or toxic expellants

Most Common Answer:  Usually (90%)

Item #12.  Instructor displayed the bones/body parts/mummified carcasses of former students as a motivational tool in a surprisingly subtle and respectful manner

Most Common Answer:  Sometimes (74%)

Item #13.  Assignments and tests were graded fairly

Most Common Answer:  Never (34%)

Item #14.  I did my homework

Most Common Answer:  Sometimes (46%)

Item #15.  This was a course I wanted to take

Most Common Answer:  Does Not Apply (74%)

 

Open-Ended Questions

  1. What did you like most about this course?
  • “The teacher knows the subject well. He or she really wanted to share this knowledge with the class.”
  • “The instructor had a good singing voice, which made it easier for me to pass the class.”
  • “I think handing around the bones of the former students at the start of each lesson was an interesting way to get us to pay more attention in class. Plus I think I recognized one guy.”
  • “In the third week when he or she finally let us sit down.”
  • “She or he could really use the pain-whip really good. Strong arm!”
  1. What did you like least about this course?
  • “The teacher only wanted some of the students to ask questions, and if any of the rest of us spoke up, it was pain-whip time.”
  • “The teacher really discharges a lot of mucus from her/his mouth all the time, even when not speaking. It was a little distracting for some of the people in the class, but not me.”
  • “I was absent on the days he/she molted, so I don’t know about that. Just what other people told me, which I don’t believe all of it anyway.”
  • “Aside from the phlegm, which got me right in the eye a couple times, I have to say I never really understood why we got the grades we got. It seemed like random.”
  • “I didn’t like that she/he cloned our body parts and then served them at the class picnic. Just that I thought she/he could have chosen other, less embarrassing body parts to use.”
  1. Is there anything you would like to say to your instructor?
  • “Good job!”
  • “No.”
  • “Thanks for a good class!  I learned a lot from you!”
  • “Pain whip!”
  • “Nothing.”
  • “Good singing!”
  • “Wear a different tie sometimes.”
  • “Thanks so much!”
  1. Would you recommend this instructor to others considering taking this course?
  • “Without hesitation, I probably would do that.”
  • “Only if they can stand a lot of pain-whip.”
  • “I don’t know.  Maybe?”
  • “Yes.”
  • “I think it depends a lot on the species involved, or something.”
  1. If you were the instructor, how would you change this course?
  • “Nothing.  It was good.”
  • “I would give the students a warning before the test, and before the mucus discharges.”
  • “I thought everything was fine!”
  • “We really don’t need to look at and handle the bones every class.”
  • “Less homework.”
  • “Give the students a private place to molt so we don’t get embarrassed when it happens suddenly.”
  • “I never thought I would find Intro to Child Care so interesting.”
  • “Pain whip!”

***

The Uplift Candidate

by Mark S Bailen

Blake sat in the lobby, wearing a wrinkly shirt and a coffee-stained tie. His hair stuck up.

“You understand what kind of job this is?” asked the secretary.

“Sure,” Blake lied. He recalled something about uplift and guessed it was like his current job, working for UPS. “Do I get to drive a truck?”

“You never know.” The secretary ushered him to a glass elevator.

When the doors shut, Blake was hurtled upward. The elevator shot through the atmosphere and went screaming across the galaxy.

###

Blake woke up dizzy and covered in vomit. He managed to open one eye. He sat in a round chamber with glowing lights. A green alien with fifteen eyes loomed behind a dais. It wore a hairpiece.

“Ah! Our next candidate.” Hairpiece tapped an interface. “Let’s get started. According to your resume you worked for UPS. And before that, Dairy Queen. What made you switch jobs?”

Blake couldn’t decide if the alien was talking to him.

“Don’t like that question? Fine.” Hairpiece entered a note. “Describe a problem that you had with a member of your own species and how you solved it. As a follow up, answer the same question using a non-member species.”

Blake held his stomach, still feeling queasy. He looked around the chamber. Where was he? And what kind of job was this? The ad said nothing about aliens.

“Tell me one thing you love about your home planet. And one thing you hate.”

###

A door slid open and another alien entered the room. This one wore a pantsuit. It sat down next to Hairpiece. “Sorry, I’m late. I ate something that didn’t agree with me.” It faced Blake. “Good god, what’s that?”

“It’s from Earth.” Hairpiece sighed. “And it has difficulty expressing itself.”

“Earth? Is that a planet?” Pantsuit tapped its interface. “Ah, a new listing. No previous uplift experience. Excited for new opportunities. Eager to join a team environment. Can start any time. Three potential species for uplift: dolphins, octopi, and ducks.”

“This one’s a duck” said Hairpiece.

“I was going to say that,” said Pantsuit.

“Liar.”

Pantsuit rolled its fifteen eyes.

Blake managed to sit up straight and push down his hair. He cleared his throat. “Hi.” He waved feebly. “I’m Blake. Sorry for not answering right away. I get nervous during interviews.” He snorted. “I’m really excited about this job, whatever it is. Oh, and I think a glitch happened when my resume was sent over. I’m not a duck. I’m a human.”

The aliens froze.

“Did it just speak?” asked Pantsuit.

###

After turning on a voice-amplifying squawk box, the interview proceeded like any other. Blake even forgot he was talking to aliens. Some questions, especially the ones about his ability to work in a top-down organization, learn new technologies, and maintain a go-get-em attitude, he felt good about. Other questions, he wished that he had better answers. A few questions were a little odd.

“How often do you sleep?”

“Would you consider breathing methane?”

“Can you imagine yourself as a galactic overlord?”

“Name three things that you enjoy about being a duck?”

“How do you feel about interplanetary genocide?”

After considering the last question, Blake answered, “It’s bad?”

“Don’t worry,” Pantsuit reassured. “There are no wrong answers.”

###

Following seventeen minutes of interview questions, Hairpiece and Pantsuit folded their interfaces. “We’ll be back—we need to discuss.” They waddled out a side door, leaving Blake alone, fidgeting. He replayed his answers in his head and became convinced that he wasn’t getting the job. Maybe he should have talked more about his summer job as a pet sitter? Or his skills with Google Maps? If only he knew what the job was.

On the walls of the interview chamber were posters printed in polyglot blocks which Blake could barely decipher. One said, Join the galactic community! Another said, Be All the Species You Can Be! Another said, Uplift! Before You Fall Down!

Blake straightened his hair. What exactly is uplift?

###

“Congratulations,” said Hairpiece. “We’ve accepted you as our newest uplift candidate!”

Pantsuit blew a party horn and tossed confetti.

“Really?” Blake blinked. “I’m qualified?”

“Over-qualified! You can speak.”

“Oh. Wow. Thank you.” Blake felt relieved. He considered shaking hands with the aliens, but he didn’t know where to begin.

“Just sign here.” Pantsuit handed over its interface.

Blake couldn’t make sense of the polyglot letters, but used his finger to sign anyway. He never read contracts.

“When can you start?” asked hair piece.

“I need to give two week’s notice at UPS.”

“Fine. Do you have your own transportation? Something to get you to the nearest wormhole?”

“Huh?”

“Don’t worry. We’ll come get you. Our space cruisers are capable of transferring twenty million beings at a pop. Uplift will start in two weeks.”

“Oh, right. About that.” Blake stammered.  “What exactly is uplift?”

###

For the next seventeen minutes, the aliens described uplift. They detailed how they would genetically modify his species. What technology they would share. And what political and economic structures they would impose on his home planet. They also informed him that his species would be indentured for the next forty-three thousand years.

Blake sat with his mouth open.

“We’ll be in touch.” Hairpiece pressed a button.

Blake was sucked through the floor and sent screaming across the galaxy. He woke up back on Earth, in the lobby, with more vomit on his suit.

“Did you get the job?” The secretary smiled.

“I guess.” Blake felt too woozy to stand.

“Wonderful!”

Two weeks later, on his final shift at UPS, Blake delivered a package to a townhouse that sat on a lake. He stopped to appreciate some ducks. As he watched, the air crackled above the lake and one by one, the ducks were beamed into the sky.

***

About the Creators

Jacki Moffa is a costume designer and freelance writer with a focus on humor and The Arts. She graduated from the University of Florida with a dual degree in Theatre and Writing, and has been published in Periodically Dramatic. This is her first published work of fiction.

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?
As an experienced lasher, I’d build complicated fish traps using branches and rope braided from palm fronds. I’d get hangry in the process, and take it out on my imaginary dragon, Snurk. Then I’d stomp away to find some darn-tootin’ pineapples.

If you had to moderate an internationally-viewed debate, who’d be the debaters? Who’d win? What would your delicious viewing snack be, and how would you dress for the occasion?
Potential details… with shoelaces, or without? Would you wear a cosmetic vole, alive or otherwise?
A debate between Louis XIV and Beau Brummell on the appropriate attire for fashionable flamingos. There would be plenty of oozy, melted cheese for consumption, and no doubt my mid-17th century court gown would have sleeves so large and so puffy they could double as hot air balloons. Thanks to my inability to de-escalate, there would be no victor. The debate would end in fisticuffs, stockings would get torn, and the debaters would both exit in a huff, leaving me with all the cheese to myself.

Read her Aunty Stanky question.


After working as a teacher and in marketing, Pamela Love became a writer. Her speculative work has appeared in such magazines as Luna Station Quarterly, Havok, and Tales from the Moonlit Path, among others. She’s the winner of the 2020 Magazine Merit Fiction Award for her SF story, “The Fog Test”, which appeared in Cricket.

You’ve just discovered that you’re a superjucian glass of juice. You have all the powers of a glass of juice, TIMES 1000. A thirsty tween approaches you and you know the time for action is nigh. What is this action?
I am orange juice, loaded with Vitamin C. Anyone who drinks me will never get scurvy, and furthermore can thwart anyone who can be described as a scurvy knave. Pirates beware!

If you were to write a ten-volume epic fantasy starring a punctuation mark, which would it be and why? What would the one-sentence plot summary be?
The em dash, because I enjoy interrupting my characters when they are about to– hey, did the timer go off? Plot summary:  “To survive, an astronaut, private detective, and synchronized swim team must work together to–“

The editors wish to submit for your consideration the possibility that Pamela’s story cannily expands the rich tapestry of Earth literature far into a multiplanetary future, surely alluding to the classic “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant. Right? Read her Aunty Stanky question.


Tim McDaniel teaches English as a Second Language at Green River College, not far from Seattle.  His short stories, mostly comedic, have appeared in a number of SF/F magazines, including F&SF, Analog, and Asimov’s. He lives with his wife and dog, and his collection of plastic dinosaurs is the envy of all who encounter it.  His author page at Amazon.com is https://www.amazon.com/author/tim-mcdaniel and many of his stories are available at Simily.co.

Frankenstein monsters don’t get enough genre love. How would you revive the Frankenstein trope in the 21st century?
K-pop bands are very popular right now.  I say we take some parts from various K-pop band members, and combine with the parts from other bands of other nationalities, to broaden their appeal even further.  We’ll call the new music M-pop.  Once the entire world thrills of the music of M-pop, we activate their laser eyes!  And to think — they called me mad!  Mad, I tell you!

If you had a hammer, would you hammer in the morning, and all goddamned day, or just idly as a novelty? What would you hammer?
If I had a hammer, I would prefer to hammer just occasionally, as the mood strikes, but it’s not a “what” I would hammer, it’s a “who,” or actually a great number of whos.  I have a list.  Because of the length of this list, I would find myself pretty busy all day.  But the work has to get done.  (Just the little toe of each foot, of course.  I’m not a maniac.)
Wait a minute.  I DO have a hammer.

Read his Aunty Stanky question.


Mark S Bailen is a writer from Flagstaff, AZ. He has published in Fantasy, Nature, and Little Blue Marble. His favorite activities are doodling and hiking. He would do both at the same time if this didn’t increase his risk of running into a tree. Mark donated his payment for this story so visit his website and say nice things. You owe him, as do we.

If you were to write a ten-volume epic fantasy starring a punctuation mark, which would it be and why? What would the one-sentence plot summary be?
Funny you should ask, because I just started an epic fantasy starring a tilde. It contains the usual stuff: swordplay, plot twists, magic wands, and a love arc with an ampersand. It also has an elf.

Frankenstein monsters don’t get enough genre love. How would you revive the Frankenstein trope in the 21st century?
In my version, Frankenstein would join a troupe of fellow Frankensteins and together they would perform flash-mob musicals in shopping malls, including Annie, Rent, and Hamilton. Then they would eat some shoppers. Now don’t try telling me that Frankenstein is just another type of zombie. Because he’s not. Just like a hotdog is not a sandwich. [Ed. note: Arguable.]

Read his Aunty Stanky question.

About the Artist

Our very own Matthew F. Amati wears socks and lives by a canal. Occasional temper-tantrums give way to resigned melancholy. Amati’s diffidently-updated writer blog is www.mattamati.com. He is the author of the bestselling novel Loompaland (and by bestselling, we mean it has literally sold two copies to date) which features drunk Oompa-Loompas and gross candy.


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