I warm up the temporal transporter and double-check the contents of the box I’m sending. If I can get my collection of Red Sun magazine into the hands of the right person at the right moment in history, I might end bad science fiction forever.
Red lights flash and a klaxon sounds, warning of an incoming temporal transport. I shield my eyes from the portal’s bright light as it delivers … me. The other me is wearing my same clothing, but torn in several places. There are dark circles under his eyes. He yells hoarsely, “Don’t send that package!”
Both of us turn to the portal as the lights flash and the klaxon sounds again. A third me steps from the portal. This me’s clothing is torn and burnt, and he wears an eyepatch over one eye. He yells at the second me, “Don’t stop him from sending the package!”
The three of us face the portal in response to more flashing lights and klaxon noises. A fourth me steps from the portal. This one has torn and burnt clothing, an eyepatch, and a splint keeping a broken forearm in place. He yells at the third me, “Don’t stop him from stopping him!”
The lights flash and the klaxon sounds again.
The Phonebooth by Michael Reyes. A mothman, spontaneous human combustion, stuff like that. Reyes’ work has appeared in Red Sun and Cirsova, currently my two top-ranked magazines, but I just don’t get his stuff.
Earth is for Earthers by Alexis Lantgen. Colonists sent to Europa had to mutate themselves to survive. Some come back to Earth and face anti-mutant racism. The author tries far too hard to get an emotional reaction from the reader. The main bad guy is a child abuser. Someone beats a stray dog for no apparent reason. There is an old-fashioned, southern-style lynching. I thought the end of the story would be Sally Struthers appearing and asking, “Won’t you please help?”
Body of Evidence by Ben Howels. A judge comes to a small, frontier town for a murder trial. That sounds like a western, but there are some fantasy elements as well, particularly a troll. Some disturbing forensic techniques are used to solve the case.
Sanguinary by Kevin Weir. A blood-magic-using hit man refuses to kill a child, then stops a less-scrupulous hitter from carrying out the hit. So, his employer orders him killed. It seems like this plot has been used in movies enough times to become a trope, but that’s probably because it’s a good plot. It allows for a tough main character who’s outside the law, but who is being heroic and doing the right thing.
The floor is littered with mes. Some sit against the walls, bandaging their wounds. Others lay where they fell, unconscious or dead, after gasping out their final warnings. The lights flash and the klaxon sounds again. The couple-dozen mes who are still conscious crowd around the portal as we realize it is sending a holographic transmission, rather than a person.
A me sits in a bunker, the only scenery behind him a concrete wall with a metal vault door. He speaks towards the camera, “If you’re seeing this, I’m already dead.” He glances over his shoulder as a deafening clang echoes in the bunker, the noise from a dent appearing in the vault door. He stares into the camera again. “No matter what happens, don’t send that package.” The door flies from the wall with another clang, destroying the camera and ending the transmission.
More flashing lights and klaxon sounds warn of another transmission. This me stands on a rooftop. A mushroom cloud billows into the sky in the distance. He announces to the camera, “Do whatever you have to do. Anything it takes. That package has to get through.” The transmission ends in a blinding flash of light.
The lights flash and the klaxon sounds again.
The Draft Dodgers by Jason Duke. If I had to give this story a one-word label it would be “schizophrenic”.
The USA has just entered World War 9 or something. The entire population is drafted into the military, to the point of forcing pregnant women to abort their babies so they can serve. Yet, at the same time, the government is trying to kill veterans of previous wars, including those young enough to serve, by encouraging them to be killed in riots or commit suicide.
It reads like the author wanted to layer on the dystopian elements, but didn’t think about internal consistency.
Taddock’s Ride by Michael Nethercott. A very slight fantasy twist on “The Charge of the Light Brigade”.
Wyrd Times by Richard Zwicker. The Geats, led by Beowulf’s right-hand man, are forced into exile by the Swedes. When they return to take back their land, they don’t find what they expect.
The Starlight Circus by Tara Calaby. This is probably a very good horror story, with clowns and creepy children, but I’m personally just not scared by the things that seem to frighten the rest of you.
Caroline by Aeryn Rudel. This is a good zombie story, but a couple of things which should have been twists were given away before the story began. First, the fact that it was a zombie story at all was a bit of a twist, but this was given away by artwork (same as the cover image) appearing right before the story. Also, the character Caroline being a major part of the story should have been more shocking, but due to the title, the reader knows she will be important.
Issues 2 and 3 are better-than-average magazines, but they didn’t quite blow me away like issue #1 did. There are 24 other magazines which made it into round two, and if one of them really brings its “A” game, it might be able to knock Red Sun out of the #1 position.
My time-travel intro story is based on a three-panel webcomic I saw years ago. I took the basic idea and pushed it to its limits, but I’d still like to credit the source. The only problem is, I can’t remember the name of the webcomic series. It features a mad scientist, drawn as a stick figure or possibly a stick figure with a face. I’d appreciate it if any webcomic experts out there could point me in the right direction.
More importantly, I could use your help deciding what to do with that package: