"Tickling the Siroko's Chins" by E.L. Chen
"Granvort, The Discount Wizard" by R.E. Mendel
"Last Request" by Steven Mohan Jr.
"Dirt Roads and Robots" by Will McIntosh
"Ex Libris" by S. Evans
"Anna's Implants" by Marissa K. Lingen
Challenging Destiny is an online magazine, available as a PDF.
E.L. Chen opens up the issue with "Tickling the Siroko's Chins," a mediocre story about a young girl who hunts down the magical pearl of a legendary sea monster in order to save her dying father. Although this had the potential to be a really strong mythical tale, the beginning makes you wonder if the author had fallen in love with the sound of her own prose. Eventually a conflict is presented and the story unfolds into a nice plot arc, and it becomes clear a few pages in that the author will not be the only one to fall in love with the incredible prose. The plot, however, is fairly predictable and many smart readers will see the last couple of scenes coming a mile away. The poignant message of the story about growing up gets lost under the author's heavy-handed dialogue which spells out the theme for the reader, even though it is conveyed perfectly fine by the events of the story itself. This is a story that could've been wonderful, but fails to reach its potential.
A slightly more interesting story is Steven Mohan, Jr.'s "Last Request." It plays around with the old idea of the end of the worldmixing Christian apocalypse with cyberpunk trappings. For every really bad end of the world story that ends up in print, there seems to be another good one to balance it out. This is one of the good ones. The only bad part of this story is that it ends too quickly. You'll wish the story was twice as long and didn't leave so many things unresolved. Although lacking a proper resolution, the very fact that I wanted to know what happens next demonstrates that this story is doing its job.
Without doubt, the two best stories offered in Challenging Destiny are S. Evan's "Ex Libris" and Marissa K. Lingen's "Anna's Implants."
In the former, S. Evans presents a tale blending together one part pastiche of the old burly detective stories, one part Harry Potter, and a whole lot of creativity. This had to be the most fun story in the issue.
In the latter story, Lingen pits the reader in a world where future artists are given implants that allow them to interact with one of the great artists of their choice in order to learn from them, but must also deal with the consequences of madness and losing their identities to the machine. The character of Julia, who sports an implant of Vincent van Gogh, could have used more resolution at the end, but other than that, the ending finishes with a well conceived twist that any writer/artist/poet will appreciate.
The two remaining stories I found to be less convincing. One tried too hard to be funny, the other failed to grip my attention. But with all magazines there is bound to be a few duds, and where one person finds work that is trite or boring, another might see a gem.