"Comachrome" by Alan DeNiro
"Bertrand's Bride" by Beverly Suarez-Beard
"The Ulti Mate" by Jerry Oltion
"Tall Spirits Blocking the Night" by Jay Lake
"Event Horizon" by Sean Klein
"Flowers of the Sorcerous Moon" by Julie McGalliard
Integrating the concept of a dice game to create poetry slam style koans, Alan DeNiro creates his own larger paradox in "Comachrome." His unnamed female main character — a former nanny turned highly trained protector for Ling the Viceroy's son — has gone to retrieve her ward from the soldiers fighting the alien Yegg. With her penchant for shouting Ling's name rather than actually protecting him, is it any wonder he ran off in the first place? All annoyances aside, the back-story of the Yegg invasion and of the comachrome substance is good precursor to the ultimate confrontation for the life of Ling.
Another fairy tale told from a different point of view, Beverly Suarez-Beard retells Cinderella from the stepmother's vantage in "Bertrand's Bride." The tone is what makes this story work: an almost naive approach in the form of a confession after the entire horror has unfolded for the woman. The basic premise of the story we're familiar with gets delightfully twisted at almost every turn so by the end, the question of sympathy and which characters should get it will force another reading.
A quick but fun story by Jerry Oltion, "The Ulti Mate" is a romp in the male psyche about what a woman might do if she suddenly found she had all the power of a god. And it's not really divine power, it's just that when there were too many humans, the magic got spread too thin. Now Julia has it all, and what does she make first? Another woman, Sherry, "slender and blonde and busty, though not quite so busty as Julia." But there is trouble in paradise; the new creation develops an interest in men. As the point of view switches by the end of the story, so too does the tone; but still a satisfactory end.
Jay Lake contributes an intensely creepy yet brief story, "Tall Spirits, Blocking the Night." Marvin the lone bartender tries to close up for the night but the itinerant drunk, Moke, stumbles in with another wild tale. But this time it's beyond crazy as Marvin feels something beyond, tall as the night sky, forcing him to face his own scars still kept in a bathtub on the second floor. Moke escapes but will Marvin?
Requiring a few readings to satisfy, Sean Klein's "Event Horizon" seems at first two stories but is really one centering around the possible physics of travel through a black hole. Valeria is the near future astrophysicist taking us through the details of her life and how the interweaving is possible. Christoph is the visionary beyond the event horizon, explaining to his friend how they will master the spice trade. Smaller crosscuts take the story to the very edge but how many times will it send you to the beginning?
The possibility that not all evil is truly perceived is the basis for Julie McGalliard's "Flowers of the Sorcerous Moon." Inspired by the Morgul Vale from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, Morgothilian is born to a world of the Necromancer and beyond that, darker creatures. Hopelessly naive to her own cruel fate until the very end, the other side of the battle for the one ring is shown from a true captive. Beautifully written, the story needs to continue beyond this snippet.