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What is Patreon?

Patreon is a site that works kind of like a long-term Kickstarter.  You go to someone’s Patreon page and sponsor them for a monthly fee ranging from $1-$1,000.

What do you get out of this?  Stories about immortals hiding in plain sight.  Stories about worlds with dead gods that know they’re dead.  Stories about assholes getting kicked off Earth, recruited into a mission to check out alien technology, and fucking the entire thing up.

You also get periodic mental health tips and tricks and my unique brand of ranting and raving, all for as much (or as little) as you want to send me a month.

It’s a vicious, delicious cycle.  Click below to throw a few bucks at me.  I’ll let you draw me like one of your French girls.

Maybe…

Patreon for Michael J. Wyant Jr.

Review: Mysterion, March 2020

Review: Mysterion, March 2020

Originally Posted at Tangent Online, March 24, 2020

“Reformed” by Caias Ward

“Reformed” by Caias Ward is aptly titled. The story follows a criminal with Superman-level superpowers named Declan Samuels who is recently out of eight years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

The story itself is really the story of an ex-con coming out of prison and trying to reintegrate into society. The addition of superpowers highlights those difficulties in a deep, visceral way.

It’s not often a superhero story makes me cry, but this one did. It’s a story that’s more than worth the time to read.

Review: Strange Horizons, December 16, 2019

Review: Strange Horizons, December 16, 2019

Originally Posted at Tangent Online, December 18, 2019

“Flags Flying Before a Fall” by Osahon Ize-Iyamu

“Flags Flying Before a Fall” by Osahon Ize-Iyamu is a strange tale. Roughly, it follows a nearly unidentified main character living in a world where they die constantly, only to be resurrected by a tree that their brother won from professionally rolling down a hill. (I wish I could have that make more sense, but I can’t.) After this sport is outlawed, the protagonist is forced by their family to pretend at success to hide the money the brother sends back. Later, when the brother comes back at an inopportune time, he learns the truth and leaves, which ultimately sends the protagonist on a quest to find their lost sibling.

The story itself was hard for me to follow. I feel like there’s some sort of backstory or mythology I’m missing out on to make the detached external narration easier to handle, which is a shame.

That said, the language and the poetry of the prose is beautifully done. The story spends so much time stuck in the emotion and inner workings of the protagonist, despite their mother’s constant reinforcement that they need to avoid emotion, that a lesser writer would’ve fumbled and failed at the attempt. Ize-Iyamu, however, really manages to keep those hooks in despite it all.

In the end, despite my disconnect with background of this story, the raw emotion delivered through accurate, beautiful prose makes this a story worth reading.

Review: Strange Horizons, December 9, 2019

Review: Strange Horizons, December 9, 2019

Originally Posted at Tangent Online, December 11, 2019

“Into the Eye” by SL Harris

“Into the Eye” by SL Harris is a stunning depiction of our reality after the Old Gods rise. Set in the far future, Earth is now flooded and filled with chattering madmen and ruled over by these horrific beings. The only ones to escape this fate are those who were either off-world or maintained the psychological fortitude in the face of Cthulhu and its brethren to keep going. The main character, Sal, is the latter. A pilot during humanity’s last stand against madness, Sal watched the world die, but managed to steer away, the only surviving ship in the human fleet.

The story revolves around a man, Captain Moore, who has been to the center of the universe and found Azathoth—Lovecraft’s creator god—sleeping. Waiting. Like Sal, Moore is the only survivor of his failed mission and comes back, having spent ten years alone, working through a plan to get away from the madness. With that in mind, Moore assembles a crew and together they head to Azathoth to escape this damned universe for another seen only in fevered images during Moore’s time near the sleeping god.

Overall, the story is incredibly well written, the integration of the Lovecraftian mythos with a far future setting works seamlessly, and Harris develops very interesting, empathetic characters that you root for by the end.

My only real gripe with the story is the end. It sort of stops and leaves us wondering at the conclusion, a nagging feeling of hope warring with the blatant horrors of this universe. In another story, without the weight of the Cthulhu mythos driving it forward, I think this would’ve worked quite well, but I can’t help but feel like it reads as the end of a chapter in a book than the end of a short story.

That said, it’s a pleasure to read and I’d recommend folks give it a shot, especially if you like new takes on Lovecraft’s madness.

Review: Strange Horizons, Dec. 2, 2019

Review: Strange Horizons, Dec. 2, 2019

Originally Posted at Tangent Online, December 2, 2019

“The Garden’s First Rule” by Sheldon Costa

“The Garden’s First Rule” by Sheldon Costa is both beautifully haunting and terrifying at the same time. The story takes place in a semi-modern world where children can be sold, or sell themselves, to a long-term art installation called the Garden. In the Garden, these children are given a seed and tied to a frame. Over the next years, that seed will grow inside them, slowly changing them from a human to some sort of weird human-plant hybrid.

The story itself follows one of these children, Eli, who convinces his parents to sell him to the Garden because of the abuse he suffered at home in the wake of his sister, Ava, being shipped off to war. Eli is happy in the Garden, but when his sister shows up one day and sees him, his world is turned upside down as old memories flood back.

The interesting part of this story is the perspective. Costa takes the time to illustrate how some of the other children fight and struggle against their planting. Even Eli sees the pain they experience in a way that makes you think, maybe, he doesn’t actually want to be there. However, every time Eli comes back to the present and focuses on his life and his long-term goals—going to seed and spreading out over the world—it’s clear Eli is a true believer.

Ultimately, I think that’s the scariest part of this story. It feels like the manifesto of a radicalized soldier, which makes the face off with Ava, a recently returned soldier with clear signs of PTSD, the more meaningful. Great story and well worth a read.

Review: Diabolical Plots #56B, October 2019

Review: Diabolical Plots #56B, October 2019

I’m not allowed to review Diabolical Plots for Tangent Online since I’m a first reader for the magazine, so… this one isn’t associated with them. :p

Full Disclosure: I didn’t read this story during my first reader duties this submissions cycle, so it ended up being a pleasant surprise. Also, the title hooked me immediately. I like me some classy swear words in a title.

Also, since this isn’t associated with Tangent, Imma let the swears out for once.

You’ve been warned.

“Save the God Damn Pandas” by Anaea Lay

“Save the God Damn Pandas” by Anaea Lay is fantastic. At its basic, it follows a guy who tries to get pandas (who can talk thanks to technology) to fuck, while confronting his own ticking biological clock.

The story is rough and tumble in its descriptions and completely earnest in the characterizations and dialog of the characters, including the pandas. At its core, this story is a straight up, early-2000s comedy plot, with all the deprecating humor you can handle.

I really enjoyed the story, perhaps in large part to the prevalence of the profanity. There’s something visceral about its use that spoke to me. It’s rare I read a story and end on a smile.

UPDATE: Just read my cohort’s review over at TO and apparently they don’t agree. Oh well. Personally, I think the ending is actually quite believable, at least the single part that’s actually resolved. Then again, I grew up in a house where a cousin acted as a father for the entirety of my sister and younger brother’s life without any sort of sexual or romantic liaison with my mom, so two best friends deciding to adopt a baby doesn’t seem that far fetched to me.

John Killed Everyone

John Killed Everyone

Background: “John Killed Everyone” came about as the result of plotting for another story I’ve been working on for about five years now, “Soundless.” In that world, 97% of humans speak telepathically as the result of a manufactured virus that killed everyone on the planet who didn’t have a certain set of genes that predisposed one to having telepathy.

Eventually, I started wondering how the the whole “mass murder” thing happened and lit on the idea that it wasn’t actually a concerted effort by a series of eugenics-obsessed governments, but rather a single terrorist trying to take out the United States.

Unfortunately for the world, that terrorist, infected with her own virus, encounters the unluckiest man to have ever lived.

Enjoy.

— Mike

P.S.

This is my story and isn’t being given away; i.e. all ideas are mine unless otherwise noted. See my copyright page for details.

Featured Image source can be found here.


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Review: Clarkesworld #157, October 2019

Review: Clarkesworld #157, October 2019

Originally Posted at Tangent Online, October 23, 2019

“All Electric Ghosts” by Rich Larson
“The Scrapyard” by Tomas Furby
“An Arc of Lightning Across the Eye of God” by P H Lee
“National Center for the Preservation of Human Dignity” by Youha Nam, translated by Elisa Sinn and Justin Howe
“Song Xiuyun” by A Que, translated by Emily Jin
“How Alike Are We” by Bo-Young Kim, translated by Jihyun Park and Gord Sellar

Reviewed by Mike Wyant Jr.

“All Electric Ghosts” by Rich Larson is a wild ride. The story follows Benny, a drug addict-turned alien savior, as he works to reunite a bunch of unnamed and otherwise unknown alien species from a similarly unknown group of people looking to do something even more unknown to them.

Until trying to write a brief synopsis for this story, I didn’t realize just how much isn’t explained. We spend so much time deep in Benny’s tortured psyche that, when the action happens, it just seems like the natural steps for him to take. In a lot of ways, I wonder if this was Larson’s goal, to set up a story where the driving energy simulates a drug addict’s thought process in the search for their next hit. If so, it’s done brilliantly and with such beautiful, yet raw imagery it’s hard not to be impressed by the piece.

My only real critique is the ending is rather abrupt, though it does fit the overall motif of the story in that it starts with an addict searching for their next high and ends with that expected payoff. Definitely give this story a read.

“The Scrapyard” by Tomas Furby is the story of what happens to a group of bioengineered super soldiers after the war against an alien invasion is over. Mostly, it follows the narrator as he reflects on dead friends, the war he fought, and the reality that he is probably starting to lose it until, suddenly, we realize he isn’t.

The most appealing part of this story is the earnestness of the narration and the voicing. I’ve read various stories and memoirs written by soldiers who’ve seen battle and Furby does a fantastic job capturing the phrasing and style in this piece. The story itself, from the intro to the final scene, is well crafted.

“An Arc of Lightning Across the Eye of God” by P H Lee is an interesting tale. Generally, it contains two main parts: Zhou Wenshu fretting about reporting first contact with an alien visitor that’d just come through a transit point (which I took to be some sort of FTL lane) and a transcript of a meeting with the alien. It’s in the transcript we find out the alien is a genetically crafted creature made from an Icelandic astronaut and, apparently, an angel or some fragment of God.

The transcript is written really well, with all the frustration you’d find in a conversation with two interpreters between the subject and the interviewer. The story itself is a slow burn, with an ever-increasing tension as more of the interview comes to light. By the end, it’s easy to understand why Zhou was so uncomfortable in the first section of the story.

That said, the story just kind of ends. It’s not poorly concluded, and I can’t put my finger on why it bugs me so much as it’s clear I’m thinking and feeling what the author wants me to, but it left me feeling unfulfilled.

Definitely worth reading as my dissatisfaction with the ending is entirely a subjective response and the rest of the story is worth the time.

“National Center for the Preservation of Human Dignity” by Youha Nam, translated by Elisa Sinn and Justin Howe is terrifying. It follows a character we only ever know as the number 704 as she’s sent to a retirement home-esque building for being poor. The catch? She’s there to die in 24 hours.

The main plot revolves around 704 (I hate using that number as a name) as she comes to grips with the fact some prick government presided over by a certain presidential figure that’s far too familiar has outlawed poverty and, as such, will execute her. The ending, though somewhat depressing from an American, fight-to-the-death, point of view is satisfying and fits with the plot. Well worth a read.

“Song Xiuyun” by A Que and translated by Emily Jin is a fantastic story despite some editing and tense issues throughout. “Song Xiuyun” is told through two points of view, one is a futuristic Uber driver, Wu Huang, who controls a smart taxi through an Internet-connected helmet, and the other is the eponymous character, Song Xiuyun. Generally speaking, we follow Ms. Song as she travels to a near future Beijing in search of her son, whom she has found is in failing health. Soon, we find out her son has been using one of these helmets to control a robot designed to look exactly like him in order to fool her about his health. Eventually, from Ms. Song’s perspective, her son comes home for the Chinese New Year and all is well.

The thing that makes this story so interesting is Wu Huang’s perspective. She’s a replacement reader who connects the dots before Song does. During their drive, Wu Huang starts to draw parallels between her life and Song and her son’s, down to the way Wu Huang treats her family and their relationship. It’s an interesting take on modernization and the way it impacts family life and the ending, when it comes, is so simple, yet impactful I’m not ashamed to say I shed a tear or two.

Bo-Young Kim‘s “How Alike Are We,” translated by Jihyun Park and GordSellar, is a fantastic story about a space-faring vessel’s Artificial Intelligence going into a synthetic human body to try and figure out a problem it’s unable to address in its typical, digital brain.

Roughly, the story is a rescue mission. The AI, NOON, at some point intercepted a distress signal on Titan from a mining facility that’s collapsed in on itself. NOON, after being dropped in a synthetic body, promptly forgets exactly why they forced the crew to do this, resulting in a long series of escalating tensions as the crew attacks NOON and the captain, Lee Jin Seo, protects it. Ultimately, as everything spirals out of control, NOON finally realizes the gap in their knowledge is caused by a bureaucrat’s edits to their core programming, but not before a mutiny breaks out amongst the crew, leaving the survival of the colony hanging in the balance.

“How Alike We Are” starts off slowly, mostly due to the lack of knowledge of the narrator and the limited perspective as NOON tries to get their bearings. The first third of it was a bit challenging as I didn’t understand where we were going or why anything was important, but it turned out that was the point. The farther along in the tale you get, the more cohesive, and readable, the story becomes. By the end, you feel the tension and the emotion NOON has embraced to achieve their goal. When the ending finally hits, it ends with a sentence that flies in the face of every assertion NOON has made throughout the story and the pure joy I felt at that was worth the read.

Oh, and the science is really, really tight in this one, though I guess it has to be since the main character is an artificial intelligence.

Review: Interzone #283, September/October

Review: Interzone #283, September/October

Originally Posted at Tangent Online, September 29, 2019

“The Winds and Persecutions of the Sky” by Robert Minto
“Of the Green Spires” by Lucy Harlow
“Jolene” by Fiona Moore
“The Palimpsest Trigger” by David Cleden
“Fix That House!” by John Kessel
“Two Worlds Apart” by Dustin Blair Steinacker (reprint, not reviewed)

Reviewed by Mike Wyant Jr.

“The Winds and Persecutions of the Sky” by Robert Minto takes place in a world where humans have locked themselves away in the decaying remnants of skyscrapers to defend against some sort of ancient chemical warfare. It’s set far enough past the original cause the main character, Sib, doesn’t seem to have any point of reference for his people’s obsession with cleanliness and isolation. The story itself is about Sib leaving the safety of his home to look for his friend, Malmo, whom he is convinced has been abducted by the flying humans outside the walls. To get to Malmo, he makes a deal with Trader, a young woman from outside and takes to the walls.

Overall, I really enjoyed the imagery and the depth of world-building throughout. However, there were a few things that caught my attention a little too much and broke my suspension of disbelief. The first one comes early, but only becomes an issue later. That issue is Trader herself. She’s one of the outsiders, which is made very clear early on, but Sib, the same Sib who only just broke the rules to leave his floor, let alone the building, knows her and somehow barters with her to help him find his friend. That presents a plot hole I couldn’t let go of despite my best efforts.

The second thing was in the ending. Through flashbacks, we see Sib as Malmo’s fawning toady, an assistant who constantly changes himself and his desires to meet whatever Malmo’s current obsession is. With the ending, I expected this to change, to see growth in Sib that showed his motivations were no longer dominated only by Malmo’s passions. I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice to say, I didn’t see the growth I was looking for.

In short, a nicely written story with great world-building, but the plot and character growth didn’t quite land for me.

“Of the Green Spires” by Lucy Harlow is more poetry than prose. It’s a story about a strange plant called starthistle that grows all kinds of fruits, takes over a city, then retreats to create its own replica of portions of that city in the countryside. The (sub)plot has to do with a woman named Katherine who is having deep issues with her sister, only to have them solved, somehow, with the help of the starthistle and its fruits.

As I mentioned, this is a poetic work and Harlow is definitely a poet. I read many of the lines repeatedly just to enjoy their cadence and form. At the very least, it’s worth reading to feel what successful poetic prose can do.

That said, I didn’t have the same reaction to the plot. When I reached the end, I sat back and said, out loud, “Is it really just a story about a plant helping fix a family?” If it is, then I didn’t feel the intensity and importance of it throughout. This may be a reach, but I think the beauty of the language actually detracted from the impact of the plot, because when you’re reading about something so beautiful and miraculous, of course the relationship in question will be salvaged.

In the end, I didn’t like the story, but I really enjoyed reading it. I think you’ll need to give it a look and make your own decision on this one.

Fiona Moore‘s “Jolene” is funny in a twisted country song sort of way. The story follows Noah, a Consultant Autologist, which is like a psychologist for Intelligent Things (capital I and T), but a specialty in intelligent automobiles. The opening hook is in itself a joke: there’s a country singer whose wife, dog, and truck have all left him; the dog is dead, probably can’t do anything about the wife, but maybe the truck thing can be resolved. From this point, Noah speaks with the country singer in question, finds out his former partner on the National Competition circuit, a ruby red pickup named Jolene, has left him to work in a quarry, and won’t speak to him anymore. Yes, there’s a Dolly Parton joke. Yes, it’s funny.

Then the story takes a really dark turn about halfway in. We find out the dog got killed by Jolene, the wife is burnt alive, etc., yet the humorous tone doesn’t waver. By the time the story ends, I was confused by the transition and actually double-checked to make sure I didn’t somehow skip a few pages.

Overall, it’s funny, but the darkness at the end overwhelms it all.

“The Palimpsest Trigger” by David Cleden is dark. Really dark. It follows Marni, a drug addict who caused his sister’s overdose years before, as he works as a makeshift assassin for these monstrous creatures called palimps that can rewrite human memories. The palimps, in addition to rewriting memories, can also implant something called a meme-bomb through the use of their pilla, a nasty cilia-like growth they can remove and send out to their targets. The meme-bomb plants a trigger in the target’s brain which, when the target sees a certain item or symbol, causes the person to die horribly.

The story itself is driven by Marni’s desire to remove his memory of his sister’s death as it’s slowly driving him mad. He does horrible things for a palimp named Socrates in pursuit of this goal until, one day, he takes a target unlike any other for the sheer chance he’ll have his memory wiped.

The story kind of grossed me out and the ending wasn’t much of a surprise (I took pains not to mention it here so as not to ruin it for other readers). Even remembering the descriptions of the palimps makes my stomach turn, especially the weird blowjob scene with the house Madame and the palimp. Yes, it’s real. No, it’s not sexy.

If you’re going to read this, go in knowing that Cleden can write some nasty descriptions in ways that’ll haunt you for days.

“Fix That House!” by John Kessel is a farce targeting “authentic” home remodeling shows. The story follows an unnamed narrator and his spouse as they invest in an old plantation house and proceed to convert it back to its original form, down to the original, unusable kitchen. The story really gets to its punchline after they buy their first slave, Dottie, then drops off to make its point when the narrator sits on the front porch of their home at sunset with plans to go “go out and visit her later.”

This is a dark humor piece that, I think, highlights the ability of mostly white folks to look fondly on problematic time periods without seeing any of the ugliness beneath it. Personally, I think Kessel is saying he thinks these folks are yearning for those days not because they find a missing grace, but because they’re secretly wishing for the utter control they had and the freedom to do whatever they want as long as it’s done to people of color, but I could be wrong. Maybe.

Until Next Time

Until Next Time

Background: “Until Next Time” was the result of a rather horrible thought experiment where I imagined how my world would change if my spouse passed away. My immediate next thought was, “Well, if I had the technology, I’d do absolutely whatever it took to bring her back.”

That’s it. That’s the story.

Enjoy.

— Mike

P.S.

This is my story and isn’t being given away; i.e. all ideas are mine unless otherwise noted. See my copyright page for details.

Featured Image source can be found here.


I tuck her in.

It’s a well-practiced moment.  One worn down by infinite repetition.

But it’s special.  A thing between me and her.  A moment where we leave behind all the worries of the world and simply be.

A moment when I get a reprieve from this reality.

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