Sunday Shorts – Startling Sci-Fi: New Tales of the Beyond

I just spent two days at Romancing the Capital and I have huge smile on my face and no voice left. I was so happy to see the sheer number of romance authors talking about short stories, novellas and other mid-range short fiction. It warmed my short-fiction loving heart, I do tell you. So I expect you’ll be seeing some romantic spin in my Sunday Shorts over the next while.

But not quite yet. If you remember last Sunday, I mentioned I was very lucky to be asked by New Lit Salon Press if I’d be willing to read and maybe offer up a blurb for their science fiction anthology Startling Sci-Fi: New Tales of the Beyond. I read it, and loved it, and last week I started with two of the authors. I’m going to pick up the pace a bit and talk to three people from here on in over the next couple of weeks. That link is where you can pre-order the book, by the way, which is something I hope you’ll do if you’re at all a lover of quality short science fiction.

With no further ado…


Daniel Gooding

Daniel Gooding was born in 1984, and now works as a library assistant at the University of Bristol. He is the author of a novella and a collection of short stories, both unpublished, and is currently working on more. He lives in Bath with his wife and two children.

Daniel Gooding wrote “Crow Magnum Xix” which is an oddly charming – and just as oddly thought-provoking – story about a man who has himself put in a kind of stasis and launched out in a probe to see the universe, though how much he might be aware, and how much he might see is up for debate.

NB: Your story in Startling Sci-Fi was really unique – I loved the slice of humour running throughout, too. I have to ask – where did the idea come from?

DG: The idea for the story itself came on a dull Saturday afternoon, from a very small article in the paper; I forget the point of it exactly, but it involved some sort of unmanned probe being fired off into space. It set me thinking about the implications of someone being put inside one of these things, and what sort of lengths it would take to maintain at least some semblance of life or activity in there for a prolonged period, as opposed to just launching another Laika suicide mission or flotilla of kamikaze space monkeys. Normally I spend ages on a story, making extensive notes and outlines before sitting down to do a proper draft, but this was the quickest I’ve ever gone from conception of an idea to finished product; the name Wallace Rushford-Sale popped into my head, and within a couple of hours it was finished. The phrase ‘Crow Magnum’ I already had from reading another magazine (like Wallace Rushford-Sale), and had just been waiting for the right moment to use it.

NB: What would it take for you to accept a similar deal as the one your character took, and go off “seeing” the galaxy (potentially)?

DG: It’s an interesting question, but overall I think there are too many ambiguities and uncertainties to make me want to commit to the same sort of deal. I am interested in space as one of the final realms of the really unknown, and I would love the opportunity to see what else might be out there, but weighing up the odds I think I would prefer to stay and see how things pan out here. Leaving my family behind would also be a good reason not to want to go, not to mention my healthy sense of reticence/cowardice. All in all I think it’s better just to hang about on Earth, and wait and see if the technology gets any better; if a safe return was guaranteed, and I could be there and back in a week, not five years or something stupid like that, I might reconsider…


Mike Algera

Mike Algera has authored three poetry collections: Old Gods for New, Outskirts, and Like Indigenous Tiger. He has been published by Arc Poetry Magazine, BareBack Lit, Hamilton Arts & Letters, Nostrovia Poetry, Word Salad and Cyclamens & Swords Publishing. He lives in Hamilton with his high maintenance dog, Grendel. His favourite themes include dysfunctional families, Oriental mysticism, vigilante justice, love and love in all of the wrong places. His home away from home is in digital la-la land, at

Mike Algera wrote “New Year’s Eve 65,000,000 B. C.” which is one of the more unique stories I’ve read, where you’ve got a monster of some sort and a dinosaur and a rather introspective discussion between the two as they speak of their limitations, and wonder what might be different.

NB: Your story in startling Sci-Fi balances a kind of fable with science fiction, and is kind of sweet as well as somewhat sad. How’d the idea occur to you?

MA: I have a keen interest in cultural folklore and fairy tales which illustrate concepts of morality as well as glimpses into foreign customs that differentiate from my own. It’s storytelling that is often philosophical and introspective, metaphorical and poetic; straightforward writing that is strikingly nuanced; storytelling that can often be telling, which is discouraged by critics of modern lit, yet somehow remains culturally relevant and ingenious.

I had the Frankenstein monster in mind while in the preliminary stages of New Year’s Eve: 65, 000, 000 BC, and the goal was to write about a sympathetic creature that was borne into a life he didn’t seem to fit by a “creator” and was ultimately abandoned because of physical deformities. The stark contrast to Shelley’s Frankenstein is that the creature was made by man and was made to become an embodiment of sophisticated and civilized “man” – my creature on the other hand was thrown into the wild and uncivilized Jurassic Age, and yet is still feared because of his ghoulish appearance. Another difference is that the monster ends up befriending a T-Rex (and who wouldn’t be shaken up if one knew a carnivorous dinosaur was on the loose?).

In a nutshell, the story is about friendship – the union of two outcasts being brought together by circumstance; it’s a testament to a friendship that is genuine and eternal, even in the face of Armageddon.

Despite popular opinion, I don’t always enjoy killing off my characters – in hindsight, it was the only way to test the bond between the monster and the dinosaur. The two only want to help one another and be in each other’s company. The dinosaur wanted to aid his friend the monster in finding sleep, and if death by a volcano eruption would be the price to pay in order to attain his altruistic goal, then he is willing to do so in order to keep the friendship going… two friends dying together is better than dying and/or living alone.

NS: What was your worst New Year?

MA: The only worst New Year that I can recall was fifteen years back when my grandma was battling Hodgkinson’s lymphoma – ironically, it was good because she was with me during the Holidays, and I could spend time with her; the downside of course was that she was sick, and she died a few weeks after that. But at least she didn’t die alone, so we can all find solace in that.


Jhon Sanchez

As a Colombian, Mr. Sanchez writes the disgrammatical. Mr. Sanchez hung his three law diplomas above the toilet in his Brooklyn apartment. After surviving his first short story, “Too Funny to Commit Suicide,” he went on to study writing at Long Island University. His work has been featured in Brooklyn Paramount and The Overpass. This September, Mr. Sanchez is going to be a resident at the Edward Albee Foundation in Montauk, NY (No visitors allowed!) He would like to thank Samuel Ferri, Orlando Ferrand, Martha Hughes, Barbara Wallace, Alexander Saenz and Nan Frydland for their editorial comments, as well as Lewis Warsh, Don Scotti, Mom, the Jamaican Lady next door, and the keys left by the Brazilian.

Jhon Sanchez wrote “The Japanese Rice Cooker” in this collection – a story done in a modern epistolary format, about a Rice Cooker that seems to leave “messages” in the resultant cooked rice.

NB: Your story in Startling Sci-Fi walked a great line between funny and creepy (in fact, it reminded me of the whole ‘Machine of Death’ concept, which I loved). Is there a story behind where this rice cooker idea came from?

JS: When I wrote the Japanese Rice Cooker, I was reading Stephen King’s, “The Jaunt” and “Jerusalem’s Lot.” I read “Jerusalem’s Lot” for an Orlando Ferrand workshop, who challenged us to write a short story in an epistolary form. From that point of view, my mind was busy thinking about the form rather than the content and the plot, so as professor Warsh said once, “In jail sometimes you find freedom.” I like to tell the story of what specifically happened with that story. At the time, I was living with someone who also writes but he liked to take my computer, and he always messed up the sound system. He was also looking for a place to move to, and I was planning to give him a rice cooker. I sat at the computer thinking about the assignment for Orlando Ferrand as well as my gift, the rice cooker when I could not play the music. My friend always denied doing anything to my computer. “Who did it? A ghost did it.” I was mad, and I thought of the time I had to spend sending e-mails to Apple. When I thought about the complaints that people made about different products at that point I remember as well Haruki Murakami’s story, “Kangaroo Communique,” narrated in the voice of a person who receives customer complaint letters. I started to write different emails complaining about a rice cooker. I made the story of rice cookers instead of a story about a character and his rice cooker. That was the twist I wanted in the story.

NS: What was your writing process for this story?

JS: In this particular story, I wrote the climax and then I wrote the rest of the story to move towards that moment. When I write, I like to give importance to things or moments that are irrelevant in our lives; a rice cooker is an example of it. If I had written the story with something more sophisticated like a computer or a robot I think the story would have lost its humorous touch. The most ordinary situation or the object calls my attention. This is something that is also a presence in my daily life. I remember a person or make a friend for some small things and not for the most dramatic moment in my life. In school, I used to remember all unimportant data and information. I even have a friend who used to call me to ask me things like, ‘Do you remember what dress I was wearing last year?’ or ‘A month ago, I was leaving my office when someone called me. Did you remember whom?” In other words my memory is full of detritus. I wrote an essay about that. Nothing is a formula in my life, but I have a taste for things that are irrelevant, small and comic. In that sense, I just expand this world to an alternative one.


I’ll be back next week with more from this wonderful collection, and I hope you’ll pop by and say hello. Until then, keep it short!


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