I’ve been an Assistant Editor, First Reads for Plasma Frequency Magazine since last October. That title makes me sound a bit more important than I am. My position is often referred to as a ‘slush reader’. I’m one of two people reading stories as they come in and deciding whether to forward them up for a second (and eventually, possibly third) read or to reject them. It’s an intensely rewarding job and I’m so happy to be a part of the PFM team. We get so many excellent, excellent submissions and it’s thrilling to watch them rise through our multiple tiered submission process.
At the beginning of April, Plasma Frequency published its 11th issue. I love the stories in this issue so much that I decided to put together a little blog post, mentioning specifically what I love about each piece. This is not a review as I can’t review something I was this involved in without being extraordinarily biased. Rather, it’s sort of just a glimpse behind the scenes into at least this slush reader’s mind. Plus, again, I just adore these stories and wanted the opportunity to share with people why I love them so much.
Please note–if you haven’t read the issue yet, there may be some very mild spoilers below. I tried to be as vague as possible so as not to ruin these stories for anyone who hasn’t yet had a chance to read the issue. If you haven’t, I definitely encourage you to pick up a copy on Amazon, Createspace or Weightless Books.
And now, on to the main event! First I’ll have the cover art, the full TOC and then I’ll dive into each story.
Plasma Frequency Magazine
Issue 11 TOC
Cover Art: Cyber Punk Sunset by Dora Ingrid Perkovic
“Roll the Sod O’er Me” by Jim Breyfogle
“The Shrike” by Zachary Woodard
“Comes the Piper” by D. Thomas Minton
“Bittersweet” by D. A. D’Amico
“Ejection” by C.E. Gee
“Defiance” by Shannon Connor Winward
“The Assassin’s Sacrifice” by Jeff Suwak
“Yusuf Roshani Worker” by Jedd Cole
“After the Ascension” by Stewart C. Baker
“Zero” by Matthew Fryer
Cover Art: “Cyber Punk Sunset” by Dora Ingrid Perkovic
No magazine is complete without excellent cover art. Issue 11 has a beautiful piece by Dora, a talented artist I discovered on Deviantart. The title mentions the sunset seen out the window behind our cyber punk–a detail I didn’t notice at first. I assumed there was a war-torn city behind her, or a post-apocalpytic world. The latter suspicion was formed mostly because the girl seemed so alone, save for her computer. No matter what the background means, I really enjoy the piece for the lingering feeling I get of being separated and alone, sequestered. And yet the computer remains, but the screen is blank. Why? Is there no longer an internet connection or is the internet alive and well and this girl is simply not connecting with it at the moment? So many good questions provoked by this one piece.
Roll the Sod O’er Me by Jim Breyfogle
This piece was one that came in before my time at Plasma Frequency, thus when I read the Issue 11, it was the first time I read this fun weird western piece. I’m a huge fan of weird westerns and am always glad to see them represented in speculative fiction magazines. I really enjoyed the ending twist on this piece–one I didn’t figure out until it was nearly upon me. The western atmosphere is aptly captured. The often silent main character–Stone–made a fascinating main character.
The Shrike by Zachary Woodard
I don’t want to pick favorites, but this is definitely one of my favorite stories in Issue 11. It’s such a poetic piece, and so perfectly brief. Some truly delightful phrases throughout the piece.
The piece deals as much with the subject of humanity as it does with synthetic life–and as some of you know, I’m a sucker for any form of synthetic life (robots, cyborgs, AI, etc).
This is one of those pieces that captures a moment. It has movement, yes, but more than that, it has a theme or a meaning. A depth. The first time I read “The Shrike”–I fell in love with it. But only on my second read did I begin to see things, ideas and meanings I hadn’t seen before. And I love that about any story, and especially about flash fiction. This is one of the stories I have a hard time getting out of my head. I think about it random times during the day and am inspired by its structure and its meaning.
Comes the Piper by D. Thomas Minton
“Comes the Piper” is another of my favorites. The story quite quickly introduces a mystery, questions, and a sense that something is definitely off.
For me, this piece held a delightful, pervasive sense of desperation. It reminded me of a different era, the Great Depression perhaps. The piece is so full of heart breaking moments. I wanted to shake the woman many times. I wanted to hug her just as often. I love a bleak story, and that’s exactly what this felt like to me. Bleak. Yet powerful. And as heavy as it can be, it didn’t leave me feeling (too) depressed.
Bittersweet by D.A. D’Amico
This brief little punch of a story starts with a bang! It’s the perfect example of starting where the story starts and peppering in information, as needed, later on. As with “Comes the Piper,” there is an almost immediate indication that something is out of the ordinary, inspiring interest and curiosity as I read it.
I love that this piece shows one of the quieter moments in a post-apocalyptic world. A moment of connection that I found touching.
As brief as “Bittersweet” is, it references so much that the story feels like part of a greater picture, rather than a slice of story out of time and place. Plus–hell of an ending!
Ejection by C.E. Gee
It’s hard to talk about this story without spoiling it. It’s the first story I’ve read that made me crack up laughing. Out loud. For at least two minutes. I’ll admit, when I began reading it the first time, I was cringing, wondering what the crap I was reading. I think it was the surprise that got me, that made me laugh so heartily that it made me feel good and realize that stories really can be funny.
The piece was also the perfect length. Any longer and it would lose its balance of humor.
Defiance by Shannon Connor Winward
This is yet another brief, but perfectly told tale. Every word feels right, economical, building the world, the character and the plot. I love Jackson, how cleverly his character is demonstrated and hammered home. I love the little world building touches like someone not knowing what a pumpkin is. The flashbacks are just right in their brevity, spliced between the present and offering only what info is necessary.
“Defiance” captures what I think all flash fiction should–not just a moment, not just an action, but a person. The character is there in this story, without massive info dumps or wandering backstories. Very well written little piece.
The Assassin’s Sacrifice by Jeff Suwak
This story starts with a gorgeous description of the desolate setting–a description which doesn’t just set the scene, but also the tone, adding a rather eerie air and setting us up for the dark events to come. There’s a quick introduction of a moral conflict, an internal struggle that got me hooked early. I like stories where characters matter, where they face some obstacle–not just physically, but within themselves as well. And this story portrays that excellently.
The character names and scene descriptions indicate a different setting than the typical Medieval-European based high fantasies. The almost Middle Eastern influences offer a breath of fresh air and diversity. The story continues to confront Heider’s internal conflict as well as external enemies with some really great, creepy imagery.
Yusuf Roshani Worker by Jedd Cole
There’s a hell of a starting paragraph in this story! It contains a wonderful opening scene that balances the precise amount of necessary information–withholding enough to create a curiosity-hook and mystery, while offering just enough to keep me marveling and grounded. And–as I am beginning to think all good stories need–there’s that little hint, that little half-hidden barb that tells the reader all is not normal. ‘Normal’ in a story doesn’t have to equate normal in our world. You could have what seems like the most bizarre world (as Cole has in this story), and yet to those characters it is normal. So including that hook that something isn’t normal for these characters in this world, is doubly intriguing and is, I think, where most stories start–when something out of the ordinary occurs.
Again, this story is the perfect length–not too long or too short. The tone is somewhat desolate at times, which I always enjoy, and the piece is just beautifully written overall.
After the Ascension by Stewart C. Baker
I loved the idea and the brief, poignant imagery of “After the Ascension.” It’s such a tiny piece, but it contains so much. A creepy last line further cements the piece’s strength. It’s difficult to write stories so little that have real impact, and Baker really knocked it out of the park with this one.
Zero by Matthew Fryer
This is a horrifying tale that spoke to me of a subject I’m very passionate about–body image and the demands of the media for a flawless body. Seeing the quest for thinness taken to such extremes is jarring, as it should be.
I don’t just love the message of this piece. It’s also extremely well told. The author uses scientific terms and other knowledge in a manner that is both easy to understand and lends authority to the tale. Not to mention, the character is given motivations, a struggle, and the final choice. I hope the world never gets to a point like this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it did.
And that’s it! That’s my take on all the stories in Issue 11 of Plasma Frequency Magazine. If you haven’t yet read the issue, I do so hope you will. These authors really deserve to have their work read by as many people as possible. If you do take the time to read it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon or Goodreads. It would be most appreciated it!
Before I go, I will say there was only one thing about this issue that made me sad. That is, there was only one female author featured in this article. At the time, we weren’t receiving a lot of submissions from female authors which I found troubling. I was going to address this on Twitter or some such avenue, merely asking that more women send us their work. Thankfully, since then we’ve seen a steady up-tick in female submissions and I’m hoping more of them will make it into our next issue.
Thank you once again for reading! I hope you all enjoy this post. Let me know what your favorite story was if you’ve read the issue–I’m very curious!