Strange Science: Volcanoes and Phyloplankton

The recent eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii had a devastating impact on the island. However, it appears that the lava that reached the Pacific Ocean may have created conditions ideal for a phyloplankton boom in the ocean.

The lava was around 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, far too hot for living things to flourish. But what happened in this case is that as the lava went deeper into the water, it heated nutrient-rich waters and pushed them toward the surface, which provided food for the local phyloplankton populations. When the lava stopped heating the water, the phyloplankton populations shrunk back to their normal size.

Of course, the scientist studying this phenomenon wanted more data, so they attempted to recreate the conditions in their labs. With the help of artists, they melted hardened lava rock and poured it into seawater to see if they could get a similar phyloplankton boom. Though this experiment didn’t create the desired effect, it gave them more ideas on where to look next for answers.

You can read more about this here!

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I Didn’t Break the Lamp: Interview with Neil James Hudson

Salisbury Cathedral spire under stormclouds

Today, we’re talking with Neil James Hudson, who has a story in I Didn’t Break the Lamp!

DV: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Neil James Hudson: I live in the middle of nowhere on the North York moors, and work in York as a charity shop manager. I’m currently halfway through an MA in Creative Writing at York St John University.

I’ve published around fifty sf and fantasy stories, as well as what we might euphemistically call a “paranormal romance” novel, On Wings of Pity. I have a short story collection available from my website at, and a Facebook page with news updates.

DV: What inspired you to write “Touch the Earth” for I Didn’t Break the Lamp?

NJH: I’d already come up with the idea of the city for a previous unpublished story that I was never quite satisfied with. It seemed the ideal setting for the anthology. While I was trying to come up with a new plot, I found myself playing an old piece of music by Michael Nyman that I loved when I was a student, with two women singing forlorn extended notes that weave in and out of a slow string movement. I realised that I wanted these voices in my city, and decided that I may as well pinch the title while I was at it as well.

DV: Your take on our anthology prompt was unexpected but wonderful. Can you tell us more about the thought process that resulted in an imagined place as almost an entity in its own right?

NJH: All cities are imaginary. The bricks and glass might be real enough, but what it all means is personal to us. We build them up with our own experiences, fantasies, memories and wishes. One person may see a shortcut to work, another might see the place where they had their first kiss. Which is more important, the concrete and stone that limits what we can and can’t do, or the infinite possibilities that they generate for our personal stories? I’ll take the map in my head over a real one any day.

DV: Your story centers around music. Do you write or play any music yourself?

NJH: Alas, no. We were never taught it at school, and I never had the confidence to take it up on my own. This feels like a great loss to me; parts of my brain have never been exercised, and there’s a whole area of human culture that I’ve excluded myself from. I may yet have a mid-life crisis and buy a drumkit for the benefit of the neighbours.

DV: If you had an imaginary friend growing up, what was their name, and what were they like?

NJH: I didn’t have any real friends. My childhood companion was my teddy-bear Barnaby, who combined intelligence, wit and magical powers with a surprisingly violent attitude to the school bullies. I eventually realised that he was real and I was the imaginary friend, and when he grew up, I just kind of went away.

DV: What’s on the horizon for you?

I have a story “One Survivor” coming out in Blood Bound Books’ Crash Code anthology. Otherwise I’m currently working on a set of vignettes, collectively entitled “One Hundred Pieces of Millia Maslowa,” in the hope that I can sell them both as individual pieces and as a book-length whole. The form’s a bit of a departure for me, and I’m hoping the first pieces in the series will start appearing in various zines sometime this year.

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Review of Triangulation: Dark Skies

Triangulation: Dark Skies, edited by Diane Turnshek and Chloe Nightingale (Parsek Ink, 2019), is an anthology of stories about people longing to see the night skies. Whether the stars are missing due to light pollution or something else, the stories all explore the theme of the dark sky.

Blake Jessop’s “Meirythro Brevis” is an excellent tightly crafted story of one woman’s desire to see the stars, and the length to which she would go to make that happen. “Betting on Starlight” by Isaac E. Payne features a neat blend of poker and mythology that worked brilliantly. Other stories were bittersweet and lovely, like Kate Ruegger’s modern take on Peter Pan, “The Second Star is Missing,” or Estelle Rodgers’ “Reaching Out.” There are plenty of creepy stories in this anthology as well. Jamie Lackey’s “Eleven Tips for Hikers Wishing to Enjoy Moonblossom Trail, Presented by the Antrean Department of Commerce & Tourism” is a supremely charming story, but it also has a layer of menace beneath the charm that reminded me a lot of Welcome to Nightvale. Josh Rountree also has one of the spookier tales in the anthology in “Rattlesnake Song,” a cosmic Mythos-like tale set in a small Texas town, with every bit of the wanting and needing to get away apparent in the prose.

With twenty-one stories included in this anthology, most readers are sure to find some that resonate with them like these six stories did with me. There’s a mix of science fiction, horror, and fantasy stories, so there are options for many readers to enjoy. Triangulation: Dark Skies is available in ebook and print formats.

We were provided with a copy of this anthology in exchange for review consideration.

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I Didn’t Break the Lamp: Interview with Julian Dexter

Busy street scene stamped Montgomery, AlabamaJulian Dexter had a story in Utter Fabrication, and now he’s back with a story in I Didn’t Break the Lamp!

DV: Tell us a bit about yourself!

Julian Dexter: I love reading and writing and currently work as both a writing tutor and as “that person who checks your books out at the library.” As with most writers, I have way too many ideas and not enough time to get them all down. I currently live with a very loud calico cat who somehow takes up my entire bed. I recently got engaged to my girlfriend, and my boyfriend just moved to Washington from Michigan to be closer (yay polyamory!).

DV: What inspired you to write “See Me” for I Didn’t Break the Lamp?

JD: When I saw the prompt, my first thought was a world I’d been writing in for a Nanowrimo project I had never completed: Unfinished Inc. (Looking back on it, the fact that my working title for the document was “Unfinished” feels like it became a self-fulfilling prophecy …) I wanted to dive back into the world, and Hudson seemed like the ideal central character for an imaginary friend story. After settling on the world and a narrator, it was just a matter of plot (and I can thank my girlfriend for that by letting me bounce ideas off of her).

DV: The world depicted in your story is one in which it’s not abnormal for people to deal with the supernatural (or at least that’s the case for your characters). Do you think this would extend to all forms of supernatural creatures, or does it just work for the sort you include in your story?

JD: I’m hoping to extend it to all supernatural beings or, at the very least, have a reason why some exist and some don’t. At the moment, the list of creatures that I’ve confirmed exist in the world of Unfinished and that have a set culture and history is extremely short. But in general, the magical beings of this world keep to themselves, and Unfinished Inc. is there to make sure that continues to happen.

DV: The organization your narrator works for is a fascinating one. Do you have ideas about the other sorts of cases they might handle? Any plans for more stories featuring this organization?

JD: Thank you! I do have plans for the world. I was working on a novel series featuring the organization (with Vivian as a lead), but I ended up with some challenges in writing it about halfway through book one. Most of Vivian’s cases thus far have included a wide variety of ghosts–from mischievous pranksters to lost souls and anywhere in between–but she also received a case about a hill that’s eating people, and she’s been on the trail of a rogue vampire. I’m hoping to add more variety to the cases and to bring in more mythological beings from all around the world, especially more obscure creatures.

DV: What’s on the horizon for you?

JD: I’ve been working on a sort of strange project for the past few years. It’s set in a world I developed in middle school that I decided to flesh out some and fill with new characters. Book one has been out for roughly two years now. I wanted to finish the second volume by now, but I’ve had a series of technical difficulties, including my laptop dying. I recently started releasing some free stories on a couple different platforms that are set in this same world, and I’m working on developing a tabletop game for it as well. It’s not something I was expecting to invest this much time and energy on, but I really like writing those specific characters.

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Fiction: Marked

An essay by Rhiann, as provided by M A Smith
Art by Luke Spooner

Life as a pick-pocket is much easier when you are in possession of six arms.

I followed in the family business, so to speak, and relocated to the Second City as soon as my spines had parted. Plenty of humans there, you see. Or, as Mother calls them: marks. It’s a long journey via cross country train, swamp ferry, and, finally, fusion-chopper to the heights of the Second. I’m not the best traveler; I haven’t got the stomachs for it.

Two of my cousins were already out there, and one of them, Kez, met me at the pad.

“Rhiann!” he yelled, his voice a high-pitched buzz amidst the humanoid bass rumble.

“Here,” I called, nudging my way through the throng, keeping all my arms tucked respectfully tightly against my upper body. Even so, I was on the receiving end of some “accidental” shoves; the Second City is not known for its tolerance, whatever the local rags would have you believe. Someone hissed, “Go home, goddamn termite,” in my aural cavity–annoying to be lumped in (erroneously) with those uncivilized folks, worse still to feel the thin spatter of someone else’s saliva on my skin. We have particularly sensitive skins. Again, pretty handy in my line of work.

Kez wanted to hit a bar as soon as I’d dumped my stuff in his nest, but I wanted to hit the ground running and get out on the streets, plying my trade, as it were.

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Strange Science: Gel on the Dark Side of the Moon?

News came out recently that the Chinese lunar probe had located a mysterious shiny gel on the dark side of the moon. But as other scientists looked into this claim, it seems that it may have been a translation error.

Since the moon has no atmosphere, no biology, no liquids on the surface, and no volcanic activity, it’s not possible for a gel to exist naturally on the moon. However, there is a possibility that something glassy or with a gel-like lustre could exist on the moon, as a result of an asteroid or other object striking the moon. If an object hit the moon at a high velocity, “it would have generated exceedingly high temperatures and pressures at the impact site, melting rock at unfathomable speeds and leaving behind a myriad of molten pools. Exposed to the harsh, frigid environs of space, these would have cooled remarkably quickly, forming a glass.”

As for the translation error, it seems likely that Google Translate provided “gel” as a translation of a Chinese word used in the reporting on this discovery. But the word more accurately means “glassy,” “shiny,” or “glossy.” There’s also precedent for this being lunar glass, based on similar phenomenon observed by Apollo 17 astronauts.

You can read more about the reinterpretation of these possibly erroneous reports here.

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That Man Behind the Curtain – August 2019

Photo of two cats playing with catnip.

Our feline interns enjoying some catnip.

This month was about final touches on both the Autumn 2019 quarterly and I Didn’t Break the Lamp.

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Talking About Science in British Sign Language

Chemical structure of ribonucleotideWhile sign language is a huge boon to those people with hearing loss or deafness, the various forms of sign language can make it difficult to communicate about certain topics, like science. Science is filled with lengthy words that don’t have signs associated with them, which means that a scientist with hearing loss would need to finger-spell the terms, which takes quite a while.

However, a student with deafness in the U.K. has come up with over 100 signs for scientific words, which are now an accepted part of British Sign Language. He uses this signs as part of his studies and now research, as he’s currently pursuing a master’s degree. You can learn more about how he came up with these signs and how they’ve been received here.

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Now Available: Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2019

Time travel, religious birds, and alchemical experimentation. These are but some of the strange tales to be found in this book.

Mad Scientist Journal: Autumn 2019 collects fourteen tales from the fictional worlds of mad science. For the discerning mad scientist reader, there are also pieces of fiction from Judith Field, Andrew Jensen, and Valerie Lute. Readers will also find other resources for the budding mad scientist, including an advice column, gossip column, and other brief messages from mad scientists.

Authors featured in this volume also include M. A. Smith, Stuart Webb, John A. McColley, Zandra Renwick, Jane Abbott, Stephen D. Rogers, G. D. Watry, Myna Chang, Deborah L. Davitt, K. Kitts, Robert Dawson, George Salis, Traci Castleberry, Nathan Crowder, Cole Clayton, Evelyn Rosenberg, Gordon Sun, Henry Hasselmann, Jenn Cavanaugh, Jennavive Johnson, Joachim Heijndermans, Nate Bjeldanes, Lucinda Gunnin, and Torrey Podmajersky. Art provided by Errow Collins, America Jones, Leigh Legler, Luke Spooner, and Ariel Alian Wilson.

Buy it now at:

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Fiction: Classroom Experiment

Transcription of an accidental recording made by a home assistant device and sent to the email address of Dr. Marguerite Van Neelsing, a leading ethicist in the field of psychology.[1] Dr. Van Neelsing and Dr. Cecilia Kennedy, a language expert, further transcribed the manuscript and first published it in Exiled Resources (January 2019). Key words: human growth hormone, cadaver brain, experiments on school children, psychology.
Art by Leigh Legler

Now this one has legs–I can see the distinct viscous, ruby red lines clinging to the glass. More wine for me, then! I’ll pour just a smidge more for a lonely lady late on New Year’s Eve … Ah, now that soothes the soul. I only have one glass a day–one glass I need to refill from time to time, but a glass a day keeps the crazies away. That’s what I believe. I didn’t always drink. It wasn’t until I started teaching, back in the 60s and early 70s. Oh! The pressures we elementary teachers faced! We didn’t necessarily face them from parents or anything like that. Back then, parents still believed that teachers were always right and that children needed to behave. The administrators, on the other hand, were relentless in their efforts to push us to be innovative–to remain on the leading edge of new teaching methods. In our tiny district, the superintendent fancied himself a kind of mover and shaker who would advance to a more desirable school district and really make a name for himself there. So, he depended on us schoolteachers to make him look good. Lord knows he was too stupid to do it on his own. Oh, there were incentives too, mostly in the form of bonuses. We never got permanent raises or anything like that. Instead, he just threw $50 here and $100 there, which we’d all greedily grab.[2]

Well, I was certainly desperate and greedy. I mean, you can’t really be anything else in an environment like that. The desire to compete and be the best just covers you like a translucent coating that clings and suffocates, but you don’t notice it because you can’t see it until years later, once the kids have grown, the husband has died, and you’ve already polished off a bottle of Merlot and you’re starting on a another one …

Ah, the things we did. The things I did for a few hundred dollars over five years. I carefully documented everything, thinking the superintendent would be impressed by my meticulous nature and my ability to use logic and numbers–my ability to subtly observe and record my experiments, which were somewhat psychological and medical in nature. In those days, I was in charge of a second-grade classroom, and I had delightful ideas for rewarding students with air-popped popcorn and stickers. I had all kinds of stickers for the children. Of course, some got more than others, and why shouldn’t they? Why shouldn’t I reward the brightest ones? In fact, I noticed that the smartest and most popular students happened to be the tallest and, quite frankly, I simply liked them better as well. There were a few girls in particular that were shorter and a few of the boys too, and I’d just hate it when they would luck out and earn a sticker. I just didn’t think it was right or natural. However, I tried to put my judgments aside, and I decided that maybe I could help these students–help them grow a bit. I soon discovered that I was developing a hypothesis based on a few observations and teaching experiences: taller students seem to be more intelligent and popular than shorter students, so if shorter students were given a human growth hormone, their brains might expand as well and make them more capable of retaining and processing information. Also, if intelligence is a social determiner for success and wellbeing among groups, then shorter students who grow taller might have a chance at being included in society … Continue reading

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