Here’s “The Mantis Tattoo”

My novelette “The Mantis Tattoo” first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2015, edited by C. C. Finlay.  The magazine has graciously given me permission to make it available for free here:  

The Mantis Tattoo, Paul M Berger, F&SF

In his Locus review of the issue, Gardner Dozois called it “the best story here… suspenseful and entertaining enough to take a worthy place in the long roster of ‘prehistoric’ stories…”

In Locus Online Reviews, Lois Tilton said:

“…I’m not surprised to find that Berger has done it well; his story “Subduction” was my favorite F&SF piece from 2014, from the first Finlay-edited issue. This one combines the best of two genres: a neat trickster story from the folklore tradition, and paleontological speculation about the way modern humans might have prevailed in a contest between the species… RECOMMENDED”

When the issue was released, F&SF ran an interview in which I discussed the inspiration for the story.  You can see it here.  Mild spoilers, so I’d recommend reading the story first.



“Subduction,” in full

In Locus Online, Lois Tilton recently called my story “Subduction” her “favorite F&SF piece from 2014.”  Her review last summer said:

Excellent adult fantasy, tapping lightly into archetype but keeping the focus on the characters who have to face primordial forces of immense power — and pay the price for it. Tying the Earth’s great fault-lines to dragons is an inspired notion, and the prose makes it a joy to read.


There are still a few more ballots to consider for awards season, and I’d like to make sure this story, which appeared in the July/August 2014 Fantasy & Science Fiction, is available to folks who don’t have the issue.

Here it is, appearing with the kind permission of Gordon Van Gelder (the link opens a pdf):

 Subduction, by Paul M Berger, F&SF July-Aug 2014


If you’re not into reading, StarShipSofa did a podcast of the story here.  It begins at the 21:00 mark.

Also, I got to do a fun interview promoting the story, and it’s up on the F&SF blog.


Subduction Cover F&SF Digest

“The Mantis Tattoo” Interview

The team at Fantasy & Science Fiction has posted this interview promoting my story “The Mantis Tattoo” on their blog.

Hominid Family Tree









They let me sneak in a photo, and I am grateful for their indulgence. (It illustrates a point I was trying to make, and besides, nothing spiffs up a room like a wall of skulls.)

From Tangent Online

Tangent Online reviewed the March/April issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, including my story “The Mantis Tattoo.”  They were very kind to me:

Paul M. Berger demonstrates an impressive feat of exotic and atmospheric world-building… [He] has created two endearing characters and I hope he will return to them in future stories.

– Jerard Betts

Berger’s piece has a definite sense of story, characters easy to care about, unambiguous (and frequently-thwarted) goals, a clear plot arc, ample adversity, and awful stakes. The bad guys aren’t just dumb muscled lunks, but viciously clever magic-using bullies that are heavily muscled lunks. Definitely a must-read.

– C. D. Lewis

From Locus

The first review of the March/April Fantasy & Science Fiction is out.  Here’s what Lois Tilton in Locus Online  has to say about my story “The Mantis Tattoo”

There have been a number of stories concerning the meeting of modern humans and their predecessor species, a particularly favorite trope of mine. I’m not surprised to find that Berger has done it well; his story “Subduction” was my favorite F&SF piece from 2014, from the first Finlay-edited issue. This one combines the best of two genres: a neat trickster story from the folklore tradition, and paleontological speculation about the way modern humans might have prevailed in a contest between the species…


Which is a pretty good way to kick off a story release. But last time around it was fascinating to see that the critics’ very early stand-outs in the issue were not the stories that got the most  recognition over the long term; I am cautiously optimistic to see how this one holds up.

Also: I bet you were hoping now that this story is coming out I could finally quit talking about “Subduction” –- Alas, no such luck.  “Subduction” was included in the 2014 Locus Recommended Reading List!

Altered Fluid represented itself very well this year.  Here’s what those mad geniuses were noted for:


  • “Subduction”, Paul M. Berger (F&SF 7-8/14)
  • “Sleep Walking Now and Then”, Richard Bowes ( 7/9/14)
  • “The Magician and Laplace’s Demon”, Tom Crosshill (Clarkesworld 12/14)
  • “A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i”, Alaya Dawn Johnson (F&SF 7-8/14)

Young Adult Books:

  • Love Is the Drug, Alaya Dawn Johnson (Levine)

F&SF March/April 2015

Newly anointed editor C. C. Finlay has released the cover and table of contents of the upcoming issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction. I like it, not least because I have a story in it: “The Mantis Tattoo,” 8700 words, a paleolithic fantasy in which the earliest Homo sapiens encounter a trickster god and an older race.

Here’s the cover:

F&SF March-April 2015


And here is the impressive TOC.  I’m flattered as all heck to be part of this line-up!


  • “What Has Passed Shall in Kinder Light Appear” by Bao Shu



  • “A Residence For Friendless Ladies” by Alice Sola Kim
  • “The Mantis Tattoo” by Paul M. Berger



  • “Things Worth Knowing” by Jay O’Connell
  • “La Héron” by Charlotte Ashley
  • “This Is The Way The Universe Ends: With A Bang” by Brian Dolton
  • “Last Transaction” by Nik Constantine
  • “Little Girls In Bone Museums” by Sadie Bruce
  • “A Small Diversion On The Road To Hell” by Jonathan L. Howard
  • “How To Masquerade As A Human Before The Invasion” by Jenn Reese
  • “A User’s Guide To Increments Of Time” by Kat Howard
  • “Bilingual” by Henry Lien



  • Publisher’s Note by Gordon Van Gelder
  • Editorial by C. C. Finlay
  • Books To Look For by Charles de Lint
  • Musing On Books by Michelle West
  • Films: The Faults In Our Stars And Ourselves by Kathi Maio
  • Coming Attractions
  • Curiosities by Paul Di Filippo
  • Cartoons by Bill Long and Mark Heath

Cover By David A. Hardy For “What Has Passed Shall In Kinder Light Appear”


“Subduction” Again, and Some Other News

Today the post office brought me my contributor’s copy of the October, 2014 issue of the Chinese magazine Science Fiction World, which included a translation of my F&SF story “Subduction.”  My Japanese isn’t much help to me here, and I can only pick out enough characters to confirm that it is in fact my story.  But they included this amazing illustration:

Subduction Illustration - SF World 2014-10 (2)

 (Click it a couple of times to get the full-size image.)

Sure, it’s a spoiler for the whole second half of the story, but I’m impressed by how close this is to the way I envisioned the scene.  And I like how the artist captures the sense of the dragon as an elemental, rather than some big reptile. (Though the tough chick who helps save the day doesn’t particularly need to be on her knees…)

In Locus Online this week, Lois Tilton posted a list of her favorite stories of 2014, and “Subduction” was one of them!  She also singled out two other Altered Fluidians: Rick Bowes for “Sleep Walking Now and Then,” and Tom Crosshill, for “The Magician and LaPlace’s Demon.”


Related news…

C. C. Finlay dropped hints on Twitter this morning about the TOC for his March/April issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  It looks like it will include stories by Bao Shu, Henry Lien, Charlotte Ashley, Jenn Reese, Caroline M. Yoachim, Ken Liu, Jonathan L. Howard, Alice Sola Kim, and my Clarion classmate Kat Howard.  Plus, my novelette “The Mantis Tattoo,” 8700 words, paleolithic trickster god fantasy.

“Subduction” Podcast on StarShipSofa!




The guys at StarShipSofa have put together a wonderful podcast of my F&SF novelette “Subduction”! Many thanks to Assistant Editor Jeremy Szal for expediting production, and to Editor/Producer Tony Smith for his flattering words about the story and my writing group, Altered Fluid.

When the story came out in print this summer, Lois Tilton in Locus Online called it “inspired” and said “the prose makes it a joy to read.” I was prepared to be very picky about the narration, but Mark Kilfoil does a great job with it.

The link to the podcast is here.  “Subduction” begins at the 21:00 mark.

For some more color on the story, an interview I did with F&SF editor C. C. Finlay when it was first published is here.


New Old Stuff, And A Nice Review

Space Opera

Hooray!  This is the package containing my contributor’s copies of Space Opera, edited by Rich Horton.  It’s an anthology of reprints by some great authors, and it also includes my story “The Muse of Empires Lost.”

I’ve been looking forward to this delivery for a  long time. The original plan for this book started years ago, and then got back-burnered.  The lineup of stories must have changed when it was resurrected, because several of them were published more recently.

On the cover my name appears with its more common spelling (“…And More”) but I can’t say I mind,  considering the company.  I’m flattered as all get out to be included in this collection — and that Horton kept me in it despite the other changes — and I can’t wait to start reading.

Here’s the table of contents:

“The Knight of Chains, the Deuce of Stars” by Yoon Ha Lee (Lightspeed, August 2013)
“The Wreck of the Godspeed” by James Patrick Kelly (Between Worlds, August 2004)
“Saving Tiamaat” by Gwyneth Jones (The New Space Opera, June 2007)
“Six Lights off Green Scar” by Gareth L. Powell (The Last Reef, August 2008)
“Glory” by Greg Egan (The New Space Opera, June 2007)
“The Mote Dancer and the Firelife” by Chris Willrich (Beneath Ceaseless Skies, #90, March 2012)
“On Rickety Thistlewaite” by Michael F. Flynn (Analog, January-February 2010)
“War Without End” by Una McCormack (Conflicts, April 2010)
“Finisterra” by David Moles (The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, December 2007)
“Seven Years from Home” by Naomi Novik (Warriors, March 2010)
“Plotters and Shooters” by Kage Baker (Fast Forward 1, Feb 2007)
“The Muse of Empires Lost” by Paul Berger (Twenty Epics, August 2006)
“Boojum” by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette (Fast Ships, Black Sails, 2008)
“Lehr, Rex” by Jay Lake (Forbidden Planets, Nov 2006)
“Cracklegrackle” by Justina Robson (The New Space Opera 2, July 2009)
“Hideaway” by Alastair Reynolds (Interzone #157, July 2000)
“Isabel of the Fall” by Ian R. MacLeod (Interzone #169, 2001)
“Precious Mental” novella by Robert Reed (Asimov’s Science Fiction, June 2013)
“The Two Sisters in Exile” by Aliette de Bodard (Solaris Rising 1.5)
“Lode Stars” by Lavie Tidhar (The Immersion Book of SF, Sept 2010)
“Silent Bridge, Pale Cascade” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Clarkesworld, December 2013)
“The Tear” novella by Ian McDonald (Galactic Empires, Feb 2008)

Space Opera is available here.


Other News —


Patrick Mahon at SFcrowsnest just reviewed the current issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction, guest edited by C.C. Finlay and containing my story “Subduction.”  He concludes Finlay did “a fine job … pulling together uniformly high quality stories that kept me entertained throughout.”

In his review of “Subduction,” he writes:

This is an excellent story, full of telling details and subtle character interactions. Despite having no memory, Oliver comes across as a strong person but the real star of the story is Moira, who is tough, independent and the unacknowledged saviour of her island and everyone on it.

In case I still need to remind anyone, a free Kindle download of “Subduction” will be available through the end of August here.

“Subduction” Interview

C.C. Finlay has posted an interview promoting my F&SF story “Subduction” on the Fantasy & Science Fiction blog.   It has a comic!

And remember, there’s a free Kindle version of the story available here.   Fantasy & Science Fiction, Free Exclusive Digest