Cover Image: Worlds of Light & Darkness

Worlds of Light & Darkness

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Member Reviews


Thank you to the publisher and the author for the #GIFTED PR product copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

This was a marvellous read, not at all something I’d usually go for but I wanted to try something new and this really did the trick. The writing was lovely—flowing and beautiful. I found the characters likeable and sufficiently fleshed out and believable. It was a wonderful surprise to read. 

I honestly do recommend it.
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So sorry I was unable to read this book before it ran out I though it i could re new it but it didn't work
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A great collection of bizarre short stories. Really enjoyed this! 

Many thanks to the publisher and author for the ARC.
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Worlds of Light & Darkness is a beautiful blend of hope and despair, and equal balance that reflects the meaning in each. The short stories in this collection have an almost magical element in their ability to truly influence the reader's emotions and leave them with a better understanding of the importance of BOTH Light and Dark.
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This book is an anthology of speculative fiction.  Speculative fiction is fiction with science fiction, fantasy, horror, etc. elements.  It’s often used as n umbrella term for genre fiction that do not really fit into one genre.  I consider speculative fiction as fiction that makes me think that the story I read is horror but not horror.  I thought that I should explain how I see what speculative fiction means to me. There are twenty short stories in this book.  The authors of the stories are ones I don’t know but do now!  The stories are well written.  I enjoyed reading all of them.   I do have my favorites in this anthology.  It’s a book I would recommend to anyone to read.
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The first few stories blew me away! They were creative and unique and well written and had positive endings. I was wondering how the rest of the book was going to keep up; it drifted a bit in the middle with a bunch of average stories but closed strong with a several at the end that were as good as the ones at the beginning.

Special mention to a couple of stories set in a bookstore, a witch who went exploring the galaxy looking for her missing black cat (I didn’t hold out much hope for that one as I began; and was pleasantly rewarded by sticking with it) and a secret agent who meets his match!

Most importantly this collection introduced me to a bunch of online sites specializing in quality fiction as represented by this collection.
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Note: This review will be published on The Book Witch ( on Tuesday, May 18. Feel free to use excerpts from this review in promoting your title, but please do not share it in its entirety.

Review: Worlds of Light and Darkness

This week’s review covers Worlds of Light and Darkness: The Best of DreamForge and Space & Time, edited by Angela Yuriko Smith and Scot Noel. As usual, this post contains affiliate links to, an online bookstore that financially supports independent bookstores.

Worlds of Light and Darkness comes out on May 25, but you can preorder it now. 

The Book Witch’s One Sentence Review
Worlds of Light and Darkness is a wide-ranging collection of insightful speculative fiction from two respected magazines that will introduce readers to a number of lesser-known, but worth knowing, writers across many sub-genres.

I learned of this collection because I used to read submissions for DreamForge, a speculative fiction magazine with a bent toward the hopeful based in Pittsburgh. An advance review copy was available through NetGalley, so I jumped at the chance to be an early reader.

I was also pleased to see that one of the stories I helped select, “A Sip of Pombé” by Gustavo Bondoni, made it into this collection. I might be biased, but it was easily one of my favorite stories in the collection.

While I was familiar with DreamForge, this was my first introduction to fiction from Space & Time. The collection is arranged with ten stories from DreamForge (worlds of light) at the beginning, and ten stories from Space & Time (worlds of darkness) at the end. 

Although the selections from DreamForge were noticeably more upbeat overall than those from Space & Time, it would be false to say the Space & Time stories were universally dark or depressing. On the contrary, stories across the collection showed a range of themes, tackled the full depth of human emotions, dealt with difficult topics, and ended on mostly positive notes. 

“Mostly” being the key word, as there were a few stories that ended on darker notes, including “Humani” by John Palisano, “Joy of Life” by Alessandro Manzetti, and the collection’s final story, “A Glass Darkly” by Ian Rogers.

Overall, I think the editors did a good job of balancing the uplifting with grim possibilities, and I appreciate that stories ranged from Mars exploration (“A Sip of Pombé”) to high-tech heist (“Artifact” by Jonathan Maberry) to modern speculative western (“The Spiral Ranch” by Sarena Ulibarri).

Stand Out Stories
My favorite two stories in the collection were “The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe” by Jennifer Shelby and the aforementioned “A Sip of Pombé” by Gustavo Bondoni.

“The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe” follows a witch as she rides her bike through space in search of her missing familiar—a cat who is mad at her because they didn’t take a vacation. Although this story appeared in Space & Time, it was actually quite lighthearted. I enjoyed the world building and the implied tension between magic and science. Plus, the image of a witch riding her magical bike through the cosmos just tickled me.

“A Sip of Pombé” takes place in a near-ish future where various countries have begun setting up settlements on Mars. Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, Uganda develops its own space program and launches its own Mars mission in secret. The story addresses nationalism and, more importantly, various factions’ ability to rise above nationalism in the name of scientific progress and humanity at large. 

Another stand out story for me was Austin Gragg’s “Collecting Violet:” a cautionary tale about ecological destruction disguised as a touching account of the tenderness of Death. It was beautifully written, and featured a talking corvid, something I can’t resist. 

I also really enjoyed the concept of a vertical, indoor ranch in Sarena Ulibarri’s “The Spiral Ranch,” and the whimsical magical bookshop in the opening story, “Answered Prayers” by Scott Edelman.

An Unfortunate Turn of Phrase
Of course, the wide range of sub-genres and stories included in this collection meant a few didn’t connect with me—and that’s okay. I can’t say I disliked any of the stories, although the way Alessandro Manzetti describes a woman in “Joy of Life” did have me cringing. 

The line in question was “The thing that is moving is a human female, alive. The reptile senses her ovaries rotating in the estrogen broth.” 

I know this is written from the perspective of a sentient lizard that may or may not fully understand human anatomy, if your ovary is rotated, it’s a medical emergency. The author could have opted for any number of verbs, like “hummed” or “vibrated”, but he went with the anatomically inaccurate and impossible “rotating.” 

Despite that unfortunate line, Worlds of Light and Darkness is a strong collection that highlights the diversity of genres and ideas percolating in the galaxy of speculative fiction, and is worth picking up.
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There are some really creative stories in here that give a lot of hope for the future, which I quite enjoy as that's not my base mood. There was a story that used a lot of ridiculous Japanese stereotypes(seemed like it anyway) for its narrative and I thought that was in poor taste, but the rest of it was pretty alright. There's another story set in Shanghai that I think was a little too hopeful for me.
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Good medicine for the endless pandemic, if you need something to remind you of the vast range of possibilities that exist outside your apartment. I’m really glad I picked this up for a shot of imagination and optimism. 

The collection includes so many subgenres of scifi and fantasy, so there should be something for everyone. Here are some that really spoke to me.

“A Sip of Pombé” by Gustavo Bondoni
Explores themes of Western colonialism and the unity of the human race. Really moved me.

“The Weight of Mountains” by L. Deni Colter
A dreamy trek into the unknown across a desolate landscape. Full of emotion.

“Sapiens” by Davide Mana
A meditation on human existence. Gorgeous language.

“The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe” by Jennifer Shelby
A witch traverses the cosmos in search of her missing cat. Sweet and clever and imaginative.

“Hands of a Toolmaker” by Eric Del Carlo
A thoughtful and interesting dystopia that rolls out worldbuilding at a satisfying pace.

“A Farewell to Worms” by John Linwood Grant
A fun, mischievous story about Greek folklore creatures serving a warped faith.
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DreamForge is a semi-pro speculative fiction magazine founded in 2019 by Scot Noel and Jane Noel.  DreamForge includes works of fantasy and science fiction, and its stated editorial direction is to present stories of a hopeful nature.

Space & Time is a semi-pro speculative fiction magazine founded in 1966 by Gordon Linzner, and revamped in 2018 by Angela Yuriko Smith and Ryan Aussie Smith.  Space & Time includes works of fantasy, horror, and science fiction, and its stated editorial direction is to present stories of an experimental or fall-between-the-cracks nature.

This anthology contains the 20 of the best stories, as selected by the collaborating editors of the two magazines, published from 2018 to 2020.

I was attracted to reading this because many professional SF writers have made their way into the field through semi-pro magazines, and a best-of semi-pro anthology seems to be a likely place to find some fledgling writers who could emerge in the near future.  While I found a few stories that impressed me, for the most part this is an uneven body of writing – some of the pieces seemed incomplete, more like character background development than actual story – and many need more work.  Personally, I have a strong preference for science fiction over fantasy, and furthermore for fantasy over horror – so a good portion of the writing was a miss from the get-go for me.  However, I thought two stories stood out.

“Humani” by John Palisano – Shin is the human and lead component of the Pioneer on its deep space mission, being pursued by the Caalrit.  As he tells the story of their interception, the world from which he came and his reasons for being in his role are exposed.  I enjoyed how several layers of story are revealed in parallel.

“Hands of a Toolmaker” by Eric Del Carlo – Silas is an adolescent who will soon be called to make a life-changing decision whether to allow himself to be “tooled” as per social expectations.  When his single mother is pulled off her job for psychological reasons, he is sent off to live with his uncle in the rural Chipbelt, who is more than he first appears to be.  It is a setting of growing technological dystopia, in which social mores have evolved believably from the current time, and the character of Silas is developed sympathetically. 

The full table of contents of this anthology includes:
Answered Prayers, by Scott Edelman
Pioneer, by Mark Gallacher
The Ghost of a Smile, by John Jos. Miller
The Spiral Ranch, by Sarena Ulibarri
An Infinite Number, by David Amburgey
Sing! & Remember, by Lauren C. Teffeau
A Sip of Pombé, by Gustavo Bondoni
Born from Memory, by Jane Lindskold
Tea with Gibbons, by Tyler Tork
The Weight of Mountains, by L. Deni Colter
Sapiens, by Davide Mana
The Dead Don’t Dream, by Gordon Linzner
Collecting Violet, by Austin Gragg
Humani, by John Palisano
Joy of Life, by Alessandro Manzetti
Artifact, by Jonathan Maberry
The Feline, the Witch, and the Universe, by Jennifer Shelby
Hands of a Toolmaker, by Eric Del Carlo
A Farewell to Worms, by John Linwood Grant
A Glass Darkly, by Ian Rogers

I read an Advance Reader Copy of Worlds of Light & Darkness; The Best of DreamForge and Space & Time, Volume 1, by Angela Yuriko Smith and Scot Noel in ebook, which I received from Uproar Books through in exchange for an honest review on social media platforms and on my book review blog. The book is scheduled for release on 25 May 2021.
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Worlds of Light & Darkness (The Best of DreamForge and Space & Time, Volume 1)
by Angela Yuriko Smith

"Answered prayers”
By Scott Edelman
As a troubled soul we all face at times causes many of us to behaviors we use to adapt. Scott Edelman provides a brilliant what if.... what if you find all the things that are impossible.. like books never written in print... what if you could have them, at the loss of all. A brilliant and frightening story of human adaptation..."

By Mark Gallagher
Wonderful story of looking at family history that gives us inspiration to go on beyond you."

“The ghost of a smile”
By John Jos Miller
What a masterful spin. The story has me wanting to know what a Psychpomp is? The story I'd remarkably nostalgic as it spins a web between the future and the past. It shows a reverence for the masters, and ends with a homage to the most impressive of enigmatic characters.. I was left with a smile at the conclusion.

“The spiral ranch”
By Sarena Ulibarri 
An interesting modern concept to the political and environmental detritus currently out. The idea that we have to change the environment for the better at the sacrifice of others' work, livelihoods, and everything else because those not in the industry know best. It's interesting that a solution to the problem will become a target to those who don't like a better solution to. The commentary on the social circle of life. 

“An Infinite Number”
By David Amburgey
Dealing with grief is hard, the psychologist has a method that seems to change the reader's perspective.

“Sing! & Remember”
By Lauren C. Teffeau
Learning how words can change our perspective and understanding of our life and its path. 

“A sip of Pombe”
By Gustavo Bondoni
Learning how to find acceptance in your world, no matter the differences and disagreements. The trip to Mars was risky for the intrepid astronauts. When Uganda sends its rockets the politics of earth may leave them alone, and helpless. 

“Born from Memory”
by Jane Lindskold
A dream is like looking into the idea of memory. How they are important, and part of what we see as we plan our lives? How do we show we have succeeded or failed in the past? I found this story remarkable and a theoretical story of memory and history. 

“Tea with Gibbons”
by Tyler Tork
How would you see yourself if your mind could live forever. Would it change how you behave after your body has perished. 

“The Weight of Mountains”
 by L. Deni Colter
Almost like a myth, this story shows the struggle of a man who is responsible for the attachment of the world. He risks everything to fulfill the promise he had made. Great book showing the weight of history and what we ask of our children.

By Davide Mana
Using time travel is difficult especially when you can not leave a mark. The nuances of time travel are not as easy as she believed but only get more difficult when she learns the cost. 

“The Dead don't dream”
by Gordon Linzner
A very dark look at culture and the weave of history, culture and the supernatural. how would other societies look at the walking dead. how would you treat your ancestor or parent if they became a zombie. This book looks into Japanese culture and the supernatural phenomenon of zombies. 

“Collecting Violet”
by Austin Gragg
Skeletons collect things, sent on a mission to attain Violet, one skeleton learns the value of life. 

By John Palisano
Learning to overcome the impossible sometimes is just remembering what is important. How can the pilot save his ship from dematerializing? 

“Joy of life”
by Alessandro Manzetti
Indian mythology brought to a future world. It’s haunting tale shows the need for hope. 

“Artifact : A Joe Ledger story”
by Jonathan Maberry
Almost a cycle of mission impossible, this story shows the nature of political intrigue. Joe Ledger would find that gaining a mysterious artifact has more than one danger. 

“The feline, the witch, and the universe”
by Jennifer Shelby
The cat knows his witch is overwhelmed by all she does, when she would not agree to take a break he found a way to allow her to have an adventure. 

“Hands of Toolmaker”
by Eric Del Carlo
Social change can be manipulated. The idea of changing people so much they don’t remember who they were before. This story is a warning to look at the reasons behind for social change and social manipulation.

“A farewell to worms”
by John Lindwood Grant
A haunting story of legend dark workings around the 12 days of christmas. The legend of mystic  and dark workings. 

“A glass Darkly”
by Ian Rogers
Dark story of miss aligned time sequence. With multiple arguments and fights.
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Words of Light and Darkness

[Blurb goes here]

A collection of stories that will remain with you long after you read them. I love anthologies, even though I've discovered that almost always, bad stories surpass good ones. I'm happy to say that this was not the case. I enjoyed most of them. The anthology does something that is hard to do when a story is just a few pages long: character growth. Not only are the settings something to talk about, the portrayed individuals have solid believable backgrounds. They do not happen to be in a story by a simple whim of the author, at least it doesn't feel like it.

I do recommend this collection of stories.

thank you for the advanced copy!
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This was a really great collection. I enjoyed every single story. A great selection of talented authors. Definitely would recommend purchasing.
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Good stuff. I really like speculative fiction, and this is a strong collection of stories from some very talented authors. There's a wide variety here, and most felt uplifting in some way. Recommended for sci-fi and fantasy fans.

I really appreciate the review copy!!
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"Worlds of Light & Darkness" brings together a thoughtful and compelling collection of stories that allow each featured author to showcase their styles and talents through a variety of worlds and characters.

Editors Angela Yuriko Smith & Scot Noel had their work cut out for them in trying to select from the archives of DreamForge and Space & Time, but they performed admirably, as any reader of this book can attest.

The first story in the collection, "Answered Prayers" by Scott Edelman, is a perfect stepping off point for readers and has stuck with me for some time. Narrated by a father haunted by the early death of his son, the story follows the struggle between him and the mysterious owner of an independent bookstore, after the discovery that the labyrinthine shop houses the lost and unpublished works of the west's literary giants. Edelman weaves the conflict of the man vs the bookseller together with the man's own conflict within himself, having never fully accepted his son's death, to create a moving tale of heartbreak and hope.

In these increasingly dark times we find ourselves in, readers of all stripes could use a little more light, a little more hope — and "Worlds of Light & Darkness does its best to deliver.
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