LATE-BREAKING NEWS

This just in: we've just learned that The Recognition Run is now a semifinalist for the BookLife Prize! We need to redo our ad campaign!

TWO: The 2nd Annual Horror Special, goes out of print at the end of this month. Buy it now for the reduced price of $2.99, or read it free if you're a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

• All current issues of Stupefying Stories are now available free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. See the right column for links. For non-US customers, these should automatically redirect to your local manifestation of Amazon. If they don't, let me know.

• Yes, we are in fact reading new submissions. Our revised submission guidelines aren't ready for public consumption yet, so you'll just have to send your story to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com and take your chances. One story at a time, please! No multiple submissions and no simultaneous submissions!

SHOWCASE IS MOVING BACK IN WITH ITS PARENTS!

As you may have guessed from the new banner, we're consolidating the Stupefying Stories blog and SHOWCASE webzine into one new site. In the meantime, before it's gone for good, you really should check out all the great stories on the old SHOWCASE site.

NOW OPEN FOR SUBMISSIONS


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(We’re currectly rewriting our submission guidelines. Stay tuned.)

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Monday, October 23, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Fiction: “The Beast,” by J. L. Phoenix


October, what a month. People in this world are so fascinated with their “holidays” that they set aside any remaining good sense and judgment they have to allow for fun and festivities. Fools. They make the tasks of the underworld disgustingly easy, even more so than in the days of the plague in the Dark Ages, when strange deaths were a part of everyday life. The beast is hungry. He knows it’s time to feed, and these fools are ripe and waiting to be plucked from the vine.
 
We invented this holiday all those years ago so these simpletons would let us walk among them without fear or worry, at least for a part of the year. Now they celebrate us, pretend to be us, even come to us looking for a bit of “Halloween fun” and ask us to read fortunes or cast spells, looking for magic potions to fix their miserable, broken lives. They might as well throw themselves in the beast’s bowl and lather on the gravy.

Preparations for the feeding were behind schedule this year, as some ingredients are becoming harder to acquire with the ever-dwindling population of the local covens, and an increasing number of amateur “witches” buying things they have no business touching. But my struggles are of little importance; the beast will hear no excuses. I must appease his hunger.

[...read the rest of the story...

¤     ¤     ¤ 


J.L. Phoenix is a lifelong lover of the fantasy realms who spends his days buried in technology (dreary day job stuff), his family (his reason for being), role playing games, or literature (reading and writing). He also enjoys leisurely drives to take in the beautiful Michigan scenery as inspiration.

Life Here in the 21st Century

Here in Minnesota, the seasons change fast. A week ago it was nearly 80 degrees outside. Last night, the temps dropped into the low 40s. The forecast calls for it to dip down near freezing by Wednesday morning, with the possibility of snow on Friday.

To deal with these kinds of changes we have a dual-control electric blanket, so that my wife and I can set the temps separately for our respective sides of the bed. She usually prefers it a little cooler than I do, except when she summons the powers of Hot Flash Woman, and then she kicks off all the covers.

Last night, though, the controller for my side of the bed malfunctioned. My side of the blanket never did switch on; the controller just sat there blinking out an error code all night long. I got online with tech support first thing this morning and solved the problem in a matter of minutes, by receiving and following the instructions for rebooting the blanket. But still...

Rebooting the blanket. I have trouble wrapping my mind around that idea. I needed to reboot the blanket

As we plod along into the future, and into the coming age of the Internet of Stuff, I can't help but wonder what other adventures lie in wait?
"I'm sorry, Mr. Bethke, but your toilet lost Internet connectivity last night and you won't be able to flush it until a technician replaces the NIC card."
What do you think will be the most useless and preposterous household device to be put under digital control and blessed with Internet connectivity?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...


Fiction: “Fulfilling,” by Jocelyn DeVore


I’d been born and raised in sunny Florida, so isn’t it ironic that the one thing I fear most in life is a night-stalking bloodsucker? I’ve spent many nights staring out my bedroom window at eyes glaring back at me from the trees.
 
My friends and family think I’m crazy, of course. Which is why they will be utterly horrified when they see my lifeless body completely drained of blood one morning. I can see it now: my mother would walk into my bedroom to ask me if I want pancakes or waffles (despite my open distaste for the first option), only to be greeted by the gruesome scene of her daughter with two puncture marks on her neck (or my wrist, or my breast—I really don’t know what vampires prefer). She would be numb with the bombardment of both sadness and anger. Until she finally floods my room with tears and wails (no, not the kinds with fins—though sometimes she sounds like one). Of course, reality isn’t nearly as romantic as TV would make it seem. Or so I found out when my worst fear came true.
[...read the rest of the story...]

¤     ¤     ¤ 


JOCELYN DEVORE is a writer and storyteller from the Pacific Northwest. She has written for a number of non-fiction online magazines and is a cozy mystery ghostwriter. She is still learning how to properly use a semicolon and frequently breaks the rules for sentence fragments because she finds them punchy, dramatic, and short. Just like her. She also writes, directs, and produces her own Lovecraftian audio drama, Poplar Cove.

When she’s not writing, you can often find her curled up on the couch with a book and a cup of coffee, or watching a scary movie on Netflix. You can also find her online at www.jocelyndevore.com.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...


Fiction: “This Cat Must Die!” by Jason Lairamore


The heavy ceramic angel sitting high on the shelf above the sliding glass door was perfect for what Sham, the ethereal, had in mind. That fat, orange cat had to die. Its death was the only way he could become a real ghost.

Late morning sun shining through the glass door warmed the tiled floor. That cursed cat, Cadmus, loved nothing more than to lay there to sleep.

Sham positioned the angel in just the right spot. At this distance from the floor, the force of the falling figurine should kill the cat easily. Then Cadmus could sleep forever.

Bwaahaahaahaa!

[...read the rest of the story...]



JASON LAIRAMORE is a writer of science fiction, fantasy, and horror who lives in Oklahoma with his beautiful wife and their three monstrously marvelous children. He is a published finalist of the 2012 SQ Mag annual contest and the winner of the 2013 Planetary Stories flash fiction contest. His work is both featured and forthcoming in over 30 publications to include Perihelion Science Fiction, Stupefying Stories, Third Flatiron publications, and Postscripts to Darkness, to name a few.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Fiction: “The Van Helsing Women’s Shelter,” by Aaron DaMommio


I answered the door myself, as I always did when the shelter had visitors after dark. The gaunt man on the doorstep swept aside his cloak with one hand.

“I am Nikolai,” he said. “I haff come to take Lucy home.”

More than his emaciated physique, the power of his stare gave him away. I sighed. This happened less and less as word spread, but there were still some stubborn types in the nosferatu community. They’d come out of the coffin, but hadn’t adopted the Internet.

“I’m Doctor Maria Van Helsing,” I said. “And you are not welcome here.”

[...read the rest of the story...]


Aaron DaMommio is a husband, father, writer, juggler, and expert washer of dishes who lives in Austin, Texas. He is currently obsessed with Dorothy Dunnett’s House of Niccolo series. You can find him on the web at aarondamommio.blogspot.com.

Monday, October 16, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Fiction: “I, Boy,” by Stone Showers


Henry Newman and I had been friends ever since his parents first brought him home from the yard sale. I didn’t care that he was older, and it didn’t matter to me that he couldn’t swim or speak seven languages. In so many ways, Henry was just like me, and because of that we did everything together.

In the mornings he and I would walk to the bus, or run, depending upon our mood. After school, we’d ride our bikes up Isaac’s Ridge and spend the afternoon searching for slugs and other creepy-crawly things. Sometimes we’d play hide-and-seek among the trees, our laughter breathing life into the forest. Henry and I spent practically every waking moment together. Except when it was raining, of course. On those days Henry’s mother made him stay inside.

The boys in the neighborhood often made fun of Henry—the way he talked, and the color of his skin. Jimmy Martin even suggested there might be something wrong with Henry, and I think he may have been right about that. Unlike the other second-graders, Henry knew nothing of the periodic table and he couldn’t conjugate even a single Latin verb. Whenever he tried to recite Mandarin, the other children always laughed at his pronunciation. I felt sorry for Henry, and tried to stick up for him whenever I could. But for some reason, Henry never seemed troubled by the insults.

“I’m just different from everyone else, that’s all, and I think that frightens them.”

[...read the rest of the story...]

¤     ¤     ¤

Stone Showers lives in Central Oregon with his wife and two children. His fiction has recently appeared in Fantasy Scroll, Zetetic, and Ember, A Journal of Luminous Things. Two of his previously published stories will soon be available for download on Audible.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...


Fiction: “Stingray,” by Peter Wood



The stingray swam out of the pile of leaves and whipped its barbed tail around Dale’s ankle. Dale dropped the rake and fell into a puddle of salt water.

The trouble was, he was hundreds of miles from the ocean.

Dale jumped up and noticed a thin tear at the bottom of his jeans where the stingray’s tail had grabbed him. He kicked the leaves. No sign of the creature.

The kitchen door creaked open. Lisa, his wife, stepped out onto the back stoop. “What’s going on?”

“A stingray got me.”

Lisa put her hands on her hips. “Last time I checked, stingrays don’t live in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Dale.”

Friday, October 13, 2017

Return of the Son of The Friday Challenge

Long-time friends of STUPEFYING STORIES know that it began life as an offshoot of The Friday Challenge, a sort of writing workshop -slash- writing contest that ran from 2009 to 2013 (and was itself in turn a spinoff from The Ranting Room, a blog that ran from 2005 to 2009). The very first, print-only edition of STUPEFYING STORIES was in fact a compendium of Friday Challenge contest winners, and all modesty aside, some of these stories are really quite remarkable, especially considering that they were all written quickly, as entries in contests.

The mechanics of the Friday Challenge were this: each week (on Friday, of course), I would spot you, the readers, an idea -- it might be the beginning of a story, or a scientific factoid, or just a few choice words -- and whoever wanted to participate in the challenge had one week to bash out and submit a short story inspired by that idea. Then, on the next Friday, we'd post all the entries received, post the next challenge, and open up the virtual phone lines for the debates, critiques, arguments, and voting that led to our selecting the best of the lot. Whereupon the winner would receive a token prize, and we'd all get going on the next week's challenge.

The original Friday Challenge was, quite honestly, a heck of a lot of fun, and it drew together an online community that became the nucleus of the original STUPEFYING STORIES crew. While I no longer have the time to run a contest every week, and the file-sharing site we used for sharing submissions without releasing them into the wild is long since defunct, lately I've begun to think, maybe, just one more time...

So here's the challenge.

True story: I once knew a guy who was such a cheap dirtbag, when he was going out on a date, he'd stop by the cemetery to steal fresh flowers.

I'd heard this about him before, but didn't believe it, until one day when I was riding in his car with him and he suddenly pulled over to the curb, jumped out, and ran into a graveyard, to return with a fresh bouquet. "I got a date tonight," he explained. "Nothing gets you into a girl's pants on the first date faster than showing up with fresh flowers."

"But, but," I sputtered, "you stole them! From a grave!"

He shrugged. "Yeah, well, they're dead. They don't care."

¤    ¤    ¤

Ah. But what if they do care?

That's your challenge. Write a short (1,500 words max.) story that answers the question: what if the dead do care very much about what happens to the flowers on their graves?

The (pardon the expression) deadline for this challenge is midnight Central time, Friday, October 27. (Snowdog rules apply.) Send your entry to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com, and include 10/13/17 Friday Challenge somewhere in your subject line or cover letter. Since we no longer have the ability to share files semi-privately for at-large discussion, we will convene a crackerjack panel of experts to review the entries and select a winner. The winning story will be published on Halloween; if we receive too many good entries to select a clear winner, we may publish the top [some number] and award a special prize to the winner, as determined by reader poll. (I've got a polling widget on this site now. I'm dying for an excuse to use it.)

Does this all seem clear enough? Then, you have two weeks. Ready, set -- Get writing!

From the SHOWCASE archives...


Fiction: “Till Death Us Do Part,” by E.N. Loizis


Jennifer stared at the man sitting across from her.

“Excuse me, what was that again?”

“I’m a vampire.”

“You’re a vampire?”

“Yes.”

“As in—dead?”

“We prefer the term undead.”

“As in a drink-blood-sleep-upside-down-live-forever-kind-of-thing?”

“In a nutshell.”

“Any other tidbits I need to know about?”

“I sparkle in the sun. So I can only work nights.”

[...read the rest of the story...]

¤     ¤     ¤

E.N. LOIZIS grew up in Athens, Greece, in the Dark Years before the Internet. Being a bit of a loner and shy since she can remember herself, her only escape during what seemed like the longest summer vacations in the history of human recollection during the early and mid-90s was to read her way through her parents’ bookshelves. She read quite a few books many would now consider as not appropriate for an adolescent, and for the chance to judge for herself if they were right for her, she is very grateful. She now lives in a land far away from home with her husband, and a rapidly growing collection of books she promises she will read at some point.

She writes flash fiction, poems and short stories, while trying to conquer the ultimate beast: her first novel. You can find her blogging at enloizis.wordpress.com
   

Thursday, October 12, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Fiction: “Elves Are Douchebags,” by Robert Lowell Russell




Floriel’s eyes were gold, her hair silver, and her features so fine, Jack thought they should be chiseled in marble: paint and canvas would be too temporary. Her smile made him ache. Braless, she wore a bright pink t-shirt several sizes too small that proclaimed her the World’s Greatest Grandmother.

Loriel’s beauty mirrored his sister’s. He wore an Armani jacket with the sleeves ripped off and was bare-chested. Muscles rippled across his pale flesh.

I could totally go gay for him, thought Jack. “Our appointment was for ten,” he said aloud, tapping his watch. “It’s noon.”

Loriel smiled. “Your temporal distinctions are so quaint. A thousand apologies, my mortal friend, but my honor has been challenged.”

“All you can eat pancakes at IHOP,” explained Floriel.

Jack sighed. Why are elves such douchebags?

[read the rest of the story

¤    ¤   ¤ 

Robert Lowell Russell, a native Texan, lives with his family in southeastern Ohio. By night, Rob is a cardiac nurse. By day, he’s usually a sleeping lump. When prodded awake by his family or his cats, Rob likes to write about all sort of things but frequently includes action and humor in his work. Not satisfied with writing stories of questionable content for adults, he’s also working on a series of middle-grade books incorporating his love of not-so-super heroes and toilet humor. For links to more of Rob’s stories please visit robertlowellrussell.wordpress.com.
If you like this story, check out "I Live the Warrior's Life," which is the cover story in our March issue, and watch for his upcoming novella, Star Heart.

Of Jackalopes and Cancer

Science Fact: “Of Jackalopes and Cancer”
- Genomic Research Suggests Strange New Insights Into Disease -


Cancer. The word is both terrible and terrifying, as it should be. Even when the disease is not life-threatening or disfiguring, it’s life-changing. You hear your doctor say those words—“I’m sorry, it’s malignant, you have cancer”—and suddenly the monster under the bed is real. You can almost catch a glimpse out of the corner of your eye of the vultures circling above and behind you. You become acutely aware of that invisible life-clock in the palm of your hand, slowly blinking red.

No doctor ever says, “You have six months to live.” That only happens in overwrought dramatic fiction. The real medical science of it is nowhere near that precise. Oncologists like to speak in actuarial terms: of statistics, percentages, and probabilities. When my wife was first diagnosed with breast cancer, in August of 2010, I dove into the numbers. The median survival time for someone with her particular diagnosis was two years. The odds of her making it to five years were about 15%. Beyond that, long-term survival was, “anecdotal.”

At first you cry, and rage, and try to deny. Then you throw yourself heart and soul into the fight to beat this monster. You change your diet. You promise to exercise, just as soon as you feel better. You grit your teeth and tough it out through the surgery, the chemotherapy, the radiation, and whatever else your doctors decide to try. You knit stocking caps, to replace your lost hair and cheer up your friends in the chemo ward. You plaster pink ribbons all over everything, for the sake of “raising awareness.” The disease seems to activate the latent writer gene in a lot of people: you begin to chronicle your “cancer journey” and try to share it with the world. You participate in every fund raiser, charity run, and walk-a-thon that comes your way.

And then, if you're very lucky, you live long enough to begin to wonder: what’s going on with all that research, anyway? It’s been years. Weren’t we supposed to be closing in on a cure by now? So you begin to dive even deeper...

And you learn that actually, a lot of really incredible things have been happening with the research, and it’s all been in just the last few years. Widespread use of DNA sequencing is producing astonishing new insights into cancer that would be fascinating, if they were not also deeply disturbing.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Fiction: “The Real Reason Mrs. Sprague Came by Her House So Cheaply,”
by Karin Terebessy


Mrs. Sprague paused in front of the china cabinet when she heard a thunk.

“What was that?” she called into the parlor. “Boys?”

“Nothing, Mrs. Sprague,” they sang back in unison.

Mrs. Sprague let out a tense breath and headed toward the noise when a knock on the kitchen door forced her to pivot on her heels.

She opened the door a crack. “Yes?”

On the doorstep, a white-haired man in a three-piece suit ballooned up his chest. “I come from the past,” he proclaimed.

“Who doesn’t?” Mrs. Sprague snipped, and started to close the door.

“But I’ve just traveled through time,” he said quickly.

Mrs. Sprague shrugged. “Me too. I’m doing it right now. And now. And now. Good day—”

“Wait,” he said, grabbing hold of the door frame. “Do you know who I am?”

Mrs. Sprague nodded. “You’re Thomas Edison.”

Edison thrust his thumb over his shoulder. “You know you’ve got a vortex through time in your back yard?”

“Yes.” She threw an impatient glance toward the parlor at the sound of another thud. “Now if there’s nothing more I can do for you Mr. Edison, I have company…”

[read the rest of the story]

¤   ¤   ¤

By the way, if you enjoy this story, you might also want to check out Karin Terebessy's much longer and darker story, “The Memory of Worms,” in our March 2017 issue.



Tuesday, October 10, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

No column this morning. I tried to write one but it proved too difficult, as this morning we’re at the oncology clinic, getting the results from my wife’s latest diagnostic imaging workup. I wanted to write about how crucial she’s been to the development of STUPEFYING STORIES, right from the very start, but everything I wrote kept coming out wrong.

Ergo, here instead is today’s installment in our ongoing “Best of SHOWCASE” series. My wife wants it known that she is the one who originally pulled this one of the slush pile and said we had to buy it, she is the one who decided we should run it today, and she thinks it’s absolutely hilarious.

“Never give up. Never surrender.” How can you not love a woman who answers a question about continuing treatment by quoting Galaxy Quest?

¤

Fiction: “Lucky,” by Russell C. Connor

Illustration by Keith Rosson


You don’t exactly feel like you’ve won the lottery when you get cancer.
 
But that’s how my doctor made it sound, when he called me into his office to discuss the test results for the lump on my right arm, just inside the bend of the elbow. I swear, the old fart—just some quack I found online by searching near my house—had a tinge of actual excitement in his voice as he read off the diagnosis. It was all gibberish to me, words like synovial sarcoma and monophasic epithelial, but then he got to a phrase simple enough for me to latch onto.

“What was that?” I interrupted the stream of medical chatter.

He looked up from the paper and pushed his glasses off the tip of his nose. “I said, ‘this form of growth is rare, occurring in an average of one person per million.’”

“One in a million,” I repeated slowly. A cliché. Something you whispered to your sweetie when you gave her that ring with the obscene diamond. But even though I’d heard and said those words countless times in my life, they suddenly seemed like an entirely new concept. “So you’re telling me there are only about seven thousand people in the entire world who have this kind of cancer?”

The doc smiled at me—smiled, if you can believe it, and Jesus did I want to slap that expression right back off his face—and said, “Actually, it’s probably less than that. There are two possible types of cell growth associated with synovial sarcoma, and it looks like you have them both.”

Wow. Lucky me...

[read the rest of the story]

Monday, October 9, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Fiction: “Sport of Kings” by Judith Field


Rick woke up, rolled over, and collided with something solid. Stretching out a shaking hand, he opened his eyes. He was facing the oak tree in the front garden. Rainwater dripped onto him from the branches. A moment of calm, then images of the night before tried to shove their feet in the doorway of his memory. He groaned, and tried to get up.

Francine stuck her head out of the bedroom window, her mouth pursed up like a cat’s backside. She was saying something he couldn’t hear. Touching his ear, he looked up at her and shrugged his shoulders: no hearing aid. Rick clenched his right fist and rubbed it in a circle on his upper chest:
“Sorry.”

Francine didn’t understand sign language but it couldn’t do any harm. Bit like praying, really.

He’d only recently got this new hearing aid, and it wouldn’t stay in properly whatever he did. In these days of health cuts, would they give him another? The best cost thousands, if you went private. He’d been paid last week but was still overdrawn. And only another £500 to spend on the credit card.

Francine tiptoed round the puddles. Rick lip-read ‘pissed’, ‘knob head’ (she had her own sign for that) and ‘AGAIN’. He turned away. She walked round till she was facing him...[read the rest of the story]

Return to the Moa


And here I am, back at the Mall of America again. Twenty-some years ago, when the MOA was shiny and new and I was a promising young writer with both a new novel out and an American publisher who actually put some promotional effort behind such novels by such writers, I got booked to do a signing at the MOA, at what was then the flagship store of a now-defunct bookstore chain.

Let me tell you, I was excited to do this signing! A week or two before Colin Powell had done a book signing at the same store, in the same time-slot, and it was a major media event, covered by all the local papers and TV stations. The line for him was out the door and halfway down to the next food court. I figured, if I could get just half the turnout he got; a quarter, even...