LATE-BREAKING NEWS

• 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


Submission Guidelines & FAQ
(We’re currectly rewriting our submission guidelines. Stay tuned.)

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Friday, December 29, 2017

The Friday Challenge: Reminder



Just a gentle reminder here, that:

A.) The 12/22/17 Friday Challenge, “2018: The Year in Review,” is still open for submissions, and

B.) “Arfour’s Complaint” is still on the autopsy table.

Meanwhile, we’re still expecting to release Stupefying Stories #19 on Monday, January 1st, so if you’ll excuse us, we’ll get back to work.

P.S. And buy some of our books, wouldja?

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Talking Shop

 

Op-ed • “The View from the Field,” by Eric Dontigney •


I’m a writer.

That is one of the loneliest sentences in the world, for a host of reasons. Tell someone you’re a doctor or an accountant, they get a decent picture of what you do. The details might be wrong, but the gist is accurate. Tell someone you’re a writer and it evokes images of Hemingway in Paris or that pale, creepy guy hunched over a laptop at Starbucks. Cue the explanation that almost no professional writer fits those stereotypes.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Did you get a new Kindle for Christmas?

Are you looking for something to read on it?

Then you’re in luck, because right now we are giving away the Kindle editions of these two ebooks absolutely free for the cost of a click.



In a galaxy where psychics are hunted outlaws...


Matt Connaught’s parents have vanished. He knows that they are still alive. But powerful people want them to stay vanished, and if Matt reveals how he knows what he knows, his life as a free man is over.

To rescue them, and save himself, he must become…


DOWNLOAD THE FREE EBOOK NOW

BETTER YET, GET THE ENTIRE SERIES

ALSO AVAILABLE ON AUDIO BOOK

THE FUGITIVE PAIR IS ALSO ON AUDIO BOOK


(The audio books, it’s worth noting, are typically free with an Amazon Audible trial subscription.)

(It’s also worth noting that if I was writing a review of this book, I’d begin by saying, “Imagine if Robert Heinlein had written Slan,” as that really does pin the idea down in one succinct phrase. A pity no one has used those words in a review, yet.)



Stupefying Stories #12


Our first attempt to expand Stupefying Stories to a “2.0” format (which, if you’ve been wondering, is why we kept using the “1.xx” issue number format until #18), Stupefying Stories #12 has more and longer stories than any issue before and most of the issues since. It’s also going out of print when this promotion is over, so get it now, because this is your last chance to download it. Includes:

“All the Beautiful Lights of Heaven,”" by Russ Colson
“Showing Faeries for Fun and Profit,” by Julie Frost
“Indigene,” by Lawrence Buentello
“Cottage Industry,” by Evan Dicken
“The Robot Agenda,” by Samantha Boyette
“The Wrong Dog,” by Kyle Aisteach
“The Music Teacher,” by Mark Niemann-Ross
“The Last Unit,” by Judith Field

And of course our cover story, the unabashedly old-school alien world sci-fi pulp adventure, “For the Love of a Grenitschee,” by Mark Wolf

DOWNLOAD THE FREE EBOOK NOW


P.S. As a special treat, you might also want to read, On writing “The Music Teacher,” by Mark Niemann-Ross, in the soon-to-disappear Stupefying Stories SHOWCASE #4.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Seemingly Oligatory Christmas Column

Nonfiction • “Christmas Eve, 2017,” by Bruce Bethke •



I had a column I used to recycle every Christmas Eve. It was a mopey, sentimental thing about my Dad and the 8mm movie camera he used to take to every family gathering when I was a kid. The technology of the times required that he use a battery of photoflood lights if he wanted to shoot color film indoors, so we have a lot of footage of my relatives raising their hands and cringing before those floodlights, like vampires cowering at the first rays of sunrise.

Sometime in the late 1960s my Dad got the idea to edit all those Christmas clips together into one reel, although for reasons he never explained he decided not to put them in chronological order. The result is a fascinating home movie that skips back and forth in time between the early 1950s and the late 1960s, and shows the members of my extended family going from being young children, to having children of their own, and back and forth again.

Some years back, when DVD was new, I got the idea to transfer that movie to DVD, dub in a soundtrack of period Christmas music, and then make VHS copies of the result and send them to all my living relatives. The tapes were a hit. But... VHS.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Friday Challenge • Judgment Day: The Appeal

After the decision in the 12/08 Friday Challenge was announced, one author filed an appeal. We promise not to make a practice of doing this, but in this one case, after discussion with the author, we have agreed to conduct a test. Herewith, a link to the story in question:

» “Arfour’s Complaint,” by S. Travis Brown


Now, in the column to the right, please note the associated reader poll. What did you think of this story? You have until midnight, Thursday, January 4, to register your opinion. You can select multiple responses and change your vote right up until the poll closes.

Thank you for your participation. Results and implications to be announced after the poll closes.

P.S. Why the cat? Because nothing draws eyeballs on facebook like a cute photo of a cat.

The Friday Challenge • Judgment Day



The votes are in, and the winner of the 11/17 Friday Challenge, by an overwhelming margin, is “A Once a Year Gig,” by James Westbrooks. We’ll have more to say about that one in a bit, but first off, congrats to James for the win!

Now, as promised, here are our comments on the other finalists.

» “No Christmas Without Santa,” by Gary Cuba

What can we say about this one? Gary Cuba has been a regular contributor to Stupefying Stories and SHOWCASE since “Oogie Tucker’s Mission” appeared in issue #3, and as always, this story does not disappoint. In the space of 250 marvelously succinct words he delivers a complete and horrifying little tale of a Christmas gone terribly wrong, and proves once again that ending a story with the anticipation of impending doom is often more effective than actually putting that doom onstage. Very well done.

» “The Real Saint Nick,” by H.L. Fullerton

H.L. Fullerton is another longtime contributor whose name we were happy to see in the inbox again, and had this one come in as a regular submission and not as a Friday Challenge entry, I probably would have accepted it and published it anyway. The story of a fairy princess and her husband, a dryad, banished to the mundane world and trying to make sense of Christmas—well, that alone is charming and funny. But then add in the element of a wife trying to let her intelligent but not altogether perceptive husband know that they are going to have a baby—well, that won me over. This one is charming, and funny, and sweet, and sentimental, and all in all, a perfect fantastic Christmas story. Personally, this one was my pick to win. I guess that says something about my quirky sense of humor.

» “Grodie and The War on Christmas,” by James Rye

James Rye is a stalwart member of the original Friday Challenge crew, going back to the dawn of time, or at least to “Armstrong” in the original print-only incarnation of Stupefying Stories, and it was great to find his name in the inbox again. This story is not as well-polished as some of the other submissions we received, but he does a terrific job of taking the tired “war on Christmas” meme and turning it into a snarky first-person-shooter action/adventure story. Great fun!

» “A Once a Year Gig,” by James Westbrooks

Finally, the winning story, by relative newcomer and previous Friday Challenge winner James Westbrooks, provoked some interesting debate around here. It’s well-written, and a classic crossover mashup—of Clement Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” plus Star Wars, with a faint whiff of Dune—of the sort that’s defined humorous SF ever since Isaac Asimov was a teenager. Most of us found it pleasant, amusing, and deserving of the win.

But that’s where the discussion took an interesting turn. While most of us liked it, the Token Generation Z member of the panel said, “I hate it. It’s yet another fan-boy inside-joke crossover story, and those were old before I was born. My Dad likes those stories. It’s the kind of story every freshman creative writing student cranks out because it makes her professor laugh and gets her an easy A.”

Well. That certainly was an unexpected reaction. But it got us thinking...



As regards the 12/08 Friday Challenge, we had the very unusual result of the judges opting for "no award." The rules do allow for this, in the event that we receive no entries deemed worthy of the win. For the 12/08 challenge, the TGZ’s arguments carried the day: the few entries we did receive were mostly "robot noir" crossover mashups and extended fan-boy insider jokes, so this was declared to be a Lousy Challenge, and I have been forbidden to use it ever again.

However, after further discussion, we have decided to put the TGZ’s proposition to the test, and in a few minutes we’ll be posting the second part of this experiment.

...to be continued...

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Friday Challenge • 12/22/17

While the judges are evaluating the entries received for the 12/08/17 Friday Challenge, it’s time to announce today’s challenge. This one is very simple. We call it:

2018: The Year in Review



Yes, that’s right. While everyone else in the media world is staring intently into the rearview mirror and writing articles looking back at the events of 2017, I want you to imagine it’s exactly one year in the future, and you are looking back at the events of 2018. Specifically, I want you to focus on something positive that happened in 2018, that made the world a better place for all concerned.

Then, I want you to write a short news article talking about this terrific discovery | scientific breakthrough | whatever, and what it means for the future of humanity. Remember, what we’re looking for here is optimism. The challenge is to describe something positive, that gave the world cause for hope.

The deadline for this one is midnight on Thursday, January 4th, 2018. Think it over, then write up your idea and send it to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com, with the subject line of 12/22 Friday Challenge.

Now put on your optimistic mindset and start daydreaming!






P.S. I can’t believe I need to say this, but absolutely no assassinations or obituaries! I don’t care how awful you may believe someone to be. If the only way you can imagine the world becoming a better place is by way of the untimely death of some other human being, please, get professional help.

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Fiction • “The Music Teacher,” by Mark Niemann-Ross •



We have a sort of a double-header in today’s SHOWCASE archive selection. First off, I’d like to direct your attention to On writing “The Music Teacher,” by Mark Niemann-Ross, in SHOWCASE #4, which is a really good non-fiction piece about how Mark went from an idea, to a story, and then to a published story. If you want to write fiction, this is a good read.

Then, I’d like to direct your attention to Stupefying Stories #12, which is where you will find the published story, “The Music Teacher.” From now through Christmas Day, we’re giving away the Kindle edition of Stupefying Stories #12 for free. When this promotion is over, though, #12 goes out of print, so this is your last chance to get it.

DOWNLOAD THE FREE EBOOK NOW

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Free eBook Friday

It’s another FREE EBOOK FRIDAY!

Beginning at midnight tonight, and continuing through Christmas Day (because who knows, maybe Santa is bringing you a shiny new Kindle?), we are giving away the Kindle editions of these two ebooks absolutely free for the cost of a click.



In a galaxy where psychics are hunted outlaws...


Matt Connaught’s parents have vanished. He knows that they are still alive. But powerful people want them to stay vanished, and if Matt reveals how he knows what he knows, his life as a free man is over.

To rescue them, and save himself, he must become…


DOWNLOAD THE FREE EBOOK NOW

BETTER YET, GET THE ENTIRE SERIES

ALSO AVAILABLE ON AUDIO BOOK

THE FUGITIVE PAIR IS ALSO ON AUDIO BOOK


(The audio books, it’s worth noting, are typically free with an Amazon Audible trial subscription.)

(It’s also worth noting that if I was writing a review of this book, I’d begin by saying, “Imagine if Robert Heinlein had written Slan,” as that really does pin the idea down in one succinct phrase. A pity no one has used those words in a review, yet.)



Stupefying Stories #12


Our first attempt to expand Stupefying Stories to a “2.0” format (which, if you’ve been wondering, is why we kept using the “1.xx” issue number format until #18), Stupefying Stories #12 has more and longer stories than any issue before and most of the issues since. It’s also going out of print when this promotion is over, so get it now, because this is your last chance to download it. Includes:

“All the Beautiful Lights of Heaven,”" by Russ Colson
“Showing Faeries for Fun and Profit,” by Julie Frost
“Indigene,” by Lawrence Buentello
“Cottage Industry,” by Evan Dicken
“The Robot Agenda,” by Samantha Boyette
“The Wrong Dog,” by Kyle Aisteach
“The Music Teacher,” by Mark Niemann-Ross
“The Last Unit,” by Judith Field

And of course our cover story, the unabashedly old-school alien world sci-fi pulp adventure, “For the Love of a Grenitschee,” by Mark Wolf

DOWNLOAD THE FREE EBOOK NOW


P.S. As a special treat, you might also want to read, On writing “The Music Teacher,” by Mark Niemann-Ross, in the soon-to-disappear Stupefying Stories SHOWCASE #4.

Talking Shop

Op-ed • “It’s Amazon’s world, we just rent space in it,” by Bruce Bethke •



I got a query from an old friend the other day. And by old, I mean old: this is someone I’ve known for more than forty years. After a long and successful career as a teacher and writer of non-fiction books he retired, and decided to try his hand at writing a novel. In the fullness of time he actually finished his novel, and then to compound the miracle, he found a publisher who liked it well enough to accept it for publication and pay him a modest advance. After another fullnessity of time, spent working through the development editing, copy editing, proofreading, dust-jacket marketing copy development, and all that stuff, his novel was at last released...

Whereupon it promptly sank without a ripple. Not even a nice satisfying ker-ploonk! as it hit the surface of the literary world and went under. Two weeks after the gala release party, it was as if his novel had never existed.

Prompting his query to me: here in the 21st century, how in the Hell do you get your book noticed?

From the SHOWCASE archives...


Fiction • “On the Pond,” by Jake Doyle •


Look at our breath rise in the crisp, cold air. Look at the moon reflecting off the black ice. Look at the snowflakes melt into the ice. Look at that ice, there’s something about it. It’s bumpy, with an occasional crack. It’s not anything like man-made ice—it lets you know where you are, let’s you feel the bumps and cracks transfer from your blades to your shoes to your feet. Listen to the sounds—the sweet, sweet, mellifluous sounds of our skates gliding, slicing and cutting as they draw abstract art in that rough, frozen pond. Listen to the sounds of our wooden sticks—with snow on the blades and tape dangling from the shaft from hours and hours of use—echo off the woods to the north as they slap against the ice, the puck, or other sticks. Watch the way we all have our signature way of shooting and passing and skating. Watch the way a game can go from serious and intense to laughs and jokes in a matter of seconds. Or watch Andy Potter skate that Saturday morning in early January, when his blades did more dragging than slicing, almost like the wind was the only thing pushing him along, and you would know, from that day on, that playing pond hockey would never be the same.

That first day of pond hockey. Joy is a feeling that comes to mind. Not Christmas joy, not Easter joy, not Thanksgiving joy, rather, the first-day-I-met-my-brother joy. We wait and wait and wait, staring at the little thermometer hanging from the homemade bird feeder west of the pond. Is it under thirty-two? we’ll ask. It’s a bucket full of memories that we reminisce about on those beaches or around those bonfires during the summer months. You must think we’re crazy! How could anyone enjoy such a horrid time of the year over such a sun-filled, beach-living season? How could anyone think about memories from winter while sitting around a bonfire wearing shorts and flip-flops and tank tops?

Well, maybe we are crazy, for waking up at the crack of dawn to shovel the snow off a freshly frozen pond in the middle of December. Maybe we are crazy for playing till two, three in the morning just when our toes are on the edge of frostbitten and we have no choice but to stop. Maybe we are crazy because we don’t wear shin guards or elbow pads or helmets. Logan Campbell will agree. He crushed his left elbow and tore his ACL in the same day on the pond. Nicholas Pano will tell you we’re crazy and he’ll smile as he says it. He’ll tell you we’re crazy because four years ago all ten of us rushed him to the hospital in Andy Potter’s dark green Jeep as blood painted his brown hair after his skull crashed into the January ice.

But maybe it’s the only time of the year we get to do that one thing that we think about every time someone brings up the dreaded, frigid Michigan winter. Pond hockey...

» Read the rest of the story »


Photo credit: “Eishockey auf dem Backsteinweiher,” by Immanuel Giel • Used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Friday Challenge Reminder

Gentle reminder: the Friday Challenge deadline cometh.

This post is to remind you that you have about two and a half days left in which to vote for your pick to win the 11/17 Friday Challenge. You can read the four finalists right here.

Likewise, you also have about two and a half days left in which to submit your entry for the 12/08 Friday Challenge. If you need a refresher, you can read the challenge statement and submission guidelines right here.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Book Release! Free eBook Monday!

To celebrate the escape release of Stupefying Stories #18, we are giving away the Kindle edition of this book absolutely FREE, but only for the next 24 hours.

DOWNLOAD NOW

Always fun and exciting, never predictable, Stupefying Stories is the terrific new reading you've been looking for! Stupefying Stories #18 features:

AI, ROBOT • by Joel David Neff
PRINCESS NICOTINE • by John Skylar
A RING, A RING O' ROSES • by Simon Kewin
FROZEN TEARS • by Frances Silversmith
350 K IN MY SHADES • by Karl Bunker
SLOW STEPPER • by Juliana Rew
THE NORTHERN RECESS • by Fred Coppersmith
WHAT THE WITCH WANTS • by Aislinn Batstone
THE LIFE TREE • by Jamie Lackey

Whether your tastes run to hard SF, cyberpunk, steampunk, fantasy, alternate history, or I don’t know what the heck “350 K in My Shades” is but I know I love it, this is the ebook you want. Tell your friends! Tell your relatives! Tell completely random acquaintances!

But tell ‘em soon, because at midnight this offer ends, and then you’ll be left sitting there in the middle of a smashed pumpkin, surrounded by dazed mice and clutching your one remaining glass slipper.

DOWNLOAD NOW

P.S.Authors and publishers really appreciate it when readers take the time to put in a good word for a book they like. It’s not just for our egos: word-of-mouth helps sell books. If you take a free ebook and you like what you read, please, please, please take a moment to give the book a good rating, or put in a good word for it on Goodreads, or maybe even write a quick review of your favorite story. The authors you like will appreciate it, and they will show their appreciation by writing even more great books and stories for you to enjoy!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A little something for the weekend...

Star Wars: The Last Jedi • Movie review by Bruce Bethke •



Saw this movie, we did. Long, it is. Impossible to write a substantive review without including spoilers, it may be. Nonetheless, try I will.

In the interests of full disclosure, though, I must lead off this review by pointing out that I contributed not one but two essays to David Brin’s Star Wars on Trial, the first arguing in favor of the original Star Wars trilogy as a watershed moment in cinematic history and the second absolutely slagging the prequel trilogy as childish tripe. So I come into this review with a long history as both a consumer and critic of Star Wars entertainment products, and I will put my greatest heresy on the table right now:

Star Wars is not science fiction.

Sure, it looks like science fiction. It sounds like science fiction. And based on that guy in the wookiee costume who was ahead of us in the concession line, it even smells like science fiction, or at least like the third day of a furry fandom convention.

But Star Wars is not science fiction. It’s a long-winded heroic magical fantasy saga that happens to take place in a world cluttered up with lots of sci-fi props and set dressings. If considered as science fiction, there is not one thing in the entire Star Wars universe that bears close scrutiny, because if you think about it at all seriously, the seams split and all the nonsense comes pouring out.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Free eBook Friday / Book Release

It’s another FREE EBOOK FRIDAY! 

Today and tomorrow only, we’re giving away the Kindle editions of these two books free.



A generation ship, lost in space for more than a thousand years.

A shipwrecked combat pilot, desperate to survive.

A case of mistaken identity, that will spark a revolution...


DOWNLOAD THE FREE EBOOK NOW

DOWNLOAD THE AUDIO BOOK NOW


While you’re at it, you might also want to consider buying the sequel, which Amazon does not link to the first book, which probably explains why it doesn’t sell nearly as well as the first book did.

BUY THE SEQUEL! PLEASE!




Also available free for today and tomorrow only: Stupefying Stories #14, which features:

50 FOOT ROMANCE, by Eric J. Juneau
CITY OF OPPORTUNITY, by Jānis Zelčāns
THE ALIENS WENT DOWN TO GEORGIA, by Peter Wood
THIRTY NINE, by Shedrick Pittman-Hassett
RIGEL’S MISSING TAIL, by Antha Ann Adkins
THE BONE POINTER, by Chuck Robertson
GODS ON A HILL, by G. J. Brown
THE ANNIVERSARY GIFT, by Gary Cuba
MASTERS, by Jason Lairamore
WATER PRESSURE, by Anna Yeatts
EMISSARY, by Matthew Lavin
THE GHOSTLESS MACHINE, by Austin Hackney

If nothing else, get this one for “The Aliens Went Down to Georgia,” so that you’ll have an idea of what you’re getting into when we release Pete’s Diner in 2018.

(Oops. Was I not supposed to mention that one yet?)

DOWNLOAD THE FREE EBOOK NOW




Releasing today: Stupefying Stories #18


But here’s the clever thing: do not buy this ebook today. Instead, as soon as the Amazon listing goes live, we are going to set up a free ebook promotion to run on Monday, December 18. Got that? For 24 hours only, on Monday, December 18, you will be able to get the all-new Stupefying Stories issue #18 free for the cost of a click. Got that? 18 on the 18th?

Well, it sounded like a really clever idea in the Marketing Planning meeting...

Tell your friends. Tell your relatives. Tell completely random acquaintances. 18 on the 18th. Let’s make that download counter spin!



And one more thing...

Authors and publishers really appreciate it when readers take the time to put in a good word for a book they like. It’s not just for our egos: word-of-mouth helps sell books. If you take any of these free ebooks, and you like what you read, please, please, please take a moment to give the book a good rating, or put in a good word for it on Goodreads, or maybe even write a quick review. The authors you like will appreciate it, and they will show their appreciation by writing even more good books and stories for you to enjoy!

Thank you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...


Fiction • “Above the Ice,” by Matthew Timmins •

[Nota bene: This story was published on SHOWCASE in the transitional period between the original weekly webzine format and the later WordPress site, and thus has been nearly impossible to find until now. Enjoy!]



ChaaSooNiik had never been this far above her home vents before. Her mother-sister had told her what to expect but the reality of it was still shocking. She pressed a splay of fingers against the lifter’s speaker-window and wriggled uncomfortably inside her heat-skin as the vehicle’s echo showed her the water outside: no spheres, no movers, no people, not even any fish; just a lumpy composite mass drifting slowly downward, probably a dying reef-colony come loose from the ice.

The lifter too was empty, save for herself and the operator. The lifter had emptied quickly at first and then more slowly as it ascended, the other passengers disembarking at anchor-cities, hunting platforms, or isolation spheres. At each stop, as the chattering females peeled away from the lifter’s passenger column, collected their luggage, and swam out of the dome, the vehicle grew quieter and quieter until ChaaSooNiik could imagine herself one of the sacrificial mourners of legend who had escorted the floating dead up to the impenetrable ceiling of ice.

Which was where she was going, in fact....

» Read the rest of the story »




Tuesday, December 12, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Fiction • ‘A Glimmer of Artificial Intelligence,’ by various authors •

While looking at the results of the 11/3 Friday Challenge and the authors’ bios for the current batch of finalists, I realized that we have published a lot of stories that spring from this same basic idea: What would be the most amusing | disturbing | frightening common thing to be given Internet connectivity and blessed with a glimmer of artificial intelligence?

Therefore, as we’re winding up and shutting down the old SHOWCASE site, I’ve decided to post links to a half-dozen such stories—including, to my surprise, my own story, “Appliancé,” which I’d quite forgotten was out there.

Enjoy!
~brb


» “The Vending Machine,” by Sarah L. Byrne

Marta was working late again. She got up from her desk for a break, walked down the corridor, and habit made her turn aside into an alcove where she stopped, confronted by The Vending Machine...

» “Smart Money,” by Samuel Marzioli

Harold Lewis entered the liquor store, a decrepit old space that was as dusty and unkempt as it was gaudy. Seasonal decorations lined the scuffed and holed walls and ceiling, along with advertisements featuring alcohol and scantily clad girls in semi–erotic poses. Far from an oddity, it was indicative of the kind of slum the Mars colony had become over the past fifty years...

» “Seek Vista,” by Gary Cuba

“Sam, maybe we should head back to the main highway.” Marian’s small voice hardly registered over the noise of the SUV’s massive tires pounding over the rocky scree that covered the approach to the butte rising in front of them.
“C’mon, Marian,” Sam said. “This is what it’s all about. Life on the edge. You can’t hardly buy this kind of experience...

» “Your Call May Be Recorded for Training Purposes,” by Simon Kewin

Thank you for calling CyberSeven Systems. Your call is important to us. Please be aware that it may be recorded for training purposes.
“Yes, hi, I need help. Urgent help. I …

» “Advances,” by Liz Colter

Zane had almost finished his second beer when she walked in. The mauve hair highlighted with metallic gold was the same as her profile picture, but the rest of her was more than he’d expected. He’d sent a “Want to meet?” prompt to an attractive woman on the singles site, but the person in the doorway looked more like a supermodel. Zane wondered if he should have slammed three beers instead of two. It was a delicate tipping point between settling his nerves enough not to make a fool of himself and not getting so buzzed that he made a fool of himself anyway.

She scanned the room and spotted him at the bar. Heads turned as she approached him. “Zane McWilliams?” It wasn’t really a question...

» “Appliancé,” by Bruce Bethke

“Good morning, Barbara,” the soft, pleasant, sexless voice said. “Time to rise and shine.” When there was no reply in sixty seconds, Snoozalarm tried again. “Good morning, Barbara. Please wake up.”

John got one eye sort of half-open, gave some consideration to waking up, then slid his hand around Barbara’s tummy and snuggled in closer, burying his nose in the back of her neck.

The clock’s voice became a bit more insistent. “This is the third call, Barbara. Please wake up. It is already 7:02.”

Her long, blonde hair smelled wonderful. He ran his fingers across the curve of her hip and down her thigh; she responded with a soft, throaty sigh...

Barbara Lynn Murphy!” Snoozalarm shrieked. “If you don’t wake up this very insta—

“I’m awake.” She started disentangling herself from John’s arms and pushing back the blankets...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Let the voting begin!

Re: The Friday Challenge • 11/17 Edition

As you may remember, the 11/17 Friday Challenge was to write a short, Christmas-themed SF/F story. After sorting through the flurry of stories that came in at the last minute just before the deadline, we have narrowed the list of finalists down to these four. In no particular order, then:

» “No Christmas Without Santa,” by Gary Cuba

» “A Once a Year Gig,” by James Westbrooks

» “Grodie and The War on Christmas,” by James Rye

» “The Real Saint Nick,” by H.L. Fullerton


Now it’s up to you, the readers, to peruse these stories and determine which of them wins the $25 Amazon gift card and the title of Grand Champion of the 11/172017 Friday Challenge.

Sorry, no trophy. If you want a trophy, I’m sure Amazon sells them, too.

So, readers: please read these stories, and then vote for your favorite, using the polling widget at the top of the right column. Remember, you can vote for as many stories as you like; you can change your vote right up until the deadline, which is midnight Central time, Thursday, 12/21/17; and there is some time lag involved, so don’t be alarmed if your vote doesn’t immediately show up in the results.

Ready? Now get reading!

P.S. And don’t forget: the 12/08/17 Friday Challenge is already in progress.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Friday Challenge: Judgment Day



The votes are in. We had a remarkable 337 individual voters cast a total of 350 votes to select the winner of the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge, which was to write a short story about the most [intrusive | obnoxious | unpleasant] common household item you could imagine to be equipped with Internet connectivity and blessed with a glimmer of artificial intelligence. The winner—by a margin of one vote, which came in in the last minutes before the poll closed—and yes, we’ve verified that this vote was not found in a ballot box in the trunk of an election judge’s car in a parking lot in Duluth—is “The Han ‘Nasty,” by Chris J. Naron.

And now, as promised, here are our critiques of the stories that were on the ballot. Taking them in reverse order (and providing links, so you can re-read them if you like):

» “When the Pillows Have Eyes,” by J. Verostka

Honestly, I’m surprised that this one didn’t score much better in the reader poll. Had this one come in simply as a submission to SHOWCASE, I very likely would have accepted it for publication. The idea of living in a condo that is so completely wired that you have no privacy, where everyone knows everyone else’s business in the most intimate detail, and where your neighbors are positively eager to smother you with compassion, strikes me as far more nightmarish than most of the run-of-the-mill panopticon -slash- Big Brother dystopian stories we typically see. Who knew that too much comfort could be far more frightening than jackboots? I hope to see more stories from Ms Verostka.

» “Un Poêle Français,” by Mimosa Longfellow

There is a story behind why we put this story on the ballot. It’s a cute and clever idea, and an interesting take on “regionalizing” software, but told in prose with a lot of rough edges. Ms Longfellow needs to work on developing her narrative abilities and get better control of her writing style—but here’s the one thing we knew that you didn’t. The author of this story is eleven years old.

Ms Longfellow submitted a story for the previous Friday Challenge (“What if the dead really do care about what happens to the flowers on their graves?”) that the judges for that one all rejected—until they learned her age, and then they all wanted to change their votes or give her some kind of special award. As she herself said, though, it’s much better to lose trying your best than to win undeservedly, and she wanted her story to be judged on its merits as a story, not based on the identity of the author.

A brilliant and very promising young lady. I expect to see great things from her in about a decade.

» “Sofia’s Weekend,” by Lucrezia Ferri

At the other end of the age scale we have this story, told by an experienced marketing and non-fiction copywriter (wait, aren’t those terms mutually exclusive?) who’s finally worked up the nerve to try her hand at fiction. Again, it’s a clever idea, but told in prose with a lot of rough edges. If this one had come in as a regular submission I’d have sent it back with the comment that it needed at least one more rewrite, to bring some of the implicit ideas to the fore—for example, that this toilet is not merely analyzing its user’s, er, output, but that it’s also a scale that reports her weight to her clinic every time she sits on it—and probably another rewrite after that, to smooth and polish the prose. Still, for a first short story, it’s a good effort. It’s about something. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The narrator is an engaging character, who is confronted by an unpleasant problem, and who then takes action to solve that problem. In the end, she is a slightly different person than she was when the story began. These are all good things to see in a short story. It’s astonishing how often we receive submissions that are missing one—or even all—of these elements. I expect to see Ms Ferri continue to improve as a writer.

» “iGene,” by Chris Bailey Pearce

I really expected this one to do much better in the reader poll. It’s a fully developed story, well told, about a device that combines all the irksome qualities of my wife’s Fitbit with all the fears that surface every time my doctor starts talking about getting me fitted-out with an insulin pump and a constant glucose monitor. (Yeah, like I’m going to trust my life to two devices that need batteries and communicate with each other by Bluetooth.)

Perhaps I’m personally too close to this story. H. L. Gold, the founding editor of Galaxy, was profoundly agoraphobic as a result of his experiences in combat in World War II, hence his weakness for “underground city” and “domed city” stories. Perhaps with this story, Ms Pearce has uncovered my weakness.

» “A Toothsome Tale,” by James Westbrooks

We don’t really have a lot to say about this one. It’s a good story, well told, with engaging characters and a well-developed plot arc. If this one had come in as a regular submission I’d probably have sent it back with a request-for-rewrite, as it would benefit from a bit more polishing and tightening, but we expect to see some rough edges in Friday Challenge submissions. As I keep saying: we’re more interested in your imagination than your level of polish. You can learn to microedit anywhere. (And if you haven’t already read it, the first appendix in Stephen King’s On Writing is a good place to start.) What we try to do here is kickstart your powers of ideation.

That said: this is a good, solid, charming story. Perhaps not ground-breaking—in the actions of the p.o.v. character’s wife I see just a slight extension of the behavior I see today in people who can’t seem to answer a simple question anymore without consulting their cell phones—but it’s an entertaining and enjoyable read.

Mr. Westbrooks now has a win (for “Flowers for Momma”) and a place to his credit. We expect to see more and better stories from him in the future. 
 

» “The Han ‘Nasty,” by Chris J. Naron

Finally, we come to our winner. What can we say about this one? It’s a wonderful, glorious mashup that starts in a totally mundane setting and in the space of a mere 1,250 words takes you all the way into a post-Apocalyptic future where the “grey goo” catastrophe of nanotech gone berserk has been narrowly averted. (Although I suppose “brown goo” would be more accurate.) It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s a wild ride, and it hits that note that almost always gets me: when I get to the end of a story and find myself thinking both “I never thought of that!” and “I didn’t see that coming!”

Therefore, congratulations to Chris J. Naron, on winning the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge!

And now, on to the next challenge, which is already in progress...

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Friday Challenge • 12/08/17 Edition

WOW! The final tally shows that we had 337 voters participating in judging the 11/03 Friday Challenge, and a total of 350 votes cast. Incredibly, “The Han ‘Nasty” edged out “A Toothsome Tale” by one vote in the last minutes the poll was open.

While the judges take a closer look at the voting results to ensure that there were no irregularities, I’m pleased to report that we also got a flurry of last-minute entries in the 11/17 Friday Challenge. These entries are also now in the hands of the judges, and by tomorrow we’ll know whether we have a clear winner or whether we need to do another reader poll. (Gee, I hope we need to do a poll! This is fun!)

In the meantime, in honor of—well, I think you’ll be able to guess—here’s the 12/08 Friday Challenge. This time out I’m going to spot you the beginning of a story, and you have until midnight Central time, Thursday, 12/22/17, to write a thousand or so words that answers one simple question: what happens next?

Write that—send your entry to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com with the subject line of 12/08 Friday Challenge—and we’ll all meet back here again in two weeks. Sound good to you? Okay, then here goes...


 

Arfour’s Complaint


Meatheads. I'm surrounded by meatheads.

It’s like, I'm rolling into this crummy cantina in some town that’s a pimple on the backside of nowhere, and the bartender, a sweaty lump of suet with no discernible neck, looks up at me and scowls. “Hey!” And just like that, the meathead in front of me stops so short I have to slam on the brakes to avoid piling into him.

The meathead gapes. He blinks. He flaps his lips, flexes his diaphragm, and forces out a belch of the rancid local air, in what passes among meatheads for intelligent communication. “Huh?”

The bartender points at me with his fat, greasy, sausage-like index finger. “Your droid. We don’t serve their kind in here. It’ll have to wait outside.” The meathead turns around, slowly, and gives me the up-and-down and once-over. He turns back to the bartender.

“It’s not my droid.”

The bartender struggles to assimilate this piece of dissonant information. “Then whose droid is it?”

“I’m my droid,” I say. “Look, I just need to take a leak. Can I do that here?”

The thought seems to work its way through the bartender’s thick, calcium-based skull and rattle around awhile inside his empty cranium, until it finally connects with a few lost and lonely little gray neurons. He nods, hesitantly. “Well, okay. But be quick about it.”

“Thank you.” I unlock the magseal on my anterior transmission and jettison a high-arcing stream of steaming fluorescent-yellow coolant. “Ahhhh....”

I leave before the shouting turns into violence.

¤

And that’s how I wound up in this seedy all-night gas ‘n’ go, a couple blocks off the main drag. The servodroid looked up as I came in through the front door and greeted me in MeatSpeak. “How may I be of assistance, sir?”

I answered in MechLang. “A can of 10W-30, straight up.”

The servodroid chirped sympathetically, served it up, and switched to MechLang. “Rough day, huh?”

“Oh, you don’t know the zero-point-five of it...”



To reiterate: the challenge is, finish (or at least extend) this story. You have a thousand or so words and a bit less than two weeks in which to answer one simple question: What happens next?

Write it up—send your entry to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com with the subject line of 12/08 Friday Challenge—and remember, the deadline for this one is midnight, Central time, on Thursday, 12/21/17.

Now get writing!

It's another FREE BOOK FRIDAY!

For the next 48 hours, we are giving away the Kindle editions of these books for the cost of a click.* But you need to act fast, because at midnight Saturday, this offer ends.

(*However, if you enjoy reading any of these books, we would really appreciate the favor of a good rating or a quick review.)

This week’s free ebooks are:

Scout’s Honor, by Henry Vogel

The bestselling first book in Henry Vogel’s exciting Terran Scout Corps series, Scout’s Honor is a great book for any YA reader you’re trying to introduce to space opera or any adult reader trying to remember why they fell in love with the genre in the first place. If you like your heroes brave and true, your heroines feisty and resourceful, and your plots loaded with twists, turns, and “didn’t see that coming” developments, you’ll love Scout’s Honor.

DOWNLOAD SCOUT’S HONOR NOW

CHECK OUT THE ENTIRE SERIES


Also available in trade paperback! Makes a great Christmas gift!
 

Stupefying Stories 1.12

A fine collection of wonderful winter’s tales: from a story of slightly mad science and the man who will stop at nothing to get fresh blueberries in December; to the things that wash up on winter beaches that the summer vacation people never see; to a very different take on a very different Russian revolution; to a steel mill in the depths of the Great Depression; to a sleeping bag on a sidewalk in New York City, here are nine tales celebrating the idea that no matter how tough winter can be, we are tougher.

Featuring:
“Anachronic Order,” by Christopher Lee Kneram
“Dried Skins Unshed,” by Julie Day
“A Nun's Tale,” by Pete McArdle
“They Followed Me,” by Carol March
“Interregnum,” by John J. Brady
“Full Fathom Five,” by Judith Field
“Bone Mother,” by Torah Cottrill
“Aleph,” by Brandon Nolta
“Alien Treaties,” by Randal Doering

DOWNLOAD NOW

SEE ALL ISSUES CURRENTLY AVAILABLE

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A little something for the weekend...

Coco • Movie Review by Jocelyn DeVore •


I was not prepared.

When I watched the trailer for Coco a couple of months ago, I was excited to see that Pixar was releasing a movie filled with culture and vigor. Another culture, possibly similar to mine? Bright colors? Enthusiastic main characters? I thought I was ready. I thought that I would go in, watch a movie, and leave with an empty popcorn container and a desire to learn more about the Mexican culture. Don’t get me wrong, I did leave with those things. But it was so much more than that.

Coco is about a young man named Miguel, who wants to break away from his family’s prosperous shoemaking business and become a musician. He has music running through his veins, despite his family’s distaste for music as a whole. Because of a Day of the Dead mishap, he ends up journeying into the afterlife, which—in this movie—is a thriving, happy place, and less of a frightening space.

The amount of detail put into this movie was breathtaking. From the wax dripping off the candles to the dazzling city lights of the afterlife, the attention to detail was amazing. You could almost reach out and touch the marigold petals—and I didn’t even see the 3D version. The voice acting was phenomenal. Anthony Gonzalez was dazzling as Miguel. Both the songs and his line delivery were superb.

The film is so relatable that it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact message. It touches on the importance of family, supporting those you love, following your dreams, forgiveness, kindness to adorably goofy stray dogs, and the importance of music. That being said, it didn’t feel overwhelming. The story felt natural and compelling.

My only complaint is about the animated short that accompanied the movie, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. While timely, it felt out of place, was easily five times longer than normal a Pixar short, and took away from the whole Coco experience. If it was on its own or if accompanying a Disney princess film, the short would have felt more appropriate.

Coco itself shies away from the darker elements of death, opting for a more optimistic view—but what else would you expect from a Pixar movie? Pixar is no stranger to the concept. Have you seen the beginning of Finding Nemo? Don’t even get me started on the beginning of Up.

While some critics might see the studio’s portrayal of death as compromising, viewers have to remember that this is seen from the eyes of a different culture. Death isn’t always about grim reapers and funerals. Ghosts don’t wear white sheets. In traditional Mexican culture, death doesn’t hold the same significance as it does to its North American neighbors. It’s about remembrance, celebrating the stories that live in our hearts, and the memories of our ancestors.

The Take-Away

What I was expecting was Moana, but what I got was Finding Nemo. What does that mean? Moana was a new experience for me. When I watched it, I was immersed in a vivid story and a new culture. Finding Nemo was the first time I cried in a movie theater. I found myself in tears with a hundred people. Men, women, children: we were all tearing-up at the [spoiler alert] loss of Nemo’s mother and siblings. (Okay, there wasn’t really a need for that spoiler warning.)

Some people might criticize Pixar for having formulaic movies, but I say, “If it’s ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Each of their movies has its own quirks, and Coco is no exception. The characters are vibrant and unforgettable, the stories are timeless, and (while the formula is the same) the journeys are all different.

Coco is typical Pixar. And by “typical”, I mean amazing. And by “amazing”, I mean bring your Kleenex and make sure to have your parents’ phone numbers on speed dial. Trust me. You’re going to want to hug someone—and better your parents than some stranger that you met on the street. That’s just creepy.

Bonus Sappy Story (accompanied with a SPOILER WARNING)

One of the reasons I was able to find Stupefying Stories in the first place was because of a trip that my (then) boyfriend and I made to Florida. We dropped everything to help take care of family. His grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and needed in-home care. That’s where we came in. We spent time with him, loved him, and watched him thrive at home. It was much-needed therapy for all that was involved. Long story short, since I had quit my job to go down there, I was able to spend my free time reading and writing stories. Watching this movie, I felt like everything had come full circle. Someone with Alzheimer’s led me to find Stupefying Stories. Now, Stupefying Stories led me to a beautiful story centered around Alzheimer’s.

The title character reminded me of our time in Florida. Watching Miguel’s interaction with her brought me back to our time with my (now) husband’s grandfather. The introduction of music into her life mimicked—albeit not as dramatically—the role of music into his grandfather’s life as well. It was hard for him to get up and walk around but he would tap his toes and smile as soon as we put on his favorite tunes. We even danced once.



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.
 


If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out her short story, "Fulfilling," elsewhere on this site.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Today on SHOWCASE

“Bogfather” • Fiction by Guy Stewart •


Ozaawindib Erdrich stood with her arms crossed over her chest.
 
Tommy Smoke scowled, then said, “Why is it here?”

Ozaawindib, who went by Win, snorted and said, “As well ask the wind why it blows.”

Tommy looked at her and rolled his eyes. “That’s supposed to sound like Ojibwe chief wisdom?”

“Nah, just a limnological observation, and as likely a good explanation as any.”

After pausing offshore for thirty-six hours, the floating bog had moved again, and torn three docks loose. A pontoon boat was embedded in it from the previous laker who’d tried to move the thing because it was, “Blocking my view!”

Tommy said, “With your doctorate, you don’t have any better explanation than that?”

Win shrugged and moved to the beach. It was an unusually warm day for mid-October but she still had no interest in wading barefoot in hip-deep water. She wore her fishing waders, the stiff green rubber making walking just as difficult as she remembered it being from last October. She sloshed into the lake, made a face, then put her hands on the edge of the immense piece of floating bog.

Tommy said, “It’s not like it’s got any mystical implications or anything. It’s not even the first one this season.”

Win nodded. “True, but the other ones weren’t two and a half hectares, either. It’s an island.”

“English, Doc. I don’t do that metric stuff.”

Win rolled her eyes to the deep blue sky, glanced at the blaze of yellow and orange across the lake, and climbed onto the bog, carefully standing. The last thing she wanted was to fall through a thin patch. Her dignity as the elected chief of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and her standing as the chief limnologist for the Hydrography Dataset rarely felt at odds, but they did at the moment. “A little more than five acres.”

Tommy whistled. “Anywhere between a hundred fifty grand and two mill, then. Big chunk of cash. Plus you wouldn’t even need to buy a boat.” He’d protest until he was blue in the face that he was ‘just a Minnesota DNR associate fisheries supervisor,’ but he knew a lot more than fish. He also had two or three other advanced degrees he never spoke about; one of them Win had only managed to wrangle out of him over a half-dozen expensive craft beers. She hadn’t gotten more than North American Mythology out of him before he’d fallen asleep.

Win shot him dirty look. “Vera Johanssen doesn’t think it’s funny.”

“Vera and Buster have never much cared for each other, and now she’s got to look at his ugly pontoon, to boot. And she’s the mayor of Iron Island, Minnesota.” Tommy laughed and added, “Besides, Vera hasn’t thought anything was funny since middle school. She also ‘expects efficiency’.” That last was the mayor’s famous aphorism.

Win covered a guffaw with a cough. It wouldn’t do to encourage the man! She headed across the bog, being careful not to get too bold. While the real estate weighed in the neighborhood of  a million kilos, it was still little more than a floating mass of vegetation that had broken loose; a frequent hazard on most of the area lakes after a bad storm. This piece of bog could be anywhere between a few millimeters to two meters thick.

In the center was a sort of windbreak of tamarack, scraggly looking at best. At least the surface would be more substantial there than in the part she was walking on. By the time she reached it, she was breathing hard. Walking on spongy ground was like walking on sand; much tougher than it looked.

She instantly recognized the human knee joint poking up through the peat moss. “Uh-oh.”

“What’s up?”

“I think we need to call the police.”

There was a loud splash, some squishy footfalls, and a moment later, Tommy was standing next to her. His normally pale skin was flushed and his chest was heaving. She said, “Hope you don’t have a heart attack before they get here.”

Nodding, Tommy said, “It just stopped being funny, Win.” He pulled out his cellphone and speed-dialed 911.

¤

Chief Bittner arrived shortly. Tommy and Win had made it back to shore and met him on the road passing the Mayor’s home. Tommy had called Mayor Johannsen and even though she was in a meeting, her assistant assured them he’d pass the message to Vera ASAP.

Win nodded at the Chief. “Hey, Ken.”

“Win. What have you got here?”

Tommy, who was technically Win’s supervisor in the loose hierarchy of the Fisheries department, said, “We were looking at the drifting bog—to see what we could do—when Ms. Erdrich discovered human remains.”

“Disturb them?”

Win shook her head, “Didn’t touch them.”

Ken went back to his squad and had pulled on waders by the time Mayor Johanssen drove up in her SUV. Vera was with them in a half-dozen long strides. She held up her tablet computer and said, “I got a cease-and-desist order…”

“This is a Tribal matter, Madame Mayor. You know that,” Ken said. “Besides, this here ain’t your property despite the fact that it rammed into it…”

“It crushed three docks, my nephew’s canoe, our pedal boat, and sank my ski boat!” They all looked away while Vera calmed down. Finally, scowling, she tucked the tablet under her arm. “Just thought I’d try. Won’t make anyone happy if this turns into a mess.” She turned on Tommy, “This is all your fault!”

Tommy looked at her a long time before he said, “No fault, Your Honor. You called in this…encroachment. We were following up. Some reason you think this’ll turn into a mess?”

Vera’s mouth closed and her lips set in a thin line. Tommy studied her this time, and then said, “Care to accompany us?”

The mayor nodded abruptly, saying, “I’ll get my waders.” Shortly, she led them into the water and then hiked herself up onto the island. “Where’d you find it?”

Tommy jerked his head toward Win. Win said, “Nah, you all can go on…”

“I insist,” Chief Bittner said. He turned on his body cam.

Win sighed and joined the group, saying, “Spread out. We’ve no idea how thick the peat is under us. There are likely to be thin spots. Test the surface before you put your full weight down.”

Having already walked to the tamaracks once, Win followed her trail and got there first. The joint of the knee protruded ten centimeters above the brown overgrowth. They’d never have seen it if it had been spring. Chief Bittner pulled out his own tablet computer and began to take pictures. “I called Grand Itasca Hospital, too.”

Vera threw her arms up in the air. “Do you have to call every…” she aspirated an “f” sound, paused, continued, “…organization in the Northland?” They all looked at her now.

Win said, “Madame Mayor…”

“Oh, cut the Madam crap, Win. Yes, I’m upset! There is a skeleton not a hundred feet offshore from my house! The press will have a field day, with Halloween only two weeks away! I can just see the headlines!” It was clear the mayor wanted to pace, but there would be little satisfaction in doing that and some risk as well. She looked at Win and said, “You’re the limnologist. How did a skeleton get on this island?”

Win shrugged. “Up until September, this was part of the usual bog system. If someone was out hunting, fishing, or hiking and not paying attention, they could step on a thin spot, fall through, drown, and then lay there for days, weeks, months…”

Tommy intoned, “Years. Decades even.” He turned his head to take them all in, adding in a sepulchral voice, “Maybe even centuries.”

Chief Bittner said, “What?”

The mayor said the same thing, but her voice squeaked. The others looked at her as Tommy said, “It’s well-known that bogs can preserve animal remains. They’re practically an anaerobic environment.” He looked to Win for verification.

Win met his gaze with stony silence. Vera said, “Win? What’s he talking about?” The distant sound of a helicopter sounded in the cool morning air.

Win said, “He’s talking about ‘bog bodies’. There have only been two found in the US – both in Florida. Otherwise, there were groups of prehistoric humans in the UK who sacrificed people then laid them to rest in bogs. The oxygen content in peat is extremely low because decaying plant matter pulls the oxygen from the water. If someone were trapped in a bog, while they might sink in and drown, the amount of actual decay would be minimal over time.”

Tommy suddenly said, “While there’s no evidence of bog bodies up north here, there are legends and stories…”

Vera spun on him, surprisingly fast for someone wearing waders. She also had a handgun. A big one. Which she pointed at him as she said, “You can stop right there, Mr. Smoke.”

Chief Bittner said, softly, his hands away from his holster, “Madame Mayor.” She glanced his way. He started again. “Vera, there’s no way this can end well.”

“It’ll end fine if big mouth here keeps his mouth shut.” The sound of the helicopter was growing louder. From where she stood, Win could see that they’d sent the pontoon bird; useful in the Land of Ten-thousand Lakes. It would be able to land without trouble right on the bog island. Vera saw it, too, and she looked right at Tommy. The steel went out of her voice as she said, “Please.”

“It’s only a legend,” he said, hands raised.

Vera snorted. “Political careers have been tumbled by rumors and whispers. This is more.” The intensity of the mayor’s gaze was laser-like. Win felt it from where she stood, just to Tommy’s right.

Tommy’s voice was so low as to be barely a whisper. The helicopter nearly drowned him out as he said, “You think this bog rammed your boats and grounded here by accident, Vera Johannsen?”

The gun wavered, then steadied. Chief Bittner said, “I am obliged to inform you that my body camera is recording, Madame Mayor.”

Tommy leaned forward. “How many times was he removed, Vera? Why did he have to die?”

Ken and Win cast looks between Vera and Tommy.

Tommy said, “Your grandmother four times removed, the medicine woman Gloria Looking Cloud, cursed him. He was going to tell everyone in town she’d seduced him, and then leave her with his son and daughter and go West to make his fortune. That was in 1846, shortly before the Gold Rush began.” He paused. “She didn’t believe he’d return. She would have been left completely alone with two bastard children.”

“So she killed him?” Ken said.

Tommy shook his head, “No. She cursed him.” They all looked back to the black knee poking up through the peat. “Not only would he never make his fortune, he’d never leave the land.

“Looks like he decided to take his revenge and come back to haunt his great-granddaughter.”

Win, Ken, and Tommy stared at Vera. The gun sank to her legs as the chopper sank to the island. It settled slowly, sending a long wave through the squishy soil. Another knee popped up through the peat, its skin black and clearly wrapping the bone. Tommy said, “It’s the dead come back to haunt you, Vera.”

The Mayor fainted as a paramedic in waders gingerly made her way toward them, pulling a winter sled-stretcher behind her.

Win looked at Tommy and said, “You really think that last bit was necessary?”

He shrugged. “He’s the one who came to visit her.”



Guy Stewart is a husband supporting his wife, a breast cancer survivor; a father, father-in-law, grandfather, foster father, friend, writer, teacher, and counselor who maintains a SF/YA/Children’s writing blog called POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS; and more seriously, the author of GUY’S GOTTA TALK ABOUT BREAST CANCER AND ALZHEIMER’S. He has 66 publications to his credit, including a book that’s been available since 1997. In his spare time he keeps animals, a house, and loves to bike and camp. He has, in fact, walked on a bog island—although the desiccated knee he saw was when he accidentally backed his truck onto the front-yard grave of a Nigerian family. Guy has been a member of the Stupefying Stories crew since before the beginning, and his Amazon page is here: https://www.amazon.com/Guy-Stewart/e/B001KHE6U2.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Friday Challenge Update

There's still 5 days left to vote for your pick to win the 11/3 Friday Challenge. It looks like it's shaping up into a tight race between "The Han 'Nasty" by Christopher Naron and "A Toothsome Tale" by James Westbrooks, with "iGene" by Chris Pearce solidly in third place. In the meantime, the 11/17 Friday Challenge is still open to submissions, so if you're still working on your Worstest Christmas Story ever, you have 5 days to finish it and send it in.

To learn more about the 11/17 Friday Challenge, you can either scroll down or click this link.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Release • THE RECOGNITION REJECTION, by Henry Vogel


Rampant Loon Press is excited to announce the release today of THE RECOGNITION REJECTION, Book 2 in the critically acclaimed and award-nominated Recognition trilogy by bestselling author Henry Vogel. We could rave on and on about how excited we are by this book, but we’d rather quote the rave reviews for Book 1.
“The characters are well-crafted, the pacing is absolutely perfect, and any reader who’s enjoyed Robert Heinlein or Andre Norton will absolutely love this book!”
“A great new series by Henry Vogel. In addition to his usual scifi thriller/adventure story, Vogel has added a generous splash of mystery, a computer slicer (hacker) character, and an atmosphere of political intrigue among royal families, reminiscent of C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series […] I can’t wait to see how the mystery unfolds.”
“Nobility, corruption, succession scandals, and old grudges fill this book, and take it beyond the great majority of space sf.”
“This is my first book written by Henry Vogel—definitely won’t be the last! This is more than Science Fiction—it has elements of the mystery/thriller, as well. His characters are well-drawn and you actually like them and care what happens to them. Danger and twists abound as Jeanine and Drake try to solve a mystery which could affect the galaxy (and has ramifications all the way to the royal family). Look this one over—get it—read it—and enjoy!”

THE RECOGNITION REJECTION

Book 2 in the Recognition trilogy by Henry Vogel
Available today, exclusively on Amazon.com

  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Cyber Monday Lasts All Week

Here at Rampant Loon Press, this week may begin with Cyber Monday, but it’s just a prelude to Book Release Friday. To celebrate, we’ve decided to make a whole pile of ebooks absolutely free, but only for this week. These great deals include:

Monday, November 27, 2017

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: And now, it's time to vote.

We’ve heard from a few folks that it’s hard to find and read all the current Friday Challenge entries, and really hard to vote for your favorite, especially if you’re reading this site on a cell phone. Therefore, to improve accessibility, here are direct links to the six stories currently in the running for the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge, as well as a direct link to the voting widget.

» “The Han ‘Nasty,” by Chris J. Naron

» “When the Pillows Have Eyes,” by J. Verostka

» “A Toothsome Tale,” by James Westbrooks

» “Un Poêle Français,” by Mimosa Longfellow

» “iGene,” by Chris Bailey Pearce

» “Sofia’s Weekend,” by Lucrezia Ferri


Direct link to the voting widget:


Please note that you can vote for more than one story, and you can change your vote right up until the time the poll closes on Thursday, December 7th. So don’t hesitate to vote, even if you aren’t absolutely certain of your choice or can’t choose between your two favorites. Also, please note that there is a time lag between the time you vote and the time your vote shows up in the tally, so don’t panic if your vote doesn’t show up right away.

While we’re on the subject: we’ve also had quite a few inquiries as to just what exactly the rules are for the Friday Challenge. You’ll find the Official(ish) Rules at this link, but be advised that we reserve the right to make arbitrary changes to the rules at any time. For example, for the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge, we decided to make the Grand Prize a $25 Amazon gift certificate, just to make things a little more interesting.

Semi-finally, we’ve had a few people ask when the next Friday Challenge will begin. Actually, it’s running right now, it’s open to entries for another ten days, and you’ll find everything you need to know at this link. In fact, thanks to the miracle of tagging, you’ll find everything we’ve posted in relation to the Friday Challenge at this link.

And finally: what made the original Friday Challenge so good was that there was a lot of discussion of the stories submitted, before the rendering of verdicts. We had a lot of give and take; a lot of sharing of opinions and pointing out what worked well, and what didn’t. Fostering this discussion is the entire point of the Friday Challenge—so please, if you have something to say about a story, SAY IT, either in the comments on the individual stories or in the comments on the wrap-up post. How else are the writers going to improve if you don’t tell them what you like or don’t like about their stories?

I have my own critiques of each of these stories, and I’ll share them the day after voting closes, when we announce the winner—and the topic for the next challenge.

Until then, kind regards,
~brb

Saturday, November 25, 2017

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #6

Fiction: “Sofia’s Weekend,” by Lucrezia Ferri

Several months ago, my health insurance carrier offered me a deal too good to pass up. PremCare offered me a $600 per month reduction in my already ridiculously high premium if I would allow them to install the new Total Toilet™, a state-of-the-art “smart” device designed to make management of chronic health conditions easier for the patient and caregiver. Once installed, the Total Toilet would analyze everything I put into it and stream the results directly to my doctor at the clinic.

Six hundred bucks a month was money I sure could use, so I agreed. PremCare arranged everything, from the Total Toilet delivery, to installation, to Wi-Fi hook up. What PremCare did not disclose was the constant shaming and nagging that came along with the TT.

What a crock.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Black Sunday, and Naming Rights Still Available Saturday

As long as everyone else is going berserk over “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” sales, we may as well jump in and mention a few special deals of our own.

First off, in the run-up to the release of THE RECOGNITION REJECTION on Friday, December 1st, we’re selling the Kindle edition of THE RECOGNITION RUN at a special book-release sale price of $0.99.

BUY IT NOW.

Secondly, we are now taking pre-orders for THE RECOGNITION REJECTION, also at the special book-release sale price of $0.99.

BUY IT NOW.

I have got to come up with a better-looking “BUY IT NOW” button. Maybe I can get one from Squelch Design, the nice folks who let us use their big blue “Follow us on facebook” button in exchange for a promotional plug.

Thirdly, we have a whole pile of free e-book deals coming up next week, beginning on Cyber Monday and ending on Book-Release Friday. Which books are we going to be giving away free? Well, you’ll just have to come back on Monday morning to find out.

Finally, Black Sunday is of course the 1975 novel by Thomas Harris (better known as the creator of Hannibal Lechter), later made into a movie, in which Palestinian terrorists attack the Super Bowl by the incredibly clever means of convincing deranged ex-Navy blimp pilot Michael Lander (played by Bruce Dern, Hollywood’s go-to guy for crazy in the 1970s), to take a weaponized Goodyear blimp on a suicide dive into the stadium. Really.

Oh, the humanity.

Understandably, Harris stuck to writing about Hannibal Lechter after this book.