Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Book Release: THEIAN JOURNAL #1

From the creators of Stupefying Stories comes our new sister publication, THEIAN JOURNAL. It’s a bit unearthly—a bit alternative—these are decidedly different from our usual selection of SF/F stories, reflecting an entirely different editorial philosophy, yet brought to you with our same dedication to finding excellent stories by writers you may not have read before. Issue #1 features:

• ADROIT, by David Williams
• TAKING A BREATHER, by Jean Davis
• A SCORPION WITHIN, by Alison Grifa Ismaili
• PLAINFIELD, NEW YORSEY: 2114, by Angele Ellis
• WHEN WE ARE WHOLE, by Gary Emmette Chandler

THEIAN JOURNAL: We think you’ll agree—sometimes different can be very good.

Now available exclusively* for Kindle and Kindle Reader apps at these links, for the special introductory price of just $0.99 USD—or free, for Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

United States –
Great Britain –
Germany –
France –
Spain –
Italy –
Netherlands –
Japan –
Brazil –
Canada –
Mexico –
Australia –
India –

* Bear with us. It’s a short-term marketing experiment.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


When we launched the e-book version of Stupefying Stories, we included a “three years and out” self-destruct clause in the contract. Four years later that self-destruct clause continues to work as designed, so this is your LAST CHANCE to buy these vintage 2012 issues at special closeout prices before they go out of print, never to be re-released again.



For 1.9 (a.k.a., the “mid-October” issue) we pulled out all the stops and turned the creepiness factor up to 11. Featuring another awesome Aaron Bradford Starr cover that deserves to be a poster, this one starts with the beautiful and elegiac “Between Life and Oblivion,” ends with “Going Out With a Bang”—a story that, as one reviewer put it, “puts the black in black humor”—followed by Thomas Pluck’s clever little exit sting, “The Old-Fashioned Way,” but in-between it’s full of spooks and specters, ghosts and ghoulies, and things that go bump! in the night. (Or sometimes not: check out Robert Hobson’s story.) In particular, if “The Florence” or “The Jade Box” don’t give you the shivers, you’d better check your pulse, because you just might be dead.
  • BETWEEN LIFE AND OBLIVION, by Samuel R. George
  • THE FLORENCE, by Chuck Bordell
  • DOOR IN THE DARKNESS, by David Steffen
  • STREAMING, by Sharon Irwin
  • THE FLINT INDENTURE, by Tim W. Burke
  • NOT EVERYTHING GOES BUMP, by Robert W. Hobson
  • ASHES TO DIAMONDS, by Jamie Lackey
  • BLOOD AND SALTWATER, by Cassandra Rose Clarke
  • THE GHOST TRAIN, by Fox McGeever
  • THE JADE BOX, by Stephen G. McDonald
  • GOING OUT WITH A BANG, by Gary Cuba
  • THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY, by Thomas Pluck

Available for the Amazon Kindle at these links: United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, India, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and Australia.

Also available for the Barnes & Noble Nook and in the Apple iTunes Store.




For this one I turned the Editor-in-Chief’s chair over to M. David Blake, who has been with us since the old Friday Challenge days and has served as Technical Director and Associate Editor of STUPEFYING STORIES from the very start. I gave him a budget and free rein to select the stories, as well as permission to experiment with the design, and I’m pleased to see that he picked some stories I would have picked—some I would not have picked—actually pinched a few from my production queue—and in the end, produced a book that is bigger, in some ways better, and definitely recognizable as a STUPEFYING STORIES book and yet distinctively different.

Good stuff. I liked it so much, I gave Mr. Blake the budget and permission to go ahead with STRAEON. This book should not be taken as a precise blueprint for STRAEON, but if you want some sense of how my editorial judgment and his editorial judgment differ—and we do differ; our tastes are at best similar, not congruent—then buy and read this book.

P.S. And if you’re wondering about the odd volume numbering: it’s an Amazon thing. We wanted to call this one 2.1 but ended up having to call it 1.10 for Amazon’s sake.

  • QUEEN OF SHEBA, by Samuel M. Johnston
  • WEDNESDAY’S CHILD, by Damien Walters Grintalis
  • SNATCHING BABY DELILAH, by Travis Daniel Bow
  • NONSENSE 101, by Gary Cuba
  • LUCKY, by Bill Ferris
  • THE ANTS GO MARCHING, by Sarah Pinsker
  • LOVER’S KNOT, by Ada Milenkovic Brown
  • GIRL WITHOUT A NAME, by Courtney Valdes
  • TOILET GNOMES AT WAR, by Beth Cato
  • MOONDUST, by Elizabeth Berger
  • CITIZEN ASTRONAUTS, by Holliann R. Kim
  • HEARTBREATH, by E. Catherine Tobler
  • REVOLVER, by Clarence Young
  • OFFICE DEMONS, by Christie Yant
  • NUMBER STATION, by Alex Shvartsman

Available for the Amazon Kindle at these links: United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, India, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and Australia.

Also available for the Barnes & Noble Nook and in the Apple iTunes Store.




By the end of 2012 STUPEFYING STORIES had finished evolving from our initial vision of a publication that didn’t recognize genre labels to being a straight-up SF/F publication, and this book is the apotheosis of that development. It had also evolved from being an “anthology series” to being something that clearly walked, talked, quacked, and otherwise behaved like a monthly magazine, so we gave up trying to resist that label as well, and decided to let it become the monthly SF/F magazine it clearly wanted to be.

I am proud of every single story in this book, but especially so of “Moonbubble,” by Eric Cline.

Then again, if we were ever to adopt a story as a manifesto, it would be “We Talk Like Gods,” by Jon David.

  • WE TALK LIKE GODS, by Jon David
  • TINY, TINY HUNGERS, by Mark Wolf
  • MOONBUBBLE, by Eric Cline
  • THE RELIC, by Lou Antonelli
  • MR. NON-EXISTENT, by Paul Malone
  • BLUE STRIPPED, by Gerry Huntman
  • HoPE, by A. A. Leil
  • MEASURE OF INTELLIGENCE, by Torah Cottrill

Available for the Amazon Kindle at these links: United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, India, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, and Australia.

Also available for the Barnes & Noble Nook. (Why not in the Apple iTunes Store? Well, thereby hangs a tale…)

Hungry for something to read tonight?

Might we suggest you consider SHOWCASE, our free companion webzine. On the menu this evening:

"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...
"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...
"Tech Support," by John Oglesby
“Excuse me, young man?” Oh great. I was just about to level-up, now this. I finally get a 15-minute stretch of mindless zombie-killing fun, and grandma has to bring me back to reality. “Young man, I was told that you’re tech support?”...
"The Roads to Hell," by Larry Hodges
Toby stared at his ticket: Bus 666 to Hell. After a lifetime in politics, always with the best intentions, this was his reward? The last thing he remembered were chest pains and falling to the ground...
"Hunger Gamesmanship," by John H. Dromey
Late one evening, the sound of fluttering wings disturbed a suburbanite who was sitting in his easy chair, reading a book. The man got up to investigate, quickly assessed the situation, and then yelled at the top of his lungs...
"Edvard Munch," by Robert W. Hobson
Sebastian Kane flew across the second floor of the mansion like his ass was on fire and his head was catchin’. His blue shirt was torn and bloody, his jeans were rags and equally as red, his chest would need an entire spool of thread to put back together...
"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?”...
"Back From the Dead," by John Lance
The hunchback reminded Cassius of his first servant, Grimly. The gorilla-like-arms, heavy brow, and dull eyes; it was as if Grimly had returned from the Abyss. Cassius supposed that’s why he agreed to interview Erogi in the first place...
"The Pro Turned Weird," by Stephen Lickman
Dr. Edward “Eddie” McDaniels knew that if there were two things that went together, it was horrible weather and revenge-obsessed undead. And that night, the weather was positively crappy. Wave after wave of heavy, autumn rain crashed against the sliding glass door. In the center of the living room, Eddie waited...
"A Failure to Communicate," by Phil Temples
On a morning in late October, the alien stepped out of his spaceship into the bright morning sun in the Boston Commons. For all intents and purposes, Gomph looked like an oversized porcupine. At 60 kilograms, he stood nearly one-and-a-half meters tall...
"Disclaimer," by Bret McCormick
TRANSACTION COMPLETE **PLEASE READ THIS FULL DISCLAIMER BEFORE CLOSING** Thank you for pressing the “Accept” option on the previous page and legally completing the transfer of ownership of rights and obligations of authorship in the work of fiction entitled My Five Minutes in Hell (MFMIH), penned by Howard Phillips Derbury sometime in ...
"The Thing About Analyn," by David Steffen
In retrospect, I should’ve realized there was something bizarre about Analyn much earlier than I did, certainly before we’d been dating for six weeks. But I was a college freshman, barely away from my overprotective mother, and eager to live life...
 "Fulfilling," by Joy Bernardo
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...

Wednesday, October 28, 2015


“My God, they’re everywhere!

From the creators of STUPEFYING STORIES comes an exciting new anthology series: PUTREFYING STORIES! Sixty-four pages of pulse-pounding, shuffling, moaning, brain-munching zombie action! Issue #1 features:

• FRUITING BODIES, by Eric Landreneau
• DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL, by Julie Frost
• FROM COLORADO, by Rose Blackthorn

PUTREFYING STORIES: Tales so terrifying, they could make even a vampire’s dessicated heart start beating again!

Now available for Amazon Kindle and Kindle Reader apps at the special introductory price of just $0.99 USD!

US –
UK –
France –
Spain –
Italy –
Netherlands –
Japan –
Brazil –
Canada –
Mexico –
Australia –
India –

More links coming soon!

Saturday, October 24, 2015


"...the best of the trilogy. KUDOS!"

Years ago, Terran Scout David Rice crash-landed on the lost colony world of Aashla, where he rescued and fell in love with the beautiful Princess Callan. Pledging his life and sword to Callan and his adopted home world, David thought he'd never see another Terran again—until the night the sky was lit by weapons fire, as another starship tried and failed to blast its way through Aashla's deadly planetary ring. Now, rushing to the crash site, David and Callan find they're too late, as their bitter rival, Prince Rupor, has gotten there first...

For on a world of swords and airships, even a wrecked starship can overthrow the balance of power!

SCOUT'S DUTY is an exciting modern homage to the classic tales of planetary romance made famous by writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett. If you like your heroes unabashedly heroic, your heroines feisty and true, and your plots filled with dangers and twists at every turn, you'll enjoy SCOUT'S DUTY.

Now available exclusively for Kindle and Kindle Reader apps at $3.99 USD for the US edition, or free for Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime customers!


But wait, there's more!

To celebrate the release of SCOUT'S DUTY, we're offering this special get-up-to-speed-on-the-whole-trilogy deal! For a limited time, we're making SCOUT'S HONOR and SCOUT'S OATH available for just $0.99 USD each, or free for Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime customers!

"Pulp fiction in the best meaning of the term. The story moves along at a cracking pace and you care about the characters."

When Terran Scout David Rice climbs from the wreckage of his starship’s escape pod, he finds himself transported from the space age to the steam age in the blink of an eye. Drawn to the sounds of fighting, David immediately throws himself into a desperate battle against overwhelming odds to save the life of a beautiful young princess.

Now, marooned without hope of rescue, David is swept into a world of steam-powered airships, treacherous pirates, brutal savages, bloodthirsty monsters, royal machinations, and plots within plots, where matters of strength and honor are most often settled with the clash of swords. As he struggles to learn the strange ways of this new world and who he can trust, one thing becomes clear to him: he must put aside his growing feelings for Her Highness and do everything in his power to return her to her family, even though this means giving her up to the prince she’s pledged to marry.

Told in a relentlessly fast-paced and breathless style, SCOUT’S HONOR is an exciting modern homage to the classic tales of planetary romance made famous by writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett, as well as the cliffhanger-driven energy of the early science fiction movie serials. If you like your heroes unabashedly heroic, your heroines feisty and true, and your plots filled with dangers, twists, turns, and double-crosses upon triple-crosses, you’ll enjoy SCOUT’S HONOR.

"This is the kind of scifi story that made me fall in love with science fiction long ago."


 "I can't wait for the sequel!"

(And you don't need to, because here it is!)

"If anything, it's better than the first book."

"Many times book sequels are either let downs that show the original work was just a fluke, or a far better story that diminishes the original work. Happily, Scout's Oath is neither... it is a wonderful continuation of a thrilling story-line that not only stands by itself as a fantastic and fast-paced action thriller, but also extends and gives delightful background and "back-story" to Scout's Honor."
"Swashbuckling fun! Scout's Oath picks up where Scout's Honor left off, with more adventures of David Rice, Princess Callan and a motley crew of allies, enemies, and other characters. This one brings new high-tech challenges to bear on Princess Callan's low-tech world, but as always, the stalwart David, Princess Callan and their friends and supporters bravely jump into the fray to defend it. Full of honor, bravery, love, and a great sense of humor, this is an excellent follow-on to Scout's Honor. This is a great read for the whole family—with characters you care about and that you can identify with. Read Scout's Honor first, then this one. I'm looking forward to the next one!"

"It's an epic heroic tale, full of derring-do, rotten bad guys, some really funny dialogue, and people in love. Highly recommend[ed]..."


"I can't wait for book three!"

(And now, with the release of Scout's Duty, the wait is over!)

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

“Muse Bovine” • by Terry Faust

Members of the Tri-City Literary Writers Group sipped green tea and waited in the farmhouse’s spacious kitchen. They’d been together for five years and recently switched their meeting location from a coffee shop to this rural dairy farm, after reading a newspaper article. This was their third meeting and they were excited.

Seen through the large windows over the twin sinks, the gray sky threatened rain—a clammy morning transitioning to a muggy day. The women occupied three of the six chrome-legged, cracked vinyl chairs that surrounded a matching laminate-topped table. It was a large kitchen with old white enameled appliances. Blue cabinets covered in generations of paint loomed on opposite walls, broken only by the sink windows. The kitchen’s back door served as the house’s main entrance. Like most farmhouses, the front door was only used for weddings and funerals.

Tiffany Roberts, the writing group’s fourth member, was home with a migraine—though group leader Madison Fairchild suspected Tiffany objected to the farm smell and was making an excuse. Madison sympathized to a certain extent, but the earthy odor of manure, urine and rotted hay was part of the experience…the total Bovine Artistic Therapy™, as praised in the newspaper article.

Madison had winced at the odor as well but after a short time she no longer noticed it. The trick was not to forget to shower and change immediately after therapy. Poor Tiffany had gone straight to a wine-tasting last month and, though no one confronted her at the event, she heard about her “Farm Scent” afterwards.

Phaedra Alexander, the raven-haired young performance artist of the group, shifted her tea from hand to hand, sliding the cracked ceramic mug back and forth. “What do you suppose is taking Lydia? Do you think the herd’s out of balance?” She cast a furtive look at backdoor and the mudroom, the cleanup space between the door and the kitchen. It led to a dairy barn some twenty yards out from the house. In the barn were the twenty cows that weekly provided the group with bovine truth; authentic limbic responses to their writing dilemmas. The herd’s holistic honesty challenged the group’s sincerity and centered their writing. The cows fertilized their imaginations.

Madison placed her hand on Phaedra’s flannel-covered forearm. They all dressed down for the sessions; jeans and work shirts…despite being well-heeled college grads. Lydia always provided Wellies, tall rubber boots. “You know Lydia needs to settle the cows,” Madison said and gave Phaedra a pat. Madison, known as Maddy or simply Mad, was the oldest member at fifty-six. She’d once been a gymnast in college but no longer exercised…or denied herself food. She had first read about Lydia’s farm

Judith Berman cupped her mug in both hands and sipped the tea. “I expect to get through a lot today. My first chapter is so scattered. You would not believe how I’ve been looking forward to this session.” Her gaunt face seemed out of place below her wavy red hair. She was a business attorney, and their newest member. Even in jeans and a work shirt she looked slim and sharp. Writing was her chosen creative outlet and she made sure everyone knew it. “My publicist set a book signing date for next October,” she added.

“That might be a bit ambitious, Judith,” Madison cautioned. “You don’t even have a publisher yet.”

“Or a first draft,” Phaedra added.

“We’ll see what the cows say,” Judith replied. Madison regretted asking Judith into the group but Tiffany’s attendance had become spotty over the last year and Phaedra’s recent performance successes had boosted her artistic confidence to near unbearable levels. Professionals like Judith usually dabbled in writing and were eager to accept an older and wiser author’s writing advice. Not in this case.

The back door opened and Lydia stomped in, pausing at the wire boot cleaner to scrape caked manure. She was big and muscled from a life of hard work. The dairy farm had belonged to her father and would have passed to his two sons if either had wanted it.

“The girls are ready, ladies.” By girls, Lydia meant the cows and by ladies she meant the writers. She flipped her long brunette braid back over her shoulder. Her face was broad and blunt. At forty she’d resigned herself to living alone and making her farm profitable. “Bovine Artistic Therapy” was her own invention. She came up with it after reading about a horse ranch that had made “Equine Artistic Therapy” pay off.

“The morning milking was a little off, but I’m thinking the girls are excited about today’s meeting,” Lydia said. “There is definitely connectedness in the air—a lot of body energy in the barn. It’ll be a productive session for sure.”

Maddy, Phaedra, and Judith made appreciative noises. Anticipating the first session of the day always excited and focused the group. Lydia had learned this and played the group’s buttons. “The cows were telling me they feel there’ll be definite breakthroughs today.”

Phaedra pumped her arm. “Yes! I knew it.”

Judith sniffed, “Sorry, Phay, but I think they were picking up on my first chapter.”

Lydia held up a cautionary hand. “Bring discord and selfishness into the barn and the cows will know it. Nobody will get answers.”

The warning had an immediate affect. All three writers nodded and Judith looked, if not embarrassed, at least mildly contrite. Having done the therapy thing for over a year now, Lydia enjoyed the control she could wield over these women and had to remind herself to stay within bounds. The three Tri-City authors were but one of five writers’ groups that paid for her cows’ advice and inspiration. Lydia smiled inwardly and doubted she’d ever grow tired of her role as a sage cow interpreter—a kind of doctor of Delphic dairy dialectics.

“Okay, then,” Lydia said. “Are we all focused and ready to face the herd?”

The women agreed they were. Lifting key phrases from equine therapy literature and replacing the word “cow” for “horse,” Lydia had advertised her bovine therapy on the Internet and was amazed at the response. Creative guidance, life coaching, and big-animal-emotional-healing were all trendy activities that paid big money. Lydia had always chuckled when she’d read about similar programs and considered it mumbo-jumbo, but the dairy economy was on the ropes and if people would pay good money to hug her cows she wasn’t going to refuse them the chance. Who was she to deny the creative process?

“I hope they’re seeing the future today. I’ve got some very, very important questions,” Judith said as a way to explain her earlier gaffe.

Lydia thought a moment. Personally she had no illusions about her Holsteins. Cows were cows: stupid beasts, lovers of routine who led dull lives of child bearing, milk production, and ultimately were turned into Big Macs. She felt little attachment to any of them. “I believe this weather has them a bit on edge, but that means the herd has turned inward. You’ll get good answers about character development and relationships today. It’s a good day to ask about plot and resolution.”

Satisfied, Judith smiled.

Lydia clapped her hands. “Okay, then. Shall we get at the truth, ladies?”

The barn air was redolent with cow effluent. Lydia loved words like “redolent” and “effluent.” They sure beat stink and manure. She was picking up quite a vocabulary working with writers and just thinking in terms of three-syllable words made her feel better about this new enterprise. She milked three times a day and had accustomed the cows to being questioned mid-morning, before they filed out to the pasture. Cows were sensitive to change and Lydia rejected several suggestions that the writers roam free in the pasture to commune with her Holsteins. For one thing, cows could kick. And cows would eat practically anything, not a good habit when writers seemed prone to leaving pens, note pads, and cell phones everywhere.

“Let’s spend a moment centering,” Lydia said. They walked up the middle of the barn alley separating the cows and stopped to bow their heads for a minute. Bare electric bulbs lit the shadowy interior. Left and right a line of cow rear ends protruded from the stalls. Most of the cows were still feeding and paid no attention to the group. The barn was an ancient wooden structure with a peaked hayloft and a red paint job with white trim. Lydia had installed steel stanchions in place of the former boxy wooden stalls, but the place still had a closed-in primitive cave-like feel. The low, cobwebby ceiling of rafters seemed to compress the cattle odor despite the electric fans running at the doors. Lydia had worried at first that writers would be put off, but to her surprise many of the woman writers felt the barn’s dark oppressive atmosphere was like a womb.

Lydia noticed a Holstein arching her back and grabbed Judith’s arm, pulling the writer away from a healthy gush of urine. “Judith, I think you’ve been chosen to go first.”

Judith smiled. “This one?” She pointed at the cow that had nearly drenched her. Lydia nodded and Judith stepped to the animal’s broad side. Placing both hands on its flank, the writer closed her eyes in concentration.

“All right, then,” Lydia said and let a moment pass. She then said softly. “Okay, she senses you and is ready to tell you the unvarnished truth—what you need to know.”

Judith rubbed the bristly cowhide and talked to the cow. “I can’t seem to get out of chapter one. Every time I think it’s perfect and try moving on I reread it and start changing things. I want to finish my novel in the next three months, in time to be reviewed and slotted as a best seller. What should I do?”

Lydia had trained her groups to wait patiently for answers, which often gave her time to frame a generic response if nothing specific came to mind. It also gave the cow a chance to physically react to the writer, which reinforced the whole bovine part of the therapy. Indeed, the Holstein shifted its stance and Lydia emitted a satisfied, “Ah ha.”

Judith’s eyes popped open and looked eagerly to Lydia, but Lydia held up a hand, telling Judith to wait, implying the cow was not through considering her question.

In the beginning, Lydia had stumbled on her cow replies, sometimes missing the mark, sometimes hitting them dead on. She’d learned that providing direct, specific answers like: “Give your character a reason for why she quit her bank job to become an astronaut,” or “Tell your readers the story has shifted from Duluth to Bermuda,” was the wrong way to go. She had to embrace the writer, not just their work. With experience she learned not to critique but rather concentrate on what the authors needed to hear.

“Okay, Judith,” Lydia finally said. “You felt the way she shifted her position? She’s telling you to shift your expectations. She says you’re worrying too much, spending too much time on your beginning. Trying to perfect that first chapter is unrealistic, especially if you don’t know the rest of the story. Her moving around was her way of telling you to leave the first chapter and move on.”

Judith patted the cow affectionately and spoke with emotion. “But it’s so hard. I want it to be right!”

Two stalls down, a cow bellowed. It had finished its feed and was ready for the pasture.

“You hear that?” Lydia said. “The herd knows what you’re going through, but they are telling you the truth. Move on. They know you can do it. Put chapter one away and start chapter two.”


At the end of the barn a cow stomped its hind leg. Lydia smiled. The girls were working with her today. “Hear that? There you have it. No buts, Judith.”

Judith sighed heavily, but it was a sigh of acceptance. She leaned into her cow and gave her a hug. “She’s right. I’ll lock the first chapter in a drawer.” Placing her forehead on the cow’s back, Judith said, “Thank you.” She gave the cow a teary hug and Lydia put an arm around the writer.

“Trust her, Judith. She knows what’s best.”

Phaedra was next and as she settled on the cow across from Judith’s, Maddy took Lydia to one side and whispered, “It’s just amazing, Lydia. Your cows told her exactly what I’ve been telling her for months.”

“The cows don’t lie.”

“It’s incredible,” Maddy added and squeezed Lydia’s arm affectionately. “Your cows have brought this group together—given us focus.”

The rest of the sessions went smoothly, with Phaedra gaining valuable insights into the script for her performance piece and Maddy getting help with her novella. Lydia let the cows out to pasture and the writers retired to the kitchen to recap, make notes, and critique last month’s writing. As the water was set to boiling for another round of tea, Lydia stowed the Wellies in the closet and watched the writers clustered at the table. The tension she felt from them earlier was gone and they laughed and joked as they took out pads and pens.

To a one, they were professional women, college educated and city-bred. That they listened to her was amazing, but then they weren’t listening to her, they were listening to her cows. To Lydia it made no sense when she thought it through. They all must be brighter than that. They paid good money for advice she’d scrounged from a few used fiction-writing books. She couldn’t help shaking her head every time she thought of it. The only rational explanation Lydia could come up with was that smart people needed to let their brains go on vacation from time to time. It was the only way she could describe it.

“Lydia,” Maddy called to her. “Could you clarify what the cow told me about my plot twist?”

“I’ll be right there,” Lydia said and adjusted the flame under the kettle. Through the screen door, she heard the distant lowing of her herd. They were settling in for a quiet afternoon of grazing.


Terry Faust writes urban fantasy, mainstream young adult novels, and humorous science fiction spoofs. His short works have appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated, Stupefying Stories, and several Minnesota Speculative Fiction anthologies. Fancy Pants Gangsters recently produced his short story “Good Service” as a Redshift Theater radio play and Lakes Area Radio Theater produced his radio comedy “Dirt in Duplicate.”

As an assistant organizer of Minnesota Speculative Fiction for the past ten years, Terry has led critique workshops, participated in readings, and conducted writing presentations. His latest non-fiction project is a book based on the stories told by little library book exchange keepers. Photography and making weather vanes are his two other passions.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

“StandBy from Quastroc” • by Katrina Johnston

From Pop Access Control, Pioneering, Quastroc Settlement, Subsect 12.

Gestay success: Viable obtained at Quastroc.


Settlement proclaims viab. Celebrate, merriment.


Seven day-units prev, Quastroc. Noted. Succ extract from materna cavity. Out-settler broadcast infoco conf single viab dubbed “Samdie762.” Breath. Mid-W healer plus obstric attend. Aid deliver. Jubilant.

Ten day-units post, viab respir reg. Nutrients taken, held. Quastroc parental claimants buoyed; eyedeed Forloc764 materna – pair bond affirm, eyedeed Jayloc769 presumed paterna. Hale and thee.


Viab gender estab: Male. No abnor, anoms, quirks. Gestay weight wagers closed. Time of extract, partum weight: 572KT, noted: Wagering closed post extract. Payout complete: Lotto window locked, time-code 2265.02.27.

Quastroc StandBy....


First succ partum materna claim primiG. Subsect, also first at Quastroc. Inhab moon-dancing. White moon orbit bisect minor green light-side. Quastroc decrees: Moon-dances legal, warranted. Rapture.

Day-unit nine update Quastroc....

Concur settlement direct, main trocars, expand canulus, discard. Quastroc viab cont indie breath. Populates hopeful; increase number, expand, diverse devel. Waiting. Viab thrive. Airways clear. Speci demos vigor resp reflex, nil hyaline compro. Nourish cont. Eyedeed, tentative human/Quastroc child. (Samdie762 pref moniker).


Viab/child, Samdie762, thrive mode, declare alive. Quastroc pride, BOY. Pred avg male longevity. Quastroc giddy. Settlers imbibe, pair and fervent moon-dance under yellow moon, mauve stars.

Debate erupts Quastroc: Req claim consent. 

Sec rep. Central Security ident rules. Protocols incite re-think params. Ref innovates and latest over-clauses, (cite particulars 17 to 32). Newest implants, better comple-max sec traction; infoco.

Stalemate. Latest intel accepts outland infoco. How to? Sector laws flare, change. (Expect update within 60 day-units). Parentals comply. No alt. Intra muscle band reqs ext (techie P47 plus protolet). CS pushes for togg implant.

Wide accept. Glostrid non-togg implants prov inclu extract sector infoco, subsector, genetic order, data, prequels and physical anoms, eyedent, every security. Latest tout is Glostrid Star II, innovate togg implant, expand, upgrade. Details regist, retrieve from Cen Sec. Togg implant ease. Mobility screen, posits, sec, tracking, genetics, citizenship.


Gov forcement. Parentals. Consent. Glostrid innovate. Nil obsos. Best for Quastroc prec child. Comply. Agree. Reluct.

StandBy. Update. 

Parentals opt Glostrid Star II, efficient, permits, monits, volumes, fast. Time code 2295.07. Same day-unit. Procedure begins. Time code 3071.39. Initiate.


Quastroc Update: Latest news: 
Post-op tragedy. Unforeseen.

Viab heretofore known as Samdie762 ceased respi at Subsect 12. Time code 1401.06, on viab twelfth day-unit full indie. Nil survive. “My child… woe.” Parentals both, materna and paterna weep, excess. Complic cite with implant proc. Nonspec. Unexpect. Resuss effort persist. Nil result.

StandBy. From Quastroc:

Materna unit, fert proven, eyedeed Forloc764, self-mutilated and deceased. Nil resuss attempt. Nonspec.

Waiting for obits from Quastroc. StandBy....

Two deceased. Serv under orange moonset.

Mourning. Tears, Materna and child…. Anguish. Pain.

StandBy.... StandBy.... StandBy....

Katrina Johnston
is the winner of the CBC/Canada Writes True Winter Tale. Works of short fiction may be found at several on-line sites and a couple of print issues. She lives in Victoria, BC, Canada. The goal of her fiction is to share a human journey and explore. Occasionally she dabbles into science fiction.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

“Shapes of Power” • by Lance J. Mushung

Zantoinell reclined in her bath pool, enjoying total contentment. The hot salt water was divine, and so was being the Supreme One of the Zarkindell Realm.

A viewer overhead chirped and displayed the name Zixdell, her principal advisor. Total irritation replaced total contentment. Her eight feelers, which had been floating relaxed like seaweed on a calm ocean, went rigid, pointing downward. She said, “Connect,” and Zixdell’s aquamarine-hued face appeared. “Why are you disturbing my bath?”

He apologized by touching a feeler to each of his eyes before speaking. “There were several more civil disturbances last night, Supreme One. Your subjects are continuing to protest your high levies, the poor economy, and the outflow of jobs to Earth.” He’d always had the uncanny ability to anticipate Zantoinell’s questions and continued before she could ask one. “Yes, Supreme One, your warriors dispersed the protestors.”

“So why you are disturbing me?”

“Supreme One, I would like to once again point out that the humans are—”

She interrupted. “How many times must I say humans are unimportant. Now stop bothering me.”

The viewer went blank. A pet, an orange-hued Earth cat named Zippy, slinked toward Zantoinell across the polished turquoise floor of the luxurious bathroom. Even she’d been forced to admit, only to herself, that the room’s opulence was a bit much. “Zippy, why do my subjects grumble? My warriors have expanded my magnificent Realm throughout this entire limb of the galaxy and subjugated the other intelligent species. The protestors are all miserable ingrates.”

Zippy had nothing to say, of course, and Zantoinell continued. “Why can’t Zixdell stop blabbering about the humans? Their few planets and small fleet capitulated after two battles, although I’m told they demonstrated innovative tactics. They’re not even fully unified on Earth and have religious conflicts in a place called Palestine. They’re no match for us, and they know it. Earth has paid my levies on schedule for more than eighteen of their years, and you’d think everyone would be happy about all the inexpensive manufactured goods now produced there. Yet Zixdell keeps yammering about their activities in the job, equity, and debt security markets.”

She returned to savoring her bath, almost falling asleep. The loud and guttural sounds of humans speaking her language brought her to full consciousness. The door flew open and Zixdell walked in.

“Why are you intruding?” Zantoinell yelled, her feelers crossed in front of her. “Do you wish to spend several spins in a pain chamber?”

Zixdell appeared neither frightened by the threat nor apologetic about barging in. Rather, his feelers interlaced in the pose of resignation. “The humans, along with your warriors, have deposed you.”

He had neglected to use her honorific, but she decided he’d been threatened and chastised enough for the moment. “Ridiculous. Have whoever claims that dragged off and ended by dismemberment.”

“You no longer give orders. The humans own vast amounts of our equities and debt securities. In particular, government debt, of which there is much. They purchased it at good prices because our people happily disposed of what they consider nearly valueless government debt securities. The humans own your government and can financially ruin the Realm, and your warriors realize it.”

She wished she’d paid more attention to his efforts to explain financial subtleties in the past. However, such details had always seemed beneath her. Rather than ask for an elaboration, she decided to go to the key matter. “A human can’t replace me.”

“Zodemdell is the new Supreme One.”

“That limp-feeler cretin? All he does is bleat about the welfare of the people!”

“Zodemdell and the humans have agreed to exile you on Drelba.”

“If I refuse?”

She straightened her feelers forward in a truculent manner. Three palace warriors watching from the door came halfway into the room, followed by two humans. Zantoinell’s two hearts sank and her feelers went limp. The humans also carried weapons. One had a Zarkindell sonic pulser while the other held one of the unique projectile launchers favored by humans. Her warriors and the humans were indeed working together.

Zixdell’s feelers straightened toward the ceiling with exasperation. “If you refuse exile, the humans will ‘boot your derriere out the front door of the palace’, to use their words. They added a few far stronger phrases that I won’t repeat. Going out among your subjects is a terrible idea. They will be merciless. Drelba is your only possible choice.”

“Drelba? It’s the most unpleasant cold and dry habitable planet in the Realm. Why did they select it?” Her feelers waved in consternation.

“You answered your own question by saying unpleasant. Incidentally, I will join you.”

She had started to acknowledge his loyalty when she noticed the slight drumming of his feelers on his lower torso. He hadn’t been given a choice. Instead she said, “I can’t believe humans brought my Realm down with petty economic and mercantile concerns.”

The slight curling and uncurling of Zixdell’s feelers indicated I told you so, but he had the grace to not voice that sentiment. “Power comes in many shapes. Your warriors are but one. Capital is another. Earth has experienced many waves of economic euphoria followed by calamity, and the humans put their knowledge to work here.”

Zantoinell cowered in a corner of the pool, with her feelers flopping about like a tired old mop. “What will become of me?”

She could see Zixdell felt compassion as he said, “We will all leave so that you may prepare to depart for Drelba.” He then turned toward the door.


Lance J. Mushung
graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with an aerospace engineering degree. He worked for over 30 years with NASA contractors in Houston, Texas, performing engineering work on the Space Shuttle and its payloads. Now retired, he writes science fiction. His first appearance in our virtual pages was “Space Program” in SHOWCASE #5 and his most recent appearance was “Searching for Home” in SHOWCASE #13.


Monday, May 18, 2015

“This Old Mare” • by Molly N. Moss

“Somebody probably though they were funny, calling this dump a sea.”

Bentley and Nguyen were surrounded by salt-laced sand. They stood in an ancient seabed of a moon orbiting a gas giant, the red-and-orange planet dominating the dark sky.

“It’s tradition.” Nguyen shrugged in her bulky envirosuit. “Mare Tranquillitatis on the Moon, Mare Erythraeum on Mars…”

“This old mare ain’t what she used to be.” Bentley turned back to the disabled ATV. A minivacuum labored to clear sand from the wheel housing.

Weird stuff, this sand. Pale gray mottled white with salt, and waxy. As Nguyen stared, a trick of the light made the salt chunks seem to move, like maggots squirming.

“I’ll be glad to get out of this suit. I itch.” Bentley shut off the minivacuum, resealed the wheel housing, and tried the ignition. A harsh grinding gave way to a resounding snap. “Damn it!”

Curse Bentley for saying he itched. Now Nguyen itched too. Unable to scratch, she thumped her helmet.

Something shook loose from her hair…and squirmed on her shoulders.

Kneeling by the wheel housing again, Bentley banged a gloved hand on his helmet. “I swear, it’s like I’m getting eaten up by mosquitoes.”

Chunks of white salt and waxy pale gray sand coated their envirosuits. White salt clumps, squirming like maggots. A trick of the light.

Squirm. Itch. Squirm, squirm.

Nguyen’s heart froze. “BENTLEY?”

He turned to her.

Visible through his faceplate, chunky white parasites squirmed over Bentley’s face. One slithered into his nose as Nguyen screamed.


Molly N. Moss is the alias of a swashbuckling adventuress from the 43rd century, trapped in our 21st century by a tragic time travel accident. She doesn’t like to talk about that. As few of her futuristic skills are useful in our time, she now writes science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Feel free to follow her progress at

Sunday, May 17, 2015

“The Insufferable Triteness of Beings” • by Christopher Allenby

The open doorway to the Jade Tortoise Room loomed before me, and I wanted to be anywhere but here. A State Security checkpoint was set up immediately to the left of the doorway, so I presented my passport for the third time since registering at the hotel desk the previous evening. Inside, a huge banner on the wall behind the small elevated stage proclaimed what everyone here knew already: “WorldCon 100: LunaCon I.”

Naturally enough, the event had been dubbed “LoonieCon” as soon as the location had been announced. I’d referred to it as such myself in an editorial—one in which I criticized the WSFS for locating its convention at so exclusive a destination, no matter how appropriate—long before I had any notion that I would attend.

The meeting room was half-full at half an hour before the panel discussion was to begin. I headed to the stage, wending my way around banquet tables, shuffling my feet carefully to prevent bouncing in the unfamiliar gravity, and smiling and nodding at writers, artists, scholars, and fans—most of whom did not know me nor I them. More than once I felt for the name badge that was pinned to my lapel. The badge read “Eric Renshaw, Editor, Circumlocutions.” Once on the stage—after hopping gently up to its elevated surface without flailing or, worse, overshooting—I found a place card that matched my name badge and sat to watch the room fill.

The Chinese government had bid furiously against several other municipal and national governments to host this special one-hundredth WorldCon: the convention of the World Science Fiction Society. The United States had aggressively sought the contract for New York since the inaugural 1939 convention had been held there; the city wanted to make of it a centennial celebration. The Chinese, of course, had the better carrot: a convention hotel in the first lunar colony. My fellow science fiction enthusiasts couldn’t refuse such a romantic locale, and I hoped that sightseeing would make attendance at this panel discussion unattractive. I was tempted to forego the discussion myself, Gedanken-like, but had neither the nerve nor the personal clout to pull it off.

I was invited to the convention and specifically to this panel discussion because in last December’s issue of Circumlocutions I had published a controversial story by the pseudonymous Ruprecht J. Moore entitled “The Insufferable Triteness of Beings.” Since that publication, the story has been the subject of at least three critical essays and dozens of reviews in the literary journals and blogs. Because of the author’s anonymity, the WSFS had invited me as editor and stand-in on this panel, “Polemics of R. J. Moore’s ‘The Insufferable Triteness of Beings.’” I did not expect a pleasant experience.

With fifteen minutes until the discussion was to begin, the room was filling quickly. I could see no completely empty banquet tables, and the scowls directed at me from some of those I presumed to be academics were becoming worrisome. Did they think I was Moore? I tried to focus on the crowd as a whole, avoiding eye contact with individuals, and noticed several young, suspiciously fit hotel employees circulating among the tables and setting out pitchers of water for the attendees.

Dr. Alfred Milliard, a professor of Cultural Studies at King’s College, Cambridge, stepped onto the stage and extended his hand. “Thank you for coming, Mr. Renshaw. The society appreciates your willingness to make the trip.” Cultured British accent with a trace—imagined?—of condescension.

“It was my pleasure, Professor Milliard. I’m not sure I’ll be able to contribute much to the discussion, but the chance to see Selena-Beijing was something I couldn’t pass up. Thank you again for the invitation.”

“I hope you’ve reconsidered your position on the author’s anonymity?”

“I’m afraid not,” I said. “As I indicated, the author has been explicit about that. I’m contractually obliged to maintain confidentiality.”

“I see,” Milliard said. “You understand, of course, that we’re on Chinese territory here. Your confidentiality agreement has no basis in local law.”

“That’s really beside the point,” I said, feeling uncomfortable.

“Well, I hope that it remains so,” he said, adding, “for your sake.”

The lights then flickered once, the three other panelists converged on the table, and Dr. Milliard stood to welcome the attendees and introduce the panelists: me; Regina McGill, a writer whose fiction was highly regarded; Dr. David Rozhenko, Professor of Literature and Semiotics at UC Berkley; and Edith Hartwell, a professional literary critic who had written a blistering review of the “The Insufferable Triteness of Beings” that hit the Internet like a supernova and ramped up my circulation by nearly twenty percent, at least for the December issue.

Milliard said, “Welcome all. This is the panel discussion titled ‘Polemics of R. J. Moore’s “The Insufferable Triteness of Beings.”’ Those of you in the wrong room may now go find the session you wanted.” The crowd laughed politely.

“I know this story has evoked a great deal of discussion already,” Milliard went on, “but before we begin in earnest, I want to invite Mr. Renshaw to provide a little background—how he came by the story, why he happened to publish it, that sort of thing. Mr. Renshaw?”

And just that quickly, I was on the proverbial hot seat.

“The story came to the magazine through the usual electronic submission service,” I began, “submitted I think sometime in the late summer of last year. I remember that it was early Fall when I read it. I read it twice at that time and passed it to my assistant editor, Juanita Sanchez, for her opinion.”

From the audience, “Excuse me, Mr. Renshaw, but why did you want Ms Sanchez’s opinion? Don’t you make all decisions on what you buy?”

“I do make all final decisions, but it’s a team effort—not exactly consensus driven—but we work together to publish the stories we think are important. Anyway, she agreed that the story was unusual and that it probably should be published. Once the December issue was available, our editorial email in-boxes were inundated with inquiries about the story—more email than for any other story we’ve ever published, in fact.”

“But who is Ruprecht Moore?” Another voice from the audience.

“I can’t say,” I said. “Anyway, I contacted the author…”

“You can’t say, or you won’t say?” This voice was accusatory.

“Either. Both,” I said. “I contacted the author about the unusual correspondence and…”

“Mr. Renshaw,” called a new voice from the crowd, a woman’s voice, though I couldn’t locate her, “you must divulge the identity…”

Milliard cut in. “Please allow Mr. Renshaw to conclude his introductory remarks. We shall have opportunity for questions afterward. Thank you. Please go on, Mr. Renshaw.”

“I asked the author if he had any standard reply that I should make to the correspondents since they seemed greatly moved. He said, ‘No. It’s just a story.’ We began forwarding those emails to the author’s R.J. Moore email address…”

“But that address simply generates an automated response!” It was the woman’s voice again. She was now standing in the middle of the hall, four banquet tables back from the stage. She wore her iron gray hair in twin buns, in the fashion of a Star Wars character from more than sixty years ago.

“Really?” I asked, addressing her directly. “What is the automatic response?”

“It just thanks me for inquiring about the story and assures me that it means whatever I think it means. That’s infuriating.” She sat down, exasperated. “I want to know what he meant by it.”

There was a rumble of agreement from the audience. Angry agreement.

“Mr. Moore assures me,” I said, “that like Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery,’ it’s just a story. What you bring to the story dictates its meaning for you.”

“Come now,” said Edith Hartwell. “‘Just a story’ is no response at all when the story is clearly an attack on the egalitarian status quo, a subversive manifesto promoting capitalist-individualist philosophies.”

I nodded as sagely as I could. “It very well could be, Ms Hartwell. I’m not sure.”

“What led you to think it should be published?” This from Regina McGill, beside me at the table. She winked at me, barely concealing mirth.

“It disturbed me,” I said. “It disturbed the whole staff. Anything that disturbing ought to be published.”


I shrugged. “I’ve made no secret of favoring open discourse,” I said. “Anything as unsettling as that story deserved to be published because of its ability to elicit such strong emotional responses—to make us think, to question. No matter what its politics.”

Milliard said, “I find the story racist and elitist, Mr. Renshaw. If it is such, then publishing it could be considered a violation of the Jorgensen Act of 2022, as it encourages social disharmony.”

This caused me to bristle. “I don’t concede your second suggestion. I think the story would encourage reasoned discourse even if it were racist and elitist—which I don’t think it is. What makes you think the story is, first of all, racist?”

“What? Why, it’s obvious, Mr. Renshaw. All the immoral characters are black.” I noticed some murmurs from the crowd at that.

“Really? How do you know that?”

“They’re not black,” an angry voice shouted from the audience. “They’re Jews!”

I squinted in the direction from which the voice seemed to have come. “What makes you think so?”

The room quieted. Milliard looked perplexed as he paged quickly through the story on his tablet. “Jews?” he muttered.

“They are not Jews,” Rozhenko said authoritatively. “They’re Slavs. It’s obvious.”

The audience erupted in a babble of dissension. I wanted to get out of there and take the surface tour, to see the Armstrong Footprint and to stare up at the big blue wonder that was the Earth. I wanted to take the low-orbit shuttle to see the lunar surface sliding by, 7,000 miles of desert landscape with perfect contrast of sunlight and shadow.

“Why the zombies?” a loud-voiced man in the audience demanded. “Why zombies on Mars? And what about the shape of the Martians themselves? They’re described as walking cucumbers, for Christ’s sake!”

This raised the volume and tempo of the discussions at the tables. It was a cacophony. Rozhenko, Milliard, and Hartwell were heavily engrossed in a three-way argument that was being piped through the PA system, adding to the din. A man in the back of the hall shouted, “Why does Jane seduce the Martian? Why all those minutely detailed interspecies sex scenes?”

Rozhenko raised his voice. With the amplification, he was uncomfortably loud, momentarily drowning out the babble of the room. “The zombies obviously represent the entropy inherent in any complex political system, and the death of Jane at the hands of the Martians symbolizes the corruption of powerful people.”

“No,” said a woman at a table in front. “Jane’s body is used to fertilize the Martian crèche-fields. It alludes to mythological metaphors for the fertility cycle!”

Edith Hartwell, scowling, shouted back, “Then how do you account for the rape and bondage of Donald McDowell? It’s clearly anti-feminist satire.”

Regina McGill leaned over and switched off my microphone. She was smiling. “This is likely to go on for some time. Would you like to get some dinner?”

We stood together and shuffled all but unnoticed toward the doors in the back of the room. At every table in the hall, people were shouting their pet theories at each other, red-faced and sweating. Opening the doors and stepping into the corridor, I saw two Chinese State Security officers walking toward us from the main hotel lobby.

“Can you believe all that?” McGill asked.

“I wouldn’t have believed had I not seen.”

“One day, I want to write a story like…”


We halted. The Chinese officers had stopped before us. “You are Eric Renshaw,” one of them said in near-perfect English, “of Circumlocutions Science Fiction Magazine.”

It was not a question. I began sincerely to regret the invitation.


Christopher Allenby lives in North Carolina within sight of the Appalachians where he teaches college literature and composition. During the summer months, he dabbles in satire and other less insidious literary vices.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

“A Tradition is a Tradition” • by Laura Davy

t was the city’s tradition to put up a memorial wherever a hero died.
It was an even bigger tradition to have the owner of the land pay for the memorial. But the biggest tradition was to talk about the traditions.

Dotting the landscape were bronze statues of superheroes who had died fighting evil robots, plaques for firefighters who had heart attacks while rescuing kittens from trees, and a laminated paper memorial posted on Mr. Frampton’s door for his missing and presumed dead dog, who bravely barked every night at 2am to keep intruders away. Next door was a tasteful sculpture of Mr. Miller, a known thief and lock picker, who died from too many free drinks when he admitted at the pub one night that his cousin now owned an old dog that loved to bark at 2am every night.

The United Nations Building even had a large golden wall with a list of names for the heroes who died defending the building from supervillains, alien armies, soulless demons, and graffiti artists. Most people carefully didn’t comment on the fact that the wall left a generous amount of room at the bottom for more names.

Locals would give directions based on the memorials that were on the route. Bars were named after heroes who had died nearby. Memorial tours were conducted by budding entrepreneurs, and a few guides even gave the tour even after they received the money upfront.

It seemed like everyone loved the tradition.

So it came as a great surprise when the elderly Mrs. Bainbridge refused to buy a memorial for her garden, despite the fact that the superhero Limitless had died there just two days earlier.

When muttering, gossip, and even a tad bit of rioting didn’t solve the problem, people became curious about why someone would refuse to follow a beloved tradition. Finally a young reporter named Mr. Radley was sent to investigate.

He knocked on her door one sunny Sunday afternoon and Mrs. Bainbridge cheerfully invited him in for tea and answers.

“Mrs. Bainbridge, thank you for agreeing to chat with me,” Mr. Radley said as he settled down on the mostly empty sofa that smelled a little like brandy and a lot like mothballs.

“Please call me Bonnie,” Mrs. Bainbridge said. She brought out a teapot that had a knitted pot warmer covering it and poured three cups of tea.

“Thank you, Bonnie. If you didn’t know already, people are quite upset that you’re refusing to buy a memorial for Limitless.”

“They are?” Mrs. Bainbridge asked as she took cup of tea for herself and settled down in her comfy recliner. “That’s such a shame.”

“It is a shame,” Mr. Radley agreed. “So are you going to change your mind now and put one up?”

“Oh no, I think not.”

“Why not?” Mr. Radley asked, deciding to get to the heart of the matter.

“Well, it’s silly, isn’t it?”

Mr. Radley tried to process her words. This tradition, silly? There were memorials dating back hundreds of years. There were memorials of memorials. And it was silly? Well, he admitted to himself, perhaps a little. Still, it seemed a waste to end a tradition just because it was a touch silly.

“You could put a paper one up,” Mr. Radley argued. “Or a Post-it® note. That wouldn’t cost very much.”

“I’m not going to spend a single penny on a memorial,” Mrs. Bainbridge said as she sipped her tea. “You’re welcome to add a little something to my garden, if you must. There’s a patch by the broken birdfeeder that’s free, but I’m not going to buy anything for a memorial.”

“Please, Bonnie,” Mr. Radley said. “You could spend just a few pennies on a single note. If you want I could even ‘forget’ some money when I leave here, if you only promise to put something up.”

Mrs. Bainbridge pressed her lips together firmly and Mr. Radley had a flashback to his not-that-long-ago schoolboy days when a teacher caught him without his homework.

“It’s the principle of the thing,” Mrs. Bainbridge said firmly.

“Is it because Limitless was drunk when he flew into your yard and tried to save your fish from drowning in your pond?”

“At least the neighborhood cats had a nice seafood breakfast.”

“Or was it because he uprooted your garden when he decided that all plants were somehow related to Brussels sprouts and so all plants had to be destroyed?”

“I’ve found Brussels sprout casserole to be quite delicious. But no, that’s not why.”

“Or are you refusing,” Mr. Radley asked, “since he died because he was simply too drunk and too stupid to remember to keep breathing?”

“That’s not it.”

“Then why won’t you put up a memorial?”

“Because he’s still alive.”

Mrs. Bainbridge nodded towards the third person in the room, who was sitting on the sofa next to Mr. Radley. He was wearing a plush pink robe over a spandex superhero costume and drinking a cup of tea. He waved at the reporter and took a sip of his drink.

“He’s been here recovering from his hangover for the past two days,” Mrs. Bainbridge explained. “I’m not sure how those nasty rumors about his death have gotten around, but he’s been very pleasant company.”

“Oh,” Mr. Radley said. He studied the very much alive superhero and glanced at Mrs. Bainbridge, then looked down at his tea and thought for awhile. “Well, I still don’t see why you shouldn’t put up a memorial. I mean, at least for the fish.”


Laura Davy lives in California with her husband and two cats. She wrote her first story when she was in Elementary School and, despite the fact that the plot didn’t make sense, she kept on writing. You can learn more about her at

Friday, May 15, 2015

“We Do Not Speak of the Not Speaking” • by David Steffen


When Cassie stepped out of the general store, she saw a horseman galloping into town like he had the devil on his heels. “Now who do you suppose that is?” she asked.

Jake stopped his rocking chair, but said nothing.

“His business must be something mighty vital, to be carrying on like that.”

The young man sawed at the reins and pulled his horse to a halt in front of the store. His horse panted fiercely from the exertion of the run. “Someone’s coming! Someone’s coming!”

“Who’s coming?” Jake asked.

The young man didn’t seem to notice the question, staring intently back the way he’d come.

“I’m Cassie,” she offered. She’d seen him around, but had somehow never heard his name. The young man looked at her with an odd look to his eye, but still said nothing. “Wait a minute, it isn’t He Who Must Not Be Named, is it?” She’d heard all kinds of queer stories from her sister, who’d married into this dusty, odd little town. Cassie was only here for a few days to visit.

The young man exchanged a look with Jake. “Is she serious?” the young man asked.

“She’s a foreigner,” Jake said, as if it were an explanation.

“I’m not a foreigner. I live half a day’s ride from here with my pa. I’ve lived there my whole life. Ain’t exactly a different country.”

“Foreigner,” Jake said. “No insult meant by that, mind you. It’s just the way of things, round here. If you live in the town or a nearby farm, you’re a townie. Else, you’re a foreigner. Ain’t nothing more simple.”

“What does my being from out of town have to do with it?”

“Well,” Jake said, spitting a wad of tobacco on the stained porch, “if you weren’t a foreigner, you’d know who He Who Must Not Be Named is.”

“I do know! He was some evil wizard gunshooter who came to this town ages ago. Tore up half the town with exploding bullets before the Matron shot him in the head. My sister says he comes back every couple years, with glazed eyes and the scabbed bullet hole between his eyes, until the Matron sends him away again.”

Jake shook his head. “You’re thinking of He Whose Name Must Not Be Uttered.”

“Yeah, that’s what I said, wasn’t it?”

“No, you said He Who Must Not Be Named.”

Cassie threw up her arms in frustration. “Well, what’s the difference?”

“Different people entire,” the young man said.

“Well, who’s He Who Must Not Be Named, then?”

“That’s me,” the young man said, simply.

“Why can’t you be named?”

“The Matron made a decree when I was born. She was dabbling into fairy magic at the time, and heard that if a fairy hears your name, they have power over you. For a few years, nobody was allowed to name their babies, because no name meant no weakness. It got mighty confusing, I hear, until the Matron told the parents they could pick out names.”

“Why not you?”

“The Matron said it was because we may as well have one of us be safe, but I think she had a dislike toward my ma. I hear my ma talked sass at the Matron once or twice.”

“Hush,” Jake said. “Have some respect for the Matron. She’s twice the woman your ma ever was.”

“Leastways,” the young man said. “He Whose Name Must Not Be Uttered used to be known as He Who Must Not Be Named, but when I came around the Matron decided that name worked better for me.”

“Anyhow,” Cassie said. “Obviously it ain’t you you’re riding ahead of. Is it He Whose Name Must Not Be Uttered?”

The young man shook his head. “Nope. I wouldn’t be riding ahead for him. He’s not dangerous at all since his bullets ran out. He just charges through town, guns clicking. The only thing powerful about him now is his stink.”

“Who is it then?” Cassie asked. “She Who Shan’t Be Spoken Of?”

“How did you know about her?” Jake demanded, suddenly very intent.

“My sister told me, but she only knew that name. Why can’t anyone talk about her?” The atmosphere seemed suddenly oppressive, as if the sky was pushing down on her.

The young man shifted uncomfortably, glancing up at the sky. “I don’t rightly know. We ain’t been allowed to talk about her for so long, I don’t even know who she was, or what she did.”

“Why can’t you speak of her, Jake?” Cassie asked.

“Can’t talk about that neither,” Jake said. “Tain’t safe.” Jake darted a glance upward meaningfully.
Cassie looked up. A black storm cloud was building rapidly directly above the town, surrounded by blue skies. Lightning played fiercely in its depths.

“Mayhap we could talk about something else,” Jake said. He sounded like he was trying to sound casual, but his voice was very firm.

“Okay then. All right, I’ve got one more guess.” She looked up again. The clouds were already dissipating into the dry air. “Maybe it’s It Whose Existence Shall Under No Circumstances Be Credited As Plausible.”

“Children’s stories,” the young man said quickly.

“Yes, yes of course,” Jake said, with a glance over his shoulder. “Old wives’ tales.” The clouds dissipated as quickly as they had formed.

A cloud of dust was growing over the road in the direction the young man had come from, and he jumped to his feet. “There he is! There he is!”

They all watched as it drew closer. “The mail coach?” Cassie asked.

“Yes, the mail coach! I’m expecting a letter from my sweetheart.”

“Didn’t you just get a letter from her yesterday?” Jake asked.


“And another the day before?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Oh yeah,” Cassie said. “My sister was telling me about her. She Who Never Shuts Her Yapper, right?”

The young man looked at her coldly. “She has a name. Mary, which you’d know if you’d bothered to ask.” He turned to Jake. “She’s rude, even for a foreigner, ain’t she?”

Jake shrugged, and went on rocking.



David Steffen writes fiction and code.  He is the co-founder of the Submission Grinder, and the editor of Diabolical Plots which has begun publishing fiction in 2015.  His fiction has been published in many great venues including Escape Pod, Daily Science Fiction, and four times previously in Stupefying Stories publications.