Saturday, December 22, 2018

SHOWCASE is moving, too!

As part of the general restructuring of our web strategy, we’re delighted to report that as of January 1, SHOWCASE will be moving out of its mother’s basement and into a place of its own. The landlord isn’t quite finished with the repainting or the plumbing repairs yet, but the new site will be —which if you’re a long-time follower of Stupefying Stories is an address that may seem strangely familiar, for the very good reason that it is.

If you’re a new friend of Stupefying Stories, though, here are five outstanding and “seasonally appropriate” examples of the kinds of stories we’ve run in SHOWCASE in the past. Enjoy!

Friday, December 21, 2018


After nearly fourteen years of being hosted by blogspot, we’ve finally run into an insoluble problem. If you’ve come to this site via, none of the links to Amazon detail pages work anymore. If you’ve come to this site via, the links do work, but there are other problems, mostly having to do with how blogspot serves up web pages to mobile users, that effectively make the Amazon links functional but invisible to most users.

Given that the entire raison d'être for this web site is to encourage you to buy our books, this is, as you might imagine, something of a problem.

After doing a good deal of bouncing around between GoDaddy, Google, and Amazon, we’ve finally come to the conclusion that the best way to solve this problem is by getting off blogspot entirely and moving to a new web hosting service. Therefore, not this week, but soon, will have a completely new look and feel—and, we hope, proper functionality on mobile phones and tablets.

In the meantime, we’d like to remind you that STUPEFYING STORIES 22 is out on Amazon and ready to buy, in both Kindle and print editions, and it’s free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. These links should take you directly to your local incarnation of Amazon.

Kindle edition »
Print edition »

If all you get is a blank screen, though, please click your browser’s Back button, and then click this link and try again.


 Speaking of Kindle Unlimited...

Just a gentle reminder here that the following books are still free to KU subscribers, but will be dropping off KU and then released on other platforms at various times during the next 90 days.

Eminently Binge-Readable Novels by Henry Vogel 




We spent a small fortune on these audio books. Please buy ‘em!

THE FUGITIVE HEIR » Audible link
THE FUGITIVE PAIR »  Audible link


Saturday, December 15, 2018

SHOWCASE • “Market Futures,” by M. Ian Bell

Part Three

Previously, in Part One | Part Two
Two murder victims: a depraved old artist and a promising young schoolteacher. Plenty of people with a motive to kill the former but not the opportunity, but not one person with a grudge against the latter. Something must connect the two murders besides the unusual cause of death—but what?

Detective Ellouise Nielson has had some tough cases before, but this one is setting a new high bar...

And now, the chilling conclusion.

The slow drizzle of Tuesday night had erupted into a downpour by two o’clock, a steady thrumming on the roof, an irregular tapping of runoff on the air-conditioning unit in the living room window. Nielson slept fitfully and dreamed of the sodden and the drowned, an endless torrent that filled the streets and flooded the buildings. She awoke with the image of bodies floating, bloated and dead-eyed in the calm after the storm, and no one left to save them, to right the wrongs of their untimely ends.

And shaking and sweating and terrified in the darkness.

“Jesus Christ, Ellouise,” she said into the emptiness. “Get a hold of yourself.”

But as she showered, she could not help but feel that sensation of drowning, as if she were caught up in a storm that would see no end. Her conversation with Lamprey had left her optimistic, but in this grey, pre-dawn hour she felt more like she was losing control. She was suddenly convinced that what lay on the horizon was not an end to this nightmare but only more bodies.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Rampant Loon Press is now on twitter!

Who knew? You can now follow us on twitter, at

I really should pay more attention to what Eric is doing...

SHOWCASE • “Market Futures,” by M. Ian Bell

Part Two

Previously, in Part One
Two murder victims: a depraved old artist and a promising young schoolteacher. Plenty of people with motive to kill the former but not the opportunity, but not one person with a grudge against the latter. Something must connect the two murders besides the unusual cause of death—but what?

Detective Ellouise Nielson has had some tough cases before, but this one is setting a new high bar...

The detectives sat in the briefing room, elbows on the glass-topped table that doubled as dashboard. Sergeant Waterton tapped at the dash and pushed photos around into various combinations. He settled on the close-up of a young girl, dead in the eyes if such a thing could be rendered in oil paint, beside the driver’s license photo of Lisa Burrington. Anders watched as he tapped at the table.

“Tried that,” he said. “It’s in the report.”

“I read the report,” Waterton said. “Wanted to see it for myself.”

Dr. Sonia Ortiz was liaising as the precinct psychologist when the Bureau could spare her, and she entered the briefing room quietly. Nielson nodded as the door clicked shut behind her. Waterton kept his eyes on the photos and Anders kept his eyes on Waterton. After a moment, Ortiz cleared her throat.

“If you are considering a link between Friedemann’s paintings and the second victim, I might note that most of Friedemann’s women were dark-haired.”

Waterton turned back to the dashboard, nodding his head. He tapped at the menu and pulled up several more photos—the victims in life and in death—dates, times, locations, specimen analysis. The M.E.’s report and a map of the city highlighting residences and crime scenes.

“It would also be unusual,” Ortiz continued, “for the subjects of Friedemann’s paintings to be a possible connection to Ms. Burrington.”

Nielson leaned back in her chair. “Why do you say?”

Friday, December 7, 2018

STUPEFYING STORIES 22 • It’s really real!

The proof copy finally arrived last night. It looks GOOD!

Cover finish is nice and glossy, cover art printing is sharp and clear, colors are rendered correctly, binding and trim are perfect, and the interior text is clean and crisp. Even the interior illos turned out well—except for Mark Keigley’s author’s photo, but that was weird to begin with. But in sum, the finished book LOOKS REALLY GOOD! I even like the color and texture of the paper.

Whew. That’s a relief.

Now if only Amazon would link the listings for the print and Kindle editions. We’re working on that. 

As for those of you wondering why all the angst over this—especially you, Henry, and “Why not just use Vellum?”—it has to do with the crispness and clarity of the text on the page. I have a long background in print, going back to the days of actually casting lead type using a Linotype machine, and I can see the difference between 150 dpi and 300 dpi print. I find the soft, very slightly fuzzy appearance of most desktop publishing output to be fatiguing to read for long periods. By using the software and drivers I chose, I can get lossless PDF output at 600 dpi, and as nice a package as Vellum is, it seems no one makes a lossless PDF printer driver for Mac anymore.

Yeah, call me a perfectionist. Sometimes it's a virtue.

Going forward, the plan is to release all books simultaneously in print and ebook formats—though given the time-lag involved in getting Amazon to list print books, we’re going to have to re-juggle our book release schedule. We’ll also be putting our backlist out in print, going back to Stupefying Stories 15. Anything older than that is out-of-contract and out-of-print, though.

Thursday, December 6, 2018


We’re still waiting for the proof copy we ordered to show up.

We’ll be sending out contributor’s copies just as soon as we’ve confirmed that the print quality is acceptable. In the meantime, while we’re waiting, we’d like to take this opportunity to remind you once again that SS#22 is out on Amazon and ready to buy. These links should take you directly to your local incarnation of Amazon.

Kindle edition »
Paperback »

Kindle Unlimited Subscribers: SS#22 will be free on KU through the end of February, 2019, after which we will be pulling it from KU and releasing it on Nook, iTunes, and as many other ebook platforms as we have access to at that time.

Speaking of Kindle Unlimited...

Just a gentle reminder here that the following books are still free to KU subscribers, but will be dropping off KU and then released on other platforms at various times during the next 90 days.


Eminently Binge-Readable Novels by Henry Vogel  





We spent a small fortune on these audio books. Please buy ‘em!

THE FUGITIVE HEIR » Audible link
THE FUGITIVE PAIR »  Audible link

A few observations about the print editions

We’ve worked with a number of POD printers and short-run print shops over the years: most were either too expensive, too haphazard when it came to the quality of the finished product, or both. We did THE RECOGNITION RUN series through IngramSpark Lightning Source, and while they delivered a good-quality book, our up-front costs were high.

We’ve done most of the rest of our print editions through CreateSpace, and have generally been happy with the results. Unfortunately, Amazon has shut down CreateSpace, and is pushing us to migrate all our books to Kindle Direct. STUPEFYING STORIES 22 is the first book that we’ve done through Kindle Direct, hence our hesitancy about the quality. One of the really good things about CreateSpace was that they let us order production-quality books before the book went live on Amazon, so that we could proof the thing and get contributor’s copies into the hands of authors well before the release date. Kindle Direct does not let us do that, hence the long lag time between when the book goes live on Amazon and when we can send contributor’s copies.

Our search for a good, reliable short-run print shop continues...

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Status Update 12/05/2018

Well, that explains part of the problem. The reason sales have been so soft lately may be because the Amazon links in the right column have quit working. Apparently Google and Amazon aren’t playing well together (again), or perhaps it’s an undocumented feature of the latest Firefox update.

In any case, the text links at the top of the right column work, but the cover image links don’t. If you right-click on a cover image, you’ll go the Amazon listing for the book, but if you just click on the cover image in the normal fashion, you’ll go straight to Blank Screen Hell—unless you also happen to be logged into some Google app, e.g., gmail, at the same time.

I do so enjoy playing unpaid QA analyst.

Speaking of QA analysts, Henry Vogel is now up to chapter 41 in THE WOLFLING WAR.  If you aren’t following this work-in-progress, this is a great time to start.
THE WOLFLING WAR, by Henry Vogel

The fate of mankind will rest in the hands of a young man who doesn’t understand what it means to be human and a young woman who doesn’t understand what it means to be young. Their adventure begins now...

Bestselling SF novelist Henry Vogel is posting the rough draft of his latest novel online while he’s writing it. If you’ve ever wanted to peek over the shoulder of an author at work and offer comments and advice on the book as it’s being written, here’s your chance. The author is listening!

Start here: Chapter 1
Latest installment: Chapter 41

Follow Henry Vogel’s author page on Amazon!

P.S. Because so many have asked: no, that’s not the actual cover art for The Wolfling War. That’s a dummy cover Henry whipped up using The Pulp-O-Mizer. Cool as heck, but not licensable for use as an actual book cover. Sigh.

Coming Saturday on SHOWCASE:
“Market Futures,” by M. Ian Bell

(Chapter 2)

A murdered man. An impossibly clean crime scene. Plenty of people with a motive to be the killer, but none with the opportunity, and no one leaves behind a crime scene that devoid of clues. Detective Ellouise Nielson has had some tough cases before, but this one might just set the record...

“Market Futures,” a new futurecrime serial by M. Ian Bell, running Saturdays on SHOWCASE. Catch it!

Finally, a quick note re contracts: We’ve just finished an audit of our 2018 submissions and contracts files, and found a few stories that we accepted for publication and then misfiled, with the result being that the final contracts were not sent. We should have this all sorted out by EOB today. If you’ve received an acceptance letter from us but not a signable contract, please check your spam or junk mail folders for a message from Adobe Sign

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Talking Shop

Op-ed • "What Is Writer Success?" By Eric Dontigney 

The whole notion of success as a writer is, at best, nebulous. What does writing success even look like? It’s not as simple as you might think.

In scenario A, we’ve got a guy you’ve never heard of with a full-time job writing marketing copy for consumer products.  

In scenario B, we’ve got J.K. Rowling. She’s sold millions of copies of the Harry Potter books and made buckets of cash. Now, she’s basically licensing her Potter brand to Hollywood and making more buckets of cash.

Which one of those scenarios equals writer success? Spoiler: they are both writer success stories.

If you’ve never done it before, writing excellent marketing copy for products is hard work. It’s a lot harder than it looks on the outside. What makes scenario A one kind of success story is that the guy is working full-time as a writer.

Most novelists never pull that off. Once you remove the names of the people on bestseller lists, you’re dealing almost entirely with people who write part-time. You can find people working in all kinds of other professions publishing novels. A lot of college professors and lawyers work part-time as writers.

So why is it that we only view people like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, or – God help us – Jackie Collins as successful writers? It’s because we’ve got a warped view of what represents success. Those writers aren’t just successful. They’re uber-successful or mega-successful in the very strict sense that they move a lot of copies and make a lot of money.

Yes, that is one standard-issue view of success. It’s not necessarily a healthy one because almost no one achieves it, but it’s unfortunately common.

Another standard-issue view of success deployed by writers of “serious literature” is critical acclaim. By that view, you’re a success if you get nominated for or win the right literary prizes and get heralded by the right critics.

Yet another view of success is simply “breaking in.” On this view, getting published in a professional magazine, getting published by a traditional publisher, or getting inducted into a professional organization (such as SFWA, HWA, RWA) represents success. You’ve been acknowledged by your peers as worthy.

These are all common views of what constitutes writer success. They all share one common flaw. They have almost nothing to do with you. Sure, every writer wants to be a wildly bestselling author because who doesn’t want buckets of money. But, that’s the writer fantasy. It’s only tangentially related to success.

Real writer success is something you define for yourself. Writer success for you might be finishing the first draft of that novel you’ve been working on for ten years. It might be hitting your target word count for 6 straight months. It might also be selling 5 million copies of that YA dystopian trilogy in spite of the fact that no one likes them anymore.

What makes it meaningful is that the goal stems from something that matters to you. The minute you start basing your notion of success on someone else’s definition is the minute success become a candy-coated shell filled with nothing. It will never create any lasting emotional resonance, no matter how much you “succeed” in terms of that definition.

So, before you start thinking that you’re a failure as a writer, ask yourself about the definition of success you use. Is it really consistent with what you value or is it a definition you picked up from someone else? If it’s the latter, take some time to figure out what success would really look like for you. You’ll be a lot happier.


Eric Dontigney is the author of the Samuel Branch urban fantasy series and the short story collection, Contingency Jones: The Complete Season One.  Raised in Western New York, he currently resides near Dayton, OH. You can find him haunting obscure sections of libraries, in Chinese restaurants or occasionally at

Eric’s last appearance in our pages was “Lenses,” in Stupefying Stories #21, and later this year we’ll be releasing his paranormal mystery novel, The Midnight Ground. Watch for it! 


Monday, December 3, 2018


Okay, it took a titch longer than expected, but Stupefying Stories 22 is available now in trade paperback! The links aren’t fully cross-connected yet—Amazon isn’t linking the paperback edition sales page to the Kindle edition sales page and sales ranking and all that—but...

Hallelujah! We actually got the book out!

STUPEFYING STORIES 22: Now available in trade paperback at these links!

» AMAZON.DE (German)
» AMAZON.FR (France)
» AMAZON.ES (Spain)
» AMAZON.IT (Italy)
» AMAZON.CO.JP (Japan)

I’m not sure why it’s not on Amazon’s Australian or Canadian sites. We’ll post more information when we have it.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

OP-ED: “In Loving Memory of Cars,” by Bruce Bethke

[Nota bene: originally published June 3, 2008. It’s reappearance now is another case of “Blame Guy Stewart.” I’ll explain why in the comments.]
This column is in memory of cars.

No, not the Gary Numan song. I started out today to write a think-piece about cars, and specifically about a certain fondly-remembered two-tone pink 1956 DeSoto Fireflite.

My writing process sometimes cross-pollinates in strange ways, though. I was out at the target range Sunday afternoon, trying out a new load, when a trick of the late afternoon sunlight made it apparent how much smoke each shot generated. Some of it was powder smoke; most of it was lubricant smoke; but given that I was shooting plain-base cast-lead bullets, a tiny but disturbing amount of it was unquestionably vaporized lead.

Nasty stuff, lead. Highly toxic. Very persistent. Gifted with a disturbing affinity for the myelin sheaths of vertebrate neurons. We call it “lead poisoning,” but the symptoms of lead-related neurotoxicity are much uglier than mere poisoning. Even at very low levels, lead in the bloodstream has a proven causal link to low intelligence, anti-social behavior, and a tendency to commit violence. At higher levels it causes impaired vision, coordination and balance problems, speech impairment and memory loss, and ultimately, paranoia, violent insanity, and death.

Short of intravenous injection, the fastest and most effective way to get a substance into your bloodstream is by vaporizing and inhaling it. Which, if you’re wondering where I’m going with this, is why I started out thinking about a 1956 DeSoto Fireflite, and ended up thinking about the fuel that 341-cubic-inch hemi V-8 ran on: leaded gasoline.

This is a story that needs to be told, and told again, because anyone born after 1970 doesn’t know it and anyone older has probably forgotten it. Fortunately, thanks to the Internet, it’s a lot easier to tell the story these days. When I first wrote about this subject, 15-plus years ago, [nb: 25 years, now] authoritative sources were hard to find.

Today, all I need to do is go to Google, type in tetraethyl, and voila! Sources out the wazoo! So many sources, in fact, that I probably don’t really need to tell this story after all; I could just point you to a list of other sites that have already told the tale. Assuming you don’t have the time to do primary-source research yourself, though...

In highly condensed form, it goes like this. The concept of “peak oil” is nothing new. In the 1920s, the finest minds in the scientific community were absolutely certain we were going to run out of recoverable crude oil very soon, by 1950 at the latest. Accordingly a great deal effort was put into the search for alternative automotive fuels, most notably those based on alcohol. Henry Ford in particular put a lot of time and money into agricultural projects intended to produce biologically-derived alternative fuels. (He also invested in a project to turn his factory’s considerable amounts of hardwood waste into a safe and easily handled heating and cooking fuel, which is something to consider the next time you light up those Kingsford briquets.)

At the same time, General Motors was having an engineering problem. Their car and truck engines just plain didn’t run well on ordinary gasoline. They were prone to preignition—“knock,” in layman’s terms—and while the problem could be (and eventually was) solved by improved engineering or better-quality fuels, in the 1920s they opted for a cheaper solution: specifically, they sought some magic ingredient that could be added to ordinary gasoline to boost its octane rating. This, it was hoped, would both mitigate GM’s engine design flaws and stretch the (believed to be) dwindling supplies of gasoline, as it would allow lower grades of fuel to be used in cars and trucks.

The answer to GM’s problem was not actually a mystery. It was already well-known that you could increase the octane rating of gasoline either by improving the refining process, as Sunoco was already doing, or by using non-toxic additives such as alcohol or iron carbonyl. However, in the final analysis GM, working with Standard Oil, settled on adding tetraethyl lead (TEL) to gasoline, for two very important reasons:

1. It was slightly cheaper than alcohol, and

2. Unlike iron carbonyl, GM owned the patent on TEL.

The redefinition then of “regular” gasoline to be low-grade gasoline plus “Ethyl,” (a much less frightening term than tetraethyl lead, and trademarkable, to boot), was not without its problems. The health hazards of lead exposure have been known for millennia, and once leaded gasoline went into volume production, Standard Oil refinery workers began going insane and dying in disturbing numbers. In 1925 the Surgeon General banned the manufacture and sale of leaded gasoline in the U.S. while a blue-ribbon panel of experts was convened to investigate the issue, but in 1926 this panel, which consisted of a bevy of industry experts and just one M.D., returned a report declaring that TEL was safe and there was no reason to continue the ban, therefore sales of leaded gasoline could resume. Whereupon the Ethyl Corporation—the wholly owned subsidiary of GM that owned the patent—the DuPont Corporation—which actually manufactured TEL—and Standard Oil—which blended, distributed, and sold the resulting leaded gasoline—all became very, very, very rich.

Sad to say, though, the story does not end on this happy note. As any cast-bullet shooter knows, vaporized lead and lead oxides have a tendency to condense very quickly, which is what makes gun barrels such a chore to clean after you’ve been shooting cast bullets. Likewise, the same thing happens inside automotive engines, with potentially catastrophic results. Therefore, to keep cylinders and valves from soldering themselves shut and engines from seizing up, the makers of leaded gasoline eventually wound up adding ethylene dibromide and ethylene dichloride to the mix, so that automotive internal combustion produced the highly volatile compounds lead bromide and lead chloride, which could be depended upon to leave the engine in the exhaust gas stream and go off to join that great smoggy mass in the sky, or at least to condense out after they were safely clear of the tailpipe. And at long last, there was much rejoicing in Detroit, and happy motoring in the streets.

And all over America, because of the use of leaded gasoline, the bloodstream lead levels of inner city dwellers began to rise...

Devout Libertarians like to say that left to its own devices, the invisible hand of the free market will take care of everything, including environmental problems. I use this story to illustrate the point that sometimes the invisible hand is holding an invisible gun, and it’s pointed right at your head. What finally ended the use of TEL in common gasoline was not the force of the free market—Ford had championed the use of non-toxic lead alternatives for years, and failed—but the much-maligned Environmental Protection Agency, which in the 1970s, after years of litigation that was fought tooth-and-nail every step of the way by the Ethyl Corporation (a wholly owned subsidiary of GM, remember?), finally got leaded gasoline mostly banned in the United States.

Notice that I said “mostly.” Leaded gasoline is still available for use in piston-engined aircraft and as high-octane automotive racing fuel. It’s also still manufactured and sold in many countries, including Yemen, North Korea, parts of Northwest Africa, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iraq, Jordan, and the Palestinian territories.

So, let’s review. Inhaling vaporized lead has been proven to cause stupidity, insanity, and violence. And for 50 years, America’s densely populated urban centers were saturated in lead combustion by-products why?

Now tell me again about the wisdom of Charles E. Wilson, and why U.S. taxpayers should step in now to save GM from bankruptcy...

Saturday, December 1, 2018

SHOWCASE • “Market Futures,” by M. Ian Bell

—Part One—

Nielson stepped into the doorway beneath the light of ten carefully positioned mag-lamps. The intensity drove spikes of pain into her eyes, but it came too with a sense of relief. A well-lit scene with the astringent taste of iron in the air. She was powerless against the loss of sleep or the headaches that followed, but at the crime scene she could reestablish control.

The body was sprawled on the carpet with a blossom of crimson congealing around the head. Pale skin made paler by contrast. Bathrobe open revealing a specimen bloated by decades of poor dietary choices. Fat, bald, and ugly as hell. Nielson stepped closer to get a better look at the face. Hard to tell what he looked like before his skull was completely caved in.

Two tommies worked on the dead man silently. Light reflecting off their polished chrome craniums.

“So who’s the vic?” she asked.

The automaton regarded Nielson with vacant eyes. Pools of black fitted with reflective glass lenses. She could almost hear the processors whirring behind them.

“Klaus Friedemann,” it said finally, voice grating and monotonous. “Citizen. Born 22 November 2031.”

Nielson stuck a cigarette between her lips and patted herself down for a lighter, taking slow steps around the room and training her eyes on everything in sight. Leather sofa. Overturned coffee table. A paperback novel left open on the floor, as if it had been thrown there, or dropped. She bent to pick it up, noticing the umlauts first.

“You boys dust yet?”

“The dusting is complete.”

She picked up the book and thumbed through it, bewildered.

“Translate,” she said, holding it up to the tommies. Both heads swiveled on noiseless rotors and they sang out in chorus.

Adventures in the Great Forest, by Gunter Horstead.”

She dropped the book and saw the cheap lighter on the side table. Moved toward it immediately. Fired the cigarette tip and pulled deeply.

“Agent Nielson. Protocol forbids smoking at a crime scene,” came the fatherly reprimand.

“Agent Nielson writes her own protocol,” Anders said, stepping in from the hallway. The tommies exchanged a long glance, sharing some wireless tidbit, no doubt. Can you believe these meat-sacs? Or: How will we maintain the atomic integrity of the premises? Or: 1001111011001.

And then they were on their feet, bodies turning with unnerving precision at the hips and shoulders. Nielson let out another plume of smoke and waited, trying to expect the unexpected. But there were no more reprimands forthcoming. No evasive maneuvers.

“Analysis complete,” said the tommy. “Victim died instantly of cranial collapse at 0200 hours. DNA on premises belongs to Mr. Klaus Friedemann. Fibers on victim consistent with victim’s attire. No foreign substances present. Fingerprints on premises belong to Mr. Klaus Friedemann and Agent Ellouise Nielson.”

Anders let out a snort. Nielson shrugged her shoulders.

The tommies moved past them and towards two others stationed in the hallway to hold silent communion with them. Then all four moved away.

“Wait!” Nielson called after them. They stopped and spun. “What’s the murder weapon?”

The tommy angled its head, calling up information and looking too much like a confused dog trying to parse out the most basic of commands. It sent a shiver up Nielson’s spine.

“Metallic, cylindrical. At least eight inches long with a circumference of four inches.”

And then they turned again and disappeared from the hallway.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Coming Attractions (& Such)

Tomorrow on SHOWCASE:
“Market Futures,” by M. Ian Bell

A murdered man. An impossibly clean crime scene. Plenty of people with a motive to be the killer, but none with the opportunity, and no one leaves behind a crime scene that devoid of clues. Detective Ellouise Nielson has had some tough cases before, but this one might just set the record...

“Market Futures,” a new futurecrime serial by M. Ian Bell, begins tomorrow morning on SHOWCASE. Catch it!

THE WOLFLING WAR, by Henry Vogel

The fate of mankind will rest in the hands of a young man who doesn’t understand what it means to be human and a young woman who doesn’t understand what it means to be young. Their adventure begins now...

Bestselling SF novelist Henry Vogel is posting the rough draft of his latest novel online while he’s writing it. If you’ve ever wanted to peek over the shoulder of an author at work and offer comments and advice on the book as it’s being written, here’s your chance. The author is listening!

Start here: Chapter 1
 Latest installment: Chapter 39

About that bestselling thing...

Seriously: bestselling. We’ve sold thousands of copies of Vogel’s Matt & Michelle novels. However, we’re aware that some of you out there have not yet been introduced to this series, so...


Also available in audio book and trade paperback formats. Makes a great Christmas gift, or binge-read it yourself. If you already have the first book, the second and third books are waiting for you. Buy all three right now!

Releasing next week:

Sorry, we don’t have an exact release date just yet. We’ll have that in another day or two. In the meantime, the Kindle edition is available now, and for the next 90 days, it will also be free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

If all goes according to plan, we should be releasing SS#23 simultaneously in ebook and print formats on December 17. Watch for it!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

On Writing: “After ‘Oath,’” by Guy Stewart

Worlds are supposed to be long-lasting, apparently eternal to those that live on them and even in fact whirling around their stars for a long, long time. This is what I’ve always wanted to do when writing science fiction—create long-lasting worlds so that I could return to them again and again.

Last Saturday’s SHOWCASE story, “Oath”, was the first story to grow from a pair of seeds planted by Bruce Bethke and Henry Vogel. Though “Oath” wasn’t the title then, it eventually became a convoluted intertwining of multiple ideas, characters, and fictional events. It’s not the same story I originally wrote eight years ago.

The whole mess started with Henry Vogel’s Friday Challenge in March of 2010: “Strange Bot In A Strange Land.”
...robots looks and feel entirely human and can do anything physical a human can do... at 18, each person on earth is issued their own companion robot... Each person effectively marries the bot... there are also the Wild Lands... [where]wild humans live almost like animals... a Life Companion and its human have accidentally wandered... outside of the network the Central Computer uses to modify and update all Life Companions…”
Then somehow, that first challenge got tangled up with Bruce Bethke’s March 2011 Challenge, “Seriously: About The Post-Petroleum Future.”
The idea for this Challenge started to come to me as I was driving across Wisconsin a few weeks ago and noting the typically poor condition of the highway surface after a few months of hard winter. Potholes, cracks, frost-heaves, more potholes [...]

Most near-future post-Apocalyptic stories seem to assume the roads and bridges are still there—maybe with a few picturesque weeds growing up out of the cracks, but basically still there—and therefore travelers are not seriously hampered by the terrain. This must be a California idea. (You know, one of those ideas that makes sense only if you live in Southern California?) Here in the Great White North, without constant maintenance, our roads would revert to gravel in just a few winters, even without semi-trailer traffic. [...]

As for the prospects for having working motor vehicles in this post-Apocalyptic future; don't even get me started. Most modern gasoline formulations turn into a sort of gummy varnish if left standing too long, [...].

But then it struck me: why does it have to be post-Apocalyptic? The post-Apocalyptic story line, I think, indicates a general failure on the part of the writer's imagination. Stories about people grubbing for survival in the ruins of our modern technological civilization are in a sense easy to write: all you have to do is imagine the cast and landscape from a Road Warrior movie, add a hero or heroine, stir briskly, and cut to the chases and fight scenes [...]

From the collision of these two challenges, I wrote “Oath” as my entry to a contest I lost—for very good reasons. After that, I wrote “Technopred” and the Life Companions moved off stage, but the Wilds, the wild Humans, the maglevs connecting giant urban areas called Vertical Villages remained. After those two stories, I started to lay a deeper foundation.

I had to understand the forces that had created the situation. The Wilds came about as a result of the coerced relocation of most of the world’s population to the Villages—which is already happening in 2018 ( I skip the messy parts—responses to shortages and government mismanagement (see this:, but as long as we insist on increasing our population, and the young are already moving into the cities, so I just accelerate it.

In my future, we switch power generation to solar where it works, wind where it works, geothermal where it works, water where it works—and then sharpen their efficiencies (and given one small leap in technology: energy storage, i.e. BATTERIES. We need to do something entirely different with that…). We also need to lose our fear of nuclear power—and I have no magic wand to make that happen, but given shortages, people will accept many things that they originally protested. We once embraced it as “the future,” now we run from it like Satan incarnate.

In my future, there are 20,000 Vertical Villages, each holding a half-million people in towers that are built by the release of AI machines sent to deconstruct and recycle every village, town, and city identified as unneeded. Monorails built to run on CHEAPALIN (more about that in a moment) ship recycled materials to the construction sites where Human and robots work side-by-side, creating a visible, clear, intentional link between technology and blue collar workers, a critical link to build and encourage. Like typical urban dwellers, I made the inhabitants of the Villages oblivious to the Wilds and the lands supporting them—though not in active ignorance, but because they no longer think of where their “products” comes from.

I also created a living, post-petroleum genetic amalgam called CHEAPALIN, a patchwork of the DNA of nine organisms. “…the road organism—a bioengineered DNA patchwork of cellulose-producing, heme, eel, ameba, peat moss, alfalfa, leukocytes, iron incorporated in a molecule and a mix of Notothenioidei and Noctilucan cells...acronym CHEAPALIN...[m]odified electric eel cells created current passing through hair-fine iron filaments deposited in the road. A thick black peat pad of iron-rich heme attached to the underside of any car...charged a set of batteries. A magnetic field generated as cars moved over the filaments got read by a microchip implanted in the car’s pad, matching the road’s magnetic field creating a maglev effect. A variety of chlorophyll and alfalfa genes allowed roots growing under the road organism to return nitrogen to the soil, pull up micronutrients and conduct photosynthesis. A semi-transparent, thick cellulose skin protected the whole thing while remaining flexible. A few Notothenioidei genes kept cellular fluids from freezing during brutal winter weather. Noctilucan genes made it glow at night when disturbed. Leukocytes digested roadkill, leaves, branches and old pizza boxes.”

The world that was born out of a post-petroleum future and increasing integration of robots with Humans, has finally grown big enough to contain “Oath” (first published in STUPEFYING STORIES, August 2013), spawning “Technopred” (AURORA WOLF, May 2013), “Invoking Fire” (PERIHELION, June 2013), and the deep past of the Vertical Village universe, “The Last Mayan Aristocrat” (ANALOG, January/February 2017), and actually “Teaching Women to Fly” (STUPEFYING STORIES, September 2010) which is also part of the universe that springs from the Vertical Villages.

There are another six stories that I’ve pretty much set aside; a novel that, now that I’ve discovered its main flaw, I can repair —OUT OF THE DEBTOR STARS—and a YA novel that, while it doesn’t specifically mention the Villages, does take place just after the Villages are complete and Humanity, flush with “saving the planet,” finally turns to really, really exploring the Solar System. You might see it here in 2019 as a serial. There are three stories currently in submission that have grown out of these two Friday Challenges.

Years ago, I made a promise to myself that I would resist the urge to create disposable worlds where I’d write a single story to make a point, then abandon it. Seeded by “Strange Bot in a Strange Land” and crossing in “Seriously: About The Post-Petroleum Future” by Henry Vogel and Bruce Bethke, the progeny have become a complex, rich, and deep world I have started to feel very comfortable in. I expect there are many more stories in this place and for that especially, I thank Bruce and Henry.

In fact, one in submission to Trevor Quachri at ANALOG Science Fiction & Fact, is perhaps the best story I have ever written. I love it because it mixes CHEAPALIN with the time just as rural and suburban areas are being coerced into the Vertical Villages. A bit of roadway escapes a test site and may cause an international incident. The government drafts an online veterinarian consultant in, “Road Veterinarian.” I still like the story title and the idea!

If I sell many more stories and the novels, I may have to arrange for a kickback to Henry and Bruce…

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 stories in ANALOG, AOIFE'S KISS, STUPEFYING STORIES, AETHER AGE, AURORA WOLF, CRICKET MAGAZINE, and PERIHELION, and a book that’s been available since 1997. In his spare time he keeps animals, a house, and loves to bike and camp. Guy has been a member of the Stupefying Stories crew since before the beginning, and his Amazon page is here:  

If you enjoyed this story, you might also enjoy “Bogfather,” which appeared in SHOWCASE just about a year ago, or “Teaching Women to Fly,” which appeared in the very first print-only issue of Stupefying Stories

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Status Update • 11/28/2018

We have a lot of new developments to report, so I’m going to put on my serious business face and cut right to the chase.

» Print Editions: I’m delighted to report that we’ve finally solved the problem of how to generate ebooks and print books from common source files. (And no, Henry, the solution was not, “Buy a Mac.”) Ergo, next week we’ll be releasing Stupefying Stories 22 in trade paperback format, and by the end of December we should have our entire current catalog out in print. If you’re an author with a story in one of the books listed in the right column, we’ll contact you when your book is ready, to confirm your mailing address and then send you your contributor’s copies. If you missed last Monday’s free ebook promotion, be advised that going forward, we’ll be making the Kindle editions free—with the purchase of a print copy. We’ll see how that works out.

» HART’S WAR: If you like Henry Vogel’s Scout’s Honor series, you owe it to yourself to check out HART’S WAR, which is in development editing right now. If you’ve ever wanted to get a look at a novel before it’s released and give the author your personal feedback, here’s your opportunity, as Henry has posted the entire rough draft on his web site. Check it out!

» THE WOLFLING WAR: Since I last mentioned it, Henry has posted two more chapters of his new novel-in-progress, THE WOLFLING WAR, on his web site. If you’ve ever wanted to influence the course of a novel while the author was writing it, you really need to check out THE WOLFLING WAR. The author is listening!

» THE MIDNIGHT GROUND: We’re still looking for a few more beta readers willing to read Eric Dontigney’s upcoming novel, The Midnight Ground. If this jacket blurb interests you and you have time to read and comment on an ARC, email me at
“As middleman to the magical community at large, Adrian Hartworth never sticks around. His nomadic lifestyle keeps him a step ahead of friends, enemies, and all too often, law enforcement. Then he saves Abby Simmons and her grandfather, only to find himself unofficially adopted into their unlucky family. Years of experience tell him that the cancer killing Abby is anything but natural. His instincts say flee.

“Driven by the guilt of a past filled with bad choices, Hartworth delves into Abby’s misfortunes and the town’s dark past. What he discovers lands him at the heart of a century-old battle against an evil he knows he cannot defeat. The man who never sticks around will face a choice: take a stand against a power that will crush him, or a leave a young girl to die and damn thousands in the process.”
» Kindle Unlimited and Other Platforms: A couple of years back we decided to pull our ebooks off all the other non-Kindle platforms, as dealing with the Apple iTunes store, Barnes & Noble, etc., was a royal pain in  the @$$ and to be blunt, a good week’s sales on all the other platforms combined was a slow day on Amazon. Besides, signing up for Kindle Unlimited gave us access to a host of promotional opportunities that Amazon would provide only if we gave Amazon exclusive rights.

Things change. The tracking data suggests that while Kindle Unlimited still helps us sell novels (although not as well as it once did), it actually inhibits sales of Stupefying Stories. Just as people don’t buy albums anymore but rather download individual songs, KU users appear to be cherry-picking just the stories they want to read and ignoring the rest of the issue. This has resulted in a drastic drop in unit sales, and given that our business model is built on selling entire issues, not just a few pages here and there...

Ergo, as books come up for renewal, we’ll be pulling them from Kindle Unlimited and releasing them on other platforms. It’s going to take at least three months to do this, as Amazon requires a 90-day lock on exclusive rights, but by next April we should have our entire catalog out on Kobo, Nook, iTunes, Google Play, and whatever else seems like a good idea.

» Finally, on the Cult of Personality front: While checking the Stupefying Stories 22 listing to make sure it looked okay, I noticed that if I clicked on my name in the list of contributors, I got this list of results—which came as something of a surprise, as I’d spent quite a bit of time pulling together my Amazon Author’s Central publication list. (Amazon at first only wanted to list books I’d written, and not include those I’d merely edited.) When I contacted Amazon customer service to ask about the difference, their answer wasn’t quite, “That’s nice, pops, but what have you done lately?” but it came damned close.

Sigh. A 40-year writing career, down the memory hole.

Looking at the listing again today, I see that Amazon has been gracious enough to allow customers to choose to follow me, if they so desire, but still, mysterious are the ways of the Amazon. (And sad to see that according to their algorithms, Rebel Moon was my most successful book. I guess books that were bestsellers in the years BA {Before Amazon} don’t count.)

Shrug. Enough worrying about Amazon for one day. Back to work.

Kind regards,

Monday, November 26, 2018



To celebrate the release of Stupefying Stories 22, for today only, we’re giving the Kindle edition away FREE for the cost of a click. Download it now from:


(Of course, if you do download it and like what you read, we’d really appreciate your giving it a quick review and a rating.)

And now, the advert copy....

Rampant Loon Press is excited to announce the release of Stupefying Stories 22, featuring the terrific new cover story, THE SHE-DRAGON OF BLY, by Jason D. Wittman. In an alternate timeline in which the Soviet Union won WWII, England is now a Soviet satellite, some magic actually works, and Premier Kruschev is going eyeball-to-eyeball with President Patton, the last surviving member of His Majesty’s Dragonslayer Corps is pulled out of retirement, because it seems dragons are not extinct after all and one has taken up residence in a prominent Politburo member’s country estate. Here there be dragons, indeed!

Also in this issue:

GROUNDSKEEPER • by Kirstie Olley

A beautiful princess, kidnapped and locked away in a sorcerer’s tower. A deadly labyrinth, filled with traps and monsters. So, Mr. Handsome Prince, before you go charging in there with your sword swinging, did it ever occur to you to wonder who maintains the labyrinth?


Gef is one of our original contributors, beginning with “A Wolf Like Leroy” in Stupefying Stories #8. “Rain Charmer” is his latest story for us, and it’s a wonderful little contemporary fantasy about... well, about rain. And about being careful what you wish for.

OHŌTSUKU-KAI • by NM Whitley

A terrific next-century science fiction tale set in a world in which the United States is still recovering from the effects of the Second Civil War, the Japanese, Koreans, and Russians are all jostling for position in the Chinese shadow, and someone has discovered a new power source that seems too good to be true...

UPON THE BLOOD-DARK SEA • by Auston Habershaw

Now here be a tale of pirates, dark magic, and darker deeds, spun by master storyteller Auston Habershaw, whose name you may recognize from his appearances in F&SF, Analog, and Galaxy’s Edge, or from his many epic fantasy novels. One of his first published stories, though, was THIEF OF HEARTS in Stupefying Stories #7, and he’s been a frequent contributor ever since.


Pirates, ghosts, and kids on a summer adventure; danger, excitement, and a terrible curse: what’s not to like? Loads of fun.


A paranormal mystery caper set in a world in which parallel versions of London exist in overlapping space/time, but only those with the gift can cross between them. A stolen magical artifact might have the power to destroy them all: let the chase begin!


A terrific hard-SF generation ship story with Mark’s usual totally out of left field “Whoa, didn’t see that coming!” twist. Clever ideas; great fun—albeit with a dark edge that should stick with you long after you’ve finished the story.

GLAMOUR FOR TWO • by Judith Field

Finally, we end this issue with GLAMOUR FOR TWO, another sweet and clever little contemporary fantasy story from Judith Field. We’ve been in love with Judith’s writing ever since THE PROTOTYPE first showed up in our inbox, and subsequently in Stupefying Stories 6. She’s been a regular contributor to both Stupefying Stories and SHOWCASE ever since—we practically created the THEIAN JOURNAL concept around her story, “The Fissure of Rolando”—and if you haven’t yet read her short-story collection, THE BOOK OF JUDITH, this story is a good introduction. If you have read THE BOOK OF JUDITH, you’ll be happy to know that this is her first new “Court & Anderson” story in years.

From magic, to mystery, to science fiction so hard it clanks, here are nine tales to chill, thrill, excite and amuse you.  Always fresh and entertaining, never formulaic or predictable, Stupefying Stories is the great new reading you've been looking for! Download it now!


Sunday, November 25, 2018

OP-ED: “A Generation Ship The Size of a Small Planet,” by Bruce Bethke

Nota Bene: You can blame Guy Stewart for this. A few days ago he sent me off on a quest into the RLP archives to find some things relating to his short story, “Oath,” and along the way I found this one again. I had a vague recollection of having written it, and had always meant to revisit the core idea for a new feature to be called either Tropisms or Books I’ll Never Finish, but after re-reading it now—and especially after seeing the conclusions I reached then—I present it to you now much as it first appeared in 2008, save for some typographical corrections and added illustrations. All attendant ironies remain intact.

The Multi-Generational Con (Part I)

In the course of a discussion of Social Security, a reader named Athor Pel asked a few of my favorite questions.
I’ve been pondering some questions lately.

Why are we willing to pay taxes?

1) that we didn’t vote into existence

2) to a government that we didn’t have any say in creating originally

It was all in place before we were born.

Why should we play the game? 
These are some of my favorite questions, and not because I’m advocating a tax revolt—although I do believe that if we did not have automatic income tax withholding, and if all gainfully employed Americans therefore had to write a check to the government every three months just as we gainfully self-employed people do, then we would have one very angry tax revolt in very hot progress in very short order—

No, these questions fascinate me because of one of the hoary old mainstays of hard science fiction: the generation ship.

The idea, if you’re not familiar with it, goes like this. Since we know that the speed of light in a vacuum, c, is not just the law, it’s the absolute limit, and we know that hyperdrive, warp drive, jump drive, and all the other variously named ways of getting beyond c are merely convenient fictional gimmicks with no basis in reality, the other obvious way for humans to cross vast interstellar distances is by building ships so big they’re self-contained ecologies, and then launching them out with the assumption that the crew will breed, and it will be their many-generations-removed descendants who will actually arrive at wherever it is the ship is going.

Heinlein got a lot of mileage out of this idea. I grew up on his Starship Magellan juveniles and loved ‘em. The problem came when I, as an adult writer, started looking at the idea afresh with the intention of using it in a novel, and I started running into the same sorts of questions that Athor Pel posed.

What exactly is a generation ship? Pared down to its nub, it’s a closed, utopian society, on a mission to some goal that was defined long before the current occupants were born. So what’s the problem?

The problem is that in all my readings of history, I have been unable to find a single example of a closed, utopian society that lasted more than five generations—and that’s using a very lax definition of “utopian.” The Soviet Union, for example, was supposed to be a utopian society, and yet even the Soviet Union, with all its formidable power, did not last five generations.

Five generations seems to be the outside limit. Three generations is when things start to fall apart. The first-generation founders of the utopia usually manage okay, if they’re not complete blithering idiots (see “The Great Hippie Commune Disaster,” 1968), and the founders can usually do a decent job of indoctrinating most of their children and controlling the few nonconformists. But by the time the grandchildren of the founders come along, a lot more people are asking Athor’s questions, and by the time the great-grandchildren reach adulthood, the pressure to either radically change the terms of the mission or else to just tear the whole damned thing down and start over become nearly irresistible.

This does not bode well for the prospects of a successful generation ship on its way to Proximi Centauri.

Which leads to a different line of thought: if you have a ship so large it’s a self-contained ecology, why bother leaving Sol system at all? It’s not as if there’s a shortage of room here. Why not just park the thing, say, three months ahead or behind of Earth’s position in solar orbit, and con the poor buggers on-board into thinking they’re on a centuries-long multi-generational voyage to Farfnargle IV? Or, if you want to get really tricky, just shoot it into a long orbit out to the Kuiper Belt and back, so that the “colonists” think they’re arriving on Epison Whachamacallit when all they’re really doing is finally returning to Earth?

So that’s the root idea. Now where’s the story in this?

Saturday, November 24, 2018

SHOWCASE: “Oath,” by Guy Stewart

Anna Joaquim sighed contentedly, taking Dabney Joaquim’s arm and snuggling closer. She did not have eyes for him, though. Looking into the deep darkness of the Wild Lands beyond the Interstate Rail car window, she whispered, “I love you.”

Dabney knew her action and words were, if not a lie, at least a gross misrepresentation of her feelings. He detected the lack of proper tonal inflection, skin moisture levels, muscle tone and pheromone production present if the words had been directed at him. He’d known since his activation that her deepest desire was to walk the unprotected Wild Lands. It was therefore his desire as well. Every Life Companion had its human’s memories and desires uploaded. Dabney’s job was to make sure his human’s life was completely fulfilled. He bit his lower lip, hoping she wouldn’t notice his non-response. He had no idea how to meet her desire to be in the Wild Lands. He pretended to read his eBook.

He knew he was handsome with his tightly curled black hair, blue eyes and small, upturned nose. Other humans ordered muscle-bound, well-endowed Companions to sweep them off their feet and give them years of fantastic sex. Anna though, had never wanted to send him away for alterations after a few years of Companionship. She’d chosen him, a classic model. He’d satisfied her over a hundred times since their Ceremony. Maybe he could distract her.