Thursday, March 4, 2021

A few words from the editor...



Hello, I’m Bruce Bethke, editor of Stupefying Stories magazine and executive cat-herder-in-chief here at Rampant Loon Press. You hold in your hands Stupefying Stories 23, a book that was beginning to approach The Last Dangerous Visions in terms of its quasi-mythic “Will that damned book ever be released?” status.

Yet here it is at last: the biggest and most expensive project we’ve done to date. Twelve stories, covering a range of genres from contemporary horror, to urban fantasy, to science fiction so hard it clanks. Twelve authors, ranging from names you probably know and love already to new voices you haven’t heard before, but who we believe you’ll be hearing a lot more from in the not-too-distant future. A nice balance of previous contributors and new friends; a good mix of lengths and tones, from a novelette set on a generation ship gone terribly awry (“Outrider”) to the delightful little confection that is “Brimstone and Brine.”

Still, it’s been so long since we released Stupefying Stories 22 that is seems like a longer introduction is needed. Therefore, since author’s and editor’s bios are always written in third person, it’s time to shift into third-person and tackle two questions: who is Bruce Bethke, and why should you care about the stories he’s presenting in Stupefying Stories 23?


To answer the second question first, consider this review quote from Dave Brzeski at SFcrowsnest Magazine. Writing about Stupefying Stories 22, he said [emphasis added]:

“This is perhaps not a publication for those whose tastes fall within narrow boundaries, as the stories can fall pretty much anywhere within the broad scope of speculative fiction. It's fairly obvious that Bruce Bethke's only criteria for the magazine is that the work should be of a uniformly high standard.

To coin a phrase: Dave Brzeski gets it.

To answer the first question, then, we need to add a qualifier: when? In the 1980s Bruce Bethke was a successful short story writer, with a list of professional publication credits so long he quit counting new sales after a while. In particular some of the science fiction stories he wrote and sold in the 1980s are considered “significant” now, by people who feel themselves qualified to judge such things. (And if you want to talk about any of those old stories, there’s a feature called “Ask Dr. Cyberpunk” on the web site where you can do just that.)

By the 1990s, Bethke had realized that writers cannot live on short story sales alone, so he graduated to writing novels and became an award-winning novelist. He also served a few terms on the board of directors of a certain famous science fiction and fantasy writers association, and took a contract job as an anthology editor at a major publishing house. In the process of doing these things he gained a great deal of experience and insight into how the commercial publishing industry really works, although he has difficulty describing that experience now—at least, not without using a great deal of profanity.

By 2000, fed up with the way the publishing industry grovels before a small handful of bestselling authors and treats all the rest of their original content creators like fungible contract workers, he walked away from fiction publishing and went off to do something else. Again, he has difficulty describing that experience now, but in this case it’s because of NDAs he signed that are still in effect.

In 2010, aided by a terrific crew of friends and volunteers, Bethke founded Rampant Loon Press and launched Stupefying Stories, with the goal of using the attention people wanted to pay to him, because of all those stories and novels he wrote back in the 1980s and 1990s, to help boost the careers of new up-and-coming writers. Since then Stupefying Stories has had its ups and downs, and more than a few times when things went completely sideways, but along the way Rampant Loon Press has published dozens of books, hundreds of stories, and given a hand-up to hundreds of newer and younger writers.

Judging simply by the number of writers who got their start here and then moved up and on, to become award-winning authors, successful novelists, or recognized names on the covers of major magazines, that part of the original goal has been a success. And with the backstory thus established, it’s time to shift back into first person and talk about Stupefying Stories 23.


As we turn the corner into the third decade of the 21st Century, it’s tempting to issue a manifesto, to declare that Stupefying Stories has made a fresh start, or in some other hubris-laden way to make a statement, laying out our ambitions and plans for the coming year. However, I’ve become gun-shy about doing that. For the past ten years we’ve been experimenting, learning, and making mistakes galore. Too many times, when I thought we finally had everything all figured out, the Fates decided to throw a new spanner in the works, just to see how we dealt with it. 2020 in particular was a year in which absolutely nothing went as planned or expected, for us as well as for everyone else. Frankly, if 2020 was a car, I’d call it a total write-off and call someone to tow it away to the scrapyard.

Therefore, rather than make a statement, allow me to present to you Stupefying Stories 23. Consider this the prototype for the direction in which I want to take Stupefying Stories, God willing and the creek don’t rise. As I said at the start of this introduction, this is the biggest, most ambitious, and most expensive project we’ve done to date. We’re even using interior illustrations in SS#23, for the first time since our 2010 debut issue. (Although the illos didn’t turn out quite as planned: some look much better in the ebook than in the print edition.)

We’re still learning. We’re still evolving. Stick with us. Stupefying Stories 24 will look even better.

Per aspera ad astra,
Bruce Bethke