Sunday, March 31, 2024

The Week in Review • 31 March 2024

Welcome to The Week in Review, a weekly round-up for those too busy to follow Stupefying Stories on a daily basis. We’ve had an insanely busy past seven days, between the releases last week of THE PRINCESS SCOUT and EMERALD OF EARTH and the deluge of last-minute submissions that have been coming in this week as people are rushing to beat tonight’s submission cutoff. We expect to have all new submissions processed and responses to sent to all authors by Friday, April 5th, and I’ll have more to say about this in next Wednesday’s Never-ending FAQ

As for THE PRINCESS SCOUT and EMERALD OF EARTH, I’m pleased to report that they are our #1 and #2 bestsellers this week, but somewhat puzzled by the fact that Princess has been selling mostly in e-book format while Emerald is selling much better in paperback. This means something. Exactly what remains to be determined. I’m also pleased to report that we did manage to get the box of ARC copies of Emerald delivered in time for author Guy Stewart to be signing them at Minicon this weekend, although it was a close-run, last-second thing. Ingram blames UPS. UPS blames a subcontractor. ‘Round and ‘round the blame-bird goes, and who it craps lands on, nobody knows. What matters is that we did eventually get the box, and the paperbacks look really good. I’ll have more to say about this in next Wednesday’s column, too.

Meanwhile, the production pipeline for SHOWCASE has settled down and we’re hitting our milestones. This week we published:

“Magic Word” • by Greg Schwartz

It is your word of power, young one. You will use it all your life for your most powerful spells. Choose it very carefully.

Published: March 25, 2024

“Pink Marble” • by Zoe Kaplan

The Queen has been turned to stone! But how? By who? And why? The finest minds in the land struggle to solve the mystery and undo the spell.

Published: March 26, 2024

The Never-ending FAQ: Get Rich Quick Writing Big Hit Bestsellers!

Okay, I give up. I’m tired of pretending I don’t know it. At long last I reveal The Secret

I never promised it was easy.

Published: March 27, 2024

“Rookie Mistake” • by Gregg Chamberlain

The First Rule of Necromancy is: always read the fine print. Always read the fine print. Always read the fine print!

Published: March 28, 2024

“You’re Not Alone” • by Mark Szasz

The battle for control of the world is about to begin. The Gettzu have no clue who they’re up against. Pity the Gettzu.

Published: March 29, 2024


“Feedback” • by Guy Stewart

And you thought AI-assisted spell-checking was a real pain in the neck.

Published: March 30, 2024



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

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Saturday, March 30, 2024

“Feedback” • by Guy Stewart

A couple days after I subbed my story to the editor/staff of STUPENDOUS EPICS OF FANTASY, HORROR, AND SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE, they texted me: 

Interesting story. You’ll be disappointed to know that the new version of InterOffice Works ran an assessment of your story. Call or email ASAP.

I wasn’t sure who BE was, so I went to the site and found it was the Associate Editor; easy enough to find their name. I emailed him asking what “InterOffice Works ran an assessment of your story” meant.

Berit Eberhard texted back an hour later, writing:

You’ll be disappointed to know that Office 400 rated your story only 88% and provided a comprehensive list of things you need to correct. Your errors are enumerated as follows: Spelling 27; Grammar 26; Conciseness 17; Formality 46; Punctuation Conventions 3; Vocabulary 4. I think that means you have a total of a hundred and twenty-three corrections you have to make to give your story a 100%, though it’s unclear what it’s a hundred percent OF…

Thankfully, you did not commit any Inclusiveness, Perspective, or Sensitive Geopolitical Reference sins. BG only knows how InterOffice Works would have admonished you had you done so! It also gave me the option to have your work read aloud to me by a female voice. (For a small fee, it offered to insert sexually suggestive language in case my interest in your story flagged)

Oh! Oh! It came with a built-in machine translation! I’d share the text, but I’m not sure if it was Chinese (Traditional) or Chinese (Simplified), so one of our computers might mis-reproduce the Chinese characters and cause an international incident.

My phone suddenly rang. “Hello?”

“This is Berit. We’ve been texting?”

“Oh, yeah!”

“I just had to share something else with you. I just wanted to say that this…this REALITY is so wildly outside of my original story ‘Saibeopeongkeu’ it would have been rejected even by Astonishing Fables. But, it seems that I saw at least a couple of things in the future not far off from what they are! InterOffice Works would have (without a doubt), gotten it rejected even at AF. GVDG thought a computer light enough for a teenager to carry and hide in a closet was beyond credulity, but he kept it, cause it was, after all, just Science Romance. He DID force me to drop the paragraph where Mikey talked to his computer and it answered in conversational English. He thought that was so unbelievable as to be ridiculous.” He paused, then muttered, “But…”

But’ what?”

InterOffice Works counted one last error that I thought…well, it was just plain weird.” I had a sudden Peter-tingle in my chest. Berit said, “I’ve gotten this kind of ‘feedback’ on every story I’ve opened for the past couple months. But your story produced one I’d never seen before…” He paused so long, I found I couldn’t breathe. The air around me didn’t seem thick enough to support my respiration.

I glanced at my monitor. Oops…that’s because it wasn’t. I took my handheld augmentor, held it to my nose and breathed deeply. Berit said, “You still there?”

I nodded, then tried to speak, stumbling over my words. I stopped, then started again and said clearly, “Yep! I’m dying over here of suspense!” But my voice had taken on an hysterical pitch. I tried again, aiming for mild amusement, “What did it say? Did it grab some DNA off the file I sent you? Maybe my story had a computer virus it caught and gave to yours?” I laughed with as much disdain as I could manage. “Did it predict with thirty-four percent accuracy that I’m a chimera with genes from a pitcher plant?”

Berit didn’t reply for several moments. Finally, he said, “That’s the thing. The printout rated you as 97% alien, based on your usage of Colloquial English.” He paused. “Why would it come to that kind of conclusion? Why would the program even have that as an option?”

I breathed deeply then said, “Soooo, like my English suggests that my original language was Venezuelan Wayuu-accented Spanish?” I laughed, even now realizing Berit didn’t believe me. I didn’t even believe me.

A long silence grew between us until I managed, “You’ve caught me.” The pause between us was pregnant. I drew a deep breath, adding, “I’m an HPE Cray supercomputer artificial intelligence…”

“You can stop the bullshit,” Berit said calmly. After all, he was a speculative fiction magazine editor. He’d seen pretty much every iteration of every F/H/SR known to Humanity. “Your secret—such as it is—is safe with me. For now. I want to publish this silly story. People will be amused. 

But some won’t be. Hopefully, your mothership isn’t far away. I suggest you get off Earth as soon as you can. I think I can probably edit the story to read as if you’re an AI more convincingly than you can. But if you take a stab at it, you have to give it a more…like…cyberpunky vibe.  

Until then, stay home and be ready to leave as soon as I post this thing.” I could hear the grin in his tone of voice as he added, “Even with its flaws and that fact that you’re actually an alien, the story’s really great. It might even be humorous. Cheers.”



Guy Stewart was a science teacher and school counselor for forty years, but is now happily retired and writing full-time. With nearly a hundred published short stories, articles, and reviews to his credit, and his blogs Guy’s Gotta Talk and Possibly Irritating Essays, he shares opinions and translates recent research into plain English.

When not writing he enjoys biking, walking, and camping with his wife, kids, grandkids, and two cats and a rescue dog. Admittedly, the cats really aren’t much help when it comes to carrying a backpack or pitching a tent.


Emerald Marcillon lives with her archaeologist parents at a dig site on the Yucatan Peninsula. She has trouble handling social situations and connecting with her peers, so she’s an expert watcher.

Her parents are convinced they have found artifacts from an alien war that spilled over onto Earth ages ago. What they don’t suspect is that Inamma, an alien AI that survived the war, lies hidden in the jungle. Now that the artifacts have been found, Inamma has awakened, and it’s hunting for the artifacts. With them, it can build a weapon that will end the ancient war once and for all—and with it, end the existence of humanity. 

Emerald’s only hope is to escape on the Solar Explorer, a hollowed-out asteroid turned spaceship that will spend the next twelve years exploring the solar system. Can Emerald protect the artifacts, and stop Inamma from completing its deadly weapon? Can she make friends and find allies? Can she convince people that Inamma is real, and not just a crazy story made up by a frightened girl?

EMERALD OF EARTH: just released in paperback, Kindle, and audio book. Also available on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, Apple Books, and wherever else e-books are sold.

Friday, March 29, 2024

“You’re Not Alone” • by Mark Szasz

“We are not your family,” Snarrflat of planet Gettzu told the earthling young. 

“We have usurped these ones’ places as part of our plot to take over your world!”

In the kitchen, the intrusion-force-cum-faux-cosmic-family milled. These doppelganger Kerrigans were still getting used to their human camouflage, bulging where they should be concave, orifices opening willy-nilly like fledgling ventriloquists stumped by their dummies. Whatever intel their planet had regarding the culinary practices of this Earth region was failing them—they warbled out incorrect vocabulary, mistaking packages of ground turkey for forks, a saucer with a cake stand. 

“You do not believe?” Snarrflat gurgled scornfully at the dispassionate youth. “Then behold!”

Extruding itself from its homo sapiens costume, it revealed its bulbous neon green head, battery of protuberant eyes, and too slick, oozing alien skin. It had an upper jaw and three lower ones that each interchanged with one another, searching for the best combo to execute a menacing sneer.

Emotionless though its face was, in its core the changeling cackled at Snarrflat with malevolent glee.

The fairy had found itself bored with the real Kerrigans. The family’s general disinterest in the offspring the fae had replaced made it difficult to so much as even get an odd eye-cock from them. But terrorizing this get of Gettzu? What a delightful shift of stars!

The changeling forced a smile uncanny as Snarrflat’s own. The battle for this world would begin at dinnertime. Assuming someone could figure out the controls for the stove.



Mark Szasz is a hobby writer who hopes that sharing his stories encourages others to share their own. His work has been published by CultureCult, Friday Flash Fiction, Havok Magazine, Paragraph Planet, ResAliens, and placed in the Weird Christmas Flash Fiction Contest.



If you like the stories we’re publishing, become a supporter today. We do Stupefying Stories out of pure love for genre fiction, but in publishing as in tennis, love means nothing. To keep Stupefying Stories going at this level we need to raise at least $500 USD monthly, and rather than doing so with pledge breaks or crowd-funding campaigns, we’d rather have supporters. If just 100 people commit to giving $5 monthly, we can keep going at this level indefinitely. If we can raise more, we will pay our authors more.


Please don’t make me escalate to posting pictures of sad kittens and puppies…


Thursday, March 28, 2024

“Rookie Mistake” • by Gregg Chamberlain


Behind him the despairing wails of the coven filled Jeff’s ears. Followed by the crunching of bone.

Jeff stared horrorstruck at the empty bottle of virgin’s blood in his hand. His eyes scanned the now-very-obvious fine print at the bottom of the label.

Warning: May contain impurities. Consult your cantrip guide before using.

There was a sharp-nailed tap on his shoulder. A reluctant Jeff turned around to face the fang-filled mouth of a grinning demon. He had time for one final curse as the sickle-toothed jaws opened.

“Damn all cut-rate dealers!”




Gregg Chamberlain, now retired after five decades as a community newspaper reporter, lives in rural Eastern Ontario with his missus, Anne, and their cats who allow the humans the run of the house. A genre writer with many credits for sf, fantasy, weird fiction, and zombie filk, he continues to enjoy his passion for speculative fiction combined with his own quirky sense of humour. Find him at: or on Twitter/X @greggchamberlai.




If you like the stories we’re publishing, become a supporter today. We do Stupefying Stories out of pure love for genre fiction, but in publishing as in tennis, love means nothing. To keep Stupefying Stories going at this level we need to raise at least $500 USD monthly, and rather than doing so with pledge breaks or crowd-funding campaigns, we’d rather have supporters. If just 100 people commit to giving $5 monthly, we can keep going at this level indefinitely. If we can raise more, we will pay our authors more.


Please don’t make me escalate to posting pictures of sad kittens and puppies…


Wednesday, March 27, 2024

The Never-ending FAQ: Get Rich Quick Writing Big Hit Bestsellers!

Welcome to this week’s installment of The Never-ending FAQ, the constantly evolving adjunct to our Submission Guidelines. If you have a question you’d like to ask about Stupefying Stories or Rampant Loon Press, feel free to post it as a comment here or to email it to our submissions address. I can’t guarantee we’ll post a public answer, but can promise every question we receive will be read and considered.

Today’s question comes from Angelique, who asks:

What is the most profitable and easiest path for success?


Okay, as far as I can tell, the most profitable and easiest path to success is to forget writing fiction entirely and instead to produce an endless series of books, workshops, and webinars promising to teach other aspiring writers how to get rich quickly by writing big hit bestsellers. But I will assume there is an implicit “by writing fiction” in the question as originally stated, and answer that question instead. 

Er, you’d better get your waders on. The cynicism is about to become hip deep.


Many long ages ago I was sitting in a very plush office in Century City, with the head of West Coast A&R for some major record company whose name I forget now. After listening to my demo tape—politely at first, and then impatiently, the longer it ran—he decided to give me some advice. The objective, he said, isn’t to be really different. It’s to be just a little different, so that your work stands out from the crowd, but at the same time to sound enough like someone else who is already a major hit-maker that the first time the listeners hear it, it sounds like something they’ve already heard six times before, and they love it and can’t wait to hear it again, to hear that little bit of novelty you bring to the formula.

At the time I thought that was quite possibly the most cynical advice I’d ever received. A lifetime later—well, I still think it’s incredibly damned cynical, but it’s also very practical. People like what they like. It’s very difficult to get them to try something truly new. The Amazon publishing empire is built on that premise: that it’s much easier to get people to buy more of what they already like than to get them to take a chance on something new.

Therefore, if the question is, “What is the most profitable and easiest path for success?”

Attend closely. Today, I’m giving this secret away for free. Next fall it will be in my best-selling book, How to Get Rich Quickly By Writing Big Hit Bestsellers!

Step 1: Write to market. 

Really study the market. Find a niche market or subgenre that is hot right now—not five years ago, now—and learn all you can about it. Amazon provides a wealth of information, if you look at the book listings. Study the keywords and subgenre breakdowns. Then pick a category you like to read and think will be fun to work in, and figure out what you can do with it that is slightly different from what everyone else and their cat is already doing.

Step 2: Learn the Lester Dent formula.

Lester Dent was a pulp fiction writer who cranked out hundreds of novels under a plethora of pseudonyms and got filthy rich doing so. His universal plot formula was designed for 6,000-word short stories, but with some adjustments it works just as well for short novels. Google it. Learn it. Apply it.

Step 3: Pick a pseudonym. 

Your name is your brand. Ideally you want to have an entire stable full of names, so that you can switch back and forth as your brands and genres heat up or cool down. Remember, this is not you. You’re in the entertainment business now. Your pseudonym is a character; a stage name; a role you perform for public consumption. It’s a mask you put on before you go out in public in the morning and take off after you come home at night.

Step 4: First, figure out how your story ends.

To paraphrase Mickey Spillane, while the beginning of your book is what gets people interested in reading it, it’s the ending that determines whether they want to read anything else by you. Your readers are giving you something very valuable: their time. You owe it to them to give them an ending that rewards them for the time they’ve invested in reading your story. You want them to be glad they took the time to read your work.

Step 5: Write short novels.

The day of the BFFB (Big Fat Fantasy Brick) is over. The optimum length for a novel in today’s market is around 50K words. If you feel your story requires a 200,000-word epic, split it up into four installments. 

Step 6: Forget traditional publishing.

Start with self-publishing directly to Kindle. It’s too hard to get in the door with the few remaining traditional publishers now and their support for new authors is roughly nonexistent. Remember, if you’re successful at self-publishing, the traditional publishers will come to you, to beg you to take their money. 

Step 7: Consider whether serialization is right for you.

I’ve watched several writers launch successful careers recently by serializing their novels on Kindle Vella or Royal Road first before going to a full e-book and/or print release. If you can work that way—I can’t—it’s a great way to build your fan base.

Step 8: Start an email list.

No one else is going to do this for you. As your pseudonym, get a website. Build a mailing list. Start a blog. Interact with your fans. Make them feel that they are sharing in your success. Everyone loves the feeling of being able to say, “I was reading [name] before it was cool.”

Personally, I’d skip Patreon. I know a few writers who are making enough on Patreon to justify the work, but a lot more who aren’t. Ditto for crowd-funding. You must have a crowd before crowd-funding pays off. Focus on building that mailing list! Put at least a quarter of your working time into marketing your work, not to editors, but directly to readers. It doesn’t matter how brilliant your writing is if no one reads it.

Step 9: Keep writing those books!

If you come up with an idea that really clicks with readers, keep working it! Write a never-ending series! Don’t stop writing it until people stop buying it! Above all, if you get fed-up with telling the ongoing story of your lead character—and you will, it happens to all of us, sooner or later—whatever you do, do not toss your lead character off the top of Reichenbach Falls! Never write your character into an ending so final you can’t bring them back for “just one more” sequel, if your fans demand it.

Conversely, if you’ve gone three books into a series without having a bestseller, kick that pseudonym to the curb, revise your formula, and start over as someone else.

As you have no doubt noticed by now, I did not put, “Start out writing short stories” on this list. Once upon a time, there was some connection between the SF/F short-story and novel markets. That time was a long time ago. In today’s market it’s easier than ever to get your short stories placed and published, but almost impossible to get anyone to notice, or for you to make any significant money doing so. And since the question was: 

“What is the most profitable and easiest path for success?”

I decided to focus on the “profitable” part of the question.

Understand, writing short stories is good practice. It’s a good way to hone your craft skills and develop your concepts. But if your objective is to make money as a writer of fiction, then the short story market should be considered a sandbox, and one that you will in time outgrow and leave.

Which brings us to:

Step 10: There is no easy path to success.

Success in this business requires talent, ambition, good craft skills and work habits, and a certain amount of luck. Taking ambition as a given—if you weren’t ambitious, you wouldn’t be reading this—knowing that enormous gobs of dumb luck can sometimes trump all else, and accepting that there is no way to change your innate level of raw talent, focus on improving your craft skills and work habits.

After forty years in this business, I have seen that a modest amount of talent coupled with good craft skills and work habits beats enormous amounts of talent and lousy work habits seven days a week and twice on Sunday. Don’t sit on your butt waiting for the Muse to whisper in your ear. If you want success as a writer, WORK FOR IT!

Here endeth the lesson.



If you like the stories we’re publishing, become a supporter today. We do Stupefying Stories out of pure love for genre fiction, but in publishing as in tennis, love means nothing. To keep Stupefying Stories going at this level we need to raise at least $500 USD monthly, and rather than doing so with pledge breaks or crowd-funding campaigns, we’d rather have supporters. If just 100 people commit to giving $5 monthly, we can keep going at this level indefinitely. If we can raise more, we will pay our authors more.


Please don’t make me escalate to posting pictures of sad kittens and puppies…

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

“Pink Marble” • by Zoe Kaplan

The Queen had turned to stone.

No one could explain how or why. The greatest magicians, scientists, and alchemists in the country had tried and failed to determine the cause. They had prayed over her, enchanted her, applied potions and chemicals and fairy dust to her skin, chipped off bits of her robe and fingernails and sent them back for genetic testing. Nothing in their spells or analyses showed that she was anything other than plain pink marble in the shape of a woman.

At first it was assumed that her petrification was the work of an enemy wizard, but when no foreign power or terrorist group came forward to gloat or make threats, public perception changed. It had to be the work of wild magic, people said. It was the Queen’s own fault for commissioning a summer home so close to the border, and worse, by the ocean! Everyone knew magic was unpredictable out there. It didn’t follow the rules.

The story changed again when the Queen’s household moved back to the capitol. One young woman was missing from the roster, the very same chambermaid who had first reported the Queen’s transformation. She must have done it! the people cried. Speculation abounded.

Perhaps she was an especially powerful hedge witch, or had failed out of the Academy, or had found an ancient, arcane artifact. Perhaps she had petrified the Queen out of jealousy, or revenge for an executed family member, or anti-monarchical political leanings.

Some wondered if she too were not a victim of the true perpetrator, but those voices were few.

Search parties were sent out, scouring the country and its neighbors for the woman, but no sign of her was ever found. Eventually, the search was dropped. The Queen was installed in the castle ballroom and her nephew ascended to the throne. The people mourned for their Queen, but not too much. She had been something of a recluse, while her nephew was outgoing, responsive, popular. Years passed, and the whole debacle was all but forgotten.

Hundreds of miles away, in the galley of a small ship off the coast of Coloria, the Queen poured tea into a blue china cup. She brought it to her lover, who sat on the deck, polishing a bust. The ex-chambermaid, the daughter of a stonecutter and a master crafter in her own right, turned to kiss her on the cheek.



Zoe Kaplan (she/her) has been making up stories for as long as she can remember. She has a bachelor’s in creative writing from Appalachian State University and no less than four different swords. Her work has appeared in Tree and Stone Magazine, Hidden Realms, and the Horror Library anthology series, among many others, and her story “The Test” was nominated for the 2022 Brave New Weird award. You can find her on twitter @the_z_part or on her website,

“Pink Marble” was first published in Flash Point SF.




If you like the stories we’re publishing, become a supporter today. We do Stupefying Stories out of pure love for genre fiction, but in publishing as in tennis, love means nothing. To keep Stupefying Stories going at this level we need to raise at least $500 USD monthly, and rather than doing so with pledge breaks or crowd-funding campaigns, we’d rather have supporters. If just 100 people commit to giving $5 monthly, we can keep going at this level indefinitely. If we can raise more, we will pay our authors more.


Please don’t make me escalate to posting pictures of sad kittens and puppies…

Monday, March 25, 2024

“Magic Word” • by Greg Schwartz

Raif bounced from foot to foot. He was finally becoming a wizard! 

Well, an apprentice at least. But today he could pick his magic word, the one that he’d use for the rest of his life. The one he’d use to summon dragons, and rain down fireballs, and—

“Next!” the old, wrinkled mage shouted.

Raif stepped forward, beaming. The mage glared at him impatiently, quill in hand.

Raif opened his mouth. Someone tripped over his robe. Lana, the prettiest girl in town, went sprawling. “Sorry,” Raif mumbled, blushing. He helped her up.

The old mage scribbled on his parchment. “Next!”



Greg Schwartz writes speculative fiction and poetry. Some of his stories have appeared in OG’s Speculative Fiction, Black Ink Horror, and Champagne Shivers. In a pre-fatherhood life, he was the staff cartoonist for SP Quill Magazine and a book reviewer for Whispers of Wickedness.



If you like the stories we’re publishing, become a supporter today. We do Stupefying Stories out of pure love for genre fiction, but in publishing as in tennis, love means nothing. To keep Stupefying Stories going at this level we need to raise at least $500 USD monthly, and rather than doing so with pledge breaks or crowd-funding campaigns, we’d rather have supporters. If just 100 people commit to giving $5 monthly, we can keep going at this level indefinitely. If we can raise more, we will pay our authors more.


Please don’t make me escalate to posting pictures of sad kittens and puppies…

Sunday, March 24, 2024

The Week in Review • 24 March 2024

Welcome to The Week in Review, a weekly summary for those too busy to follow Stupefying Stories on a daily basis. It’s been a ridiculously busy week here at Rampant Loon Press, so let’s just get straight to the stories.

“Broken” • by Karin Terebessy

Sometimes we can’t really describe a story, we can only say, this one is important. You should read it.

Published: 18 March 2024

“Poisoned Stew to Go” • by Henry Herz

After the deep dive of “Broken,” we needed something a little lighter to cheer us up. Like an outtake from Macbeth, with a little cozy murder.

Published: 19 March 2024

• by Henry Vogel

After a successful run as a serial on Kindle Vella, we’re delighted to announce that THE PRINCESS SCOUT, the latest book in Henry Vogel’s best-selling Terran Scout Corps series, is now available in print and e-book. We also want to stress that this is a self-contained and standalone novel, and unlike a Marvel movie, you need not have read all the previous books in the series in order to understand and enjoy this one. 

Released: 19 March 2024

Learn more…

The Never-ending FAQ: using Adobe Sign

Something purely practical this week. If you get an acceptance and a contract from us, and you’ve never used Adobe Sign before, here are step-by-step instructions for how to use Adobe Sign to e-sign and return a contract.

Published: 20 March 2024

“The Job” • by Andrew Rucker Jones

Speaking of contracts: “Hey kid. Cousin Vinnie wants a word wit youse. He’s gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse… less’n youse can fly.”

Published: 21 March 2024

• by Guy Stewart

Guy Stewart’s YA adventure novel is now available in e-book, print, and audio book. This is probably the fastest book release we’ve ever done, and to be honest, the audio book was an afterthought. We just thought it would be really funny to use Amazon’s A.I. to narrate a novel about a bunch of teens fighting an evil and homicidal A.I. that’s bent on world domination. 

Released: 21 March 2024

Learn more…

“Upper Beta Great Alcove Very Happy” • by Ron Fein

Sometimes the real message lies in what isn’t said.

Published: 22 March 2024

Six Questions for… Matthew Castleman

A few minutes of enlightenment and entertainment with author, actor, and educator Matthew Castleman, who among many other things is the author of Privateers of Mars, one of our favorite little books in the Stupefying Stories Presents line. Check it out!


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

Have a Kindle? Find out what you’ve been missing!
Buy the four latest issues with just one click!

(Or buy just one, if that’s what you’d really prefer.)

Saturday, March 23, 2024

Six Questions for… Matthew Castleman

Matthew Castleman is a New York-raised, Washington DC-based stage actor, writer, and theater educator with a strong penchant for Shakespeare and swords. He’s penned the Clone Chronicles middle-grade series under the name M. E. Castle and short fiction under his own name for Daily Science Fiction, Andromeda Spaceways, Fireside Quarterly, Old Moon Quarterly, and of course, Stupefying Stories. He’s performed Shakespeare up and down the Eastern Seaboard and teaches acting and storytelling to many ages. He blogs about science fiction, theater, and whatever else comes to mind at

We caught up with Matthew recently and got the chance to throw a few questions at him.


SS: If you could change one thing about the way you write, what would it be?

MC: I assume answering with the word “better” is cheating, so… I would improve my ability to focus on a single project at a time. The imagination that gives me strange ideas and weird story threads doesn’t really have a valve. It keeps feeding me little ingots of the bizarre and I find myself being led off into the woods while what could be a perfectly good story sits neglected on the desk. I’d easily trade 20% of my raw word output for the ability to focus it 20% more.

SS: Do you listen to music while writing? If so, what kinds of music or which artists?

MC: My go-to writing music is doom metal; bands like Sleep and Electric Wizard are in frequent rotation. Heavy, hypnotic, slow, repetitive, ominous. It’s loud enough to shut out the world but not fast or intricate enough to be distracting. The natural head-nodding pulse helps keep the words flowing, and the fuzzy minor and diminished melodies jive well with the kind of stuff I tend to write about. Recently I’ve been experimenting more with writing to rain sounds, when I really need to buckle down. Nothing beats an actual heavy rain outside, though.

SS: What feels like your best natural length for a story?

MC: I seem to be a short story specialist born a hundred years too late. I’m more a scene writer than a plot writer, so the more scenes need to be strung together the more strain I feel trying to build a bridge solid enough to properly support them. I’ve improved with practice, but I still feel it grating against my natural inclinations.

SS: Your book, Privateers of Mars: is there anything special you’re hoping readers will notice or appreciate in it?

MC: More than anything, I’m an ensemble writer. There may be a nominal or seeming main character in my writing, but all of my work of any significant length is about a group or a community first, and it is always their bond and ability to combine their skills that leads to success. I’m a tiny stick figure exerting a little pull on the massive lever of the contemporary and especially American illusion that any one person can do much of anything important all by themselves. Remarkable and interesting individuals are great; I obviously love characters with very distinct personalities and characteristics, but what makes remarkable individuals remarkable is how they use their remarkableness with other people to build bigger and better things.

SS: If you could snap your fingers and make one cliché, trope, or plot gimmick vanish, which one would it be?

MC: Building on the above: “I, Protagonist, am the Only Smart Person Alive. I drift through shuffling herds of numbed drones, alone in my understanding of how the world really works, pitying them through my cool guy cigarette smoke.” Note: I’m not against having a character who thinks like this, because we all think like this sometimes and maybe a lot of the time. It’s having the story at large vindicate this kind of thinking that’s the problem. It’s the difference between writing a character as the main character of the story and writing them as the actual main character of the world.

SS: Did you always know that you wanted to write genre fiction, or did you start out intending to write something else?

MC: I always knew I wanted to write genre fiction, though I should point out that ‘literary fiction’ is the ‘I don’t have an accent’ of genres. I don’t think that contemporary naturalism deserves the honor of not being a genre just because it’s the least exciting genre. Genre fiction is perfectly capable of both helping us examine the concrete and philosophical problems of our everyday lives, and being a needed escape vehicle to get us away from them for a while. Very good genre fiction usually does both at the same time. One of the points I always come back to when I teach theater classes is that stories frequently do more than one thing at once and rarely are the various effects a story can have on the mind mutually exclusive. I think that’s a lot of what makes them so engaging in the first place. If you want to write two different kinds of story, there’s a good chance you can do it with one story. Try it out, see what happens. And you can take that little phrase of advice and apply it to most things.

SS: Thank you for your time, Matthew. And now, if people want to see how you handle writing ensembles, here’s where we throw in the plug for PRIVATEERS OF MARS.



Meet Jacob Rhys: scoundrel, brawler, gambler, drunk, and licensed privateer working for the Free Mars State—until the authorities on Ceres seized his ship…

When shipyard engineer Valerie Morton found him a week later, face-down in a bar, she showed him the official report on what was discovered in his ship’s cargo hold. As Rhys read the report he began tapping nervously on the grip of his sidearm. Then he suddenly stopped tapping and looked up at her.
“I’m getting my command crew back together,” he said. “We are, handily, short an engineer. Do you have strong aversions to petty or grand larceny, extortion, card cheating, recreational and spiritual drug use, sexual practices that may involve recreational and spiritual drug use, and ubiquitous, often unnecessary violence?”

After a slight hesitation, Morton shook her head.

Rhys smiled. “Good. Welcome to my crew.”
What happens next? Join Rhys and rest of his slippery crew and begin the dark and dirty adventure of tomorrow today! If you liked COWBOY BEBOP, you'll love PRIVATEERS OF MARS!

Friday, March 22, 2024

“Upper Beta Great Alcove Very Happy” • by Ron Fein

Marco and Rada were hunched over the computer in the family room when the message arrived from their son, Nate: “Upper Beta. With a great alcove. Very happy.” 

They exhaled with relief. Nate had received his berth at the international base on Jupiter’s moon Callisto. 

“He wanted the Beta habitat,” said Rada. “He thinks it’s better than Alpha.”

“And he must prefer ‘upper’ Beta over ‘lower’ Beta, whatever that means. Maybe the view of Jupiter is better?” 

“I doubt it. Every room has a million-dollar view.” Callisto was tidally-locked, and the habitat always faced the planet. “He probably didn’t care which level. I think he was just sharing additional details, like the alcove.”

“There must be some reason he prefers the upper level, or else he wouldn’t have mentioned it. Why waste the characters if it wasn’t important?”

Bandwidth limits bedeviled the loved ones of Callisto crewmembers. For much of the moon’s seventeen-day orbit, communication lines between Earth and the habitat were blocked either by the moon’s backside or by Jupiter itself. Someday, a relay satellite would bridge this gap. Until then, clear communications were possible only near quadrature—when the moon was, from Earth’s perspective, to Jupiter’s left or right. But during those short windows, the massive volume of mission data held priority. So bandwidth for personal messages was severely restricted—just forty-eight characters per message. 

Rada sighed. “Is that really what you want to waste our reply on—upper and lower levels?”

“No,” he agreed. “How long do we have?”

She checked her watch. “Almost ten minutes.” 

“All right.” Marco cracked his knuckles and flexed his fingers over the keyboard. “How about we start this way: ‘Mom and I—”

“No,” she interrupted. “You don’t need to waste space on things like ‘Mom and I.’ Nate knows it’s from us. You don’t even need to say ‘we.’ That’s assumed.”

“Fair enough,” conceded Marco. “But then why did he say ‘a’ great alcove? If he’d just said ‘with great alcove,’ he’d have saved a character—actually, two characters including the space. That plus the other four could have been an additional word.”

Rada rolled her eyes. “You’re overthinking this.”

“Come to think of it,” he continued, “Nate didn’t use all forty-eight characters. His message is just forty-four.”

“He probably just stopped at a convenient place.” 

“Or maybe he’s trying to send some sort of subtext by not using all of his characters?”

“Let’s stay focused,” she urged.

“And why say ‘with’ great alcove? He could have just said ‘great alcove.’ That’s another—” He counted on his fingers. “Five characters. If you combine them with the unused four and the two from ‘a,’ he’d have eleven characters available if he’d just written ‘Upper Beta. Great alcove. Very happy.’” 

Enough,” Rada snapped. “This is pointless.”

But Marco was on a roll. “And why the periods? Leaving them out would have freed up three more characters. So fourteen available to say something else.”

“That’s it,” she muttered. “You’re done. Get away from the keyboard, I’m doing this myself.” 

Marco rolled his chair aside. “I’m telling you, something’s wrong,” he insisted. “Nate must have known that I’d begin ‘Mom and I,’ and that you’d make your point about the unstated parts.”

“I’m not listening,” sang Rada as she typed a response.

“Furthermore,” Marco persevered, “he must have anticipated that I’d take the logic to the next step and notice that he wasted fourteen characters. He only gets to communicate with us once a week, and he leaves a third of his space unused? Doesn’t make sense. Unless there’s something else—a hidden message, encoded in the unused characters.” 

“You’re unbelievable,” muttered Rada as she finished composing her reply. “There’s only two minutes left.” 

“A message in the negative space,” rambled Marco. “Like the optical illusion of two faces that create the outline of a vase in the emptiness between.”

“Do you want to look this over before I send it?” demanded Rada.

But Marco didn’t hear her. “A message, fourteen characters long, so secret and powerful that he needed to conceal it,” he mused. “What could it be? ‘Get me out of here’? No, too long. Wait, without the spaces—‘getmeoutofhere’—that’s fourteen exactly.”

“Sixty seconds or we miss our window.” 

Marco gazed out the window, steepling his fingers and murmuring to himself. “But that has no spaces. That’s inconsistent with the rest of the message. A fourteen-character phrase including one or more spaces… twenty-seven to the fourteenth. But most of those aren’t valid English words. I could write a program…”

“Time’s running out,” growled Rada.

Marco rubbed his temples. “‘Food repulsive’? That fits, but it doesn’t explain the secrecy. There must be a reason for sending the message in a hidden code.”

“Thirty seconds.”

Marco frantically waved his hands. “Oh my God—he must be on some sort of secret mission, sending hidden messages to his handler.”


“Um, um—oh, I’ve got it!” Marco cried. “‘Asset acquired’! That’s it! That’s the message!”

“Time’s up,” Rada announced.

“But what the hell is Nate doing out there, on a secret mission sending coded messages about acquiring assets? What kind of assets? Military secrets? Is he trying to turn his foreign crewmates? Is he an undercover spy?” Marco’s eyes widened and he stared at Rada with horror. “Is he passing a secret spy message to—” 

“I’m sending this now,” Rada interrupted, and pressed enter. “Marco, you need therapy.”


Forty-three minutes later and three hundred ninety million miles away, in the comm center at the Callisto habitat, Nate read the message from his parents: “Terrific. All ok here. Miss you. Love.”

He stared at for a moment, and then counted the characters. Thirty-eight—ten left unused.

Damn it, he thought. That could only mean one thing: “Dad knows!”


Ron Fein is a Boston-area public interest lawyer, writer, and activist who writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, and comedy. His work appears in Nature, MetaStellar, Daily Science Fiction, Nonprofit Quarterly, Factor Four, Mystery Tribune, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Find him at, on Mastodon, on BlueSky, and on Threads @ronaldfein.



Thursday, March 21, 2024


All we were trying to do was push this book out a little early, so that Guy Stewart could have copies in-hand when he showed up at Minicon 57 next weekend. 

» Click anywhere on the above image to go to the list of links.

This was quite possibly the fastest book launch we’re ever done. The Kindle edition went live in less than an hour. The Nook, Apple Books, and Smashwords e-books were live this morning, and new e-book vendors are coming online hourly.

» Click anywhere on the above image to go to the list of links.

The print edition was approved so quickly, it looks like we may have commercial copies from Amazon in-hand before the case of ARC copies I ordered from Ingram shows up. Thus we’ll have the opportunity to compare the Amazon and Ingram printings side-by-side, and decide which we prefer. In theory, releasing the print edition through Ingram gives us much wider distribution, including into bookstores. In practice, that rarely happens. 

» Click anywhere on the above image to go to the list of links.

ENORMOUS THANKS TO DON MUCHOW, for going way beyond the call of duty and burning much midnight oil to make sure that this book got finished and released on time! THANKS, DON! 

P.S. And consider buying the book, okay?

P.P.S. One more thing: an audio book edition is in the works and should be available shortly. Guy and I talked it over, and decided that using Amazon’s AI to narrate a story about a bunch of teens fighting an evil homicidal AI bent on world domination was just too ironic an opportunity to pass up.