Friday, May 31, 2024

The Never-ending FAQ: Looking Ahead, Part 2

…continued from Part 1…

Okay, yes, distributing through Draft2Digital makes our e-books available worldwide on Kobo, Nook, Apple Books, Smashwords, and a dizzying variety of other e-book platforms, but this wide distribution concept continues to remain more theoretical than real. At the end of the day—actually, at the end of several years of trying different strategies to push this particular strand of overcooked spaghetti—we’re left with the same truth we discovered the first time we tried to sell e-books on Nook and iBooks: a good sales month on all the other platforms combined rarely adds up to a slow sales day on Kindle.

Yeah, sure, if you’re in Australia you can buy the e-book of THE FUGITIVE HEIR directly from Angus & Robertson— 

But no one does. No one ever has. If someone in Australia wants to buy this book, they buy it through

Sifting through years of accumulated sales data, then, here’s what we’ve learned. In descending order, we sell books—

1. On Kindle, in the US, UK, Australia, and for some reason, Germany. We sell very few e-books in Canada.

2. In paperback, in the US and UK. For some reason our print books are insanely expensive in Australia. Again, see THE FUGITIVE HEIR on for an example.

3. In hardcover, in the US.

4. In e-pub, worldwide, on all the other platforms combined.

5. As audio books.

Got that? We sell more print copies than all other non-Kindle e-books combined. Our audio book sales are barely a drop in the bucket.

Meanwhile, the Kindle edition of THE MIDNIGHT GROUND keeps chugging along, generating income every day. 

Why? Is THE MIDNIGHT GROUND so vastly superior to everything else we’ve ever published? Should we forget science fiction completely and focus on publishing more paranormal thrillers?


What sets THE MIDNIGHT GROUND apart is that, through an administrative oversight, it ended up being the only full-length novel we have that we didn’t convert to e-pub and offer up for wide platform distribution on Draft2Digital. THE MIDNIGHT GROUND e-book remains available exclusively on Amazon Kindle.

Which means it’s the only title we have that’s currently enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select program. Which means it’s free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers

Which means, people are reading this book. Every day we get the KENP numbers to prove it.

So consider this an experiment. When we took books from being exclusively on Kindle and put them into wider distribution, sales of those titles softened. Meanwhile, the one book that stayed exclusively on Kindle, and therefore enrolled in the KDP Select program—well, people aren’t buying that many whole copies of it. But they’re reading the book, and we also make money that way, one page at a time.

Ergo, what have we learned? Well, first, that we’d better get PRIVATEERS OF MARS re-enrolled in KDP Select pronto! By the time you read this, it should already be available free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers!

Second: that having our books enrolled in KDP Select, and thus available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, generates income. True, Amazon insists that KDP Select titles be exclusive to Kindle, so doing that means we need to give up distributing e-books on Nook, Kobo, et al and distribute our e-books only on Kindle; but as the sales data proves, that’s no great loss. By July 1st we should have all our e-books pulled from all non-Kindle platforms. (It’s a slow process. Some of the non-Kindle platforms, i.e., Hoopla, make tree sloths look fast.)

Third: this is the tricky one. Our previous experience with Kindle Unlimited showed us that having books on Kindle Unlimited spurred readership of novels, yes, but cannibalized the readership of short story collections. KU readers would download entire issues of Stupefying Stories but then read only one or two stories in each issue. Kindle Unlimited made it really hard for us to make money publishing Stupefying Stories.

Our original novels make money. Our short story collections don’t.

We love short stories. Short stories are the hit singles of science fiction. Short stories are the reason why we’re here. But if we can’t at least not lose money by publishing full-length issues of Stupefying Stories

Going forward, we’ll be bringing short stories to market in new ways: ways that play to the strengths of Kindle Unlimited, rather than trying to fight against it. Fighting against KU is a lost cause. It’s Amazon’s world. We just rent space in it.


Ah yes, “Going forward.” That’s why you’re here, isn’t it? To find out what we’re planning to do going forward? 

First: We have the funding secured for three more issues of Stupefying Stories. We are targeting them for release as follows:

     #27, July 1st
     #28, September 1st
     #29, November 1st

We are in talks about doing a #30, but those plans are still in development. Barring some catastrophic event external to Rampant Loon Media, we expect to hit these dates. These issues will be released in paperback and e-book, and the e-books will be exclusively on Kindle, at least for the first 90 days. (Amazon requires that titles be exclusive to Amazon for at least 90 days in order to qualify for KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited.) After 90 days, we will reevaluate sales and decide whether to keep them on KU or opt for wider distribution. At present, “stay on KU” seems the smarter choice.

Second: We will be scaling back SHOWCASE. The idea of crowd-funding a daily flash fiction site was a nice idea, but naïve. We are grateful to everyone who has stepped up to support Stupefying Stories, and every dollar donated to the support Stupefying Stories fund has gone directly to our contributing authors, but we just plain don’t have enough donors to keep this going. Rather than continue to publish SHOWCASE in this form and to constantly beg for more donors and more donations, we will be reducing the number of stories we publish weekly, and phasing out free online flash fiction entirely by the end of August. Lots of people love to read it. Not enough people want to help pay for it.

SHOWCASE has always been our experimental test bed. It’s gone through many incarnations since our first “webzine” issue in 2013. It’s time for it to change again. In the now out-of-print 2020 version we tried to integrate SHOWCASE with the planned Stupefying Stories Presents line of chapbooks and novellas, but weren’t able to develop the idea fully then because of external constraints. We’re now revisiting this concept, with the idea of developing a chapbook series that exploits the Kindle Unlimited program’s strengths. Details are not finalized, but we’re targeting the first issue of the reborn SHOWCASE for release in late Q3.

Third: What? That’s not ambitious enough. You want a third item?

Okay, how about this? THE ODIN CHRONICLES, SEASON TWO, debuts tomorrow! Watch for it!

 And thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

The Never-ending FAQ • Looking Ahead: The Next 7 Months

We’ve been having a lot of conversations lately, about the future of Stupefying Stories in particular, the future of indie publishing in general, and the future of writing SF/F in broad and sweeping terms. Rather than try to shoehorn these conversations into our usual Q&A format, today’s column will be more of a free-ranging discussion of what we’ve talked about and decided, thus far.

For example, one conversation began with this seemingly harmless little glyph, which triggered a small panic when I shared it on Facebook. This is a QR code that you can scan with your phone. It takes you directly to Ingram, where you can buy the paperback edition of Guy Stewart’s YA novel, Emerald of Earth directly from the printer. 

What?! Are we abandoning Amazon? Are we going off on yet another Quixotic quest into the wilderness of indie distribution and direct sales?

No, we’re not that masochistic. This QR code, and its dozen or so friends, exists because our friend Guy Stewart is doing a young writer’s workshop this week, in a venue affiliated with a well-respected local indie bookstore, and the bookstore wants to have printed books in-hand to sell during the workshop. At the same time, they categorically refuse to handle print-on-demand books manufactured by Amazon.

We’re sympathetic. We’ve done our last few print books through Ingram. While Amazon’s print-on-demand service is much faster and slightly cheaper, doing a book through Ingram results in a noticeably higher quality book. That, and Ingram can produce proper hardcover books, with dust jackets and the works, which is something Amazon still can’t or won’t do.

So when you buy, say, the trade paperback or hardcover of THE PRINCESS SCOUT on Amazon, what you’re actually getting is a book that was printed by Ingram, and is being resold by Amazon, the same as they would resell any other book by any major publisher. Ingram is first and foremost a book distributor.

This is a crucial point. When we do a print edition through Amazon, customers can only buy the book on Amazon. When we do a print edition through Ingram, it can be distributed anywhere—which effectively means to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and such indie bookstores as choose to stock it.

Which brings us back to EMERALD OF EARTH. In figuring out how to set things up so that the local indie bookshop could get copies directly from Ingram, I found that Ingram has branched out into consumer-direct sales, and is now providing helpful things like the above QR code and the embeddable html code that produced the above “Buy Now” box. This should make it slightly easier to sell books to those few remaining folks who absolutely refuse to do business with Amazon.

I expect most people will still buy their books through Amazon, though, as Amazon offers FREE SHIPPING AND PRIME POINTS! while Ingram does not. It’s darned hard to beat that free shipping.


Please note that the foregoing discussion applies only to print books. While Ingram can distribute e-books, they don’t do it very well. Instead, for e-books, we have a two-tier strategy.

First and foremost, our e-books go directly to KDP, Amazon’s Kindle Digital Publishing operation. Here in the third decade of the 21st Century the book publishing industry is mostly on Kindle, somewhat in print, and with a very tiny share left over for all the other e-book formats that aren’t Kindle.

We used to deal directly with Apple Books and Barnes & Noble Nook. Both companies made the process so unpleasant we were happy to quit dealing with them and go back to putting out books exclusively on Kindle. If you want to know why Amazon Kindle is so dominant today, it’s because ten years ago both Apple and Barnes & Noble went out of their way to drive small-press and indie publishers away from supporting their e-readers.

Today, we use Draft2Digital to do our e-book distribution to all non-Kindle platforms. If you find one of our titles on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, Apple Books, or any other e-book platform, Draft2Digital put it there. Draft2Digital also gives us handy tools like this:

Depending on the title you can find the links to every edition of the book, including the print and audio book editions, all in one place. Now if only they’d let us put a bit of ad copy on this web page. As it stands, there are links galore, but it’s still completely dependent on the cover art to get people interested in clicking through on any of those links. 

E.g., this book: yeah, sure, there are formats and links galore. But what’s it about

Oops. Out of time. I’ll finish this tomorrow.


Saturday, May 25, 2024

“Courting Controversy” • by Bruce Bethke

I subscribe to quite a few marketing newsletters, in hopes of figuring out how to grow the readership for Stupefying Stories. Simply “publishing good stories” doesn’t seem to be sufficient; our readership numbers fluctuate wildly from day to day, and it seems as if it wasn’t published this week, it may as well never have been published at all. We have hundreds of stories out on SHOWCASE, but almost no one ever delves into the archives.

So, how to change that? Hmm…

One newsletter that showed up in my email this morning recommends “bother bonding” as a technique to draw in more readers. That is, rather than writing about anything positive, write about something negative, something that really bothers you, so that you and your followers can all join together in righteously hating it.

I dunno. I dislike the idea of focusing on negatives and working to stoke hate. I’ve seen it work far too well for political commentators seeking to build their audiences, and it always struck me as being the behavior of the mean girls clique in the junior high school lunchroom, only grown up into malignant adult form.

Nonetheless, it’s claimed that it works for fiction writers, so… Hmm. A controversial opinion. Something that really bothers me, that we can all join together in trash-talking…

Okay, how about this? The other night I was flipping through the channels and came across the second-to-last episode of Enterprise, “Terra Prime,” which has been claimed to be the best episode of the entire series. I settled in to watch it. I used to be quite fond of Star Trek, in all its many incarnations. But the longer I watched this episode, the more it really began to bother me.

Briefly, the plot is this: the reactionary terrorist organization “Terra Prime” has taken over the Gobbledygookium Array on Mars and is threatening to use it to vaporize Star Fleet headquarters in San Francisco, unless the diplomatic conference that’s being held there to discuss the founding of the Federation stops immediately and all non-human aliens leave the solar system forthwith. With all the resources at Star Fleet’s disposal it winds up being up to the plucky captain of the Enterprise and his stalwart companions to sneak into the terrorists’ command center, cripple the Death Star—excuse me, the Whatchamacallit Array—defeat all the terrorist minions in hand-to-hand combat, have a big boss fight in the control room between Captain Archer and the terrorist leader as the seconds to doom are ticking down, and once again to save the world, the future, the Federation, and all that crap.


Think this through with me. Mars is moving through space, and rotating on its axis. Earth as well is moving through space, and rotating on its axis. The two planets do not move in sync, in any conceivable way. Mars, at its closest, is about 38.6 million miles away from Earth, at its furthest about 250 million miles away, and on average about 140 million miles away.

So assuming this Interplanetary Megadeath Zap Cannon fires something like an enormous laser beam, which therefore travels in a straight line, the two points on the two planets—the point of origin on Mars and the target on Earth—will be in precise alignment for, what? Nanoseconds? Picoseconds? Even less? And only once every few days? And then, factoring in the velocity of c

TRIPP: “Captain! They’ve fired the weapon!”

ARCHER: (checks his watch) “Okay, at light speed it’ll take the beam about 12 minutes to reach Earth. I’m going down to the galley to get a cup of coffee while we wait. You want I should get you something?”

Kind of cuts into the drama, doesn’t it?

Over to you,


Friday, May 24, 2024

The Never-ending FAQ: Addendum

Welcome to this week’s addendum to 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.

Normally we run The Never-ending FAQ on Wednesday, but we had so many questions in the queue this week we decided to run an addendum today, rather than let them overflow into next week.

Q: Why did you decide to grow a beard?

A: I didn’t “decide” to grow a beard. I’ve been growing a beard ever since I was a teenager. About two weeks ago I decided to quit shaving for a few weeks, in hopes of trying the “ruggedly handsome” look for the summer. Thus far, though, it’s seems more like the “scruffy and possibly homeless” look. That, and it itches like crazy. I doubt my beard will survive this weekend.

Q: Is it true they’re doing a remake of Barbarella?

A: Yes, God help us. It’s to star Sydney Sweeney, who you most recently didn’t see in Madame Web, the latest Marvel super-hero movie to do a mighty face-plant at the box office. I think my favorite of all the hundreds of 1-star reviews on IMDB was, “Makes Morbius look like The Dark Knight.” And we did try to warn you about Morbius.

Q: Is it true there’s a Season 2 of The Odin Chronicles in development?

A: It’s not merely in development, Episode 1 goes live on Saturday, June 1st. Watch for it!

Q: Why isn’t Stupefying Stories on Instagram?

A: We experimented with that. All that creating seemed to accomplish was to make it slower and more cumbersome to create and send out posts, and to provide more opportunities for Meta to saturation-bomb us with ads telling us we’d do much better on Instagram if we just bought this plug-in or that advertising plan. That, and Instagram makes it very difficult to link to stories or content elsewhere, which makes it nearly worthless as a tool for promoting stories on SHOWCASE or books on Amazon.

Q: Did you try LinkTree? 

A: Yep. Our LinkTree page looks like this: Again, very lovely and visual, but as a tool for promoting books and stories, very limited. I thought Amazon’s emphasis on thumbnails was challenging, but LinkTree’s insistence on cropping them down to square thumbnails is worse.

Thus far the ascendancy of TikTok, Instagram, X, et al, only serves to convince me that Homo sapiens is in the process of being out-evolved by Meleagris gallopavo. At least turkeys are smart enough not to walk out into traffic while their attention is fixated on their cell phones.

This is how The Great A.I. Menace is going to kill you, you know. It won’t need terminators. It’ll just send something so attention-grabbing to your cell phone that you forget how to survive. Sending people GPS instructions directing them to drive off cliffs was merely a trial run.

Have a happy and safe holiday weekend, and see you back here next week! 



Wednesday, May 22, 2024

The Never-ending FAQ: What happened?

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.

Q: What happened? You disappeared for a week.

A: Thanks for noticing. Some personal business came up that turned out to be far more time- and energy-consuming than I expected. Consequently I took an unplanned one-week holiday from social media in general and Stupefying Stories Showcase in particular to deal with it. I’m back now.

Q: On the Submission Guidelines page it says this. It’s May 22. What’s up?

“Our next open submissions window is planned to be from 06/01/2024 to 07/31/2024. However, these dates are subject to revision. Our finalized plans for the next open submissions window will be published on this web page on or about 05/22/2024.”

A: Thanks for reminding me. That’s going to change as of right now. I’m pushing back the planned open reading period to 07/01/2024 to 08/31/2024 and reserving the right to push it back further. Our last open reading period turned out to be an enormous all-consuming black hole that devoured far too much time that would have been better spent on book production. Ergo, I’m postponing the next open reading period and focusing on book production until further notice.

Before we reopen to unsolicited submissions, I must figure out some way to improve our filtering. Fully half the submissions that came in in the last reading period were pure dreck, not worth a first glance much less a full read. As testimony to the power of authorial self-delusion a fiction magazine slush pile has few equals, but there must be a better way for us to find new stories to publish.

Q: What is the position of Stupefying Stories regarding profanity? Does anything go or are some words off-limits?

A: I don’t give a shit.

When we first launched Stupefying Stories and Rampant Loon Press, we made a strong effort to keep the language PG-13, as we had hopes of getting our books into school libraries. That turned out to be a wasted and self-delusional effort on our part. The gatekeepers dedicated to keeping books out of school libraries are a remarkably stalwart lot. Ergo, we’ve given up on trying to get our books into school libraries. If you feel your story requires profanity, go for it.

Be advised, though, that I’ve worked alongside Teamsters, longshoremen, and hardcore bikers, and for some reason some writers feel compelled to prove they can out-swear them all. Still trying to prove they’re the toughest motherfucker in the poetry class, I guess. Loading your story with gratuitous profanity just to be “shocking,” “edgy,” and “tough” rarely works. Mostly it makes you look like your ability to express yourself is stuck in junior high school.

For reference, I was in the audience the night George Carlin got arrested in Milwaukee for doing his “Seven Words You Can’t Say on Television” bit live and onstage, more than 50 years ago. At the time I thought it was an outrage that he got arrested. Years later, I realized the real outrage that night was that Carlin had lifted the entire bit nearly verbatim from an even older Lenny Bruce routine.

Lenny Bruce died in 1966. If you think you can be “shocking” and “edgy” now by recycling a dead standup comic’s 60-year-old material—well, go for it, if it makes you happy. But don’t expect anyone else to give a flying fuck.

Q: Why is there a photo of a turkey at the top of this column?

A: To set up the next question.

Q: Why did the turkey cross the road?

A: Because it saw and heard me coming in my car and decided to get out of the middle of the road and trot off to the safety of the shoulder.

Q: Why, about 30 seconds later, did the woman in maroon yoga pants step off the curb and start to cross the road, and then stop in the middle of the road and glare at me when I had to stomp on the brakes to avoid hitting her?

A: Because she had her earbuds in and her face buried in her cellphone.

Q: What is the definition of sentience?

A: Sentience is one of those words science fiction writers frequently misuse, especially when talking about aliens or artificial intelligence. Sentience does not mean high intelligence, per se. It means being aware of one’s environment, and being able to make choices and take deliberate actions based on one’s perception of the events and changing conditions in one’s environment.

Q: So from this sequence of events we can infer…?

A: That a turkey has a better claim to being a sentient creature than does a human who is face-down in their cellphone.

This theory probably warrants further experimentation, but it may be difficult to get more turkeys to volunteer to participate in the study. The challenge is to get humans to stop volunteering to participate.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

MINING THE ASTEROIDS Part 14: Another Player “Believes”!

Initially, I started this series because of the 2021 World Science Fiction Convention, DisCON which I WOULD have been attending in person if I felt safe enough to do so in person AND it hadn’t been changed to the week before the Christmas Holidays…HOWEVER, as time passed, I knew that this was a subject I was going to explore because it interests me…

“We [at Karman+] want to mine space resources from near-Earth asteroids to provide abundant, sustainable energy and resources in space and for Earth.”

Whew! Bold words!

Karman+ is the most recent company to throw its helmet into the hype-filled sea of speculative asteroid mining. They DO note that asteroid mining has “lived at the intersection of scientific research and popular culture for decades, with as many academic papers published as there are books, TV shows and movies about it.”

That being said, everyone knows that the ULTIMATE reason to start mining the asteroids is because what metals that are left on Earth have been mined practically to the bare rock walls. And even MORE ultimately, the mining concerns are facing the possibility of the total depletion of their cash cows.

I live in Minnesota. During World War II, “Minnesota nearly depleted its immense supply of high-grade iron ore to help the Allies win World War II, providing much of the crucial raw material behind America's tanks, warships, guns and ammunition…”

But how MUCH is “much”? “SEVENTY percent of the iron ore that America devoted to the war came from Minnesota…333 million tons, according to Pam Brunfelt, a retired Vermilion Community College faculty member and historian.” She added, “without the Iron Range, we would not have won the war…[Today], our resources-driven growth faces a massive existential challenge, with climate change, ecosystem degradation and resource depletion demanding a complete reset. Humanity needs to shift global transportation, manufacturing, construction and energy onto a sustainable path.”

There are a growing number of companies who are talking a BIG TALK about mining asteroids; just as there are a number of individuals who live in total doubt that something as ridiculous as “mining asteroids” will EVER take place. From these early, serious attempts to realize, these modern day space pirates are intent on sinking any serious discussion or intention to realize any alternatives to mining in space by insisting that Earth is the ONLY PLACE WE WILL EVER GET THE METALS WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO BUILD OUR SOCIETY. (see: 
MINING THE ASTEROIDS The Final Post: Maybe THESE Are The REAL Space Pirates? ~ Stupefying Stories Magazine)

Fortunately, there’s another new company willing to do more than talk. The “Karman+” and logo come from the concept of the Kármán line, established in the 1960’s, “a proposed conventional boundary between Earth's atmosphere and outer space set by the international record-keeping body FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) at an altitude of 100 kilometers (also: 62 miles or 330,000 feet) above sea level.”

There’s no measurable change in the characteristics of the atmosphere across it, but it IS important for legal and regulatory purposes. Anything flying above it is considered a spacecraft; anything below it is just an airplane, no matter how fancy.

Those two types of vessels are subject to different jurisdictions and legislations. It IS a lot higher than we can reach with a regular jet or a high altitude balloon. But it’s also the point at which a satellite in orbit around Earth will inevitably fall out of the sky.

Karman+ believes in something called “the Regolith Age, powered by abundant space resources, is an inevitability that we can accelerate.” Because they don’t offer ANY kind of definition, I’m somewhat suspicious of their mission…though I think I can parse it reasonably well:

Regolith: “regolith, a region of loose unconsolidated rock and dust that sits atop a layer of bedrock and serves as a source of other geologic resources, such as aluminum, iron, clays, diamonds, and rare earth elements. It also appears on the surfaces of the Moon, other planets, and asteroids. The word is the Greek term for “blanket rock.” So, we expect to not actually DIG into asteroids, but merely swoop in and scoop up the regolith and either refine it in orbital facilities and what? Drop down slugs of iron, steel, gold, frankincense, and myrrh?

Either that or ship raw regolith back to the surface in…space shuttles? Heat-shielded “drop capsules”? [NOW THERE’S AN IDEA! Pack a drop capsule full of unrefined regolith. Send it on a one-way fall into the ocean with some kind of floater ring. Provide a vent in the top of the dropper, and voila, the capsule will be full of partially smelted metal even before Humans get their hands on it.] But wouldn’t it kind of be bad if one of these dropper companies sent a ship down with regolith that shows a high concentration of gold, platinum, or other desirable metals – and some mean, old fashioned PIRATE pirates grabbed it and make off with it?]

Hmmm…Karman+ points out that there have been baby steps made in the returning of samples to our surface from other bodies: from the various rocks returned on the original Apollo Lunar landings (“Between 1969 and 1972 six Apollo missions brought back 382 kilograms (842 pounds) of lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust from the lunar surface. The six space flights returned 2200 separate samples from six different exploration sites on the Moon. In addition, three automated Soviet spacecraft returned important samples totaling 300 grams (approximately 3/4 pound) from three other lunar sites.” (

“That last step has been advanced through the Hayabusa and Hayabusa2 missions run by JAXA, both of which also returned sample material back to earth. This will be expanded in the coming years with the NASA-run OSIRIS-REx mission, taking our total count of asteroid sample return missions to 3. As well, AstroForge did some experiments on asteroid mining earlier this year. (

So, despite the nay-sayers, doom-layers, and plain haters, the possibility of mining the asteroids is moving forward, albeit slowly. Consider, however, how many years it took between Goddard’s first rocket experiments and Apollo 11’s historic landing on the Moon – forty-three years between his first liquid fuel rocket launch, and “One small step for man; one giant leap for mankind.”

Since then, we haven’t stopped and the exploration of space has included virtually every nation with launch capability – or the wherewithal to buy a place in space.

I think our “negativity experts” have chosen to stand in stubborn surety on the WRONG side of Human history.

New Source:; ;

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

“Claws” • by Gareth D Jones


Smoke drifts, red lights glare, sirens blare. 

Metal creaks as the ship continues its tortured roll. Silence. Silence from the crew, passengers, scientists. No voices, no answer. Only the noise of metal groaning, loose items rolling across the deck.

Metal cupboard, barely bigger than a cupboard. Andjela cowers, knees pulled up against chest, arms wrapped around knees. Pyjamas, fluffy gown, bare feet. Cold. Like being in an oven waiting for something to happen. Waiting for the door to close. Through the crack of the open door, across the hold, something moves.

Red light outside. Sirens. Deck creaking, something clacking.

Andjela whimpers.

And somewhere outside—

Door hisses. Seals shut.

And somewhere outside is—

Clicks, lock secured. Green light.

Green light. Green light. Not dead. Green light.

And somewhere outside is death.

Garbled voice, recorded, synthetic. Text across a screen. Launching. Dull thud of latches popping in turn.

And somewhere outside is death, and claws, clacking and clattering across the deck. Hunting. Nobody left to hunt.

Green light. Not dead.

Only Andjela left to hunt.

A shunt and Andjela rolls to the side, pushes up against the padded wall of the escape capsule. Hugs herself tighter.

Still the green light.

Shoves away from the crippled, dying ship. Boosted clear, holding tight to knees, rocking back and forth. Clear of the ship and its degrading orbit.

Somewhere on the ship is death.

Spinning around, inertia, rolling on heels and buttocks, bumping walls with arms and shoulders.

Green light. Not dead.

Nobody left to hunt. All dead.

Steady pressure against spine. Capsule boosting away from the ship.

And somewhere outside



through the hull. Clacking and clattering.

Somewhere outside is death. Come for a ride.

Green light. Not dead. Yet.



Gareth D Jones is an environmental scientist, writer and father of five, two of whom are also published authors. His first short story was published in 2004, and since then he’s had over 200 publications in 33 languages, making him unofficially the second most widely translated science fiction short story author in the world. Why unofficially? Because there’s no official ranking. From his involvement in the field, he believe he’s second, but could be wrong.

He started reviewing genre magazines not longer after his stories started being published, when he realised that many of the small press magazines received little attention in the way of reviews. Later on, he started reviewing novels too, mostly for SF Crowsnest. He’s currently on a sabbatical from reviewing, with over 300 reviews now published. He’s written five novels and, although none of them have yet been published, he remains hopeful. He’s also written a small handful of non-fiction articles on the subject of writing.

For more information, see


Sunday, May 12, 2024

“The Last Guardian of Tarugal” • by Kai Delmas

I drift onward through the endless night. 

My belly filled with fire keeps me warm and alive in this cold, dead space.

As I drift, I sleep. I sleep the long rest of the guardians. And as I sleep, I dream.

I dream of Tarugal. I spread my leathery wings and fly over its craggy mountains, its dense forests, the wide open seas. I breathe in the fresh and salty air alike.

I dream of what it used to be.

I failed my duty as guardian and slept too long. When I awoke everything was turned to ash. I found no creatures left to protect. No other guardians remained.

I was alone.

But that was long ago. Once I was sure that there was nothing left and I had roared my last fiery breaths of fury, I launched myself in the air and flew higher than ever before.

Tarugal was lost, yet it clung to me. The winds grew cold, buffeting me. They tried to keep me from leaving but there was no reason for me to remain. I flexed my wings and used all my strength to rise through the ever-darkening skies until the winds stopped and all that remained was the endless night.

I have been traveling ever since. I drift through this space, away from the sun that I once knew and ever onward until I find a new home.

I hibernate and dream until something flickers in my mind. My senses come awake and I open my eyes. Something is out there. I am not alone.

It’s still far away but I can see it. A long white tube of metal. My wings are useless in the space of the endless night but the fire in my belly rumbles and its strength propels me forward.

My guardian senses have lain dormant for so long, it feels strange to have them reawaken. That was the flicker in my mind. I can feel living creatures within the metal tube that is about twice my size. There are dozens of them.

What are they doing out here? So far away from any sun, any planet. Can they truly live there, locked inside?

I wonder if they are in need of a guardian? If they need me to guide them to a new home, for them and me?

I come ever closer to the white metal tube and await contact. I can feel the life within but I cannot connect my mind to theirs without touch.

My fire settles and I slow down. Something is released from the tube. They seek the touch. I extend my claws to meet their metal canister. It holds nothing living so I don’t know if it will work.

When the canister collides with my scales there is a mighty explosion. One much greater than the metal tube itself.

I understand why they would want to get rid of it but why did they send it towards me?

Already, I feel my old guardian senses tingle with satisfaction. The explosion could not harm me but I was there to protect them from it.

Then another metal canister is released from the white tube and it begins to turn away from me, gaining speed.

The canister explodes when it reaches me and they send another.

My guardian senses flicker in irritation. They had more canisters with them. Many more. They were not getting rid of them, they were trying to get rid of me.

The fire inside me seethes. It rages, demanding to be set free. These tiny lives within that tube are not worth guarding. They’re harbingers of destruction. They could have been the ones who destroyed my beloved Tarugal.

My fire rumbles and sends me onward. Canisters explode on my claws and scales. More and more of them come my way but they will not stop me.

I rake my claws across the metal and tear it apart. Red lights flash within and I see the little creatures that dared attack me.

One by one I feel their lives dim and flicker out. My claw finds its way to their canister storage and the whole white tube goes up in a ball of flame.

And again, I am alone.

I close my eyes and drift there for a long time. I wait. For what, I do not know.

I don’t understand why these creatures attacked me but I know that not all life in the endless night is like them. Life on Tarugal was not like them.

Somewhere out there I will find life that needs a guardian like me.

And so, the fire in my belly rumbles and I drift onward through the endless night.

Kai Delmas loves creating worlds and magic systems. He is a slush reader for Apex Magazine and The Cosmic Background. His fiction can be found in  Zooscape, Martian, Crepuscular, and several Shacklebound anthologies. His debut drabble collection, Darkness Rises, Hope Remains, was published by Shacklebound Books. If you like his work you can support him at and find him on Twitter @KaiDelmas or Bluesky

Check out the entire series!

The Week in Review • 12 May 2024

Welcome to The Week in Review, the weekly round-up for those too busy to follow Stupefying Stories on a daily basis. This week we turned control over to Pete Wood, to present the winners of The Pete Wood Challenge “Tristan da Cunha” contest

Pete’s challenge this time was pretty simple: to write a flash fiction story of no more than 175 words in length, set on the island of Tristan da Cunha, the “most remote inhabited archipelago in the world.” (Fittingly enough, one of the islands in the chain is named ‘Inaccessible Island.’) As usual, the challenge winners came through with five wildly different and yet delightful stories, and this time Pete was so inspired by the idea that he even wrote his own response to the challenge—therefore, no “Never-ending FAQ” column this week.

In ascending order, the winners are:

“Canned Kraken,” by Tobias Backman

(Honorable Mention: Published 6 May 2024)

So what do you do when you have a multi-ton dead kaiju blocking up the entrance to the only decent harbor on the island? 

» Read it now



“Floating Light Over the Waves,” by Brandon Case

(Honorable Mention: Published 7 May 2024)

Here’s the story of a man who went to the island to get away from it all, only to discover that he’d gone a little too far.

» Read it now


“A Snail’s Pace,” by Pete Wood

(Editor’s Choice: Published 8 May 2024)

In a world with teleportation, where everyone everywhere is just seconds away, where do you go to slow down and relax?

» Read it now


“A Quiet Where Magic Can Grow,” by Kai Holmwood

(Third Place: Published 9 May 2024)

Fan favorite Kai Holmwood delivers a little tale of something wonderful that needs really special growing conditions…

» Read it now


“The Sirens’ Salvation,” by Kimberly Ann Smiley

(Second Place: Published 10 May 2024)

The war between the mermaids and the sirens had gone very badly. Now the sirens clung to one very small territory, and one last long-shot hope…

» Read it now



“The Potato Singer,” by Ian Li

(First Place: Published 11 May 2024)

Johnny dreamed of being a singer, although he knew he didn’t have the voice for it. Even the cows in the pasture fled in terror at the sound of his singing voice. Wasn’t there anywhere he could go to practice?

» Read it now

Saturday, May 11, 2024

“The Potato Singer” • by Ian Li

Johnny knew he didn’t have the voice for it, but he dreamt of becoming a singer nonetheless. 

St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s deemed his voice unsuited for hymns, and the Albatross Bar didn’t do much live music (or that was their excuse when he asked anyway).

His mum even forbade him from singing at home, claiming it disturbed the peace. “Why not pick a normal occupation?” she grumbled. “Potato farmer? Cattle farmer? Sheep farmer? Chicken farmer?”

Since no one appreciated his singing, he ventured all the way to The Patches to let it out. Even cows and chickens he encountered fled upon hearing his voice. But the potatoes didn’t. All summer, he’d lean against the rocky walls of his family’s fields, belting out song after song.

At harvest time, his family discovered their potatoes grew thrice as big as everyone else’s. When others learned of Johnny’s contribution, everyone invited him to sing to their potatoes.

Thereafter, islanders and tourists alike visited The Patches to hear the legendary Potato Singer of Tristan da Cunha.


Ian Li (he/him) writes speculative fiction and poetry and lives in Toronto. Formerly an economist and consultant, he loves spreadsheets, statistical curiosities, and brain teasers. Find his writing in print or forthcoming in Solarpunk Magazine, Radon Journal, and Flame Tree Press, as well as at

His most recent appearances in our pages were “Summit, in Memory” and “Hosting a Tempest.”




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Friday, May 10, 2024

“The Sirens’ Salvation” • by Kimberly Ann Smiley

A pod of her sisters raced towards Elder Pesinoe, disturbing her daily vocal exercises.

“Elder, we have news!” said a young siren, her skin flushed a deep green. “Men have left the island in a boat. Lots of them!”

The Elder had been ready to admonish the others, but this was worthy of interruption. “Show me!”

The sirens darted towards a tiny island, called Tristan da Cunha by the land dwellers.

After losing the war with the spiteful mermaids, a small settlement on the remote island was the only place humans lived in the meager territory the sirens still claimed. Deprived of an adequate supply of men, their population had dwindled drastically.

But, by the Gods, the youngling had spoken true!

Men had left the safety of land. Fifteen were braving the seas in a narrow boat. All looked to be strong and healthy.

With so many fathers, the sirens could rebuild! In time, they’ll be able to challenge those smug mermaids again.

This would be their salvation!

Elder Pesinoe cleared her throat. “Sisters, it’s time to sing!”


Kimberly Ann Smiley was born and raised in California but now lives in Mississippi after an unexpected plot twist. She has several pieces of paper that claim she is a mechanical engineer and none that mention writing, but has decided not to let the practical decisions made in her youth define the rest of her life. Her stories have appeared both here on Stupefying Stories and in Daily Science Fiction and Sci-Fi Shorts.

Learn more at


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Thursday, May 9, 2024

“A Quiet Where Magic Can Grow” • by Kai Holmwood

Benny had heard the joke all his life: Tristan da Cunha is so quiet you can hear the grass grow. It sounded like something from one of his books about dragons and knights and adventures, but of course there was nothing magical on Tristan da Cunha.

He, along with everyone else, really did hear it when an unfamiliar sound of something growing came from near the peak. Those who remembered 1961 said it was nothing like the volcano’s preparation to erupt.

When almost everyone decided to investigate, Benny heard another unfamiliar sound: keys clinking in pockets after people had locked their doors, many for the first time.

The curious crowd trekked the green-flanked path, through mist, past swooping gulls. They emerged above the clouds near Queen Mary’s Peak to see a waist-high egg gleaming opalescent. It crumbled as they approached, revealing a flame-feathered bird.

“A phoenix,” Benny breathed. “How? And why here?”

The phoenix ruffled its feathers into place. “Nowhere else in this world remains quiet enough to leave room for magic,” it answered. “Listen. Can’t you hear the grass growing?”



Kai Holmwood holds an MA in Writing from the University of Canterbury in Aotearoa New Zealand and was awarded the H. W. Hill Prize at UC Berkeley. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Solarpunk Creatures, Stanchion, DreamForge, Flash Frontier, and elsewhere. She lives in rural Portugal with her Brazilian husband and two giant formerly stray mastiffs.

Kai’s most recent appearance in our virtual pages was “The Captain’s Mistake,” a story that turned out to be a huge fan favorite. Check it out! 




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