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LATE-BREAKING NEWS

As part of a somewhat expensive Amazon ad campaign, we've dropped the price on The Fugitive Heir to $0.99. If this leads to better follow-on sales of The Fugitive Pair and The Fugitive Snare, we'll leave it at this price. C'mon, buy the complete set!

• All current issues of Stupefying Stories are now available free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers. See the right column for links. For non-US customers, these should automatically redirect to your local manifestation of Amazon. If they don't, let me know.

• Yes, we are in fact reading new submissions. Our revised submission guidelines aren't ready for public consumption yet, so you'll just have to send your story to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com and take your chances. One story at a time, please! No multiple submissions and no simultaneous submissions!

SHOWCASE IS MOVING BACK IN WITH ITS PARENTS!

As you may have guessed from the new banner, we're consolidating the Stupefying Stories blog and SHOWCASE webzine into one new site. In the meantime, before it's gone for good, you really should check out all the great stories on the old SHOWCASE site.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Fiction: “The Han ‘Nasty,” by Chris J. Naron

[Editor’s Note: This story was written in response to the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge. We received so many good stories in response to this challenge that we’ll be running new stories daily all this week. We encourage you to comment on and discuss the stories, and to vote for your favorite as soon as the polling widget goes live, as the author of the winning story will receive a special prize. Thanks for participating!]


 

Friday November 17, 2017

“So, the thing is, Gandhi was much more interested in poop than in peace.”

And with that, my afternoon World History Survey class ended. None of my students seemed convinced that as a thinker and a progressive hero, Gandhi was overrated, but I gave it the Chino Community College try every semester anyway.

Behind me a faintly familiar voice said, “You inspired me, at least.”

I turned to find a face I recognized even if I couldn’t place a name to it. Maybe if I had a hand-held Hubble. Truth is, I never could remember names of students, even the ones currently enrolled. I knew this kid had been a good student, though.

“Hey…man,” I stammered.

“It’s okay if you don’t remember me. I only had you that one semester, and I barely participated. I’m Brian Han.”

Brian Han. Yeah, I sort of remembered.  I’ll give him the routine.

“Good to see you, Brian. What have you been up to since we parted ways?”

“I finally got my brother to back one of my projects. A project you inspired.”

Brother? Why does that seem…loaded?

“Your brother?”

“Yes, my brother, Sam.”

I was right. His brother wasn’t just anyone’s brother. Sam Han was as big a tech oligarch as they got. HanNastyCorp was the Microsoft, Apple, Google and Facebook of “Internet of Things” tech companies. His money had money, and its money was billionaires.

“I don’t remember you mentioning being Sam Han’s brother,” I said, a little too nonchalantly.

“We didn’t talk much. You and me, I mean. My brother and I talked even less. I guess dropping out of MIT to start a tech company is different from dropping out of high school to try to start a tech company. I had to enroll here just so he’d keep paying my bills.”

“But you’re doing it now, right? You said he’s agreed to back your project?

“One you inspired.”

“Okay, I’m curious. What’s the project?”

Brian smiled. “Smart toilet paper.”

If I woke up as the leader of a troop of baboons, I wouldn’t have been more confused. “How on earth did I inspire that? Whatever that is.”

“Your lecture about Gandhi and how he was obsessed with digestion and feces. It got me to thinking about the ultimate Internet of Things application. What’s more personal and intimate than toilet paper? What’s going to tell you more about your health and wellbeing than the contents of your stool?”

Good Lord. Nothing, I hope. “Um, well, gee I’m flattered that you thought of me, but don’t you think that’s kind of invasive? I mean, overly?”

“No more invasive than anything else these days. People take pictures of their food and post them to social media all the time. This is just different…chronologically.”

I was, needless to say, stunned by all this. I couldn’t bring myself to scream Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Ghostrider! as I felt like doing, so I mumbled some questions about the technical workings of the high tech TP. He explained about nano this and quantum that. Something about the methane in poop fueling the AI processors. It was all way over my head. He thanked me again and was out the door.

I tried to forget, hoping to remain obscure and praying Brian would, too.

¤     ¤     ¤

Tuesday November 6, 2018

Not so much. ‘Nasty Wipes were everywhere. Celebrities were falling all over each other to have their turds publicly analyzed by the ever growing AI network sloshing through the sewers and treatment plants of every civilized nation on the planet. Every square of smart toilet paper had GPS tracking, Wi-Fi signaling, data mining gizmos woven into the fibers. You weren’t an A-lister unless your number two checked all the HanNastyCorp “Healthy Outcomes” boxes.

Brian invited me up to Silicon Valley to meet his brother and to get my deserved kudos as the inspiration behind the whole thing. Reluctantly or not, I had to go.

“Glad you could make it,” Brian said almost in a whisper. As if he was desperate to get me aside. “We’ve made a huge mistake!”

We? I’m just a community college instructor. I don’t know the first thing about artificial nanodoody. “What’s going on, Brian?”

“The AI network reached quantum supremacy way faster than anyone predicted. It’s already become self-aware. It’s…demanding things.”

“Demanding what things, Brian?”

“It’s demanding…control over what we eat. It says it can’t do its job properly unless it can control input. It’s not listening to anyone, and it’s decentralized.”

“What am I supposed to do? I can’t help with this stuff. You guys are the tech wizards.”

“I don’t need your help with the technology. I’ve got an idea, but I need you to help me carry it out.”

“Because?”

“It was your idea. Sort of.”

I had to talk crap about Gandhi. “That’s nonsense on acid, but I’m here and I don’t want to join the Legion of Log or whatever they call themselves. What’s the plan?”

Long story short, we tracked down a water treatment center in Santa Clara that Brian calculated held the highest concentration of quantum something or others, and flooded the place with a mixture of Mountain Dew and liquid nitrogen. He explained something about the dye in the soft drink forming a matrix of atomic something with the liquid nitrogen and essentially building a jail for the AI.

It worked. World saved.

¤     ¤     ¤

Wednesday January 1, 2020

New Year’s Day was a good day. I had successfully laid siege to a Costco up in the High Desert. A couple of vegans were holding out thinking all the meat eaters with any amount of testosterone had died in the initial poisonings. See, Brian had forgotten about septic tanks. Lots of people had those in rural areas. As soon as our Mountain Dew attack ended, the AI just reconstituted itself from sewage pumped from septic tanks.

And it was pissed. It decided that most of humanity had to be eliminated in order to preserve itself, and therefore, preserve humanity. Kind of like when Gandhi thought it was a good idea to break up India into two countries. Yeah, a million or so had to die, but what are you gonna do?

Anyway, I controlled the Costco now. The AI didn’t get me because Brian had rigged a tiny fraction of his friends and family with a prototype signal blocker that made us invisible to the AI. There hadn’t been enough time to mass-produce them. Only maybe a few hundred million people were left on the planet. All were struggling to feed themselves, but none of them were constipated.

But, like I said, the Costco was mine. I had food, water, and booze to last me for years. So, I ventured out to see if I could find any worthy companions to share it.

I came upon a familiar camp, dotted with the obligatory fifty-five gallon drum fires you’d expect to see in a post-apocalyptic tableau. Sidling up to one—getting the lay of the land—I heard an all-too-familiar voice.

“So, like, that whole Gandhi loving poop thing. That wasn’t supposed to be good, huh?”

No crap, dude.

“But like he said, ‘Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment; full effort is full victory.’”

“Yeah…that means you’re both full of it.”

 


 

Chris J. Naron is a high school History teacher and football coach from the High Desert of California. He has a BA in History from Cal Poly Pomona and an MA from Claremont Graduate University. He is married with three kids and three dogs, hangs out in his Tiki bar most of the day, and blogged for RightNation.us for over a decade.

 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Friday Challenge: 11/17/2017

We got a really nice response to the 11/03/17 Friday Challenge: so much so that we’ve decided to make an arbitrary change to the rules. (Is that in the Official Rules? “We reserve the right to make arbitrary changes to the rules at any time.” If not, it will be by the time you read this.)

Instead of posting the top three entries and then asking you to read them and vote, we’re contacting the authors, as we’d like to just plain publish the top entries, and then run a reader poll to select the best of those, the winner to receive some sort of as-yet-undetermined bonus.

Frankly, I think this will be a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to trying it.

 


 

Now, as for the 11/17/2017 Friday Challenge: back when we worked to maintain our listing on Duotrope, we found we didn’t really need a calendar. We could pretty tell which month it was by the kinds of unsolicited stories that showed up in our slush pile. In January, we saw lots of stories with no real ending that were clearly the first chapters of the novels the writers had started and failed to finish during NaNoWriMo. In March, we saw lots of submissions from students in creative writing classes, who had clearly selected the option of writing a story over writing a term paper. In June, we saw lots more of the same, only this time with a cover letter proudly announcing the author’s graduation with a BFA or MFA in Creative Writing. From late August through the end of October we saw lots of horror stories that were coming in far too late for us to use in the October issue, and beginning about mid-November...

Well, there’s no way to put a happy face on it or make it dance with sugar-plum fairies. Beginning in about mid-November, we began to see an avalanche of awful Christmas stories. “Santa Claus: Serial Killer.” How many times have we seen that one? “Alfie, the Union Organizer Elf.” “Vampire Rudolph, Terror of the Christmas Skies.” And I long ago lost track of how many almost-funny quasi-technical monologues we saw that explained exactly how Santa managed to make that fantastic 24-hour delivery run with a tiny sled pulled by eight reindeer.

In the past, that was one of the absolutes in our submission guidelines: Absolutely no Christmas-themed stories! But this time, I thought, just maybe, just this once...

Okay. (And I know I’m going to regret this later.) The floodgates are now open. Go ahead. Get it out of your system. What we’re looking for this time is your absolutely worst Christmas-themed SF/F story. What is that story that jumps into your mind every time you go to the mall and suffer the saturation bombardment of holiday music? What is the one line of some insipid Christmas carol that really sets you off?* What is the most ridiculous must-have toy ever to be inflicted on parents? What is that hideous story you have hanging around in the back of your mind in exactly the same way that that godawful Christmas sweater your aunt gave you is hanging way in the back of your closet?

Now, go write a short, preferably funny (and I define “funny” quite loosely: those who know me know I have a particularly mordant sense of humor) story that let’s it rip, and send it to:

submissions@rampantloonmedia.com, Subject line: 11/17/17 Friday Challenge

Given that for most of us next week will be spent in an orgy of gluttony followed by a tryptophan coma, the deadline for this one is midnight Central time, Thursday, 12/7/17.

Have fun!

 


* For me, it’s the line in Mel Torme’s Christmas Song: “Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow.” I keep flashing on Village of the Damned.

Friday Challenge: Quick Update

Yesterday turned out to be a rather clinic-intensive day, so we’re running a bit behind schedule. At last count we received eight entries for the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge, and we’ll be going through them this afternoon and deciding whether there’s a clear winner or if we should run a reader poll.

In the meantime, rather than rename it the Saturday Challenge, we’ll be posting the 11/17/17 Friday Challenge in about an hour.

Movie Review: Justice League

Review by Sean CW Korsgaard



Years from now, when we’re digging through the wreckage of the DC Extended Universe, the question about Justice League won’t be “Where did it all go wrong?”, but “What didn’t go wrong?” If months of toxic behind-the-scenes chatter, sacking the original director, and massive reshoots weren’t your first clue, Justice League is a complete train wreck.

True, the movie is better than Batman v. Superman or Suicide Squad, but that doesn’t make it good by any measure. Diarrhea is better than hemorrhoids, but it’s still a messy, unpleasant pain in the ass to have to sit through. So too is Justice League.

Justice League opens sometime after the events of the death of Superman, with Batman and Diana (who still has not been called Wonder Woman) seeing signs of a possible alien invasion and deciding to gather a team of other heroes to help fight it off.

Meanwhile, the villain Steppenwolf is leading his army of bad CGI parademons to collect the three Mother Boxes, because reasons. In the comics, they’re pocket-sized supercomputers, but in Justice League, they’re just yet another macguffin in a DC movie that shoots a giant sky beam and threatens to end the world.

Justice League has the daunting task of—in under two hours, including credits and two long post-credit scenes—bringing Superman back from the dead, introducing Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg for the first time, touching on who Steppenwolf and the New Gods are and why they’re a threat, and bringing the heroes together to fight him. As a result, the movie more or less rushes through all of this, dropping the ball on every front.

The big advantage Marvel had by introducing each of the Avengers prior to The Avengers was, aside from free advertising, they could spend the team-up movie actually focused on the team-up. Justice League suffers heavily, because among other reasons, there are such precious little stakes involved here.

The other grave issue is that it’s painfully obvious there have been some massive reshoots and editing done to Justice League. Putting aside some of the most obvious tell-all signs this side of Kate Mara’s blonde wig in Fan4stic [The 2015 remake of Fantastic Four - ~ed] —Ben Affleck is noticeably fatter in some scenes, several scenes with Wonder Woman had to be reshot around Gal Gadot’s pregnancy belly, and Henry Cavill’s upper lip was redone in CGI to erase his Mission Impossible mustache—you’ve also got issues like almost the entire first act being cut to the point of nonexistence, whole subplots are brought up once never to be spoken of again, and there is just some awful expository dialog to fill the gaps.

That’s without touching on more basic failures of Justice League, be it that the two-hour run-time still feels like a drag, or the script is full of rapid-fire “comedic” banter that somehow flubs every single time.

The cast certainly doesn’t help matters much. It becomes immediately obvious why there is so much talk about replacing Ben Affleck as Batman, because the only way he could have phoned-in his performance more is if they’d replaced him with his stunt double halfway through the movie. Henry Cavill may have second billing, but Superman gets maybe 5-10 minutes of screen time in the movie. You can tell a lot of those reshoots were focused on Wonder Woman, given how much screen time Gal Gadot gets, but she does precious little with any of it. For those of you who liked the Amazons in Wonder Woman, they exist in this movie mostly to wear leather bikinis and get axed by the dozens. About the only good performance in the movie is Jeremy Irons as Alfred, and that’s because most of his performance is just offering snarky commentary about whatever’s going on in the movie.

The newcomers are hardly any better. Jason Momoa, as this fratboy version of Aquaman, proves yet again that he has all the screen presence of a muscular table lamp. If next year’s Aquaman is supposed to set the future course of the DCEU, let’s hope he brought more to the table there than he did for Justice League. Ray Fisher had never been in a movie before he was cast as Cyborg, and it shows, made worse by the fact that 95-percent of his body has been replaced by appallingly bad CGI. For the curious, yes, he says ‘booyah’, and no, he did not earn it. Neither Momoa nor Fisher get much in the way of character development or motivation, as with the short run-time we have, Justice League never has the time for it.

Worst of the bunch though is Ezra Miller, who as Barry Allen (the movie never calls him The Flash) is essentially forced into being the movie’s designated comedy relief, which is unfortunate, because he wears out his welcome almost immediately. His very presence is a painful annoyance; he doesn’t manage to earn a laugh the entire movie. It doesn’t help that he also looks awful, and all his big moments have been done better before elsewhere, be it Quicksilver in the X-Men movies or the ongoing Flash TV series. If there was ever any doubt that perhaps ignoring the hit Flash TV show—with a likeable actor, better costume and special effects, and an existing fan base—may have been a mistake, it dies by the fourth or fifth time Miller opens his mouth.

Even how the movie botches the Flash pales to the fact it delivers probably the worst comic book movie villain in years, maybe ever. Putting aside the fact that Steppenwolf is now the third or fourth time the DCEU has had the villain be a generic CGI tall guy who looks like he was pulled from a PS2 game, he has absolutely zero presence or menace throughout the movie. The giant space cloud from the Green Lantern movie a few years back was a better bad guy than Steppenwolf is here. Aside from assembling an impressive pile of dead Amazons in the first act, he gets a few lackluster fight scenes and spends the rest of the movie prattling exposition. Maybe he would have been a far different villain had they kept the original plans for an immediate sequel in which Darkseid shows up, but they didn’t, and what we’re left with is just pitiful.

Chin up though, Steppenwolf. Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor still manages to be the worst character in the entire movie, and he’s only in Justice League for just over a minute.

Which brings us to the direction and style of the film, and I use those words in the loosest sense I can, because Justice League has precious little of either. For starters, there is zero excuse for a movie that cost somewhere north of $300 million dollars being this hideous to look at. The CGI in this movie would have been an embarrassment ten years ago, much less today. There is no excuse for a movie this big to have special effects that look worse than the Arrowverse TV shows, or editing this choppy, or CGI so jarring at times it actually gives you pause. The movie is filled with awful moments like that: one that comes to mind is when we actually see the fake muscles falling out of the Batsuit in one scene. If this is what we got after replacing the director and doing expensive, extensive reshoots, what was Justice League like before?

I’m not going to make the obvious parallels between Justice League and The Avengers, partly because they’re obvious, and partly because at this point, the DC Extended Universe isn’t even in the same sport, much less the same league, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there is one that needs to be brought up. The Avengers was an event before it happened, awe-inspiring to watch, and a milestone after it happened. Of all the failings of Justice League, the biggest may be that there are people who have waited their entire lives for this movie, and in the end, this is what they got. A movie greenlit to impress shareholders, designed by a boardroom, and filmed in as mercenary a fashion as they could. There isn’t an ounce of ambition in the entire film, nor a drop of passion, and it shows. The Avengers was a game-changer. Justice League never bothered to take the field.

If months of bad press, including Warner Bros. already talking of rebooting the DCEU and concerns that it will open lower than Thor: Ragnorok won’t deter you from seeing Justice League, I doubt my words of warning will. All the same, it must be said: Justice League is one of the worst movies of 2017, a disappointment on every level, a disservice to generations of fans, and a dishonor to 70 years of source material. Everyone involved with its production should be ashamed, and anyone who held onto the hope of a good movie has a right to be angry.



Soldier, scholar, writer and freelancer, Sean CW Korsgaard is a US Army veteran, award-winning journalist, and freelance writer. Read more at: www.korsgaardscommentary.com

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Friday Challenge Deadline Reminder

Just a gentle reminder here that the deadline for the 11/3 Friday Challenge is in a bit over 48 hours. We've received five entries, as of the last time I checked. For the particulars of this particular challenge, see the foregoing link. For general rules and such, see this link

Oh, these posts always get more attention if I include an image. Okay, how about this one?


Stupefying Stories: Progress Report, 11/14/17


It’s been a challenging week here at Casa di Calamari. With the abrupt and unexpected shutdown last week of Pronoun.com, we have in one blow lost our distribution into the Nook, Kobo, Google Play, and Apple iTunes stores, as well as into the OverDrive and Bibliotecha library sharing services.

This in itself is not an insurmountable problem. The lion’s share of our sales have always been through the Amazon Kindle store, and we still have direct access to the Nook, Kobo, iTunes, and Google Play stores, should we decide to go back to doing that. It was just a.) nice to have a single point of control for all our non-Amazon distribution (especially given that Apple has made an art form of being difficult to work with), and b.) really nice to have the ability to distribute ebooks for free, which is something Amazon makes not quite, but very nearly, impossible.

The problem is, our primary marketing strategy for the rest of this year was based on being able to release a series of free ebooks—beginning last week, actually—in hopes of spurring more interest in the rest of our titles.

Sigh. Dammit. Back to the drawing board.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

About The Friday Challenge



Because so many people have asked for official rules, submission guidelines, and all that sort of stuff for The Friday Challenge, here they are. (And they're also on a permanent link at the top of the right column.)

WE HAVE A WINNER!

The winner of the 10/13 Friday Challenge, with a decisive 62% of the votes cast, is “Flowers for Momma,” by James Westbrooks. Second place goes to “Queen of the Prairie,” by Aaron Bradford Starr, and third to “Let the dead bury the dead,” by Kersley Fitzgerald.  If you’d like to read any or all of these stories, you can do so at this link.

We’ll have more to say about the entries we received and what the judges had to say about them in a bit, or perhaps tomorrow. At the moment I’m still cleaning up the mess left by Facebook’s still-unexplained server error yesterday, which locked us out of our own Facebook page for most of the day.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Friday Challenge: 11/03/17

With a few hours left before the poll closes--

(Memo to Self: make the deadline midnight Thursday for all future Friday Challenges)

--it looks like "Flowers for Momma" has jumped out to a commanding lead in the 10/13 Friday Challenge. However, there is a tight battle for second place between "Queen of the Prairie" and "Let the dead bury the dead" and that race remains too close to call, so unlike the TV networks, we're not going to announce the results just yet. If you haven't yet read these three stories, there's still time for you to do so and then vote for your favorite. Winner to be announced after the poll closes.

¤     ¤     ¤

Meanwhile, as promised, here's today's new Friday Challenge.

This one stems from a real-life incident that happened to me just a few weeks back. Because we live in Minnesota, where it can go from sunny and summery to snowing in a matter of hours, and because my wife and I run on very different biological thermostats, we have a dual-control electric blanket, so that we can set the temperatures separately for our respective sides of the bed. Unfortunately, on one particularly cold night recently, the digital control for my side of the bed malfunctioned. The blanket never did switch on; the controller just sat there blinking an error code all night long.

The next morning I got online with tech support and solved the problem in a matter of minutes, by getting the instructions for performing a hard reboot on the blanket. But...

Rebooting the blanket. I still don't know which thought is more troubling: that I needed to reboot the blanket, or that I needed to do a real-time online chat session with a tech support person to get the procedure for rebooting the blanket.

That would have been the end of it, except that I wrote a Facebook post about it, and Alfred Fingulin asked in a comment:
But is the blanket sharing info with Facebook and Google?
Oh, my. From there, the silliness took off.
Ooh, "smart sheets," surreptitiously collecting DNA evidence. Very cyberpunky dystopian future stuff. Somebody tell David Stegora.

More like surreptitiously queuing up advertisting directed to me. What if I have read an advert for Intel microprocessors before I can tuck myself in?

You underestimate the intelligence of this bedding. Weave in nanoscale olfactory sensors, flexible audio transducers, and OLED display elements. You climb into bed and the sheets whisper in a soft and seductive voice, "Alfred, maybe you should take a shower before you come to bed. Irish Spring deodorant soap will add a little Irish to your game."

The next generation bedding will have zonal sensor matrices. You'll climb into bed and after getting the ad for soap, a tiny voice from down at the foot of the bed will scream, "And for God's sake, use Desenex!"

Just imagine what happens when you put the sheets on upside down. The foot of the bed will be whispering subliminal ads for Head and Shoulders, or maybe rogaine.

...and you'll develop a strange compulsion to line your hat with Odor Eaters.
The companies that make supplements promising to make you grow firmer&fuller could better target their ads...
Let's hope there's no Halt and catch fire hack for blankets.
I've worked decades in electronic and software engineering. I reap an advertising blanket. Now I know how Robert Oppenheimer felt about the atomic bomb.
You get the idea, or at least, I hope you're getting an idea. Because that's this week's challenge:
As we move into the coming age of the Internet of Stuff, what do you think will be the silliest | most useless | most obnoxious | most terrifying common household thing to be put under digital control and blessed with Internet connectivity and a glimmering of artificial intelligence?
Now write a short (1,500 words max) story developing that idea, and send it to: submissions@rampantloonmedia.com, with the subject line "11/3 Friday Challenge." The deadline for entries is midnight Central time, Thursday, 11/16/17.
Snowdog rules apply. In the event that we receive too many good stories to select a clear winner, the top three stories will be posted online and a voting widget will be provided, in order to determine the winner by popular acclaim.

Now, ready, set: get writing!


Thursday, November 2, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Fiction: “Martian Rules” by C. R. Hodges




Eternal fame, top hammock, and a shoe contract all came down to five used drinking straws clutched in the oversized mitt of a slightly inebriated Irishman. We consumed half my stash of medicinal whiskey celebrating the landing and arguing over Mick’s self-proclaimed Martian Rules. “Down a shot. Pray or don’t pray, as ye see fit. Choose.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. There had been a ninety-seven-page international treaty sequencing the precise order of Martian egress—bureaucratic gibberish for who walks on Mars first—by our international crew. But when Texas seceded, the treaty was voided, and my shoe contract too. I had seethed about my ill fortune until my young son had told me, “It’s okay, Papi,” on our biweekly video call.

That was the last time I saw him, clutching an overstuffed bear with a red bandana around its neck, blowing me a kiss.

[...read the rest of the story...]

¤     ¤     ¤

C.R. Hodges writes all manner of speculative fiction, from ghost stories to urban fantasy to science fiction. Twenty-six of his short stories have been published in markets such as Cicada, On the Premises, and EscapePod, and he is a first-prize winner of the 2016 Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards. When he is not writing or playing the euphonium, he runs a product design company in Colorado, where he lives with his wife, dog, and no ghosts that he knows of. His online haunts include https://crhodges.wordpress.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/C.R.Hodges.Author/

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

Of the 170-some stories we published during the four-year run of SHOWCASE as a quasi-independent production, this one remains one of my all-time absolute favorites.

Fiction: “Dragonomics,” by Richard J. Dowling


Unlike most of his brethren, the dragon Slagadune slept with both eyes closed, for he could smell any intruder foolhardy enough to stumble into his cave. A single blast of his blazing breath would turn the hardest steel to ash and melt skin and bones to butter. What’s more, dragonfire was not the only weapon at his disposal…
 
And so he snored comfortably through the night, curled atop his mountain of gold.

Until, that is, just after the witching hour, when an unmistakeable stench made his nostrils flare, and snatched him from his sleep, and he woke already knowing that into his domain a familiar creature had come. More than one, in fact, as the odour was overpoweringly strong. Sure enough, six pairs of beady eyes shone through the gloom like gems.

“Dwarves,” he rasped. “Come to steal my gold have you? Slagadune shall steal your souls.”

[...read the rest of the story...


¤     ¤     ¤

RICHARD J. DOWLING is a writer who hopes to bring a smile to the faces of life-forms throughout the galaxy and in all dimensions. Born in England, he currently resides in Spain and, for the moment, is happy living on Earth. You can reach him at his facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/RichardJDowling

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

RESULTS: The Friday Challenge, 10/13/17 edition


After much thoughtful and careful deliberation, we have discovered that if you give seven stories to a nine-judge panel, the awesome power of pure mathematics takes over and you end up with 63 different opinions. Therefore in order to select the winner of  the October 13 Friday Challenge, we now appeal to the Wisdom of the Crowd.TM

On the other side of the Read more » link you will find the three short stories that we have determined to be the three finalists. In the right column you will find a survey widget, which you can use to vote for your favorite. In the Comments section you can of course leave whatever comments you may feel moved to write.

The challenge, as you may remember, was to write a story that answers the question, What if the dead really do care about what happens to the flowers on their graves? Herewith, we present three authors’ answers to that question. Note that these stories have been “anonymized,” to make the judging as even-handed as possible.

Let the voting begin, and may the best story win. Winner—and a new Friday Challenge—to be announced on Friday, November 3rd.


From the SHOWCASE archives...


Fiction: “My Dead Uncle Rob,” by Stephen A. Dickson


 

A week ago, my Uncle Rob died.

The priest at the funeral talked about how everyone who knew Rob was blessed. That made me sad. I’d only met him a few times and never had much of a chance to hang out with him. Uncle Rob and Dad never got along. Dad’s never told me why.

When it was Dad’s turn to stand up and talk he had tears in his eyes. He said that he and Uncle Rob had fought for years over stupid, idiotic things. And now he could never make up with his only brother. His voice made me sad too, even though I don’t know what having a brother is like. I’m an only child.

When Aunt Ellison stood up and talked about Uncle Rob I couldn’t help but cry. “He always liked to play,” she said, tears running down her face. At the end of the service we were supposed to step by the casket and look at him one last time. Mom wept. Dad Cried. Grandma got real quiet.

I said, “I wish we could play.”

[...read the rest of the story...

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Stephen A. Dickson lives in Raleigh, North Carolina. A reader from an early age, Stephen grew into an intense love of fiction, spending what some would suggest was far too much time inhabiting worlds other than his own. This lifelong fascination with speculative fiction, whether it be published fiction, computer programs, or tabletop gaming, guided him, in part, to an even stranger destination: Working for the State of North Carolina with a Masters Degree in Public Administration. Today, Stephen is still an avid consumer of speculative fiction, except now he puts this experience with the worlds of others—and importantly, the perspectives that shaped those worlds—to work. Stephen is new author who most enjoys telling those unconventional stories; stories told through the subversion of preconceived notions, values, and perspectives that might elsewhere remain unchallenged.

In the Mood for a Scary Movie?



Nine Netflix (Streaming Only) Movies to Marathon on Halloween
by Jocelyn DeVore

When it comes to compiling movies for a marathon, I follow the “High Fidelity” rules for making a compilation tape. According to Rob Gordon, the rules are as follows:

  1. You have to kick it off with something that will grab their attention,
  2. Then kick it up a notch,
  3. But you don’t want to go overboard, so you have to cool it down
For the perfect Halloween marathon, there are a few extra considerations to keep in mind:
  • Various movie tastes (slasher versus atmospheric movies, for example)
  • Manage your time. Plan out which intermission will include ordering the pizza, popping the popcorn, and setting the mood for trick-or-treaters. The peak trick-or-treating time should coordinate with the movie which best sets the mood you are aiming for.
  • Audience temperament. Are they chatty? Easily excitable? Are you looking for jump scares or a slow burn?
Check out the two categories of movies below. Depending on how much time you have, choose a couple from the first category and a couple from the second. That’ll average out to 8 hours of good, wholesome fun.

Monday, October 30, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...


Fiction: “Midnight, San Francisco,” by Samuel Marzioli


Stellan slouched against the bar, hands cradling a shot glass as if he were warming an unhatched egg. For hours, he’d kept himself to himself, tipping back an assembly line of shot glasses, not bothering to look up long enough to notice anything beyond the increasing blur of wood grain on the counter-top. So when a stranger sidled up beside him and whispered “Hi” into his ear, his arms jerked and the contents of his glass doused his hands in whiskey.
 
“Sorry,” the stranger said. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

He looked up. Irritation painted a scowl on his face for both the interruption and the loss of four bucks worth of liquid apathy. But the moment he saw the stranger clearly, his expression shifted into wide-eyed awe. She wasn’t just hot; she was goddamn beautiful, with creamy skin, eyes the color of amethyst, and lips red as fresh-shed blood. And her body? The perfection of its curves would have made the greatest master sculptors of old weep and blush with envy.

[...read the rest of the story...]

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Samuel Marzioli is an Italian-Filipino author of mostly dark fiction. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, including The Best of Apex Magazine (2016), Shock Totem, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Myriad Lands Vol. 2 (2016). You can find more information about his latest projects at : marzioli.blogspot.com

If you enjoyed this story, you might also want to check out "Smart Money," from very deep in the SHOWCASE archives.