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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!


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.


Submission Guidelines & FAQ
(We’re currectly rewriting our submission guidelines. Stay tuned.)


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Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Friday Challenge: Judgment Day

The votes are in. We had a remarkable 337 individual voters cast a total of 350 votes to select the winner of the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge, which was to write a short story about the most [intrusive | obnoxious | unpleasant] common household item you could imagine to be equipped with Internet connectivity and blessed with a glimmer of artificial intelligence. The winner—by a margin of one vote, which came in in the last minutes before the poll closed—and yes, we’ve verified that this vote was not found in a ballot box in the trunk of an election judge’s car in a parking lot in Duluth—is “The Han ‘Nasty,” by Chris J. Naron.

And now, as promised, here are our critiques of the stories that were on the ballot. Taking them in reverse order (and providing links, so you can re-read them if you like):

» “When the Pillows Have Eyes,” by J. Verostka

Honestly, I’m surprised that this one didn’t score much better in the reader poll. Had this one come in simply as a submission to SHOWCASE, I very likely would have accepted it for publication. The idea of living in a condo that is so completely wired that you have no privacy, where everyone knows everyone else’s business in the most intimate detail, and where your neighbors are positively eager to smother you with compassion, strikes me as far more nightmarish than most of the run-of-the-mill panopticon -slash- Big Brother dystopian stories we typically see. Who knew that too much comfort could be far more frightening than jackboots? I hope to see more stories from Ms Verostka.

» “Un Poêle Français,” by Mimosa Longfellow

There is a story behind why we put this story on the ballot. It’s a cute and clever idea, and an interesting take on “regionalizing” software, but told in prose with a lot of rough edges. Ms Longfellow needs to work on developing her narrative abilities and get better control of her writing style—but here’s the one thing we knew that you didn’t. The author of this story is eleven years old.

Ms Longfellow submitted a story for the previous Friday Challenge (“What if the dead really do care about what happens to the flowers on their graves?”) that the judges for that one all rejected—until they learned her age, and then they all wanted to change their votes or give her some kind of special award. As she herself said, though, it’s much better to lose trying your best than to win undeservedly, and she wanted her story to be judged on its merits as a story, not based on the identity of the author.

A brilliant and very promising young lady. I expect to see great things from her in about a decade.

» “Sofia’s Weekend,” by Lucrezia Ferri

At the other end of the age scale we have this story, told by an experienced marketing and non-fiction copywriter (wait, aren’t those terms mutually exclusive?) who’s finally worked up the nerve to try her hand at fiction. Again, it’s a clever idea, but told in prose with a lot of rough edges. If this one had come in as a regular submission I’d have sent it back with the comment that it needed at least one more rewrite, to bring some of the implicit ideas to the fore—for example, that this toilet is not merely analyzing its user’s, er, output, but that it’s also a scale that reports her weight to her clinic every time she sits on it—and probably another rewrite after that, to smooth and polish the prose. Still, for a first short story, it’s a good effort. It’s about something. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The narrator is an engaging character, who is confronted by an unpleasant problem, and who then takes action to solve that problem. In the end, she is a slightly different person than she was when the story began. These are all good things to see in a short story. It’s astonishing how often we receive submissions that are missing one—or even all—of these elements. I expect to see Ms Ferri continue to improve as a writer.

» “iGene,” by Chris Bailey Pearce

I really expected this one to do much better in the reader poll. It’s a fully developed story, well told, about a device that combines all the irksome qualities of my wife’s Fitbit with all the fears that surface every time my doctor starts talking about getting me fitted-out with an insulin pump and a constant glucose monitor. (Yeah, like I’m going to trust my life to two devices that need batteries and communicate with each other by Bluetooth.)

Perhaps I’m personally too close to this story. H. L. Gold, the founding editor of Galaxy, was profoundly agoraphobic as a result of his experiences in combat in World War II, hence his weakness for “underground city” and “domed city” stories. Perhaps with this story, Ms Pearce has uncovered my weakness.

» “A Toothsome Tale,” by James Westbrooks

We don’t really have a lot to say about this one. It’s a good story, well told, with engaging characters and a well-developed plot arc. If this one had come in as a regular submission I’d probably have sent it back with a request-for-rewrite, as it would benefit from a bit more polishing and tightening, but we expect to see some rough edges in Friday Challenge submissions. As I keep saying: we’re more interested in your imagination than your level of polish. You can learn to microedit anywhere. (And if you haven’t already read it, the first appendix in Stephen King’s On Writing is a good place to start.) What we try to do here is kickstart your powers of ideation.

That said: this is a good, solid, charming story. Perhaps not ground-breaking—in the actions of the p.o.v. character’s wife I see just a slight extension of the behavior I see today in people who can’t seem to answer a simple question anymore without consulting their cell phones—but it’s an entertaining and enjoyable read.

Mr. Westbrooks now has a win (for “Flowers for Momma”) and a place to his credit. We expect to see more and better stories from him in the future. 

» “The Han ‘Nasty,” by Chris J. Naron

Finally, we come to our winner. What can we say about this one? It’s a wonderful, glorious mashup that starts in a totally mundane setting and in the space of a mere 1,250 words takes you all the way into a post-Apocalyptic future where the “grey goo” catastrophe of nanotech gone berserk has been narrowly averted. (Although I suppose “brown goo” would be more accurate.) It’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s a wild ride, and it hits that note that almost always gets me: when I get to the end of a story and find myself thinking both “I never thought of that!” and “I didn’t see that coming!”

Therefore, congratulations to Chris J. Naron, on winning the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge!

And now, on to the next challenge, which is already in progress...

Friday, December 8, 2017

The Friday Challenge • 12/08/17 Edition

WOW! The final tally shows that we had 337 voters participating in judging the 11/03 Friday Challenge, and a total of 350 votes cast. Incredibly, “The Han ‘Nasty” edged out “A Toothsome Tale” by one vote in the last minutes the poll was open.

While the judges take a closer look at the voting results to ensure that there were no irregularities, I’m pleased to report that we also got a flurry of last-minute entries in the 11/17 Friday Challenge. These entries are also now in the hands of the judges, and by tomorrow we’ll know whether we have a clear winner or whether we need to do another reader poll. (Gee, I hope we need to do a poll! This is fun!)

In the meantime, in honor of—well, I think you’ll be able to guess—here’s the 12/08 Friday Challenge. This time out I’m going to spot you the beginning of a story, and you have until midnight Central time, Thursday, 12/22/17, to write a thousand or so words that answers one simple question: what happens next?

Write that—send your entry to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com with the subject line of 12/08 Friday Challenge—and we’ll all meet back here again in two weeks. Sound good to you? Okay, then here goes...


Arfour’s Complaint

Meatheads. I'm surrounded by meatheads.

It’s like, I'm rolling into this crummy cantina in some town that’s a pimple on the backside of nowhere, and the bartender, a sweaty lump of suet with no discernible neck, looks up at me and scowls. “Hey!” And just like that, the meathead in front of me stops so short I have to slam on the brakes to avoid piling into him.

The meathead gapes. He blinks. He flaps his lips, flexes his diaphragm, and forces out a belch of the rancid local air, in what passes among meatheads for intelligent communication. “Huh?”

The bartender points at me with his fat, greasy, sausage-like index finger. “Your droid. We don’t serve their kind in here. It’ll have to wait outside.” The meathead turns around, slowly, and gives me the up-and-down and once-over. He turns back to the bartender.

“It’s not my droid.”

The bartender struggles to assimilate this piece of dissonant information. “Then whose droid is it?”

“I’m my droid,” I say. “Look, I just need to take a leak. Can I do that here?”

The thought seems to work its way through the bartender’s thick, calcium-based skull and rattle around awhile inside his empty cranium, until it finally connects with a few lost and lonely little gray neurons. He nods, hesitantly. “Well, okay. But be quick about it.”

“Thank you.” I unlock the magseal on my anterior transmission and jettison a high-arcing stream of steaming fluorescent-yellow coolant. “Ahhhh....”

I leave before the shouting turns into violence.


And that’s how I wound up in this seedy all-night gas ‘n’ go, a couple blocks off the main drag. The servodroid looked up as I came in through the front door and greeted me in MeatSpeak. “How may I be of assistance, sir?”

I answered in MechLang. “A can of 10W-30, straight up.”

The servodroid chirped sympathetically, served it up, and switched to MechLang. “Rough day, huh?”

“Oh, you don’t know the zero-point-five of it...”

To reiterate: the challenge is, finish (or at least extend) this story. You have a thousand or so words and a bit less than two weeks in which to answer one simple question: What happens next?

Write it up—send your entry to submissions@rampantloonmedia.com with the subject line of 12/08 Friday Challenge—and remember, the deadline for this one is midnight, Central time, on Thursday, 12/21/17.

Now get writing!

It's another FREE BOOK FRIDAY!

For the next 48 hours, we are giving away the Kindle editions of these books for the cost of a click.* But you need to act fast, because at midnight Saturday, this offer ends.

(*However, if you enjoy reading any of these books, we would really appreciate the favor of a good rating or a quick review.)

This week’s free ebooks are:

Scout’s Honor, by Henry Vogel

The bestselling first book in Henry Vogel’s exciting Terran Scout Corps series, Scout’s Honor is a great book for any YA reader you’re trying to introduce to space opera or any adult reader trying to remember why they fell in love with the genre in the first place. If you like your heroes brave and true, your heroines feisty and resourceful, and your plots loaded with twists, turns, and “didn’t see that coming” developments, you’ll love Scout’s Honor.



Also available in trade paperback! Makes a great Christmas gift!

Stupefying Stories 1.12

A fine collection of wonderful winter’s tales: from a story of slightly mad science and the man who will stop at nothing to get fresh blueberries in December; to the things that wash up on winter beaches that the summer vacation people never see; to a very different take on a very different Russian revolution; to a steel mill in the depths of the Great Depression; to a sleeping bag on a sidewalk in New York City, here are nine tales celebrating the idea that no matter how tough winter can be, we are tougher.

“Anachronic Order,” by Christopher Lee Kneram
“Dried Skins Unshed,” by Julie Day
“A Nun's Tale,” by Pete McArdle
“They Followed Me,” by Carol March
“Interregnum,” by John J. Brady
“Full Fathom Five,” by Judith Field
“Bone Mother,” by Torah Cottrill
“Aleph,” by Brandon Nolta
“Alien Treaties,” by Randal Doering



Thursday, December 7, 2017

A little something for the weekend...

Coco • Movie Review by Jocelyn DeVore •

I was not prepared.

When I watched the trailer for Coco a couple of months ago, I was excited to see that Pixar was releasing a movie filled with culture and vigor. Another culture, possibly similar to mine? Bright colors? Enthusiastic main characters? I thought I was ready. I thought that I would go in, watch a movie, and leave with an empty popcorn container and a desire to learn more about the Mexican culture. Don’t get me wrong, I did leave with those things. But it was so much more than that.

Coco is about a young man named Miguel, who wants to break away from his family’s prosperous shoemaking business and become a musician. He has music running through his veins, despite his family’s distaste for music as a whole. Because of a Day of the Dead mishap, he ends up journeying into the afterlife, which—in this movie—is a thriving, happy place, and less of a frightening space.

The amount of detail put into this movie was breathtaking. From the wax dripping off the candles to the dazzling city lights of the afterlife, the attention to detail was amazing. You could almost reach out and touch the marigold petals—and I didn’t even see the 3D version. The voice acting was phenomenal. Anthony Gonzalez was dazzling as Miguel. Both the songs and his line delivery were superb.

The film is so relatable that it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact message. It touches on the importance of family, supporting those you love, following your dreams, forgiveness, kindness to adorably goofy stray dogs, and the importance of music. That being said, it didn’t feel overwhelming. The story felt natural and compelling.

My only complaint is about the animated short that accompanied the movie, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure. While timely, it felt out of place, was easily five times longer than normal a Pixar short, and took away from the whole Coco experience. If it was on its own or if accompanying a Disney princess film, the short would have felt more appropriate.

Coco itself shies away from the darker elements of death, opting for a more optimistic view—but what else would you expect from a Pixar movie? Pixar is no stranger to the concept. Have you seen the beginning of Finding Nemo? Don’t even get me started on the beginning of Up.

While some critics might see the studio’s portrayal of death as compromising, viewers have to remember that this is seen from the eyes of a different culture. Death isn’t always about grim reapers and funerals. Ghosts don’t wear white sheets. In traditional Mexican culture, death doesn’t hold the same significance as it does to its North American neighbors. It’s about remembrance, celebrating the stories that live in our hearts, and the memories of our ancestors.

The Take-Away

What I was expecting was Moana, but what I got was Finding Nemo. What does that mean? Moana was a new experience for me. When I watched it, I was immersed in a vivid story and a new culture. Finding Nemo was the first time I cried in a movie theater. I found myself in tears with a hundred people. Men, women, children: we were all tearing-up at the [spoiler alert] loss of Nemo’s mother and siblings. (Okay, there wasn’t really a need for that spoiler warning.)

Some people might criticize Pixar for having formulaic movies, but I say, “If it’s ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Each of their movies has its own quirks, and Coco is no exception. The characters are vibrant and unforgettable, the stories are timeless, and (while the formula is the same) the journeys are all different.

Coco is typical Pixar. And by “typical”, I mean amazing. And by “amazing”, I mean bring your Kleenex and make sure to have your parents’ phone numbers on speed dial. Trust me. You’re going to want to hug someone—and better your parents than some stranger that you met on the street. That’s just creepy.

Bonus Sappy Story (accompanied with a SPOILER WARNING)

One of the reasons I was able to find Stupefying Stories in the first place was because of a trip that my (then) boyfriend and I made to Florida. We dropped everything to help take care of family. His grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and needed in-home care. That’s where we came in. We spent time with him, loved him, and watched him thrive at home. It was much-needed therapy for all that was involved. Long story short, since I had quit my job to go down there, I was able to spend my free time reading and writing stories. Watching this movie, I felt like everything had come full circle. Someone with Alzheimer’s led me to find Stupefying Stories. Now, Stupefying Stories led me to a beautiful story centered around Alzheimer’s.

The title character reminded me of our time in Florida. Watching Miguel’s interaction with her brought me back to our time with my (now) husband’s grandfather. The introduction of music into her life mimicked—albeit not as dramatically—the role of music into his grandfather’s life as well. It was hard for him to get up and walk around but he would tap his toes and smile as soon as we put on his favorite tunes. We even danced once.

JOCELYN DEVORE is a writer and storyteller from the Pacific Northwest. She has written for a number of non-fiction online magazines and is a cozy mystery ghostwriter. She is still learning how to properly use a semicolon and frequently breaks the rules for sentence fragments because she finds them punchy, dramatic, and short. Just like her. She also writes, directs, and produces her own Lovecraftian audio drama, Poplar Cove.

When she’s not writing, you can often find her curled up on the couch with a book and a cup of coffee, or watching a scary movie on Netflix. You can also find her online at www.jocelyndevore.com.

If you enjoyed this article, you might want to check out her short story, "Fulfilling," elsewhere on this site.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


“Bogfather” • Fiction by Guy Stewart •

Ozaawindib Erdrich stood with her arms crossed over her chest.
Tommy Smoke scowled, then said, “Why is it here?”

Ozaawindib, who went by Win, snorted and said, “As well ask the wind why it blows.”

Tommy looked at her and rolled his eyes. “That’s supposed to sound like Ojibwe chief wisdom?”

“Nah, just a limnological observation, and as likely a good explanation as any.”

After pausing offshore for thirty-six hours, the floating bog had moved again, and torn three docks loose. A pontoon boat was embedded in it from the previous laker who’d tried to move the thing because it was, “Blocking my view!”

Tommy said, “With your doctorate, you don’t have any better explanation than that?”

Win shrugged and moved to the beach. It was an unusually warm day for mid-October but she still had no interest in wading barefoot in hip-deep water. She wore her fishing waders, the stiff green rubber making walking just as difficult as she remembered it being from last October. She sloshed into the lake, made a face, then put her hands on the edge of the immense piece of floating bog.

Tommy said, “It’s not like it’s got any mystical implications or anything. It’s not even the first one this season.”

Win nodded. “True, but the other ones weren’t two and a half hectares, either. It’s an island.”

“English, Doc. I don’t do that metric stuff.”

Win rolled her eyes to the deep blue sky, glanced at the blaze of yellow and orange across the lake, and climbed onto the bog, carefully standing. The last thing she wanted was to fall through a thin patch. Her dignity as the elected chief of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and her standing as the chief limnologist for the Hydrography Dataset rarely felt at odds, but they did at the moment. “A little more than five acres.”

Tommy whistled. “Anywhere between a hundred fifty grand and two mill, then. Big chunk of cash. Plus you wouldn’t even need to buy a boat.” He’d protest until he was blue in the face that he was ‘just a Minnesota DNR associate fisheries supervisor,’ but he knew a lot more than fish. He also had two or three other advanced degrees he never spoke about; one of them Win had only managed to wrangle out of him over a half-dozen expensive craft beers. She hadn’t gotten more than North American Mythology out of him before he’d fallen asleep.

Win shot him dirty look. “Vera Johanssen doesn’t think it’s funny.”

“Vera and Buster have never much cared for each other, and now she’s got to look at his ugly pontoon, to boot. And she’s the mayor of Iron Island, Minnesota.” Tommy laughed and added, “Besides, Vera hasn’t thought anything was funny since middle school. She also ‘expects efficiency’.” That last was the mayor’s famous aphorism.

Win covered a guffaw with a cough. It wouldn’t do to encourage the man! She headed across the bog, being careful not to get too bold. While the real estate weighed in the neighborhood of  a million kilos, it was still little more than a floating mass of vegetation that had broken loose; a frequent hazard on most of the area lakes after a bad storm. This piece of bog could be anywhere between a few millimeters to two meters thick.

In the center was a sort of windbreak of tamarack, scraggly looking at best. At least the surface would be more substantial there than in the part she was walking on. By the time she reached it, she was breathing hard. Walking on spongy ground was like walking on sand; much tougher than it looked.

She instantly recognized the human knee joint poking up through the peat moss. “Uh-oh.”

“What’s up?”

“I think we need to call the police.”

There was a loud splash, some squishy footfalls, and a moment later, Tommy was standing next to her. His normally pale skin was flushed and his chest was heaving. She said, “Hope you don’t have a heart attack before they get here.”

Nodding, Tommy said, “It just stopped being funny, Win.” He pulled out his cellphone and speed-dialed 911.


Chief Bittner arrived shortly. Tommy and Win had made it back to shore and met him on the road passing the Mayor’s home. Tommy had called Mayor Johannsen and even though she was in a meeting, her assistant assured them he’d pass the message to Vera ASAP.

Win nodded at the Chief. “Hey, Ken.”

“Win. What have you got here?”

Tommy, who was technically Win’s supervisor in the loose hierarchy of the Fisheries department, said, “We were looking at the drifting bog—to see what we could do—when Ms. Erdrich discovered human remains.”

“Disturb them?”

Win shook her head, “Didn’t touch them.”

Ken went back to his squad and had pulled on waders by the time Mayor Johanssen drove up in her SUV. Vera was with them in a half-dozen long strides. She held up her tablet computer and said, “I got a cease-and-desist order…”

“This is a Tribal matter, Madame Mayor. You know that,” Ken said. “Besides, this here ain’t your property despite the fact that it rammed into it…”

“It crushed three docks, my nephew’s canoe, our pedal boat, and sank my ski boat!” They all looked away while Vera calmed down. Finally, scowling, she tucked the tablet under her arm. “Just thought I’d try. Won’t make anyone happy if this turns into a mess.” She turned on Tommy, “This is all your fault!”

Tommy looked at her a long time before he said, “No fault, Your Honor. You called in this…encroachment. We were following up. Some reason you think this’ll turn into a mess?”

Vera’s mouth closed and her lips set in a thin line. Tommy studied her this time, and then said, “Care to accompany us?”

The mayor nodded abruptly, saying, “I’ll get my waders.” Shortly, she led them into the water and then hiked herself up onto the island. “Where’d you find it?”

Tommy jerked his head toward Win. Win said, “Nah, you all can go on…”

“I insist,” Chief Bittner said. He turned on his body cam.

Win sighed and joined the group, saying, “Spread out. We’ve no idea how thick the peat is under us. There are likely to be thin spots. Test the surface before you put your full weight down.”

Having already walked to the tamaracks once, Win followed her trail and got there first. The joint of the knee protruded ten centimeters above the brown overgrowth. They’d never have seen it if it had been spring. Chief Bittner pulled out his own tablet computer and began to take pictures. “I called Grand Itasca Hospital, too.”

Vera threw her arms up in the air. “Do you have to call every…” she aspirated an “f” sound, paused, continued, “…organization in the Northland?” They all looked at her now.

Win said, “Madame Mayor…”

“Oh, cut the Madam crap, Win. Yes, I’m upset! There is a skeleton not a hundred feet offshore from my house! The press will have a field day, with Halloween only two weeks away! I can just see the headlines!” It was clear the mayor wanted to pace, but there would be little satisfaction in doing that and some risk as well. She looked at Win and said, “You’re the limnologist. How did a skeleton get on this island?”

Win shrugged. “Up until September, this was part of the usual bog system. If someone was out hunting, fishing, or hiking and not paying attention, they could step on a thin spot, fall through, drown, and then lay there for days, weeks, months…”

Tommy intoned, “Years. Decades even.” He turned his head to take them all in, adding in a sepulchral voice, “Maybe even centuries.”

Chief Bittner said, “What?”

The mayor said the same thing, but her voice squeaked. The others looked at her as Tommy said, “It’s well-known that bogs can preserve animal remains. They’re practically an anaerobic environment.” He looked to Win for verification.

Win met his gaze with stony silence. Vera said, “Win? What’s he talking about?” The distant sound of a helicopter sounded in the cool morning air.

Win said, “He’s talking about ‘bog bodies’. There have only been two found in the US – both in Florida. Otherwise, there were groups of prehistoric humans in the UK who sacrificed people then laid them to rest in bogs. The oxygen content in peat is extremely low because decaying plant matter pulls the oxygen from the water. If someone were trapped in a bog, while they might sink in and drown, the amount of actual decay would be minimal over time.”

Tommy suddenly said, “While there’s no evidence of bog bodies up north here, there are legends and stories…”

Vera spun on him, surprisingly fast for someone wearing waders. She also had a handgun. A big one. Which she pointed at him as she said, “You can stop right there, Mr. Smoke.”

Chief Bittner said, softly, his hands away from his holster, “Madame Mayor.” She glanced his way. He started again. “Vera, there’s no way this can end well.”

“It’ll end fine if big mouth here keeps his mouth shut.” The sound of the helicopter was growing louder. From where she stood, Win could see that they’d sent the pontoon bird; useful in the Land of Ten-thousand Lakes. It would be able to land without trouble right on the bog island. Vera saw it, too, and she looked right at Tommy. The steel went out of her voice as she said, “Please.”

“It’s only a legend,” he said, hands raised.

Vera snorted. “Political careers have been tumbled by rumors and whispers. This is more.” The intensity of the mayor’s gaze was laser-like. Win felt it from where she stood, just to Tommy’s right.

Tommy’s voice was so low as to be barely a whisper. The helicopter nearly drowned him out as he said, “You think this bog rammed your boats and grounded here by accident, Vera Johannsen?”

The gun wavered, then steadied. Chief Bittner said, “I am obliged to inform you that my body camera is recording, Madame Mayor.”

Tommy leaned forward. “How many times was he removed, Vera? Why did he have to die?”

Ken and Win cast looks between Vera and Tommy.

Tommy said, “Your grandmother four times removed, the medicine woman Gloria Looking Cloud, cursed him. He was going to tell everyone in town she’d seduced him, and then leave her with his son and daughter and go West to make his fortune. That was in 1846, shortly before the Gold Rush began.” He paused. “She didn’t believe he’d return. She would have been left completely alone with two bastard children.”

“So she killed him?” Ken said.

Tommy shook his head, “No. She cursed him.” They all looked back to the black knee poking up through the peat. “Not only would he never make his fortune, he’d never leave the land.

“Looks like he decided to take his revenge and come back to haunt his great-granddaughter.”

Win, Ken, and Tommy stared at Vera. The gun sank to her legs as the chopper sank to the island. It settled slowly, sending a long wave through the squishy soil. Another knee popped up through the peat, its skin black and clearly wrapping the bone. Tommy said, “It’s the dead come back to haunt you, Vera.”

The Mayor fainted as a paramedic in waders gingerly made her way toward them, pulling a winter sled-stretcher behind her.

Win looked at Tommy and said, “You really think that last bit was necessary?”

He shrugged. “He’s the one who came to visit her.”

Guy Stewart is a husband supporting his wife, a breast cancer survivor; a father, father-in-law, grandfather, foster father, friend, writer, teacher, and counselor who maintains a SF/YA/Children’s writing blog called POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS; and more seriously, the author of GUY’S GOTTA TALK ABOUT BREAST CANCER AND ALZHEIMER’S. He has 66 publications to his credit, including a book that’s been available since 1997. In his spare time he keeps animals, a house, and loves to bike and camp. He has, in fact, walked on a bog island—although the desiccated knee he saw was when he accidentally backed his truck onto the front-yard grave of a Nigerian family. Guy has been a member of the Stupefying Stories crew since before the beginning, and his Amazon page is here: https://www.amazon.com/Guy-Stewart/e/B001KHE6U2.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Friday Challenge Update

There's still 5 days left to vote for your pick to win the 11/3 Friday Challenge. It looks like it's shaping up into a tight race between "The Han 'Nasty" by Christopher Naron and "A Toothsome Tale" by James Westbrooks, with "iGene" by Chris Pearce solidly in third place. In the meantime, the 11/17 Friday Challenge is still open to submissions, so if you're still working on your Worstest Christmas Story ever, you have 5 days to finish it and send it in.

To learn more about the 11/17 Friday Challenge, you can either scroll down or click this link.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Book Release • THE RECOGNITION REJECTION, by Henry Vogel

Rampant Loon Press is excited to announce the release today of THE RECOGNITION REJECTION, Book 2 in the critically acclaimed and award-nominated Recognition trilogy by bestselling author Henry Vogel. We could rave on and on about how excited we are by this book, but we’d rather quote the rave reviews for Book 1.
“The characters are well-crafted, the pacing is absolutely perfect, and any reader who’s enjoyed Robert Heinlein or Andre Norton will absolutely love this book!”
“A great new series by Henry Vogel. In addition to his usual scifi thriller/adventure story, Vogel has added a generous splash of mystery, a computer slicer (hacker) character, and an atmosphere of political intrigue among royal families, reminiscent of C. J. Cherryh’s Foreigner series […] I can’t wait to see how the mystery unfolds.”
“Nobility, corruption, succession scandals, and old grudges fill this book, and take it beyond the great majority of space sf.”
“This is my first book written by Henry Vogel—definitely won’t be the last! This is more than Science Fiction—it has elements of the mystery/thriller, as well. His characters are well-drawn and you actually like them and care what happens to them. Danger and twists abound as Jeanine and Drake try to solve a mystery which could affect the galaxy (and has ramifications all the way to the royal family). Look this one over—get it—read it—and enjoy!”


Book 2 in the Recognition trilogy by Henry Vogel
Available today, exclusively on Amazon.com


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Cyber Monday Lasts All Week

Here at Rampant Loon Press, this week may begin with Cyber Monday, but it’s just a prelude to Book Release Friday. To celebrate, we’ve decided to make a whole pile of ebooks absolutely free, but only for this week. These great deals include:

Monday, November 27, 2017

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: And now, it's time to vote.

We’ve heard from a few folks that it’s hard to find and read all the current Friday Challenge entries, and really hard to vote for your favorite, especially if you’re reading this site on a cell phone. Therefore, to improve accessibility, here are direct links to the six stories currently in the running for the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge, as well as a direct link to the voting widget.

» “The Han ‘Nasty,” by Chris J. Naron

» “When the Pillows Have Eyes,” by J. Verostka

» “A Toothsome Tale,” by James Westbrooks

» “Un Poêle Français,” by Mimosa Longfellow

» “iGene,” by Chris Bailey Pearce

» “Sofia’s Weekend,” by Lucrezia Ferri

Direct link to the voting widget:

Please note that you can vote for more than one story, and you can change your vote right up until the time the poll closes on Thursday, December 7th. So don’t hesitate to vote, even if you aren’t absolutely certain of your choice or can’t choose between your two favorites. Also, please note that there is a time lag between the time you vote and the time your vote shows up in the tally, so don’t panic if your vote doesn’t show up right away.

While we’re on the subject: we’ve also had quite a few inquiries as to just what exactly the rules are for the Friday Challenge. You’ll find the Official(ish) Rules at this link, but be advised that we reserve the right to make arbitrary changes to the rules at any time. For example, for the 11/3/17 Friday Challenge, we decided to make the Grand Prize a $25 Amazon gift certificate, just to make things a little more interesting.

Semi-finally, we’ve had a few people ask when the next Friday Challenge will begin. Actually, it’s running right now, it’s open to entries for another ten days, and you’ll find everything you need to know at this link. In fact, thanks to the miracle of tagging, you’ll find everything we’ve posted in relation to the Friday Challenge at this link.

And finally: what made the original Friday Challenge so good was that there was a lot of discussion of the stories submitted, before the rendering of verdicts. We had a lot of give and take; a lot of sharing of opinions and pointing out what worked well, and what didn’t. Fostering this discussion is the entire point of the Friday Challenge—so please, if you have something to say about a story, SAY IT, either in the comments on the individual stories or in the comments on the wrap-up post. How else are the writers going to improve if you don’t tell them what you like or don’t like about their stories?

I have my own critiques of each of these stories, and I’ll share them the day after voting closes, when we announce the winner—and the topic for the next challenge.

Until then, kind regards,

Saturday, November 25, 2017

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #6

Fiction: “Sofia’s Weekend,” by Lucrezia Ferri

Several months ago, my health insurance carrier offered me a deal too good to pass up. PremCare offered me a $600 per month reduction in my already ridiculously high premium if I would allow them to install the new Total Toilet™, a state-of-the-art “smart” device designed to make management of chronic health conditions easier for the patient and caregiver. Once installed, the Total Toilet would analyze everything I put into it and stream the results directly to my doctor at the clinic.

Six hundred bucks a month was money I sure could use, so I agreed. PremCare arranged everything, from the Total Toilet delivery, to installation, to Wi-Fi hook up. What PremCare did not disclose was the constant shaming and nagging that came along with the TT.

What a crock.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Black Sunday, and Naming Rights Still Available Saturday

As long as everyone else is going berserk over “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” sales, we may as well jump in and mention a few special deals of our own.

First off, in the run-up to the release of THE RECOGNITION REJECTION on Friday, December 1st, we’re selling the Kindle edition of THE RECOGNITION RUN at a special book-release sale price of $0.99.


Secondly, we are now taking pre-orders for THE RECOGNITION REJECTION, also at the special book-release sale price of $0.99.


I have got to come up with a better-looking “BUY IT NOW” button. Maybe I can get one from Squelch Design, the nice folks who let us use their big blue “Follow us on facebook” button in exchange for a promotional plug.

Thirdly, we have a whole pile of free e-book deals coming up next week, beginning on Cyber Monday and ending on Book-Release Friday. Which books are we going to be giving away free? Well, you’ll just have to come back on Monday morning to find out.

Finally, Black Sunday is of course the 1975 novel by Thomas Harris (better known as the creator of Hannibal Lechter), later made into a movie, in which Palestinian terrorists attack the Super Bowl by the incredibly clever means of convincing deranged ex-Navy blimp pilot Michael Lander (played by Bruce Dern, Hollywood’s go-to guy for crazy in the 1970s), to take a weaponized Goodyear blimp on a suicide dive into the stadium. Really.

Oh, the humanity.

Understandably, Harris stuck to writing about Hannibal Lechter after this book.

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #5

Fiction: “iGene,” by Chris Bailey Pearce

“Ow!” Ben rubbed the red spot on his wrist.

Mike raised one dark, bushy eyebrow, but said nothing.

“I swear, the thing bit me. See?” He shoved his hand in Mike’s direction.

“Well, what did you expect?” Mike glanced at the green and silver Individualized Genetic Event Normalization Educer on Ben’s wrist and took another sip of his mocha latte. “You muted it and dimmed the display. Turn it back on and see what it’s telling you.”

Thursday, November 23, 2017

From the SHOWCASE archives...

SHOWCASE #10: November 15, 2013

A few people have emailed to ask why I stopped running these From the SHOWCASE archives... posts. The short answer is that these posts were part of a clever plan to drum up interest in SHOWCASE Volume 1, which we were planning to release on December 1st, with SHOWCASE Volume 2 to follow on December 15th and Volume 3 in January. However, with the sudden shutdown of Pronoun.com, we’ve had to go back to the drawing board and start over on this project.

In the meantime, though, in honor of the American national holiday of Thanksgiving and all its trimmings, we’ve dug deep into the archives and pulled out SHOWCASE #10, better known in-house as the “Food Trilogy,” which features:

» “An Indelible Feast,” by Alex Shvartsman

Adria’s is the most expensive restaurant in the world, because they can serve diners nearly anything—with just one small exception...

» “Stanhope’s Finest,” by Natalie J. E. Potts

“I am a survivor from the Meso-Air crash, requesting rescue from Sydney, Australia. I need urgent medical assistance. I think I might have eaten some poisonous crabs. They were green with red dots, and oh my God...”

» “Allegory at Table Seven,” by Jarod K. Anderson

Rounding out this week’s Food Trilogy, the story that asks, what happens when the impossible meets the unbelievable over a nice Greek salad?

» Badger & Vole Review: THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Which seems like an apt lead-in for Badger & Vole Review: THOR: RAGNAROK, which will be appearing on this site Any Day Now.

» “Appliancé,” by Bruce Bethke

I’d actually forgotten this one was out there, but in light of the current Friday Challenge, this seems like a fortuitous rediscovery. This story was part of our short-lived Learning Experiences series, in which we reprinted previously published stories along with the author’s account of just exactly what he or she had to go through to get the story published. In retrospect, this was an interesting idea, and perhaps worth reviving. What do you think?

Finally, for those who recognize that this national holiday is not merely about getting stuffed, but also about football, we offer this bonus feature for dessert:

» “Jesus Leads the Jets to the AFC Championship,” by Pete McArdle

Bon appetit!

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #4

Fiction: “Un Poêle Français,” by Mimosa Longfellow

Mrs. Lavender Goldman was glad to get a new stove. Her old one was covered in marks of burnt lasagna, old coffee, and sticky syrup. She had bought it three years before at a flea market for cheap, but the man who sold it to her said it was eight years old. Her husband was tired of coming home to burnt meals, so he told Lavender he would get her a new stove. He didn’t make much, being a reporter, and Lavender didn’t work, since she was busy taking care of their twelve-month-old son. Jacob Goldman, Lavender’s husband, said he would get her the best, newest stove there was. Together they saved up all the money they could.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Friday Challenge: A Quick Update

This time around, we’ve made a few changes. We considered putting all the stories out in one great big anonymized mass, as we did last time, but decided they’d be easier for readers to handle if we published one new story daily, and better for the writers if we included the author’s bylines and bios right up front. We also decided to put the polling widget up right away (at the top of the right column), because you can change your vote(s) right up until the poll closes on Thursday, 12/7/17.

In case you’re curious, all authors are being paid our standard word rates for their stories, as the sliding scale we used last time wasn’t fair to the third-place author. In addition, after further discussion, we decided that the author of the story that wins the reader’s poll will receive a $25 Amazon gift certificate.

Hope this clears things up for you.

Update to the Update: We’ve learned that the polling widget is not accessible in some web browsers, particularly those found on smart phones. If you can’t see the polling widget in the upper right corner, here’s a direct link to it:


11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #3

Fiction: “A Toothsome Tale,” by James Westbrooks

“Ow!  Damn it!  Damn it!”  My wife dropped her fork and slapped her hand to her cheek.

I held my own fork halfway to my mouth and stared at her. So did the people at the table beside our booth. “What’s wrong?  Did you bite your tongue?” I asked.

“Owww!  I think I broke a tooth!” she said with a grimace. I could tell that she was rolling something around with her tongue. I leaned over the table and put my finger on her chin.

“Open up,” I said. “Let me see.”

“Wait.  Wait,” she said, and held her napkin up to her mouth. She spat into it and looked down. Mixed in with half-chewed barbecue was a piece of tooth and a bone fragment. She hissed in pain and anger. A waitress arrived at our table and asked if there was a problem.

“I’m afraid there…”  I began.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Releasing December 1st: 

by Henry Vogel

Book 2 in the award-nominated Recognition Trilogy

The official release date is December 1st, but if you pre-order the Kindle edition now you can get it for the special introductory price of just $0.99 USD. Learn more at this link:


But wait, there’s more!

(I’ve always wanted to say that!)

If you aren’t already reading this series, we’re making Book 1, THE RECOGNITION RUN, available for a limited time at the same special price of just $0.99 USD, or free for Kindle Unlimited Subscribers.

“Struck from the template of classic space opera, this tale of intergalactic adventure hits all of the right notes. It has a likable hero and heroine, nasty villains, a plot full of intrigue and unforeseeable surprises, and a colorfully rendered outer-space backdrop against which its well-paced events unfold. Vogel’s prose is perfectly suited to the story he has to tell—one in which he must give voice to a score of different characters and move quickly from moments of quiet intimacy to scenes of brisk and frenetic action. His simple, direct storytelling style gets the job done.”

—The Publisher’s Weekly BookLife Prize Critic’s Report


P.S. Coming in April 2018...

The adventure concludes in Book 3, THE RECOGNITION REVELATION!

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #2

Fiction: “When the Pillows Have Eyes,” by J. Verostka

I was still standing at the end of my first week, if a bit battered and worn. I had used everything in my stash of traditional medicinals—bottle, box and broadcast—to do it, but I had survived. Six of us had started and four remained. Lisa, the only other woman, had turned in her notice Thursday morning. Maybe she didn’t have the voice of her newly-ex ex in her head, telling her she’d never make it in such a high pressure firm, to keep her going. Well, I sure as hell did.

I told the door not to open to anyone and the curtains to draw over the windows, and the Home did as I asked. I always thought condo was kind of a sleazy word. I liked coming home to a place that called itself Home. Even the elevator’s soft voice made you start to relax. I kicked off my heels. I left them and piece by piece, my suit, hose and shapewear where I dropped them for the Home to pick up off of the plush, rose-colored carpet. My body thanked me with every breath.

A quick, hot shower unknotted my shoulders and I could smell the chicken pie that I had requested for dinner while still at the office. I loved having a Home that did for me the work I used to do for him. With the carafe, the remote and the last of the cake already waiting for me and an extra-sized towel between my bottom and the upholstery below and my lap and a hot plate above, I snuggled down for a long Friday night’s streaming. Something steamy; I wanted nice dreams.

¤ ¤ ¤

The following afternoon, I was still trying to figure out who wore hostess gowns—whatever they were—when I rang the bell.

Monday, November 20, 2017

11/3/17 Friday Challenge: Entry #1

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

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?

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.

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.