Where I Find Short Fiction. Short-Story Month, Day# 12

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How do I find short-stories to read? For openers, I subscribe to a buttload of magazines, like Analog, Asimov’s, Ellery Queens, Alfred Hitchcock’s and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I also scope out anthologies in The Science Fiction Book Club and the bookstores. (Used bookstores too!) And I keep my eye on market listings and publishers like Lethe Press. I also follow the internet posts of a lot of authors I like (‘Nathan Burgoine and Greg Herren, for example.) Sometimes an offhand reference will set me off to finding another short-story to read ( I grabbed Jerry L. Wheeler’s fine “Strawberries and Other Erotic Fruits” after seeing a Facebook post.) or I’ll get on a jag about an author I’ve heard about perhaps in a chance read of a story in an anthology. (which is how I found William F. Wu’s “A Temple of Forgotten Spirits,” or Rand Lee’s “The Green Man.”)

I’ll recommend a couple of Facebook sites for Flash Fiction that I’m on; the other participants provide some fine reading and I certainly try! “Friday Flash Fics” and “Monday Flash Fics.”

Happy reading!

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Posted in 'Nathan Burgoine, Books, Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, LGBT, Monday Flash Fiction, Short-Stories, Short-Story Month, Steve Berman, Uncategorized, William F. Wu | Leave a comment

More Mystery for Day #11 of Short Story Month

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By Jeff Baker

I’m nuts about locked-room mysteries, impossible crime stories, you get the idea. Stories that couldn’t have happened but did! Not just a Whodunnit, but a How-The-Hell’d-He-Do-It? I’ve written a few and even published one http://www.overmydeadbody.com/a307.htm, but I’m not in the same league as the masters of the form. There are some fine novels but the best of this type are in short stories.

Clayton Rawson had been an amateur magician and his character The Great Merlini is a magician who solves seemingly “impossible” crimes, helping out a friend on the police force. Two of his best short-stories in this vein are “Off the Face of the Earth” and “From Another World.” In one, a man is murdered in a room sealed by newspaper with no way to get in except cutting the paper. In the other, a man vanishes from a phone booth that is in full view of a group of observers.

I’ll recommend the collection “The Mammoth Book of Locked-Room Mysteries and Impossible Crimes” https://www.amazon.com/Mammoth-Locked-Room-Mysteries-Impossible-Crimes/dp/0786707909 and say, as fun and challenging as this form is, there should be more LGBT-themed impossible crime stories.

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Short-Story Month, Day # 10. I Love a Mystery.

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By Jeff Baker

I’ve loved mystery short-stories for decades. Let’s start with Greg Herren’s “Annunciation Shotgun,” (which appears in New Orleans Noir.) Set in the post-Katrina New Orleans the author knows so well, if it was an episode of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” the viewer would be screaming at the main character through the screen; every decision the man makes gets him deeper and deeper into trouble, disaster and danger. But the first clue that the man was in dire peril came from the fact that he is in a Greg Herren story. Characters in Herren’s stories are usually in too deep by the time they realize they are in at all. Herren’s short-stories are gripping (he has a collection out: “Survivor’s Guilt,” https://www.amazon.com/Survivors-Guilt-Other-Stories-Suspense/dp/1635554136/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=Herren%2C+Survivor%27s+Guilt&qid=1557555521&s=books&sr=1-1-fkmrnullwhich is well worth it.) and he is just as good as a novelist.

I’m a big fan of whodunnits and classic stories, and Isaac Asimov wrote a series of short-stories about “The Black Widowers,” about a dining club who are inevitably confronted by a mystery or puzzle during the course of their monthly meetings. The stories are ingenious and fun and very much “fair play” mysteries where the reader has a shot at solving the puzzle themselves in stories like “Sixty Million Trillion Combinations,” “The Haunted Cabin” and “Triple Devil.” And so many more.

Melville Davisson Post wrote some of the best American detective stories in the time between Poe and Agatha Christie and his character Uncle Abner is the best. Abner, a Virginia landowner who lives in the early 1800s believes it is “a world filled with the mysterious justice of God,” and acts to see that justice is done and the innocent protected. In “The Doomsdorf Mystery,” Abner must deduce how a killer could have scaled a sheer wall and entered through a window without disturbing the dusty cobwebs on the window! There is some politically incorrect language in the stories but Abner’s attitudes are startlingly progressive for stories written a century ago.

 

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Voyage Into Danger for Friday Flash Fics, by Jeff Baker. May 10, 2019

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                                     The Voyage of the Kish

By Jeff Baker

Zamed watched as the clouds covered the moon that was high in the sky. One of the others would be rising soon but they wouldn’t be able to see it. He could see lightning in the thunderclouds that covered the sun.

This was no time to be out in a sailer-boat, even one like the Kish.

He looked over at Zatch. He was more experienced on the seas but he looked anxious. There was another flash of lightning and a roar of thunder. The wind became chilly.

Zatch looked upward and pointed. In that direction, Zamed could just make out a blackish lump on the horizon of blue sea. He started to say something but the wind and roar of thunder drowned him out. Zamed got the idea; they were heading to the island. Heading to safety.

Zamed ducked down and clung to the sides of the sailer-boat. Cutting down wind resistance as he’d been instructed to do. Zatch pulled the sail in position and the racing winds began to skim the Kish across the water. Zatch glanced up and saw the small island drawing closer. After a few more moments, Zatch and Zamed hopped out of the Kish and pulled it ashore.

“Further ashore,” Zatch said,” still dragging the Kish. “We don’t want to be stranded.”

Zatch and Zamed pulled the Kish several head-lengths away from shore and into a clump of sturdy trees.

“We’re here before the storm,” Zamed said.

“But not for long,” Zatch said. “Look.”

In the direction Zatch pointed the storm was rapidly approaching. Lightning, the yellowish brown dark of cloud filling the sky, the waves dancing. Zamed and Zatch ducked beside the boat and grabbed the sides of the thick, squat tree.

The storm was a few head-lengths away from the island and the roar of wind and thunder was deafening when the storm suddenly split down the center and flowed like juice in a tray around the island. Zatch and Zamed stared in amazement, and then Zatch glanced up and grabbed Zamed’s shoulder and pointed. The purple and grey leaves hung down without a twitch. Not a breath of air stirred. The roar of wind and thunder could be heard but the rest of the storm had skirted the island, leaving it untouched. The two men stared at each other with widening eyes of horrified realization; there was only one island which even the storms avoided. They knew of it from the tales; tales spoken in furtive whispers. It could only be The Island of Unuttered Names.

They both knew the legends; no mortal may find the Island of Unuttered Names and leave unchanged.

 

—end—

 

This story fits into my World of Three Moons series, a quasi-mythical, science-fictional planet I’ve been writing about for a few years. Most of them were flash fictions published on this blog but I have one or two in the pipe that I have to sit down and write. ”Kish” was a city in ancient Sumer, I borrowed it for the name of the sailer-boat. The other influence was Robert Louis Stevenson’s South Sea stories, like “The Island of Voices,” which I’ve been re-reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Friday Flash Fics, LGBT, Robert Louis Stevenson, Science Fiction, Short-Stories, Uncategorized, World of Three Moons | Leave a comment

Making Connections. Short Story Month, Day #9

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by Jeff Baker

The theme for Day # 9 of Short-Story Month is “Connected Short Stories.” Plenty of stories have the connection of the same setting or characters (I’ve written a few myself,) but these count more as series stories. Connecting them in a special way is not an easy trick.

‘Nathan Burgoine pulled this off excellently (and unexpectedly) in his collection “Of Echoes Born,” which links the previously published stories together. It all comes together at the end of the last story.

There you have it. Short, sweet and to the point. As befits a post about short stories.

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Getting Gnarly with All You Zombies. Short-Story Month, Day # 8

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For Day #8 of Short-Story Month, here are some takes on two of the most popular themes in speculative fiction: Time travel and Immortality.

For starters, two of the twistiest time-travel stories Robert A. Heinlein wrote: “By His Bootstraps” (1941) and “All You Zombies,” (1959). No spoilers here, but both involve time paradoxes. In “All You Zombies,” at least one character is intersex. Heinlein considered “Zombies” one of his favorites of his stories and he included it in the 1963 author’s choice anthology “The Worlds of Science Fiction.”  All of Heinlein’s short stories are good reads.

Time travel was a regular theme of author Jack Finney in novels like “Time and Again,” and short stories like “The Third Level.” Writing in the 1950s, many of Finney’s stories evoke the past as innocent and nostalgic. But not always; “Such Interesting Neighbors” deals with refugees from the future, and time begins to go haywire in “I’m Scared.” If Jack Finney isn’t a household name, some of his stories are; he wrote “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

Immortality has been a theme in fiction for as long as it’s been a dream of humankind. There have been at least two stories that take that statement literally. L. Sprague DeCamp’s “The Gnarly Man” is about Gaffney, a man seeking medical attention for his leg, which was broken and never set right a long, long, long time ago. Gaffney is an immortal Neanderthal who inspired the legends of the crippled Roman god Vulcan. There are at least two stories about immortal cavemen; the other is “Old Man Mulligan” by P. Schuyler Miller. (One of them might have created Vandal Savage, the immortal caveman who became a Sumerian king and fought the Justice Society in the 1940s comic books. But I digress.)

The 1998 anthology “Immortals,” edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois includes an introduction where the editors speculate that since, a century ago people were lucky to make it through their thirties, we are living in an era of greatly extended life.

We may not have found immortality, but that is close.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Immortality, Jack Finney, L. Sprague DeCamp, LGBT, Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction, Short-Stories, Short-Story Month, Time Travel, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Singular Stories and a Return for Day #7 of Short-Story Month

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I’m going to bend the rules for this one. The idea is to talk about stand-alone stories, but the first one is just too good. There are actually two sequels to this first story, but the story is singular enough to qualify. Besides, “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” by Stephen Vincent Benet, is famous and oft-plagiarized, but probably a lot of people haven’t read it.

Benet considered himself primarily a poet and this story has more than a touch of poetry in its descriptive passages and when attorney Daniel Webster tries to have the Devil’s claim against a man (for his soul) thrown out on the grounds that Mr. Scratch is “a foreign prince.” Mr. Scratch refutes the idea that he is not an American citizen.

“When the first wrong was done to the first Indian, I was there. When the first slaver put out for the Congo, I stood on her deck. Am I not in your books and stories and beliefs from the first settlements on? Am I not spoken of, still, in every church in New England? ‘Tis true the North claims me for a Southerner and the South for a Northerner, but I am neither. I am merely an honest American like yourself–and of the best descent–for, to tell the truth, Mr. Webster, though I don’t like to boast of it, my name is older in this country than yours.”

And later on, describing Webster’s speech to a jury of the damned: And he began with the simple things that everybody’s known and felt–the freshness of a fine morning when you’re young, and the taste of food when you’re hungry, and the new day that’s every day when you’re a child. He took them and he turned them in his hands. They were good things for any man. But without freedom, they sickened. And when he talked of those enslaved, and the sorrows of slavery, his voice got like a big bell.

Pure poetry.

“A Star For a Warrior” by Manly Wade Wellman is a stand-alone story, Wellman’s only story about Native American detective David Return. Wellman never made Return a series character, but the one tale won the Ellery Queen’s Mystery magazine Award for 1946. (Wellman had some Native ancestry himself, by the way.)

The story is marvelous, but I’m partial towards anything Wellman wrote.

 

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