R.I.P. – Peril of the Short Story

rip-xi

This year is the eleventh “R.I.P. Challenge” (Readers Imbibing Peril) at Stainless Steel Droppings. So… time to create another short story reading list for myself! I’m a little late getting started, but this will be my fourth year participating. Last year for the annual R.I.P. challenge I read 13 short stories, employing the “Deal Me In” approaching of assigning them to playing cards and determining the order I read them randomly via “the luck of the draw.”  This year, I’ll again be doing the “Peril of the Short Story” version of the challenge, and I’m feeling more ambitious so am reading 24 stories, assigning them to the cards in a euchre deck.  I have until 10/31 to complete the reading, so it’s very do-able.  The cards I’m using are from a new deck in my collection, the Bicycle “Celtic Myth” edition.  Pretty cool, huh? 🙂

♥♥Hearts♥♥

♥9♥Ballroom Blitz” by Vernoica Schandes (from “Some of the Best From Tor.com” anthology) read 10/17

♥10♥Black Hole Sun” by Alethea Kontis & Kelli Owen (from “Dark Futures: Tales of Dystopian SF”) read 10/15

♥Q♥Blood and Fire” by Desmond Riddick (from “The End Was Not the End” anthology) read 10/8

♥K♥Blood of the Hunting Moon” by S.M. Harding (from the “Decades of Dirt” anthology) read 10/8

♥A♥How Nuth Would Have Practiced His Art Upon the Gonles” by Lond Dunstan (from “The Weird” anthology) read 10/15

♥J♥Blood Allies” by Josh Green (from “Dirtyville Rhapsodies”) read 10/15

♦♦Diamonds♦♦


♦9♦I Am Become Death” by Franklin Thatcher (from “Strange New Worlds II”) read 10/8

♦10♦In the Greenwood” by Mari Ness (from “Some of the Best of Tor.com”) read 10/28

♦Q♦Mastodon” by Erin Fortinberry (from “Midwestern Gothic” magazine) read 10/29

♦K♦Nightmare” by Shirley Jackson (from the “Just An Ordinary Day” collection) read 9/20

♦A♦One Eye, Two Eyes and Three Eyes” by Unknown (from “Grimm’s Fairy Tales) read 10/17

♦J♦Schroedinger’s Gun” by Ray Wood (from “Some of the Best of Tor.com”) read 9/16

♣♣Clubs♣♣


♣9♣ “Scradni Vashka” by Saki (from “The Weird” anthology) read 10/15

♣10♣ “Stewwelpeter” by Glenn Hirshberg (from the collection “The Two Sams”)mread 10/16

♣Q♣ “The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About the Shivers” by Unknown (from “Grimm’s Fairy Tales) – read 9/23

♣K♣ “The Halls of War” by DeeDee Davies (from “The End was Not the End” anthology) read 10/15

♣A♣ “The Jellyfish” by Clint Smith (from the “Indiana Science Fiction 2012” anthology) read 9/23

♣J♣ “The Spider” by Hans Heinz Ewers (from “The Weird” anthology) read 10/28

♠♠Spades♠♠


♠9♠ “The Too Clever Fox” by Leigh Bardugo (from “Some of the Best of Tor.com”) read 10/29

♠10♠ “The Very Hot Sun in Bermuda” by Shirley Jackson (from “Just An Ordinary Day”) read 10/17

♠Q♠ “Tin Cans” by Ekaterina Sedia (from the “Haunted Legends” anthology) read 10/8

♠K♠ “Torching the Dusties” by Margaret Atwood (from the collection,”Stone Mattress”) read 10/14

♠A♠ “What We Kept of Charlie” by R.M. Cooper (from “Midwestern Gothic” magazine) read 9/19

♠J♠ “Wicked Witch for Hire” by Katherine Nabity (from “Bounded in a Nutshell”) read 10/15

I admittedly didn’t put a lot of thought into picking these, simply going through my kindle & nook apps and picking some from every applicable anthology I could find.  I did pick a few because I was familiar with the authors from prior short story challenges, but the rest I picked because the title sounded intriguing.  I also included a couple of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, of which I have a recent edition.  Of course, my old standby anthology, “The Weird,” makes a few appearances as well.  The suit assignments are random. What do you think of my selections?

Related blog posts by all the R.I.P. participants are available at the review site.  As of this posting there are already 43 for this popular challenge. So, what about you? Are YOU participating in the R.I.P. challenge this year?  Is this your first time, or, if not, how many times have you participated?

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“Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut – selection 36 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♣4♣ Four of Clubs

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, clubs is my suit for “Stories by Legendary Hoosier Authors”

The Selection: “Harrison Bergeron” originally published in 1961 in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, I own it as part of the author’s excellent short story collection “Welcome to the Monkey House.”

The Author: Kurt Vonnegut. If you haven’t heard of him, you may be a newcomer to this blog, since I’ve featured him often. A native of Indianapolis, the city is also home to the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library and museum. The library has a book club that I’ve been attending pretty regularly for over five years now. Vonnegut is most famous for his anti-war novel Slaughterhouse Five, loosely based on his own experiences in World War II, where he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge before being shipped off to the city of Dresden as a P.O.W.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

Harrison Bergeron

“The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was quicker or stronger than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.”

Harrison Bergeron is fourteen years old and “a genius and athlete, and under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.” He is the son of George and Hazel Bergeron, and they all live in a future where everyone is made to be equal. How this is accomplished is that gifted people are forced to wear specific “handicaps” based on their gifts in order to drag them back down to the norm. George, for instance, is above average intelligence so he has a radio transmitter attached to his ear that intermittently gives off distracting blasts of random sounds (automobile collisions, ball-peen hammers striking milk bottles, and so on) in order to disrupt George’s “unfair ability” to concentrate better than others. He also has to wear a bag containing “forty-seven pounds of birdshot” around his neck in order to counteract his superior strength. Ballerinas in this future world are similarly handicapped by heavy “saddlebags” around their waists. If your vision is above the normal, you are forced to wear thick, wavy-lenses glasses. Well, I’m sure you’re beginning to get the picture.

The head of the U.S. Office of the Handicapper General, one “Diana Moon Clampers” – one of my all-time favorite names in fiction – has legions of “H-G men” who continually think up new and improved handicaps to attach to those who are “unfairly gifted,” but they can hardly keep up with the exceptional Harrison Bergeron, who now stands seven feet tall and is outgrowing handicaps faster than they can come up with them. As this story commences, he has broken free from the authorities trying to “keep him normal,” and George and Hazel learn of his escape via news bulletins that interrupt their tv watching.
In the climax of the story, Harrison briefly takes over the television station, declaring himself “emperor,” ripping off his multitude of handicaps and those of one of the ballerinas. They dance as none must have danced since the onset of the Office of Handicapper General, enjoying some brief moments of existence as normal – THEIR normal anyway. Such a display cannot continue in this future dystopia, of course, and Diana Moon Clampers herself arrives on the scene to once again “equalize” things.

♫Personal Notes: Thankfully I haven’t experienced much close to this dystopia Vonnegut describes, but occasionally I am reminded of this story by events in our current culture, many of which are new developments that weren’t around in my youth, like “participation trophies” and the like (if everyone gets a trophy, isn’t that about the same as no one getting a trophy?). Recently at work, I got a “first place” ribbon for our Fitbit challenge. In our online group, I think I was actually 16th place or something. I guess management wasn’t comfortable singling out real winners. That could’ve hurt somebody’s feelings… I’ve noticed in education too how things are different now compared to when I went to school. I hear “horror stories” (to me anyway) of students being allowed to take a test multiple times, or with an open book, etc. Maybe not everyone’s strictly “equal,” but everyone passes. Eventually anyway. Hats off to Vonnegut for “seeing this coming” and appropriately lampooning it in this story.


Handicapper general seal from goodreads.com


(One artist’s illustration of Harrison and his ballerina; found at http://prosencons.tumblr.com/post/47152229853/harrison-bergeron)

“The Circle Effect” by Diana Catt – Selection #35 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♦6♦ Six of Diamonds

The Suit: For 2016, Diamonds is my suit for “Stories by Contemporary Indiana Writers”

The Selection: “The Circle Effect” from Decades of Dirt: Murder, Mystery and Mayhem from the Crossroads of Crime”, the fourth anthology produced by the “Speed City, Indiana” chapter of Sisters in Crime.

The Author: Diana Catt. I’ve actually read a story of hers for Deal Me In before, tackling “The Art of the Game” from Hoosier Hoops and Hijinks in 2015. See her website (from where the photo at left was found) at hoosier-hoops-and-hijinkshttp://dianacatt.com/ The “author notes” in Decades of Dirt tell me she’s an environmental microbiologist in her day job. Pretty cool. 🙂 of coincidental note is that Deal Me IN’s notorious hand of fate led me to draw the card for her story on the week of her birthday…

 

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

The Circle Effect

“‘I wish you hadn’t been the one to find the body, son.’ I wholeheartedly agreed.”

This story is the fictional first person account of a murder that occurs during the construction of Indianapolis’s famous downtown Soldiers & Sailors Monument (or, as many call it these days, simply the Circle Monument). The time frame of the story is historically accurate, it’s just the details and the murder which are fictional. Construction of this monument lasted thirteen years and bridged the turn of the 20th century, being dedicated in 1902. When construction began, many veterans of the U.S. Civil War were still living, and The Circle Effect is the story of how long grudges may sometimes be held before they can be properly resolved or avenged.

The young narrator – I believe he’s unnamed – is the son of a small group of benefactors who are leading citizens and guiding the logistics of the monument’s construction. A benefit of his position is that he has “the run of” the construction site and watches and interacts with many of the workers. One of these is the one-eyed, scarred, and mysterious “Mr. Singleton.” The narrator asks how he got the scar “after knowing him just a few hours.”

“Bayonet, boy. Hand to hand combat. Damn Reb had thirty pounds on me and a powerful swing. Last thing I ever saw with this eye was that blade slicing down.”

Whether all the stories Singleton tells the young boy are true or not is subject to debate, but one thing that is true, and that, not surprisingly, he has kept to himself, is that he once served as a guard at the notorious Andersonville prison. It was there that he wronged one man of a close circle of comrades-at-arms, other members of which just happen to now be in Indianapolis at the time he finds employment in the monument’s construction…

(below: The Soldiers and Sailors Monument at the center of Indianapolis)


The story is also, in a way, a coming of age story, as the young narrator’s accidental involvement in the unfolding events lead him to realize that trusted adults may not always be everything you’ve assumed them to be. I also loved the multiple meanings of the final sentence. “The circle was now complete.”

♫ Personal Notes: I worked in downtown Indy for many years, a lot of which were just one block east of Monument Circle, where I, among hundreds of other downtown workers, would often sit on the steps and eat our lunch, watching the world go by in our brief respite from the daily grind. I’ve been inside the monument itself only once, many years ago and climbed the steps to the top, which as you’d imagine offers an interesting view of downtown. The monument is also home to the Colonel Eli Lilly Civil War museum. Lilly is the eponymous founder of a drug company you may have heard of….

“Poet, Prophet and Philosopher (Max Ehrmann)” by Fred Cavinder – selection #34 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♠A♠  Ace of Spades

The Suit: For 2016, Spades is my suit for “Short, Indiana-related works of Nonfiction”

The Selection: “Poet, Prophet and Philosopher (Max Ehrmann)” from Forgotten Hoosiers: Profiles from Indiana’s Hidden History  (more info on the book at https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/Products/9781596297463)

The Author: Fred Cavinder. He has written several Indiana-themed books and was a long time reporter for the Indianapolis Star newspaper.  I’ve featured two other pieces by him in Deal Me “IN” 2016: “The Gentleman of the Press in Skirts” and “Politics and Poetry

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/storylegacy project seal of approval 2roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

Poet, Prophet and Philosopher (Max Ehrmann)

“I am washing myself clean,” he said during one stay at Turkey Run (State Park), “of the mental dust of the city.”

turkey run.jpg

(Turkey Run State Park image above from visitindiana.com)

Learning about Hoosier Max Ehrmann has been one of the “great discoveries” of my 2016 Deal Me In project thus far.  If you’re like me, you may not recognize the name, but I’d almost guarantee that, at some point in your life, you’ve read – and appreciated – something he wrote. He’s particularly known for a prose poem titled “Desiderata.” Now, does that title ring a bell?  It’s pretty short so I’m going to include it below:

desiderata.jpg(Desiderata poem picture from: quotesgram.com)

Can you confirm whether or not you’ve seen this before? I’m guessing you have.  I’d never thought much about its origin until today, though, and what do you know, it was written by a Hoosier! 🙂  Anyway, I’ve always thought those were pretty good words to live by, even if I’ll admit it is often difficult to follow all the poem’s directives.  Ehrmann, however, seemed to have done so in his own life.

After reading this piece, I’ve decided Ehrmann was a man after my own heart, and he and I aren’t that much different (well, except for the fact that he was extremely talented, of course!).  His time spent working in more ‘traditional’ business (rather than arts and letters) were not times he enjoyed.  E.g. “His heart wasn’t in it. ‘Had it not been for some other enterprise of the mind in leisure hours, I should have died,’ he wrote.”  He also spent much of his time at home “surrounded by books, busts of Dante and Shakespeare and a bronze paperweight of Buddha.” and “A grade school teacher named Louis Peters inspired him to read. As an adult , his rooms in Terre Haute overflowed with books.”  And, finally, “He never quarreled with the need to earn a living, just the ‘brutal business world’ that it involved.” Yes, he sounds like a guy I would have liked to hang out with!

He was born in Terre Haute, Indiana, and later become president of the Terre Haute Literary Club.  He seems to have been universally admired and liked by the people of that city (not surprising, if he did indeed follow the dictums of the Desiderata).  His other most famous work was a poem called simply “A Prayer” It may be read online here.

max-ehrmann-650x370.jpg

(above sculpture of “Terre Haute Treasure” Ehrmann  found at Wabash and 7th in that fair city. photo from wthitv.com)

Ehrmann is someone I’ll definitely be reading more of – and about – after my Bicentennial reading project has long since finished.  Cavinder sums up Ehrmann quite well in the following:

“In a sense, Ehrmann was a candidate to be forgotten. By all accounts, he was a man who lived austerely and simply. He never wanted fame or money, associates said. He shunned publicity and did not care for “things.” The stuff of philosophy and the soul were his palette.”

Thanks to Fred Cavinder for writing this book and for bringing this man to my attention. Mr. Ehrmann, it was nice to meet you, sir.

So, what about YOU, dear reader?  Are you familiar with the Desiderata?  Are you old enough to remember  a musical adaptation of it that was done in the ’70s?  I <cough, cough> might be… 🙂

(Below [photo from the book]: Ehrmann was also an archery enthusiast, something I’m sure fellow Hoosier literary giant Maurice Thompson would have approved of!)

ehrmann2