I Read Five Short Stories for The R.I.P. Challenge

A couple weeks ago I posted about my intention to read 24 stories for this year’s edition of the R.I.P. Challenge, and this is my first “report.” My original post listing the stories and where I found them may be found here. I’m using a euchre deck to randomly select the order in which I read them, and plan to do a quick summary after every five cards (equivalent to each hand in euchre,see? 🙂 ) then one for the final four cards/stories (which will correspond to the “widow” in a game of euchre). I’m rating the stories according to the rank of trump in that game:

Right Bower – 5 stars

Left Bower – 4.5 stars

Ace – 4 stars

King – 3.5 stars

Queen – 3 stars

Ten – 2.5 stars

Nine – 2 stars

(above: the first hand I was dealt for Peril of the Short Story – not a bad hand if diamonds end up being trump) 

♦J♦ The first was “Schroedinger’s Gun” by Ray Wood, which I found in a “free” tor.com anthology. (I follow them on Facebook and occasionally they post a link to download stories or collections). The premise of this one was interesting. The protagonist, a detective of the future uses a “Heisen Implant” to help her in her crime solving work. As the title of the story and the name of this implant might indicate, the implant allow her mind to hop back and forth between the infinite number of possible universes or timelines. A great idea, but my problem with the story was that the rest of this future – seemingly otherwise contemporary – world gave little indication that the technology of this device might be possible. My rating: King

♠A♠ The second story was R.M. Cooper’s “What We Kept of Charlie” from Midwestern Gothic Magazine. In spite of the intriguing title, I struggled to comprehend this one, which was quite short. Charlie has suicidal tendencies, and the narrator relates to us in journal form how this sad event and its aftermath came to pass. My rating: Queen

♦K♦ The third story was my favorite. I liked Shirley Jackson’s “Nightmare” so much I almost wrote a whole post about it. Maybe I still will. A run-of-the-mill secretary in New York is sent on a cross-town errand by her boss and finds the city caught up in a bizarre, promotional contest urging citizens to “Find ‘Miss X!‘” She slowly comes to suspect that she herself might be this Miss X. Great story with a typical Shirley Jackson feel and atmosphere. I found the ending a little perplexing, though. My rating: Left Bower

♣Q♣ The fourth story was from Grimm’s a fairy Tales – “The Boy Who Left Home to Find Out About The Shivers” – a title I found irresistible when coming up with my list for R.I.P. The title character does not experience terror like the rest of us, but wishes he could. After many failures, he is finally set with the task to spend a few nights in a haunted castle. I guess maybe what we learn from this tale is that what scares people differs from person to person. My rating: King

♣A♣ The fifth story was Clint Smith’s “The Jellyfish,” a bizarre sci-fi/horror blend. The protagonist, Paul, has made up his mind to do away with himself (two ‘suicide stories’ in my first five!) and hikes to a seemingly remote area to complete his task. Things initially go according to plan until a fleeing deer and then it’s pursuing hunters discover him. Add to this a mysterious “entity” (the titular – but not literal – jellyfish is also present). My rating: Ace   

What about YOU? How is your R.I.P. Challenge reading coming along?  If you’re not participating – or even if you are – you may check out what everyone else has been posting about by visiting the review site here. – Already over 120 posts this year!

R.I.P. X – Peril of the Short Story – Updates

R.I.P. Meets Deal Me In!


I’ve completed a bunch of additional stories from my R.I.P. list and only have two to go. Here is my original post and list. Here is my last update. Some brief thoughts on the new ones I’ve finished:

♠7♠ “The Open Window” by Saki (from link at Paula Cappa’s blog) – 5 stars. Easily my favorite so far. Saki manages to pull off an amazing prank with his protagonist – and maybe even us, the reader – as the victim. Read it online at http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/OpeWin.shtml


Above: Hector Hugh Munro – a.k.a. “Saki” (I always thought he looked like Peter Lorre)

♠K♠ “The Hell Screen” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (from “The Weird” anthology) – 3 stars. I expected a lot more from this one, as it is so highly acclaimed, but in the end I was disappointed. A half-(or more!) mad artist can only paint things that he has seen with his own eyes is commissioned by the prince to paint a vision of hell.

hell screen

Above: Not exactly the hell screen described in this story, but still quite infernal

♠J♠ “Act of Contrition” by Craig Clevenger (from The New Black anthology) – 4 stars. I didn’t like this one immediately, but I kept thinking about it and it keeps growing on me. Clevenger makes you think about just what is it that causes one to become a prophet. The New Black anthology strikes again!

♠A♠ “The Very Strange House Next Door” by Shirley Jackson (from the “Just an Ordinary Day” collection” – 4 stars. Shirley Jackson hasn’t failed me yet. This was a humorous rather than creepy story, though there are supernatural elements, narrated by a woman who claims she “can’t stand gossip” but then goes on to tell the entire story in the most gossip-y way you could imagine.

dark futures

♠3♠ “Do You Want That in Blonde, Brunette, or Auburn” by Glenn Lewis Gillette (from the Dark Futures anthology) – 3 stars. This one kind of reminded me of that twilight zone episode where a convicted man sentenced to solitary confinement on an asteroid or uninhabited planet (they must have had quite a surplus of those in that universe if they’re using them for jail cells!) and is delivered a robotic “mate” since the powers that be have decided that his solitude is “cruel and unusual.” In this story, the protagonist is The Last Man on Earth and is visited by extra-terrestrial “salesmen.”

Above: Jack Warden takes on robotic Jean Marsh in the Twilight Zone episode “The Lonely” – a classic!

atwood dancing girls

♠8♠ “The Grave of the Famous Poet” by Margaret Atwood (from “Dancing Girls and Other Stories) – 4.5 stars. A pretty strong story from one of my favorite writers. Not really a horror story but so “dark” it made me want to turn on all the lights in the house. Atwood relates the tale of what, to most, would seem to be a couple’s rather mundane existence. What lies beneath the exterior, however, are the kinds of things you might suspect of some but hope aren’t true.

How’s R.I.P. X going for you this year?

R.I.P. X Challenge

Each year for the past 10 years, in the months of September and October, bloggers all over the world have participated in “R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril” challenge, reading – and blogging about – works of a darker nature. This year, the challenge is hosted by The Estella Society http://www.estellasociety.com/?p=1484

There are several participation levels and, as you might guess, one option from the challenge I’m choosing is “Peril of the Short Story.” I plan to read thirteen selected stories during this period. I also plan to complete the “Peril the Third” option, wherein participants just need to read one qualifying book. I have in mind Stephen Kings “The Dark Half,” which I’ve owned for quite awhile and just haven’t gotten to.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman!” er, I mean “R.I.P. meets Deal Me In!” (Almost as epic 🙂 ) R.I.P. Banner created by Abigail at http://www.abigaillarson.com

I’m a few days late, but I’ve finally gotten my R.I.P. act together and come up with a short story reading list for this year. As usual, I’m randomizing my reading order by assigning the stories to cards then drawing one card at a time to determine what I’ll read next.

♠A♠ “The Very Strange House Next Door” by Shirley Jackson (from the “Just an Ordinary Day” collection” – read; 4 stars

♠2♠ “The Thousand-and-second Tale of Scheherezade” by Edgar Allan Poe (from “The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe”)   – Read; 3.5 stars.

♠3♠ “Do You Want That in Blonde, Brunette, or Auburn” by Glenn Lewis Gillette (from the Dark Futures anthology) – Read; 3 stars

♠4♠ “Legend of the Engulphed Convent” by Washington Irving – read; 3.5 stars

♠5♠ “The Devil With the Three Golden Hairs” from Grimm’s Fairy Tales (Philip Pullman’s New English Version edition) – read 3 stars

♠6♠ “Mr. Dark’s Carnival” by Glenn Hirshberg (from The Two Sams story collection)

♠7♠ “The Open Window” by Saki (from link at Paula Cappa’s blog) – read; 5 stars

♠8♠ “The Grave of the Famous Poet” by Margaret Atwood (from “Dancing Girls and Other Stories) – read; 4.5 stars

♠9♠ “The Spring Heel” by Steven Pirie (from the Haunted Legends anthology) read; 3.5 stars

♠10♠ “You Are the Blood” by Grady Cole (from the “Tall Tales of the Weird West” anthology) read; 3 stars

♠J♠ “Act of Contrition” by Craig Clevenger (from The New Black anthology) read; 3.5 stars

♠Q♠ “Darling Adolf” by Ray Bradbury (from Bradbury Stories)

♠K♠ “The Hell Screen” by Ryunosuke Akutagawa (from “The Weird” anthology) read; 3 stars

Well, what do you think of my choices this year? Do you see any familiar stories among my thirteen? Are you participating in R.I.P. this year? Last year, I read these for R.I.P.: https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/the-r-i-p-challenge/

“Strunke City Derail” – a short story by Murphy Edwards


Yeah okay, so I’m really late on posting this, but for this year’s R.I.P. challenge, I decided to read 13 short stories, 3 by “mainstream” (whatever that is) authors and ten by local, “indie” (whatever that is) authors. I blogged about one of the mainstream stories, Axolotl, previously, and this time I’d like to feature one of the ten indie/local author stories, Murphy Edwards’ “Strunke City Derail,” which I own as part of the “Terror Train Anthology.” (My list of stories I read for R.I.P. may be found here, but I’ll probably only end up posting about a few of them.

Strunke City Derail

There are some great moments in literature and cinema where machines have become our enemies. Somewhat rarer moments, however, are when beloved characters must enlist the aid of machines when they find themselves physically overmatched by whatever foe an author or film director has served up. For example…


(“Get away from her, you BITCH!” A machine-fortified Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in “Aliens” delivers one of the great lines in cinema history)

Anyway, on to this story…

“Ain’t every day you witness your own sweet Daddy swallowed up by some oozin’ stink-lump from a train wreck.”

This story is told in the first person by a young boy, and in a rough, redneck-ish patois that is likely common in the fictional “Strunke City” – “a little ol’ piss-hole of a town located just about twenty miles outside of Who Gives a Shit.” The boy rides along with his father (“Daddy-paw”) to retrieve a forgotten item at his job site at the railyard one day, and they arrive upon a scene of great carnage…

Seems there has been a train derailment, but there’s much more than that going on. Among the wreckage is a rail car unlike anything any of those present has ever seen before. It’s sides “was painted up all black and orange with an evil lookin’ silver quarter moon on each corner.” The lettering on the side of the car indicates its origin as “Shull Fruit and Vegetable Express,” though our narrator says that “I ain’t never seen fruit hauled in nothin’ lookin’ like this.”

(Below: the iconic quarter moon-face logo of Procter & Gamble. I searched online but I can find no record of a Shull Fruit and Vegetable Express anywhere in that conglomerate’s corporate structure. 🙂 )


Turns out the car contains an epic monster of unknown origins, one that makes short work of one of the rail yard’s workers, Jim Ed Sommers, and is partway en route to doing the same to the narrator’s daddy-paw. This is when the young narrator fires up “one of them big and dangerous track hoes what they use to dig at dirt and coal and such” and takes on the beast…

(Below: I’m not sure if this is what the machine looks like that the young narrator of this story uses to take on the monster, but I’m imagining it as something similar…)


I enjoyed the story a lot, in particular the written “voice” of the young narrator. Want to listen to this story? It’s available as an installment of The Terror Train Podcast at http://terrortrain.wordpress.com/ you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to this particular story, and of the 27 minute audio, the actual story begins about 5 minutes in, after a lengthy introduction. And the story ends about the 22 minute mark, so that’s about 17 minutes of listening time. :-). The book itself may be found for sale on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Terror-Train-Mathias-Jansson-ebook/dp/B00KYWRWS2 – Kindle version only $3.99.

(Real world train derailments are nothing to be amused about – below From The Columbus Dispatch via foxnews.com a July 2011 derailment near Columbus, OH.


A Hoosier-Flavored R.I.P. Challenge


I’ve decided to follow the lead of my Deal Me In 2014 comrade, Randall, and participate in the ninth annual R.I.P. (“Readers Imbibing Peril”) Challenge (R.I.P. IX – hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings) this year, in a short story, mini-Deal Me In format. Randall’s initial post for his participation in the challenge may be found here.  I’ve selected thirteen short stories to read before the end of October. At this point, I don’t know if I’ll blog about them individually or in a couple summarized posts. I’ve picked three stories from known or classic authors, but the theme for the remainder of my selections is “authors with an Indiana connection.”


Here’s my list of stories for the RIP challenge. As with Deal Me In, I’ll read them in random order via the luck of the draw. Naturally, I’ll be using the spades suit to draw my cards.:-)


A. Feeders and Eaters – Neil Gaiman (“The Weird” anthology)
2. The Summer People – Shirley Jackson (“The Weird” anthology) -read 9/19
3. Axolotl – Julio Cortozar (“The Weird” anthology) – read 9/23
4. Strunke City DeRail – Murphy Edwards (Terror Train anthology )
5. Venus Rising from the Foam – James Owens (Indiana Horror 2011 anthology)
6. Crimes in Southern Indiana – Frank Bill (“Crimes in Southern Indiana” story collection) -read 9/22
7. Because You Watched – Paula Ashe (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
8. The Hunt – Bret Nye – (Midwestern Gothic magazine volume 6)
9. The Rose Garden – James Ward Kirk (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
10. The Hike – Brian Rosenberger (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology)
J. The Old Crone and the Scarecrow – Allen Griffin (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology) – read 9/20
Q. The Shadow Man of Moonspine Bridge – Matt Cowan (Indiana Science Fiction/Horror 2012 anthology) -read 9/21
K. The Boy That Created Monsters – Paul DeThroe (Indiana Horror 2011 anthology)

I’ve seen – and even met and talked to few of these writers – at various book events around town in the past year or so, and reading some more of their work should prove interesting.  Are you participating in the R.I.P. Challenge this year??