The Future is Now by Katherine Anne Porter – Selection #23 of Deal Me In 2017

The Card: ♠A♠ Ace of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, the suit of Spades is the domain of Clotho, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato’s sings of things that are (i.e. the “present” for Deal Me In purposes). This story’s title meant I could probably put it with Fate representing the present or future. I went with the present.

The Selection: “The Future is Now” – published in 1950  and included my copy of The Best American Essays of the Century” edited by Joyce Carol Oates. I found a google docs pdf copy of the essay online here.

The Author: Katherine Anne Porter – Born in Texas in 1890 and famous for her novel “Ship of Fools” and countless stories and essays. She’s been featured at Bibliophilopolis before, and my post about her short story “Theft” remains one of my more frequently visited pages.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

The Future is Now

“And yet it may be that what we have is a world not on the verge of flying apart, but an uncreated one – still in shapeless fragments waiting to be put together properly. I imagine that when we want something better, we may have it: at perhaps no greater price than we have already paid for the worse.”

 (above: had to go with an Ace of Spades from my Game of Thrones deck since… Season 7 is coming)

I never fail to be impressed by writing that “holds up” over the years and can still read as relevant in a totally different time and circumstance. Porter’s essay, “The Future is Now” is a good example. Written in 1950, it expresses legitimate concern about the future of humanity and shows how these thoughts are almost always with us.

This essay was written by Porter shortly after her having read an article about what to do in case of a nuclear attack – something that was starting to worry many at that point in history – and the futility in trying to prepare for one (see the underlined sentence in the photo above). Apparently, the testing of first Hydrogen Bomb was also eminent, and Porter had this in mind as well, leading to this essay also musing about the status of the human race and it’s love-hate relationship with technology.

I heartily recommend reading this essay (link given in the intro) to anyone in any time period (that sounds funny when I put it that way – what can someone of the 19th century do about it? – but I hope you understand what I mean). Personally, I choose to be hopeful in a world that often doesn’t seem to offer much hope for the future. Porter seems to choose hope as well, which is why I used the quote I did as the lead in above.

Why is the essay titled as it is? Porter explains:

“I was once reading the writings of a young girl, an apprentice author, who was quite impatient to get on with the business and find her way into print. There is very little one can say of use in such matters, but I advised her against haste – she could so easily regret it. ‘Give yourself time,‘ I said, ‘the future will take care of itself.‘ This opinionated young person looked down her little nose at me and said, ‘The future is now.‘”

Have you read Katherine Anne Porter? This essay would be a good start. Are you an optimist or a pessimist? When people at the office accuse me of being a pessimist, I deny it, borrowing the old line and saying “I’m not a pessimist, I’m just an experienced optimist.” 🙂

 

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The People of Sand and Slag by Paolo Bacigalupi – Selection #25 of Deal Me In 2017

 

The Card: ♥2♥ Two of Hearts – *wild card*

The Suit:  For this year’s Deal Me IN, the suit of Hearts is the domain of Atropos, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato, sings of things that are to be (i.e. the “future” for Deal Me In purposes). This story is set in a distant future where human physiology has been enhanced by the incorporation of machines.

The Selection: “The People of Sand and Slag” was originally published in 2004 and was a nominee for the Hugo and Nebula awards for best novelette. I own it as part of the anthology The Very Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Volume 2. This was a wild card selection and I picked it because it was in a source I was already using for Deal Me In 2017 and because I had read the author’s novel “The Windup Girl” last year. This story may be read online at the author’s website.

The Author: Paolo Bacigalupi  – A Colorado writer most famous for his novel, The Windup Girl, which was named by Time as one of the top ten books of 2009. Learn more about him at his website.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

The People of Sand and Slag

“Still, I remember when the dog licked my face and hauled its shaggy bulk onto my bed, and I remember its warm breathing beside me, and sometimes, I miss it.”

I don’t know how much more dystopian you can get than a world where there are no longer dogs, or at least one where they’re so rare that hardly anyone has ever seen one. Such a world, however, is inhabited by Jaak, Lisa, and Chen – three security-guard types who, at the onset of this story, are sent off to intercept and eliminate the source of “hostile movement” within the corporate boundaries of “SesCo’s” mining operations.

What they find is not some perpetrator of corporate sabotage or espionage, but an old, wild, and mangy dog.  They can’t believe their eyes, believing at first it’s some kind of quadrupedal “bio-job.”  Jaak confirms the ID, however, saying “Oh yeah, it’s the real thing all right. I saw a dog in a zoo once. I’m telling you, this is a dog.”

But what would three bio-engineered, machine-enhanced humans of the future do with a dog? Lisa laughs that “It’s hard to believe we ever lived to evolve out that. If you chop off its legs, they won’t regrow.”  (Lisa’s broken femur from the team’s “helo-casting” into the slag pits already having healed.). The company flies in a biologist (“You mean a bio-engineer.” “Nope. Biologist …they study animals”) to take a look at it.  He confirms authoritatively that it is indeed a dog, and the team are surprised that he doesn’t want to take it with him.

One member of the team wants to eat it. One wants to keep it. All are worried about the hassle of taking care of it and providing for it. Food, for instance, is an issue. These humans can eat rock and sand, which provide all the “nutrients” their types of bodies require (“Who needs animals if you can eat stone?”).

What will become of this poor creature while under the “care” of its new masters? You’ll have to read the story yourself to find out the rest.

windup girl

As I mentioned in the intro, I also read Bacigulapi’s novel “The Windup Girl” last year and, while I didn’t quite connect as much as I hoped to, I found it – and it’s own dystopian future – quite interesting.

 

 

“Hippies and Beats” by Edward Hoagland Selection 24 of Deal Me In 2017

The Card: ♦8♦ Eight of Diamonds

The Suit:  For this year’s Deal Me IN, the suit of Diamonds is the domain of Lachesis, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato, sings of things that were (i.e. the “past” for Deal Me In purposes). This essay deals with “Beats” and “Hippies” two groups that are hard to find representatives of these days.

The Selection: “Hippies and Beats” – originally published in volume #80 of New Letters magazine. I own it as part of my Pushcart Prize XXXIX Best of the Small Presses anthology.

The Author: Edward Hoagland  – A well-traveled American novelist and essayist born in New York n 1932. Learn more about him at http://www.edwardhoagland.com/

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

Hippies and Beats

“The Beats were patriarchal, for the most part. Women were crash pads where you showered, pigged out and got your ashes hauled, after driving night and day… Hippies by contrast were sisterhood, matriarchal…”

The author of this essay, Edward Hoagland, finds himself writing of two social movements, both of which he experienced but neither of which he was truly part of. As an accident of the timing of his birth, his own “sociological awakening” took place in the borderlands between these two movements. Perhaps this gave him just the right perspective for this brief essay comparing and contrasting the two. As he puts it: “Being a little younger than the Beat Generation writers and yet older than the mainstream Hippie movement later on, I observed both with a certain skeptical affinity.”

I enjoyed reading this essay even though, like Hoagland, I was not a part of either movement (too young!). For me, though, counter-culture is always interesting as I find those who look at things a different way to be quite compelling. Of course, every movement has its crackpots and parasites taking advantage of whatever current direction the wind is blowing, but one would hope that, at its core, there is something there…

For my part, the hippies were a loathed anti-establishment force in the days I was growing up in a conservative Midwestern family. They were perceived as dirty, amoral and a general nuisance. I didn’t encounter many of them growing up in Indy, but was exposed to them on our almost annual summer camping trips out west. It seemed whatever campsite we chose in a National Park would more often than not have a group of hippies somewhere nearby in the campground. As soon as nightfall arrived a guitar would invariably be broken out as they sat around their campfire. Looking back now, I would probably view them as largely harmless, but I guess I might feel differently if I had children I was packing around the country and was trying to “raise them right.” I suppose this was the dilemma my parents felt they were facing.

I didn’t know anything about or discover The Beats until much later in adulthood and my view of them was forged by reading most of the books of Jack Keroauc (and some of the others) about 10-12 years ago.  Kerouac became a favorite of mine, not so much for the Beat movement he chronicled, but for the quality and freshness of his writing style.

What about YOU? Have you read any Kerouac, or any others of the “Beat” writers?

“I’d been pent-up, pull-mell like On the Road and like another perambulatory, though broader-beamed book of the period, Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Audie March, during the 1950s. And we need that kite-flying spirit back, minus Beat inebriation.” – Edward Hoagland

Stephen King’s “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” — Deal Me In 2017, Selection 22

The Card: ♠6♠ Six of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, the suit of Spades is the domain of Clotho, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato’s sings of things that are (i.e. the “present” for Deal Me In purposes). This story is set in, more or less, the present time. Though “time is funny here” as the story tells us…

The Selection: “The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates” from my e-copy of The Very Best of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Volume 2.

The Author: Stephen King – you may have read something by him before. If you haven’t read his memoir “On Writing” though, I heartily recommend it.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

New-York-Times-Logo

The New York Times at Special Bargain Rates

“And don’t go to the bakery anymore on Sundays. Something’s going to happen there, and I know it’s going to be on a Sunday, but I don’t know which Sunday. Time really is funny here.”

***Spoilers Follow*** A mysterious title for a short story (you know how I enjoy puzzling over story titles) – and one whose meaning isn’t revealed until the very end.  It’s the story of Annie, and the aftermath of losing her husband, who died in a plane crash and is somehow able to call her two days after he has allegedly died.

Can we communicate with those who have passed out of this life? Though many, and I count myself among them, do not think so, there are legions of those who believe that we indeed can. This explains how cranks like John Edwards can become wealthy ‘fishing for information’ from credulous live audience members on talk shows, etc. “Does anyone in the room have a relative who’s recently died whose name began with an… “A”?”  What are the odds…

johnedwards

Author Stephen King does not make use of a ‘medium’ or any other facilitator in this story. The dead husband, James, makes contact himself, by calling his widow via a cell phone – a cell phone whose battery is almost dead. (I’m glad this happens on “the other side” too!)  Anyway, the story was great. It seems Annie is the only one who heard the phone ring when he called, and afterward, when she attempts to use *69 to call back, the last call it thinks she received was many hours before.

James doesn’t know where he is, and he isn’t afraid. He’s just “worried” that he doesn’t know where to go next, as he relates to Annie that he’s standing in someplace like “Grand Central Station” but there are no trains there, just doors. He tells her how some of his fellow passengers on the ill-fated plane are reacting to the situation. He tells her not to go to the bakery on Sundays anymore. It seems that, where he is now, he has some special foreknowledge of future events (“Time’s funny here.”) and also tells her not to employ a certain young man to clean the gutters next fall. Both of his warnings turn out to be valid.

The story actually follows Annie’s life a few years down the road – providing ample time for his warnings to make sense – and even after that much time has passed, she still remembers the phone call:

“She has dreamed of that call so many times it now almost seems like a dream itself. But she has never told anyone about it.”

When the story ends she is still ‘plagued’ by the memory and tormented by any unanswered call. Near the end she returns home and her sister, Sarah, is in the house with the music blaring, not hearing the phone ring. Annie can’t get to it in time to answer. When she *69’s it, a recorded voice “offers to sell her The New York Times at special bargain rates that will not be repeated.”

The funny thing for me about reading this story was that, apparently, I’ve read it before but have no memory of it. I know that I got Stephen King’s “Just After Sunset” story collection once for Christmas and read it, but I didn’t remember this story. I’ll have to find my copy of that and see if I underlined or made any notes in it at that time. It’s very strange that I don’t remember anything about a story – almost like I only dreamed that I read that book…

This was my 22nd story or essay that I’ve read for Deal Me In 2017 (I’m supposed to read one a week and am behind as usual.) I haven’t been able to blog as much in recent months as I used to, so rather than try to catch up and post about all the stories in order, I’ll just try to share one here or there as I’m catching up. Okay? 🙂

How about YOU? What is YOUR favorite Stephen King short story?  There are certainly a lot to choose from.

 

 

“Winter Elders” by Shawn Vestal – selection #11 of Deal Me In 2017

The Card: 10♦ of Diamonds (image at left found here.

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me In, the suit of Diamonds is the domain of Lachesis, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato’s Republic sings of “things that were.”

The Selection: “Winter Elders” from my hard copy of Pushcart Prize Winners anthology XXXIX “Best of the Small Presses.” Originally published in Ecotone magazine #15

The Author: Shawn Vestal – who grew up in Idaho, but is now a columnist and reporter for the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington. See his info on Goodreads.com here.

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

Winter Elders

“He noticed he didn’t feel surprised. He hadn’t expected this, but now that he was in the middle of it, it didn’t feel unexpected.”

Our protagonist is Mr. Bradshaw. A new father, a former member of the Mormon Church, and a man who had expected to have “found his place” in the world by now, but is concerned because he still hasn’t. The story opens with him being visited by two young missionaries of the church, still hopeful of drawing him back into the fold. They tell him they’re just checking in to “see if there’s anything we can do for you.” He gruffly suggests that they could rake his yard, and when they’re done with that, clean out his gutters. Their undaunted reply: “Don’t think we won’t.”

Bradshaw’ wife Cheryl, once his “partner in cynicism” has changed now, since the baby had been born, and was “always serious” now. She has no patience for the missionaries who, throughout the story, exhibit a dogged persistence in their attempts to reclaim “Brother Bradshaw.”

A health crisis for the couple’s baby precipitates an angry driveway confrontation between Bradshaw and the more vocal of the two elders, which sets up the passage quoted above.

I enjoyed the story and felt it deftly described the inner struggles of a young father who has yet to truly come of age. There was a lot of great writing too, e.g. describing the missionary “…there was something stubborn in him and, deeper, the sense that he was proud of his stubbornness.” And once, during a theological argument with the elder, Bradshaw becomes frustrated and angry and “…a gate unlocked inside him. The beasts trampled out.”

I hadn’t read this author before, but certainly would be happy to again.

Did YOU read any good short stories this week?

(below: great cover of  the issue (15) of Ecotone Magazine that includes this story. Buy one at https://ecotonemagazine.org/issue-15/ )

The Mongerji Letters by Geetha Iyer – selection #4 of Deal Me In 2017


The Card: ♠5♠ of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, the suit of Spades is the domain of Clotho, one of the Fates from Greek Mythology who, according to Plato’s Republic sings of “the things that are.”

The Selection: “The Mongerji Letters” from Orion magazine. As of this post’s publishing, the story is available on line at https://orionmagazine.org/article/the-mongerji-letters/  I own a copy of the story via The O. Henry Prize Stories 2016 collection.

The Author: Geetha Iyer – yet another new to me author. To quote Orion Magazine’s info on her, she “…was born in India and grew up in the United Arab Emirates, and moved to the United States to study biology. She has since become an MFA student at Iowa State University’s Creative Writing & Environment program. She writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry bent toward place-based and science writing.” She currently lives in Panama City, Panama. You may visit her website at https://geethaiyer.wordpress.com

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

The Mongerji Letters

“Since the collapse of one of the last dynasties of the common era and the subsequent end of the era itself, historians have searched for descendants of the Mongerji family, as well as descendants of the scribes who, under their employ, collected samplings of flora and fauna from around the world. The only evidence discovered thus far are the letters that follow. They are from Mr. Mongerji, his wife, Kavita, and two of the three Mongerji children, all addressed to a Mr. Chappalwala, thought to have been the last of the Mongerjis’ scribes. Archivists continue to seek Mr. Chappalwala’s side of the correspondence.”

This was a rather bizarre story. The introductory paragraph quoted above is all the grounding that the reader is given. The nature of the world in which these letters were written (“created” is probably a better word) is left primarily to our imagination. What is clear, however, is that the family whose members wrote them are in decline, probably throwbacks to an older world – i.e., the “common era” referred to in the intro. The correspondence is multi-generational, but the letters covered in this story seem to span 15 years, from “__18” to “__33” – the first two digits that would tell us the century are strategically omitted…

The letters have some kind of magical quality as the envelopes that contain them also contain somehow “compressed” examples of the flora and fauna from wherever the Chappalwalas are sending them, often resulting in near tragic events upon opening – in once case a giant tree springs out of the envelope and it is all the Mongerjis can do to get it stuffed back in.  Another time, an opened envelope floods their living room with water and a living polar bear(!)

I won’t claim I totally understood this story, but it did leave me with a vague impression of the decline or even”decay” of the natural world’s beauty due to a continued siege by humanity’s progress.  The writing was superb too, and the perspectives of the different Mongerji children of the current generation added additional layers to the story’s complexity as well.

The “magic” property of the letters is not explained, but I liked the following passage because it refers to one of my favorite creatures, discovered via a prior Bibliophilopolis read – this one for The R.I.P. Challenge – The Axolotl!

“I asked Dhidhi whether if we left the fruit outside the envelope the eggs would hatch, but she said that everything trapped inside the Chappalwala envelopes was like an axolotl — it would never really grow up.”

Below: some of the beautiful artwork from Orion Magazine where the story was originally published. Did you notice the envelopes in each picture?


Playing card image in DMI header from http://nonregistrability55.rssing.com/chan-24181537/all_p1.html

“The Anything Box” by Zenna Henderson – selection #3 of Deal Me In 2017

The Card: ♥Q♥ Queen of Hearts

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Hearts is the domain of Atropos, one of the “Fates” from Classical Greek Mythology who “sang of things that are yet to be” i.e. the future. She’s also frequently represented as holding a pair of scissors with which she snips the thread of life which is spun by her two sisters, Clotho and Lachesis.

The Selection: “The Anything Box” which I own as part of the anthology “The Very Best of Fantasy and Science Fiction” anthology, volume 2. I have several stories from this book included in my Deal Me In list for 2017.

The Author: Zenna Henderson (pictured at above right), who I’ve never read before. She was “an American elementary school teacher and science fiction and fantasy writer,” according to Wikipedia. Many of her stories feature a school setting or the southwestern United States (she was from Arizona) – or both.  She also wrote a series of stories about “The People” – humanoids who are here on Earth because their home planet was destroyed. Sounds intriguing – perhaps I will explore these sometime…

What is Deal Me In? I’m glad you asked!  Full details maybe found here, but generally speaking it’s a reading challenge where participants read one short story a week for the year, the reading order being determined by the luck of the draw. See here for a list of the stories/essays I’ll be reading in 2017.

“The Anything Box”

“I swore by the pale hollow of her cheek that never, never again would I take any belief from anyone without replacing it with something better.”

The narrator of this story is a teacher. A teacher in what seems to be a school of the future, though that is never really explained in detail. It certainly doesn’t feel like a bright future either. That part is probably irrelevant to the impact of the story. It’s the story of Sue-lynn, one of the narrator’s students. One she doesn’t quite know what to make of at first, one who is quiet and keeps to herself for the most part…

Eventually, though, the teacher notices some peculiar behavior:

“She had finished her paper – far ahead of the others as usual – and was sitting at her table facing me. She had her thumbs touching in front of her on the table and her fingers curving as though they held something in between them – something large enough to keep her fingertips apart and angular enough to bend her fingers as if for corners. It was something pleasant that she held – pleasant and precious.”

Sue-lynn seems like a nice enough kid, but the other children have, of course, noticed that she is “different.” Her imaginary “anything box” – for that is what she’s holding in front of her – is her way to escape from her troubled home life. Her mother and father frequently quarrel, leading to the husband disappearing for long stretches of time. One male fellow-student in particular is disturbed by her and causes trouble. The teacher intervenes on Sue-lynn’s behalf, and gets close enough to her to eventually find out more about her “imaginary” box. Or is it imaginary?

I’m not 100% sure what the author intended the story to be about, but I think it may resonate with many readers the way that it did with me – that is to say in recalling school days and how, as we age, our capacity for imagination is slowly and methodically snuffed out. One of the narrator’s mean-spirited fellow teachers seems to have it in for Sue-lynn, frequently calling her “disturbed”, etc., even making us wonder if ““Maybe a child can smile a soft, contented smile and still have little maggots of madness flourishing somewhere inside,” but fortunately Sue-lynn has a champion on her side in the form of the narrator.

At one point, though, even the narrator feels compelled to intervene and stop the child’s “overactive” imagination and advises that her “anything box” is “just for fun” and shouldn’t be taken so seriously. A crisis follows in which Sue-lynn “loses” the box and blames her teacher. Later she has a “fainting spell” and a doctor is called. She seems to recover but only to the point that she “puttered along quite satisfactorily except that she was a candle blown out.”

 

Does the story end happily, though? If you’d like to read for yourself, it’s part of several anthologies. One is the one I own, and is available in kindle version for just $7.99:

anything-box

Have YOU read anything by this author before? What else by her would you recommend?

Next week: The five of spades and  Geetha Iyee’s “The Mongerji Letters” – yet another new-to-me author.

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. – 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?

Autumn Full of Apples by Dan Wakefield – Selection #26 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♣6♣ Six of Clubs.

The Suit: For 2016, Clubs is my suit for “Stories by ’Legendary’ Indiana Authors”

The Selection: “Autumn Full of Apples” first published in Redbook magazine. I own a copy via the 1966 edition of the “Best American Short Stories” anthology series.

The Author: Indianapolis native Dan vonnegut lettersWakefield, whose novel “Going All the Way” may be his most famous work. He also edited a recently published collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s Letters. Another favorite, recent read of mine was his novel Under the Apple Tree, which I heartily recommend. I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting him briefly on a couple of occasions at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. Wakefield has also, just this year, had a city park in Indianapolis named after him. His website may be found at http://danwakefield.com

 

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 now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 


Autumn Full of Apples

“Our year began those days in the hot blaze of fall, the sun was still bearing down too hard and moving back from summer’s rule reluctantly, wanting still to be king and hating to watch his green work burn away into yellow and red and finally turn to smoke. Footballs exploded off practiced toes, lockers came clicking and rattling to life in the school’s long sealed and musty halls, and a gold blare of brass rose up to the windows from the marching band, reborn again.”

Wow. How’s that for scene setting? Though I’m more than a generation or so younger than Mr. Wakefield, this quotation reanimated vivid memories of my own school days when the new year of school was just beginning. And I’d never really thought about it before, but when you’re that age, the more natural “New Year’s Day” is indeed the first day of school. A day of new beginnings, a blank slate on which to write new accomplishments – or failures – perhaps also a chance for new friends and adventures. Wakefield captures that sentiment almost perfectly in this short story.

It’s the story of the narrator, Dan, and his new love, Katie Deane. They meet when she stumbles in the school hallway, dropping her Algebra book. Dan, all chivalry, picks it up and hands it to her, trying to ease her awkward feeling of clumsiness “I drop things all the time,” she says. “Well, that’s okay. Everyone does.” Although there are references earlier in the story to “last year’s girl,” it seems that Katie is Dan’s first “true love” (I know, whatever that means), and they go through some of the stereotypical ‘courtship rituals’ of that era.

The clock is ticking on the wondrous autumn of this story, though, just as it has each year on all autumns in the real world. Is the life of Dan and Katie’s romance linked to that of the short season, or will it endure? At the conclusion of this story, my money’s on the kids…

(above: I found an appropriate “Autumn six of clubs” at http://worldsedge.deviantart.com/gallery/39568425/Playing-Cards )

Reading the story a second time to prepare for writing this post, I realized that some readers may find the story too syrupy sweet or too idyllic to be believed, but I didn’t feel that way at all and enjoyed it to the fullest.

Personal notes: ♫ I love literary coincidences and there was a big one related to drawing this card and reading this story. It so happens I read it the same week as one of my book clubs was meeting to discuss Indiana author Ian Woollen’s great book, Uncle Anton’s Atomic Bomb. In looking online for more info on Uncle Anton, I found an article written by Dan Wakefield (here if you’d care to read) himself. It turns out Woollen (who graciously drove up from Bloomington to join our book club’s meeting – hopefully I will post about that event soon also) is the nephew of Wakefield’s high school girlfriend, Kithy Woollen, upon whom the character of Katie Deane in this very story is based(!)

With this post I’m now halfway through the 52 stories of Deal Me “IN” – If you have any “calendrical” expertise, you may have noted that I should be closer to having published 32 or 33 posts by now.  Yes, I’m slacking.  I have, though, now gotten through a rough stretch at work and now have also put some other stuff behind me, so hope to pick up the pace over the next couple months to get back on schedule.  This is also the first year (out of six) where I’ve committed to posting about every single one of my fifty two stories, and, as usual, I may have overestimated my stamina here. 🙂
Note: Wakefield pic above found at hoosierhistorylive.org

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