Retro Review: “Garden of Evil” by Margaret St. Clair

Planet Stories, summer 1949

Not an illustration of “Garden of Evil”, but a white-washed Eric John Stark in “Queen of the Martian Catacombs”.

“Garden of Evil” by Margaret St. Clair is a planetary romance short story, which appeared in the summer 1949 issue of Planet Stories and is therefore eligible for the 1950 Retro Hugos, should they ever be held. The story may be found online here. This review will also be crossposted to Retro Science Fiction Reviews.

I came across this story when SFFAudio pointed out on Twitter that the entire summer 1949 issue of Planet Stories, including “Garden of Evil” was now public domain. And since I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Margaret St. Clair so far, I decided to make it the subject of my next Retro Review.

Warning: There will be spoilers in the following!

The story begins with a man called Ericson – we never learn his first name – waking  up after spending what appears to be several months in a haze. Ericson is not alone. There is a green-skinned woman named Mnathl with him, who gives him something to eat.

We gradually learn that Ericson is on a planet named Fyhon that is not unlike the Venus of the shared pulp science fiction solar system – a place of jungles and seas – except that it has sunshine on occasion. And in fact I suspect that the reason that Margaret St. Clair did not set her story on Venus is because her alien planet needed to have direct sunlight.

Ericson is an ethnographer supposed to study Fyhon and its people. He fell in love with the lush planet and decided to stay. All would have been well, if Ericson hadn’t managed to get himself addicted to a drug called byhror, when he got lost in the jungles of Fyhon during a one-man expedition without supplies or food and had to resort to taking the drug to survive.

When we meet Ericson, he has just been through a lengthy and painful withdrawal and is clean for the first time in three years. Mnathl helped him to get clean by taking him to an otherwise deserted island, strapping him down and subjecting him to a combination of injections of human drugs and the healing properties of some local herbs. The treatment is extremely painful and makes Ericson intermittently violent.

The story made me curious whether medical addiction therapy was already a thing in the 1940s, so I did some research. The results, however, were inconclusive. Methadone, the most commonly used substitution drug, had been developed by German chemists in the late 1930s and was introduced to the US market in 1947, after the US had stolen (and yes, that’s what it was) German patents and brand names post WWII, so it was already available by 1949. However, methadone was originally marketed as a painkiller and only was used for drug substitution therapy from the 1960s onwards. However, there had been other attempts at medical addiction therapy before, going back to the late 19th century. To help them get clean, addicts were injected with all sorts of substances such as cocaine, a solution of gold and strychnine in alcohol, bromide, insulin and even heroin with predictably horrible results. Was Margaret St. Clair familiar with such treatments? It’s certainly possible.

Once Ericson is clean again, he is eager to get back to the human settlement of Penhairn and find a job. However, Mnathl insists that they instead go to a place called Dridihad in the unknown heart of the south polar continent of Fyhon. Ericson doesn’t want to go to Dridihad, but he doesn’t have any choice in the matter, for Mnathl injects him with a drug that saps his will. “Mnathl had made other things in her cooking pots besides soup”, a resigned Ericson notes.

Mnathl’s drug eventually wears off, but by now Ericson is no longer unwilling to go to Dridihad. After all, the ethnographic paper he plans to publish about this adventure will hopefully help to get him his old job back. Mnathl teaches Ericson how to kindle a fire and hunt, but she refuses to answer any questions about why they are going to Dridihad and what they will find there.

After a few days, Ericson and Mnathl come across a giant pyramid in the jungle. Ericson is fascinated, Mnathl less so. When he asks her who built the pyramid, Mnathl replies that her people built it.

More days pass and Ericson is bitten by a venomous snake. Once again, Mnathl saves him by sucking the poison from the wound, risking her own life in the process. If you’re thinking by now that Mnathl is a little too good and too self-sacrificing to be true, you’re not alone.

After sixty-six days, Ericson and Mnathl finally reach the foot of the plateau upon which the city of Dridihad lies. After a laborious climb up the plateau, the gates of Dridihad finally open for Mnathl and Ericson.

The people of Dridihad treat Ericson like a prince, while Ericson dreams of the fame and fortune his paper will bring him. After all, none of the human scientists on Fyhon even knew that there was such an ancient and populous city in the heart of the supposedly deserted south polar continent. Too bad that no one in Dridihad will give Ericson any writing materials.

When Mnathl reappears, she is dressed in splendid robes like a queen or a priestess. She takes Ericson hunting on the plateau, shows him around the city and takes him to a ritual in the main temple of Dridihad, which involves sacrificing an animal and eating it. Mnathl officiates at the ritual, which confirms Ericson’s suspicions that she is a priestess.

Ericson also wonders why such an important personage even bothered to help an alien drug addict like him and comes to the conclusion that Mnathl is in love with him. This is a problem, because Ericson is not remotely attracted to her.

After several more days and more rituals, rituals which seem to be leading up to some kind of climax, Mnathl takes Ericson to the top of the pyramid-shaped temple. Ericson tries to have an awkward, “It’s not you, it’s me” conversation with her, but Mnathl blows him off and starts to laugh. She definitely does not love him, but instead wants Ericson to be the messenger of her people to the gods. “And then”, Mnathl says, “we eat.”

Mnathl’s people, she tells him, became interested in Ericson when they heard of his ill-fated solo expedition into the interior of the continent. They were particularly fascinated by Ericson’s unusual colouring, a combination of near golden tanned skin and blonde hair. And so they decided that he would be an excellent messenger to their gods and sent Mnathl to find him, nurse him back to health and bring him back to Dridihad.

Ericson now knows what his fate will be. Not only has he witnessed several religious rites by now, he also recalls a remark in another ethnographer’s paper that the people of Fyhon are definitely not engaging in ritual cannibalism, which strikes him as very ironic.

However, Ericson is also remarkably resigned to his fate. After all, he is free of his drug addiction now and besides, he got the ethnographic experience of a lifetime, even if he never got to write that paper and never got tenure either. And so Ericson smiles, as the temple guards chop off his head. Mercifully, Margaret St. Clair spares us what comes after.

This is a fascinating story, in spite of the downer ending. On the one hand, it’s pure pulp science fiction with a human explorer on an alien planet who falls in with an indigenous beauty and comes to a sticky end. And indeed, if you’re the protagonist of a pulp science fiction story, it’s never a good idea to hang out with alien women, no matter how beautiful, seductive and helpful they seem to be, because they will inevitably want to enslave you, steal your body, kill you or eat you. Just ask Northwest Smith and Eric John Stark, who narrowly escaped such a fate more than once. In fact, Eric John Stark escapes a similar fate in “Queen of the Martian Catacombs”, the lead novella of that very same issue of Planet Stories.

However, Ericson is no Eric John Stark or Northwest Smith. He’s a nerdy academic and a recovering drug addict besides. And indeed, the fact that the protagonist is a junkie makes “Garden of Evil” feel almost like a New Wave story from the 1960s at times. Not that the drugs never appeared in the science fiction and fantasy of the pulp era – indeed, a lot of SFF of the 1930s and 1940s is absolutely drug-soaked to the point that I’m glad all that stuff went over my head as a teenager. But while descriptions of alien landscapes may be nigh hallucinogenic and alien opium dens abound in golden age science fiction, the protagonists usually do not dabble in mind-altering substances.

In fact, the only other golden age science fiction story with a drug-addicted protagonist I can think of is Leigh Brackett’s “The Moon That Vanished” from 1948 (the protagonist of Brackett’s 1944 novelette “Terror Out Of Space” is also high as a kite on amphetamines for most of the story, but he’s not an addict). Interestingly, “The Moon That Vanished” bears striking similarities to Margaret St. Clair’s 1952 story “Island of the Hands”, which I reviewed for Galactic Journey last year. In fact, I wonder whether Brackett and St. Clair knew each other, especially since they both lived in California at the same time, published in the same magazines and tackled similar themes.

Both Brackett and St. Clair deal with colonialism in many of their stories from the 1940s. “Garden of Evil” is no exception, because it’s a story about indigenous people turning the tables on a western explorer. Even though he’s an ethnographer, Ericson assumes a lot about the indigenous people of Fyhon, that they’re primitive, but harmless, that they’re stoic and unemotional, that Mnathl is in love with him, that her people definitely do not practice ritual cannibalism. Every single one of those assumptions is wrong. And what makes Ericson a target is his blonde hair and golden tanned skin.

Aliens in pulp science fiction are often stand-ins for indigenous people, usually the indigenous people of North America. “Garden of Evil” is an exception here, because the names, the religious practices and the pyramid-like temples are reminiscent of Central America. Furthermore, the drug that Ericson gets himself addicted to is a powerful natural stimulant found in a type of leaves native to Fyhon, which brings to mind cocaine.

Planet Stories is often dismissed as a purveyor of cliched space opera adventures and indeed, there are many of those to be found in its pages. However, even at its most cliched, the fiction in Planet Stories is always entertaining. Furthermore, the magazine also offered a home to stories, which did not fit the rather narrow editorial standards of the more upscale science fiction mags like Astounding or The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, which had only just started in 1949, or Galaxy, which would start up the following year and would never publish “that pulp stuff”. Or can you imagine John W. Campbell publishing a story like “Garden of Evil”, where the protagonist is a down and out drug addict (even if he also is a scientist), who does not triumph due to his human ingenuity, but instead loses his head at the end?

Margaret St. Clair is one of the neglected woman authors of the golden age (though her careers spans both the silver age and the New Wave as well and she kept writing into the early 1980s). I have no idea why she isn’t better known, since Margaret St. Clair can easily stand alongside Leigh Brackett, C.L. Moore and Andre Norton with regard to quality of her fiction. She was also very versatile – more versatile than any of the others except maybe C.L. Moore with her work spanning science fiction, fantasy and horror and ranging from screwballs comedies like “The Sacred Martian Pig” (which I should really review for Retro Reviews sometime, since it’s such a delightful story) to downers like “Garden of Evil”.

Yet when her name comes up at all these days, it’s usually in connection with Appendix N, the one page list of inspirational science fiction and fantasy authors and novels for further reading to be found in the back of the first Dungeon & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide. Even though the Dungeon Masters Guide was published more than forty years ago, there has been a renewed interested in works listed in Appendix N in the past few years. And whenever Appendix N is discussed, Margaret St. Clair is often mentioned as the most obscure author on the list (here is a recent example), though personally I find several others (John Bellairs, Sterling Lanier, Andrew J. Offutt) more obscure.

Like many of Margaret St. Clair’s stories, “Garden of Evil” has never been reprinted, which is a pity because it’s a fascinating story which combines the adventure of pulp science fiction with the sensibilities of the New Wave. Highly recommended.

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“The Mandalorian” and Baby Yoda are back and meet “The Marshal”

Yes, everybody’s favourite space gunslinger and his adopted kid, the cutest little green alien toddler in the universe, are back. It’s time again for The Mandalorian or – as my Mom calls it – “Baby Yoda and His Dad”.

I only did an aggregate review of season 1 of The Mandalorian, largely because I initially wasn’t intending to watch the show, until the cuteness that is Baby Yoda won me over. But for season 2 I will do episode by episode reviews like I do for Star Trek.

ETA: Camestros Felapton also has a review of “The Marshal” here.

Warning: Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

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Star Trek Discovery pays a visit to the “People of the Earth”

Welcome back to my episode by episode review of Star Trek Discovery. My takes on previous episodes may be found here.

Warning: Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

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Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for October 2020

Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month
It’s that time of the month again, time for “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of speculative fiction by indie and small press authors (as well as the occasional Big 5 book) newly published this month, though some September books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have urban fantasy, epic fantasy, historical fantasy, dark fantasy, young adult fantasy, paranormal mysteries, paranormal romance, science fiction romance, space opera, military science fiction, young adult science fiction, post-apocalyptic fiction, dystopian fiction, biopunk, agripunk, time travel, weird western, historical horror, gothic horror, humorous horror, vampires, demons, dragons, dinosaurs, ghosts, zombies, gods, androids, alien invasions, interstellar wars, space marines, superheroes, renegades, crime-busting witches, crime-busting psychics and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Speculative Fiction Showcase, a group blog run by Jessica Rydill and myself, which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things speculative fiction several times per week.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

Gunmetal Gods by Zamil AkhtarGunmetal Gods by Zamil Akhtar:

They took his daughter, so Micah comes to take their kingdom. Fifty thousand gun-toting paladins march behind him, all baptized in angel blood, thirsty to burn unbelievers.

Only the janissaries can stand against them. Their living legend, Kevah, once beheaded a magus amid a hail of ice daggers. But ever since his wife disappeared, he spends his days in a haze of hashish and poetry.

To save the kingdom, Kevah must conquer his grief and become the legend he once was. But Micah writes his own legend in blood, and his righteous conquest will stop at nothing.

When the gods choose sides, a legend will be etched upon the stars.

Azalea Avenue by Cora BuhlertAzalea Avenue by Cora Buhlert:

1956: On the surface, Rosemary Wilson is a happily married wife and mother, enjoying a perfect life in the quiet suburb of Shady Groves. But the house on Azalea Avenue harbours a dark secret, for Rosemary’s husband Don is an abusive drunk, who vents his frustrations on Rosemary and their three children.

After nine years of abuse, Rosemary finally decides to leave Don. But her plans of escape are interrupted, first by Don coming home early from a weekend hunting trip and then by the appearance of a flying saucer from outer space in the sky above Shady Groves…

This is a novelette of 10400 words or approx. 38 pages in the The Day the Saucers Came… series, but may be read as a standalone.

Content warning for domestic violence.

Appletree Court by Cora BuhlertAppletree Court by Cora Buhlert:

1956: Bernie Stetson is a burglar, robbing suburban homes while their owners are not at home.

Bernie’s latest raid takes him to the subdivision of Shady Groves. But things quickly go wrong. First, the house Bernie is robbing turns out to be not as deserted as he thought. And then, a flying saucer from outer space appears in the sky above Shady Groves…

This is a short story of 3600 words or approx. 14 print pages in the The Day the Saucers Came… series, but may be read as a standalone.

Willowbrook Farm by Cora BuhlertWillowbrook Farm by Cora Buhlert:

1956: The elderly farmer couple Bob and Mary Graham are crushed by debt and about to lose the family farm to a greedy developer.

But on the day they are supposed to be evicted, a flying saucer from outer space appears in the sky above Willowbrook Farm…

This is a short story of 2700 words or approx. 10 print pages in the The Day the Saucers Came… series, but may be read as a standalone.

The Ghosts of Doodenbos by Cora BuhlertThe Ghosts of Doodenbos by Cora Buhlert:

The Netherlands in the year of the Lord 1571: The young widow Ann lives alone with her little son Florentijn in a house at the edge of the woods.

From childhood on, Ann has been told to never ever go alone into the woods. But when her little son runs away, Ann has no choice. She must venture into the forest to save Florentijn from the creatures that live in the woods surrounding the village of Doodenbos.

This is a historical horror short story of 3000 words or approx. 12 pages.

Puncture Wounds by Cora BuhlertPuncture Wounds by Cora Buhlert:

Every morning, Brett finds blood on his sheets and mysterious puncture wounds on his body. But as he tries to trap the “night pricker”, as he calls his unseen assailant, he’s in for a surprise…

The house at Green Corner has been standing there for fifty years now, surrounded by a tall fence and even taller hedges. And at dawn, bats flutter around the overgrown garden. No one has ever seen the owner of the house, let alone spoken to them. But early one morning, paper girl Maddie decides to venture beyond the tall hedges on a dare and finds something very unexpected…

Two modern vampire tales by Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert of 5000 words or approx. 18 print pages altogether.

Demon Summoning for Beginners by Cora BuhlertDemon Summoning for Beginners by Cora Buhlert:

When observing a magical ritual in the woods, make sure to take precautions…

If you try to summon a demon to grant you your heart’s fondest desire, you’d better get your Latin right…

When studying ancient grimoires, it’s never a good idea to actually read the contents out loud or you might just cause the end of the world…

Following your grandma’s heirloom recipe might just conjure up something other than marinara sauce…

Four short humorous horror tales of rituals gone very wrong by Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert of 5800 words or approx. 20 print pages altogether.

Rhonda Wray, Raptor Wrangler by Charon Dunn and Sally SmithRhonda Wray, Raptor Wrangler by Charon Dunn and Sally Smith:

Rhonda Wray: Raptor Wrangler is about a teenage girl who was innocently trying to listen to some live music … her favorite boy band happened to be playing a festival on a dinosaur planet … when bad things suddenly happened. Now she and her trusty robot are all alone in the wilderness, picking up survival skills and looking for her favorite singer, Sebastian Rose, just in case he needs to be rescued.

There’s hard science, explosions, plenty of dinosaurs (with feathers), diversity, no sex (although there are a few references to it), less violence than many dinosaur stories, cliffhangers galore, and a little bogus science just to honor the fine tradition of speculative fiction (what if raptors had syrinxes and could sing like birds?).

Blood Succession by Rachel FordBlood Succession by Rachel Ford:

A new queen. An ancient feud. A succession bought in blood.

The world changed in the blink of an eye. Once an estranged cousin to the king, Aria is now heir apparent to the South. With her nation still in the midst of an unjust war, torn by Byzantine politics and rampant treachery, the inheritance seems a curse. Not least of all because peacemaking between the distant branches of the royal family means marriage: her marriage.

Among the sycophants and assassins, politicians and spies, Aria knows who to trust: no one. She doesn’t trust her intended, Augustus. She doesn’t trust his smart talking half-sister, Terese. But when the young woman saves her life, the queen’s guard begins to slip.

Which is a problem. Because if she crosses the rest of the royal family, it won’t just be a war with the North she’ll have to contend with; it’ll be civil war.

Dryker's Stand by Chris FoxDryker’s Stand by Chris Fox:

Humanity’s First Interstellar War

Earth has had a year to recover from their first clash with the savage Tigris. A year they have put to incredible use. Over thirty vessels have been outfitted with the new Helios Drives, which allow them to enter our sun and emerge elsewhere in the galaxy, as the cats did when they attacked us.

For the first time we can take the fight to them.

Commander Dryker, now of the U.F.C, serves as first officer aboard the very first vessel to be retrofitted, the UFC Johnston. His mission…explore the six target worlds where they believe ancient Primo tech can be recovered. Without it mankind is doomed to a protracted war of attrition with a superior foe.

Meanwhile, Pride Leonis has never been in so precarious a position. Mighty Fizgig must aid the man she most hates in his rise to power, or risk her people’s ultimate destruction. Doing so will cost her everything, but make her a legend in the eyes of her people.

Unbeknownst to either the insidious Void Wraith are quietly returning, and preparing the next Eradication.

The Bison Agenda by Aaron FraleThe Bison Agenda by Aaron Frale:

Clara has it all, a swanky new job, a hot robot babe, and even a time machine. Paradise all comes crashing down when she realizes her ticket to the future was stolen.

She wakes up in a world that has been reshaped by the whim of a time traveler with a strange obsession with bison and chicken wings. Now she has to fix the timeline, or everyone she knows and loves will be wiped from existence.

There’s also a lot of flightless birds.

Find out how it all fits together in The Bison Agenda, the not anticipated sequel of Time Burrito.

Admiral Wolf by C. GockelAdmiral Wolf by C. Gockel:

To protect the human race, 6T9 evolved with the flip of a switch and a few lines of code.

But he’s made himself a killer as well as a protector. The programming that may save humanity has driven him from Volka, the woman he loves. In the heart of the Dark’s first strike against the Republic, 6T9 must discover what he has become, who he wants to be, and who he wants to be with.

Slowly and almost unnoticed, Volka has been evolving, too. Heartbroken by 6T9’s departure, she is torn between love and duty. Accepting the latter, she takes a mission that will lead her to the edge of the universe. There, she will be tested, and her evolution will pass a point where there will be no turning back.

An android who has become more than a sex ‘bot, a mutant who has developed startling abilities, 6T9 and Volka have become more than human. The changes they’ve endured may save the galaxy, but have driven them further apart.

Will they find a way forward together, or will the bond between them wind up another casualty of the Dark?

The Judgment of Valene by Darby HarnThe Judgment of Valene by Darby Harn:

Wealth. Privilege. Superpowers. Valene has it all… except any mercy from the person trying to kill her.

For the first time in her life, Valene Blackwood has peace. She’s been aboard her own private space station for a year, removed from the sonic duress of the world that she suffers due to her superhuman ability to hear everything, everywhere. When her father dies, she must return and take over the family business – selling superhuman protection for profit.

With her father gone, challengers emerge for control of Great Power. Valene is young, unproven, and wanting only to go back to her sanctuary in the sky. She struggles to stay focused, knowing the future of the company is at stake. The future of the Empowered. Before she has a chance to get her feet on the ground, someone tries to kill her.

Advanced technology nearly rips Valene right out of her own skin. Technology only one person in the world could have invented: the woman she left behind by going up to the space station. Kit Baldwin. But Kit is a hero. Is someone setting her up? Is someone trying to ruin them both?

Valene sets out to find the truth, and for the first time in her life, she has to listen. She has to stay in the world. She has to be the hero she never wanted to be.

If she can survive.

Vengenace of the Black Rose by A.W. HartVengeance of the Black Rose by A.W. Hart:

LINA MUST AGAIN PUT ON HER MASK AND ASSUME HER IDENTITY AS THE BLACK ROSE.

The Black Rose discovers that a small mission on the border of Texas and Mexico has been raided by someone locals call “The Beast.”

Many are dead but most of the women and children are missing. The trail of the kidnappers leads the Black Rose into Mexico, into a hidden valley where “The Beast” is raising an army to restore the Aztec Empire. “The Beast,” known by his followers as “El Tigre,” is human but something of a physical mutant whose face resembles that of a Jaguar.

The Black Rose will face an army with only a good sword arm and a fast gun between her and death for them all on a bloody altar.

Dances With Witches by Lily Harper HartDances With Witches by Lily Harper Hart:

Hannah Hickok is struggling. After the death of one of her workers, a woman who had been making life difficult, Hannah finds she is awash in a myriad of feelings she can’t quite put a name to. Things don’t get better when, following a romantic dinner with her boyfriend Cooper Wyatt, magic and mechanics collide in a multi-vehicle accident that looks to have been caused by a dark shadow. One of the survivors, a young teenager, could be shuffled into the system if someone doesn’t step up.

Sheriff Boone is the one who swoops in and brings the girl home, but all is not well. It seems something dark is chasing the girl, and it’s not of the human variety.

Hannah doesn’t know much – her knowledge as a witch is still growing – but she’s certain she needs to help the girl. It won’t be as easy as she hopes, though, because dark clouds are brewing and more than one storm is about to descend.

Hannah couldn’t save her employee and she’s haunted. She vows this girl will be different, even if she has to sacrifice herself to keep her safe.

Casper Creek has a long and storied past and old players are about to become new threats. Saddle up, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Hyperia Jones and the Olive Branch Caper by David M. KellyHyperia Jones and the Olive Branch Caper by David M. Kelly:

The Hype is real!

Hyperia Jones is at the top of her game, and she knows it. By day, a glamorous pro-rasseler who dominates the TwistCube world of FIRE–the Federation of Interstellar Rassling Entertainment. By night, the daring, resourceful, and entirely unscrupulous Tekuani, master thief.

But when the law catches up with her unexpectedly, she’s forced to accept a dangerous mission working for the very people who’ve been trying to catch her for years, and steal evidence against a powerful drug smuggling operation that reaches deep into the elite levels of Seventeen Realms society.

Now it’s a battle on all fronts. Hyperia must put everything on the line and decide what means the most to her: the lives of her fellow rasslers or her freedom.

The Plot Against Heaven by Mark KirkbrideThe Plot Against Heaven by Mark Kirkbride:

Hell-bent on confronting God after the death of wife Kate, Paul gate-crashes Heaven. With immigration problems and a wall, Heaven turns out to be nowhere near as welcoming as expected. Both Heaven and Hell are modern and militarized, and the cold war that exists between them is about to heat up, with him in the middle of it. Caught on the wrong side of Heaven, Paul faces an impossible choice if he’s to have any hope of seeing his wife again.

Death doesn’t stand a chance against love.

 

Medici of Ackbarr by Erme LanderMedici of Ackbarr by Erme Lander:

“The men go mad eventually – unable to separate themselves from the cats they control. The women? They fare little better…”

The words from Lin’s journal haunt Mika as she gains her Medici qualifications. Left homeless by his death, she tries to escape her grief by burying herself in her work, only to discover both old and new enemies waiting in the wings.

The events in this book take place about five years after those in “Blood Lore”, Book Two of The Medici Chronicles.

A Dark Infection by Erme LanderA Dark Infection by Erme Lander:

A voice in the dark, “You have taken my Consort. You’ll give her up and take me instead, Kalmár.”

It has been ten years since Tina was kidnapped by Kalmár and she has settled into the twilight world of vampires and their pets. However circumstances and her own body are changing faster than she realises, leaving her vulnerable to those who would take advantage.

A different reality intrudes as she stumbles across her daughter, now a young woman, forcing her to make hard choices between the two worlds, both inimical to each other. To survive she must gamble with those most precious to her, while fighting to keep her both her sanity and humanity intact.

Caffeinated Calamity by Amanda M. LeeCaffeinated Calamity by Amanda M. Lee:

The only witch in the world? It might feel like it to Stormy Morgan but she knows better.

Twenty minutes away, in a town called Hemlock Cove, witches have taken over. Sure, the bulk of the town is made up of frauds looking to shore up their tourism industry, but there are real witches, too. There’s a family, last name of Winchester, and they’re notorious. Stormy wants to meet them but she has a myriad of problems darkening her doorstep.

The first is Hunter Ryan, her childhood love who is back in her life and ready to take the next step, which is formal dating … just as soon as he’s given proper respect to his previous relationship. While Stormy is waiting for that to happen, she runs to the aid of customer at the family diner when the older woman collapses as she’s leaving after breakfast. Before Stormy can offer even a dollop of help, though, the woman is dead and there are more questions than answers.

When the cause of death is determined to be poison, Stormy and Hunter have to follow a tangled trail of clues … and it leads them straight to the senior center. It seems the victim was a regular visitor there, and one of the better euchre players at the lauded weekly tournaments. Is that a motive for murder, though?

Stormy has her hands full with out-of-control euchre madness, magic she is trying to control, and hormones that are threatening to run rampant. When she finally makes it to Hemlock Cove, her nerves threaten to get the best of her.

She needs help. This is a world she doesn’t understand. The truth has to come out, but is she ready? It might not matter because a murderer has marked Stormy for death. It’s up to her and her motley crew of friends and family to save the day … if they can all come together as a team.

That will be easier said than done.

Of Fury and Fangs by Kyoko M.Of Fury and Fangs by Kyoko M.:

Someone wants Dr. Rhett “Jack” Jackson dead.

After surviving a vicious attack from a dragon in his own home, Jack and Dr. Kamala Anjali investigate who sent the dragon to kill him. Unfortunately, their list of enemies is long. Plenty of people have an axe to grind with the two scientists responsible for the rebirth of the previously extinct dragons that are now flourishing on every continent of the planet. Jack and Kamala rejoin with their team at the Knight Division to hunt down the culprit and put an end to their revenge scheme once and for all.

But will it cost them everything?

Of Fury and Fangs is the fourth novel in the Amazon and USA Today bestselling Of Cinder and Bone series, following Of Cinder and Bone, Of Blood and Ashes, and Of Dawn and Embers.

Refuge by Jessica MartingRefuge by Jessica Marting:

Brother Rordan came to at a monks’ temple with no memory of who he was or where he’d been, and he’s content to leave his forgotten life in the past. All that matters is his future as a monk in service to the all-knowing stars.

Dasha Caron crash-landing at his temple changes everything for him: she makes him question his beliefs and monk’s lifestyle. She also brings the devastating news that he’s really a cyborg, and he has a price on his head.

 

Demon Prints by Nazri NoorDemon Prints by Nazri Noor:

What if the chosen one was kind of a dirtbag?

Quilliam J. Abernathy is the Chosen of Asmodeus, destined to become demonkind’s greatest weapon against heaven and humanity. Honing his arcane gifts in both modern California and the depths of hell, Quill is a prideful, powerful sorcerer, his magic surging with every tome he adds to his arcane collection.

But a botched mission incurs Asmodeus’s wrath, and Quill is stripped of his sorcery, protections, even his beloved books. Oh, and a duo of deadly angels wants him dead, too. Quill must decide. Either obey Asmodeus, reclaim his magic, and embody the apocalypse… or rebel against hell.

Spoiler alert: We’re doomed either way.

Demon Prints is the first adventure in the Infernal Inheritance urban fantasy series, set in the same universe as Darkling Mage and Sins of the Father. Witness Quilliam’s unholy ascent in an intense supernatural suspense series filled with demons, devilry, and danger.

Darkspace Renegade by G.J. OgdenDarkspace Renegade by G.J. Ogden:

The interstellar bridges provide a lifeline for billions.
To save humanity the Darkspace Renegades must tear them all down.

Unjustly kicked out of the Consortium Security Force, Hallam Knight has been reduced to working as a gunner, defending the precious Randenite fuel tankers from notorious extremists, the Darkspace Renegades.

Hell-bent on ending bridge travel for good, the Darkspace Renegades threaten to tear down the interstellar travel network that supports billions of lives, across a dozen worlds.

The Darkspace Renegades are outlaws and radicals. Or so Hallam thought.

When a violent encounter with infamous mercenary group, the Blackfire Squadron, almost costs him his life, Hallam Knight finds himself at the mercy of the Darkspace Renegades and their mysterious and enigmatic leader.

Hallam Knight discovers that everything he thought he knew was a lie. Far from being the enemy, the Darkspace Renegades are humanity’s only hope – they just don’t know it yet.

The Consortium taught Hallam that no good deed goes unpunished. They’re about to find out that karma’s a bitch.

The Acheron by Rick PartlowThe Acheron by Rick Partlow:

Sandi and Ash never set out to be heroes.

She joined the Fleet to please her mother, the Admiral.
He signed up to escape the grinding poverty of the Housing Blocks.

And the unlikely friends envisioned boring, peacetime careers as shuttle pilots. The Tahni Imperium had other ideas…

Caught in the desperate fury of the Battle for Mars, the two young pilots wind up the last defense against an alien armada, but their war is just beginning. Recruited to fly the Fleet’s newest weapon in this new war, they take the fight deep into the heart of the Imperium and battle not just against the enemy but against incompetent leadership and ineffectual tactics.

Can the unconventional strategies of a pair of hotshot young pilots change the course of the war? And when the time comes that a choice has to be made between duty to command and loyalty to a friend, which of the two will be willing to make one last flight alone…

Ghost Dance by Christine PopeGhost Dance by Christine Pope:

An angel has returned to Paris. But is it the Angel of Music…or Death?

Two years have passed since Christine fled the opera house, put the memories and the horror behind her. And yet, in her dreams, she still hears his voice, feels his moth-light touch on her throat.

The rumors involving the legendary Opera Ghost are merely newspaper sensationalism. The Opera Ghost is dead. His tragic life, his epic opera, his obsession with her voice…ended. But with a slow, heart-pounding dread, Christine lets a lie slip from her lips, and heads for Paris. Alone. Because she has to know if Erik is dead. Or if he’s alive…and wreaking his vengeance.

Inheritance by Joyce Reynolds-WardInheritance by Joyce Reynolds-Ward:

YOU CAN’T ESCAPE THE INHERITANCE OF THE PAST…OR CAN YOU?

Rancher Ruby Barkley and her ex-husband Gabe Ramirez are competing head-to-head for the AgInnovator game show’s new one-shot award, the Ag Superhero. The winner walks away with $3.75 million per year for five years, with no accountability or need to re-earn the Superhero, unlike the Innovator’s other awards.

But issues beyond those raised by their long-ago acrimonious divorce face Ruby and Gabe. Fence cutting. Rogue biobots destructively ranging beyond programmed parameters. Physical attacks. And the realization that they may need to reunite to save their son Brandon from indentured servitude.

Then the secret shadow of Gabe’s hidden inheritance reveals itself. Will he step up to the Martiniere Legacy—and what role will Ruby accept in any future they may share?

The Legacy of Tomorrow by Audrey SharpeThe Legacy of Tomorrow by Audrey Sharpe:

Her strength is her greatest weakness.

Protecting others has always been Aurora Hawke’s defining characteristic — until a fierce battle with her mortal enemy creates devastating results, proving she’s more weapon than human.

Haunted by apocalyptic visions of her future and pursued by the ghosts of her past, she makes the only logical decision.

Run.

Abandoning her ship and crew goes against everything she holds dear, but it’s the only way to safeguard those she loves from the greatest threat of all — herself.

Shadows of the Fall by Glynn StewartShadows of the Fall by Glynn Stewart:

Fifty thousand years ago, the Precursors broke the universe.
Now great powers and small alike fight over their wreckage.
But in the midst of the chaos, there is a question no one asks…
Why?

Morgan Casimir, commander of the A!Tol Imperial cruiser Defiant, has seen the works of the Precursor aliens known as the Alava. She has seen their accidents threaten worlds and consume entire star fleets.

Charged by her Empress to prevent a conspiracy of profiteers from finding and using a lost fleet of Alava warships, she knows unimaginable catastrophe looms if she fails. With her lover, xenoarcheologist Dr. Rin Dunst, at her side, she is sent to a hot zone on the edge of war to once again achieve the impossible.

But as they search along a border flaring in violence, Morgan discovers that if the worst comes to pass, her orders are to destroy the ships rather than allow them to be taken…and she realizes that there just might be a reason seemingly godlike aliens lost an entire fleet.

Triton: The Descendants War by John WalkerTriton: The Descendants War by John Walker:

Commander Titus Barnes struggles to save his ship.

War brews on the horizon and the crew of the TCN Triton get caught in the middle. When they answer a distress call from one of their colonies on the edge of their space, they end up outmatched and outgunned by an unknown force. This conflict may well push humanity into a new age…or spell the beginning of the end for their race.

Meanwhile, two archaeologists work to uncover evidence of alien life on a far off planet. As they make what might be the biggest discovery of the human race, their activities trigger an alert, drawing dangerous forces to investigate. Cut off from any quick help and on their own, they must use every trick at their disposal to stay alive.

Into the White by Daniel WillcocksInto the White by Daniel Willcocks:

If the storm must taketh, it must surely giveth, too?

Their numbers are dwindling, the storm shows no sign of relenting. Yet, at the edge of the Drumtrie Forest, a strange phenomenon is occurring: dozens of the pale white beasts standing guard.

Over what?

Cody is gone; missing in the white. Tori has reunited with her sister, but it wasn’t the celebration she planned. Karl is lost to the wants and desires of the Masked Ones.

And, from out of the storm, comes a stranger who may hold all the answers to unravelling the mystery once and for all…

If the wendigos will let her.

Geek Fire by Mel WoodburnGeek Fire by Mel Woodburn:

Honors student, Emma Edgin, never thought she’d be a superhero, but she never thought she’d fail a class or be diagnosed autistic either.

After a strange craft flies over the West Coast, Emma sneezes a fireball and starts flying.

Emma doesn’t want to be a hero. She’s got to focus on passing English and keeping the new Super Commission agent from noticing her.
Too bad so many people need saving.

Geek Fire is the first novel in the Dragon Girl Series. If you like nerdy heroes and conspiracies, then you’ll love this series!

Web of Nightmares by P.D. WorkmanWeb of Nightmares by P.D. Workman:

Psychic Reg Rawlins is hoping to get her life back to normal, or some semblance of it. With the gems she was given by the fairies for saving Calliopia’s life, she doesn’t need to worry about money. Maybe never again. She can just relax, get the sleep she needs, and not have to worry about hustling a living.

Life is better with money. Maybe she’ll even take up a hobby. Travel. Visit Erin.

But the rest of the world seems to have other ideas. Reg senses that all is not well in Black Sands. She is plagued by nightmares and visions, but her ability to consciously access her powers is limited.

A fun, full-length paranormal cozy mystery with a captivating cat, drop-dead gorgeous warlock, and magical races as you’ve never read them before.

Send to Kindle
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Indie Crime Fiction of the Month for October 2020


Welcome to the latest edition of “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”.

So what is “Indie Crime Fiction of the Month”? It’s a round-up of crime fiction by indie authors newly published this month, though some September books I missed the last time around snuck in as well. The books are arranged in alphabetical order by author. So far, most links only go to Amazon.com, though I may add other retailers for future editions.

Our new releases cover the broad spectrum of crime fiction. We have cozy mysteries, small town mysteries, historical mysteries, Victorian mysteries, Jazz Age mysteries, paranormal mysteries, police procedurals, crime thrillers, adventure thrillers, action thrillers, psychological thrillers, domestic thrillers, western thrillers, military thrillers, police officers, amateur sleuths, private investigators, ex-Navy SEALs, organised crime, kidnapping, crime-busting witches, crime-busting socialites, crime-busting realtors, crime-busting psychics, environmental disasters and much more.

Don’t forget that Indie Crime Fiction of the Month is also crossposted to the Indie Crime Scene, a group blog which features new release spotlights, guest posts, interviews and link round-ups regarding all things crime fiction several times per week.

As always, I know the authors at least vaguely, but I haven’t read all of the books, so Caveat emptor.

And now on to the books without further ado:

A Thread of Madness by Blythe BakerA Thread of Madness by Blythe Baker:

A sudden death uncovers a string of secrets in a small village…

When seamstresses Iris and Lily Dickinson are accidental witnesses to a murder, the spinster sisters resolve to keep themselves – and their pristine reputations – a discreet distance away from the sordid business. But the unexpected discovery that the killer might be in their very midst soon changes everything, sparking an urgent desperation to ferret out his identity.

While assisting the local constable in his investigation, Iris stumbles across a family mystery of her own, a buried secret that calls into question everything she thinks she knows about her sister. With Iris’s once-blind faith in Lily shaken, can the sisters unite long enough to escape the schemes of a dangerous lunatic?

Betrayed Heroes by Gregg BellBetrayed Heroes by Gregg Bell:

The US president’s seven-year-old nephew has been kidnapped. The nation is horrified, but the crime turns out to be just the break that disgraced former Navy SEALs Shelby Ryder and Earl Bernstein need. If they’re able to rescue the boy, who’s being held somewhere in the Florida Everglades, the president assures them he’ll restore their SEAL trident pins.

But something’s not right.

Support people don’t show. Others won’t reveal their names. Many seem more mercenary than military. Shelby and Earl are suspicious, but they’re desperate to be SEALs again, and there’s a boy out there in need of rescue. And so, into the depths of the humid, alligator-infested Everglades they venture, to start a mission they were never intended to survive.

The Wicked Fringe of Mystery by Beth ByersThe Wicked Fringe of Mystery by Beth Byers:

November 1925

Severine DuNoir has discovered who has been hunting her. Now she needs to discover why. As the foes circle each other, their friends and family get drawn into the conflict.

Just who can Severine trust? How can she stop him? And what will happen to those she loves if she fails? She’s all too afraid the answer is one she won’t be able to live with.

 

Bye Bye Bobby by Mike FaricyCorridor Man: Bye Bye Bobby by Mike Faricy:

Things are about to change…

– Bobby Custer is looking to take the organization in a new direction.
– He just has to get everyone on board.
– No better way to do it than with rewards!

– Of course there are some loose ends…
– People who don’t want to change!
– People who secretly question Bobby’s decisions!

It’s an exhausting time! BYE BYE BOBBY!

Deadly Pursuit by Elle GrayDeadly Pursuit by Elle Gray:

Tick. Tock… The clock is ticking.
Time is running out for Paxton Arrington.
The choice he must make could be the difference between life and death.

Paxton Arrington had an upbringing of wealth and privilege. Rather than live the life of a corporate CEO, Paxton chose to become one of Seattle’s finest. He’s a man with a rigid and unyielding personality and a belief of always doing the right thing.

When he stumbles onto corruption in his own precinct, Paxton finds himself in a precarious position with no simple way out of it.

Going head to head with Detective Sergeant Radley and his highly decorated Strike Team is career suicide. More than that, he fears that taking them on could have a ripple effect of unintended consequences.

Drawn into a web of deceit and danger.

Paxton enlists his good friend, FBI Special Agent Blake Wilder to help him get the evidence he needs to bring the Strike Team down once and for all.

With forces aligning against him, Paxton must make a decision that could cost him everything.

One that will forever change his life.

Dances With Witches by Lily Harper HartDances With Witches by Lily Harper Hart:

Hannah Hickok is struggling. After the death of one of her workers, a woman who had been making life difficult, Hannah finds she is awash in a myriad of feelings she can’t quite put a name to. Things don’t get better when, following a romantic dinner with her boyfriend Cooper Wyatt, magic and mechanics collide in a multi-vehicle accident that looks to have been caused by a dark shadow. One of the survivors, a young teenager, could be shuffled into the system if someone doesn’t step up.

Sheriff Boone is the one who swoops in and brings the girl home, but all is not well. It seems something dark is chasing the girl, and it’s not of the human variety.

Hannah doesn’t know much – her knowledge as a witch is still growing – but she’s certain she needs to help the girl. It won’t be as easy as she hopes, though, because dark clouds are brewing and more than one storm is about to descend.

Hannah couldn’t save her employee and she’s haunted. She vows this girl will be different, even if she has to sacrifice herself to keep her safe.

Casper Creek has a long and storied past and old players are about to become new threats. Saddle up, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

The Last Resort by CeeCee JamesThe Last Resort by CeeCee James:

The mother that Stella O’Neil thought she’d lost forever is getting out of jail. Today.

Stella doesn’t know if she’s excited or terrified but one thing is for sure, everything in life feels like it’s finally settling down.

But as always in Stella’s world, nothing comes easily. When she arrives at the prison to take her mom home, she’s greeted with stunning news.
Her mother isn’t there.

Someone else picked her up.

As Stella pieces together the clues, she is more afraid than she’s ever been. She’s determined to unravel the mystery and connect the dots in order to finally connect with the mother she’s never known.

Rattlesnake Rodeo by Nick KolakowskiRattlesnake Rodeo by Nick Kolakowski:

The fiery sequel to Boise Longpig Hunting Club is here…

Three nights ago, Jake Halligan and his ultra-lethal sister Frankie were kidnapped by a sadistic billionaire with a vendetta against their family. That billionaire offered them a terrible deal: Spend the next 24 hours in the backwoods of Idaho, hunted by rich men with the latest in lethal weaponry. If Jake and Frankie survived, they’d go free; otherwise, nobody would ever find their bodies.

Jake and Frankie managed to escape that terrible game, but their problems are just beginning. They’re broke, on the run, and hunted by every cop between Oregon and Montana. If they’re going to make it through, they may need to strike a devil’s bargain—and carry out a seemingly impossible crime.

Rattlesnake Rodeo is a neo-Western noir filled with incredible twists. If you want true justice against the greedy and powerful, sometimes you have no choice but to rely on the worst people…

Caffeinated Calamity by Amanda M. LeeCaffeinated Calamity by Amanda M. Lee:

The only witch in the world? It might feel like it to Stormy Morgan but she knows better.

Twenty minutes away, in a town called Hemlock Cove, witches have taken over. Sure, the bulk of the town is made up of frauds looking to shore up their tourism industry, but there are real witches, too. There’s a family, last name of Winchester, and they’re notorious. Stormy wants to meet them but she has a myriad of problems darkening her doorstep.

The first is Hunter Ryan, her childhood love who is back in her life and ready to take the next step, which is formal dating … just as soon as he’s given proper respect to his previous relationship. While Stormy is waiting for that to happen, she runs to the aid of customer at the family diner when the older woman collapses as she’s leaving after breakfast. Before Stormy can offer even a dollop of help, though, the woman is dead and there are more questions than answers.

When the cause of death is determined to be poison, Stormy and Hunter have to follow a tangled trail of clues … and it leads them straight to the senior center. It seems the victim was a regular visitor there, and one of the better euchre players at the lauded weekly tournaments. Is that a motive for murder, though?

Stormy has her hands full with out-of-control euchre madness, magic she is trying to control, and hormones that are threatening to run rampant. When she finally makes it to Hemlock Cove, her nerves threaten to get the best of her.

She needs help. This is a world she doesn’t understand. The truth has to come out, but is she ready? It might not matter because a murderer has marked Stormy for death. It’s up to her and her motley crew of friends and family to save the day … if they can all come together as a team.

That will be easier said than done.

Sorry Can't Save You by Willow RoseSorry Can’t Save You by Willow Rose:

What if you thought your husband was a murderer?

The man you loved, the man who gave you two beautiful children and a perfect life.

What if no one believed you?

Laurie Davis is the mother of two children, struggling to keep her family together since her husband, Ryan, went to war and came back changed. His PTSD is evident.

He wakes up at night, screaming in fear; he can’t stand loud noises or anyone sneaking upon him.

He even gets aggressive toward Laurie and the children. It has gotten so bad that he can no longer stay under the same roof as his family.

When a woman from his squadron is found murdered, Laurie discovers something that makes her suspect Ryan, her own husband.

But what do you do when no one believes a decorated war hero could also be a murderer?

What if you don’t want to believe it yourself?

As more people from the squadron turn up dead, by apparent suicides, Laurie digs deeper into the case.

She is risking her own life by putting it all on the line in a race against time to avoid becoming the killer’s next victim.

Bird in Hand by Nikki SternBird in Hand by Nikki Stern:

In the sequel to the award-winning THE WEDDING CRASHER, Sam Tate faces off against a vengeful killer, a mistrustful boss, a shadowy nemesis, and a 300-year-old pirate.

When Arley Fitchett’s body washes up onto Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Lieutenant Sam Tate, just two months into her new job, is charged with finding out who murdered the popular guide and treasure hunter. Fitchett, she discovers, was hunting a rare carving he believed had been stolen by Chesapeake Bay pirates in 1718 and hidden nearby. No one knows if the story is true, but several locals seem to share Fitchett’s interest in the wooden bird with the sapphire eye. Any one of them could be the next victim. One of them is definitely the killer.

Rising Warrior by Wayne StinnettRising Warrior by Wayne Stinnett:

After returning home to the Florida Keys, Jesse moves on to Fort Myers, his hometown on the Southwest Florida coast. There is much work to be done and Jesse is no stranger to hard work.

On a kayaking adventure with friends, Jesse’s daughter finds and rescues a baby manatee suffering from respiratory problems. The red tide has returned and fish are dying by the thousands, along with dolphins, manatees, sea turtles, and sea birds.

The algal bloom is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but this time it’s much worse. Theories abound; it’s something left over from the previous spring’s coronavirus outbreak, it’s caused by pollution, someone is intentionally creating a super-algae.

But there’s something far more sinister going on among the Ten Thousand Islands, and it’s up to Jesse to find out where the bodies are buried.

Fair Cronies and Felonies by Anne R. TanFair Cronies and Felonies by Anne R. Tan:

A new director. Budget cuts. And a fire. The senior center will never be the same again.

As the new director for the senior center, Raina Sun thought organizing a few events for the geriatric crowd would be fairly easy. Until the center’s biggest donor dies in a fire, and her grandma’s arch nemesis becomes the prime suspect. As the body count piles up, Raina is drawn into another murder investigation. Can she solve the case, or will her grandma’s arch nemesis spend the rest of her golden years in prison?

Don’t miss out on the fun. Grab your copy now.

Web of Nightmares by P.D. WorkmanWeb of Nightmares by P.D. Workman:

Psychic Reg Rawlins is hoping to get her life back to normal, or some semblance of it. With the gems she was given by the fairies for saving Calliopia’s life, she doesn’t need to worry about money. Maybe never again. She can just relax, get the sleep she needs, and not have to worry about hustling a living.

Life is better with money. Maybe she’ll even take up a hobby. Travel. Visit Erin.

But the rest of the world seems to have other ideas. Reg senses that all is not well in Black Sands. She is plagued by nightmares and visions, but her ability to consciously access her powers is limited.

A fun, full-length paranormal cozy mystery with a captivating cat, drop-dead gorgeous warlock, and magical races as you’ve never read them before.

Send to Kindle
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A Trio of Spooky New Releases and Why I Cannot Write Straight Horror

I mentioned that there would be one more new release announcement for October and here it is. It’s somewhat incomplete, because the links to Barnes & Noble are missing, since the bookseller recently suffered a cyberattack and still hasn’t managed to get their system back online two weeks later.

But first of all, I also wanted to let you know that I have two new articles up at Galactic Journey. The first one is about East and West German comics of the 1950s and 1960s. The second article is about the biggest West German movie of 1965, Winnetou III, which ends with everybody’s favourite heroic Apache chief expiring tragically in the arms of his best friend and blood brother Old Shatterhand.

But now on to the new releases. October is the spooky month, so I have three spooky new e-books to share. None of them are straight horror, because it turns out that I cannot write straight horror. Cause whenever I try to write horror, it either comes out as a parody of horror tropes or a story about trying to figure out what the spooky creature wants and how to deal with it without violence.

I’m not entirely sure why that is, especially since I grew up during the 1970s and 1980s, i.e. the heyday of the horror genre. However, I haven’t been scared by a horror movie since I was about eighteen and watched the original Nightmare on Elm Street on TV, while home alone. And even before that I haven’t been scared by horror movies all that often, if only because horror movies that were actually accessible – on TV and not in the cinema with an 18 certificate or banned altogether – were few and far between. In the three channel TV landscape of West Germany in the 1980s, horror films occasionally showed up on late night TV, but those were mostly older black and white films that relied on atmosphere more than gore. There were also the Dr. Mabuse and Edgar Wallace movies, which – though not straight horror – definitely have horror elements, but also mainly rely on atmosphere.

Meanwhile, the horror movies of the 1970s and 1980s were not at all easy to watch, if you were a teenager in Germany, because Germans are more sensitive to violence than Americans or Italians, whence those movies mostly hailed, and so any horror movie to reach our shores was either cut to ribbons or had an eighteen certificate slapped on it or both. The original Evil Dead was unavailable in Germany until a few years ago, because it was apparently too horrible for us to watch. If you had a VCR and knew someone who could rent 18+ movies, you could watch horror films, but otherwise you were out of luck. There was a moral panic about horror movie inciting teenagers to… well, I’m not entirely sure what horror movies were supposed to do to teenagers, but it was bad. One movie which came in for particular scrutiny was a 1980 Troma movie called Mother’s Day, which archieved near legendary status as a movie everybody had heard of, but almost no one had seen. And those who claimed to have seen it usually hadn’t seen it either, they simply made something up based what they’d heard. The trailer for Mother’s Day is here BTW, if you want to see what the fuss was all about.

As a result, I didn’t get to see most horror movies at the age when they would have scared me. And by the time, I finally got to see the films – once private TV had come to Germany – I was usually underwhelmed because what my mind had conjured up was usually scarier than the reality. Not to mention that a lot of horror movie tropes are rather silly, especially since most of those movies were made for a very different cultural context. People in Germany simply weren’t particularly bothered about teenagers having – gasp – sex, while camping in the woods, and certainly didn’t think this was a crime worth killing people for.

However, I also had issues even with those horror movies – usually more traditional vampire, ghost and monster fare – that I actually was able watch. For quite often, I found myself sympathising with the supernatural creature. One movie I remember infuriating me was House of Dark Shadows, a 1970 spin-off of the US horror soap opera Dark Shadows. In the movie, a young woman gets bitten and turned by Barnabas Collins. She is buried and returns as a vampire, bites someone and then several members of her own family hold her down, while someone stakes her. This scene absolutely infuriated me, because the young woman had been these people’s daughter, girlfriend, sister and yet they murdered her in cold blood. And besides, it wasn’t her fault that she was a vampire and that she was hungry. Surely it would be possible for her to live on blood donations.

Other films elicited similar reactions. “Okay, so the house is haunted, but why not try to coexist with the ghosts? After all, it’s their home, too.” – “Okay, so someone is possessed by a demon, but where exactly is the problem? Why not share the body with the demon and come to an agreement?” That’s also why I immediately took to urban fantasy, when I became popular, because here finally were stories which asked the same questions I had asked myself for years at that point.

As a result, whenever I try to write horror, it usually comes out either as parody or a story where the protagonists try to figure out what the monsters want and how to deal with them without violence. All of the stories I am going to announce today fall into one of those categories. Coincidentally, all of them were July challenge stories, too.

The first new story is of the latter type, where the characters try to figure out what the spooky creatures want. It is a historical fantasy tale set in the Netherlands during the the Eighty-Years-War, during which the Netherlands attempted and eventually succeeded in getting rid of the Spanish occupation. A large part of the issue was that the Netherlands were largely Protestant and found themselves faced with the Spanish Inquisition (which they no more expected than anybody else).

Now my Dad worked in the Netherlands, when I was a teenager, and I usually spent my holidays there and got in contact with the local pop culture. And the Eighty-Years War still looms large in Dutch memory and popular culture just as the Thirty-Years-War a little later looms in the German memory. So I learned about the Eighty-Years War by cultural osmosis from comic books and a book on the history of Rotterdam that someone had given my Dad and that I read when I ran out of reading material.

The actual inspiration for the story was a piece of fantasy art, namely this one by Michael MacRae. It’s an evocative piece that somehow made me think of the Netherlands in the 16th century. The story grew from there.

The problem when writing historical fiction (or historical fantasy) set during less explored periods is how much information the reader needs to tell them when and where the story is set. The first draft contained references to the Lowlands, William of Orange, the Spanish oppressors and people executed for heresy, which seemed completely sufficient to me to let the reader know when and where the story is set. However, the Eighty-Years War is not all that well known to people outside the Netherlands, so I also explicitly mentioned the year and the place where the story is set.

So follow Ann and her little son Florentijn as they confront…

The Ghosts of Doodenbos
The Ghosts of Doodenbos by Cora BuhlertThe Netherlands in the year of the Lord 1571: The young widow Ann lives alone with her little son Florentijn in a house at the edge of the woods.

From childhood on, Ann has been told to never ever go alone into the woods. But when her little son runs away, Ann has no choice. She must venture into the forest to save Florentijn from the creatures that live in the woods surrounding the village of Doodenbos.

This is a historical horror short story of 3000 words or approx. 12 pages.

 

More information.
Length: 3000 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, Vivlio, 24symbols and XinXii.

While going through my backlog of unpublished stories, most of them July short story challenge stories, I realised that I had written no less than four stories featuring demon summoning rituals gone terribly wrong and thought, “Well, that’s enough for a collection then.” And this is how Demon Summoning for Beginners was born.

During the July short story challenge, I often use fantasy art as writing prompts and so two of the stories were inspired by pieces of fantasy art, namely this one by Nele Diehl and this one by David Velasquez.

Another story was inspired by watching an episode of Supernatural and getting annoyed at the badly mangled Latin used during a magical ritual. So I thought, “Well, if I’m annoyed, how annoyed will a demon be. And how will mangled Latin or mangled Hebrew affect a ritual?” The story grew from there.

The final story was inspired by noticing that the instruction for magical potions and spells and recipes for food often look remarkably similar, only that there are stranger ingredients in the former. So I thought, “What if a recipe accidentally conjures up a demon?”

These stories all fall into the parody category. Though the characters also try to figure out how to deal with a demon that none of them actually expected to show up.

So get ready for a lesson in…

Demon Summoning for Beginners
Demon Summoning for Beginners by Cora BuhlertWhen observing a magical ritual in the woods, make sure to take precautions…

If you try to summon a demon to grant you your heart’s fondest desire, you’d better get your Latin right…

When studying ancient grimoires, it’s never a good idea to actually read the contents out loud or you might just cause the end of the world…

Following your grandma’s heirloom recipe might just conjure up something other than marinara sauce…

Four short humorous horror tales of rituals gone very wrong by Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert of 5800 words or approx. 20 print pages altogether.

More information.
Length: 5800 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, Vivlio, 24symbols and XinXii.

The final new release for this month is a collection of two short vampire stories. Both of them fall under the banner of “How can you deal with a vampire without staking them?”

Both stories were July challenge stories, but one of the stories was actually written on the day of the 2020 Hugo ceremony and indeed I wrote part of the story during the neverending Hugo ceremony from hell.

The story in question, “The House at Green Corner”, is also inspired by a real house with an overgrown garden in my neighbourhood, which  looks exactly as it is described in the story.

In summer, I like taking walks in the early morning just before the sun comes up to avoid the heat of the day. And during one of those walks I noticed that there were a lot of bats fluttering around the house and its garden. Like the protagonist, I assumed that the bats probably lived in the overgrown garden. And then I thought, “Maybe the bats don’t just live in the garden, maybe they are the owners of the house and they’re all vampires.” The story grew from there.

So get ready to meet some vampires and make sure to avoid the…

Puncture Wounds
Puncture Wounds by Cora BuhlertEvery morning, Brett finds blood on his sheets and mysterious puncture wounds on his body. But as he tries to trap the “night pricker”, as he calls his unseen assailant, he’s in for a surprise…

The house at Green Corner has been standing there for fifty years now, surrounded by a tall fence and even taller hedges. And at dawn, bats flutter around the overgrown garden. No one has ever seen the owner of the house, let alone spoken to them. But early one morning, paper girl Maddie decides to venture beyond the tall hedges on a dare and finds something very unexpected…

Two modern vampire tales by Hugo finalist Cora Buhlert of 5000 words or approx. 18 print pages altogether.

More information.
Length: 5000 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, Vivlio, 24symbols and XinXii.

If you want to read all of my attempts at horror fiction, the cheapest way to do so is via The Spooky Bundle, which is available exclusively at DriveThruFiction.

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Star Trek Discovery arrives “Far From Home”

It’s time for this week’s episode by episode Star Trek Discovery review. For my takes on previous seasons and episodes, go here.

Warning! Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

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Retro Review: “Transparent Stuff” by Dorothy Quick

Unknown June 1940

This cover illustration is not for “Transparent Stuff”, but for “But Without Horns” by Norvell Page.

I’m continuing my reviews of Dorothy Quick’s Patchwork Quilt stories with “Transparent Stuff”, the second story in the series, which appeared in the June 1940 issue of Unknown. The story may be read online here. You can also read Steve J. Wright’s review of the story along with the rest of the issue here. This review will also be crossposted to Retro Science Fiction Reviews.

Warning: Spoilers beyond this point!

This time around, Dorothy Quick plunges us right into the story by having her protagonist Alice select another square of fabric of the enchanted patchwork quilt to take her into the past. For those who missed the first story, Alice accidentally came across a magical patchwork quilt owned by her aunt Annabel. Many years ago, a witch assembled the quilt from scraps of fabric with powerful and often terrifying memories attached to them. If someone falls asleep under the quilt while touching one of the squares, they will relive whatever memory is attached to the respective square in their dreams.

“Transparent Stuff” is clearly set some time after the previous story “Blue and Silver Brocade”, for while Alice was terrified by her experience in the first story (to be fair, she did relive a black mass complete with bloody sacrifice and then found herself strangled to death), by now she has become almost addicted to the experiences the patchwork quilt can give her. Considering that the quilt has killed at least one person and driven another mad, this is very risky indeed.

The square Alice has chosen for her latest adventure is made of very sheer, nigh transparent linen, interwoven with golden and silver threads that form a floral pattern. And so, Alice falls asleep with her hand touching the square and suddenly finds herself clad in a gown made of the same transparent fabric and wearing elaborate jewellery. She manages to look at herself in a reflective surface and finds her own face looking back at her, though with very different make-up and hairstyle. So is Alice reliving the experiences of an ancestor this time or is reincarnation in play here?

Alice – and the reader – quickly learns that the body she is inhabiting belongs to a Babylonian princess named Star of Light. Star is the only child of King Mi-Bel of Babylon and she is about to be married off to a man of her father’s choosing. There is a rundown of suitors, none of whom sound remotely promising. One is too old and Star’s cousin besides, another is a drunk and a womaniser and the third is rumoured to consort with demons and engage in black magic. Star is understandably none too thrilled about these marital prospects and so she decides to ask the goddess Ishtar for help, aided by a priest named Abeshu.

Abeshu takes Star to a secret sanctuary inside the great temple and summons the goddess. After some ritualising and incense burning, the goddess Ishtar appears and tells Star that she need not marry any of the suitors vying for her hand and that she may marry the one her heart desires. She also promises Star the gift of eternal love, but warns her that there will be a price.

Finally, Ishtar also grants Abeshu his wish, even though he never utters it out loud. When Star asks Abeshu what he wished for, he gives her an evasive answer, but also asks that Star make him her counsellor. Star agrees, but Alice is sceptical about Abeshu’s motives, for she feels that the priest hates the young princess.

Next, Star and her lady-in-waiting Rima take a tour of the hanging gardens, one of the wonders of the ancient world, in Star’s royal litter. Star’s reverence for the beauty of the gardens is interrupted, when a young boy cries for help. Star signals the litter to stop and asks the captain of her guard to bring the boy to her.

The boy tells star that a man saved his mother’s life, when she was nearly trampled by a horse. However, the horse was injured in the process and now a mob is about to lynch the helpful stranger for harming one of the horses of Khian, Prince of Egypt and one of Star’s unwanted suitors. Star orders her guards to save the stranger. When Star lays eyes on the handsome stranger and his exposed muscular chest, it is love at first sight. Star is thrilled, for Ishtar has kept her word.

The stranger turns out to be an Egyptian mercenary named Belzar who was in service to Prince Khian, but quit, because he disliked the Prince. Star promptly engages his services and as she chats with her new guardsman, Belzar confesses that he loves her. Star responds that she loves him, too, and that it’s all Ishtar’s will. Of course, this is also a very convenient excuse for what romance readers call insta-love. However, a novelette doesn’t offer much space to slowly develop a romantic relationship, so divinely ordained insta-love is a handy shortcut.

Meanwhile, Alice remembers that Ishtar promised Star eternal love and since Alice is Star’s reincarnation and/or descendant, she wonders when she will find a Belzar of her own.

But Belzar also has bad news for Star, because Prince Khian is planning to abduct the princess and thus bypass the other suitors. Belzar, Star and the guard captain inform the King, who plans to set a trap for the kidnappers and hides his own guards and Belzar behind the draperies in Star’s chambers. Nonetheless, one of the kidnappers manages to throw a bag over Star and carry her off. But Belzar stops him with a dagger to the eye and rescues Star who is now even more in love with him than before. They kiss, but are quickly interrupted by the other guards.

However, King Mi-Bel still has other plans for his only daughter. Now that the plot of the treacherous Prince Khian has been exposed, Mi-Bel plans to wed Star to her much older cousin Ditmah. The betrothal will be announced at a great feast to be held that very evening, as Star learns from the duplicitous Abeshu. However, Abeshu has a plan to bring Star and Belzar together after all.

At the feast, Abeshu fills the King up with wine to make him more mellow. Belzar, who has been granted noble status as a thank you for saving Star from the kidnappers, is there as well. Just as the King is about to announce who will marry his daughter, Star stands up and begs the king to grant her to choose her own husband. She also asks that she and her chosen husband be allowed to live in a small palace near the temple of Ishtar. King Mi-Bel, who is well and truly drunk by now, grants her both wishes. So Star names Belzar as her chosen husband.

Mi-Bel is not at all pleased by Star’s choice, for what about all the carefully plotted political alliances that Star has just upset? So he asks Abeshu how to undo this match. This is the moment that the duplicitous Abeshu has been waiting for. He whispers his poisonous advice to the King.

The King now announces that Star shall wed Belzar and that she shall have a wedding feast befitting a princess. She and Belzar will also be allowed to dwell in the palace near the temple of Ishtar, just as Star desired. However, they will be immured inside a chamber in this palace, to be buried alive for all eternity, while cousin Ditmah becomes king of Babylon.

Belzar is surprisingly resigned to his fate – after all, the goddess Ishtar said that there would be a price, but she also promised them eternal love for all time. Star, meanwhile, confronts Abeshu about his treachery. Abeshu tells Star that she is the traitor, for she placed her own desires over her duty to Babylon, because women wanted to choose their own partners with no regard for political alliances – well, next they’ll be demanding the vote, too. And besides, Ditmah no more wanted to marry Star than Star wanted to marry him. Instead, he is in love with Abeshu’s niece and now she will mount the throne instead of Star. But Abeshu apparently has second thoughts about the awful fate to which he condemned the lovers, so he gives Belzar two lockets filled with a poison that will grant him and Star a painless death.

After a weeklong wedding feast, Abeshu escorts Star and Belzar to a small niche inside the palace where they will be immured. They both take the poison and once more proclaim their undying love for each other. Before the last stone is in place and the effect of the poison kicks in, the voice of Ishtar appears, telling Star and Belzar that she will remain true to her promise and that their love shall last forever.

Alice awakens, not at all troubled that she just died for love… again. Because the goddess Ishtar promised Star and Belzar that their love shall last forever. And if Alice is the reincarnation of Star, that means that the reincarnation of Belzar is waiting for her somewhere out there. Will she find him? Maybe we’ll find out in the third Patchwork Quilt story.

Amazing Future Tales from the Past

Sadly, this compilation of novelettes eligible for the 1941 Retro Hugos is the only time “Transparent Stuff” has ever been reprinted.

While the first Patchwork Quilt story “Blue and Silver Brocade” mixed historical fiction with gothic horror and some surprisingly lurid violence, “Transparent Stuff” is more subdued – no black masses and graphic strangulation scenes – but the central love story is no less tragic and once again the lovers can only be united in death and beyond. The Patchwork Quilt stories are undoubtedly romance, but not romance in the modern sense, where a happy ending is required.

The downer ending of the forbidden lovers entombed together reminded me very much of Aida by Guiseppe Verdi, which is set in ancient Egypt rather than ancient Babylon, but ends in the same way, with the titular character, an Ethiopian princess turned Egyptian slave, and her lover, Egyptian general Radames, sentenced to be entombed together, because Radames betrayed his country for Aida. Considering how popular and frequently performed Aida is, it is very likely that Dorothy Quick was familiar with the opera. She also did have a thing for immurement – after all, her 1944 short story “The Gothic Window” features an immured sorcerer haunting a window (or does he?).

I’ve been an opera fan since I was a teenager, an age when most people listen only to pop music. Not that I didn’t listen to and enjoy pop music – I did and still do. However, I also loved operas and operettas, because they combined two things I loved, stories and music. And yes, I adored the melodramatic plots of operas, the more melodramatic the better. Concert performances of operas baffle me, because they omit all the fun stuff. And if I want to listen only to the music, I can do so at home.

Aida was always one of my favourite operas. When I was a teen, my Great-Aunt Metel, upon learning that I liked opera, gave me all the opera stuff that my Great-Uncle Rudy, another opera fan who sadly died before I was born (a pity, because I’m sure we would have gotten along just splendidly, since we both loved Italian opera), had left behind. That opera stuff included not just full orchestral scores of various operas, but also the libretti. And one of those libretti was Aida, which I loved so much that I even organised a spoken word puppet show (because though I had the orchestral score thanks to Uncle Rudy, I couldn’t recreate it on a single piano) for friends and family. And yes, that downer ending was tragic, though most operas ended with everybody dying for love, which my teen self thought was so romantic. So my reaction to the Patchwork Quilt stories is basically, “Wow, these stories very much channel everything my teenaged self loved”, which is unusual in itself, because I certainly wasn’t your average teenager. First we had Angelique, whose adventures I devoured, and now Aida.

All three Dorothy Quick stories I reviewed for the Retro Review project had female protagonists and POV-characters, which is rare in golden age speculative fiction. All three stories also pass the Bechdel test – though “Transparent Stuff” only passes it due to a quick conversation between Star and her lady-in-waiting Rima about the hanging gardens – which is even rarer.

Another thing I find notable about Dorothy’s Quick’s stories is that their protagonists are all women who know what they want in life, romantically and otherwise, and are not afraid to go after it, even if this doesn’t always end happily for them. Star wants to marry for love and not politics and gets her wish, even if it ends with her death. Francoise from “Blue and Silver Brocade” is willing to do literally anything to keep the attention of King Louis XIV of France and the influence it brings and her friend/companion Jeanne is willing to do anything to protect her. Anne from “The Gothic Window” arranges a weekend getaway in a house that may or may not be haunted in order to persuade her own boyfriend to propose, to fix up two friends with each other and protect another friend from her abusive and cheating husband. Unlike Star, Francoise and Jeanne, she even succeeds and does not die either. And finally, Alice, the protagonist of the framing stories linking the Patchwork Quilt tales, decides to explore the experiences the quilt can give her, even against all warnings.

The first Patchwork Quilt story, “Blue and Silver Brocade”, has only one named male character, Raoul, doomed lover/killer of the equally doomed Jeanne whose life and death Alice gets to relive. “Transparent Stuff” has more named male characters, but nonetheless it’s still a very woman-centric story. Star’s three unwanted suitors remain cyphers. Cousin Ditmah is the only one who actually appears on the page in a brief cameo. Prince Khian stages a kidnap attempt, but otherwise remains off stage. As for the third suitor, I can’t even remember his name – all I remember is that he is rumoured to be involved in black magic. Star’s father King Mi-Bel gets more screen time, but he also remains vague and indeed, Star notes at one point that her relationship to her father isn’t close, since she barely sees him. And of course, Mi-Bel is a hot candidate for the 1940 Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Exceptionally Horrible Fictional Parents.

Of all the male characters in “Transparent Stuff”, the one who is the most fleshed out is the villainous priest Abeshu. He is also more complex than the average pulp villain, since his motivation is understandable. In many ways, Abeshu is a more sympathetic character than Mi-Bel who is just plain awful.

What’s interesting is that Belzar, Star’s one true love for all time, is not particularly fleshed out either. His role in the story is basically generic love interest/hero. Come to think of it, the love interests in the other Dorothy Quick stories I’ve read were mostly generic hero types as well. In fact, it’s fascinating how woman-centric Dorothy Quick’s stories are, for Quick completely reverses the common pattern of pulp era SFF. Instead of having several at least reasonably fleshed out male characters, while the women are generic love interests or equally generic femme fatales/villainesses, Dorothy Quick features more complex female characters and generic men.

Dorothy Quick is the sort of writer who likes to delve into details and describes clothing, buildings, interiors, etc… And her description of ancient Babylon impressed me with how fairly closely it matches what we know of ancient Babylon today, especially considering how bad Unknown was about historical accuracy otherwise. True, Quick is vague in her description of the hanging gardens, but then we still have no idea what they actually looked like in bloom. So I dug a bit into the exploration history of Babylon and found that the archaeological exploration of Babylon began in the early nineteenth century. Of particular note is the German team of archaeologist Robert Koldewey and orientalist Eduard Sachau, who started their excavations in Babylon in 1897 and found among other things what remains of the hanging gardens as well as the spectacular Ishtar Gate with its blue glazed tiles. The reconstructed Ishtar Gate may be seen in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin (and I recommend that everybody who visits Berlin go and see it, because it’s very impressive). The reconstruction was finished in 1930, i.e. ten years before “Transparent Stuff” was published. Again, it is likely that Dorothy Quick was familiar with Koldewey and Sachau’s work and the Ishtar Gate and incorporated this knowledge into her story.

Though this is only the second of three Patchwork Quilt stories, the central gimmick of an enchanted quilt which can make those who sleep under it relive the past is already well established by now, so well that Dorothy Quick introduces a new element in the form of reincarnation and fated soulmates. It’s a great way to maintain interest in the series. After all, the readers wants to know when/if Alice will find her own fated soulmate, the reincarnation of Belzar. This reader at any rate wants to know. Considering that Unknown seems to have been aimed mainly at the same nerdy young men as its sister magazine Astounding, as Steve J. Wright notes here, I’m not so sure about other readers. And it is notable that the Patchwork Quilt series had only three instalments, the last of which appeared in December 1940, even though Unknown would continue until 1943. So did Campbell drive away Dorothy Quick like he drove away so many other talented writers over the years?

I don’t know, but I’m definitely looking forward to reading the last Patchwork Quilt story. Next to Fafhrd and Gray Mouser, this is definitely the best series to come out of Unknown. A pity that it has never been reprinted.

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Star Trek Discovery Goes Back to the Future in “That Hope Is You, Part 1”

Star Trek Discovery is back for its third season, which means that I’ll be doing episode by episode reviews again. For my takes on the first two seasons, go here.

In spring, I rewatched seasons 1 and 2 of Discovery with my Mom who hadn’t seen them yet for lack of Netflix. And while I initially was very harsh on season 1 of Discovery, I found that I have mellowed somewhat in the meantime, largely because I knew where the series was going and could also appreciate the little hints dropped in regarding Lorca’s true identity. Though the first four episodes of season 1 are still tough going and particularly episode 3 “Context Is For Kings” is really dreadful. And indeed, I had to assure my Mom, “Yes, the first few episodes are bad, but it gets better.”

Now Star Trek Discovery‘s main problem has always been inconsistency, both behind and in front of the camera (two seasons in, Discovery has already gone through three and a half captains and five showrunners). Particularly season 1 felt like about five different shows stitched together, only some of which actually were Star Trek. Season 2 was more consistent and also a lot better, though they were hampered by having to repair the mistakes of season 1, while sticking to established Star Trek continuity. And then season 2 Star Trek Discovery promptly upset the apple cart again by sending the Discovery on a one way trip 900 years into the future in the season finale, opening up the way for entirely new adventures unencumbered by established Star Trek continuity.

So let’s see how season 3 is doing.

Warning! Spoilers behind the cut! Continue reading

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Three New Stories of The Day the Saucers Came…

Well, I told you that there would be more new release announcements in the near future and here is the next one. And this time, it’s even a triple new release announcement for the next three stories in my The Day the Saucers Came… series.

For those of you who don’t know, the premise of the series is that there was a B-movie style alien invasion on June 9, 1956, a.k.a. “The Day the Saucers Came…”. The stories are eye witness accounts by survivors of that invasion and – it is implied – members of the resistance. In most of the stories, an alien invasion is not the worst or most notable thing that happened to the respective narrator on that day.

There are six The Day the Saucers Came… stories altogether. Acacia Crescent is the story of ten-year-old Kenny for whom June 9th, 1956, already was the worst day of his life before the saucers showed up. Lovers’ Lane is the story of sixteen-year-old Betty who first loses her virginity to the boy she believes loves her and then her boyfriend to the flying saucers. Double Feature is the story of seventeen-year-old Judy, who is in the cinema watching a science fiction double feature, when what happens on screen suddenly becomes reality.

The first of three new tales is the story of Rosemary Wilson, a housewife and mother of three who finally decides to leave her abusive husband, when the flying saucers show up.

Azalea Avenue
Azalea Avenue by Cora Buhlert1956: On the surface, Rosemary Wilson is a happily married wife and mother, enjoying a perfect life in the quiet suburb of Shady Groves. But the house on Azalea Avenue harbours a dark secret, for Rosemary’s husband Don is an abusive drunk, who vents his frustrations on Rosemary and their three children.

After nine years of abuse, Rosemary finally decides to leave Don. But her plans of escape are interrupted, first by Don coming home early from a weekend hunting trip and then by the appearance of a flying saucer from outer space in the sky above Shady Groves…

This is a novelette of 10400 words or approx. 38 pages in the The Day the Saucers Came… series, but may be read as a standalone.

Content warning for domestic violence.

More information.
Length: 10400 words
List price: 2.99 USD, EUR or 1.99 GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, Vivlio, 24symbols and XinXii.

The next of the new tales is the story of Bernie Stetson, a burglar who experiences a double surprise. First, the house he’s robbing turns out to be not as deserted as he thought. And then a flying saucer shows up as well.

Bernie’s story was a July Short Story Challenge story BTW, inspired by this piece of art by Simon Stålenhag.

Appletree Court
Appletree Court by Cora Buhlert1956: Bernie Stetson is a burglar, robbing suburban homes while their owners are not at home.

Bernie’s latest raid takes him to the subdivision of Shady Groves. But things quickly go wrong. First, the house Bernie is robbing turns out to be not as deserted as he thought. And then, a flying saucer from outer space appears in the sky above Shady Groves…

This is a short story of 3600 words or approx. 14 print pages in the The Day the Saucers Came… series, but may be read as a standalone.

 

More information.
Length: 3600 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, Vivlio, 24symbols and XinXii.

The last of the three new The Day the Saucers Came… stories is another July Challenge story. The idea behind this story was “The couple from the painting American Gothic meet aliens.”

Willowbrook Farm
Willowbrook Farm by Cora Buhlert1956: The elderly farmer couple Bob and Mary Graham are crushed by debt and about to lose the family farm to a greedy developer.

But on the day they are supposed to be evicted, a flying saucer from outer space appears in the sky above Willowbrook Farm…

This is a short story of 2700 words or approx. 10 print pages in the The Day the Saucers Came… series, but may be read as a standalone.

 

More information.
Length: 2700 words
List price: 0.99 USD, EUR or GBP
Buy it at Amazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon Germany, Amazon France, Amazon Netherlands, Amazon Spain, Amazon Italy, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Japan, Amazon India, Amazon Mexico, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, Scribd, Smashwords, Thalia, Weltbild, Hugendubel, Buecher.de, DriveThruFiction, Casa del Libro, Vivlio, 24symbols and XinXii.

All The Day the Saucers Came… stories can be read as standalones, but the characters appear in each others’ stories. Acacia Crescent, Azalea Avenue and Appletree Court all happen in the same place, the evocatively named suburb Shady Groves. Lovers’ Lane and Double Feature not only happen in the same small town, the two narrators are also classmates. And in the end, all the characters from the different stories meet up at the same diner.

If you want to read the entire The Day the Saucers Came… series, the cheapest way to do so is via this handy bundle at DriveThruFiction. And in case you noticed that there are some character apearing in the diner scene at the end whose stories have not yet been told, keep watching the skies this space.

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