Stupefying Stories: March 2012 Volume 1, No. 5
edited by Bruce Bethke
Rampant Loon Press (2012)
Since I started reading short stories online through assorted periodicals, I've developed a few go-to spots. We've all got 'em. And with 2012, I found a couple more, one of them being Bruce Bethke's Stupefying Stories. Each issue is different, the latest one I got is the March issue which had the playful "Sex and Dead Presidents" theme.
In the introduction, Bruce makes it known that he's got a favorite in the opening story by Beth Cato, and after I read it I can see why. "Red Dust and Dancing Horses" tells the story of Nara, a young girl living on Mars and wishing she could have a horse. But horses aren't exactly common, not even on that old relic called Earth. So, with the spare parts from her father's workshop, she decides she will build a horse. And finds inspiration when she learns of a special artifact from Earth is being housed in a warehouse she visits for a school project. The awe and inspiration of this story is just spellbinding and it wound up being my favorite from the ten stories included in this issue.
Another standout for me was "Lincoln's Revanant" by Chuck Bordell, a Civil War story about a soldier with a terrible, hereditery gift that gives him a special insight into the war and the killing that ensues. The tragic element is right out there like an exposed bone and you can feel the pain of the protagonist just as if it was.
A segue of sorts is the Civil War when it comes to another story I enjoyed called "Cog Noscenti" by Aaron Bradford Starr, with its wonderfully alternate history tale that has Abraham Lincoln operating as a secret assassin in the wake of his own assassination. The steampunkishly (can that be a word?) resurrected president has some allies from history as well, including the man behind the organization he's working for--and happens to be a former president in his own right. The narrative jumps back and forth a bit much for my liking in a short story, but still a really fun story.
While I didn't enjoy all of the stories, all of them were wonderfully imaginative sci-fi yarns. "Induction Day" by J.R. Johnson was a dragon story of sorts with folksy charm, as opposed to a quirkily dark story about extra-terrestrials by Kersley Fitzgerald called "Greater Love." It's stories like these that I might not find stupefying, but definitely would call them entertaining. If you have discovered this anthology series yet, you should look it up. As themes change from issue to issue, you're bound to find something you like.