September 26, 2012

Rabid Reads: "Stupefying Stories 1.6" edited by Bruce Bethke

Stupefying Stories 1.6
edited by Bruce Bethke
Rampant Loon Press (August 2012)
ISBN: 978-1-938834-06-6

After a bit of a wait, I got my hands on the latest issue of Stupefying Stories. This time around, the issue has been dubbed the "Weirder Home and Gardens" edition, as decreed by its editor Bruce Bethke. I don't have a green thumb these days, so if I tried to grow anything out in the garden, chances are it would sprout something pretty weird. All right, I'm on board. Let's see what this issue has to offer.

Things start off with a rather humorous, albeit ghastly, story called "No Onions" by M. Bennardo. With a air of two proper Englishman discussing ghoulish details over tea, a story of a garden with a decidedly horrific harvest. Not exactly an explosive start to the book, but the payoff at the end was good, and the theme of the edition was firmly established.

"The Growing," the second story, from Sylvia Hiven, struck a chord much more to my liking. Surreal at the start, almost out of focus, but as it progresses things become clearer until what you thought you were gazing at becomes something else entirely. And it all started with a lonely woman growing a rose in her flower garden.

"Helen Went Beep" by Erin Entrada Kelly had a fiendish bit of humor to it, with a man at wit's end, insistent with a telephone operator that his wife is a robot--going "beep" in the corner of the room. I also give the story credit for having the best title of the bunch. Funniest story goes to Peter Wood's "Mission Accomplished" about a--shall we say--botched Martian invasion.

My favorite story from this assemblage of a dozen stories, however, is Michael Heneghan's "Rooting for You," though I thought the title a little too clever, but I can appreciate a good bit of wordplay. A writer named Dominic suffering writer's block and a recurring dream of an old man turning into a tree. From there, the story manages to cover a lot of ground as Dominic's life and love are dismantled piece by piece, though not in any graphic manner, but a slow, arduous life of bad choices and regret. It's probably the most poetic of all the stories here, and I'd dare say the one that carries the most resonance--at least for me.

While 1.6 lacked the blockbuster story that 1.5 had, this was another strong outing from Stupefying Stories, and fast becoming one of my go-to spots for speculative fiction. The next edition is already out, released a few weeks ago, so I certainly won't have to wait long for my next fix.

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