Posts Tagged ‘Suspense’

Who could resist a call like this, for “any kind of story related to plants, forests, gardens, or anything scary/dark/bizarre in relation to vegetable matter.”  Certainly not I.  So off I sent a 3500-word story, another reprint this time (but what the heck, if you got ‘em, flaunt ‘em) originally published in the February 1997 KEEN SCIENCE FICTION titled “Seeds,” a tale of old love possibly being supplanted by new, backyard flowerbeds, and the Chicago Cubs.  No, they still lost ChupaCabraHousegames back then as well.  But then today came the accepting email:  “This is Alex Hurst from Chupa Cabra House Publishing. I’d like to thank you again for your submission to our eco-horror anthology GROWING CONCERNS and am quite pleased to inform you that your story has been accepted for inclusion.  I loved the dark humor of this story, and the circular nature of the plot’s various tendrils, and hope our readers will enjoy it just as much.

“Please expect further correspondence from our Chief Editor, Timm Tayshun, regarding rights and contracts, and feel free to contact me with any more questions.”

And so, “The First Hundred Years” (see below, November 1) actually having being officially accepted October 31, here is the first sale of the new month only four days in.  Publisher Chupa Cabra House has been on these pages before, however, with another reprint story, “Invisible People,” set to be published in WE WALK INVISIBLE (cf. September 23) and three poems presumably already out in RADICAL DISLOCATIONS (cf. September 1, et al. — my author’s copy actiually hasn’t arrived yet so I can’t comment on it, but hopefully it will be along soon).

In the meantime, Weldon Burge of Smart Rhino Publications has just announced a special sale on their anthology UNCOMMON ASSASSINS on Kindle starting tomorrow,  November 5, at 6:00 PM PST.  To quote further from their Facebbook ad:

“Here’s how it breaks down:

“Nov. 5 at 6:00 PM = $0.99 (76% discount)

“Nov. 7 at 6:00 PM = $1.99 (51% discount)

“Nov. 9 at 6:00 PM = $2.99 (26% discount)

“Nov. 11 at 6:00 PM = Original list price $3.99

“Hired killers.  Vigilantes.  Executioners.  Paid killers or assassins working from a moral or political motivation.  You’ll find them all in this thrilling anthology.  But these are not ordinary killers, not your run-of-the-mill hitmen.  The emphasis is on the ‘uncommon’ here — unusual characters, usual situations, and especially unusual means of killing.”

My pony in this paddock is called “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” of which, if interested in buying it and its companions at a possibly very deep discount, or just for more information, press here.

“Hired killers.  Vigilantes.  Executioners.  Paid killers or assassins working from a moral or political motivation.  You’ll find them all in this thrilling anthology.  But these are not ordinary killers, not your run-of-the-mill hitmen.  The emphasis is on the ‘uncommon’ here — unusual characters, usual situations, and especially unusual means of killing.”  So goes the blurb.  “Here are tales by some of the best suspense/thriller writers today, [ranging from] historical fiction to science fiction to political thriller — there’s even an alternate history story in the mix.”  Published by Smart Rhino Publications, UNCOMMON ASSASSINS was originally planned for this fall (see April 17), but, at least on Amazon, has come out early with their release date listed as August 14.

And do I have a shot in this shebang?  You just bet I do, “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE on November 1991 — my first ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S appearance as a matter of fact (for another tale of mine originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’s, incidentally, click on the picture of VANITAS in the center column).  As for other non-run-of-the-mill malefactors to be found in UNCOMMON ASSASSINS’s pages, here is a partial table of contents (or, put another way, the latest interim one I could find).

Stories aleady accepted for this anthology include:
Stephen England, Nightshade
J. Gregory Smith, The Pepper Tyrant
Lisa Mannetti, Everybody Wins
Ken Goldman Fat Larry’s Night With the Alligators
Christine Morgan, Thyf’s Tale
Matt Hilton, Misconceptions
Billie Sue Mosiman, Second Amendment Solution
Ken Bruen, Killer
Rob M. Miller For the Love of Boys
Monica O’Rourke, Bloodshed Fred
F. Paul Wilson, Slasher
Joseph Badal, Fire & Ice
Doug Blakeslee, Madame
Elliott Capon, The Man Who Shot Hitler
Laura DiSilverio, Mercy Killing
Michael Bailey, Scrub
James Dorr, The Wellmaster’s Daughter
Jonathan Templar, Wish I’d Never Met You
J. Carson Black, The Bluelight Special
Weldon Burge, Welcome to the Food Chain
Al Boudreau, Inside Out
Charles Colyott, Katakiuchi
Lynn Mann, Taking Care of Business

So if you’ve a mind to, check it out here, and enjoy, enjoy!

I watched an odd Irish film a few nights back, DEAD BODIES (2003), about a guy who accidentally kills his ex-girlfriend (who had moved back in to his apartment because after they broke up she found she couldn’t get along with going back to living with her mother). So, because he’d pushed past her leaving his place to get out of an argument, he reasons she must have tripped and fell, and scared he’ll be arrested for manslaughter he pretends she’d left already and then takes the body out to the woods and buries it. The problem is, as he digs the hole, he discovers there’s already a body there — so girlfriend gets dumped on top.  So a dog digging in the woods leads to ex-girlfriend’s body’s discovery, followed by police also finding body #2 and identifying it as a politician’s wife who’d disappeared eight years ago. . . .  And, the thing is, the movie wasn’t played for comedy but was serious (and a bit sad) pretty much all the way through.

However there’s a little bit more.  The investigating policeman seems to have a past and, well, the original guy gets himself a new girlfriend who may have an agenda too.  Or maybe the guy’s just the world’s biggest loser.  Nevertheless, the film walks a knife-thin line between absurdity (check girlfriend #1, you’ll be glad when she’s gone!) and nihilism (it’s billed on the cover as suspense except nobody much seems to give a damn; for me, in fact, it’s reminiscent of the final scenes of the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD where, even if you do everything right to survive the night, you’re still shot the next morning — and here nobody even makes the attempt to do things right).  Moreover, it was nominated for seven Irish Film and Television Awards and won in three categories (Best Actor for lead Andrew Scott, Best Editing, and Best Sound/Sound Editing).  So, while I almost regret having to say it, I think DEAD BODIES will be worth a second look.

Then several weeks back (life intervenes, I’m only getting around to reviewing them now) the Fox HD channel finally showed AVATAR (2009 — gee, it doesn’t seem that long back) and, the following night, perusing the freebies on the local cable’s “Movies on Demand” I ran across 1959’s THE ANGRY RED PLANET.  Thus seen back to back, the thing that struck me is they tell the same story.  ANGRY RED PLANET begins with the discovery of the presumed lost first ship to Mars in a near-Earth orbit, allowing ground control to signal the ship’s computer to bring it back to base.  Two of four crew members are still aboard, the Pretty, Young, Civilian Female Assistant Scientist and  the Handsome Young Captain, the latter of whom has a space fungus of some sort growing on his arm that threatens to take over his entire body.  Also the data tapes the ship should have detailing what happened have been erased and, when they ask the assistant scientist, she more or less goes into shock, so they (and we) have to find out the story via hypnosis (and flashback).  AVATAR has to do with an Earthling base on an alien planet where folks want to mine a rare mineral called “unobtainium” (for which, Heaven help me, I chronically mentally substituted the old ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE SHOW’s “upsidaisium”), trying to get in good with the natives (or at least learn where the stuff is and, if they can’t be talked into cooperating, where their vulnerabilities are) via mind transplants into cloned native bodies.

So, the ANGRY RED space crew consists of four stock characters, seen in various manifestations from the mid 1940s (World War II films at first, later Cold War era science fiction) to at least the mid ‘60s:  1. The Handsome Young Captain, 2. the Pretty Civilian Female Assistant Scientist, 3. the Older Usually Civilian Head Scientist, and 4. the Mildly Obnoxious Working Class Joe Who’s Often from Brooklyn  (in this case a non-commissioned officer who actually references Brooklyn, but who doesn’t really attempt the accent).  Also, just so you’ll know — and this isn’t really a spoiler, just straight formula — #s 3 and 4 will be least likely to survive.  In AVATAR, however, they’re brought back in new guises, #1 becoming a wounded, wheelchair-bound Marine who’s mind-transferred into a  Handsome Young Native (who later becomes a planet-wide high chief), #2 a Pretty Native Female (an on the ground expert, as it were, who mentors #1 — and also just happens to be the local chief’s daughter), #3 an Older Female Civilian Head Scientist, and #4 a promotion to More-Than-Just-Mildly Obnoxious Head Officer With Working Class Manners.  As for survival, you have your scorecards.  Things don’t go too well in AVATAR, however, though much of the earlier part of the film concerns various adventures the hero has in learning about the planet (one of which, the flying reptile lesson, is eerily reminiscent of a more extended sequence in 2002’s DINOTOPIA).  It seems the upsi-oops-unobtanium is underneath one of only (I think) four World Trees which, since the natives consider these sacred, is not a good omen, and to which the Head Scientist adds some vague mumbo-jumbo about the whole planet having maybe some kind of hive mind.  Fighting ensues, the upshot of which is most of the humans are kicked off because, well, while we humans have made admirably enormous scientific and technological strides, they’ve far outstripped our abilities at socialization (particularly with non-human species).  In ANGRY RED, on the other hand, once into the flashback we see the crew having various adventures in which they learn about Mars (a three-eyed monster is seen through the landed spaceship’s porthole, a plant tries to eat the Pretty Female Assistant [setting up a stock Rescue by the Handsome Young Captain situation — by AVATAR standards ANGRY RED is blatantly sexist, Cappy’s continually tying to put the make on her aboard the ship too, but then it was made 50 years before], a lake monster attacks just as they spot a distant Martian city, a giant amoeba-like goo thing attempts to absorb the ship, and the ship is held on the planet for a time by a mysterious force field) as well as hear the Older Head Scientist opine some vague mumbo-jumbo about the whole planet having maybe some kind of hive mind.   The upshot of which is, the force field having finally let the ship go, the hypnosis having been a success, the means to cure the Captain’s space fungus (a souvenir of the amoeba-like goo thing) learned, a final non-erased data tape is discovered in which we see the three-eyed monster telling us that our scientific and technological advancement has far outstripped our abilities at socialization and Don’t Come Back.

Are these films worth seeing?  Yes.  (Granted ANGRY RED PLANET contains sexism — well, let’s face it, once he’s cured of the Martian goo, the Captain nowadays would probably be up on sexual harassment charges — and AVATAR a sort of queasy noble savage/Native American ambience that I suspect might irritate me mightily if I were Native American myself, but, even with one just three years old, perhaps these films can be seen as simply typical of their times, and possibly even of extra sociological interest for it.)  The “message,” if not ground-breaking, holds up well enough and the story line, if a bit simplistic, provides sufficient adventure for a good night’s entertainment.  The special effects, though, are something else:  ANGRY RED PLANET, once boots are on the ground, is angry and red through a system of ultra low budget red-tinted stock with occasional solarization, with puppet monsters (did I mention the combination giant rat/bat/crab/spider?) against actually well done matte backgrounds.  These intersperse with aboard-ship scenes that are strictly standard providing a contrast that, if perhaps not even intended to be “realistic,” are even better.  They’re interesting.  And with AVATAR I can say almost the same thing.  Much, much, much, much more expensively done with state of the art computer effects (the only fault of which is that occasionally one remembers what’s being watched is still essentially a cartoon — the fault in this case, though, being much more the viewer’s than the presenters’) contrasted with grittier, pretty much standard by today’s taste scenes on the human base.  But as for the “on the ground” scenes in AVATAR, cartoons or no, the impression is beautiful.

Got crime?  Violence?  Mystery?  Thrillers?  Monday night’s email brought  another acceptance from an anthology called UNCOMMON ASSASSINS, to be published by Smart Rhino Publications.  This one is not for horror as such, but “thriller/suspense stories in which the central character is a hired killer, assassin, hitman/woman, vigilante, sniper, or someone forced to kill for circumstances beyond his/her control.   . . .  a mix of stories:  noir, contemporary crime fiction, police procedural, historical fiction, dark fiction, steampunk, or even a hybrid of genres.  Use your imagination!  The emphasis is on ‘uncommon’ here.”  And so this was the reply to my submission, “The Wellmaster’s Daughter,” an ethnic tale of the Sahara Desert and a father forced to turn wrong to right at a horrific cost, originally published in ALFRED HITCHCOCK’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE in November 1991:  “I enjoyed the story and, although it is quite different from the hitman/paid assassin stories currently in the anthology, I would like to accept the story.  I think the readers will enjoy it!”

UNCOMMON ASSASSINS will be officially open for submissions until June 30, but could fill up sooner so any interested should start considering things to send now.  Publication is tentatively scheduled for Fall 2012.  What is not wanted are simple serial killer stories – characters here “should be paid killers or assassins working from a moral or political motivation . . . they are doing this more for others than themselves.”  Also not wanted are supernatural horror stories – “the focus here is on suspense/thriller fiction, not horror.  Futuristic or science fiction will be considered as long as suspense/thriller elements are evident.”  UNCOMMON ASSASSINS also pays, granted not much but a little, and while preferring original work will also consider reprints from 2500 to 8000 words (with a preference for shorter over longer).

If intrigued, complete guidelines are available here.

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