Timeless Appeal by Shane Tourtellotte
Mr. Brain and the Carpet of Snow by Ezra Pines
Past Waves by Lawrence M. Schoen
Formidolosus: Episode One by Gene P. Lass
Induction by James A. Hartley
Suicide Hotline by Alexander Irvine
Food Network CHI by Jonathan Brandt
Fly Right by Steve Sawicki
The Devil Went Down to Nordstrom by Jonathan Brandt
Fire Hills by Steve Sawicki
In Memorium (J. F.) by Mark Rich
Pantoum of the Foothills by B. A. Chepaitis
The City Breathes by John W. Risinger
Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
The Man With the Barbed-Wire Fists by Norman Partridge
Miscellaneous Short-Fiction Anthologies
Attic Space by Bill Braun
Fly Right by Steve Sawicki
When Johnny first began to fly
He flew so high he touched the sky
But that’s okay, yes, that’s all right
’cause Johnny firstly flew at night
The following day he flew once more
He swooped and sailed, he dipped and soared
He flew for joy, he flew for fun
He thought he’d fly and touch the sun
But Icarus lesson went unlearned
So Johnny flew and Johnny burned
He went to flames so very high
Then trailed dark smoke and fell to die
Both friends and neighbors came to stand
Around the spot John came to land
They shook their heads with no delight
You can’t have both, great joy and light
Food Network CHI by Jonathan Brandt
Ah, faithful Ginsu
Iron Chefs, other False Gods
Shamed in my Dojo
The City Breathes by John W. Risinger
Tiny dragons from Detroit and Japan spew steam,
as their vulcanized paws scrape listlessly at the city’s asphalt veins.
Squalid dollars rub a scratchy note between blue fingers,
the evening rush hour’s guilt-letting that crinkles a duet for cold ears and a numb mind.
The sky smiles, hugely, behind hills of rocky gray clouds, but not enough to cry and wash the ground of salt.
Nerves stretched across miles heave with yoked lightning that bounds between myriad solemn silicon boxes. Only the dead hear the staccato cadence.
A peal of thunder showers lead and blood on the thirsty ground.
The concrete sighs, the last breath before the next frost.
Far away, a siren sings, beckoning a skittish soul to stay.
The Devil Went Down to Nordstroms by Jonathan Brandt
Clerk sips third latte
Even Stock Boy has cell phone
These are … not my shoes
Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link
A dead man cannot remember his wife’s name. Beautiful blonde aliens invade New York. A young girl vanishes. And a naked ghost haunts Louise. Stranger things do happen…but you probably won’t be reading about them anywhere else. When you open Kelly Link’s first book, Stranger Things Happen, a collection of short stories, you’ll find a collision of heart and mind that will transport you to a reality where a hat “can sound like anything you can imagine,” and where ancient gods walk the earth-writing romance novels and baking bread.
These eleven stories are sometimes haunting, sometimes darkly funny, but always moving. They draw on mythology and folklore, and perhaps even more strikingly, on the everyday. It may seem ridiculous to imply that a story about sexy blonde aliens has anything to do with the every day, but its bizarreness is so striking exactly because of the element of the common, such as a young man keeping a journal in which he records his dreams of having sex with his ex-girlfriend. And the narrator lives in her father’s garage, and eats butterscotch out of the jar while waiting for the young man to call. And we all know she’s not in love.
What’s beautiful in these stories is not the wild imagination that launched them into the unknown, but the perceptive grasp of the human condition, the unfailing ability of the author to observe her fellow human beings. The girl detective’s mother is missing. Louise’s daughter wears all green. A young boy is afraid of birds. A librarian will face anything for the girl he loves, even her parents and their big black dogs. It is the simple human elements woven into the grander mystery of the stories that gives them a poignancy that often lacks in fiction. It is the perfectly blended juxtaposition of a woman who carries a list of things she wants to say to her man…as soon as she finds where the Snow Queen carried him off to, that for me makes these stories transcend. So if you are looking for a book of stories to tip the world on its head, and leave you seeing it as it truly is, then I’d say Stranger Things Happen is for you.
The Man With the Barbed-Wire Fists by Norman Partridge
It’s been far too long since a new Norman Partridge book graced my shelves. Partridge quickly became one of my favorite authors in the early nineties with his first novel Slippin’ Into Darkness and some of the stories featured here. The collection contains 24 stories published between 1991 and 2001 with two of the stories being new to this collection. The limited edition included a chapbook of “Attack of the Honda Monsters,” a piece of juvenilia from when Partridge was an early teen. I would suggest that the limited edition is really only for true Partridge fans, but the trade edition is accessible for everyone.
This is one of the best story collections I have in my library. Many of the stories in this collection I had read in their original publications, but there were a few gems I had never seen before and a few gems I rediscovered. Most notably, “Tombstone Moon,” an early story that I missed along the way, carries a maturity that I don’t see often enough among “established” writers. A tale of revenge and double-crossing in which the characters feel real and the plot moves along in a pace that is hard to describe. Partridge’s plots are full of twists and turns but thick and full-bodied. It’s like running through gumbo. “Tombstone Moon” is perhaps the archetypal Partridge story.
Another story worth noting is “Minutes,” perhaps the closest thing to a love story we’ll ever get from Partridge. The two main characters are definitely in a state of conflict, but unable or perhaps unwilling to give up on their love for each other, but at the same time unable to express this love.
Despite being a California native, Partridge reminds me of a number of southern writers. Joe R. Lansdale and Neal Barrett, Jr. are easy connections to make, but there’s also a flavor of Mark Twain and Jim Thompson and maybe even a little Jim Dodge. Having said that, Partridge truly contains one of the more original voices constructing horror/suspense fiction out there. It takes an extremely talented writer to pull off the variety of styles that exists in “Where the Woodbine Twineth,” “The Bars on Satan’s Jailhouse,” and “Mr. Fox.” The reader moves from a civil war story to rival anything from Ambrose Bierce to a supernatural western thriller to a twisted little story about the Kennedy family. To top it off, Partridge takes everything I’ve mentioned so far, and blends it with his life for 1950s iconography.
Basically, if you’ve read Partridge before, you’re buying this collection. If you never have, this is the best way to get initiated into his world. Don’t be surprised if this collection wins some awards next year.
Most of the high fantasy short stories in Assassin Fantastic, edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Alexander Potter, read quickly and easily, despite being chock full of overcomplicated proper nouns and lavish descriptions of costuming and setting. Some of these tales really are about assassins-although not, as the front cover claims, “the most daring death masters”-but the best of the lot is one of the few stories about those who aren’t assassins at all, but victims of circumstance. “Dying by Inches” by Teresa Edgerton is easily the shining star of this collection, a thoughtfully drawn tale of vengeance and regret. Worth reading solely for that tale, save your money and take this book out of your local library.
As a less than regular viewer of the “Xena: Warrior Princess” television series, I was forced to approach this collection of 15 original stories from an uninitiated perspective. The book’s introduction calls the cancellation of the series “the end of an era” and says that “a golden age for both fantasy lovers and television has come to a close.” From the three or five episodes I caught, I wouldn’t say that I missed a “golden age,” but it was definitely an energetic, tongue-in-cheek fantasy series with a number of surreal moments–many involving the way the show both tap-danced around and embraced its appeal to lesbian/queer culture. The stories in the book that recreate this delicate balance are the most fun. These include Robin Wayne Bailey’s “Two Against Thebes” in which the titular city is an off-season tourist town and Xena gets advice from a disco-dancing oracle; Greg Cox’s “Bard and Breakfast” in which Xena saves Gabrielle from a genuinely frightening lamia who want to use her bones in an art piece; and Jennifer Roberson’s “Immortal Desire” in which Gabrielle tries to write a story about Xena’s perfect man. The stories read quickly and are as fluffy, yet satisfying, as the show. The collection also includes work from Esther Friesner, Josepha Sherman, Lyn McConchie, Melissa Good (a scriptwriter for the show), and others. There is a lot here for fans of the shows and connoisseurs of the Xena brand of camp.
An Anthology of Old Magic and New Myths
Not being a devotee of Arthurian myth, I was a bit dubious about Out Of Avalon: An Anthology Of Old Magic And New Myths, edited by Jennifer Roberson. From the first story, however, the collection is captivating. The majority of the tales are from Merlin’s point of view, although some only involve Arthur and Merlin as incidentals in a larger picture, while Tricia Sullivan’s “The Secret Leaves” is a clever take on Nimue’s point of view. This might be better for the novice and/or more open-minded Arthurian aficionado, as the liberties taken with interpreting the myth will quite likely dismay “scholars.” The story-telling is top-notch, each story drastically different from the last, and the length of the tales makes them all perfect for the longish train ride.
by Bill Braun
It’s not all that unusual for the typical movie fan to be familiar with names such as Harrison Ford, Tom Hanks, and Mel Gibson, and associate them as being some of the most recognizable and talented actors in the movie industry. However, I’m curious as to what kind of reaction, if any, you might receive from those same movie fans when the name Bruce Campbell is mentioned? Although not confirmed, I have a pretty good idea that the general response would be something along the lines of…”who?” I suppose that this wouldn’t be an uncommon reaction. Hell, every actor needs to start somewhere.
But for those of us, not necessarily in the minority, who are familiar with the name Bruce Campbell, we understand that he has been slaving away within the Hollywood universe for some time now. As a matter of fact, he has been making movies and staring in television series since the early 80′s. So why is it then that your average moviegoer may not immediately recognize the name? A question that this particular Bruce Campbell fan doesn’t have too much of a hard time answering after meeting the actor in person and reading his autobiography entitled, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor.
To begin with lets just say that the experience of meeting Bruce Campbell in person will be an event remembered for years to come. Then again, some clarification of this statement is in order. Yes, my overall impression of Bruce Campbell as a person is admirable. He is one of the more down to earth people you could ever hope to encounter. As an actor, his head doesn’t seem to be too big for his shoulders. He is both personable and extremely considerate of his fans. He was more than willing to answer any and all questions that were posed to him.
Overall, Bruce Campbell fits the persona of what I consider to be the attributes of a self-proclaimed B movie actor. However, it wasn’t because of my impressions of Mr. Campbell that the experience of meeting him would forever be imprinted on my brain. In all actuality, it was the conditions that surrounded this experience that truly made it memorable.
Picture if you will a mid-July evening in Milwaukee, Wisconsin during an early heat explosion. For those of you who have never experienced a summer in Wisconsin, or anywhere in the Midwest for that matter, try to imagine stepping out of a whirlpool and directly into a steam bath while fully clothed. The phrase “out of the frying pan and into the fire” comes to mind. That, in a nutshell, is what a typical summer in Wisconsin is like. Hot, sticky and uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, that was also what it was like during the entire two-hour book reading and signing that took place on July 17, 2001. That isn’t to say that the bookstore where this event took place didn’t have air conditioning. In fact, you could practically hear the gears and blowers straining to wok in high gear like some decrepit mice that have been forever stuck within their running wheels, the peak of their performance long since used up.
The unfortunate thing wasn’t necessarily having to deal with the heat while trying to listen in on what Bruce was saying. It was the eventual and obligatory stench of human perspiration that began to make its presence known about twenty minutes in. I won’t lie, I’m sure that I contributed my fair share of odors. It’s only natural. But the combined effort of what I estimated to be approximately 200 people ultimately became too much to bare. Yet, my friends and I were able to look beyond this distraction and stick it out for the entire event. That is to say that we eventually figured out the best way to combat these odors and remain conscious was to simply breath easy …and through our mouths.
After listening to Bruce read directly from his book he decided to play the role of your typical book-tour author and answer a few questions from the audience before commencing the arduous task of personalizing book after book after book. Now, I have been to a number of book signings throughout my life. I take great pride in my collection of autographed and personalized books by what I consider to be some of the more creative and ingenious authors of our time. I have also listened intently to the questions that are posed to these same authors and continue to be amazed at the range that these questions encompass.
Basically, my experience at these events has led me to believe that there are two standard forms of questions that are continually asked. These questions fall into the following categories: 1) interesting, creative and curious and 2) simplistic, ridiculous and moronic. During this particular book signing I’ll give you one guess which format the audience chose to use. You’ve got a 50/50 chance of getting it right. Still not sure? Let me repeat one particular question that was asked of Bruce by a member of the audience that just so happened to be standing directly beside me (and yes, he stunk to high hell).
Fan: “Mr. Campbell? Mr. Campbell, over here. Yes, Mr. Campbell I have a question for you. I noticed on the cover of your book there is a picture of your face with a certain tilt to your head. You also happen to be wearing a black shirt. Uh, Mr. Campbell, I was just wondering if you chose this particular picture because it looked so much like the cover to the Rock’s autobiography from the WWF? Because the Rock’s book was selling so well did you think that by having a similar cover that people might confuse the two books and end up buying yours instead, thereby boosting your sales?”
Bruce Campbell: (first silence, then) “Who the fuck is the Rock?”
Sad but true, the majority of the questions that followed didn’t seem to get any better. I eventually began to feel sorry for Bruce for having to put up with such nonsense. Then again, he probably knew what he was getting into when he signed on for this book tour in the first place. Yet I still can’t get over the feeling that after the night was over I didn’t think that we would be seeing much of Bruce Campbell in the Wisconsin area any time soon.
Still, everything seemed to end on a good note. The mass audience patiently waited for their turn to meet the man who I feel coined the term, “groovy.” As a matter of fact, that’s exactly how he ended up signing my copy of his book: “stay groovy.” Others in line also took the opportunity to get their picture taken with him, show off their Evil Dead tattoos and generally have a good time while Bruce Campbell was still in a humorous mood.
Within a few hours after the event I began flipping through the pages of Bruce’s autobiography in order to get a better understanding of his self-proclaimed B movie stardom. After the first few chapters it wasn’t any great surprise to learn that Bruce Campbell didn’t spend years studying the fine art of acting among some of the more prestigious universities that our great country has to offer. As a matter of fact, 6 months spent at Western Michigan University was about all the formal training and education he could stomach before he realized that “college was to be a step backward.”
One might ask how exactly then did Bruce Campbell get his start in acting? The simple truth to that would have to be total dedication, determination and knowing the right people. As it turns out, probably the best person Bruce could have gotten to know and become great friends with is none other than Sam Raimi, the demented brains behind the cult phenomena, and sole reason why I decided to brave the endless heat of July 17, that is Evil Dead.
By far, the relationship that Bruce had with Sam Raimi, and the difficulties in launching the low-budget Evil Dead film, were without a doubt the more interesting aspects of Bruce’s book. That’s not to say that he hasn’t done other things in his life of equal value or credit. It’s just that I, personally, have been a huge fan of the entire Evil Dead series since the first time I had a chance to see Bruce’s character, Ash, in action.
Now I was given a behind the scenes look at what all went into the creation and preservation of his character. The challenges of making a movie on your own while constantly beating down those little voices in your head that continually remind you that your running out of time, money and ideas. It was fascinating to have some of the more unusual shots, camera angles and special effects explained to me by the very person who took an active role in just about its entire creation. What an experience. What a great way to make your mark in the film industry. What a pain in the ass.
A great deal of Bruce Campbell’s autobiography was spent on a behind the scenes look at the Evil Dead franchise: Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2, and Army of Darkness. But it was just as interesting to go through the list of some of his other roles in both film and television. And what a list it is. From starring roles in The Adventures of Brisco County Jr., and Jack of All Trades to “special appearances” in such movies as Congo and John Carpenter’s Escape From L.A. Bruce Campbell is not an amateur when it comes to acting on both big and small screens.
So why does he continue to gravitate to these same roles when he is fully aware of their B quality level of entertainment? Why is he so comfortable labeling himself as a B movie actor? One of the last paragraphs in his book answers these questions in a manner that I consider to be both redeeming and admirable. “…it wasn’t about money or status. I wasn’t working on Herc and Xena [Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess] to advance my career–I was doing it to have fun.” I can’t think of a more refreshing take on the whole idea of acting in Hollywood after constantly hearing about the insane amount of money the more “recognizable” actors and actresses make per movie. Can you?
Best of all, regardless of the fact that Bruce Campbell acknowledges that he doesn’t measure up to other actors, it’s hard to not stumble upon additional forms of media that involve Bruce Campbell and some of the characters he has played. The next time you happen to be wandering through your local Best Buy or Circuit City electronic stores take a look in their video and DVD aisle. You’re bound to come across several different special edition and director’s cut versions of the Evil Dead Trilogy.
Jump a few aisles over and poke your head into the PC/Playstation arena and see how many copies of Bruce’s game, Hail to the King are left on the shelves. Hell, depending on how diverse of a store you’re in, you may even stumble upon the most recent addition to the action figure and lunch box category. The list goes on. Trust me, the list goes on. How many other actor’s careers have launched such a varied form of marketing and entertainment? Take some time to think about it and figure it out for yourselves.
Of course the release of his latest book doesn’t necessarily mean that his carrier has come to an end. Most definitely, and thankfully, not! So what can we expect from Bruce Campbell in the future? Well, for starters, you can keep an eye out for his upcoming movie, Bubba Ho-Tep, an unusual title for an even more unusual story. It’s the movie adaptation from the novella of the same name by Joe R. Lansdale, one of the most diverse and creative authors of our time.
Without going into too much detail, Bruce Campbell plays an elderly Elvis Presley stuck in a retirement home when he is suddenly faced with the predicament of battling a recent, back from the dead, mummy. It’s directed by the infamous Don Coscarelli of Phantasm fame. Bruce talked briefly about this movie during his book signing. What was it that he said? Oh yea, that’s right. “I kicked that mummy’s ass.”
Additionally, you can keep an eye out for the release of Bruce’s first documentary about fans, appropriately entitled Fanalysis. Having listened to Bruce Campbell speak briefly on the subject, it sounds as if there are some real lunatics out there. Who knows, we may even get a closer look at some of those same lunatics who reside in good ‘ole Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Next issue, Mr. Braun gives some insight into how to start viewing the horror classics of master Italian filmmaker, Dario Argento!