Friday, December 30, 2011

Echoes by Lawrence C. Connolly

A mother tries desperately not to give in to her son's fantasy that his younger brother's ghost is in the house. The family was in an accident that left one son dead, and mother and father broken physically and emotionally. The mother tries to change the subject when Billy speaks of his dead brother, Paul. She says maybe he can go with her to the store later, ignoring his mentions of his brother, and hoping she is getting through to him. When the father gets home and the couple sits down to dinner, he asks why the TV is on. She asks for him to let the boy be, but he goes in and turns off the set. He says he doesn't like the set playing to an EMPTY room. The mother goes to the store alone, and the father sits in the empty house, hoping he is getting through to her...

Emotionally charged, dark, well-written, and great little ghost story. Pretty good twist in the end.

Author's Page

There is a short film based on the story. Great cinematography; the use of cool/grey colors that contrast with the warm/bright colors used in the fantasy/flashback are fantastic.

Give Her Hell by Donald A. Wollheim

The narrator physically and verbally abuses his wife and daughter because, "woman know only one master." When his daughter runs away at sixteen he arranges to have her put in an asylum for the rest of her life. His wife eventually runs away with his law partner, who fights to gain custody of the daughter and  looks to sell the narrator out in court. So the narrator turns to the Devil. He makes a deal to have his daughter returned to the asylum, his wife returned home, and his partner killed. The Devil agrees, but wants his soul. The narrator bargains to be reincarnated after his current life is over. The deal is struck, and that very night, the law partner dies in a fire, and his wife escapes the house, but is unable to divorce her husband because of the scandalous pictures taken at the scene. The narrator has it put in his will that the daughter remain in the asylum past his death. As the narrator lies on his deathbed, he complains of Satan "cheating" him. He is to be his own daughter.

Devious little story. "Punishment fits the crime?" You have to hand it to Satan on this one.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Dead Call by William F. Nolan

Frank receives a call from Len, who killed himself a month before. Len tells him about how great death is and he eventually convinces Frank to kill himself. The story ends by telling the reader that the phone is ringing and they'd better answer it...

Very creepy horror story. Does what a good horror story should: evokes and disturbs the reader.

The Curse of Hooligan's Bar by Charles E. Fritch

The narrator sits alone at Hooligan's bar on New Year's Eve and orders Martinis. Hooligan gives him a martini "on the house," so he doesn't complain about the drink missing an olive. When the clock strikes twelve and the celebration begins around him, the narrator spots a tiny leprechaun vampire emerge form the cuckoo clock. The narrator, down on his luck, strikes a deal with the his new friend where they will both make it in showbiz. As he goes to tell Hooligan, the bartender stabs the tiny vampire through the heart with a toothpick, thinking he was an olive with his red hair and green get-up.

Pretty good little story. Reads like a long joke with a pretty good punch line at the end.

Controlled Experiment by Rick Conley

A scientist resigns his position after he admits to manipulating the results of his experiment on lab rats and their ability to use telekinesis. The story ends with his replacement committing the same scientific malfeasance, being controlled by the rats...

Nice little story. Great twist in the end.

Climacteric by Avram Davidson

A young man takes his date on a drive up to the mountains and he tells her of his dreams as a child: saving a beautiful girl like herself from dragons. Then he takes her to a path where "no one can see them" and feeds her to his dragon.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chalk Talk by Edward Wellen

An English professor cannot profess his love for a revival professor until his lecture notes on Chomsky literally leap from the chalk board, run down the hall, and rearrange themselves on the rival's board in a Freudian love note.

Fantastic flights of fun Freudian fantasy.

Chained by Barry N. Malzberg

First-person account from (The Ghost) King Hamlet's perspective. Quickly recounts the entire play and adds a little including an ill-attempt to warn Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He is joined by Claudius and others in the afterlife and there are references to Macbeth.

Superbly humorous tone (Refers to both Ophelia and Gertrude as bitches!). Great treat for Hamlet fans, or any fan of the Bard for that matter. Drops the Elizabethan language and does some plain-prose satire. Great fun.

The Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Harlan Elllison

Patrick Fenton sits at a cafe window and has terrifying visions of dead Nazi war criminals he saw put to death at the Nuremberg trials. He rushes out to the street and tries to confront the ghosts, but they shun him. It is suggested Fenton changed his name, and identity at Ellis Island, hiding his wrong doings during the war. It ends with a "purple glow" surrounding him, and the street becoming night.

Concise little story about atonement. Great use of the thematic issues of war criminals trying to escape their past, or simply losing the swastika after the war (Inglourious Basterds! see it). Lots of Nazis tried to change their close after the war to escape the injustices to mankind that they did. This story relates the nightmares they might endure.

Good Related Films:
Inglourious Basterds
The Debt (Great little film)
Marathon Man (Classic)

Have not seen it, but heard it's good: Apt Pupil

At the Bureau by Steve Rasnic Tem

The story of a fishing permit administrator who becomes obsessed with a shadowy figure that watches him outside of his bleak, lifeless office. He becomes angry and tries to catch the figure in the hall, only to find himself staring in at the man in his office, a shadowy figure himself.

The ultimate stir-crazy short story. A haunting and methodically paced tale, about the banality of office work and the insanity it can cause.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Angelica by Jane Yolen

The story, set in Linz, Austria, 1898, begins with a young boy named Addie, unable to sleep so he takes a walk and slips down a hill and into a river. He is pulled to safety by an Angel-like figure named Angelica, although she explains that is not her real name. She says he can not pronounce her real name: Pistias Sophia, or the angel of wisdom and faith. They converse and then she leads him back to his house- the Hitler home...

Twisted story about having too much faith in mankind, or maybe simply that it is important for mankind to be tested. Either way, it is a good little read and a great twist in the end.

The Spectacles by Edgar Allan Poe

Via Wikipedia:

The narrator, 22-year old Napoleon Buonaparte, changes his last name from "Froissart" to "Simpson" as a requirement to inherit a large sum from a distant cousin, Adolphus Simpson. At the opera he sees a beautiful woman in the audience and falls in love instantly. He describes her beauty at length, despite not being able to see her well; he requires spectacles but, in his vanity, "resolutely refused to employ them." His companion identifies the woman as Madame Eugenie Lalande, a wealthy widow, and promises to introduce the two. He courts her and proposes marriage; she makes him promise that, on their wedding night, he will wear his spectacles.
When he puts on the spectacles, he sees that she is a toothless old woman. He expresses horror at her appearance, and even more so when he learns she is 82 years old. She begins a rant about a very foolish descendant of hers, one Napoleon Bonaparte Froissart. He realizes that she is his great-great-grandmother. Madame Lalande, who is also Mrs. Simpson, had come to America to meet her husband's heir. She was accompanied by a much younger relative, Madame Lalande. Whenever the narrator spoke of "Madame Lalande," everyone assumed he meant the younger woman. When the elder Madame Lalande discovered that he had mistaken her for a young woman because of his eyesight, and that he had been openly courting her instead of being civil to a relative, she decided to play a trick on him. The marriage was a fake. He ends by marrying the younger Madame Lalande and vows to "never be met without SPECTACLES."

One of Poe's comedy tales. Had the author's usual whit and irony. Superbly interesting, yet with the name Poe I was expecting a more sinister end, but a very satisfying one, none the less. Worth a good read.

A Dozen of Everything by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Marcie is granted one wish from a Djinn that is freed from an old bottle she received from stingy aunt as a wedding gift. She wishes for a "dozen of everything" so that her and her husband Greg can get started on the right foot. When she gets home, she is welcomed by twelve husbands.

"Be careful what you wish for."

More importantly: "Be sure to say what you mean."

Clever little short.