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HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER VACATION
by Bruce Bethke
Editor, Stupefying Stories
Vacation. What a strange, alien-sounding word. I think I remember taking a vacation, three or four years ago.
If you’re one of those who knows either me or my wife personally, you know that for us the past four years have been...challenging, to put it very mildly. If you’re one of those who has been following our long-running hospital soap opera, My 95-Year-Old Mother, you also know that said soap opera has superimposed a whole new set of challenges on us in this past year.
If you’ve been following Stupefying Stories on facebook, you know that slightly more than two months ago, as we were in the throes of releasing the July issue, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. This apparently was why I seemed to have boundless energy. My blood sugars were five times higher than normal. I had the metabolism of a hummingbird.
My doctors immediately put me on an aggressive treatment plan, which immediately made things much worse. By the time a month later when we were trying to finish up both the August issue and the long-delayed zombie anthology, and just as the aforementioned soap opera was reaching its dramatic climax for the season, the diagnosis was revised to full-blown Type 1. Apparently my endocrine system was not merely out of adjustment. My pancreas had just plain packed up and quit.
Something had to give, and as it turned out, it was our August release schedule.
Things have begun to stabilize since then. I’m now on a treatment regimen consisting of two different types of insulin and five injections daily, with each dose being calculated based on my latest blood glucose reading and then adjusted by a variety of fudge factors—all things my pancreas used to do autonomically. A remarkable organ, the pancreas; terribly underappreciated. As Joni Mitchell said, “You don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.”
Through the first weeks of August I kept working hard, determined to get the August issue out this month, if not on time, and determined to get Putrefying Stories finished and released—and then Tales from The Wild Weird West—and then Throwbacks!—and then get SHOWCASE caught up-to-date—and then get close to finishing Noir (I still don't like that title), and then—
And then my wife put her foot down. “You can’t keep this up. I’ve borrowed the keys to my sister’s cabin. I’ve arranged for a dog-sitter. You and I are taking a vacation if I have to drag you.”
I’ll admit, I resisted. Right up until the last minute, I was trying to squeeze in “just one more thing before we go.” There was work I needed to do. A meeting I needed to phone-in for. Just one more email I needed to answer...
...and then we got to the cabin, and my spirit guide appeared to me and said, “What is wrong with you? Are you trying to end up in the cardiac ICU again? Relax! Play in the water! Catch some fish!”
And it took me the better part of two days, but I began to remember how to relax again.
I got in a little fishing; completely unproductive, but that’s what I wanted. (Why bother with catch-and-release when you can simply not catch in the first place?) I was taunted repeatedly by a posse of otters, who I came to believe were watching me and would only come out to play when they saw that I didn’t have my camera. My wife and I played several exciting rounds of “What the hell are those things in the water?” and “Am I imagining it, or are they coming closer?”
They're bryozoans, as it turns out, and yes, some species do move on their own, albeit at snail speeds. Crawling coral: now there is an idea that belongs in a science fiction story.
Speaking of science fiction stories, I’ll admit, I did bring a few along...
...but an amazing thing happened. The portable wi-fi hotspot T-Mobile sold me based on the promise that it would work anywhere my cell phone worked didn’t, and in fact turned out to be most useful as a paperweight.
The nearest restaurant with a free wi-fi hotspot turned out to be in the next county, half an hour's drive away, so we only went there once.
And by the end of the week, I’d rediscovered just how relaxing it is to settle in by the side of a cheery blaze—
and curl up with a good manuscript.
And that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
Seriously: we did get in quite a bit of productive editorial work up at the cabin, albeit not as much as I’d planned to when I packed that box full of redundant copies of manuscripts. We also made quite a few autocratic decisions, for the sake of our collective sanity and stress levels. What was planned to be the August issue is now the September issue; what was planned to be the September issue is now the October issue. (And oh boy, should you see the cover Aaron Bradford Starr did for this one!) We’ve started platting out the November and December issues, and they’re filling up quickly.
We tore Putrefying Stories apart and reworked it one more time, this time to bring it up to the same word count as Tales from the Wild Weird West. We took the rest of the stories that were originally planned for Putrefying Stories 2 and combined them with the stories originally planned for the October issue, and repackaged the result as our Second Annual Halloween Special. (Yes, we’ll be doing two books in October again, but this time we’re intentionally declaring one of them to be the Halloween special.)
By the way, I should mention this right now: our October issue and Halloween special are both very close to full-up and sealed. If you’re planning to send us a Halloween-themed story, it’s probably too late, unless your story is so brilliant it will make us want to tear up and redo one or both issues. So if you’re thinking that this is just exactly the right time to send us your hilarious Twilight parody: uh, sorry, no. It isn’t. Too late. Try again next year. Or not.
And while I’m on the subject: we’ve also decided that we absolutely will not run any Christmas-themed stories this year. So if you’ve been waiting for exactly the right moment to send us your horrific “Santa Claus, Serial Killer” story (yeah, right, like we haven’t seen that one fifty times already); again, no. Just don’t.
Back to happier subjects. We’ve settled on the idea that going forward, all Stupefying Stories Presents specials will have the same target word-count, because we’re moving forward with our plans to begin releasing all new titles on Kindle, Nook, iPad, Kobo (still working on that one), and (drum roll, please)—
Thus, having the same word-count means having the same page count, meaning it becomes much easier to do wraparound cover and spine designs...
Oh boy. One more new thing to think about.
There’s more I could talk about. There’s always more I could talk about. But I’ve delayed posting this long enough, and besides, there’s always the next issue of SHOWCASE. Ergo, until then—
Bruce Bethke probably needs to update his professional bio one of these days...but this is not that day.