The Black Cat, No. 3, December 1895

Welcome to the third issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

Stories

“The Great Star Ruby” by Barnes Macgreggor

A group gathered late in the evening of the Melbourne Cup discuss the days events, including the opening of the opera house and the woman with the ruby headdress who caused quite a stir. This leads a late-comer to tell the tale of a great star ruby that led to many adventures and some tragedies. This story ends up being much like Macgreggor’s story in issue one, right down to the “savages” and the slight twist ending.

“The Interrupted Banquet” by Rene Bache

Though quite familiar with the street, I could not remember having seen that particular house before.

This is an ominous beginning to a story. Our narrator assures us that he never would have thought to go into the house if the lady he were with hadn’t confidently let herself in. They go upstairs and sit down to dinner. Around the table are a group of strange characters including a man that our narrator thinks is his old friend, Bill, from college. Except Bill has been dead for eight years… The story goes mostly as expected from there. The only other Rene Bache on Google wrote articles for Scientific American. Studied at Yale and Harvard.

This story is by far my favorite of the month

“The Archangel” by James Q. Hyatt

Two guys out hunting are approached by an old codger whose name, he says, is the Archangel. Since every one is being so lazy, the Archangel tells them how he got his name. It seems that in his younger years he lived with a guy named Adolphe. Adolphe was very good at all the cooking and chores, but “Archangel” decided that they(?) should send away for a wife. After receiving no answers to his inquiry for a quite a while, “Archangel” finally got a letter a woman. But this all turns out to be a ruse. The name “Archangel” was given due to an act of mercy.

“Asleep at Lone Mountain” by  H. D. Umbstaetter

A quiet little boy with no name, only a toddler really, is put of a train to Omaha where his father awaits. The little boy is taken under the wing of the passengers and is named Grit. (This is done via auction because the passengers are bored. The the proceeds from the auction go to the boy and his father.) While this story lacks one of Umbstaetter’s usual twist endings, it’s ultimately a sad and slightly pointless story.

“Kootchie” by Harold Kinsabby

A quick, humorous tale about a dog and a cat and their owners. And while looking up Harold Kinsabby (which I probably had done before, this is his second story in The Black Cat), I found out that this name, as well of Barnes Macgreggor, are pseudonyms for H. D. Umbstaetter! H. D. has been padding out his magazine for the first few months!

“Frazer’s Find” by Roberta Littlehale

Littlehale rounds out this issue with a tragic-romantic tale of a man seeking his fortune in the west who finds a youth hiding after an Indian attack. The boy is not quite what he seems, but Frazer shows a tremendous amount of devotion and responsibility even when it wouldn’t be the best for him personally.

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No ads. I wonder if the holidays took their toll on this issue. Maybe October isn’t a great month to launch a magazine.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 3, December 1895

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

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The Black Cat, No. 2, November 1895

Welcome to the second issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project! While this issue weighed in with the same number of pages, fifty, it was a story lighter and all together felt shorter. Also, the stories didn’t feel as strong. Here’s to hoping that issue no. 3 is a return to form.

Stories

“A Calaveras Hold-Up” by Roberta Littlehale

Littlehale takes us to the Sierra’s in the 1880s once again with another western-romance. Billy Owen is a man with a questionable past. (His gun is named Betty…) Rudy Field is the preacher’s daughter. Billy never had a chance and falls in love with Rudy. Alas, his attempt to go straight isn’t providing “something to live on,” in the words of Rudy’s father. So Billy plans one last heist… It doesn’t go well. I enjoyed this story more than last month’s “In the Gold Time.”

This is also my runner-up for favorite of the month.

“From a Trolley Post” by Margaret Dodge

A man stands waiting for a trolley in Boston on a drizzly, windy day. Bored, he is entertained by the antics of a boy from Texas and an organ grinder’s monkey. The ending of this story might be tragic, but we miss it because the man’s trolley finally arrives. Couldn’t find much on Margaret Dodge other than she had a few stories in a few magazines around 1900.

“An Andenken” by Julia Magruder

Ethel is a lovely young painter taking a working summer holiday in the Alps. She is intrigued by the murals in the village and the andenken, or roadside memorial pictures. While the artwork is crude, it has great heart. Ethel meets the painter, Anton, and endeavors to give him lessons. Unfortunately, Ethel is engaged and Anton believes that she is more than just his teacher. Julia Magruder had my favorite story of issue no. 1 with the deliciously gothic “The Secret of the White Castle.” This story doesn’t hold together as well.

“The Man from Maine” by J. D. Ellsworth

This is a humorous tale about a man on a long train train observing some of his fellow passengers, especially the man from Maine.  The man from Maine is the picture of Yankee frugality and abstinence. But he will play some card if gambling isn’t involved. And he will take a pull on a flask—for medicinal reasons only, of course. Alas, he does seem to be ailing quite often.  Is this the same J. D. Ellsworth that wrote Reading Ancient Greek? I don’t know.

“A Wedding Tombstone” by Clarice Irene Clinghan

An “angular schoolgirl of fifteen” listens to her grandmother tell the story of Melindy Barbour’s wedding tombstone. The Barbours were an aloof family that lived in Ragged Corner. Mr. Barbour committed suicide while in prison. The son, Mortimer, and his mother were unusually close. When she died, Mortimer kept to himself until lovely Melindy McAllister arrived in town. The two fall in love, but a shadow is cast on their marriage by a tombstone with Melindy’s name on it. Clarice Irene Clinghan has a couple of ghost stories to her name as well as a novel, That Girl From Bogota.

My favorite of the month.

“The Other One” by A. H. Gibson

Caleb Parton, a wealthy eccentric former wine merchant living in the hills of West Virginia, tells Mr. Hope (who works for a bank) the Poe-esaque story of his rivalry with Judson Pickford. The story is creepy, but Gibson rushes his gotcha ending. Is this the same A. H. Gibson that wrote Hydraulics and its applications? That A. H. Gibson would only be age 17 at the time of this publication, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

“Stateroom Six” by William Albert Lewis

A tale told on a river boat about a gambler and a toddler put into his charge who ends up with a bundle of money when the gambler is shot dead. Very short and anecdote-like.

“Her Eyes, Your Honor” by H. D. Umbstaetter

A young woman is on trial for the brutal murder of another woman. All the evidence is circumstantial, and the crowd firmly believes that hot-shot lawyer McWhorter will prove her innocence. But strangely, he doesn’t provide much defense at all… The second story from The Black Cat‘s illustrious editor and another zigger of an ending.

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No new advertisers in issue no. 2.  American Hair Cloth Company of Pawtucket, R.I. had the whole back page.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 2, November 1895

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

The Black Cat, No. 1, October 1895

Welcome to the first issue of The Black Cat and the first post of the Black Cat Project!

Something that I find interesting about 19th and early 20th century fiction magazines is that most of them were not “niche.” While there were plenty of specialized nonfiction periodicals, genre magazines don’t seem to gain traction until the late 1910s. So, a short story magazine of the this period might include stories of different genres. What we’d now classify as mysteries, adventures, romances, horror, and science fiction might all be included in one magazine that a subscriber might read cover to cover.

Stories

“In Gold Time” by Roberta Littlehale

A western-ish story set in Gold Rush era California. While a contractor and an civil engineer ride through the desolation of Northern California, one tells the tale of two men vying for the hand of the most/only eligible woman in San Francisco. More of an anecdote than a solid story, but Littlehale does a nice job setting the stage with a night-time ride. Robetra Littlehale will appear again as a Black Cat author, but I wasn’t able to find any other information about her.

“The Unturned Trump” by Barnes Macgreggor

Oh, 1895, your prejudices are many… In this story, while adrift on the foggy and iced-over East River one morning, several men sit down to an impromptu game of euchre. Before the trump is turned though, the supplier of the cards goes on a tangent about a story he heard of an American who was travelling in Syria and ended up being taken captive by a group of blood-thirsty (and not too bright)  “Mohammedan” robbers. Turns out he was the American. Macgreggor will be a return author as well, but also otherwise did not have much of a writing career.

“The Secret of the White Castle” by Julia Magruder

Julia Magruder was known outside of the pages of The Black Cat. The Virginia author had a fairly successful career as a novelist and children’s writer. “The Secret of the White Castle” is a nice piece of gothic literature. Our unnamed narrator rents the Chateau Blanc in hopes of curing his melancholy. The house appealed to him due to the strange picture of the previous owner that hangs in the bedroom and the stuffed pet swan that somewhat floats on the lake. He’s sure there is a mystery to these objects…and there is!

This was my favorite of the issue. I might even seek out some of Ms. Magruder’s novels.

“Miss Wood,—Stenographer” by Granville Sharpe

“Miss Wood,—Stenographer” is a nice little mystery too. Miss Wood’s story is related by Detective Gilbert as a story she told him bout a job she was hired to do. Abruptly, she was from her stenography school classes because she is proficient in sign language (her little sister is a deaf mute). She is sent to take down the dying words of a metallurgist. Since his sister-and-law and nephew believe  Miss Wood is deaf as well, they freely discuss their plan to gain the old man’s secret formula for smelting steel-hard copper. I’m going to assume that the author, Granville Sharp, is not the same Granville Sharp as the abolitionist who died in 1813…

Runner-up for favorite story of the issue.

“Her Hoodoo” by Harold Kinsabby

This is actually a rather sweet story about “a real Rocky Mountain cow-girl, in all her glory”. Our narrator is a tender-foot who goes to Colorado to “hunt ozone” for his bad lungs. He gets lost in the wilderness and is found by the cow-girl, a woman educated at Wesleyan, but type-cast locally due to her soft heart and affinity for animals, especially a naughty, spotted heifer.  Kinsabby has a couple stories in future issues, but I find no other biological references to him.

“In a Tiger Trap” by Charles Edward Barns

“The royal Maylay tiger is no gentleman” begins this adventure anecdote, which seems to be a general form of story in this era. And it pretty much details a story of attempting to retrap a tiger that had already been captured and let loose once. Thankfully, this story isn’t too cringe-worthy toward the peoples of Malaysia. Charles Edward Barns was a writer, journalist, astronomer, and publisher. He has at least one more story included in a future issue of The Black Cat.

“The Red-Hot Dollar” by H. D. Umbstaetter

A newlywed accidentally misses his train (is bride sent on without him) and ends up becoming obsessed with a silver dollar he is given as change. Why? We don’t know until the last page. Actually, “The Red-Hot Dollar” could have been a really nice mystery if it had been told a little better…maybe through the wife’s point of view. I suppose the reader is meant to wonder and try to puzzle out what’s going on, but we’re not really given enough information. H. D. Umbstaetter is the editor of The Black Cat as well as being a contributor.

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Not many ads in the first issue. American Hair Cloth Company had pretty much the entire last page. Click to read all about their “light as air” crinoline.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 1, October 1895

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

Review ~ Frankenstein Dreams

Cover via Goodreads

Frankenstein Dreams: A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Science Fiction edited by Michael Sims

Long before 1984, Star Wars, or The Hunger Games, Victorian authors imagined a future where new science and technologies reshaped the world and universe they knew. The great themes of modern science fiction showed up surprisingly early: space and time travel, dystopian societies, even dangerously independent machines, all inspiring the speculative fiction of the Victorian era.

In Frankenstein Dreams, Michael Sims has gathered many of the very finest stories, some by classic writers such as Jules Verne, Mary Shelley, and H.G. Wells, but many that will surprise general readers. Dark visions of the human psyche emerge in Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s “The Monarch of Dreams,” while Mary E. Wilkins Freeman provides a glimpse of “the fifth dimension” in her provocative tale “The Hall Bedroom.’

With contributions by Edgar Allan Poe, Alice Fuller, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, Arthur Conan Doyle, and many others, each introduced by Michael Sims, whose elegant introduction provides valuable literary and historical context, Frankenstein Dreams is a treasure trove of stories known and rediscovered. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
At the beginning of last year, I noticed that many of the “literary” writers of the late 19th and early 20th century seemed to have a real enthusiasm for science that spilled into their works. In that time period, there seems to be a fuzzier boundary between literary and  genre.

What Worked
Frankenstein Dreams is chronological survey of science fiction starting at the publication of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein in 1818, which can arguably be considered the beginning of the genre. All types of science fiction are included: bats on the moon, a tale of mesmerism (which was thought to be a science), high-tech submarines, augmented humans, augmented dinosaurs, time travel, future societies, and more!

Included are some of the “genre” authors you’d expect (like Edgar Alan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, and Jules Verne) along with some classic authors I don’t think of as having genre connections (like Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy) and many authors I wasn’t familiar with at all.

A surprise favorite was “The Senator’s Daughter” by Edward Page Mitchell. The introduction made me worry that it was going to be a very scattershot view of the future world of 1937 (it was published in 1879). I was further worried that about the premise of the US having been conquered by “the Mongolians.” If you read enough Victorian Era stories, you’ll come up against cringe-worthy Yellow Peril propaganda every-so-often. Mitchell’s story is thoughtful though, dealing with an interracial relationship that, while isn’t approved of, exists! Mitchell has two stories in the anthology. The other, “The Clock that Went Backwards,” is a time-travel tale. (I also recently read Mitchell’s “The Ablest Man in the World” for my automaton anthology. Definitely an early name in SF.)

What Didn’t Work
There were a few excerpts. In fact, the anthology starts with a series of excerpts from Frankenstein, which I would think a reader would be somewhat familiar with if they’re reading this book. Other excerpts are from Wells’ Island of Dr. Moreau, Vernes’ Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the SeaStrange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, and Two on a Tower by Hardy. The excerpts work more or less as stand alone stories, but I wish Sims would have stuck to short  stories only.

My other sort of half-problem was that some of the stories weren’t really science fiction. “The Monarch of Dreams” by Thomas Wentworth Higginson involves the attempt by the narrator to control his dreams, but it’s more fantastical than science-based. The same goes for Mary E Wilkins Freeman’s very good “The Hall Bedroom.” While there’s speculation of a fifth dimension, what occurs could as easily be called a haunting.

“Monsters of Magnitude” by Thomas Hardy (what Sims decided to call the excerpt of Two on a Tower) isn’t really science fiction, but is more like science *in* fiction, which is part of what I find interesting about a lot of literature in the Victorian era. As I also noted on Twitter, this excerpt makes me want to read the novel; I had sworn to forever hate Thomas Hardy since an unfortunate circumstance of being made to read him in the 7th grade. Similarly, Kipling’s “Wireless” involves science, but with a speculative fiction twist. Despite that, it too was one of my favorites of the anthology.

Overall
This was a solid set of short stories and a great taster of Victorian science and speculative fiction.

Publishing info, my copy: trade paperback, Bloomsbury, 2017
Acquired: Tempe Public Library
Genre: science fiction

Review ~ The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Seven

This book was provided to me by Night Shade Books via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Cover via Goodreads

The Best Horror of the Year Volume Seven edited by Ellen Datlow

 

For over three decades, Ellen Datlow has been at the center of horror. Bringing you the most frightening and terrifying stories, Datlow always has her finger on the pulse of what horror readers crave. Now, with the seventh volume of this series, Datlow is back again to bring you the stories that will keep you up at night.

With each passing year, science, technology, and the march of time shine light into the craggy corners of the universe, making the fears of an earlier generation seem quaint. But this “light” creates its own shadows. The Best Horror of the Year chronicles these shifting shadows. It is a catalog of terror, fear, and unpleasantness, as articulated by today’s most challenging and exciting writers.
(via Goodreads)

In The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Seven, Ellen Datlow once again skims the cream to introduce fickle readers like me to some of the shining stars of the horror lit world. There are twenty-two stories in this collection, two less than last year’s volume though I don’t remember so many longer works included in Volume Six. Not quite half are by female authors.

There seemed to me to be several board categories of stories:

For example, quite a few serial killers as narrators with Angela Slater’s “Winter Children,” Gemma File’s “This is Not For You” (which includes the conceit of a murderous virago cult), “Interstate Love Song (Murder Ballad No. 8)” by Caitlin Kiernan, and my personal favorite of the group “Wingless Beasts” by Lucy Taylor for desert gross-out factor. (Hadn’t realized that this group contained so many female authors…)

A couple of stories involved crime with law enforcement or detective involved. “The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud features an occult investigator named Jack Oleander, whose further adventures I would happily read. Rio Youers’ “Outside Heavenly” had a lot of True Crime feel to it, though with a much more supernatural conclusion.

I’m always a sucker for horror comedy and I got a kick out of Stephen Graham Jones’ “Chapter Six,” which asks the question, what would a pair of academic rivals do after the zombie apocalypse?

There were also a bunch of cosmic horror/forbidden knowledge tales. “Allochton” by Livia Llewellyn provides a semi answer to my question about the intersection of domestic and cosmic horror as a company wife is wooed by strange qualities in the geography around her. Laird Barron’s “The Worms Crawl In” also takes us out into the forest to meet doom.

Rhoads Brazos’s “Tred Upon the Brittle Shell” and John Langan’s “Ymir” both pull from ancient mythologies and both involve physical decent as well, although Dale Bailey’s “The Culvert” doesn’t go as deep into the earth, but leaves us as lost in a shifting labyrinth.

Two stories that I really enjoyed involved a more historical touch. “A Dweller in Amenty” by Genevieve Valentine involves the ins and outs of a sin eater and Keris McDonald takes us back to academia as a museum worker learns about Innocent Coats in “The Coat Off His Back.”

One last stand-out: “Depertures” by Carole Johnstone, creepy and gory and set in an airplane terminal. It excellently combines the mundane with the uncanny.

Publishing info, my copy: eARC in Kindle and ePub formats
Acquired: via Edelweiss
Genre: Horror

10-books

Review ~ Shadow Show

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury by Sam Weller (Editor) & Mort Castle (Editor)

Cover via Goodreads

“What do you imagine when you hear the name” . . . Bradbury?

You might see rockets to Mars. Or bizarre circuses where otherworldly acts whirl in the center ring. Perhaps you travel to a dystopian future, where books are set ablaze . . . or to an out-of-the-way sideshow, where animated illustrations crawl across human skin. Or maybe, suddenly, you’re returned to a simpler time in small-town America, where summer perfumes the air and life is almost perfect . . . “almost.”

Ray Bradbury–peerless storyteller, poet of the impossible, and one of America’s most beloved authors–is a literary giant whose remarkable career has spanned seven decades. Now twenty-six of today’s most diverse and celebrated authors offer new short works in honor of the master; stories of heart, intelligence, and dark wonder from a remarkable range of creative artists. (via Goodreads)

According to Goodreads, it took me two years to read this book. This is why Deal Me In is helping me get through anthologies…

This anthology was published a month after Ray Bradbury’s death, but that was just a scheduling coincidence. I think I’d had it on my wishlist since December. I had been rather keen to buy it, but like most anthologies, it took me a while to get through it.

Previous Highlights:

I had three stories left and all of them were horror stories. “Hayleigh’s Dad” by Julia Keller and “Who Knocks?” by David Eggers both fell into that area of “bad things happening to girls who have adventures.” I hadn’t realized that Bradbury had set a precedence for this in his story “The Whole Town’s Sleeping.” While that’s a tense story, I’m disappointed that girls in Bradbury stories and Bradbury-esque stories are doomed to horrible fates.

I really enjoyed Kelly Link’s “Two Houses.” It’s a great combination of sci-fi and horror. It reminded me a little of Event Horizon. What makes a haunted house? Can you conjure a ghost by replicating a house perfectly? It’s not the last story in the book, but it was a great ending for me.

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publication date: July 10th 2012
Genre: short stories, horror, fantasy
Why did I choose to read this book? I like Ray Bradbury

Review ~ The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Six

This book was provided to me by Night Shade Books via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.
Cover via Goodreads

The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Six by Edited by Ellen Datlow

 

With each passing year, science, technology, and the march of time shine light into the craggy corners of the universe, making the fears of an earlier generation seem quaint. But this “light” creates its own shadows. The Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow, chronicles these shifting shadows. It is a catalog of terror, fear, and unpleasantness, as articulated by today’s most challenging and exciting writers.

The best horror writers of today do the same thing that horror writers of a hundred years ago did. They tell good stories—stories that scare us. And when these writers tell really good stories that really scare us, Ellen Datlow notices. She’s been noticing for more than a quarter century. For twenty-one years, she coedited The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and for the last six years, she’s edited this series. In addition to this monumental cataloging of the best, she has edited hundreds of other horror anthologies and won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards.

More than any other editor or critic, Ellen Datlow has charted the shadowy abyss of horror fiction. Join her on this journey into the dark parts of the human heart . . . either for the first time . . . or once again. (via Goodreads)

Short fiction is a great way to keep up with writers and trends. I’ve often read the Hugo and Nebula nominated short stories to see “what’s up” in the world of science fiction and fantasy. Those stories are often available online. Horror is more difficult to keep tabs on for free. Usually, none of the Stoker nominated stories are available. I’m not sure what that says about the respective genre markets… Therefore, I am left with the occasional horror anthology.

Things that surprised me about this anthology:

  • Few zombie stories. I’m not complaining, I’m not a fan of zombies. Are zombies on the way out as a trend? I can only hope.
  • How many UK writers are in this anthology (at least 9 of 24). Again, not complaining; just an observation.
  • No overlap between this anthology and the Stoker nominations. I would have thought that maybe one or two stories would overlap, but nope. None.

The stories were all pretty solid, though varying in the amount of “horror” present. Of course, that’s a double whammy of subjectivity in a horror anthology. What are the “best” stories that define “horror.”

Stories that stood out for me:

On the severely creepy end of the spectrum, “Apports” by Stephen Bacon and  “Bones of Crow” by Ray Cluley.  Apports are “little gifts from elsewhere.” But sent by whom? Ray Cluley’s story probably wins for the goriest of the anthology. Both these tales feature people who are just trying to get by in life and find no help from the supernatural.

There were three stories with particular Victorian flair and were obviously up my alley. “Mr. Splitfoot” by Dale Bailey is written from the point of view of Maggie Fox, one of the young girls behind the founding of the spiritualist movement. Maybe they weren’t entirely charlatans…  “The Soul in the Bell Jar” by K. J. Kabza is sort of a Frankenstein tale in overdrive in a horror/fantasy world where souls are routinely sewn back onto bodies. Tim Casson’s “The Withering”introduces us to Miss Appleby, a Victorian heroine with a peculiar machine for contacting spirits. I’d read more of Miss Appleby if there was more to be had.

Two stories took horror on from a movie angle. “The House on Cobb Street” by Lynda E. Rucker is a solid haunted house story told in a found-footage kind of way, partially using blog posts and forum comments. Kim Newman’s “The Only Ending We Have” tells the story of Jayne Swallow, a body-double for Janet Leigh in the famous Psycho shower scene. Familiarity with the movie certainly helps in this story.

Speaking of Hitchcock, “Jaws of Saturn” by Laird Barron has a very noir, hitchcockian feel to it that reminded me strongly of Curse of the Demon even though the two stories have little in common.

Other stand-outs: “Call Out” by Steve Toase for using a bargest in his story. An underused creature if ever there was one. And to Neil Gaiman for “Down to the Sunless Sea” which was the only reread for me.

Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication date: June 3rd 2014
Genre: Horror
Why did I choose to read this book? Haven’t read much good horror in a while.


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