Card Picked: 3♥ From:The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July-August 2017
He was old, and his hip hurt him these days, and he had long ago quit bothering to bark at cars, but his still-restless spirit wouldn’t let him go to sleep without tasting the night…
I wasn’t sure what to expect from a tale titled “A Dog’s Story” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. There are some fantastical elements to it, but also a dollop of horror.
During the course of his night wanderings, Blackie finds the body of a murdered young woman in an alley. She reminds him of his special human Emily, who has been gone for several years. It’s implied that Emily has died; Blackie’s current human has been listless since Emily has been gone, but as a dog, Blackie only know that there is no more Emily. He decides that some justice should be done for this woman. His nose isn’t good enough to track the killer, nor would he be able to attack the man once he’s found, but Blackie is old enough to know other animals, like Talking Pete, a geriatric cat who knows many languages and can talk to the city’s rats. Through favors and deals, justice will be served.
This is a slip of a story, only just over 1500 words. (I love that F&SF includes word counts.) I can imagine that other writers would do more with the other animals, but indeed, this is a dog’s story and Blackie gets all the screen time.
The window is slightly open, admitting the cold. I hear the starlings whisper. Don’t you love us? Don’t you want us anymore?
The blurb of this story is “Haunted by starlings in the dark, a young woman spirals into an altered state of consciousness.” And I wonder if “altered state of consciousness” is our twenty-first century way of saying “madness.” Both of these terms are void of diagnosis, though I suppose that the more modern term has less baggage and prejudice associated with it. In a 19th century Gothic sense though, this young woman spirals into madness, which has a certain amount of romance. In 20th century parlance, I suppose one might say “psychotic break.”
It’s a beautifully written piece and, once again, a story that would probably provide more rewards with a second or third reading. This feels to me very much like a fall or winter story. It was a nice way to finish up Deal Me In for 2018.
Welcome to the third issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!
“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.
No ads. I wonder if the holidays took their toll on this issue. Maybe October isn’t a great month to launch a magazine.
“There’s nothing to tell,” he said. “I think it was fancy, mostly, and folly; but it’s the realest thing in my long life, my dear.”
Since this was a WILD card, I figured I’d continue with my reading of Edith Nesbit’s Grim Tales.
Our narrator, age eighteen, sits at her uncle’s knee and waits for him to tell her about his one single romance. While he never married, he often sits and gazes at the miniature of a beautiful woman. Despite what he says, she knows there’s a story there.
Finally, he tells her of a lovely young woman that he used to speak to over the churchyard wall, who didn’t care about his lame leg. Of course, this being a Edith Nesbit story with a churchyard and a mysterious portrait, we can assume that the woman isn’t exactly what she seems (well, if you assumed she was just a lovely, understanding you woman in the first place).
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.
“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.
No new advertisers in issue no. 2. American Hair Cloth Company of Pawtucket, R.I. had the whole back page.
May was sitting on a low flat gravestone, her face turned towards the full splendour of the western sun. Its expression ended, at once and for ever, any question of love for him; it was transfigured to a beauty I should not have believed possible, even to that beautiful little face.
Edith Nesbit’s Grim Tales collection has been on my TBR-eventually list for quite some time. Without even realizing it, I’ve now read the first two stories in order from Grim Tales! I read “The Ebony Frame” back during Gothic September and now I’ve read “John Charrington’s Wedding” for Deal Me In. Both were suggested by different sources.
Nesbit’s style is fairly straight-forward and both of these tales are on the domestic relationship side of horror. In “The Ebony Frame,” the protagonist becomes enamored with a woman in a painting. In “John Charrington’s Wedding,” John is so devoted to May that he promises to return from the dead if she wants him to. We all know how that’s going to turn out, don’t we? I’m now wondering how the next grim talein the collection will play out: “Uncle Abraham’s Romance.”
Rudy was on his knees in front of an ottoman across the room. He had hunched over to collect a few papers which had settled there, then stayed to look at the battered doctor’s bag tucked underneath it. Rudy tugged at the rosary knotted around the handles.
When it came time to read Dracula during my senior year of high school, it was a reread for me. So, while still following along with the class, I decided to read Dracula and pay attention to how insane Dr. Van Helsing is. If there weren’t vampires, zealous Abraham Van Helsing could almost be a villain.
In “Abraham’s Boys,” Joe Hill plays a what if game. What if Mina marries Van Helsing after Johnathan dies? (No details on how *that* happened.) What if they have two sons? What if they move to America before Mina’s also unfortunate end? What if… maybe… there are no vampires even though the old man teaches his sons that there are?
Oh, that this story would have been picked last week, but hey, who says the Halloween spirit can’t continue on? The ending is pretty hair-raising and offers no answers. I haven’t read much Joe Hill; this is definitely my favorite of his works thus far.