Card picked: 4♠ Found at:More Stories Not for the Nervous
It was somehow less nerve-wracking to think of her as a young woman in disguise than an old woman who moved and spoke like somebody in her twenties.
Carson is a small-time con man and thief. His modus operandi is flattering little old ladies into getting them to take him home for tea-and-cakes and then stealing their silverware. But Miss Smith is not quite what she seems. And the baubles, that Carson wouldn’t even be able to pawn, might eventually be his prison.
I haven’t quite gotten my thumb on what these stories-not-for-the-nervous are supposed to be. Mysteries? Horror? Hard-boiled crime? So far, they’ve been all of the above. I’m not familiar with Margaret St. Clair. Apparently, she is a pioneer of science fiction, which would explain why this little dark fantasy story was originally published under the pseudonym, Idris Seabright.
Card picked: 6♥ Found at:The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, September-October 2017
There is a theory that each choice, each chance, each throw of a die creates a separate parallel universe; that there are infinite universes layered like filo dough in baklava or stacked like an unsteady pile of papers on a desk.
The “what if” of this story is, what if you could peek at your other layers. Our unnamed narrator, a handy physics post-grad, builds a device posited by his graduate advisor and is able to see other versions of himself in those other universes. In some he’s still a Ph.D. student studying physics, or mathematics, or political science, or business, or law. In some he’s single, in some he’s still with his ex-fiance, in some he’s living in a different state as a new father. In some, he’s murdered his annoying Ph.D. program nemesis Shane…
Playing the alternate lives game is always fun. What if I had pursued an MFA instead of diving into writing? What if I had taken that anatomy class instead of physiology and never met Eric? What is I took the ROTC scholarship and ended up at Creighton? Would I have ended up at as a Bluejays fan??? Okay, maybe the alternate lives game isn’t always fun.
This is the second story I’ve read by Naomi Kritzer (I believe). The first was the excellent Hugo award-winning “Cat Pictures Please”. I really enjoy her style and I should really read more of her work.
Welcome to the fifth issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!
Happily, no. 5 was not missing pages, though some of the scanning was iffy.
“The Mysterious Card” by Cleveland Moffett
While in Paris, Richard Burwell is given a card written in purple ink by a beautiful woman. Burwell doesn’t read French and everyone he shows the card to has a very bad reaction to it. He’s driven from his hotel and ultimately from France. When he shows it to his wife and his best childhood friend, they both disown him. And alas, the beautiful woman dies before she can tell him the meaning of it. It’s all very melodramatic. Cleveland Moffett was a journalist and writer of some note. “The Mysterious Card” was his first story and brought him some note mainly due to the unresolved aspect of the mystery. Alas, the literary shenanigans don’t work for me.
“Tang-u” by Lawrence E. Adams
Tang-u is a Chinese boy who ends up on a Japanese naval ship (during, I assume, the First Sino-Japanese War). He is of rat-catcher “heritage” which means his eyes are very keen even in the dark. And this is the brief story of how he becomes an honorary admiral in the Japanese navy due to those attributes.
“The Little Brown Mole” by Clarice Irene Clinghan
A friend finds Mr. Paul Fancourt in a state. What’s wrong? Fancourt tells of his marriage to the lovely and tempestuous Leila. His wife’s temper drove him away for five years and, when he returned, Leila was a different woman. Possibly quite literally. This is Clarice Clinghan’s second story for The Black Cat. Her first, “The Wedding Tombstone,” was my favorite of issue no. 2.
This was my favorite of the month.
“The Telepathic Wooing” by James Buckham
Another tale of love for this February issue of The Black Cat. Dr. Amsden is hopelessly in love with Miriam Foote. Despite being quite good-looking, Amsden is terribly shy around women and can’t approach Miriam. Instead, he chooses an unconventional manner of “wooing” her: lucid dreaming. This is Buckham’s second story for the Cat. His first was the photographic evidence story “The Missing Link.”
“The Prince Ward” by Claude M. Girardeau
“The Prince Ward” was the longest story of the issue, a spine-tingling tale about a haunted hospital ward. Often hospital hauntings is due to, not surprisingly, the suffering and death of sick people, but here Girardeau gives us a spurned wife who is surprisingly sick and suddenly dies. There are maybe shades of Charlotte Perkins’ “The Yellow Wallpaper” and a few chilling moments, but the writing is very clunky.
“A Meeting of Royalty” by Margaret Dodge
The Great Man, a young train baron, is visited by a little girl who is wandering around the train while they are delayed at the station. The little girl is dressed as a princess (which I thought was a much more modern thing). She tells the Great Man about the Queen she knows who is very sad. Of course, the Queen isn’t a queen, she’s an actress. But she is sad—the train delay will cause them to miss an important performance and she’s has a lost love who looked down on her career because he’s a business man, but she misses him. The Great Man realizes that he knows who the Queen is and what he can do to make her happy.
No ads in this issue, but at least the issue was complete!
Card picked: 10♥ Found at:The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, September-October 2017
The kids in the 7-Eleven parking lot knew everything that happened from one ens of the highway to the other. They knew, for example, about the last girl who’d been found—the one in the ditch beside the Petro-Can.
“Be careful, man,” he said, a kid Petra had known in the tenth grade, “you know how ghosts like highways. Watch out for hitchhikers.”
Maybe ghosts, maybe time slipping visitors from the future. Both of those concepts are too big, too loud for this story. Campbell captures the quiet smallness of summer for a couple of 16 year-old best friends in the early 90s: the dangers of hitchhiking, the changing social statuses that happen when friends get boyfriends and jobs, the inevitable changes that will occur post high school. But who are the girls who hitchhike on the 18 and why does one look so much like Petra’s friend, Jen?
Highway 18 of the story refers to BC-18, a route on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
Card picked: 7♦ Found at:The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November-December 2017
Before she showed up, she was preceded by this man in a pinstriped suit. A harbinger. He sat me down in his sterile office and said, “Time Law is no joking matter.”
Time travel is a tricky thing to handle. Why bringing Old Marley from the future is easier than putting Little Marley in foster care, I don’t know. It ends up being a sort of scientific MacGuffin that gives characters in science fiction stories something to do. That isn’t to say that “Marley and Marley” doesn’t have its clever points or isn’t well written. By the end, I wondered if the “time cops” knew anything about the future at all. (And the title: a play on Marley and Me?)
Author trivia: J. R. Dawson lives in Omaha, my hometown.
Card picked: 5♦ Found at: The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November-December 2017
The girl woke up with a sore neck and three seagulls perched on her eyelashes.
Meg Elison tells this tale mostly from the point of view of the social media accounts and news outlets covering the appearance of a naked 350ft girl in San Francisco Bay. It is discovered that she is 15 year-old Bianca Martinez, but she’s known as #baybe. This story made me queasy, which I’m sure is Elison’s intent. So easily, the world sees Bianca as a object rather than a person—because of her size, because she’s become a celebrity. It makes me want to never read celebrity news/gossip ever again.
Welcome to the fourth issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project! Alas, there was a problem with the January issue. It was missing a few pages!
“In Solomon’s Caverns” by Charles Edward Barns
Charles Edward Barns had his first appearance in issue one with “In a Tiger Trap.” “In Solomon’s Caverns” sets up an equally exciting adventure: an investigation of the caves caused by the building of Solomon’s Temple. Of course, the American who is doing the spelunking loses his guide early in the process. The framing story implies that opium is part of the man’s salvation from the caves, but, alas, I’ll never understand how since I was lacking the end of the story.
“An Angel of Tenderfoot Hill” by Frederick Bardford
I was also missing the beginning of this story (and some of its middle pages too). From what I gathered, a hell-raising cowboy-type falls in love with a Presbyterian named Alice. He goes off to make his fortune and to endeavor to be worthy of her, but when he returns he finds that the small town that he’s left has become a city, and Alice may or may not have married his former friend.
“In Miggles’ Alley” by Herman Brownson
This is a little vignette: Little Tim O’Hagan’s nick-name is “Shingles” because when his mom is at work, he hangs out on the roof of their building with this infant brother. Across the street is a fire station. Shingles loves to watch the fire men come and go. In fact, one day to amuse himself and his baby brother he decides to play fire man and “rescue” his brother by lowering him down from the roof of the building…. This is Herman Brownson’s first story for The Black Cat.
“The Missing Link” by James Buckham
While on a camping trip with his friends, Henderson happens to take a couple pictured of a murder occurring. He later offers the photos to prove a man innocent of the crime. This might be one of the most competently written stories I’ve read in The Black Cat thus far, and I was missing two pages of it in the middle and the ending! The use of photography in a mystery strike me as very modern. Via Google, I do find a poet named James Buckham; I wonder if it’s the same author.
“Unchallenged” (alas, I don’t know the author)
Alas, I’m missing the beginning of this story. It “starts” with two girls strapping on pistols and riding out to on an errand. It seems that the errand was to show-up some men, but I’m definitely missing a piece. The writing is good enough that I’m a little sad that I don’t have the whole story.
“Aidu” by Hero Despard
“Aidu” is a story set in India that thankfully lacks some of the usual problematic aspects of a 1896 story set in India. Our narrator falls in love with the beautiful Aidu. When he meets her she seems to be in some trouble. She agrees to help (and later to marriage), under the condition that she be allowed her freedom and she not be followed when she leaves the house. Aidu is a strange woman; she is never seen eating and once a week she goes for a walk alone and returns re-invigorated. Of course, we know how this story goes. Our love-struck narrator, follows her one evening…
This was my favorite of the month.
“Mrs. Emory’s Boarder” by C. Marie Mott
I saw him pass every day; not that I watched for him, but it’s against human nature that a woman should sit at a window all day and never look out.
This story is a bit of a joke; a pretty clever “groaner,” perfect for a magazine called The Black Cat.
After a couple months with no ads, the issue ends with a full page ad for Holiday Books from Houghton, Mifflin & Co.