Category Archives: science fiction

2081, Vonnegut’s Timely Satirical, Dystopian Science Fiction

Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut  (1961)

Tuesday’s Tale of Science Fiction    September 11, 2018

 

How does a democracy die? Do democracies die with a military force of boots on the streets? Or revolutions? Or do people end up being hoodwinked and surrendering with a whimper? This blog doesn’t do politics but this week’s short story by Kurt Vonnegut has opened the door to thoughts and questions about authoritarianism, fascism, human rights and equality, and connects us to today’s erosion of democratic norms in the political system. Vonnegut knew about mass gullibility and maybe we are seeing some of that today. Journalist Bill Moyers called our current era Trump and the Dark Age of Unreason. 

Vonnegut’s opening paragraph of Harrison Bergeron is a stunning one.

‘THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else. All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.’

 

For this kind of ‘equality’ to be reality, people cannot be their natural selves and must wear heavy devices on their bodies that handicap them. For example, ballet dancers cannot use their natural grace and beauty, so they are required to wear weights and masks to make all the ballerinas equally clumsy and hide their individual faces.

The story focuses on a U.S. government controlling the lives of individuals, even the potential of individuals. Free thought, free expression, truth, and the hunger for power and defiance are elements. It’s a timely story for 2018 in our hot political climate where free speech and a free press are being attacked (the demise of a free press is one of the first warning signs that democracy is dying). The New Yorker Magazine in March of this year featured Exposed, Trump with no clothes, as the American Emperor. Many saw this as a reference to Hans Christian Anderson’s tale The Emperor’s New Clothes, where fear of the emperor keeps people from speaking the truth.

Research today suggests that democracies around the world may be at serious risk of decline. Reading Harrison Bergeron is an irresistible dive into a world that will make you shudder.

 

‘Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die. “I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor!’

How would a  government enforce such an absurd and extreme equality? Would the government look like Russia or other totalitarian nations that suppress human creativity, free speech, and personal expression? Why would a government even want to do this? Who has the courage to rebel? Vonnegut answers all these questions in his 1961 story of Harrison Bergeron.

What do you think? Do leave a comment!

 

Read the short story Harrison Bergeron in the year 2081 (20-minute read) here at Archive.org

https://archive.org/stream/HarrisonBergeron/Harrison%20Bergeron_djvu.txt

 

Listen to the audio on You Tube (13 minutes):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aAH_G5hcAg

 

Kurt Vonnegut is most famous for his Slaughterhouse-Five, published in 1969—the Vietnam war, racial unrest, and cultural and social upheaval.

 

 

 

“That Time in 1969 When Kurt Vonnegut Accurately Profiled Donald Trump”

by Seth Shellhouse.   At Medium.com:

https://medium.com/@ALRIGHTbrother/that-time-in-1969-when-kurt-vonnegut-accurately-profiled-donald-trump-c9f544aba736

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction.

 Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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The African Veldt, Ray Bradbury

The Veldt  by Ray Bradbury

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   May 22, 2018

NATIONAL SHORT STORY MONTH,  May 2018.   Week Four.

READING FICTION BLOG

 

This is such a fun story. Somewhat like a haunted house story but one that crosses the lines as only Ray Bradbury can do so magnificently. George and Lydia Hadley have purchased a technologically advanced house that will do all the housekeeping and personal keeping for you. Virtual reality beyond anything we’ve seen. Once the Hadley family occupy this house—and are delighted that it can  cook your meals and clean up with ease and speed—things begin to change. The children Peter and Wendy love this house and its powers, especially in the nursery. The walls are glass and can project any landscape  they can dream up. Wouldn’t you love to live in a house that can receive your thoughts and desires and the send out that image? And then create that reality in real time? One day, the children leap beyond strawberry ice cream and hot dogs at the carnival they imagined. They begin to have unfriendly and wild thoughts.

Don’t miss Bradbury’s keen science of psychology here. Family life, secrets, communication, and manipulative kids who love the dangerous and exotic creatures of Africa on the veldtland.

 

 

 

Read the short story here at Veddma.com. My apologies that this story is in black with green text, but it’s the only free copy online:

http://www.veddma.com/veddma/Veldt.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listen to the audio (29 minutes), read by Leonard Nimoy. You’ll love it!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=dJAKjpb2eOs

 

 

 

If you are a Bradbury fan, HBO cable network is presenting an adaptation of his most famous novel Fahrenheit 451. This aired Saturday, May 19 but  is available On Demand. For repeat airings, check local listings for HBO. https://www.hbo.com/movies/fahrenheit-451

 

The original film in 1966 starred Oskar Werner, Julie Christie, Cyril Cusack, directed by François Truffaut. Available on Amazon Prime Streaming.

Ray Bradbury is well known and loved for his fantastic imagination, literary prowess, and vision. He has won numerous awards such as Hugo Awards, World Fantasy Awards, Bram Stoker Awards, Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and others. Ray died on June 5, 2012 at the age of 91.

“I use a scientific idea as a platform to leap into the air and never come back.” 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading at Reading Fiction Blog. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, suspense, supernatural, ghost stories, ‘quiet horror,’ crime, sci-fi, and mainstream fiction. Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments are welcome! Feel free to click “LIKE.”  

  

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Our February Ghost, Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley, Conjuring Her Ghost on February 1st.

Tuesday’s Tale    January 30, 2018

 

Mary Shelley’s ghost is ever-present. And we are breathing life back into her ghost in 2018. As literary ghosts go, we hear stories of Hemingway haunting his Key West home with his typewriter tapping away; Ben Franklin’s statue sometimes walks along the Philadelphia streets; Poe is said to haunt his favorite bar in Baltimore and the staff leave out a glass of whiskey for him at closing time; Dylan Thomas has been seen drinking at the White Horse Tavern in New York.

But for our esteemed Mary Shelley, where is her ghost these days? Shall we conjure her back to us on the anniversary of her death, February 1st?

 

Mary Shelley died February 1, 1851. And all this year, 2018, we are marking the bicentennial of her greatest novel Frankenstein, published January 1818. There are global celebrations going on (Global Frankenstein Celebrations), blogs, events, podcasts, and radio shows, all commemorating this woman writer of horror and mother of science fiction.  We have a wealth of conscious thought active about her life, her triumphs, her stories, and her literary powers. And February is Women In Horror Month. 

 

 

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Did you know that Mary Shelley, and her husband, were highly intrigued on the use of electricity to animate human limbs? At the time of the writing of Frankenstein, an alchemist named Johann Konrad Dippel, was reported to have robbed graves and performed experiments on corpses at Frankenstein Castle (Burg Frankenstein). This castle sits above the Rhine Valley on Odenwald, a mountain in southern Germany, near the city of Darmstadt. More here about Mary Shelly and Frankenstein Castle at ExploringCastles.com.

 

 

 

More on Castle Frankenstein and the Shelleys in my earlier blog, Feb. 2016: “A Lump of Death.”  

 

Mary Shelley wrote lots of short stories, several which you can read featured on past dates on this blog by clicking the title:

 The Invisible Girl, October 15, 2013

The Mortal Immortal, February 26, 2013

Transformation, February 4, 2014

The Last Man  February 8, 2016

On Ghosts, October 15, 2013

And here’s a short one you probably haven’t read:  The Evil Eye, free read at Gutenberg.netAustralia.

Because I love ghost stories, I wrote a ghost story about Mary Shelley, Beyond Castle Frankenstein, published in the anthology Journals of Horror, Found Fiction, edited by Terry M. West, published by Pleasant Storm Entertainment. [Available at Amazon.com ( https://www.amazon.com/Journals-Horror-Terry-M-West/dp/1508805725 ) ]. Here’s a peek into my short story: A letter is found written by Mary Shelley. Mary recounts a night when she attempts to conjure up the ghost of her dead husband, poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.

 

Mary Shelley is buried in St. Peter’s Churchyard in Bournemouth, Dorset England. Read her biography here at The Poetry Foundation.org.  

 

“I busied myself to think of a story, — a story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature, and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart. If I did not accomplish these things, my ghost story would be unworthy of its name.” (Introduction to Frankenstein, 1831)

 

Watch the adaptation of Frankenstein, 2004, with William Hurt, PART 1.

 

 

And Part 2.

 

[Image by Esao Andrews oil on wood, 2010. Young Mary Shelley. Visit Andrews website here.]

 

“Life and death appeared to me ideal bounds, which I should first break through,and pour a torrent of light into our dark world.” 

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free reading. This is a compendium of over 200 short stories by more than 100 famous storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories,  suspense, crime, sci-fi, and ‘quiet horror.’ Follow or sign up to join me in reading two short stories every month. Comments and LIKES are welcome. 

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica   NewYorkerFictionOnline

 Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine   Chuck Windig’s Terrible Minds

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed 

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Power of Darkness: A Ghost Story

The Red Room  by H.G. Wells  (1896)

Tuesday Tale of Terror   March 7, 2017

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Are you a skeptic of the paranormal? Don’t believe in ghosts, right? Everything is grounded in physical reality; no such thing as the supernatural. Here is a story of a haunted room, narrated by a man who has no belief in ghosts and agrees to stay overnight in this haunted Red Room. Would you want to sleep in a red room? Our fearless narrator takes on the challenge. But then mysterious things begin to happen: vanishing candle flames, moving shadows inside the alcoves … and a pervading overwhelming darkness.

“…darkness closed upon me like the shutting of an eye, wrapped about me in a stifling embrace, sealed my vision, and crushed the last vestiges of reason from my brain.

 

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“It lurks there always. You can feel it even in the daytime, even of a bright summer’s day… In the dusk it creeps in the corridor and follows you, so that you dare not turn.”

 

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Truly, what could be worse than a ghost? Come into The Red Room in the Lorraine Castle and find out.

 

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Read The Red Room (25-minute read) at Online-Literature.com.

 

Listen to the audio (22 minutes) on YouTube (skip the ads):

 

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When we hear the name H.G. Wells (The Time Machine, 1895), we don’t normally think  Gothic, but The Red Room has all the flavors, suspense, and mystery of Gothic horror. And as expected from this prolific writer, Wells gives life to the darkness in a way you will long remember. Want to learn more about this 4-time Nobel Prize nominee (nicknamed “the man who invented tomorrow”—he prophesied the atomic bomb as far back as 1914) and who had conversations with Lenin and Stalin? Click below:

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https://players.brightcove.net/4495439099001/rkC8QsjOx_default/index.html?playlistId=5335096208001&autoplay=true

For fans who can’t get enough of H.G. Wells, visit his official website: http://hgwellssociety.com/

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of 200 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery, supernatural, ghost stories, crime, and horror.

Join me in reading one short story every other week!

Comments are welcome.

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Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

 The Kill Zone

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

Books & Such    Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

HorrorNews.net   Fangoria.com   

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

Thriller Author Mark Dawson http://markjdawson.com/

Dawson’s Book Marketing site: http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/

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Poe’s “Some Words With a Mummy”

Some Words With a Mummy  by Edgar Allan Poe  (1850)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    October 25, 2016

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Mummies are not all that scary are they? These days we tend to poke fun at them  with corny jokes (What did Pharaoh say when he saw the pyramid? “Mummy’s home.”).  Poe may have been one of the first to create amusement at such dead things  in this wackiest of his short stories.

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The story begins with our narrator describing his dull evening at home, when a “furious ringing at the street-door bell, and then an impatient thumping at the knocker, which awakened me at once.

This is the invitation he receives from Dr. Ponnonner:

“Come to me, by all means, my dear good friend, as soon as you receive this. Come and help us to rejoice. At last, by long persevering diplomacy, I have gained the assent of the Directors of the City Museum, to my examination of the Mummy — you know the one I mean. I have permission to unswathe it and open it, if desirable. A few friends only will be present — you, of course. The Mummy is now at my house, and we shall begin to unroll it at eleven to-night.”

Come to this “unwrapping party” and meet the mummy Count Allamistakeo. Even his name is cute! This mummy is not only revived but he can articulate. And the rest is history … Egyptian history that is. American vanity vs. Egyptology vs. science in full Poe style. This is one Poe story you might have missed.

No doubt Poe became inspired to write this adventure from when he observed a mummy on display in the Virginia State Capitol—at the age of 14, he was certainly impressed creatively.

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If you really want a vintage literary experience, listen to the storytelling on audio:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDH4RJNWXMg

Read the short story at Virginia.Edu:

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/poe/mummy.html

 

 

 

 

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Want more Poe literature? Visit these sites:

Edgar Allan Poe Museum website.

Edgar Allan Poe Stories website.

The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe (Smithsonian).

The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.

Halloween’s coming soon … and more ghostly literature for next week!

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 180 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

 

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Time Traps in Time Travel

The Clock That Went Backward   by Edward Page Mitchell (1881)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    October 18, 2016

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If I were to ask you what is the earliest time travel story you know, most would say H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895). Or if you were a time travel fiction buff you might say Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). Are you a fan of Charles Yu’s Science Fiction Universe or authors like Robert Heinlein of the 1940s? Of course, you’ve heard of Isaac Asimov’s The End of Eternity and Stephen King’s 11/22/63.

I’m betting that this time travel short story will be a new one for you: The Clock That Went Backward.

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We are in Sheepscot, Maine, with Aunt Gertrude when time turns. In Aunt Gertrude’s house is an old Dutch clock with a death-head transfixed by a two-edged sword at the top. No pendulum. The time is stuck at 3:15—always. Harry and his cousin are visiting Aunt Gertrude and this night sleeping upstairs—until noises are heard downstairs. They creep down the steps to find Aunt Gertrude with her withered cheek against the old clock, and kissing it. The hands of the clock begin to move backwards. And Auntie falls dead.

 

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This had to have been a ground-breaking story at its time in 1881. Author Edward Page Mitchell’s name doesn’t come swiftly to mind when we think of time travel; he is one of the forgotten American science fiction authors. His stories were popular in the 1870s to 1890. Nearly all his stories were published anonymously in The Sun, a New York newspaper. And nearly all were occult, bizarre, ghostly, devilish, and about inanimate objects coming to life. The Crystal Man in 1881 hit readers long before Well’s The Invisible Man in 1897. Tachypomp was about a thinking computer.  Mitchell was influenced by Poe and wrote over 25 short stories in his lifetime. He was known to have no desire for public recognition. Today Mitchell is considered one of our ‘lost giants’ in the science fiction genre of literature. Discovering Edward Page Mitchell is a treat and a privilege!

 

 

Read it online: The Clock That Went Backwards cute_vintage_dutch_windmill_sailboat_delft_blue_large_clock-r582230ac3a42442c861af41947475ae0_fup13_8byvr_324

at  Forgottenfutures.com

 

Listen to the Audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nb-ei6-DeMw

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

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The Last Night of the World, A Ray Bradbury Story

Last Night of the World  by Ray Bradbury, published in Esquire, 1951

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    August 23, 2016

 

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What would you do if you knew that this night was the last night of the world? Would you meet it with grace? Bravery? A last indulgence? Panic? Would you examine yourself for a good or bad life?

A married couple are sitting at the dinner table talking.

She asks …  “And when will it stop? The world, I mean.”

He replies … “Sometime during the night for us, and then, as the night goes on around the world, those advancing portions will go, too. It’ll take twenty-four hours for it all to go.”

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In this sci-fi story (I’m not a sci-fi fan but I really liked this story because it provoked deep thinking), people have the same dream on the same date in February about the end of the world. If you were the characters in this story, would you  believe the end was really coming? Or maybe, just maybe you might think it’s the beginning of a time loop … like in a parallel world?  Or maybe it was true that death will strike soon after closing your eyes this night.  What if?

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Reading time on this story is 5 minutes. Got 5 minutes and cup o’ joe? Wow, this is a compelling dive into everyone’s greatest fear of knowing you will be the last conscious beings when the world ends on a cold night on February 30. Yes, February 30!

 

Read the short story here at Esquire.com.

Listen to the audio drama at Behance.net.

Watch the Ray Bradbury Theater on You Tube

 

FOR THE WRITERS HERE: Lit Reactor.com has Five Ray Bradbury stories that will tell you everything you need to know about writing.

 

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Ray Bradbury, termed the “poet of the pulps,” said in an interview in the Paris Review, The Art of Fiction (2010) that he was “completely library educated. I’ve never been to college … I discovered me in the library.” He died in 2012 at the age of 91. 

Book Review: Zen and the Art of Writing, by Ray Bradbury.

 

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories.

Follow my blog and join me in reading a short story every other week!

Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

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Filed under fiction, horror blogs, mysteries, pulp fiction, Reading Fiction, science fiction, short stories, short story blogs, suspense, tales of terror