Guest blog from Emerian Rich: Kill Switch!

Here is a guest blog post from horror author and FIEND, I mean FRIEND, Emerian Rich!

New book from HorrorAddicts.net Press: Kill Switch!!!

As technology takes over more of our lives, what will it mean to be human, and will we fear what we’ve created? What horrors will our technological hubris bring us in the future?

Join us as we walk the line between progressive convenience and the nightmares these advancements can breed. From faulty medical nanos and AI gone berserk to ghost-attracting audio-tech and one very ambitious Mow-Bot, we bring you tech horror that will keep you up at night. Will you reach the Kill Switch in time?

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A sneak peek inside…

REMS
by TIM O’NEAL

“Just sign the liability waiver and we’ll get started. This should be a quick painless procedure.” Dr. Charles E. Windygate depressed the plunger, dispensing morphine into his patient’s IV on top of the local anesthesia already administered to his burned lower extremities.

“I trust you. Let’s get this done.” The patient, Larry Dougherty, scribbled his signature and handed the clipboard back without glancing at the print. A simple gold wedding band gleamed on his ring finger. Well-defined muscles rippled in his arms, chest, and torso, but his legs were an oozing blackened mess.

Moments later, Larry gave a loopy grin. “Gosh, I feel better already, Doc.” A fireman by trade, Larry had raced into a burning house to save a toddler trapped on an upper floor. Just as he’d reached the girl, the wooden floor had given way. As they’d fallen, Dougherty had clutched her to his chest, using his body to cushion the impact. When he’d awoken in the hospital, he’d learned his squad had dragged them out. The kid was completely unharmed, but third-degree burns covered his own legs.

Word traveled fast in a hospital and so Dr. Windygate had quickly learned about the fireman’s traumatic burns. Immediately after the man was admitted, Windygate had popped in to ask if he wanted to participate in an experimental wound debridement procedure. Given the chance to stop the immense pain and perhaps save his charred legs, Dougherty had readily accepted.

Sterile white fluorescent light blazed down, harshly illuminating the operating theater. It gleamed off the stainless-steel tables and counters, sparkled off the tile walls, and glinted off sharp, clean, surgical instruments. The hospital smelled of disinfectant and gauzy bandages. Floor polish tickled the nose like an alcohol-soaked cotton ball.

Dr. Windygate ignored the two young medical students standing by to assist—a tall Latina and a rather short, geeky male. He didn’t know their names. He didn’t care. They were only present to comply with hospital research policy, but this was his project, dammit! He’d spent a decade developing this technology on his own. He would not share the glory with just anyone, let alone two upstart medical students. If they cared about their careers in medicine, they’d stay well away and keep their mouths shut.

Dr. Windygate’s hands shook with excitement as he accepted the clipboard from Mr. Dougherty. If this new procedure was successful, he would make medical history, cementing his name in medical texts alongside Linus Pauling, Louis Pasteur, and Edward Jenner. He smirked, adjusting his tiny spectacles. He could almost taste the fame. To conceal his anticipation, he coughed twice and headed to the tiny surgical sink.

“You all set, my good man?” he called, lathering his hands.

“Ready when you are, Doc.”

“There’s absolutely nothing to worry about. Nope, nothing at all.” Returning to the bedside, Windygate snapped on sterile blue latex gloves.

“Do anything. I don’t care. Just fix my legs.”

Windygate shrugged away a dribble of nervous perspiration. “Yes, of course. I went to Oxford Medical. I’ve been practicing for twenty years. I’m perfectly relaxed, well-rested, and prepared for this. You’ve absolutely nothing to fear.”

Dougherty’s brow furrowed. He chuckled uneasily. “You trying to convince me or yourself, Doc?”

Windygate inhaled a deep breath, swelling his body like a balloon. “I’m just excited. It’s not every day I get to test out a new surgical technique, is it?” Grinning, he toyed with a scalpel. It gleamed and flashed.

The fireman frowned, considering. “Wait. New? How new?”

“Actually…you’ll be the first human subject. The waiver gave your consent to test this new wound debridement procedure. You still okay with that?”

“I guess,” Dougherty said slowly. “It has been tested though, right? On animals or something?”

“Oh goodness, yes.” Windygate nodded. “Thoroughly tried and tested in the veterinary setting with startling successes. Works in both theory and practice. I perfected it myself. I can assure you, it’s completely safe.”

“Let’s get on with it.”

“I’ll be using new robot technology to debride those burns and accelerate the healing.”

Dougherty propped himself on his elbows. “Robots? Really! Why didn’t you say so? What could be more precise than robots? Seems today’s new technology makes everything safer.”

Windygate gently pressed him back down. “Yes, quite. But, as with any new technology, it still requires a spot of testing. Hence, you.”

He turned to his instrument tray and picked up a squat clear plastic container filled with several hundred, small, white, beads. Twisting the lid, he broke the seal and retrieved a handful of the tiny smooth spheres. Carefully, he extended his cupped gloved hand.

“Take a look, but do be careful, they cost a thousand dollars apiece. My research grant paid for them and I do hope to re-use them.”

Dougherty leaned over, craning his neck. “Huh. They’re tiny. Don’t look scary at all! What are they?”

“I call them: Remote-controlled Electronic Maggots. REMs for short.”

“Maggots, ugh!” Dougherty recoiled, making a face.

“Nominally only, for how they break down the dead tissue like maggots. But never you worry, they’re entirely controlled by this remote. See?”

Windygate plucked a gray rectangular object about the size of a cell phone from his instrument tray. Its hard rubber face had six smooth, raised buttons—four blue directional arrows, one red square, and one green circle. He passed it to Dougherty.

“A remote control, eh? Like something my boys might drive their toy cars with.” He handed it back.

“Yes, but in case you have any residual worries, my REMs have two built-in failsafe mechanisms,” Windygate bragged. “The red button kills their power, immediately stopping them. Second, they work by sensing inflammatory biomarkers near the wound. If they’re not in contact with necrotic skin, they won’t move. Prevents them from damaging any healthy tissue. See, here on my glove, it doesn’t move at all. There’s nothing for it to do. But, when I put it on your leg, it activates.”

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EDITED BY:

DAN SHAURETTE & EMERIAN RICH

STORIES BY:

H.E. ROULO, TIM O’NEAL, JERRY J. DAVIS, EMERIAN RICH, BILL DAVIDSON, DANA HAMMER, NACHING T. KASSA, GARRETT ROWLAN, DAPHNE STRASERT, PHILLIP T. STEVENS, LAUREL ANNE HILL, CHANTAL BOUDREAU, GARTH VON BUCHHOLZ

Available on Amazon!

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big cheer and tiny jeer: Sinister Sugar Rush and Supergirl 4 finale

First, I won first prize in the San Mateo County Fair Literary Arts audio story division with my story, “The Sinister Sugar Rush!” Another Kittygirl story involving evil cupcakes, and two of my favorite villains, the cafeteria lunch ladies (who first appeared in “The Malevolent Mystery Meat”). I will post the audio story online soon. It was fun.

And now, a little jeer. Just a little. I will start by saying I like the Supergirl show. (SPOILER ALERT, sorta,) Season 4 had a great Lex Luthor, the achy-breaky-heartbreak of Supergirl losing her sister, a Russian Supergirl with that kewl accent, Braniac 5 becoming a total badass, and chunks of the public being stomach-churningly Trumpy. It was a fun ride with plenty of rollercoaster up and down. But the finale episode wrapped everything up way too optimistically (optimism is great, I like happy endings, but not so darn FAST! Racists won’t give up their hate just because Kara Danvers published one itty-bitty little article. In my future civil war story, the Stumper characters will be shown irrefutable truth that my villain Stumpfinger is a stupid criminal and a pathological liar (gee, where did I get that idea?) and maybe I will steal from Family Guy and make him “cash poor,” and they will still cling to their racism. Bring on the storm troopers, round up those awful aliens, leopards will never eat my face said the guy who voted for the leopards eating people’s faces party. And Congress invoking the 25th amendment? Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t invoke a parking ticket. She won’t fight the Rethuglican Congress unless she thinks she will win, and that is why she and the old Democrat leaders fail to do the right thing, every frakin’ time. As Snagglepuss told Huckleberry Hound, you don’t fight battles because you think you can win…

Tim Conway: storyteller!

Tim Conway passed away today. Since he played a superhero (Barnacle Boy on SpongeBob Squarepants), and since I believe Tim was one of the funniest performers on this planet, I wanted to mention him on my blog. I loved his characters on the Carol Burnett Show: my faves were the dentist, the old man, and Mr. Tudball (I still think Mr. Tudball was Swedish!). But did you know Tim Conway was a storyteller? Tim did plenty of comedy writing in his long career.  As a writer (mostly self-pubbed, but that counts), I’d give a couple of internal organs to be able to create a story about Siamese elephants that fast.

Super Holly would have loved Tim: she’d have laughed loud at his crazy comedy, and then kissed him hard.

Cal “The Intellectual” Critbert: first artwork! And more Kittygirl!

It was Free Comic Book Day yesterday. At Comics Conspiracy in Sunnyvale, I got two new pieces of artwork!

I asked Dave Law, artist on The Space Odditorium, to draw Super Holly’s boyfriend and soulmate, Cal Critbert. Cal has never been drawn before. I gave Dave a description from my stories: black body armor (built-in six-pack abs), cowl and black cape, the letter I for the chest logo, and Cal’s main power is super intelligence (yes, that is rather vague). I asked Dave to use his artistic sense. Especially with the cowl, I was unsure how to show super intelligence without turning Cal’s head into a goofy balloon (like the Wizard of the early Frightful Four). That circle on the cowl is intriguing! (A manifestation of super-intelligence? A mental antenna?) And that grim glare and spooky posture, Super Holly would LIKE-like that.

Leann Hill drew Kittygirl sassing Thanos. If Thanos had ever hurt Super Holly, Kittygirl would have gone mommy-cat-crazy and would have had Thanos’s Infinity Gauntlet with the hand still inside it. MRRRROWL, HISSSS!!! (I asked for the fangs as well as the claws.)

Kids at Avengers Endgame: To shuddup or not to shuddup?

Ooo!!! Ooo!!! I just saw Avengers: Endgame!!! Yuh wanna know who DIES?!?!? DO YUH, DO YUH, DO YUH?!?!?!

Well, I ain’t telling. Go see it yourself. I took advantage of being between technical writing gigs and I saw it today, the day it opened (if you don’t count Thursday night). It was tough to get a seat, but I got one at the Great Mall: front row center, the one luxury seat in the house that would not fully recline. Sigh. To my right were eight kids of various skin tones. (I know it was eight because my seat was A9.) They made a little noise.

I will pause here to let you think about them and about me. I am a fanboy in my early 60s. I am Swedish ancestry, meaning so white that if I stand next to a bright light, you can see some of my vital organs. You’d think I’d be grumpy at those dang-nab kids making noise. (I once believed that blabbing during a movie should be added to the death penalty list.)

You’d be wrong. When these kids did some whispering, I resisted the urge to hush them, they were not loud. Their eyes and ears stayed glued to that screen. Not one lit up their cell phone. During the big climactic battle scene was when they made noise. They cheered when Thanos was clobbered and when Spider-Man swung into the picture and when Captain Marvel flew in and did what she does so well. When a big bunch of Marvel superheroines stood side-by-side ready to take names and kick ass, the girls in those eight harmonized like cheerleaders. And when Black Panther showed up ready for battle, one black girl crowed with pure joy: “Black Panthah, Black Panthah!!!” That made me smile, a young girl getting to see someone who looked a little like her on the big screen.

I digress here for a moment. Many years ago, I was listening to (ugh!) Rush Limbaugh. (I believe in getting to know my enemy before striking a match.) A young black man had called in to say he wanted more role models in America. Rush responded with the most obnoxious sentence in this universe, nay, in the entire multiverse: “Why don’t you use me as a role model?” The young man laughed and said, “You?”

No, Rush. Just NO! I like vanilla, but there are other flavors, some people are other flavors, and that cry of joy from that young black girl blended into the movie like music. Those eight kids were the happiest, cheeringest, having-the-best-time-at-the-movies-EVERingest I have ever seen.

I have had a bad experience with kids at the movies. At the first JJ Abrams Star Trek movie, the theater was filled with kids (mostly white) who climbed over the seats like a jungle gym, wrestled, blabbed about anything except the movie, and never even once looked up at the screen. When I left, a young black lady asked me if I’d been in that theater. I said yes, rather unhappily. She said she’d been there too and had complained to the management, but the management didn’t do anything. I complained to the management and got a free ticket. I still wonder if that was white privilege in action.

Take your kids to see Avengers: Endgame. If they cheer, let ‘em. But if they blab or wrestle or climb or any combination of that triple, smack them in the back of the head and say in your best Chicago leg-breaking thug voice: SHUDDUP!!!

A Flaw in a Wrinkle in Time

This review is late. Very late. But I found this draft, and better late than never. Here goes.

I read A Wrinkle in Time when I was a kid. Loved it then, love it now. I did not even think about strong female hero. I saw a flawed heroic geek. I was (and still am) a geek. I think that geeky angry Meg planted a seed or two for my geeky angry character Super Holly Hansson. What did I think of the movie?

What I liked

Meg. Geek girl with a hot temper! I think Holly has some Meg in her.

Charles Wallace. Super smart little boy, with a proper hint of creepiness at being way too smart.

Oprah, when she was HUGE. That size difference make Mrs. Which stand out in the movie. In the book, she has no set physical appearance.

It. A giant brain, as done in the book, would not work in a movie. Well, it might have worked in the 1960s. In this movie, It is a nasty space-spanning web that looks a lot like neurons in a brain. Clever!

What I did not like

The movie story felt rushed and underdeveloped. Meg is introduced, shown to be hot-tempered and geeky smart, she meets the immortal ladies, and then it’s WHEEE, let’s find Daddy! And how long did it take for Charles to be seduced by the dark side, several seconds of multiplication tables? We needed to see, as in the book, Charles falling into evil due to his own arrogance.

Aunt Beast was cut out. In the book, that was a necessary scene for Meg’s development: when she first meets and escapes from It, her flaws are showcased! And she has to face them down. In the book, the line, “I give you your faults” gave Meg her best comeback: “But I’ve been trying to get rid of them for years!” In the movie, the line went over like a lead balloon and Meg had no comeback. If they could turn The Hobbit into a trilogy, they could have added time for a big furry auntie.

Meg’s flaws were mostly removed. In the book, she is stubborn, she yells at her dad in a soul-stabbing hurtful way, her emotions are as stable as nitro glycerine, you do not insult her brother Charles if you want to chew your dinner afterwards, and she is a strident non-conformist (okay, that last one is kind of a good thing). In the movie, she’s tough. So tough that she does not need Aunt Beast or her dad, and she does not make up with her dad because she never hurts him in the first place. Movie Meg is more mature than her dad, didn’t the scriptwriter ever watch Leave It To Beaver? When Meg lands on Camazotz again, I wonder if they should have played the James Bond theme. Leave the super competent hero role to Sean Connery, I loved Book Meg as a flawed geek. (Hmm, is James Bond a Mary Sue?) I was and still am a geek, and proud of it, man! Yes, non-conformist Super Holly has lotsa Meg in her!

Calvin. His rough edges were sanded off. Sure, as in the book, he fell for Meg, which was great. But in the book, he also conflicted with her: he wanted to protect her (which she did not want) and he yelled back at her and about her: “She’s backward!” When I write my characters Super Holly (hot tempered super geek) and Cal Critbert (more mature super-intellectual), they argue, they fight, and they stay head-over-heels in love. When you have different personality types, you get conflict. There was NONE, ZERO, ZIP between Meg and Calvin. BIG disappointment.

“Be a warrior.” That did not belong in this story. Meg is a geek girl, not a soldier. Lisa Simpson does not need a catchphrase, and neither does Meg.

The immortal ladies were too glamorous. Oprah lost her otherworldliness when she became human size. She should have been big and then small, never hitting the correct size. They coulda done a Tinkerbell joke! In the book, one lady was old, one was plump, one was formless. In the movie, they were Disney fairies.

The religious element was toned way down. Jesus, Buddha, others were mentioned in the book. Not here. I have been wondering about my novel “The Comic Book Code” (Stewie Griffin: “How’s that novel coming along, HMMMM?”). Specifically, should I back away from the Holy Grail thing? (Holly having Grail-type DNA, thus bringing superpowers into the world). I do love the line in Captain America when the Red Skull asks Cap, “What makes you so special,” and Cap says, “Nothing. I’m just a kid from Brooklyn.” But Holly grew out of my trying to write a satire of The DaVinci Code. I’m considering a dream sequence with a Jesus-and-Mary type couple (the guy looks like Wil Wheaton). I say to this movie: Thanks for making up my mind for me! I ain’t backing off. (P.S. Cal Critbert is atheist, and I ain’t backing off from that either, you Trumpy evangelical traitors! Nyah nyah nyah!)

What I did not care about

The actress being African American. Meg’s skin color was irrelevant. She was played by a fine actress, doing the best job she could with a flawed script. I liked her. I know this casting bent some racists out of shape, and thoughts like that keep me warm at night. But me? Like Stephen Colbert said in his Colbert Report days, I don’t see color!

Conclusion:

This movie is a huge improvement on the 2003 version. But flaws make characters interesting. Disney, wait several years and try again, and PLEASE keep Meg’s flaws next time. Like Super Holly, Meg is an angry and flawed geek, not a Mary Sue!

Captain Marvel and Super Holly: Let’s you and her fight!

I saw the Captain Marvel movie. Loved it, of course. But I wondered: who wins in a fight, Carol “Captain Marvel” Danvers or Super Holly Hansson? (When two mightiest-of-the-mighty superheroes meet for the first time, they ALWAYS fight! But why?)

A FEW MILES AWAY FROM SOME CITY IN THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE. A FEW HUNDRED FEET STRAIGHT UP.

Captain Marvel wipes a drop of blood off her lips, thrusts her hands toward heavyweight-boxer-posed Super Holly hovering ten feet in front of her, and photon-blasts Holly’s up-arrow chest-logo! ZZZZAP!!!

Super Holly is knocked back fifty feet. “OW OW OW OW OWWWWW!!! That really STINGS!!!” She flies toward Captain Marvel, punching telekinetic-transparent blue bowling-ball fists onto Captain Marvel’s kisser! POW POW POW POW POW!!!

Captain Marvel says, “OOF OOF OOF OOF OOF!!!” and raises her fists just in time to parry Holly’s super right hook. But not Holly’s left uppercut: BIFF!!! Then Holly and Carol get close and personal.

POW POW POW POW!!! “Take it back, Captain Marbles!”

ZAP ZAP ZAP ZAP ZAP!!! “I have nothing to take back from you!”

“You know what you said!” PUNCH PUNCH KICK KICK PUNCH!!!

“I did not start this, but I shall end it!” PUNCH PUNCH FEINT HEADBUTT-KERRRRUNCH!!!

“OOOTCH!!!” Holly rubs her beaky nose and smiles with respect. “Good one! Your mommy teach you to fight dirty?”

Captain Marvel aims her glowing hands at Holly’s face. “No, your nose happens to be a big target! And I don’t remember my mother.”

Holly’s smile instantly vanishes. Her lips tremble. She blinks her big, liquid blue eyes. Her voice cracks: “You… you don’t? Nothing at all?”

Captain Marvel takes a closer look. “Holly? Are you crying?”

Holly wipes off a tear. “I lost my mommy and daddy when I was five. My Uncle Pops was a great father figure after that. But I miss my mommy every day. I do everything I can to hold onto the memories. That’s why I wear the strawberry lip gloss.” Another tear goes down Holly’s cheek. “My mommy smelled like strawberries.”

Carol lowers her glowing fists, and the glow fades out. “You poor thing.”

Holly floats closer. “No, you poor thing. You don’t even know what you’re missing.”

They hug. They sob. And they fly to the nearest coffee shop.

A TABLE AT A COFFEE SHOP PATIO.

Carol sips an iced coffee and laughs. “Harry Headbutt sounds like a hoot! We have a big hulking guy too, but he tries to be good. But does that Icy Guy always get the best of you?”

Holly slams down her third iced mocha, licks her lips, and smiles. “Ice Cream Guy. And somehow, he does. That Thanos guy sounds like a real tough customer.” Holly sighs. “Too bad I wasn’t around to help.”

Carol sips her coffee. “I would have welcomed that. In the fisticuff department, you’d have given him a run for his money.”

Holly laughs. “Yeah, it would have been fun to belt him in his big fat mouth right when he starts pontificating about genocidal righteousness. Why didn’t that idiot just double the resources?”

Carol swallows her coffee and cocks her head. “I should have asked him that. But defeating him would take more than super-strength. The power of his Infinity Glove would have been more than a match for you.”

Holly smirks. “Really? Hold up your right hand, kinda like you are about to snap your finger and erase me from existence.”

“Um, okay.” Carol raises her hand and prepares to snap her fingers. Then she smiles wickedly. “And now, with a snap, I shall erase you from—”

“Yoink!” Holly is holding her right hand up, and it is holding Carol’s glove. Holly is smiling wickedly.

Carol looks at her gloveless hand. And back to Holly. “Neat trick.”

Holly tries on the glove. “Hmm, a little small. All I did was right-hand pantomime my telekinesis into your glove, expand it, and yoink off the glove.”

Carol nods and giggles. “I would have loved to see the look on his big purple face.”

Holly hands back Carol’s glove. “Of course, Batman would have beaten Thanos. Batman’s the smart one.”

Carol waves her hand dismissively. “A guy in a bat suit? When there are lives at stake, I’ll fly that plane. Costumed wannabes should stay grounded.”

Steam blasts out Holly’s nose. She stands up, fists cocked and ready! “YOU TAKE THAT BACK!!!”

Carol stands up. “I’ll do no such thing! We should leave the battle to us soldiers, not to a guy in a Halloween—” BIFF!!!

Holly has her left hook cocked and ready! “Not so easy insulting my idol with a mouth full of knuckles, is it, Captain Marbles?”

Carol wipes a drop of blood off her lips and raises her glowing fists. “Punch me again, and I’ll put my photon blast in a place it is not supposed to be!”

And the fight is on. Again.