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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Saturday, Feb 9, I sell books at Newpark Mall

At Newpark Mall (2086 Newpark Mall, Newark, CA) from 10-6, near the food court, I will be with members of the Fremont Area Writers selling books. I have a fresh batch of Super Bad Hair Day books to sell, hopefully typo-free (although I might change a reference to Humphrey Bogart to James Cagney.) I will sign books. I will write. I’ll meet a budding artist, friend of a fellow FAW member. I will absorb creativity from my fellow writers. And I will see how strong my bladder is (the movie Malcolm X taught me two things: a movie can do justice to a great book, and never order a XXL soft drink at a three hour movie).

On Jan 24, I am an open mic headliner!

Thursday, January 24, sometime after 7pm, at the Cafe Frascati literary open mic (for writers of stories and poetry) in downtown San Jose (315 S 1st St.), I will be the headliner. That means I am on stage for about 15 minutes instead of the usual 4-5 minutes for the many and various storytellers and poets. I will perform The Intellecta Rhapsody, where Super Holly Hansson gets into a big argument with her boyfriend’s Batman-esque car (she punches a hole in its dashboard, it shoots her in the face like Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd), and then she has to team up with the car to defeat a gangster and his gang (think Edward G. Robinson, “Yeah, yeah, Rocky got you good! Yeah! Yeah!”). I will do some fun voices: robot car, Patton-esque general, Rocky gangster, dopey henchmen. The background music is the classical Hungarian Rhapsody. I will bring Super Bad Hair Day books to sell. My latest shipment (fixing a typo and a little mark on the cover art) came in yesterday. The Intellecta Rhapsody script is in the book.

Thank you, Mighty Mike McGee (open mic host with the most!) for having me as a headliner. I’ll try not to let it go to my head. Mike will pay for my dinner that evening. Now, where’s my star on Hollywood Blvd?

Harlan Ellison and Steve Ditko

The late Harlan Ellison (fantasy writer) and Steve Ditko (comic book artist) each deserve a little credit.

Harlan won Hugo and Nebula awards for his stories. Harland had opening lines like, “When they unscrewed the time capsule, preparatory to helping temponaut Enoch Mirren to disembark, they found him doing a disgusting thing with a disgusting thing.” Don’t tell me you can stop reading there.

But Harlan deserves more credit for his essays. If you can read only one Ellison essay, read “Somehow, I Don’t Think We’re In Kansas, Toto,” in the book “Stalking the Nightmare.” Harlan tells the story of his script, “Phoenix Without Ashes,” degraded into a TV series called The Starlost. Those of you close to my age might remember that awful TV series; it looked like it spent $1.56 on special effects. Harlan tells how his pilot script was renamed to “Voyage of Discovery.” (I guess the producers were afraid the audience would get confused reading the word “phoenix”), and how they made an episode about giant bees. Harlan’s pilot script is about humanity on a gigantic space ark fleeing Earth’s destruction, and the crew were killed in an accident, and one man discovers that the ark will fly into a star within five years unless he finds the ark’s control room and gets it back on course. Harlan is on the phone to the idiots making the show, and…

“You’re building the control room?” I said, aghast with confusion and disbelief. “But you won’t need that till the last segment of the series. Why are you building it now?”

“Because you had it in your bible,” he explained.

“That was intended to show how the series ended, for God’s sake!” I admit I was screaming at this point. “If they find it first time out, we can all pack our bags and play an hour of recorded organ music!”

“No, no,” Davidson argued, “they still have to find the backup computer, don’t they?”

“Aaaaarghh,” I aaaaarghhed. “Do you have even the faintest scintilla of an idea what a backup control is?”

“Uh, I’m not certain. Isn’t it the computer at the back of the ship?”

“It’s a fail-safe system, you drooling imbecile, it’s what they use if the primary fails. The primary is the control… oh to hell with it!” I hung up.

If you want to write for TV or movies, you must read this essay. Must as in not doing so would be one of the few capital crimes in the Star Trek universe.

Steve Ditko was one of the greatest comic book artists of all time. His art made Spider-Man a star (along with Stan Lee’s writing to make a flawed, problem-plagued teenager a hero). But Ditko deserves more credit as a writer. For me, his jewel was Shade the Changing Man, a brief but bright star. In 9 issues (its run was cancelled due to DC axing a huge number of comics all at once), Ditko made an oppressive world vs. the one hero framed for murder, a world with strong women at a time when that was NOT usual. The scene where Shade’s former fiancée (and a cop tracking Shade down) sees that Shade saved her from the Area of Madness (not a place where you want to take photos) shows how a strong tough woman can still have a heart. And the names! Rac Shade! Mellu Loron! Sude: the Supreme Decider! The  Meta-Zone! The Zero-Zone! The M-Vest (M for Miraco)! I wish this story could have lived longer. It deserves a movie and a resolution. If you want to read it, buy the Steve Ditko Omnibus Volume One.

P.S. I read that Ditko plotted it and drew it, but another guy wrote the dialog. The Marvel method? Well,  that is Steve Ditko being a Stan Lee, and so I still give Ditko big writing credit.

P.P.S I admit that Ditko’s artwork influenced how Super Holly’s telekinesis manifests.

P.P.P.S. Yeah, I am late with this post, Ditko and Harlan passed months ago. But WordPress just told me that my blog is getting a spike in traffic. So now’s a good time.

Story excerpt: Kittygirl vs. evil videogames!

This excerpt is from my third Kittygirl story, which I was not able to present at the last meeting. So I am hoping my critique group will take a look and leave comments. Anyone else is welcome to comment also, but I prefer writers.

(I performed it last night at a Red Rock Coffee open mic. It went over well, but I hav to keep track of my villain voices. I was told John Glutt sounded a bit like Bullwinkle. Actually I think of Simpsons Comic Book Guy.)

WHAT HAS GONE ON BEFORE! At the big super-videogame convention, eight year old Kittygirl played the videogame where you can be Super Holly Hansson, the mightiest superhero on Earth! Then Kittygirl’s hero and B.F.F. Super Holly flew Kittygirl to the kid gaming pavilion, where the other super kids played videogames and told Kittygirl that she missed the election for president of the new super kid club. Super Holly flew to the super gaming castle where all the superheroes were going to introduce a super videogame. Kittygirl found out that she’d left her badge with Super Holly and bounded after her in fifty-foot kitty-leaps. Inside the gaming castle, Kittygirl saw henchmen operating videogames, oh no, a supervillain must be near! And she heard something that made her hair fluff up in fear!

From behind a twenty-foot high wall surrounding the center of the castle came Super Holly’s heroic and ANGRY voice! “Stoppit!” POW! “Oh, you want some too?” WHAM! “I hate the mind-controlled-friends against the hero cliche, I HATE IT!” POW THUD BAM!!!

Kittygirl tippy-toe-quietly ran, LEAPED, and landed feet-first perfect on top of the wall. And what she saw made her claws pop out! MMMROWL!

Men gamers stood on a stage and operated controllers and smiled big and mean like comic book villains! Between the stage and the wall, a great big bunch of supers wearing metal helmets grabbed at Holly! For every one Holly fought off—BIFF! BAM! WHAM! KAPOWIE!!!—three more took their place! Holly growled and kicked and punched and said bad words, good thing Mom wasn’t there.

One of those gamers goggly-eyed stared at Holly as he danced with his game controller. He was tall, skinny, dressed in white, had a big icicle nose… ICE CREAM GUY! Kittygirl crouched for a pounce with a HISSSSSS!

Super Holly’s eyes aimed right at Kittygirl like big blue pleading lasers. Kittygirl was not surprised Holly heard that, they knew every mad/sad/glad sound the other made. Holly shook her head NO. Kittygirl tensed, her claws popped in-out-in-out… but Holly was right. There were way too many supers, Kittygirl would just get caught too. Kittygirl crouched down to hide, and she bit her lip to not cry.

Then Kittygirl stiffened her lips. She couldn’t save her hero, but she could watch and learn that frosty fiend’s evil plan! From the edge of the stage, he operated his controller like a racing car steering wheel as he long-toothy smiled down at Holly. “HEH HEH HEH HEH HEH! I have you now, my p-p-p-pretty!”

Holly threw a couple of supers fifty feet and snarled, “You’ll have my fist in your— UMPH!!!” Great big beefy mighty muscle arms had wrapped around Holly from behind. She squirmed and thrashed, she kicked her feet, but she did not break free! Wow, that guy must be STRONG! Holly yelled, “URGH, NO NO NO NO,” looked over her shoulder, and stopped fighting. “Oh no. Not you too, Flex.”

That nice bodybuilder guy with the super-handsome face was not smiling his wonderful smile. He held Holly like he was a human robot.

From a shadowy place on the stage came a conceited, obnoxious, fat-cheeked laugh that made Kittygirl’s neck fur fluff up. “HUH, HUH, HUH!!! You are trapped, foolish female! Every bit of strength you throw at Fred Lexington—”

“Makes him stronger,” Holly said. “I know, I know! Would you please not narrate everything you see?”

Kittygirl swallowed a MMMROWL! Waddling to center stage was her former godfather, JOHN GLUTT! Nearly as wide as he was tall, same tight red supersuit with an A on the chest, same big bushy beard, and same big fat mouth that blabbed on and on and on! “As leader, the joy of monologging belongs to ME! So, before I find your caped and cowled boyfriend who vanished in a puff of smoke when I sprung my trap on these other silly supers, AND just before I convert the mightiest of the supers—namely YOU, Super Holly Hansson!—into my master gaming piece, AND as I will then diabolically gain mastery of every gamer in the world, allow me to introduce what you foolish superheroes should have created but didn’t and I did: a super league! A league of…” He finally took a deep breath, his belly and chest got bigger, and he yelled all that hot air back out again. “Objectificationists! Say hello to Ice—”

Holly interrupted, glaring at Ice Cream Guy. “We’ve met.”

Ice Cream Guy glared at John. “You did not s-s-s-say anything about j-j-j-joining your sexist cult!”

BZZZzzzz… Kittygirl scrunched lower as a drone flew by, smooshing onto the wall like a kitty rug.

A guy in a rumpled lab coat operated two controllers at once. That evil inventor, STEPHAN! He wheezed with a face as rumply as his coat, “Chill out, my frosty friend, you will like how Super Holly will dress for this occasion!”

A couple of pretty super ladies did pretty poses beside Stephan. EW, they were dressed in tiny clothes like that stupid girl in that fast car game.

Super Holly’s face turned red, and Kittygirl guessed not because of Flex’s tight, strength-sucking grip, “I am NOT wearing THAT!”

Stephan threw back his ugly head for his nasty evil laugh. “BEE-YOU, HA HA HA HAAAAA!!! Yes you will! For my turn-people-into-drones drone technology works perfectly!”

Next to Stephan, a teenage guy raised a finger in the air and smiled like the smartest student in class about to correct the teacher for the umpteenth time. “I, Creastly Smusher, must inform you that it is my superior software in your inferior hardware that allows the drones, once they attach themselves to a human cranium, to override the brain and allow said human to be operated like a gaming character. And when said human is super, my software additionally allows said superpowers to be networked—”

John Glutt’s face turned red as his suit. “SHUT UP, CREASTLY!” He turned back to Holly. “As I was expositioning, the combination of my supervillain team’s skills and powers form a perfect plan of brains and might that cannot fail! Women shall learn their proper place!”

Kittygirl heard a loud, dumb, “BRRRRRRAAAAGGGHHHHHH!!! HARRY HATE SWORD LADY GAME!!!”

John turned toward the back of the stage. “Okay, Mr. Muscles, what NOW?!?!”

The wall shook under Kittygirl as—STOMP! STOMP! STOMP! STOMP!—seven foot tall, five foot wide Harry Headbutt gorilla-walked to John. Kittygirl’s nose squinched at the real Harry’s stinky sweaty tummy. “STUPID CONTROLLER TOO PUNY FOR HARRY’S FINGERS! SEE?!?!” YUCKY, bad breath too!

Harry mushed his fat sausage fingers on the controller. Before the stage, that nice swordlady Teri Silver stumbled left and right, jumped ten feet high, somersaulted, then belly-flopped onto the floor.

BZZZZZZ… With a flick of her claws, Kittygirl silently sliced a drone in half. MROWL, you’re not gonna drone me!

Westley raised his finger and grinned again. “I did inform you that you needed large economy sizes for large lumbering louts.”

John and Stephan and Harry all yelled, “SHUT UP, CREASTLY!” Then John yelled at Stephan, “Make a bigger controller for that lumbering lummox. Pronto!”

Stephan yelled back, “I demand overtime!”

Harry yelled, “HARRY NOT LUMBER!!!”

Holly stared at them with her mouth open. So did Kittygirl. John was a really bad boss. Then Holly bashed her head back and hit Flex’s controlling helmet, YES! But the helmet did not break, NO!

“HUH HUH HUH!” Like a big water balloon, John Glutt wobbled to the edge of the stage to look down his nose at Holly. “Your strength is useless against Flex’s helmet, for like me, my drone helmets—”

Stephan loudly wheezed with a frown, “You mean MY helmets!”

Westley calmly said with a smile, “And my software.”

John said, “SHUT UP, ALL OF YOU!” He stomped his foot, sending a ripple up his plump leg that rolled his belly. Then he operated his game controller. “Like me, my drone helmets copy the powers and abilities of whatever super wears them! Like you, my failing female! Have a pretty hat for your puny head! HUH HUH HUH!!!”

Oh no, a drone glommed onto Holly’s head! The lights on it flashed brighter and faster! Holly struggled and screamed, “NOOOOOO!!!”

Kittygirl’s phone went BZZT! Her Mom’s voice blasted from it way too loud! “Katsuko! Where are you? LUNCHTIME!”

Holly’s eyes were so loving. “Sweetie… be bossy… uhhh…” Her brave, pretty face lost all expression!

John Glutt pointed his arm like a fat gun at Kittygirl. “STOP THAT CAT GIRL!”

TO BE CONTINUED!

Fault Zone Uplift readings on Nov 10

Fault Zone Uplift: What Goes Up

At the San Mateo Library (55 W 3rd Ave, San Mateo, CA), Saturday Nov 10, 10:30am-12:30, Fault Zone Uplift authors (like me!) will read their stories. I will read from What Goes Up, my Super Holly Hansson story with Holly’s saddest ending ever. (My evil plan! Get them laughing, then break their hearts, MOO HAHAHAHAHA!!!) This is a CWC (California Writers Club) Peninsula Branch event.

I will sell books at Campbell Con on Saturday, Oct 20.

Tomorrow, October 20 2018, I will be at Campbell Con, West Valley College, 14000 Fruitvale Ave, Saratoga, CA. I will go to my critique group at 10, so I will be with the South Bay Writers table at Campbell Con starting around 1pm. I will stay till it ends at 5pm.

Tobe in the photo works on the online comic Villain. Check it out. He drew Super Holly doing the Power Girl punch for me on my art-from-comic-cons page (scroll down a bit).