Review: After the King: Stories in Honor of J.R.R. Tolkien

After the King edited by Martin H. GreenbergTitle: After the King: Stories in Honor of J.R.R. Tolkien
Editor: Martin H. Greenberg
Published: December 1992
Editor‘s Website: Wikipedia on Martin H. Greenberg
Genre: Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Short Stories

Review: A collection of 19 short stories written back in 1991 in honor of the 100th anniversary of J.R.R. Tolkien’s birth.  The list of authors includes some of the biggest names in fantasy since Tolkien introduced the world to Bilbo and Gandalf, Frodo and Sam, Legolas and Gimli, Aragorn, the Nazgûl, Sauron, Gollum, and The One Ring…and the many other characters and lands of Middle Earth, considered by many to be the real birth if high fantasy.

The authors were asked to write Tolkienesque stories and the genres and settings of these stories include fantasy, sci-fi, modern day, and the future.  As with most collections, my opinion of the stories ranges from liking very much to liking very little and some in-between.

This is my list of the ones I like quite a bit (not in any particular order):

I participate in a “Teaser Tuesday”, on the blog A Daily Rhythm, in which we take two sentences from the book we’re reading and submit them as a teaser.  The following are the teasers I submitted over the month or so it took me to read through this collection.

from Reave the Just by Stephen R. Donaldson
Well, Jillet had no need of anyone's forgiveness; but he felt a natural preference for men with amiable reputations.  From the honest alchemist, he went in search of an amiable usurer.
from In the Season of the Dressing of the Wells by John Brunner
It wasn't a question.  The tangled state of the bedclothes was evidence.
from The Halfling House by Dennis L. McKiernan
How the inn arrives, none that I had spoken to knew.  Rudd and Meech, a couple of barn Bwca--cousins of mine, you might say--tell that it materializes out of thin air...but then, they had been drinking when they claimed they had witnessed its appearance, and who can believe anything seen through the eyes of drunken Bwca?.
from Down the River Road by Gregory Benford
Never before had he done more than gaze in reverence and abject self-abasement at one of the induction ships as it parted the river with its razor-sharp prow.  Now Mr. Preston greeted him with a curt nod, quite circumspect compared to the sprawl of the man's conversation at breakfast.

Bottom Line:  While I’m not really sure what Tolkienesque means, maybe you can figure it out and decide if the stories in this collection meet that standard.  Other than that, I really liked 8 out of the 19 stories, another two or three almost made my list above, and only disliked about a handful, so I’ll say that makes a successful collection for me.

 

 

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Review: Nightmares & Dreamscapes

Nightmares & DreamscapesTitle: Nightmares & Dreamscapes
Author: Stephen King
Published: October 1993
Author’s Website: http://stephenking.com/
Genre: Horror-ish

Review: Nightmares & Dreamscapes is a collection of short stories.  There are a handful or more of the stories in here that certainly don’t fit the horror genre, and most that I’d say fit it, aren’t that particularly scary.  A few of the more horror-ish ones are “The Night Flier”, “Sneakers”, “You Know They’ve Got a Hell of a Band”, and “Rainy Season”. “Head Down” is a work of non-fiction that shows you can write true stories with a flair that makes them interesting.

Here are a few excerpts I used for Teaser Tuesday posts:

“On the mound, Matt Francke, who was twice within inches of winning his game, lowers his head, not wanting to look.  And as Ryan rounds second and starts back toward home, he seems to finally understand what he has done, and at that point he begins to weep.” – from ‘Head Down’

““Oh, I write like a boid,” Dees said, and offered a smile he hoped looked good-humored and warm.  This was an expression he had practiced almost constantly and continued to practice with fair regularity in the bedroom mirror of the New York apartment he called his home, and in the mirrors of the hotels and motels that were really his home.  It seemed to work–Selida McCammon answered it readily enough–but the truth was that Dees had never felt good-humored and warm in his life.” – from ‘The Night Flier’

“It wasn’t much, but Brad Pearson had learned that killing bats had at least one thing in common with cutting down on your cigarette intake:  you had to start somewhere.” – from ‘The Ten O’ Clock People’

“He loved to hear Grandpa talk.  The things Grandpa said continually amazed him because they almost always made sense.” – from ‘My Pretty Pony’

“At first his course of action had seemed clear-cut and simple: avoid that particular men’s room, and avoid all thoughts and questions about the sneakers.  Simply turn that subject off.” – from ‘Sneakers’

 

Bottom Line:
This wasn’t my favorite Stephen King book, or even my favorite collection of short stories that he’s released.  Not that the writing in the stories is sub-par, of course, but most of the stories just didn’t grab me.  A couple that did, though, have stuck with me for years, like “The Ten O’Clock People” and “The Night Flier”.  I would recommend this to real fans of Stephen King, but not for folks who’ve read one or two of his scarier books and are looking for more of the same.  For those who’ve not read Mr. King’s works and would like a good intro to his writing style without too much “spooky”, this would fit the bill.

Teaser Tuesday: Head Down (Nightmares & Dreamscapes)

Teaser Tuesday post for 12 August 2014:

Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen KingOn the mound, Matt Francke, who was twice within inches of winning his game, lowers his head, not wanting to look.  And as Ryan rounds second and starts back toward home, he seems to finally understand what he has done, and at that point he begins to weep.

from Head Down in “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” by Stephen King

 

 

 

 

Teaser Tuesday logo

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

—————————————————————————————————————————

Teaser Tuesday: The Ten O’ Clock People (Nightmares & Dreamscapes)

Teaser Tuesday post for 29 July 2014:

Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen KingIt wasn’t much, but Brand Pearson had learned that killing bats had at least one thing in common with cutting down on your cigarette intake:  you had to start somewhere.

from The Ten O’ Clock People in “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” by Stephen King

 

 

 

 

Teaser Tuesday logo

———————————————————————————–

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

—————————————————————————————————————————

Teaser Tuesday: My Pretty Pony (Nightmares & Dreamscapes)

Teaser Tuesday post for 22 July 2014:

Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen KingHe loved to hear Grandpa talk.  The things Grandpa said continually amazed him because they almost always made sense.

from My Pretty Pony in “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” by Stephen King

 

 

 

 

Teaser Tuesday logo

———————————————————————————–

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

—————————————————————————————————————————

Teaser Tuesday: Sneakers (Nightmares & Dreamscapes)

Teaser Tuesday post for 15 July 2014:

Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen KingAt first his course of action had seemed clear-cut and simple: avoid that particular men’s room, and avoid all thoughts and questions about the sneakers.  Simply turn that subject off.

from Sneakers in “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” by Stephen King

 

 

 

 

Teaser Tuesday logo

———————————————————————————–

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

—————————————————————————————————————————

Teaser Tuesday: The Night Flier (Nightmares & Dreamscapes)

Teaser Tuesday post for 8 July 2014:

Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen King“Oh, I write like a boid,” Dees said, and offered a smile he hoped looked good-humored and warm.  This was an expression he had practiced almost constantly and continued to practice with fair regularity in the bedroom mirror of the New York apartment he called his home, and in the mirrors of the hotels and motels that were really his home.  It seemed to work–Selida McCammon answered it readily enough–but the truth was that Dees had never felt good-humored and warm in his life.

from the The Night Flier to “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” by Stephen King

 

 

 

 

Teaser Tuesday logo

———————————————————————————–

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

—————————————————————————————————————————

Teaser Tuesday: Nightmares & Dreamscapes

Teaser Tuesday post for 1 July 2014:

Nightmares & Dreamscapes by Stephen KingBut it isn’t about the money, no matter what the glossy tabloids may say, and it’s not about selling out, as the more arrogant critics really seem to believe.  The fundamental things still apply as time goes by, and for me the object hasn’t changed–the job is still getting to you, Constant Reader, getting you by the short hairs and, hopefully, scaring you so badly you won’t be able to go to sleep without leaving the bathroom light on.

from the Introduction to “Nightmares & Dreamscapes” by Stephen King

 

 

 

 

Teaser Tuesday logo

———————————————————————————–

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

—————————————————————————————————————————

Flash Fiction: The Devil’s in the Details

Story created in response to Zachary Pettit’s writing prompt “Full Disclosure” found in his Promptly blog post: What do you want to see in Writer’s Digest?, 4 May 2011.

The Devil’s in the Details (word count: 480)

They toured the house with the real-estate agent.

“We love it,” he said. “Is there anything we should know about the house’s past?”

The agent looked down.

“That can’t be a good thing,” the husband whispered to his wife.

She looked at the agent staring at her shoes and quietly replied, “I’m sure it’s nothing. Why would she bring us here if something horrible had happened?”

“Nothing has happened in this house…” the real estate agent began.

“See, honey… I told you,” she cut in.

“…BUT,” continued the agent, looking at the husband, “you’re going to die here.”

The couple looked at each other, then back at the agent, mouths working soundlessly.

“Yes, you heard me correctly,” she said, then smiled.

The wife gaped at the real estate agent for a few seconds, the husband’s brow furrowed.

“Oh! I get it,” the wife said, turning to her husband.  “She means we’re going to buy the house and live out our lives here.” Looking back at the agent, she said “Whew!  You really had us going there for a second.”

“I hope you aren’t upset. I can just tell how much you both like it,” the real estate agent replied.

“Like it?  It’s perfect!” gushed the wife.  “Look at the view from this loft.  And at this price, it’s almost like my prayers have been answered.”

“Honey,” interrupted the husband.  “Can I talk to you for a second?” he asked, drawing her to a corner away from the agent.

“What’s wrong?” asked the wife.

“I’m not exactly sure, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this.  It’s too perfect.  And what she said…”

“It was a joke, dear,” the wife replied.  “An awkward one, but just a joke.  Everything is going to be all right.  We’re going to be happy here.”

“I don’t know.  I think we should go home and think about it.”

“What’s there to think about?” she contested.  “It’s everything we’ve been looking for and for less than we were willing to pay.”

“That’s kind of what I mean,” he said, glancing over at the smiling real estate agent.  “You know what they say about if something seems too good.”

“Yes, I know what they say and here’s what I have to say… go over there and sign the papers or I’m leaving you!”

Shocked, the husband hung his head, sighed, walked over to the real estate agent and signed the papers.

“It’s okay,” the she whispered to him as he turned toward the stairs.  “You’re wife is going to love the house.”

“I so will!  I’ll be the envy of all my friends!” the wife exclaimed, signing the papers.  “I’d have sold my soul for this house.”

“I know,” said the real estate agent.  A wicked smirk and gleam in her eye accompanied the yelp and sound of the husband tumbling down the stairs.  “You just did.”

**Note:  The first three lines, in bold, were provided as part of the writing prompt.

Flash Fiction: It Just Happened

Story created in response to Zachary Pettit’s writing prompt “Literary Roadshow, Slaughterhouse-Five Edition” found in his Promptly blog post: Beyond the Books – A Closer Look at Kurt Vonnegut, 8 Mar 2011.

It Just Happened (word count: 415)

“What did his wife say?”

“She doesn’t know yet,” I said. “It just happened.”

“Call her up and get a statement.”

“What?”

“A statement,” the patronizing butthead repeated.  “One of those things we get from people when things like this happen.”

“I know what a statement is, sir, but this isn’t exactly normal…and what exactly am I supposed to ask her?  She doesn’t have any idea that it just happened, nor that her husband was involved with it.”

“The head shed doesn’t care.  They just want something from ‘the grieving widow’ so that they can twist it to mean what they want.”  As he headed out the door, he quipped, “Just get a statement.”

I growled as I turned to the phone and picked it up to make the call.  As I started pushing buttons, trying to figure out what I was going to say, I heard someone on the other end.

“Hello,” I said.  “Who is this?”

It just happened, didn’t it?”

“Ma’am, I’m not sure what you’re talking about.  Who are you?”

“He told me it would happen sooner or later.  You didn’t think he kept secrets from me, did you?”

“Again, ma’am, I’m not sure what you think you know…”

“I know everything.  He made copies of his research so that if something happened, he wouldn’t just disappear without anyone finding out what he was working on.”

I was at a loss.  “Um… I, uh…”

“Well, I suppose I should call the authorities now that you’ve all bungled things up.  That’s what he wanted me to do.”

“Ma’am, there’s no need to do that.  We weren’t doing anything.  It just happened.”

“Young man, I’m not stupid or senile.  Things don’t just happen, but I don’t suppose it matters now.  It’s just a matter of time before what you’ve all started finishes us.”

“There’s no reason for dramatics, ma’am.  We have everything contained.”

“If you believe that, you have no idea what they were really working on.”

She’d caught me off guard again.  Did she really know that much about the project?

Her voice had softened, gotten more peaceful, when she continued, “Ah, well, I’ll be heading down to the cathedral and spending my last few hours on earth in His presence.  I’d suggest you do similar, but I find many of the folks my husband worked with found it difficult to believe in what they couldn’t see.”

I heard her hang up, heard the line go dead, and then my world imploded.