TBT: Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap

It’s getting into that spooky time of year, so for this week’s TBT I decided to look back at “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap.”  I spent most of my Spring Break this year reading horror short stories, writing reviews about and recommendations for some of the better stories I read.

I won’t do much more editorializing than that, as the original post is quite lengthy and detailed.  I will add that love short stories, and find the form chillingly effective for horror.  The brevity and concision of the form encourages horror writers to deliver chills and terror straightaway, and allows for frights to be the focus.

With that, here is “Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap“:

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A Tale of Two Horror Movies: Snatchers (2019) & Black Christmas (2019)

Regular readers know I’m a big fan of Redbox, the company that managed to survive the digital streaming revolution with its ubiquitous red monoliths stationed outside every pharmacy, Wal-Mart, and gas station in the country.  Without the overhead of Blockbuster, Redbox has scraped by on its hundreds of locations and super cheap rental fees, and by throwing coupons at customers every five minutes.

Little Lamar has one trusty (if occasionally glitchy) Redbox kiosk outside the local Dollar General.  I was convinced until this week that I was single-handedly keeping that kiosk afloat, but in The Age of The Virus, everyone is looking for cheap entertainment, and I’ve had to wait on someone slowly browsing through the dozens of selections before picking their entertainment sleeping pill for the night.  Regardless, I’ve rented so many movies for dirt-cheap, I’m achieved “Legendary” status with Redbox.

Finally, the recognition I deserve.

My point is, Redbox makes it compelling to watch a lot—and I do mean a lot—of schlocky trash.  They used to throw $1.50 off coupons at me (remember, a rental is only $1.90 for a DVD) like concubines at King Solomon.  Now they’re going with a BOGO strategy, which probably suits their interests better (if you forget to return your two movies, you’re going to pay for another night for both of them).  Either way, it just means I watch a TON of movies.

If I’m spending, essentially, $0.80 on a rental, I’m willing to take some risks.  Sometimes, as in the movie Snatchers (2019), that risk pays off beautifully, and I stumble upon a diamond in the rough.  Usually, I lose the bet, as was the case with Black Christmas (2019).

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Progressivism and Playing God

God Bless the weirdos at Quora for asking the questions the rest of us are too afraid to ask.  Regular readers know that I relish Quora fodder, as questions range from the ridiculous to the thought-provoking, but usually fall into some kind of bizarre no-man’s land.

Such is the case with this question:  “Do humanzees (half-human, half-chimpanzee hybrids) exist, or have ones been recorded in the past?”  It’s the kind of question that’s both fascinating and lurid, like reading about a baby raised by wild animals.  Like allowing a human baby to be raised in the wild (what was once called “the forbidden experiment“), such a horrific, cross-species hybrid would be a disgusting mockery of Creation—so, like the terrible car wreck, we want to see more.

The top answer to the humanzee question is from Belinda Huntington, who explains how various species within the same genus can crossbreed, such as a horse and a zebra, or a lion and a tiger.  The more mundane example is the humble mule, the result of a male donkey and a female horse.

Huntington then goes on to detail the many differences between humans and chimpanzees physiologically, and how such differences would make any offspring, if possible, extremely vulnerable and fragile—differences in spinal structure, arm and leg length, cranial capacity, etc.

She doesn’t get into the more interesting metaphysical questions, much less the moral ones—should we interbreed humans and chimps (answer:  no)—but she does link to a piece about Soviet experiments to interbreed humans and chimps.

Leave it to a dangerously progressive, atheistic ideology to play God.

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Lazy Sunday LVIII: Spring Break Short Story Recommendations Recap

Spring Break is (essentially) over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep reading fun stuff!  Today’s Lazy Sunday, perhaps predictably, is going to look back at my Spring Break Short Story Recommendations mini-series.  I’ll also include which of these stories was my favorite of the week.

These are strange times to be a politics blogger.  The Virus holds sway over every discussion, almost absorbing as much mental mind-share as President Trump.  It’s interesting that the same people who are obsessed with Trump are also the very same people that fetishize The Virus.  It’s the same kind of magical thinking:  just as Trump is the cause of all of their problems, so The Virus is the means by which they can exert more social and governmental control over the rest of us.

As such, writing about politics and The Virus has grown dull—and wearying.  Thus, this past week’s diversion into more harmless horror stories.

But I digress.  Let’s get on with the recap!

  • Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part I: ‘The Judge’s House’” – The chilling tale of Malcolm Malcolmson, the diligent mathematics student in search of total isolation, the better to pore over his textbooks.  Malcolmson takes quarters in the titular house in a distant town, but runs afoul of a demonic rat with a “baleful” eye.  Very spooky mood setting from a true master of horror, Bram Stoker.
  • Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part II: ‘Thus I Refute Beelzy’” – A short, skin-crawlingly creepy little story from John Collier.  In just five brief pages, this story depicts a troubled youngster—likely in league with Satan—and his overbearing, hyper-rationalist, abusive father.  The ending is satisfying, but the implication is even more horrifying.
  • Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part III: ‘Seven American Nights’” – A non-horror entry in the week, this story is a bit of sci-fi travel fiction.  A young Iranian visits a post-apocalyptic Washington, D.C., that is grasping to hold onto a nation irreparably in decline.  It’s an eerie bit of role reversal, as the Third World is on top, and America sinks into mutated decadence.
  • TBT: Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Mother Hive’” & “Rudyard Kipling’s ‘The Mother Hive’” (Original Post) – This post is more of an “honorable mention,” as I wrote about it last summer.  But when you blog everyday, as I do, you’re not going to pass up the chance to reblog every Thursday (seriously, it saves a ton of time).  Regardless, this tale definitely fits the theme:  an insidious wax-moth begins filling the heads of vulnerable young bees with sweet, silky lies, much like a public school English teacher.  Soon, the once-proud high is on the verge of collapse, with mutated and invalid “Oddities” born in greater numbers.  It’s a shocking allegory—or Aesopian fable—that ends in flames, with a cautiously optimistic coda.
  • Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part IV: ‘The Shed’” – I described this small-town tale as proto-Stephen King:  young boys work together to investigate the disappearance of a local dog—and to overcome a mysterious, malevolent evil, The Shadow.

Naturally, I recommend all of these stories—that’s why their recommendations, after all—but which one do I deem the best of the bunch?

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part IV: “The Shed”

Well, all good things must come to an end.  Such is the fate of Spring Breaks everywhere.  While I still have the glorious weekend before me, today marks the formal last day of break.

With that, it’s time to finish out our Spring Break Short Story Recommendations (read Part I, Part II, Part III, and the TBT installment) with 1952’s “The Shed,” a bit of small-town terror by E. Eerett Evans.  This story is a tad obscure, as is its author, and I couldn’t find a free version online, but like “The Judge’s House” and “Thus I Refute Beelzy,” it’s from 11 Great Horror Stories.

“The Shed” takes place in a small town in Michigan in the first decade of the twentieth century, and focused primarily on the rough-and-tumble adventures of the town’s boys, all under fourteen.  The boys are scrappy, plucky, and fun, and spend their days exploring town, splashing in the local waterhole, and generally doing the kinds of things boys did before they were shut up in classes for eight hours everyday.

The boys’ favorite play place is a dilapidated shed that belongs to the local railroad company.  They use the shed as their base of operations, and as a makeshift jungle gym.  However, they strenuously avoid one dark corner of the shed, in which resides The Shadown, an iridescent, subtly shifting, amorphous mass of malevolence.  The boys know, instinctively, to stay away from it, but otherwise tolerate its malignant presence.

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part II: “Thus I Refute Beelzy”

As I noted yesterday, Spring Break is an excellent time to catch up on some reading.  I am particularly fond of short stories, especially ghost stories, which can thoroughly explore one or two ideas in a relatively bite-sized chunk.  They’re perfect for casual reading while enjoying some downtime.

Like yesterday’s selection, today’s short story recommendation, John Collier‘s “Thus I Refute Beelzy,” comes from 11 Great Horror Stories, a collection of short stories that are not entirely horrific in nature, the title notwithstanding.

Thus I Refute Beelzy” definitely is a horror story, with touches of The Omen and Children of the Corn; that is to say, it’s a little bit of “terror-tot fiction,” a term I learned recently from Alan Jones’s review of the film Let’s Be Evil, one of the scores of bad horror films on Hulu.

The whole story is very short—about five pages—and can be read in around ten to fifteen minutes.  Indeed, there is a chilling recording of Vincent Price reading the story that is just shy of thirteen (mwahahahaha!) minutes long:

Within those five pages, though, Collier crams a great deal of characterization—and terror.

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Spring Break Short Story Recommendations, Part I: “The Judge’s House”

One of the perks of teaching is all the time we get off.  For my money, it’s not the long summer break that is the best—usually because I spend my summers working—but Christmas Break, which stretches on for two stately weeks.  It’s the ideal amount of time to decompress after the long Fall semester.

Next to that, however, is Spring Break, which at my little school lasts for a gloriously overstuffed eleven days, if you include the weekends (it’s seven workdays in total).  I still contend that Easter should get its full due and, a la a Southern European and/or Latin American country, get a full two weeks.

Nevertheless, the time off gives me a bit more time to relax and reflect (although I’ve been promised quite a few chores from my parents, who I am visiting for a bit)—and to read.  When it comes to books, I have the same issue as I do at buffets:  my eyes are bigger than my stomach (or, in this case, my capacity to read everything).  I always bring too many books with me on any trip, and am lucky to crack even one of them.  I also overindulge in written junk food, like reading various articles and blog posts online.

Further, my parents’ house, like my own, is full of books.  So I often find myself thumbing through their collection while neglecting my own Babel-esque stack of half-read tomes.

Such has been the case this Spring Break.  My own stack of reading sits forlornly to my right, probably feeling (if books can feel) a tad unnecessary.  Instead, I’ve been reading through a short story collection, 11 Great Horror Stories, edited by Betty M. Owen.  It’s a collection my mother picked up from a Scholastic book sale when she was still in school (this particular printing, the fourth, was published in March 1970, though the original copyright date is 1969), and it’s held up remarkably well for a paperback.

The collection itself is not all that horrific.  Several of the stories are only tangentially related, at best, to the horror genre; some of them, like Poe’s “The Oblong Box,” are more properly mysteries.  The collection does open with H.P. Lovecraft’s magisterial “The Dunwich Horror,” which is a must-read, although I skipped over it on this reading because it’s nearly sixty-five pages long.

For a detailed synopsis of all eleven stories, GoodReads.com reviewer Williwaw has written an excellent and useful summary of the collection, without giving away any of the fun and macabre twists.

For our purposes today, I’m recommending one of the better stories from the collection, Bram Stoker‘s (of Dracula fame) “The Judge’s House,” first published 5 December 1891.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Hammer Films

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

The Age of the Virus has demanded a unique sacrifice of all us, one that is fitting for our reduced age.  Our grandfathers and great-grandfathers stormed the beaches of Normandy and fought in the jungles of Iwo Jima.  They and their parents endured the Great Depression (we may be facing a similar struggle).  They sacrificed in blood, sweat, and toil.

All The Virus demands of us—the great sacrifice we all must make, of which we will tell our grandchildren, when they ask about the plague—is that we stay at home and watch movies.

It’s amusing.  Commentators will often quip that Americans today couldn’t make the sacrifices of the so-called “Greatest Generation.”  God surely has a sense of humor, for the sacrifices we’re asked to make are ones in which Americans are well-trained:  sit around, eat junk food, don’t visit other people, and veg out in front of the tube.

To that end, I’ve been engaged in my civic duty this week, as I’ve watched nine films.  Four are from the Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi 4-Movie Horror Collection, which I will write about in more detail another time (it’s only $10, and I highly recommend picking it up for The Black Cat alone—and the other films on it are good, too).

But the focus of this SubscribeStar Saturday will be another collection of B-horror flicks:  the Hammer Films Collection.  No, it’s not the Ultimate Hammer Collection, which I thought I didn’t know existed, but it turns out it’s on my Amazon wish list!).  But it does have five excellent, macabre films (I also didn’t realize that my Hammer Films Collection is merely the first volume; Volume II is now on my Amazon wish list for future purchase).

So, prepare yourself for my review of The Two Faces of Dr. JekyllStop Me Before I Kill!Scream of Fear!The Gorgon, and The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.