Bit by Bloody Bit: CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? edited by Lincoln Crisler – Part 5

Last week I wasn’t completely honest with y’all. Although Part 4 of the Bit by Bloody Bit Corrupts Absolutely? edition was titled “The Final Chapter,” there are actually a couple more stories to go before we wrap this up. I hope you can find it in your horror lovin’ hearts to forgive me.

This time it really is the end *tear*

The second to last story in this dark metahuman collection is “Gone Rogue” by Wayne Helge. This yarn is about how one sidekick finds his arch-nemesis and has one of my favorite endings among the 21 stories in this anthology. Z-pack is the trusted sidekick to the city’s hero Zooster, but when Z-pack has to step up to fight villain The Midshipman alone he proves to be more than capable. From then on, Zooster leaves the fighting to Z-pack so he can spend his time wooing the Athena sisters. That doesn’t mean he lets Z-pack take the credit for keeping the city safe, oh no. Z-pack does the dirty work and Zooster is there to take the credit giving interviews and smiling for newspaper photos. So where does that leave Z-pack? You’ll have to read to find out. “Gone Rogue” is one of the funnier stories in the bunch, mostly due to the hilarious punch line ending. Helge has a dark sense of humor that I think any reader will be able to appreciate. Short, sweet, to the point, and an ending that made me giggle out loud. “Gone Rogue” is a winner.

Corrupts Absolutely? ends on a bit of a sad note with Andrew Bourelle’s “Max and Rose.” While it’s not revealed explicitly how, Max has recently acquired superpowers and continues to get stronger. He has physical and mental strength, even able to control people with his mind. He hopes he can fly soon. Bourelle’s short gets at the heart of what Corrupts is all about. Max has newfound abilities, but he is not compelled to use them for good. He’s not stopping muggers from attacking innocent old ladies or disrupting bank heists. Instead Max is mind controlling women to have sex with him, using it to gain riches, and when this story opens he is manipulating the maître d’ of a fancy hotel restaurant to give him and Rose the best seat in the house. This may not sound so bad, but could this be how supervillains are born? Rose seems to think so and suddenly at this dinner at the fancy hotel, she has that epiphany which has recently been building. Everyone knows a true villain can’t find true love. In fact, it’s usually the loss of love that finally turns them completely to the dark side. Bourelle’s “Max and Rose” is the story of their relationship coming to an end, but in typical Corrupts fashion it is with a dramatic finale. This is a heartbreaking love story, the prologue to what could be a great supervillain’s tale and one of my favorites in the entire collection.

Corrupts Absolutely? opened strong, with Tim Marquitz’ “Retribution,” and ended with the equally strong “Max and Rose” by Andrew Bourelle. While there were a couple stories that I didn’t connect with as much as others, Corrupts represents a diverse group of dark metahuman fiction from a host of talented writers, rookie and veteran alike.

I was immediately intrigued when I first heard the concept for Corrupts Absolutely?. The collection quickly exceeded my expectations and what I thought would be an anthology of fun, lighthearted stories about evil supervillains turned out to be deep and often very personal. Childhood abuse, rejection from society, greed, power hunger, political corruption are all flavors offered in this anthology. A person corrupted by extraordinary ability is the perfect backdrop for some delectable mayhem, but Corrupts offers much more. While it’s impossible for every story to be a homerun for all readers, I think you will find that there are more RBIs than strikes. Did I say that right? My husband is making me watch a lot of baseball this summer. Thought I would throw that analogy out there.

If you’re like me, you will pick up this anthology because it has an interesting concept but after a few stories find that you were missing this type of superhero prose all along.

For a diverse collection of stories with a blistering pace, heavy action, and a lot of heart pick up Corrupts Absolutely? at Damnation Books or Amazon.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

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Bit by Bloody Bit: CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? edited by Lincoln Crisler – Part 4: The Final Chapter

We are nearing the home stretch of the Bit by Bloody Bit Corrupts Absolutely? edition. This is the Final Chapter where we wrap up the closing stories in the dark metahuman fiction collection. Unlike the Friday the 13th entry by the same name, editor Lincoln Crisler will not come back from the grave to torment you and other mentally unstable residents of a backwoods halfway house. Not yet anyway.

I think Crisler’s team of author-heroes have almost exhausted every possible angle to dark metahuman fiction. While some of the superheroes featured in these stories are inherently corrupt by their own evil, others are puppets of the government, and others still are driven to corruption from the pain and anger of abuse and exploitation. Until now, the majority of the stories in this collection highlight the human element in metahuman, tugging on the heartstrings of the readers as we are offered a glimpse into the psyche of man and woman burdened with superpower.

This anthology closes with a healthy mix of metahuman tales, but many of the stories celebrate the Tony Stark and Bruce Waynes of superherodom. They are powerful corporate moguls for whom monetary influence isn’t enough. Or in other cases, they use their endless funds to control the superhero game, rigging a system to work in their favor, and never for the little guys.

We finally get some much needed female sex appeal in Anthony Laffan’s “Sabre” which features a powerful, seductive protagonist Leandra Shields, a.k.a. superhero Sabre. Katy Pierce, a journalist with The Informer, is determined to prove there is a connection between Sabre and Miss Shield’s company Aegis Inc. “Sabre” is one of the shorter shorts in this collection and more of the beginning of a story than a complete tale, but with an undeniably sexy edge that will leave the reader wiping drool from their mouth. I run the risk of revealing too much by saying more since this is a very brief story, but the heavy eroticism, while understated, was a welcomed surprise.

While the first two stories in this section have a bit of fun with the traditional superhero mythos, Lee Mather’s “Crooked” is a dark and violent drama. When we meet up with Leon Light, a.k.a. Lightfingers, he is making his way to Dale Howard’s place, though at the time we’re not sure why, then he heads over to his former girl Willa’s place. When he gets there Willa is missing along with their kid. Leon Lightfingers has been on the run from Jimmy Delvita, the Mouth of Truth, after taking his money for sixteen years, but his past has finally caught up with him. The history between Leon and Jimmy is deep. He took Leon in when he was just a kid, starting him in his burglary racket. All the sordid details play out from the time Leon is picked up by one of Jimmy’s henchman at Willa’s to the blistering finale at Jimmy’s headquarters. “Crooked” is one of the few stories in this collection with strong horror elements. Both Jimmy and Leon have acquired their power in tragic accidents. The former proudly displays a scar across his stomach known as the Mouth of Truth which mimics Jimmy’s emotion in its varying forms. And the latter can control objects with his mind, the result of a crippling beat down, and subsequent stroke, by his father. Only one can survive this final standoff. Vicious and cruel, “Crooked” is a heartbreaking story with a satisfying twist.

We get back into the mechanical gadgetry of superheroes with Trisha J. Wooldridge’s “Fixed.” Victoria Chattham works for a real asshole of a boss – excuse my language – Broderick. Despite her over qualifications in engineering, she’s treated like a glorified secretary. She also sports a prototype prosthetic arm, a project in which she was lead engineer. This bionic arm becomes the focal point of the story. Broderick needs her expertise to make an entire suit of the same caliber. This may sound a lot like Tony Stark’s Iron Man suit, but this story isn’t about the suit or Broderick, it’s about Victoria breaking free from his corrupt power and taking back what is rightfully hers. But that requires hard work and late hours, both threatening to breakup her already fragile marriage with Bill, a serious hothead. Wooldridge reveals the volatile relationship between Victoria and Bill tactfully and the tension between them is palpable. The only trouble was I wasn’t particularly interested in them making it work. As I mentioned, Bill is a hothead, but not just a little irrational, he is at times violent and often whiny. I feel like I may have missed an integral point to what drives this relationship, besides their children. Victoria was relatable though. She’s obviously strong and highly intelligent, but marginalized for more than just her disability – she’s a Hispanic female in a predominantly male field. A minor downside for me, though, was a majority of the scenes were focused on the mechanics of the project Victoria is working on with heavy mechanical speak that went right over my head. This made it difficult for me to stay engaged. At the same time, that’s the point of the story! I suspect that fans who dabble in straight sci-fi, or fans that are less superficial than myself, won’t have that complaint. Don’t get me wrong, I like straight sci-fi too, but I struggle with too much technobabble.

Next up is a piece from a writer with a name worthy of only a tried and true badass, Cat Rambo and her short “Acquainted with the Night.” She has either the coolest name or pen name in the history of names. “Acquainted with the Night” is heavy on the supernatural elements focusing on a group of superheroes, the Weather Team, that enjoy a bit of pleasure with their work, in particular our protagonist Captain Hurricane. Unfortunately, Captain Hurricane can’t have the love he truly pines for, an alien from beyond Betelgeuse named Waterlily Elegance. “When she returned home to engage in the mating ritual that would lead to her explosion in a rain of seeds,” Captain Hurricane finds himself in the arms of Sunshine Princess. He can’t shake his infatuation for Waterlily Elegance and Sunshine Princess’ affection only fuels his anger and depression further. Too bad his convienent lay bears real fruit and Sunshine Princess reveals that she is with child. This is much like a fantasy-fueled Jerry Springer episode in its dramaticism, but despite this Rambo makes the whole tragedy play out in beautiful prose. All this culminates in a gut-wrenching conclusion that will turn any reader’s stomach. “Acquainted with the Night” has very light and dreamy prose, but seriously dark subject matter. Bravo to Cat Rambo for offering up a piece that lives up to the soft / hard dichotamy of her name.

That wraps up this edition of Bit by Bloody Bit. Remember when I said there would be no ressurection? OK, I lied. I know this isn’t the way to foster healthy relationships, but I promise this is the last time 😉

I’ll be back next week with the final two stories in this collection and the wrap-up!

Don’t wait for the conclusion to get your copy, you can pick up Corrupts Absolutely? at Damnation Books or Amazon.

Stop back next week for the real finale of Bit by Bloody Bit Corrupts Absolutely? edition!

Bit by Bloody Bit: CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY? edited by Lincoln Crisler – Part 3

In Part 3 of Bit by Bloody Bit Corrupts Absolutely? edition, the review column for taking apart books limb by bloody limb, we take a look at the next five stories in this dark metahuman anthology. Now beyond the halfway point, we continue to delve into the cruel reality of meta-human life like the previous five stories, but instead of grappling with their own personal demons it’s the corruption of others that put them in danger.

First up is Joe McKinney’s “Hero.” McKinney introduces Robert Hanover, a man with the power of premonition–exactly seven minutes and twenty-two seconds into the future–and Dr. Lange who is working with Hanover in the insane asylum where he now resides. Hanover wasn’t always a crazy man confessing his woes to a doctor in the nuthouse. Once a media darling, saving lives left and right, his ego turned the public against him. Now he is denyed that much needed attention. Dr. Lange seems unimpressed with Hanover’s claims despite the undeniable heroism he’s shown in the past. McKinney’s story demonstrates that it’s not always the superhero’s ego we have to watch out for. There are plenty of other people that will be inclined to exploit the gift. McKinney is known for his horror as well as crime fiction with a heavy police procedural angle, but he weaves a delectably suspenseful yarn with “Hero.” He builds the tension between Hanover and Dr. Lange without spoiling the ending and includes little details to throw the reader off as well–Hanover calls Dr. Lange by his first name, Gene, which Lange attributes to his narcissism, but could these men have a past history? While I had questions that were never answered, I could appreciate that McKinney was coercing me into thinking outside the story and this was one of my favorites in the entire anthology.

“Pride” by Wayne Ligon shows that superheroes aren’t exempt from the corrupt world of politics. In fact, they are perfect targets for a politician’s selfish agenda and unfair legislation. Calvin Carmichael is a young meta-human trying to overcome his dark past. Carmichael worked as sidekick Kid Kinetic for the Detroit’s Teen Corps One. When his mentor put a woman in a wheelchair after a botched job, Kid Kinetic took the blame. Now, he works construction with the threat of prison looming over him like a dark cloud and all it would take is one more screw up to put him away for life. Of course, this makes Carmichael an obvious candidate for playing the fall guy (again!) when the Detroit Mayor’s plans for expansion are threatened. Like McKinney’s tale before it, Ligon’s “Pride” takes a more realistic approach to a world of metahumans. Ligon also introduces an important real world component — metahuman legislation. In a world with superheroes, there would have to be laws and regulations to control their activity. Ligon addresses the social implications of a metahuman world without bogging his story down with too much legislation talk, but instead uses it as a backdrop for the main action. For a story about a kid with superhuman strength and power, Ligon spins a believably realistic yarn.

Keeping consistent with this group of stories, “G-Child” by Malon Edwards is a tale about the marginalization of methumans. In this short, Aieesha (a.k.a. Bliss) and her partner Ray J (a.k.a. Rayge) are the result of an experimental prenatal supplement. Luckily these children were born healthy, but have the unfortunate side effect of superpowers. This has alienated them from parents they love and need most. Relegated to the institution that created them, both Aieesha and Ray J suffer from emotional turmoil. When this story opens Ray J has gone rogue, destroying homes and putting innocent lives in danger. Aieesha is there in hopes of reigning him in. Initially I struggled to get into this story. “G-Child” is a high action narrative from the opening and I was a little confused about what was going on and the relationship between Aieesha and Ray J. The turning point for me was when Edwards started to intersperse flashbacks in the present day storyline. The reader gets some much needed background on the origin of Aieesha and Ray J, but also a heartbreaking glimpse into how this life has impacted our protagonists. The element I’ve enjoyed most about many of the stories in this collection is the realism the authors bring to this supernatural fantasy world. Edwards does this successfully with “G-Child” as well. Even though I found the opening to be a bit disjointed I found both Aieesha and Ray J to be sympathetic characters that heightened the harshness of Edward’s metahuman world. This author also addresses how these superbeings might act out given the emotional abuse they suffer. Aieesha, like any other angsty teen, finds unhealthy ways to deal with her internal demons, but when you’re a superhuman they’re particularly dangerous.

Jason Gehlert’s “Static” goes in more of a supernatural direction with a story about a spirit resurrected. Skylar comes from beyond the grave, taking over the body of Jamison, to challenge New York City police officers Lincoln Carter and Joe Buchanan for signing his death sentence years ago. Gehlert’s police procedural focuses on the battle between Skylar (in Jamison’s body) and Officers Carter and Buchanan, but the reader never has the opportunity to connect with any of the characters. I wasn’t necessarily rooting for Carter and Buchanan to defeat the resurrected criminal Skylar, but I wasn’t cheering for him either. I also didn’t feel particularly bad for Jamison, the innocent vessel caught up in this battle. Without having that connection with at least one character in the story I found it difficult to stay engaged. Skylar is genuinely creepy and I found the scenes between him and Jamison most effective. There were horror elements, which have been mostly absent from this collection, and there are extensive fight scenes that fans of action will enjoy. I still would have liked to have characters I could connect with beyond the surface. Since the stories that precede “Static,” and the one following, focus on the human component of metahuman and the psychology of that existence, this story felt a bit out of place as a straight up action narrative.

Karina Fabian’s “Illusion” returns to the exploration of personal tragedy in being a superhuman. Deryl Stephens is thirteen years, four months, and seven days old. He is in eighth grade. His favorite subject is science. He likes metrology best. His worst subject is Social Studies. He has to repeat that mantra multiple times everyday because Deryl can hear everyone’s thoughts and has seemingly no control over his gift. To Deryl this is a curse. The voices flood his head in an unceasing cacophony of chaotic, foreign thought. Fabian’s sad drama is much like Edward M. Erdelac’s “Conviction” in that both deal with a young child not quite in control of his power, but who also have the likelihood of misusing their strength to lash out at those who have hurt them. Both Fabian and Erdelac’s perspective on metahumans show the terror and isolation of having power you don’t understand. Fabian easily gains the reader’s sympathy for Deryl, illustrating his pain and anguish exquisitely.

Despite a little misstep in the placement of the action driven narrative, “Static,” amid the dramatic, psychological driven stories, Corrupts Absolutely? continues to offer a wide range of dark metahuman fiction. At the 15th story mark, editor Crisler shows there is much to offer in the realm of superhero fiction from the authors he has picked for this collection.

You can pick up Corrupts Absolutely? at Damnation Books or Amazon.

Stop back next week for part 4 of Bit by Bloody Bit! Link to Part 4 here.

Dreadfully Anticipated 2012

Dear Dreadful readers, we have a great 2012 ahead of us because there a frightful number of horror titles clawing there way to your bookshelves and e-readers this year. While our film-obsessed horror brothers and sisters discuss the state of dismal box office turnout and the exhaustive onslaught of remakes, reimaginings, and reboots, we’ll be celebrating the hard work and dedicated efforts of some of the best in genre literature as well as meeting some fresh faces to the scene. Every year seems to get better as my to-read list climbs to new heights and the outlook for 2012 is no different. Here is a list of the releases we are dreadfully anticipating this year, in no particular order.

The unfolding of Monica S. Kuebler’s online YA vampire series Bleeder

We’ve mentioned Bleeder a few times now, but it is timely to give it another shout because Chapter 2 just went live yesterday! If you haven’t been reading along, go back and check out the first two chapters in the series and buckle in for the exciting saga of Mildred “Mills” Millhatten as her life is turned upside down by a long dormant family secret. Monica S. Kuebler calls Bleeder “pitch-black urban fantasy/horror crossbreed” for teens, but I can assure you this will be enjoyed by adult readers too. A new chapter will go live every Sunday, so mark your calendars! Visit the Bleeder website here.

Jeff Strand’s Faint Of Heart (February 2012)

Jeff Strand just made an announcement this past Thursday about his upcoming novel Faint Of Heart via his website, Gleefully Macabre, with a very simple but enticing teaser followed by a peek at the cover:

Some of you prefer my funny stuff.

Some of you prefer the more serious stuff.

For those of you in the latter category, on February 1st there’s…

We are huge Jeff Strand fans here at Dreadful Tales. Hell, I even got dressed up like the guy and went strutting around town because I admire him so much! I like the funny, I like the serious, I’m just happy when he’s releasing new work! Faint Of Heart is due out February 1st, so keep your eyes peeled on Strand’s Facebook page and website for the deets.

The Hunger Artist by Lisa Mannetti (TBD)

Lisa Mannetti just announced via Facebook a few hours ago, at the time of writing this, that she is starting her next novel, tentatively titled The Hunger Artist, so I can’t say for certain that is will be published in 2012. Regardless, I am as pleased as punch to hear there is a new book on the horizon from this Bram Stoker Award-winning talent. I have no synopsis to tease you with or cover art to entice your eyeballs, but we’ll be sure to keep you posted as information becomes available. In the meantime, you can stalk her Facebook page and visit her website to stay abreast (stop giggling, Colum!) of everything Mannetti.

Everything Greg Lamberson is releasing! (April 2012, June 2012, October 2012)

Greg Lamberson has at least three books coming out in 2012! Yes, you read that right, three! And he may even have some super top secret book that he’ll squeeze in before year end as well, but we’ll have to wait and see.

First up from Lamberson is his zombie road novella, Carnage Road, out from Creeping Hemlock Press’ zombie line, Print Is Dead, in April. I scanned the aged wall postings of my Facebook to find the original blurb Lamberson used to describe this novella, but without success. If memory serves me right, he said it’s “Dawn of the Dead meets Easy Rider.” If that doesn’t sell you, read Colum’s glowing review that just went live yesterday. Lamberson also put together a book trailer where he puts that filmmaking experience to good use! Carnage Road is due out April 3rd, 2012, which is also my birthday, so plug that one in your calendar! Creeping Hemlock Press has an obvious eye for talent and they’re quickly becoming my favorite indie press, so stop by their their website to see the other horror titles they offer.

Second on the agenda is the long-awaited follow-up to Lamberson’s werewolf novel The Frenzy Way, The Frenzy War. Already available for pre-order, The Frenzy War is due out in June 2012 from Medallion Press. It’s been almost two years since we left our hero, Detective Tony Mace, and I am anxious to catch back up with this hunka hunka burnin’ love fearless protector of humanity. Tony, if you’re reading this, call me!

And finally, the third book Lamberson will release this year is the fourth installment in the action / horror mashup, The Jake Helman Files series, Tortured Spirits, due out in October 2012 also from Medallion Press. This is a truly epic series with a badass paranormal detective, Jake Helman, and a whole host of monsters. If you haven’t had a chance to read these books yet, make it your top priority! Otherwise, Detective Helman might come kick you right in the groin! Find out more about the fourth book here.

House of Skin by Jonathan Janz (Summer 2012)

I just recently finished Jonathan Janz’ first title published by Samhain Publishing, The Sorrows, and it really blew me away. I will be posting a proper review soon, so I won’t elaborate too much here now, but I will say all you children of Laymon out there will be pleased. The Sorrows is a turbo-charged, erotic horror that has passages to make the roughest biker dude blush and maybe even warm his heart! Samhain will publish his sophomore effort, House of Skin, this summer and I can’t wait to see what other sick and twisted monsters Janz will unleash upon the reading community. Read more about House of Skin and browse around Janz’ site here.

Corrupts Absolutely? anthology edited by Lincoln Crisler (March 2012)

Corrupts Absolutely? asks its readers what would happen if people had superpowers. People including the mentally unstable, social outcasts, and the regretful and bitter. Featuring work by genre favorites like Jeff Strand, Joe McKinney, Weston Ochse, and a dozen more, this anthology will undoubtedly be on everyone’s wish list this year, if it isn’t already. Corrupts Absolutely? will be available from Damnation Books March 2012.

Zombies vs Robots: This Means War, edited by Jeff Conner (April 2012)

Here is another title being released on my birthday! I don’t know who sent the memo to the publishing world, but THANK YOU! Zombies vs Robots: This Means War takes IDW’s comic book series, created by writer Chris Ryall and artist Ashley Wood, and promises it “expands it in ways that will redefine both zombie and robot fiction.” While I’m not familiar with the original series, I like a good comic and the lineup for this collection is promising which makes it worthy of an instant self-gift for my day of birth! Great concept, talented contributors, and a pretty badass cover too. You can preorder ZVR: This Means War, due out April 3rd, 2012, now at Amazon for a slight discount.

Wild 2 by Lincoln Crisler (September 2012)

Lincoln Crisler is gonna be a busy bee this year, buzzin’ all over the genre scene. Not only is he involved in the two projects mentioned above, but he’ll also be releasing the sequel to his weird western zombie novella Wild with Wild 2. There’s no cover art available to tease you with just yet because the book won’t be out until September 2012 (apparently he didn’t get the memo that all releases are due on my birthday!), but here is a peek at what to expect from the second entry.

While escorting Henry Waters to his new beginning at a Massachusetts prep school, Matthias and Juan uncover the reason for the school’s headmaster’s mysterious disappearance. Less cowboy. More questions.

Release of the film adaptation of Elizabeth Massie’s short story Abed (Spring 2012)

Abed, short story by two-time Bram Stoker Award-winning author Elizabeth Massie, has been called one of the most disturbing horror stories ever written. Now, the director adapting the short story for film, award-winning writer/director Ryan Lieske, has his sights set on making it the most disturbing zombie film of 2012. Until just last night, literally right before I went to bed, I hadn’t read Abed, but being a Massie fan I was still excited to learn that one of her stories would be adapted for film. Now that I have finished Abed, I can say undoubtedly that the short is one of the most disturbing stories I have ever read and I am very curious to see how this evolves from the page to celluloid. You can pick up a digital copy for just $0.99, so you should do that right now! And just wait until you find out what “abed” means. Production for this project is in full swing and due out in my most anticipated season of the year, spring 2012! Like Abed on Facebook and keep up with one of the hardest working writers in this gory game on Massie’s website. Below is a synopsis to get your blood pumpin’.

The dead have risen … and in one small, Midwestern town, the residents have learned to cope as best they can.

Meggie lost her husband, Quint, during the early days of the undead uprising. She now lives a life of quiet horror and desperation, for her mother-in-law will do anything to help the family adjust to this new world. Even the unspeakable …

NightWhere by John Everson (June 2012)

Ever since Colum gave me a copy of John Everson’s The 13th a few years back, I haven’t missed anything by this author. His blend of erotica and horror has been perfected into an intoxicating signature style that hits all the right notes. Everson revealed some details about this project in his interview with Dreadful Tales here where he assures his sixth novel, NightWhere, is a return to form. More blood, more sex, more mayhem! NightWhere centers on a swinging husband and wife who are invited to a floating sex club, the titular NightWhere, where anything goes. There is no cover art available yet, but we’ll keep you posted. NightWhere will be available from Samhain Publishing June 2012. Prepare yourself! Until then, visit Everson’s website and sign-up for his newsletter to stay in the loop on everything the master of sexy is up to.

So, those are the titles we are most anxious for this year. Tell us about your most dreadfully anticipated titles in the comments section below!