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Twilight Tales: Strange Creatures
edited by Tina L. Jens
11th Hour Productions, 52 pages

Twilight Tales: Strange Creatures
Twilight Tales
Twilight Tales: The Reading Series is a weekly event held at the Red Lion Pub across from the infamous Biograph Theatre in Chicago. Writers from the greater Chicago area and periodic visitors from away take to the stage every Monday night at 8PM spotlighting both published and unpublished authors of all genres. In 1998, they began a series of illustrated chapbooks. Many of the stories made their public debut at the reading series, some in the form of first drafts or works in progress. You can find ordering information and prices on the website.

Twilight Tales: The Reading Series Website
Tina L. Jens Website
SF Site Review: Twilight Tales: Dangerous Dames
SF Site Review: Twilight Tales: Tales of Forbidden Passion

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rodger Turner

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Strange Creatures is the third chapbook in the Twilight Tales series. The stories in this anthology all revolve around some facet or foible and its effect on you or me. In return, we see how it can makes us stronger, or can kill us. A pleasant prospect, eh? Well, they are horror stories after all.

Carrie Richerson's "Sous La Mer" is a classic tale of sibling rivalry and jealousy. Suzanne is a singer on the folk-singing circuit. Her voice tends to attract men at every stop. She's a sad and restless thing and her brother and manager, Merlin, warns these ardent suitors that it isn't in their best interests to pursue any kind of relationship. Testosterone makes them stupid and they never listen. But it isn't what you think.

Bill Breedlove's "Grate Expectations" trades on our fascination with spaces just out of our reach. We know we shouldn't investigate things best left alone. But the reveries are just so tantalizing. We're drawn to them. And what could it hurt? The story gives up a glimpse into what it could cost. Heh heh heh...

T. Diane Slatton's "Baby Hercules" is a brief little ditty about what can happen to you when you should be watching out for yourself instead of taking care of your helpless loved ones.

Yvonne Navarro's "The Best Years of My Life" is a harrowing tale of vengeance that all men should read. Richard runs into Nicole one night. She is an ex-lover of his who was shabbily treated. He is about to break up with his current lover and he's foolish enough to believe that he might be able to take up with Nicole where they left off. On a pretext, she invites him to her place. He soon discovers the truth in the old adage: "Revenge is a dish best served cold."

Scott Cupp's "I Was a Teenage Horny Toad" is a goofy tale of transfiguration, mutilation and hot rods. It would be a giggle of a story if only our 13-year old protagonist hadn't stuck the stupid magic ring on his finger and muttered the incantation. What happens next shouldn't happen to anybody. Unless of course, he's that neighbour kid who terrorizes everybody in his path.

Paul McComas' "Roomie" probably has a point. If it does I missed it. A great idea using the fact that we replace all our cells over a 7-year period. Or maybe it's 5. What would happen if, one day, we woke up and found them coalesced into a golem of some sort who shambles about, comforts us (because it know from whence it came) when we're lonely and can be something of a pain when somebody new drops into our life. What do you do with it, especially after time passes and you can't really clean it. Or can you?

Carrie Channell's "Protect, at All Costs" is a marvelous tribute to that sub-genre where we think we're in control but all we really are is in thrall to someone who knows better. Celie and her neuro-enhanced seeing-eye dog Wilkes find themselves the target of a street gang. Wilkes defends his master saving Celie from certain death. Unnerved and shaken, Celie takes to her apartment, fearful of stepping out. Wilkes convinces her that he'll defend her against all comers. Then she finds herself wandering into all sorts of dangerous places and situations. Little does she realize how dangerous this will be. But Wilkes does.

Andrea Dubnick's "Arkady" is a stirring little fable about a mother who worries that all the signs point towards her newborn being a werewolf. Her fears get stronger as he begins to grow, for the portents continue despite the fact that he appears normal. She leaves him in the woods fearing that he'll grow to ravage her neighbours. But the local wolf band brings him home. Alas, it seems she was right -- he is unharmed. The local populace arise and stalk him. Sometimes you get what you wish for in spite of things.

Martin Mundt's "The Reincarnation of the Dolly Llama" continues this author's swift decline into sophisticated weirdness. He's a writer to watch, even out of the corner of your eye. His story is the pick of the chapbook. The reincarnation of the first brother-monk of the Temple of the Only Right and True Way To Do Things has died again. Six of his brother monks, all called Tenzin, are on the hunt for him. Their next stop is the Henderson household. They convince George and Marge that they are housing the next instance of their leader. It could be their remote control or the blender, the ice-pick or a stuffed animal. The monks don't know what, but they'll know him when they see him. Unfortunately for George and Marge, Tenzin the First has a zest for life -- anyone's -- and a tendency to see things in red, blood red.

Jeff Osier's "Driftglider" brings new meaning to the words hope, stalking, frustration and delight. This interesting mix of terms describes Dawn's life with Peter, her Adonis batterer. After a grueling encounter with him, Dawn sees an odd gothic-looking creature gliding over the snow. Better suited to be a gargoyle, she is kind to the creature and thinks she is befriending it. Life isn't that simple, although it may seem so after a particularly gruesome encounter with Peter, a shotgun, his truck and a snow storm. What ends up left for dead isn't something you'd wish upon a dork, even one as big a Peter. Anthropomorphizing is more an art than a science.

Each of these stories tears away a little more of the plastic that surrounds each of our lives. Sometimes it leaves shreds, sometime it is soft folds. But, be warned, all the stories will leave you a little more shaken. I suggest you take it only in small doses.

Copyright © 2000 by Rodger Turner

Rodger has read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in forty years. He can only shake his head and say, "So many books, so little time."


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