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Superhero Short Stories

Superhero Short Stories

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Published by Edward Carey
Editors Owen King and John McNally, both fond of superhero comics in their youth, put together a collection of literary short stories with offbeat superheroes.
Editors Owen King and John McNally, both fond of superhero comics in their youth, put together a collection of literary short stories with offbeat superheroes.

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Published by: Edward Carey on Oct 27, 2009
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04/13/2013

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Superheroes for the 21
st
Century by Edward CareySeptember 2008McNally Jackson in New York City hosted a book release and signing of “Who CanSave Us Now?,” an anthology of short stories updating the superhero mythos for the 21
st
century, edited by Owen King and John McNally and published by Free Press, a divisionof Simon and Schuster.Editors King and McNally were accompanied by three of the authors to read excerpts from their stories and sign books on August 20. The book includes original shortstories by a variety of authors, including Laura Grodstein,Scott Snyder, and Kelly Braffet, who were in attendance,as well as Graham Joyce, mystery writer Sean Doolittleand Sam Weller [“The Bradbury Chronicles”]. It alsofeatures lush illustrations by Chris Burnham, who hasdone artwork for superhero comics [“X-Men: Divided WeStand #2”].The reading/signing was organized by events coordinator Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, who introduced the two editors, both of whom wrote stories which appear in theanthology. King came up with an idea for writing a storyabout a meerkat superhero while at the gym, influenced bythe television show “Meerkat Manor.”“Let me tell you a little about the origin of this anthology . . . ‘Meerkat Manor’ is anamazing show about the travails of this desert mongoose family in the deserts of Zimbabwe and it occurred to me that the most precious superhero I could think of wasone based on a meerkat, because he would be so adorable and no one would take himseriously; even though if you watch the show, you see that meerkats kick an enormousamount of ass and they have claws and teeth, it’s actually pretty cool. As I thought aboutthe idea a little bit more, and I only thought about it to make my wife Kelly laugh, Ithought maybe there was something here, but I couldn’t think of a venue for a superherostory like that, so it wasn’t really a comic book. It would be really cool if we could makea book, so I could write my story, and I asked my friend John [McNally] if he thoughtthere was something there and if we could ask a bunch of writers who wouldn’t normallyassociate with the genre to write stories and do something with the superhero premise,”said King.McNally read from his story first, “Remains of the Night,” about a butler who works for asuperhero called The Silverfish. The story centers on the butler’s off hours, hanging out
 
with other superhero and even supervillain servants, mostly complaining about how their  jobs suck.(excerpt from “Remains of the Night”)
“He looks more like the villain than the good guy,” a famous talk showhost has noted, and it’s true, if only because his suit is too lifelike. Itried telling him this once, suggesting that maybe a skintight bodysuitwith the
image
of a silverfish embroidered on it might be the way to go, but he wouldn’t have any of it.“I’m not a poseur,” he replied. “When I’m the Silverfish, that’s whatI am.”I tried explaining to him that
real 
silverfish, the small ones, areknown to cause psychological distress, so just imagine what peoplethink when they see a 250-pound one barreling toward them!“Is that my problem?” he asked. “And what do you mean by
real 
?”He wagged his head and glided out of the room.I have seen the Silverfish out of costume only a handful of times.He’s a normal-looking fellow, unassuming, even slight of build, butmake no mistake, he’s still the Silverfish. In costume or out, he eatsglue, paper, sugar, hair, dandruff, and dirt – anything with starch in it,anything with polysaccharides. I’d walk into his library and see himwith a book cracked open, licking the adhesive holding the pagestogether.
The excerpts that the authors read were much longer. Following McNally’s reading, Kingread from his story simply entitled “The Meerkat.”(excerpt from “The Meerkat”)
After Wade Hanes registered himself with the proper authorities, sworn an oath to use his powersfor good and to protect the innocent, submitted to a battery of drawings, measurements, andintrusive questions, the Homeland Security official who was to act as his liaison, an elderly,choleric woman named Doris Krimsky, took him to a steakhouse called Shuster’s on K Street . . .When she sat forward again Doris caught the expression on the other side of the table. “Don’tworry. They know all about our kind here. You can order whatever you want. Friskies or whatever.”“I’m not a cat, I’m a herpestid,” said Wade, and immediately wished that he hadn’t.“That doesn’t impress me,” said Doris. She snapped her fingers for another gimlet. “And getMorris here some tuna!”Over lunch she explained that the superhero business was a lot like newscasting. You workedyour way up through bigger and bigger markets. “You pay your dues for a year or two inCleveland, and then you move on to Tampa. After that, Chicago, and after that, if you’re lucky,you could be called up to the Atom League and get national exposure.”“That doesn’t concern me really. I like it in Cleveland. I mean, it’s Cleveland – the river caughton fire once – but you know.” Wade shrugged. “It’s home.”
Kelly Braffet approached the mic to read from her short story, “Bad Karma Girl Wins atBingo.”
“In Cretaceous Seas”art by Chris Burnham
 
“Anybody who knows me knows it’s semi-autobiographical, because I’m the clumsiesthuman being on the planet,” said Braffet. Her tale follows a female superhero with rottenluck for herself, but not for others, and the search for her biological father.(excerpt from “Bad Karma Girl Wins at Bingo”)
The only person for whom Cass wasn’t lucky was her mother, Elmira. The story of Cass’s lifeas it had been related to her, from her spermatozoal days to the present, was as follows: Her mother had been a professional ballet dancer – corps, not principal, although Elmira always sworethat it would have only been a matter of time. One night, on a whim, she accepted a date with thedelivery boy who brought her costume from the dry cleaner. After a plate of spaghetti and two bottles of wine, she slept with him.(“Why?” the younger Cass always asked at this point in the story, hoping against hope that thistime her mother would say, “Because he had lovely eyes,” or “Because he was so kind,” or even“Because I was so lonely,” because that at least would have made Cass feel like there was at leastone thing in the course of her life that had a reason to happen. But instead, what Elmira alwayssaid was, “Damned if I know. Biggest goddamned mistake I ever made.”)And, since the life of a professional ballet dancer requires a level of overexercise andundereating that often leads to irregular menstrual rhythms, Elmira didn’t think anything of itwhen she missed two cycles in a row. By the time she missed the third and fourth cycles, and began to get suspicious, it was too late to do anything about the embryo growing in her lithedancer’s body. Elmira had been n the pill, she would tell Cass; taken it every day like clockwork.And even though the little leaflet that came inside the package said that it was ninety-nine-point-nine-nine percent effective, Elmira had been the point-oh-one-one percent ineffective, and whatwas worse – as she also told Cass – that failure had come when she was with the one guy shecouldn’t have cared less about ever seeing again. The least handsome guy, the least glamorousguy, the least acceptable guy. The guy she wanted most to forget.Except that now she couldn’t.“And that, my little bad-luck charm,” Elmira would say, “is why your mommy is atelemarketer.”
from “The Pentecostal Home for Flying Children,” art by Chris Burnham

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