The Spook, June 2002

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"The Sparklers" by Stephen Mark Rainey

"The Sparklers" presents a confused picture of a young woman coming to her own as a self-defined Guardian pledged to protect humankind from the ravages of supernatural nasties called Sparklers. The Sparklers are busily killing off every man, woman and child on Earth as the story opens, and it's up to our heroine to track them down by driving her SUV into a dreamworld with a secret weapon epoxied to her dashboard and her cat in the front seat. In the dreamworld, she discovers that the Sparklers have been unleashed upon the Earth by her dead mother, who for some unknown reason believes that she will achieve goddesshood if she kills everyone else off. The stage is set for a showdown that ends with a whimper rather than a bang.

Sloppy writing full of cliches and underdeveloped characters further undermine an already weak story.

This is the only fiction offering in this month's issue of The Spook, which seems bent on presenting every obstacle possible to reading its contents. Available only in online format, it is full of memory-hogging, flashy ads of the type found in print magazines, and tiny type that forces you to squint while pressing your nose against the screen to decipher it.

Michael Belfiore lives in New York State's Hudson River Valley, where he runs a writing-for-hire business with his wife Wendy Kagan. Visit him online at