Aberrant Dreams, #7, Spring 2006

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“Dr. Prida’s Dream-Plagued Patient” by Michael Bishop, the featured story of the latest issue of Aberrant Dreams, begins with a troubled client spilling his poetic and macabre guts to his therapist, Dr. Prida. Here we take on the role of a man whose dreams have been haunted. We listen closely as he describes each and every scene, sound, and smell to where the line blurs between reality and the dream world. Never for a second does Bishop lose focus, using masterful pacing to push “Dr. Prida’s Dream-Plagued Patient” forward. Though the journey is short, it is intensely done and a delight to read. I also found the shout outs to Aberrant Dreams within the text amusing, whether they were deliberate or not.

“Nadir of the Swamp Beasts” by Michael Shack opens with Jillian and Urgus, her wannabe hero, about to do battle with a snarlblazzl, a ferocious beast of the swamp planet they are on. Jillian is spending her time off from school on her aunt’s spaceship, hoping to learn things not taught in the classroom. She decides she’d like to have some pictures of the planet to share with the class. But the swamp planet has more troublesome inhabitants than the nasty snarlblazzl, and with the unhelpful assistance of Urgus, Jillian is dropped into an adventure filled with creepy creatures, harsh revelations, and sympathetic characters. Possibly the most hilarious entry of the issue, Shack creates scenes that are brimming with danger, yet a blast to read. Urgus is the type of unsuccessful hero á-la-Terry Pratchett’s Rincewind that you can’t help but love. On a side note, it’s a dangerous business naming a critter "snarlblazzl" as I came across several misspellings of this difficult word within the text that a solid sweep of editing should have caught.

In Cat Rambo‘s “Mother’s World," the most elite can transfer memories to the Internet and live as Netizens inside different servers all over the world. Arwen has never been good at making her own decisions, so when she Emancipated herself from her mother and left to join a church, she thought everything would change for the better. Then she learns that her mother is sick and plans to live the rest of her life in cyberspace. Rambo has a subtle yet powerful touch to her storytelling that evokes a sense of dread and hope simultaneously, making "Mother’s World" a strong entry that had me reflecting on where the future of our own Internet might take us.

Tomas L. Martin‘s “A Shogun’s Welcome” thrusts Yuri, a boy who just wants to be a regular student studying things like history and math, into war. Yuri has been training with his uncle, Takeshi, but when he notices a ship bearing down on their plate overhead, he puts events into motion that will change his life forever. The mixing of Asian culture and science fiction has been done before (think Firefly without the cowboys), but Martin handles it in a manner which does not overshadow the characters, their desires, and their beliefs. Martin’s world building resembles a mixture of Frank Herbert‘s Dune planetary systems and Halo‘s science fiction aspect. This offered the possibility of numerous locations and inhabitants without throwing too much into the story at once. “A Shogun’s Welcome” is refreshing and quite unlike Heinlein, making Yuri’s journey all the more engaging and suspenseful. Well recommended.

“Repetitive Stupidity Disorder” by Chris Bauer, in all its oddness, is about Cliff, the incurable disease he has, and the women he likes and dislikes. On the night the depression is shoveling beer after beer to him, a gopher digs through his living room carpet. Much to Cliff’s surprise, he’s the one who’ll be saving the world. Before he has a moment to sober up, his doorbell buzzes. Bauer’s story of humorously dark heroics is short, but more than makes up for it with fun dialogue, good pacing, and an average Joe hero that leaves you hoping for the best. I’m not sure I understand exactly what the story was going for, but I enjoyed it regardless.

In “The Misfortunes of Bar Dan” by E. N. Wilson, Bar Dan has just graduated from barbarian finishing school with the highest honor—Most Likely to Survive. Unfortunately, the only work he has been able to get is being a dishwasher at the isolated fortress of Ranguru the Scary, the Exalted and Terrible Archmage of the Great Eastern Arm. Bar Dan would love nothing more than to be out and about rescuing princess after princess, but when the Archmage’s son is kidnapped by a dragon, he decides it’s a better quest than no quest at all. Wilson’s style is lighthearted and fun, making Bar Dan’s adventure a fun romp in an oddly detailed world where the quirky characters run wild. Fans of Douglas Adams and Christopher Stasheff will find plenty to enjoy here.

Detective Simonson and Aelsinth, a man with the ability to hear "freaky vibes," sit in a small interrogation room listening to a mysterious tape recording in “Chillun Got Shoes” by Daniel R. Robichaud. What plays on the tape is a tale of the Metro in Washington D.C., a place where people can go missing at any moment leaving only their shoes behind. This is Dwayne and his son’s story of their trip to the Mall, but it’s up to Aelsinth to discover if the unsettling horrors they describe are real or just a hoax. Robichaud does a strong job of balancing two separate storylines, placing the right details in each one to connect them both. "Chillun Got Shoes" is a paranormal haunting worthy of the terror it produces. I doubt I’ll ever look at the Metro the same, shoes on the tracks or not.