Category Archives: Short Stories Worth Reading

4 Stories Worth Reading From “Elseworlds: Justice League Vol 1”

In Elseworlds, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places – some that have existed, or might have existed, and others that can’t, couldn’t or shouldn’t exist. The result: stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow.

DC’s official description for their Elseworlds imprint.

What if Batman lived in the Victorian age? What if baby Kal-El’s rocket landed in the U.S.S.R.? What if Scheherazade (you know, the author of the 1001 Nights) was secretly a Green Lantern? These were some of the many stories published under DC’s Elseworlds banner.

What is “Elseworlds” you ask? It was a 1989-2003 imprint published by DC Comics that took their licensed characters and put them in stories that took place outside their canonical timeline. An alternate history for superheroes you might say. Oftentimes they were published as mini-series, one shots and annuals and they were published with a logo that looked like this so as not to confuse readers. Other comic companies like Marvel and Dynamite also got in on the act. The story possibilities were endless. I own a few titles: Superman: Red Son, Green Lantern: 1001 Emerald Nights and Superman: War of the Worlds. But there are other titles that I was coveting but couldn’t find any copies because most of them are out of print. Sure, I could buy some titles but they aren’t always cheap and some are incomplete – meaning you can only find issue #1 of JLA: Shogun of Steel and that’s about it.

Until now.

From the kindness of their hearts, DC is reprinting these long lost stories as trade paperback anthologies. Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 1 was released in April of 2016. Batman Vol. 2 was released in October of 2016 and Elseworlds: Justice League Vol. 1 saw the light of day on July 19, 2016 (Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 3, Justice League Vol. 2 and Superman Vol. 1 & 2 will be released this year).

It was on one rainy day, I was perusing through my second favorite comic book shop that I happened upon a copy of Elseworlds: Justice League Vol. 1. It had the stories I had been dying to read for years and then some. I will recommend four stories from this anthology along with their authors and main artist.

Elseworld’s Finest Parts 1 & 2 (John Francis Moore & Kieron Dwyer)

1928 versions of Clark Kent, Jimmy Olsen, Bruce Wayne, Lana Lang, Ra’s al Ghul and Lex Luthor in a story that pays homage to pulp adventure stories, Jules Verne, archaeology and hidden cities. Oh yeah, and Jimmy reads Captain Marvel.

Justice Riders (Chuck Dixon & J.H. Williams III)

It’s 1873 and US Marshal Diana Prince is horrified to discover that Paradise, the town she has sworn to protect, has been blown to smithereens (literally) while she was away. She enlists the help of Kid Flash, a quick draw gunslinger and Katar Johnson, a Cheyenne warrior who flies with help of artificial hawk wings. As they are attacked by Maxwell Lord’s mechanical henchmen, they’re saved by Booster Gold and inventor Ted “Beetle” Kord. It turns out that Maxwell Lord and Felix Faust were behind the annihilation of Paradise all along and together, with the extra help of Pinkerton agent Guy Gardner and man hunter John Jones, the Justice Riders (a name coined by Kord) take down the robber baron and the sorcerer.

Wonder Woman: Amazonia (William Messner-Loebs & Phil Winslade)

Originally published in an oversized 8″ by 11″ format to show off the “engraved” (and occasional art nouveau) artwork.

Queen Victoria is dead! Long live King Jack Planters! Yep, the Victorian era has given way to the Plantagenet era and the misogyny and the imperialism of the era is taken up to 11 thanks to the toxic masculinity King Jack preaches. But in these dark times, one amazing woman stands out: Diana Trevor, the Wonder Woman, who by day performs feats of strength for audiences and by night, protects the lives of threatened women. It’s her courage and kindness that eventually brings down Jack’s cruel regime. This story is a must-read for all fans of steampunk and the Amazon princess.

Elseworld’s Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl (Barbara Kesel & Matt Haley)

Bruce Wayne isn’t Batman. Bruce Wayne mentors Barbara Gordon. Barbara Gordon is Batgirl. Batgirl rules Gotham City with an iron fist. Batgirl mistrusts metahumans. Lex Luthor shows up in Gotham with Supergirl. Supergirl loves Lex. Lex gets abducted by the Joker, who loves Batgirl. Supergirl wants to rescue Lex. Batgirl won’t let her. The two team up reluctantly. They discover Lex and the Joker are working together and Lex has been hiding a very dark secret…

Well that’s it. Agree? Disagree? Have you read Elseworlds: Justice League Vol. 1? What were your favorite stories? Have you read any other Elseworld titles/anthologies? Let me know in the comments. I can’t wait for vol. 2!

 

 

 

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Filed under comics, DC Comics, Short Stories Worth Reading, speculative fiction, Wonder Woman

3 Short Stories Worth Reading From “Warm Worlds And Otherwise”

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“Who is Tiptree, What Is He?” asked the introduction to the 1975 anthology, Warm Worlds And Otherwise. It’s one of the most infamous introductions in the history of literature, because the author that wrote it made this now-awkward statement:

It has been suggested that Tiptree is female, a theory that I find absurd, for there is to me something ineluctably masculine about Tiptree’s writing.

I wonder if Robert Silverberg’s still eating his words.

James Tiptree Jr. was the pen name of Alice B. Sheldon, who published her first sci-fi story in 1968. She took the surname, “Tiptree” from a brand of marmalade and her husband suggested the title, “Jr.”. She chose a male name because:

A male name seemed like good camouflage. I had the feeling that a man would slip by less observed. I’ve had too many experiences in my life of being the first woman in some damned occupation.

She kept up this ruse until 1976, when fans discovered that “he” was in reality a “she” and that’s when, according to Pamela Sargent: ” a lot of people had to reexamine their assumptions about the differences men and women writers.”

Four years after her death in 1987, fellow SF writers Pat Murphy and Karen Joy Fowler, initiated the James Tiptree Jr. Award, an annual literary prize for works of science fiction and fantasy that explore the concept of gender.

But I’m not going to talk about that. Today, I’m going to talk about three stories from the aforementioned anthology that stood out to me. They are:

“The Girl Who Was Plugged In”: In this 1974 Hugo Award winning novella, a sickly girl named P. Burke is used by a corporation for product placement. Through electronic implants she “controls” an artificially grown beautiful girl named Delphi and becomes an international celebrity. But then everything unravels when she falls in love…

“The Night-Blooming Saurian”: A scientist promises a big game hunter that his team can go back and time and bring him back a dinosaur to hunt…

“Love Is The Plan, The Plan Is Death”: Poor Moggadeet! Because of instinct, his species go through a bug-eat-bug cycle (literally) every winter’s eve. He so desperately wants to break that cycle but nature is stronger than love… A 1973 Nebula Award winning short story.

If you want to learn more about Alice Sheldon, see the book, James Tiptree Jr.: The Double Life of Alice B. Sheldon by Julie Phillips

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Seven Short Stories Worth Reading from “A Dragon-Lover’s Treasury of the Fantastic”

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The first entry in a series on short story recommendations, these tales are taken from the anthology, A Dragon-Lover’s Treasury of the Fantastic. Published in 1994, edited by Margaret Weis and featuring 20 stories by some of the most prolific Hugo, Nebula and World Fantasy Award-winning sci-fi and fantasy authors, this anthology focuses on the only mythical creature recognized around the world: the dragon.

However, as is often the case with anthologies, not all the stories caught my attention. In fact, a majority of the stories didn’t work for me (I’ll confess I’m not big on fantasy). Some made me lose interest after a few pages. Sadly, in some stories the dragon doesn’t appear until the end and the focus is more on the dragonslayer. Some stories even went so far as to make me murmur: “what does this have to do with dragons?” Another complaint I have is that only European dragons get all the attention.

But what I love about short story collections is that, unlike novels, you don’t have to read every chapter. You can skip to the next story and most anthologies always have some good stories. Here are the titles, their authors and a summary:

Weyr Search (Anne McCaffrey): You know her for her uber famous “Dragonriders of Pern” series. This excerpt is from her first novel, Dragonflight. With the help of some dragonriders and her telepathic connection to dragons, a young noblewoman named Lessa fights to reclaim her throne.

The Fellowship of the Dragon (Patricia A. McKillip): Five Warrior women set out to save their queen’s lover from the clutches of a dragon – but only one will make it back.

The George Business (Roger Zelazny): A humorous tale about a business proposition between a knight and a dragon.

The Ice Dragon (George R. R. Martin): An aloof, winter-born little girl forms a bond with a mystical ice dragon.

The Hidden Dragon (Barbara Delaplace): A physically abused wife keeps seeing a dragon in her back yard….

The Trials and Tribulations of Myron Blumberg, Dragon (Mike Resnick): Myron Blumberg has a problem: he’s been turned into a dragon and it’s putting a strain on his marriage.

St. Dragon and the George (Gordon R. Dickson): A college professor and his fiancee have been transported to the past – she into the clutches of an ogre, he into the body of a dragon. He asks a wizard, two intelligent dragons and an errant knight for help.

So if you ever come across these short stories, whether it’s in A Dragon-Lover’s Treasury, or another book all together, give them a try. You might like them.

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