Another of David B. Riley’s publishing experiments came to an end with the second and last issue of Story Emporium.
Review: Story Emporium #2: Purveyors of Steampunk and Weird Western Adventures, ed. J. A. Campbell, 2016.
A fairly strong issue with the only story not exciting me being Jo Oram’s “The Herald”. Not only did I not remember it after reading it last November. It rather bored me on skimming it through it to make notes. It seems to involve airships, a mysterious figure chasing some kids who stole a stone from him, and psychic possession.
David Boop’s “The Edge of the Grave” is sort of a follow up to his “The Temptation of Darcy Morgan”. It also is set in Drowned Horse in Arizona Territory and also involves the gambling god Noqi. But this one has Mongolian Death Worms so, even though I wasn’t keen on its resolution, I still liked it better than its predecessor. On the whole, though, I’m not keen on mixing gods with my weird westerns.
Remember what I said about steam-powered horses when reviewing Story Emporium #1? Well, there’s another steam-powered horse story here and its again from Lyn McConchie. That’s fine. She’s a reliable contributor to Science Fiction Trails’ publication, and her story here is no exception. “For Love of Maxie” is a tender and successful story about what happens when an inventor neighbor gives eight-year old Annie a mechanical replacement for her beloved horse Maxine, killed in an accident. Over the years, her father, the narrator of the story, ponders just how lifelike Maxie seems.
Steve Ruskin’s “Mythic City Assay Office” has a crashed meteor, an heroic ore assayer, a bit of a Lovecraftian menace, and a bit of The X-Files. I enjoyed this tale of alien invasion in the Old West.
“Chasing the Eleusinian” from Van Essler is pure steampunk with female airship pirates, clockwork automata sailors, a treasure map, and a phantom airship. In it, a young girl disguises herself as a cabin boy to join the world of airship piracy.
Joel Jenkins is also one of the reliable regulars in Science Fiction Trails’ publications and his “The Burial Mound” was as enjoyable as I hoped with bounty hunters Lone Crow, Six Gun Susannah, and Isidro Acevedo going after buried treasure and a nasty piece of work called Head-Hunter Halversen. If you’re following the internal chronology of the Crow stories, this one takes place after “Blood for the Jaguar”.
And there’s “Bounty Hunter” by Jack Hillman. A werewolf marshall tracks down a vicious gang, and there may also be a hat tip to David A. Riley’s Grumpy Gaines’ series.
John McColley’s “Doc Argentum and the Dinosaur Kid” is told mostly in dialogue and has a dinosaur gunfighter, ghosts, and what seem to be extradimensional aliens. It’s all part of a day in the life of inventor Rose Argentum.
Joshua Gage’s “The Killing of Black Bill” uses a bit of Old West folklore that, surprisingly, I haven’t seen before: jackalopes. The horned rabbits are set against each other in fights to the death, but one jackalope rancher isn’t pleased that his brother uses his beloved charges that way and takes steps. A fun play on a legendary critter of the American West.
Karl, the dinosaur sheriff puts in an appearance, as he always does, with a column pondering why he never sees ghosts of his fellow dinosaurs.
The issue concludes with another flash fiction writing contest, the one on ghosts. It would be spoiling the surprise if I told you the narrative gimmick three of the of the six entries use.
So, like most of the Science Fiction Trails’ publications, you get a collection of largely well done stories of adventure and some horror and humor.