Pulp stories—full of revenge, quests for justice, surprise endings, and other thrills—are as fun to read today as they were in the 20th century. And the brand new, Appalling Stories: 13 Tales of Social Injustice, is the latest book to feature all this excitement—but in a way like you’ve never seen it. Here is more about the anthology along with why authors David Dubrow, Ray Zacek, and I (Paul Hair) decided to write it.
Appalling Stories is in the vein of fiction from days gone by. But it is also thoroughly modern and thoroughly unique. The opening paragraph of Ray’s, “The Obsolete Man,” perfectly demonstrates this.
Wait time remained indeterminate. Randle Schuler sat in the small room to which he had been assigned pending attrition. The room contained a metal table bolted to the floor and two black plastic contour chairs. Prefabricated walls radiated light and absorbed sound. Rand noted faded red blotches on the white panels. The room smelled of antiseptic and pine fragrance, and cold air gushed from a vent in the ceiling. Rand shivered. One wall opened when required by pressing a button, allowing access to a stainless steel sink and commode. An objective witness cam had been mounted above the only door which locked from the outside. Rand estimated he had been enclosed in this chamber for three hours. His back ached. He was not elderly, not yet fifty, nor was he frail, but he was a plump, pale white man and out of shape too and sitting in an undersized contour chair proved an ordeal. It was supposed to be an ordeal, Rand reasoned. During attrition, when your privilege was revoked, the lack of creature comforts was part of the process and meant to be punitive.
On top of this, lines such as, “The world’s hostility to transwomen was so well documented that it didn’t bear thinking about” (“Melanie’s Becoming” by Dave), and “‘How can we win the hearts and minds of the Afghans if we kill civilians!?’” (“Out Diversity Is Our Strength!” by me) show how our tales are new stories for the modern age.
However, incorporating controversial issues from contemporary times does not mean the book is full of sermons. Indeed, it is entirely devoid of preaching.
“Appalling Stories began during a phone conversation about the state of conservative culture, and how a lot (but not all) of so-called ‘conservative fiction’ was thinly-disguised agitprop,” Dave explains. “Nobody wants to read narrative fiction, even if it’s from your own side. Nevertheless, there is a market for the kinds of stories conservatives, libertarians, and other normal Americans still enjoy, but can’t find so much anymore. So we decided to put together a collection of tales that focused on story over political narrative, featuring situations, characters, and themes that progressive publishing gatekeepers would find problematic.”
Better still, our anthology isn’t confined to just one genre. As Dave says, “We’ve got satire, horror, thriller, science fiction, literary fiction, and military adventure. There’re superheroes, space aliens, a Mexican death cult, and The Aristocrats of wedding cakes. I know you’ll find at least something to like, if not love in Appalling Stories.”
And we had a great time writing it. We almost had to. Writing is a challenge in today’s environment. Ray talks about just how difficult it is.
“There is never enough time [to write], of course. And once having brought a work to completion, finding an audience can be as daunting as reaching Tibet on foot. It can be done but few people do it and the Chinese overlords don’t want you there. Self-publishing platforms like KDP allow the aspiring author to bypass the traditional gatekeepers. But once inside the gates, then what? You haven’t a map. The landmarks are unfamiliar, the terrain uneven, the weather often inclement. And it is crowded. There is a huge number of authors extant, some good, some terrible, some who crank out books like link sausages, all competing for a diminished reading public.”
Visit Dave’s website for more on his work. Ray’s short crime fiction has appeared in All Due Respect, Shotgun Honey, and Out of the Gutter. Fiction Terrifica, Liberty Island, and others have published his horror fiction. “Gator Bait,” a horror story with a Florida setting, is included in What Dwells Below, an anthology just published by Sirens Call Press. Visit Liberate Liberty for more of Paul’s work.