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In science fiction circles, Bruce Bethke is best known either for his 1980 short story, �Cyberpunk,� his 1995 Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel, Headcrash, or lately, as the editor and publisher of Stupefying Stories magazine. What very few people in the SF world have known about him until recently is that he actually began his career in the music industry, as a member of the design team that developed the MIDI interface and the Finale music notation engine (among other things), but now works in supercomputer software R&D, doing work that is absolutely fascinating to do but almost impossible to explain to anyone not already fluent in Old High Unix and well-grounded in massively parallel processor architectures, Fourier transformations, and computational fluid dynamics.
In his copious spare time he runs Rampant Loon Press, just for the sheer love of genre fiction and the short story form.
If you’re looking for Bruce’s blog, you’ll find it at
Editor � Stupefying Stories
Stupefying Stories is the name under which Rampant Loon Press (the imprint) publishes a variety of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and we-don’t-know-what-to-call-it-but-we-like-it short story collections. Since 2013 RLP has also published a free webzine, Stupefying Stories SHOWCASE, so the second-best way to get a sense of what Stupefying Stories is all about is to click this link and go read SHOWCASE: StupefyingStoriesSHOWCASE.com
The best way, of course, is to buy and read a few issues of the magazine. The following issues are currently available on Amazon.com, in a mix of print and ebook editions. Most are available free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.
The following issues are now, sadly, out of print, but the covers are worth preserving for posterity.
Stupefying Stories: It Came From the Slushpile
If you’re an obsessive completist, we still have a few copies left of our original 2010 prototype issue. It was produced only in print and contains Bruce Bethke’s semi-legendary demi-classic, “It Came From the Slushpile,” which has been anthologized many times but as far as we know is currently available only in this book.
If you want to buy this book, be sure to buy a New copy from kandbbooksellers. Some used book dealers seem to believe this is a valuable collector’s item worth an irrational amount of money.
Stupefying Stories on the web
Stupefying Stories has an intermittently active blog at StupefyingStories.com, but you’ll probably learn more from StupefyingStoriesSHOWCASE.com or facebook.com/StupefyingStories.
Publisher � Rampant Loon Press
Rampant Loon Media LLC is a small, privately owned Midwestern company dedicated to the seemingly radical proposition that if we produce high-quality work, conduct our business dealings in an open and ethical manner, and always treat authors and artists as we ourselves would wish to be treated, we can successfully bootstrap a new publishing company from the ground up. Rampant Loon Media LLC is the parent corporation that publishes a variety of things, mostly under the Rampant Loon Press (RLP) imprint.
Bruce Bethke’s involvement in RLP projects ranges from a very active hands-on editorial role to being merely the guy who signs the contracts and checks, depending on the project.
Original Novels & Collections
Doctor Dead: A Percy & Quincey Adventure � by Tyler Tork
A mad scientist. An army of zombies. And three plucky teens who just might be able to save the world.
San Francisco, 1904: Thirteen-year-old Percival Drew expected to spend the summer doing little more than tinkering with those new-fangled gasoline-powered motorcars. But that was before an insane scientist took an unhealthy interest in his cousin Quincey's very rare blood type... Before people began vanishing from the streets, to reappear as the mad doctor's undead minions... Before the villain's infernal devices gave him the ability to strike at will, destroying all who opposed him!
With chaos descending on San Francisco, only Percy and Quincey know the secret to defeating the undead doctor. But can they act in time?
Rated 4.8 stars on Amazon. Read the reviews!
The Book of Judith � by Judith Field
From the Amazon.co.uk product page. Inexplicably, reviews posted by UK readers don’t show up on Amazon’s North American sites.
“Judith Field celebrates the extraordinary. It lives in every line of her stories alongside Magic. friendly ghosts and paranormal entities. Each tale also contains Human Beings who are warm, full of sentience and often conflicting emotions. Allow yourself to be whisked away to ordinary suburbs where incredible things happen all the time.”
“This is an excellent read. Entertaining short stories with memorable characters. Highly recommended.”
“A smashing read. A mix of styles, sometimes hilarious, sometimes moving but always entertaining. More please!”
“A collection of tales of the fantastic that manage to be sweet, poignant and laugh out loud funny all at the same time.”
“Judith Field's talent, or rather one of her talents, for she has many, is the ability to come up with an idea that's almost laughably simple, then plonk that idea in the most prosaic of settings, and somehow end up with a tale so unique and so eldritch that it stays with you long after you've finished reading it.”
“These stories present a refreshing fusion of styles. Life, wonder, and magic, sums it up—often the fantastic and magical meets the reality of everyday life in a way that I’d imagine fans of Pratchett and Gaiman might appreciate. There are also hints of magic realism and a depth of characterisation that makes the writing truly engaging and a pleasure to read. The fact that some characters make repeated appearances across the stories is very welcome because they are so well drawn that they stay with you. This collection is by turns funny, absurd, and poignant, and never less than thoroughly entertaining. Highly recommended.”
The Scout Series � by Henry Vogel
When Terran Scout David Rice climbs from the wreckage of his starship’s escape pod, he finds himself transported from the space age to the steam age in the blink of an eye. Now, marooned without hope of rescue, he is swept into a world of steam-powered airships, treacherous pirates, brutal savages, bloodthirsty monsters, royal machinations, and plots within plots, where matters of strength and honor are most often settled with the clash of swords.
Told in a relentlessly fast-paced style, the best-selling Scout series is an exciting modern homage to the classic tales of planetary romance made famous by writers such as Edgar Rice Burroughs and Leigh Brackett, as well as the cliffhanger-driven energy of the early science fiction movie serials. If you like your heroes unabashedly heroic, your heroines feisty and true, and your plots filled with dangers, twists, turns, and double-crosses upon triple-crosses, you’ll love the Scout series.
But don’t take our word for it. Read the reader reviews!
“Pulp fiction in the best meaning of the term. The story moves along at a cracking pace and you care about the characters. If you like your heroes heroic, your heroines beautiful and strong-willed, and your villains villainous, this is the book for you!”
“This is the kind of scifi story that made me fall in love with science fiction long ago. It’s got space ships, extraterrestrial people and animals, lots of action, bits that make you laugh out loud, and a satisfying ending. Not that nothing bad happens, but in general good triumphs over evil and the hero gets the girl.”
“Clive Cussler meets Edgar Rice Burroughs...”
“This is a fun ride similar to John Carter of Mars. The characters are well developed and easy to relate to.”
“Very crisp and well-paced, I can understand and agree with the comparisons to Burroughs and Brackett. I'll go out on a limb and take it one step further... I could extend the comparison to E. E. "Doc" Smith and the Lensman series as well”
“Scout's Honor is exactly what I wanted: short chapters detonating like bombs, relentless pacing, far future action on alien worlds. Scout's Honor is a distillation of all the reasons why I started reading science fiction to begin with.”
“It’s not lip service to say that Henry’s books have proven that I’m not broken as a fan of speculative fiction, which is what I was starting to believe before I read Scout’s Honor. I just needed something that reminded me of why I love the genres. His books are glorious love letters to the fun and optimism that draws us in when we're young.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed this very well written story. How can you go wrong with a story containing blood thirsty barbarians, dastardly villains, pirates, a rascally rogue, heroes and fierce marines, and for good measure a beautiful princess?”
“A great YA adventure, but it’s not childish. Buy it, read it, and give it to a kid!”
“Scout’s Law finishes answering the questions left hanging with the other books of the series, and does so enjoyably. New characters are introduced and their stories are told, and how their stories entwine with everyone else’s And especially, the conundrum of what makes a hero: doing what needs to be done, regardless of the cost to yourself.
The Counterfeit Captain � by Henry Vogel
Captain Nancy Martin expects a lonely death. Passing out as her battle-damaged starfighter bleeds the last of its air, she comes to in the cavernous and deserted docking bay of an unknown starship. Leaving her crippled fighter to seek help, she finds she’s been scooped up by a gigantic generation ship inhabited by the descendants of the original crew and passengers—people whose entire universe is the ship!
Mistaken for the vast ship’s long-lost and near-mythical Captain, Nancy is welcomed as a savior. She believes she’s found the allies she needs in her desperate fight for survival. But an even greater menace lurks in the shadows of the ship—one that controls every inch of the ship and every life aboard it. One that will stop at nothing to destroy—
The Counterfeit Captain.
Set in the same universe as Vogel’s best-selling Scout’s Honor and Fugitive Heir series, The Counterfeit Captain further expands the stage for Vogel’s exciting brand of star-spanning science fiction adventure.
“A well crafted, engrossing, totally believable story, fully of life, love, heroism and all the little things that add up to show the author's substantial talent. Rock on Dude!!!!!”
“I’ve greatly enjoyed all of Henry Vogel’s literary work so far, and this book is no exception. The style of writing is very smooth and tight, with the level of character development quite superb.”
“This is an honest-to-goodness old-school space opera, complete with a Clarke-ian kilometers-long colony ship, Dalek-like evil robots driven by a scheming AI, space pirates and mutineers, enslaved children, primitive cargo-cult villages of humans who think their Ship is the world, and a running battle fought with lasers, blasters and bow-and-arrow through dark passages lined with blinking lights and shadowy machines. There's even a strong modern woman/strong primitive man romance, with a tasteful off-screen consummation.”
“This is Vogel’s best book yet! It is an excellently crafted story that will appeal to readers of all ages. The main characters are complex and intriguing. I found myself completely immersed in the story and I could hardly put it down. Even when I did manage to put it down, I found myself thinking (and even dreaming!) about the characters. I sure hope Vogel will write another book about Captain Nancy!”
Funny you should say that...
The Undercover Captain � by Henry Vogel
Unwillingly drawn out of her annual drunken stupor, Captain Nancy Martin, retired, finds herself involuntarily reactivated. Her assignment—to help Special Agent Erica Hampton solve the disappearance of an entire school’s student body. Hampton’s superiors suspect a slaver ring has kidnapped the children, to sell them on a rim world beyound the Terran Federation’s borders.
When Nancy and Erica discover the truth behind the abductions, they realize their deadline is quite literal—and much closer than they thought. When the gloves come off, the missing children couldn’t have anyone better fighting for their lives.
It will take every bit of skill Nancy and Erica have to track down the villains behind the disappearances. Defeating them will be a different matter entirely...
“I am reading it a second time, and hoping it comes out on audio! I love Captain Nancy Martin already, from The Fugitive Heir book, so I really enjoy reading the book and imagining her voice. I can’t wait to hear it.”
Funny you should say that, too!
The Counterfeit Captain - Audiobook � by Henry Vogel
The Counterfeit Captain - Audio Book. Complete and unabridged, and narrated by Heidi Cox, star of the web series, Stalking LeVar. Free with Audible.com trial subscription.
The Fugitive Heir � by Henry Vogel
�My parents are not dead!�
Everyone thinks I�m in denial, and have been ever since my parents vanished seven years ago. Everyone thinks I should just shut up, and accept the vast inheritance coming my way. Everyone thinks I should let it go, and get on with my life.
Everyone is wrong.
I know my parents are still alive�but if I reveal how I know, I�ll be drafted into Psi Corps. But my inheritance can fund my search for them.
I didn�t count on deadly opposition from the board of the very company I�m about to inherit. There are powerful people involved who will go to extreme lengths to protect their dark secrets and silence me forever. But those people don't know about my three wildcards�my rebuilt spaceship, my best friend who doubles as my bodyguard, and the psychic powers I've kept secret my entire life.
My parents are alive, and I'm going to find them and save them�whatever it takes.
“If this novel was around when I was young, it would have been one of my favorite books.”
“The book is a fun, fast-paced read, eminently enjoyable from page 1 onward. The author’s style that reminds me very much of Robert Heinlein’s young adult science fiction stories (Red Planet, The Star Beast, Citizen of the Galaxy).”
“The Fugitive Heir is an imaginative and entertaining story with something for everyone. Adventure, action, love, pirates and spaceships! The story is very well-crafted and is hard to put down. What more could anyone ask for?”
“The action of the story is tightly woven, moving the two main characters from one danger to the next with skill and care, and I enjoyed the fact that they don’t always ‘defeat’ their antagonists so much as ‘outwit’ them.”
“I just got this book and finished it in three days. The book is great and and an enjoyable read. It’s entertaining and easy to follow, and I would recommend it to anyone; preteen, teen, or adult. There’s plenty of adventure and humor to keep you interested all the way through. Can’t wait for the movie version.”
While you’re waiting for the movie, may we interest you in the audio book?
The Fugitive Heir - Audiobook � by Henry Vogel
The Fugitive Heir - Audio Book. Complete and unabridged, narrated by Daniel Halley. Free with Audible.com trial subscription.
The Fugitive Pair � by Henry Vogel
Matt Connaught wants nothing more than to enjoy life with his new wife, Michelle, and to catch up on lost time with his parents, who were held captive for seven years. As a member of one of the wealthiest families in the Terran Federation, this should be easy.
Because Matt is psychic. If anyone outside of his family discovers his secret, he’ll be taken from his family and forced to serve in Psi Corps. When Federation agents come looking for him, Matt and Michelle have only one choice�to go on the run.
But how can they hope to escape from Psi Corps, when the Corps has the full might of the Terran Federation behind it?
“The Fugitive Pair takes off like a bat out of �well, never-mind. It�s fast paced, full of action, and filled with surprises. And the climax is truly fitting After all, if there is no place in the universe for you, you have to make your own. The only downside is the story caused me to read another story with pleasure and anticipation. I recommend you read The Counterfeit Captain to fill in background. Actually, it�s worth the read on its own. Get the book; you�ll be glad you did!”
“Henry presents a story that is aimed at a maturing readership. The complexity of his writing style is similar to some of the juvenile Heinlein novels, and holds the reader’s attention in the same manner. I would encorage parents of younger readers (say 12 - 16) to use Henry’s novels to hook these young readers into a lifetime of reading. The Fugitive Pair and its predecessor, The Fugitive Heir, are great entrants to the field of science fiction for young adults, while still being accessible to the older crowd.”
“A great second book for the series. Fairly fast paced and exciting. Would like to see another book about them if possible”
The Fugitive Pair - Audiobook � by Henry Vogel
The Fugitive Pair - Audio Book. Complete and unabridged, narrated by Daniel Halley. Free with Audible.com trial subscription.
From the creators of Stupefying Stories comes a new sister publication, THEIAN JOURNAL. It’s a bit unearthly�a bit alternative�these are decidedly *different* SF/F stories, reflecting a different editorial philosophy, yet brought to you with our same dedication to finding excellent stories by writers you may not have read before. Issue #1 features:
� THE FISSURE OF ROLANDO, by Judith Field
� ADROIT, by David Williams
� TAKING A BREATHER, by Jean Davis
� A SCORPION WITHIN, by Alison Grifa Ismaili
� PLAINFIELD, NEW YORSEY: 2114, by Angele Ellis
� WHEN WE ARE WHOLE, by Gary Emmette Chandler
We think you'll agree: sometimes different can be very good.
“Nice collection! One of the better anthologies I’ve read as far as liking most of the stories.”
From the creators of Stupefying Stories comes an exciting new anthology series: PUTREFYING STORIES! Sixty-four pages of pulse-pounding, shuffling, moaning, brain-munching zombie action! Issue #1 features:
� FRUITING BODIES, by Eric Landreneau
� DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL, by Julie Frost
� FROM COLORADO, by Rose Blackthorn
� TWO ZOMBIES WALK INTO A BAR, by A. A. Leil
PUTREFYING STORIES: So terrifying, it could make a vampire’s dessicated heart start beating again!
Five Stars: Five Outstanding Stories From the Early Years of Stupefying Stories
Our first attempt at a sampler -slash- “best of” book. The print edition turned out much better than the ebook edition because we tried to use Amazon’s automatic PDF-to-ebook converter, and the results left much to be desired. We really should redo the ebook files, one of these days.
� FIRST IMPRESSIONS, by Aaron Bradford Starr
� SENNACHERIB, by David W. Landrum
� TEACHING WOMEN TO FLY, by Guy Stewart
� THE KING OF ASH AND BONES, by Rebecca Roland
� RETURN TO EARTH, by Ryan M. Jones
From the creator of the acclaimed Campbellian Anthology series comes STRAEON: a new quarterly exploration of stories that are longer, more complex, more mature, and more challenging than the norm. If you�re looking for space unicorns, sexy vampires, or short comedies that end in bad puns, you won�t find that here.
But if conventional genre stories don�t quite fit you�if you aren�t comfortable with the genre you�ve been wearing, or have grown too comfortable with the way it hangs upon your frame� if you sometimes wonder why you never see stories that speak to who you are, and are looking for fiction that is new, different, and not entirely safe�
Maybe you should try on STRAEON.
� �Lady Sakura�s Letters� by Juliette Wade
� �Avenzoar�s Dilemma� by Pat MacEwen
� �Rains of Craifa, Figure 1�Girl with Shavlas� by Lara Campbell McGehee
� �The Art Teacher� by Gillian Daniels
� �Kelly�s Star� by Ian Creasey
� �The Splintered Stars� by Jenny Rae Rappaport
� �Cupful of Sunshine� by Anna Yeatts
� �Sunira�s Daughters� by Robert Dawson
� �Signal� by Renee Carter Hall
� �A Kernel of Truth� by Heather J. Frederick
Jimi Plays Dead (b/w “Buck Turner and the Spud from Space”)
Created as a design experiment for our “EP” concept, we keep forgetting that this one is out there and keep being surprised that it continues to sell. This little wonder features awesome cover art by the legendary Phil Foglio and two of Bruce’s favorite (of his own) short stories: “Jimi Plays Dead,” which originally appeared in Amazing Stories and made a nice run for the Nebula Award in the year in which it was eligible, and “Buck Turner and The Spud From Space,” which was published in Tales of the Unanticipated and immediately sank into undeserved obscurity.
“Great science fiction book about death, music and points south. Bruce Bethke is one of the most readable writers today, and this is one of his better efforts, short and sweet and funny. Highly recommended.”
Watch for more EPs, coming soon.
Bruce has written and published far more non-fiction than fiction; here are some examples that are still in print. Bruce is particularly fond of Serenity Found and Star Wars On Trial, as his contributions to those books continue to generate royalty income, which is something none of his major-publishing-house book deals ever did.
Between 1985 and 2000 Bruce signed deals for twelve books, of which exactly four actually made it into print. (Although some were subsequently translated and reprinted world-wide.)
There are days when Bruce is able to speak about his experiences as a novelist dealing with major American publishing houses without swearing like a longshoreman. When we get him to calm down again, we will post a link to that discussion here.
Strangely enough, none of Bruce’s novels have ever been converted to ebook—at least, not officially and legally—and he remains more interested in publishing other writers’ novels through RLP than in republishing his own.
Jimi Plays Dead (b/w “Buck Turner and the Spud from Space”)
By his reckoning, between 1970-something and 2000 Bruce sold “around fifty” short stories in and out of genre, to markets ranging from Aboriginal to Weird Tales and from the scholarly pages of Science Fiction Review to “a magazine that featured lots of suitable-for-taping-on-your-cellblock-wall photos of naked women draped over motorcycles—and the centerfold was the motorcycle without the woman!”
He was a regular contributor to Amazing Stories and Aboriginal SF back in the day, but effectively quit writing short stories after 2000. Again, Bruce remains strangely uninterested in releasing any kind of “best of” or “complete works of” collection of his own stories through RLP. However, he did allow two of his stories to be used for this design experiment.
Odds & Ends
This section is still in development. Over the course of a nearly 40-year career Bruce has amassed a tremendous amount of valuable historical material, and sifting through it to find content that warrants being republished on this site is going to take some time.
In lieu of an FAQ, here are some offsite links to interviews of varying vintages.
Strange Horizons (July 2005)
Wag the Fox (July 2012)
Six Questions For... (August 2013)
In the early Spring of 1980, Bruce wrote a little story about a band of teenage hackers. From the very first draft this story had a one-word title, and the title was...
Oh, you can probably guess.
The story made the rounds of all the “pro” markets then in existence, eventually being accepted by Amazing Stories in July of 1982 for publication in the Fall of 1983. Ever since then, people have been tracking Bruce down to ask him questions about this story.
He is still willing to answer such questions, but first, he asks that you watch this brief (3:33) informational video:
The best ways to contact Bruce are through the Stupefying Stories facebook page or via comments on StupefyingStories.com. You can attempt to send email to:
But given the enormous amount of spam this account receives, he keeps the spam and junk mail filters locked down pretty tight.
Bruce is on Facebook and LinkedIn, but unlikely to “friend” or link to complete strangers. Bruce is not on Twitter. He has watched Twitter reduce award-winning novelists to gibbering idiots barely able to string together a coherent paragraph and wants no part of it. If you see someone on Twitter claiming to be Bruce, that person is lying.
Bruce Bethke, science fiction author, in 2001
|Born||1955 (age 62–63)|
|Pen name||The Original Cyberpunk|
Bruce Bethke (born 1955) is an American author, best known for his 1983 short storyCyberpunk which led to the widespread use of the term, including for the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. His novel, Headcrash won the Philip K. Dick Award in 1995 for SF original paperback published in the US.
Bethke's collected thoughts on the cyberpunk subculture are available on his website, in an essay entitled "The Etymology of Cyberpunk".
Bethke served as a judge on the Philip K. Dick Award in 2013.
Bethke lives in Minnesota where he works as a developer of supercomputer software.
- Maverick Written from an outline by Isaac Asimov in 1990, this novel was one of a series of novels set in Asimov's Robot universe.
- Headcrash Bethke's first published novel, published in 1995. Headcrash is the story of Jack Burroughs, a computer nerd in his mid twenties, who lives with his overbearing mother, and works a dead-end job at a software firm. Jack lives a far more interesting virtual life in the metaverse, where he is an elite hacker who goes by the handle MAX_KOOL. Along with his friend Gunnar, Jack is hired to hack into a corporate system to retrieve files proving that the company was stolen from the rightful heir of its founder. This novel was awarded the Philip K. Dick Award. This work is sometimes credited with the first use of the word "Spam" as a term for junk e-mail. Bethke replies that while he appreciates the thought, the term was in common use on usenet long before he used it in Headcrash.
- Rebel Moon A collaboration with Vox Day, Rebel Moon was the novelization of the prequel of the game Rebel Moon Rising. The main plot is similar to The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, though the book itself focuses on a few individual characters and their battles in the war, and not the political and economic ramifications of a battle for independence on the moon.
- Wild Wild West The novelization of the critically panned steampunk film Wild Wild West. Bethke summarily dismisses the novel on his website, stating it was how he paid for a new roof for his house.
Initially written as a series of short stories in 1980, the culminated novel was purchased by a publisher via an exclusive contract which forbade Bethke to sell the novel to any other publisher. The publisher decided not to release the novel, causing several years of legal battles over the rights to the book. Bethke has a downloadable version of the novel available for five dollars on his website.
When asked, during a 2005 interview, "Why was your book Cyberpunk never published when you sold it to a publisher in 1989?" Bruce replied, "Ah, well, hindsight is 20/20. The book was never released because the publisher hated the ending and I refused to rewrite it. What the publisher wanted me to write was a "Frazetta cover" ending; you know, the hero, center stage, with a mighty weapon in his hands, a cowering half-naked babe at his feet, and the blood-smeared corpses of his many enemies piled high all around. To get to this ending I would have had to end the book with the lead character committing a massacre inside a school—which is what the publisher specifically asked me to write—but even 10 years before Columbine, I found that idea utterly revolting. So I refused to write it. Perhaps the publisher was right. Perhaps the book would have sold well with a blood-soaked adolescent revenge fantasy ending. But sales aren't everything." 
Bruce Bethke won the Philip K. Dick Award for SF original paperback published in the US.
- 1995: Headcrash (Grand Central Publishing) - Winner
Bethke is currently creator and Editor in Chief of the monthly anthology series "Stupefying Stories" which he began publishing in 2012.