Strange Musings Press
Archived Content 2014 -2016

For a number of years Strange Musings Press was an e-publisher of anthologies.
Content is from the site's 2014 - 2016 archived pages lovingly preserved by a fan who now owns the domain.


We are a small publisher founded and run by two authors with a variety of skills and talents. Visit our Staff page for more information about who we are. See below..

Currently, Strange Musings Press is strictly an e-publisher of anthologies: Alternate Hilarities, Romantic Ruckus, Alternate Hilarities 2 - Vampires Suck and Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms.  We DO NOT accept or publish stand alone stories, novels, or novellas at this time so please don't query us for those. We'll send you a humorous and snarky rejection letter.

The goal of these anthologies is to help aspiring authors get published and to have fun. Everything we do here is in the spirit of humor. If we offend you in any way, well, we probably don't care =)

Take a moment to look around and submit a story or two if you'd like. Got questions? Got a joke you want to tell us? Want to tell us how awesome we are? Stand in line and send us an email at:

An anthology of humorous stories in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres

Edited by
Giovanni Valentino

Stories by
Isabel Sterling - Day Al-Mohamed - Brenda Anderson - Jason Bougger - Gavin Cameron  - A.B. Rinklin - Dan Doerflein - John H. Dromey - Laura Thurston -Christine Edwards - Jaimie M. Engle - Eric James Spannerman - Steve Esling - Ronald Friedman - Jay Fuller - Danielle Gales - Steven Grassie - Cathy Greco  - James E. Guin - Shari L Klase  - Felicia Lee - Chuck Rothman - Lance Manion - Daniel McPherson -  Jez Patterson - M. Kelly Peach - Clay Sheldon - Josh Strnad - Giovanni Valentino - Adam Millard - Aaron Austin

A long time ago in a city in central New York  ....

Alternate Hilarities

Episode 1

Back from the Dead

In the early nineties, a man had a dream. A dream of funny stories in his favorite genres, Science fiction, Fantasy and Horror. Not just a joke at the end of the episode like the original Star Trek or the occasional gem from Douglas Adams, but all the time.
 So the small press fan-zine, Alternate Hilarities was born. Six issues were produced against his ex-wife's express wishes.
And they were terrible! 
Just Terrible!

It looked semi professional but proofing was not his strong suit. He had no funds to hire a proof reader and let's face it, volunteers suck.
 But the stories were great. Many talented authors sent in great funny stories. With concepts like games shows in the afterlife, the last man alive and the secret life of a teenaged mad scientist.
 But in the end, the cost of publishing his pet project became too much and the zine was retired.
 Now, two decades later, the overhead and distribution issues of the small press have almost disappeared with the advent of eBooks. With a new partner in crime who can do line edits, with a professional level understanding of spelling, grammar and punctuation, the man decided to give his old love a second shot.

So, here it is, The New and Improved Alternate Hilarities. We have Alien invasions and Abductions, Time Travel, Ghost Ships, Demonic Possessions, Flatulent Clowns, Body Switching, Talking Monkeys and Feghoots.
That's right, I said Feghoots.
 Google it.
 So off we go. With Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Halitosis for all!
 Halitosis? WTF? I mean Polarity?
 Not Again! I mean H I l a r I t y?

Damn AutoCorrect!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014
AUTHOR BIO: Giovanni Valentino

Giovanni Francesco Valentino has struggled at the art of writing for four decades against many demons like self-doubt, chronic depression, OCD and severe dyslexia. He has written a few memoir pieces about his struggles going undiagnosed for more than half his life as well as having published more than a dozen humorous speculative fiction short stories. His long-term goal is to become such a famous science fiction and fantasy author that other people want to write fan fiction in his worlds.

He also published Amish romances under the pen name Johan Edenbine (Raise That Barn and Win My Heart, Shunned for his Love)  :)

Giovanni is a contributor in five of our anthologies.
Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife
Tort Reform for the Devil
Only a shallow person would sell their soul for material gain. Only someone with no sense of culpability would hire a lawyer to try to get out of it. And only a raging egotist would take that case. Unless you have an angle!

The Accident Rapture
When the popup on your screen reads: Warning! This program will start the rapture and lead to the End of Days. Are you sure? Yes/No. Make damn sure you click the right answer. No recovery setting in creation will save you from jumping the gun on the End of Days.

Alternate Hilarities 4: Weirder Science
Losing the Key to Time
The worse part of time travel is dealing with difficult people, like yourself.

You’re Not Mad Enough For The Situation
You don't have to be crazy to work here …. Oh, right, you do.

Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms
Mystical Redemption
Powerful magics are dangerous for even the most masterful wizards. Woody had to learn the hard way that Magic and Coupons don’t mix!

Demons, Devils and Deadbeats
Be careful when you embark on an adventure. Sometimes not everything is as it seems, even a demon.

Alternate Hilarities 2: Vampires Suck
Not All that Glitters is Gold
It takes all kinds. The Eternal club admits all kind of vampires into it's elite club. The Old, The Feral, The Daywalker. But is the newest type of vampire too far for them to take?

A Secret to Die For
The worst kind of secret is one accidentally shared. There is no taking it back and no living with it out in the world.

Alternate Hilarities
After Apocalypses Collide
There are so many visions of the end of the world; it could be a virus, man- eating plants, zombies, aliens, maybe vampires.

Let’s just hope it isn’t all of them.

Difficult Subject
The best part about being abducted by aliens is, at least, you know someone cares.
Posted by Giovanni Valentino at 1:02 AM

Science can be both savior and damnation. The inventions of the great minds of the world can make our lives easier, bring about our destruction and facilitate the delivery of terabytes worth of funny cat videos. Technically, those last two might be the same thing.

Here is a collection of humorous tales of science like the perils of time travel, how body switching can both help and hurt the gender gap, the woes of the classic Mad Scientist in a modern world and the importance of pizza throughout the universe.

So grab your guide and towel. Get ready to brave the dangerous terrain of theory and hypothesis.

Madness and Science go hand in hand.

Skipping, Singing and Laughing Maniacally!


With Authors like ---
Anne E. Johnson - Arthur Carey - Bonnie McCune - BT Petro
Caw Miller - Charles Frierman - David Boop - David Elliott
Fiona Moore - Gary Gould - Gerry White - Giovanni Valentino
Greg Costikyan - Gregg Chamberlain - Gunnar De Winter - J.J. Jordan
Jeffrey G. Roberts - Jennifer Moore - Joe Mogel -  John Grey
John H. Dromey - Laura Roberts - Laura Thurston - Leea Glasheen
Matthew Wilson - Michael W Lucht - Nick Aires - Shana Figueroa
Sheryl Normandeau - Taria Karillion - Tim Ahern
- TR Clark


Vampires Suck

Each story has a different take on the legend of the Vampire. Some hide from the darkness and others can walk in the daylight. Some are cold, calculated killers and other are full of teenaged angst. Some are held at bay by garlic but others love Italian food.
Here is a collection of stories designed to poke funny at the whole vampire genre. We have funny stories about the troubles of immortality, about the crazy life of the vampire slayer, and about just how the different vampires get along.
But in all the stories, one element is always there



Hysterical Realms (Alternate Hilarities) (Volume 3) Paperback – April 2, 2015
by Giovanni Valentino  (Author), Dan Stout  (Author), Jay Fuller (Author), & 18 more

Not all epic adventures are fun. Imagine walking all the way to Mount Gloom with The wizard that needs to stop all the time to tinkle, a dwarf who continually asks are we there yet and a perpetually lost elf that will not stop and ask for directions. Here is a collection of humorous tales of adventure like dwarf private investigators, mean spirited unicorns, randy genies and girlfriend stealing centaurs. So if you think you have what it takes to brave the misty mountains and howling canyons, grab your magic sword, sacred shield and your copy of “Dungeoneering for Dummies”. Enter the Hysterical Realms if you dare! One Ring of Cheese Will Bind Us All!

Helen R.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Fun Read
April 29, 2015
Format: Paperback
Hysterical Realms is a collection of short stories parodying fantasy, fairy tales, and paranormal literature. I’m usually very careful around spoofs because they can be just too silly for my taste, but this anthology was very funny. I particularly liked “Parking for the Apocalypse” by Branden Linley. It’s about four horsemen of Apocalypse coming to Austin, Texas, to bring about the end of days. Only they can’t park their chariot, which is why they can’t start their Armageddon. And so they bicker and keep on driving around, and Famine is always hungry and always talking about stopping for some fast food, and Death quietly does not want the world to end because he has some side deal with Taxes. It’s hilarious.

Also, some stories in this collection had unusual twists. For example “Dungeoneering for Dummies” by Clay Sheldon describes a city where delving into dungeons is as widespread as hiking or mountaineering. There are professional dungeoneers. There is also a professional organization for them called The Heroes Guild, and its senior member is harassed into coming up with tips and tricks for beginning dungeoneers. His main tip is to not delve into dungeons because it’s dangerous. I loved it.

I also found reading these stories relaxing. Since I knew the characters would be okay at the end of each story, I didn’t stress. I would recommend this anthology to anyone who wants some light-hearted reading.

I was given an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.


Kerry M.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Mad-capped fun!
April 21, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a collection of short, humorous stories set within the fantasy genre. I don't generally read many anthologies for fun, but I'm glad I picked up this one. Each story gets better than the last. Dungeoneering for Dummies was the best story, followed by Mystical Redemption. It was a rolling on the floor, laughing out loud read. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a quick, light, funny read -- Just be prepared for the stares and dirty looks you'll get from people as you LOL.

*** I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review ***


First a Rant and then Success:
I was getting frustrated at finding copies of Giovanni Valentino's + other authors earlier work specifically Vampires Suck (Alternate Hilarities) (Volume 2) and Hysterical Realms (Alternate Hilarities) (Volume 3). I had just finished ordering online prescription eyeglasses at my favorite e commerce site, What a great idea, being able to order actual prescription glasses online. No more traveling an hour each way to the closest eyewear store. Just turn on the computer and follow the instructions and voila, new lenses and frames if you want a change OR new lenses in your old frames which obviously need to be sent in. I was nervous at first going this route, but after the completion of the first order, I was hooked on this method. Anyway, new prescription glasses were on the way.

I then decided to look up and purchase one of their 9" cast iron skillets as mentioned in my borrowed copy of Hysterical Realms. The cast pan sold at this site is much more artistic in the design of the handles, the machined smooth interiors and the unusual bronzy color of the new pans. They are truly pleasing to the eye. The pre-seasoning of the cookware involves two rounds of organic flaxseed oil at a temperature of 425º F, which gives the pans a lovely bronze hue. It also results in the cast iron skillets, braising pan and dutch oven being ready to cook with, right out of the box. I really liked that. I was curious if the bronze color would remain after use, but the content on the site says this color will change, deepening and darkening over time as layers of seasoning build, eventually reaching a rich black. You could see that difference in the pictures between the new cast iron cookware and pictures showing delicious looking food cooked in the actual cast iron skillets. I can't wait to try out some of the cast iron recipes that are offered. I bought a 9" skillet and a 12" braising pan with their tops.

Now I am on a roll. I then decided to look for copies of the two books Alternate Hilarities vol 2 & 3. Amazon seemed like a good bet but I saw that Vol 3 was unavailable. However used versions of Vampires Suck (Alternate Hilarities) (Volume 2) were available $ 782.76 + $ 3.99 shipping + $ 69.82 estimated tax. REALLY!! Yup! The book is a real collectors' item The prices for it on DealOz are mind blowing. On Abe Books, however, you can buy Hysterical Realms (Alternate Hilarities) (Volume 3) for $6.00 used in very good conditions with $4.50 in shipping. No kindle versions, just soft cover. DealOz ( is another site that shows availability of these two books, but I am going to go with Abe Books for Vampires Suck.

I will be all set with new Reading glasses, a treat, perhaps the Chocolate Babka recipe for the braising pan, and my copy of Vampires Suck (Alternate Hilarities) (Volume 3). You can check back in a couple of weeks to see how all my purchases turned out.

Update: thumbs up all around!!



Vampires Suck (Alternate Hilarities) (Volume 2) Paperback

November 2, 2014
by Giovanni Valentino  (Author) Sam Adams

Each story has a different take on the legend of the Vampire. Some hide from the darkness and others can walk in the daylight. Some are cold, calculated killers and others are full of teenaged angst. Some are held at bay by garlic but others love Italian food. Here is a collection of stories designed to poke fun at the whole vampire genre. We have funny stories about the troubles of immortality, about the crazy life of the vampire slayer, and about just how the different vampires get along. But in all the stories, one element is always there. Vampire Suck.

5.0 out of 5 stars
Great for fans of humor and vampire stories
January 8, 2015
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
A delightfully funny collection of short stories that tackle the vampire trope from a variety of angles. Stories range from chuckle-worthy to laugh-out-loud funny. Personal favorites included the stories by Kerrie Strong and the collection's editor, Giovanni Valentino. Definitely check it out.


Patricia L. Lincourt
5.0 out of 5 starsFive Stars
January 3, 2015
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Original and we'll written quirky.


Emme H
3.0 out of 5 stars
Fun stories despite production flaws
January 23, 2015
Format: Paperback
I backed this collection on Kickstarter because I always enjoy trying small press story collections, I'd heard good things about Alternate Hilarities and I found the premise fun. Over all I enjoyed this book and the stories within.

My biggest issue was the very poor proofreading. There are sentence fragments and incorrect punctuation EVERYWHERE! This really damages the image of the publishing house and rendered one story (Joe Mogel's "The Hunt") almost unreadable due to the severity and frequency of bewildering, or just mangled, sentences. There were also a few non-vampire stories, which I think would have been best left out since they do nothing to help give the collection a cohesive feel.

Despite the publishing issues, I found plenty of enjoyable stories. My favorites were:

"Dark Illusions" by Even Dicken, which features a new vampire struggling to cope with the fact that being a real vampire is nothing like the movies.

"A Winter's Wisp" by Tim J. Finn is short (only 3 pages of text) but features a vampire's attempt to feed on a young lady defeated in an unexpected way.

"The Other Interview with a Vampire" by C.J. Andrew features a reporter who tracks down the vampiric descendent of Vlad the Impaler and finds a disappointment.

"Not All That Glitters is Gold" by Giovanni Valentino takes a group of pop culture vamps, conceals them under barely-there pseudonyms (Les, gay vamp from New Orleans and Seraphim, brooding vamp with a soul get lots of page time) and has them trying to decide whether to let sparkling Eddie Culligain into their exclusive club.

In "Paleo Diet" by J. Adrian Cook a vampire couple find a domestic human in their dumpster. Of course, no one keeps humans anymore and they are stumped as to what do with him.


Helen R.
4.0 out of 5 stars
Fun Read
January 2, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a collection of short stories that pokes light-hearted fun at the recent vampire craze. One story, for instance, is about a vampire hiding from a woman who wants him to turn her into a vampire. With sadness, the vampire thinks that those vampire wannabes now look more like vampires than the real ones: “They were so vampire they were vampyre.” I liked the stories; there were a lot of good jokes and interesting turns of the plot in them. Unfortunately, some stories felt confusing, and there were several typos in the book.
2 people found this helpful


Legion Brian
5.0 out of 5 stars
Quality short fiction
December 28, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
If you are going to spend money on an anthology of short stories this should be the one you buy. The stories a quirky and full of personality. Quality publication from a small press company.


5.0 out of 5 stars
there isn't a bad story in the bunch
November 1, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Definitely give this hilarious anthology a chance. I found myself laughing out loud more times than I could count. The stories range from outright goofy to clever and witty. Regardless of the type of humor you prefer, there isn't a bad story in the bunch.
2 people found this helpful


Sharon K Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars
Vampires suck. But this book does not
December 26, 2014
Format: Paperback
Vampires suck. But this book does not. I normally don't laugh out loud while reading but some of the short stories in this book made me do just that. There were a lot of unique takes and views on vampires in this book. A great read and highly enjoyable.


Mark Strong
5.0 out of 5 stars
Lots of laughs
February 15, 2015
Format: Paperback
A very fun read. Quick hits of humor on a topic that was ripe for a lighter take.

The goal of these anthologies is to help aspiring authors get published and to have fun. Everything we do here is in the spirit of humor. If we offend you in any way, well, we probably don't care =)

Take a moment to look around and submit a story or two if you'd like. Got questions? Got a joke you want to tell us? Want to tell us how awesome we are? Stand in line and send us an email at:


Editor in Chief

Editor of Alternate Hilarities Anthology

Giovanni Francesco Valentino has struggled at the art of writing for four decades against many demons like self-doubt, chronic depression, OCD and severe dyslexia.He has written a few memoir pieces about his struggles going undiagnosed for more than half his life as well as almost a dozen humorous speculative fiction short stories. His long-term goal is to become such a famous science fiction and fantasy author that other people want to write fan fiction in his worlds.
Giovanni Francesco Valentino has struggled at the art of writing for four decades against many demons like self-doubt, chronic depression, OCD and severe dyslexia. He has written a few memoir pieces about his struggles going undiagnosed for more than half his life as well as almost a dozen humorous speculative fiction short stories. His long-term goal is to become such a famous science fiction and fantasy author that other people want to write fan fiction in his worlds.

His writing credits include:

  1. His memoir piece, “Sometimes, It is Ok to be Nice to People” is available in Whisperings Magazine.
  2. "Difficult Subject" is available at Fiction on the Web.
  3. "Demons, Devils and Deadbeats" from Sorcerous Signals in May of 2013 and was reprinted in Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms.
  4. "A Kiss to Die for" in January 2014 issue of Infernal Ink.
  5. "Kids Don’t Get Choices" is available at Fiction on the Web.
  6. "After Apocalypses Collide" is available in Alternate Hilarities.
  7. "Mystical Redemption" is on the web at Sorcerous Signals in the May 2014 issue and was reprinted in Alternate Hilarities 3: Hysterical Realms.
  8. "Not All that Glitter is Gold"  in Alternate Hilarities 2: Vampires Suck.
  9. "A Secret to Die for" in Alternate Hilarities 2: Vampires Suck.
  10. "Taming Your Inner Child" appears on Fiction on the Web
  11. "You're not Mad Enough" appears in Alternate Hilarities 4: Weirder Science.
  12. "Losing the Key to Time" appears in Alternate Hilarities 4: Weirder Science.
  13. "The Accident Rapture" will appear in Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife due out in April of 2016
  14. "Tort Reform for the Devil" will appear in Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife due out in April of 2016
  15. "Where Weres can be Weres" will appear in Strangely Funny Stories III due out spring of 2016.

Check out his crazy rantings on his Website.
Or you can find him on Facebook, and Twitter

He offers his editing services. Check it out.

Since it is a conflict of interest, he will not perform services on submissions for the Alternate Hilarities series or any future Strange Musings Press anthologies, before or after the submission process. If he like your story, and it's close to his needs, he will send you a request for rewrite for free.



Monday, February 29, 2016

One Star Reviews of the Afterlife Preview.

Here is a sneak peek of the first story in Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife.

The Accidental Rapture


Giovanni Valentino

When the popup on your screen reads: Warning! This program will start the rapture and lead to the End of Days. Are you sure? Yes/No. Make damn sure you click the right answer. No recovery setting in creation will save you from jumping the gun on the End of Days.


Brian rocked back and forth in his chair, repeatedly muttering ‘This is bad’ as the Archangel Gabriel charged into his cubical. In full wrath of Him mode, Gabriel stood his full nine feet tall with his sparkling wings unfurled wide, his halo pulsing a bright gold and his sword of justice ablaze.

“What in His name did you do?” Gabriel’s normal angelic voice, a soul-soothing, rhythmical Song of Songs, had turned into a cacophony of tormented cries of lamentation.

“I … I … didn’t mean to. I swear!” Brian stammered out, his eyes fixated on the flames flowing up the Archangel’s sword.


Gabriel glared at Heaven’s newly appointed “Developer in Charge of Code Updates,” whatever the hell that meant. Brian Kingston was a recent hire, arriving in Heaven just three months ago. He came highly recommended with an almost perfect Redemption Score for “Instant Approval” at the Pearly Gates. Since Steve Jobs’ arrival up here, there was a big push to get all of Heaven’s systems on a uniform platform and working together. Brian had experience with all the old systems they had used since Heaven turned electronic, and he was well versed in the Apple world. Jobs wanted him on the project badly, so the Archangel hadn’t even read his resume.

Now that there was trouble, the Archangel wasn’t surprised to find himself here. The programmer had caused nothing but trouble since they gave him access to the systems. He couldn’t get his work in on time unsupervised and he clashed with every team Gabriel tried to assign him. He seemed to break something at least once a week and was belligerent about refusing to accept responsibility for it. He once tried to blame the unbaptized babies in Limbo for a system-wide failure in the main login screen that he obviously caused.


And that didn’t even cover the man’s personal faults. He showed up all clean-shaven and well-groomed for his first day, but three months later, Kingston had a full wild beard and a finger-in-the-electric-socket hairstyle. His entire wardrobe consisted of ratty jeans with holes in them and an endless array of Star Trek tee shirts. He even greeted everyone with that stupid split-fingers hand gesture, saying, “Live Long and Prosper!” He was in Heaven. What in His name did that even mean here?


How he got that high Redemption Score, Gabriel couldn’t fathom. The only thing that made sense was this guy found a way to game the Redemption system to skew things in his favor. If he could just figure out how Brian did it, he could call for a correction to that score and send the man downstairs.

Gabriel crinkled his brow and waited for an answer to his simple question. Brian just sat there wide-eyed and mouth agape. After a few seconds, he realized the source of the man’s discomfort. Gabriel folded his wings in tight to his back and sheathed his weapon. The light of the flames disappeared, but wisps of black smoke still filtered out of the scabbard. He flexed his arms and shoulders and he shrank down to his day-to-day 6’2 managerial size. With his normal voice, he said, “Sorry about that. I didn’t mean to terrify you. Something has activated the apocalypse, so I was stuck in full-on Judgment Dispensing mode.”

Brian grabbed his ankles and placed his head between his legs to calm himself. “I think that might have been me.”

“You think? You don’t know? You’re unsure if you may or may not have started the apocalypse?” Gabriel threw his hands into the air. “How can you not know?”

Brian’s face somehow turned a whiter shade than his normal “indoor kid” pale. “I … I …. I was just looking over some old legacy code. It looks like it’s from three systems back. I am updating all that stuff to make sure it matches Steve’s new database architecture.”

“You know, I’m older than mankind and I’ve learned to speak hundreds of languages. Can you

translate that into one of them I might understand?”

“I found something from one of the very old systems. One of the first programs ever written in Heaven. Things that old might not work with the system anymore after all the updates we’ve implemented. I just wanted to confirm it would still execute.”

“You stumbled across the apocalypse code.” Gabriel’s already stern expression got sterner, in a way that would normally only be used to express near fatal constipation. “And of course, you activated it because that’s what any sane, reasonable soul would do.”

“I didn’t activate it!” Brian said defensively. Gabriel looked around the room that was bathed in red, flashing lights and then glanced down at his smoldering sword, fighting to leap out of its sheath. Brian shrugged and soured his face. “I mean not on purpose.”

“What were you doing even looking at that program?” Heads popped up from the surrounding cubical farm and prying eyes gathered around to watch this dressing down. Gabriel glared at them and said, “Do all of you people have nothing to do? Do I have to find you something?” Like groundhogs seeing their shadows, the heads withdrew from sight. “Continue, Mr. Kingston.”

“Well, I noticed that even though it would still run, changes in the database structure might cause it to miss a large population of ‘worthy’ souls during the rapture. We’ve added a number of critical parameters needed to evaluate the inpidual soul’s Redemption score to assess its rapturablity status. Blanks or Null values in those queries could cause massive record drops in the “Chosen” recordset.

“Why do you IT people just presume I’m going to understand every stupid buzz word that falls out of your mouth?” Gabriel drew his sword back out of his sheath and held it dangerously close to Brian’s face. The smell of singed hair wafted through the air of the small cubical. “Now, say that in English or so help me Him, I will smite you.”

“The system looks at a lot of things when it calculates a soul’s Redemption Score. The basic code of the rapture grabs all the people that would get instant approval into Heaven, like souls with a score of 800 or higher. This old program doesn’t check everything it needs to calculate the score in the most up-to-date way. Many good souls who are eligible for instant approval will be left behind on Earth when it’s time to run this. I was just looking at the code to see how to fix it.”

“Well, how that hell did you set it off?”

“I’ve been telling you we needed a test database since I first got through the Pearly Gates. This kind of thing happens when you evaluate code against a live database.” Brian cowered.

Gabriel fought against the overwhelming urge to cleave the IT nerd in half. But he had an emergency meeting with the Apostles, the other Archangels and Him in twenty minutes to discuss their response to this accidental Rapture. He needed to understand what in His name happened this morning before he dared to set foot in that room.

Gabriel cringed at the idea that they might want to move up the timetable of the apocalypse. He knew the End of Days couldn’t start today. They weren’t ready. Only half the things they needed were in place. Most of the seven seals were too faded to tell apart. It would take a decade to sort out which was which, short of just opening them to find out. They still couldn’t run a successful simulation to get all the stars to fall from the sky without destroying the Earth itself. The Son of Man was off on his “sabbatical” with the ESPN 8’s extreme sports tour, and he gave them no solid return date. And the anti-Christ was too busy with her singing career and transition into motion pictures to be bothered with any of this. Now that she’d won a few more Grammys, it was going to be impossible to get her back on target. The last time he asked her for a meeting, she just told him to “Shake it off”. “Why don’t you just walk me through what happened, Mr. Kingston?”

“Ok, I ran the program in isolation on a mirror instance of …” Brian cringed when Gabriel pressed his blazing sword a little closer. “I mean I opened the program disconnected from the main system, so I shouldn’t have been able to affect the mortal world.”

“Continue!” Gabriel said.

“I was playing around with the program’s ability to select the unique group we would be looking for when we were ready. I didn’t mean to activate it. I hit something by mistake and this huge popup window leapt off the screen, right into my face. It read, “Warning! You are about to start the Rapture. Are you sure? Yes/No.” I clicked No. I’m sure I clicked No, but I guess the decision point code was defective or even missing because the program started. Then, once it finished the Rapture, it activated all the other code in the line, starting the full-blown End of Days.”

“Wait, did you say the Rapture program ran? It ran to the end? With No errors? So, all the worthy souls have been called to heaven?” Gabriel leaned across Brian’s desk and pressed the intercom button on the phone. “Dtaa, patch me through to Pearly Gates.” Harp music filled the air while they waited to make a connection to the Pearly Gates. Gabriel jumped in surprise when the line picked up after just a minute of wait time.

“Pearly Gates, Simon Peter speaking.”

“Yo, Pete, are you getting slammed down there?”

“Who is this? Gabe? You know most people start with ‘Hi, Pete, this is Gabe. Can I ask you a question?’”

Gabriel’s teeth ground together, making the most ominous rumbling-of-the-earth sound. The walls of Brian’s cube shuddered around them. “Hi, Pete,” Gabriel said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “This is your old buddy Gabe. I was just wondering if you suddenly and without warning received around …” Gabriel snapped his fingers at Brian. The programmer scribbled down the project of rapturable souls count on a sticky note and showed it to Gabriel. His eyes widened as he read off the number. “One hundred and forty-five million seven hundred and four thousand two hundred and thirty six souls or so.”

“Is this a joke?” Pete huffed. “Or have we moved the End of Days campaign up to today? It better not be today because I still need to train another hundred thousand souls on this new system before we can process that kind of volume.”

“No, it’s not today. It’s still scheduled for January 8, 2135, Elvis Presley’s 200th birthday. But back on topic, Petey boy, have you had any major spikes in your arrival traffic?”

“Not from the ‘chosen’ souls. I have had a sudden influx of ‘nerdy types’ down here, but I was chalking that up to the depression of living in Mom’s basement.”

“Nerdy types?” Gabriel looked over to Brian, but the programmer just shrugged. “Never mind, Pete. Just be at the big meeting in fifteen minutes.”

“Meeting? What meeting?” Pete’s voice leapt up in pitch.

“You need to start checking your blessed emails, Saint Peter! And be at that meeting!” Gabriel angrily pressed down on the “hang up” button, smashing the phone into pieces. Brian ped to the floor to avoid flying plastic shards and circuit boards. Gabriel reached down and helped the man up to his chair. “Sorry, I’m still on apocalypse strength. Okay, I guess we dodged a bullet there. If hundreds of millions of souls didn’t disappear from the mortal world, maybe no one will notice the start of the End of Days and we can just reset the system.”

“I’ve already rebooted all the servers running the mortal world. Even after that’s finished, the skies will still have turned red and things will still have fallen from the sky for a window of at least a few minutes. Half the world will have experienced it.”

“We could get Him to wipe their memories?” Gabriel sighed, knowing what His answer would be if they asked. He was too much about the “Never interfere with their free will” and “trusting His creations to draw the right conclusions” business models to mess with their heads. Like that ever worked!

“That’s not enough anymore, boss.” Brian held up his smart phone. “Everyone has one of these. Photos and videos are going viral all over the internet already.”

Gabriel held his hand on his chin and squinted his golden eyes. With a snap of his fingers, he said, “I guess we can just blame climate change. Maybe we can finally kick some butts into gear to work on that. We can’t have mankind wiping themselves out before the Judgement Day.” Brian chuckled but abruptly stopped when Gabriel glared at him. “This doesn’t get you off the hook, Mr. Kingston. Get your team together and figure out why that program didn’t Rapture a single soul.”

“Well, the code did work. It did Rapture some people; just not exclusively the chosen like it was supposed to. It picked up a smaller subset of people.” Brian blushed and turned his gaze down to his shoes.

“What smaller subset?” Gabriel cringed, dreading the answer already.

“After an hour of making notes on the code changes I’d need, I got bored and started playing around with the data. You know, to see what kind of things I could get back.”

“You were playing around with the souls of the chosen when you accidently activated the Rapture?”

“Well, when you put it that way, its sounds terrible.”

“So, put it in a way that sounds better.”

“I was testing the flexibility of the program’s ability to collect data. So, I shot for the lowest level of granularity I could find.” Brian stammered to a halt when Gabriel smacked him in the head. “Sorry, I mean I tried to get a group of souls using the most choices as I could. You know?”

“No, I don’t. Explain it to me.”

“Like a dating site!” Brian perked up. “If I ask for red-haired, left-handed, post-doc women between thirty-nine and fifty-four years of age with at least one child within ten miles of my house I might not get anything. I asked for too many details. So I need to open up the parameters until I get data, like fifty or even a hundred miles from my house.”

“So you Raptured all the ginger, leftie, smarty-pants milfs with in a hundred-mile radius of your mortal home.” Gabriel thought about what Peter had said and wondered how these souls could be considered in any way nerdy. “We can spin that. A red head obsessed serial killer or a crazy anti-ginger cult.”

Gabriel moved to the desk phone and sighed woefully, remembering what he’d done to it. He tapped his Bluetooth earpiece and once he heard the line pick up, he launched into his rant. “Dtaa, we’re going to need to leak a press release through the Vatican to CNN, MSNBC, the BBC, Al Jazeera and public radio about this cluster F. Get a meeting on the schedule with our PR people right after the big meeting with Him. …. No, I don’t know when that meeting will be over. That’s up to Him. … Just get the entire PR department in a conference room and have them wait. …. No, I didn’t forget Fox News. I left them off on purpose. It’s sweeps week and I feel like helping the guy downstairs’ ratings.”

Gabriel tapped his Bluetooth again and the line went dead. With a flexing of his muscles, the Archangel rocketed back up to his End of Days height and his sparkling wings sprang outward. Placing his hand on the hilt of his sword, he turned to storm out of Brian’s cubicle. He was halted in his tracks at the sound of Brian’s whimpering.

“Is there anything else I need to know before I head off to this meeting, Mr. Kingston?” Gabriel asked in the harsh Judgment Day voice. “You know that He already knows, so holding back at this point will only make me look stupid.”

“Well, the search I gave you before … that was just an example. That wasn’t the ACTUAL search I executed,” Brian mumbled, still avoiding eye contact. “Um I was looking for a small enough group that had enough persity. So I could check the new items we are using in the Rapture calculation.”

Brian’s voice dropped painfully low to where Gabriel couldn’t make out the rest of what he said. Gabriel checked his smart watch for the time. The big meeting was in four minutes. He didn’t have time to wait for the programmer to build up his nerve for this confession. He reached over and grabbed the man by the neck, lifting him out of his seat. Raising him to eye level and forcing him to make eye contact, Gabriel bellowed, “WHAT WAS THE ACTUAL SEARCH?”

The unmistakable aroma of urine assaulted Gabriel’s nose. He instantly regretted the “safe surroundings” policy he’d instituted, letting new souls see the world in a mortal setting until they acclimatized. You didn’t get these kind of smells in the Heavenly surroundings.

Shaking and stammering, Brian forced out, “Middle class income or higher … home owners … Star Trek Fans … Who don’t like Star Wars … in Europe, Asia, Antarctica, North America and South America…But not Brazil.”

Gabriel stood speechless, blinking his eyes for over a minute. Dropping Brian back into his chair, Gabriel stammered out, “Why not Brazil?”

“I needed a control population for the data analyses,” Brian whimpered.

“So, you’re telling me that every Trekkie who hates Star Wars in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Antarctica were Raptured to Heaven’s gates at 10:53 UST this morning.” He paused, staring at the programmer. That explained Peter’s “nerdy” comment. “Of course, except Brazil, right?”

“First off, ‘Trekkie’ is a derogatory term. We prefer the term ‘Trekkers’.” Brian’s expression tightened and he finally matched his gaze with Gabriel’s. “But, besides that, yes.”

“Why?” Gabriel glared at him.

“You heard Saint Peter: everyone presumes we all work at comic book stores and live in our parents’ basements. I just wanted to have proof to show the other guys that I’m not making things up when I say back on earth I had a wife, a good job and I owned my own home.” The whiny quality in Brian’s voice rose to superhuman levels.

“And why the Star Wars hating?”

“First off, there is weak science. And what about lack of strong positive message about the future of mankind? Not to mention the brother-sister kissing thing. And do I even have to bringing up the flaws of the prequel trilogy? Midichlorian? Seriously, What the hell was Lucas smoking?”

Gabriel slapped both of his hands over his face and muffled a groan. After a second, laughter slipped out from between his fingers. He lowered his hands and held himself up on the front wall of Brian’s cubical, laughing so hard now his torso trembled and his wings twitched wildly. “I can’t wait to see what this cluster blessing does to the faith base down on Earth.”

“Maybe someone will start the First Transwarp Church of the Federation?” Brian laughed along with the Archangel.

“They’ll canonize Gene Roddenberry for sure.” Gabriel slapped his palm on his chest and wheezed. Bending over, he drew in a number of deeper and deeper breaths until he had the laughter under control. He popped back up straight and turned to go. “I’m off to the meeting now. Let’s hope I still work here when it’s done.”

“Good luck, Sir. And, Sir, …. I was wondering if I could take lunch early. You know, to just clean up and stretch my legs.” Brian looked down at the wet spot on his pants.

Gabriel smirked and raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to the Pearly Gates to chat up a couple of Trekkies, aren’t you? Oh, sorry, Trekkers?”

“Well, I didn’t pick that search by accident.” Brian blushed again.

“Right.” Gabriel rolled his eyes. “Before you go, I need to ask you something that’s been bugging me for a while. How did you get “Instant Approval’ into Heaven anyway? You just don’t seem like the saintly type.”

“Why? It’s not like loving Star Trak is a red flag for damnation!” Brian stretched up on to his toes, trying in vain to tower over the Archangel at his full height.

Gabriel raised an eyebrow, looking down at the programmer with practiced judgment. “But it doesn’t help either.”

“A lot of Trekkers do selfless deeds like raising money at cons for charities.” Brian let out a huff and crossed his arms over his chest. “That helps your score.”

“Not to ‘Instant Approval’ level,” Gabriel smirked. “What else did you do? I mean, you’re not in good enough shape to save a litter of puppies from a burning building? You’re not smart enough to invent a lifesaving drug? Tell me the truth. You found a flaw in our systems and exploited it, didn’t you?”

“No, I didn’t! I lived a very good …” Brian shook his head and sighed, unable to finish that sentence. “I was a technicality. I died in a car accident. I had a heart attack while driving.”

“Last I checked, ‘heart attack while driving’ isn’t a ticket straight through the Pearly Gates.” Gabriel interrupted.

“But I t-boned a school bus full of nuns and Catholic school kids,” Brian blurted in a flustered voice.

“That doesn’t make your story sound better.”

“Well, their driver had just had a heart attack, too. The bus was out of control, and the force of my car hitting it brought it to a stop just before it drove into a ravine. It happened right before I passed away, so my score was still affected by the action. I got triple credit for each kid I ‘saved’ because I did it at the expense of my own life.”

Gabriel laughed louder this time and slapped Brian on the shoulder. “That will do it. Go ahead. Head on down to the front gate and talk to your buddies. Have fun while you can. When you get back, report to HR. I’m going to have to reassign you to less critical duties because of this.”

“I guess I understand. I just hope I don’t wind up mopping the floors.” Brian rubbed the back of his neck.

Gabriel checked his smart watch again and his eyes flared. In twenty-three seconds, he’d be late, and you didn’t want to stroll in late with Him in the room. The last time that happened, it started a war in heaven.

“I’m not going to demote you. In fact, I’m giving you a promotion.” A wide smile spread across the Archangel’s face. “I’m going to make you our new head liaison with the corrections department downstairs.”

“Wait, downstairs?? I thought I couldn’t be damned no matter what I did. Isn’t my Redemption Score is too high,” Brian cringed in his chair.

“No, I can’t have you damned. I’m just reassigning you. But you still might suffer a little downstairs,” Gabriel chuckled. “You see, the guys that work in corrections, they’re all big Star Wars fans. And the trilogies play on every wall, again and again all day long. Have fun.”
If you like this story, head over to the Kickstarter and help back the print edition.

Posted by giovanni valentino


Saturday, January 23, 2016

AUTHOR BIO: William Presley

Billy Presley was born in Detroit, MI and raised in the small suburb of Macomb. Currently, he's a freshman at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and plans to major in molecular biology.
An amateur genealogist (yes, he's related to Elvis) and aspiring medical examiner, he enjoys spending his days collecting medical antiques, and reading - his favorite book being To the Lighthouse. He is also an avid follower of politics, though, despite what his friends will tell you, has no plans to run for any office in the foreseeable future. Check out Billy novels, a Letter from Hell and Blissful Insanity.

William is a contributor in Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife
Lucky Strikes and Hellfire
Many have made avoiding Hell their ultimate goal, and yet few have ever stopped to consider the alternative. An angry drunk who finds himself in Satan’s realm may decide his current situation is actually quite comfortable compared to a world where everything prohibited by the Bible is truly non-existent.

Posted by giovanni valentino




Wayne Via lives in Dana Point, California with his wife Pam. To find other anthologies that include short stories by Wayne, go to his website at

Follow Wayne online
Wayne is a contributor in Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife.
The Tale of Poor Aengus

Posted by giovanni valentino


Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife.

Tiffany Michelle Brown is a whisky enthusiast, archer, Aikido practitioner, and writer who lives near the sunny beaches of San Diego, California. She’s easily amused by puns, sexual innuendo, and anything otherworldly or magical. Tiffany has published short stories with Liars’ League NYC, Popcorn Press, Line by Lion Publications, and Shooter Literary Magazine. To follow her adventures, subscribe to

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Tiffany is a contributor in Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife.
Bad Vibrations
In your last seconds, they say your whole life flashes before your eyes. You see things that make you swell with pride or cry with joy. You will bemoan the things you regretted doing or the things you just never got around to. But nothing is worse than the things you wished you could have hidden from prying eyes.

Posted by giovanni valentino

AUTHOR BIO: Steve Billings

Steve Billings lives and works on the edge of The Cotswolds, near the city of Bath, England. Despite a life-long addiction to bleak music and strange literature, he lives a chaotic but happy life with his wife, two children and two deranged cats. His first ever short story finished runner-up in the 2012 Aeon Award competition. He has previously been published in Albedo One and Devilfish Review.

Steve is a contributor in Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife.
Templeman and Gort (Shipbuilders)
With souls standing ten-deep on the banks of the Acheron, and his old ferry creaking at the seams, a desperate Charon heads to a remote shipyard to check the progress of his new vessel. Surely Messrs Templeman and Gort (Shipbuilders) will have everything under control?

Posted by giovanni valentino

AUTHOR BIO: Stephanie Vance


Stephanie Vance lives in a secret undisclosed location in Washington, DC doing secret undisclosed things for secret undisclosed people. Just kidding. By day, she works as a grassroots consultant and by night, she writes (hopefully) humorous SpecFic. She is the author of five nonfiction books on how citizens can effectively influence government, which many believe prepares her well for writing fantasy fiction. Stephanie is a 2014 graduate of the prestigious
Taos Toolbox workshop and holds two masters' degrees.



Follow Stephanie online
Stephanie is a contributor in Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife.
What happens when a tax attorney butt heads with his flaky guardian angel? God’s dealmaker, the Devil and beautiful women get involved. Revenge is so sweet -- eventually. 



Posted by giovanni valentino

AUTHOR BIO: Stephan P Mount

Abandoned on Planet Earth, S. P. Mount never really found his footing among the bizarre species called humankind. However, he eventually became adept at putting one foot in and doing the hokey-pokey, so that today, he might even seem human himself.
Mount grew up in an orphanage in Scotland with his nose wedged in encyclopaedias. He spent his youth envisaging the world and beyond, until awakening one morn to find wings sprouted.

Follow Stephan online
Stephan is a contributor in Alternate Hilarities 5: One Star Reviews of the Afterlife. 
The Body Chop
Most people would ‘lose their head’ if informed they only had a short while to live. But one young woman, stumpier than a garden gnome, takes the sentiment to a whole other level.  She hopes, in the far-flung future, cryogenic technology will fit her decapitated head with a brand new body–one where skinny jeans aren’t the enemy.