Monday, May 22, 2017

Promo & Tour: Behind the Mask Anthology

Title: Behind the Mask: A Superhero Anthology
Author: Various
Genre/Age: Fantasy/Adult
Series: None
Publisher: Meerkat Press LLC
Synopsis: Behind the Mask is a multi-author collection with stories by award-winning authors Kelly Link, Cat Rambo, Carrie Vaughn, Seanan McGuire, Lavie Tidhar, Sarah Pinsker, Keith Rosson, Kate Marshall, Chris Large and others.

It is partially, a prose nod to the comic world—the bombast, the larger-than-life, the save-the-worlds and the calls-to-adventure.

But it’s also a spotlight on the more intimate side of the genre. The hopes and dreams of our cape-clad heroes. The regrets and longings of our cowled villains. That poignant, solitary view of the world that can only be experienced from behind the mask.

Quintessential Justice by Patrick Flanagan

“Did everyone make it out alright?” QED asked. “Hang on, I just want to make a final sweep of the building.”

“Q, come on,” Jaleesa said. “Do you smell any smoke? I just needed to get you out of there.”

She had already scribbled on her notepad to nix any future audience interactions until QED got some coaching on public relations.

“Oh.” QED’s face looked pained. “You don’t think it went well? I thought it went mostly well.”

Jaleesa bit back a smart remark. “Q, the goal for today is to reinforce the QED brand and get people to see you as a hero. You weren’t a hero up there, you were a celebrity, and ripping celebrities apart is the national pastime.”

“Well that certainly doesn’t square with my experience,” QED said. “And I have some real qualms about how you tricked everyone back there. In fact, I find it highly questionable. I request that you never do that again. Quite frankly, I require it.”

Jaleesa looked Q in the eye. “Look,” she said. “I like you. You’re a good guy, and I don’t always say that. I’ve worked for some real prizes in this job. But I don’t actually, technically, work for you. I work for the Support Services Division of the Justice Guardian Brigade, LLC.” QED looked like he wanted to interject but thought better of it. “And sometimes I have to do things you don’t like—not because I want to, but because doing my job means keeping you from becoming a laughingstock. Because when that happens to one hero, it’s hard on every hero. And that was about to happen back there.”

QED looked at her. Through her. She could feel what he called his “Q-Power” broadcasting on all frequencies, out of every pore of his body, every atom of his being. “When you misuse safety equipment like fire alarms,” he said quietly, “you make people mistrust their efficacy. And that puts people in danger, however slightly. Actions have consequences.”

Jaleesa found it hard to maintain her frustration with his Boy Scout mentality. She didn’t know if that was due to the Q-Power or not. “Q . . .”

He rested a hand on her shoulder. “I don’t care if some cub reporter puts the squeeze on me. I know sometimes I come across as a quavering milquetoast, but I’m hardly quailing at the prospect of Miss Currie’s inquisition.” Then he tried out a curious and unfamiliar expression. “Besides, if she wants to sell papers by claiming to know my real identity, she’ll have to try harder. Who would possibly equate me with the likes of Quenton Quatermain? It’s absurd. He doesn’t have a mole!”

“I . . . you know, I never realized it, but you’re right. I was skeptical before, but the mole thing really clinches it.”

“Quite right it does!” QED said. “I . . . hold on. I’m picking something up over the law enforcement channels.” His eyes darted left to right as he read the incoming message scrolling across his optic LED. “Looks like there’s a robbery in progress down at the First Bank of Uptonville. A quintet of hostages. We’d better move.”

“Got it,” Jaleesa said, switching from conversation mode to work mode. She began striding through the library parking lot toward their car. “I’ll check in with Headquarters and let them know you’re—” She frowned. “Hang on. I’m not seeing anything here, with either FBI or UPD. Where is it you said—”

She stopped. There was no flapping. Usually, when he took off with a running jump, his cape flapped loudly in the wind. “You really leapt into action there,” QED said, catching up with her. “Maybe you should wear the cape and masque and I should drive.”

“Oh, but I’m not the Quixotic Master of Q-Power,” Jaleesa said sourly.

“My only point was, there are other ways to quit an event early. I’m quick on the uptake, I can play along.” He looked at her until she was forced to smile and kept looking until it was genuine. “You really like the sobriquet, don’t you? Everyone told me they were too quaintly old-fashioned, but I think they’re coming back into style.”

He cleared his throat awkwardly. “So, anyway. There’s been something I’ve been wanting to talk to you—wait. Hold on—” His eyes darted left to right.

“Leave it to you,” Jaleesa said. “You actually managed your once-a-year tricking of me and now you blow your accomplishment by doubling down and trying to pull the exact same gag two minutes later. Unbelievable.”

“No, no,” QED said. “This one’s unequivocally legit.” His eyes bulged. “Quetzalcoatl’s quincunx!” he exclaimed.

Jaleesa burst out laughing. “Q, you cannot be serious with that one! That’s your worst epithet yet! Sweet Jesus.”

QED waved her remark aside. “It’s the Ruinator. He’s tearing up the park. UPD can’t quarantine him. Let’s go.”

“Ughhhh,” Jaleesa groaned. “We were just. There. What a pain.”

“No, not Vandergelder,” QED corrected. “He’s across town at Schuyler Colfax.”

“What’s he doing, stealing ducks? The Ruinator is strictly a banks-and-jewelry-store guy, what’s he looking for in the middle of a public park?”

“Me,” QED said. He backed up to get a running start through the parking lot. Jaleesa was already halfway to the car, but she waited to hearing the flapping before calling it in.

Patrick Flanagan – author of “Quintessential Justice” from Behind the Mask

Five Favorite Movie Scenes of All Time
Note from Dawn: Gifs added by me!

Since Before the Mask deals with superheroes, I've decided to limit this to "Five Favorite Superhero Movie Scenes of All Time, and Why." (It's been several years since I've seen some of these, so allow for a dash of creative license to convey the emotional impact of each scene upon me in a way which mere fidelity to details could not.)

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5) The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, 1989, directed by and starring Bill Bixby. The second of three Incredible Hulk TV-movies, this movie was advertised with a scene showing David Banner on trial and Hulking out on the witness stand and demolishing the courtroom!, which would have been even cooler than the episode from the show where he Hulked out during a rock concert and everyone thought he was part of the show. But lo and behold, the movie airs, and the promised scene of gamma-spawned judicial activism turns out to be nothing more than a dreaded Dream Sequence. Banner never even actually goes on trial at all, in fact. This scene taught me to temper my expectations and let life unfold as it will, lest my youthful optimism curdle into sour, cynical, soul-crushing despair, where you hate everything and you've just given up and what's the point.

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4) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, 1991, directed by Michael Pressman, starring four humanoid turtles. You think that I'm going to mention Vanilla Ice freestyling "Ninja Rap," and you're right, that is the best scene. But instead of that, I choose to mention the scene where the Turtles, facing off against yet another gang of ski-masked bandits, eschew their traditional, highly lethal ninja weapons in favor of improvising with various non-lethal weapons like yo-yos, Nerf bats and links of sausages. It's a powerful statement of political conviction, one that taught me not to shy away from controversy for the sake of convention, either in fiction or in life. It's impossible to understate how big a role this film played in getting the 1993 Nunchuks Registration Act passed through Congress.

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3) Barb Wire, 1996, directed by David Hogan, starring Pamela Anderson (Lee) in the titular role of future bounty hunter/nightclub owner Barb Wire. The scene where I'm sitting on the couch sometime in the mid-2000s, watching this movie on Cinemax because I can't sleep, and also I can't find the remote, and about half an hour into it I realize they were deliberately trying to remake/homage/rip-off Casablanca but in the future. Casablanca!!! With Pamela Anderson! (Lee!) This scene taught me the value of audacity. Don't be afraid to try anything, no matter how impossible it might be or how utterly incapable you are of succeeding at it. Because the worst that can happen is that you fail completely and torpedo your movie career.

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2) Ghost Rider, 2007, directed by Mark Steven Johnson, starring Nicolas Cage. The scene where Johnny Blaze (Cage), needing money for a heart transplant for his sick uncle, agrees to go undercover with the DEA to infiltrate a Russian drug cartel and rescue the President's granddaughter, who's being held hostage. But then, it turns out that the mobsters are actually aliens, and also from the future, and they challenge the Ghost Rider to a motorcycle race around the world, and as they race there's a glowing red clock counting down the minutes until the stolen nuclear warhead goes off. This scene, in fact this whole movie, taught me the value of attentiveness. [Note: It's been ten years, so it's possible that some of the aforementioned details of this scene are slightly inaccurate, or that I never actually saw this movie at all.]

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1) Superman, 1978, directed by Richard Donner, starring Christopher Reeve, not Christopher Lee like I originally typed, although how crazy would that movie have been! The scene where Crying Superman defies his father and flies backwards through time, which is not at all the same as making Earth spin backwards, because that wouldn't help anyone obviously, in order to save Lois Lane from dying in an earthquake. And then, having defied his father for love, he doesn't tell her. He doesn't tell anyone. He keeps the knowledge of what he's done, the magnitude of his moral choice—his Kryptonian heritage or his humanity—all to himself. This scene is why I didn't really need four other scenes because this scene captures the superhero movie dynamic perfectly, all in just a few minutes.

…except now that I think about it, when Superman flew backwards in time, there was already another Superman there, stopping the first nuclear missile. And since Lois didn't die, there's no reason for Crying Superman to go back in time now. So where does that Superman go? Are there now two Supermen going forward? Do they share the Clark Kent identity, or does one of them go off and take a new name and start over? Maybe they battle over who gets to be Clark. And obviously Batman will get involved in this somehow, they always drag Batman into it, maybe Green Lantern shows up too and they think one of the Supermen must be a clone so they start fighting him, and then Krypto the Superdog flies up and tries to protect his master, but he doesn't know which is which—

I guess this scene sums up superheroes even more perfectly than I first thought.

Patrick Flanagan – author of “Quintessential Justice” from Behind the Mask

Patrick Flanagan Bio - For security reasons, Patrick Flanagan writes from one of several undisclosed locations; either—
1) A Top Secret-classified government laboratory which studies genetic aberrations and unexplained phenomena;
2) A sophisticated compound hidden in plain sight behind an electromagnetic cloaking shield;
3) A decaying Victorian mansion, long plagued by reports of terrifying paranormal activity; or
4) The subterranean ruins of a once-proud empire which ruled the Earth before recorded history, and whose inbred descendants linger on in clans of cannibalistic rabble
—all of which are conveniently accessible from exits 106 or 108 of the Garden State Parkway. Our intelligence reports that his paranoid ravings have been previously documented by Grand Mal Press, Evil Jester Press, and Sam's Dot Publishing. In our assessment he should be taken seriously, but not literally. (Note: Do NOT make any sudden movements within a 50' radius.)

All other authors in the anthology:

Kate Marshall lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and several small agents of chaos disguised as a dog, cat, and child. She works as a cover designer and video game writer. Her fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Crossed Genres, and other venues, and her YA survival thriller I Am Still Alive is forthcoming from Viking. You can find her online at

Chris Large writes regularly for Aurealis Magazine and has had fiction published in Australian speculative fiction magazines and anthologies. He's a single parent who enjoys writing stories for middle-graders and young adults, and about family life in all its forms. He lives in Tasmania, a small island at the bottom of Australia, where everyone rides Kangaroos and says 'G'day mate!' to utter strangers.

Stuart Suffel's body of work includes stories published by Jurassic London, Evil Girlfriend Media, Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine, Kraxon Magazine, and Aurora Wolf among others.  He exists in Ireland, lives in the Twilight Zone, and will work for Chocolate Sambuca Ice cream. Twitter: @stuartsuffel

Michael Milne is a writer and teacher originally from Canada, who lived in Korea and China, and is now in Switzerland. Not being from anywhere anymore really helps when writing science fiction. His work has been published in The Sockdolager, Imminent Quarterly, and anthologies on Meerkat Press and Gray Whisper.

Adam R. Shannon is a career firefighter/paramedic, as well as a fiction writer, hiker, and cook. His work has been shortlisted for an Aeon award and appeared in Morpheus Tales and the SFFWorld anthology You Are Here: Tales of Cryptographic Wonders. He and his wife live in Virginia, where they care for an affable German Shepherd, occasional foster dogs, a free-range toad, and a colony of snails who live in an old apothecary jar. His website and blog are at

Jennifer Pullen received her doctorate from Ohio University and her MFA from Eastern Washington University. She originally hails from Washington State. Her fiction and poetry have appeared or are upcoming in journals including: Going Down Swinging (AU), Cleaver, Off the Coast, Phantom Drift Limited, and Clockhouse

Stephanie Lai is a Chinese-Australian writer and occasional translator. She has published long meandering thinkpieces in Peril Magazine, the Toast, the Lifted Brow and Overland. Of recent, her short fiction has appeared in the Review of Australian Fiction, Cranky Ladies of History, and the In Your Face Anthology. Despite loathing time travel, her defence of Dr Who companion Perpugilliam Brown can be found in Companion Piece (2015). She is an amateur infrastructure nerd and a professional climate change adaptation educator (she's helping you survive our oncoming climate change dystopia). You can find her on twitter @yiduiqie, at, or talking about pop culture and drop bears at

Aimee Ogden is a former biologist, science teacher, and software tester. Now she writes stories about sad astronauts and angry princesses. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Asimov's, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction,, Persistent Visions, and The Sockdolager.

Nathan Crowder is a Seattle-based fan of little known musicians, unpopular candy, and just happens to write fantasy, horror, and superheroes. His other works include the fantasy novel Ink Calls to Ink, short fiction in anthologies such as Selfies from the End of the World, and Cthulhurotica, and his numerous Cobalt City superhero stories and novels. He is still processing the death of David Bowie.
Sarah Pinsker is the author of the 2015 Nebula Award winning novelette "Our Lady of the Open Road." Her novelette "In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind" was the 2014 Sturgeon Award winner and a 2013 Nebula finalist. Her fiction has been published in magazines including Asimov's, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Uncanny, among others, and numerous anthologies. Her stories have been translated into Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Galician. She is also a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her wife and dog. She can be found online at and

Carrie Vaughn is best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, who hosts a talk radio show for the supernaturally disadvantaged, the fourteenth installment of which is Kitty Saves the World.  She's written several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, as well as upwards of 80 short stories.  She's a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R.R. Martin and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop.  An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado.  Visit her at

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches atop a hill in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is an Endeavour, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominee. Her second novel, Hearts of Tabat, appears in early 2017 from Wordfire Press. She is the current President of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers of America. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see

Keith Frady writes weird short stories in a cluttered apartment in Atlanta. His work has appeared in Love Hurts: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, Literally Stories, The Yellow Chair Review, and The Breakroom Stories.

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