I don’t know much about author Stanley B. Webb. Was he born on a gas giant somewhere in the Jovian system? Maybe. Does he own an insectarium filled with deer flies and mosquitoes? It wouldn’t surprise me. Is he a distant relative to the recently deceased and legendary singer Loretta Lynn (née Webb)? I have no idea.
There is one thing I definitely know about Mr. Webb. He has a heathy sense of self-deprecating humor. How could he not? His latest short story collection is modestly called Monster Garbage and Other Trash.
It’s a cute (and funny) title, no doubt about it. But Webb’s writing isn’t trivial at all. Whether he’s writing about sea monsters, dinosaurs, space aliens, giant bugs, robots or killer plants, he knows what really scares us.
Many of the stories in this volume sound like something you’d hear around the campfire at night. They’re short and spooky with an obligatory kicker at the end. Summer camp counselors take note. “Old Town Halloween,” “Parlor,” “The Anti-Christmas Tree” and the titular “Monster Garbage” are all examples of this age-old story structure. These are my least favorite things in the anthology.
Much better are the stories that seem like chapters from longer works. In fact, I would encourage the author to revisit some of the following stories and expand them into book-length adventures.
“The Scavenger” solves the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle, a rural family wages a forever war against genetically engineered agricultural crops in “The Field of Vengeance” and in “Hellhole Fishing” a sea creature emerges from the remnant of a prehistoric lake. I also enjoyed “Chopper City” because it reminded me of The Omega Man, my favorite movie of all time.
In my opinion there are two stories that rise above all the rest. “The Day of the Deer Flies” is a surprisingly intimate account of a nature-run-amok attack. A seemingly coordinated strike of deer flies and mosquitoes turns the Adirondack Mountains into a combat zone. For 11 pages, the author is very explicit with his descriptive language—maybe a little too explicit for some people. When you read the story, you’ll know what I mean.
The other highlight of Monster Garbage and Other Trash is “Captain Baxter’s Journal,” an apocalyptic tale about the inevitable global warming crisis and the mind-boggling audacity of one scientist’s solution.
Even though everybody is desperate to reverse the ravages of nature, Captain Baxter has doubts about his given assignment. “My conscious mind fails to recognize my surroundings,” writes Baxter in his ongoing captain’s log, “but my soul knows where I am. It’s hubris for any man to think that he can correct nature. I hate feeling that my ship is on a mission that will further harm the world.”
[Monster Garbage and Other Trash / By Stanley B. Webb / First Printing: March 2022 / ISBN: 9798432722485]