Birthday Reviews: Steve Rasnic Tem’s “Cubs”

Birthday Reviews: Steve Rasnic Tem’s “Cubs”

Cover by Chris Nurse
Cover by Chris Nurse

Steve Rasnic Tem was born Steve Rasnic on September 14, 1950. He often collaborated with his wife, Melanie, and the two took on the joint surname Tem. Melanie Tem died in 2015.

The Tems jointly won the World Fantasy Award in 2001 for the novella The Man on the Ceiling, which also earned them a Bram Stoker Award and an International Horror Guild Award. They won a second joint Stoker Award for “Imagination Box” and Tem won solo Stokers for In These Final Days of Sales and Blood Kin. His Short Story “Leaks” won the 1988 British Fantasy Award. Tem also won an International Horror Guild Award for his collection City Fishing in 2001.

“Cubs” made its original appearance in the anthology Hideous Progeny, edited by Brian Willis in 2000. The stories in the book were all based on the Frankenstein story. Tem included the story in his 2013 collection Twember.

Prior to the beginning of “Cubs” Billy suffered a mortal accident, yet his parents were able to bring him back using an undiscussed technique that requires him to wear an energy pack that needs to retain a charge. One of the side effects of Billy’s mechanical resurrection is that occasionally he sees normal things break apart, which isn’t necessarily happening. His semi-undead state also means that he is treated differently by people, including his mother, although she tries to hide the fact from him.

Because these kids are seen as outcasts, there are group outings of scouts specifically for them, but Billy clearly understands that even among the scouts, there is a pecking order and he isn’t at the top. Nevertheless, there is a camaraderie among them based on their status as outcasts. Of course, someone had to be at the bottom of the pecking order and it was the boy they referred to as “the dead kid” because the process wasn’t completely successful with him and he didn’t appear even as lifelike as the rest of the boys.

In “Cubs,” Tem offers up the suggestion that every group must feel superior to someone else, no matter what the situation. The “other” has to exist and the “other “ carries a taint that can’t be shared with those who are superior to it, allowing ostracization and worse for those who are not considered to be part of the primary group.

Reviewed in its original publication in the anthology Hideous Prodigy, edited by Brian Willis, RazorBlade Press, 2000.

Steven H Silver-largeSteven H Silver is a sixteen-time Hugo Award nominee and was the publisher of the Hugo-nominated fanzine Argentus as well as the editor and publisher of ISFiC Press for 8 years. He has also edited books for DAW and NESFA Press. He began publishing short fiction in 2008 and his most recently published story is “The Destiny of Einhar the Brave” in Fantasy for the Throne. Steven has chaired the first Midwest Construction, Windycon three times, and the SFWA Nebula Conference 6 times, as well as serving as the Event Coordinator for SFWA. He was programming chair for Chicon 2000 and Vice Chair of Chicon 7. He has been the news editor for SF Site since 2002.

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Thomas Parker

I first read Tem in (I think) one of the Shadows paperback anthologies. “City Fishing” it was, and it was immediately apparent that this guy had a unique and powerful voice.

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