The husband and wife team of Steve Rasnic Tem and Melanie Tem published the short story “The Perfect Diamond” in the first issue of Fantastic Worlds in 1996. This incarnation of Fantastic Worlds was a fanzine edited by Scott A. Becker, and was unrelated to an earlier fanzine of the same name published in the 1950s by Sam Sackett and Edward W. Ludwig. It isn’t clear how many issues Becker published, but the first issue included fiction not only by the Tems, but also Jeff VanderMeer, Stepan Chapman, Ken Rand, James S. Dorr, and other authors.
Christopher has just been released from jail with a small amount of money in his pocket and a nearly perfect diamond, which he had owned for as long as he can remember. In his memory, there was a time that the diamond was flawless, but at some point it somehow developed a gouge. Although he always carries the diamond with him, there are few people in his life who know of its existence.
During his first day of release, Christopher wanders through town, trying to figure out where to live and what to do with his life. He bumps into Gina, his ex-girlfriend, in a bar. Their connection goes poorly and Gina leaves him with a taunt that as long as he has his perfect diamond, he doesn’t need anything else, clearly unaware that the diamond is no longer perfect. He also bumps into the father who adopted him, another person who knows of the diamond, although his father doesn’t mention the diamond.
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.