Cautionary Tales by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

Cautionary Tales - Short Stories


A bizarre and haunting journey through inner and outer space--to alien worlds where an aging playwright is in danger of losing his soul to a monstrous organic computer ... a charming teeny bopper ghoul solves the problem of hunger in the town morgue ... a member of the patrol squad on a dreary, useless planet is lured by the sucking darkness of evil Scranton's Marsh ... the frozen steerage passengers on a floundering spaceship share a gruesome fate ... malevolent force on the other side of death are held at bay by a huge black swan ... and other strange and wondrous events beguile the reader to the edge of human horror--and beyond!

"The female counterpart of Harlan Ellison ... Her writing flashes with a dark and bloody vividness."

— Publishers Weekly

"Yarbro has a fine way with the wicked and a clean terse style ... a versatile and distinctive talent."

—Kirkus Reviews

Everything That Begins With The Letter "M"

The story is a kind of fable about how isolated people can create wonder and the ineffable in their lives through projection and wishful thinking.


Diedre, the teeny-bopper ghoul introduced in Disturb Not My Slumbering Fair, really pleases me in a strange way. Originally published in 1979, all I could think was ... why not a teeny-bopper ghoul? Ghosts come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and dispositions. Demons and other possessive spirits are as apt to pick a kid as a grandmother for their uses. Richard Lupoff did a wonderful novel about a teen-age werewolf that's just delightful. The book is called Lisa Kane and so is the werewolf.
   I have a certain sneaky sympathy for various supposedly supernatural beings. By the time this collection was available, St. Martin's Press and Signet Books published my novel Hotel Transylvania, which develops along similar lines.
   One writer friend of mine hated this story. I find it mildly amusing. Whatever your reactions, I hope you're entertained.

A professional writer for more than forty years, Yarbro has sold over eighty books, more than seventy works of short fiction, and more than three dozen essays, introductions, and reviews. She also composes serious music. Her first professional writing – in 1961-2 – was as a playwright for a now long-defunct children’s theater company. By the mid-60s she had switched to writing stories and hasn’t stopped yet.
     In 1997 the Transylvanian Society of Dracula bestowed a literary knighthood on Yarbro, and in 2003 the World Horror Association presented her with a Grand Master award. In 2006 the International Horror Guild enrolled her among their Living Legends, the first woman to be so honored; the Horror Writers Association gave her a Life Achievement Award in 2009. 
     A skeptical occultist for forty years, she has studied everything from alchemy to zoomancy, and in the late 1970s worked occasionally as a professional tarot card reader and palmist at the Magic Cellar in San Francisco.
     Divorced, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area – with two cats: the irrepressible Butterscotch and Crumpet, the Gang of Two. When not busy writing, she enjoys the symphony or opera.