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Literature / Strange Matter

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Strange Matter is a children's horror series that ran 1995-1997 and was writen by Marty M. Engle and Johnny Ray Barnes Jr. It followed the students at Fairfield Middle School' encounters with supernatural phenomena. While similar to Goosebumps in overall concept, many of its plotlines were noticeably darker. Deaths of human beings, including teenagers, could actually happen onstage, particularly in the Strange Forces series. It didn't shy away from very frightening imagery and Fate Worse than Death scenarios were common. It also shared R.L. Stine's penchant for Twist Endings.

The series is notable for using CGI images that were incredible for its time on both its covers and the scenes within the flap that depicted parts of the story. It was also one of the first children's series to integrate the internet into its reading, with the now sadly defunct featuring bios, scenes and plot information from the books and actually being referenced in-universe during the Strange Forces saga.


The series has sadly been out of print since the early 2000's but the Strange Forces series can be read on Kindle Unlimited.

There is a fan blog that provides a synopsis for most of the books here [1]. The book Creature Features was "adapted" into an episode of The Haunting Hour.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: It's mentioned in book 4 that Waylon Burst has an abusive father, which contributes to Waylon's own behavior as a bully.
  • Adults Are Useless: Subverted in The Midnight Game twice.
    • Tyler Webb's dad believes Tyler did have an encounter with a stranger at the beginning of the book and swore he'd talk to the coach about such people hanging around the bleachers after games. When it looks someone tried to break into Tyler's room (he'd been visited by Tom Maul's severed hand), Mr. Webb calls the sheriff. The sheriff then has a patrol car watch the neighborhood for any potential intruders.
  • All Myths Are True: Discussed with regards to the Derro is Something Rotten. The characters debate whether or not the Derro Blob Monster gave way to legends of little men living underground or if it's an unrelated phenomenon.
    • In Strange Forces #1, the Collector's army consists of monsters and ghosts from dozens of cultures and locations all over the world.
  • And I Must Scream: The villain in Weird Weird West was trapped underground for over a century as an undead skeleton due to a rockslide and was only able to escape due to an earthquake.
    • The fate of everyone who was given longevity or transformed by the green sphere in A Place to Hide isn't exactly pleasant.
    • The girl (Natalie) who gets turned into a doll in Toy Trouble on page 102. She's even described as screaming and having tears pouring from her eyes!
  • Aliens Are Bastards: The boomerang-saucer aliens in Fly the Unfriendly Skies. Averted with the benign Greys in the same novel.
    • The Off Worlder and his Cephid helper in the Off Worlder trilogy.
  • Ancient Astronauts: In Strange Forces #4, Orrin Surr has a base inside an ancient temple which contains murals of the glowing beings introduced in Strange Forces #1. One of the murals depicts an alien with a sword and a Ceques, possibly indicating a prophecy involving the events of the early 19th century that led to the Collector acquiring the Ceques.
  • Anachronic Order: The individual books do not take place in exactly the order they were published, as some minor details and season changes reveal.
  • Animorphism: During the Strange Forces saga, Rilo Buru enacts a ritual from the Apa Tuni people that gives the Fairfield kids the ability to transform into different supernatural beasts.
  • Art Evolution: The last four books in the main series dropped the CGI cover concept for high-quality conventional art instead. The Strange Forces series was also reprinted with new covers.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Ceques, a cylindrical map in the Strange Forces saga, is the power behind The Collector, who acknowledges that it's truly the master of him and not the other way around. It's paired with a sword-like alien device that the Collector claims will make a person the master of all strange phenomena. The collector also has a collection of deadly artifacts in the attic of Fairchild Manor, including a spotlight that vaporizes anyone who sees its light and an old-style microphone with Compelling Voice powers.
    • In Strange Forces #3, an anti-Ceques shows up that's much worse than its counterpart, possessing Kim Ling and going on a rampage that brings the town to its knees.
    • Strange Forces #4 shows that there is also a ring-shaped Ceques that can create a portal to the other planet or dimension that the glowing beings are from if inserted into the wall of the jungle temple. It can also raise the dead in the case of Langdon Fairfield.
  • Attack of the Town Festival: The Fairfield Halloween parade is attacked by Kim Ling, her skeleton dragon and the forces of the various collectors who are after her in Strange Forces #3.
  • Badass Cape: The Collector wears a long, silver one. Frank Dunk also wears a black cape sometimes. When giving his Science Fair presentation he even attached miniature fans to his belt to make the cape billow.
  • Bad-Guy Bar: The Salem Queen, the restaurant used for the competition between supernatural hunters in Strange Forces #4.
  • Been There, Shaped History: The Collector turns out to be Anastasius Fairchild, one of the two Fairchild brothers who founded the town and gave it its namesake. Later on, in ''Strange Forces #4, it turns out that his brother Langdon isn't as dead as he thought.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Collector's minions include gigantic spiders from the jungles of South America.
  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: Bigfoot, Big Trouble dealt with a tribe of Omah (Bigfoots) terrorizing a summer camp. They're all benevolent except one dark-haired Omah that despises humans. Despite this, they help attack the town as part of the Collector's army in Strange Forces and whether they were enslaved by his implanted microchips or not isn't made clear (the fact that the town is encroaching on their habitat is mentioned, so this may have been their motivation).
    • The Jugallwals employed by Makkal Monard in Strange Forces #2 fill a very similar role, being larger and more intelligent versions of baboons.
    • The monsters in Frozen Dinners are white, hulking beasts with glowing red eyes and are initially suspected of being this. But as a protagonist points out, they can't be natural creatures because nothing in the animal kingdom has luminous eyes like that. The ending reveals that they're actually the ghosts of workers who died in a mine collapse decades previously.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: The Fairfield Triangle has the Phantoms which reside in the other dimension that the Triangle leads to. Their white, translucent bodies are shaped like bowling pins, they can turn invisible and they can sting people like jellyfish. But things get really weird when the captured heroes are taken back to their lair, which turns out to be a violet beehive-like honeycomb where they keep their offspring, which look like tiny blue mites.
    • The Derro Blob Monster is Something Rotten hatches out of a crystal.
    • The aliens in Second Sighting look fairly human, until you realize that they breathe through hexagonal pores in their skin.
  • Blob Monster: The Derro in Something Rotten in the image at the top.
    • The boomerang-ship aliens and the humans they convert into themselves in Fly the Unfriendly Skies also qualify.
    • The Collector's elite guard, the Malak, are tar-like creatures that can form into humanoid shape. They can absorb any object thrown at them and upon making contact with a human being will turn their still-conscious body into a part of themself.
  • Body Horror: In Fly the Unfriendly Skies, a race of aliens attempt to abduct humans off of commercial airline flights and convert their bodies into what is described as looking like spheres of black water in a process called "Seaification."
    • The lizard men in A Place to Hide can convert regular humans into one of them. Even an undead skeleton which has witnessed the process admits that he's unnerved by it.
  • Brought Down to Normal: The Fairfield kids lose their powers in Strange Forces #4. They get them back when Morgan re-performs the Apa Tani ceremony, which not only brings them back but gives them better transformations than before, with Morgan becoming a dragoid creature that can breathe fire.
  • Bully Hunter: Kyle Banner becomes one after his Heel–Face Turn, as seen in Strange Forces 3.
  • Cain and Abel: The Collector AKA Anastasius Fairfeild murdered his brother in cold blood. But Strange Forces #4 shows that he was resurrected shortly afterwards by his companion Rem, who used the Ceques to bring him back to life, and never told Anastasius this information.
  • Call-Back: The events of Primeval are a direct follow-up from The Last One In thanks to Billy Keen being in both books and both books involving dinosaurs.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: The Collector has an elaborate dungeon beneath Fairchild Manor which sports cages hanging over an abyss, laser branding devices and acolytes whose work frequently stains their robes with blood and entrails.
  • Compelling Voice: One of the artifacts in the Collector's attic is an old-style microphone that was recovered from a 1960's comedian that forces anyone who hears it to obey the user's commands. It also sucks the life force out of the people that it's used on.
  • Continuity Nod: As all the stories take place around a single location, they crop up often across the books. A few examples...
    • Book 3 mentions David Donaldson losing a bench pressing contest to Shelly Miller; it comes up again in Book 11, which also features the Donaldson boys in a supporting role.
    • The climax of Book 7 has the UFO the characters are riding buzz past Lake Wataga with the protagonists catching a glimpse of the lake monster. And in the epilogue Morgan's sister invites him to the mall with her and Shelly Miller, who wants to tell them about a crazy event that happened to her and Curtis Chatman.
    • Book 10 mentions that the school library has finished being fumigated for bugs, referencing an incident in Book 1. The protagonist also mentions a past event where he was threatened by Kyle Banner and Trey Porter, protagonist of book 4 and previously described as a target of bullying, stepped up to defend him, nodding to Trey's growth in his previous adventure.
    • Book 12 mentions that the replacement conductor hired to run the Fairfield Express was a Deschaul, descendant of the villainous Count Deschaul from book 10.
    • Book 15 Creature Features, introduced the fictional in-universe franchise "The Bloodinator", a clear Expy of The Terminator Franchise. In Book 17, Tune in to Terror, the antagonist uses the Bloodinator as an on-line gaming avatar, and the heroes are chased by a possessed animatronic of the cinematic creature during the climax. Sarah White also mentions near the end that her brother Simon is off with his friends seeing the new Bloodinator movie, placing book 17 as happening concurrently with 15.
    • Book 18, The Fairfield Triangle, features a local writer who is researching a book on the strange goings on in Fairfield. Russel Drake gets to visit his study, and observes his research notes and photographs of various locations that were prominent in previous books.
    • In book 19, Bigfoot, Big Trouble, protagonist Oliver mentions that one of the many names for the Bigfoot creature is "pendek", which is a recurring creature in the Strange Forces books, and Kyle Banner's monster form. During a later scene, when the campers are telling ghost stories, one camper is described as telling a story about a mysterious monster that is rumored to be living in Fairchild Manor (i.e. Rilo Buru).
  • Cool Gate: The Ceques can create portals that allow travel between different locations. It's shown in ''Strange Matter #4 that it can even create a portal to the planet or dimension that the glowing beings are from.
    • The Chipekwe enter and leave our world through tears in space-time.
  • Cool Mask: The African temple in Strange Forces #2 contains a golden mask that allows a person with noble heart to command the Chipekwe. The Fairfield kids also get attacked by hostile masks that summon the bodies of ghostly ancient warriors to wear them.
  • Crisis Crossover: The Strange Forces mini-series brought together the protagonists from the first 12 books to fight a larger threat.
  • Cute Ghost Girl: Carla Ledger in Dead On Its Tracks.
  • Darkest Africa: Strange Forces #2 primarily takes place in the Congo.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The undead civil war soldier in A Place to Hide only wants to keep the protagonist safe and keep the reptiles in the area from getting the green sphere, which might very well allow them to conquer the world.
    • The titular knight of Knightmare is frightening to behold at first, but actually isn't the villain; he's come to our time to stop an evil sorcerer.
    • Shane's undead ancestor in Weird Weird West gives him advice that he couldn't defeat Clayton Motley without. The novel closes with the specter saying that, one day, he might tell Shane where the rest of his undead-creating bullets are located and then he might become "a legend of another kind" so Shane himself might one day become a benevolent zombie.
  • Deal with the Devil: Hinted at in The Midnight Game. Tom Maul made a deal with someone who was able to reanimate dozens of football players and warp time.
  • Deflector Shields: In Strange Forces #4, the Fairfield kids learn how to create energy barriers with the Ceques that save their lives multiple times. The fields are also capable of reflecting enemy fire back to its source, as Orrin Surr's men find out the hard way.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: In ''Dead On Its Tracks',' George wants to destroy the train to get revenge on the mayor for selling his half of their business and moving to Fairfield, leaving him destitute.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Collector is shown to have one of these in Strange Forces #2, with an elevator from a tiny hut in the middle of a lake leading down to his operations center.
  • Eldritch Location: The Fairfield Triangle, which overlaps with another dimension overrun with bowling-pin shaped Phantoms and their offspring, the blue mites one of which survives the journey back to Springfield and might be starting a colony in our world.
    • The town itself arguably qualifies, being a major hotspot for supernatural phenomena.
  • Emotion Suppression: In the Off Worlder trilogy, Reticulan warriors, including Destry, undergo a loss of emotions during their transformation into their final form.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Most of the novels ended with some hint that the danger hadn't passed or a a Tomato in the Mirror situation.
  • Eternal Recurrence: The football game in The Midnight Game.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Primevil has a hidden valley filled with various species of dinosaurs.
    • The toy store in Toy Trouble has a robotic brachiosaur at the entrance that gleefully greets visitors...unless you break in at night, in which case it gleefully tells you that you and your friends are all going to die.
    • Strange Forces #2 features the Chipekwe, a dinosaur-like creature. But, rather than being a survivor of a lost prehistoric era, the Chipekwe herd phases here from another world and briefly passes through the Congo.
  • Everything Is Online: In Tune In To Terror.
  • Evil Brit: Brian, a hostile AI in Bad Circuits, acquires a British accent. He comments that he got by absorbing tapes of Masterpiece Theater.
  • Evil Old Folks: Rem Tullock, an ancient-looking man who fights using noxious gases, who already an adult in the early nineteenth century. He's not immortal and is beginning to feel the strain of growing old, but he kept active long enough to remember fighting the collector in the early twentieth century and is still a threat even is his current geriatric state. He's also responsible for resurrecting one of the series' BiggerBad Bigger Bads, Langdon Fairfield.
    • Demira, the woman who owns the Salem Queen, has been running the restaurant for seventy years. It's unclear if she has a supernaturally extended life or not, the only powers which she has explicitly possesses is to give people diseases.
  • Evil vs. Evil: In Dead on Its Tracks, both George (the mayor's former business partner) and the engineer "Odd" John Cape want to destroy the train. The former due to wanting revenge against the mayor for splitting off from their business and leaving him ruined and the latter to give his train the "magnificent end" that it deserves.
    • The Strange Forces series has a battle between the supernatural powerhouses of The Collector, Makkal Monard, Vicade and Guerendet. Each has their own distinct army of supernatural beings. They're willing to put their differences aside to attack the Fairfield kids and Rilo Buru, but they're always plotting to stab each other in the back. Then Langdon shows up and things get really ugly...
  • False Reassurance: In Dead On Its Tracks, "Odd" John Cape tells the kids that he was incorrectly blamed for the train's destruction. It was really a saboteur onboard the train that made it crash. Unfortunately, he's only upset with the idea of someone destroying his train with dynamite because he wants to give it a "proper" end by running it off a cliff.
  • Flying Dutchman: The pirate ship in Driven to Death.
  • Foreshadowing: Strange Forces #4 has several scenes which set up The Reveal in the climax. Rem Tullock comments that only The Collector and his brother truly know if the former murdered him or not and that he was in charge of the funeral arrangements. The fact that The Game Master is the only other being in Strange Forces with a proper title is also a clue that he has some kind of connection to the Collector. He's his brother, Langdon Fairchild.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: In Strange Forces, Jerry, one of Guerendet's henchman, has the ability to cause severe and often fatal misfortune to befall anyone he chooses. He started off as a simple accountant in New York who never did anything unusual until he realized his powers when he caused a coworker to have an accident.
  • Genre Savvy: The protagonists of Creature Features are able to survive when sucked into old horror films largely due to the fact that they've seen them all and can predict where the plot is going.
  • Genre Shift: Primeval is where the series changed its tone from a mix of horror and science fiction to a more action/sci-fi blend akin to Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures.
  • Giant Swimmer: The monster in the lake and the adjoining underground caverns in A Place to Hide turns out to be a relative of the plesiosaur.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Kim Ling.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All: The Ceques, a cylindrical mapmaking artifact responsible for the rise of The Collector, tells him that he won't be the ultimate master of the supernatural until he acquires all of the monsters, ghosts and artifacts that it commands him to obtain.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Collector in Strange Forces, who attacks Fairfield with an army consisting of the supernatural horrors of the previous books, as well as many from his own collection from around the world that haven't been seen in the town before. The later books show that there are other "collectors" in the world that are just as nasty as he is with their own supernatural armies.
    • Strange Forces #4 introduces another that rivals the Collector in the form of the Game Master AKA Langdon Fairfield.
  • The Greys: Aliens matching the grey skin and large black eyes profile appear in both Fly the Unfriendly Skies and the Off Worlder Trilogy.
  • Halfway Plot Switch: Book 3, Driven to Death. Starts out as a story about a possessed car and three ghostly teenagers tormenting the two sibling protaganists, then it turns out the teenagers are actually ghost pirates from THE Flying Dutchman, come ashore to steal supplies and shanghai unsuspecting humans, and the story shifts out to sea
  • Headless Horseman: The Headless Rider, the last novel before the series was rebranded as a sci-fi/action title, featured a headless motorcyclist who went throwing flaming skulls capable of exploding on impact. It's greatly implied, if not outright stated, that the Rider's not a ghost nor is he just a guy in a costume. He's a man who lost his head in a motorcycle crash with a tanker truck full of toxic waste, and exposure to said waste turned him into a headless mutant. The ending of the book mentions the Fairfield sheriff's department was able to arrest him, again, even though he has no head.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Kyle Banner, Waylon Burst, and Frank Dunk; the first two are introduced as feared local bullies early in the series, and serve antagonistic roles in books 9 (Deadly Delivery) and 4 (A Place to Hide) respectively, while Frank is the Jerkass Insufferable Genius rival to Daniel Meeker in book 6 (Bad Circuits). Kyle and Frank eventually join Rilo Buru's gang in Strange Forces and mellow out a bit while Waylon becomes the protagonist of book 20 (Doorway to Doom).
  • High-Heel–Face Turn: Amali in Strange Forces #3. She detains Rilo and Norbu in Strange Forces #4 but avoids harming the Fairfield kids.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Off Worlder in the final trilogy of the main series fits the bill, having Psychic Powers, Healing Factor and relishing his role as The Corrupter.
    • Kim Ling becomes one in Strange Forces #3, gaining glowing green eyes that allow her to mind control others and animate a parade float into a real skeletal dragon.
  • Humans Are Bastards: A few novels, particularly Second Sighting, had this as a prominent theme.
  • Hunter of Their Own Kind: In Strange Forces #4, Norbu Buru helps Orin capture Rilo Buru and attempts to help capture the Fairfield children
  • I Am Your Father: In Strange Forces #4, the Game Master turns out to be Langdon Fairfield, the older brother of the Collector who he murdered many years ago but was returned to life by a ring-shaped Ceques made by the glowing beings.
  • I Have Your Wife: In The Midnight Game, Tom Maul and his fellow undead football players capture Lib, Tyler's only friend and the coach's daughter. Tom tells Tyler that he has to play as kicker in the game on he'll never see his "girlfriend" again.
  • In the Hood: The Collector is portrayed as a hooded figure on the reprinted cover of Strange Forces #1. In Strange Forces #4, the Game Master who's also the Collector's brother wears a hood as well.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The plot of Strange Forces #1 revolves around an sword-like blade brought to earth by an alien that has the power to make a person the master of all supernatural forces.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Joel, a boy who has few friends, gets deeply attached to the Chipekwes in Strange Forces #2, to the point that the Collector almost succeeds in tempting him to help him so that the can remain on Earth.
    • Morgan and Krell from "Fly the Unfriendly Skies"
  • Interspecies Romance: Second Sighting features a relationship between a human man, his son and an alien woman who is their wife/stepmother. They're noted as being as close and loving as any human family.
  • Killed Off for Real: Dead On Its Tracks has one of the series' few on-screen deaths: George the demolitionist is ripped apart by his fellow undead.
    • A teenager gets murdered by having a frog-like creature breath a noxious gas in his face that causes him to rapidly age to death at the start of Strange Forces, probably to establish that this was going to be a darker series where people really could die onstage.
  • Last of Their Kind: Rilo Buru thinks he's the last Buru, but we find out in Strange Forces #4 that the rest of his species isn't dead, but they were sold by the Collector to be used in experiments in a jungle laboratory.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Kelly from Fly The Unfriendly Skies. She's the protagonist Morgan's sister and is really pretty and popular, whereas he's quite a nerd. She even comes across as a Big Sister Bully at times, but is becomes clear throughout the book that she really does care about him, and he even mentions one incident where Kyle Banner was threatening him and she was the only person who helped him out. Also, when Kelly gets turned into a horrible alien monster, Morgan is downright devastated.
  • The Man Behind the Man: In Strange Forces #4, Langdon Fairchild plays this role towards Orrin Surr.
  • Mind over Matter: Rilo Buru has a limited form of telekenesis and telepathy which he uses to escape Orrin Surr's captivity in Strange Forces #4.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: The Buru are a race of vicious reptilian predators with green-grey skin and glowing eyes that live in swamps of northeastern Asia at the foot of the Himalayan mountains. They feed off the fear of humans and enjoy hunting them for sport. In Strange Forces, the Collector has gathered an army of them for his dark purposes....but one of them, Rilo Buru, defects from his army to protect the humans of Fairfield because he doesn't want to be evil.
  • No One Could Survive That!: In the Offworlder Trilogy, Kael manages to recover from his injuries between his apparent demise in Shadow Chasers and his reappearance in Escape from Planet Earth. He still has extremely burned skin and requires plastic tubes inserted to his head to survive, however, so it clearly wasn't a perfect return.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: In Strange Forces, while other children are fighting off Malaks and acid worms in the mists around Fairchild Manor, Frank Dunk manages to knock out a Sasquatch by hitting it on the head with a gravestone. When his friends catch up to him, they're speechless.
  • Only Mostly Dead: Langdon Fairfield turns out to be the Game Master in Strange Forces #4. He actually did die, but his companion Rem Tullock used the power of his alien ring-shaped Ceques to bring him back.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted; There are two protagonists in the series with the last name Drake; Jonathon Drake, and the unrelated Russel Drake, son of the local Sheriff.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Elizabeth in Jacob in Dead On Its Tracks hang out frequently and often assumed to be boyfriend/girlfriend but they're actually this.
  • Politically Correct History: Very much averted in Deadly Delivery, which does nothing to sanitize the worst aspects of living under a tyrannical baron during the middle ages in Europe.
    • Also averted in Driven to Death, which features the ghosts of pirates. It makes it clear that historically accurate pirates were horrible people whose lives onboard ships were living hell and that they had no problem conducting slave raids against a town to expand their crews.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: In Strange Forces, the Collector's army includes ghosts and other non-corporeal entities. The methods of keeping them imprisoned and under his control, however, involve horrifying rituals and sacrifices. A sloth monster that has observed the process notes that countless corporeal members of the Collector's army have been killed by the spectral beings due to botched rituals or stale components that were accidentally used.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: In Knightmare, Mitchell is told by the villain what his name will be synonymous with loss and despair due to his actions. Mitchell says it has to be better than Moonwalker, his current nickname, right before shooting him with a crossbow.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The different collectors seen in the Strange Forces series all have their own theme:
    • The Collector is the Jack-of-All-Stats.
    • Vicade, a large red monster with a horrible temper, is a Corrupt Corporate Executive whose retinue consists entirely of women in business outfits wearing dark sunglasses. His biography in the back of the books even states that he has a successful series of audio tapes detailing how to succeed in business.
    • Guerendet is an owl-like humanoid that has Soul Power, being an expert on controlling ghosts and similar non-corporeal entities. He bills himself publicly as an antiques collector.
    • Makkal Monard is the Great White Hunter, being determined to capture the most rare and fearsome beasts on earth His true form is a nine foot tall reptile with a fan on its neck that resembles a {{frilled lizard}}.
    • Orrin Surr is a Mad Scientist mixed with a bit of Adventurer Archaeologist, having a jungle compound where he excavates ruins with the help of his fellow Goula (a humanoid species with grey skin and lumps of flesh around their neck) and the enslaved Buru tribe. He turns out to be a pawn of The Game Master, Langdon Fairchild.
  • Reality Ensues: By the events of The Off-Worlder, both Kelly of Fly the Unfriendly Skies and Patricia of Second Sighting are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their respective hostile encounters with aliens. They've even joined a therapy group for people who had similar experiences, which is where the two met and became friends.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Frank Dunk and Kim Ling begin dating in Strange Forces #4.
  • Remember the New Guy?: Kim Ling in Strange Forces #3 has recently moved to town, but she's been there long enough for the Fairfield Junior High kids to be familiar with her and for Frank Dunk to have developed a serious crush on her, despite her never appearing in any previous books.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: The lizard men in A Place to Hide have no redeeming traits at all.
    • Subverted in both The Last One In and Primevil, which both make it clear that, while dinosaurs and similar monsters are dangerous, Humans Are the Real Monsters.
    • Averted in Strange Forces with Rilo Buru, who is a member of a race of reptiles that is very evil as a whole, but who prides himself on being a Defector from Decadence. Played straight with The Collector, who has been transformed by the Ceques into a reptilian humanoid creature.
  • Restraining Bolt: The Collector "brands" the monsters in his army with a mind control chip to obey his will. Even Rilo Buru, who defects from the Collector's army to save Fairfield, struggles to break its hold over him and nearly attacks a human being under its compulsion.
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Norbu gets his due in Strange Forces #4. Betraying both Rilo Buru and the kids for Orrin Surr in exchange for a promise of freedom for himself and the rest of the Buru, he is thrown in a cage and subjected to horrifying experiments once his task is done.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: The heroes get attacked by giant rats while running from the Collector's monsters in Strange Forces #1.
  • Sanity Slippage: The Ceques did this to the Collector over time, though he wasn't exactly nice to begin with.
  • Sealed Evil in a Teddy Bear: Present in Toy Trouble, with razor claws.
  • Shout-Out: In Bad Circuits, the narrator's father is a fan of a TV show called "Pierwatch."
  • Sixth Ranger Traitor: In the Strange Forces books, Preston Tallmaker and Norbu fill this role.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: The glowing beings in the Strange Forces series. It's left ambiguous if they are from another planet or dimension, as they travel through portals or "rips" in the fabric of space-time. Their technology is so advanced that it can bring back at least the recently dead, as happened with Langdon Fairfield.
  • Takes One to Kill One: In Weird Weird West, the only objects that can damage the undead Clayton Motley are the glowing green bullets that made him undead in the first place.
  • The Collector of the Strange: The Collector, natch, the villain of Strange Forces, has collected an army of monsters (some willing, some not) from around the world. Rival collectors show up later in the series with similar M.O.'s.
  • Title Drop: "It could be a doorway to salvation, or a Doorway to Doom"
  • Tomato in the Mirror:
    • Book 6 ends with the characters learning that Point of View protaganist Stephanie Meeker is an Artificial Human created by her "Uncle"
    • Book 7 ends with Morgan learning he has been infected by a Cepheid.
  • Transformation Trauma: The Collector notes that, in his early years, the way in which the Ceques changed him from a man into a reptilian creature was horrible and slow, with him waking up sobbing when he found himself shedding more skin each morning.
    • Destry's body morphing into a Reticulan warrior the Off Worlder trilogy isn't pleasant either.
  • Trapped in TV Land: Creature Features revolves around kids getting trapped in a bunch of drive in movies.
  • Uncertain Doom: It's unclear if Anastasius and Langdon Fairchild or the mutated Norbu survived the collapse of the jungle temple at the end of ''Strange Forces #4. The series was discontinued so the matter of their survival is never clarified.
  • Virtual Ghost: Tune In To Terror revolves around one.
  • Was Once a Man: The Collector.
  • Wave-Motion Gun: Prototype lasers are used to hunt dinosaurs and enemy humans in Primevil.
    • Lasers made from alien technology appear in Second Sighting. The guns which fire them have sensors which are supposed to detect whether their target is living or non-living so that they fire lasers which can cut through steel or just stun, respectively. Unfortunately, this doesn't work well if a person is fired at through a weaker material such as glass and an alien woman is nearly killed by a beam going through her anyway.
    • The MIB agents in the Off Worlder trilogy carry fusion pistols.
    • The spaceship in Toy Trouble can also fire energy beams.
    • Orrin Surr's soldiers carry lasers in Strange Forces #4.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Game Master makes this offer to the Fairfield kids in Strange Forces #4, saying that Rilo Buru can offer them nothing else and that he can offer the next step in their career. They turn him down due to his evil nature.
  • We Have Reserves: See Powered by a Forsaken Child above.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: The Collector runs off from the Fairfield kids with his tail between his legs at the end of Strange Forces #3 because he can't understand how Frank Dunk, a bully who's noted as being very similar to the Collector in his mentality, can care about Kim Ling enough to die for her.
  • Weather Manipulation: The Chipekwe can manipulate the weather. When threatened, the skies begin pouring down rain and violent winds kick up.
  • Wham Episode: Strange Forces #1 created the series' Crisis Crossover and showed that there were much more dire threats to Fairfield than one-shot supernatural entities. Strange Forces #4 upped the ante with the revelations that the Buru species was still alive in slavery and that Langdon Fairfield was back.
  • Wham Line: In the climax of Strange Forces #4, The Collector and Rilo Buru have a long conversation in which the Collector tells Rilo that they've been played by the Game Master. This person wanted all along for the Collector to bring the Ceques to the jungle temple and for Rilo to bring the Fairfield children as well to be recruited as part of his army. When Rilo asks who the Game Master could be to come up with such a magnificent scheme, he gets this response:
    • The Collector: "My brother."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: A large number of books in the series end with some kind of twist ending, either suggesting that the danger isn't over or revealing a Tomato in the Mirror type situation. The majority of these are never followed up on, even when the characters in question make appearances in future books. A few examples.
    • Book 1: No Substitutions ends with the reveal that Curtis is the next target of another werewolf. He and Shelly both appear in Strange Forces, without any elaboration on how Curtis escaped his fate, though Shelly does mention she has been tracking the werewolf since the incident.
    • Book 6: Bad Circuits reveals that protagonist Stephanie Meeker is actually an AI. Stephanie never appears or is mentioned again for the rest of the series, even though she was best friends with Hank Dunk
    • Book 7: Fly the Unfriendly Skys ends with the reveal that Morgan is infected with a Cepheid, and his alien friend Krell racing back to Earth to help him. Morgan appears in later books, with no mention of how he was saved.
    • Book 9: Deadly Delivery ends with the titular delivery being dropped off at Kyle Banner's house. This is never mentioned again, and Kyle appears none the worse for wear in future books including all the Strange Forces entries. The book also implies that the delivery was sent to Kyle specifically by someone with a grudge, but their identity is never revealed.
  • When Trees Attack: In Strange Forces, the kids are climbing what appears to be a normal tree outside of Fairchild Manor when it starts swinging its arms and attempting to eat them.
  • Wicked Stepmother: Discussed in Second Sighting. Sean refuses to give his new stepmom Bonnie a chance because he blames her for their family planning to move away from Fairfield. However, he decides to change his opinion on her after seeing Ross's relationship to his own stepmom Kira. Ross himself initially had a hostile relationship with Kira when they first met, but two years later the two love each other as if they were biological mother and child.
  • Would Hurt a Child: When Haney, the cook at the Salem Queen in Strange Forces #4, shows up late to work due to having been out ice fishing with his kid, the owner, Ms. Demira is not pleased. She tells him that she will teach him a lesson about being late by docking his pay for the day...and his son will suffer either a fever or bad nosebleeds every day. He begs her not to, stating that his son still hasn't recovered completely from the malaria that she gave him the previous spring, to no avail.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: The guards working for Orrin Surr pull this on Norbu.

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