Dead Set by Richard Kadrey
Zoe’s parents were punks in San Francisco when they met and fell in love. Zoe’s father managed punk bands, while her mother was a graphic artist, designing album covers. When they realized they were going to have a child, they went into the straight life, although Zoe’s dad never left punk music behind. Now Zoe is sixteen, her father is dead, and her mother is battling a heartless insurance company that is refusing to pay. They have moved from their pleasant house in the San Francisco East Bay area to a small apartment in the city. Zoe’s dreams are filled with menacing black dogs and a strange woman.
Richard Kadrey is probably best known for his SANDMAN SLIM series. Dead Set is something different; a young adult horror novel. Kadrey masterfully blends the supernatural horror elements of the tale with the real-world devastation Zoe faces. Zoe cuts most of her classes at the new high scho... Read More
Dead Set by Richard Kadrey
Issue 18 of Nightmare Magazine opens with “Have You Heard the One about Anamaria Marquez?” by Isabel Yap. The story is narrated by Mica, a fifth grade student at St. Brebeuf’s, a private school in Manila, the Philippines, but her narration is interrupted occasionally with different iterations of the supernatural, horrific fate of Anamaria Marquez, who once was also a student at St. Brebeuf’s. Depending on what version of her life and death you believe, she was raped, killed and hidden in a tree on the school grounds; locked in a bathroom by a school bully, where she drowned herself; or another half dozen possibilities. In any case, some believe she haunts the school. Home economics teachers who prattle on about opening their third eyes tend to encourage the students in their superstitious fears. The atmosphere of the upcoming school fair is heightening those feelings, as the fifth graders’ part in the fair is to create a haunted house. The flaring emotion... Read More
A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough
Sarah Pinborough makes it clear from the first page of her prologue in A Matter of Blood that we’ll be seeing plenty of blood — and worse. The novel opens on the scene of a corpse squirming with maggots. An unnamed man stands in the doorway and declares that “This has to stop,” but the noise of the flies only grows louder. It seems, though, that the man is talking to someone — not to the corpse, not to himself, not even to the flies, though maybe he is speaking to someone through the flies. And maybe, we think, we’re on to something with that last thought, because as the speaker continues, the flies gather together and form into a shape that is nearly human.
It’s the last glimpse of the supernatural we get for a long time, though. Instead, Pinborough’s novel r... Read More
Weird Vampire Tales: 30 Blood-Chilling Stories from the Weird Fiction Pulps edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz, Martin H. Greenberg
The 1992 Weird Vampire Tales anthology is the only collection of stories derived from the famed pulp magazine Weird Tales to limit itself to a single subject. The slim paperbacks Worlds of Weird and Weird Tales had merely offered a hodgepodge of stories, as did the thick hardcover Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies. Setting itself a different kind of challenge, Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors selected one great story from each ye... Read More
Weird Tales: The Magazine that Never Dies edited by Marvin Kaye
Marvin Kaye's Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies anthology from 1988 takes a slightly different tack than its earlier sister volume, Weird Tales: 32 Unearthed Terrors. Whereas the editors of that earlier collection chose to select one story from each year of the magazine's celebrated 32-year run (1923-1954), Kaye has decided here to not just limit himself to the periodical's classic era of 279 issues, but to also include tales from each of the four latter-day incarnations of "The Unique Magazine" (from 1973-87). The result is 45 pieces of generally superb speculative fantasy and horror, including six "Weird Tales Reprints" by such luminaries as Dickens, Poe, Flaubert and Stoker, as well as Otis Adelbert Kline's "Why Weird Tales?," an article that clearly delineated the magazine's goals and intentions in its first anniversary issue, the one dated May/June/July... Read More
Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft H.P. Lovecraft
In the mood for some Eldritch horror? Feel like steeping yourself in Lovecraft’s frightening nihilistic dream worlds? Want to be read to by some of the world’s best story readers? Then give Blackstone Audio’s version of Dreams of Terror and Death: The Dream Cycle of H.P. Lovecraft a try. It collects Lovecraft’s entire Dream Cycle in 20 hours of high-quality audio narrated by some of my favorite readers including Robertson Dean, Simon Vance, Sean Runnette, Elijah Alexander, Stefan Rudnicki, Bronson Pinchot, Simon Prebble, Tom Weiner, Malcolm Hillgartner, and Patrick Cullen.
Here are the stories. (I’ve linked them to the excellent Lovecraft Archive where you can read them for free since they’re in the public domain, but please consider this audio version, because it’s really excellent):
Red Cells by Jeffrey Thomas
Jeffrey Thomas’s new novella, Red Cells, is set in his PUNKTOWN universe full of mutants, odd species, and humans, and the good, bad and ugly of each. Red Cells deals more with the ugly: Edwin Fetch has earned himself a six month term in the penitentiary for possession with intent to sell purple vortex. Specifically, he’s to be shipped to the Trans-Paxton Penitentiary, known to its inmates as the Wormhole, a transdimensional prison carved out of the planes between existence. But Fetch has a better idea. He hires Jeremy Stake, a mutant whose condition is called Caro turbida, to serve the time for him. Stake’s mutation allows him to assume the shape of another if he concentrates hard enough on it, and Stake has had a tattoo of Fetch (holding a gorgeous woman for verisimilitude) inked on his arm to keep him focused. Stake is a former soldier in the Blue War, which ended fift... Read More
And the Darkness Falls edited by Boris Karloff
In 1943, Boris Karloff was induced by his old friend Edmund Speare, an English professor and book editor, to assist in putting together an anthology of horror stories; as Speare put it, "a collection of bogey stories selected by a professional bogey man." The resulting volume, Tales of Terror, consisted of a six-page introduction by Karloff and 14 stories, ran to 317 pages, and was a popular release with the public. On the strength of that book's sales, the two tried their luck again with an even more ambitious project. The result was 1946's And the Darkness Falls, a whopping volume running to 631 pages and containing 59 short stories, each with an introduction from Karloff, in addition to 10 short, eerie poems scattered throughout. An impressively wide-ranging survey of the horror story, this staggeringly generous volume presents tales from as far back as the 8th century A.D.... Read More
Eldritch Tales: A Miscellany of the Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft
For those who just can’t get enough Lovecraft, Blackstone Audio has just released this lovely collection of a significant portion of his work. It contains 56 of his horror stories, poems, letter excerpts, and essays. Notably missing are his longer works (e.g., “At the Mountains of Madness” and “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”) and a few of his most popular short stories which are so often collected elsewhere (e.g., “The Call of Cthulhu,” and “The Dunwich Horror”).
Most of the stories in Eldritch Tales: A Miscellany of the Macabre are vaguely related to Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos, or at least his general premise that the universe is inhabited by a race of horrible ancient gods who sleep but are occasionally awakened by cultish worshipers from the darker regions of our planet... worshipers who usually eventually go mad.
Here are the stories... Read More
Carnacki the Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson
British author William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki the Ghost-Finder first saw the light of day in 1913. Consisting of six short stories, drawn from the pages of The Idler and The New Magazine, the collection was ultimately expanded to include nine stories, the last three being discovered after Hodgson's early death at age 40 in April 1918. In this fascinating group of tales, we meet Thomas Carnacki, a sort of occult investigator in Edwardian London. Just as Carnacki seems to be patterned on a similar fictional psychic investigator of the time, Algernon Blackwood's John Silence, a casual reading of the Carnacki stories will reveal the influence that Hodgson's Sistrand Manuscript, Outer Monstrosities and "electric pentacle" defense had on later authors such as Read More
The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson
William Hope Hodgson's epic novel The Night Land was chosen for inclusion in James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock's Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, and yet in this overview volume's sister collection, Horror: 100 Best Books, Stephen Jones and Kim Newman surprisingly declare the novel to be "unreadable." No less a critic than Read More
The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat
My ongoing attempt to read all 200 books spotlighted in Stephen Jones’s and Kim Newman's two excellent overview volumes, Horror: 100 Best Books and Horror: Another 100 Best Books, has led me to some fairly unusual finds. Case in point: Sadegh Hedayat's The Blind Owl, which is — or so claims the Grove Press edition currently in print--"the most important work of modern Iranian literature." Originally published in Bombay in 1937 under the Persi... Read More
Dark Duets edited by Christopher Golden
Christopher Golden explains in his introduction to Dark Duets that writing is a solitary occupation right up until that moment an alchemical reaction takes place and a bolt of inspiration simultaneously strikes two writers who are friends. Golden has found that the results of collaboration are often fascinating and sometimes magical, as when Stephen King and Peter Straub teamed up to write The Talisman. Writing is an intimate, very personal process, Golden says, and finding someone to share it with is difficult but exciting. Golden therefore undertook to create a book full of such diffi... Read More
The Ghost Pirates by William Hope Hodgson
William Hope Hodgson's first published novel, The Boats of the Glen Carrig (1907), is a story of survival after a disaster at sea, and of the monstrous plant and animal life-forms that the survivors encountered while trying to reach home. In his second book, the now-classic The House on the Borderland (1908), Hodgson described an old recluse's battle against swine creatures from the bowels of the Earth, and the old man's subsequent cosmic journey through both time and space. And in his third novel, 1909's The Ghost Pirates, Hodgson returned to that milieu for which eight hard years at sea had provided such an extensive background.
The book takes the form of a narrative told by able-bodied seaman Jessop, who had been sailing on the Mortzestus from San Francisco to (what we can only presume to be) England. As its name suggests, the ship has something of t... Read More
Falling Angel by William Hjortsberg
At one point in William Hjortsberg's masterful horror novel, Falling Angel, Epiphany Proudfoot, a 17-year-old voodoo priestess, tells the detective hero Harry Angel, "you sure know a lot about the city." The city in question is the New York of 1959, and if Angel knows a lot about this crazy burg, then Hjortsberg, in the course of this tale, demonstrates that he knows even more.
While much has been said of this book's scary elements — its voodoo ceremonies and Black Mass meeting and horrible murders — what impressed me most about this tale is the incredible attention to realistic detail that the author invests it with. I don't know if the author grew up in this town in the '50s or just did a remarkable research job, but the reader really does get the impression that this book (which came out in 1978) was written a few decades earlier. Roosevelt Island is called Welfare Island, quite ... Read More