Wild Fell by Michael Rowe
Wild Fell begins in the small town of Alvina, Ontario, in 1960, when Sean Schwartz asks his high school sweetheart, Brenda Egan, if she believes in ghosts. Whether he’s trying to scare her into cuddling closer, looking for some excitement to end the summer before school begins again, or is entirely sincere in his question, his question is a prelude to asking Brenda if she’ll cross a mile of Devil’s Lake to Blackmore Island to explore the remains of a mansion called Wild Fell. It takes some persuading, but Brenda reluctantly agrees, only to change her mind when they’re halfway there, suddenly frightened. Sean is disappointed, maybe angry, but the evening is saved by an illicit bottle of wine and a bonfire. But Wild Fell isn’t done with them, and the curtain of the prologue falls as a legend begins.
Michael Rowe sets his hook firmly with this prologue, but then he lets the line ou... Read More
Wild Fell by Michael Rowe
The House of Souls: The Best of Arthur Machen by Arthur Machen
I had been wanting to check out Arthur Machen's 1906 collection of short stories, entitled The House of Souls, for quite some time; ever since I had read two highly laudatory pieces written about this work and its author. The first was H.P. Lovecraft's comments in his widely referred to essay "Supernatural Horror in Literature," in which he claims "Of living creators of cosmic fear raised to its most artistic pitch, few if any can hope to equal the versatile Arthur Machen." And, in Jones & Newman's excellent overview volume Horror: 100 Best Books, T.E.D. Klein, in his essay on The House... Read More
Beware the Dark is a new horror and dark art magazine currently scheduled to be published three times per year. A new horror magazine is always good news, as there seems to be much more horror being written than there are outlets in which to publish it (which explains why Beware the Dark is presently closed to submissions). This magazine suggests, however, that the reason there are so few outlets is that there is little good horror being written. I’m hoping that further editions of the magazine improve on the first, which was disappointing.
Issue 1 begins with “Potential” by Ramsey Campbell. Scoring a story by Campbell to open a new magazine would normally be a triumph, except that this story, a reprint, is very minor Campbell indeed. First published in 1973, this tale of a be-in has not aged well. The protagonist, Charles, misses out on the plastic bells, but snags one of the last paper flowers t... Read More
Some of Your Blood by Theodore Sturgeon
In the 1978 horror movie Martin, writer/director George A. Romero presented us with a young man who enjoys killing people and drinking their blood, but who may or may not be a so-called "vampire"; the film is wonderfully ambiguous all the way down the line on that score. Seventeen years before Martin skulked through the dreary suburbs of Pittsburgh, however, another unconventional vampire was given to the world, in the pages of Theodore Sturgeon's Some of Your Blood. (Actually, an apology may be in order right now, as that last is a bit of a spoiler; the sanguinary habits of the central character of Sturgeon's novel are only revealed toward the story's conclusion. However, seeing that the back cover of the book's current incarnation, the one from Millipede Press, gives away even more spoiler details than this, perhaps I may be excused here.)
Theodore Sturgeon, of course, is a writer... Read More
The Night Boat by Robert R. McCammon
The Night Boat was Robert R. McCammon’s third published novel, first appearing in 1980. Now Subterranean Press has brought it back as a (sold out) limited edition, and also made it available in e-book format for the first time. It betrays some of the faults of a then-new writer, but also has considerable power in its portrayal of Nazi submariners, as terrifying 35 years after the end of World War II as they were in the days when they lurked in the deep waters of the Atlantic Ocean — if not more so.
David Moore, the principal protagonist of the novel, lives on Coquina Island in the Carribbean Sea, where he owns a small hotel on the largely undeveloped island. He is a scuba diver as well, and, as the book opens, he is diving alone on the edge of a shelf, in an area known as th... Read More
Parasite by Mira Grant
Mira Grant is the science fiction side of Seanan McGuire, the fantasy writer responsible for the OCTOBER DAYE and INCRYPTID fantasy series. Her last outing was the NEWSFLESH trilogy, which I loved (especially the first book, Feed). Now she’s published the first novel in the PARASITOLOGY duology, Parasite. And it’s a doozy.
Parasitology opens with the transcription of a video recordin... Read More
Nightmare is celebrating its first anniversary with Issue 13, and it starts off with a humdinger of a story by Norman Partridge called “10/31: Bloody Mary.” The use of the date is a deliberate reminder of 9/11, and connotes a catastrophe of equal or greater weight. On 10/31 — this year, next year, last year, we’re never told — all of the monsters became real. Somehow, on Halloween, “werewolves and witches, mummies and zombies, and other nameless things the boy would rather never see” become real. The boy (the protagonist of the story) hides during the day, never going out to forage for food and other necessities of life until night. He is utterly alone. Then one day a young woman appears, one who is very fast with her sawed-off shotgun when a Jack o’ Lantern attacks. She takes the boy under her wing and teaches him how to fight back instead of hide. The plot isn’t particularly new, and it goes much as you would expect it to; ... Read More
“No Kill, No Pay” by Jacob A. Boyd gets the September/October issue of Black Static off to a roaring start. Howard is a member of a high-pressure sales firm of some sort (we never get the details) that is ruled by five partners. This year, Howard has been invited to join the five in a hunt they take in the Yukon each year. They give Howard no details except that the hunt ends after the first kill. Howard believes that if he can prove himself in the hunt, he will be made a partner. About that, he isn’t wrong. About everything else, he is. This grim tale may make you think of Laird Barron, given the Alaskan setting and the hunt as the focus of the tale. Boyd writes well, telling a gripping story with a satisfactory, if unexpected, finish.
Stephen Bacon follows with “Apports,” another worthy tale. Co... Read More
Extremities by David Lubar
On the back of my copy of Extremities, a new collection of horror by David Lubar, the author bluntly states, “This is not a book for children. Let me clear about that.” Because much of his other work is so clearly aimed at children, I can see why Lubar feels the need to highlight this. Especially as there are some references to drugs and some graphic violence. But while I agree the book isn’t for “children,” I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone much older thirteen or fourteen, forming a relatively narrow audience.
The thirteen stories in Extremities, all centered on teen protagonists caught up in plots involving revenge, murder, magic, and strange creatures are uniformly dark, which one would expect from a horror collection. But they’re also surprisingly and unfortunately uniformly un-scary. I can’t say one ever truly gave me a shiver, a shock, or even a mildly cree... Read More
The first issue of Primeval: A Journal of the Uncanny, wasn’t what I expected. I thought I was getting a magazine featuring horror stories and essays about horror. Primeval’s self-description on its website didn’t lead me to expect anything different, poetically explaining that it is a publication that examines “the convergence of contemporary anxiety and ancient impulse.” Sounds very Lovecraftian, doesn’t it? The website also promises that each issue will feature “fiction and essays exploring horror, the macabre, and that which should not be — yet is.” And yet, as much as I enjoy fiction that falls into that vast category known as “the Weird,” I found that Primeval offered more incomprehensibility than horror, work that was more odd than Weird.
One exception is a reprint of Harlan Ellison’s “B... Read More
Nightmare has made it for a year now: the September issue is the twelfth. Based on the quality of the magazine to date, I hope it manages to at least cube that number.
“Halfway Home” by Linda Nagata is the first original story in this issue. It’s a stunner set in the real world; no supernatural beings or powers are at work here, just human evil. It starts so prosaically that one is lulled into a false sense of security, even boredom. Two women are speaking to one another as their flight leaves from the Philippines for Los Angeles. They are strangers, each traveling for her own reasons, one starting a conversation with the narrator as the narrator browses through the airliner’s safety brochure, making sure she knows where the exits are in case the worst happens. The narrator is basically a professional adventurer — a photographer and mountain climber — and has been in bad spots before; being prepared has allowed her to sur... Read More
Evil Jester Digest, Volume 2, edited by Peter Giglio
Editor Peter Giglio explains in his introduction to Evil Jester Digest, Volume 2, that there are two ways to assemble an anthology: send out a call for submissions and read through the piles and piles of stories you’ll get as a result; or seek out exactly those authors you’d like to have in your anthology. In Volume I of Evil Jester Digest, Giglio took the first course, but in this volume he asked the writers he wanted to sell him stories. The result is a clean, tight anthology filled with good stories.
Evil Jester Digest opens with “No More Shadows” by Tim Waggoner. Dan is slowly driving around the parking lot of an electronics store, talking on his cellphone to his ex-wife, practically begging to... Read More
The Long Walk by Stephen King
Ray Garraty, Maine’s own, lives in a near-future dystopian America where boys enter an annual game, the Long Walk, in which the winner is given anything he wants. The winning boy must walk at four miles per hour longer than any other boy in the competition. Boys whose pace drops below four miles per hour are given a warning, which they can lose after an hour of at-pace walking. Boys that collect three warnings, however, receive their “ticket,” a bullet.
The Long Walk was originally published under Stephen King’s pseudonym, Richard Bachman, in 1979. Bachman’s true identity was exposed in 1985, and King has since rereleased the novel with an introductory essay “The Importance of Being Bachman.” King explains that Bachman was a voice that he hoped could articulate the “place in most of us where the rain is pretty much constant, the shadows are always long, and th... Read More
Matthew Cheney’s “How Far to Englishman’s Bay” leads off the eleventh issue of Nightmare Magazine. Max, the protagonist, impulsively decides to close up his bookshop and permanently leave his home on the day he turns 50. Max drives miles away from his home, finally deciding he’s lost and stopping to ask directions. It’s here that his story has its denouement in an odd bit of horror that seems unrelated to what went before, all the detail about his leaving, its effect on a friend, giving away his cat, gathering snacks — a full half of the tale. Is there a moral to this story? Perhaps: that we should not be so concerned with the years that have gone before that we forget to plan for those that still lie ahead. Or maybe that being self-centered is bad. Or maybe that obesity can have unexpected consequences. It’s a strange story that doesn’t coalesce into a focused tale.
Joyland by Stephen King
Devin Jones is nearing the end of his sophomore year of college when he signs on for a summer job at Joyland in Heaven’s Bay, North Carolina in 1973. Joyland is an old-fashioned amusement park, not anything near as big as a Six Flags and definitely not anything like a Disney park. It’s staffed by a changing cast of college kids every summer, but has a backbone of old carnie folk, including Lane Hardy, who runs the Carolina Spin, that is, the ferris wheel, and Rosalind Gold, who acts the part of Madame Fortuna and thinks she might have the gift of the sight in real life. The park’s mascot is Howie the Happy Hound, modeled after a dog the owner of the park had as a boy, and his visage graces everyone’s sun visor and the bags in which visitors receive the trinkets they buy. And “the wearing of the fur” is a tradition for the college kids. You probably know what that means if you’ve ever been to an amusement par... Read More