Cemetery Dance is published irregularly, usually three to four issues per year, and covers the entire field of horror, from film to comics to novels. It is heavy on the nonfiction, with excellent reviews and multiple interviews. There are six stories in this issue, all of them excellent. Issue 66 impressed me so much that I’ve already ordered the next, and am likely to subscribe.
The first story, “Lines” by Bill Pronzini, is a surreal tale of Hood, who is looking for the woman who left him for another man, taking $2000 of Hood’s money with her. He has tracked her easily, and catches up with her in Line, Nevada. He intends to kill her and her lover, and he does. It’s what happens after that that makes this story Weird.
I’m becoming a big fan of Steve Rasnic Tem, whose work is beautiful and melancholy. “Scree” is about a man who has always been emotionally distant, unavailable to his wife and children. Now he is dying, and the cause of his death is — unusual. But it is poetically just.
The best story in this issue is Terry Dowling’s “Nightside Eye.” The theory behind this story is that, if one prevents one eye from seeing the normal in everyday life by wearing a patch, with the proper preparation that eye will see the paranormal when the patch is removed in the right circumstances. The experiment seems to have worked before, though it is hard to tell, precisely, because the last experimenter won’t — can’t — speak of it. What was so terrible? With the setup that Dowling gives this experiment, the reader starts to think that there can’t be a payoff sufficient to the growing tension; but Dowling delivers. Look for this story on the Stoker Award ballot next year.
Jeremy C. Shipp’s story, “Inside,” is powerful, perhaps in part because it is so short. The reason the characters are in captivity and being tortured is not explained completely, leaving the reader to fill in the gaps with her own imagination, which makes it all the more frightening. What did these poor creatures do to deserve their present fates? And can they actually get the revenge that they plot?
“The Vrykolakas and the Cobbler’s Wife,” by David Lee Summers, has the feeling of a folk tale more than a horror story, even if it does deal with vampires. Marina is a widow, left alone with three young children when her husband is killed by a werewolf. She has few options left to her once she has sold all the shoes her husband, who was a cobbler, left behind, and none of them are pleasant. Then, one morning, she finds a finely made pair of shoes in the shop. She soon finds where they came from, and how to get more of them. The answer to her dilemma, it turns out, has more to do with her willingness to take charge of her own fate than with the kindness of others.
“Jimmy’s Legacy,” by Sophie Littlefield, is about a nameless man who returns to his mother’s home in North Caroline after many years away from her toxic presence. His brother wasn’t as lucky as he, and never found a way to leave except, finally, to commit suicide. But he had a magic to him, Jimmy did, and his brother finds out more about what it was when he returns for the funeral. His mother hasn’t mellowed with age in the least, and the narrator leaves as quickly as he can — but not before discovering Jimmy’s secret.
There are four interviews in this issue, all of which contain plenty of information about the authors’ projects; most will increase your list of books to find and read. I especially enjoyed the interview of Australian author Terry Dowling, who clearly thinks deeply and well about his writing. The interview with Edward Lee is more of an exercise in publicity, as Lee talks at length about his various projects, past, present and future. I found his explanation of the difference between his projects for the mass market and his projects for the specialty horror market particularly interesting. The interview of Jonathan Maberry is easily forgettable, while the interview with Joseph Nassise is the opposite: a good introduction to an author I had not encountered before. The most interesting interview is with Chizine Publications. I’ve never read an interview with the owners of an independent press before, nor seen much discussion of the state of the publishing industry in a magazine. This unique focus makes for some excellent reading, and offers good guidance on where to look for future reading material.
Other features include a column devoted to Stephen King’s work called “From the Dead Zone,” apparently a regular feature; a piece by Ed Gorman about Val Lewton’s horror and dark suspense films; a column entitled “The Last Ten Books I’ve Read” by Ellen Datlow, giving an idea of how this multiple-prize-winning editor approaches her subject; film reviews by Michael Marano; a meditation on the joys of reading by Mark Sieber; and plenty of book reviews by various writers that, again, will provide good guidance for future reading.
Cemetery Dance is the most complete treatment of the horror field in a single magazine I’ve come across. For the fan of the darker side of literature, it’s a treat.