Horror


SFM: Rambo, Rustad, Jones, Jemisin, Wrigley

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. As the jumping-off point for this week’s SFM column, we're reviewing several of the stories mentioned in BookRiot’s January 4, 2018 column listing good places to read online short science fiction, which Marion Deeds noted in her January 10, 2018 WWWednesday column.  

“Red in Tooth and Cog” by Cat Rambo (2016, audio and text free at EscapePod, originally published in Fantasy & Science Fiction)

Renee is eating lunch in the park one day when her smartphone is stolen by a small, swiftly moving robot. Since her phone c... Read More

SFM: Campbell, Turtledove, Corey, Rusch, Balder

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.

“Sasabonsam” by Tara Campbell (Dec. 2017, free at Strange Horizons)

The vampirish Sasabonsam lurks in the trees near an African village, its limbs hanging down like swaying vines to snatch unwary villagers that the Sasabonsam then eats. Its first victim: a man who is returning to the village one night, reeking with fear.
You run, but of course that won’t help you. Whichever tree you’re near is the one I’m in. That’s how it works with Sasabonsam.
The Sasabonsam smugly expects that his victim’s flesh and soul will be completely absorbed soon, but the man’s soul is still inside of him when the monster grabs its next victim. And the turm... Read More

A Dirty Job: …but someone’s got to do it, right?

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A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

For a long time, I’ve been fascinated the ways in which humans personify the concept of Death — a hooded and black-robed spectral reaper, a suave and irresistible man, a rider on horseback who visited the houses of the soon to be deceased, and many others. In the case of A Dirty Job (2006), Christopher Moore presents a nervous and twitchy Beta Male named Charlie Asher who operates a secondhand-items shop in San Francisco.

Charlie had what he thought was a decent life: he and his wife Rachel just had their first baby, the shop is doing well, and he’s got a great relationship with his sister Jane. But then people he comes into contact with start dying right before his eyes, strangers are bringing him objects that glow bright red, a... Read More

Best of SFM 2017

Best of Short Fiction Monday: For our New Year's Day SFM column, we’re listing (in alphabetical order) our favorite short fiction works, both old and new, that we reviewed in our 2017 SFM columns and rated 4.5 or 5 stars. The title links are to the original, full SFM review.

Alexandria” by Monica Byrne (2017, Fantasy & Science Fiction Jan/Feb 2017 issue): Byrne’s details paint a full, three-dimensional picture of a marriage; a husband who is not physically demonstrative in public, in-laws who never set aside their suspicions of him, and the love Keiji and Beth feel for each other. I was expecting an interesting story with a lighthouse at its center; I got a powerful meditation on the nature of love.



... Read More

Kill All Angels: Answers don’t always equal solutions, and vice-versa

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Kill All Angels by Robert Brockway

Space whales. Inter-dimensional parasites. A Hollywood stuntwoman who exploded an angel and now must do something even harder and greater. An aging punk who would rather die than stop fighting. All of this and much more await readers in Kill All Angels (2017), the final volume in Robert Brockway’s VICIOUS CIRCUIT trilogy. As is to be expected, the books need to be read in order, beginning with The Unnoticeables and continuing on to The Empty Ones before getting here. Spoilers for the previous books will be difficult to avoid, but will be ... Read More

The Woman in Black: A classic ghost story

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

So what does a young actor do after starring in one of the most lucrative franchises in cinema history? That was the precise dilemma facing the 22-year-old Daniel Radcliffe in 2011, upon the completion of his 8th and final Harry Potter film. The Potter series had brought in a whopping $7.7 billion worldwide over its 10-year run, firmly establishing Radcliffe as an international star. And so, the question: What next? Wisely, the young actor’s follow-up project was another in the supernatural/fantasy vein, and one that was also based on an already well-loved source. The film was 2012’s The Woman In Black, another successful film for Radcliffe, having been produced for $15 million and bringing in almost $130 million at the box office. The film was based on English author Read More

SFM: Gregory, Roanhorse, Vernon, Mamatas & Pratt, Clarke, Lowachee

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read recently that we wanted you to know about.

“Second Person, Present Tense” by Daryl Gregory (2005, free in print and audio at Clarkesworld, November 2017 issue; originally published in Asimov’s Science Fiction, September 2005 issue)

I love what Daryl Gregory does with drugs. “Second Person, Present Tense” is about the parents of a girl who died after overdosing on a drug called “Zen” or “Zombie.” Unable to cope with their loss, they latch on to a homeless girl (our narrator) who they hope will come live with them a... Read More

The Night of the Long Knives: Totally absorbing

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Reposting to include Sandy's new review.

The Night of the Long Knives by Fritz Leiber

Free on Kindle.

Murder, as you must know by now, I can understand and sympathize with deeply. But war? No.

After a nuclear holocaust, America is unrecognizable. There are a few cities left on the coasts, but most of America is now the Deathlands, where radioactive dust hazes the skies and radiation-scarred survivors try to stay alive another day. Besides devastating the land, the catastrophe has somehow warped the minds of the few remaining citizens of the Deathlands; they have all turned into murderers. They can’t help it — it’s a drive that can only be released by killing someone. Even when they band together for companionship, it always ends up in a bloodbath.

Ray ha... Read More

SFM: Castro and Zinos-Amaro, Brennan, Banker, Robson

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about. 

“The Mouth of the Oyster” by Adam-Troy Castro & Alvaro Zinos-Amaro (Nov. 2017, free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, 99c Kindle magazine issue)

In the aftermath of a deadly plague that struck their area in ancient China, the narrator and his wife, Li-Fan, are among the survivors. But the plague has left its mark on them: the narrator has lost his sight but is otherwise still a healthy man; Li-Fan is frailer and weak... Read More

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

In World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, Max Brooks provides an oral history of the global conflict against the undead. In the introduction, the narrator explains how this account focuses on the human element rather than just the statistical details of World War Z. The text shifts from the experiences of one survivor to the next.

The history begins in China. Dr. Kwang Jing-shu recalls when he encountered the “Patient Zero,” a child, and the early responses to the child’s illness. The zombie plague spreads across China, and before long human traffickers are explaining in their interviews how they brought the infected to the rest of the world. At first, people do not know what they are dealing with, and they refer to the disease as rabies, and la... Read More

Fisher of Bones: Half-baked prophetess for half-mutinous followers

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Fisher of Bones by Sarah Gailey

Sarah Gailey’s novella Fisher of Bones (2017) is a bewildering revision of the Talmud/Old Testament Exodus story with the “Moses” role cast as a prophetess dubbed Fisher (formerly Ducky).

Fisher assumes the prophetess mantle only on her father’s deathbed when the patriarch prophet lays his hands upon her in a would-be ordination and declares her an outcast, “forever banished from [her] people.” And in the next breath commands her to lead the same. I never could get over this contradiction. This kind of launching and halting, lurching and jolting is characteristic of the entire story’s progression and it is not a device that works.

The story’s principle tension involves threats to Fisher’s authority as the pro... Read More

SFM: Kayembe, Johnson, Baker, Swirsky, Walker

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about. 

“The Faerie Tree” by Kathleen Kayembe (Nov. 2017, free at Lightspeed, $3.99 Kindle magazine issue)

Marianne’s family is in turmoil. Her sister, who always had such plans for her life, has come back from boarding school pregnant, moving back home with her husband. The real problem is that Marianne can see there’s something hugely amiss: Sister, who was so lively, now spends most of the time sitting like a china doll, st... Read More

Night Has a Thousand Eyes: Pretty horrifying, after all

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Night Has a Thousand Eyes by Cornell Woolrich

On the cover of my Dell paperback edition of Night Has a Thousand Eyes (with a cover price of 25 cents), the author is listed as William Irish, with an asterisk next to the name. At the bottom of the cover, next to the footnote asterisk, is another name: George Hopley. This should not fool any prospective readers, though. Both names were pseudonyms of Cornell Woolrich, the author whom Isaac Asimov called "THE Master of Suspense"; whom his biographer, Francis Nevins, Jr., called "the Edgar Allan Poe of the 20th century" (hey, wait a minute ... I thought that H.P. Lovecraft was considered the Edgar... Read More

SFM: Howard, Wilde, Gaiman, Ellison, Keller, Dick

Short Fiction Monday: Our weekly exploration of free and inexpensive short fiction available on the internet. Here are a few stories we've read that we wanted you to know about.

“A Recipe for Magic” by Kat Howard and Fran Wilde (2017, free at Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy blog, free to download for Nook)

“A Recipe for Magic,” co-written by Kat Howard and Fran Wilde, features a curious kind of shop: at the Night and Day Bakery, magic spells are baked directly into pastries and confections, affecti... Read More

Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror

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Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror edited by Ellen Datlow

This anthology comes after a similarly titled anthology, also edited by Ellen Datlow, called Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror which came out in March 2010. Datlow also edits an annual anthology of horror fiction (collaborating with other editors on those). It seems then that Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror (which came out in October 2016) is informed by a great deal of knowledge in the field of speculative horror literature. I am not generally a horror reader, but I still thoroughly enjoyed many tales in this anthology for their engaging storytelling and terrifying themes. What follows is a brief review of each of the 25 tales, in the order which they appear.

“Shall... Read More

Black Goat Blues: All the pieces are in place for a killer third installment

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Black Goat Blues by Levi Black

Levi Black’s Black Goat Blues (2017) is the follow-up to his fantastically twisted horror novel Red Right Hand, and while it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, Black Goat Blues is still a compulsive page-turner that I couldn’t put down until I’d reached the end. Warning: it is essential that you read these books in order. Seriously.

Charlie Tristan Moore is now in possession of a sentient angel-skin coat and eldritch magicks of her own, thanks to the “generosity” of some elder gods in Red Right Hand. Her best friend, Daniel, is deep in a coma after the horrors he experience... Read More

Dolly: Hell, oh, Dolly

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Dolly by Susan Hill

English author Susan Hill had recently been an impressive 2 for 2 with this reader. Last year, I was happy to discover that her 1983 ghost novel, The Woman in Black, is one of the scariest books that I’d read in quite some time, and just a few weeks back, her 2010 ghost novel, The Small Hand, had proved highly satisfying for me, if not quite as chilling as the earlier book. Curious as to whether Ms. Hill could possibly go 3 for 3 with yours truly, I dove into her 2012 offering, Dolly, which, like those other two, is subtitled “A Ghost Story.” So, you may reasonably ask, ... Read More

Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places: Why we need haunted places

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Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

If ghosts exist, we don’t know why, but ghost stories exist because the living make them up; and the living make them up because we need them. Colin Dickey’s book Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places (2016) explores the US’s social conflicts and hidden histories as they play out in places that are publicly advertised as “haunted.” In the first chapter, Dickey says, “If you want to understand a place, ignore the boastful monuments and landmarks, and go straight to the haunted houses. Look for the darkened graveyards, the derelict hotels, the empty and decaying old hospitals.”

That passage is also something of a roadmap to the book, which comprises a collection of Dickey’s essays. The chapters are divided by category: haunted houses; haunted offices; haunte... Read More

It Devours!: Exploring the intersection of religion and science

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It Devours! by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Considering the massive, continuing success of their Welcome to Night Vale podcast and the first Night Vale tie-in novel, Welcome to Night Vale, it’s no surprise that Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor wanted to keep the ball rolling and co-write a second Night Vale novel. Skeptical or worried readers could be forgiven for justifiable fears about the quality of It Devours! (2017): what if the core concept began to wear thin, what if the writing team of Fink and Cranor began to falter, what if they tried too hard to be “edgy” and simply came across as confrontational or sophomoric? Happily, the quality of It Devours! is such that I think it will put those and ... Read More

The Omen trilogy: Devilish good fun

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The Omen trilogy directed by Richard Donner, Don Taylor, Graham Baker

This viewer was a tad late in coming to the whole Omen phenomenon ... a good 30 years late, actually. But I have since eagerly made up for lost time and taken in the entire trilogy of films dealing with filmdom's favorite little Antichrist, and here, in these three short reviews, offer up some comments as to how they struck me. Consider this your one-stop shopping resource for all things Damien! And HAPPY HALLOWEEN to one and all!

The Omen: By the time I finally got around to watching it, I had a feeling that I might have been the only person in North America who had not seen the megahit The Omen. (Well, OK, maybe my Aunt Frici in the nursing home hadn't seen it yet either.) So permit me a moment or two while I "preach to the choir." Far from being just another Exorcist rip-off, The Omen is a... Read More

SFM: Poe, Bradbury, Danvers, Mamatas, James, Parypinski

Short Fiction Monday: Happy Halloween from Fantasy Literature and SFM! Our column today has an extra-large serving of horror stories. 


“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe (1846, free at Project Gutenberg)

Our narrator Montresor, an Italian nobleman, explains ― in a suspiciously vague way ― how his friend Fortunato has mortally offended and insulted him. Montresor sets himself on a course of implacable revenge ... but he wants to do so in a way that Fortunato understands that Montresor is the source of revenge, but without being caught or punished.

Montresor and Fortunato meet during a carnival festival ― which at first seems by chance, but then you find out that Montresor has set up the situation so that all of his... Read More

Welcome to Night Vale: Buckle up — it’s going to be a weird ride

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Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

If you enjoy horror in all its many forms, or just plain Weird Stuff, odds are good that you’ve at least heard of (if not been sucked into the fandom vortex of) the highly-acclaimed podcast Welcome to Night Vale. Its creators, Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, have spent the last five years expanding upon a central premise — there’s a desert town in the southwestern region of the United States, where all manner of strange things happen and time doesn’t really exist — through twice-monthly podcast episodes. The success of the podcast has led to a number of other projects, including this novel, Welcome to Night Vale (2015), which is a perfect entry point for anyone wondering what all the fuss is about, as well as a rewarding read for established fans.

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Devil’s Possessed: The Gilles man

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Devil’s Possessed directed by Leon Klimovsky

The real-life historical figure Gilles de Rais apparently inspired Paul Naschy — the so-called "Boris Karloff of Spain" — to create two of his greatest characters. de Rais, a 15th century French knight who fought alongside Joan of Arc and later became an aspiring alchemist, Satanist and serial child killer, first prompted Naschy to come up with the necromancer/Satanist character Alaric de Marnac for his 1973 classic Horror Rises From the Tomb. Though beheaded in 1454, de Marnac (played by Naschy himself) returned to cause major-league mishegas 520 years later in the film, and even came back for an encore in 1983's Panic Beats, an even superior outing.

In 1974, though, Naschy wrote the screenplay for a more realistic look at the Gilles de Rais legend, for that year's Devil's Possessed (aka The Devil's Possessed.) Here, ... Read More

Satan’s Wife: Dirty demon daughter

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Satan’s Wife directed by Pier Carpi

Those viewers who believe Patty McCormack's Rhoda Penmark character, in the 1956 classic The Bad Seed, to be the nastiest, most diabolical little girl ever shown on film might change their mind after seeing the 1979 Italian offering Satan's Wife. This latter picture was originally released under the title Un'ombra nell'ombra, or Ring of Darkness, but for once, I prefer the American appellation, as it is both more memorable and more suitably descriptive. An engrossing though hardly essential example of Eurohorror, the film should certainly prove of interest to the jaded fan of such fare who is looking for something different.

In the film, the viewer meets a very attractive, middle-aged mother named Carlotta Rhodes. Thirteen years earlier, Carlotta and several other women had danced and participated in a Satanic ritual ... and even, s... Read More

Graveyard of Horror: Plenty of atmosphere and weirdness

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Graveyard of Horror directed by Miguel Madrid

There is a world of difference in what Spanish filmmakers could get away with before the death of Generalissimo Francisco Franco in 1975, and what they could get away with after the subsequent introduction of the infamous "S" rating (denoting sex and violence) two years later. A pair of Spanish films that this viewer recently watched has served to demonstrate these differences very clearly. The 1977 film Satan's Blood is replete with nudity (both topless and full frontal), orgies, rape sequences, beheadings and other gory carnage (as I have written elsewhere, it is a truly wild and memorable film, and I do commend it to your attention). On the other hand, the 1971 Spanish offering Graveyard of Horror (which originally appeared under the title Necrophagus and has also been released with the appellation The Butcher of Binbrook) is a much mor... Read More