Note: this is the third review of the World Fantasy Award nominees for short fiction. You can see the list of nominees here and scroll down to find the earlier reviews.
“Little Widow” by Maria Dahvana Headley is a treat from the school of weird fiction. In addition to Nightmare Magazine, the story also appears in the anthology, What the #@&% Is That?, edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen, from Saga Press.
Readers are introduced to the story through the eyes of the youngest wife of a religious zealot who’s just organized a mass suicide that he conveniently misses. Not so different from the world we inhabit? Well…it gets a little more bizarre before the end, yet the main characters’ emotional terrain is spot on.
The recently re-named Natalie and her sister wives Reese and Scarlett have been taken in by a couple for no better reason than the availability of spare bedrooms. Their adoptive parents have no real positive qualities noted except for the fact that they don’t ask the girls to go to church, and that’s good enough for the sister wives. The girls are perfectly aware of the oddity of their cult upbringing. On the outside and alone after the deaths of their mothers, it seems at first that their training as “Heaven’s Avengers” is not going to serve them well. Continue reading
This never happens: I buy an anthology because of a short story that is on a preliminary awards list and that story disappears from the final list of nominees and I still love the anthology and am glad I bought it. But that’s exactly what happened with Nightscript II: An Anthology of Strange and Darksome Tales, edited by C.M. Muller.
I took a chance on it because “Reasons I Hate my Big Sister” by Gwendolyn Kiste was on the long list for the Bram Stoker Awards for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction. The story is quite good but somehow got eliminated from the final list of nominees. For weeks the anthology was my bedtime reading, and I hopped and skipped all over it, appreciating every single story for the quality of the writing even if the theme or resolution didn’t totally grab me.
- “The Carnival Arrives in Darkness” by Michael Griffin–very unique approach to the subject matter. More sweet than weird.
- “The Inveterate Establishment of Daddano & Co.” by Eric J. Guignard–interesting narrator with a great voice.
- “Nearness” by Ralph Robert Moore–the most intimately horrifying story in the whole anthology.
- “No Abiding Place on Earth” by Matthew M. Bartlett–most frightening creatures and great description.
- “Pause for Laughter” by José Cruz–truly an existential tale of a future. Touching in a weird way, which is hard to fathom, considering it’s told by a machete-wielding clown.
This is an anthology you should not ignore. I liked it so much I’m going to ask Muller if he’ll do a little Q&A here. And I’m going to get Nightscript I soon. Nightscript III will be out in October.
Read more in spanish here: Continue reading
John Langan’s dark, despairing world in The Fisherman is full of ugly things you don’t want to find on the end of your fishing line. It’s weird fiction that stretches toward the literary with its rich descriptions, psychological underpinnings and complex narrative structure, but horror is its terrible (and fascinating) heart. It will keep you turning pages far longer than you planned.
The story is set in the dark mountains of the Catskills, and whenever I hear that word I think of Rip Van Winkle and the strange men he found in there, so my mind was already primed for weird things to happen in places where old Dutch place names are still thick. Langan certainly plays with these associations, but our protagonist Abe doesn’t go into these wild places to sleep. He goes to fish.
Abe lives in a small town and works for IBM. Because of his grief for his dead wife he is barely functioning and continues to sleep through his life until he takes up fishing. Catching fish and venturing into streams in the mountains seems to provide him the comfort he needs to try to pull it together. He casts his grief into the water like he casts his line–with patience and with curiosity to see what might take the bait. Be careful what you wish for! The adventure that ensues, eventually, forces Abe to wake up and shake off his grief or pay the steepest price. Continue reading
This is the fifth and final review of the nominees for the World Fantasy Award for best short fiction in 2015. Winners will be announced in October. Other reviews are here, here, here and here.
If I wanted to read “The Neurastheniac” by Selena Chambers I had to order the anthology it’s published in, which I didn’t mind doing, but discovering that Cassilda’s Song was created to pay tribute to “The King in Yellow” put me off right from the start.
I like a good bit of weird fiction. I even like weird fiction that pays tribute to particular fictional mythos (See my review of “The Deepwater Bride” for example.), but I have my limits. All of us do. Weird fiction that requires me to delve into a mythos I don’t find particularly compelling has to be either stylistically interesting and conceptually fresh or stylistically fresh and conceptually interesting to hold my attention. In my opinion this story did not make that cut. Continue reading