Weird Fiction Quarterly edited by Russell Smeaton
Independently Published (Winter 2022 | Spring 2023)
120 pages; $10.00 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Weird Fiction Quarterly is a quarterly anthology series that deserves some attention. What makes this series intriguing is that each story must be five-hundred words exactly.
Weird fiction, by its very nature, wants expansive stories, space where authors can build whole worlds and universes of unknown horrors. We read weird fiction to feel small and insignificant against the mammoth horrors that curse the eternal dark cosmos. It would be impressive for any author to write a story in five-hundred words to cover this sort of horror, so the fact that Smeaton has gathered a multitude of authors willing to tackle this challenge once is impressive. The fact that they’ve done it twice and seem to be preparing to do it again is impressive and deserving of attention by horror readers.
As with any anthology series, each collection is themed. The first two issues are themed around seasons — Winter and Spring, respectively. This creates a wide palette from which authors can focus their flash stories, and they do not disappoint. There are some great haunting stories here. “The Spectators” by Scott J. Couturier in the Winter edition, for example, deals with a yearly spectral holiday vision at a crossroads. In the Spring Edition, “Spring Harvest” by Glynn Owen Barras is a religious folk horror tale about a cursed pastor and the way he’s forced to tend his flock. There are haunting tales here, tales that will linger with the reader and give them a shudder.
There are also fun, clever pieces throughout these anthologies to cleanse the readers’ palates and give them a chuckle. “Weeds” by Roger Keel in the Spring edition is a fun tale of a gardener fighting a yearly invasion. In the Winter edition, “Saint Nicholas Ordeal Over” by James Harris presents a news story about Father Christmas and reports on an interdimensional story, as well. These types of story certainly participate in horror but do so in a light-hearted and fun way. While some readers might not appreciate the humor or find it contrived, others will champion these authors for their clever takes on restrictive guidelines and themes.
Overall, Weird Fiction Quarterly is a clever experiment by a handful of dedicated authors willing to challenge themselves and test the limits of horror. Writing a story in 500 words is difficult for most authors, so a Weird horror story focused on a specific season is a daunting challenge. The variety of stories, from the haunting the humorous, will be sure to please any reader. This anthology series is recommended for any fans of horror fiction looking for something unique and short to read, and readers should look forward to the next instalments in this series with eagerness.