Kathe Koja has long been regarded as one of the true artists in dark fiction, weaving horror into stories and novels that blur the lines of genres and realities. From her Stoker winning The Cipher back in 1991, she has upended what’s to be expected from the genre. Of course, she’s also diverted on occasion into historical fiction, young adult, suspense, and simply plain weird fiction over the years. In Velocities, some of her best has been collected, ranging from “Pas De Deux” from 1995 to “Urb Civ” from 2019 — a stunning array of styles and stories that, while accessible, reach into surreal corners of our reality and others, almost as if creeping down into the hole in The Cipher itself.
Velveteen & Mandala opens with a young woman named Velveteen waking up in the crowded tank where she lives. With her is another young woman named Mandala. They live in a dystopian Japan, where fighter planes fly overhead and zombies (called corpses or deadizens) roam. It’s never fully explained how the world came to be this way, though there are some references to how humans have messed up the environment. At any rate, these two young women have a job to do: kill the zombies.
The Masque of the Red Death (Fine Art Edition) by Edgar Allan Poe and Steven Archer
Raw Dog Screaming Press (January 13, 2021)
72 pages; $26.95 paperback; $9.99 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
I know what you are thinking: we can all get this story for free. At the very least, we can get it in a collection with plenty of other stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe. Why would anyone want to pay $27?
Eric Guignard has fast become one of the most reliable “new” writers in horror and other speculative genres in recent years. His Doorway to the Deadeye and a ultra-cool anthology Pop the Clutch cemented his reputation, not to mention his more academic studies of authors plus the 5 Senses of Horror study/anthology.
Last Case at Baggage Junction is a weird bird but a fine read that demands to be read carefully, although it can easily be devoured in one sitting. Part noir, part horror, it burrows deep into the reader’s psyche as it weaves a deceptive tale that lingers long after the final page.
Horror Fiction from Gothic to Post-Modern – Critical Essays edited by Michele Brittany and Nicholas Diak
McFarland and Company (February 2020)
236 pages; $45 paperback; $20.99 e-book
Reviewed by R.B. Payne
Horror fiction is a popular genre for millions of readers, but are these tales of terror and fear worthy of academic analysis? Of course they are! And, under the sheltering wings of StokerCon®, the Ann Radcliff Academic Conference brings literary scholarship to gruesome and terrifying horror books, comics, art, cinema, music, poetry, television, and video games.
Aftermath of an Industrial Accident by Mike Allen
Mythic Delirium Books (July 2020)
238 pages, $15.95 Hardcover
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Anyone familiar with horror and dark fantasy knows the name Mike Allen. He’s been a Nebula, Shirley Jackson, and World Fantasy Award finalist. He’s won three Rhyslings from the SFPA. He’s edited a number of award winning books and anthologies. It’s no surprise, therefore, that his newest collection, Aftermath of an Industrial Accident, is an incredible read. This collection of horror and dark fantasy poetry and short fiction needs to be on the shelf of any horror reader.
Nothing freaks me out but also intrigues me more than a cult. They are just so fascinating. What kind of cult? Is it murderous? Doomsday? Is it polygamist? How do they brainwash people? Or better yet, is it a religious cult with the most insane secret I’ve ever read? Well folks, buckle up because this one is a doozy.
There’s kind of this unofficial debate among readers concerning those who enjoy unlikable characters and those who need protagonists to be tolerable in order to invest in their story.
I like despicable, flawed people. I think protagonists should be as varied as the people we encounter in real life. I don’t need to like people in order to emotionally invest in their stories — sometimes, hating them is just as fun as loving them.
In his introduction to this, his latest collection, Joe R. Lansdale writes, “It’s no secret that I like to write a variety of stories in a variety of genres, and my favorite of those is the Lansdale genre.”
Lansdale goes on to explain what that genre is, but all you really need to do to understand the “Lansdale genre” is to read the stories that follow the introduction. Reading these stories is like taking a peek into Lansdale’s mind, a one-of-a-kind universe where cowboys fire six-shooters at Tyrannosaurus Rexes; where apes don space helmets and fly to the moon; where one-eyed space aliens tend bar in an old mining town saloon.
Boinking Bizarro edited by Brian Asman and Danger Slater
Death’s Head Press (December 2020)
138 pages; $9.99 paperback; $4.99 e-book
Reviewed by Anton Cancre
Porn parodies. We know ’em. We love ’em. Except maybe Porn of the Dead. I don’t think anyone was asking for someone to go that far with it. Maybe Joe D’Amato. Look, I got a bit sidetracked. Point is: why the heck didn’t anyone think of doing porn parodies of classic literature before now?
Take Autumn Christian’s “The Thottery, by Shirley Jacksoff.” That title alone should print solid gold bricks that fall like rain from its moistened nethers. Or “The Martian Cumsicles by Ray Fatberries (Charles Austin Muir).” And “A Bird Came Up My Walk and I Put It in my Vagina by Emily Getta Dickinson.” That last one deserves an award.
But it isn’t all just the titles. Stories here range from the pure goofball oddity of Max Booth III’s “Tit, by Stephen Kink” to the satire of a satire that is “American Sly-ho by Breast-Eatin Ellis” from our dear friend Jessica McHugh. Then there is the raw heartache and fury we all have come to expect from Betty Rocksteady encapsulated in “Pinnochio’s Big Dick Energy, by Cucko Cuccoldi.” The less said about Johnwayne Comunale’s “The Receiving Tree, by Shell Silversteen” the less prepared for that particular ball of what-did-I-just-experience you will be.
Point is, Boinking Bizarro is exactly what it says on the tin, with just that smidge more to make for a special surprise. I liked it so much that I bought a physical copy just so the pages could get stuck together.
At first it looks as if everything is working out for 16-year-old Remina. Her father, a scientist, won the Nobel Prize for discovering a wormhole. When an unknown planet from a different dimension comes through the wormhole, it makes her father even more famous and celebrated, and he names the planet Remina after his daughter. Buoyed by this fame, Remina the girl uses it to get into the entertainment industry and became a celebrity in her own right.
But then the planet Remina keeps heading toward earth, moving faster than should be possible. Moving faster than the speed of light, even. As it goes, it destroys the planets on its path. It appears to have eyes that look out, and giant tongues that can attack planets. It doesn’t take people long to figure that the planet Remina will destroy earth as well.
Mieruko seems like an average high school girl, but she keeps seeing hideous monsters wherever she goes. She’ll be standing out in the rain waiting for the bus when she’s joined by a monster with socket-less eyes, a gaping gut, and faces staring out from its insides.
“Hey, can you see me?” it asks her. “You can see. Can you see?”
Women in Indie Horror have a powerful voice and if that’s a surprise to you, take note of the popular Best Of Lists from horror reviewers as 2020 comes to a close. You will see these names: Laurel Hightower, Gemma Amor, Samantha Kolesnik, Sara Tantlinger, Gwendolyn Kiste, Cynthia Pelayo, V. Castro, Stephanie Ellis, Jessica Guess, Briana Morgan, and many, many more.
One name I saved for last and special mention. Hailey Piper. Hailey is one to watch. She has had a stellar year of releases starting with the breakout novella, The Possession of Natalie Glasgow. Then it was just one winner after the next: Benny Rose, The Cannibal King (Unnerving), An Invitation to Darkness (Demain Pub), and several short stories in various anthologies.
Author and artist Keith Minnion has returned with a personal novel that’s part police procedural, part supernatural mystery. Alongside The Boneyard, one of the best horror novels of the past ten years, and the recent collection, Read Me, readers are treated to something new, although there are some tricky — and cool — connections to the aforementioned book.
Hope and Miracles: The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile (Two Screenplays by Frank Darabont) edited by Tyson Blue
Gauntlet Press (Fall 2020)
Signed and Limited Editions: $199.00 – $4,000.00
Reviewed by Rick Hipson
Preceding the twenty and twenty-fifth anniversaries of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile comes Hope and Miracles, a literary celebration of two of Stephen King’s most iconic cinematic adaptations (Shawshank being the highest ranking film listed on IMDB). The book provides a cornucopia of behind-the-scenes insights, retrospectives, essays and more from writer/director Frank Darabont, Stephen King, RC Matheson and several others, including an exclusive interview from the late, but always great Michael Clark Duncan. Several never before released photos from Darabont’s personal archive are also included.