Dim Shores Presents is a new bi-annual anthology series spotlighting some of the best new writing in speculative fiction. Weird horror, strange science fiction, and dark fantasy rub shoulders with each other here, weaving a tapestry of uncanny beauty and fearful wonder.
This is the table of contents for Volume 1:
Christopher Burke - "Many Lives Theory" Jane Sand - "Vacui" Chiara Nova - "Walls of White" Richard Staving - "Silver Bells and Cockle Shells" Paul L. Bates - "Used Clothes" Jonathan Raab - "Observer/Experiencer" Anna Tambour - "The Divorce of Death and Pestilence" Samuel Moss - "Gallaher Calls" Victoria Dalpe - "The Rider" Eric Schaller - "A Study in Abnormal Physiology" Jen Downes - "Root and Branch" Jake Marley - "Anemone" Jess Landry - "I Will Find You, Even in the Dark"
A nice first entry for a nice new anthology series of original works (not, as you might expect, all weird/horror, but with some science fiction and fantasy sprinkled in as well) from a publisher mostly known for their chapbooks.
Many Lives Theory (Christopher Burke) Grief, haunted houses, existentialism, dystopian capitalism, this ran a very real risk of being overstuffed but it works. Echoes of Forlesen (a very good thing), Control, Ligotti, and Steve Rasnic Tem’s criminally obscure “At the Bureau."
Vacui (Jane Sand) A woman lovingly haunts her daughter and shitty widower. A fresh take on a classic feminist ghost story trope, insightful and apt.
Walls of White (Chiara Nova) A woman wakes in a featureless white room that fills with poison sometimes. She’s a criminal in a future jail/laboratory, and the POV shifts to her warden who feels guilty. I found this one unconvincing on both prose and conceptual levels.
Silver Bells and Cockle Shells (Richard Staving) A crone, a girl, carnivorous flowers and escalating wishes. Not really my thing but good enough at what it’s trying to do. Such staccato sentences!
Used Clothes (Paul L. Bates) A man returns to the small town he fled as a youth and begins to see through the veil with the help of a bookseller and an aged ragpicker. Vastarien meets The Sandman. Folktaleish and rather old-fashioned, OR, if you will, classic and timeless. My kind of thing.
Observer/Experiencer (Jonathan Raab) Veterans at a weird outpost in CO butt heads with their test subjects (or vice versa?). Excellent -30-/Southern Reach vibes - I do love a weird place story. Good stuff, especially the phone call checklist scenes.
The Divorce of Death and Pestilence (Anna Tambour) Exactly what the title says, plus further drama with Greed, Corruption, Life, etc in a town too small for all of them. Too cute for me.
Gallaher Calls (Samuel M. Moss) Two siblings pursue Totality through art; they have no contact with the world outside their mansion aside from the disgusting lawyer Gallaher. Evenson rewrites Edwin Mullhouse in a fever dream brought on by reading too much Straub. Very nice.
The Rider (Victoria Dalpe) A woman "dies" in a dream and finds that she is no longer exactly alive when she awakes, and then runs into some others in the same condition. Weird-as-clinical-depression. Ends just as it gets going. An odd dearth of commas.
A Study in Abnormal Physiology (Eric Schaller) Darwin and Huxley stand in for Holmes and Watson and investigate a servant murdered and fetus stolen. Ends with a paean to the power of life. Pastiche, and not of a kind that I found enjoyable.
Root and Branch (Jen Downes) Solarpunk about a mysterious infection striking one of the bio-cities that dot the re-greened Earth. Charming, although it definitely felt like a truncated novel, and I could have done without the poor-man’s-Dr.-John character.
Anemone (Jake Marley) A sad sack gets dragged to his girlfriend's cult meetings, but, as they say, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living god. Really liked the beginning, kind of a tangentially-weird slice of life; lost steam once the weirdness was centered.
I Will Find You, Even in the Dark (Jessica Landry) A woman who disposes of dead bodies in a polluted dystopia finds herself haunted. A good ghost story wearing cyberpunk mirrorshades.
DIM SHORES PRESENTS, Vol. 1, Summer 2020 is the brainchild of Sam Cowan, who—for anyone who does not know—solicited, for the first time ever, short fiction (of the 6000 words or longer variety) for two planned stand-alone novelettes. Happily, the submittals he received surpassed his expectations yielding both the planned novelettes as well as two unplanned anthologies, this being the first of them.
At thirteen tales, and almost 300 pages, it is a packed anthology, beautifully presented. It is also a delight, filled with all manner of well written things weird, disturbing and surreal. To wit:
“Many Lives Theory,” by Christopher Burke is a well-crafted tale of one man’s grief and grieving. It alternates between scenes of a disintegrating marriage at home and a soul numbing corporate workplace setting reminiscent of a Thomas Ligotti nightmare. In this abysmal setting, half cubicle-world and half organic factory separated by an arboretum, Patrick receives emails and live feeds from another version of himself, promising unlikely hope against all odds, leaving the reader to wonder just how real any of it might be. Eye of the beholder.
Continuing the theme of the repercussions on the living of a death in the family, “Vacui,” by Jane Sand, immerses the reader in a deceased woman’s sojourn in the land of the living. Filled with wonderfully rendered perceptions and insights, the tale evolves from a complex portrait of an ailing and cleverly manipulative artistic woman to how she comes to grips with the manner of her death and her new ghostly situation. The recollections of her severely misguided wooing of her husband are especially well crafted.
Segueing nicely into another woman’s coming to terms with her impending death, Chiara Nova’s "Walls of White" is a Kafkaesque/Orwellian adventure in a near future prison/laboratory. The perspective alternates between the imprisoned protagonist’s first-person narrative and a third person narrative concerning the acerbic relationship between the two incredibly insensitive scientists/technicians/guards who hold her future (and ours) in their hands. It is clearly an allegory about the nature of the likely outcome of the triumph of “white-bread” values.
In Richard Staving’s "Silver Bells and Cockle Shells" a young girl accepts an unusual gift from an understanding crone who comforts her during a moment of anger. The odd gift forever alters her life. Once again, death figures prominently, in this case, as a simple tool to attain one’s innermost desires. Carnivorous flowers, wishes magically granted, schoolyard bullies and an assortment of annoying family members round out this fun tale.
My offering, “Used Clothes,” concerns an aging executive who reluctantly returns to the eastern European land of his birth seeking to acquire a steady stream of cheap goods and labor for his adopted home country. What was once normal is now nightmare. Seemingly fated to do so, he unintentionally resolves the aenigma of the rag man—a specter from his childhood which has long haunted him—with the aid of a flighty landlady, a creepy bookseller and three mind-warping occult books.
Spec. Harris is recruited by the mysterious Maj. Briggs during his Afghanistan tour of duty in the riveting "Observer/Experiencer," by Jonathan Raab. A detour into the realm of paranormal science fiction, O/E explores an odd branch of the federal government, resembling the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (without Hellboy and the other freaks.) Harris struggles to maintain his sanity as he alternates between regularly speaking with a mysterious entity(s) by phone during the day and observing the grotesquely impossible on the sprawling ranch where the organization is located by night. The telling relies on a skillful juxtaposition of a very left-brained military logic/discipline in the face of an utterly chaotic/empirical right-brained intrusion by something(s) altogether different.
“The Divorce of Death and Pestilence” by Anna Tambour is an over-the-top tongue-in-cheek romp played strictly for chuckles. Will Death remain enamored with new control-freak wife, Life, or will he return to the tedious embrace of vindictive first wife, Pestilence, who truly understands him?
Entering the realm of the darkly OCD surreal, “Gallaher Calls,” by Samuel M. Moss, is told from the subdued perspective of an utterly unreliable witness. While everything he relates is suspect, the nameless protagonist—possibly the last remaining member of a trust fund family—lives in a filthy hoarder’s squalor, possibly with something he claims to be his sister. He faithfully practices a pseudo Buddhist art/discipline he proudly calls The Method of Totality, while surviving on abnormally disgusting meat pies, sinking ever deeper into schizophrenia. His sole contact with reality and the outside world might be a chain-smoking attorney of dubious integrity named Gallaher, about whom he constantly hallucinates and obsesses.
“The Rider” by Victoria Dalpe returns us to the theme of how one woman relates to death—in this case an inverse death. Which is to say, Andy becomes a spiritless body in lieu of a disembodied ghost. She wanders through life aimlessly, simply going through the motions of her former life, barely noticed by those around her, until she is recruited by a rag-tag association of similar soulless individuals who have banded together after discovering an antidote for their excruciatingly meaningless existences. But is their much-lauded solution a panacea, or merely a cosmic con…?
Emulating Arthur Conan Doyle’s terse short fiction, Eric Schaller’s fun “A Study in Abnormal Physiology,” is narrated by an amateur detective’s faithful sidekick. The detective in question is none other than Charles Darwin, with “Darwin’s Bulldog,” Thomas Huxley in the Dr. Watson role. A dinner meeting of two old friends at their club is interrupted by a desperate servant girl whose tale of recurring vivid dreams prove to be so much more. The story has many twists and turns, ending with a tip of the hat to H.G. Wells.
Jen Downes’ timely and tightly woven “Root and Branch,” the second science fiction offering in the collection, involves a plague of sorts. Cities, on earth at least, in the future are truly organic entities, grown from roots, much like trees. Self-sufficient giant cubes of a million or more inhabitants, the cities are separated from one another by vast forests, mountains or oceans. The trouble starts when one of them unexpectedly contracts some manner of fast-moving lethal ailment leaving the finest brains and coolest heads in town to attempt to sort it all out while lesser egos riot or go to the circus.
In the skillfully wrought “Anemone,” by Jake Marley, an angry young man and confirmed atheist, finds himself caught between his own brooding thoughts, his cloyingly manipulative mother and self-righteous step father’s heavy-handed traditional religion, and his overly supportive girlfriend’s odd but compelling cult religion. As the tension from this three-way tug-of-war mounts, the protagonist ultimately confronts his god and a good deal more.
Elena is a cleaner, the forewoman of a crew that cleans up the apartments of dead indigents living in a town comprised entirely similar indigents, in “I Will Find You, Even in the Dark,” by Jess Landry. The last of the SF offerings, it takes place in a lonely smog covered future, where humans have ports and chips implanted, both to make life tolerable as well as allowing the powers that be to monitor them. Elena’s life is on a mildly illegal improvement trajectory when she succumbs to her former addiction of sampling the chip/memory of her most recent deceased client and soon finds herself seriously out of her depth. Dark, gloomy, atmospheric—a good closure to a great collection.
Dim Shores Presents Volume 1 is a good cross section of the kind of works Dim Shores publishes. It's an anthology, so not everything is going to be to everyone's taste, especially considering the breadth of stuff Dim Shores publishes. But that also means that, whatever your tastes, you're going to find something you like. You'll also probably read something you normally wouldn't and you may discover something great.
Recommended for anyone looking to discover something new.
This is an awesome collection of wonderfully strange and horrifying stories. There is everything from the Lovecraftian, to the weird victorian mystery, to futuristic nightmares. Absolutely loved the collection. I'm ready for the next one!
I really enjoyed reading all these different stories, and luckily most of them weren't as creepy as the cover suggests. The biggest problem with these short stories is that they leave you wanting so much more! The stories I loved the most were Walls of white, Observer/experiencer and Root and branch.
My favorite stories were in the second half. Some good tales but too many just annoyed me, half the characters were constantly whining and/or pushovers to the point I stopped sympathizing with them. Favorites were Gallaher Calls, The Rider, and Anemone.