I was introduced to Miskowski’s work at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulhucon last year in Portland, Oregon. I picked up a copy of her shortI was introduced to Miskowski’s work at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and Cthulhucon last year in Portland, Oregon. I picked up a copy of her short story “Stag in Flight” and am glad it didn’t get consigned to the Eternal To Read Pile (The pile. We shall not speak of the pile.) I was immediately drawn to her style and afterwards looked forward to reading more, now fulfilled with Strange is the Night.
Strange is the Night collects thirteen of Miskowski’s short stories, including the aforementioned “Stag in Flight”. The stories are definitely in the category of the Weird. While there are some moments of surrealism involved from time to time, the draw of the stories that is most consistent throughout them is what I can only express as the bizarre hidden within the ordinary. Miskowski has a beautiful gift of expressing two worlds at once; the normal, sometimes banal world and the inner, utterly strange world the former is filtered through. A good example of this is “Fur”, a story that almost meandered until the final paragraph when the crux of the story was revealed and it became a completely different story with disturbing focus.
Miskowski’s marriage of the two worlds left me wondering many times if a particular story was supernatural or not in nature. I still haven’t come to a decision on that, and am not sure if it even matters. The stories achieve their sorts of closures, and none of them are comfortable. I’ve found myself ruminating on “what really happened” in different stories many times since finishing the book, and that’s when I knew it had me. Miskowski is definitely a strong voice in Weird literature, and you would not be doing yourself a disservice in reading Strange is the Night.
I first read Grau’s work in his collection The Nameless Dark. It contained a story entitled “Free Fireworks” which became one of my all-time favoriteI first read Grau’s work in his collection The Nameless Dark. It contained a story entitled “Free Fireworks” which became one of my all-time favorite short stories, not just within any particular genre. I was excited to learn he had done a novella, and it does not disappoint.
The fair warning I should give you is that if you like the weird in your weird fiction to kick in quickly, you’re going to want to get past that before you read this novella. The story revolves around Hettie, a teenage girl who is awkward in every way you can conceive of. One day she meets Avery, the classic popular girl in school, and a brief but impactful encounter between them starts Hettie on a twisted path of obsession with Avery. Avery becomes everything that Hettie wants and needs to be. When Avery is struck down with a terminal disease, forcing her to be hospitalized, Avery doubles down upon her obsession and starts exploring dark options to saving her truest friend.
And then it gets weird.
They Don’t Come Home Anymore is a story that creates its impetus through deep dives into the confusion of being a teenager, the desperation of acceptance amongst people who seem to be there just to make you miserable, and the yearning for connection. That impetus then leads to dark things that can be the truth behind mythologies, and the capability of obsession to overcome the terror of facing that is a horror unto itself. As I said the really weird part doesn’t kick in until the end, but everything leading into that should not be mistaken for being comfortable because it’s more common. Get this in your eyeballs. ...more
Black Pantheons: Collected Tales of Gnostic Dread is the first of Lawson’s work that I’ve had the opportunity to read, and this collection shows a fanBlack Pantheons: Collected Tales of Gnostic Dread is the first of Lawson’s work that I’ve had the opportunity to read, and this collection shows a fantastic range of voice and original creativity. Despite the title, the eleven stories in this collection do not directly tie into Gnosticism. Rather, there is a reoccurring theme of primordial darkness that threads through a majority of the stories. There are hints of a larger cosmology at play but nothing is really fleshed out on that level, either intentionally or not I’m not sure of.
Personal favorites include:
“Demons of Manzanar”: An interesting insight into the subtlety of evil.
“Pinocchio & the Black Pantheon”: A highly entertaining, dark, original take on the classic story. Strong tip of the hat to Lovecraft, but clearly owned by Lawson’s personal voice.
“The Carousel Horse”: One of my high favorites simply because of how different it is from the other stories. A definite thematic curveball, so do not go to this story immediately. Read it after a few of the others.
"Labyrinth of Winter’s End- A Devoured Story": A brutal tale of darkness from many different streams. It’s rather hard to decide who you’re rooting for by the end of this story, it goes that grim.
"Paramnesia": A great combination of personal horror and supernatural horror. Lawson does some excellent character building in this one, a trait that really adds to some heartbreaking moments in the story.
All in all, Black Pantheons: Collected Tales of Gnostic Dread shows an excellent spectrum of talent and vision from a great, new writer to watch. Definitely give it a look....more
The Secret of Ventriloquism is best described as “disquieting”. With some of the collection, such as the first story “The Mindfulness of Horror PractiThe Secret of Ventriloquism is best described as “disquieting”. With some of the collection, such as the first story “The Mindfulness of Horror Practice”, there is a direct nihilistic assault barely disguised as a meditation. In other stories, such as “20 Simple Steps to Ventriloquism” and “The Secret of Ventriloquism”, the shredding of perceived realities are still there, but much deeper and require some coaxing out in order for the horror to start taking hold. The majority of the stories revolve around the art and science of the Ventriloquists, not really creating what we would call a new mythos but more of a dreadful existential cosmology. There are no gods here per se, simply because the value of worship, both on the part of the would-be worshipper and the would-be worshipped, is zero. Certain characters and creatures make appearances through various stories, creating a world of some cohesion throughout, but those associations are the only things that add the comfort of familiarity between the stories. Padgett is a student of Ligotti, and the best kind of student in that he took what his teacher had to provide and created something completely different and wonderful with it.
This collection is the first exposure I’ve had to Gwendolyn Kiste’s work, and if I can’t find her earlier works I will definitely be searching for herThis collection is the first exposure I’ve had to Gwendolyn Kiste’s work, and if I can’t find her earlier works I will definitely be searching for her future work as it comes out. And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is comprised of fourteen stories that show a familiar world with deep currents of bizarre beauty, pain, and sheer anomaly running through it that create a tapestry of weird horror unlike anything I’ve read before. I’m not going to give examples simply because it’s unique with every story and does nothing to try to create comparison where there is none. Suffice it to say Kiste has a wonderful gift of taking elements of life that we may take for granted or may think don’t affect us at all, then show a gem within it which can evoke wonder or sorrow or terrifying empathy, all of them at the same time not being out of the question.
And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe has many stories that literally are a hard mile's walk in someone else’s shoes, and a large part of the surreal beauty and tragedy that weave throughout these tales is wondering how they do it. Kiste is a beautiful and disturbing new voice in literary horror, and any who enjoys reading it or who is just looking for an exciting new avenue of the of the Weird is doing themselves a grave disservice if they do not pick it up....more
I’d seen Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales mentioned multiple times in a short period of time on social media by people whose opinion I respect a lI’d seen Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales mentioned multiple times in a short period of time on social media by people whose opinion I respect a lot, so I felt pretty confident I was going to have a good time of it and was not disappointed. Slatsky’s collection of thirteen stories traverse a wide spectrum, each one sewn into its own world on a precipice which may tip a single person or everything over the edge.
His voice in each story is consistently unique, guiding the reader through surreal and disturbing horror that does not allow the reader to take a passive role in the story being told. There is very little closure in these stories in the traditional sense. You will be taken to the point where words can give you a notion of where the bizarre course of events in a particular story, then leaves you there to fend for yourself. There is a lot of beauty there, and absolutely none of it is what you would call pretty.
I would not be putting my neck out to say that Slatsky is one of the strongest, new voices in the Weird, and eagerly look forward to more from him. ...more