Title: Ante Mortem
Editor: Jodi Lee
Publisher: Belfire Press
Ante Mortem is a good collection of authors that are the newest guard of the horror genre. All the stories are about the those last moments before dies, either physically or metaphorically. I’m sure there are many out there that think that this would be mostly characters getting killed my some kind of murderer or monster. While those are in there, I have to give credit to the number or ways that theme was used that weren’t. Stories like “Tiny Fingers,” “Hit the Wall,” and “Fetching Narissa” are probably the favorites for that reason. In “Tiny Finger,” Aaron Polson writes a classic ghost tale, but with an ending that could only happen modern times. It is also an ending that you would not expect in most tales of any genre, for the most part. David Dunwoody’s “Hitting the Wall” creeps into that lovecraftian realm of cosmic horror (not “outer space” cosmic but “large and unknowable to human perception” cosmic) with the antagonist being Nature itself. But I would say top billing would go to “Fetching Narissa” where David Chrisom wrote the only story without a physical death in it. I think it is a more chilling and stronger story for it.
There is good cross over appeal in some of these stories. For instance, “Hitting the Wall” is a dark sci-fi story with its Mother Nature antagonist. “The Dubious Magic of Elliot Prince” could easily be read and enjoyed by the Urban Fantasy audience. It, along with “Beauty Ritual” are also stories that deal with gay characters.
What they all have in common is interesting new takes on many classic conventions and tropes of horror that seem original and not just rehashes. You like zombies? Gina Ranalli is your woman to read. Werewolves? “Territory” is your story. I’ll leave the rest for you to discover.
All and all, the highs and lows of the book even each other out, leaving a fairly even reading experience in the end. A solid anthology collection that an horror or non-horror reader can enjoy fully.
Horror Reader Level:
“Tiny Fingers” by Aaron Polson: Beginner
“The Good Friend” by Natalie L. Sin: Intermediate
“To Serve the Beginning” by Gina Ranalli: Intermediate
“Hit the Wall” by David Dunwoody: Intermediate
“From the Bowels” by Benjamin Kane Ethridge: Fan
“The Dubious Magic of Elliot Prince” by K.V. Taylor: Intermediate
“Hunger Pains” by Myrrym Davies: Beginner
“Fetching Narissa” by David Chrisom: Beginner
“Beauty Ritual” by John Grover: Intermediate
“Territory” by Kelly M. Hudson: Intermediate
“A Little Help in the Kitchen” by Jeff Parish: Fan
Average Reader Level: Intermediate
Posted in Book Spotlight
Tagged #wih, aaron poison, anthology, belfire press, Benjamin Kane Ethridge, David Chrisom, David Dunwoody, Gina Ranalli, horror, intermediate level horror, Jeff Parish, jodi lee, John Grover, K.V. Taylor, Kelly M. Hudson, LGBT, Myrrym Davies, Natalie l sin, short stories, small press
Title: Shades of Blood and Shadow
Author: Angeline Hawkes
Publisher: Dark Regions Press
When it comes to horror, the breadth of subject matter is limited only to the imagination of the writer. But, even with that large spectrum to choose from, there are subjects that tend to be missed or glossed over for the most part. One of them is history. There are some out there that write historical horror, but the ratio of them to everyone else is very low. Shades of Blood and Shadow is one of those few. Stories steeped in historical context or settings fills most of this collection. Hawkes has a great way of either writing stories within historical settings or creating the stories that are her truth that started the myths and folk lore we know. “Fallen” was a great example as a story about one of the fallen angels that rebelled against God with Lucifer. “The Relic: Father Santiago’s Bones” takes place during the Spanish Inquisition.
While most of these stories are supernatural, it doesn’t take away for the killing fact of some of the horrors that humanity has caused. “The Tour Guide” shows the fact that the scientifically advanced culture of the Mayans still had a barbarous side. “All Becomes As Wormwood” looks at the possibilities in the ruins of Chernobyl. Both historical insights to the fact that even with all our advancements, enlightenment, and knowledge, humans can still cause horrors. Sometimes we mean to. Others are completely accidental. But many times it is because we are too sure of ourselves. That pride in ourselves, our thoughts and beliefs, are usually the main culprit in the most terrifying moments of our past and present.
Horror Reading Level:
The Relic: Father Santiago’s Bones: Fan
All Becomes As Wormwood: Intermediate
The Heir: Fan
The Highwayman of Epping Forest: Fan
Last Breath: Intermediate
Incident Beside the Striped Tent: What the Fruit Seller Saw: Fan
The Piper of Glamis Hill: Intermediate
El Reptil Rey: Intermediate
The Tour Guide: Fan
The Woe Tale of Fiona MacLean: Beginner
Average Rating: Intermediate
Posted in Book Spotlight
Tagged #wih, angeline hawkes, book spotlight, Christianity, collection, dark regions press, historical, horror, intermediate level horror, myth, pagan, romance, short story, small press, women in horror
We are lucky enough to have Jodi Lee, Editor in Chief of Belfire Press and The New Bedlam Project, take a moment out of her hectic schedule and answer a quick fire for us. Writer, editor, mother, she has seen many the permutations of Horror. After years of editing for places like Apex Publications, LBF Books, Lachesis Publishing, and freelancing, she started up one on the newest small presses that is building a name for itself. Let’s see what she has to say about the state of Horror.
Title: The Language of Dying
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Publisher: PS Publishing
The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough is a clean, eloquent fiction piece told through the eyes of of a middle child who is taking care of her father dying of lung cancer. But, and this is a very significant but, to each reader it can be a different kind of tale.
For those that have had to deal with the lose of a love own to any kind or wasting illness, be it cancer or something else, it is tale of affirmation that the complex emotions you feel through the whole process of watching a love die. Pinborough’s honesty and realism in the emotions of not only the Point of View character, but her four siblings as well are the driving force of the story. Pinborough proves that it great writing and great talent creates that kind of honesty in a story.
For those unacquainted with death, it can be an almost Borgesian horror tale. Pinborough’s style has matured in this novella. And I say matured for a specific reason, and it is not to be condescending or patronizing. As I writer I have seen the growth of my own writing over the years. But for many writers, it takes a long time to get out of the process of learning, adding, and refining your style though a multitude of tales and only in later half of your writing career to find not just the voice of your writing but the voice of where all your stories come from, the voice of your Muse. Pinborough has achieved, at the very least, the first stage of writing her Muse’s voice. A part of that voice is always going to be a little bit frightening in her tales. Like all that start in horror, she sees the darkness not as purely evil, but a universal constant.
For those that have a desire for freedom for the lives they are in and have lived for so many years, it is a tale where dreams and fantasies can come true. That endings, while not emblazoned with “Happily ever after,” can still be happy endings where dreams do come true. Some dreams just take longer to be realized because one must live through nightmares first.
Three very distinct tales, all be told at the same time. It is real. It is wise. And, it is magical to read and experience.
Horror Reader Level: Beginner
Posted in Book Spotlight
Tagged #wih, book spotlight, cancer, death, family, fiction, horror, magical realism, ps publishing, sarah pinborough, small press, women in horror