Tag Archives: A.A. Garrison

Chiral Mad

“Chirality” is, by definition, an object or system that does not match up to its mirror image. Hands are a common example of this. And we all know “mad” to mean insane or mentally ill. The two words that title this brilliant anthology basically tell you that these tales of varying madness and insanities will not be like anything you’ve read before. More than a title, it is a promise and one that is delivered upon.

The twenty-eight stories that make up Chiral Mad are all quite good. I will not go into all of them but will touch on my favorites.

I was not blown away by the lead story, Ian Shoebridge’s somewhat hallucinogenic “White Pills,” and worried I’d be wading through a volume full of that sort of thing; but the second tale, by Gord Rollo, laid my fears to rest. His “Lost in a Field of Paper Flowers” is a tragic tale of transcendental revenge that made me smile. A dark little smile.

Gary McMahon delivers another sliver of shimmering disturbia and repressed memory with “Seven Pictures in an Album.” While Monica O’Rourke’s “Five Adjectives” is a brutal diorama of denial and avoidance. Chris Hertz gives us firebug lovers in “There Are Embers.”

Eric J. Guingnard turns in “Experiments in An Isolation Tank,” a tale of inheritance, madness and perception, all darkly shaded in Lovecraftian hues.

In Julie Stipes’s “Not the Child,” a young mother sees the harbingers of death in her neighborhood and discovers it was not by accident. Jeff Strand’s “A Flawed Fantasy” takes the picking-up-a-strange-woman-at-a-bar trope and changes the game with a clever ending.

Jack Ketchum turns in a squirmy tale of marital discourse, nosebleeds, and strange visitations with “Amid the Walking Wounded.”

And then there is “Need,” by Gary A. Braunbeck. (Deep breath.) This might be the best short story I have read years. Its premise is simple: We are all saviors and we are all monsters. Told out of chronological order, it chronicles a tragedy in a town and the mark the heartbreaking event made on those who live there. It’s a haunting tale, one I found, and still find, playing on my mind. It hurts.

None of these stories are bad. Not a single one. Some resonated with me more than others, but that is to be expected. The writing is topnotch, and the subject matter is widely varied and innovative. These folks dug their toes in and went for big game. They have the trophies to show for it.

And if a collection of outstanding horror is not motivation enough for you to plunk down your hard earned money on Chiral Mad, I offer this enticement: All proceeds go to Down’s Syndrome charities. So buy a copy. And another for a friend or relative. Maybe a few more to sock away for Christmas gifts. Support the cause and read these stories.

I applaud Michael Bailey for publishing this…

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You Shall Never Know When the Veil Drops

The thirteen tales collected in You Shall Never Know Security, by J.R. Hamantaschen, are strange. Dark and strange. I’d even go so far as to use the term “bizarro” for some of them. Not all, but a few.

At the ripe old age of twenty-seven, Hamantaschen has a deft hand when it comes to language, but sometimes the wordage grows unwieldy. Sometimes less is more, as they say. One of the few complaints I have with this collection is that some of his word usage made me feel stupid and wishing I had a dictionary close by.

But onto more important things, the stories.

We begin with a high school drama, a la Lovecraft, titled “A Lower Power.” This one is full of adolescent snark and otherworldly snarl. “Wonder” is one of my favorites from the collection and there is not much I can tell without spoiling the magic. “Endemic” is a high tech off-kilter tale of Internet popularity. The literal title of “A Parasite Inside Your Brain” tells you all you need to know about this one.

There is a great deal of black humor to these, none more evident than in “Jordan, When Are You Going to Settle Down, Get Married and Have Us Some Children?” where a very nervous man, saddled with a unique curse, rediscovers why he has remained alone. “College” is an exercise in humanity courses, taken to the Nth degree. “Nothing” is another fist to the forehead. And the volume closes with the darkly brilliant “There Must Be Lights Burning Brighter, Somewhere.” This novella-length tale is compelling and unique. Well worth the price of admission alone.

If you like your fiction unique and on the darker side, if you wonder what Robert Aickman would sound like had he written in the Now instead of the Then…your answer is here.

For When the Veil Drops is the second release from West Pigeon Press, the first being the Hamantaschen collection above. While the previous is a single-author collection, For When the Veil Drops is an anthology featuring work by fifteen authors, Hamantaschen included. It contains some brilliant work, as well as a few that left me shaking my head.

Christian A. Larsen’s “724” gives us a scenario we’ve read before but delivered in a very strong way. “The Chopping Block,” by Doug Murano, is a slightly surreal and brutally effective survival drill. Yarrow Paisley gives us a Lovecraftian plague in “The Persistence of Frondu.” One of the strongest pieces comes from Michael Wehunt, whose “A Coat That Fell” is haunting in its bleakness and raw power.

Another that I favored was Samuel Minier’s “The Third List,” wherein we find out that sometimes, in regards to Santa, two categories is never enough. J.R. Hamantaschen turns in a fantastic neo-noir revenge story with “Oh Abel, Oh Absalom.”

The stories that I didn’t mention were not exactly bad, they just failed to resonate with me for some reason…but trust me, the ones that did make it well worth your time and money. For a new press, and a table of contents full of mostly newer names, this is a strong anthology. I have feeling we’ll be seeing quite a few of these authors for some time to come.

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