Shock Totem #10 (Jan 2016)
- Closing for Submissions
- Shock Totem Returns!
- Apex Publications Acquires Shock Totem Book Line
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 8
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 7
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 6
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 5
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 4
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 3
- The Head, the Tail, the Whole Damn Thing: Musings on Jaws, Part 2
Like what you've read here or in the magazine? Please consider donating.
Tag Archives: J.R. Hamantaschen
I am a big fan of Hamantaschen’s debut collection, You Shall Never Know Security. His approach to what they call “weird” fiction is a simple one: take the everyday situations that make up day-to-day living and the people that navigate them, and introduce weird stuff. Sometimes sort of weird stuff, sometime really really weird stuff. And it works.
The opening tale, “Vernichtungsschmerz,” is a story of four girls and the strange acquaintance made by one of them. It explores death and its inevitability, quite head on. This is followed with “A Related Corollary,” wherein we meet a pair of women, one in the grips of depression, and the other seemingly eager to help. “The Gulf of Responsibility” concerns Alex, a social worker who becomes obsessed with one of his cases, a woman who is pregnant again and seeks to terminate the pregnancy. There are a lot of issues and topics grappled in this story, all handled in a very steady, even manner.
“Soon Enough This Will Essentially Be a True Story” is about a girl who makes a hobby of entering Goodreads giveaways and reviewing her prizes. One day, she receives a strange book from a strange author and it sets of a chain of events and violence that would be ridiculous were they not possible. “I’m a Good Person, I Mean Well and I Deserve Better” is the account of a decent fellow who goes on a date and takes an ill-timed potty break during which a tragedy occurs. He then wrestles with his feelings and the judgments of others and monsters. Strange discoveries at a Lovecraft Convention come to light in “Cthulu, Zombies, Ninjas and Robots; Or, a Special Snowflake in an Endless Scorching Universe.”
There are other stories, but all of these excruciatingly long titles are killing my arthritic fingers so I’ll leave it at this: Hamantaschen has a knack for crafting what seems to be an unwieldy tale, but plies it with enough realism and logic to make it work. The ridiculous even seems at home next to the cynical and down-to-earth. His tales are peopled by real and richly crafted characters.
With a Voice… is available from Amazon. Or probably, if you contact the author through Goodreads. Or say his name three times while standing in the pale moonlight.
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.