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
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Tag Archives: Patrick O’Neill
I have been a lifelong aficionado of anthologies. I love reading a story or two before turning in for the night or during my lunch break. As such, I was anxious to read Darkness Ad Infinitum upon its release. The cover is gorgeous and I had heard good things about Villipede. So when I received a copy, I hoped for a jaw-dropping array of dark and scary fiction. I got that. Almost.
The collection opens with “Longboat,” by Becky Regalado, and while it is very well written, it is one of the Mobius strip kind of tales. You know the ones, where the end is the same as the beginning and you find that the story plays on an infinite loop. Those annoy me. I would have easily forgiven this, were it not for the fact that there are a few other “loopy” tales in this collection. Still, I did enjoy her story. The imagery is superb.
I’ll just touch on the ones that really won me over. Adam Millard’s “In the Walls” is a tale of Lovecraftian terrors lurking behind the sheetrock, and it’s a good one. Being a longtime fan of Golem tales, I dug “Earth Risen,” by Pete Clark. “The Westhoff Version,” by Patrick O’Neill, reminded me of a nastier Roald Dahl, full of subtle menace and shadowy ick. John McCaffrey’s “Brannigan’s Window” was wonderful, a very strong tale of renovation and eviction.
Jonathan Moon’s “Hungry As the Wind” is a blast of a tale about bounty hunters and their ill-fated venture into haunted woods. David Dunwoody turns in one of the weirdest tales, “The Good Man,” which opens on the aftermath of a robbery and takes sharp turns into nightmare territory with vampiric beings and redemption dancing cheek to cheek. “The Undertaker’s Melancholy” is a sprawling, crawling prose piece by Sydney Leigh. The words are gorgeous and bite with tiny teeth.
Most of these stories were well written, I just found that many had a “been there many times” feel. I had hoped for a collection of darkly strange and unsettlingly surreal tales, and while there are some of those in here, I wished for more. That being said, it is a gorgeous thing to behold, visually stunning. Each story is accompanied with an illustration, the cover art by Wednesday Wolf is amazing, and the overall layout and execution is just as beautiful. There is a lot of wonderful work in here, and just because it failed to register on the WOW-o-meter, it doesn’t mean it won’t with you.
Darkness Ad Infinitum is available via Villepede Publications.
“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…