Tag Archives: Ramsey Campbell

Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the Outer, the Other, the Damned and the Doomed

There is a saying that goes, “Everything old is new again.” I’ve always found this to be true. In fiction, we are currently seeing a resurgence of “weird” fiction (not to be confused with the Bizarro movement). This is fiction of an almost speculative nature that happens to be…well, weird. Think of the works of Robert Aickman or Gerald Kersh, even some of Harlan Ellison’s stuff, and you’re nearly there.

Scott Nicolay is one of the newish crop of weird peddlers. And a good one at that.

His collection, Ana Kai Tangata: Tales of the Outer, the Other, the Damned and the Doomed is a surly beast with teeth (I say teeth as they feature prominently in a lot of the terrors Nicolay delivers). After an introduction by the mighty Laird Barron, we open with the tale “Alligators,” wherein a man cannot shed the shackles of his past and the possibly imagined trauma he endured. He takes his daughters to face his fears and discovers that, sometimes, not only does the past stay as it was, it grows hungrier and hungrier. “The Bad Outer Space” is almost like a Bradbury tale, told from the point of view of a child, except for the nameless space horrors that swarm and writhe in it. A wonderfully paranoid excursion.

“Ana Kai Tangata” is the titular story and concerns caving scientists, archaeologists who venture into a cavern system only to encounter terrors they could not have foreseen even through the ever-repeating lens of history. “Eyes Exchange Bank” is one of the weirdest yet compelling. As two friends explore a strange mall, things devolve into a yawning nightmare. “Phragmites” takes us on a quest for a long lost historical site, which as you can probably guess is not the smartest journey to make. Were it not for Nicolay’s prose and deeper story to elevate it, “The Soft Frogs” would almost be equivalent to a B-movie full of slimy monsters.

“Geshafte” is another strange one about appetites. Sort of. Closing out the collection is “Tuckahoe.” This is the most ambitious of them all and one of the strongest. A Detective is called to look into an road accident that left three people dead. There happens to be an extra arm in the mix—one that isn’t human. As the man digs deeper into the case and origins of the extra limb, things get quite bizarre…and dark.

Nicolay writes with strength and purpose. A few times his prose gets heavy and threatens to weigh down the story but it usually recovers. His style is clearly influenced by Ligotti and Lovecraft, and I even saw some early Ramsey Campbell in the mix. I liked this collection, for it did what collections are supposed to do: it showcased the many angles from which the writer can deliver a story. Grab a copy if you can find it, and keep an eye on Scott Nicolay. He’ll be one of the foresurfers of this ever growing weird fiction wave!

Ana Kai Tangata is available through Fedogen & Bremer Publishing.

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Tales of Jack the Ripper

I was eager to get my hands on editor Ross E. Lockhart’s newest anthology, Tales of Jack the Ripper, and I was not disappointed when I did.

There is a definite “weird tale” edge to many of the stories (and poems) in the anthology, which in this reader’s opinion is a GREAT thing. It might even be expected from Lockhart, who also brought you The Book of Cthulhu and its follow-up, The Book of Cthulhu 2. This doesn’t mean you can pigeonhole Tales of Jack the Ripper.

When I cyberstalked Ross Lockhart, he had this to say (before slapping a restraining order on me): “With Tales of Jack the Ripper, I’m not only paying tribute to the 125-year tradition of Ripper literature, I’m also showcasing authors who bring a unique sense of voice and place to their craft. And who offer something new to the Ripper legend.”

You needn’t worry about reheated or threadbare Ripper tropes. Each writer took a fresh look at Saucy Jacky for the anniversary of the terror and fascination he wrought in London in 1888.

Though numinous dread is a thread throughout, there are plenty of “straight (razor)” thriller tales in shades of gothic or gritty noir, and don’t forget transgressive tales of psychopathery (my new word, you’re welcome). There were few spots where I felt certain authors fell into too much telling and bald exposition, but the good in this collection far outshines any such fumbles.

I had my particular favorites, and I know you will too. “Abandon All Flesh,” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, stands out with its knife-sharp writing voice, accentuated by a deft twining of Aztec symbolism with Ripper legend to deliver a masterful story.

In “Jack’s Little Friend,” Ramsey Campbell crafted a dizzying psychological downward spiral and showed us all how creepy second-person POV should be done.

Shock Totem’s very own Mercedes M. Yardley actually gave me toes-to-top chills with “A Pretty for Polly.” I won’t tell you any more about her haunting story, read it yerself.

In fact, you need to get up off your lazy duff and buy this collection. Pick your favorite story and come back to argue with me via the “comment” feature below. Go on, I’ll wait here while you click over to the publisher or Amazon and press BUY.

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