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: Robert Aickman
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.
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.