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: Weird Fiction
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.
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.