Published by Dunhams Manor Press
Ancient civilizations are rising from the earth. Pseudo-religious philosophy rewrites itself in your journal. And every myth, rumor, and conspiracy theory you’ve heard, and every creeping suspicion you’ve ever had about yourself and the world—is true. It’s all true, and more.
Grab your dictionary, your alternative history texts, and watch the skies. Alectryomancer and Other Weird Tales by Christopher Slatsky is a compelling, frightening, mind-altering journey into the depths of unknowable outer space and inner space alike. It’s a bad mushroom trip while watching Ancient Aliens intercut with Super 8 footage of your darkest childhood memories.
Each story’s characters, settings, and laws of reality and consciousness are unique. But they all share the same general thematic conceit: as the characters inevitably suffer some sort of apocalyptic psychological breakdown, so too does the world upon which they’ve based their foolish assumptions about cause and effect, good and evil, history and fiction, meaning and chaos.
If that sounds heady, it is. It’s also a wild ride. While several of the stories are more experimental and introspective, most of them are also compelling and entertaining. Slatsky’s writing here gives you just enough bread crumbs as you make your way into the nightmare forest, step by anxious step. While his interests in philosophy, alternative history, occultism, cryptozoology, ufology, and high strangeness are all on full display, he doesn’t lose sight of the fact that horror audiences want to be entertained. Sometimes the best form of entertainment is being strung along, first by interesting characters and settings, then by a smattering of hints of the otherworldly, and finally by the promise of seeing what’s behind the pulsing, slime-ridden Door of Mystery. With each story in this collection, Slatsky asks us: Are you sure you want to know what’s on the other side?
About half of the stories here are reprints of his previously published work, including his contributions to anthologies as well as his chapbooks. But even if you’ve read his work before, this collection is still worth picking up, as the new stories are just as strong as his previous work. Put simply, this is one of the best books I’ve read all year. I sincerely look forward to revisiting some of these stories, and have already begun recommending the collection to friends.
Standouts include: “An Infestation of Stars” about occultism and insect worship; “Corporautolysis” which is a tale of fungal infestation and corporate drone horror; “No One is Sleeping in This World” as a tale of urban decay and nihilistic artistic adventurism; “The Ocean is Eating Our Graves” about Native American reservation culture and succeeding waves of genocide and occupation; “Tellurian Façade” about underground civilizations, veteran paranoia, and child abuse; “Film Maudit” about forbidden film and a certain Tillinghast Resonator; and my personal favorite, “A Plague of Naked Movie Stars”, a throwback to childhood Halloweens and Satanic cult paranoia.
Slatsky’s knowledge of the occult, alternative, and conspiratorial dwarfs my own, which is no small feat. His stories seemed almost perfectly tailored to my taste and interest for the High Strange. He often relies on references to the field that may be lost on the average reader (more than a few were lost on me), but those examples only help to hint at the broader, unseen world that so many of us suspect but often cannot see. The title tale, “Alectryomancer”, abuses this conceit somewhat, with not much in the way of payoff. Still, it was a strong story, and more than makes up for the author’s indulgence in pseudoacademic rambling with beautiful, terrifying imagery and bizarre characterizations.
While it may be easy for us to ignore the various references to occultism and conspiratorial history, Slatsky’s characters do not have the luxury of ignorance. What is secret does not remain hidden. Sanity is suddenly a commodity; each world descending into inexplicable, psychedelic chaos, births and deaths, rebirths and undeaths.
Then again, who’s to say any of these characters were sane in the first place?
Who’s to say the same of us?
Tellurian Façades, indeed.
5/5 Hyperboloid Ceilings with Infinite Expansion