Sci-Fi and Fantasy Reviewer takes a deep-dive into videogame-based horror with our anthology Terror in 16-bits!
One of the advantages of taking the bus when your commute is 45 minutes to an hour? Well, besides stealing all sorts of interesting characterization from your fellow bus-riders, you can read. A lot.
Pathfinder RPG: Horror Adventures
I’ve been getting back into tabletop roleplaying, specifically the Pathfinder RPG, with a group of coworkers. I picked this 2016 release up last month (before I started riding the bus, admittedly), and I don’t regret it. It’s a great supplement to the game (think Dungeons & Dragons) that takes Pathfinder one step closer to Call of Cthulhu territory. I also recommend this as an inspiration tome for horror writers. Every page has awesome horror ideas and hooks. Check out our most recent episode of Spooklights for the full take: Spooklights #13: The Book of Blasphemous Words
Edited by Ross E. Lockhart
Published by Word Horde
Review by Jonathan Raab
From the dedication:
“To Mary. And her Monster. With thanks.”
Indeed! Shelley’s Monster needs no introduction, although its many reinterpretations and reincarnations over the past (almost!) 200 years might leave people with competing ideas over who and what it is and represents. But anyone with a passing familiarity to film and horror knows the basic premise of man-creates-monster, and surely would recognize some form the Monster has taken over the years, whether in the iconic and stoic visage of Karloff, the misshapen face of Lee, the re-animated ghouls of a certain Stuart Gordon film, or even a seasonal breakfast cereal.
With A Voice That Is Often Still Confused But Is Becoming Ever Louder and Clearer
by J.R. Hamantaschen
Review by Jonathan Raab
Sometimes a dose of cosmic cynicism is more frightening than any cosmic horror.
With A Voice is Hamantaschen’s second collection (I haven’t read the first), but his command of character and pathos is expert-level. This is a collection that can be loosely defined as Horror or Weird, but even when things get all monster-y, the emphasis remains squarely on the internal degradation of mind, morality, and motivation to live of its characters. This is a book that will make you feel bad—if you’re being honest with yourself—as it strips away the little lies and positive thinking platitudes we keep in place to make it through the dreary days and years of our pointless lives.
Did I just bum you out with that? Well, this book will bum you out, too, but in all the right ways.
Bizarro is a genre that allows for my favorite kind of social commentary: on-the-nose. Rainbows Suck by Madeleine Swan represents the strength of the genre: it manages to be funny and thought-provoking in a well, isn’t it obvious what it’s all about kind of way, and in so doing, delivers the sharpest kind of critique of social media, celebrity, and western civilization’s obsession with both.
It’s about a lot of other things, too, including the meaning of art, the self-destructive nature of its pursuit, the line between commercialism and integrity, cultural colonialism, rape, regret, mental health issues, sexuality, and the intersection of too many other serious issues to count. But it works precisely because of the freedom that bizarro fiction offers us: absurdity, literalism, break-neck humor, kaleidoscopic imagery.
If you’re into bizarro, this one is a no-brainer. It’s short, evocative, and doesn’t take itself too seriously about anything. If you need convincing, here’s the gist: our entertainment world (and, it’s implied, more than that, or, more than that because of entertainment’s power over our lives and culture) has been taken over by alien rainbows, who take lonely wannabes and American Idolize them to the nth degree: turning the attention-hungry and the desperate into living works of Art, some grotesque and some beautiful, with most somewhere in-between.
Our protagonist finds herself homeless and without hope, so she takes on indentured servitude as Art in a lesser rainbow entertainment house, where she is forced to act up for attention from the public, lest the button on her lower back cause her pain.
What follows is a drug-fueled love story, and a meditation on the confluence of media/public perception, reality, and internal self-worth. That sounds heady—and it is—but because of Swan’s stream-of-consciousness style and willingness to delve into the gonzo-absurd, such heavy topics are rendered in tasty, bite-sized morsels of gushing rainbow and glitter.
Pyschopomp and Circumstance
By Adrean Messmer
Published by A Murder of Storytellers
Adrean Messmer’s first novel is a complex and varied story about the interconnected social dynamics of one group of post-high school late-teens-early-twenty-somethings and the malevolent force that stalks them. It feels, in spirit, very much like a late 90s/early 00s novelization of a teen-focused horror film a la Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, or Phantoms. Coming from me that is, of course, a compliment.
Published by Unlikely Story
Review by Billy Lyons
Almost from the beginning, clowns have enjoyed a special place in weird fiction and film. In the eighteenth century, there was Poe’s Hop-Frog, a disgruntled jester who took revenge on those who had wronged him by burning them alive. In 1986 Stephen King introduced us to Pennywise, a clown who took great delight in abducting children and storing them in sewers, never to be seen again. The new Millennium gave us Rob Zombie’s Captain Spaulding, a clown as wickedly humorous as he was deadly, and in 2011, American Horror Story: Freak Show featured Twisty, perhaps the most menacing killer clown of them all.
No matter where we first discovered clowns, as horror fans we quickly learned a central truth: not a single one of the grinning bastards can be trusted. Not even Bozo. Somewhere not far beneath the greasepaint lies a lurking horror that waits patiently for the opportunity to do the Devil’s work. Nowhere is this tenet better illustrated than in Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix, an excellent collection of flash fiction published by Unlikely Story.