May 14, 2017 § Leave a comment
Fitful dreams flickered through the mists of sleep, jumbled up across space and time. Memories floated to the surface of my unconsciousness until they coalesced into one image; Annabella. How she’d laughed with glee at a puppet show in Yellow Park, the jerking dances and squeaking voices making her clap her hands in delight. Her tears, hot and inconsolable, when the news was announced of De Pontellino’s death; days spent locked in her room, playing the master’s cascading etudes on her piano instead of eating; listening over and over to the little music box I had bought her. I saw the day she came to me in my rooms as I was reading my mail. The words she said, having undoubtedly been made to say them by her wretch of a brother. Her face as she turned to leave; her blue eyes, red-rimmed, refusing to meet mine. Her hair tumbling from its amber combs as she fell.
No, she said. Please don’t.
Immense personal thanks to the team at Aether & Ichor for their support and editorial rigour. This wouldn’t exist, certainly not in as complete a form, without them.
May 2, 2017 § Leave a comment
October 24, 2016 § Leave a comment
Almost Insentient, Almost Divine
Undertow Publications (2016)
It’s commonly accepted practice, when reviewing story anthologies, to make brief mention of the work as a whole and then pick out a handful of key tales to work through in detail. This is not one of those reviews.
Although the stories in DP Watt’s collection are almost universally excellent, it’s the sense of world building that develops through them which is the most impressive part of this book; a weirdly out-of-time Mitteleuropa, cut through with theatricals and theatricalities, where masks fall from mannequins only to reveal yet more masks underneath, puppet-mummers snigger in darkened rooms and the human players shimmer between realities, sometimes never to return. Even the handful of stories that don’t fit directly into this milieu are haunted by fragments of a greater whole; mysteriously indistinct figures that lurk outside the circle of firelight or even atavistic thoughts that echo beguilingly from the darkness. The sense of theatre, of the blood-smeared grand-guignol being acted to its terrible conclusion whether wittingly or not, pervades the book and gives the observant reader a more subtle interpretation of that most contentious of themes; the weird. « Read the rest of this entry »
September 27, 2016 § Leave a comment
Year’s Best Weird Fiction: Volume One
Edited by Laird Barron & Michael Kelly
Undertow Publications (2014)
I’ve arrived slightly late to Undertow’s ‘Year’s Best Weird Fiction’ series, this first volume being released in 2014 and presenting the best short tales from the previous year, but the door to the weird is always ajar, so let’s push it open, ignore the protesting creaks and distant mutters, to take look inside.
The conceit of the volume is more clearly explained in its title than in any preamble I could give, and is clarified still further by guest-editor Laird Barron’s short and succinct introduction (his description of ‘the weird’ as “a sense of dislocation from mundane reality; the suspension of the laws of physics, an inversion or subversion of order, a hint of the alien” is as good a one as I’ve come across), that I may as well cut straight to the meat and pull out some of the choicest cuts from this weird platter.
Before that, however, it’s worth noting that this volume is remarkable in that, even if some of the stories are not to my precise tastes, none of them are poor; the content has been so well-distilled down from what must have been a screed of submissions, taken from journals like Shadows & Tall Trees and Fungi amongst others, into so select a congregation that all aspects of the weird are covered – from the slight to the outre and from the subtle to the blatant, all are gathered here – so even those that might not quite hit the mark of personal taste are at least technically interesting for the voice they bring to the storytelling circle. Even so, a good handful of stories stand out for me as worth specific comment… « Read the rest of this entry »
November 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
they cant see that the sky splits open where the light comes through and fire drips down like the putrid drool of a leper it burns and the GREAT HAND reaches down to shovel bodies into its maw when people squabble and squander and sit with their coins as devils dance in the streets leering in the windows grasping at the children with hands of coal and twigs theyre burning theyre burning and none of them notice that they burn as their hair dances in the flames that no wind nor rain can extinguish and the yellow is brighter than gold the red brighter than blood
and nobody sees and nobody sees the blue ghosts walking through walls walking through doors and their hands are all missing and the eyes are all missing and their keening sorrow hides behind the mist in the corners of the streets so only the sad ones hear it only the vacants and the babies in the wells floating in the water with their frogs and rattles of teeth and bones their only chattels their only homes
we see these things and only we the ones of the vortex lodge the walkers in spaces the lingerers between and the subtle touch of nothing.
March 15, 2014 § 1 Comment
Bone charms rattle as she lifts her gnarled paw and silences the muttering of those rag-wrapped figures huddled around her. Her eyes glimmer despite the pearlescent sheen of aged decrepitude that blinds them and she spits once, twice into the sputtering fire before her.
“Ghrek hehg hehhg! Ghrek hahlg harrakh! Ghrek, ghrek heeehhhgg!“
That last, awful syllable stretches out, rising, and is picked up by the mewling group at her feet in splintered disharmony. Smoke puffs up from the flames, lingering briefly in the shallow cave until the cold wind rips it to tatters. She brings silence with a low growl and claw-show. She spits again and smoke rises once again, more persistent than before.
“Ghrek hehg harrakh! Ghrek hahlg hehg hehhg! Ghrek hehg hehhg Ghrek harrakh harrakhiin!“
And there it is. She read the moon well, the wind, the soft ripples in the earth and the grey-white lines of the sky. Smoke, more smoke than could be expected from such a meagre fire, billows up to the roof then slows, stiffens and slides back down the cave’s sweat-slicked sides. Grey smoke black now, black even against the jittering flame-cast shadows of the gloaming cave. She smiles, in her own way, as her brood are engulfed by the solidifying fumes and start to howl, deep and somehow slowed beyond any earthly voice. She hears the Pale Warders, the skull-stick totems out on the foothills, start their wail-song rolling out across the Fen. It sounds distant, fog-dulled. The smoke-mass touches her, flows around her, passes through her and for a moment she is a young leugha again, disobeying her mistress to skulk in the cavern-holes where she first found Him.
And there it is. In the slow-time drag of failing thought, a binding of consciousness given up to the voids and that ur-stuff between the voids. Some willing, some not. No division. A roiling mass of beingness borne forth.
And there it is. The Bubbling Foment. Moulder. The One Beneath. Well Dweller. Ghrek Harrakhiin, Shadow-Behind-Shadows.
And there it is. The Sleeping Cliffs sleep no more.