Friday, February 12, 2016

Review: Leena Krohn: Collected Fiction

I like snow. I like ice. I like cold things.

There is something about that which makes us shiver that sharpens the senses, flints focus. It also tends to turns reflection inward. Is that why Scandinavians all seems so...evolved?

Leena Krohn: Collected Fiction (Cheeky Frawg Books, 2015) is a perfect introduction to the gorgeous writing of a Finnish writer I cannot believe took me this long to discover.

With a foreword by Jeff Vandermeer, the collection is a hefty treasure, with more than 800 pages of dreamlike, haunting language that will stay with you long after you've done-and-dusted the final page.

It's difficult to pick favourites, but in a pinch, I will single out the novella Datura, or a Figment Seen by Everyone as a personal favourite. Slipping in and out of reality (or reality as we like to clarify it), the novella plays tricks with the reader at a level that eventually construes an entirely untrustworthy narrative (yay!). BUT - Krohn's beautifully subdued writing renders this instability somehow stable, contributing to the overall surreal effect of a story that cuts bone marrow close - if we're willing to honestly read what is on the page.

Pereat Mundus will also fry your metaphysical brain, but in a way you will be forever grateful for.

Birds talk. There are giant insects. The nature of intelligence and reality is skilfully probed and prodded - sometimes with a little help from nature. And what is Nature?

If any of the above rings your bell, I highly recommend reading Leena Krohn: Collected Fiction. Read it. Then read it again. Then put it aside, but close by, because you're going to want to read it again.

Magpie Bonus: Gorgeous cover.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Review: "A Head Full of Ghosts"

I read Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts in about a week, which is pretty much rocket-speed when you consider that I am no longer a teenager who can spend two days behind a closed bedroom door, reading a novel over the course of one week-end.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS (depending on what you consider spoilers)

Having been raised Protestant (not zealously, but enough so that I went to church just about every Sunday morning, including Christmas morning BEFORE presents), and having had an acute anxiety disorder (for which I need to take medication every day) for the better part of 15 years, A Head Full of Ghosts struck a very close chord with me.

Tremblay plays off the psychological horror of being afflicted with a mental illness against the seductive power of religion as presenting an instant cure in return for unquestioning faith. The novel pits this tension within the context of familial relationships, the likes of which are, inevitably and inherently already imbued with their own complex set of tensions.

The previously-mentioned Protestantism (now entirely lapsed and well-buried), as well as my interests in psychology and the mind, has kindled in me a fascination with the concept of possession. A Head Full of Ghosts addresses this both subtly and horrifically, but the horror here is compounded by the novel's domestic setting, rendering it an all too real potential experience for all of us.

I don't generally read YA, and I suppose, because of the novel's "retelling" narrative framework, it can be labelled as such. This tactic renders the adult Meredith, who relates her childhood experiences to a journalist writing a book about the incident, to some degree an unreliable narrator. Does she correctly remember the events that took place when she was only 8 and her sister 14? Did she interpret them correctly at the time? This sense of uncertainty runs throughout A Head Full of Ghosts; at times, the novel is clearly about the breakdown of a family, yet there are instances where the uncanny creeps in and the reader is left to wonder - is there something more going on?

The novel also comments on how modern ideas about demonic possession has influenced our psychological response to such a notion. Tremblay addresses the relentless psychological power of religion as a means to an end, as well as the consequences of such blind trust without preaching to his reader, something that is not always easy, considering the subject matter.

If you are looking for an engaging read, and you have a penchant for the psychological and/or religious, I highly recommend A Head Full of Ghosts. Be prepared to come to your own conclusions, however; there are not always definitive answers, but this is an aspect of the novel that I believe renders it even more powerful, and certainly, more thought-provoking.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Campaign Exclusive E-copies of "Dreams from the Witch House" have been sent!

Dreams from the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror Ebooks have E-mailed to all Backers!

Attention Dreams from the Witch House campaign backers: we are happy to report that we have e-mailed each and every backer the download links for both the EPUB and MOBI editions of the ebook with instructions on how to open/use the files.

If you did not receive this e-mail, please let us know at:

Trade paperbacks will be entering production by November 10th, meaning fulfillment of the paperbacks should begin by early December. Of course, we'll keep everyone up-to-date on this process as the paperbacks get closer to the fulfillment stage.

Deluxe hardcover editions are still in pre-production and not expected to enter production until December/January due to signature sheets needing to be circulated.

For now, we hope that everyone enjoys the ebook editions of Dreams from the Witch House. As you'll notice, every story is accompanied by a full page color illustration by Daniele Serra, thanks to you guys, our backers, for unlocking multiple stretch goals.

Thanks again to all of you for your patience and support, and please make sure to e-mail us with any questions or concerns at:

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Book Review: The Monstrous

Edited by Ellen Datlow
Publisher: Tachyon Publications, 2015

“Knowledge comes at a price, my mother would have said, and often that price is our sense of well-being. Or our innocence. Or our ability to sleep without nightmares.”

“The Beginning of the Year Without Summer” – Caitlin R. Kiernan, The Monstrous

Beautiful Monsters.
We love them, most recently evidenced by TV shows like Dexter and Hannibal. It’s the vicarious thrill of experiencing the human grotesque at a safe distance. To this end, I have noticed a trend in both television and horror films of late where two things are very obvious: (i) we are the monsters and (ii) we cannot escape the monsters.                                                                  

This is a trend I'm happy to say is also beginning to infiltrate mainstream horror fiction and a significant number of stories in Ellen Datlow’s latest offering are either obviously such stories or can be read as such.

The stories included in The Monstrous are diverse enough to create a collection that will appeal to a number of literary tastes. Yet like many superior anthologies, together, they still provide readers with a cohesive whole. Some stories are quiet and catch you by surprise, such as Glen Hirshberg's "Miss I'll-Kept Runt", which begins innocuously with summer wind and Pudding Pops, but slowly and menacingly devolves into what must surely be a parent's worst nightmare come true. Not so quiet in its terror is "The Last, Clean, Bright Summer" by Livia Llewellyn. The title of the story should serve as a fair warning to anyone lulled into a false sense of security by the dulcet intimations that such a title might infer. Llewellyn’s story is ruthlessly brutal|, the resulting imagery shockingly intoxicating; like some horrific nightmare that cannot be escaped until it finally runs its course.

"A Natural History of Autumn" by Jeffrey Ford is a dreamlike narrative that evokes Hayao Miyazaki – strikingly surreal images and descriptions that deliver terror in the way otherness bleeds into what we view as our everyday reality. Many of the stories collected here subverts our ideas about what is ‘normal’ or ‘reality’, a tactic used to good effect to introduce the reader to the disconcertingly close relationship we have with the Other. This thing we think we know nothing about turns out to be something we know very well. A young child (flesh of our flesh), stories that we’ve known all our lives as myths but ended up being true (do we birth the monstrous?), abuse at the hands of those who are meant to protect us (nothing – and no-one is what it seems). In Caitlin R. Kiernan's "The Beginning of the Year Without Summer", nothing and everything matters. Our lives exist on a precipice, awaiting the next roll of the dice. And if the call is a bad one, we might just discover what we are truly capable of.

The 20 stories collected here do not set us apart from the notions of horror contained within it. I hope this is a trend that continues. Perhaps it’s the result of a world becoming more self-aware (here’s hoping!); regardless, with The Monstrous, Ellen Datlow has once again delivered a collection of high-quality fiction that’s sure to please a wide variety of horror readers.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

dream space

In a dream last night, I saw a photo of myself in a magazine doing something in a previous dream that I'd had several months ago. I immediately recognised the photo and the place at which it had been taken (not as having been a dream within the dream, but as part of my overall dream reality).

I have places, whole buildings that remain the same and that I often return to in my dreams. But this kind of dream reflection was a first, at least, that I can remember. So that was cool.