Paula Guran Reviews Never Have I Ever: Stories by Isabel Yap

Never Have I Ever: Stories, Isabel Yap (Small Beer 978-1-61873-182-1, $17.00, 248pp, tp) March 2021.

Isabel Yap’s debut collection Never Have I Ever offers a wide variety of stories. They range from the definitely horrific “Good Girls” (The Retreat is a place intended to reform bad girls; whether it works on its young inmates is, in general, an open question, but it definitely doesn’t work for the monstrous Kaye) ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews All the Murmuring Bones and Red New Day by An­gela Slatter

All the Murmuring Bones, A.G. Slatter (Titan 978-1-78909-434-3, $15.95, 368pp, tp) March 2021.

All the Murmuring Bones is A.G. Slatter’s (a semi-pseudonym of Australian author Angela Slatter) first novel-length work set in the Irish-flavored world of her acclaimed Sourdough and Other Stories and The Bitter­wood Bible. For fans of Slatter, that’s probably all that needs to be said to compel immediate acquisition. The rest of you, even ...Read More

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Gary K. Wolfe and Paula Guran Review Burning Girls and Other Stories by Veronica Schanoes

Burning Girls and Other Stories, Veronica Schanoes (Tordotcom 978-1-250781505, $25.99, 336pp, hc) March 2021.

“History is a fairy tale”, a subtitle in Veronica Schanoes’s story “Emma Goldman Takes Tea with the Baba Yaga”, could almost serve as an epigram for the whole of her first collection, Burning Girls and Other Stories. Schanoes, who is a scholar of fairy tales, feminism, and Jewish literature and history, brings all of ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Black Static, The Dark, Nightmare, and Fantasy

Black Static 11-12/20 The Dark 11/20, 12/20 Nightmare 12/20, 1/21 Fantasy 12/20, 1/21

I can’t really point out the best in Black Static #77. All six stories are the sort that stay with you and deserve at least brief mention (although Steve Rasnic Tem’s may be my favorite.) A vacation in a tropical paradise turns horrific in novelette “The Guardian” by Philip Fracassi. As tired as I ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: LCRW, Uncanny, and Apex

Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet 9/20 Uncanny 11-12/20 Apex 1/21

I write this as annus horribilis 2020 ends. Al­though I have no intention of continuing the new year in this manner, I simply have too many stories and not enough inches in which to cover them. Apologies to writers whom I may be slighting, but his time out I’ll be concentrating on the more outstanding stories in each featured periodical. (Or ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Deuces Down, Edited by George R.R. Martin & Melinda Snodgrass

Deuces Down, George R.R. Martin & Melinda Snodgrass, eds. (Tor 978-1-250-22720-1, $28.99, 352pp, hc) January 2021.

Deuces Down is both the 16th and 30th book in the Wild Cards series. The anthology was first published in 2002; this new version is refreshed with added stories by Carrie Vaughn, Mary Anne Mohanraj, and Caroline Spector. Although re­ferred to on the title page as a mosaic novel, it remains – despite ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews In That Endlessness, Our End by Gemma Files

In That Endlessness, Our End, Gemma Files (Grimscribe 978-0-578-75976-0, $20, 342pp, tp) January 2021.

Fifteen recent (the earliest appears to have been published in 2017) stories by Canadian writer Gemma Files combine to make a terrifically ter­rifying collection, In That Endlessness, Our End. Files doesn’t exactly expose the horror found in the mundane because, once the thin veneer of normalcy is scratched, very little is mundane about her ...Read More

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The Year in Review: 2020 by Paula Guran

I often shy away from these annual summations. Even in late December, I haven’t seen everything, so it is never truly complete. Plus, I always fear I will forget something important. Nevertheless, I’m giving it a shot this year. After all, despite 2020 being a horrific year in the real world, there was a lot of great horror and other dark fiction.

My favorite debut of the year is most ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Root Magic by Eden Royce

Root Magic, Eden Royce (Walden Pond, 978-0-062-89957-6, $16.99, 352pp, hc) January 2021.

Root Magic is an entrancing story of fam­ily love, legacy, and strength; of finding oneself; and preserving a connection to the past. Intended for ages eight through 12, the book can be thoroughly enjoyed by adults.

Vividly set on one of South Carolina’s marshy Sea Islands, the story begins on September 2, 1963, with the funeral of ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Best Horror of the Year Volume Twelve, Edited by Ellen Datlow

The Best Horror of the Year Volume Twelve, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Night Shade Books 978-1-59780-973-3, $15.99, 480pp, tp) October 2020.

Ellen Datlow’s career as the doyen of “year’s best” editors began with The Year’s Best Fantasy: First Annual Col­lection in 1988 (with co-editor Terri Windling), and the series was renamed The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror with the third annual col­lection. After 21 volumes, the series ended, but Datlow ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny, Black Static, The Dark, Nightmare, and Tor.com

Uncanny 9-10/20 Black Static 9-10/20 The Dark 9/20, 10/20 Nightmare 10/20, 11/20 Tor.com 9/2/20

Uncanny #36 offers five rewarding originals. T. Kingfisher‘s terrific science fictional retelling of Hansel and Gretel, “Metal Like Blood in the Dark“, is a grim but triumphant tale.

The engaging “Anchorage” by Samantha Mills involves a spacefaring crew beset with guilt, a librarian of sorts who also serves as a confessor ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Baffling, Weird Horror, and Fantasy

Baffling 10/20 Weird Horror Fall ’20 Fantasy 11/20

Fall 2020 brought a new online magazine, a new print periodical, and the return of a digital magazine.

Baffling launched October 1, 2020 with four “unapologetically queer and unashamedly weird” stories of under 1,200 words. (Going forward they will publish one flash story a month on Patreon, compile the offerings quarterly, then publish that for free online.) Baffling #1 offers a welcome ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Midnight Circus by Jane Yolen

The Midnight Circus, Jane Yolen (Tachyon Publications 978-1-616-96340-8, $16.95, 256pp, tp) November 2020.

The prolific, multi-award-winning Jane Yolen is a bona fide legend and, at least to those of us on the darker side of genre, has long been noted for what Theodora Goss calls – in her excellent foreword – the darkness “in much of her work, both fiction and poetry, because her writing is grounded in history ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Monster Movies by David J. Schow

Monster Movies, David J. Schow (Cimarron Street Books, 979-8-651-97809-0 $14.95, 280pp, tp) September 2020.

David J. Schow culled 30 years of his stories (1983-2013) for 13 to fit the titular theme of new collection Monster Movies. Or, more precisely, as the author states: “What happens to the monsters after the movie is over? That’s the backbeat, the true north for much of this book.” Except it is also ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies by John Langan

Children of the Fang and Other Genealogies, John Langan (Word Horde 978-1-939-90560-4 $19.99, 388pp, tp) August 2020.

Stephen Graham Jones, in his introduction to Chil­dren of the Fang and Other Genealogies, briefly sums John Langan’s work up, as well as anyone can, as “both delivering us some compelling horror but at the same time interrogating the basic form of horror.” In his appealing story notes, Langan acknowledges the ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Velocities: Stories by Kathe Koja

Velocities: Stories, Kathe Koja (Meerkat Press 978-1-946-15423-1, $15.95, 200pp, tp) May 2020.

Since Kathe Koja’s Velocities came out in the spring, I am playing catch-up a bit with this, but it deserves a spotlight. Although Koja has been a notable weird writer for over 30 years, this is only her second collection (the first, Extremities, was published in 1997). The 13 stories here – two original to the ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: The Dark, Nightmare, Uncanny, and Shoreline of Infinity

The Dark 7/20, 8/20 Nightmare 8/20, 9/20 Uncanny 7-8/20 Shoreline of Infinity #18

Although I’m writing this in the heat of summer, by the time you read it autumn will be beckoning with fictional chills as well as cooler weather. If you haven’t caught up to these stories by then, they will still be worthy of the season.

The Dark #62 offers two originals. “Agog” by Stephen Volk ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Best of Michael Marshall Smith by Michael Marshall Smith

The Best of Michael Marshall Smith, Michael Marshall Smith (Subterranean Press 978-1-596-06950-3, $45.00, 568pp, hc) December 2020.

Michael Marshall Smith is that rare author whose first published story “The Man Who Drew Cats” won a respected award – the British Fantasy Award for Short Fiction – and put him immediately on the genre map. He followed it with a second win the following year with “The Dark Land” and ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Beowulf: A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

Beowulf: A New Translation, Maria Dahvana Headley (MCD x FSG Originals 978-0-374110-031, $15.00, 176pp, tp) August 2020.

According to Encyclopædia Britannica, Beowulf is a “heroic poem, the highest achievement of Old English literature and the earliest European vernacular epic.” True, but it is also a work of dark fantasy. Without its monsters, there wouldn’t be much to the story.

Maria Dahvana Headley has already retold the poem through ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Final Cuts, Edited by Ellen Datlow

Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Blum­house Books/Anchor Books 978-0-525565-75-8, $16.95, 480pp, tp) June 2020.

Ellen Datlow anthologized cinema-related horror in 2014 tapping reprints in The Cutting Room: Dark Reflections of the Silver Screen. This time she compiles original stories written for Final Cuts. Up-to-date stories allow for the use of new media, and a few of the authors do ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Three Kings, Edited by George R.R. Martin & Melinda M. Snodgrass

Three Kings, George R.R. Martin & Melinda M. Snodgrass, eds. (HarperVoyager UK 978-0-00-83614-8, £20.00, 560pp, hc) May 2020.

Three Kings is a mosaic novel by five authors: Melinda M. Snodgrass, Peadar Ó Guilín, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Caroline Spector & Peter New­man, published, for now, only in the UK (a US edition from Tor won’t be out for at least a year). It is the 29th volume in the Wild ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: The Dark, Nightmare, Black Static, and Uncanny

The Dark 5/20, 6/20 Nightmare 6/20, 7/20 Black Static 5-6/20 Uncanny 5-6/20

It will be weeks before this sees publication. Who knows what the world will be like by then? All one can do is hope things get better and, meanwhile, find some good short dark fiction to read.

Both of the originals in The Dark #60 deal with men harming women, which – for some – may be somewhat ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Malorie by Josh Malerman and Sleepers by Gerard Houarner

Malorie, Josh Malerman (Del Rey 978-0-59315-685-8, $28.00, 320pp, hc) July 2020.

Malorie is a sequel to Josh Malerman’s first book, Bird Box (2014), so I need to warn you there are spoilers below. If you haven’t read Bird Box or seen the Netflix version of it (which differs from the book), you are hereby notified. That said, I can’t imagine many people have escaped at least a meme or ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Thin Places by Kay Chronister

Thin Places, Kay Chronister (Undertow 978-1-988964-18-8, $14.99, 140pp, tp) May 2020.

The final, eponymous story in Kay Chronister’s debut collection Thin Places explains what is meant – in this context anyway – by the phrase ”thin places”:

Thin places are parts of the world where the barrier between the clay and the mist is more fragile, where it can be broken…. Things happen in thin places that can’t happen ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Honeybones by Georgina Bruce and Engines Beneath Us by Malcolm Devlin

Honeybones, Georgina Bruce (TTA Press 978- 1-9163629-1-8, £7.00, 90pp, tp) May 2020.

Honeybones, the sixth in TTA Press’s novella series, deals with ugly subjects in beautifully written prose. Georgina Bruce immediately plunges the reader into young teen Anna Carew’s befuddled mind and places us in a ”house of mirrors… entangled with its selves, a pattern looping inwards, up stairs and through doorways and round corners…” haunted by ”endless ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Uncanny, Black Static, Nightmare, and The Dark

Uncanny 3-4/20 Black Static 3-4/20 Nightmare 3/20, 4/20, 5/20 The Dark 3/20, 4/20

Let’s start with Uncanny #33. Alix E. Harrow‘s ”The Sycamore and the Sybil” is flat-out marvelous. It has the immutabily of myth, the magic of lore, and the power of modern wonder. The narrator is a sycamore who was once a woman (if you know about Daphne, you’ll have no problem accepting that) who ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Night of the Mannequins by Stephen Graham Jones

Night of the Mannequins, Stephen Graham Jones (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-75207-9, $11.99, 138pp, tp) July 2020.

Stephen Graham Jones often takes readers into the minds of children and teens. Their fictional brains respond to consensus reality in ways that reflect convincing realities others can’t see. The results of these quirky points of view fuel plots that prove unsettling. His latest novella, Night of the Mannequins, is deeply disturbing. Sawyer, ...Read More

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Ian Mond and Paula Guran Review Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey 978-0-5256-207-85, $27.00, 320pp, hc) July 2020.

Noemí Taboada is a flighty but intelligent young socialite in 1950 Mexico City. Perhaps she’s growing out of her capriciousness, though. She seems focused on a career in anthropology and is determined to live up to family duty and her father’s trust. Her recently married cousin Catalina has written Noemí’s father a distressing letter stating her husband ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Londonia by Kate A. Hardy

Londonia, Kate A. Hardy (Tartarus Press 978-1-912586-19-6, £35.00, 405pp, hc) April 2020.

Kate A. Hardy’s London of 2072 in Londonia is divided into two worlds. In the Cincture (hyper-center of old London Town, also called the Egg), the elite live a more-than-comfortable, mostly frivolous life, protected from the harsh realities of dire post-apocalyptic weather and a hand-to-mouth existence. Londonia (also known as The Pan), where life is nasty, brutish, ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Songs for Dark Seasons Lisa L. Hannett

Songs for Dark Seasons: Stories, Lisa L. Hannett (Ticonderoga Publications 978-1-925212-44-0, A$50.00, 280pp, hc) April 2020.

Lisa L. Hannett’s three previous collections, two co-authored with Angela Slatter, earned awards and critical acclaim. Songs for Dark Seasons is just as laudable. Since the Canadian-born author lives in Australia and Ticonderoga is an Australian press, the volume may be a bit hard to come by for some, but it is well ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 3 , Edited by William Schafer

Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 3, William Schafer, ed. (Subterranean 978-1-59606- 966-4, $40.00, 240pp, hc) July 2020.

The third of an occasional anthology series (previous volumes appeared in 2008 and 2011), William Schafer’s Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy 3 offers ten stories by top-notch writers. It starts off with ”An Orderly Progression of Hearts” by Kat Howard, a very short rumination on the vagaries of the human heart. Next ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Shadows & Tall Trees, Vol. 8, Edited by Michael Kelly, and Out of Water by Sarah Read

Shadows & Tall Trees, Vol. 8, Michael Kelly, ed. (Undertow 978-1-988964-17-1, $27.99, 269pp, hc) March 2020.

Shadows & Tall Trees, Vol. 8 lives up to the high standard previously set by editor Mi­chael Kelly with this series. The anthology’s 18 original stories serve as a good entry drug to the best in modern short fiction as well as reliable reads for those already addicted. Many tend toward the ...Read More

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