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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Paula Guran Reviews The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones (Saga Press 978-1-9821-364-51, $26.99, 320pp, hc) May 2020.

Good horror novels often have you reading and turning the pages as fast as you can. With a great horror novel – one that so arouses a sense of dread, connects so profoundly with that which is just beyond the normal world, is written with such superb craft and charac­terization that it draws you ...Read More

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

Sirenia Digest #164, #165, #166 Black Static 11-12/19 The Dark 11/19, 12/19 Uncanny 11-12/19 Nightmare 12/19 Beneath Ceaseless Skies 12/5/19

I mention Sirenia Digest here from time-to-time in case readers are unaware of it. Author Caitlín R. Kiernan started offering it monthly to subscribers long before Patreon became a way to help support a writer. What does it contain? Here’s a recent sampling. Despite the fact Kier­nan had vowed never ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Suicide Woods by Benjamin Percy

Suicide Woods, Benjamin Percy (Graywolf 978-1-644-45006-2 $16.99. 216pp. tp) October 2019.

Benjamin Percy’s writing is immaculate. Each word seems so carefully chosen the reader cannot imagine a synonym that would better suit. This slender volume is not a fast read. With such craft, a reader must slowly savor the nine stories and the single novella in Percy’s third collection. All are relentlessly dark, but the darkness springs from a ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Full Throttle: Stories by Joe Hill

Full Throttle: Stories, Joe Hill (Morrow 978-0-06220-067-9, $27.99, 484pp, hc) October 2019.

Joe Hill’s first collection 20th Century Ghosts – which this reviewer read, reviewed, and then interviewed the author while having no idea he was the son of Stephen King – was full of fresh, genre-bending work. It was a thrill to discover an unknown author with such talent and promise. Of course, Hill went on from there ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Black Static, The Dark, Nightmare, Uncanny, and 3LBE

Black Static 9-10/19 The Dark 9/19, 10/19 Nightmare 10/19 Uncanny 9-10/19 Three-lobed Burning Eye 8/19

Black Static #71 is a stellar issue. If you’ve never sampled the UK periodical, this is the place to start. Felix, in Stephen Hargadon‘s novelette “Dixon Parade“, is a lonely, melancholy middle-aged man who never really moved on after his divorce. He purchases an early-’80s painting of a suburban street scene and ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson and The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pio­neered Horror and Speculative Fiction, Lisa Kröger & Melanie R. Anderson (Quirk 978-1-68369-138-9, $19.99 352pp, hc) September 2019.

Monster, She Wrote is a brief, breezy, yet fairly complete overview of women who pioneered hor­ror and related fiction. It’s a fun read, chock-full of authors genre-lovers should know if they don’t already. Forty authors – from Margaret Caven­dish (“the Kardashian of her day,” according ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Gies­brecht

The Monster of Elendhaven, Jennifer Gies­brecht (Tor.com Publishing 978-1-250-22568-9 $16.99. 160pp, hc) September 2019.

Johann is a monster who kills as easily as he breathes. Apparently superhuman, he is able to quickly heal from any injury. Johann lives in Elendhaven, a dying city that lies on a “foul spit of land” in the (literally) black sea of a bay called Bad Moon. Elendhaven’s culture, one character says, is tragedy. ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry

The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep, H.G. Parry (Redhook/Orbit 978-0-316-45271-7 $26, 464pp. hc) July 2019.

The idea of a reader being able to bring fictional characters to life is hardly a new one – Jasper Fforde, Jim C. Hines’s Magic Ex Libris series, Genevieve Cogman’s The Invisible Library, and, for younger read­ers, the Inkworld series by Cornelia Funke come readily to mind – but H.G. Parry’s twist in ...Read More

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

Black Static 7-8/19 Uncanny 7-8/19 Nightmare 8/19, 9/19 The Dark 7/19, 8/19 Cemetery Dance 7/19

An outstanding issue of Black Static (#70) leads off with Ralph Robert Moore‘s novelette “I Write Your Name“. Roger was 14 when he met infant Mia. They meet again when Roger turns out to be 30-year-old Mia’s next-door neighbor – not that they recall their initial encounter. They fall in love and ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories, Edited by Ellen Datlow

Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories, Ellen Datlow, ed. (Saga 978-1-53441-346-7, $32.99, 816pp, hc) August 2019.

Ellen Datlow has delved into ghost story-themed anthologies twice before: the all-original The Dark: New Ghost Stories in 2003 and Hauntings, a reprint compilation, in 2013. This massive (over 200,000 words in 816 pages, 30 stories) tome is one of the best works yet by Datlow – and, considering her stellar ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews This House of Wounds by Georgina Bruce

This House of Wounds, Georgina Bruce (Un­dertow Publications 978-1-988964-09-6, $27.99, 248pp, hc) June 2019. Cover by Catrin Welz-Stein.

Georgina Bruce’s searing debut collection contains 16 superbly written, often surreal stories of misogyny, blood, anger, agony, and abuse. Bruce’s stygian tales are technically ac­complished, but also powered by a profound depth of feeling. They often compel and overwhelm at the same time. Like the cover art by Catrin Welz-Stein, This ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: Black Static and Uncanny

Black Static 5-6/19 Uncanny 5-6/19

The usual five original stories in Black Static #69 begin with “Where It Ends, Where It Begins” by Erinn L. Kemper. Old Mac salvages the sea on the west coast of Vancouver Island. For ten years, along with the usual fare, he’s also salvaged decaying body parts that he keeps in a freezer. Now he has collected an entire body’s worth of ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Short Fiction: The Dark, Nightmare, and Apex

The Dark 5/19, 6/19 Nightmare 6/19, 7/19 Apex 5/19

The Dark #48 offers two new stories. In Angela Slatter‘s “The Wilderling“, isolated, bored, childless LP is fascinated with a feral child who visits her yard. One might expect LP to do something other than what she does for or with the savage kid. Mystery grows as LP’s actions defy expectation. Slatter, with perfect pacing and accomplished writing, ...Read More

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

Uncanny 3-4/19 Black Static 3-4/19 The Dark 3/19, 4/19 Nightmare 4/19, 5/19 Tor.com 4/17/19

Uncanny is one of my favorite periodicals because, even if the stories are not always 100% top-notch (no magazine’s content can be!), they are all 100% enjoyable to read and each issue always offers variety. That’s rare and welcome.

Whether intentional or not, the March/April issue has an appropriately springtide theme. Five – maybe all six ...Read More

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Paula Guran Reviews Collision by J.S. Breukelaar

Collision, J.S. Breukelaar (Meerkat Press 978-1-946154-17-0, $16.95, tp, 220pp) March 2019.

You may have encountered a story by J.S. Breukelaar here and there, or even her novels American Monster (2014) or Altheia (2017). Whether her name is familiar or not, her debut collection, Collision: Stories, should be on your “must read” list. Breuke­laar, an American living in Sydney, Australia, writes in a clean, incisive style with razor-sharp opening ...Read More

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