Posted in Mixed Anthology, Other Media

What I’ve Read & Watched, 11/4/22

Blog updates from me this month are probably going to be few and far between . . .

Read

It Came from the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror by Joe Vallese (Editor)

It Came from the Closet was much more personal narrative-oriented than I expected. I felt that a wide range of LGBTQ+ perspectives were represented, but I acknowledge that I might have trouble seeing around my privilege. I would have liked more academic takes on the subject of LGBTQ+ representation and themes, but it was still a very thought-provoking collection of essays.

Watched

Wendell & Wild (2022)

Directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)) and written by Selick and Jordan Peele (Get Out (2017)), Wendell & Wild was one of the movies I was looking forward to during the Halloween season. It did not disappoint. Is it as iconic as Nightmare Before Christmas? No. Some of the plot bits are just a little too on the nose and tidy. Is it a lot of spooky fun? Yes! Kat is a great character and the titular demons (voiced by Peele and comedic partner Keegan-Michael Key) are the kinds of anti-villains I like: the heart of their dastardly plan is actually pretty wholesome.

Crimes of the Future (2022)

It’s been a little while since David Cronenberg has done a weird movie. Granted, I haven’t watched all his recent films, but it seems like it’s been since Existenz (1999) that we’ve gotten much squicky, body horror science fiction from him. Crimes of the Future is like a dystopian science fiction sequel to Dead Ringers (1988) where Dr. Mantle’s worries about mutant women are realized. If you like “genre” Cronenberg, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. If the only Cronenberg film you’ve seen is Eastern Promises (2007), you’ll be very confused.

Posted in Female Author, Mixed Anthology, Novella, Short Story

Reading Peril, 10/12/22

Cover: Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
Cover: Famous Modern Ghost Stories, edited by Dorothy Scarborough

Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

I feel like Nothing But Blackened Teeth has been on my TBR list for years, but it was only published this year. More likely, after reading Khaw’s Persons Non Grata novellas, I’ve been meaning to read more of her works.

I liked Nothing But Blackened Teeth well enough. I read Edgar Allan Poe’s “Ligiea” recently and Khaw’s use of architecture in Teeth is very comparable, and I love architecture in stories! In many ways, this story reads like a J-horror film, full of vengeful ghosts and yokai just at the edge of sight. In fact, our narrator Cat often refers horror tropes as events unfold.

Famous Modern Ghost Stories, ed. by Dorothy Scarborough

“Modern” is, of course, a relative word. This anthology was published in 1921, so Scarborough’s picks are from 1830-ish on. Included are many stories that very much have survived the test of time: “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood, “Lazarus” by Leonid Andreyev, “The Shadow on the Wall” by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, “The Bowmen” by Arthur Machen, and “Ligeia” by Edgar Allan Poe. If I hadn’t read these stories before, I knew of them.

There are also a couple gems with modern touches: “The Shell of Sense” by Olivia Howard Dunbar is written from the ghost’s point of view and “The Beast with Five Fingers” by W. F. Harvey could easily be Thing’s great-grandfather.

Famous Modern Ghost Stories has been on my Kindle for a good long while and thus counts for my Beat the Backlog challenge. And it’s of course available at Project Gutenberg!

Posted in Mixed Anthology, Novel

Anthology ~ In Our Own Worlds

Cover for In Our Own Worlds, an anthology of LGBTQ+ novella published by Tor.

In Our Own Worlds is a four novella anthology featuring LGBTQ+ characters. It was a freebie I picked up from the publisher, Tor, in late 2019.

The first novella is The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion by Margaret Killjoy. Welcome to Freedom, IA, where the peace is kept by a demonic deer! Not everyone in town thinks a demon who brings retribution on “predators” is a good idea. I like the play on philosophy here, but the story seemed dependent on the reader just going along with character actions when those actions don’t have much reasoning behind them. It wasn’t that characters did outlandish things, but there was the occasional leap of logic that seemed to come out of nowhere.

I had high hopes for the second novella, Passing Strange by Ellen Klages. I have read and enjoyed Klages’s short stories in the past. In fact, this novella is why I picked up the anthology: Klages’s magical realism in 1940s San Francisco seemed like a slam dunk. Alas, as with Nebraska basketball, Passing Strange didn’t do as well as I hoped. I’ve become a bit aware of how authors present exposition and there were a lot of As You Know, Bob going on. Also, the use of magic in the story was very minimal. It almost felt like an overlay on straight (no pun intended) historical fiction.

The third novella was A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson. I enjoyed this novella the most*. Okay, I’m not sure I entirely followed chronology, but that’s fine. Aqib and Lucrio are compelling main characters and I was in it for their story/stories. I also enjoy world-building that isn’t spelled out for me; I don’t need every thing explained. In a way, this is an interesting contrast to Passing Strange. Both could tell straight-up stories of forbidden romances, but use magic to solve problems for their lovers (though with consequences). A Taste of Honey just infuses the whole narrative with that magic/science.

* I decided not to read The Black Tides of Heaven by Neon Yang. It really didn’t seem like my kind of story. Political machinations =/= A book for Katherine.

Posted in Anthology, Mixed Anthology

Review ~ Zhiguai: Chinese True Tales of the Paranormal and Glitches in the Matrix

This book was provided to me by Empress Wu Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Zhiguai: Chinese True Tales of the Paranormal and Glitches in the Matrix, edited and translated by Yi Izzy Yu & John Yu Branscum

In this collection, award-winning writers and translators Yi Izzy Yu and John Yu Branscum share paranormal and glitch in the matrix tales from across present-day China. Confided by eyewitnesses, these true stories uncannily echo Western encounters with chilling dimensions of reality and supernatural entities. At the same time, they thrillingly immerse the reader in everyday Chinese life and occult beliefs.

Summary via Goodreads

Zhiguai is an anthology of short, sometimes very short, uncanny tales, or “zhiguai.” These are different from ghost stories, being more personal and more reliant on wrinkles in reality. Time slips, doppelgangers, quick jaunts to parallel realities, glitches in the matrix, if you will, are the sort of strange phenomena covered here.

These are true narratives related by the people who have experienced these things. Most of the storytellers seem quite young. While some of the stories are disturbing, this anthology feels like the type of scares that I would have absolutely loved in high school. For me now, I wish these stories were paired with some from Yi Izzy Yu and John Yu Branscum’s other translation project The Shadow Book of Ji Yun, a collection of traditional zhiguai. I’m definitely interested in comparing the more traditional (which I’m unfamiliar with) and the modern.

That being said, this would be an absolutely perfect autumn readathon book: a spin-tingling fast read.


Read for 20 Books of Summer and #Trekathon!

Posted in Anthology, Mixed Anthology

{Book} Taaqtumi

This book was provided to me by Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC via NetGalley for review consideration.

Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories

Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories, compiled by Neil Christopher

“Taaqtumi” is an Inuktitut word that means “in the dark”—and these spine-tingling horror stories by Northern writers show just how dangerous darkness can be. A family clinging to survival out on the tundra after a vicious zombie virus. A door that beckons, waiting to unleash the terror behind it. A post-apocalyptic community in the far North where things aren’t quite what they seem. With chilling tales from award-winning authors Richard Van Camp, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, Aviaq Johnston, and others, this collection will thrill and entertain even the most seasoned horror fan. (via Goodreads)

Why Did I Choose This Book?
I’m always on the lookout for stories set in places that are far from my usual. Arctic horror stories sounded like a great concept.

What Did I Think?
According to the summary taaqtumi means “in the dark.” And, man, these stories are dark. Maybe I just haven’t read horror in a while, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this level of nihilism. If you want happy endings, you’re not going to find many here.

In the realm of horror sub-genres, Taaqtumi has a little of everything. Ghosts, cosmic horrors, zombies, folk horror, natural horrors, post-apocolyptic, and even a science-fiction/horror mashup—Sean and Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley’s “Lounge,” which I found to be one of the standouts of the anthology.

On the whole, I really enjoyed these stories. I wanted to read this analogy for the setting, and Taaqtumi delivers. The writers are all from northern Canada, many are indigenous people and the stories include a tapestry of Inuit lore and legends.  “Wheetago War II: Summoners” by Richard Van Camp is one of the more “modern” tales of horror in terms, well, weaponry, but its told in the style of recorded oral tradition and has excellent voice. The cold, the extremes of daylight and nighttime, the push and pull between modern and traditional are all present in each story.

Original Publishing info: Published September 10th 2019 by Inhabit Media
My Copy: Adobe Digital Edition via NetGalley
Genre: horror

Posted in Mixed Anthology, Short Story

The Black Cat, No. 7, April 1896

Welcome to the 7th issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!

This issue felt a little light even though it contained six stories and was about the same overall length as other issues. Maybe it was because all the stories were roughly the same length without one longer story.

This was also the first issue without a good ghost story!

Stories

“The Mystery of the Thirty Millions” by T. F. Anderson and H. D. Umbstaetter

“The Mystery of the Thirty Millions” is set in 1903: this is near future science fiction! The main plot device of this story is the movement by the US government of $30 million dollars to Europe (England?) to right a trade imbalance. This is going to be done by literally loading up $30 million in gold on to a fast, unsinkable ship (that is also going to transport some dignitaries). The ship goes missing, but is later spotted adrift,  two weeks overdue. The crew and passengers tell of a strange moving lodestone that pulled the ship off-course. It’s never quite discovered what it is, but it seems that the Russians are behind it.

I don’t have any info on T. F. Anderson, but H. D. Umbstaetter, our intrepid Black Cat editor, is back here with co-writing credit. The zinger-ish ending has his fingerprints all over it.

“The Man at Solitaria” by Geik Turner

Solitaria is a “train station.” It’s a watering tank, a side-track, and a little hut with a telegraph line where a single man lives and takes care of the comings and goings of trains on this stretch of track. But he’s tired of his job. He wants someone to take a shift! He wants a life. So he takes matters into his own hands. I think this story is supposed to be humorous, but there isn’t anything funny about train wrecks.

This is Geik Turner’s first story for The Black Cat, but it won’t be his last.

“The Compass of Fortune” by   Eugene Shade Bisbee

Melville Barrett has recently come into a lot of money. How? wonders his old friend. Well, Barrett tells his tale. During a madcap adventure, he uncovers a skull with two sapphires for eyes. The eyes always look toward an ancient treasure it is tasked with protecting. This is a somewhat creepy story, but ultimately is a let down.

Eugene Shade Bisbee wrote a few other speculative fiction works and the novel The Treasure of the Ice.

“The Surgical Love-Cure” by James Buckham

James Buckham is back this month with a semi-followup to “The Telepathic Wooing.” In this case though, a handsome vicar wishes to be cured of the love he feels for a certain woman in order to better serve God. In this case, science doesn’t provide the solution.

“The Williamson Safe Mystery” by F. S. Hessletine

Mr. Williamson, a mysterious jeweler, has gone missing and after a period of time, his massive safe is being removed from his former place of business. Between the time of Williamson’s arrival in town and his disappearance, a series of burglaries and robberies have taken place, including Williamson himself being mugged. But after Williamson disappeared, the robberies stopped. What happened? And is the answer to be found in his safe? This is a solid mystery, and time is taken in the telling.

“How Small the World” by  E. H. Mayde

This love story is told in a series of letters and conversation snippets. While I more or less got the gist of what was going on, I wouldn’t recommend it. It was a bit confusing.

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No ads this issue…

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 7, April 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project

Posted in Mixed Anthology, Short Story

The Black Cat, No. 4, January 1896

Welcome to the fourth issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project! Alas, there was a problem with the January issue. It was missing a few pages!

Stories

“In Solomon’s Caverns” by Charles Edward Barns

Charles Edward Barns had his first appearance in issue one with “In a Tiger Trap.” “In Solomon’s Caverns” sets up an equally exciting adventure: an investigation of the caves caused by the building of Solomon’s Temple. Of course, the American who is doing the spelunking loses his guide early in the process. The framing story implies that opium is part of the man’s salvation from the caves, but, alas, I’ll never understand how since I was lacking the end of the story.

“An Angel of Tenderfoot Hill” by Frederick Bardford

I was also missing the beginning of this story (and some of its middle pages too). From what I gathered, a hell-raising cowboy-type falls in love with a Presbyterian named Alice. He goes off to make his fortune and to endeavor to be worthy of her, but when he returns he finds that the small town that he’s left has become a city, and Alice may or may not have married his former friend.

“In Miggles’ Alley” by Herman Brownson

This is a little vignette: Little Tim O’Hagan’s nick-name is “Shingles” because when his mom is at work, he hangs out on the roof of their building with this infant brother. Across the street is a fire station. Shingles loves to watch the fire men come and go. In fact, one day to amuse himself and his baby brother he decides to play fire man and “rescue” his brother by lowering him down from the roof of the building…. This is Herman Brownson’s first story for The Black Cat.

“The Missing Link” by James Buckham

While on a camping trip with his friends, Henderson happens to take a couple pictured of a murder occurring. He later offers the photos to prove a man innocent of the crime. This might be one of the most competently written stories I’ve read in The Black Cat thus far, and I was missing two pages of it in the middle and the ending! The use of photography in a mystery strike me as very modern. Via Google, I do find a poet named James Buckham; I wonder if it’s the same author.

“Unchallenged” (alas, I don’t know the author)

Alas, I’m missing the beginning of this story. It “starts” with two girls strapping on pistols and riding out to on an errand. It seems that the errand was to show-up some men, but I’m definitely missing a piece. The writing is good enough that I’m a little sad that I don’t have the whole story.

“Aidu” by Hero Despard

“Aidu” is a story set in India that thankfully lacks some of the usual problematic aspects of a 1896 story set in India. Our narrator falls in love with the beautiful Aidu. When he meets her she seems to be in some trouble. She agrees to help (and later to marriage), under the condition that she be allowed her freedom and she not be followed when she leaves the house. Aidu is a strange woman; she is never seen eating and once a week she goes for a walk alone and returns re-invigorated. Of course, we know how this story goes. Our love-struck narrator, follows her one evening…

This was my favorite of the month.

“Mrs. Emory’s Boarder” by C. Marie Mott

I saw him pass every day; not that I watched for him, but it’s against human nature that a woman should sit at a window all day and never look out.

This story is a bit of a joke; a pretty clever “groaner,” perfect for a magazine called The Black Cat.

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After a couple months with no ads, the issue ends with a full page ad for Holiday Books from Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

Want to read for yourself?
Here’s the link to Issue No. 4, January 1896

Or find out
More about the Black Cat Project