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.
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.
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.
This book was provided to me by Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC via NetGalley for review consideration.
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
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!
“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.
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!
“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.
After a couple months with no ads, the issue ends with a full page ad for Holiday Books from Houghton, Mifflin & Co.
Welcome to the third issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project!
“The Great Star Ruby” by Barnes Macgreggor
A group gathered late in the evening of the Melbourne Cup discuss the days events, including the opening of the opera house and the woman with the ruby headdress who caused quite a stir. This leads a late-comer to tell the tale of a great star ruby that led to many adventures and some tragedies. This story ends up being much like Macgreggor’s story in issue one, right down to the “savages” and the slight twist ending.
“The Interrupted Banquet” by Rene Bache
Though quite familiar with the street, I could not remember having seen that particular house before.
This is an ominous beginning to a story. Our narrator assures us that he never would have thought to go into the house if the lady he were with hadn’t confidently let herself in. They go upstairs and sit down to dinner. Around the table are a group of strange characters including a man that our narrator thinks is his old friend, Bill, from college. Except Bill has been dead for eight years… The story goes mostly as expected from there. The only other Rene Bache on Google wrote articles for Scientific American. Studied at Yale and Harvard.
This story is by far my favorite of the month
“The Archangel” by James Q. Hyatt
Two guys out hunting are approached by an old codger whose name, he says, is the Archangel. Since every one is being so lazy, the Archangel tells them how he got his name. It seems that in his younger years he lived with a guy named Adolphe. Adolphe was very good at all the cooking and chores, but “Archangel” decided that they(?) should send away for a wife. After receiving no answers to his inquiry for a quite a while, “Archangel” finally got a letter a woman. But this all turns out to be a ruse. The name “Archangel” was given due to an act of mercy.
“Asleep at Lone Mountain” by H. D. Umbstaetter
A quiet little boy with no name, only a toddler really, is put of a train to Omaha where his father awaits. The little boy is taken under the wing of the passengers and is named Grit. (This is done via auction because the passengers are bored. The the proceeds from the auction go to the boy and his father.) While this story lacks one of Umbstaetter’s usual twist endings, it’s ultimately a sad and slightly pointless story.
“Kootchie” by Harold Kinsabby
A quick, humorous tale about a dog and a cat and their owners. And while looking up Harold Kinsabby (which I probably had done before, this is his second story in The Black Cat), I found out that this name, as well of Barnes Macgreggor, are pseudonyms for H. D. Umbstaetter! H. D. has been padding out his magazine for the first few months!
“Frazer’s Find” by Roberta Littlehale
Littlehale rounds out this issue with a tragic-romantic tale of a man seeking his fortune in the west who finds a youth hiding after an Indian attack. The boy is not quite what he seems, but Frazer shows a tremendous amount of devotion and responsibility even when it wouldn’t be the best for him personally.
No ads. I wonder if the holidays took their toll on this issue. Maybe October isn’t a great month to launch a magazine.
Welcome to the second issue of The Black Cat and the Black Cat Project! While this issue weighed in with the same number of pages, fifty, it was a story lighter and all together felt shorter. Also, the stories didn’t feel as strong. Here’s to hoping that issue no. 3 is a return to form.
“A Calaveras Hold-Up” by Roberta Littlehale
Littlehale takes us to the Sierra’s in the 1880s once again with another western-romance. Billy Owen is a man with a questionable past. (His gun is named Betty…) Rudy Field is the preacher’s daughter. Billy never had a chance and falls in love with Rudy. Alas, his attempt to go straight isn’t providing “something to live on,” in the words of Rudy’s father. So Billy plans one last heist… It doesn’t go well. I enjoyed this story more than last month’s “In the Gold Time.”
This is also my runner-up for favorite of the month.
“From a Trolley Post” by Margaret Dodge
A man stands waiting for a trolley in Boston on a drizzly, windy day. Bored, he is entertained by the antics of a boy from Texas and an organ grinder’s monkey. The ending of this story might be tragic, but we miss it because the man’s trolley finally arrives. Couldn’t find much on Margaret Dodge other than she had a few stories in a few magazines around 1900.
“An Andenken” by Julia Magruder
Ethel is a lovely young painter taking a working summer holiday in the Alps. She is intrigued by the murals in the village and the andenken, or roadside memorial pictures. While the artwork is crude, it has great heart. Ethel meets the painter, Anton, and endeavors to give him lessons. Unfortunately, Ethel is engaged and Anton believes that she is more than just his teacher. Julia Magruder had my favorite story of issue no. 1 with the deliciously gothic “The Secret of the White Castle.” This story doesn’t hold together as well.
“The Man from Maine” by J. D. Ellsworth
This is a humorous tale about a man on a long train train observing some of his fellow passengers, especially the man from Maine. The man from Maine is the picture of Yankee frugality and abstinence. But he will play some card if gambling isn’t involved. And he will take a pull on a flask—for medicinal reasons only, of course. Alas, he does seem to be ailing quite often. Is this the same J. D. Ellsworth that wrote Reading Ancient Greek? I don’t know.
“A Wedding Tombstone” by Clarice Irene Clinghan
An “angular schoolgirl of fifteen” listens to her grandmother tell the story of Melindy Barbour’s wedding tombstone. The Barbours were an aloof family that lived in Ragged Corner. Mr. Barbour committed suicide while in prison. The son, Mortimer, and his mother were unusually close. When she died, Mortimer kept to himself until lovely Melindy McAllister arrived in town. The two fall in love, but a shadow is cast on their marriage by a tombstone with Melindy’s name on it. Clarice Irene Clinghan has a couple of ghost stories to her name as well as a novel, That Girl From Bogota.
My favorite of the month.
“The Other One” by A. H. Gibson
Caleb Parton, a wealthy eccentric former wine merchant living in the hills of West Virginia, tells Mr. Hope (who works for a bank) the Poe-esaque story of his rivalry with Judson Pickford. The story is creepy, but Gibson rushes his gotcha ending. Is this the same A. H. Gibson that wrote Hydraulics and its applications? That A. H. Gibson would only be age 17 at the time of this publication, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
“Stateroom Six” by William Albert Lewis
A tale told on a river boat about a gambler and a toddler put into his charge who ends up with a bundle of money when the gambler is shot dead. Very short and anecdote-like.
“Her Eyes, Your Honor” by H. D. Umbstaetter
A young woman is on trial for the brutal murder of another woman. All the evidence is circumstantial, and the crowd firmly believes that hot-shot lawyer McWhorter will prove her innocence. But strangely, he doesn’t provide much defense at all… The second story from The Black Cat‘s illustrious editor and another zigger of an ending.
No new advertisers in issue no. 2. American Hair Cloth Company of Pawtucket, R.I. had the whole back page.