The July–August issue has new horror and dark fantasy fiction by Tim Waggoner, Vajra Chandrasekera, Ralph Robert Moore, Carole Johnstone, Leah Thomas, Ray Cluley, Thersa Matsuura. The cover art is by Richard Wagner, and interior illustrations are by Richard Wagner, Vincent Sammy, and Joachim Luetke. The usual features are present: Coffinmaker’s Blues by Stephen Volk and Blood Pudding by Lynda E. Rucker (comment); Blood Spectrum by Tony Lee (DVD/Blu-ray reviews); Case Notes by Peter Tennant (book reviews), which includes a substantial interview with A.K. Benedict, and Silver Bullets by Mike O’Driscoll (weird detectives).
None So Empty by Tim Waggoner
illustrated by Vincent Sammy
I approach the Dumpster, a full bag of trash hanging from my left hand. The Dumpster’s concealed behind a high wooden fence, with an opening for residents to step through. A sign on the fence warns, in squiggly hand-lettered words, that there’s NO DUMPSTER DIVING! Classy.
The Dumpster’s plastic lid is down, but the metal side door is partway open, revealing lumps of white plastic bags identical to the one I’m carrying. But nestled between the mounds is a shock of what looks like brown hair, and the first thought that comes to me is, That’s a head.
Caul by Vajra Chandrasekera
I only love girls who love to swim, but I don’t like to see them in the water. I like the sea just fine with nobody swimming in it and me with dry sand under me and a cold beer in my hand. They tell me I’m missing something, but I won’t budge. Maybe that’s why they don’t come back.
Ghosts Play in Boys’ Pajamas by Ralph Robert Moore
illustrated by Joachim Luetke
“Want me to show you something?”
The two boys were up on the hill behind their houses, at the edge of the forest, getting to know each other.
Tom and his dad had been pulling boxes out of the moving van when Peter and his mom walked across the green lawn. Peter’s mom holding a plate of chocolate chip cookies. “Could you men use a break?” She laughed, putting a hand on her hip. “I’m Lisa. Welcome to the neighborhood!”
Equilibrium by Carole Johnstone
I just want to feel. It’s as though I’ve forgotten how; as though my skin has become shrunken and ossified, my internal organs indurate, my thoughts polished marble. I sit and I breathe, I sip warm water from the plastic jug by the bed, I hold his hand, and I can feel none of it.
“How is he today?” I ask the nurse through numb lips, and there are no vibrations inside my chest, my throat when I speak.
The Driveway by Leah Thomas
She held her child’s severed hands behind her back. Bloodied water dripped from his wriggling fingertips down to her flowered apron, but she did not loosen her grip.
The Hutch by Ray Cluley
Jess wasn’t upset when her rabbit died. She wasn’t happy about it, exactly, but she wasn’t upset either. Relieved, maybe. There’d be no more cleaning the hutch, scraping out pellets of poo and damp straw. She wouldn’t have to empty the bowl of that dry dusty muesli stuff it was supposed to eat but never did (in fact, she found a lot of its poo in that bowl). She wouldn’t have to remove the blackened stumps of carrot it always left, either. And it wouldn’t be able to bite her anymore.
The Spider Sweeper by Thersa Matsuura
illustrated by Richard Wagner
Kumo-harai balanced a green and yellow harlot spider on the end of an old, twiggy broom. He was hurrying to reach the persimmon tree before the creature leapt to the ground and scrambled away. Morning spiders were always taken to the same tree and carefully placed in its craggy branches. Everyone knew that they were good luck and should never be harmed. Kumo-harai could boast – if he were the type of man to do such a thing – that in his three years of working at the temple he had never killed or injured a single morning spider
Coffinmaker’s Blues by Stephen Volk
Like many people reading this column, I grew up with the lurid, seductive covers of Pan, Fontana, tales they wouldn’t let Hitchcock make, and the gunmen, gallants and ghosts of Dennis Wheatley. Later I’d sink into the warm, black water of Alberto Manguel’s magical realism, which Amazon now calls “a kaleidoscope from the Magi of the imagination”, consuming countless other paperback anthologies along the way.
Blood Pudding by Lynda E. Rucker
Are horror fans and creators of horror in fiction and film and other mediums born or made? Anyone who has read Ramsey Campbell’s harrowing introduction to his novel The Face That Must Die, which deals with his upbringing in a home with estranged parents and a mother descending into mental illness throughout his childhood and early adulthood, might argue for the latter, but Campbell himself doesn’t make particular claims to that effect in his piece, although certainly those experiences must have informed how well he writes about mental illness in his own fiction. We tend to cherry pick the information we need to draw the conclusions we want: few of us can describe an upbringing quite so gothic as the one Campbell writes about, but few of us can remember a childhood without any shadows. And it is to those shadows that people tend to look when they set out to explain what seems an unnatural affinity for all the things we ought to be doing our best to avoid: the dark, the perverse, the terrifying.
Case Notes: Book Reviews by Peter Tennant
CREATURES OF LIGHT AND SHADOW: The Art of Ian Miller, Dark Work by Kieth Minnion, Veins and Skulls by Daniele Serra • MATHESON AND SON: A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson, The Ritual of Illusion by Richard Christian Matheson • GHOSTS AND MERMAIDS: Home and Hearth by Angela Slatter, The Elvis Room by Stephen Graham Jones, Water For Drowning by Ray Cluley • REMEMBERING THE DARKNESS: A.K. BENEDICT: The Beauty of Murder and author interview • THE BOOK(S) OF THE FILM: Carrie by Neil Mitchell, The Thing by Jez Conolly, The Silence of the Lambs by Barry Forshaw, Splice Vol7 #1, The Sorcerers edited by Johnny Mains • DARKFUSE NOVELLAS: Red Cells by Jeffrey Thomas, Marrow’s Pit by Keith Deininger, Deceiver by Kelli Owen, Hell’s Door by Sandy De Luca, Messages From the Dead by Sandy De Luca, Shattered by C.S. Kane, Ash and Bone by Lisa von Biela, Elderwood Manor by Christopher Fulbright & Angeline Hawkes, Dead Five’s Pass by Colin F. Barnes, Whom the Gods Would Destroy by Brian Hodge, I Am the New God by Nicole Cushing, Love and Zombies by Eric Shapiro, Ceremony of Flies by Kate Jonez, When We Fall by Peter Giglio, Sow by Tim Curran
Blood Spectrum: DVD/Blu-ray Reviews by Tony Lee
The Last Horror Movie, Cellar Dweller, Demon Legacy, Pit and the Pendulum, I Frankenstein, Re-Animator, The Pit (aka Jug Face), True Detective, True Blood, 13 Sins, Rapture, Haunter, The Forgotten, The Attic, Delivery, Devil’s Due and others
Silver Bullets: TV Noir on DVD/Blu-ray by Mike O’Driscoll
Weird Detectives: True Detective, Hinterland