butsudanTrav­els to the lands of the liv­ing, the dead and the damned describes the sto­ries in Fatal Jour­neys. The But­su­dan, included in the new signed Lim­ited Edi­tion, is a story about sex, death and the ghosts of Japan­ese ances­tors. Here is The But­su­dan for your enjoyment:

Hiroshi-​san died at the start of the New Year. Now, nine months later, it is the begin­ning of Obon, the fes­ti­val of the dead in Japan, and he is due to come home for a visit.

As I trudge back from the mar­ket, I can sense the happy excite­ment and antic­i­pa­tion of the peo­ple around me, many of them already wear­ing yukatas, light­weight sum­mer kimonos, in prepa­ra­tion for the danc­ing that will start tonight, but all I feel is a pro­found, stomach-​turning dread.

33572350MY ABSOLUTE DAR­LING, Gabriel Tallent’s debut novel, is the grip­ping, often shock­ing tale of Tur­tle, a fourteen-​year-​old girl attempt­ing to sur­vive in two worlds: that of her school, where she strug­gles over vocab­u­lary words and treats female peers with a casual misog­yny and that of her home, where her father’s tute­lage in firearms, sur­vival­ist train­ing, and the kind of men­tal and phys­i­cal tough­ness that would do credit to a hard­ened com­mando, has come at a ter­ri­ble price.

Turtle’s love/​hate for her father Mar­tin has evolved in a cli­mate of phys­i­cal abuse, casual cama­raderie, and con­stant indoc­tri­na­tion in his toxic world view. Mar­tin is a fas­ci­nat­ing, yet ter­ri­fy­ing char­ac­ter, a man so dam­aged that he nick­names his daugh­ter ‘kib­ble’, like the food fed to dogs, and pre­pares for an end of the world that one senses he’s more than a lit­tle eager to see.

Tur­tle is not, how­ever, with­out allies. An alco­holic grand­fa­ther in the trailer nearby attempts to help her, a per­cep­tive teacher offers sanc­tu­ary, and a school­mate named Rilke, her­self the vic­tim of Turtle’s bul­ly­ing, makes over­tures of friend­ship. Each is foiled by Turtle’s fierce insis­tence that noth­ing is wrong at her home.

post apocalyptic horror I’m a late­comer to Malerman’s grip­ping novel, BIRD BOX, which was pub­lished in 2014, but per­haps some other fans of hor­ror and post-​apocalyptic fic­tion have missed out on it, too.

BIRD BOX, which gets its name from the caged birds whose coo­ing is sup­posed to warn of approach­ing intrud­ers, is a fast-​paced, intensely creepy tale that starts with an ambi­tious premise – the world is sud­denly pop­u­lated with crea­tures that, once looked upon, drive humans into a sui­ci­dal rage.

We meet Mal­o­rie, a young woman on a twenty mile boat trip upriver with her two chil­dren, the unnamed Boy and Girl. All are blind­folded. Mal­o­rie relies on the children’s preter­nat­u­rally keen sense of hear­ing to tell her when dan­ger is near. Maler­man does a fine job of ratch­et­ing up the sus­pense as the trio approach poten­tial threats. Is that rustling in the bushes a human being? Is that musky smell a prowl­ing wolf or dog? Mal­o­rie and the kids are never sure, but to give in to temp­ta­tion and remove the blind­folds could mean a swift and vio­lent death.

31377300 The scari­est thing about Underdown’s grip­ping novel isn’t that it’s based on the his­tor­i­cal record of one Mathew Hop­kins or that his cru­sade against witches is (in Underdown’s fic­tion­al­ized ver­sion of his early life) pos­si­bly moti­vated by trauma he suf­fered as an infant, but that the dis­em­pow­er­ment and silenc­ing of those con­sid­ered to be infe­rior beings feels so famil­iar today.

The year is 1644, in Essex, Eng­land, a time of polit­i­cal and reli­gious upheaval. Alice Hop­kins, the nar­ra­tor, is a widow who seeks shel­ter with her brother Mathew, a preacher’s son bent on rid­ding the coun­try­side of women sus­pected of witchcraft.

The world Alice was born into has trained her to be meek and sub­servient toward men. As Mathew’s unwill­ing assis­tent, she faces a daunt­ing task: bear wit­ness to the hor­rors of the inter­ro­ga­tions while still try­ing to help the women escape their fate. Her efforts do not go as hoped. When we meet her, Alice is locked in an attic, keep­ing a jour­nal which opens with, “Nine months ago my brother Mathew set him­self to killing women.”

51ExyEhNNPL“I want you to kill my step­dad” begins Ham­mers on Bone, Cas­san­dra Khaw’s mas­ter­ful com­bi­na­tion of gritty noir detec­tive story and Love­craft­ian cos­mic hor­ror. The star­tling request comes from a young boy named Abel, who slams his piggy bank down on the desk of Detec­tive John Per­sons to prove he can pay for the hit.

Turns out Abel’s prob­lem is an abu­sive step­fa­ther, and Per­sons is the only one he feels he can turn to. Per­sons help­fully sug­gests Abel might “tell his mum to call child ser­vices,” but the kid, older than his years, is fully aware his step­dad, McK­in­sey, is much worse than just your aver­age social deviant. He is, in fact, a bonafide mon­ster. Abel also knows why Per­sons is the only one with a shot at tak­ing him down.

Added to this mix is a younger brother who’s at even higher risk from McKinsey’s abom­inable intent and Sasha, a pretty wait­ress who’s been tainted by the vile McK­in­sey herself.

science fiction, post apocalypticThe night before my mother walked into the New Sea car­ry­ing my six-​week-​old brother, I heard her and Papi argu­ing. Even with the wind scream­ing past our tiny squatter’s house on the ciff, the rage in her voice slashed through the thin wall.”

So begins my story “Sweet­lings”, a sci­ence fiction/​horror nov­el­ette about a young woman named Mir, her father, and Mir’s friend Jer­sey, all strug­glng to sur­vive in a world reshaped by cat­a­strophic floods. Mir wasn’t yet born when the Great Inun­da­tion took place, but Papi lived through the floods that wiped out much of the east coast of the United States. Now he stud­ies the new forms of crus­taceans emerg­ing out of this New Sea and con­cludes the Great Inun­da­tion was just the begin­ning – there is much worse to come.

Like most of the peo­ple in their small set­tle­ment, Jer­sey wants to take his chances going inland. He tries to con­vince Mir to go with him, but she won’t aban­don her father, who suf­fers from Blis­ter Rot and is con­fined to a wheel­chair. Papi also has strange lapses in mem­ory; at times he looks at Mir as though she’s “noth­ing he’s ever seen before, but some­thing fab­u­lous and faintly unclean, a bizarre species of spi­der fish or toad that just wrig­gled its way into creation.”

Find out what fate awaits Mir, Papi, and Jer­sey – and what ter­ri­ble sur­prises this New Sea may have in store!

Visit www​.Tor​.com and click on fic­tion. “Sweet­lings” is free to read!

fa2025bbff3a5bad0eb60e40c4e2adf2 w2041xAgents of Dream­land by Caitlin R. Kier­nan is that rare work of fic­tion so grip­ping, com­plex, and dis­turb­ing that it begs to be read a sec­ond time, both to savor the exquis­ite writ­ing and to look for sub­tleties, clues, and ref­er­ences that may have been over­looked the first time.

When the novella begins, the agent known only as the Sig­nal­man, a cyn­i­cal hard-​drinking oper­a­tive on the trail of a cult leader, is arriv­ing in Winslow, Ari­zona. There he meets with the enig­matic Imma­co­lata Sex­ton, a woman whose cryp­tic, hard-​as-​nails exte­rior is later belied by small future acts of com­pas­sion toward the suf­fer­ing denizens of a doomed Los Ange­les. Sex­ton is a time trav­eler; we fol­low her from Ver­mont in 1927, where she exam­ines evi­dence of an alien space­craft, to the Amer­i­can south­west and a des­per­ate, present-​day race to stop a hor­rific plague, then to a future Los Ange­les where alien ships rule the sky and the few human inhab­i­tants eke out a pitiable existence.

All Kiernan’s char­ac­ters are mem­o­rable; for me, the most vivid was a con­fused, lost young woman named Chloe, who’s been goomed by cult leader Drew Stan­dish to become a key mem­ber of the Chil­dren of the Next Level. Chloe’s lurid, drug-​addled past makes her a per­fect, if tragic, foil for indoc­tri­na­tion by mad­man Standish.

To be fair, Agents of Dream­land is not for every­one (but what great fic­tion is?). Some may find it too per­va­sively dark or too graphic in its depic­tion of body hor­ror. Some may wish for a more tra­di­tional, less unset­tling end­ing, espe­cially at a time in his­tory when the idea of eco­log­i­cal dis­as­ter, alien or oth­er­wise, seems all too likely.

As Kier­nan writes, “The haunted human psy­che craves resolution…humans, inher­ent prob­lem solvers that we are, chafe at prob­lems that can­not be solved, ques­tions that can­not ever, once and for all, sais­fac­to­rily be put to rest.”

With no glim­mer of hope at the end­ing and no promise of a res­o­lu­tion to come, Agents of Dream­land defies con­ven­tional expec­ta­tions and raises the spec­tor of a future we may not want to imagine.

In short, this is great writ­ing that is likely to stick with the reader for a very long time. Def­i­nitely not to be missed.

short story appWhy isn’t the short story more pop­u­lar?” That’s the ques­tion that Kelly Abbott, CEO of Great Jones Street, asked him­self a few years ago.

Kelly had grown up watch­ing his father labor over short fic­tion, so he knew the dif­fi­cul­ties writ­ers face. He wanted to find a way to offer high qual­ity short fic­tion to a wide audi­ence and came up with a the­ory – that mobile phones, our culture’s gen­er­ally short atten­tion span, and the desire for high qual­ity enter­tain­ment could lead to a resur­gence for the much neglected short story.

With the goal of bring­ing short fic­tion back to pop­u­lar cul­ture, Abbott and his part­ner Ken Trues­dale, came up with the idea for Great Jones Street, an app where read­ers can access vir­tu­ally any type of short fic­tion. They reached out to writ­ers who, in turn, rec­om­mended other writ­ers. In its first year, Great Jones Street acquired over a thou­sand short sto­ries, a num­ber Abbott says they’re on track to pub­lish every year.

To flesh out the cat­a­logue, Abbott and Trues­dale also con­tacted edi­tors like John Joseph Adams (for s/​f, fan­tasy), Suzie bright (erot­ica), and Nick Mamatas (mystery/​crime).

The GJS app not only gives a syn­op­sis of each story, but the approx­i­mate time it will take to read it. Wait­ing in a doctor’s office? In line at the DMV? Just found out your flight’s been delayed? With GJS you can find every­thing from longer works to exquis­ite lit­tle gems of five min­utes or less to fill the time.

As a writer, GJS is absolutely my favorite app, because it allows me to explore gen­res I gen­er­ally don’t read. It expands my read­ing uni­verse and gives me dozens of new, favorite writ­ers whose work I now look for.

For now, GJS is free (up until the first ten thou­sand read­ers), but it won’t stay that way. For lovers of short fic­tion, it’s the best deal in town.

https://www.greatjonesstreet.press/

And P.S. If you’re a hor­ror reader on GJS, look for my sto­ries: Nik­ishi, Blessed Be the Bound, Wing­less Beasts, Choke Hold, and Lust in the Days of Demons

we eat our own 9781501128318No script, no money, and soon no escape pretty much sums up the plight of the actors film­ing “Jun­gle Blood­bath” in Kea Wilson’s tightly plot­ted and beau­ti­fully writ­ten “We Eat Our Own”. Eccen­tric and pos­si­bly insane direc­tor Ugo Vel­luto lures des­per­ate wannabe actor Adrian White (whose real name we don’t learn until the end of the book) to be his unlucky and unlikely lead­ing man after the first actor to be cast in the part flees in ter­ror. To pre­vent this hap­pen­ing again, once White shows up, Ugo has his pass­port con­fis­cated and informs him there is no script.

The naive and increas­ingly des­per­ate White finds him­self immersed in a hotbed of inter­na­tional drug deal­ers, M-​19 gueril­las, and can­ni­bal­ism scenes that may or may not be entirely sim­u­lated. It doesn’t take long for him to real­ize he’s in way over his head and that his suc­cess as an actor isn’t up for debate so much as his survival.

Wil­son is being com­pared to Cor­mac McCarthy and with good rea­son; her prose is taut, her action thrilling, and her char­ac­ters veer toward extremes – guilt-​ridden kid­napers, ruth­less Loli­tas, a direc­tor who thinks set­ting the jun­gle on fire is a great way to get action footage of extras flee­ing the flames. Movie buffs will find the story espe­cially com­pelling since Wil­son loosely bases it on the con­tro­ver­sial 1970’s Ital­ian hor­ror film “Can­ni­bal Holocaust”.

If all this sounds a bit over the top, make no mis­take – “We Eat Our Own” is an expertly paced, riv­et­ting novel with char­ac­ters that may not be like­able, but are often unfor­get­table. Per­haps not everyone’s cup of tea – there’s graphic vio­lence, White’s char­ac­ter of ‘Richard’ is por­trayed entirely in the sec­ond per­son, and dia­logue is writ­ten with­out quo­ta­tion marks, so you have to pay atten­tion to know who is speak­ing. All of this may take some get­ting used to, but don’t be deterred. “We Eat Our Own” is a har­row­ing and mes­mer­iz­ing novel you won’t want to put down.

5e84e3b6eca28052f189bb7ffc44458577dfac9f thumbRead­ers of hard­core hor­ror fic­tion were first intro­duced to Painf­reak in a col­lec­tion of short sto­ries by author Ger­ard Houarner in 1996. Now Houarner is both a con­trib­u­tor to and edi­tor of the new anthol­ogy INTO PAINF­REAK, pub­lished by Necro Pub­li­ca­tions, Bed­lam Press & Weird West Books.

INTO PAINF­REAK fea­tures all new sto­ries from some of horror’s top authors, includ­ing a new nov­el­ette by Edward Lee. Con­trib­u­tors include Mon­ica O’Roarke, Wrath James White, K. Trap Jones, Linda Addi­son, Charlee Jacobs, and many oth­ers. I’m delighted that my own story “He Who Whis­pers the Dead Back to Life” is part of the line-​up – in my ver­sion of this Land of Erotic Enchant­ment, the entrance to Painf­reak is a casita near Gallup, New Mex­cio, guarded by a hybrid dog who admin­is­ters the cov­eted ‘mark’ with its teeth.

For those not already famil­iar with the ter­ri­ble delights of Painf­reak, this entry from the blog of David G. Bar­nett, pub­lisher, will give you an idea: “Wel­come to Painf­reak, the trav­el­ing club that arises out of the dark and calls to those seek­ing the ulti­mate in plea­sure and pain. Many come to expe­ri­ence the ulti­mate in deca­dence and debauch­ery. And many get lost in a labyrinth filled with depraved sex, beau­ti­ful death, and won­der­fully hor­ri­ble sights. You’ve been given the mark, now step into the heart of…PAINFREAK.”