review of The Water Museum Luis Alberto Urrea’s short story col­lec­tion, The Water Museum, is an ode to the south­west­ern U.S., its con­tra­dic­tions and multi-​culturalism as well as its humor and tragedies. Urrea’s prose sings, often imbu­ing even the most mun­dane details with an unex­pected poignancy. Many of these sto­ries pack a wal­lop, some­times through sud­den vio­lence, other times through the grad­ual rev­e­la­tion of a character’s true nature.

The title story “The Water Museum”, is a pow­er­ful, apoc­a­lyp­tic piece in which chil­dren who have never known rain expe­ri­ence a sim­u­lated thun­der­storm while the adults grieve the loss of the world they once knew. “Amap­ola” is a tale of young lovers told from the view­point of a besot­ted teenaged Romeo who falls for the hot lit­tle sis­ter of his Mex­i­can friend. What begins as a saga of ado­les­cent long­ing changes dra­mat­i­cally when the story reaches its stun­ning conclusion.

Urrea pop­u­lates his fic­tion with a won­der­ful melt­ing pot of grin­gos, Chi­canos, and Indi­ans – some­times with hilar­i­ous results, as in “The Sous Chefs of Iogua”, in which an elderly farmer finds him­self in the mid­dle of a restau­rant war among com­pet­ing Mex­i­can chefs. Then there is the lovely and heart­break­ing story “Farewell to Her Many Horses”, where we meet Don, a Sioux deal­ing with the death of his sis­ter and the arrival on the reser­va­tion of her guilt-​ridden anglo hus­band. Don reap­pears in “Taped to the Sky”, a lighter story that has him lend­ing his rifle to a jilted hus­band bent on shoot­ing his car.

The col­lec­tion is also a show­case for Urrea’s love of music. The musi­cal ref­er­ences are numer­ous, every­thing from two bud­dies who bond over Lou Reed to a nod to Nine Inch Nails and Alice Cooper.

For lovers of beau­ti­fully crafted fic­tion as well as those with a deep inter­est in the south­west, The Water Museum is a col­lec­tion not to be missed.

I’m delighted to announce that my story “Wing­less Beasts” was selected by editor/​anthologist Ellen Dat­low for Best Hor­ror of the Year #7! This is a huge honor as you’ll see from the TOC of authors listed below.

The fol­low­ing is taken from Dark Wolf’s Fan­tasy Review:

Table of con­tents — “The Best Hor­ror of the Year, Vol­ume 7″ edited by Ellen Datlow

For the past sev­eral years one of my high­lights of each read­ing cal­en­dar is Ellen Dat­low’s series of antholo­gies, “The Best Hor­ror of the Year”. Each year, since 2009, “The Best Hor­ror of the Year” not only rewarded me with some excel­lent short sto­ries, but it also offered me the pos­si­bil­ity to dis­cover plenty of oth­ers through the list of hon­or­able men­tions pub­lished by Ellen Dat­low in every vol­ume. This year “The Best Hor­ror of the Year” sees the pub­li­ca­tion of its 7th vol­ume and yet again Ellen Datlow’s anthol­ogy comes with a very inter­est­ing list of short sto­ries and a catchy, sug­ges­tive cover artwork.
“[Hor­ror fic­tion] shows us that the con­trol we believe we have is purely illu­sory, and that every moment we teeter on chaos and obliv­ion.” —Clive Barker
For over three decades, Ellen Dat­low has been at the cen­ter of hor­ror. Bring­ing you the most fright­en­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing sto­ries, Dat­low always has her fin­ger on the pulse of what hor­ror read­ers crave. Now, with the sev­enth vol­ume of this series, Dat­low is back again to bring you the sto­ries that will keep you up at night.
With each pass­ing year, sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, and the march of time shine light into the craggy cor­ners of the uni­verse, mak­ing the fears of an ear­lier gen­er­a­tion seem quaint. But this “light” cre­ates its own shad­ows.The Best Hor­ror of the Yearchron­i­cles these shift­ing shad­ows. It is a cat­a­log of ter­ror, fear, and unpleas­ant­ness, as artic­u­lated by today’s most chal­leng­ing and excit­ing writers.
“As usual, Dat­low deliv­ers what she promises, ‘the best hor­ror of the year,’ whether it’s writ­ten by the famous (Neil Gaiman) or the should-​be famous (Laird Bar­ron and many oth­ers).”
Wash­ing­ton Post
“The Atlas of Hell” by Nathan Ballingrud (Fear­ful Sym­me­tries, edited by Ellen Dat­low, ChiZine Publications)
“Win­ter Chil­dren” by Angela Slat­ter (Post­scripts #32/​33 Far Voy­ager, edited by Nick Gev­ers, PS Publishing)
“A Dweller in Amenty” by Genevieve Valen­tine (Night­mare Mag­a­zine, March 2014)
“Out­side Heav­enly” by Rio Youers (The Spec­tral Book of Hor­ror Sto­ries, edited by Mark Mor­ris, Spec­tral Press)
“Shay Cor­sham Worsted” by Garth Nix (Fear­ful Sym­me­tries, edited by Ellen Dat­low, ChiZine Publications)
“Alloc­thon” by Livia Llewellyn (Let­ters to Love­craft, edited by Jesse Bulling­ton, Stone Skin Press)
“Chap­ter Six” by Stephen Gra­ham Jones (Tor​.com, June 2014)
“This is Not for You” by Gemma Files (Night­mare Mag­a­zine, Sep­tem­ber 2014)
“Inter­state Love Song (Mur­der Bal­lad No. 8)” by Caitlín R. Kier­nan (Sire­nia Digest #100, May 2014)
“The Cul­vert” by Dale Bai­ley (The Mag­a­zine of Fan­tasy & Sci­ence Fic­tion, September/​October 2014)
“Past Reno” by Brian Even­son (Let­ters to Love­craft, edited by Jesse Bulling­ton, Stone Skin Press)
“The Coat Off His Back” by Keris McDon­ald (Ter­ror Tales of York­shire, edited by Paul Finch, Gray Friar Press)
“the worms crawl in” by Laird Bar­ron (Fear­ful Sym­me­tries, edited by Ellen Dat­low, ChiZine Publications)
“The Dog’s Home” by Ali­son Lit­tle­wood (The Spec­tral Book of Hor­ror Sto­ries, edited by Mark Mor­ris, Spec­tral Press)
“Tread Upon the Brit­tle Shell” by Rhoads Bra­zos (SQ Mag­a­zine, Edi­tion 14, May 2014)
“Per­sis­tence of Vision” by Orrin Grey (Frac­tured: Tales of the Cana­dian Post-​Apocalypse, edited by Sil­via Moreno-​Garcia, Exile Editions)
“It Flows From the Mouth” by Robert Shear­man (Shad­ows & Tall Trees, Vol­ume 6)
“Wing­less Beasts” by Lucy Tay­lor (Fatal Jour­neys, Over­look Con­nec­tion Press)
“Depar­tures” by Car­ole John­stone (The Bright Day is Done, Gray Friar Press)
“Ymir” by John Lan­gan (The Chil­dren of the Old Leech, edited by Ross E. Lock­hart & Justin Steele, Word Horde)
“Plink” by Kurt Dinan (Post­scripts #32/​33 Far Voy­ager, edited by Nick Gev­ers, PS Publishing)
“Nigredo” by Cody Good­fel­low (In the Court of the Yel­low King, edited by Glynn Owen Bar­ras, Celaeno Press)

tmp73AA 640x480Hor­ror fans are well-​acquainted with the work of acclaimed artist Glenn Chad­bourne, of New­cas­tle, Maine. Widely known in the hor­ror and fan­tasy gen­res Chad­bourne has cre­ated cov­ers and illus­trated books and mag­a­zines for Ceme­tery Dance Pub­li­ca­tions, Sub­ter­ranean Press, and Earth­ling Publications.

Recently Chad­bourne illus­trated The Sec­re­tary of Dreams: Vol­ume 1, a graphic col­lec­tion of Stephen King sto­ries pubished by CD Pub­li­ca­tions in three lim­ited edi­tions. He has also illus­trated the work of Joe R. Lans­dale, Dave Low­ell, Jack Ketchum, Bev Vin­cent, and many others.

Need­less to say, I’m thrilled that Glenn is cre­at­ing the illus­tra­tions for the new, illus­trated edi­tion of my novel The Safety of Unknown Cities, due out at Hal­loween 2015 from The Over­look Con­nec­tion Press. Over­look edi­tor and pub­lisher Dave Hinch­berger shared a cou­ple of the illos with me recently, one of which was briefly banned on face­book for its (shud­der) depic­tion of breasts.

For any­one who loves hard­core hor­ror and dyna­mite graphic art­work, keep an eye out for the late 2015 release of this illus­trated edition.

Corpse ExhibitionBefore tak­ing out his knife, he said, “After study­ing the client’s file, you must sub­mit a brief note on how you pro­pose to kill your first client and how you will dis­play his body in the city. But that doesn’t mean that what you pro­pose in your note will be approved…”

So begins the title story, a sur­real and har­row­ing tale of mur­ders care­fully crafted and art­fully dis­played to evoke max­i­mum hor­ror. The nar­ra­tor of the tale is inter­view­ing for the posi­tion of assas­sin, with the caveat that his vic­tims must be posi­tioned in eye-​catching and mem­o­rable ways. Fail­ure to live up to the job descrip­tion can only end in a grisly demise.

Blasim is a writer and film­maker who fled per­se­cu­tion under Sad­dam Hus­sein in 1998 and now lives in Fin­land. The Corpse Exhi­bi­tion is a graphic and Kafkaesque look at a night­mare world of feral young men groomed to be gang­sters and killers, doomed fam­i­lies, des­per­ate sur­vivors, and death at its most grue­some and meaningless.

In “The Song of Goats”, the nar­ra­tor finds him­self com­pet­ing with other would-​be con­tes­tants to see who can tell the most hor­rific story and win a place on a radio game show. Shock fol­lows absur­dity as the hap­less nar­ra­tor vies to come up with the most appalling tale, while another con­tes­tant grum­bles, “That’s a story? If I told my story to a rock, it would break its heart.”

The Mad­man of Free­dom Square” chron­i­cles the mir­a­cle of two young blond men who appear in the wretched Dark­ness Dis­trict and rejuvinate the squalid neigh­bor­hood. After their dis­ap­pear­ance, a bloody bat­tle ensues between the gov­ern­ment and the locals over the fate of the stat­ues erected to honor them.

The col­lec­tion con­cludes with “The Night­mare of Car­los Fuentes”, in which an Iraqui escapes to Hol­land and does his best to embrace his new life and good for­tune, but pon­ders the stark dif­fer­ences between his life then and now. “Why can’t we be peace­ful like them?…Why do they respect dogs as much as humans? Why do we mas­tur­bate twenty-​four hours a day?” There is, how­ever, no refuge from the night­mares and Car­los Fuentes soon learns that there’s more to escap­ing one’s past than just geography.

The Corpse Exhi­bi­tion is by no means an easy read. Blasim piles hor­ror upon hor­ror. But clearly the author writes with the author­ity of expe­ri­ence. Beneath the often fan­tas­ti­cal nar­ra­tive is a vivid and sober­ing look into a world most of us know only from the head­lines and the evening news.

horror in exotic landsOver­look Con­nec­tion Press pub­lisher Dave Hinch­berger is giv­ing away two copies of the lim­ited edi­tion of Fatal Jour­neys! To be in the run­ning just post a review of the book on Fatal Jour­neys’ Face­book and Ama­zon pages. You will authomat­i­cally be entered in a lot­tery to win one of the two lim­ited edi­tions being given away.

The lim­ited edi­tion includes:

*“Wing­less Beasts”, a bonus story, never-​before-​pubished and mak­ing its first appear­ance in this signed lim­ited edition

*Orig­i­nal cover foil-​stamped design by noted hor­ror and dark fan­tasy artist Glenn Chad­bourne, who cre­ated new art for the front and back of this edition

*Sig­na­tures by Lucy Tay­lor, Jack Ketchum, and Glenn Chadbourne

*Fron­tispiece by Bill Munster

*Bound-​in silk bookmark


There are only two hun­dred copies of the lim­ited edi­tion avail­able, so write a review and get one for free!

Yesterday’s newslet­ter went out with Terry M. West’s novel incor­rectly referred to as “Hor­ror” in the Magic Now rather than HEROIN IN THE MAGIC NOW.

Heroin-In-the-Magic-NowEven with­out the vam­pires, zom­bie whores, and a Frankenstein-​esque crime king, the life of film­maker and drug addict Gary Hack would be the stuff of nightmares.

Once an ambi­tious, aspir­ing writer, Gary dwells in a squalid limbo of heroin addic­tion, self-​pity, and self-​destruction. When he’s not feed­ing his habit, his life cen­ters around mak­ing porn films, occa­sion­ally bick­er­ing with a bit­ter ex-​wife, and won­der­ing why even on a diet of heroin, he still man­ages to be fat.

Bad luck and worse choices seem to dog him, begin­ning as a school boy who earned the label of ‘deviant’ when he drew a pic­ture of the devil with ‘tits and a penis’ and earned a beat­ing from his mom.

That lit­tle episode, fre­quently recalled when the adult Gary is deep in a drug-​induced haze, has set the tra­jec­tory for a life mired in drugs, porn, and the myr­iad degra­da­tions of life shared with the mon­sters that inhabit West’s bleak and seedy ver­sion of New York City.

No ques­tion but Heroin in the Magic Now is a grip­pingly twisted saga, in which a world full of mon­sters is the new real­ity – home­less zom­bies scrounge in alley­ways, vam­pires prowl the boule­vards, and shapeshifters aspire to be porn stars. A bleaker, more soul-​crushing world would be hard to imag­ine: “Some days, Gary felt like the crea­tures were merely haunt­ing his head in a meta­phys­i­cal way and he could bury them if he quit his addic­tions, but every­one around him seemed to be in a quandary about the mon­sters and their rights and the dark impact they were having…the mon­sters were everywhere.”

An accom­plished author, film­maker, artist, and actor, West depicts this macabre world with style and dark humor. The impact is height­ened by the intro­duc­tion, in which West makes clear that Gary Hack’s demons have been his own,too, and that the most ter­ri­ble mon­sters are not the ones stalk­ing the night, but those lodged in the human heart.

free story from collection Fatal-JourneysSea­sick and shiv­er­ing, Thomas Blacks­burg peered out from beneath the orange life boat canopy, watch­ing help­lessly as the pow­er­ful Benguela cur­rent swept him north up the coast of Namibia. For hours, he’d been within sight of the Skele­ton Coast, that sav­age, wave-​battered por­tion of the West African shore stretch­ing between Angola to the north and Swakop­mund to the south.

Through ghostly fil­a­ments of fog that drifted around the boat, Blacks­burg could make out the dis­tant shore and the camel’s back out­line of tow­er­ing, buff-​colored dunes. To his hor­ror, the land appeared to be reced­ing. Hav­ing been brought tan­ta­liz­ingly close to sal­va­tion, the cur­rent was now tug­ging him back out into the fierce Atlantic.”

Thus begins “Nik­ishi”, one of the sto­ries in my new col­lec­tion Fatal Jour­neys. To cel­e­brate the launch of the book, I’m pub­lish­ing the entire story on the home page of my website.

Just go to www​.dark​fan​tasy​.us to read the entire tale!

Descansos in New MexicoDes­can­sos– in New Mex­ico you see them every­where – along major high­ways and nar­row coun­try roads, at the inter­sec­tion of city streets and in lonely niches along dusty, unpaved lanes. They’re the road­side shrines mark­ing the place where some­one has died sud­denly and vio­lently, often a long way from home, and they serve as both a memo­ri­al­iza­tion of the deceased and a warn­ing to remem­ber the fragility and imper­ma­nence of life.

In span­ish, the word ‘des­canso’ means respite or rest­ing place. Years ago, when the cof­fin was often car­ried from the church to the grave­yard, the bear­ers would have to set it down at some point and rest. The spot was then marked with a cross or ‘descanso’.

Many des­can­sos con­sist of a cross with flow­ers, pho­tographs, per­haps a stuffed ani­mal of a statue of the deceased’s favorite saint. Some shrines are lov­ingly tended; oth­ers are neglected and over­grown with weeds.

To me, the des­can­sos are poignant and haunt­ing, a reminder that death can come at any hour, in the moment we least expect it. They’re the memento mori of the New Mex­i­can road­side. Their pres­ence carves out a sacred space and a pil­grim­age site for fam­i­lies and friends of the departed.

Almost invari­ably, the des­can­sos face the high­way, so those speed­ing past can catch a glimpse of the spot where some­one died. I always notice them,and I won­der about the per­son who died there, what hap­pened, and who vis­its the des­canso to mourn.

For a few miles at least, I drive a lit­tle slowler and appre­ci­ate my life a lit­tle bit more.

salvage-by-carrie-vaughn

I don’t read enough sci­ence fiction.

Not nearly. Espe­cially sci­ence fic­tion writ­ten by women.

Until the other day, though, when I read the June issue of “Light­speed Mag­a­zine”, this wasn’t a topic that con­cerned me.

That’s because I didn’t real­ize what I was miss­ing. Now I do. “Women Destroy Sci­ence Fic­tion!”, the June issue of “Light­speed”, is a project that was funded by more than two thou­sand back­ers on Kick­starter and put together by 109 women, includ­ing authors, essay­ists, illus­tra­tors, copy­ed­i­tors, blog­gers, and many others.

The idea of an issue devoted entirely to women in sci­ence fic­tion was con­ceived in part by “Light­speed” assis­tant edi­tor Christie Yant as a way to address the per­cep­tion that sci­ence fic­tion writ­ten by women is less “real” than that writ­ten by men. Author Pat Mur­phy pointed it out over 20 years ago in a speech in which she famously iden­ti­fied the atti­tude per­me­at­ing sci­ence fic­tion that essen­tially says, “Women don’t write sci­ence fic­tion.” Or, put in less p.c. terms, “Those damn women are ruin­ing sci­ence fiction.”

If ever such anti­quated ideas were finally shelved, it should be now, with this mas­ter­ful edi­tion of “Light­speed”. Sto­ries that stood out for me (and really all of them did!) include, “A Word Shaped Like Bones” by Kris Mil­ler­ing, in which a space trav­el­ing artist shares her tiny auto­mated space­ship with a dead man, a sit­u­a­tion made more ghastly when the arti­fi­cial grav­ity fails.

Cuts Both Ways” by Heather Clitheroe fea­tures an exhausted cyborg mak­ing a Christ­mas trip home whose inabil­ity to for­get the hor­rors he’s wit­nessed leaves him near collapse.

And in “Canth” by K.C. Nor­ton, the cap­tain of a run­away ship fol­lows her ves­sel, with the aid of some pirates, into the lair of the mys­te­ri­ous Sea Monk.

There’s also some won­der­ful flash fic­tion, includ­ing “The Mouths” by Ellen Den­ham, where glob­u­lous crea­tures receive sen­sory input through the crack­ers they con­stantly consume.

Along with the sto­ries, the issue includes arti­cles and inter­views rein­forc­ing the idea that wom­ens’ par­tic­i­pa­tion in sci­ence fic­tion con­tin­ues to expand in ways ben­e­fit­ting us all.

As Pat Mur­phy writes, “The sto­ries we read and the sto­ries we tell shape who we are.”

And with fifty per­cent of the world being female, now would be a good time to listen.

See the website »