Farewell to WFR.com

As some of you possibly already know, I am no longer the managing editor here at Weird Fiction Review. I’ve stepped down from my duties, and our new managing editor David Davis has stepped up to claim them. There is no doubt in my mind that Davis will carry on the fantastic reputation of this site, and he will continue to acquire and feature some of the most imaginative, intelligent fiction, nonfiction and art out there. We will still have some of the best contributors in this industry, period. And, of course, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer are still editors-in-chief.

The reason for stepping down? Life beyond the Weird, basically. I’m currently enrolled in a PhD program for creative writing and literature at a major American university. Those of you in the midst of grad school, or those of you who have already gone through it, understand how challenging it can be, especially on the PhD level. (We’ve written about Kafka on this site before; life in academia itself often feels like something Kafka would have written.) With the obvious ongoing commitment to my academics, I knew I wouldn’t be able to maintain my commitment to WFR.com as well.

I will always be proud of this site, and of our contributors and readers. Because of working for this site, I learned to be a better editor and writer, and I immersed myself in a body of literature and art that deserves to have a much bigger profile in the world at large. Our World Fantasy Award nomination in 2013 will always be a colossal point of pride for me, because it was a worthy recognition of all the hard work and talent invested by the people who worked here.

And a brief word on the topic of contributors, if I may. I sing the praises of our writers and columnists a lot, but this is the last time I’ll get to do it as an editor of this site, so to hell with it. Our contributors are, and have been, amazing. Edward Gauvin, Nancy Hightower, Matthew Pridham, Maureen Kincaid Speller, and Katie Lavers have been stellar for us, and I am deeply grateful for the work they’ve done. I’m just as thankful for the people who volunteered to serve as writers for our ongoing 101 Weird Writers feature: Desirina Boskovich, Leif Schenstead-Harris, Timothy Jarvis, Kat Clay, Elwin Cotman, Larry Nolen, Alistair Rennie, Sofia Samatar, James Machin, Lynne Jamneck, Brendan Connell, Lisa Hannett, Gio Clairval, and Jim Rockhill. None of that even includes all of the people I’ve interviewed for the site over the past few years, or the people whose stories and art we’ve published and reprinted, or Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, without whose guidance and confidence I would have been but a shadow of my professional and personal self.

All I can say is that I’m deeply thankful to all of these people, for making my job here such a pleasure. Not only did they make my job supremely easy, but they’ve also been wonderful colleagues, the kind I’d work with on any project, any day.

There will be future projects for me, of course. I’m not done with the Weird, and I’m not done with editorial work either. I’ll be back in one form or another, hopefully soon. For now, I’ll bow out and once again say thanks to all of the people I’ve mentioned, and to all of you reading this editorial and this site. In the words of a certain Number Six, from a favorite TV show of mine (and a delightfully weird work in its own right): “Be seeing you.”

Julio Cortázar’s “Headache”: A new translation for a centennial anniversary

Julio Cortazar full image

This year has seen a lot of anniversaries in weird fiction. First, there was the centennial anniversary of Robert Aickman, then the bicentennial of Sheridan Le Fanu, and now we’re celebrating the 100th year anniversary of Julio Cortázar (whose birthday was actually before Le Fanu’s birthday last month). Today though, Tor.com is featuring an all new translation from Cortázar. The short story “Cefalea” (or “Headache”) was acquired for Tor.com by Ann VanderMeer and translated by weird fiction author Michael Cisco. From the Tor website:

“Cefalea” or “Headache” was originally published in Cortázar’s collection Bestiaro in 1951. This is the first time it has been translated into English. The translator, Michael Cisco, is a writer of surreal and fantastical fiction and he brings the right sensibilities to this story.

As for how Cisco found the story and why he decided to translate it, Cisco writes:

I discovered this story by accident, having mistakenly purchased the Spanish edition of his collection Bestiario.  When I tried to collate its table of contents with my English edition of his stories, I found one tale, “Cefalea” unaccounted for.  I decided to try translating it for my own edification … now here we are.

For those unfamiliar with Cortázar, Julio Cortázar was an Argentine writer who is often considered one of the most influential Latin American writers of the 20th century along with Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Márquez. Cortázar was born in Belgium to parents who were Argentine nationals; his family moved to Argentina though after World War I.

In 1947, Cortázar published his first short story, “Casa tomada” (“House Taken Over”), in a magazine edited by Jorge Luis Borges. Cortázar moved to Paris in the 1950’s where he worked as a translator and continued to write. In the 1960’s and 70’s, he became a prominent figure in the Latin American boom in Europe and America with works like Los premios (The Winners) and Rayuela (Hopscotch). Cortázar visited Argentinia regularly until his exile by the Argentine junta who had taken offense to several of his stories. He passed away in Paris in 1984.

While he has been known as a master of the short story, Cortázar’s novels and poetry have also received critical acclaim. Cortázar is probably best known though for his short stories, which have influenced countless generations of writers since. One such story, “Axolotl” is featured in The Weird compendium and was the subject of our 101 Weird Writers series entry for Cortázar.

Like “Axolotl,” in “Headache” we also find layered meanings and hidden subtexts. Additionally, it seems to include a partly autobiographical element as Cortázar was a sickly child and spent many hours in bed while growing up. One thing that VanderMeer noted was that while researching “Headache” she found that so few of the many short stories Cortázar wrote have been translated into English. Head over to Tor.com now and check out the new — and only — translation of “Headache.”

Read “Headache” by Julio Cortázar on Tor.com

 

The Guests, The Fasters, The Watchers: Prose Poems Inspired by George Widener: Part Two

Some people go to church on Sunday and some get in an airplane.  Sometimes both of them end up praying at the exact same second because the plane is going to crash.

—George Widener, “Sunday’s Crash”

The-Loch-Ness-Monster

No Loch Ness Monster Found

We dove deep into the hive, which had betrayed its sacrificial nature through a series of telegrams received in the capital.  It was no longer possible to attend the services of ash.  What I mistook for a frond insinuated itself in my nostrils; no nidor was ever so pleasant, nor as ripe for pillaging.  A vial of marvels flickered in and out on the dais, around which photography capered, dispelling the armor of the state.  My spirit was hidden in a pair of scissors, my fortune in an orange.  Redact this blue sky from every memory my soul has retailed, I instructed my servants.  I waited for sleep’s mask to extend like night onto the surface of the water.  Fur approached us, it glittered upon our necks like some dowsing instru­ment scrimshawed from poached ivory.  Winged creatures flew through vast quantities of water just to bring this sweetness to the prince’s lips.  I didn’t know him, having never lived in this world as a hunter.  You were my body, you sur­vived by travel when all the clocks were consigned to time’s brilliant enigma, you sang the visible echo, the immaculate comb.

 

Elvis (Not You)

O titanic wound through which biography flows, peel this apple with your scalpel-sharp nails.  I have brought it from the orchard of the soul’s iniquity where celebrity crouches, covering its gaudy genitals with its hair.  I purchased my sorrow from love’s garish kiosk and loaded it like a gun.  The forest is a fool­ishness but we enjoy its company, its broad eaves soughing in the breeze, its emerald lakes.  Around them childlessness coils its lithe and hungry body.  The animals watch from a safe distance, having shed their wings, which only some of them will regrow.  Every tree is a scar from which the chrism drips and we bottle it in this rowboat, which we paddle to the capital, half-capsized.  We will make a lot of money in the black light, sing the policemen on their syncopated beats.  If we try hard enough we can blend in among them, we can wear their darkened glasses.  I confess I never knew the names of all the living, when I moved among them.  Earth had me by the neck, death by the groin.  We made an awkward three-legged figure in the streets, each carrying the others’ crosses.

 

Dingo Baby Trial

At the edge of the rebirthing machine you tremble, holding out the pieces of your tongue in each palm as if somehow this could save you, could make something different.  You must have had a very large tongue for it to disassemble itself into so many pieces, which feel oddly heavy, as if they have somehow called gravity down to them, an invisible angel made of lead.  The surfaces have mostly dried so that they feel a little like sharkskin, when you shift your weight and can actually feel them as something more than weight, than presence.  From inside the rebirthing machine you can hear the faintest of musics, so faint you can’t be sure whether it’s a clas­sical aria, a pop song from your childhood, or perhaps merely the nonsensical twangle of an ice cream truck circling your neigh­borhood endlessly, suing for custom but unable or unwilling to stop for the children that stumble behind it, licking the blood from their dirty hands.

 

Mary Rose Lives Again

(But remember:  we are buried under all this humid air.  I fell in love with the marriage feast, the delirious passion of theft upon theft that made the city so much less a dress to me, a living thing playing out its own narrative against the beating of my six-chambered heart, a tent, a chord from which porters carried the gut­tural baggage of surrender to the gray ferry.  A dim loam surrounded me, but I recog­nized it for squander and instead built a golden scaffold, where I briefly paced and slept.  I was never tempted so much as when confronted with the lenity of beati­tudes, the residue of charity which dried and flaked against these mauve-ish prison walls.  Sheathing the blue flame against my thigh like a hunter’s knife I crept into the net, which glistened the way only mathematics glistens on the surface of abstract thought.  I touched it and was caught between worlds, both hand and voice half-lifted to the flag of absence bearing down on me from some great distance it would never absolutely cross even as the bride and groom left the darkening pavilion for the last time, their eyes little economies of scale my breath sank into, unrecoverable as a black box or a private script and just this once neither lusting nor spurning.)

Summer Solstice

Midway through my month of guest editorship here at WFR, with the summer solstice on the horizon, I thought I’d do a quick stock-taking. We’ve seen a mix of translations, original fiction, and nonfiction articles so far. I’ve been posting every other day, but this last week the content has ramped up in frequency and will stay at fever pitch for the rest of the month.

Last week began and ended with work from the French – not my own, but translations by Kit Schluter and Katie Assef, doing wunderkind Weird precursor Marcel Schwob and twisted Belgian fabulist Nadine Monfils, respectively. Last week also saw the highlight of a classic favorite by Kelly Link, courtesy of Adam Mills (all hail Adam Mills!) who until recently was WFR’s very capable managing editor (he will be sorely missed – is already, in fact). Then on Thursday we took a turn for horror humor with a gory vampire redneck tale from proud South Carolina native Grady Hendrix, and on Friday finished up with some delectably perverse doings in Venice.

This week at WFR, I am proud to present J.W. McCormack’s visionary short novella Backwater, serialized in three installments. McCormack grafts his heady, pyrotechnic prose to the Biblical backbone of a rip-roaring Armageddon adventure in a Weird update of deep Southern Gothic featuring snake preachers, Cajun gamblers, cult compounds, and teenage runaways – all narrated by Hell’s own anglerfish, who gleans life stories from souls as he digests them. This will be accompanied by images from J.K. Potter, well-known for his covers and art for Subterranean Press.

Backwater will appear Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, while Tuesday and Thursday will showcase an original sequence of weird prose poems by G.C. Waldrep inspired by the work of outsider artist George Widener.

Bringing the Weirdness,

e.g.

2013 Shirley Jackson Award Nominees

159767This week on Weird Fiction Review, we’re giving our best congratulations to this year’s Shirley Jackson Award nominees! As many of you might already know, this year’s nominees were announced earlier this month. The SJAs have a history of spotlighting talented authors and noteworthy writing, and this year is no exception. Like last year as well, many of the nominated authors are friends of WFR and have had their material featured on this site in the past year. Of particular note is the fact that three of the authors considered under Single-Author Collection – Will Ludwigsen (for In Search Of and Others), Nathan Ballingrud (North American Lake Monsters), and Kit Reed (The Story Until Now) – had stories from their nominated collections reprinted on our site since last year.

And now, we can add a fourth author to that list: Christopher Barzak. We’ve just reprinted “A Resurrection Artist” from his collection Before and Afterlives, published last year by Lethe Press. Barzak is a master of fantasy with a strong grasp of character and language, and oftentimes his writing possesses a glimmer of supernatural weirdness to it. “A Resurrection Artist” is an excellent demonstration of Barzak’s ability as an author and the quality of his collection as a whole. It asks a strange, yet fundamental question of his characters – what can we make of death when it’s conquered? – while making the process and state of deathliness glimmer with strangeness, shock, and even beauty.

before and afterlives

Once again, best of luck to all the SJA nominees this year, and we hope that all of our readers acquaint themselves with Barzak’s story and collection, just as we hope they do the same for all of this year’s honored writers and stories.

The King in Yellow on WFR.com

This week on Weirdfictionreview.com, we’re spotlighting a legacy of weird fiction that has been gaining an increasingly strong foothold in the public consciousness: the King in Yellow Mythos, created in the late 19th century by American writer Robert W. Chambers. Through his short story collection The King in Yellow, Chambers gifted our literature with several enduring touchstones: the titular character himself, a mysterious being commonly depicted in yellow robes; the kingdom of Carcosa, an ancient, cursed city lying beyond our everyday perspective of time and place, on the shores of Lake Hali; and a cursed play inspired by (and written by?) the king himself and title after him, which drives its readers to madness, strange visions, and other things.

The_King_in_Yellow

We’ve wanted to run some material on the King in Yellow Mythos for a while, for several reasons. It’s a hugely influential thread of weird fiction, which has inspired and continues to inspire many writers and readers alike. The stories themselves have also held up amazingly well. “The Yellow Sign” is still a spooky, ethereal story with the ability to unsettle readers through its unique imagery and ability to suggest horrors and figments of the imagination that take hold and don’t let go, which is why we’ve chosen to reprint it on site this week.

We’re also reprinting two other stories: “An Inhabitant of Carcosa” by Ambrose Bierce and “Carl Lee and Cassilda” by Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. With his eerie story, Bierce introduced the concept of the lost city of Carcosa, laying the groundwork for Chambers to take that setting and make further magnificent literature of it. Pulver in turn updates the King in Yellow Mythos with his take on a serial killer seeking a lover’s communion with a woman named Cassilda, who readers familiar with the mythos will recognize from “Cassilda’s Song,” an excerpt from the play The King in Yellow that prefaces a story in the collection of the same name:

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink behind the lake,
The shadows lengthen

In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies,
But stranger still is

Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in

Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead,
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in

Lost Carcosa.

The King in Yellow Mythos has gained many new readers in the past few weeks, thanks to its incorporation into the central mystery of the acclaimed HBO dramatic series True Detective, written by Nic Pizzolatto, himself a fan and avid reader of both weird fiction (he has cited site favorites Laird Barron, John Langan, Thomas Ligotti, and Simon Strantzas in interviews, among others) and pessimistic philosophy (a touchstone for him is Ligotti’s thought-provoking and perhaps disturbing book-length treatise The Conspiracy Against the Human Race). Regardless of how True Detective resolves itself, and regardless of whether the one and only King in Yellow of Chambers’s work is at the heart of it, the literature that Chambers created (with an assist from Bierce) will carry on for quite some time.

We want to draw the attention of WFR readers to this interview that Justin Steele of Arkham Digest conducted with Pulver about the King in Yellow, the writing of Robert W. Chambers, and Pulver’s own involvement with the mythos as a writer and editor. It’s well worth listening to, whether you’re a neophyte to the King in Yellow or a seasoned reader, to gain valuable insight into the literature and how it differs from other strains of weird fiction (don’t call it Lovecraftian, for instance; it didn’t inspire Lovecraft’s writing so much as he was just a fan of it). Be sure to follow the link to Arkham Digest as well for a useful King in Yellow-centric reading list. And, of course, make sure to read the stories we have here this week!

2013: The Year in Review

Welcome back, readers! Weirdfictionreview.com has been on hiatus the past few weeks so the staff and contributors can rest up from a very busy, but very fulfilling, 2013. Last year, of course, WFR.com was up for a World Fantasy Award in the Special Award – Non-Professional category. That award ultimately went to S.T. Joshi for his Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction Vols. 1 & 2 (PS Publishing). Nevertheless, it was a privilege to be nominated in the first place, and especially to be considered for the award among other amazing projects.

We carried out a few immense projects of our own this year, the biggest of which was likely our full serialization of Michael Cisco’s magnificent novel The Divinity Student, which is still available on this site. Cisco himself, however, was responsible for one of two original, never-before-seen translations of fiction we published this year, a selection of stories by Mexican writer Carlos Diaz Dufoo.

Our other original translation this year is a must-read, for those who may have missed it: Leonid Andreyev’s “He,” translated for WFR by Vlad Zhenevsky. This story was a high-water point for a year packed with great material, a real find for readers who love unsettling, psychologically-probing weird fiction.

This was a great year for us on fiction in general, starting with our reprint of Amos Tutuola’s story “Ajantala, the Noxious Guest” and ending with “The Trepanist,” an exclusive excerpt from Leena Krohn’s short novel Datura. In between, we reprinted stories from a horde of great writers: Helen Marshall, Nathan Ballingrud, K.J. Bishop, John Kessel, Kit Reed, Nike Sulway, Marc Laidlaw, and many others. And in many cases, I was able to interview these authors and ask them about their work, their thoughts on weird fiction, and many other things, which is always a rewarding experience.

Our regular columnists and contributors had a banner year in 2013. Edward Gauvin’s translation of Jean Ferry’s short story collection The Conductor and Other Tales saw publication by Wakefield Press, for instance, while Nancy Hightower’s novel Elementari Rising was published in a variety of formats by Pink Narcissus Press. Despite being busy with these projects, though, they produced their usual high quality columns on translated weird fiction and weird art throughout the year. Matthew Pridham had a great year reviewing weird film, and Maureen Kincaid Speller ably reviewed a slew of weird books and introduced readers (and myself) to reading they may not have encountered without her help. 2013 also saw the addition of a new art columnist, Katie Lavers, who has written quality articles for us and, we hope, will continue to do so through this year.

2013 was also a banner year for our ongoing 101 Weird Writers feature. An array of amazing writers were profiled by a fantastic batch of contributors, including James Machin, Leif-Schenstead Harris, Desirina Boskovich, Elwin Cotman, Timothy Jarvis, Larry Nolen, Sofia Samatar, Alistair Rennie, and Kat Clay. I sincerely hope to see the return of all these contributors for more quality writing in the coming year.

We’re all looking forward to another great year here at WFR.com, and we hope you are too. So, stay tuned for more great reading to come very soon!

Deep Spiral, Dark Universe: Junji Ito’s Uzumaki

There is a deep, powerful vein of weirdness that runs through many excellent works within the mediums of manga and anime, so much so that I really wish more American readers otherwise unfamiliar with these mediums could encounter these stories for themselves. Such is the case with Junji Ito’s Uzumaki, which has recently been published in an omnibus edition by Viz Media. Those readers familiar with the world of manga – especially those that read manga and frequent this site – are no doubt already familiar with Ito’s reputation as a master of horror manga, with Uzumaki often considered his magnum opus. After reading Uzumaki in its entirety, I can assure readers that this status is rightfully deserved.

The story follows what must seem like a bizarre, absurd premise even by the standards of weird fiction. A small Japanese town is “infested by spirals.” This means spiral shapes begin to appear everywhere: blades of grass, clouds, pottery baking in a kiln, whirlpools in creeks. The story quickly becomes unnerving once townspeople begin obsessing over the spirals, such as Mr. Saito, the father of Shuichi Saito, one of the main characters. Mr. Saito commits acts like stopping in the middle of streets to watch snails for hours and stocking a room in his house dedicated to anything with a spiral shape drawn, carved, or otherwise embedded in or on it. This situation becomes even more menacing when Mr. Saito begins to distort his own body to assume spiral shapes, which leads to some truly disturbing images of the horrifying pliability of the human body, culminating in an iconically nightmarish scene that will have a profound effect on how you view personal baths.

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This scene might be enough to end a story with for other writers or manga-ka, but Ito is only getting started here. This is the first of nineteen chapters in Uzumaki, each installment seemingly becoming more creepy, unsettling, astonishing, and even darkly beautiful than the last.

ito-itoThat beauty comes in through the art of Ito, which must be seen to be believed. Ito eschews an exaggerated style for the most part, sticking instead to a straightforward anatomical style for his characters and an equally naturalistic style for their environment. In simple, clean black and white, Ito’s art displays impressive precision and craftsmanship. The imagination driving that art, meanwhile, is among the strangest and darkest I’ve encountered in manga, much less anywhere else. People metamorphose into snails, their shells slowly rising through their shirts like mounds upon their backs, or twine their bodies around one another like rope. The style and quality of Ito’s art absolutely sells the events of the story and capably suspends disbelief, instead sucking you into the world of Uzumaki so much so that you cease to think this couldn’t possibly happen and instead wonder how much more horrifying could this possibly get?

The story of Uzumaki itself bears examination as well, for mostly positive reasons. The episodic nature of the story might feel a bit sprawling or loose for some, but it’s crucial to remember that this was originally published in serialized form, as most manga are. The story itself marks Uzumaki as a work worthy of being read by any weird fiction aficionado, and in fact it moves through several notable weird “phases.” I don’t want to spoil the reading experience of the story, but I will say that in its second half Uzumaki begins to slowly and surely reveal its true narrative shape as a cosmic horror story, surprisingly bleak and existential given the obvious focus on more explicitly grotesque horrors elsewhere in its chapters. The world of Uzumaki is an ultimately dark one. This is not a feel-good story by any means, but you will hopefully find yourself reaching a kind of catharsis or reward nevertheless.

UzumakiDeluxeEdition_3DViz Media should be commended for bringing Uzumaki to English language audiences in a fully collected form, especially one as sturdy and presentable as this. Taken as a whole, Uzumaki is at the very least a dark, imaginative trip into a universe both strange and familiar, told via excellent art that awes and repulses in seemingly equal measure. Readers of weird fiction who have yet to sample the world of manga would be well-served in seeking out Uzumaki and experiencing it for themselves. One piece of advice, though: keep any obsession with spirals that you may develop contained to this book. There might be consequences otherwise.

This Week: Leonid Andreyev and “He”

Happy Halloween to all of our readers! We’re a few days early on that count, but we still wanted to give that sentiment now instead of later. More importantly, we have a special treat for all of you, an especially weird, creepy story that up until now has been unavailable in English: Leonid Andreyev’s long story “He: An Unknown’s Story,” translated by Vlad Zhenevsky.

photo 2 (1910)He” is a powerful story that stands up amazingly well alongside other classic stories of early 20th century weird and supernatural fiction. It has a darkness limning its edges at all times, ever present, even in comparatively quiet or serene moments. This is also a deeply psychological story, crawling far into the headspace of its narrator and protagonist as he takes up temporary residence at the country home of his wealthy, eccentric employer. While the narrator explores the mysteries at the heart of his employer and his employer’s home and family, he finds strangeness at every turn and is in turn haunted by his own weird visitor. In his introduction to Andreyev elsewhere on this site, which we highly recommend reading before checking out “He,” Zhenevsky aptly points out the influence of Poe and his work on Andreyev’s story, which we think a very fitting comparison. To say more would spoil the experience of the story, however, and we think of it as something absolutely worth experiencing.

As we mentioned before, this is the first appearance of this story anywhere in English, and we’re delighted to share it with our readers, functioning as it does as a brilliant piece of weird fiction. We’ve also made the original Russian version of the story available to our readers for their own examination of it in its original language. We are deeply thankful for the efforts of Vlad Zhenevsky and his able translation of this story, and we hope this serves as a stirring reminder of Andreyev’s talents and also the wealth of great literature waiting to be unlocked for wider audiences via translation.

North American Lake Monsters from Small Beer Press

This week on Weirdfictionreview.com, we’re featuring the work of Nathan Ballingrud, a supremely talented writer whose first book finally came into print this year: North American Lake Monsters, courtesy of Small Beer Press. The stories published in this collection range across the better part of a decade, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it from reading this collection. These stories feel like they were meant to be published together like this.

lake monsters coverWhat’s striking about North American Lake Monsters, besides their uniformly excellent quality, is their unrelenting darkness, and a special kind of darkness at that. These stories often involve people who are hard on their luck, trapped and unsure of the directions their lives have taken, constrained by their own decisions or the simply the bleakness of their environments. More often than not, though, the characters are overcome or possessed by obsessions they cannot seem to help. The protagonist of “Wild Acre” may be driven to hunt some kind of werewolf after it wreaks havoc on his life and those of his friends, but grappling with that monster only brings out something just as harmful and wild in him. Meanwhile, in “The Monsters of Heaven,” a deserved recipient of a Shirley Jackson Award, the arrival of a weird, possibly heavenly being is sharply contrasted with the violent, brutal urges and fantasies of a man who cannot cope with the loss of his son. The darkness in these stories comes from the characters themselves, and as we read them, we can’t help but be sucked into their darkness as well, perhaps out of sympathy, but also perhaps out of a recognition of empathy we can only acknowledge through reading.

The story we’ve reprinted on this site, the title story from Ballingrud’s collection, is a great story in and of itself and also an appropriate primer for those interested in reading the rest of the book. We also have an interview with the author, discussing how he came to write his stories the way he did, as well as the influence of horror and other forms of literature on his creative process, among other things.