Caledonia Dreamin’ – Strange Fiction of Scottish Descent

A real-time review by Paulo Brito.

cover caledonia

Glaikit, mockit, droukit, drouthy, couthy, scunner, thrawn – the Scots language is rich with words too gallus not to glory in, dialect terms that deserve better than to be boxed away as precious oddities. Here we’ve collected some of the strangest writers of Scottish descent to bring these terms to life – that’s Scottish by heritage or residence, adoption or initiation…

An anthology is only a good anthology if the stories that comprise it are balanced. If the quality of each story is more alternate than the electric charge, that anthology loses its value. And to achieve a uniform quality depends on both the writers / stories chosen as the theme that unites them. “Caledonia Dreamin’ – Strange Fiction of Scottish Descent“, edited by Hal Duncan and Chris Kelso, has a very interesting and challenging premise (“Our aim here has been to mine the language for its wealth, tasking writers to draw out of it whatever gem of a word caught their eye and to build a story around it in celebration, to stake a place for these words in the wider culture, beyond their usual confines.” page 11), but which may prove to be complicated to attain such uniformity.

Caledonia Dreamin’ – Strange Fiction of Scottish Descent” it was published by Eibonvale Press.

I features stories by: Neil Williamson, Wendy Muzlanova, Brian Milton, T.J. Berg, Douglas Thompson, Preston Grassman, Tom Bradley, Rob McClure Smith, Angus McAllister, Nick Mamatas, Gavin Grant, Phil Raines, Kirsty Logan, David McGroarty, Gio Clairval, Tim Jarvis and Anna Tambour.

I will do a real-time review of this book – yes I am crazy.
If I can get do a review 10% similar to one of Des Lewis I will be a very happy person. I know that will be a very hard objective to accomplish; I already say that I live surround by madness?

This real-time review will appear, as and when I read it, in the thought stream found below or by clicking on the title of this post.

17 thoughts on “Caledonia Dreamin’ – Strange Fiction of Scottish Descent

  1. Sweeter Than by Neil Williamson

    The river is where the music of the city meets the music of the sea.

    wersh is the first word that opens the anthology. The story is Sweeter Than and its commander is Neil Williamson.

    What I highlight at once is that the story is an audible story, full of music. If the story is read with the heart and and with the ears, musical notes will pop up out of pages.

    Sweeter Than is a love story, or maybe not – “Some people get addicted to romance.”; or it is just a story about encounters and the positive or negative outcomes that could happen; or maybe it’s a story about the expectations of a kiss that can be sweet or …?

    Regardless of the theme, which to me is indifferent, in which the story is based the conclusion is simple: Neil Williamson embraced the challenge of the word wersh and overcame it successfully.

  2. Maw by Wendy Muzlanova

    An she thought that things could be worse efter aw (…)

    I read the story once, and again, and at the third reading I penetrated easily into several unknown words. All it took was reading aloud, then everything made sense and became truly fun.

    The word that serves as ingredient to the story Maw by Wendy Muzlanova is curiously… clarty.
    The story is very well written. I loved the constant crescendo of the narrative and when least expected it is given a sweet and horrified forzando – excellent!

    Wendy Muzlanova offers without difficulty a psychotic story about the loss of hope, the lack of
    perception of what’s real or not. I wonder what will make each of us lose sanity and ask “Why the hell did this happen to me?”

    Maw is a very gripping and disturbing story that I really enjoyed.

  3. Maukit by Brian M. Milton

    Careful now, you’re getting twee.

    The maukit word opens the third story and it’s also the title of it.
    Brian M. Milton in a few pages creates suspense, horror and with some well paced twists keeps the reader absolutely fascinated, and at no point does anything ever seem contrived or unbelievable.
    With a cinematic narrative the author creates an impressive and fast story. It’s like a mix of an adagio and a presto.
    You feel at any moment that someone is going to get chomped, not literally, because the author leaves small clues that something stinks, and I can say that is not in the Kingdom of Denmark.
    Maukit has an impressive opening, a fantastic pacing and a scary atmosphere. You may never look at mud the same way again.

    Who knew putrid has its charms!

  4. Fallen Trough a Giant’s Eyes by T. J. Berg

    We could dig for the answers.

    The word is maukit.

    If you have not read, or heard, of this story, let me be the first to tell you about it.
    Fallen Trough a Giant’s Eyes by T. J. Berg is about curiosity and vulnerability; it is a story of a man and a girl bound by love that will make you have a kaleidoscope of emotions. A story writen in such a way is a gentle reminder of the fantastic and magical that surrounds us.

    In a few words Fallen Trough a Giant’s Eyes is a must read – a clever story and a great symphonic journey.

  5. Newayr by Douglas Thompson

    They have something we’ lost, John. Remember being a child, looking forward to Christmas, believing your parents were gods?

    The word is sweirt.

    A small or large parenthesis before starting my review.
    At present much is said about Pines Wayward that, thanks to a massive advertising, is the top notch of the series of our galaxy and beyond. I admit that in a moment of weakness I saw the first episode and I was glad that in a single episode I got to know the rest of the plot. If I were a cat I would have a clew of only one color that unraveled unhurried and smoothly.

    Douglas Thompson knows how to put a “why” in his stories which are suspended in the readers’ minds and forces them to find the answers, and most of the time they remain with more doubts.

    I take the opportunity to bring to light these beautiful words of François Châtelet that haunt me, positively, since I was 15 years old: “Socrate se comporte comme un «taon»; aiguillonner les consciences de sommeil dans le sommeil facile d’idées préconçues.”

    Douglas Thompson does not see the reader as a dumb person, not able to reflect; no, he, throughout the story, will lift the veil, but without revealing the entire face and this is undoubtedly an impressionable quality. I like to be surprised with a story that makes me think, and after it is finished, I can choose among the possible and impossible scenarios left open, the one that I think is perfect for the characters. I love hidden treasures and multileveled stories.

    I prefer to identify Newayr more like a science fiction story than as a story of scientific anticipation – vision far less terrifying.
    The story Newayr begins the narrative in two melodies. On one side we have the character Cathy, on the other side we find Grayling, that after interweave in a powerful and innocent way. The story has, in my view, some powerful sentences…

    • “She would do this because she could, because in this small moment she saw that she was all-powerful.”
    • “You’ll be a god to them a first, John. Maybe forever if you do your job right. Don’t squander all that innocence.”

    …that guide the motivation of our main characters.

    Not intending to reveal what the story is about, because it does not make “style”, I can only say that it is a smart, well-crafted, entertaining and thought-provoking story; an elegant exploration of some pretty frightening ideas.

    There is nothing about Newayr that I didn’t like.

  6. Thә Bouk Puppie Show by Preston Grassmann

    Thә day ah approached thә hoose, there wis a reek lik deid plants әn rottin wood

    The word is scroggy.

    The mix of fantasy with horror is for me the correct melody and with a perfect cup of tea I just want more.
    This only proves that you don’t need dolls to have a talented story.

    With no strings attached I get a fun horror story.

    Are you bored? Relax and get ready for the show. Preston is the puppeteer.

  7. The Laird of Nagasaki by Tom Bradley

    Anyone who rides elevators or avails himself of the sit-down toilets in pricey hotel lobbies in my newly adopted town cannot get away from Puccini’s sad heroine.

    The seventh word is laird.

    Nagasaki is the place of Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly.
    But if Madame Butterfly is a romantic and dramatic story, The Laird of Nagasaki by Tom Bradley is the opposite or maybe not; we have something about a “sex slave”, a “bastard” and a “Madame Glover” and laughter… yes… with a parent related to the “Scottish Samurai”, we can only have a story full of laughter, so nothing to do with drama and romance, right? Ah! And I can’t forget, music – plenty of music.

    I don’t know if it’s on purpose, but so far Caledonia is a very musical anthology.

  8. Palais 1930 by Rob McClure Smith

    Hepburn watched the dancers foxtrot, sweeping the lacquered boards like a wave, fissling bustle and rasp.

    The word is rammy.

    This story is a true film noir. The place of action is a dance club (music again in this anthology).
    The main character, Hepburn, is a good cynic that walks around people in a distanced, almost detached way – lovely.
    Palais 1930 is a hard-boiled and coloured story, with humor in the dialogs, blood in the action, that broadcasts a black & white atmosphere.

    If style is everything Rob McClure Smith has it.

  9. The Losers by Angus McAllister

    An organ recital was in progress, the bass notes sounding ridiculous on the radio’s miniscule speaker

    The ninth word is cludgie.

    The Losers is a bizarre story. It starts with a toilet… and grows in a constant tempo to finish in a toilet.

    Angus McAllister in a few pages created a disturbing story and tantalizingly well placed. Furthermore he still puts in the story some perverse and obsessive touches to keep all the readers happy.

    If you haven’t read The Losers, then go solve this. You won’t be disappointed.

  10. Drive the Warlike Angles into the Sea!!! by Nick Mamatas

    “Was I not talking aloud all this time?”

    The word is ramscootrify.

    I am a fan of stories that are different.
    To appreciate Drive the Warlike Angles into the Sea!!! by Nick Mamatas you must tune your brain to a different melody – “The whole escapade is a little exercise in S and M, like sex stuff, and M and S, like the Depeche Mode song.” – and become infected with the pleasure of a beautiful narrative; a story with so many refreshing dialogues.
    Drive the Warlike Angles into the Sea!!! is a unique and unforgettable reading.

  11. Widows in the World by Gavin J. Grant

    “Perhaps,” he said, “you should wake your mother.”

    The eleventh word is canny.

    Widows in the World by Gavin J. Grant is a dazzling, sometimes scary postapocalyptic story.
    I was so well immersed in the music of a story meticulously-crafted that I was touched by the isolation, by the sense of belonging and loss and the coherent philosophy of this new world.
    The plot is not complex but as details are revealed the reader begins to feel that is faced with a very imaginative and intense story.

    The greatest achievement of Widows in the World is the wonderful and intelligent storyline.

    Widows in the World is a new classic.

  12. I am not () by Phil Raines

    it’s been time for some time.

    The word is murnie.

    I don’t know what to write about I am not ()
    “So, I’m going to do what?” Well, I will try get some focus and write a few lines…

    I am not () by Phil Raines blew me away.
    I was taken by surprise. In my defense I can say that I’ve never read anything by him. Phil Raines diluted smoothly an emotional, powerful story from start to finish.

    I’m pretty cynical. However this story truly kept me on the edge for its intensity.

    Phil Raines is an enormous talent.

  13. Studying Honeybloods with the Queen of Exotica by Kirsty Logan

    “Probably. I mean, it’s important, right? Otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it.”

    The word is thrawn.

    Josh and kelly are two brilliant characters set in an astounding world. Studying Honeybloods with the Queen of Exotica by Kirsty Logan is a simple, but detailed, story, so emotionally breathtaking.
    Kirsty Logan created a fantastic and brilliant kind of “postapocalyptic” story and without loosing time in explained the background, she manages, without difficulty, to thrown the reader into the middle.

    This story is fresh, musical. I loved it!

  14. Mary, Thomas and Joe, Stravaigin by David McGroarty

    “I was wandering before I met you.”

    The word is stravaigin.

    This story is a fun ride made by Mary, Thomas and Joe, three colorful characters who wander in a happy, wise, stupid, absurd way.
    The story ends up being a trip through the spaces between people.
    I got enthusiastic remarkably quickly.

  15. For Your Guising by Gio Clairval

    Cheer up, bunny girl, he says. You’ll get candy if you’re good.

    The fifteen word is guising.

    There is heavy drug content in this story, or maybe not. Someone can only say “After all, I just saw bunnies!”
    Reading this story is like travelling on a roller coaster because I feel that the author attempts to unnerve me at every turn of the page. Gio Clairval stops the realistic feel and gives me more surrealist or vice verse – I am still twisted.
    For Your Guising is sometimes disturbing and if the reader can’t separate stories from reality, he/she must stay away from the bunny, and the deer because they will hypnotize you.
    The reason this story is so powerful may be because with a delightful narrative Gio Clairval covers the themes of love, death, and decay.
    For Your Guising reveals an unrestricted creativity.

  16. Nae Greeance o’ Bane by Tim Jarvis

    “I don’t know what in the fuck is going on.”

    The word is greetin.

    I was absolutely gripped during the entire story. Nae Greeance o’ Bane by Tim Jarvis is scary, claustrophobic and even funny. I loved the pacing of this story and the way Tim Jarvis creates a bizarre situation. If it were a movie, I would say that the CGI effects were the best and that the characters of Jeff and Tommy well developed.

    You have to read this story. You won’t believe how good it is.

  17. Bowfin Island by Anna Tambour

    Exhausted already.

    The seventeen and last word is boak.

    Bowfin Island by Anna Tambour is a bizarre, fascinating and chilling story.
    Anna Tambour was able to persuade me that all the oddity events (atmosphere) are entirely plausible. She writes so well that I feel like a tourist in Bowfin Island.

    (spoiler alert)

    I have a problem with brilliant stories. Sometimes, I can’t find the correct words.

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