New Fears 2 – Editor: Mark Morris

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TITAN BOOKS 2018

Stories by Priya Sharma, Stephen Volk, Robert Shearman, Gemma Files, Kit Power, Tim Lebbon, Benjamin Percy, Laura Mauro, Ray Cluley, Tim Lucas, Brian Hodge, Catriona Ward, V.H. Leslie, Rio Youers, Brian Evenson, Steve Rasnic Tem, Aliya Whiteley, John Langan, Paul Tremblay, Alison Moore, Bracken Macleod.

When I read this book, my thoughts will appear in the comment stream below…

28 thoughts on “New Fears 2 – Editor: Mark Morris

  1. MAW Priya Sharma

    “Knitted cables represented fishing lines and nets, knot stitches added together formed fishes.”

    Hawling, dreamcatching, fishing quotas, the clash of temperaments, and of cultures, and generations, jealousies and passions. Little Isle makes the depleting kids use homework boxes when they can’t get to the school by boat, on stormy days, when the Maw or maelstrom needs feeding. Another much bigger ‘box’ comes ashore, a ship’s container, that the Maw has rejected? Its presence and tempted opening accentuates the aforementioned clashes of will and power, and somehow creates crushed and damaged goods in the isle’s natural life of fish and bird. There were too many named characters for me to handle, but it did not seem to matter for feeding my own reading’s maw.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/priya-sharma/

  2. THE AIRPORT GORILLA Stephen Volk

    “The board flutters like so many call girls’ eyelashes. The gate and flight number appear.”

    Two girls’ calling, at least… new fears two.
    Flannery O’Connor’s gorilla or Monkey’s PaWW? Whatever, this is a nifty narrative by a toy gorilla bought in an airport and the wishes it grants and the philosophical implications. But it is so nifty, witty and apposite, laugh-out-laudable, I wondered who was talking through the eponymous creature? God the gorilla? Or something even more disarmingly horrific threading our histories today in the making, from Trump to a Tory Brexit…from Australia to Ukraine and back again.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/stephen-volk/

  3. THUMBSUCKER Robert Shearman

    “Not now. Not soon. But some time.”

    One of those simply told stories that makes you ask of it – where have you been all of my life? If I tell you too much about it — beyond its title and that it is narrated by a son about his relationship with his father, and about the state of his, the narrator’s, own marriage — it would spoil it for you. It is both disturbing and moving, almost disgusting, too, almost sensual, in a disarming fashion. It makes me doubt myself as I grow older. A new fear. A bijou maw. Aickman comes to mind, but that might give you the wrong impression.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/robert-shearman/

  4. A2A28895-F849-406D-9B71-3BC5DF31D96FBULB Gemma Files
    Dedicated to Stephen J. Barringer

    “That’s right, for the first time in our show’s history we’re conducting an anonymous interview.”

    A story told by an aborted interview and by emails discussing that interview and footnotes. Off the Grid as a rationale, here, as if we would all want to be solitary watchers and witnesses and wanderers like Bronwyn without communication devices, if we believed that even things as basic as light bulbs have a homing power towards a new source of power without wires. A new physical monstrousness… a cross between ‘House of Leaves’ and a world gone mad from WiFi? But, there again…

    “Some people would say even a universe full of horrors is better than a universe full of nothing but us.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/gemma-files/

  5. FISH HOOKS Kit Power

    “—but books. They became an escape, a window back into a world she’d known, lived in, understood.”

    For me, a compelling, attritional tale of the eponymous hooks in the various places of visible flesh of people whom Sarah increasingly sees with Pan Book of Horror results. Tugging at these people she sees in her daily life, disfiguring them, making them bleed, with resultant puddles of blood to dog her steps. Dreamcatching at them, perhaps, hawling at them from the book in which they live and are watched, assessed, as I do everyday… Sarah eventually learns to live with them. Hooks and books, who can distinguish them?
    The fly-fishing of this book’s design, notwithstanding?

  6. EMERGENCE Tim Lebbon

    “Sometimes, it’s recognising that a place you once thought of as normal really, really isn’t.”

    At first a workmanlike, intriguing tunnel story, with a sheep’s skull at its entrance, where the protagonist has the foolhardy urge to enter this tunnel, indeed this story, while hiking in the wayside mountain area, leaving his car in the canal car park, a mountain place where dead culverts or dead drainage systems may well have been left to mould away. Life’s a drainage system, I guess. And this story’s turn-around moment is where it becomes a frightening vision for our times and our times’ end game, beyond any historical air raid shelter or any shelter at all. An inescapable loop, of poignant trial and error. Ever running because you like running or think it good for you. Ever running away? Like time. Emergence has no emergency signal left in the handheld.

    My previous mentions or reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/tim-lebbon/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/the-reach-of-children-tim-lebbon/ and https://dflcollaborations.wordpress.com/collaborations-with-tim-lebbon/

  7. ON CUTLER STREET Benjamin Percy

    “This sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen here.”

    A civilised area of town bungalows, where only good things tend to happen to break any tedium. This stray story in fact becomes its worst nightmare.

  8. E0065A28-6E5B-4939-AC6B-0ACCA4827A64LETTERS FROM ELODIE Laura Mauro

    “Sometimes I wonder if she was ever really there. You know? Like she was a dream we all had. She never felt real.”

    An archetypal youthful Brighton aura.
    A seaside pier story with no peer. A sucker for such, am I. And there are the fragments that made the mutual idol, a woman loving a woman, loving each other exclusively as well as mutually, we infer, even if one side of the fragments’ whole is without the physical sexual orientation of the other. Everything is God or Goddess, I guess. A tale of seeming death and love, and letters that are not physical, too, but residing in the eternal ether, as if projected beyond electronica. Beautifully done.

    “With each letter I pieced her together until she was no longer a patchwork of wild stories and daydreams and wispy, far-off ambitions but something else entirely.”

    “That’s all love is, when you strip it down to the bare bones. A loaded gun to the temple with someone else’s finger on the trigger.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/laura-mauro/

  9. STEEL BODIES Ray Cluley

    “All that had ever happened drove him towards all that was yet to occur.”

    A major novelette, meticulously atmosphered accretively. The hulks of container ships and other ships off Bangladesh and the ‘boy’ labour involved in their reclamation as other things, boys and men with work-related scars, cuttermen and the hawling chains, dragged across the mud. The dreamcatching or ghost exorcising within the hulks. We follow one man, Samir, and a sister he mourns within him, as it were, brought there by a boy who lost a brother in one of the derelict hulks and wrecks. I taste rust on my tongue, and sense the ‘dark heart’ of this ex-shipshape called the ‘Karen May’. The things bloom around you. The sense of “metaphor” that is explicitly mentioned, and the Karen May is surely a metaphor for another woman called May? Only an instinct. Read the end passages about this ship and the ‘sullen and spiteful’, and more, do seem to come over. I might be crucified for this didactic thought, though. But it’s ‘all the same storm’ to me. The same gestalt. The metaphor of Samir being both a Christian and a Muslim. In fact there is a strong religious aura, as the outcomes pan out. Ghosts that can only outlast their previous bodies’ decomposition? Even steel decomposes. Life is a David ‘gainst a Goliath. A grieving process that seems to last forever?

    “Like his passage through the dark was a temporary unseaming of the shadows he walked through, shadows that sealed up again behind him, and for a moment he couldn’t shake the impression of having been swallowed whole. Like Jonah in the body of Leviathan..”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/ray-cluley/

  10. THE MIGRANTS Tim Lucas

    “At 7: 19 the following evening, I was keeping my word, standing on the sidewalk outside the house at 696 Murdock Avenue.”

    You know, I had my doubts, as this story called on me. A bit Aickman derivative, I thought at first. A rather uninspired area of middle-class houses, a protagonist who was reputed to be a writer, but writing this dubious opening, where would he be going? I followed on, though, where the then increasingly engaging tale’s audit trail took me, towards my voluntary duty, with inexplicable rules of not entering gates or doors, escorting a migrant from moving out of one house into another with his or her belongings. A regular duty, I now knew in hindsight, but one new to me, imposed by what was being written about it. But I was finally clinched by the note that the migrant played on his instrument, the Gestalt of all things that had unfathomed me previously. This work seemed a raison d’être for my ten years of Gestalt real-time reviewing as that note played out in a style of prose worthy of any writer. And just as seriously, I now felt inspired rather than otherwise. Honestly, against my initial doubts, this work eventually became a great mutuality of escorting by story and reader. There needs to be that give and take.

  11. RUT SEASONS Brian Hodge

    “It was early November, the start of rut season,…”

    The rushed rut of mating animals towards their own self-roadkill or bearing stoically or mindlessly the deep rut of human old age … or simply all of us in the rut of life’s attrition? Perhaps the perceived loops of behaviour are our only refuge?

    A telling account of a middle aged woman called Casey visiting her father in a home for severe dementia, and then visiting her mother still in the family home, dependant on care workers. A mother perhaps just as demented as her husband, but she has not changed. A mother who pretends to want to die.

    The backstory of family dysfunction is poignant, as is the outcome of these ingredients of Casey’s existence, riding on vulnerable tyres through the amber of time. I wonder what is left in some universal iCloud of our existence’s “growing cataract of now”, a thought of mine evoked by this momentous work in today’s early November of my own life.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/brian-hodge/

  12. SENTINEL Catriona Ward

    “But imagination can be an unpredictable guest.”

    Af first, a seemingly straightforward story — workmanlike in a well-written fashion — of being haunted either by a real spectre or by imagination’s guest, where the previous story’s ageing and dying of an elderly parent is here in counterpoint with the daughter and the daughter’s own small daughter now being infected by a scare story — imagined or genuinely believed by the dead one who once often spoke of it as mother and grandmother. Themes of any scare being within or outside or equivalent to the one who feels it or speaks it and of a bolstering of female feistiness in face of those making accusations about being as easily scared as children. Whence comes the feistiness, though, and whereto? And who the weakling?

  13. ALMOST AUREATE V.H. Leslie

    “The bronzed man continued his vigil into the peak of the day. Even when Eamon wasn’t looking directly at him, he seemed to cast a golden light over the complex.”

    A methodical, painstakingly crafted story, almost like the story it tells as insidiously watching over us with the eponymous double A, the Aureate Aura, a witness or watcher like Sarah Perry’s Melmoth (reviewed recently here), as if stationed on life’s Last Balcony, someone or something that may also mingle with the crowds … and we seem subject to this symbol of a deliberately mannered and pervasive device which shows, say, cartoons for children at breakfast tables as well as diversionary anxieties to keep our minds off our minds and what we have become. Upon a type of foreign holiday against the grain of their marriage, this man and wife with toddler twins still needing the safety of a poolside crèche policed by the parents themselves. The genius loci of this methodically packaged holiday is endured as if enjoyed, and is well conveyed by the story’s own structures of style and mood. I felt fouled by pre-meditation and future inevitability of these new fears, as toddlers become wayward teenagers. And teenagers become us.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/v-h-leslie/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/interzone-247/

  14. THE TYPEWRITER Rio Youers

    “It is simply me again, on both sides of the crack. A handsome devil, it has to be said.”

    Starts off as an engaging family story diarised in 1964 England, with some neat phrases and observations, with compelling details of obsessively cleaning and restoring an old typewriter from the beginning of the 20th century, but once he starts using the typewriter, he is taken over and it becomes, I’m afraid, a rather tired tale of possession.

  15. THANATRAUMA Steve Rasnic Tem

    “It wasn’t an unusual sky for a cold, late autumn day,…”

    Hodge’s early November, as it still is today, and Evenson’s loose skin body man who is not a man but as told by a man – and this Tem is a heart-wrenching theme and threnody of words about the narrator’s wife’s death after many years of amenable, maybe even raptured, marriage and his own subsequent attenuation. A revisit to the type of care he had to give her, selflessly caring also that his visiting daughters’ sensibilities were not unduly disrupted. His garden and the mushrooms. The growing dysfunction of the house itself. The raccoons outside who disrupted the rubbish before it was collected. The ensuing snow as some sort of aid to cleansing, like his now over-regular hot showers. This o so dark story as some sort of light that others about to make this journey need — to feed off its paradoxical power of cleansing through disintegration, the realisation of an unnecessary guilt at letting oneself go, if that is what it takes. Thanatos as Träumtrawler of the soul. Träumerei not trauma. Dream leaking out not frenzy.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/steve-rasnic-tem/

  16. PACK YOUR COAT Aliya Whiteley

    “The story that never ends.”

    “My grasp of how people were connected was tenuous. Like many people, it still is: when others talk of their husband’s brother’s friend’s wife’s daughter’s uncle’s and so on and so on, I soon lose interest. Where do all these paths intersect?”

    An attrition of memories or dreams, like a viral series of Chinese whispers, as viewed — by this book’s earlier watcher or witness (in Melmoth mode)? — viewed from the top of a cliff, a view of those always dressed in an orange coat, soon cut off down there by the incoming sea…as an emblem of life’s ties: family, business and otherwise, preventing yourself from launching into vicarious release as a wanderer rather than as a watcher or witness, as if while preparing for flight from the clifftop, you can infer the viewpoint from below of those like you watching yourself from above? A pinch of salt mixed with the poison in viral recurrence so as to delay a lethal poisonous outcome that would have otherwise arrived in one fell swoop? I’ll get my coat.

    My previous reviews of Aliya Whiteley: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/aliya-whiteley/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/horror-without-victims-an-editors-commentary/#comment-8504

  17. HAAK John Langan

    “Aside from the scarlet-and-gold waistcoat, whose material had the dull shine of age, Mr Haringa behaved in typical fashion, returning essays crowded with stringent corrections and unsparing comments, lecturing on the connection between Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Robert Bloch’s “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” to his two morning sections, and discussing the possible impact of Maturin’s Melmoth the Wanderer…”

    I somehow knew this would be a novelette before I started it, and I sort of predicted its ending, but the original mix of excitingly swashbuckling as well as well-considered literary references as its innards were choice cuts to chew over. There was cannibalism of sorts in Mann’s Magic Mountain around a Swiss health resort, and here in a similar genius-loci we find Joseph Conrad and his voyage on an inner lake that turns out more spaciously imaginative than the ancient Armada strewn seas themselves … but that is to tell the inner story before its outer one whence I have made the above quote, relating the college literature lecturer’s waistcoat to the orange coat in this book’s previous story and this book’s other inferred references to Melmoth. Meanwhile, the meat of this novelette, heartily expounded by Langan, is less a horror story and more a fantastical adventure, though there is horror in it. Quirky and grotesque and heart-stopping, while also “…examining sentences, symbols, and allusions with the care of naturalists cataloguing a biosphere.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/john-langan-nathan-ballingrud/

  18. Pingback: Synchronicity rampant… | DES LEWIS GESTALT REAL-TIME REVIEWS

  19. THE DEAD THING Paul Tremblay

    “…it makes me feel anxious because my room is the nexus of the universe…”

    Nexus sort of stares out like a sore thumb as a word. And do be warned, this has long sentences and long stream-of-consciousness paragraphs like Proust, but it reads engagingly and compellingly and accessibly, except engaging also means amenable, and this is a real horror story! A girl’s narration (interspersed with FaceTime and Messaging) as witness of her younger brother’s life and today what he brings home in a cardboard box, plus the dysfunction of the family home and much else to haunt you.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/paul-tremblay/

  20. THE SKETCH Alison Moore

    “Out,” said Peter. He reached back into the cardboard box. “Out.”

    As if a deliberate blend with the previous story, this tale of Ailsa and one of her own rather horrible sketches she finds in the box, that later her husband puts her drawings in the bin – leads to her obsessive fears for their daughter’s safety, as black or dirty marks encroach upon the house. And finally smudges under her own eyes, all rolled-up with backstory memories of her own childhood me-too moment…
    Psychologically attritional, if merely workmanlike, as a story.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/alison-moore/ and https://nullimmortalis.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/the-lighthouse-alison-moore/

  21. PIGS DON’T SQUEAL IN TIGERTOWN Bracken MacLeod

    “If he hadn’t bought his first bike, if he hadn’t met “Demon” Langan in The Rising Phoenix bar, if he hadn’t… […] …everything might’ve turned out differently.”

    A gory end to several people’s lives, as well as this book’s own witness to the horror around us, like a famous Shakespearean tragedy with bits from Titus Andronicus thrown into your cage and with time in shuttle forward and shuttle back, as one man loses his ramshackle zoo, another is witness, yes, witness to that man’s debt in reclamation by suicide, and trying to divert with a gruesomely dead woman an escaped tiger from his own escape on motorbike from the a sort of growing crime scene. And possibly the most poignant moment in the whole book when, earlier, the local sheriff had come to sort the agglomeration of gratuitousness. “The only female sheriff in all the state’s forty-six counties, she didn’t have the luxury of a high-pitched cry. In her own ears, she sounded like one of her sons. The seven-year-old had a way of keening high at his hurts.”
    Cages broken as no stronger than those earlier cardboard boxes. Monkey’s PaWWW or Flannery O’Connor’s Gorilla or Bracken Macleod’s Tiger Tiger, this book snarls or snickers beyond your closed bedroom door. Left you sucking your own thumb. The bulbs about to blow. Thanatrauma.

    end

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