Test Patterns – Creature Features

Planet X Publications 2018

Edited by Duane Pesice

My previous review of Test Patterns: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/test-patterns/

Work by Michael Adams, Danger Slater, Cody Goodfellow, Erica Ruppert, Robert Guffey, Robert S. Wilson, Farah Rose Smith, James Fallweather, Ashley Dioses, James Russell, John Paul Fitch, Brenda Kezar, SL Edwards, Debra Robinson, Calvin Demmer, Kurt Fawver, Aaron French, Duane Pesice, Buzz Dixon, Natasha Bennett, Orrin Grey, Jill Hand, Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, Dominique Lamssies, Daniel Brock, Lana Cooper, John Linwood Grant, John Claude Smith, Aksel Dadswell, Jeffrey Thomas.

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

39 thoughts on “Test Patterns – Creature Features


    “, sharing this beautiful moment together, using all of these other people’s parts to feel brand-new things.”

    And now — how do I predict these things? — this work seems to be the essence of solipsism as created by the Frankenstein monster trope, the first time in literature, in fact, as solipsistic ego meets the multiple ids with pitchforks, the ego as monster employed to serve in a store that provides such pitchforks and other monster-killing tools! A unique philosophical bodyrama that also perforce happens to be “Haphazard and vile.”

  2. THE GREEDY GRAVE Cody Goodfellow

    “Hull turned from these confusing eddies of morbid fancy to the question of the telescope.”

    Yet — “…reading from the same book. But not from the same page.” — this was some hokum I did not really understand about hunting for gold in them there wild places, with greedy graves, dead Indians to feed, and half-breeds, or was one man double-crossing? Binoculars not a telescope in the coffee!?

    My other reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/cody-goodfellow/

  3. 4B3EDF97-E1DC-417D-9797-0A28C13124CDPRETTY IN THE DARK Erica Ruppert

    “She looked up at the wood plank ceiling. She couldn’t see it in the dark, but she knew the knots and grain and the faces they hid.”

    Syl is back at the lodge near the lake. A lodge in decline like its family of owners. She obviously has pareidolia steeped in its ambiance, but does that account for the vision arising from the family legends she follows up? Not the “bearskin” always in the lodge (another bearskin in a story reviewed yesterday here) but the trod paths that the receding water allows near the dam towards a pareidoliac infant or a real infant, drowned in its own haunting creaturifiction as creaturification? Feature or support?

    “At least the bearskin still hung on the wall, and a faded map of the lake drawn in 1973, and the deer antlers, and a taxidermized marten.”

  4. About an hour ago, during my already on-going review of ‘The Rust Maidens’ (here), I happened to quote this passage from it:

    “Hospitals were confusing places that pretended to be orderly, that pretended to make sense. Places that told us to trust them, even though they offered us little reason to do so.”

    So utterly apposite to my subsequent reading of…


    THE EYE DOCTOR Robert Guffey

    “‘Then maybe we need to make an appointment.’ Mommy bent down and began picking up the shattered pieces of her sculpture.”

    A pointy appointment.
    Ever since Fawver’s orange balls, I haven’t read a story with such potential as a classic fable as this one. And an utterly frightening, nightmarish one, too. One with eyeballs and ‘pointies’.
    It concerns a small girl’s fear of the Eye Doctor, as related to the circumstances of her increasingly dysfunctional Mum and Dad. Child as the Wordsworthian Parent of Man? Or Doctor Who as a form of Doctor I.
    “…they just needed a little nudge in the proper direction.” — one of the loopholes of time travel?
    Then, Doctor I, reminds me, too, of my initial reference to solipsism at the beginning of my review above…

    “It was as if there were dozens of little people buried in The Doctor’s torso,”

    “‘Where are you going to run?’ The Doctor asked. ‘Into your body? You can’t.’”

    Essential reading. You will never forget some of the longer passages towards the end, especially.

  5. We’re so pleased that you’re taking the time to test our patterns again. Letting the monsters have control of the diagonal seems to have borne fruit. Cheers.

  6. APHANTASIA Robert S. Wilson

    “She’s reminded again that to imagine such a state destroys its reality in and of itself.”

    “Give me the eye and I will let you live.”

    “…where men and women stand divided by some solid unseen border in which anything that dares to encroach becomes ugly and unclean. An abomination. A thing that should not be.”

    A sonic boom for literature to cope with. As it does here, in the form of some transcendent zombie horror that builds and builds with suspense and pent up booming. The Guffey eyeballs, as it were, replaced by empty sockets thirsty for Third Eyes. A man with a vision to share from a so-called tumour in his head. And those who hunt him for it, and the woman who tries to protect him, too. Except it’s an optic, not a sonic, boom, you see. That’s the way I see it.
    I had never heard of “aphantasia” before and the story has enlightened me about this real condition, and that not to have a mind’s eye is a power in itself, more powerful than HAVING it. I think I now suffer, and have always suffered unbeknownst, from this condition. And I suffer alternative visions to come to me with bespoke perceptions of a me-too world. Solipsism now rampant.
    But what is this about dolphins?

  7. IN THE ROOM OF RED NIGHT Farah Rose Smith

    “And the swarm! To pursue the memory is to pursue that familiar delirium of a forgotten world. Savage beasts that would not hide their wings, living as men until the moon shattered.”

    A highly dark-poetic (incomparable and constructively untranslatable to sense logic)) transfiguration of swarm theory and human words, resonating by chance with the inverse falconry using humans, in ‘Flock’ (reviewed yesterday here) and the vision from underground of one of the Rust Maidens, now to her nth power — a densely word-powered vista of possibly how I see the precipice of Brexit and the Trump as ‘Meiser’ too, but really, as I said before, paradoxically, this work does not represent these things at all, untranslatable, as human beings in diaspora within an unrecognisable mythic world, underground or beyond last weekend’s Norwegian Whovian portal?

    “One might dream of random things, and find some undercurrent of truth; a strain of allegory in an otherwise ceaseless cacophony of mental anguish.”

    “I know in this moment that there is little chance of life for me beyond this precipice.”

    “My worry is not of life after death. I have come to a silent worship of an undying light; an everlasting current of energy connecting all life.”

    Such energy as the gestalt from literature that I still seek by testing all patterns?

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/10/04/nightscript-4/#comment-13887

  8. LITTLE HOUSE IN THE SUBURBS James Fallweather

    “Seventeen deaths, seventeen prisoners, seventeen regrets.”

    A moving portrait beyond the precipice of the last war, the war that had featured Pearl Harbour (think of that expression of hope that such a name carries), in downtown Detroit similar to the post war pre-Trump suburb land of the Rust Maidens elsewhere… a family where parents and daughter mourn the boy-man, brother and son, lost, presumed dead, in that now lost war. But they each have visions of him imprisoned and tortured, in a dream that promises release of a creature that is himself – or as a creature fitting for this book’s monstrous gestalt? I found this work to be powerful through its straightforward expression of pining and imposed suburban hope, hope or gullibility, simple-mindedness that holds dark complex secrets like revisiting, revised deformations of those we once loved, allowing us to wield potential euthanasia for life’s victims….as they perhaps otherwise live forever in pain? But what of this story’s prairie irony in its title?

    “Lost in thought over the chance that a death in a dream would constitute a death in real life,…”

  9. SPIRIT OF PLACE James Russell

    “He had accepted it pretty much straight away as a hallucination the first time he saw it, after all, and had no trouble dealing with the idea that only he could see it…”

    There is something about a warring thingness hovering over a vexed land as in the previous story….
    But also, my prediction – at outset – of this book’s solipsistic gestalt now seems here to bear ultimate fruit in its genius loci hallucination – without being a hallucination – as a memorable amorphous UFO-like ‘thing’ with felt or observed human emotions changing over a particularly dreary suburb, a scenario that becomes consuming to read about, one of this book’s suburbs, with an ending to the story that made me furious as much as the story itself became furious with the protagonist’s selfishness. My fury was also at the ending itself. A story otherwise with a classic objective correlative of ‘thingness’ for our time equivalent to Fawver’s orange balls and Guffey’s eyeballs. A dual-shared solipsism halted by one of those sharing it so as to purify that solipsism?

  10. SIGNALS John Paul Fitch

    “If he’d been awake, maybe he’d have seen the streak of lightning that cleaved the sky in half.”

    A derecho? A new word that I learned when reading the book about Rust Maidens. The name for a certain storm weather formation. A violent storm that seems to fit this otherwise straightforward monster yarn through (extraterrestrial?) transmission signals of a township, with tentacles and teeth, and gory human transfiguration. An honest shocker, with no philosophical frills. With some effectively expressive language. I wondered, meanwhile, if the derecho was a repetition of a certain barker?…

    “Hear what?” said Sheriff Barker.
    “Exactly. Nothing. No birds, no wildlife.”
    Doctor Banovich scratched his cheek. “Shit. Didn’t Fred have a dog? Big old brown Labrador. You could hear that thing bark for miles on a bad day.”


    “And half an Elasmotherium is better than no Elasmotherium, right?”

    My fault, but I found this difficult to follow with the various characters involved in palaentology and the sudden change of scene from Russia with a smuggled fossil that grows into life-threatening tendrils back home for Kate. Some great descriptions, though.



    “He paced slowly at the mouth of the mine, swatting his gloved hands against his pants and periodically spitting out something black and viscous. The men around him had the blackness pouring out of the corners of their eyes like charcoal tears, streaks going down their faces and across their lips. It seeped from their ears and noses, from every exposed orifice of their bodies as diseased war-paint.
    There was no hope for them, and only one cure.”

    I needed to make that substantial quote from towards the beginning of this powerful work, where this whole story seems to be part of my own still developing gestalt of the preternatural ability of hyper-imaginative literature to both affect and reflect our existence, and possibly to act as its potential cure or healing or, as I call it, ‘hawling’. The hawling of mines (each being mine solipsistically and, perhaps, yours, too, should you exist at all outside of my mind) — (my first and last novel, incidentally, placing Azathoth at the Earth’s core) — and here in this story as the miners and other honest workers (of our Trumpish and Brexit?) suburbs being sucked in by evil ‘black ichor’ creatures thereunder (cf the Rust Maidens elsewhere), and here Pan, a young girl, as our defending warrior against such forces. Pan being Pandora of the Box, as a possibility, is an added level of irony. (Cf young Sudra as well as the other miners or hawlers in the aforementioned 2011 novel). This story as a standalone consideration is a significant one that needs its coordinates triangulating by as many readers as possible.

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/s-l-edwards/

  13. CHAOS AND VOID Debra Robinson

    “My horror was complete.
    I felt my forehead; smooth.”

    A female musician pushing middle age, later pulling millennial, blue pill or red pill, I could not resist being captivated by her phobia of developing a Third Eye in the middle of her forehead, and her need to co-opt a series of beanie hats to hide or soak up the yellow goo that she had seen such a Third Eye exude when giving a lift to a wide boy (with one) in her car. An enticingly crazy Dorian-Gray type yearning for renewal, in cahoots with this book’s earlier thirsting for Guffey-Wilson Third Eyes through which one can, or can’t not, see a tornado of monsters to match earlier UFO/derechoes in Russell and Fitch. The solipsistic Danger of ingrowing pitchforks of self.

    “It was all unknowable, until it was known.”

  14. THE RIVER RAN RED Calvin Demmer

    “I’m going to show you the circle of madness. Have you seen it before?”

    I guessed he was showing off to his new found ‘girl friend’ in the here well-characterised residue of jungle in our world, when our young man decides to dive into the river to prove it was just an ordinary river, even one that was otherwise full of real monster myths / rituals of skulls to be retrieved by ‘daredevil’ young men. A straightforward fable of foolhardiness? Or something more complex about the retrieval of the solipsistic skull of self itself?



    “images from a world we no longer understand.”

    The format in which I have just read this series of 117 days of diary entries — a compelling claustrophobic Evensonic experience told by one person as effective narrator, eventually the only one solipsistically left to communicate with us as unseen readers (after the woman “who rarely speaks drew a circle on the wall and told me that it encompassed the remainder of the known universe” left his sight), all taking place in the basement where five of them, randomly as otherwise unconnected people, originally started sheltering from another of this book’s Underechoes, as objective-correlatives of impending UFO pestilence or inimical-philosophic thingness, here a green light — yes, the text’s format seemed to be visually a poem with enjambment, while still continuing to be compelling prose, a format dictated by the shape of the narrator-diarist’s notebook available or by the shape of my reading-screen’s landscape or portrait view, just as the characters’ hands or feet were mutated or shaped accordingly by the green light infiltrating the basement like this book’s earlier Russian tendrils, until each character, either submitted themselves fully to it or left the basement with us still reading unseen the narration or diary-keeping. “—an implausible coincidence at best.” The green light, what is it, I wonder? Perhaps it is the suffocating need today to make this world green again, thus rescued, but rescued for or from what or whom? And why? Only fiction can prevail, I infer, dark and often ungreen. Another Fawver classic, needless to say, whatever the interpretation inferred by us unseen readers.

    “A thing has to stop being in order to become.” A motto for this whole book?

    My previous reviews of Kurt Fawver: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/kurt-fawver/

  16. CHOSEN Aaron J. French

    “When we’re all together, I recount my observation of the green light.”

    I don’t need to draw out the connection there! In many ways, a post-holocaust horror story of archetypal aliens, UFOs and zombies. Another honest yarn, but this time with philosophical frills. More than just frills, though, suiting my developing gestalt for this book, the preservation of Mind and Mine…

    “The creature’s face unfurls like a blooming rose. Drops. He looks at me and mouths ‘thank you.’”

    “We draw our guns, but it raises its arms in surrender. It absurdly resembles some politician, posing like that.”

    “We move as a single unit, our backs to each other so that we face all four cardinal points.”

    “‘Does exist in nature? No? Where exist? Mind?’
    Mike darkens. ‘What the hell are you talking about? It’s mine, give it!’”

    “Must die like mind, like rest.”

    “More oneness, less doubleness.”

    The irony is that do we know which of the two people is the real one?

    “She is.”

    My previous review of a book edited by this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2017/12/25/the-demons-of-king-solomon/

  17. BONE SEQUENCE Duane Pesice

    “The makeshift tarpaulin umbrellas and other jerry-rigged contraptions went almost immediately, and we were s.o.l.”

    s.o.l. means ‘shit out of luck’. There’s certainly shit in this story, as well as slime, and all manner of colour monsters, even another Russian infiltrator, a greengirl, and a shambler, a cat called Brutus, a relentless bass note as this book’s ongoing underecho, plus lots of food words, and an infiltrating soap-like stone, carrot-people, and a narrator or author or editor who is either taking the piss of any would-be real-time reviewer like me, with the disruption tactics of this wild Pesice absurdism, or is it a satire on all monster and extraterrestrial invasion stories, or is it just slime and other madnesses for their own sake dreamt up by the sole reader?

    “Art? Or an attempt to communicate? I never did find out.”


    “Consumed with rage, consumed with fear, his brain racing as his stretched synapses desperately sought new connections,…”

    SinGLENess as the eponymous ‘monster’? Was it all in his synaptic head or mine? Whatever the case, it is a wonderful story of this human King Kong (created by nuclear accident in our ungreen world) and his more than just platonic romance with Vera for the benefit of Julius Squallido (if I have his name correct) and of the Las Vegas casino the giant otherwise threatened to rampage through. Also, this story has been the perfect inverse fit with an old Vladimir Nabokov story, ‘The Potato Elf’, that I happened to read and review two days ago here! And when I say perfect, I mean perfect. By absolute chance.

  19. UNDERGROUND ROSE Natasha Bennett

    “They would pry open this town and leave nothing left.”

    I feel like that with this motiveless story. Yet it bugs me insidiously. But how? Why, for example, does he replace the cactus that his bitchy ex-wife once gave him with another? She sounds more dangerous than any male stalker. But then I think of what this book has already taught me about aphantasia. And other things. Fallweather/Fawver dreams, et al.
    Underecho rose, but how far?


    “He loved the secret gears and wheels that made his creations live.”

    A monster story, with theatrical and cinematic entertainment angles, as well as public sightings of ‘real’ monsters in the eponymous lake as well as another lake-like-Loch Ness, ranging through time, even as far as the holocaust of the second war, in a not-so-mad-scientist theme running through it, one that poses the interesting philosophical (or religious?) question: Which came first? The real monster or the fabricated monster? God or the thing that created God? Perhaps even: the solipsism or the Jungian collective? All contained within a patchwork of accomplished prose info-dumps, dumps that undump well, separately and together.

    “This time, the mass was made up of children. They spun on their bases, to indicate that they were dancing, though once again they were truly just one figure,…”

    (With nods to Padgett and Bartlett, even to our famous Brexiteer called Raab!)

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/orrin-grey/


    “The mad are capable of tremendous bursts of energy,…”

    From an eye bobbing in lager to a visit to Igor, servant of the eponymous count, university student Franz makes the journey to be the count’s scientific assistant and later makes his excuses when faced with the count’s then mad-scientist theory that blood had more than one type. A bloodcount to die for? And Franz leaves the castle before being apprised of how its wife was raised from the dead. A hard return. Rumbling thunder as underechoes, a supper of meatloaf and mashed turnips, yum! Meanwhile, some of the many misapplied hard-returns within the paragraphing, at least in the kindle version of this story, need less (or more?) sealing wax so as to help unlock them…

  22. NO MORE IRON CROSS Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    “All the way home, the woman sang ‘You’re a girl and I’m a boy’ in my ears. ‘You’re a girl and I’m a boy.’”

    Turns out not only to tell of a rather extreme and shocking metalhead event near Bannerghata Zoological Park, with Nazi tokens. It also eventually became something far more thoughtful. But you have to take my word for that … unless you also read this work, and become part of my team of co-readers on a much calmer team-building event. To find out which one of us was the sole reader whose head it was wherein “the cast had been shuffled around, extras from one production transferred to another.” Loved it, despite myself. Or because of.

  23. ADMITTED INHABITANTS Dominique Lamssies

    “An Englishman was on the ground, his legs down the snake’s gullet. Its muscles contracted, pulling more of its victim inside.”

    The book sort of does that to this Englishman, mind and body. Yet, I am afraid I did not follow the plot or characters of this particular story very well, probably my fault. Meanwhile, I recognised the earlier zombies from this book and some trenchant goriness, as a young woman fights her own personal war against those battling with her tribe. I also learnt about the 17th century American history of the Pequots and the Mystic Massacre after finishing this work.

  24. BITTER WATERS Daniel Brock

    “It writhed as if some angry serpent beneath it was trying to climb free.”

    To climb free from beneath the boy’s skin.
    This is a disarmingly simple narration that remains powerful enough, of a girl mourning her brother’s death at the age of 14 from sudden illness, a girl yearning, in their erstwhile countryside haunts of childhood, for the return of his presence, mingled with her memories of his blowing on a dandelion, an eventually religious spray of seeds, as mingled, later, with grimmer beastly revenants wherein dead people are trapped… “The beast was truly bad, but the boy inside hated it more than they did.” And also, relative to spiritual or solipsistic entrapment, there is, for me, something significant to this book’s gestalt in this story’s “things in this world that can’t be explained. Things so terrible they should be left to stories.” Stories whose patterns we are still testing as we now head towards their ending.

  25. MRS. DOOGAN Lana Cooper

    “I don’t like that woman very much, either. But I would not test her.”

    “The way we would hide from the dogs they sent to sniff out camp was to roll in the mud. It masked our scent if we coated ourselves in mud.”

    Doo doos for dogs or dogans? No it really is mud they use. Mrs Doogan a force that parents threaten their children with to behave. And – spoiler alert – she‘s half snake to eat children, that seems appropriate to something at least I read earlier today above.
    Some hilarious monster making here. Nasty bits, too.

  26. FOR WHOM THERE IS NO JOURNEY John Linwood Grant

    “Cleveland saw me through Fremont, Defiance and beyond, until I reached the edge of Chicago. That was where I met Ella.”

    And then back to Ella after hauling trees and bears with English Marge in Wisconsin. More of those misapplied Hard Returns in this story’s text, appropriate or not in this freewheeling work about the Hard ‘Returned’…whether we call ebooks ‘edimmu’ or not. Eventually Returns to Ella

    “She emanated loneliness, a hopeless revenant with no clue as to her nature. She must have been about sixteen when she was Returned, and this close I caught the nature of her own hunger. She needed what the men gave her. Desire, disgust, even self-loathing, if they had any. Those base feelings that set their loins
    pumping in filthy alleys.”

    “Crazy English, huh?”
    “It’s what we’re known for.”

    It’s what I’m known for? And this is instinctively about some more of those entrapped as revenants, most of them good fighting evil as part of themselves. Most of them seeking a Gestalt, like me…

    “…any vitality I had hoarded. He couldn’t kill me – I don’t believe a revenant can die – but he could leave me drained and helpless. And that might be right,…”

    You can’t kill solipsism? Those for whom there is no journey.

    My previous review of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/2018/11/22/vastarien-vol-1-issue-3/#comment-14296

  27. NORMAL John Claude Smith

    “The new man, no name attached to him yet, looked just like his car, half falling apart, the other half angry about it.”

    I found this very funny, written in a maturely engaging style fitting for a literary bestseller, should this author ever write one, and deals adeptly with the suburban ‘normal’, and then with its transgression by whatever lurks beneath. Perfect for this book. Close your outer eyes, and seek the mind’s eye within, from scarred sacred lawn to lawnmower.

    “They were all affable to the point of being dull, but we did not mind. That’s all we needed from them.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/john-claude-smith/


    “Who the fuck wants that? Plus, reality’s subjective.”

    A woman called Everly, cult studying, moves towards distaff epiphany in the shape of an ouroboros matriarch, towards and into the here well-conveyed genius loci of a Norwegian outpost with caves, cabins and mountains, arriving by ferry with a piece of paper of supposed importance, arriving from another global outpost where she lives and studies, to reach a refuge against her aberrant boy friend, intent on completing the circle of his punishment and removing his own worm of procreation placed within her. How does he find her? Does she want him to find her to complete that circle? That serpent’s head entering the mountain bearing him, with, I found, all manner of perhaps unnecessary parts of her backstory interspersing, yet the book itself contains this story of worms within worms as if it is itself a worm, containing whatever else it contains within the containers of the single mind… mother to mother connected.

    “It’s been building in some neglected corner of her head and she hasn’t even realised.”

  29. E Jeffrey Thomas

    “Is that issue, or issue?”

    A human skull, with bits of itself moving against each other within the overall skull. I somehow predicted some elements in this story a few days ago with this rare new DFL short short! This Thomas story itself harkens back to the gigantic humanoid King Kong earlier in this book, and is placed in this book’s essence of normal suburbs, involving a deliberate dipping into a reactor tank of self as well as one representative of real mutant ungreenness, a giant self with no gender, as a metaphor for our current spate of political correctness amid swathes of political incorrectness, as discussed by otherwise ‘normal’ people earlier in this story, with regard to gender as well as race. E not He or She. Ebooks, instead of real ones, prone more easily to unwanted hard returns…returns to early evolution’s insular madness? The ultimate horror of all is that you are alone with it. Ouroboros of Self’s Issue. Thoughts of mine and mind as generated indirectly by this story when seen in this book’s preceding context. What I say books are about, that is what they are about. These days, what you say you are, you are!

    “I don’t care that I was born with two arms and two legs… I see myself as having four arms and six legs, and if you don’t see it my way you’re just frigging evil.”

    My previous reviews of this author: https://dflewisreviews.wordpress.com/tag/jeffrey-thomas/

  30. This is a disarmingly aberrant book of possibly accidental genius that has inspired my pre-Christmas aberrations with preferable aberrations of its own. Star turns as the monstrous stigmata of solipsism. As the end FADE OUT by the editor, inter alia, says: “transfix you.”


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