Horror Blog: “The Roaches”

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http://tagshadow.com

Thomas M. Disch’s “The Roaches” is a darkly humorous tale that reminds me of the movie Willard. The story is about Marcia Kenwell, who has recently arrived in New York to seek out a new job, but unfortunately has to settle for a series of dead end jobs while living in a cockroach-infested apartment. Marcia has an intense phobia of roaches, but also shares a psychic bond with the creatures and is able to command them to do her bidding.

Disch’s plain and simple use of language is effective in drawing the reader into the low-rent apartments of New York, where all sorts of nasty bugs lurk between the cracks and at the back of a dark cabinet. Marcia is painted as a very flawed person, whose focus on cleanliness seems to alienate her from others. She dismisses her neighbors as loud and filthy – more or less as human cockroaches.

The ending is ambiguous, but it’s implied that Marcia’s power has caused her to descend into insanity. I recommend checking this one out.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note: Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing. Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

 

Horror Blog: “Teratisms”

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“Teratisms” by Kathe Koja is the story of a brother and sister forced to look after their monstrous sibling, Alex, who has a taste for flesh. As they drive through Louisiana, the tensions rise and the constant need to watch Alex force the siblings to make a bitter choice.

A teratism is apparently “a congenital malformation or anomaly” which applies to Alex, but note that the title is plural, which infers that the brother and sister (Mitch and Randle) are anomalies too. They’re anomalies because they can’t live normal lives and must watch after their horrible brother. They’re alienated from the rest of society.

Sadly, I think the characterization needs work. There isn’t much to Mitch and Randle besides their adversarial relationship and exhaustion with looking after Alex, and while their frustration is understandable, it becomes tiring to watch them bicker. The biggest disappointment is with Alex, who is little more than a prop. I would’ve liked to know more about him, more about his history and his behavior. I’ve heard good things about some of Koja’s other stories, so I’ll have to check them out to compare.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note: Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing. Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Horror Blog: Poppy Z. Brite

http://davidandrewriley.blogspot.com
http://davidandrewriley.blogspot.com

“Calcutta, Lord of Nerves” by Poppy Z. Brite is a dark and fascinating look at the city of Calcutta, which has become the site of a zombie infestation. The zombies, however, are not the main focus of the story – rather, it is the unnamed protagonist who was born in this city of death. Brite describes the setting in stark, graphic detail, unafraid of the ghastliness of it all. It’s a kind of fearlessness you don’t see from many horror authors.

The protagonist is interesting, because he revels in the death and disease of Calcutta, seemingly more at home there than anywhere else. The roving groups of dead do not bother him, for he’s comfortable with death: his mother died in childbirth and the hospital he was born in burned to the ground. So, death has followed him since birth. Still, a late-night encounter at a temple causes him to realize that death is not something to be in awe of, but to be feared and respected.

— Michael Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note: Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing. Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Horror Blog: “Dancing Chickens”

http://www.scifi.darkroastedblend.com
http://www.scifi.darkroastedblend.com

Edward Bryant’s “Dancing Chickens” is a sci-fi story set during first contact with aliens, their vast, black ships hovering over the cities of America with nary a word from whatever extraterrestrial intelligence waits within. The main character is Ricky, a runaway with little going for him except his dreams and desires – he wishes for the ships to come and take him away from his life and responsibilities. He gets his wish, but not in the way he wanted.

The title refers to when a party guest uses a chicken as a puppet and makes it dance, to the disgust of the other partygoers. The opening line is “What do aliens want?” and the answer is the title, although the chickens actually refer to humans – to the aliens, we are nothing more than puppets, and that does not bode well for the human race.

What I liked about Bryant’s writing is how the science-fiction aspect is kept in the background, but not totally forgotten. The focus is more on Ricky and his relationships with others than the aliens, and the sci-fi elements don’t really come into play until the end, when it veers into horror. An interesting and somber story.

— Michael Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note: Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing. Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

 

Mike’s Horror Blog: “Heat”

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Steve Rasnic Tem’s “Heat” is a story of pain and loss, where tragedy begets obsession. The main character is Sandra, an average woman that lost her husband and son when their plane crashed and burned. This event has caused Sandra to become obsessed with fire and burning. She memorizes the temperatures at which certain materials burn and keeps a scrapbook of deaths, mostly fire-related. She imagines people are burning all the time and seeks out fires to watch them burn.

Sandra is a pathetic wreck who can’t move on from a horrible event, and my heart goes out to her. Tem manages to establish a connection between Sandra and her son without being maudlin, and while there isn’t anything supernatural going on in this story, it’s a fascinating look into a damaged mind. It’s a short tale, but worth looking at.

– Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note: Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing. Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog: No Strings

http://amazon.com

Ramsey Campbell’s “No Strings” is a taut little horror story about Phil Linford, a radio show host. One night after his show, he finds a violinist sitting outside the station, playing a perfect imitation of a radio song. Hoping to give the violinist an audition, Linford races after him, only to be distracted by a cry for help from a derelict building. What he discovers inside will change his life forever.

While not an extraordinarily complex story, “No Strings” seems to be a cautionary tale of how altruism can be a double-edged sword: while Linford’s motives are noble, his desire to help ultimately leads to his undoing. I like how the story paints Linford as an average person trying to help others, but is unsatisfied with his status as a late-night radio host, as it leaves no room to talk about things that really matter. Instead, he’s met with apathy and even hostility when discussing things like homelessness. I think that sort of thing is par for the course nowadays, so Linford is easy to empathize with.

It’s a quick read, so feel free to check this one out.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.

Mike’s Horror Blog: “Rain Falls”

http://knoxnews.com

Michael Marshall Smith’s “Rain Falls” is, at first appearance, a look into the mundane life of a nameless protagonist who likes to frequent a pub he calls “The Porcupine,” but it’s more that that – it’s an examination of how violence can sweep up anyone, even innocent bystanders.

The title comes from the protagonist’s comparison of a fight breaking out to “rain from clear April skies.” It’s sudden, intense and vanishes quickly, but there’s always someone who ends up bearing the brunt of it. As is the case here: what appears to be a slice-of-life story is actually a werewolf tale – werewolves being the embodiment of primal violence and the raging id.

When the main character stumbles upon the aftermath of the werewolf’s latest feeding, he finds himself in a whole new world, which, as the ending implies, may lead to his death. Again, that’s the nature of violence. It doesn’t discriminate who its victims are. Smith does an excellent job of taking normal situations and injecting them with terror, and I’ll have to be on the lookout for his other work.

— Mike Malan, Blogger

Editor’s Note:  Mike Malan recently graduated from Lewis University with a degree in English with a sub-speciality in Creative Writing.  Mike especially enjoys writing gothic, Poe and all things that chill your bones. He is a dark writer but you can find him dabbling in politics. He is also interested in the editing process and hopes that you will enjoy his work.