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by Kaaron Warren, Omnium Gatherum, 2018

A Review by Kyla Lee Ward

Tide of Stone, by Kaaron Warren
"There's one thing out there... you'll need to look for it. You'll know it when you find it."

"Don't let boredom eat away at you."

"Be careful. Look after yourself. Think of the future. Don't be too curious. Don't think you need to explore everything. Don't go too far down."

Phillipa Muskett, appointed as Keeper for 2014, receives all sorts of advice. She herself has been preparing her whole life, in various ways, for the year she will spend in the Time Ball Tower, tending to those imprisoned there. The experience either makes a person or breaks them irrecoverably, and she is determined to be among those who succeed.

Part personal horror, part Stanford prison experiment, part sheer poetry, Tide of Stone is a masterpiece. Never afraid to ask the big questions or to place evil under her literary microscope, in this, her fifth novel, Warren opens with the question of what is normal and abnormal, and what depends on the segregation of the two. Normal prisoners are not kept in the Tower; this is a fate reserved for "The heinous, the unrepentant, the undeniably guilty." Those for whom no amount of suffering could possibly be enough. Since the institution of the Tower and the Treatment in 1869, there have been those who have disagreed with the consensus, but in Tempustown, they are never many. "We're keeping society safe, Phillipa," her grandmother tells her. "Don't ever forget the importance of what you're doing."

Since 1869. The reader will glimpse every single year.

To read the complete review, please go here.

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After a lengthy hiatus, the magazine of the Australian Horror Writers Association returns for its 12th issue. As well as fiction from the likes of Angela J Maher and Matthew R Davis, it features my new essay, "A Shared Ambition - Horror Writers in Horror Fiction".





"On 15 September, 2016, Little, Brown & Company announced a new book by James Patterson and Derek Nikitas, entitled The Murder of Stephen King. On 22 September, 2016, it was announced that this work would be withdrawn, because the authors "didn't want to cause Stephen King or his family any trouble." (www.thewrap.com)."

I had already been thinking about the ways in which the figure of the horror writer was used in works of horror fiction, from S.K.s various avatars to depictions of Mary Shelley. The saga of this aborted book crystalised these thoughts into another wildly ambitious research project, that led to me finally watching a whole episode of Quantum Leap. Trust me: real horror writers wear muslin.

Electronic copies of Midnight Echo #12 may be acquired here or even here.
 


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Every so often I attempt to read proactively for the Stoker Awards, so as to add things to the Recommended Reading List which contributes to the first ballot. It's not something I can manage every year, especially if I intend actually voting and am also doing the Hugos. I have never yet managed to nominate something in every category. With a month left to go, the following represents my personal picks in a whole six of the official categories, plus another few that I made up. I read a good deal more and may even have nominated more over the course of the year. But this is, above all, a list of things that are unashamedly to my own taste, which I am happy to recommend to you.

Novel

Nil Pray, Christian Read, Gestalt Publishing. My review is here.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Seanan McGuire, Tor.com. In a simpler time, nice children would open wardrobes and go to Narnia. Conflicted, contemporary children end up in the Moors--my spiritual home. By the Stoker rules, this counts as a novel. It will count as a novella for the Hugos. Either way, it is brilliant. It's the second of a series (the first won a Hugo) but I went in cold with no problem.

Borne, Jeff Vandermeer, HarperCollins. A complete societal and environmental collapse is much more fun with genetic engineering and drugs! And bears. Please do not genetically engineer the bears.

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter, Theodora Goss, Saga Press. “And then the clever author looked at her thesis and said, “Goodness me! There are an awful lot of interesting female monsters in 19th century horror fiction that are killed as soon as they appear. What would happen if the poison girl, the panther woman and Justine Frankenstein survived?””

 

Long Fiction

Agents of Dreamland, Caitlin Kiernan, Tor.com. Oh, the prose, the luscious, fungal prose...

My English Name”, R. S. Benedict, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, May/June. The world of this piece is an alienating phantasmagoria. Hint: it's this one.

 

Short Fiction

“We Are Turning on a Spindle”, Joanna Parypinski, Nightmare Magazine #61. Oh the prose, the luscious, gothicky prose...

“Furtherest”, Kaaron Warren, Dark Screams: Volume Seven, ed. Richard Chizmar & Brian Freeman, Hydra. A small masterpiece of atmosphere and poisoned memories.

“Sweetlings”, Lucy Taylor, Tor.com. Come, let us dine. The first course is trilobite...

“Laying the Hairy Book”, Joshua Reynolds, Weirdbook Annual #1: Witches, Wildside Press. Robust, folksy perfection.

 

Poetry

Diary of a Sorceress, Ashley Dioses, Hippocampus Press. My review is here.

Visions of the Mutant Rainforest, Robert Frazier and Bruce Boston, Crystal Lake Publishing. The long-awaited collection of poems and vignettes charting how their mutual creation transforms humanity and claims the world.

 

Non-Fiction

Paperbacks From Hell, Grady Hendrix, Quirk Books. This is not just an art book that deserves to be shelved next to Haining's A Pictorial History of Horror Stories, it is an excellent work of cultural history. And funny. Really, really, funny.

The Body Horror Book, ed. Claire Fitzpatrick, Oscillate Wildly Press. Once again, my review is here.

 

Scripts

The Stokers lump film and television together. Please note that this award goes to the script writer rather than the director.

The Endless, Justin Benson, Snowfort Pictures, et al. AIEEEEEEEEEEEe that's some great cinematographYEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

Get Out! Jordan Peele, Blumhouse Productions. This is how you do it, people, razor-sharp and stylish. Also, possibly the best improvised weapon ever.

“Trick or Treat, Freak”, Chapter Two: Season 2, Stranger Things. Paul Dichter, Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, Jessie Nickson Lopez & Kate Trefy. Netflix Studios, et al. And here's my conflicted childhood. Did I mention the Moors?

“Got A Light?” Episode 8, Twin Peaks: the Return, Mark Frost & David Lynch, Showtime Networks, et al. Yeah, that one.


Best Title

Is shared by “Laying The Hairy Book” and “Shoggoths in Traffic”, Tobias S. Bucknell, Lightspeed #88.

 

Worst Pun

“No Holds Bard”, Adrian Cole, Weirdbook Annual #1: Witches, Wildside Press.

 

Things I Would Have Loved To Nominate But Couldn't

… because it should have been last year.

“Eyes I Dare Not Meet In Dreams”, Sunny Moraine, Tor.com. Beautiful dead girls start climbing out of refrigerators the world over, and amongst other things, stalk Joss Whedon.

The Love Witch, Anna Biller, Anna Biller Productions, et al. Have you freaking seen this?

 

A Couple of Individual Poems I Really Liked

Yes, I should join the Science Fiction Poetry Association, but I fear the addition of the Rhysling Awards would drive me mad.

“Pomegranates and Ashes”, Gerri Leen, Eternal Haunted Summer, Summer Solstice issue.

“Mistress of the Dark Fortress”, Leigh Blackmore & K. A. Opperman, Spectral Realms #6, Hippocampus Press.

“Cthulhu Listens To The Beach Boys”, Kate Lechler, Liminality #13.

 

And that's it! As always, I am happy to enter into discussion of cool stuff, though it will have to be quick! The field of things that deserve to be read is effectively infinite: we can only do what we can.

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By Kaaron Warren, IFWG Publishing Australia, 2016

A Review by Kyla Lee Ward

"Each monster has only one way to die. There are no rules. You need to know the monster to kill it…"

At age twenty-four, Theresa was a social worker, helping women to escape abuse. She was described as "a born counsellor", "Saint Theresa". But then she made the decision that landed her in hospital and a client in the morgue. Guilt chases her from her task, because like the protagonist of Warren's first novel, Slights (Angry Robot, 2009), Theresa is haunted, but not by the ghosts of the dead. Cruelly, she sees the ghosts of those who are not yet dead, whom she may be able to save.

The burden of talent is a strong theme throughout this book. The way the Sight manifests amongst the women of Theresa's family has fractured it, erecting walls where understanding and acceptance were required. But her cousin Amber was an artistic genius, able to express the inner soul of a subject in her paintings. When Theresa goes to work for her uncle, seeking a way to heal, she discovers that the talent that should have brought Amber fame instead brought her to the attention of a predator, a collector with a ghastly gift of his own.

Warren's talent as a writer involves twists of perception. She evokes the utterly familiar and ordinary, even the pleasant, then reveals the horror which was always there, only you could not see it. Or refused to, like the people on the street outside the shelter, as Theresa was stabbed and bashed. Theresa's refusal to look away is driven by an older, worse guilt and possibly by something else--the something that sees her brooding over news clippings of accidents and hideous crimes. If she goes up against this monster, does she risk becoming another victim or something worse?

"They need help and you are the best monster to help them...

To read the full review, please go here.
 

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