In Tooth & Claw (Supernatural Horror Anthology Review)

Contains spoilers.

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Daniel Soule’s In Tooth & Claw (Rotten Row Publishing), an anthology of surreal and supernatural horror stories, begins with the novelette, Plight of the Valkyrie, the story of a soul-reaping guild that seeks out a empathic, medically skilled serial killer for recruitment. The premise is fascinating, however, the deployment of a extremely lengthy monologue midway into the story concerning the purpose of the spectral guild to which the protagonist (Mortimer) belongs both saps the story of its tension and, at the same time, creates a build-up without a pay-off. That the guild angle is central to the story and also the very thing which removes the unsettling atmosphere the story generates in its impressively moody introduction suggests that the story might have been more effective without recourse to supernaturalism, as Val’s murderous medical proclivities proved sufficiently intriguing so as to have been able to carry the tale in its entirety, should the author have so-desired.

The next story—The Breed—is one of the best in the collection. The tale centers on a number of paratroopers from Nevada who are sent to the Middle East to liquidate a number of Farsi-speaking and thus, presumably Persian, terrorists at the behest of the US military. Of course, given the title, one can assume the novel angle: The soldiers are werewolves, born out of a secret nazi experiment that was coopted by the US government. Despite deploying a premise reminiscent of David Brückner’s Iron Wolf, the narrative nevers falls to schlocky mediocrity, firstly, owing to the deftness and three-dimensionality with which the paratroopers are detailed, secondarily because of the competence of the prose and the structure of the story, and thirdly because the narrative threads are drawn together with a seriousness and authenticity typically absent from the kind of exploitation and shock-horror film it brings to mind. The 1987 film Predator is mentioned in the story’s opening and presents itself as a good point of comparison, as The Breed is as different from Iron Wolf as the beginning of Predator is from its own middle and end.

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Illustration depicting a scene from ‘The Breed’ by Stuart McMillan.

To Kill A Quisquilia (a title I first erroneously read as ‘To Kill A Quesadilla’) concerns a young woman’s death and a supernaturally gifted boy’s contention with a demon (the titular ‘quisquilia’) disguised as a garbage truck (which, as far as disguises go, is quite original). The tale provides a tonal break from the two proceeding tales, as it begins as a grim mystery and swiftly develops into a jaunty, macabre comedy. A welcome bit of levity to break the tension of the preceding tales.

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Illustration depicting a scene from ‘To Kill A Quisquilia’ by Stuart McMillan.

Next is The Switch, a psychologically introspective murder mystery. Its interesting in that the mystery lies not in who the killer is, but in why the killer did what she did (the reveal is quite gripping, so I shant spoil it).

After that is The Breed: The Last Watch, a continuation of The Breed’s mythos. It fails to match up to the original, chiefly because of its clumsy structure, as the reader is constantly jostled between numerous underdeveloped characters which are scattered throughout different time-periods. The problem with the story is not that there are time-jumps, but rather that one has no idea what is going on as a consequence thereof.

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Illustration from ‘The Breed: The Last Watch’ by Stuart McMillan.

Next up, Only Some Things, the story of a deformed man waiting at a bus stop. Though emotionally evocative, it feels unfinished, namely because it ends so abruptly. As a sketch for a longer work, however, its thoroughly intriguing.

Next is Witchopper, my personal favorite in the collection, which tells the tale of a father and son who set out to investigate the veracity of a local urban legend. Unlike, The Breed: The Last Watch, the time-jumps are very deftly deployed such that never once did I have to re-read a line or skim back up to the preceding page in a attempt to understand what was going on. It also features several scenes of impressively atmospheric tension.

Concluding the anthology is The Lostling, which, much like Only Some Things, is a story about which little can be said, as it also feels underdeveloped. There is no middle or end, but only the introduction of a introduction. That being said, it is also one of the most ambient and haunting of all the pieces.

In Tooth & Claw is a thoroughly mixed-bag, but never a boring one.


My thanks to Mr. Daniel Soule for providing me with a early copy of the anthology.

Fiction Circular 2/5/19

Editor’s note: Links affixed to author/publisher names will redirect to author/publisher social media; links affixed to story/article names will redirect to the named story/article.


INDEPENDENT AUTHORS

First up, Andrea Nicosia published a untitled short story concerning a dream.

A dire battle, and I was fighting. — A. Nicosia

Jason Simon published, On Returning, a fever dream rumination on social isolation and personal transformation.

-my heart no longer felt affection for these alien people and their barbaric rituals, their trivial matters of fleeting importance or their malevolent, false gods. — On Returning

Noah J. Wayne published the long-form short story, Convict. A story of one woman struggling within a partially automated prison. Highly recommended.

“Five minutes have been added to your sentence due to disobedience,” the guard said. — Convict

Sara Codair published Are We Like The Phoenix? A steampunk flash-fiction concerning volcanoes and time-travel. Whilst the plot and characters were interesting, it suffered from the perennial problem which afflicts nearly all flash fiction: being too short.

Even over the rhythmic growl of the ships engine, Lisbeth heard thousands of micro gears churning away. Of all the arcane devices she possessed, this one was the most powerful. — Are We Like The Phoenix

Stumbled across Vic Smith‘s 2018 short story, Caged, a gritty crime thriller.

He’d got Frank out of Dartmoor, and had to stand guard over him in this dingy flat and wait for orders.

They hadn’t come. Whatever the plan had been, it had failed. — Caged


INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS

From Cheap Pop, Sanctus Spiritus, 1512 by Sarah Arantza Amador.

The camp cried and prayed, and she sat in her cage, focused on the smell of sea brine and the cook’s meaty neck. — Sanctus Spiritus, 1512

Also from Cheap Pop, Still Life With Prairie, 1860, by Natalie Teal McCallister.

Little girls be brave, brave as your mother. Little boys be meant for the earth, let your blood water the prairie and come alive again in the red of sunset. — Still Life With Prairie

From Coin Man Stories, Puzzles, Part 1, by José Alves de Castro.

– And now, for 200 points: Find the difference!

The audience stared excitedly as the contestants probed into the two universes looking for anything that might be different, each of the contenders searching differently for the tiniest changes. — Puzzles, Part 1

From Flash Fiction Magazine, Dead by Joe Cappello.

Martin Aurely was dead inside. It wasn’t physical, but a persistent feeling that there was no feeling. Where there is no feeling, there can be no life. — Dead

From Hagstone Publishing, Let Me In by Michelle Simpkins.

She can deal with the fingertips scuttling over the glass window of her front door. She can pretend they are tree branches scraping the house. She doesn’t mind the muddy footprints on the porch. If she doesn’t look too closely in the morning, she can tell herself an animal visited during the night.

It’s the voice that sends her diving under the blankets with crawling skin and clenched teeth. — Let Me In

From Jokes Review, Tropicana On Steroids by Sean Trolinder.

“You don’t drink juice from a needle.” — Tropicana On Steroids

From New York Tyrant Magazine, I Called Shotgun When You Died by Christopher Kennedy.

I come to understand eventually: There is no sun. There are no stars. The coast is never clear. — I Called…

From Reflex Press, Night Swimming by Susan Carol.

She could not swim but we still swim for her. Search the ocean for her and find her only at night. — Night Swimming

From Spelk Fiction, Roachburn, 1908 by Neil Campbell.

In the village of Roachburn, all blinds are drawn. The pregnant woman cries night and day. Another woman cries. A mother and an aunt cry too, behind walls buffeted by winds across the moorland. — Roachburn, 1908

From Terror House, Moments, Part 1 by Chika Echebiri.

I feel my shoulders slump as I begin to weep softly, thinking that Richard could be lying helplessly somewhere, seriously wounded or even dead. — Moments, Part 1

From X-R-A-Y, Blood! by Oliver Zarandi.

I remember, he says. Your life is one filled with tragedies. I may order another soup. — Blood!

LITERARY EPHEMERA

From Ghost City Press, Bird Bereavement by Alisa Velaj.

Morning was slow to come,
with a lonely canary in the other cage,
now facing the empty one in front.
Oh, how long we waited for our canary to sing!


Thanks for reading.

If you have recommendations for inclusions in the next LOGOS fiction circular, or wish to submit work to LOGOS, feel free to contact our administrator.

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Fiction Circular 9/28/18

INDEPENDENT AUTHORS – SELF PUBLISHED WORK

First up, from Miles To Go Before I Sleep… is the micro, Venom!? by Ramya Tantry.

If a person can be Flash if struck by a lightning or a Spiderman if bitten by a radioactive spider. Then looking at snakes on display, she wondered.

What will a person become if bitten by a snake? Venom!?

— Venom, R. Tantry

From Blogggedit, S For Stairs by Avani Singh.

“I just wanted to get away from that endless darkness…” — S For Stairs.

From ABK Stories, Twenty Eighty-Eight by Alexander Bjørn Kodama.

“By 94 she had thought moving was going to be horrible, but medicine was better now, broke the bank, but it was better. 94 is the new 54; so they say.”

— Twenty Eighty-Eight

From Medium, It Didn’t Have To Be This Way, Ted by J. Brandon Lowry.

“Bring forth the murderer.” — It Didn’t Have To Be This Way, Ted.

INDEPENDENT LITMAGS AND EZINES

From Terror House Magazine, #LoveIsHate by T.J. Martinell. A interesting commentary on the culture of grievance and some of unintended consequences thereof.

“How is it any of your business what I do in my personal life?”

“Like I said, we have a situation here.” — #LoveIsHate

From New Flash Fiction Review (issue 14), Millhouse Again by Paul Beckman.

“Millhouse awoke when the page dropped on him. It was the third time and he got up and dove escaping the next crushing page.” — Millhouse Again.

LITERARY EPHEMERA

Art of Blogging offers up some helpful advice for aspiring professional writers with How To Be A Boss At BLogging When You Have 0 Followers by Cristian Mihai. Not all of Mr. Mihai’s recommendations are one’s with which we agree, but there is much to be gleaned from this rousing post.

“It is your attitude, more than your aptitude, that will determine your altitude.” —Zig Ziglar.


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Fiction Circular 9/7/18

We’re always open to ideas on sites to cover for future installments, so if you know a good writer or collective, let us know via logosliterature@yandex.com


FLASH FICTION

Ramya Tantry of the whimsical writing site, And Miles Before I Go To Sleep… published The Mist, a surreal micro-fiction about (as you might have guessed) a peculiar mist and (as you probably didn’t guess) a lucky garden gnome.

Run, the mist is descending.. Run for your life“, cried Stu.

The poisonous mist was settling on his skin causing blisters. He was in tremendous pain and was in desperate need of water to wash the mist away. But he was unable to move. Poor visibility due to mist was creating hindrance in searching others.

He cried for help. He called for his friends. But no help arrived. As the mist started to clear he could see the bodies of his friends. He saw some of his friends on the other side of the fence crying their heart out.

I bring good luck. I am a good luck charm. I am the protector. Why I am being killed?“, Stu – the Garden Gnome wondered.

Certainly a evocative beginning to a tale, the only question: what happens next? Did Stu survive his ordeal? What is the mist and how did it become poisonous? Where did it come from? Perhaps we shall find out in another installment.

Curiously, The persistently consistent Dark Netizen also published a flash fiction entitled The Mist (presumably both he and Ms. Tantry were inspired by the same writing prompt). His story differs from Ms. Tantry’s in that there are no gnomes, but rather, considerably more giant spiders. Really not sure which situation is preferable…

Newcomer Avani Singh of the horror fiction site Blogggedit published a horror story memorably titled Weirdo Elevator. The story of the strange elevator and the terrifying smile continues in Why? Why Don’t You Leave Me? and is further elaborated upon in part 3, NOW YOU SEE ME! One thing I quite enjoyed about blogggedit’s posts is the usage of disquieting photography throughout, that both fit and intensified the narrative. We’ll be covering the rest of the series once we finish reading it and are definitely interested to see her work develop and progress.


SHORT STORIES

Worth reading from Jellyfish Review, When God Closes A Door by Kathryn Kulpa.

“I could picture the droop of his thinning hair, his hangdog eyes, as he realized the terrible sort of person I was. Like that song that says you always hurt the ones you love, but that wasn’t me. I hurt people I kind of liked-“

Nell begins the first chapter of a series titled The Angelic Conversation. A tale of convening with celestial beings.

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“The social media app, which had in recent times, become her refuge. Another world she could escape to and be someone else – or perhaps just another version of herself, which was usually carefully concealed in her day job as an archivist.”

A tale of the freedom inherent to anonymity; no nagging questions from friends and co-workers; but are such relationships built as a stage or are they a potential alternative avenue of human connectivity, as real and genuine as talking to John upon the street? And who is this John anyway? I suppose we shall find out in her next installment.

We got around to reading more from OddMadLand’s back-catalog and delved into Ardency and Hysteria, the peculiar tale of a poet, Ren, who, believing himself a bird jumps to his “death” and, under perpetual transformation and internal turmoil, contemplates becoming his own planet and what life upon himself would entail.

“It was reported that the photographer and poet ended his life at the age of twenty-nine, but what they did not know is that he never hit the ground after jumping to his death. Instead the sky fell, and as it went down he went up.”

Like all of the stories at OddMadLand, Ardency and Hysteria is stylish, experimental and dense with symbolism. Highly recommended.

Terror House Mag’s Working The Night Shift by Daniel Bretton has a good premise – a depressed, wayward hall monitor seeing something or someone late at night, or at least he thinks did; this realization then causing total life-reassessment. Life, he realizes, is stranger than fiction, or something (it isn’t really laid out very well how this event changed his perspective, though the set up is well-done). However, this interesting premise is undercut by clunky prose which almost always tells rather than shows. Additionally, the story raises a few philosophical questions (the author snipes at dogmatic materialism (qua Dawkins et al.) and states – rightly – that what is true is not constrained by dogma, personal or collective; “if something is real it can take the pressure [of investigation]”) but doesn’t follow through with this idea, which makes the story feel, unfortunately, rather half-finished.

“In the modern day, the scientific and educational establishments have turned to a dogmatic materialism. No deviation from this premise is tolerated, with researchers and scientists putting their careers at risk by pursuing wider areas of research. Yet, to paraphrase a figure Burke otherwise has little use for; “if something is real it can take the pressure.” The strange, extraordinary, and yes, spiritual aspects of the universe do not simply cease to exist because post-enlightenment men choose to ignore them.”

Also from Terror House Mag, My Shinning Boy by Patty Fischer.

John Siney, whose work we’ve covered previously (The Ghost Of A Flea), has released an extract of his 2016 novel, A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Woman. All I can say thus far is that it is splendidly written, amusing and hold’s too high an opinion of Pollock (who was dreadful).


NOVELLAS & NOVELS

Nothing to report; still working through The White Lioness (Kurt Wallander #3) by Henning Mankell.


NOTABLE NON-FICTION WORKS

Lastly, though not a prose fiction work, Disappearance and Assembly – Extract by David J. Roden is well worth a read.

“-only the speaker, the human, has any place on the stage-“


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