HINNOM MAGAZINE ISSUE 006 TOC REVEAL — Gehenna & Hinnom Books

I pre-ordered mine before tomorrow’s release. You should do the same. The industry’s best Cosmic Horror for only $3!

Greetings from the Ether, As a lot of you probably saw in our newsletter this morning, it is time to reveal the table of contents for Hinnom Magazine Issue 006. We have ourselves a stacked issue with immense talent, new and veteran alike. We can’t wait to share this issue with you, and we hope you’ll […]

via HINNOM MAGAZINE ISSUE 006 TOC REVEAL — Gehenna & Hinnom Books

Josh Malerman’s Bird Box, A Review

 

 Bird BoxBird Box by Josh Malerman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Why did I care about Malorie so much?

That question’s haunted me ever since I put Bird Box down.

I’ve read many post-apocalyptic novels. Some of them had characters I loved and rooted for. Some had characters I despised but through whom I experienced vicariously the darkest sides of human nature. And the worlds they struggled through to survive, though they blur now, were compelling then. Sure, the Flu-ravaged world of The Stand kept me up late into the night; The Road saw me pulling for Father and Son to survive frigid hellscapes en route to the sea.

Malorie, though…

I’m not one for hyperbole or sentimentality, but Malorie had flesh in all 250-something pages–skin in the game, as they say.

Her heart’s desires, her sole-purpose of protecting Boy and Girl, and getting them to a vague sanctuary posited and promised them by a voicemail. Rick. A voicemail from a man named Rick urged her to strive out into a world of horrors, down twenty miles of a Michigan river, so that after four years void of hope, Malorie and Boy and Girl could find some: hope. Written in present-tense, in a tight third-person point-of-view, I felt this urgency–Malorie’s–on every single line.

Maybe I loved her because of the depths she went to in order to protect Boy and Girl, one her child, one not.

You see, in the world Malerman’s created, survivors must go outside blindfolded. Some unknown form of creature, when seen, cause the person to go mad, killing themselves and/or others. It happened to many millions, including Malorie’s parents and sister. During her pregnancy, one of her more cynical housemates offers a solution. Take some chemicals, he says, and blind the newborns as soon as they exit the birth canal. That way, they’ll never be at risk of seeing the creatures to begin with.

Malorie refused.

The majority of the gore that results from one seeing these creatures is conducted off stage, implied (the death of Malorie’s parents, for example), or glossed over with narrative summary via the media discussing the horrors out there. Bird Box is wonderful and claustrophobic in that way–the point of view is so limited that your imagination is required to engage the broader implications. However, Malerman gives us one scene of true horror that involves a child. A dead one. A scene done with quiet mastery. And, not in Malorie’s point of view, serves as a counterpoint to what Malorie’s relationship with Boy and Girl is.

The boy in his Sunday’s best, propped against the headboard in his room, dead from starvation, the rot from his corpse permeating the house.

That image delivered in two sentences by Malerman, walloped an entire universe of heartache for me. Just picture the terror the boy would’ve felt after his parents died. There he is, scared of the boogeyman outside, and waiting for someone to provide him food and guidance. Neither would come. This was one of the most powerful moments I’ve come across in recent fiction.

Malerman providing a concrete example of a child suffering and dying in this world, located mid-book, gives context and gravitas to all of the struggles we’ve seen Malorie undergo to care for and raise Boy and Girl. She raised them well enough to survive to the age of four. Her training them to wake with their eyes closed, or to having almost superhuman powers of hearing, become elevated from cool to read about, to visceral maternal love.

Through thoughts and actions of hers, we learn that Malorie would do anything for these two children. What tugged at my heartstrings for the duration of the novel, though, is Malorie’s terse dialogue–by which we sense that she is keeping the children at arm’s length, in case any members of this survival trio die, the anguish wouldn’t overwhelm her.

Death seems inevitable. What are the odds that a young child, well-trained as Boy and Girl are, won’t take off their blindfolds, or curious to finally see the sun hanging in the sky, peer out a window?

Malorie barks at them.

“Boy, listen!”

“Girl, don’t talk. Listen.”

“What do the two of you hear? Listen!”

“LISTEN.”

The word listen comes to symbolize an external survival mechanism for Malorie. She needs Boy and Girl in many ways. Using their trained sense of hearing for survival on the river happens to be the most immediate. Barking orders at them, keeping them on their toes, is her way of keeping the terror she feels from coursing through their small minds. In short, her gruffness is sublime.

Every page of Bird Box feels immediate, each of Malorie’s two complimentary storylines speeding onward in present tense.

So why do I love Malorie so much?

Because she embodies the wild all-encompassing love of mothers in the trenches–the human mother bear ripping someone to shreds to protect her cubs. Again, I never considered myself a sentimentalist. However, I think Josh Malerman did something in Bird Box that I’ve seen few writers able to accomplish. Frankly, I’ve seen few brave enough to try and risk failing.

He took the concept of unconditional love, more or less a weakened cliche of an idea, and gave it emotional truth. I love Malorie because she embodies, in sharp contrast to the darkness and blindness around her, the brightest and clearest example of the pinnacles of human nature.

Love. Unconditional love.

View all my reviews

Zdzisław Beksiński, Nightmarescape Photographer

The Polish artist Zdislaw Beksinski created masterful work of macabre fantasy. He stated that his artistic aim was to photograph dreams.

My interpretation of this is that he sought to capture the disjointed, disturbing, impressionistic, and fleeting emotional imagery that visits us all at night. Put another way, dreams are sort of meaning soup–upon waking we ladle the broth hoping to catch a noodle or a hunk of meat.

Zdislaw was born in 1929. He finished an architecture degree in Warsaw in 1952. The location and timing of his young manhood leads many to think that WWII would’ve had a profound affect on his psyche; logically it follows that the trauma Hitler inflicted on the world, and the decayed state of Poland in the aftermath of the Holocaust, influenced his dark fantastical realist style of art.

Glancing through Zdislaw’s work though, I think Christianity, and in many ways a positive internalization of it–or to the non-believer, man’s capacity for spirituality allowing him to transcend the evil of worldly flesh–is what made him tick.

Mexican film director Guillermo Del Toro says this about Beksinski:

In the medieval tradition, Beksinski seems to believe art to be a forewarning about the fragility of the flesh – whatever pleasures we know are doomed to perish – thus, his paintings manage to evoke at once the process of decay and the ongoing struggle for life. They hold within them a secret poetry, stained with blood and rust.

Personal accounts of Beksinski pegged him as a pleasant intellectual with quite the sense of humor despite his grim fascinations. He fancied himself an optimist, stating that his work often went misunderstood–morbid horror representing bleakness. However, Beksinski considered his works uplifting and even humorous.

Zdislaw had no interest in the meanings of his paintings, refusing even to title them. I think this is such a wonderful artistic trait because an artist should simply be a conduit. My art philosophy aside, it complements Beksinski’s work harmoniously because his vision was to paint as if photographing dreams.

The interpretation should be left to the viewer of his work because only the individual who has had the dream can truly understand their own subconscious sludge.

Enjoying Zdislaw Beksinski’s work for its macabre beauty is easy. I’m interested to see how people interpret some of his images knowing that he considered them optimistic and humorous.

Find some positive meanings in the images below and share your thoughts in the comments.


I’ll get things started with the first image of a crucified torso.

zdislaw 6.jpg

In the background, the sun bakes the clouds to an orange-blue haze that reminds me of a hellscape on the planet Venus. The wrists are nailed into a cross missing the top portion of its column beam. Behind it leans a clean blue crucifix.

The ragged torso of an individual long-since crucified represents Jesus Christ. Jesus embodies the ultimate sacrifice, the absolution of humankind’s sin.

In the Judeo-Christian world this is the greatest gift ever given. The most merciful act of God, arguably of any god, in that its purpose was to forgive humanity for its sinful nature.

Jesus Christ’s sacrifice in the context of this painting states the following: no matter how fallen the world is–even if God’s chosen Jews are being rounded up and exterminated in concentration camps and Europe is being torn to shreds by Allied and Axis Powers because of it–God’s gift of Christ to redeem humanity persists.

The painting means that it doesn’t matter how incredulous one might be in a moment of staggering evil and carnage like WWII, depicted by the ragged appearance of the headless torso, the decayed bone, the sinew connecting right arm to shoulder about to give, that the redemption remains, right there in the pure blue crucifix behind.

In essence, this image symbolizes that humanity will persevere through any evil, and that deeply flawed as we are, we are good.

If that isn’t positive, I don’t know that is.

 


Now enjoy several more samples of Berksinski’s work.

 

zdislaw 5.jpgzdislaw 4.jpgzdizslaw 3.jpgzdzislaw 2.jpgzdzislaw.jpg

Thoughts?

 

Toonocalypse by Sci-Fi Short Filmmakers Dust Is a Glorious Foray Into New Weird

I’ve been parsing through definitions of the various sub-genres of weird and horror and fantasy fiction lately.

While I don’t think it necessarily matters what labels we put on creative work, I find that most definitions of Weird include supernatural, mythological, and scientific tropes. From personal taste and opinion, I’d also add that Weird involves surreal elements, as well as fear and humor that results from uncanniness–e.g., cute cartoon aliens instead of Alien aliens…

Toonocalypse captures Weird perfectly then.

We get cartoons, alien science fiction, the apocalypse, a creation story.

I would be interested to see what you think of this. Feel free to comment below. Enjoy this seventeen-minute film!

Summary:

Two students document the arrival of cute, cartoon aliens in Edinburgh, but after a year on Earth, the pair discover the true intention of the aliens visit. Watch “Toonocalypse” by Owen Rixon

Netflix’s The Push, Derren Brown’s Expose on Human Groupthink

It’s Friday, so I know you’re in need of some Netflix viewing materials. Derren Brown’s The Push made me cringe, forced me to laugh uncomfortably, terrified me, and left me a little sad.

I can’t recommend it enough.

I hesitated to pull the trigger on watching this one because Netflix and IMDB reviewers labeled Derren Brown as an exploitative manipulator. He has a past in British TV doing these sorts of social experiments, so he’s known.

He certainly is manipulative. The people in the film are lab rats in the incredible illusion he’s created. But willing ones.

Having watched The Push, I can’t help but think that the people who dislike him do so because he forces us hoomans to ask ourselves some cringe-inducing questions about our nature and behavior. That’s exactly what The Push will make you do.

This is riveting stuff from Netflix, folks.

Spring Reading 2018: 7 Must-Read Horror Releases To Scare Those Winter Cobwebs Away

Spring is coming. The sun already lingers in the sky. Its warmth shines on our pale winter flesh. But as fans of horror literature, there’s no reason to totally say farewell to the cold darkness. Luckily, publishers in the horror genre have some excellent new chills to serve up for Spring 2018, from a diverse group of writers. Here are seven of the hottest Spring releases.

The Hunger – Alma Katsu (March 6)

The Hunger by Alma Katsu Cover

Everyone knows the harrowing story of the Donner Party. The ill-fated outfit of pioneers who journeyed westward only to end up cannibalizing one another while snowbound in the Sierra Nevadas. Alma Katsu chronicles their story, with vivid renderings of America’s natural beauty in sharp contrast to her unflinching portrayal of the dark outer rims of human nature. Be sure to pre-order this brilliant re-telling of an American (true) horror story with a supernatural twist.

84K – Claire North (May 22)

84k by Claire North cover

Being dubbed as a perfect read for fans of The Handmaid’s Tale and Never Let Me Go, this dystopian thriller revolves around a society where Wu Tang Clan’s acronym C.R.E.A.M (Cash Rules Everything Around Me) has been fully realized. North’s brilliant premise has nothing to do with rap groups, but does explore a dark world where nothing is too precious for a price tag. For example, monetary fines for paying your way out of murder charges.

Head On: A Novel of The Near Future – John Scalzi (April 17)

Head on: A Novel of The Near Future by John Scalzi Cover

USA Today says that Scalzi has the “scientific creativity of Michael Crichton” and the “police procedural chops of Stephen J. Canell.” Perhaps commenting on America’s bloodlust, the novel centers around the Colosseum-like entertainment of the sport Hilketa. Players are robotic “threeps” (think Westworld hosts), so the sport that calls for wielding swords and hammers in order to retrieve your opponent’s head, delivers the gore to the fans, while causing no actual death. Until a famous athlete is actually murdered…

Unbury Carol: A Novel – Josh Malerman (April 10)

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman Cover

In advance praise for this novel, horror big-wig Stephen Graham Jones said, “Unbury Carol is a Poe story set in the weird West we all carry inside us, and it not only hits the ground running, it digs into that ground, too. About six wonderful feet.” In this twisted take on Sleeping Beauty, the protagonist Carol Evers has died many times. She falls into comas indistinguishable from death. Two people know her secret: the money-grubbing husband who married her for her fortune, and the notorious outlaw James Moxie.

The Feed: A Novel – Nick Clark Windo (March 13)

The Feed by Nick Clark Windo Cover

Kirkus Reviews: “Think The Road intricately wrapped around Station Eleven with a dash of Oryx and Crake…Windo pushes all the right buttons in this post-apocalyptic mashup.” This debut novel explores what it means to be human and to be connected in our digital age. The Feed, a digital conglomerate, is our worst nightmare about social media’s pervasiveness in our lives–in real-time, every person’s emotions, thoughts, interactions, along with breaking events from around the world can be accessed. Society becomes dependent on it, and then… It all crashes, leaving people in a dog-eat-dog Mad Max fever dream.

Blood Standard – Laird Barron (May 29)

Blood Standard by Laird Barron Cover

This is being marketed more as a crime thriller than strict horror. But, let’s be honest: Laird (dare I say Lord?) Barron, horror fiction’s wunderkind, is going to weave a disturbing, macabre tale regardless of what genre his publishers call it. Here, an Alaskan mob enforcer exiled to upstate New York crawls through a seedy underworld in search of a missing girl. The Locus and Bram Stoker Award nominee, and three-time Shirley Jackson winner, delivers with this gritty venture into new noir.

The Outsider – Stephen King (May 22)

The Outsider by Stephen King Cover

What’s a horror list without the King? It looks like one the all-time greats in the horror genre took a short enough break from talking politics on Twitter, to write another nearly 600-page tome. This horror/murder mystery involves suspect Terry Maitlan, beloved small-town Little League Coach, English teacher, and father of two girls–a man possibly harboring a dark secret. Early buzz says Stephen King is back in fighting form for this one.

There you go. These seven titles should keep your freshly Spring-cleaned bookshelves and Kindles stocked. Pre-order them now, and you might save a few bucks.

Behold The Void–Nay, Behold Philip Fracassi.

Buy. It. Now. $7.

Philip Fracassi is the next big name in horror. Get in on the ground floor and be a “horror hipster” who discovered him first–before he is so mainstream.

This short story collection renewed my faith in fiction as entertainment. Especially in the short fiction form.

Too many short story writers think we pay the price of admission for wispy tales, with depressed characters who stare out windows, and end on “subtle,” “ambiguous” notes.

*fart sound*

Behold The Void by Philip Fracassi delivers the goods–each story stands alone as a bolt of lighning. His characters and the plots they’re unfortunate enough to be in make you give a shit.

There isn’t a single bad story. Here are my top three (light spoilers):

  1. “Altar”
  2. “The Horse Thief”
  3. “Mandala,” the capstone novella

“Altar”

I read “Altar” on my Kindle in a cafe. People shot me dirty looks because I kept fidgeting in my seat and swearing in disbelief under my breath. That was only the second story in the book. I knew I was in the presence of a special horror genre talent—a master.

Fracassi handles three dynamic characters, a feat in itself in short fiction: a mother, her adolescent daughter, and her ten year old son. He captures their broken home, split fresh by divorce, and the swirling confusion of growing up/raising kids deftly, all while ratcheting up a tower of tension. The culmination–glorious, glorious cosmic horror!–where we literally see a community pool open up into a void, where a demon who eats children waits, mouth salivating.

Think H.P. Lovecraft without the social ineptitude and misanthropy, and you’ll appreciate how amazing this story (and Philip Fracassi, generally) is.

“The Horse Thief”

I have a special connection to this yarn. My favorite literary writer is Cormac McCarthy, author of Blood Meridian, arguably the greatest novel of all time. Many try and fail to imitate McCarthy’s mystical and effusive style and fall short at the man’s feet.

I haven’t a clue whether he was trying to evoke McCarthy in this story or not. But my God. Pitch wise and thematically and lyrically, it was close. The main character is a Mexican immigrant who steals horses, who gets roped in with a sadistic buyer, so content-wise, the shoe also fit.

I finished the story and thought to myself, if Philip Fracassi ever crosses paths with Cormac, that wise old imp is going to clap him on the back like an approving father.

“Mandala”

This novella is worth paying for as a stand-alone book. You know that tired-ass cliche people throw around about being grabbed by the throat? This novella leaves choke marks.

I can’t remember reading such taut, compelling prose. This story involving two families at their summer homes in Washington State, dealing with two intertwined tragedies, is harrowing. Literal connotation. What separates Fracassi from other writers (in any genre) is the artful way he develops his characters.

Here, the central tension is whether or not our main character Mike is going to drown. His friend leaves him handcuffed to a railing at the shoreline–when the tide comes in he must fight to keep his head above water.

In Fracassi’s hands, Mike is a real boy. We feel each excruciating physical and mental struggle that he goes through–it’s grueling. The act of reading almost leaves you to suffer the shortness of breath and the brutal sunburn that Mike does. I haven’t rooted for a character to survive as much as I did with Mike in “Mandala” since I first started reading fiction as a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed pup.

Buy Behold The Void

Philip Fracassi is brilliant. I’ve bought all his other work already, and intend on ripping through it like the characters in this collection hurtle headlong into the void.