By Amanda J. Spedding
Bathory, Juliet; Farrugia, Mark, eds. Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine: Best of Horror Volume 2. Cover Art: David Schembri. Andromeda Spaceways Publishing Co-op Ltd. (September 2010). AUD $10.00 (AUD $1.00 from every purchase donated to charity). ISSN: 1446-781X.
The beauty of the horror genre (and its sub-genres/cross-genres, or any other tag you’d like to put on it) is that it allows both reader and writer to determine how far they want to delve into ‘darkness’. Whether it’s tiny steps or staring it down, there’s a horror story out there for everyone.
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine (ASIM) focuses on the ‘light’, quirky side of the genre. This doesn’t mean there aren’t unsettling stories within their pages.
Co-editors Juliet Bathory and Mark Farrugia have selected 19 short and flash stories from issues 19 through 36. That’s a lot of narrowing down, but the varying degrees of horror in their choices work very well.
With an “M Rating” on story submissions, I went into this read understanding there would be a…side-step of visceral horror (and with a little trepidation, truth be told – I like my horror clawing-out-of-the-Pit dark), but I got my ‘fix’ with one of my favourite stories of this issue, “Black Box” by Miles Deacon.
Space is a pretty scary place, especially when you’re no longer tethered to your space station. Deacon shows just how frightening it can be as we watch the torturous decay of a man who realises just how expendable he is. The ‘raw’ horror is a little off-stage, but it’s the maddening insight into a disposable society that’s truly horrifying and this story stayed with me a long time after reading.
“Black Box” is also the inspiration for the cover art. David Schembri captures the internal and external terror perfectly.
Death, and all its themes, is present from the first story – “Obituary Boy” by Adam Browne and John Dixon. I loved the premise of this story: Timothy Burnside is obsessed with death – obituaries, to be precise – so much so, he’s created a “schedule” to die by. A freakishly accurate schedule from which no one escapes. When Timothy is confronted by his mother with the interminable question, What would you do if you knew when you were going to die? Browne and Dixon give us an unexpected answer that cemented this story as one of my favourites.
Marie Alafaci’s literal take on death in “Wicked View” where, when it’s your time to go, it’s your time to go…no matter what, kept me intrigued and had me laugh, while Rick Kennett’s ghost story, “The Dark and What it Said” has me rethinking future camping trips.
Kaaron Warren also makes an appearance in this issue with “Polish”. It’s no secret I’m a big fan of her work and her use of sensory perception brought ‘Yessmiss’ alive. Warren delivered a subtly powerful piece where past familial deeds can have unexpected consequences.
“Elena’s Seclusion” by Lydia Fazio Theys worked the other end of the sensory perception spectrum. Elena is a recluse, has been slowly cutting herself off from society since college. Devoted husband Terry has stuck by her through it all, overcome by her phobias, but Elena now seems intent on disappearing – no phone calls, no mail and an aversion to mirrors. Elena isn’t the only one imprisoned by her phobia, and Theys explores the depths of love in all its beautiful and harmful ways, marking this story as one of the picks of the issue.
David J Kane’s “Scattersmith” was an interesting read. I liked the magic and the creatures he created, however, I had the feeling that this was more a story that may have started its life as a longer piece. I wanted greater exploration of the backstory, and I’d have happily read it.
I was most impressed with the flash stories. Nigel Stone’s “Drinking from the Saucer” was a cracker of a tale. The laconic style belies the brutality of the piece and I freely admit to re-reading it when I was done.
Chuck McKenzie’s “The Secondhand Bookshop of Al Hazred” rates special mention for the last line alone and “Getting the Curse” by Susan Abel Sullivan gives a whole new meaning to puberty.
My pick of the issue is “Memoirs of a Teenage Anti-Christ” by Shane Jiraiya Cummings. I wasn’t too sure about the “diary entry” style of the piece, but the vignettes worked perfectly here. The impending annihilation is tempered with humour and the everyday problems and angst facing any 16-year-old boy – only, this one has an impending apocalypse to deal with. Cummings also gave me my favourite line in the whole issue: “(scratch that, vampires are pussies and can’t hang in my apocalypse!)”.
There were some stories that didn’t quite strike a chord with me, but overall, ASIM’s Best of Horror Volume 2 is a great read. I was impressed with most of the selections made by Bathory and Farrugia, but as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, I’m one who likes to be truly terrified by horror.
For those of you not quite ready to stare into the darkest heart of horror, or those who wish to whet their appetite with it, this is the perfect anthology. For those of us who like a good wet-your-pants scare, take a look. This was an enjoyable read. And never underestimate the resonance of subtle horror. It’s the stuff that creeps up on you that you have to watch out for.
Bio: Amanda J Spedding is a Sydney-based spec-fic writer who still hasn’t come up with a better tag-line. She’s working on it. Honest.