S.E> rating: 4 of 5 stars
'Weird' is resurrected, and seeks your identity: Weirdbook Magazine aims to deliver a menu of genres: “fantasy, dark fantasy, sword and sorcery, ghost, horror, heroic fantasy, science fantasy or just plain odd” (quote from their submission requests online). This is fitting because “Weird Fiction” grew out of the pulp magazine era (~1920’s) when the above list was all mashed into one genre. In 1967 W. Paul Ganley edited Weirdbook magazine, its compelling run ceased in 1997 (Back issues available via Ganley’s ebay store). A century from its origins, Weird Fiction still has followers, but its identity is split across myriad markets/venues; in 2015, editor Doug Draa partnered with John Betancourt of Wildside Press to reboot the magazine.
Cover and Themes: Weirdbook 31 contains 19 short stories ( ~10 are traditional length, ~9 are very short/flash fiction) and 8 poems. Many associate Weird Fiction with “Mythos/Lovecraft Horror”; expect some influence, but the net was cast wider. The vast majority of the 19 stories are modern-day ghost/horror stories; less represented are ones with sci-fi elements--which had ~3 entries, and the Sword-n-Sorcery/Fantasy-Myth type--numbering ~2. This mix was unexpected because the Front cover by artist Dusan Kostic appeals to Dark Fantasy readers. The cover arguably leads nicely into the opening story by John R. Fultz, which is one of my favorites of the collection. The back cover by Stephen Fabian was originally planned to be the front cover.
If there is a predominant theme across these disparate stories, it is “Finding Personal Identity.” Greater than half of the stories deal with possession, haunts, or missions around the protagonists defining/dealing-with “who they are.” I enjoyed finding that theme but it was not clearly designed. I would have enjoyed the collection even more if there was an explicit sub-theme. With all that could be ‘Weird Fiction,” having a theme per issue would help readers know when they should delve in.
My personal favorites include: Fultz’s ghostly myth Chivaine, the two wilderness adventures from Riley and Aquilone (Into the Mountains with Mother Old Growth and The Grimlorn Under the Mountain), Schweitzer’s ghost story Boxes of Dead Children, and Laish’s plight of a raven The Jewels That Were Their Eyes. Short-fiction wise, Harriett’s Zucchini Season and Gregg Chamberlain’s Missed It By That Much both made me laugh aloud. On the poetry front, the one that most affected me as Bride of Death by Dave Reeder.
In all, Weirdbook is solidly reborn with #31; looking forward to see how #32 shapes up.
Content / Author/ milieu-tone
19 SHORT STORIES:
- Chivaine by John R. Fultz (sword-n-sorcery, ghosts, myths)
- Give Me the Daggers by Adrian Cole (modern/gothic noir, silly side of carnivals & crime)
- The Music of Bleak Entrainment by Gary A. Braunbeck (modern horror sound - physics)
- Into The Mountains with Mother Old Growth by Christian Riley (modern wilderness adventure-weird)
- The Grimlorn Under the Mountain by James Aquilone (another modern wilderness adventures- weird)
- Dolls by Paul Dale Anderson (modern possession ghost-like witches)
- Gut Punch by Jason A. Wyckoff (modern possession – crazy mother and psychologists)
- Educational Upgrade by Bret McCormick (modern Possession - Gypsy magic)
- Boxes of Dead Children by Darrell Schweitzer (modern Ghost Story)
- The Forgotten by D.C. Lozar (very short fiction – modern trippy experience)
- Coffee with Dad’s Ghost by Jessica Amanda Salmonson (very short fiction – modern ghost story)
- Missed It By That Much by Gregg Chamberlain (very short fiction – very funny zombie/writer theme)
- A Clockwork Muse by Erica Ruppert (sci-fi-ish, robots)
- The Rookery by Kurt Newton (very short fiction – modern day hunting story)
- Wolf of Hunger Wolf of Shame by J. T. Glover (sci-fi-ish, non-humanoid protagonist)
- Zucchini Season by Janet Harriett (very short, meet Death herself, she can laugh)
- The Jewels That Were Their Eyes by Llanwyre Laish (medieval, non-humanoid protagonist)
- The Twins by Kevin Strange (very short modern day, resurrection gone bad)
- Princess or Warrior? by S.W. Lauden (sci-fi-ish, very short modern day)
- The City in the Sands by Ann K. Schwader
- NecRomance by Frederick J. Mayer
- Walpurgis Eve by Kyle Opperman
- Sonnets of an Eldritch Bent by W. H. Pugmire
- Castle Csejthe by Ashley Dioses
- The Shrine by Wade German
- Bride of Death by Dave Reeder
- Modern Primitive by Chad Hensley
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