Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Audient Void #5 - review by SE

The Audient Void No. 5 by Obadiah Baird
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Nyarlathotep, the crawling chaos ... I am the last ... I will tell the audient void.” -- HPL 1920, and inspirational quote for the Audient Void journal

Horror and weird-fiction aficionados will love this print magazine. What is an "Audient Void"? Well the official byline is: "The Audient Void is a periodical devoted to publishing Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy as well as poetry and select works of non-fiction." Audient is akin to audience and infers that there is a sentient void (nondescript shadow entity) that listens from beyond our normal senses. As readers consuming this horror anthology, are we in the Void listening? Or watching from outside?

This 5th entry is 60 pages, and is saturated with H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith influences, and the contents reflect an appropriate heavy dose of poetry. Gustav Dore illustrations are complemented by contemporary art by Brad Hicks. The crew behind most of the works have some nice mojo. One can learn more about the Audient Void from their website and a splendid interview on the Grim Tidings Podcast. Here is the summary of that podcast:
In this episode we take a special look at dark poetry. Host Rob Matheny recently attended the Hippocampus Press Happy Hour, a special event debuting the publisher's newest poetry collections as part of the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon. During the event Rob had a chance to interview four writers who specialize in dark poetry: Ashley Dioses, K.A. Opperman, Adam Bolivar, and D.L. Myers - also known as The Crimson Circle. Rob also interviewed Obadiah Baird and Dan Sauer of The Audient Void, a small Oregon-based zine featuring the works of The Crimson Circle among others. This episode highlights the growing dark poetry community, including short readings from each poet.

I'm a big fan of John R. Fultz, his name and Darrell Schweitzer brought me to this magazine and I was not disappointed. I also frequent the Grim Tidings podcast and recommend that as well.

CONTENT:
Stories:
"Oorg" by John R. Fultz ; Dunsanian/ Clark Ashton Smith tale (Horror Sci-Fi)
"Old Lovecraftians In The Park" by David Barker ; Creepy old man ogling girls in the park is the focus, he gets inspired by nostalgia and an old friend’s writings of the genius-loci of the park… he matures in a weird way.
"Love In The Time Of Dracula" by John R. Fultz ; Dystopian Vampire Apocalypse, with a compelling romance
"Why Should We Worship Dagon" by Darrell Schweitzer; Funny call to join the ranks of Dagon worshipers. This reminds me of his actual words when I talked to Darrell at the WFC 2016.


Poetry:
"The Poisoner" by Chelsea Arrington
"Beyond The Veil" by D.L. Meyers; a poetic short story that echoed ambiance from CAS’s “Weaver in the Vault” …at least my memory of it
"Vampire's Kiss" by Ashley Dioses; best ever application of the word “vivisepulture”
"The Fall Of The Pumpkin King" by K.A. Opperman
"The Lay Of Dumah" by Adam Bolivar; more of a poetic short story than a poem… this was one of my favorites; a weird romance with “Lazarus Craven nursed a secret passion for the grave…”
"On The Creation Of Shoggoths" by Charles Lovecraft
"A Tourist In Hell" by John Shirley
"The Divorce" by Marge Simon
"Jack The Balladeer" by Adam Bolivar

Features:
"From The Void" by Obadiah Baird
"Ye Olde Lemurian" by David Barker; a pen pal tribute to Duane W. Rimel--himself a HPL pen pal. This documents letter writing with the obscure weird fiction writer

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Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Unsheathed - review by SE


Unsheathed: An Epic Fantasy Collection
by Stuart Thaman
S.E. rating: 4 of 5 stars

Unsheathed: An Epic Fantasy Collection is high quality Sword & Sorcery by nine contemporary authors. The anthology is varied in tone and style, and will delight new fans (who may like lit-RPG fare) as well as aged veterans looking for weird pulp. I picked this up as part of a S&S Groupread on Goodreads which had the theme of "New vs 'N'" (N being the infamous Appendix N list from Gary Gygax.

All were fun, but two of these resonated with me. The first was by Charles Allen Gramlich, whose writing lured me to this collection (having read his Harvest of War and Bitter Steel: Tales and Poems of Epic Fantasy and others). The second was by Jay Erickson whose Lydia/Gwendolyn Locke stood out in design & delivery.

Contents
1. Hanging at Crosbhothar Austin Worley: “Corpses hung from the ancient maple like leaves” is a great opener. The story follows the female Arlise, Watcher of the Order, who trails the corrupted Eoghan and his sorceress lover Katrin. A few abrupt saved-by-the-last-minute incidents and rpg-rapid-healing keeps this decent tale from a 5-star.

2. Retribution by Night Chad Vincent: This 4-star tale introduces Captain Brennan who is caught in an outpost drama between the oppressed, local named Aodhan ( a nature lover, and demon lover too?) who is hounded by surly knights, like Sergeant Armstrong. Not sure who to root for in this gray tale, though Brennan is ostensibly on the knights side. Nice undead battles here. Would have enjoyed experiencing Aodhan's past to appreciate his motivations.

3. Where All the Souls are Hollow by Charles Allen Gramlich: a 5 star Sword-n-Planet with the technology being more implicit than explicit. We join Krieg (German for "War") as his adventures mid-mission. Krieg’s purpose is slowly revealed as he battles automatons, sinister alien forces, and evil "children." A beautiful blend of horror and adventure; pacing is spot on.

4. Switch Blade by Scott Simerlein: I am not into humorous stories, but this hilarious farce was well placed in the collection. It was slightly confusing, but was meant to be. 4 star.

5. King’s Road by G. Dean Manuel: This melodrama unfolds faster than the characters can deliver their lines; it felt like a fan fiction tribute of LOTR's Rohan Gondor play between a prince-son usurping his worn-king-father’s rule. 3 star

6. The Artefact by Ross Baxter: lit-RPG readers would like this one. Three heroes with desires to collect as many types of loot (books/knowledge, a weapon, and something mechanical/crafty like a timepiece) adventure in ruins. It feels like part of larger universe, but for a short story the story arc was not contained enough to be a clear stand alone adventure. The character Jud stood out. 3+ star.

7. Under Locke and Key by Jay Erickson: a 5 star tale with female leads and blood magic. Gwendolyne is an enslaved adolescent girl, whose parents died by the Red Tears plague. The same sickness affects the countryside and criminals wishing to profit off of orphaned girls and a possible cure. The flow of the tale was very smooth and engaging.

8. Ransom for a Prince by Liam Hogan: this is saturated with fighting, and was more real/historical than fantasy. Expect lots of medieval duels with a female lead. The premise is a reason for the author to show off the art of sword play, which is described well. 4+.

9. Only an Elf by Stuart Thaman : There is a lot going on here in this 4-star tale of slavery. Overall the plot is very engaging, but the bloody climax seemed inconsistent with the lead up. Certain scenes between the female elf slave Enessana and her master, the blacksmith dwarf Kimiko, worked separately, but did not flow with other events. Perhaps too much was packed within a short span of pages, throwing the pacing off. This would expand into a great novel.

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