On the other hand, thrillers have nowadays become an accepted art-form; bishops and minor poets read practically nothing else, and the New Statesman reviews them….The beginning of a book is always the tricky part. It should arrest. A shot should ring out in the night, or if you prefer, a rod should cough or a Roscoe belch forth destruction. Personally, I like to meet my corpse on page one, and I like him (or her) to be very dead…

Delano Ames
She Shall Have Murder

Sometimes I think Earth has got to be the insane asylum of the universe. . . and I’m here by computer error. At sixty-eight, I hope I’ve gained some wisdom in the past fourteen lustrums and it’s obligatory to speak plain and true about the conclusions I’ve come to; now that I have been educated to believe by such mentors as Wells, Stapledon, Heinlein, van Vogt, Clarke, Pohl, (S. Fowler) Wright, Orwell, Taine, Temple, Gernsback, Campbell and other seminal influences in scientifiction, I regret the lack of any female writers but only Radclyffe Hall opened my eyes outside sci-fi.

I was a secular humanist before I knew the term. I have not believed in God since childhood’s end. I believe a belief in any deity is adolescent, shameful and dangerous. How would you feel, surrounded by billions of human beings taking Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy and the stork seriously, and capable of shaming, maiming or murdering in their name? I am embarrassed to live in a world retaining any faith in church, prayer or a celestial creator. I do not believe in Heaven, Hell or a Hereafter; in angels, demons, ghosts, goblins, the Devil, vampires, ghouls, zombies, witches, warlocks, UFOs or other delusions; and in very few mundane individuals–politicians, lawyers, judges, priests, militarists, censors and just plain people. I respect the individual’s right to abortion, suicide and euthanasia. I support birth control. I wish to Good that society were rid of smoking, drinking and drugs.

My hope for humanity – and I think sensible science fiction has a beneficial influence in this direction – is that one day everyone born will be whole in body and brain, will live a long life free from physical and emotional pain, will participate in a fulfilling way in their contribution to existence, will enjoy true love and friendship, will pity us 20th century barbarians who lived and died in an atrocious, anachronistic atmosphere of arson, rape, robbery, kidnapping, child abuse, insanity, murder, terrorism, war, smog, pollution, starvation and the other negative “norms” of our current civilization. I have devoted my life to amassing over a quarter million pieces of sf and fantasy as a present to posterity and I hope to be remembered as an altruist who would have been an accepted citizen of Utopia.

Forrest J. Ackerman
Another Time Another Place

Dunne looked gloomily out upon the sea. “So damned lonely…as lonely as death itself. Would she have come up here in the middle of the night to jump off into the roaring black surf? I don’t think she would have. Not at midnight. There’s something about midnight, something gruesome.”

D. B. Olsen
Something about Midnight

GOD, his tasks

December 15, 2019

Please, let’s reconsider
God’s expectations of pleasure.
How we are lepers
in our colony of want.
How we would murder
our child in exchange
for our own small death.
A drop of iodine in a bath
becomes a gauzed elegy
for how we can’t help but love
who we want to save.
In a train station I am wife
to hundreds of men
who have feelings
about their bodies.
God wanted pleasure
to be a dead clam
that doesn’t open
in boiling water.
A slick body that hides
itself between the hinges
of duty and need
until it wastes away as a wrinkle
on the stretched skin
of a life.
Once we were so wet
we glistened
whether there was light
or not.
When God called
our bodies territory
we became terror,
we became the story
that every child
in their monstered
sleeplessness never wants
to be real.

Meghan Privitello

A Case File

August 6, 2019

She explained how she had blown
off the legs of her father with his own shotgun and,

with the help of her bruised and weeping
mother, dragged him out back behind the barn, heard

the cows moving in the stays, as they
lumbered toward the pig pen, five hogs waiting

with eyes like dinner plates. They could
smell the bleeding. Her father was nothing but moans

and whimpers spreading ribbons of
red in the snow. Over the fence they threw him

then walked back to the house. I looked
back once, she said. Mama gripped my shoulder, turned

me back toward the mudroom and told me
there was no reason to worry, he weren’t coming.

The way they both strode tall, accomplished, regal
down the red carpet father had left for them.

The last kindness he’d done them, their eyes shining
through the early silver morning.

Dawson Steeber

A Gunman

Just before 11 his gloved fist hammered on the door of 1977 Arkansas Avenue, the last known address of Bud and Bubba, the self-styled ‘Backwoods Bastards’. He knew he was in luck when he heard Bubba’s muffled voice yelp ‘It’s the pizza boy!’ excitedly.

A woman’s screams could also be heard from behind the door. When Bubba’s broken-nosed, wall-eyed, bucktoothed face appeared in front of him, he yelled “You’re the pizza, boy!” and shot him in the face.

Damn! It seemed he was addicted to his one-liners but his timing was off – the gunshot stamped all over that last one. “I should have read more comic books when I was young,” he thought.

He stepped inside. The place was in darkness – the brothers had never acquired the knack of using electricity. Suddenly, off to one side, he caught a flash of Bud coming at him with a home-made machete. He spun quickly and blew Bud’s face off, thinking it a big improvement; he was even uglier than his brother.

In the bedroom a young woman was tied to the bed. She was bleeding from her nose and two fingers were missing from her left hand. He didn’t care to think what other horrors she had suffered at the hands of those two inbred hillbillies.

He wrapped her in a blanket and called the police before jumping back into his car and streaking off into the fog-wreathed night once more.

Mark Howard Jones
The Man who killed Halloween

Duncan raises the blade and watches the parcel squirm. He’s going to love the next few hours. The pain, the fear, the pleading. Not that the parcel can speak, of course – he always makes sure of that. But the eyes: he can tell from the state of the eyes. That’s why he leaves those till last. So they can watch him watching them. So they can watch his work.

Tess Makovesky
Raise the Blade

A Head

The wooden door burst open and a dark figure flew at them. The sword swung at Mike before he could turn, and it cut through the air toward his head.

Sarah screamed and froze to the spot. Everything funnelled in, like slow motion. The bearded man wearing a long black cloak turned to her. He leered, his manic eyes shining with glee. She looked at Mike and he staggered. His expression was fixed, wide-eyed. His head slowly slid from his neck and fell off onto the stone floor. It bounced, settled and he stared up at her, like a dead salmon. His jerking body crumpled beside her, blood spurting onto her legs from the gaping neck.

Catatonic, she couldn’t scream. Her legs wobbly, she turned to the stairs and clambered up. She instantly heard throaty laughter and felt sturdy hands gripping her ankles, as her bladder gave way. She was pulled back down, slowly, her chin buffeting the steps, one by one. At the bottom, he grabbed her by the hair and an excruciating pain ripped through her scalp as she was dragged past Mike’s head, those eyes still staring, helplessly…

Col Bury
The Writing on the Wall

They have done with this family, these creatures made by human hands. They have fed – gorged themselves on blood until the hosts became their playthings. They leave the crusts behind – paper-thin of skin and void of organs – and beat a strange retreat into the woods behind the house.

Lilly Childs
Smiling Cyrus

violently sexual

September 30, 2017

Sunday entertainment 3

Sex isn’t a subtext in “The Bloody Chamber,” but the text itself. (Angela Carter would explain that she was only making explicit a “latent content” that is “violently sexual.”) The title story is a version of “Bluebeard” in which a fin de siècle ingénue, the churchmouse-poor daughter of a widowed music teacher, weds an older, thrice-married marquis who is “the richest man in France.” He sweeps her off to his ancestral manse, where she gets a suite in a tower and where her curious wanderings unearth his collection of kinky books. Then he departs on a suspiciously timed business trip, leaving her with a ring of keys and permission to visit every room, except one.

Eroticism hangs heavy in the air here, as it does in much of “The Bloody Chamber,” like an expensive, drugging perfume. There is something vampiric about the marquis’ perversity, and about his “white, heavy flesh,” which the narrator repeated compares to lilies. Yet she is aroused to see him watching her in a mirror “with the assessing eye of a connoisseur inspecting horseflesh.” She believes he can see into her soul, perceiving “a potentiality for corruption that took my breath away.” It’s not so much his power that entraps her, as her own longing for surrender.

Laura Miller
Fairy tales, fantasy and dangerous female desire