Stories by leading authors of horror, fantasy, ghost stories, and weird fiction. The authors are: Steve Rasnic Tem, Iain Rowan, S.P. Miskowksi, Bill Read, Steve Duffy, Adam Golaski, Sam Dawson, and Stephen J. Clark.
A wide range of stories by British and American authors of weird fiction. Child-snatching entities, a mute castaway, a prophetic mirror, a haunted laptop, a survey that will definitely change your life, and a vampire-hunter who takes a second job are just some of the people and/or things you'll encounter.
New short stories of the strange and chilling by seven authors, including: Charles Wilkinson, David Buchan, Antony Oldknow, Sam Dawson, David Surface, Mark Patrick Lynch, and Jeremy Schliewe, Ranging from post-war Quebec to modern London, the stories reflect the diversity and energy of modern weird fiction.
In A Season of Dead Weather consists of seven stories, all of which might loosely be termed supernatural or weird fiction. They all skirt the ill-defined boundaries of horror, fantasy, and the thriller. They are all of a very high literary standard, too. It seems that there is a new 'Canadian wave' in the field of quiet horror, and that's a good thing.
The first story, 'Lamia Dance', offers a fairly conventional beginning - a lonely medical student escapes the pressures of intense study by going to a cinema. The short feature, however, is a bizarre and disturbingly erotic fantasy that affects the protagonist so severely that he leaves before the main feature. I can't really describe the strange power of this story, but that's true of all of them, really. Suffice to say that the concept of the lamia is used to very good effect.
'Never Noticed, Never There', has a slight hint of Richard Matheson and The Twilight Zone, with its account of an ordinary suburban male who leaves home 'on a wet Sunday afternoon in April', and vanishes without trace. In a more conventional tale this might lead to an account of abduction by aliens or vampires, but here things are much odder. The man's wife becomes convinced he is still alive, somewhere in the fabric of the house. Later, a different person finds evidence that the missing man has somehow been absorbed into a strange ur-world that exists alongside everyday reality.
'Shadows in the Sunrise' sees someone setting out to walk across country on a late autumn day. We learn, through incidental detail, that this is the near-ish future, a world struck by the Great Deflation, a world of power cuts and self-canned goods. Stranger shadows gather. A strange light dazzles. Winter comes. Has the outer world been destroyed? Has some alien force taken over? Or is the mysterious lattice work in the sky a symptom of madness brought on by chronic isolation? Perhaps one person, too much alone, makes their world afresh.
'When the Echo Hates the Voice' is different again, offering something a bit more like a conventional horror story. First we hear from an obstetrician who, when he delivers his first baby, hallucinates a bizarre entity. Then comes the account of the baby growing to be a smart, popular boy, albeit one with a penchant for drawing strange, disturbing faces. He is convinced that something is seeking to destroy or possess him. Here the author places his thumb on the balance to make clear that there is more than madness at work.
Another rural tale, 'What Would Remain?', is enlivened by Dillon's gift for descriptive writing. Too often writers let down a good idea with poorly-realised settings and a too-vague account of who goes where and how they do it. This story of a woman searching for her mother in foul weather harks back to Blackwood's pantheist/animist notions, but is much bleaker. The idea is that the earth might be cleared of human beings, but perhaps some will be left.
'The Weight of Its Awareness' is - here it comes - a slightly Aickmanesque story of a middle-aged man trying to visit a walled off residential area that aroused his interest when he was young. He finds that a fondly-recalled park is now cluttered with weird sculptures. And what lurks behind the blank windows of the strange, quiet houses? Something that knows you, and knows what you fear.
'The Vast Impatience of the Night' is almost cosy in its evocation of a group of young widows in rural Canada (a landscape Dillon clearly knows and finds inspiring, much as Lovecraft was inspired by rural Vermont). But what makes so many women widows? There is, again, a whiff of science fiction here, but it is reminiscent of the deliberately transgressive 'New Wave' writing of the late Sixties and early Seventies.
I enjoyed this collection, not least because I felt I was sharing the imaginative world of someone who doesn't seek easy answers or rely on obvious gimmicks. I hope you'll give Mark Fuller Dillon's stories a chance. Like many good short story writers, he is unlikely to ever receive the considerable backing of a major publisher, despite being vastly more gifted than the average bestselling hack.
This is a remarkable science fiction(ish) novella about a theme that, at first glance, might seem hackneyed - what happens when the aliens arrive? Here, though, the author has rung changes on the central premise so as to make it a truly satisfying and moving read.
Firstly, the aliens are 'humans' in the sense that they are natives of a parallel earth. The 'invaders' are intelligent felines, come to our earth to save us from ourselves using their vastly superior technology - so advanced, it seems, that they can deprive every American of his/her gun, as well as sorting out climate change, overpopulation and so forth.
That might sound a bit ropey, but the sci-fi rational makes for an interesting background to what is a kind of love story. This cleverly interlinks the theme of seduction with that of the 'invasion', as the cat-people see their actions as a form of collective courtship, not conquest.
The story begins when a human dissident, Thomas Bridge (now the only resident of a prison camp in the wilds of Canada)is visited by one of the Dwellers of the Night called Avydryana. (The latter is a feline female who, perhaps, has among her ancestors the character Tigerishka in Fritz Leiber's novel The Wanderer.) After verbal sparring the two share a night of enviably thorough sex. In the dawn, they talk again. End of story. It seems little enough. And yet there's far more to this slender book than you'll find in a shelf full of over-hyped 'literary' novels.
Firstly, the sexual encounter - like everything else - is beautifully described, and the endnotes reveal that one of Dillon's influences is J.G. Ballard. Secondly, the author is more of a 'taker out' than a 'putter in', giving his writing the refreshing clarity of his wilderness setting. Thirdly, it's a lot of fun. The idea of feline evolution is cleverly handled, and there are a lot of intriguing ideas about how intelligent species might interact that are reminiscent of Olaf Stapledon's Last and First Men.
All in all, I can't fault this book. If you like science fiction, you should read it. If you enjoy erotic fiction, you should read it. If you love to read, you should read it.