DarkEcho Horror
deccoclock by Rick Berry
Book Review

Wrong Things
by Poppy Z. Brite and Caitlín Kiernan
Illustrations by Richard Kirk
Subterranean Press
Signed limited edition of 1500: $35
ISBN: 1931081255
Signed traycased lettered edition of 26: $150

Three stories. Two authors. One by each, one in collaboration.

The Crystal Empire by Poppy Z. Brite:

What is more frightening?
a. The power of a charismatic, dominant, sexually magnetic male over his minions (reference Charlie Manson, Jim Jones, David Koresh, most Quentin Tarantino movies, and numerous other killers and/or politicians)
b. The willingness of the minion
c. That gifted performers attract psychotic killers
d. That death is sometimes preferable to life
e. That a killer's loneliness and hurt can be assuaged by vicious murder
f. Love can kill
g. That -- thanks to the author's talent --you, the reader, understand the killers?
h. That Poppy Z. Brite knows cutting both the jugular and the carotid results in two different colors of blood
i. All of the above
Brite uses mood and emotional tone more than characterization in this story of a senseless murder, but at the end of it you still know the players with great and uncomfortable intimacy. Must be some sort of magic.

Onion by Caitlín R. Kiernan:
Expect this one to be available in some "year's best" or another. It's a superb story: literate, edgy, and wonderfully written. It plays on the semi-science fictional theme of glimpses into other dimensions/worlds and the nature of reality in an unforgettable way. It's a truly haunting tale that answers no questions and answers all questions.

> Kiernan is proving the modern-day equal of Algernon Blackwood in her ability to evoke the atmosphere of the weird and create characters to whom uncanny events occur. "Adventures come to the adventurous," Blackwood once began a story, "and mysterious things fall in the way of those who, with wonder and imagination are on the watch for them; but the majority of people go past the doors that are half ajar, thinking them closed, and fail to notice the faint stirrings of the great curtain that hangs ever in the form of appearances between them and the world of causes behind." Frank and Willa, in Onion, have not resisted lifting that great curtain. Nor, do we think, would we -- a realization that, by the end of this story, may become a truly terrifying insight.

The Rest of the Wrong Thing by Caitlín R. Kiernan & Poppy Z. Brite:
If it hadn't been slightly superceded by Onion, this would have been the pick of the trio. Set in Brite's fictional Missing Mile, NC (from her first two novels, LOST SOULS and DRAWING BLOOD), the story centers on two minor characters: Terry (a frequenter of Kinsey Hummingbird's Sacred Yew) and his girlfriend Victoria (who is not even in LOST SOULS.) It combines Kiernan's fascination with industrial ruins (and their symbolism) and the horror archetype of the Bad Place That Must Be Cleansed. The twist is that the "cleansing" was actually the beginning of the Badness. Other Kiernan trademarks include Alice in Wonderland allusions and the character of a peculiar skinny girl-child; Brite's sense of Southern Gothic with dread hanging like a cloud of cosmic pollution pervades.

(Although it is probably not intended to be such, there's also an interesting just-over-50-word definition of horror:

"The bad shit always comes from somewhere else. From outside us. From outside our world. At least that's what we'd like to think. That's why Dracula has always been more popular than Jekyll and Hyde. But werewolves are a lot scarier than vampires, even if no one wants to admit it."
Think about it.)

Topped off with a Kiernan-penned afterword about how the final story came to be, WRONG THINGS, is a small but precious dark gem. (December 2001) -- Paula Guran (Orginally appeared in CEMETERY DANCE #39

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Copyright © 2002 Paula Guran. All Rights Reserved.