Today is all about my new, short horror story collection, The Speed of Dark. This book contains 27 strangely different and disturbing tales by 19 fantastic authors who had the courage to take on the challenge of breaking out of the accepted mold of what “horror” is right now. We eliminated Bizarro, quite frankly, because these authors see themselves as a new genre–and they may be right. Where did we end up and what are readers saying? Let’s hear from some of them now…
1. This was a horror anthology I was mightily pleased to have read. I’ve read some horror stories that are of the “gore” variety, which can honestly bore me sometimes. While everyone has their own tastes and preferences, it is “psychological horror” that gets to me, that I find a lot more dark and disturbing than explicit violence (i.e. the motivations and psyche behind brutal and/or cruel acts).
Perhaps the greatest thing about anthologies is that they feature a wide variety of authors–different voices, different styles, though the stories in this case are linked together based on that psychological horror dimension. The anthology is very aptly titled after one of the stories (“The Speed of Dark”, by Clayton Clifford Bye)–in terms of concept and pacing. That story in particular is a great short story, in the sense that the writing flows in an effortless, succinct kind of way where all the pieces (the story has something to do with “food” *ahem*) come together really neatly.
There is a lot of scope and dimension in these short stories, all of which are accompanied by a short summary at the beginning of the story (I always like that with anthologies, so that I have a rough idea of what each story is about before I get into it further). I enjoyed stories like “Jesse’s Hair” (by John B. Rosenman) and “Little Girl Lost” (by Lyn McConchie) for that same reason (the handling of macabre themes in a very stylish, understated way–actually this goes for the entire anthology; I’m just naming those two right now because I especially enjoyed the themes in those two stories!).
Do consider adding “The Speed of Dark” to your digital and/or paperback library, if you’re looking for a good dose/exploration of original–and relatable–psychological horror. – Jess Scott
2. The Speed of Dark is an anthology of short tales of horror by Cynthia Ainworthe, Kenneth Weene, Clayton Bye, Micki Peluso, Mary Firman and more than a dozen other great writers. It’s one of those hard-to-put-down books that keeps you up all night reading…and trembling. From the computer generated green terror in Retrovirus, to the dreadful secrets in the cellar in Taking Care of Mother and the unexpected fate of the man in room 600 in Hansom Dove, readers are sure to find that each of these macabre stories will keeping them wanting to read one more before, if they dare, turning off the lights. – T.R. Heinan, author of L’immotalité: Madame Lalaurie and the Voodoo Queen
3. And, yes, they’re right about the sub-title which says Strangely Different & Disturbing. It’s not that different from some horror anthologies that I’ve read, nor did it disturb me to a huge degree. But yes, some of it was still a bit different and slightly disturbing. The trouble with much recent horror that I’ve (unwillingly) read, is that those who write it go over the top. They bring in monsters, lakes of gore, dismembered bodies, and graphic sex. I like my horror low-key, understated, and more about the human condition. In The Speed of Dark I got two things. One was excellent presentation with very good editing, and the other was well-written work that in most cases wasn’t overly graphic, but which was interesting, involving and rarely over the top. Much of it was quietly creepy and therefore very effective. And the editors were intelligent, where an author presented two suitable stories, they didn’t insist on taking only one, and then, finding they needed more work, filling out the anthology with poorer-quality tales. Instead where they were offered two good stories, they took both, so that in a number of cases an author had two stories appear. And I noticed that when they happened those authors’ work was often the work that I really liked. So – I’m not going to comment on every story, but that said, I didn’t find any stories that I felt were inadequate. Some I didn’t like that much as a personal preference, but I thought that all of them were well-written and of real quality. I’ve seen a previous award-winning anthology from this stable, and that one too fitted everything I’ve said here. This outfit could be one to watch.
The first story set the tone for this anthology beautifully. What About Mum by E.J.Ruek is horror, not because of anything in-your-face, but from the gradual realization of what this is about as you read it. It ends with a newspaper clipping that ties up the story consistently and neatly, and makes sense of some of the final loose ends. It’s a story you may come across in the newspapers regularly, but the author makes you see it for yourself. Jesse’s Hair by John B. Rosenman is again delicately intrusive. It begins in such a way that you sympathise with the protagonist, understand her pain, and wish people would be a bit kinder. And then you find out what the years of abuse have created. Which is brutally realistic because this type of low-level bullying can produce effects out of all proportion. Retrovirus by Clayton Clifford Bye was clever. It took an aspect of our computerized society and moved it into a new space and a new form of the ‘post holocaust’ sub-genre. Micky Peluso’s Death of the Spider is both horrific and sad, while Lyn McConchie’s Little Girl Lost is savage in a way that makes the reader like it. I was prepared to be horrified at the topic until I was almost at the end and realized what was happening, then I smiled, I do like evil to get its comeuppance. Unbreakable fetters of Admantine by Jim Secor is an interestingly surrealistic tale, it winds and confuses but ultimately satisfies. While Across the Tracks by Tony Richards has some of the same factors although with a very different background and protagonist but with an ending that is equally as effective.
Clayton Bye’s title story, The Speed of Dark is plain creepy, a little sickening when you see where this is going, and very well handled as a theme. Taking Care of Mother by Mary Firmin is unpleasant, it has something to say about society’s attitudes towards those marked in our minds as either ‘less fortunate’ or ‘the dregs of society,’ and just how wrong we can be in some of our assumptions. It may also be a warning about being patronizing. Lyn McConchie’s Sowing On the Mountain is all too realistic in some ways, and delicately drawn fantasy in others. And yet, the fantasy element is sketched in so lightly the reader is uncertain as to whether it really existed, an aspect of the story that enhances it considerably. And the final story, Plastic People, by Lisa Lane chronicles a descent into the darker places of the mind and is exactly the right note on which to conclude. All in all the editors have done a fine job on this anthology which only confirms my impression of the previous one the publisher had out. Take a look at the site, http:shop.claytonbye.com Buy this anthology, and maybe copies of the previous one as well. I think it would be money well spent.
– Glenda’s Bookshelves
4. As children, we’re frightened of the things that hide in dark places. As adults, we learn that it’s the things hiding in plain sight of which we really need to be afraid. This anthology underscores that fact.
Some of the stories in “The Speed of Dark” are terrifyingly mundane, making me want to check over my shoulder to make sure the sweet old lady next door isn’t hiding some horror inside her house. Others make me want to laugh, but the kind of laughter that happens when you realize you’re the last person in the world to get the joke, and you’re the punch line. And still others make me wince, as conventions of comfort and polite society are ripped away, exposing ugly truths you suspected might have been there but were never really quite sure.
All of them, however, make me glad I have a large watchdog, a phone in every room, and a bedside light to keep the shadows away while I read.
Not for the faint of heart, I felt violated by a few of the pieces, repulsed, as, I believe, was intended. The writing is sometimes so beautifully lyrical and descriptive, however, it makes it hard to put the book down. Shame on me for appreciating the clever turn of a word.
And these authors are wordsmiths, whether or not you’re a fan of horror. There’s a beauty here that mocks the subject matter – or maybe it’s the other way around. Things this eloquent shouldn’t be so vulgar, should they?
I received this book for review purposes, and I’m grateful to have been one of the lucky ones. No matter what I think about the ugly, fantastic side of human (and inhuman) nature, “The Speed of Dark” is a winner.
– Kimberly Morgan