Spook Lights: Southern Gothic Horror

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Southern gothic horror is uniquely (under-appreciated!) American literature, and too often written by white men. Imagine my surprise when stumbling across Eden Royce’s self-published anthology collection on GoodReads. A  black horror author with roots in Hoodoo/Conjure. Yasssss. I downloaded her book without hesitation and read it while listening to my old delta blues records. The proper way to enjoy a southern gothic is on a porch swing while the sweet, idle songs from grasshoppers rise up from the brush. Unfortunately, congested, downtown Chicago makes that impossible. So listening to Skip James was the next best thang, y’all. I’m also a little homesick and I miss my Gulf side of Texas. Reading “Spook Lights” was the perfect escapism for this reluctant city gal.

Connect with the author on

@edenroyce on Twitter  or her website, edenroyce.com, or blog

Or better, just buy her book on Amazon  or Lulu

There are 12 short stories in all, but my three favorites were “Doc Buzzard’s Coffin,” “Hag Ride,” and “The Choking Kind.” Royce’s melodic writing is full of texture, atmosphere, and characters that invoke the South. I felt the swelter and stale, human sweat rise through each word. Descriptive language meets Black folklore to create a leisurely atmosphere. Think ghost stories told around the campfire. Think of the fairytales your grandmother read to you when you were a child. Reading Spook Lights is more of an experience best enjoyed when not rushed. The horror element is subtle, often ironic, and I found myself able to predict most of the stories’ conclusions, however, the author’s charm and folksy delivery kept me squirming in my seat until the end of them. Most of the short stories are cautionary tales, where the main character often does something stupid, only to be punished or chastised by a vengeful spirit or magical spell later. There’s Hoodoo, Voodoo, murders driven by passion, and quests for revenge.

There’s also strong thread of female (often motherly) wisdom and jilted love in this collection. I appreciated the strong female protagonists of color. The women were often victims of their own making, but learned along the way how to find themselves. You don’t have to be from the south, Black, or a woman to understand the overall concept of this book, which I love. The author does a lovely job blending mythology for contemporary tastes. This is a book to kick back with and savor, bit by bit. It’s down-to-earth, like crackling bacon grease in a hot pan or like cold, tap water from the kitchen sink. Let the stories do the heavy lifting for you–Royce’s subtlety is masterful.

I enjoyed Spook Lights for its storytelling, not necessarily for innovation, horror, or plots. That said, I’m giving this anthology collection a solid 5/5. I heartily recommend Spook Lights to those looking for an enjoyable read rich with Southern atmosphere and non-traditional folktales told from Native American, Black, and a Caribbean perspective. Eden Royce’s ability to entertain is a dream. I will be reading more of her work.

 

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Let’s Get Our Science On With “Brave New Girls”

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BRAVE NEW GIRLS cover

 Website: http://bravenewgirls.weebly.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Brave-New-Girls-Tales-Gadgets-ebook/dp/B00Z1YV1KI

B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/brave-new-girls-mary-fan/1122080802?ean=9781512325614

Could it be? Could there actually be a book out there that shows off intelligent girls saving the day? My mind has been blown! For too long Young Adult fiction has been all about shy naive girls who only find completion when they get a boyfriend. But no more! Here we have this cute anthology that seeks so show our future female engineers, inventors, programmers, etc. that they’re allowed to dream of bigger and better future. Did I also mention that proceed from sales will be donated to a scholarship fund through The Society of Women Engineers?

I’ll review a couple of the stories so you get an idea of what I’ve been enjoying.

Overview

This collection of sci-fi stories features brainy young heroines who use their smarts to save the day. Girls who fix robots and construct superhero suits, hack interstellar corporations and build virtual reality platforms. Who experiment with alien chemicals and tinker with time machines. Who defy expectations and tap into their know-how-in the depths of space, or the bounds of dystopia, or the not-too-distant future-to solve despicable crimes, talk to extraterrestrials, and take down powerful villains

Stories by: Martin Berman-Gorvine, Paige Daniels, George Ebey, Mary Fan, Kimberly G. Giarratano, Valerie Hunter, Evangeline Jennings, Stephen Kozeniewski, Jason Kucharik, Kate Lansing, Tash McAdam, Kate Moretti, Ursula Osborne, Josh Pritchett, Aimie K. Runyan, Davien Thomas, Lisa Toohey, and Leandra Wallace

Artwork: Hazel Butler, Ken Dawson, Adrian DeFuria, Evelinn Enoksen, Mary Fan, Christopher Godsoe, Kayla Keeton, Jason Kucharik, Jennifer L. Lopez, Tash McAdam, and Josh Pritchett.

One of the reason I love science fiction is because of the inspiration it can give for the reader. For example, one of the stories I liked was The Keys to the Starts by Stephen Kozeniewski, was about a young girl having a close encounter with a friendly alien. She learns that colonization/invasion isn’t just an Earth thing and that the best chance that Earth has is to change for the better. We’re always told that children are the future, but it’s refreshing to see that scenario play out.

Interested in time travel? I enjoyed Blink by Kate Moretti which is about a girl with a time machine named Fitz and her struggle to keep Fitz from her friends and the school bully. I think we all remember that one mean bitch that did everything in her power to make high school hell. But this heroine didn’t let it bring her down! Instead she used Fitz to help preserve the Timeline! It was fun to read. I actually smiled and giggled throughout the story.

Anyway, I’m giving this Four Stars instead of Five because this is a Young Adult anthology. Not saying that as an adult you shouldn’t read Young Adult, but I haven’t been a teen in a while so I found it hard to connect with the characters sometimes. But I’m totally going to recommend this to my niece! So pick up your copy today!!

Trailer:

You should be reading Sumiko Saulson

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Every now and then I stumble across an indie author who writes such an incredible (and underrated) book, I have to shout their name from the rooftops. I present Sumiko Saulson and her bizarre horror anthology, “Things That Go Bump In My Head.” I took a chance on this anthology after reading positive reviews on Goodreads, and after reading the first short story, I knew this was one of those rare books that deserved the hype.

“Things That Go Bump In My Head” is an unusual horror anthology–it’s not quite literary fiction, not quite science-fiction, not quite fantasy, not quite horror…it’s a mishmash of all these genres. The author steered clear from conventional  slashers, and created a new kind of horror story. In that way, the anthology’s undefinable “weirdness” lends itself well to speculative fiction.  I don’t like the term, quiet horror, since there was nothing at all “quiet” about the morality lessons in her tales.

A Life Of Her Own | The anthology opens with a heartbreaking story about a 15yr old girl who is wooed by a smooth talking thief on a bus. Smitten by the encounter, she unwittingly returns home with empty pockets and is beaten to death by her father as a result. I was horrified by this story most of all, not because the events were frightening, but because I know things like this happen in real life. The author subtly reminds the reader that children are most vulnerable, thus forcing us to confront the monsters of everyday life. Sumiko Saulson’s narrative voice is reminiscent of Flannery O’Connor’s, “Good Country People.” I enjoyed this unusual ghost story almost as much as Agrippa.

Agrippa |Hands down, my favorite story in the anthology. This short story takes a sharp left turn from A Life Of Her Own and dumps the reader into a suspenseful, sci-fi dystopian romp. We meet Agrippa, a feisty 80-something year old woman who is forced into experimentation labs during the aftermath of the Dulcetta Reforms. Scientists swap old peoples’ bodies with organic and inorganic hosts to find the source for everlasting life. Agrippa has all the makings of a new classic, and should be read alongside H.P. Lovecraft’s, “Whisperer in Darkness” or any of Neil Gaiman’s short stories. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but definitely read this story if you don’t read anything else by Sumiko Saulson! The author reads a short sample of Agrippa aloud HERE.

The Best Book You Never Read | This story is a weird one. A depressed writer busts his typewriter open, freeing two genies, Brownshit and Greenshit. The writer asks the genies to help him finish his novel, however the genies’ intentions are as ugly as their appearances. It’s a cautionary tale about drugs, but I like that the narrative reads like an acid trip. The surprise ending is definitely a surprise. I think I like this story for its bizarre premise and original writing.

Company | A gothic ghost story that will make you think. Despair saturates each sentence, oppressive, and inescapable to the reader as it is for the characters. A doomed waitress lives in a haunted town that sticks to melancholy like roaches on flypaper. She struggles to free herself, but finds herself hopelessly bound to the lost souls around her. When they die, they stay. No one leaves. Ever. It’s an interesting story about life and death and moving past it. Again, Sumiko Saulson shows sensitivity towards her characters, painting even the most pathetic bum in a sympathetic light. Whether or not the town deserves it, the reader can’t help but feel sorry for its undead residents.

As with most anthology collections, the short stories in “Things That Go Bump In My Head” range from brilliant to just so-so. I enjoyed most of the poems and original artwork. All in all, this is a great introduction to Sumiko Saulson and quiet horror and speculative fiction in general. She’s a fantastic writer and more people should read books like hers. It’s different. But different doesn’t always mean “bad.” I’m giving this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. Hell yes all the way!