Review: A DARKE PHANTASTIQUE, edited by Jason V Brock

Cover Art by Samuel Araya

Cover Art by Samuel Araya

Jason V Brock provides a most invigorating and informative introduction to the anthology he has edited, “A Darke Phantastique.” Essentially, his aim is a return to basics, like Poe’s “unity of effect,” as well as achieve a finer focus on dark fantasy, horror, and magic realism. In his view, and he would certainly not be alone in this, the best horror includes, amid everyday reality, “a touch of the strange,” that dark matter which sets the wheels in motion.

Brock aspires to a more palpable dark fantasy, a fresh new look at the fantastic. Brock provides a chilling and inventive example with his own contribution, “A Darke Phantastique.” It sets the tone for the wide variety of content you’ll find here. Brock gives us a devilishly dark creation myth. We have an initial fear of the unknown that develops into something more. And, in the process, we find ourselves on a most unusual path from dark to light.

Illustration by Jason V Brock

Illustration by Jason V Brock

Leafing through, one story jumped right out at me, with its bravado mix of humor and horror, and I’m calling it this book’s mascot. That’s Ray Garton’s “Lizzard Man Dispatches.” It has a really nice slow boil. The characters are so banal and relatable that you’re quickly lulled into their world of blogging and pet reptiles. A little further in, and we can induldge in all manner of conspiracy theory. Where this leads us is a gradual acceptance of something supernatural and far beyond our control.

The book is broken down into five sections which helps give you more of sense of the book’s vision. There is “Magical Realities,” “Lost Innocence,” “Forbidden Knowledge,” “Hidden Truths,” and “Uncanny Encounters.”

William F. Nolan’s “The Last Witch” is another fine tale in the first section. It fits in quite well with the theme of magical realities as you come to find that even a witch is more than she may seem. With a touch of humor, Nolan lures us into the horror that will follow.

Don Webb’s “Lovecraft’s Pillow” is such a bittersweet ode to lost innocence. It is also a hilarious send-up to the whole horror book industry. A jaded best-selling horror author considers himself no better than a fraud. But he may find what he’s looking for when he acquires the death bed pillow of none other than H.P. Lovecraft.

Lois H. Gresh’s “Old Enough to Drink” is quite the creepy cautionary tale to forbidden knowledge. Told with such a gusto, this story blends fairy tales with vivid nightmares.

S. T. Joshi’s “You’ll Reach There in Time” confronts hidden truths in a fun story. A fractured narrative structure gradually reveals how a criminal gets what he deserves.

Tom Conoboy’s “Phoenix on the Orange River” gives us his answer to a series of uncanny encounters. It’s a kaleidoscopic journey and a protracted dance with Death. It’s the last of nearly 50 contributions in this 728-page book complete with story notes from each contributor. Conoboy’s tale is a fitting end to this remarkable collection.

Among other treats you’ll find here is “Genius,” a screenplay by Greg Bear. It’s the only screenplay in this anthology and it is quite a delight to read. Bear has made his mark in pop culture in many ways beginning as one of the five co-founders of the San Diego Comic-Con. In “Genius,” he gives us an intriguing look at characters caught up in something far bigger than themselves. And that’s the problem, this challenge is so big that it threatens to destroy them and all of humanity. This is a moving story of human connection amid very dark matter. It’s a very good example on what price is paid for genius.

And just one more, the first contribution, Paul Kane’s “Michael the Monster,” which is a glorious opener. This is an unabashed celebration of monsters. It is Halloween, and Michael, an actual boy monster, revels in the one night that he can be himself in plain sight. A time for monsters! This is a perfect way to start a book where monsters are so welcome.

And so there’s a taste of “A Darke Phantastique: Encounters with the Uncanny and Other Magical Things.” The book itself is a joy to hold and behold. Great care has been given to making this a pleasurable reading experience. Everything from choice of font to layout to use of illustrations guides the eye. The hardcover is a well-crafted treat. Given the book’s generous page count, it is an ideal size to leisurely pass the time with. This is a beautiful book full of deliciously scary and compelling work. I’m so glad that Jason V Brock put so much care into this collection of some of the best contemporary dark fantasy, horror, and magic realism.

The following lists the contents to the book with a link to or related to each contributor. I think the links are essential as they give you an opportunity to pause and appreciate this book some more:

A-Darke-Phantastique-Jason-V-Brock

The Beginnings of Imagination

by Ray Bradbury (Foreword)

An Abiding Darkness, A Phantastique Light

by Jason V Brock (Introduction)

+++++

*SECTION ONE: Magical Realities*

Michael the Monster

by Paul Kane

A Darke Phantastique

by Jason V Brock

Charles Out of La-La Land

by Bruce Taylor

The Wisest Stone and the Zoo

by Nathaniel Lee

Out of the Blue, and Into the Black

by Sunni K Brock

Lizard Man Dispatches

by Ray Garton

Real Live Lobsters

by D. T. Kastn

Bittersweet Bedlam

by Samuel Marzioli

The Last Witch

by William F. Nolan

+++++

*SECTION TWO: Lost Innocence*

The Claim

by Erinn L. Kemper

Lovecraft’s Pillow

by Don Webb

Forgetting

by Misty Dahl (flash)

Birth of an Apocalypse

by Lawrence Van Hoof

Descartar

by S. J. Chambers

Apples and Peaches

by Gio Clairval

La Joie de Vivre, or Picasso and the Satyr

by Ralph Sevush

Immigrant

by Andrew S. Fuller

Timbrel and Pipe

by Melanie Tem

+++++

*SECTION THREE: Forbidden Knowledge*

Old Enough to Drink

by Lois H. Gresh

Homo Suicidus

by JG Faherty

“In Your Dark”: Differing Strategies in Subhuman Integration

Through “Monster Academies”

[S. Armand & J. Miller, Unpublished Manuscript]

by Jason Maurer

Transformations at the Inn of the Golden Pheasant

by Gene O’Neill

Lords of Chaos

by Wade German (poem)

The Squatters

by Nicole Cushing

Tardigrade

by Mike Allen

The Bat

by Jan Vander Laenen

Dust Made of Words

by Cody Goodfellow

Genius

by Greg Bear (screenplay)

+++++

*SECTION FOUR: Hidden Truths*

Breakfast in Tasmania

by Dennis Etchison

Darkness

by Nancy Kilpatrick

Water over Stone

by W. H. Pugmire (sonnet)

Redaction

by Gary A. Braunbeck

Paper and Pencil, Skin and Ink

by Chris Marrs

Buddha Circus

by Derek Künsken

The Weight Lost

by Steve Rasnic Tem

The Case of the Four-Acre Haunt

by Joe R. Lansdale

Creaking Earth

by Richard Gavin

“You’ll Reach There in Time”

by S. T. Joshi

+++++

*SECTION FIVE: Uncanny Encounters*

Three Fables: 1) In the Hood, 2) Krustallos, 3) The Fiction Lover

by E. E. King

Down the Hatch

by Jonathan Thomas

‘Selected Poems’

by Marge Simon (poems)

Outsiders

by J. C. Koch

Promise to Nessie

by Jerry Airth

Him

by Ian Futter (poem)

Kudzu

by Lucy A. Snyder

I Keep the Dark That is Your Pain

by Wendy Rathbone

In the Wardrobe

by Nickolas Furr

The Fine Art of Courage

by Weston Ochse

Phoenix on the Orange River

by Tom Conoboy

“A Darke Phantastique: Encounters with the Uncanny and Other Magical Things” is available through JaSunni Productions. Take a moment to look around. You will also find, for instance, Brock’s vastly informative new collection of essays and interviews, “Disorders of Magnitude.” Visit our friends at JaSunni Productions right here.

A DARKE PHANTASTIQUE, as well as DISORDERS OF MAGNITUDE, have each been nominated for the prestigious Bram Stoker Award. The awards ceremony takes place at the World Horror Convention, enjoying its 25th anniversary, to be held in Atlanta, May 7-10, 2015. For more details on this year’s World Horror Con, visit their website right here.

Advertisements

6 Comments

Filed under Anthologies, Bram Stoker Awards, Comics, Darke Phantastique, Edgar Allan Poe, Horror, Jason V. Brock, Weird Fiction, World Horror Con

6 responses to “Review: A DARKE PHANTASTIQUE, edited by Jason V Brock

  1. So pleased you liked it! Thank you so much!!

    Like

  2. elmediat

    Great post. This looks quite fascinating. There is a distinction between horror & terror and understanding & exploring that distinction is a true art. The place where mundane reality touches the uncanny & the weird is the place where horror & terror blend.

    One of the things that popular cinema has done has undermined the distinction between horror & terror. It has also simplified horror down to serial killers and physical violence in the public’s (target audience) mind, much the same way science fiction has been simplified to spaceships, aliens, ray-guns and robots. Margret Atwood denies that some of her books are science fiction because of this definition.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comments. Yes, that’s what makes this collection so special as it definitely cares about a greater appreciation and understanding of the horror genre. And that sentiment, no doubt, carries over to science fiction. Well, entertainment for the masses will have its shortcomings and then, that too, can deliver gems in its own right that can be misunderstood. Much to discuss.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Indeed. I address much of this in my lengthy introduction for just that reason. Thanks for the kind thoughts.

    Like

  4. Pingback: APPEARANCE: Jason V Brock — Orycon, Fall 2015 as Editor GoH

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s