Martha had learnt from watching Iris and Suki. Both had reigned at Lamp Street, lumpish in their muddy coloured cardigans, giving readings to anyone who called. Muttering thanks to spirit guides. Turning tatty tarot cards.
Martha had no claim to special gifts. She learnt to read the hands and face, the gestures that betrayed need and greed. The skill of deciphering a tic, interpreting a pause. Martha studied hard and learnt how to out on a show.
I owe a great debt to Michelle and Hadrian Noble for this story. They told me about a TV series that featured a psychic and a team of investigators. I lay awake in their spare room that night, sweating and scared. I could feel something crawling over the duvet towards me in the darkness.
It was Bonnie, their cat.
This story was first published in Box of Delights and is available in print and Kindle format from Aeon Press. It has been reprinted in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year 4.
Aeon Press, book-publishing arm of Albedo One magazine – and Ireland’s only dedicated publisher of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror – has recently launched two new collections (at Octocon and at Bristolcon): Box of Delights, edited by John Kenny; and Transtories, edited by Colin Harvey. Print and pdf copies of the titles are now available at Albedo One. (Me, I’ve read Box Of Delights and particularly loved Priya Sharma’s “The Show”- a flawlessly crafted story, which generates some chilling anticipation. Enticingly, the same author features in Transtories.)John Robbins for BugPowder
The 18 scary stories that Datlow (Supernatural Noir) has selected as the best of 2011 hint at even worse horrors lurking beyond the fringes of their narratives. In “The Little Green God of Agony”, Stephen King profiles an exorcist and faith healer who purports to give physical form to pain. In “Final Girl Theory”, A.C. Wise tells of a cult horror film that triggers a grim collective fantasy in the minds of its viewers. Peter Straub’s “The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” achieves a Twilight Zone type of unease through disorienting shifts of time and place. In “The Show”, Priya Sharma works a creepy variation on the classic horror theme of the “sham” spirit medium whose skills prove genuine. The variety of concepts and styles on display, and Datlow’s comprehensive introduction, will please horror readers of all stripes. Publishers Weekly
There is no story within The Best Horror of the Year, Volume 4 that doesn’t belong. Of course, the pieces by Stephen King and Peter Straub deliver as expected. While Straub’s piece is more challenging, King’s will tap into your sympathy and leave you wondering “then what happened?” Other notable stories include “The Moraine” by Simon Bestwick, which is infused with the tangible influence of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Priya Sharma’s story “The Show,” which puts the reality into reality TV. Then there is John Langan who, in gymnastics terms, sticks the ending of his stories every time. Underwords
The Best Horror of the Year Volume Four edited by Ellen Datlow brings together an eclectic collection of some of the best horror short stories and novellas of 2011. The 18 stories and novelettes included in the anthology are diverse, ranging from the plain weird to the utterly disturbing. While two stories from big names in the horror genre, Stephen King and Peter Straub, start and conclude the collection it is the works of the lesser known authors that steal the show.
My favorite, and probably the most disturbing story in the anthology was Omphalos by Livia Llewellyn in which an incestuous family goes on a vacation which ends in tragedy. Some others that stood out were: The Moraine by Simon Bestwick where a married couple comes face to face with an ancient predator after getting lost while hiking in on a mountainside; The Show by Priya Sharma, a fake medium gets far more than she bargained for when she discovers she does indeed have the gift of second sight; Dermot by Simon Bestwick where the police force strike a terrible deal with a monster in order to protect the rest of the city and lastly, The Final Verse by Chet Williamson which explores the sinister roots of a beloved folksong.
I only highlighted the stories which I enjoyed the most, but there are lots of other stories which might appeal to other tastes. One thing is certain: after reading this collection you’ll never look at the horror genre in quite the same way again. Worlds in Ink