Little Tremours of the Weird to Shake Up the Mundane

A Review of Postscripts to Darkness 2 edited by Sean Moreland and Aalya Ahmad (Ex Hubris Imprints, 2012).
By Derek Newman-Stillepstd2cover

Postscripts to Darkness 2 is a fantastic sequel to the first volume, continuing the trend of infusing the familiar with the odd. The contributors to this volume illustrate an incredible ability to condense narratives to their bare essentials, creating worlds and characters in ultra-short stories. It is always challenging to try to create a story in a sparse number of words, but Sean Moreland and Aalya Ahmad chose stories by authors that were able to shape worlds and forge character identities using an economy of language. The result is an incredible diversity of narratives that provoke ponderings about the world and the role of the Weird in challenging the way we view the ‘normal’ world. By creating a volume with diverse short narratives, the reader is encouraged to engage with the intersections of stories, the points of commonality and recognise the importance of diversity and the richness of diverse genres of the fantastic. Moreland and Ahmad created a volume that produces little tremors unsettling reality.

The stories in this volume engage with mythic underpinnings to the world, exploring the point of connection between the living and the dead, zombies and ghosts, sympathetic monsters, werewolves, vampires, the power of wishing, gnomes, communication from objects, gateways to other worlds, the powers of gods, and, of course, magic, which permeates this volume. But, the stories also explore real world issues like drug use, yuppie arrogance, the haunting power of guilt, the horror and consumptive power of the ‘recession’ (and the use of the term ‘recession’ to justify morally questionable actions), capitalism and social control, the dangers of social networking, the horror of a bad reputation, prostitution, ideas of memory, the predatory quality of seeking a dating partner, stalking behaviour, obsession, loneliness, social pressures to create an obsessive maternity, the power of our environment and the objects around us to take over our lives, secrecy, the social obsession with youth, the obsessive desire for knowledge and its consequences, and the general disturbances that lurk in urban and suburban life. The volume reveals that sometimes the monsters are not the key points of horror, but rather the horrors live in our society, naturalised and often ignored.

Like the previous volume, Postscripts to Darkness 2 provides a composition that includes short stories, illustrations, and interviews, showing the diversity of speculative formats that exist and engaging the reader visually as well as through literary media. The reader is encouraged to use a multi-sensory approach to exploring the Weird and the addition of interviews encourages the reader to think about the author as a part of the medium that is the story.

The illustrations contained in this volume contribute to the dark, smoky atmosphere,

Artwork by Mark Slater, from Postscripts to Darkness II courtesy of the editors.

Artwork by Mark Slater, from Postscripts to Darkness II courtesy of the editors.

increasing its murky, dark aesthetic and the moral grey areas that it encourages the reader to enter. Stories and images enter into a mutual reciprocity, feeding each other. The stories contribute to the visual aesthetic and interest in the image – in particular, Cynthia Colosimo’s Portrait outlines the power of painting to change the world around it and Chris Willard’s What a Picture Doesn’t Say illustrates the importance of the visual in the creation of the ‘freak show’ – challenging ideas of visual aesthetics.

Rather than a full meal of the weird, this volume provides a sampler plate of diverse Weirdness appetizers, short sips of the macabre and bizarre to spice up the mundanity of life.

You can read more about the Postscripts to Darkness volumes at http://pstdarkness.wordpress.com/ .

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