Not many are familiar with the Weird West genre, and for good reason. The popularity of Westerns in modern mass media fluctuates wildly from year to year. And usually, when you think of Westerns, you most likely think of cowboys and conflict with Native American peoples. Weird West takes the tropes of the Western, but adds in elements of fantasy: such as orcs, elves, and demonic possession.
Enter A Demon in the Desert by Ashe Armstrong.
The town of Greenreach Bluffs is under siege by something straight from a nightmare. Grimluk, an orc demon-hunter, takes on the case. But what has brought this plague of evil—of demonic activity—upon Greenreach Bluffs? The answer is not what you’d expect.
“Then again, how much of any of us includes the original parts? Organs, limbs, cells. Even the molecules. We’re constantly recycling what are already only recycled bits of dead stars. Ever think about that? Puts everything in perspective.” – C. Piprell, MOM
It has been years since I last read sci-fi, so when I jumped into C. Piprell’s MOM, I was taken on one heck of a ride. Our protagonist is Cisco the Kid, in a future where what remains of humankind has been relegated to existing safely in Malls. There, Cisco and others spend much of their time Worlding: playing in any number of digital alternate realities. But not all is well in would-be Paradise. Cisco’s memory and personality have started to fragment, the AI that takes care of everything from food to entertainment to staying alive is going insane, and that is only the beginning. This is the end of the world, but not in a way you would expect.
First, I have to give the author major credit for creating futuristic slang that makes sense given the technology that is introduced in the story. Second, the perspective shift between Cisco and others—I cannot specify, as I do not wish to spoil the story—is both sharp and engaging. Everything moves at a pace that kept me enthralled and wanting more. Third, Piprell also demonstrates a mastery of writing dialog and using language in a way that really captures the personality of each character. Piprell’s pinpoint attention to detail also shows; any mention of something in passing, such as electronic graffiti, has a purpose.
When we think of witches—at least here in the States—we most often think of hags with
warts, long noses, and quite the menacing laugh. Wicked Witches explored those tropes and pushed past them, which is something I absolutely adore in a good anthology.
Instead of using the same tired old cliches in these stories, the authors provided a wide variety of perspectives and approaches to witches. In “Access Violation” by Jeremy Flagg, we get witchcraft as a form of hacking. In “Tilberian Holiday” by Izzy Lee, we get a woman who has suffered extreme loss, but a strange hope comes from an even stranger place. And to top it all off, in “Moving House” by Rob Smales you get the story of an iconic witch in a modern neighborhood. There are some very talented writers in this group, and it shows. I also noticed—and thoroughly enjoyed—a theme of witchcraft as a tool to help downtrodden women.
When we encounter stories of vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night, many of us want to believe they’re real, if only for a moment. But most rational people understand the difference between fantasy and reality.
In her book Real Wolfmen: True Encounters in Modern America, Linda S. Godfrey persistently poses the question what if? What if werewolves were real? What would their behavioral patterns look like? Real Wolfmen is a survey of over twenty years of research by Godfrey, where she compiles reports of werewolf sightings into certain categories (ex. werewolves seen by the side of the road, or in a graveyard), and at the end of each chapter there is a brief speculative summary about what we might learn from these sightings.
When I was a kid, I absolutely loved long fantasy series. My introduction to the genre was The Lord of the Rings, and I feel like that is extremely telling for my reading habits that came afterward. But as I’ve gotten older and time has gotten scarcer, I’ve been drawn more toward anthologies and short story collections. What authors and editors can do with either can fail or fly. Greetings From Moon Hill certainly flies—spectacularly.
Moon Hill is a quiet town nestled somewhere in the dark heart of Pennsylvania. Here it’s always autumn. Here is where you’ve always lived. Something evil slumbers at the roots of this picturesque Pennsylvania town, and it goes unnamed.
Told from the perspectives of a number of Moon Hill’s residents, Greetings From Moon Hill is a collection of short stories that draw the reader in in a way that makes them never want to leave. (Not like they could, anyway.) Continue reading