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 CD #55 
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Post CD #55
Notes on Cemetery Dance #55 – Todd Wardrope

“Raphael”, Stephen Graham Jones

The first story in the magazine is about how youthful imagination and misdeeds haunts the sole survivor of a childhood tragedy later in life. The kids have a story club in which they try to out spook each other based on their favorite sections of a paranormal encyclopedia, as a result one of them is drowned.
I had a hard time letting myself fall into this story, and the fractured telling of the story didn’t help any. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be paying the most attention to, and I spent much of the story just confused. When I finally felt like got a grasp of the meat of the story, it delivered a very effective and original surprise which provided a nice tingle. Sadly, the story followed this frightening revelation with a predictable and confusing dénouement, which I think was supposed to raise the stakes but only muted the effect of the real fright.

“Tested”, Lisa Morton

An upper class professional couple swerves to avoid something big and furry in the forests of the Northwest. While the wife is unconscious, Ben must decide how to deal with the still prowling creature in the darkness of the woods.
While this story was well written and paced, I can’t figure out why this was chosen for publication. The plot was telegraphed all the way through, the characters were completely cardboard and I couldn’t see anything particularly frightening or dark anywhere in it. Was this really one of the best submissions they had for this issue? I don’t think so.

“Grapefruit Spoons”, JT Petty

A very troubled kid gets bullied into a bizarre Halloween ritual that offers an unexpected solution to his problems.
I have to say that this story kept me reading, and surprised me with most of the turns. The brutality took me by surprise and the graphic final scene shocked and made sense. A short-short, it was about as long as it could and should’ve been. The writing was a little plain, but it did stay out of the way of the shock value, so that was good for this one.

“Razor Eddie’s Big Night Out”, Simon R. Green

A story that reads like the spawn of Barker and Gaiman, has an assassin of the gods that prowls around the Nightside – a place where gods and monsters dwell.
I really didn’t like this story. It felt too cute, too in-jokey and I could see nothing appealing in it all. Might work for fans of fantasy, but was too grandiose to offer much in the way of fright or horror for this reader.

“Across the Darien Gap”, Daniel Braum

An occult/mystic mercenary is hired to escort a charmed girl across some supernaturally tough turf between Central and South America.
Wow. Completely made me forget my disregard for magical mercenaries and thrilled me with its treatment of local mythology and occult warfare. Plus, it didn’t end the way I expected it would. This is sincere horror that could stand another edit for more suitable language, but left me with a lingering chill and a desire to read more.

“Help Yourself”, Michael Arnzen & Mark McLaughlin

A skeptical smoker investigates a self-help bookstore and discovers a creepy secret within.
Huh? The story starts out in one direction, sets up a barely plausible conflict/situation and then wraps it up by launching into a completely alien direction. I think it was supposed to be funny. Huh? Again, is this really one of the best they had?

“Beauty”, Ed Gorman

A noiresque “mechanic” is hired by a soccer mom to assassinate the competition in a pageant.
This was one of the better-written stories in this issue. The protag felt rounded and alive on the page, sure the soccer mom starts out as a cartoon, but as she waffles in her commitment to the murder, she develops some depth. The story doesn’t have much of a “spooky” twist but it does disturb when the target is revealed and the mechanic’s actions are shown. It’s like L&O, but with lighting two shades closer to black.

“Hanako From Miyazaki”, Tony Richards

An American in Japan gives shelter to a homeless woman, falls in love and wades deeper into a supernatural mystery.
This story doesn’t really get any points for being unpredictable, because much of it reads like J-Horror fanfic. Where it does score points is its treatment of the affair, and the obsession it inspires in the narrator. There are some good ghostly moments and nice atmosphere too. The story takes a solid step out of stock gothic love at the end, but it is watered down with over explanation and rushed writing.

“Secrets and Silken Threads”, Darren Speegle

A couple vacationing in Europe encounter a strange man who appeals to the less-than-ideal parts of themselves.
The author starts the story by mistakenly assuming the reader has knowledge that they might not have. This means me. It took me half of the first page to get my time and place bearings, and this was not a good ambiguity. Looking past this, the couple feels real; the stranger’s infiltrations grow more and more disturbing while the husband’s jealousy becomes more troubling. Unfortunately, things don’t really get much further than that. There’s a murder, but I am not real clear on the why of it and I feel like the author cheated his own rules a bit. It’s overwritten, but the narrator is a failed journalist (revealed near the middle of the story) so I eventually overlooked that part. All set-up and no third act.

“Balance”, Gene O’Neill

A troubled Gulf War vet goes on a shooting spree guided by the voices in his head.
Hmm. The story is like a lemon that’s been decorated, vamped up but is still a beater at heart. Do we need another deranged vet story? Who cares? The originality of Declan’s visions is wasted on a story that is so trite at its heart. Good writing brings inside of the killer’s head, disturbs by showing things through his eyes, but it is just embellishment on what is essentially a predictable and uninspired story with awkward metaphysics. Who writes this stuff?

9/22/06


Fri Sep 22, 2006 9:30 pm
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Post Re: CD #55
apoctodd wrote:
Notes on Cemetery Dance #55 – Todd Wardrope
“Balance”, Gene O’Neill

A troubled Gulf War vet goes on a shooting spree guided by the voices in his head.
Hmm. The story is like a lemon that’s been decorated, vamped up but is still a beater at heart. Do we need another deranged vet story? Who cares? The originality of Declan’s visions is wasted on a story that is so trite at its heart. Good writing brings inside of the killer’s head, disturbs by showing things through his eyes, but it is just embellishment on what is essentially a predictable and uninspired story with awkward metaphysics. Who writes this stuff?

9/22/06


I initially misread that first line as "A troubled Gulf War vet goes on a shopping spree guided by the voices in his head" and thought that that sounded like a brilliant story. Shooting spree, not so damn much.

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Sat Sep 23, 2006 8:25 am
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I really enjoyed reading this review.
It was proffessional, and concise. Giving an idea of each story, and an opinion for each, but without spoiling the ending.

Way to go.

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Sun Sep 24, 2006 11:42 am
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Thanks. I hope to follow with more!

(There isn't nearly enough fiction about murderous shopping sprees.)


Sun Sep 24, 2006 6:51 pm
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