Strange Tales V (edited by Rosalie Parker) was published by Tartarus Press in April 2015.
Information about Rosalie Parker:
Rosalie Parker was born and grew up on a farm in Buckinghamshire, but has lived subsequently in Stockholm, Oxford, Dorset, Somerset, Sheffield and Sussex. She took degrees in English Literature and History, and Archaeology, working as an archaeologist before returning to her first love of books.
Rosalie is co-proprietor and editor of the independent publishing house, Tartarus Press, which has won three World Fantasy Awards. Additionally, Rosalie won a World Fantasy Award for editing Strange Tales in 2003.
She lives in the Yorkshire Dales with her partner, the writer and publisher Ray Russell, their son and two cats.
Click here to visit Rosalie Parker's website.
Information about Strange Tales V:
Speculative fiction is by definition in the vanguard of contemporary writing and particularly suited to the short story form. This fifth volume of Strange Tales from Tartarus includes seventeen new stories by eight British and nine North American authors, some well-known and others up-and-coming in the field. As in previous volumes in this series, a wide range of literary strange fiction is represented here, from the science fiction of Charles Wilkinson's 'The Investigation of Innocence', to the historical fantasy-horror of Elise Forier Edie's 'You Go Back', to the stream-of-consciousness, psychological weirdness of Andrew Apter's 'The Man Who Loved Flies' to the evocative sleight of hand that is Mark Valentine's 'Yes, I Knew the Venusian Commodore'.
These are, by any measure, superb short stories, and it is hoped that Strange Tales V will further the cause of contemporary speculative fiction and help introduce it to a wider audience.
A REVIEW OF STRANGE TALES V (EDITED BY ROSALIE PARKER)
Strange Tales V (edited by Rosalie Parker) is the fifth book in the award-winning Strange Tales anthology series, the first of which was published in 2003.
Strange Tales V is undeniably one of the best speculative fiction anthologies I've ever read and I'm compelled to use superlatives when I write about its contents. In my opinion, it should be read by all who love beautifully written and fascinatingly strange speculative fiction, because it contains fantastic and original stories. In terms of originality, prose and quality, the contents of this anthology are stunningly good.
This anthology contains well-crafted and beautifully written speculative fiction stories for readers who want to experience something strange and unexpected and are willing to let themselves be surprised and shocked by what they're about to read. All of the stories in this anthology are outstanding, because Rosalie Parker has selected stories that differ a lot from what has become the norm for contemporary strange fiction and has avoided mediocrity. She has paid attention to quality and beautiful prose, which has resulted is a remarkably fresh and intriguing anthology with diverse stories from talented authors.
I was impressed by this anthology, because it was everything that I hoped it would be. It was a well-edited anthology that met my expectations of what literary strange fiction is at its best and what authors can accomplish when they put their hearts and minds to the writing process and produce good stories. Because I've always loved literary fiction (especially literary strange fiction and weird fiction), I found myself enjoying these stories and was satisfied by the evocative prose in them.
One of the best things about this anthology is that it introduces new and lesser-known authors to speculative fiction readers. Many readers are probably familiar with some of the authors and their works, because they're established and respected authors, but I'm sure that the up-and-coming authors are wholly unknown to most readers. Discovering these authors and their stories for the first time is part of the charm of reading this anthology.
Strange Tales V contains the following seventeen stories:
- 'The Investigation of Innocence' by Charles Wilkinson
- 'Julie' by L. S. Johnson
- 'The Grave House' by Steve Rasnic Tem
- 'A Life in Plastic' by Andrew Hook
- 'Bardo Thodol Backup File' by Jacurutu:23
- 'More Than India' by John Howard
- 'You-Go-Back' by Elise Forier Edie
- 'Stranger Must Go' by Douglas Penick
- 'Beatrice Faraway's Christmas Tale' by Paul Bradley
- 'Henge' by David Rix
- 'Yes, I Knew the Venusian Commodore' by Mark Valentine
- 'Mary Alice in the Mirror' by Yarrow Paisley
- 'The Taxidermist's Tale' by Tara Isabella Burton
- 'The Man Who Loved Flies' by Andrew Apter
- 'Purses' by Nathan Alling Long
- 'Look for the Place Where the Ivy Rises' by Tom Johnstone
- 'McBirdy' by David McGroarty
These stories encompass different parts of the speculative fiction spectrum as they range from fantasy and science fiction to horror fiction. There's a deep literary feel to them and each of them has a well-created atmosphere. Some of these stories are chilling and macabre while others are exquisitely beautiful and touching.
There's lots of diversity among these stories, which is good. It's great that the darker side of speculative fiction is well-represented in this anthology, because the dark and weird stories offer nice counter balance for the lighter stories.
Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:
'The Investigation of Innocence' by Charles Wilkinson:
- A beautifully written science fiction story about a young man called David who is interested in an internship at an Institute. David's uncle Lyn used to be a woman and has his own plans for David.
- An excellent story with dark undertones.
'Julie' by L. S. Johnson:
- A story about a girl who hopes for love, but unwillingly becomes a whore and seeks vengeance for what has been done to her.
- A gripping story with an interesting take on lycanthropy.
- I can mention that Jean-Jacques Rousseau's epistolary novel Julie, ou la nouvelle Héloïse is mentioned in this story, but I won't reveal how it is tied to the story.
'The Grave House' by Steve Rasnic Tem:
- A beautifully written story about Annie and her family's grave house.
- A satisfyingly told horror story with a haunting atmosphere.
- This is one of Steve Rasnic Tem's best stories.
'A Life in Plastic' by Andrew Hook:
- A fascinating and well written story about Oki, his daughter Keiko and plastic mannequins.
- This story has disturbingly effective imagery about plastic and mannequins.
- This is one of the most memorable stories I've read during the last couple of years.
'Bardo Thodol Backup File' by Jacurutu:23
- A memorable story about a man who wants to back up his mind and consciousness.
- This story can be categorised as literary cyber-horror with a touch of good old-fashioned weirdness.
- I was very impressed by this story and its weirdness.
'More Than India' by John Howard:
- In this story, a man reminisces about the river and his meetings with a young man.
- A romantic and beautifully written story that will impress many readers.
- I haven't yet read many of John Howard's stories, but I intend to read more of them, because this story was good.
'You-Go-Back' by Elise Forier Edie:
- A story about the consequences that occur when P. T. Barnum adds a demon to the collection of curiosites in his museum in the 1860s.
- An excellent historical fantasy story with horror elements.
'Stranger Must Go' by Douglas Penick:
- A fascinating and well written story about a man with West Indian heritage, his life and spirits.
- One of the best and most captivating stories in this anthology.
'Beatrice Faraway's Christmas Tale' by Paul Bradley:
- A whimsical fantasy story about Beatrice Faraway and garden gnomes.
- This story was a pleasant surprise for me, because it was entirely different from other stories. It was something that I didn't expect to find here.
'Henge' by David Rix:
- A haunting and beautifully written story about Matt and Aiko who move into an apartment where a woman called Feather used to live before her death. Matt becomes intrigued by Feather.
- An excellent story, which is a perfect addition to the author's fascinating and thought-provoking cycle of stories about the mysterious Feather.
'Yes, I Knew the Venusian Commodore' by Mark Valentine:
- In this story, the protagonist reminisces about an actor, Triton, who played the Venusian Commodore and believed that he received messages from Venus.
- A brilliant story with a touching ending.
'Mary Alice in the Mirror' by Yarrow Paisley:
- A story about Mary Alice who resides in a mirror and waits to be let out.
- This is one of the most intriguing strange stories I've read this year, because it has almost a fairy-tale-like feel to it.
'The Taxidermist's Tale' by Tara Isabella Burton:
- A beautifully written story about a taxidermist who is fond of animals and loves his stuffed animals. He is asked to stuff a white wolf.
- This is one of the best and most memorable stories published this year.
'The Man Who Loved Flies' by Andrew Apter:
- A well written horror story about a man, Thomas Hurley, who loves flies and doesn't let anybody harm them.
- The first person narrative mode works well in this story.
- This is a fascinatingly disturbing story that will please horror readers.
'Purses' by Nathan Alling Long:
- In this intriguing story, Melissa's mother is obsessed with purses.
- This is a bit different kind of a take on a psychological horror story.
'Look for the Place Where the Ivy Rises' by Tom Johnstone:
- In this beautifully written story, an ivy growth in an overgrown park hides secrets.
- A perfect horror story with macabre and disquieting elements.
'McBirdy' by David McGroarty:
- An excellent and memorable story about school time memories and a teacher called McBirdy.
- The author has created a good atmosphere and nicely moves the story towards a disturbing ending.
- I've read a few of the author's previous stories and I've been impressed by them. This new story is just as good and interesting as his previous stories. I sincerely hope that he will continue to write more this kind of fiction.
Charles Wilkinson's 'The Investigation of Innocence' is an intriguing science fiction story, because the author describes how sex change affects and alters a person. Although this theme has already been handled in a few stories, there was something fresh in this story that I found interesting.
L. S. Johnson's 'Julie' is one of the strongest and most memorable stories in this anthology. The author writes perfectly about a young woman who unwillingly becomes a whore and seeks vengeance for what has happened to her. It's been a while since I've a read story that so easily and successfully combines literature, sex, history and weird elements.
Jacurutu:23's 'Bardo Thodol Backup File' contained a few scenes which slightly reminded me of H. P. Lovecraft's 'The Whisperer in Darkness', because the author wrote about how brains could function without being attached to a body. I was fascinated by the protagonist's enthusiasm and yearning to backup his mind and consciousness like the contents of a hard drive only to end up being estranged from his humanity.
David Rix's 'Henge' is one of the best stories I've read this year. David Rix has developed a lot as an author over the years and writes beautiful and captivating speculative fiction. 'Henge' is one of his best stories and will please his readers.
Because I've been fascinated by the fictional Feather that appears in the author's stories ever since I first read David Rix's Feather (Eibonvale Press, 2011), it was nice to read this new story about her. Feather has changed a lot as a character over the years, which is great, because she is one of the most intriguing characters ever to appear in speculative fiction. You can't help but be mesmerised by her appearance and presence that haunts and captivates the persons who meet her and come in contact with her. In this story, Matt is intrigued by Feather's paintings and her journal that contains drawings and numbers. Although Feather doesn't live in the apartment anymore and has died, Matt is haunted and mesmerised by what she has left behind.
What makes David Rix's Feather an especially interesting character is that she means different things to different people. In this story, Aiko considers Feather to be a bit crazy, but Matt is intrigued by her and becomes increasingly fascinated by her journal and markings. Matt's fascination with Feather leads him to discover something interesting.
I was very impressed by Tara Isabella Burton's 'The Taxidermist's Tale', because it's a beautifully written story about an old taxidermist, George, who loves his stuffed animals. When George is being asked to stuff a white wolf, he enthusiastically begins his work. The author described touchingly what George felt for his animals and how interested he was in stuffing the white wolf. I definitely want to read more stories by this author, because this story was amazing.
Andrew Apter's 'The Man Who Loved Flies' is a brilliantly disturbing piece of horror fiction that has the same kind of style and substance that is mostly found in the stories written by classic horror authors and a few contemporary horror authors who use stylistic storytelling and explore the depths of our psyche. The author writes terrifyingly and vividly about the protagonist's life and family and his love towards the flies. I'm sure that no-one will be able to forget this story and its psychopathic protagonist.
In my opinion, Andrew Apter is an exceptionally talented author and I look forward to reading more stories by him. I consider 'The Man Who Loved Flies' to be a true masterpiece of horror fiction.
Tom Johnstone's 'Look for the Place Where the Ivy Rises' is a creepy and macabre horror story about what kind of secrets can be found in an overgrown park. This is one of the best horror stories I've read during the last couple of years, because it has captivating macabre elements.
These stories will linger on the reader's mind, because they contain beautiful prose and a myriad of thought-provoking elements that challenge us to examine our feelings and lives in a new way. This is something that I consider to be the mark of good speculative fiction, because only the best and strongest stories have the ability to make us think about what goes on in the world and what kind of terrors and wonders can be found around us.
The artwork by Stephen J. Clark is beautiful. His painting, 'The Moth's Gown', and the moth pictures found on the front and back covers look amazing.
The hardcover edition of Strange Tales V is one of the most beautiful hardcover editions I've seen in ages, because it has been created with care and love for readers who appreciate fine craftmanship and quality binding. This hardcover edition is a good example of why printed books will always be superior to e-books, because nothing beats the feeling of holding a lovingly created book in your hands.
I can highly recommend Strange Tales V to speculative fiction readers and also to readers who don't normally read speculative fiction, because it contains intricately and beautifully written stories and offers the best that contemporary speculative fiction has to offer. The compelling beauty and strangeness of these stories will charm everyone who has ever been fascinated by literary strange fiction and weird fiction.
If you love bizarre and disturbing stories, this anthology will charm you and you'll want to re-read it as soon as possible. All of these stories deserve to be read and praised by readers and critics alike, because they're of exceptionally high quality.