A review of Nightscript: Volume 1 (edited by C. M. Muller)

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Nightscript: Volume 1 (edited by C. M. Muller) was published by Chthonic Matter in October 2015.

Information about the editor:

C. M. Muller lives in St. Paul, Minnesota with his wife and two sons - and, of course, all those quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore. He is related to the Norwegian writer Jonas Lie and draws much inspiration from that scrivener of old. His tales have appeared in Shadows & Tall Trees, Supernatural Tales, The Yellow Booke, Xnoybis, and Visiak's Mirror.

Click here to visit the editor's official website.

Information about Nightscript: Volume 1:

An annual anthology of strange and darksome tales by twenty of the finest contemporary scribes. Kristi DeMeester, Gregory L. Norris, Charles Wilkinson, Patricia Lillie, David Surface, Daniel Mills, Kirsty Logan, Kyle Yadlosky, Clint Smith, Damien Angelica Walters, Eric J. Guignard, Marc E. Fitch, Michael Kelly, Bethany W. Pope, John Claude Smith, Zdravka Evtimova, Jason A. Wyckoff, Ralph Robert Moore, Christopher Burke, Michael Wehunt.


These past couple of years have been exceptionally good years for horror fiction and strange fiction, because many excellent short story collections and anthologies have been published. Nightscript: Volume 1 (edited by C. M. Muller) joins the canon of these good books, because it contains quality stories.

Nightscript: Volume 1 is a splendid and fascinating anthology filled with weird and well written stories that will entice and chill readers in equal measure. This anthology offers an interesting glimpse into what kind of contemporary horror fiction and strange fiction is available for readers who want to read dark and original stories. The editor aims to please readers who are interested in dark and strange stories and he succeeds in it, because all of the stories will be of interest to readers who love the darker and weirder side of speculative fiction.

This anthology showcases the writing skills of many new and talented authors who have emerged during the recent years. Some of the authors have already gained praise for their stories by critics and readers alike, but others are just gaining fame and are ready to claim their place among the respected masters of the genre.

Nightscript: Volume 1 contains the following stories:

- Everything That's Underneath by Kristi DeMeester
- Strays by Gregory L. Norris
- In His Grandmother's Coat by Charles Wilkinson
- The Cuckoo Girls by Patricia Lillie
- The Sound That the World Makes by David Surface
- Below the Falls by Daniel Mills
- The Keep by Kirsty Logan
- She Rose From the Water by Kyle Yadlosky
- Animalhouse by Clint Smith
- Tooth, Tongue, and Claw by Damien Angelica Walters
- Momma by Eric J. Guignard
- The Trees Are Tall Here by Marc E. Fitch
- A Quiet Axe by Michael Kelly
- The Death of Yatagarasu by Bethany W. Pope
- The Cooing by John Claude Smith
- A Knife in My Drawer by Zdravka Evtimova
- On Balance by Jason A. Wyckoff
- Learning Not to Smile by Ralph Robert Moore
- Fisher and Lure by Christopher Burke
- The Death of Socrates by Michael Wehunt

The contents of these stories range from dark fantasy to horror and weird fiction, so no matter what your taste in strange fiction is, you'll find something to enjoy in this anthology.

Here's a bit more information about these stories and my thoughts about them (I'll try not to write any spoilers about the stories):

Everything That's Underneath by Kristi DeMeester:
- A story about Carin and Benjamin. Benjamin has MS that is slowly disintegrating his body. He is building a door.
- An excellent and atmospheric story with interesting weirdness.

Strays by Gregory L. Norris:
- The protagonist of this story experiences a sense of wrongness in the place where he lives.
- It's interesting that the author has written this story in second person narrative mode, because only a few authors use it in their works. This narrative mode works well in this story.

In His Grandmother's Coat by Charles Wilkinson:
- A memorable story about Wyll and her mother who live in Wyll's grandmother's house.
- An excellent and well written story with fascinating weirdness.

The Cuckoo Girls by Patricia Lillie:
- In this story, Jennifer meets a girl at the laundromat. The girl acts strangely and seems to stalk Jennifer. Soon Jennifer hears something disturbing from her younger sister.
- An excellent story.

The Sound That the World Makes by David Surface:
- A story about Maddy, Jerry and Gordon who are on a midnight ride and are searching for an ancient monastery, because they intend to attend a service there.
- The author writes well about Maddy's feelings and thoughts, including her thoughts about her parents' death.
- An excellent and creepy story with a perfect ending.

Below the Falls by Daniel Mills:
- A beautifully written and unsettling story in which the protagonist has received a diary of a deceased woman.
- I love this story, because there's something haunting about it that impressed me very much. This story is just as good as the stories that were published in the author's debut collection (The Lord Came at Twilight / Renaissance Books, 2014).

The Keep by Kirsty Logan:
- A satisfyingly disturbing and different kind of a story that is a retelling of Bluebeard narrated by voices of dead women.
- This story is a fine example of good storytelling.

She Rose From the Water by Kyle Yadlosky:
- An interesting and well-constructed story that contains themes of birth and death.
- I was fascinated by the way the author wrote about the happenings. I won't go into details about the happenings, but I can reveal that this brilliant story has a good ending.

Animalhouse by Clint Smith:
- A story about Gary who thinks about his life and marriage, because his wife has had an affair with another man. When his dog explores places, he runs into trouble and something happens to him.
- I enjoyed this story, because it's an excellent story with a perfect ending.
- Clint Smith is one of the strongest voice to appear during the recent years and this story demonstrates his storytelling abilities. I recently read his debut collection (Ghouljaw and Other Stories / Hippocampus Press, 2014) and I can say that this story is of the same quality as the stories in the collection.

Tooth, Tongue, and Claw by Damien Angelica Walters:
- A story about a woman who's being kept a prisoner by a monster. She's a consort to a monster and she isn't content with her fate.
- This story is a well written dark fairy-tale for adults.
- I've heard good things about Damien Angelica Walters' debut collection (Sing Me Your Scars / Apex Book Company, 2015) and now that I've had a chance to read this story, I intend to take a look at her collection.

Momma by Eric J. Guignard:
- A story about Daniel who's mother is ill. His mother has problems with her memory and she is dying.
- The author writes well about Daniel's life and how her mother has cursed all the townspeople.
- An excellent and memorable weird story.

The Trees Are Tall Here by Marc E. Fitch:
- A story about a farmer's daughter who lives with her father in a place where the trees are tall. An artist arrives to their house and wants to paint the landscape. He says that he sees things that are not there.
- An atmospheric story with a wonderfully chilling ending.

A Quiet Axe by Michael Kelly:
- A short, but effective and memorable story about a woman who has had a harsh life.
- This story is an excellent example of how to write good and intriguing short fiction. This story is only two pages long, but it's a superb story.

The Death of Yatagarasu by Bethany W. Pope:
- An excellent story about a crow's life.
- This fascinating and touching story is something different. The author writes fluently about the crow's life.
- If there are readers out there who wonder about the word "Yatagarasu", I can mention that it's Japanese and refers to a three-legged crow that is a creature found in various mythologies in East Asian cultures.

The Cooing by John Claude Smith:
- A story about Magdalene and Samantha who explore an empty house and hear a cooing sound.
- I loved this story, because it has a good atmosphere and an excellent ending. The ending is satisfyingly chilling and weird.

A Knife in My Drawer by Zdravka Evtimova:
- In this story, a writer is fascinated by an empty piece of paper.
- This is an interesting story.

On Balance by Jason A. Wyckoff:
- The protagonist of this story is on vacation on a beach and notices that a man with a metal detector throws something away. He is fascinated by what the man has thrown away and examines the object.
- An intriguing and beautifully written story.

Learning Not to Smile by Ralph Robert Moore:
- A story about a social worker, Claire. Her client is a ninety year old woman who seems to be pregnant.
- The author writes fluently about Claire's feelings about her work.
- This is a brilliant story, because the story is fascinatingly weird.

Fisher and Lure by Christopher Burke:
- In this story, a man walks on the beach and is bothered by a young boy. The boy is afraid of The Fisher.
- This story has a good and gripping ending.

The Death of Socrates by Michael Wehunt:
- A story about Cara and Ethan. Ethan has a tumor and suffers from headaches.
- The author writes about Cara's hopes, dreams and fears in a realistic way.
- A well written story that has a perfect ending.

Charles Wilkinson's "In His Grandmother's Coat" is an excellent story about Wyll and her mother, Angela. The author writes about the relationship between Wyll and Angela in an excellent way. He reveals interesting information about Wyll's grandmother who used to breed minks. I was very impressed by this story.

Daniel Mills' "Below the Falls" is one of the best and most memorable stories in this anthology, because it has been written in the fashion of old weird stories. It's slightly reminiscent of the classic creepy stories by Arthur Machen, M. R. James and H. P. Lovecraft. I enjoyed reading the diary entries, because there was something beautifully haunting and disturbing about them that I found fascinating. I sincerely hope the author will continue to write this kind of fiction, because he excels at it.

Clint Smith's "Animalhouse" is an excellent example of how to write perfect characterisation in strange fiction stories. The author writes about Gary's life and feelings in a perfect way, because everything that has happened to him feels authentic and realistic. What happens to Gary when his dog explores places is interesting, because he begins to transform into something else.

Damien Angelica Walters' "Tooth, Tongue, and Claw" is a fascinating, disturbing and well written story about a woman who is a monster's consort. The author writes well about the woman's discontent and her attempts to escape. The ending of this story is brilliant and will impress readers.

John Claude Smith's "The Cooing" is an interesting piece of horror fiction. The author writes well about the empty house and how Samantha is fascinated by it, but Magdalene isn't interested in it (Magdalene doesn't understand why Samantha find empty houses fascinating). The cooing sound the women hear adds a nice touch of strangeness to this story.

The editor has done his best to select stories that demonstrate the versatility of the contemporary strange fiction genre, because the stories differ from each other. The authors have their own distinct voices and their writing skills are fully displayed in these stories.

Because I enjoy reading literary strange fiction, I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed that most of these stories were literary horror stories. The authors have written stories in which human emotions and strange happenings blend in a powerful way.

The cover image, "Nøkken" (1904) by Theodor Kittelsen, looks beautiful. It's a perfect cover image for this anthology.

Nightscript: Volume 1 will appeal to readers who are interested in strange fiction, weird stories and literary horror. It's an intriguing anthology of dark stories that will linger on the reader's mind. If you're a fan of dark stories, you should take a look at this anthology, because it's worth reading.

Highly recommended!