Quentin S. Crisp's Rule Dementia! was published by Snuggly Books in October 2016.
Information about Quentin S. Crisp:
Quentin S. Crisp was born in 1972, in North Devon, U.K. He studied Japanese at Durham University and graduated in 2000. He has had fiction published by Tartarus Press, PS Publishing, Eibonvale Press and others. He currently resides in Bexleyheath, and is editor for Chômu Press. His novella Blue on Blue was previously published by Snuggly Books.
Information about Rule Dementia!:
Back in print after a long hiatus, Quentin S. Crisp's third collection of fiction, Rule Dementia!, sees the author start to experiment with the form and content of the macabre tale. 'The Haunted Bicycle' is his first attempt to use Japanese I-novel techniques with supernatural subject matter and tales such as 'The Waiting' and 'Unimaginable Joys' are a fusion of cosmic vision and the fey, shoe-gazing miserablism of Generation X. Throughout, the collection forms a symbolic, whimsical bestiary of the modern soul as brimming with unexpected, irreducible and oddly specific imagery as a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
Informed by a surreal, apocalyptic paranoia, yet rooted in child-like imagination and sheltered in the lee of unschooled mysticism, these early tales together make up a playful scrapbook of despair and hope at the end of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first.
A REVIEW OF QUENTIN S. CRISP'S RULE DEMENTIA!
Quentin S. Crisp's Rule Dementia! is the author's third collection. It's great that Snuggly Books has re-published it, because it deserves to made available to a wider readership. This collection was originally published in 2005 and has been out of print until now. It will be of special interest to readers of literary strange fiction and weird fiction, because it sees the author experimenting with fresh material and macabre themes in an original and exciting way.
Before I begin to analyse and review this collection, I'll say a few words about Quentin S. Crisp, because it's possible that he may be a bit unknown author to many readers. Quentin S. Crisp's fiction has been published by several small presses and he is currently an editor for Chômu Press. He is a talented author whose stories range from literary fiction to speculative fiction. He writes excellent prose and dares to experiment with various themes and issues that many authors tend to overlook and discard in their works.
I was impressed by Rule Dementia! and its originality. It was interesting for me read what kind of stories Quentin S. Crisp wrote over a decade ago, because until now I had only read his new stories. Although he nowadays has a more mature literary voice and his writing style has changed a bit, nobody can deny the fact that he has always been an exciting and talented author who dares to experiment with several things. This early collection is a fine example of his writing skills and imagination.
Rule Dementia! is a collection that is filled with strange beauty, creepy horror and sparkling originality. It's a rewarding reading experience for those who love literary speculative fiction and appreciate nuanced and thought-provoking storytelling.
This collection contains the following six stories:
- Jellyfish Joe
- The Haunted Bicycle
- The Tao of Petite Beige
- The Waiting
- Unimaginable Joys
These six stories combine fantasy, horror and weird fiction elements in such a bizarre and powerful way that I was wholly mesmerised by them and their eerie atmosphere. There's sophisticated strangeness and subtle complexity in each of them. They will amuse, impress, surprise and shock readers, because their contents range from the absurd to the unsettling.
Here's a bit of information about the stories and my thoughts about them:
- A story about a suicide cult survivor called Joe who creates his own religion that is founded on the obscure image of a jellyfish. Joe finds disciples and creates his own Bible.
- The author writes well about the protagonist and his disciples. It was interesting to read about Joe's religion.
- An excellent and deeply Lovecraftian story.
The Haunted Bicycle:
- A novella about Les who thinks that his bicycle is haunted, because it seems to steer itself. Soon Les and the narrator become a couple of amateur psychic investigators.
- I liked the way the author wrote about the narrator's friendship with Les, how they became friends and what they did together.
- In this novella, the author exhibits signs of Rhys Hughes-like absurdity that has been coupled with gothic and menacing elements.
- A satisfyingly strange and atmospheric story with slightly experimental structure.
- A story about a cello-playing man who is possibly paranoid or even schizophrenic, because he hears eerie and unnatural voices.
- There was something in this story that slightly reminded me of Lovecraft's 'The Music of Erich Zann' (this story is different from Lovecraft's story, but has a few things in common with it).
- This story is excellent and well written weird fiction.
The Tao of Petite Beige:
- A story about Paul who has come to Taiwan. He tries to control his sexuality by withholding his essence and becomes entangled with something strange.
- This is one of the most intriguing and thought-provoking weird fiction stories I've read in a while.
- There was something slightly Machenesque and Blackwoodian about this story that I found thrilling.
- In this story, Brendan, who works at the bank, gets a new manager, Stephen. Soon Brendan learns unsettling things about Stephen as he visits the Outside.
- This is an excellent and atmospherically written Lovecraftian story in which the author adds a couple of his own deities (Yxthahl and Qioxtl) to the Cthulhu Mythos.
- This is one of the best modern Lovecraftian stories I've ever read.
- An interesting story featuring Rebecca, Gawaine, the land of Missing and its great capital city Me.
- When I read this story, I noticed faint echoes of Lovecraft's 'The Quest of Iranon' and certain stories written by Clark Ashton Smith.
- This is an excellent and well written final story for this collection, because it's something a bit different. I won't go into details about its contents, but I urge readers to read it, because it's very atmospheric and the ending is good.
'Jellyfish Joe' is one of the most original Lovecraftian stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading, because the author blends religious elements with Lovecraftian elements in a fascinating way. I enjoyed reading about the Sect of the Jellyfish and how Joe travelled to an unnamed island to find his destiny. The ending was excellent and sharp.
'The Haunted Bicycle' is an excellent novella that combines absurbity and weird fiction elements in a stunning way. It features exceptionally nuanced characterisation that gradually deepens the story. The conversations between the narrator and Les are often amusing, because they have private jokes about earwigs and other matters.
'Zugzwang' is difficult to forget once you've read it, because the author creates a stunning sense of hopelessness and suspicion. This story is one of the finest depictions of paranoia and hopelessness I've ever read, because it has an intense atmosphere. The author writes well about what happens between the protagonist and his girlfriend.
'The Tao of Petite Beige' features a fascinating exploration of human sexuality. The author explores such things as eroticism, masturbation and celibacy in his own unique and direct way. It's great that he writes fluently about sexuality and doesn't shy away from it. This story also features interesting references to popular culture (e.g. Petite Beige has clearly been based on the famous model Bettie Page).
I was very impressed by 'The Waiting', because it's been a while since I've had the pleasure of reading such a powerfully Lovecraftian story. Everything about this story exudes Lovecraftian menace, isolation and helplessness (it unfolds in a Lovecraftian manner, but is wholly original and has a faint touch of Thomas Ligotti). The protagonist's visits to the Outside were amazing, because the Outside consisted of dark and endless passageways.
The characterisation is excellent, because the author writes well about the characters. It's nice that the characters range from suicide cult survivors to bank managers, because it adds diversity to the stories.
The characters are humane, flawed and have come to expect little from life (their relationships with others are often intriguingly delicate and vulnerable). There's a kind of a cosmic bleakness that surrounds them and affects their daily lives and feelings.
Some of these stories are heavily influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I consider this to be an extremely good thing, because one can never read too many Lovecraftian weird fiction stories. Because I'm a big fan of Lovecraftian weird fiction, I found this collection immensely satisfying.
I respect the author for writing his own kind of Lovecraftian weird fiction and boldly venturing into areas that many other authors tend to avoid. His vision of isolation and hopelessness feels deeply Lovecraftian and lacks all the typical clichés that are associated with Lovecraftian weird fiction.
The author's prose is excellent, evocative and descriptive. He succeeds in creating a strange and unsettling atmosphere that exudes menace, because he understands what it is needed to write atmospheric weird fiction. His atmospheric storytelling works perfectly.
I think that Rule Dementia! will appeal to readers who are familiar with the works of Thomas Ligotti, H.P. Lovecraft, Rhys Hughes, Algernon Blackwood, Douglas Thompson, Brendan Connell, David Rix, Allen Ashley and Nina Allan. It will also be of interest to readers who have Laird Barron, Livia Llewellyn and Richard Gavin. I sincerely wish that readers will invest a bit of time into reading this collection, because it's one of the best and most original horror story collections published during the recent years.
If you're a newcomer to Quentin S. Crisp's fiction, Rule Dementia! serves as an excellent entry point into his fiction. It will also please readers who are already familiar with his new stories, but have never had an opportunity to read his early stories.
I consider this collection to be a prime example of what modern weird fiction can be at its best and most imaginative. If you're fed up with bland and stale horror fiction and want to read something extraordinary and unique that is worth reading, you'll be thrilled to delve into Quentin S. Crisp's Rule Dementia!, because it differs a lot from normal horror fiction. The stories in this collection are not simple mainstream horror stories, but something much more meaningful, intriguing and unsettling. They're filled with depth, emotion and dark atmosphere that gradually seeps into your soul.
Quentin S. Crisp's Rule Dementia! is an excellent contribution to the ever-growing genre of modern weird fiction and should not be missed by quality-oriented speculative fiction readers. It's a satisfyingly original collection that beckons readers to explore its strange beauty and mesmerising weirdness.