Humanagerie (edited by Sarah Doyle and Allen Ashley) was published by Eibonvale Press in October 2018.
Information about the editors:
Allen Ashley is a British Fantasy Award winning editor and a prizewinning poet. He is the author or editor of fourteen published books including the novel The Planet Suite (Eibonvale Press, 2016) and the short story collection Once and Future Cities (Eibonvale Press, 2009). He works as a critical reader and also as a creative writing tutor with five groups currently running across north London, including the advanced science fiction and fantasy group, Clockhouse London Writers. He is a committee member for the British Fantasy Society.
Click here to visit his website.
Sarah Doyle is Poet-in-Residence to the Pre-Raphaelite Society, for whom she writes commissioned new work, and co-judges an annual poetry competition. She is (with Allen Ashley) co-author of Dreaming Spheres: Poems of the Solar System (PS Publishing, 2014). Sarah has been a guest reader at numerous poetry venues; has been published widely in magazines, journals and anthologies; and placed in many competitions. She was Highly Commended in the Best Single Poem category of the Forward Prizes for Poetry 2018. Sarah holds a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway College, University of London, and works as a freelance manuscript critique provider.
Click here to visit her website.
Information about Humanagerie:
Inspired by notions of the animalistic, Humanagerie is a vivid exploration of the nebulous intersection of human and beast. From cities to wilderness, buildings to burrows, and coastlines to fish-tanks, these thirty-two poems and thirteen short stories explore emergence and existence, survival and self-mythology, and the liminal hinterland between humanity and animality. This is an anthology featuring both poetry and prose.
REVIEW: HUMANAGERIE (EDITED BY SARAH DOYLE AND ALLEN ASHLEY)
Humanagerie (edited by Sarah Doyle and Allen Ashley) is a compelling, imaginative and thought-provoking anthology of literary speculative fiction stories and beautiful poems. It's a rewarding anthology, because its contents are engaging, brilliantly original and versatile.
The name of this anthology, Humanagerie, has been derived from the word "menagerie", which means a collection of captive animals, kept for display and exhibition. It's a fitting name, because the contents of this anthology consist of a captivating exhibition of themes and issues related to humanity and animality and how they intersect in various ways.
The editors have done an impressive job at gathering beautifully written, captivating and thought-provoking stories and poems, because all of them are excellent. Together, all of the stories and poems form a stunning and extraordinary exploration of the nebulous intersection of human and beast, because readers get to read about humans, beasts and creatures in a strikingly fresh and exciting way. In this anthology, the animal kingdoms and human kingdoms collide, interlink and exists side by side in strangely beautiful and unsettling ways.
The authors explore many themes and issues in this anthology, and they also visit many different locations and places. Themes and issues related to emergence, survival, existence, love, loss, isolation and human condition are handled excellently. The authors boldly delve into challenging material and deliver something out of the ordinary that stays with the readers (what you'll discover and experience in this anthology will linger on your mind for a long time).
This anthology contains the following thirteen stories and thirty-two poems:
Animal Apology - Paul Stephenson
Beginnings - Elaine Ewart
Aquarium Dreams - Gary Budgen
Beetle - Sarah Westcott
Vixen - Cheryl Pearson
Augury - Tarquin Landseer
The Orbits of Gods - Holly Heisey
Polymorphous / Stages of Growth - Oliva Edwards
Pray - Scott Hughes
Seahorse - Tarquin Landseer
Crow and Rat - James Dorr
Phasianus Colchicus - Kerry Darbishire
And Then I Was a Sheep - Jonathan Edwards
Wade - Tonya Walter
Sanctuary - Lauren Mason
Sturnidae - Setareh Ebrahimi
Rut - Ian Steadman
When a magician - Kate Wise
Palavas-les-Flots - Paul Stephenson
Notes for the "Chronicles of the Land that has no Shape" - Frank Roger
Rough Music - Jayne Stanton
The Butterfly Factory - William Stephenson
Hibernation - Sandra Unerman
Jellyfish - Megan Pattie
Barred Owl - Kristin Camitta Zimet
Ouroboros - Douglas Thompson
The Great Eel of Jazz - Amanda Oosthuizen
University Library - Lindsay Reid
Vulpine - Tarquin Landseer
Sloth - Elaine Ruth White
Flock - David Hartley
Fishy Business - Diana Cant
Wojtek - Mary Livingstone
Susheela - Bindia Persaud
Fluke - Michael G. Casey
Buck and Doe - Jane Burn
A structure of perfect angles - Jane Lovell
Two Lost Souls - Tracey Emerson
Company to Keep at the Harvard Museum of Natural History - Jenny Grassl
Last night a deer - Kerry Darbishire
Miss Muffet Owns Her Inner Spider - Hannah Linden
Dewclaw - Ian Kappos
Female Skate - Sarah Westcott
Noctuary - Tarquin Landseer
Her Audience Shall Stand in Ovation - Jason Gould
I enjoyed all of these stories and poems and was impressed by their literary beauty. I was especially impressed by the mythic atmosphere in some of them, because I've always loved mythic stories. I was also taken by the way the authors were able to get beneath the surface in their stories and poems, because there's a lot of depth and emotion in them.
At this point, I'd like to mention that the stories in this anthology are simply marvellous, because the authors have taken great care to write them as well as possible and have paid attention to the characters, their lives and their behaviour. I also want to mention that the poems are perfect examples of how beautiful and meaningful poems can be. Their striking imagery and metaphors will fascinate readers who yearn to read something unique. Each of them forms their own world that is simultaneously charming and strange. After reading these stories and poems, you'll probably look at certain things from a new perspective, because they'll make you think about many things.
I was surprised by how intimate and revealing some the stories and poems are, because the authors don't shy away from difficult things. I think it's great that the authors have written this kind of fiction and poetry, because intimate and revealing stories and poems are often the most memorable and most precious to many readers.
One of the best things about this anthology is that you'll find many different genres in it. Its contents are satisfyingly versatile and it has many unexpected pleasures in store for readers.
Here's a bit more information about the stories and poems and my thoughts about them:
Animal Apology - Paul Stephenson:
- This slightly surreal poem begins fascinatingly with the words "Sorry if I fling zoos at you", and the rest of the poem is also fascinating.
Beginnings - Elaine Ewart:
- A beautiful poem that will touch the hearts of many readers.
Aquarium Dreams - Gary Budgen:
- A story about two brothers who have a drunk and violent father.
- The author writes realistically about the boys' situation and how they're affected by what is happening at their home.
- After reading this story, I made a note of the fact that I definitely need to read more stories by Gary Budgen, because I loved everything about it.
Beetle - Sarah Westcott:
- A wonderfully written poem, in which the author combines the mundane and the rare in a charmingly beautiful way.
- It's great that the author has written a poem about a stag beetle, because these beautiful beetles are not as common anymore as they used to be.
Vixen - Cheryl Pearson:
- An excellent and atmospheric poem that has been told from the point of view of a fox.
- This poem has vivid imagery that appealed to me.
Augury - Tarquin Landseer:
- This is a brilliantly vivid and vibrant poem about a bird.
- The author has carefully chosen each word in this poem to make it as good and lively as possible.
The Orbits of Gods - Holly Heisey:
- A strikingly original and captivating story, which has a structure that covers the whole circle of life in a brilliant way.
- The author's prose is good and has a mysterious feel to it.
Polymorphous / Stages of Growth - Oliva Edwards:
- An extraordinary, mysterious and intriguing poem with an unusual structure.
- The unsual structure works well in this poem, because it tells of the different stages of growth.
Pray - Scott Hughes:
- An excellent and a bit mysterious poem about a praying mantis.
Seahorse - Tarquin Landseer:
- Ah, what a beautiful poem with a watery landscape!
- This exquisitely beautiful poem is one of my favourite poems in this anthology.
Crow and Rat - James Dorr:
- An excellent story about Crow and Rat who are beggars in the New City.
- The author's vision of the world where the sun has become hotter is fascinating and satisfyingly dark.
- This is a bit different kind of a love story, because it has a dark and epic feel to it. It's almost like a dark and romantic fairy tale for adults.
- I consider James Dorr to be an author to watch, because this story is amazing. (When I read this story, I said to myself that I must read more stories by the author, because what I've just read is something special.)
Phasianus Colchicus - Kerry Darbishire:
- There's something mysterious and mythic about this poem that touched me in a deep way.
- The dreamlike atmosphere is fascinating.
And Then I Was a Sheep - Jonathan Edwards:
- A brilliantly wondrous and touching poem.
- I like the use of the Welsh word "cwtch" in this poem.
Wade - Tonya Walter:
- In this story, Bee moves alone to a new place and has to deal with snakes.
- I enjoyed this story and found it excellent, because the author pays attention to the protagonist's life and tells what happens to her in a thrilling way.
- This story has excellent chilling scenes that will impress readers who love horror fiction.
Sanctuary - Lauren Mason:
- An excellent poem that uses the view point of animal in an intriguing way.
- I find this poem fascinating and vivid.
Sturnidae - Setareh Ebrahimi:
- The imagery and the visual structure of this unusual poem evokes a sense of murmuration.
- I like the author's way of experimenting with structure, because it reminds me a bit of Rhys Hughes' fiction.
Rut - Ian Steadman:
- An outstanding and memorable story about Cedric who works at the bar and likes to wander in the woods.
- I was impressed by the dark atmosphere of this story, and I was fascinated by what the protagonist saw in the woods (the scenes in the woods were very effective).
- This is one of the best dark fantasy and horror flavoured stories I've read this year.
- Because I liked this story and was taken by its atmospere, I intend to take a closer look at what kind of other stories Ian Steadman has written.
When a magician - Kate Wise:
- This is a little gem of a poem with a magical feel to it.
Palavas-les-Flots - Paul Stephenson:
- A brilliant and gently amusing poem about flamingos.
- The short introduction at the beginning of this poem is simply excellent.
Notes for the "Chronicles of the Land that has no Shape" - Frank Roger:
- This story is an interesting account of a primitive, unorganised culture of amoebae and its ascent.
- I liked this story, because it's something totally different and offers readers a glimpse into the history of the amoebae.
- What happens in this story bears resemblance to real historical happenings.
Rough Music - Jayne Stanton:
- A beautiful and evocative poem about childhood, memories and stories.
- The strong ending fits this poem perfectly.
The Butterfly Factory - William Stephenson:
- I loved this poem, because it begins and ends brilliantly.
- This is one of the strongest poem in this anthology.
Hibernation - Sandra Unerman:
- A story about Allison who has a longing to hibernate. When Alison buys a bearskin and a drum that goes with it, her world changes.
- This story has a dreamlike quality to it that I find deeply captivating.
Jellyfish - Megan Pattie:
- An exquisitely tender and touching poem that explores the similarities between a woman and a jellyfish.
- I found myself charmed by this little poem.
Barred Owl - Kristin Camitta Zimet:
- A beautiful, mysterious and atmospheric poem that delights readers with its story.
- This poem has a fascinating atmosphere that greatly appeals to me.
Ouroboros - Douglas Thompson:
- A thought-provoking story about Derek and Amy and their relationship.
- This is an intimate and well written story, because the events are focused on two characters and how they interact with each other. What happens between the characters is told in a slightly surreal way.
- I was impressed by the sharp and intelligent undertones of this story.
The Great Eel of Jazz - Amanda Oosthuizen:
- An imaginative and brilliantly original poem about eel.
- I have to mention that I don't recall ever reading another poem quite like this one.
University Library - Lindsay Reid:
- I like this poem very much, because the author tells of how books can take on an avian form.
- This poem reads like a short dark fantasy story.
Vulpine - Tarquin Landseer:
- An excellent and well written poem about wearing a mask.
Sloth - Elaine Ruth White:
- A delightful short poem about a sloth.
Flock - David Hartley:
- Ah, what an intriguingly original and unexpected story!
- This story about a flock of birds has an excellent and fitting ending.
Fishy Business - Diana Cant:
- A well written short poem with an intriguingly clever feel to it.
Wojtek - Mary Livingstone:
- This is a fascinating and extremely well written poem about a bear, a war and an army.
- I consider this poem to be one of the best poems in this anthology.
Susheela - Bindia Persaud:
- An excellent story about Susheela and her husband, Balwant. When Susheela won't do what the new headman tells him to do, Susheela does something that will affect her and her husband's life.
- I found this story compelling and touching, because it has been written well and the ending is perfect.
- There's something about this story that reminds me of old fairy tales.
- It would be nice to read more stories by Bindia Persaud, because I enjoyed this story a lot.
Fluke - Michael G. Casey:
- A fascinating and vivid poem about an oyster.
Buck and Doe - Jane Burn:
- This wonderfully rich, lively and vivid poem charmed me with its atmosphere.
- I have to mention that this is one of the most charming poems I've ever read.
A structure of perfect angles - Jane Lovell:
- An excellent and perfectly structured poem about transformation.
- Just like the prevous poem, I enjoyed this one a lot.
Two Lost Souls - Tracey Emerson:
- A brilliant and original story about a man and a goldfish.
- I was taken by this story's humorous and touching elements, because the author writes fluently about what happens when the man begins to talk to the goldfish.
Company to Keep at the Harvard Museum of Natural History - Jenny Grassl:
- Ah, what an atmospheric and stunningly effective poem with strong imagery!
- I was impressed by this poem and its atmosphere.
Last night a deer - Kerry Darbishire:
- An imaginative and fascinating poem.
- This poem has a tender and touching feel to it that appealed to me.
Miss Muffet Owns Her Inner Spider - Hannah Linden:
- A playful and well written poem.
Dewclaw - Ian Kappos:
- This is an excellent, impressive and thought-provoking story about a boy, his life and his ordeals. I was taken by this story's subtly unsettling combination of brutality and tenderness.
- There's something touching yet raw and untamed in the author's way of writing about the boy and what happens to him that impressed me in a profound way.
- I consider Ian Kappos to be an author to watch, because he writes excellent fiction.
Female Skate - Sarah Westcott:
- A sensual and fascinatingly erotic poem about a fisherman and a skate.
Noctuary - Tarquin Landseer:
- A beautiful, atmospheric and seductive poem about night creatures.
- I love the imagery in this poem and find it captivating.
Her Audience Shall Stand in Ovation - Jason Gould:
- This story about a girl who has been abandoned at the hospital is among the best and most captivating stories I've read this year.
- There's a heartbreaking quality to this story that impressed me very much, because the author writes about the girl and her condition in a touching way.
- This is an excellent and well written story that deserves to be read.
- I hope I'm someday able to read more stories by Jason Gould, because this story is great.
I probably shouldn't single out any of the stories, because all of them are excellent, but I have to mention that "Aquarium Dreams" by Gary Budgen, "Crow and Rat" by James Dorr, "Rut" by Ian Steadman, "Dewclaw" by Ian Kappos, "Her Audience Shall Stand in Ovation" by Jason Gould are among the best stories I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I also greatly enjoyed "Susheela" by Bindia Persaud, because it reads like a fairy tale for adults, and I loved "Ouroboros" by Douglas Thompson, because it's something mesmerisingly different. These stories alone make this anthology worth owning and reading.
Reading this anthology is like a voyage to an unknown land, because it's filled with many kinds of wondrous sights. After you've made your first visit to it, you'll want to revisit it regularly, because each new visit will reveals something new and unforeseen. I personally intend revisit this anthology often, because I loved everything about it.
What makes this anthology unique is its power to make us think about many things related to animals and humans and our co-existence with various creatures on Earth. This anthology presents readers with various questions about humanity and animality and provides subtle and raw answers.
Humanagerie is a real gem among modern speculative fiction anthologies, because it's fascinatingly different and deeply compelling in its glorious display of humanity and animality. If you love literary speculative fiction and thought-provoking stories, this deep and rewarding anthology will impress you. Trust me when I say that you won't regret reading it.