Saturday, September 19, 2015

"Ain't Superstitious" - the Editor's Thoughts

We've always loved bluesman Willie Dixon's tune, "I Ain't Superstitious," and think it makes a great theme for a short story anthology, especially as Fall rolls around and thoughts turn to Halloween, All Saints', and Día de los Muertos. Our writing prompt called for stories involving luck, prophecy, and magic. We found that these topics brought forth a new pool of writers from the horror and dark fiction genres, and we were glad to get them. We've done a full-size double issue this time.

We open with the strange world of Amy Aderman's "Salt and Bone," in which the savage sea contains demons that can only be soothed by playing magical instruments carved from bone.
Witchcraft is of course an old standby in the world of superstition, and some witches are indeed evil, as in Gerri Leen's "Spellcasting." But we do like our witches resourceful as well as powerful, as in Maureen Bowden's "Confrontation on the Big One Three" and Judith Field's "Ambrose's Eight-plus-Oneth," The magical realism of E. E. King's "Pandora's Piñata" is a fine antidote to the heartbreak of love stolen by a curse.
And since cats, especially black ones, hold a special place of honor in the superstition pantheon, we invite you to join Ken Altabef's cat, "Jester," on a late-night outing for "A Little Mischief." But we can't leave out the horses of the Apocalypse, so take Bruce Golden's "Upon a Pale Horse" for a ride.
In a way, destructive feelings, such as guilt and phobias, are a form of superstition, with a fine pedigree dating back to greats like Edgar Allan Poe. John Hegenberger's "The Necromancer" and Will Morton's "The Candlestick" present instructive tales about men who didn't do the right thing. In Andrew Kozma's offbeat "The Apple Falls Upward," we are pulled into a dysfunctional friendship between two men, one apparently mental.
Since the Age of Enlightenment, it's become the norm to reject belief in miracles, revelation, magic, or the supernatural. But it's only human to feel that delicious frisson of fear when things get a little strange. Thus we feature a healthy dollop of straight horror in this collection. Spencer Carvalho's ambrosial "Coffee Lake" is just a little too good to be true, and Lyn Godfrey's "Pantomimus" convinces us of the folly of whistling in a circus tent. Dennis Mombauer's "The Plague Well" might answer that question you've been wanting to ask. And don't forget to attend the "The Annual Scarecrow Festival" with John Paul Davies. Oh, wait. You can't, it's cancelled.
We need the occasional break from the horror of it all, and our "Grins and Gurgles" flash humor offerings this time are Sarina Dorie's "Nine Ways to Communicate with the Living" and Benjamin Jacobson's "Schrödinger's Schrödinger."
Other humorous contributions for this round include Kevin Lauderdale's "James and the Prince of Darkness," a rollicking P. G. Wodehouse spoof; K. T. Katzmann's "Sam, Sam, and the Demoness," superstition done Jewish-style; and Adele Gardner's "Wolf Call," a unique celebration of Elvis's birthday.
We point you to a trio of wonderful stories that reflect their region or origin. Jacob M. Lambert's "Across the Styx of Norway" stars a dying Native American who seeks to cross the Northern Lights off his bucket list, and Sean O'Dea's "Wind Chimes," a particularly Colorado story, features neighbor-on-neighbor feng shui in suburbia. Argentinian author Gustavo Bondoni's "Gualicho Days" proves once again it's not nice to try to fool Mother Nature.
Sometimes it's just plain satisfying to see right conquer might, even if it's pure fantasy ("It could happen, right?…"). James Aquilone proffers "A Day to End All Days," a satisfying beat-the-devil tale. A. P. Sessler's "What Is Sacred to Dogs" gives us a sweet little hellhound who helps a preacher clean up (and clean out) his congregation full of sinners.
We were greatly moved by Christina Bates's poignant "Dead Men's Drinks," in which a mother hopes for one last conversation with her daughter, and we truly hope she gets it.
Finally, we close with Eric J. Guignard's "O Shades, My Woe," as one of King Arthur's knights gets his come-uppance for serving his master far too devotedly. It's a classic ghost story that will stay with you a long time.
So, as dogs begin to bark all over your neighborhood, lock all the doors, put on a recording of Frank Zappa's "Zomby Woof," and settle in for a good, old-fashioned scary read. Third Flatiron's "Ain't Superstitious" anthology proudly showcases an international group of new and established speculative fiction authors, who let their imaginations run wild.
Get the ebook on Amazon or Smashwords. Print edition available too.

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