Tag Archives: Lisa Tuttle

“What’s the creepiest place in town? That’s right. Ross Dress-4-Less.” (Cartman)

10. Women of Darkness – Kathryn Ptacek, ed.

So far, I have to say that all of the anthologies of women writing horror short stories that I’ve read have been really good. Women of Darkness was one that I checked out of the library after reading about it on Too Much Horror Fiction and after I read it, I made sure to find an ex-library copy for myself before I returned it. I really like ex-library copies. Sometimes they’re pretty beat, but, they always have mylar wrapped dust jackets or the paperbacks have been book-taped to hell and back and that’s very satisfying to me. Plus it’s fun to see how many different kinds of “Withdrawn” stamps there are and what classifications have been used. Fun…for me. I know this is not everyone’s idea of a good time.

Merricat’s idea of a good time is posing in front of horror parody paintings of her on a log pillow. I wish she’d been able to pose for more of them, but perfect sassy pigs can’t always stay.

Speaking of things that aren’t everyone’s idea of a good time, the first story in Women of Darkness is “Baby” by Kit Reed and it is creepy as hell. Damn, baby. I really love how Kit Reed is able to make the normal, the stuff we’re told to want, super terrifying. I recently saw a trailer for the horror film Hereditary and I feel like it’s probably going to cover some Kit Reedish territory. Exciting.

“The Spirit Cabinet” – Lisa Tuttle – Another story that I read by Tuttle also dealt with the spiritualist movement and I definitely like this one better – it was scarier and had less mucus. It reminded me of a vastly unsuccessful young adult book I read a while ago- this story mounts the dread and demonstrates a lot of the creeping mystery of ghost stories and buying antique furniture.

Little Merri on some non-haunted antique furniture.

“Mother Calls But I Do Not Answer” – Rachel Cosgrove Payes – The bad side of loneliness and looking for answers in the mirror. The main character reminded me a little bit of Henrietta the goth kid from South Park when she thought she became emo because of invading plant spores and was ever-so-slightly nicer to her mother. Poser.

“The Devil’s Rose” – Tanith Lee – Beware the out of towners. They’re usually not there to rescue you. This story touches on one of my favorite topics – syphilis – and also has a bit of fairytale magic to it. Syphilitic fairytale magic.

Merricat and Peregrine did run off with me when I came to the shelter they were in from out of town, but, thankfully, I was actually there to rescue them. They super needed their nails clipped, I would’ve done that before I left even if I hadn’t adopted them.

“Midnight Madness” – Wendy Webb – Super whispery scary Black Friday-style shopping. It was pretty fun to read a story about shopping that was this chilling. I didn’t think it could be done.

“Aspen Graffiti” – Melanie Tem – A topic just as mundane as shopping – the dissolution of a marriage when the husband suddenly decides he’s got to be younger, cooler, and that wife of his is holding him back… Sometimes the real horrors are pretty familiar. He has an earring and got a younger girlfriend! NOoooo!

Peregrine and Merricat hide from the harmful effects of midlife crises.

“Slide Number Seven” – Sharon Epperson – I know this author better as S.K. Epperson from her book Borderland. It was kind of brutal and that carries through into this story. I love it when women take agency with disease; I really am keen on disease stories – I think because I’m chronically ill. This one is short but packs quite the punch.

“The Unloved” – Melissa Mia Hall – Rachel and Celia, two sisters, on their own, taking in some random manipulative drifter…it goes super well and everyone ends up perfectly happy.

“Cannibal Cats Come Out Tonight” – Nancy Holder – Friends don’t let friends eat their other friends. Until they get stuck in a desert house trying to gain the affections of the same free spirited girl.

Always a true woman of horror, Merricat scares Danger Crumples.

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“Yeah because no offense there’s absolutely no zazz to be found, not here anyway, not in these parts.”

33. 13 Again – A. Finnis, ed.

We have reached the last of the Point Horror 13-based short story collections. This one felt way longer to me, perhaps because there are a bunch of the same authors in the second one and this one and none of the multi-title whizzbang Point authors I’m used to are represented. Not even Diane Hoh. The stories were longer than in the other two collections, they needed a big dose of the old razzle-dazzle and honestly, I got pissed that I was bored. I don’t want to be bored by short stories. For one thing, they’re short so it seems like that shouldn’t happen. For two, most of the time when I dive in to a Horror anthology, I find weird things and gross things and surprising things and zazz. Not so much here. So, with that very inspiring introduction, let’s get on with it.

Ozymandias was the smarter one, so he was always waiting for Danger Crumples to realize that there was less zazz present than necessary.

“Anjelica’s Room” – Laurence Staig – It did have a promising start. A couple arguing about painting, well, never heard that before… I meant that “promising” thing, anyway, a couple who don’t really like each other that much are trying to paint a small cottage and one of the rooms has really ugly brown wallpaper all over the walls. The lying-by-omission male half of the couple leaves the female half and her giant amount of anxiety alone and the room pulls her in and it gets worse from there in a good and gory way. Phew.

“Foxgloves” – Susan Price – This entry was not as interesting as “The Cat-Dogs” from the last collection. It’s hard for me to envision a hetero teenage boy that wouldn’t just follow some ghostly seductive chick into wherever. Especially if he’d just had a bit of a break up with his girlfriend…that’s the most likely time they just wander off the path with ghostly seductive chicks. I mean, geez.

Danger and Ozy basically followed the ladypigs whenever they could. Whenever. It took them forever to calm down around the ladypigs and that’s one more reason I couldn’t suspend my disbelief for “Foxgloves.”

“The Ultimate Assassin” – Malcolm Rose – This just didn’t pack enough punch for me. There’s mild tension, a downer ending, a dog named Chips (I used to know someone named Chips. He was fun but only knew me as “Hey Girl”), and the titular assassin but…it was just okay.

“The Rattan Collar” – Garry Kilworth – Garry with two “r”s has put in some effort here and it’s one of the more interesting stories in the collection. Is the potbellied pig evil? Do I just like this better because there’s some kind of pig in it? The answer to both is no, but, you haven’t read this yet. Uh oh, spoilers.

“Boomerang” – David Belbin – In 1995, this story was prophetic. It seemed so wrong that anyone would go to college, get a solid degree with good marks, and then fail miserably at getting a job and have to move back in with their parents. In the U.S. though, only five years later, it would start getting next to impossible not to become a boomerang. And some of those graduates didn’t try to murder their parents- a tradition that lives on to this day.

Danger and Ozy never tried to murder me while we lived in my mom’s attic. They did order me out of my own bedroom while they were exploring though. It was very insulting, but also funny.

“The Delinquent” – Maresa Morgan – In my current job I am sometimes looked at as though I have just walked in from juvie and am smoking in the corner. I’m not a fan of it and this is the only place I’ve been looked at that way so consistently, but at least I know I’m not as awful as the delinquent in this story. She gets what she deserves; I know I deserve to be recognized for who I actually am, not just the differences between me and the rest of the office. I’m quite good at what I do and have the personalized messages from patrons to prove it.

“The Ghost Trap” – Lisa Tuttle – The girl in this story goes to a haunted house she heard of because of a story. The author of the story is totally living in the house and using some Scooby Doo methods to entrap victims. I have to say, if anyone came to my house (which is not haunted) specifically because of my work I still wouldn’t answer the door because that’s intimidating and it’s possible to see me in public and accost me that way instead. Or don’t accost me. It’s better if no one gets accosted. I’m usually selling something or hunting books down if you see me in public, feel free to distract me, I promise I won’t murder you or pull off my mask to reveal that I own the old boarded up amusement park.

“Close Cut” – Philip Gross – Uh oh, we have a situation here that involves World War II and slivovic. World War II angst and the question of what one is to do when one finds a Nazi (a real, time appropriate one, not just the insecure emulating jackasses from the now time) living near them.

“Grandma” – Colin Greenland – I know that it can be very complicated trying to assist the elderly, especially if they have memory issues or habitually set things on fire. If this household just had some decent books, I bet everybody would’ve gotten along much better and maybe Grandma wouldn’t have minded being locked in her room so much. What am I saying? There’s no way that keeps anyone with any of their faculties remotely happy. But books would help.

Ozy and Danger certainly liked their excursions outside their houses. They wanted to explore and be finicky and demanding and super cute and their grandma totally let them.

“Vampire in Venice” – John Gordon – Here we are in Venice again. Ah, Venice. A place where British girls can argue about who is more attractive and/or stupid to be mooning over vampires. Hint – your friendship isn’t strong if the one the vampire likes more chooses you as her first meal.

“Picking Up the Tab” – Stan Nicholls – Money horror. This just doesn’t have that much impact after you’ve been through the nonsensical labyrinth of trying to afford what you need without making enough and that’s kind of the norm for my generation. Being messed with monetarily is never a surprise. Being valued and paid accordingly is.

“Evidence of Angels” – Graham Masterton – Here he goes again with the sentimental and not particularly horrific. It’s a bit familiar here, after all, having an annoying baby brother named Toby is familiar to everyone who saw Labyrinth. The unfortunate aspect here is that angels do not resemble David Bowie. Believers have nothing to look forward to.

In lieu of David Bowie, I’ll accept Danger Crumples and Ozymandias leading me to an eternal rest in Pighalla, which I made up but also happens to be where I belong after death.

“Hospital Trust” – Dennis Hamley – Again, what happens in this story is kind of normal now in the United States. A doctor that several patients haven’t liked (in the U.S. this part would be played by the insurance company, the ones who get to determine how much care you really get) sending them somewhere they shouldn’t be for substandard care and/or murder. Healthcare really is a right and not a privilege. It’s ridiculous to think otherwise.

Mixtape:
1. “Mud” – Legendary Shack Shakers
2. “Beautiful Gardens” – The Cramps
3. “Phantom of the Motorway” – The Mangled Dead
4. “Comanche Moon” – The Black Angels
5. “Several Sins” – The Birthday Party
6. “Let Me” – Widowspeak
7. “Garbage City” – Hanni El Khatib
8. “Feet Don’t Fail Me” – Queens of the Stone Age
9. “We’ve Seen the Blood” – The Mangled Dead
10. “Rats in Paradise” – The Birthday Party
11. “Kill!” – Raveonettes
12. “Flesh without Blood” – Grimes
13. “The Number of the Beast” – Electric Six
14. “At the Barn” – Wolfmen of Mars
15. “Be Free” – King Dude & Chelsea Wolfe
16. “Cut Me Loose” – UNKLE

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Face Your Demons – Supernatural starts now, on TNT

36. Skin of the Soul – Lisa Tuttle, ed.

This beautifully titled short story collection is subtitled “New horror stories by women” and was published by The Women’s Press, London, in 1990. It features some familiar writers like Karen Joy Fowler, Joyce Carol Oates, Tuttle herself, and Joan Aiken (who I mainly know from her Edward Gorey illustrated Wolves of Willoughby Chase and other wolf books); it also features several writers I’ve never heard of and two of those are from Texas and their stories in the anthology are some of their earliest professional publications. That’s pretty cool.

Peregrine is basically a professional model for paintings and photos. That’s also pretty cool. Muse pigs are cool.

Here are some of my thoughts about the stories that stood out to me:

Melanie Tem – “Lightning Rod” – A literally horrific exploration of that martyr complex women are societally bred to have. Oh, I’ll do this thing that hurts – No, I will! And so on and so on until someone collapses under the weight of trying to please everyone. This story was both scary and exhausting.

Suzy McKee Charnas – “Boobs” – A very fun little werewolf story.

Karen Joy Fowler – “The Night Wolf” – Different kind of wolf. Not fun.

This is as close to howling at the moon as Pere’s going to get.

Ann Walsh – “Getting Away From It All” – Very reminiscent of Jack Torrance at the bar in The Shining, except, in this story, the mom isn’t blaming everyone else for her own issues. It’s vague and surreal and also quite grounded in that “I was trying to do something nice!” feeling that can exhaust and overwhelm us.

There are quite a few pieces in this collection that really pick at parts of me and so for once I’m reviewing a horror collection that actually got under my skin. Nice work/Damn it, ladies.

Lisa Tuttle – “Mr. Elphinstone’s Hands” – So much mucus in this story. SO much. It’s slimy and sticky and evokes the shame of hyperhidrosis and living in the spiritualist times and paranoia and, well, yuck.

Peregrine knows which dead piggies she’d like to conjure with mucus hands but…no one in this house has ectoplasmic abilities. Sorry, Pere.

G.K. Sprinkle – “Serena Sees” – Quite the tense evening over the psychic lines. The anger that people use as an excuse to hurt other who haven’t actually done anything to them comes through in this story – especially the anger of an entitled dude who didn’t get what he wanted. A smile. A correct psychic prediction. A date. All resulting in some dude who thinks he has the right to hurt women.

Melissa Mia Hall – “Listening” – The earring tells her things. Things that no one will listen to…like the many times I have correctly predicted something bad happening (a broken window, for instance) that wouldn’t have happened if the persons involved had just listened to me. I don’t even have a magic earring. My ears aren’t even pierced. Still no one listens.

Anne Goring – “Hantu-Hantu” – A Barb and Nancy for 1990. Except in this story, Nancy gets the roaches. She goes after the guy, gets “chosen” in the swampy tropics, and gets the roaches. Barb…well, she still basically gets to go the Upside Down and she kinda gets the roaches too.

You just go ahead and try to give Pere the roaches. She’ll come out of the log tunnel and cut you. With her mind. Also maybe her very sharp incisors.

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