An outstanding collection to showcase in this edition, and a privilege to curate it. Sad, nevertheless, to turn down submissions which at other times might have made the final cut.
If there’s an editorial principle guiding the choices, it’s probably the mixture of light and dark. Plus an inclination, perhaps, towards the Grand Guignol end of the taste spectrum. For me, an ideal collection would always have a fair amount of humour mixed in there, if available. Thankfully the laughs come in all measures – from the rumbustious extravaganza of Ray Prew’s The Old Stoner’s Boner to the sly delights of Maureen Bowden’s Amber Light.
The sting in the tail appeals, too. It’s in several choices, notably Nicholas Stillman’s The Room With a Hundred Lighters and Klinghofer’s Preview by Jeffery Scott Sims.
Above all, perhaps, each of the submissions, different as they are, demonstrate the importance of what publishing editors tend to call Tone.
As a coda to what was chosen, and why, here are some of my thumbnail notes on the works selected:
Amber Light – “A priapic alien turning up in Liverpool, together with some good jokes about the English view of the Welsh, and vice-versa, is played off against an underlying plaintive and serious theme.
Sorry, Sis – “A creepy cracker if ever there was one, with some great writing, searing truth, and insight into little-explored aspects of the duality of our motives and actions.”
The Room With a Hundred Lighters – “For me at least, a totally original idea, rendered with mounting tension, a distinct chill factor, and earthy humour.”
The Old Stoner’s Boner – “An almost irresistible title, joyously lived up to in the execution. Could be called ‘Things to do in Denver with the Dead.’ Darkly funny and off-beat.”
Pyrophilia – “The definitive piece of flash, a literally striking kind of prose poem – original and memorable.
Klinghofer’s Preview – “Hell in a movie theatre. Very much in the Stephen King mould, also reminds me a bit of the Japanese horror tale ‘Ring.’ The clincher is in the brilliant deployment of an unreliable narrator.”
Sparkles and Sunshine – “A take on the ‘Are they really alive or actually dead?’ theme, but an elegant and accomplished one, with vivid characters and smart back-story.”
The Red Maple – “A slow-burner of great power, developing profound reflections on mortality, and a moving lament for the unmarked passing of souls.”