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Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror (2007 Edition) / Edited by Angela Challis

thadfh2007.jpgBrimstone Press / December 2007
Reviewed by: Martel Sardina

Attention chain bookstore purchasing agents and librarians –there is more to the horror genre than best sellers like Barker, Koontz and King. (Nothing against the aforementioned authors - after all, without them the genre would go almost completely unrecognized.) However, if the people responsible for bringing fine horror fiction to the masses don’t know where to look beyond the heavy hitters, Editor Angela Challis has given them a fine place to start.

The 2007 edition of Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror is a reprint anthology featuring eighteen of the best stories the land down under has to offer. The anthology’s introduction summarizes publishing activity in Australian markets in 2006. The first story, “Cheat Light” by Terry Dowling begins when a man seeks the help of a lighting expert to determine how the images on a roll of film found in a secondhand camera were captured. The lighting expert is intrigued by the photos and joins the man in his quest. Further research leads to the opportunity to try and recreate the effect captured on film and the discovery of a forgotten evil.

Steven Cavanagh paints a heart-breaking portrait of a father’s loss in “Finding the Words.”

Robert Hood’s opening line to “In the Service of the Flesh” immediately captures the reader’s attention, setting the stage for a humorous journey as seen through the eyes of a zombie evangelist.

Three stories stand out as this reviewer’s favorites. “Surrender 1: Rope Artist” by Deborah Biancotti explores the darker side of BDSM and rope bondage. Kirstyn McDermott proves that revenge is a dish best served “Cold.” “The Red Priest Vigil” is the second story in Dirk Flinthart’s “Red Priest” series and chronicles the adventures of Tomasso Dellaforte during the Holy Inquisition. It is the follow up to “The Red Priest’s Homecoming” which was featured in ADFH’s 2006 Edition.

Those who like gangsters should find an enjoyable read in David Witteveen’s “Ache.” Who knew there was a way to give the American gangster a Lovecraftian spin?

The only story suffering from a technical glitch is “Hieronymus Boche” by Chris Lawson. This tale is rendered in the format of a soldier’s letter to his parents back home, but the problem lies in how the story was recorded. The author tells the reader at the outset that paper is scarce and that the soldier is writing in the margins of a prayer book. While the story itself is compelling, the mode of transmission seems unlikely given the setup.

The anthology closes with “Father Father,” a story that is bound to draw strong love/hate reactions. Paul Haines’s character Michael and his wife, Elise, want to become parents. The reader meets Michael on the day that he is to provide a specimen to be used in a fertility treatment. In order to provide the highest quality specimen, Michael must abstain from sex for several days - a process that is taking its toll on his sanity. Abstaining makes him cranky and brings thoughts that he could otherwise control to the forefront of his mind. The reader gets to know Michael, perhaps in ways that they might wish that they hadn’t especially by story’s end.

Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror’s 2007 Edition is a must-read anthology for horror writers and fans alike. The editorial commentary on Australian fiction markets at the beginning and the links section at the end provides valuable information for writers. The stories - while being purely enjoyable on a reader level - also provide writers with valuable insights on how to craft tales that can and should be remembered well into the future. And for those who have never gone beyond the name authors in this genre, now is the time to spread your wings.

Purchase Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror (2007 Edition) edited by Angela Challis.

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