I picked this collection up after my revisitation to the Vampire Clan Novel Saga, because I was thoroughly impressed with Dansky’s excellent characters and action. Dansky pulls off the same trick that Stephen King does of making his characters fully inhabited and easy to settle into, and his plotting drags you along at a rollicking pace. Also, as an extra bonus, his story “Good Advice” was the second full length story to roll out on the PseudoPod feed.
This collection is thoroughly enjoyable and covers the territory from cryptozoology in “The Road Best Not Taken” to the unsettling dread wrought by an uncaring universe in “The Mad Eyes of the Heron King.” The latter story is ostensibly existential office dread and the dangers of not knowing your place. It is truly weird and unsettling. “And the Rain Fell through Her Fingers” is a Weird exploration of inertia and being trapped.
Many of the stories deal with the wretchedness of traveling for work, and how that unmoors you from reality and your life. When you are unmoored, you are susceptible to breaking. “Shadows in Green” drags us through the horrid teambuilding of a corporate retreat from hell. Two of the stories — “Connecting Door” and “Minus One” — deal with the powerlessness of hotel stays. “Connecting Door” in particular reveals the slow dissolution of one man who just needs to get rest before work away from home in the morning, and the paper-thin walls and rude neighbors slowly erode his humanity. This is also one of my absolute favorite episodes of PseudoPod (number 64 in the back catalog).
Suburban lawn culture is something that persistently bothers me. The number one crop in America is grass. We take a plant that isn’t native to the suburban environment and doesn’t want to grow in most of our climate zones, so we dump tons of fertilizer on it to compensate for these genetic shortfalls. Most of this fertilizer winds up in stormwater runoff, contributing to algal blooms. Then we dump a ton of chemicals on it to suppress “weeds” and bugs — most of which also winds up in stormwater runoff. And then we chain ourselves to offensively-loud, fume-spewing, inefficient gas-guzzlers every couple weeks to stave off a nasty note from the authoritarian arm of the homeowners association or the local code enforcement officer. “Unhaunted House” embodies the crushing societal pressure to maintain our property as if we’re landed British gentry. This is an antiquated tradition that needs to pass into the mist of time as a quaint anecdote.
This was assembled in 2013 by NECON e-books as part of their series for the Northeastern Writers’ Convention. This is a gem of a collection, and worth the effort of unearthing it for fans of short horror fiction. Pick up a copy of your very own at Crossroad Press.
The initial post: The Clan Novel Saga: A Revisitation
About the Author
Richard E. Dansky worked for four years as a game developer for White Wolf, Inc. where he worked as developer on games such as Wraith: The Oblivion and Vampire: The Dark Ages. He also worked on the Mind’s Eye Theatre, Kindred of the East, and Orpheus game lines. He has written, designed, or otherwise contributed to over a hundred role-playing sourcebooks. Dansky has published four media tie-in novels through White Wolf, including Clan Novel Lasombra and the Trilogy of the Second Age for Exalted.