Night Terrors Anthology edited by Karen Henderson – review by Greg Chapman

DISCLAIMER: Thirteen O’Clock is managed by Alan Baxter, Felicity Dowker and Andrew McKiernan as Contributing Editors. While the Contributing Editors’ roles at Thirteen O’Clock are editorial and critique, all three are primarily writers. It is inevitable that their own work will form part of the Australian and international dark fiction publications which are Thirteen O’Clock’s focus, and as such it is also inevitable that their work will be reviewed at Thirteen O’Clock (to prohibit this would not only be unfortunate for Baxter, Dowker, and McKiernan themselves, but for their hardworking editors and publishers).

Thirteen O’Clock will always have a third party contributor review the Contributing Editors’ work. Such reviews will be unedited (aside from standard corrections to typos and grammar), posted in full (be they negative or positive), and will always be accompanied by full disclosure of Baxter, Dowker, and McKiernan’s place at Thirteen O’Clock. At no point will Baxter, Dowker or McKiernan review their own work.

Night Terrors Anthology
Karen Henderson
Publisher: Kayelle Press
ISBN: 978-0-9808642-8-1 (pbk.) / 978-0-9808642-9-8 (eBook)
Published: 13th April, 2012
Pages: 256

If you’ve never read horror before and are looking for a good place to start, then Kayelle Press’ Night Terrors Anthology might be for you.

The 256-page anthology offers up 17 short tales of horror by authors from across the globe, including three classic stories.

As a whole the anthology delivers on its promise in providing some scares and suspense, but to me some of the tales were a little under-developed.

Perhaps there were a few too many vampire-related stories (three in all), but at least the vampires didn’t sparkle! JC Hemphill’s vamp story A World Not Our Own certainly delivered on mood and atmosphere. Hunting Shadows by Mike Brooks, had a Buffyesque quality to it, but the story’s hook – the introduction of the enigmatic aelfar – is over far too quickly. Maybe Brooks plans on returning to them in a longer format. The third vampire tale, Like Father, like Daughter, also had a lot of promise, but again was too short.

Don’t get me wrong there were a number of stand-out stories: Depths, by CJ Kemp was a very engaging tale about two boys who find an imaginary cave where they can stretch their imaginations. But this “Aladdin’s Cave of Wonders” becomes all the more menacing when one of the boy’s uses its power to rid himself of an abusive stepfather. Kemp gives the boys plenty of depth in the tale.

Hangman by Lisamarie Lamb was a delightfully disturbing twist on the Hangman game. This particular version of the game, however, is a favourite of a band of monsters who live in an attic of her new school. Things take a delicious turn when the little girl realises that if she spells out the name of one of her bullies, they meet a tragic end.

The only werewolf tale, Last Night in Biloxi, by Robert J Mendenhall, is a satisfying story of survival in the tradition of some of the old EC Comics: ignorant jerk intimidates poor old man, only to sufferer the severest of consequences; some of Mendenhall’s passages are truly blood-curdling.

Other stories worth noting were The Lucky Penny by Tim Jeffreys and Product 9 by Lindsey Goddard – the only tale with a sci-fi horror bent.

My pick of the bunch however (and this is solely based on the merit of the story) is the very last tale – Andrew J McKiernan’s White Lines, White Crosses. The story deals with the all-too-present horror of road deaths and the inevitable danger reckless youth can put themselves in behind the wheel.

McKiernan’s horror is more subtle and rooted in the psychological than its predecessors, focussing on the dire consequences of risk and how one tragedy can create an unstoppable domino effect. There is a supernatural element to the story, but if anything it takes a back seat, which IMHO was a good way to round off an anthology that maybe relied a little too much on common horror tropes.

- review by Greg Chapman

The Hunger Games movie – review and analysis by Halinka Orszulok

The Hunger GamesThe Hunger Games is based on the first of a trilogy of young adult novels written by Suzanne Collins and has some very devoted fans of all ages. As one would expect, opinions vary about whether the movie has done justice to the written work. It seems most fans of the books are pleased with the film, however some feel necessary detail was lost. Other readers felt those same details made the written work drag so the story was in fact told more effectively in the film. I have not read the novels so can only comment on my experience of the film and the story told in this context.

It begins by immersing us in the world of Katniss, who lives with her mother and younger sister Primrose in impoverished District 12. Here people exist hand to mouth and in constant fear of Peacekeepers who enforce the iron rule of the Capitol. This is a time far in the future where new and amazing technologies exist for those lucky enough to live in the Capitol, but life in the Districts is hard, basic and rudimentary. They slave sourcing raw materials, while barely able to feed their families. Katniss’ skill with a bow and arrow in the forbidden zone of the forest helps them get by, but such unlawful behaviour is carried out at great risk, like feudal England where serfs starved but hunting in the king’s forest was a crime met with serious consequences.

An even more chilling terror than that of the Peacekeepers is the fear of being chosen in the annual Reaping to take part in the Hunger Games. Every person of a District between the ages of 12 and 18 is put into a ballot selecting one male and one female ‘tribute’ to the mighty Capitol. The games are a reality TV sensation somewhere between ‘Survivor’ and the gladiatorial contests of ancient Rome, for the entertainment of the ruling class. There are 12 districts, so 24 competitors in all. It is almost certain death – to win you must survive while the other 23 tributes die. The sole survivor gains fame, fortune and public adoration, so there are volunteers from the Capitol who participate with an intense self-belief, fuelled by the many resources they have at their disposal to train into readiness and almost certain victory.

This film is largely a hypothetical exploration of class and society framed within the experience of young people being thrust into an unjust, terrifying world and having their moral mettle tested. For me, the first and most lasting impact of the film was the dread of being chosen; it forms the crux of many of the ideas underpinning the story. There is such an enormous tension built around the process of the reaping. You can imagine the potential tributes feverishly swinging between thinking ‘please don’t let it be me’ and ‘what if it is me?’ Then, the enormous guilt and relief when they’re not chosen or the numb horror of realising this terrible thing is in fact happening, the nightmare is real.

This plunges the story into two fundamental questions: what individual responsibility do members of a society have to each other and, as a maturing individual, how do you deal with the terror of facing a seemingly impossible battle on your own? What values must you stand by to remain true to your humanity and what do you take with you as comfort in times of terrible fear and darkness?

These questions are played out by contrasting the character of Katniss, and her District 12 co-tribute, Peeta, with the citizens of the Capitol. Katniss is quietly strong and resourceful because she has to be, unsentimental but deeply caring, and will help another even at great risk to herself. Her ethics are an instinct; she doesn’t have to stop to consider what is wrong or right, there is a sense that she knows this reflexively.

Most of the people of the Capitol seem extremely superficial, pampered and live totally without fear of hardship or even illness. They love the Games which are a time of great celebration and never really trouble themselves with thoughts of what the players are put through, let alone about the conditions they live in back in the Districts. It’s OK because it’s not happening to them, they are safe. For the ruling class, the Games function as a social control.

This contrast made me think about the discussions around public versus private education in our world and the slippery slope this represents. There is a parallel between the District kids versus the Capitol kids in the film and the public/private education debate. The District tributes hardly stand a chance against the Capitol Career tributes who have been coached their whole lives for winning. However, the District tributes’ enforced resourcefulness and real-life skills give them a chance of success. As epitomised by Katniss, they have to not allow themselves to mentally lose the battle first by giving up all hope; they have to believe enough in themselves to put up a good fight.

The film is a representation of class division to the extreme and again it hinges on this question of being chosen. The only real difference between the citizens of the Capitol and the Districts is where they were fortunate or unfortunate enough to be born. Fundamentally it’s about that age old saying of being able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes; is it still OK when it is happening to you? Or to your child? What about your neighbour or even someone from the same town? Where do you draw the line and separate your well-being from the well-being of others? In this sense the film is like a lesson for young people in ethics 101, but because it was so visually engaging and because there was enough food for thought, its appeal will stretch to a broad audience.

The film doesn’t pull any punches or soften the harsh horror of this future world. The violence is deftly handled with excellent camera work and direction. The camera angles and distance to the action are just right, giving you a very clear sensation of the brutality without being overwhelming. In some ways this suggestiveness makes more of an impact than excessive in-your-face violence. There are nice touches with quiet scenes that effectively build up tension – for example, Katniss waiting to go up into the playing field, her nerves so tangible, you feel that you are in that room waiting with her. The first scene of battle and its aftermath works very well and sets the tone for the action to come.

The camera largely sticks to Katniss as she navigates her way around the terrain, occasionally panning out, but mostly giving the sensation that you are right there beside her, or you are her – tearing through the forest, tumbling down a slope, turning a corner and abruptly colliding with another player knocking the wind out of you. It’s all skilfully done. Part of this is also achieved through the soundtrack. There is little if any music, rather you hear things like her breath or the crunching of the ground underfoot. This adds to the realness and presence of the characters.

I’m a great fan of Jennifer Lawrence, who plays Katniss. I loved her in Winter’s Bone where she played a character with many parallels to this one – the older sibling driven to care for her family and subsequently mature for her years. A lot of the message of this film rests on her portrayal. She will play the game because there is no other option, but she will not give up the core of herself or her values. I think this is a powerful premise to share with a YA audience – if you want to change things sometimes you have to learn the rules of the game first, even if they are blatantly unjust, but not lose yourself in the process. This lesson is driven home to Katniss by Peeta and is something they take to the very end of the Games. In this way at least she is sure to have a moral victory of sorts and we see that this is something to hang onto even when the outcome seems grim. Katniss instinctively knows that comfort in times of real darkness comes from the connections we have with each other.

If there is one criticism I have of the film it is that throughout there are hints of the broader political context outside the game and once the game is over, the ending seemed a little abrupt. There could have been a few minutes spent on tying in these threads to build the context for the next story and make this one a little more complete. However overall it was enjoyable, visually seamless and thought-provoking.


Bio: Halinka Orszulok is a Kung Fu fighter and painter from the Illawarra region of NSW, Australia. She has a Masters Degree in Visual Arts from SCA. You can see her work at


Ellen Datlow news

A few things related to Ellen Datlow’s work have been released in recent days:

The Best Horror of the Year volume four- Table of Contents:

  • The Little Green God of Agony Stephen King
  • Stay Leah Bobet
  • The Moraine Simon Bestwick
  • Blackwood’s Baby Laird Barron
  • Looker David Nickle
  • The Show Priya Sharma
  • Mulberry Boys Margo Lanagan
  • Roots and All Brian Hodge
  • Final Girl Theory A. C. Wise
  • Omphalos Livia Llewellyn
  • Dermot Simon Bestwick
  • Black Feathers Alison Littlewood
  • Final Verse Chet Williamson
  • In the Absence of Murdock Terry Lamsley
  • You Become the Neighborhood Glen Hirshberg
  • In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos John Langan
  • Little Pig Anna Taborska
  • The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine Peter Straub

The book is officially out May 1st but is already available for pre-order at the Night Shade website.

Ellen has also released the full list of Honorable Mentions for 2011, which includes 608 stories. That list can be found here:

And finally, Ellen has put the call out for submissions of published horror for Volume 5. Anything published in 2012 is eligible and she’s reading now. Details here:


Cemetery Dance #65 – Graham Masterton Special Issue – review by Greg Chapman

Cemetary Dance Publications

OK, full disclosure: I’m only new to reading Cemetery Dance Magazine, having started reading from issue #61, but from that very first issue I was hooked, eagerly awaiting its appearance in my mailbox every few months from the US.

As a reader and writer of horror I have found the magazine and its contents to be essential, with its fiction, non-fiction, reviews and opinion pieces always providing me with insight and inspiration.

Issue 65 is a massive issue, profiling the work of UK horror legend Graham Masterton and including two new stories by him. In total the issue contains 10 new short stories and four interviews and five other features and of course all the usual fare of reviews, news and publishing trends. The issue apparently experienced some delays in production and did take longer than expected to arrive, but it was still – and always will be – worth the wait.

The issue kicks off with the Masterton interview – a fascinating Q&A, which provides an insight into a truly captivating author. He talks candidly about his time as the author of several sex guides, but its Masterton’s comments on how he only recently came to admire his novel The Sleepless that I found the most interesting, because I (and many more of his fans) believe it’s one of the best books he’s ever written.

Masterton’s two new tales provide proof of his skill. Anka is a chilling tale of the real-life horror of child neglect, melding with the Baba Yaga myth. In his typical style, Masterton gives the characters plenty of heart and soul, only to terrify them with equal measures of ghastly imagery and little hope for a happy ending.

Saint Bronach’s Shrift however is reminiscent of a parable, with two brothers settling their differences in an apparent dream state. Masterton takes a little-known story about a saint and his medicinal brew and twists it to meet his own ends.

Matt Williams examines Masterton’s stories in great detail, analysing how the author balances myth and fact in his tales. He also puts forward that the author’s strongest skill lies in his ability to create wholly believable characters. I think CD’s review of Masterton’s vampire novel Descendant, actually proves it’s the author’s ability to reinvent old ideas that is his greatest prowess, but maybe that’s just me.

CD moves away from Masterton briefly to offer us an interview with Michael Koryta – a rising star in mystery fiction. The interview is far too short, but the excerpt from one of his novels, The Cypress House, and his tie-in short story more than makes up for it. The tale, Winter Takes All, gives the reader the opportunity to learn more about the tragic past of The Cypress House’s main character, a seemingly reluctant psychic. I’m now very curious about Koryta’s work.

There’s an interesting interview with Maurice Broaddus – the “Sinister Minister”, but it contains many references to what he’s going to be up to in 2010? All the same, Broaddus’ life outside of his writing, makes for interesting reading.

His story for the issue, Rainfall, is a neo-noir tale that paints a gritty picture of a PI in search of his sister’s killer. When the PI meets a man who offers him the chance to “go back”, there are, of course, dire consequences awaiting him on the other side.

My favourite tale in the issue however is Glen Hirshberg’s After-Words, a mesmerising tale of a world where books are forbidden and how a small band of anarchists seek to restore them to their former glory through evil means. Authors and readers alike will relate to the drug-like effect books can have and Hirshberg explores that well in his story.

J.A. Konrath also has a story, Dear Diary. What starts out as little more than the diary entries of a naive, lovelorn teenage girl, takes a satisfyingly dark turn in the final moments.

The most interesting opinion piece in the issue is Peter Straub’s What About Genre, What About Horror? Straub exposes some hard truths about genre fiction and clarifies a few misnomers about people’s opinion of horror fiction. Straub highlights the work of Michael Connelly in his piece as an author who remains “honest” to his work, but in his enthusiasm (which is most welcome) he inadvertently flits between referring to him as “Connelly” and “Connolly”. We’ll forgive him that though.

The brief Ray Bradbury interview focuses, unfortunately, on his aversion to e-books and technology as a whole. I would have preferred to know what writing he was up to, if any, or what appearances he has been doing, anything other than going over the same old e-book debate.

Another great column to read was Mark Seiber’s reminiscence on the value of libraries to authors as well as readers and how they hold a wealth of great classic fiction – never a truer word spoken Mark. Robert Morrish’s Publishing Spotlight column, among other things, provides an in-depth interview with Bad Moon Books’ owner Roy Robbins. Robbins’ years of experience as a bookseller and calculated publishing choices have helped him gain much success and respect and should serve as a template to emerging small presses. Amongst Morrish’s book picks, he gives out some quite a bit of praise to Aussie author Terry Dowling, particularly highlighting his collection Amberjack.

Another Aussie to be praised is Steve Gerlach. Reviewer T.T Zuma says Gerlach’s novella Within His Reach, could “easily have been the basis for a Twilight Zone script”.

Lisa Tuttle’s story Manskin, Womanskin offers a unique take on human coupling and actually points out the importance of love in a relationship, by putting sex in a supernatural context.

The second to last interview features anthology queen Ellen Datlow; the most fascinating aspect being that despite not having “any interest” in writing fiction, she is still the finest gatherer of horror fiction in the industry – and she despises paranormal romance!

David Bell’s tale, The Book of the Dead is a marvellous blend of morbid curiosity and confronting grief; when a young woman who loses her husband on the same day of John Lennon’s assassination. The prose has a quiet resonance that stays with you well after you’ve read the final words.

Whitley Strieber’s interview reveals a very frank and honest author; frustratingly his answers are all too brief.

In the final story, The Town Suicide, S. Craig Renfroe gives the reader a depressing repertoire of inexplicable suicides in a small town and there’s not a sliver of hope to be seen anywhere, not even after the main protagonist manages to stop his girlfriend from taking her life.

All in all a very enjoyable issue; Cemetery Dance continues to deliver the goods with fresh, memorable horror fiction and with issue #66 (supposedly shipping as of this writing) promising new fiction from the likes of the aforementioned Dowling, Steve Rasnic Tem and Jeremy C. Shipp, my mailman had better watch his back!

Review by Greg Chapman

The Sixsmiths by J Marc Schmidt and Jason Franks – review

The SixsmithsThe Sixsmiths is a graphic novel (born of a webcomic) written by Jason Franks and illustrated by J Marc Schmidt. It’s the story of an everyday surburban family, the titular Sixsmiths, who live in Albert Hills, Victoria. A pleasant couple with two kids (Cain and Lilith) and a dog (Furfur), they’re about as normal as a family gets. Which is the key point of this story, as they’re committed Satanists.

The story is told is several short chapters, starting with Ralf Sixsmith losing his job due to global financial pressures. He’s glum and the family talk about how they’ll need to seriously tighten their belts. But not to worry, says Annie: “The Dark Lord will provide.”

“We’ll have to make sacrifices, obviously,” says Ralf.

“I think a lamb and a goat for the equinox,” Annie replies.

There you have the measure of this story. It’s a light comedy drama, until you realise it’s telling the story of religious Satanists as casually as it would tell the story of Catholics. And that’s the point. Essentially, The Sixsmiths is exploring life for people of any faith and the problems they can face. The family are often either villified or admired for the strength of their religion. They all, even the kids, have dozens of Satanic tattoos, causing a stir in school change rooms. We learn of a third, oldest child, who is estranged from her family as she no longer shares their faith.

Ralf struggles to find employment while the kids struggle with life in the public school system now the family can no longer afford to send them to private school.

The artwork is spare and simple, but consistent and effective. Once you get used to the style of art and storytelling, the two fit together very well. There are poignant moments and a good dose of comedy. It’s all very entertaining stuff. There’s nothing ground-breaking or earth-shattering here, and I can’t help wondering how it might have been if the story was told from a much darker angle. But that’s the point really – it’s normal suburbia with Satanists who sacrifice “babies” made of cake at their rituals and try to live true to their faith against the odds. I enjoyed it.

My only real complaint is that the book ended right on a midway point with no indication that there was going to be any more. No Volume 1 on the cover or To Be Continued at the end. It just stops, on a fairly serious and depressing note. Maybe the intention was to indicate a “struggles go on” idea that doesn’t need to be told, but it took me by surprise and disappointed me. I’d have liked some closure, even if there was more story to be told. Everything set up through the story gets addressed or resolved up to a point, then it all just stops. Which was a bit weird.

On checking via the website, I noticed this mention:

Well, it’s official. Franks has started writing the script for Vol.02.

At this point that’s all the information we have, but Franks is extremely excited to have this opportunity to tell the rest of the story.

I also discovered from the website that:

The Sixsmiths webcomic is published weekly at, to be followed by a graphic novel later in the year [presumably this book I’m reviewing]. The webcomic features short stories about the situations and characters portrayed in book, which is constituted of longer story arcs. Some of the webstrips will appear in the graphic novel.

Well, that’s good then. Some indication of all that in the book would have been good.

The Sixsmiths is published by SLG Publishing (


Perdido Street Station by China Mieville – review by Andrew Kliem

Review by Andrew Kliem

PerdidoAnyone who reads fantasy for any length of time eventually reaches that point where they long for something fresh. It’s not that the old tropes can’t still be exciting, but at some point the familiarity begins to grate. Many authors do their best to dress things up, they give you Elves under a different name or hideous beasts that only slightly resemble Orcs, but few authors exhibit the total disregard for convention that China Mieville does in his second novel Perdido Street Station.

When the opening chapter catalogues the morning coupling of an overweight scientist and his half human, half insect lover, you know straight away this is no ordinary sword and sorcery caper. Indeed, the further you make it into the book the more bizarre things become. Along the way you’ll encounter giant cactus men, an inter-dimensional spider with a penchant for scissors, parasitic hands that possess other creatures, and the devil himself, and that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.

The city of New Crobuzon is a testament to the power of human imagination. Part steam punk, part H.R. Geiger, it’s a sprawling mass of lurid characters and decaying buildings, all living in the shadow of the ribcage of some gargantuan long dead creature. Mieville has well and truly tapped into his dark side here.

New Crobuzon is perhaps the book’s most important character. Whether you’re exploring the swollen concrete mass of the titular Perdido Street Station or the sweltering glass dome of the cactus district, it feels like the city itself is taking you for a ride. Rarely has world building been so imaginative and powerful.

The story begins innocuously with the aforementioned scientist, Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, on a quest to restore flight to Yagharek, a broken half man half bird creature — but things quickly spiral out of control. The twists and turns of the plot are one of Perdido Street Station’s greatest joys so I won’t go into much detail, but suffice it to say that the story takes a dramatic shift about a third of the way through and introduces some of the most terrifying enemies I have ever encountered in a book.

Everything about Perdido Street Station is unashamedly bleak. Mieville doesn’t shy away from exploring the darker side of human nature. None of the characters are without sin, and they’re all forced to confront their mistakes head on. At it’s core it’s a story of redemption, but even when the characters are making progress you can’t help but feel a little wary. New Crobuzon never feels like a place where anyone gets a happy ending.

If there’s a criticism to be levelled at Perdido Street Station, it’s to do with the writing. Don’t get me wrong, Mieville is a prodigious talent; his sprawling baroque prose is a thing to behold. Few fantasy writers can conjure such visceral imagery. But there are times that it comes across as gratuitous and perhaps a little self indulgent. I spent much of the book simply immersed in the beauty of the language, but I did occasionally find myself thumbing ahead to try and regain some momentum.

For people that cringe at every unnecessary simile then this might be a deal breaker, but if you’re willing to just sit back and let Mieville paint you a picture, then Perdido Street Station is well worth your time. It’s dark, challenging and wonderfully imaginative, and if it doesn’t make you shiver just a little bit I’ll be very surprised.

Andrew Kliem is a journalist and freelance writer with a penchant for all things dark and speculative. When he’s not trying to carve the perfect sentence, he’s playing poker and consuming more coffee than a man should. He can be found lurking at his website, where he posts a variety of rambles, reviews and miscellaneous thoughts.