Book Review: Calls for Submission by Selena Chambers

“Chambers uses the power and versatility of short fiction to full effect, combining acute literary sensibilities with a mastery of weird fiction techniques, surrealism, and raw, heartbreaking horror.”

In her debut collection, Selena Chambers uses the power and versatility of short fiction to full effect, combining acute literary sensibilities with a mastery of weird fiction techniques, surrealism, and raw, heartbreaking horror. She’s a chameleon of a writer, slipping into new identities and genres effortlessly, seducing readers with enchanting and altogether high-end prose, and marking her place among the rising and unforgettable voices blossoming in the Weird today.

Chambers writes with passion and glorious language. Readers will be swept up and carried through as each tale unfolds. If there’s a fault in the collection it’s that some of the stories are unapologetically themselves, without excuse or explanation. Luckily, Calls for Submission includes an Author’s Notes section at the back that will be invaluable to readers seeking insight into these incredible stories.

In ‘Of Parallel and Parcel’, a letter arrives just a bit too late to change the course of an author’s life and history. It’s a sharp story, and beautifully written like everything Chambers offers in this collection, with a barbed hook at the end of it. ‘The Sehraztin Diyoramasi Tour’ is a Turkish steampunk story full of evocative imagery and betrayal. A strong piece and utterly unique. ‘Dr. Lambshead’s Dark Room,’ is gothic surreal horror done perfectly. Short, powerful, and intense. Chambers writes parables of heartbreak well, and ‘Descartar’ is a fine example. Remedios seeks help from the local bruja after her lover runs off. A very fine story.

In ‘Vintage Scenes #1’, Chambers brings us a quiet character study of wine and memory. ‘Dive in Me’ (with Jesse Bullington) is fully horror story of three troublemaker teenage girls and their daring, self-destructive behavior near suburban Florida sinkholes. A creepy, satisfying story.

‘Collaborative Disambiguation’ (with Virginia M. Mohlere) is a literary tennis match of ideas, bouncing between collaborators as they play in the world of Don Quixote. Not horror, but definitely weird.

‘The United States of Kubla Khan’ is one of the more outwardly surreal stories in the collection. Vividly imaginative and laced with the helplessness so many Americans seem to face when confronted with modern journalism. ‘Vintage Scene #2’ is a short, evocative study of wine and mindfulness. ‘The Last Session’ is an incredible novella of heartbreak and a coming-of-age story. This might be one of the most accessible stories in the collection, and is one of the most horrific. A tremendous piece.

In 1431, the unstoppable Maiden battles British armies in ‘The Good Shepherdess.’ Joan of Arc meets the Great Old Ones, written so beautifully that the horror elements are elevated to magic. A secret history is shared in ‘Remnants of Lost Empires.’ A travelogue of strangeness, and a compelling read.

In ‘The Venus of Great Neck,’ Hollis and Eva Ellis have been out of the Gatsby-esque party scene for a dozen years, but they’re inviting back all of their old friends for an evening none of them, especially their friend Moss, will ever forget. Great story.

There’s something voyeuristic about ‘Vintage Scenes #3’, and this story is told as a list of moments that are strange, unsettling, and tinged with loss.

Helen Heck, a contemporary of William S. Burroughs and Sylvia Plath, shares thoughts of suicide mashed-up with the classic Weird Fiction horrors of Robert W. Chambers’s Carcosa from The King in Yellow in ‘The Neurastheniac.’ A grand-finale to the collection, filled with gorgeous poetry, this story showcases Selena Chambers as that previously-mentioned writer-chameleon to full effect. A reader gets lost in the language, in the voice, and is carried away somewhere else. This story got Selena Chambers a well-deserved nomination for the World Fantasy Award.

This is a powerful collection, and worth the attention it deserves. To steal a line from Molly Tanzer’s Introduction, “Selena takes things seriously.” The least a reader can do is to come to the stories with an expectation to do the same, and for that they’ll be greatly rewarded.

JAKE MARLEY

Publisher: Pelekinesis
Paperback: 290pp
Release Date: 15 May 2017

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