Book Review: Unnerving Magazine, Issue 6

“The idea that Generous manages to create a publication of such quality and packed with so much content single-handedly, is truly amazing and inspiring.”

 

With publisher Eddie Generous at the helm, as well as every oar (this truly is a one-man operation), Unnerving has taken the independent horror publishing world by storm. While publishing novelettes and chapbooks featuring the work of Stephen Graham Jones, Philip Fracassi, Gemma Files, Gwendolyn Kiste, Tom Deady and many more, and creating all of the artwork for his publications, and producing an interview podcast, Unnerving began as a quarterly magazine. Previous issues have featured a mix of known and up-and-coming authors, including John F.D. Taff, Paul Michael Anderson, Betty Rocksteady, Somer Canon and many more. In the latest issue, there are six short stories and five non-fiction articles.

The first story, ‘Birthday Boy’ by Amy Lukavics, begins with a very familiar set-up; a stressed-out mother and father taking a temperamental and spoiled son to a theme park as a birthday treat. Ava and Dean appear to be holding it together, if only just, while Max makes his demands. This is a scenario many of us have seen before, maybe even experienced it personally in our own lives. But this story has a deliciously dark sting in its tail. Lukavics does a wonderful job of creating two leads in Ava and Dean who we sympathise with a great deal, while keeping the sinister secret just beneath our radar until the final, devastating reveal.

In Brandon Nolta’s ‘The Needle and The Panic Done’, a doctor must come to terms with the death of his daughter, a drug addict who tried sobriety, and failed. But this doctor is no family GP. Grief can drive ordinary people to do strange and terrible things, and Dr. Tiamat is no ordinary man. As the doctor stalks former friends and dealers of his daughter, Nolta intersperses the narrative with brief descriptions of a virus, almost sentient, invading a host body and mutating its blood cells. He handles the horror of the virus and the devastating effect of grief equally well in such a short but effective story.

In ‘Bloodletting’ by Melanie Rees, the unnamed protagonist awakes in a hospital bed after an accident, the details of which are still blurry to her. But she soon learns that she is not alone. The details of the accident that brought her to hospital are slowly teased throughout the story, while the visitor builds the dread and fear for the protagonist. The moment of realisation at the end of the story is gut-wrenching. A short story that packs a punch.

‘My Mother Digs for Worms’ by Charlotte Huggins is as weird as the title suggests. One day an ordinary mother comes home from work and begins digging in the garden, filling bucket after bucket with earth and worms. While the narrator and her siblings and father shrug it off at first, this prolonged strangeness soon leads them to worry for her sanity. What seems like a very moving depiction of a child’s worry for the deterioration of a parent’s mental faculties soon takes a very strange and unsettling turn with the story’s finale.

‘The Hauntings and The Moments’ by Amanda C. Davis has a very unique and effective structure. It is made up of different narratives which all seem to be connected by one simple idea; each of the narrators seems to be in the same home, at different times, and each seem to be haunted by a presence within the home. But the presence differs with each of the inhabitants. We get a snapshot of each of the characters dealing with the presence, before the central conflict is revealed and, through excellent storytelling by Davis, each of the narrators plays their own part in the resolution. It is a story that, for authors especially, demands multiple readings, just to understand the complexity of the structure and how Davis did such a wonderful job with it.

The final story, ‘Ready for Zombies’ by A.M. Call, is a fun flash fiction piece about everyone’s favourite brain-eating monster. It concerns two ‘preppers’, Tom and Mike, holed up in their well-stocked bunker. But they are developing symptoms. It is just one scene, but it is written very well and the dialogue between the two characters rings true.

The issue is packed with some great and varied non-fiction content as well. There is a Q&A with Robin Triggs, a lesser-known author who has just sold his first book to Flame Tree Publshing. There is also a Q&A with one of the brightest stars of the horror genre today, Josh Malerman. Eddie also conducts an interview with Jo Fletcher of Jo Fletcher Books, an imprint of Quercus Publishing. JF Books have published work by Angela Slatter and Alison Littlewood as well as many others. Generous also shines his Publisher Spotlight on Sinister Grin Press, a stalwart in the horror community and publisher of many great and award-winning titles. And, with ‘The One Who Survives: The Final Girls of Film and Fiction’, author Gwendolyn Kiste offers an in-depth examination of one of the most enduring and loved tropes of the genre, as well as an extensive list of further reading for those wanting to delve further.

The amount of work that goes into producing an issue of Unnerving must be staggering. Reading submissions, assembling a good mix of fiction and interesting articles, creating the wonderful and unique artwork. The idea that Generous manages to create a publication of such quality and packed with so much content single-handedly, is truly amazing and inspiring. This is just the latest in a series of successes for Eddie Generous, and we hope for the sake of horror fans everywhere, there is more to come.

THOMAS JOYCE

Publisher: Unnerving
Paperback: 64 (pps)
Release Date: 28 April 2018

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