Short Reviews – April to June, 2024

Andrew Leon Hudson

Story image for Short Reviews – April to June, 2024 by

I ’ve had good and bad experiences with horror fiction, I’m sure we all have, it’s practically the defining condition of the whole species. My penultimate one, that was atrocious in the worst way: I won’t speak ill of the undead, so don’t ask for the novel’s title or author, but despite being “properly” published during the probable heyday of its sordid little subgenre it managed to be poorly written beyond the dreams of the most ten-thumbed of mouth-breathers, and pointlessly nasty with it. I do love some gore, but I guess splatterpunk ain’t for me.

Then someone recommended to me Alabama Circus Punk by Thomas Ha, and my faith in humanity was restored.

It starts out as an almost literal kitchen sink drama, quite brilliantly written from the perspective of, we gradually come to realise, something certainly not human but which imitates human behaviour, perhaps in order to convince the example of the real thing that has entered its abode; and yet the real thing in question not only knows what this other thing is doing, he doesn’t seem to mind at all. To call the story “horror” is almost limiting, there is science fiction and crime in here as well as a kind of family drama, a study of liminal psychology, all in smooth cohabitation. It was unsettling, and I liked it very much.

It appears in ergot., “a literary website interested in furthering the innovative and experimental tradition in horror”, and so I guess I know where to run the next time the misguided urge to read downright horrific trash overcomes me.

Orbit-sml ><

P oetry gets short shrift around here, really. Under what can hardly still be called the “new” management four years in, there’s been exactly… one instance of it, and that was a reprint (though written by the man of the hour, as it happens!). Maybe it stems from a ruinous flaw in an otherwise perfectly cut education, but while I might like individual poems, poetry as a whole is an art form I feel underprepared to evaluate.

But that’s just excuse making, probably, since being a publishing editor should always be far more about knowing what you like than liking what you know. And I liked Lindsay King-Miller’s Apologia, on Forked Tongue, which with a confidence born of ignorance I’m going to claim is a piece of free-form narrative fantasy poetry, and then grudgingly admit means that I noticed it A) doesn’t rhyme and B) looks like someone chopped up a handful of regular paragraphs and arranged them via fridge magnets.

Yes, I’m a philistine. But a philistine with his forked tongue firmly in cheek.

In fact, as is always the case when this mode of presentation speaks to me, what I appreciated was how the breaking down of the overall story so often bestowed on these separated lines their own discrete power, highlighting their accumulation in a way prose in conventional paragraphs generally does not. To say nothing, in this case, about the story also being told. It appears in Orion’s Belt, which among other things claims to specialise in “the strange and poignant”, and in Apologia, on Forked Tongue I would say they have achieved this admirably.

Orbit-sml ><

B reaking the alliterative trend, the title of my final recommendation doesn’t begin with the letter A, which irritates my latent OCD but what can you do, life is what it is. It appears courtesy of, “a quarterly ezine by a community of writers, poets and artists”, which has racked up an impressive 67 issues since it launched back in 2007.

Chevalier by David A. Gray is an epistolary story that immediately invites the even moderately well-informed reader to say “Hey, that doesn’t make sense!” shortly before it acknowledges the point you’re making but which it is not. Set in a future where humanity is threatened by an alien civilisation, the story is conveyed through messages sent between a mother and daughter after the former is found genetically suitable for integration into a vast weaponised space vessel, drafted by a desperate world government/military industrial complex, and dispatched to fight on the frontlines countless light years from earth… after a hibernation journey that will last much longer than a normal human life span.

Begs the question, doesn’t it, how does an impossibly distant parent exchange messages with a child who surely died of old age before they woke up? As the story swiftly admits, well, they can’t. But sometimes we talk to the people we love even when we know they can’t hear us, for all sorts of reasons, and it’s the way that a science fiction treatment allows Gray to play with this truth that gives the story a resonance that only speculative genres can achieve.


Thanks for reading - but we’d love feedback! Let us know what you think of any of these pieces on Facebook.

Andrew Leon Hudson

Author image of Andrew Leon Hudson Andrew is a technical writer by day, and is technically a writer by night as well. In addition to editing Mythaxis he has been published in a small handful of quality zines, and co-authored a serialised alternate history adventure novel. He lives in Barcelona, Spain, and doesn’t do things online often enough to count.

© Andrew Leon Hudson 2024 All Rights Reserved

The image is by grandfailure via

Mythaxis is forever free to read, but if you'd like to support us you can do so here (but only if you really want to!)