Science Fiction Though the Decades

Saturday, July 12, 2014

1985: Whispers V (Schiff, Stuart David)

Personal histories pulse with creeping inertia (4/5)

The Whispers anthology series was recommended to me some time back as being one of the best horror anthologies. I had known that some of the horror in Whispers V was infused with fantasy, but my fingers were cross that the horror would outshine any bit errant fantasy (because, as you know, I have a low toleration for fantasy).

Psychological and body horror impress me much more than supernatural, demonic haunting horror. Save for one or two stories, none of them reek of the stereotypical horror that keeps me from reading some of the “favorite” books in the genre. So, my hats goes off to the editor, Stuart David Schiff, for providing what he calls in his preface as “something a little bit different”—the “out-of-common story, the beyond-the pale work, the unusual twist”. Indeed, Mr. Schiff; good show!

The star in this anthology is easy to pick out. My favorite story is also the shortest: Wade Kenny’s 3-page shortstory “A Country Home” (1985). It’s brevity is key to its punch and, boy, what a punch! My jaw slackened and I whispered a few expletives… it was that good. I had never heard of Wade Kenny before, which is no surprise because I only know three of the authors: Connie Willis, F. Paul Wilson, and Jerry Sohl. Sadly, Wade Kenny only wrote one additional short story, “A Telephone Booth” (1982), for another one of Schiff’s anthologies: Death (1982). That’s going on my to-buy list!


Willis, Connie: Substitution Trick (1985, shortstory) – 4/5
Houdini had mystified and fooled many with his attempts at escapism, but his wizened mind grew skeptical because of his entertaining deceit. Prior to his mother’s death, they shared moments unknowable to others; these memories Houdini has been unable to experience through mediums—thus his calling them fakes. After Houdini’s own death, he meets his mother who comforts him in the seasickness of the afterlife and helps him to contact his wife Bess through a medium. 9 pages

Drake, David: Dreams in Amber (1985, shortstory) – 4/5
A bead of amber drapes the neck of Saturnus, sending mental images and thoughts to the man so that he can fulfill a task for its occupant. Saturnus finds the Respectable Allectus, Chief of Imperial Accounts, for the mission of infiltrating the castle, gain entry to the strongroom, and confront the force there and its implications for not only the Roman Empire, but also the world. 13 pages

Cave, Hugh H.: Footprints in Perdu (1985, shortstory) – 5/5
An American nurse and doctor couple in Haiti catch wind of a girl in the hills who’s ostracized by the village for being a werewolf. The local lore makes no impression on them, so they continue to the squalid village of Perdu. Meat, and food in general, is difficult to come by so the locals smoke a weed that suppresses their appetite. The couple meet an influential man who is gracious enough to feed them meat and give directions to find the baby-eating werewolf. 11 pages

Wilson, Paul F.: The Last “One Mo’ Once Golden Oldies Revival” (1985, shortstory) – 4/5
Philip Goodloe has kicked the bucket. He used to rock, used to produce hit after hit, used to collaborate with Lenny Winter for his fame and fortune. Philip, birth name of Flip, can only blame himself for his downfall: young women and smack. When Lenny hears of Flip’s death, the radio begins to play a string of hits which he had helped support when he was an opportunistic DJ. Soon, the coincidences are too much. 14 pages

Kenny, Wade: A Country Home (1985, shortstory) – 5/5
With bucolic bliss comes responsibility; the toil of continual daily chores and the need to do one’s own dirty, yet necessary, work. The Casselman family—a husband and wife with their baby daughter Katie—live in such simplicity. Doug’s duty was to drown the kittens while his wife was out. He dug the hole, retrieved the sack his wife had seemingly filled, then drowned and buried its contents. His wife returns, looking for Katie. 3 pages

Nolan, William F.: Of Time and Kathy Benedict (1984, novelette) – 3/5
For the 80th anniversary of the Ford Motor Company, research specialist Kathy has the assignment of researching automobiles from 1902, specifically the “999” racing machine of lore. Relaxing out in a lake alone, a freak storm and wave capsize her boat. When she awakens, she realizes that it’s the year 1902 and the her hero is one of the men responsible for the famous “999”. Love blossoms, the car races, and a lake date looms. 22 pages

Etchison, Dennis: Deadspace (1985, novelette) – 3/5
The Holmly Hotel is Beverly Hills is like a closed universe where the same people perform the same actions, only Wintner is a stalker among the sheep. Wintner, a producer, aims to meet an actor named Joe Gillis so that he can cast him in a lead role, but Gillis never picks up the phone. As a hidden pool, Wintner has passing conversations with a sunbathing beauty and the hulking figure of a woman in a tent. News breaks his reverie; his universe shrinks. 22 pages

Sohl, Jerry: Cabin Number Six (1985, shortstory) – 2/5
A clairvoyant elderly lady and her son Henry own a rundown motel just off the new interstate. As she predicts, a couple arrive at the motel with a booking from Dr. Woodford, a marriage counselor. The exuberant rate of $50 for the room and $5 for ice makes George, the husband, sour with frustration while his troubled wife Joan antagonizes his foul mood. From outside, a sinister duo peer through the window; from within, the demons attack and claw the couple. 12 pages

Tem, Steve Rasnic: Father’s Day (1985, shortstory) – 4/5
Will didn’t have the most ideal childhood. His father was—still is—an alcoholic and starved Will of affection while his mother stood by her man. How with his own son, Will hasn’t visited his parents for seven years and his own wife insists they visit the lonely couple. Will realizes his authoritative relationship with his son is too tense, but the victimized child in himself is also the vindictive predator. 10 pages

Ryan, Alan: The East Beaverton Monster (1985, shortstory) – 4/5
The quiet town of East Beaverton is a sleepy town where the men work 9 to 5 in the city and where the housewives are bored alone at home… unless the exotic telephone repairman visits. When Dr. Lavalette opens a new women’s weight clinic in town, Beatrice and Candace are ager to shift their village gossip to the unexpected. They get wondrous results from the weight treatment but ignore the follow-up warning as they continue to watch their weight. 16 pages

Tinker, Libby: The Horse (1985, shortstory) – 3/5
Life is breathed into a newborn foal while its mother passes away amid its bloody birth. Struggling to stand on its own four legs, a woman comes to act as a wet nurse to the young colt, offering it sweetened fingers to suck on. Though born fingered and clawed, the woman applies her maternal instinct however, on its fourth day alive, the dreaded dusk approaches. 6 pages

Farber, Sharon N.: Return of the Dust Vampires (1985, shortstory) – 3/5
Dr. Insomnia  treat a B-grade film star of yesteryear—Rich Dutcher. Though he’s not proud of the work he had done, he memories are still alive in the doctor, one of his fans from the “Time Seekers” series. With Rich dying of metastasizing cancer, Dr. Insomnia tries to treat his mind with positive resonance so that he can fight the death with will. As the same time, the doctor, herself, comes down with illness. 12 pages

Morrell, David: For These and All My Sins (1984, shortstory) – 4/5
Driving eastward home through Nebraska, a man becomes stranded outside a small town just off the interstate. There to find a mechanic, he witnesses the grotesque ugliness of all the town’s people. Having to resort to asking for a beer and chips at the town’s only diner, the closed diner’s waitress takes him home, where she feeds him in the dark the best meal of his life. She also tells him of the town’s ugly history and of his ugly meal. 13 pages

Wagner, Karl Edward: Beyond Any Measure (1982, novella) – 3/5
Though much of Lisette’s family’s history is placed in London, she was born in America to her American parents. Now studying art in London, since her arrival, she has been experiencing a recurring dream involving a mirror, an antique watch, and blood. Her roommate suggests Dr. Magners, a fringe-science psychotherapist interested in hypnotizing her for free. After each session, memories of her past life effervesce and her own life is changed in undetectable ways. 45 pages

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