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Sunday, June 30, 2024

Review: Stone Gods by Adam Golaski.

Adam Golaski may be the most underappreciated writer working in the horror genre. His first horror collection, Worse Than Myself, kind of flew under the radar when it was first released. But since then it has been slowly getting revived by writers and critics who now realize what an absolute masterpiece Worse Than Myself was. A true cult phenomenon, Worse Than Myself was the collection that other horror writers would name as one of the greats. Now I feel that it is commonly recognized as deserving to stand with such works as Campbell’s Dark Companions and Ligotti’s Grimscribe as a modern-day classic. 

Now, with much anticipation, Golaski has come with a new horror collection. Stone Gods. Does it live up to his first collection? And after having read it I would answer with a definite yes. Golaski is a writer who is hard to pin down. He goes from surrealist horror to abstract pieces to takes on classic horror tropes. He resists classification and follows his own obsessions. A lot of his work has a kind of labyrinthine logic, scenes straight out of a dream, and plots dovetailing in on themselves. 

I would like to focus here on my favorite stories from Stone Gods, and one of my favorite stories of all time. “Hushed Will Be All Murmurs”. In this tale, two men are seemingly trying to get to the sea and avoid some kind of calamity. A strange fog envelops everything, and hints are made that it has spread everywhere. Then the tale goes to the memories of a man who failed a girl who tried to seduce him. A personal trauma of regret. Then the man finds what he thinks is a stone, covered in seaweed on the beach shore. He gets closer and realizes it is a decapitated head. The head of the girl who he failed to get in fact. It beckons him closer. Has him touch her lips. Then the story freefalls into delirium and circles back around to the beginning of the tale.

Hushed Will Be All Murmurs combines personal trauma, subconscious imagery, hints of apocalypse, the haunting sublime of seashores, and a fog that hides all clear meanings. This story is a personal favorite. I have long been a fan of Golaski’s work, and this is a shining example of why I love his work. And this is just a taste of what delights await in Stone Gods. Don’t wait on this one. Golaski is a master of the horror tale. A real cult author in horror circles, talking about his work is almost like revealing a secret. Pick up Worse Than Myself and Stone Gods and find out what we all have been talking about. 

Review: Invaginies by Joe Koch

    Let me start this review by saying this: Joe Koch’s work is a revelation. Let me also say: Joe Koch is one of the most vital voices working in the horror field today. I have read his new collection, Invaginies, and it blew me away. Joe Koch has quietly been creating a body of work that deserves a wider audience. Let me lend my voice to getting his name out there.

    Invagines showcases Joe Koch’s style, a blend of abstract surrealism and transgressive body horror. In all honesty, most work that falls on the more “experimental” and abstract usually misses me. A lot of work in this mode seems to me to be badly written, using the “experimental” label to excuse lazy writing and a lack of any real ideas. But after having heard his name talked about with excitement in horror literature circles, I knew I had to give his work a chance. Then I read his story “Paranoid Cancers of a Demented Eros” in Sam Richard’s J.G. Ballard tribute anthology Feral Architecture: Ballardian Horrors. And his story just seeped into my body and my psyche like some parasitic vermin or some corrupting video signal. It stayed with me and kept me thinking about it. Unlike most “experimental” work, this was written with precision. Full of interesting ideas, arresting images, and just amazingly lush poetic writing. I knew then that this was a writer to watch. 

    Now having read his collection Invaginies, I  feel Joe Koch is a master of the horror tale. These works fulfill the promise of his previous work I had read. In a field of horror literature that is becoming increasingly bland, safe, and stale, Joe Koch’s work is seductive and dangerous. Whispering secrets that may not be safe to say in the daylight. Contained in Invaginies are tales that delight in the failures of the body, stories that show that sometimes Eros may look like Thanatos and sometimes Thanatos looks like Eros, stories that show disease in full bloom, and how poetry may be made from infection and corruption. 

    In terms of works that Invaginies may have a kinship with, I can see a relation to M. Gira’s The Consumer, William Burroughs's Naked Lunch, some of the more outlandish tales of Clark Ashton Smith, a heavy splash of Kathy Acker and Kathe Koja, and Micheal Blumlein’s The Brains of Rats. I feel now with Invaginies, Joe Koch can be said to be a major figure in horror literature. Now having tasted his deliciously poisonous concoctions, I need more… more…