Book Review: Varying Distances

The first page of a fiction collection is an introduction to a writer’s mind. The further you go, the deeper you delve into their psyche. In this manner, you can reach any world of their invention and join any journey they imagine. Ray Bradbury and Somerset Maugham were masters of short fiction. If you were to combine the work of these authors with a dash of Rod Serling, you’d have Varying Distances by Darren Speegle.

Speegle’s stories range from the bizarre to the fantastic. He is well traveled and the stories reflect several cultures, both in setting and flavor. The first forays into his collection seem to begin with his unconscious mind and slowly work forward to the conscious. It’s much like a sleeper awakening from a dream. The first story in the collection, “In the Distance, a Familiar Sound,” is as poetic and disjointed as the character searching for the meaning of consciousness. Linear time doesn’t exist.

Each story gains clarity as you move through the pages. Against his will, a painter is commissioned to capture the soul of his subject on canvas, contractors in Iraq encounter a strange and menacing vehicle, Halloween is explored through the eyes of a god-like being, a hitman has trouble discerning between human and machine, a man finds he cannot escape the horror of his past or the people who populate it, an addict sees parallels to his life no matter what country he visits, a woman leads a man to Germany and a haunted house, a man searches for the beast which murdered his aunt, and a confused taxi driver must take a man to his destination.

My favorite story, “For Love of War,” falls in between the fog and clarity. The contractor in the story falls in love with the woman who saves him and discovers she’s more ethereal than mortal. Speegle’s prose borders on lyrical and you can easily imagine this story as a ballad.

“A Puddle in the Wilderness,” is a frightening story. In this tale, aliens masquerade as backwoodsmen alà Deliverance. Pity the poor couple who fall prey to them. (Warning: mature themes are addressed here.)

If you’re a lover of the bizarre, you’ll love this collection. Step inside Speegle’s mind and stay a while. The worlds within are amazing.

Press Release: Meat Cycle

Meat Cycle: A Fairy Tale From The Suburban Prophecies
14134215051_82c996e9df_zAn exercise in the nightmarishly bizarre, the synopsis for the film is as follows: The strangest fairy tale ever told, a man’s attempt to charm his wife with meat puppets goes horribly wrong.
Some early buzz about the film:
“An incredibly original vision of horror!” – Mike Everleth, Underground Film Journal
“As a film screened in the Underground Film Festival, it is definitely a must-see for its originality and overall production quality, and definitely a must-see for horror/gore enthusiasts… Christiana’s style of filming and editing is well done in appropriating his color schemes of neon green and negative filters, sequencing, and lens masking to produce that horror-esque hallucination. The audio in the film also suits the atmosphere superbly – a cut and mixture of radio frequencies, static, distortion and laughter.” — Aedyn Roze, Quip Magazine
“Mise en scene cherry-picked from seventies exploitation and eighties urbanoia; if someone dandered through the room, shooting a glance at the screen as you watched, they’d think there was something wrong with your Texas Chainsaw Massacre DVD… the film presents great technical prowess and attention to detail often lost in the splatter genre, of which it is an anything but typical example.” -Gabe Headington, Strangers In A Cinema
Joseph Christiana is a grizzled award-winning indie filmmaker whose last short film, THE NIGHTMARE, was recently acquired by FearNet. His films have screened in venues and at film festivals all over the country. He is also the co-host and producer of the popular The Cutting Room Movie Podcast, which cut its teeth as a horror-centric movie talk show. More about his work at www.christianaproductions.com

Bizarre Deaths: Percy Shelley

Bizarre Deaths
by Guy Portman

Percy Shelley 

Shelley

(August 4th 1792 – July 8th 1822)

Notable works: Ozymandrias, Music, The Cloud, Queen Mab

The husband of Frankenstein author, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley was an English Romantic poet.  Shelley did not achieve fame during his short lifetime, in part because publishers were reluctant to publish his work, due to his radical political and social views.  Today he is regarded as one of the greatest lyric poets of the English language.

The talented poet met his premature end when he drowned in a storm while sailing off the coast of Italy.  There has been much speculation over the exact cause of his death, with theories ranging from murder to suicide.

Events were to take a bizarre turn when Shelley’s washed-up body was cremated on the beach.  The poet’s heart refused to burn, probably due to a heart condition that had caused it to calcify.  Edward Trelawny, a friend of the deceased, removed the heart from the fire and gave it to Mary Shelley.  What happened next is much debated, with some claiming that the poet’s wife kept the crumbling remains in her desk.  The heart was later buried alongside her son, Percy Florence.

 

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Guy Portman is a writer currently residing in London, the city of his birth.  Guy’s next book, Necropolis, is a work of dark fiction about a psychopath, who is employed at his local council’s Burials and Cemeteries department.  Necropolis is due for release in late April 2014. For more info on Guy, go to: www.guyportman.com

Bizarre Deaths: Dante Alighieri

Bizarre Deaths
by Guy Portman

 

Dante Alighieri

Dante

 (May/June c. 1265 – September 9th 1321)

Notable works: The Divine Comedy, Convivio, The Vita Nuova.

Florence born Dante’s defining work, The Divine Comedy, is widely regarded to this day, as the greatest piece of literature ever composed in Italian.  The description of Dante’s fictional journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio) and Paradise (Paradiso), was to prove an important milestone in the development of Italian as an established literary language.

Italy’s sommo poeta (supreme poet) is remembered not only for his remarkable achievements, but also for the bizarre circumstances surrounding his death.  Dante died of malaria in Ravenna in 1321, which was not unusual in itself during this era.  However posthumous events took a bizarre turn when Florence, the city of Dante’s birth, demanded the return of their famous son.

Church officials in Ravenna secretly hid Dante’s body in a wall to prevent it from being stolen and returned to Florence.  It lay forgotten until being unearthed during church renovations in 1863, when it was discovered that parts of the body had been taken at the time of the burial.  In 1878 a repentant former town clerk, Pasquale Miccoli, returned a box of bones he had stolen.

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Guy Portman is a writer currently residing in London, the city of his birth.  Guy’s next book, Necropolis, is a work of dark fiction about a psychopath, who is employed at his local council’s Burials and Cemeteries department.  Necropolis is due for release in late April 2014. For more info on Guy, go to: www.guyportman.com

Bizarre Deaths: Edgar Allan Poe

Bizarre Deaths
by Guy Portman

Edgar Allan Poe

Edgar Allan Poe

(January 19th 1809 – October 7th 1849) 

Notable works: The Raven, The Masque of the Red Death, Tamerlan and Other Poems

Poe was an author, poet, editor and literary critic, whose tales of mystery and the macabre are still widely read to this day.  One of the earliest American practitioners of the short story, Poe is also widely considered as being the inventor of the detective fiction genre.  Evidence of the writer’s enduring popularity is the fact that an original copy of Poe’s Tamerlane and Other Poems sold at Christie’s in New York for $662,500, a record price for a work of American literature.

The bizarre events surrounding Poe’s death were as mysterious as the nature of his writing.  On October 3rd 1849 Mr. Joseph Walker found Poe wandering the streets of Baltimore in a delirious state.  The writer was taken to hospital, but was unable to give an accurate account of what had occurred before his demise four days later.

There has been much speculation surrounding Poe’s sudden deterioration and death.  Due to the fact that he was found wearing someone else’s clothes it has been argued that he was the victim of cooping, a practice in which citizens were attacked, absconded, plied with alcohol and forced to vote for a political candidate.  His sudden deterioration and demise has also been attributed to alcoholism, TB, epilepsy, diabetes and even rabies.

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Guy Portman is a writer currently residing in London, the city of his birth.  Guy’s next book, Necropolis, is a work of dark fiction about a psychopath, who is employed at his local council’s Burials and Cemeteries department.  Necropolis is due for release in late April 2014. For more info on Guy, go to: www.guyportman.com