Book Review: The Collected Nightmares by Fred Wiehe

The Collected Nightmares by Fred Wiehe

Content Warnings: The Collected Nightmares contains graphic depictions of sex, violence, and rape.

The Collected Nightmares is a selection of poetry, short stories, and novellas by Fred Wiehe that showcases his breadth as a writer.

Wiehe takes an honest look at what we really fear lurks under the bed or in the closet (or in our own mind). He doesn’t shy from addressing deep demons like suicide and madness. Many of Wiehe’s works included novel creations of monsters and myths. His vague and terrifying interpretations of our darkest fears feel far from cliché. None of his characters are guaranteed a happy ending (or an ending at all). In many ways, it’s more satisfying to see Wiehe embrace the uncertainty of the real world in his fiction.

Wiehe has a particular skill with shorter fiction and some of my favorite pieces were his shortest stories (including “A Whistle and a Tap Tap Tap” and “Shoot Me”). While the style and themes of his stories vary, they all include a flair for the unexpected. Twist endings are nothing new in horror, but Wiehe’s hold that element of the truly shocking that make them stand out.

The two longer pieces in the collection—“Under the Protection of Witches” and “Resurrected”—deserved their prominent placement in the book. They were action-packed and complex with fully formed plots and characters. “Under the Protection of Witches” was adapted from a screenplay and I would certainly love to see it as a movie in the future. “Resurrected” fits into a larger series of novels about immortal legend Aleric Bimbai. Wiehe set the stage for a larger world while still offering an accessible taste in short form. “Resurrected” could very well be a stand-alone novel and I hope the other works in the series give the characters ample space for growth.

Overall, I enjoyed the collection and recommend it for fans of horror (particularly with a leaning toward action). The Collected Nightmares is a comprehensive sampler of Wiehe’s writing and a good read for horror addicts looking for a new favorite author.

Chilling Chat: Four Quick Questions with Zoe and Miyuki

chillingchat

Zoe Darazsdi is a writer, dog mom, podcast host, and funny bitch. She hails from the horrendous swamplands of Northeast PA, where she learned to defy cultural norms and Zoe and Miyuki 2squash deer ticks. Currently, she applies the first of those skills for Weird Kids Wanted, the podcast she co-founded with her friend and roommate, Miyuki Okamura.

Miyuki Okamura is a speculative fiction writer and pop music scholar. She is the owner of a cat who has more white privilege than she does. She is excited to co-host this podcast and maybe start a cult.

Weird Kids Wanted, is a literary and social criticism podcast for alternative individuals who are tired of their cultural experiences being curated by normies for normies. Their podcast and blog disrupt the status quo of commercialized shit lit and provide a community for weird kids to flourish. Part bitchy book gossip, part poignant social criticism, part anti-capitalist bookseller reviews, they are reviving reading for everyone who the mainstream publishing industry- and the world- has left out.

1.) What is your favorite horror novel or story?

Miyuki’s favorite is Among the Missing by Dan Chaon, which is technically a short story collection and not a novel. Zoe’s is Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane. Both books are eerie and evocative of that most primal feeling of being unsettled.

2.) What do you look for when reviewing a book?

Zoe: When I review a book, I look for something that is both extremely well-written and in conversation with the world around it. I love writers who are brave with language and subject matter, who are not afraid to be odd, irreverent, and deeply original.

Miyuki: Similarly, I look for something that I feel needs to be contributed to literature, whether I agree with it or not. If I don’t agree, however, it’s more like a warning than a review.

3.) What do you wish you could see in a book that you never see?

Werid+Kids+WantedZoe: I wish I could see more books that respectfully represent our community–the alt kids, goths, and general weirdos of the world. It is difficult to find three-dimensional characters like that, who are not just archetypes or side-kicks.

Miyuki: I can see this changing as conversations around LGBT+ communities progress, but gosh I’d love to see more asexuals in literature. Generally, I think it’s time we see more LBGT+ identities represented in literature. How are people supposed to know who they are if they don’t see examples of themselves?

4.) Do you prefer character-driven novels? Or plot-driven novels?

Zoe: I prefer character-driven novels. When I am connected to what a character wants and feels, reading about them just walking down the street can be riveting.

Miyuki: I also prefer character-driven novels. People will always be more interesting than situations, in my opinion.

Ghastly Games with Daphne Strasert: Wizard School

Let’s face it, ever since Harry Potter came out, we’ve all been looking out our windows hoping to see an owl with our letter to Hogwarts. We may just be muggles, but now we can experience the magic (and monsters!) for ourselves.

Wizard School is a cooperative game for 2-5 players that takes 40-90 minutes to play.

Game Play

Wizard School is… complicated. In fact, there is a whole video designed to teach you how to play.

The goal is pretty simple: survive the school.

Every player chooses a student character at the beginning of the game. Each student has special abilities that give them advantages during gameplay.

Players go through all four years of high school, each year increasing in difficulty. Students can fight monsters, pass tests, study, and tutor each other to help survive the school year.

Then there are the monsters. On every turn, the school gets a chance to fight back against the students, revealing monsters and traps of various supernatural means to make graduating all the more difficult. Certain monsters only attack in certain circumstances, so the players are in almost constant danger.

Game Experience

The first game is slow to work through. There are a lot of small rules and caveats that it takes experience to recognize. I really do recommend watching the video.

The characters are loveable and the powers are interesting. The game is challenging, making winning an actual struggle. There is a lot of value in multiple playthroughs.

Final Thoughts

Wizard School is one of my favorite games for a small group. It is complicated, but worth the time investment to learn how to play. Who doesn’t want to be a witch?

Odds and Deadends : The Mummy (2017): A Universal Problem

I love a good monster movie. And when it was announced years ago that Universal Studios were reviving their classic monster movies, I, like the rest of the horror world, had a small heart attack. Then Tom Cruise got attached to The Mummy and we realised that they were going all in. It was going to be mind-blowing.

Until it wasn’t.

I’m going to outline my thoughts as to why the rebooting of the iconic collection failed, and I’m going to split it into the following three categories:

1) The film itself.

2) The heritage and genre.

3) The Marvel effect.

  • THE FILM ITSELF

The MummyThat the other two categories feed into this general discussion of the movie as a whole is not to be ignored, but this first category ignores that the film is part of a larger narrative and just focuses on the filmmaking and storytelling itself.

The first glaring issue is the over-reliance on CGI set pieces used to try and carry the film. From large green screen sandstorms to a plethora of unrealistic zombie mummies, the film might as well have been completed animated. The worst part of it all is that these set pieces come thick and fast, with no rhyme or reason, or sense of proper narrative timing. You look at a Marvel movie (such as the new Spider-Man: Far From Home), and you notice that they normally break it up into three main parts. A fight early on, one in the middle, then the big wind up for the third act. It’s your basic three act structure with a large action sequence in each, and it allows the movie to have the downtime to build on its characters. Even movies such as those in the James Bond or Mission Impossible franchises will do the same sort of thing, with a sprinkling of smaller sequences here and there, but it’s still just the three big moments. The Mummy has so many that the rhythm is off. It just doesn’t feel right.

And it also means that parts, such as the desert sandstorm near the beginning of the film, are irrelevant. We saw the crows take off after the sarcophagus when it is airlifted away, and it is these birds that will bring the plane down. Why is the sandstorm needed? To add a little hint of ‘danger’? To make sure the audience doesn’t forget we’re in the desert? It makes no sense. When the sandstorm blows through London in the final act, it was a wonderfully gothic image, capitalising on the fear of outsiders and things that shouldn’t happen. But having this be a singular, major event that cut out communication lines, throwing all the heroes into confusion, would have been wonderful, and saving the sandstorm for this moment would have made it seem much more threatening. As it is, we’ve already seen a sandstorm do nothing. Why should we be scared of this one? Short answer: we aren’t.

One of my other issues was the lack of subtlety in the film in any department. The scares were ham-fisted attempts at CGI skeletons that didn’t take the time to allow the tension to build. And the amount of exposition is ridiculous. Jekyll’s opening speech gives most of the plot away, and leaves no mystery as to what is to come. It’s bad filmmaking and bad storytelling at the best of times, leading to a picture that rushes from one big scene to another, and has to have things spelled out quickly in between each blockbuster moment to make sure we’re following along. It’s nowhere near efficient craftsmanship.

  • THE HERITAGE AND TONE

When Universal said they were reviving the monster movies, audiences wanted horror. They wanted to be scared, brought back to being a kid. Universal, wanting to compete with summer blockbusters, changed their classic horror into an all-out action thriller with a few horror elements scattered around. There’s even some funny moments scattered around, such as when Jenny yells ‘Get her, Nick!’ to Tom Cruise’s character as the newly revived Princess Amanet heads towards them in the forest. Really? ‘Ger her, Nick!’? It’s not the movie audiences wanted, or were promised.

Because the movie goes for a grander scale, the horror, when it is there, never really hits. Sure, give your plagues and your zombies an apocalypse to try and bring about, but even these focus on a small group of survivors. Think Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days Later. Horror is deeply personal, and you have to make sure it feels personal to a protagonist we connect with, in order to make us truly feel it.

This is something Bram Stoker did wonderfully in his novel The Jewel of Seven Stars, a personal favourite novel of mine, and one I’ve already discussed on HorrorAddicts.net ( I’ll put a link to my analysis of the character of Queen Hera from the novel at the end of the article). Stoker’s tale presents an ancient Egyptian threat rising from the dead, like The Mummy, but for two-thirds of the narrative, everything is confined to one house and plays out like a murder mystery. It’s closed and confined, and because of this we empathise with the characters because we know them intimately. When the terror comes, we feel the fear because we’ve put ourselves in their shoes. As a result, the possible apocalypse after the book is finished feels much more worrying.

  • THE MARVEL EFFECT

The Dark Universe is Universal’s attempt to replicate the success Marvel Studios have had with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The trouble is that Marvel seems to be the only ones that have really cracked the format. Disney tried it out into Star Wars, but the bad reception to Solo halted their plans for possible Obi Wan and Boba Fett films. The DC Universe has its fans, but has never really caught the approval like Marvel has, and only recently has Aquaman and Wonder Woman really hit the box office hard. One can only wait to see how the Godzilla monster-verse goes on, but if the reviews I’ve seen of Godzilla: King of the Monsters are anything to go by, it doesn’t look good.

The Mummy’s primary problem is that Universal threw all their chips in too early.

The film isn’t just about the eponymous mummy, but the introduction to the whole world. But rather than sneak in suggestions and nods, and build the whole thing up slowly, whilst still allowing each film to be its own unique piece, they’re already interconnecting everything at the very heart. The beating heart of this connection is the Dr Jekyll, head of the Prodigium organisation. However, instead of letting Jekyll just be an incidental part of the storyline, or his true identity being a big reveal at the end of the film, they made him integral to the movie.

This has multiple risks. It risks sidelining the main focus of the movie, the mummy herself, and it risks, if you’ll excuse the vulgar phrasing, Universal blowing their load too early. Universal didn’t keep their powder dry. Hold Jekyll and Hyde back and you’ve got a whole other movie in store to unleash. If The Mummy goes down, you’ve got another shot. Notice how Marvel, in the first Iron Man film, only announced Nick Fury in the post credit scene. They could easily have cut it had the test screenings been bad, and simply kept it as a one-off movie that made a decent splash, whilst also jettisoning the movie from a wider connected universe if they needed to. They can even bring Iron Man back into the storyline in 10 movies time if it takes them that long to get into their rhythm.

The Dark Universe, complete with logo at the beginning of the movie, announces very plainly that everything goes together. You’ve got obvious nods to Dracula and The Creature from the Black Lagoon in the jars Prodigum has in its stores, clearly showing Universal’s intention to use them at a later phase. In one, opening movie, we’ve got four of the classic monsters together. All we needed was someone to be invisible, and Jekyll to have a daughter marrying a doctor called Victor Frankenstein, and Universal would have taken down almost every monster they had in their arsenal in one go.

In a bid to outdo Marvel with their interconnected universe, the producers relied on the fan base of the monsters of the past to carry the movie with references and nods all by themselves. In the end, when these fans didn’t get what they wanted, Universal were left canning the other projects they had set up. Their interconnected world had crashed at the first hurdle, and because the rest of their plans were integral to the first film being a hit, it set up a chain of dominos that knocked the other films down.

One can only hope that Leigh Whannell (and Blumhouse, I believe) will have the sense to work slowly, building up a series of films that are tense, scary, and operate by themselves, which have the potential, but not the necessity, to interlink later on. Whannell has already established himself (along with James Wan, ironically directing movies in another connected universe, having released Aquaman last year), at being able to bring about an interlinked horror franchise with The Conjuring universe. Let’s hope that he can learn from the mistakes that Universal made with The Mummy, and slowly bring us the spectacle we all wanted, and still want, to see.

-Article by Kieran Judge

-Follow him on Twitter: KJudgeMental

My article on Queen Hera from The Jewel of Seven Stars can be found here: https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2018/09/05/odds-and-dead-ends-resurrecting-the-queen/

Bibliography

28 Days Later. 2002. [Film] Directed by Danny Boyle. United Kingdom: 20th Century Fox.

Aquaman. 2018. [Film] Directed by James Wan. USA: DC.

Creature from the Black Lagoon. 1954. [Film] Directed by Jack Arnold. USA: Universal Pictures.

Dracula. 1931. [Film] Directed by Tod Browning. USA: Universal Pictures.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters. 2019. [Film] Directed by Michael Dougherty. USA: Legendary Pictures.

Iron Man. 2008. [Film] Directed by Jon Favreau. USA: Marvel Studios.

Night of the Living Dead. 1968. [Film] Directed by George A. Romero. USA: Image Ten.

Solo: A Star Wars Story. 2018. [Film] Directed by Ron Howard. USA: Lucasfilm.

Spider-Man: Far From Home. 2019. [Film] Directed by Jon Watts. USA: Marvel Studios.

Stoker, B., 2009. The Jewel of Seven Stars. United States of America: Seven Treasures Publications.

The Mummy. 2017. [Film] Directed by Alex Kurtzman. USA: Universal.

Wonder Woman. 2017. [Film] Directed by Patty Jenkins. USA: DC.

 

Book Review: Monsters of Any Kind , edited by Alessandro Manzetti and Daniele Bonfanti

We see plenty of serial killers and psychopaths here at HorrorAddicts.net. Some call them monsters. Yet, evil though they are, they are still only human. What of the truly monstrous? the grotesque? the abominable? the creatures that defy not only nature but Heaven and Hell as well?

Monsters of Any Kind—published by Independent Legions Publishing and edited by Alessandro Manzetti and Daniele Bonfanti—brings you tales of creatures that slither and writhe and go bump in the night. Whether they’re good, evil, or… otherwise, they’re sure to terrify. Prepare yourself for stories of real monsters.

Monsters of Any Kind presents a diverse collection of stories, each prominently featuring a monster, some from folklore and some the product of pure imagination (terrifying as that must be for the author). Each story takes a different variation on the theme, bringing surprises and delights with each turn of the page.

Perpetual Antimony by Cody Goodfellow – Goodfellow introduces a fascinating concept that explores the limits of human potential and what may drive a person to forsake humanity altogether.

The Thing Too Hideous to Describe by David J. Schow – This tale of a monster and the researcher who wants to study him takes a humorous approach to the theme. Still, this is a horror anthology and the ending is… well, you’ll see.

Silt and Bone by Jess Landry – Jess Landry (a contestant from the HorrorAddicts.net Next Great Horror Writer Contest) is a master of imagery and creates one of the most vivid descriptions in a stand out book. The story is atmospheric and chilling. The horror of natural disaster, personal repercussions, and things beyond this world combine to make this a gripping experience.

Sucklings by Lucy Taylor – This story of grisly small-town murders and a monster that wears many faces explores whether you can truly trust your loved ones.

We All Make Sacrifices by Jonathan Maberry – Maberry’s noir-style werewolf story is my favorite of the anthology and I can only hope that we will see more of this as a novel or serial.

Brodkin’s Demesne by Michael Gray Baughan – In this story, a couple moves to an isolated country home, where the ever-present drone of cicadas belies something more sinister. Baughan creates a slow build of terror and his violent imagery stuck with me long after reading.

Sealed with a Kiss by Owl Goingback – A man’s car breaks down as the world literally goes to hell around him. Sealed with a Kiss is clever and well written with a tongue in cheek take on horror.

The Other Side of Semicolons by Michael Bailey – A girl explores the twisted dimensions on the other side of a mysterious symbol in her room. Bailey writes a tale of psychological terror that explores what could be. The visions draw you in and create a sense of dread that isn’t easy to shake.

Bad Hair Day by Greg Sisco – What would you do for vanity? Bad Hair Day is an exquisite work of horror edged with science fiction that I would not be surprised to see listed as a classic of the genre.

Midnight Hobo by Ramsey Campbell – A lurking form haunts Roy at home and at work, slowly driving him mad. Campbell has a talent for grounding his horror in the mundane and leaving just the right amount of description to the reader’s imagination.

Noverim Te by Santiago Eximeno – Tourists gather in a small town where a god goes to sleep every year. Eximeno blends ancient superstition with modern behavior in this exquisite concept.

The Dive by Mark Alan Miller – One night, Al finally gets everything he wants, but he’ll be lucky to escape with his life. A fusion of humor, horror, and adventure, The Dive is an excellent piece of fiction that will leave you feeling a little more grateful for what you have.

Mammy and the Flies by Bruce Boston – What happens when neglect and abuse turn someone strange into something horrifying? The small scale and sheer intensity of Mammy and the Flies made this story delightful. Boston’s emotional writing blew me away.

Old Sly by Gregory L. Norris – Norris’ story has a foreboding atmosphere reminiscent of The Haunting of Hill House, with a twist that will make you question whether you really want to inherit a fortune from a distant relative.

The Last Wintergirl by Damien Angelica Walters – Mythical Wintergirls fall prey to the boys of the village while they slumber. The boys think nothing of the terrible retribution they’ll face… but they should. The Last Wintergirl is a chilling tale of human evil and monstrous revenge. Walters creates an intricate mythology that would make a great novel.

The City of Sixes by Edward Lee – By far the most graphically grotesque of the collection, Lee’s story of literal Hell is somehow more horrific than you can possibly imagine.

Crisis of Faith by Monica J. O’Rourke – A spiritual seeker finally finds what he’s looking for; a real-life demon. O’Rourke’s description of torture and the psychological effects is incredible.

Cracker Creek by Erinn L. Kemper – A town scandal becomes something more sinister when newly born babies aren’t what they seem. Kemper creates a gripping story, well written and perfectly paced.

Presented along with the text are incredible illustrations by Stefano Cardoselli. The art never gives away the story, but adds to it, especially once you know all the twists and turns.

Whether you enjoy gruesome violence, psychological terror, existential dread, or the humorous side of horror, you’ll find a story to suit your taste among the offerings in Monsters of Any Kind.

Ghastly Games by Daphne Strasert: King of Tokyo

Game Review: King of Tokyo

It’s the mega monster match-up to end all others. Up to six monsters join in one massive fight that will leave the city in ruins. Only one can rule it all. Roll the dice, earn Victory points, and attack your friends to become King of Tokyo.

King of Tokyo is a family game for 2-6 players and takes about a half hour to play.

Game Play

First, choose your monster: Gigazaur, The King, Alienoid, Mekadragon, Cyberbunny, or Kraken (Mekadragon is the best, but you can have your own favorite). Each character has a monster board that tracks the current health and the number of victory points you have earned.

You will want to pay attention to those numbers because there are two ways to win in King of Tokyo:

  • Be the first player to earn 20 Victory Points
  • Be the last monster alive

You gain victory points by rolling matching numbers on the dice, going into or staying inside Tokyo, and through special cards. Attacks from other monsters lower your health and if your health hits zero, you say sayonara and slink back from whence you came.

During play, one monster stands inside Tokyo. While there, every attack they make targets all monsters on the outside. Every attack made by those outside targets them. They can’t heal, but the longer they stay inside, the more victory points they gain. Any time after they are attacked, they can choose to leave Tokyo, throwing their attacker into the city in their place.

King of Tokyo employs dice for the main gameplay. Dice let you attack, heal, earn energy, and gain victory points. Like a game of Monster Yahtzee, you have three rolls to collect what you want and you can reroll as many or as few of the dice as you want.

The game also has bonus cards that you can buy using “energy”. These give your monster extra powers that can boost your gameplay. You earn energy through dice rolls just like everything else, but cards can make all the difference between survival and early death.

Game Experience

King of Tokyo is a fast, fun game. It’s the best game for casual game players that I’ve reviewed so far. The game involves some strategy, but success is mostly left up to luck. In the many times that I’ve played, I have only seen someone win using victory points once. Generally, the game is a battle for survival rather than a race to the top.

My favorite part of the game is the design. The art has a comic book style that suits the theme and pays homage to countless monster movies. Each of the characters is an off-brand monster (Not quite Godzilla, but you know what they’re going for). Over time, players develop attachments to the various characters, so you’ll probably have your own too.

The only drawback that I have for gameplay is that players who die are out for the rest of the game. While that’s how life works sometimes, it isn’t helpful when you want to keep everyone engaged in play.

Even though there is little actual decision making in the game, it often ends in shouting as players try to convince each other to attack or not, risk it all, and possibly knock themselves out of the game. It’s a good time.

Final Thoughts

King of Tokyo is easy to learn and the pay off during play is worthwhile. It would be a good game to play when children are around. I recommend it for anyone who loves (or maybe just casually likes) games.

Serial Scribbler : Tips This Season From the Serial Scribbler

This season on Horror Addicts, I’m going to focus on how to build your brand, as well as giving you some tips for building your business as a writer. Below is an outline of some of the things we’ll cover. I hope you’ll get something out of it, and let me know how they work for you!

  • How to build your brand
  • Should I get/be a mentor? What are the benefits?
  • Should I give/get critiqued? What are the benefits?
  • Pointers for building a successful website, and is it necessary to have one?
  • Do’s and Don’t’s for engaging your audience
  • Is Self-Publishing for you?
  • Should I get an agent?
  • What to look for in a publisher
  • I got a one-star review, now what?

Have a question for me and would like to have it answered here? Email me at vasquez@stitchedsmilepublications.com! Don’t forget to put “Horror Addicts Question” in the subject title!

 

 

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Lisa Vasquez is an author (The Unfleshed: The Tale of the Autopsic Bride, The Unsaintly) and CEO of Stitched Smile Publications, LLC. She volunteers for the Horror Writers Association as the Publisher’s Liaison and is a mentor to authors both there, and with her own company. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies which can be found both on Amazon or on her website: www.unsaintly.com