VASTARIEN, Vol 1 – An Existential Book Review

The Thomas Ligotti inspired collection VASTARIEN kicks-off with the one act play, “The Gods in Their Seats, Unblinking”  by Kurt Fawver. More accurately, it is an account of play, the playwright and actors vanished and possibly fictional themselves. The traditional roles between actor and audience quickly dissolves. Who are the real performers? Are audience and actors interchangeable? Redundant?

An excellent, thought-provoking story, it not only kept me interested in the narrative, but also in the larger philosophical questions posed. It is said that good art makes the audience an active participant, which is certainly the case here. Perhaps the placement of “Gods in Their Seats, Unblinking” (great title too) as the first story is a subtle hint to which VASTARIEN aspires. In this literary journal, there is a bleeding of fiction, meta-fiction, and nonfiction—the lines between reader and writer blurring much like the participants in Fawver’s play or Ligotti’s own metaphoric twilights and nebulous skylines.

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Vastarien Art by Dave Felton

Described as a source of critical study and creative response to the corpus of Thomas Ligotti, as well as associated authors and ideas, VASTARIEN focuses on the thematic elements and dominant subjects of the horror master. While this may sound a bit antiseptic and scholarly,  each author brings their own creativity and spirit to their chapter. This is not an echo chamber of a Ligottian ethos or a mimic of his style (unlike the many Lovecraft pastiches out there). Simply put, these are works that occupy a similar rebellious space of existential anxiety and escapism.

Some of the fiction highlights for me are “Nervous Wares & Abnormal Stares” by Devin Goff. A bucolic town is dismantled board by board, shop by shop, the rural niceties a cover for the strange and sinister. Jordan Krall delivers an unsettling, disorienting tale of the crumbling reality of madness in “My Time at the Drake Clinic”. Also, Christopher Slatsky’s mockumentary “Affirmation of the Spirit: Consciousness, Transformation, and the Fourth World in Film” expertly walks the fine line of fiction masquerading as the real.

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Vastarien – Art by Dave Felton

VASTARIEN’s half dozen nonfiction essays are highlighted by the simply named, “Notes on a Horror” by a psychologist using the alias Dr. Raymond Thoss. This piece provides a penetrating look into the world of trauma and treatment. Written for the layman in four digestible parts, the author makes the case of how Ligottian themes can be used to both conceptualize pathological dissociation associated with such things as PTSD, and how they can actually reconnect a patient to the world. Given how many dismiss Ligotti’s worldview as simply antinatalistic and pessimistic, I found this a compelling demonstration of how Ligotti’s work can relieve and even heal. For someone who has taken much comfort and solace in Ligotti’s words/worlds, I am glad to see this concept eloquently explored.

Finally, closing the collection, is Christopher Ropes’ “Singing the Song of My Unmaking”. This hybrid piece sums VASTARIEN as it is part poem, fictional story, and confessional autobiography blended into a coherent whole. It’s a fitting closer where dissociation, depression, and the dissolving of reality play out under the threatening clouds of engulfing nihilism. A emotional story that will stay with you long after reading.

VASTARIEN is a must read for the Ligotti fan. I found this dedicated journal gave me insights into his works that I hadn’t before. Also, to see what Ligotti inspires in others was something I hadn’t anticipated and gave me much to contemplate. For those who may not be familiar with Ligotti, there is a lot to enjoy here, nothing too esoteric or ‘inside’. The different pieces, while certainly challenging, are never out of reach, written both for the neophyte and Ligotti-phile. The inclusion of starkly personal works, too, make this an accessible book. An exciting beginning to the VASTARIEN journey. Congratulations to editors Jon Padgett and Matt Cardin of ‘Thomas Ligotti Online’ to make this project come to fruition. Looking forward to Issue 2!

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Vastarien Art by Dave Felton

Vastarien, Vol 1 on Amazon: Click for Link

Vastarien, Vol 1 on Goodreads: Click for Link

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Biological Determinism – Short story up at Silent Motorist Media

My latest flash fiction surreality, Biological Determinism, has been published by the relatively new weird and bizarro online magazine/blog Silent Motorist Media. Originally, I wrote this in response to a contest call by SMM for 200 word stories relating to “Esoteric Sausages”. While an idea based on this theme came to me quickly, I had a little problem deciding which 15-20 darling words I would need to chop off to get it down to the count limit that, along with other deadlines distracting me, had the contest end before I got a chance to submit. What to do with a odd, esoteric sausage story? Fortunately, Silent Motorist Media opened up soon after for general submissions. Without the word count limitation, I was free to expand my abstract creepiness to 420 words. Submitted. Done.

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        *Click for Biological Determinism story link*

 

Thanks to SSM’s creator, chief editor, and benevolent tyrant Justin Burnett for publishing. Justin has a lot on his plate, but was really enthusiastic about working with me and featuring this piece on his site. Check out and subscribe for other Silent Motorist Media content. Music, literature, philosophy, art. Interviews too, most recently a-list horror authors Michael Wehunt and Philip Fracassi. Hopefully, I will be talking with Justin myself, soon.

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Hinnom Magazine 006 – Author Interview and Short Story Published

Hinnom Magazine Issue 006 <click link> is now live. Available in digital and print, it includes my short story “O’ Babylon” as well as stories by Ed Kurtz, George Taylor, Ashley Dioses, Kevin M Folliard, P.L McMillian, and Brianna Zigler. Also reviews, articles, and an interview of Bram Stoker nominated author S.P. Miskowski.

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Author Spotlight: and interview with S.E. Casey

I also was interviewed by Gehenna & Hinnom Book’s founder C.P. Dunphey in an author spotlight <click link>. We discussed my motivations for writing, influences, philosophy, and the background on my story. Hear me shamelessly talk about myself and butcher a Dostoyevsky title.

Thanks go out to Gehenna & Hinnom, and especially C.P.  Dunphey. It was a great experience being published by Hinnom Magazine, the communication and the support they showed me was great. Please support this press, this is truly a publisher who has a great respect for the horror, sci-fi, and weird genres and is dedicated to helping indie authors. Here is a recent interview of C.P. Dunphey from Horror Tree <click link> for more info on Gehenna & Hinnom.

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Hinnom Magazine 006 available at Amazon, digital and print

 

 

The Hunger House – Story in The Sirens Call Magazine #38

My story “The Hunger House” has been published in The Sirens Call Ezine #38 (free to download). My story is part of my “Red Girls” mythos that I am slowly releasing across various publications. This issue is 184 pages(!), stories, drabbles, poems etc by some familiar names, Christopher Stanley, Maura Yzmore, David B. Harrington, Brian Bogart, Kevin Holton, and Myk Pilgrim to name a few.

2018_april_ezine_coverThe seeds of this story came last summer when I was trying to come up with a 500 word maximum horror submission call. One of my ideas sprung from a house that I pass most everyday at sunset. In wring the first draft, I went way past the 500 word limit and knew it would be impossible to chop down without making it incoherent. Hating to leave any story half-finished, recently I filled in the missing details, edited, and polished it. Seeing a submission call for general horror stories by The Siren’s Call, I decided to kick it out of the house and put it to work.

 

See below for a picture of the actual house. It sits on the shores of Buzzard’s Bay and has a catwalk that rings a dual white chimney. Of course, the house in my story is larger, more historic, with a shorter chimney, etc. Basic writer trickery to fit around the story. Its not a historic house, but, as a side note, a famous person did live there for a number of years.

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The Hunger House

 

Here is the original drabble I wrote introducing the Red Girls mythos:

THE RED GIRLS

He left the door unlocked.

All doors were locked the nights the Red Girls visited.

Colonel Emerick Aldrich sipped his cognac. However, he couldn’t taste it. There wasn’t much he could enjoy anymore. Even the heat from the roaring fire felt dull.

He heard the door handle rattle behind him, a pattering of little feet on the hardwood.

They stood him up like a marionette. The old man smiled, he would get to see the Red Girls, a fitting finale to his life. But they didn’t turn him around, forcing him to take one step after another toward the fire.

Also, see the link for a follow-up Red Girls 300 word story, “Courtship of the Sewer King”.

Thanks to The Sirens Call: Julianne, Nina, and Lee for publication. Check out the other projects/magazine issues/submission calls from The Sirens Call here ⇒ (click for link).

S.E. Casey

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“As Thou Wilt (Ms. Self-Destruct)”- short story released in the Strange Behaviors Anthology

My story AS THOU WILT (MS. SELF DESTRUCT) is included in the recently released anthology Strange Behaviors: An Anthology of Absolute Luridity published by Nihilism Revised. This anthology contains 30+ stories and 420 pages of the weird, bizarre, mad, and just plain revolting, as the title and artwork suggests. So snuggle up in your favorite reading nook and keep those support peacocks close if you dare to order, intrepid readers!

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My story was conceived and written a few years ago as an unchecked ego, downhill, destructive, stream of conscious, one-act play. The dating scene, ocean waves, gossipy waterfalls, cubist kingdoms, and tigers whizz by quickly, but, like all failed relationships, it all makes sense in the end. Although an older story of mine, I didn’t submit it to many places thinking it needed the right platform to have its desired effect. I think I’ve found a proper home for my grotesquerie to invade the world. Enjoy.

Thanks to S.C. Burke editor! Amazon link here if you missed it : Strange Behaviors

Product Description: In the land of the lurid, the weird are wonderful, and the behaviors on display are at their strangest. Welcome to Strange Behaviors! An anthology of literature’s freshest and loudest voices, a new-new wave of dangerous writers – letting their words run wild with madness. The stories that melt from their minds are emotionally charged, surreal, nihilistic, grotesque, horrific, depraved, often humorous, and always with a depth that just keeps getting deeper and deeper. This is literature for the misfit minds of rebellious readers. Join us… Featuring: Sam Richard. Theresa Braun. Jordan Krall. M.P. Johnson. Nicholas Day. Donald Armfield. Austin James. Alex Karl Johnson. Charles Austin Muir. Joseph Bouthiette Jr. Michael Faun. Zak A. Ferguson. Jason Morton. Mark Zirbel. S.C. Burke. Eileen Mayhew. D.B. Spitzer. Howard Carlyle. Christopher Lesko. Ben Arzate. Rob Easton. Catfish McDaris. Dav Crabes. Dani Brown. Nicholaus Patnaude. S.E. Casey. Ross Peterson. Brendan Vidito. Justin A. Mank. Benjamin Clarke Younker. John Claude Smith. Shaun Avery. Kyle Rader. Calvin Demmer. Evelyn Joyce. Gomez Aggonia. Gentry M. Calhoun

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Night Swimming- Short Story available at Double the Books

My flash fiction story Night Swimming (click for link) is available to read in the Double the Books Magazine November issue (#16). Drowning, nowhere hotels, useless keys, cosmic mermaids, and death kisses in a tidy 1,000 words.

Thanks to Candace Robinson for encouraging me to submit. Also, KayCee (no relation) and Natasha, the editors at Double the Books. Check them out, short stories, poems, and all the writing posts you’d ever want.

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Rainbows and Resentment

Rayne decided she didn’t like Barbara. It was the wrong century to be named Barbara. And, truth was, she didn’t particularly care for the name in the last.

However, she had chosen Barbara, setting her beach towel down in the unoccupied square of sand next to her. Rayne figured her beach-mate had the curves and bikini to draw some eyes, and perhaps those a little out of Barbara’s league would settle on her slightly older, less shapely neighbor.

So far, no luck.

What irked her most wasn’t Barbara’s relative youth or superior figure, but her flippant attitude. Rayne thoughtfully had offered her some suntan lotion. However, Barbara rebuffed her gesture with a dismissive story about how her towel prevented her from burning.

Did she take her for a  fool?

Let her fry then. Rayne secretly wished for something in the second degree range.

However, after two hours of midday Florida sun, her sunscreenless friend didn’t appear to color let alone burn. Rousing from a nap, Barbara stood. As she picked a wedgie and adjusted her top, Rayne searched for tan lines. Astonishingly, she found none.

“I’m going for a dip,” Barbara announced. “Would’ya watch my stuff?”

“Sure,” Rayne lied.

Barbara stood on the edge of her towel as if it a cliff. Finally, she took a giant step off, jogging toward the water.

Rayne studied the supposedly enchanted towel. Even accounting for her Barbara-resentment, she determined it a pitiful, tired-looking thing. The edges were frayed like mice had gnawed it, and a corner had unraveled. Its color was faded, the hues and tones weary. The pattern itself was odd—frowning rainbows stitched at chaotic angles into an exhausted blue background.

She couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for it.

Do it.

Rayne didn’t know from where the impulse came, but over the years she had learned to listen to her inner voice. Quickly, she gathered her things. Her red thermos was missing its top. She kicked at the sand, but couldn’t locate it. The container would be useless without it, but it couldn’t be helped, she needed to go. Snatching up Barbara’s ratty rainbow towel, she crammed it into her carry-all and left.

***

She couldn’t sleep. Muffled voices and applause seeped through the thin walls of her apartment. Through the steady cadence and intervals of laughter, it was the familiar soundtrack of late-night television. The words were too distorted to make out, but still Rayne frustrated herself trying. It would go on until morning, the half-deaf old lady in the apartment next to her having fallen asleep despite the racket.  There was no use calling her phone, or pounding on her door. She was dead to the world until morning; not even a fire alarm could wake her.

However, tonight, the intruding television noise wasn’t the cause of her restlessness.

Climbing out of bed, Rayne shuffled to her dresser.  She turned on the lamp and removed its shade. It would take a little while for it to heat up. Her carry-all was by the front door, not that her apartment was big enough that it took much time to retrieve it. Grabbing the hastily balled up rainbow towel, she shook the sand away before carrying it back to her bedroom.

She placed a finger on the exposed lightbulb withdrawing it quickly. It was already dangerously hot.

Do it.

Setting the towel on the floor, she stood on it. She drew in a deep breath and grabbed the bulb.

Nothing.

Rayne counted to ten before letting go. Her fingers were unblemished and unburned.

Do it!

Kicking the rainbow towel into the bathroom, she twisted the shower knob to her usual hot setting. However, she reconsidered and cranked it all the way. By the time she took her pajamas off, steam filled the room. Throwing the towel onto the sizzling shower floor, she jumped on top of it.

The water ran over her, dousing her hair, pouring over her torso, and cascading down her legs, but there wasn’t any pain. With more curiosity than fear, she examined her skin. It wasn’t red, bubbly, or otherwise scalded.

DO IT!

She exited the shower, turned off the water,  and wrung out the sopping towel. Not bothering to redress, she stumbled into the living room leaving a snail’s trail of water behind. Digging through the coffee table drawer, she found the lighter. After a few dry flicks, she managed to hold a flame. She used it to light her spiral patterned curtains. The old, dry fabric caught quickly. The fire raced upwards to the ceiling where it rolled like a tidal wave across room.

Spreading more quickly than she expected, Rayne hurriedly placed her towel in the middle of the room.  As the flames jumped to the walls and furniture, she leapt on it. It didn’t take long for the fire to surround her. For a moment it seemed to hesitate, but then it closed in.

Rayne bathed in the conflagration, soothed by the inferno’s luxuriant caress. For the first time in her life, she felt free—a weightless, unburdened soul. The chaotic passion of the blaze was everything she dreamed it to be. All those elusive night fantasies of flame realized, she basked in its grandeur until blacking out from the lack of oxygen.

***

Deafened by a thunderous rushing in her ears, Rayne woke under a bare night sky.  But it was everything below that mesmerized her. Glowing prismatic bands swirled in the depths of the rectangular abyss on which she lay, spectral arcs drowning in the emptiness of a god-like tapestry. With a vertigo dizziness , she wanted to melt into the infinite nothingness, but was thwarted by a stubborn buoyancy.

Like lava cooling, the terrifying beauty of the void subsided, as did the loud vacuum’s rushing in her head. The sights and sounds of the world in all its staleness returned, rumpled and worn like the towel beneath her.

She stood alone inside a skeletal ribcage of charred post and beam. The apartment was reduced to a smoldering husk, weightless ash swirling around her like black snow. In the distance, she could hear blaring sirens that incrementally grew louder. Soon, they would drown out the screams. Fires raged several doors down, her combustible gift spreading downwind. The tinny smoke alarm bleeps from the close-cropped apartments seemed feebly apologetic in response to the raging smoke and flame.

Rayne wrapped the towel around her to cover her nakedness. However, the residents on the other side of the street who had shuffled out to gawk at the pre-dawn mayhem didn’t notice. On the opposite sidewalk, coughing soot-smeared survivors shook and cried, the confused barking and mewling of their pets adding to the bedlam. In the dejected triage line, Rayne didn’t see the old woman from next door.

Strobes of electric red, white, and blue lit the street. The police and firemen made the scene at the same time. Rayne adjusted the tuck of the towel, the stitching of the rainbows rough against her cool skin. Standing on ground zero, she needed to leave before an overly attentive cop would put two and two together.

Joining the crowd, she hid in the milling of the herd. Despite her odd dress and ash snarled hair, no one noticed her walking against the current. She left the chaos behind exiting into a back alley.

The sky ahead was clean, the first light just coming over the horizon, a red blush in the eastern sky. She had nowhere to go; no home, close family, or close friends nearby. She had no money or credit cards for a motel room. Yet, the only thing that mattered was that sunrise, a strange optimism pushing her forward.

It wouldn’t be long before the sun would show itself. Rayne sensed the towel’s rainbows stirring as if anticipating a bigger and better fire. But this was ridiculous, she couldn’t just stride off the horizon into the dawning sun.

Still, she pushed on, leaving the bustle of the residential district behind. The grass was cool on her feet. Across the empty fields, the sunrise bloomed, the first rays curling around the shadows of the twin hyperbolic cooling towers of the power plant.

Like horns of some great atomic bull, they cut the horizon. And she found herself running toward that brazen beast and the radioactive fire shimmering in its belly. Somehow, she would open the yawning void wider this time and melt down into its core.

END

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Author’s note: I wrote this story last fall for an “evil rainbow” short story contest run by bizarro author Madeleine Swann, writer of the short novel Rainbow’s Suck (click for Amazon Link). My story didn’t win (and if read into the order she posted the stories, I may have finished second to last), however, I enjoyed writing it and after much procrastinating, I finally added some words and did some necessary editing.

Thank you, Madeleine! Bask in what you and your evil rainbows have wrought! Everyone would do their souls well to check out Madeleine Swann on twitter, youtube, and any other corners of the internet she haunts!

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