Spectral: 3-in-1 review number 3

Well, this week, as you guys may have noticed, there were no reviews available to me to upload on Monday, thus breaking my recent custom – but this midweek post more than makes up for that. It’s from the esteemed folk at Strange Aeons Magazine and it will appear in the Fall 2011 issue (Number 7), debuting at the HP Lovecraft Film Festival in Portland, Oregon, in the US this weekend. With the kind permission of KL Young, Executive Editor of Strange Aeons, I reproduce it here – and this is what they had to say:

This issue, we’re reviewing a line of chapbooks from the newly created Spectral Press imprint. From their site: Spectral Press is a small independent imprint publisher; issuing very limited edition signed and numbered single story chapbooks in a high-quality presentation on a quarterly basis, and concentrating on the ghostly/supernatural end of the literary spectrum.

If you’ve picked up a chapbook before, you know it’s basically an 8.5”x11” stack of pages, folded in half and stapled on the spine. They’re cheap and easy to make, and they look like it. Right off the bat, Spectral is throwing all of that out the window. While the format remains the same, Spectral Press knocks you out with the gorgeous cover art and paper stock, the beautiful text choice and layout, and the spectacular content. Each issue is limited to 100 copies, making them extremely collectible.

Each new chapbook is an “issue”, and Issue I is “What They Hear in the Dark”, by Gary McMahon. After the violent death of their son, Rob and Becky buy a new house in an attempt to keep their minds and bodies busy as they work through their grief. In this “fixer-upper” of a house (a thinly-veiled metaphor for their own relationship), they find a “Quiet Room” – a place where sound literally cannot be heard. Both of them have a solitary, supernatural experience in the room; Rob’s negative, Becky’s positive, and this conflict is what drives the story towards its inevitable, creepy conclusion. If there are any complaints, it is that the characters are a little weak, their identities not quite fleshed out or believable – but McMahon is such a strong writer that it’s easy to forgive, and at 20 pages long you haven’t got time to really notice. An excellent start to this new publishing house!

In “Abolisher of Roses” by Gary Fry (the second offering from Spectral Press), we are introduced to husband and wife Peter and Patricia, at a hoity-toity outdoor art show that Patricia has been invited to show at. At first this feels like familiar Twilight Zone fare – Peter, our point of view character, is broadly painted as uncouth and unlikeable, alternately thinking about how little he enjoys or understands art, and how much he does enjoy his mistress. It’s fairly obvious he will get his comeuppance as he travels farther – and further – into the woods, away from the real art show and into one specifically designed for him. But Fry manages to pull a few tricks from his sleeve, and his skill in storytelling is apparent. The ending is satisfying and unexpected – as every ending should be.

Finally, Spectral’s Issue III is “Nowhere Hall”, by Cate Gardner. In Gardner’s story, our protagonist, the suddenly jobless Ron, is lured into a run-down hotel by a strange umbrella with an even stranger message: We want to live. Help us. Inside, Ron is faced with bizarre memories and imagery, some familiar tropes of the genre, and some not-so.

Gardner tells a confusing and mind-bending story, bordering on stream-of-consciousness and disregard to structure, all things I’m not a fan of. BUT… her mastery of the written word is so strong – in fact, she’s a fucking Jedi when it comes to painting a picture with words – made this my favorite of the three chapbooks. Sure, I might have had to re-read that paragraph anyway, just to understand what was going on in it… but I re-read it first because it was just so beautifully written.

It’s not often that you get to watch a new publishing house begin with such strong content. This is exciting and fascinating stuff, and you want to get in on the ground floor – you’ll be paying for your kids’ college tuition with these super-collectibles in 20 years – because if you don’t think Spectral Press is going to be moving into bigger and better stuff pretty quickly, you’re crazy.

These books are sold out. But you can buy subscriptions for their new releases at [their website – which is right here folks!].

What a fantastic start to the day – this is the kind of review that all publishers (and authors) kill for. Onwards and upwards!! =)

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