Anthologies like WHISPERS FROM THE ABYSS don’t come around as often as they should. Edited by 01 Publishing’s Kat Rocha, this collection of “Lovecraft-inspired short fiction” is very atypical, for a few reasons.
This collection comes at around 282 pages, not in itself unusual. But consider that this anthology sports a whopping 33 stories. Headlining these is an introduction from Pseudopod’s own Alasdair Stuart. If you’ve ever listened to Pseudopod, you’ll know how passionate Alasdair is about horror; he gives lovely and chilling reminders for why this genre can reach us so personally, and why we read it even if we don’t “enjoy” it. His intro was the best way to launch the collection.
As for the stories themselves? It’s an anthology. No reader is going to like every story, and having such a wealth of them means some will be hit and miss. In this case, it also means many of them are very short. I was surprised how quickly I tore through this book. Not in the way a novel sweeps you away—the nature of a short fiction blitzkrieg prevents that—but because you finish them before you even know what’s happened.
It took me a while to get on board with this idea. With stories like Charles Black’s “The Last Tweet”, it’s easy to pass through a few in mere minutes, and at first I wondered why this was. WHISPERS is a flash flood (pardoning the pun) of fiction, and it still intrigues me because I really don’t see it anywhere else.
Then it came to me. Slowly, like the images evoked in these stories.
It’s in the title. Whispers. This anthology does not have deep, sprawling forays into the human psyche, or a slow-built horror that preys on your mind. You only get glimpses, like flashes at the edge of your vision. Sometimes, the story is full and you get a real look at the horrific element. Other times, you’re left to do the work, with stories like “When We Change” by Mason Ian Bundschuh, which is all surface, absent of telling. Sometimes they just crawl in and sit in your mind, a hint of something, and that ethereal quality is what binds most of these pieces together.
There are a lot of great techniques at play here. I loved “Fear and Loathing in Innsmouth: Richard Nixon’s Revenge” by Jason Andrew, which is as loaded with references and humor, staying fun without losing its atmosphere. The lead story, Greg Stolze’s “Iden-Ishi” is great as well.
Some stories were passable, some were good, some were excellent. None of them were dead. Here, horror is shown as a terrifying whisper, and anyone who enjoys readable, accessible collections should pick this one up.
Even better, it has a Kickstarter to fund its way to a print copy. Go check it out!
Jared W. Cooper is a Jersey-born writer, gamer, and mostly-coherent genre geek. Between slush reading, writing groups, and editing, he consumes short stories like most people breathe. His reviews, essays, and the odd short fiction piece can be found, sporadically, at jaredwcooper.org