Beneath the Fungoid Moon

Review by Joey Madia

I have known Chuck Regan and his work for a long time. Three decades, actually. I started as a fan of his comic books, including Nether Age of Maga—a post-apocalyptic vision that’s everything from Plato to P. K. Dick. His skills as an artist—he’s known for his attention to detail and authenticity in his science fiction–based designs—translate successfully into prose. Regan has always had fun using made up words and he incorporates just the right amount of pop culture references in his work to give us grounding in the odd.

Regan’s vision has always been dark, but with touches of comedy and hope in all the right places. He opens his About the Author section at the end of this collection by saying he’s technically not an author because he has yet to publish a novel. But I’ve read several of his longer works in whole or in part, and “author” certainly applies. He is as much a technician of the craft of storytelling as any author I know. He’s even created a workbook for writers of long-form stories called Give Your Hero Bad Breath: A Character, Plot and World-Building Workbook that I have incorporated into my starting routine for new stories.

Beneath the Fungoid Moon is a collection of seven short stories, each with an opening passage about the history of the piece. For budding writers and those who want to see how the sausage gets made for writers in the thorny world of publishing, these introductions are invaluable. Continue reading

It was a Small Affair

A Review by Joey Madia

It has been my pleasure over the past six years or so to review Ken Hart’s science fiction novels. This will be my third. My previous reviews were of Behind the Gem and The Eyes Behold Tomorrow.

Hart brings a lot of heart to his sci-fi. His previous two novels deal with family and reproductive issues and his stories explore what happens when distinct binary groups—be they male–female, human–nonhuman, or past–present—interact.

His latest novel, It was a Small Affair, focuses on the third binary—past–present.

The past is the confrontation at the Alamo in 1836 between the Mexican general Santa Anna (whose derisive remarks after the battle provide the novel’s title) and Travis, Houston, Bowie, Crockett, and Co. Texas’s independence from Mexico was at stake, and the Texans were badly outnumbered.

There is a great deal of romanticism and myth that surrounds the Alamo. It has been the subject of many books (fiction and nonfiction), films, and TV mini-series. Continue reading

The Black Diary: M.I.B., Women in Black, Black-Eyed Children and Dangerous Books

A review by Joey Madia

Embedded in the upper righthand cover of this book is a red and white warning label: “Just picking up this book invites them in.”

Given the publishing industry’s penchant for sexy marketing strategies, it might be easy to dismiss this warning label as more of the same—a clever ploy on the part of the publisher to grab your attention and get you to buy the book.

But I know better.

And that’s what this review is about.

First of all, Nick Redfern is one of the most respected and published authorities on the subject of the paranormal, and the enigmatic (Wo)men in Black. I have read several of his books, and, having spent the past nine years studying and experiencing the paranormal, I have no reason to question anything he reports in them. He mixes field experience, interviews, and extensive research into his work, in the kind of self-checking triangulation that many investigators could learn from.

Second, and even more important, I know several of the people whose stories are quoted at length in the pages of The Black Diary. I also know them to be solid, honest folk with a genuine interest in the paranormal. I have been privileged to do field investigations with some of them.

Third, and most important, I have experienced many of the phenomena discussed in this book. Continue reading

Locker Arms

Horror with a Heart

A review by Joey Madia

In Danse Macabre, Stephen King postulates that great horror has at its core a collection of dark tropes gleaned from our reptilian brains and deepest primordial fears. In other words, it is all about character. Following the journey of an interesting, relatable (which is different than likeable) character as he or she crosses the threshold into a subterranean (literal or metaphorical) world of monsters to be battled and souls to be saved is the essence of well-constructed horror.

Applying this idea, the debut novel by Zakar McGaha, Locker Arms, is a success. Set in modern times but with a strong ‘80s feel (think Stranger Things meets Heathers meets Teachers), this splatter-fest of a tale centers around two sets of characters—one the students of your typical suburban high school and the other their teachers. The latter are joined by Henry, one of the (anti-)heroes of Locker Arms—a washed-up, aging never-was who had big dreams of making it in music after he left this very same high school decades before the story begins.

Henry’s return has almost everything to do with the unsolved mystery of a girl who disappeared into a locker when he was a student. In Henry’s mind—where we spend a good bit of time—if he solves the mystery, he just might solve his life. Continue reading

Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times

A Powerful Vision of the Human Future!

A review by Douglas M. Gillette, MARS, M-Div

In his brilliant and urgently prophetic new book, Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times, Steven Herrmann, using extraordinarily acute literary critical techniques along with powerfully insightful depth psychological tools, plumbs the depths and scales the heights of yet another great 19th Century American author. Herrmann’s deep dive into what can be recovered as well as surmised about the inner life of Emily Dickinson reveals a complex “volcanic” and at the same time perhaps painfully introverted “medicine woman,” or shaman, on a mission to reveal not only to her fellow-Americans but also to the entire world her vision of what authentic human wholeness entails. In Herrmann’s interpretation, that includes what he terms a “bi-erotic” and “spiritually democratic” embracing of one’s own post-religious, post-gender conflicted “cosmic” core, which ultimately and immediately both resonates with and finally is identical not only to the totality of humankind in its fullness, but also the entirely of what is. Herrmann’s optimism that a new era of bi-erotic spiritual democracy is on the verge of becoming abundantly manifest within all human societies throughout the world is contagious!

TITLE: Emily Dickinson: A Medicine Woman for Our Times
AUTHOR: Steven Herrmann
PUBLISHER: Fisher King Press
ISBN: 9781771690416