Ben Walker just posted a new video review of Darkest Hours on YouTube.
“There is more than enough talent showcased within these pages to suggest that Mike Thorn’s journey has only just begun. I look forward to seeing where he goes from here.”
Alvaro Zinos-Amaro asked me thoughtful, personal questions for April’s issue of WORDS (an online zine through Hex Publishers). Among other things, we touch on transgressive art, John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, Catholic school, philosophy and Kanye West.
Farah Rose Smith’s “The Visitor” does not serve simply as a delivery system for a riff on the Faustian bargain narrative; it showcases its author’s obvious attentiveness to each and every sentence, to how the lines sound and feel. This is the kind of fiction that begs to be read aloud. I find it difficult to describe good prose, but Smith writes with a seemingly effortless elegance that reminds me of some of the genre’s best stylists: think Kathe Koja, Anne Rice, Thomas Ligotti, S.P. Miskowski, Clive Barker and Gwendolyn Kiste.
I have no shortage of respect for “The Visitor”‘s form, but the content is also worth discussing. Smith writes thoughtfully and powerfully about the relationships between romanticism and destruction, between horror and seduction. This is a supernatural story, but it is also a story about the desperation and vitality of artists on the fringes, about the complicated dimensions of love. There’s an impressive amount of subtext compressed into such a short amount of text.
The author’s biography cites her experience not only in fiction-writing, but also in the worlds of music and film. It’s all visible here. There’s a clear focus on affect and vibe and all the sensory qualities available to prose fiction, and Smith taps into these wells with a vibrancy that brings to mind Gothic post-punk, noise and experimental horror cinema. All this is to say that I thoroughly dig “The Visitor,” and that I recommend it highly to all fans of dark fiction.
“The author of Darkest Hours, a collection of short stories, has truly impeccable taste. Not only did Mike Thorn complete a master’s degree thesis on John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness, the endnotes mention his love of the influential industrial metal band Godflesh. If Mike and I ever met up for coffee, we would have a grand old time reminiscing about the mighty Godflesh, whom I haven’t seen in concert for a few years, but remain one of my personal favourite noise bands.”
The speakers in Breathe. Breathe.‘s poems often toe the line between colloquial, conversational vernacular and cryptic, imagery-laden verse. Even during moments of abstraction, though, the poetry is above all else intimate and real, unafraid to state its meanings outright. Consider, for instance, the closing line in “Funhouse of Madness,” which confronts the reader with a direct question: “… but dread is an affliction, isn’t it?” To this reader, the line is exemplary of the book’s contents: Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi explores the caustic force that is fear, especially within the context of domestic violence, but she also recognizes that afflictions can be diagnosed, treated and even healed.
These poems, written almost entirely in free verse, often depict speakers seeking solace (or warding off danger) in the ludic spaces of the “natural world” – Breathe. Breathe. is rife with references to forests, lakesides, nonhuman animals and insects. The speakers often give off the impression of physical or emotional isolation, with threats or indeterminable forces lingering on the periphery, just out of sight.
And there is no shortage of threat to be found between this book’s covers; in addition to her obvious interest in folklore and magic realism, Erin Sweet Al-Mehairi showcases her commitment to the horror genre. In many ways, her short stories are even more confrontational than her poems. These narratives brutally address cycles of abuse, violent vengeance and terrifying fissures in the surface of reality.
Although Breathe. Breathe. incorporates works of both prose and poetry, it is a unified and cohesive book. The author makes good use of recurring thematic threads, imagining and reimagining her focuses within different formal contexts. This is a strange collection, full of fantastical moments and unexpected ruptures in domestic spaces, but above all else it is real. That is not necessarily a term I use often when describing works of “genre” fiction or poetry, but I think it is the one that fits best here.
“This is a fantastic collection of horror short stories, to be frank. The ability of the author to move through so many different kinds of horror scenarios, and to invoke so many different emotional responses in such a short space of time, is surely the mark of someone who ‘gets’ horror as a genre. Mr Thorn has certainly made his mark on the genre as a whole, and also on me: I look forward to reading more horror stories, and especially any more that come from his pen. I can only hope that we see more of his fiction in the near-future, and whole-heartedly recommend that you pick up this anthology.”