Regular readers will know I've recommended Supernatural Tales before, as well as having had the distinct pleasure of appearing in its pages. It's a testament to the quality of the magazine that it's reached 30 issues.
For this special issue, the editor David Longhorn has invited back authors who have appeared in previous issue of ST to provide a new story, and all of them have risen to the occasion admirably. It opens, appropriately enough, with 30 by Helen Grant. A story about a mysterious room in an Oxford college, this one initially evokes the atmosphere of a classic MR James story, but the ending evokes more contemporary, existential fears.
An Element Of Blank by Lynda E Rucker follows. For my money, Rucker is one of the best short story writers in the field, and this terrifying story about a sinister house, childhood friendships, and the distortions of memory is evidence why. The horror comes in small, staccato bursts, all the more vivid for being so fleetingly seen.
Next up is Mark Valentine's Vain Shadows Flee. A tribute to the late Joel Lane, this is a quiet, moving character study about a vagrant in an unnamed British city. Tears From An Eyeless Face follows, a surreal, Samuel Becket-like prose-poem from Michael Kelly. Both these pieces, a mile away from traditional horror but each disturbing in their own way, demonstrate the range of fiction published in Supernatural Tales.
Adam Golaski was an author I was first came across thanks to Supernatural Tales (his collection Worse Than Myself is superb) and his story here, Wild Dogs is another triumph. His cast of young characters go to a club, their lives and dreams seemingly as blank as people from a Brett Easton Ellis novel, before the story erupts into sudden, surreal violence.
Even Clean Hands Do Damage by Steve Duffy closes the issue, and fortunately it's a tale as a good as its title. A story about a medium, a dead child and a grieving parent, this one wrong footed me several times before it ended.
With not a bad story among the bunch (in fact not even a 'just quite good story' among the bunch), Supernatural Tales #30 is an essential purchase and I wouldn't be surprised if a few of these stories don't make the 'best of' anthologies next year. You can, and should, buy it here.
Here's to the next thirty issues.