*This here is part two of my Book Talk: December 2016 post. This covers the short stories that I read in December, and a quick overview on what I thought of them.
Compared to November, I read a whole lot more short stories than just the one. I read five short stories from four different authors on different sides of the speculative fiction genre; from the 20th century American pulps, to ones inspired by Australian aboriginal mythology.
The Return of The Sorcerer by Clark Ashton Smith
This was the first story I’ve read from pulp author, Clark Ashton Smith. I found this one in a collection of old stories inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. I have wanted to explore this author for a long time, and I saw this as my opportunity. The story, however, didn’t work too well for me. I had a lot of trouble following the story and I found it difficult to connect with the characters. It just didn’t do it for me and was not the introduction to Ashton Smith I was hoping for.
Once a Month, On a Sunday by Ian McHugh
I came across this story while reading a copy of Australis Imaginarium. I found it to be very well written and quite mystical, which made it a unique experience for me. I had fun while reading it, and found its Australian setting fresh and unique.
Night Heron’s Curse by Thoraiya Dyer
I came along this story as well in Australis Imaginarium. I had a lot of difficulty following the story to begin with, but I quickly came to love the aboriginal mythology themes mixed with the speculative. This helped make the story a lot more enjoyable for me. Most of the difficulty I had with reading this was primarily me not knowing who the protagonist was exactly. I forgot that in the end, favouring its strangeness instead.
Prey by Richard Matheson
Compared to the other short stories from the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet collection, I find it quite difficult to sum up with how I feel about this story. It certainly was frightening and had quite a bit of gore in it, but at the same time I had a lot of trouble trying to follow it. It just didn’t have that same kick like the other stories in the collection do. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it though; in fact, I actually think it’s really good, and a good addition to Matheson’s horror works. It’s just only compared to the other stories in the collection, it felt a little bit of a letdown for me.
Likeness of Julie by Richard Matheson
And now we’re here: my favourite story of December. Like Prey, Likeness of Julie is also out of Matheson’s Nightmare at 20,000 Feet collection. Holy shit, I can’t begin to describe how much I enjoyed reading this story. I really should start with how I really love the idea of horror stories starting out so sweet and innocent. The things that occur in this story, it’s quite brutal and horrifying to read, let alone even mention now. The story delves a lot into the idea of human sexuality, and how sometimes people don’t know how to control their sexual urges. This premise reminded me of the films StalkHer (2015), and Blue Velvet (1986), despite being written years before those films were made.
If you’re looking at an introduction to one of the greatest horror writers before Stephen King, then I recommend you read this story. It’s haunted, twisted, and sickening, three things, I believe, which make a great horror story. It’s also one of the stories which makes me remember why I enjoy Richard Matheson’s works so much, and why I believe the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet collection is a must-have for any fans of horror fiction.