If you take a dash of Brave New World, toss in a healthy dose of Bladerunner, and blend it all with a bit of sadism, you’ll end up with Sweet Tooth by Matthew A. Clarke. It’s a short story that overall feels like a transcript for an episode of Black Mirror. The ultra-wealthy have finally done away with the poor and undesirable, and they’ve replaced those forgotten and discarded people with Hollows. Hollows are manufactured in bulk to perform the menial tasks and services the ruling class deems beneath them. Candy is such a hollow, designed to be an escort–though not in a sexual sense, as she isn’t equipped with the necessary parts. In tribute to the banality of all existence, we first discover Candy is becoming aware beyond her programming because she’s unhappy about someone else deciding how her hair should look. Other Candy models are disappearing, and there appears to be a man involved in those disappearances. Our Candy finds herself in the predicament of needing to unravel the mystery behind the missing hollows while maintaining her facade of going along with her base programming. In a sense, this is a truly depressing, dystopian vision of a possible future, extrapolating on the income inequality and class warfare we already experience. More than that, it showcases that no amount of weeding out undesirables based on social status will erase the sort of people who become serial killers today. Those types of people will always find a new group of “less dead” as criminologist Steven Egger refers to the typical victims of serial murderers. Clarke captures that grim reality in this story. Is there a happy ending? Is such a thing even possible in a world like that? You’ll have to read the damn story for yourself to find out.
Sweet Tooth is a Godless exclusive title available at http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app on the mobile device you utilize for reading digital texts. The link for the story is below:
Byron Sweet is a killer with a signature style. Haunted by the accidental death of his mother, Sweet forged himself into a professional killer, but he’s a killer with a conscience. But, like all assassins–and all men–inevitably do, he’s reaching the point when he won’t be able to perform. Planning to retire, Sweet is called into service one last time with the promise of a massive payday. Will this “sweet shot” be his last? Does this sound like a well-trod path full of tropes and stereotypes? Of course, it does. But Todd Love excels in subverting those tried and tested tropes the story leans into, by filling the interstitial space with so much creativity and sheer absurdity that no amount of catering to preexisting conventions could detract from the tale. Byron Sweet is no grizzled government assassin you’ll find in the pages of pulp suspense novels or big-budget action thrillers. He’s a man you’ll only ever find in the realm where indie horror and bizarro overlap. While a sequel certainly isn’t likely, I would love to read a whole series of novels focused on the life and work of Byron Sweet. I think you’ll feel the same way after you’ve been turned inside out by his “sweet shot” too.
Sweet Shot is a Godless Horrors original short. You can obtain this title for yourself–at no cost–by visiting http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device of choice. The link is below:
If you haven’t read Arzate’s Elaine, I can vouch for the fact that it’s not necessary to enjoy I’m a Marionette. I also haven’t read the story that sets the stage for what we discover in these few pages. Amy wakes up in what appears to be an abandoned, run-down hotel room. Surrounded by filth and unfamiliar with how she found herself there, she grabs her purse and makes her way to her car parked outside. The atmosphere is oppressive and unsettling, and Arzate maintains that atmosphere throughout the tale. From that auspicious beginning, we soon discover that Amy, along with her mourning parents, has been searching for information regarding her missing brother, Chris. The last thing she remembers was deciding to purchase a pack of cigarettes at a convenience store before finding herself in the grimy hotel room. I’m a Marionette perfectly captures the fluid dream logic that makes the worst nightmares so challenging to shake. Amy finds herself led along by impulses she only barely comprehends–and certainly does not control–as she meanders through a world that feels only slightly like the real world she expects. We can’t help but witness Amy’s unsteady travel through this surreal, nightmare version of Wisconsin, as helpless as the dreamer when they don’t know they are dreaming. I couldn’t help but appreciate Ben Arzate’s rather different interpretation of a train station, as Amy flips through the apparently empty radio channels only to find one station broadcasting what sounded like the constant thrum of an approaching train. I found myself thinking, “That’s a different sort of train station.” I immediately picked up Elaine after finishing this story, and I suspect you might do the same. If it’s half as captivating and unnerving as I’m a Marionette, it’ll be worth the price of admission for sure. The three poems contained within the Godless exclusive edition feel perfectly in line with the story that precedes them, carrying the same surreal, dreamlike horror beyond the conclusion of the story itself.
This edition is exclusive to http://www.godless.com or from the Godless app, available on your favorite mobile devices. The link is below:
One of the highlights of KillerCon Austin 2021 was the quality of the performances that made the Top 3 in the annual Gross-Out Contest. Strawberry Shortcake was the second-place story written and performed by Daniel J. Volpe. Under normal circumstances, this story would have been the unquestionable winner. There was, however, a dark horse contender who slipped past and snagged victory from the fox’s teeth. Don’t let the cover art fool you. Daniel J. Volpe has written no wholesome tale of cartoonish glee and childlike wonder. Or maybe it is? The protagonist does indeed recall fond memories from childhood desserts as he discovers a delicious and unexpected treat in the port-a-potty at the local county fair. Even our narrator finds himself a bit surprised by just how blessed he is. He even forgets to take a shit. We’ve all been there, right? Strawberry Shortcake is perhaps the closest I’ve come to reading something that can be defined as stomach-churning, which is high praise coming from me. What are you waiting for? It’s short, it’s sweet–if we believe the narrator–and it should surely leave you gagging for more.
Strawberry Shortcake is a Godless exclusive title, all proceeds going to charity. You can pick this title up for yourself by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app on your favorite mobile devices.
The Book of Accidents may superficially appear to be less epic than Wendig’s previous novel, Wanderers, but there’s so much more beneath the surface. When we first meet Oliver and his family, the story seems to be focused on a family under strain, moving into what could potentially be a haunted house. It doesn’t take Wendig long to dispel those assumptions as he takes the reader on a multiverse-spanning adventure of magic and terror. While the story is filled with interesting characters, Oliver is at the core of it all, in more ways than one. He’s a special boy, empathetic and sensitive, but there’s so much more to him than that. Oliver can see the pain in others in a literal, visceral sense, and the world we’re living in today gives him more than enough pain to witness. Hoping to find some peace for their son, Nate and Maddie move into Nate’s childhood home in rural Pennsylvania after his abusive father passes away. Nate transitions from his life as a Philadelphia police officer to a Pennsylvania Fish & Game warden, and Maddie decides she wants to try a different sort of sculpture from what she’d been creating in the city. Oliver successfully makes new friends on his first day at the new school. Unfortunately, he makes a couple of new enemies as well. If only things could level out at that point, it would be a typical family drama, and the story would be over. Thankfully, for the reader–though not for the family–Wendig is at the helm. The very enemies Oliver makes at school are instrumental in putting him in Jake’s path, and everything begins to fall apart from there. Wherever Jake goes, the collapse is soon to follow. You’ll need to be prepared for anything to happen because there’s no way to go into this one predicting the outcome. It’s masterful the way Wendig brings the disparate threads of narrative together. It astounded me when I was reading Wanderers, and it’s no less astonishing when reading The Book of Accidents.
John Baltisberger takes everything great from Treif Magic and amplifies it with this sequel. As a result, Son of the Right Hand feels simultaneously more intimate and far more epic than the earlier installment in the story of Ze’ev. Months after the intense conclusion of Treif Magic, Son of the Right Hand picks up after Ze’ev has had time to recuperate. With remnants of the cult scattered into the wind at the end of Treif Magic, Ze’ev has been hunting them down and bringing them to justice. As we follow Ze’ev into what he believes to be the hideout of the final members of the cult, he discovers something far more hideous and terrible than simply a couple of cultists. Just when Ze’ev thinks he’s earned a well-deserved break from the darkness, an old friend reaches out with terrible news of a gruesome tragedy. Time is running out as another girl has gone missing, and Ze’ev doesn’t know if he can bear the weight of another failure. His struggle to do the right thing and bring his friend some closure brings him face-to-face with a monster from deep in the history of serial killer lore. If that’s not enough, the past isn’t through with Ze’ev, as his superiors present him with what might be the greatest challenge he’s faced so far. Sandy, the young woman he saved in the previous book–kicking off the events that nearly ended his life–is to be taken into his care. Her brief encounter with the darkness coexisting within our world has tainted her in the same way Ze’ev was tainted as a young man. Now, it’s up to him to teach her how to navigate the world as she now recognizes it. As everything collides in a tumultuous–and possibly fatal–climax, Ze’ev makes a deal that has consequences he may not be able to live with. Fans of John’s religious horror masterpiece, War of Dictates, will be pleased to see some crossover from characters in that epic poem as Ze’ev crosses the boundaries that separate our world from the worlds of the things that live in the shadows. That scene alone is worth the price of admission. If you haven’t already read the Splatterpunk Award-nominated War of Dictates, then you need to address that shortcoming post haste. Notable, within the narrative, we get to act as stand-in students as Ze’ev ruminates on what and how he will teach Sandy. This is brought to greater fruition as we experience her first lesson. The expositionary dialogue is fascinating and internally justified within the story, at no point detracting from the flow of the story. It’s a damn shame that the next book isn’t already out because this one absolutely leaves the reader wanting more, and impatient too.
This title is also available through http://www.godless.com or via the Godless app on your favorite Apple and Android platforms. I recommend checking Godless out at the earliest convenience. It’s the new home for indie horror. The link is below:
Chris Miller’s Flushed is short. I’d go so far as to suggest the value of giving this story a listen is inversely proportional to the size of the tale. What we have here is an uncomfortably–horrifyingly–relatable story of one of those times when we absolutely know our bowels are going to fail us in the worst possible way, at the most calamitous conceivable location, when the timing couldn’t be worse. While we all may not be able to relate to a drunken workplace hook-up with someone we’d sooner have avoided, I think we can all imagine how such a thing might happen. Miller tells an entertaining tale, increasingly implausible as Murphy’s Law takes a cruel toll on Marty. The narration provided by S. W. Salzman brings the extreme discomfort and humiliation to life.
The Bleed: Rupture is the beginning of something great, for sure. If the combined efforts of Mark Tufo, Chris Philbrook, and the always fantastic David Moody maintain this same sort of quality moving forward, this series will be spectacular. The three authors involved in this project successfully combine body horror, fantasy, and science fiction into something greater than the sum of the individual components. The individual stories meld together, creating a sweeping, epic tale of a multiverse in jeopardy as a race of gods and their halfbreed offspring fight a battle of attrition on one world after another against an unstoppable, all-consuming enemy, The Bleed. We get to experience the disastrous consequences of two gods with conflicting goals in modern-day London as Jenny struggles to come to terms with her heritage. We join the members of a lunar colony as their settlement faces catastrophic collapse. The small handful of survivors learn that there are secrets on the moon no one could have expected. And finally, we follow Arridon and Thistle, two half-gods, as their world approaches a horrifying end at the hands of a monstrous force that seeks to devour everything living and dead in absolute domination. As the stories tie together at the end in the most unexpected ways, I couldn’t help but want to move immediately on to the second volume in the series. The narration provided by Scott Aiello for the audiobook edition is fantastic. He tackles the cast of characters and their various accents better than many audiobook narrators I’ve heard.
If you haven’t already heard about May Cause Unexplained Ocular Bleeding, this post is for you. If you’ve heard about my new book, but you don’t know whether it’s something you’re interested in, this post is also for you. Essentially, this post is for anyone and everyone. Tomorrow morning, August 18th, my second collection of short fiction becomes available in digital formats at http://www.godless.com for the low price of $2.99, which is $1 cheaper than it’ll be in digital format when it goes live on Amazon on Friday, August 20th. It will also be available in paperback on August 20th for the low price of only $8.99. Check out this cover, designed by the fantastic Drew Stepek.
That design alone should be enough to whet your appetite. If you’re one of those style over substance sorts, that cover layout should be all it takes to convince you that you need this in your collection. Of course, you’re in for more than a fancy-looking cover when you pick up a copy of this book. Not only does this collection include the sleeper hit, Horseplay, from Godless, but it contains nine additional short stories that are sure to make my readers uncomfortable as often as it entertains them. Not only that, but I have made certain to include a brief note that details the inspiration behind each of these tales of terror and tribulation. Some of these notes are more worthwhile than others, but I wanted you–my readers–to know me a little better when you came out of the experience than you might have on your way in. Here’s the description from the back cover of the paperback edition:
I didn’t know how to react when Carver Pike provided me with what I must admit is likely to be the best blurb I could ever hope to receive. Any comparison to a writer of Gaiman’s caliber is going to be flattering–and also impossible to live up to. I’m going to hope that I don’t let my readers down when I turn out to be nowhere near the author Neil Gaiman happens to be. Adrian Ludens not only provided a fantastic blurb, but his keen eyes also caught little bits and pieces of editing that had slipped through the cracks along the way. After staring at the same stories for so long, one becomes inured to faults and flaws that might ruin the tone of a story. It’s a sort of editing blindness that creeps in and destroys otherwise fantastic manuscripts. Had it not been for Mr. Ludens taking the time to read the stories with a critical eye, I might have missed a handful of mismatched tenses and incorrect words.
You can, of course, purchase this title from http://www.godless.com or through the Godless app tomorrow. The link is below:
You can also hold out until Friday the 20th, to pick up a copy at the following link on http://www.amazon.com
Pink introduces us to Theo as she attends SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) for the first time. Theo has a problem–and it’s far worse than what the reader might first imagine–but it soon becomes clear she’s uninterested in finding a solution. She’s not there for help. She’s there on the prowl. The usual therapist who hosts these meetings isn’t available, but Dr. Hooper is there to help everyone through the session. As Theo’s initial meeting of SAA becomes progressively more bizarre and surreal, it’s difficult not to feel a sense of unease, knowing that there’s more to the story and that we’re probably not going to like what awaits us. It’s only after Theo brings one of the other sex addicts home to her apartment that we get the first glimpse of just how dark and perverse Theo’s hunger happens to be. With a brief glimpse of a jar and bloody chains, we join Casey in feeling a sense of disorientation and panic as we realize there’s something far worse than sex addiction going on. By the time it’s all over–and the story comes to a close–we’re forced to examine the definition of murder and what it means to kill someone. Shupeck paints us an excruciatingly real portrait of someone who doesn’t care who she hurts, as long as she gets what she wants. What she wants is to live the adage, “misery loves company.” Anyone who has read the previous five installments in the FSBIH series will recognize that Hooper tends to give people a choice, and it’s the very choice they make that leads them into his power. This is no different. Theo is given a choice, more clearly than most of Hooper’s “victims” have gotten…and Theo does indeed make her choice with wide-open eyes. This one might be the worst of the installments to read so far, for reasons that will be clear to anyone upon arriving at the end. The graphic, grotesque imagery is only half of the problem. It’s the depravity and monstrous nature of Theo herself that hits the hardest.
This title is exclusively available through http://www.godless.com or via the Godless app for your Apple and Android devices. You can obtain it at the following link: