Wicked Seasons by Stacey Longo: Editor; NEHW Press; 2013; 176 pgs; $2.99 E-Book US

Two years ago the New England Horror Writers Association published their first anthology called, Epitaphs.  The anthology contained twenty-six stories from the brilliant and twisted minds of the NEHW members, and it was a terror filled, fun read (Epitaphs even made the final ballot for Best Anthology at the HWA Stoker Awards).   The NEHW has now released its second anthology called, Wicked Seasons.

While Epitaphs was a celebration of the NEHW members talent and its un-themed stories a showcase of styles and plotting, Wicked Seasons appears to have taken a different route.  While Wicked Seasons is also an un-themed anthology, with a few exceptions, its focus is much darker than Epitaphs.

All of the stories in Wicked Seasons are exceptionally written, and all of them are effectively chilling.   Having said that, the following were highlights for me:

A Night At The Show by Rob Smales is a tale of a young girl who goes out for the evening with a friend and her friend’s mom.  While walking back to their car the trio runs into a couple of very big, bad men.  What happens next to the girls is startling, and completely unexpected.

To Chance Tomorrow by Kristi Petersen Schoonover is the cautionary tale of science and the promise it holds for the future. In Schoonover’s future deadly wounds heal quickly, disease is a thing of the past (light em up if you got em ), and lives are prolonged forever.  But as always, one wonders about the cost.

The Basement Legs by Robert J. Duperre is a story of a man who comes to the defense of a pregnant young Filipino woman who has moved into his apartment complex.   The neighbors all think she is cursed and treat her terribly.  Then, when a pretty UPS delivery woman enters the picture, the man’s life is forever changed.

Three Fat Guys Soap by Catherine Grant is both a story of entrepreneurship and revenge.  A young man who is recently unemployed witnesses a startling abduction one evening, and it leads to a job with the Three Fat Guys Soap company.   It also leads to a way to get back at the woman who fired him.

Chuffers by Paul McMahon is a tale about a man who’s lost a lover, and soon discovers that he’s also losing everything that connected him to her.  A creepy tale that dwells on the little things.

As I mentioned, the above were highlights for me – but my favorite stories in Wicked Seasons are the following:

Blood Prophet by Scott Goudsward is the gross out tale of a man who can tell the future based on the blood that he makes run from his nose.  He gets paid well for his fortunes, and being the greedy man that he is, he often loses too much blood in the process for his own good.  The thing is, not everyone believes in his special abilities, and there is one man who puts the nose bleeder to the ultimate test.

Spirits by James A. Moore is a heart-breaking story of death, alcoholism, and the resulting dreams from both.  Spirits is one of the best short stories I’ve ever read from Moore.

My favorite tale in Wicked Seasons is Lycanthrobastards by Errick A. Nunnally.  While the story has its moments of terror and gore, the black humor that pervades the tale was a welcome break from the heavy plotting of the preceding stories.  And while I am not a fan of tropes, Lycanthrobastards managed to combine two of them in an unexpected way that was not only refreshing but also fun to read.  There is little I can say about this one without giving away spoilers, but the story concerns a man who is returns home to find that a wild animal may be loose in the neighborhood.  He soon discovers there is.

Additional stories by Trisha J. Wooldridge, Christopher Golden, Lucien E.G. Spelman, Addison Clift,  Michael Evans, and Gregory Norris round out the anthology, and all of them are superb and entertaining reads.  And kudos’ to Jeff Strand for a very entertaining introduction.

Although this anthology contains fewer stories than the first anthology released by the NEHWA, every one of the stories that were chosen for Wicked Seasons are top notch – there is not a bad one in the bunch.  These tales are dark, and most importantly, they will all raise goosebumps and make your spine freeze.  I would recommend Wicked Seasons to all lovers of dark fiction.

 


Feb 5, 2014

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