The Qualia Nous horror anthology (edited by Michael Bailey and published by Written Backward Press) is quite the horror tome weighing in with 30 stories and poems, all of which having firm roots in science fiction.  The anthologies content appears to be divided into two themes, which for the sake of brevity I will summarize:  Qualia – the way it feels to have mental states, and, Nous – the ability to understand what is true or real.  The themes are decidedly literary, and while they may have served the purpose of guiding authors with their submissions, readers need not remember them when reading the stories.

I accepted Qualia Nous for review without realizing the stories were science fiction based.  I admit, I am not a fan of the genre.  The more hard science in a story, the more I tend to tune the story out.  Take Michael Bailey’s introduction for instance.  My eyes glazed over while reading it (something about binary numbers and lots of X’s and O’s).  I know it was scientific, and I know it was important, and I’m sure a lot of people understood it, but I had a difficult time making heads or tails out of it.  To be honest, I thought it a bad omen.  Luckily for me, I was wrong.  Qualia Nous contains some of the best short stories I’ve read all year.

Every story in Qualia Nous is literary and thought provoking, and the vast majority of them were entertaining.  Not one of these tales feels as if it were written on the fly or pulled from a trunk.  These stories are well thought out, well crafted, and they are memorable. The lead off tale, The Jaunt, a reprint from Stephen King, should give readers a good idea on what they should expect from the anthology.

Qualia Nous contains stories from the heavyweights of horror.  Author’s such as Gary Braubeck, Lucy Snyder, Gene O’Neill, William Nolan, John Everson, Thomas Monteleone, John Little and Elizabeth Masse have contributed excellent tales to Qualia Nous. Some of the lesser known (to me anyway) author’s such as Usmant T. Malik, Emily B. Cataneo, Erik T Johnson, Rena Mason, Patrick Freivald, and Max Booth III, have all contributed stories in the anthology that hold their own against the veterans. I’m not saying that every story in Qualia Nous was a stand out for me.  A few of those near the middle of the anthology lost me for various reasons, but other readers, especially those who enjoy hard science fiction, may enjoy them.

With the intellectual styling and the genre blending of its stories, Qualia Nous is a rare treat for discriminating horror fans.  I would recommend this one highly to anyone who enjoys literate dark fiction.

About TT Zuma